Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Those Long-Haired Degenerates

When I was a child, there was a clear distinction between respectable citizens and degenerates. I was constantly made aware of this distinction by my family. I guess that's one of the main purposes of parents; to insure you know the difference, and to make sure you don't fall into becoming one of those loathsome scoundrels who loves neither his family, nor God nor his country.

My parents, my step-father in particular, where keen to point out that a man who had long hair, for instance, was clearly a homosexual. Even at a very young age I was at a loss because I thought that being a homosexual meant that you had sex with other men. They also pointed out to me in extreme earnest, that growing your hair would not only make you a homosexual but also lead to smoking marijuana which would in turn lead to becoming hopelessly addicted to heroine which would cause you to have sex with men for money in order to be able to pay for the drugs which would reenforce the fact that you were, as they originally pointed out, indeed a homosexual. 

This was all very hard for a six-year-old to process. 

Nonetheless, I got the picture, or so I thought. At that time, growing up a Cuban immigrant in Newark, New Jersey, I didn't know any men with long hair. There was only one man who fit the bill and he was in a painting my grandmother had in her home. His name was Jesus Christ. Well, you can just imagine what happened when I innocently went to my parents and asked them if Jesus was a drug-addicted homosexual. 

Cubans, especially back then, were not known to spare the rod, or this case, the belt. That day was certainly no exception. As I ran screaming to my room, my little, red, ass cheeks aflame, I remember crying through my tears, "But he has long hair!" There's just so much that makes no sense when you're six. 

It made no more sense to me at seventeen, when I had made the bold choice to grow my hair hence becoming a degenerate and a homosexual in the eyes of my family. I think I was still stuck on the fact that these people worshipped the image of a man who in appearance was the very thing they told their children not to be. I may have even used the "Jesus had long hair" argument again at that point, but at seventeen I was smart enough to know when to run.  And that's what I did. And I never looked back.

I've been a degenerate ever since. In other words, I dress the way I please, I cut my hair or don't as I please. I'm a free thinker and I say what's on my mind. I believe in freedom and equality for all.  I stand for a woman's right to choose, I stand for couples of any and all persuasions to have the right to live, to love and to marry.  I believe, like the founders of this country, in the separation of church and state. I believe in the inalienable right of religious freedom to openly worship one God, many gods or none at all. And most importantly, I believe in democracy and freedom of speech and in the pursuit of happiness. I believe that if you're not hurting anyone in what you're doing, you should be free to do it. In other words, I'm a degenerate.

I'm over forty now and I still have trouble understanding the distinction between what makes a person an upstanding, respectable member of society and a degenerate. I've met suit-wearing accountants who molest children and I've met sado-masochists who are the kindest folks you could ever hope to meet (or beat). Frankly, some things just still don't add up. It bogs me down sometimes, it always has. Somedays, I try not to think too much about it.

It rained heavily today. I had one of those days where you just can't get your priorities straight. I have a long "to do" list but I keep forgetting to look at it. I guess I should add "Read your to-do list" to the top of it. Today, I actually made it a point to read it and see if there were things I could get done and scratch off of the list. 

This is what the list looked like:

June 30th, 2009:

Send Chi-chian books to Framelight pictures.  6 sets if possible

Book Canandian dates!

Book Canandian flights

Visit Canadian embassy for work permit.

Record Radiohead cover

Send Transrexia Mini-DV to Carnival of Darkness

Finish Deady Belt Design

Pay electric bill

Pay phone bill

Finish Deady custom toy for Mezco

Sign release form for Mezco

Make Yoka Deady toy design

Make DEADY Dunny toy design

Call Outland about show

Make Deady/Stitch production piece layout for Mindstyle

Work on Mallow design

cut wood for air conditioner...

That's just the top seventeen items. The list is a couple hundred items long. I looked at it good and hard and decided to "cut wood for air conditioner".  My fiance bought an air conditioner and asked if I'd install it. I did that last night but felt  it needed a wooden bar across the window to secure it and keep it from falling out the window and crushing some respectable person. It seemed like the task that involved the least amount of effort so I went with that. That's the kind of day I was having.  All I needed to do was to track down my electric saw. If it wasn't in our apartment, then it might be at The School of Visual Arts and if it wasn't there, it might be at my place downtown.

Several hours later, I had torn apart all three places and still hadn't found my saw. I finally stubbled upon a handsaw in my apartment downtown and settled for that. I went outside. It was a veritable deluge. The day was gone, the weather was miserable and my mind was just as cloudy. Sometimes, on days like this, you just have to let yourself give up. You just have to cut your losses. And that's what I did.

I went to a cafe on first avenue and tenth street for a latte and a tartine; that's a grilled baguette with butter and jam for those of you not named after a dead, French philosopher. I sat down and while I waited for my meal, I started to draw my little, evil teddy bear, Deady on some scrap paper. There was a couple sitting to my left. They were speaking loudly and excitedly. The man, I divined, was an author of note. He was white-haired and retired. The woman across from him was probably in her thirties or forties. However, obviously a devotee of his writing, she behaved no differently than a teenage fan girl, bubbly and giddy, laughing at anything he said that was mildly amusing. She clearly wished to impress him. She rattled off a list of her accolades including a fancy fellowship she had won, what ivy league school she had attended and dropped the names of successful people they were mutually acquainted with and she prodded him to speak at her book club. And she mentioned several times that she was newly divorced. He in turn seemed pleased to be getting such enthusiastic attention from a younger woman. And who could blame him. They were both upstanding, respectable citizens as far as I could tell.

The subject of the conversation turned to an acquaintance of theirs who was an accomplished writer for the New York Times. "Oh, he's such a fascist!" said the woman. "We were talking the other day and he was siding with George Bush, saying that he agreed with the Patriot Act."

"Yes, I know exactly what you mean," said the man. "The Times has such a reputation for being left-leaning that I think he uses that as a shield. He figures that as long as he works there, his intentions won't be in question and he's free to spew this fascist rhetoric. Just the other day I was saying to him that under President Bush, we've all had our civil liberties slowly eroded away. After nine-eleven, everything changed. Nine-eleven was our Riechstag, you know. After the Reichstag building was burned down in Berlin in 1933, Hitler was able to suspend the civil liberties of the Germany people under the guise that it would help them hunt down enemies of the state. Bush used nine-eleven for the same purpose. 'What do you call a country that has no habeas corpus?' I asked him. ' where you can arrest a person without probable cause or due process, where you can wire-tap phones without a warrant? I call it a fascist state!' That's what I said to him."

It brought to mind a quote by one of my favorite long-haired degenerates, Benjamin Franklin, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safetly."

These two people were both in the arts and had a passion for freedom. "These are my kind of people", I thought. But then the conversation took a strange turn. The woman had been called for jury duty and they began to joyfully exchange stories about how they've weaseled out of doing jury duty in the past. 

"Oh, I just get my psychiatrist to write me a note," said the man, " I mean, who wants an unstable person in the jury pool, am I right?" and they laughed. 

I honestly wanted to turn to them and yell, "How can you condemn fascism and in the same breath express how unwilling you are to do the things that keep this country a democracy?" (But I couldn't do that because eaves dropping is rude. So instead I would do the polite thing. I would run home later and blog about it behind their backs.)

Then it got worse. Apparently her efforts to get out of it failed and she had apparently done a month of grand juror duty. She was explaining to him what it was, and she clearly didn't know! She had just spent a whole month there, no doubt grumbling the entire time, and all along she thought she was sitting on trials deliberating on the innocence or guilt of suspects. That's not what the grand jury does. It only deliberates on whether or not there is enough evidence for a case to go to trail. I should know. I served. And it was eye-opening.

Sadly, what I learned was that a lot of "respecatable" citizens love to waive a flag. They love to go on and on about freedom and democracy and the American way, but the second you ask someone to exercise their right to be part of the democratic system, the second you ask someone to do their duty to uphold the values this country was built on, the complaining begins and the excuses start up. And it's not a class thing, it's across the board. When I was called for grand jury duty, which lasted a month, I sat between a very large, black woman who was making minimum wage working at McDonald's and a young, white lady who was in grad school. And I swear to God it was like a contest to see who had better things to do than be in the jury box. Everyday for a month I got to hear that large, black lady say things like, "Ah don needa be heah! I gots lottsa things tadoo!" and the uptight, white girl on the other side of me bitching into her cellphone such pearls as "I'm like, totally missing my classes right now. Like... totally!" These were just two of the twenty or so people in there and believe me when I say that the rest were not much better. Everyone loves democracy but no one actually wants to be part of it. Believe me, I understand what an inconvenience it is to be away from work for a whole month. I'm self employed. If I don't work, no one is going to pay my rent for me. But if no one in their right mind wants to do jury duty, then think about who is going to be in that box making the decisions that keep this country free. It's a scary thought.

Eventually, there won't be a grand jury. Eventually cases will simply go to trial whether there is enough evidence or not. And when it goes to trial there won't be a jury there to deliberate. Eventually, the government will let the people have their way. It will stop asking them to participate. And the people will be thrilled. They can go to their jobs at McDonald's or go to their classes at Columbia and they will be ecstatic to never be bothered again by jury duty. And when that day comes, at the risk of revealing myself for the Star Wars fan that I am, Padme Amidala will be there in the wings. And she will say, "So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause."

Respectable people never cease to befuddle and confuse me. Here's a little experiment you can do on your own to get a taste of just how weird and contradictory "normal" people are. Strike up a conversation with someone you think of as an upstanding, law abiding citizen, exactly the kind of person you could imagine lambasting a junkie or recreational drug user.  Rub your jaw and say, "sorry, I just got my wisdom teeth taken out." I can almost guarantee you that nine out of ten respectable citizens will say something like, "did they give you the good drugs?"  It is absolutely mind blowing! I found this out when I had mine taken out. I swear I had everyone from school teachers to parents to police officers say this to me. What gives? If you smoke one joint, you are fit for prison but if you are completely off your tits on painkillers it's okey dokey? I know people who are on a six-percacets-a-day regimen who don't see a damn thing wrong with it. Why? Because they are prescribed by a physician. And what's a physician? That's right! A respectable, upstanding citizen! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

What the hell? Flag waving patriots trying to dodge jury duty, teetotalers jonesing for a visit to the dentist? It's all so confusing!

I really don't know what to make of it all, but I'm working on it. I know that someday soon I will have a way to explain why it is that some respectable people are such degenerates and why some degenerates are some of the most lovely and respectful people I've ever met. 

Matt Johnson of the band The The says something in his song "Armageddon Days Are Here Again" that I think we all know is true of a certain long-haired gentleman.  And that is,  "if the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today, he'd be gunned down cold by the C.I.A."  Sad, but true.

Since so many "respectable people" live their lives (or at least believe they live their lives) by the words of Jesus Christ, I will end with these wise words of His,

"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart."

And I guess therein lies the simplicity of it, really. Actions speak louder than words. The rest, is all a facade and it don't make a damn bit of difference what your hair looks like.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Robots are Winning

The Robots are Winning

(A little tale about fatherhood and video games and the end of humanity)

A few years ago, when my son was about seven-years old, maybe eight. I gave him a little bit of a scare. I had picked him up at school and was taking him to karate and all the way there he was rambling about this video game that he loves and that video game that he loves. Like any attentive father I listened and I shook my head a lot and I tried to come up with questions about something I knew nothing about. But everyone has their limits and finally after a solid hour or two of chatter about video games, I finally reached my limit. I turned to him and said, "Okay. That's enough about video games for now. I want to know about you. How was your day? How was school? What did you do there today?"

He looked at me blankly. "Nothing." he replied. 

I'd honestly love to know what these kids do at school all day that when you ask them, they always say, "Nothing". If they're really doing nothing, then I'd really like my thirty thousand dollars back. Just think of how much rum that could buy. The truth is that he didn't  do "nothing" at school. The truth is that he did nothing involving video games.

We stopped at a pizzeria on sixth avenue and twenty second for a slice. 

Within a minute or two he was back at it, ranting and raving about what race he was on World of Warcraft and who he conquered in Civilization, who he "force-pushed" in Knights of the Old Republic and he described in vivid detail his goriest kill in Gears of War. "That does it!"

I took him firmly by his wrist and pulled him out of the pizzeria and onto the sidewalk, for effect. I held out my pointer finger to signify how important what I was about to say was and I shook it menacingly towards him. 

"Listen," I said. He looked up at me a bit aghast by the whole affair. I stood hunching down to look into his eyes and he was rigid and motionless as hundreds of New Yorkers rushed to and fro around us. And I began.

"In your lifetime, there is going to be a war between the humans and the robots. And you need to decide right now what side you are on." His eyes widened. 

"Right now?"

"Yes, right now," I insisted. "Are you going to be a slave of the robots or are you going to be a master of robots?" 

He was speechless. I pulled out my cell phone and I flipped it open. "See this,?" I said. He shook his head. "This," I continued,  "is a robot."

Now his expression changed and he looked incredulous. "It is," I insisted. "When I want to make a call, I don't hit a bunch of numbers like I used to in the old days. I just scroll down to your name or your mother's name or my friend's name and I click on it. And this little robot makes the call for me. Once upon a time I used to have dozens of seven-digit phone numbers in my head. If I wanted to call my mother or your mother or the studio where I worked, I simply typed in the number by memory. But now? Every year that goes by, I know fewer and fewer numbers. Why? Because I don't have to remember them anymore. This little robot remembers them for me. And because of that, I'm dumber than I used to be. I'm weaker than I used to be and I rely on robots now to do a lot of things I used to be able to do for myself. This little robot now knows all of the phone numbers of my family and friends and colleagues and I have to hope that he will give them to me when I need them. Remember when those planes crashed into the World Trade Center? Cell phones stopped working. Back then I could still remember your mother's phone number so I ran to a pay phone to call and make sure you were both okay. Eventually I won't be able to do that. Eventually I'll not be able to remember any phone numbers at all. I won't be able to call for help. None of us will. And the robots will have won."

My son  grew up with these kinds of crazy, bizarre outbursts from me so it only took him about thirty seconds to gather his thoughts on the matter.  He looked at me very matter of factly and said, "I'm going to be a master of robots."

"Good!" I said firmly.

"And I'm going to enslave them and force them to make video games for me to play."  

It's pointless to argue with the boy, really.

That was several years ago. I'm getting married this year. My fiance and I have already moved in together. I was recently at Home Depot buying paint for our apartment. When I got to the check out line I found that they had installed a "Self Checkout Counter". I was intrigued, but not enough to use it. Nonetheless, an employee of the store came over to encourage me. She didn't say much. This chubby, Hispanic lady waved me over with the least amount of enthusiasm possible and told me in as few words as she could that she would show me how to use it. I wondered if she knew that by doing so, she was slitting her own throat.  No doubt she used to be one of the tellers and once enough people knew how to check themselves out, she'd be out of a job completely. 

She showed me how to scan the barcode. She showed me where the cash goes into the machine. And when it dispensed the correct change in both bills and coins I was truly amazed. As I was walking out I said to her, "This thing is amazing! Eventually we'll be able to get rid of those pesky humans entirely."

Her half-hearted smile dissipated leaving her looking simply bewildered. 

My son is now eleven. His love for video games has waned. He now favors the miniatures game Warhammer 40,000.  I support this hobby as it involves artistry and creativity and doing things with ones hands like painting and building.  The other day, we were at his place. We were going to have dinner with my fiance in an hour so he had a little time to get some Space Marines painted. I helped by gluing a giant, robotic arm onto a Dreadnaught.  My phone beeped. I had forgotten to plug it in the night before and it was running out of batteries.  I picked it up to call my fiance and it took it's last breath and expired.  "No worries, " I thought, "I'll call her on the land line."

And then it hit me. I couldn't remember her phone number. I mean, I knew it once. It's got a five in it and a seven and a couple of ones and I think and eight and maybe a four. I had made a point of memorizing it years ago when we first started dating, but over time I guess I stopped thinking about it and just pushed the little button on my phone that said, "Jayme".  I tried every combination of the numbers I knew were in it, but none were the right one.  And then I just had to accept it...

...the robots are winning.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My film screens at Visionfest

My film "X-mess Detritus" is screening tomorrow night at the Visionfest Film Festival at the Tribeca Cinemas in Manhattan at 9:30pm.

I'm going to go, naturally!

Yes, my film is only 2 minutes long.... but I'm going to go to support indie cinema and to support the film festival. And I hope you will join me!

My film plays with two others, a short and a psychological thriller.

Get your tickets in advance at this website:

http: / / www. visionfest. com/ film_ festival/ films/ 2009

and let me know if you're coming so that I can look out for you and we can all sit together. Afterwards we will all go for a drink somewhere nearby. (must be 21 and up to join in the drinkie part of the night. )


Details below;

6/19/2009 9:30 PM at X-MESS DETRITUS screens at the Visionfest Film Festival

Tribeca Cinemas 54 Varick Street, Manhattan, New York 10013

Cost: $11

My film "X-Mess Detritus" plays at the Visionfest Film Festival in New York City on Friday, June 19th @ .......... 9:30 PM as part of the "PROGRAM 07 -- 9:30pm -- TC 2 ( 113min) . . . . . . . . . . " ..........for more info go to: http: / / www. visionfest. com/ film_ festival/ films/ 2009/ ..........you can buy tickets at that website ......... My film plays with short film ELLA AND THE ASTRONAUT and the feature film, BLOOD RIVER

See you there!


Sunday, June 14, 2009

ORIGINALITY or "Nothing New Can Be Created-part 1"


Twenty-something years ago, I was at the start of my career. As a young animator and director, I often had people in the field asking me if I'd seen this film or read that book, if I was familiar with the work of a particular artist or animator or painter. I think my colleagues were astounded at how little I had read or seen or was aware of.  I would often tell them, "I try not to make myself familiar with what's going on in the art world or look at other people's work so that it doesn't influence me. What I do is pure. I want to put on film, the images I see in my dreams. These ideas come straight from my subconscious mind. They are not influenced by the work of anyone around me and I want it to stay that way."

That was a very, very long time ago.

Recently, I was invited to make a short animated film for a project called the Creepy Christmas film festival hosted by horror film producers, Glass Eye Pix. The project was the brainchild of Beck Underwood, a film production designer who had designed a Christmas advent calendar. Now, I did not know what an advent calendar was at the time, but Dictionary.com tells me it's " a calendar for the days of the Advent season leading up to Christmas, with flaps to be opened on each day, revealing pictures appropriate to the season". And that is exactly what this was, except spooky. In the case of the festival, Beck selected twenty five filmmakers and assigned them each a date and corresponding window on the calendar. I felt honored and excited to be selected. We were then each to make a short film based on the image we were given. I was assigned December 18th. The corresponding image was of two vintage dolls. I remember thinking something like, "Oh cool. This will lend itself well to stop-motion animation. It will be sort of Brothers Quay-like" For those who do not know the Brothers Quay, they are stop-motion animators that make creepy, stop-motion films using mostly what appear to be old, discarded dolls. That's an over simplification, but it's to the point.

I met up with Beck at some point and she gave me the very dolls from the calendar. I cut them up, rigged them from stop-motion and made my little film. It's called "X-mess Detritus". Along the way, I animated a box full of meat that is a Christmas present under the tree. I should point out that the Brothers Quay have animated raw meat in one or two of their films. I should also point out that another stop-motion animator, the Czech animator Jan Svankmajer, whom the Brothers Quay were originally inspired by, has animated raw meat several times as well in his films. I had a great time making this film. There were no storyboards, I just shot it as I went along coming up with ideas on the spot and then animating them.  I animated a black ooze that threatens to get on everything. It was actually just really thick black paint that moved slowly enough when poured that I could "animate" it by taking a frame every few seconds. I thought that worked out pretty well. I had some fun pulling focus one frame at a time during shots to make the whole thing look a bit more like live action. And not having the "motion control" computerized camera system that I usually use, I experimented with animating the camera one frame at a time. That worked out better than I'd expected. In the end there is a shot where one of the vintage dolls is transformed into a weird, zombie-like creature with antlers. That was a nod to Glass Eye Pix president, Larry Fessenden's film "Wendigo". I've seen that film a bunch of times and I know he loves those antlered monsters, so I threw one in for him. All in all, it was a fun and exciting experience, though it was extremely draining. After all it was done in stop-motion which is done one frame at a time. And, of course, I was the only person on the crew!

Later, some wonderful sound design and a beautiful little score was recorded by Amar Ibrahim based on a melody I hummed to him, over the phone, I recall. I wrote a narration that came to mind which transformed the film into a little parable about the dangers of holiday gift-giving and the effects materialism has on the Earth. And of course my friend Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance very generously agreed to lend his talents to voicing the narration. All in all, I was really happy with the film and feel the animation is really smooth and of a great quality. I handed in the film and everyone at Glass Eye Pix seemed really pleased with it. On December 18th, 2008 it went live on their website. And that was that. Mission accomplished!

Almost immediately I began entering the film into film festivals. My last film, Transrexia, played in twenty one film festivals the previous year and I was determined to enter double the number of festivals with this one.  Only half way into the year, X-mess Detritus has been accepted to twenty film festivals and not accepted to four. That is an amazing success ratio! Furthermore, I'm waiting for another thirty festivals I've entered to announce their selections. All in all, it's been an amazing run so far. And then a curious thing happened.

I noticed on Withoutabox.com, a website I use for researching and entering film festivals, that there was a festival called Animazing Spotlight. Since my film is animated, I decided to look into it. The entry fee was markedly higher than the rest of the festivals. That's usually a warning sign to me. You can usually expect to pay between twenty to forty dollars to enter a festival. When the fee is upwards of a hundred dollars, that usually means it's a money-making scan. Some festivals will charge you hundreds of dollars to enter, but then almost everyone who does receives some sort of award. It's a racket. But then I noticed that this festival offered something unusual. Rather than just accept (or not accept) your film and screen it somewhere, this festival offered feedback from animation industry professionals. I figured, why not give it a try?

Oh boy! One month later I received the feedback for X-mess Detritus and I was blown off of my chair. These guys tore me to shreds! In all fairness, out of about nine pieces of feedback I received, about half were complimentary. But even some of those mentioned that the film was clearly inspired by the Quay Brothers. One of those said, "Of course it reminds me of the Quay Brothers, they were themselves inspired by Svankmajer". The other half were not so kind. They told me straight out that it was just a lift of their work. Some said it was "Deja vu", ''Needs to find a personal style" and "We all like the Quays, Burton, Gorey and Svankmajer. So when you come close to this kind of world, you better bring something new!" and one said, "Well crafted and animated, but not original at all ... Jan Svankmajer and Quay Brothers should be quoted in the credits" Ouch! heh heh. Naturally, my first inclination was to think, "Who the hell are these people, anyway?". But a few minutes on Google revealed that they are all successful animation industry professionals, so I just had to eat it.

I will be the first to tell you that I am a big boy. I can take criticism, especially when I agree with it! Honestly, even I knew right away that if I was doing a stop-motion piece with vintage dolls, that there would be a Brothers Quay comparison. But how far does that go? Are vintage dolls and the animating of meat ruined forever for stop-motion? Is that combination, for all of eternity, destined to be reserved for the Quays? Was it wrong of me to even think about making this film? It got me to thinking about the nature of originality. It shook me a little bit. I thought, "well, this piece obviously owes a lot to the Quays, but everything else I've ever done is original. Right? I mean it is, isn't it?"

And a miniature panic set in.

I instantly started to think about the things I've created. I thought about my latest comic book character, Deady. "Oh, that's probably a bad example," I thought, "the world certainly has more than its fair share of evil teddy bear characters". So I went further back and thought about "Oh My Goth!" It certainly wasn't the only Goth comic book or the only funny take on Goth, and I'm sure it wasn't the first. I thought about Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and of SNL's hilarious "Goth Talk" skits though I couldn't recall if I was aware of those things before I made my comic book. I had to go further back. I thought about my first comic book character, Chi-chian. Oh, no. I distinctly recalled that I was inspired to create Chi-chian after seeing the Miyazaki film "Laputa, Castle in the Sky".  And at some point after creating Chi-chian, but before I published a comic book of her, I remember seeing Aeon Flux on MTV. And I remember wanting to shoot myself in the head. I started to wonder if anything I've ever done has been even remotely original. 

And then this mania started to get downright existential. I thought, "if I make a film, and it has a protagonist fighting against an antagonist, how can that ever be original? That's what every narrative film is about! Hell, if the film has a protagonist at all, then it's been done. Perhaps the only way to ever make an original film is to make experimental movies, movies with no narrative at all, because after all narrative is based on life and everything in life has been shown at some point in a film somewhere. And I started to think about an experimental film I've been wanting to make for years and I cringed when the images of it flashed before my eyes and I saw that even they had succumb to the conventions of experimental filmmaking! Even this idea looked like other experimental films I have seen! And I thought that maybe film was dead. And I thought perhaps that any time you shine light onto a screen through a piece of celluloid you are just aping what millions have done before you. And I thought that maybe I should make a book instead, but books are made of words and all of the words have already been used. Millions of combinations of them, many the same. And I thought maybe that's it. Maybe it's about the combination of the words, a combination of the elements...

...and I had a breakthrough.

I would like to mention that at no point during this bizarre meltdown had I eaten any funny mushrooms or smoked any peculiar-smelling cigarettes. Though it does certainly seem like I did.

I took a deep breath. I needed to sort out my thoughts. 

We live in a world. And that world is full of people and we share similar desires and emotions and needs. So obviously, our respective stories will share certain elements, like the fact that there will be a protagonist. And because everyone seems to love conflict, there will be one. I can't think of a single story whether written or filmed that doesn't have one. That conflict will either be an antagonist or some hurdle that the main character needs to overcome. And presumably, the struggle will teach our character something or cause them to grow or will at least be something extremely memorable or amusing and noteworthy otherwise it stands to reason that there'd be no sense in telling the story at all.


And I decided that it would be okay in the creating of a story if I were to use words like "and" and "but" and "the" and "because" and that the use of words in and unto themselves did not automatically constitute plagiarism. I figured that words are like the ingredients and the final piece is the recipe. If you use the same ingredients, in the same proportions, in the same order as someone else, you will end up making the same dish.  If someone uses tomatoes and water and salt and pepper as their recipe, they will likely end up with tomato soup. There are millions of tomato soups in the world and there is certainly no reason why I couldn't make one as well. But for mine to be special, it would be wise to use a different combination of ingredients, in different proportions to any of the other recipes. And it would certainly help if there was a secret ingredient, something special and uniquely mine.

Similarly, someone could write a story that took place in the future and involved space travel and perhaps the existence of alien life. And many people have. It's called science fiction and there's lots of it out there and despite similar qualities, there is a good deal of diversity in the genre. So I decided that it would be okay to have created something that fit into a genre and that the sole act of doing so did not mean I was a hack.

We were getting somewhere. Though through this thought process I did feel like I was looking at a computer screen rebooting, watching as the operating system and all of the little basic programs were loading one by one.

And then there was the vehicle. Comic books already exist. Films already exist. Books already exist. So if I think that to make one is to just keep rehashing what's been done before than my only option is to create a completely new form of communication. For starters I'm just not that smart. Secondly, it would probably require me being a scientist to be able to even approach embarking on a task of that magnitude. As it happens, I'm an artist, not an engineer, Jim!  So I have to accept that whatever story I create, it will be told in an already-existing format like a book, comic, film, song etc..

All that was left was to try to uncover what my personal list of ingredients were. And to do that, I went to my past.

I thought of the very first thing that I could remember that caught my imagination as a child, the very first thing that excited me. And that was monsters. I loved them. I couldn't get enough of them and no one, including myself, knew why.

So I put monsters on my list of ingredients. It's safe to say that anything I do will likely include them.

The next thing I remembered was stop-motion animation. As a fan of monster movies, I could tell at a very early age that there was something fantastic about stop-motion. These creatures, unlike the men in rubber suits trashing miniature sets of Tokyo or the guys in capes with oatmeal on their faces were brought to life using means that I did not understand and that was magical to me. To this day, stop-motion has a surreal quality about it that most reminds me of the way things look in my dreams. So I put stop-motion animation on my list as well. However, I'd likely put in under a sub-header of "techniques" as I'm more likely to tell a story using the technique of stop-motion animation rather than tell a story about stop-motion, if you see what I mean.

Then there were the films of Ray Harryhausen (The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, etc...).  They became my favorite of all of the monster movies and at the age of ten, I got a super-8 movie camera and began attempting to make stop-motion films. I wanted to be just like Ray Harryhausen. We all do that. As children or teenagers or even young artists, there are people we admire and whether we realize it or not, we copy them. We try to emulate them. So I will not put Ray Harryhausen on my list of ingredients, I will put him on a separate list called "influences". Because after all, I'm on a search to discover what is inherently me as opposed as to what artists have shaped my work.

I had my first crush in second grade. Her name was Christina. She had pale skin and raven black hair in a China doll cut and she would become the prototype for damn near every woman I found beautiful for the rest of my life. She happened to be caucasian, but since I was attracted to pale girls with jet black hair, it wasn't long before I noticed Asian girls and appreciated them for sharing the same aesthetics. My next crushes were Sherry in fifth grade (pale Jewish girl with black hair) and Giselle Tan in sixth grade (pale Asian girl with black hair). When you get a bit older, those pale girls with black hair tend to be Goths. So there's another one for my list of ingredients. If I'm working on a story and there's a love interest or a lead female, count on her being a Goth chick, an Asian chick, an Asian Goth chick or better still, a Eurasian Goth chick as she's all of the above!

Christina, my second grade crush, was one of the only other caucasian children in the elementary school I went to in Newark, New Jersey. The rest of the school was black and Hispanic. I'm Hispanic too but none of the kids accepted me as such because my skin was light in color. One day I was walking passed a classroom and Christina was sitting at her desk. She was wearing a little plaid dress and little white socks and black MaryJanes. I was overcome with a feeling of love for her and before I knew what was happening, I had blown her a kiss. She looked surprised to say the least. But far more surprised were the boys sitting behind her and they had quite a surprise for us during recess. They felt that the kissing should continue, for their amusement. One grabbed her and the other grabbed me, twisting our arms behind our backs. They pushed us together, forcibly shoving our heads towards each others so that our lips should meet.  She whimpered and squirmed, turning her head away. And I struggled, but there was nothing I could do. I was powerless and unable to help her. Needless to say the whole affair was extremely humiliating. It would be just one of countless events like it I would witness or experience throughout my childhood where innocence and beauty struggled desperately to survive in a world full of evil and cruelty. So you can add a heavy dose of that to my list of ingredients. 

Incidentally, Tim Burton is a director whose films often revolve around the innocent-but-misunderstood outsider who is set upon by the so called "normal" people of society who in actuality are desperately cruel. For that and for his love for the pale Goth chicks, he gets added to damn near the top of my influences list. His films are also filled with Gothic architecture and that brings me to my next ingredient...

While a child living in Newark, I had grown fascinated by Gothic architecture, in particular the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. This massive cathedral sat smack dab between my grandmother's house and ours which is to say that we drove by it all of the time. I can not tell you why, but I was absolutely convinced that this thing was a space ship and that any day, it was going to blast off into outer space! So there you have it, Gothic aesthetics and combined with Science Fiction, no less. This is an element that creeps into my work a lot and it started while I was a small child. 

(By the way, you should have seen the look on my face many years later while seeing Rocky Horror Picture Show for the first time. At the end when Dr. Frankenfurter's castle takes off into space I nearly crapped myself!)

That cathedral had another element about it that drew my attention and that was the gargoyles way up top. I was already a fan of monsters so naturally those eerie, stone beasts fascinated me. Moreover when I was a small child in church, I would thumb through the bible (we didn't have one at home) and I would be just absolutely enthralled by the images in there depicting demons torturing people in hell. I'm not sure if they were Albrecht Durer woodcuts or not, but they were just absolutely amazing. I would stare at them for hours while the pastor gave his sermon, not hearing a single word he said. Those bibles instilled in me a fascination with hell and the devil. Moreover, it puzzled me that anyone would create such terrible imagery in the hopes of scaring someone into believing them and following them, because even at that young an age, that is exactly what it appeared to me to be. So besides introducing me to the Devil, the church had also created in me the feeling that religion was a potentially evil and certainly manipulative force. And that is an element that also pops up in my work from time to time, more often in my songs than anywhere else. 

Lastly, I will relate one final event from my early childhood. I was at my grandmother's apartment in Newark, New Jersey one day when I noticed a cockroach on top of the refrigerator. It appeared to lose it's footing and the creature plummeted to the linoleum-tiled floor below. Completely unfazed, it just continued merrily on its way. I ran to my grandmother with an exciting revelation. I told her, "Abuela, cockroaches are better than people because they can fall off of the refrigerator and walk away." She looked at me incredulously. 

She barked, "A man can too, that's nothing special." Truth be told, she wasn't the type to take being compared to bugs lightly. 

"You don't understand," I insisted, "if a man falls off of the Empire State Building, he would die!" She became more and more agitated.

"So would a cockroach. Stop this nonsense, right now!" I was too young and had too limited a vocabulary to express myself. Simply put, I didn't know the word "proportionally".

Because in my mind the cockroach falling from the refrigerator and the man falling from a tall building, were the same thing. I understood things then about the power of insects and the place of humans in our world that adults around me didn't grasp. To this day, I can see the insects outliving us and maybe even them being cognizant of that fact. So add, "advanced, intelligent race of insects" to my list of ingredients.

So here it is! My ingredients list:


Asian or Eurasian Goth girls

Innocence trying to survive against cruelty

gothic architecture

Gothic aesthetics mixed with science fiction

Demons, the Devil and hell

Religion as a potentially evil force

advanced, intelligent race of insects

I'm delighted to say that as I think about Chi-chian and also to a large degree Oh My Goth!, they are largely comprised of the elements on this list. And the fact that these things are close to my heart because of personal connections or experiences I had as a child, make it all the more reassuring to me. I'm glad I took the time to reminisce. For one I'm far more calm than I was when I started this blog. And secondly, it has given me some direction. There's a fresh wind in my sails and I've just re-learned where north is for me. So now you know what to expect. And of course that means that I'd better start adding things to this list lest you start to tire of me.

I've also put together a short list of my influences:

Ray Harryhausen

Tim Burton

H. R. Giger

Guillermo del Toro

Hieronymus Bosch

Wladyslaw Starewicz

and yes, 

The Brothers Quay

I think that perhaps the most valuable lesson that I've learned from this exercise is this; It's important to know who you are as an artist and what you are about. And writing a list of the things that move you personally is a great way to start and a great way to understand how much of your work is you and how much is emulation. However once you're done,  write a list of your influences....

...and then work extra hard to insure you work doesn't look like theirs. I've figured that out over the course of writing this piece. And now I will put it into play.

Twenty-something years ago I said, "I try not to make myself familiar with what's going on in the art world or look at other people's work so that it doesn't influence me." 

That's ridiculous!

Everything we know we've learned from observing the world around us whether consciously or otherwise. I know now that it makes more sense to know what's out there to have a better understand of what's good and what's bad and what's been done over and over and beaten into the ground, and where you fit into the equation as an artist. But sometimes, I wish I could go back to knowing nothing.

Recently a fan on Myspace asked me, "When will you make another record like The Devil's Bris?" 

And I answered, "Never, because I wouldn't know how. The record came out the way it did because back then, I hardly new anything about song writing or recording. It sounds the way it does because I was naive. I've learned so much over the last ten years. I know so much now. And unfortunately, there's no way for me to unlearn it."


ps: If you're an artist, make a list of your own! It really helped me and maybe it will help you too.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Time-Space Mini-Storage- a short story

A few days ago, I began writing my second blog. Yet again it was going to be a piece of unsolicited career advice. And then I had a flash. An idea for a story popped into my head while stepping over a huge pile of clothes my fiance had left on the floor in the bedroom. I became a little bit obsessed and despite numerous attempts to write about signing licensing deals, I kept finding myself daydreaming about this short story. Eventually, I had to let the fates win. I spent the last three days writing this. I hope you enjoy it.

Time-Space Mini-Storage

a short story

Evelyn was standing waist-deep in a pile of black clothes when I walked into the bedroom.  She seemed almost lost in the gargantuan explosion of bras and panties, sweaters and skirts. I laughed.

"Let me know if you need someone to pull you out," I chided. She barely noticed. We had a banquet to go to and she, as usual, was very concerned about constructing the perfect outfit and looking just right. Barely glancing at me, she smirked and continued her frenzied search.  I left the room saying, "If you fall in, just yell. I'll call a search party."

I walked into the living room and plopped down onto the couch. I stretched my legs out onto the ottoman before me and spread my arms like wings, letting them float down slowly onto the backrest of the red velvet sofa.  


There was so much of it now. 

In the twenties, just a mere decade ago, I would never have dreamed that I'd live so luxuriously. Well, our apartment hadn't gotten any bigger, that's not what I mean. It's not like we won the lottery and moved into a mansion or anything. We were still artists living in a smallish, one-bedroom New York City apartment. It was just  the luxury of the newfound space we enjoyed now that everything was put away. Our beautiful baroque couch for instance. It's never been very practical. The baroque era was certainly not known for its efficient use of space. On the contrary, this couch like so many other baroque couches, took up a good amount of space and yet very little of it provided room for comfortable sitting. It seemed like a good deal of it was flourishes and filagree, pomp and ornamentation.  I loved it.  But we would never have had room for it before.  Just two feet to my left there used to be a cabinet that held some awards I had won at the start of my career.  A mere foot to my right there was a lamp I'd inherited from my grandfather. It sat on an old drafting table that also held a dusty computer that was more paperweight than anything else. Where my feet peacefully rested on an ottoman, there used to be a small coffee table I had covered in a collage made of some of my early drawings . And now it was all gone. Put away. 

A telltale tinging sound came from the bedroom followed by that strangely musical sucking noise. I knew now that she would emerge impeccably dressed and that the bedroom would be immaculate and completely free of clothes. And so it was. She appeared and stopped in the doorway. With one hand on her hip and an outstretched arm holding her weight against the door frame she seductively purred, "What do you think?"

"You look wonderful" I replied. And I guess I lightly chuckled. 

"What's so funny?" she said.

"Oh, I was just picturing what the bedroom would have looked like ten years ago. You know, after you'd finished getting dressed."  And I laughed again.

"You mean before Fractal Friends." she added. She ran her hand through her hair and started towards the front door grabbing her purse along the way. "They are a girl's best friend."

"Yeah, but not a boy's" I quipped. She came to a full stop at the front door, swung around and fixed me with a hard look.

"What do you mean by that?" she groaned.

"Well, before Fractal Friends you had a limited amount of space so that means that there were only so many outfits you could try on and take off before finally settling on what you're wearing to the ball. Now, the sky's the limit. You could be in there forever!"

She wasn't terribly amused. "The car is waiting," she crooned, "and I'm not really sure I even want to go to this thing so believe me when I say that this is not a conversation you wish to have with me at this moment in time."  And with a sly smile, she was out the door.

New York City at night has always been one of my favorite things in this world. The dark black sky gets spotted with white clouds unnaturally illuminated by the lights of the Empire State Building. The thousands of little office lights in the skyscrapers, look like stars floating in a nebula of black quartz or like streams of Christmas lights strung neatly around giant obsidian obelisks. And to see it all moving makes it all the more beautiful. Our car was speeding down the FDR and all around us long black limousines reflected the neon dance of the city. We were like a school of killer whales caught in a phosphorescent stream careening towards lower Manhattan. Next to me, Evelyn was fixing her makeup in a small illuminated mirror, adding yet another light to the luminescent spectacle. And then something out the window caught my eye. Across the East River, between the converted Domino Sugar plant and the new Asian Alliance Tower was an illuminated sign. And it read, "Fractal Friends. Expand Your World".

I'll never forget the first Fractal Friends ad I ever saw. It was only a few years after that Austrian scientist had found a way to create rifts in time-space and open small doorways to some kind of parallel dimension. It all sounded very dangerous. Some said that if you walked into the rift you could get lost in there and never return and I do believe I heard of a few cases of that happening. But then Fractal created a device that would dictate the size of the space.  With their little generator, you could open a space that was say, four feet by four feet by four feet and voila, you had an extra closet in your home where one didn't exist before. I think everyone was a little surprised by how soon this technology had a commercial application and that it was being offered to the public at all. But then, with a president that had close ties to a former CEO of Fractal, maybe it wasn't so surprising. Anyway, I guess it was the kind of thing you needed to see for yourself because I sure as hell didn't believe the commercial. But before I knew it, everyone had a Fractal Friends Time-space Mini-storage portal in their apartment or office. It only took seeing it in use once or twice before I knew we needed one.  

When you live in New York City, Manhattan in particular, space is limited and at a premium. Anyone here will tell you that ten years ago, you had few options when it came to storage. If you had parents or other relatives in the suburbs, you were set. You'd just drop all of your stuff off in their basement in New Jersey or Long Island and go out there when you needed it. But if you didn't have family out there, forget it. Your only other choice back then was to get an actual storage unit in a warehouse. Hell, they were so expensive, you might as well invest the money in getting a bigger apartment.  The only other choice was to do what most of us have always done; throw out everything you own about once a year.

But you know how it is. There are some items that have greater sentimental value than others. My trophies for instance. I sure as hell didn't need them around, but it seems weird to throw them out.  And my grandfather's lamp? Or the coffee table I collaged with my drawings? These are obviously not items one needs to keep around to add to the clutter, but how could I possibly throw them away? And then there's Evelyn's things. She used to have a rule that if she didn't wear a garment in a whole year, it got thrown out, not because she didn't love it, mind you, but just because we simply didn't have the space. Once we got our first Time-space Mini-Storage Portal, that all changed. She could keep absolutely every piece of clothing she'd ever bought. The first one we got was three feet by three feet by five feet. It didn't take long to fill that one. Now, we are up to six hundred cubic feet of other-dimensional storage and we haven't had to throw out a single thing since.  Our apartment is empty save for the bed and couple pieces of furniture. All the clutter is gone. We just turn on the generator, wave our hands over the field and the doorway opens. The conveyer comes out, you put the stuff on it, it goes in and voila, it's out of sight.  Where it goes? I'll be honest, I still don't quite understand that part. But then again, I still don't know understand how a phone works, but that doesn't stop me from making calls.

"What are you thinking about, " asked Evelyn out of the silence. 

" I was thinking about how beautiful you are." I said and we smiled at each other.

Glancing passed her out the window I noticed the hospital. The rear end of it, which faces the highway seemed different somehow, more spacious. "What's different about the hospital?" I asked "Didn't it used to be closer to the road?"

She turned her head to look. "No, it's not further away. They just got rid of all of the garbage bins. It just seems further away because there's all that extra room there now".

"Well, then if there's no bins, what do they put all of their garbage in now?"

She turned to me with a wry smile, "Oh, the bins are still there, you just can't see them." and mimicking the voice of a cheesy television announcer she continued, "Fractal Friends, Expand your world!"  and she playfully shot me with two imaginary guns. "Pow! pow!"

"Other-dimensional garbage disposal?" I mused, "that's kind of brilliant, isn't it?"

She put her compact away and pointed over my shoulder to the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, "That's nothing", she said, "Look over there. See what's missing?" I scanned the Brooklyn waterfront under the bridge but nothing seemed particularly awry. "Come on", she nudged, "think about it. Big, black, two huge smoke stacks?"

"Oh! The waste treatment plant!" 

"Right." she said. 

"It's gone." I continued. "Wait, they didn't push it into a portal did they?"  

Evelyn laughed, "Oh, I'm sure they would have if they could. But they can't do that. That would mean people would have to work in the other dimension and I don't think that's terribly safe or maybe even possible."

"So where is it then?"

"They tore it down to put up some condos," she said. "They tore it down because we don't need it anymore. Do you know why that is?" I shook my head. "We don't need it anymore because now we just push all of our garbage into the other dimension."

"Come on, that's not true." I barked.

"Yeah, it is, actually.  Remember that huge landfill on the way to my mother's? It's not there anymore. I mean, it is, but you can't see it. They shoved it into a giant rift and built a mall in its place.  My mother and I went the last time I was out there."

"A mall and a garbage dump inhabiting the same space. There's a joke in there somewhere. Honestly, I didn't even know you can do that. I mean on that scale."

"Our storage unit is small because we don't have a lot of money. But the city? They can afford to put a whole building in one. You need to watch the news more often," she said. "There are all sorts of strange things happening in our world."

Suddenly, the car came to an abrupt halt.  "What's going on?" I asked.

"It looks like a traffic jam" she offered craning her neck to see out the front window of the car.

We inched forward, little by little. Traffic was moving, but very slowly. I could see ahead that some of the other cars were going onto the shoulder. And eventually we did as well. As we passed the cause of the disturbance we looked out the window.  I was expecting to see a car accident or perhaps a stalled car with an overheated engine. Instead what we saw was completely surreal. There was a man. He was standing in the road. He had gotten out of his car and was standing in front of it. There was an object, an obstacle in the road that wouldn't let him pass; the cause of the traffic jam. It was a dresser. An armoire, just sitting there, in the middle of the FDR drive. And the strangest part, as we slowly drove around the car and the man and the dresser is that he was not looking at it. He was just standing there, looking up at the sky. As if that's where it had come from.

We turned off the road at the Grand street exit and proceeded to Chinatown. The banquet, which was being held by the Illustrator's Society was at "Capitale", an event space on the Bowery. Capitale was actually a bank, well it used to be anyway. About a hundred years ago they made grand banks like this one; huge, cavernous, majestic. It had massive columns outside and was the height of a six story building, but it only had one floor, hence you can imagine the ceiling seemed like it was miles above you, like it was the very sky. I once asked a friend why anyone would make such a structure, so space-inefficient. He said it was probably to give people a sense that their money was well guarded by powerful people who could afford to build such things. That era ended long ago. Banks just got smaller and smaller until finally everyone just did their banking from home, from their computers. The days of banks being temples of money worship were far behind us. No one would dream to waste space like that anymore, until recently that is. Until Fractal. Now we had all of the space in the world.

We were a block away from Capitale when we were greeted by police lights and humming sirens. "What's going on?" asked Evelyn, leaning towards the partition that separated us from the car's controls.  

"There seems to be police activity in this area, Madam," said our vehicle, "The street has been closed. I'm afraid I will not be able to get you closer to your destination."

"That's okay,"' I interjected, "we can walk from here. It's just there." 

Evelyn and I got out of the car and proceeded up the sidewalk towards Capitale. There was a commotion on the sidewalk just ahead. The police had put up a barrier to cordon off a piece of sidewalk and a crowd of people had gathered, forming a semi-circle around it. Two police vehicles hovered overhead shining a light into the center of interest. And as we passed, we saw it. From between the heads of curious onlookers there was, sticking out of the brick facade of a building, what could only be described as a "thing". 

Even now as I look back I can't exactly recall what it was. It was sort of like a big rectangular box, maybe made of a purplish metal. But it also had what seemed like organic parts to it. There was maybe some wire mesh or chunks of metal bars sticking out of it, some round bits, some jagged protrusions. The best way I can describe it would be as If a million years from now, everything we shoved in a landfill had, through great pressure, fused together, like certain rocks you see, jagged and multi-colored and made from bits of many different disparate things. And it was just jutting out of the stone-face of the building, as if stuck between two worlds.

Evelyn and I looked at each other wide-eyed but said nothing. Neither of us had anything to say. At least nothing that would have seemed reasonable. A policeman prodded us to keep moving. "Move along," he said, "move along. We must clear this area. A police investigation is taking place in this area. Please, move along." And we did. 

Moments later we were walking up the grand steps of Capitale. White-gloved valets in ornate red jackets welcomed us in. They pushed open the huge front doors  revealing the cavernous opulence of the place. A huge chandelier hung from the ceiling. Couples in their finest dress stood about sipping cocktails.  Marni Gross, the chairperson of the Illustrator's Society came rushing to greet us.

"Thank you for coming," she sighed, somewhat exasperated, "God, it's been such a crazy day. Nothing is working right. It's just been absolutely mad." She took a breath. "Well, you two look fantastic! Please, do come in. We're having trouble with the hors d'oeuvres but the bar is up and running so please help yourselves to a drink. I'll be right back." And off she went with the focussed mania of someone with an impossible task to tackle.

Evelyn and I approached the bar. An older couple was ahead of us patiently waiting while the bartender shook their martinis. I turned to her. "Is it me or is this day shaping up to be weird as hell? What was that thing out there?"

"I don't know, maybe some kind of portal malfunction?" she hypothesized.  Just then, a commotion grabbed our attention. We both turned to see a porter fussing with a mini-storage portal. He had turned on the generator, he had waved his hand and opened the portal. However, the conveyer, the part that moves the items in and out of the portal, was jammed. This shiny metal box, which seemed to be holding fine china and silver for the party was coming out of the portal, stopping half way and jerking back in. I'd never seen one do anything like that. The porter seemed somewhat embarrassed. He looked about nervously and tried again and again to get his hands on the product conveyer but the shiny metal box repeatedly slipped out of his white-gloved hands. And then finally, it disappeared into the portal. There was that strangely musical sucking noise and the portal closed. He stood there for a moment, perplexed, not knowing what to do. Marni Gross went running over to the rescue. Evelyn and I looked on, entranced. Neither of us had ever seen a portal malfunction. We'd never even heard of one. And then it happened.

There was that telltale tinging sound and suddenly the portal opened on its own. The product conveyer, a shiny metal box about three feet cubed shot out of the portal like a missile from a canon knocking Marni through the air and impaling the porter against the far wall of the bank. Everyone froze. The porter's last breath was a grotesque exhalation of blood. A woman screamed. Then, finally coming to their senses, a couple of doormen rushed in to help. A strange, monstrous belching noise filled the room. All eyes turned to the portal and then with bestial force another large item shot out of the portal and then another. It all happened too fast to even see what they were. The doormen were instantly crushed to death. And then more debris was rocketed out of the hole until it was a constant, never ending stream of projectile detritus, a horizontal volcanic eruption of junk. Panic ensued. Couples in tuxedos and gowns started to run towards the front door. Some were overtaken by the waves of matter flowing through the room like a tsunami of twisted wreckage. I grabbed Evelyn's hand as tightly as I could and leapt behind the bar. Pressed against the back wall we quickly worked our way to the front of the room and ran out the front door. 

Outside, we were met by an ominous sight. People were running down the middle of Bowery screaming. Lights were coming on in all of the windows like dominos, one by one until every building was lit. People were falling off of their balconies followed by streams of rubbish. I held Evelyn's hand tighter. My instinct was to run, but to where? Everywhere I looked there was mayhem and death and grievous injury. And then there was no longer time to think. A loud terrible sound of twisting metal crushing both bone and flesh grew louder behind us. The tsunami of wreckage had filled that six story bank and was pushing it's way out the front door. We ran down the stairs and bolted southbound down Bowery, but we didn't get far. 

At the corner of Bowery and Grand we froze. There above us, in the sky, strange bluish clouds were forming and moving in a circular pattern. A portal was opening just between the buildings on Grand street like a big, ghoulish clock face. The vertical hole turned and turned, opening wider and wider until it was a huge portal in the air about seven stories above the street. Everyone seem to stop for a moment, frozen, mesmerized by this eerie, unearthly sight. In the calm before the storm there was a sound, like a distant roar of water only more metallic. It was faint and everyone seemed to halt, to lean in, to hear it. It grew louder and louder. And then the ghastly hole unleashed a massive river of debris onto the street below. Like a waterfall of metal and glass and plastic and concrete it came down with a crushing force and instantly overtook and tore apart everyone in its path. People scattered like rats.

Evelyn and I ran and ran for our lives. She was crying now, a desperate childlike cry. I could hear her over the sounds of my heavy breathing, though I dared not look at her for fear of losing what little nerve I had left.  We ran south on Bowery towards the high ground of the Manhattan bridge. People ran by us on all sides. I saw a man stop to catch his breath. He pressed his back against the wall of a Chinese jewelry store. He bent over, placed his hands on his knees and took a couple of deep breaths. As he straightened up, a portal opened up in the wall directly behind him. He jerked violently in a horrifying death rattle. His face jolting into a fiendish look of hysteria. Wide-eyed and mouth agape, bent and contorted he froze in an inhuman rigor mortised pose. A safe had emerged and had materialized around his ribcage. His heart and veins and countless blood cells were instantly encased in sold metal. I choked down a moan of primal fear and turned it instead into a yell, "Come on!" I screamed. And we ran towards the bridge.

We never made it. At Bowery and Canal an ear piercing screech brought us both to a stand still. It was like no other sound I have ever heard. Loud and shrill and rumbling in my guts it was like the very sound of our universe being ripped apart. I looked up and just below Canal I saw a plane, a big one, a jumbo jet and it was falling out of the sky. If I told you it was crashing, I'd be lying. It was just falling. Just falling, as if it had just materialized there in midair and was simply dropping to the ground. Time stood still. I looked at Evelyn. Her eyes conveyed a fear I'd never seen in her. She let go of my hand and ran. I cried out for her. She ran across the street and took refuge under the awning of the Chinatown Theater. It all happened so fast. The plane hit the tops of the buildings. It's massive weight reduced the buildings to sand. There was a huge explosion that shot dust and shattered concrete in all directions. My eyes filled with dirt. I cowered to the ground, with my eyes covered.  "Evelyn", I thought. I looked up. Through the burning rocks in my eyes I saw her there, standing against the wall of the theater. The plane continued it's descent, smashing through floor after floor of the nearby buildings like a weight dropped on a sandcastle and captured in slow motion. I looked up, a cloud of dust had obscured my view of Evelyn, of anyone, of everything. And then the plane hit the ground. And there was a blast. I felt punched in the face by the wind. It threw me back several feet. I cried out for Evelyn. And then I remember the heat, intense heat and something that felt like a giant, burning hand picking me up and throwing me. The last thing I remember was tumbling down Bowery, maybe for blocks. 

And that was the last time I saw my dearest Evelyn.

It's been a year since that dreadful day. It's a sunday. I have the TV on. I watch the news a lot now. It keeps me company while I straighten up the apartment. All of the news channels, hell, all of the channels for that matter, are rehashing the events, covering the memorials, investigating the facts, commemorating the dead. The acting President has just given a speech expressing his regrets for everyone's loss. Financial analysts and prosecutors are duking it out for who gets the first swing at Fractal. They went out of business of course, but I'm sure that's the least of their worries. Everyone lost everything.  All of their customers, that is. There was no time to analyze the events of that day and formulate a well thought-out plan. All life on Earth was being crushed by, well, all of the things Fractal had helped us stored in that "other" dimension. Maybe there was something on the other side that didn't want us there. Maybe we were playing with laws of physics that we didn't understand. We never did find out what it was that had happened exactly or why it happened. The government had pretty much no choice but to shut down the main portal generators and seal those rifts for good. I lost everything I had stored, well, everyone did, of course. I think back to those old trophies, my grandfather's lamp and that dusty old computer. Are they still in some other dimension somewhere, I wonder, or did they get spit out of a portal somewhere. I don't know. I don't much care. I wonder why it was so important for me to keep them around at all. They all seem so trivial to me now. 

The couch is covered in last night's clothes. I pick them up and throw them in the closet. The real closet. The table is covered in coins and receipts and other trinkets. I pick up anything that I don't immediately need and throw it into a ceramic jug for later sorting though I know I'll never sort it.  I pick up a letter and underneath is a photocard from Evelyn's memorial. I had wanted people to remember what she looked like so I made these cards to give to our family and friends. God, it took so long to find a photo of her. All of our best ones were in other-dimensional storage. She looks so peaceful in this picture. We took it on our first vacation together. I miss her so desperately.

I place it in the box of Evelyn things; a pressed flower, a hymnal, a xerox printout of her favorite quotes. All of the things I have to remember her by are things from her funeral. I walk them to the closet and can't help but to peer into the bedroom as if she might still be there. I look at that spot in the room, by the north wall, where our time-space mini-storage portal used to be and I wonder if she is maybe still alive, stuck in some alternate dimension. I see her face in my mind, a flash of the last time I saw her, pressed against a wall of the Chinatown Theater. She looked so scared, so distraught. And I think of the horrifying events of that night, all of the garbage, all of the junk, all of the debris that killed so many. I look down at the box in my hands and for a moment I think I should throw it all in the garbage. And I feel the muscles in my arm start to twitch and think I almost might. And then I collect myself. I know better.

How could I ever throw these things away?