Saturday, April 09, 2005


Cell phones saved their marriage.

He was in aisle 8, tracing his fingers over cereal boxes, decoding graphics intended on inspiring wakefulness, while she was in produce, groping the mangos.

"I need to find something soon or I will go completely stir-crazy." His finger looped around the perkiness of a certain Captain's mustache. She hated to see him loafing around the cereals.

"What about working at the police station again. They really liked you and the pay wasn't bad." Too soft her fingers told her. He hated the face she made when she pinched produce.

"That's not acting. Those young cops are so weird too. You act like a crazy and they have to spot the signs. I hate having my technique put under that kind of scrutiny. That's not what I spent four years in acting school for. Besides I could pretend to be someone else anywhere. And where are the flowers at the end of the performances, where are they ?!!" He decided on the Captain Crunch and tossed it into his shopping cart.

"But you are good at what you do and you need something," she said on auto-pilot, in a tone which could just as well have come from a recording on her phone: press 7 for generic encouragement.

"Well I was considering soliciting shy millionaires with fucked up childhoods. You know I get them to give me the lurid details of their dreams which I then take to a therapist, pretending that these dreams are the products of my own warped imagination. Then I take any advice back to the millionaires. A courier of the unconscious." Deep down inside, she disliked it when he avoided the topic of work with ridiculous flights of fancy but somehow on the phone it became tolerable as she could distance them from the man she loved.

And this was how it always was when they were out together in public. On their phones. In the flesh their toubles would ignite screaming fights but at a distance they could offer each other encouragement.

And at home they had speaker phones in every room.

Friday, April 08, 2005

What would Jesus do (if he were the Buddha on a barf bag) ?

The interior of the plane shakes and stomachs tense as flight 142 makes its final descent but Martin Barnstone continues to talk his fellow passenger's ear off.

"The largest collection of airplane sickness bags is... in the thousands. Can you believe that ? Some guy's got all these barf bags in his home. That must trigger some kind of gag reflex. I mean seeing all those barf bags must make you want to throw up yourself. Imagine trying to have dinner at Mr Barf Bag's place. I wouldn't be able to digest my food properly. I don't think anyone would including Mr Barf Bag himself. He must have digestive problems. So in the end he does need those barf bags but he can't throw up in them because they make up a treasured collection. What a guy !! " Martin Barnstone stares at his new friend hoping that he'll understand the import of what's just come out of his mouth.

The plane continues to shake up bellies, bladders and breasts.

On the screen for all to see is the pilot's perspective. A camera at the nose of the plane shows that land is fast approaching. There is nothing to fear but fellow passengers and lost luggage. A bald-eagle suddenly explodes across the camera and the monitor switches to a green map of the plane's flight.

Martin Barnstone's new friend passes out from an overload of aerial death and talk of barf bags. Martin Barnstone screams.

Now sitting across from all this, what would you do ? What would Jesus do ? What would the Buddha do ? What would the new Pope do ? What would Oprah do ? What would a venture capitalist do ? What would a terrorist do ? What would a duck do ? What would a punch-line do ?

That's correct: they would all breathe through their nose.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


"I hate that when there are no other people in the room and you're like no way I didn't see that but there's no one to confirm what you just saw. You know I just hate that !!" His eyes bulge out of his head when he speaks as though they want to jump out of his skull and participate as independents in the conversation. As though they're dumbfounded at the stupidity of the brain behind them.

The stupid man and mildly more intelligent woman are sitting across from one another at a tiny table on the patio of a coffee shop. They fail to notice the fact that the brick wall across the street breathes gently. They are engaged in conversation.

He takes a sip of coffee and it tastes his lips and tongue. The coffee is satisfied as it doesn't taste his stupidity. You can't taste stupidity. You perceive stupidity, stupid.

The coffees on their table savour the slow process of becoming diminished. The coffees don't say anything to each other. They are on their first date too but they are comfortable in their silence. They will exist beautifully for their ten minutes of life. Aloof and graceful and dark brown.

I sit across from them, soak everything in and let the drugs inside of me take their course. I document how people fail to commune with coffee as they should. In spite of the drugs inside of me people will understand my point. People will nod and say, yes we love coffee. It's true.

Stupid people must stop drinking coffee.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


After three days of being bereft of his shadow, Stan Kurdlow started to give up hope of ever finding it. He had looked through all the cluttered drawers of his writing desk, beneath his mattress - where he found a fifty dollar bill which had brought him a minute's worth of happiness - , deep into the drains of the sink and tub and even within the pages of computer magazines that he'd recently purchased, but all this effort was to no avail. The yellowed kitchen neon lights or the sun shining in through the living room reminded him of how ineffectual his search had been. How useless he was.

On the sixth day of his confinement, there was a knock at the door.

"Yeah... yes ? " he asked, scaring himself with this weakened version of an already quiet voice.

"Hey Stan, it's Jake. You alive in there ?" boomed the outside voice.

"Yeah, okay." He unlocked the two locks of the door.

"Jesus Christ on a coffee enema, does it ever reek to high heaven in here !!" Jake continued to boom, making his way to the fridge.

"Yeah I haven't been... I've been having problems with... um with my -"

"And there's nothing in this God forsaken fridge of yours !!" Jake's voice boomed out from deep within the back of the fridge.

"Yeah well I umm -"

"Yeah, you've been having problems obviously. So tell me all about it but make it snappy cause I'm just on my way to the movies. I've got a hot date."

"Well you see..." Stan stood paralyzed in thought and came to with the notion to raise his arm to the the kitchen light.

"Yeah, there's no sweat under your arm-pit. Jesus Murphy Christos what's wrong with you Stan ? You fall on your head or something ?" Jake's voice continued to boom.

"My arm doesn't cast any shadow," he said, trying to make sense of what these words meant as they came out of his mouth.

"Yeah... so ?"

"Well isn't that kind of weird ?" He looked to his friend for confirmation of the rules of reality.

"Okay I guess so but it's not like you've lost an arm or anything. Who the fuck needs a shadow anyway ?" His laughter rumbled out of his rather large mouth at twice the volume of his speaking voice. "Hey but seriously, I need to borrow some money for tonight. Could you spot me some dough?"

After several seconds of silence, Stan pulled the recently discovered fifty dollar bill from his back pocket.

"Thanks a million buddy !!" Jake's voice boomed as he stepped out of the door.

Familiar pangs of anger and shame shot through his body; once again he had been walked over. The world was walking over him.

How would he ever find his shadow ?

Donna BalmaDonna Balma

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


"If while travelling through Japan you are lucky enough to have the occasion to summit Mt Fuji, you might be one of the fortunate few to observe four suns rising out of the east. Today I shall explain the origin of this great natural wonder of the earth." Akihito smiles with an effortless civility that shines calmness over all of the diners at Aki's Paradise Palace Restuarant. Around fifty people sit in concentric half rings around the sushi bar. They smile while hunger hides in the corners of their mouths. Several have their cameras on the ready.

"In the beginning, Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, desended from the heavens." From the ceiling of the restaurant, a large piece of filleted salmon on two lines of fishing wire descends. The lowering of the salmon coincides with a bright light which shines down on the sushi bar.

"Argghh I am Oni, a miserably disgruntled demon, and I have no use for this horrible goddess whose countenance provides this world with nothing but blinding rays of useless sun-shine." After saying these lines through an ugly grimace of a hand puppet, Akihito slashes his hand-puppet wielding sushi knife through the air cutting the filleted salmon (playing the part of Amaterasu) into two pieces which fall on the table in front of him.

"Ah you have cut me to my very core," he says in a high pitched female voice. His free hand is hidden beneath the piece of salmon animating her speech. "But now there are more of us aren't there," he says, quickly moving his hand beneath the other piece.

With a swiftness that inspires gasps in the audience he brings the knife down on the one moving piece of sushi. "I will carve you up until there is none of you left to speak then," he shouts in a low growl of a monster's voice.

Relieved delight replaces shock on the faces in the crowd as they realize how the swift dexterity of his hands is part of the show

"How can you sever a ray of sun-shine, you foolish demon. Even the keenest blade of a samurai sword could not destroy the essence of a beam of sunlight. No matter how many times you slice me I will rise again and to forever remind you of these words I shall be seen from Mt Fuji as four suns on this very day every year. So have I Amaterasu goddess of the sun spoken and so it shall be."

"Arrrrghhhhh" Akihito returns to the low grumble of a beast, all the while cutting up the salmon into palatable pieces. Waiters come to pick up the salmon to give it to the delighted audience. Applause fills the restaurant. One rather obese man even stands while clapping furiously with meaty hands. It's the most beautiful form of art he's ever seen in his life, he'll later tell his brother back in Ohio. The thought that there are three hour's worth of fables to follow brings tears to his eyes.

Akihito takes the hand-puppet off, smiles and bows graciously for the first scene of the evening.

Monday, April 04, 2005


"There's just no space right now in the mainstream media for any kind of intelligence. If you want to say anything remotely meaningful you are relegated to the sidelines. It breaks my heart to say this but intelligent reflection has been marginalized. And that is the main reason why I'm doing this interview from here."

He listens carefully to her next question that comes from the tiny earpiece in his left ear.

"Absolutely, the dialogue that's going on in here is about as engaging as anything in the American media. I mean listen to this: For a good conversation meet me here at 5:00 PM April 12th. I'll be outside in a black van."

His high pitched laughter fills the five-stalled restroom.

"Hilarious. There's humour here but then there's also a couple minutes alone, to yourself. You sit here in silence and you also think about the world."

The main door of the restroom opens and a man in a purple tie walks in.

"For example, how does your sense of time change as you get older. In my early thirties I found myself constantly giving wrong estimates of the passage of time. Oh I saw that movie two years ago, I'd say when in fact it was four years ago. There's this inner clock that has to be adjusted as you get older and time speeds up."

In spite of the fact that there's no one else around to look at him, the man in the purple tie stands at the urinal trying not to look like he's listening.

"Now how is it that I'd lived in this world for over thirty years without knowing this basic fact of existence ?!! And I wouldn't say it's trivial as time is one of the most precious modalities of our existence. However this very basic piece of what should be common sense isn't something you'd ever hear on t.v. or the radio."

Again he strains to listen. (If anyone were watching the scene from a hidden camera they might suspect a crazy man of talking to himself and filling his pants while sitting on a closed toilet lid.)
"That's exactly what I mean."

And the man with a purple tie flushes the urinal with a brand new thought in his balding head.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


"So he pukes up from the chemical fumes of the cleaner, smiles and then sprays said puke with cleaner and wipes it up lickety-split. The customers at the table are horrified, but our employee of the month is very proud that the cleaner did such a bang up job. Is that it basically ?" He shouts all this into the back part of the toilet ("lifting up the hood of the crapper" is what he calls it) and assumes that Julie can hear him in the living room.

"Yeah that's it," Julie bellows back with a touch of anger. It's eight o'clock on a Saturday night and they're at home watching "The Corporation" for the tenth time. Anders hasn't said anything about her birthday which will be over in four hours.

"Very solid idea. You're a shoe-in for the funding. It's horrifically funny with a pretty solid message. We'll email the proposal off tonight," he shouts back as he fidgets with the inside arm of the flusher. Their toilet has been acting up again. They are both straight A graduate students in communication but their toilet still acts up. Fortunately, Anders is good with his hands.

"Yeah well it's important isn't it. You have to remind people of important things, don't you !" Shouting all this out draws out the anger within her.

"Okay I'm almost done here," Anders smiles and drops rose petals into the back tank of the toilet so that when she flushes the pee-water will be replaced with the "fair trade flowers" that he picked up from an organic grocer. Tonight he will spring a surprise of flowers on her.

Or their toilet will get clogged.

Or at the very least the culture will get jammed.

Or maybe we'll just never stop wondering about the ways of this world.