A collection of sketches, essays, and broadsides from the past decade, written into a notebook with a .5mm pen. Some of these selections are fodder for real and fantasized books. Others are outlines and citations that have worked their way into my teaching and thinking, while some pieces are exercises, evidence of struggling to understand our strange world.
Candy Chang and James A. Reeves developed a cinematic fable about lost love in an abandoned apartment complex.
Nobody could smoke a cigarette like Linda Darnell.
An excerpt from my novel.
Her best friend was a little battery-powered radio.
He felt close to her while he drove, his insides vibrating like a teenage dream.
There’s no such thing as weirding out the normals these days.
Seeing a toddler’s shoes dangling over a bottle-strewn alley or swinging from a lonely tree bothers the soul.
I stand on a busy corner waiting for her to arrive.
This is strange terrain.
An old Zenith plays over the bar in the Comfort Lounge.
Somewhere in Philadelphia.
I watched the sun bleed over the mountains and experienced a magnificent panic attack.
Somewhere in Mississippi.
He has a ritual.
He pointed his little grey car southeast.
Everything looked like science fiction these days.
A short story about a man.
On the edge of the Salton Sea.
I sit alone in a high chair in front of a small Zenith television.
He began working the county fair circuit, selling little bags of black fur that he claimed belonged to the alien’s large black dog.
Somewhere on the edge of the desert.
“Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth,” wrote Albert Camus.
The name demands attention: Slab City. Such tough and cryptic cadence that sounds like the stuff of underground pulp and purple noir.
Ruminating in a parking lot.
A jittery man with long blonde hair and an extra-large leather jacket warns me about the desert. “When you go out there, don’t listen to anybody who dares you to walk into the desert.”
Jimmy Stewart’s up there, judging you.
Strings of sodium lights burn in the rainy Tokyo night.
I was probably in second grade when I first became self-aware.
The meteorologists were flushed with excitement. They wanted the storm to hit and they wanted it to hit big. Chipper women with electric lipstick fanned their painted nails across the cyclone’s projected path…
On a Sunday morning my father and I put his little skiff into the water, wondering if we could make it to the Gulf.
She’s got a supervisor with a big Steak ‘n Shake logo running up his forearm.
Love among the ruins.
As I watched the old woman twitch in front of the bulletproof glass, I saw Ernest Hemingway walking into an airplane propeller.
A big old Thunderbird pulls up to the curb blasting Curtis Mayfield.
“Always remember that you own the bullet. Wherever it goes, whoever it hurts, you own it.”
We did not land on the moon. 9/11 was an inside job. Roosevelt allowed Pearl Harbor to be bombed. In 1954, the government purchased child-size coffins to store the aliens that crashed at Roswell.
They climbed for hours because there were no roads, choking on dust and hauling bags loaded with equipment. Klieg lights, tarps, helmets, a strange inflatable vehicle. When they reached the top, the commanding officer put the Rolleiflex on the tripod and said, One picture before we clear the set. The lieutenant and private grinned next […]
In the morning I found a note to myself: “Go to Chick-Fil-A, then buy a weight set. Be more alpha.”
Public speaking is the number one fear of American adults. Although I enjoy teaching and public arguments, the idea of standing on a stage and delivering a speech fills me with shimmery panic.
They wouldn’t talk about it.
There are nights when I listen to “Jesus Children of America” for hours.
A half-buried car sits on a hill, its face pointed into the sky. This is where the American landscape reaches its logical conclusion: eerie monuments built from the machines that shaped our nation.
Somtheeng Dee’frent! South of the Border. 26 miles. Keep Yelling Kids, They’ll Stop. Pedro’s Weather Report: Chilly Today, Hot Tamale! 21 miles. Too Moch Tequila! South of the Border.
“It gets so dusty you can hardly see my knives.”
He remained convinced that he was a Martian until 1982.
This election has been going on for thirty-two years.
When society is dissolving, the best one can do is help it crumble.
“The Walkman changed the way we understand cities.”
His perfect black tie, the way he clutches his sticks and roars.
Notes on telephones, eavesdropping, and chivalry at the art museum.
A few moments beneath a gigantic cross in Kentucky, followed by several weeks of thinking about faith.
“And I’ll be grooving at Christmastime.”
Sometimes we’re hit with the desire to write a sentence or make a sound that captures everything at once, the traffic lights and grand dramas playing across the city tonight…
America should spend these long autumn nights doing some soul searching.
“He understood for the first time that black-and-white was the only true medium for film as an idea, film in the mind.”
Digging through a box of my grandfather’s things, I found this blade.
At the bottom tip of Illinois where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi, there’s an empty town called Cairo.
He was 88 years old and we shared the same name.
10,083 miles later and the book tour is done.
In North Carolina, a man asked if I agree that America is blessed. In Michigan, a man spoke of an alternate nation of people living off the grid. In Minneapolis, an older woman quietly told me that she, too, was an only child.
As I drive around the country, I meet strangers and we talk of war.
Men with guns.
I do not know how to mark this day.
Riding through the back of northwest Florida, I speed past exploding swamps and palm trees that look obscene in the Saturday heat. A big sign with haunted house lettering asks, “Are you afraid of your energy bill?”
I’ve got butterflies while I zip up my suitcase and look for my keys.
Sometimes I want to light up a cigarette in the middle of a crowded movie theater.
Asheville, Brooklyn, Cambridge, Denver, Seattle, Pasadena, Salt Lake City…
A cigarette bobs on his lip as he punches in “Funnel of Love” again.
I wasn’t prepared for such an angry thread of social commentary.
Come here and give me a hug.
I made a commercial for my book…
Heat lightning flashes across the sky tonight. From somewhere down the block, a radio plays an old deep soul record. Listen…
Save the date! Return of Christ is May 21, 2011.
Wounded pride and 1980s action films, angry parents and nostalgia.
“As authorities in Florida try to make taking photos of farms illegal, James A. Reeves traces the law’s Red Scare roots and offers some legal tips.”
I’ve started hitting the punching bag harder and more often.
If you stepped outside even for a minute, you ended up in a parade. So I ran home and put on my most colorful grey suit.
“Its victims, in my opinion, can be treated successfully only like the dog with rabies, with a dose of lead.”
“In assembly-kit tests Reagan’s face was uniformly perceived as a penile erection.”
I’m beginning to make my peace with the fact that law school has been an elaborate writing workshop.
Krewe du Vieux taught me about the strange heat of crowds and the barriers that crumble when everybody crams together in the streets to play dress-up with a backbeat.
“This was the sort of resident who was content to do nothing but sit in his over-priced apartment, watch television with the sound turned down, and wait for his neighbors to make a mistake.”
I worked the late shift at a gas station. This was back in the blurry years between 96 and 99. There was a nightly AA meeting around the corner.
“A man’s at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he don’t want to. Rightly so…”
“But now these towns are so damned broke that they’re turning off the street lights at 9pm.”
To keep up morale, I gave out high-fives and granola bars. And lots of star stickers.
I kicked at the gravel and snapped some photographs.
The law’s bestial view of the American man is disturbing.
Overheard on the edge of the Mojave.
At night you can’t see a thing in the desert, but you can sense them hulking out there on the horizon, pitched forward and waiting for something to happen.
Norman Bel Geddes designed costumes for operas, directed a Broadway ice show, and managed an industrial design studio where he manufactured cocktail shakers and computer casings. He also changed America’s landscape forever. In 1939, he designed GM’s iconic Futurama exhibit for the New York World’s Fair, an exhibit credited with convincing American taxpayers to foot the […]
Live on the beach. Except even that gets political, they said.
A man slams on the brakes because he sees a UFO in the sky.
I worry that faith is a form of denial.
A nice snapshot of two different perspectives on property defense in America.
One night in Los Angeles, a police officer stopped Lawrence Robinson on the street and asked to see his arms.
There’s a man out there who is searching for apocalyptic patterns in the names of comic book characters…
Someday I’d like to see a Boeing 747 land on I-10 just for the hell of it.
I live in a beautiful nation of car dealerships and panic attacks.
In 1946, the “Atomic Boogie Hour” debuted on AM 1400, serving the latest jive, jam boogie woogie, and jump blues to residents of Alabama.
While searching for the spot in New Mexico where I ran out of gas, I stumbled across a murder at an internment camp.
Yea, ya simply beautiful. Yeah, yeah, beautiful, yeah. When you get right down to it. Oh, mmh-hmm. Oh, ho, huh. Oh, ho, ho, huh. Mmh-hmm, hmm, hmm. Mmmmmmmmh-hmmmm! Ay, hey, baby!
A visit to Graceland
She’s the unknown woman who filmed the murder of a president.
This is my new bookcase. I get misty-eyed when I look at it.
A giant photograph of a soldier looming over an intersection. A booth with sandbags. I ate lunch at a sushi restaurant around the corner.
“You smell that? That’s the linoleum glue.” Our tour guide flashed a dark grin. “That’s the smell of East Germany.”
You can probably imagine the music videos and concerts: glitter and strobe lights, endless drum solos, lots of orbiting…
Famous aviatophobics include Stanley Kubrick, Isaac Asimov, David Bowie, Kim Jong Il, Lars von Trier, Josef Stalin, and Whoopi Goldberg.
Meat Innovations. Mobile Redemption Center.
I fucking love reverb in my headphones.
Hatchet holes in rooftops. Rows of abandoned refrigerators. Crying jags. The reappearance of the first working stoplight. Defiant barbecues. Notes on 1 Dead in Attic by Chris Rose and Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
Manuel Noriega was the military dictator of Panama from 1983 until 1989, when the United States invaded Panama and removed him from power.
“I would never cheat on you,” he said.
“I have an idea,” she would say. “Let’s all play a dangerous game.”
“…a hotel management course on the pitfalls and satisfactions of overseas nightclub operation…”
Self-Portrait in Bad Motel Lighting With Ceiling Mirror, 2010
I want to be a good worker.
My notebook bursts with page after page of choppy, bunched up scribblings that I can barely decipher. It’s the demented book that the detectives uncover while searching the serial killer’s house.
They gather on the dirty carpet. They smell like Velveeta. Lindsay announces that she has a bleeding tooth, which sends shockwaves through the class. Sympathy flows. The children take turns recounting their own dental war stories
Pictures of people with no teeth and liquid skin on billboards. Horrifying batshit crimes in the local paper.
Eighteen minutes of the most emotional frozen robot crying head-rush music ever recorded.
I’m falling hard again for the gatefold sleeve, the dusty touch, the hiss and pop.
Tonight I’m trying to make my peace with two stiff tickets, still stunned into disbelief because I’m a fantastic driver.
Sometimes I write emails that freak me out…
Somewhere in the middle of the night in America, I sit in my blue rental car in a 24-hour fast food parking lot.
At the bottom of a busted shoebox I found an old yellow clipping from a local newspaper in Flint, Michigan.
It’s easy to forget how many perfect moments they’ve created: Man-Machine. Tour de France. Numbers. Computer World. The Model. Neon Lights. Autobahn. Trans-Europe Express…
I had the opportunity to play some of my favorite songs very loud and show some photographs from America. I had a ball. Thanks to the encouraging people who danced around and whistled and waved. Here’s a recording of the evening’s set.
A few old bomb casings and rusted fuselages sit in his backyard which is an endless desert thundering out towards the Sierra Nevada range.
“Elephant feet,” said the old lady selling jewelry on the other side of the road.
A brief inventory of the things that I’ve killed over the course of 22,315 miles and the things that have almost killed me.
Something peculiar happened on this beach in April 1970.
Here’s the real thing and yet it looks like a movie set.
You or Queenie better come home Mother has the grippe.
A couple of drum tracks from around the globe.
I have a techno-thriller dream yet the gadgets are from the 1950s – why?
When Obama is sworn in on Tuesday, I expect a lot from him. Everybody does.
There are strange men in the bathroom of my office building.
92 minutes of big techno fun, starring Maurizio, DBX, Pan-Pot, and Reinhard Voigt. Recorded during a late-night set on July 4 at Supreme Trading in Brooklyn.
A crush of sequins, rubber, heavy makeup, and skin marches down Surf Avenue, and thousands of New Yorkers climb over each other to get a better look
I was invited to put together a mix for Cut & Mistake, which is flattering because they’re doing some terrific things to improve NYC’s techno landscape.
Pennsylvania has tacked on a bunch of pork to feed its state machinery.
By Wednesday we had a pretty respectable pile underway that included Big Red gum, a fat marker, a cutting board, some rejected poster designs, The Elements of Style, a Netflix sleeve…
A Waffle House on Truck Stop Road, somewhere near exit 100.
A girl in a dirty tracksuit sits bunched up with a sign against her knees.
I’m mixing tracks in France and somebody gives me the finger when the sound cuts out.
Those French alpine villages are so cute and photogenic, you want to pinch their cheeks. Brooks and bleached yellow brick and spiderwebbed streets. Retro cable cars and majestic slopes and purple skies. This is the stuff of jigsaw puzzles and inspirational calendars. Paunchy men in berets stand in the crosswalk with big sticks of french […]
A melancholy Vegas after you lose all your money and fall asleep at a floor show.
Reading and listening in a chair in Brooklyn.
A music note from Detroit.
Giraffe and Lucy loved each other loud and hard. They annoyed everybody with their love. When the rest of the dinner party had drifted into silence, each guest working hard to pick up a thread that might keep the evening going, the two of them would just gape at each other, making goofy faces, happy […]
Houston Street New York is such a well-documented city. People point cameras at every street corner, at the tops of buildings, at each other. Fifty people and a buffet table surround the filming of a Law & Order triple-homicide investigation outside a Chinese grocery. A few art students are staging something on the steps of […]
The TV says “the outfit should have its own point of view.”
He said smokers know they need to smoke most when they are under strain or working against time.
San Juan is a riot of color. The contrast is higher here.
The client wants to add a sexy lady to the design. I tell them that sexy ladies are a last resort, but nobody listens. Sexy ladies are band-aids, but they insist. I want to take my ball and go home, but it’s too late. Hands were shaken, checks have been cashed. Where the hell is […]