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    Run For Your Life, Black Hockey Jesus!


    You asked me to dance—it was the last dance of Sweetheart Night—and my initial instinct was to turn you down because, Sweet Face, your daddy is a writer, which is to say that I prefer to be no one. I don’t like to appear. I go to great lengths to avoid long gazes and conversations, all the tricks of being duped into being someone, opting rather to hide between the lines in the shadows of words.

    But your eyes are big and blue and you know how to blink them perfectly in a way that leaves me no choice but to dance the last dance with you at Sweetheart Night. So I scooped you up in your pink dress and blue necklace—you had a flower in your yellow hair and red ladybugs in your newly pierced ears—and all 54 pounds of you clung to me, tightly, with the force of that old need that motivates all the best characters in all our favorite stories to become more than what they are, gazing at stars.

    Holding you, swaying there in the school cafeteria of red arrow pierced hearts, my self consciousness fell away and I was able to just hold you, swaying there, in circles. I began to hope the song would never end, for this moment to somehow stay—imagining that perhaps the secret of living inhered in an endless dance with you.

    I wished someone would take our picture. Film us. Capture us in time.

    But, closing my eyes, I soon realized that what I wanted to remember was bigger than our image. We were something else that night. Not just a father and daughter to be snatched from time, frozen in it. We were time, the result of it, the empty place where the endless past and the infinite future collide, exploding in a slow dance of breath and beating hearts.

    I had an interesting conversation with your brother the other day about when he was 5 and you were nothing. Where were you? we wondered. How could there have ever been a world without you? It’s completely resistant to being fathomed or imagined. Because you are so here. You are so triumphantly here. I should know because I was there when you arrived, pink and screaming. And I was there when you took your first drunken steps. And when you began to articulate a world inside your house of mad babbling, I was there. I heard it all. You screamed DADA from the bathtub and I became a new song.

    And when this enormous blue and green eyeball opened for the very first time, we were there. Do you remember? When, together, we tricked the nasty green witch, stole all her magic, and returned it to the trees and the grass and the clouds in the sky? Do you remember when we lined up all the scientists and sentenced them to death? We built a little fire and, for as long as we could, we kept it sheltered from the rain. But the wind always wins, all fires end, and our bones fell to the ground like snowflakes. Do you remember? When the sun exploded to keep its deal with the dark? We were there. We were never not there. Entangled in this web of our slow dance at Sweetheart Night.

    Remember this, I told myself, breathing slowly and letting our dance scar my memory. And then I prayed that you remember it too, that you would hide our dance in a secret treasure box in the basement of your mind. You can always find me there. Look for me.

    Happy Birthday, Elle Bee. The whole world is singing that you’re 7.


    Dead Hooker Sutra

    It was after my son found the dead hooker in the bath tub that I began to question my moral integrity. “What’s with the dead hooker in the bath tub?” he asked. “Her? She OD’d.” I replied. “Why do hookers do drugs in your apartment?” he asked. “It’s a function of the single life.” I explained, “When you and your sister aren’t here, it’s all loud music, fringe sex acts, and buckets of cocaine.” It was then that I became oddly self aware and, like I said, began to question my moral integrity.

    Am I okay?

    I asked earnestly. But it quickly occurred to me that it was a stupid question so I told my son to do his homework. The hooker was beautiful in a dead kind of way. I remembered her laughing the night before, and crying. She lived a full life. Like everyone else, she was made of camera tricks and dreams. Regardless of how I felt about myself, her body remained, there, lit by the mystery of being, on ice. I could’ve loved her. But who can say for sure in this smoky maze of mirrors, shadows, and errant projections?

    “There’s not really a dead hooker in the bath tub.” I told my son, helping him develop variables for algebraic equations. “I know,” he said, “I’m not stupid. But why would you even write about a dead hooker in your bath tub when there’s not really a dead hooker in your bath tub?”

    “Because last night, after we sat for 30 minutes, the Zen guy gave this talk about allowing the veneer of Korean ritual to give way to however Zen would appear in the West. Then he said ‘Because Zen is not India. It’s not China or Korea or Japan. Zen is—‘ and he SLAPPED the wood floor, hard, with his hand and tears flowed down my cheeks because I knew I was face to face with all the Patriarchs before my parents were born and three pounds of flax and a bunch of shit like that.”

    You’re going to be okay. Yes, you.

    Even if there’s a dead hooker in your bath tub, listen to me. You’re going to be okay. She won’t be there forever.


    The Story

    So there you are and you hate your life—I mean, you do, but you spend a lot of time trying to deny it and spin it certain ways, relativizing it by comparing it to people in 3rd world countries and so on—plus, you’re insightful enough to know that your life isn’t actually this substantial “thing’ that has absolute value, one way or another. It, your life, is lodged—all bound up and tangled—in the context of the stories you tell yourself about it.

    You wish you had a different life, a different story. You lay in bed a lot and stare at the ceiling, crying, dreaming up a story in which you’re noticed and seen and loved in all the ways you envision real love occurring and the subsequent feelings of contentment that flow out of this realer love in which you actually appear. That’s it, isn’t it? You crave proof of the fact that you appear in the world, day in and day out, and that this perpetual appearance is beautiful. That’s not too much to ask, is it? To merely be noticed as someone who appears? You are that which thus comes, flashing into the morning like a smile on the day’s face.

    The only reason anything appears at all is to reveal itself as something beautiful and worthy of notice. Flowers, fish bones, empty tin cans, you.

    But these are just stories, you tell yourself, chastising yourself, and you wonder which one is true. I mean. Couldn’t you just tell yourself different versions of the story you’re already in? Re-write it? Make it better? Could you? Do you think? And then your dream story—isn’t that just a fiction you use to cast a shadow on the story you think you hate? Seriously. If you’re brave enough to seek your dream and find it, won’t it eventually just collapse into your new real story, the newest thing for you to hate while wishing for the next something else?

    Which story is true and which one is false and to what extent are your stories real versus interpretations that can be amended and why can’t you sleep? What are you missing?

    Here, fatigued and hungry, you realize that this idea of your life being a story you can write via your own will toward positive thinking is just another story, a story one step removed from the self-involved stories about your biographical life. You follow me? This new You is a bigger You than the little yous striving toward happiness and you just kind of look at yourself—dissociated, feeling kind of weird—torn between the story of your life and what your life might be and it strikes you as—I’m sorry—ridiculous. You get a little kick out of yourself.

    But now some deeper Youier You sees the You looking at the little yous and it occurs to this Youier You that this could go on forever, an infinite regress of losing track of which you is really you. Your ego just cracked open like an egg from which oceans and stars are pouring through a crumbling dam and what you do not know swallows what you thought you knew like the dark swallows the sun at dusk.

    It occurs to you then that all the stories these infinitely regressive yous tell themselves are merely the dreams of a hibernating polar bear who sleeps on page 270 of a magical book that a gentle old woman reads to her grandchildren in a castle made of sand on heaven’s highest cloud. This must be the Ground of Being, you imagine, the myth from which your life—indeed, all our lives—emerge, and you are stunningly peaceful, no longer torn asunder by the vicious circle of your contradictory stories because you are birds and fish and trees. You. Me. We’re everything between.

    But, of course—you suddenly realize—that the last word’s not in some mythological book about a dreaming polar bear. That’s just, AGAIN, another story you’re reading, right now (now now now), on the Black Hockey Jesus blog. That’s where you are (not). Put your hand to the left of your screen. Look at it. Read these words. Look at your hand again. Wiggle your fingers. Look around. Read this out loud:

    What’s the story?



    The deck of cards are huge, a brick, in her tiny hands as she offers them to me. “Can you shuffle, daddy? My hands are too little.” Her word shuffles free from the question’s context, shuffling into new meanings. I flash through the places I’ve lived and the people I’ve loved. Life is long and crazy and it’s tough to keep track of yourself. To be blessed with a long history of crossing paths with an interesting band of loonies is also to be frequently cursed with nostalgia. I miss the rich constellation of friends I had when I was 22. I miss Skip. I miss Jenna.

    “We better teach you to shuffle, kiddo,” I tell her, “Shuffling’s as important as reading and cleaning your ears.”


    I need a few more bookshelves—books are strewn about in piles in the “dining room” where there’s no dining table. The kids are staying with me more and more frequently and, at first, I was concerned about having no place to eat. I feared that the kids would go back to their mother and complain: “Dad’s place sucks. Dad doesn’t even have a fucking table! We wish dad would die!” And so on. Like that.

    But I’ve heard that when life hands you lemons, you should just have a picnic, so who am I to argue with misconstrued clichés? We spread a blanket on the floor (an old blue blanket covered with images of Disney characters that my dad gave me when I was a very young boy—one of my earliest memories was anticipating what was inside the gift wrapped box it arrived in) and eat our meals cross legged. They think it’s weird and fun because children are weird and fun. We’re just happy to be together, sharing food and stories.

    Since the separation, I’ve found myself much more attentive to the kids against the background of inevitable shuffling. So as they gush enthusiastic tales with their mouths full (devil take manners) about whatever they’re currently plucking from the spontaneous tree of language, I hone into the content and smile, seeking insights into who they’ll be and where the world will fling them.

    Will they soon move to Phoenix, Portland, or Los Angeles?

    And further, to what careers will their constantly blossoming and wilting desires lead them? Will Jackson study Engineering at MIT or blow off college altogether to bang the drums in a band that plays songs about depression and girls, touring the US in a rusty white van? And will Lucy expand on her exploding love for writing into many successful collections of quirky short stories that thwart the reader’s expectations by resisting closure or will she stick to her current plan of becoming a runway model?

    I sit with them during our picnics, already a ritual, aware of the skulls beneath their lively talking faces that smile—skulls that will outlast all our desires and hopes and digital prose. Who among us can afford to not learn how to shuffle?


    “If you see those old friends out there / Tell them that I send my love.”


    Where Fiction Meets Non


    You’ve been dead 5 years. How’s being dead? My best guess is that it’s endlessly blue with no contrast to this nor that—or maybe it’s a black hat from which no white rabbit will ever emerge, the magic long gone.

    What could it possibly mean to not be? Tell me. I’ve washed down fistfuls of pills with half-fifths of vodka, sat perfectly still and lined up my chakras, had the wall fall between my self and the other—I ran all night until I forgot my own name.

    And yet I’m so fucking persistently, consistently, endlessly, relentlessly… this. Tenaciously me. Trapped inside be. Sentenced to the prison of is.

    But not you. You’re dead. Isn’t it merely being turned inside-out, like a removed t-shirt tossed through the air, just hanging there, perhaps forever? Or maybe you simply play the that to my this, inhaling my exhalations, exhaling my inhalations—are you the white static between radio stations?

    Ashes. Buried beneath a tree. Who once so laughed.

    Sometimes, when I’m being very still and quiet, there’s a little tear in what is usually the seamless march of moments—a tiny little slit between now and the impatient future banging on the present’s door. And for a split second—through that slit—I see, smiling at me once again, your shit eating mischievous fuck the world grin.

    Back then. But then now? Here how? Then again.

    And the question about what being dead means changes to remembering that I’m far from an irrefutable fact. We are in this together. This stew of fantasies. Simmering in the wilds of what dares to be imagined.

    The stones know best. The stones know best. The stones hold the place where death hangs with fiction.


    Where Were You When Hiroshima Exploded?

    Imagine an old Japanese woman with nimble fingers folding crisp paper into cranes as she floats through memories like a cloudy ghost. Imagine two friends in a café sharing a pastry, drinking lattes. One leans into whisper and they explode with laughter. Imagine the full moon, its dependable yellow lunacy. Imagine a little boy running full speed to leap into his mother’s pile of just raked leaves. Brittle red maples and mourning orange oaks. Autumn’s contradictory joy. Imagine closing your eyes and listening to the crashing ocean until you can’t tell the difference between waves and the sound of blood splashing through your veins. Imagine hot cocoa, fire, blankets, things that keep you warm. Imagine the earnest wisdom acquired from a prolonged and devoted commitment to grief. Now imagine the way that person smiles and wonder—really wonder—about the syntax of smiling. Imagine a yellow helium balloon. Cotton candy, thrill rides, and carnival games that were rigged from the start; the cemetery is just a couple blocks away from the fair. Imagine dinner with your family, that constant gathering, like the moon and mountains, the certainty of rock, the tenacity of dreaming. Imagine the steadfast knowledge that you are loved—beyond a doubt—loved, and the way that mingles with your ideas about what home means. Imagine being home—how being home is an abundance of answers to questions you can’t remember. Yeah. Imagine that. Imagine the door shutting behind you when you go home. Do you hear it? The sound of that fine line between going home and home coming. Imagine the place where going home meets home coming and that’s where your mother lives when she sees you, stunned, every single time, by the mere fact of you being a somebody at all.

    This parade of imagining was evoked by thinking about my mom today and letting home come home. Happy birthday, mom. In utero when atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, you have explosions in your blood that created this blasting heart. xo



    More Recovery Struggles With Raul I.

    My name is Raul I. and I am an alcoholic and, Good God, do I ever hate the AA. That statement is perhaps unfair and excessive. Or maybe not. How could I know for sure? I’m opaque to myself, an impenetrable riddle. When I look in the mirror, my face is obscured by a menacing question mark. But I’m being melodramatic.

    After the AA, an army of zealots swarm me with phone numbers, unsolicited (enthusiastic) advice, and requests to come over on Sunday to watch football because there will be chicken wings. They say “Are you going to call?” or “Are you coming over?” and I say “No. I don’t think I’m going to do those things.” as politely as I possibly can. I try to smile.

    This is when the AA people always say “Raul? Are you willing to go to any lengths for your sobriety?”, to which I reply with some version of “No. The willingness to go to ANY lengths on p. 58 is a piece of irresponsible hyperbole that you remove from its proper context when you use it to scare people into eating chicken wings with you. The willingness to go to any lengths refers to doing the 12 Steps. Not ANY lengths. For instance, I wouldn’t eat a piece of shit to stay sober. Or kill a nun. How about you? If Step 13 was We beat a nun to death with brooms and cinder blocks, would you do it? Are YOU willing to go to any lengths?”  

    This is when the AA people always say “Well, Raul, maybe you just haven’t hit your bottom.”, which I take to mean, yes, these crazy motherfuckers would beat a nun to death with brooms and cinder blocks, which, to my mind, is a perfectly good reason to not hang out with them.

    So I leave, pissed, worse off than when I went in the first place. Because it’s getting aggressive. They’re like a bunch of sales people pitching camaraderie. And I’ve been around the block. It’s supposed to be based on attraction, not clingy weird promotion that says you’re doing it wrong. And that you’re going to die. Drunk, insane, penniless, and alone. Because you’re too special and unique (“You think too much.”) to watch football and eat chicken wings in a sea of joyous selfless fellowship.


    So I quit. I’m moving across town next week and I’m hoping to find some meetings that are less culty. They weren’t this way in Chile. A man could sit and listen for a while. He would know his sponsor because a sponsor has the future in his eyes.

    But until then I will continue to pray, a simple practice where I get on my knees, ask for help, and wait for the yellow bugs. They come in many strange shapes; they look like little puzzle pieces with eyes. And because they have an odd number of legs (3 or 5 or even 21!), they all limp and hobble, albeit very fast. It is a mistake to call them yellow; I think it’s more proper to say they’re made of dim humming light. They emerge from their secret places, hundreds of them, racing toward me, swarming me until I am covered and they interlock into a light that explodes.

    And then, for a day, I don’t drink again. I suppose that’s how I conceive of Power.


    New Year's Dissolutions

    Having just run at least a mile a day every day for a year, you might expect, from the character I sometimes portray on the internet, a big braggy whoo-hoo post about how good I feel and how you’re fat. However, this is not that post. Bragging would only bolster the lie that running, day in and day out, whispers the truth about.

    When the subject of running comes up and meanders to the issue of frequency and the person I’m talking to ultimately says “Every day?!? What the fuck for?”, I usually just shrug and say something lame about trying to stay fit or loving it or I’m crazy, whatever. Because what for is hard to explain. It resists explaining. Imagine a trail, shaded by maples, winding through the thick woods. Now try to imagine no one there. Throw in some wind.

    I run because I don’t want to run. I keep running because I want to stop running. Because I hate myself and want to die. These jarring statements come close to saying what wants to be said and yet wildly miss the mark. Because there’s something bigger than me, a thing that both includes and negates me, that carries me away. To speak of a “me” that hates myself and wants to die continues to imply this something that hates and wants and it’s the very lack of this something toward which running runs.

    I run away. In a way.

    Running in a way, away, requires a brutal distancing from desire and instinct and the unrelenting dissolution of habitual consciousness. I run from hope and wishing and the longing for rescue and salvation. Not resolve. Dissolve. Or melt or explode or die. No pain, no loss. My healthier, better looking body is just a weird paradoxical side effect of my perpetual self-destruction.

    Whereas therapy seeks to solve the problems of the ego, thereby strengthening it, and church seeks to save your soul, running runs past all that to a placeless place where there’s no path along which no runner runs. But that’s not to say Nothingness. It’s still running. It’s just running. All the world’s nouns submit to the verb of pure running. Running runningly runs. That’s what for.

    And then what? You take a shower and emerge once again, you, new, renewed. You scrub your startling muscles, still panting, and smile like you know some unsayable secret.

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