An Open Letter to the Wind, You Motherfucker

What you are is crisp.  That is the word that fits, but it doesn’t do the whole job.  It can’t manage all the weight.  It needs something a little further.  Like that coolness of biting into a fresh apple.  Breaking the thin leathery skin and that gentle spray of inner juice.  It’s that.  But it is also that moment when you bite down into an ice cube.  That sudden surge of nerve endings screaming in agony from the piercing of ice, driving itself between your teeth like a ghost spike, but your taste buds close their eyes and lean into the satisfaction of the cold with unbridled enthusiasm.

That’s why this city feels less like another thing and more like a living thing.  An entity.  Because no matter what season it is, the wind is always angry.  Vicious.  Acting out like a tempestuous child.  It has its grubby hands on everything, pushing over empty cans and sending loose trash into hand-springs and somersaults.  It gives them brief bits of life, little angry spurts of acrobatics.  You pull the trees into a frenzy.  Madmen, waving their arms and trying desperately to get your attention.  To tell you something.  Or maybe not.  Maybe they have nothing to say, but just want to touch.  To reach out and grasp you, limbs waving and yearning and stretching.  The wind turns them into horny beasts.  Looking to fondle every passersby.  But we don’t look at you how you want or look back to see if you’re still watching.  We shrug off your glances, brush away your reach, and duck under your waving desperation.   Because to stop and grab your hand would be acknowledging your presence.  Taking part in your sick possession.

And because having sex with trees is illegal.

Sincerely,

Ben

An Open Letter to Ilona, the Lithuanian Woman Whose Father Died Fighting the Soviets

Thirty dollars is nothing.  It’s a decent haul of adequate groceries.  It’s taking a girl on a date to the movies.  But it was truly all I had when you stopped me on the street and asked for my help.  I’m so sorry.  After you had left, I spent hours contemplating emptying my bank account, hunting you down, and giving you everything I had.  I’m still doing that.  I really am.

I’m sorry that I left my hands straight out when you grabbed me on the street and starting crying into the cloth of my jacket without warning.  It surprised me, you have to understand. It isn’t often that Lithuanian women approach me, begin to explain why they happen to be short on rent this month, break into tears, and hug me.  I had heard stories from a friend about a homeless woman who would hug people on the subways to distract them from the fact that she was stealing their wallet.  A thousand situations flew through my head, as my brain tried to run all potential scam situations.  I wasn’t sure what it was you wanted from me.  It’s how I’m conditioned.  The city keeps me on edge.  Always playing out how I’ll defend myself from a mugger or react like a trained ninja to every approach to my person.  I had no reason to believe that all you wanted was just to tell someone everything.  I had no way to be prepared for you to embrace me and weep.  I’m an awful ninja.

I’m sorry your father died fighting the Soviets.  I have barely a frame of reference to console you on something such as that.  I’ve never even heard a anyone in my life call them Soviets.  I’m too young for it to make sense.  I’m too young to know what words will put perspective on the misery it caused.  I’m just old enough to listen and nod and touch your shoulder to know I’m not standing here simply waiting for a pause to take advantage of and run, but because I want more than anything to say something to make things better.  But I don’t really know what better is.

I would love to hear your cousin play the violin.  I’m sure she’s masterful, just like you said.  Even though she wastes her natural beauty hiding in books.  I’m sure she’s brilliant too.  I bet you I would be stunned to see her.

Yes, the world is unbalanced.  This I am old enough to understand.  There’s only so much damage a soul can take.  You’re right about everything.  This is because you’ve figured things out years ago, but don’t know how to make it work for you.  I don’t know if anyone does.  I don’t know if it’s just luck that gets people tumbling onto the right track.  It really is so god dammed unfair that you made it through totalitarian Lithuania and its various revolutions just to live in a crummy apartment and can’t find work.  It’s not fair at all that your landlord makes you sometimes pay rent twice because he know you won’t do anything about it.  He does sound like a bully.  He is the kind of person that just leeches off of others.  And, yes, I’m sure his mustache is as ugly as you said.  I have a feeling it smells too.

As you told me about how you used to be an assistant to a dentist in Vilnius, which I didn’t know was the capital of Lithuania, and about how your boss was a gambling man who accrued too many debts, so his debtors broke his hands, and now he’s no longer a dentist; I am trying to figure out how to capture this.  I sense a profoundness in all of it and I want others to understand, but I don’t know how.  I want you to recognize that this isn’t a nation of blank faces and passer-byers.  Some listen.  Some want to know.  Some want  to comprehend what a life like yours, so chaotic and interesting and full of pain, could be like to live.  Some so badly want to pay your debts and make everything alright again.  Some want see your life become a book or a graphic novel or even just an article.  But you can’t stop for coffee and tell it all to me.  You have to go to church because, as you say, Jesus would whoop your ass if he saw you enjoying a cappuccino instead of attending mass.  I’m not sure about this, but you’re smart not to risk it.

So I’ll see if I can find you next Sunday and we can get coffee and I can see about getting that rent together and you can tell me what it was the Venus de Milo really lost her arms, which I admit I know nothing about.  This is because I’m too young to know.  I’m too young.  But I’m old enough to know that more people need to grasp strangers in the street and weep against them like weary soldiers, so exhausted to their very core, who simply need to know that there are others, comrades, who can appreciate their pain.

Sincerely,

Ben

An Open Letter to My Inability to Grow a Beard

If not for the fact that you’re nothing more than a relatively vacant space attached to the area below my nose, I would stab the ever-living shit out of you.  Your actions are downright disrespectful.  Rude, even.   What’s your problem? Look, I know you’re not the eyes and you can’t take a look in the mirror like they can, but you can be sure I’m not messing when I let you know this disturbing fact.

We have  baby face.

Ok, ok.  That’s an exaggeration.  We look at least thirteen years old.  That’s being generous.  On a rough day when the weight of the world has drug my face into a contorted mess of temporary misery, I look a good seventeen.  Something about a face which displays a bitter distaste for all things past and to come adds some years to the old visage.  But on the rest of the days, the good ones, which seem to be more numerous, I expect to be stopped by a truancy officer asking if I skipped out of gym class.

Did you know the sadhu of India, respected gurus of the yoga practice, our applauded for their beards?  As are an absolute shit-ton of religions and cultures since the beginning of all time.  ALL FUCKING TIME.  Persians, Macedonians, the Greeks.  The list goes on.  That and a mountain of history book’s worth of Nike-shoe-wearing cults.  Hell, for decades men even grew beards in an attempt to cure/prevent diseases like tuberculosis.  I could go on and on, but I’m already starting to sound like a vulgar book report.

Look.  I see you’re hesitant about this whole deal, I see that.  But I get it.  I understand your reservations.  You’re worried I might go all Joaquin Phoenix on you.  It’s true, growing a beard is often the first symptom of going bat-shit insane.  I don’t know why that is.  Crazy seems to go up exponentially with quantity of facial hair.  As well as homelessness and a predilection for frightening strangers.

You may also be worried this suggests some predisposition to becoming a mad scientist/evil mastermind villain.  True, facial hair is pretty much the first step of building a death-ray the size of a Buick.  But you’re looking at this the wrong way.  Think Tony Stark.  Think Wolverine.  Hell, I’ll settle for a pair of canuk chops.  That’s fine.  Shit, think motherfucking Thor.  This is the mindset I need you to be in.

So, let’s end this dumb feud we’ve been having over the years.  I apologize for any disrespect during those years learning to shave.  I admit, I sucked pretty bad at it.  But how about we let bygones be bygones and grow ourselves a mean beard.  Come on.  Or I start shaving like I did when I was fourteen.  You don’t want to go through that again.

Sincerly,

Ben

An Open Letter to the Only Piece of Cookware in my Kitchen

I know, I know.  I owe you an apology.  It all falls on you, doesn’t it?  The whole thing is on your shoulders.  It’s not fair.  There’s not even a microwave to fall back on.  Just you, a lone stainless steel pot, forced to be the sole workforce for every meal of ramen noodles, soup, stew, or any other simple, one step meal that you’re required to cook.   It’s not your fault, really.  You certainly didn’t choose to end up in the hands of a culinary-inept post-college student who irresponsibly hurled himself at an expensive city with no mind to his resources.  Certainly not.  That’s just the way the dice shook out.

But you do it without a single complaint.  That’s what I like about you.  Unwavering resilience despite overwhelming odds.  First you heat the water, then the spaghetti, then the sauce.  All without a moment’s rest.  You even warm the bread, an event the oven itself would be just fine to do.  It would be well within your right to scoff, to let a bit of a chuckle sneak through when you’re asked for the millionth time to heat up water for coffee, despite being a mere three inches from a machine designed for that very purpose.  Or when yet another wrapper of pre-packaged noodles is cracked open.  But there’s never a  reaction.  Never a smirk.  Nothing but a steel rim with faded blue paint to make another meal for this chef forever plagued with the cooking talents of an undergraduate freshmen hiding an illicit George Foreman grill under his bunk and throwing caution to the wind.

Sincerely,

Ben

An Open Letter to The Concept of People-Watching

He finds himself getting mad as he overhears a man with a cropped haircut and an expensive pea coat remark that they find joy in people-watching.  It’s the only reason I ride the train, the man says.  He hates this.  He hates this phrase.  He finds it as stupid as saying that you enjoy long walks on the beach.  To him, it is almost comical how contrived it is.  It’s not like making observations about people is some sort of hobby, some part of your daily existence that is any different than anything else.  There’s no such thing as tree watching or sidwalking staring.  These are not things because seeing people interacting is what we all do every day.  Just because you stop to gawk at them doesn’t make you special.  It just makes you a creep.

As well, it occurs to him that studying the nature of people and their interactions is as natural a behavior to him as breathing or purchasing a danish from the café down the street with the cute cashier behind the counter on cold mornings.

He notices things all the time, but he doesn’t find it necessary to suggest it is some sort of accomplishment.  He noticed a man on the subway just yesterday, in fact, who wasn’t wearing shoes.  Remarkable, that.  Who does such a thing?   He had his theories, as he was prone to do, and was sure the man was some sort of self-proclaimed prophet.  Perhaps he had confused himself with Jesus this morning and, as the moment came to put on his shoes, he thought “What would Jesus do?”  And here he was.

On the train, he glances at the other riders and does his best to imagine their apartments from the way they dress.  He is pretty accurate, by anyone’s guess, because he can’t be wrong.  He can imagine and imagine and never stop thinking he’s right.

And it saddens him to think of all that information he had absorbed that has gone nowhere.  It seems like such a waste.   He has been completely unaware that he had been actively producing thoughts of merit all this time.  Things that may amuse someone in  casual conversation or on the internet.  That he had produced all this unique banter that had disappeared before it had even been used.  Anecdotes about the strange behavior of strangers.  It made him even sadder that he could no longer access it.  Those things had left him long ago and continue to, all of it filling up an empty space somewhere.  A place where passing thoughts go that don’t have enough relevance to linger, but aren’t dull enough to pass by unnoticed.

Unfair.  That’s what it was.  And cruel.  That all this intrigue had been enough to amuse him for a moment –to give his face that broad smile that showed off his round cheeks– but hadn’t the weight  to stay.   Things replaced by a moment’s pause to think about which stop was the best.  And then they were gone.   Instead stupid things were in there.  In his head.  Song lyrics to terrible songs and stupid trivial facts that were of no use.  So much waste.  And these other thoughts, these potential bragging points to girls on the train, were laid to rest  in an empty space, barely used and broken, like a room full of a child’s toys all played with a single time and never touched again.



An Open Letter to My Four Piece Red Mahogny Gretsch Drum Kit

If there was a government agency that hunted down those who forgoed creative enterprises to instead lazily read wikipedia entries on Xmen characters, I’d have my face posted in every post office coast to coast.  The Thought Police would find me huddled in a dark alley playing the theme form Ocarina of Time on my Cat Piano iPhone application as they dragged me back to the real world to do something productive.  “No no,” I’d scream.  “Just let me figure out the Song of Storms.”  This isn’t real, of course, just my shifty way of apologizing for neglecting you as of late.  I’ve barely managed to pound out some old AC/DC songs, which I find painfully easy to do.

Don’t feel too hurt, you’re a beautiful instrument.  Dark crimson paint with a bit of sparkles in it and cymbals, bronze and goldish, pounded with careless dents.  The snap of your snare is a little flat and your cymbal crash sounds a bit like banging pots and pans, but you’re a charming noise make none-the-less.

I’ve let my attention to you slack as of late, as I’ve reached a plates of rattling out simple rock beats and hitting all the cymbals after a roll.  And now I can’t take you with me on the move, so I have to leave your only partially worn drum heads behind.  This is sad news.  And I’ll consistently drum on the table when sitting at a bar and practice my cadence.

Sincerly,

Ben

An Open Letter to My Future: A Master List to Success

1. Stop thinking this list is stupid before you write it.
2. Stop thinking all forward thinking/day dreaming is pointless.
3. Find job in new town.
4. Look at Documents folder. Note ratio of finished to unfinished stories.
5. Place face in palm. Emit audible sigh.
6. Become a happier person.
7. Do very best to live like some amalgamation of Thomas Pynchon, Seth Green, and The Fonz.
8. Take that story of the Indian that digs up the glass jar in the desert and finds a gun. Publish it, fuckface.
9. Make moving plans based on where you’re running to, not from.
10. Don’t end sentences with a preposition.
11. Don’t casually correct grammar.
12. Same as rule #11, but especially with cute girls.
13. Lose a few pounds.
14. Find a socially acceptable way to bike while indoors.
15. Return to doing graffiti. Lose fear of repercussions.
16. Visit more places. Not Europe. Been done.
17. Do to literature what Jack Bauer does to terrorists. Electrocute it with wires from a motel lamp.
18. Find a band that sounds like Why?, Johnny Cash, and Mastadon.
19. If #18 fails, make band.
20. Stop putting books down before the final chapter.
21. Post another Open Letter.