Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Varly Frank Rides The Bus

The moon was low and big in the sky, huge, much larger than I’d ever remembered it being, and it was hanging there like a shield right next to the Transamerica building. The sun was washing the buildings in pink. I was riding the bus and this girl in very tight pants was standing, and let me tell you there were plenty of seats available, and she is standing there with her ass, which was nice and firm, jutting out into the aisle right next to my head. I know, right? And she starts doing these kind of maybe yoga-type stretching exercises there while she’s grabbing onto the handrail and her ass is going really close to my face, and it is one very nice ass. I feel like she’s smiling into the window, which is starting to darken with the evening and reflect some things, like her face kind of, and I really think she is smiling a little at me, but I really can’t be sure because I am like really trying to pretend that I am looking out the window and that I am very interested in the scenery or whatever. It was that time of day when the sun is just going down and the moon is starting to rise on the other side of the horizon, and, like I said, the moon was low and big and the sun was painting all the buildings in coats of gold and yellow, and the beige bricks of buildings were starting to fade into the pastel colors common to that crepuscular time of day. It was nice out. Picture fucking perfect. So, this lady has her posterior, which like I said was very firm and tight in those pants and doing all kinds of shaking and gyrating, right there next to my head, and I am just sitting there, towards the back of an almost empty bus with like plenty of fucking seating room, and I’m trying to pretend that I am like totally not at all interested in anything Ms. Ass-shaker is doing, but also at the same time not being able to help myself from glancing over from time to time, taking these flitting peaks at her performance. She would put a foot up on one of the plastic bucket seats, slightly bend over, and do this arabesque kind of thing, with her ass, yep, going out and banging around like a speed bag bumping along there, uh huh, right by my motherfucking head. I know. It was nuts. You can’t make shit like this up. So, this firecracker yoga chick is doing all these bends and…ow…shit. Sorry. I cut my fucking thumb on my shampoo bottle this morning and it hurts like a motherfucker. I think I need to change this Band-Aid or something. It’s getting kind of frayed there, look. Yeah. That’s some nasty shit. Aw. Fuck, that fucking stings. Shit. Okay. So, anyway, this freaky yoga chick is like really getting my prurience up, you know, and so I’m sitting there doing my best Mr. Disinterested/Oblivious impersonation, trying to be as surreptitious as possible, and this chick starts like rubbing up against one of the metal poles. I swear. I am not bullshitting you one finger-licking-good iota. This is not fucking speculative. I am not some fictional avatar, some goddamn fallible narrator invented merely to give you this slice-of-life anecdote so you can make your judgments and form your opinions and make yourselves all feel better about being the morally impeccable people that you can now imagine yourselves to be. No. This is just something that happened to me. This is not realism. This is not someone trying to carefully craft a make-believe world out of reality. I am not trying to control events. So, just listen. Okay? Damn. My finger’s killing me. So, so, so, so…Um. Where was I? Oh yeah. This girl is rubbing her luscious bod on the pole, not so much like a stripper really, I know that’s what you’re thinking. It’s more just like this subtly sensual motion, kind of sinuous and lithe, and she seems to be really lost in her own little space, like she doesn’t even know where she is really, as if she’s existing somewhere else and that none of us are around, that the bus itself may not even be there as far as she’s concerned. It’s kind of like she’s a mime performing a dumbshow in front of a mirror for nobody but herself. So I, of course, start to check her out a bit more. You know, I’m casting my eyes over there, looking at her in the window’s reflections. The windows by this point are starting to fill up more with darkness, and the lights outside are coming on, and this bus’s interior lights are starting to seem brighter, shining this very glaring white fluorescence all over stuff. It was harder to see things outside, but it was much easier to see people’s reflections in the windows. I saw an old man picking his nose. That wasn’t interesting to me. But, I have to admit, I saw it. It happened. I ain’t going to be bullshitting you about stuff. See? So. So. So. The bus was starting to feel somehow smaller, more of a world unto itself. There didn’t seem to be room for anything else in the world. I know. That seems odd. So. Anyway. This chick is getting real into her slithering dance there, holding onto the pole, sliding up and down and shaking that ass, and shit, I mean, shit, I know how that sounds, but really, really shaking that ass. What else can I say? There must’ve been music playing in her mind or something, because she was really rocking out, very rhythmically too, like she was moving to a beat, and her hands would slide up and down the pole and her mouth would be very close to the pole too as her whole body moved up and down and her ass shook, shook, and shook. You know, the pole, it was one of those metal grab rail poles they have on buses. It was pretty shiny too. Her head was kind of shaking around and I could see her lips puckering some when I looked at her reflection in the mirror. I felt like a damn voyeur, but I couldn’t stop myself from staring. And I was also starting to feel like she either (a) didn’t care, (b) couldn’t tell I was watching her, or (c) wanted me to be watching her, you know, like she was doing the whole thing just for my benefit. I know how that must sound, like I’m some real conceited son-of-a-bitch or something, or that I have, what, if not a, um, solipsistic view of things, you know, that I think I am the fucking center of the whole entire universe and that everything on this oblate spheroid only happens because of me, for my benefit, that it is I who am the one sole focal point of all the world’s eyes. But, let me promise you, this most assuredly is not the case. I won’t go into it here, but let’s just not take it for granted that I am a very un-egotistic individual, very munificent and kind to my fellow humans, almost completely unattached from this mortal coil that contains me, just a spectating specter drifting haplessly around the fringes of things, a silent impartial observer of the mundane and ordinary. Generally I don’t go in for such forays into the realms of logic and philosophical speculation, but maybe there is no precedent for this type of thing and I don’t want to get pigeon-holed into being something that I am not. I am not a bad person. Now, that doesn’t mean, you know, it’s not like I said that I am a good person. That would be something different all together. Just being not bad doesn’t make you good, per se. Um. But, there is probably something significant in the difference betwixt them. What that is, well, I just can’t quite understand it enough yet to be able to relate it to you in any kind of clear or understandable way. So my staring at her was something that was happening. It just was. That’s that. Sure, I would dart my eyes hither and thither, taking in the sights—the silvery sandpaper-like floor, the felt-pen graffiti all over the orange plastic coating of the bucket seats, the tiny letters etched into the windows reading, “Acrylic Plexiglas, Polymer Dot Shapes,” and the dual-purpose safety vent in the ceiling that was closed down and latched tight, thank God, shit, it was cold, you know. I was also doing a lot of yawning and sighing, and also this thing where I would close my eyes as if I were suffering some kind of sudden twinge of pain, a headache or something, and would rub my temples with my index fingers for a few seconds. It was all subterfuge, a distraction to take some perceived person’s attention away from me, or from the fact that I was so slyly checking out this yoga-bending-pole-dancing chick whose ass, let me remind you, was right in my fucking face. But who was this “perceived person”? Who was this outsider whom I somehow figured to be watching me? Was it her? Nah. I don’t think that was it. It was like I was performing for a camera, like I was trapped inside a part I had to play on a movie set and I couldn’t get out of it no matter what I did, it was all just a performance for somebody else’s benefit, and, yeah, it was the same with her too, shit, it was like we were both picking up on some a priori mode of existing, some fucking rubicund of the mind that once we crossed we couldn’t ever get back over again, back to the other side of perceiving things, and it was a place where we were both the observing other and the one caught in the gaze at the same time. It was a real motherfucking byzantine conundrum. There was nowhere to go with it. So I just sat there doing all of these things, making these motions to draw attention away from the fact that my attention was like really fucking glued on this chick, who was really not noticing, at least as far as I could tell, anything besides herself. I started to feel real stymied, like I couldn’t get out of this mold, this set-in-stone way of being. As for getting up and moving to another seat, or pretending that I was going to be getting off at the next stop and getting up to stand by the door, shit, forget about it. I was fucking buried in this moment. And nothing I could do seemed like it would ever exhume me from the moment that I was ensnared in. It was a lost cause. I just decided to try and wait it out, to see what would happen next. On the floor by my feet there was some gummy substance, kind of mucilaginous, you know, sticky, like somebody had spilled a coke on the floor, or something with a lot of high fructose corn syrup in it, and I started rubbing my shoes on it, and then scraping them against the seat in front of me to try to get the sticky shit off. It was stupid. I’d slide my feet over the stickum, and then try to scrape it off. I’d keep doing this, over and over. There was something very satisfactory about it, like I was performing some ablutionary act, some kind of cleansing going on. I don’t know. It was odd. But I kept doing it. It passed the time. It kept me busy. It kept my mind off the girl’s ass that was wriggling around by my head. The bus? Oh. You know. It was a newer bus. One of those one’s that are much narrower than the older ones. They don’t have as much aisle room for people to stand in. It’s hard to get by people who are standing when the bus starts to get crowded. You have to say excuse me under your breath and try to squeeze by without putting any of your body parts against the body parts of another person. It takes a good deal of contorting sometimes to negotiate the small spaces and finagle your way through. The end result is a lot of physical contact with strangers, much getting into other people’s personal space, and usually a pulled muscle or two. So, yeah, this chick’s ass was in close proximity to my face. And she wasn’t doing anything to put any extra distance between us. Me? Oh, well, I’m looking up at the vapid advertisements lining the bent space over the bus’s windows, you know, those long curved things that are kind of like gutters at a bowling alley, you know, where they slide all of those cardboard signs along? The ads just hook in and kind of bend inward in the middle, like what happens to a playing card when you palm it. It was just all of these insipid beguilements trying to tell me what to buy and what to wear and how to feel about things, trying to blarney me into doing something. It made me feel pretty damn miserable, let me tell you. I read all the words, as is my wont, and said them a few times in my head. Things like, “Text 566 to this number and get free games for your phone!” or, “Not everyone is lucky enough to have a companion. Help out a senior citizen or disabled person in need.” Just the kind of things they write on those bus advertisements. Nothing important. I kept reading. It’s hard to stop once you get started with something like this. There were these red stickers in the shape of arrows that said things like, “Please Move Back,” “Enter through front door only, Do Not Stand In Stepwell.” I started noticing a lot more of these stickers now that I was looking for them. Most of them were red with white letters. One of them said, “Emergency Exit. Pull red handle down and hold while pushing window out at bottom.” The red handle was right there and I found myself wanting desperately to pull it down for some reason. It was like having an itch you can’t scratch. But I restrained myself from doing that. I mean, it would do nothing but draw attention to me, and that was antithetical to what I wanted. Or would that be anathema? Um. Hell. Who knows? Anyways, there was another sign that said, “PLEASE HOLD ON. Sudden stops are sometimes necessary,” and another one I saw towards the front of the bus, which was blue with white letters, that read, “These seats must be vacated when wheelchair users need this space.” It had a white silhouette of a person on a wheelchair above the words. I liked that one a lot. It was unique. Oh, and, shit, there was this other sticker up by the driver that said, “Information gladly given but safety requires avoiding unnecessary conversation.” That was my favorite one. I liked how it said, “gladly given.” It was a very euphonic phrase. It made me think of cellar doors, and about all things alliterative, things that kept rolling through my mind and building on each other, one word piggy-backing on the next, and then a whole line of the them that just ended me up in this whole she-sells-sea-shells miry hodgepodge of gobbledygook mucking up my mind. It think I coughed into my hand at some point, I don’t know, some kind of tussive things to snap me back out of this trance I was putting myself in, and kind of, as they say, snapped myself back to reality, whatever the fuck reality is. So, well, um, really I guess I just didn’t want people to notice me noticing this girl. I was afraid of being looked at while I was looking at her. I know. It’s an idiotic way to be acting, but I was doing it. Shit. It was completely illogical, patently dumb and wrongheaded and preposterous. But I couldn’t stop it. I tried to think my way out of it, you know, by trying to reason with myself. But I was in an unreasonable state of consciousness at the time and wouldn’t listen to any explanatory rationality for why I was doing what I was doing, even if it was coming from myself. I decided instead to start to just think some odd thoughts, some things that would take my attention away from the shaking-ass-show for a bit. So I started contemplating things like the ephemerality of beauty, and how this ass being shaken in my face was one day no longer going to be so copaseticaly firm and taut, that eventually it too would go the way of all flesh, it would sag and loose its shape, droop, become wrinkled and padded with cellulite, and things would never be this way again. All would be lost. This moment would be nothing. All of these things would one day be gone. None of it mattered. We’d all be dust eventually. That ass would be part of a dead person some day. And then it would rot and decay, and worms would eat it, and soon it’d putrefy and shrivel up and probably become nothing but dirt in the ground. I didn’t like this line of thinking. It wasn’t getting me anywhere. I began to realize that all of this mental convolving was just another distraction, just another goldbricking attempt to avoid the situation that I was finding myself stuck in. I mean, what the fuck was I doing? Shit sticks. I was just trying to feebly, if not coyly, crawl out and away from what was happening not two fucking feet from my head. It’s absurd. I’m absurd. I’m a goddamn idiot. Why can’t I just enjoy things while they’re happening? Huh? Come on. Don’t just sit there looking so unattached, so prudent, all fucking circumspect like you’re some goddamn Penelope or something. I’m just asking you to care. Is that too much to ask? To ask you to care about me? To care about the life I’m leading and the way I see things? Isn’t this important? Stop looking at me like that. I can feel your rancor and your fucking do-gooder, holier-than-thou, righteousness, and your I’ve-heard-this-all-before, god-this-is-all-so-boring-and-meaningless, I’d-rather-be-watching-TV bullshit attitude. Come on. For fuck’s sake. This is all there is. This is all we have in this world. These things. Just like Walt Whitman, I have these things. No. No. Don’t go. Come back. I’m just kidding. Really. I’ve never even ridden on a bus in my life. It’s nothing. Come back. Like me. Like me. Please like me. I am a good person. Like me. I’m alone here. Please……hello?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Not Another Word

Two viewers sit watching a television set on which a very old man with over-sized John-Denver glasses on is talking into the camera, looking a bit to the left of the viewers’ gaze, as if he himself is gazing at something too, maybe a clown doll tied to the top of the camera. The old man’s eyes are distorted and enlarged by the thick glass in his frames, and his mouth is slightly drooping to one side. From time to time a thin line of spittle collects and hangs and then drops from his mouth. His ears are large and stick out like wings. The viewers are watching the video and sometimes one of them makes some comments on it, but mostly they just watch. They are both sitting on fold-up chairs and are sitting very close to the television set, which is small, probably about the size of a microwave. The camera doesn’t move off of the old man’s face. It doesn’t go in for a close up. It doesn’t pan out to show a wider view of the room. There is nothing else on the screen but the man’s face. The viewers can see every wen and bleb and stray facial hair, every last wrinkle and scar and skin defect of his face. His eyebrows are thick and bristly. There is something malformed about his nose. It is bent to the side, incredibly crooked, and seems to be pockmarked with hundreds of tiny craters. Thin strands of long white hair are brushed back from his large, protrudent forehead. His eyes tend to blink a lot. The viewers watch and listen.

There is something arcane about this willingness to love, the ability to love itself has become old-fashioned, and to make oneself vulnerable in a public place is a sin, as the goldening tree leaves fall in a picric heap on the sidewalk and get trampled underfoot, rived and shredded and mashed into dust.

VIEWER 1—Listen. This guy sure says some odd things. It’s, kind of, well, eldritch at least. Listen.

We are often caught up in blandishments, suckered or drawn in, inveigled by the “good deal” or the “bargain buy” and it is all only our loneliness and thanatophobia that is driving us to search out for these things, these desires ruled by the market place, dictated to us by the all-puissant driving force of the economy. Buy, buy, buy. That is all there is to know. Then, and only then, do we not have to worry ourselves with these picayune concerns, these thoughts of death and fear, um, I may as well throw in trembling too. Ahem. So, here there is a chance, sometimes, um, here…well as in here…I mean to say, in the here and now we can always choose to be present, to be awake, to be, what? To be, roused, lifted in our spirits, winking like Groucho Marx behind a dumpster, it is, or would be, at these times that we can take lightly, or not at all, or extremely seriously, the impression made on us by the soft ululating glow of an old neon hotel sign’s letters blinking down the side of a rotting wrought iron fire escape, um, let’s see, the flickering light casting coalfrescent shadows on the mood-swinging bricks, and one thinks of choppy waters and the foam on the crests of waves, and life is tall and free again.

VIEWER 2—A neon sign cannot howl. And Coalfrescent? He doesn’t always make sense, does he?

But this feeling, this, shall I say, unadulterated blessing that seems to strike one down to one’s very core being, that kernel of truth hiding away buried so deep, so lost, gone, gone away, yes…ahem. Anyhow, this feeling is not something that can be described, no matter what one’s chosen mode of expression is, playing cards, creating limericks, tossing magazines into a fireplace, writing songs, playing a lute, driving a diesel-spewing 16-wheeler across this oh-so-capacious continent, or even filming the event, with just the right technique, with all of the latest and most advanced audio and visual equipment at one’s fingertips, cannot even come close to the real-life way of experiencing the event. One cannot smell quite the same scents in the same way that were drifting through the cool breeze then. And one will never know in just the same way the feeling of that breeze brushing against one’s visage, spoiling one’s hairdo, blowing a lapel of one’s dinner jacket up against the chin. It will never be the same. Nothing describing the event will ever touch the actual thing itself. This is the true artist’s constant struggle. Looking with another pair of eyes is no good. The camera cannot see anything the way one’s eye actually saw it. And any other pair of eyes looking upon that same scene, through the filter of the camera, will be again further removed from the event, and will only see what they desire to see, or what they are told to see, and nothing...ahem…I say nothing will ever be the same again. We must learn to give our gifts freely. There is not room for the buy-and-sell attitude of the marketplace in true art. The gift we give, love, must be given freely, unabashedly, without hope of being loved in return. We must learn to become generous, thoughtful of others…um, magnanimous even, and still beholden to our ideals we can turn the gift, the art’s heart’s purpose at last, into a blessing.

VIEWER 1—He talks in a gallimaufry. Confusing, but maybe you’re right. Maybe there is something there.

The gift is hanging. The gift is hung-up. The gift is fragile, and it will not stand up to the barbs of the world of commerce. We must learn to protect the gift. It is a prayer for the non-believers, a coupe for the downtrodden and belittled and heartbroken, a little less than the lees of a rugged faith that has gotten to be so routine, so blandly quotidian, that it is no good anymore, and that things tend to shrivel up and die at this point too, don’t forget. But the strength of the absurd still holds up, it still puckers its labia superfluos entafada and labium inferius, scrunching up its ergotrid, squeezing the philtrum into a thin rivulet. Yes, in the face of doom the absurd still holds sway, the irrational can still make good on the seemingly slipshod promises of yesterday’s prayers. Incorporeal things showing some truculence in the face of the mind-boggling nothingness of eternity, we are daffodils waiting out the clouds for a chance at sun.

VIEWER 1—Something about this makes sense. I’m just not sure what it is. Why does he have to talk like that? It’s like it’s all some riddle or something. Who speaks Latin anyway? What the hell?

VIEWER 2—It doesn’t matter. At least I don’t think it does. There is something very intriguing about this old guy. He seems very genuine.

VIEWER 1—Seems? Well, anyone can seem genuine.

VIEWER 2—No. It’s different with him. I don’t know what it is.

VIEWER 1—I know. I think I know. No. I know. I know that I know. That’s true. I think.

We all need to feel this connection, this binding of the flimsy stuff of ourselves with others, this bonding with other souls like our own. But this reaching-out cannot come from a selfish urge. It must come free of restraint, without any expectations, and it must be given without regard for personal welfare or gain. One must not feel compelled out of guilt, nor be afraid of being duped out of something by a conniving other. It is always better to err on the side of generosity. There will always be those who take advantage of these gestures of kindness. Let us not become one of them. Give freely or not at all.

VIEWER 1—Do you want half of my sandwich?

VIEWER 2—What kind?

VIEWER 1—Roast Beef on Rye.

VIEWER 2—What’s on it?

VIEWER 1—Pickles, onion, asparagus, regetabes. Some crude oil I think. Just a hint.

VIEWER 2—Nah. I Can’t stand regetabes. Thanks though.

VIEWER 1—You are very welcome. Very welcome. Wow. That felt good.

VIEWER 2—You’re just relieved that I didn’t take any of your sandwich. You didn’t really want to give it to me, did you? Weren’t you secretly hoping that I would refuse your offer? Come on.

VIEWER 1—No. I don’t think so. But one never knows, now does one?

Self-worship is the most detrimental piece of hysteria one could ever perform on one’s own psyche. It comes from that part of us that is wanting to be loved, the self-centered ego-driven appendage of our emotional makeup, and it leads towards nothing except forever insatiable desires and emptiness. We have to become more than this. One must take a chance, put oneself out there, quite literally in medias res, into the middle of things, the things of the world, with all of its shame and drudgery and broken dreams…um, ahem…and beauty too, yes…one must strive to put oneself in a position to give the gift of love with no thought of a return on their investment. It is the absurdity of this that is important. It is the ridiculousness of this that makes it worthwhile.

VIEWER 2—This is getting boring. And kind of redundant too. Hey, maybe I will have some of that sandwich.

VIEWER 1—Sorry. Too late. It’s gone. I fed it to a crocodile.

VIEWER 2—Damn. I guess I missed my chance.

VIEWER 1—Yep. Too bad. It was good too.

VIEWER 2—I bet.

Two Pulled From The Typer's Teeth

Billy The Kid’s Lament In Wintertime

going south faster than the Rio Grande
I fall asleep to the sound of old Chinese women screaming
on the street outside
while the sun glints off windows and spills
like golden lava onto my floor
my horse has strayed and lost his way
my aim’s a little off
and my hand shakes like a guy with Parkinson’s

but I can still hold a tune
and enjoy the way
the small moths flutter across my room

some things don’t change too much with time
and sometimes
like say on a rainy afternoon with nothing to do but smile
they just keep on getting better


we live in small rooms & go unpublished
our lives are squalid and dull
we make music with typewriter keys and
go days without eating
our clothes are held together with safety pins
and our hair is almost always unwashed

we have holes in our shoes & holes in our teeth & giant gaping holes in our souls

we spend days memorizing long passages from Paradise Lost
and nights drinking whiskey until we black out

this is the life we lead
as invisible scratches in the surface of the world
those of us who don’t give a damn
about dollars and success

we live quiet lives of solitude 
and just maybe
at certain times
a little desperation too

Thursday, December 11, 2008

One For The Wastrels, The Drunkards, and The Lechers

                                      (A Summer and Smoke pastiche)

So Tennessee thought of you, with a drawl and a yawn, on some July afternoon, a dashing cavalier at work on a Model-T, sweeping sweet ladies off of their feet, un-fit pieces of a puzzle on a TV tray, strangers and kindness and just surviving, drenchings with a hose held over one’s head, long hot afternoons, patience, castigations and customs and calling on neighbors, the last flickering spark of civilization, readings and refreshments, a bottle of apricot brandy. Anything goes on Moon Lake. Everything reaches up, straining for something out of the reach of human fingers. Look up. We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars. Chasing the bluebird of satisfaction. Traveling salesmen playing poker. The facts of life. A doctor would know. Spying, standing behind a curtain, in love with some trembling tacky thing with a Z in her name. She and God punishing the devil in you. No cigarettes, bad manners and self-indulgence. Tied down. Old maids who are still young. Unkind. Spreading out one’s life like a rug for her to step all over. A catfight broken up by a preacher. A hat torn from its plumage. A couple of white tablets dissolved in water. Trust. Heart like a drum, that little red fist that keeps knocking on that little black door, unable to sleep or get through the summer, one day after the other, a deep breath, another, soon you will be much better. Time is only one side of a tesseract. Pearl buttons on her blouse. Breathe. Breathe. Hold your breath. The soul is not on an anatomy chart. Love is what you bring to it. A little voice saying, “How does your blue space in running clouds go, Mr. Williams?”

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Verbatim Excerpt From The Deliriously Drunk Man's Speech On The Subway

…when we get back to my house I’m going to show you a couple of things that I never told you about before, I’m going to go back home and get a loan on a cheap car like maybe an ’88 Mercury station wagon, only a couple hundred of bucks I bet will get me through the winter because it’ll have to somehow, until I get back to thinking about just where it is I really want to go, where I want to go from here, until I start a new life where my floor isn’t covered with old books and broken glass and dead dreams and years of dust and beer stains, when we get back, when I go back, when everything is just the way it should be and we steal our electricity, I want cloudless lazulite skies and whiskey in my coffee and an alarm clock that never wakes me up and calendar pages that never turn, but in the meantime there are bad haircuts to get and days to wade through like bath water, always moving just to go nowhere once again, I just want to walk in the June afternoon, want to feel free, sing, laugh, maybe even dance a little, throw all my possessions into a bonfire, run naked on the beach, be happy too...