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'Forward¨ Spring 2009
There are lessons to be learned in paths.
I began my education not in elementary school. or middle school. high school. or even
college. It was in Minneapolis. when I had time alone to isolate myselI that I began to learn
about my identity. my direction. and my belieIs.
One path I took taught me many lessons. As I reIlect upon it. I realize that I have a
deIensive nature and that I question the intentions oI others (especially strangers). This caused
me to cut myselI oII Irom the world around me. and that it is only through accepting othersby
making the world not so strangethat I would no longer have to be deIensive. and instead be
able to work with and within the world. Even those who might seek to harm me would exist
within my system. because I would be working with them rather than against them.
To put it another way. it is hard to engage in combat iI one never enters the battleIield.
Looking back. I realize I was overly deIensive. seeking to walk through what I saw as a
battleIield in a protected bubble. In martial arts. one can see the world as unusable to its core or
as a Iluid. malleable realm oI which one is a part. One works with and is worked upon; one
gives kindness and receives it in turn (sometimes); one causes harm and is done so in kind.
The stories that Iollow document a path I Iollowed daily that begins in Downtown
Minneapolis. beginning at 12
Street South and Nicollet Avenue. through a maze-like apartment
complex. into Loring Park. across the Ireeway. and ending at my then residence on Franklin and
Along this path. I learned new ways to interact with people. especially strangers and
homeless people in particular. and acquired new paradigms through which to view the world. I
taught myselI principles and experienced the world around me in a new way every time I
Iollowed this path. During many evenings that I leIt work I would encounter some stranger and
learn a new lesson. It is hard to tell stories about the landscape itselI without telling oI the
people who inhabit them. so these tales Iocus on the things that happened to me along this path
Irom beginning to end.
Each story is told diIIerently. some as Iirst-person narratives. and others as inIormal third
person tales. Time tenses vary depending on the perspective with which I recalled the story. I
will tell stories about mistakes. shortcomings. Iears. and lessons that I have experienced while on
this path Irom work. while on the path. and in my home. I have grown Irom Iear. to
deIensiveness. to some Iorm oI liberation. I grew outward on this path. and I acknowledge and
am grateIul Ior it.
'Fountain Man¨ Summer 2001
I`m wearing thick. hard. black bootsthe kind that they give to soldiers who operate
army tanks. That`s why they`re called Tanker boots. They have these leather straps that start at
the Iront and wrap around the back. and come back around to the Iront. They buckle down right
on the instep. The tongue always slips out whenever they`re on during a walk and they`re not
very comIortable. and it`s honestly a little warm to be wearing them right now.
I`m on Nicollet and 12
in Downtown. and the cigarette in my hand stings my nostrils.
I`m almost done with it. and I`m already thinking oI iI I should iust pull another one out and light
it up and toss this one into the upcoming Iountain. The Iountain where I`ll turn right to get closer
I`m about to Ilick my cigarette into the Iountain that`s right next to me now. on my leIt.
It`s red bricked and there`s a man sitting on it with a white plastic bag emblazoned with a visual
echo: 'Thank you!¨ it reads. reminding the man that some store was grateIul Ior his purchase oI
soda and chips.
The man sees that I`m trying to keep Irom making eye contact with him. I squeeze the
last Iew sips oI smoke out oI the Iilter between my Iingers and pinch. then Ilick it into the
Iountain. The Iountain that`s not running. that`s bone dry and scorched with cigarette butts.
'Hey. brother.¨ the man says. 'you bum a square?¨
I`m a little conIused Ior a second the way I always am. I couldn`t hear him right. so it
sounded like he was mumbling. Plus. I usually don`t remember what square means until I ask
the inevitable: 'Huh?¨
He mimes putting a cigarette to his mouth with dark. calloused Iingers. His nails are
grimy and thick and short. 'A cigarette. man?¨
'Ah. yeah yeah.¨ I say. I`ve got green wool army pants on. and they`re itchy and hot. It
will probably be a Iew years until I start to wonder why I`m dressed this way in this weather. I
reach into my pocket and pull out a pack oI Parliaments (P-Funks. I call them) and give him one.
He touches his tongue to the hollow part oI the white Iilter Iirst. then wraps his dry lips
around it. He lights it. taking care to protect the Ilame Irom the wind and his gray and brown
beard Irom the Ilame. He thanks me and I move on. up the brick hill past the dried out Iountain
and the lit up old man.
'Code Canyon¨ Winter 2002
His scarI is wrapped around his Iace. covering his nose and mouth. Each breath in Iills
him with cold air. each exhalation expels vapor and tiny icicles cling to the Iabric bound to his
head. He moves his glasses so they are no longer under his headphones; they hurt when pressed
against the space between his ears and his scalp. and he neurotically readiusts them every Iew
A song bumps in his ears. It tells him. he can do anything; his imagination gives him
wings. He doesn`t hear the words to the song. He`s singing another tune in his head and he`s
working on memorization.
He keeps his hands clenched in his pea coat; he does not believe in gloves. That. he tells
himselI. is why God made pockets.
Second: Loyalty. Honor.
The words spin through his head. The maze oI buildings beIore him houses huge trees. a
playground Ior squirrels. Next to a square block oI bushes. buried in snow. a sandbox decorated
with a metal swingset and plastic slide. The slide is Irozen over. glistening in the starlight.
Third: Loyalty. Honor. Courage.
His mind pauses. Does he remember the words? He repeats them again; Loyalty.
Honor.what was the third?
To his leIt. between two buildings. two women are smoking. Behind them. steam rises
up Irom cars driving under a nearby aqueduct. their wheels splashing like static on a television
with nothing to play.
He sticks to these words: Loyalty. Honor. Courage. He`s not done memorizing yet. He
adds Benevolence to the list.
His right shoulder Ieels especially sensitive against the soIt silk lining his coat. Even
with two shirts and a wad oI gauze. he still Ieels Iabric sweeping across his skin`s surIace. He
knows why he is remembering these words. He strains Ior a second. conIused: What does
Benevolence even mean?
He skips to the next word. He Iorgets the IiIth word. so he pulls a business card-sized
slip oI paper Irom his pocket and reads. ensuring he knows the Iirst Iour words beIore
proceeding to the next.
The IiIth is easy enough. but he sticks with the Iourth: Benevolence. Ill have to look
that up later. When I get back to work. he tells himselI. and Iinally allows himselI to move on to
He contemplates how these might complement each other. No one deIines the next; but
one cannot properly exist without the next. even iI the term is hard to grasp.
Loud. conIident words shout into his ears: 'Dear mama don`t cry. your baby boy`s doin`
The darkness oI Tuesday night envelops him. He allows the cold starry night to envelop
him. He is alone. he realizes. but saIe. There are no shadowy Iigures lurking around the corners.
no Ireaks or Iiends on patrol Ior their next victims.
Walking towards him. a woman with a beagle on a leash picks up her pace and stares at
the ground. She has been trained with a routine: Dont make eve contact and nobodv will harass
vou. her actions say. Even so. the man looks at her. smiling. A sign oI peace and Iriendliness.
not a signal Ior his Iriends to assist him in an anonymous serial assault. She continues speeding
by. and once she has passed her eyes look back upwards. parallel to the ground. and she slows
He wonders iI he is really that intimidating. and he repeats Loyalty. Honor. Courage.
Benevolence. Justice in his head again.
The canyon walls are homogenous buildings. each apartment diIIering only by the
Iamilies residing in them. A white Christmas tree against a patio window three levels up is still a
Christmas tree. even when compared to the tiny green spruce on the Iirst Iloor. It is late. aIter
ten. but the lights are still running on the tree. Wasting time. energy. money. unless the
decorations are Ior him and other passersby.
Thev decorated for us. he thinks. How kind' How considerate. How.benevolent?
Having grasped a poor simulacrum oI that word`s deIinition. he moves on to number six.
exposing his card-holding hand to Irigid air. Repeat: Loyalty. Honor. Courage. Benevolence.
His lips rasp. That woman. I should read this list to that woman. Politeness'
A loud roar soars overhead. He looks Ior the source oI the monstrous noise. a deep
pitched howl. and sees nothing. He looks around. away Irom the source oI the sound. and sees a
dark blue crux crossing the sky. passing under sparkling stars while red lights on its edges blink.
He stops walking and stops strategizing. He promises himselI that tonight he will stop
thinking these things and begin writing them. keeping them out oI his head so he can Iocus on
these seven rules.
Loyalty. Honor. Courage. Benevolence (he pulls out the card iust to be sure he`s on track.
but puts it away aIter the Iourth word). Justice. Politeness. Veracity.
Veracity. In his head. it coniures the image oI Batman. MacGuyver. Versatility; that`s the
word he was thinking oI. Is veracity interchangeable. he wonders. with versatility? Or
He reaches the end oI the artiIicial canyon. Paths intertwine. braided together erratically
but Iollowing one set direction: down and out. In parts. the paths spiral inward towards
themselves beIore Iinally releasing out and away. elsewhere steep sets oI stairs seek to Iorce
travelers to plummet headIirst into the street below.
At the edge. beIore the park and the pond and the cages and bridges come into sight. a
man sits on the bottom step oI the stone staircase. He does not look up. does not ask Ior money
or change. or a cigarette. or demand attention. His clothing is heavy. his coat thick like the man
passing him by.
The younger oI the two. his headphones still pressed tightly against his ears. expects the
man to ask something oI him. He does not. So the young man simply looks down. turns around.
and their eyes meet. He smiles. The older man. sitting. smiles back and nods. The younger man
returns himselI on his path. and continues repeating: Loyalty. Honor. Courage. Benevolence.
Justice. Politeness. Veracity; each Iootstep lending a beat in the rhythm that reminds him to
remember those words. though he does not yet know their meaning.
'Bridges and Cages (Loring Park A)¨ Winter 2003
Loring Park is green and lush with iron cages scattered throughout the well tended lawn.
The land between two channelled ponds. clean and lined with all manner oI water Iowl. are
connected via a small mixed metal and wood bridge. In the deep heart oI winter one could saIely
pass underneath it on the ice. Even iI a traveler`s weight were to push him through the surIace.
the water was only a Iew Ieet deep. and thus the risk oI drowning low. Hypothermia. well. that
would another problem altogether.
Tennis cages enclose players Irom passersby. protecting strollers Irom Ilying rubber balls.
but the players are not kept saIe Irom calls Irom raggedy men and women asking. 'Excuse me. I
iust need a dollar to catch the bus.¨ On the other halI. cages serve as a socialization area. with
benches and cold concrete Iloors blackened and grayed by cigarette ash and wads oI old dirty
The bridge connects one halI oI the park to another. Cages enclose people Irom each
The cages protect. In winter. when police have raided every hidden place in every nook
and cranny in the city. the people come here to rest. to sleep and be saIe. Hidden in plain sight.
they are saIe because this place is oII limits now when it is dark. There is low risk Ior assault or
rape or murder or theIt. because they claim this place as their own. They are saIe behind bars.
The bridge is a meeting place. a culmination oI conIlict. A man with headphones and a
soIt. black wool coat. complaining silently oI how cold his Ieet are and asking why he was
Ioolishly not wearing boots on a cold winter day like this. would look up Irom his darkening toe
tips and see a man hobbling towards him. Nervous. he would brush his nose oII and adiust his
Stranger danger. his mind would tell him. He would Iinger a cold sliver oI metal in his
pocket. remembering why he carries a weapon with him when he walks through this place so
He could have taken two other paths. long roads around either oI the connected ponds.
but he chose the bridge. He would have Iorgotten to look up. Why. he would ask himselI. did he
Iorget to look up?
Closer. He would notice how the man is looking down. Iocusing on the connection oI the
metal beams oI the bridge linked to the wooden Iloorboards. trying to avoid the raising conIlict
invasion oI his territory. his saIety zone.
Feet apart. the two would cross paths. The one with headphones. thinking to himselI that
he will be the better oI the two and make eye contact and maybe nod. does so with a Iorced
smile. The other. keeping his gaze low. would Iinger the Iringes oI his brown coat and watch his
Iooting: his concern lies with slipping and Ialling on the wet ice on the bridge.
BrieIly connected. the two are now apart. in their own spheres. The intersection
complete. they return to their respective cages.
'Threat oI TheIt (Loring Park B)¨ Summer 2002
The paths in Loring Park are not good Ior bikes. especially racing bikes. The paved parts
are narrow. and people walk at least two abreast. Iilling the width oI the road. Bikers who call
out 'On your leIt!¨ are oIten ignored. or walkers choose to make compromise. moving closer
together but not taking on a single-Iile Iormation. Sometimes two bikes meet. Other times a
biker would swerve onto the grass. causing a wipeout. tossing them back to the path and tearing
skin and muscle on the pavement and little pebbles lining the edge oI the walkway. Passersby
continue: the biking realm is not their realm.
I was biking across the Loring Park bridge. I had iust Iixed up my bike. an old 80`s
Raleigh SportiI racing bike that I would continue to pay to have Iixed Ior the next nine years so
that it would continue to be rideable.
I was speeding to work towards downtown Ior reasons I cannot recall. It was hot and I
was wearing my Iavorite shirt. a piece oI clothing now torn to shreds but which I still possess
and consider sacred Ior a number oI reasons. It was starting to show spots oI black in light oI my
sweat soaking through its gray Iabric. My black Carhartt pants showed no visible signs oI the
summer`s heat. though I recall them having a collective odor oI mariiuana and cigarettes and
sweat and coIIee that I had ceased to notice.
A Iloral maze grew on the opposite side oI the bridge; the side towards which I was
destined. A garden oI weeds and trees and bushes and Ilowers. it appeared out oI control but was
in Iact excessively manipulated by gardeners and Iilled with hidden walkways and eddies oI
illicit behavior. There was no direct route through the thing. One was Iorced to either travel in a
halI-circle or take a sequence oI many sharp turns to penetrate it.
BeIore this maze stood a group oI men. menacingly standing with the apparent intent oI
physically or emotionally coercing me into providing them money. I stood high on my bike.
pushing my butt into the air and bending my right leg Iorward so that I would be ready to
accelerate quickly past them iI the moment arose.
Laughter erupted among the men. One oI them looked at me. holding a cigarette near his
mouth while he examined my vehicle during my approach. 'That`s a nice bike you got there.
man.¨ he said.
'Thanks.¨ I said as I drew nearer.
'We might have to take it Irom you. know what I`m sayin`?¨
The man took a step towards me and I took a sharp turn right around them. I remember
thinking. 'Holy Iuck. I'm going to Iall oII and they're going to kick the shit out oI me and take
my bike and my money and do whatever else. I'm going to Iall and I'm going to lose a lot.¨ But
I did not Iall. II his intent was truly to take my bike. I thought. he should have gone to where I
was going to be. not where I was.
I took the nearest hard. sharp path to the right. towards the tennis and basketball courts.
To saIety. where I would be in the clear.
'Church Goin` Boys¨ Summer 2003
I never understood how Minneapolis. this epitome oI a Minnesota city. could be so
searing hot in the summer. Maybe we expect it to be so cold all the time that we dress warm. and
so when it`s hot we Ieel reallv hot because we`re not ready Ior blazing hot weather.
The smell oI hot pavement Iills my nostrils. Keane and I are nearly back in Uptown. on
Lyndale at an intersection iust past the shade oI the Interstate 94 overpass. There. members oI
the Homeless Worker`s Union hold up signs. keeping cool as they stand somberly. the text
scrawled on their signs reading. 'Passin thru. got robed. need $$ Ior Iood and bus. God blees.¨
Drivers stop with the AC blasting in their Iaces while they wait patiently to pass the intersection.
and they Iear these men and women.
Keane actively approaches and speaks to them. He oIIers them cigarettes when they ask.
He has no cash. so he can give them nothing more. He tells them to keep cool and wonders
aloud why they wear so many layers oI clothing when it`s so hot out. I explain that it probably
gets pretty cold out at night and they can`t aIIord to carry around blankets and sleeping bags. He
nods and says. 'Ah. yeah.¨
Ahead. a man wearing a brown coat sits on a brick enclosure surrounding some dead
Ioliage that is meant to decorate the Super America station to which it belongs. He is sweating.
his stink driIting towards us as soon as we set Ioot on the sidewalk near him. II the scent oI
slow. creeping death had a smell. it was made maniIest by this man's repugnant odor.
His eyes lock with ours. We assume he will ask us Ior money or cigarettes. Based on all
oI our past experiences. this absolutely must be the case.
'Hey brotha.¨ the man says to me. extending his dark leathery hand to mine. I do not
shake it. 'Man. hey. can you spare a square?¨
'Yeah.¨ I tell him. 'sure.¨ I search my pocketsmy back leIt then my Iront twoand
iust as I get ahold oI them. I see that Keane was prepared well in advance: He must have already
had his Iingers on a Parliament as we were approaching him. anticipating the request. He
extends the coIIin stick to the beggar.
'Hey. thanks man.¨
Keane smiles. 'You`re quite welcome.¨ Once again. I can`t believe that he`s the kind oI
person who speaks like that: always Iormal. always business-like.
BeIore we leave. the man stops us with a question. picking up on our charitableness:
'Thanks. you two. I bet you`re real church goin` boys. aint`cha?¨
We are not. Keane. raised a Catholic and haunted by ghosts oI perpetual shame and
dogmatic symbolism that Iollow him and make watching Iilms like The Exorcist more terriIying
than they would be to most Americans. does not go to church. I am not sure iI he has been to any
sort oI mass since beIore we met. I. on the other hand. have never been to a church service that
does not involve the legal binding oI two individuals in holy matrimony or a corpse being sealed
into a Iancy box and thrown into the ground. Otherwise. I have no idea what goes on behind
chapel doors on Sunday mornings.
I realize this man does not know this. But I Ieign oIIense. acting like a true Richard
Dawkins spawn as I guIIaw at him. I nearly double over as I clutch my stomach and laugh.
Were the conditions appropriate. I would have prepared my knee Ior a good slap.
I scrunch my eyebrows and. with a look oI humorous condescension. I blurt out. 'No-ho-
Keane shoots me a look oI terror. Already. the previous winter. I put his liIe in danger oI
being cut short. While at work. Keane and I were taking a smoke break while a homeless man
stood nearby. When I came to the end oI my cigarette. I told Keane. 'I`m going inside.¨ A man
was coming out oI the building simultaneously. and the individual who was already standing
outside with us thought that this man had said something oIIensive to him. when in Iact these
were simply the words I said to Keane and the suspected man had said nothing. I did not
intervene to explain myselI. and instead stood and observed Ior a Iew minutes as the conIlict
unIolded. The two men exchanged threats. and I decided to go inside and call security. Keane
remained outside. even as the men revealed that they were carrying box cutters and were
prepared to duel. Keane iumped between the two oI them and directed them to end their conIlict;
telling one to leave the premises. and the other to go inside the building. They complied.
I am sure that this incident spun through his memory as I told this man. in so Iew words.
that we were not church goers and that we were perhaps oIIended by his question. I could almost
hear his thoughts through his expression: 'You motherIucker. I`m going to die because oI you.
You killed me again.¨
The man steps Iorward. His smell. that awIul reek. becomes stronger as he draws closer
to us. his eyebrow buried above his nose as though enraged. He points a Iinger at us. his sinews
tight and terse. His lips are pulled into a sneer. and I can hear a hiss Irom his teeth even over the
roaring traIIic to our leIt.
We Ireeze. unsure iI he is preparing to remove a weapon Irom a pocket.
'Aw!¨ he shouts. throwing his hands into the air. 'You boys`s allright! You cool. you
cool. you know that?¨ His Ieigned anger turns into humor. and his eyes shine and his lips curl up
into a dried out smile. He once again extends his hand. Irantically this time. towards mine. I
shake it and laugh nervously. not sure how to Ieel.
I look to Keane. His white skin. which had turned even whiter. was now returning to its
natural pigment. and he laughs perhaps as a Iorm oI resuscitation rather than a show oI good
homor. He shakes the man`s hand as well. to remind him that he can still Ieel and that he is. in
We venture on our way and heard the man behind us. still laughing. I Ieel that I`ve put
the Iear oI death back into my Iriend. and laugh at him. 'Ha! I almost got you killed again
motherIucker. You gotta stop letting me do that to you.¨
'Yeah. Thanks a lot.¨ he says. He`s sweating. I`m not sure iI it`s the Iear or the heat. but
I laugh at him Ior it.
'Day oI the Master Sword¨ Spring 2004
My Ireezer is the coldest part oI my home. It has been a long walk that I`ve taken today.
and I`m ready to rest. to cool oII. so I let my Ireezer blow cold air on my Iace to help me begin
my chill-out Ior the evening.
I reach inside and try to make my decision.
On the leIt. a bag oI blue-green weed. Next. a baggie with a small white pill. To the
right. what`s leIt oI my Vicodin. Above. a bottle oI cheap tequila. Sauza gold.
I need to clear my head. I think. Every step I take is Iull oI lessons I have to learn.
Nothing is quiet or meditative. Everything is noise. static. without any bubbles rising up above
the prickly entropy. Constant doubt and debate in my head. I'm never really sure oI anything. so
my brain won't shut the Iuck up.
My television is blaring. Cable television. They managed to shut oII my convertor box.
but they haven`t Iigured out that I`m routing the signal through my VCR yet. I only get up to
channel 65. which is Iine. I only ever watch two or three networks. and one oI them is CNN.
which is what`s on right now. Something about IraqI`m not really paying attention. I`m trying
not to pay attention to things Ior once. and it`s already so hard to not pay attention to things these
It`s so stupid. These little televisions in my head. they`re all trying to grab my attention.
I can`t turn them oII. So as I`m standing in my kitchenmy tiny kitchen that`s iust big enough
Ior me to turn around and not move an inch moreI`m trying to think oI what will help me clear
my head most eIIectively and let me think oI one thing at a time.
It`s a Tuesday. I think to myselI. Over the weekend. I drank. I remembered being up
until two in the morning and waking up three hours later to get to work at six on Saturday; my
Iirst true hangover in three years oI drinking. instigated not by too much liquor as by anger and
disappointment. I decide not to drink.
I turn about. squeezing around my stove and my countertop. and open my silverware
drawer. By the chopsticks. I`ve stashed a small glass piece the size oI my thumb. It`s deep blue
and green. with Ilickers oI red and orange. like a child`s marble. But this is a tube that`s been
blackened by months oI accumulated soot. I haven`t cleaned the resin out Ior a Iew weeks. so
when I put it to my lips and suck. out come black chunks oI bitter sap. They stick to my tongue.
the chalky disgusting bits. and I spit them out onto the Iloor.
I take out the bag oI weed and pack my piece with a small wad. I take care not to
compress it too tight and inhale some air through the thin passageway beIore pulling a lighter
Irom my pocket to ignite the bowl. The glass piece emits a hiss as I breathe deeply. The taste is
sweet. thick. and robust.
I hold my breath and let the smoke compress inside my lungs. I don`t close oII my
esophagus. but hold my diaphragm down. creating a vacuum Irom which the air can barely
escape. Whisps oI smoke escape Irom my nostrils. seep Irom between my lips. desperate to evict
themselves Irom my body.
The television in my living room says something about breaking news. It is the third
time there has been breaking news since my arrival home. and I no longer care about what is
happening in the world. Everything is iust as important as everything else. and the news is trying
to make one thing rise above the rest. yelling over the static oI the same old stories time and time
I release the hold on my breath and smoke rises up. enveloping my eyes and rising over
my head. through my hair. into my ceiling. I lean against my stove. careIul not to touch the
edges out oI an irrational Iear that the armored invaders. silverIish or cockroaches (neither oI
which I have ever actually seen in my apartment). will somehow rise Irom the dark cracks. I
breath in the sweet smoke again. careIul not to hit too hard Irom the pipe so as to avoid tasting
the dense. gooey ash.
It is bright in my apartment. Cool. but bright. My computer hums quietly. almost
inaudible under the discharge oI my television.
My head is clear. I hear a Breaking News story. I ignore it easily. My thoughts become
simpler to Iollow. no longer providing diIIiculty or obstacles when I try to grasp them. My bed
is to my leIt; small. Ior me only. I live alone. and I Ieel sad Ior a moment in that realization oI
my loneliness. My twin sized bed. iust big enough Ior me to roll over. I remember last year`s
summer. when a young woman and I were squeezed into itor rather. when she pressed me
against the cold wall and Iilled the Iree space Irom my person onwards toward the edgeand it
Ielt enormous. but comIortable enough Ior both oI us. I Ielt warm. then. but it was summer. and
I was sick.
I see the details now. speciIics. I`m no longer in a sea oI static. Sounds pop out: a siren
in the distance. beyond my window. I Iollow it Ior a moment beIore deciding to draw back. My
computer clicks Ior a second. the hard drive spinning slightly slower beIore picking up again. I
sit at it. assuming it`s trying to get my attention.
I type a Iew ideas that I must Iocus on. This is the time to Iocus. Sadly. I am too weak to
Iocus alone; I need this chemical in my brain. I am a cyborg. a slave to my auto-prescription.
My words are slow and well thought. I type in ideas Ior a story that I have yet to compose.
brainstorming Iuture proiects. orchestrating a story that has yet to be born oI ideas and pathways
A story about this. where a man. X. does Y. He Ialls in love with Z and dies.
A story about a place. where a robot. A. contemplates B. C happens and A is
reprogrammed. thus destroying A`s original personality program.
L is an active samurai. He is scarred. and a lowly but skilled servant. M inherited N. L
never wanted N. but M thinks he does. M. iealous oI L`s skill and believing L seeks his Iortune
and title. duels with him. M is killed. and L commits seppuku. ashamed oI killing M. his master.
Ideas Ilow out. They all have sad endings. which I'm told is cliche and worn out. but I
know Irom experience that I`m right when I tell myselI. 'That`s how stories really end: badly.¨
Eventually I go to my couch. I turn oII all my lights and at last the darkness isn`t Iilled
with green and red Ilickers. like shiIting sand making up shapes oI bright lights and Iigures on
TV. Instead black is black. Figures are sharp and crisp. I Ieel like I`m in a warm tunnel. alone.
I Ieel calm here.
A thought that escaped me Ior years suddenly Ilashes in my head. and I dash around the
corner. back to my desk. Behind my monitor. a blue Moleskine notebook with a Greek cross
drawn below the words 'DON`T PANIC.¨ I turn to the Iirst open page and remember when I Ielt
so protected. yet so active and Iree. as I did that evening.
I draw a weekly calendar grid. beginning with Sunday and ending with Saturday. I Iill in
Tuesday`s block with black marker. and think to myselI. Words speak in my head without eIIort:
Celebrate the davs that taught vou freedom through strength, strength through exposure,
exposure through love. Remember the one who taught vou to be strong. Who taught vou to love.
Who taught vou to be free. Remember who taught vou that these are all good. and vou will be
I do not write this.
I look back to the Iirst page in this book. and it reads. 'MAKE A TRADITION. AND
More thoughts Ilicker into my head. hard to describe with words. even aIter years oI
Remember thinking vou were alone. that vou were bound to vour room when vou were
voung. Mom would come home earlv on Tuesdavs. You would be released, vou would be free.
The svmbol of freedom is strength, the strength of this woman. vour mother.
You are unleashed into the trees behind vour home. the woods which become infested
with beasts. with vour fears. Imaginarv monsters. bees. neighborhood bullies. You will not fear
them, vou have learned strength from vour mother. She teaches vou the strength she has had to
survive the horrorsreal horrorsshe has seen.
I do not write this.
This. Tuesdav. is the dav of strength and honor and gratefulness. that I accept
discomforts and reflect on rights and wrongs. that I consider where I have come and where I will
go. Tuesdav. the iumping point. the blades hilt that keeps its bearer safe from concern over
losing his fingers. the verv fingers that must wield the weapon itself. And after all. what is a
swordsman without fingers but a dead man? One cannot defend a blade with ones bare hands,
it is that spot. iust above the grip. which keeps one safe. It keeps one from needless concern.
allowing the swordsman to look up towards the battle.
I do not write this.
Instead. I write. in as vague oI terminology as I can muster. 'TUESDAY IS THE DAY OF
THE MASTER SWORD.¨
I know I will always remember its meaning. and that is all that matters. Others need not
read the incoherent thoughts that my drug-addled mind streams as they Ilow down errant mental
This place. my home. is my Ioundation. My path. I realize. is my education. My source
is that Iar oII place. Irom which I will return. bringing my Ioundation and my education with me.
I will bring goodwill. I will bring kindness and sociability. Iearlessness and consideration to the
world outside oI mine. iI I can. I will try to combine my secret. hidden world and the one in
which I am Iorced to live into one so that. despite what CNN currently wants me to think. I will
no longer see my liIe as an ongoing struggle. a battle oI 'us¨ versus 'them.¨ We`re all together.
We have to learn to cope. to talk with one another.
My Iather always wanted me to learn. something that I Ieel I have taken Ior granted. I
have not learned anything. I do not think. And it is time Ior me to begin. My mother taught me
strength. something that I thought I knew. but in Iact I do not.
These thoughts are clear to me. and my epiphany is bright and shining in the distance.
The Iirst is to strive to learn. because the next step is to use education to learn strength. and
I turn oII my television. undress. and crawl into bed. I squeeze against the cold wall and
Ieel a warmth overwhelm my Iace. my eyes. and the back oI the head. and soon I am asleep. my
head Iilling with a new kind oI noise that will continue until the next morning when a new
cacophony will Iill my thoughts. I let this Ieeling linger. enioying it. embracing my Iuture.
For once. perhaps Ior the Iirst time. I Ieel strangely conIident.
'Malcolm X. Turtle. and the Crusty Punks¨ - Summer 2004
It`s a nice enough day out. I thought to myselI. so I decided to go outside. Inspired by a
Iailed relationship to give myselI a curriculum to begin teaching myselI anew with some strange.
newIound inspiration. I Iound myselI pulling books that once collected dust but had since
garnered my attention. On this day. aIter Iinishing Black Like Me. I decided to start reading
Malcolm X`s autobiography.
Even Irom the beginning. while I sat in the comIort oI my air conditioned apartment. I
was stricken by his liIe: Once. this man did not care Ior his own liIe or the comIort oI others.
He did not even care Ior the revolution. It was not until it was too late that he began to teach
himselI in prison. reading every book that was set in Iront oI him. I thought. I might not be
Malcolm. and I won`t accomplish what he`s accomplished. but I can learn to do what successIul
people have done to become successIul and see what happens.
Bored with the darkness oI my apartment. I Iinally leIt. I whisked up my three-toed box
tortoise named Turtle and skipped across the street. book and Turtle in hand. There. a hill stood.
towering so as to be parallel to the second story oI my apartment building across Irom it.
I let Turtle roam the grassy knoll. Since I was reading with great Iocus and Iascination. I
occasionally lost track oI Turtle. I would look around in a panic. but Iind that she was actively
hunting beetles and worms in the grass around us.
Evergreen trees stood beIore me but did not block the view oI traIIic oI any sort. Walkers
and ioggers and bikers who saw me reading caught my eye. and I would at times lower my book
and make eye contact and wave. raising my hand iust a little. and some would respond in kind.
AIter reading Ior almost IiIteen minutes. it came to my attention that there were people
sitting behind me. While I was sitting in an area that was privately owned but appeared to be
public. this group oI people was sitting in the shade oI some trees that were clearly in
somebody`s yard. I continued to read my book until I heard a bark: the group had with them a
brown mutt oI a dog that looked Ieral and potentially vicious. Rather than concern myselI with
it. I continued reading and every Iew minutes would sweep Turtle close to me to ensure she did
would not become dog Iood.
Eventually. the people stood up Irom the shade oI the tree and approached me. There
were Iive oI them. all dressed in black leather and denim covered with metal spikes and screws
and topped oII with bum Ilaps and combat boots. Their dog. it turned out. was Iriendly. and
approached me beIore the people did. smiling and sniIIing.
'Hey.¨ one oI them. a man. said.
'Heya.¨ I replied. 'How`s it goin`?¨
'Can`t complain.¨ he said as they came closer. 'Stayin` in the shade. Easier to stay cool
in this weather. you know?¨
'Yeah. I hear you.¨ I reached into my pocket and pulled out a Lucky Strike. and lit it
with a zippo. I breathed in hard. and as I exhaled smoke through my nose. I said. 'Great day Ior
some Iresh air though. you know?¨
A girl looked down at Turtle. who was to my right. 'Oh my God!¨ she said. almost
aIraid. 'Is that real?¨
I laughed. 'Yeah. Her name is turtle. I`ve had her since I was eight. She likes people;
she won`t bite you.¨
'Neither will ours.¨ she said as her dog sat down on my leIt.
'What`cha readin`?¨ asked one oI them.
'Ah. it`s Malcolm X. It`s really good. Way better than I thought it`d be. I recommend
Almost as iI in maniIestation oI a group thought proiect. one oI them asked me. 'Hey. do
you have any change you can spare? We`re tryin` to catch a bus. eh. Ior all oI us. We only got
enough Ior a Iew.¨
I looked at their dog. which didn`t smell as raw as they did (the dog probably iumped into
a lake or pond or puddle every now and then). and tried to think oI how they would ride the bus
'No.¨ I said. 'I don`t usually carry cash. It`s a problem. I`m really sorry. Where`re you
'Ah. Saint Paul. Just don`t wanna walk all the way there today. you know?¨
'Word. I hear you.¨
'Hey. but you got a cigarette. maybe?¨
I reached into my pocket to check. pulling out an empty hard pack. 'Sorry. I didn`t even
know. Last one. I`m sorry.¨
'Naw. it`s cool.¨ he said as the woman knelt down by Turtle. who was growing
increasingly curious by her new human companion.
'So weird.¨ the woman said. keeping her distance as Turtle poked her head out and
turning her head so that one eye was Iacing herthe easiest way Ior her to look directly at
'She`s an odd critter.¨ I told her. 'She likes people.¨
'So does ours.¨ she replied. Their dog was now laying down at my side. panting.
'Well.¨ said one oI the men. 'we should probably head. It was good talkin` to you. man.¨
'Right. Stay cool. guys. Good luck. Sorry again.¨
'No!¨ one oI them said. hearing my apology. 'No. stop. It`s Iine. It`s totally Iine. You
have a good one.¨
'Sure. See you.¨
As they descended the hill. the girl patted her bum Ilap and the dog iumped up and
Iollowed her. not caring Ior my own well-being as she pushed herselI oII and up Irom my lap and
towards the direction oI her master.
I watched them pass through the coniIers beIore me and cross the street towards my
apartment building. then disappear towards Hennepin Avenue aIter passing a nearby ice cream
shop. I wished well unto them. and their little dog. too.
Behind me in the shade beneath the trees Irom whence the punks had come. it must have
been curiously cool. I hoped that they would Iind more shade through rebellion. stealing their
comIort via trespass. I Ielt that I had Iailed to help them somehow. but I learned Irom my
mistake. I learned how to act Irom them. on that hill. and Iound myselI stepping Iorward Ior the
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