Kingfishers

Editor’s note: The following was originally read at Salonathon: I Get Around on March 17, 2014.

“I have never heard a Hawaiian word, including and perhaps most particularly aloha, which accurately expressed anything I had to say.” 

Joan Didion wrote that about Hawaii, and I am reading that in Hawaii, and I realize that Joan and I have in common, besides a profession, a nervous ipseity, an infatuation with large sunglasses and cigarettes as masks, and a waistline, a profound distaste for the more prosaic trappings of Paradise; do you know how many rainbows one must see per day before they stop approaching any kind of magical, cease innervating even the most juvenile kind of awe? It varies from person to person, but for me it was two; two rainbows, every day, tracing wet prismatic arcs across the sky, and never mind the literally hundreds—thousands, once you’ve been here as long as I have—fucking frowning at you from storefronts and facades, clothes and accessories and license plates, a ceaseless iridal horsewhipping; do you have any idea how cruel it is, to reduce what was once a spectacle to a commonality? Mahalo, motherfucker. 

It has been 13 days since I winged to the Big Island in a fuchsia tin can festooned with hibiscus the size of a bifurcated man, fighting the nerves—such a small plane for such a large ocean—with an airplane bottle of Canadian Club and a Xanax bar, landing in Hilo as innumerable tsunamis had before me; I stood at what surely must be the end of the world, on black sand before the black Pacific, and traversed the frozen boil of a Cimmerian moonscape, incandescent ribbons perched high upon the caldera threatening to devour and birth as is Pele’s want.

It has been 10 days since I dove a sunken Hell Diver off the coast of Maui for the magazine in 70 feet of water so clear it could be ethanol, and a week since the story was filed, the credit line rescinded, and my ride ceased to be paid for, which hardly seems to matter since room service keeps sending up the yellow fin ahi steaks I cut with my six inch Wenoka dive knife and six packs of Kona Longboard Lager; it has been seven days since I bought some cocaine off of the pretty director’s assistant from the set of Hawaii 5-0 that tied up the elevator bank all day—which can be a real bad jolt in Shangri-La—and six days and one night since I insufflated said cocaine off her stomach, licked off the residue, then inadvertently demonstrated the drug’s veiled administration routes.  

In the listless days since I have been wandering Kalakaua Avenue and the grounds of the Hilton Hawaiian Village in a University of Hawaii football jersey, black Sperry Top-Siders, and a non-prescription pair of Wayfarers, looking at the depth indicators next to the pools and silently despairing, drinking Blue Hawaiis bought on a non-existent credit card, and watching alien kingfishers hunt the water features while an edenic malaise set in. Sometimes the birds would exhibit their sovereignty, snatching one of the little ornamental fish; then they would rear back to swallow, and their great ebon bills, fresh water dewed upon them, would resemble how Diamond Head looks right now from the 28th floor balcony, an immense selachian shadow to better juxtapose the lights of Waikiki; Slouching Towards Bethlehem spreads wide and bat like and augers down to O’ahu, the ecru curtains billow like Kamehameha’s sails, and I taste hibiscus on the wind while the rainbows whisper jump. 

-B. David Zarley

For The Love of Movies

"Unencumbered as it is by film school hermetic or cinephile didacticism, freed to flow almost seamlessly, reel to reel, sans esoteric jargon and not requiring of its reader dense unpacking, David Zinman’s “50 Classic Motion Pictures: The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of” is a book on movies written, as Zinman himself puts it, by ‘a move bum, an addict, a guy who’s been hooked so thoroughly he sometimes sets the alarm for 3 a.m. when “The Maltese Falcon” shows up on the late, late show.’

It is the people’s primer, written in gasps and laughter, lacking the brahminic sneer of the Golden Age espouser and a refreshing love letter.”

Read the rest of the review in The Myrtle Beach Sun News.

The Savage Preponderancy of Art

"This, these 120-plus works, organized into stanzas and spanning four dimensions, is exhibition as Legion, as Leviathan, as Lil B mixtape; color, form and shape in biblical proportions, driving amphibian rains and sloughed scales and torn shrouds…"

Read the full review of William J. O’Brien’s exhibition at the MCA in Newcity.

The Savage Climes of Children’s Verse

"Children’s poetry is a surprisingly savage genre, one whose idiosyncrasies and cagey nature, in conjunction with its seemingly simple construction, becomes something resembling a pitcher plant – sweet and simple, like saccharine sips from the well.

That is, until the poems are laid out before you, meandering this way and that, and the walls of the pitfall trap are as slippery as what makes a successful I Spy poem, and the lid begins to close.”

Read the full review for the Myrtle Beach Sun News.

Pillars of Creation and Supreme Cuts

Supreme Cuts operate on a similar—albeit obviously less grand—scale; production duo Austin Keultjes and Mike Perry gather about breathy wisps and tonal basses, fog-cutting synth snaps and roiling, syncopated drum lines, sultry saxophones and melancholic pianos and a myriad of other sounds, coalescing them into soundscapes with the imperfect majesty and adjective-taxing qualities of “Pillars of Creation”, the force that binds, here, being an appreciation of pop aesthetic.”

Read the full review at The Line of Best Fit.

Cold &

Editor’s note: The following was originally read at “Salonathon:Rebirth” on January 20, 2014.

Cold &

She is sitting on the bed in nothing but a towel, one of those luxe, velutinous towels as white as thrice-cut cocaine, which she stole from some hotel in Albuquerque or Vegas or Miami, and even though it is the middle of summer and so hot outside the very air wavers with exhaustion, and old people wither and die and are turned to leather clutches by the time someone checks in on them, it is freezing upstairs, so cold you can almost see our breath, and she’s still wet, her body turning the Egyptian cotton from baby powder to bone in an ever expanding amoeba, little droplets glistening on her caramel skin, her hair heavy, the thick wet curls looking like someone spilled a bottle of ink onto her head; everything is white and being relentlessly hammered by sunlight through the window, three white walls with one accent blushing crimson, and she looks at me with her eyes, massive kohl eyes with quotation mark eyelashes, and they speak before she does.

She tells me he raped her; she had just gotten out of the shower, and he was waiting there—right here—and she was in a towel, like right now, and he threw her on the bed, right there, and she closes those eyes, which startles me because it is like someone putting a lid on the world and she cinches her towel up around her breasts, which has the unfortunate side effect of letting loose her legs, and when her thighs hit the frigid air she cringes, crumpling the lid on the world, one single tear squeezing out before, I swear to fucking God, freezing atop her soft zygoma. She can’t keep it, she says, she just can’t, and I tell her she doesn’t have to and I love her and she chokes out that she’s sold the gold crucifix her grandfather gave her to pay for it already, and with this admission she finally loses it, sobbing, reaching out to me, and I stand at the foot of the bed holding her tight to me, her tears running down abs painstakingly carved for just this kind of situation, for soft flesh of the face and pristine natural nails and saliva and saline to fill in, run down the grooves like slaughterhouse gutters, and I run my hands through the thick wet tangle of her hair, and it’s like I’m being molested by an onyx cuttlefish, and I whisper “I’m going to fucking kill him,” to her, over and over, “I’m going to fucking kill him …”

A few days later and the street is still a convection oven, and the sky outside the sliding glass door is berating us, everything bright and relentless punishing azure, but in her basement I can feel my blood turning to slush; she is sitting next to me on the couch, my arm across her shoulders, her hand embracing mine, in a one piece black swimsuit and dark Havana Yves St. Laurent sunglasses and lipstick the color of soaked red roses, and her stomach hurts, and we devour a half dozen Xanax bars and Pall Malls before I reach into my pocket and present to her a little white box; she opens it, and her lips spread apart, blooming briefly, then the petals press together and quiver,  and she squeezes little jaundiced divots into my hand before letting go to fashion the chain around her neck, and aurelian Christ hangs suspended there in the black void, her fingers lace through mine, and from behind her sunglasses she softly weeps.  

-B. David Zarley

On Catwalks and Concussions

"It is, in its dovetailing of sport, culture, design, and politics, the absurd extreme of both the football helmet’s aesthetic trajectory, beyond even the Cincinnati Bengals or Dartmouth Big Green, and the ever aggrandizing, all-consuming power squid-like nature of the Super Bowl itself, so eager to plug in to anything and everything, all power and juice. Which, really, is a pretty apt two-word synopsis of football itself, and high fashion, for that matter, so one can see why this combination may, in some ways, be considered more sensible than it seems at first glance.”

Read more about the collaboration between Council of Fashion Designers of America, Bloomingdale’s, and the NFL at The Wild.

-B. David Zarley

Consider the Terrapin

"The War Room consisted of one jet black, 52-inch, high-definition Samsung television, its cable receiver, subwoofer, and stereo sound system—whose two-tiny-boxes-upon-poles, positioned as they are so that noises they emit creep in from your peripherals, at first listening put your war correspondent on such edge that one would have thought they were heads on a pike rather than pretty benign pieces of quality home entertainment equipment—…"

Read the rest of my recap of the Acc-Big Ten Challenge and David Foster Wallace homage at The Classical.

-B. David Zarley

Hail Hannibal

"The Palisades Parkway is a Xanax dosed diamondback of a road, a lazily winding main vein carrying commuters away from the glitz and grime pumping, razor-toothed heart of Gotham and the vast, logo glutted corporate campuses and industrial parks of its immediate environs; heavily wooded, the morning sun slats through the naked trees, causing the roadway to resemble a printer’s test sheet, large raptors wheel overhead, and except for the glimpses, easily visible in the mid-December verdant doffing, of palatial houses perched upon the rollicking woods, one can easily forget the largest metropolitan area in America is a mere stone’s throw away. Eventually, even these last, vestigial elements of the cosmopolitan give way, replaced by boulder-strewn hillside, and by the time one reaches Highland Falls, the Bear Mountain Bridge yawning in the ochre, what passes for burghal would be considered quaint by most any standards. Up here, where the broad Hudson River finds itself impeded upon and pinched by Constitution Island and a jutting spur on the western shore, could be considered Washington Irving country, incredibly old and wonderfully virgin at the same time, evoking images of fearless colonists and Headless Horsemen, shoes with buckles, reading by candlelight, and the rhythmic cloping of horse’s hooves on blood orange autumn days.”

Read the rest of my feature story about the USMA mules at Sports On Earth.

Black Lace Vice

"All of which complicates the fact that Kelly’s canon – arguably his most important, culturally relevant face – is practically sexuality incarnate, the pinnacle of eroticism in a genre practically founded upon it. The climes in which we recline are Kelly’s natural state; the very air he breathes is laced heavily with lust. That his comfort here comes across less as brave and honest than scared and tortured and from deep end, practically drawing, far-too-soon immersion, in light of those sexual abuse confessions, does not fully diminish the very simple realization that R. Kelly may not be our best artist for love songs, but nobody can sing about fucking—seriously, the subject matter must only be deemed, especially w/r/t Black Panties, only as fucking, the sole “euphemism” which connotes the aggression, gaiety, pleasure, and real savagery, beautiful savagery, of the thing—better.”

Read the rest of my review of R. Kelly’s Black Panties at The Line of Best Fit.