I have so many “Notes” documents scattered around my harddrives. They’re filled with … notes. And Read Me folders. And Notes folders filled with Read Me documents. Just now I went through a small dive into a folder on my laptop and found a few things that made me feel a certain way.
First off, I can sometimes barely recognize my own writing. Was that little rap me just now? Was I really that good at writing rhymes? It seems strange because I don’t write those that much anymore. I have been so focused on short stories and books – and journalism I guess – that I forgot I used to write random shit with zero intention of having it actually published anywhere. And if it flowed well, I copy and pasted it into a Notes Doc and filed it away in a Read Me folder.
The Nostalgia can also cause … anxiety? I am not sure. At the moment I am neck deep in the frozen swamp of a self-love, self-healing journey that has me brittle and sensitive and sensitized. Anything can make my heart beat rise a bit, and demand attention, demand acceptance. So, reading some of these works, I see the young man I once was struggling to put his fears and emotions down on paper and I feel …. I just feel … I am not sure what exactly. Inspired, definitely. Anxious … perhaps? In that, I wonder if I can still write like that. Or if the fire of youth was the best of me, writing wise, and all I can do is chase that fire with my oldening bones. I don’t know. I follow the feeling in my body – usually centered around my heart, sometimes traveling up my scalp, and do my best to accept, and love. It’s not easy, it’s a step by step thing. It’s a weird thing, and I didn’t expect it this morning. I wanted to write a poem to my younger self, telling me I love me, and that it’s ok. Telling of loss and grief, and how that’s ok, too.
Instead I came across 15 to 20 year old writings and musings and saved a few, so I can publish them here:
I didn’t edit these at all, just copied and pasted as I found them in a random Notes doc on my laptop. I can’t remember writing this first one, but the basic message resonates, and the word choice sounds like me. It quite possibly was me.
Push through the wak rhyme membrane
Coast by with one eye on some insane shit
Line a train wreck
A finger on each brain trip
Read the pulse and draw gains from it
Take great pains when I rip shit
The tip of my pen spills ink like bp watch out you'll get framed for it,
while they escape the dragnet point the finger at the blameless
Got plans to orbit through the corporate it's morbid how it courses through all veins they stay stained
shameless stank drains life like a palm strike
Low life's laugh down from on high, parasites of the true light who suck might but never nourish,
all the blood they spill and
accounts they fill
are spurious, flourish in grains of sand that skip unheld and unkept like tears unwept
it just festers in the dark perpetuating facsimile sparks that fade through each round echoes of true sound,
till cafes and fat brats rise up as the pinnacle
think we winnin still never eat your fill
we don't lack the will we lack the will to sit still
This one is about the homie Tenz. We went through periods during which we “weren’t” friends and I think this rap probably originated around 2006-07. I believe I sent this to him, and my memory is warped, to be sure, but I think he was slightly dismissive of it. I think I handed him a paper with it written on there, in an attempt to reconcile, and he might not have been ready, or something. We reconciled at the OWR, when I hit him square in the forehead with a paintball filled with pig fat, and he brought a fat cake from somewhere for my birthday, along with Doc and Johnny.
the past don't matter i don't care what we've been through from this moment on i'll shed red blood for you cuz a man with no friends is just waiting for the end tenzin gyaltsen child of varanasi more threads to his flows than a wild west posse brilliance in the dome keeps his home in his heart and his heart on his sleeve if i'm forced to leave i'd be bereaved and you you anchor of real in an ocean of fools every conversation with you is like going to school you're like a silver dollar sometimes the devil hollers but even when the demon is screaming bloody murder you're like the man with a staff in the field a sheepherder i gotta thank you for opening my mind but that makes you the unfortunate one like the jazz when jordan went off i'm hitting the tre and one ya done there's no where to run toss you in the ocean cuz i know you cant swim get crushed like a whim and flipper cant save you my third eye opened tonight true sight
Again, I have no idea if this was me, or if I copied a Tenz rhyme and popped it in here. I do remember a time when I wrote raps like these often. So yeah, it could definitely be me. There are definitely phrases that sound like me.
Waking up to buffet breakfasts and indo-Tibetans in suits with earpieces. It's Disneyland stuffed inside a galleria, with skit machines instead of trash cans. It just always seems to be the same story, the fighting story. When people lived in caves, they fought with stones. Now they fight with planes and drones. Callin god up on the phone but ain't nobody's home, gates untended and the stock left to roam I rise up outta seafoam to stand on the right Cuz whatever's long shattered must unite, and only the strong will last through the night, while those who do wrong they scatter take flight And make right The crooked lines that we done scrawled Division leads to Fall Envision how we all Can take the next step as we walk through the garden hand in hand Hear the music as we talking in the land of Peter Pan no hooks no bait just you and me relate bout the bonds they would break and the dinner we just ate every moment is little drop of time sip it slow like a rare vintage wine in the end we must all face the maker while I race to the end ima take a chance to dance in the light twirlin and swirling and im feelin all right when the curtain comes down and I lose all my sight no tears no frowns just smiling through the night. Cuz even when it's off I know it's just right so Ima keep rhyming and rhyme with all my might Explosion in my brain like a flaming meteorite if you wanna know the name of the game just write Pen to the paper Vessel full of vapor Im drinking all in in a bar full of assholes and all these girls, they seem to like the assholes more Open the air shaft Ill be there fast With spare raps to tear back their mask Its unfair that rhymes like mine entwined in yer mine Fine like particles cling like barnacles When my ship sets sail the whole town turns up Ya girl waves a hanky in air Tear stained face besotten and begotten while ya ships hull is rotten ya rhymes are dull ill spot you 8 bars and a quatrain Rhymes like rain Ya cant dodge em
Things I Found and Kept
A Cherokee grandfather tells his grandson,
“A fight is going on inside me, he said to the boy. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
— Someone other than me
I live here in this busy village without
all that racket horses and carts stir up,
and you wonder how that could ever be.
Wherever the mind dwells apart is itself
a distant place. Picking chrysanthemums
at my east fence, I see South Mountain
far off: air lovely at dusk, birds in flight
going home. All this means something,
something absolute: whenever I start
to explain it, I forget words altogether.
—T’ao Ch’ien (365-427 C. E.)
I think this may be something I found on Reddit:
The coincidence involved in the Sun and the Moon being almost -exactly- the same size… to a ridiculous tolerance… is astounding. Beyond astounding, really. It’s pretty much impossible. … Consider that the sun is a significantly greater distance away from the moon, yet they are similarly proportioned enough to make an eclipse possible.
This is so unfathomably unlikely that it’s the primary reason a very smart professor of mine, who was a rocket scientist at JPL, cannot rule out the agency of ‘ancient aliens’ or even a divine God in somehow selecting or constructing earth. And this guy was very, very rational.
The only coincidence is that the human race can observe eclipses at a point in history where the moon is the right distance from Earth. Complete eclipses won’t be possible forever as the moon is slowly drifting away from Earth.
Still pretty weird though.
This may also be a “Best of” comment from Reddit:
“Oregon’s very particular racial history” doesn’t sound very particular at all. In fact it sounds extremely, mundanely, typical of what happened throughout the US.
The 1850s stories are pretty typical. A historian once said something to the effect of “You can explain the 19th Century history of America like this: Chicago wanted to take the wealth of the West and send it by rail to New York. St Louis wanted to ship it by barge to New Orleans. Chicago and New York won.” While Americans learn that moral revulsion to slavery led to abolitionism, abolitionists were actually never really in the mainstream until abolition happened.
Oregon’s laws reflected the Chicago-New York model, where the west would be settled by white yeoman farmers. Blacks would either be contained in the South or shipped to Liberia. Similar laws existed at the time in most of the Western states. They reflected the policy of the newfound Republican Party, which wasn’t so much abolitionist as aligned with a set of economic policies (slavery containment, homesteading, railroads). It’s not terribly surprising that the farmers of Oregon, many of them New England natives (remember Portland was named in a coin toss–two settlers from Portland ME and Boston respectively wanted to name it after their home towns) would align to this model. With under 3k residents, the idea of urban Portland was likely scarcely considered.
Jump forward to the 1920s and the Great Migration. At this point the vast majority of black people still lived in the South.
However, a series of immigration restrictions culminating in the Emergency Quota Act of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924 cut off the supply of cheap, unskilled laborers from Europe, mostly from Italy. However, it didn’t eliminate the demand, and black laborers migrated to the great industrial cities: New York, Chicago, Detroit, etc. etc.
…but not Portland, Seattle or other Western cities. Why? For the answer, start with geology and economics. A large swarth of the Appalachian region was rich with coal, and coal was a main input for every industrial process of the age, starting with steel. It was long considered un-economical to produce steel far from coal mines. Therefore the steel mills lined the northern cities within easy reach of Appalachia. Where there’s steel there’s manufacturing, cars, etc. Where there is manufacturing their are jobs for black migrants from the south. Put it another way: ever wonder why no West Coast city (except SF, where Italians worked the port) has a Little Italy, but every Eastern and Midwestern city does? Italians immigrants worked in the mills, and when they were excluded by law black migrants took their place.
The West Coast was kind of a backwater. Outside of San Francisco, few cities mattered. Then WWII happened. Military production changed the west coast. However, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area were the focal points, not Portland. Pushed by US Steel’s high prices, Kaiser finally built a steel mill in Fontana, CA, near LA, creating the base for an industrial economy. A new phase of the Great Migration happened. This was in spite of the fact that California had very similar discriminatory laws as Oregon (not just against blacks, but Asian, and even Armenians). If you look at black populations in California they were heavily concentrated in areas of industrial war production: South LA, Richmond, Oakland, and Southeast SF, with the notably exception of SF’s Western Addition where they simply moved into the homes left behind by Japanese-Americans sent to internment camps.
Note that throughout both phases, and after in every northern city the same housing, banking and other discrimination happened. At least Portland didn’t have riots where mobs torched black ghettos, as happened in New York, Chicago and others.
Jump ahead to the modern day. The West, outside California, has slowly become an escape valve for the rising population and cost of California. Not just Portland but Seattle, Phoenix, Danver, etc. Furthermore, as a former backwater, the Northwest has none of the industrial legacies–the brownfield sites, the teeming neighborhoods of former industrial workers looking to adapt to a post-industrial society. It looks appealing to many.
All these cities are the same, mostly from a demographic standpoint: Portland is 6.3% African American. Seattle is 7.9%, Phoenix is 6.5%, Denver comes in highest at 10.2%. The local history has less to do with this than national history, geography, geology and economics.
Another Reddit comment? Possible.
Your story reminds me of ‘the hate stare’ that John Howard Griffin describes in his excellent book: Black Like Me:
In the bus station lobby, I looked for signs indicating a coloured waiting-room, but saw none. I walked up to the ticket counter. When the lady ticket-seller saw me, her otherwise attractive face turned sour, violently so. This look was so unexpected and so unprovoked I was taken aback.
‘What do you want?’ she snapped.
Taking care to pitch my voice to politeness, I asked about the next bus to Hattiesburg.
She answered rudely and glared at me with such loathing I knew I was receiving what the Negroes call ‘the hate stare’. It was my first experience with it. It is far more than the look of disapproval one occasionally gets. This was so exaggeratedly hateful I would have been amused if I had not been so surprised.
I framed the words in my mind: ‘Pardon me, but have I done something to offend you?’ But I realized I had done nothing – my colour had offended her.
‘I’d like a one-way ticket to Hattiesburg, please,’ I said and placed a ten-dollar bill on the counter.
‘I can’t change that big bill,’ she said abruptly and turned away, as though the matter were closed. I remained at the window, feeling strangely abandoned but not knowing what else to do. In a while she flew back at me, her face flushed, and fairly shouted: ‘I told you – I can’t change that big bill.’
‘Surely,’ I said stiffly, ‘in the entire Greyhound system there must be some means of changing a ten-dollar bill. Perhaps the manager -‘
She jerked the bill furiously from my hand and stepped away from the window. In a moment she reappeared to hurl my change and the ticket on the counter with such force most of it fell on the floor at my feet. I was truly dumbfounded by the deep fury that possessed her whenever she looked at me. Her performance was so venomous, I felt sorry for her. It must have shown in my expression, for her face congested to high pink. She undoubtedly considered it a supreme insolence for a Negro to dare to feel sorry for her.
I stooped to pick up my change and ticket from the floor. I wondered how she would feel if she learned that the Negro before whom she had behaved in such an un-lady-like manner was habitually a white man.
With almost an hour before bus departure, I turned away and looked for a place to sit. The large, handsome room was almost empty. No other Negro was there, and I dared not take a seat unless I saw some other Negro also seated.
Once again a ‘hate stare’ drew my attention like a magnet. It came from a middle-aged, heavy-set, well-dressed white man. He sat a few yards away fixing his eyes on me. Nothing can describe the withering horror of this. You feel lost, sick at heart before such unmasked hatred, not so much because it threatens you as because it shows humans in such an inhuman light. You see a kind of insanity, something so obscene the very obscenity of it (rather than its threat) terrifies you. It was so new I could not take my eyes from the man’s face. I felt like saying: ‘What in God’s name are you doing to yourself?’
This is a little inscription that I kept, for some reason, about one of the dopest female martial artists I have ever encountered, and the super dope mountain dojo she built:
Sister Zou Fan, the owner of Wulin Villa (1987 National Women’s Sanda Champion), has worked hard for ten years and finally achieved positive results.The awarding ceremony and celebration of the ”Kunlun Tai Chi Gate” Inheritance Base was held in Xichao Town, Jiangjin District on November 30, 2014.Under the care of the Publicity Department of Jiangjin District, the Cultural and Guangxin Bureau, the Sports Bureau, the Cultural Museum, and the local government of the District Martial Arts Association, and with the support and help of friends in the martial arts community, it was successfully held.Warm congratulations to Dujiangyan Qingcheng Martial Arts Museum, Qingcheng Martial Arts Museum, and Sichuan Martial Arts Association Qingcheng Martial Arts Research Association.
Random Ideas and Blurbs:
This could be mine, could also be from Charley the West Bank Commie. Hard to say.
“I now inhabit a life I don’t deserve, but we all walk this earth feeling we are frauds. The trick is to be grateful and hope the caper doesn’t end any time soon.”
“A dead birds talon in a shaft of light (on the dungeon)”
Drums in the deep
Sirens as I sleep
“In moms kitchen looking out the window, sun shining down on the snow, snowflakes like starlight flutter and hover on their way to the ground. Like silver starlight, fireflies molten metal sparkles playful in the cold snap wind.”
The time has come
Zealot as a child giving performances at the yearly talent show. Frankfurt school. Playing the piano for the first time in class, crying, getting everyone to cry, capturing Louise, gaining a music teacher mentor
Wakes from the dream of the quoatel rage dream, hears the raging beats of the quoatel heart, and begins to write his war chant
The snoop dogg figure who presses the button and says brothers and sisters, echoes of a hundred thousand voices calling out brothers sisters, called the same two words, and then the time comes.
Zealot is not in the picture. He has an fb page like zach combs, he has an aneurysm, he is gone forever
Story about author who has dreams with a woman, without which he cannot write, spends other life seeking dreams of woman?