We’ll Never Have Paris 8 - contents ...... “It was just so goddamned wussy”..... Josh Medsker ...”I was also wearing a Gene Simmons mask”.. Joe Biel “White people dropping by was never good news”
“...I Love You in person or on the phone... “ Karen Lillis ...” seems like we’re finally done”...
“pretending to be scared and finally being scared”
...” I should have used ‘reply’ “....
...“What’s the worst that can happen?”...
...“what an asshole”...
Keith Landrum Seth Kaplan
”... we have not grown apart”...
“Shut up, we tell him. Shut up and swim”
We’ll Never Have Paris, a literary zine of nonfiction memoir, is published by Andria Alefhi twice yearly in NYC since 2007. Submissions are always welcome on a theme of ‘all things never meant to be’. Tell us what’s happened in your life. WNHP8: Rejection, May, 2011 by 1984 Printing. firstname.lastname@example.org neverhaveparis.blogspot.com facebook www.whfr.org radio show “Zine Therapy”, see archives. WNHP8 thanks Lou Lasson, Ero Gray, Tiffany Stevens. front cover by Ero Gray, back cover by Gabriel Liston
MY NAME Josh Medsker I went through a phase, as I’m sure many kids have, when I was disgusted by my name. Josh. Josh. I’d repeat to myself just to make sure it was as bad as I thought it was. Sixth grade was when it started. I was five ten, and a hundred pounds. I was shy, awkward, you get the picture. There was a swirlie with my name on it, waiting for me when I hit junior high. My name just had this thing about it—this “sh” on the end of it that seemed to lull people to sleep. JoSHHHH. It was just so goddamned wussy. I mean, it just sort of faded out you know? My name said, “Be quiet!” My name did not command respect. By god, I was going to change it. Now, I knew that Joshua was a legendary Jewish leader who fought the battle of Jericho, and knocked down the walls and yadda yadda yadda, but I was not that guy. I was a twelve year old beanpole with shaggy white hair, saddled with a bad name. I briefly considered using my middle name, Anthony. I was named after one of my Dad’s Vietnam War buddies. War did sound pretty manly... but Tony Medsker didn’t sound quite right. Plus, I really liked my initials. J.A.M. In fact, I liked them so much I made sort of a logo out of it. I drew it on everything. That’s the kind of nerd I was. It was like my personal stamp. I might as well have hung a big sign around my neck
that said, “I’m a dork! Please publicly humiliate me!” I thought maybe I could change my name to Jack, or John. Good hearty, macho names like that. Johnny Medsker almost sounded like boxer, or a baseball player. And I was already an ace outfielder in Little League, so how perfect was that? I could just hear them—“Hey Johnny! Throw that grounder in here, kid!” Still, everyone at my school knew me as Josh. Josh Mudsucker. Osh Kosh B’ Josh. But it was still six years before I turned eighteen and could legally change my name, or move away. Tony. Tony Medsker. No way. I was screwed.
I DON’T DREAM OF THE 90S Joe Biel It was 1997 and I was finally going to execute a Halloween costume I had been threatening for a few months—a flasher. I had acquired an appropriate g-string and trench coat and rode my bike over early to the party. I was so early in fact that I was the first person there and had to wait around on the driveway for the people who lived there to get home and unlock the door. Standing on the driveway, I hear a voice: “Oh my god! Is that Joe?” Oh, that’s right. I was also wearing a Gene Simmons mask. A few weeks prior my friend Dave had recognized my latent alcoholism. I would get drunk everyday—including while at work...as a delivery driver. So he did what any reasonable friend would do—he made a $50 bet with me that I could go a month without drinking. Being more stubborn than alcoholic, I was intent on beating him and took the bet. The money was simply the icing on the cake. Of course, upon accepting the bet I failed to take into account the timing of the Halloween party and other external variables that would come up in the meantime.
And right around the same time, I encountered the most beautiful woman I had ever met. Jessica had just moved to town to teach at an all girls’ school and all of my friends wanted to date her. But, for some unknown reason, she wanted to date me. She didn’t know anyone else so she hung around with my friends—perhaps against any better judgment—and had expressed her interest in me to my friend Alex. Not knowing this, I showed up to meet my friends at a diner but found no familiar faces—except for hers. The bet having not yet started, I was suitably plastered and proceeded to sit with her and help grade papers. Through the course of our conversation she dropped the hint that she did not have a ride to the Halloween party but a friend of mine had invited her. And wait a minute; I think she’s asking me to go with her! I accepted. My newfound sobriety seemed ill timed for our first date. Coupled with the outfit I had chosen months earlier and my interest in messing with people who attended these parties who were so unlikeable that they were probably popular in high school—there was also the inherent problem that I rode my bicycle everywhere I went when I wasn’t working. But none of this seemed to bother her and someone else was able to give her a ride. Nonetheless I was, perhaps, an exceedingly poor choice of a date.
Dave showed up early to the party as well and within an hour or so he was bored. He hadn’t counted on one thing— my alcoholism was also typically his entertainment. And lacking that, at that early hour, despite my Gene Simmons mask, g-string, and trench coat, it wasn’t quite a party. So he insisted that I could drink and the bet was off. But I didn’t trust that this wasn’t his greater ruse to win. So I maintained my sobriety. An hour or so later the party was bustling with the type of people I found detestable and I knew how to entertain everyone. I took the bottles of malt liquor out of the recycling and “refilled” them in the bathroom. I then replaced a few of them in the fridge door and waited. Depending who you were, the highlight of the night may have been watching some of the frat boys opening 40s and declaring “Awww, man. This one is warm!” Before they began to drink them; still not realizing the extent of the implication. A good host always snatches a bottle of urine out of the hand of any guest but Jessica did not make any further efforts to go on dates with me. Fifteen years later, it is clear that society wasn’t rejecting me as much as I kept throwing the first punch.
SAVE YOUR Ed Lin Not too long after the second time we moved the minister of the local church dropped by to say hello to my parents. I only heard about it after coming home from school. My parents were nervous. White people dropping by was never good news. It could have been immigration, or the tax man or a truant officer. The minister had asked for the family to come to church next Sunday. That wasn’t possible because we ran a hotel, a 24-7 sort of business, so my parents told them that only the kid could go. I cried so hard. I was nine years old and hadn’t spent a day in church except for some weddings, and never liked seeing the gruesomely crucified Christ. I once got a nail through my foot so I knew how painful it was. Now I had to spend every Sunday with this guy in agony watching over the proceedings? I showed up at the church at 10:00 am. They gave me a pencil with the Lord’s Prayer embossed on it. The minster came out and talked and asked the congregation to sing some songs. A woman showed me where the songbooks were and I tried to follow. It wasn’t all unfamiliar territory, not too different from the Christmas songs we sang in public school. At some point the minister asked if there were people who had anything to say to come up to the front. People asked for prayers for someone who was sick or having other difficul-
ties. We took a break at about 11:30 for cookies and punch. I don’t know what the adults did after that but the kids all went downstairs and broke up into different Sunday School groups. It was a married couple that taught my section, which had about a dozen kids all sugar-hyped up. The wife was quiet and nice but the husband was easily angered. He seemed to think that his carousel slide projector was the best way for the kids to learn about the Bible and Jesus. Right off the bat he would hit the lights and plunge us into the world of frame-by-frame cartoon storytelling with the worst voice acting ever committed to cassette. If some kid was fidgety or falling asleep from a sugar crash, the husband would shove the projector aside to yell in the offender’s face. The wife would stand quietly aside and wait for the storm to pass. Some of the kids would snicker, winding up the husband all over again. The projector would play on, oblivious to the awakened monster, and the distorted slides would play stretched out across the far wall. After the husband had cooled off, he would turn the projector back to the screen and the slides would go on. At the end of the hour the wife would pass out quotes, on fortune-cookie-like slivers of paper, to memorize for the next week. After a few Sundays of this, just when I was remembering everybody’s names, another boy told me I smelled like fish because I came over on a boat. “I was born here,” I told him.
“Then how come you don’t know the Bible?” “I don’t know.” “I’ve read the whole Bible already. If you don’t, you’re going to go to hell!” That kid threw a huge scare into me. No one else in church had mentioned being damned to hell until now. I had just seen an episode of “In Search Of ” that featured people who had been technically dead and come back to life with visions of the hereafter. One woman said that she went to a place where people were tied to chairs and then thrown into a giant furnace. That had to be hell. I began to take the Bible more seriously. I took it to school. A boy in my class saw it and asked me if I was Catholic. I said I went to a United Methodist Church, evidenced by my “I am a United Methodist Christian” pendant. He said it was good because the Catholic Bible included false books in it and was Satanic. It blew my mind because I thought all Christians were the same. I didn’t know that a lot of them were fake Christians who worshipped Satan. The boy at school wanted to help me get into heaven. It took a lot more than just going to church and reading the Bible. One had to watch out for Satan’s tricks at every turn. The boy gave me tapes of a minister who proved that popular music often had hidden demonic messages. For example, George Harrison had hidden a “Hare Krishna” chant in the chorus of “My Sweet Lord.” I read “The Late Great Planet Earth” and it really freaked
me out. I knew that President Ronald Reagan’s middle name was “Wilson,” and because all three of his names had six letters. . .he was the Antichrist! There was that thing in the Bible about how the Antichrist would be injured and healed to the wonderment of the world. Reagan survived an assassination attempt! Oh my God! The world would end soon. I told my parents but they didn’t care. The kids in my Sunday School class laughed and continued to listen to Satanic music -- Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath -- on their Walkmen. Now I knew how Noah felt when he was building that ark in the face of indifference. I continued praying and living in fear all the time. Yet I also felt a little smug and secure that when those four beasts came charging down from heaven and the world fell apart all those fucking nonbelievers and fucking fake Christians were going to die horribly and God would kick their souls into hell to burn and rot forever. I couldn’t wait.
Interview with Ed Lin EDITOR: I have the pleasure of catching up with Ed Lin, native NYer, and indie rock enthusiast. Ed, how’s it going? You are a native NYer, is that correct? ED: Oh yeah, born in Howard Beach, Queens! EDITOR: You’ve written several books, one of which I read was ‘This is a Bust’, about growing up and living in Chinatown in the 1970s. But did you personally grow up in Chinatown? ED: No, we actually moved when I was about three to new jersey, lived in like 5 different towns there, but we came into Chinatown pretty often, ya know, to do Chinese stuff -- eat, buy food, meet up with people, buy fireworks (you could do that easily in the 70s!) Do you feel that you are a Chinese-American author, or just another guy? I know ‘Bust’ and ‘Waylaid’ are on Chinese themes, right? Tell us about your books and what were the original inspirations. I just think of myself as a guy who likes to write who is really conscious about his identity as an Asian American and
yet I also think that anyone can relate to my experiences no matter who they are. ‘Waylaid’ is definitely more personal than ‘Bust’ or ‘Snakes,’ but at the same time, I’m not really that kid in ‘Waylaid’ . . . So, kind of creative nonfiction? ‘Waylaid’ is based on my own childhood; we ran a hotel for a while. It’s been branded as sexist and homophobic, but I wanted it to be as harsh as the world felt to me when I was ‘coming of age’. Oh, it’s definitely fiction; I have essays to delve into nonfiction. When you’re an adult you learn to soften harshness; as a kid you’re more concerned with saying what’s on your mind rather than how it makes your listener feel. ‘Bust’ I started writing even before ‘Waylaid,’ which is a very external book with almost no self-awareness on the narrator’s part; ‘Bust’ is a very internal book -- it’s an inverted mystery because the policeman, Robert Chow, is what has to be solved, not the actual crime; ‘Snakes’ is more of a traditional 70s Chinatown mystery. So you use essay writing for nonfiction? Have they been published? I have some essays published in some Asian American jour-
nals and I had an essay about the ‘Bodies’ exhibit in “The Believer” a few issues ago Oh wow, you were published in “The Believer”. That’s impressive. How did you start in writing? I’ve been writing as long as I can remember; pretty much as long as I have been able to write; at what point my writing has turned out decently (maybe it hasn’t yet) is debatable! And what are you projects are you working on currently? I’m always writing; there’s another mystery coming out on St. Martin’s Minotaur imprint fib. 2012, but I avoid talking about current projects until they are in print or at least contracted, ha. Sure. I have never interviewed a mystery writer. In a few words, how did you find yourself there? I’m a big fan of the crime writers of the 30s - 50s; love Dashiell Hamlet, Chester Himes, Norbert Davis, Paul Cain, James M. Cain -- for the economy of language as much as the dim world view Ok well, before we go, do you have any words of advice for new writers? What’s the best show you have seen this year? Do you want to be president, as your email sug-
gests? And what’s with the bow tie Facebook photo? Words of advice: as hard as it is, finish a book-length manuscript before you read any books about writing or the publishing industry and when you’re ready, read ‘78 reasons why your book may never be published and 14 reasons why it just might’ by Pat Walsh. Best show: hands down, Guided by Voices at Maxwell’s on Dec. 30 -- that still counts as this year! Don’t really wanna be president; wanted something that sounded upbeat and optimistic; also edlin.com was taken by someone named Jennifer Edlin! The bow tie photo is a still from a short film that I starred in; “The Potential Wives of Norman Mao” (www.normanmao.com); should be out later this year! Wow! A film, great taste in music, an essay in “The Believer” and an optimist at heart. I’m so glad I went to that reading where I first heard you. Thanks for submitting to WNHP and letting me interview you. I’m looking forward to the future with Ed Lin. The future is Ed Lin!
GREEK TRAGEDY IN ASTORIA A post-rejection letter found on the staircase of the 30th Ave. Station Submitted by Karen Lillis Page One: “You are everywhere and nowhere. I constantly see you in front of me and I can’t touch you. That kills me. I’m tired of accidentally calling your siblings [unintelligible] and having to give excuses why. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when you enter my thoughts. You don’t know how much and how long I just want to hold you, kiss you on the dimple your cheek makes when you smile, and fall asleep in your arms. Imagine what my pillow must go through every night.” Page One (Back): “My friends can’t understand why when we go out and drink, I’m out of it. They ask me where is my kefi they know and love. But I have to lie about the truth.” Page Two: “I see myself, and I can’t believe how much I’ve changed. I can’t understand how a woman can have that much power over me. (But you are worth it.) I feel so weak that I didn’t have the strength to tell you I Love You in person or on the phone. You might laugh at what I am writing in this letter or believe that I am pitiful. I DON’T CARE. At least I’ll know that I tried. Every night I pray to Panagiatsa and Christouli to bring us together. I am afraid that my
Love for you will be too much for your” Page Three: “heart to bear, because mine is ready to burst. But one piece of my heart I know I can never give. That piece belongs to your Matakia, Trifera heilakia, kai to lakakisto magoulaki pou me treleni. I am sorry honey, I met them first. My whole body is shaking, just like that night we exchanged that passionate kiss. An innocent kiss as the song says. I wake up every day with a picture of you in my eyes, the sound of your laughter in my ears, and the vision of us together in my future. My lips form a smile and I” Page Four: “feel like a young child that has been left to run and play at the park. Suddenly, my smile morphs into a frown and I feel a tear form at the corner of my eye, slowly coming to the realization that this is only a vision, and not reality.”
FB Statuses of 14-year-olds: A Found Poem Theme: Rejection by anonymous (This poem is a “found poem”, meaning, the lines were not created or written by the poet, but were “readymades” found on Facebook, then cut and pasted, arranged and re-arranged. Each line is individual Facebook status post by a 14 year old that has appeared on the News Feed of their ex-teacher’s Home page.)
Will you go out with me? ♥ So after a year and 6 months, it’s no longer me that you want It’s days like this that must really make nudists happy … seems like we’re finally done I woke up today and kyle was in my house. WTF. Cannot sleep. This is fairly agitating. Miss you... we had a rough break i almost filed for divorce STOP updating your status every 20 seconds, your not cool Lost his handball in a bunch of garbage. Go.on.skype. its sad that its come to this I just cried watching the video for “that should be me” Just got up.
WAITING FOR THE SUPER Lauren Ridloff You are locked out. There you are standing, scattering items around in your purse when it slowly dawns on you. The image of your keys sitting on the bookcase next to the door materializes in your mind, accompanied by a sinking feeling in your stomach. You take your hands out of your purse and hold them up in embarrassed surrender. “My keys are inside the apartment,” you tell your friend. He is someone you like very much, and you two are kinda sorta friends. You already kissed, already fucked but that’s it. This being locked out brings you up to a new level, and you hope he doesn’t think it is some clingy damsel-in-distress scheme. You just have a bad habit of misplacing your keys, and he has not yet learned that. You and your friend are standing outside the super’s apartment, waiting for an answer. He is the man who can let you in. But no one comes to the door. “I think I have his number,” you say, checking your pager. You do. You text him. The super tells you he will be there in two hours. Now you have two hours to kill, and it’s a warm late Sunday afternoon in the fall. Your friend and you had spent the night together, and he drove you home, ready to let you go again for another couple weeks of email tag and datemaking. He was ready to let you go. You were ready to come
home. But now you have two homeless hours. Your friend offers to keep you company. You wonder if it is an act of kindness and he does not expect you to accept the offer. You are not sure if you want the company because you were set on spending your dwindling weekend day in solitude. He does not see your hesitation because you are putting your pager away in your purse. It is a lovely October day and to spend it in solitude is a shame, so you decide to go to the Mediterranean café with the oilcloth tables a few blocks away. You also decide that your friend’s offer is a genuine display of friendship. You walk three blocks up the main street to the café. Your old roommate had told you that their pita sandwiches were legendary. The arms of your shadows on the sidewalk are touching. In the back of the café is a room. Paneled, beveled mirrors on the wall sparkle and replicate you and your friend. Every move you make, every gesture he makes is repeated an infinity in the background. You are reminded of a mirror maze in a haunted house you once paid to go in with your aunt and your cousin. You had giggled your way through with your cousin, wanting to be scared, pretending to be scared and finally being scared. You are waiting for the food to come, and you are relishing this moment with your friend. He is talking. He is drinking
Turkish coffee and talking about his ex-girlfriend. LaRue. Her last name sounds irresistible, nothing like your last name. You play her name in your head again and again, just because you like the way it sounds. He tells you about the black and white photograph he took of her, how he entered it in a photography contest and won. Pixel by pixel, the image of his ex-girlfriend appears in your mind. You can see her just like he did, lying fetal in a hammock, staring sullenly at something off to the side, one hand curled protectively under her chin, forever unavailable. He won $500 and lost her. The food has not arrived yet. Your Turkish coffee leaves a gritty residue on your tongue. Your friend tells you about the night he woke up and found LaRue shivering in the bathroom, embedded in between the sink and a cloud of delusion. You sense his fear and exasperation as he remembers coaxing her out, cajoling her back into bed. He tells you LaRue is mentally ill. You notice how gentle and quiet his eyes are. His usual bravura has a patina to it, you realize. He recounts the moment when she begged him to come back, dull knife on her wrist. You can see the back of his head weaving in the mirror behind him as he talks. You wonder what he notices behind you. Whether he notices.
The gaudy mirrors multiply and triple your friend’s every move, repeating this moment in the café. The oilcloth is pink and stained with coffee rings. The table is infinitely stained in the mirrors. As you take this in, you realize you want to remember everything. You want to replace the pixilated image of LaRue. You want to kiss the beveled pieces of his heart and smooth them into a smooth curve. You want to become the loved subject he talks about in some café with stained tables in the distant future. You feel this moment mirrored again and again, stored infinitely. The legendary pita sandwiches arrive. Sitting there in the café, the two of you eating crispy falafel, he learns that you are bad with your keys and you learn that you were locked out, and you are being let in. And then the super calls.
REJECTIONS, A LIST Andria Alefhi I was rejected by a Balkan traditional party band while living in Washington, DC in 2005. It seemed like the last straw that I couldn’t keep even that, a gig as a saxophone player. They replaced me with a clean-cut, smooth jazz sounding player because he could read sheet music. I was removed from a yahoo user group for hitting the ‘reply all’ button one too many times, when I should have used ‘reply’. When I pressed on my removal, I was told it was also because I was leaving the area. I was the first member of this new group to leave the city, and the first to be removed from this list, which gave me access to interpreting jobs. I was scolded for not having a Masters degree in Speech Language Pathology by Lorraine Duke. She was a colleague whom I hadn’t even met yet, and she phoned me at home to welcome me to the department and ask where I had gone to school. To this day, I don’t know why she phoned me at home, who gave her my number, and why I had been so unfairly judged and reprimanded before I could even perform my job. I have not been published in River Teeth, Ploughshares, ZYZZYVA, the New York Times, Ducts, or The Missouri Review.
Buffalo Exchange has never purchased an item of my clothing.
THE INTERVIEW Bob Soper It was on the cover of Portland’s “alternative” weekly newspaper some time last year that I first saw Nikolas, curly dark hair and unshaven face which peered out of the photo with just a bit too much intensity. Like Sting or Madonna (and unlike the rest of us), Nikolas apparently had no need for a surname. The cover story focused on this remarkable sounding project Nikolas had recently gotten off the ground-something to do with buying a dilapidated commercial property and converting it into an artist colony. He christened it, appropriately enough, The Colony. After purchasing an abandoned garment factory (along with its outbuildings), Nikolas sent in a crew of highly skilled contractors to tear out all the insides and construct several units of eco-friendly living quarters; the common areas include a performance hall, a community kitchen and a fully-staffed childcare center, along with massive garden space - and greenhouses! Much of the energy needs of the development are provided by the latest rooftop solar and wind technology, along with a biomass processor designed to turn food scraps into methane. Where did all the funding for this come from? Nikolas is heir to a Greek shipping fortune, I kid you not. Here’s the interesting part: the artists all live rent-free; they just agree to sell a certain percentage of their output in one of Nikolas’ galleries, which would
receive an industry-standard percentage of each sale. Being something of an artist myself, the story piqued my interest, but soon slipped off the radar due to such trivialities as my overdue bills and late rent... and was pretty much forgotten until week-before-last. That’s when I happened to bump into my old drinking buddy Janine Moss: a sculptor of some repute in the Portland art world. She truly looks the part: piercings everywhere, shaved head, black leather jacket worn even during the hottest summer days. When asked how she was doing, Janine replied that her new digs at The Colony were fanTAStic-- and that there were still four (out of thirty-five) apartments available; one of the prospective tenants had died in a car wreck, two had backed out for personal reasons, and Nikolas had changed his mind about the remaining artist. Janine encouraged me (“it would be GREAT if you lived there with us! You’d LOVE it!”) to begin the application process-- which started with an online submission of one’s portfolio & resumé. The last necessary step is the personal interview with Nikolas. That evening I looked up The Colony’s website, filled out the tenancy application -- including the requisite link to my online portfolio (I’ve had some success with watercolor landscapes, but not lately) and mentioned Janine as a referral. This morning I got a call from The Colony’s management office. A calm sounding female voice with an Australian accent: “Nikolas can see you at noon today. Can you come in?” “Uh, sure... yes, I’d love to,” I gushed, “Thank you!”
The Colony’s facade was deceptively plain; just a large brick building which took up much of a city block. The walk from the front entrance to the office was astounding: studios humming with creative activity lined the hallway, which was enhanced by a magnificent slate floor and track lighting, not to mention several works of art hanging on the walls. I was immediately ushered from the office into a tidy room with a Japanese-style decor. Nikolas sat on a zafu cushion on the ground, and motioned for me to sit on an identical cushion, facing him. We didn’t shake hands. “Why is it you are applying to live in The Colony?” he asked. “So that I can spend more time devoted to my art,” I replied. “I’m sorry, but that is the wrong answer,” said Nikolas, “but thank you for coming down here. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to work.” I was dumbfounded. As I slowly shuffled my way down the beautiful hallway toward the exit, all I could think was, “what an asshole.”
THE ULTIMATE BEING Keith Landrum There are these phases I go through where I withdraw from my tiny world and I just simply stop communicating with anyone outside of my immediate family. Part of this withdrawal is due to depression and just not having the desire to associate with anyone. And the rest is just a desire to escape without actually escaping. Time will pass as it always does and when I’ve had enough, I rejoin the outside world once more to find that it is exactly as I left it. Nothing really changes much in my absence. It’s as if time stops to let me hibernate and then restarts when I return. As if time was doing this as a favor to me only. I recently came out of one of these phases and returned once more to the world at large this past Saturday. I called my friend Thomas to see if he was skateboarding today. He didn’t answer. I sent him a text. He didn’t reply. Because I know Thomas well, I figured he had probably just drunk too much the night before and couldn’t get out of bed. Another hour passed before I called him again. Some people never change, they don’t need to. Thomas and I grew up in the same neighborhood. We met when I was 13 years old. Thomas was a year younger and a grade below me in school so I only saw him around the neighborhood back in those days. We both started skateboarding the same
week we met, and shortly after, discovered the beauty of punk rock together. We were still so innocent then. We were free and didn’t have to worry about jobs, money, bad women, politics, or all the other shit we would have to endure as we matured. Thomas and I became brothers, sharing the experience of permanent scars from skateboards and mosh pits. We were inseparable, and remained inseparable for the next 19 years of our lives. Thomas finally did answer his phone that morning. He sounded hung-over or drunk, or maybe both. I arrived at his house an hour later to find him both hung-over and drunk. I had brought a Bad Brains bootleg video with me and I put it in the DVD player while Thomas made some dry toast . I knew what to expect from mornings like this and I knew we wouldn’t be leaving the house any time soon. I was living in Atlanta 9 years ago when Thomas convinced me to move back to Chattanooga. That way, we could hang out and skateboard together and be awesome. When we were together, we became singular. We referred to this phenomenon as “The Ultimate Being”. We effortlessly acted and reacted as one. As individuals, we are quite different though. I am passive and guarded and only slightly crazy, where as Thomas is aggressive, reckless and more than a little crazy. I have many times been jealous of his self confidence and lack of hesitation or fear, not just on a skateboard, but in all aspects of life. We balance each other out well, each feeding
off the other. Every other week end, Thomas would drive from Chattanooga to Atlanta to see me. We would skate and drink and laugh hysterically at the absurdity of everything. I had just broken up with my live-in girlfriend at that time and I really didn’t have many options. Thomas suggested I come live with him in Chattanooga and a few months later he showed up at my door to help me move all of my stuff. Thomas and I lived together for 3 years until he bought a house and got a live-in girlfriend of his own that he later broke up with 5 years later. Bad Brains were finishing their set as Thomas scarfed down the rest of his toast. He suggested we take it easy today and skate the Yellow curbs down the street, as if there were any other way we were going to take it, considering our condition. We were both coming off the disabled list. After hitting my head last year on Thomas’s backyard ramp, I was out of commission for almost 9 months with nerve damage; I’m still learning how to get my body to do what my mind tells it. Thomas just needed to slow down a bit. We climbed in Thomas’s truck and after stopping for water, we were headed to the curbs. Thomas likes to talk. And I don’t mind really, because I like to hear about what he’s been up to. I haven’t been around much in the last 3 years of our lives. I got married, had kids, and settled down. For the first time in my life, I had to take things seriously. Thomas stayed
single and never slowed down at all, in fact, he gained momentum. As we continued toward our destination, Thomas began telling me of a girl he had recently “hooked up“ with. She was 22 years old, and he assured me she was “smoking hot!”. She was his muse for one night and then left for L.A. to pursue a modeling career and there would not be another to take her place. As we pull into the empty parking lot, Thomas pauses long enough to grab his board out of the back of the truck. I grab mine and begin stretching my legs. Since my daughter was born 3 years ago, I haven’t been keeping in touch with friends like I used to. And although I don’t regret minimizing my social life, guilt lingers still. Around the time I was stepping into the role of father, Thomas started his own business. It is thriving now and it has taken him out of social circles as well. I miss my friends sometimes, my friend Thomas especially, and as corny as it sounds, I know he’s missed me too. We were large parts of each other’s lives for so many years, but our lives have changed, and although we have grown up, we have not grown apart. Although our lifestyles are very different, we are now who we always will be, and we have always stayed true to that. Unlike most people, we knew our place in the world long ago. Thomas will probably never settle down with a good woman and have children, and if I’m lucky, I’ll never have to do it again. No matter how long I break form my everyday reality or how reclusive I become, I know I
can always come back and always be reminded who I am and where I came from. There will always be an “Ultimate Being” and a chance at youth: one more reason to live and laugh and love. Thomas and I both struggled to stay on our boards that Saturday afternoon. We laughed and cheered each other on when balance or style was maintained. I remember skating with him a few years ago while he was still recovering from a torn ACL. I applauded his slow improvement just as he was applauding mine now, neither of us even considering the option of life without skateboarding. It has become as natural to us as walking. It’s too deeply ingrained at this point to quit. Skateboarding isn’t about quitting and on this day, we were two grown men in our mid thirties skating curbs in an empty parking lot on a Saturday afternoon and we were 13 and we were 18 and we were 25 and we were 50. The year could have been 1987 or it could have been 2024, but it was 20011 and we were timeless.
SOUNDTRACK FROM WHY PEOPLE GO TO THE MOVIES S. Maxwell Kaplan The modern moviegoer approaches us as we wait in line at the local Cineplex. Many people watch movies every day, and he is one of them. In his tattered beige trenchcoat, he appears to us as a normal, well-adjusted citizen of a former age. —But it’s better on the big screen, he insists as we talk, they’re right. If I’m at my computer, I feel like I’m putting off things, sending in another cover letter. We conclude that this man knows how to appreciate the cinema. We go in together and watch a star vehicle about firefighters, which is instructive. People have many opinions about movies, and having an opinion provides some of the fun of the moviegoing experience. —Well that was horrible, we say. —It’s amazing it’s horrible, he replies to us. A hundred years ago, you put a guy in a boat and there are lines blocking traffic. —Ah, but a hundred years ago they worked fourteen hour days in garment sweatshops and came out with three fingers, we inform him. Today, the moviegoer requires a more immersive experience, as it were. —They still do, he tells us. They just moved it to where it was cheap. So now we can dream the big dreams. At the restaurant, he orders nothing, but plays with
the condiment bottles to allay suspicion. He does not deceive our trained eye, so we order fries for the table to make sure he will not be embarrassed. While we wait, we take the time to talk about movies. We also talk about music. We talk about the people in People magazine. He tells us about the cashier who lets him borrow the aisle copy so they can talk about it while he is in line. Jenn and Britney and Kim and Paris. TomKat, Brangelina, Bennifer, and Posh and Becks. The woman will talk and talk about these people and so will he. He thinks most of the actors deserve the attention they get. —It takes a lot of work, he tells us. I’ve never seen Brad bad in a movie. When the meal is done, we don’t really know how to continue. So we part and hope to see each other again. The night always seems empty after these evenings. Rustles from a trash can, a single car dragging its sound behind it, all lit in packets of peach streetlight. And our home can often seem empty too, so quiet and plain. The next time we see him, we are at the Cineplex again. —Do you live here? we jest. He turns to us and scans our faces. He scans our faces until we feel like we should say something. —Oh, sometimes I feel like it, he then replies. We are not seeing the same movie as he is this evening. Ours is a French comedy, which can be as shallow as any American comedy, but theaters feel they gain credibility
by making subtitled films available. —You should have come to The Unknowable, he tells us, and recounts the major and minor plot points as he gets in our car. Some aliens, we learn. A hero. A love interest. The daring use of full frontal. It occurs to us, as we listen, that our car is in bad shape. We should really get a new one. The restaurant we went to last time is closed. It is difficult for us, since we enjoy repeating what has worked in the past. —Do not fear, he says, I know an Asian Buffet where we can share plates. It’s had some health code issues, so they don’t sweat you too much. He smiles out the window. We don’t want to disappoint our new friend. In the restaurant, a roach crawls out of the perfunctory salad bar, so we avoid the salad bar. He engages us with updates on celebrities we recognize, their love lives, their professional lives. We cover all the big names, how Britney and Becky got where they are versus Katy and Ashlee, yet also Grace, Jimmy, Bogey, Clark. He seemed to be closing in on a matrix, he said, a timeline. A political science, perhaps. —Fame, he points out, is its own genius. Have you seen the videos of J-Lo on In Living Color when she was a Fly Girl? She works the camera; she works it. You can’t help but notice her. We begin to feel insight into other peoples’ lives: the realms of the elect and how they are peopled. We think
of the fortunate few in that orbit who make movies around them, major Hollywood movies, people who hawk their merchandise and get to say “I met him and he’s a really nice guy, down to earth.” We wonder how close we thought we would get by working for the Film Bureau. While we talk, we notice him stuffing boxes into the deep pockets of his trenchcoat, plastic boxes with snap-on lids. Has he been through the buffet? We cannot remember. Sauces are squeezed thin and tight between the lids and the pieces of snowpea. He tells us about a funny dream he had where he was in New Mexico with what he recognized as his “close friend, Bill Cosby,” who kept trying to persuade him to visit nuclear sites, Area 51. He felt like he should inform Bill Cosby that this is dangerous, but he figured Bill knew best, and then the government sent dogs after him, and he watched his close friend, Bill Cosby, ripped apart by their metallic incisors. We drop him off at a house with a light on in the window. We drive off without seeing him in because we are in a hurry. Why is unclear. It is a warm night. Out of his driveway, we find it hard to come up with other activities. We decide to argue on the way home about the movie, and this helps us argue about the car and why we feel we keep each other from our separate friends. The moviegoer does not recognize us the next time we see him. True, it has been awhile. Between then and now, we have tried game nights, field trips, key parties. Lately, we
buried ourselves in our work at the Film Bureau, discussing the best methods for socializing young viewers, writing scripts, picking footage and locations, to see if it was what we were meant to do with our lives, which are very short when you consider how much you work and sleep. We waver just like other people, at the Film Bureau. We struggle with our feelings. Then we catch up on TV. —I’ve see those shows, he tells us. Not the most recent seasons. It feels like in twenty years, they could see this as the second golden age, thanks to cable. And they’ll think we were the lucky ones, because all this great stuff was coming out. He looks disheveled. His coat has stains and smells like ripe Stilton. We ask him how he has been. —Okay, he says. That lady at the grocery cut me off, People-wise. We give him our regrets, but he definitely had it coming. —She said she’s getting in trouble. But I get it, he says. In the seats, he tells us about the bands that are played during the ads. —Selling out is viewed more positively than it used to be, he informs us. We give negative feedback to compensate for our lack of knowledge in the area of major bands or marketing. He argues with good nature until the lights dim, and then he becomes silent, even reverent. The movie seems intermi-
nable, yet another story of more attractive people. —Simon Lee! he says at the Asian Buffet. That’s Simon Lee. The actor sits in the far corner. Our friend approaches him in the corner, which seems special because he is in it. Yes, he is Simon Lee, and yes, he’s doing well. He has new projects, yes, but he can’t talk about them. You know how it is with Hollywood types and their money, he tells our little friend. It takes a lot of patience and energy, and you’ve got to will it, really want it to be a success in this industry. He likes the Asian Buffet. He comes here to be alone. To us, he looks grizzled and sketchy, but our friend returns to our table, aglow. A week later, we watch soft porn on Cinemax. Simon Lee is a costar in this particular soft porn. As his face tenses in ecstasy, we point out the lines the makeup person forgot to cover to one another. We feel more nauseated than inclined towards onanistic frenzy. Disappointed, we place bets on whether he dyes his pubic hair, in case we see him again at Asian Buffet. We never see the penis, just the pubic hair. We will be sure to ask him if it is really true if he dyes his pubic hair. We will tell him it is not working for us. Three months later he will die by self-asphyxiation, and people who knew him talk about his genius in People magazine. Our supervisor at the Film Bureau has noticed the deteriorating quality of our work. We tell him it will improve. Then we give our notice and use our sick days,
then our vacation days. We buy a case of Jameson’s, and wander around town, yelling at children. —We are taking you to the beach, we inform him when we see him. —But haven’t you seen Becoming Half-Dead yet? he asks. On the beach, we don’t say anything. He sits on a dune with his shoes off, sand speckling his trenchcoat. —Take it off ! we yell suddenly. Take it off ! He looks at us kicking up sand at him. —Take it off, you wuss! we say. Let’s go in. He leaves the coat on the beach, and the wet sand compresses under his dirty feet. —Take it all off ! we say. We’re going swimming! —What about undertow? he asks. And my clothes? —The water’s completely fine, we say. We’re not swimming to India. But we don’t feel like we’re being honest with ourselves. He turns his back to us and takes off his shirt, then his pants. His body looks to us like a plastic bag hanging on a piece of driftwood. He backs into the water, and we can see shivers convulse his body. Then we grab him by his arms and legs. —You are our canoe! we holler. We’re going to India! He squirms, and it bruises our thighs and crotches when we try to sit on him. His splashing has become too
violent for us to get off of him, and we push him underwater. He begins to scream and we splash him to let him know that we are merely playing a game. But he continues to scream and gulp for air. —Shut up, we tell him. Shut up and swim. It’s shallow here, you’re not going to drown. We watch him cough and sit down on the sandbar. He refuses to talk or take a drink. —Don’t you want a drink? we ask. We have Jameson. He looks at us, the moon in the water on his skin, in his eyes. We say nothing back at shore. His shirt is lost, his pants are saturated and half-buried in the sand. He rips through his pockets, fishing out all the notes he kept, smeared and illegible. The night is quiet again. Driving, we get lost, but at least that’s something. We just don’t know what to do with ourselves anymore.
Stay tuned for Weâ€™ll Never Have Paris Greatest Hits: Best of Issues 1-8.