Dreams From The Stars: Cult of Personality

In this edition, Ahmad Dixon witnesses the origins of a cult revolving around his friend. This isn’t a dream. It’s an absolute nightmare!

My friend Sam is a peculiar person. We became friends about a year ago, right before college, and since then we’ve become relatively close. However, things between us have become pretty strained because of an incident that happened recently. We were walking around Kensington when I noticed a team of bald men in robes trailing behind us. At first I tried to ignore them, initially writing them off as local town color, but then I noticed that they had Sam’s dumb face embroidered on their chest. “Hey Sam, what’s up with those guys?” I asked before we turned a corner.

“Oh them?” he said unenthusiastically, “They’re just my cult.”

Out of all my friends I would have thought Sam would be the least likely to form a cult of personality. Once while working at coffee bean he was almost kidnapped and sold into slavery by pirates because he messed up an order. Although in hindsight it was kind of obvious. We visited a fortune teller once and she said that Sam was the reincarnation of Charlemagne, Ramses II, and a Manager of a Fort Lauderdale Best Buy. She told me that I was going to get crushed by an elephant. I usually don’t put much stock in fortune telling, past lives, and the like, but I was indeed crushed by an elephant a week later, which lead me to believe that that particular fortune teller was on the up and up.

Footage of Me Being Crushed

Since that day in Kensington, I never saw Sam unless his cult was somewhere near by. It began with three, middle aged, bald men, but then it grew and they added four, young, bald women. Then it was 15 bald men, women, and children. And finally it escalated to a crowd of around 35 people following around my friend during his day to day activities. They’d throw flower petals in the space directly in front of his feet, they’d venerate his trash as sacred artifacts (ever see an apple core in a gold plated box?), and I think one of them learned how to play lute in order to write songs in his honor. The songs were mostly just popular tunes with the word “baby” taken out and replaced with the name Sam.

Sam seemed utterly disinterested in this development in his life. I asked him how he felt about being a living god and he just shrugged and said, “them’s the brakes.” After he said that the cult would sometimes chant “them’s the brakes” for hours on end in a hypnotic meditation.

I tried not to talk to members of the cult due to the fact they all gave me the heeby jeebies but curiosity got the better of me and I asked one of them what they saw in Sam as a spiritual leader. They said, “The Sam is the bringer of happiness and salvation, without The Sam there would be no sunrise, no morning dew on the flowers, no order to the universe. The Sam is a being of infinite compassion and infinite wisdom.” I looked over to Sam to see that he was on the verge of tears due to being unable to open a jar of peanut butter. He pulled out his pocket knife and somehow cut himself flipping it open. Cult members almost trampled each other trying to catch his blood as it dripped from his finger. I heard later that this event is one of the more important parables in the Book of Sam.

I went over to Sam’s house in City Heights to return some books and things had obviously changed since the last time I was there. Outside the walls were covered in murals depicting Sam slaying dragons and the cosmos being born out of his mind. I like to believe reality existed before Sam was born but I have no proof to the contrary so I felt it was not my place to argue. Inside there were masses of people, of various nationalities, on their knees chanting and praying. Some were in tears because of their proximity to the so called creator of the universe. Sam was in his pajamas playing his Nintendo Switch.

I went up to my friend and asked how long he thought this could possibly continue. He said when he got tired of all the positive attention he was getting and when they stopped giving him fruit offerings on command. I said “you know you’re not actually a god right.” I regretted this outburst almost immediately because everyone in the house stopped chanting and looked at me. A hundred hands reached out to grab me and before I could realize what was happening I was in a cage. Sam continued to play Zelda as this was happening. I yelled at Sam to let me out but he again said, “them’s the brakes” and went about his day.

I’m not the type of person who likes to be confined for extended periods of time. Especially when I’m in spaces that aren’t big enough for me to sit down in. I survived on nothing but the stale bread and dirty water I was given twice a day. What felt like months passed and I began to have strange visions. Dancing colors of light, geometric shapes, vibrating amorphous blobs. My beard grew down to my chest. I was losing my mind.

One day Sam came to the front of the cage, drinking a cup of coffee. I didn’t respond because I thought it was another hallucination. He said I could come out, and I just looked straight ahead. He then opened the cage and I collapsed. “You know the door wasn’t locked right?” I would have been enraged if I wasn’t exhausted. “I don’t know why you decided to stand in there for three hours, you look awful.” He said between sips of coffee. I didn’t speak. “Oh and you don’t have to worry about that cult anymore, we were out on a hike and they saw an interesting rock. They decided to worship that instead.”

My relationship with Sam became pretty strained after I broke a chair over his head.          

Dreams From The Stars: They Are Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!

In this edition, Ahmad Dixon walks us through his Halloween influenced dream of fatherhood and success.

I hate money and respect from my elders, so I’ve always been more of a humanities person than a STEM person. Unfortunately, due to California State University General Education requirements, I’ve had to take a handful of science classes here and there if I want to graduate. This eventually lead me to a class called “BIOL. 436. Human Reanimation.” Truth be told, I mostly signed up for the course because I thought it was an art class; however, it was radically different than anything I could have predicted.

The class was being held on the first floor of the Physics building and the first thing I noticed when I got there was the faint presence of electricity in the air which made my arm hair stand up. The last time something like that had happened to me was when I was struck by lightning after someone had left their Tesla Coil on indoors; so as you might imagine I have been pretty cautious from that point on. After scanning the room, nothing abnormal seemed to  stick out to me, so I took my seat next to a woman playing Clash of Clans on her iPhone. The hair on her head was also starting to stand up.

The professor for the class was a grad student named Frank. Frank was a rather tall, thin man, with sunken in eyes and white hair that seemed extremely premature for someone his age. He was an all round good teacher. His quizzes were easy, he’d keep consistent office hours, and he was understanding if you needed to miss class for whatever reason. The only negative thing I can think of was that in the middle of lecture he would sometimes start crying and saying how this class was an abomination and that we were playing God. Once when he was explaining how to reattach nerve endings in decaying tissue, he suddenly stopped talking and screamed something incomprehensible, and then jumped out the window. I was glad to get out of class early that day; the farmers market had a french toast stand that I was meaning to try. I always wondered why Frank chose his line of work, though I never asked because I didn’t feel like hearing an hour long, existential speech about mortality and morality.

A week after that episode of defenestration, Frank told us to go gather corpses for our final project. I was going to object to a request as heinous as that but then I realized that the syllabus did say that at some point I would have to do some heavy duty grave robbing and if I had a problem with it I should have said something at the beginning of the semester rather than at the end.

So the rest of the class and I got to work finding human remains. This project was pretty tricky because I had to find one of every human organ, muscle, and tooth. The first place I searched was my local cemetery. I got a usable pair of arms but after getting covered in dirt and having three or four splinters thrust into me by the shovel I was using I realized the bodies there were a bit too decomposed for my needs. Plus a grieving widow threw a vase at my head while I was trying to harvest her husband. Some people can be so rude and overprotective of their belongings. I did find a fellow who was buried alive though. He was so grateful he told me I could have one of his kidneys and a chunk of his liver for my assignment.

Next I hit up Alvarado Hospital for more fresh produce. The funny thing about San Diego hospitals, and hospitals in general, is that as long as you wear a lab coat and stare down at a clipboard, no one will question why you’re wandering the halls restricted to staff and patients. I  dropped into the morgue and started putting some stuff in my cooler. At one point a security guard asked what I was doing and I just said, “official hospital business.” That explanation was good enough for him, leaving me free to claw out a pair of pale blue eyes with an ice cream scoop.

That trip to the morgue was pretty productive but I lacked one more item, a human heart. After scouring the city for an afternoon I decided I was just going to ask the shady butcher shop down the street from my house if they had one. After waiting ten minutes my number was called and the man behind the counter said he sold the last human heart to a woman playing Clash of Clans. I asked if he had anything similar and he dropped a chimpanzee heart into into my arms. I think the deli was closed by the health inspector a little while after I got there.           

I spent about four hours stitching together a meat puppet Sunday night. The small intestine proved to be unruly but I eventually got it to fit in the abdomen. The next monday the class had to present their hard work. Frank came out to look over the crimes against nature we had all created and had a look on his face that said he regretted all of his life decisions up to that point. He turned to look at me and muttered, “Welp, let’s see if you followed instructions.” He plugged in a little machine in the corner, put it on the chest of my homemade cadaver and flipped a little switch that sent an inconceivable amount of electricity through it. It was at that moment my meat puppet became a person, and that person became my daughter. I never thought I’d become a parent so early in life, or that my child would be the product of lab I had to take in college, but gosh darn am I proud of my pumpkin. She may not be the prettiest girl in kindergarten but she’s got character. The other kids bully her about her green skin and the fact I accidentally sewed her left ear a bit lower than her right but she’s a tough little zombie so not much gets to her. So that’s the story of how I passed BIOL. 436 and how I became the world’s greatest Dad to Mary, the undead little girl. I’m signing her up for ballet next week — hopefully those stitches survive all that bending! The Chimp heart is good for endurance though.        

88Rising Music & Arts Festival at Los Angeles State Historic Park

This year marked the first ever 88Rising Music Festival: Head in the Clouds.” More importantly, this was the very first Asian-American music festival in North America.

With an attendance of 2,500 or so, 88Rising does not rival the big dogs such as Coachella or Lollapalooza, whose attendance is in the hundreds of thousands. However, this is not to say that the touring festival was not filled with an equal amount of passion. 

It was held at the Los Angeles State Historic Park, a fitting location considering the festival is a major milestone for Asian-Americans. 88Rising is a mass media company that covers all aspects of a musician’s life, from management and production to everything in between.

By representing artists such as Rich BrianKeith ApeHigher BrothersJoji, and more 88Rising is becoming more known and respected in the music industry. It is a one of a kind company that truly aims to support Asian artists and underrepresented people in music. In addition to their star-studded lineup, 88Rising brought out Anderson .Paak and MadeinTYO and had them perform some of their own original songs. L.A. natives DUCKWRTH and Dumbfoundead represented their city and introduced their fellow artists to their hometown (several of them had never been to Los Angeles). Nonetheless, all the artists had undeniable chemistry with one another.

The festival itself is very organized – especially considering it is the first of its kind.

There were the usual merchandise booths, eateries, and a second stage with local DJ’s dipping their toes into the pool of live performance. This festival was the very first stop on their tour across the nation, and hopefully the first of many more tours to come. A company with as much ambition and passion as 88Rising will grow exponentially as they add more and more artists to their unique label.

Review by: Eduardo Orozco
Photo by: Eduardo Orozco