Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Play Of Authenticity In Times Of Light-Speed Reproduction (Or, Walter Benjamin Slurped Through A Straw)

He’d sing most of what he read. Even the ingredients on a bag of chips. A baritone of saffron. It wasn’t culpable, inherently at least, to be hip to his rhythms. They were bound by clocks, like most of ours. The tape recorder did its best to keep up. Mangled most of it. But here’s what’s left of it. Surely it’ll do. 
“I had about 10 drinks waiting for the train, which helped things enough. The depot bar was reasonably priced. I had higher recommendations. The grocers around there were ex-actors who never studied plumbing or anything like that. So, I helped out, or had been. Remunerative jobs and the likes. Friendly enough kids, for the time, who used to come in and not bother me a whole lot. I didn’t mind. The course of occupying my time was being run by lunatics with spaghetti in their hair. Things replaceable. Things worth less. I ran out though. I had to get some distance between me and the dead-enders hanging around then. I fell into the habit of giving out too many broken noses. People who can’t duck fast enough, you know? Startling things. I guess. Counting out. Getting seeds instead of flowers. Whatever that means. Delivering a lot more than just the mail, you know? But even chefs get hungry sometimes too. And who arrests the cop but another cop? Hell, it’s all salad dressing for the masses. And Whitey ain’t got a thing on Henry, Ford-wise. Gripe and groan. Go ahead. Older than most. Crankier than some. I’ve held my own hand through harder times than these. I can be fuzzy, or close to it. And it’s still a dicey proposition to smile at strangers in public. Starring all the extras, all the movies I make up in my head that never get made. Made a mistake of ruining that Chrysler by crashing it into a cab. Not much more to say. I’m leaving it further behind the closer it gets.

“Most parties, they don’t do that. Looking for something to shoot, going around pocket-less, hoofed to other whereabouts than I should’ve been. Matrimonial difficulties. Seeing if the pistol’d shoot. Practicing on a toilet bowl, cracked the sucker up real good. Various and sundry places, my wife she was cut up with the pieces of it, but I didn’t shoot her. She makes a bigger deal out of it than she should. Great woman, she was; or is, still, I guess. We all have friends and enemies. A real prince of a guy, I tried to be, when I wasn’t getting into trouble with the drinking. I’d go around wearing this hat, this felt deal with holes in it and everything. A devil’s cap. And people’d say, 'Wow. He must be drunk to be wearing that hat.' And the bartenders wouldn’t serve me. Kept calling me Spit. It stuck, and then I wandered out of it. Mugs was another one, and Slick Mahoney too. And me, going around with a plastic spoon in my boot. People’d write me letters and things. My tongue was planted so firmly in my cheek so much of the time that I never cared about all that. I may become a hermit at last, here, but it don’t quite divide down, if you divvy the gist of it up, you know?

“I am not shallower in my misgivings, now. Pot’s boiling. Why’d we name her that? Well, choices were slim in the Detroit of our years. Birthrights be damned. Options weren’t abounding with your mother. We only had so much not to do, or have, or be, for that, or any, matter. Protests were built in with her. Stomping around, never a churchgoer, and the bells stayed silent for the most. Oh, they’d have you believe it was all a plot to grate and mash the purpose right out of you. But that’s beyond my capacity to drag on about. I squint. I cough. I disperse the fragments of my life, but never turn my back on them. See what sparks fly, you know? I wonder if I can see myself. I wonder. Well, you could’ve spit in my socks about it, back then, or now, really, even. This must not be love, you know? That tells where you haven’t been-- for me, at least. I’d rather be old and wise than young and dumb. I almost said that, once. Now I just play it closer to the vest, playing mum for the expecters.

“Really, there are no difficult ways in. To the lower crust, to the moochers who’ve got not enough time in their shoes. I wince with holiness at the sight of most recuperating highdeaths. Lots to not go on or off about, or on and off, I figure. In the wane of my nights, in the curt lump of my constricting clauses, in the bafflement of the days rolling by. I am corrupt only in my baser motivations. I order steak and martinis for lunch whenever I can; and I add a little ruin to the sound my name makes.

“There you go. Here. Take what you can. I know I did while I could. Paint your time with the harmony of use. Me? I’m stuck inside and out with the anticipatory blues, again. Really, there isn’t much else to smell. Hint around it. I’ll be rounding the mountain pass soon enough, the way I figure it, and the boys squatting at Union Square will be all eyes for the sight of me, chucking change at tour buses, behaving like rats with their tails hacked off. I can hear the fire alarms going off all over town. Me? I’m not a showoff; I’m a tell-off. Somehow I barely have enough when I thought I had plenty. That’s not how this was supposed to go. My thoughts are bottled and tossed: fragments of gone turned to now’s here. Glad there are no do-overs, though. Really. I still makeup the most of what I’ve got. And I swear I will be quiet from there off-or-on in. Yep. No more heavenly riots; not in this place where nothing grows. The seraphim don’t sing, ‘Holy. Holy. Holy,’ anymore. They sing, ‘There. There. There.’

“Well. Satisfied? Hope so. Because that’s all I got.”

Thursday, July 11, 2013

San Francisco, San Francisco, Today You Will Not Burn Again

            “Even if I wanted people like you to talk to me I still wouldn’t want you to talk to me. You get that? But now that I’ve got to stand here and take it, well, what’ve you got to tell me? If I’ve got to deal with you, even momentarily, being way too close to my person here, well, what is so damn pressing that it couldn’t fucking wait until I got my morning paper?”
             I’m standing on Bush right outside of Grover’s Market--minding my own, dawdling and what have you-- one April morning way before I should be out in public, and I’m just about to go in and buy a newspaper and a small bottle of orange juice. That’s about all. The wind’s being a pain in the neck. My eyes won’t see anything properly or open all the way, and there are way too many flies around for my personal taste. A few dogs are being walked here and there. I hate dogs.
            It’s way too cold to be standing around in the street, but that isn’t stopping me. I’ve got no idea why. People are sitting at the tables in the café across the street, and they’re drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes and staring at their phones. The whole thing’s making me sick. And then Hubert comes over and starts making all this fuss. It’s crap. But there’s nothing I can do about it.
            “Hubert. Seriously, man. Just get to the gourd dashing point already. Shit, man. Excuse the Portuguese. But it’s cold out here. My toe hairs are frozen stiff.”
            The sun’s just starting out its way across the sky, and the streetlights are still on. It’s that early. Way too early for a guy like Hubert to be jawing at me. He’s pouting for his life, and he’s got a roomful of buckets at home.
            “Don’t get me right, Hubert. I’m a man of cold shoulders and colder steaks, but we’ve got to rust and nail all of that out-- all that joking around you been doing. This city’s filled with miscreant yuppies and do-gooder ne’er-do-wells. We all know the score. And it’s zip-zip. It’s always zilch for guys like you. But who-- tell me-- who’s against you? Who’d like to take a good hearty swing at that mug of yours and rearrange it so as even your mother wouldn’t know you from Adam? Huh? Well. Well. Just well and more wells, I guess. Shit. It’s too cold for this. I’m buying a paper.”
            A man with a poodle on a flimsy leash was arguing with the counterman about the price of some olives. The mangy little bastard (the dog, not the man) kept snarling at me from the end of its leash. I snarled back. The poodle backed down and began to whimper.
            “What did you do to my dog?”
            “Gave it a taste of its own.”
            “You can’t talk to my dog like that!”
            “Save it buddy. I’m in a real awful mood, and wouldn’t want that pooch of yours to get maimed or marred in some unnecessary fray. Ahem. Ahem.”
            The man and his poodle waddled out of the store, jar of olives in tow. The store's sensor bell dinged when they left, and that made me happy beyond belief.
            I bought my paper and my orange juice. I went back outside. Hubert was still there, shivering and hunched over in a straightjacket pose. I shoved a cigarette in his yapper and waved him good day, hustling up Mason, both hands shoved deep in my coat pockets with the NY Times under one arm and a bottle of orange juice under the other.
            The day got itself together. The clouds hung around for a bit, wavered, and then left for other shores. I made my bed for the first time in a week. I drank orange juice and leafed through the day’s news. It was all bad and worse. I got up. I didn’t comb my hair or brush my teeth or uncork a bottle of champagne. I just paced around feeling dull and deflated, and tried not to look in any mirrors. I wasn’t going to win any awards for charm or ambition anyway. After a few hours of pacing I decided to do some dishes, but then convinced myself otherwise. They’d still be waiting for me some other time. They weren’t going anywhere. Besides, it gave the fruit flies a good place to hover over.
            The phone rang at some point. I don’t know. I’d dozed off or something. There was a pile of drool on my sleeve. My head was somewhere in the Swiss Alps.
            “Hubert. Shut it. I’ve…I’ve had enough already.”
            A lot of static and silence and fuzzy nothings in my ear.
            “Hubert! Listen to me. You’ve got to stop this ratting and roving. It’s above you, really. No. Not on top. Above. Above. Don’t you understand everything?”
            I gave up trying to make no sense to him. He was beyond danger. Help would just be an obstruction to him now. I wanted olive sandwiches and glass ceilings. I hung up and had neither.
            I decided to take a walk down to Little Henry’s and put some food into me.

            Little Henry’s is a small Italian joint on Larkin and Post that’s run by a garrulous Chinese fellow named Henry and his family. From a seat at the window facing the traffic on Larkin there’s a splendid view of an immense steel-gray smokestack that doesn’t smoke. A few tropical plants sprout from pots on the floor and reach up to the ceiling with their dangling vines. The tables are covered with red-and-white checkered tablecloths beneath a glass top. The brown wood chairs are lightly lacquered to instill a sense of class, as the napkin holders overflow like they’re going to bust, and the baffle lights dimly shine down like makeshift spots. 
            The butter for the bread comes pre-sliced, with each slice getting its own pad under it and a paper top over it that reads Darigold. It makes spreading it on the bread quite easy. The steak is served up with broccoli, thick carrot slices, and zucchini, and with all of the fat still intact. Sometimes they even bring you an order of pasta that doesn’t belong to you. Sometimes I leave it steaming there on the table while I eat my steak. It adds atmosphere. 
            During my meal a regular wanders in uttering, “Same old drink,” to which Henry responds with a bawdy, “Same old drink!” The old duffer sits down at a table and the waitress brings him a tall glass of cloudy brown liquid. He sighs and cusses under his breath.
            I sit doing a NY Times crossword puzzle for quite a while after finishing my meal, sipping water, and watching the traffic charge by out the window on Larkin. The charming middle-aged waitress with a noticeable limp says to take my time, and I do.
              There’s a swift charge in the air, something drowsy and alert at the same time, and I figure I might as well pay the bill and head out.
            Just outside of Little Henry’s is a one-hour “Valeteria” dry cleaners. It’s worth stopping by just to check out the sign: one of those old neon jobs with most of the bulbs out and covered in rust. The flowery font of the lettering is like something out of a Shakespeare playbill title.   
            I end up walking by the place where I buy my undergarments in the Tenderloin. It’s a tiny shop on Larkin that I frequent, with two old Chinese ladies behind the counter always jabbering away. (I owe them 40 cents right now, as I was a bit short on my last trip there, but I’ll pay it back. I swear.) The whole place is about as big as a studio apartment’s kitchen, and it’s almost completely devoted to socks and underwear. There’s not a lot of room to maneuver. You basically have to squeeze through the tightly packed shelves sideways, and crane your neck to see the sizes of the V-necks as you finger through them like records. Underwear, undershirts, socks, and hoodies are literally everywhere. You breathe cotton and plastic in there, and, of course, a decent amount of dust.  
            I stop thinking about things in general. I walk on.            
            Walking up Leavenworth, approaching Sutter, and the buildings are so beautiful just then, as the fog lingers a bit before the sun goes down for good. The buildings are melded, different shades of bricks in various stages of wear, scaffolding on some of them (always scaffolding up, somewhere; always construction plowing through the world), and I’m admiring it all, striding slow and easy, except shoes (as always) scuffling along the sidewalk, I go slouching and gazing, up past Golden Coffee with its horseshoe counter with the waitress in the middle, and crazed with dumb delight, trying to blink my way either into or out of something. I can’t decide. But, surely, it don’t matter, and I feel lucky for the scope I’m getting on things just now. The specks of pieces of cloud up there are almost Paris-sky lovely, and the pink flowers on a the sidewalk trees are back in full force. A pristine rush consumes me. I am leafless. The slope’s nothing, and there’s no pressure to walk up it. Maybe I’m at peace, slowly, and it might be carelessness, but I don’t care. It’s real. It’s enough. A drifty wink nudges through it all, and I’m right-off sincere and not interested in moods or behaving. There’s the street’s stubborn grit that’s keeping time with sleepy pigeons, and it is too late to be just some afternoon lolling that I’m now attempting, but the aspect ratio of my elation’s keeping somewhat steady time still with the clamor-free situation that I’m currently whistling down. Business is slow for the hardhearted, while most of the bums are going around with their check engine lights on.
            So, there’s a marvelous sight. Those buildings. All the bricks saturated and buffed with the fog-tinged gold of the fading sun. A smokestack here or there. Ponytail drapes dangling from an open window. Before-- like when the clouds seem my only friends, and all’s gray with hope-- I was trying on sun for size, casting a drop of gloom into a tangled mess of graffiti-clouded glass. Bogged down with drained grease, I am a shop that only pawns itself, and all of my looks go the other way, and then, of course, a stippled band of rose cracks the cross section of my heart. Maybe the way we miss people is just falling down stairs, a scale of woe cut jagged through the kindling of bad jokes and cold coffee, and we’re just crumpled and bent to an unwieldy shape in the face of unreturned phone calls and mail that’s all junk. Fetching, really, the things you wish for and always can’t have. Return me to sender. I’m done in.
            But those buildings there, just now, they’ve got scarred histories legging it out over today’s longing, and I’m lighter and bubbling to the surface, almost airy with wonder. It’s nothing to stop and mind my manners about, so I discount it without a thought, and mingle on into fresh-air daydreams, suddenly alive with wonder and not cussing at myself in my head at all. It’s not bad, not too shabby. Curtains on sadness and destitute whims. Yep. That’s the grandness of rush-hour parking garages sailing with a motor-oil scent through tarry, wind-blown satisfaction. That’s pin-pulling the freight cars of oblivion until everything trails along behind. I’m breezy and along for the ride. Rife with exuberance and all that. Yep. So, the streets clean themselves, and all the fire hydrants plead the fifth, and I’m caught free, clocked out and chancy, sick with wellbeing and all the likes. Go figure.
            The shuck of the 27 bus charging uphill unhinges an updraft of joy. Fire escapes shine egg-white slick. Overall there’s not much trudge left in it for me, this halt to wandering that’s just sort of come upon me out of the grand thin blues. Temper’s no longer an option. I’m flush with pink-petal wonder, and it’s only time, after all, that I’m wasting. Good thing, too. It’s almost raspberry-picking season. A barrel of stems, or just the late fermented juice of elation, and now, curses, I’m back to dragging my torn net through the mulch and paw of still waters. But everything’s in bloom, and there’s plenty of tread left on these here tires, so what’ll pass for salvation gets handpicked for getting by, through or with it, just the same.
             Forget Hubert and his petty troubles. I’m going home to do my dishes, and then maybe lie in bed and listen to the sound that traffic makes going by on the street outside.   


Self-Titled Dictation, Notes

The city’s cuticles needed some pushing back, in a slued rip in the fabric of chance, that is. And we performed any miracles that we could, less the wiser than we’d been, coughing into the play of sunlight on dust motes across hallways. Hard-to-not-look-at temples, airy witnesses in the hangar’s foyer, we harvested. It gets to the point where you don’t trust yourself in the bathroom alone. There are boll weevils in the works.  
I got used to saying, “Any famous last words, Mr. Moth?” before I clapped my hands to scare away the pigeons.

The rueful line cook shouted, “Hot ziggetty-damn!”
Most of the marigolds were moon-less behind the steel sashes of beef-jerky tinted opaque windows.
A joke was made, unwittingly, by a sandcastle barterer: “Well, let me tell you. There’s room for one less in Cher’s maternity dress.” Then, “I’d kill my computer but it’s got all of my memories on it.”

Her hair smelled like campfire and her lips tasted of dandelion stems. She’d plant a gas can and up would sprout a gas station.
Betty Ford didn’t have a thing on her Total-with-a-capital-T ways. Not a thing. Trust me. The elevator operators and funeral directors all knew her name. 
I told her, “You’re my go-to gal.”
She told me: “I’d rather watch an intentional walk than look at you. Going around begging for high fives. It reeks of quince and mortar.”
She was never done washing the campfire and diesel out of her hair. We got around to some unusual business, at first, and then it was all down-in-the-ground stuff after that. Somehow I thought, ‘No more dipsomaniac nightmares for this guy.’

In the cantilevered silence an almost booming voice lay down to the occasion by saying, “The class that won’t fight for itself remains watered down and sulking.”
I thought, ‘Me? What do I do? I just get drunk and sit by my window all day, watching stupid people do even stupider things in the world outside.’
An indentation waited patiently for the glass-bubble-topped spaceship to come home to roost before it started any of this sentence-making business. Gaffs and strutting of glib stuff were left to the asphalt thieves who wrote homilies in still-wet sidewalk squares instead of names. (Things such as: “Cut the serifs off of all that shit.” “Don’t worry. Nobody’s going to find me. I’ve got my cow shoes on.” “Get a little runt of silvery glazed-eyed who-didn’t-it in the placard’s sense of, ‘Look! Or, don’t.’” “Clasp to it and hear where it don’t get you.” “I am not made of gorgonzola or henna.” “Dump a cask of corpse-flower juice into the mixture.” “Evade the hopes and the hurt of the matter.”)   

Music was ruined by one final hurrah.
The song went something like, “Everybody cares about nobody. Nobody cares about it all. Livelier plants do the dirty work, and Mondays keep coming around.” It was just catchy enough to succeed for a day or so. Then most of the darners of socks got tired of being kept sewers, and the tread of the weeks became too worn to leave a mark. All was perfumed rubber gloves and Siamese gophers who screamed things at window-buying tourists like, “Keep my canvas clean!” 

Sun jostled and soldered its shadow-casting way through ray-less speckles of spangled, chipper-than-thou appetites. Questions like, “Did I run in the wrong direction?” were not asked. Also, beside most of the points were slogans like, “We’re All Only Human Here.” And, “It Doesn’t Matter If It Does.”
I made a milquetoast ray gun out of graying matter-of-fact statements.
I pointed it at a sycamore and yelled, “Move! You are not bored enough. Go ahead. Leaf! Get bored. I single dare you.” 

The song didn’t cease. It went blubbering on, again, and sometimes yet again.

“She screams Do you love me? back in the bowery and we’ve heard all this a few times before. 
Would you lie low love in all time’s hunched love under the weight of your fear?
Even the rats are going all bats for the way that you stand in the shower.
Deal me the face cards Try all the race cards Keep the lids in your eyes.
Right the ship’s wrongs in all of these songs that move you to be just like them.
Come close my longing under the awning of truth spread thinner with wine.
We’ve got more to chance and a pawn left to dance in the dreary hours that we’re left in to behave.
Trade me a dime for all of the times that could’ve been would’ve been back then.
She sings Would you care? in the back of her lair with horn-rimmed sights on her nights.
Will the time come love when all of our laments love will get us a buyback on being tired?
The kids are not friendly to those come a lately into the lone winces of now.
A full-body fling to the bastard machines lets those up above know our kind.
Be not a waiting in all hesitating in worries and rushes of song.
We’ve got our places to fill in the spaces that keep running out of ourselves.
She whispers so concretely in another’s arms so completely What’ve we got left to win?
I tell her it’s rain and the evening’s insane and the moats of my love have run dry.”

And then it’s on to bathrooms by the ocean, the ones that stink of briny urine and camphor with a whiff of sour B.O. and suntan lotion. The pungent breath of it all, standing still, there, sand clogging the drain of the coldest shower in the world. That certain taste in the mouth like sea urchin mixed with hay and coal tar. And then it’s off to other wondering, other pickaxes of worry that slice through that sea-won calm that’s managed to stick for only as long as the sand lasts on skin. Everyone’s laughing. All of the gravy-stained clouds huddled up above like dead soldiers awaiting a proper burial. There is no “you” here. So the walk’s long is the miler’s short in the wake of crushed soda cans and Ruffles and Doritos bags. The walk’s uphill too. It gets rougher the farther it goes.

And to think, me, with that big crooked grin, laughing at the cigarettes gone dead in the breeze. And to think. Or, perhaps, not.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How I Learned to Stop Playing Table Tennis And Love Dick York

            A television set arrived one day. It was a color 1972 Emerson model with an 18” screen. I plugged it in.
            That was about the time I started playing table tennis with my ex-lawyer.
            The table was teal with taupe lines. It was lopsided towards one side where there had been some water damage because it had been stored under a leaky roof at some point in its existence. I always served from that side. My ex-lawyer was a bad competitor. He didn’t edit his feelings well.
            Winning was sometimes everything. We chatted meaningfully during the matches, taunting each other with such things as, “I am not Dracula, Fuckhead!”
            Did I mention the television set?
            Well, I plugged it in.
            Dick York was on it. This was not just a, “one day I turned the thing on and there’s Dick York,” sort of situation. Dick York was always on it-- for a good portion of time, at least. Let’s say-- I don’t know-- 20 hours a day, minus sleep and taking out the trash and other boring apparatuses of life.                  
            When my ex-lawyer was my current lawyer, he would say to me, “Shoot all the dogs and remove all the car horns.” That was before I could spell his name. Now I spell it backwards.
            The TV's reception got choppy during the wee hours. I know, because I was up during the wee hours quite often. Maybe I was just waiting for Dick York to disappear, to be replaced by some Dick-Van-Dyke type, some generic look-a-like; or perhaps I was just uncomfortable from the paddle I'd wedged beneath my mattress for safekeeping. I grew to crave the removal of certain encumbrances from my person, to attempt an airy escape, something light and meaningful.  ‘He's so thin,’ I remember thinking while watching a Twilight Zone episode in which Dick York was playing an army captain. ‘Gangly even.’ Calm eluded me. I remained heavier than necessary.
            Then, one night, or another, perhaps, I thought, ‘Fuck Dick Van Dyke and his stupid hassock!’ I’m still not sure why I had this thought, but I believe it had to do with my recent confusing of hairdressing with salad dressing. There is always confusion when two discordant plains or dimensions of competing universes meet. Sometimes one runs after one’s stunt double just to have something to run to or for or, well, against.
            I left the television plugged in at all times. It buzzed, even when I snapped the Off nodule to Off. It was a purposeful humming buzz: Xerox-machine warm, coffeemaker soft and steady-- and it left me a tad woozy on most days. After a few weeks I decided not to turn it off anymore. Dick York was just always there, like he’d always been there, always. His face grew more familiar to me than my own.
            The volume grew to an unacceptable pitch. The set’s adjustment knob had broken off and splintered when a wild and powerful serve from my ex-lawyer had hit it dead on. Also, on a similar account, my ex-lawyer had begun demanding to play our matches blindfolded. I acquiesced. It wasn’t as helpful as he had imagined. The racket of Dick York’s escapades on the television roared and kept us off our toes. Many balls were lost.
            We bought more balls.
            It wasn’t ice skating on railroad tracks. It wasn’t mean or nice. We wanted quiet through the hammering of our lives. Sometimes, when we could hear, we bickered.                   
            “You don’t have to worry about the sort of things that I have to worry about.”
            “Bear steak. Emu jerky. Snow-leopard testicles. Oyster juice. Let’s have a fucking party about it already!”
            My ex-lawyer’s name used to be Ralph Vandeerhoof. That was before the change. Now he says it, “There are calves in the café.” Pronounce it any way you will, I still had to deal with the guy’s phony theatrics, and play table tennis against him. The hardest thing to remember about it all was how to tell the difference between what was only in his head and what was in mine and what was in both of ours at once; or what was real, or happening just to us, or to everybody. Then, well, of course there was Dick York on the television set.
            My backhand grew less than legendary, and I gave up slicing my serves. Divots abounded in the table’s surface. I played farther and farther back, perhaps ten feet from the table’s edge at times. ‘Just a touch of massé, there’ I thought. ‘Just a tad.’ But it never did the job. My ex-lawyer retired from our sessions for the long haul. I laid my paddle down for good. It was as it had to be. All was well.
            I dreamed last night that Dick York was a clown, or at least that he had clown whiteface makeup on. In the dream he pretended to smile at me, but I knew it was all a gag. His countenance was blanc, not auguste. Everything about the whole situation screamed, “You’re a fucking fake! Your whole life’s a joke! Nobody is ever going to care about you and the spindly little life you lead no matter what you do, ever!” It was all too loud for me. But there was no way to control the volume. Dick York’s face was stuck in a permanent menacing scowl. It haunted me wherever I went. It was a look that meant, “I am Dick York. Who the fuck do you think you are, huh? I am Dick motherfucking York!” I could tell. I had become an expert on knowing Dick York’s looks.
             When I woke I found this note stapled to my pillowcase: “Whatever diaphanous or drab way we’re headed in this tugboat of a life, here, merely waiting for commercial breaks with chipped paddles and jingle-bruised ambition, do not fret over the pleats in the pants of existence. Remember when we were champions of drosophila smashing in fluorescent-lit kitchens. Remember the best of it before the reruns begin. Remember. It is all that you have left.
            “PS- If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m taking the TV set, kid.”
            I squinted out at the world around me, and everything was in black-and-white. I thought to myself, ‘Damn. I’ve never had it so good.’

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Otherwise Occupied On July’s Fourth Day

“You’re not engaged to anyone or anything like that, are you?”
“I cook my data, or at least steam it. Raw data’s for pansies.”
“Get out of here. Come in to there.”
“Plurals are taking over. I want singularity, damn it!
“Up in the dumps. That’s where you’ll find me. Crying for a bit of rain on a summer Friday. Belatedly stumped by ordinary imbeciles. And then there are those promises you’ll never keep, whimpering you’ll never tell, and places that’ll keep you telling.”
“Take one. Go ahead. Take it.”
“When I was younger I rode in the back of pushcarts. I drove on pinwheels. I hunted the range all over all’s over. It’s all over now, or something.”
“Suddenly all things became unreal. Suddenly they all became realer too. I want rainy days and horses to clomp mud onto my best clothes. I want to smell Mexico again.”
“Bicycles not for sale. The upright handsome man at your side. The harm that comes your way. The highlighted moods of meaning’s end.”
“How could I be so nice? It doesn’t subtract down.”
“Get a litter sadder, will you? I can’t keep not making suggestions.”
“Someday, maybe, you’ll get around to missing who you used to be. Maybe.”
“Drummers don’t need to be smart. But they usually are.”
“Longer nights and shorter days. I stink of cheap haircuts. I’m making the hours last.”
“Don’t re-retreat. I’m making dinner plans for breakfast. Then, then, then. Well, I don’t have to bother about hunkering down for trouble or good times. Open thin. I don’t need a lot.”
“Somewhere else. Anywhere else. It’s always not here, right?”
“More wrong than you’d ever get to knowing on your own.”
“A lesson in being right, though, comes blaring under the headlines, and we don’t get what we don’t. We don’t.”
“Pour out my sentiments in the gutter. Tuck out my shirt. I’ve got no money on being fit for survival.”
“Getting out or in, let’s have some misunderstanding about it all already.”
“You’re not dating or anything like that, are you? You don’t know somebody who’d scream your name in the subway waiting for you to get through the turnstile before the next train comes, do you? You don’t have a significant other, right?”
“I haven’t rocked like this in years. Sobering up’s a drag, huh?”
“Rock me like an Oldsmobile. Get what’s never coming.”
“Man cannot live on alcohol alone.”
“The welts of the world get more attention than the stars.”
“It’s all in the scars, kid.”
“Please see she has a coat so warm.”
“Keep praying. Keep it up. It’ll get you all’s nothing in no time.”
“But for what?”
“For? That’s just an excuse. Really. It’s traveling lonelier than a stranded drunk who’s missed the last train.”
“The stations don’t change but maybe the names.”
“And the streets?”
“Hell, there are no streets that’ll live through any of this.”
“Why is everything so dark in here?”
“You’ve got sunglasses on.”
“Cut the chatter. I need to not think.”
“The sea. The sea.”
“Thálatta! Thálatta!”
“Somewhere God is laughing at me.”
“Never, ever, never, no matter what, never slide into first base.”
“Sure thing.”
“Prouder of serving than leading, something to pat others on the back about, or chuck some idiosyncratic kinetic energy at a turbine. See me for less details.”
“Do you remember me? Do you know who I am?”
“Yes. Or maybe not. Whatever happened to you? I haven’t always wondered.”
“There are just some things that you’ll always know.”
“I remember you, not quite so well. But I do remember the hecklers down on Grub Street making zeroes out of not much.”
“Yes. I’m not selfish. I’m very generous to myself.”
“What I’m never trying not to tell you.”
“Bomb the pillow factory; get a face full of feathers.”
“There will not be a guy over by the monastery bathroom who’s hearing it like it ain’t. He will motion gravely to any coward who passes by. He will implicitly inflict inferred bits of his personality’s data on the naysayers of mulch. I don’t know what I don’t mean by it all, or none of it-- or perhaps I just hammered my toe.” 
“You should never be king.”
“Cleaner clocks than your own have been smashed by unwitting stiffs. Basically, the options come down to: leave the money and walk or pantomime the Grapes Of Wrath to some stall-bound horses. Razor-billed auks have more of a chance at contentment, really, when you’ve lost the program to your life’s meek and quiet tale.”
“We are bunched, huddled, cast like aspersions over the loam of our witless pluck and all of our know-not-hows.”  
“Time’s not going anywhere. Rolled beyond the splendor of these chastised eyes, it goes and goes, and where it’s been stays that way. And we spend it just impersonating runoff dripping from the cullis.”
“So they’ll find us like they found Napoleon, lying in a Scheele’s Green room with arsenic in his hair, killed by his favorite color.” 
“No. Not me. I prefer Mummy Brown, or pure Indian Yellow made from the urine of cows on a strict mango-leaves-and-water diet.”
“We can’t count ourselves in, or out, in the mule’s eye perspective of uninitiated gratifications; or the endless unfulfilled and constantly changing desires of want-making’s manipulating, screen-flashed precision. We are at the mercy of our senseless heeding of an attack on our most cherished senses: a car commercial makes us weepy; the evening news scares us to death.”
“Loaned-out emotional states that come and go like pizza delivery guys. Rectify! Disperse! Use your distractions to corral some strands of a weft-and-warp threaded peace.”  
“The drones of war are unlikely to land in desuetude anytime soon-- if ever, if at all.”
“But we’ll ambush ourselves anyway, and then believe we’ve done the opposite. It’s all fitting in a world that makes so little use of the things it makes and breaks. Nothing fits. Everything’s disassembled. We’ve muscled the getting-done from the muzzled bark of the past. Don’t believe me. I’m a genius empty of the silence and the calm. I am a rotary phone smashed to bits, rotting on the sidewalk in the rain. Don’t believe any of it; it’s all a lie.”
“Whatever I say or do, it lacks the proper motivation. I want because I’m told to want, and the things I want are the things I’m told I want. Why do I want to want these things? The question never arises.”
“So, I rang, did I?”
“Possibly. But I am of the opinions that have been force fed to me. All the letter writers have gone the way of trapdoors and courage. There are no more iceboxes in the kitchens of our remorse-- just slowly defrosting ambivalence and a casual tendency to retreat. I guess there are circular adding machines in the haunted remains of the last laugh’s foyer still, but the chrysalis of time is eternity’s archway over what will never pass for now again. It’s possible. I’m just saying.”
“Yes. It is all we can do: just say.”     
“And in our saying?”
“A whimper. A sneeze. A burlap sack to smuggle our whispers and worries through the customs of carefully controlled machinations to weed out difference and destroy attic-reared creativity. A chance that never gets taken. An unused ticket to a better way of being happy. Not much.”
“Just a hanging plant in the window. Just a burp in outer space. A polyethylene surface in a Formica world. A corpse scraped clean of a face. A mute button. A grub-and-anchovy cake.”    
“Exhaustion’s price gets cheaper while the landlords pound maggots out of the woodwork for the rent.”
“Plead for the takes between the takes of practicing not doing things that you’re so used to doing you don’t even realize that you’re doing them. Something will be granted, perhaps, but not anything useful, nothing medicinal or heartwarming. Plead for all of us, even if it’s just in a fragment of a dream that nobody’s up to having anymore. Plead for the stranded and the exhausted and those inclined to over-stimulation’s wiles. I cannot. I just can’t anymore. Or, maybe, it’s that I won’t. Sorry. I’m contractually obligated to use contractions whenever possible.”
“Pseudo-facts. Delusions purer than truth. Authorities walking the show flopped upside-down to untried-and-erred charges. I have too much time for it all.”
“I haven’t dated a girl or read a book in years. The races runs themselves without me, it seems.” 
“America’s overrated. The highs aren’t worth the lows.”  
“Don’t worry. Nobody bets on it anymore. The oglers all admire the watched, at least somewhat.”
“We are ransacked with kid’s stuff. We curse strangers under our breath. Obligations overdone.”
“A challenge that nobody needs.”
“Pie in the pits of your knees.”
“Happy independence in the sullied garb of your day, sir. Happiest day before tomorrow.”
“Dynasties soured to pulling hair and tweaks of lifeless liberty. Happy dependence on feeling independent. Happy lurking in the battlements of ill-gotten peace. Just a day, like any other, but with some fireworks in the evening. The sky’s the color of war’s scars. Let’s install a dictator in a place we’ve only seen on maps so that we can have cheap t-shirts and underwear. Let’s stage a coup of our own rights while we’re at it. Feet-bound and guilt free. Hell, I only feel religious when I feel like it.”
“Nothing in this town’s for real.”
“And all we’re left with is a man of infinite subterfuge who rules with a papier-mâché thumb.”
“The devils of life.”
“Nothing much.”
“No. Not much at all.”