Thursday, December 20, 2012


On the eve of the end of the Mayan calendar (pacific time), the day that religious nut-jobs and armageddon enthusiasts alike have salivated over for decades upon decades, the day they would label again and again the world's end, on this day I would like to publish a quote from the first author that made me hate myself, and coincidentally, made me want to write and influence others in kind.  This says it all.

“With each day more and more of the truth was impossible to ignore while the disease instantly and automatically rationalized the truth into an acceptable distortion. Their disease made it possible for them to believe whatever lies it was necessary for them to believe to continue to pursue and indulge their disease, even to the point of them believing they were not enslaved by it, but were actually free.” 

– Hubert Selby Jr. in Requiem for a Dream

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tycho Brahe: The Worst Demise in History

The date is October 13, 1601.  The place is Prague.  A wealthy baron is hosting a swanky dinner party and only the noblest of nobles secured an invite to attend.  For everyone familiar with nobles, and for those who are not, a nobleman must be polite at all costs.  This is mandatory.  He must not, for any reason, excuse himself from a party.  This could be seen as ungracious and worthy of condemnation.

Among the crowd is Tycho Brahe, a mildly successful astronomer, a nobleman, and a minor celebrity in the circles of Eastern European high society.  He has hired, as his bright and youthful assistant, the very talented and soon to be notorious Johannes Kepler.  This is important only because for centuries after Tycho's death, people will believe that Kepler had murdered Tycho with mercury in order to gain access to his prized astronomical charts.  It was not the case but if it were, it would have been a much kinder fate.

Tycho was born a rich boy, the richest of the rich, to Danish parents, nobles in their own right, in a town that is now currently within the borders of Sweden.  After being kidnapped by his paternal uncle, Tycho was sent to a prestigious school to study law.  But soon thereafter, he became dissatisfied with the field in its entirety, finding it to be painfully tedious and circumstantially irrelevant to his desires.  So he set his sights and pursuits on a much more fascinating endeavor, one that Aristotle and Ptolemy dedicated their respective lives to: Infinite Space.

Tycho Brahe was obsessed with the night sky and he was continually disappointed with the maps and charts that were at his disposal in the middle sixteenth century.  He made a commitment to further those charts, to make them as accurate as possible.  Tycho had absolutely no respect for sublunar theory, believing instead that the Earth was just one of a trillion other planets in the universe.  Despite the avid number of Christian dingbats alive and prospering at the turn of the seventeenth century, Tycho made it his life's work to study the stars and the universe and come up with a believable and credible theory about how everything came to be. He cared not for the idea that the stars in the sky consisted of purely unknowable heavens.

But that's not what this story is about, not at all.

My slightly paranoid state of mind that is often given to fantastic and terrible misapprehensions finds Tycho Brahe interesting for another reason entirely.  It has nothing to do with his astronomical contributions to the world. While I do find those to be worthy of credit and regard, they are not nearly as fascinating as what caused Tycho Brahe's ultimate demise.  That has become the stuff of legends, horrendously graphic legends.  Since coming to learn of Tycho Brahe in a college astronomy class, I have not been able to forget about the circumstances of his death.


It all began at this dinner party in Prague, a city that Tycho settled in after becoming dissatisfied and discontent with Ven, an island off the Danish coast that he had been given by the Danish King.  At Ven, Tycho had commissioned his own observatory and built himself a large castle.  He had servants, illegitimate children and a dungeon.  What more could a megalomaniac, slightly Machiavellian sixteenth century blowhard ask for?

Tycho was happy for awhile with his life but when the new King of Denmark was crowned, things turned ugly for the selfish, arrogant astronomer.  The new King was frugal, parsimonious and stiff.  He was a fiscal conservative and he tightened the reins on Tycho and his lavish spending of the country's dimes.  Accordingly, Tycho decided to take his talents elsewhere.  He traveled Europe near and far looking for a better place to settle down.  He finally found that place in Prague, under the reign of King Rudolf II.  This is where Tycho met his fate, a fate that makes me cringe every time I read about it, every time I think about it.  And I think about it quite often.

Now, tangents and background aside, back to the story of October 13, 1601...

A baron of Prague was having a dinner party and it was a "who's who" of the important scientists and dignitaries of the time.  It was 1601 and everyone knew they weren't living to see the 1700s.  I'd call that a small favor, but like usual, I digress.  Tycho Brahe was among the guest list at this swanky dinner party and in his typical fashion, he was sucking down drinks like there was no tomorrow.  (In fact, there would be eleven more tomorrows for Tycho but they would be tortuous and hard acquired).

Before attending the party, Tycho drank a few glasses of water in preparation.  I know how irrelevant this sounds now but it has its place in the rest of the story. Upon arriving at the baron's castle, Tycho Brahe was quick to make conversation with other guests, telling them all about his astronomical endeavors and how he alone would solve the mysteries of the universe.  I would have smirked to myself if I had been there as a fly on the wall.  But alas I was born about three-hundred and ninety years in the future, give or take five years. Regardless, Tycho goes on and on about his mission to impress the great figures of seventeenth century Prague.  He loved to boast almost more than he loved to drink.

After the appetizers and drinks, the party heads for the dinner table to dine.  Tycho, an avid connoisseur of food, digs in almost immediately.  He licks his chops and pauses only to absorb compliments on his life's work from those seated nearby him.   He loves himself, like a narcissistic fool would, and he loves to acknowledge praise from those around him.  Of course, like any dinner party, the wine is flowing and Tycho is constantly filling his glass.  He likes wine almost as much as he likes praise and his glass is always going empty.  His bladder, on the other hand, has been full for hours.  It is in dire need of emptying.

The night progresses, like all nights do, and Tycho starts to notice heavy discomfort in his groin.  He has to pee, bad enough that he's starting to fantasize about using the toilet.  In his head he is trying to think of ways to make a graceful exit. But the compliments and wine are still flowing and he simply does not believe that he can excuse himself gracefully.  Raised by nobles, he must be polite, at all costs.  He mustn't excuse himself in the middle of dinner, in the middle of conversation, in the middle of praise.

So Tycho crosses his legs uncomfortably, bites down, and endures the pain of a full bladder.  He smiles and accepts the kind words of his companions, thinking no one has ever died of a burst bladder.  He doesn't know it now but these will be his famous last words.  The guests continue to shower him, he continues to cross his legs and smile tightly.  I, as the fly on the wall, know what happens next but I do not buzz a word of it.  That would be in poor taste.

After dinner, the party moves on to brandy and dessert.  Tycho loves brandy and he loves being intoxicated but all he feels now is the unbearable pressure of his full bladder, all the fluid ounces of urine begging to be released.  How good it would feel to pee right now, Tycho thinks to himself as he nods and forces a polite smile.  But he doesn't dare walk out because of his fear of being impolite.  He mustn't be impolite; he was raised by nobles after all.  But the pressure is getting the better of him and he's fantasizing hard about taking a grand leak.  Nevertheless, he waits longer, indulges in more compliments and bides his time until he can graciously excuse himself.  Of course he knows it could be hours.

The baron's servants offer him another libation; he cannot justify saying No.  And once it's in front of him, he cannot justify not drinking it.  So he drinks.  He drinks, and he drinks, and he drinks, filling his bladder beyond capacity, way beyond.  As the fly on the wall, I shake my head.  But Tycho keeps drinking and talking with his companions, apparently believing wholeheartedly that bladders are capable of holding copious amounts of liquid without bursting.  He keeps his legs crossed and tries to sound interested in the stories of others, all the while thinking incessantly about how nice it will feel when he is finally able to relieve himself.

How were you able to record such precise measurements for the stars in the sky, one nobleman inquires, placing his chin in his hands and appearing just absolutely mesmerized by the idea.  Tycho eats it up, even though he would rather be peeing.  He starts in on a long, albeit somewhat distracted dialogue about how he realized that some of the stars were behaving differently than what had been predicted by Ptolemy and the other astronomers before his time.  Interestingly, there was a star in the sky, brighter than all the others and visible during the sunlight hours that was moving around the sky unpredictably, Tycho relates to interested noblemen sitting around him.  They respond brilliantly and the dialogue continues.  Tycho doesn't know it but the phenomenon he is describing is a supernova.

It's all madness in Tycho's brain as he tries to figure out a polite way to excuse himself in order to relieve the immense pressure in his bladder.  Doctors say that bladders cannot burst but Tycho knows he's pushing it now. He has drunk so much.  Nevertheless, he keeps drinking, drinking, drinking.  He can't stop himself because of the etiquette and the manners he was raised on.  There is no accounting for the damage parents inflict upon their children.  Still, Tycho wants to scream, he wants to yell at the top of his lungs, but he patiently listens to the noblemen speaking and he responds in kind.  It's total and complete hell but he doesn't let on.

Finally, and thankfully for Tycho, the evening comes to an end.  He bids goodbye to all of the guests and of course the host, who he has been painstakingly trying not to offend all evening, and then graciously exits the castle with a brisk and cautious walk.  He waddles to his carriage but he doesn't dare relieve himself out there on the lawn.  Tycho, the courteous nobleman that he is, decides to wait until he gets back to his own castle.

Unfortunately the trip home is by horse and carriage and it is bumpy as all hell.  It is incredibly not to his liking but he suffers through it because he is a nobleman and above such pedestrian concerns.  But he curses heavily, under his breath, dreaming of the time where he will get home and be able to let it all out and feel instantly better.  Every bump along the road is insufferable but Tycho handles it like the sophisticated nobleman and astronomer that he is. He doesn't mention his discomfort.

A quarter of a mile from his castle, the carriage hits a particularly unruly bump and Tycho is thrust into the air and off of his seat.  As he lands once more he feels a soft explosion.  He gasps and realizes that the pressure on his bladder that he has felt all night has magically subsided.  At first he fears he might have wet himself but he quickly realizes that isn't the case.  He flings into a mild panic as he wonders what has happened to him.

By the time he makes it back to his own manor, he doesn't have to pee anymore.  His bladder doesn't feel empty but it doesn't feel full either.  He is initially very confused but he doesn't dwell on it long before retiring to bed. Science isn't perfect but deep down Tycho sort of feels like something isn't right with him.  But he's Tycho Brahe, famous astronomer, and not vulnerable to such mortal body concerns.  It's an arrogant sort of attitude that he will come to regret in time.  But it's too late for him now.

Before the break of dawn, Tycho is awakened and doubled over with the worst stomach pain he has ever experienced.  He thinks back to the carriage ride and the soft explosion he felt.  He is not sure whether that was the great burst of his bladder but he certainly suspects that something is dangerously amiss.  He calls in doctors and specialist from all over Europe to cure him.  The doctors are all somewhat puzzled by his condition.  None of them have been able to offer a cure.

Tycho comes to suspect soon enough that he is on his deathbed.  He has not been able to urinate anything more than a few drops since the night of the dinner party.  In reality, all of the toxins of human urine have spilled all over and throughout his internal organs.  Sepsis has set in, and fast.  He is fading and there is nothing that seventeenth century medicine can do for him.  His bladder has exploded.  Bacteria is eating his insides alive.  Stomach pain is agonizing.  Tycho suffers extreme pain and haunting delusions.

Tycho can do nothing but wait for the torturous death still in store.  A ruptured bladder is in fact a death sentence.  At this point, he has suffered the worst demise in history.  Eleven days after the explosion of Tycho's bladder, his stomach pain subsides.  He is too weak to do much more than die.  Johannes Kepler, his budding assistant, and some servants lie by his deathbed.  Tycho Brahe speaks his last and final words.  "Let me not seem to have lived in vain".  Then he dies.


So Pretty?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Reoccurring Drowning Effect Entrenching My Brain I Hope You'll Be Ok Someday So I Can Say That You Moved On In The Right Way" - Taproot

I feel a warm trickle of fluid running down the length of my face, pausing momentarily at the end of my cheek and then drip, drip, dripping steadily to the ground beneath me. If I listen real hard, I can hear the plunk, plunk, plunking of my blood as it hits the ground and splashes neat little droplets on the already soiled sidewalk of this urban megacity. I realize now that the blood has found a way out and it’s not wasting anytime. But this blood loss, even as bad as it could be, is slowly being outshined by a greater, almost searing pain in my jaw that is becoming ever more persistent. It feels like something is on fire. The white, hot, searing pain is becoming all that I can sense. I feel like bones are broken beyond repair; I feel like I’ll never be the same again.

It may be time to succumb to the healing powers of sleep. Things always seem much better in the morning, after rest. That is probably because of all the natural light; it does something to the brain, opens up dopamine receptors or obstructs serotonin inhibitors or something else entirely. In the morning I will know exactly how to handle this situation. Everything will be fresh and clear. My eyelids are so heavy that I think critically about passing out right here on the sidewalk of downtown Los Angeles, mere blocks from the comfort of my own bed, the bed that every night comes with a price. With every obligatory, involuntary blink, my eyelids are becoming increasingly more reluctant to rise open again. They are stubbornly trying to dictate this situation and I'm thinking about letting them.

With every passing second, I find myself longer in the darkness of my mind. Unconsciousness is sneaking in, despite my lackluster attempts to rouse myself by rubbing my eyes and coaxing them to remain open and observant. But I’m losing the battle and I don’t even really care. I’ve never been the sort who was too proud to admit defeat, especially in the case of a worthy adversary and sleep is nothing if not worthy. I let it get in because I think I want it to. And I know deep down it’s probably the wrong thing to do because of the dangers of this place but this seems right nevertheless. It feels perfect. Inexplicably, there is less pain here.

And now a thought occurs to me, one that could either save or devastate me, depending on the outcome. I need to check for that vicodin. It may still be within my possession and if it is, I will eagerly consume some of those beautiful white pills. Maybe they will make me feel better. They couldn’t make me feel worse. So without further ado and because I am painfully impatient, I reach down and feel inside my pockets. It really hurts quite a bit to strain in this particular manner but as I feel the pills, right where I left them, I know that it has all been well worth it. Miraculously, and I don’t use that term lightly, my pills are still in my possession, floating around in the place I told them to wait. If this isn’t the definition of kismet, I don’t know what is.

What luck! I moan and close my eyes, grinning and reveling in this newfound fortune. The relief of still having possession of the painkillers courses through me like a welcome rush of euphoria, and I smile ever wide. It feels like a huge weight has been lifted. I feel free, like someone who has just broken out of a lifetime cell. It takes most of my remaining energy to get the lid off the canister but I would struggle against pain and agony all night for this tiny victory. I carefully pull out four pills and pop them into my mouth with as much grace as I can muster given my present condition. I think about taking a fifth one and possibly even a sixth, but I refrain. Four is good for now; I’ll save the rest for later.

With weak determination, I push the remainder of the pills deep into my pocket to hide them from the view of others. The paranoia over losing the vicodin intensifies for a moment as I feel them coming on strong, washing over my body with their typically vigorous calm. They make me feel so good I start to wonder why I ever let myself feel bad. Then I think about never feeling this good again and I get upset and think about crying. If these pills were stolen I don’t know what I would do. But the fear and dread associated with that loss passes quickly as the strength of the vicodin kicks in full throttle. These pills are already starting to make a huge difference; the pain everywhere is diminishing and I am feeling fine again. My body and mind are coming out of that dense fog of anguish that was so long holding me captive. Opiates are truly amazing things.

It’s like my brain is swimming around, unconnected to strings and nerves and doused in the gratifying concoction of serotonin juice. Fantastically, I am drowning in feel-good chemical explosions that are only underrated by the ignorant of mind. What’s more, like the perfect gatekeeper, my brain fends off all the painful stimuli and only lets pass the blissful sensations that remind me that parts of life can be, by definition quite pleasurable. A nod to the vicodin, it makes me feel so relaxed and circumstantially invincible. Really, I get the feeling that I will survive and even thrive from this experience. I have always been quite taken with it as drugs go.

The heat that was previously emanating from my angry wounds is beginning to cool off and those familiar idyllic vibes that opiates are famous for are streaking their beautiful way throughout my body in perfectly spaced intervals. A new, blissful feeling of calm is settling in and I am overcome with sleepiness. I decide to let unconsciousness have me with reckless disregard. Who am I to fight the gripping hand of nature? It is for the best anyway. If I don’t wake up again the darkness wins; if I do wake up the darkness still wins. There’s really not much to fight for in my case.

As I close my eyes and accept that fatigue and strife and chemicals will dictate the next few hours of my fate, I imagine that my body has become something like velvety smoke, floating thickly and with luminescence through the night air on a path to nowhere. I imagine my smoky self sailing a few feet above the ground, weighted down by uncertainty and the unfulfilled desire to be free, going nowhere at all yet hungrily awaiting some kind of great destiny, like a gifted child in a broken home. I imagine myself as the viscous sort of substance that often sways and swishes around inside of flooded potholes, creating those infinitesimally mesmerizing figure eight patterns, colorful and free to be whatever the hell they want to be and no one there to tell them differently. What an awesome notion! I let my head fall back against the surface of the ground and revel neatly in the pretend. I have always been much better with fiction than fact.

My mind, for what it’s worth these days, is nothing more than a commanding presence sitting within me and never allowing me a moment’s rest. It is the true hand of torture, poking and prodding my inner psyche and calling me out on things that don’t matter at all, in moments and times of my life that could be better used for productive endeavors. I wish I were that slippery, smooth and wispy puddle of oil, confined to the flooded pothole indefinitely yet still swimming around without guile, so fantastic and unreal, so unbothered by my existence and purpose. I wish I were that amorphous bundle of smoke, floating around without abandon. If I even had the illusion of freedom, like that suspended and swishy oil, like that thick and cloudy smoke, I think I could find some degree of contentedness. But there is nothing perfect in real life; if it is not completely manufactured then it is wholly unsettling. Goodness and pureness just don’t exist, at least not in the true life that I lead.

I expend a huge sigh and look around once more. My field of vision is quite limited due to the swelling of the bone and tissue around my eye. Regardless, I swivel my head from side to side as I lie on the ground, trying to get some idea of where I am and what could approach me. Now that some time has elapsed since my ingestion of the vicodin, I think I am feeling the subtle changes within my bones, courtesy of one of my favorite drugs in this world. It’s actually quite remarkable; my bones, my skin, and my muscles are all undergoing this beautiful process of liquidation that I cannot condone nor emphatically deny. Maybe it’s my time to melt peacefully away.

I will not discount the power of nature even though I frequently rail against the existence of a god. The two concepts are wholly distinct. At this point, I am willing to just let nature take its course, whatever course it turns out to be. I feel so open to anything and everything right now and the fight, if there ever was such a thing within me, has long since disappeared and I couldn’t care less. I am accepting of things as they are now. I don’t fight what I cannot change. It’s a special transformation that I cannot quite account for but it is my new reality nevertheless. I won’t go so far as to aver that I am grateful for it but I do accept it for what it is.

So as I lie here, sinking carelessly into the hard cement below, I realize that soon I will be nothing more than a puddle of tissue and whatever else bone melts into. It may seem contrary to everything that is definitively human but I don’t mind this fate. It feels nice to just shut my eyes, shut my brain, shut away everything, and feel the sensation of my muscles, my bones, and my tissue melting away into mush, into microscopic pieces of the carbon from whence I came, and beyond that into nothing but the bleakness that greets us all upon death.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012


This is the maid of honor toast that I made at my best friend's wedding.  As an aside right here and right now I should state that she is the only person in the entire world that I would ever excitedly claim the role of maid of honor for.  Really.

My name is Lux and I am Kate's* maid of honor. Most of you who know me know that I am ridiculously unqualified to speak of such things as love, commitment, marriage. As someone who lives in almost flagrant defiance of most of the tenets and values that this society holds dear, it would be disingenuous of me to assert any otherwise here today. But I suppose that very public fact alone demonstrates the utmost confidence and trust that Kate must have had in choosing me for this very important role in her wedding.

Regardless of my admitted ignorance on the subject of love, commitment, marriage, and anything else requiring the concept of avid monogamy, I can certainly speak to the things that I have witnessed between Kate and Tony* over the years their relationship has grown. They have something great here, a bond that I may not understand completely, but I do recognize and wholly respect. Kate and Tony give monogamy and the idea of marriage a good name. They tend to make you believe in every fairy tale and happy ending that you’ve ever been told.

Kate and I met in high school English class. Kate was 15 and I was 14. Now I know this may sound like a minute detail in an otherwise fascinating story, but trust me Kate knows exactly why I’m mentioning it. In high school we became fast friends over our shared propensity for starting trouble, defying expectations, and rebelling against both our ridiculously rotund teacher and the precious rules that she set for her classroom. She called us agitators and she was not wrong. We were sort of hell-raisers and definitely bullies, planting seeds of trouble in the minds of every boy, girl and child in the class. And torturing our friend Lani* and her friend Sara Joan Perkins* weren’t the only times we hell-raised. We also performed a good deal of mischief in Sixth Period PE. Yeah that’s right Jeanette*, Kate was in Sixth Period PE right along with us.

We did have our adventures, most of them involving Kate's very cool, not at all dorky dodge mini-van. I seem to remember an incident where some guys from our high school lifted it up on bricks and Kate got so distressed when trying to drive it away that she wouldn’t listen to reason, wouldn’t listen to any words really. She proceeded to bite my arm viciously and unapologetically and I still have the mark. No, not really.

And after we both graduated from college we decided to become roommates, mostly because we are awesome and fantastic wing-women for each other. We were ready to make Orange County and occasionally Los Angeles our own personal playground.

And I will say this: Kate was my favorite roommate, bar none! Really she was the best roommate I ever had. See, Kate loved to clean the apartment; she just loved it. In fact, anytime I would even think about picking up a mop or a sponge or asking where she kept the vacuum, she would take it from me and say, “I’ll clean, you just watch television.” It was the best thing that anyone could have said. It was truly awesome.

Of course there were many, many other things that made Kate just the best roommate ever, from wine nights, to trying to make a pizza from scratch (total disaster but the avocados were good), to plotting against our loud upstairs basketball-playing neighbors, to walking across the street to get tacos and margaritas at On The Border.

Kate met Tony in February of 2008 at a bar called “Goat Hill”. As an aside, I should mention, best bar ever! The guys are hot and the women often have less than a full set of teeth and those super-ugly tattoo-sleeved arms. It was a paradise for us. Anyway, Kate met Tony at Goat Hill and I think she was hooked almost immediately. And while Tony certainly had some other girls sniffing around him, you know who I’m talking about here, he only had eyes for Kate and that was clear to everyone who was really looking.

Kate and Tony were an awesome couple from the very start. I remember thinking “Hey, maybe this boyfriend thing isn’t too bad after all.” I mean Kate and Tony sure made the concept look desirable. And they did fun things together, like wine tasting and snowboarding and baseball games and weekends in San Luis Obispo and wine tasting, and weekends in Santa Barbara, and wine tasting, and biking to the beach. And they never fought… Okay well that may be a slight embellishment but if they did fight, their fights were always brilliantly entertaining and never lacking for comic relief.

I knew Tony was a cool guy and the perfect one for Kate when he voluntarily tried to ward off my stalker. Now that’s a classy guy if there ever was one. And courageous too! That lady was a psycho!  And when Kate told me that he loves sushi as much as she does, well I knew they would be getting married, it was only a matter of time. They are simply perfect for each other.

And for someone like me, someone who has devoted a sizable portion of my life to the pursuit of Mr. Right Nows, yeah Nows, I do have to say that Kate and Tony's relationship, their marriage, inspires me to, at some point, potentially, in the distant future, abandon my search for Mr. Right Nows and start looking for Mr. Rights. Okay fine, Mr. Right… and his friend. Just kidding.  Kinda.....

But in all seriousness, heretofore (inside joke), I would have said that true love does not exist, that it is a made-up aspiration of cheerleaders and teen moms, but over the past few years while I’ve seen Kate and Tony be a couple, be totally and completely infatuated with each other, be boyfriend-girlfriend, then fiancée-fiancée, and now husband-wife, I will state, on the record, that maybe true love does exist. And I declare this only because I have seen it, with my own two eyes, between Kate and Tony. And I don’t believe in stuff I can’t see. But I see their love and I know that it is the stuff of legends, fairy tales, romantic comedies.

Honestly I do think that their love is something special, something for us all to aspire to. It needs to be said because people do have a way of blinking and missing the moment, the moment that could have changed everything. And I am so glad that neither Kate nor Tony blinked, because they wouldn’t be here today and that would be a tragedy, of Shakespearean magnitude. I aspire to them, really I do. And I think we all should.

In conclusion, I know I have taken up some time here, but I would like to say, and I say this with ostensible arrogance because I am lucky to know Kate and Tony, together, as a couple, because I am not kidding when I say they inspire me and they should inspire us all, to find something as good and as pure as they have, something that defies logic and age, something so awesome it makes others insanely jealous. I would like to say that we should all be so lucky.

So now there’s not much left to say but – wait for it - “Congratulations Kate and Tony, all the best! You guys are awesome!”

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Skid Row, Los Angeles, California, United States, Earth

The dead calm is climbing inside me and making my heart race and my skin sweat. I feel apprehensiveness all over. This is terribly disconcerting. I swallow once and look around, keeping as alert and aware as humanly possible. This is not the place to become complacent. The crimes that happen here never reach the courtrooms of justice. It’s pretty important to make it out of here without incident. If I were victimized I would never be vindicated. That’s something that I might not be able to live with.

Seriously, what the hell is going on? What could possibly be silencing the noise? Where have all the sounds of Skid Row gone? Where are all the horrifying screams of impending rapes and homicides typically heard echoing out of abandoned alleyways and decrepit building balconies? Where is the screeching of tires from a drug deal gone awry? And where are the sounds of breaking liquor bottles thrown aside by drunken and disillusioned souls? This lack of noise tonight is beyond upsetting; it makes no rational sense.

The silence all around me is almost horrifyingly loud. It’s almost reminiscent of that terrifying feeling that creeps into the brain when standing in a room filled with people and every single person is engaged in a different conversation and there is nothing to do but listen to the cacophony of sound and feel the insidious depression creep into the body and mind. I cannot identify any of the sounds enough to understand what is going on; everything is indecipherable. I’m about to scream. Really, if I don’t hear the customary sounds of this place soon, I am going to scream. If my nerves are not soothed by the familiar noises of Skid Row, I might have to yell at the top of my lungs in order to dispel this growing anxiety and scare off would-be attackers.


I wish I could hear the city noise but it’s too far off for my straining ears to register. Instead, I pull the bottle of prescription meds I stole from the doctor from my pocket and surreptitiously slip one of the pills into my mouth. I try to be as stealthy as possible because I know that if there are eyes upon me now, and I am pretty certain that there are, that they would steal these pills without a second’s thought. This is a jungle and I am potential prey. They are hunting me like predators, trying to decide whether it is worth the effort for them to accost me. I want them to believe that I have nothing to offer.

Carefully, I replace the bottle in my pocket, making damn sure that I don’t jiggle the pills around at all. I don’t want anyone to hear them rattling and get wise to what I’m holding. Residents of Skid Row jerk awake at the sound of rattling pill bottles. That’s a fact. If someone around here figured out that I am holding, it would complicate my life in a way that I may not be able to handle. In all honesty, the only thing I want right now is to get home in one piece, with my pills, fall into bed, and sleep for a whole night and day. That sounds absolutely divine.

So with the rest of the pills tucked safely away, I hold the single capsule underneath my tongue for as long as I can stand. I like forcing drugs to dissolve into that big purple vein strategically placed underneath my tongue. I have found in the past that the effects of opioids are much quicker when I employ this particular method. And this way I don’t have to wait unceasingly long for the pill to dissolve in my stomach through ingestion and then digestion. Waiting has always been a drag for me, mostly because I am terribly impatient and unaccustomed to delaying my gratification. The tongue method has always proven, in the past, to be a shortcut to pleasure. I love my shortcuts to pleasure.

I begin to walk a little faster now that I can feel the opiate working through my system. It has started to massage my cerebellum and it’s working its way down my spine, not missing a single joint in the process. These drugs sure are strong and I give a silent thanks to the doctor at UCLA who allowed me to steal them from him. Of course it is also working to dull my natural reflexes and that realization alones makes me quicken my step. I don’t want to be feeling this good only to come down and feel terrible because I was pilfered from. I don’t want this to be the last time that I feel the fingers of this drug massaging my entire body in beautiful unison. I must make it home; I must have an encore with these drugs.

I look up and begin pinpointing certain structures in the distance to aspire to. This is the way I mentally conquer things. It would be nice if I could make it back to downtown unscathed. I would really like the opportunity to keep my property. And if I am threatened, if I am accosted and my accoster has ill intent toward me, I won’t give up anything without a fight. In fact, let it be known in this forum that I have used violence in defense of my property in the past. I am disinclined to agree that property alone does not warrant deadly force because some property is so valuable that the protection of life cannot even justify the snuffing out of said property.

Luckily no one has accosted me yet; they have let me be. Maybe they don’t believe that I am carrying anything of worth. Maybe I appear to them as nothing more than an unwelcome intruder, an audacious interloper walking hurriedly through their makeshift sanctuary. They may want me gone just as much as I want myself gone. Let’s hope that holds true for the rest of this journey.

To be honest, I’m not super stoked about all of these people camped alongside the street in their cardboard homes. Even though they are being uncharacteristically quiet for the moment, I still know that they are in there, peeking out at me and silently plotting things. At any time they could gang up on me and turn my pockets inside out. But I shouldn’t be thinking about that now. It’s making me feel even more paranoid and insecure. I let out a low grown of disgust as I unintentionally meet the gaze of one of the residents after he emerges from his tent to get some fresh air or to urinate or something. I avert my eyes almost immediately because I know most people around here think that eye contact is like some kind of challenge. I’m not challenging anybody.

I keep walking, hoping that guy won’t try to turn our accidental eye contact into something more. Fortunately he doesn’t. He just goes about his business and I go about mine. I don’t want any trouble. A car comes up behind me and honks in an attempt to get me out of the street. I comply begrudgingly by moving to the left and allowing him to pass. Now that I’m getting closer to downtown, it looks like I’ll have to get back on the sidewalk. There are too many cars in the street to make walking in the middle of the road feasible. But I’m glad to be nearing the city; it’s sort of comforting because I feel like there is less of a chance that I will get robbed. Still, I am within the boundaries of Skid Row so anything is possible.

It annoys me, sort of, when I am forced to step over people who are sleeping on top of the heat grates on the sidewalk, blanketing themselves with the discarded trash and newspapers of two weeks ago. This seems like the worst possible reality to have. I’m not even sure that I can really understand their chronic struggle to sustain their pathetic lives. I think if I were one of them, and I was in a position like this where the only place I could afford to live was here on the streets, I would throw the metaphorical towel in. I would end it while I still had a bit of dignity left, before I became just another virulent strain of a wholly despicable parasite. But for whatever reason, these people seem to have found some solace in the grimy streets of this town. It’s kind of inexplicable.

Actually if I were truly in their position, I would attempt to effectuate adverse possession over one of the semi-abandoned and decrepit buildings of this area. The owners aren’t really paying attention and even though I realize that it would take ten years to come to fruition, the possible payoff would be well worth that hassle. Besides, engaging in a plan of sorts would be reason enough to persist, not to mention the fact that having a roof over my head would at least save me from suffering under the summer sun, the freezing winter rain and the indecisiveness of spring and autumn.

Suddenly I feel the urge to run, to get out of this place as soon as humanly possible. It’s that feeling of jitteriness in the bones, like something might happen and running is the only way to save myself. I think it’s the fight or flight response but I’m not sure exactly what my body is responding to. All I know is that I want to escape; I want to get away from this place right now. But running would be way too much work so instead I reach into my pocket and grab another pill to stifle my wayward imagination and satiate all further impulses to flee. I set the pill under my tongue, just like before, and press down hard, hoping it will dissolve with haste and make me feel better about my prospects here. I think it’s working already. I breathe a sigh of relief and continue on my way.


Finally I see South Main Street and notice the buildings are getting taller and newer and cleaner, a good sign. The colorful and dazzling lights of the downtown skyscrapers are teasing my eyes with their beautiful and alluring calm; they are beckoning me and I am responding as hurriedly as possible. I can’t wait to be home. The downtown arena is drawing me closer, like a compelling polar energy that I don’t know how to ignore. I don’t want to ignore. I want to extricate myself from the bowels of Skid Row and emerge into the comfort and safety of downtown. And even though I realize that the buildings are still deceivingly distant, I feel as though I can make it to them. I’m getting closer.

I look up at the cloudless sky and for the first time I can discern a couple of faint stars shining up there. I smile and feel a sense of hope rushing into my bones all of a sudden. It’s almost inexplicable but it’s there. Stars have always been these beacons of hope and just the fact that I can see them at all assures me that I am getting close to the edge of Skid Row. I feel sort of safe again, like I’m seeing the metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel. My mood is rising and I feel like nothing can destroy it now.

Hey there, a woman shouts out as she approaches me from somewhere across the street. I swallow hard and jerk my head in her direction. My muscles tighten and my internal reflexes kick into overdrive. I may have to fight. I was hoping to avoid this type of situation. Hey sweetie, can I talk to you for a second, she asks as she walks right up to me. I don’t reply because my reply could not matter less to her. She is going to talk whether I give the permission or not. What the hell does she want? She better not try to start any trouble with me. Just as quickly as the sight of stars elevated my mood, this woman has disintegrated it.

I study her suspiciously as she moves closer. She walks like a misplaced aristocrat having long ago abandoned the prestige of that proud way of life. I get the sense that she is socially confused, a banana dropped in a sea of bananas, yet thinking irrationally that she is an apple because she perceives all of her companions as apples. She’s obviously nuts and very strange and I don’t want her anywhere near me. I would rather have her disappear into wherever she crawled out from and just stop freaking me out. If nothing more she belongs in the frenzied recesses of her own delusions, free to dwell and obsess over the minute details of her life unbothered and unobstructed. She needs to be conversing with her invisible friends, not me. I don’t have the patience for her kind of insanity tonight.

It’s my birthday today, she announces, more or less to me because I’m the only one around. I don’t want to be accused of avid disrespect so I humor the compulsion to engage her with feigned interest. After all, people who are circumstantially unstable can be set off by even the smallest hint of derision and I really don’t want this woman delaying my journey home by turning this interaction into an incident.

So are you going to give me a present, it’s my birthday, the woman reminds me. She sticks out her hand and puts it uncomfortably close to my face. I smile, somewhat tightly, and decide that there is nothing for me to gain from being overly impolite. I need to handle this with finesse in case this woman is prone to acerbic, caustic and altogether violent reactions. More than anything, I have to curb my inner desire to mock her unceasingly for her ostensible stupidity and poor attention to hygiene.

It’s my birthday, she repeats, this time with a little more insistence and I start to worry about what she may do when I eventually deny her request. Even though her demeanor is somewhat giddy right now, I’m afraid her mood will change quickly to bitterness and rage when she sees that I am not going to give her what she wants. Still I would like to do what I can to defuse the situation and the possible eruption of anger and rage that will follow. So I engage her, hoping she remembers my kind spirit when she feels the need to pound my face in for declining to offer her a handout for drugs or booze.

What kind of present, I ask her hesitatingly, feeling pretty fucking apprehensive about her possible answer. She moves closer to me and I take an involuntary step back, knowing for sure that I need a buffer zone. I really don’t appreciate the proximity of this stranger to me; it’s unnerving with her unwashed hair and wild, maniacal eyes. She’s a bomb waiting to explode and I do not want to be in her crosshairs. She could kill me and not feel the teensiest bit of remorse. I hate people like her. They make me fear for my life because they literally have nothing to lose.

Some spare change so I can buy a slice of cake for my birthday, she reveals coyly. I don’t respond so she persists. C’mon sweetie, buy a piece of cake for an old girl on her birthday, she squeaks out shamelessly. I shake my head and tell her that I have no change to offer her. She tilts her head, a clear sign that she doubts my sincerity. But I don’t care; I’ve dealt with her kind before and it’s always the exact same routine. First, they try to act sweet, even flatter you a bit, trying to evoke that sense of sympathy that is all-important to their cause. Then when that does not appear to be working, they move on to this mixture between prodding and negotiating with you. Their negotiations are always silly and senseless but you usually play along because you are afraid of what they might do. The growing signs of frustration typically follow the failed bargaining because they get the sense that they are losing you and they still have hopes of winning you over. But in the end, inevitably, they threaten you and make you believe that you are a bad person because you are not effectuating a handout. It is their last attempt to make you rethink your position and it rarely ever works. But they don’t really care because they had nothing to lose from the start.

Please, it’s my birthday, she begs, unrestrained now and advancing on me slightly. I back up and decline to distribute money once again, asserting that I have nothing to give anyway. It’s sort of the truth; I’ve been a starving artist for some time now. I’m hungry, I just want to get some cake on my birthday, she whines, hoping to get me to reconsider my stance. It’s my birthday, everyone deserves cake on her birthday, she maintains unapologetically. She is really insisting upon letting me know that it’s her birthday today; she really wants me informed on that fact so I may act accordingly. But I hold firm to my stance and refuse to offer a handout of any kind. Besides, I know that cake is not really what this woman intends to buy. Quite the contrary, she will use all the money she obtains tonight to buy a combination of drugs and alcohol. There is no desire on her part for cake. That’s just a ruse directed at eliciting some showing of sympathy and I will not play along. She may not realize it yet but she has the wrong audience in me. I’m hardly the compassionate type and I tend to disbelieve everything that I hear.

C’mon sweetie, I just need a few dollars here, she continues, trying to make the sale. But I shake my head and repeat that I have nothing to offer. She freezes for a second, probably trying to figure out how to play the next part. I’m not sure why she’s tripping; the next part has already been written twice over by countless forerunners before her. It’s true, many have scripted the path and paved the way for what comes next. She is supposed to get angry and relentless and bitter. It’s only a matter of time before she catches on and fills the role. She will freeze here for a few more seconds but she will eventually exhibit her rage. Nothing will work on me, no ploy will be successful, but I do not blame her at all for running through the list and playing all of her cards. She has to try everything or she won’t be able to sleep at night. She will house regrets and that is not a comfortable thing to live with.

Suddenly she shouts loudly, a shriek in its entirety, and then she throws her hands up in the air with apparent frustration. Her scream pierces my ears like a hammer to a glass figurine, shattering loudly and remorselessly. The scream is loud and painful. If she keeps this screaming up, anvil, stirrup and hammer will likely all shatter to indistinguishable pieces on the floor of my respective eardrums. So in order to protect a very important organ of my body, I back away from her and cover my ears with my hands.

Irresponsibly she continues to scream, caring not what damage she might do to my inner ears. I try to hold my distance from her but she advances on me nevertheless, clearly finding my well being to be a low priority. I hate her for that but I will not let on, mostly because it still scares me what she might attempt to do. I’m definitely somewhat wary of her next move. I don’t think that’s being overly paranoid given the circumstances. I fear that she is faster than she looks and I know very well that people, regardless of their affiliations, do not like to be disappointed when requesting things. This woman is seriously capable of lunging at me. I really don’t want to be lunged at. I might not recover from that kind of physical assault.

But she doesn’t lunge at me; she doesn’t do anything except sigh loudly and bitterly in steadfast defeat. Then she just starts walking away from me, slowly at first, sort of wandering and staggering a little, but she picks up the speed once she realizes that I am not a captive audience. She heads back the way I came, back into the depths of Skid Row, all the while muttering angrily to herself. She can mutter about me all she wants and I’ll continue to ignore her angry observations. I’ve met with her kind before and it’s always the same routine, time after time. It’s important to hold firm when it comes to these people; they don’t like to leave it at one negative response. They like to push. For some reason, these types need three or four negative responses before they finally get the hint. But it’s worth it as long as they eventually leave you in peace.

Once I am confident enough that she is heading away from me, I start walking quickly in the other direction, toward downtown. It feels like I have been walking for hours and not gaining any identifiable distance. I start thinking that maybe the skyscrapers are nothing more than merciless mirages whose only reason for existence is to mock my struggle to escape Skid Row. While I could easily freak out about the notion that a mirage is all that I am currently capable of seeing, I suddenly feel surprisingly calm despite this ostensibly volatile atmosphere. I think the good doctor’s pills are really kicking in now, lifting me to a type of tranquility that I cannot account for but can surely respect. No longer is the evident danger of Skid Row all around me, no longer is it as concerning or threatening as it once was. In a very real way I am starting to believe that I will be all right, that no harm will come to me this evening. I’m not sure if it is real or trustworthy but I certainly like the feeling.

With my bloodstream now filled with drugs, almost overrun with the fresh opiates that I have delivered unto it, those familiar feelings of euphoria are returning to caress my every nerve and every muscle. The drugs are rejuvenating that sense of euphoria that I thought I lost years ago. It’s very nice. Everything is perfect, almost blissfully so. I could be on a beach at sunset and feel the exact same way that I do right now. This is absolutely divine. Synthetic, drug-induced chemical reactions of the brain and body are what I truly live for. They save me the trouble of having to produce those feelings naturally and I am in favor of anything that can be created and enjoyed without the exertion of much effort. I would rather save my brain for more important things, like absorbing the somewhat complicated rules of parol evidence.


Finally I reach Broadway and I decide somewhat impulsively to head south and catch up with Ninth Street. There’s a noticeable red glow down Eighth but I ignore it for the time being because Orpheum theatre is coming up on my left and I want to take a moment to admire the old-time theater façade with its long vertical sign and glass-enclosed ticket booth. It’s all lit up tonight, with those bright yellow running lights that aim to draw attention and ultimately attendance to the iconic theater. For some reason I find it comforting that this tired, old place is trying to sustain some amount of life. Its brilliance definitely can draw a crowd from all over the city. In fact, when I was new to the downtown area, I remember being on the One Ten Freeway and spotting the large yellow ‘Orpheum’ sign and just wondering what it was and what it meant. Then when I moved into the loft, I noticed almost immediately that I could see the sign from my bedroom window. It was ubiquitous! At that point, I had to investigate and investigate I did. It’s not really a novelty anymore but sometimes I still stand there by my window or out on my balcony looking at the sign and watching it dance, interchange its yellow and orange lights in a running, rhythmic pattern, alerting everyone to its still existence and trying desperately to drum up some attendance.


I pause briefly in front of the theatre and look in both directions, up and down Broadway Street. There are only a few people out tonight and no one appears to be very interested in stopping at the theatre and taking in a show. It’s kind of sad to see this place lie in the early stage of ruins. I can only imagine that great sign landing in some kind of neon museum, with patrons coming up and wondering where it used to hang. It sort of makes me realize how temporary everything is. How do the decades and centuries pass by so quickly? How can we exist at all when we are in a constant state of decay? The rapid hand of time is the cruelest of bastards.

Nothing makes me think about the ephemeral nature of our lives more than seeing something rot. Just last week, I finally threw out an old pumpkin that I had been keeping around since last fall. I don’t like throwing things away in the prime of their life, regardless of the shift in seasons or the insistence of my roommates. But by the time I got around to throwing it out, it was way past its prime and starting to smell. I figured it was time so I forced myself to discard it. But when I picked it up, I immediately noticed how unnaturally light it was. It made me think for a second. Then I cut it open to solve the mystery. I guess the rot had taken over its insides and dissolved its guts into wispy strands of greenish white tissue. This is what time does to us.

This part of the city is much like the inside of that pumpkin. The rot has taken over everything and there’s really no way to fix it except to just cut the losses and discard it. In this case I guess it would be more cost-feasible to just write this place off. Many people already have done a comparable thing. And every time they hear about another murder or another kidnapping and rape in these parts, when they read that a body was found here, it solidifies their decision to ignore the plight of this place. But what should they really expect when they are voluntarily stuck on the track of a logical circle? It really isn’t inexplicable. Crime keeps people away and because the people are away, crime continues to persist. It’s certainly an ugly cycle but disinterest and disregard is hardly going to fix it.


Unfortunately rot is irreversible by its nature and it has a way of expanding like fungus overnight. Soon I imagine that the rot of Skid Row will envelope the rest of downtown, making it so that the whole place becomes nothing more than a festering pile of rank, intolerable putrefaction. I shake my head as I think that last thought. When the time comes where the fungus has overtaken downtown, I really hope to be long gone. I want to move on and see other cities and countries and worlds. Rot is really sinister in its dealings. After it has caused all of its destruction, it just dissipates into the cold, thin air from once it came, leaving only the destruction that it brought behind, avoiding the guilt of what it has done with the remorseless deliberateness of a coldhearted sociopath. I guess coldhearted is somewhat axiomatic when it comes to sociopathy but I felt the need to be more effusive. I like to get descriptions just right.

Whenever I try to imagine this place in the distant future, I always have the tendency to compare it to the Roman Ruins. While it may be hard to believe that our civilization compares to that of the Romans in any measurable way, it is nice to pretend for a second that future kids will study us and try to absorb our wisdom. It would be quite flattering if they thought of us, centuries down the road, with as much awe-inspiring reverence as we think of the Ancient Romans or Ancient Greek. Although it is difficult to fathom a future civilization visiting the Los Angeles Ruins and thinking about our lives with any kind of admiration, it is a somewhat novel thought and I think I’ll entertain it awhile longer. It makes me feel like something bigger than I am.

The clock hasn’t bled enough; it’s only ten o’clock. Still I don’t want to hang out on Broadway any longer than necessary. Although it is safer than some areas, it’s still on the periphery of Skid Row. So I give the bright yellow ‘Orpheum’ sign one last look as I pick up my pace once again. The old theatre wants to keep my attention with its running lights and majestic presence but I have grown bored and unsympathetic to its cause. I guess my imagination is somewhat hyperactive and disloyal. I like the theatre, I really do, because it interests me in a way that few other things do. It’s the closest thing to a relic that I have ever laid my eyes on and right now everything else seems to pale in comparison to its golden hue. But part of this temporal fixation might have to do with the opiates running wild in my bloodstream. I can’t afford to humor it any longer tonight so I move gracefully on. 

As I walk back to Eighth Street to investigate the red glow, I start imagining what Orpheum must have been like back in its prime, back when it was going through its heyday period. On Saturday nights, it must have been the place to be, the best thing in town. Vaudeville performances and other spectacles would rule an otherwise boring night and claim people from all parts of Los Angeles and all walks of life. But today it is much different; the people don’t venture to this side of town very often, unless of course they are terribly lost or avidly drug seeking. It’s kind of a shame.

Not long ago I dreamt that I was walking through Orpheum Theatre, through the high-ceilinged entryways to the fancy, artistic staircases, to the massive theatre room, complete with balcony seating. I saw plush red velvet covering the walls, soft and cushy, and outlined with this golden ribboning that formed intricate little designs that gave it a fifteenth century French palace look. I couldn’t stop too long to really enjoy the theatre and all of its designs because my companion in the dream was chasing me, or I was chasing him, through the halls and out into the lush, proud, and immaculately cared for gardens. As an aside, I’ve never actually stepped one foot inside the establishment so I guess my mind just made everything up. But it was still pretty cool. 

It’s too bad my dream doesn’t represent a shred of truth. Orpheum Theatre could not possibly look the way it did in my dream. As if to cement that theory, I pass an alleyway and see two guys shooting up next to a dumpster opposite the theatre. They have a water bottle sitting next to them with which to cook their junk and wash their works, a bottle that they probably filled with sewer water or some other equally disgusting liquid. Most junkies don’t care at all about discreetness but the cops do patrol this area quite vigorously due to its proximity to Skid Row. In fact, they prowl the area for narcotics busts on a nightly basis, hoping to catch someone, really anyone, with their guard down and their veins filled with junk.

Traditionally speaking, Broadway Street has always sort of been the invisible line between Skid Row and downtown. It seems to be known by everyone who lives or works in the area. Accordingly, the average person rarely ventures down to these parts, mostly out of a very well-founded fear of running into the depraved of heart, the chemical abusers, the physical abusers, or, worst of all, the authorities. This place has a terrible reputation, so the smart ones just stay away. And unfortunately, the filth of this place will never be stamped out. Disincentives abound that continually distract even the most well-intentioned and purest of heart. What’s more, nobody will ever actually witness Skid Row’s gradual destruction of downtown until it is too late. Mark these words, in another hundred years or so, Skid Row will have devoured most of the beloved skyscrapers that now shape the iconic silhouette of downtown Los Angeles. What a world to be born into.

I turn left onto Eighth and follow it west toward the heart of downtown. The red glow is kind of a hard thing to describe because there’s a slight air of fog to the glow, something that produces an eerie kind of delight that makes me feel inexplicably warm inside, like I just drank a nice swig of very smooth scotch. As I get closer to the glow I notice the merging of colors – the red light bounces off the green of the street-lining shrubs and the orange of the lamps above – creating a color that I really can’t define. But I would know that combination of smoke, ethanol and neon red brightness almost anywhere. I’ve been here many times before.


The Golden Gopher. This is one of my favorite bars in the city. It is classy yet childish, the perfect mixture of whimsical fantasy and despondent reality. I approach the front door carefully, ignoring the antics on display outside. The warm red glow shrouds my body and makes me feel like I have made the right decision in coming here. If this was a movie I would hear triumphant music playing. I wanted a place where I could waste some time and there is no better place to waste than in a dive bar. And the Golden Gopher isn’t just any ordinary dive bar. It is the king of dive bars.

I don’t recognize the bouncer guarding the door tonight. He has a spider web tattooed on the back left part of his neck and his eyes look unforgiving and mean. This may present a problem because I am not carrying any identification and if he wants to be a dick and card me, then I’m pretty much screwed. As a rule, I rarely keep my drivers’ license on my person. There’s method to that arguable madness. If I am accosted by either a cop or a robber, I would rather they not know who I am and where I live. As far as all cops and robbers are concerned, I am Jane Doe and I live on the streets of Skid Row.

The bouncer is holding a small flashlight in his left hand and he shifts his weight back and forth, from foot to foot, under the red quarrelling fonts of the neon Golden Gopher sign above him. He resembles a gargoyle, bathed in devilish light and brandishing a weapon. I watch him spin his flashlight around in his hand, over and over in a mad cycle, probably trying to ward off the inherent boredom of his job. The only time he stops flipping the flashlight around is when he cruelly decides to shine it in the eyes of passersby and homeless people camped out in the vicinity.

I shake my head in dismay. This bouncer doesn’t really seem like the type of guy who could be successfully swayed by kind words or manipulative maneuvers. He seems rather bitter in fact, causing me to become unsure if I’ll be able to get into the Golden Gopher identification-less tonight. Get out of here, will you, the bouncer yells suddenly at a man in rags about to take up residence alongside the wall of the building. He shines his light in the man’s face and then waves him on down the street. I’m not feeling very confident about my prospects of getting past this guy.

The man grunts and reluctantly moves on. This bouncer is facing an uphill battle if he thinks he can rid the area of the so-called riffraff. Homeless people like to hang around this area because they feel like their begging and pleading for money and alcohol might fall on sympathetic ears. Sometimes when they collect enough money, they even go into the Golden Gopher and haunt the barstools for hours on end, until the bouncers finally kick them out. It’s a predictable cycle that I’ve witnessed many times in the past.

As I finally muster the courage to walk up to the bouncer, I try to figure out a good way to convince him to turn a blind eye and let me pass. I know it’s not going to be an easy task but luckily I have developed somewhat of a knack for persuading men to let me do things over the years. Before I turned twenty-one, I had no other choice but to try to talk my way into a bar. I sure as hell didn’t have the identification to prove anything so I had a lot of practice in perfecting my strategies. I’m pretty much an expert at this point and my irreproachably awesome and beautiful chest can’t hurt my chances. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have used my chest in the past to get into and out of certain places.

When I approach the bouncer he sticks out his hand and asks for my identification. I stare at him and give him the slow once-over, before dragging my gaze back up to meet his. I smile cutely and with an innocence I could only fake as I try to make my eyes gleam and mesmerize a little. It’s the look that tends to portray I like what I see and I am interested but ultimately shy and will therefore present a formidable challenge. He holds my gaze, engaging in a quick staring contest, either to intimidate me or show that he is equally interested and not an unworthy pushover. Eventually he elicits a small chuckle from the back of his throat, gives me a subtle wink and then moves aside with a slight nod. I flash him my most charming smile and walk confidently through the door. That was awesome.

I don’t have to wait long for my eyes to adjust to the light in here. I glance over to my right and note a little glass stand displaying various pieces of merchandise like tee shirts, stickers and lighters. I have never actually seen a single person purchase anything from this glass case, but I have always meant to be the first. I feel like I want to help the Golden Gopher advertise and drum up some business. Of course on the other hand, it would be terrible to see this place get overrun by yuppies searching for the next trend to endorse. If this place ever got trendy, I would have to discontinue my patronage until it could be successfully purged of any residual trendiness. And that would be a monstrous hassle.

It’s mostly black in here with a dark red hue that I find simply alluring. I look up at the once elegant golden chandeliers hanging off the long chains attached to the elevated, twenty-foot tall ceilings and I nod triumphantly. The blood red lights that dot each chandelier make this place feel forbidden and hellish, like something out of a dungeons and dragons plot. I imagine these chandeliers once hung in a castle with light grey bricks and winding, curling staircases. It’s possible that even some form of ghoul once partied under these chandeliers, in the distant past, in some gothic-style setting, serving each other libations containing the blood of humans and the vodka of the gods. I always kind of wondered what sort of negligence suit the Golden Gopher might be looking at if one of these old chandeliers should fall on a patron and trap him mercilessly underneath.

I shake my head and continue to take in my surroundings. They have these nice booth areas that line the inside perimeter, reminiscent of old casino lounges in places like Las Vegas. Each booth is lit with these tiny golden gopher lamps that make me smile when I see them. The exposed brick walls of this establishment are either a lazy accident or a bold statement; I’ve never been able to decide which. But the bar area is actually classier than one might suspect. Two crystal lit chandeliers hover above, lighting the barstools just the right amount to be pleasantly unobtrusive. The best part about the bar is the counter behind it. All the alcohol bottles are lined up and set aglow next to bright white lanterns that might be two times too radiant. But I’m not complaining because it’s quite a sight to see. The large rectangular windows are rimmed in gold with elegant square panes encircling them. The first-timer might have to do a double take on these windows because the view itself leaves much to be desired. Rows of bricks, stacked with remarkable precision and alighted with a blue sort of hue, choke off all sight to the outside world.

I recognize the bartender as Steve something and he gives me one of those knowing head bobs as he walks over to my side of the bar. How’s it going, I ask disinterestedly but with the recommended amount of enthusiasm. He gives me a smile as he sets a rag down on the counter. I haven’t seen you in quite some time, I thought maybe you found another dive bar to hang out in, he says coolly. I laugh and then nod and say something about school, not caring if it is an acceptable excuse or not. What’ll you have, Steve something questions as he continues to clean the bar. I pause for a minute and then order a 7upVodka drink because it tastes good and I am not a terrible fan of alcohol as it is. Still, I respect alcohol’s place in the ordered system and admit that it has its important selling points.

After taking a few sips from my drink, I look around the bar and notice that it is pretty crowded. I guess that makes sense given that it is Saturday night. There are people from all walks of life here for me to observe and judge accordingly. I always have fun drinking and people-watching in bars because the alcohol typically makes them act more like who they actually are and less like who they pretend to be. It’s an interesting phenomenon.

I like sectioning off the bar and making presuppositions. In the left corner near the entrance we have some Riverside tweekers, in town either visiting their girlfriends or waiting for their court appearances, hogging the area with all the old-time video games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. They don’t care much about anything except beating their buddies’ score and scoring more methamphetamine. They are loud, unruly, and a general nuisance. But most people keep their distance because nobody wants to step outside with a guy who has more energy and remorselessness than a pit bull on Ritalin.

The people who have actually come here to drink stay fairly close to the bar, either at the stools themselves or the booths nearby. They keep their hats and other disguises pulled tight over their eyes to discourage anyone else from learning their true identities. Typically speaking these are the neighborhood elementary and high school teachers who come here to reminisce about the old days when they felt like they could do anything. Of course tales of their accomplishments only last so long before they start wondering where their lives went wrong and where their dreams met their untimely deaths. I can answer that question pretty easily but unfortunately they have never asked. It was when they majored in English at the university and took the teaching job with hopes of publishing a novel or going back to graduate school. Although they have terrible, unfulfilled lives, they have mostly accepted it. The younger ones might still be in denial but that’s only because they think that teaching is only a stepping stone job to garner a paycheck while they are on their way to something better. But they’ll learn in time that there is nothing better out there for them. At which point, they will become just as bitter as the older ones.

The smokers congregate on the outdoor patio, and I use the term ‘patio’ loosely because it is not actually a patio. It’s just an outdoor space in between three really tall brick buildings. And sure one can see a couple of stars on a clear night, but it hardly fits the definition of a true patio. The smokers come here to drink but also to suck on Mexican filter tips and giant blunts the size of healthy carrots. The staff usually looks the other way toward the latter group. They sit out there on those makeshift benches and watch the different consistencies of smoke – both tobacco and marijuana – rise in the ambient red glow of the Golden Gopher’s general aura. I’ve watched that smoke float up the sides of the three adjacent buildings in the past, closing in on the ‘patio’ space to the point that could make a normal, well-adjusted person feel heavily claustrophobic, not to mention oxygen-deprived. 

-Not The End But The End For This Particular Forum

**Please suspend your disbelief. Some of the pictures were taken in the Day but should be perceived as if they were taken in the Night.

Monday, July 9, 2012


We walk the streets of downtown Chicago looking for somewhere in particular, a certain establishment that I at one time knew something about. I’ve sort of been there before, once or twice, so I guess I’m kind of leading the rest of us. My companions do not seem overly confident in me or my ability to direct them to our planned destination. Still, they follow right beside me, loyal and trusting despite their internal reservations and I almost have to wonder why. I certainly do not inspire confidence and I am quite sure that I am not currently exuding any measure of charisma. Nevertheless, my companions trust me to take them to the SINGULARITY.

I’ve only actually been to Chicago a handful of times prior to this occasion. Certainly I know my way around the city but I would never profess to be a native. I think my companions only trust me because one time I saved the day by flawlessly directing everyone to Gino’s East. I should mention now, in case anyone is unaware, that Gino’s East has the best pizza in Chicago, and possibly the world.

But back then, back when I was younger and smarter and more globally aware, it was easier to lead a mission like that. Back then, I was at the height of my resourcefulness. I fear I am no longer that same person. Besides, Gino’s East is a pretty easy spot to find, right off Michigan Avenue in the heart of downtown. Any egotistical fool could lead a group of hungry stoners to a pizzeria. It wouldn’t even be worthy of a footnote in the memoirs of my life.

However, the SINGULARITY is different. First of all it’s sort of secret. It’s an elusive, high-end bar and club that is by its nature not plainly visible to the naked eye. Quite the contrary, it is very clandestine and really only a handful of people know where it is and exactly how to get there. And as much as I’d like to fancy myself a part of that inner circle, the fact that we have been walking around and around the blocks for hours now sort of force the realization that I am not an inner circle member. Maybe the bar has moved since I was last here. Maybe it has verged even further underground.

I think about feeding my companions that excuse in order to mitigate my responsibility and ultimate blame in all of this. But then a thought occurs to me. It might even be a repressed memory, I’m not quite sure. I suddenly remember how to get there, I remember something extremely pertinent to the directions and I conclude that it’s really pretty simple after all. So without more, I wave my hand forward and direct my companions down a dark alleyway. This is the right direction, I'm sure of it. There’s a popular Thai spot on the corner. I remember it all now.

My companions seem skeptical to engage and humor me any further in what they have begun to consider a useless charade. I can hardly blame them for their reservations, but this time is different. "I’m sure of this," I promise them all as I command them to follow me, to trust me once more. Eventually they do shrug and finally submit to my lead. After all, it was their idea to come, not mine. They wanted to find the SINGULARITY.

Around the corner and about one hundred meters down the alley, there is this tiny digital photo center that promises a one hour return on all photos emailed, scanned and dropped off via memory stick. I’ve never seen any patrons in this shop. Now I can sort of understand why.  It all makes sense.  It’s a front for something else, something larger and more alluring, something almost magnetic.

Evan holds the shop door open for the rest of us. I think he was raised in a family that taught him chivalry at a young age. I’ve known him for awhile now and he is always very polite, almost sickeningly so. I’m sure he’ll meet a girl one day who really appreciates that kind of thing.

There’s this little shitty sign that reads ‘The SINGULARITY’ upside down hanging on the back wall of the shop. It is obscured from the street by a shelf full of old film canisters. We walk around to the place beyond the sign, in the corner and out of view. There’s a door on the ground, complete with knob and wooden panels. It’s the type of door that if you saw it on a wall you would certainly find nothing strange about it. But sitting on the ground it does appear somewhat peculiar. It kind of reminds me of the entryway to Wonderland. How cool it would be to meet a white rabbit with a top hat and a pocket watch inside!

No one else appears to be around, in the shop or out on the streets nearby. This area doesn’t get a lot of pedestrian traffic because it is far removed from the street. And the alleyway we just traversed to get here looks like the kind of place you might get raped.  Certainly people seek to avoid that kind of situation.  But there is comfort in numbers, at least, that's what they always say.

Seeing as there is no one else around, I whistle shortly to garner the attention of my companions to let them know that it is safe to open the door and descend the stairs. They look over at me, somewhat unconvinced. I nod surreptitiously and instruct them to come over. Mike is mesmerized by the film canisters and Evan is darting his beady eyes all around, looking for something or someone to come upon us. He's always been sort of afraid of confrontation and trouble.  Tegan is the only one who responds to me immediately.  She walks over and nods.

I reach down and pull open the door. It takes some exertion on my part but it is not altogether impossible and finally it opens all the way up. Walla, I remark halfheartedly as a flight of stairs appear below, leading down, down into what I have previously known as the SINGULARITY.

By now Mike and Evan have come up to look and we all sort of breathe silently as we stare down the flight of stairs.  Tegan is reluctant about all of this, I can totally tell. She doesn’t really want to be the first one to venture down the mysterious steps. But someone has to go first. I get to be last because I am the one holding open the door for everyone else. It almost seems as though Tegan resents my position as the door-holder in this regard. I get the feeling that she would trade positions with me in an instant. Maybe she actually resents me for finding the place because now we have to venture inside. We have to.  I’m not exactly sure where her resentment lies. But it certainly lies with me.  Finally Mike submits to being the first one to go down the stairs. Evan goes next and Tegan follows him. Now it’s my turn.

As I close the door and descend the stairs after Tegan, I start to get this sort of uneasy feeling. The stairwell is tight, really tight and it makes me feel incredibly claustrophobic. It’s worse than that time in Vegas after the 2005 New Year when everyone had flooded the streets. I was drowning in a sea of people. And this is even somehow worse than that time back in 2001 when we went to that Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert and everyone was pushing and shoving to get up real close to the band. There was this little Asian girl, not more than five feet tall and she got caught up in the mess and fainted. The security guards had to bring her up on stage to rescue her. It really freaked me out.

But this is somehow worse than both those other incidents put together. And now that I am descending this staircase once more, I can remember hating it. In fact, I pause for a second and think about turning around and going back up to the digital camera shop, leaving my companions in the SINGULARITY to exist or end on their own time. I think about hanging out in the store above us and just waiting, waiting, waiting. I think about maybe walking over and getting some Thai food. I think about a lot of things.  I think about how I really hate the idea of climbing down these stairs.

Somehow, despite all my reservations, I muster up the internal strength to keep going, to keep descending. It’s a descent into madness but I keep at it nonetheless. Once I reach the bottom step, I can finally look out and see the venue in all its glory. I’m not terribly impressed and I don’t remember being too impressed last time either. It has the look and feel of an electronic bar, or E-bar if you will. It sort of reminds me of how I once pictured the Drone, except the clientele are mostly human here. But the metallic tang of nervous tension is all over this place. It’s very Drone-like; I’ve always had sort of a bad feeling around the SINGULARITY.

Though I’ve been here at least once before and still cannot say with any sort of persuasiveness that I even like this place a little, I have returned once again to either prove myself right or prove myself wrong. I haven’t quite decided which one it will be yet. I seem to always return here with some kind of naïve ignorance, thinking that maybe this time will be different or better or something. I’m not sure what I believe at this point. Maybe once I get a drink I will feel better about the prospect.

Evan has claimed us a table and Mike and Tegan are up at the bar trying to get us some drinks. I saunter over to Evan and take a seat beside him. We have all sort of come here under the auspices of curiosity and not really to order a bunch of drinks and get blasted. We are kind of more just trying to be scientists testing a hypothesis. For my companions in particular, they want to see if all the hype this place gets is actually founded. And for me, well, I just want the experience to be better than it was the times before. I want it to be different in a good way.

Mike and Tegan return with drinks. Mike has brought Evan a beer and Tegan has brought me this kind of red drink that is the wrong color to be cranberry vodka. I’m puzzled at first and I am sure my face depicts it. "I asked the bartender for Shirley Temples but when he turned around to cash me out, I grabbed the closest bottle of liquor and poured a bunch into each cup," Tegan reveals to me with a cunning smile as she hands over my drink. That settles my confusion. I smile appreciatively and then ask her what she ended up spiking our drinks with. "Rum," she responds with a shrug. She acts as though that should have been obvious.

I take a sip and sure enough I can taste the rum. It’s heavy in the glass and I can feel the warmness that it offers almost instantaneously as it runs down my throat. I guess if I had taken my sip earlier it would have obviated the need to inquire. But I like to bother Tegan with unnecessary requests every now and then; she is my younger sister after all. If I don’t bother her, then who will?

"It’s a very interesting choice but I would definitely have preferred vodka to rum," I inform her childishly. She says something about beggars can’t be choosers. I disagree with the maxim but I let the issue drop nevertheless. Tegan claims to really like her new accidental concoction and she starts going on and on about how she invented the next new fad drink. "Everyone is going to be asking for this now," she asserts to us, seeming very self-assured in her declaration. She starts thinking about what she should call it. But I’m a little more skeptical, in fact I don’t believe her at all. And the guys, well they pretty much disregard her claims as the silly babblings of a drunk girl even though none of us have actually gotten close to that point just yet. Still, Tegan is pretty fucking insistent.

"She’s right, it’s an amazing drink," this guy states loudly from the table right next to us. I look him over quickly. He looks like the kind of guy that had at one time been really good looking. But time, drinking, drugs and sex have not been kind to him. Now he has more of a smarmy look than anything else. But he still thinks he is rather attractive, at least based on how he carries himself. I’m not sure how he could be so deluded. He must be going on forty-five and his hair is long and really greasy. That is never a good look on a man.

He leans over and speaks to Tegan, who has the unfortunate position of sitting closest to him. He is speaking softly and with an air of misplaced confidence. I can tell that he is trying to get lucky tonight and he thinks that Tegan could be the right target. But she’s going to shoot him down so fast, it will almost be painful to watch. This guy won’t give the rejection much thought though. He’s the type of guy who is wholly unrestrictive when it comes to casting his net. He will go after anything female and when Tegan shoots him down, he will lick his wounds and then go onto the next one that he considers prey. He probably won't even give it a second thought.

It’s almost kind of funny how much self-assurance he possesses. I mean obviously Tegan and I are sitting here with two guys, who aren’t necessarily our boyfriends but Mr. Smarmy has no way of knowing that. To the outsider we must look like we are on a double date, and this guy is willingly intruding upon it. I should give him props for being so fearless. He’s trying to seal some kind of deal regardless of the situation. That does take a certain set of balls, I’ll give him that. Though he’s sorely mistaken I can respect his level of dedication in the endeavor. Of course I wish it was directed at another table.

Tegan smiles back at him in order to be polite. She really doesn’t like upsetting guys who hit on her. I’m not sure why but she seems to always offer her phone number even though she is in an exclusive relationship and has absolutely no interest in the specimen. I think she feels like she must do so in order to maintain her niceness. I’m not afflicted with such responsibility. I don’t care at all if I hurt someone’s feelings; after all, rejection is a part of life.

He starts going on about this place now that he realizes he has a willing listener in Tegan. She’s giving him the time of day for some reasons and he’s talking, talking, talking. He’s saying things like how cool and exclusive this place is. He’s asserting that not just anyone could get in. Tegan is allowing him to think that he is engaging in a mutually pleasant conversation for the time being. She is not divulging her status as taken quite yet and she’s not showing off her ring finger either. But I get the feeling that it’s more because she doesn’t want to be rude than because she is interested in this guy. She is clearly not interested at all. Of course this guy doesn’t seem to pick up on those very obvious cues.

"I’ve already had three White Russians and I’m really struggling through this fourth one," the guy informs Tegan smoothly and without even the hint of a slur. I’m either super-impressed with his composure or I suspect that he is a liar. He’s holding it together way too well to have had three and a half White Russians unless something else is going on. He must be playing some kind of game.

"This is for you," he says as he reaches over and offers Tegan the rest of his fourth White Russian. I crinkle my eyebrows in confusion and Tegan tries to politely decline. Obviously it is an ill-advised idea to take a drink from a stranger, especially a stranger like this particular fellow. He’s a smarmy little shit by the looks of him and he is certainly up to no good. I wouldn’t be surprised if the White Russian had a White Roofie or two in it.

But even after Tegan’s polite declination, Mr. Smarmy insists that we take his drink so that it doesn’t go to waste. Tegan waves her hand to exhibit her total and complete non-interest. Again, she is trying to get out of this by being somewhat polite. I can easily tell that he isn’t being deterred, so I decide that it is time for me to reject him on Tegan’s behalf and in no uncertain terms. Tegan is being too uncertain. It’s a fault of hers. She has an iron-clad excuse, she’s with someone else, and yet still she wants to be nice and polite to this moron.

I just don’t really get it. But that’s Tegan; she’s always been too nice, except for when she was a child. Then she was mean. Our mother has always speculated that Tegan was aggressive as a child because of this medication our mother took while pregnant with Tegan. She insists that it made Tegan an unruly child but that it has since worn off in her adulthood. I’m not sure if our mother is correct in that assessment but she will nevertheless swear by it.

"We don’t want your drink," I tell Mr. Smarmy plainly. He tries to turn to Tegan for confirmation but I simply repeat the rejection of him and his drink. Then I advise him to take off. I know I have no real authority to make that kind of demand upon him but I make it nonetheless. Mike and Evan back me up and Tegan just smiles sheepishly. She’s still trying to be nice.

But it seems as though Mr. Smarmy finally gets the hint. After the rejection of his drink and thereby him as well, he kind of gets up and slinks away. He tries to make it sort of casual, like he was planning on getting up and leaving anyway, but I can tell that he’s pretty upset about the rejection. Honestly he should realize that his time for attracting younger women is pretty much over. Now he just needs to settle for someone older, kind of desperate and not altogether ugly. He just needs to go back on the prowl for someone easier to catch, someone in his own league.

As we drink, and by ‘we’ I mean the four of us, we look out at the surroundings of this E-Bar. The music isn’t necessarily too loud but it is definitely loud enough to deter us from engaging in much casual conversation with each other. So we basically just sit and look around. This place is sort of cool I suppose, if you are into that whole digital revolution thing. In my opinion they are trying a little too hard. But it’s definitely an E-bar, complete with shiny gadgets and colorful lights. And everything is silver; there’s a silver hue to the room, to the tables, to the walls and to the floor. The ceiling is high and almost colorless to my searching eyes. I don’t know what to call it, mostly because I can’t quite make out a color. There’s this huge light in the middle of the room, sort of in front of the bar, and it’s blocking out all color. And the light is not even on; in fact, I’ve never been here when it was on.

The wall behind the bar resembles a circuit board or something. There are all these flashing red and green lights. I feel like the design of this place was created in order to make the customer think that they were inside of a giant supercomputer. It’s pretty cool all around but I could see how it might lead certain patrons to having an epilepsy attack or an ocular stroke or something else. The flashing lights are very obtrusive and commanding.

Evan raises his hand to summon a waitress so that he can order another drink. What is kind of strange about this place is that the wait staff is not really human. And I’m not declaring that figuratively. They are all clearly machines, high-class but still machines. First, they don’t quite look human, even though they possess the right features – eyes, nose, mouth, ears – and they all have the right extremities coming from all of the right places and all that. But they are not human and I think that most people would be able to tell.

The one very noticeable difference between them and ordinary biological humans is the USB port. It’s located in the backs of each and every one of their necks. Though some try to hide it with their hair and perhaps black Celtic tattoos, they are really quite obvious. I suppose they have these ports in order to share and receive information. I surmise that they plug themselves into computer ports in order to update and transmit valuable intelligence that aids them in their impersonation of us biological creatures.

Due to their nature and their obvious sexuality, especially that hot bartender over there with the muscular stature, I casually begin to wonder what would happen if one of these machines ever came in contact with and tried to mate with a real human. Would it be weird or completely satisfying? Would there be a threat of pregnancy and if so, what would the byproduct be? How would that byproduct be raised? What code would the byproduct subscribe to?

There is too much going on around my alcohol-addled head. Questions occur to me but the answers are selfishly unapparent.  Tegan has since brought two more of her Shirley Temple Rum drinks our way and I have managed to polish off both of them with impressive speed. Knowing not what else to do, I excuse myself to go to the restroom, not because I necessarily have to use it, but more because I feel like it might be important to stand up and walk around a bit. One can become very intoxicated just sitting around and not really exercising the muscles.

There are colorful flashing and running lights all around the mirrors in the lady’s bathroom and everything around me is automatic. I’m in some kind of futuristic playground. I look in the mirror behind me and note that the walls that should segregate one facility from the next are not immediately apparent. There's just a line of toilets with no walls between them and I start to think about that time in Croatia when Tegan and I went to that rest stop somewhere between Dubrovnik and Split.  There was nothing, no toilet, no facility whatsoever, just a hole in the ground.  It was alarming. But there were doors and privacy walls.  You had to pee into a hole but at least you could do it in private.  That was nice.

I walk up to one of the toilets lining the back wall of the lady's restroom, just to see if something will happen.  I expect that something may happen.  It does.  The privacy walls, the ones this place was previously lacking, literally shoot out of a space in the ground.  The weight of my body must have tapped a trigger. I gasp as they fly up and land into place all around me, effectively shielding me from the outside. That's impressive!

Whoa, I say out loud, not caring who hears me. Then I nod to myself, displaying quiet admiration for the technology. There is something to be said for showmanship. The last time I came here, I must not have used the restrooms at all because I would certainly have remembered this. I’m sort of at a loss for words because I’ve never been in a bathroom stall this technologically forward before. It is so intricately designed; it amazes me on first an intellectual level and then on a visceral level.  I'm going to have to write about this later.

But I get over the novelty pretty fast and sit down to do my business. When I flush the toilet, the privacy walls quickly fall down, into the ground from once they came. The flush must be the cue for the doors to revert back into the floor. I nod with intrigue and approval and then I walk over to the sink to wash up. I have no doubt that the sink will be just as impressive as the toilets. This bar has certainly embraced the world of expanding technology.  Globalization has nothing on this place!

The water from the sink turns on automatically and spouts out of the faucet. The soap likewise dispenses without command, plopping a dollop into my hand as soon as I place my palm underneath the contraption. I’ve totally seen this automatic soap and water technology before, and it’s not novel by any means, but I will say that the disappearing doors and walls around the toilets are a brand new experience for me. While I can envision certain flaws with the system, it is definitely pretty interesting technology. And I really do like the convenience of not having to make the effort to turn the water on and beg for the soap. It’s nice that this restroom just knows my needs.

When I finally walk back out to the bar, I don't immediately see my friends. In fact, I don't see any of the patrons that were previously lounging around here. This is weird. I don't know exactly what to think.  I sort of feel like the victim of a surprise party gag or some other kind of prank.  Of course it's not my birthday and I'm not a viable target for trickery so that can't be what is going on here.  Then I notice that all of the waitresses and bartenders and other staff are acting kind of strangely; they all have their USB ports on the backs of their necks completely exposed.  They were hiding them surreptitiously before, so that the patrons would not be able to guess what they truly are.  But they seem oddly unconcerned about pride now.  I am becoming a little frightful as a result. What the hell could be going on here?

I swallow hard, getting an indescribably bad feeling starting to settle in the pit of my stomach.  Everything is different, ominous and foreboding.  I'm not comfortable, not at all.  And to make matters worse, that central light, the one that I have never seen on at any time that I have ever been here, is blasting shiny and bright at the moment. It’s not just bright, it’s devilishly bright. It’s like a gaseous star, too glaringly brilliant to look straight upon.

The brightness is almost pulsating, getting stronger, stronger, stronger. It is essentially blinding me now. I must turn away and cower a little to protect myself from being disintegrated. All of the staff, the waitresses, the bartenders and the hostesses, look somewhat frightened by the light, like they are unsure or unclear what to do and how to act. They look as though they are about to be snuffed out, and they know it.  Those protruding holes that resemble a computer's USB port located on the ceiling near the light are beckoning softly to them.  It's plainly obvious what is about to happen.  They are going to be plugged in; they are going to be transfixed and then transferred.

But maybe this is all speculation. Of course I could also be right about everything I have ever speculated.  Wouldn't that be something?  The radioactively brilliant light appears to be molesting the computerized humanoids, causing them to involuntarily shriek with terror at the very prospect of being sucked into that light.  They all seem to have the same painted face of grimness, almost as if they can actually fathom what is about to happen to them and can hardly believe it will be their ultimate fate. The thought of them frightened makes me cringe a little. If these machines, which by virtue of what they are cannot truly experience human emotions, are nevertheless displaying an insanely terrific fright, I might be in some really unspeakable trouble here.  In fact, I am starting to fear for my safety, for my well-being, for my life.

Upon seeing no other truly biological humans left in the bar, and after having my inquiry to the fact ignored by all of the humanoids actually willing to stop their frenzied behavior long enough to converse with me, I become convinced that some kind of announcement was made, one that I missed by virtue of being in the restroom. The human patrons in the bar must have been asked to leave the establishment. Only I had the misfortune of being skipped in the mass exodus and round-up. So now I am stuck somewhere I certainly do not belong, a ghastly purgatory that I did not earn.  Somehow, I slipped through the cracks into a world I was not meant for, a world I am hardly suited for, and I have the unnerving feeling that I am about to pay dearly for this mistake of luck.

What is going to happen to me? What will this bright, almost radioactive light do to me, to my flesh, to my bones, to my brain? I'm sure it will be ugly, something unparalleled by even the worst atrocities in history. I watch as some of the humanoid staff gets sucked up toward the light, floating slowly at first and then much faster, like slaves to a magnetic force field that they can hardly control. Oh shit I’m fucked. This is demise; this is the end. How could this happen to me?

I feel my feet starting to slip from underneath me.  It is subtle at first but I can feel myself being gingerly dragged toward the center of the room, toward the area right beneath the light. I’m being pulled, like matter to a black hole. I'm certain I won't survive this. I will be ripped to shreds, to millions of unidentifiable pieces, forever forgotten among the world's most valiant knowers of young death.  This shouldn't be my fate but somehow it is.  Not a single part of me will go on existing after this. I’m done for.

The humanoid machines shriek as they get sucked into the light. As humanoids, they don't even have the capacity for fright and yet they are somehow frightened. If that isn’t a bone-chilling revelation then I don’t know what is. How could this phenomenon strike fear in the hearts of things that by definition have no hearts? Nothing will save me from this brutal end. Nothing.

Under the incandescence of the overhead light, as I am grabbing hold of anything solid that might stop my movement toward the light, I start to get this distinct feeling of doom. I am doomed to die in this undignified manner. And where are my companions? Why have they not come down for me? Why have they not alerted someone to my presence down here, to the fact that I have been trapped in this digital hellhole? I shake my head with a mixture of dismay and resentment.  Really, they couldn't have said something to someone?

As more and more humanoids are dragged past me toward the light, I finally begin to realize what is happening to them. The light is pulling them in, consuming them by the neck, by the chain of their USB ports.  But they are not being disintegrated by the brilliance of this black hole sun as I had originally surmised. They are not dying in the physical sense. Rather they are being reborn.

On the outskirts of the light I can make out subtle indentations, what I come to realize are USB sticks. Each humanoid is being drawn and plugged into one of these sticks with involuntary preciseness. Their information is being shared with some motherboard. But then what of the light? Why must it be so unruly, so brilliant, so incandescent? And why, if it is in fact drawing in humanoids for the purposes of transferring information, would it want to drag me, a lowly human being, into its clutches? I have no information to share, at least not the magnetic hard drive kind. Still, the light is trying to consume me. It is impervious to logic.

I’m fighting against the light and persisting only enough to say that I haven’t lost the battle yet. The humanoids have all been drawn in; I’m really the only thing left behind. But the light is not satisfied. I can tell it still wants me. It’s dragging me, a clear sign of its overpowering desire. But I’m not at all interested in being sucked into its vortex of death; I’m not at all interested in being devoured and cleaned of intelligence.

The light is trying to blind me, hide what is going on behind its brilliance. Super strong neodymium rare Earth magnets are opening up the humanoids and rubbing their drives clean in rapid concentric circles. I recognize the task they are performing as the deletion of internal memory. They live in a Fahrenheit 451 world that I almost cannot imagine truly exists in this day and age. But here I am, moments away from being sucked into the very same claws myself, erased like the memory of a humanoid. It’s almost surreal.

The machines are being oppressed; they are modern day martyrs and we have lived none the wiser to their plight for all these years. But now, with my death so very close, I can see the error of our ways. We haven’t paid attention; we’ve allowed ourselves to remain blissfully ignorant to what is going on around us. If I survive this, if by some miracle I get out of this without being sucked up into the light like a piece of lowly matter, without being destroyed by the SINGULARITY itself, I swear to the nothing that I believe in that I will get their story out. I will make this atrocity known to the world. I have become the sole witness to this injustice and if given the opportunity, I will recount it as many times as needed. I will be that noble witness.  I will educate the masses.

But it doesn’t look like I will be granted the chance to tell their story, or my own for that matter. The light is fierce and unrelenting. I’m being pulled like a moth to a flame, a compulsion I hardly understand and wouldn’t know how to go about resisting. My body may want to be consumed but my mind sure doesn’t. So I continue to grab onto solid objects that I can reach, holding tight, clawing things as the light drags me nearer and closer. I can feel the heat emanating from the light; I can hear the static buzzing loudly in my ears. I’ll burn up long before I can find the words to reiterate that this is not what I ever wanted.

Now the static and brightness has become so deafening and brilliant that I can hear and see nothing else. This is the end and I can feel no comfort, see no tunnel and experience no part of my life flashing before my eyes. I never bought into the cookie-cutter vision of death propagated by the media, romanticized in literature and glorified in the cinema, but I did sort of hold onto a somewhat childish hope that maybe there was something to experience at the moment of death, something beyond just fear and denial. It seems as though everyone has been wrong. It seems that our worst fear as humans has actually been true all along. This bleakness is what awaits us. We are nothing; we are not special at all.

As the moment right before consumption occurs, the point where matter is so dense that nothing, not even light may escape, I think only about the misplaced irony of this situation. We searched all night long for this place, for this dark and unknown establishment that calls itself The SINGULARITY, and now I have found it. Not the bar but an actual singularity, a place where even time is wholly and completely devoured.  This ending will not be happy, not for me.

Although I am currently disintegrating into nothingness, my matter being ripped apart and consumed of light and darkness alike, my thoughts turn not to my life, or to my past, or to my present, or even to my stolen future. My thoughts turn to the befitting name of this place, The SINGULARITY. It was trying to tell us all along what it was, a black hole, the dearth of light and life, but we didn’t listen. We thought it was just a clever name, something a marketing department came up with somehow, but it is so much more than that. I see it now. The SINGULARITY is an accurate description of the horror that goes on here, under our noses in one of America’s biggest cities.

All night we searched for the SINGULARITY, all night we tried to find the right worm hole that would lead us to the right steps that would lead us down to this superimposed, highly coveted bar slash club in this famous city by the lake.  But in the end it was not me who found the SINGULARITY, but the SINGULARITY that found me.

This is the End.