The Good Word of Sprout

Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Year's Train

The New Year comes like the Chicago 'L.' I stand on the blue "that arm was no good anyway" stripe. I lean over the tracks and grin at the Third Rail. Electricity is magnetic (such charisma). The Rail plays it cool by not acknowledging me. "I know your secret," I whisper. I once shorted out a wing of my high school by jamming a paper clip bent into a "U" into an outlet. I held the paper clip between two wooden pencils, Asian style.

The train's red and green top-lights shimmer on the horizon. Its headlights are not yet visible.

"What will this train bring me?" I wonder.

A transparent Chicago Transit Authority employee hovers over the track. She smiles, white on black, but her voice is barely hers. "Ask not what the train will bring to you, cute thing, ask what you will bring to the train. And turn need some ass on you." She laughs clamorous bells.

"Hey," I say. "Don't spout no philosophy to me. You make twenty-two dollars an hour for -- hovering -- in a glass booth talking on your cell phone. And I like my ass the way it is." Though secretly I agree with her. I wish my ass looked like one of those nectarines with the gross cleavage (gross because you can't see all the way into it and risk biting a worm in the sweet, juicy flesh.)

"God bless the cigarette tax," she responds. She disappears, bells ringing, clutching her sides.

Jesus Hache Cristo! The train is almost upon me, and I'm still leaning over the tracks, engaging the apparition. Lights flash at the adjacent intersection. The train shrieks two syllables of warning. I leap back into a man dressed as the white-linen Samuel Clemens (you know, Mark Twain).

"Did you see her too?" he says with white bushy eyebrows raised and quivering.

I laugh. Nothing is funny, but I can't help it.

"You been to Mizzuruh?" he says.

While I worry about the tears and snot pouring out of my doubled-over body, the train roars into the station. The placard in front reads "DEATH" in white letters on a brown background. Usually it reads "Loop."

The doors open, and Sam and I get on. I wipe my face with my coat sleeve.

No worries. We'll be getting off at Irving Park.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


You must fire up the lava lamp. You must write. You must. You must.

It's musty in here. Stinks.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

An Oral Hygiene Surprise

Brushing my teeth this morning went pretty well until I spit the toothpaste out into the sink, and in the middle of the toothpaste spit lay a dead ant. I have devised several ways to make sure that this does not happen again:

1) Do not pass out in bed with a mouth full of funnel cake.
2) Get rid of "Dirty Bear," a teddy bear stuffed with dirt.
3) Make up with ex-girlfriend, Amy the Anteater.
4) But first, kill Amy's new boyfriend, Andy the Anteater, via poisoned raisins on peanut butter on celery.
5) Buy RAID brand nighttime tooth whitening system.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

To Say Hello

I left through the front door.

Outside, the sun shone off the yellow bricks, blazing. It was cold with very little breeze.

I turned right out of the apartment gates, my prison for the past forty-eight hours. I decided that I must go somewhere, and not just anywhere, but somewhere. I chose to walk past my father's childhood home, just a few blocks away in a row of three-flats on Winnemac Ave. Perhaps some friendly ghosts would send me a story idea -- or at least leap through a wall for my amusement.

Across the street, a man in a funny ear flap hat carried a manila envelope to the mailbox on the corner.

I took out my notebook and pen and wrote “goofy flap hat why” and then “conceal hairpiece.”

Behind him, a middle-aged woman with a mink collar and red dyed hair grinned at me, although maybe that was her permanent expression from Mother's Little Purple Helpers.

I waited until she passed and wrote, “Dye red smile n/r.” The “n/r” stood for “no reason.” I worried that people thought me a building inspector. Everyone hates the building inspector, known to landlords as the “paperwork fairy” and to tenants as the “porch-collapse fairy.”

I reached my destination, and no transparent great-grandparents appeared. In the first floor window a yellowed tin sign warned “Beware of Rottweiler.” I stopped and approached the wooden gate to the backyard. I couldn't resist a free mauling, so I eased open the gate, but no snarling, muscled beast rushed me. Figures.

Before someone called the cops, I continued to the park where some three years ago, I decided to become a writer.

On that day the boss instructed me, a prestigious graduate, to check twenty of his buildings to make sure the trash was in the dumpsters. If the trash was strewn about the alley, the rat-torn bags spewing empty ice-cream pints, Kleenex, and boyfriend-secret-lover panties, then I was to place it into the already full dumpster and then jump on top to pack it down. Instead, I went for a walk in the golden autumn morning and thought how great it would be to sleep in on Mondays and tell stories.

But today no story idea would come, just diseased character sketches.

A white man with an afro crossed my path, a black backpack slung over one shoulder. “How would I describe him?” I asked myself.

“Totally unremarkable,” I replied.

“What's he got in the bag?” I asked myself.

“Clean white briefs courtesy of Mother.”

“Avg. afro clean briefs,” I wrote.

The man got into a silver Honda Civic. When introduced on Wheel of Fortune, he might say, “I'm a regular guy, but, boy, do I have clean underwear!” He would say, “shucks” when the Wheel bankrupted him, for he had planned to buy a lifetime supply of briefs or a Vietnamese wife.

I crossed California Ave. and turned left on Carmen Ave., and in my mind I was on a train next to Carmen staring into the Spanish countryside. I started to write something about bull's blood warm on the ground and cold sangria in the afternoon, but the pen didn't write, the lousy uncapped, nostalgia-hating Bic. I looked at the parking garage across the street, and it didn't remind me of Spain at all.

Inside the park, I felt a pull to the closed park district building and the pool. I like the trees, but the real beauty is in the chain link fences, the filthy stairwells down to the bathrooms, and the empty benches peeling and rotting the winter away.

A chilly breeze blew, and I was alone. I feared that a homeless man, stinking of brandy and feces, would pop out of a stairwell and drag me down into it, my head forced into his rough woolen shirt.

“Don't be stupid,” I told myself. “If you were a homeless, why would you choose a filthy stairwell over a clean sunny bench. They're people, not giant carnivorous raccoons.”

I peered though the chain links at the empty pool, white with black lane lines that disappeared into the deep end. A true artist would return at night, scale the fence, and dance in the pool to the distant wail of ambulance sirens, chanting “Shit, fuck, shit, fuck.”

Two ladies approached. I could hear them saying in Korean, “Look at that fool. He stare into empty pool.” I left the park and decided to wander back through the Swedish Covenant Hospital grounds.

“Why do that?” a voice asked. “All you're going to see are the sick and lame, and then you're going to have some revelation about healthy lifestyle habits, and then you're going to have to eat spinach and go to a gym and undress in front of hairy-assed men who call each other 'Chief.' and 'Pal'”

“No,” I replied. “Your head is in the wrong place. I will see a loving granddaughter, giving hope to her Nana, mostly in the form of spooning green Jello into her mouth. It will be inspiration to better my own relationships now so someone will feed me later.”

But I saw no one.

In the courtyard, I heard a rustle and spotted a squirrel under an evergreen bush. The squirrel carried a half-eaten apple, evidently keeping away from doctors. I grinned an idiot's grin until I spotted a maintenance worker picking up things around the dumpster with one hand, the other clutching the cross around her neck.

Back across California, I passed the Greek church. The sun glinted off the golden tiles tiny in a turquoise tile sea.

I would make a good photographer, I thought. What? Blasphemy! A picture will never be worth a thousand words to me, or five-hundred, or a hundred, maybe fifty.

Some steps later, I looked up at the wonderful winter blue, and down at the intricate sidewalk cracks, and over at the red brick and green grass and white latticework, and I realized that I must believe in God. “But that's ridiculous,” I thought.

And then a voice: “No, it's not. It's ridiculous to believe that God is someone you can shake hands with, or go bowling with, or slap on the ass.”

I giggled.

The voice was patient: “God is someone you can become -- through the virtue of humility. Of course, the moment you Become, you are so humble that Becoming is the most ridiculous notion in the world. God's crafty like that.”

Turning right down Lincoln Ave., I decided that God would say hello to everyone He passed on the street. As I have to take baby-steps with my pudgy, undeveloped soul, I decided to say hello to one person. I resolved not to go home until I did.

But I had a dry mouth and chapped lips, and I knew that the “hello” would come out weird. My voice would crack, and someone would laugh at me. If I tried to say “hello” with just the mouth and upper throat, it would come out all pervert and pedophile, and someone would push me down and kick me in the ribs, over and over.

“Hello, hello,” I practiced. Weird.

I approached a very short Korean man with a down-turned mouth and tiny black eyes. “Say hello,” I urged myself.

I walked by, wordless.

A woman whose white fur coat brought out her deep brown skin stood at the edge of the sidewalk looking for someone to pick her up; for a ride I mean; that is, she needed to go somewhere. I felt uncomfortable with that whole line of thought and did not say hello.

I passed the Ace Hardware and entered the McDonald's parking lot. My stomach growled “come hither” to the dead greasy smell.

An old lady with bright red lipstick came out and stared at the newspaper boxes. Should I say hello to her? She looked sour. Maybe she felt sour because no one would say hello to her, but more likely because she just demolished a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese.

I failed again. The sour old woman looked too sour to greet. Maybe if she didn't wear bright lipstick, her mouth would look less like it just sucked a lemon dry.

“Hey,” a voice said, “Keep your head in the right place and the 'hello' will follow.”

I turned right onto my street. I had only two blocks to complete my mission, and my nose was running. A UPS truck idled down the block. Up surged my hope. It's always appropriate to say hello to the UPS man. He brings packages, and everybody appreciates a package, unless it's a bomb, and you live.

The UPS man was nowhere to be seen, but a tall, pretty Indian woman dressed all in black with brilliant shiny hair walked down the other side of the street. “Should I yell 'hello' and wave my both my hands in the air?” I asked myself.

“Should you what? No. Relax. Keep your head in the right place and the 'hello' will follow.”

The UPS man emerged from the truck with a king-sized package. Once in the doorway, he balanced it against the door frame as he rang the bell. He waited with his brown back to the street. He rang the bell again. I slowed, but he was intent on delivering the package, and I couldn't say hello to his back.

Only one block remained to say hello and avoid God's disappointment.

An old man in a Cubs cap and a thick tan coat shuffled a half-block past my apartment building. Unless he turned, I could intercept him without having to go out of my way. “So what,” I asked myself, “if I went out of my way to say hello to him? That's nicer and --”


Gears in my head enmeshed. My body relaxed.

The old man did not turn.

I passed the entrance to my apartment gates. “Hello,” I said, loud and clear, and it sounded wonderful.

The old man's eyes brightened as he smiled. “Hello,” he said, “How are you?”

“Good,” I squeaked, smiling and staring at the ground. That sounded weird.

I returned through the back door.


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Monday, December 18, 2006

NOPD Injustice

The daytime is supposed to be for editing and revising, but I woke up limp and lethargic today, and the stories I've been working on I found revolting. I should have stayed in that New Orleans dream with all the naked women, except I was scared awake at a police checkpoint because I had been drinking, and I was on roller skates. Can you get a DUI on roller skates? I can just imagine...

"Sir, step out of the roller skates and put your hands on the laces. Spread your legs..."

"I'm not that flexible, officer."

"Keep your hands on the laces, sir."

"But officer..."

(I fall down. A savage beating ensues.)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Christmas Word of Sprout

The holidays are a fine time to reflect upon what we have and what we have been given, but so is any other time, and any other time we'd receive more credit for it, so let's not do that now.

I am most concerned with how to squeeze sensual pleasure out of this season, for the eyes, but also for the nose, teeth, and lips (the ears have been done in by 93.9 FM's infatuation with Alvin and the Chipmunks). If I'm lucky enough, I'll find myself under a mistletoe, hung in the crotch of a peaked doorway painted creamy white, tense and close to a girl with pink, wet lipstick and a golden ham in her arms and a head full of eggnog or Jagermeister and...goddammit, I got grease and cloves all over my Dockers...are those cloves or giant petrified sperm? Here, taste this. Well, one thing's for sure: Come September I'll have either a baby or cold-cuts.

Nowadays, there always seems to be a "suckling pig" intent on disparaging the holiday season. Perhaps because of the family gatherings where Aunt Denise hits on her nieces, or perhaps because he receives a McDonald's gift card (again) from his retarded brother, or perhaps because he has neither luxury. For me, the holiday season is one of irrational optimism, magic in the multicolored lights, even more so in the white ones, which contain all the colors in the prism, mostly on drug charges. It is a season of the essential decency of mankind, to take a brief respite from the awful things we do to each other.

Of course, the season makes the rich richer and the poor poorer, but also warms cynical winter personalities. It is a season of gratefulness, of strangers helping strangers, and of Stranger Danger helping children to red and green M&M's in his windowless van.

Merry Christmas everyone! I love you.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

don't rouse the old man

How dare you rouse the old man!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Mild Winter Night

The cop shined a light into the white car with Wisconsin plates. Was there a criminal inside? Would that criminal come out shooting? No. A blue handicapped tag hung from the rear view mirror. I secretly smiled at the shady guy coming the opposite way.

A couple entwined -- a white woman and a black man spun out of the restaurant. I smelled his cologne. It smelled like pine needles. I wondered why I am not part of a mixed-race couple. I did not decide why.

Then what happened?

I decided not to drink the rum and Diet Coke I have at home. I thought that it would be better for my responsibilities if I drank beer. Outside the bright 7-11, I saw a girl with a heavy instrument, probably a cello. While she looked at the flavored waters, I took a six-pack of Busch. There was a man in line who could neither shut up nor count his change. I decided it was bad form to buy just a six-pack of Busch. I looked around for the chocolate, but couldn't find it. The man was still talking and counting his change. Six-pack tucked under my arm, I walked down one aisle, up another. I grabbed a (choco-buttery) Skor Bar. But that struck me as sad. So sad. So I grabbed two Skor bars (one for each of us who scored tonight).

Did you later toss a Skor bar at a homeless man?


Did you later toss a Skor bar at a thick unshaven man waiting for the bus?


I paid for my items as the girl's instrument filled in behind me. I walked out the door, towards home, and had another Epiphany: "Tell them what happened, with the senses, not with the mind."

Spreading an unknown R&B song, a white Ford Escape stopped and turned right.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Word Painting: Open Communication & Leg Envy

in to my head,
come common point, you, my tool to dialogue. With Frenchy and Fatty y Fi li (or Fr ed), we'll reach towards each other & dance 'til we're dead.
I'll Open my eyes & scour your words -- so dirty & dastard you wrote in the throes of reason. In Madness I feel conventions defiled, I slip off my Speedo --- with nothing to hide --- except for
that scar that)
, from shooting a gun in-TO my right thigh, no reason at all except that Left Thigh is a bastard.

Friday, December 08, 2006

You and I

I pray that I can amuse you today. I am at your service, though I dare not call you friend. I am a faithful servant, thinking only of my master (that is you!) and your well-being. I wear my finest tie so that my appearance might please you. I choose the finest words so that my voice might please you. Undulate. Ennui. Sonorous.

I would lick your feet, but you would not ask me to lick your feet, or your bottom, or inside your bitter ears. You are a good and decent person, who by God's grace has been given mastery over me. You with your glassware in confusing shapes and sizes whose fingerprints I erase with my handkerchief. When I am thirsty, I drink with my hands, which are gnarled and ugly compared to yours.

I am imperfect. I smoke cigarettes, but never around you. I couldn't bear you to think I stink. I smoke in my own quarters, ashamed, and think of you watching me. I shower twice before seeing you, and during the second shower, I use a scented sponge on my feet, armpits, and crotch.

Every word, every action, indeed, my whole being exists to please you, without a trace of irony.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Vanilla ice cream covered in orange sherbet, all securely fastened to a stick. Here we call it a dreamsicle. And after waking from a sound sleep with a very hot mouth, I understand why.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Laundry gets the best of me

Laundry folding is constructive compulsive behavior. Compulsiveness is only a minor affliction for me. Salt shakers and lamps do not need to be in certain places, though a salt shaker or a lamp may express to me a desire to relocate to a more aesthetically pleasing position. I can decide not to grant the desire, but if it doesn't interrupt (Inner) Mother saying what a good boy I am or otherwise detract from pleasuring myself, why not make the poor bastards happy?

Folding warm laundry repeatedly delights me. It takes a human shape (a torso, a pair of legs, or two stumps) and creates a rectangle. And then more rectangles, each congruent if done properly. Perhaps I should join an artists' commune. But they would grind their organic clove cigarettes and say that the rectangle is today's square. The square is a rectangle. Artists are clever: taxpayers as rectangles, themselves as rhombuses (or rhombi to those who enjoy intimacy with both sexes), and criminals as parallelograms.

My microwave beeps to let me know that my dryers are done. I descend the three flights of stairs as rapidly as possible because I like to live on the edge. I open the door to the laundry room, and the light, which operates on a timer switch, floods fluorescence without my touch. The neighbor who lives directly below me throws her clothes into the dryer next to mine. She. She, of my age and height, with a cute though somewhat knife-like nose and short black hair. I suspect that she is a lesbian, though my secret hope is that she is a lesbian. Well, that's actually my other secret hope. The other I don't discuss with anyone.

"Hi," I say. To girls, I like to say "hi" rather than "hello" or "aloha," unless "aloha" means good-bye.

"Hi," she says. To boys, she likes to say "hi" rather than "hello" or "get away from me," unless "get away from me" means good-bye.

"Excuse me," I say as I squeeze past her, holding my empty laundry basket over my head like Goliath.

I open the dryer and fold my clothes on top. Some people like to throw their dry clothes into the laundry basket and carry it up to their apartment before folding. I am not one of those people. I think that to minimize wrinkles, it is necessary to fold your clothes in their warmest possible state. The first few items out of the dryer are shirts, but then boxers pour out, stumps outstretched, imploring. Is it polite, I wonder, to fold underwear in front of the fairer sex?

If no...I imagine that she goes back to her lover, who is short, red-haired, and plump in face, thighs, and breasts to say, "That boy above us has no shame." Of course, it comes out, "Uh uouah a no ay," because of open-mouthed kissing. My imagination is based on the hole in the floorboard by the radiator. Through this hole, I cannot see the apartment below, but I can see pipes with two female ends soldered together.

I decide that my regular boxers are not too intimate a thing to show my neighbor. If it were my flaming boxers (the pattern implies that my crotch has suddenly burst aflame), then I would hesitate.

I fold. Paranoia comes.

"Could you not fold those in front of me?" she says by staring straight forward.

By snapping the boxers in the air to straighten them out, I say "Hey, it's not like I'm pulling out my zebra thong and other delicates and hanging them on those little hangers with the clips."

"Get away from me," she says by putting her last T-shirt in the dryer and slamming it shut (the latch is no good, but this is good-bye).

Somewhat dejected and feeling no pressure, I fold, using only one dryer top for both folding and stacking, trapping the long end of the warm shirts between the dryer and my stomach in its folded state, preserving the clean creases.

"You fold well," she says.

I jump, and my favorite gray T-shirt unfolds at the bottom.

She laughs.

It shocks me to hear a laugh louder than "Mr. Always Right" in my head. I close my mouth and fold the unfolded shirt.

"Thank you," I say, "Mother makes me practice in my apartment."

She turns away just as I smile to let her in on the joke.

I missed the proper pause by a half-second, so, dear readers...

Think of the worst hundred responses to that compliment. I think mine ranks number forty-two: one better than "I fall into wells" and one worse than "I fold because you must have a royal flush, which is what I have in the morning after coffee and a cigarette. " Of course, the worst thirty are racial slurs.

"Have a good evening," she says almost inaudibly as she walks out the door.

"You too," I say, equally almost inaudible.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Melting I & II

12:07 A.M.

I sit concealed in my car. The heat erodes the elegant sheet on the windshield faster than the diamond bits of sleet can replace it. Dashboard minutes pass. I grow naked. The hour is late, and there is no parking in the neighborhood. I do not have my lights on, but drivers, desperate to not be driving, slow down for the plumes of exhaust. Through their headlights, I am an arrogant asshole. I flaunt a gift that I received by chance, not merit -- with no intention to share. I am not that. I just watch the ice. I JUST WATCH THE ICE. Its ever-shifting crystals spiral downward into water.

5:06 A.M.

Something in the first snowfall of the season still excites me, and I cannot sleep. Only a few inches have fallen, but the sky is an angry, pestilent yellow and belches thunder. The hour is early, and I think I might go outside to revel in the unbroken and still growing whiteness before anyone else can set their foot into it. And who knows, maybe there will be a woman-reveler, and we will make babies together reveling.

I open the door, and a blast of wet wind slaps me in the face -- Ha! -- there's my woman-reveler, pure and chaste -- so I return to my car to watch the melting. I recline. Something whacks the window, but it's only a branch, whipped about by the wind.

Defrost approaches magic. My blanket melts from left to right in molten metal pebbles. I unwrap a nut cookie. A bicycle sways forlorn, chained to the gate and forced to wear a powdered wig. The nut cookie tastes good. I could sleep beneath the heavy down and pelt of falling fluff.