Archive for May, 2014

godzilla_rising

Godzilla is an atomic chicken come home to roost. Born out of fears of nuclear radiation’s generational impact, he has arisen from the depths of political subconscious to burn your playhouse of complacency down to ash. You think war-mongering is an answer? You think your guns will protect you? Your cities will fall to skeletal crumbs and your property will be left smoldering like a cigarette crushed under foot. Once Godzilla lays his cold reptilian gaze upon you, you are about to get got with an atomic shot and not even hell is a low enough place to duck.

Godzilla was born to cinema in 1954—conceived as half gorilla, half whale, wrapped up in a reptile skin –a walking volcano that combines the power of an earthquake with nuclear devastation and everything we don’t understand about nature.

I don’t remember what happened to my brain synapses when I sat through my first Godzilla movie at age 5, but nothing was the same thereafter. For the first time since my birth, the house fell quiet at the altar of the tv, and according to witnesses, I assembled a belt extending my spine into a sand-dune flattening prehistoric tail and re-enacted the miracle of destruction I JUST witnessed on the 3 o’clock Ghoulie Movie. Sometime later, an old white man dressed as a superhero with a washing machine door for a helmet had the first news on TV I ever paid attention to: There would be a Godzilla movie marathon at the UC Theater in Berkeley that Saturday and if my parents ever wanted peace in their house again… I held my parents hostage to my pre-adolescent desires until my father dropped me off downtown Berkeley and dusted his hands happy to be rid of me without having to drive hours to the desert.

From then until now, 28 movies and three decades later and I remain a student of Godzilla’s mythos. I even study oceanic tides around the world for sudden changes “just in case”. Over time he has been cast as both hero and villain, though it always stings a little to see him die… Damn human science and King Kong’s larger, thinking brain!

What should one expect from the Godzilla experience? In honor of a certain movie opening, submitted here is a brief breakdown of the traditional Godzilla film’s modus operandi. 1) Newton’s Law of Bad Science Fiction, 2) The Raise Up, 3) The Runners, 4) Military Showdown, 5) March Thru The City, 6) Battle Downtown and 7) Triumphant Conquest and Return to the Deep.

Newton’s Law of Bad Science Fiction

Devo dressed alien hoodlums from arid planets of synthesized moon dust; meddling human scientists who boil fish in their own juice via nuclear testing; explorers unearthing long buried mythological monsters for personal financial gain; all elements aligning to awaken the demon peacefully sleeping at the ocean’s depths. Woe & mercy upon you, meddlers! You’ve gone and done it now.

An alien will stay alien until they discover earths’ pristine waters and resources and decide a planetary take-over is necessary. They’ll bring three headed demons with them as one might bring a dog to a beach. We got a dog, too, alien scum! And our dog has toenails long as a city block.

The Raise Up

What are the long term effects of atomic testing on life forms? Short answer: Not good. Godzilla rises from the harbor like an old man standing from a very comfortable chair. A mountain of water ruptures off his back, sliced by his serrated dorsal fins. The air around him precipitates, fishermen standing on the docks mouths agape with screaming, drown. It is like watching a complete building rise, its chest hyperventilating with anger, sweating seawater in droplets the size of Cadillacs.

He announces his presence with a bulletproof glass shattering war cry: a song, a blues. The Sound a hell-cry collage of rusted metals and explosions played like musical instruments. Along the horizon the sea town resembles spilled rock salt beneath a giant shadow. Each footfall has building crumbling magnitude and a swipe of Godzilla’s tail flattens iron and steel and concrete towers as if they were aluminum cans.

But his presence, imposing as it is, isn’t the worst of it. Submitted for your approval: Godzilla’s atomic breath. What exactly happens when you piss off an easily pissed off omniscient reptile?

Along his back are multiple rows of blade serrated dorsal fins that stiffen and glow with anger. He inhales, the atmosphere swirls and sparkles around him, dripping with ball lightning. He aims and a gamma wave emits from his throat, snapping the tendon of the sound barrier, and his body becomes channel for a blast that bores volcanic holes into a million years of rock. He can easily vaporize an opponent into a blood colored mushroom cloud of flame then barely has the decency to wipe his mouth of the residual molten lava.

The Runners

One worships’ Godzilla by running.

Godzilla is only happy to detonate a parking lot full of shoppers with a mushroom cloud of Fuck You or pick off military planes like playing Centipede at the arcade.

During years of silence, harbor cities host annual Godzilla runs – heart healthy drills to keep the populace able to sprint across town once the apocalypse takes a notion to walk the land. Children hide beneath school desks and kiss their virgin asses luck that their spirits make it to the other side without their little halos glowing from nuclear radiation. The populace learns to drop everything and run. But where exactly are they going? Home is mushroom cloud of splinters and smoke. Worse: Godzilla is thorough and easily annoyed by movement as humans are of a trail of insects on the kitchen sink. His chest is eternally full of Raid and no matter how smart you are or how much money you have, you are just a roach cowering in the corner at Godzilla’s Coliseum sized feet.

The Military Showdown

Machinery of mass destruction fails and offers no competition. Godzilla holds flagrant disregard for the ways and concerns of men. He holds them in outright disgust if not just reptilian indifference. And how they greet him as he crosses the threshold of land! Swarming jet fighters, heavily armed tanks, missiles armed with drill heads… He mosquito-swats jets from mid air with annoyed impatience, and incinerates rows of military tanks until they burst with layers of red and yellow flame.

March Thru The City

There’s so much damage we can only count the survivors, sir.
OK—How many survivors?
Me.

Otherwise, your city will lie in smoldering ruins, its champagne air livid in radiation. Godzilla uses buildings as punching bags and they dissolve into powder at his touch. He screams to the scattering masses: Fuck your couch??? Lol! How about: Fuck your WHOLE CITY!!

Battle Downtown

Wrestler and fighter, Godzilla willingly stands toe to toe with any alien creature in a fight to the death. Even if said creature is 2 or 3 times his size. Take for example, King Ghedorah, a three headed lightning eating punk. Yeah, you got three heads, you’re part trucker, part biker, all mythological nightmare, but your goose is easily cooked leaving globs of fat stuck to the ribs of city hall and the coliseum. Ghedorah fights until its defeated, get resurrected through supernatural powers only to get blown up again into a galaxy of embers by Godzilla’s atomic kiss. Nice try. Maybe you should host a talk show and give up trying to take Tokyo, dude. You got nuthin.

Triumphant Conquest, Return To The Deep

Godzilla’s work is done when the alien has been reduced to skin cells and the surrounding boxing ring of a city glows with stray fires and thick plumes of smoke. He lets go a vibrant, chest clearing war cry and stomps back into the ocean where he rests peacefully until some scientist/alien/industrialist makes an error in judgment and decides to start some shit.

To Godzilla, even we human beings are aliens to be barely tolerated.

He saves the day, refuses payment of anything except silent obedience, turns his back on us puny humans and pimp strolls back to his underwater paradise man-cave at Monster Island. What awaits him there? How is his man-cave tricked out? Wouldn’t you like to know. All you need to know is this: Shut up, kids and get off Godzilla’s lawn!

Wanna be starting something? Selfish multi-millionaire scientist asshole? Inconsiderate alien-life force? Nosy explorer? Overgrown thing from beyond? Make some noise and watch what happens. I double dog dare you! . The ocean boils with city-sized tsunamis. The doors of a volcano are thrown wide open. Hell is coming. Apocalypse approaches.

Cue Music.

The Empty House

Posted: May 12, 2014 in Uncategorized
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empty auditorium

I helped run a poetry workshop at the SF Public Library in April. Myself and another poet hosted Saturday afternoon workshops for an entire month culminating in a public reading, which happened Sunday afternoon, May 4.

I arrived an hour early. My friend who works at the library walked me through the staff area, then into the auditorium where I immediately went lay down on the stage.

Another staffer came in, seeing me on my back and asked if I was alright. Tired, I was. And anxious after the quad-shot vanilla latte I ordered so I could make it through the day. I asked if he does massage but he had no equally wise-ass answer.

The workshop averaged 3 students, though we saw as many as five people over the month. All three regulars showed, with one having to opt out because they had to move.

Despite Cinco De Mayo celebrations and the warm Sunday weather, we had an audient. The boyfriend of one of the students, who made sure to tell a couple of us that he left the house BEFORE the Game was over! I told him he was an honorable man and we’ll make it quick.

The show was over in 35 minutes.

None of the students were bothered about there not being any one in the house. I told them how years ago I was really arrogant and whiny about reading to small or empty rooms. I once read with a group of poets at an Expo and they put us on first thing in the morning. All we could see from the stage was row after row of folding chairs, then a partition wall and beyond that booths where vendors were setting up for the day. We all read and clapped for and supported one another. When I got on stage, a frowning asshole, only then could I see Oh! There was one dude in the audience, a thug in jeans and a t-shirt and hair shaped like a storm cloud. I read a poem about watching a woman dance and immediately after he jumped up and said: I saw her, I saw her! My description put her in his mind and it surprised him. He immediately dug into his jean pockets and pulled out a crumpled dollar and some change and bought the book I was reading out of.

After that, I never behaved like a prima donna again. This asshole … is clean.

And I told the students that story, and everybody got into it, mounting the stage and reading their poems. If you’re at all nervous about public speaking, reading to an empty house is a cynch. Even the co-teacher with me hated his voice and hated to read his work aloud, but did anyway. I hosted.

One older woman wandered into the auditorium in the midst of the reading. She put her bags down, sat for all of two minutes, then got up and walked out.

A Chinese woman came in midway through the last poem of the afternoon. I thanked her personally for coming and closed the show.

Everybody gathered to take some quick group photos.

Just as the students were leaving, one harried looking dude ran inside.

Am I late? He said.

Yeah, we just finished. I said.

…Earlier that morning I asked for an extra shot of espresso in my latte. Four shots? Yeah, four shots. I was on fire. I told him I’d read a poem for him if he’d like.

He said: Poetry? This isnt a talk on anthropology?

Anthropology? I said. I thought of the title of the workshop: Excavating Memory.

The man said: I asked the librarian, and she said it was about anthropology.

I said: Well, the librarian was mis-informed. This is a poetry workshop, Excavating Memory, about cultivating poems from your life and experience.

He said: Oh. Turned, and walked out.

china

I was back in the Mission late Saturday evening. This is my old neighborhood and I miss it; the hot dog vendors and homeless sleeping under a blanket of pigeons at Bart, the bodegas and smoke shops, the taquerias and discount clothes stores. I passed bars, nearly wanting to go in, but I promised myself to stay sober and straight (no morning bong hits) for the reading where I was featured.

And for the first time in a while, I didn’t get lost, didn’t veer off in the wrong direction on the right street. The venue was a pirate radio station and easily found. A non-descript storefront with a simple sandwich board out front that looked washed out. Two women stood out front talking. I passed them and was surprised to find the space inside so small.

The control center for the station was behind a glass wall to the right. On the left as you walk in, a small folding table with wine and beer and a couple of blue coolers beneath. There were a couple of benches and several folding chairs. The stage was a tiny riser, barely large enough for the bird-feet of the microphone stand. But it held two stools and two mics.

I knew three, four people there. I attempted to hold my own over small talk, got a great hug but otherwise grabbed a seat next to the wall and the exit. A woman came in (gorgeous) holding a chihuahua (cute) and sat next to me. Considering how small the place was, it was also packed. But I must say: it was one of the best, more diverse and engaging shows I’ve ever participated in.

It wasn’t all poetry. A man read a one act play. He wasn’t the author, but sat next to the author, a older white gentleman with snow-drift white hair. The next man whom I kinda knew read poems. His voice and style made me smile. Very midwestern and easy. With work akin a professors or poet laureate. Small footed observational poems. A woman (whom, she spontaneously reminded me, I’d known for maybe 15 years) read a short story. Next on stage was conducted a brief author interview, something I’d never seen done that I could remember. Another man I kinda knew made music and recited poems using a sampler and thumb piano. He recorded music and looped it, then made several vocal tracks all overdubbing and commenting on one another.

The show moved quickly. At one point, from the open door to the street just to my left, a man emerged, dressed head to toe in black, and stepped cat-like through the crowd and mounted the stage. And despite how I rarely call anybody out writing these posts, Charlie Chin gets named here because… well, damn he is a master storyteller. He is a handsome silver haired Chinese man, and layed out a gorgeously visual story, The Girl With The Crooked Nose. The story was beautifully engaging and visual and it came out of him, effortless.

When his story came to an (open) end(?) he floated off stage and back out of the room with supernatural grace. The stage smoldered.

And I was the next and final performer.

Here, I felt like a jerk asshole because A) I gave the host only the briefest bio shrugging off his wanting more or a full paragraph of self-congratulatory Stuff because, as I pompously typed back: “Its in the work.” & B) Dude, who follows master storyteller???

Which was what one guy said to me afterwards… What could I do? A performer sometimes will totally elevate the energy in the room. It’ll make everyone so satisfied, they’re immediately ready to socialize. And we were all satisfied after him and a diverse, engaging show. If I never showed up it would have still been remarkable. But as it was, I had great fun and felt really good afterwards. Master Storyteller disappeared into the ether immediately after his story– and after my reading, I did too. I awkwardly accepted some nice audience feedback and quietly but quickly exited into the evening chill rolling in from the ocean.

hope

I’ve been holding a notebook full of poems but haven’t been able to read any yet. The most important part of my writing process is running new material before an audience. Its not always enough to just read it aloud for myself (though that always helps) But part of the reason to create anything is to share it. I wonder: How do they hear/receive it? How does it feel reading it? Is it overwritten? Clunky in spots? Is it funny? Do any of the strangers in the room dare approach me afterwards to say … ANYTHING?

Well, I did read one of the poems in from that notebook as the opener at a packed poetry slam. The poem is not hard core or loud, more conversational. The one joke in it I expected a laugh for went by quietly. But– it scored respectably. And when I sat down, an older gentleman leaned forward and kept whispering something. I got my ear to him: You were robbed, he said.

None of the poems I wrote are ‘slam-able’. I’m happy with that.

I’ll have opportunity to run them all this forthcoming weekend. I’m going to three different events which I’ll write about after Monday. But for now, there’s this:

I was home, already in pajamas– doing laundry and finishing dinner when my phone rang. My new friend whom I went to that aforementioned slam with. She said: I should have let you know earlier, but I’m at the open mic at the coffeehouse.

That coffeehouse was less a mile from my house and I was bored. They haven’t started yet, she said. I’m on my way, I told her.

By the time I arrived, the were projecting a video off youtube. A Local filmmaker had produced an eerie yet compelling dance video where a solo male gesticulated and rolled his body while splattered with paint and the background and foreground shifted with special effects and colors. The music, gentle west african drumming.

I came in and quietly sat behind my friend before she found me. She turned around and handed me the poems she’d read earlier as you’d hand someone a menu. But it felt rude to read. I skimmed over the words, but hadn’t time. She said something about the open mic sign up and pointed generically somewhere behind her. I turned and saw a brother standing at the door with a huge, curly afro. He knew what I wanted, got my name and crossed the crowded room to write it down somewhere. The video finished. The host, an older brother with grey dreds long as walking canes, came up to the mic. He introduced a woman who did a sweet comedy routine that could just as well work as poetry. Another man doing brief stand up. And then me.

The poem was a experiment; me playing with iambic pentameter (because… why not) and painting a picture of something that happened to me months ago that I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about. Its a simple poem about, well, drunk cuddling. But it was received really well and encouraged me to read it again and consider submitting it to a journal eventually.

I knew several people in the audience, though I’d never attended the series before. The friend who invited me, she hugged me and said: I got us a ride. She pointed over to a small statured woman with thick hair, silvered and swept back like an ocean wave.

I remember you from Victor’s Cafe, she said.

I audibly gasped. I kinda recognized her and only when she said that did the memory slam back into me. I hadn’t even heard the phrase Victor’s Cafe in years. The place had been under new management and without a open mic series for 15 years.

The older woman and I volleyed conversation back and forth while my other friend quietly listened, then stopped us when we passed two men approaching on the sidewalk.

One of the men was a shady photographer that she’d worked with before. She was glad he didn’t recognize her.

The woman apologized for her simple four door car. It smelled like cigar smoke. I jumped in back and the woman talked and talked. At first she screamed at a truck that passed just as she was pulling out of her parking space.

Now see, she said. If yawl wasn’t in the car I’d go after that asshole.

She drove around back to the main street. The girl in the front seat and myself live near one another. I walked to the cafe. But when we got to the intersection, our driver instead of making an appropriate right, made a left, all while arguing against the using the freeway which ran adjacent to my house.

I said nothing. Two things occurred. First, I was so bored I was okay with maybe having to take a long way back to my house, or even having to take a bus. I was okay with just being with the ladies and chilling. Second, the driver never really stopped talking. She completed her left and monologued as we drove further downtown until finally we pulled up in front of where my friend in the front seat USED to live.

Oh why didn’t you say…?

Oh, I didn’t know… I thought

But I–

Oh, its okay…

I lowered my voice between the ladies and said this: If you don’t want to use the freeway, I can tell you how…

She cut me off. She didn’t have problems with the freeway, she told us. She lives in East Oakland. She just thought she was coming HERE instead of, you know, asking….

So we jumped on the freeway and the woman talked more, while my friend quietly listened. My friend said nothing when the woman mentioned wanting to do a ritual between the new and full moons.

What kind of ritual, I finally asked.

And here’s where she told us she was a witch. A good one, she inferred. And I looked and realized she attached feathers to her rear view mirror. She said several things between cussing out other cars while we sped down the freeway. She talked briefly about her ritual, the idea how anyone really, not just a witch, could plant a desire and watch it harvest between the new and full moons. She talked about her comfort in living alone and being naked in her living room. And through her story, asked herself rhetorically, “What am I doing in a black dress and lipstick dancing in my room at midnight?”

There was no answer, neither I nor my friend had one.

We got to my apartment building. I had to ask three, four times without shouting from the backseat for her to pull over. She finally did, way down at the bus stop.

I was grateful and surprised by the ride. I wanted to hug her, but my generous thanks unnecessary as traffic sped around us. I reached over and touched her arm. It was good to see her, I was thankful for her ride. I stroked my friends bicep then as the woman finished talking, and my friend lay her head against my hand. I like her to, but its too soon for us. I jumped out of the car, surprised to feel so happy and light. Unlocking the building door, I recalled leaving laundry in the dryer downstairs…