Broken Links: Season One

by David Kulma

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about

Broken Links is a web series of stories by David Kulma featuring spoken-word singing and music.

Go her to watch the full videos on YouTube: www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVV-M2eS5SYVchvdGdSovS2c9yyCDSM-n

A man drives to work.
A woman leaves her house.
A man makes a salad.
A woman trips on a chair.
A man has difficulty with poetry.

This first season of videos was originally created in 2015 and uploaded to YouTube.

​May 8: 1. The Commute​
May 15: 2. Where​
May 28: 3. Lunch Break
June 30: ​4. Tripping​
August 4: 5. Poetry​

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released June 27, 2016

David Kulma made this.

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David Kulma Rock Hill, South Carolina

David Kulma is a composer-performer living in the Carolinas.

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Track Name: Episode 1: The Commute
He drove to work in the evening. He worked third
shift; it was shit. He lived for the time outside his
work. Spending time in a big red building overnight
surrounded by TVs, beds, cereal boxes, graphic tees,
ice cream, adult diapers, board games, celebrity designed
dresses, self checkout lanes, and fellow people of the
red shirt and khakis can really fuck you up. The people
were nice, except for that douche who never does any
work, but he was sure no one would choose to stock these
objects while most people on this side of the planet sleep.

The time he spent in the car was a form of meditation.
He had to purposefully prepare himself for that night’s
set of unexpected crap, fussing with handheld computers
that know little about the store but run your life, and trying
to survive until the sun came out and his real life would
begin anew. Other drivers were not often helpful in these
moments of gas pedal, brake pedal, gas pedal, brake.
People ran red lights, because they were too nice to
honk at those who believe green lights give no feeling
of necessity to accelerate forward. He once was rear
ended by a woman who thought he would continue
through an intersection rather than stop. Her car took
the brunt. It occurs to him that driving on public roads
is a large game of trust with fellow human beings. You
must believe that everyone will stay in their own lanes,
go on the green, and stop on the red. That turn signals
will be honored, and the death we all readily encourage
on a daily basis will be put off another day. All because
there is a sentient animal at the wheel of every carbon
burning contraption in your midst.

To maintain his calm, he would turn on the radio. Today
was no exception. His usual choice was the local public
station with the announcers who were always too calm
while reading about death, destruction, and the moral
turpitude of political leaders around the world. They soothe
the body while beating the mind with awfulness. Recently,
the President announced that drones accidentally killed
hostages in a strike earlier this year. He was so outraged
that he almost broke the driver compact of civility. He
had to stop quickly, because he was thinking about the
world soon having drones of their own. What is to stop
world leaders we don’t trust bombing our country because
someone might be a terrorist. Collateral damage could be
my wife or my son. Is there a terrorist in my neighborhood?

Anyway, when he turns on the radio today, they are reviewing
a movie he will never see, or a band he wouldn’t like, or
discussing which political party will guarantee large corporations
their monetary stranglehold on the world. So he changes the
channel to his second choice: an oldies station. When he
was a kid, oldies meant music from his parents’ childhood
and older. But now oldies includes music from his own early
years. That he can hear his favorite suicidal grunge rocker
on this station never ceases to confuse him. Rather than
smelling like his teen spirit, or thinking about a box
that is heart shaped, he hears a song he knows for sure,
but cannot remember the title or the artist. Is it sixties?
I think so. This is music his parents would know. Or would
they? This song isn’t that famous. It’s one that doesn’t use
the title in the lyrics. He has tried learning the bass part.
His bass chops suck, but he can at least keep time.
His arrival at the large archery sign prompts him to
turn off his radio, and pull into the parking lot. The song
will disappear from his mind for days, and someday
next week he will remember this moment, and think
What was that song again?
Track Name: Episode 2: Where
After leaving her house that morning, she decided to never return.
She was done; it was over. He never treated her all that well. That
prick. Why did he always have to smell so bad? His bathing schedule
was so irregular that he sometimes looked as though he was growing
moss in his armpits. Algae of the inside of the knee. He grew moisture
enamored organisms everywhere his skin regularly met other skin.
No wonder tongue kissing him tasted so bad. Like licking a gym sock
after being doused in barbecue sauce and sweet relish. Unpleasant,
really.

He treated her like shit. Acted as though he owned her. What a douche
nozzle. How do you know when to leave a man, really a boy, after all
that time? Why was I willing to put up with his abuse for so long? What
kept me willing to live in that dump? We didn’t have a marriage license.
He never asked me to marry him. Would I have even said yes? That’s
the problem; I would have. We had been together so long, that it was
becoming the assumed result of our coupling by all our friends. Both
of them, that is. We hung out regularly with this married couple a couple
of years younger than us. We knew them from work. That is, my fuck of
a boyfriend and I worked with the wife. She is awesome. Doesn’t scream
or yell. Is a cool customer. And always knows the perfect cutting remark
for the customer who just left the store. She always makes me laugh at a
time when I need it.

The husband’s a good guy. Not particularly interesting, but he seems to
make her happy. He’s one of those guys who is a person you never think
about, but apparently in private is a wonderful person who is loving, funny,
and kind. Way better than this fuck I’m leaving. He is unbearable all the
time. He takes his unburdened honesty as a mark of moral achievement.
He is willing to say mean things at any moment, if it occurs to him during
conversation. He knows when to not say things, but chooses not to. Right,
that kind of guy. Anyway, my life is way more interesting than this asshole
that stole productive years of my existence; so I won’t mention him again.

She hated how her life had turned out. She had spent nearly half a decade
in this town next to the middle of nowhere. You could see where the nowhere
started in the morning as the sun rose. If you drove in your car to the edge
of town, turned the car off, got out, and sat on the hood, you could watch
the sun hit the desert in a peculiar way that demarked a particular bump
in your vision that said, here it is. The beginning of the end of where.
Across that shining moment was where where ended. But if you stayed
in this town, like Moses on the mountain looking at the promised land
near death, you would never know the bounds of life, never see the possibilities,
never have fucked more than one human being in your sorry life. You wouldn’t
know what it was like to experience snow in winter. So, she left. Wanting
to experience the snow she had seen in movies where children looked happy,
dumb men failed to get the hot girl in Aspen, and where Santa struggled to
get presents to believers around the world without the help of some grumpy
nonbeliever turned saint. Her life began again that day. The day she went
north into the middle of nowhere.
Track Name: Episode 3: Lunch Break
He stood up. He was ready to leave.
He could only take so much of this
crap. Spending this much time on
this antisocial social website hurt
his mind. Then why couldn’t he
go more than one hour without
returning to this stream of shit?
It is so important to know exactly
what his professional acquaintance
said about random news story
that riles everyone in their mutual
grouping.

This time it involves a decision
in a state neither of them live in
that will forever change particular
human beings’ lives neither of
them know. But still it matters
to him. A piece of legislation
extending religious freedom
and discrimination simultaneously.
Another police officer not being
charged after murdering an
unarmed black man. Some improbable
choosing to waste their time
and rich people’s laundered
money to run for president.
Another person to not live up
to expectations to oversee the
badly needed change.

But he has managed to pull himself
away for at least the next hour.
He moved to the kitchen to make
himself lunch. A morning spent
on the internet always seems
like a magnificent waste of time.
You can and often do learn many
things as you stare at one of your
many screens. But this morning
was in the company of videos.
Atheist cartoons, a public intellectual
decrying US foreign policy, an iconic
eighties music video where the lead
singer ascends two and a half octaves
during the chorus and a woman is
pulled from a diner into a black and
white comic.

He decided to make himself a salad.
Decided is a strange word, because
everyday includes a lunch salad.
It is bigger than your head, but you
still will be ready to eat again before
dinner time. He contemplates his
morning of screens while he cuts
up carrots, celery, tomatoes, lettuce,
and bell peppers of multiple colors:
red, yellow, and green. Stop light
peppers, as they call them. They
each taste different. All from the
same plant, but change their
colors and taste based on how
long they ripen. He usually distracts
himself with the internet while he
does this task, but today needs to
be sound and video free. All he
hears is the knife splitting the orange
carrots into small slices that will
make loud crunching noises as
he chews. He places one in his
mouth. It always surprises him
how sweet carrots are. You have
to be away from processed sugar
for a while to notice this fact.

After a few minutes in silence,
that is, with chopping sounds
that carry no linguistic meaning,
he decides he actually does need
to include the internet in this task.
He marches a room over to
select something that will keep
him from thinking about how much
he hates the internet for being
unavoidable, ubiquitous, necessary,
and superfluous. He has recently
spent the previous few days
binge watching the political drama
made by that movie streaming
subscription service hated by
the company that owns the pipes
that bring him his loved/hated
internet. Net neutrality. What
a strange thing to name the
concept that makes his life
without boundary between
career and leisure possible.
Now hated cable company
cannot slow down the internet
to hurt the subscription service
competitor. One should note
that although this is a great
victory for freedom of access,
it does nothing to solve the
problem of when the major
internet companies (Goober,
Nile, Macrohard, Buttnovel,
Orange) decide to throw
their political muscle behind things
that will help their bottom lines
but hurt internet users. Some
say they do this already. The
imaginary President slash
murderer does not make him
feel any better about this. Although
he knows he will watch the most
recent season at least two more
times.

He chooses a video recommended
by a friend. This friend regularly
gives him interesting hip-hop music
videos to watch with helpful phrases
like: amazing! and watch now! and
holy shit! This one comes without
a moniker, and he hopes it will be
something by that young rapper
who calls himself the creator. He
was really taken with that one
where he blurred the intellectual
conversation before bouncing
on a gigantic ass. Instead,
he has been pranked. This friend
also has a tendency to dredge up
old internet memes for his own
enjoyment. So, when he opens
the video, he is met by a pompadour,
a voice not usually heard from a white
man, and the music is unmistakable.
The synthesizers place this music
in the same time period as the
one previously mentioned.
Actually, I am a stranger to love.
Track Name: Episode 4: Tripping
She tripped on the chair. She was walking through the room
and mistakenly placed her right foot too close to the back
right leg of the chair on her right. It was an open question
whether or not her beer and glass would survive her
unplanned horizontal meeting with the hardwood floor.
When she woke up that morning, she had no idea that
her day would take a dive in this moment. Her future
would involve ice packs, a trip to the hospital, medication,
self medication, and yelling the word fuck over and over
again to deaden the pain. Weeks earlier, she had read
about a medical study that noted that cursing upon
injury was correlated with participants giving a lower
number for their level of pain. They felt better because
of yelling shit after they hit their thumb with a hammer,
kicked a door, cut themselves on a knife, or hit their
head on a door frame. She will milk this new knowledge
for all its worth in a moment. Her date lost count of the
flying fucks after twenty-five. It is an odd thing for someone
to count curse words while another is hurt. This must
be an early date in their relationship. Maybe they will
get closer after the hospital visit to come. Her head will
hit the floor so hard she will lose consciousness for a
noticeable slice of time. And then cuss as she awakens.
People bond in stressful situations. Bystanders on the
other hand think she is a vulgar woman of no taste.

For her, these disapproving glances will make her want
to swear more. And she does. But not yet. We have
not arrived at the point of contact. She is still in the air
and will be for some time. That is, if time is still passing
as we watch her lose her balance, as she hangs in the
air unable to control all of the directions her body is
traveling in. Let’s leave her here and go back in time.
Press rewind on your mental VCR, like the actual one
you might have had decades ago, and let’s return to
an earlier point on the magnetic tape where she is
meeting her date. Should I make this other person
a man? That would be the assumption. I have tried
to avoid pronouns, and actually typed he a few times
and removed them. Would anything be gained by
having a man appear in this story? No, not really.


Alright, so she hears a knock at the door. She
yells it’s open and another woman enters the
apartment. They greet each other with a hug,
and I’ve just written myself into a problem.
I now have two women without names and one
pronoun to use between them. Anyway, she
hugs her female date. They both look awkward
but hopeful that their evening together will turn
out well. The answer to their hopes is yes slash
no. They will become closer through this trip
to see a movie about a conscious robot that
tricks a man into freeing her and leaves him to
die and then dinner at a bar the second woman
enjoys just a few blocks from the theater. But
as they walk from getting their preferred alcoholic
beverages from the bartender to their table
now free, the original woman, while discussing
how disappointed she was that this new take
on robotic amorality didn’t live up to a previous
movie of similar construct that involves hunting
down robots who believe they are human, she
loses track of how the chairs are shaped in the
surrounding tables as they walk. She places
her foot underneath one supporting another
customer, and when she raises her foot
automatically in her usual gate, her leg
hits the chair and she begins downward towards
the floor. The glass survives. She gets knocked
out. The beer is half gone. She wakes to pain
and screams fuck fuck fuck etcetera. The
other woman is scared, but after a few fucks
begins counting. She finds this behavior
humorous, and endearing in a strange way.
She calls nine one one, and knows that
their real life together begins now.
Track Name: Episode 5: Poetry
He tried reading poems. They
never made sense to him. He
couldn’t slow his abnormally
slow reading speed down
enough to pick up the scent
of their metaphors, their
similes, and their imagery.

This doesn’t mean he didn’t
want to get them. He spent
many hours reading poems.
He subscribed to magazines,
purchased collections, even
memorized them. But he
always felt like the pace of
his mind was like a car
speedometer. There is
no measurement between
zero and fifteen miles per
hour. He guesses the
poems he tries need him
to go seven. But whenever
he taps the accelerator, he
is already passed fifteen.

He needs to learn how to
glide. To develop the ability
to pause his mind midstream
to notice the well placed word,
the interior rhyme, the time
it takes to find the three-way
pun buried deep under the
surface of the enjambment
of thoughts on the page.

He continues to fail. Each
stanza he approaches holds
its meaning away from his
understanding. It is a
masterful game of keep-away.
It is as if his mind is blank after
reading. He sees the poem,
notes its title, tries to place the
poet’s name, and then the
poem is over. It’s gone.
If we went to the replay
booth to find out if he
stepped outside the line,
we will see him reading
each word. The visual
of his eye movements like
the machinery of a typewriter,
(do you remember what that is?)
move sideways slowly and
then snap back to slowly
move on the horizontal again.
The referee signals an
amnesia penalty, which requires
a replay of first down and a loss
of fifteen yards.

Years ago he memorized
one of the major poems of the
canon. This one sends the old
man from Yale into raptures
discussing the four-fold pantheon
of Night, Death, the Mother and
the Sea. It took twenty minutes
to recite without stopping. He
mourned the loss of this country’s
great President in this confused
meditation incantation. The poem
isn’t confused. He is. There is
music in the words. The way the
unmetered lines pile up in
celebratory listicles. Commas
enumerate the visual spectacle
of a coffin passing through
lanes and streets, and a lilac
sprig placed upon it. The poet
and the man remembered by
him live for those minutes
in his mind as he speaks.

Three quarters of the way through
the poem, a song appears in
italics. The bird and the poet sing
to Death in beatitude. The beauty
of this music after a slow build
of visuals that joins the internal
and the external brings tears
to his eyes. He has rarely
met language that moves him
this much. This is why he keeps trying.

His continued poetic failures
gave him the way into a music
that was beyond his comprehension.
A man speaks over music. It’s
not really speech. Is he singing?
It’s not really that either. It sounds
like speech, but the pitches are too
accurate. The cadence, rhythm,
and intonation are too precise
for it to just be talking, but I don’t
think I could write down the notes
he sings. But he calls it singing, so
I will too.

A man sings over music.
There is astounding improvisatory
piano joining his song. It is at
once over the top, stunningly beautiful,
and unbelievably banal, as asshole
art critics use that word to describe art
that doesn’t meet their upperclass
twit of the year award requirements.
What this really means, is that the
chord progressions and the musical
phrases make sense to normal
human beings and make an apt
space for the man’s song to live in.

This song is meant for television.
It has episodes like a sitcom. They
fit an old version of the televised half
hour. That is, if some douchebag
executive ever had the intelligence
to beam this early eighties brilliance
into American homes. Sadly,
the networks never did. You have
to find this music on your own,
from your weird friend, find it
described in a book by a scholar
of the American experimental
avant-garde, who is also a
practitioner of having your cake
and eating it too. And when you
do, you couldn’t understand how
you lived without it.

He didn’t feel that way at first.
It was odd. It felt as though it
had a purposeful screen to
keep out the bugs of his
mind. It just passed in front
of him without leaving anything
more than a huh. But that twenty
minute poem made him reconsider
this opera for television. And he
attacked it via memorization. It took
him years to learn it. Many early
mornings at five AM before work
with pencils to count the repetitions
to drive the words into his brain.
The words reformatted the hard
drive in his head. He learned to
take the lack of understanding as
it came. He still doesn’t know what
some of it means, but he does know
that it moves him deeply. Somehow,
the description of counting breaths
makes him want to do tai chi as
he says the words. The purposeful
placement of curse words shows
him the way forward. The verbal
tics that make the song more human,
more approachable. He feels
as though he owns this music,
although he knows it is not his creation.

This music has changed his life.
It helped him out of a dark time
by becoming the scaffold upon
which he built his new existence.
He knows about the bank heist
that is only the setup for the
narratives that constantly
change narrators. That insert
personal biography inside a plot
outside of his own experience.
How to sing words fast enough
that they come out like speech.
His experience with learning
other’s extended verbal art
gave him the impetus to make
his own. Rather than poetry
in books, or television operas,
he chose the medium of today.
He tells his own stories through
videos he posts on a website
owned by the largest search
engine on the planet. After a
decade of trying to find his voice
as a creator, he finally found
a way to connect his serious
nature and his absurdist sense
of humor with his musical imagination.
If only he knew how to make better
animations.