Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Copy Cat

I know he means well. However, my roommate is starting to copy things that I do. This happens when he tells a joke or a story. There is a certain delivery that sounds like it is coming out of my mouth yet it is coming out of someone else’s. This annoys me. I just can’t tell if I hate myself or if I think someone is stealing my soul before my very eyes.

I go with the latter notion, the “stealing my soul” bit. But since he is stealing my act does that make him a genius, if you hold true that saying, “Talent borrows, genius steals?” So do I still end up being the loser no matter what?

Further, I can’t say anything because I’ll just sound like a narcissist. Plus, if I were to call him out on acting like me that would just be weird. It’s the deepest, darkest, dankest truths read aloud. Some things need to stay under wraps. It’s like someone saying, “Yeah, When I Masturbate, I Think of Grandma Standing to My Right Cheering Me On. That’s The Only Way I’ll Come.” Not that I have ever thought of that, I just wouldn’t have the couth to say that. And for shame, if you have said that phrase out loud and meant it. I don’t want to hear it and I bet grandma doesn’t want to hear it either.

Maybe it’s not worth it. It’s kind of flattering when people start doing things in the style of one of their peers. I could think I’m a role model. I could think I’m the latest trend people need to get in touch with.

I know I can be a contradiction. But I feel comfortable when I’m in the minority. It empowers me. I’m sure if I were white and middle class, I would pray that I was blind and crippled with excelled skills in ceramics, just so I could be in the minority. I’m just saying I don’t want to be liked. But that would bum me out. But then I don’t want to be mediocre.

My stoned friend says the only awesome things in life are those that really fail or really succeed. A half-assed job or a three quarters-assed job is just not very interesting. I don’t know.

I’ll be me and you’ll be you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Man Boobs

I signed a new lease on life last year when I lost 35 lbs. Not that I’m trying to be sanctimonious, but I just felt different. It was something that was definitely for me. Is that what it means to do something in vain? Last year, I just wanted to be able to look at myself in the mirror without going, “Fuck. That’s a Lot of Skin.” Or maybe I could look at myself without wanting to cringe. Maybe I just wanted to look like the thin person I, kind of, imagined myself to be. However, this image of a chubbier, fleshier boy seemed to cloud that image.

One weekend after eating my way through Maggiano’s lasagna to Aladdin’s falafel platter to Red Robin’s bacon cheeseburger, I decided that my reign of terror upon the world of food had to end. Ever since college ended and I moved back home with the folks, I realized that food was ever abundant and available. I could afford to eat. I had a job. I had the time. Food was my drug. I was mainlining fried chicken at all times. But after that weekend of stuffing my chipmunk cheeks with lasagna, falafel, and bacon cheeseburgers, I felt like I needed a change in my life. I needed to cleanse. I needed to make some better decisions.

That Monday, I decided to quit the junk. In the morning, I would toast two slices of that oat-y, thousand-grain bread. Sometimes, I would spread that laughing cow cheese. It’s low in fat, I think? However, I was pissed that one wedge of that fine processed Swiss cheese was not sufficient for 2 slices of bread but only 1.5. For lunch, I would eat a bowl of soup and whatever kind of oat-y, thousand-grain bread that I had at my disposal. After work, I’d be dizzy with hunger, anger, and pity and then I’d hit the gym. There, I would ride the elliptical machine for 40 minutes and then do some weights for about 5 minutes. I’d come home and eat one helping of dinner. No snacks or dessert afterwards. Definitely nothing to eat after 8pm. I would sit and watch TV until I got tired and went to bed. Perhaps the only sort of treat I could give myself was a cup of tea or a glass of water.

I followed this diet for a month. And well….it worked. I knew it worked because my teeth hurt. Not in that toothache - something’s coming in sort of way. My shins would hurt. I felt achy. I felt malnourished. I felt thin. And feeling thin wasn’t anything that I felt in…….all my life, I guess. It seemed a bit dangerous. But I just didn’t want to feel like I had marshmallow puff running through my veins anymore. I wanted to have like beet juice running through my veins. Orange juice. Carrot juice. Something not made from concentrate.

I even watched an episode of Oprah that dealt with weight loss. (Okay, okay, I know I wrote that I watched Oprah like it was a one-time deal. Honestly, I watch it a few more times than that, considering the topic, and this was one of them.) Oprah, in her majestic style of speaking – like that twice shot minority overcoming all obstacles Seabiscuit sort of way, said, “If You Want To Lose Weight, You Need To Let Yourself Go Hungry Once In Awhile, So Your Body Will Start Eating Itself.” I heard. And I followed.

I don’t think I cheated. I mean I exercised all the time. I stopped eating French fries for a long while. I played fair. I found myself immersed in what I should wear. I felt like a new person. I felt like a woman. I felt for once I could wear clothes that could compliment instead of hide me. I didn’t feel like I had to wear a theoretical BERKA to hide myself from the world of the thin. And for once, my man boobs withered, settled, and flattened.

Now that I live in the junk food capital of the world, things are hard. Cheesesteaks are sold at every door. I smell French fries everywhere I go. Soft pretzel this. Soft Pretzel that. There’s a Dunkin’ Donuts on every block, I pass by at least 6 of them on my way to school. There’s a Starbucks on every corner with their deliciously decadent caramelized croissants on display. “I see steak” has become my “I see dead people.” There’s a lot of temptation. Instead, I head for the vegetables. I eat somewhere between my fatty past and my fitness lifestyle past. Moderation, right?

Just as long as I can lay on my belly and not feel my two little perky man-boobs hang, I think I’ll be all right.

Okay, I need to walk a mile to the train stop.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Going Down the Drain With You

Perhaps, it is time for me to touch upon this topic. It’s potentially alienating. In fact, really alienating depending on your threshold for “blue talk.” I know I’ve discussed numerous upsetting and embarrassing topics here. But let’s turn to one topic that gives me pause.


Deep breath, everyone.

Feel free to put your fingers in your ears and chant LA, LA, LA, LA.

Defecating. Pooping. Shitting. Scheissing. Whatever nicknames you or your family has given it. I’m not trying to make light of it. I know it’s gross and perhaps, writing about it can give me some sense of closure. And sooner or later, I’ll feel all right about it. But I’ve run into this new problem.

As you may know, I live with two roommates. These are friends of mine that I’ve known for awhile. Two or three years, I think. I just have a lot of trouble using the bathroom. I feel really unsure. Insecure. Not safe. I just can’t “do the dew.” I feel really embarrassed. I just can’t go. I’m all stopped up. Before, when I had my own bathroom, I’d just go. No looking back. No questions asked. Now, it’s communal. And I’m taking it personally.

If I do go, it’s got to be late at night when I know that they’re fast asleep and my inhibitions are lacking. Yet, I have this lingering fear that MAYBE one of them will get that late night bladder call and go after I’ve (oh, I don’t know) wrecked the integrity of the bathroom. The worst they can do is just act like, EW! And move on with the rest of their lives. But I don’t want them to look at me and think of that person that made the paint peel off the walls.

Never have I walked in after they’ve used the bathroom and been like, WHOA! Let’s Just Buy a New House! In fact, they don’t even eat. Therefore, they’d never have to shit…AT ALL! And why do I have to be the one who doesn’t do so well with creamy foods? Lobster bisque can totally wreck me. Why does Dunkin’ Donuts insist on creaming my coffee for me? Why am I the only one who can’t deal with the DOO?

I was reading this book. Yet another book I have finished recently (A total wink to two posts ago about me reading) mentioned how the flushing commode (uh, toilet) has made us emotionally retarded. Thomas Lynch said something about how we are just not able to deal with anything messy, unpleasant, or dirty because we have learned to flush it away. The minute that anything totally messy or unpleasant happens and lingers, we utterly feel all alone. This could be a daring experiment for me to just not flush the toilet for the next week and see how we all feel after that.

I miss having my own bathroom. Maybe it’s not just that it’s my own bathroom. Maybe we need to knock some walls down. Maybe we need to discuss this. Maybe we shouldn’t just let this go down the pipes. Then just maybe I’d feel a bit better about this Lobster Bisque I just ate.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Remembering Your Spirit

Just the other day, my roommate Rose asked me if I wanted to go to Trader Joe’s. I, like an overexcited puppy in heat, panted. Then ran in a circle and quickly got my shoes on. Finally, I can get something to eat. I’ve been feeding off a family sized bag of UTZ potato chips and drinking tap water, infused with rusty bits of lead, for the past two weeks. I don’t know if I could stand a diet like this anymore. I need nourishment. I need something less potato-y. I need less salt. I need to take better care of myself.

So we went to Trader Joe’s in the red pick-up truck.

There’s something really magical about going to Trader Joe’s. Every time I go in, I get a sense that I’m nourished. Friendly vibes are all around me. I feel very positive. And all of a sudden, I have become very in touch with my senses. I desire to wear a beaded hemp ankle bracelet. I calculate my vitamin intake. I look at the snacks and read the nutritional facts. I scoff at the saturated fats. I have to decide between dried dragon fruits, dried raspberries, or the nuts & berry trail mix. I sample the pumpkin butter smattered on the pumpkin pancakes that the sample lady is fixing. She gives me a laundry list of different foods to eat with pumpkin butter. Butternut squash soup. Crackers. Chips. Meats. Yogurt. Oatmeal.

I’m in heaven.

I don’t consider myself to be the angriest person ever. However, I do get cranky out of frustration and deprivation. Now that I had Trader Joe’s holding my limp anemic hand, I felt safe. I was assured. I was okay. I went home and caressed the house cat, Halloween. I looked out my third floor window onto the crack house across the street and everything seemed to make sense. Everything seemed to be just fine. Things happen, as they should. Everything happens for a reason. Trust Jesus. Jesus loves you, Kevin. A stitch in time saves nine. It was like that scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. The only difference was that good vibes, good creeds, and spirit were just attacking me. They were attacking me with Spirit. Spirit. Spirit.

I even watched Oprah. She was speaking with identical twins and one of the twins had a sex change.

Then, I lay on my bed. And I took out the loose change and the extraneous keys and placed them on my bureau. And I found a crumpled ATM receipt. I scanned. I am going broke. I need a job.

There is no god and everything has a price on it. I’ll never be free. And this is hell. I ate my dried mashed bananas and I pondered my life. (I don’t want this to end so bitterly, so let’s jazz it up with a cliché.) I figured everything does happen for a reason and that the world will still keep going round.

Thanks, Trader Joe's.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


In the last 2 weeks, I’ve read 3 books, starting a 4th, and I’m really amazed at myself. Like, I think I’m some sort of champ. I feel like I need to announce it too. I announced it to my friend/roommate Jamie and he responded with a “wow.” I don’t know how excited he actually was, but I was excited for myself. I usually don’t read. I just don’t know what to read. I don’t know what kind of books I should read.

My best friend in high school was named Richard. I usually kept him abreast of indie-rock records and he’d keep me abreast of some book he was reading. Charles Bukowski. Kurt Vonnegut. Whatever. I’d go to the bookstore with him. I’d choose books with interesting titles. I got one entitled, “Eating People Is Wrong.” I tried to read it. And it was okay. I don’t think I even grasped what the story was about. I couldn’t retain any names of characters. My mind would start to wander. I’d place a bookmark after chapter one. Then I would leave it on my nightstand. And ultimately forget it about it.


I knew how to read. I just had a hard time adjusting to fiction. I used to read a lot in grade school, but it was mostly for the monthly Book It A Thon. It was a program in grade school to encourage reading. Every student would read a book a week and get rewarded with a coupon with a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut.

I became a fatty.

During my senior year in high school, I read This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolfe. I liked it because I had seen the movie adaptation. I think I even welled up at the end. But the movie became the spine from which I would read the book. Por ejemplo, if I got to the part where Toby and his new step-dad practiced bare-knuckled boxing, I’d know where the story was heading and where to set my frame of mind. That was the last book I had really read.

After that, I depended on good indie films to become my literature. I’d watch Alexander Payne movies and study them with the intensity of an astute English major. I depended on indie rock records to be my poetry. I was bummed out reading collections of poetry because it lacked “hooks.” I also read magazines and news on the world-wide web. So I felt like I was connected.

I’d become friends with Literate people and they’d talk about some book they were reading. I’d feel a bit left behind or I’d feel a bit malnourished. I would take a deep breath and just take solace in the fact that I am JUST THAT WAY. You know, NOT WELL READ. I felt like an 18 year old home schooled Quaker that didn’t know how intercourse worked. Instead, I just thought people that read a lot are boring people that need some window into some other exciting life. Like, Moby Dick?

Then Six Feet Under premiered. I know, if you’re friends with me, you’ve probably heard me go on and on about the show. I love how each episode is written. It has a great tone. It’s sad and hilarious at the same time. Each episode has this little secret to life. The characters are so real. I feel like I “go there” each time I watch an episode. I understood this show to be a work of “literature.” I especially liked the episodes Jill Soloway had written. She’s really amazing. I found out that she had a website. So I “went there” and she had some essays and short stories on display.

There was something in the way she wrote that I really related to. She described herself as this Jewess Feminist. But her view and her take on life was something that became like a best friend to me. It was just so honest. It was brutal with this underlining of everything’s joke, so why take it so seriously. She would write about her flaws and her neuroses and it’s like we had all the same neurotic quirks. I kept visiting her site for almost a year. And then her book came out last week.

I read it. Cover to cover. Finished it in a day. I read some parts twice or three times. I laughed out loud. I cheered quietly inside when she would have little epiphanies, especially the part where she becomes a dog lover after years of hating them actively. And at that point, I decided I loved reading and people that read. I know I don’t have many books under my belt.

But I just found a place where I belong.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Fighting For Our Lives

I like being back in school as opposed to working because I essentially make my own schedule. I have 4 days in the week that I can sleep in. I can watch Live With Regis & Kelly. I can watch the Tony Danza show with his endless parade of talented Italians. Then I can take some time out and appreciate The View. Star Jones looks really odd now. I can’t really take her being this emaciated waif-ish black woman. She seems like someone took away her right to vote, to speak, and to eat. When she was fat, she seemed more effective. Now she looks helpless.

I take a shower. Get dressed. I need to find a shirt that doesn’t have crystallized sweat on it. I find my keys with my Napoleon Dynamite keychain attached and I run to the train station. That’s only 3 blocks away. I walk my street walk. This is where my shoulders become even broader by 3 feet, I look at my feet as I walk, and I grimace. This is to avoid a mugging, a murder, or just someone beating me with a broken off table leg.

I step onto the train and take a seat next to a Jersey she-devil. She looks at me with distrust. I ignore it and look ahead. What I see are 4 people standing up on the train. One is a woman. She has the short post-menopausal haircut. She’s middle aged, she wears navy slacks and a blouse akin to what someone’s anonymous mother would wear. Her eyes are shut. She is bent at the hips. Her mouth is agape. This woman is totally fucked up and Star Jones hasn’t even made her closing statement on The View at this time. And when I say “fucked up, “ I mean she is stoned on dope. And when I say “dope,” I don’t mean grass or weed. I mean, SHE IS DOPED ON H! SHE IS MAINLINING HEROIN!

The woman is leaning into her what I presume is her boyfriend. I didn’t see a wedding ring on her. Her boyfriend was light years away from sobriety. Her boyfriend had his hand hanging onto the train’s upper banister. His eyes were closed. He was sweating furiously, while I was feeling quite cold (for once) from the air conditioning. And with him was a younger guy. He had this Eminem/Marshall Mathers quality to him. I’m just saying that although he is white, he displays a deep appreciation for Gangsta. This young man was wearing jean shorts with white sneakers and a wife beater that displayed his shoulders, which were covered in what I hoped, was a bad case of Acne. But judging from his profuse sweating, eyes rolling back, and his jaw slacking, I realized that this dude really loved himself some Heroin.

I examined all the spots that looked like scabs on this young man. He had one that looked like a popped zit on his forehead. I thought it was too much of a coincidence that a popped zit would appear right over a big fat vein sticking out of his temple. Another clue that this was a test drive for some heroin was that these 3 people were with another man, who was fine. Amidst all the train noise and distant conversation, I heard this man, who was wearing an Elvis t-shirt, mention the words milligram, stuff, and money.

This is Trainspotting.

I know I’ll smoke some grass here or there. Sometimes, it’s awesome fun and everything becomes HILARIOUS. Other times, it becomes a trip into that Samuel Beckett part of my brain that takes a bath in existential despair, but I don’t make a career of it. However, smoking grass in Kensington (my ghetto neighborhood) seems really button down. The people in Kensington seem to love Heroin and Crack. And well…I just don’t do that because as Whitney Houston so eloquently put it, “CRACK IS WHACK!”

I guess some people need some sort of respite from their lives. I can see how drugs can do that. Did you know that Natasha Lyonne is in a hospital bed fighting for her life? She was that girl in American Pie with the husky voice and coached Tara Reid on how to blow that guy. Well, Natasha Lyonne fell in with a rough crowd and it’s hard for her to get acting jobs. She did some heroin and a whole lot of other drugs. Now she has a heart disease, a collapsed lung, and a case of Hepatitis C.

The first night I moved into Philly, my mom took me out to dinner. I suppose I was starving from all the moving and unpacking plus the general heat from August. At about 9:30 we got dinner. I was scared that I was never going to eat again, so I ate the meal, hand over fist like. I was sweating. Got full. Maybe I took a break. Then I kept trucking. I felt like I was EATING FOR MY LIFE.

Little did I know that I’d have plenty of opportunities to eat for my life.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Meadow & Me


That is one of the first things I heard from my bathroom window in my new house. Meadow is my next-door neighbor. Meadow is also 3 years old. And that was her mother that was making claim of Meadow’s character. We all live on Cumberland Street in the Kensington development of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

If we’ve lost touch, my name is Kevin. I recently just moved to Philadelphia to go to school.

I have some history with Kensington. When I was a high school senior, I came to Kensington to work at a homeless shelter to feed the poor & needy lasagna. I learned a lot that summer. I learned that I was pretty lucky. I learned that life is rough outside the Privilegesphere. And I also kept in mind that Kensington was a very sketchy place tainted with track marks and nicotine. My friend Jamie, whom I live with, assured me that Kensington has gotten better since then. I put my trust in Jamie and decided to live with him.

Maybe Kensington hasn’t become this gentrified center of bohemia. I’ve heard rumors it’s on the up and up. It’s kind of gross. More like vomitrocious at times. It took a lot of adjustment to get used to living in such a dilapidated neighborhood. I come from Northern Virginia (the Privilegesphere). I’m spoiled, but I was just born into it. In Kensington, children run and scream from 7am ‘til about 10pm. They play in the dirt and in the trash. Nobody believes in knocking as much as standing outside and screaming at the top of their lungs the name of the person they are trying to visit. Whenever the wind picks up, the smell of garbage, human decay, and feces permeate in my nostrils. I’ve seen a number of dead animals on the sidewalk. I was most dumbfounded by the dead mouse that was just lying on its’ back with its’ mouth agape. It didn’t look like it was run over. It just looked like it just had enough, rolled over, and died. I don’t mean to sound like a wuss. I don’t mean to have the sad eyes of someone that came from a war torn region.

I’m just not used to this.

My favorite people to see in the neighborhood are Meadow and her five million siblings. I don’t know if they are actually siblings. I think they are a conglomerate of kids that live together under the tutelage of Meadow’s mom and dad. I think some are cousins and some are the product of missing baby mama’s and baby daddy’s. Who knows? All I know is that Meadow seems to stick out. I suppose because there are so many, she needs some attention. She gets this by screaming. She’s a cute little African American baby. She has light coconut skin and light brown frizzy hair. She’s this cherubic Raven Symone- type of girl that looks like a ray of sun beaming from God’s eyes. She runs up to me and hugs my legs. This charms me. Then she opens her mouth. She screams. And wails her little fists on my legs. And suddenly, Meadow has lost her charm and I’ve dropped her two letter grades.

I was walking to the train station one morning. I saw Meadow and her brother Justin hanging outside playing in her pink Big Wheel Barbie Mobile. Both were covered in soot, dirt, and maybe blood? I waved hello and quickly dodged conversation. I walked my new found “street-walk.” This is where I walk with my head down to avoid eye contact and don the guise that I am just a boy that has seen and experienced unbelievable things in my little life. As I walked my walk, I saw an abundant pile of dog poop. Inside, I sighed a deep frustrated sigh that lamented how sick I am of seeing so many unpleasantries in a matter of 15 feet.

The next day, I came back. I walked by the spot where there was an abundant pile of dog poop. I noticed it wasn’t as abundant as it was before. Justin and Meadow were still outside. Their clothes were dirtier. They were still playing with the Barbie Mobile and they found a new toy called “the trash.” I waved hello again and Meadow comes running up to me, screaming. She tells me she has a treat for me. I knelt down to talk to Meadow. Her big eyes were aglow amidst her whole body that was covered in dirt and soot. I noticed she had a little knick on her forehead and she had this weird metallic smell of blood. She picked out of her pocket a Lemon-Head. I saw the little drop of sun in her grimy little hands. She handed me the glowing yellow ball of sweet and sour into my relatively clean palm.

All I could think of, as she stared up at me expecting me to eat it, was the abundant pile of dog shit. I thought of how Meadow would pick up a piece of poop and pretend it was a caterpillar or some chocolate water baby or something? I looked at her dirty little paws. I looked at the Lemon-Head gift. And I thought of my stomach and my immune system. And I thought of the million diseases on this drop of sun and lemon. I thought about AIDS, Malaria, Ebola, Pneumonia, Strep Throat, or just me in a hospital bed jaundiced and screaming, "MEADOW!!!!! WHY YOU DO THIS TO ME!!?!?!"

I pretended to eat the Lemon-Head. When Meadow looked away, I threw it into the street. I patted Meadow on the head. She screamed and told me to shut up. I walked into my house and washed my hands.

This town is my little ball of sweet and sour.