Disruptive Juxtaposition

Friday, January 20, 2006


You should enjoy this:

Jon and I played this game endlessly. When I first received it for Christmas one year, I held it aloft in the way heroes in movies hold up swords they've just pulled from stones.

Seeing this screen was distressing to us, because it meant we'd died and needed to travel a loooong way to get back to where it was we'd died. Usually in the South Realms. Lots of walking in this game. That's Zelda on the dais there. I seem to remember Jon and I doing the jump-slash at her, such was our frustration with being obligated to save her sleeping beauty self again.

The long journey begins, or begins again.

A silly orange goblin, and a blob. Red blobs were worth 3 points, as I recall: they could hop. Orange goblins were worth nothing: with but one blow of your wooden sword they made a "ZOIRCH!" sound and vanished in two asterisks of fire, one for the torso and one for the legs.

There was always a good amount of fear, when it was time to finish playing, that we would lose the progress we had made; this was due to the odd memory feature the original Nintendo had, by which you held in the reset button as you turned off the power. Remember this screen? And Ganon's laugh?

Some people felt that there was something lame and even sacrilegious about the sidescrolling action in "Zelda II", far different than the top-down-only map view of the original "Legend of Zelda." Which Jon and I never owned and missed out on. But "Zelda II"'s sidescrolling action, coupled with the character-improving nature of all role-playing games worth their salt, was perfectly pitched to our "Contra"-reared sense of action. Besides, how can you beat the upward and downward thrust? You just can't.


I have no idea why I spent all this time sharing this.


More links. The American Association of Suicidology, despite its quasi-farcial name (Q: How can I make something sound legit and 'sciencey'? A: Just add OLOGY!!), looks to be one of the go-to resources.


Come March, a poetry review of mine will be forthcoming at Half-Drunk Muse. Half-Drunk Muse: Because you can't write if you're fully drunk. At least I don't think I can.


What a caffeine-addled morning. Thank you, Go! Team, for helping me keep what focus I kept.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Mood: poised, forbearing

And my physical constitution is rather restored. I’ll have to chalk up today as being my first real day back in the world of the living – excuse me as I lean down to knock on the wooden floor; the desk is wood-veneer – because yesterday wasn’t a picnic either. Despite getting back to my routine yesterday, there were still occasional bouts of doubling over in pain. But routines are restorative. I don’t think I’d be in as good shape this morning if I hadn’t had a healthy and good sized dinner at the Coliseum (Irish pub near Columbus Circle) with a certain Samaritan, or if I hadn’t had my nightcap of one (just one, Dad) Guinness. Thus, I’m back.



o Eels, Blinking Lights and Other Revelations

o Marvin Gaye, Here, My Dear

o Stars, Heart

o Geoffrey G. O’Brien, The Guns and Flags Project (poems)



Thanks to B________’s stellar performance this past holiday season, those in its employ received some $50 USD in thanks for their services: thus, the above acquisitions. As I’ve said of B________ before: as faceless corporations go, they demonstrate real heart on numerous occasions. There are other examples that pertain to the Event, but for my lionizing and appreciation to have any real effect I’d have to praise certain individuals, and I can’t do that w/o naming names, which I’ve resolved not to do. Anyway. I realize that there’s some telling humor in the fact that I haven’t acknowledged this aspect of this co. until now, when they’ve handed out their handouts, but I hope it’s pretty clear that the free shite and country baskets don’t compare to the waving-aside of work concerns when you’ve got to get home for what I had to get home for. They don’t compare to the suggestion, even the order, that you not let something so insignificant-in-the-long-run as work even enter your mind while you’re home contending with a sibling’s act and its aftermath. That’s what I was told, actually, and it really I suppose one does expect that from a place of employment, given such circumstances. Still, I was surprised, gratified, and touched to actually witness the mindful prioritization and true human concern demonstrated in those first few days a month ago. Those are the gestures that I remember and value. So. It’s not completely evil, B________. And it’s barely a Fortune 500. Only # 475.



But as I was planning on saying, part of the titular poised and forbearing feeling stems from that Eels record, which isn’t brand-new, but is the newest thing from the Eels. If you don’t know about this record, you should know first that the Eels are essentially just one fellow, Mark Oliver Everett. He goes by E. E guided the Eels through the 90s alt-this and alt-that phases with an admirable level of moxie and willingness to try pretty much anything once. Their songs are rooted in singer-songwritery Americana, but they’ve been longtime fans of Beck-style additions of electronic textures and beats related to funk. Lyrics are of a pretty high standard throughout the Eels’ records. They had that radio hit you probably sang along to in ’96 or ’97, “Novocaine For the Soul” (you know, “…Before I sputter out”). In fact, I first learned about the Eels back in college when D. Douglas Eldridge (who I suppose has yet to Google his name and find this site; I hope he does soon) filled me in about Beautiful Freak and the rest of their work. I was too busy filling in the larger Costello and Springsteen holes in my musical learning at the time to delve fully into a somewhat fringe critical darling’s work.

Only last year, in Oregon – kudos to the exemplary music selection at the Eugene Public Library – did I rediscover the Eels in the form of Electro-Shock Blues. Which is a phenomenal record. Those who know me know – I hope they do – that I try to shy from superlatives like phenomenal unless I really believe in them. Much good ink has been spilled about the strength and power of this record; much of that ink is online and Googleable. Suffice it to say that it’s a killer record about mortality. “Catchy pop songs about death” is one tagline that you’ll see somewhere online about it. That’s too fey to sum up how good the record is: melodically pleasant, but lyrically catastrophic in terms of the degree to which you realize, listening, how aware the singer and the song are about the fact that one day he the singer and it the song will pass away. Listening, you tend to realize this about yourself. Any piece of art that does this, you ask me, is worth its weight in gold.

But what separates Blinking Lights from Electro-Shock is mainly its size and scope. E’s long tended to take his personal history as his material. We’ve all been the better for it. His lyrics are highly personal articulations of the struggles he’s had and observations he’s made about, well, death, love, sex, the other Important Stuff. But Blinking Lights is the most autobiographical work he’s done yet. As such, it’s an appropriately sprawling work.

Why am I talking about the Eels and their – or E’s – autobiographical impulses with respect to his art? I think the reason is this: since I’ve been having trouble writing Good Ground, but haven’t had trouble writing poems about Jon, I feel the need for a revamped approach to or use of autobiographical fact as something that’ll fuel new poems and stories and chapters to the novel.

Two refinements in what I’ve just said:

1) The poems are about Jon, but as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, they’re very different than the conversational but still “heroic-epic” tone (kind of like the mock-heroics of the 18th and 19th Cents., except sincere, which I suppose makes it “mock-mock heroic”). Rather than my typical rhetoric-filled Whitman-like orations, I’ve been writing these briefer lyrics, highly fanciful, circling around themes such as guilt, catching things that are falling, magical weird things that jump between subjects and claims and counterclaims but still usually involve a speaker and a “he”. We all know who those two people are, don’t we. So they’re about Jon, but in a way that’s unusual for me.

2) I don’t want to revamp Good Ground such that it refers directly to what’s happened and what has happened in my family. After all, as a first novel, it’s already autobiographical enough. I suppose that what I want to do is tap into the very real heart of how I’ve been feeling and living in the previous month and figure out how to transform the new and still-evolving notions of “stakes” and “what matters” into the novel. I want to figure out how to distill the emotional meaning (if not the facts and the other content) of what happened into my own story-in-progress. Does this make any sense? What I’m really talking about is a sort of transmogrification of one kind of real-life pain into another kind of written pain. This is on my mind in part because I’m listening to Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear, which was written and recorded as a kiss-off to his ex-wife, who, as a result of some highly contentious legal proceedings, wrangled Marvin into recording an album solely to pay her off during the divorce. As a result, Here, My Dear is a near-perfect reflection of how Marvin was thinking and feeling during that upheaval in his life. Life and art dovetailed neatly for him, blurred into each other. There’s less one-to-one overlap between the life and the art in my own case, because I’m not interested in fictionalizing what happened. I’m dealing as well and as directly as I can with what happened here on this website; it’s been an ineffably good thing.

If I had to sum up that whole off-kilter paragraph you've just hopefully gotten through, I suppose I would do so by saying something like this: there’s been a huge amount of emotional power, destructive and creative, in the last 31 days, and I want to harness that power in words in order to tell a story that, while different in plot and characters and theme, will affect its reader with a similar level of power. That’s all.


Speaking of the novel, I have about 45 minutes to dedicate to it before I go for a run. That’s how back-to-normal I feel – at least in matters of the body.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Your interruption in service explained

On Sunday night, while at work, I came down with what’s been determined to be a stomach virus of rather impressive proportion and duration. At the time it really hit me, following a spate of chills and increasingly-taut stomach feelings, I was trying to help some poor girl order something; I held up a finger, said “If you’ll excuse me,” and bolted restroomward.

Growing physically ill in New York City is no picnic. It’s not a picnic anywhere, but I suggest to you that large metro areas hold their own special brand of terror for the sick because there’s no place to hide. No privacy for your misfortunes. This fact can be a double-edged sword: no privacy for the privacy-minded = bad. Potential aid from passing Good Samaritans = good. In my own experience with the latter situation, my Good Samaritan actually wound up impeding my recuperation by many factors. Here’s briefly what happened: I was in the restroom, just moments away from booting up my homemade brownbagged dinner (eaten in a “Hey, maybe these are just hunger pains” mindset), when a voice asks “Are you alright?” “Fine,” I say unironically, “just feeling a little ill here.” “That’s what I thought,” he responds, and leaves. Now, I’m touched that he even thought to ask after me, the pair of feet and knees knelt to the toilet bowl. The upshot, however, is that I was unable to, ah, finish. The physical reaction completely stopped due to the social obligation. Which is a very strange sentence and a strange idea as well, but it’s the way my body reacted – it switched out of emergency evacuation mode and went back into emergency mangagement mode. I hope this isn’t too grotesque for any readers but I find the whole mini-episode to be rather funny; you can trust me when I say, however, that there’s small chance of me interrupting an evidently sick person’s processes should I see a pair of knees and shoes in the distress position in a public stall.

I got myself up to Kate’s place and fell into the bed she’s prepared for me. As it turned out, Kate developed symptoms herself within hours. Now, let’s be clear about the timing and the source of our respective illnesses. Surely it hadn’t been my coming to Kate’s on Sunday evening that spread the illness, right? Surely we had both been exposed by that point, and would have gotten sick separately? Surely we were both already doomed to an unholy night of bathroom visits? Anyway, we deduced from the timing of our falling ill that it wasn’t food poisoning, and also that we’d both been exposed to the same Patient Zero. Unfortunately for me, Kate’s symptoms were more intense but short-lived, and she’s completely healed; my symptoms were less severe but are still, ah, ongoing. I will spare you details. Hereupon followed full days (Monday and Tuesday) of bummish recuperation. But I’m still rather weak and only this morning have I had the necessary gumption to sit at a desk and type instead of review episodes of Sex & the City (poor Jack Berger) and Arrested Development (“I’m a friend of Dorothy’s now”).


Yesterday marked the 1 month anniversary. I didn’t realize it until I was on the subway coming home from Kate’s. I’d woken up from a dream yesterday (Tuesday) morning in which Jon and I were driving to a suburb of Rochester, NY, where most of my cousins on my Dad’s side live. I think we were going to George’s house, but the roads and the house in the dream weren’t corresponding to George’s roads or George’s home. There was an understanding however that it was George’s house we were heading for. The going-on that day in the dream was a clambake or barbecue. Jon was driving. He was short-fused about something. I don’t know what. I think we overshot a turn—didn’t turn right at an intersection or something, and right there would’ve been George’s house, but because we missed the turn we kept going and found ourselves at some strip mall, the sight of which told us that we’d missed the turn. Going back, we found the house in question – again, nothing like George’s actual house – putting the car in park I remember, um, animals coming in through the windows of the car, which had become a truck or a Jurassic Park-style Land Cruiser.

This dream mirrors closely a little story in which the three Lobko kids were separated from Mom and Dad as we caravaned from Syracuse to Rochester on the day, I believe, of Tasha’s wedding. It was midmorning, and we had only so much time before the window of time in which we were to arrive at the hotel, shower up, and get to the church before the activities began closed. My parents were in the lead, and somehow – I don’t know who was driving in this real-world version – actually, I think it was Jon, because I recall him pulling funny stuff on this trip such as flooring it and passing our parents on the left, leaning over me in the passenger seat so as to goad my parents with feral Mad Max-style facial expressions – but anyway, my parents took an exit and we missed it. We aren’t the best with directions, and don’t know Rochester very well, much less its environs. In the way of such stories, our parents’ cellphones were either off or in the trunk or their car. We didn’t have the numbers for our relatives. By this point we were driving around some very green pricey residential district with a rolling road and a lake visible between the houses on the left. We’re very sure that the wedding would begin and end without us. Oh right! I remember now that we had to stop at a mall, possibly the Irondoquoit, and asked in the Service Center of Sears to use their phone book. From here we were able to call our relatives to get the name of the hotel they thought our parents were heading to and then all of the hotels by that name to see if they had a reservation for Lobko. That’s basically how we arrived. And I seem to remember that all of the anger pent up by the implication of our being late to or missing the wedding, the fury that travelling snafus always inspire in my family, it all sort of bubbled off in a fake expression of fury and anger; I remember us raising our voices and yelling a bit, but in a comical way that implied everyone was getting out their frustration with no damage done to the overall good feeling the day as a whole requested of us. It was the kind of voice-raising and emotional release you might see on All In the Family: over-the-top, nothing to be scared of, and actually pretty funny.


Little things have been setting me off. On the subway, a picture on the Daily News of the 7-year-old girl, in a white dress, lying in state, whose bleak familial situation and abusive parents were overlooked by New York City’s social services. At the bookshop, an overheard off-the-cuff remark that a friend of mine’s brother may have killed himself years ago (I had just entered the room when I overheard this and couldn’t follow up at the time). These things sent me into minor and major tailspins, respectively. But it’s right that they should do so.


I’m spending the rest of my morning writing emails. Everyone who hasn’t heard from me and has reason to should expect one, if not today then very soon. Everyone be well; avoid the stomach thing.