John Tang

Concessionaire on Lunch

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on April 23, 2010

Concessionaire on Lunch

She came out on the bay side of the building for lunch. Paunchy, still in her red apron, she brought a bagel sandwich, ham and cheese, with side of coffee to the table alone. Cars passed along one by one, and she realized how small Vacaville was by the count of cars. Down the empty parking lot was a middle-age man on a mountain bike. He wore a blue short-sleeve shirt and a large helmet over his squared-face and aquiline nose. He looked dry, she thought. Dry not as in humor, but the skin tone over his boney structure. If he wasn’t so quick, she could have sighted the liver spots dotting the knuckles.

Ten minutes later she grew dead in her mind, so she brought yesterday’s newspaper someone must’ve left last night, as it laid on the basket-seat by the windows. Reading a few lines here and there, something about something, she sighed and got another paper for lunch. Two tables down she saw a young man writing on the laptop and wondered what he wrote—perhaps about the way she folded the newspaper under her arm. Every moment she passed behind him, she failed to get a good-look on the screen because of the glare. She knew he saw her in the screen, too. What she saw was the screen was filling every glance she got over his left shoulder.

The page had to be associated somewhere or something close by. He didn’t have any text books, as the man did appear to be a college student, mature in fitted clothes—gray v-neck, denims, coffee tennis shoes with an orange puma stitched at the nose—a satchel drooping on his legs and a matching pair of black glasses sporting on his face—not the heavy plastic frames many wore these days, ones which make a person seem intellectual and time indebted to studies.

She caught, “She came…for lunch.” Then she saw his eyes move left to right, an absurd look, in the reflection of his laptop. She backed away, not turning around. Now I just gave this person something to write about, she thought and grabbed the broom outside leaning on the metal door frame.



Old Feelings

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on April 22, 2010

Old Feelings

For the past weeks I’ve been talking to an old friend. My feelings for Casey were still there. Warm.  Leaving me soft-eyed.  Last weekend she sat in my pew next to her little brother Joseph. Her hair was down, curled with volume. Wore black plastic glasses and a plaid shirt which caught her figure. I prayed the best for her, and after church, we had a nice morning-walk to our cars. Choir faded away at the bridge. People left church quietly. A handful spoke to Father Dan under the portico. Sun was out. Spring’s cold air blew on our faces, and Joseph and my cousin Aileen were a few steps ahead. For a second I even believed she was looking for me. At work, Casey said, there was a long line for high school prom. I made a few jokes how to match corsage, the finest colors. What tips did you give them? I asked. I surprised myself forgetting that I asked her to prom. Inside her house, we were sitting beside each other on the stairs. She wore a blue shirt and shorts, quietly looking down. I turned to her, looking away.

“Can I ask you to prom?”

“Yeah, I’ll go.”

We never went. The day was so nice I forgot the tragedy which ensued, that at times I believe she played her role. But that was my delusion, which carried on until Wednesday, when I asked about her graduation. It was an honest question, but had a hint of bad soil underneath (that I wanted her attention). She wanted to do “something,” so I offered “Chucky Cheese” in good humor. But perhaps she took the texts the wrong way, not responding over thirty minutes. Because as of late, we’ve been texting each other, I knowing well she has a boyfriend. A bit sour, I asked what I wanted: the date of graduation because my cousin’s was close.

“Its may 21,” she wrote.


She was annoyed, I thought. Driving home from JR’s, I kept my ears to the music—heavy kicks and a single piano, easy to follow. I reserved my emotions so as not to fester my self-esteem. Only four months until I move to San Francisco in fall and today was April 21.


In a Nameless Bagel Shop

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on April 21, 2010

The Owner

The owner of the bagel shop was sixty years old, as he told the customer over the glass counter. The customer recognized him from the gym. Full gray haired, thin hook nose, old potato faced, he was sweeping the shop. They hit a dead hour. Only one to four people entered at a time, enough for the employee to serve them alone. It was raining outside. A widespread of gray sealed the sky. Seldom had a car passed every minute. Wiping a table behind me, the owner asked about my net book. How reliable was my computer? He asked. According to his interests—learning nutritional facts, learning the human anatomy, learning Italian on CD—the net book was not beneficial. “Then go for the laptop,” I looked up at him.

Thank you, he said in a Spanish accent. He retied the apron around the neck, as we heard the bell rung and a black woman entered.


VA Thoughts in a Bagel Shop

My day off I spend it in a nameless bagel shop. On the side read Grilled Panini, Sugar Free Drinks, Fruit Smoothies, Bagels, and Cookies, dotted in blue one after another. Spring rain, morning people—older men and women, employees in the Vacaville region, and others also on their day off (as you could tell by the casual clothes of blue denims and a calico t-shirts—created little plots in the room.  The room was warm and dark, saving energy.

Looking over the counter at the line of coffee machines, they sponsored Java City. It reminded me how a small business functioned, as I currently work at a local optometry off of N. Texas in Fairfield. Companies would send us contact solutions, a plethora of contact brands, and brochures, sometimes including eye-games that would test distance and color. I assumed companies gave free coffee sleeves. There was a box of sleeves on the shelf, but the cashier ringed mine in one by the Academy of Art University, a red sleeve which said Active Duty Military and Veterans were one-hundred percent covered.

2005 my father applied for the Veterans Affair at Travis Air Force Base. His illness was sleep apnea, but he did not believe the disease qualified for a high enough disability percentage—you needed a minimum of fifty-percent. Our family was not sure how the doctors calculated the disability, but that Christmas my father came down under a severe flu. Coughing, poor dieting, sneezing, sleeping long and off hours, he took the test and came out ninety-percent disabled. His sickness surpassed December. We, although had trouble celebrating Christmas as a family, the Veteran Affair helped reduce our finances in covering tuition. Graduating from UC Davis in a year accumulated twenty-thousand dollars—equivalent to a new car or two years of housing in the Bay.

My brother has been craving Academy of Arts over a year now in San Francisco, but the tuition simply was discouraging. After calling and texting him, I slipped off the coffee sleeve and folded it into my satchel.


Writing Habits (Recap of Today)

Orhan Pamuk is perhaps my favorite contemporary author. Like him, I care about every line written, the texture, pace, consonance, syllables and so forth, almost like a poet (Although I do head John Gardner’s advice when he said attention to every line is detrimental). So I write slow or irritable, as I listen closely to every enunciation. Ultimately, attention to lines can disrupt the movement in prose. Prose seems to require a steady rhythm, a perpetuation, because there are two levels of movement constantly in motion: (a) the story itself, the piece seen, and (b) language, which is my weakness. Some “literary” writers, like myself, will ignore the first point and focus on language, usually creating a dream-like quality in their writings, i.e. Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust. Some authors like Joyce and Faulkner will try to emulate the consciousness word for word, which is a jarring read, difficult to find the development.

I sat in a bagel shop working on an experience in Tomales Bay.  I hit bumps in the story, where I felt there were no directions. Unlike a play, you can avoid unnecessary movements in fiction, but I was not sure how to apply now—these were usually my writers block. But then I remembered Pamuk’s work habits. When he hit a wall, he would work on different parts of the novel. Admittedly, he wrote structurally. I took his advice and created the parameters of the first chapter, or at least, where the story needs to logically connect. In this momentum I am more attuned to sensory detail, and I can focus on language, which is my first priority. Plot, I’ll have to worry about that later once I develop a story.


Civic Center by John Tang

Posted in Short Stories and Excerpts, Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on April 16, 2010

Civic Center

Riding through the California’s east bay, inside the BART he opened the afternoon to a newspaper. Faces, moist bricks, pressured air, were distracting and ill-translated whenever he sat down. Relaxed on one of those cotton benches—blue, soiled, thin-padded—he sincerely didn’t have the attitude to look out the window and point at “tiny matters except that the grime depreciated our public transit—and that was a fact.

Normally he worked at home in El Cerrito. Beside the yellow sofa was a single desk in the corner. Laptop opened and glowing. Lawn chair supplementing for an office seat until a “health issue” was considered. He once told Mrs. Vanden, the wife of the household—his wife—finally to take down those curtains smelling of ash in the living room. Color periwinkle. Violet strings hanging. Green tassels stitched in staplers. Because after work his sense of smell was sensitive, a subtle change like a shadow before a lamp, as the computer quietly blinked and shut off, he passed by the same curtains before entering the kitchen, saying to Mrs. Vanden, “How does the moist collecting on the windowsill hum inside our house, when the kitchen is always boiling in vegetable oil? Smelling isn’t a special skill that’s inherited but practiced. You remember in Houston when only an electric bill was all we worried about aside from room—recall big ones that separated, walled, in the least, was kept away from the kitchen? We don’t have that anymore. ”

Entering a tunnel: Black windows, blank reflections of citizens in their seats or asleep against the poles. Beside him was the leather bag with the laptop nestled in suede.

He saw a young black man closing the double glass doors to the preceding cart. Before he knew what had occurred, the man said to him, “God bless, sir. The Oakland Youth Center truly appreciates any donations from your generosity, sir. Maybe this year we’ll play Sacramento city,” said in all its fine syllables——the name resonating in a whisper through the rolling wheels. When did a city emerge up there? He thought. Only a fifteen-minute difference compared to San Francisco, and it was a new place we haven’t visited yet? Somehow, strangely though…Did the solicitor disappear in the pool of students and employees fusing inside the train? Because suddenly, amidst some conversation, “Was it the capital?” he politely asked the female biker beside him, who must’ve read the hind confusion in his face. Where in my face did she find the confusion to tell me about Sacramento? He wondered, placing the newspaper back on the floor where he found it, showing appreciation for an unwarranted attention in a “subway-like” transit; all awhile the biker said she enjoyed the heat and sallow and flat plains in Sacramento to Davis.

“Could you tell me a little something about yourself: Are you foreign? I hear your American accent, so not in an abroad-sense.”

“No, there isn’t really anything about me new as the wind—either cold or nice, isn’t that our autumn and spring up here? This isn’t the first time I’m riding the BART to the city? I know I’m always corrected when I call this a subway, or when I’m on the city I tell my wife to ride the bus, she corrects me into saying things like a local, calling the bus the MUNI. With the BART, I’m always corrected by my wife whenever I pull the car out the driveway and when the station is only down the street by the burger stop, or Korean store, whichever, and in the driveway my wife bangs the trunk with her palm, Gsh. Gsh. Gsh., telling me you could ride to the city on the BART—something Bay, Rail/Rapid, Transit? By that time I’d imagine the traffic down the hill and I’m home working on the laptop.” He tapped his bag.

The BART rolled to a stop, hissing, wheels scratching the steel tracks.

“Oh, I really don’t know what BART stands for.” She braced. “My stop’s here…safe trip.”

He couldn’t hear “have a” in the foot steps crowding inside the transit. And the noise came from outside, for the floor inside was carpeted in a dull, foggy blue like modern government folders. The cushion was there, his brown Italian-leather shoes sunk in. Soon the conductor announced the next stop in Ashby, all one heard were the wheels rolling on and on, even the stop at Ashby seemed unnoticeable, perhaps gratuitous, as the BART snuck under the bridge, where the pressured air popped the ears attuned and sterilized by the silent afternoon. More bricks filled the window to a black mirror. It was not worth looking around anymore. In front of Mr. Vanden, the next bench over, there was a box and an errand-boy in a charcoal baseball cap, who was in fact an adult man, fifty-two years old, who pulled the newspaper underneath the seat where Mr. Vanden displaced it. Leaving his arm on the window sill, the warm vent had the fingers sweating.

Closing the green door of his Houston home, Mr. Vanden hid the parking tickets in the wool pockets. He hung the pea coat in the closet. Padding it down once more, the paper crinkled and assured a confidence, as he lit the foyer and then the living room and the kitchen in white lights. The three-day old dinner was out on the counter in a tinted glass tray. The chicken wings poked through the foil. The cold vegetable oil and garlic bulbs scented the room after microwaving for two minutes. “Smells,” Ms. Vanden said from the door to the car garage. Inside she turned on the television and turned it off: On the freeway construction trucks never fully sealed their cargo, she said, their stones chipped the cars; simply she could not “be” here anymore. Insurance and other vehicle related issues were so trivial in what she truly asked for. In the dim refrigerator lights he poured himself a glass of water.

“Those are tiny matters.” He said, closing the fridge. “They’re not yours, anymore, when you’re in here.”

“Where are we at?” She asked. “I live with you: Isn’t it fair I ask?”

“We’re fine here in Houston.” He looked away from the light. “We are comfortable here.  Can you turn off the TV, please. Look, I got a ticket today in the parking lot for some bread. I was out buying sweet bread. It doesn’t bother me because I’m comfortable here. I know where to go a month from now. What the city demands of me. How to save for the fine—every week I’ll save…that’s aside from whatever…there’s a plan, that’s all; and there’s an end in every mistake. Keep away the outside from in here. Can you at least notice how clear I’m saying the problem I’m in right now? You cannot fairly compare our city to California’s. Can you recall the fine for littering when you were a girl? Most you would ever recall is a loitering fine on a garden. What’s the popular city there: L.A.? And your family is in Bakersfield? Don’t tell me about that place anymore. You should know, the symptom is called ‘romanticizing.’ Last night, I don’t even know what you were asking me. What are you asking me?”

He knew the BART was hitting a series of stops in San Francisco when he saw Embarcadero, a faint yellow on black, hanging from the bricked ceiling. A few more stops before the downtown library, either there or a local café, both atmospheres were never uncontrollable, or more precisely said, “he had could always look away.” Cars, shop bells, trumpeters, beggars, all shared a string in the scheme of things, including the smoking sewers and the unloading trucks and MUNI wires high before the clouded sky, as if the city was breathing. Mr. Vanded was there to watch it all in its nature. Noise wasn’t an issue because he never spoke to anyone in the company, or rather there was never any “difficulties” for assistance.

“And her reason we’re here is because we’re getting old,” he laughed. “I put us here. She’s  a joke: where’s the connect to a son?  we didn’t want it when we’re thirty.” He remembered the evening he fought with Mrs. Vanden. If the night was issued a title it would be named Romantics Asleep, a program where the writers would scramble for direction and drama and conclusion, because only one of them made sense of the evening! Although, now, he couldn’t reproduce that evening in his mind. All he recalled was the vowels in the mouth were pronounced so sweetly, concise, plus today was here because of his efforts in finding “a home” out here, reasoning to himself, Mrs. Vanden should in the least appreciate they were in the same state as her family. “I listened when she talked and today is stone,” he said.

Was the locomotive slowing down, he wondered, for the same sign was hanging over the window. Technical issues, he assumed, confounded that no one in the train showed any concern: “Maybe they know the train as well as I that every problem has an end to it.”

His eyes must’ve lost consciousness, gazing at the brown, red wall. Awakening only brought impatience, especially waiting for the errand-boy in front to drop the newspaper.

“Do you perhaps get off here?” Mr. Vanden asked over the man’s flat. “There’s a few more stops before mine, may I read your paper until then?”

“Where are you trying to get to?”

“Civic Center.”

“Mine is coming up.” He lifted the package, “to deliver this. I know its either hangars or metal trays—we get this all the time from Benecia and Richmond. Just glad enough there’s someone at the end to bring this to. This your first time riding?”

“No, it’s not.” He said. “I know the city pretty well; one street you’ll see the homeless and war vets, next street you’ll see people. And going towards Sacramento, our capital, you’ll find some excellent biking trails.”

“The question is general as asking about the weather. Yes,no aren’t ideas.”

“So you can do without your paper till the next stop?” He felt uneasy lying about the newspaper belonging to the errand-boy, originally. Nonetheless, the errand-boy gave him the newspaper. Mr. Vanden’s beetle brows were arched and suspended over fifteen minutes, so he wouldn’t open himself in conversing with the errand-boy. Was it of any concern? Because rolling pass two stops didn’t occur over the duration, Mr. Vanden spent pretending to over-concentrate the eyes on the black texts and wasn’t sure about yesterday’s tensions.

At the station he seemed unaware of everything. Not the ticket that opened the path, the guitar lulling, bikers unlocking their chains, when walking up the steps to keep right to avoid impeding others—fortunately not many were visiting downtown. Sterility was natural habitation. He didn’t realize how heavy the laptop was until he grew tired walking the last steps.

“Foggy today,” he looked up. The clouds sealed the city, as if the buildings were only pins holding up a carnival tent. Crossing a few streets, not following the walk-signal, he walked down narrow bricked pavement, wedged, almost, between a row of nude trees plotted in damp sand and a hairy lawn outside an abandon municipal building. Homeless men and women were gathered, quiet as the drizzle soaked in their brown or blue socks. Some were listening to the radio’s playing on near-dead batteries, others were lying down in the grass, many didn’t mind the steam surfacing from the sewers and vents for warmth. He kept his mind on the library until he felt two cold bars and tugged the door. Locked: Due to construction.

“Yes, sir, these doors are locked.” A man said from behind. “You can read the signs for yourself.”

“I come here all the time,” Mr. Vanden said and asked. “Why are they locked?”

“Living here, I know it’ll be locked the whole season.” The homeless gentleman pointed inside the window at an empty, dark-blue vestibule, at the steel bench dissembled on the floor (construction must’ve taken down already) where a few brown paper scraps were scattered, which also, too must belong to construction. The homeless man put his hand on Mr. Vanden’s shoulders, plucking the leather strap, saying as a joke, “That’s where they’ll let us sit around.”

“Kind of leather you have?” The man looked down, “I wore pair to work before.”

Mr. Vanden ignored the question, but what he saw was the library was under construction, so was half of the sidewalk, blacked out.

“Does he asks for some help?” asked an old woman in a knitted beanie, blue, magenta, on the crown was a nugget of fluff soiled in coca cola and grime, as she waved her hand over to the gentleman and Mr. Vanden. They were “bullshitting” with each other, as one of them called it.

“He’s lost.” He called back, “waiting for the library to open.”

“It’s close.” she laughed, “wait here with us, then.”

Mr. Vanden was lean, had clean, full brunette hair growing and flaring about the ear and neck, as one could see in the black window. When they reached the corner, waiting for the walk-signal, he politely asked the man, as if he noticed him for the first time, “You don’t happen to know when the next BART will be heading home to El Cerrito?”

“El Cerrito is nice to live in, I heard. Affordable, too.” He hung an arm on Mr. Vanden’s shoulder. “I have friend living out there. Has some good Asian stores, he tells me whenever I had to ride the BART to work.” He began smirking without any humor at hand.

“I’m only going home now.”

“I’ll escort you.” He smiled. “You know the word ‘escort’? It’s a skill in my family line I used in work.”


“Yeah. You listening?” He asked. “I have a way of saying things so crisp here.”

The streets were slick, cars drove fast, as if blind to the city. The signal changed.

“Says ‘walk,’” he pointed at the signal, “cross.”

In the man’s grip, he felt it guide him away from the station.

“You need, sometimes, to pay attention to the signs here.”

Mr. Vanden couldn’t help but hear a city wheezing through the sewers. He listened, as he also felt the denim strap loosening down the left shoulder.


It was not published this year in Glimmer Train’s summer edition, but I would like share with those who were willing to take a short-short journey. The packet was returned  last month in March, and no one reviewed the piece, the corners remained clean, unbent.

Already April 13

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on April 14, 2010

Simply Write

Time has gone and left a grainy scent on my collar. Where does time pass away? Since two days ago, I have had difficulty finding time to write, averaging an hour a night these past two days. A professor and poet, Nils Michals said he was in luck if he put in two hours after teaching at Solano. “What you want is habit,” said Michals. “You write in the morning, or maybe you’ll edit an old piece. And what you want is to have something to work on later in the afternoon–after work–when you come home. Don’t know if same goes for fiction authors.”

“During your Masters program,” I asked, “how much did you write a day?”

“I was a madman: Thirty five pages.”

“How’s you’re reading habits?” I asked. “Three hundred pages, you once said.”

“And that includes student essays.”

“How about novels?”

“Not so much as before.”

“And poetry?”

“There’s too many writers–in a good and bad way. I feel there will always fresh wring. I also feel I read enough poetry. Now I’m reading science books, to know more about the world. About the clouds…”

“Like the zipper jacket, when the top of the plane rips off. I remember that poem.”

“Yes. And you can find strange things in facts, like Mental Floss.”

“The best thing that has happen to me for casual reading.”

“The Strange and Amazing Facts, I think is a book.”

“Before I leave, I have one more question. ” I sat up. “Last time I was here, you just finished your book. How did that go?”

“Still sending them out?”

“You know at the back of Poets and Writers magazine, do you enter those?”

“Have to. Unless your an established poet, then you’ll be published.”

By now he had a list of students on the desk, many who were in remedial English at the Reading and Writing Lab that Solano has for college students. Later, he taught at six o’clock.

He inspired me to write begin this blog, so I could write everyday. Even the hands which clasp the fruit of each day, the piety resides deep in time. Rilke once told a poet you must have the conviction Jesus had in his Father.

Driving from Elk Grove to Vacaville, I came home eight o’clock. I was  exhausted and happy enough sliding a few words in my journal. Nothing is tonally attached anymore. So today would be explained in this fashion: Hopefully sealed a place in SF. Put in eight hours of work. Lakers beat Kings.

I know many would summarize a day in a list. A list is a lazy a day, like a photo album, only lived to be turned. There was one interesting moment at work: Standing in the corner, by the files, in a ring of patients’ charts, I was searching for Ms. Lei, when I shared a glimpse of my Las Vegas vacation. I would go with my friends–four girls, four guys–to the clubs on the strip.

“You don’t bring sand to a beach.” He advised. “You don’t bring a sandwich to a buffet.”

Silence stilted the air in awe.


WordPress Stats & Fastfood Coma

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on April 11, 2010

WordPress Stats

About WordPress, I’m not sure how to read the statistics on the dashboard. Or rather I find the concept interesting. I wrote two blogs last month titled “Apartment Themes” and “Already Vegas on the Plane.” Sixteen people that day stumbled upon my post, according to the statistics. Half of those people, I guess, must have searched online for apartment designs, and the other half was researching places in Nevada, Las Vegas—homes and condominiums, perhaps. The latter was more believable. I laughed at the peak of viewers, as I average zero to four—who were probably fellow writers and artists (friends)—views a week, last month going into April. Simply the Vegas-week was compacted or had the potential to be full of exciting experiences, or it  could have been informative: The mustard carpet wouldn’t mute the spicy brown walls.  I sincerely didn’t know Hokusai’s poster of a tidal wave would drown out the green strips peeling off the wall.



Mnemonics: My brother once remembered Hokusai by a modern comedian who said, “Comb to side,” in stereotyping an Asian accent. Hear the resemblance? Ho-ku-sai and Comb-to-side. Parallel in syllables and enunciation. Amazing. The comedian was in a barbershop. His crown was balding, and he was finding ways in veiling the pink flesh, or as he called it, “The baboon’s ass.”


Morning Cheeseburger

I ate a double-cheese burger with large fries and medium cup of water. I felt  slow on top four hours of sleep. My friend was on his third essay on Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabal, and I’m waiting for him at Borders. He said he arrived from Palo Alto in forty-five minutes. Sadly, I couldn’t find the play in Borders. Compared to smaller cities in California like Vacaville, Fremont, and Concord, the Borders in San Francisco’s residential side was designed for students, built with a wide-span of tiles for spills, a home base of circuit breakers and many single tables that stood alone like Malaysian islands.

Note: Being awake in a coma, you’re mind trails anywhere. You can tell in the intervals phrase by phrase.

Across the parking lot was San Francisco University, so the lot was heavily secured with cameras on the roofs. Downhill, plenty of dry bark on the trees. Over the parking lot, men and women carrying their groceries, children and bags. There was the school housing, then the university. The blue windows and gray skies had an empty presence spread about SF, but today was the Cherry Blossom Festival, celebrated every year on the Filmore in Japan town.


Java Beach on a Friday Night

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on April 10, 2010

Java Beach on a Friday Night


Java Beach was filled on a Friday night, many of whom were focused on studies, financial aid, and socializing. There was an older couple outside the window sill. Two older folks dress freely. One was in a loose cotton, teal blouse while the man had homeless demeanor in the ashy beard and pony tail hanging under fisherhat brim. Yet tonight he had hint of class, as the commoners would say, in the pinstripe jacket fitting his slim body.  Although only a café on the shore, he brought a glass of wine for him and his date, tri-tip sandwiches on a white plate brimming under the Open sign. Twenty minutes later they left together on the bus waiting at the stop, the T-section.

Old Man Entering

This man had a beard rooting to the chest. Had a brown hat and a plastic cane. He struggled for balance, getting to the counter and grabbed the spine of a wooden seat. There was another man, more polished in a coffee sweater, leather shoes, and khakis, also, too, an older man. And his beard was trimmed, squaring off the dry lips.

“These are for someone.” The gentleman said. “Someone’s sitting here.”

“I almost slipped.” The old man turned. “And you’re an asshole.”

The friend who came sat at the table appeared so surprised by the comment, as the man was at the door by now, cursing to himself. He didn’t buy a cup.

Folk Singer

Playing was acoustic folk music in the corner, between two leather couches, under a cap of light. The old man wore a leather vest, pink and flesh revealing, legs crossed with the guitar on his lap. Before him on the table was a scratched-up pitcher, the bottom filled with some change. Beside him was another man who had a laptop, talking about the air outside.

“It’s nice out tonight.”

Before he began another set, I put a dollar in quarters, so I could make it to the bars later tonight.

Buying Coffee

The wooden counter had a glassy feel, a thickness preserving the wood underneath. The server slid a paper cup, where at arms-reach was a line of black coffee brewers. Mine, Hazelnut, was at the end of the row. Two packets of the pink packet of sugar. A third of the cup filled with half and half whip cream. Stirred until a light brown spreads.


Dream Context

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on April 9, 2010

Dream Context

Dreams tend to sneak through context. The backdrop. Objects in design. Humming where it is silent. I experienced a tragedy which cannot be averted: My mother past away. I cried through much what could be salvaged from the dream. Little instances where I wake up in the night, I was sweating as if it was a nightmare.

Opening scene: It seemed I knew the tragedy, as I was quiet, slumped in the passenger seat. Driving was Richard King, a childhood friend of mine I met in Guam.  Out the window were white dividers lined against the wall, perhaps protecting cars from the scraping the orange and rocky cliff. We had a distance driving down the middle lane. Then simply I asked, why did she want past away? Her bones ached. Every day she felt a pain in her arm, the muscle so tender and warm. I know outside the dream, my mother felt this pain in America, but in the dream I didn’t know where we were driving. We followed the hill into the sun. The road was wide, wounding around more roads, to further down where a tall bridge with a steep hump.

Here’s where I woke up during the night, yet I could only verify because the scene cuts seamlessly. The next scene opens on a space ship looking out on earth. My mom chooses to lie in a steel pod, finishing her remaining life. She was afraid of pain. She said, it was her time.

Later today I read an article on dreams of death. The author suggests, in example, the death of your mom, there is a lack of trust in the future; that you must nurture the future. I responded on the blog:

Hey Raisa,

Dream translation is an interesting concept. I had a dream my mother past away last night. Following a similar line you’re article poses, my analysis says, I have a fear of the future, or I lack nurturing the future. It’s true, when my mother made a choice of leaving, because her bones ache, she’s always tired after work.The world finally exhausted her presence. Relating it to the conscious world, I’m a little afraid leaving home for SF, when knowing my mom is going to be alone and tired back in Vacaville. Perhaps this subconsciously bothers me more than moving itself. The dream had visceral moments, vividness, that had me crying and sweating when I woke up in bed.

Good post.



Quick Review

Phrases are coming out sloppy.  Since work and other entertainments, I haven’t had a chance to write quietly, listening to myself closely. Work is inflated with tension during slow days. Lakers lost both games against Spurs and Nuggets. Soul Kahn did beat Aspire in the Canadian division, KODT. Kaylani Lei is still slim. Ja is busy. Case knows my angle now. I need to find a place tomorrow. How the stratosphere crumbles.


Jay Day

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on April 8, 2010

Jay’s Room

Lying down on Jay’s bed, the window sill had a blue pen. That was boring, and by now Jay finished downloading a Japanese game on the desktop. A fighting game similar to Guilty Gear. Jay hunched over. Matching buttons to gestures, gestures to grunts and foreign words, he never figured how he won, but he did. There was an electric guitar rift following well with the colorful design, shimmering like an Alaskan aura in winter solstice. Each character fought over pond, rippling on every step. The water fall fell over a few chestnut rocks, down elephant eared plants, where Jay’s animated character fell after a swipe across the ribs. The opponent, a woman sighted for her maroon hair bouncing over the chest, played the final seconds crouching down. She pulled the win.

A pair of Castros arrived at eight o’clock. Gabe came in, said ‘sup’ to John, who was struggling against a woman with a pole shoved into the ground. They brought five burgers in a brown bag. On the television screen in the corner was Ultimate Fighter. A boy in Green and black hair, spiked down the skull, lost in a grapple. He cried, and the trainer tried encouraging him: “One minute, one minute, please? One minute, one minute, please? Just one minute.” The boy turned around the column, and the trainer said, “Growth comes after lost.”

Talking to Gabe

What has Gabe been up to? “Just feeling good, I guess.”

Doing anything exciting? “It’s really exciting. I don’t I have a starter. A gentlemen don’t kiss and tell.”

Talking to James

Anything happen to you James? “Nope. Just working out. Do you want to join us? 24 Hours work out. Fifty percent is fitness. I heard you can…”

Talking to Jay

“I talked to the recruiter today.”

“How’d it go?”

“It takes one to two weeks to get a reply from the surgeon general. Hopefully they don’t make me do the whole medical part. I felt like a piece of cattle. They put you air a cold room they make you got through a metal detector. They have a room with all the branches. You to different sections. Blood test. Ear test. Piss test. You stand in a line.  There urinal was angled. You can’t see an “Piss.” You give it to them. You go to another room. There’s seating all around the room. You’re all waiting for the doctor. One o f the doctors make you od the test. The duck walk, test your knees. Test ankles. From knees to toes.” Jay stopped because John couldn’t record everything said. “The doctor is different. My doctor was this old jewish dude. His name. like Doctor Wienstein. They check you balls. They check your butt. They make you turn around and open your cheeks. For reals: They tell you, turn around and spread you cheeks.”

“I’m turning off the light,” Jay switched the lights off. They were playing two different games from opposite corners of the room: One was competitive against the automated character, and the other game was a adventure, where a man was ditched in the desert. He just learned that he had a hook shot and flew over the dunes, as the shot pierced the wooden board.

“Wow. That’s a pretty huge map. This game is pretty tight.”

“Did you beat it,” James turned to Gabe, “or just stopped?”

“I died.” Gabe said. “There’s like shotguns or pistols.

“This game is like Grand Theft in the desert.”

“Look at this combo.”

“Did you…”

“Look at that, that was tight. The game is unreal. It’s hella tight. Open parachute. ”

“What.” James laughed. “Then grapple on it.”

“That was amazing.”

What are you doing, asked the enemy in the game.


Cold in the Guest Parking Lot

Jay stopped by the house for music programs. A mistake in downloading a program in photo design, he assumed the computer contracted a virus via the internet. Summer’s evening was only a bend in time. Cool night. Open sky. The air seldom fell below in the housing complex, where Jay and Matthew spoke to each other in the guest parking lot. Jay finished his second cigarette off a new pack, as he also fished out a black jacket from the back seat of the white truck. He lit one burning dimly tonight.

“I need to leave.”

“The military will do you good.” Matthew said.  “It sounds like you have your mind made up.”

“It will.”

“Did you talk to your professor?”

Last week Matthew watched a strong performance online, a boy playing bossa on the piano. He told Jay he could perform better than ninety percent of the “jive turkeys” on the internet. The strong players were only those recorded on stage under a glow in a black backdrop.

“Spring break.” Jay tugged on his jacket. “That’s why I’m here. I’d be in class now.”

“So what do you think?”

“I spoke to my pastor.” Slowly, the cinder phased the stick into ash. “He doesn’t have an idea about life.  It’s not like meth amphetamines. I experienced how it can throw away lives.”

“Experience goes a long way. Does he know you’re responsible when smoking? Because some are rude, aggressive, in just a hit of meth.” Matthew said. “You’re parents told him, I assume.”

“They did. In church he asked if I use it as escapism.” Jay paused. “He’s a pretty smart pastor. He’s observant. Out of all the pastors in my life, I’ll say he is one of the better ones. This man knows my dad’s family. He also knows my mom has uncles, brothers, on meth. He knows. I don’t know why my mom never told me about this before I did this.”

Matthew’s nodded in agreeing Jay came from a family line of successful relatives, who were doctors as well as musicians, the tragic past down the matriarchal line.

Jay leaned against the truck, chuckling.

“It’s because when he sees me in church, I’m alone, quiet—I don’t sit with the other kids—Why don’t I hang with the other kids? Because I’m a bad influence.  Last sermon, Easter Sunday, he gave out three cards for people to pray for. You put these cards in your wallet, so when you open your wallet you know who to pray for. I knew he was staring at me the whole time—by this time my parents already told him—he was waiting for me to step up on stage with the others. So every time he sees me, he has this preconceived idea of me. Its’frustrating. Every time I’m at church, I’m that guy who’s quiet. That’s why he believes I have this drug problem. I thought he was a smart man. Observant. He did ask, have you ever considered being a pastor? I considered being a pastor.  What I told him was I wanted to be a musician-pastor.”

“What did you want him to ask you?”

“What did I want him to ask? I wanted him to ask about what I thought of all this? My faith. The creation story is something. I see contradictions. I see holes. I know the Big Bang might be an explanation for how God made the earth. Did I believe God put animals here for us to name? A woman came from Adam’s ribs? I remember after every sermon, my parent always quizzed us on Genesis. I knew Genesis. Read every part of it. That’s why I’m leaving. I have to figure it out.”

“It’ll be good for you.”

“Because I was born into this—does that make sense? Religion was indoctrinated. My whole life I went to church with my parents. Religion can be used for control. To help others. To lift others. The Bible has a structure for a good life. Those are the right morals, but the person behind it can have the wrong intentions.”

“Control the masses. Like those mass suicide in San Diego.”

“I never refused.”

“Never missed church? What about a test in school?”

“I have, of course. But every time I’d go to church it was with my parents. I never knew it for myself.”

“I’ve been down it. If you want, it’ll always be there. It’s not simple as sleep.”

“I’m ready now.”

“Have you loved anything more than yourself?”

“No, I can’t say I have.”

“Some have art, like Tim. A girlfriend, maybe—Arian. This may perhaps be God you’re looking for. Purpose is a tangible.”


Matt’s thoughts are a crutch for context, and it shouldn’t disrupt the pace.

Frustration might be a jarring story, so it’s not always wise to enter Jay’s mind. Plus, this is Matt’s perspective.

I cut a few things because in reality there is a lack of music, sometimes, stubbing the rhythm. Point being: I prefer to avoid the little digression in life, if it disrupts the retelling of the shift in one.


May be the One

Debris of orange blush fell on his wrist. Each cheek was defined, while her friend figured that a couple of pulls around the neck would get the golden hooks to his fingers. Finishing the loop. A pause in the mirror. She said the necklace was bit loose. Until she played with her hair. Falling on her thin shoulders, it faded away the ensemble in her mind.

[It has a nice dream quality, but sounds a little forced. We’ll see it unfold into a story. Also, I might want to be in the friend’s perspective]


Get a Few Word in while I’m Sick

Posted in Sketchbook by Jt's Item Roster on April 5, 2010

A Vegas Question for My Doctor

My doctor remembered I had another trip to Vegas. With a lack of knowledge, I asked her if taking a shot of Vitamin C did something, perhaps “the trick.” “No,” she laughed, “You’re body is only going to take in what it can.” Her friend across the table concurred, a Filipino guy in fat black plastic glass with hair spiked. I just got my tea from Starbucks, and I caught the two studying biology and maybe her on the MCATS.

“What’s your plans?”

“Tao, I heard.” I said. “Still need to walk the strip.”

She knew Tao was club in Vegas.

“Doing it right this time.”

She was referring to my last trip, where I missed the strip because one night I fell asleep in the hotel, and that Saturday I went to club in our hotel. I sipped the lid, as the tea felt too hot.


“Are you worried?”

“Well I know AIDS isn’t airborne…” I counted with each finger. “Clemidia isn’t airborne…”

She laughed. I was surprised an AIDS joke hit with my doctor.

“Are you at work?”

“Just got off because of this.”

Her lips curled to one side which read as eww.

“So no shot.”

“Get plenty of liquid.” Her friend said, his face attached to the textbook. “That’ll do it.”

“He’s right.” She said. “You’ll be fine with a carton of orange.”

“Hopefully I can pee it all out before I get there.”

“When do you get there?”

“This Thursday.”

“I hope you get better, then, John.”

Before I left, I was introduced to her friend.  I turned and waved goodbye, pushing the glass door open, where I found Vanessa sitting outside on the green table. My body was still a bit warm from the flu. Walking slowly, I smiled down, “I can’t believe I forgot to compliment her haircut.”

[There’s more to the story, but I like how the movement ends.]


Midnight Writing in Hart Hall

During my years in Davis, I would burn the midnight oil writing essays. Coffee on the left. Laptop in front. A book open on my lap. Davis had a twenty-four hour library open, but usually it was full of students, as you saw them taking their break under a street lamp, smoking and conversing. So I would search for a remote building. The Hart Hall, across the street from the library, was open. Many of the rooms were locked, the first and second floor, as I found myself in the middle of the first floor looking down three the white corridors. I pulled a seat to the middle of the room, and I realized there was a long table against the wall with an electric outlet.

The first floor had a small museum, glass display cases on every wall except mine. The theme this year was preserving Native American past: Should scientist have the rights to preserving Native American culture? On the stand-up cases there was a Native American motif, tattered clothes, red and greed, feathers on the floor, with a cardboard sign which read: No. Natives inherit the land. A student must’ve done this assemblage. The wide and shorter display cases had more anthropological stance. There were brown photos of white men in Davis, perhaps in the early 1900s, holding Native American equipment, the stone end of a spear, while the other man gripped a beaded necklace which wrapped down the wrist. Both men were smiling on the fertile soil. The plow-field was riddled with their equipment.

I sat down and tipped the seat to the wall. Coffee in hand. Book on lap. Laptop beaming with white light from the document page. Because no one was around, I played music from the computer. The sounds weren’t produced with the best quality, but there a nice balance in the static, poor quality, when in contrasts to reading, a skill which required concentration, especially explicating a poem. Normally, how I look essays was with bulk, speed, and purging—as long words were produced because voice and discovery depended on the flame of persistence, an appendage to faith (seven hundred students would hate to make this debate in Davis).

There was a tune I sung only two measures, repeating until the music affected the essay. Online no one had posted the song. Youtube and Facebook were still young in their development, and I didn’t have an account on either. I was also unsure the title—something bossa—and the musician—Durant the trumpeter. So I would research the song on Google, spending time away from the essay. The flame would sure burn by two o’clock in the morning. On Youtube I typed: Bossa Durant. I went through four pages and listened a minute each (maybe I only was humming the body).


Emails for a Home in SF


My name is John, and I am writing in response to your ad on I was admitted into SF state for Fall Semester in their MA program, and I am now looking for a place close to school. May I schedule a time to visit?

You can contact me via this email address or my home phone, ———-. Currently I’m working, so the best times are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the weekends, usually late morning.

Thank you for your consideration