I was back in Dubai freelancing with old friends, and we got to chatting about how fun it’d be to drop a depressed clown into Dubai's absurd landscape– confused, lost and completely out of his element. Except he'd fit in perfectly. That town is it's own kind of circus. And a clown's the perfect metaphor for a culture obsessed with masks. From the name brands to the inflated titles, it can feel empty until you find the like-minded souls who surface from the dust. What started as a cute idea about a clown became a little ode to the beautiful friend-family I found there.
With a weekend and a couple nights for pre-pro, some location curveballs, zero budget, and a student film crew from S.A.E. Institute, we shot it just before the summer heat got too mean.
I travel to reset and write, and Instagram’s where I’ve using travel photos as writing prompts, to see where the narrative voice wanders. I’m not really sure what these are yet – poems? Excerpts of something bigger? Whatever it is, here’s a sample. If you want to wade through the rest of the pile go for it, but don’t waste too much time in there. Scrolling’s bad for the soul.
The Guru of Chill
Some things never change with the tides or seasons or typhoons. Like The Guru of Beach Chill sitting in the water right there like it’s his living room. Ralph. Every time I pass by his bungalow he tells me, “Slow down, Cindy. Slow down. Where the Devil do you have to be anyway?” It doesn’t matter how still, stirred up, turquoise or beige-silty-green-gray the water is that day. He’s always right. The only place to be is right here in my knock-off flip flops, writing stuff, not caring if the words are good, bad or indecipherable, with sand just about everywhere. And as far as my rapid pace goes, what the Guru of Chill doesn’t know – this actually is my slow.
Haad Yao, Koh Phangan
And so am I. He doesn’t give a shit what you’re searching or posting. He’s just an old monkey like the rest of us, looking around, wondering “What the hell happened to us?” Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to judge. I’ve been sucked into the tiny screen vortex too. Sure it’s helpful. There’s nothing like a digital map. “You are here” says the glowing blue dot. Except you’re not, really. Other tourists who don’t know their ass from their chopsticks thought that restaurant with the giant photos was delicious enough too. But if that glowing turd in your hand is what we’re all following, how can we be anywhere at all? Look around, my friend. Follow your nose. Jump on a bike, in a boat. Get lost. Put your feet on the ground, and your nose in some fish sauce. Make friends. Hell, start with the over stuffed primate behind you. I bet he has stories. Ask him where he’s from. What he loves. What does he think about all these tourists in his town, with our backpacks and cameras and phones and athletic shoes, with our glowing gadgets bobbing around ancient town, day and night, singing their eerie chiming siren songs, hungry to snap 5,000 shots of the riverside lanterns, the weathered boat pilots and rickshaw drivers- these are the real floating gems of HoiAn. I wonder how many photos, posts, boasts from this fairyland are captured and frozen here in the pixel world? How do we find the willpower to put the damn phone down? It’s the only way to stumble over the river and through the night market to the hidden streets where the locals eat, with Banh Mi and peanut sauce capable of changing your entire worldview. Then, by all means, pull out that gadget. Cause those moments of lost but (really) found are the ones to write home about. 🐵
Hoi An, Vietnam
Nature has her way
The humid sleeps creep in like a vertical garden munches through tired convent walls. She eases her fingers into his shadows and joints. She know his vulnerabilities. His creeks. His heartaches. Is it a power struggle? Of course, that is if you assume power over another is a thing these walls and banisters and windows and vines and brave young sprouts desire. But maybe this old crumbling brick and plaster has been waiting his entire life for the jungle to come and wrap her arms around him, to ying his yang. He may feel humbled. Is his pleasure, his lust his privilege to structure and frame and hold her vibrant wild chaos. When chunks of plaster fall in the night, the monastery nuns know all too well it’s not just the rain, but an unstoppable acrobatic love affair slowly growing within their aching, neglected walls. 🌱
Assumption Convent School, Bangkok
The Cosmic West
The Cosmic West is watching. The Cosmic West doesn't look too happy. Hoping he just overdid it at a yoga class today. Stretch it out Cosmic West. Let's get you a coffee. Let's go for a swim. I'll show you the channel to the reef, but mind the low tide sea urchins. Stretching, reaching high in their delicate perpetual sun salutations. Follow me through the shallows. I'll take you too the reef where the island submits to the aqua sea. But float lightly, Cosmic West. Suck it in and we'll skim a whisper and a gurgle above the ladies' venomous, ambitious limbs. One of these days, Madame Urchin, you'll grow large enough, bold enough, defiant and pissed off enough to crack the surface. Grab an urchin by the spine, kick her off her perch, and she'll have her revenge. Then my dear Cosmic West, you'll have good reason to glare out at the twilight world. What do you see, Cosmic West? You have a pretty decent vantage point up there. How far? Can you see the future? Can you smell the past? Do you feel regret? Hope? Can you see my heart? It's worried about the world. Are you? Is that fury hidden in your searing stare? Are you scared? For yourself? For the fish? For the elephants? For the mums and dads ripped from their harbors, everything they know, from their grandmothers, family recipes, afternoon cafes and backgammon games? Do you think of me? What can one woman, one girl, one daughter, one lost, fleeing lover, one pent up, bottled up, shooken up writer possibly do? Do you see us in our little backpacks, bikinis, cruel heels and empty suits, like I see a pile of ants? Are we the pests? Are you waiting for us for us to pesticide, cannibalize each other? Are you keen for a show? Are you warming up for a karmic swing, a deciding blow? Do you see the islands of floating plastic poison bellow? Are you watching our little human dramas and romantic comedies with a bowl of popcorn at your side? Can you hear our music? Were you at Jam, Saturday night? Did you see the children hugging strangers into family? Come, Cosmic West. Pull up a hammock, have a slice of passionfruit pie and tell me, how do we keep this beauty alive?
Age of Optimism
an odd collection of scribbles and words, which may at some point turn into a thing
Kitchen Hopeful as BBQ Chicken
Strategy Takes Back Burner
KITCHEN– It looks like the Rebel Fridge Regime has finally gotten the message: if it continues to pursue their current BBQ Chicken Strategy, some serious basting may result. Indeed, there has been some volatile commentary amongst various states, predominantly from the Cheese Drawer, which isn’t especially surprising.
Meanwhile the recent Coleslaw Tests combined with the Produce Bin’s timely rejection of the Cookie Compromise, and conflict within the Pan-Condiment Ministry all suggest that the Fridge’s leadership is seriously divided over Sides.
At Today’s peacekeeping talks on the Cutting Board, the Five Food Groups and the United Mixing Bowls gave the Rebel Fridge Regime two weeks to halt aggression or face tougher sanctions despite the unprecedented Dairy mobilization.
Meanwhile, neighboring pantries fear the Fridge’s sensitive balance of power and believe the questionable BBQ Chicken Strategy is really an unfriendly mission to sauce the entire kitchen. The Fridge spokesman claims the regime’s motives are entirely peaceful, however it’s difficult to take a basting brush seriously.
After six hours of simmering talks, The Kitchen’s Inter-Culinary Policy Chief, Paring Knife told the press, “We’re hoping for a clean resolution. Offers of Pan-Kitchen-Trade and Savory Incentives are on the table. If all parties come to agreement, The BBQ Chicken Strategy will take a back burner. Otherwise the region may face an explosive grilling that could have saucy fallout to the far reaches of the fruit basket.“
While the worst-case scenario is perhaps the Kitchen Sink’s worst fear, it wouldn’t be the end of the Kitchen. However, it would certainly create a tremendous mess that would require foreign aid from the Mop Closet.
“This, I believe, even the most saucy supporters of the BBQ Chicken Strategy would like to avoid,” Paring Knife concluded before returning to the negotiations.
While perhaps a bit optimistic, other resolutions at the Cutting Board talks could potentially end both the Paleo-Keto conflicts and Black Market Fungal Production as well. As usual, the Freezer remains neutral.
The family had gotten used to the ceiling-quakes. The books would fall off the shelves. The hanging kitchen light would sway violently over the table. Sometimes the living room ceiling would collapse completely and the family would have to eat their way out from under the debris.
For lack of any other explanation, they blamed their son’s bad behavior. It was God, punishing the family for raising him carelessly. After each ceiling-quake he’d bravely endure their abuse and take the blame. The Earthworms would send him to bed without any dinner; never realizing it was just another soccer cleat.
Claudia had trouble receiving kisses. She could mail them out all right, but whenever someone tried to send her a kiss it would get lost in the mail. Sometimes the kisses would end up back on the sender’s lips marked, package undeliverable. At other times, depending on how much tongue had been included in the shipping, the sender himself would get lost in transit.
Claudia couldn’t figure out why the kisses weren’t making it to her mouth. She went to the dentist to see if her mouth was miss-marked or if there was some glitch with her dental code.
“I don’t understand,” she complained. “This one time, the guy who sent the kiss, he completely vanished too.”
“That’s terrible,” said the dentist.
And it was. Claudia couldn’t just fly through good kissers like that. They were hard enough to come by. The dentist dumped his toolbox into her mouth and had a look around.
“I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do for you,” he said. You’ll need to see a specialist. Or if you can live with it, just warn people that there are risks involved if they try to send you kisses direct.”
“What do you mean, risks? I can understand kisses getting misplaced or put on hold, detained even; but to just up and vanish? That’s ridiculous. Kissing isn’t supposed to be dangerous.”
“Claudia my dear, they fall in.”
“Look, it’s simple. Before a bloke sends you a kiss, just kindly warn him to mind the gap.”
At first Anna thought it was a rash. It itched. It was red. She got a special pillow to sit on at work and insisted on eating in the kitchen standing up, which annoyed her husband, Beau, tremendously.
“You’re not that busy,” he said.
“Yes I am.”
“Will you just sit down and relax?”
“I don’t feel like sitting down. I’m restless.“ Beau thought she was avoiding him. He asked his friends for advice.
“She’s feeling neglected,” they said.
“Tell her she’s beautiful. Bring her flowers. Do the dishes.”
“You need to switch up the cologne,” they said.
“Yeah, that shit you wear smells like Grandpa.”
“Make like you’re dating again. Women love the romantic stuff. Make an effort. She’ll come around.”
He followed their advice, and it all went marginally well. She liked flowers. She did hate his cologne. It indeed smelled like her Grandpa. But at the end of the day, she’d still hide in the walk-in closet, change into her flannel pajamas and refused to explain why.
The Aloe Vera, the Hydrocortisone cream, the Shea Butter, salt scrubs, mud treatments, oil baths, baking soda baths, clay masks and herbal salves were all fabulous, except they didn’t work. She went to the doctor.
The doctor rubbed his chin, and stared at Anna’s backside. He told her it was razor burn. But that was impossible. She never shaved her rump-cheeks. Who does that? He thought it might be an allergic reaction. He gave her some ointment and sent her on her way. He’d never seen anything like it.
The red itchiness went away as soon as the feathers appeared. On Friday afternoon Anna got home early and had the flat to herself. Beau arrived not long after and caught her with her pants down in front of the full-length mirror, staring at her rump – bursting with new plumage. Caught with her pants down, Anna stared at him wide eyed. She was afraid her husband would be repulsed, horrified. But instead he laughed and laughed and laughed.
“What’s up, Chicken Butt?” For the first time in his life, that dumbass question finally applied.
* * * *