Sep 30, 2008

"We just saw a big ship,” the pirates’ spokesman, Sugule Ali, told The New York Times. “So we stopped it.”

In a 45-minute-long interview, Mr. Sugule expounded on everything from what the pirates want — “just money” — to why they were doing this — “to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters” — to what they eat — rice, meat, bread, spaghetti, “you know, normal human-being food.”
Re-reading cataclysms

The wrath of God was the other explanation for the lake that disappeared. The sudden absence of the lake was attributed to God, connected to the Church and Ivan the Terrible. Ivan, the fearsome Tsar, apparently went to Bolotnikovo before there was a lake, built a big church, and then the lake appeared. The disappearance, then, is God taking back a blessing. I think. It was only told vaguely, with the recent events connected to other, earlier myths and magical weirdness, weaving together as a citation of God.

I understand this, though it's not a real explanation, because I grew up on sermons about the coming antichrist, sermons full of smoke, water and weird cataclysms. I read Revelations and was addicted to the most violent stories of the Old Testament, where angels kill children, whole cities collapse on unbelievers and fire eats up doubters and falls on the depraved.

So I return to these stories, these weirdly current cataclysms, with the sense I'm re-reading Exodus or Judges. I return to the images of drowned cities and smoking earth and I remember the question I always wondered as a kid reading the gory parts of the Bible, but was never brave enough to ask: How would I understand?

Read the full column @ the Clayton News Daily:
Understanding Bolotnikovo and the Bible
Arrangement of numbers

On the phone with student loans, trying arrange a better payment plan, I tell the operator this should be easier now that my one bank bought my other one.

Oh, she says.

Isn't that right? I say. Didn't that happen today?

She doesn't know. She says this like she's been inside a fluorescent cube for days. Like she's locked in a cube in a tower of cubes and all of them glow so she only sees her own reflection, in the window. She says this dazed, like maybe I've unsettled her, unsettled the rules for this, whatever this is, this transaction between us. It's as if I told her there's no money anymore, only numbers inside other numbers, and she knows this and knows I know this, but we have to act like we don't, or else it's all too strange, too bottomless, too stricken with vertigo.

Her name is Candice. Or Candeece. On Andi or Andrea or Mercedes.

I have never gotten the same name twice, all the times I've called. Though sometimes the voices are the same, seem the same, the name is always changed and I'm always verified by a series -- social security, home address, phone number, e-mail, and would I like to give them another number, another address, another e-mail. The arrangement is always the same, I'm told a new name and I give them my same one but they don't believe it and they check it, against the numbers that know I'm not lying. It would seem like I'd eventually get a name twice, when I called. Not the same operator maybe, in the tower of operators, but there must be two operators with the same name. Two Susans or Marys, Heathers or Samanthas. This seems like it would have to be the case. Even if they randomly chose names when my call rang, worked through all the possible names in all the possible lists of names, I'd have to get a repeat sometime. But in the fluorescent tower of operators, in the bank that bought the other one, I never call the same one twice.

Didn't that happen today? I say, and I can't recall her name. Didn't I read that?

She doesn't know and she says something that sounds awkward like a laugh, like I shouldn't say these things to people at the bank. Just like you don't talk about terrorism to officers at the airport, you don't tell the woman on the phone at student loans how the one bank bought the other. It's not funny. It's not discussed. I don't know what I could tumble loose or free and she seems to say this, in her awkward, off-tone laugh. Like I should be glad it's me, out here reading things about banks and not in there, connected to phones by the ears. And I apologize. I don't know, I say. I could be wrong. I just thought I something -- something, I don't know. I don't really understand this -- crisis or economics or um anyway, I just need to arrange payments?

I don't really understand economics or operating at student loans or any of this. I just have socialist suspicions and a phone conversation with a woman I imagine in a tower of telephones, tangled up in curly cords, attached to them, millions of them, each one giving her a randomly selected secondary name. She has a South Dakota area code and a Las Vegas address, a South Carolina subsidiary where my paycheck is automatically deposited and in my mind, she's normally in New York but sometimes, strangely, in Tokyo.

OK, she says, did you want this to be checking or on a debit card? And in the end she says Is there anything else I can help you with? and I want to know if it's weird that three banks own almost all the banks now, so that banks are false fronts for banks. I want to know if I'm the only one who's fascinated and confused, hearing how my numbers inside of numbers where exchanged, in a nominal noumenal taxpayer-protected exchange, to be put inside of other numbers nested in numbers.

But I say, no, thank you, because I wouldn't know what I was asking. I say her name, but I can't remember which one it is, so I say it in a mumble, I say, No, thank you (c) ...ANd ...s.

Sep 27, 2008

Around the grounds until you feel at home

Bald men on TV are talking about the candidates' debate that hasn't happened yet. Some of them are really really excited. The tiny, tinny TV is up in the corner of the newsroom, above a reporter leaving late night, last minute messages for officials who've gone home, and an editor who's talking to his e-mail. The TV's turned to news, turned on so it's there and turned down so it can't really be heard, even in Friday's falling quiet. But the bald men, and a woman wearing a powersuit and bob, they're punditing on without caring if we're catching all this. They're hyperventilating and I can't hear what they're saying, only the breathlessness. Some other bald man is speaking more confidently than hecould ever really be, more than I could ever really be, and he speaks in John Wayne voices and knows no one will ever come back and check what he said.

Hey hey hey, like Paul Simon sang, wherever he went. Wo wo wo.

The partisanship and blind belief are so bad I have to wonder if it's not all designed to dredge up my cynicism, because that too is a political tool of the powerful.

Sep 25, 2008

Lurching into side-fights

Atkins, who is white, also repeated his objection to Dearing's "racially coded language." Atkins argued Dearing, who is black, used certain phrases to sway the black jurors to favor Hill, Clayton County's first black sheriff.

Atkins objected to talk about "sense of privilege" and the supposedly horrified reaction to the "winds of change" in the 2004 election, which pushed once-powerful white politicians out of office.

Atkins said Dearing's opening statement carried "undercurrents of racial keywords," but Dearing scoffed and implied the objection itself was racist. "Like every black juror knows what that means," Dearing said.

After lurching into side-fights and accusations, the trial continued ...

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Sheriff's testimony prompts motion for mistrial
Stairwell No. N3T

The top of an airport parking deck is a terrible place to cry.

I try to imagine the choking in my throat is actually a walnut. In the shell. Salty -- no, not salty. In the shell. It would taste like dirt and leaves.

But it's just a lump and I don't cry, though I think about it.

Airplanes lumber, too large and landing -- none of them my flight and none of them hers so I can't think goodbye. I pass empty numbered stairwells and gridded rows of cars. I pass section T, section U, see section V, and wonder where I am and where she is, exactly now, wonder which way I’m going and when and how I'll follow her.

This is too metaphorical, too blatantly subconscious-literal, but there’s no one here but me.

A super-sized truck is trying to find a wide space in this overcrowded parking. The truck passes, turns, passes again and then I’m alone.

Most of my experiences at airports are surreal. The ones I most remember are inflated with despair. But these feelings, right there, on the roof of the parking deck where orange lines denote order and movable fences fix poor planning, these feelings are just real and just sad. They're not mythic-type feelings or made for stories.

I feel normal sized and I'm not even surprised by that. I know exactly when this happened. I remember. She said, Thank you.

The sun on the roof of the parking lot leaves all the cars colorless. There’s just a monotone metallic reflection in rows, for rows, and then there’s the edge of the parking deck and the new fall sky and the airplanes looking awkward.

I walk past a wall, canting crooked but trying to look deliberate. I really don't know where I am, but I know how I got here, know my car's here somewhere, maybe over there, and I'm OK.

Sep 23, 2008

Men wore hats

My dad gave me the hat without formality. He pulled it out of the dark recess of a closet and gave it to me without a speech or even a stern look. He just said, "Here. Wear this."

It was a ball cap, a black cap with the name of a chainsaw company on the front.

I was 11. I was going to work with my dad for a Saturday, and this was the first time I wore a hat.

For me, the moment marked a transition. Men wore hats. Children didn't.

Men wore hats the way Superman wore a cape and the Jolly Green Giant had a color. It was inexplicable, but somehow inseparable from the definition at the heart of the thing. My dad handed me this hat, and it still had sweat stains from where he'd worn it before, and I believed I was being invited to manhood.

Read the full column @ the Clayton News Daily: When I wore a hat
In memory of ________

Thin man: But we never called him Uncle Charlie.
Confident woman: No.
Thin man: But if his name was Charlie Sherman, how come we never called him Uncle Charlie?
Confident woman: Well see now at the business, work and everybody, he was known as Charlie.
Thin man: We never called him that.
Confident woman: He was always only ever Sherman to us.

Sep 22, 2008

Trying to Remember

trying to remember

Sep 21, 2008

Perez's 15th birthday

The alleged drug dealer shot to death by police in front of a Chuck E. Cheese's restaurant on Monday has been identified as a 15-year-old boy.

Francisco Diaz Perez was killed by Clayton County Police Department narcotics officers during a set-up drug buy.

He was allegedly distributing methamphetamine out of a BMW in the Upper Riverdale Road parking lot of the pizza place that caters to children, when police attempted to arrest him, and he allegedly tried to drive away.

It was Perez's 15th birthday, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Dead, alleged drug dealer was 15 years old

Sep 19, 2008

Ellroy falls farther

Raymond Chandler said Dashiel Hammett "took murder out of the Venetian vase and dropped it into the alley." That's the official noir project. It's all about the fall. In the classic works of Chandler and Hammett, the reader is dropped into the alley and follows a detective through crime and confusion, until everything's solved. The solution comes, "case closed," and Everything is Safe Again. In the end we find the world like we thought it was. We are not the accused. We are reassured by crime fiction.

James Ellroy falls farther. Taking historical-political crime, he drops the reader into the alley. The descent hasn't reached bottom until we're in the underworld, following Ellroy's guides into the despicable depths, knowing these men are going to end up alcoholics, aching, alone with acidic secrets. We don't stop until we surrender—acknowledging our own corruption, condemning ourselves.

Read the whole column @ Comment:
'The big scream': Sin, salvation, and Ellroy's 'Underworld' trilogy

Sep 18, 2008

The circus in the morning

On Thursday morning, the circus is just waking up. There's a cannon parked by the highway, with a sign boasting that it's the world's largest cannon. A couple of one-hump camels look bug-eyed, and suspiciously at passing traffic. In the rolling kitchen, breakfast is being cleaned away. A giant tent is spread out on the ground, a great big splash of red and yellow across the field, catching the sun as it comes out like a trumpet announcement. There are three teams of men working on the tent, working to raise the big top.

It'll be 55 feet tall, when they raise it. It'll seat about 2,000 people, and all of them will cheer for the elephants, laugh at the clowns, say "oooohh" for the springboard acrobats and "aahhhhhh" for the women on the flying trapeze.

One man is pounding in tent stakes. Another's moving poles.

A little man in blue, Perlito, a clown from Colombia, is passing pulley blocks, placing one by each guide-wire. He has an armload of blocks and he puts them out, walking around the tent. But then, Perlito suddenly switches back into a clown, swiftly sneaking across the tent in an exaggerated tip-toe, sneaking up behind someone and shouting, "Boo!" The surprised man, a big man with a sledge hammer, chases the costume-less clown, who runs and giggles.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Cole Bros. Circus brings elephants, clowns, acrobats to Hampton


Circus Sunrise

Raising the tend

Sep 17, 2008

Habitat for Humanity

The airplane mechanic with the circular saw stuck the spinning blade into the plywood: YeeeeRRRRRnnnyaa!

He ran the saw along a blue, chalk-mark line. He picked it up, letting the saw blade spin, and put it back into the wood where the corner of a window will one day be.
Backed up smashing

"They were donning their police vests and they were shouting 'stop, police, police,' and stuff," said Capt. Greg Dickens, a department spokesman. "They were loud enough that people inside the nearby restaurant could hear."

One witness reportedly told police he heard the officers scream, "Police! Police! Put your hands up! Get out of the car!"

But the man didn't get out of the car, according to the officers involved in the shooting. The man backed up, smashing into the unmarked police cars, knocking over the informant and knocking over an officer. The officer, along with two others, started shooting.

"Once the officer was hit, he opened fire," Police Chief Jeff Turner said.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Man dies in meth arrest outside Chuck E. Cheese

Sep 16, 2008

Asked if she tried to run the 17-year-old down with her Tahoe, Vitto reportedly said, "[Expletive] no. What I look like -- trying to run over a little boy for some $200 [expletive] gold teeth."

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily: 3 arrested in 'grill teeth' attack

Sep 15, 2008

What happened to R. Cobb?
Augustine, Luther & Barth on sin
A crash course in theorized particles
Society's (& Hollywood's) need for superheros
Is music still a product?
Net's pessimists/optimists
Only Facebook can save this country
The Rothko wars
Raymond Chandler's 'The Simple Art of Murder'
Roald Dahl's stint as a spy
An old man, 93, and his LA park
Tuesdays with Rupert Murdoch
Some say Google is God: The search engines business model
Lifepods: The yurt of the future
Typography for lawyers
Dreaming of Palin
'Feminism is heresy'
Listening to the 20th century: Advances in music, auditory vistas
Newspaper's so-called 'style'
Woodward, the Capote of national security journalism
The absurdity of counting to four
Our official sadism
Politics of the Big Lebowski
John McCain's wars
The House of Wittgenstein
Eveloutionary explanations of homosexuality
Maurice Sendak feels like a failure. And he's grumpy
The escalating breakdown
True Enough: How reality and knowledge have become fragmented
Books too good for this tawdry world
Who owns Poe's corpse?
'Maasai warrior Lempuris Lalasho went to Kenya's tourist haven Mombasa to find a white woman to marry, but he ended up working as a hairdresser, a profession that is taboo in his culture.'
How imperfect technology, bad information and trigger-happy traders almost obliterated United Airlines
The morgue moves to google
Traditional media bashing
Secular humanist struggling to come to terms with white Christians
Nazi characters and no humour
Original sin and the ground of democracy
List of assassinated American politicians
Picturing Harvey Milk
Caught up in things: The outing of Oliver Sipple

Sep 14, 2008

Because because because: CSI: Fixation

The schizophrenic at the gas station said he doesn’t like Star Trek. Doesn’t like it. Never liked it. Doesn’t like it. You know what he likes? He likes CSI.

Yeah, says the girl in the too-tight tee shirt and pajama bottoms. CSI. She’s standing by the trash can and the trash can stinks, but it’s under the shade of a tree on the sidewalk and close enough to the crime tape, so she and I stand there and watch.

Three detectives are up by the back window in black suits, looking at broken glass. Cops are coming and going through the front door and the camera men are shooting B roll while the broadcast women talk shit and shop in their TV hair. Somewhere, so we can hear but I can’t see, somebody’s mother is breaking down with broken wails of no. No no no no no no no.

Man was murdered inside this morning. Shot in the bedroom at the top of the stairs and on the stairs and down the stairs, shot in the arm and the hand and the leg, in the chest and stomach and head. Man’s dead, and I’m waiting with the media people for some sort of answer, an explanation of what's known: names, times and facts. I’m waiting, with the girl under the tree, for a comment.

Did you know Tray? I say.

’s ’at who died? she says and I tell her, that’s what the cops say.

Sure I knew Tray, she says, but when I ask her what he was like she’s distracted by a woman wearing blue and yellow letters: CSI. The crime scene technician is ducking under the crime scene tape and a TV woman barks Get that! The girl in the pajama bottoms, standing on the sidewalk by a trash can by a crime scene, in the middle of a Friday afternoon, she starts to coo ooooo. CSI. ’is like, CSI: Clayton County. I like that show.

She says it like she’s discovering the fact, as we talk. Like she didn’t know and now, she’s thinking about it and she realizes how much she likes CSI.

The schizophrenic said it sort of like that too. He said it like a self-revelation, He tried to say why he liked it, say why and why it was important -- because because because -- but he was pushed past me, down to the bus, and drifting off in mutters.

I try to get the answer from the girl, not why CSI, but why here, why out here? She’s left me though, and she’s standing in front of the cameras, pulling her shirt down so her tummy doesn’t show, saying Tray was such a nice man.
In bursts

The paper targets turned, pivoting into view. The line of guns, firing "pop-pop," put .40-caliber holes in the paper, and then the silhouette-shaped targets pulled back, ducking down behind the railroad-tie wall.

As the SWAT team stood at the newly renovated firing range, legs spread and guns up, three lines of training targets moved, mechanized and orchestrated. The targets moved together and separately, confusingly and unexpectedly, but the SWAT officers kept their feet firmly planted, their guns going off in bursts.

Sep 12, 2008

"ON A CROWDED CORNER corner there’s a young man with tight shoulders and clipped hair. Tourists surround him but doesn’t see them, he’s staring out across the street into the far distance of his imagination. His hands are moving in a pattern that repeats, it seems for a moment like genuflection: father, son, holy ghost. But it’s not, the motions are more intricate and subtle than a hastily drawn cross. He flicks two fingers at his chin, and suddenly I see that his finger are talking, it’s sign language, and by the long stare it is clear that his hands are talking to himself. He says the same thing over and over until at last the light changes and his hands drop to his sides, his fingers still moving like pistons, muttering at the sidewalk."

            -- Kio Stark, Municipal Archive
Talking about explicit

"There is no evidence you have ever touched a child," the judge told Kelly Farley, the man convicted of chatting online with an undercover Clayton County Police Department detective for seven months, talking about explicit, lewd things he wanted to do to a 10-year-old girl. He was arrested at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, after he flew in from McKinney, Texas, where he was the vice president of a payroll and tax management company.

At the time of the arrest, according to Detective Joanne Southerland, he had files of child pornography on his laptop computer and printed directions to meet the fictitious mother and child, "Steph" and "Sydney."

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Man sentenced for intended child molestation

Sep 10, 2008

Physics, with experiments like the Large Hadron Collider, is really perfect for the news reduction: On the one hand, there are all these really fantastic claims about what it could all mean, and then there's also the baffling, apparent silliness, when you look at the layman details and hear the excessive, excited scientists.

- Scientists start new particle collider
- 30 stunning images of the Large Hadron Collider
- World doesn't end when machine switches on
- Large Hadron Collider actually worked
- Stephen Hawking bets against Higgs particle
And $10

Clayton County police attribute back-to-back, food-related muggings to a trio in a Dodge Durango.

Police are looking for the three men seen in a dirty, white SUV, alleging that they are responsible for holding three people at gunpoint on Monday night, a few minutes and a few blocks apart. The men are facing charges of armed robbery, and are accused of forcibly taking beer, sausage, a brown purse, a black wallet, two pizzas, a gas card, a bank card and $10.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Three sought in beer and pizza muggings
Where Rafael Rojas-Lopez Garcia is charged

She realizes now, it was weird. It was wrong. But at the time, the mother of the 6-year-old didn't wonder why the 40-year-old man renting a room in her house owned a lot of children's videos.

"We didn't think nothing about it," the woman said.

She spoke evenly, the tones of frustration hidden beneath her voice, as she sat outside the Clayton County courtroom, where Rafael Rojas-Lopez Garcia is charged with molesting her son.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
'We didn't think nothing about it'

Sep 9, 2008

Like it was a one-man opera

There are two things about Don LaFontaine's voice, I think, that make him important beyond the world of marketing and movies.

One, his voice cut through everything. It wasn't distracted by movie magic, explosions and stunt doubles. He boiled everything down -- like pundits, journalists, partisans and Americans with TV-tuned attention spans -- but he lost nothing, doing it. In fact, he made it clearer and more interesting.

Two, his voice always carried the awareness of its own ridiculousness. Everything he said sounded serious, but also silly. LaFontaine knew that, and embraced the parodies, appearing in a GEICO commercial making fun of himself and allowing the trailer of the "The Simpson's Movie" to play on the preposterousness of his voice-overs.

LaFontaine died last week, Sept. 1. I knew who he was only vaguely, but I saw his obit and started digging up old profiles. I found myself wishing he was narrating the Democratic and Republican conventions.

I wanted him to replace CNN's entire team. I wanted him to steal the lines of all the political people, all the partisans and pundits, all the hacks and even all the voters, voicing the whole affair like it was a one-man opera.

This is madness, I know.

Column: Don LaFontaine: An unlikely political hero

Sep 8, 2008

About what happened

Clayton County homicide detectives have put up posters along Cleveland Avenue in Atlanta, looking for information.

Detectives have talked to homeless people and street people, and they're offering a reward for information, but they still know very little about what happened to Randy Jones, a man known as "Red," who was found dead two weeks ago.

"I'm getting to the point now, where I have nothing," said Tom Martin, the Clayton County Police detective heading the homicide investigation. "I really need a lead on this case."

Jones, a 49-year-old unemployed man, who lived on Springside Drive in Southeast Atlanta, was found shot to death in the parking lot of a vacant shopping plaza on Aug. 25.

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Detectives still seek lead in vacant Kmart killing

Sep 6, 2008

Photo by Tony

There are things, now, which I know. Things which once were unknown, empty spaces opening beneath me. They made me wake up in full vertigo, huddled in fear and false beliefs. But now I know. I know, and I know it is OK, and will be OK, and grace will come like rain.

Still, though, fears persist.

I can feel the little terror, turning in my window-less room.

I continue to come up with metaphores of falling. I'm always more than half convinced I'm failing.

I wait, irrationally, to be caught.

Sep 5, 2008

As it is known

"This is the situation as it is known," Rotella wrote. "He intentionally fired five shots from a handgun into the residence ... where one of the gunshots struck Derek King in the chest area, causing his death."

The shooting surprised police, because the fatal bullet was apparently fired blindly, passing all the way through the house -- through the carport wall, the living room wall, the living room, the dining room, and out the back door -- before killing King. The man apparently finished his cigarette and stepped into the doorway and the flying bullet hit him in the chest.

It was unclear, initially, if the drive-by shooting was random, or if unit H-4 at Dahlridge Apartments was actually targeted. Within two weeks, though, detectives had wanted posters out on Nelson Carlos Guajardo, describing the suspected murderer as a 230-pound, six-foot, Hispanic man "known to frequent areas with adult entertainment establishments."

Read the full story @ the Clayton News Daily:
Man indicted in connection with 'fight-night' killing

Sep 4, 2008

Don LaFontaine, who was a voiceover master known for his gravel-growl voice, which sounded like he was seven feet tall and had been smoking since birth, who made famous the phrase "In a world where..." and who spent his later years loved and parodied, continuing to voiceover an average of seven trailers a day, died on Monday of a collapsed lung, at the age of 68.

May he rest in peace.
v., to run rapidly; move quickly; rush; hurry, as in, "The bicker of bullets sent a retired couple, the Readuses, low to the floor: Calvin in the bedroom, where he had been watching the Olympics, and Gloria in the kitchen, where she had been reading Proverbs, third chapter, fifth verse."

Stories to write at the end of journalism
The future of narrative journalism
Salman Rushdie's readability
Mailer never meant shit to me
Or, book designers just like monkey sex
My Uncle's 1,000-page, 29-year poem is published
50 years reading Lolita in America
Robert Creeley's periods
The semi-colon is gay
What's likely to kill you
BBQ: America's first food
Patty Hearst and the disappeared girls of the 70s
Infoviz art
Concrete Reveries, a review
The future of the suburbs
'My parents lost track of my salvation in the divorce.'
Revenge killer, Ossetian war hero
Particle acceleration and the end of the world (Sept. 10)
The rise and rise of 'anti-design'
Attracted and addicted to gloom
'Tilt:The Battle to Save Pinball'
The problems with the Alan Sokal hoax
Meaning in the face
Looking for literal Hell in the New Testament
The horror: Homosexuality and communism
Where do white people come from?
The milk pausturization wars
Paranoia, public safety and photography
Most trusted man in America: John Stewart
Libertarians have adopted the liberal's Rawls?
Hitchen's on Mailer's 1968 conventions
Clinton's dead-enders
At the convention, the parasite has consumed the host
Speech-writing advice: Aim low
Democrats make small steps on abortion
The Ron Paul Nation finds the fringe
Teen pregnancy, a candidate's kid, and the weird inversion of the culture wars
Jenkins and LaHaye: Obama not Anti-Christ

Sep 3, 2008

Beth and me on the beach on the Strait of Juan de Fuca

Sep 2, 2008

The boys on the beach and the coming of the girl king

The boy on the beach dropped his pants, turned slightly inland, and pissed into the stringy sea reeds.

He did it quickly, ignoring the over-outfitted naturalists and hyper-conscious, extra-careful planet-savers in their windbreakers and hiking sandals. He abandoned his pants to the sand, bared his butt to the ocean, and relieved himself into the nature preserve.

Another boy, a short boy in big board shorts, dragged driftwood squiggling down the sand. The log left a track down the tide line, an animal scrawl between the dead sea weeds, ripped up, dry and dying, and the sand soaking in the incoming splashes of salt and sea.

He shouted they're coming, calling, hurry. Calling, they're coming. The first boy pulled his pants up around his middle, squeezing the snap until it snapped, and took off running for the driftwood pile.

Someone said Did you see that? That boy just peed, but there was no one to do anything, nothing to do, and no one did anything. The boys -- there were 10 of them. 15. 25. A swirling, swarming mob that should be called an anarchy of boys. Like birds come in flocks, flights and braces, butterflies come in rabbles, bison in herds, the boys on the beach came in anarchies.

They came with abandon, shirtless and shoeless, screaming and preparing for war.

They dragged driftwood into piles, arranging the sand-smoothed, sea-sloshed pieces into forts. Long sticks were stuck into the ground, erected to extend as a wall. Smaller pieces were criss-crossed, stacked and staged around an unmovable log. They seemed, at the start, to know the plan for the defenses, moving like mad ants to follow the plan and put the wood where it was supposed to go, but then the shouting gyred into ordinary chaos and the boys, each dressed in half-naked election, swarmed in shouts.

They're coming.

Come on. Hurry. We got to be ready.

We got to wait for the leader.

The waves didn't seem to crash on the boys on the beach, but seemed to swell from somewhere below the water, rising up into themselves and spilling over into a roar, into a spray, into salt-silt spitting. The spray lifted up into the air, curling there around the stink of rotten weeds and stranded fish bones, bird shit and seagull regurgitation. The spray misted down in drifts.

In the raised grain of sand-worn wood, gouged deep down, it said IN MEMORY BILL B 72-97. The memorial, marked by midnight vandalism in remembrace of a recreated past, was half hidden by the newer deposits of driftwood, gnarled and snarled wood, battered and blasted and abandoned wood, left there bleaching like bones in the stark space on the edge.

Seashells were broken and scattered, over the beach. The shells are smashed and shattered. Gnats swirled through the broken remains. The gnats swarmed in frenzied chaos, in naked panic worry flight.

The tide turns at 4 the ranger said, and all the duty-driven hikers and salt-air sniffers turned back at 3:30, tracking trails of sand, leaving divots like ellipses-spaced words. But the boys on the beach didn't look at the sinking sun, the surging sea or the shrinking shore. They battered each other with sticks, stacked stones in meaningless stacks, and slung seaweed in sling-shot circles. They screeched like barbaric birds.

Down the edge of the water, where the wet sand was divided from the dry, the girl came walking. She walked like she owned the beach -- bold, with a bug-off stare and a stick she'd found, a smooth staff for the girl king. Her hair was wound up with a red rag crown, her gown a garish blanket, a rough-edged, red-and-yellow dog-patterened quilt. It came up around her shoulders and fluttered frayed behind her as she walked.

She came with confidence, watching and not watching while the bedraggled boys of the beach stopped and stood up, waiting for her word.