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10:45 am | 12 May 2004 | Carrie & Joanie

After days & days of boredom there's suddenly too much action, like eating mashed potatoes for weeks and then suddenly chomping wasabi. Or antifreeze. There's too much goodbye and beheading and then unexpected gifts. There's giving my sister a transcontinental Care Bear Stare of faith & hope & good god, girl, just go.

Paul left yesterday. We went to Phó, one of those weird poverty-elite diners that's signless in a strip mall with hipster Formica. The charm of Vietnamese food is its jumble of flavour: somehow i ended up with noodles that also contained lemongrass tofu steak and chopped-up eggrolls. Somehow i ended up chomping on basil leaves and giant watery sprouts while the fortune my cookie spat out was You will make many changes before settling satisfactorily. Sucks.

We went back to Sheila's house, a house where Paul and i had both stayed during various couch-surfing weeks, and conversation got around the the "spore." Sheila, a charmingly flighty Buddhist masseuse type, hadn't noticed it--a square of clear plastic taped to the middle of her Dahmer's-cabin-ish kitchen ceiling, containing (holding back?) a big black sinister dry-moldy looking thing, easily the diameter of a dinner plate. Half a heineken put the devil in me. "Let's get it down!" i yelped, wild-eyed. "There's no telling what could be up there! We have to know!" Paul eyed me warily. During our two years apart he might've forgotten the part of me that needs mayhem to survive. "Yeah," he said, coming around, "what if it's, like, an animal up there?" "Exactly!" i shouted, glad to have company. Our girl Sheila was not having any part of that. She dragged Sharimi (we travel in packs with half-Indian girls) to the 99¢ Store for more tape, ostensibly to patch up the (hole? critter? moldpit?) once we were finished.

i balanced on the seat-edges of a rickety wicker chair. Paul held up the wastebasket. i picked off the edges of the tape. black bits started to parade out of the hole. i ripped off the plastic and something got in my eye. The black stuff (what was it?) was mostly out of the way, but yards and yards of clear plastic bags came infinitely from the hole like a magician's yards of knotted handkerchiefs, and tiny black bits continued to rain down sporadically. i was yelping and prodding the mass with a wooden spoon, half-afraid and half-hoping i'd get a dessicated squirrel carcass or something. Paul squinted past the wastebasket's edge.

"Look," i said. "What needs to happen is this.* i'm gonna get up on the roof and poke the stuff down. You stay down here and, uh, catch it." i clambered outside and crammed one foot into the chain-link fence (why am i always wearing, like, kitten-heeled sandals on these adventures?). i sort of tension-clambered (like those freaky tree-crabs they have in the Caribbean) between two walls, got my other foot on top of the window-bars, and hauled myself over the Spanish tiles on the roof's edge. one more level up, and--there was a lid on where the hole should've been. the sheer distance was baffling--i mean, the hole, or exhaust flue, or ventilation hose, whatever, was easily six feet from rooftop to ceilingbottom. Paul came out and squinted up at me. We stood there for a while. i tapped on various pipes and drains with the wooden spoon. The sun started setting.

Sheila and Sharimi came back with tape and trash bags. it was at that moment that i looked over the fence to the neighboring apartment unit, abandoned for construction, the wooden struts and ribs gleaming the pale yellow of fresh lumber, new windows with their stickers on gleaming like glass eyes past the weathered stucco. i could see boxes of stuff spilling out of the crawlspace. i had half a beer and the devil in me.

i shimmied to the edge of the Spanish tiles, dropped one foot onto the top of the chain-link fence, and swung a leg over the razor- and chicken-wire meshes onto a clothesline pole, which i was able to grab and suspend myself by. i dropped into the unit's back area, feeling all Tomb Raider, except I'm generally only a Boone's** Raider, so i'm all out of shape and shit. I poked around the rubble and then crept into the basementy-area.

It wasn't so much that i broke into the building as that it had already been broken, probably by an earthquake, the back face of it ripped like a loaf of stubborn French bread. A washing machine coated in grime was angled jauntily towards the last rays of the sun. A pile of paint-by-number paintings, framed and awful (covered bridges hummingbirds oceans trees and ladies), listed against a utility sink that was full of broken tiles and mouse poops. i found books of matches, a stack, and lit the entire book each time, the light flaring in the thick dark while i reached in (oh faith) blindly and groped, pulling anything i could out of the crawlspace while the light held, and passing it through the fence. an original copy of the legendary first "Men We Love" issue of Bust, with Thurston Moore on the cover. A few issues of BAM, "L.A.'s Rock Magazine" (never heard of it) from 1987, with ads for "The Best Selection of Spandex," reviews of Dramarama, and an article introducing a new band called Faith No More. A book about people who were visited by Elvis after his death. And then:

Two different boxes with two different lives. There's Joanie, who lived in San Luis Obispo in the late 1970s, and whose friends travelled everywhere. She saved them, you know, their postcards, noting that the VW had broken down in Mexico but that the locals had plenty of "treats" for them, the American kids. Joanie went to Iceland, too, but didn't send anyone any of the postcards she bought and stamped. Joanie's grandpa has mutton-chop sideburns and her friend in San Francisco can't stay away from Eric, even though she knows he's not good for her.

Meet Carrie. Carrie graduated high school in 1981 and was a Who's Who Among American High School Students. Carrie worked for Warner Brothers, wrote notes in Spanish class, drove all the way to Long Beach to see Journey, and smoked like a fiend in every picture. Carrie--Catherine--is obsessed with the Wizard of Oz and ethnic skirts. Oh, Carrie. Bill loves you--can't you see?

I took a bag of each--a bag of postcards, notes, photos (complete with mid-'80s laser-light backgrounds, or dirty-haired men). And the stack of paintings, which are so violently radical i can't believe it. I hugged Paul goodbye hard & brief and said don't get all weak on me now, and that was my armor. And he said you know how i am, and that was his.

So anyhow: Paul's flying to New York, now. And when he lands, he and I and Lil' Jon, we're putting up a website of this stuff. We're gonna archive it all. And then we're gonna find Joanie and Carrie. Keep your eyes peeled.

Hands coated in Band-Aids and Bactine, I remain: claude le monde

* Brilliant/idiotically, this is actually how I talk. Like an air force tactician, or something.
** Boone's Farm.


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