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(Art by spoon+fork.)

When I got off the New Jersey Transit train, Johnson honked twice from his car and popped open the passenger door.

“Where’s the old sedan?” I asked.

“That was a piece of junk,” he said.  “I think they sunk it in the harbor to give the fish a new place to play.”  He looked me over carefully.  “Have you put on weight?”

“I eat more than I used to,” I said.  “I have more money than I ever had in my entire life.”

“I hope you’re saving some.  This city eats money as fast as you can feed it.”

“You are right about that, man.”

“LaVerne treating you right?”

“Yeah, I can’t complain.  It’s the most serious job I ever had.  I iron my shirts now!”

“I hope you stay on the straight path from here on out because I like you.  I want you to know, Sean, a lot of times I had to pretend to be mean.”

“I understand.”

“What’s that you’re reading?”

“Oh, it’s a mystery book.  I found it on the train.  I can see why they left it.”

“What did you think about the reading program when you were in jail?”

“The reading program?  Well, the library was great.”

“Yeah, those library books!  Did you hear the news that some communist groups have been filling prison libraries with their propaganda books and they had people on the inside who made sure they were distributed?”

“Was it illegal?”

“No, since the books were being donated, but the Church groups are hopping mad.  They’ve filed a lawsuit for equal shelf space.”

“That’s crazy!”

“It’s Jersey.  It’s standard operating procedure.”

“I don’t miss Jersey bullshit at all,” I said, surprising myself. “Any of it.”

“Naw, guess you don’t, ya city slicker!  Hey, you going to write a book?  Tell all about the whole drug thing?”

“I had thought about it.”


“Let’s just say I understand why people wait until everybody else is dead before they write what really happened.”

“Yeah, you want to see me drop dead,” said Johnson, nodding his head.  “But that’s not going to happen.  At least not tonight.”

“Thanks for the invite to stay over, but I have that business trip tomorrow.  LaVerne’s taking me to the Los Angeles office.”

“Ah, yeah.  First time on a plane for you.  I understand.  For the first time you’re gonna get high the natural way.”

“What’s it like flying?”

“Stop sounding like a kid.  At least, don’t ask none of these guys at the bar.  They’ll think you’re a pussy instead of a hero.”

When I walked into JJ’s, shouts went up from everyone in the bar.  For the second time, I was the only white person in there, but now everyone wanted to come up and clap me on the back and shake my hand.

The bartender Curly came from around the corner and gave me a hug.

“Come on over here, I wanna show you a little something,” he said, walking me back to a spot by the jukebox.  There was a framed picture of me from the Asbury Park Press.

“You’re the first white man on the wall!” he said with pride.

It was true.  There was room made for me between two ancient pictures of doo-wop groups.

“I didn’t do that much,” I said.

“You stopped that towel-headed, snake-charmer motherfucker from selling more drugs to black kids.  That’s plenty,” Curly said.

Johnson cleared his throat.

“Come on,” he said, putting an arm around the bartender, “let’s get this man some drinks.”

Curly took a pewter mug down from the wall and washed it out.

“I’m gonna let you drink out of the John Vandyne Heroes Cup!”

“Who’s John Vandyne?” I asked.

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(Art by spoon+fork.) Chuck worked out a deal for me and they released me to my overheated apartment.  The first thing I did was go into the bathroom and feed my fish. I had been gone almost a week and was mildly worried I’d find him floating at the top.  He seemed hungry but normal.  I ran the water in the tub as I watched him eat.  I turned the fish food can over in my hand and read it for the first time.  I was shocked to see that the top ingredient was “fish meal.” I knew fish in the ocean ate each other, but I thought tame fish were too civilized to do the same.  Would goldfish eat the flakes if they knew what was in them? When the water was high enough, I undressed and got into the tub. The reason I couldn’t eat the veal sandwich, and why I felt a little sick seeing Mr. Johnson eat it, was that my fourth-grade teacher Ms. Daley showed us some pictures from a veal farm.  She had pictures of cramped stalls with no windows and said veal was the meat of baby cows who were fed very little and had their legs chained or broken so they couldn’t develop muscle and their meat stayed white and tender. She also had a picture of a dumpster that looked like it was filled with Corn Pops cereal.  But when you looked close, you saw that it was a pile of dead baby chickens.  The male chicks were thrown in the garbage and suffocated soon after they were born because they wouldn’t grow up to give as much meat as female chicks. About once a week, she’d give us another reason to be a vegetarian.  Some kids were throwing their bologna sandwiches in the trash. Then one day, instead of telling us about how bad our food was, she gave us all copies of “The Corduroy Road.”  After that, lunchmeat was okay again.  It hadn’t been a problem for me because I only had peanut butter, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Mrs. Daley went on quietly drinking a can of V8 with nuts and dried fruits on the side.  She didn’t even say anything when the boy in the back killed his first deer and brought in some venison for the whole class to try.  I remembered that the meat was tough and tasted like sweat. After a while the water in the tub grew cold and filmy.  I had to piss so I climbed out. I lay in bed naked for a while.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  It was going to be some time before the trial and my big show.  Until then I had to fight the urge to go to the hotel.  Mrs. Aggarwal wasn’t there anymore, but I wanted to walk around on the motel roof again.  We had had some good times together and it wasn’t just the pot, either.  I had never...
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Although it claims to not be finished, this is an exhaustive and harrowing story of a guy stuck in detention in Narita airport. Sounding like Disneyland’s mythical jail, the story is about being flagged, then being extorted and abused and not by Japanese but by a security force that sounds something like Blackwater. We’ve heard the stories about being sent back to America when people aren’t allowed in but who pays and how much? Sometimes it’s in the 1000s for a plane flight. A mean in jail might cost you, and the “hotel” of a jail cell is $300 a night. Where’s the money going? G4S is a security company from where the photo below was taken. They are the “police” force who aren’t necessarily Japanese, and are the folks who rough up the folks who are detained. 20,000 get removed from Japan annually via the Narita Airport jail. The right question is, Who’s watching the guards. ( – gaijin tank)  
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From Japan, a Poncho Toilet for Disasters (to Prevent Disasters) “This is basically burnable garbage.” When you gotta to, you gotta go, And in order to go, you need two things: A place to go, and bit of privacy. On the serious side, you have a country like Japan, where crowded living conditions often make attaining privacy difficult. And we have a hard time imagining how the survivors of the March 11th earthquake and tsunami have adapted to having even less privacy than usual in crowded shelters and refugee centers. On the lighter side, we can see a huge advantage to having a toilet in a baggie at one’s, uh, disposal. Check out the video at the link, and just try to convince yourself that this is a crappy idea. (SFGate – Poncho Toilet) Mumbai Artist Puts Himself in “Jail”—Wait, What? “My act is a poetic take on the practice of arresting and punishing people for sedition.” Jail is perhaps too strong a word. But the point performance artist Tushar Joag is trying to make by sealing himself in a five-foot by three-foot cell is that India’s sedition laws are too harsh and too freely utilized. But it’s a good thing he has confined himself in a space with a bathroom, because all he’s doing from now until he releases himself on May 30th is writing the words “I will not lose faith in the Indian Judiciary and Democracy” in a stack of blank school notebooks. (Hindustan Times – Tushar Joag, and CNNGo – Indian Artist) Amazing Flight Path Time Exposures from San Francisco International “The lights seem almost alien in nature. The shots string ribbons of fiber optics across the skyline, almost fooling the viewer.” With enough time and patience, an artist can take even the most mundane and run-of-the-mill occurrences and show us something normally unseen and extraordinary. The photos you’ll see at the links below make it clear that the nearly two years photographer Terence Chang spent making these images, from July, 2008 to April, 2010, was time very well spent. Until viewing these photos, it never occurred to us that the normally annoying event of a jet airliner flying overhead contained such sublime, concealed beauty. (YPOC –Terence Chang. Full Gallery on Flickr) Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai “As a complete slice of entertainment, “Hara-Kiri” isn’t quite at the elevated level of “Thirteen Assassins”, and plays more like the talky but absorbing first half of that film.” Following our NewsBot piece yesterday about the impending American release of a pornographic 3D film from Hong Kong, today we bring you news of yet another film genre into which 3D technology is making inroads. Frankly, it seems a bit incongruous for a highly-respected director of Samurai genre films like Miike Takashi to get on the 3D bandwagon. But according to this review, the use of 3D in “Hara-Kiri” is restrained and understated, and does not detract from the overall lushness and quality of the film. In fact, the only...
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