Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Bad Gasket And A Broken Windshield

DILLINGER: Maybe this’ll be the night?

SPALDING GRAY: Not so-so sure of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPALDING GRAY: The past tense is so passé.

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

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

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

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

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

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

DILLINGER: Huge hearts. Fucking gigantic fucking hearts.

SPALDING GRAY: The opposite of that?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

SPALDING GRAY: Let’s get found.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DILLINGER: Calling no cars. Good morning, doctor.

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

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

SPALDING GRAY: You’re drunk.

DILLINGER: Again. You forgot, “Again.”

SPALDING GRAY: That’s a given.


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

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


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

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

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

SPALDING GRAY: Because is its own why.

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


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

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

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

SPALDING GRAY: Is that even possible?

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


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

SPALDING GRAY: True. But still…

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

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

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

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Contemplative Tippler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me? I’ll have another of the same.

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bowling Shoes And Mismatched Socks

I hope this drink is strong enough to bring me some much needed peace.

Me, hustling and hobbling along Columbus with my burrito in tow, as usual, slightly jumpy, a tad at ease, worn out and weary, rubbed with a dab of hope. I do not make mistakes when it comes to cruelty. Sure, the excesses of my nights carom off rubber walls of doubt with an unhinged yet frivolous sense of self importance. Sure. But who the hell’s around to notice? I get nervous around crickets and crows. And there you go. I have my doubts about restriction. And— just a minor observation in the crux of all this— there are more or less goopier parts of salvation to sop up before the long ride back home’s all you’ve got to look forward to. I am less prepared to face it, too. A real screamer hit right back up the middle for your trouble, I tell you. Then again, it’s the stubble’s relatable sign of hazard that gets me all twisted up inside over barely a thing. It’s a cut of clouds sleeping over the rooftops again, and I’m off to other hassles. Trust me. I’m bigger than the grudges I keep holding onto by the skin of my teeth. Getting over things is a dilapidated proposition at best. Any poultry cook will tell you the same. The doom of dizzy spells tilts the pinball game of my ways, and it’s not even morning out yet. Still the same old bluesy terror stripped of context in the tawdry, sallow light. I might not mean more than a mashed potato to most, and I’m not playing the part of being me very well right now, but there’s still a streak of two of misery left in me; I’m sure of it.         

Counting on being counted out, when the humbling hurl of tragic instances gets me into bed for keeps in the morning. I am where I mostly don’t want to be, most of the time. I’ve got more anchors dropped from me than any boat on the waterfront. I’m doing the telling, and, kid, it’s not that bad. Also of note: it’s not that good.

You, rustic and stoic too. A bit absurd of mien and stance. Ruffled habits bordering on preposterous, with ill-fitting strums of moods, flagrant and obtuse, in or out of lesser-known meanings of try. Devastated with will power. A wintering souvenir special reeking of castor oil and Crest. There is no courtesy worth salting away for later in any of it. Keeping up the façade of sour-faced deliverance. Nobody’s on hold. And the rain’s gone off the air.

Get this: my wind was gone for the night. A spiffy little drag from you to me, some shiver-sender to inebriated spines. All the shop being talked was this postulation-type stuff, and I didn’t care for it, to be somewhat in the vicinity of honest about it. Then some middle-of-the-night idea hits and I’m done for. This also: “Consciousness is not a countable thing.” That’s about when I learned how to stop being a misogynist and became a feminist instead. Mostly I was drudging up complaints too, something to do with the fact that some smile-at-anything-in-pants lady was roaming the districts of my discontent. And the sharps were busy with their baize games of looking cool. Nothing seemed enough. A barrel of water to spray on the dirt. I began to take my shots in the dark.

Aunt Millie started out seeing jumpers in her sleep. The high-wire act in her head was drooling and defunct by the end of it. Like a collapsed intake valve of past: bridges she’s seen in some other where of her spent time; or other spot-on marks of former achievements, the sight of which could well up a working title of space without time to be in it. She sold illegal fireworks to kids, the kind that’ll ruin a mailbox or catch fire to a barn. She meddled in optional responsibility. Millie had opinions about the true nature of Tardigrades, about how they’d outlast even our planet itself somehow, and that, really, this world belonged to them; the rest of us were just rushing about on it on a loan from the plants and bacteria, without whom we’d all be toast. This thought pleased her immensely. “Get me a jug of dirty hard cider and a rope,” she’d preach to the muskrats, “and I’ll never come on back this way again.” Apparently one day she did just that.  

Forget the plowing and the preacher-like tug of ecstasy that comes from “knowing” a small truth for a small time to be smaller and smaller even than you’d ever want to convince anybody of. In any two-cow town, scalping the flowers, scraping nothing but the scratch-awled walls. My penitence is never over. And the things I’ve said to absolute strangers would make even the scrawny sandpipers go ape-shit over measly scraps. Here’s one: “That’s a Loggerhead Shrike. Those bastards, they’ll even eat smaller birds from time to time, just to keep things interesting out there in the big old ornithological world. They hang their prey up on thorns and barbwire fences. They’ve got black-eye masks and hooked bills, and you only really see them during winter. You really don’t want to fuck with them, buddy.”  

Me, sullen and shirking all duty for another waylaid day. Putting on another showboating act for no one. I believe in long, slow, lazy afternoons with the promise of dusk tinging the horizon with juniper and hot asphalt while I mildly sip cloudberry wine with the windows slung open, with my feet dangling from the fire escape, or from the eaves— perhaps high-up above town somewhere with only a pinup girl’s photo and a rusty way to say goodbye to my name. I may be cruel, sure; but not wholly unkind. So. Come closer. There is something almost too gorgeous to be beautiful here that I do wish to show you.    


Sunday, April 6, 2014

the glory of complacency

Love’s the one equation that’ll never be complete.

Love is the solution that’s anything but replete.

Love will knock you by the wayside.

Love will leave you wishing that you had a different suite.

Love is just a waltzing when all there is goes to the rhumba.

Love kills more men than bombs.

Love cures all the ills that you never thought would ever be wrong.

Love’s a curse.

Love’s a demand.

Love’s the freedom you’ll never expect to happen.

Love’s a squashed pear on a bookshelf.

Love makes the world worse and better, and better and worse all the time.

Love will die and it’ll live again.

Love will leave and come on back.

Love’s the slowest train you’ve ever known coming down the track.

Love is pretzels when you’re thirsty.

Love is the last song at the skate rink.

Love cuts the reason from your only rhyme.

Love slurps oysters over a dirty sink.

Love will end you up in The Clink.

Love’s a toast you can’t make.

Love is forever’s ending.

Love is stale tortilla chips dipped in rancid salsa.

Love is a half-dollar when all you need is a quarter to start the washer.

Love doesn’t care what promises were meant for.

Love gives up before it ever had a chance.

Love is way slower than the sound of loneliness.

Love’s a tougher way to say goodbye.

Love won’t just move on over for just anybody.

Love’s a miserable proposition to some guy with food poisoning.

Love is Paris in a bottle.

Love is being on the run.

Love will sit heavy on your chest when you’ve fallen down, again.

Love’s a place you’ve never been that keeps calling you home.

Love will strain and ebb and dash and flow.

Love won’t remember your car when you go.

Love will speak into the crook of your arm and spell your name wrong.

Love’s got a shot of whisky in it sometimes.

Love has no idea what to say most of the time.

Love irks more umps than Earl Weaver ever did.

Love makes plans just to break them all the time.

Love’s digging through the used-record bin while drinking a vanilla coke and listening to a popcorn machine pop.

Love won’t sashay with all those unnecessary plastic objects that fill a purse.

Love dances closer than that.

Love’s a longshot gone to the wild horses.

Love cries over TV shows.

Love makes the nights worth the days.

Love is on sale all the time in some dingy five-and-dime.

Love will make you cringe and cry and feel ashamed.

Love is hazel eyes and chestnut tears and all the dates you never got to have.

Love’s an escalator going sideways.

Love is just a Nanci Griffith song on the radio.

Love rends and roars and reaps without a sow.

Love will leave you blind when all you want to do is look.

Love is Mississippi on the horizon.

Love gets cranky and ashamed when the weather won’t work out right.

Love doesn’t listen.

Love doesn’t always bend with the stems of flowers.

Love waits and waits and waits and waits and waits.

Love’s some abandoned shack on the side of an old highway in the Mojave.

Love’s a high-school kid’s binder covered with felt-penned band names.  

Love creases anything you’d ever dream to fold.

Love is a newborn crying through the wrinkles of youth.

Love cannot be just cause or effect.

Love will tell you when you’ve had enough.

Love won’t listen to your excuses.

Love is some Santa Cruz girl telling you that you’re just tops.

Love is the bottle’s last drop.

Love is that last sip of bourbon from a best friend’s glass.

Love is what never dies when you do.

Love is a kiss blown across a room to some girl you barely know.

Love cheats and conspires and marries for money too.

Love is not true or kind or gentle.

Love is its own end.

Love reminds and forgets.

Love crowds a bar and thunders through another storm.

Love is a heart you’ve never known wishing you farewell.

Love is some little kid crying in their sleep.

Love casts prayers out into the dark waters of time.

Love doesn’t always make amends.

Love is cruel.

Love is anywhere but here.
Love is everything and nothing and all that’s in between.

Love is sometimes all you’ve got.