European Cigarettes

Temple Bar, Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland.

Temple Bar, Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland.

While walking the bustling streets of Dublin, Ireland one notices the amount of cigarette smokers there are throughout the city. They appeared everywhere, it seems. Most people, fit people, strikingly beautiful women and handsome men, would walk the streets—fitness prone yoga mats strapped to their backs, or kids in tow—puffing their European cigarettes. Ugly people, normal people, down-on-their-luck people, people waiting on something, people doing something, people looking healthy—all these people smoked cigarettes.

It was an odd occurrence seeing troves of people going at it, sucking on butts, getting their fix of the cancer stick, cheap kicks, especially after our surgeon generals had deemed this activity so dangerous, so risky. I mean, they told us in the pre-departure pamphlets beforehand that Europeans smoked more than the average American, at the time it was hard to believe—an assumption. In straightforward testimonial honesty: THEY DO SMOKE MORE, REALLY. Matter of fact, they smoke a hell of a lot more than the average American does. Europeans out-smoke Americans like we out-war every other country on the planet, and then crawl up their asses looking for weapons of mass destruction which they may us against us, which they may, or may not possess—I digress. One would think with all of our freedom(s) we would kill ourselves more than anyone else, especially with the appropriately dubbed “cowboy killers”, but you know who hangs with the “cowboy—” more? You know who is cooler than us for this, more free than us? Europeans. Many, many Europeans, perhaps. From what I observed…

One reason for this plethora of habitual smoking may exist within the makeup of the cigarettes themselves. One can immediately tell the difference between European cigarettes and American cigarettes by the quality; foreign cigarettes, I attest, taste and smell less harsh, and are more appealing: different, lighter, and sweeter. I can see the risk of addiction, it is lucid. I understand the want for something that doesn’t taste like dogshit, causing the need to actually constantly smoke. If only cigarettes were made better locally, in Americas, we could have something to look forward to on our “smoke breaks”, while just looking cool, or while hanging our hands out a slightly cracked window driving through town.

Another interesting variance I noticed about people smoking abroad, aside from the frequency and omnipresence of the act, was the way people smoked. People would not stand around like Americans and smoke (Derpa Derp), they would be walking around, looking for their next mission—on the go. Here in America people use the cigarette as an excuse to “take a break”, to go outside, to get some “fresh air”. In Europe it seemed no one took “breaks”, no one needed a fucking excuse to smoke, they just kept moving and kept smoking; they were like locomotives puffing their tobacco smoke high into the air as they paced out their walks. They maneuvered with cigarettes in hand, in mouth, into lines, past on-looking tourists, scattered or apart, captivating, and puffed. It almost made me want to buy a pack and get active.

Now, looking back and thinking on this, I long for the taste of these cigarettes. Just sitting here at the desk I want an excuse, a reason to have one. I want to be around people who smoke and look natural doing it, those people abroad. See, this is the perfect marketing scheme; create a quality product that attractive people want to indulge in, constantly, and everywhere. These European cigarette manufacturers are seriously onto something. America should take a hint and get rolling.

O’ the nostalgia, I had to consume, I remember, I had to experience what those cigarettes were really like, so I waited for my opportunity. Of course in Ireland fate finds you, and I found them. It happened when a group of us were walking around, looking for a pub, and we found one. We walked inside to walk outside, into the smoking area, open roof and such—the only place with open seats, and there at the table sat my prize. It was a pack of European cigarettes, about 4 or so left. So, I grabbed them, no one noticed, they were unattended. I gave my peer one and we talked of smoking. This find was at Temple Bar, the Temple Bar, I am not sure of the name, make or model, or where they were from—Europe I assume, but they were far superior than their American counterparts. This moment was glorious, for culture, for appearance, for science. I pulled out my Irish flag colored lighter—like a tourist, and lit that shit up. How smooth, how flavorful. And I didn’t buy a single pack before boarding the plane back. Stupid…

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who the fuck knows

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What I have heard a lot of, especially this week, is: that is wrong, or that is right, and then, always: fact. Usually, what I believe of something, whether it is right or wrong, does not matter. I could walk into an idea straight on, see it for what it is and still be completely perplexed by that same idea. The whole idea is that we don’t really know—or knowing is an excuse for people who can’t properly use their brains to think. For example, I had a professor ask a classmate: “How the fuck could you possibly know?” when she kept saying she “knows”. She wasn’t thinking, she was stating a “fact” that she knew. I thought about his response and agreed with him, though it was hilarious and harsh. Life is not about knowing… most of the time we don’t really know anything important about anything (actually all the time we don’t know); we don’t know exactly when we are born, what we are doing, or exactly when we die, we just are. Things are, or a thing is. I guess we can know that.

I think right and wrong can fuck off.
How the fuck do I know anyway?

***

Let’s think about something. A thing, like a dress for instance, could be blue to one person, and an entirely different color to another person. My point being, forming a basis idea for that color is pointless, because conveying that idea is pointless—and impossible since colors can only be described by referencing other colors. No one cares about the color of the dress; they care about the idea—thinking on that, the thought of the color of the dress. The “fact” is, proving “facts” does not matter as much as experiencing the idea happening itself. We lack the act of ponderance, it is highly important in growing as a person who has experienced things. Though, I still don’t know if I have experienced anything.

***

Let’s think about other things, and this: nothing is certain. For example: Today I walked into the University Baptist Church on University and 13th, I thought churches promoted peace and love. A sign on a bulletin board within this church told me something a little different; the sign said God Doesn’t like Gay People (and not in those words). In reality people think churches stand for goodness and kindness, what I read was different, or… I better catch myself here, it just WAS. I can no longer believe in this idea for certain, I must experience and think. I met up with a group of people with uncertain smiles, they were really interested in me. I had just met them and I told them how much of a pile-of-shit I was the week leading up to Spring Break, now.

***

Let’s think about other things, and this: nothing is certain. For example: Today I walked into the University Baptist Church on University and 13th, I thought churches promoted peace and love. A sign on a bulletin board within this church told me something a little different; the sign said God Doesn’t like Gay People (and not in those words). In reality people think churches stand for goodness and kindness, but what I read was different, or… I better catch myself here, it just WAS. I can no longer believe in this idea for certain, I must experience and think. I met up with a group of people with uncertain smiles, they were really interested in me (for some weird fucking reason). I had just met them and I told them how much of a pile-of-shit I was the week leading up to Spring Break, now.

***

At this point, if you are wondering why I was in church, it was for a job interview, otherwise known as something I don’t want or need. To say the least, I made it inside without being struck down by lightening, to my utter surprise. Some random group had heard my name mentioned around town (great), and they called me in for a chat about an internship. So, I decided to meet with them. I thought of it as practice for the imaginary dream job I will attain someday in the far off future when staying in school isn’t cool. This interview was for a sales job (SURPRISE), of course, it was disguised as an internship. I never found out why we met in a church, some sort of cover I suspect, for evil deeds. They told me nothing over the phone beforehand, so of course when I get there they are ready to tell me how it is. First off, they gave me examples of hard work and motivation. They asked me easy questions to get me on their page, feeling intelligent. I started feeling smarter, nodding. They need a real “self-motivated” individual, someone with potential, someone who wants to work hard, and, immediately someone I am not, I stop nodding.

***

Listen, I don’t want to sell anyone shit. I thought about how much I already didn’t want this job because it reminded me of a pyramid scheme, it reminded me of me in 2008 trying to eek by on bullshit and smiles. This Dave guy needed someone to go door to door and sell books; these books were summaries of general topics i.e. math, philosophy, and literature, that easy. I thought about Google and libraries—entities offering this data for free to people who could ask succinct questions— and how this book was going to sell like an all inclusive trip to Nebraska, in January, or worse. I don’t think he knew what he was talking about. He was a good salesman though. He bought me a coffee and we chatted, sold.

***

What I learned from Dave is this: if you think about things a lot, it does something to you. If you don’t know, but think on things it really works out. I wanted to cry for people who did stuff like sell God, or sell books for a living. I think God and books should be free, this means these people are useless. I didn’t want to believe that. I thought about money, how I didn’t care about it. I could make $8,000 they said, and be on the verge of a mental breakdown at the same time I thought. I thought about more work, how I didn’t want it. And of course, I thought about how long I would have to sit and listen to Dave in order to pay off his gift of a medium cold-press coffee. I thought about cops offering the people they are interrogating cigarettes, and how it felt like that. I wanted the door. Time was up. The other kid he was interviewing had a good excuse to go, I didn’t.

***

I told him how excuses were for those who built houses out of straw, and then the interview was over… He said we think alike. I guess I was uncertain about that last part, because I think a lot, and he spends too much time working. I told him I would call him, which I won’t. I hope he doesn’t hold his breath on it. There was a nice day outside to be had. I ended up riding to the library and putting my ephemera in local magazine boxes, these were free things. That is the kind of work I like to do, I thought about it. I hope others think too.

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What are you going to do about it?

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Generally, I avoid conflict and situations of adversity… though I enjoy a good conflict, and some adversity. Today I found that conflict, and sort-of adversity, only because I was having fun in the name of good, and action.

My side of the story goes:
While walking from one hall to another, reeling from what seemed an endless semester and non-stop course work, some engineering hall (I forget the exact name) to Appleby, I found myself accosted by two young men. They began to ask me questions of why I was doing what I was doing. So, I decided to indulge them: I was doing this because I am pro-choice, I believe in women’s rights, and I believe in abortion (I will not hide those opines). The two, clearly very young men, and clearly very naïve, were extremely intrigued as to why I was squirting water from my Gatorade bottle onto someone’s pro-life sentiments chicken-scratched in chalk on the ground. I mean, firstly, the act of squirting water is always fun, always; whether you are a child or an adult child, and secondly, no one needs to read this propagated narrow-minded shit… these ideas that women only have this option, or that, with their bodies as dictated by fucking laws…

Now, the act of squirting water may seem innocuous enough to the non-chalk artist pro-lifers out there, but let me tell you, you meet the wrong person, and it’s over. These kids started throwing words around like “asshole”, and “what the fuck”, and blah blah blah… My headphones were in, and I was laughing, so their remarks were somewhat hard to distinguish.

These two, one blond in blue, and one, I didn’t get a close enough description of, walked up to me, real close, and exclaimed something to the effect of: HEY, DURPA DURPA DURPA WHY ARE YOURE DOING THATA!?!?! I looked up from the chalky frozen ground and gave them my answer again: I am pro-choice. They went on talking as I started moving along the walkway.

I kept walking as not to be late for class, when I came across another message that looked thirsty for a spraying. I pulled my Gatorade bottle from my backpack mesh and the message was thoroughly hydrated. I thought about what I was doing as these visibly peeved individuals stalked me from behind… I thought about the message, and how much I cared about the message, or didn’t care. I thought about free speech and the idea of my free speech being in the form of erasing this free speech; I thought of the times someone had ripped down my fliers, or erased my chalk writings, and I kept spraying. It was fun, I must admit. It was the act of doing, standing by what I believed in, rather than just saying what I thought, or walking away and past; I did this art which was spraying water, the audience, these kids, reacted as any crowd reacts: loudly.

See, before this inquiry I didn’t really care, well I did—I didn’t like the message that the pro-life campaign scrawled on the ground. After the inquiry, I cared a little. I thought about how the message was too narrow-minded and needed reworking; that reworking involved a trashcan (full of other bullshit, I assume) and some fire. The slogans in question go something like this: a heart is beating (insert estimated time after conception here)… a baby can swallow (insert a point in time before birth here)… I mean, around campus, on the ground, in chalk for all to see—is this art, propaganda, necessary, comical, useful, important, progressive, liberal? I didn’t care, and I don’t, I think these groups need a better tagline—that being no tagline, plus, I had my Gatorade bottle which sprayed water very well, and it was itching to blast. I had to… really.

It goes:
So, I blast the first one, I make sure to get the right words as to make the message completely ambiguous to the pedestrian reader; I take out the “baby” part, so now, in reality, anything could have a beating heart, or swallow. Personification is great. The aforementioned two become more aggressive as they moved closer to my person. They asked more hard hitting questions, why are you doing that??!!?!?! I say: why not? I am pro-choice. My headphones are in, I am walking to Appleby in the middle of Coffman Union Mall and they keep following me and talking, they call me an “asshole”, or whatever, still talking and walking, I don’t care, they keep talking and talking and talking and talking, telling me they are “pro-life”, telling me they are “pro-choice” too—they don’t “know” what they really are—I assume, they continue to tell me things I don’t really care about. I have no problem with these people; I just wonder what they think, and what they will do about what I just did. At that moment, I turn to them and say very slowly: What are you going to do about it? I look them straight in the face and ask them this question: What are you going to do about it?

It was as if their minds were blown. I thought they were going to push me or tell me some lofty religious soaked opinionated answer, but no, just silence. I looked them right in the eyes. And then the funniest thing happened: they both looked at me once more and walked away. It was odd. I felt as though I had inspired them to walk away, I had inspired them to do something. As they walked away, it had nothing to do with the discussion really, I said, “good discussion”. I mean, at least I did something, and they did something.

This event inspired me to be more baffled than anything, why did these people care so much to follow me, to label me an “asshole”, to question me, and then when questioned about their beliefs, only abandon their stance and walk away?

I don’t know if they wrote those watered-down lines or not; I didn’t like the prose, so I diluted it with water, innocent enough. I have no idea who they were or what they stand for, because they stood for nothing. I told them what I thought, and asked them to tell me what they thought, or show me, make change, and they walked away.

The moral of the story is this: I did what I wanted to do, to make change. I wrote with water what I thought. I changed the demeaning message on the ground. I did it and someone else (two young people) complained about it to my face. If they wanted change they could have told me what they were going to do to change it, or maybe do something right there to change it, or maybe be inspired to do something about it and make change in the future… the thing I find the most confusing, is when given the opportunity to make change, especially in regard to their own opinions and beliefs they walked away. They didn’t say anything other than that I was an “asshole”, they didn’t offer any solution or insightful discussion.

Their reaction was to label something and then walk away.

Now, Appleby Hall is apparently a counseling center for women, my friend tells me. Do we really need that kind of motivation written on the sidewalk coming up to a building with such an office, with such a resource? Perhaps not.

I think you can believe whatever you want to believe—do whatever to get others to follow that idea, but telling someone they can or can’t do something with their body is out of bounds. It might seem easy enough to some, and it might seem perplexing others, but who should control your body? Also, if you truly believe in something stand up for it, and do something—take that offered opportunity.

Spraying a water bottle may seem childish, ridiculous, or immature, but it changed the mind of two people who had to change their minds and walk away.

I love spraying with my Gatorade bottle, and I love good discussion.
***
I like the word: Schadenfreude

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The Security Door

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The blue security door leading outside keeps on opening and closing, it slams loud, abruptly. A ghost walks through it. This apparition is faster than darting eyes, faster than reverberating sound, and above all, faster than objective belief, confusing.

I sit listening to a comic, Bill Burr, speak on helicopters and planes and grown men making feminine sounds; the laugh track fills a deserted room, I am silent and I am funny. Sometimes I hear planes fly overhead, sometimes my apartment shakes.

The door to the complex slams again loud, and there is no one walking away, no in or out, the only presence is the sound as it slips into a low hum and goes into the next—goodbye. At times people come through, an abrupt noise, and then nothing. Some people sit and watch, waiting for what’s coming. Others are moving on.

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Und So Weiter

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At times a passage can encompass an entire novel; this is in reference to time and data, and what becomes of both together. For instance, while walking in the cold between halls on the way to class my boot lace came undone. I looked down, inspecting below at the snow and ice and loosened lace, and said aloud: SON OF A BITCH! Students walked around glued to their smartphones, stuck in their music, or in general avoiding me; as a river would a rock. My grandfather had used this same phrase endlessly throughout the day when I was young and I would ride with him. Now, as I bent down in the broad-daylight of the winter sun I heard a familiar voice say, “Hallo!” I turned to see a German professor I had had the previous semester. He said, “Happy New Year…” and darted away on the sidewalk, his backpack slung over one shoulder. I longed to catch up and chat, but alas, I knotted my laces and took my time. That was an instance; I thought of my grandfather and German Language Studies, and of the movies my professor had been in (A Serious Man). This phrase became a short passage, a novel, inspired by a bootlace. Son of a bitch, I thought, und so weiter.

***
It was fate.

Kind of like the best photo-bomb ever.

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Irish Hard Fate

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Today I sit in the dining room of flat 43. This flat is on the fifth floor of an apartment complex in the middle of Dublin. I look outside at the city. I see buildings, birds, and double-decker buses; painted doors, redbrick buildings, and domes of parliamentary offices. The River Liffey is just down the way, a block or so. The television is on, speaking to me with thick Irish accents. My phone charges, cords trail to the wall outlet, to switches, and the laundry buzzes in a room down the hall. It is my last day in the city of Dublin proper.

An Aside, morning conversation: I can’t go. I am waiting for my underwear to dry. –Go commando! If I go commando I will literally shit my pants… Fin. How weird is that actuality?

After a shower and granola to chew on, I thought of how I got to this spot. I never had a plan. I thought as I washed in the shower, in the mirror; lathering my underarms, observing my tattoos shining wet. I thought to myself, yes, I might have traveler’s sickness, but I have done everything allotted; I gave speeches and presentations, sat on endless cross-country bus tours, and hiked near the ocean in the snow. I learned how to sleep sitting up. The majority of the time a constant malaise was in my bones, and in the pit of my stomach, and still is. I was never at ease. It never really mattered. Though, I have learned a new phrase: I can’t complain.

I guess I should say it was fate to not complain. It was fate to walk out of two dead-end jobs without notice. These jobs gave me insight: don’t take shit from those who need you more than you need them. Take the wind out of their sails and put it into your own. It was fate to split my tooth in half while biting into a buffalo chicken pretzel I impulse bought at Lund’s. Yes, it was stupid, but it changed my life. I called my mother the next morning and she told me to find a dentist, get the root canal, and to think about insurance. It was fate to choose one day in early summer 2013 to A.) Search for a job that offers insurance, or B.) Apply to college because they offer insurance to students. That was all fate, and I sit here. I tongue the metal part of the aftermath of a root canal.

Before all this, the tooth incident, the insurance, the no place to go, the Dean’s list, the honor society, the shit jobs, the bosses who couldn’t care less, the I who couldn’t careless, the passport, the three weeks abroad (Ireland; Dublin, Galway; UK, Belfast), I was told that I couldn’t, I would never, it was impossible. That was fate. Telling people they can’t is fate. You are a part of their life by only not believing. 

So here, I would like to take a moment to thank the people who told me I couldn’t do a thing, anything. I want to thank the people who sit at home and think about how it is impossible for others to do things because they don’t believe in themselves, those who “know”. Thank you. I want to thank the therapists and psychiatrists I was made to visit when I was younger and problematic, (the drug tests and antidepressants of which I didn’t need), the ones who told me I was not University material, -not possible. I want to thank the councilors at high school who told me that with a GPA of 1.5 I would NEVER, capital whole fucking word, go to the University of Minnesota, never. I better try again. Apparently never is now.

I have nothing but thanks for the people who challenge(d) me, who ask(ed) me where I am(was) going, what I have(had) planned next, because I can easily give them the same answer: I don’t know, does it matter? Do you “know”? I don’t know because there is no reason or way to know exactly what will happen next. My dad used to give me the same answer when I would ask him what he was going to do next. He would say: I could walk across the street and get hit by a car right now and die. Because of this I don’t know what I am going to do next. Never have, never will. Because one day I could walk across the street and that would change my plans, -you know. Now I sit here.

The point of this piece is to let people know that it is okay to not know what to do next, and that negativity can be turned into positivity, and that fate is like god, and other religions. I assume “fate” will take care of that, fate happens. Now, I don’t necessarily think everything is up to that, but being linear is just as unrealistic. Go with it. If you feel like shit today just forget about it and walk down the street. You could die, you could discover the love of your life, or you could normal everything. Open your eyes. Forget about fear, fear is an excuse. Never is just a word, as important as the word bullshit. Fear is a disease of the mind. My mother always tells me, when it is your time to go, it is your time to go. So go! I live by that. If I don’t do this right here, right now, then I will never do it. I was never supposed to go to the U, or abroad, or write to people, or express myself, or think deep thoughts, I was told I couldn’t, but I do. I think about that. All those people had it planned out for me, and look where it got them, they told me I couldn’t and I did. I wonder if that skewed their beliefs, maybe it helped dial in the accuracy of labeling system, or prove its worth.

Had I feared the idea of not having a job to pay bills, fear of not having a direction or “goal”, I would have gone nowhere, but because I still was moving I’ve made it to right here. People spend so much time making goals and making plans, but think of the time wasted in that. I heard one time at my sister’s (Kelly Smelly’s) commencement speech, while I was unabashedly reading a book, to never stop reading, never stop doing. At that moment I put the book down and started listening, I stopped reading. The speaker said that if you aren’t going uphill you are coasting. It is not about the way or where, it is if you are going up or down. Don’t pick a point and go to it, go beyond. There is no destination without the travel; every fucking grassland and sheep and back of a bus driver’s head I will remember vividly throughout the years -I love Ireland. What we do along the way is up to us: complain, make excuses, or remain sedentary. I am not sedenTerry, I am Terry. Fate can be whatever: a label, a naysayer, a grade, a title, whatever you want, the important thing is you make it. What you do is what matters, even if you can’t answer everyone’s questions with the answer they so desire. It is all about you. Fuck them.

I believe: When people tell me I can’t do, make, or be, something it’s because they don’t believe they can do, make, or be something themselves.

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When in Ireland (pt. 1)

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Nothing is what it seems. You may think that two fingers in the air means: peace. You may think that it is the only interpreted meaning of the gesture. I would like to warn you that it is not. In Ireland the two-fingers, the peace sign, palm forward means two, as in the number 2. Palm backwards to you, not so much. This sign could be as offensive as the middle finger in America – it means fuck you! While walking around, while ordering drinks, while being conscious of norms of another society remember: It may mean peace to you but it could mean fuck off too.

Running Dublin in the morning with the buses, the Dole line, the seagulls cawing and swooping, the people walking past, and slow, and us running on the wrong side of the sidewalk (left), this is the kind of thing I think of. The River Liffey on both sides of me at one point. Running to through the dark to the dawn, speaking of the day to come and the day before which passed. Is it real to think we will not have a relaxing day today? The topic was: Had we both become homesick of a place we had lived in for less than a full week? I mean, five days, no less.

Dublin captures. Not to be cliché, but to be realistic. Dublin as a city is large enough to get stuck in for years and not see everything, yet be satisfied with what you’ve seen today. Riding the bus back in from the west, from Galway, I thought of how wonderful it would be to get back to the flat and take a shower, to relax and to read, to watch a movie we would be assigned to watch later. I thought of home, I kept referring to Dublin as “home”. It did not feel wrong, it felt sort of right. One misses loved ones and those closest, though a city of intrigue is just outside of the door, as it is in any town anywhere, even at home. What this trip has brought me so far is a sense to keep going- to keep exploring; no day is really finished. My head keeps spinning while I sleep in my bed. When the alarm goes off I know I have another one. It does feel good.

Black birds with big beaks and spotted seagulls swoop at the window in open sun. Ancient buildings and towers stand tall with the spire in a far off cityscape. Above the sidewalks, coffee pots, and finished breakfast plates remain stacked. Shoes hit the streets bringing their occupants ready for the day to come. A morning surprise; the bricks and mortar given life, hidden through the night, out now in open sight, and we digress on the River Liffey below. Honest tangents from different advantage, and we point out those in a line, those waiting for theirs. Each star was meant to shine until its time, then die. And then that vacant hole will spin, and consume, and be full again. And the black birds with big beaks and spotted seagulls will swoop at the window in the open sun.

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