February 16, 2018 scottcjones 2Comments

I stayed with Amy in her comically small apartment in Chinatown. I tried some moves on her, sophisticated moves, old moves that used to work. Amy fended me off. Told me she was seeing someone now. Told me she had moved on. “We broke up,” she said. “Don’t you remember?” I was frustrated. Disappointed in myself. Disappointed that my sex moves no longer worked. Confidence? Gone. I was diminished. Felt like I’d walked into a buzzsaw here. Thought there was glory in New York. But, so far, no glory.

I was desperate. Desperate to get what I wanted, what I needed. I wasn’t leaving empty-handed. “Come back with me, Amy,” I said. “I made a mistake. I was a fool. I want to try again,” I said. I acted like this was a big prize for her. As if I was telling her she’d won the Publisher’s Clearing House.

Water fell out of her eyes. “Are you joking?” she asked me. Told me that I had lost my mind, that I should seek professional help.

She put out the lights. She controlled everything in New York—even the lights.

The room was the size of a hotel room closet. I could hear Amy breathing a few feet away from me. She sounded like a baby panda. Couldn’t believe how quickly she fell asleep. She obviously had no conflict in her heart. Not me. I was restless. Unsatisfied. I was running out of time. This was my first night in NYC. Sirens wailed from the street like excited ghosts. I couldn’t calm myself down. Went to the apartment’s minuscule bathroom. Switched on the light. Exhaled into the mirror a few times. Now what? Now what? I whispered. This is the uncomfortable part: I never think about masturbating; usually I’m doing it before I realize that I’m doing it. I was in the middle of lowering my shorts when, through the filthy, little bathroom window, I saw a middle aged woman in in the apartment across the alley. She was Chinese. Her skin was a soft yellow colour, like margarine. She held a towel in her hands. A cotton candy-pink towel. She was crying. She buried her face in the towel as she cried.

Couldn’t masturbate with that woman sitting 10 feet away from me crying into a towel. Pulled up my shorts. Went back to bed. Slept an hour or two at most. I made one last run at Amy in the morning. Did I get down on my knees? Yes, I did. Said things like, “Please! Come with me! I need you, Amy! I can’t live without you, Amy! I really can’t, Amy!  I don’t want to go back there without you!” But her answer was the same: No thanks, Scott. Then I got violent. Something I’m not proud of. Turned over a chair, which I didn’t expect to do. She told me to leave after the chair-turnover. She said the words, “GET OUT.” She walked me downstairs, the whole way her arms folded in front of her like the blade of a snowplow. Amy was shouting, really letting me have it. “PLEASE LEAVE, SCOTT, PLEASE GET OUT OF MY LIFE, SCOTT, YOU HAVE DONE ENOUGH DAMAGE, SCOTT.” A few neighbours poked their heads out of their doors as we descended, like rubberneckers at an accident. They wanted to see. They couldn’t help themselves.

Once I was outside, the door clicked shut behind me. I found a payphone on Mott Street. Called my writer friend with the car, the one who had given me the ride to NYC. Made a plan to meet up, to head back to the university together. I didn’t want to go back to the empty apartment at the university! Not without Amy, I didn’t. All those empty rooms. The impossibly high ceilings. The heating bill I couldn’t afford. But what choice did I have? I had to go back. Had to. Being an adult is going places you don’t want to go, doing things you don’t want to do.

I went back. I taught my classes. Wrote. Wrote long poems about the heartbreak I had experienced. I read the poems in workshop.

I can see in your eyes that you are strong now.

Stronger than I am. I live in fear of you.

Like a lost animal in a forest.

Then came the sobs. Totally pathetic. Even though I’d manufactured the entire heartbreak, the other writers tried to comfort me. Even though I’d controlled every aspect of it (except for the grande finale in New York), I presented myself in the poems as a sympathetic narrator. Poor Scott! Truth was that Amy had not left me. I’d made her leave. I’d told her that she had to go. Yet I felt entitled to the sadness.

I imagined myself as Orpheus in the poems. Was trying to get Eurydice out of the underworld (New York). Formula was simple: Me: Orpheus. NYC: the Underworld. An irritated cab driver: Hermes. A growling garbage truck: Cerberus. It was melodramatic. But, man, it was sophisticated, too (or so I thought). Because New York was sophisticated. And Greek mythology was sophisticated. And heartbreak was sophisticated. And tiny apartments on Elizabeth Street where you could see a woman crying into a towel at midnight was sophisticated.

The poems ended the same way: with a confused Amy-Eurydice being returned to NYC/the Underworld, lost forever to Orpheus/me. Rilke writes: And when, abruptly, the god put out his hand to stop her, saying,/with sorrow in his voice: He has turned around—,/she could not understand, and softly answered Who?

I presented myself as this very tragic figure. Very tragic. Even though I was not. Was this the only time I’d be a selfish asshole in a relationship? Was this the only time I’d present myself as a tragic figure? It was not. I’d do it again and again for many years to come.

That’s the end of the story. A few postscripts before we part ways.

Postscript 1: Where is Amy now? No clue. I tried to find her on Facebook a couple times. Googled her, too. Nothing. I wanted to tell her that I’m sorry for what I did to her life in the 90’s. That I was sorry for uprooting her from Chicago the way I did. That I was sorry for being so self involved, so insecure, so restless. Amy was a terrific person. She was gorgeous and smart. She tried her best to be part of my life. I hope she’s doing alright these days.

Postscript 2: The beautiful Communist and I got together the following year. But that’s a story for another time.

Postscript 3: When I got sick in 2014, while I was in rehab in British Columbia, trying to jumpstart my brain, trying to be me again, I remembered Rilke’s Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes. Lines came to me in my adjustable hospital bed. Lines I’d memorized dozens of years ago in that cold kitchen at the university. I hadn’t thought about that poem in decades. Being able to recall those lines was a great comfort to me. Being able to remember the lines made me realize that my brain was going to be OK. What was me—what was my history—after the illness, after the stroke, was still there, still intact.

Far away,/dark before the shining exit-gates,/someone or other stood, whose features were/unrecognizable.

It was there! It thrilled me so much to find it there.

Postscript 4 (and this is the thing that made me remember this entire story): I had a friend back at the university. Really talented writer. Complete neurotic, too. A New Yorker, through and through. The first real New Yorker I ever met.

One day as I was riding in her car back at the university, I told her that I had a fantasy about being the guy at dinner parties who always rose from his chair and recited a poem. I’d say something like, “I have a poem from Wallace Stevens that I’d like to share with everybody tonight…” I had never admitted my fantasy out loud before, not even to myself. “It would make me attractive,” I told myself friend as she drove the car. “It would make me sophisticated and strange. I’d be a hot ticket, for sure. Everyone would want me to come to their dinner parties.”

My friend was quiet. “I’m only going to say this once, so please listen,” my friend said as she drove. “Are you listening? Never do that. Never do that to yourself. Never do that to the people who have invited you to dinner. Are you listening to me, Scott?” We were at a red light. She turned to look at me. “Never, never, never.”

I tried to defend myself. “But it’ll be very charming. People will love it, I’m certain.”

“Please don’t,” my friend said. She somehow smiled and winced at the same time. Then she turned her eyes back to the road. She said it again: “Just don’t.”

Then she hit the gas and we drove on.

February 14, 2018 scottcjones 1Comment

I had a girlfriend named Amy in 1993. Delicate features, pale skin, green eyes. Met her in Chicago, in a bar. I was starting graduate school in the fall soon. I asked her to come with me, to take a chance. Amy was an adventurous spirit. She agreed.

As soon as I got to the university, I realized that I’d made a terrible mistake bringing Amy here. I wanted to be single, wanted to be free. Still, I went through the motions for a few months. Amy and I found an apartment on Genesee Street. She took a job in a coffee shop. She fixed dinners for us. I wrote, attending classes, taught my own classes. Some nights, as the snow fell outside our apartment window, Amy and I would talk about the names we’d give our future children: Akhmatova, Elvis, and Mandelstam. Two Russian poets, and one absurdly popular American singer. Pretentious? Most definitely.

Within three months at the university, I had fallen in love unexpectedly with a beautiful Communist. I broke up with Amy. Told her that this wasn’t working for me. Did it in our apartment. I had no idea what I was doing. I looked out the window at the street lights, at the falling snow. Snow fell constantly that winter. I watched it fall. The oversized flakes, some as big as feathers. I listened to Amy cry in the shower, wailing like the brakes of a train.

Within a few weeks I had the apartment to myself. Amy was gone. The beautiful Communist? She retreated back into her old relationship. I didn’t see that coming. I was alone, alone, alone. I was angry at the beautiful Communist. Angry at myself for what I’d done to Amy. I felt guilty, horribly guilty. The apartment on Genesee Street was too big and too cold for me. I couldn’t afford to heat the place. I wore my parka in the house like a bathrobe. Around this time, there was a leak in the apartment upstairs. The leak made the panels on my kitchen ceiling turn a sinister brown color and swell. Each morning, I’d wake up, hungover, and stand in the kitchen to access the ever-swelling panels. How long would they hold? Tough to say. Within a week the swelling hung down like an infected udder or an oversized pod, like a thing from a science fiction movie. All the anger and guilt that I felt about Amy and the Communist was inside the udder/pod. One morning, as I did the dishes below the swelling, the udder/pod unexpectedly gave way. Pieces of rotten, water-swollen ceiling pelted my shoulders and head areas. I stood there with my winter jacket on, my hands submerged up to the wrist in lukewarm dish water, and I thought, This is what I deserve, oh this is most definitely what I deserve.

I memorized poems back then. Long poems. My brain was young, sharp. Memorizing was easy. Not so much now, 20 years later. One of the poems I remember from that time is Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes. That’s Rilke’s poem about Orpheus’s trip to the Underworld to rescue his love, Eurydice. The only rule Orpheus must follow: Do not look back. He has to trust that Eurydice is behind him. But on the journey to the surface, Orpheus can’t help himself: he looks back. He breaks the rule. Now, Eurydice has to stay behind, in the Underworld. Orpheus must return to the surface alone.

Amy had moved to New York City. One of the writers at the university was heading down to NYC for the weekend. Did I want to come? I did. He dropped me in Chinatown, at the address where Amy said she was living. I hadn’t called Amy or let her know that I was coming. The downstairs buzzer didn’t work. I pressed it again and again. Nothing. I hadn’t expected this, hadn’t planned for this.

I didn’t know NYC then the way I know it now. The idea of spending the night on the street in NYC terrified me. Scared and desperate, I began to yell. At the top of my lungs, I shouted her name: AMY, AMY, AMY! I waited for a response. Nothing. I yelled again, waited, nothing. Then I heard a window lift on one of the floors above me. A voice yelled: SHE’S ON HER WAY DOWN.

February 1, 2018 scottcjones 3Comments

I was a nostalgic little bastard, long before I was old enough to actually be nostalgic about anything. For example: evenings when there was nothing of interest on television—no Dukes, no Incredible Hulk—I would study my parents’ wedding album.

They were married in 1967, in a chapel the size of a boxcar. How young they were in the photos! Were those people in the photos the same sour pair I saw in the kitchen in the mornings, wearing bathrobes and bickering over coffee? They were. In the photos, they looked optimistic and hopeful; they looked simple, beautiful, unburdened; they looked like movie stars. They looked like two people in love—in love with each other, in love with that particular moment. They looked like people with great futures in front of them.

The wedding photos featured an absurdly oversized bottle of liquor. The bottle was at least two and a half feet tall. It was a novelty item, a symbol that said, Today is a day to indulge ourselves. Even as a kid I understood the role of the bottle. It sat at the front of the banquet hall, on the head table, as if it were a guest of honour.

The gargantuan bottle of Seagram’s 7—it was the size of a fire extinguisher—looked like an artifact from a fairy tale.

My mother and father had traveled from that glamorous day in 1967, all the way to this moment, to this trailer (yes, we lived in a trailer). And they’d brought the bottle of Seagram’s 7 with them. The bottle, now empty, sat in the corner of the living room. I dusted the bottle on Saturday mornings, which was cleaning day. While dusting, I pulled the cap from the top of the bottle and gave it a good sniff. I could smell 1967 on the underside of the cap. It was a sweet, forbidden, adult smell. It was a smell from a time before I was born.

My family got into the habit of depositing stray pennies in the bottle. Every night my father would come home and empty his pockets. He’d scatter his change across the coffee table. My mother would pick through the change, separating the pennies. Then she’d drop the pennies into the bottle one by one: plink, plink, plink. Down they fell through the neck of the bottle, coming to a rest on the bed of pennies below.

The bottle filled over the years. What were we going to do with all that money? I asked. (It seemed like a lot of money in 1978.) Once it was full, I was told, we’d take a grand trip together, maybe to Disney World. “We’ll really treat ourselves!” they promised. “We’ll go someplace magical! Because saving money,” they said, “is important. You have to save. You have to have goals. Otherwise, you’ll never get anywhere in life.”

I left for college when I was 18. I completely forgot about the bottle. I was struggling in the classroom, in part because I’d fallen hopelessly in love with a girl who wasn’t interested in me.

My father lost his job. I came home over the holidays and found him alone in the house. He sat on the floor in front of the TV watching gameshows. He wore Bermuda shorts, even though it was December. He had streaks of grey on the sides of his head which I didn’t remember him having before. Without ceremony, he had upended the Seagram’s 7 bottle. He spilled pennies across the braided living room rug.

Over the course of my father’s unemployment—eight weeks—he painstakingly rolled the pennies each day into thick paper tubes that he’d gotten from the bank.

A few weeks later, I called home from college one Sunday afternoon. My mother reported that the final total was $58.

January 17, 2018 scottcjones 2Comments

January was off to a good start. Was moving in a fairly healthy direction. Felt optimistic that this year was going to be MY YEAR, FOOLS.

Then I fell on the steps in the TTC station at Broadview. Last Wednesday night, around 8:30 or so. Not down the steps, but up the steps. Defying laws of physics. Here’s what happened: I was climbing up the steps, out of the station. I was trying to get by this little annoying woman who, in my opinion, wasn’t moving fast enough. As I tried to pass her: spdoom krrshhh boom. Down goes Frazier.

The little annoying woman was the first to stop and ask if I was OK. “I did that about a week ago!” she said, empathizing with my newfound state, facedown on the steps. “Everyone falls in Toronto,” she added, leaning towards me. “Are you OK?”

This woman was little, yes. But she wasn’t annoying. She was kind. I thanked her for her kindness. I assured her that I was fine. Felt guilty for thinking she was little and annoying. I scrambled to my feet and exited the station as quickly as I could. I hopped on the waiting street car, as if I’d just pulled off a robbery or something. Maybe five or 10 people must have seen the fall back there. I needed to get away from those people fast as I possibly could. Sat in the idle street car silently saying the words “Go, go, go!” to the driver. Finally, the street car began to move.

Went to bed that night knowing I’d be sore the next morning. I grossly underestimated the damage. Been a week since the fall now. I’ve been to the ER. Been to the walk-in clinic. Still having trouble putting weight on the leg. My left leg looks like a regular leg. Right leg looks like a misshapen paper bag that’s holding two, maybe three casaba melons. That’s what it looks like. How does it feel? Feels like my right leg has been replaced with a 40-pound bag of dry dog food. And it feels like it’s on fire about 60-percent of the time.

A 40-pound bag of kibble, engulfed in flames. That’s what I have now.

Wonder, quite honestly, if it’s broken. Could be broken. Wouldn’t surprise me if it is. Who knows? Elevating the dog food bag today. And I’m down to my last Percocets. Which, in all honesty, are not as strong as I’d like them to be. Worse, they only last for about four hours. Not enough. More soon.

January 10, 2018 scottcjones 4Comments

Update: Apologies for not posting at all lately. Been busy tending to various things, etc. etc. Most of those things have been constructive things.

Honestly? I resent the site sometimes, the way a dutiful parent might resent a child who doesn’t quite turn out the way she expected him to turn out. I always thought he was going to be a doctor! Now he’s just a druggie who sits in a hot tub all day, says this imaginary parent. He never goes out! Just sits at home. Yes, in that hot tub! Doing his crazy drugs! And if he does go out, it’s only to buy food for his parrot. Yes, he has a parrot! I don’t know what the hell that’s all about….

  • Note: I do not have a hot tub or a parrot or a drug problem.

I always assumed that a literary agent or a publisher would magically find the site and reach out to me one of these days; I figured it was only a matter of time. You’re a terrific writer, Scott Jones, they would say. Why don’t you put all of these musings into a book for us? They’d send me a check the size of floor mat to my house. After that, my imaginary parrot and I (and the floor mat-sized check) would ride off into the sunset together. Roll credits.

But that obviously never happened.

Some of the things I’ve been busy with lately include,

  • completing a draft of the novel I tried to write 20 years ago,
  • finishing a proper full season of my podcast, instead of releasing episodes piecemeal,
  • being anxious about my career (He should have more money and stability than this at his age, shouldn’t he? said the imaginary parent.)

I also had a really bizarre holiday job in 2017, which I’ll tell you about soon.

Long story short: I’m still here. Train is still on the tracks. Season 1 of Heavily Pixelated will be out in the next couple weeks. And I’m coming back to the site. Because I like to write. And because I miss you.

Yes, you.

I really do.

Happy 2018.

Thanks for your patience.

 

Your friend,

Scott

September 2, 2017 scottcjones 2Comments

The next morning I packed up. Gave the old room a final inspection. So long, crummy motel room. Ordered an Uber for the airport on the motel’s wifi. Then I headed outside.

The sun was coming up over the freeway. Hadn’t left yet, but I was already feeling nostalgic for California. So long, California! You beautiful, sun-baked hag, you.

There was a black car parked next to the motel’s front office. Was the Uber here already? As I walked towards it, I noticed that the car looked weirdly similar to Tony The Driver’s car from yesterday. Can’t be Tony, I thought. How can that be Tony? 

The driver waved at me through the windshield. Same upscale eyeglass frames. Same Bluetooth thing hanging from his ear. Fucking Tony.

He opened the door and stepped out. “Your ever-faithful driver, reporting for duty, sir!”

(more…)

August 28, 2017 scottcjones 1Comment

Work was fine. I put in the hours, did what I’d been contracted to do. The job was in an anonymous business park. Big, blank buildings with manicured shrubs out front. The building I was working in was full of people, but I felt alone there. Once the last day was over, I handed in my badge, tried to find someone to say goodbye to. Then I took an Uber back to the hotel-motel. (more…)

July 12, 2017 scottcjones 3Comments

I despise summer on the East Coast. I always have. The Herald Square subway station at 34th Street and Sixth Avenue is the real-world equivalent of the hubs of hell. It’s the epicenter of NYC’s savage summer heat. It’s claustrophobic and dark down there. It reeks of spoiled garbage and urine. You’re a hundred feet below ground, surrounded by trash and darkness, yet the temperature is still as warm as a witch’s oven. Even the track rats seem to openly sweat in the Herald Square station.

(more…)

June 28, 2017 scottcjones 11Comments

[This is a continuation of my account of my first days in Vancouver in May 2009. I think there’s one, maybe two parts left. Oh, and hey! Thanks for reading. I haven’t been posting consistently lately, which you may have noticed. Planning to post more in the coming days. Hope you come back. -Scott.]

As soon as I stepped off the plane in Vancouver, as soon as I set foot in the airport, I left some of the nagging 9/11 gloom behind. My shoulders, it seemed, were relieved of an invisible burden on this arrival. My posture began to automatically self-correct. I felt as if my skeleton was stretching itself out, expanding to its full height. Only minutes into my new life in Canada and already I stood taller, felt stronger.

I was not a visitor here this time. I was, presumably, here to stay. I had a job. And I had immigration paperwork, making it official.

Once I’d finished with immigration, I exited the Vancouver airport and stood on the curb with my two cats, still tucked safely inside their carriers. I filled my chest with Canadian air: inhale, exhale. Despite the nearby line of idling cabs, the air tasted cleaner and earthier to me. I could smell lilies blooming somewhere nearby. Only moments into my new life here and already things seemed less dangerous, less complicated, and more livable.

It was then that my eyes began to water. I didn’t expect this at all. I used the sleeve of my jacket to dry my face.

As I waited in the taxi line, my idle brain questioned why I was in Canada.

But wasn’t New York great? You loved it there!

Yeah, it was great. I loved it so much.

So why did we leave again?

Because it wasn’t safe there. We thought we were going to die there.

Oh. That’s right. Now I remember… 

If we went to pick up milk, we thought we were going to die. If we went to fetch dry cleaning, we thought we were going to die.

That was awful.

Yep. Pretty awful.

An eerily silent taxi (a Prius, of course) sped me and the cats to the new apartment, in a neighbourhood known as Gastown. I sat in the backseat and opened up the local map on my phone. With a series of finger-pinches and swipes, I found New York. I was 2,900 miles away from it now. I found a webcam on the Internet overlooking midtown Manhattan. Thanks to the time difference, it was almost dawn in New York.

The city looked lonely and gargantuan. Despite the pre-dawn hour, it was still twinkling like mad, as usual. New York, it seemed, could still twinkle without me.

(more…)