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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ratface

Zere weel always be rat in ze wurld, Julien said.

To Julien, rat - like fish - is plural. He was talking about Ratface, my detested co-worker. I call him Ratface because he looks like a rat... but tell me, is it a coincidence that he also acts like a one? Or is character genetically prescribed preordained blah blah blah. Bullshit. He’s a rat because he likes being a rat. You come in five minutes late – bang! – not the early bird are we Labas. You forget to do something – bang! – hello, are we awake in there? You’re just doing your job, just minding your own business, –bang! Ratface has an angle – gee, we aren’t very ambitious are we? Always WE. Never you. And always unoriginal. Ratface never improvises. To my face he calls me Labas, but sloppily and strangely and he knows it. To others he refers to me as onze Balkan vriend (our Balkan friend), but do not be deceived, he’s a multi-layered rat, a rat with depth, a cunning, loose-boned little creature liable to slink under your monitor to check if your “doing work” (gmail, huh?). He has a pen he always plays with, prodding the wax in his ear, and he takes eon-long breaks. God knows where, doing God knows what. I suspect him. I suspect this man. The other day I begged Fer Ruiz from payroll to give me some dirt. Anything. He refused, calling me out on my Pinochettian tactics. He was right. So I dropped it. Then last night, after a long rant, Goni said to me,

If he upsets you so much just stick some stuff in his soup.
What’d you mean, Gon, like poison?
No, not poison. Of course not.
Well what are you talking about then, cheese?

She meant poison. She totally meant rat poison (go Goni!). Imagine shaking a box of that stuff into his minestrone.


Gee Ratface, are we having a nice lunch?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Brendan's Back

The first thing Brendan said to me when he called from the airport,

You won’t believe it.
Tell me.
I fucked up my back.
Serious. What'd you do?
What do you think?
I don’t know, lifting weights or something.
No, think man!!

How do you pull a muscle in bed? How do you pull a muscle so bad you can't carry your own bags? Just how athletically do you need to go about it? And who could accommodate such athleticism?

What’s her name?

What’s it matter.

I don’t know, what’s her name?

Katrina.

She German?
No man, like the hurricane, dude.

And then he explained.
And I understood... in theory.

I hate him, but boy I’m happy he’s back!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I'm crazy about moving objects...

It leaps, gnaws, yelps, salivates and scatters urine all in a matter of second as if DOG’s mind is a ball of conjoined wormholes that can shift it from licking its scrotum to pawing MASTER GREAT AND BOUNTIFUL in a single wag of the tail. And just as quickly it returns to the world, the WORLDINFINITE, infinitely sniffable, infinitely distracting, everything in it filled with the potential of play, a ball, a stick, a bum, a turd, a blade of grass, a buzzer-bee, WHAT’S THAT- WHAT? A MOVING OBJECT? I’M CRAZY ABOUT MOVING OBJECTS I AM A MOVING OBJECT. The wagging stops. The mind is suspended. Hind quarters bounding, thorax thrust out like a canon ball. DOG is a moving object. It lunges and goes. Suddenly out of nowhere something small but sharp like a tack shakes DOG to the ground and a force beyond it presses its nose deep into its crotch. Gnaw. Growl. Gnaw... and then it bounds back up, buoyant, again a vehicle of fascination with WORLDINFINITE, especially everything that belongs to, is thrown by, or extends from MASTER GREAT AND BOUNTIFUL HOLDER OF BISCUITS AND THE LIKE...

I sat in the grass in the Vondel park a couple of days ago and I looked at this dog with incredible envy. I don’t have the intellect for calculus. I don’t have the patience for history. I don’t care about economics. So I can add up 12 and 12. So I speak Serbo-Croatian. So what? I'd like my mouth to water too from time to time, and I'd also like to behold with the same unbreachable wonderment a bouncing ball, a blade of grass, a buzzer-bee... like DOG.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Lee the Palestinian

Ten thousand dead, he said, and he pulled me by the sleeve, pulled me so close his face was like A Fistful of Dollars, like Lee van Cleef, pocked and greasy, and his breath a barrel of old herring. A hundred thousdand dead, he said – the numbers rose by order of magnitude – What are you talking about man, but I knew what he was talking about. I was waiting for Goni outside the Israeli embassy. I knew he was a palestinian, with his scarf and his placard, I knew he was fighting the impossible fight, the fight he would loose, the fight that has shamed us all for over half a century. Gimme a cigarette, he said, and I gave.

Since tuesday I’ve been purging evil from my heart. On tuesday I killed. With the wheel of my bike I rode across a pigeon's back. The little rat didn’t get out of the way! Its job is to get the out of the way. A life-long training prepares it to GET OUT OF THE WAY. My wheel tore across him. I heard a shreak and a violent flutter of wings. My heart stopped and then... then evil descended.

Gimme your life, Lee said. I balked. You can borrow it... and then he showed me his teeth and laughed a laugh full of herring. Evil was waning in me I could feel it. When Goni appeared we were still laughing, but she saw his scarf and his face and immediately, with her eyes, she sentenced him and scolded me (la mère Goni!). Then later in the car she said,

“You know he’s crazy, right?”

“He’s not crazy.”

“He’s crazy, Lui.”

“Gon, he’s not crazy. That’s too easy. Maybe he’s just tired that his mom has to sleep in a tent. Maybe they bulldozed his whole village while he was out with his brother. Maybe his brother was bulldozed too because he didn’t have the reflex, because he didn’t have the fucking reflex to get out of the way.”

What are you talking about?

“Nothing. Just drive.... and watch the birds.”

Friday, August 8, 2008

the me of me

This week was existential. I nearly caved-in…and then I didn’t.

Everyone’s gone: Goni’s in Haifa with Sal and Gerry, Brendan’s in Portland, Julien in Briançon, Bee’s unreachable in Southern California, the rich are in Juan-les-Pins, the poor in buses to the Costa del Sol. Only the Serbs are in Serbia and the Gazans in Gaza. The office too was deserted, a barren showroom of desks and printers. The xerox hummed sullenly and I stood by with nothing to do. I even missed Branson’s “helpful advice”, his goatee and his gleaming white teeth. This was a wasted, useless week. A dangling-chad on the calendar. I missed people. I just missed them. So I turned inward. I turned to the me of me. The I’s I. The moi en moi. I turned and I turned and then I saw something that cheered me up. I saw a kid who needs a haircut, a broke kid with funny teeth and a goofy smile. I saw a kid who likes Frankfurters and toast, Croats and Jewish girls, a kid who’s mostly sympathetic, except with snobs and “worldly” types. I saw this in a flash, faster than you can say “kid”, faster than the cyclotron in Geneva. It came to me like a rapid dispatch from within the me of me. It came so fast I almost missed it (the moi of moi is an impatient, flashy thing, not to be toyed with). And when I saw him, I liked him immediately. I liked him like I like secret tunnels, trap doors and distant cousins. And then, without further ado, in another flash I turned outward, fully outward: I grabbed my empty wallet, I grabbed my sunglasses and I went out. I went out onto the streets of Amsterdam, the sun on my back, like a crazy, disheveled cat looking for something to do.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

in praise of women

The intestine is three kilometers long, coiled in your stomach is three kilometers of tubing (I exaggerate. Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know, look it up). Food has to worm its way out past a dozen “car wash” stations where it is sprayed and “secreted” upon. And it must undergo various metamorphoses – metamorfeces before it can be expelled. So, it is no wonder that somewhere along the way things can go horribly wrong. Usually, I’m what you call a “Bangladesh-type” (flash-floods and landslides), but since Belgrade

but this is not what I want to talk to you about. Yesterday was 27 degrees. It has been upwards of 25 for the past week. In Holland this means something. Women – previously unseen, undetected women – have been coming out by the thousands. Dressed down, legs bare, open back, tanned shoulders, cleavage and toes. It’s a banquet! I start in the train in the morning with the same book, the same page, the same paragraph – When the world was a forest of pines... – and then SHE sits across from me, crosses her legs, squishes her flip-flop between her toes and avoids my eye studiously. Quickly an I-pod, book or magazine emerges and she is no longer “available for questions”. It doesn’t matter, though, it doesn’t matter who’s sitting across from me and whether she’s nice to me or not, because they all have something. Even when they don’t, they have something. They have fine fingers, funny fiddly fingers, pearlish nails, freckles on their hands and arms, baby fat around their shoulders, a collarbone like a sandy ridge, or a long beautiful neck strung with beads, or they talk funny, in little fruity tidbits, or they run their hands through their hair like they’re on boat off Capri, or they just breathe nicely, softly, regularly, the same air I breathe, or, or, or (Holy mother of God!) it is simply their smell not cosmetic, but human – that is completely inebriating! Serbian, Italian, Dutch, German alike, it is an endless lexicon of detail, as long as this damn book I will never finish – when the world was a forest of pines...

One day they will recognize me. Not as the Apollo they all seek, but as their greatest, their most devoted fan... all of them, these women of the world!