Author Archives: ramoner

Eric’s Trip, Part 1 (cont’d)

Cat’s Cradle

About seventy pages in, there’s a description of Franklin – eldest son of Felix Hoenikker – that describes the last time anyone had seen him. In the middle of his father’s funeral service, Franklin had walked off and tried to hitchhike a ride, anywhere, away from his current life. The part reads as follows:

The old man wasn’t even underground yet, and out through that gate came Frank. He raised a thumb at the first car that came by. It was a Pontiac with a Florida license plate. It stopped. Frank got in it, and that was the last anybody in Ilium ever saw of him.

The next few sentences add a little to Frank’s development as well:

“I hear he’s wanted by the police”.

“That was an accident, a freak. Frank wasn’t any criminal. He didn’t have that kind of nerve”.

Reading this part conjured up memories of Eric, one of the two cousins on my father’s side. I had met him maybe only three times in my life, and the memories of those encounters produce one definitive descriptor: adult coolness suspended in a youthful form. A la James Dean, Cool Hand Luke, the Outsiders, Johnny Ramone, Brando, Neil Cassidy, Hesse’s Demian, Lou Reed, etc. The first time we met, I was very young, maybe 5 and he maybe 10, so the clarity of that memory is a little off. Still, I remember him as something mysterious. In certain ways I remember him similar to me, but with better control over vocabulary, bigger, tougher, and quicker to interact with adults who, other than my parents, I was still wary of. In my mind I remember him having dark hair, tanned skin, a Ashkenazic face, but something there also a little more conspiring and plotting, like a dark Fonz. I also vaguely remember him having cool things in his room, like maybe a knife and a lighter. Myself, I was still enamored of my Legos, but this person had stuff that I had only seen in the vast universe of TV. I also remember the contrast between my suburban, upstate New York world view and his city, Bronx/New York City skew. I was still young, and my capacity to both form and contextualize memories was pretty inefficient, which only added to the mystique of my cousin Eric. His older sister, Jill, was there as I remember it, but as a boy of 5 years, it is the older male that you gravitate to.

The second time I remember meeting him, I was several years older, maybe 12 or 13. The visit to my father’s brother’s was brief and mostly cordial. My father and his brother had an ancient falling out, and our two families had very little contact with each other. This particular time I remember my father and his brother talking in the living room, while I hung out with Eric in his room. He must have been 17 or 18 at this time, and per the news I received earlier that day from my father, he had started to become “difficult for my uncle to handle”. Hearing this I had envisioned Eric as a city-hardened punk teenager, knowledgeable in the many vices of the late Eighties in New York City, something like the Beastie Boys. While this may have been partially true of him, as in anyone else, this was really only one part of a vibrant, wild individual. Hanging out with him that day, he was kind, funny, big-brotherly (or cousinly) to me, interesting, and now that I was a little older, I noticed the subtle physical similarities between him and me, and him and my father, even him and my brother; in other words I could now see that some of the same things that I was made of, were in him as well. Having been my parent’s first child, I was intrigued by this older, similar person. As the day came to an end, he gave me two things to take back upstate: a pipe for smoking weed, and a vintage vhs porn video called the Green Dildo. I stashed them at the bottom of my backpack and with the stoicism of a growing no-good-nik, walked out of the apartment with my family, and my contraband.

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Part 1

December 30, 2011

Maddie

Having just returned from a three day trip to Carmel and Monterey where I visited my second-cousins Phil, Julie, and their daughter Madeline Rose, I half-heartedly thought about how I have relatively few cousins. My only aunt on my mother’s side doesn’t have children, and there are just two cousins on my father’s side. Compounding this smallness is my family’s emotional distance. Like the inner planets of the solar system in relation the ones past the asteroid belt, the orbits of my family consist of a firm, defined boundary holding my mother, father, younger brother, aunt, and maternal grandparents. This is followed by a loose, misty circle holding some outer cousins, distant uncles, and other “secondses” and twice-removeds. This recent trip to Carmel opened my eyes to the family of Phil, Julie, and Maddie, who in the past 7 years or so existed within the outer familial orbit, but gradually gravitated inward.

Maddie, 14 years old, was well-spoken, shy, and often seemed to wish she was somewhere else. Having never really had a “cousin” relationship, I latched onto this new person in my family; I had met Maddie once before when she was maybe 1 or 2. But now, through a coincidence of last minute travel plans, I reconnected to Phil, Julie, and Maddie, and all of a sudden the potential to have a new cousin relationship arose. Despite living on different coasts I imagined being friends with Maddie on a sort of smarter, older, cooler plane; not exactly a peer of her parents, but still a source of wisdom, experience, and relevance. Admittedly, I can cop to not being the best older brother, and I wouldn’t doubt if any of my motivations were perhaps those of repentance. Still, I envisioned a new cousin in my life, maybe the first cousin.

 

  1. Goodwill

While in Monterey, My wife Emily and I went to the Goodwill where we killed about 30 minutes looking at used clothes and coffee mugs. This past December I had completed my first semester in a Masters Nursing program, and had been looking for a good book to get lost in. An education in nursing is mentally taxing in its rigorousness, its basis in facts, and the weight placed upon the understanding that while the goal of nursing is to heal, within it exists the ability to do great harm if applied incorrectly. This produces an educational vigilance all semester long, which leaves a great vacuum immediately following completion of the last question on the last final of the semester. In order to fill this vacuum I planned on using literature as my winter break vacation. Anything engrossing, left-brain stimulating, and page-turning. Some Asimov, or Pynchon, or maybe some crime non-fiction.  But like grocery shopping while hungry, I gorged myself on books that I only opened, and was unable to fully commit to one book. I started David Eagleman’s book Sum, about the afterlife; Peter Orman’s Love, Shame, Love, about politics and middle-class Jewry in 1960s Chicago; and in an embarrassing attempt at overachievement, I began to read a book about cardiac rhythms and EKG’s in order to get a leg up on next semester’s pathophysiology course. Nothing significantly grabbed my focus. So when I saw Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle on the $1 shelf at the Monterey Goodwill, I bought it without hesitation, knowing its teleportative and mesmerizing powers. I thought that this book could be my gateway drug to enjoying anything else during my 5 – now 4 – week break from the grind of school.

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Eric’s Trip

I’m gonna go out on a limb and put up the first text post this blog has had. I’ve been trying to think of a meaningful way to write about the stuff I see working on an ambulance without it coming off as braggary, shock-gore, or needlessly heavy. Everyone asks “what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen?” and I’m always at a loss to give them something that I think would satisfy them. That’s because the answer I could give I think would cause revulsion, and then distance, i.e., “I saw a guy who had been dead for 14 days lying in his last pile of urine and shit. His eyes were completely grey.” Now, I’m the crazy one for working amongst such fucked up shit, and not appearing as if it has an effect. Thus, the distance.

What I figured would be an interesting way to frame the story of a job on an ambulance would be through the pretext of the search for my estranged cousin Eric, who has been rumored to be living in San Francisco.

Working EMS in this city is like having a reverse VIP card; I can get in to all the places no one wants to go: hourly hotels, shelters, underneath highway overpasses, crackhouses, heroin houses, homeless camps, crime scenes, drunk tanks, jails, SRO’s, projects, basically the true underbelly, of which San Francisco seems to aggressively foment. At the same time, I get to see tons of ordinary people experiencing extraordinary circumstances, mixed in with long stretches of normalcy. Sometimes just seeing the interior of an 80 year old Cantonese woman’s apartment in Chinatown is really fucking crazy.

My cousin Eric was always the epitome of the “bad influence”. I didn’t know him at all, but nonetheless tried to keep up on his exploits. Before his supposed move to San Francisco, I heard that he was doing small scale crimes and selling drugs in Miami or Fort Lauderdale. He’s been arrested, he’s done prison time, he may or may not have a dependent. He’s severed all family ties over bad blood with my uncle. When I heard a couple years ago that he had possibly moved to San Francisco, I had a very tense, anxious realization that there was a good chance I would run in to him. In actuality, San Francisco is a small, concentrated city, and through some sense of entropy, or gravitation, you will bump into people you know (or are supposed to bump into). And since Eric’s story is similar to the stories of many a dirtbag I have transported in an ambulance, I felt certain that one day I would pull up to the scene of a “Man down”, and it would be him.

I figured an interesting framework for writing about working on an ambulance would be descriptions of events and people leading up to the eventual reunion between my cousin Eric and I. That way, while I am suspensefully waiting for that day, I can write freely about the things I see and do while driving through red lights.

Part 1 coming up soon…

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Drake equation for number of possibly habitable planets. (It’s cool, trust me)

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120821-how-many-alien-worlds-exist

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Gotye – Save Me

Not a huge fan of that one single that plays incessantly on the radio, but this song ain’t bad, and the video is fucking rad-iculous.

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Sebastien Tellier, “Don’t look”

French pompous pompadour who makes mediocre music, but breathes life into it with fucking fantastic videos

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Russian jellyfish

http://englishrussia.com/2012/05/11/inhabitants-of-the-white-sea/

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Moody blues

To yin the yang of the amazing electronica posts here, I offer a couple analog moody videos with some catchy tunes to help them go down.

Father John Misty – Hollywood Forever Cemetery

 

Youth Lagoon – Montana

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Luke’s current favorite women singers/artists (part 1)

Don’t know why or when, but I have developed an incredible soft spot for women singers. That is not to say that I had never liked them, but recently if I hear or see a woman singer really emotionally and genuinely getting into her music, I kind of fall to pieces. Here’s some good ones.

Flock of Dimes/Wye Oak

Baltimore based Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak does her solo thing called Flock of Dimes. Musically kind of dark, but her voice is the thread that keeps things interesting. Track is called “Prison Bride” off a new limited eponymous 7-inch.

Bonus: Wye Oak “Fish” video

Denali

Richmond, VA band from 2003 – 2008, released music on Jade Tree and Lovitt records. The lead singer, Maura Davis, later recorded some other stuff on Lovitt and Astralwerks under the names Ambulette and Glos. Talented and connected (brother Keeley played for Engine Down), its a shame she never truly blew up. Also note the kooky similarity between their album cover and the first proposed cover of the original Honesty mag!

Regina Spektor

Everyone knows her by now, but despite various Rom-Coms and TV shows using her gentler music, this track still make me shivery and weepy. She goes all trilingual with it, singing in French and Russian. Plus she looks like my wife.

Heartless Bastards

Cincinnati based trio, sometimes quatro, simple guitar driven rock with amazing vocals. Singer Erika Wennerstrom croons, you baboons!

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A little bit Falcor, a little bit miyazaki.

Rad video game trailer that is a sequel to another rad video game.

The Last Guardian

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