excerpt from "Underground"

You read all the literature from the early 20th century and you feel like they knew the wars were coming, right? But their writing still didn’t stop the wars from happening. It was too late and the writers knew it. The ax was already in motion and gravity was taking over.

So my question is; why continue to write? Who were they writing for? What was so urgent?

There’s the argument that the writer is trying to play God. If there wasn’t a hunger for their work...they wouldn’t be in such wide circulation, yes?

There’s a code. And some people know the code. They are the ones who keep finding books, movies, and people by accident that seem to be pointing them in the right direction. And find themselves in circles they don’t belong and keep hearing things that feel like pertinent pieces to a puzzle. And what’s it all lead to?

walking alone in washington square park

Across the park, beneath the arch which is engraved, “Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair….the event is in the hand of God,” hundreds of people are protesting for LOVE, and against Donald Trump. The moon, to the east, looks on the scene in the same stilted shock it looks upon everything. It can feel like we are all trying to climb out of a collective hell, and that it will never end. I remember reading The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood when I was nineteen. The autumn air and crunchy leaves give me the same dooming sensation that book did. That book was a warning of sensation. “This is what it will feel like before it goes down.” It will be easy for them to find the ones they want to persecute. We give our privacy away every time we type a keyword. Keywords like “environment”, “wall street”, “sanders”, "solange", “pussy riot”. They don’t have to profile us anymore. We have profiled ourselves for them. The people on the train should be talking to one another, but instead, they sit with their headphones in their ears, a sad glazed look over their faces. The people in the park inspire me. They hold cardboard hearts in the air. One girl has a sign, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” When people showed up in 2008 to protest against Obama, they were all white, and they all wore bad jeans. Here, in New York, it’s the most beautiful diverse people with the most vigorous souls. Women are chanting, “It’s my body, it’s my choice,” to which the men echo, “It’s her body, it’s her choice.” They shout, “Love is Love.” I love my city. I love its people. While Donald Trump supporters attack our beautiful friends and vulnerable allies with punches, swastikas, and death threats, we hold hearts in the air and each other in our arms. We are saving lives by showing up for each other, we are well aware of that fact. Donald Trump alone will not fix a thing. We will fix ourselves as we always have done.

driving toward the golden gate bridge

It’s been an hour since I woke up, and I’m already dozing. The constant rhythm of lane mark dashings keep me in a somewhat hypnotic trance as the sun rises to my left. Only twenty minutes until I arrive at SFO. Traffic is minimal and I’m able to speed about ten miles above the limit. I’m currently listening to a classical station that buzzes in and out based on my elevation. Right now it is playing Ravel’s Bolero, casting my drive as an epic excursion.

The Bay doesn’t seem quite real to my New York sensibilities. As I make my way down 101, I let the epicness of the open landscape expand me. There are no buildings blocking the sun. No corners to turn or people to avoid. The slow ¾ of Ravel's Bolero turns the hills over on themselves, and the triplet sixteenth notes, along with the caffeine in my black coffee, keep my fluttering eyes awake. It’s been slowly building over the last twelve minutes, to the point that sometimes I forget that it’s been playing so long.

I think of the rumor I heard that it was Ravel’s late onset dementia that caused him to write such a repetitive and enduring piece. They thought, at the time, it may have been a form of mania or PTSD brought on by driving ambulances in World War One. What would come across to other composers as static and boring, to him was revolutionary. It never gets boring. The trombone is soloing. The road bends slightly right and down, and then left, and right again, and then I see it: the bridge seems to appear on the downbeat where the flute part splits and is joined for the first time by the trumpets, clarinets, and oboes. There are two melodic themes; a lighthearted one, and a more tense paranoia inducing one. But the accompaniment is always light and driving; to the point of sounding mechanical. The drum that was once a flutter of a heart, is now a machine gun; an army battalion. The whisper of encouragement from a mother is now the hope that will keep a squad of men alive. What was the taunting on the playground is now the bombs of the enemy. For every seed of hope or doubt is a corresponding macro-system. But the backdrop is always there, always profoundly good; and sometimes darkly humorous when necessary. We’ve been in the key of C for sixteen minutes, and as the red Dodge Caravan I rented with Paul's credit card approaches the Golden Gate bridge, Ravel modulates to E and the whole earth seems to lift outside itself. The sun is now revealing itself just over the horizon, and the water in the bay sparkles with a passive vengeance. The orchestra crescendos into a chromatic crash, and I pumult my way into San Francisco. I turn off the radio and make the rest of the trip in silence, lightly tapping the fingers of my left hand on outside panel of the car door.

excerpt from "aimless"

Years before protest entered the millennial lexicon in the United States, I remember witnessing worker protests in Paris like a novelty.  I was twenty-two and taking a post-college backpacking excursion through Spain, France and Germany. I was sleeping on the couch of an actor I found on AirBnB named Brice. Brice smoked cigarettes constantly, and spent the days and evenings lamenting his separation from a lover he simultaneously adored and hated with a vehement passion. I had no agenda for this trip except that I wanted to see the sculptures of Camille Claudel at the Musee Rodin. Every day, I aimlessly walked the streets, then I’d pick up a bottle of red wine, a baguette, and some cheese: like a stereotypical American trying to feel French. I don’t know what I loved more: Paris or the idea of me being in Paris. Like most privileged American students, I wanted to see myself as global. Cultured.

On most afternoons in Paris, there was some kind marking and loud yelling echoing from distant streets. I would approach the noise like a cautious magnet, and watch the kids and teenagers proudly join the ranks, chanting with recreational rage. I had never seen the likes of it at home, and I wouldn't until Occupy Wall Street and then Black Lives Matters.  One night, upon returning to Brice with my wine and bread, I was pleasantly surprised to find the tiny flat filled with four other beautiful gay guys. Henrique was from Brazil, Hector from Belgium. Joseph and his boyfriend Alberto were both French and lived in the flat across the hall. All night we drank wine and smoked cigarettes and talked about the political movements churning about the city, the nation, the globe. Everybody agreed that a new age of discontent was upon us. Brice would occasionally check out, staring blankly at his phone hoping for a text from his ominously missing love. 

"All this politics. Nobody ever will be happy," he dramatically and sardonically droned.

"It's the people who ignore the problems who will be surprised when it all falls apart," Hector said, as a response to Brice, but without looking at him.

They had a passion and conviction that I didn’t, at the time, observe in my American friends, who were usually talking about what TV show they were watching, album they were listening to, who was falling in love or breaking up with who. When Americans talked about politics at home, there was always a vapid emptiness to it, an resignation that wasn't even aware of itself. Obama was a symbolic gesture to our collective conscious as far as identity politics was concerned, but when it came to policy...we never talked openly about wealth extraction or wealth inequality, and the lack of comprehension and even vocabulary in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse was sinisterly present as adults depressingly coped and young people shrugged away the deeper implications. American politics were still mocked; late-night-talk-show-humor the most sophisticated of coping mechanisms for the glaring powerlessness of the general working population in the new world order. I couldn’t help but feel, as I hung out with Brice and the boys, that it seemed as if their lives were more real to them than their peers across the ocean. Discontentedness was more free than obliviousness.