What if money was no object?



What do you desire? What makes you itch? What sort of a situation would you like?

Let’s suppose, I do this often in vocational guidance of students, they come to me and say, well, we’re getting out of college and we have the faintest idea what we want to do. So I always ask the question, what would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?

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People Watching New Yorkers in Spring

When I left the house this evening, I didn’t plan on making my Friday night in Manhattan all about people watching. I’d hoped, rather, to be able to meet up with the latest girl that I’d been deluding myself about. But rather, in tune with the last few weeks of trying to see her, we never ended up together. In my head, I composed the perfect email to let her know we’re through, but delivery will wait until tomorrow morning (when I’m clear-headed). You lucky readers won’t get such a reprieve, but rather the unfiltered stream of consciousness that was my evening. Read more


In the instant the seeds are sown, life begins to germinate and bustle in the sunlit haze of the coffeehouse. A solemn face of life-stained ivory presides behind a grumbling machine of showering dregs of java and addresses the new day as the walls themselves, yawning and laxed but present to punch in. The breeze is seasoned with a humid summer salt and finds itself proctored through the street by the arched beasts of man, which seem to submit as well to the weathered gears of nature.

She, of the counter, continues to harken her cavalry to whir and bubble in early-morning gossip and an espresso machine salivates to the dronelike hum of the electric lights. I cast a glance to her and notices the spell she weaves has her as entranced as the creatures she conjures. Before me is a notepad, a pen held idly above it, awaiting a new day’s limbic offerings and performing it’s sole purpose of taunting its toter with a leaf unvisited by ink and muse.

The door bangs and dispatches an auditory envoy to relate news of a visitor. A shirt presses against a newspaper, both rusted yellow in color, to approach the siren and her perch behind the counter. He forsakes a silent nod and she presents a pen and a undaunted visage. He waits, eyes trained on her chest, which is wrapped precariously loose in a sarong, and twitches a thick of hair that resides beneath his nose. The visitor readjusts his newspaper and I notice the yellowed tinge it has acquired is less prominent where his arm once rested. He tosses his visage towards the window by which I now sit and simultaneously masticates an unknown article to send his mustache bobbing again. The siren slides her labor across the black-tiled counter and sends an audible tick-tick-ticking through the room, beating with the silent clock on the wall. It was twenty-to-eight and the pub’s engine wasn’t warm yet and probably wouldn’t be for another few ticks itself. My pen still hadn’t left its motionless hover to embrace a naked page with drops of soul.

The envoy calls from his post that the chessplayers were here and ready to spend an eternity toiling over a plastic war, they showed respect to their temptress and seated between me and her. The mustard shirt outstretched a payment and graced the black tiles with a clink of quarters and cents, one which carelessly struck the edge of a brass gratuity bowl but had not this morning, nor any morning proceeding, entered by will. The sarong on the other side expected in her remaining time never to see an event like that incur within the morning hours of business, but relentlessly nurtured the tipless payment to lay them in a manger of bills. She, then, ritualistically squeezed blood from her mechanical friends and left her commune behind the tile to donate two glasses to the chessplayers. A trail of diminutive Africa Double A particles lapsed fantastic sweeps of steam to sway from the glasses’ trajectory to pile above their checkered flag on the wooden countertop amidst a few retired soldiers. I could see an exchange of pains between those seated and she, standing. The rusted shirt had begin to gaze intently at a crossword puzzle to my eleven and occasionally dropped a pen to crinkle on the paper below. I looked down, surprised, to see my pen was busy as well, but read not what fruits it delivered. Instead, I tossed a casual glance to see a microbic business crowd enter to remark bagel-and-large-to-go calls to the server, who had resumed her station amidst the caffeinated haze. While each achieved satisfaction, the filed one-by-one to their destination of sticky desks and business memo flystrips. I returned my eye to the screen door, banging, and paused only in brief hesitation on the pen below me, which furiously scribbled it’s own rendition of the day.

“Who are you to judge me?” broke through the threshold and my own Double A meditation. “Who are you to say the what is real to me is not the world in which we live?”

The man entered moments after his voice did and all commotion in the coffee house died. He spoke as he approached and if the screen door did make a sound, I think it was drowned out by this man’s song.

“If I don’t accept the shackle that is a punch card, and shake off the chain of nine-to-five, why must I then be labeled vagrance? I prefer to paddle through life in the canoe I forged of dreams. I prefer to fly amongst the geese with wings of experience, wings of earthly treasure. Refuse to pay with coins of dead plantation-owners. Kindness is my currency.”

He seemed to billow into the room as the tentacle of salted breeze let loose by the door’s upset. As he spoke, he smiled the lunacy that he propelled as freedom and enchantment. The last of the business crowd arched around his path and diverted eyes as the tracked to find their chains. As the last exited the door, a dusty beagle skipped through the door and caught up with his heralding master, leapt quietly to his side.

“Can I get you something, sir?” the siren spoke at last, her first notion to sing for the day.

“You can get me a megaphone that’s powerful enough to reach the stars, or least the penthouse offices. You can grace me with a podium of tears to melt through the barricades my brethren have built. You,” he whirred to Mustard with the crossword, “you, who play with the deeds of man. Allow them to infiltrate your soul with the happenings of an evil race. How many times does the front leaf proclaim jubilence instead of the seven deadly best-sellers? What does your cover speak of now? War? Nuclear armament? Murder and lies? When will you make your own historography of times gone by instead of pumping in theirs?”

Beneath the man, the dog whimpered and the saronged siren took note.

“You,” the eulogy continued with the man now addressing the plastic generals. “When will your games be those to reunite instead of divide, to make amends instead of ends. Why must your passion be ripping those from others? It’s you who trade plastic for metal and decide the fate of worlds.”

The man wiped his brow and looked back to the girl at the counter who had turn her back to retrieve a bowl from the stack. I watched as the man’s gaze never fixated on the girl’s chest or thighs, but locked only on her hands and then her eyes when she turned again. She caught his smile, then worked her way over to the sink to fill the bowl.

“You,” the man looked to me. “What is your game?” I looked down to my pad which had turned three leaves and bridged now on a fourth. “Muse,” I spoke. “Why lock yourself in papered remiss instead of sharing it in person? Are you afraid to give that quiet devotion to others and decide your part is taken when it is wrapped in a book? Will that book never be shared?” I looked to the kind man’s herbivorous smile and saw a watery concern in his eyes. All I could do was jog my head from side to side. “Your passions are great. Release that pen and take up the tongue or else your gifts will wither away in their inky decomposition.”

A clinkle behind the man caused him to billow again, but this time in stationary rotation to behind him. The siren crouched on the floor on the opposite side of the counter as her station and stroked the beagle’s ears as it lapped from a bowl of water. She looked up to great his eyes which glassed tears to her.

“Your puppy is thirsty,” she whispered. Then smiled a half-smile. “It can’t live on kind words alone.” “And you, my friend,” the man answered. “You can’t live on sustenance alone.”

The man reached deep in his pocket and pulled out a loose fist to hover before the girl. She put her hand out and he dropped his gift in hers. The dog, which now appeared satiated, licked his chin and nuzzled at the man’s side. “Thank you, friend,” he answered and turned to the door. The five of us watched him drift slowly through the doorway and the beagle romp after. The screen silently fell dormant and stopped without bouncing against the latch. The girl, still crouched, now fixated herself to standing, but continued to stare through the coffeehouse’s exit until the man could no longer be seen. She then turned her attention to her closed hand and peered through her fingers to see what was there. As they spread open, she saw a scrap of retired wrapping paper with half a sketchy Christmas tree on it. I could see her ponderous face turn to a warm smile as she stared at the treasure before her. From over her shoulder, a voice triumphantly said, “check.”

The College Years—With Brothers

If Rembrandt were to enter an arts and crafts specialty store and skim along the shelves for the pigments that paint his mind, he would look at the tubes and powders and see something more than an eosin, primitive toner, or elemi, but rather bottled imagination, pulverized from a delicate jasmine, a North Indian clay, or a strictnine white. And inside these hand-blown mason jars, between the ripples of imperfection, he saw faces and figures of people that may, or may not have ever existed. Yet when you stare into the eyes of his riders, his serfs and shepherds, you see a personality carved pure as if a mortal pinhole camera were to spy the heavens working the magic they work best.

So if along the way, in painting a portrait of the so aptly named category of “the college years,” the pigments that paint this era, rich in dynamic countenance, mustn’t be merely jars of powder, but the players that joined in the starry nights and afternoon isle strolls: the people we’ve met along the way. To which, if reference I could, the personalities of each day to day ritual or routine, I would fill vaults by the sophomore midterm. And if I present, as best I could, an abstract, I’m sure justice would neither be served, yet pass the inaudible, incoherent, translucence of the spectrum to seek root on the other side. So, in service, and a humble one at that, let me charcoal my premier rendition as a for instance, and let disclaimer be it’s frame, that this is one of an infinite sea of renderings, to be laid, baked, and hung…to whatever entendre you take my paintbrush.

Winter 1998. If fortune were to float above a campus and dust an even sprinkling on all it’s participants, life would be less whispy for the lesser-endowed. Yet, in that time, if morality is being instilled and the paupers have a secret grin that states “I can appreciate what I’ve got more than they, now, since I know the pains of earning it,” though as it looks the princes will always get off scott-free, I’d sacrifice variety to banality among the uncountable personal rituals. Then, as it were, and problem shall continue to be, I had left my job of campus wages and “can I speak to a real person, you’re just a student” leers for the peace that can only exist in college housing. And here on this day a choice was set forth by an equal, weighing 1 ½ more, to deliver contraband to another campus, an hour or two away. Beit a Friday, and a weary one at that, as the groans of a recent nicotine refuser continued to ache, and the palate of homework for the weekend (supposedly a week’s end from work) set as oral funk, the choice was simple: no. But with that half more and the pressures of peers, physical and sociological, building, needless to say I was in the Ranger and truckin’ Southeast to the campus in need of more.

Those that have recently smothered a cherry, sprinkled the hots, and discarded another Surgeon Generals warning know how difficult a road trip can be, especially when the driver is baking a chain. So amounted the weeksworth of weary and the only remedy seemed to be a radio of whithering, blistering, burning, and peeling, a cracked window, and a foot tapping. And at last, past the east of campus, into the heart of the capital city, we parked the Ranger on a snowy bank, and grabbed the bags, once full of texts, to sway to a steady halt on the doorstep of strangers. The 1 ½ jabbered with the tenant for a while swapping swears and shakes and chuckles before he led me to an upstairs rug that I would share with a couple of guys.

The brothers, as I’ll henceforth refer, proceeded shortly after to organize and strategize while one of pale skin and a torn T, whom I’ll call Tunes, just paced and worried. I found from the prior two years of schooling and partying that there was one in every suite, dorm, house, or apartment on a college radius. And reason be good, Tunes had probably lost his share of CDs, shot glasses, or pocketsized goods during a soiree like the one being planned now. The kegs were planted and I participated in an urban version of a Maple Tree tapping as the nectar began to flow, kegerated and iced. Meanwhile, a god had clicked his three-intensity bulb and the cars speeding by were replaced by only headlights. Now, as predicated, some began to reroute and park on the street out front.

The party had begun and the brothers were wearing women and beer, giving, getting, slurping, and pouring head, and neglecting the duties of a respectable, responsible host. Tunes, fortunately wasn’t. The stag had started a pool game and the women crashed on the front porch where it was warm enough to smoke and gossip, as well as be a Revere-Nouveau for the 5-0 that threatened to entreat. I had taken to a couple plastic cups and blessed the Dixie manufacturers at that for being in a larger size. My edge on my decision to stop smoking had weathered as if eroded by each beer that washed down the shores and I focused on one thing.

“Scuze me, can I bum one of those?” was what my mouth said, tho my brain was only cursing it.
“You like menthols?” she responded.
“No,” I followed.
“Good,” she finished and handed over a light and a light—menthol not included.
“Bless you, child,” I could only muster as I fumbled for the child safety. It was a joke, but I don’t think her inebriation allowed her to realize it.
“So, you been looking at me all night,” she began anew, “I was wondering when you were going to walk over.” She jostled the springy locks on her shoulder and tugged her collar incognito to expose more cleavage. I had assumed she mistook my nicotine longing for, well, the exposure she was attempting to produce more of.

“Shwan!” someone yelled and I looked up and over the springs.
“Yeah?” I sonored through the heads. Now, take note, my name isn’t Shwan or Shawn, or Swan, or a variation thereof, yet halfway through freshman year someone called it and it stuck, as with all sick or stupid items that cling to a shoe-tred, a mesh of hair, or an angora sweater.
“Come over here will ya,” it slurred to which I obeyed. It was the extra half who ushered me away from Cleavage girl and up the steps to my two-and-a-half square foot of sleeping space and the room that encased it. “They don’t want to buy so I got a gift for you.”

“What? Tank [aka 1 ½], I don’t have twenty bucks. Someone here must want to–”
“No one, I checked. Don’t worry, it’s a gift,” he said, dumping the plastic bag onto a speaker and separating half and half. I quietly stopped thanking Dixie and began thanking the fine folks at ziplock. “I get the extra head,” he said and dumped them down with a swig of beer; an added benefit, I thought, for also having the extra half.
“Hey, I’ll take what I can,” I replied and chewed them down.
“What do those taste like anyway?” a puff of exhausted bud poked from across the room.
“Ever eat dirt before?”
“Kinda like that,” I threw back, “but with brighter colors.”
“Shit, lemmie have some,” it boomeranged.
“The ground’s too hard outside and these are too gone. Sorry, guy.”
“Fuck you then,” it giggled and took another hit.

Ok so I knew I quit, and til this day everyone “believes” that I didn’t smoke until New Years Day with my brother in Bronson Park, but when you drink you crave more and when you trip, you drink more. It’s a vicious circle and before long, Tank and I were smokin’ away on the front step. For the frosh out there, they were just red lights, a camel with a k, because, and trust me on this one, the treats will smooth the ride, the weed will ground it. Believe me the cigarette was good.

There was a loud mouthed kid taking out his ass to impress Cleavage girl on the right of the porch and Tank and I stumbled down the front steps and sat there to enjoy a metaphysical train entering a tunnel when midword, Tank stopped. A form of intangible adhesive swabbed his eyes and they were stolen from his thought, his mouth half cracking a smile.

“Shwan….look at that…” he slurred and I whirred around to see my deity. There, one yard over, was a garden stake. But this stake wasn’t like those that would be propping an eggplant or guiding a tomato vine in it’s rising. This stake, two feet higher than my head, was guiding five other vines in a perfect pentagon circle. The vines planted in shallow ground and ran together to the edge of the house, up a drainage pipe, and home to an outdoor socket. The buds springing forth from these mid-winter vines, indigenous to the season, bore fruits that watered my mouth and tingled behind my retinas. We call these fruits chase lights.

“Do you see them?” he wavered. I couldn’t respond as the aforementioned adhesive had seized my tongue as well, but let my Kamel bobbed lower to denote, as a signal flare, that I had indeed. I stood up. “Don’t do it, Shwan. Don’t get too close.”

“I can’t…” help it, I tried to say, but half the phrase was stuck outside my verbal quotation mark. As I encroached and fell to the ground, I didn’t feel the slush pierce my jeans and soak my knees. As I crawled into the pentagon and fell on my back, I didn’t sense it lining my ears. As I lay, looking up from a cold wet yard of the brothers’ neighbors, which I didn’t know and I didn’t know, I was self-actualized and the giant glowing orbs pulsed love deep into my skin. I dare not reach for the bounding light penetrated me, ricocheted off the earth beneath me and shot off countless times to become stars past my visible gaze up. There, I was at peace, eyes unable to blink, but self-lubricated by tears, mouth crocked to utter a glued “woah,” and stopped the shivering I forgot I was doing. Nothing in my life, I believed at this state, could compare to this moment.

And as it goes, the rest of the night blurred past, with the drugs in my system. The beer caught up with Tank and he made it to the toilet, across the hall from my few square feet of hybernation. A brother attempted the Awesome Blossom, syndicated by Chili’s. We cheered on another, white ass bobbing in the basement. I kissed someone and felt another’s chest. I woke up in darkness to Tunes’s worrying even while he deflowered a girl in his square feet nearby. And drifted back to a slumber with one last thought on my mind.

However can dreams, the place where we can soar, reign, and be anything, be static. And to this day, one has never been as dynamic as the night before that one.