Sunday, December 28, 2003

Things Said To Me On The Street, part one

"Hey man, you wanna buy a dirty magazine for a BUCK?"

ROTK is cool like whoa

I was sitting in the theater waiting for the movie to start. The Stoner sits down to my right, one seat removed. He has a beard because he can't be bothered to shave and his girlfriend wears sweatpants and a barbell through her eyebrow.

Down below in the floor seats someone stands up and yells, "Don't motherfucker, just don't. Don't you touch me, fucking CUNT." The man who yelled has stood up and points at a retreating man in a red t-shirt. The man in the red t-shirt walks around the back of the section and sits down an aisle lower than the man who yelled. The previews start and a security guard enters and escorts away the man in the red t-shirt.

The Stoner next to me (once removed) says, "That was chool." He says it with his breath and it comes out nearly as often. With every act of violence on screen: "That was chool." When two friends are reunited: "That's chool." When separated lovers finally come together and kiss: "Chool."

When a woman's uncle dies: "That suhcks." Two companions are betrayed by a reluctant third: "That suhcks." A traveler, caught alone and unaware, is attacked and hurt: "Aw . . . that suhcks."

There was more: as he shuffled his feet and kicked the seat in front of him he said, "Sam's gonna bust his ass," and "Count's as ONE, yeah," and, once, to his girlfriend: "See, this is why I don't go out in public."

There was a girl sitting in front of him, in her 20's, and she kept turning around to ask the Stoner to stop kicking her chair, or to be quiet. At the end of the film, as long-time friends are saying their good-byes and preparing embark on a long voyage from which they will not return, as the Stoner is talking and kicking, the Girl turns around again.


They stare. Our bubble of theater turns to regard them instead of the show on the screen. The Stoner has no vocabulary. The Girl turns back to the screen.

"Fuck you," he propels at the back of her head.

Some of the people around me smile. Or I think they do, I think they should, but I cannot look away. The Girl's father (or possibly a protective uncle), seated two seats to her right, turns to face the stoner.

"Buddy, you say that one more time and I'll put you on your ass."


The Stoner points at Dad, but again cannot speak. He smacks his cotton-dry mouth. He points with his index and middle fingers. He stutters and manages to speak.

"I . . . whew. Look . . . look. Let's wait just a few minutes, then we'll step outside. You and me, we'll step outside, just wait, just wait, just wait til the movie's done."

He means they're going to FIGHT.

Dad says something else but I can't focus on what it is. Their family turns to watch the last few moments of the movie and I try to do the same. The Stoner keeps talking, in response to his girlfriend.

"That's what happens. This is what happens."

And, "He wants it. What? He wants it."

And also, "He won't, I'll prolly go to jail. There's diff'rent rules for me."

In addition, "Just try and stay out of it."

At one of these, and I can't remember which one, the Girl's mother (or possibly an older sister) stands up and hurriedly exits the theater. Everyone watches, the Stoner too.

A security guard enters, and a theater employee. Mom (or Sister) points and as the credits begin and the audience empties, the Girl stands up and says, "You are the most inconsiderate person I've ever heard."

Dad says, "Just leave him be. Just forget it, don't rile him."

The Stoner says, "Can't we just--now come on. Can't we just talk about this like civilized people?"

Which is the perfect set up for, "No, we can't, because you're not a civilized person."

Two points for the Girl!

The Family exits the theater and the Stoner and his mate walk into the welcoming arms of the security guard. They walk to the front of the theater to discuss things further.

Walking to the car, we don't know if we want to talk about the movie or everything but the movie. If we express the glee we felt (that I felt) we become just like the Stoner, if with less hair on our faces. He exits behind us, talking about the movie with the security guard, and thanking her for not throwing him in jail.

"The ghosts were good. And the elephants."

The security guard says something, but it is sucked into the Stoners black hole of personality.

"I kind of felt sorry for him. He wanted to do good, but he didn't know how. Like, he forgot."

Yeah, maybe it is kind of like that.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Vote For Your Favorite!

It's the absent-minded kickball! Oh, fuck yeah! When teams don't matter from day to day, but the score still accumulates!

The aloof magazine stand is like a Jonathan Richman song. Jonathan Richman is only good to me when I'm alone: "I'm So Confused" when I'm alone and lonely, "Her Mystery, Not Of High Heels And Eye Shadow" when I'm alone and hopeful.

Blissful fake sunflowers, content in their existence, and how many people can say that? I knew a lady who could, and maybe she was a virgin.

Controlling neckties. Controlling, controlling, controlling. Necktie, necktie, necktie. Fuck it, Secret Santa.

Keep a desperate watch, waiting to see a sign that she's unhappy. Notice when she's online, but she can't see you because you've changed your screen name. Read her away message and look for clues. Is it light-hearted? That could mean someone is making her happy. Is it melancholy? That could mean someone is making her sad.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

From Yahoo News:

"Bush reiterated that he doesn't read newspapers and prefers getting the news — without opinion, he said — from White House chief of staff Andrew Card and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. First Lady Laura Bush, who appeared briefly during the interview, said she does read the papers and often discusses them with her husband.

The president also said he doesn't watch reality television, but the Bushes both watch lots of sports on television and are hoping to see the movies "Something's Gotta Give" and "Elf" over the holidays."

It makes me happy when Bush says things like this. And honestly, it kind of bums me out when he does things like abandon his plans to
tear up the wetlands, because the more he fucks up the easier he'll be to beat.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Friday, December 12, 2003

Just a Tall Drinka Water She's a No Boat Waterfall

There are two kids in my Fiction class who don't seem to understand how my brain works. They've decided that everything I write is Golden and Amazing--and one of them went so far last week as to comment on someone else's piece by saying "I can tell where he's been listening to Matt, and I can tell where Matt's influencing him." He says things like, "We all know how Matt writes," while the other one wants me to write about his hickeys.

His hickeys, my friends.

What they don't seem to realize is that the more praise I receive the more uncomfortable I become. Writing and mix tapes are the only things in the world I can accept complements for and not feel like a jackass (and I'm sure it's my parents' fault, even though I have been assure that They Love Me, Matt), but when it's Every Single Time, it starts to feel fake. It doesn't matter if these kids like my stuff, because these kids always like my stuff. I could shit in my hand and squeeeeeeeze and these kids would hop up and down and clap. Lesson: The More You Like Me, The Less I Trust You.

Frank and I have an understanding. I like understandings a lot better than agreements--agreements have to be talked about (and therefore they require A Talk), but understandings are just understood. When something of Frank's is read in class, I nod in appreciation. When something of mine is read in class, Frank nods in appreciation. Every once in awhile we trade stories and talk about them for five or ten minutes on break. There are no hand jobs involved and we don't have to make out afterwards; it's just understood.

Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Send Help

Have you ever written something and then looked at it a few days later, say, the night before it's due somewhere? And realized that it didn't really say anything? And maybe got half-way through a re-read and realized that you were actually bored from your own story? And that you had 12 hours to take it and turn it into something you would bother wiping your ass with?

And then have you ever realized that you're wearing no shirt and your hair is in some sort of D&D reject topknot for no apparant reason?

Also, there's no Red Bull in the house.



I have given up. There is no one left to impress. There is no > than this. In fact, I'm not even worried about treading water. If I slide down the hill a little bit, I'm fine with that. Before long I'll be showering every other day.

I'm wearing shoes, not sneakers but not yet boots. I bought them off of the discount rack at Target. I carry a small notebook that I mostly use to make lists of things I have not done. My glasses are big. Not thick; big. I wear shirts with hoods on them, and strings that I chew on when I'm alone.

I sometimes smell earthy. Earthy, in a bad way. I have a beard, not because I want one, but because I don't not want one.

I went to a bar once that was painted red. I no longer go to bars, unless you count The Bar at the restaurant where I sometimes eat breakfast, when I want something hot.

(And sometimes, I do count it.)

There were photographs hung in this bar and they were black and white. Some of them were hung upside down--maybe two--because that is an artful and mysterious thing to do. There were christmas lights, all one color, because that is also artful, if not especially mysterious. But like I said, I do not go to bars anymore.

Mostly I watch reruns of television dramas. I like it when, on the weekends, they show two episodes of the same show in a row. It's like watching a movie where nothing of any great importance happens to anyone, and at the end they are left standing alone and thinking about how things have happened to them, but nothing of any great importance.

I do that too.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Touche, My Friend


The train was pulling into Howard and there was a Purple Line already waiting.


The dude was dressed in lots of puffy brown: sweater vest, coat, pants. Moustache, too.

"CmonCmonCmon, don't you leave, don't you leave, CmonCmonCmon, shit-ass-fuck."

There was a guy in one of the priority seating seats looking at him with amused annoyance. He had a beard and he said, "You know, you could open the doors early and hurl yourself out."

"CmonCmonCmon, CTA's always late and now they wanna charge us one seventy-FIVE, shit-ass-fuck."

The dude with the beard looked at me and smiled. He said, "It's just a thought."

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Two Big Dogs

"You CUNT."

The man says it, pulling his two big dogs back from the mouth of the alley. I don't know what kind of dogs they are; I'm not a dog guy. I know there are big ones, I know there are small ones, and I know there are wiener dogs. This guy has two big ones.

A car has emerged from the mouth of the alley without the obligatory honk to announce its presence. The man has been walking his two big dogs down the sidewalk and they, being two big dogs and therefore dumb and slobbery beasts, haven't stopped as the car slowly cruises out of the alley. They aren't hit, clipped, or hurt at all. The car simply passes uncomfortably close to them as it cruises past and onto the street.

It doesn't stop at all. The driver looks to his left to see if any other cars are coming, then continues to pull into the street. Maybe he looks at the dogs, maybe he looks at the dog-walking man, I can't tell. But the man pulls on the reins of his dog-shaped horses and they step back, but even with a large roving rectangle of steel before them they don't seem to understand why. The man is confused too, if only for a moment, and then he scowls at the breaklights of the car and yells.

"You CUNT."

I don't know if the driver hears him, but I doubt it. I think that's the point.

Grocery stores are terrible places to maneuver in, especially if you're pushing one of those large metal carts with at least one bad wheel. There is no code of conduct to cart-pushing, no rule that says you have to walk down one side of the aisle, no proper etiquette for how long one can linger in front of the Cap'n Crunch. You're always deftly avoiding someone's cart or someone's kids, constantly swerving around an old woman who can't decide what brand of Ginger Ale to buy this week. But I've never in my life seen someone be cut off in a grocery store and yell, "You CUNT." Not even when jockeying for a place in line. Because there is an immediacy to it, the chance that the Cunt will turn around and punch you in the mouth.

When you are in your car, or the Cunt is in theirs, there is very little chance the Cunt will stop what they are doing, park, get of the car, and confront you. This is interpreted as an excuse to forget the constraints of civility, or simply a reason to let out the stress and anger one cannot reveal when cut off in line at the grocery store. When there is little chance of being held accountable for one's actions, the truth of someone's personality and inclinations can be seen.

But I don't see what's wrong with reining your dogs in, laughing and being thankful the driver wasn't speeding through the alley, and petting your dog on the head. Give him an extra bone when you get home, or a child's leg, or whatever it is dogs like to play with. Save "You CUNT" for your friends, family, and co-workers. Chances are they've done something to actually deserve it.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

My Recurring Fear by Matthew Jent, age 24

Sometimes I think I hear someone say my name. Usually when I'm at work, when I'm putting my headphones on or taking them off, or maybe in between songs. It's always like a shout from across the room, and I pull my headphones down around my neck, turn around and look for someone who's looking for me. No one ever is.

That's when the idea hits me, and it's only there for a second before it drifts away again, and I wonder if I'm dreaming and someone is trying to wake me up. I wonder if I'm 8 and my brother wants me to wake up so he can drive us to the comic shop, or because I have to pull weeds in the driveway and if I don't Dad will yell at him before he yells at me.

I think about waking up and realizing in one sinking moment that the past almost-20 years have really only been one night and that now I have to do it all over again.

Everything that's happened in the world and all the decisions I made that were so right and so logical and made so much sense before would suddenly seem laughable. They would seem possible only through dream-logic because, after all, that's what it was.

But those memories don't stay with me long. I try to hold them tight in my brain but they squish like jelly and drip away even as I sit up in bed. It's not like a second chance at life, it's more like a prank.

It could be any time and anyone could be trying to wake me up. I could be 20 and about to drop out of school, and Jenny wants to know if I'll hang out with her friends tonight. Or I'm 15 and I drifted off for just a second on Adrian's futon while he was telling a story. Or I'm 23 in New York and Sharon wants to give me a subway map before she leaves for school.

(Later that day we'll see Tracy Morgan in front of Rockefeller Center, and I'll momentarily forget about the kid who brought us a pizza in Cave City, Kentucky. He twirled it around in a circle before setting it on the table and saying, "Go wild." I think she was mad when I forgot, and a little hurt, and I couldn't help but think, a month later when I was back in Chicago and she broke up with me over the phone, that it had something to do with that.)

But the feeling, the dream-fear, always passes. I go back to work and I don't think about it again until the next time I put my headphones on too fast or turn my head just as someone begins to speak.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003


I watched some videos on Santeria today. They portrayed animal sacrifices and dancing, but what most grabbed my attention (or whatever it is that lurks below my attention) were the drums.

African drumbeats were played as part of the performances/rituals, and as background music during the videos. There was something primal about them, transferred even through magnetic tape, and I can understand how they can lull someone into a different state of consciousness. I don't think this has to do with Magical Mystery powers as much as the way sounds affect our brains, but it's still very powerful.

Whenever you see a ritual like this on television or in documentaries it's always someone brown, someone in a village on the outskirts of civilization, as if it's a lesser thing, something on a simple people would take part in. You see them swaying to the rhythm, maybe speaking in tongues and stomping their feet while they spin a circle. Maybe we click our tongues and secretly think, yeah, they really are uncivilized. But I'd like to see what would happen if an Old White Man in a suit and carrying a briefcase would do if he sat down in the circle, if he really listened to the sounds and let them seep into this brain. I think he might loosen his tie and let the spirit take hold of him too.

Monday, December 01, 2003