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Motorcycling... some thoughts

Posted 15 April 2008, 12.15 am by Villager

I was never the biker type. I never imagined I would even sit on a motorcycle, let alone be inclined to ride one. I wasnít much bothered by cars, either; A to B and all that. If it was cheap, reliable and comfortable, that was enough for me. It was only because I was accepted onto a university course 10 days before it started, and there was no public transport to speak of, that I need to get myself mobile. I knew it was impossible to learn how to drive and pass a test in that time, and my brother suggested a ď125Ē (a small-engined motorbike with a top speed of 60-80 mph, if you donít know much about bikes). Thereís no need for a test, you just do your Compulsory Basic Training; four hoursí instruction, without running anyone over or falling off too much, and youíre away. I wasnít exactly keen on the idea; on a bike you have no protection from the weather, other vehicles, or the tarmac. But I had no choice.

My CBT instructor was a man called Steve. Steve spent the day smoking and making misogynist jokes, but did manage the minor miracle of making me borderline competent by the end of the day. Being a student I was inevitably broke, and was hunting for used bargains, when I stumbled across a cheap Chinese import by the name of Huoniao, a 125cc cruiser for £550, new, I snapped it up. I picked it up from a warehouse on the beach and carried it home in the back of my brotherís VW Golf, with about 40% of the bike sticking out of the boot.

It was a pig to ride. It looked nice enough, with classic styling and lots of chrome-effect parts, even the sound of the engine belied its pedigree. But performance was poor. It did 0-60 in about a week, and I am struggling to find the words to describe how shockingly awful the handling was. Part of the problem was the weight balance; I came off a number of times when turning at low speed, simply because the bike couldnít hold itself up. Whenever there was more than a mild breeze, it felt like I was sitting atop a unicycle, on a tightrope, amidst an apocalyptic thunderstorm. Iím only talking about 25pmh winds here. It was impossible to feel safe, even cruising on straights. I lost count of the number of times I had to stop because I felt I was beginning to lose control.

I also discovered why it was so cheap. The mudguard fell off after 1,200 miles. The electric start button failed after 1,500. Rust began to appear wherever there was metal. Part of the rear subframe snapped under braking after 4,000 miles (my dad had to weld on a replacement as by this time, 6 months later, the supplier had mysteriously disappeared).

Despite all of that, I loved it. It looked far cooler than any of the bangers that my friends were driving and riding, and I gained an unexpected respect from the older boys at the school where I was training to become a teacher. But it was much more than that. The sense of freedom, adventure and closeness to the road was lovely, and unexpected. From being a reluctant commuter, I quickly realised that I would need to take my test and buy a proper bike.

My test instructor was, oddly enough, also named Steve, but his jokes were more tasteful and his vice was to be found at the burger van we stopped at each day. I rode a Yamaha Diversion 400, which gave me terrible leg cramps throughout the three daysí training; imagine riding for six hours in the foetal position and youíll have a decent idea of what I mean. I liked Steve, and I trusted him; so I bought a bike he had for sale, a 1998 Suzuki GS500. I knew nothing about the bike, but he let me test ride it and it was so comfortable, so easy to manoeuvre and control, that I went for it.

If anyoneís still reading, this is what Iím building up to. After a few weeks of tentatively exploring the new power at my control, I fell in love with this bike. Itís difficult to explain in a meaningful way to non-riders what I mean, but Iíll try. Driving a car is a functional experience. Even with performance cars that Iíve driven, even when theyíre driven aggressively, they offer a sterile experience. You are securely strapped into a big metal box, protected from the elements and separated from the road by a ton of metal and mechanics. Even before you get on a bike, you are confronted with the realisation that if the tiniest thing goes wrong at the wrong moment, you can end up maimed or worse. Even low-speed accidents can be fatal on a bike; imagine hitting something at 70mph, and becoming separated from your vehicle.

Riding a bike is about experiencing your journey, not just being a passenger on it. You live the undulating, twisting curves, feel and respond to every bump and imperfection in the road. You feel the wind, and adjust yourself to sit in harmony with it. You feel the power of the engine sitting between your legs, and you respect that power severely because it can kill you. It is no exaggeration to call it a spiritual experience. There is CD player on a bike, no In Car Entertainment; you canít talk on the phone and you canít talk to your passenger. There is only you, and the road. Especially on long journeys, you are left alone with only your thoughts, and I found it disturbing at first; how often do you spend hours simply THINKING? I find it immensely calming. Itís also deadly serious; that thinking time necessarily includes contemplation of mortality and self-control. You cannot make mistakes on a motorcycle and survive. How many times, driving a car, have you hit a kerb, found yourself going round a corner too fast and had to brake and turn sharply, found your eyelids heavy on the motorway, left too little stopping distance, not looked before leaving a junction or changing lanes? Any of these small lapses are lethal to a rider. You develop discipline, or you crash.

I love that riders nod to each other. Itís not a macho club, men smugly acknowledging each otherís masculinity (Iím sure it is for some). Itís a recognition that this person, too, has discovered a pleasure in life unknown to others; recognition that this person is likely a much more aware and responsible road user than most drivers. Itís almost as if to say, ĎBrilliant, isnít it?í

And it is. I love motorcycling because it combines the mundane functionality of travel with raw pleasure and simple joy. I always look forward to my journeys, and every one is an adventure, even if the route is the same. How many car drivers can say that?

Disease

Posted 7 March 2008, 2.58 am by shaggy

The most assurance he had ever received that he was on the right path was purely accidental. When she fell on his knife, and when the smile came across her face, he had not realized it was a spasm.

He watched her face as the glare of life faded from her eyes. He smiled with her and kissed her lips. They felt cold. And they smiled back at him, the imprint of his kiss still on them.

He made love to her after her heart stopped beating. It was exquisite-- no judgment, no complaints. He was neither too rough nor too soft, and she opened up for him easily. When he had finished, he lay beside her, caressing her breasts.

He wondered what it would be like if she made love to him. Would he be as cold? Would he be immediately hard for her if she came to him, as he did to her?

He laid by her side, waiting. And waiting.

After a few hours, he decided that he mustn't be attractive enough for her. He pouted, marched off and lifted weights for a few hours, finally coming back to bed when his muscles throbbed in pain. He looked at her, unable to move. He wondered whether or not he would have the energy to perform if she jumped on him now. But still, she stared at him with those lifeless, beautiful eyes.

He ran his fingers through her hair. She was once so... energetic, and now all she could do was stare at him with those cursed, co-dependent eyes.

It was so frustrating.

He fell asleep, dreaming of her clinging to him. She was suffocating him, and he could not bare it. When he woke, she was there, her breasts taunting him. He couldn't take it, his desire was too extreme, and he made love to her what he promised himself was one last time.

Leaving for work, he felt invigorated. He had closed the book, had told her he was leaving and did not want her in his bed when he came home. Being able to say those words to her was the ultimate freedom, he believed. No longer did he have to feel insignificant, less than a man, unable to please her. No longer did he feel that her approval had waned since that one smile she had given him, and that no matter how hard he fought she would never approve of anything he did.

But when he came home, she was still there, in his bed.

Scars

Posted 15 November 2007, 7.06 am by shaggy

As he hid behind the debris, he took the moment to let all the emotions wash over him. They had been hidden for so long that they came stubbornly; what is hidden is not revealed easily. The death, the destruction, the betrayal... he rose it to his throat, and in a choked, silent, violent sob, it came out and he began to purge everything that he had kept inside.

He could not be heard. And so as everything came out, it was hidden still. He had no voice, no means of expression, only mental images that came unannounced. There were horrible ones, indeed-- visions of flesh torn, screaming children... but most horrifying of all were the visions of happiness. Horror came and went, and he was happy to leave it behind. But along with the horror, each moment of happiness that he once had was left behind him, to never be touched again.

Every love letter she had ever snuck into his pocket, every smile she had ever passed onto him, these thoughts brought more violence to him than the knowledge that everything was gone... if memory was destroyed as well, he could be content, blissful; the exhilaration of this violent new world would almost serve as entertainment.

The others had almost seen him cry. Sandra had asked him if he was married or had a girlfriend; he had answered with a smile that covered his true response. "Once." The silence after the response was filled with memories; for a moment, Sandra's brown hair was blond, her blue eyes green. And he found that he could still remember a face that had once greeted him on a daily basis.

Fuck, he thought to himself. Not now.

He had managed to sneak away from the camp to cry.

The new world was welcoming after his wife left. The loud growls in the darkness, the creatures that all seemed to crave human flesh or at least human misery... they all served to numb the pain. It was in idle moments such as these that everything came back, happiness as bitter as the sharpest blade, cutting and scratching. He wanted to tell her that he loved her, and that he hated her. He wanted to make love to her and bash her head against the rock he hid behind. He wondered if she was still alive and secretly hoped that he would never meet her again.

His sobs almost became vocal. He took the knife from his pocket and before even thinking about it took a quick slice out of his arm. The pain knocked him even lower, but it was something he could focus on.

It was ironic that after hell seemed to have belched out the most hideous of monsters, it was a woman that had truly weakened him. He had clawed out the eyes of great and terrible beings, was dragged by sharp claws of winged things and dropped from great heights, but it was the images of happiness, cursed memories that came accidentally, that was beginning to break him.

He wondered what it would feel like to just give up. Though pain came naturally, he could not kill himself, but what if he just simply refused to fight anymore? Fed the beast instead of fight it?

He knew the answer to that. Only idle hands can contemplate such things.

There was a roar that sounded close to camp. He wiped his eyes, slipped his sleeve over the fresh wound on an already scarred arm, and prepared for another fight.

The last idle thought he allowed himself was to wonder how many scars on his body were accidental, and how many were given so that he could wake up to life, or to punish himself for failing.

One last roar, and the knowledge that he was partly responsible for more lives than his own, and everything was buried, forgotten, a scar to return to only when one had time to look.

Reflections of a qualified teacher

Posted 14 October 2007, 12.52 am by Villager

The past six weeks have been a first for me: six weeks of proper full-time work, with proper pay. The first time I have earned more than minimum wage, too. I have taken a job in Lincolnshire teaching English at an old secondary modern school. I've found success easier to come by than I had imagined, but it does come at a high cost to my time and energies. It is perhaps instructive that I am only truly discovering this at the age of 23, but I abhor the price that work demands from me.

It has been interesting. I have been lumbered with almost exclusively with Special Needs groups which makes every lesson something of a drama, but really I feel sorry for the children: teacher training in this country does not equip teachers to teach anything other than reasonably bright, able children. Those with learning difficulties and lack of intelligence are quietly ignored. I plod through, doing what I can to avoid lessons being an utter waste of their time, but it is terribly disheartening. The entire school is geared towards maximising exam results and those with no hope of ever attaining a C grade are regarded as a depressing nuisance, to be dumped on the new teachers and quickly forgotten. In a strange way I'm glad it's this way: bright, well-rounded children need little help becoming successful, well-rounded adults. Teaching those who struggle most brings an acute sense of purpose and levity to my efforts, even if they are met with perpetual failure.

Then there are the bastards. These are the children that through malevolent parenting, poor social choices or simple innate malignancy, are thoroughly unpleasant young people. It is my job and my mission to educate them, but if you bang your head against a brick wall for long enough, something must start to crack. They are utterly disengaged from the idea of learning, and will shout, kick and scream as they resist attempts to bring them into a mode of thought and behaviour that is both boring and an object of fear. I have yet to be assaulted in this job, but I have had some awfully aggressive encounters. I imagine the only thing that holds them back is the suspicion that there is an authority that can hurt them if they transgress the law. Sadly, the only way to beat them is to be even more aggressive and horrible. That might sound faintly amusing to anyone who has met me or knows my nature, but it's true. through necessity I can now bellow and intimidate with aplomb.

The most depressing thing about this job is realising the extent to which children√Ę‚ā¨‚ĄĘs development and subsequent life chances are determined by their parenting. Households where the nearest thing to a book is the TV guide and Dad's stash of porn, where mothers pass their offspring fast food through the school gates to save them from imposed nutrition, where a father tells his boy to swear at the teachers so he'll be expelled and save his father the hassle he gets from the school about his boy's behaviour, produce children who simply can never live in the same world as other children. The concerted efforts of any school and all the staff who try to help will never truly mitigate that 'home' environment. You see the sharp boundary past which no well-meaning government initiative, nor any amount of public money can ever penetrate.

When I go to work I become another person. I am an actor, and when I put on my suit I feign enthusiasm, personality and principles. One considerable benefit of this is that I have been forced to confront my introverted, constipated nature, and develop some proper social skills. But it also means that I feel like I'm contriving an entire, artificial persona, when my own is in desperate need of development. The thought recurs that I've postponed living to earn some money. I haven't read a book since August. I feel I exert ever greater effort in making an impact on my career, and feel it reverberate in an ever more hollow sense of existence.

I swing between the conviction that I need this occupation for the sense of purpose and motivation it brings, and the desire to jack it all in and return to the comfort of reclusion. I'll stick with it for the near future, but I have yet to submit to the conclusion that I must surrender the great bulk of my efforts in life to a vocation which can never ultimately be fulfilling.

Childish Charlie

Posted 29 September 2007, 1.41 pm by shaggy

"I can't do this again, Charles," said Jasmin, a member of New York's finest for the last three years of her life, two of which were almost constant contact with the infamous Childish Charlie.

At first, Charlie was a bit of a joke. Often seen on Jasmin's route wandering with a wooden stick he called Excalibur. He got into a few scrapes, mostly without any injury. But, after awhile, as all things do, it started to escalate into a problem. Charles started showing up on the streets with nothing but pajamas and a bowler's hat, and his infamous Excalibur. And he would do more than sprout esoteric lines-- Jasmin considered herself well-read, but she couldn't recognize what sounded at least to be literary quotations.

Charlie began to "fight for the independence" of a damsel, tourist, or sometimes just the city itself, citing 'decency' as his motivation.

"I know, J."

She didn't know when he had started calling her that, but she didn't feel offended. Like some of her other 'clients', Jasmine had actually grown fond and even protective of him. Even if he broke the law, didn't mean he wasn't at least likable.

"Then why? Why do you have to make my life harder than it has to be?"

She had just de-escalated a very sticky situation. Charles had seen three men beating a woman and decided he couldn't mind his own business. Luckily, someone had already called it in, and Jasmin got there in time to see Charlie riding a dirty mop, wielding Excalibur and shouting "to the ends! To the ends!" She managed to corner him before anyone gave him any attention, convincing him to stay put while she mopped up the mess he was about to ride into.

"I apologize, fair lady," he said after she came back in the pretense of interviewing witnesses.

"Why do you have to do that? " She wasn't sure why 'fair-lady' had offended her, but it did. "I know you can talk normal. I've even been to one of your lectures."

Shit. She didn't mean to say that-- to admit that, when she saw the poster for Charlie's newest lecture at the local college, on the effects of postmodern theory on current literature and film, she hadn't quite believed it could be the same man.

"With modernism, a movement made most famous by the poet T. S. Eliot, meaning and message were difficult yet attainable. With his friend, Ezra Pound, the proverbial shit really hit the fan."

This from a man who believed a mop could be a method of transportation.

"And what did you think," he said to Jasmine. "Does postmodernism have a chance at regaining meaning and purpose?"

"Do you really think I have time?" He answered with silence. "Look, just stay out of trouble, would you?"

"How is the girl?"

"The thugs did her in pretty good, but not only with their fists. She wants to get back to them as soon as possible, or at least that's what she said as she was being put into the ambulance. But the hospital is going to do some good, try to clean her up a bit even if only for tonight."

"Am I done here officer?" She nodded, and he picked up Excalibur. "Then I must return to my castle lest the Queen's suitors storm the gates."

She smiled in spite of everything.

DAY 576:
I've tried to make the appropriate adjustments. I sincerely tried to walk away, ignore the woman's screams... take my medication, be a good boy. But I couldn't help but think, what if someone had rushed in beyond what makes sense, beyond self-preservation, when they cornered her? What would have happened if someone...

Why didn't I mention Barthes? Literary madman that he is!

... maybe things would be different...

Or perhaps Foucault, not a literary pioneer but certainly had enough to say on authorship.

... different... I often wonder what things would be like if one could re-write the events of their life... if a moment could be but the rehearsal or the first take. If the Director is God, does He do a one-night show only, or will there be another season?

God I miss them... I had a dream that I was there the night they were attacked. The thugs saw them, my wife... my children... walking home, trying to mind their own business. But instead of just... being at the wrong time and the wrong place, I was there with them... I was their Heathcliff, storming through the glass, storming through violently just to prove my love, protecting them... I was their Rochester, awaiting their development and growth with avid anticipation. I was their Odysseus...

... but then I wake up, and am no Odysseus. And they are but ghosts that linger, taunting me. They are ghosts that are only in my mind, for, I fear, if any true ghost remains, they would not want me to suffer as I do.

I think I will go for a walk...

Excalibur was to King Arthur the emblem of salvation-- forced, penetrating. Nothing that he loved, as he held it, would fall.

But even Arthur's grip wasn't perfect...

The Big Apple

Posted 25 September 2007, 4.59 pm by shaggy

Sirens going off at all hours of the night... some random dude trying to pick into the lock into my building with a card... and directions that include only four words: "up", "down", "left", "right", if not just simply pointing in one of these directions.

Yes, that's right... I'm now a New Yorker. Which is cool in its own right. The city is bustling, there's always something to do, and its a lot safer than you'd think for a city that has its own CSI. A footlong sandwich costs three dollars and seventy-five cents, which in this Canuck's view is amazing. The people here are really nice, contrary to some people's description-- they act rude, but its really not as bad as people make it out to be, and the rudeness has a charm of its own, and you can tell its never intended to be mean.

But good lordy, how the business people on cell-phones curse! Definitely an interesting difference from the Canadian business-folk, who are usually metrosexual and wouldn't raise their voice if you took a whiz on their shoes. But, like many of the differences I've seen, it is neither good nor bad. Just different.

Its not as different as I thought it might be... sure there is a cultural shock, but people behave roughly the same no matter where you are from, and here its just extended to many... many... MANY people. The population leads to some inherent differences, like bluntness, impatience, etc., but nothing that cannot be sociologically explained pretty much by "more people, less room to breathe." When you factor that into the equation, everything in this city makes sense.

One big cultural difference, though, is living in Harlem. Its not a total change, but the people here are big on their culture and its nice to see. I've been told that "its all because of the white man." Which, far from being offended, actually made me chuckle. I've been offered books like "Black Robes, White Justice." And on one of the yard-sale streets, caught a glimpse of BBW porno (google "BBW" if you don't know what it stands for).

The one thing I didn't expect was how lonely the city is for me. Now, bear in mind that I only start school on October 4th, and the only reason I'm here so early is for the sake of cheap tickets (the 18th was the cheapest ticket I could find, after that, it was for October 5th, which wouldn't do well). Nobody I know lives in the city, and I'm not the type to walk up to people and make friends. I usually have to be forced into it by scholastic environments, which I personally find the easiest excuse to make friends this side of sharing a bottom job. So it will be better once I start school, but spending time in an apartment with my roomies who I don't know and who generally are awkward conversationalists because of that-- not that they are bad at it, just we don't know each other well enough to really be comfortable with it-- coupled with the overwhelming amount of... stuff... the city is definitely a lonesome crowd for me at the moment. Keyword: at the moment.

Again, if this sounds like I'm trashing the city, I'm really not. The downs I'm seeing are mostly situational rather than a direct function of the city-- that is, my situation of being out of school and unable to work without revoking my i-20's (unless I manage to squeeze a work visa out of it, which... would be tricky). I have been contemplating volunteer-work, but I'd hate to fill a position for a week only to leave when I go back to school (I DEFINITELY won't have time to keep volunteering).

But the city is, even with that, amazing. Central park is beyond what I had expected, and I already had high expectations. The arts here... are... well, they're actually ENCOURAGED! Poetry is not dead here, poetry slams happen all the time; in fact, my school hosts some of them. I might wander to a screening my school is having with a Q&A with the director, though I probably should have
RSVP'd by now (oh woe is the procrastinator).

Also, when I went in my school for registration, I got to sit in a director's chair (the waiting room is loaded with them), which was pretty cool. And Broadway is a pretty rich and exciting street, though... definitely... long. I might take a visit to the New York Public Library and drool for a bit, though I definitely will find time to go there even during school (if its possible).

A friend of mine said the thought of me in New York was like a real life "Where's Waldo", and I'd have to say I feel that way most of the time. Like Waldo that is, lost in a crowd but still so very obviously not part of it. But say what you will, the atmosphere is still very welcoming here. They don't treat tourists any differently than they'd treat anyone else except where its absolutely necessary, which is, if you ask me, a deep sign of respect.

And, I cannot help but think, as I walk down these streets, feeling safe even in the strangest neighborhoods, I can't help but think, with a little bit of pride, "this is my new city." Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of where I came from-- it certainly has its own particularly brand of beauty, like wide open forests much bigger than central park, quaintitude galore, a quiet that this city could never possibly attain-- New York still just... feels like you can wander in and join the game so to speak.

As lonely as it is not knowing anyone in a new city, I'm still doin' alright. And I even learned a few interesting curses.

Wikipedia is Dangerous and Beautiful

Posted 16 July 2007, 4.55 am by The_Roach

This piece was originally posted last week in a rare update to my blog, The Face of Adversity, but since nobody reads that, it might as well reside here where someone might actually see it.

It's very early in the morning. I've had a fair bit to drink and smoked enough cigarettes to make my lungs ache from deep breath. I'm thinking about legend and myth, faces and heels, history, legacy, butterfly wings and ripples on ponds. Curiously enough, it has me remembering my grandfather, dead now eleven years.


I don't remember what inspired me to perform a Wikipedia search for Vince McMahon tonight. I know that I had been playing Fallout. I'd then wound up on MySpace as a result of an article I'm working on for PROVOKE magazine. There was a fascinating video posted in the comments of said article's subject about a "hip-hop church" that I'm curious to attend. Past this, I can't recall, despite it only being a few hours ago. I tend to jump around a bit, probably due to the multi-tasking options that have evolved during my time with computers. Now that I think about it, I remember the time when having multiple browser windows (let alone tabs within a browser) was unthinkable. It tends to make my memory a bit jumbled, which might be a good topic for a future post.

I traveled from Vince McMahon through a history of professional wrestling, opening many of these new-fangled tabs along the way. Degeneration X, Chris Benoit (and the scandal that I caught a glimpse of on FOX News the other day), Undertaker. I read all about the Montreal Screwjob and learned all sorts of new wrestling slang. It's been a very useless, educational experience. Click by click, I traveled through the life stories of names that were vaguely familiar to me from popular culture.

My experience with professional wrestling as an adult has been limited to a few parties thrown for Pay-Per-View events during the turn of this century. I wasn't interested in the "sport" so much as the people who watched it. I would show up at these get-togethers from time to time, which were treated akin to a Super-Bowl party, as an anthropological study. I think it was ego more than anything that drove me to attend, as I watched these peers of mine become enraptured by what I viewed as base entertainment. They weren't under any illusion as to the reality of the show, but the drama kept them coming back.

I had even less experience as a child but the explosion of the entertainment juggernaut in the mid-1980's made it impossible to be unaware of its existence. I remember being friends with a neighbor girl, two doors down (east, the companion piece to Mr. Wooley's semi-detached townhouse). The layout of her house seems very familiar to me, though I'm sure I confuse it to some extent in my memory with my father's childhood home a couple miles away. There was wrestling on the television in that girl's home, of that I'm certain.

You'll have to forgive me. I'm feeling emotional, even nostalgic to a certain degree and that always makes me ramble a bit. I promise that there's a point to all of this but I'm about to make a sharp turn that will seem jarring to some.

As a child, you visit Santa, tell him what you want and get a photo taken on his lap. It's the traditional Christmas ritual. I'm not sure if any photos of me on a mall Santa lap were ever purchased but I was taken yearly to sit and inform of my desires. Back then, they had these crappy, little shops attached to the Santa enclave that parents were forbidden to enter. While there, impressionable children could be coerced into buying assorted junk (at no doubt obscenely inflated profit margins) for their friends and family by teenagers in elf costumes. The Beautiful Girlfriend confirmed for me (after she woke up and wandered in here to see why I haven't come to bed yet) that the same sort of stores were a part of her childhood as well, so the phenomenon at least survived into the early 90's on the east coast. I cannot recall ever seeing one since moving to Arizona seventeen years ago.

One year, wandering through one of these wonderlands of cheap tinsel, I bought my grandfather a massive beer mug. Proportion and memory being what they are, I'm still certain that it was a fair sight larger than my skull. I did not know that he did not make a habit of drinking beer. My knowledge of beer drinking at that age is suspect, for what it's worth. It just seemed like the right thing to get him, I guess. Printed on the side of the mug was André the Giant, arms upraised in victory.

I never really needed to sit on some mall Santa's lap as I child, I don't think. Sure, there was the fantasy of a man who flew across the world in one night, giving gifts to all the good boys and girls, and fantasy is an integral part of our lives at that time. Looking back, the only Santa Claus I ever needed lived a six-hour drive away on our family farm in Slippery Rock. He looked the part, even acted the role for local schoolchildren, and that may have something to do with my memory of him. Even once I'd acknowledged the non-existence of a real St. Nick, that awareness never eliminated the desire to believe. I had seen him with my own eyes, year after year, that spirit of charity and goodwill towards man.

There are some people whose legends will never die. I'd like to think that Harry Thompson is one of those people. He was not famous, not renowned, just a good and humble man. Tonight, as I read legends of pop culture figures from a fake sport, the realization of why exactly I gave him that beer mug that he never needed in the first place became clear. He was a giant, larger than life, bigger than all the Paul Bunyans and John Henrys that ever lived.

He used that mug for coffee.

Smug

Posted 29 May 2007, 1.58 am by Duncan-O

It's a Friday night, and I'm out howling at the moon. My phone rings, and the name on the screen brings my revelry to a jarring halt. What could she want?

Shantel wants a favor. She needs her cat's litterbox changed. And as my inebriated mind struggles with this irritating and ludicrous request, she pushes on ahead: "It's the toxoplasmosis...the doctor says it's very dangerous for my baby."

All I can manage to say is "I didn't know you were pregnant."

We had gotten to Fort Bragg at the same time, three years ago, two new faces adjusting to the sea of regulation and camouflage. We were split up into different units, but she was a girl I went out of my way to keep close to me.

I think back to one morning when my knock on her door wakes her, and she steps back inside her tiny barracks room, wordlessly inviting me in. She sits on her bed and leans back against the wall, her round breasts revealed through the thin cotton of her tank top. She curls her legs under her, flexing, then stretches, pointing them at me across the room. She relaxes, draping her body across the sheets, her muscles unbunching under so much light brown skin. Only across the room, but I'm so far away. She's smiling a little, now, and her dark eyes flash.

It wasn't long until we had drifted apart. Shantel had joined the Army to get away from an abusive husband, and my heart went to her...but most people just keep making the same mistakes.

She looks at me now in her empty, unfurnished apartment, the swell of her baby starting to show underneath her loose blouse. Her eyes are significant once again. "My husband left me." Her cat nuzzles up to my leg. The words "you had your chance with me" come to mind--it's the kind of thing I've said to my married friends in lighter moments, said in front of their husbands so they would know I was joking.

But there's no joke here. The words hang in the air between us, tangible in the silence. They hurt both of us, so I leave them unsaid.

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A year or so ago I undertook a study entitled 'Faces of Death'. I produced a quite substantial body of work concerning corpses, and faces in particular. I concentrated mainly on victims of murder. This image was produced by rolling a thick layer of ink onto a steel plate and rubbing, scratching and soaking it off with turps. The plate was then pressed onto paper, and this is the result.


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Props to Green Mamba for bringing the weirdness

Hmph

80s candy bars were pretty good

only because i traded it for a candy bar in the 80's.

lol we all know you don't have a soul ghoti

my soul for some carbs...

But of course!

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