Thursday, February 25, 2016

Chasing Atalanta (Chapter 2)

The digital dashboard clock showed 2.16 pm when I decided to drive out of US 23 to a city called Sylvania. If it were a woman, I bet she’s a hot one based on the name and she was presumably arty and cultural. She was probably a poet or a novelist, just like Plath. God, I started uttering nonsense.

Nine-hour nonstop drive from New York to Ohio burned me out. It was before dawn when I left New York City, and I spent nine hours by only sitting and screaming Ty Segall’s songs at the top of my lungs. But, I swore to God it was really exhausting and it creeped me out because I realized that I was not young anymore. It was as if New York had drained my youth and spirit these past years.

“Turn right to exit 234,” said Sandra loudly, the name that I gave to my car GPS when I was still in high school. It was a lame name, I knew, but it was kind of stuck there like a super-adhesive glue. My car’s name, though, was niftier. It was Strummer. But, I had to admit that I got the name from a Buzzfeed quiz that I did because I got no sense in naming car whatsoever.

“Yeah, yeah. I am not illiterate.” I murmured. This nine-hour drive would be more fun if there was Jennifer by my side. She would not only try to find the correct direction, but she would also try to find the correct way to my mouth, trying to steal a kiss, while I tried my hardest to drive and not to kill both of us. She would giggle really hard and that came off as a music to my ear. Man, I could kill just to hear her voice. But, instead of getting the sound of her giggles, I had to be satisfied with Sandra’s monotone voice that failed to titillate me, unlike Theodore Twombly. It was also not Jennifer that sat on the passenger side beside me, but boxes containing my clothes. The same ugly boxes containing boxes and my other stuffs towered on the backseat as well.

The exit number 234 was crowded and I needed a few minutes before I could discern a street sign depicting some fast food restaurants. It commanded me to go straight and turn right on the second crossroad.

I stopped by a traffic light before turning my wheel right and decided to go to Tim Hortons. I only drank plain water during my drive. I needed my sucrose intake, and I could use some Tim Hortons’ doughnuts.

A dental care clinic stood by the end of the street when I turned right before being followed by a row of fast food restaurants and a long shopping center. I could make out Taco Bell’s purple bell, McDonald’s golden arches, and Tim Hortons’ sign afar. It seemed ironic, though, because it felt like they intentionally put the dental clinic close to these restaurants. So, when a customer ate too many Tim Hortons’ Boston cream doughnuts and his tooth ached, they could say, “Having a toothache because of our doughnuts? Don’t worry, there’s a dental clinic by the end of this street. Convenient, right?”

After parking Strummer on Tim Hortons’ empty parking lot, I stepped out and felt the warm breeze of Ohio in June. Strummer is a 2006 Ford Mustang that I inherited from Dad in my sophomore year of high school. It looked more like shit, compared to other parked cars. The oldest car (other than mine) here likely came out in 2010, an Accord that parked by the southwest end of the parking lot even though I could also see an old 70’s Chrysler at the opposite of the car. I could imagine an old woman sitting behind that car’s wheel.

“Damn middle class,” I grumbled.

I jogged to the awning of Tim Hortons and was greeted by a young guy—he was still in his teen, I guess—with ‘James’ written on his nametag from behind the cashier. His cheeks were as rosy as bride's. 

“Welcome to Tim Hortons, Sir. How can I help you?”

Could you give me a job that was not from my mother was the appropriate answer that I was supposed to give, but I opted to stay silence and just ordered a grilled panini with bacon and cheese, a medium-sized coffee, and a half dozen of Canadian maple doughnuts for takeaway.

“Anything else?” asked James again. His fingers flitted mercurially on the cashier machine, making me wonder how long he had been on this job. At least it’s stable, I quoted Mom. I scoffed
“Nah.” I gave him three five-dollar bills.

“That will be $13.51.” As fast as coyote, he took my bills and gave me change. “Thank you, Sir. Hope you have a good day.”

I was dubious that today will be a good day, especially because I would meet my beloved mother in less than six hours. While I slid to the food counter, James inserted my doughnuts to a paper bag hastily.

This restaurant was not too crowded and strangely tranquil, except for Taylor Swift’s Blank Space that blasted out of the speaker. A middle-aged man lay quiescently at the corner of the room, like there was nothing to worry about in this world. I had a feeling that he was the one who rode the old Chrysler in the parking lot. A pair of adolescent girls sat by the opposite corner, giggling like lunatic, enjoying the beginning of summer.

“Here’s your meal, Sir!” James startled me. He smiled, flashing his pearly white teeth that made me ponder if he was one of the customers of the dental clinic in the end of this street. “Thank you very much.”

I nodded and brought my tray to the middle-aged man’s table, far far away from the teenage girls that seemed obnoxious. They glanced me, whispered something, and laughed hard. Yeah, I knew I was unemployed. No need to whisper, girls. And suddenly I felt jolt of lividity and slammed the tray to the table. The old man didn’t even budge an inch like a sloth. If Mom were here, she would judge the old man for not being more spirited and cheerful. As if her husband was spirited and cheerful as well.

Before I could put my ass to the chair, my cellphone rang. Speak of the devil. Mom called.

“Hi, Mom,” I answered reluctantly. 

“Hi, Patrick! Where are you now?” asked Mom.

“In Sylviana, Ohio.” I replied while stirring my coffee and sipping it a little. “Having some lunch.”

“Oh, great! Hey, Patrick. do you think you could make it here before dinner?” Mom asked expectantly. “I want to make special dinner for your coming, do you think you could make it before seven? No need to rush, though. I have invited some other people, though, but I can cancel it if necessary.”

“Awesome!” I exclaimed sarcastically, but I believed Mom couldn’t sense it. I couldn’t wait for this awkward dinner where other people would humiliate me why I came back to Rosefield. I looked at my watch. I still got around four hours. “Yeah, I guess I could make it.”

“Okay, great. So, see you tonight, Patrick! Please be careful. ” Mom hung up the call.

I exhaled and contemplated if the decision to go back to Rosefield is a good one. A few days ago, out of curiosity I looked up a forum for people who went back to their parents’ house. Surprisingly there were millions other people in the States that had similar experience with me, millions were worse. Reading their experiences somehow made me feel that I was not the biggest dud in the world. There were tons of people out there who were dudder than me, so I didn’t need to overthink.

After devouring my lunch, I stepped out of Tim Hortons and went back to my car. I squinted to block the scorching and bright sunlight of June, and when I arrived to Strummer and groped in my pocket for car keys, my fingers felt a warm waft. Fuck. Where did I drop the keys?

I put the doughnuts at the hood of Strummer and retraced my steps to find the dropped keys. Luckily, the metal part of the keys reflected the sunlight, so I could easily snatched them from the ground near the awning of Tim Hortons.

Unluckily, when I went back to my car, those damn maple doughnuts melted even if I just left for less than ten minutes. The maple syrup melted and stuck in Strummer’s hood and bits of paper sprinkled on the doughnuts.

“Off to a great start,” I muttered. I was probably not blessed to come home. I grabbed the paper bag and the polluted doughnuts—which I pray to God were still edible—entered the car, and drove back to US 23. Rosefield, here I come. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Review Saturday: Frightened Rabbit - "Death Dream"

Frightened Rabbit
"Death Dream"
Painting of a Panic Attack

You know when a song starts with "It was dawn and the kitchen light was still on", it won't be a fun one. Scottish folk-rock band, Frightened Rabbit, gives us first taste from their follow up of their 2013-album, Pedestrian Verse. "Death Dream" serves as first single and the first track of their album, and it's song about death. And just like every song about death, "Death Dream" is so melancholic and full of sorrow, yet so poetic. "I stepped in and found the suicide asleep on the floor. An open mouth screams and makes no sound. Apart from the rain of the tinnitus of silence, you had your ear to the ground," continued Scott Hutchinson, accompanied by the growl of organ. The lyrics are so fluid and full of on-point metaphors: tinnitus of silence, scream and no sound. It feels complex, while "Death Dream"'s composition sounds simple and not too excessive--after all, it's a song about death, what will you expect? It is produced by The National's Aaron Dessner and you can hear The National's influence on the song. 

The awesomeness of the song reaches its epitome when Hutchinson leads a choir-like climax when he whispers, "He died in sleep last night" over and over, while in the background you can hear him chanting, "It's been a while since I dream this". The part feels so harmonious, it feels so alive--which is really surprising from a song like this. 

Painting of a Panic Attack will be released on April 8th by Canvasback/Atlantic. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review Saturday: Porches - "Car"


It is hard to make a song from a thing that is ubiquitous without sounding too banal. In "Car", Aaron Maine a.k.a. Porches sings about the mode of transportation that can be found anywhere. It's an ode to car and automobile. "It takes us away from where are," Maine hums, so full of wonder that how can such thing can take us anywhere. He repeated "Oooh what a machine" in a hypnotizing way, like a 50's child who's ecstatic when he rides a car for the first tame. "Car" may sound so constant with that repetitive beat on chorus, but you can't stop humming along with Maine "Oooh what a machine!" And you also wonder what a magical thing car is. 

Pool by Porches has been released yesterday by Domino Records. 

Chasing Atalanta (Chapter 1)


Atalanta is a Greek character who is known with her deadly footrace. Her father, wanted her to be married, but Atalanta, uninterested in marriage and had taken virgin oath to Artemis , agreed to marry only if her suitors could outrun her in a footrace. Those who lost would be beheaded. Many guys tried and are killed. Only Hippomenes who was smart enough to ask help from Aphrodite. She gave him three golden apples, and whenever Hippomenes were behind of Atalanta, he just needed to throw one apple, and Atalanta would be distracted. Using such trickery, Hippomenes won and married to Atalanta. Therefore, chasing Atalanta represents something dangerous, something that is almost impossible. But, when a man finds a trick to chase her, he will be rewarded with something beautiful.

Chapter 1

“No!” I shouted to the laptop screen, sending my jolt of frustration. I pointed three sets of eyes that stared at me calmly and innocently as if they were a saint. My temple twitched and it wouldn’t be long before my vein would burst, splashing gush of blood on the screen. They would see their youngest brother dying in front of their eyes. At least, that would leave some scar to their cold heart. They must be kidding, right? My family was notorious in making unfunny jokes that always irked me. It had to be one of them. 

“There’s no way in hell I would do that!” 

“Patrick,” pleaded Mom. She sounded so exhausted. Now, whose fault was that? “We completely understand that you—well—struggle in New York, but we think for your well-being. It’s better for you to come back home. To Rosefield.” 

Every single normal person knew what Mom tried to imply. That I was an utter failure. That I was a giant meat ball with failure stamped in every inch part of my body. And just because they three were more financially successful than me, it didn’t mean that they had a right to jump on my ramshackle boat and try to sail it. No, that wouldn’t ever happen. This all was because of that damn play, wasn’t it? 

“Pat, honey.” Now was my sister Patricia’s turn to say another nonsense, using her enticing voice like I was still ten. She used to be my favorite sister, but she now also conspired against me in plotting this whole applesauce. I didn’t want to listen to her. “New York is really expensive and life as a playwright there can be challenging. Especially with your last play which wass not too successful. You can still write play in Rosefield while teaching at Mom’s school.”

Yes, more salt on the wound. This was because that damn play that I wrote which was not too successful—fuck it, Patricia. That whole play flunked majorly, and my whole life in New York depended on it. I still owed last month rent to Josh, my roommate. And even though he was cool person, I had promised him to pay off my debt as soon as I could. Then that damn play happened. 

Going back to Rosefield was a first strike. I couldn’t stand on being asked why I came back home, but I could live with that. Teaching drama in Mom’s school, on the other hand, was a final blow. What kind of loser I was, in my 27 years of my life, getting a job from my mother, of all people in the world, for God’s sake?

“Oh, come on, Patty! We all know you’re a dud, don’t make your life difficult.” Phil blabbered from his screen. 

“Fuck you, Phil!” I gave him the bird. 

“Pat, your language, please!” Mom protested. Oh, great. Now my mother wouldn’t allow me to profane. How old was I again? Ten? “Phil, you mustn’t call your brother dud.” 

Phil smirked triumphantly. 

He was the reason why I completely supported The Purge to be legalized in the country. Killing him would help many people. He was an obnoxious programmer, who just happened to be lucky when his startup company thrived. He had married to a hot woman—who I think was as blind as Ray Charles because what did she see in Phil?—had a great son, and lived luxuriously in Atlanta. Yes, killing him was necessary. 

Even though Mom asked him not to call me a dud, I knew what’s really inside of her mind. Who was she fooling? I was the duddest dud in my house. Mom, even in her sixties, was a headmistress in Rosefield High School. Hence, she could provide me a job as a drama teacher there. It’s because they were lack of people, but still. My sister Patricia was a data scientist in Pittsburgh who earned a hundred grand more than me annually. And Dad, well, he used to be a succesfull football coach. 

So, when I chose English as my major, they looked as though they supported my decision, but I knew those judging eyes. They didn’t care that I got accepted in NYU and not in a remote university in Puerto Rico or somewhere. Considering my tragic GPA (except for my English grade which I passed with flying colors) in high school, being accepted in NYU was definitely an achievement. Moreover, when I took Dramatic Literature as my minor, they had predicted my future, which unfortunately, was not too far from reality. 

“It may not pay too much, but at least it’s stable,” said Mom once again. Were they completely clueless and idiot to grasp that this was not about money, but matter of pride? They can try to interview 27-year-old men out there and ask them if they wanted to get a job from their mother and live under the same roof with their mother? If there was one man said yes, I would gladly guillotine my head and bestowed it upon them like Macbeth. 

“And you just broke up with Jennifer.”

Leave it to Mom to make me feel worse. Damn it, Mom! Way to go. She decided to bring the topic about Jennifer up now. Thinking about her now took me to a few weeks before that damn play when she decided to break up with me. She said those you’re-too-good-for-me cliché that I completely couldn’t comprehend. I mean I think we were happy, our sex was great, and even if I couldn’t take her to fancy restaurant in New York for dinner, she enjoyed our modest dinner in my apartment. Sometimes I cooked. Sometimes we ordered takeaway from a deli not too far from my apartment. So, I didn’t understand where it had gone wrong, but I had a feeling it’s because I couldn’t satisfy her financially. Ha! Apparently satisfaction in bed was not enough. 

“Hi, Uncle Patrick! Hi, Aunt Patricia! Hi, Grandma!” Adam suddenly appeared on laptop screen, sitting on Phil’s lap. Adam was Phil’s son, and he was really cool unlike his father. And our feeling was mutual. When I gave him a train model as Christmas present, he thought I was the coolest uncle in the world. 

“Hi, Adam! Why are you not sleeping yet?” Mom asked in her cutesy voice. She always did that every time she talked to little kid. 

“I’m waiting for bedtime stories from Dad. What are you doing?” replied Adam while his little fingers fiddled with the keyboard because random letters shdfeetyrboobjk started to pop out from chatting screen. I tried my hardest not to laugh like an adolescent. I knew that this was unintentional, but I needed every humor injection that I could get. 

“We’re just talking, Adam Sweetheart,” answered Patricia in the same cutesy voice as Mom. 

“Talking about what?” asked Adam. More random letters appeared on screen. 

“About Uncle Patrick, tiger.” Phil lifted Adam down. “Now, you go back to your bedroom. I will get back to you soon, okay?”

“Okay, Dad!” Adam jumped ecstatically. “Bye, Uncle Patrick! Bye, Aunt Patricia! Bye, Grandma!” Adam ran off before disappeared from the screen. 

“So, I guess if Patrick insists on not going back to Rosefield, I believe we can’t force him.” More blabber from Phil. “Sorry, I have to leave now. I still have a son whose future is bright, unlike someone here.” 

I decided to ignore him. 

He smirked. “Nah, just kidding, Patty. You know I love you. I love you too, Mom and Patricia. Bye.” 

“Bye, Phil,” replied Mom. Phil went and left us with an empty dining chair on his screen. 

“So,” Patricia broke the silence, “what do you think?”

“No.” I resisted. 

“Please, Patrick.” Mom exhaled. “Dad will be glad to see you home. He needs you. You’re always his favorite.”

Mom is the most Machiavellian person that I know. She knew how to exploit weakness to reach her personal goal. She knew that Dad was my weakness. 

I swallowed hard. My mind flew back to Rosefield, to our house that directly faced to a small lake there, connected to Lake Michigan by a small stream. I could smell fresh pine tree that grew in our yard. I could see Dad lying on his bed, unable to move. And then, I began to realize how I missed him, my favorite family member. He’s the one who trained me football hard, but he was also the one who was the most proud when I scored a touchdown. He was also the one who didn’t judge me when I left for NYU when I could go anywhere else with sports scholarship. 

Living in New York seemed nonsensical for me now. 

“Well?” Mom asked expectantly. 

I inhaled and replied, “This summer. I lost, Mom. There’s some business that I need to settle with first here. But, I will go back to Rosefield this summer. In June.”

I could hear Mom and Patricia sounded so relieved before I turned off my laptop. I believed if they were in same room, they would hug each other like I just won a Super Bowl or something. 

I rub my temple. Going back home, huh? What kind of mistake that I just made once again?