Dante, Part 3

You’ve all been heroically patient, so now I will tell you how it ends.

When I got back to California, I put off calling Austin (that being the name of Dante’s son) for a long time. I didn’t know what to say, or who I would be saying it to. Dante had specifically instructed me to talk to Austin, and not Austin’s mother. God had apparently not forgiven the woman yet.

Finally I did call. And who picks up the phone? Austin’s mother. Of course, Dante left his family behind when Austin was only four years old. There was no way Austin had his own phone back then. So I told her who I was, and why I was calling. I described Dante, and told her exactly how he was doing. She was sad, but not surprised. She’d seen him a few years before, after his time in Mexico, and the man she saw then was very similar to the one I was describing, but nothing at all like the man she’d married.

He’d been cleanshaven once (He was, after all, a hairdresser by trade). Now he sported the kind of beard only prophets can get away with. And something that had once been in his eyes was gone. When they met, he had been joyful. By the time he left, he was confiscating Austin’s underoos and mutilating them with scissors because the cartoon characters on them constituted idol worship. She told me she respected his faith, but she also pitied him, was afraid for him and of him.

I told her I wanted to speak to Austin. She put him on the phone, though she was doubtful that he’d want to talk to me.

“What do you want.” said a sullen teenaged voice.
“I’m calling because your dad wanted me to call you.”
“He wanted me to tell you how he’s doing.”
“How are you doing?”
“Look, I don’t want to talk to you, okay? He left.”
And that was the end of the conversation.

His mom got back on the phone. She said Austin was still pretty mad at Dante, which I could have guessed. But she also suggested we have lunch some time, her and me and Austin, to talk a little more. I agreed.

Three months later, my spiritual journey across Spain finally culminated at a Chili’s in Orange County. I had discovered Taoism during my pilgrimage (a little ironic, since it’s ostensibly a Catholic pilgrimage) and I had a nice hardcover copy of the Tao Te Ching that I wanted to give to Austin. Unfortunately I hadn’t been able to find it before leaving for Orange County, so I came bearing nothing.

I arrived at the Chili’s a few minutes early, and sat in the parking lot, reading the first few chapters of A Farewell to Arms (which, if you haven’t read it, is a beautiful little book about the absurdities of war.) Soon the two of them arrived, and we went in together. Austin didn’t talk much, and his Mom mainly asked me questions about my life – what I’d been doing (traveling), what I planned to do (go to grad school for writing). We talked a little about Dante, but nobody learned anything they hadn’t known before. Finally I asked Austin what his future plans were.

“I’m planning to join the Army,” he said.
“Oh?” I said, “Why?”
He shrugged. “It’s something to do.”

The conversation went on, but I was only half listening. It occurred to me that perhaps I hadn’t been able to find the Tao Te Ching for a reason, that perhaps there was a reason for every part of this meeting – Dante in Spain, this Chili’s, the things I just happened to bring with me…

We finished eating, and Austin’s mother paid for all of us. As we prepared to leave, I turned to Austin.

“Hey,” I said, “Your dad told me to get in touch with you, but I’m not here because of him. I’m here to meet you, because I feel like I was supposed to meet you. And I wanted to give you something, from me.” I handed him my copy of A Farewell to Arms. “I think you should read this. It’s a really good book about war.”

He nodded his thanks. We said our goodbyes, and I left. To this day, I still haven’t finished A Farewell to Arms. I haven’t heard from Austin or his mother, either. I don’t know how the story ends. But I was part of the middle, and isn’t that where all the interesting stuff happens?


Dante, Part 2

Yes yes I know, the Satyricon is unfinished yet. But in my benevolence I could not bear to keep you in suspense about Dante. So let’s see … where was I?

Dante was a deeply strange person. What I mean is, Dante was a deeply religious person, but his religion was something he had custom made. I suppose everyone is an adherent to their own custom made religion, to a greater or lesser degree, but in my experience most people’s religions do not prevent them from eating in the morning until god personally assures them it’s okay. Sometimes he would fast for days. And there were other things.

His religion seemed to be a mix of all the harshest regulations from the old and new testaments. “Soy Judeochristiano,” he would say to our Spanish companions in his exaggerated Californian accent. His religion prohibited the eating of pretty much everything we put in front of him – fish, salad, pork obviously … the only things I ever saw him eat were bread, beans, and honey. He would not walk the Camino on the Sabbath day, much to the chagrin of the innkeepers, who insisted pilgrims only stay at their hostels for one night. The bulk of his luggage was taken up by a bulky harp he’d acquired in Mexico, which he played improvisationally because of a deep feeling of kinship with some biblical prophet.

When I first called out his name, he stopped dead in front of my bunk. He didn’t move from that spot for the next twenty minutes, as I asked him questions about himself and he answered. Most of the people on the Camino de Santiago are doing the pilgrimage as a kind of vacation, walking for a month or two before going back to their real lives and their real jobs. But Dante was a pilgrim for life. He’d been on a pilgrimage for ten years, by his reckoning, and he fished a battered datebook out of his backpack to show me his route.

On the little world map that sometimes comes printed inside the front cover of those sorts of books, he’d traced a serpentine route in red pen. From California to Mexico, and around Mexico for many years, living with what he called his “Spiritual family.” Then across the United States, where he performed miracles of healing. From there he went to Israel, and from Israel to London, where he fell in with a band of travelers calling themselves the Twelve Tribes of Israel. He escaped their group when he discovered that they were not truly the Twelve Tribes, and by then he was in Spain.

Dante had always been a Christian, but his religion had not always been so strict. Over dinner he explained how he had been brought up in a reprehensibly lax sect, whose adherents danced and drank and flirted with each other. He’d fathered a child with one of the other members by accident. And he’d stuck around to raise that child for six years, though, as he explained, his wife was using their son to manipulate him.

But God came to Dante’s rescue. He spoke to Dante, and told him to leave his wife and child. And what kind of person ignores the voice of god? Dante left, seeking work as an itinerant hairdresser (which was how he learned to sharpen knives), and fell into a deep depression. One night, in his shabby apartment, he cried out to God for aid, and God came.

“I remember looking at the moon,” he told me, “And then God spoke to me in a clear quiet voice. He said, ‘Go to your bible.’ And I was filled with energy, so much that I didn’t need to blink. So I went to my bible and opened it. And the bible opened to a description of a prophet having the exact experience I was having at that moment. So I read, and kept reading, and every passage I read I understood in a way I never had before. I fell sleep, and dreamed. No, I didn’t dream. It had a different quality to it. It was a vision. I simply woke up – in the vision – in a bed in a room I’d never seen before. Over the bed was a painting of a rose. I got up and went to the window. Then I woke up. Two weeks later a friend of mine offered me a room in her house. She showed me inside, and over the bed was that exact painting of that exact rose. I fell to my knees and wept.”

A few months later, God instructed Dante to sell off all his possessions and become a pilgrim. A pilgrim, according to Dante, was someone who was simply walking in order to pass the time til judgement day. So he walked. And walked. He’d walked so long that his body was failing.

He told me he admired my youth and my simplicity, how little I managed to carry with me. And he did what he could to help me. He gave me money when I had none and found me shoes when mine wore out. The last night I spent with him was Christmas eve. We ate dinner together, sort of, and he prayed for fifteen solid minutes, saying over and over again
“God, you are so … good” With as much passion as if he were getting a blowjob from Jesus Christ himself.

I left him in the morning, while he argued with the innkeeper about the Sabbath. But before I left, he wrote down a phone number in my little notebook. It was the phone number of Austin, the child he’d left behind in California ten years ago.

“When you get back home,” he said, “Call my son. Tell him I’m okay.”

And I did. But what happened then is a story for another time.


Dante, Part 1

Hey guys,

I’m boycotting google this week for no good reason, which means I’m boycotting youtube and basically the entire rest of the internet, so no Satyricon today. Instead, let me tell you about a thing that happened one time:

One time, I walked across Spain.

This is a thing that a lot of people do. There is a trail across Spain called the Camino de Santiago. Actually it is several trails and they run through all of Europe and not just Spain, and much of the trail is taken up by either tourist traps or long stretches of highway that you have to walk on the shoulders of. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s say there’s this trail across Spain, and one winter I walked on it.

Before I spent my months in Europe, I didn’t really think about having an American accent. I knew abstractly that American accents existed, but in my head they were generally just classified as “anything that wasn’t a British accent.” After several months spent forcibly deprived of American English – and oftentimes, English altogether – I began to understand what I was missing. It was like having spent my entire youth in a closet full of my own farts, and then being cast unceremoniously out into a field of wildflowers in the midst of spring. I missed my own farts.

Which is why, after two weeks on the Camino, my ears perked up at news of a fellow Californian on the trail. His name was Dante. People told me he was a religious fanatic, that he argued with inkeepers and made his living by sharpening knives. But, more importantly, he was from California. He spoke with not only an American accent, but a Californian accent. I had to meet him.

Every time I stopped for the night, I asked the innkeepers if they’d seen Dante. They all had, and they were all a bit worried about the fact that I was looking for him. And worse, Dante always seemed to be two days ahead of me. In my desperation for a familiar accent, I embarked on a two-day force march up mountains and through driving rain in an attempt to close the gap.

It was the second day of my death-slog, and I was halfway to where I wanted to be by the end of the day. The rain was so merciless it felt like God had his divine firehose of a dick aimed directly at me. I passed a dry-looking little hostel nestled in the hills and said,

“Fuck it.”

The hostel was not only dry, but warm as well, and all my friends from the trail so far were there. Still, though, it sucked that I was never going to meet Dante.

I was in the sleeping quarters, catching up with a German friend of mine. He had just told me about how he’d had his dick grabbed while sick with stomach flu on the streets of Leon, and I was explaining to him my dilemma with Dante. My story was interrupted by the innkeeper showing a new guest into the room. The innkeeper spoke English with just the slightest trace of a Spanish accent, and I heard him say,

“You’re probably used to better than this, being from California.”

I trailed off mid-sentence and sat up. In walked a dangerously thin, impossibly tall man with very small, very round, very blue eyes, his jaw squared off by six inches of dense grey beard. He looked at me.

“Dante?” I said.

“Yes?” He replied.

“I’ve been looking for you.” I said.

He smiled beatifically and cast his eyes towards the ceiling.

“God knows.” He said.

That was by no means the end of my dealings with Dante, but I don’t want to bore you, so I’ll leave the rest of the story for another time.

To be continued…


Isaac Newton Invented Gravity But Who Gives a Shit

You guys all know who Isaac Newton is
he’s that british dude with a talent for getting fruit-induced concussions
and then revolutionizing physics or whatever
he’s the guy who came up with those three laws of motion:
1) objects are lazy unless they’re already going somewhere in which case look out
2) something about force vectors
3) If you hit a dude, he will hit you back at least as hard as you hit him

but guys
I ask pose to you this question:
As Dirk Gently points out in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
someone was gonna discover gravity eventually
that shit’s on ALL THE TIME
that’s like if we made a big deal out of the guy who discovered pooping
like, sure, pooping is a big deal
but it’s not like you really had to go out of your way to discover it, dude
you just had to go

No, the real story, my friends, is not about Isaac Newton
it is about a dude who Isaac Newton sentenced to DEATH
Did you know you could gain the power to kill dudes by being good at math?
well, actually you can’t
you have to also get appointed the head of the british mint
and spend all your time running around undercover
arresting counterfeiters for years and years
which is exactly what Newton did
because I guess he was tired of shaking the foundations of our understanding of the universe?

anyway the guy I’m referring to is a dude named William Chaloner
and he is essentially the best criminal ever
he grew up in Birmingham, where he made a living counterfeiting pennies
but that’s a really slow way to get rich
so pretty soon he moved to London and started selling dildos
these were dildos concealed inside of WATCHES
that’s some James Bond shit
or more accurately
some Austin Powers shit
I mean how do you even do that
how can you cram a satisfying amount of dildo into a wristwatch?
the secret died with William Chaloner

but until he died
William dished out currency like he was making it rain at a strip club
except if william had made it rain the kind of currency he was counterfeiting
everybody would have died
because William was counterfeiting SOLID GOLD COINS
(I mean his coins weren’t solid gold
but they were supposed to be)
and he got SO RICH doing this
that he was able to pose as a british nobleman

so William goes to parliament
with his new fancy clothes and diamond carriage and whatever
and he’s like “Listen, guys
the british mint basically sucks every chode
It is so incredibly easy to make fake coins
you might as well just hand out a check to every citizen
that just says “FREE INFINITE MONEY”
so here’s what you do:
you appoint ME as the head of the british mint
I will make sure NOBODY counterfeits your coins
because I uh
I know about counterfeiting”

dude has some brass balls
although considering his profession
I would estimate that his balls are only 45% brass at most

But Isaac Newton is having none of it
he’s like “SERIOUSLY GUYS?
and parliament is like “oh shit.”
and then William runs away
to the suburbs
where he not only continues making fake coins
but also starts printing counterfeit hundred-pound bills
from the newly-formed bank of england
and when the bank of england finds out
he just turns in one of his accomplices
for forging blank checks from the CITY ORPHAN’S FUND
and is rewarded for his efforts with another 200 pounds
plus he gets to keep all the money he already stole

so Isaac Newton is tearing his hair out back at the mint
and meanwhile William Chaloner is counterfeiting lottery tickets
he’s counterfeiting more coins
and he’s having sex with all the ladies who counterfeit coins
and he’s naming his accomplices every time he gets in trouble
and he’s also just straight framing people as members of obscure religious sects
then busting them
and collecting fat rewards from the british crown
at this point I am beginning to understand why they took so long to put him in jail
because every day William Chaloner spends free

But it turns out that ceaseless betrayal and endless crime is not a good long term strategy
because pretty soon another forger turns William in
and they find his fake lottery tickets too
plus he printed all those hundred pound notes
that’s still enough to put him in jail while Newton constructs THE ULTIMATE CASE

Newton is intent on not fucking up this time
he’s tried a lot of stuff
he has personally gone undercover to collect evidence
he has re-designed british coinage with security features
and now he has developed a comprehensive network of spies and informants
pretty much with the sole goal
of shitting in William Chaloner’s breakfast
and it works
he fields eight witnesses
and William doesn’t have any friends left because he sold them all out
and it takes the jury like three minutes to be like “hang that bitch”
so they do
and it’s gross
but hey, it was fun while it lasted

so the moral of the story
is that you can completely revolutionize science and mathematics
change the way we view the solar system
and create groundbreaking inventions for everything from tamper-proof currency to cat doors
but in the end
you are never going to be as interesting
as a dude who makes fake shiny things



Beren and Luthien Write a Bad Romance

yeah it’s sunday
I was doing a thing yesterday so just be cool
currently I am reading the Journey to the West
but as it is over A THOUSAND PAGES LONG
it’s going to take me a while to read it, digest it, and then shit it back out for you
so in the meantime, let’s return to an old favorite

Okay so I know it’s been a while since we dipped into JRR Tolkien’s Bucket O’ Names
so let me get y’all back up to speed
basically a long time ago some gods were having a sweet jam sesh
and one of them (Melkor) started showboating too hard on his celestial axe
and he fucked it up for everyone and then turned evil
everybody else went to live in the song they wrote
where they found a bunch of elves
and also some fancy jewels (the Silmarils)
Melkor stole all the jewels and then changed his name to Morgoth
the elves (lead by a dude named Feanor) all tried to kill him for it
but ended up killing each other instead for a while
and finally pitched all their tents right around Morgoth’s evil fortress for five centuries
while everyone waited for humans to arrive

yeah, I think that about sums up the story so far
wow, why does this book have so many pages in it
seriously, people should hire me to make their dumb books shorter
oh holy shit
that’s actually my job

after five hundred years of doing diddly shit
Melkor randomly decides that today is the day for global apocalypse
he accomplishes this by making his mountain lair vomit a literal torrent of fire
with a million baalrogs and werewolves surfing on top of it
also a dragon
this is known as the Battle of Sudden Flame
even though it lasts at least a year
and also it’s not so much a battle as a natural disaster with swords sticking out of it
here is a song by Blind Guardian called The Battle of Sudden Flame
here is a song that actually captures the essence of the battle of sudden flame
(listen to that while you read the rest of this myth
it will make it so much radder)

so by perpetrating this epic guitar solo all across the faces of every sentient being on the planet
Morgoth accomplishes a couple things:
one: he proves once and for all that he is strictly more metal than anyone else in the universe
two: he kills most of the elves and pretty much all the humans
three: he totally blows his wad too soon, setting the stage for his eventual destruction
but that destruction is still way, WAY eventual
in the meantime, let’s focus on the plight of one specific dude who got caught in this literal crossfire
his name is Beren

Beren is the last surviving member of a group of humans
the rest of whom have been butchered mercilessly by orcs
so he mans up (get it? because he’s human) and takes his family’s fate into his hands
by assassinating the orc’s leader
and stealing back his dad’s severed hand
because oh yeah
watching your whole family get murdered in front of you makes you kind of crazy

then he makes himself all the way crazy
by fighting his way through some impossibly evil woods
which is why nobody is surprised when he comes out the other side
and starts hallucinating a hot goddess chick in the middle of the woods
except it turns out it’s not a hallucination
it’s Luthien
and she is actually a goddess chick
and Beren is so taken with her / fucking insane
that he chases her through the woods for weeks
Apollo-and-Daphne style
except instead of turning into a tree
Luthien is finally like okay fine let’s bone

they actually turn out to be pretty compatible
and everything would have turned out awesome after that
except some dumb poet happens to have a crush on Luthien too
and he sees her banging Beren
and runs and tells Thingol
whose secret kingdom is almost totally unharmed
his strategy of telling everyone to fuck off has apparently worked out pretty well

So because there seems to be about 1 chick for every 5 guys in the story
Thingol is ALSO really pissed at Beren for banging Luthien
despite the fact that Thingol is MARRIED
AND the fact that he found is wife Melian in LIKE THE EXACT SAME WAY
so he summons Beren and Luthien to his court
and he’s like okay dude
you can marry Luthien
and Beren
who, remember, left the tattered rags of his sanity hanging on the gnarled limbs of some awful tree
is like PSH

So he runs off to steal part of Fantasy Satan’s hat
but Morgoth’s best bro Sauron is totally ready for him
he catches him and puts him in a hole
along with all the elves he brought with him

meanwhile, back at Thingol’s court
everyone is trying to have sex with Luthien
but she is having none of it
instead she steals some guy’s dog
which actually happens to be HUAN, THE DOG OF HEAVEN
and they go to rescue Beren from his hole

Huan is like the best dog ever
he’s huge and pretty much invincible
because there is a prophecy that he can only be killed by the BIGGEST WOLF EVER
so they show up to Sauron’s camp and start chewing faces
and Sauron
(who is a wizard and can turn into whatever he wants)
turns into the biggest werewolf he can think of
(because everybody seems to know this prophecy about Huan)
and tries to take Huan down
but obviously Sauron is a fake-ass werewolf
so Huan almost kills him
but then they let him go for some reason
and he turns into a VAMPIRE and flies away
proving once and for all that all of Middle Earth
is just a really elaborate Underworld fanfic

So Luthien digs Beren out of his hole
and Beren is like GREAT, I’M FREE
and Luthien is like god dammit
I didn’t just save your life so you could commit suicide
we could just go somewhere and bang forever
we don’t have to get married
and i’m not even sure what claim Thingol has over me
because I haven’t been paying very close attention to the genealogy
and Beren is like WOMAN
and Luthien is like ok fine but I’m going with you

so they cut open some werewolves and wear their skins as a disguise
and Huan leaves because fuck this
and then they simply walk into Mordor
I mean morgoth’s lair
like for real, they stroll straight into Morgoth’s throneroom
put him to sleep with magic
and then start prying jewels out of his crown
(by the way
Morgoth can’t touch the jewels because he’s evil
so he put them in this crown he wears
but they make the crown super heavy
and don’t give him any special powers
and i have no idea why he does this)

they try to take more than one jewel
but they’re using a cheap-ass knife, so it breaks
and then they freak out and run
and they get all the way to the front door
when this huge werewolf jumps in front of them
the biggest one in the world
and Beren holds up the silmaril like STAND BACK EVIL CREATURE
and the wolf is like FUCK YOUR JEWELRY
and straight bites off Beren’s hand
jewel and all
thus turning Beren into a weak-ass ripoff of Tyr

but see
if Morgoth can’t even touch the jewels without serious pain
what do you think happens when a lesser evil creature INGESTS ONE?
why doesn’t Morgoth just feed all his silmarils to his minions
seems like a pretty good strategy

so Beren recovers from his wounds
changes his name twice
(but everyone still calls him Beren though
it’s sort of like what happened with Prince)
and he goes back to thingol like sup
i’ma marry Luthien now, ok?
and Thingol is like did you do what I said to do?
and Beren is like yeah
the silmaril is in my hand right now
and Thingol is like okay well
go ahead and marry Luthien I guess
we’re all gonna die anyway

but they’re not gonna go down without a fight
they track down the werewolf and surround it
and Huan tackles that bastard and rips it up
but not before receiving mortal wounds
because, you know, prophecy
and then they cut the silmaril out of the wolf’s stomach
and … now they have a shiny thing!

anyway then Beren dies for some reason
and Luthien gets to choose between being immortal in Valinor
or bringing him back to life and being a mortal
so obviously she chooses the shittier option
and the two of them get to live out their marital bliss
in the single worst epoch Middle Earth has ever experienced

so the moral of the story
is if you are the only woman in a sea of men
you can probably afford to shop around a bit
you don’t have to marry the first deranged sword guy who chases you down in the woods



The Yuki-Onna is Not Ready For A Relationship

Sup guys

thanks for sticking with me while I told you stuff about my life for a bit
probably it will happen again at some point
but I can tell y’all’s interest is starting to flag
and a true storyteller
(which is exactly what the fuck I am)
always gives the audience what it wants
and right now
my storyteller sense is telling me
that what you want is a tale about frozen boobs
(recommended by my pal Ilsa: SHE WOLF OF THE INTERNET)

So there’s these two woodcutters
a young dude named Minokichi
and his dad
whose name doesn’t matter because he’s gonna die in the next paragraph
(oh, uh, spoilers.)
and they are terrible woodcutters
because they are out cutting wood IN THE MIDDLE OF FUCKING WINTER
when all sensible people are either inside or in cancun
and thus nobody is surprised when these two dimwits end up trapped in a snow storm
and have to spend the night in an abandoned hut

Now, normally this would just mean a very uncomfortable night
but this is a folktale
so both these dudes are basically fucked
word to the wise:
you do not spend the night in an abandoned shack if you are in a folktale
you go outside and you deal with the storm and get rescued by wizards or glowing deer or something
because see, here’s what happens to Minokuchi and his red-shirt dad:
dad falls asleep
but Minokuchi stays up because winter
and then at like midnight
this heart-stoppingly gorgeous babe creeps in
I say heart-stoppingly
because she walks up to the dad and straight stops his heart
although i guess she doesn’t do it with her hotness
she actually does it with her COLDNESS
because this chick is MADE OF ICE
she is in fact the YUKI-ONNA
sweet, the old guy is dead
now i can end this paragraph.

So Minokuchi is watching this snow lady rub her frost-bitey bod on his dad
and she catches him looking
and she’s like whoa
I’m kinda killing your dad right now
could you give us some privacy?
when we’re done I’ll totally kill you too, I promise.
But then she feels bad
because Minokuchi is really young and also kind of sexy
so she’s like I’ll tell you what
I’ll let you live
but you can never tell ANYBODY about this
because it would totally ruin my cred
and then I will kill you

so Minokuchi’s dad freezes to death
but Minokuchi gets to keep living
with a whole buttload of survivor’s guilt
until one day he’s walking through the forest again
her skin is so unnaturally pale
it is like THE SNOW ITSELF
(yeah this is what the ancient japanese thought was attractive
although to me it sounds uncomfortably close to necrophilia)
oh also her name is O-yuki
which in Kanji is basically just Yuki-Ono backwards
just thought I’d draw your attention to that subtle bit of foreshadowing

so Minokuchi (being just over eighteen) immediately starts struggling with a massive erection
only he’s not struggling very hard
(hehe hard)
because he is super duper into this chick
I guess because he has a thing for women who look exactly like the one who murdered his father?
is there a name for that fetish?
like I know an Oedipus complex is when you want to kill your dad and sex your mom
but what if you want to sex the person who killed your dad?
it’s like one-stop shopping! so efficient!
leave it to the japanese to streamline a classic sexual disfunction

so obviously Minokuchi uses the suavest pickup line in his arsenal:
hey girl
are you uh
are you married?
and she’s like NO U?
and he’s like nope!
so they go home and get married
because dating will not be invented for another several decades

and all goes well for many years
this mystery snow woman bears ten children
because contracteption also will not be invented for several decades
and then one night, being the idiot that he is
Minokuchi is like you know who you really remind me of?
this snow spirit who killed my dad and made me promise never to tell
in fact you know what, you look exactly like her
how did I never notice this before
and O-Yuki
who – GASP – was actually Yuki-Ono THIS ENTIRE TIME
is like I HAVE NO IDEA

so Minokuchi is like shit
so i guess you’re gonna kill me now
and Yuki-Ono is like nah
just gonna make you raise my kids for me
then she disappears in a cloud of snow
leaving no forwarding address
Minokuchi never sees a CENT of child support

so the moral of the story
is you should not marry a snow wizard
because they are all terrified of commitment
and will latch onto any technicality they can find
just to avoid raising a family

I hope that helps


How I Met Cuba

Hey so it’s Saturday, and Saturday is the day I go visit my friend Cuba in his house in the park. You may remember Cuba as the dude whose house I was at when the police showed up for unrelated reasons. I’ve been paying weekly visits to Cuba for about five months now, and today is the day I tell you how that all started.

So as I may have told you before, I went to art school. I went for a Master’s degree in writing, which meant two things:

1) Upon graduation, no one would be allowed to correct my grammar EVER AGAIN

2) Before graduation, I had to submit a thesis.

But, this being art school, my thesis could be whatever the hell I wanted. It could be a paper airplane, or a pile of dead leaves, or – in my case – a pair of gloves that allowed the wearer to type by pressing the fingers to the palms in combination, similar to chording a guitar. As part of my project, I attached the gloves and a webcam to a beat up old laptop, wrote a program to superimpose any text I typed over the webcam video, and went walking around my neighborhood. After twelve hours of this, I ended up with about an hour of useful footage and a pile of molten slag where the laptop used to be. Luckily, it wasn’t my laptop.


This is what I looked like.

Most of the usable footage wasn’t any good , but I did find something interesting in the course of my journey. When I sat down to rest on a bench in the park, I looked out across the pond and saw what appeared to be a little grey shack.

It was built on a tiny peninsula that stuck out into the pond, and it would have been hidden by a weeping willow if the trees had had any leaves. As I came closer, filming all the time, I saw that the shack was made of what appeared to be grey carpet samples, tied together at the edges with the plastic twine sometimes used to tie up newspapers. I stood in front of the shack, typing to myself, when I heard a sudden movement inside.

“Oh shit,” I typed, and ran. I didn’t know who was inside the shack, but I figured they wouldn’t respond well to a twitchy cyborg hovering outside their door. Then I chased a goose for a while, and more or less forgot about the shack.

But every time I walked through that park (and I walked through it a lot, to get to the restaurant where I worked) I would find myself peering over my shoulder at the mysterious shack. Month after month, it stayed standing. Occasionally I would see a dumpy white woman in a red sweatshirt standing outside, smoking. One day she came into my restaurant to use the bathroom. I didn’t think to ask her about her shack until she was already gone.

I worked at that restaurant all summer, and the whole time I worked there I never had the courage to approach the shack. As the weather warmed up, I started seeing more and more people gathered around the place. I assumed the woman in red was the primary occupant, but maybe I was wrong. Finally, on the day I put in notice at the restaurant (because fuck restaurants) I mustered up the gumption to go say hi.

There was a muddy path worn into the grass where it passed through the willow tree. I emerged, still in my all-black server clothes, in front of two people squatting on milk crates. One was the woman in red, her eyes cloudy and her jaw drooping malevolently. The other was a straight-backed man with a bushy white beard, a grey t-shirt and a castro cap.

“Who the fuck are you?” said the woman.

“I’m … I’m [Publius Ovidius Naso], and I just see you guys over here all the time and I wanted to know what was going on.”

“Why the fuck is it any of your business?” she spat.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I’ll go away if you want me to. I was just curious.”

“Come here asking all these questions,” she said, “You’re a cop, huh?”

“Nope,” I said, “Not a cop.”

“Ey, papi!” said the man with the beard. “Come on, sit down.”

“Are you crazy, Cuba?” said the woman, “He could be a cop!”

“Ee not a cop, papi, come on. Sit down right here, papi. You no listen to her. This my house.” He patted a broken milk crate next to him, and I sat.

“Fuckin’ stupid,” said the woman, “He could be a cop and you let him sit right here.”

“Shaddap!” yelled Cuba, waving her away like a cloud of flies, “Shaddap! Ee not a cop! This my house!”

The woman left us alone, grumbling the whole time, and Cuba turned to me.

“Dey call me Cuba,” he said, “Because I from Cuba. Whatchoo name, papi?”

And then we were friends. I sat on that milk crate for two hours, listening to the story of Cuba’s life. He’d come from his home country on an inflatable raft twenty years before, and worked his way from Florida to Chicago, where a forklift accident damaged his spinal cord and paralyzed him. After submitting to an experimental surgery that left a scar on his back the whole length of his spine, he could walk again, but he couldn’t work. He’d never been much of a drinker before, but now he drank a 40 a day to keep the pain at bay.

As for heroin, the drug of choice in that park, he’d never touched it. That, and the fact that he was the only person with a house in the park, made him a sort of father figure to all the junkies in the area, black and white alike. His little clearing was and is probably the least segregated area of Chicago. The junkies brought him change to buy cigarillos and 40s, and he kept a few ampules of Narcan in a repurposed baby-wipe box in his hut, in case any of them overdosed. My first day there, I watched one of them hide in his house to shoot up. Cuba waited until the guy was done, then kicked him in the leg until he sat up and gave Cuba back his headlamp.

The animals in the park saw Cuba the same way as the junkies did. The rats and squirrels showed up daily for scraps, choosing to converge when most of the other humans were gone. Cuba had raised two of the squirrels himself after their mother was killed by a hawk the previous winter. And there was the rooster.

Garfield – named for the park where he lived – was the king of the camp. Everybody who came by brought him an offering. He pecked at everything he was given, until a little before sunset when he retired to the branches above Cuba’s shack. Cuba had found him abandoned in the park when he was just a baby (there are a lot of wannabe urban farmers in the neighborhood) and the two had been fast friends ever since. From my perch on the milk crate, I watched Cuba lovingly stroke Garfield’s comb. I couldn’t believe any of this shit.

By the time I left, he had decided that I was his honorary son. He had a few of those, but I was the only one who wasn’t on dope. He told me to come back any time, and to tell anybody who gave me trouble that Cuba was my father.

When I came back the next week, I didn’t see Cuba anywhere. But there was a skinny black guy with white powder smeared across his face, and eyes rolled back in his head. He smiled when he saw me, and shook my hand.

“Hey man!” he said, “Good to see you! Where’s that ten bucks you owe me?”

“I don’t owe any money,” I said, “I’m here to see Cuba.”

“Nah man, you remember. We went in on a bag together. You still owe me ten bucks.”

“No,” I said, “I really don’t.”

“You a good swimmer?” He asked me, smiling.

“I’m alright,” I said.

Without warning, he grabbed me by the shoulders and made to toss me in the pond. But as soon as he laid hands on me, Cuba was on him, tackling him into the pond. He spent the next ten minutes chasing the poor guy from bank to bank, waving a kitchen knife. No one ever fucked with me after that.

I could go on and on about Cuba, and the relationship we’ve developed over the last few months. But let me just say this: I’ve always believed that the money I give any beggar on the street is worth it if I’m repayed with a story. But I learned from Cuba that the relationship doesn’t have to be transactional. He told me today that me and Garfield are the only friends he has here. He doesn’t have family. And I’ve spent enough time begging for rides to know how lonely you can get when everyone knows you need something from them. So I guess my point is, every once in a while when you see someone on the street, try giving them a couple words, even if you don’t have a dollar to trade for a story. A lot of homeless people are assholes, for sure, and I’ve met most of them, but there are guys like Cuba, too, begging downtown with his rooster in tow. And if you don’t start a conversation, how are you gonna know who’s who?

Well, I mean, I guess you could look for the rooster…