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Misc. scenes, McHenry Avenue, Modesto, California (circa 1995)

Nights were as long as the shadows of Kafka's hallway spanning the old apartment house. Fall makes me nostalgic for fresh air of nightfall colliding with the stale smell of leaves and cigarette smoke loitering beneath the staircase. Newspaper nightshifts paid me in cracked fingers and insomnia. "Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven." I carried an illegal knife and walked the streets at night for hours, in a neighborhood patrolled by cop cars, drug dealers, and homosexuals. The alley behind the apartment house was a popular and discreet route for customers using the back door of the 24-hour adult bookstore on my block. McHenry Avenue, on Friday and Saturday nights, was infested with teenagers and young adults in big shiny trucks and small shiny cars rattling windowpanes and setting off the alarms of parked cars with ridiculous bass--and I learned that the worst music is often played the loudest. I viewed my textbooks and writing projects as potential escape portals.

And I bet even Houdini would admit that every successful escape soon demands another escape.

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