I can’t stop staring at this thing.
I can’t stop staring at this thing.
When I lived in Los Angeles, I had a medical marijuana card. I carried it around with me at all times. I didn’t even smoke weed all that much. It’s just something I kept as insurance, a sort of “get out of jail free” card that was nice to have that I knew I would never really need. It also served the dual purpose of being a smirking reminder of American hypocrisy. (Honestly, that was the real reason I bothered keeping it.)
When I moved to a different state, my medical marijuana card became as useless as an unused drink ticket. It lost all its validity. In fact, it became a liability, something more likely to get me into trouble than out of it. The card was still a reminder of American hypocrisy, but it had gone from smirking to bitter.
When I removed it from my wallet, I knew I had to replace it with something else, something equally ridiculous, something that made a similar statement about how fucked up this country of ours really is.
Well, it finally came in the mail yesterday. After jumping through all the hoops and paying all the fees (just like I did to legally smoke weed in California), now in the place that I used to keep my medical marijuana card, I proudly display my very own concealed carry permit.
Yes, It’s official. Instead of an eighth of weed (something that would get me jail time in this state), I can now legally walk around with a handgun in my Balenciaga (something that would have most certainly gotten me jail time in California.)
I don’t necessarily plan on carrying a gun around. Then again, I didn’t walk around holding weed all that much either. Taking advantage of the privileges afforded me was never really the point for either card. It’s the privilege itself that I find so amusing. I have two little pieces of plastic from two different states, each one giving me permission to do something that would be felonious in the other. How fucking insane is that?
I almost want to frame them next to one another, or better yet, glue them back-to-back to form one double-sided piece of magnificently ironic identification, my own little piece of private performance art.
Not yet, though. I paid good money for these privileges, so there’s no point in defacing my state-issued permission slips until they expire. After all, I do own a gun. Who knows? Maybe one of these days I’ll feel like walking around strapped just for shits and giggles. And hey, I’m sure I’ll be visiting LA again sometime soon. Maybe I’ll feel like stopping by my favorite dispensary on La Brea. Either way, I’d better have my card on me. Otherwise, someone might think my behavior was criminal.
1. Heroes — David Bowie
2. I Feel the Weight — Miike Snow
3. Water — Ra Ra Riot & Rostam
4. Sister of Pearl — Baio
5. Chasing Shadows — Santigold
6. I Am Chemistry — Yeasayer
7. For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti — Sufjan Stevens
8. Unsteady — X Ambassadors
9. Peace — Paul Kelly
10. They Move On Tracks of Never-Ending Light — This Will Destroy You
11. Ten Thousand Years Won’t Save Your Life — Hammock
12. Tracy (Kid Loco’s Playing With the Young Team Remix) — Mogwai
13. All in Here — Emancipator
14. Shine a Light (Flight Facilities Remix Live) — The C90s
15. Soak It Up — Houses
16. You — Bibio
“Make America Great Again” by Illma Gore
11″X14″ Pastel Pencils, 2016
“Make America Great Again” is about the significance we place on our physical selves. One should not feel emasculated by their penis size or vagina, as it does not define who you are. Your genitals do not define your gender, your power, or your status.
Simply put you can be a massive prick, despite what is in your pants.
I recently ordered a book on Amazon. (To be honest, I’m constantly ordering books on Amazon, but this story is about one book in particular.)
You see, every once in a while, I’ll find a used hardcover being sold at a lower price than the paperback, and as much as I love Amazon Prime, I’m always willing to wait a few extra days for a deal on an old-school hardcover edition.
Naturally, I forgot about it, so it was a happy surprise when it arrived a little over a week later in one of those “we’re not Amazon, but we’ll still get it to you” padded yellow envelopes.
As as I ripped it open, I was smacked in the face with the thick stink of old smoke. It was slightly sweet, most certainly tobacco, but different from the stale funk of dead cigarettes.
In those first few moments, the fumes were so strong that I could barely turn the pages without it making my eyes burn. Still, I didn’t mind. Something about it was oddly comforting. I could easily imagine some old smoker’s study where this book sat quietly on a shelf being slowly infused for decades.
The bookseller had claimed the condition of the book to be “Like New,” and I suppose technically it was. Aside from the smell, the only indication that the book had ever been opened was an embossed seal on the title page that read “From the library of” followed by the previous owner’s name, middle initial included.
Of course, when I saw the seal, I immediately had to know more. The book had shipped from Michigan, and with the man’s full name, it was less than a minute before I was staring at his obituary from a small local newspaper.
He had died over the holidays in his sleep, peacefully, as they say, at an age when the loss is felt by friends and family, but it’s not quite a tragedy. He was survived by his wife, two daughters, and enough grandchildren for me to know that he had lived a full if not happy life.
The obituary had a link to a remembrance guestbook, and naturally I clicked through. There amidst all the condolences and digital memorabilia was an old photograph of the man, not quite posed, but certainly aware of the camera, and I could see through my computer screen into his home, into his life, and into his eyes.
He had a kind face, but it was clear he was a little uncomfortable being photographed. Either that, or whoever took the picture made him hold his smile a second too long. He seemed equal parts blue collar working man and college professor, but then again, maybe that’s just the way people dressed in a small town with cold weather in what looked to be the late 1980s.
He was wearing a zippered cardigan sweater, thick knit and hideous, the kind that would make a vintage store hipster go weak in the knees. His shirt underneath was unremarkable except for the fact that the collar was pinched closed with a chunky bolo tie. He wore big ugly wire frame glasses, unforgivable even by 80’s standards, and his slacks must have been some kind of corduroy. The man had zero style, but he definitely had a look.
It didn’t take me an extra second to notice that in his hand he was cupping a classic wooden pipe. I wasn’t expecting it, but it hit me hard. When I saw the pipe in that photograph, I suddenly became very emotional. My eyes were already glassy from the fumes wafting off the book, so it was easy to let go with some genuine tears.
For a brief moment, I sat there crying. I was holding this beautiful, stinking old book that had very recently belonged to this man, flipping though its pages, my senses overwhelmed with this powerful remnant of his presence. It was like being visited by someone’s ghost, and I wept for a complete stranger who had smoked a pipe and died in his sleep and had by random chance bequeathed me this possession from his personal library.
Over the next few days, every time I picked up the book to read it, I was reminded of him. Then gradually, the smell of pipe smoke began to fade. By the time I finished reading it, the tobacco had mellowed into a top note of that pleasant but generic old book smell.
I finished it last week, and the book has taken up residence on my bedroom shelf. No doubt that’s where it will stay, slowly absorbing a whole new host of chemicals and perfumes.
Today for some reason, I wanted to be reminded of that old man and his pipe. I had to crack open the book’s spine, put my nose directly into the pages, and inhale deeply like some titillated bibliophile.
The smell of tobacco was still there, but barely noticeable. I was lucky to catch the slightest trace. It won’t be much longer until that scent is gone forever.
It’s my book now, almost completely.
I’m only posting this because I get a tiny little shout-out at the 6:00 mark. I know it’s insignificant, but I’m kinda proud to be in the company of those permanent tabs.
They Move On Tracks of Never-Ending Light
This Will Destroy You
Maybe it’s the cold weather. Maybe it’s my recent move. Maybe it’s just time, but I think I’m in a place where I want to fall in love. Hard. For real. Mutual and deep.
I want to feel a closeness with another person, a perfectly comfortable yet irresistible attraction. I want it to be more than sexual. I want it to be more than spiritual. I want it to be elemental, as if billions of years ago, all of the atoms in our bodies were somehow forged from the exact same star.
I know that’s probably asking for a lot, especially from an ever-expanding, infinitely indifferent universe, but it shouldn’t be too much to hope for. Or maybe it is. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to acknowledge such a simple and profound desire for the only thing that makes the human condition worth anything at all.