Friday, December 28, 2012

My Christmas Story

Ray Bradbury, famous author of Fahrenheit 451, died this year, but in his life, he also wrote a story called "The Flying Machine."  In it, a Chinese man invents a beautiful flying machine, but when the Emperor finds out - he orders the execution of the inventor.  He explains that he sees what evil eyes would do with such a contraption, such as drop rocks against his kingdom from high above.  At the end of the story, he sees birds fly and realizes that his execution was in vain because he understands that birds were the inspiration for the inventor.  The machine would be built again.

When I was but a young boy, a witch and a warlock gave me an evil book of sorcery and magic.  Now - witches and warlocks of our modern time don't discuss the fact that they are these relics of a pagan past, and they certainly don't look any different from another human being.  So, as a kid how could I tell any different.  I was just excited that these two called me into a secret meeting, in a secret room, to give me a secret book.  Now, I was told to keep it in safeguard.  It was special - just for me.

I liked the book, and flipped through it from time to time, since I was given it.  But, it was an evil tome of forgotten magic, spells, and rituals.  One volume of the Tome taught me why men crave murder in the most heinous ways and how to use the blood of murdered men to divine the future.  Another volume explained how to seek the forbidden knowledge that got Adam and Eve expelled from Eden.  

Years and years later, people warned me I had a book of evil in my possession.  I didn't think anything of it.  But recently, while I was at Starbucks, a random man, a man who claimed to be a prophet, became urgent and told me he wanted to talk to me outside.  He said I had a book of ritual and magic and sorcery.  How he knew or who told him, I never figured out.

I returned to the book.  I flipped through it.  I felt compelled once again to not destroy the book.  After all, someone had put in at least a decade of collecting this knowledge - evil or not.  It appeared to be precious knowledge.  

But up to the days leading to Christmas, several people once again reminded me to burn the book.  I was going to shred it, but all three people reminded me: "That's not good enough."  On Christmas day, I asked my mother for the bbq pit.  I dumped the book in there and doused it with lighter fluid.

I struggled to know whether I did right or wrong.  I never burned a book in my life.  I remember my Indian Project Manager, an educated man, told me that his wife and him smacked their child only once in life.  Once.  And they did it at the same time.  It was when their daughter ripped a page out of a book and threw it against the wall.  

Now, I was going to commit the same act that Hitler authorized with his book burnings.  All that precious Jewish sacred knowledge lost - forever.  The Romans burnt down Cleopatra's library; the Romans burnt the knowledge of the Jews.  The Germans incinerated Jewish volumes of lore and wisdom.  Now - I wondered to myself if it was right to destroy this knowledge - even though it was from the heart of evil itself.

I took a match and threw it against the book.  My mother came out and asked, "Why are you burning that book?"

"Because people told me it's evil," I answered.

"And since when do you become superstitious?"  She said it in broken English.

"When strangers told me I had an evil book I had to burn."

"Well - I can see that's important."

I watched the orange and red flames gliding over each page and eating away at it.  The wraiths inside of the book shrieked and filled the night sky with screams.  The flames sent them back to where they belonged: Hell.  I just watched the hypnotic fire growing ever bigger, destroying my tome that I was supposed to safeguard.  And I did safeguard it I suppose.  No one would ever have this knowledge now.  I kept my promise as that witch and warlock never told me who I was safeguarding it for.  I did what Adam could not do when she saw her fallen Eve.  He took her hand and chose her over God and instead walked hand-in-hand out of the garden together.  Here - I made the decision that I didn't want this magic, and no one else would have it.  People have evil eyes and people have nefarious purposes.

When the ashes flew up into the sky, like bits of silver flakes, I knew someone put a ritual inside that book to bind me to it.  My spirit felt freer with every page that burnt, like chords that bound me being snapped.  Yet, my chickens and ducks, locked in their cage started fluttering their wings and clucking with madness.  They wanted out.  They were banging themselves against the cage, until the last page burned, and the flames drove the last demon back to Hell.

It was an odd ritual for Christmas Day.  And why do ghosts love to be present on Christmas day?  I took my mother then to watch Les Miserables.  It was a good way to end Christmas - to watch the story of grace and mercy re-framed for me.  My mother fell asleep as she said, "Musicals are boring."  I laughed.

When I went back home though, I had the most gnawing feeling biting in me.  That book - I could feel it.  There's another copy somewhere.  Who has it?  And why?  I suppose the inspiration to recreate its words are still out there. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Learning the Upper Cut

Once upon a time, a titan named Prometheus stole fire from Mount Olympus and taught man the gods' secrets about fire.  Zeus, the King of the gods, had the titan chained to a rock for his insolence.  Zeus sent his pet eagle to dive into the chained titan, and rip out his liver to eat, everyday, actually.  Every morning, the liver regenerated and the eagle would once again torment the titan.  Franz Kafkfa believed in three other alternatives.

He said that the torture could have drove the titan to press himself, his soul, his lifeblood, and his body into the rock - becoming one with it.

He said that the story became forgotten.  The gods forgot about the titan.  The eagle forgot about himself.

He said that the story became boring.  The gods found watching the same show over and over again boring.  The wound got bored too and closed up.  The eagle needed something else to do.

Now, being thrown out of grace and landing in a strange place between Heaven and Hell, which of those fates awaits me in my purgatory days?

In the boxing gym, Chief held the punching bag.  I threw a right jab, a left back punch, and right jab, again and again.  It began to create a rhythm, duh duh duh duh duh.  "Again," Chief would say.  'Duh, duh, duh, duh, duh."  Fast and crisp the punches landed.  Chief shouted, "Hey guys, look at this."

Luiz, my personal coach, and the main coach came to watch.  The extra pressure of them having me watch made me mess up and the sound came out as duh-duh- duh duh duh.  No good.  But after awhile, I found my rhythm again, and out they came: duh duh duh duh duh.  It had a natural beat, like all things do when they become perfected.  Chief said, "Hey, he's getting good, huh?"  The two other coaches nodded.

Luiz then took me aside and said, "I wanna teach you the upper cut.  But I know you."  He smiled, and even though he was Chicano, his eyes narrowed into Chinese ones.  No wonder they call him Chinito sometimes.  A Chicano that looks like a Chinese man is teaching the Korean boxing.  Can life get weirder?  He went on, "You're gonna try to get it perfect.  Think too much.  Just like you do.  Just relax and throw them out."

Chief added, "Just like his Chinese people do.  Need to be perfect."

"That's right."  I added.

Luiz said, "But I'm gonna teach you the upper cut."  That just sounded cool.  The upper cut.

He showed me the shadow boxing movement.  "First you go down.  You drop the left arm like a lever.  Then you pop it out at a right angle.  Spin the hand.  Scoop it up.  Then Boom.  Up you go.  You get the power by springing off your feet.  Got it?"

I looked at it and said, "I think so."  This one I could do.  I ducked down, looking like a wound-up jack-in-the-box.  After a few repetitions, I got it.  I sprang off my feet, released the scooping punch, and my elbow flicked up.  Upper cut.

Luiz smiled and said, "There ya go."

Chief said, "You want to go and punch into their body and follow up.  Knock them out boss, right underneath that chin; so they see stars."

"Got ya!"

There, I was, learning boxing.  But not like the Chicano kids.  No.  What I lack in technical skills, they could see I made up with the hard pressed demands ingrained in me from living with parents who demanded perfection in their oldest son.  Whenever I made a mistake in the boxing club, I joked, "Oh no!  My parents are gonna disown me now."  (Hasn't happened yet, but maybe one day.)

I finished off with jump ropes.  But I was so sweaty, that the drops of sweat fell to the floor as I skipped ropes.  The head coach watched me and said, "This one's dedicated."  I had the stamina from all the other training I did.  I suppose it comes from the unspoken family motto, drilled in my brother and me: dedication, determination, and victory.  And finally - no excuses.  (Though I think both my parents don't always follow what they preach.)

Anyways, after finishing with training, the head coach invited me to dinner.  They wanted to know more about me.  Why?  How does all the kids at the club already know my name?  They all know: I'm Paul.  They call my name, and I know only my coaches' name.

I agree to go to eat Mexican food.  I eat Mexican breakfast for dinner.  Chorizo con huveos (eggs with Mexican sausage.)  I love the salty crispiness of the sausage against the scrambled eggs.  The fatty rice and beats are tasty but just a filler.

We talk about our lives, and in a flash of a moment, I realize again, I'm living back at my childhood home.  It's a home that I wanted to run away far, far, away from.  And I did.  When I turned 18, I flew the nest.  But the Chinese are right - "Falling leaves return to their roots."  And to be honest, I am happy to be back at home.  Except, I find it strange that I have pets for children that all seem to have ESP and know and respond to my routine.

I had a flashback over the weekend about what my family told me.  My brother, his wife, their Welsh Corgi (a royal pembroke kind), and my mother were all in the living room.  The Welsh Corgi, neurotic with hyperactivity, barked at the other creatures living on our San Gabriel Estate - modest of course.  Once in awhile, she would lay flat on her stomach and sprawl out her stubby paws.  Very cute.

My brother, recognizing my struggling state, asked me, "Why did you ever leave New Zealand?  You used to live by the beautiful, blue ocean, and you were living like a prince."

That I was, I thought.

My mother added to the dumb comment, "Yeah!  You should go back!"  The Corgi raised its head and noted her raised voice.

How could I explain to them, I was too young to stop suffering and to live a boring life in New Zealand.  I always had this terrible vision of my future if I stayed there.  Let me tell you what it was.  I had a nice home by the blue ocean where the orkas came and went, a nice car, and the same job.  I was in my 50's, and I asked myself everyday that I woke up why I chose an easy life?  I asked myself why I had stopped learning?  I asked myself why I chose not to suffer while I was young?  To step into that moment, was me living a vision of a Hell tailored just for me.  My Mental Hell on Earth.  But, how could I explain that to the people in the room here?  All they cared about was the one value that destroys, desecrates, and demolishes an explorer's vision: SECURITY.

I scoffed inside but said flatly, "We'll all go back one day.  And I'll scuba dive and bring you all lobster to eat.  I make the best lobster too."

My brother said, "Yeah, that's true."

My mom said, "We should go."

My brother's wife said, "Maybe we'll go."

And I realized, hey Paul, Paul, you're at dinner.  Snap out of this moment.  You're day dreaming again.  People want you attentive here.

I can't really discuss parts of the conversation with them.  But I can say I got a glimpse of the world of boxers and their needs and desires and aspirations and failures.

In the back of my mind, I again asked myself: What do they want from me again?  I just started.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Getting an Offer in Purgatory - From the Purgatory Diaries

It's winter in my purgatorial world.  Sunsets are shorter.  I'm 30.  I live with my mother.  We have a chicken and a duck.  The duck is becoming a pudgy giant of a fowl and it hisses.  The chicken really looks like a black ghost - if you can imagine a ghost chicken.  In any event, Mom loves her chicken, which lays her an egg every other day.  People, purgatory is real, and whatever you do, don't end up here.  I imagine, or maybe it's true, that I'm a wandering spirit (yes in a human body) trying to broadcast this message to you.  

I was at the local Starbucks, where everybody knows me.  Why not?  It's a small town in the Valley of Saint Gabriel.  They know me because I don't even have a desk in the house because my brother moved out and took it.  We don't even have internet connection, which I find ok because when I go home I prefer not to use the internet.  I'd rather relax, eat my mother's delicious Korean food (and as mentioned I'm fed in limbo land), and watch the complex social behavior of my African Aquarium fish.

After I returned from Russia - Germany - Spain - and New York, I began writing my first short story.  I promised an aspiring Russian writer that I would do it for him because he promised to translate it.  I spent a month doing it, but after the draft was complete, I was still unemployed and had time to kill.  Instead of watching tv, or doing whatever the unemployed do (and don't do - which is work), I sat down and wrote out another story.  Writing became a way of taking my mind off of my washed up existence in my small world.  Boxing does it too - actually, but I discovered that secret later.

When the second story was written- I knew it was good.  I know, it sounds arrogant and self-promoting, but I need a little of that to go on.  I just read and have read a lot, the characters almost came alive for me, and although it wasn't in a polished state, it was written like a good story I've read.

I thought - ok this is publishable, but you need to jump through the hoops first.  So, I tested it with other people and got their opinion.  I even workshopped it at a writing group, who gave me candid feedback.  I was ready to prime it to send out to editors to accept.  I believed, as I heard from so many, expect the rejections - and lots of them.

I hate rejection.  It's the worst of all feelings.  You put yourself out there for people to say: YOU ARE UNWORTHY.  I put on my mental suit of armor, punched out a cover letter, and thought - oh before I send this work out for publication I better get a professional opinion.  Everybody in my circle who gave me feedback was biased in one way or another.   Either the were a professional and a friend.  Or they were not a friend but not a professional either.  I needed someone who would be both a professional and not a friend.  Only then could I feel like their opinion was honest.   Really, I was just trying to protect my ego before it took another beating from the rolling rejections.  If this story doesn't have a chance of flying - like my fat duck doesn't, don't send it out.

I submitted it to a professional writing group and never heard back.  I made up an imaginary deadline to send it out regardless though because I'm a type-A-neurotic personality, and it was approaching.  And that meant, I'd think of myself as a loser if I missed my fictional deadline.

Then one day, while in the Starbucks where I wrote my stories, I get a letter from a man who only has two initials.  In short, he said my story was good and crappy.  He showed me how well read he was, which flagged to both of us that we both knew what level we write and have read on.  He mildly praised it.  At this point, I was thinking, fine I know what I need to fix before sending it out for publication submission.  He said the ending was terrible.  And then he said the group wanted to buy it.  (After the fact, I imagine him to be like Peter Parker's editor - except he wears a bow tie but still smokes a cigar.)

My jaw dropped!  What?!  Hey - I didn't even solicit.  Actually the title of the email was called "Encouragement?"  I just wanted to know if they could encourage me to submit it to a reputable journal, which they threw back in my face and said, "Or you can go with a reputable journal."  They were trying to say they were one.

This is how it feels to be struck by lightning.  This is how it feels like to get your break - except I wasn't looking for a break.  This is how it feels like for a Hollywood waiter (which I've seen plenty of) trying to be picked up as an actor.  Trust me - I never seen it happens or really think it does, actually.

I took out my iPhone and called one of my first readers and said, "You're not going to believe this - but - someone wants to buy the piece."

He said, "Wow -"

I said, "I always thought this game was going to be a lot harder."  And in actuality, for my academic pieces, soon to be released in print, it was much harder.

The day before the news, I was having one of those crap days.  I got an email from a professor that was written professionally and politely but had a subtext of a message that made me feel worthless and stupid.  I think law professors are born with a gene that turns on the condescending switch.  I try not to let those things get to me, but sometimes, they do.  Both because of the difference in positional power and because I live in the liminal world in my mind, which is some place between Heaven and Hell.

Because I was knocked off my mental game, I had to talk to two friends who had much more experience than me.  They're like coaches who help you get back up.  And it made me be more grateful that I had those kind of people in my corner - for those times when I do get knocked out.  

So, getting the good news, and bad news, I felt like I was having one of those teenage moments of hormonal reflexive spikes of joy and depression.  Is this how manic depressives feel?  I'm back in my home city, I thought.  I'm back living my teenage years on another dimension, and the fleeting instances of adolescent de ja vu suck.

Anyways, time to focus again, something I'm not doing well of.  Time to line my ducks in a row.  I called a trustworthy friend and asked him to be my agent.  I know he's reading this.  He said he wasn't sure he could be my "literary agent."  It sounded weird hearing those words.  And I began thinking, come on, it's only for a short story.  (But I think, he felt like it'd be for future works as well.)

I assured him, who else could I trust?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Meeting My Boxing Coach - My Days in Purgatory

It was a long-drawn out internal battle.  I had already made the decision to take up boxing - a long time ago.  So - why did it take so long to actually learn? When I took up judo, I had a mysterious force literally draw me to a judo club, which practiced in a dumpy warehouse in New Zealand.  I walked in one day and decided to take it up.  I was a terrible fighter, who was so lacking in the basics, everyone could see it.  It's like how I could see the level of your education by how you read and understand information.  Then, literally, one dark and stormy night, a girl from the East came into the club; she was an ex-Olympian for Korea.  On the first night, she defeated the best male fighters of the club and made them eat the mat.  She was my master for two and a half years and really taught me how to make others have it.  Why, then haven't I taken up boxing, I thought? 

The thing about being in purgatory is that I have this nagging and unsettling feeling I've been here before.  This purgatorial deja vu is the kind of feeling one gets when he believs they've kicked a bad habit and finds himself doing it again.  It's the kind of feeling one gets when a disease goes into remission and comes back.  It's an evil force that shatters your hope and resilience.

But while reflecting on my days in limbo, somewhere in Saint Gabriel's Valley, I thought I should return back to the art of fighting.  The last time I was thrown in a world between Heaven and Hell, I took up judo.  Somehow that brought me out of it.  But how did I end up here is always my question?  I don't know, but I did know I had to return to fighting.  So - back to fighting I had to go.  (Sometimes I believe that I'm just a spirit living in a human shell with other spirits also trying to find their way out.)

I come from a poor area.  Just to quantify it for you - the average family here makes $20K a year - that's a mother-and-father household.  In my high school, anywhere between 12.5%-33% of the girls didn't finish graduation because they ended up becoming teenage mothers, which is almost a surefire road to poverty.  Down the street - we have the ugliest and the worst nightmare of neighbors that goes beyond the realm of imagination..  Loyal readers will know how the neighbor's Nephew pointed a rifle at me in July.  So - that's where I'm back in.  My childhood home - which is not all so terrible because in my threshold existence of real, unreal, mystical, and hellish, meals are good, and they are free.

But there is at least one benefit, perhaps there are more, while living in my childhood area.  My city is Mexican and Chicano dominated.  In general, Mexican neighborhoods in America produce few football players and fewer basketball players.  Those are two sports that require the tall gene.  Boxing doesn't.  Mexican neighborhoods make good boxers.  And I obviously don't have the tall gene either. 

I walk into the community center.  It's in the center of town, and it has a gym complex inside.  In there, I meet the head coach.  He tells me, "We're gonna start you off with Louis."  He's a good natured looking Chicano in his early twenties and just a little taller than me.  I shake his hand.  I tell him, "My name is Paul.  Pleased to meet you.  I'd like to let you know," and I'm not sure why I told him the next fact, "I'm 30."

He looks me up and down and looks at my face again.  He actually asks, like if I was lying, "Are you sure?"  He calls to an older Santa Claus looking gentleman, who's the old coach, and says, "Coach can you believe this one is 30?"  There seems to always be a Santa Claus gentleman in every fight gym I've been at. 

He says in a gruff voice, "He don't look 30 to me."

I tell Luis, "I know boxing is all about the footwork.  So, I guess that's what you're gonna start me on, right?"

"That's right.  But first I'm gonna wrap your hands."

He gets out the Mexican wraps.  That's what they're called.  They're the kind of wraps for injuries as well.  He holds one of my hands in his left and wraps it like a mummy with his right.  Then he mummy wraps the other one.

He takes me to the mirror to train me in front of it.  "We're starting you here, boss.  The mirrors.  Here, you can watch yourself and correct your mistakes.  Got it?"

"Got it."

"Your first movement is gonna be bobbing.  First you duck.  Then you dip.  Then you go forward with your front leg.  Got it?"

"Got it."  But I didn't get it.  I tried over and over again to get the front thrust.  I looked silly in front of that mirror, and I felt really frustrated and embarrassed I was making that mistake.

"Hey, look, Chief.  You don't make the forward movement with that way.  With a forward movement in your thighs."  He showed me.  I tried to follow.  Over and over again, I tried to learn bobbing with frustration.  That perfectionist in me started rising its ugly head.  I don't if law school drove in the pesky and impossible need to be perfect at everything - at least in front of others.  I don't know if it was my judo instructor or my Korean parents.  In any event, I can see the Chicanos in this gym don't think the way I do.  We were just raised differently. 

Stupid, Paul!  How come you can't get this?  I ask myself over, and over, and over, and over again. 

My coach sees I'm getting frustrated.  "Look boss," he says, "you ain't gonna get it overnight.  And you're overthinking it.  Smooth."  He bounces back and forth with the balls of his feet again.  A red lighted timer blinks, and he says, "Time to stop.  30 second break.  When the green light turns on, do it again for three minutes."  

I train like for what seems to be forever.  My calves are twitching.  I suck at boxing!  The coordination is so hard.  Why can't I get it?

My coach goes, "Hey - time for the jump ropes.  They loosen you up.  The ropes fix your coordination.  Hands, eyes, and feet.  You need to do a lot of them."  I can jump rope and have the stamina for it, but the other trained boxers are so much better at me.  They have way fancier footwork than me.  I suck at this!!!  I think.  Aye, this is the price for purgatory.  

At around 7pm, the advanced crowd come in.  Most of them are teenagers from the city.  Immediately, the boxing gym takes on its own living rhythm.  The bags are being pounded at certain intervals.  The ropes are whipping the floor, emitting a hissing beat.  It's a sort of loud but natural cadence that fills the whole gym and brings it to life with fighters' energy.  They're all chicanos from the high school I graduated from and the rival one.  I thought to myself, if they worked this hard at high school - they'd all actually go to college.

I see so many parents come and talk to the coaches.  I never saw that during the parent teacher conferences, while growing up in this city.  But here - the fathers are attentive to their boys dreams to be a boxer (or is it the fathers' dreams?)  All of the kids want to be like Oscar de la Hoya or Marquez.  In any event, the chubby fathers smile at the small Chinito boy pathetically learning to box.

At the end, I walk to my coaches.  Thank them.  I bow my head to Luis, the one who was personally attentive to my training that evening.  I could tell no one's ever showed him the ritual deference.  I remember bowing to elders since I was five years old.  Then I remember rebelling against the practice when I was 15.  Now, it seems like I'm returning to it at 30.

* * * *
I came back the next day, same time.  I saw my coach.  I smiled and said, "I bet you didn't think I'd come back."

He smiled nervously that telegraphed to me he was guilty of the bad conclusion.  "Well, boss, I see a lot of people come and go, you know?  It's hard to be a boxer.  Let's start your training.  The mirrors."

I liked how he didn't know yet how to be pretentious, like they are on the West Side of Los Angeles.  I bobbed in front of the mirrors.

He said, "Good.  Good."

I said, "I was practicing at home."

"I could tell."

He calls out to Santa Claus and says, "Hey Chief.  Look - he gotz it!"

Chief calls back and says, "Sure does.  Keep at it, Boss.  You're gonna get there.  But don't you be driving yourself in the ground with drills."

I said to him, "I'm Asian.  We learn to be perfect."

Chief says, "I know your people do that, but that's not how we train here."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My days in purgatory

Last Friday night, I realized, even though I'm not a Catholic, or any derivative of the religion, I was and am living in purgatory.  It was pouring in Los Angeles from Friday to Sunday.

When I woke up in the morning, I put the key in the ignition and turned it.  The dash lit up, the gauges went wacky, and the car just rang, but the usual starter didn't ignite.  Damn it, I thought.  What's wrong with the car?

The triple-A guy came out and tested my battery and alternator.  My battery was dead - dead like the next-door-neighbor croaked from a heart attack.  He jump started the car, as we both got drizzled on by the rain, and it worked - at least for a little while.  Then, like the ex-neighbor's heart gave, so did the battery.

I felt miserable.  I was immobile.  I couldn't drive anywhere, and I didn't feel like paying a bill for a new battery.  That's too much.  Pop's could replace it a lot cheaper, but Pop's 30 miles away in South Central.  So, I called another friend - who kept saying that his borrowed car battery charger would return.  I waited the whole day for him, and he never got that charger.

Twilight, eventually rolled in, as it does everyday.  But now, the heavens looked painted a phantasmic shade of midnight blue with endless sheets of grey clouds.  The chicken was clucking in the backyard like she was going mad because she was caged and imprisoned too.  (This was done for her own good though because she'd just get soaking wet and who knows what disease she'd inherit if that happened.)  But like me, she was annoyed that we were trapped in a purgatorial existence of limited life.

Thus, I flipped on the tele and Criminal Minds came on.  In the kitchen, my mother and I had just finished baking pork baby back ribs.  My mother at first wanted to boil them first to get them tender.  I said, "NO!"  I said, "Doing so, would make it lose all its flavor."  She said, "Alright then, what do we do?"  I said, "Marinate it."  She marinated it in a Korean sauce of spicy chilli, sugar, and spices.  Three blends of savory, sweet, and salty all in one.  We baked it for three hours, until the collagen melted and made the ribs have a crystallized texture that was in tact and in shape, until a fork or knife gently went through it.  Then, it would just break apart into shreds.  And inside the mouth - it melted and exploded with flavors.

So there I was, watching tv, homicides and murders.  I ate some ribs, and poured myself a liquid amber whiskey.  I swirled it in the glass, aerated it, and sipped on the smokey flavor of the whiskey.  I thought, I feel like an obese white Southerner.  I imagined myself screaming for, "Zel-dah!  Zel-dah!  Whey iz my wizz-key?  Zel-dah, bring me my whizz-key?"  Except there was no Zelda, and I had my whiskey.

As the tele kept running, I got more ribs.  My mom saw me and said, "Again?!  You just ate."  I thought, You don't understand, mama.  I'm trapped in purgatory, and we poor souls need something to take our minds off our existence.

I poured myself some more amber whiskey.  I took out some old Italian wine cake and spooned in some Spumoni ice cream.  The ice cream was chocolatey, pistachioy, cherryish, and vanillay.  Ice cream makes everything better, I thought.  And I ate away like an obese Southerner - the spirit is willing to fight but ain't the body weak.

I want some more ribs, I thought.  How come I don't have a Zelda plating me up some ribs?  'Cos you're in purgatory - and Zelda's not.  So, I walked and plated me up some more ribs.  I thought to myself, this would taste awfully good in a Mexican tamale.  Then, it'd have to be deep fried.

I thought to myself, this is what it feels like to be an obese person.  This is what it's like to medicate yourself on food.  This is what it's like to feel good and terrible in the same stroke of a moment.  I noticed, however, that the chicken stopped clucking with the nightfall.  Oh - and they just caught murderer on tv.  He was an impotent prison guard.

The ghoulish skies continued to rain down on the valley of Saint Gabriel.