Wednesday, April 25, 2012

the richard nixon library incident

          Bundy was the King Of Tapping. This is when you take a bolt and scotch-tape it to some unsuspecting suburbanites front door so it hangs down a few inches on the slack of a piece of fishing wire. Then you let the wire out and go hide behind some bushes across the street. The string, when pulled, makes the bolt tap against the door, like somebody’s knocking; but when the person opens their door nobody is there. And because the string is attached to the door they’re pulling open (and fishing wire being pretty near invisible) they don’t see anything. They close the door. Then you yank the string a few more times, the scene repeats itself, and you sit cracking up in the bushes watching the homeowner grow increasingly frustrated. In a pinch you can pull really hard and take the whole bolt with the string, if you need to. Bundy had great touch when it came to this. He could lightly brush the bolt against the door from 20 yards away with a mere lithe tweak of his wrist, creating just a subtle grating sound, if need be. Conversely, he could thwack the thing so hard against the door (without tearing the bolt off) that a few homeowners probably thought they were being attacked by a medium-sized wild boar. He was the king, and, well, the rest of us troublemakers deferred to him in all matters of Tapping. And this made him almost sage-like to us in all areas of teenage public nuisance.     

            I grew up in a small Orange County town called Placentia. Orange County is divided into North and South, the south being the ritzy, mansion-strewn, beach-living sort of place you see on reality TV shows: Dana Point, Laguna Beach, etc. The north is the towns around Disneyland. No beaches. No mansions. Just places where orange trees used to grow. And, in a city called Yorba Linda (which bills itself as “The City Of Gracious Living”), The Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace.
            Placentia’s squashed between Yorba Linda and Anaheim like a dead ant. As teenagers we’d often grow bored and restless, and would go out in my friend Matt’s 1974 Imperial LeBaron looking for adventure. This car was going to pot: what was left of the ceiling hung down and got in your hair; there were no windshield wipers; rolling the windows up with the hand lever was a challenge; and the gas tank leaked. But we never drove it too far. Matt was very particular about driving very slow around the suburban neighborhoods. For fun he’d keep the thing below 10 mph, and would blast classical music with all the windows down. This wasn’t always appreciated by our cadre of punk-loving passengers, but there wasn’t much we could do about it. After all, it was his car.
            One of our favorite things to do was to pile into the LeBaron and drive out to the Richard Nixon library late at night-- well after business hours. There was a fountain there in the parking lot, and Matt would start circling around it, slowly at first, while blasting the classical music. As we circled, the car would pick up speed, and soon we’d be flying around the thing like we were on a carnival ride: all of us being thrown against the far door by the centrifugal force, the wind slashing in through the rolled-down windows. Around and around we’d go, faster and faster, with all the windows down and the classical music blaring.
            Matt was really pushing it one night. There were five of us in the car: Matt, Mason, Lowell, myself, and, of course, Bundy. Matt was really flooring it around the fountain, and we were all having a great time trying to lean towards the middle while being pushed towards the outer window. Matt was circling counterclockwise, in adherence with what he believed was the law: driving on the right side of the fountain.
            As we reached an obscene speed (Matt was really having a hard time keeping the car on track, and was starting to drift a bit) we saw flashing lights. It seemed the Nixon Library security officers had come to pay us a visit. They were barking something at us through their patrol car’s PA system, but we couldn’t hear over all the wind and classical music. Matt kept circling. The lights kept flashing.
            Soon we could hear some of what they were shouting at us, and it basically boiled down to: “Stop circling that fountain!”
            Well, Matt soon got tired of holding the car steady, and slowed down, and then pulled the car away from the fountain. The security officers were pissed. They tried to follow us, but Matt started weaving around the parking lot, maneuvering the LeBaron between parking blocks, and the poor security guards couldn’t keep up. So, we sped off out of the grounds of the Nixon Library and pulled the car over in an empty public parking garage across the street.
            There were cement walls separating the different sections in the garage, and Matt had pulled the LeBaron over right next to one. We all sat on the hood and smoked cigarettes under the garage’s sodium-yellow lights. We were feeling triumphant: we’d escaped the long-arm of the Nixon Library security forces unscathed. Or so we thought.
            We’d just finished our cigarettes when we saw the flashing lights of a police car around the corner in another part of the garage. We scattered like cockroaches and tried to hide. I lay down and hid behind the car. I wasn’t sure where everybody else had gone. Soon the lights came closer, and over the police car’s PA came a voice: “Come out from behind there. We see you. Keep your hands were we can see them.” I didn’t move. There was no way they could see me. I was well hidden behind the LeBaron’s immense backside. They must’ve been talking to somebody else.                
            There was some general commotion and some scuffling sounds. I heard Bundy yell, “Run you idiot! Run!” That’s when I knew we were done for. I peered out over the car’s trunk. It seems that Matt, that good noble citizen, had come out with his hands raised. The cops, half-hidden behind their car and leaning over the hood, had their guns drawn on him. It was a scary moment to say the least. But Bundy wasn’t scared at all. He was screaming at Matt to run. It didn’t seem like a great idea to me, and, luckily, Matt didn’t listen. Soon we all came out from our various hiding places, and the cops gathered us up for questioning.
            Bundy was pissed at us for being such wimps, but came out to join us, as he saw that we were defeated and that it’d be better to give up at this point.
            We were all 16, and had never been to jail before, and didn’t want to start now. There were two cops, and they were extremely angry. They kept treating us like terrorists.
            “You boys having some fun down the Nixon Library tonight, huh? You think that’s funny?”
            Bundy was laughing. “It wasn’t that fun. It was okay, I guess.”
            “Son, where do you live?”
            Bundy pointed in the general direction of Placentia. “Over there.”
            The cop didn’t like that. “Okay son, where’s over there?”
            “Son?” This was cracking Bundy up. “If I’m your son shouldn’t you know where I live?”
            This made us all laugh a bit.
            “Okay you bunch of jokers.” The cop’s mustache was quivering. “That’s enough. Do any of you have any idea of how much trouble you’re going to be in? That’s federal government property you’ve been goofing around on.”
            We all tried to look appropriately scared. I was uncertain if this were true. Could the birthplace of an ex-president who was impeached really be owned by the US government? It didn’t seem likely, but thought it wise not to question it at the current time.
            “Messing around with government security forces is not a good idea, okay? You get it?”
            It turns out the security officers had phoned the cops and given them the LeBaron’s plates. I guess we hadn’t been too hard to find, parked across the street like that in a deserted parking garage, though I’m still curious how they’d found us so quickly.
            The cop continued: “Now. I’m going to need all of your phone numbers. How old are you?”
            Bundy quickly replied, “Not old enough. Sorry. I don’t give out my number to…”
            “That’s just about enough out of you, son!” The cop screamed at Bundy. He took out his handcuffs. I sensed this wasn’t going to be end well.
            Soon Bundy was cuffed, and they were giving him a pat down. It was absurd, and Bundy kept giggling the whole while they searched him. When they were done, they put Bundy in the back of their car, and then came back to chat with us.
            “Okay boys. See what happens when you don’t follow orders? Now, I’m going to need all of your phone numbers. We’ll be calling your parents to come pick you up.” It was after midnight. All of our parents were asleep by now. And, to a 16-year-old kid, the thought of a cop calling one’s parents was extremely frightening. The cop took out a pad of paper, and one-by-one we all gave him our names and phone numbers.
            Bundy screamed from inside the car, “Don’t give him your phone numbers, you idiots!”
            The cop screamed back, “Hold it down in there, son. Don’t get yourself in any deeper. We ain’t done with you yet.”
            Soon the cop was calling in all of our numbers on his CB. The only person who picked up was Mason’s mom, who was not happy at all about it. She’d freaked and thought Mason had been nabbed for grand larceny or something. She arrived in her bathrobe, and took Mason by the scruff and dragged him screaming and yelling into her car. After a bit more waiting around, amazingly, the cops released Bundy to us, as it seems they couldn’t really hold him, as he hadn’t done anything besides mouth off. The rest of us were given a stiff warning that we were on their “list” of persons to watch, and were told to behave ourselves. They also did a search of the LeBaron, but didn’t find much besides fast-food wrappers and smashed BigGulp cups. We drove off in the LeBaron, sulking and downtrodden, but still sort of marveling at the whole ridiculousness of it all. In the end, the cops probably had better things to be doing that night than harassing a bunch of teenagers, at least we hoped; trying as they were to keep Yorba Linda-- the land of gracious living-- safe. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

whisky in the sky with diamonds

Dock Boggs: You’ve got to draw the reader in.

Carl Perkins: But where’s the father in this story? Where’s he been?           

Dock Boggs: Up and down shit creek and all over Pissville. I want whatever love is falling out of, not some flimsy excuse for it.

Carl Perkins: In the mood for some genuine human interaction, I see.

Dock Boggs: Very the same as much so, really.

Carl Perkins: And the reader don’t care. She don’t care at all.

Dock Boggs: Precisely.

Carl Perkins: The Collected Works of Elvis Precisely, and all that, and et al, and those other etceteras to jumble around, but who’s reading?

Dock Boggs: Nobody. Nobody reads. The Dewey Decimal System’s gone out of style. I watch the porch for signs of light. Nothing. Just a big empty rattrap of nothing.

Carl Perkins: We can say whatever we want. Nobody’s listening.

Dock Boggs: If only we could sing. That’d be something. People would pay attention. People like music.

Carl Perkins: Sure. But I doubt it. You’ve got to win a couple popularity contests to even have a chance. And we are not so hip or cool, are we?

Dock Boggs: Not by a sword’s throw.

Carl Perkins: It’s shit like that that’s getting in the way. A bunch of self-absorbed assholes ain’t going to be looking to us for help.

Dock Boggs: If a voice cries in the wilderness and nobody is around to hear it cry, does that voice really cry?

Carl Perkins: More like whines in the wilderness. Creepy, huh?

Dock Boggs: Block it out. Keep trickling by unnoticed.

Carl Perkins: Lost in the alleyway, shuffled behind the cards, flummoxed with Cream-Of-Wheat sadness, we go angling dull hooks through the pawnshop window.

Dock Boggs: My tie’s been clipped!

Carl Perkins: Don’t worry. Nobody’ll notice. Nobody cares.

Dock Boggs: Now that I believe.

Carl Perkins: The moon’s slicing shiny streaks through the blinds. A grand old laugh sinks in. We are buried. We are chumps. 

Dock Boggs: I don’t believe it.

Carl Perkins: I’ll have to make you, then.

Dock Boggs: Just foam in my beer, my friend. Break a few legs trying, though.

Carl Perkins: Hold on. My theme song’s playing. I gotta go. Be back momentarily.

Dock Boggs: Lord.

Carl Perkins: You really are an ass-face Kimberly. Really.

Dock Boggs: Somebody opened up the sardines, spilled sardine juice all over the bathroom floor. The place, the whole place, it reeks like sardines. 

Carl Perkins: Five chilled-vodka shots, for your medicine. Likelihoods arising from unlikely emissaries, as these, aren’t potty trained enough to be left to their own devices. Not yet. Pyrcoslastic flow achieves the meanest of ends, for them, these, and those, or somebody’s other.

Dock Boggs: I must have been happy once, but I don’t remember it. Maybe it was on the 3rd Tuesday of the month, or something. It is difficult to say. A lot of lolling between things. Substantial, yet meager.

Carl Perkins: It’s getting late. Do the dishes. The weather’s fair enough for enemies to pick sides.

Dock Boggs: Lowed and beholden to the sticky side of this Jack-Benny-heavy mess while the one-liners take cover-- or take off on a long vacation. I have a fear of never flying.

Carl Perkins: The reader’s bored. The reader’s dead. The reader’s out to brunch.

Dock Boggs: And yet we keep her in mind, always. We need her. We have to court her with our quirky, interesting little tale. Entertain her with our witty and caustic sense of humor. Woo her over and into the midst of our soundless fury.

Carl Perkins: She’s not listening. She’s off buying cosmetics and raffle tickets and an iPad. She’s talking back to the television. She’s microwaving popcorn. She’s falling in and out of love. Her status is forever neutral and indifferent. 

Dock Boggs: She’s drawn in by pictures, explosions, fart jokes, and cat memes. She’s only got like fifteen seconds to spare-- between the jumbled mesh of this barrage of distractions and spam-ideation-- to be serious about the way in which she’s living her life, or to be at least partially concerned with having to, what, sit down and really, well, think about it.

Carl Perkins: To be waited on by the union-backed figures of beauty, fixed out-of-time, socked in the jaw by life’s jest and fluff and jiving around.

Dock Boggs: And here, where the mockingbirds shoot themselves, the reader’s in too much company. The reader’s alone, lost in the crowd; that’s the long and short of it, really.    

Carl Perkins: Scattered over too many razed landscapes. There is not much hope, for her, is there?

Dock Boggs: Drawn away. Not even cognizant that there is a touch to be in.

Carl Perkins: But who are we to…to say what the proverbial reader needs, cares about, or should care about?

Dock Boggs: Nobody. We gripe. We don’t read. We don’t partake in the greasy handouts of life’s soup kitchen.

Carl Perkins: We must matter, right? Matter to somebody?

Dock Boggs: But who? The nights play havoc with these wishy-washy aspirations, these delusional waking dreams, and we wake or sleep, just the same, don’t we?

Carl Perkins: Stumbling through it all, falling in love with the wrong people. Yep. I guess so. Leading toilet-paper lives, to be used and flushed away.

Dock Boggs: And the music. It’s like Stephen Foster meets Stephen Hawking, or…sort of.

Carl Perkins: And the music. Oh yes. And then there’s the music. Ah, let’s forget it. I’m not dreaming well. They’re all about cocaine, sometimes with orange feathers growing in it, and, also, I seem to be writing suicide notes on a nightly basis.

Dock Boggs: Paced with a spell-- no a potion-- to crack rarely on the freezing sidewalk of the world.

Carl Perkins: If I (she or he, who cares?) could ever figure out stuff like this stuff.

Dock Boggs: Oh, it’s just that old, “Johnny, can I borrow that ring?” sort of stuff. You know, that kind of thing. That kind of stuff.

Carl Perkins: Pop the champagne for all of us. Me, you, her, him, them, and all the rest who read what’s not here nor there, but all over the place-- every-damn-where you could dream of.

Dock Boggs: The moon ain’t hitting my eye, though, is it?

Carl Perkins: Hell, how the fuck should I know?

Dock Boggs: We get crabby over petty differences in the circumspect bits of our cowardly nature. The reader’s not going to gamble away her time for something so lacking in pith. Grips should be gotten on ways to not only attract, but to keep attention.

Carl Perkins: We could hunt musquash in the perfumed sanity of it all. 

Dock Boggs: Sure, decreeing it a lost cause, and we make up usefulness to get by. 

Carl Perkins: Sure. Like Mel Blanc’s, “Sí.” Something that goes all kinds of further than it should. But that damn pesky reader. Shit. We’ve got to keep her with us, tagging along, giving up her free time for a trek into…into…

Dock Boggs: Yep. That’s what it comes down to. A journey that just don’t go nowhere. You buy the ticket, think you’re taking a ride, but instead get taken, get jumped by some derelict thugs who just see you as another obstacle to acquiring goods, to bettering themselves, and you are squashed, stepped on and over.

Carl Perkins: I, I, I, I, I’m not your stepping stone!

Dock Boggs: Walking around like you’re front-page news. Yep.

Carl Perkins: Whatever. It’s just psychotic hipness, the passé coming back into style.

Dock Boggs: Lord help us.

Carl Perkins: Don’t count on it. She’s busy. Just like the reader. Kind of has a lot going on. She’s consanguineous with the Hi-Def patter, the UltraMo splices, the pop-up-ad attitude, and the curvilinear structure of throwaway regularly scheduled programming. We are abandoned, left out here all on our own, craving salad dressing without even the hope of a salad.   

Dock Boggs: I’m disqualifying myself from any discussion of right or wrong. I’m all voilà without any of the razzle or the dazzle.

Carl Perkins: And we seem constant only when looked at over the long haul, maybe on a flow chart spanning thousands of years where the itsy-bitsy nature of our entire existence is but a single lure baited on one of billions upon billions of time’s hooks. Everything’s already occurred, buddy, long ere your grandsires had nails on their toes.

Dock Boggs: Ah. Oh. Gimme, gimme shock treatment. Pretty please?

Carl Perkins: Might as well not. It’s not like we’re the architects of our own spirit. What doesn’t count about nothing is all that nothing is-- something we can’t know because it is not-knowing in its purest form, and we are only creatures of substance, not the lack of it.

Dock Boggs: A mere pittance smeared on the glass slide of memory’s avalanche.

Carl Perkins: These pretzels are making me thirsty.

Dock Boggs: Yep. That’s the stuff. American Bandstanding. Sweetening the purse. Getting along properly with a reasonable amount of others. Never rocking when all the rest of them roll.

Carl Perkins: Based on my mercurial findings there is just not enough miner music playing in the hard heart of it all, and spanked awake, lumped into a sum that nothing adds up to. Um, thanks, Lord. A lot. Really.

Dock Boggs: But the pink flowers are back in bloom on the thorny far-away-eyes of sticks without stones. We take it. We spark a bloom’s last cramped blush. We inch away and away from it all. I am movement redefined inside of everybody else’s out.

Carl Perkins: The train is at the station. That’s all I’ve got to say.

Dock Boggs: But no one boards.

Carl Perkins: And, well, that’s as it should be. No father. No reader. Just the two of us counting invisible cars on a turnpike that’s a million miles from New Jersey.  

Dock Boggs: Grounds in my coffee. Grounds in my coffee.

Carl Perkins: Details, hunched over less-than-serious business, gamey and never quite hungry enough. Falling for the same tricks, buying into sanity for a chance at mediocrity, and we make plans, and if the best laid don’t pan out? Well, throw a candy bar in the dryer. Repeat, repeat, repeat, then repeat until desired results are unattainable, and then all worry goes the way of landlines.

Dock Boggs: We are the result of never being drawn in or swept away or beatified to the nth degree of impossible streamlined fittings-- um, things called, maybe, a soufflé of auscultation in the dust-mite infested realms of what borders the troposphere of all possible thought, which, of course, is limitless. Shouldn’t we be listening back?

Carl Perkins: Arranged, patterned, Montenegrin stitched into the same-old, same-old. So, what we’ve got here is, wait…just standing single-file in a corrupt line that weeds out the extraordinary? Is that all there is?

Dock Boggs: Skipping the proverbial stones of peace over war-torn lakes of fire. Nothing much, really. Necessity’s become abstract. We’ve lost more attention than we’ll ever have chance to gain.

Carl Perkins: I’m taking a leave of absence from my life. I’m putting my duty and my ambition on hold. I’m taking out a loan of risk-free loafing, and am quitting all of this dumb settling and ordering that bogs and clutters and scars.         

Dock Boggs: But the reader? Haven’t we forgotten her?

Carl Perkins: As long as I can spell my own name. As long as I…can…

Dock Boggs: It seems to me that she’s maybe gone out for cigarettes, and that it is surely possible that she’s never coming back home.

Carl Perkins: That’s more like it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

klugman’s plea (with a hair in the gate)

 in praise of pip...

The air raid siren’s playing a Tony Bennett tune. We’re all heaped in yellow, washed brutally in gold, and stabbed brushing into a stale copper that’s jerry-rigging havoc from the street’s steely skin. The ambulances are in a trance, and I’m making hay with a gentleman’s magazine. Lowly and rising. There’s a sticker price of 99 cents on most of my ideas, and the garbage sure ain’t taking itself out, but the sky’s lapping up the lazuli out of an opening-day sale, and the cards have lost their faces and their shine, and for the moment there’s no real way to tell if the weather’s going to take off its hat and stick around a while. The Senators are all dead. The sky’s pitching for its life. And I’m just one of those heels with a Robin-Hood complex, gone from auburn to a streaky gray. It’s to laugh. No more bets. No more bottle. No more plying blue for the dirt. The carousel’s piping Gloria and spitting rain-slick neon, and the shooting gallery’s all ducks and squashed hope. A shill ducking for cover in a rooming house dreams big and loses the same way. The sodden carcass of an aging, weak idiot in exchange for a little kid’s shoebox soul. The nature of reality’s becoming unraveled. Stuffy and refined, going out for a beer run and forgetting to buy beer. Geezer plates and teeth like a rabid hound, and all inroads are leading out to the pastures of hell. Locks change. Doors get blown. Strays’ chains rattle the kennels. A place where there’s not even supposed to be a war on, and the kid lies dying, for an hour or so. Low-balling chances of making it out to brighter lights, to the peppered squeaks and thwacks of a pickup game. An hour. An hour. Nobody’s stuffing three hundred in an envelope. Nobody’s drinking light beer. Making movies from scraps and leftovers, worn-down resentment, out-classed pizzazz. Tax me, then. The rum’s been stirred to life. The spaghetti’s gone to mush. A bible’s ripped to shreds on the bed. Hang on. Get yourself a stool’s worth. We’ll meet back at a quarter ‘til doomsday. The strings are gone from the piñata. The milk’s drained from the livestock. Catch the last bus to Norfolk. We’ll find others to hang for our crimes. We’ll don paraffin wings and gorilla-glue felt hearts to our wrists. Don’t you know, the moon’s made of squash and eucalyptus bark? Cash on the barrelhead, it’s only cashed-in losses now. Bet the book and throw silver dollars at the band when they’re finally done for good. Our song’s been out of tune for so long now that we don’t even notice. A couple broken mirrors and your picture fallen frameless to the concrete, a widow’s weeping caught in the slivers and shards. Hokey-Pokey’d to a dream while home’s just one last losing streak away. It’s to laugh. That’s what it’s always been. To laugh. So, steal the smoke from all the fires, and curl, soft and happy and lost, into the curve of the world. We’ll send out for the clowns to take care of the rest.    


Thursday, April 12, 2012

bottom of the eighth

            The heavy sprinkle’s slop’s making a popped bubble-wrap sound in the camera mics, and you can hear it-- almost like a wonderfully rich sort of static-- over the broadcasters’ voices. We’re gathered around the TV in the clubhouse, some guys on foldouts, most of us slouched standing up, gabbing a bit, but mostly eyes glued to the tube. Our playoff chances had been so-so for most of September, hanging back by 4 or 5 games in the division for the most part, but we hit our stride late in the month and had made a mad dash for the top: putting together seven Ws in a row to close things out, and luckily Baltimore had taken to losing more often, and so we’d come out right dab smack tied for the thing with the O's still playing one last muddy game in Boston for the title. We’d done our part, beating Texas 4-0, and now were just waiting on those damn BoSox to eke one out over those damn orange birds.  
            It’s 4-4 in the top of the seventh, and we’re mostly a bit nerve-wracked standing around, not really saying too much. Some guys are icing up, and there are a few pitchers in the trainer’s room getting worked on. But most of us everyday guys are drinking Gatorade in our shirtsleeves and flip-flops rooting for The Sox. Which for me was rough, because I mostly hated anything from Boston, and especially those fucking Fenway pansies. I sucked it up though, and did my part. It wasn’t pleasant.
            So, we’re cussing at the TV like a bunch of drunk armchair managers, ripping the umps a new one on any call that didn’t go Boston’s way. And they’ve got Frank Sally on the mound, who was a soft-toss Junker from another era. He even had a knuckler he floated up there every so often. It was agonizing to sit there and wait for the damn pitch to flounder over the plate. The guy really took his time on the bump between pitches too. And when that rookie catcher Boston had goes out there to the mound, mostly Sally’s probably thinking, “Ah, kid. I’ve been in this game longer than you’ve been alive. Get back down there in the squat and leave me be, son.” All of this stalling and waiting around, well, it wasn’t helping our nerves any, that’s for damn sure.
            I was pacing a bit, and doing some standing around too. Fran Hurd was next to me, and he was chewing giant wad of gum that he kept adding to as the tie wore on, and he was shuffling his feet a lot and doing a lot of staring at the iced champagne on the table behind the TV. I’ve got to admit, it was hard not to. All of that bubbly waiting for us to pour all over each other, if only the Sox could pull this one out. Fucking Baltimore. What good ever came out of Baltimore? What? John Waters and Edgar Allen Poe? Shit. That ain’t a fly’s piss. Fuck Baltimore. Seriously, fuck them.
            So, we’re nail-biting and the likes, and Fran’s chattering away next to me between innings. A rainout didn’t seem likely; it’d let up to more of a mist by then. So that was one less thing to root against. It’s still tied in the 8th, and we’re all losing what’s left of our patience, which as ballplayers we usually have in spades. But this was pushing it. I mean, we’re here stuck at 162, all knotted with the damn O's, and it’s getting on past midnight, and we’re all worn out from our own big victory too that night, and still we’ve got to sit around and endure this one last shot that those shit-eating birds are giving themselves, all of us praying that it’s in their own foot this time. Fran was making it worse by peppering me with all kinds of stupid rhetorical questions: “What’s Sally waiting for out there? Throw the damn ball, you sumbitch! Shit, what’s the holdup?” Or stuff like, “Fucking Lionel Jeffers. What a sad sack. No guts. Can’t hit for shit. Just bean him. Bean the motherfucker. But, shit, that’ll be like a moth landing on him with Sally Boy out there. Shit. Come on you nutsacs! Hit it where they ain’t. You got the big old Green Monster out there. Use it!” It was starting to wear on me, but I didn’t want to let on. I kept my game face on and kept myself distracted with hope.
            In the bottom of the eighth that dumpy shit-for-brains Morris England comes up with a guy on third and one away, and so we’re all hoping for at least a medium-deep fly ball to get a run in. Reevey was at the 3rd, and though he’s no speed demon on the base paths, he was quick enough to scoot on home on anything hit out to right or center. We had our rally caps on for him, I’ll tell you that.  
             It had never occurred to me before just then that I was going to have to change my life. Everything about it, the life I was leading, was false and ignoble. There was nothing real about who I was. It was all a big 4-pitch walk of a lie. And it was all going to have to change.
            Anyway, so Fran’s jabbering on, ribbing all the O's and rooting for those bastard BoSox. Most of the guys around the TV were keeping pretty mum though, just kind of mumbling and jeering a bit, but mostly tapping around and trying to look more relaxed than interested. Though their intent was not liable to be mistaken. It was just an act, like anything else in The Bigs. A pose. Trying to look cool, calm, and collected for the crowd. Sure, we had our moments of expressing joy-- unadulterated stuff at that-- but they were few, and only at the proper time and under just the right conditions. Nobody wants to take one in the ear for showing the other guys up. Just round the bases, you know, and don’t even smile after hitting that dinger. No flipping of the bat. No standing around ogling the ball’s arcing flight from the plate. That sort of stuff. It’s a code, an unwritten law of the field, and you’ve got to respect it or be prepared to pay with a dent in your batting helmet. Being humble, it turns out, as much of a staged act that it is, is part of being in The Show. Even the umps go along with it, if they know what’s best for them.
            So, bottom of the 8th, and wouldn’t you know it but that dumpy ass, hillbilly, sumbitch England swats one to left center, and the O's centerfielder Mosser’s got a bead on it, and he’s got a good arm, and it’s not too deep, so we’re a bit iffy on it, but most guys are cheering with an arm or two up, and we’re all standing and rowdy now. Mosser comes in and nabs it quick and unleashes a fucking pearl into the plate on one hop, and Reevey’s flying down the line like he’s Usain Bolt or something, and we’re mostly all holding our breath and clenching our fists and all the likes. It seems there is going to be a play at the plate.
            There was a nuisance prickling me, and I started tumbling things around in my head. I thought things like, “We live on a pie-slice shaped spit of land. The air’s mush and we drift as much as possible. Nobody’s holding the remote, or it’s out of batteries maybe. We hobble around on stun, lost and crushed by our own habits. Doing the same things over and over, not wondering once about the intent of it all, or if there’s even anything outside of our little cubicle of doings, drapes pulled and hugged hungry.” The hardest part about it was zoning out all of this mental somersaulting, which had always been cake for me, like when I was up at the plate; I could just push everything else out of my mind, go completely blank, and just react when the pitcher went into his windup. There was no time for a moment’s twinge of thought. I couldn’t hear or see or feel anything at all. It was just a tiny scrape of emptiness, and I could exist in it without even being sentient of it. See ball; hit ball. That was it. The body did the rest. Muscle memory. But, really-- I was sort of starting to get-- there’s not a difference, really, between the two. It’s mostly a trick we play on ourselves to get the job done. And, well, I guess I wanted out, mostly to be done with all that. It was like I was leading seven different lives, and it was hell trying to keep it all together, and separate too, mostly. I don’t know if that makes sense. But, at the time, it seemed vital to my understanding of keeping my head above those old proverbial stormy waters of the soul’s darkest night. And then I start noodling about how my worth is measured by my bank account, how nobody feels close to me. And my distance was a thing achieved at a great loss, mostly, to my quality of life. You know, mostly, isolation pays the rent in loneliness and fatigue. Friends hover and chase, but are never a constant, never a thing to be counted on; and when I check my luck in the mirror I see a horse darker than any darkness I’ve ever known.
            And so the TV, the guys all jumbled around, the clubhouse moments away from a rowdy champagne-bath celebration, and me contemplating my life’s great mysteries, mostly. It was like the moment there was calling a timeout, and I stepped out of the batter’s box of my existence and, well, felt mostly outside of everything happening around me. Mostly, it was almost or nearly like God had hit pause on the DVD of my life, or something. I don’t know. All I remember thinking was how little all of the things going on around me at that particular juncture in my time here on earth meant. It all mattered less than a Rookie League batting title. There was a space there that I could just sort of fall right into, like a lazy fly to left, and I was wafted into it. Fran’s blabbering, Reevey barreling towards home, the coaches sprinting over to catch a glimpse, the sportscasters voicing their best imitation of the dramatic, all the sunflower-seed shells scattered on the glazed linoleum.
            Well, you know, I just mostly started having the oddest of thoughts. I started backtracking to something that’d happened to me when I was a kid, growing up in San Francisco. I don’t know what brought it on, or what the exact nature of the memory was, or perhaps it was mostly just a jumble of odds and ends of things, stuff that my mind kind of blurred and mangled and glued back together after all the years gone. But at first I was brought back to this one night (which, like I said, mostly, could’ve been a bunch of nights stitched together). It was quiet that night. Just the steady jangle of the cable car tracks, and some bird across the street losing its voice with high-pitch squealing yelps. I was up late, as I a lot of times was, as I had a pretty bad case of insomnia mostly when I was younger. I got up out of my bed and went to the window, pulled open the drapes, and had myself a look out in the street there.
            The streetlights seemed so bright, pellucid even, really, and their orange or yellowing light didn’t seem diffused at all, but more direct and important. Sometimes that same light seemed stifling to me, like it’d trap me inside the windows or something. That night it struck me somehow just how still and pretty things were out there under those sodium-yellow lights, the parked cars basking in what seemed to be an effervescent glow-- mostly like a scintillating, or, I don’t know, polished aspect of the moonless night. The sidewalk was sparkling too, like it had diamonds in it (or, mostly, that’s how I thought about it as a kid, or how it “seemed” to me, I guess, mostly). I just sat there staring out the window at what must’ve been probably like 2 or 3 in the morning, which to a kid is an unimaginable hour to be alive in, like the distance to the moon or something. The trees seemed unique and isolated creatures, their flailing leafless branches like the scrawny limbs of some Dr. Seuss monster, unable to move but thrashing about in their tiny plot of ground nonetheless. I mostly just started thinking about how it was all like some massive, wide-angle shot of a street scene late at night, like a picture taken with a God-sized camera, if that makes sense. Nothing was happening. It was all just a moment stolen from the clutches of time’s constant onslaught.
            I started humming. Not on purpose. At first I didn’t even know that I was doing it. Nobody would’ve noticed. All the guys mostly being gathered around the TV and intently watching the play at the plate and all-- getting ready, or so they hoped, for some serious backslapping and champagne dousing. But mostly, I guess, it just snuck up on me unaware. It was like waking up from a dream with a song stuck in your head, and you just can’t figure out how it got there, mostly. So, well, you catch yourself humming it and are like, “What the fuck? How’d that get there?” That was mostly how it was. I guess sometimes you scuffle and claw and hold on to get caught up in a moment, to be “in the moment,” as they say. But once you get in the moment, well, mostly, all you want to do is get out of it. You don’t want to be “in it” anymore. That’s the thing, I guess. Like a comebacker smoked right at your cap. And you wave a glove up there and half-duck too, no time to do anything but react; but, also, mostly, I guess, all the time in the world to be there, right there, in that precise instant. And you are. You are there. Alive. Not waiting. Not bunting a guy over into scoring position. Not looking ahead to the top of the ninth. Not going anywhere. Just there. Solid. Stable. Alone. There. There. There. See? And that’s all you are, and all you can be. Ever. You know? 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

the weary and conflicted kindness of shy strangers

            Sometimes it’s like you’ve either got too much salsa or too many chips. Let me tell you, it’s a gamble, and every so often you’ve got to run with the mustard and take cover when the hotdog buns come for you. Trust me. I’ve lived through enough barbeques and picnics to know better. Bring some snacks. Take an umbrella. Smoke armadillo-skin cigars. Tie my spikes together and chuck ‘em up over the telephone wire. Dog-tired? I’m taking the kids out to breakfast. It’s a sure thing. Wrapped up. Boy, these broken heels are killing me.
            Crabapple jelly on dark Russian rye. That’s what I’m talking about. Here, there, we’ve got pounds of sugar to dump. The comic strips tell the future while I go around closing windows and, when the mood strikes me, bark at the television. Warming up but never sleeping, it’s ornaments of rust and gold that keep the eyes half-shut all the time. Reused elements of cocoa powder and stylish hope, the dreams I can’t make out are off to keep pace without even a hat to their name, and the high-pressure zones, and the bottle-cap patched pants, and the yellowing tape marks on the balding shoulders of a thrill-seeking jacket, and, and, and, that’ll have to do. It’s a Henson Stitch: something you’ll never see but that’s there just the same anyhow.
            Atypical romantic schemes, dialing up the wrong sort, pay saved up until it’s spent, and the old and staying-put dawdle in the pool-hall light. Wedged and insufferable, the table’s been set but nobody’s eating dinner. Devil my eggs and roll that old tire down the driveway with me inside of it. Please stand clear of the closing doors while I’m up on the roof with my vacuum cleaner and box of dominoes. And a Bronx Cheer goes out to the Appomattox-soured cads among us. Where does this escalator let off? Under the river or into the doctored night’s teeth? I’m willing to put up with off days midweek and the Coeur d'Alene sliced heaven of it all, if need be, but there’ll be no gimmicks in the hollow of a dying cedar, if you’re floating with this buzzard’s drift. After all, I’m no Trimalchio in West Egg; rather, just a gouache of a guy splattering his way through the headlands with a dyed-blue heart dripping from his sleeve to his jacket’s elbow patch. Nobody’s offering me a ride.
            So, as accidents happen (and we’re all to blame here, really) there’s little indication that I’ll take my Kangaroo stew recipe with me to Harlem. The supports for such an effort were pretty damn small, if truth tells on itself about it. Certain spices, well, you just can’t go lugging them around. And when it comes down to grit and the richness of sauced pride, well, there are moons we’ve yet to land on still, and it’ll keep us lucky and grounded wherever we go, which, of course, is nowhere but here where the stalls reek of pissed-on dandelions. For this here being’s time, I’ve been nicknamed to death, and there’s a real way not quite out of staying the course, but that’s a long-gone decision that pretty much all takers around here and there are almost too brave to make. That’s really getting your mayonnaise in your mustard, if you’re in the business of asking. I can hardly bother the diced tomatoes to stay put, myself; and if you’re planning a coup in the sauerkraut it’d serve the needs of most better to just lie lazy in the bouillabaisse until the crops pick themselves for the remainder of the summer’s blackbirding.
            The captain’s one-eyed dwarf sings, “I would like to be in love, in love, in love, in love,” almost every evening. This is not the land of the blind, apparently, and he will have to be satisfied with his cravings alone. I suspect that he’s waning gibbous in his moods, especially late at night when I’ve spied him dipping his stubby toes into the pool’s icy waters and epode-ing to the dismay of the sleepy and harassed charter-club members, most of whom don’t give a rattle about this particular asp’s melodies. The boiler room’s becoming more crowded than they’d like to admit. It’s enough, I figure at least, to permanently etch a five-dollar bill into the pockets of unsuspecting visitors. They don’t know what's there, right in their pocket, and it doesn’t matter because we’ve too little faith in what somebody else might bestow into the fold of our lives to even check things like jacket linings for clues to a better way to get help, to heal, or to set up shop on a banana tree farm and stay open all through the night. It’s more or less what we give that matters, not whom we give it to or what we take from it. There are stars closer than the distance it takes to muster a simple hello from time to time. Remember, oleander kills.
            The brunt of what I say is lost in the soft cushion of my surrender. Do not mistake my lavish appetites for greed. It’ll be a frank goodbye that gets mileage out of all this, and the artichoke leaves have all been brushed with kerosene, and I’ve donned my crepe myrtle sombrero. It’s in the misty hindsight of liking’s look that we’ve stabbed all the champs-- in the midst of it. And there is still very little now in the force-fed hunger of missing, in the lonely eyes of dry-iced laughter; and we’re not taking care; and we’re a pound over the limit by now, very little left hiding below the stairs, or on a barstool sad with bad meatloaf and worse beer. 
            So now it’s almost when we lived (or could live) on dream’s smoke and the love of cats, when we hung (or were hung) around drugstores and pool halls, when the cops never came-- very little now-- while the snowy speeches still could wreck, while the whores slip (or slipped off) down the stairs, or now while the sneaks fluster and hurry sugar away from the coffee-loaded grandstanders. And it is all as it were, where we happen and were happened upon, and I still slice my pie with a stiletto, if you really want to know. The lie is that we are all bona fide citizens of our own subconscious realms. Here? Well, we climb back, the radio tuned to static, a violin in the trunk, waiting around to start having a good time, letting the statute of limitations on prayers elapse. And then, the lent of love’s like gives a wink backwards, and there is a sprinkling of sun after the hail’s let up, and there is hell to never pay, and there is the sound of that old gypsy saying my name. Do not forget what I gave and never asked for back-- it is legendary. And, as I arrive home from Hushpuckena, watering the fake dirt of plastic plants with real water, well, it has become all that I own.  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

smoky joe wood’s burgundy period

            Even the rain’s clatter was less than the boys raising Cain upstairs last night. And now I’m the one all done in, and ere this I’d wandered crutched by doubt by the corner market where, boozy and theatrical as always, the old man who works behind the counter screamed across the street, “Janet! Do you remember Alabama and The Forty Thieves? Alabama!” I got squeamish and hobbled away to the park.            
            I’m benched, cranky in the sun, watching glossy leaves on some shrub bush shine with it, and the smell of cut grass from the mower just about bowls me over, and I’m shivering. At a sidewalk café, some kid’s dad is commanding him to dip his bread in the sauce spilled on his plate. There’s a song that goes, “Land of plenty’s got nothing for me.” Well, it’s a start. One cloudy guy up there by a high-rise’s top. Grooming’s done for. Very much, Sam, played out. There’s probably some cool place to be, with drink in hand, right about now, but I’m far from it.
            Really there are only shuttled grunts heaving over the power lines, and I’m a stand-in for myself, regaling lunch dates with not very mesmerizing stories of life gone awry. A heavy lifter’s thawing, and it’s emphysemaville for this lemon picker, if you want to know the truth of it, how and by, cured as cheap bacon, suffering mild tantrums here or nearly there. Gut’s panicky and feral. Delirious is more than I can say for how I’m looking to see these things. Minor adjustments in temperament, I’m crusty with glory and defection. Every last hard-to-call pitch breaks in the dirt, and I’m shaking off signs for the rest of the afternoon’s season. Off-speed stuff, mostly. Nothing catching much of the plate, though. Lack is gnawing away at what’s not hustling down the line-- basically just me and my A-less-than-one motivation. Really, it’s all about as exciting as an intentional walk. It’s like tailing Herkie Styles and Mary Hatcher, and I’m making reservations for an encore, or at least staying put ‘til the bottom of the frame.            
            Holy Moses and Christy Mathewson too. It’s a stylized affectation of who I might’ve been, formerly, in a life less drab, and you know last night, well, a telephone pole I usually lean on while I’m waiting for the bus gets a car wrapped around it about 5 minutes before I get there. Seems luck’s shunting with a swilled crick just in time for extras. Barnstorming with Bloomer Girls in Ouray, let me see, that’d be about when it started. You go from Albuquerque to Des Moines, by way of a bus with a transmission that’s about to drop out and die in the road, and you’ve got yourself a head that’s liable to explode any minute, and there are no charter flights around these parts, so it’s a five a.m. wakeup call that gets your day started. Then, well, maybe you go into your mind’s windup, lollygagging back to Ness County, limbered up with much earlier episodes of how the Old Man tried to pickup on this chick by telling her that she could pour more sugar in her coffee if it were hotter, that it’d absorb better---um, something about supersaturation, or the density of a liquid, or something that’d rubbed off on his still nimble noggin in chemistry. And it almost worked, so, well, there’s where you get that first inkling of a kid, i.e., yours truly, coming up and into the picture’s focus. And it’s a bloop and a blast to this here now-- just a sagging, woebegone catcher’s mitt and a few broken toes to show for it. Boston’s snowed in. And, too, the grocery store’s always a tad far away. But, in some parts they deliver Mexican, so survival doesn’t go quite out of style. So, the sentence carries itself out, and you’re twixt the devil’s twin and a few shallow wine-dark seas in the meanest of times, in the dourest of hours of loss. A thousand or so stadiums away from thirty wins. And lord hurt us with slippery grass. 
           Chippy birds perch on bench rails. French kids skip-run, circle, and dart in a game of tag. The reek of homelessness; a ragged man asleep in his boots on the fountain’s concrete ledge. Wind’s scattering white petals of the trees’ flowers. My shoes scrape against the rough wood of the bench, and, shit, I’d spike any damn shortstop around these parts for a chance at The Bigs. Low-down, Rookie-League crap, if you’re wondering. Just a gimmick, see? In the way we’re built to ape the appearances of those we try not to get nabbed peeking at. From Topps to Donruss to Fleer, all the way through to a hundred and sixty-two, we’re sunk thrum-clacked to the cable cars’ mumbled moan-- a party of one, if you please. Left hubba-hubbaing at church bells, greater but smoked out, and clearly Wabashed in flowery mountains through cannons of love.
            The doormen flick their cigarette butts directly into the sewer grates, while I flop myself down here, taking my warm-up swings far enough away from the on-deck circle-- by gum-- for a chance at taking the next one deep. Lord, I’m like an old duffer with two canes who climbs these hills herky-jerky, up and down, back and forth, and now there’s only the return trip to look forward to, and, well, back at, too. Closing in on depth, a certain cling left whiffing at 3-0 junk, I spend my luck on flops and reruns. A stubbly hobo Judy Garland, thrown exhausted on some backstage stairs, humming herself back under the rainbow again…why oh why can’t I?             
            Shunned, budded, and nulled like an egg cracked over the void left when my playing days got through with me. Bloated and sarcastic, shaving corners, cooled to an ice-water sangfroid in the bottom of the ninth with two on and two out, down by one. Upbraided by no clock’s chime, all filled-up with labor-less folly, and so it goes, well, quitting time in the soul’s factory, I guess, from here on out. Toeing the rubber and tipping pitches. Smart enough to play the dumb ass. Shit. Where’s Jason Robards when you need him? Where’s Iron Man McGinnity? Hell, just a nuanced pick of the nose in the wriggled gist of eternity’s crop dusting, maybe, and we’re playing a-whole-nother ballgame, shirts and skins on the asphalt, and we need an impartial observer to, at most, say grace before all of this batting-cage supper’s substance is lost in the ephemeral fields of cowtowns and palookavilles: rubbed-out places on the map where the crack of the bat’s been replaced with pasteurized charm. There's nothing left to do here but spell my name and spit seeds, and, of course, gripe my way through this horrid slump. Time to relocate, to pull up roots and soak in somewhere else’s shine, and I’ll take the rain and the white-flowered trees along with me. Wracked and tortured with missing, I’ll make friends with a suitcase and a bottle of scotch. And, well, you see, the broken maples, they follow me wherever I go. 


Sunday, April 1, 2012

the death of longitude

“I don’t care about your happenstances. There’s work to be done. Do it.”
“You’re believable.”
“Try it sometime, huh?”
“The trains run. Not timely, but they run.”
“Battle the youth. They’ll get old too, and while we fight the…”
“Heart attacks accrue, right?”
“Well, Miss Lily’s gone shooting the moon. We’re bastards for being here. We’re not making it okay. We are not too thirsty for it.”
“Devils above. Angels few and far between. Very kind, the ways of man.”
“Sneaky, at least. The best I can’t do. We shift our means to the names of love. All that we’ve got. All that.”
“Worms get more, for the bites they don’t take, while we eat circling meals and try God’s eyes on for size.”
“Abalone for sale! Get your hot-buttered abalone today!”
“I’m sick like a sneezing popcorn vender. I’m healthy like a fatally wounded racing horse.”
“Give away your bullets but keep your gun, you know?”
“Kind of.”
“If it pleases the court…”
“It would.”
“I might present here a gracefully stitched star to the temple, hung like an earlobe.”
“Get me under a cover. Get me up and over another hill. Cast me off, all the way, pouting, to the root of liveliness.”
“The best dreams and better wake-up calls. I know what’s not what. Patsy Cline, beer, three cigarettes in an ashtray. Leave me alone. I’m in love.”
“Is it wonderful?”
“No. Not at all. It is pieces of this and a whole lot of that.”
“Do monks know about this? Friars?”
“It’s not in my jurisdiction.”
“Just music to play while driving, to sing along to with the windows up, to recommend to strangers.”
“We are not the world. We are not like little children.”
“Sure. That’s more like it. Blued to death. Beaten to life.”
“A voluptuous tick of the clock, gone for longer than a while.”
“Reason wins! I knew it!”
“Blame the cheerleaders. Blame the stray dogs. Blame the newscasters.”
“If sleep’d only stay.”
“Mesmerizing, I bet. Let’s accomplish something. Why not?”
“Too realistic. No. Let’s set no goals. Let’s snap small change at parked cars. Let’s make up songs for crickets to sing.”
“Gone. Again.”
“Yep. But who’s going to be left to care?”
“Not this. Not again.”
“A fever that never rises, that never goes, that frisks suckers for a good time.”
“Easy. Easy. Easy. There’ll be heaven to give away, for a price.”
“Of course. We pay upfront for our salvation. There’s a dignified grace in the gestures of a liquor store clerk.”
“Been that a’way for a long way of ways. Privateers invest haphazardly in the cracks between our smiles.”
“Just a little figurine of oration, pal. Okay? So, get a move on it. On the quadruple.”
“But I’m plucking out a solo on a standup bass.”
“Don’t matter. Don’t matter, son. Nothing you do will ever matter.”
“You. You! You! You who talk in such a structured…fuck. Whatever.”
“Rest can become too much. See?”
“No! I do not see. I do not ever see. Up around the moon and back again. Never. Never.”
“Joyful, as it were. Bibled to what’s never been what, first and last off, now.”
“No. No. See? See?”
“Seen or being seen, it all subtracts down.”
“Never did take, did it?”
“The news never tells enough. We are trapped, shimmering more than any star would.”
“I ain’t ever, ever going on my way all the way back to rivers redder than all my valleys.”
“Good for them.”
“Cheated on chances I’ll wage might make me a better, how-do-you-say, gambler.”
“Assassinate all question marks. I will say amen before it’s all done gone.”
“Yep. That is how it’ll end.”
“You go it!”
“He’s cradling his bottle of brandy like a baby, boys. Watch out. Here comes no trouble at all. Not at all.”
“What becomes of all the winos, the ones who always say their prayers?”
“They do chin-ups in rented rooms and leave a little bit of glitter in the floor’s grime.”
“Still, there ain’t nobody left to do any booing about it. Still.”
“Skin like iron? Breath like…um, I forget. Linoleum?”
“No. But let me get my tuba out and play you a little something.”
“What? Me not worry? Fuck it. Seriously. Fuck it. I’m going to go out and get me a pigeon, put it in an silver cage and teach it to sing the blues, like we used to, like we…used to. Fuck…”
“Don’t mind me. Cleveland’s cold this time of day.”
“The gray’s grown long in my eyebrows. I am unwilling to exchange glances with the gals across the room. We have reached a point of misunderstanding. Tearing up and all that shit’s been left behind for the geese and the olive harvesters. Build me a raft. Go ahead. I still won’t ever go rowing back to shore. The big wide empty is all I need.”
“Go foraging on, son. Go blacklisted into the terrible daylight. Be not a wincer in the face of failure. I am working on something and, boy, when I’m all done it’s gonna blow the whole gosh-to-the-darn roof off all of this, all this we’ve tried and known so well for so long. We will be smaller than life, and therefore, well, we’ll have at least a chance.”
“A bottle of good scotch in the broom closet. A wig and a drum. A degenerate breeze to drift us off to nothing’s somewhere.”
“I believe in the rough stuff, the pulp and the brine and the seeds, stuff caught in the mesh and wire of the thing, nothing thrown away.”
“Used and bought off, boozed and caught, and it’s up to people like us to not just follow their stuffy noses towards the fading scent of robbed banks.”
“My head’s a few continents away, laurelling in a delusional haze of palms and bored pirates who wink at me while I throw tiny umbrellas from my drinks into the pool. There is no map. There is no treasure. All we’ve got are chairs rearranged.”
“Polly doesn’t want anymore crackers, please.”
“Something like that.”
“You know? You’re not really as lousy of a guy as you make yourself out to be.”
“Yeah? Well, shit. Don’t go telling on me, okay?”
“Got it. Your shiftiness, your lying sensibility, your forged identity, your lonesome brand of self-help courage. It’s all secret and safe with me.”
“Well, well, well. I guess it’s approaching that time again. So, well, thanks for nothing’s everything. Drinking off the shakes, again, we’ll get by, right?”
“And, yep, all the people say, just another guy on the lost highway.
“They do, do they?”
“And we are not stationary objects to be fixed in time and place. Bush-league satisfaction’s about all we can muster, and then it’s quitting time again, so we go out and battle dumpster divers for goods in the cool hindsight of drugged compassion. An arranged marriage between opposing forces functions outside our insides. We believe in the existence of others. But fuck it, you know? I’m hard of listening. How’s the lady?”
“Oh, this one? Shit, she’s got me doing my dishes, buying expensive coffee, brushing my teeth, folding laundry and everything. And I’m the one who comes home to find her double-parked in somebody else’s red zone. And soon she’s hanging another’s laundry on her line, and nobody’s saving me a place at the table. I got myself gone, long and gone, and I’m real low and sad now, but it’ll pass. I don’t know why I keep not bringing my happiness over here to where I am. It’s probably not a mistake though.”
“Likely it’ll stay raw in your gut, like having your insides plunged, perhaps. The ones who stay hooded in the windy sun, they’ll let on that we’re picked before we’re locked. Now? Well, there’s just nothing left to shout.”
“Yep. And what’ve we got?”
“The loudness of parallel parking. A sob story that you can’t relate to titled The Hobo Clown’s Worn-Out Frown.”
“Shit. Might as well make the most of what we’ve got while we’re on this side of the dirt, you know, before we’re under it for longer than forever.”
“That makes me gladder than I’ve ever been for just right now at this very moment.”
“Glad about that. Really. I am.”
“Certainly we retain the rights to be left alone at all times, to do whatever it is that we do when we’re alone, these things people wonder about us, the time we spend idling, stuck in neutral, or merely unable to heel-and-toe our way into the bends of the space we occupy in the world. Nobody knows who you are when you are all alone.”  
“The best secret you’ll ever have, something that’s prayed back to life, softly heavy, years away from the horizon’s dust. And when you settle in for the great double clutch of your spent time, well, it’s just some bashful stuttering that gets noticed.”
“And it’s late at night during a storm’s heckling-- while the tree outside my window waves its long leafy tendrils that once every-so-often crack like whips against the glass, and I am more alone than I’ve ever been, lying prone in bed, naked, exposed, twirled in a fit of frustrated anxiety-- when I fear losing that old distinction of joys that’s kept me just cranky enough to push on, and I find myself preparing a muddled exit while the enemy flees.”
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