Thursday, April 3, 2008
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
After interrogating an Eastern European clerk for twenty minutes (Me: "Do you sell ukuleles?" He points to an acoustic guitar. Me: "No. A ukulele. A small four-stringed guitar." He shrugs, points to a banjo. I leave), I finally make my way up to William's: the cleanest and most organized of them all. One shop was merely a 10-foot pile of semi-broken 1980's radios and receivers with wires and plugs protruding from every crack. The sign on the wall reads "quality good's. make us a offer!" I turn to leave, hindered only by the walleyed cat weaving between my legs, shedding all over my dark wash jeans.
I enter William's, attracted by the relatively vast array of instruments in the window (a clarinet, a bent slide trombone, a Yamaha acoustic guitar) and absorb my surroundings. There's a man with a deep scar on his left cheek, squeezing the last new pennies out of one of the brokers. There's a sleeping infant in the stroller next to him occasionally twitching and sleep-suckling. The stroller is one of those cheap fabric backs with warped and discolored handles and spastic wheels, one of which is perpendicular from all the others. He mumbles something to the broker, and motions to the sleeping infant, a sadness and longing in his eyes. The broker nods understandingly, sighs, and flees to the back office. As soon as her back is turned, a sly grin emerges on the man's face. His eyes scan the store and he cracks his knuckles.
My eyes slide over to the wall of hanging string instruments. All the guitars in pawn shops look the same. Same brands, same dull, worn out paint jobs, all of them right-handed. I look past the typical used Strat copies and see a tiny, mahogany ukulele, hanging from its tuning pegs, suspended lopsided in the air by a piece of fishing wire. I'm surprised how light it actually is; the body weighs almost nothing. The mother of pearl marking the 5th and 7th frets look uneven, somehow. Despite everything, I knew I wanted it.
It's funny how that happens sometimes. Despite all the problems that may follow, you just feel compelled to drive to something. This is quite prominent in my life, and ranges in severity and importance. I could be walking home in the rain and feel the sudden urge to jump in a puddle, knowing that I'll be soaked seconds after my feet hit the surface of the water. Although I have time restraints and, obviously, clothing issues, I'll do it anyway. I feel genuinely happy; clean, even. It's amazing how something so simple and childish can make you feel like that. This theme also plays a role in my social life. I'll see a person I'm attracted to -in any way- and see the problems that are tied around them and shrug. So I'll deal with them later, just let me be happy.
That drive has lead me into some problems recently. Awhile ago, I met someone that I thought I liked. He was physically attractive, smart, funny, and what I thought was nice. We introduced each other in that gentile and polite way, saying no more than "Hi, I'm Rachel, how are you? Oh, that's good." I used that one exchange as a ground for "liking him". I thought he was sweet. After that, I obsessed a bit. I didn't talk to him much, we didn't see each other that often, but I still thought about him more than I should have. When he would tease someone, I would laugh and discount it as fooling around. That was until he started on me. It started off as trivial little quips now and then, but has grown to something intolerable. I still think about him, though. Only now I think about pushing him in front of a train instead of dating him. Strange how things turn out.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Despite the crashing surf and volleyball nets, the boy continued digging. He dug using plastic tools, many of which were chipping and faded from hours in the sun. Grains of sand had lodged themselves under the boy’s nails, making his fingertips a grimy brown, but he paid no mind. He eventually hit water, which made the edges of the hole crumble inwards. He panicked for five seconds, and immediately began digging out what had crumbled in. He dug, and dug, until the hole was six feet across. He then decided to dig from inside the hole. He flung handfuls of wet, heavy sand over his shoulder into the ocean behind him. Before he could notice, the hole was up to his waist. Sand had caved in from the edges once again, and he felt as if he was sinking; sinking into his man-made lake.
“No,” he thought, “I can’t be sinking. There’s nothing to sink into.” But just as the thought crossed his mind, the boy was sucked through the hole. He tried resisting the pull, but it was too strong and too sudden. He flew downwards in a slim tunnel, past layers of different coloured earth; past fossils and bones of animals that one roamed the earth. He looked down, and saw nothing; only black. He began to worry, but somehow, part of him still wanted to continue down this slide, not wanting to claw his way back up to the real world. So he continued to fall into the unknown, when the tunnel abruptly widened.
All of a sudden, he hit a soft, damp patch of leaves, or what he thought to be leaves. “Gosh,” he said out loud, as he gathered himself, and stood up. He was in a small cove; a small animal’s dwelling, but as his eyes adjusted to the lack of light, and he looked further, the cave seemed to go farther than he originally thought. It smelled dull and damp; like the morning after an autumn rain. He felt around the ceiling until he felt a weakness, and pushed. The ceiling, which appeared to be made of old newspapers, was thrown upwards. Above him, there was a desert. He hoisted himself up, and stood on what he thought was solid ground for the first time in what seemed like ages. He looked as far as his eyes could reach: thousands upon thousands of miles of dead dirt; there was no life that he could see. The heat was nearly unbearable, he began sweating after only a few minutes.
He looked up to see a sun, but it was not like the sun he was used to. It was twenty times the size of the one on earth, and took up nearly the entire sky, which the remainder of it was a murky orange. He turned on his heel, to jump back into the cool dampness of the hole, but realized it was closing. He dove in at the last minute. When he brushed off the sand and recovered from the overwhelming heat, he looked up to see a small, hunched over old man. The man had a scruffy beard reaching down to his chest, while his matted gray hair reached down the staircase of his back.
“My boy, what are you doing here?” the old man asked. The boy was still in shock of seeing the old man that he didn’t respond immediately. Only a creak came out of his mouth. The old man saw that the boy was still shocked, and laid a emaciated hand on the boy’s arm.
“It’s alright, lad. I was just like you when fell down here: mind blown clear out.”
“You… aren’t from here?” the boy asked timidly, and adjusted his T-shirt hem.
“Oh no, dear boy!” The man exclaimed, “I’m from earth.”
“Well, I’m from earth, too! You mean this isn’t earth?” The boy asked, eyes widening.
“Of course not. From what I’ve gathered, this is the land of eternal sunshine. Never seen a drop o’ rain the long time I’ve been here.” The old man said, looking up, past the boy’s head at the hole in the ceiling. “I live down here because it’s too awful and hot up there.”
“Does anything live here?”
“Some animals live down here, how they survive, I don’t know. How I survive, for that matter, I am more baffled.” He twirled his beard. “I try to breed these small rats, but as you can see, they provide for little nutrients.”
The boy nodded. “But my teacher told me that the sun makes things grow and live. How can you live if there is no sun?”
“Ah,” the man sighed, and led the boy towards a hallway hollowed out of the soil. He led the boy to what looked like a skylight. A hole in the ceiling had been dug out, and old, shredded clothing had been tied over top. Mud had been smeared on the edges of the skylight to hold the clothing in place.
“This is what I use. It allows only a small amount of sun into my humble abode.” The man chuckled, “and this; this is my garden.” The boy looked down to see a small, walled in garden directly underneath the patch of sun.
The old man looked down sadly at his garden. “I’ve come to the conclusion that I will never leave this dark place. In a way, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with the stresses of real life, but, for obvious reasons, I want to go home.”
“Well. Why don’t you?” The boy asked, childishly.
The old man laughed sadly. “Does it look like I can go home?” He looked around. “My wife is probably dead and gone, my children probably don’t even remember me, I’m too old to do anything but die here.” The man straightened when he realized that the boy’s eyes had started to water, quickly picking up his tone. “But that doesn’t mean you have to!”
“What do you mean?” The boy said, rubbing his nose on the back of his hand.
“I'm sure we can find a way out of here."
I've recently -in the last two months- discovered the magic that is Beirut, and more specifically, Zach Condon. The music he and his band creates is original, but not in the rock/pop song where they use the chord progression G Eb D C instead of G Eb A D. The most recent album, The Flying Club Cup is a delirious but somehow organized mix of North American pop and Balkan folk, with an almost Gypsy feel on top of it all. It's wonderful, and the reason I'm buying a ukulele with my most recent pay cheque.
9. Wally Lamb
I just read I Know This Much Is True and I've started on She's Come Undone. Lamb has this ability to take the most profound things and make them paperback-worthy. He's like the Marshall McLuhan of novels. His characters are complex, most often dense, but with some redeeming qualities, adding layers using a technique reserved for shows like The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Although the physical books may be hefty, it's well worth lugging them around for however many weeks it takes you to finish them.
8. Nintendo 64
It's the game console of the nineties. I play it for a joke. A nostalgia trip. It's slightly unusual to have said feelings in one's teenage years, but I have never been usual. I've been feeding my eyes with the now-crude but once advanced graphics of Zelda- Ocarina of Time; filling my ears with the half-hearted whimpers of defeat uttered from the mouths of my friends after a merciless bashing in a game of Super Smash Bros; rehabilitating my lost hand-eye co-ordination by clicking away at a series of simple buttons on a controller designed by engineers with no sense for comfort. The games themselves aren't that fun, although I'm sure they were in 1996.