Working at the Grocery Store Monday, May 19 2008 

Here it is, the whole awful history, my perdition. Tuesday was “grand” opening, grand in that every one of the few customers entering the store was mobbed by an overabundance of “help” Men in red blazers with carts on the ready and loaded with unwanted adds and maps of the store. Maps and adds that were always left in the basket, to remove when putting it away, or blowing across the heavily sloped parking lot. Parking lot where carts to be put back inside always roll down that heavy slope, out of control, and away from us. Then back inside where the men in red blazers with carts on the ready stood obstructing where to we would put them back in. Corporate officials, trainers, managers, head clerks, red vests, black vests, suits, hovered over every underling criticizing every misstep, however minor, especially the minor, the ignorable. Always these criticisms were repeated three times, by each official that noticed it. Even when rewarded, recognized, with a cupon that gave a free soda drink (for which we were rabid, insatiable), it was with the same patronizing tone. Always nicknames, so they could avoid learning our real names, or reading the tags that were pinned to us, Tiger, Number One, That Kid, Jeff, Steve, Stud, My Boy.

Friday comes, Friday is the worst day. Thursday night I closed the store at 11 and drive a co-worker home across town, so I get to my home around 12. Friday I start at 8 in the morning. The schedule is being made on Friday. I want the weekend off. Traitor! Treason! It’s opening week. I don’t care. The blisters grow on my feet. A truck driver has a mishap with a hand forklift, on top of which rested twenty-so boxes of eggs. A box of eggs contains fifteen cartons. Scott to checkstand five. I need you to go back to the loading dock and inspect all the eggs, see which ones aren’t broken and put them aside. Two hours pass next to a hole in the wall that contains festering garbage. I ask if I can have a break, they ask me why I’m not done yet. I say because I have to look through 3,600 eggs. Time is long, the blisters grow on my feet. Plans of microscopic revenge grow in my mind. I get home and I rest, my heart feels its fervor, my heart.

Saturday and Sunday pass long, more being demeaned, more pain, my lower back and neck are fusing crooked, I think. I decide which clerks I like and are good and which are awful both at checking and that they revel in their marginal position in the hierarchy. All of the management has a great inebriation with its power. Saturday I see the schedule. Three people work full time, the all work 40 hours, every week. I work 36, all other part-timers work significantly less than this. For me eight hours daily, save Tuesday and Thursday where I have school and work a paltry six immediately after my six hours of class. I wore a fake mustache Sunday for halloween knowing we weren’t supposed to dress up, no one told me to take it off, I had wanted to quit in protest.

Monday comes and passes long. This charade needs to end, I’m being bled. Microscopic revenge. Paper or plastic becomes: On a scale of 1 to 13.5 where one is paper, 13.5 is plastic, 6.75 is paper in plastic, 27 is double plastic, and .5 is double paper, what would you like? With absolute metaphysical certitude please. I hum to myself, loudly, in front of management, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen” I begin telling customers made up pieces of trivia, composer George Friedrich Handel invented a special bag in which to carry his compositions, a bag with handles, after which our modern grocery bags are modeled. I ask for two hours off to vote, but make it obvious that I could easily vote before my work begins and just sort of don’t feel like it. They just sort of give it to me. My aim had been that they protest and that I quit in the face of civic interference.

At 5, with 2 hours to go, I decided that it was Extreme Plastic Monday and that today only customers had the options of not only paper and plastic, but also extreme plastic. No one would dare try extreme plastic. I try to have fun, I try to get fired, but at the end of the day my body just aches and there is an infinity of hours ahead of me.


Toast Monday, May 19 2008 

Love has a lot to do with toast. Toast is generally had in the morning and it is in the morning that a person usually is usually at their “worst”. There is the poofy, hideous bed hair that the individual hates but the public assures him or her is fine, there are the drab un-snowmanned plaid pyjama pants, the T-shirts unfit for public consumption, there is the eye goo and, finally, the bad breath. It is in such a state that we commune with lovers over toast.

We reveal what amounts to very intimate details; intimate because they are so mundane no one but those most devoted to seeking out every detail of your character and habit would ever seek such knowledge or hold it sacred once having found it. There are of course situations where someone might gain access to our toast-y world without the same implications of love. Artificial living situations, for example, you might eat breakfast with a roommate or in a dining hall and there will be you and your toast for all to see, but not deliberately and as an expression of unity with another soul. The same sort of submitting privacy to circumstances is evident in family situations and restauramt dining. The diner has not given their dining companion access to their private inner world of particularities in any of these cases; merely, the diner has accepted the surroundings in which they are forced to act out this inner world by society. Everyone else in the same boat; this anonymity is bad, it engenders no attention and no appreciation.

So when we make the decision to put emphasis on sharing something that everyone can see but no one appreciates is when the act is intimate, loving. “This is how crunchy I like my toast.” We say and preferred hues of gold with our partner. We look with wide and tender eyes at our love across that kitchen table. “This is what I like to put on my toast; this is how much.” There is more comparison, more sharing. Perhaps, if are truly lucky their lover turns them on to a new topping. Something which you could not have conceived of being so wonderful. And this new knowledge, this blending of two personalities for a grander view of life is mystifying in the volume of the joys bestowed upon its principles. In such union every time toast is consumed with the adopted style your mind will fill with thoughts of your lover and they will nourish you as bread does.

If you are fated for incalculable ecstasy you will spy an errant crumb on the edge of a full and rosy lower lip, then with a careful pinkie you will reach across the gap of space between and remove it perhaps consuming it for yourself. All your anxieties leave you in favor of the Dynosiacal mania that comes in touching such a lip. This is sensuality unrestrained. Your face fills with blood and your whole body rumbles internally with pleasure in a way that is unbecoming to discuss in polite society. No part of you moves or makes a sign.

It is in these manners that toast and love are related.

Ice skating Monday, May 19 2008 

I went ice skating and everything was perfect, that is to say it was full of glorious flaws. First my mother, my sister, my mother’s friend Victoria, (<-Oxford comma) and I had dim sum at the apparently famous Yank Sing near The Embarcadero. The parking garage at the Ricon Centre is claustrophobic and full of atmosphere. The ceiling is only seven feet from the floor and the landscape is dominated by slate blue support beams and a network or pipes that lead to nowhere.
I didn’t think Yank Sing would be spelled Yank Sing; I imagined a strange alignment of rarely used consonants. I love our waiter, his name is “Freddy” and when I order a Tsing Tao he says “Tsing Tao, Chinese beer!” and gives me a hearty pat on the shoulder. This is feasting this is glory. There is tea in clear glass pots with a cylinder of free standing leaves in its centre the taste of which I forsake for Tsing Tao, Chinese beer! but the smell of which is warm and calming. Carts and carts of dumplings, noodles, salads (<- no Oxford comma) and fried delights make an endless parade around our table and it is less like a military march than it is like a ballet. I take particular joy from hai gow, a shrimp dumpling that this place has managed to compliment with an unplacable nutty undertone. Then, oh then we are treated to the paragon of animals: Xiao Long Bao. Xiao Long Bao are the jewel of Shanghai, a dumpling filled by a mysterious, almost alchemical process with pork soup. By the end I feel that I am as I should always be: full of sodium and translucent dumpling wrappers, it’s a powerful tonic to the disappointments and accidents of this life that can make one feel as a rusty can drifting in a fetid algae-coated river. “Freddy” hands me, the assumptive patriarch, the extravagant check and says, “Sir” When he leaves I give the party my best Frenchman’s shrug and wave the leatherette fold toward my mother. I put on the sardonic, satisfied expression that can only exist in someone whose reality has finally given them what his/her expectations have been yearning for. I have been taken care of, a sensation slightly less pleasant than taking care.
Walking out my vision is tinged red and purple, like blood, with neon and lucky Chinese colors. I am full of blood. Victoria says she wants to take photos of me next to my sister because we are so different. I take that as high praise. We sit back to back on a bench and she snaps pictures of us looking to opposite poles. I look to the bizarre and transient North a place of flux and my sister to the South where dirt holds up the ice and snow and millions of identitcal penguins congregate. The pictures must look something like the poster for an action movie or a prize fight.

Finally I make my way to the Wachovia ice rink at The Embarcadero Centre. I look good because my walk is confident and half-tipsy, and my hair has for once conformed to my wishes. Little wisps stick up to show that I am a rougue and a Young Turk. At first I am unsteady on the ice because it’s been about a year since I last put skates on, but then it comes back to me. There’s something about the motion of skating that is different from anything else. I think it’s because you aren’t really going anywhere. Even though I have to weave between flailing children and human chains of twelve year-old girls I make good laps and figure eights. In the middle of the ice a woman is twirling in her figure skating tricks and her purple skates make me smile. Skating is a wonderful thing. The feeling of going air moving around me and the envy everyone feels at seeing my buttocks perfectly dry is part of it. But the greater enjoyment comes from the juxtaposition of how wholesome it is with how dangerous. My highlighter yellow-colored wrist band warns I won’t be able to sue when I burst my head against the boards or blood from my knee comes pooling out onto the ice. It’s the junction of speed and murder to kindness and love.
I don’t end up trying to go backwards because the ice isn’t properly surfaced (they don’t even use a zamboni and there are puddles of water everywhere) but I consider getting back into the rythm of things victory enough.

Tulips, Florticulture Monday, May 19 2008 

The tulip (tulipa) has a simple yet captivating presence. The flower’s structure isn’t complex like say, an orchid, but it blooms in multitude and brightness. You probably associate tulips with The Netherlands but they are native to the Middle East. Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq introduced tulips to The Netherlands from Turkey as a result of his post as the Austrian ambassador there. This bears some explaining, the low countries were part of the Duchy of Burgundy until the death of Charles the Bold and the marriage of his daughter Mary of Burgundy to Holy Roman Emperor Maximillion I. In this manner Belgium and Holland became part of the Austrian Empire and tulips were reborn as a Dutch institution through the efforts of de Busbecq. Our project draws inspiration from this convoluted history in that an activity may be established in a certain way and then taken up with panache by enterprising souls.

The nourishment of life is an uncomfortable prospect. I don’t respond well to children and small things outside of how they respond to me. From culture I have come to understand that care-taking is supposed to be rather altruistic. That’s not the sort of man I am, however, and my appreciation of growing things comes primarily from how they boost my ego. I worry that my tulips will fail and thus reflect poorly on me. Luckily it is hard to resent a non-poisonous plant.

The man who sells the bulbs at Orchard Hardware Supply is painfully shy. His name is Henry and the customers he is supposed to be ringing up have abandoned him. He apologizes again and again while we stare at the lonely basket of PVC pipes and joints. When the owners return they are course and demanding causing Henry visible discomfort. He doesn’t seem to get irritated just more of an alien in his own skin. They are entitled to a $10.00 off coupon which they didn’t bother to bring with them, so Henry obligingly, awkwardly gets one from the manager. It won’t scan properly and Henry whispers “of course I get the one that won’t scan” as if it is a reflection of his sad character rather than a mechanical annoyance. He manually types in the coupon code a few times and it doesn’t work. He has to get another coupon to finally end the ordeal. By this time I am smiling but not so wide and warm as to add to his discomfort. If I were Henry I would be seriously pissed of at this point, but he is merely in an extreme state of sublime frustration. For this I admire him.
“Ten tulip bulbs,” I say handing him the bag full of yellow bulbs that look like small, misshapen onions. I pay the $5.90 and bow my head to Henry slightly so that he won’t notice but enough so that I will still be showing my reverence. “Thank you very much,” I tell him. Henry, you are the soil that will grow my tulips. If it were possible I would place you in fields and fields of these Tokyo, almost Tyrian purple flowers where you would undoubtedly say, “Aw, gee.” Instead there will be five of that variety, three red, and two yellow. You will never see them, but they will exist and absolve us of shakiness and stuttering.

Tulips require a freeze to grow and this is a large part of their appeal to me. Think about it, beauty as the result of harshness. I feel as though this make it a good place to start because much of the ethos of this project is using my flaws to produce boons. In this case my, uh, uncompassion (unpaternal-ness?) will serve as the genesis of a thing, the frost for the soil. It obviously doesn’t freeze here in the Bay Area, so to simulate the effect I put the bulbs in the fridge where they will remain for about a week. Then I will plant them and the process of either their growth or still-birth will be the first step toward renaissance manliness.