Monday, July 28, 2014

Suicide Note #1,073

This time it’s not for real. I’ve yet to run into Louise Brooks in real life, but in black & white? All the time. The problem? It’s in the typewriter’s ribbon. I’m sure of it. The previous pages were held in check by a checkered future’s chances. This page, as it slings its way into existence, borrows little from those lachrymal and disparate diatribes. Something comforting? My mule’s gone to Moscow.   

Sodden compassion lacks dignity. I’ve been sore with more. Unless less were to become more. But it never seems to in the experience that’s been mine. But I have none that is otherwise. What cannot one do? Be humble and try to keep moving.

Strange memories on this nervous night in Los Angeles. Something comes tumbling, troubling from the streets. Mariachi music wafts up from a car stereo: a steady rhythm to fall into a trance to. I dry my socks in the open window, and some guy’s got the Eifel tower painted on his balcony wall. The buses make their noise and wheeze by on the street six flights down while a man in a white cowboy hat sells carne asada from a barbeque stand on the corner. A nun escapes from a rundown apartment complex and crosses herself at the light. The stifling drone of a helicopter’s whirling flight Dopplers back and forth in a smog-smeared sky. Nobody’s paying attention to the laws. A giant crane is stalled above a church like some lunatic god gone fishing. I lie back and stare at a palm tree that’s got nothing but wilted, white fronds to show for itself. The tall buildings gleam almost downright resplendent in the afternoon’s hazy sunshine, their windows like shiny scales of some ancient reptilian thing petrified for a brief eternity here where I just so happen to be doing my existing for the moment. I’ve got sunglasses on, a salmon shirt with silver buttons, green and yellow argyles, and a powder-blue suit jacket that smells like a girl I used to be in love with. My head’s all mush and strangled courage. I’ve got nothing to do but wander and get drunk; and that seems a suitable enough proposition for this here battered bunch of hurt. There’s no way in or out that I don’t got. There are no accordions left around these parts. The hat’s on the bed. The taxi lights have all gone out. A fly’s joined the party in through the window: another paying customer to witness my doom and disposal. Cussing out everything and handling nothing very well. There’s a detour sign in my heart. It reroutes my hopes and tells my love to take a left. I’m sure there are guts I’m in need of. I’m sure that I might not ever get the hell out of here. There’s violin music coming from the room next door. Two ladies who know what’s better left not done and then done again, I suspect. An airy moment to enjoy in this temporary abode between what’s gone and what’s on its way out.

I am not thwarted by inanition. There are more prevaricating forces at work than just some mild lassitude spelled by indifference. The choices I don’t make keep piling up, behind and ahead of me. I am hemmed in on all sides by stagnant gulfs between decisions.   

And so it is that I teeter back on my heels, reminisce, attempt to hold on to fuliginous memories that haunt me like some Murfreesboro barkeep with whom I am forever never settling up my tab. My mind steers steadier than you’d imagine, waylaid and rollicking over this rocky terrain.

I remember mother, aging as she was, bandy-legged (or was it bow?) delivering soup to the tenants, the one’s in need of caretaking—or perhaps they should be considered boarders—, all of whom were left less well than the drooling palaver of their situation should’ve conscripted them to. Radios scruffy and crackly with overuse, piping out dreams hot and cold for rapid consumption. “How’s that?” is the belated refrain that wanes sluggishly through the shrubs of all my tenses: presently just the past. To the patois of children go the lowly and crushed, and I am forever dour about the clemency of the surrounding troops.       

Fooled to the common errands, I root about for bunchgrass before the gardener arrives, stymied to concoct Maileresque advertisements for myself in this back-soaking humidity. I am lost. The butler moans irreverence from bad spaces in the universe. Crayons heal themselves, wrapper and all. I am snagged by some common Falstaff into blame’s verisimilitude. Nobody home? Well, I believe mother would have lurched, albeit steady and subdued, like some bibulous funambulist arching towards blurred pit stops on the way to hell—or gasping with a sudden fall’s terror, perhaps. But I’ve forsworn all hindsight peeks, at least until every notice has gone to further.

We are suckers for cloud coverage, spotty and transient as it can be. A teal, like baize, that swamps and lurks and spindles and then fades to a clumpy pewter. Surrounded. A glimpse or a wink’s twinge. Melted butter baked into pastry soaked golden by sharp javelins of sun. And it is I who tend towards scurrilousness as the crepuscular insects arise. Waiting. Shod softly to barefooted times. When the room wages war on bits and flecks of nostalgia locked holy and away in motes and beams of distraction, of television’s warm glow. We are dirt sprinkled and spread over the beveled, shiny, marble lid of a coffin. The spit of the world is mine to swallow. A slim share of sky. A rough-hewn burst of cloud bottom scudding through. A latticed groom over sleeker shapes, and the stalled company of being between spaces: ever longing for never.

Drapery’s thick folds hold illicit memories, ancient and arranged, pulled to rest, and at times reined in to gaze at restful moments.

Mother’s queries would trim the lard from the most brazen of the boarders. I (the “who” who is meddling in all dramatis personæ) attain reports nightly of what that business previously entailed. It is lapidary, it turns out, and its tides are the cheer of blame and turnstile humor. What mother held closer than breath was the cloying rant of her inheritors. “It’ll steam you some, son,” she’d chance in the rout of her possessions. A scuffle of dreamy buyers, a spill of droopy silver ringlets from a formerly regal head of yellow curls. Top light. I have forever been returned to sender.  
A keeling sigh palpitates from the room next door. The two ladies are ushering off their farewells, blighted with a balmy sort of pleasure that comes from balancing pleases on the edge of a razor. Soon the music dies down, as do they, and all context returns to its usual forms. I hereby absquatulate from the race of all things, abjure all sentiments and concordant instructions on what it is to be alive, to be a slight wince among those who cultivate food and raise animals just so they can consume them—  those who believe that they own things.

There are no rafters left in my drafty torment; only the crumbling sliding-dovetail joints of my ruination remain, along with some wind-lofted pages ripped from a King James Bible. I do not wish to lead any person to believe that I will just up and Bojangles my way away from these parts. There are ants between the tiles in wait of wayward crumbs. The windows haven’t been washed in 18 years. I’ve forgotten what rain sounds like. Mother would tell me to just be kind to myself, to go about half-flummoxed and a bit drunk, remembering the different names for flowers and insects, clumsily drafting and rearranging whatever’s sulking its way through me; and I’d take her cliff diving now, if I could. Maybe all the way to Dover. But I am all out of feeling like home. And I am just dashed against the rocks for all my trouble.Only a shredded tie and a torn panama left to take care of, to notice or appreciate. I’ll take it. I will. It is probably just another fall to be wrecked at the end of. For all matters at hand I am just a rattletrap scream barreling down the tracks on a clattery old steam locomotive forever headed through smoky tunnels of what it used to mean to be me. The hour’s grave. All the roads are closed. And for me? Nobody knows. And nobody knows.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Of Nets And Webs

“You can have all your days. Just let me have the nights, and maybe the mornings too. Imagine, if you will, two colliding elliptical galaxies wrapped by a string of blue pearls. That could be me, or even, I dare say, you. Let’s make a list of things we’re scared to think about and then burn it. Take Vic Serf."

“What’s the matter with him?”

“He’s probably wishing he were back in Roanoke, in 1999, smelling the stink of bar rags and Rolls Royce aftershave. No. Further back in the pantheon of higher-ups, the runners of the show, and weak with it too. All the way? Surer than ‘83’s flip of the switch, the one that turned this whole god damn monster on.”

“Yeah. And he’s thinking, ‘Leave me alone. I’m working on my forearm shiver.’ Or something like that.”

“Wait. I mean, wait. No. Wait. What’s not the matter with me now? What next? What now?”

“Well, it does seem that another sucker-bait blonde’s got me on the hook. This time, or even next, or would that be all the times before?”

“Let me tell you.”


“I tell you what. I remember Siskel and Ebert on TV, sitting with a few seats between them in an otherwise empty movie theatre, screaming at each other, just like my parents.”


“And, about once a year I go down to LA, get a cheap hotel room in one of the seedier parts of town, the same hotel where Raymond Chandler spent a few dark nights contemplating suicide, and I drink gimlets and pound on my typewriter and smoke a carton or so of cigarettes, and think about Raymond Chandler a lot and I take myself out to dinner and I walk the streets and look at things: all that old neon and the faded movie palaces and glorious heights of art deco buildings and the longing and drag of skid row’s gloomy abodes. I stay about a week. And I’ve never got bed bugs from the trip. Not even once. And I haven’t jumped out of any of the hotel windows yet either.”  

“Well, for me, in my case, it’s starting to look, or at least seem to me, that I’ve been dawdling around in the same crumby rubric for too long now. And maybe? Maybe’s a really thin reed to hang your hopes on. You see, it’s been such a long, lean time since I’ve enjoyed sitting across a table from somebody and staring at plates of Chow Mein together. Hell and heck and all the mugginess between. Sing me a song of sourdough, up through the Klondike trail of ’98 or around the Pantages theatre circuit. And sure you can say stuff like, ‘A bunch of the boys were whooping it up, etcetera, etcetera.’ But that won’t cut it. Just another machine cranking out form letters. A remaining balance never to be spent. Something unlikely in the swarf of troubling metal splinters that keep spewing from the cut of my jib. Nothing burnished. Nothing remaining.”

“I’m hungry. Let’s make some coffee.”

“Sure. We can talk over it. It’ll add steam to our gestures.”

“Plagued by Technicolor dreams, and then waking up to history tossing its empties out the window. All of it pointless yet necessary. Shrugging off to more Modest Mussorgsky territories, in the lap of need’s want. To whom it shall never concern, express-written, told-on regards pass more bottles through the war-torn strife of up-yet-not-quite-at-‘em concerns.”

“Nary a worry, lady.”

“In the meantime, some sustenance. At last.”

“I was on a stroll just this afternoon, through a park. I benched myself on the lee side of a slight slope. I watched. The TV antennas planted on the rooftops like crossbows. A diving thing gone hidden to a swale, fields of lavender and bone-white palms rustling in adamant gusts, tennis balls crammed into the diamonds of a chain-link fence, a sign reading, ‘No dogs allowed on athletic fields.’”  

“What do you make of it?”

“Well, you see, our brains are not made to understand the concept of time. We want linear ways of looking at things: beginnings, ends, the stuff between. Time doesn’t work like this. It just is. The start is the finish, and all the stuff between too. In order to survive our brains had to adapt to see things in a way that would allow us to continue on with some type of order in the chaos, so as we could craft our own reality in a way that made sense to us, that helped us make sense of the world around us, the one we suddenly and constantly seem to find ourselves existing in, over and over. Just to acknowledge this is something incredible. To overcome all of our limited senses (which are limited for a reason, as we couldn’t survive without the streamlined way our brains let us experience things) and doubt about what’s really happening in this pale-blue-dot of a place, and somehow acknowledge that we’ve only got these limited brains constructed over millions of years by survival-of-the-fittest evolution just like the rest of our appendages and innards; and that they only allow us to have these thoughts and render us incapable of seeing the world and time as it really is: infinite. All we can do is use what we’ve got, and see things like we do. But, I don’t know, perhaps we should also keep it in the back of our little brains somewhere that what we experience is just a tiny piece of what really is, and accept that there is no way to break out of this hardwired way of experiencing things either. Maybe this is empowering in some small, strange way. Anyway, these are the sorts of thoughts that keep plopping into my head lately. You can’t prove any of it.”

“It’s like were going outside for a cigarette and saying, ‘Let’s go out and see the world.’ Conniving to convince ourselves that this it, that there’s a whole a lot more going on within us than we’re afraid to admit there really is.”

“Uh huh. And this, this is the place where I do my dwelling.”
“Where’s this this?”

“At the corner of Maligned and Confabulated, just past Remorse, close to Puttering Along, down the street from Apotheosis.”   

“And me here, left dripping with hackneyed nonsense and noiselessness. One eye glued shut. A hole punched in my tongue. Toe hair plucked. The Square and Compasses shaved into my head. A cracked-mirror of a guy.”     

“What happened to you?”

“I was at a Tupperware party last night, and, well, things sort of got out of hand.”


“No. Not really.”

“Forget it. I’m in desperate need of some Big League Chew. But the dugout’s empty. The bullpen’s been battered by the straw-hat-and-beer crowd. Nobody left to toe the slab. Nobody left to play fungo until the lights come on. Nothing’s as swell or as dandy as it once was, or used to be. I’d be sorry about it but I just don’t have the time.”

“You cannot space these things out properly, maybe, for sure, and that’s where you get into the kicks of the thing, the seamy transition from one who moseys to one on whom moseying is lost.”

“Complaining of which, I was out walking around on a Sunday night in the financial district, feeling completely miserable about myself and everything that was happening to me, the horrendous predicament that I found myself in, the whole deal, all of it, just a drag. The vacated buildings and desolate streets. The movement of birds like vowels flickering in some lost guttural tone. Something too-bright and unsettling about the whole thing. People sleeping on curbs, in storefront enclaves, lying tattered and bare as if crucified on the sidewalk. The cop cars slowed to watch me as they murmured past. I looked up a lot. I stared at the smallest things. I noticed the stuff that gets overlooked. There’s no way around or into it. I’m not fit for the sort of consumption that this world requires.”

“Not in this lifetime.”

“Getting behind. Losing. Getting lost. Being alone. Ruminating in odd landscapes of discontent. Attaining stillness without the rub of lassitude. A preemptive strike at the bored, blasé attitude towards life that this world requires of one who wishes to succeed in it.”

“Success is a load of shit-smeared feathers, right?”

“If you like.”

“I do. I mean, I don’t. Like. I guess. I mean…what?”

“That’s it. Go listen to yourself think. Go sit on the toilet and talk to yourself. Take a shower in the dark. Play the same record over and over until you hear it for the first time. I am making too much sense. I’ll stop before the price of derailment gets too cheap to bother about.”

“Is that a good thing?”

“I couldn’t tell you. The good leaked out of here long ago, and we’re all still running from one stage to the next, trying to remember what it was like to act like ourselves.”

“I could use a batting helmet. Being grandfathered into this shit is really a catalyst for dementia and fear—that horripilation and downright teeth-grinding toe-snapping sense that you are not at all what it is that you are, and that is exactly who you’ve always known yourself to be in the tiny subterranean nook of your unconscious that you always seem to be just a shy (or careless) whisper from weaseling your way out of, or would that be into?”

“I ain’t got the foggiest.”

“Yeah. Me too. Notions are for the flag flyers and the welders. Who are we to care about such stuff?”

“Well, we still could, right?”

“Hell, it’s too early. It’s always, always too damn early. And then, of course, it gets too late too soon; and then? And then it’s all gone, and you think, ‘Fuck. I never even got a chance to know any of it very well.’”

“And that’s the bullshit we abide by. The guns we stick to. The hole we are in.”

“Our only worth’s our net worth. Our only hope is to pay our way through our days.”

“I am going to sacrifice myself into an active volcano. Go out with some flare, some dramatic timing perhaps. The Good Samaritans in my head have gone native, and they’re restless as hell.”

“The drop edge of being you. It’s about time.”

“Time? Hell, what do I care about time? I don’t think it even exists.”

“Of course.”

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hic Habitat Felicitas

I have heard it said (never mind where and by whom) that seeing a three-legged dog on one’s first date bodes well for future chance of a romance. Perhaps this is an exaggeration, or just bunk. I have come to believe so, at least.
Carey Grant found my lost cat. He cradled it in his arms, cooed to it some, and brought it back to me, mewing (the cat, not Grant.)
I’ve retained the rights to my Grandfather’s WWII helmet. It took some serious nicks and dents, but is in decent shape.
The last shoeshine parlor in town has closed down. Nothing but tufted eyesores left, and the engagement of a tortured mind with the world, of course. Everything’s outside my wheelhouse now. I’m moseying around with a Stan Laurel fluster, and all my troubles just spill down my gullet at an alarming rate.
I remember you when you were smaller than a tear.
A hungry scent roaming in a whispery slip over slapdash tables set with undiscovered moods. It’s in headfirst. A wild right at just the wrong time. Just another circus girl, here, in a place where nothing goes.
The ballgame on in the background. The streetlights buzz and glimmer to orange-yellow life as dark encroaches. The salmon’s gone from the bricks, and nobody’s home. A hurtling past of screech-calm heat. Another by-the-way to contend with. Rolling out of bed in the afternoon to puke back into the glum-dreary mush of the world. News of my demise is highly fictionalized.  
I’ve got a clip-on personality. It goes with most moods. I got it on loan from a joiner named Bruce. There were scraped-out lobster shells to cozy up to right there on the street, piles of them, picked ragged by street people who never leave anything but the bones, and sometimes not even those. Crunched and mangled, everything bleached from spending too many hours on the hot sidewalk. Something ripe and sour about the whole ordeal. And that was before I met Jumbo. And that was also before I lost the art of knowing what to do with my free time. A rutted way to be moaning through it all. Underslept in some Nicaraguan hotel. In the window. Always in the damn window. Squashed here among the ruins and artifacts of a worried life. Other ways to go where most don’t. I’ve got a trade-in soul: a real bargain.    
This paunchy sauced son-of-a-bitch growls out some orders, and I go heel-over-kisser into the fray again. Yep. That about says and or almost does it. I haven’t made any scenes in years.
There is not a thing you have or have not ever in the space of all the years said or in the chasing after of done that’d make even a single louse of a difference in who or what you could’ve been, or not been.
Lastly, these are the financial difficulties of the emotions.
Adults who have wine collections, who favor certain types of delicacies, who worry about what color shoes they’ve got instead of how they’re going to pay the rent, who own nice cars they drive short distances to do ordinary things like get their pets washed or cut their hair or exercise. People who believe that they own things. Who wants to be a sucker like that?
I forget how it feels to feel things.
Days like these are rummy with dissonance, tussled costs, born-again losses, repaired samples of past coming back to piss all over what’s in season or out, and then there’s the piano dealers to have to face when the music gets bleak like this. I’ve got my own concerto of a toilet to compose for assholes to shit upon. What I don’t got are reasons; and I can’t ever, ever concentrate. Trying’s for the dead dogs. The music’s still here, but I’m afraid to listen to it, or even think about it. Mostly it’s church-bell stuff. Don’t worry. I’m not running off to dance with it or anything. I’ll leave that to the more open-to-suggestion sort. Me? I’m already starting to feel enchanted enough to stop drinking for a day or two—not a night though. Not in this lifetime.
My clothes are falling apart. So many stringy threads dangling, holes, patches like Band-Aids, white stuffing in ripped pocket linings. Socks gone thin at the toe and heel, limply hang on above shoes in much the same shape; and the shredded remains of a once regal button-up. Hell, I’ve even been wearing the bottoms of my trousers rolled for so long, and I’ve forgotten what walking on the beach at night does to you.
The buffalo roam no more.
When you’ve been sad and lonely for as long as I’ve been sad and lonely you forget what it’s like not to be sad and lonely. I don’t believe in better days to come. I don’t believe in anything but what’s left in this bottle of scotch.

I met this girl walking around Huntington Park one night. She wasn’t hustling along too fast. Just at a nice trot coming towards me. It was hard to tell her face in the dark, so I kept looking. She looked back, thinking I was eyeing her, which I was, though not maybe like she thought I was. Not an ogle at all. Anyway, she smiled, and I did some half-enamored gum-chewing gesture. I have no idea how it must’ve come off. I called her Joan Wayne in my head. She kept walking her way, and I kept to mine.

“You’ll have to excuse me. I’m a bit deaf in both ears.”
“I said, ‘Just booze? No mixers?’”
“Mixers are for yuppies and poetasters.”
“Huh. So…um…how’s your night going?”
“Horrible. I’m going around sweating like Charles Dickens in this damn heat. But I guess it could be worse. I could be working as a grocery clerk at 9:45 on a Sunday night.”
“You’re really going grey there on top, aren’t you?”
“You think that’s something? You should see my chest hair.”

And some out-of-work studio musician says, “We all are where we’re supposed to be, and we all get what we wish for. It’s just that we don’t know it yet. Put value in all of the things that you’re doing. All of them. Otherwise you’re just waiting for more waiting to pass.”

I need to be more of a contemplator these days. Instead I invent things to distract myself. I can still taste last night’s vermouth on the bile climbing the rungs of my throat. These louvered moments press the jelly beans out of my mornings. Land’s End. Day’s turf ground to rust. Stamped to a less bright sort of gum-chewing trespass. I’m penitent enough with it all as it is, and I always turn philosophical at this hour of daylight. Just don’t forget to close my eyes when I tumble over and die. 

In the roll between moments, anywhere’s somewhere, a place to push back, or in the permanent fixture of looking, in the standard rule of a stuttered growl. Not as chancy as a bad catch. Getting ripped off right of no left. And all the pawns are going hell. It’s a wink before you close my eyes when I’ve just drifted off to death. And thank you.
The softer they go, the easier they rise, sometimes. I guess it’s the walk-of-the-mill thoughts I’ve resumed having that’ve blurred formerly sturdy outlines of who it is who wears my shoes, dons my glasses, opens my mail, and ruins my suits. A collection of electricity and skin and scabs and bone and hair and empathy and neurons and blood and nausea and moods and curled pinky toes and lost sense and arteries and teeth and all this errata and etcetera too. The brazier’s warming up to toast my constitution some. You’ve seen one fireworks display, you’ve seen ‘em all. Eat flowers. Be afraid. Go ahead. The rest is over being underrated. All I know is what I don’t read in the papers. Yep. Wouldn’t you know it? Slipping the lariat over, still. Well, shit. I guess it’s back to Oologah, Oklahoma again. This light’s gone out.

My whole life is just contrivance and pose. Putting up with and being put up with, something marigold that goes. And the cheapest way to survive on memories is being lazy about the present. The sappy gulch of forgiveness gives up its ghosts and holy water, and somehow I keep playing along, dog paddling in it, maybe, in exchange for spring’s new clothes. No more reflection in what’s left to read on the surface. A slimmer warp of what time can’t tell bent into the long pious scars left in a room’s space that a laugh won’t hold. Just a weeping pepper tree to chop down and use for firewood in the heartless hearth of what I’m stashing away. Looser than always. Grooved and strutted and channeled and chipped to be always away. That’s what gives, and also what doesn’t.
Joan wasn’t just another hoyden without a place to call home. Not some pipedreaming broad stomping the floorboards with plenty of reasons to not be just where she was. No. Joan was a mélange of spray-blown spots and stamped return tickets and blighted sorrow that she kept hidden in her boots along with a picture of a dog named Ralph. She was the daylight that doesn’t last, peeking out from behind drawn curtains, slowly, with a hunch that life might be out there somewhere, among barbarous thieves and God’s chosen. There, shook with a tremble, Joan made winnowed prayers to an atavistic God who took no chances with salvation’s trouble; and Joan made off with penurious motives to Strumpet Hill, talking so courageously dull over the cackle of static grumbling in from some long place, perhaps above, in the classier rills of morning’s fading glow. It was a hold she didn’t have anymore. Didn’t want or need, too. The poorer sort remain that way, still, no matter what Joan did or didn’t. She’d pay the lord with land; get a view. Joan was prepared to be who she thought others saw her to be, even if that was just a dumb hoax perpetrated by her in some far country of, “…I am what I want others to want me to be.” Classier trades to ply, sure; but Joan wasn’t having any of it: “Remember me when I was who you loved, in the sensation of that threading through of light that only knows how to go. I’ve changed my name so many times. Call me Nadine, now. Call me Trish. Call me whatever you wish in that deceitful monotone of days leaving, tuckering out, and then furrowing into the runnels of loss. I am always who I am not.”   

Sunday, May 18, 2014

a squeezed-out tube of toothpaste & a broken saxophone

I went down to Market and watched the F-Line trolleys go by for a while. The clank and whirr and screech of those rattling ex-deathtraps made me sullen, even more so than I’d been moved to as of late, and my tendency to shrink from company and wallow alone and isolated in despondency rose with the taste of bile in my throat; and so I just stood there on the crowded rush-hour sidewalk, pulled a napkin I’d swiped from Sam’s Grill from my vest pocket, and cried softly into it.

She was tearing through my mind at a good clip, hat off, hair wild, pants rolled, makeup smeared and runny. “Then there was the high-jacked knack you had for the dramatic— falling, caught, or listing between storms, while I duct-taped my shoes and ran red lights with a shrug. With a grain of salt and a shovelful of earth, just the space between a hiccup and a sigh. Shattered low. Incompatible. And then there are those ruinous hospitable instincts to contend with. Shared hittable pitches like emotional moments in the history of bad luck. Rusty and shot down. Looking astute in the hurrying clod of hobbling gaits and hollowed-out reminiscences.” I had better thoughts to think, sure, but I just couldn’t get myself to get around to thinking them. Some mendacious scumbag in rags with a few broken teeth and a shattered personality was begging self-serving alms from me in the guise of spare-a-dime-for-the-old-guy logic, while the only thing he wanted was a cold beer and a colder pickle, really. I fished around in my pockets but all that turned up was a bent cigarette and a discount pass to The Garden Of Eden. I sheepishly half-grimaced in his general direction and mumbled, “Sorry, kid. I’m the stuff regret’s made on.” The cigarette was too busted up to smoke and the pass to the strip joint was expired. I put them both back in my jacket pocket and walked east on Market towards the Embarcadero.

Somebody’d homered down at AT&T, and you could hear the fog horns blaring and a bit of the crowd going wild. It made me wince, and I hunched and shuffled, and I felt bad all over, and then a tad worse. I was getting touchy and morose as the years passed. I didn’t like it. Something soft and cravenly sulking about in there too much, like some dead pigeon rotting and festering in the ruffled places of my weary disposition’s crutch. I’d like to think that with the passing of years one acquires wisdom and perspective and a certain grace that comes with experience’s accrued knowledge, but unfortunately I’ve only found myself growing more petty and stupid and witless with each year tacked on to this life I lead. I wanted a hot dog. I wanted to take the ferry to Angel Island. I wanted a nice place to sit and watch Yerba Buena and the bridge and the boats go by on the bay, a dozen oysters and an ice-cold vodka tonic, maybe a waitress with a few specks of leftover glitter from the night before on her cheeks and a rum-laced smile. I wanted to live in an old piano warehouse. But I was sick of asking for things. My buttonhole was spoken-for by a rusted safety pin. Things could’ve been better, I suppose, but it wasn’t something I was letting myself let on about.

The street vendors were out in full force all along the Embarcadero. I ambled by them, glancing at their wares and attempting to reconfigure my notion of what it meant to be alive. A stooped Italian in a butcher’s white smock was yodeling on about onions and peppers and sausage: some lurid testament to more guts-and-grit times. Everything smelled like cocoa butter and lard with a hint of jasmine. Carefully disobeying the traffic signal, I moseyed quite carelessly across the trolley tracks, knowing that it didn’t matter, that I didn’t matter, and therefore anything that could possibly happen to me— whether of my own volition or not— could not matter in the slightest. It was quite freeing. The clock tower loomed up above me, and I looked at it, just as millions of others had for over a century as it ticked away the remainder of their lives and continued on with its own. I looked at it— that ancient sentinel of strict and steady passionless structure; that block of cement and wood, never worried, never in love, never in debt or wandering aimlessly through listless ways of trying and not. I looked at that damn clock tower casting a big shadow over all of these small creatures down here whimpering around, getting on with our small lives, conversing with our small voices; and I thought, ‘I don’t care. Run off to the circus. Put the boot in the door. I just don’t care. I do not care, not at all.’ Then some crazed rollerblading lunatic wearing short-shorts, a midriff-exposing tank top, and a pink bandana came rifling at me, slaloming madly through the throngs, his headphones pumping into his ears what was to him the only sound in the world. Luckily I tripped on my own feet and stumbled out of his way as he blared past without even noticing anything outside of his narrow cubicled strip of world.

I steadied myself, leaned against the wall, wiped the dust from my pants, and felt extremely joyous and grateful for being who I was for the first time in a long, long while.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Bad Gasket And A Broken Windshield

DILLINGER: Maybe this’ll be the night?

SPALDING GRAY: Not so-so sure of it.

DILLINGER: Another botched repaving job. Another notch not marked.

SPALDING GRAY: We are the basics, the swilled indifference, the hunger and the desolation.

DILLINGER: Then, well, somebody to tell it, that’s a need that’s going unmet, still. Still, we’ve got isolation to be ourselves in.

SPALDING GRAY: Ship-shaped, another doddle, a wealthier way of strolling, and the booing just doesn’t do justice to what it represents. Another semaphore gone unseen but never hidden.

DILLINGER: We get summed up by it, yes we surely do. The limit’s set. Looking for a little splash of red in the breaks of all this boring blue. That happens to me never.

SPALDING GRAY: A surefire ticker that’s taped up, bandaged with rose stems and caged radicals. Nothing’s bought at less, or what it takes lying lifeless on the operating table to be somebody’s neighbor or idol or soap-scum of a husband.

DILLINGER: We give a little more-or-less all the time.

SPALDING GRAY: Wiser, heaved on the pyre just out of time.

DILLINGER: This’ll give a little assistance to the flame.

SPALDING GRAY: Perhaps. But I never treated her right or wrong enough. I keep throwing all of these genuine things away to make room for the tousled sort of thoughts I keep getting, having, ignoring, or whatever’s next left to do.

DILLINGER: “Her” is just some dim idea you had one blustery concomitant afternoon when the train butchers were luring saps with five-dollar-bill fingers.

SPALDING GRAY: That’s the slurp without the gulp.

DILLINGER: I’d rather the skies spell out what’s going to come, harbingers snuck by clouds through sullen folds in the weave of my sentiments, almost like a pretty girl or an untouched bottle of rye. Peruse my gray-white specials all you want. The greasy spoon’s downstairs, Dick.

SPALDING GRAY: The past tense is so passé.

DILLINGER: Without’s just another way to stay closer than faraway.  

SPALDING GRAY: Grades, escalators of the more mindfully mannered sort, steps or just rungs to snap off and fall through, stairs to tumble around on. We give better names than we get every time.

DILLINGER: Yup. Like, “He’s a lawyer. He ain’t the one for you.” The things in our past we just can’t give up on or get past.

SPALDING GRAY: We all carry our own damn crosses. We all bear some ailment of some piss-poor reason to keep going. I want my bus driver to be a holy man.

DILLINGER: Well, we all have a propensity for sentimentality some of the time, correct?

SPALDING GRAY: Right on. More to it. Whatever bends.

DILLINGER: Huge hearts. Fucking gigantic fucking hearts.

SPALDING GRAY: The opposite of that?

DILLINGER: Bathing at odd hours. Keeping a scorecard at a day game. Operating on Mission Accomplished visions. Melting spoons into rings. A gas, really, isn’t it?

SPALDING GRAY: A damn shame, for most. That’s the shit I stepped in.

DILLINGER: Leonardo The Cat is where it’s at.

SPALDING GRAY: Sure. But who goes in for all the mushy I-wish-ewer-here stuff?

DILLINGER: See this? That’s my hand shooting up to be counted.

SPALDING GRAY: By the way, Francis Ford Coppola can suck a toe, by the way.


SPALDING GRAY: No. No you don’t. You see, we’re rafting without the white water or the rapids, or even the river. The edge of it’s here, though. Tough as aluminum.

DILLINGER: Another dope duped by a plunge into necessity’s kitchen. See this? This is me grimacing hardly at all.

SPALDING GRAY: A thimble of white wine for your cognition.

DILLINGER: Pass the water. I’m over contagious habituation. Hold on. See this? This is me under the table, all curled up with a bad book and an awl.

SPALDING GRAY: Let’s get found.

DILLINGER: Sure. Sure. Sure. Sure. Sure. Sure.


DILLINGER: And in the beginning there was an apple and two idiots with the morals of a couch louse.

SPALDING GRAY: The slithering ways of the world waiting to be discovered. Misery marks its territory with cocktail napkins. Look. I’m scrawling my name on one right now. It’s a dissipated pleasure, at best, but still I ain’t looking for a trade.

DILLINGER: Live it off. Sleep it on. I’m deteriorating right behind my eyes.

SPALDING GRAY: Later mornings lead to later nights. I haven’t caught a worm in twenty years. Fuck it. I’m disregarding good judgment for the rest of supper. My heart’s so swollen with self-absorption that I hunt hunched and bent over after whatever’s leading me through it all.

DILLINGER: The busses are crammed with hasslers of mailmen and creeps of unjustified means.

SPALDING GRAY: Yet near’s my only far, still.  

DILLINGER: And I still have some answered questions for you, Huckleberry.

SPALDING GRAY: The things that April brings, sourer and sorted sorts of things.

DILLINGER: Gravitated towards some ill-fitting grace. Talking ain’t the thing.

SPALDING GRAY: Some guys can wear hats. I am not nor ever have been one of them. It’s just the way it doesn’t go.

DILLINGER: Fuck it. I’m buying up all the lottery tickets in town and calling my lawyer.

SPALDING GRAY: And there goes another petal, afloat just an inch above the muck.

DILLINGER: I don’t go out for all that. A rheumatic temper that just leads to more pointless temptation. I think I might be suffering from an avalanche of delusion.

SPALDING GRAY: I think there might be another voice in your head to tell you of such occurrences.

DILLINGER: Now that I’d be lief to believe.

SPALDING GRAY: Ah. Just another copout’s disaster in that cranium of yours.  

DILLINGER: Calling no cars. Good morning, doctor.

SPALDING GRAY: Ok. Get it out of reverse, Chief.

DILLINGER: Cloudy tufts, pooled resources of lavender and hand-washing’s linger. Roosevelt’s exit strategy. A plain man’s planned canal. Forget the fruit; I just want the core— what remains, what’s left.

SPALDING GRAY: You’re drunk.

DILLINGER: Again. You forgot, “Again.”

SPALDING GRAY: That’s a given.


SPALDING GRAY: The most slender of all apologies, Hula Hooper.

DILLINGER: Shed the happy act. I’m splitting town with a Korean girl named Bo who knows five languages. Fuck all these melancholic asides and all of these soppy-saturated bastards. I’m walking the show with a stripper named Codeine.


DILLINGER: That’s right. That’s it. Go on. Go ahead. Give me a tissue of déjàvu. I’m in need of some of reminiscence’s insistence.

SPALDING GRAY: The plight of the meekly insistent. To be worn like bandanas on the neck. Overstate your case, please. I’m out of touch with such misgivings.

DILLINGER: A simple balm for a burn. Rest more. Live a little. I’m ordering the drinks from here on out, Hal.

SPALDING GRAY: Because is its own why.

DILLINGER: Hey. I used to say that all the time.


DILLINGER: Now? I just refuse whatever's offered to me. It’s great fun. Give it a shot sometime.

SPALDING GRAY: Speaking of which, I need something to toast with.

DILLINGER: With or of? Or in? Or…fuck it. I’m moving to the Outer Continental Shelf.

SPALDING GRAY: Is that even possible?

DILLINGER: I don’t know, and I don’t give a shit.


DILLINGER: Fuck George Saunders. That guy’s crap.

SPALDING GRAY: True. But still…

DILLINGER: Blown down by some dirty trade wind. Knocked around by another palooka biding his time on the vine. I don’t get what I don’t for a reason. Get it?

SPALDING GRAY: Getting carried away, again and again. That’s what we’ve got. It is all there is.

DILLINGER: Left. Right. Left. Left. Motherfucking left.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Contemplative Tippler

I’ve been wearing the same clothes for too long now. Something woebegone and comforting in it, I suppose. The usual stitched-up and unkempt look, a willful obedience to the strangely commonplace errors of my ways. A crazed mopping of the brow, perhaps? Likely. Just as my love letters are all riddled with typos, I am a man of rumpled deliberateness. Unscathed by the drudge of getting by, I do as I do, and what else batters me or stomps out my will to wish the weather would hold but a sly rumination on the nature of open-all-night neon signs or the tatterdemalion flush of topcoat inklings. I do say. Or, perhaps I do not. 

There are worse ways one could be spending one’s Easter; I am sure of it.

The consolation of ice cubes. The reconciled guilt of another glass’s clink. Sunnier pastures to be out to, that is for certain; but they are not for me to ever be on. There goes another waiter, on a smoke break, off a crying jag or two. I’ll take mine with lime and zeal on a rowboat in the rapids of my head. And I’m getting a bit one-dimensional in my attempts at being free.  

I knew a bum once; he could beg for change in eight languages. Like some ump with a rectangle for a strike zone, everyone hated his guts. I want cheaper truths to slide by on, the scruffy stuff of maudlin afternoons. Busted in, crammed out. That low-and-outside changeup’s just not going to cut it anymore. A rifle shot in the breeze. I am going to put up with a lot less in the days to come: something to bet the over/under on.

So, let’s see here. I am hard at work being lazy. I am taking all chances, and putting aside some drinks for later. The waiters’ little hop-step, harried stirs wake me from a reverie, and something is not right with the way I am seeing things. Blue dots imploding and streaks of blurry rose too. Peace is for the competent, not for those of us weepers whose poker faces have gone south for all seasons. I couldn’t guess at what that barman knows over there, with his bowtie and his shiny auburn vest. I want a bowl of fresh fruit. I want a girl who needs all the things that I’ve got to give. Somewhere there’s a plea cut with absinthe on the longest bar top in the world, and I cannot wait for it to arrive anymore. I nod my head, order another, and make the best of what I know.

Stand around. Make a little sense. Throw a couple of bucks down for a tip. The bannisters are rough with it; the ladies across the bar snack of anchovies and broiled pig hearts. I almost wink at one of them. I almost pretend they’d care. There’ll be wet socks on the floor and a roadblock in the headlights. Nobody to take home. Nobody to go home to. Some inside-the-park job with nowhere left to run. Guess I’ll have that drink now.

Woe is not so me anymore. Jesus. I stop off and ask for a rare steak, and I get eyed and roughed-up by looks. So I stare in the windows some more, and the more I ask for the most I won’t get. The slender women slip by and don’t smile much; they glare at the sidewalk or talk on their phones. I move through the obstacle course of the masses and dream less vividly. There is not a thing left for my sight to catch. The only thing around here that keeps me going is the bottle’s promise of a not-so-terrible night. No Parking signs dot the landscape with worse luck than most, “Or You Will Be Towed” like and epitaph for my darkest hours, drifting with the out-crowd I go.

Sleep’s country is a place I never travel too far in. It is always another wakeful yawn away. Strolling over some water, never enough to drink, and the slake is all that’s left. And so I tremble myself awake again and again. Rest is a place I’ll never know well enough.

Me? I’ll have another of the same.

I knocked over the lamp she gave me, and it cracked and broke all over the floor, and I screamed, “Vida Blue! Smokey Joe Wood! Three-Finger Brown! Kenesaw Mountain Landis!” I righted the thing the best I could. It had sharp edges now. It was a fighter, gone down and back up again with the scars to show for it. I missed her like nothing I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing enough to miss before. Another 100-proof belt of a song I’ve never quite finished knowing. I let go and hung on. I toppled over on the bed and lay there sobbing like a dimwit. The moths swirled and buzzed. I made no move to counter. I sat up, scoured the nightstand for a cigarette, found one, promptly lit it best I could, and sat there on the bed smoking until I felt as close to alright as I could get. It wasn’t the most noble of things to be partaking in, but it was all I had, and I was okay with that.

The tree’s leaves’ glint sunset colors in the way she sued me for a wave and another last time. A cutter on the inside corner. A train-station echo that hollers, “Honus and Ty on the back of a coin! Flip for it!” I thought, ‘Asshole.’ Who am I to make such distinctions? It’ll all peter on out anyway, even before I’m through. Every fathead who walks into this place is just looking for excuses, ways not to have to deal with whatever it is they’re dealing with. The louder they raise their pathetic voices the less they’ve got to say. I get up and lean on the bar. I get the barman’s ear. “Hey, why don’t you guys switch on the ball game? Give us all something to look at.” He winks at me, “The leaves are all brown, sir. All of them, the ones that are left, that is.” He turns the TV above the bar on the ball game. I go back to my seat and get on with my staring at it. Everything is happening as it should.

The homeless lady who sings arias is in the window. Her mound of blue-black hair’s filled with glitter and tickertape. I can see the places she’s been in her widowed eyes. She’s really going for it, hitting notes so high I worry about my highball glass. The rags she wears suit her: some tacky spray-painted silver wedding dress torn in all the wrong places, a whalebone necklace; high heels with broken heels. I don’t want her song to end. A few joggers go by. A horde of tourists on a walking tour. A cop with bad sunglasses and a worse mustache. Sometimes the world’s more wonderful than any of the things in it. I sip and sip at my drink. The aria comes to a sad and beautiful end. The homeless lady walks away with her chin tilted slightly up and her arms akimbo, strutting and smiling a better smile than most could ever dream of. I feel that I’ve been a part of something important.     

The drinks will come.
The drinks will go.
The reasons to live?
Maybe not so.   

Things get hectic and rush. I get removed from my seat. I mumble, “Well…well…you know nobody brings anything…small…into…a bar.” Those who lay their hands upon me do not mind what I say. Those who carry me off to a slumberous place, or a gutter’s comfort. I wish them very well. I wish the traffic, the lampposts, the mail boxes, the dogs being walked, the misanthropic losers like me, the runners of errands, the mostly confused cabbies, the out-of-work right fielders, the musterers of bad dreams, the harlots in drag, the bad waiters, the out-of-town scoreboard watchers, the meek and hale, the whole tempered bullshit ragoutof it all, I wish it all the best; and then I subtly, with great pomp and soigné, go to hell.