The Story

Tell me a story, she said. Her voice was sleepy and her eyes half-closed.

I began to tell a story.

In English, she said, as she did every night. I want to hear a story in English.

But you won’t understand.

It doesn’t matter. I want to listen to you tell me a story in English.

Very well, I said, as I did every night. Where shall our story begin?

***

Once there was a young man who grew up happy and loved, very much contented with the place that he called home, and the people he loved, his friends and his family. But like in the beginning of many stories, the young man reached a certain age and began to sense that something was missing, something he would not find at home.

And so it was that after much waiting, the young man bid farewell to his tearful family and friends, and promised to return once he’d found what he was missing.

After traveling many places, the young man eventually found himself in an incredibly beautiful place, far from his home. Everything about this place seemed quite perfect to the young man—the scent of the air, the way the clouds floated lazily in the sky, the radiant colors of the sunrises and sunsets, the lush landscape filled with majestic trees and rolling hillsides. Everything felt right about it, as if it was precisely the place he was looking for. The young man stayed in this wonderful place and came to know the people, their language and their culture, and felt himself very much at home.

Soon, he met a quiet young woman who smiled and looked away whenever he was near. Eventually the young man summoned the courage to talk to her, and soon they fell very much in love. She complimented him on his ability to speak her language, but each night she asked him to tell her a story in his own. She loved the way his voice sounded as he softly spoke words she would never understand. Each night the young man created a new story, but every story told of a young man and woman falling in love and growing old together.

The young man eventually began to wonder about his mother and father, as he had not been home for many years. He wanted to bring his lover to meet them, but before they could leave she became pregnant, and so they waited for the child. They had a son together, followed by two daughters, and their children grew up happy and loved, very much contented with the place they called home and the people who loved them, their family and friends. He thought often of returning home; first he was too ashamed to return because he’d waited so long, but in time the young man grew to become an old man, and he was too afraid because he thought his parents might be gone.

When the young man’s son reached a certain age, he began to sense that something was missing, something he would not find at home. He bid farewell to his tearful parents, promising to return when he found what he was looking for. The young man and young woman grew old together, each day missing their son more than the previous day, but grateful to have each other’s love as their source of hope that he would find what he was looking for.

***

Was it a happy story, she asks, as she does every night.

Yes, I answer. The young man finds what he was looking for.

The 100% Perfect Burrito

This week’s writing experiment. with apologies to Haruki Murakami

One beautiful August afternoon, at a food truck on some narrow side street in west LA, I ate the 100% perfect burrito.

Honestly, there was nothing about it that made it particularly delicious. It didn’t seem to have any special ingredients. The underside of the tortilla had been left on the grill slightly too long. It wasn’t especially appetizing. But still, I knew before I even took a bite: It was the 100% perfect burrito for me. The moment I smelled it, my tongue became moist with saliva, as I anticipated savoring its every bite.

Maybe you have your own particular favorite type of food—a pizza with crisp pepperonis, say, or a bacon-wrapped hot dog, perhaps. I have my own preferences, of course. Sometimes in a restaurant I’ll catch myself staring at a plate at the next table to mine because something about a dish has captured my attention.

But no one can insist that his 100% perfect meal correspond to some preconceived type. Much as I like tortillas, I can’t recall the texture of that burrito’s ground-flour wrapper. All I can remember for sure is that there was nothing especially gourmet about it. It’s weird.

“Yesterday on the street I ate the 100% perfect burrito,” I tell someone.

“Yeah?” he says. “Tasted delicious, eh?”

“Not really.”

“Your favorite restaurant, then?”

“No, I bought it from a food truck. I can’t seem to remember anything about it—the flavor of the meat or the texture of the melted cheese.”

“Strange.”

“Yeah. Strange.”

“So anyhow,” he says, already bored, “did you take down the name of the food truck? Are you going to follow them on twitter?”

“Nah. Just had the burrito and went on my way.”

The food truck drove from east to west, and I walked west to east. It was a really a wonderful August afternoon.

Wish I could have seen the person on the food truck prepare burritos. Twenty minutes would be plenty: just watch how they grilled the meat, how they folded the tortilla. Discover how the complexities of fate had wrapped perfection in a thin wrapper of wax paper and tin foil. The burrito had surely been peppered with mystical seasonings, ingredients from a time when children played happy and free on the corner lot, sand in their shoes and joy in their hearts.

After speaking with my friend, I felt I should have taken down the name of the truck, or at least made note of its appearance, or where and when I had seen it. Having failed on these counts, what recourse did I have? I could track down all of the food trucks on the west side, one at a time, sampling their wares. Ridiculous. I’d gain all sorts of weight, and who knows whether I would even be able to recognize another burrito as coming from the same truck.

Maybe the simple truth would do. “Good afternoon. I believe I once at the 100% perfect burrito; could it have been served at this truck?”

No, who would believe it? Or even if they did, they would probably not be able to recreate the experience for me. Sorry, the employee could say, we may have made the 100% perfect burrito for you, but we have since changed our produce suppliers and have not had the same luck with avocados that we once had.

It could happen. And if I found myself in that situation, I’d probably be through with burritos. I’d never recover. I’m nearly thirty, and I know that losing touch with the flavors of youth is a simple fact of growing older.

I recall walking away with my burrito, as the truck’s ignition roared to life behind me, and they prepared to drive away. I walk a block further, slowly eating the burrito, and turn: the truck has already turned a corner as I am nearly halfway finished with my snack, the taste of sour cream and grilled onion lingering on my palate.

The Proclamation

Last week’s submission for my fiction class. Enjoy.

As the time for him to walk onto the stage drew nearer, Philip’s deep sense of pride at having been chosen to read his essay at the town celebration became all the more completely eclipsed by his intense nervousness. This year was a big celebration—one hundred fortieth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation—so everyone was talking about how the crowd would be the biggest one until, of course, the big one-five-oh. Among all the seventh graders in Hardin County, Kentucky—proud birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, only Philip had been ballsy enough to write an essay about the vast differences between what it meant to be a Republican in Lincoln’s time and what it means now.

Of course, he knew better than to submit that essay. The essay contest was judged by several prominent Republicans, so he submitted instead an essay about how proud Hardin County should be of having such an integral connection to the only United States President yet to have had a patent in his name. In the “ringer” essay, as Philip liked to call it, he wrote extensively about how shameful it was that the commercial boating industry of Lincoln’s time had failed to pick up on his ingenious ballast tanks, which would have worked wonders to help buoy ships over shoals. The essay judges fell for his trick, and now he was set to read his real essay in front of this large crowd.

As he waited in his seat, next to the podium on the rickety stage in the hot Autumn sun, Philip felt a drop of sweat dribble slowly from his knee down the side of his calf. He knew he shouldn’t have worn his favorite black corduroy pants. Would the man at the podium—an ass of a man with an ugly bowtie and a bushy moustache—ever just shut up and introduce him already? At least the white button-up shirt he’d worn wasn’t soaking up as much heat as his pants. He wondered if these Republicans knew his father was a die-hard Democrat; it would explain why they hadn’t given him a bottle of water, or anything at all to help with his parched throat. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Finally, the bow-tied brustache man introduced Philip to the crowd and initiated a round of applause. Philip stood up slowly, clutching his essay tightly in his sweaty left hand while the brustache man overzealously shook the right one. He stepped up onto the small box they had provided for him behind the podium, set his papers down, and looked out at the crowd. Now standing, he could clearly make out the scent of funnel cakes and corn dogs, and he felt a drop of sweat form on his temple and roll slowly down his cheek.

“Republicans,” he said, not yet looking down at his paper. He had memorized the entire first paragraph. “Republicans are not today,” he said. He stared out at the crowd of people who had come to celebrate Lincoln’s birthplace, and he didn’t see a single person who wasn’t white. The edges of his field of vision, too, began to go white, and he felt the box below slip out from beneath him as he collapsed behind the podium.

My Onion Wanna-be Piece

Every week we’re supposed to write a short (250-500 words) piece of fiction, based on a list of experiment ideas. Last week I submitted this, based on the experiment “Chronicle,” which suggests trying mimic the style of writing used in newspaper articles. Naturally, I gravitated toward an “Onion” style piece. I will try posting my other experiments here, as well, in the weeks to come. Enjoy!

Area Man’s Attempt to Use The Secret to Remove Ants from His Bathroom Horrible Failure

Fresno (AP) – Local twenty-something Jack Jackson recently sought to employ techniques learned from reading the back cover of a recently popular self-help/spirituality book entitled The Secret, which suggests that readers can effect profound change in their lives through focused positive thinking.

Jackson rents a single room in a condo located in the Fresno Townhouse Association of central Fresno. “I also have my own bathroom,” he stated in an interview, “and I can use the washer and dryer any time I want.”

Jackson claims that he has noticed ants in both his bedroom and bathroom before, and even occasionally an ant or two in the shared kitchen space. They have never really bothered him.

“They’ve never really bothered me. I just let them be, same as spiders,” Jackson mentioned, seeming overly proud of himself. “Sure, there have been times when I left a cereal bowl in my bedroom, and that’s my bad. But after the recent wet spell, the ants in my bathroom were out of control.”

Saundra Meyers, the woman who rents the bedroom to Jackson, verifies that he has, in fact, left food in his room. “He’s just like a teenager. Pizza boxes sit in his room for days, and you can see the trail of ants carrying away crumbs, but he doesn’t do anything about it.”

After scanning the back cover and first few pages of popular New Age spirituality book The Secret while waiting in line at Target one evening, Jackson began to think that maybe his best bet would be to use the “law of attraction” to “manifest” a bathroom free of ants.

“I don’t know if the mouthwash attracts them or what. I always put the lid back on tightly, but it doesn’t seem to matter, and I always feel bad when I smoosh [sic] the ants. So I tried envisioning a bathroom without ants, and really believing that it would become a reality.”

After three days of positive thinking, Jackson’s attempts to use The Secret failed. He then borrowed a can of Raid from Meyers, who gave him a vaguely disapproving “I-told-you-so” look.

Spring 2010

Nagoya Castle
Nagoya Castle

Wednesday morning, I returned home from my trip to Nagoya to find a letter from the folks at the TA program, which informed me that I was not accepted for the coming year’s group of TAs. (They were very friendly about it, explaining how the constraints of a limited budget meant they had less to work with, etc, rather than just saying “suck it, loser.”) The good news: that means I’ll graduate in the Spring! (Provided, of course, I bust ass and get my thesis finished!)

The trip to Japan was simply wonderful. I’m still fantasizing about going over there to live. All of the food was delicious, and the people I was with went out of their way to make sure I had a nice 29th birthday. In less than a week I’ll head back to Central Illinois for about a week and a half… which at the moment seems like much more time than I’d like to spend there. Maybe I’ll hole up at my mom’s house and work on my thesis the whole time ;-)

On the Move

I saw kids on the corner last Saturday night, wearing bags on their heads.
I saw kids on the corner last Saturday night, wearing bags on their heads.

Tomorrow morning I’m hopping on a plane for Nagoya, just shy of three years after getting engaged in Tokyo, and just over a week after breaking off that engagement near LAX. While I’m in Japan, I’ll enter my thirtieth year here on Earth, my final year of trustworthiness. I guess my hopes of making my first $10 million before 30 are shot. :-/

I had the pleasure of reading some of my work for the Graduate Reading Series at CSUN last weekend, and I think it went pretty well. I could barely resist pointing out to the audience that the piece I read is a work-in-progress, and that there’s probably going to be a lot more to it at some point. I refrained, however, from trying to apologize for myself. I’m still waiting to hear about the TA program, at which point I’ll know whether I’m finishing CSUN this spring or the next.

Finally, I’ll be flying back to Illinois on Christmas Eve to visit with friends and family, and to collect all the countless books I left in Urbana three years ago. I’m even planning to get my own place so I have somewhere to store them. But then, maybe if some gets me some Nook-e for Xmas, I won’t need as much room? Come on, Santa. I’ve been good.

Mirrors

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just read this book for my Literatures in Translation class, and I have to say, it’s better than any world history book that claims to be such, without even claiming to be such. It contains an astounding amount of facts and information about world history, all presented in such a way that it effectively undermines the typical western historical narrative familiar to so many of us. I recommend it to all.

View all my reviews >>

Get Ready to Start Calling Me ‘Master C’

I may have grown up listening to David Alan Coe, but that don’t mean I can’t get myself edumacated.

I had a little case of the Mondays going on today, but then I came home to find a letter in the mail from CSUN informing me that my thesis proposal has been accepted. Yay! Now I get to really get to work! I’m stoked, though, because it means I’ll finally finish Never Enough, the piece I started ten years ago as a freshman at Bradley University. But I am applying for the Teaching Associate Program, which would give me some valuable hands-on experience in the freshman composition classroom. If I’m accepted to that, it will push my graduation back by a semester. As I told my sister, though, that means I’ll either graduate in the Spring 2010 semester, during the same month I’ll be having a wedding ceremony back home, or I’ll graduate in the Fall 2010 semester, during the same month that I’ll turn 30 years old. So either way it’s going to be a busy year!

Speaking of wedding, I think I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that I simply can’t keep eating the way I did three years ago and expect not to put on weight. I’ve tried going to the gym with varying levels of success, but my gym membership expires this month and I’m not comfortable forking over another year’s worth of membership fees to continue seeing limited success.

I wasn’t really thinking about this, though, when I accidentally stumbled onto this Lance Armstrong website the other day. After playing around with it, and discovering that it claims I can lose 2 lbs a week by keeping my calorie intake at 1674 or less each day, I decided that I might as well give it a try. I’ve noticed in the first 48 hours of using it that simply having an awareness of how much I’m consuming is enough to make me reconsider certain choices. And best of all, it’s free. So maybe by the time I meet Yuka in the aisle, I will have shed a few of these extra pounds I’ve gained since I’ve been working a desk job. No promises, though ;-)

That’s it, for now. I need to get started on this thesis!

If you are looking for a great event performance on your wedding, follow Jugglinginferno or click here.

Freedom

I celebrated the Fourth of July this year by watching three David Lynch films back to back. We started with my favorite, Blue Velvet, followed by Wild at Heart, and finally Lost Highway. It was my first time seeing Wild at Heart, and I have to agree with some random comment I spotted on the Internet somewhere, that True Romance seems much less original and impressive after seeing Wild at Heart. Which isn’t necessarily to say that I prefer Wild at Heart… I think I’d have to see both again to make that call. Who knows, maybe it’s apples and oranges? Wait, Lynch and Tarantino? I guess that would have to be fruits and nuts.

Anyway, I spent some of my other free time this weekend tinkering around with this site, installing the latest version of the wordpress theme I’m using, and tweaking various settings and features. Feel free to offer your thoughts on the appearance in the comments section, but keep in mind that I will promptly disregard them.

I also signed up for classes for the fall semester, and can’t stop thinking how crazy it seems that in just two more semesters I might finish a Master’s degree. Probably the most exciting part about it all is that I’ve recently had some inspiration about where the story in my novel is going. I’m still not sure how feasible it will be to work on my novel as my Master’s thesis, but I’ll burn that bridge when I get to it. It’s just nice to think I may have some direction for it again. Now I simply need to get working on it…

It Has a Name

Trichotillomania – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Growing a full, even goatee is complicated by this condition, particularly when I’m working on big, important assignments or projects, such as the 4,000 word take-home final that is due in just over twenty-one hours.That said, reading through this wikipedia article about the condition leaves me feeling quite grateful that my symptoms have been limited to my goatee and nose hair.I wonder if I can draw disability for this?