Monday, August 9, 2010

The Wages Of Pascal's Wager

--I’m in a sentimental mood….Okay, now that’s over with.

--Wow. Glad that didn’t last.

--Halfway away, halfway home.

--Like the girl who stole a stole.

--She acted alone?

--Dreamed alone. That’s all we know for sure.

--The ecstatics declare things for us.

--Sure they do. I saw them declaring. It wasn’t much less than genius being declared upon entering a foreign land, a place one wishes at least to not throw up in.

--Glad the old movies are showing though. The same old movies. It’s reassuring. It’s eventful.

--I have a great love for the old movies, for all the old movies I know.

--Leave it to the cinema. Always doing old and wonderful things.

--I who have nothing. I who am so utterly alone. I who am no one. Watch. Watch. Watch. Dancing away. Watch. That’s about it.

--It’s gravitational.

--How so?

--From somebody who is way too interested in his own self, well, let’s just say…well, it’s heavy.

--There are mountains. There are gaps between episodes of galactorrhea in the unwed mothers. If we can get a grip on our own sandy sadness, if we can trash the sleepy bags ‘neath our carefully winnowed eyes, then maybe a retraction we shall get.

--Describe your first love again.

--She had scabs on her knees and her socks slid into her loafers and she could throw a football farther than any guy in class. She was a tandy kleptomaniac with short black hair and a penchant for Lucky Strikes and heliotrope.

--Always. Always you’ve got to mention heliotrope when you speak of her. I don’t understand this one bit.

--Really? I do?

--There you go. Bloated with complacency again.

--If you’re not looking for four-leaf clovers you’ll just find weeds and chaparral. One must exercise one’s sedulity at every opportunity. Squint if need be. Make an effort.

--Visions of heliotrope clouding fear and other sinister claims to fame, while you shuffle the cards of your days, inadvertently in repose.

--Really? I feel like I am always heedful of my repose.

--You’re quite borderless sometimes, you know that?

--Emulating the freewheeling dispatches from Bulgaria, that’s where my payola streams in from.

--I’m glad it comes from somewhere. Still, I think we should hold off on the champagne for now.

--Coffee perhaps?

--If I never sleep again. If I never sleep again. I won’t ever sleep again. My lord. My lord. I been up all night long. Don’t know what’s been wrong. Going to pull down the shades and block out the sun, and sleep, sleep, sleep, all the daylong.

--Sleeping….the day away. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong-ways up.

--Oh. Well, I don’t go in for all that music nowadays.

--You’re right. Something clever does fall by the wayside when all the mockingbirds have gone to sleep. Let your lone thoughts stir some mischief into your boredom’s coffee. Invest some quality time lifting yourself up so you won’t slip so easily back down again. Falling is easy. It’s the climb that kills off the less-than-great of us.

--Ovations come and ovations go.


--Sleep, sleep, sleep, all the livelong day.

--Come home and rest your weary bones my son. Come home and be calm. Come home.

--Yesterday I thought I saw the girl of my dreams. She was riding in a taxi. A smile was all she was. A glance in the glass. She left before I could smile back.

--I am trouncing the home team.

--Gone before I could say hi or goodbye.

--I am bluffing ignorance.

--What’s left?

--Blue moons and the crumbled wrappers of eaten ice cream sandwiches.

--Make sure my bier is kept clean.

--The ones at the top will see to that. The ones who don’t get paid by the hour. The ones who run the whole show by wiggling their fingers, commanding others to do the work, while they go all-expenses-paid through life, stuffing their pockets with the gold of others’ sweaty labor.

--They’ll see to it?

--Probably not. But, there’s always a chance.

--Efficiency isn’t always the most stand-up way to wow people.

--Leave me in the dust? Well, bravo to that. Kudos and all the likes.

--Change my channel while there’s still a chance.

--A voice strained with chokes of sorrow.

--Saintly patience pays off at last, right?

--If I might melt at the sight of gallantry, well, then the stole was stolen for all the wrong reasons.

--Pass me the collection plate. I’ve got a few pennies burning a hole in my shoe.

--Death won’t spare thee.

--Fuck him then. Fuck him. I don’t give a rat’s ass about Death. Death don’t give two shits about me. Because I did not stop for him? Really? Fuck that. The horses’ heads are always towards eternity anyway.

--Kindly. We must remember, kindly, Death will still stop for you. Play chess with him all you want. It won’t matter. Nothing you think or say or do will matter. Haste is not in his nature. The carriage moves along through the centuries like days.

--And the dogs lose their bark, right?

--Weep no more, says the narcissist, and then dunks his head in the river.

--But we still have the old movies. We’ve still got plenty of reels to watch. A multitude of stock footage. Mirrors and bells. And, if we’d like, there are steam engines to go for a ride on…as far as our fantasies can take us.

--Never quite far enough.

--Oh, that’s just your blue period talking. Let’s bring in some fall colors, some shades of red even.

--Or a saxophone even. That’d pick things up.

--Paint the town burgundy.

--Even that.

--Like a break in a field of avocado trees. A clearcut in the forest of your imaginings. The old movies play on.

--The old cinema has much to say.

--We are creatures of I-don’t-care.

--We hold these falsehoods to be self-defeating.

--We run away every chance we get to split.

--Hurry, hurry, hurry. Chase that dream all around until it’s weighed down with everything you’ve got.

--We’re smart enough to be dumb about most anything.

--A musical perhaps?

--Not in rudimentary times like these.

--At the apex of her philosophic flight the attendant brand-name film critic became unmoved by all things celluloid.

--Apple core, say a lot more.

--We follow plot lines like they used to follow Jesus.

--We get too used to beginnings, middles, and ends.

--Getting used, trying not to get sued, plodding around in piddling tide pools while the sharks circle.

--Enough with all this excogitating. Express something.

--No thanks. The old movies have expressed it all already.

--All twist with no shout. It’s nothing special. I ain’t buying it. Get that pre-lachrymal tickle out of your throat.

--Ah, a life punctuated with frustration and insomnia. Build up your stamina. Hold court among blanketed morons and make your adversaries scream, “Uncle!”

--Too careful. The old movies show us how to behave.

--Tell us, you mean.


--Bland meliorism preaching moderation and steadfast cooperation.

--Operating with a flying-solo attitude while bandwagon jumping.

--But still, even without the old movies, the smell of home resonates. I was onboard when the captain abandoned ship. I went for a stroll. Saw many things. My mom was driving recklessly on the freeway. The road was Astroturf. I got in a fight with my sister. She called me a fruit fly. I made the shape of ass-kicking with my hands. My personal life seemed a waste of time.

--Take yourself out to the old movies.

--A real treat. The old movies.

--Black leather jackets. Holes in the wall. Glimpses of empty slippers. Civilian casualties. Monsters roaring glossolalia at innocent victims of circumstance. Erstwhile glories turned down to simmer.

--We’re dancing around our fear while the old movies play on.



--Yep. Just another example of how capitalism forces us to be nice to each other.

--The dollars they pay make us give our time away.

--Helping others nonetheless. Doing something possibly beneficial…and, also, quite possibly, for the wrong reasons.

--Sometimes I think it’s a sin, when I feel like I’m winning when I’m losing again.

--Gordie boy?

--But of course.

--Senor pie ligero.

--The one and only.

--It takes time to catch on. For each individual to perform her task for the general good. We give so much of ourselves away, yet we don’t think of it like that. Would the bus driver drive the bus, help all these people get around, if she weren’t getting a paycheck in return?

--Buying and selling: The world going around.

--Breathing. Getting involved. Feeling lonely. Making hamburgers and French fries for hungry customers. Smoke breaks. Listless walks home late at night. Using ATMs. Finding love. Texting. Dreaming. Making jokes. A roof over the head when it rains. All paid for out of the pseudo-good-natured hauntings of our hearts.

--When all you want is for the hours to just go by, for time to just be gone, and for that bell, that magical tintinnabulation to set you free.

--Getting the least out of life. Ignoring things, letting moments escape with no chance of ever getting them back.

--And then that rather corpulent rug salesman starts whistling The Prelude from Carmen.

--All’s ill that starts sick.


--It is only in a moment of stillness that one can become aware of another life within one.

--To always be attentively watching.

--To discover what it means to be you.

--To go bounding out into life again.

--An interior silence behind words.

--Not grasping, only open to a fullness which is all around.

--Bad news. Bad news. It creeps through the alabaster. It murders the glassy marbles in our eyes.

--But we’ve still got Margaritaville to waste away in.

--Stay there all season. Maybe get a tattoo.

--Nah. Too permanent. Don’t you know? Everything passes. It’s all a continuum, an ongoing process that never ends. Time will take care of us all in the end.

--But there is no end.

--Sure. But still, for us, speaking from our own tiny glimpse of things, there is.

--While we blow out our flip-flops, step on pop-tops, cut our heels and have to skedaddle on back home.

--In a manner of speaking.

--Always got to mind ‘em, don’t we?

--In this case I could disagree with you less or more, agreed?

--See that? That’s me waving the world’s smallest white flag above my head.

--Oh. That’s what that is? Surrendering at last?

--At last. At long last, silence will, maybe, come to us all.

--Oh, to ponder nothing would be serene, everything portending nothing, lost in a smile, gazing langorously at forever-fleeting shapes that mean less than we’ll ever get to know.

--The old movies.

--Yes. The old movies. They’ve got it all.

--And they don’t even know it.

--Of course. That is too rare a thing for which to hope.

--Of course.

Monday, August 2, 2010

from "A Field Guide To The Symbols Of Love Serenades"

“My name is Cinderella, god damnit!” screamed a vexed Cinderella.

Nobody looked. The fans were on full blast. A man with two beards said, rather vehemently, “I want those things on full throttle all the fucking time!” His satin pants were checkered with gold golf balls.

“Beat. Beat. Beat. Beat,” a freshly tonsured woman chanted. Cinderella looked at her with what Cinderella thought to be a menacing glare. The newly shorn woman was feeling too clean to care. She chanted some more, and then said, “Ablution? Absolutely!”

Cinderella became fed up. Many things were occupying her thoughts. A train went by. “I hate you!” Screamed Cinderella at nobody and nothing. It was just something screamed into air.

There were always beetles around, scattering crumbs with their little insect feet and their pointy feelers. Cinderella wanted all the beetles to die.

Cinderella had two sisters, a dog named Peachy, a black eye, a baby whose father was unknown even to her, a ma and pop, a silver shoe, and had to take out the garbage every Tuesday and Friday night. Mopping was, fortunately, out of the question now. She saw a psychoanalyst six times a week. His name was Pecker. Pecker loved Cinderella. But Cinderella had no idea about his love. She just thought he was very concerned for her welfare, which he was. He asked Cinderella many questions about her childhood.

“I was in a cage,” said Cinderella. “It was a silver cage with gold bars. That wasn’t all the time. There was fascination to be had, that’s for sure. Fuck. Fuck! I mean. Shit! My name is…what?”

The psychoanalyst, who was very serious sometimes and had a nice bushy handlebar mustache, told her, “Pitter patter. What’s the matter?”

Cinderella thought about her shoeless left foot.

“You look peeved honey. What’s with that? Flirting again, are we?”

The psychoanalyst, who dyed his hair blue-black and had thin-rimmed spectacles which often hung off the edge of his long nose, sat back in his psychoanalyst chair and smiled slightly.

“Fuck!” Shouted Cinderella at the framed picture of Chico Marx on the wall. “What the hell’s dancing got to do with anything?”

“Dancing? Where’s the gift?”

“You!” Cinderella, at the height of menstruation, leapt up and pointed at the smug-faced psychoanalyst. “I will not let you tell me how to run my affairs. No. No. No way in hell, buddy. My name is Cinderella for fuck’s sake! Give me a fucking benzo already, will you?”

The psychoanalyst remained calm.

Cinderella hunched her shoulders and sat back down on the couch which she had been sitting on up until that point.

A decade went by.

“Where did my love go? Where did it run off to?” Said the prince.

A century went by. Then another.

Not much changed.

“My name? My name’s Cinderella. Who’s asking?”

A cloud shaped like Alfred Hitchcock’s profile went sailing by.


“What is it to you?”


“Oh. Well then…”


“Nothing. Got any shoes?”

A clarinet played Wild Man Blues. Cassius Clay spit at a butterfly and kissed a bee. Levers cranked to the sound of zebras chewing.

“Cinderella? Who’s that?”


“Leave me alone, will you. The flowers are not for you anyway.”

The butcher cried. His tears smelled like Fritos.

The prince exclaimed, “I don’t worry about sweat. I worry about the government. King me!”

Cinderella was walking. Somebody was reading aloud from THE BOOK OF LOVE. It wasn’t too long, nor was it too boring. Something about it didn’t make any sense. She listened for a bit as the person read, “Coffee cups and butter knives. Promises to unkeep and whisper us to sleep.” That was decent enough for Cinderella. She walked and walked. She walked up hills. She walked down hills. She thought many transcendental things. She forgot them too. She walked over rivers. She walked in the middle of the street. She picked up stones and threw them at pigeons. Cinderella lifted her dress above her knees. She splashed around in gutters. She got her shoes wet. Tigers turned into lions. Detroit was to blame.

“Turn the light back on.”

Cinderella was mad.

“No. Bitch!”

“Who you calling bitch, bitch!”

A great struggle ensued. The prince didn’t come out of it so well. Then again, who needs every one of their teeth?

The bedding was rent. The bed seemed flayed. Cinderella kissed the mirror.

“Your balls smell like salad dressing.” Said Cinderella.

“Creamy Italian or ranch?” Asked the prince.

“Thousand Island.” Answered Cinderella.

“Oh.” Said the prince. Then he snapped, “You wanna go for a ride? I got wheels, baby.”

“Sweet. Let’s do it to it.” Snapped back a lustful Cinderella.

The sun set. The moon made a dashing appearance. A pumpkin imploded.

Cinderella looked deeply into a store window and said, “I will only wear black from now on. Reclusion will suit me very well. Let’s bring the party to a standstill.”

Chicken marsala was served. The prince vomited up a mushroom, then he said, “All I really want is to feel connected with something outside of myself, with something real, with something that matters. Not all this bird-chirping bullshit I wade through every fucking day. I want teal skies and buttermilk thighs. I don’t believe in the ground beneath my…beneath my…” He stopped and mumbled something unintelligible. Then, rather glumly, he said, “Shoes.”

Cinderella was cutting her toenails while watching The Greatest American Hero reruns. A fly landed on her wrist. It stilled its frenetic wings, shook its head a few times, looked up at Cinderella, and said, “You can’t handle the truth.”

“I don’t miss you one bit.”

“Second chances only come around a second time. Don’t chase away your benefactors too soon.”

“Wake me up when the world cares.”

The fly screamed, “Wake the fuck up! Wake up! Wake up! Cinderella wake up!”

Cinderella said, “Shut up, fucking fly.”

Everyone started singing, “Her name is G…L…O…R…I…A! Gloria!”

The sun rose.

“Pick a side,” spoke the prince. “We will win no matter what the cost. Nobody chooses to lose. Take my hand…please.”

Henny Youngman turned a handspring in his grave.

Fortune turned an adelite eye to the events. With a mild voice, a grocery clerk chimed in, “Don’t lose your shirt without taking off your pants first.” Nobody was listening. The days were just racecars going in circles. Plastic turned into edible tubers. A mastiff whined, “The Errol Flynns of this world have taken all the biscuits, and all we are left with is gravy.” Cinderella made her bed.

“The wool over your sight has worn thin,” said the butcher. “Do not mistake my trade for a pejorative verb. I have sliced meat more thinly than you will ever know.” Fog hung low like dresses over the buildings. “Lights less green than this have led you on. Trouble is, well, nobody listens.”

A documentary filmmaker was shooting a scene for a documentary about princes. The light coming in the window was what he would later describe as being, “honey-gelid-gold.” The prince was lying on a couch. A nimbus of sunlit dust seemed to float above his head. Everything was still and silent. Shoes shined themselves. Cobblers got the day off. It was a moment like none other.

“Smart enough to be a fool, only my hate survives the crazy-about-you principle,” pined the prince. A flatiron building crumbled. Crowns broke. The prince, now lying supine on the terrazzo floor with his legs crossed at the ankles, speaking over his shoulder to the documentary filmmaker, who was down on his hams smoking an unfiltered, hand-rolled American Spirit cigarette, said, “The oracle of my passions is beyond all understanding. Lose the beard, chump.” He paused and held his breath for 28 seconds. Then he exhaled with a throaty wheeze, “I’m going on the lam.”

Cinderella was singing the blues. They were catchy. Everybody was humming them; when they were running on a treadmill, when they were frying eggs, when they were smiling into the microwave’s glow, while they showered and shaved, on the bus, sitting in traffic, standing on one leg, picking up dog shit, watching the coming attractions in movie theaters. A caterpillar died in its sleep.

Will the gown fit? Will night fall and never get up again? How does a shoehorn work? These were questions nobody was asking. Instead it was like an inquisition of pillows and sheepishness.

“The street is only surface. Nothing can grow on its barren face. No depth shall be explored within it,” said the merchant marine to the card sharp. “Only the sewer prowls below its vicious grin.”

“Cheese it!” Replied the card sharp.

“Why…I am an honest character,” came the strangled voice of the prince. He was chewing three pieces of Wrigley’s spearmint gum at once.

The prince slightly choked on his own spearmint-tinged saliva, but managed to blurt out, “Dance with me.”

Cinderella bade all of her suitors farewell, with an axe. Blood splattered everywhere; some even got on the toaster. She winked conspiratorially at the prince: “You make me more than happy.”

“Romance is hopeless, when it comes to sentimental reveries and mass slaughtering,” said the prince as he was spinning in circles with his arms out for balance. He stopped suddenly, almost toppled to the ground, and, while holding both his hands to his head, told Cinderella, “You make me dizzier than this.”

“I keep talking to the picture of you on my nightstand.” Cinderella rubbed her temples. “Let’s grab a six pack of Hamm’s and get our asses to Reno, pronto!”

“I’ll drink to that,” replied the prince.

A year was lost. A month happened. A day stayed and stayed and then stuck around for a while.

The documentary filmmaker was following a maroon Studebaker on highway 99. It was a time of frosting footprints on the tiles of kitchen floors, of topping off gas tanks, of perpendicular motion and real-time clay-mation, of origami earrings, of chalk stencils on black construction paper, of Hollywood bungalows festooned with yellow newspaper clippings, of calves beaten by barrel staves, of plants and patios and Pee Chee folders. Being gone was all there was left to want. The Tanguay Tangle played on the documentary filmmaker’s radio, and he thought, ‘I don’t care. I don’t care. Plus…well, I don’t know. Is that better? Fucking hell. I need some damn personality.’ Nothing was coming back in style. ‘I will wear black to-morrow,’ he thought, and then became bitterly engaged with Indian-burning the steering wheel.

“My name is Cinderella you fucking bastards!” howled Cinderella. The sky was piebald, checkerboard cloudy black-and-white. Nobody was listening. A car alarm chirped twice, then fell silent.

The prince was crawling on all fours over the front lawn. The sprinklers came on. “The architecture of everyday life is paneled with fritted glass,” mused the prince. “My thoughts are wandering no more.”

Tallying up the points, a duty much sought after within the various districts of Anhedonia, fell to the pushup kings. They tousled the papers good, before shredding them, and bragged about the shape of their shoulders. Anhedonia thrived on nonplussed momentum. The people did what the television commercials told them to do. An exaltation of larks swept through the meadows. A parliament of owls awoke. Nobody started a war, but it went on ahead and happened anyway. The prince screamed, “Dog Garnett!” at what was left of the moon. The untranslated Russian novelists grew restless. Anhedonia exploded. All the inhabitants died. All points became rather useless. Cinderella made her bed.

The prince was living underneath a freeway overpass. He’d started smoking clove cigarettes at night. Sometimes, while lying alone in his ratty sleeping bag and staring at the odd shapes splintered into the concrete above him, he’d get to thinking about old rap songs, like Freaks Come Out At Night and Parents Just Don’t Understand. The lyrics didn’t always come back to him, but he’d make up his own when this happened, and soon he had his own rap songs that he’d rap under his breath to the music of those old songs. “You’re only 16. You don’t have a rep yet,” sang the prince into the gut-punched wind.

Along in the sun and the rain came an old man wearing a straw cowboy hat riding a pitch-black horse named Charisma. He blew kisses to all the girls. He made balloon mermaids for all the boys. Magic was in his blood. They called him William The Grownup.

William The Grownup galloped over the hills on his horse Charisma. He hid in alleyways. He slept in the basement of an abandoned building next to the freeway overpass where the Prince was residing. A fountain pen was his gun, and he wanted to grow a beard but couldn’t. “Fuck these damn genes!” screamed William The Grownup from the 3rd story window of his abandoned-building home.

“What’re you gonna do, sucker? Write me a letter?” scoffed the prince.

William The Grownup was pointing his fountain pen at the sleeping-bag-bound prince under the freeway overpass.

“Git,” said William The Grownup. “Fucking prince fancy pants.”

“Ha!” The prince choked on his own laughter. “That’ll be the day. Scared off by a pen wielding cowboy wannabe pansy. I think not.”

William The Grownup let go a sly smile, and a rather rambunctious fart. “Seems it’s time to wean you off the milquetoast, buster.”

The prince was laughing so hard that he rolled off the ledge he’d been lying on in his sleeping bag and went tumbling down to the bottom of the overpass where there was just dirt and rocks and a small stream of piss-yellow water.

“I told ya. Fucking assmunch,” sighed William The Grownup at the sight of the prince lying bloody and dead in his sleeping bag at the bottom of the ditch. It was just a body in a dusty bag. He then became thirsty for grape Kool-Aid, and hastily returned to town on the back of Charisma.

“I am Cinderella motherfuckers!” shouted Cinderella at the starry sky’s speckled sable belly. “I am my own fucking moon! Underestimating leads to madness. Pleat my soul why don’t you, you fucknuts!”

A week came. A week went.

“Hurry babe. We slept too late.”

“What? Where…huh?”

“Don’t worry. Don’t worry. Don’t you ever worry about a thing again.”

“Fat chance.”

The sun squinted into their lives.

“Oh well. At least we’ve got each oth…”

“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And my name is…my name is…”