Insomnia Files: Salad Days

Sleepless nights morph into hours of cycling thoughts, an endless refrain. The best thing to do is, firstly, get a grip on yourself, man! Next: write down your machine-gun fire of thoughts in a supine stream of semi-cognizance until the absurdity of it all lulls you into a slumber, or at least into a fit of intoxication. Warning: this might be worse than having to hear about someone else’s dreams.


October second, dos double-oh dos

I woke up in the pre-dawn morning to a choir of garbage men yelling “Motherfucker!” My sensory deprivation techniques only partially blocked them out … just enough to be able to sleep, although the voices mingled with the dreams. My respite was rich, if not long enough. Still. However.

I check the box and the long lost mail has finally arrived. The pith-jockey really cracked the whip on the ol’ beast of burden and two full weeks later … huzzah! The structure of civilization has not yet completely crumbled.


Now I’m lounging on the swami bed, opium swirls pumping around me, searching for an open lung. Pretending to be busy, persuading myself to be sleepy. Peanut butter. A bad pilsner (Dutch, see?) left a bad taste. Or perhaps a good one created a bad memory.

I had a good and strange day. My antennae are reaching and twitching, finding more each day. Self-imposed discomforts feel fantastic in the face of adventure. Something new is at least something. I’ll pick the best looking cashier, because he’s smiling, and the attractive ones always move the line faster, male or female. I need conversation like insect larvae need fruit. Asking the thrift store guy if he gets sick of listening to ’80s music all day was the highlight of my human verbal interaction today. We jived a bit, but my Ben Franklin shut him up and that was that.


Fully stocked fridge.

One thing I love about my current situation in life, and others may disagree according to taste, opinion, and upbringing, is that I’m not married and I don’t have kids. I don’t have to provide for any other person or thing right now. And as far as right now right now, that’s a very good thing. With a few extra dollars to spend on food today, I bought a bag of frozen blackberries *[see marginalized notes]. In my fridge, all I have are a bottle of vodka and flavored “aroma” condoms. It feels good to strip away unneeded responsibility, the clutter and worry of a certain lifestyle. It’s so freeing. Freedom in almost every way. Identity renewal.


*FDA’s unacceptable contamination levels: Berries, canned and frozen: average mold count is 60 percent or more, average of 4 or more larvae per 500 grams, average of 10 or more whole insects or equivalent per 500 grams.

I often ask questions that I can’t answer myself, almost like people who give advice they can’t follow. If I ever ask you for your favorite word, it’s because the question tortures me every day. I was sure that your answer would not feature sound or meaning alone, but a happy wedding of the two. There are beautiful words that have repellant meanings, like melanoma, catheter, or diarrhea. Great syllabic beauty, but … I like knucklehead and  galore quite a bit. Lascivious used to be my least favorite word when I was 17, but now it might be climbing the charts.

I think, for this moment in time, which is subject to change at any moment, I would choose salad. My reasons: 1) The property: the greenness and coolness, in allusion to youth, metaphorically, that the blood is still cool and judgment unripe.

2) Etymology: The word salad, I find, is related to salt, sausage, and silt. Fifteenth century old and modern French. In Vulgar Latin it means “salted” — short for herba salata “salted vegetables.” Now my attraction to the word is making all kinds of sense! Sausage, salt, and salad are my three main food groups (after blackberries and vodka, apparently). 3) The subject: a cool, raw, vegetable-laden delight. And those vegetables should be heavily salted if you know what’s good for you. 4) The sound: the pronunciation of the word is inherently familiar–you’ve heard it and used it your whole life. But what should happen if all of a sudden you speak the word and you are corrected, that it’s actually “samad” and you’ve been saying it wrong your whole life? Psychological freakout, bordering on existential disaster. 5) The slang definitions: Urban Dictionary has dozens of random meanings attached to the word, the best one being simply “a polite way of saying sex.” Tossed salad, anyone? And finally, 6) The spelling: I love S’s, to write and speak in sibilance, and the rest of the word is almost a palindrome, yet has a firm close to the end. There it is.

I think I’ll try to surrender all conscious functions to the gods of slumber now … we’ll see.




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Exaltation from Above


It was a sultry July night and the static in the air was up to no good. Every occupant of the tenement pushed opened their windows into the dark indigo night hoping for a respite from the heat, a change in the mood, but there was no breeze to speak of, just a dull hum and the occasional frenzied cackle carried up from the street. The guy in the unit upstairs took this opportunity to stand by his window and slowly unravel an entire roll of packing tape. Without pause, slowly unraveling the tape as well as the rest of us.

“Hey man!” I yelled up to him through the stone-thick vermin-infested ceiling, “What are you DOING?” But the tape roll ran its course for the next 40 minutes straight. Only the distant intense wailing of a small child broke my tape-gun fixation. I wondered, was that child the guilty party behind the rotten diaper garbage stench that filled the entire building today? And just as the riotous clucking of the nocturnal tree-fowl heightened to an unbearable crescendo, I realized, we all die alone and this may be the last and most sublime sound that will enter my human ear holes before my corpse is shucked clean of its soul by an almighty demon god. [inspired by true events]

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7 Habits of a Highly Effective Bad Bitch: My Dad


#1 Health
Maintaining your health allows you to gain the superior edge over problems. This bad bitch meditates every day. He doesn’t judge what happens during it, he just sits down and does it. Have a mantra to focus on. When a thought crops up push it away. This prepares you for the rest of the day, energizes you, calms you, and enhances what you encounter next. He recommends following meditation with a shot of espresso for the ultimate elevation.

My dad declared that he won’t let things “get“ him, and it’s a solid way of maintaining a progressive attitude. Don’t let ailments define you or even associate themselves with who you are. Treat them and live your life as usual.

You can have the TV on, but stay active somehow. Pump some weights or read during the show.

Jogging in nature is the perfect exercise. Bad bitches like my dad don’t need to show off muscles at the gym. He’s focused on his body and his mind and needs no equipment to clutter the process. Jogging is free, solitary, tones the heart, focuses the mind. This too is a meditation. When jogging you focus on breathing or listen to music—other thoughts come and go like soft clouds on the wind. Fishing can be another Zen practice, where at the end of the day you are left with peace of mind.


#2 Beauty
Most dads keep the beauty routine simple, if existent at all. This bad bitch styles his hair using just water. He knows that sunscreen should be used religiously on the face so that he can enjoy his time in the sun and not emerge looking like a baboon’s ass. If you have no sunscreen, tear off a small piece of paper and lodge it under your sunglasses to form a nose tent. Floss and work a toothpick into your gums every night until they bleed a little. It brings circulation to the gums and keeps your teeth in place. Stress shows on the face, so stay relaxed. A cool mind creates a cool face.


#3 Food and Drink
My dad always says, “Take all you want but eat all you take.” A measure of self-control adds to the enjoyment of food. And you know this bad bitch pairs wine with everything. He really tastes his food and wine by sniffing it, holding it in his mouth, breathing it in, swishing it, savoring it. Meals should be created improvisationally—throwing in unexpected colors, textures, dried fruits, seeds, or the odd hot peppers from the garden. My dad can whip together a meal with almost any three ingredients, transforming leftovers, Iron Cheffing the oddest components into a masterpiece. Bad bitches are confident about innovation. Recipes are for inspiration only. After dinner, a handful of granola or spoonful of peanut butter is the perfect dessert.


#4 Create Art
Music is a crucial component of every day. It sets the tone, changes the mood, alters the perspective, and creates discussion. Playing musical instruments exercises the mind, hand-eye coordination, and it can be a meditation in and of itself. Expressing emotion through music is cathartic, and hearing it can be the same as it is one of the purest forms of art. This bad bitch works hard to constantly expand his musical taste, and he’s never embarrassed about what he listens to.

Absorb yourself in art, hobbies, physical work, and reading. These activities fire up the brain and foster tons of ideas for creating new things.

#5 Be Amused
My dad can find something to compliment in anything and anyone, and you should too. If someone is getting on your nerves, this too shall pass. Everything is transient. The annoyance or pain will not last. This bad bitch turns it around and finds something amusing about the situation.

Be amused! Not irritated. Have some wine and enjoy every interaction. It means you are never bored. You are always learning. The baddest bitches know that every moment of life is meant to be enjoyed. With each interaction you can find an authentic connection. Be confident in your amusement. Your happiness is under your control.


If you are kept awake at night by loud neighbors, don’t fret about it (and glorify your misery). A bad bitch joins the party and at least has a good time being conscious. Once again: wine.


#6 Organization
Bad bitches like my dad are fully focused on doing what they want. The best way to stay on track is to stay organized and make lists every day. You need lists for long term, short term, and daily thoughts. A master system of lists generates focus and can organize your whole life. He doesn’t need an assistant, a calendar, or phone reminders—just lists. To ensure productivity, create a timeline of short deadlines to accomplish your goals for that day, week, year, etc.

#7 Self Acceptance
Have your own style, do your own thing, and you don’t need to prove anything to anyone. Open-mindedness is another key to enjoying life. Seek to understand others—it is an extension of truly understanding yourself—and know that gaining a diverse perspective brings personal improvement and growth. Appreciate what you have, work with it and enjoy the fuck out of it.


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Lessons of Wisdom and Beauty From a Cool Mom


She doesn’t allow the word “bored” to enter her vocabulary or her consciousness. She knows that her creative imagination and witty intelligence provide plenty of self-entertainment fodder no matter where she goes—the isolated woods, floating on a raft in the middle of a reservoir for hours, or even a crowded hospital waiting room. Even before the advent of mobile phones and portable devices she would invent games in her head to keep her mind busy.

Independence is one of the strongest virtues taught to me by my wise mom. You are responsible for making yourself happy. It comes from within, and no one else can give it to you.

A cool mom spends some time each day in the sun, touching the grass and the soil, connecting with the earth and appreciating its gifts. She absorbs vitamins and minerals by simply soaking in the elements of nature.


When my mom is in this state, wild creatures are inherently drawn to her. Neighbor kitties come to play and she indulges them with sticks to chase for hours. Birds practically land on her forearm like Snow White, falconer of backyard finches and sparrows. She orchestrates bird feeders and baths in the yard so that one species isn’t too vulnerable as prey for another. She instinctually understands life and death cycles, and builds her ecosystem accordingly.


My mom has the simplest of beauty routines. Shower infrequently. Scrubbing your whole body with soap every day is wasteful, damaging, and very American. That shower water should be reserved for the plants that need it much more. Moisturizing is essential and should be done with lavender-infused oils. Sunblock is important when you want to spend long periods of time outside, which is frequently. Nails may be kept slightly long and clear. Manicures are pointless since they will be ruined by the (more rewarding) experience of digging your hands in the dirt–plus, you really don’t want someone fussing over you.


More beauty tips from my mom: sleep and rest whenever you need to, think happy thoughts, and most of all: don’t worry about it. Lots of stresses can show on your face damaging it permanently—you may as well get those lines from sun and smiling. My wise mom once told me, “Don’t fret about how fat your upper arms are—flaunt them now—for they will only get worse.”


Growing a lifelong sustainable garden is one of my mother’s grandest achievements. She is well versed on the politics of modern agriculture and has applied her wisdom to creating a diet that she can control. Organic produce travels from her yard to her plate, and she transforms much of it into a gorgeous jewel-toned salad every evening. Her creations are rampant with complex texture and explosively juicy flavors. The unused compost is returned back to the garden to continue the life cycle.


A cool mom says quality wine is good for you! Drink as much as you want, but know when to rein it in. My mom enjoys red wine for its pleasurable effects as well as its fortification. If she finds herself dozing off on the couch after dinner, it’s time to move onto a pitcher of water infused with cucumber and lime.


High impact exercise is not only unnecessary, it incurs too much wear and tear on the body. Years of Jazzercise classes in the ‘80s proved that to be true. My mom swims. She grew up swimming, using nature’s bodies of water as a gym. It’s low impact and works every muscle. Swimming makes you feel lifted and hugged, then afterwards you feel as if you have run ten miles.


However, exercise classes such as Pilates should be taken mainly as a bonding experience with friends. A weekly place to meet up with bosom buddies is the perfect way to maintain friendships as well as your core strength.


A mom can tap into her coolness when immersed in the peace and tranquility of nature. On special outings my mom enjoys sitting in a float-tube on a lake, fishing pole in one hand, beer in the other. This ritual incorporates exercise, meditation, relaxation, and if she’s very very lucky, scoring dinner for the night. But always scoring.

Daily exercise? A wise mom knows that gardening and sex are two (usually mutually exclusive) stress relievers. They are both cathartic and meditative and generate a well-being that benefits everyone in her midst. Gardening is motherhood. Digging deeply into the earth, feeding life forms, cultivating your harvest, giving away seedlings. She reaps what she sows. She puts her sweat and blood into the plant kingdom and it gives back a hundredfold. She perpetuates life, fuels the cycle. She is woman.



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Stalingrad, Not So Bad?

Suffering is inevitable these days.  Everyone you know is struggling, trying to find or maintain something decent, livable, a step up from anguish. No one is quite happy with their job, but those who have one clutch onto it as if it were a beloved child who will very soon grow up and disappear forever. Very soon.

Then there’s finding shelter. In the Bay Area this very basic need, which is in fact one of Maslow’s core physiological needs that happens to support the foundation of all others, is one of the grandest undertakings for the working-class populace. How low will you go to secure living quarters you can only just barely afford? Think of the worst neighborhood you would be willing to live in, the sketchiest building, the loudest neighbors, the longest commute to work. Visualize that place and imagine 200 San Francisco yuppies pleased as punch to come and snatch it away from you.

You and your new roomies just found a great apartment building!

You and your new roomies just found a great apartment building!

In today’s urban landscape it’s difficult to find a dwelling that doesn’t force you to recall false memories of the Battle of Stalingrad or a camping excursion in Auschwitz. People in their late 30s with two jobs must cohabitate with several others in order to afford a room in the city. These other roommates will probably still have not developed the rudimentary habits of personal hygiene, respecting others’ property, and paying rent and bills on time… if at all. The couch is covered in animal hair and the acute body odor of the band that slept on it for the last few nights. The roommates leave the house with the door unlocked, or wide open. They invite friends over who inevitably drink all your beer and use all the toilet paper only to depart leaving you with the fallout. Your ceiling will leak when it rains. Ants will invade your home permanently.

If you are unfortunate enough to share an apartment building with several other tenants, you will endure their sounds, smells, and invasions of privacy. At any given minute in the day, you will hear their car alarms, fake orgasms, bad music, loud TVs, screaming dogs, clamoring children, and petty arguments. You will smell their rancid cooking and off-brand incense and be forced to evacuate the building every time someone “cooks spicy food” that triggers the central fire alarm to ring in every unit. The fire trucks will rush to the scene and the alarm will ring out until every last layabout shuffles down the long stairwell.  Only then will the firemen usher the tenants back inside, shaking their heads in disdain.

The owners of the neighboring tenement buildings have the delusion of grandeur that their former halfway houses are now some sort of high-class suburban chateaus that require constant landscaping maintenance. Laborers are hired to arrive at 7AM on weekends to mow the lawns and prune the trees. The “lawns,” however, are strips of dirt dotted with garbage and dog excrement. That doesn’t stop this guy from breaking out the Line Trimmer to spruce up the glorified litter box:


Weed-whacking the dirt: productive and efficient!

This coveted living space, by the way, comes with a parking spot for an extra $200 per month. If you can’t swing that, you must move your car several times a week from one spot to another, usually underneath a bird-infested tree, otherwise you will owe the city $83 per day in tickets. In fact, even if you do move it to a non-street-sweeping spot, there is a good chance you will still get that ticket out of spite. Within two days on the city street your car will be covered in dozens of fecal spatters and a sticky dark film that can never be scrubbed off; not that you would ever pay for a car wash. But the one time you drove to your parents’ house and used their high-power car-washing supplies you discovered that the filth could not be removed.

Some guys got all the luck.

Some guys got all the luck.

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Choose Your Stance

St. Paul the Hermit — Jusepe de Ribera

St. Paul the Hermit — Jusepe de Ribera

Functioning in densely populated areas can be a challenge for any decent human. Survival, even on a purely psychological level, depends on your approach to each interaction. Remember, you must welcome the situation no matter how dismal and destructive it seems. First commit to an attitude so that you can then focus on specific situational responses. Choose from the following:

 1. “I hate people.”

When you look up from your inevitable gaze toward the ground and see another person, at least you have already prepared your opinion of them: hatred and disgust. You despise them all equally, thus your expression never need change according to the subject at hand. No extra time is needed to form feelings or thoughts about each individual lout who passes your way. They are all scum and you are secure in knowing that.


2. “I’d rather avoid people, but I recognize that occasional exposure to them keeps me from becoming a mumbling hermit who hoards soiled napkins and tiny bits of plastic wrap.”

That weekly trip to the market might be keeping some folks from turning into Unabombers in their hovels of solitude. Shut-ins may act awkward in social situations, especially while in retail shops and public transportation vehicles, but it’s a good thing for them to air themselves out once in a while.


3. “The landlord and credit companies insist that I maintain an income, and most jobs require being around other people.”

The “objective” section of your resume claims that you love to help people! Note: all positions require that you either work around other people or that your personality does not reveal antisocial tendencies. You’ve embraced the charade just enough for you to function around others and satisfy your basic needs: food, clothing, shelter, sufficient health, friendship, transportation, mobile plan, internet, and whatever supplies your addictions.


4. “I love people. “

No one believes you, but OK.


Now that you’ve chosen a stance, we can progress to specific situations you will face on your mortal odyssey.

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