18 April 2013

Watching cars and people go by as the skeletal white reindeer illuminates my front yard. Smoking in the bathtub. Sharing a bed with a cat. Screaming at vacant parking lots at midnight. Crying over long gone friends.

I want to turn into vapor and slither through the keyhole. Maybe float out into space. But I’ll probably just stay where I am.

17 April 2013

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Ryan Starsailor and John Blacksher enjoy donies and coffee at Pepples Donut Farm, Oakland’s favorite breakfast spot.

10 April 2013


Sunset on Mars, taken in May 2005 by NASA’s Spirit rover. It’s crazy to think that the pale white orb sinking into the horizon is 141 million miles away.

04 April 2013


This photograph was taken in January 2010 in Yokohama, Japan, just south of Tokyo. This must have been several days after New Year’s Day.

That’s my friend Dan Lama on the right. (Which makes me the ghoul on the left.) We’d just spent the night at a bathhouse called Manyo Club, which is located on this strange little island full of amusement park rides. I remember it being windy that day. We were so happy, though, being there together.

I sure do miss Japan. I miss Dan Lama more.

03 April 2013

While editing the seventh chapter of my novel, I stumbled upon a line that has very little to do with the rest of the story. I must have just dropped it in there at the end because I didn’t know where else to put it. Who knows where it will end up (if it ends up in the book at all), but for now I’ll leave it here:

Somewhere far away, a father was wondering if his son would be alive the next morning, and a porn star was getting ready for work.

02 April 2013

She had figured out that the most pervasive American disease was loneliness, and that even people at the top often suffered from it, and that they could be surprisingly responsive to attractive strangers who were friendly.

—Kurt Vonnegut, Bluebeard (1987)

01 April 2013

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Soon I plan to do a whole post on my bedroom here in The People’s Republic of Austin, but for now I will show you where I work. This is my “office”, which is approximately five feet away from my bed.

  • My desk used to be a dining room table, but I haven’t had a reason to use it as such in many years. It’s a bit larger than a regular desk, so I prefer it this way.
  • Above my desk is a 2013 calendar sent to me by Field Notes, makers of wonderful little notebooks I order every now and then.
  • Above that is a picture of my cousins Ned and Jack (with me somewhere between them) last Christmas. Sometimes, when I’m feeling uninspired, I just look at that picture and instantly Get Creative.
  • That little white lantern usually has a lit, fruit-scented tealight candle in it, but I recently ran out of them. I’ll have to get some more soon.
  • See that Paris Review mug? It’s huge. They sent it to me when I subscribed last fall. I have probably drunk hundreds and hundreds of cups of tea out of that beautiful thing since then.
  • On the little bookshelf to the left I usually burn incense non-stop. If you look closely, you can actually see a vertical green stick burning in this picture. I have a huge supply of Nag Champa and Mainichikoh stocked up so that I never run out.
  • As for the bookshelf itself: It’s filled with guitar tuners, ancient Japanese video games, old journals, and unused train tickets for the BART in San Francisco.
  • Tacked to the little cork board above the bookshelf is a ticket to a Deer Tick show on October 16th, 2011 at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. It was the first one I ever went to! I have been to about thirty since then.
  • Above that is a Delta Spirit triangle advertising their self-titled album. I got that at Waterloo Records on the day it was released, which was during SXSW last year. I also watched them perform half the songs from the album an hour later in the very same store. That was pretty cool!
  • On the cork board to the right is a heartfelt letter from my spirit-brother, Alex H., who lives in Los Angeles. He sent me Halcyon Digest and OK Computer on vinyl for Christmas two years ago. I hadn’t even met him at that point! We knew each other through words alone. What a cool dude.
  • To the left of that is a pedal wrench given to me by a guy named Joe of Joe’s Bike Shop in Mt. Washington, which is pretty much the only part of Baltimore that isn’t scary. (I actually worked in the area for a few months.) Joe told me I would be able to put my whole bike back together using just a hex key—except the pedals. He loaned me that pedal wrench so I wouldn’t have to buy one. I still need to send it back to him. Sorry, Joe. I’ll do it soon!
  • At the bottom of the board are two business cards. One is a prototype of my own VIII Nothing card, and the other is from a lovely young artist named Samantha Fried, whom I met on mountain trail overlooking Lake Tahoe—right on the border of California and Nevada. Really!
  • And of course Sir Patrick Stewart watches over me while I work. My ex-wife painted that for me when I was a young Starsailor.

It’s a pretty OK place to sit down and write stuff that no one will read, if you ask me.

31 March 2013

Sleep and His Half-Brother Death, John William Waterhouse (1874)


28 March 2013

About a year ago I got really drunk on a Saturday night and wrote a science fiction story. It was about a guy named Rudy who is given a special transmitter by his alien friends so that he can summon them whenever he feels sad. The problem with the story is that Rudy is always sad. I guess that’s why I was never invested enough to complete it—there was no conflict. I liked the idea of benevolent aliens, and I was too afraid to do anything interesting with them. I don’t know if I’m ever going to rework or finish this piece, but here are some excerpts from the first draft:

Rudy was masturbating when his friends came to visit. He hadn’t been expecting them.

Camwell, the tallest one, knocked on the front door. A cold sweat rolled down Rudy’s back when he heard the noise.

“Yes?” said Rudy. He zipped up his pants and stepped out of the bathroom. Rudy had been planning to masturbate to completion like every man over twenty-five does, which is joylessly while hovering over an open toilet.

Camwell now said this through the door: “Rudy, we’re terribly sorry to bother you, but we wish to speak with you.”

“Oh, God!” said Rudy.

Rudy goes on to explain why he masturbates, which is something I’ve tried to include in dozens of stories, but it always ends up getting cut. (Good news: it’s in my novel.)

“I was sad,” said Rudy. “So I—so I pretended my hand was a female sex organ.”

“Ahhh,” said Rudy’s friends in unison.

Camwell stepped closer to Rudy, and bent down to his height. He got close to Rudy’s left ear, because he knew Rudy would be able to hear him better that way. He planned to lower his voice so as not to embarrass him.

“And is that,” whispered Camwell, “something that makes sadness go away?”

“To be honest, no. It’s illusory, almost.”

Camwell was very smart. He knew almost immediately what Rudy meant by that, but he let him continue anyway.

“It makes things worse, Camwell,” said Rudy. “Much worse.”

“May I ask what the impetus was to make yourself feel even worse?” said Camwell.

“There is a period of fifteen seconds after it is over,” said Rudy, referring to masturbation, “when the clouds part, and true wisdom enters the mind. Nothing hurts at all. And then the darkness comes flooding back, and one is left feeling emptier than they had been before.”

I liked the idea of Rudy having dated “a real weirdo”:

See: Rudy had, over the course of many months, lost any desire to be alive. He felt this way on account of his girlfriend having left him alone at the beginning of the new year.

His friends were dismayed by this. They loved Rudy very much. They wanted him to be happy. They wanted him to forget all about Christine, who was, according to Rudy, a real weirdo anyway.

“But I loved that weirdo,” Rudy would say. And Camwell would sing him songs that were from distant galaxies, or tell him stories about his own planet, or even cook him meals when he was too sad to move.

Sometimes the Tall Ones stayed until Rudy was fast sleep. And then they would leave in their flying saucers and monitor his vital signs from Earth’s exosphere. At the first sign of trouble—even if it was something as harmless as a bad dream—the Tall Ones would return to check on him.

Rudy had great friends.

Weird. Now that I’ve gone through it, I feel compelled to finish this thing. I should probably just rewrite it, though. Hmm! Maybe I will. An incomplete story is a real travesty.

25 March 2013

I am riding my bicycle by a Texas highway at night. The moon is out and the wind is cold. From the other side of the bridge I can make out the clock tower in the distance—pointed and looming and lit up by the color of blood. I think about the night we said it was ours. I had told her it was our midnight kingdom, and she was queen of the rosemary bushes. In the haze of some lonesome road I remember the Christmas lights hanging in her brain.

But time has passed and now I am alone again. Shadows leer and I hear laughter from some dark place. I close my eyes and dream in orange and purple. Once I was the Chemical Prince; tonight I am pale and depressed. At the end of my journey will be comfort and dim lighting. Between here and there I will love nothing but oxygen. In time there will be electric piano and the blood in my head and I’ll wish I could vanish into steam.

The only way I can tolerate it here anymore is to speed up and slow down the electricity in my brain. I pass a dead sparrow and hear a woman cough. No funeral for the sparrow. By morning it will rot under the sun unless some hungry thing finds it first.

A mile away there are oranges bleeding out in my yard. I had thrown them over the roof just to experience the joy of gravity. And the woman passing by with her baby had looked at me with hatred, saying, “You’re a danger to yourself.”

Across the street a family is watching a young girl play violin. Someone is seated at a grand piano. Boys are in the driveway tossing a ball around. They are outside experiencing a childhood while I am inside experiencing an adulthood. Weirdo of the neighborhood, I think; weirdo of the world.

Yes, and my mind whirls back to the Chemical Prince and his twelve hours of existence. Dead the next morning, awaiting resurrection. But then death is gone and I am no longer afraid of it. It had been conquered in my dreams.

Presently the room swirls and the ceiling lowers. Green walls and yellow lights. There is a creeping sensation in my throat and I remember the sweet smell of the rosemary bushes and how I had almost crawled inside of them. And then my mind flashes and I remember the night when we stood on the stump and watched the moon quiver in the sky. I wonder aloud if what had been was now a dead tree or a new log.

Someone nearby is talking but I can’t focus on the words. A guitar screams and the sound is light and silvery like a supersonic bullet to the brain. Earthworms in my heart and red in my eyes. I gaze out the window and the sky is black and dead. I wonder if I am tired of human voices and human faces or just plain tired. The moment passes and my vision darkens. In some quiet place a memory is born, but I burn it before it has a chance to breathe.