Sunday, August 16, 2020

Underdog Rising


Fortune is cruelly compassionate. Over there, someone is born into the lowliest caste of untouchables, forever relegated to the bottom regardless of personal potential. Over here, a talentless trust-fund recipient rises to prominence for doing nothing in particular.

Someplace between lies existential justice. In this space, the daughter of an immigrant day laborer finishes school and builds a great business. A barefoot toddler on a dirt-and-rubble field kicks his way to the World Cup. The oldest, ugliest mongrel at the kill shelter gets adopted.

We need these righteous success stories to balance out the Anne Franks and Kim Kardashians of the world. To remind us that life is fair sometimes.  

And that it’s worth sticking around to see how it all ends up.

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*The Face Zone is also a live show with music.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Enjoying Thy Blow Job

A leader inspires a movement; a king colonizes.

Then, as the aristocracy drains and guzzles the life blood of its people, the leader builds up the masses by enabling their potential.

And when society is equitable and self-sustaining at last, that leader will fade gracefully into the background, while His Highness—entirely preoccupied with his own runaway gluttony—climaxes in pandemonium.

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*The Face Zone is also a live show with music.

Friday, May 1, 2020

In A Good Place

Is it close by? Walkable if happy hour gets hysterical?

How’s the lighting? What’s playing over the sound system?

Is the staff glad to see you (even when they’re not)?

What’s on draft? Do they mix them strong? Are their wings any good?

It’s important to find a regular place. That coveted third space apart from the job and home where you can be still, catch a buzz, and pass some slow, simple time in a bubble of atmospheric community.

For some, it’s pint-fueled commiseration in a dank, dark pub. For others, uplifting cocktails in a glass cafĂ©.

Wherever it is, when you connect with souls who’ve adopted the same venue, you bond through that beloved geography. Sometimes with characters you couldn’t stand in a meeting, subway, or checkout line.

Members of an easy club, postponing tomorrow until closing time.

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*The Face Zone is also a live show with music.

Friday, March 27, 2020

In the Moodlight

Atmosphere is everything. The psychological medium in which all situations unfold. The difference between loving and leaving a party. Passing or failing the test. Between that first kiss and another hug.

And nothing affects atmosphere so much as lighting. Stick employees under fluorescent tubes, and they’re reduced to serial numbers who dread every task. The same job near a sunny window is instantly more tolerable, more humane. Deep-red lava lamps move me to smoke a flower. Switch to blacklight, and chewing a mushroom’s more like it.

Ambience is an underutilized variable in our daily life—such a simple, overlooked way of elevating the mundane. Give it a try. Put a strobe in the shower. Hang a disco ball over your desk. Leave the string of Christmas blinkers up. Get your glasses rainbow tinted.

Because living in grayscale inspires a less colorful existence.

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*The Face Zone is also a live show with music.

Friday, January 31, 2020


JR was my uncle’s Dachshund, an adorable little brown hot dog… who bit me on the mouth. At just four years of age, that was to be my first of many unfortunate canine encounters.

A high-school friend’s West Highland White Terrier, Rudy, would go one hundred percent berserk when I came over. If we wanted to hang out there, her parents had to physically restrain Rudy—an otherwise lovely animal—until we escaped to the basement rec room. Even then, he would pace and snarl along the other side of the door for the entire visit, and remember: dog time is seven times ours, so that pooch had some committed animosity for me.

During college, there was Cinnamon. Such a sweet name for such a sweet-looking white-and-copper Spaniel. An interesting case, this one. She would bare teeth when I tried to leave! It got so that her owner had to create a diversion while I ran for the exit. On lucky occasions where I found her asleep, I would tiptoe past to the front door like an escaping prisoner shuffling around a tired but vicious guard. Named Cinnamon.

Is it any wonder I’m a cat person after such a Pavlovian history?

There have been exceptions, I admit. Lily, my aunt’s Beagle-Pointer mix, is as amiable and chill as they come. A colleague has a Basset Hound named Emmylou who just wants to flop near me and score a treat once in a while. I also have an unlikely fascination with Neapolitan Mastiffs because their faces look like drawn curtains of pure droop. Even met one called Blue in a pet store. Despite his murderous gargoyle likeness, he simply lacked the energy to give a shit. Only six months old, and it still took all his effort just to sit there and drool. It was kind of Zen.

That said, maybe it’s time to reexamine my aversion. If some are OK, couldn’t any of them be a Lily, an Emmylou, or a Blue under different circumstances? Not knowing better as a kindergartener, I did in fact get down on the floor and touch my nose to JR’s before he tried to eat my lips. And Rudy probably wanted to kill me because I arrived in an overwhelming Halloween costume our first meeting. Still trying to figure out what was up Cinnamon’s ass, but it could have been my tension, my own aura of mistrust triggering a negative feedback loop.

The way people’s reactions range from ugly to uplifting depending on my approach.

We get what we give in this circular life.

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*The Face Zone is also a live show with music.

Friday, December 13, 2019


Daily, we straddle the cosmic threshold in a ritual near-death experience. Under covers, behind eyelids, we tempt fate, suspend consciousness, and trust an alarm to bring us out rejuvenated.

The moments leading to sleep are pure potential energy, a wheel at the crest of a hill, teetering on the cusp of this and another dimension.

In the best of times, the transition is an effortless surrender to psychic gravity. At the most inopportune—the night before a double shift or a long drive with children—it’s holistic constipation as your entire being insomniatically strains toward anesthesia, unable to let go and pass over, and you roll over and over, afraid of tomorrow, afraid of no-tomorrow…

Either way, tomorrow becomes today: another chance to kill our nightmares and give life to our dreams.

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*The Face Zone is also a live show with music.

Thursday, October 31, 2019


Byberry was a notorious psychiatric hospital in northeast Philadelphia from 1907 to 1990. Its fifty buildings housed seven thousand of the city’s mentally challenged to criminally insane. For much of the century, it more resembled a concentration camp with patients abused and exploited, huddled naked in crap-smeared corridors, having teeth extracted without Novocaine—the kind of hell the staff should go to Hell for. At last, budget cuts and a series of appalling inspections shut it down.

For the next decade-and-a-half, Byberry would become an abandoned post-apocalyptic playground for looters, gangs, and dark tourists. My friends and I were among the earliest wave of trespassers, high-schoolers from nearby Bucks County armed with a crowbar and flashlights, maneuvering past the on-duty cop to get inside. There was still wax on the floors. Wheelchairs. A straightjacket. Boxes of patient files. An art room featuring a dementedly asymmetrical portrait of the Pink Panther. A morgue.

The first time venturing into the cold, tile hallways, light beams unable to see the end in either direction, all that terrible history in mind, disembodied noises… we lasted as long as virgins do before pulling out. But we returned a hundred times, getting braver, staying till the sun came up to explore every last nook. The blueprints we found even led us to underground tunnels used for shuffling people between wards, concealed from the light of day.

Best friends already, our little club bonded deeper as we got covered in tics on the overgrown property and had to strip naked for the drive home up Roosevelt Boulevard, where the other cars honked at us in celebration and disgust; as we encountered a former-resident-turned-squatter in a stairwell; as a dozen Satan worshippers with medieval weapons chased us on a rooftop, down through levels of ransacked architecture, and out desperately onto the highway—cars honking this time to avoid running us over. Not quite a military kinship, but at least the Goonies in a fucked-up asylum.

Everything was razed in 2006 in a ceremony with the mayor. It’s condos now, so someone’s microwaving a Hot Pocket in the spot where an auditorium once had theater productions with lunatics. And where, later, I sat unknowingly in the seats while a giant demon head floated in an exit door behind me, accidentally captured with a $20 Radio Shack camera. In the developed photograph, a line of chairs obscures the entity’s mouth, but those eyes suggest a malevolent smile. My only record of our tremendous adventures there, it prompts me to look over my shoulder now and again, to be mindful of toxic forces that creep up unchecked such as burnout, complacency, or those extra Jack and Cokes. And to keep finding ways of tapping into the bold electricity of youth which landed me in that front-row seat to exhilarating madness.

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*The Face Zone is also a live show with music.