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Snapshot from Tarifa, Spain

April 3, 2018

Last week, on one of the six sunny, windless days out of the last 75 maddening-weather days, I went to the beach. I enjoyed the company of a new friend and The Sun. We laughed and talked about nothing in particular. I saw a universe on my elbow. We captured it. The Sun approved. Enough.

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Stargazing me
In a tumbling sea
Up in the galaxy
Staring down on me
Stargazer reach out to touch
With your mind that frees you so much
Stargazer kissing your kismet
With bright jewel encrusted scars
Stargazing me
In tranquility
Up in the galaxy
Staring down on me

“Stargazer,” Siouxsie and The Banshees, 1995

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Communion, a little story for Jonah

January 29, 2018

Once upon a time there was a very large woman and a very small man. The woman, known as Zola, covered close to the entire earth. She was restless. The man, known as Bul, existed in the space between Zola’s collarbone and right earlobe. He didn’t know any better. When Zola laughed, Bul slid around her smooth skin as if on a children’s amusement.

One night as Zola dreamt of a very large man, tiny Bul made his way from his comfy place toward Zola’s ear. Bul has something to say. Crispy dark hair covers his entire body. Bul’s movement creates a certain friction that doesn’t hurt and neither is it pleasant. Zola, purring and half-asleep, hears Bul’s voice in her neck, just below her ear. His vocal scale is her only alarm.

Zola whispers, “Do you want to fuck?” She wants him. Size doesn’t matter. But poor little Bul, he froze. His tiny hands and feet clinched into little balls making him even smaller.

Laughing herself awake, Zola stretched her neck and long limbs. She reaches across three continents. She’s hungry. So Bul, the very small man, lazily and to his own disappointment becomes a very small sheet cake, a bit yellow and without frosting. No bother. Bul tasted of sea voyages and condensed milk, and essentially was large enough to savor under her tongue. Zola did just that and remained well-fed for many days.

Little red feet with big blue toes, let me put my hand inside your clothes.

Sandman (1952-1999)

My First Pair of Combat Boots (draft and partial Introduction)

December 31, 2017

The breezeway closet of my grandparent’s house was cool and dark like a cellar. Even in the heat of a Midwest summer it preserved seasonal fruit at the perfect temperature. In the deepest place, where the closet got smaller under the slanted ceiling decades-old shirt boxes, reused each Christmas, took up the majority of space. Their fragile tissue paper never refolded to fit perfectly, lapped out the sides of the boxes like brittle hangover tongues. That side of the closet smelled faintly of “Evening in Paris,” my grandmother’s favorite perfume. My grandfather’s precious WWII souvenirs were stored in a small metal box on their own shelf to be easily accessed for an impromptu show and tell. His wool Army trench coat camouflaged itself against the wood paneling of the closet where it remained invisible unless you knew what to look for it. This coat was so heavy that it took until I was well into my teens to be big enough to try it on. Old winter coats and a box of miscellaneous hats, scarves, and mittens occupied the space directly inside the door. Shoes and boots of various sizes, materials, and styles stood smartly along the baseboard of the breezeway closet as if waiting to get picked for a team or called into battle.

The night I heard Depeche Mode’s song “Blasphemous Rumors” for the first time I was sitting alone in my grandparent’s kitchen doing homework and having a snack of Saltine’s with Blue Bonnet Margarine and sugar. A live performance from Depeche Mode’s 1984-5 tour broadcast via Westwood One Radio into our tiny kitchen counter top radio. The song was the first I heard that I fully and completely related to, which is perfectly tragic given the lyrics and that I was about 16 at the time. I knew nothing of the band or other New Wave bands like it. Prior to that fateful night I was making mixtapes from U93.3 FM with tunes by easy listening bands like Duran Duran, Pat Benatar, and Tears for Fears. I also knew Big Band and Jazz Standards from the Lawrence Welk Show and the few records my grandmother occasionally played on the portable record player. Music Video Television, John Hughes movies, and puberty came together to form a perfect pyramid with Depeche Mode,  specifically “Blasphemous Rumors,” as the apex.  Soon after that night I found my way into my grandparent’s breezeway closet and back out again with my first pair of combat boots.

The boots I found, the ones that only fit if I wore two pairs of socks, belonged to my grandmother. A pair of gently used snow boots made fake black leather; eight-eyelet lace-ups with a black and white knit lining that stuck out the top, like slouchy socks. I began wearing them immediately, along with my grandfather’s houndstooth suit coat and a broken pocket watch. I didn’t consider my boots “combat boots” at the time, but simply part of my new New Wave wardrobe. I had no inkling that wearing those boots would instantly mark me as an outsider even within my own family. Neither could I have anticipated that they would be the first pair of dozens that I’ve worn since, including those issued to me in 1988 by the United States Air Force during Basic Military Training.

Two Months, Two Weeks, Two Days, and Two Hours 

December 17, 2017

“Don’t turn on that light!” Tiki screamed. “There’s a snail resting on the bulb.” 

“No need to yell. I see her.” 

My First Pair of Combat Boots (technical training, draft)

November 29, 2017

Goodfellow Air Force Base, 1989

For military linguists, technical school is at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. San Angelo, Texas is a small town, dusty, in the middle of nowhere Central Texas.

During my technical training at Goodfellow Air Force Base, I became friends with Airman Hall. Airman Hall and I were roommates.  She was tall as me, but she had pinched-off limbs and a southern peach complexion like a perpetually day drunk flamingo. Airman Hall and I were similar in enough ways to be friends, and she was pregnant.

It was at Goodfellow Air Force Base where we learned how to use the basic equipment and technology for spying. We also got introduced to a range of potential “bad guys” we would later be assigned to target.

Our training happened in around-the-clock shifts to assimilate us into what would eventually be our erratic work schedules. Our classroom was underground in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) aka as in, and pronounced, “skiff.”

Our classroom was cold and cavernous, all 70s-blinky lights and such. Everyone was jacked into a console and listening to old recordings of the Cuban Air Force doing routine fly-overs. We trained using neck-breaking Cold War era headphones. The headphones were gray with a 10 foot vinyl-covered, twisty cord like that handheld telephone receiver from the telephonic party line days. Our screens were dark green-black, like the sky over an unused port. Our keyboards were heavy and looked magical because they were covered with rainbow colored keys and nobs. The keys were one knuckle deep and you had to really pound them to get any action.

Pounding, tacking, plasting, blamming on each each one, blam blam blam plast plast, heavy heavy, the size of two Now And Laters candies stacked atop each other, TACK, PLAST BLAMM BLAMM, TACK.

During training, you either heard the bad guys or the fans. The fans, located inside the electronic equipment stacks, kept the fury of us nubile, alert, and gung-ho military linguists cool. That night that started like any other night.  I was cool. Airman Hall was cool. That short, red haired, blued-eyed Howdy Doody-Marine that I’d end up seducing? Cool.

[DM: HALL TO GARCIA]

“My water just broke.”

I rolled my chair back away from my position to the length the headphone cord would allow and looked sideways, down the isle toward her. Airman Hall rolled out too. She was sodden and afraid. I got up and grabbed my USAF-issued trench coat and gave it to her to put on. When Airman Hall got up, everyone saw that her rolling chair was soaked with embryonic fluid, her waters.

The instructors, both female Air Force Sergeants, didn’t make a fuss. Airman Hall was embarrassed. An ambulance was called. It arrived. Airman Hall and I hugged, and I told her she could keep my coat. We had a good laugh. I went back inside and finished my shift.

The next day while I was out of our room someone came and collected all of her belongings. We never saw each other again.

My First Pair of Combat Boots (another drafty excerpt)

November 11, 2017

Veterans Day. I am a veteran. I am writing a magically real memoir about my six years service in the United States Air Force. Following is one snapshot from my time in technical school at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. Thank you for reading and supporting me.

I can’t discern if I am recalling the places or the music first. Both options are possible. “Where was I when I first heard this band?” “When I first heard this band, I was there. When was that?” Two entrances to the same room where what’s inside doesn’t change based on the door I choose; the remembering and telling does.

1989, autumn: Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine

The first time I heard Pretty Hate Machine I was sitting on a flimsy, white plastic patio chair outside my room at the Angelo Inn on Goodfellow Air Force Base (GAFB) in San Angelo, Texas. The Angelo Inn was an on-base hotel mostly used by temporary duty personnel and vacationing service members. During my training period at GAFB, the Air Force personnel resided there as well. This was a constant source of pain for the other enlisted service members stationed at GAFB because they lived in real military barracks. It was another case of “The Air Force always gets the best….”

My buddy K-Mike (an ex-boyfriend of my first roommate at DLI) brought the tape and his portable boombox to my room. He proclaimed that it was the best music I’d ever hear. K-Mike was a trusted and serious New Wave music-head.

The sun just set. The sky was stale butter yellow. From the third floor balcony we could see the toasted expanse of central Texas beyond the perimeter of the base. The wind kicked up and thunder started, then lightening of the thin, stabby variety. We were accustomed to these threats and knew no rain would come. The storms in that part of Texas were always more wind than water.

The overhead lights triggered no-loitering-white on. K-Mike climbed on one of the patio chairs and loosened the bulbs to secure the mood. We shared a mug of flat root beer and a Djarum Black. Our spiced smoke hung and perfumed the air enough for us to feel slightly civilized as we listened to the album.

The speakers lost their boom to the night. The music was all treble. The distant thunder played an erratic bass. By the time “Sin” began with its screechy screams-of-synth and clean beats-purity, the wind was raging and strong enough to cause our chairs, with us in them, to grind and scrape, and tip and rock.

We rode the wind. We saw dust devils moshing. We were up above it and down in it. And, for those 48 minutes, Nine Inch Nails (1989), Pretty Hate Machine, was the greatest music I ever heard.

Nine Inch Nails (1989), Pretty Hate Machine, “Sin.”

 

Where to next?

October 10, 2017

That tiny shell, that was something, right? Some kind of sign.

More like a holdover or an astral projection from Strandhill. I’ve not seen another since that first week.

“And the spearmint outside the door, in the garden? The Horvath, J. living in this building?”

“Tiki. Those are not ‘signs’ of anything. There were, are merely notes.”

Budapest, all of Hungary that I’ve met, has been like every other city, and different.

Like every other city because it has beautiful buildings and people moving day-in, day-out between them. Hungarians get coffee, buy eggs, go home, pick up their kids, scoop dog shit, and so on.

Different because I was looking for my Hungarian grandfather’s face. My Hungarian roots, frayed at best in Granger, Indiana, are mine as much as my hand-forged Mexican ones. I thought, possibly maybe, naively, even more because my Hungarian grandfather who raised me spoke Hungarian, made Hungarian food, had Hungarian fandangos. Our Horvath family reunions are some of my best childhood memories.

“The soil in Budapest is dry, yellow, and inhospitable.”

“What of that list written on the train from Prague? Of all the things to do here, the ‘big things’ and something ‘special’?”

Feeling hopeful about my time in Budapest, I wrote myself a love letter, not a “list,” of things To Do, but ideas, experiences, and possibilities I anticipated, desired here. (The train ride from Prague to Budapest is six hours long allowing plenty of time to get romantic…)

Little did I know that “underground hostel” meant a hostel that is below the ground, as in buried beneath the street in a frequently-flooding basement furnished with cheap Ikea-ware. Pretty. Dank. And, to say the least, hostile toward my height. 

“You’re tired,” says Tiki.

“That’s not a question.”

“I’m tired now, yes.”

Budapest is small and I’ve walked it from side to side. I’ve also spent my above ground hours in sidewalk cafes and on benches, and curbs with the mulatto pigeons pecking at the crumbs of my Beigli. Not one face did I see, of the thousands of faces I’ve scanned, not one that resembled John J. Horvath, my grandfather of Hungarian ancestry.  

Tiki is upset that I wrestled the bed of spearmint in the garden that was home, for a minute. Gathering the ashes from the residents’ spliffs and the residue from my 699 FT per liter Hungarian wine, Tiki makes a purplish slurry of sad and before tasting it, yawns, “I’m tired too.” 

Where to next?