Sunday, October 31, 2010

3 from "all the print that's fit to news"

our good buddies the firebugs

there’s a woman who breathes walgreens with placebo susurrations (dot dot dash)

a MileCloak (period)

a garnish of gravy dumb-waitering (comma slash) eternity

or just specks (caps) of instances which cost less than movie projectors

so (implied comma) it started out that the time involved in waiting spent useless jacarandas

like (left-handed quotation mark) (nested quotation mark) chocolate-dipped (nested quotation mark) leaves (right-handed quotation mark)

only more insolent (apostrophe of the mind) and less concaving to the moment

grief laughed

a mordant cornflake (caret) whispered

“i think i think i think i can think…” (no quotes) (no ellipses)


that’ll serve a mis-pronounced tulip of

dropped sedulity (humpback whale)

commandeering (just listen) the jeep-hug (guillemet) of cheap kindness (guillemet)

blissed into trashed motors of fruition

(period period) (serious period) (period silly backslash period)

holidays ran on her sighs

a woman who runs out of (perfumed vacuum-cleaner dust) cadillac tears

a woman who screams (exclamation points) punches to life

a who-once-where (singled out question mark) of a woman

and (gullwing) there’s gravy in the rain

(bracket) and there’s (bracket) genius in an over-the-ocean guess

plus a tad (pilcrow) (at sign)

minus a dawn’s early light (registered trade mark)

steeply on impulse driven (proper tidings) sane

there (cue holiday music) once was a diamond who sold a (bite me) century to a television

pot-holing (craven comma) about

around (interpunct) or (interpunct) all (interpunct) that’s over then

now so there’s this guy (loosely based on nobody) under-coated with reasonableness

his hat’s indispensable to current shifts in insolvency (generic currency symbol)

at least (bullet backslash asterisk) in half-courtings

(underscore) (period) eventual drawings raffled out in promissory notes (capital letter)

a lady (dagger) who (inverted exclamation point) guns down sudafed

gallant (colon) stridings (comma) towards bad timing

half (piece of cake) a lot

(semicolon) more (period)

it’s a (1,2,3) tie

but nobody’s running


the hunch is that I will be a robotic moan issuing from the hole left after the world has left

and here we’re also left with bank statements pollarding the dullness of being happy

to grow and reinvest and take stock

and of course


like being a victim of a stickup at a boxing match

but there is only a mulish envy left

at the bend in every untraceable road you choose

or just the usual circumstantial problems

of being left out too long


from stormy weather and other speculations about the togetherness of

being left torn all apart

because if it weren’t for the lasting impression made by

casual celebrities

and jackhammered daisies before sunrise

tears would seem the most antediluvian of solutions

but in the caress of leftover thoughts

we only think of other people when it’s convenient

convenience being merely a harbinger of impatience


like fireflies stamped out by sun

our tolerance for others dwindles

and we paste dollar bills on the inside of book jackets

a crocus falls from a buttonhole

a sleepy gumdrop decides the fate of the day

as the banks of night take deposits of love and love’s failures

evidence grows like foxtails between the pastures of purgatory

and apartment 2A

we sleep and borrow

and purge the pith from what it is

we are left saying out loud

a gull dips lavishly into the sky’s grape jelly

hitler’s ghost gets drunk on fox news

and we

with a sinister slurred satisfaction

sing bogus slogans

and put off decisions

in an imitation of happiness

an attempt to fend off the pettiness of boredom

while sleeping through malachite afternoons

wearing noise-proof headphones

bleating white noise and stock quotes

into our unlistening ears


Nobody’s ever heard of my first love.

Her name was


Things to be known about


were lost in the shambles of car-driven afternoons.

Kind was kind of the course we drove,

but it was more towards shifty and dangerous,

which was good

except that we promised guilt along with spelling feints,

and letters don’t always add up to chicanery or other desperate greedy swallows.

Nobody knew me.

It was before I mattered.

A dossier was kept.

A pool was kept free of algae and mosquitoes.

Carpet was lawn:

something to fall on.

Feel free to expostulate.

There’s always room for one more t-shirt vendor.

Friday, October 22, 2010

screams of consciousness

cheap investments in a heart’s pocket’s foldedtiny letter there smuggled through a manner’s custom, we were having dinner too, and the miscalculations of joy spindled happenstancingly leftover from months ago, or was it years too? might’ve been, lord knows. indispensable rubbish. and the fireworks are like drunkgirls screaming in the sky, but they only ticklingly light fog different colors like flavors of cotton candy. the pier was dropdead empty that night afterwards, of course, after the crowd had lingered no more. just like them. while the closedpostoffice way she had of dashing off a letter--in record time--was not lost in the strife of a day’s works.

a train made a trainsound.

he walked.

poorness was overwhelming. never enough cash. just eking out a living, or a dying really. wasn’t it? living this way. they said hand to mouth, right? something of the sort. something to do with not saving. no rainy days. no funds being raised. just a few bucks to see a movie once a week, or have a meal that didn’t consist of hot water, cheap noodles, and a flavor packet. room-temp water. that’s the way she liked it. leave it out overnight. what’s undernight? beneath those dark skies it was when she came alive. though not dark in that way at all, not like ominous or something. it was prickled with starlight. and fiveyearlightbulbs. a scrimmage of wit between the walls. to pay a little later every month. to put off. to chip away at enervation with sturdy blocks of hoppedup willpower. loony tunes. to go berserk in the lamplight. a basketcase for the moon to look after.

he walked. the street was humped and crumbly. he thought of lava not all the way cooled. the sidewalk was ribbed with tiny flowers and some scraggily weeds jutting here and there from cracks. fauna. flora. a beatup couch with rippedtorn cushions. Rip Torn. The Man Who Fell To Earth. Norman Mailer for some reason. a fist fight maybe? perhaps? whatever makes the most sense. commonmanning his was down the avenue. down the boulevard, barreling, fist first. cementflop of shoes. a mediumplanetsize-creature with an appetite for humans digesting loudly, all these people walking and the murmur of it all. like that guy said who went in for the felo-do-se, went ahead and hung himself in the basement for his wife to find him there. tongue out? erection? that’s what they say. hell of a way to take one’s self out. had longish hair and good looks too. tragic sort of tragedy. could make up stories to fill the void in people’s lives.

a corner where the streets meet. intersect. stop signs. he was standing there. he was thinking--gotta shit, gotta shit, gotta shit, gotta take me a dump…why is it take? shouldn’t it be give? Carlin. stuff. all that stuff. where’s my stuff? oh lord, lord, i gotta takes me a shit. gosh damn. god darn. fuck, fuck, fuck. of lord it’s a comin, now or never…Elvis…it’s now or never, be mine tonight. gotta love that. Graceland. All those TV sets. died on the crapper. oh shit. oh shit. gotta take me a shit. give a shit to the sewer system really. a few more blocks. Homeward bound. I wish I was. I wish I were. Forgot about the subjunctive mood mr. Simon. Going home. Going home to take a dump. ah. push out a good one. think lightheadedly about baseball boxscores and Tide detergent advertisements and the way some people’s voices sound when they whisper and also the tonsured heads of NBAers. cagers. loopy to say the least. making up ditties. singing aloud. out loud. humming. listening to the toilet run, the refrigerator whine, the mice scramble in the walls, a cat’s sadmeowing, the toilet paper tearing in strands unevenly on the spool while i onehandedly tug at its thin sheets. i gotta take me a dump. can’t wait. can’t wait to take me a good oldfashioned shit.

he walks in the crosswalk, saved by the magic of its white lines. to cross. to carry one too. across the street. on the street. at street level. no. above.

vitamins. vitamins. multivitamins. oneaday. under the sun. vitamin d. good for lotsa stuff. calcium absorption. need to get out there into the world. gotta get some of that sunshine on the skin. soak up the rays. not too much. just enough for the RDA. maybe not even so much. who gets to say how much is enough? we’re all the same but different too in all many such of kinds of ways. similarly just enough different to be told apart. eat well. thrive. run a marathon once in while. take the stairs. cardiovascular healthwise, get the heart pumping. but not too much. just enough. fiber to make it all come out nice and smooth. no bumps in the dumps. pushups to violin music. making good time.

up the curb. he settles and balances with his toes on the curbedge. up and down. lifting himself. feels good in the calves. a balancing act. don’t go tipping over and into the street. get hit by a bus. that’ll be the end of you. that’ll be it. a last goodbye. no more you to be you. no there to be there. oakland? somewhere that is nowhere? something of the sort. always something of the sort. rolling hills. something majestic. freeways between crushed with cars going going going but never gone.

a mailman goes by. a mail carrier. a postal worker. a female deliverer of stamped envelopes with papers inside. mostly junk. advertisements for magazine subscriptions and credit cards. mail bags. visors to keep the sun out of their eyes. good walking shoes. striped blue socks. a lithe way of going about their work. their daily doings. mostly back and forth and up and down. fitting things into mailslots. avoiding dogs. giving directions. striding purposefully. no leisurestrolling. looks of intent. directness. confidence. wherewithal.

check my head for signs of life.

the cupboards are bare.

he walks. he saunters. he gallops at times. he struts in his perambulations. he swings his arms. arms that dangle are better than arms that strangle. good one. safety first. maybe. possibly. perhaps. could be. a parallelparking car screeching like a door that needs some WD40 on the hinges. wheels turned all the way. backing up. going forward. again and again. never quite close enough. turn the tires towards the curb.

how much of my life have I spent staring at a TV screen, watching TV shows, commercials?

this old brain is tired tired tired tired…she couldn’t be beat when it came to marveling. quite a marveler she was. could marvel better than anyone. sometimes she’d marvel at a slice of bread, before it was toasted of course, just the bread, lying there on the plate, and she there marveling at it…the situational prurience of dreams wears off slow, wake up with unfinished business, trying to connect threads of things, to attach them, when ya gotta, to your life. The crumbling parapets of dreamland, a fantasy burnished and then banished, things lost, topheavy and down. Pitterpatter whatsamatter? Gleegolden. If the nape is left exposed he will teeth it with bites a plenty. Happysnacking. Courting partners in crime. Lose the Agamemnon look (if it doesn’t suit the occasion) less I bare all or bar you from future pleasurings.

He steps away from the corner. The intersection is behind him. The sidewalk is leafless there. A stray thought to catch like a butterfly, though harder, more difficult to say, just then, with hands behind his back, like a professor would while strolling through a park in the late afternoon, probably wearing a v-neck sweater, a cravat, a sportcoat, a white beard, monocles, patent leather shoes, white socks, loose-fitting slacks, fall colors. What would I say? I am confused by underwear ads. Smiling. Juxtaposition. Weariness too. Those things add up. Where’d my good times all go? A flutter. A twist in the air. More like jasmine, but gardenia coming through too, just a whiff of scent. People shutting car doors, standing up from a crouch, pushing beepbuttons on their keys like candlelight exploding, and just standing there, not really looking at anything. The devil cares. He may care. My attitude is flourishing with achievement. Getting it right. Walking on by. Walking. Peripatetic like Aristotle, like he would if he still could. Who’s to say whose who is going to live longer? Me or this grasshopper on the windowsill? Could squash it like a…bug. The bug it is. Then I’d know. For sure.

A cat. A stray. Feral? In search of home? Lost like anything else is. Ammo for a longoveranddone war. An airconditioner coming to life. Must’ve had an icecreamsandwich of a time. Listing still. On through. Assuredly it ends at some point. Patontheback. Godinthetrees. Have that wellwisher shot. An incipient roar like a hodoscope would make if it could. You’re my dream. Now, there are those things ericaceous too. Those dreams. Lovely as they are. Like saying rhododendron outloud, aloud. Ban all ailurophobes from the neighborhood for a while. Purring will come to vanquish all. Let it come. Let everything be drowned in moans. You’re a dream’s dream. Lookingglasslike, or selflessly selfish. Wandering it alone. Together. Left of winging it and right of an elephant stampede. By the goodgrace of the hood of that car. Another wandering eye to meet mine. Excoriating, these pants. Or is it chafing? I’ve been chafed! Great God! Holy Moly! Shit! Jesus! Make amends. Tie shoes. Get better at shaving.

Windows. Plate glass? Plates of glass, for sure. Creeping in and out of shape. My reflection’s in vain. Gawking at myself. My own gawkiness never ceases to amaze me.

a cure for laziness. a substitute for boredom. a retrousse nose staring right back at you from the mirror of your diminishing returns, and then it’s less than that too. a broom sweeps, but does a sweep broom? never always. like codeine. just a taste of a trickle of what’s possible with opiates, but not enough to make it worthwhile. break it apart. separate the chaff from the grain. alcohol it down. water it up. whatever it takes. boil out the impurities. on the rocks. off the rocker. outside in. a stranger’s sweatpants in the dryer. always favored a roman nose, me myself. put the movies on. just as swell. might’a been goodly.

he hops. it’s not a skip. it’s a hop. a tweak of the heels. a walker’s gamble. a toe’s wink. better that nobody saw. he hopes after the hop that nobody saw. nobody’d seen.

a honk. maybe a treble? lord knows. it’s beyond me. like a bird’s chirp. a siren’s not the same. a car alarm. the hijacking of my ears with shrillness. sweat gathering sweetly in folds of skin. bellysweat. armpitsweat. crotchsweat. asscracksweat. earsweat. toesweat. screeching rubber. a peel. outside things are allowed to be louder than inside. eating can keep you alive and it can kill you. spelling isn’t like that, in most instances.

okay so there he goes walking by a few shops and he doesn’t stop at all just keeps walking spying things in the windows and in the street too thinking about…bacon, Nestorian reasons behind decisions, solecisms in thoughts, thinking ideas through without regard to reality, peppercorns, trumping ills with wonder, gesturing while talking to one’s self, bacon, ropeswings of regret, cut-rate mullings of trying over and over to try, gas lights coming on, bacon, whirlpools in hot tubs, somatology, a poultice for melancholy, bacon, the smell of owl feathers, obsequies for those still living, odalisques for the dead, k-zones, likely reasons for the Cambrain explosion, insensitivities in the mind to certain others, lookouts, bacon, mishaps of cats, and bacon cooking.

--Yasho! You come here this instant! Bad Yasho!

it’s somebody yelling. it’s a streetscreamer type. i know the type. people who’ve got to be loud at all times, even when it’s not allowed. mother wouldn’t allow it. father would beat ‘cha for it. gotta use that indoor voice. get your bell rung. get even with the knuckles. if judas go a huntin’. if judas go a huntin’ he go a huntin’ for you. judas is gone fishing. gone to the pond in my head. the world of swirls and whorls. piefaced I am hobbling round. a squat lean. a murderous mush of moon. a fan of silence. it’s somebody who yells. who is shushed many times. who controls climates. it is something of insidious intent, but not ulterior. misshapen thoughts, gotta quit ‘em. umbilically tied to troubling things. it’s somebody criticizing a dog’s behavior.


It mingles with other street noise.

--Yasho! Be a good boy. Come here. Come on boy.

There is the smell of dog crap.

--Good boy Yasho. I knew you could do it.

he looks into skies of salmon ribbed with puddles of blue-tinted clouds. televisions light windows in a building rising above like a mild-mannered R2D2. a few spindly trees spaced apart, what? 15 feet? 20? not many leaves yet. babies. the first hues of life coloring their tips and the bark still rather soft. soft cell. tainted love. sometimes i feel i’ve got to dance. just gotta dance. take my tapdanceshoes and that’s not nearly all. get out damn song. out damn song. out. out of my head. talkingheads. there. psycho killer, the get-that-song-stuck-in-my-head-out-of-my-head song. better. there. there. there. imtenseandnervousandicantrelax. make my life seem more important to me. that’s what music does. feel better about yourself in thirteen easy steps. like teaching a course in the names of rivers to help lonely crosswordpuzzlers. waters that rise in my head. pigeons rooting in my hair. what can a guy do? where’s my money? where’s my girl? where’s my anthropology degree with a minor in the semantic oddities surrounding old-world Baltic metaphors? there’s a little kid dressed in a little-kid suit and tie. that’s more like it. hey there little guy. should i muss his hair? would that be considered inappropriate? just a simple gesture. kindness. nothing like that these days. people have been saying these days forever. everybody whose ever grown old. the past. it wasn’t so great, was it? elvis had sex and drugs and rocknroll too. that’s something. at least i’m not a human fly.

he walks along. he walks around.

--do not haunt me, says the clerk.

--fat chance, says the ghost.

an example of irony? no. pleasure in forgiveness. more likely. inept struggles towards chants and pantings and also raving like headhunters would be after some inside information. schmoozing with cockroaches.

oh of all things to be mad about. things in my pockets. things weighing me down. i hate things weighing me down. things in my pockets. keys poking me. wallet bulging. it makes me angry. wanna travel around lightly. wanna be free to move around. things weighing me down. things in my pockets. hate carrying things. having things in tow like shopping bags or suitcases.

he walks. if i had an idea machine. that’s all i need. an idea machine. how much would one of them cost? and what would it look like? maybe like a space heater but with more holes in the front. maybe with a longer cord. ideas would come slithering out. or maybe they’d come out like coins out of a slot machine. all at once? or a few at a time. and what if it broke. who’d fix the damn thing. the damn idea machine. maybe not such a good idea afterall.

a lamppost made a lamppostsound.

he walked. riveted. it’s just a way of being. giving more than ample attention to. riveting. eyes riveted. a rivet. a metal bolt or pin. riveting. grabbing at your sights. hooked. stuck on looking. riveted to this way of existing. a certain order to things that was randomly organized into acceptable shapes, almost like steps to climb, rungs, a copious obsession with curved edges to surround things, to make things bounce. resistant to change yet always changing. trying not to notice everything, think about everything, unfiltered, guessing, never at rest.

salmon skies. salmon skies. nothing but salmon skies do I see.

feeling rather penurious. don’t wanna wanna wanna spend my money. no. no. no. no. ain’t no spendthrift. going down the road feeling bad, but not broke…at least.

he walks. it is motion at its most plumcherriest. it is not a hohum way of moving. it is a lunging mangled stroll, lowdivingly collective. he walks. the cement is gumspoltched and pebbled and graybleached and kind of linedwithworry. fire hydrants squat with rustchains and intagliolettered with longago names and their littlestumparms. if a fire hydrant had a face would it ever smile? and what would make it smile? and why would it want to smile? the cars boomcrush their way along. a man nods. hi. howdy. sadeyes. little homespun winkedaway cares. howyado? a collection of sighs and reverberations. things turning brown. cracks in the crown of things. sanfrancisco is just an oldindian with a borkenoldcane stumbling across saltwaterdreams. and me? i don’t even own a cowboy hat. i can’t sell insurance for a living. the road drifts me away. people to meet. people to meet. to meet. my face. mistaking crayons for colors. laundromat odors. owlcolored eyes. patchedup feelings that still get tangled too. if i were a drifter i’d drift less in my thoughts and more in my…body…or maybe just stand around admiring trellises, bougainvillea, drooping purpleflower racemes on curled vines of wisteria, thinking about waistcoats or overcoats or topcoats or raincoats or paint. more or less. mas o menos. this or that. with or without? paper of plastic? hard-boiled mystery or crime drama? let’s see. people who say “that” when they should be saying “who” or “whom” should not have jobs that pay them to speak. among other things. i’m just saying.

traducements to my character notwithstanding it would most likely behoove me to dilldally or mariobrother my way out of the chambers of my head for a spell and possibly breathe in some fesher air now and later too for there are labors to attend to with maybe a digduglike diligence drumming through the tunnels of cures and comeonoverheres and those more honorable professionals too like maybe heartattacks for comedic effect or mistakes in curiosities coatofarms there is an aroundthecorner fascination with comingsoon events like if a worm gets all chopped up iceberglettucelike but wigglingly grows still headless always without much to separate the body from the what would it be maybe just one slippery oleaginous writhing mess of bloodguts still you can’t discount the price of experimentation not at an office party even because we’ve had wars started over less just a wink or a nod or a sly pussyfart in the face of doom we are just waiting to go extinct like everything else and the rest is celluloid and razzmatazz and forgettable instances of admiration mixed with pity deracinating its way to a hyphenated endtime where every last detail of videotapedlife is distilled and trickledowned to its funniest moments in a hunch’s dash in a tootsieroll’s squashing in a verdigris daze of binary foliage in a gecko’s squawk of lizardjoy in calvincoolidge airconditioning in retrospect that’s where the sharpest tacks lie like something in a movie it’s all like something in a movie it’s crucial to know scenechangemoments when the wind gets its way again if I lost more hair to it too then well I’m getting somewhere via nowherefast there comes a rumble trashrucking its way lost blasted why don’t people say blasted anymore dang blasted idiot or something just drooling there thumbuphisass kind of thing lumbering along missing somebody maybe too there’s that blasted dog again tinycurlsofwhite and a pinkhangingtongue always panting around circling why doesn’t somebody say beware of god when he means to say beware of dog somehow not as brave if it were interpreted in a certain fashion so you get used to seeing and saying the same things all the time those haveanicedays and thanks and howsitgoing things and the look of your homepage on the computer screen and the ringtone of your phone and the way names show up on the face and light up and blink and the clothes you habitually adorn again and again and the days turnover without any apples and the moon does its dishes in the clouds and there is mud in the gears and sticking is not a problem just peons and monks among betterknown animals as I make the best of a pardonme existence clunking around with spare parts for sale here and there among flowerless roses scratching descriptions of things happening into the wetcement floors of time.

he walks. i wouldn’t mind having a little tad of whatchacall cognitive distance from the situation arising here well because i not only am rationalizing but a mostly rational human being and a good all around human being as far as being human is concerned and getting away from something one finds uncomfortable boring and or restricting is not merely justification of going down the road feeling bad but a more mindful solution to a overclued misstep like faultfinding just to get the getoverit part outoftheway looking shoeward now a bit stable a bit stumbley a tad trippedup a mottled fringe of the trail a nesting instinct gonetopot a little unselfcentered at least if not childish this wanting to be liked all the time this need for others to like me just being juveniledelinquent about it mostly.

he walks. he misses a beat. not my heart. no. no. no. not me. he walks. flops of feet. swatting shoes. pounding the pavement. making tracks. hoofing it. ambulating. traversing the cement terrain with a worriedhead of worrysap. wallowing in trashtruckteary noons. riding high on horseprayers.

he walks. he walked.

i was driving through Vermont and all the trees were drunk with redyelloworange leaves. this was once. it was a time in my life. it was then. now it is not then. but then i was in Vermont and i stayed with these people who had a piano. it was one of those old clunker upright pianos. the woman played Chopin on it every night after dinner. sometimes she got drunk and we all had one hell of a time. she had advice that was never friendly but always helpful. plucking tiny diamonds from sand on tarpaper. you’ve got to be patient. you need a nice bright light overhead. dewslick mornings walking over flowered copses and over flat stones that’d make good skippingstones over riverwater rippling in ctenoid hemispheres outward and then dissapearing in flatness. a measly price for a pyrrhic victory while running a fool’s errand in timesbeforetime. not knowing what one never knows is even there to know, like not having answers because one is unaware of the questions, not even having an idea that there is an idea, it happens all the time in the course of a life of thought. all I know is that I’ll never know whatever it is that is an unknown unknown to me. history stuck in the chains of time, the fetters of clenched action, never to be undone, like thy will. maybe. sort of. kind of. could be. a lump in my throat like that. just like that. a rush of air. of breath. of drunken treelimbs heavy with soddenleaved dreams. will not want not. a wasting away of the ineluctable modality of being me, like a striving in mirthless realms of sweaty adipose. a merchant to spy my thoughts always buyinglow and sellinglow too. bought for a song. or a joke.



--look away. we’ve only got some discomfiture and a nineiron left.

that bandylegged broad boasting uphill.

--if I had a yacht. she said.

if she had a yoke. but the brandingiron doesn’t fit. more room. a decent space between ideas. lookaway. still. you’ve got to be careful and cheerful too. concomitant sighs. messes of memories looking for company. a lessening of ideals. these? these are the things we are coming to?

now there is a slight variation in modality. a switch can be thrown. fit in. be normal. behave. get a real job. move on up. let old acquaintances be forgotten. bellyflop into whatever’s left. later there’s a grandiose movement of a dropped pencil skidding over bilegreen tile.

--the dickshrinking sea.

--the water’s warm. get in. get in while the water’s warm.

--how is who to say who’s who?

--losing it.

he walks. radios play. a poodle shakes itself wet. a bison falls asleep in a bowling alley. a reminder of being alive. like music. like a karaoke machine playing randomly by itself all alone on a beach. tempers that cool with the sun. an incomparable whistle. predisposed to prodigious talents sheltered like a bedwetter in the swaddlingbands of trainsmoke. projecting. vomiting. taking out the trash. pretend to be a doughnut.

--plus one plus one plus one plus one…

--the world as is: infinitely drab.

--as it were.

he walked. fruitflies fathered other fruitflies. a muscle moved. reactions were timed. a moldy weapon of humanity bowed its hungering head. walking. walking. i am walking here. here? not there? here. there. somewhere. a gridiron shape spumes on the horizon. a hulkgreen kind of blue. a neoplagiaristic gaff in the seams of things. sweating through a sweater. onestepatatime. overandover. like memories stained with mildew. moldy rememberings. halftipped. swearing. unallowed. like wetaftershowerears. pulverized meadows of loss in the land of plenty. a vaccumcleaner for the soul. lift. lift. decline. unplugged and guiltyashell. jailed with a stuffednose. snotty. an abandoned shoe lies sidewalkbound alone to fit its way into the world as it sees fit.

--man, you’re turning happyhour into sadhour.

he walked. tenses shifted.

--bored with the blooms of spring?

--summer me then.

--yesterday it seems I hung my head. could this be a sign of something irreducible?

--be content with and among the things of this world.

he walks. dreamt last night of tabletopgirls driving round in minivans, hanging out of suicidedoors, surrendering all mighthavebeens, stealing cat’s names. anemones forsake me. not who needs, but who cares. that’s all. and this mustering of courage too. these phonecalls from Nebraska. who’s calling me from Nebraska? is it from a church in Lincoln? maybe a basement where they’ve got cots for transients to sleep on. maybe bunkbeds. a clappingsound. a rearended sound. making parts out of wholes again. or holes. a pinch of menelaus’s missing mixed with a dash of civility, a splash of regret, and a spoonful of revenge. that’s about just right. brighter than most days around here, without a growing unobserved darkness, without a curse of moonlight or a highfive or a swallowingsound. let’s straighten out the withholdings. here. born to do taxes and die. sing me back home, or at least towards a place that seems so. dreamt of shoeless evenings. dogs barking with blinders on. bells crashing through windshields. wearing a drafty disguise while whistling down the sunshinestate parkway doubleclutching the wholewideway straightaway along. a graceless pleasure of sinkingteeth and chippedpaintscars. the caffeine wears off. an unendurable tiredness. but one that won’t sleep in. keeps me guessing as I go. airplanemotorsounds. just want to lie supine on my bed for a bit. just wanna hangaround a parkinglot all night. just wanna guess people’s weight alldaylong. coopedup is no way to live. hit the road kid. hit the road and get away while you still can.

--born on the wrong side of the world.

--not this again.

--a plump statement in the thicket of things.

--metered doses of joy come prepackaged with inhibitions all their own.

--and the st. batholomew’s day massacre didn’t wipe out the huguenots for good, did it?

--no. but it gave ‘em a good pounding. a good slap on the wrist.

--death comes and goes?

--it treads evenly twixt the powers that be with pussyfooting tiptoes.

--lightly it walks on padded soles. but they got a street named after ‘em. don’t they?

--oldest street in these states, they say.

he walks. we walks on by. cloudloops of shreddedlettersmoke entwine and clutter tickertape trails of grayicing on the plumblue above. his lips are kissing the wind. in an earthquake mood, with a winduptoy smile. a man without a movie camera. there goes nothing. here goes everything. another tactic bereft of tact in this tacky world of tumbprint skies and ruritanian dreams, of hulahoop cares and gurneyed peace, of dayless years, of comfortable dullness, of bytes, of limpid screens, of harddrives, of landlords, of gunshy pets and naturalstates of confusion. a tape recorder left on with no sound to record. dirtywords are jumping off the scalenetriangle ramp of my thoughts, which are themselves barely kept afloat on an unsteady umiak of despair. keep it up. keep moving. laugh in the face of…whatever come what may. god’s just a hobo taking a transubstantial journey through darkness by the light of a silverymoon while a symphony of car alarms blares electricscreams allthroughthenight.

bilking the cops out of their badges. the faces of clowns corrugated with phony frowns. the smell of tar bubbling in a streetside vat. tarring the roof of an old building. reminds me of The LaBrea Tarpits. Being a kid. Those things. Associations of a scent. The difference between a like and a love. Just a matter of taste. Tonguetip type things. The gradual accumulation of the prerequisite selfworth required to tie one to another one. The bones of Pleistocene creatures preserved for millions of years. Saber-toothed skulls. There are more adventurous ones among us who take chances every day with things like speaking to strangers, or smiling, or staring in the mirror for too long. I’ll give you something to cry about. Punches never thrown, but also never pulled. Prorated happiness. Blurs of mood. There is nothing suitable about this situation. It tarries. The wind shifts. A lutulent muck of the mind. Possibly some bad anchovies. A kissmedeadly attitude about what it is one finds attractive or utterly repellent will do for now. A girl with a chiffon purse, with black ringlets tied back and bangs just above the eyebrows, deepblue eyes, worried thinlipped mouth, in one hand ballpointpen, in the other she coils a rolledup newspaper, performing tinyskips, gazing at a churchsteeple, ballsofthefeetswaying on the streetcorner, ears pierced with miniaturesteelbarbells, countenance somewhat ajar and agape, lolling, not lost, notinahurryatall. The flicker and tick of a lightchange. The magic of crosswalks. Cars lined up like a firing squad at the red. Brooms spreading tar on a rooftop in the hotsun. A glistening. A mild engineroar. Trafficky conditions. A backup. A pileup. The bending of rose stems in the wind. An eager bum with no shoes scampering across the street as if it were filled with hot coals, hooting and screeching, lifting up his torn pantlegs too, impishly grinning the whole while, but pissedoff as all hell too. The breadlines grow a little every day, like hair. Shave it off they say. Get rid of it. A part of you that keeps going and going and not going away, until it does, and then you miss it, and want it back, but it’s too late, like a badhaircut or going bald. Nothing to be done. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s…Cinderella? One day my blankety blank will come. Something like that. How do flies stand this heat? They seem to love it. Diligo estus. Not like me and my coldweather clothes. Gelu servo mihi bonus vexillum. I came. I saw. I went home hungry. All I got was this lousy tshirt. The smoke the window makes gives me grief a plenty. And they used to call Pacific terrific. Now it’s just ordinary and lousy and treelined and plaqued and partially preserved in the soot of its redbrick glory. We get hotdogs there and Sinatra’s long gone away the way of tophats and VCRs. A dimeadozen is less than a penny each. Pinch them…I guess. Put ‘em in a vase or paint ‘em black with a Sharpie. I see a reddoorandiwantitpainted…red. Damn pigeons shitting allovertheplace. Columbidae. An ornitholigist’s trickortreat. Is it a columbine? No. Something similar. Same root word. Perhaps a flower. Yes. Aguilegia. Of course. A magpie with its burst of purple wings and tentacles shriveling to the rear. On the wings of a magpie. Mirrorgazing. Seeing always what it sees. Itself. Alone. Something different and detached from all other things. But still just another thing allthesame. Itchy eyes. Postnasaldrip. A bit of a tickle in the throat. Must be a high pollencount round these parts rightaboutnow. Sneezesneezecough. Ah. A small fart. Everyone loves the scent of their own farts, right? They must. Their own unique odor. It’s a condition of being alive. Godblessyou. Gesundheit. The smell of salubriousness. Onefootinfrontoftheother. Looseascanbe. The windows glint. Paint scratched off the liquor store sign, which seems to droop a little, with a few bulbs popped and a worn lightning bolt rustyfaded elbowing between the orangeandwhite letters. Henry’s LiqourMart. Open ‘til midnight. Wonder if that’s still true? Dust on the windows. Doesn’t seem to be open at all anymore. Closed sign hung crooked in the window. Holefilled banners draped among the emptyshelves. Not much to see. Lights off. Nobody home. Nothing to see here. Keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving on. Don’t get all hemmedin by events. Runared and runamok and leapingaroundtheblock again. Knocking blocks off and knocking socks off. I will lift thee up to a standstill and run wine like ribbons through your hair. Hello kind sir. My name? Well, if you must know, it is Publius Vergilius Maro. I am a nonspanishspeaking puertorican who only talks in oldenglish riddles making excuses for the French. Glad I could be of service. Facilis descensus Averni. Good heavens. Let’s get a bandwagon and never hop on it. Hoopla. No more extrinsic finality for me. No way. No how. Look inward. Or at least take a glimpse. What makes ya tick? A lofty ambition of vague dread? That’s all? Ah. That ain’t shit. Get it together dumbfuck. Take out a loan of courage if need be. It’s all teleological these days. Well, that and ballbearings. An end result we are all heading towards, though what that end is changes all the time. Fixedrate worlds of ideas hanging grapelike from the fans of our collective dismissive shrug. Party is always a verb to me. Walking solves all problems. Walk. Keep at it. Walk. Keep on walking. Away. Towards. It makes not difference. Just walk. Just don’t it.

Lockup the barber. No trial. No jury. Straight to the cell. Lock the barber away. I am just a little hair. Just a little strand of hair lying alone on the floor. Clipped here. A hair’s breadth away from the dustpan. This badbaircut barber ain’t gonna last for long in this town. This hairbrained numbskull. This allthumbs madman. Lock him up. Upupupupup. Lock him away for good and throw the fucking key away. I am just a little piece of hair lying all alone on the floor. On the floor. Until the dustpan comes along and sweeps me away.

Another song to keep me young. Another way to not have to thinkthinkthinkthinkthink. Another worldaway and aworldapart. Drumming to the same drummer. Strumming the same old song on a different banjo. In a samedaydifferentshit sort of mood. Plus a reciprocal or two. And Richard The Lionheart is merely an epithet. And his English wasn’t so good too. Don’t get me stopped. Ah. Damn light. Always missing the lights. Always standing around on streetcorners. Trying to look natural. To make a comfortable pose. To lean and stare knowingly. To have that look in my eyes like it hurts to see things. Inspecting cracks in the sidewalk. Making up clues to the meaning of things. Flashes of dark. Less than meets the ear. The fortuitous crossing of paths. Good old serendipity. Coincidences of conscious. Water still boils when it gets hot enough. It’s all matchsticks breaking in the night. It’s all tasseography and herbal remedies and flypaper these days. Can’t get a good deal on soap no more. No. Not no more. Pass the hat. Handle the pan. Change a spare. In my spare time, maybe. Sister, can you afflict me a poem? A fatnickel? Puce gloves would be something. If I just had me some pucecolored gloves. That’d be something. But now all I’ve got is just this fairlybadnothing, which is not all I am, but it’ll do for the timebeing. Boil water? No problemo. Just you watch me. Like frying an egg on the hotpavement.


--A sibilant sound.

--A trophy for nonbelievers.

--Sure. And I’m surely a neophyte at being alive.

--But get this. Less is less.

--More is less.

--No. You see, good apples sometimes have worms.

--Worms have good taste.

--Bad worms?

--Or just indigestion.


--I don’t know. That’s all I know.

he walks. a shadow of barebeams like a catafalque bleeds spackled onto the sidewalk’s mealy creases. your lessthanaverage joseph. your betterbelieveitornot mary. a swingandamiss kind of afternoon. move on. after matins. a leavening on the greenpipes of your soul not like mildew at all but more like moss, though it has a different association in the mind like a small helping of hurt. better get your goat and milk it before the last lees of sunlight go trickling on away with your onetruelove. into the thickets of milkwhite thighs go once more the joyous boys. Iamaloverandhavenotfoundmythingtolove, so says mr Anderson in his peasoupy way. airmailing laughingsadness into the stands once more. jonathon doe rides again in the doughy dews of doeeyed wonder. in front of the bankofamerica ATMs stands the securityguard dudedup in bombaysapphireblue, shopping his eyes around, spangled with bands of lemonlight, disposed to a vigilant and peaceful demeanor. swaying his hips slowly. carefully keeping his peepers peeled for any wrongdoings. sunglassed gaze. hands steady at his sides. nodding politely at passersby. he’s giving those two girls directions. huh. those girls with a map all unfurled before them, above them, held highup in the air. not too bad. i wouldn’t mind giving them some directions. tell ‘em where to go. know a few places. maybe know them like in the bible. who really knows anybody else anyway? who even knows themselves? looking around. feeling things out. a spray of pebbles scattered across the pouredconcreteribbon walkway, across the crosslying strainrelief grooves, across the surface my feet trod upon. a fluctuation in the temperature of being me. ah mama. it’s alright. i’m only crying. couldafooledme. the sunshine spills. the trees flutter. artemis rises fom the dead. a DH bunts for a basehit. flesh withers on a leftover KFC wing in a dumpster. estivating crickets win in the end. i am only the ash of gunpowder cigarettes falling on a crumpled sheet of tinfoil. wishyamuchhope in the morning. in the morning. tomorrowmorning and forever more. giving myself away. with an ego the size of alaska. fouling off the worst of it. flailing in the mudstuff of the human condition we are forever at odds with the elements of being ourselves.

--I’m tired of living in the suburbs of my life.

--Like how Elvis got towards the end.

--Things tending to wend unexcitingly onwards.

--And on and on. The differences twixt the days slimming down to none. I am here. I am alive. But, so what?

--It’s more or less the bloom wearing off youth, the dust gathering, a shallow mist of miserable sameness. I am the way I am. I breathe in this way. I breathe out too. Take these pills, drive on the right side of the road, be proud of your country, visit the dentist twice a year, get a good vacuum cleaner, one with a lot of suction and thrusting capabilities, try not to die by asphyxiation in the garage one lonely wednesday evening, don’t worry about the government.

--Opinions and folderol and some kindling of philosophy thrown on the fire. But it doesn’t stay lit for long. The morning paper comes and goes. The television shows roll on. Clap. Wash your hands. Be humble. Don’t get caught masturbating. Say your prayers as much as you can. Don’t get caught up trying too hard. Everything’s a swindle.

--Things don’t matter.

--You don’t matter.

--Check your balls for lumps. Floss after meals. Suck down as much sugar as you can, preferably in the cheap form of high fructose corn syrup. have a few drinks on the house, but the rest will be put on your tab…

--Which will grow and grow until it becomes something laughable, an absurd irreconcilable number that might as well exist in another universe, and you’re left feeling jailed a thousand time zones away from home. Your front lawn sprouts weeds. The lawnmower of your ambition plows its way through splashes of pale viridian, and then stalls, and it starts to feel good, this doing nothing, this nowhere feeling that chases away the crabgrass of needless wanting.

--A rest stop on what could very well be the treacherous mountain pass of life. A port-a-potty of the imagination. We are little crumbs of regret being spoonfed into domesticated mouths.

--Yet sometimes we laugh in our sleep.

--But nobody is around to hear. Nobody cares.


--Put the moves on the calendar. Take those old records off the shelf. Stop gathering toenail clippings like souvenirs of a life well lived. Make something happen. Anything.

--Get yourself some money and just leave. Drive until you run yourself free. Keep the moon dreaming on the backseat. Light a cigarette on the sunbaked street.

--There’s nothing to it.

--And that’s something.

he walks. the shopwindows rattle as windgusts stammer at them. a dog shits in a treewell. the owner sniffs, gets down on his hams, picks up the fetid dropping with a plastic bag, expertly, almost scientifically, like a anthropologist exhuming a small bone from a digsite. there is an emptiness in his eyes. a donothing look. an absent blankness. my heartisnotmyown. my heart. my heart is stringless. do with it as you must. as you may. caveat emptor. look but you can’t touch. so faraway yet soclose. me and mine. let’s boogie on down to electric avenue.

he walks. he bumbles. he heaves. he clops along. he strides importantly, and then elegantly, and finally fans out into a delicate strain of frowsy impatience, wrecked nerves, a hardtolookat mien. he glides. he misses the mark. he flatout fails to look uncaring, not selfconscious at all, and instead appears strained and uptight and worried. he walks. a fluttering of pigeon wings. a smashed apple gone brown. cigarette butts gathered singlefile between squares of sidewalk. a child holdinghands with a grownup. feldspar cruising through the earth on cruisecontrol. a significant chance to change sides, to fight for the other guys, or forever hold your wind. peepee town, peepee town, how I want to go to a hoedown, in peepee town. a man stares at a flyer taped to a store window. clearance sale. everything must go. exclamation point. well put. buy high. sell low. ideas about ecumenical penurious concerns notwithstanding. holding water. giving up the ghost. from the cradle to the grave. the lowest form of volition. a velleity at least. something to wishaway. then there’s always the bartenders in the end left to throw me out on my keister, or, if I’m away from home with no place to sleep, my valise. just gotta hold this here revolver steady. adjust these weary bleary eyes to the target in question. a blackandwhite sight to hold my being here in the now presently at a loss for silence. the soundtrack to the movie of my life picks up with birdsong and foghorns. a recently deceased way of turning up one’s nose. a roman one at that. the laughtrack to the story of my life shatters windshields and wineglasses. a ripple of cloudspume scratched into the sky’s bright skin. a pat on the head. a troubled look. a mistake in the ribs of fashion hemmed with yesterday’s sobs. bovine perspiration wetting an undershirt. bundled up in the shrouds of happiness, incomplete and filledtothebrim. incongitable things happening every day. a behemoth rockandcement trashcan knocked on its side by a circusstrongman type. the constant comings and going of pedestrians. the oldmen walking with handsheldtogether behind their backs. a few strayfolk who aren’t in the mood for obeying traffic signals weave behind the clusterings of moving vehicles. the shorn dyingviolet of crepuscularsky. every person their own unique universe. a gelatinous mob held together by thoughts and coffeecups and wristwatches and butterknives of imprecise unsuremotion. to become unstuck. the miraculous stink of freewill. and the lonely beatcop scratches his crotch while adjusting his looks to one of the more menacing variety. silkstockingclouds running away with the day. finding myself lost.

threatlessly idling. a marzipan smile. headlocks of rummagedhope. the street is scrambled with spits of darkening light, the first dim subtleties of breakandheadlights, the streetlights flickering on with sodiumyellow hunches, the shapes of things behind litwindows, glares obscuring mottled specks of motion.

he walks. graymississippis of another yernfed yesterday. motion gives a little. he traces his course like a shipbuilder would. he accounts for the odd spaces of being between things. a yawn gives way to a throattickle. his hands slide and twist flunky through his birdnest hair. the roomfilling trumpet somehow with an outdoors mewling voice. no wilderness here except maybe a few alleys to escape down where the grand sweep of windowlight is not so elegant or touching as it could be. maybe a razor. a razor for my thoughts. to butcher them. doesn’t have to be pejorative. butchers do good work. slicing. unionized. bloody white smocks. you really butchered that. could be a compliment. nice job. really got your work cut out for you. there. there. there. it’s nice to be smiling even if nobody sees it. the buses smear the air. sound and stink and potholed hiccups. lo and behold. fires on the sidewalk. old Chinese women burning incense, burning old newspaper in tin cans. smoke and ash. praise be those who let themselves be loved. courageous in its puissant attempts, its battling scorn and sworn mettlesome lack of ability to find what it most cares to seek. creeping plague of strays scratching under the lamps. no more lamplighters. they’ve all revisited the dirt in the ground. the evenkeeled temper of their ways. electricity wins out in the end. all promethean efforts for not. to give fire to every manwomanandchild. to be always thinking a few days ahead. to boldy go where no infinitive has been split before. walk. walk. one foot up. swing. the other foot down. scuffling along, scraping cement with the soles of my shoes. quit dragging your feet kid. pick it up. step to it. hop to it. get a move on it. light a fire under it. snapsnap. come on. it’ll be the death of you. getting left behind. lost in a capacious department store with ceilings higher than the sky. where’d mommy go? where are you mommy dearest? where’d you run off to without me. without me. clothes racks everywhere, but not a one to hold her shape. people’s bottomhalves. where can i go that will not be here? mommy’s done gone and run off without me along for the ride. a temple but not for worship. a place to buy and be bought out. a look that just keeps going and going without nowhere to go. a jangling of keys. a sigh that won’t end. all boxed up and ready to go. where’s my candy cigarette? where’s my handlebar mustache? there. there. there. a pat on the head. a mussing of hair. palms of sweat and the rough redlined stuff of calluses. i am here in a nowhere that is all the whole world and heaven and hell and god and the devil too. pluto’s realm is fraught with circumstances beyond control. dis is enchanted with wild heaving and misfiring ebullience and playground sand and fiery heads prevailing and knuckled pinches of salt of a day’s labor. hades left to its own devices. a titanomachy in my soul. lose what’s left of it, ah, why don’tcha? brother, brother, o brother, whence hath thee kept thy dime? from me. from me. from me.

he walks. he is not in his kitchen.

--it’s just like a promise. a pumice stone for the rough edges of my being.

--well. well. well. will you look at that. will you?

--yes. i will. i wish i were well enough to see it.

--i see enough for the both of us.

--hold up that candle.


--hold it closer still.


--come closer…


--or don’t come at all.

he walks. sit around. play. get a fistful of oddsandends. grab my mercy by the shoulders. shake it up. crack its back. i am jostling for position on the racetrack of my crippled yearning. shortly water will fill the street. longingly i will watch it all drain away downhill. downthehill. away. gone. all gone. wished it all away. a shortstep from complete if not total disaster. i come from a long line of drunks and circus clowns. i come from a peripatetic people. walk the earth. wander. get interested in things. think. roll over in your sleep. carry a knife in your boot and a blackjack in your bedroll. smoke by the side of a fire. doomed to be always on the go. diasporic to the bitter end. inclined to be spread all over the earth. the sugar of the earth. a mountain of mashed hopes. forward. forward. shine that flashlight bright. we will hold the hills in check and we’ll check the valleys for signs of death and we’ll hold back fear with a dam of gorillaglued beachglass. the river bends but it never breaks. my motelroom soul is shirking its duty to change the channel of my hesitation.

he walked and walks and will walk and has a walking instinct for it something that he can just do without trying or thinking at all about it he can walk all around the world even if it curves and dips and his course is beelined and swerving too he walks on and over and by and into and out of and where the ever goes in when if no pleads with a why only to lose out to a maybe in time.

--sometimes one might come to stagger ever so close to the edge of the ledge of the rim of the thing if one is so disposed to think of these things in the way one often wished one could not think of them anymore.

--i am not a piano.

--play me.

--i am not unlike fingers all the time.

--play you.

--it is not impossible to…

--in vain?

--reach out your hand.

--frolic. skylark. invent water.

--i am a passenger pigeon just passing through, just killing time, just a figment of god’s imagination, as we all are, really.

he walks. methodical. plottinglike. carefully cheery. in a trance. i get tired of almosting it. want to have it for a bit. at least. little chinese kids in the windows waving and smiling sunhappy with eyes like shinynew marbles. laundry hanging in the kitchen behind them. good to have these small things. a tad of joy to sprinkle on the daytoday toast. glading. twistered and lowingly jumpingthegun kind of. twiney. a ball of twine for your thoughts. give or take. a temple for your prayers to die in. let out the rope and let me down easy once again. let me rest and arrest my suspicions rightly. feels so goddamn lonely going down the road sometimes this way unleashed on the world on a windswept whim. keep ‘em guessing and feelin’ fooled, ‘dem old fools. most inept of the whole tinpanalley topoftheworld crew had it coming. gradually grapes swelled and became overblown with inordinate perks of pride. those things are a given, right? am i just unreasonably reasoning my way out of reason? clappinghands and lipbiting with the moodings of halfleftgone and morticians pick apart the rest. i decry with my bigold eye. gold of sun? gold of skydyings. leaves drooping to drop. underseas holes in the wall to look out of with pickled faces. a window at belt level. an apartment half-a-floor below ground. a hermit who lives like a fish in a tank all alone. blowing bubbles with his little life. letting things pile up. watching feet walk by through the bars on his windows. i walk on by. screams of conscience relieve me of my duty to. my duty from? freedom for? something with wings as it flutters through the feathers of something hoping for something else.

there goes that girl again. there she goes. down the hill when i’m going up. figures. across the street too. too far away to smile at. to make smalltalk with. to make wistful eyes at. convictions of personality notwithstanding, notforthcoming, notatall. things that tend to go thataway. brimmed. heavied. lurky. so there she goes. gone. that’s better for the boring sort to be. crowded. not really withit. but just maybe she’d be up for some gynotikolobomassophilia. but me? i’m only a sad sack of a gynopiper wiling away his day in clouderpuffs of penciled bloomshadow.

he stopped.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

excerpt from "Cicadas Wish Me Luck"

Clem was slow as an ice wagon coming down to meet me. So I was standing there all by my lonesome on the corner. The wind was blowing, but not too hard, anyway not enough to make the bottoms of my unzipped jacket flap up, which was good because I had things stuffed in the pockets that I didn’t want to lose. I’d been waiting for him to show up for about twenty minutes. I knew this because I have this habit of looking at my watch all the time. I must do it about two or three times a minute, especially if I’m just standing around loafing like that with not much else going on. There wasn’t much to distract me on the corner there. Not even a guy walking a dog with a cat and a mouse stacked on the dog’s back. I didn’t see any cops either. That was good. I was happy about that. What I was not happy about was Clem being late. I hate waiting for people. I’m always on time. Trust me. I’ve got a watch.

At precisely 4:45, a half hour after the time he told me he’d be there on that corner, Clem showed up. I saw him waddling his dreary way down the hill. He saw me too, and he waved. I didn’t wave back. Instead I just looked at my watch. He kept waving. It was a sad sight. Clem’s a big old boy, with lots of curly black hair going out all over the place, and he takes very slow and deliberate steps when he walks. It’s like he’s unsure of his footing, and it seems kind of like he could go right on tipping over at any point, but he never does. He just keeps making his clod-hopping way along, smiling like a big old goofy oaf.

When he came up to me he was already talking: “Brown wild cats and two cars and ice cream, man, it isn’t fair, is it? We’ve got lots’a things, and this and that too, hey, hey, yep…um. Hey.”

Clem can be a real dope sometimes.

I looked at some imaginary point above his head. “Clem. You’re late.”

The words didn’t seem to register. They rarely do with him.

His head was rocking back and forth like a metronome, and he had a big old grin on his face like he didn’t have a care in the world. I knew that wasn’t true, or at least that it shouldn’t have been true.

“Clem. Clem? You know how long I’ve been standing on this damn corner freezing my ass off in the wind waiting for your dumb ass to come down and meet me here? Why the…where the fuck…I mean, shit, why the fuck do you not have a cell phone? You must be the last person on earth not to own a fucking cell phone.”

“Ha. That’s true. I know. I just don’t like ‘em. You know that. You’ve really been waiting here for long? Really?”


“Oh. Shit. Sorry about that. I got caught up, you know, doing shit, and losing track of time, and, you know, well, sorry. But, so, like I was saying…”

“No. Stop. Shit Clem. It doesn’t matter. Let’s go. Come on. We’re gonna be fucking late now. Shit.”

He kept apologizing. Then he stopped. And we walked on. You could still put your thumb up sideways between the sun and the tops of the tall buildings on Russian Hill, and it was making the light funny, in that way that light gets in the late afternoon. Some people call it golden, but to me it’s more like piss with a few drops of soy sauce mixed in. I’m not going to go into why I know what that looks like. I just do.

We were on our way to this guy Ollie Spec’s place. Ollie had this little one-bedroom walkup in North Beach, down close to Washington Square Park. It wasn’t a nice place, and Ollie wasn’t a nice guy, but he had some drugs he wanted to get rid of, and Clem and I were always willing to help somebody unload unwanted illicit substances. The problem—besides my partner Clem being such a goddamn dawdling chatterbox shit-for-brains—was that this guy Ollie worked the night shift at a hotel, and needed to be out of his place by five to get to work on time. This was also the last chance we’d have before the weekend to meet up with Ollie. I’m not sure why. I hadn’t asked. I just knew that we needed to make tracks posthaste, and Clem was really slowing me down, and also pissing me off with his goddamn nonstop nonsensical talking.

I turned to him at the corner of Broadway and Mason, right above the Broadway tunnel, and screamed, “Shut the fuck up you sack of shit. Just shut the fuck up!”

He’d been talking about chicken wire and boxing and Humphrey Bogart, or something like that anyway, and after I yelled at him his face lit up red as a stop sign. He looked hurt. I didn’t care. He just stood there, sort of moping I guess. It was hard to tell.

“Look, Clem. Just fucking chill the fuck out. Okay? We need to be at Ollie’s place in less than ten minutes. We need to like fucking hurry. Okay? We need to be walking at a brisk pace. Other people should be marveling at how fast we are moving. We need to make all the lights. You get it?”

“Sure. Yeah. Okay. I just…”

“Nothing. We are wasting time.” I started moving off down the hill towards Broadway. “Come on. Move it.”

After a few seconds I heard Clem’s loud irregular footsteps following along behind me. By the time I reached the light at Stockton he was by my side again. I was staring at the green paint on a light post when his heavy breathing sounded in my ear.

“Jesus shit Christ man! You walk too fast. Jesus…”

“I heard you the first time. And stop calling me that. Come on. Green light.”

We hurried across the street and kept going lickety-split down Stockton, past the Walgreens, past hordes of shoppers and the dirty awnings splotched with bird shit, past the idling garbage trucks and the rotten stink of alleys, past the bars, where we almost got sidetracked, and past two girls with faces a little better looking than dented fenders who tried to bum cigarettes off us. Clem dug around in his pockets. I gave him a stern look and pulled him away by the sleeve. He stumbled along with me, smiling at the girls, and finally produced a cigarette, which I promptly stole from him, put in my mouth, and lit up without missing a beat, or the light at Columbus. We darted across the street there, and then crossed against the red on Green, narrowly avoiding being plowed down by an angry honking taxi driver. I spied the crusty unlit neon sign above Tony Nik’s, glanced inside briefly at the few drunks at the bar, checked my watch, and knew we’d be alright. Ollie’s place was just up ahead, and we had three minutes to spare.

I could tell Ollie had been pacing around nervously for a while already. He looked harried and distracted, and he pulled the front door open with a wild lunge just after my first knock.

“Shit. I told you fuckers. I have to be out of here by five O’clock. What the hell?”

I tried to apologize, or at least mumbled something that sounded penitent. We rushed in, in a daze of cigarette smoke and jasmine—Ollie had a lot of flowers around his front stoop—barely able to look around before Ollie was shoving little plastic bags in my hand and saying, “Fifty per. That’s that. And the oxy is going to run you a bill for these here, see?”

I didn’t see. I was kind of dizzy from all the rushing around. But I grabbed what he had, unburdened myself of the wads of twenties in my jacket pocket, and replaced them with the dime bags of cocaine and the bottle of pills. Ollie counted the money while Clem stumbled around looking at things on the walls. He made a few stupid comments about some painting, and Ollie screamed at him to keep his goddamn hands off his stuff. Then we were rushed back out the way we came.

As Ollie locked his door I told him how nice it was doing business with him, and he waved his hand up lazily and shook his head in the way people shake their heads when they’re disappointed and frustrated with the situation. I’d seen Ollie like this before. His tufts of oily and unkempt brown hair growing wild like a tumbleweed, his face with that smashed-in look, his eyes red and distant and lonely and gone. I didn’t like seeing him this way: probably strapped for cash and up for many nights in a row, sucking down amphetamines like M&Ms. Now he was worried about keeping his job too, and here we were arriving late and making him suffer all the more. But there was nothing I could do about it. I had what I wanted, and he’d made it out of there in time to hustle on down to punch his timecard at the hotel.

So, we were off. Clem was a happy camper. He was downright jovial as he bounced along beside me. Myself, I was just sauntering and smiling on the inside. We went over to Washington Square park, found a nice bench in the shade, and sat down to see exactly how much we’d gotten for our hard-earned dough.

Turns out the rushing Ollie had been quite generous, possibly by accident, in his bestowment of drugs. I counted five bags of cocaine, 15 tablets of 10/325 Percocet, 10 Xanax, a few Marinols, 20 Adderall XR caps, and about a dozen generic Ambiens, I guess in case we wanted to sleep at some point. It was odd. He hadn’t mentioned all the pharmaceuticals. It’s possible that he just didn’t know what he’d had. He’d probably just figured they were all Oxycontin. Ollie wasn’t too bright when it came to drugs. Clem kept salivating over my shoulder as I dug through the stuff, so I told him the situation. Saying he was ecstatic would be a giant understatement. I thought he might turn a handspring or jump over a tree he was so damn happy.

Clem’s a guy who loves his drugs. You might even say he lives for drugs alone. That might make him an addict. I’m not sure, and at the time I didn’t care. I promised him half, as soon as I was able to split it all up at home, and though he didn’t like to have to wait, he knew he could trust me. That’s one thing Clem and I have always had, trust. That might sound strange, we being two numbskulls and drug addicts and alcoholics to boot, but it was true. We always knew where we stood with each other, and though we spent a great deal of time lying to almost everyone else around us, including ourselves, we always gave each other the straight dope, no matter what. It was some kind of abnormal drug-induced bond that we’d formed, but it worked, so we didn’t question it.

We sat on the bench there and smoked a celebratory cigarette while pigeons clawed their way around on the pavement pecking at crumbs and dogs chased Frisbees on the grass. The wind was singling out the leaves on the trees, making them flail and writhe and then dance until some just gave up and fell. I smoked my cigarette and looked at all the trees, and they were okay, and I looked at Peter & Paul Church for a while too. It was a good old church, and I liked looking at it. The twin spires rose up above like giant candlesticks, a gold cross glowed on the archway, and there was an inscription from Dante in Italian spanning the façade, which I remembered was something about God penetrating things and glowing throughout the universe. The rose window was nice to look at too. All in all, I was having a pretty good time just sitting on that bench with Clem, smoking a cigarette, and looking at stuff around the park. An old Chinese lady carrying a pink plastic bag walked by us and hawked a big lugie into the bushes. I didn’t like that so much. My look said about as much. She scowled at me, and I kind of snarled back. She walked on. I smoked the rest of my cigarette.

The clouds were like vertebrae and candied yams and snakeskin, and they were all scattered around and doing some scudding too. I had my head tipped back and was looking at them up there. I must have looked like a statue sitting there on the bench like that. Clem started jabbering on about car hood ornaments. It’s hard to get Clem to stop talking once he gets going on something. I didn’t try. I just kept staring at the clouds, trying to enjoy this moment, letting the anticipation of the nights to come wash over me, trying to hold it in and let it stay for as long as it would. I knew it wouldn’t last. I knew once the craving for drugs and booze hit it wouldn’t let up until I was completely out of my mind, leaving me ravaged on a murky shore, chasing, lost, and wanting more and more, until I didn’t even know what I was chasing anymore, or that I was even chasing anything in the first place. I tried to hold onto this small piece of solemn beauty that I’d chipped off from the world. I tried to make it stay. But it didn’t stay. I got agitated. I felt in my pockets for the bags of cocaine. I felt happy, but I was no longer at peace with the world and the way I was haphazardly making my weary way through it. A type of joy surged through me, but it was a different kind of joy from the one I’d had there on that park bench. It was something that ripped through you, destroyed and mangled your thoughts, took over your gut, and made you spin in a sugarcoated bath of emptiness, something that lit up the whole world with false lights and led you off to lesser-known dusty corners of the universe. There was nothing I could do. I didn’t fight it off, and decided to ride it out all the way to its last spumy swell. I motioned to Clem that we’d better get going, he jumped up like grasshopper, and we strolled off into the dying light of evening.

Our first stop was Tony Nik’s. We cut a sharp right under the decaying rusted silver of the unlit neon sign, huddled in the back at the lone table, and sat there in the dark while the spiffy cocktail waitress brought us beers on a tray. For some reason I thought of John the Baptist. I’m not sure why, but I kept expecting his head to be on that platter with the beers every time the waitress came around. Luckily, it never was. Clem and I sat there and drank our beers, and got ready to start taking turns going into the bathroom to do key-bumps of cocaine from one of the plastic bags in my pocket. I’d put the other bags in the inner pocket of my jacket, along with the bottle of pills. I didn’t want to run through that stuff too quick. I knew once Clem got a taste, once his first good drip hit, he was a hard man to stop. That guy could hoover up a whole bag before the bathroom door even closed shut behind him. I made sure to give him a very menacing stare as I surreptitiously handed him the cocaine.

“Okay Clem. Remember, we don’t want to go through this all at once here. You need to save some for later. Just a few bumps, and I want this bag back in my hand. Do not start taking your time in there, okay?”

After a few more of my stern, eyebrow-arched looks, I finally relented and let him go. He was happy as an Oscar winner running up to the podium as he headed for the bathroom behind the black curtains. I shook my head, drank off the rest of my beer, and hoped for the best.

Three or four people were sitting at the bar, and nobody was very close to where I was all the way in the back at that table in the dark. The cocktail waitress, who was not unattractive, and who knew a thing or two about style, came on over again. She had one of those smiles that’s really hard not to like, but I tried my best. I don’t like getting to chummy with servers. Maybe I don’t trust them, or feel there’s always something specious about them, something less than genuine, like they’re trying to put one over on me just because I’ve got money that they’re getting paid to help make me spend. Anyway, I tried to play it cool with her, nodding and talking in a low voice, saying, “Yeah, ah, um, I’ll get another beer here, and one for my friend, and while you’re at it some nice bourbon in a nice glass with crushed ice.” She took the empties, smiled some more, and went away. I went back to sitting there and staring off at the ceiling, and started to wonder if Clem had done something untoward in the bathroom, like snorting up the whole bag and then climbing out the window to escape my wrath. I doubted it, but it was possible. He’d done things almost as strange in the past. I couldn’t remember if there were a window in the bathroom there. It was starting to make me nervous though. That’s when I decided to take an Adderrall. I took the bottle of pills from my jacket pocket, unscrewed the top while holding it under the table, and felt around for those neat little copper-colored capsules. I took out two, slipped the bottle back in my pocket, and waited for my drinks to arrive.

As I sipped my whiskey and swallowed those pills, and relaxed a bit as I saw the bathroom door slam open and Clem stumble out—looking happier than any lark I’ve ever seen—, I thought of something that Walter Pater once said: “We need some imaginative stimulus, some not impossible ideal such as may shape vague hope, and transform it into effective desire, to carry us year after year, without disgust, through the routine-work which is so large a part of life.” That sounded about right to me. And, as I sat there pondering my glass of whisky-soaked crushed ice, with Clem back sitting at the table and slipping the bag of surprisingly full cocaine back to me, I figured that I would be having quite a bit of that old imaginative stimulus this evening. I took two Marinols out. They were such pretty little pills, dark-brown red, almost like rubies in my palm. They’d turn to mush if they weren’t kept cold enough. It would be a shame to see them lose their pretty shape. I handed one to Clem, and we swallowed them down. It was good to be alive.

With a slight spring in my step I slipped on into the bathroom, locking the door behind me. It was a single-person bathroom, which is by far my favorite type of bathroom in the world. I always feel so damn free when I’m locked inside a bathroom at a bar. It’s got something to do with feeling safe, and also outside of things, as if I am, in this isolation, separate from everything else, a true outsider, and there is an elation of being out there on my own, like I’m on the lam or invisible even, and I can do whatever the hell I want, which in this case was taking a leak and doing a few quick bumps of cocaine. I got out my keys and rattled them around until I got to my mailbox key. It was a very small key, and so was easier to dig out the cocaine with—that is, without doing something stupid like tearing a hole in the bag or spilling some on the floor. This may not make the most sense, but it’s a habit with me to use that mailbox key, and it always makes sense to me at the time. So I pried the bag open with my thumbs, dug the key in, brought it back out with a tiny hillock of white dust on the top, held it up to my nose, and sniffed really hard. I did this a few more times, and then closed the bag up, making sure to seal it tight. After finally emptying my bladder, I went over to the sink, turned it on, wet my fingers, and, while holding my head back far enough to see the ceiling, held my wet fingers up to my nose and inhaled. I’m not sure why I did this. It made me feel better though. You’ve got to keep those nasal passages well lubricated when you’re snorting all that white shit up there. At least that’s what I told myself.

Clem had a few empty shot glasses on the table when I got back. He was sitting there with his arms up on the booth, nodding his head slightly to the music, which was a mix of eighties soft rock, power ballads, and KOIT classics.

“I see you’ve kept yourself occupied while I was gone.” I sat back down and waited for the drip to hit. I looked at Clem again. He was such a putz sometimes, sitting there all nonchalant, tapping his foot on the floor and trying to look hip, his hair all wild, the collar of his button-down white shirt sticking up on one side like James Dean in that first scene of Rebel Without A Cause. He was so clueless, yet so there, so with whatever it was you happened to be existing in, going through, or just hanging around with at the time. He had this steely sort of detachment from everything, and at the same time was always part of it, always the texture that held you sort of together with your environment, like an exoskeleton made of rubber, or a slipknot tied into Time. When he was around you always felt a little more and a little less alive, or at least made you wonder less about what the difference was.

“Couldn’t wait on that shot, huh? I couldn’t’ve been in there that long.”

“Ha. Nah. We’ll get more. I was damn thirsty. Damn thirsty. You getting the drip?”

“Uh. Yeah. But…I mean, really? You drank both shots? That’s fucked up Clem. You need to start exercising some manners, some civility, some sense of…”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Hey. Next round's on me. Let’s blow this place. This music sucks.”

I swallowed and tasted that wonderful drip going down. It made me instantly happy. There’s really nothing like it. When that stuff first hits, when you taste that acidic gooeyness in the back of your throat, when your eyes seem to open wider than a movie screen and you feel like lifting your head up off your neck and nodding at people while winking, and you just feel fucking marvelous. It was good stuff. Maybe pure. Hell. It seemed like it. My fingers were tapping out a staccato Morse code on the table, and my mouth was twitching, and I could feel a ball of golden elation growing in my chest, expanding, this beautiful radiating splurge of adrenaline that was slowly soaking my whole being in radiant joy. I didn’t mind it at all. Not one bit. But I was craving a cigarette. Smoking a cigarette seemed like the greatest thing in the world to be doing. I downed my whisky, got out my pack of Lucky Strikes, flipped one to Clem, and told him we better best be going. I left a fiver on the table for the waitress. She was alright with me. Everything was alright with me.

We smoked outside in the growing darkness. The neon sign lit up green above us: Tony Niks. The cigarette was incredible. I could feel the smoke, every last molecule of it, slide down my esophagus and fill my lungs. It seemed to lighten me, to give me some lift, like I was a hot air balloon, and I wanted to hold it inside for as long as I could, but when I exhaled the sensation was not an unsatisfactory one either. I let it out slowly, deliberately, in a thin, succulent stream, and it was like I was blowing out all the pain, misery, and dullness from my soul. I kept smoking and staring at that neon sign up above us. The moon was up there somewhere too. I couldn’t see it, but I knew it must be there.

“We’ve got to go find the moon Clem.”

“What? The what?”

“The moon. It’s out there somewhere, and I’ve got to find out where it is. It’s like a spotlight. It’s up there.”

“You didn’t suck down those pills, did you? Come on man. Gimme some.”

“No. I mean, yes. But, that’s got nothing to do with it. Here.” I spilled out a few Percs for him.

“What are these? They uppers?”

“Just eat them you bastard. Come on. Follow me.”

I started walking south towards Columbus, smoking and feeling good. I was really enjoying that cigarette. I was sad when it burnt down to the nub and I had to grind it out on the sidewalk with my shoe. I looked at my watch. It wasn’t even seven yet—a little early to be out hunting the moon.

Danny Kay was leaning crookedly against a brick wall outside of a liquor store near The Saloon on Grant. I saw him leaning there, looking a bit tanked, waving his cigarette around like a conductor’s baton, and I yelled, “Deeeee Kaaaaaaayyy!”

He looked confused, and then he saw me and waved and screamed my name at the top of his lungs. I walked on over to him, with Clem straggling behind.

“Danny Boy. What’re you doing out here? What’s going on?”

I was talking just to talk. Words were just coming out. I didn’t have any say in what they might be.

He took a long drag on his cigarette. “Oh, I don’t know man. I’m just holding up this wall here for a while. Hey, you been to Ollie’s yet?”

I smiled at him as best I could. I’m not a good smiler. “Yeah. Made it just in the nick of time, thanks to this dumbass here.” I pointed to Clem. Clem just stood there all happy-go-lucky.

The Go-Go’s Head Over Heels came blaring from the bar across the street. Danny and Clem both jumped up and started singing. I didn’t feel like singing, so I just stood there and watched them. It was something. They were really into it, gyrating around and screaming out the chorus: “Head over heels where should I go, can’t stop myself, out of control, head over heels, no time to think, looks like the whole world’s out of sync.” They were doing this weird tap-dancing thing and were clapping their hands and playing the air piano and just basically spazzing out. It made me laugh—a little. Then the song ended.

“You guys are a couple of morons. I think you both could benefit from taking some more of this medicine here. Besides, that song doesn’t hold a fucking candle to Vacation, if you’re going to sing a Go-Go’s song.” I slipped the bag of cocaine to Danny. He gave me a knowing wink and made a motion with his shoulder for us to follow. Into the Saloon we went.

Danny was there with a few girls, whom he quickly introduced Clem and me to before making a beeline for the bathroom. The girls were pretty. Clem and I sat down next to them at the bar, me on the right of one and Clem on the left of the other. Their names were Ilene and Arlene. At least that’s what they told us. I didn’t really believe them, but I also didn’t care. What’s in a name? We were just killing time anyway. I ordered everybody a shot of Jameson. This was well received. We made a toast to nothing and drank them down.

The one next to me who called herself Ilene had black shoulder-length hair, very straight, neat, like it was combed very thoroughly down. It was one of those haircuts where the bangs and the sides seem to form a box-like frame for her pallid face. She pouted a lot. I noticed that immediately. She was a damn pouter. I ordered a beer and sat there without much to say. Arlene, the girl next to Clem was a real stick. I mean like nothing but the bones. You could probably see her ribcage, if you went through all the trouble of getting her shirt off. Anyway, she was blond, and I knew Clem hated blonds. He was probably getting antsy for Danny to come back with the cocaine. A lot of talk was going on between them though. Clem could talk to anyone. I couldn’t think of a damn thing to say to Ilene. I just sat there and stared off and drank my beer. It was a bad time to get the old clamp mouth, but I couldn’t help it. The Adderrall still hadn’t fully kicked in yet. I decided to throw a Percocet down the hatch with my next gulp of beer. I knew I’d be a better conversationalist shortly.

The music in the bar was loud, and it was hard to say much without screaming it. Ilene kept looking to her left, and seemed to be getting in the conversation with Clem and her friend. I didn’t care. I liked sitting there drinking my beer, letting the loud music wash over me, knowing that when those drugs kicked in I’d be having a great time. And, in fact, I was having a great time, just sitting there like that, pondering my unpredictable place in the scheme of things, and not really caring one way or the other about anything. I didn’t feel like getting involved in other people’s lives just then. It was okay just existing in my own little world for a while. All kinds of things were going through my head, but I didn’t care about any of them. I just let them drift by like dust in a beam of sunlight. I drank my beer, stared at the bottles behind the bar, and waited for Danny to return.

Danny sat down next to me and handed the bag of cocaine back to me. Surprisingly, there was still a good amount left. We started screaming into each other’s ears.

“Danny boy. I should’ve warned you. That shit might be uncut.”

“Really? Fuck. That’s okay. I didn’t do that much. That’s badass though. Ollie had uncut shit? That’s fucking amazing.”

“I don’t know man. We didn’t really have time to stop and chat with him about the purity of his drugs. He was in a mad hurry to get out of there.”

“Well, you guys fucking scored. You better not let Clem get a hold of it. You know how that guy is with coke.”

“Don’t worry. He’s already tested the waters, and anyway he seems rather occupied with your two lady friends over there.”

“Ha. That’s a joke. Those girls are nuts. Fucking whackos.”

“How do you know them?”

Danny just hunched his shoulders and looked baffled. “How do you know anyone? I don’t know. Here. There. Everywhere.”

I went back to my beer. The Saloon was starting to fill up with greasy ex-hippies and other assorted motley characters of San Francisco’s recent past. The bartender was friends with everyone. I kept looking at myself in the bar mirror, and trying to make my hair look better by sticking my fingers into it, pulling it up, trying to look cool, though I was anything but. Clem kept talking to the two girls. He was really making them laugh—high pitched squeals and soundless open-mouthed guffaws. Danny, with his coal-black hair slicked back from a widow’s peak and his thick black glasses sliding down the ski slope of his nose, stood leaning against the bar next to me, drinking his beer and rocking back and forth to the music. That guy was always leaning and rocking. He was a very lean and elastic guy. It seemed like he was made of rubber sometimes. He could just fold and twist and stretch out his body any which way, and it was always with some sort of inimitable rhythm, some natural pulse that just seemed to flow right along with everything, and it made you want to flow along with it, whatever it was, just so you could be a part of it, and you didn’t care where it was going, you just wanted to go. The music played and Danny rocked away and Clem made the girls laugh and my beer got empty, and then the drugs started to take hold.

I swear, I was just sitting there, and I think I’d tried to order a shot and a beer, but I could be wrong. It seemed I’d tried to order something. It was getting hard to tell for sure. The empty ache in my gut was gone. It had been replaced by a soft euphoria, like a warm wind had blown its was through my bones, and I was burning with a tingling brightness, and everything was right with the world. I couldn’t really concentrate on anything for a while. Everything seemed fuzzy, like I was looking at the world in soft focus. Nothing made sense. I tilted back on my barstool. A large hand kept me from falling over backwards.

“You okay there bud?”

It was a scratchy, deep voice—raw and gravelly. I had no idea where it was coming from. I muttered something about being alright, and I leaned on the bar and ran my fingers through my hair. I must’ve looked like Stan Laurel sitting there like that. I caught my reflection in the mirror behind the bar. I was doing a lot of smiling, and some mouth twitching too. It was hard to tell if time were really going by, or if I was just stuck in the muck of a moment that wouldn’t go away. I stopped caring whether this were the case or not. My beer didn’t seem to be around anywhere near by. I felt around for it to no avail. The girls weren’t on their stools next to me, and Danny was gone too. I sat there and pondered my next move. Then I started laughing. I’m not sure what I was laughing at. It was probably nothing. Probably just some dumb joke I’d remembered. But once the laughing started it was hard to make it go. I was really starting to rollick around on my stool there, and somehow the bartender saw this as a threat of some sort, and she was in the process of having me yanked from that stool by two burly tough guys when I flailed my arms out wildly, went limp, and screamed, “I am Grendel come for your children! I will eat you alive motherfuckers!” I really started laughing after that. I’m not sure what the hell it meant. I’d just opened up my mouth and it had come out. I was really enjoying myself. The burly dudes dragged me through the bar and tossed me out into the street. I just rolled over a few times, landed in the gutter, which luckily was dry, and then lay there on my back, laughing like a lunatic, happy as happy could ever be. I looked up at the sky and saw the big old smeared milk stain of the moon. I pointed at it and screamed, “Ha! I’ve finally found you, you son of a bitch!” I laughed and laughed and laughed, and lay there like that for what could have been forever.

The Marinol was making me giddy, but I felt great, triumphant even. It seemed I could do anything. Leaping up on top of the Transamerica Pyramid didn’t seem out of the question. I got up at some point and started wandering around. I smoked some more cigarettes. I forgot about my companions. I laughed at people, thought about Epictetus and pondered the pros and cons of stoicism, tried to remember how many homeruns Homerun Baker had hit in his career, gave away a lot of cigarettes, had a smile for everyone I met, entered into wild conversations with total strangers on the street, did a lot of talking to myself as well, thanked God for the elasticity of my brain, stared at the patterns lit windows made in the tall buildings, sat on some concrete steps, pissed in an alley, and basically just had a grand old time hoofing it all over North Beach, Jackson Square, Chinatown, and the Financial District. I ended up at a bar on Market called Sutter Station, where I sat down and ordered a beer, tried to get my bearings, failed, went in the bathroom to do some more coke, and then went back to the bar and thought about trying to track down Clem and the gang.

Sutter Station is an old tavern jammed between Market And Sutter, with an entrance on each street. It’s a long narrow bar, right by the triangle-shaped corner there, and it’s got a pool table, a jukebox, and some tables with chairs, but that’s about it. That night, as usual, the bar was a disorderly mess of derelicts and drunks and cheap prostitutes and speed freaks and euro trash from the hostel next door. I didn’t feel out of place. There was an older woman sitting next to me who looked like she’d just gotten into a fight with a Christmas tree. Her face was all smashed in, but she had a few teeth left, and didn’t smell quite as bad as a dumpster. My head was clearing up some, and the coke I’d just sucked up in the bathroom was making the state of my emotional situation very grand. Elbows on the bar, rocking on my stool a bit, nodding my head and tapping my feet to a Johnny Cash song on the jukebox, I was doing alright. I put a cigarette in my ear, hoping that I’d remember to smoke it at some point. Not now though. Not yet. Just sitting there like that, taking hits from my can of PBR, loving the almost holy way things seemed to be occurring, the way they happened, and kept happening, and how I was swimming in it, free, alone, unbothered, dreamy even, and at last unfettered from my inhibitions, I was stronger than Atlas and smarter than Einstein, I was where the weather suited my clothes, I was steeped in the good, and the moral, and the beautiful, in the wonderful ways that the universe moved, and all of my moments were ecstatic and surcharged with meaning. The haggard woman sitting on the barstool next to me swiveled around, looked at me, tried to say something, made a face like a witch being strangled, and promptly vomited on the floor by my shoes. It was time to smoke that cigarette. I left a few bucks for the bartender and made my exit.

I was smoking a cigarette, leaning against a parking meter, and admiring the old buildings outside the bar, when some guy came up to me and asked me for a light. I obliged him, and he started talking to me.

“Man. I saw this girl in there. She had a face like Jay Leno, but a body like J-Lo. I mean, she was hot, but not cute at all, not pretty, but fucking hot as hell. You know?” I just kept smoking and staring at the buildings. It wasn’t such a bad way to pass the time. He kept right on talking: “Shit. I drink more whisky before noon than most people do all day. Yep. The sun gets on up over the yardarm pretty early for me. Ha.” He slapped me on the shoulder. I winced a little, and made an attempt at a laugh. He was taking really powerful drags on his cigarette, like he was trying to suck it down to the filter all at once. There was some hair on his head, but not much, and his eyes were as red as ripe apples. His shoulders and back were covered with hair though, which was pouring out from under his bright yellow tank top in thick, black, pubic-hair-like curls. He was wearing the dirtiest jeans I’ve ever seen. The layer of grime on them had its own grime on top of it. I looked down and saw that he had on sandals with socks—always a good look when you’re spending the night drinking in dive bars. I was still feeling pretty damn good about things though, and so I stood there and listened to him blather on.

“Do you know Diva’s?” I didn’t. “Oh. Man, you’ve got to go. It’s over in Polk Gulch. Me and my buddy James hit that place up last night, and man, shit, the girls there are fucking un-bee-leave-O-bull. Let me tell you, I’ve never seen so many hot and tight bods in one place like that. Shit. They were putting the cunt in country, you know what I mean?” I didn’t. “I was like walking around with my eyes popping out of my head, and something popping out of my pants too, ha!” He gave me one of those knowing winks. I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to know, and I tried to move a few feet to my left, and stepped off the curb into the street, and then crossed the street and started looking at the old weathered façade of the Patrick & Co. building next door to Sutter Station, but he just kept following me and jabbering away.

After a few more of his inane stories, one of which involved him singing a karaoke rendition of Air Supply’s Making Love Out Of Nothing At All to a roomful of Japanese businessmen, I decided enough was enough, ground my cigarette out in the street, gave him a friendly wave gesture of some sort, and told him I had to be off to pastures new. I think I said farewell. It was weird. He was one jolly son of a bitch, I’ll give him that.

I walked off down Sansome and hung a right on Bush. One of my favorite buildings in all of San Francisco is right there on Bush, and I wanted to go look at it.

The Demerol must have been peaking because when I looked up at that building—which is only about twenty feet wide, and is squashed between the much larger and taller Shell and Grant buildings—the windows seemed to be bending, the bricks too, and I swear I heard it whine a few times from the doorway of the Sushi place on the bottom floor. I blinked a few times and shook my head, stood there panting by the Crown Zellerbach building across the street, trying to regain my equilibrium. I looked up again. The glazed terracotta tiles were sweating. The Shell building was flexing its brick biceps and cramping those ten slender stories even more, making the poor thin building seem to wilt, like it was being smashed by a garbage compactor. I didn’t like what I was seeing. The bowed windows were straining to keep their shape. The Grant building didn’t care. It just stood there indifferent, ominous, and stolid as a soldier in a firing squad line. Then things started shifting. Shapes became other shapes. The moon streamed back to life and mashed itself against the black belly of the sky, leaving whitish steaks of moon jelly. I didn’t care about that building so much anymore. I walked away, stepping in and out of the pools of the streetlamps’ sodium yellow light as I trod off down Battery, singing in a low whisper that damn Air Supply song that was now stuck in my head...out of nothing all, out of nothing at all.

I was right in the middle of a falsetto-voiced, “And I know the night is fading, and I know the time’s gonna fly,” when I looked up and saw a cop car parked right beside me at the curb. The cop had the window down, his arm on the door, and was looking at me. I immediately stopped singing and tried to act as normal and subdued as I could, and, at a leisurely pace, kept walking by. His voice barked out like seal with a bad sinus infection, “Hey. You! Come here.”

I acted surprise and innocent. “Me?” I pointed to my chest and looked all around.

“Yeah. You. Come here. You ever been arrested before?”

“No.” I started walking towards him, and then stopped. He motioned me to keep coming.

“Come on. All the way over here. You can do it.”

His voice was raspy and harsh and powerful. I didn’t like it, but I walked towards it. As I came up to the door he straightened up some in his seat. He didn’t look happy. I couldn’t blame him. If I were a cop I wouldn’t be happy either.

“You got ID?”

I did. I handed it to him.

“I’m not going to find anything on your record if I run this through, am I?”

I thought about it. My record? My permanent record? Well, there was that one time back in grade school when I got caught writing, “Mr. Darnell is a dickhead!” on a lunch table with a Sharpie. And maybe that time I spit on a cop in high school, and then there was that incident in Memphis on the Cruise Ship when I’d gotten drunk and mercilessly heckled the Elvis impersonator, and, well, I couldn’t think of anything too major. I’d never been in jail.

“No. I’m as clean as an unused whistle.”

“We’ll see.”

He looked at my driver’s license and did some squinting and cracking of his neck. Then he ran it through some laptop-looking thing he had on the passenger’s seat. The thing made some noise like it was working really hard, and the cop did some sniffing and a little coughing too.

“Ah. Alright. Let’s see here.” He looked at the screen and played around with the keyboard. I just stood there, waiting.

He handed my license back to me, and said, “Okay. You’re alright. I’m looking for some guy who just made a fuss at a liquor store around here. You don’t fit the description I guess. Stay out of trouble. I don’t want to run into you again later tonight.”

I thanked him and put my license back in my wallet. I don’t know why I thanked him, it just seemed like a good thing to do.

“And by the way, Air Supply sucks.”

I must have been singing louder than I’d thought. He skidded out and pulled away with his sirens blaring, speeding on through a red light at the intersection. I was glad he was gone. I went back to my peregrinations and deep thoughts.

Things were becoming less hazy. I was feeling more alive, more in touch with my surroundings. The skyscrapers were all monsters with yellow windows for teeth, and I was striding happy in the valleys between them; and then they were just massive skeleton frames: pipes, cement, glass, vents, metal and rebar all detached and just hanging there—aloft, amorphous, strange. Nothing was holding anything together. I was tottering, loose, relaxed and carefree as a surfer at a bonfire. My arms were flailing around, making all kinds gesticulations and grabbing at things, as I jumped up and slapped stop signs and the leaves of tree branches hanging out over the sidewalk. I felt like I’d gotten away with something and wanted to celebrate. Hell, maybe I had. Who knows what that stupid cop could’ve done to me? I waltzed and shimmied my way back into North Beach, trying not to sing too loud, but probably not having much luck at it.

The Transamerica was lost in thought way up there above me, and I was looking up at it, convinced I could talk the top down to where I was. I lost my patience at some point. I shouted up at it, “You’re nothing but a goddamn obelisk! Go fuck yourself!” And then walked off and headed up Columbus.

I was doing a lot of staring at streetlights and thinking a lot of things, but they didn’t matter much. The sidewalk trees were growling at me, the leaves were like teeth, and there was just something reptilian about the whole situation. I didn’t like. I started walking faster. The sidewalk was getting more crowded. Young people out bar hopping, getting hammered, shouting and acting like apes, jaywalking, high-fiving, doing fist bumps and howling high-pitched party screams into the night, chugging Redbull, and basically just making me feel miserable. I took it all in, and also, at the same time, didn’t. None of it mattered. I didn’t care about it. I felt good, walking out in the night air, going for a drunken stroll, and I wandered around Jackson Square, gazing at all the old buildings on Pacific Street, running my hands across the moldy bricks, admiring the caryatids and friezes and fretwork and other pseudo-gaudy ornamentation of about a hundred years ago, thinking about what it must have been like when this was The Barbary Coast, when Hotaling’s whisky was up and running, when you could buy a dance with a girl for a dime in a saloon, when you might’ve gotten shanghaied after drinking opium laced beer, an oubliette opening up below your barstool, everything going black. I probably wouldn’t have like it. But I liked thinking about, going down those same streets that so many others had walked along before me, when the streets had been dirt which turned to sticky mud in the rain and got all over men’s boots and pants, and I found myself wanting to lie down there on the sidewalk, maybe wander down Balance Street, the shortest street in the city, and just find a nice quiet place to lie down and think. But I got distracted by something or the other, and also was starting to crave alcohol again, so instead I picked my spirits back up by doing a few quick key bumps in the shadows of Balance, and started thinking about getting some company.

Something was ringing. It was like a chirping, some kind of electronic beeping sound, and it kept happening at short intervals. It was unstoppable. It was coming from my jacket pocket. I reached in and grabbed my phone, flipped it open, and the beeping stopped. I held it up to my ear. “Ah! Where the fuck are you? You sumbitch!” It was Clem’s voice. It was really loud. I held the phone away from my ear some and stood against a wall. I got into a really good lean, with just the back of my shoulders touching the bricks, my back arched, and my legs stiff and straight out in front of me, balancing on my heels. Clem continued, “Hey. Where the hell did you go! Ah! AH! Ah!” He went on screaming and grunting for a while.

“I’m just leaning here. I’m in an alley.”

“You’re what? What the fuck! Where the fuck are you?”

“Ah. Don’t worry about it Clem. I’m alright. I’m really fucking alright.”

I eventually found out, after much hollering and calling of names, that Clem, Danny Kay, Ilene, and Irene were at some stupid dance club on Grant. I told Clem that there was about a snowball’s chance in hell that I’d be meeting them there. He made some kind of stupid argument, which I didn’t listen to, and somehow convinced him to grab the other three and come back to my place, where we would proceed to listen to music, drink beer, and probably do a lot of cocaine. I hung up my phone. I stared at the light on the end of a swan-necked lamppost. I zipped up my jacket, cracked my neck, and headed home to the clipped thrumming sound of a helicopter circling high above.