Sunday, November 30, 2008

NaBloPoMo - A month in review

Dear friends:

This post effectively wraps this year's National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). This time last year, I was pretty burned out and the best I could manage was a half-assed post about my beard looking terrible. This year, I'd like to think there is more to show than just a patchy quasi-beard. Early on, I set the goal of getting a significant amount of new short fiction out there. This was decided after a source very close to NOMENCLATURE advised that short fiction is where the money is, in terms of creative writing.

This month has provided:

The bread and butter of NOMENCLATURE was and always will be creative non-fiction and plenty came your way this month:

Assorted essays:

Though I am pretty exhausted after this month, it did feel really good to get back into writing again. I hope to post more frequently now -- though surely not at the rate of one post a day. I hope you all visit or revisit some of the work I've placed on here. Criticism is always welcome so please, let me know what is working and not working.

Thank you to everyone who stuck with me through this. In particular -- Alex, Charles, Kate, Ted, Mike Sokol. Thanks to all readers!

Have a great December, all!



PS: For the record, my beard, as of 11/30 (You were right about the cat, Kate):

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Rocque spent most of the train ride paging through his late brother’s black book, marveling at the intricacy and attention to detail paid to his pieces. Tek had been a master planner, keeping notes on the traffic patterns below railroad trestles and along interstate sound barriers. Page after page, Tek mastered his tag, sharp and angled, the ‘E’ swallowing whole the ‘K.’

“I want people to know the ‘e’ is long, like ‘easy,’” Tek had told his younger brother and the rest of the crew as he etched it onto a cement wall. The crew held their meetings below an old concrete bridge on the Red Line. Theya would dump the contents of their backpacks and sift through the mess of cans – spray paint, beer, malt liquor – while smoking black & milds. Someone would pack tree into a blunt and pass it around til they could not discern themselves from the tags they threw up on the walls.

Rocque recognized some of the pieces as his brothers’ while passing them on the Red Line. There remained little differentiation between Tek’s sketches and the paintings themselves. He expanded his concepts with masterful precision. Rocque himself had trouble duplicating what little sketches he could create. His lame left arm, shriveled and weak, could do little more hold the aerosol cans against his body while he worked a surface. Oftentimes, they would fall from his grasp and clatter noisily along the pavement. Rocque would then get scared and run away, leaving his piece and his cans unfinished. He had never completed a coherent work of graffiti.

He could however tag with aplomb, speedily, efficiently, for it required only one hand and his left pincer hand could handle the circular lid to his mop. He rode the red line at off peak hours and as a result, most cars bore his dense tag – a boulder-like jumble – for, as Rocque told his brother before his passing, he wanted them to know that his name was “ ‘Rocque,’ as in ‘Rock.’”

He exited the train at the University Circle station, surveyed for the last time the section of the black book with the map of where Tek had hid his racked paint cans. Tek, always airing on the side of caution, hid the cans he had recently lifted from hardware stores. This had a duel purpose of concealing his crime and placing the materials in a close proximity to where he planned to begin his next piece.

Rocque had worked all last summer as an art teacher for little kids at the Portland-Outhwaite Recreation Center down on East 5-5. On afternoons, parents would drop off their kids, or the kids would walk over on their own and Rocque would show them arts and crafts. He enjoyed this, for he knew that these kids didn’t have anything, and didn’t really have anyone to look up to, as he had, with his brother.

He had done this job the last couple summers, but this year he noticed less supplies for his department. Less beads, less paint, less paper, less pens. Any time he tried to ask someone at the Muny building to help him out, he ran into a secretary, saying stuff about “The Economy.” Rocque didn’t understand much about the economy, but he knew when he was getting the short end.

About three weeks before the end of summer and the end of his contact, the City laid off Rocque. They said that though he did a good job with the community arts position, budget cuts required them to pare back certain programs. As such, his position had been eliminated, and though they were grateful for his commitment to the task, they would not be asking him back the next year, nor were they able to provide a severance package, as his employment was seasonal.

Just up Cedar Hill, Rocque came across a grouping of hedges and pine trees illuminated beneath the halo of streetlamp. He waded into the mass of branches and stepped beyond the arc of light, bent below the lowest canopy of hanging pine. Inside the tent of tree branches, he kicked around until his foot struck something hard and metallic. Rocque felt a plastic bag filled with heavy cylinders. He knew this to be his brother’s stash. He tore open the bag, which had taken on some water, and pulled out five few cans, stuffing them into his backpack. He left six or eight behind, retied the bag and set it against the trunk.

Upon crawling back out of the hedges, Rocque was illuminated by a spotlight. A UC patrol car was passing by on the street. Rocque righted himself and nodded toward the car, the light too bright in his eyes to make out the cop inside.
Nash Bridges, Rocque thought, I ain’t doing nothing.

The light went dead and the 5-0 rolled on down the road. Rocque continued up Cedar Hill as his brother had countless times in the past. Until the one night someone took his life. Tek had taken on a job at a sandwich shop up in Cleveland Heights. The job market down in their neighborhood was not so hot, so Tek was forced to take work somewhere up the Red Line. The neighborhood was clean and nice but too stuffy. Nobody responded well to the big burners Tek threw up around town. The last piece he started – just around the bend on Cedar – was to signify his defining work, an autobiography consuming a large portion of a brick wall alongside the road.

Tek had begun the project but never saw it through to completion. Rocque learned that his brother was killed by a drunk driver near the piece. Tek may very well have been working on it as he was run down. Rocque has his suspicions. With little on his plate, Rocque took over in his brother’s footsteps, attempting to validate his life with more graffiti. But Rocque could not spray nearly so well as his older brother and most of his pieces miss the flare displayed in Tek’s work.

Rocque’s talent never lay in original composition, for he was much more of an emulator – a realist. He focused more on pencil drawing than airbrush, not only because it was easier to manipulate with one serviceable hand, but because it was more tactile. He felt the ability to add more layers and to a pencil drawing. But Tek’s art affected more people for it was viewable by more people. Rocque supposed that was the trade-off: quicker, less detailed work for higher visibility. But in the end, their art made little difference in the lives of the two brothers.

Rocque came to bend in the road where Tek had begun his piece. Now viewing it in full scale, Rocque was able to gauge the scope of the project. He thumbed through his brother’s notebook. Tek had begun approximately a quarter of the piece as conceptualized in the sketchpad. Rocque wondered how he would be able to reach some of the higher places on the walls. The stones jutted out to act as footholds, but he could not see himself bracing against the wall and working the can of Krylo. He though of acquiring a ladder, though he was unsure how, and securing it in the bush for when it was needed. Still this task proved daunting already. Rocque had expended much energy just reaching University Circle and then finding the cans. The thought of bringing a ladder on the train seemed too much.

Rocque decided that he would consider all the logistics later. Although the idea of giving it all up and going had entered his mind, he opted to stay and work on what little he could that night. A larger portion of what Tek had completed still needed filled – most of the work was still frames. This part of the piece depicted the group members of Tek’s crew, CONTROL, in their hideout underneath the railroad bridge on the red line. Six figures huddled around a can throwing flame casting their shadows against the walls. None of the shadows had been filled so Rocque decided to work on that for the time being. He could get a feel for the surface and for the paint against it. He pulled out of the bag a can of black Krylo and shook it in his good hand. He slapped a painter’s mask over his mouth.

The road at this hour was lightly trafficked though he tried to keep an eye out for headlights. The air filled with aerosol as he applied the spray to the wall, careful to keep the color within the space Tek had previously outlined. The can was cool and controlled in his hand and felt very comfortable to him.

A voice behind called him an asshole. Rocque turned around and a pretty boy in a white Benz had rolled up on the street. Rocque cursed himself for not noticing but this man had driven down the road with no headlights, probably drunk. Now he was stopped just next to Rocque. The man had spiked his hair up into a shark boy look and it appeared that his collared shirt was shiny for it reflected in the streetlight. Rocque did not say a word.

“People like you are the reason this city looks like shit,” the man yelled.

Rocque did not say a word. He dropped the can of Krylo and it rolled down the hill. He placed both hands in his pockets.

The man went on to say that he was sick of people like Rocque shitting on his city and he meant to do something about it. Rocque could not be sure, but he thought he smelled liquor on the man’s breath.

The man in the shiny shirt stepped out of his car and into the road. He was on the heavy side, with broad shoulders and muscular arms, though with a beer gut and not all that tall. Imposing only in his obnoxiousness, the action was quick and it caught Rocque off guard.

Not a moment later, the car began to move down the hill, sans driver. It appeared as though the man forgot to put on the brake, for he yelled “Shit!” and ran after it down the hill. The car did not make it far, as it ran up against a telephone pole near the bend in the road. The man jogged, listing back and forth, after his scraped up car and Rocque could tell that he was drunk. Suddenly he became the man the killed Tek at this very spot. More than likely he was returning from the club at the top of the hill, drunk off Scotch or champagne or whatever the rich people drink.

The man climbed into the car and threw it in reverse, scraping the side again. The front bumper tore off and littered onto the road. This made the man angry, for he accelerated very quickly with the car still in reverse and tore up the hill. At that moment, another car with no headlights careened down the hill. It smashed into the rear of the car moving in reverse. Pieces of broken glass sprayed all around Rocque but managed to miss him. He still stood with his hands in his pockets. Both cars sat sideways across the road. One’s horn would not stop sounding its monotone blast. He could not make out a figure in the white Benz, for the inside was engulfed in airbag. For a few moments, the event suspended itself in time and place, the only signal of life being the drone of horn.

Then Rocque was sprinting down the hill, attempting to outrun the sirens in the distance. He rounded the bend in Cedar Hill, came past the tree with the stash and kept on toward the Transit Station, glowing fluorescent sanctity through the night.

* * *

Rocque took on a job at the same sandwich shop that had employed Tek and most nights found himself walking past the unfinished burner on the wall on Cedar Hill. He had not been able to bring himself back to it. Shattered glass still bespeckles the sidewalk around the accident. Each day, Rocque passes a rusty can of black Krylo rolled into a pile of leaves.

Today, however, is different. He recently racked some new cans from a hardware store on Quincy with plans to get back to work on his brother’s memorial. Over time, he has honed his craft beneath bridges on the Red Line and is much more confident in his spray art than he has ever been. And he has some ideas for the memorial that deviate from his brother’s plan. But he is sure Tek will understand.

Rocque steps off the Red Line train onto the platform in University Circle. He wears his work uniform – black polo, black khakis, black visor. He steps into the stairwell leading onto the street. At the bottom, a man waits. His neck is in a brace and his clothes appear disheveled. He holds a baseball bat in his right hand and appears to brace all his weight against it. Rocque recognizes him as the man in the Benz.

But Rocque is unafraid, for among other things he gleaned from his brother following his death, Rocque carries a revolver. His brother’s gun, cradled carefully in his jacket pocket, hammer clicked back, safety off. Just a tool, Tek used to say, to scare or to maim, depending on the circumstance. Rocque was not sure what this one was to be, but he was ready for either.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Bullshit Friday Post

NaBeGroMo Update - Week Four

Status: Scholarly; fluffy; dignified; grey -- a success!

And no, I am not holding a cat up to my face.

That's ridiculous.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day

It is Thanksgiving Day and you are excited to have been let off work an hour early. On the train ride home, you contact an old high school friend, Amy, via cell phone. Bask in stories of young drunks transformed to old drunks over the last six years. Compared to most kids of your graduating class, you are doing pretty well for yourself. This coupled with your early exit from work -- this never happens -- sets you in a very good mood.

Also on the plate for later today is a trip to the Outer Rings to spend the rest of the evening with your girlfriend's family. You do not own a car, but have reserved a vehicle through a car share program. Leaving the train station, still on the phone, you are accosted by a man dressed in construction gear. He still wears his white helmet and has a neon vest over top of a Carhartt coverall. You are just about at the top of a set of concrete steps out of the train station when he yells 'Hey' from behind. It is not a call of desperation, and does not carry much weight, though there is an undercurrent of shame that makes you stop and listen to the man. You tell Amy to hold on a second.

First off, the man thanks you for actually stopping to listen to him. Most people in your neighborhood, the man says, looked at him like he was Osama Bin Laden and ran away from him. More than likely, you realize, this is because he was going to ask them for money, of which you are sure he is to ask you. Still, you'd like to think yourself better than most of the tight-asses in your uppity neighborhood, which provides additional incentive to hear the man's story. He begins by saying that he is a construction worker, helping to build the Euclid Corridor. This immediately finds a soft spot in your soul, for this man is helping to create the thing that will save Cleveland. Today, he says, he is on-site, laying down a large metal plate in the road that this city uses to fix all its problems. He accidentally backs his truck over a lip on one of said plates and pops his tire and bends his rim.

He deviates for a second, says that he lives on Coventry Road, which is not all that far from where you live. It is not all that close either, but enough to make you think of him as a neighbor; a brother from another mother on this Earth on Thanksgiving Day. Now, the man goes on to say, if you would be so kind as to give him 12 dollars or so to have the rim hammered out at a service station, his faith in mankind would be restored.

Suddenly the fate of mankind rests upon your shoulders as you consider all the good Samaritans throughout history. Apart from Jesus Christ, Mother Theresa, Ralph Nader, and your grandmother, you cannot think of anyone else. To restore this man's faith would place you in a class of human beings with few peers.

The man's story has taken a few minutes to tell. He is obviously tired. 'Now how can you make me say this whole thing to another person all over again?' he asks.

'I'm sorry man,' you say, stuttering. 'I seriously don't have any money on me, not even any change.' To prove your point, you remove your wallet and open it. True to your word, it is full of library cards, bus tickets, a bank card, but no cash. The man slumps his shoulders -- not the answer he wanted to hear. 'Look, if there was an ATM around here, I'd do it,' you say. There are none in the immediate vicinity and you know this.

'Hey man, there's a National City down the hill, we can walk over and you can help me out. I'll go with you.' He is very hopeful now and his face has brightened.

A number of things go through your mind. Due to a scheduling conflict between your shift at work and when you reserved the car, you have a good two hours before you are allowed to drive it, despite the fact that it is probably parked in a lot just near the station. The thought of walking all the way up Cedar Hill to your apartment and then all the way back down an hour later to pick up the car is not particularly appetizing. This man needs help, he is friendly enough, it is Thanksgiving and you feel benevolent. You tell Amy you will call her back.

'Are you about to give money to a homeless guy?' Amy asks, for she has seen you give money to homeless people before.

'No.' you say, for this man is not homeless. He is building Cleveland and just needs a little help. You hang up. 'All right, let's go,' you say to the man.

'All right,' he says, happy that you are helping him.

On the way down to the bank, you realize that it is much farther than you originally thought. But the man asks what you do and you tell him: Editorial; press releases; distributing financial news that does not make much sense to you. He asks how you feel about the economy. You say it's a big problem, and not something that is easily fixed without looking at the whole nature of how this country does business. A bailout was not the answer. The man agrees, says that we are already paying them once, why should we pay them again with our taxes? You believe in an equal distribution of wealth; you do not necessarily believe in capitalism; you are maybe a socialist. But you do not say this to the man. He needs help, not a lecture.

The man directs you onto a grassy median between opposite directions of traffic. He says that he'd have been a millionaire if he hadn't played football. You are confused, for usually it is the other way around. You ask him how this could be. As it were, he played high school football instead of pursuing his art. When he was in first grade, he won grand prize in an art contest and has been passionate about it since. But it appears as though he never received a big break to propel him into the art world. Now he is nearly 50 years old.

You ask if he has ever done graffiti. He says no, for he prefers realism, not cartoons, and works mostly in pencil. One time, he says, that he made a cartoon of Mickey Mouse for his friend's daughter on her birthday. That is the only time he draws cartoons -- on kids' birthdays. The little girl really liked it, he said.

You pull a small notepad out of your bag, hand it to the man and fumble around for a pen. You do not have one. The man reaches into his coverall and produces a permanent marker. You hand him the notepad, and tell him to draw something for you. This is to be the exchange. Your money for his art. The man tries to shirk the task, saying that he hasn't drawn in years, and that he never works with magic marker. You tell him to make due. Surely he can draw something. He says he can't. You press him. He begins gesturing and accidentally drops your book on the sidewalk. He immediately bends down to pick it up.

Now you two are in a parking lot behind an elementary school. The bank lies just beyond the stretch of asphalt. The man says that he will have to get your contact information to pay you back. His girlfriend, he says, is in microbiology and she will be able to hook you up in the future. You think to ask if the man has weed but you reconsider. You do not plan on supplying contact info.

As you approach the ATM, you again remind the man to work on a quick drawing in your notepad.

'Okay,' he says, 'I'm gonna sit down right here.' He sits on a concrete support at the bottom of a light post.

'You draw me something,' you say.

National City is not your bank and the ATM charges you a 3 dollar fee. The lowest denomination you can withdraw out is 20 dollars but you knew this coming in. This is the amount you take. You go back down and give the money to the man, ask if he can cover your surcharge. He cannot.

You ask to see what he has for you. The man says that he really does not like drawing with permanent marker but he shows you. It is an eye, just one, with his signature underneath: Chris. The eye is not very big, but it is a good eye and you are impressed at it, for you could not draw an eye so well. Yours would look like a cartoon. Again, the man asks for your contact info so his microbiologist girlfriend can pay you back. You say that it's not necessary and to not worry about it. Instead, if sees you again and you need help, he should return the favor; or return the favor should he come across someone else that needs help.

'That's how it's supposed to work,' Chris says.

'Yeah, pay it forward,' you say.

Chris thanks you a lot for the money. He shakes your hand and shakes your hand and shakes your hand, says that he hopes he sees you again sometime. You say likewise. The two of you shake hands again. Then he walks off toward Euclid. You turn and walk back toward the train station and the parking lot where hopefully the car you are borrowing is waiting. You have effectively killed an hour.

Later, you embark for the Outer Rings and your girlfriend's family, with no intention of ever telling anyone this story.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Old Man, He Still Got It

Sometimes, my old man show me how
he still got it. Man need a faucet, broken part,
calls the faucet maker, a man of the people,
my old man, say that he need a part
get me that part for free, he say, what
can you do? My wife, he say to the man
on the phone, don't want this faucet.
She tell me to get a new one, and now it's
broken. How can I tell my wife that I'm about
to spend money to fix a faucet
she don't even want? So what
can you do? he ask. So the man put my
old man on hold, the man talk to his
superior and gets the okay, with
a condition: my old man, he pay
the shipping. Do you have
a problem with that? the man
ask of my old man. Why would I?
my old man say back. My old man tell
the man that he would consider a faucet
a faucet a faucet one he would buy even
if he didn't get parts for free because of
his wife which was a lie. His wife is not
a lie but the faucet is a faucet is a lie.

And we talk more these days, and I ask
him for advice more these days for I am
in a crisis of customer service and I am
in my job like he is in his job and sometimes
I just need to hear from my old man that
I am okay in all of that and that he is okay
with that and with me and I am okay with
him for the sake of advice and being the man
on the phone with my old man rather than
being just the man on the phone.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Post About Flatulence

Last September, I embarked on a Midwest Tour, if you will, via the Megabus. From Cleveland, I bussed to Chicago, met up with old college friend Bigler, then immediately transferred to the next bus to Minneapolis. I knew I was in trouble as soon as I pulled out of the driveway on the way to the bus stop in Cleveland, for I had to move my bowels. Problem is, when I am in transit -- or really any place away from home or work (it's easier to go when I'm getting paid) -- I cannot force myself to go. I lock up. Something about the transient nature of travelling.

And this was to be a trip of crashing on couches, not one of posh (or even ratty) hotel rooms with which I could garner a sense of place. My window for relief expired as I wandered around Tower City in downtown Cleveland, only to find the public restrooms gated and locked. I could not bring myself to go on the bus, though there was continual pressure in my nether regions throughout the night.

Upon arrival to Union Station in Chicago, early in the morning, I made an attempt in an Amtrak restroom. No such luck. The cellophane sheathing around their toilet seats felt unfamiliar and I was thus unable to relax. I metBigler shortly thereafter and informed him of my dilemma. He advised trying again but I could not bring myself to it for I knew the end result: nothing.

So we went to Minneapolis, met up with another college friend Erin, and again I could not find relief. Somehow I knew, pulling out of my driveway late Tuesday night, that this would be an ongoing problem the whole trip. I deliberately attempted to set my innards in motion by drinking lots of coffee and smoking cigarettes and eating lots of Asian food but nothing in Mpls did the trick. All the while I felt a constant weight building down below, like pressure pumping into an innertube.

By Friday evening we were back in Chicago -- Bigler's home -- and trying to track down a place to eat with Bigler's girlfriend, Ashley. We eventually settled upon a place and I ordered a falafel sandwich with lots of veggies. Still nothing. We went to a bar, I had a few draught beers. The next morning, for breakfast, we went to a diner and I had a rather large omelet with broccoli in it and several mugs of coffee. I think you know where this is going.

Afterwards, we went to the McSweeny's store, 826CHI, and goofed around in there. I began to feel a not-so-good sensation mounting, like indigestion. Though this was like indigestion on growth hormones. I hoped amongst hopes that I could make it back toBigler's apartment. We were just about to leave, but just for shits (no pun intended), I decide to look at a book low on the shelf. As I crouched down, an extremely pungent fart escaped. It was silent; deadly. I immediately locatedBigler and Ashley, safely out of harm's way -- for now. I tried to act casual and slowly close the book and replace it on the shelf. ButBigler and Ashley had moved next to me and they knew something was wrong. How could they not? Think of the combination: falafel -draught beer-eggs-broccoli-coffee. They commented on the stench and moved far away. Ashley looked particularly disgusted. We left hastily, for there were others in there and it was only a matter of time before they caught it.

I apologized a lot on the way back. Ashley said that if there was such a thing as glasses that could make stink visible, I would have been a solid puff of green, indiscernible from the flatulence I produced. Anytime you would go back to 826CHI, there would be a dark green smudge on the floor near where it had happened. A child, learning to read, would innocently open the book I had been browsing and vow to never look at another written word ever again.

Bigler went on to say that I put McSweeney's out of business for health code violations -- a dangerous amount of methane gas. One flick of a match would have sent the place up in flames.McSweeney's never recovers from the bad PR and eventually goes out of business. I effectively murder one of my most cherished publications.

Suffice it to say, the whole thing was embarrassing. But the wheels were sent in motion for an exodus of the evil that had accrued within me the last five days. Upon arriving atBigler's apartment, I set up shop on his commode -- inside a bathroom of his private residence, which provided me some comfort. The act took close to a half hour and by the end of it I was tired. But it had triggered an imbalance and my digestive track was not quite right the rest of the trip. I could not hold in anything, quite terribly. It became the exact opposite of my previous problem, culminating in a rather nasty episode involving a bar bathroom in Lincoln Square during a German Fest. But that is another story altogether.

I took the overnight Megabus back to Cleveland and upon my arrival, everything settled back into place, for I was home, and my bowels knew it. They are very perceptive like that.

Monday, November 24, 2008


As I came to learn over the years, one of the positives (or negatives, I suppose) of being an only child in a divorced family is the ability to disappear into the void between Mom's House and Dad's House. I am in the eighth grade and recently discovered a route through the woods by my Mom's House that leads to my Dad's house. It is a Friday, around 4 p.m., I am 14 years old with nothing to do. The season is May. My mom's house is full of boxes, for she is getting married to her boyfriend Jeff, and we are leaving, leaving in a week or so. As most of my belongings are packed into boxes awaiting the van, I decide to hop on my mountain bike and ride via the trail to my dad's house.

I do not call my friends over there to let them know; I do not tell my dad; I certainly do not tell my mom. I did not plan to be gone long, certainly not past dark, and more than likely my mom would be working late or out with Jeff. I lock my beagle Sam in the basement and set out. I always feel bad about leaving Sam behind, but she is spirited, especially when let loose in the woods, and I would lose her easily.

The trip is much faster on bike than walking. When I had discovered the trail last Fall, I had walked it through Winter, but now that the weather had turned, I went via bike. This lesson I would take with me the rest of my life: biking is faster than walking and more convenient and proud than asking someone for a ride. The trip takes around 15 minutes, and that includes a stint where I walk my bike up a steep rocky hill on the trail. This is just slightly longer than driving over. Once out of the woods, I bike through my dad's neighborhood in East McKeesport. Most of friends live on this side of the woods, so this is where I would come to be social. Apart from my neighbor Brooke, I don't really have too many friends at my mom's house, even though that is where I live. Brooke does not come around much anymore, as she has fallen in with the smokers clique and I am still a nerd. All is well though, for I enjoy the solidude of my mom's house, nested atop a dead end hill, next to woods and a church and not much else. A few times though, Brooke came over and we would smoke cigarettes in my garage. I would consider asking her to make out, but would never. Mainly, I think, becasue I feel guilty for not being attracted to her because she is overweight and not nearly so smart as I am. All told, I am looking for sexual experience.

I turn onto my dad's street, Wilmerding Ave, and see my good friend Jason Mamrose -- a skater, but an all right guy -- with two of his skater friends. I recognize them as Justin Pitilsky and Scott Harness. These guys are not very friendly towards me on a day to day basis. I think about turning around to go back but Jason waves me down. He is wearing his new K2 skates. He installed a grind rail -- stolen from God knows where, my dad would say -- in his mom's front yard. Jason's dad lives in Monroeville which is very far away. Certainly not walkable or bikeable and inconvenient even by car.

Jason attempts a grind but slips off and lands in the grass.

"You suck dick," Justin says. He is not wearing skates, nor Scott.

"Fuck you," Jason says. "I don't see you trying it." Jason is good at skating. Better, I would surmise, than Justin and Scott.

"I don't have my fucking skates on, genius," Justin says.

"Yeah, that's cause your mom hid them from you," Scott says and spits.

"She's a bitch," Justin says. "She is always hiding my shit."

Jason says to me, "What's up, Ryan?"

I tilt my head up, give him a silent What's up. I am standing behind them, on the street, and have been for the duration of the conversation, but Justin and Scott just now notice me. They both smile as if they are playing a joke on me.

Scott says to Jason, "You know this kid?"

"Ryan DeBiase," Justin says, screwing up his voice to sound like a computer. He is impersonating me, but I do not sound like a computer. I don't think so.

"Yeah, we're cool," Jason says, dismissive. He is a year behind Justin, Scott, and I, though the same age. Jason and I share no classes and don't interact much at school. He is unaware of my low social standing, though I had alluded to it at times early in our friendship. I cannot skate, which is why I ride this mountain bike. At this point in history, mountain bikes are not in vogue.

"We're cool," Scott says, inflecting his voice low, like a Dunce. He turns to me, "Why don't you go do some homework, fag."

I feel my stomach sink. I shrug, consider going back, or making up some lie as to why I came over and going to my dad's house to watch TV. Or maybe going up the street to Gerry's to play GoldenEye on Nintendo. This is a strong option.

"Is Gerry home?" I say to Jason.

"Nah," Jason says, "he's on some boy scout trip with his dad."

"Boy scouts," I say, "what the fuck? That's gay."

"Gay?" Scott says, "Did you just call Gerry gay?"

"Yeah," I say.

"Are you two gay together? Do you have anal sex?" Scott asks.

I do not understand the concept of anal sex, but follow along, "I only do that with your mom."

Justin and Jason errupt in laughter. Scott mutters, "Fuck you." Then he looks at me defiant, and reaches at my chest. He clamps onto my right nipple and tweaks. Pain knifes through me but I keep a straight face. Some time ago, I decided I would make my stand by being impervious to the titty twister. Scott releases, attempts a differnt position with the same result. Frustrated, he eventually gives up.

"Are you the Terminator?" Justin asks me.

"What?" I say and shrug.

Scott goes over and attempts the same move on Jason, who squirms out of the way, laughing. Scott turns back to me, "You're fucked up."

After this, I do not say much to Justin and Scott and they do not say much to me. They attempt to pass each other out by pressing hard on their chests while one stands against a wall. It does not work, for no one passes out. Bored, they decide to walk up the street to track down Kasey Gustey, up on Congress. I do not really desire to travel with these kids, for they are not my kind of people. I attempt to locate that elusive excuse that will separate me from them. I search, but it does not come. For some reason, I am focused on my grandmother, as if she hinges on my staying or going. Any excuse I consider starts and ends with her, and that -- that is just not suitable for these skater kids. I would be laughed off the block. Not that this bothers me, per se, but I had made valuable inroads with the your mom comment and the purple nurple defense. I did not wish to throw that away. I put up a brief fight with Jason about it, but he persists in encouraging me to come along. I do.

We reach Kasey Gustey's house but he is not home, his mom tells us. She keeps the door cracked slightly, and does not invite us in. I remember Mrs. Gustey from the cub scouts, which I was in with Kasey about six years ago, but do not acknowlege her. It would be inappropriate given the company. Instead, I wait behind all of them and try not to make eye contact. With one plan overturned, we instead head for the East McKeesport playground -- the Park, as it's called. My stomach again takes a turn. The Park was not a place for people like me. That is where the skaters hung out and the last thing I wanted was to hang out with more skaters. As we are walking, I hang in the rear, attempt to confer in Jason that I wish to leave. He asks what else I would be doing, other than going to the Park? I begin to say something about my grandmother but stop. I tell him nothing, I would be doing nothing.

On the way, we pass a bar on Fifth Avenue. The door is open and Justin calls someone at the bar a fag. The guy at the bar says that he'll fucking kill us kids. Justin and Scott both stop while Jason and I try to walk on. There is a bit of a standoff, the guy inside comments on our age, how we can't go it, but he does not come out. Justin and Scott, laughing, move on. I think I hear the guy in the bar say: "Fucking kids."

In short order, we are at the Park and there are a few other kids there, some older than me; some younger than me. None are in my grade, which is a relief. Justin and Scott start smoking. They each have a pack of cigarettes. Scott gives one Jason. Jason tells him to give one to me. Scott looks at me confused. Asks if I smoke. I told him I quit. I told him I used to smoke in the seventh grade with Brooke Coolie. This is true, to a point, though I never smoked with regularity even then. The group of skaters shares a laugh at my expense, as if my name-dropping of Brooke suddenly affords me some cred. We continue to smoke. A young girl, most likely in sixth grade, wearing baggy JNCO jeans and a red tank top glances me from head to toe. I am wearing a grey Steelers T-shirt and a pair of Levi's jean shorts.

"Who is that?" she says with a disgusted look on her face. She is smoking also.

"One of Jason's friends," Scott says.

"What's your name?" the girl asks.

I tell her.

"Who do you hang out with?" she asks.

I search through my group of friends, mostly nerds from the orchestra, and cannot really think of one she might know. I take a stab. "Tim Mitchell," I say.

"Who the fuck is that?" she asks incredulously. "I don't know who that is."

Scott and Justin laugh. Tim is a peripheral player, at best, on the stage of junior high. My gambit failed. She asks for another name. I provide Jim Dunston, another of my orchestra friends, with whom I go way back.

"Who the fuck are these people?" she says, waving her cigarette through the air.

I admit that we are in the orchestra together, though I do not say I play the viola. I tell her I play bass. She rolls her eyes, unimpressed.

Jason notices a cop drive past and tells us to put our smokes out of sight. I drop mine to my side but do not toss it. Just as the cop is almost past, Justin takes out his pack of Newports and waves it in the air. He gives the cop the finger. The brake lights come on and my heart stops. Everyone shuts up. Then the lights go out and the car keeps rolling slowly out of sight. A few more cars drive past and I become afraid that someone will recognize me, smoking with a bunch of skaters at the Park. For some time I do not say anything. There is some debate over whether it is illegal for a minor to smoke or if it is just illegal to sell a minor cigarettes. No one seems to know the answer.

Scott asks why I am keeping so quiet. I shrug. He says that I am just standing there with my hands in my jeans, playing pocket pool. To confirm, a make a squirting sound with my mouth, mimicking what I think come must sound like on its way out. I am lightheaded and nauseous from the cigarette and I again consider going home. But it is a long walk to my dad's house and I still cannot think of an excuse. The guys talk about leaving anyway, making our way over to Broadway and trying to track down Kasey again.

After crossing over 5th Avenue, the guys lead me into a narrow alley which cuts over to Broadway. Tucked back in the alley is squat two story apartment building. We stop beneath a wooden balcony. Justin tells us to hold up. He goes up a flight of wooden stairs. Scott gives Jason and I cigarettes. We begin smoking again. Jason asks what is going on. Scott tells him that Justin is going to Ziggy's house to buy some weed. I do not know who Ziggy is. Upstairs, I hear pounding against a screen door. This goes on for several minutes. I finish my cigarette and flick it onto a patch of grass. The alley continues in front of us and we can see a brief swatch of Broadway, all cobblestone and divots. Scott gives me another smoke.

I hear a door open upstairs, and a woman's voice yell, "What is wrong with you? Would you shut up?"

Justin mutters, "I'm looking for Ziggy. Is he home?"

"How the hell should I know?" the woman says. "I ain't his ma, why don't you all go buy drugs somewhere else."

"Fuck you bitch," Justin says as he plods down the wooden steps.

"Yeah, suck my dick you fat bitch," Scott says.

A head, pockmarked and full of curlers, lurches over the railing. "You little shits better get out of here. This ain't no smoker's den."

"It's a free country," Justin says. He lights one up, balls up his empty pack and throws it on the stairs.

"You better pick that up," the woman says. When Justin ignores her, she spits at him. It misses, but splashes near his foot. In retaliation, he flicks his cigarette at her, though it arcs low, striking a board over Jason's head and raining embers on top of him.

"Hey Justin!" he says, clawing at his neck, "What the fuck?"

Through the swath of Broadway, a police car rolls up, slams on the brakes. Two cops get out and walk toward us. Everything is panic. Scott and Jason take off through the alley, back toward 5th. I follow. Scott ducks into a pizza shop on 5th, but I continue to follow Jason around a corner and onto a narrow sidewalk between buildings. We come out in the rear of the Post Office. Jason waves me over to the loading dock, tucked away behind a brick wall. We climb onto the thing. It seems that the plan may work, though I wish there is a dumpster we could crawl into. Something with a lid. Instead, we sit atop a concrete platform and wait. No more than three seconds later, the officer jogs around the corner and sees us easily. He stops and motions for us to come down. We do that, caught as if it is a game of Hide and Go Seek.

"What the hell are you kids doing?" he asked. "Never run from the cops."

"Sorry," I say and shrug.

"Yeah," Jason says.

"Come on," the officer says, "Let's go back to the car."

The three of us march back across 5th Ave. The officer's partner is at the end of the alley by the apartment. The one that caught us says to him, "These two were trying to hide in a loading dock." His partner laughs.

We walk through the alley to the polic car. All the while I am considering the consequences: who I will call (my dad? my Pap? definitely not my mom), how much bail may be, how I will explain this arrest. One of the officers opens the back door and we climb inside. He shuts the door. The two of them converse outside. Justin is already inside. We are pretty well squished together, he, Jason and I. I am in the middle.

"What happened?" Jason asks him.

"Don't ever run from the cops," Justin says. He turns to me and says, "Dude, I'm sorry. This is the first time this has happened to us, I swear."

"It's fine," I say. Honestly, I am not so much mad at him or Jason or even at Scott for getting away. I don't feel much of anything. It is very hot in the car and all the windows are up and we are all very sweaty. A few minutes later, the door opens and the officers let us out. They say they are not going to charge us for anything, as we weren't doing anything wrong. They just say to leave the upstairs woman alone. They also say that they were just coming over to talk to us and not to arrest us. In running away, we were implicating ourselves and we should never do that, guilty or no. So nothing ends up happening apart from one officer taking down our names and addresses. I am sure to provide the one to my mom's house, as I will be out of there in a couple weeks. One of the officers asks how we know each other. Justin tells him that we go to school together but goes out of his way to says that I have never hung out with them before. The cop does not particularly seem to care and they leave us to walk down Broadway.

A few moments later, someone says, "Oh my God, that was fucking crazy!"

We all erupt of giddy thrills, dancing along thae sidewalk because we had gotten away with something, even though we really hadn't. Justin again apologizes to me and says he feels real bad about ruining my impression of them. I tell them it's really not a big deal, as I am moving very shortly, and am a man untethered.

Scott catches up to us and we lash out at him for abandoning us. He has trouble believing that we were in the back of a police car. He also apologizes to me. Along with Justin, he says that they will not give me a hard time anymore, nor join in if others talk shit on me. Once again, I say, "It's cool."

For some time after, we loaf around Broadway and Jason, Scott, and Justin attempt to pass each other out. This time it is more effective, for Scott falls flat on his face. When he stands back up a tuft of grass is stuck to his shoulder. Jason's eyes roll back in his head and he slides down the brick wall, flailing his arms over his head. Justin lists sideways into a bush. I refuse these shenanigans.

Then it is very late in the evening and the streetlights have come on. Jason leaves with Scott to grab a skate tool from Scott's house. Justin and I head back toward my dad's house, talking the whole way as if we were friends to begin with and not from crisis. We get back to Jason's mom's house -- directly next door to my dad's house -- and sit on his grind rail, bullshitting all the while, constantly reiterating the episode with the police. Jason and Scott come back and Jason goes into his house to drop off the tool he is borrowing from Scott. Once he is inside we hear screaming. It is Jason's mom, going nuts on him for not telling her where he was. He leans out his front door and says he is sorry but he can't hang out anymore tonight.

Justin, Scott and I laugh a little bit. It is completely dark by now and I worry if I'll have to ride back through the trail in the dark. Justin tells me to walk my bike through the trail. Then my dad's girlfriend Carol pulls up in her white Camero. She gets out, still in her Chili's server outfit. I tell Justin and Scott that I'm going to try to get a ride home from Carol and tell them I'll see them around. We will never hang out ever again.

Carol agrees quite cheerily to give me a ride home, though I am worried that I'll have to leave my bike behind. But she says there is room in the hatch of her car. I wheel it onto the street and she lowers the backseat. The bike slides in easily. I am home by 9:30, before my mom. I am with my dog Sam, among the boxes of my old toys and junk, when she asks me what I did that day. The previous 6 hours disappear into a void, for she can never know.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Potluck - 2008

Dang. I missed a day. Sorry about that. Around 10:30 last night I realized I had not put up a blog. At that point I was into my fourth or fifth Christmas Ale. Much of Saturday was spent preparing and then throwing our annual Potluck Party. This year's theme was Gluttony v. Recession - 2008. Ted brought Hot Sauce Williams. KateSpace brought wonderful rum cake (a much better choice, I might add, than my suggestion of a chocolate volcano). Austin brought schnitzel; Jake -- a homemade pecan pie; Aaron and Jeremy both brought store bought cakes that no one really touched in the face of so much delicious homemade stuff. I made lasagna (a first, for me) and three-layer bean dip (my Potluck standard) and my roommate Sam made delicious vegetarian chili (spicy!), a potato-cheddar casserole, and monkey bread.

It was in the making of said monkey bread that Potluck Fluke #1 occurred. I was working on dressing our dishwasher up to make it look like a drink serving station. Sam was in the process of tearing apart biscuit dough for the monkey bread. I noticed that one of our rocks glasses was dirty so I went over to the sink to rinse it out. Sam remarked that biscuit dough smells like balls. To confirm, she made me take a whiff, which I did and agreed with her. Therein biscuit dough existed a certain sweaty crotch-like odor. Sam went on to say that herrecognition of ball smell did not make her perverse. Everyone know what balls smell like, after all.

I attempted to shake the excess water out of the rocks glass, as I had just ran some water through it. I made a hard downward motion with the glass in my hand. It slipped from my grasp and crashed against the edge of the counter, raining shards all over the floor and my crotch. I yelled for Sam to help -- My balls, my balls. Sam made no remarks of my balls smelling of balls.

Much much later in the evening, I was deep into drunkenness, and someone made an off-color remark of Ralph Nader. Still slightly irritated about the election, I tore off into belligerence, screaming the Mr. Nader should not be the butt of jokes, as he is to thank for seat belts and airbags. Most everyone in the living room got up to leave. KateSpace, at that moment on her way out, left without saying good-bye. Someone compared me to Larry David of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Immediately thereafter I felt shame, not necessarily in my intended message but in its delivery. Whiskey and Christmas Ale and civic apathy fueled my rage.

I apologized profusely as everyone left, and one of my friends said he wished he had voted for Nader. Speaking to my friends since Nov. 4, I have heard the argument a few times that if he or she would have known of the Obama landslide, he or she would have voted Nader. The logic is, ironically, if I'd have known my vote for Obama wouldn't have mattered, I would've voted for Nader. It sounds familiar, but the roles are reversed, right? What bothers me the most is that Nader needed votes more than Obama, who won the states of Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina -- historically very Republican-leaning states. While this is notable and extremely impressive of Mr. Obama, it is my belief that swing votes -- on the fence in regards to Obama v. third party -- would have better served Mr. Nader's campaign, which, admittedly held no chance of winning, but could have secured much-needed campaign funding by reaching the 5% plateau. This simply did not happen. I am not familiar with the final poll numbers, but it does not appear Nader cracked 1%. It was extremely disappointing and increasingly frustrating as I talk to more people who said they would have voted Nader had the known the outcome to begin with. Instead they lumped more support into a landslide already out of control.

1% is laughable, I realize. Of course I realize this. But at the same time, is it necessary to continue to poke fun at the man who has affected so much positive change for this country? Maybe I am overly sensitive, as I had a lot invested into his campaign and I do regret ranting on as I did. In a way, though, I do not regret it. My fit was cathartic, albeit alcohol-inspired. I released a lot of pent up emotion. That part of it felt good.

Once more and finally, I apologize to those I offended/possibly woke up.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bullshit Friday Post

NaBeGroMo Update - Week Three

Status: Zero growth in last 10 days. Disappointing.

Memories of last year's NaBeGroMo:

-- Those were the days.



Potluck party at my place tomorrow night.

If you're reading this, you're invited.

KateSpace promised me a chocolate volcano.

No Mike Sokol this year. Turns out he's in Houston. Bummer.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

On Perspectively Buying a Car

Presently, I am at Junior's Coin Laundry and Tanning on Mayfield Road near Coventry. As I was transferring my dirty clothes into a quadruple load washer, I couldn't help but overhear a couple of guys behind me. Both of them, most likely Case Western students, were paging through those free Auto Mart catalogs one finds in the entryway of grocery stores. The kid in the white Under Armour top remarked of how he is going to buy a "nice" car.
His buddy made sure that this hypothetical car would arrive after he graduates and lands a job (probably in engineering).
White Under Armour confirmed this, said that once he gets himself started out (60K a year?), he's not dropping his money on a fancy TV or furniture or a family. His money is going to a car. He estimated $30 grand on his first car. A bit extravagant for me, but who am I to judge? He went on to say that this "nice" car would more than likely be a luxury model, like a Mercedes or a Volvo.
I have to admit that over the past few weeks, I have strongly considered buying a car. In particular, I am interested in the new Volkswagen Jetta SportWagon TDI. Since my bike was stolen a couple months ago, I have been spending a lot more time on the RTA, which is not a bad thing, mind you, but is taxing after a while. My rationale lies in the belief that I've earned a nice car (example: new clean diesel car) in not really driving the past two years.
It is interesting the duality in the theft of my car in '07 causing me to bike more, while the theft of my bike has me considering buying a car. Now, I still plan on buying a new bike -- in particular the Surly Long Haul Trucker, but I'm thinking that a vehicle could also suit me well. Especially the classy VW Jetta SportWagon TDI.
I asked some advice of my father, who really enjoyed the opportunity to sound off on his new car buying experiences. The two of us are apples of the same tree, and are likewise spendthrifts -- not necessarily misers, but not wont to throw our money (what little of it) around. We are financial scrutinizers, first and foremost, and not prone to action unless cornered or having made an informed decision after a long process of deliberation.

This morning, I had breakfast with Alex and she offered to take me to some dealerships this weekend. I could not help but feel that I was somehow selling out, that I was violating some set of ideals to which I had subscribed myself. When people ask me (and they tend to ask a lot) why I choose not to have a vehicle, I offer a three-part answer:

  1. My last car never, ever worked right, then was stolen, which cost more money to bail of the impound than it was actually worth. With that in mind, I'm looking to save money. Honestly, with my last car, life was harder with it than without. (see: Shelia-5)
  2. I wish to live green.
  3. A car is not necessary in my day-to-day life, as I can take public transit to work and live in a neighborhood that has amenities such as the grocery within walking distance.

At this stage in my life, though, a vehicle is a luxury I can probably afford. Whether or not the vehicle I select is the VW Jetta TDI remains to be seen (40+ mpg is tempting, though). My old man suggested a Kia, as that would be more affordable than VW and offer comparable gas mileage. He also suggested for me to take my time, which was the highlight of our 40 minute conversation. Why would I rush into buying a car? Three out of the last four years, I have been vehicle-less, and a few more months without will not kill me.

So right now, I play a waiting game, as I come to terms with ending a very definitive stage of my live: those years when I did not have a car.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Excerpt from Short Story in Progress: Paint

Talking to Amy opened the floodgates. Now my heart’s on my sleeve everywhere I go and the hand I was playing close to vest is now face up on the table. It’s not a winning hand, no. Charlie and I had been conjuring metaphors most of the day.

He said he’d painted himself into a corner with the situation.

I asked him his intentions with the girl.

He cocked his head to one side, the left, and said, “I think I’m going to tell her soon.”

“Have you two done it?” I asked.

“No, I decided early on not to go that route.”

“Understandable. You resolved yourself not to engage in intercourse.”

“To put it simply, I guess.”

“But it’s good, too, because you have an out. You’re not obligated to stick around. You can get out of the room with just some sticky footprints across the floor. That’s easy for her to paint over and you can just buy new shoes.”

“d.B., you on the other hand, have kicked over the can of paint, and are covered in it.”

“I’m pressing my paint-soaked body against the walls and rolling around.”

“Handprints everywhere.”

I looked out the glass doors onto the patio. I managed to frame half of Emily’s face like a daguerreotype through the door. This way I could look at her casually without her noticing as much. One great big blue eye shone through the reflected glare of the pink-orange sky and met mine. I think my right eye met her left eye. Then half a grin crept across half her face. Charlie clasped my shoulder, said he needed out of his pseudo-relationship.

He was worried Alyssa may be thinking Facebook Official about the two of them. That’s why I never listed my Status, ever. If you don’t know where I stood beforehand, there’s no reason you should know now. Plus, I don’t feel the need to proclaim to world when I was sleeping with a chick. Unless, that is, I wanted out, which I did. Like Charlie, he wanted out.

I asked him his intentions again.

His direction became a bit more concrete, bits of his break-up plan began to solidify. He’d do it by the end of the week, maybe sooner. It was Wednesday at this point. I said it’d be a good idea to kill the thing before the idea of a relationship takes root.

“At least you have an out,” Charlie told me, “yours is leaving at the end of the summer.”

He meant she was leaving the country. It was my natural out, my exit strategy.

Nothing about me says I’m a good person. I’m actually quite a monster. I’m an asshole. Don’t talk to me, it’d be better if you didn’t come over here. It’d be better if you never talked to me. You’re still doing it, you’re still talking to me. I can’t believe it, this girl is fucking talking to me. What the fuck is wrong with her? Her breath kind of smells. I’m going to kiss her once we get away from these streetlights. Who meets someone walking back from the bars? But I’ve resolved against intercourse right? I’m going to fuck this girl.

I think she fucked me, or I fucked myself. Honestly, I didn’t mind fucking myself, so long as I was the only person left fucked. This one might have victims. I should have picked up on her Velcro-like clinging ability when we parted ways that first time on the way back from the bars. I’d given a friendly ‘good-bye, see you around wave,’ which she must have taken to mean, ‘Join me, become one with me, and never leave. Ever.” She ran back and deposited her name and number into my phone. I had laughed uncomfortably and made some ethnic joke which she had understood.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Injustice Revisited

Walking down to the train station yesterday on my way to work, I cut across Cedar, not at a crosswalk. I flagrantly jaywalked. A Cleveland Heights police car was parked on the opposite side of the street, in front of the bank. I held my breath as I made my way to the other side of the street. I did not run, but held a brisk pace for there was a considerable window between the next wave of cars. While passing in front of the police car, a tinge of ice water pumped through my veins.

Just as I stepped onto the curb, the cop car lit up and screamed its sirens. My heart began to beat out of its chest. I thought for sure I had been nailed. The sound came from all around me, entered down through my windpipe and reverberated around my ribcage. The car sped past me down Cedar Hill, running the red light at the top. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief, feeling numb as a result of the adrenaline. It took most of my walk down the hill to calm down.

Half way down Cedar Hill, I saw what drew the cop's attention. He had pulled over a woman in Volkswagen SUV, right on the bend in the road. Traffic backed up around them. The officer was in his car writing up a citation. I assumed it was a parking violation.

In[pursuit of]justice

Monday, November 17, 2008

Lack of Post - 11/17

My apologies for not putting up a substantial post tonight. Sucker that I am (cheers to you, KateSpace), I stayed very late at work tonight and do not have enough time to post something big. I did start and make some significant progress on a creative non-fiction piece about a run-in with the Law in my youth. The story is set in my hometown of North Versailles Township, Pennsylvania (about 10 miles outside Pittsburgh). As is what I often do when writing a story, I wasted some time on Google Maps. Tonight, I wandered around North Versailles. I wanted to check out the old mall I used to go to, Eastland. Back in the sixties, it was full blown mall, with a Gimbels and a Penney's and some other swank vendors.

When the mills left in the seventies, the place lost a lot of business, but still stayed afloat. In the early nineties, they turned Eastland into a Flea Market, which is what I remember most about it. Checking Google Maps tonight, I learned that it had been razed. Upon further investigation, I found that this happened in early 2007 -- near the start of my interest in infiltrating abandoned buildings. I wish I had ventured into the site after everything -- even the Flea Market -- had left in 2005. But I haven't been back to North Versailles in years, nor would I be able to convince someone to go with me to infiltrate an abandoned mall even it was still standing.

Such is life, I suppose.

I found these sites that mention Eastland:,_Pennsylvania)

Not sure why I posted this. I'm tired.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day Weekend is essentially the high water mark of Cleveland events. On the shores of the mighty Cuyahoga is the Taste of Cleveland Festival, an $8 cover followed by a series of vendors serving $8 carnival food. Spanning the Cuyahoga, the Detroit-Superior Bridge opens its disregarded lower level to pedestrians, free to explore the remnants of the city’s subway lines. From a short airstrip bordering Lake Erie, jet fighter planes weave in and out of one another, break the sound barrier and stage phony dogfights, display American superiority. Of the smogasbord of downtown happenings, the Cleveland Air Show best drew our attentions.

We, Burning River Bikes, six cyclists, with jeans cuffed or cut-off, T-shirts from H&M or Thrift or American Apparel or of Irony, and no helmets plotted our course through the green city to the blue lake. Specifically, we sought an abandoned Howard Johnson at the terminus of East 5-5, a pre-cast monolith, frames of busted out windows jutting out like a bellows, the building a relic of an earlier, more Brutalist era. The roof, in particular, equated to a $21 seat, had we been one of the saps who actually paid money to get into the show. We were to infiltrate our seats.

After a morning of coffee and pooping, I set out to rendezvous with Ted and Aaron on Euclid and 5-5. We biked up to the lake, turned down a dirt road and snuck up behind the abandoned HoJo, staring blankly back at us. We cut through a field and stashed our bikes beneath a tree along the fence.

Aaron went over first, using the tree as support. I threw the bags over to him. Then Ted went, slowly and completely without grace, eventually landing, but not before actually sitting on top of the fence. The sharp, twined links jabbed into the skin of his ass. That his pants seat remained intact still amazes me.

--Ow. Ow. Ow, Ted said.

I leapt over efficiently and without incident.

--There’s a Fox 8 guy over there, said Aaron.

--Shit, I said.

The Fox 8 News Station sits directly next to our derelict abode. I caught the last of a direct glare from a prominent local news anchor as he disappeared into his building.

Our spot was no secret, regardless of being identified by the news media. Bad graffiti bespeckled the uppermost reaches and it became apparent that we were not the only Urban kids that hit it up. I retired my malaise in the hopes that Mr. Fox would not bother us if we did not bother him. I also vested a lot of hope in his thinking that we were not responsible, which we were not, for the scribbled swastikas and mentions of ‘white power’ that appeared sporadically on the building’s exterior.

Aaron, Ted and I entered through a voided wall of the lobby. Uprooted trees had been placed in the foyer. Piles upon piles of apples spilled out into the overgrown parking lot. We passed through the lobby, took stock of the detritus: overturned velour couch; pornos; dusty front desk; insulation hanging from the ceiling. In the kitchen, a sign read: Please Excuse Our Dust. We are undergoing a facelift. A cartoon man with a hat and a push broom kicked up all sorts of mess. A section of roof in the food prep area had collapsed, allowing a ray of sunshine to illuminate the many holes in the floor. None of us had remembered a flashlight, but I did have the headlight to my bike and we used its weak beam to navigate the darker regions beyond the freezers, long vacant.

Soon, we looped back to the entryway from whence we had entered. The place appeared brighter than it had earlier. I noted to Aaron how much the eyes adjust to the darkness, as those hallways had seemed pitch black before. We could discern objects in the abyss: a stack of PVC pipe, the few remaining wall studs, electrical wiring dipping like ivy from the ceiling.

We climbed the stairwell, reached the second floor and were greeted by a sparse floor plan, for all that remained were the cages of wooden studs and some plumbing. The windows had been removed or busted out, covered at some point by plywood, which had subsequently been blown out by the wind or pulled down by transients. In the interest of respect, my friends and I tried to affect as little change as possible on an abandoned site, treating it as relic, a ruin, a museum. More appropriately, it was a mausoleum – a casket that contained some general idea of commerce, long deceased and in the late throes of decay.

Through one of the voided portals, we caught sight of a red biplane circling outside. The barnstormer spat smoke as it climbed and fell, stalled, then kicked its tail out, caught the air and zipped past at very low altitudes. Aaron asked that we forgo exploring the other 12 stories and skip to the top. Ted and I agreed. The long climb to the roof was arduous and we passed remnants of bottle rockets and some more poorly executed graffiti. The site may have served for someone else’s July 4th. Near the top, the stairwell began to reek of stale piss and we came across a copious amount of bird droppings. The vacant hotel did seem to acquire a few tenants, which, unfortunately, did not share our respect for the site. As we passed the door for the 13th floor, the stair treads were no longer visible as the dung covered them wholly. I tried to tread lightly as to not kick it up on those following me. Up in the rafters, a lone pigeon, obviously bothered by our presence in his home.

-- I hope this isn’t the work of one pigeon, Aaron said.

-- I’d be disappointed if it wasn’t, I said.

We escaped the Bird Den with harsh interactions with its denizen, though I have to admit that I was a bit surprised that Ted did not slip. We passed out of the stairwell and into the dim rooftop utility room that let outside. Another pigeon, possibly a roommate, fled from behind a huge shit-covered propane tank, passed in front us, then through a door to the roof. We followed, out into the glowing day with not a cloud in the sky, optimal for illegal viewing of an air show. We settled in between the two stair towers, an area of about 150 square feet that provided defilade from the street. About a mile to the northwest, the Red Baron continued his dekeing of an imaginary foe. I walked out to the roof’s edge, stared North at the blue horizon, the lake dotted with dinghies and yachts. This view presented itself as a fleeting luxury, for the freeway pulsed below, and the authorities frequented onramps. Still near the edge, I grabbed an empty 10-gallon bucket to use as a seat and brought it back to our cubby. Ted and Aaron took up residence upon a cement ledge between the stair towers. They said they wished they had buckets. I said they should have grabbed it before I had.

I wished the barnstormer to be done with his shenanigans. That sort of classic aeronautics is entertaining to a point, but he had stayed out too long, and it became quite frustrating to see him buzz the landing strip as if to land, but then pulling up into a steep climb, then corkscrewing into some fancy loopdiloop. I wanted to see supersonic jets. I wanted some muscle.

Some time passed. My rolling took close to 20 minutes. The clatter of the biplane engine had ceased and Ted’s voice took its place. He was on the phone with someone, relating to him or her our coordinates. Then he was done.

--Who was that? I asked.

--That was Jake, said Ted.

Jake was his roommate.

--Him and Austin are meeting us here, Ted continued.

Austin was his other roommate.

--Five bucks, said Aaron, that they get here before Mike Sokol.

Mike Sokol was an old friend of mine. We go way back, as I liked to say. Originally the intent was for Mike and I to ride down together, that he would come to my place in the late morning and we would both meet Aaron and Ted. However, Mike often became lost in World of Warcraft binges on the PC and as a result was very unreliable in circumstances outside of that game. Promising, though, was that I had reached him on the phone before I was about to leave. At 11 a.m., when I last talked to him, he had apparently just woken up but did seem to possess intentions to meet up with us at some point, though not ride down with me directly. Still, that was 3 hours ago, and a very real possibility existed that he hopped on WoW and that was effectively the end of his day. Still, I had faith in Mike, my old friend.

--I’ll take that bet, I told Aaron.

We hadn’t talked for a while and nothing of interest was happening in the air around us. Down on the airstrip, we could make out some sort of jet-car demonstration. We could not really see the car, but the jet plume stood out well. The horizontal torch went straight, then turned, went back the other way.

--I was thinking, I said, that back in the 50s, the government envisioned the atomic bomb as something to use at air shows. Before they knew anything about radioactive half-life and all that, they would demonstrate this bomb at the Cleveland Air Show.

By their lack of response, it seemed a terrible idea. Which it was.

--Picture this, I said and gestured broadly at the lake, at dusk, right when the sun sets, on the Sunday before Labor Day, they would set off the bomb in the middle of the lake. Right there.

I pointed at Lake Erie. Slightly down and to the left, a bulbous tuft of smoke wafted up from the air strip.

--And boats would be lined up near the shore, as far down as you could see. Kids in innertubes start swimming toward the middle, saying they want to be closer to the heat. And then it would go off and this huge wave would knock everyone over. The kids would be rushed onto the shore and float down Marginal Rd. You could see the mushroom cloud from Sandusky.

I was in the act of imagining more fully when my thigh began vibrating. Actually, it was my phone. I pulled it out. Mike Sokol called. As I went to answer it, the air around us exploded with jet thunder. An F-16 flew past and we leapt from our perch, ran to the edge of the roof.

--Did you see that, yelled Aaron giddily, you could see the flame coming out of the back, it was that close!

--What do you want Mike? I yelled.

--I’m here dude, Mike yelled back.

The jet sound echoed between my phone and his. He was close.

--We just got buzzed! I said.

--I know, I’m right here! Mike said.

--Oh. Ok, I’ll be down.

I hung up and ran through the utility room. At the top of the stairwell, I glanced for good measure down at the fence. Mike Sokol was on the other side, walking his mountain bike toward the tree where ours were chained. I ran down the stairs taking each step rapidly but never skipping one. It took quite a very long time to get to the bottom. In the process, I realized that Mike had won me $5 from Aaron. The F-16 and the run down the stairs had my adrenaline flowing.

I made it to the bottom and ran to the fence. I told Mike to brace himself on the tree and climb over but first throw me the bag. He lobbed his backpack over. I looked up and could see Ted and Aaron poking their heads over the ledge. I pointed to the fence and yelled.



--You owe me five dollars.

The F-16 flew overhead again. I feared that the hotel might crumble. But it was made of concrete and steel and would stand for probably hundreds of years.

Or not, what did I know?

--That plane is so fucking loud, Mike said.

--I know, I said, we are really fucking close up there. It flew right past us.

--Awesome man, Mike said.

He jumped over the fence.

--You know, I said, that took Ted like ten minutes. It was terrible.

--Ey! Ted yelled down. Jake and Aaron.

He pointed over us, beyond the fence. Through the vines and chain link, I could see two figures stepping off bicycles. I waved at them. Told them to use the tree for everything. Quickly they were over.

--I heard that took Ted ten minutes, Mike said to Jake and Austin.

--It was the worst thing I’ve seen in my life, I confirmed.

I led them straight to the stairwell and we made the long climb back up.

We reached the piss and shit of the pigeon.

--Guys, I said, be careful. There’s a pigeon up here.

--Is he crazy? Jake asked.

--No, he’s just a pigeon, I said.

But the pigeon was not there. The F-16 must have scared him off. We went onto the roof and tried to track down the circling fighter. Aaron pointed to a small dot just below the sun. We shielded our eyes.

--What’s up Mike, Ted said. Longtime no see.

--Yeah, Mike said, I heard it took you ten minutes to get over the fence.

While I had been downstairs, Ted had removed his shirt.

--Jesus Ted, I said, you’re going to give up our position. People from the street will think it’s a ghost. Your nipples are the eyes.

--I need my vitamin D, Ted said.

The fighter had entered into a long horizontal turn around the East Side of the city, to the South of us. Just slightly ahead, a P-51 followed a shallower turn. The two intersected and locked into formation directly above us, turning high overhead and heading back toward the airstrip. Then another jet came, seemingly from nowhere, and shot right past them and us. It was an F-15 and it was moving very fast. First we saw it, then heard the sound and then felt the fury. We turned to look back at the F-15 and were met by three other dudes, none of whom we knew. They had come up the way we had.

--Sup, I said to one who appeared the most accessible. He had on a winter cap and it was 85 degrees out.

He nodded back. Instantly, both groups sized each other up. The six of us were the urban cycling sect – the bike messenger crowd though none of us were actual bike messengers. They were skateboarders, and pretty laid back about running into 6 guys on an abandoned rooftop.

--I see you guys found the best place too, one of them said to me.

--Yeah, I said, have you guys ever been here before?

One of them climbed a ladder onto the top of the stair tower. Another disappeared around the corner of the utility room and out of sight.

--Nah, said the guy in the cap, we skate. Heard that there was a pool here so we came to check it out. Turns out the sides are too steep.

These were some guys that could apparently appreciate an abandoned building. I introduced myself.

--I’m Ryan, I said, shaking his hand.

He introduced himself to me but I don’t remember his name. We turned back to air show, as the F-15 had linked up with the other two planes.

--I think this is called the ‘Old/New’ demonstration, Jake said.

The two fighter jets had flanked the old propeller-driven P-51 and escorted it gingerly around Cleveland airspace. As we were now used to the flash-bang entertainment of the newfangled jets, this display seemed dated and tame. I turned back to check on the skaters and they were gone. Though they were good people, their presence did prove a little unsettling, as we all realized how fundamentally insecure our spot was. Still, the afternoon was young and although we were running out of water, we decided to stay put until the Blue Angels, which were due in the air in about 2 hours.

The space around our building grew quieter, as the jets had gone back to headquarters. Ted had stolen my bucket seat but I didn’t ask for it back because he didn’t have a shirt on. I tend not to draw my attention to guys without shirts. Call it a rule. I sat down in the doorway to the utility room. My five friends and I formed an impromptu circle.

--The Blue Angels are going to be so tight, Aaron said. They’ll be right over top of us.

--Wouldn’t it be funny, I said, if the Blue Angels decided to do a new routine and bomb an abandoned building.

-- The headlines would read, Jake said, Cleveland Air Show a Success! 6 derelicts killed during Blue Angels Demonstration.

--Or 6 hipsters killed, Austin said.

--Local eyesore razed, Ted said.

--We should get the fuck out of here, I said jokingly.

--I don’t know, Aaron said, those skater kids did kind of surprise me. I turned around and was like, hello.

--Yeah, Austin said, at least they were cool though.

--They were just like, whatev, Jake said.

--There’s some shit falling out of a plane, Mike Sokol said.

He had bunched his gym shorts up around his crotch.

--Jesus Mike, I said, you look like a fucking conquistador.

--What? Mike said incredulously.

He hung his arms out.

--Parachute pants, Aaron said.

--Is that what that is? Mike asked.

He pointed east. True to Mike’s word, an Army plane dropped smoking objects attached to parachutes. They spat multicolor smoke – hyper neon, a streaking rainbow through the atmosphere.

--Paratroopers? I asked.

--No, more like paradudes, Jake said.


--I am getting so hungry, Aaron said.

No one had thought to bring food, and most had forgotten water, so our stores were running low.

--We should order a pizza, Ted said.

Mike laughed.

--Make him come all the way up here? That’s hilarious!

--Mike, seriously, I said, fix your shorts.

One of the pigeons performed a flyby of the roof, dipping dangerously close to our heads. I believed that it wanted to go home, but was scared off by us interlopers. It looped back around to the other side of the stair tower.

Just then, from behind me, in the utility room, I heard a girl’s voice.

--Hello? she said.

The tone was confident and vouchsafed that she knew we had been up there and was obviously unafraid. The girl stepped out of the stairway. She wore a scenester haircut, large plastic sunglasses, a tight-fitting purple longsleeve t-shirt and some jeans. She was a stalky girl, with thickness in the waist and thigh area, not necessarily complimented by her jeans. Everything about her was completely unremarkable. Closely behind her trod a meathead-type guy, broad shoulders sheathed by a baby-blue baby-sized striped polo. Popped collar. Backwards fitted baseball cap. He was a dozen or so yards away and the utility room was quite dim, but I could estimate the placement of 3-5 terrible tattoos on his biceps, neck, and/or calves.

Behind them, two scrawny, wan figures emerged from the stairwell. I did not get a good view of them at first, for I quickly turned and stood up from the doorway. I walked straight to Aaron.

--We need to get the fuck out of here, I murmured.

This time I was more serious.

I grabbed my messenger bag off the deck and slung it over one shoulder. The six of us exhibited a stirring motion. By the time the kids had reached the doorway most of us were standing.

Mike flattened out his shorts.

Ted put his shirt back on.

The wiry, nerdy boys had decided to come out first. They were mall punks, most likely from the outer ring suburbs, and shopped at the same mall as everyone else, but had branded themselves, or had been branded by a corporation, I suppose, as outsiders. One wore flannel with a retro-retail punk band Tee underneath, skinny jeans and some bulbous skateboarder shoes, laced but not tied. His buddy sported nearly the same shoes, slightly more worn, with cargo shorts and a baggy T-shirt which read: Poo York. Mall Punk 1 had his hair in a swoop, emo-scenester-style, and multiple piercings in his face, which appeared dumb and genuinely uninterested. Mall Punk 2’s hair was long and curly and parted down the middle. His face, specifically the way the far corners of his eyes curled upward like serif commas, led me to believe he liked breaking shit and setting it on fire.

As they stepped into the light, my sizing-up of the other two proved correct. The guy was a douche and the girl was plain jane for the most part, marginally punk because of the gauged ears, lobes roughly the circumference of shower curtain rings. Douche guy also carried a long metal flashlight. They were, all four of them, teenagers.

--Hi guys, the girl said as if we were some actors on a theme park ride.

I noticed a camera case dangling from her wrist.

--Hey, I said and smiled.

Somehow I felt that I should act as a steward to this building, and should represent politely the subculture of those who respectfully infiltrate abandoned structures.

--So do you break into a lot of buildings? she asked.

--A few. We do it from time to time, I said. I’ve been up here before so I thought it would be a good place to watch the air show.

--That’s cool, she said.

Then she pointed at Aaron and his bright red shirt.

--Yeah, we saw you all the way from the street.

Aaron gave me a look as if he accepted all blame for their presence there.

--Which way did you come in? I asked.

--Through the front, douche said. The gate’s open.

--Right, I said.

The mall punks strayed over to the roof’s edge. Mall punk 1 picked up an old cigarette box and tossed it over the side. He did not watch the descent. Mall punk 2 seized a shingle and lofted it, spinning, off the building. This was all done with an air of utmost ignorance, both in regards to our frigid reaction upon their arrival and that tossing sharp objects off a roof draws a lot of attention.

During the length of occupation, about 3 hours and counting at that point, a great many spectators had gathered in fields and parking lots near the hotel. State police patrolled the area every 10 minutes or so, but focused their attentions on the freeway. We held the belief that they could see us, probably quite easily, but would not fuss about it so long as we were not flagrant in our trespassing. Whereas trespassing of derelict spaces is generally benign, the act of vandalism on said spaces is significantly less respectable. It is just plain obnoxious.

Mall punk 1 climbed the ladder onto the top of the stair tower.

--Wow, he said after hopping onto the roof, it’s like really soft up here. I don’t know about this.

--Don’t jump, said the girl.

I could tell by her voice that the kid jumped off stuff all the time. It was probably his thing.

--Yeah, said Mall Punk 1 from the top, I don’t know about this. I should come down. This is dangerous.

While he was climbing down, Aaron said to me that we needed to get the fuck out of there. I concurred, but felt a tinge of defeat, as we had essentially been run off our spot by a bunch of youngsters. The girl and the other Mall Punk had found a half-full two liter of pop and proceeded to drop it over the other side. Douche tried not to touch anything, lest he smudge his shirt.

Just then, a bright blue jet seemed to appear out of thin air and zip over top of us. The Blue Angels had arrived. Or at least one of them. The others would be along soon enough, I thought. And so, in the throes of evacuation, we opted to stick around momentarily and share the experience of precision aeronautics. We sat on the ledge as we had all day. The presence of weapons of mass destruction did not faze the youngsters. The Mall Punks and the girl disappeared around to the other side of the stair tower.

Douche tried to make conversation.

--Where you guys from? he asked.

No one said anything. Then Ted spoke, as he was closest to the question.

--Cleveland, he said. Pretty much all over, East and West.

The girl came running back from around the corner.

--Ew! she said. [Mall Punk 1] just broke a pigeon egg on his hand.

Mall Punk 2 came next then number 1, holding his hand away from his body. He stood before us as if we were his audience.

--Aw man, this smells so bad, Mall Punk 1 said. This is like the worst thing I’ve ever smelled. It smells like--

He paused, contemplative.

--It smells like a dog’s breath, he said. Here, smell.

He offered his hand to us, we looked around and past him, as two of the Blue Angels were running exercises over the lake. Mall Punk 2 smelled his hand, began wretching. Then he picked up a large rock and chucked it at a pair of pigeons sitting at the far edge of the roof.

--I’m not smelling it, the girl said. That’s gross.

Questions abounded our camp, mainly: How do you break an egg on your hand? The answers are quite simple: You pick it up and squeeze. And: You are an idiot.

--Where are you guys from? I asked the girl.

--Mentor, she said.

As Mentor was one of the outer-ring suburbs, and had a high school of about four thousand kids, it made sense that these kids would be from there. Obviously, they had been the kids that were passed over, those left behind, skipped through the program. Maybe labeled as ‘headstrong’ or ‘different,’ but really part of the same commercial machine. They all shopped at the same mall, it was just a matter of frequenting the retail punk boutique or the retail surfer shop. It was all so commersh.

The four of them stepped behind us, entered into a private counsel. I tried as best I could to focus on the Blue Angels. Four of them had assembled into a tight diamond, while another skimmed along the lake, maybe twenty feet above the surface.

I heard the girl say that one of us would probably take their picture if they asked.

--There’s us, the young punks, she said, and they’re like the old school underground.

Old school underground. I heard her step up behind me. Her camera, in hand, came between Aaron and I.

--Excuse me, she said, would you take our picture in front of the Cleveland skyline?

Aaron agreed to snap the pic, because he was old school underground and because the ten of us, young and old, were obviously kindred spirits in that we were both ‘alternative’ in the face of conformity.

And so the four of them lined up in front of us, slung arms over shoulders and cheesed the biggest smiles they could muster. The Blue Angels performed an amazing stunt but we missed it because these kids needed proof that they had been on this roof. They wanted a little something to give back to the social network. Because unless there isn’t video proof, an event might not have happened. Which is why every single thing needs to be documented. And documented perfectly.

--Look, douche said to his three friends, you guys are like Hot Topic and I’m Hollister.

They laughed. Aaron took the picture. He gave the camera back and the group dispersed. Then the girl came back and tapped Aaron on the shoulder.

--Um, she said, that picture didn’t turn out, can you take another one?

He did. Again they cheesed it. Another amazing feat of aeronautics went unrealized in front of us.

This time, she checked the photo before she went away.

--Looks good, she said. Thanks.

An air raid siren sounded. Aaron just shook his head. The four teenagers spread out on the roof. They stepped away from us to reveal the Angels, flying six wide, directly at us. They buzzed us about 30 feet overhead and our hair brushed back. But something was off. I noticed some ordinance strapped to the wings. They split into two squadrons, arcing in echelon to the north and south. The kids still paid no mind. Mall punk 1 and the girl were yelling down at the FOX 8 staff below.

--Our building’s bigger than your building! they screamed.

Mall punk 2 tried to rip out a scrawny tree that had rooted itself underneath the roof shingles.

Douche casually played with his cell phone.

Aaron and Jake both got my attention. It was time to fucking go. The Blue Angels buzzed us again, even closer and it was the loudest thing in my life. And those were definitely bombs. I gave us maybe 3 minutes to get out of the range of fire. Like clockwork, we filed into the utility room and made toward the stairs. I brought up the rear to make sure all were accounted for.

Douche looked over at me as I was about to step through the doorway. I flashed him a sideways peace sign, said the Burning River Bikes call letters.

--BRB, I said.

He seemed to understand.

--Okay, he said.

Then, to his friends:

--He said they’d be right back.

I was spiraling down the stairs at that point, but I assumed those kids did not care. On the way, I contemplated if I was that dense when I was a teenager. It seemed so long ago and was a tough call. Was this just the fate of the young and the old, to never be able to even remotely comprehend how each other lives day-to-day. The young punks versus the old school underground. I thought of an alternative headline: TRAGEDY AT AIRSHOW: Four gifted Mentor teens perish in demonstration gone wrong.

We reached the bottom as the Angles pulled their next to last fly-over. Then would come the strafing runs. We briskly walked over to the bikes. We made sure not to run, as the panic might alarm the teens above. Mike and I knew about a spot that was easier to get over, as the fence was not attached to the pole. Mike stepped up onto the chain link and braced his weight on the post. This bent the fence over enough for us to essentially step onto it and jump down to the other side. Like a finely tuned machine, we were over and unlocking the bikes.

--Ahoy there mateys! someone yelled. It was Mall punk 2, emerging from a stairwell like a pirate from a crow’s nest. He dropped my bucket down onto the pavement. It busted into tiny chunks of plastic.

The sound of afterburner accrued in the airwaves. It swallowed whole any thoughts that may have been lingering. They strafed the building in two waves. The first wave launched incendiary missiles into the ground floor which set the structure ablaze up through the sixth story. The heat was immense, though at that point, we had reached the dirt road and only felt it upon our backs as we rode away.

Riding past on East 5-5, we saw the second wave struck with rockets into the meaty center of the building, spraying liquid hot concrete fragments onto the bystanders below. They loved it and cheered.

--It’s just like Iraq!

I heard someone yip with joy. The hotel teetered, though was not out for the count. Two of the F/A-18s circled back and at exactly the same, they released their five hundred pound bombs onto the roof, which caved in. A tremendous plume curled out and into itself. Flames licked out from behind the smoke. And all the while the cement is cracking and the steel is giving under the heat and the building is falling falling falling and notions of trespassing and vandalism are all moot when confronted with such
spontaneous acts of violence.

I wished transiently that I had had a camera to capture this graphic display of American Air Superiority. But of course I didn’t. The six of us, Burning River Bikes, slightly dehydrated, a little singed, and very tired, made our way back to Ohio City, weaving through traffic and generally pissing off motorists. Then we had a Labor Day picnic.