the definitive daily cultural column curated by stefan boublil.

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    January 18, 2013

    the words “suburbia” and wild” rarely meet, unless of course, you’re talking about some eyes wide shut commemorative party my dentist didn’t bother to invite me to. probably because of that time i made a joke about gas. but that’s neither here nor here. i simply wanted to alert you to a wonderful book project kickstarted by photographer martin adolfsson and designed by theaptFRIEND larry mayorga. they have managed to capture both the silliness and eeriness of suburban model homes on just about every continent and the result should be an incredible part of your collection of shit your friends don’t have. so kickstart it now. that’s not a suggestion.

    September 12, 2012

    After 4 years of toil, i have finished writing my book, titled The Considered Life. Fitting in the self-help or philosophy aisles of whatever bookstore might still exist at the time of publication, it is a reflection on lives lived according to other people’s dogma and makes the case for finding one’s own, unencumbered by standardized education, parental pressure or presumed obligation, a cause that feels dear to my life.

    As i toy with multi-dimensional matters of distribution, i am asking for your help to connect with people who might help on the journey from typed to printed page. Knock on my door, i’ll be there. thank you!

    June 20, 2011

    a few weeks ago, a man by the otherworldly name of david mcgillivray, whom i had heretofore only known through his sharply sartorialized twitter account, reached out and very generously offered me to contribute to what he described would eventually be “a vaguely-themed quarterly titled idiographic.” intrigued, as i tend to be, i inquired as to the direction of said vagueness for the all-important issue numero un and i could not have been more pleased by his choice: “broken” he answered, and continued “sounds a bit ambiguous i know, but that’s kind of the idea, have a theme, but give everyone enough room to produce a variety of interpretations.”

    broken? are you kidding me? really?! for someone who daily wastes his and others’ time attempting to show and find new paths for the inherent malfunctioning in most human activities, this was like finding out that i had been chosen to pick the food out of lara stone’s teeth after a late night meal in bern! (fyi, that’s pretty much as good as it gets for me…) so i humbly accepted the challenge as i started to think, especially after having thrown a gauntlet of sorts last week on the fast company design blog, about what or who would be a worthy enough victim to be relentlessly taken to task for opportunities un-wielded…

    and then, obviously, i knew that there really was only one concept worthy in my mind of such an adjective as brokenus. and so i started:

    June 13, 2011

    about a month ago, before my grandmother died, theaptFRIEND gabriele pezzini told me he had written a book that he would like me to take a look at. “another design book?” i thought, dreading to read yet another designer’s thoughts on everything he had done right…

    i was wrong.

    quite the contrary, meteorite is an extraordinary tale that i cannot recommend with more heart. that is because, at his age and level of experience, he dared not pay tribute to himself but question the reasons why he does what he does, why we do what we do. too often, in creative matters and the conferences who love them, we are senselessly advised to reach to the child within, talk to him and come back to the surface with invaluable advice to use in our daily life. gabriele suggest that such journey is useless, that the child is ever-present, wonderful and influential. through a bit of a jedi mind trick, he speaks of mischief, he speaks of discovery, he speaks of wonder, he speaks of the consideration of the small things and how they fit in the big things, he speaks of life and sand, and space, he speaks about me, about himself, about all of us, he speaks of science and magic…

    and he touched me. yes, in that way.

    and to the rightful contrary of how i tend to overstate a mere trip to the deli, the book is so simple, the very best way to deliver intelligence. it shows great honesty and passion for what he has always shown to be true in his design work, that life is of the utmost importance, over anything particular that may fill it, considering the whole before the bits. he is not an author, not a writer, barely even a man with an agenda, simply one with a need to exclaim that not all is lost within the boundaries of world too foggy to adequately understand either end, that the mind of the child, so lauded in most self-help books and programs as a state of truth, is neither a matter of age or even attitude, but consideration and subsequent action.

    to my mind, it is an achievement to have expressed such a realization in so few words, especially as i pondered them saying goodbye to one of the most important people in my life… he can be very proud of himself. i know i am.

    have as immature a week as you possibly can!

    September 13, 2010

    oped-new7culture, i once was told, is what remains once you’ve forgotten everything. i could not agree more but i have little choice since i have actually forgotten everything. it is a burden i have carried for as long as i can remember. from the benches of grade school to the last lecture given, a couple of weeks ago, i feel as if i have retained no factual information in my entire life and could not, with any accuracy, relate the dates of even the most famous of historical milestones. napoleon’s century? no idea. balzac’s first book? nothing. lennon’s death? zero. i have always been so envious of those who can count on their own neurons to preserve such particulars so at least to be able to participate in conversations with a wide range of knowledge at hand, ready to go. alas, said neurons are not to be found in the porridge that fills my cranial cavity. what is there, however, is a seemingly endless well of useless information which has helped me lie through forty years of diatribic exchange with my kind as well as write a book in which i damn well sound as if i know what i’m talking about. i assure you, i do not. it just seems that at the drop of a gigantic hat, i seem to be able to meander my way down the vast and disorganized lane of my intellect and retrieve approximations, patterns and flatulent emotions that sound pertinent enough to allow me to appear that which i do not consider myself to be, cultured.

    indeed, that is actually what i found myself in agreement with at the beginning of this column, with the idea that knowledge, once heard, can be forgotten consciously but still lives, somewhere within the folds of the cerebrum allowing us not just to revel in the joy of repetition but assimilation. perhaps that is culture.

    not quite sure how to correctly define it, culture is a moving target of sorts, more than a collection of dates and places that we happen to remember and are able to regurgitate at cocktail parties. of course different cultures, in the ethnocentric sense of the word, practice different customs in assembling their culture, in the intellectual sense of the word, and, as such, make for an almost infinite array of understanding of what constitutes Culture as a whole. still, the principle remains the same, no matter how many books on your shelf, what league the school you attended springs from or even how amazingly inclusive your parents might have been during long, nixon-era discussions, who you are is concocted from a witches’ brew made up of small parts of all that surrounds you, which, if you let it, eventually turns into mysterious culture. when you shine in aforementioned society and are able to make well-timed, skillful and appropriate references to gordon e.’s late-night caltech partying in a conversation about moore’s law, you feel proud and exhilarated by the fact that you were naturally able to place something others could not. is that culture or is that regurgitated wiki-knowledge? i think culture might ultimately be about the understanding and use of the world one inhabits and less about knowledge of the past. our brains, even if lacking in letting us quickly compute cures for all that ails us, are still quite formidable little machines that allow us to not only rewind, fast-forward and auto-reverse our memories but also to draw conclusions from them. if we applied ourselves and dedicated our lives to knowledge, and i believe bernard-henry lévy alone has, we may be able to know everything, or at the least enough about everything to then be free to draw from the bribes of information, potent conclusions. still, the questions persists, how does one use that knowledge, those conclusions? perhaps culture is more a function of use than it is stagnant knowledge because it provides us with an insight into behaviour, perhaps even into the way things are supposed to work, the way people said things should work which provides us with the tools to grasp how it does work in the present and might work in the future. really, culture is a tool, a way for us to seize upon knowledge of ourselves and others in order to make our own minds up.

    culture is, as a matter of fact, the cornerstone of a life considered.

    culture supplies you with the tools for self-knowledge because, ironically, it opens the door to just about everything except you; it luxuriously seats you in the first row, center of your context, past and present, that of your parents, of their parents, of history, of geography, of human behavior, et cetera. it is all there, waiting for you to wake up to and study. when your culture is said, by some people, to be well rounded, what you should hear, after feeling appropriately flattered, is that you have at your disposal everything you need to find out about yourself. and such opportunity is not predicated upon access, you do not have to live in new york, paris or shanghai to participate in culture. as usual, meaning has been carelessly taken away from the words. culture has always, ever since the days of augustine, meant cultivation, not broadway shows, it has always symbolized the digging of soils, whether dirty or mindful, for the exclusive purpose of blooming. and that can be achieved anywhere on earth, in any language, by any peoples without the help the disney or time/life corporations. in fact, the members of an barely disturbed amazon tribe, who will know exactly how to suck the poison out of your big toe after you have been nastily stung by the beautiful but deadly phyllobates terribilis stands in contrast to our need for color-codes and foreign language in order to purchase coffee at starbucks. undoubtedly more mindful of their context than we are of ours simply because they are more attentive, the members of the amazon tribe have achieved a culture not based on entertainment value but functional ethics.

    culture is not a value judgment and certainly not something that should be standardized across nations and heritage as we tend to bland everything around to achieve comfort, rather merely attained through observation and subsequent interpretation. and if what surrounds you is the kalahari desert, at the edge of which you have made it your mission to throw a bottle of coke back to the gods, then that is your cultural sphere, no better or lacking in comparison to any other. wherever and whoever you are, if you are curious about your world, you are fertile and should never waste such a gift. curiosity may have killed a cat but if culture has a place of honor within a life considered then curiosity is its fuel.

    i remembered david byrne and how, among other things, he had set up on a dock in new york a couple of years ago and turned an abandoned building into a musical instrument. how extraordinary is that man? how easy it is for us non-byrnes, whether it be out of bitterness, out of life beating us down or out of boredom, to lose our curiosity for life, for all that swirls around, for all that we could start, if only we knew how… sometimes it’s age, sometimes it’s a spouse, whatever it may be, so easy it seems to lose the will to take risks at adventures untried. and here is a man who, every day i assume, finds himself curious about something else, something new, a man who probably understands my world and era better than i do for he dares experiment with it. is he smarter than i am? certainly not. is it easier for him because he is wealthier? perhaps, but i doubt it. i think, simply, that he was able to retain the youthful curiosity which made him ponder himself, decades later in his journal, as “a peculiar young man” and use his perceived oddness to his advantage, with no shame or needed excuses which led him to take action upon his curiosity. throughout history, there have been a handful of such inquisitors, the crazy ones, as chiat/day once dubbed them on behalf of the apple computer company, the ones who weren’t content to be merely curious or good but dove right int to fulfill their ideals.

    that is an extraordinary trait, the principle behind which may easily get some of us into trouble with substances disapproved by federal governments, but should not, for this is a thirst that should never be quenched. it is the lifeblood of culture. it is the foundation of learning, of education. it is the beginning of the search for a considered life. if you are not curious about yourself, then you will probably never step foot on this path, you will probably never care to because you are comfortable where you are, how you are, with who you are. if there is one incentive you might comprehend, it may be that, perhaps most of all, curiosity is fun. i know the word itself seems misplaced among multi-syllabic peers but here it is. how fun is it to dig around context, world, habits, tastes, all of which is about you? that is where the reward awaits, in a task that at first seems daunting because inaccurately believed to be too time-consuming as the same time that we, strangely enough, do not seem to mind wasting time and trillions of dollars, collectively, on numbing cocktail parties and the best that cameron diaz has to offer. obviously, we as a species, rely on entertainment to minimize the daily pressures that we have built for ourselves, seemingly every part of our lives having been invaded by a form of distraction hatched by marketers who think themselves clever at the behest of clients who think themselves important. these are activities often confused with culture but so be it for considering one’s life is a form of entertainment in its own right, one that needs no other producer than you, no other writer or director, no other actor. and yet we rarely think of such a production as the opportunity for amusement that it is, rather mostly consider it learning. and, apparently, we have come to believe that any form of learning is work, even if it is an investment in yourself and, fundamentally, we don’t want to work. we would preferably think of fun times as mindless, undemanding, easy. such as the best cameron diaz has to offer.

    what we need to do is widen our definition of fun, here, now. the considered life is fun with your eyes wide open and brain fully functioning, available for expansion without any pharmacological stimulation, simply on the basis of its own ability to learn and modify knowledge. the only problem i have with drugs in this context is that they are lazy. i have taken drugs but once in my life and i have absolutely nothing against the selling or using of them but i do object to their functional nature, that of a shortcut. sure, i have a hand, i could grab that cup of coffee by myself, but look, i have a robot, i paid a thousand dollars for that robot and he’s going to grab it and pour the coffee in my mouth. that, to me, is, or has become, the function of drugs in society, that of an assist. how fucked up is that? did anyone else see wall-e?! it is the threat of sloth brought on by technology which is exactly how drugs came into existence. what if i advanced the theory that there is nothing drugs can do to you that you cannot do to yourself, that all a drug does is put a sequence of events in motion that makes a chemical avalanche possible in your brain but that all you need is the switch to start it all. for some it is a chemical but might it also just be internal acquaintance with the trigger? when we’re talking about culture, we are talking about being responsible for that culture, not about somebody else reading a book and telling us about it and it is important that this be self-perpetuated, or else we have culture by proxy, or, if i may coin appropriate a term, a placebo culture.

    placebo culture is one way to talk about the times we live in now, which are very much tied back to the incompetent education that we received as children because of the fact that we live through customs and traditions that are no longer our own. we live in a people’s republic of culture. we have created a magma of ideas that resembles culture, smells like culture but is not quite. we need a new template. and i don’t say this kind of shit lightly for i have an inveterate hatred of new paradigms, models, templates, patterns, blueprints, molds and other archetypes. usually used as meaningless boasts by people with a lot to prove and little to say, these concepts and their oft-prescribed obsolescence are yet another shortcut meant to show off the presumed wisdom of the one speaking them. but much like obama found out after unlocking the president badge at the white house, change is much easier promoted than accomplished. and so i do not mean to add to the trash pile by suggesting that we must rethink all that has already been thought, but simply let one of our most cherished inventions do its usually marvelous job: time. devised who knows when by people more organized than i, time thankfully still passes and allows us to look at the risks and revolutions attempted in the present in a very different way, a way much less chaotic, as seen from the future… once affected by time, the present becomes the past and the templates old and new no longer change. confusion felt during disappears after because you are now are able to reflect. time, and subsequently her twin sister history, have a curious yet altogether welcomed habit of flattening everything. the best parts of history and the worst parts of history are now simply pages in a book that we can refer to and, wishful-thinkingly, learn from. and so in five years, what we are now living will be links on the exabit internet to which we will fondly click back, in between ripping a torrent of michael jackson’s youngest son’s album retrospective, blanket’s best and instant-(re)watching the ewok trilogy, special edition. to know that this process is inevitable makes it a lot easier to tackle changes to the way we build and perceive culture for it lessens some of the risk for us shy folk.

    that is the amazing dichotomous power of culture, to be malleable yet remain a constant. to us, today’s culture is of course very much alive but tomorrow, today’s culture will be uniform, the day after that, it will be boring and another day later, finally forgotten. that is why we must keep it evolving at all cost, why we must fight every day not to waste a brain cell, an ounce of saliva, a word or a keyboard stroke on trifle. culture is there to put us in our place, literally, there to point the way to a more specific grasp of our surroundings, there to advise us when we make decisions and, as we know, decisions are the main tool of the considered life. since we take over five thousand decisions, large and small, every day, each the result of choices, conscious or unconscious of the process at work, we must be able to place these decisions within a cultural context, a sense of where we belong. otherwise, how can we ever hope to make good decisions for ourselves or the people we care about? which begs the question: if it is paramount to decision-making, where do we find it? how is culture dispensed?

    not on the mtv video music awards, that’s for damn sure… have a wonderfully interesting week!

    March 5, 2010

    lacoste-stack-horizontali remember being a child and being held hostage by a rapist in his suburban light-less basement. assuredly, no laughing matter, but the fact that i was wearing a pale pink lacoste polo shirt, at a time when i was admittedly confused by my sexuality choices, did make the ordeal a wee bit more comfortable. sadly, this story of triumph over adversity did not make it into the new lacoste: the elements of style monogram just outed. well, i can handle a little more sadness, but not much…

    February 12, 2010

    prada-bookthe prada book, meant to showcase polymorphous creativity, is all kinds of nonsense. $150 for imagery that is neither original at this point or even transcendent of the brand is fucking highway robbery for a house that really needs to look at itself with a better set of eyes than that of impressed outsiders looking in. where are the roots? where are the risks? where are the clothes?!

    January 22, 2010

    debbie-downeri have not read this book by allegedly famous graphic design staple debbie millman. titled look both ways, it looks unimaginatively scribbled and “rough” as designers tend to do when they have neither a clear direction and want to appear “always on” nor are any good. also, i guess it is done as a counterpoint to the work she does in the real world, work that is so polished that is cleans any sign of originality right off… hmm, if only i had already written an opinion of that legacy… wait, i believe i have! and i have conveniently copied and pasted it below, lucky you!

    it was a busy weekend and it was a busy night for stevie wonder but there’s something i must get off my chest here at the top of the show. i was just surfing that web in the free minute that i have between changing my daughter’s diapers and cooking for 12 and stumbled upon sterling brands, one of those agencies you know without knowing because their work is so ubiquitous and it just got me thinking…

    they indeed show an outstanding portfolio of work ranging from dunkin’ donuts to benjamin moore paints, as seen here. but don’t be fooled by language, as they seem to be, and confuse my use of the word outstanding as referring to the quality of the work. merely using bad to describe the aesthetics doesn’t actually serve a purpose here for the trouble is, i believe, much deeper and, ultimately, nefarious.

    the problem as i see it lay in the fact that they are doing three distinct groups a disservice with the work they produce: clients, consumers and the design community at large. and they are not alone.



    words like strategy and design such as in “we do two things really well — brand strategy and brand design” are used and overused but are rarely qualified while in client meetings by the agency folks. they are merely used to add gravitas and what is thought to be agreed-upon meaning by all parties of a creative endeavor. they can be, and often are, added to a conversation in order to lend it meaning because, as we all know, human beings are wired to react to stimuli. whether that stimuli is visual, oral, sensory or memory-recalled, we mostly wait for things to happen in order to form opinions and take action. creative agencies know this and will create such stimuli that is known to effect positive outlook on the part of their clients. i do this, you do this, we all do this, it is called “positioning yourself to be what the other expects you to be in order to get the outcome you want.” or some shit like that. sterling brands boasts that positioning is the single most important skill in marketing, which may very well be true but they omit to make clear that saying such things positions them as “holders of a truth” for their clients. it is probably what they call “competitive advantage.” but truth is a dangerous concept for a creative agency to lay claim to as it is a concept that, to paraphrase a great man, cannot possibly be written in ink, only found in nature. truth only reveals itself when one gives up all preconceived ideas such as the ideal of an infallible process to sell more chocolate. again, the client is on the other end of such a method and will either reject it outright and use you as a pair of hands or accept it and hold your feet to the fire. which is problematic at best. when president obama promised the return of an absolutely ethical white house, he didn’t count on the power of eventuality, on the fact that human beings react not to results (what tom daschle could have actually done for the department of health and human services) but to events (he didn’t pay his taxes.) we are willing, as a people, to sacrifice talent to what we believe is the rightful application of this truth. that is insane! insane of course at the high level of government but still strange at the low level of making tea packaging decisions. and clients are duped, as we all are, by the words, charts and actions of those people whose hands they are paying to trust. i am guilty of this. of using persuation to get my way, but one must find a way that is not didactic, a way that allows the creative endeavor unconstrained by the weight of truth on its shoulders, that allows the creative people to be unsure, even naive, in front of client and lets them say: “i don’t know… let me look at your problem and see what solutions may arise.” does that sound crazy?



    they are, we are, the link in this big chain who rarely get any respect. and i don’t call market research and focus groups respect. not to pound on sterling but they say that “it’s not what your audience says, it’s what you make of it. you need to gather all the relevant information, but you need to assume your competitors have it too.” what kind of a way is that to design anything?! by not only second-guessing the product’s intended demographic, thereby omitting to market to undiscovered segments, but also trying to divine what the competition will do with that same information? that’s a lot of guessing. and who’s getting lost in that shuffle? the benefits to the consumer. who is going to think about use, value, perception, function and meaning when the focus is on originality or following the aforementioned truth? we, as member of an exclusive specie, have few wants, even less needs. the former is composed of love, success and iPhones; the latter of eating and fucking. we’re rather simple that way. sure, in an increasingly complex world in which wants, needs, must-haves and nice-to-haves are often understandably confused because of our intent lack of priority and fear of reality, we do not know how to interpret behavior anymore and so we invent ways, that the smarties among us dub keywords, which can theoretically communicate a feeling or process with other people on the same pre-understood basis. “model,” “tipping point,” “experiential” and “innovation” are a few of these words. the thing is that they only mean what we imbue them with and then have to all agree on that meaning and i’ve gotten no poll in my inbox ratifying that treaty, like, ever. furthermore, the consumer must be the beneficiary of all these words if they are to be of use at all and so far, i only see these words as being useful to the people who use them, not the actual products, certainly not the consumers whose wallets have to open and hands have to use the products. i’m not saying that “process” is not important, nor that each creativity must follow its path. in fact that is exactly what i am saying: each creativity must follow its path, its own path, not somebody else’s. which is what maddens me so about this and many agencies’ approach. to simply inherit what has been been built by those who came before, tweak it and call it your own is not design, it’s neither good nor bad, neither right or wrong, it’s simply problematic for the industry as a whole as it signals the end of thoughtfulness. mind you, a design attempt and result can still be thoughtful within that world but, as you can see from the work, when the creative principle is based on either fighting for or against set dogmas, you always end with reactions, not originality. stop adoring sagmeister and start doing like he does, don’t give a shit about you.


    the design community at large:

    the problem arises here because everybody follows success and once you are successful while being mediocre, there is nothing preventing you from advising other people on your methods and their obvious results. when looking at life from a purely cause-and-consequence point of view, it is indeed true that success, whether it is creative or financial, begets success but these agencies or individuals may not be correctly identifying the causes of their success. there are a myriad reasons for achieving what other people would consider to be success: a lot of employees, a nice office, big clients, press, the ability to get a quick table at balthazar… all of these are valid of course because they mostly are about self-esteem. which, again, is perfectly fine but the pretension is what bothers me. the pretension that the work is done in the lofty name of inspiration. are you kidding? does color-coding hellmann’s mayonnaise caps really inspire anyone to do anything at all? if only to buy hellmann’s mayonnaise? if you are going to be a marketer, and i am a marketer, have the decency to say so, have the decency not to market yourself as anything other than you are, which is not a holder of truth, not an inspiration but a salesman, a job description which should inspire no shame. i am a salesman, quite proudly so, with aspirations that lay little outside my own life or sphere of influence. searching for happiness? sure. searching for meaning? absolutely. attempting everyday to use my personal pinnings to make my work more interesting? you bet. but i feel that we must be careful not to do it the other way around. not show people images and words that make other people believe that we have anything figured out. it is high time to get out of plato’s cave and give up the shadows on the wall to uncover the puppet masters and see them for who they we are. design is not a mystery and every time we purposefully cloud language in order to appear more, better or expensive, we do a whole industry with an already fucked up self-image a disservice.

    sterling, i do not mean to single you out here but after spending some significant time on your site, i believe that your approach is symptomatic of a design world that can truly revitalize the way people think about consumption, a much-needed impulse in these times, if it stops surrounding itself with unnecessary pretenses. our industry needs to start seeing people as living individuals rather than simply as consumers, to start gaining unique perspective on human behavior if we are to survive in the future and what i am seeing here is simply recycled same ole same ole…

    wasn’t that fun?! i think so.

    December 4, 2009


    episode 14: quomodo from the ashes

    cloris archangeli, buttons down, sat tall in her sigurd ressel falcon chair, one leg tucked under, shoes off. the other women marveled, quietly, at her sheer confidence, the posture from hip to shoulder, and the manner of deploying her cigarette smoke, in purrs. decades lapsed into decades under the led lights, fresh from installation, illuminating white perforated girders, casting ellipse-shaped shadows on the oak-paneled ceiling. a masterwork of design, compressed into weeks, chinese-type efficiency combined with norwegian tact, vaulted olen ragnarsson’s already heady status amongst the dwell crowd. at the entrance a floor to ceiling mouth of 6mm tempered & smoked glass, two klieg lights pushed a tippy toe mike dent into frame, ifa okereke tucking her bare arm around his torso. local news had sprouted cable, which gave way to npr, and their beady crew of bone-wale corduroy and muji shoes. setting an example was the intention.

    olen held a polaroid flash cube in his fist, tossed it like a kid, caught it, repeated the gesture. he’d found a box marked thomas at the back by the lip, hidden behind a flipped pieff sofa. inside the box, viewmaster, flash cubes, and a box of dixon ticonderoga hb. a rolled sleeping bag in the box cradled, like an embryo, boxcar trophies. the bronze plate read westchester county boxcar rally 3rd place. olen had no idea what a boxcar was, but his design-track-mind built one in a heartbeat: conical, pleated, vulcanized treads, lucite dials, nothing vestigial. he turned his head in degrees to check for spare wood from the shelving, none to be found. they’d rescued endless cords of old pine from the razing of the richardson mansion. it was rick pince’s abstract kowtow to dent’s dick first style of dealmaking. from across the room, near the newly painted typeface mural, a floor length vera wang dress carrying one tamar naser glided on clicquot bubbles towards the lap of mr. ragnarsson. “even your lettering bears nuance. what the fuck don’t you dabble in, o?” blushing with what blood he could muster, olen replied, “my mum spent hours with me drawing roman letters in ten x scale on masonite with a greasepencil.” like his lines, this anecdote was true. olen knew the intricacies of even the deft letter r, considered by typeface johns to be the pisa of latin script. the two sipped more bubbles, touched glasses. the tv crew departed.

    renee emerged limping from beyond the stairs under the lip. “he waits until the grand finale to pull off his cosby-sweater-type anal and do me like lamar, like real reading rainbow,” as she straightened her a-line dkny. nobody in the room had a clue as to what it meant, even the speed-nosed mike dent. they smiled anyway, amused that the mission began with dick and was ending with dick. if quomodo was forced to sport a logo, it’d be an obelisk, pantone 12-0915, pale peach egyptian descended dick. darby mcclure could be heard from below the balustrade singing buzzcocks lyrics, a melody of hits. he followed up the flight, black tank, red ink. renee spun on a prima bare foot, despite her limp, “buzz-cock, cock, get me some veuve and don’t doddle.” dent had rebuked offers by ifa to cater the event, which wasn’t so much an event, but a surefire seance of design wanks spilling grande dame like st. ides at an ms-13 corner mourning. nobody needed to serve the punks of 42 bond, their game was taking.

    dent put two feet on a pagwood, “it is in my egocentric interests to applaud your seamlessness. minimalism got its dick sucked here today, like it’d stuck it through a barn hole and met the sow instead. on this mission we came together not as friends, but collaborators, partisans in the struggle against our own instincts. we now barrel bare-chested towards the champions of convenience to thwart them. you know, a thought occurred to me, setting foot in the kitchen, seeing poor andy denemark’s unyielding phallus, it was this…to dig life you gotta go down straight up, and not for show, but for function. not the broadway, or the off-broad, but the coney show, hand-lettered freak theater, original english brickside adverts, ham radio shows into dead air. function. this structure, intended to take a khrushchev bullet, may now be used as a facility to combat the mediocre creation, and regrettably, perseverance of sub-standard human design. olen ragnarsson, stand up, take a look at your work. i’m certain that given enough plastique our man mcclure could make this into a mess you’d take pleasure in resurrecting, but that won’t happen. welcome to the new quomodo offices. tip your glasses, choose your weapons.


    divad q. nead thanks stefan boublil & the apartment broadcast for the space, our anonymous art donor for the image and typeface, and finally the readers of theaptSERIAL for your attention and interest during this experiment. remember, “a house is a machine for living in.”

    December 3, 2009


    episode 13: rick pince, whale mouth, and the panton chairs

    open auction room, at least seventy chic seats laid out, none filled. dent chewed nicorette, drank the ritzy coffee, three sugars. in his pocket, mont blanc, index cards, a single check, throw away mobile, like in the wire. darby was on call, told to circle the building in a cab for a half hour. the room itself, an swedish/danish who’s who of office furniture, surprising for a private estate sale. who were they trying to impress? this was to be more of a spectacle than an actual transaction, at least that’s how dent planned it. running the sale, an old rival, gigs in repo, mortgage, bonds, and now, estate auctions. dent once popped this guy’s sternum with a thermos after a night out with chums in upstate ny digging for clawfoot tubs in a warehouse, bumping lines off thumbs. the fellow never forgave mike, as he’d reeled from the jab into a handcut mirror from 1794. to pieces it fell, along with the dinner they’d had together. ever see oxtail and shattered glass on concrete? pure post ab-ex. a sworn enemy of quomodo, the auctioneer waited for mike dent at the podium, also sporting a blank check, and a mont blanc pen. evil twins. remember, said cloris, “darby is a tool, not a weapon.” in this case, dent’d have mcclure in full form. the object of his future pugilism yet to be decided upon. there were plenty of chairs about.

    the site reeked of rot, when the cabs rolled up, you could smell it through the air con. “dead deer carcass, for sure, omen.”, a pensive ifa said over shoulder. renee gagged, stuck her head in her shopping bag, brought specifically for heaving, breathed deeply. she’d packed the bag with lavender sachets, the only cure for her carsickness, which she’d not revealed to anyone in the group. they looked upon her, huffing her saks bag, with incredulity. she’d been known for worse. tamar searched the roadside for a body, decided it was off in the brush, thought about its guts. “exactly where is this magic kingdom?”, tamar shouted from the back of the cab, through the screen, over rai. “covered from this angle,” ifa pointed west, “and the frame’s got no shadow.” olen sat with his pen ready, drawing upside down whale bellies and rows of exotic shelving. olen ragnarsson was famous for freehand, impromptu genius. whatever was drawn on his pad at the moment was mondrian. tamar could see the workings of his pen from the corner of her eye. she pinched his thigh. he didn’t react. under a gray sky, with little traffic passing the site, the samurai, minus their mcqueen, strode single file, almost in step, to the base of the bomb shelter. hard hat men waited with tools.

    “rick pince, caught you sexting.” shit grin dent pointed his index at rick pince, auctioneer, bent at the waist checking his blackberry behind the podium. dent sat with right leg crossed left, held #13 on his lap. he wore no socks, a tactic he found to throw the straight-laced, and make him seem a confident don johnson. “been a year, still soaking cork? mortgage market got that jaw sore?”, as dent stuck his tongue in and out of cheek. black dick humor came to michael p. dent before he’d used his own, a savant of insult throwing cock talk. “mike you still roll fly down commando, or did that teen rap back in ought four get you jail time?” pince’s ping pong had no effect on dent, who popped another nico and chewed cud. “get going you mouth,” dent raised his #13, “fifty to start for the shithole.” pince looked down at his info, spoke through the feedback in the mic. “property bid at fifty.” pince held up his own #11. “two pricks won’t get you pussy pince. put those dick digits down. one fifty.” pince wagged his number over his head, “two twenty. raise me miami vice.” dent clicked twice on a nextel. suddenly a car door popped outside, and a shirtless mcclure in balaclava & bike shorts stormed the near empty room, plucking a chair from the back. dent ducked, the chair flew over his head, hit the podium, followed by a baboon hoot, and some glasgow filth talking, unintelligible. game on.

    ifa heard the two nextel clicks, waved to the contractors, grabbed olen by the scruff. “ok mr. o, you’re on, get down there in boots and direct traffic.” she followed the pasty to the site, gaping mouth of whale sixty-five feet wide, twenty high. arc welders and torches lit, the teeth of the beast burned white under the flame. olen donned a headlamp, snuck inside. the beast, a 60’s mod bomb shelter for the richardson clan, local rockefellers of the plastics racket as seen in the graduate, stretched in a convex dome from it’s twenty-foot high mouth, to a lip at the back. inside, unbeknownst to every realtor, auction clown, and kicking richardson, the shelter was stacked head high with piles of vintage 60’s fournir. culled from the richardson’s california prop, a take in the adirondacks, & an upper-west pent, the shelter was less intended for protection, and more for dementia. somebody in the fam had pack-rat’d their way to an abject fortune of leather, suede, and crack plastic. michael p. dent, the prick of bowery, the knob of new haven, was a swing or swig away from the furniture equivalent of walter raleigh’s pussy hunt, stolen under the nose of every archivist south of albany. smoke cleared from the torches, olen stepped deeper into the darkness. a beam of remaining graylight struck the chrome frame of a corbusier chaise, covered in white cotton, finger deep in dust. “oi oil,” remarked a squinting olen, “well, we won’t need to furnish.”

    as the podium shattered dent leap to his feet, pounced with a knee on a whimpering rick pince, who said in vibrato, “aye aye, dent take the shithole, just don’t bust my seats. the estate’s main house gets razed monday. title keeps the can.” dent stood without a wrinkle on his thieves single button. “richard pince your puss can first void that bank check in your name, then hand the title to mr. bike shorts over there.” darby was straightening the chairs, a butler in balaclava. pince knelt, touched his balls, as if they’d been chopped, and handed a file to darby, “we’re off mikey, car’s waiting.” dent gave pince a pat on the cheek, refilled his coffee by the door, spit his nicorette wad in the basket. “nice bin, i love puking monday in mine.” pince rolled onto his back stared at the lacquered drop ceiling panels, custom job from montreal. his auction house intact, cheap podium dashed to pieces, richard b. pince survived a rout by darby mcclure without blood loss, the first in five years to do so. he’d not learn about the hidden furniture for weeks. a manila folder under his office door, glossy photo, showing a naked quomodo crew seated in seven panton chairs, signed in white, quomodo: minimalist twatcock.

    one to go, onearchists. quomodo closes its doors tomorrow. dent’s soliloquy, darby’s lament, olen’s giclee, renee’s complaint, ifa’s wet dream, cloris’ countdown. quomodo, you’ll miss the fuck out of us, or just miss the fucking.

    December 2, 2009

    quo 12

    episode 12: pullman coach, franklin face

    grand central rendezvous, swelling crowds for the early commute back to the pastures. dent stood, fresh zenga shirt, off-rose, three buttons loose, grey thick as thieves custom suit. he’d come with game, even in his posture, half-akimbo, cloris at his back, hand on shoulder, any fool at mars a week previous wouldn’t have recognized him. renee perked up over cup coffee, “cloris you must have sucked all night for the man to look like that.” cloris removed her hand from dent’s shoulder, reached around to renee’s high behind, gave it a double pat. darby’s leica caught this, and then his jaw caught a shopping bag from ms. du lac. “is everything keepable to you, even the rubbers?” “you, my lady, are the only thing i’m not keepin’ on this trip,” said darby, pushing back the bag from his face. olen and tamar returned from a newsstand, the times and two coffees, splitting the copy between, not making eye contact. something was amiss in the house of o.

    dent hypothesized, “hey o, you butter her brains after your drinky last night or what?” olen looked over steamed glasses, “awoke naked in her roommate’s bed, my behind sore, groin abraded.” “abraded? you mean she braided your curlies, or am i just plain stupid before my coffee?”, dent remarked with incredulity. big dick, small vocab was michael dent’s rep. olen turned away, two steps with dent. “the ladies tied me down, blindfolded. i think one of them put something in my ass. i might have licked, erm liked it.” dent spun on a heel to pull faces with cloris. “tamar, pick your lids up from behind that paper. did you bugger my star architect?” ms. naser held fast to her times, leaned around the metro section, “prostate is a lovely thing, isn’t it o?”. ifa added a line, “you mean you let her stick…aw hell, that’s the shit, boy. straight men are cowards for their ass.” the samurai were spending too much time discussing mr. ragnarsson’s anal, and then the call came out metro north 330, hudson line boarding at gate four. dent lead the way, his heels ticking time for the crew to follow. everyone present, accounted for.

    “tamar, tamar…”, cloris was curling a short finger at ms. naser. “tell me this, did he like it, or was it a gay kind of like it? i’ve done the same to mike and he screams murder.” tamar turned her head, looked down at the paper, “he was receptive, especially once the lights went out. not gay, we think.” olen sat alone by the bathroom, taking short trips every ten minutes to the john. nobody knew what he was doing, that is, until mr. mcclure stepped in quickly behind him. they’d not ever spoken. “girl do you like a dog?”, asked an eyebrow up darby. “her roommate put a vibrator by my ass, not in it, i think. what’s a yay-gur? we did a lot of yay-gur?” olen rubbed his temples, leaning on the john sink. “jagermeister is lucifer’s gift to the not yet gay,” remarked a shit grin darby mcclure, enjoying his position as big brother. olen bent over at the waist a bit, “i’m not close to gay, but maybe my arse is. tamar had her, well, they both were, and the lights were off. i couldn’t move.” darby stood back as far as he could step, put his hands on olen’s shoulders, lifted him up to standing. “keep at it, boy. keep that tiny arse going if it gets you red. know why my ink is red,” darby pointed at his forearm, ” ’cause I love the puss. red on pink, the queen’s colors. a true queen, that is.” none of the jabber had olen any better with himself. his holes felt stretched, his eyes ached. something of a sense of accomplishment sat at the back of his mouth. he put a hand into his pocket, came out with a strange piece of paper. the train slowed and rocked. on the paper, a crude grid, y axis labeled holes, x axis labeled dicks. darby snatched the info, hooted like a baboon, “mr. o, their three holes to your one. you won. guess the arse only made it fair.” olen left the paper with darby, who followed him out into the aisle. “ms naser,” olen murmured, “i’d like to see you in my orifice,” a line stolen from lethal weapon. she stood, took his hand, and the john door closed.

    ifa sat beside dent, fingers up. “two is that we get the gut going immediately, before any talking. i’ve got men ready five minutes out.” dent nodded and spoke, “i’ve got to swing by the auctioneer’s and then hit the bank. dad’s box, the cash, and the keys. the family is in bermuda. we are go green on this.” ifa wanted to make clear that the crew needed to see the site in progress. reason being, the police would show at some point and appearances, well, they’re everything. some yellow tape, which was bound to appear under the hands of mcclure, is discouraging for most average design folks. ifa had it so the project looked and smelled legal. the deets they’d sort out once the auction closed, an auction nobody but michael p. dent would be attending, that is, if darby mcclure had his way. dent replied in spearmint tones, “sweet ass ifa, just a sweet ass all week.” “skippy, mike. if mr. o can catch his druthers, and keep that dill out of his behind, we’ve got green from here to friday.” ifa knew that the property was closed to onlookers, the listing dropped, the keys to be picked up. it wouldn’t take much to tear this hunk of steel beam and plaster down to the ribs, but in time for what, that was the question. ifa was drawing timetables in her mind, red pen, red memories. cloris handed renee a note. it read, “remember, darby is a tool not a weapon.” renee put the paper between her thighs, squeezed, and stuffed it in darby’s talking mouth. message understood.

    the 330 arrived in peekskill without incident. the samurai disembarked, no luggage. weather held at overcast, with green trees leaning on each other as friends would waiting for a bus. michael p. dent knelt in a semi-circle of shoes, spoke up. “today my family fortune gets a new mouth below the chin. you each have a part to play. see cloris for cash. i’ll meet you at the site, half five.” dent strode off into the station, out the door, and into a waiting town car. the mission got heavy and velvet immediately following his exit. renee clutched darby’s ink, dug nails. olen was at last relaxed, knowing that his dick did some good work for once. he was ready, pen & paper. ifa whispered into the left ear of a perky cloris archangeli, who still sported the burberry, yet with yellow chiffon underneath. they smoked, those who did smoke. some chatted under breath. nobody had a goddamned clue.

    touch me and i’ll sue, quomodo returns tomorrow! dent disappears like jolly roger. ifa opens the playbook. cloris doles franklin’s face. renee leashes her painted treat. mr. o gathers steam amongst the kindling. it’s to be an affair. quomodo, cockney slang for quomodo.

    December 1, 2009

    quo 11

    episode 11: shaggin’ thru everybody’s morning

    hoboken bars, to queens progeny, rolled like sighs from a tax pusher, shallow breaths. the path flushes the river like a turd, stepping out onto wash and 5, out the ass of manhattan and into jersey trash. hoboken was a new location for ms. okereke, but she had her beeline all set, 9 p.m., mario’s on park street. no-?-asked adult friend finder hookups were a specialty of the oughts, ifa had moved away from craigslist connects as their hermetic seals busted. this meet was a double dutch of sorts, both a fuck find and a finance shake. the woman she’s to meet has her neck deep into the north jersey avalon jet set, housing market crash had money in neat sativa pinches, and even though business mixed with pleasure, ifa kept a clear eye on the six ball. stepping from the hackney at washington, mario’s slouched under blue and red striped awnings, like a single uncle, like a champ. staccato aromas of stetson, long soaked into clothes, of bar fruit and dried booze, hit customers on the schnoz upon entering. ifa dipped into the shit like a surfer, nose down arms back. beyond the first empty chairs two legs stretched from a work skirt, the bird itself, rosy, ginger locks coming down from what once was a bun. terry maculane nipped a whiskey smash, chatted up by the company. an attache sat under her pins, and the best thing ifa could think to say was “nice gams,” turn of heads.

    parking lot, sheet music. dent had a hundred & one names for blow. pushing out six lines, the ritual always reminded him of jersey diners, doing the same with sweet n’ low when he was a kid. “who knew bomb shelters were chic?”, dent posited as he built rails. “i mean, we could cover with sod, gut the place to the girders, and cut an entrance through the rear, right?” cloris pulled her shrink wrap shirt over her head, lit a parliament, and sat in dent’s lap. back to paces. “it’s…smooch…going to be…smooch…up to olen, yes?”, cloris passed on deliberating. “phiffiz!…i’ve seen olen’s schematic, we’ll need contract to work on the doorway…phiffiz!” blowing & planning was jenga for the two, cloris going topless when mike needed inspirato, it also felt good to get the girls some fresh air. cloris headed for the kitchen, dent stood, pants off. quomodo’s walls had been done with rust-oleum dry erase paint. dent popped a red expo, had at the blank. “understated integration w education ideal / direct lines fr library 2 schools / work projects, food chain, paper making / neutra glass.” michael p. dent was raised drawing on walls, making the scene of his kid room a pollock of crayola red. his mother gave up at five, and had his walls routinely papered in white. natural born brainstormer, not many had it like he did. a longways half-watermelon shape fell from the line of dent’s pen, “like a whale mouth, a ball dome,” he said into the office’s dark, empty air. “what was that?”, said a curious cloris, mixing tomato juice, tobasco. “i said whale mouth. this is perfect.” ms. archangeli thought of whales, recent discovery shows, gaping holes in the earth. tomorrow she’d clean up good, take to the rails with the crew, and cut some serious teeth in peekskill.

    “i’m naw goo in bed,” a fumbling drunk olen struck convo, “itz naw dhat…” shush, shush, tamar stuck long finger to his mouth. “finish up, and let’s get home. no negatives.” olen tippied the highball to his lips, thought of that scene in catcher where holden watches a couple drink highballs. he looked at tamar’s chest, then at her ears, where hung a pressed lace of gold in each. tamar had pushed one drink too many down the noble maw of olen ragnarsson, and now she had to get him to a toilet. it was written on his brow, which sweat bullets, remained pasty. his cheeks had reddened. “you’re certainly a boy,” she said into his shoulder as he stood on a foot, “i’d hate to see you naked, but it looks like that’s in the cards, maybe a shower.” tab paid, 3 a.m., tamar naser lifted her architect and savior into a cab, pushing his behind with her bare foot as a shoe fell off. she enjoyed this sensation, stored it. “i just love your behind, mr. olen,” as she sat in the cab. “years of biathlon training gone to good use…vurrp.” at least his sense of humor stood erect, yet the rest of his body would fall into question. tamar had a plan for this, it involved her roommate, and a very large bed. “58th & 10th,” the yellow pulled out into traffic, the city beginning to rest, brooms at the doors.

    finger pointing, curses had finished darby & renee’s night at blue ribbon. darby himself making threats in an english not even he understood. renee’s legs shook under the aftershock of darby’s work. mr. mcclure seemed to have passed on the glow, opting instead for rancor to fill his larder. “…and i dinni’nt find a pearl, you swine!”, said a red-faced darby naked to the waist. “doll that’s oysters not sushi, and not much of a come back,” a flushed renee pushed him into a yellow. touching his cold back, done with red ink chains stretching around the torso, reminded renee of her cousin, mowing the lawn when she was six, shirtless, cursing the machine. snapping out of this dream, pressure in her pants, the cab pulled out, “chelsea hotel”, she said, and they were off, 11 p.m. “i’ve got a room, a hotel room. you and i are gonna burn it down, turn in early.” her quomodo proposition sweetened as the night lengthened. thoughts of employment somehow made their way in between darby’s two cold fingers. pressure, release, pressure. renee’s back arched, her foot pressing against the cab door. “how many pieces will you leave me in?”, she asked the man from glasgow. “eleven, one for every hour. that’s a promise, spitfire girl of a gori.” pushing into the hotel with arms slung under one another, the two breezed by the desk, making for the lift. a voice from the lobby posterior said, “welcome back ms. du lac.”, to which she quickly replied, “isn’t heeee marveluss?!?”

    “the foundation fronts 400,” terry offered her hand to ifa out of a cab. “we can match that with two-fif, that is, if dent can liquidate what’s necessary.” the ladies didn’t touch other than hands, walking up the sandstone steps to terry’s flat, talked more business. “estate offers book donations from their coffers and a revenue stream from tours. you should be set for the fiscal.” ifa reached for terry’s hem, tucked a ring finger behind a seam, breathed deeply. “two minutes talk, then I begin pulling.” terry could be seen blushing under the yellow hallway lights, “i’m done with numbers. give me that.” in updike’s worst sex scenes the protag always cups something supple. in contrast, these two bodies, tempered under tri-state realty rackets, merged roughly into one another, each to each a muscle for bone, a mouth for a mouth. it wasn’t much for ms. okereke, but terry had spin class legs. tomorrow morning, ifa’d be pants up and out the door by six. terry’d lie naked, still awake. heading back to bowery with a crick in her neck, ifa okereke would smell of whiskey & new business.

    bon weekend? quomodo comes back from vacay with a postcards. the samurai mount an offensive from grand central. everybody got some. darby’s sketching copy on a menu. renee just holds that muscle. dent & cloris build bullet points. olen ropes some dog hair for his hangover while tamar considers her roommate lucky. ms. okereke returns to rouse the lot, stops by a bodega for smokes. quomodo, it’s fallout shelter fabulous.

    November 27, 2009


    episode 10: subterfuge, quomodo, subterfuge

    dent’s ferragamo hit the table, “peekskill new york. tomorrow at three.” olen and tamar looked up, and saw mike dent pulling off his shirt. “an estate. fixer-upper old bomb shelter.” his belly exposed, out of shape. darby stood, “breaking ground, pre-fab?”, he said through a mouthful of whitefish. “the structure needs guts, bones intact. i’ve got the contracts.” dent’s left wrist was pulled down by cloris, he pulled back. “mike sit down, sit.” dent reached for a sake bottle, poured the wine around in all boxes. “tonight we drink to ifa okereke and olen ragnarsson, our new quomodo principals.” the two of them, olen & ifa, gaped mouths, pushed back in their seats, embarrassed, thrilled. dent continued, the joint’s staff at his elbows, guiding him down. “kudos to mcclure for his sabotage of my arden proposal. he brought you here together.” tamar boiled to high kelvin in an instant, making fists. “his…swig…magnificent dismissal of our strategic partner was top-grade agency hooliganism. you may not know…swig…but this was a get-go setup, a straight ruse.” tamar & renee stood, walked out of the joint. ifa and olen looked at each other, he shrugged with one shoulder, and she reached out with her right hand, shook. “partners at last,” she said to the pasty boy, to which he replied, “rough start, but the plan’s coming together.” ifa followed the ladies out to the sidewalk. they had cigarettes going, sitting on a nearby stoop. ifa bummed and they burned.

    “not cooperating,” tamar flicked her parliament into the gutter. “not with him, not after that.” weeks of planning had gone south under the ceiling of arden partners. the meet was her connect, quomodo to arden, her gosling rep on the line. darby mcclure razed her outpost to the masonry. humiliation was not a peril from which ms. naser easily returned. she had two system functions, like a sub, dive, ascend. “dent has nothing left, nothing, not after arden. i’m not in on this.” renee nodded in agreement, though not knowing why, and lit another cig. ifa responded through an exhale, “i’m running the op, not mike. got the finance, you’re on the team.” renee shook her head, with one hand running through her hair. she stood, “i’m not job hunting, just here for the dick.” in retort ifa offered a concession, “i need your tight ass to keep darby on point. do that, you’ve got at least a ref, maybe a job.” “i don’t hold hands,” replied a gruff ms. du lac. the vagaries of this prop had equal effect on both young ladies. they wanted no part of this gig. it reeked of bad mortgage, of overdubbing. however, tied to the men, olen and mcclure, they couldn’t so much as budge for a break.

    olen finished his fugu. he’d been sitting quietly while dent and cloris kibitz’d under breath at the end of the table. darby headed out to hook renee. renee intercepted, spun him towards the washroom. olen spoke up, “we’re heading back to the offices, no? i’ve not arranged a hotel.” dent looked up from his convo, shook his head yep. “you’re on the poltrona until we sort out the deets of your stay. cloris canceled your ticket home.” olen had no place in his life for couch surfing, impromptu orders from a drunk, and airline surcharges. “you’re mad, dent, truly. i’m not working by your leave. settle-up with me first.” dent looked at cloris, up to the ceiling, then back at olen. “well played. fine, shack with tamar. you’ll feel better in the ay-em.” the jab caught olen off guard, he hadn’t considered tamar as a door prize, nor did he dig that this op was guerrilla art in progress. details escaped him, but his manhood filled the spaces. “you look like you could use a lay, take it while we’re amongst the ramparts. tomorrow you go live.” cloris buttoned up the top two on dent’s thomas pink. “do we call the bank in the morning, mike, or can we wait until we get out of town?” “the wire won’t come through for a day,” mike said while standing, “we’ll need to hit the safe deposit & the auction house before heading to peekskill.” cloris grinned, she loved talking money, other people’s money. mike’s plan to loot the dent family continued in earnest, a post-mod barrow gang as his players.

    choosing johns wasn’t the hard part. the men’s is always best for a hump, but in this case two chatty dudes filled the stalls, discussing something filthy over squats. to the ladies they went. darby’s knees shook, renee squeezed his ink with her nails, a spot on her lumbar sweat. the door popped open and two blondes filtered out, leaving the room empty. locking the knob, darby turned to a fist coming at his nose, dodged it. renee struck the door, even though she’d pulled the punch. “fuck, take the punch, you lump.” darby, with a right palm, struck ms. du lac with a victorian swipe, making contact with her left cheek. “touche, you tart. can we get on past the fists?” without flinching from the blow, renee tweaked his buckle, pulled at her own waist with the other hand. the reverb could be heard by a young takuya yamomoto behind the sushi bar. without knowing the source, he closed his eyes, shook his head, resumed his butchering. the staff in the joint rushed to the washroom doors, began knocking, hollering.

    olen trailed bonnie & clyde quomodo out the door. tamar blushed like a stoplight, he saw this, didn’t feel a thing. this would take some effort, getting down to her business. for now, to the back burner. “jump in the van everyone, drop-offs where necessary,” dent ordered, hugging the waist of ms. archangeli. approaching the smoky jordanian, mr. ragnarsson took a look at his shoe shine. “may we extend the evening, on my tab?”, he mumbled in a half-norwegian accent, letting the brit side of his accent go. “can you drink more than i’ve seen you drink?”, tamar said through her blush. “i’ve had three manly drinks in my life, two of them tonight. bound to keep it up.” olen’s first drink had been in zurich, and it was a fey toddie with the genius bar girl. furthermore, he never took more than a whack, then put it down. olen ragnarsson had no idea how gone this night would get under the wing of ms. naser. for a jordanian woman, she’d done some drinking in her life. a year in hamburg, a year in london for school. there was nothing between her bad habits and the behind of olen ragnarsson. the night offered a hand to the two of them, and they took it, walking out into the dark towards bleecker.

    turning the corner, the quomodo crew spent the rest of the night going separate ways. dent lost darby & renee in the scuffle, ifa poached shotgun, chatting-up the driver in french. cloris whispered into mike’s ear, to which he replied, out loud, “every fucking penny.” pulling away from blue ribbon, three of seven samurai sat immersed in their thoughts. the day began with an abject plan, found most likely in the bottom of an ikea waste basket, amongst the sick of mike dent. and as it began with questions, it ended with questions. none of the crew had a sense of tomorrow, not even the prescient, plan-heavy ifa okereke, stepping out of the van without a word, entering the subway at 34th and 7th, not so much as waving, head down, focused on the swarm of bodies heading underground, heading to dc, jersey, and the east hampton.

    stick to your squirt guns, quomodo returns after the sabbath. ifa crosses state lines, finance on her mind. dent goes blow, draws on a white board into the a.m. renee finally drops darby mcclure, sophism to solar plexus. olen & tamar find themselves quite naked, in separate rooms. for the sake of the op, repeat, for the sake of the op. quomodo, it still checks hats.

    November 25, 2009

    quo 9

    episode 09: fugu, what doen’t kill you

    “japanese bollocks,” darby reiterated in between slugs on the carlsberg. it was high time in soho, such that folks paid no mind to a brown-bag swilling caricature of puck, but not late enough for the man himself to be railing in the streets against the minimalism of muji. “ooh wants a house of cardboard, knickers of re’propriated rubbish? i sure’d like to…glug…meet the man who’s sporting a coat like that,” giving tamar a long look in the ass. dent & ifa waved-off a radio cop, suspicious of their driver, who’d held the same persian conversation, in between parking, negotiating rates, and being harassed by the blue. ifa knew the driver from queens, when he’d helped her company move offices from astoria to greenpoint. he was a refugee from tajikistan, back when it had a brand name under the soviets. the astro van filled with bags and bodies, each member of the crew checking the receipt for purchase, nervous that they’d lifted the items under dent’s guise of “treating them.” the quomodo group wasn’t low enough for thievery. they were coalescing, looking over shoulders at each other, olen even breaking his whiskey haze to smile at ifa as she strapped in. what a difference a little shopping can make in new york. “blue ribbon sushi. nobody goes home hungry,” dent said over his left shoulder from shotgun. “tuna is cruel, and you’re dropping me off on park & 20,” quip’d ms. du lac, bitter enough that she was being given orders, even more acerbic because she was truly famished. the astro pulled ahead of a blue, navigated away from the horns, and the seven fell silent under the jib-jab of the driver’s continuing diatribe.

    dent had tokyo gut, digging into his asian fetish for understated textiles, simple, sparse labels. a trip to kyoto & tokyo three years back had cemented the unstable portions of mike dent into a place, that place being the consumerist environs of japanese home design. unbeknownst to even close cloris, dent had a thing for rice paper calligraphy, cherry tree lineages, and sweet wine. japan evoked the odd, deliberate side of mike dent, which seems to be a cheap plug at minimalist zen bento culture, but this was a genuine affectation for mr. dent. his journey to muji with his newly formed cabal had been in essence an understated gesture in and of itself. rarely did the peanut gallery see mike dent extending anything but a glass of ice towards others in kind. cloris never saw the bottom of a shopping bag, maybe a dime bag, a ziplock, but never retail. she’d picked up dent on a night when he’d bought an entire bach-ette posse a round of padron silver, about two years to the month. his affable, inebriated patter was something to be admired in the oughts, when most men had given into paranoid excuses for losing their tie after five. “after nine one one i stopped wearing ties, you know, the stress,” they’d say over esquire rec’d sazeracs, some zinc bar with a painted barmaid. prigs, dirigibles of inflated manhood, found in the aisles of borders near penn browsing the taschen collections, or criterion dvds. “enough of these punks,” thought cloris often before meeting dent, who himself was a paragon of rhett butlers strung out on glib women and pills. like rauschenberg had instead taken his eraser to glengarry, and all that remained was the furrow’d brows. dent was decent.

    sushi & sake brought out the good girl in ifa, calmed her the fuck down. the small portions, swift service, offered perspective. tonight’s japanese theme painted over her rye and chinese, a nice fill to a very, salaciously empty glass. her mid-noon drinks had drifted out the lungs and through her brown pallor. it was time for some fish and dry, gentle liquor. “this joint’s high on my list of places to visit after fucking,” ifa remarked, tossing her ice ball maker like an apple. “i’d come here with girls, stuff ourselves, and then we’d hook dudes at balthazar, oysters, nicking pockets.” ifa wasn’t anecdotally gifted, and this little dirge on her past life was enough for the ride. the rest remained quiet, obedient students on an off-key field trip with a toothless creative d and his plastique ego. “give us a couple hours, ring the joint when it hits nine. we’ll come out,” dent threw the driver a jackson, and broke a smile. the grin made his face hurt on one side, he felt a laceration inside a cheek where teeth met flesh, ifa being the cause. the raw pain and discomfort was a strong antidote to his usual demeanor.

    magnificent things were being done with knives behind the sushi bar. cloris had already seen her share of fugu for the night. “shit, we left poor andy at the office. the cleaners are going to find him asleep. mike, call them off for the night.” cloris was still at work. in fact, she never really stopped taking or making calls. her mother raised her on the phone, working away from home at night, calling in between tables, as she’d left her kid alone. a natural exec assistant, and we mean that as a compliment, cloris archangeli stuck with dick mike dent because he too, was raised at a distance, by proxy, through various caretakers, and abject guardians. the two of them made terrible lovers, but in the office, when dent wasn’t sporting a week’s worth of drinking damage, they dealt hands which favored the house every time. quomodo wasn’t in the business of turning profit. it was a work of dismissal, an art-house attempt at bringing cassavetes close ups to design altruism, operated always at a loss to the hosts. cloris was a recovering punk herself, holes in her right ear where once were safety pins. at home she still had a box of cordovan docs, red suspenders, taped shut marked “for the kids.” as she pondered over a box of house sake, cloris looked around at her silent, indulging company. “two point oh,” she said under her breath, “we’ve got an upgrade.”

    lock in phasers, geeks, quomodo returns after the traffic settles. dent stands on the table, gets removed mid-speech. ifa applauds this. darby does the miso shuffle with renee in the john. olen and tamar check each other’s knees under the table. cloris wonders if this is a sign, or will tomorrow bring another topless run from behind a desk. quomodo, you’re neck deep.