April 18, 2018

American Loneliness (Postcards)

Dear Ben,

killer whales came and snapped up the man who was pale, who bravely swam through the freezing black waters of the ocean, they grabbed his head and threw him aside, then we (people and whales) rolled around together in tufts on the sloping grassy field

— Sesshu

Dear Son (White male, twenties, I Saw Crashing a White Van into Parked Cars For Two Blocks With a Glassy Fixed Look of Fury on His Fuckhead),

I send you this Calendar of Our Collective Future Together:

2019 Year of the Foamy Distributor Cap: competitive edge from state capitalism (China) predicates that 1% US ruling class will take the money and run, abandoning investment in infrastructure and recapitalization of industry, socking money away in instead in speculation bubbles and off-shore accounts to the tune of last cell calls by 200 students drowned in the Sewol Ferry going down in gunmetal waters, by 30,000 or 50,000 disappeared in Mexico

2020 Year of Simpering Holes: ever more infantile, violent rhetoric from the police state lending simultaneous impressions of vibrant hapless futile activity, combined accretions of filth and skin of the past, flayed nostalgia and whimsy of Newtown Massacre or Columbine shooting or San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre predicates YouTube compilations of gunmen coalescing into scaly ideological tumescence

2021 Year of a Tony Swab of Blood: global warming predicates shit storms of regular Katrina-style black bodies floating in turbidity of oily slick surface appearances of a myocardial rictus (“politics is the entertainment division of industry,” Frank Zappa said in Keyboard Magazine, 1987), Americans will feed dogs and cats chicken liver while sending bombs to millions in Vietnam, Kambodia, Iraq, anywhere that does not closely resemble chicken liver

2022 Year of Chromium Whispers: stymied by lack of resurgence at the box office for movie versions of the Life of White Jesus, the thousand white years of Moses, of White Buddha and his Little Buddy, Marvel and DC predicate the reboot of these narratives with tits and capes, with sneers and handguns, with X-ray vision and CGI, projected across forthcoming empty storefront minds of dust America

2023 Year of Low Hanging Color: indistinguishable from flailing violence of solitary figures exiled to continual diminishment along the avenues and bypassed corners of self-delusion, bituminous characters predicate economic decline for generations while dressed in the cuteness and cornball violence of American Loneliness, for the five years it takes a face to die in the mind or a mind to die in the face

See you soon,

— Sesshu

Dear Eetalah,

one day the broken eye was looking for pants to wear in the desert, the red dog, the great herd of windy machines singing an oil song sounded like smoke to a fish, “good morning,” said the broken eye to the red desert, “Good morning to you,” said the red desert with lime and blue spots, shifting and receding in the glare, “which direction did the pants go in 1949?” “that way,” said the ocotillo —

— S.

Dear Citlali,

one day, the broken eye looked everywhere in the red desert for a pair of pants to wear on the radio getting all fussy and out of breath, “you don’t need pants to go on the radio,” said the red dog which was running around and round the ocotillo bush with its tips of flame, with its tips of joy and fish, with its tips of lizard eyes and bright eyes — “thanks for the tip, I have the habit of pants, good morning,” said the broken eye —

— Blinky the Wooden TV

Dear Marina,

one day, the broken eye was looking through the torn pair of pants and saw the red desert on the radio waves, sounding like the song of machines in the dirt fish, “I want to wear smoke this morning,” said the broken eye to the ocotillo, “I rode my toothbrush all the way here now I am out of oil,” as long as there was chorizo grease all over my face and all over the red desert, okay —

— Watch the Mossy Rock

Dear Lisa and Andy,

When she said my laptop was not on the table, I knew I’d left it somewhere at work, I drove fast to work through wet night streets missing my kids, I miss my kids like hot sweet curried cauliflower, like tart kale braised with garlic, I miss my kids like steam going through the kitchen, gone like late afternoon light far down long avenues, traffic shifting, like light flashing across corrugations of mountains at dawn, like the half-burnt small of fresh coffee, miss my kids —

— Sesshu

Dear Hannah and Dave,

I drove really fast back to work to grab my laptop she mentioned I’d forgot it, while missing my kids like the creamy hot potatoes au gratin that I can’t eat, like the pungent salty blood sausage I never eat swimming in some imaginable soup with greens or mushrooms, passing vehicles on Huntington Drive at fifty mph, working too much makes me stupider and I’m probably working too much, I’m missing my kids like cream white yucca blossoms on a stalk in full sun, like the crisp black yucca seeds scattered by stiff wind from a stalk desiccated and black, hurrying over the viaduct through El Sereno hills, missing my kids like fresh-baked bread smell floats yeasty through a warm room, like footsteps slip through a house —

— Sesshu

Dear Umeko,

Knew I’d left it at work, the building empty but hallways fully lit and shining, driving through dark wet streets of night, miss my kids, missing them like somebody’s half-remembered bread smell in a faraway room, my vehicle hurtling through El Sereno hills hanging over the streetlamps, the old streetcar viaduct that’s already slated for demolition, I’m flying over it, missing my kids like the smell of a wet dog entering a room, like the siren of an unseen ambulance slipping and dodging rush hour traffic — but the streets are quiet, I miss my kids —

— Chasin’ Chickens

Dear Citizen 9066,

Please interpret these two messages I received today from the President of the United States.

You be the judge. In the first one, his face was too large for the screen, but in spite of massive pixelation, anyone could see who it was.

Telling about war on terror, war on everything. Me staring at his huge nostrils.

A flicker of movement — a human appendage drooped out of one nostril.

Floppy like a pale arm, its hand appeared to wave at me.

Okay? What was that about? Tell me.

In the second “message,” the screen went black. It took several hours of Internet searches and attempts to get the laptop to reboot.

Was that the actual message or is there another message that I must continue to search for?

Abated breath,

Citizen 1969

Dear Ben,

I brood through empty hours of wind like peering through yellow panes of an abandoned storefront.

I hike across the rocks above the one raven reckoning a huge moon would rise through thin clouds like striations of memory.

Early morning at Kelso Depot, a man uses a long arm with a mechanical claw to shift a load of steel rails by the tracks, a man sleeps in his camper shell with his boots jutting out, Kelso Depot is closed but I wash in the restroom and walk in sweet airs of pepper trees.

I eat cans poured over rice, looking out across fifty or 100 miles of valley scrub (US 40 twenty miles to the south), ranges folding into distant haze as if indistinctly recalled.

Fade at reading, fall asleep — finally I pay attention to whatever it was.

I needed to move through empty days without shelter, without shade

I needed to sit in the front seat in the back, sit in the front seat in the back.

Forgot the toothpaste, found an old toothbrush so I can brush my teeth with nothing. Wash, rusty water from a pump.

Barber Peak looms darkly over the campground of several campfires, families, tents, bus-size RVs at one end and outhouses, Barber Peak riddled with millions of holes, slots, orifices, flues and caves.

Behind Barber Peak, desiccated cowshit everywhere, gray piles of it, horseshit, road apples falling apart, scuffed hoof prints and tracks of shoes, curlicue of coyote shit on the trail, a jeep trail crossing sandy eroded washes, a fire through here a decade or two ago removed Joshua trees blooming in hanging clusters of creamy white blossoms, elsewhere.

Out of the night sky, the tireless wind.

You checked out Paiute petroglyphs, the semi-abandoned tract housing pads bulldozed into the desert, hiking out to the bighorns.

— Sesshu

Dear LA,

Coming back from the desert:

Blue Skink Guts,

Black Peeple’s Oil,

Eye Zoom Itemz,

Subcutaneous Tacos,

Blistering Products,

Okay Okay Okay,

Flensing & Marketing,

Stiff Caked Music,

Organic Rapid-flex Weenies,

Grover Washington Juice,

The Red Veins,

Mawkish Pop Youth,

Fatty Eye Cream,

Flowers of Rototiller,

Thanks to Our Customers for Fifteen Years,

Golf Cart World,

Brown Oil Peeple,

Chili Civvy Vibe,

British Psychological Services,

Battling Grief? Hire an Attorney,

Marine Corps Forward Logistical Base,

29 Palms Marine Corps Base,

Purple Stains,

Photo Insemination Practice,

Bright Toggle Diddling,

Vinyl and Aluminum Chronologies,

Expect More From Dog Skin,

Buttery Blood Recycling,

Conformity Markers,

Plausible Bone Tidings,

Gas Sausage Massage,

Face Ribbons,

Exploitation Cap,

Pre-Chewed Divisions,

Balzac Dog Skin,

Coma Leftovers,

Daly City Leftovers,

Fissures of Maternity,

Flank Real Estate,

Accident Victim Sound,

Thin Iffy,

Scrubbed Shag Fleece? Hire an Attorney,

Pocky Prognostications,

Sotomayor Filling,

Prose-Stained Intermediate Care,

Busy Senator Suites,

Paint Thinner,

Mossy Wires,

Drubbing Fog,

Mired Action Collusion and Careers,

Pastel Distrust Estates.

I saw all of them and some were alive,


Swirling Alhambra

Dear Teto,

I have this idea I say we both make a killing on. A bunch! It’s an investment for our retirement. Which is coming up soon, one way or another, gotta admit. Check it out.

You remember, I was talking about it last time when we were hanging out, the later it got, you told me about motorcycle crashes, how you laid one down in a slow motion wreck in Monterey, and how Joe crashed his bike and just left it there, abandoned it, “Stupid!” Remember?

Anyway, the idea is this. The “Fury-O-Matic” machine. Coin-operated (nickel), facial recognition lens adapted off obsolete digital point and shoot, fingerprint ID if we can jerry-rig old Mac wires, encased in tin housing soldered from oscilloscope tubes and summer squash prototypes. Galvanized screw heads. The face features prominently the cellophane-yellow glare reduction gauge whose analog dial calibrates ferocity output with meticulous precision in metric decimals from the first noticeable (risible) intimations of irritation and annoyance (or merely incipient frustration, even inherited frustrations related to whining of generations) on a continuously incremental measure of pressure, vibration and emotion, all the way through to full throttle! Blathering outrage! Howling rage! Berserk apoplexy! Psychotic flying off the handle!

Put in your spare change and turn this machine all the way up!

No more time spent working yourself up over nothing! Zero to sixty in nothing flat!

Fuck it! Tired of wasting your outrage on news, on-line commentary and shit?

Let our “Fury-O-Matic” machine go balls-to-the-walls nutzoid on you! Emits a piercing shriek that can be heard throughout the next county and subliminal blasts of radiation that alters DNA at levels that you select (from mutagenic to palsy, from jaundiced to dementia). This machine will fuck you up! This machine can amplify your most insipid mutterings and whiny tantrums into gyrating storms of banshee terrorizing!

Existential dilemmas or infractions of your own secret personal codes? Let your friends and neighbors know how you really feel (even while you go about your business and get your chores done)!

Built in battery for those occasional power outages! Don’t let dark nights of the soul stop you. No three a.m. waiting on the morning light. Just flip your “Fury-O-Matic” switch!

Comes in sleek chromalloy models for the ladies, fake fur stuffed toy versions for children (“Mister Nasty Face!” and “Scary Starey Girl!”), or water-proof models for the bathroom.

You know how emotive digital stimulations are about to hit big.

We gotta monetize this shit,


Dear Paul,

  1. I took a nihonzin karate friend to the ER to help him interpret English and when they brought out the X-rays I told him it didn’t look too bad, but I didn’t know what I was talking about. They admitted him and operated on him later that night, inserting steel pins in both bones of his wrist and some screws and he couldn’t do karate for six months.
  2. Once (also karate) I kicked a teen in the hand and dislocated one of his fingers. The finger double-backed on itself.
  3. Once (in karate) I looked down when another guy stepped on my foot and my big toenail was pointing straight up. The sensei cut it off with scissors and snipped a raw fresh piece of aloe vera and laid it across the open flesh. That was a live sensation!
  4. Sometimes people I try to engage in conversation in my dreams (like Rick or Jennifer L.) tell me they’re too busy to talk.
  5. I met a classmate I knew in high school in Costco, who told me he was a local politician now. Shortly thereafter I heard he was dead, and I wondered if I had always acted arrogant towards him.
  6. Once I dreamed I was an actor in a large animal costume sick of my showbiz routine in Japan and I was in a phone booth semi-drunk trying to call somebody in America but I couldn’t get thru.
  7. I can tell in a bunch of my dreams that somebody (most likely me) is tired of wearing the same old self.
  8. In a dream, I knew that Sixto was dead, but I still wanted to talk to him. After all these years, I figured he must have a lot of things to tell me. I knew you couldn’t call the dead on the telephone, but I woke up wondering if I could email him?
  9. Once I dreamed I was in some small town in someplace like Texas or Oklahoma crossing the street at midnight and they had coin deposit slots in the push button crosswalks (you had to pay to cross the street with a coin operated crosswalk) and I looked out in the dark trying to figure out if there were any cops around.
  10. One of my former students works in the same bldg and has a kid of her own (who is about as tall as she is). Every time she passes me by on the stairs or in the hall she looks as young as ever but I feel reminded of time passing. She’s like some Ghost of Christmas Past.
  11. I always felt sorry for my roommates who wanted to be musicians. Did they ever have a chance? Seems doubtful.
  12. I went to an LA Weekly party for LA writers feeling irritable and when writers I didn’t know looked at me expectantly, I frowned and turned away and didn’t meet anybody new. Then I left (only stopping talk to Michelle Serros, becuz she was cute).
  13. In the 1980s when I did security at demonstrations and other political actions I met older former Black Panthers doing security too and I got strange sensations of chasms and Grand Canyons of history and vast distances of human experience when I was saying hello and shaking their hands.
  14. I saw Chris Hani, leader of the South African communist party (chief of staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe) speak in Los Angeles before he was assassinated, and hundreds of thousands turned out for his funeral. He led the So. Cal. communists in a militant African dance in a ballroom in a downtown hotel that they did pretty stiffly.
  15. On the Nez Perce reservation in Idaho I looked out on the White Bird Battlefield where Chief Joseph’s band defeated the US troops and wondered if any of it was the same for them those many years ago, and if the chill in the wind that I felt was at all the same, or could anything, anything at all be the same?
  16. Once I took my sisters on a tour of the International District in Seattle and showed them the cannery union office where ILWU leaders Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo were assassinated by agents of the Phillipine dictator Marcos in the early ’80s. Sometimes you walk around past certain locations knowing these things you may feel lonely in a crazy way, or crazy in a lonely way.
  17. I believe most people, especially young people, have reserves of secret intelligence beyond my understanding. I believe adults waste this intelligence making and spending money and dealing with the lame self-centered terrors they suffer.
  18. I was driving around Eastern Washington and the great open grassy spaces and crummy “no account” little towns were giving me huge feelings of some sort of vast American loneliness and I felt too frightened to learn from it. The area was mostly just vast wheat fields across rolling plains but something about the highways and the towns scared the hell out of me.
  19. When I was a kid, I thought adults must be wise beyond knowing because of their years of experience, but after enough of their abuse when I was growing up, I realized that many were rendered total idiots from the terror they surrendered to. That American loneliness.
  20. People sometimes know exactly what somebody else is thinking.
  21. Paul, now that you are dead, what do you say about this American loneliness?

Your brother,

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