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Flutterby House

FLUTTERBY HOUSE

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One doesn’t grow old in Costa Rica, they grow young again. This is a “blue zone” country where life expectancy is enlarged to accommodate her Pure Life slogan to its maximum potential. This is a place to water your roots and revive the child within. Arrive and thrive…

Costa Rica, whose main source of income is tourism. The large population of ex-pats who live here full or part time contribute to its health. Such is the case with the Flutterby House near Uvita. Pam, a gringa from California, conceived her hostel concept while traveling and opened in 2009. Joined later by her sister, Kim, the place is in full swing now. Bar, restaurant, walk to the beach… Tropical everything, where it’s always Summer—rain or shine, night and day, all year long. The volunteers are priceless. The grounds are kept immaculately clean. Exotic plants line the pathways to wooden cottages and tree houses. Ping pong and corn hole games are in play. Quiet conversations are held on chairs swinging under a tree house. Books are read on hammocks in the shade, or at a table over a fresh sandwich and cold drink. A group clothesline drapes towels and swimsuits to remain perpetually damp in the humidity. With a slight breeze, they are playthings for the kitten.

From what I’ve seen, twenty-somethings are the bulk of Flutterby’s business. That’s my daughter’s generation. It was only recently I learned that in order to be “up” for something I now need to be “down” for it. With this international crowd there’s no need for lexicon updates, we’re all too busy trying to understand each other’s accent, or their limited English, or our crappy Spanish, or all of the above with a few beers mixed in (or maybe that’s just me). We’re here to rejuvenate ourselves, right? I’m down for being up for a party!

Whew, I had to rest my eyes for a minute. I leaned back on the couch and saw a replay—a short vid clip in my head—of a girl walking up (or down) the street. It was pouring rain when we left Flutterby that Saturday after softball, making us run to the car. Fat drops slapped the windshield as she made her way toward the hostel, as if emerging from beneath a waterfall. For the sake of my companions, I poked the driver as he fiddled with his seat belt, “Quick, windshield wipers!”

She walked leisurely, oblivious to the downpour. It’s the tropics. Having just come from the nearby beach, you’re in your bikini already. The fresh water rinses your hair and body of salt. With a bar of soap, you could be showered before you walk in the door. If it were me, I’d drip dry at the bar with a shot of Irish whiskey, neat please (but I’m not in a bikini). Even though this girl had a beautiful, swaying walk about her, it was her expression that caught my eye. Was she really as “in the moment” as she appeared? It’s something I’ll never know, but to sense its presence is perhaps good enough to go by.

My wife wouldn’t have had that vid clip in her head, but she may have one of that hunky Dutch guy with the intricate tattoos, ripped abs and playful accent, but that’s not the point. The point is, you don’t have to be broke to stay there. Flutterby House is a hostel environment (no pun) whose intentions are well defined. Be kind to the Earth. Live simply but comfortably and cleanly. Make wholesome food. Be of good cheer. Be nice. Be close to the surf. Only a short walk away, let the kid in you play softball on Saturday (or come watch). Shed the cocoon of your everyday life and rejuvenate here. As a baby-boomer, I can’t think of a better place to hang out (or in, as the case may be). Thanks, Pam, for making your vision chrysalis clear (pun mandatory).

See for yourself: Flutterby House

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Street of Rogues—Freeing The Pieta

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

1976 

I could feel myself slipping into a funk at the thought of leaving the Europe I now thought of as home. Tito’s super highway was no help in lifting my spirits. It was a place where you needed to bring your own happy thoughts with you, for you wouldn’t find any traveling through the ass-crack of Yugoslavia. I tried to get into the Great Expectations of it all and ended up with a slide show in my head—a mental, Warhol-like display of things I missed about the States— with cross-fading pictures of cream-filled Devil Dogs, and Oreos (a plain, simple Oreo for a change over the exotic European choices), Mallomars, seltzer water, graham crackers, Ma’s box brownies and chocolate cake, and signs in English for which I didn’t have to deduce the meaning. For some reason a Hasidic Jew floated by in the mental castle I quietly built—one who didn’t know me and who wouldn’t even know I had been gone.

Even with all that, I only succeeded in attaining an anxious state of trepidation about getting the acid test back ‘home.’ My earlier confidence was quickly eroding the closer the reality of leaving Europe came. I tried to console myself by deciding that a little anxiousness was natural for someone with addictive tendencies toward mind-altering dependencies and the lifestyle that would certainly kill me sooner rather than later, rendering me useless along the way. I wasn’t afraid the all-inclusive them would corrupt me. I was afraid of me. Knowing that didn’t help deflect the apprehension I had about returning home.

As a last resort, I revived The Rue du Rogues I had cast aside as a trivial pursuit the last time I was in Paris. It was a game I invented to remind me there were great things in store for the romantic—those who were expectant of life’s inherent promises. There was always a place to remember for inspiration, the Rue du Rogues, where I’d someday receive my promised fulfillment—the sublime bliss I’d been given a taste of after meditating on a shaded bench in Geneva.

If the friendly confines of Europe taught me anything, it was that life, like art, is a process of deduction—a removal of the non-essential components of a composition, like Michelangelo freeing the Pieta from the quarry. If a painting or a sculpture or music can do that, I reasoned, then why shouldn’t we be able to remove the non-essential and retarding aspects from our own lives to create a better picture for ourselves? That was The Art of Living.

I tried to recapture the feelings I had while looking at the great paintings I had seen. All those monuments to innocent, everyday life that left me with a new sense of the moment. Rather than the moving picture of life I was used to, I was introduced to it frame by frame as I went slowly from one canvas to the next, tearing myself away from every one after wanting to jump into the scene. I came to know that what I was looking for was right in front of me—in the photographer’s eye, the painter’s moment in time, and on the poet’s lips. It was life’s everyday list of sequences taken moment by moment. Each scene when introduced individually was perfect within itself, needing no explanation or story, history or ending, but still connected to all life previous and forthcoming—which was already gone or not here yet and, as such, irrelevant. Those canvases represented the 3-foot sections of cement on the sidewalk of my life.

I knew the attainment of my dream was, after all, my destination—but when? And more importantly, how? When within all those connected moments would time stop, like Einstein had proved it could? When would I become a happy detail of the larger mosaic? Creation had painted all the answers pertaining to the Art of Living onto the canvas of life. As part of that canvas, the ability to decipher the bigger picture was inherent in all of us. The problem has always been that we’re left to our own devices when it comes to learning how to read, and at that point I felt like I was still discovering the alphabet. What I didn’t realize at the time was that Europe was chipping away my peers in order to reveal the David within myself. After two years, I had given up drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, and hardly noticed.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Tropical Cancer—Rule Number Three

Rated R (Language)

Rule Number Three:
Expect everything to take longer in Costa Rica.

This is easily misunderstood as a bad thing, but smart people evolve a healthy attitude regarding slowing down in life—which serves them well in the end. Don’t plan on accomplishing more than one or two tasks per day and you’ll be fine. When going to Official Offices, eat first, pee, and bring War and Peace.

For example:

I let the car take us down the hill in second gear while marveling at the clarity of the air. There was no mist over Cortes—the small banana town Dole built and abandoned some fifty years ago, leaving only poor field workers in rudimentary dwellings. All was crystal clear, especially since I was wearing my glasses. This is a semi white-knuckled drive even on the best of days. Rain from the night before may have caused landslides, but the national utility company has been efficient about cleaning up. Same with power outages—we’re usually back online within a couple hours. But today is perfect for driving into town. We’re on our way to the local ICE (e-say) office in order to set up our internet.

I parked across the street from the small, brightly painted office, turned to Babe and said, “Good luck.”

“You too.” We are nearly confident and go inside.

Diego is at his desk but busy with another customer. He takes special care not to make eye contact, it seems, as we take a number and sit down. There’s always a small TV somewhere in banks and offices showing Discovery Channel documentaries about wild animals who feed on humans. I settle in to wait as a crocodile tears the arm off a golfer looking for his ball, leaving the rest of him to be devoured by carnivorous ants

.Much later, our number is next and Diego is finished with his customer. He grabs his cell phone and walks out the door. Lunch time. A distinguished looking gentleman takes his place and it’s our turn. He read every word of each document we have, opened his computer, and read something there for ten minutes.

“No puedo.” (He can’t.) “Blabbity-blah con bippity essay eee…..” I could tell it wasn’t going to happen, for some reason. I think we got stuck on the address line. The subsequent ninety minutes was made up of his trying to explain something to us, which we didn’t understand, consulting with his colleagues, reading his computer, reading more of our documents, saying “No puedo” and sighing heavily. Fortunately, I had the bright idea to call our lawyer so he could explain the papers he drew up for us. They spoke for about ninety seconds, after which the gentleman said “Perfecto,” hung up, and went back to his computer.

“Yes!” I said to Babe, exchanging mental high-fives. We had done it by ourselves, sorta. I looked behind me. There were two dozen people waiting where there were three when our number was called. “Wow, it’s getting dark outside,” I noticed. Strange, since it was only a bit after noon. No sooner had I noticed than it started raining. Big, tropical drops, then water balloons until…

Power outage at the utility company! I wanted to say “Are you kidding me?” so I did. Not now, we’re so close! Flashlights were produced and incomprehensible chatter followed. Power returned after five minutes. The rain was so thick I knew running for the car would completely soak me. We had an umbrella but it was in the car, naturally.

Twenty minutes later, he had put the proper chip in our hardware, handed us papers to sign and our PIN numbers, sank back in his chair with a huge sigh of relief and we shook hands good-bye. Mission accomplished. I had to get back up the mountain to tend bar for a private party (since Alonso, the new bartender, had the night off and Twinkletoes couldn’t handle fifty people by himself) and we still had some shopping to do. I ducked my head and ran to the car.

“Nice job, Babe,” I said as she got inside. I had pulled up to the front door so she wouldn’t get too wet. Water dripped off my nose. I blew on a drop and it landed on her forehead. “Oh, sorry.”

She laughed and fist-pumped. “Yes!” Now she would be able to play online poker from the comfort of our own deck. Some people drink. Some smoke pot or meditate. Babe plays Texas Hold ‘Em. She’ll be happier now that she has her internet. I’m happy we don’t have to get a TV.

What followed is best described in Screenplay format:

Our couple drives out of town in the pouring rain.
The sky is dark, the drops fat.

HIM: Wow, the sky is so dark! And the drops so FAT.
HER: Hmm?

The wipers are working furiously and the defroster is at full blast as they make the turn onto their road. For the next seven kilometers they slide in and out of mud and rocks, drive over fallen trees and around landslides in a near-straight-up trek to their property.

HIM: Shit. Fuck. Damn. Hell. Bastard!
HER: Uh….

Their access road is under water but HIM attempts it anyway, immediately getting stuck in approximately 15.88 inches of mud.
Tires spin, going nowhere.

HER: Uh…
HIM: I know.

The rain has let up some. HER gets out of the car and proceeds to walk. HIM gets out and inspects the clay-like mud that’s up to the runner. It’s deep-shit deep, maybe all the way to Australia. HIM shakes his head as if that might create a miracle. It doesn’t.

HIM: Fuck.

HIM’S sandals are thick with sticky mud, causing a gushy sucking sound when he steps away from the vehicle. There is perhaps five pounds of the stuff on each shoe. He sets out for home sounding like a suction cup
on a frosted cake.

Their “luxury camping” site in view, HIM watches HER go inside.

HER (in the distance): SHIT! FUCK! OH-MY-GOD!
HIM: Hmm.

HIM reaches the steps and ducks his head under the tarp strung with string and bunjee cords to get inside. The place is soaked. There’s puddles on the kitchen tables. The inside of the bedroom tent is wet (having left the screened windows uncovered.) Clothes are wet.
A carpet is halfway soaked. The power is off.

HIM: Hmm again.
HER: Look at this place!

(HIM already was.)

HIM: Don’t worry. It’s just stuff.
HER: (Frowns at Him.)
HIM: We’ll upgrade our tarps tomorrow morning.

That’s how a simple ride to ICE turns into a two-day schlepp.

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Tropical Cancer—Remembrance

“No one is useless in this world who lightens
the burden of it to anyone else.”
—Charles Dickens

I’ve seen a lot of people come and go in the past five years. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if all of them had stayed. We’d still have a webmaster, a pilot, a handy-man, a couple more nurses, an EMT, a bee master, a few permaculture specialists, an IT person, a scientist with brilliant ideas, yoga instructors, chefs, massage therapists, various musicians, a psychologist, an extra bartender, a Reverend, over a dozen children, and a couple fire spinners. Some of these people have simply moved on to other places, while some have passed away.

Brad was the first to go. Poor guy… I understand he was manic-depressive or some such thing. He must have been in his forties. Big guy, and somewhat over-bearing. He had trouble wherever he went, it seems. In Sierpe, where he kept his fishing boat, the locals didn’t like him because he owed them money. Brad referred everyone to Gazpacho, saying he’d pay them because Gazpacho owed him money. The locals care more about soup than Gazpacho, of course, and beat the hell out of Brad for stiffing them. He was busted in Jaco for walking out of a store with fishing supplies and telling them he was from the CIA (and to send them a bill). As a matter of principal, the locals beat the hell out of him there, too, then shipped him back to the States. Back in the US, Brad showed up in a Huffington Post sidebar after having gotten busted for skinny dipping in someone’s pool and stealing a car. He told the cops that he only had 100 beers and they promptly hauled him away. At least he didn’t get a beating for it, as far as I know. Not long after, he took his own life.

Then Dan showed up to inspect his newly purchased lot. A very nice man originally from Uruguay and living in the States, a father of two teenage boys, he went in the ocean and never came out. I had just spent an evening with him at the bar the night before, and waved the next day as he drove to the beach. I said Hello, he said Goodbye—giving new meaning to the Beatles song.

My good friend Kevin… a self-diagnosed manic depressive with suicidal tendencies. Medicated in binges, washed down with alcohol, a bad love affair finally pushed him over the edge of a tall mango tree on a short rope. This man was a walking, at times stumbling study in human psychology. Brave enough to look for work in a foreign country and smart enough to teach himself Spanish by watching television and immersing himself in the culture. His intellect was keen, but discipline… that was his challenge, and it led to severe chemical imbalances in his physiology—which directly affects a person’s psychology. I guess things build up over time in a person’s heart and mind, to the point where one feels that no one cares about them so why go on? I cared about you, Kevin, but you were too far gone to ever recover.

Anita had physical problems before she got here and they continued to plague her throughout her stay. She finally returned to the US after her insurance company complained that they needed a test of her water or they’d stop paying her medical claims. Shortly thereafter, she died. The once proud Shaman, who beat the drum for divine inspiration and promoted enlightened communication in an unenlightened world, succumbed to the rigors of her uncooperative body.

Irene passed away suddenly, even though she had a history of physical problems, leaving her husband with a new house in Costa Rica he can hardly bring himself to visit. Poor Harold (her husband)… When he comes to Costa Rica now he is already in tears. When he returns to the States he’s greeted by Lucky, the Tico dog Irene insisted they bring back to Florida. Poor guy can’t make a u-turn without running into himself, and Irene, all over again.

And there was Ron McDonald, whose jeep rolled into a river—killing him and a local girl. Who doesn’t have a story about Ron, one of the funniest persons I’ve ever known? When we first met I admit I snickered at his name. He was okay with that and almost seemed to relish in the humor, which impressed me right away. He was proud his parents named him after an iconic American clown (better than Bozo, which was my nickname in high school). As two clowns, we were instantly compatible. When he told me he was conceived at Woodstock I mentioned that I had been to the concert. He immediately threw his arms out and said “Daddy!”

Ron… you had the whole package, almost (let’s be honest). You could be obnoxious to the humorless, but you were sharp witted, clever, absurd and even brilliant all in one afternoon—in time for happy hour hors d’oeuvres. What you lacked in discipline (at times) you made up for with laughter, personality, character and pura vida in the best possible sense. I hate that you’re gone (I’ll work on it). To imagine myself in your parents’ place is deeply painful. You had quite a heart, hermano. But such is Life, as they say. It’s not your fault. It’s karma, destiny, whatever…

Ron… who would gladly buy the house a round, then put it on someone’s tab he didn’t like. “Fuck ’em!” he’d say, raising a toast (fist bump), and laugh. Ron, who told prospective buyers he was coming to live with them as their son. Ron… fond of women, animals and children (in that order). Ron… for whom no couch, chair, hammock, car seat or kitchen floor was too uncomfortable to sleep on. Ron… at times inappropriate to the point of hilarity. Over the top, irreverent, some say wild, always smiling, kind-hearted, great-souled Ron. I’m going to miss the hell out of you. There’s nothing I can offer to those who miss you except time heals. Ronny was a gift to my life and to many others. We thank your parents for that, Ron. And a big thanks to Max Yasgur, without whom Ronald McDonald may have only been a gleam in his father’s eye.

(Musical interlude: Woodstock, 1969)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqZceAQSJvc

The good news, Ron, is there’s still a bartender on the mountain. The bad news is there’s no bar at the moment. For now at least, provide your own merriment and cheer. You were good at that, Ron. You too, Kevin and Anita and Dan and Irene and even you, Brad. Maybe you had personal issues and troubles (or not) but you added to my merriment and cheer. I would add, Mr. Dickens, that to lighten someone’s load is its own reward. He would have loved you all, and grieved after your passing. Rest assured, you are in fine company.

For those who have left the building, memories of lost friends may soon fade like an old photograph. For some of us here, they are as fresh as today’s bok choy. As for the community, there’s a position open for fire spinner. Apply within.

Tropical Cancer—Moonlit Nights, Silent Days and Zippers

Moonlit Nights, Silent Days and Zippers

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An unfinished parody of the song Misty.

Musty

Look at this
It’s as soggy as a mitten in iced tea
and I feel like I’m clinging to a mold.
I can’t understand,
It gets musty just being around.

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“…it was the age of foolishness…”

2011

I didn’t see moonlit clouds in the US very often. Forget about Los Angeles. San Francisco was mostly foggy, and Silicon Valley was not unlike Los Angeles for any cloud in general—that is to say, those places have a whitewashed, nondescript and what I’d call a generic look. Blasé, if you will. New York City was the best place for moonlit clouds. When you’re perched atop a 30-story apartment building the sky is a gorgeous sight. As I sat on my deck one night transfixed by the crescent of a quarter moon I wondered what Calcutta would look like under such skies. Then I wondered why I wondered that.

We’ve had moonlit nights with soft music in the background. We’ve danced a little, and performed kabuki on the crawling mist. We’ve watched our variegated green, golden-lit-between-steamy-shafts-of-tropical-mist landscape change before our eyes while sipping lattes over a breakfast of fresh eggs, pineapple and toast. There’s been quiet daybreaks, each one with a new face on it. I slide open the tarp in the morning and breathe it all in as if for the first time—hoping I won’t wake up from this dream and have to go to work.

We have new friends in our life committed to making our community a fun, happy place. Helpful people who pull us out of the mud when necessary, or take us by the hand into the bank in order to be told we don’t have the necessary papers for whatever it was we intended to do. There’s parties, dancing and poker nights. There’s sharing of washing machines and showers for those of us who run out of water.  The coffee is ridiculously delicious, the Ticos are gracious, beautiful people and there’s a political common sense in Costa Rica you won’t find in the US.

All that considered, I was happy to let Babe suck a wasp nest into a vacuum cleaner in order to make the temporary inconvenience of “luxury camping” more palatable.

There are days of silent testimony to the power of the jungle. As the tropical mist rises, the low clouds slide overhead like a lid on a pressure cooker. There’s a slight breeze and the sun is hot. No bugs are squeaking, clacking, buzzing, clicking or otherwise whining this morning. The monkeys are on a banana break. The birds drift on noiseless auto-pilot. If a butterfly flew by I’d have to tell it to shut the hell up. The fans are off, as is the air conditioner which sits outside the canvas tent on a shaky step ladder. There’s no background music playing to the subtle dance of the elements. Even the refrigerator and ice maker stand mute.

It’s so quiet you could hear a snake drop.

One of our cats pads across the deck and I ask her to Keep it down, willya. I think I hear leaves sprouting on the hibiscus. She looks at me as if to say the feline equivalent of Blow me and keeps walking.

All this can only mean one thing: the power is out, again. Were it not for the fact we have a propane stove I might be tweaked in a negative way about this, but I can still make coffee so it’s alright. It’s even welcome, in a way. The silence goes with the landscape like tapa dulce to my java. It makes me feel metaphysical, though no life-shattering cognitions come to mind. Perhaps that’s the point of silence—to not have any thoughts whatsoever, but to simply Be in the present.

I can do that, but I gotta have coffee nearby.

Dear Lord, I prayed, would it be possible to have power and water on the same day?

More silence for answer. I stifle a sigh when I realize I’ve left my butts in the screened tent. No big deal for an ordinary citizen who doesn’t live inside polyester, plastic and canvas but it means I have to squat to the floor to unzip the tent, squat again to zip it up, grab my lighter, squat to unzip, then squat again to zip up. It’s the bugs, of course, who make me do this. Sometimes I can’t help thinking that, in the final analysis, the bugs win the battles and the writing’s on the wall as to who will lose this war. Frodo Was Eaten Here.

The days start by climbing out of the tent. Squat/zip open screen door, step outside, squat/zip close screen door. Damn, I forgot to let Lucy out. Squat/zip open screen, squat/zip close screen. Squat/zip, let cat out. Squat/zip open screen, squat/zip close screen. It’s a little chilly this morning. Squat/zip open bedroom tent, squat/zip close bedroom tent. Grab shirt. Squat/zip open bedroom tent, squat/zip close bedroom tent. It’s no wonder my back is tight.

Where the hell are my butts? All I have is my lighter—the butts are still in the screen room of the other tent. Squat/zip, squat/zip. Grab butts. Squat/zip, squat/zip. Fucking bugs are making my back stiff and laughing at me from the rafters. Bastards. I grab my racquetball racquet, sit in the lounger, and wait. Sooner or later a waspy thing will hover too close and I’ll ping the shit out of it. I smile and chuckle. The last one went clear down to the next lot.

Ping! Ha-ha-ha! Beat the crap out of him with a backhand winner. Pura vida this, bug-holio!

…teach that sucker NYC hombres ain’t to be trifled with…

At the four month mark most of our clothes need to be replaced. If there’s not clay stains, or food stains from eating in a lounge chair rather than a proper table, then there’s mold. Even the cats are getting moldy (I tell them to keep moving). Holding up a pair of fuzzy green pants that should be white, I tell Babe: “It’s just stuff,” all of it replaceable. She Hmms.

Beats workin’! Don’t go there. Concentrate on the good stuff. The view from our property, for one thing. A steaming cuppa joe over-looking the Pacific and the unbelievable wildlife all around us. I should drag out the laptop and make a list.

Squat/zip open screen tent, squat/zip close. Grab laptop. Squat/zip open, squat/zip close. Fuck, I forgot my glasses. Squat/zip open, squat/zip close, grab glasses, squat/zip open, squat/zip close. The call of the six-foot zipper pierces the heavy stillness. Toucans are becoming annoyed.

Where the fuck’s my coffee? Augh! Squat/zip open…

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Tropical Cancer—Happiness

Happiness

“…we are all going direct to Heaven…”

(Written fifteen months into our “luxury camping” experience.)

June, 2012

My mother once told me: “Happiness isn’t necessarily at the end of a hard decision.” She was correct to specify “necessarily…” (She also told me Saint Germaine incarnated as a poodle and peed on George Bush’s foot. You had to separate the wheat from the chaff with Ma.) Moving to Costa Rica was one of those hard decisions. With all our circumstances pointing the way out of the US, it was still difficult to let go of the land of our birth. Even as recently as a few weeks ago I mentioned to Babe while we were driving that we’d have to borrow Winter clothes if we ever want to take a vacation in snow country again. My Hawaiian Babe said, and I quote, “Fuck snow. You’re never seeing that shit again!” 

R-r-r-rip! I nearly swerved into a ditch.

What? Huh? I hadn’t counted on that when we left the States and it came as quite a shock to realize it may be true. No more snow? I grew up with snow! After I calmed down, I thought: Yeah. Who needs snow and frozen feet any more?

It’s been intermittently sunny, clear, warm, thunderous, rainy, windy and chilly the last couple days. After fifteen months, our residency papers still aren’t ready but there’s hope they will be with-in 30 days. With the advent of some unexpected expenses, money is tight again. We don’t go to restaurants any more, or indeed, even go off the mountain except for supplies. Going to the bar is our sole extravagance, where I play pool and drink coffee with whiskey while Babe plays penny-ante online poker. Some of our neighbors do the same, and we all have a good time. We joke and laugh and say stupid or wise things. The music plays and a hundred toads sing in croaky counter-point. News is passed from one person to the next. The cue ball flies off the table…

And sometimes there’s gossip. Did you hear about so-and-so? He was arrested for drinking 100 beers and skinny-dipping in someone’s pool.

So what’s wrong with that? He then drove away in someone else’s car. Upon hindsight, as they hauled him off to jail, he probably thought it wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Yesterday I caught three talapias for dinner. Okay one was a suicide (it jumped out of the tank), and some helpful Tico workers showed me how to catch the other two, and how to hang them on a stick for carrying. We grabbed salad vegetables and herbs from the community food table, added a bottle of Malbec and a fresh loaf of sourdough bread Mr. Underdog made for us and Babe put together a delicious dinner.

At the moment I’m sitting next to our fire pit—contemplating whether I should make a fire. The weather is overcast, comfortable and calm. Lowland visibility is clear to the horizon. The view is every shade of green with a spattering of yellow and three ribbons of shimmering rivers emptying into the blue Pacific. Isle de Caño is a sharply defined bump in the ocean. Spanish Caravan plays in the background. Next to me is a cup of coffee and a beer. As the sun descends it floods the landscape with orange highlights. A hill in the distance turns golden, then back to old forest green. A cloud is wrapped in rosy pink swathes of the sunset. A thick, gray mist encroaches from the east as the west explodes with ember-colored thunderheads moving quickly south to north. The sun pushes the greens, grays and soft blues of the ocean along the surface as it sets—smearing the water with currents in pastel colors. I can almost hear it sizzle as it slides off the Terraba river into the ocean. Sheets of dark rain reach the horizon…

Yes, I decide, it’s a good night for a bonfire.

And I know as I sit here, Ma, that you were right. Happiness isn’t necessarily at the end of a hard decision, but sometimes it is.

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Rules of Costa Rica

Rule Number Fourteen: Don’t expect good directions.

The most common phrase of the GPS device we rented was: Go 300 meters and make a U-turn. At one point it asked us to get on the highway where there was no entrance, insisting we make 18 about-faces until we accidentally found the road ourselves (and acted as if it were correct the whole time). For ten bucks a day who needs this abuse? Mostly you’re guided to landmarks—or where a landmark used to be, maybe four generations ago.

The following is a nearly perfect transcription of a conversation Babe had on the phone with a receptionist at a hotel we were trying to find in San Jose (a place with few street signs and fewer house numbers), who had advised us to call for directions when we were nearby.

Babe: “Hola!” (Blah-blah-blah) “…we’re in town. Can you guide us to your front door?”

Reception: “Ah… uh… yes. Is dificil.” Pause.

Longer pause. “What did he say?” Babe asked.

“He said it’s difficult—”

Reception: “You know there are not [sic] tall buildings in Costa Rica?”

Babe looked to me for help. I had been behind the wheel for seven hours and not in the mood for trick questions. I shrugged and kept driving in the hopes of accidentally finding the place, or a descriptive landmark, or a sign saying I was still in Central America.

Babe (into phone): “Ok-a-a-ay…”

Reception: “Yes, so, yes. Do you see any tall buildings near you?”

What, did he think we drove to Manhattan? Ultimately, he suggested we follow a taxi.

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Tropical Cancer—Two National Parks Nearby

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A couple months before moving here, I rubbed my hands together with anticipatory glee and searched google maps to see which National Parks are near Cortes.

Bingo. Marina Bellini. (Wait, that’s champagne and peach schnapps with brunch at the yacht club.)

Parque Nacional Marina Ballena is roughly twenty miles north. Google promises it takes exactly twenty-eight minutes to get there under any conditions. I can live with that. So let’s check out the Official website.

Oh wow. Beautiful cross-fading slideshow of stunning coastline. Whales in the water. There’s no copy on the Home page except the links on top, so I picked one that’s currently inactive.

Oh wow. What does this all mean? It’s en Español, naturally.

ACTIVIDADES DEL PARQUE AQUI
La Costanera Sur
(Dominical – Palmar Norte) 

Never fear! At the top of the page there’s a Translation link. How wondrous is this new tool the Ape has got hold of—the browser? Translation:

PARK WORK HERE
The Costanera Sur
(Sunday – Palmar Norte)

Below are excerpts of the translation, which turned out to be a tour of the southern beaches:

Sunday is the starting point for this route, we can now do so
without shattering the vehicle…

That’s reassuring. Followed by some non-sequiturs, such as:

Upon leaving we left Sunday, forested hills under the Fila called Sunday.

They got this thing about Sunday, apparently. And sentences requiring critical thinking before they make much sense, such as:

Its height and proximity are factors that cause in the winters which streams flow from becoming violent and drag the bridges, as water has
no place to rest during the floods.

I had to rub my temples after reading that. Then, a shocker:

Hovering there, called my attention to a foreign body in the sea.

No one I knew, hopefully.

I took out the binoculars and I was lucky to witness
something that in my life seen two whales…

Whew. Followed by some solid info:

Do not know much about whales but, ask other people… Anyway…

And another non-sequitur:

I had the opportunity to enter, but since the road is very attractive.

Describes an interesting bit of architecture:

It can be seen across the river on the island of Punta Mala,
which in this room has beautiful mangroves…

Must be either a big room or small mangroves—or a room under water, obviously, because “water has no place to rest during the floods.” It wraps up with a bit of local news:

Many people speak the transfer of Cortez to another place, because of the threat of flooding of the terrace. However, it is considered by its
inhabitants as a crazy who are not willing to allow.

Those whacky Cortesians! And finally, it admits:

Here ends this route, which, in the short term, it has become the preferred way of heavy traffic that flows from border to border, to prevent the ascent of Cerro de la Muerte and the entrance to Central Valley.

So after all that, don’t bother to go there because the traffic sucks anyhow. Not exactly what I was googling for, but a fun read nonetheless. Now that I’ve been to the park I can tell you that it is quite beautiful and worth the experience—and the traffic’s not that bad.

The next website I went to was in English and showed some of the fauna in Marino Ballena National Park.

Check out the photo of a bananaquit. How cute is that little guy? Makes me think of corn flakes, for some reason. I haven’t met a critter in Costa Rica yet who isn’t at least slightly lovable, for one reason or another. Simply being utilitarian is enough for me to appreciate an animal who may look like it’s from outer space. It wasn’t their fault (indeed, it was their strength) the black-ctenosaur looks like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

“Oh yeah? Google insects and snakes in Costa Rica,” Babe asked, as long as I was googling. “If there’s a lot of snakes I’m gonna be freaked—”

“Nah,” I cut her off. “Snakes are cool, for one thing. Besides, one doesn’t have a snake problem, they have a mongoose deficiency.”

“You want a mongoose now? Do they even have mongooses in Costa Rica?”

I confessed to not knowing whether one should say “mongeese” and asked Jeeves: Are there mongoose in Costa Rica?

Yes. The small Indian mongoose is now found in Costa Rica, Hawaii, Fiji, the islands of the Caribbean, and other places around the world.

There you go. Got a problem? Nature provides a solution. On a roll, I asked Jeeves if there were any insects in Costa Rica.

Yes. Costa Rica Insects and Insect Repellents.

No hay problema!

Moving along, now we head approximately twenty miles south to Parque Nacional Corcovado, where we find OMG A GIANT (insert your preferred expletive) SNAKE! Oh (insert favorite deity or prophet), it’s probably got the half-digested remains of Detroit in there!

Some words from the website for
CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK FOR ECO-TOURISM:

…an international attraction for eco-tourists.
…[contains] 4% of the world’s biodiversity…
…paradise for eco-tourism…
…best place to glimpse the diversity of flora and fauna that exists in Costa Rica…
…Biologists estimate that the area contains approximately 10,000 species of insects, at least 2,418 species of plants, 700 species of trees, 140 species of mammals, 367 types of birds, 117 species of amphibians and reptiles, and 40 species of freshwater fish. An estimated 49 species of trees in the area are in danger of extinction, at least 12 of which are endemic to Costa Rica.
…the home of an endemic species of bird and 17 endemic subspecies of birds…
…also contains the most significant populations of large endangered mammals such as jaguars, pumas, ocelots, white-lipped peccaries, and tapirs on the Pacific coast of Central America…
…relatively large populations of endangered birds in Corcovado including scarlet macaws and the great curassow…

Curassow? Isn’t that an orange liqueur from a small Caribbean island? (Whatever it is, don’t let it get near your peccary.)

Corcovado National Park is, in a word, happenin’. One website says there’s approximately 600 species of insects in the park, while the quote above says there’s more like 10,000 (neither site was dated). Excuse me, but in my mind that’s a big-ass discrepancy. Birds are one thing, but bugs are quite another. They may be small, sure, but stack 9400 of them in a black helmet and give it a cape and you’ve got Darth Vadar.

“But I am your father!”

“No-o-o-o!”

Whether I ever make it to Corcovado remains to be seen.

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Random Writings—The American Pastime

April, 2016.

Without taking attention away from the Bay Area’s OAKLAND Warriors and their fabulous repeat 2015-2016 season, a season in which they’re better than last year, shattering NBA records along the way, it is the opening week of baseball and there’s a great story that began 140 years ago, in 1876, and continues as the longest story in National League baseball history.

Since then, a time when the Giants had the exceedingly cool name of The New York Gothams, they’ve  played the Dodgers (Brooklyn and Los Angeles) 2414 times. Think about that… If I played softball every weekend it’d take me 46.42 years to play that many games. I’ll be 106.42 years old by then and probably wondering where I am at the moment.

I can see it now, “Where do you want to play, extremely old Mitch?”

“Just a salad, thanks.”

In all that time, the Giants are ahead 1222 to 1192, a difference of 30 games. Runs scored (in about 22,000 innings of ball), Giants 10,483 and Dodgers 10,399, a difference of 84 runs. Giants 653 wins at home, Dodgers 569 at home. The only skewed stat of their storied history is the World Series Championship, where the Giants have won 11 (three this decade) and the Dodgers 6. Year after year, for decades and generations, they’ve pounded each other with devastating, season ending upsets.

So here we are, 2016, only four games into the season and the Dodgers have opened the first three with shutouts. Their pitching card is a list of a dozen guys with 0.00 ERA. With six more scoreless innings they can tie a Major League record set in 1963 for best start without giving up a run. But they’re playing the Giants, in San Francisco. They get five of those innings before the shinola hits the wall. The Giants didn’t just shatter their hope, they scored 12 runs on 17 hits, including a grand slam—something they haven’t done in roughly 125 years! They re-wrote that 0.00 ERA pitching card, chewed it up, spit it out, then peed on it.

Roaring back the next day, the Dodgers put a rookie pitcher on the mound, who proceeded to toss 7 and a third innings without a hit. If he can hang onto a no-hitter, he’ll tie a record for rookies set in 1894. On his 100th pitch, he gives up a walk (barely) and they bring in a reliever. It was the right call by the Dodger manager. The kid left on cloud nine, having totally earned the respect he deserved from both the players and the knowledgable fans. Seven plus no-hit innings in your first game, in a rival park (against an excellent, well managed team), is earning your money. Trainers caution against blowing out a young arm and making a mistake with an investment like a pitcher these days can jeopardize a manager’s career. (Baseball learns from its history.) Cloud nine lasted about five minutes for the young Texan, before another rookie for the Giants crushed a liner over the 382 wall off a 6 foot 13 inch reliever who looked like he was in a hurry to get back to his stromboli in the dugout. It was his first home run in the Majors and it tied the game. Final in 10 innings, Giants win 3-2 on a walk-off homer.

So baseball isn’t only about 162 games in an interminable season; it’s much, much more than that. It’s watched by history, and haunted by countless individual stories.

On the American League side, there’s really only one story and that’s the Yankees. Since 1903, when they were The New York Highlanders, they’ve played 17,576 games and won 10,004 of them. (Skip the math on playing softball once a week. You’ll find you have to play 338 years to catch up to that number. By then, all you’ll be good for is chalk for the base paths.) The Yanks have a lifetime winning record over every team except the Philadelphia Phillies, who are ahead 14 to 13 after only 27 games. (The Yanks are also tied with the Dodgers at 5 games a piece.)

With numbers like the Yankees have, odds are you’re going to lose no matter who you are or where you play. They dominate over nearly all their fiercest rivals by hundreds of games. They have 27 Championships out of 40 attempts. If an overall winning percentage of .569 (skewed by a few tiny numbers) doesn’t put you on your heels, try facing a .675 average in the World Series. This is a team who has retired 22 numbers, most of them Hall of Fame players. If your Field of Dreams were to come alive with Casey Stengel managing Reggie Jackson, Whitey Ford, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Mariano Rivera, Babe Ruth, Billy Martin and Yogi Berra, you would have to pick superstars from the rest of the league in order to compete.

If you think this team rests on its laurels of old, it was the 2000 Mets who snapped a Yankees 14 game win streak in the World Series. Fourteen straight wins in the World Series… Who’s going to do that again?

Some may argue that American football is the new national pastime, but it’s got a long way to go to put together a history like baseball has already.

Ref.: http://www.baseball-reference.com/games/head2head.cgi?teams=SFG&from=1876&to=2016&submit=Submit

Tropical Cancer—Bioshelters: Re-inventing the Wheel

Bioshelters: Re-inventing the Wheel

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Rules of Costa Rica, Number Six:
Try to learn at least some of the language.

It’s a Costa Rican version of Spanish, but close enough to American Junior High Spanish that your schooling will help. (If my teacher were here (Miss Raab) I’d kiss her on the lips for what she taught me. I don’t care if she is 106—she used to be hot!)

Our biggest challenge is communicating. Trying to open a simple conversation typically results in non-sequiturs. “Hola,” I might say to an acquaintance, say, at the bakery. “Como esta?” (Hi, how are you?)

The reply quickly degrades into phonetic misinterpretations: “Been ass, Esther’s nachos tangle who said.”

They may as well have asked for my address. (I’m never prepared when someone asks me our address, since they don’t have addresses like I’m used to, they’re descriptions—in Spanish, of course. My answer is usually Uh-h-h…) “Uh-h-h. What? Quien es Esther?” (Who’s Esther?)

“Que?” (What?)

“Quien es Kay?”

For awhile I was saying: “Lo siento, mi Espanol es estrictamente siete grado,” which I thought meant “Sorry, my Spanish is strictly seventh grade” until I realized they understood it as: “Sorry, I had a strict seventh grade.”

“Tiene a bonita dios!” I’d offer, which I thought meant “Have a nice day” but literally means “You have a beautiful god.” This makes some Ticos wonder about you. The pleasantries fizzling rapidly, confusion is followed by walking away. The Corollary would be to not speak the language if you don’t know exactly what you’re saying. You may think you’re saying hello to a room full of people when you’re actually calling them all toads.

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I think I’ve got Bob Crosby (former Director of the Alaska Inventors & Entrepreneurs Association) figured out, since we’re both baby-boomers. I studied him keenly and came to the conclusion, “You’re a hippie, but one of those smart, engineering-type ones, right?” He stroked his beard as if he didn’t know whether to admit that shady past, or the fact that he was a Hippie at one time. He’s the perfect storm of personality, if you ask me (a nobody)—smart, open-minded, clean-living and dedicated in a positive way to not only Mother Earth, but all of humanity.

This is what happens when an ambitious Hippie tasks himself to construct the ideal living space for the human race. However, to pigeon-hole his concept of a “bio-shelter” as a “life-style” stereotypical with that of a Hippie would be like equating Humanitarianism to the Hare Krishna folk. Simply put, his bio-shelter concept demonstrates the ability to play nice with the environment.

Bob likes to share, teach and support. He and his wife like to live healthily, thoughtfully, playfully, and abundantly. They don’t like work for work’s sake—preferring instead to let a duck get rid of the snails in the garden (which gets you an egg or two in the process). If the Perma-science they adhere to could teach a duck to make coffee and toast, I’d happily brush the pellets off my bed every morning.

The idea is rooted in the fact that Nature has this pretty good gig set up whereby She is considered as “Self-sustained.”

“Let’s say She is the benchmark for such a term,” Bob the engineer tells me. Along comes critical-thinking, hungry, basically lazy and motivated enough to be creative about it, Man. (And when I say “lazy” I mean in the highest possible sense. Lazy enough to invent the wheel, for instance, followed by the hammock, gin, and tonic.) Man quickly realized (somewhere between 15,000 and 8 million years ago) that Nature can be “tricked” into working for him simply by mimicking Her techniques and principles—which allowed Man to get back to designing more drinks.

That’s the intellectual basis of Permaculture. It’s about sustaining a quality life for Man without sacrificing the planet. It’s about having more time to re-visit the nap, read a book, paint a picture, or dance with your friends and family.

I liked the idea. “Kick back and let Nature do the work. Good thinking, Bob.”

I suggested to Babe that maybe we shouldn’t refer to Bob as a “smart Hippie” anymore, but something more lofty like a “Sustainite”—a moniker I made up—but it didn’t pass the Babe Test. “Sounds like a religion,” she argued.

“Maybe,” I countered. “But it’s not my fault Sustainite sounds like Mennonite. It also sounds like kryptonite, pair-of-tights, and Bud Lite.”

I’ll work on it. In the meantime, Lazy Man invents the greenhouse and employs vertical growing methods to maximize both the quality and quantity of his yield, and so he doesn’t have to walk as far. He dreams up Hydroponics for the same reason. Then he combines Hydroponics and Aquaculture so the fish keep the plants happy and vice versa—leaving even more time for Man to do whatever he’s supposed to do on Earth other than Work.

All the world’s problems can be solved in a garden.—Geoff Lawton (really smart lazy person).

Lazy Man, I mean Bob, watches, listens to, and contemplates his dwelling.

“So what’s your bio-shelter concept?” I asked him.

He answered right away, “A bioshelter is an integrated house-greenhouse-aquaculture system designed to emulate natural living systems in which the subsystems interact with each other to collectively create a self-regulating whole.”

“I get it, I think.”

His eyes were bright. “The goal is to simulate the thermodynamic efficiencies of a complex ecological food chain.”

“...then a human moves in,” I said, feeling a little like fuel. 

“Sure!” Bob was alive with the idea of his living habitat. “We capture water through run-off and streams, make ponds for fish, and plant a garden in which one plant or tree protects another by virtue of its chemical or physical properties. The house utilizes similar concepts—where one action’s byproducts fuel another’s energy.”

I understood the concept. “Man invents another wheel, in other words—one in which he can live.”

“Yeah, you could say that,” Bob agreed, and sipped his beer.

“I don’t need an oil can or anything?”

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For all the geeky specs, go here: www.biorealis.com/bioshelter/

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Random Writings—Suppository Writing #2

Suppository Writing #2

HER

Isn’t it amazing that we use fire in order to light a vegetable (tobacco’s a vegetable, isn’t it?) so we can turn it into a gas (smoke’s a gas, isn’t it?) and inhale into our bloodstream as a tiny chemical? All those natural mechanics at work to finally exhale as a steady stream of smoke formed into a donut that sails in the prevailing atmosphere to become an egg, and finally a halo. It all takes place in one breath in the life of a god. If that’s not a symphony of nature then neither is Niagara Falls.

I have two voices inside my craw. One is a female voice, my conscience. She is the mistress I keep hidden, to drag out and fondle once in a while, and speaks in small cap italics. There is URGENCY in her voice. Typically, I’ll hear her at the exact moment I go for a smoke, shortly before the ring hits the fan.

I try to explain to HER that smoking keeps me in my body. Without it, I have that much less to live for.

AND A LOT MORE MONEY… she adds.

And I say: Hey, it could be worse, bitch… That always shuts HER up.

YOU GOTTA STOP.

“Tell me something I don’t already know,” I reply to HER.

DONT LIGHT THAT.

“How else am I going to write?” (Or is writing a crutch to smoking?)

YOU REALIZE I CAN HEAR YOUR STUPID, PARENTHETICAL COMMENTS? DONT GIMME THAT SOPHIST BULLSHIT, YOUVE DONE IT BEFORE.

Sure, I quit for seven years and managed to scrawl out three hundred pages of poorly crafted fantasy. I stop HER from reminding me that it wasn’t the non-smoking that ended up trashing that manuscript before it got into second gear. It sucked no matter what I wasn’t smoking. Perhaps I should have been smoking something strong when I wrote it. I wish I had been smoking something; it might have made it better.

(IF YOU HAD THOUGHT OF NOTHING ELSE…)

IT ALSO TURNS YOUR TEETH INTO A LOVELY SHADE OF DOG SHIT

“I know…”

AND STINKS TO HIGH HELL

“Shut up!”

DONT LIGHT THAT.

“I’ll smoke the ‘ultra light.’”

HAVE A DANISH BUTTER COOKIE DUNKED IN GREEN TEA INSTEAD.

“Hmm, you’ve got a point there…” I do, and then another and another and another and another and another. Then one more. I’m teetering on the edge of having another. Yes, I think I will. I have another and another and another and another. Now I’m out of dunking tea.

“Now what?”

ANOTHER COOKIE!

Sounds good to me! So I have another and another and try to scrape the last dribble of tea out of the cup with my tongue but it detours at the last second on a dry spot and slips down my neck instead.

“I can’t do it!” I plead with HER. “I can’t eat another and another and another and another cookie.”

SURE YOU CAN, YOU JUST NEED MORE TEA.

“Augh! That’s it, I’m having one more smoke.”

WAIT! TRY MASTURBATING, ITLL KEEP YOUR HAND BUSY.

“What? I don’t think I can pull the pud every time I want a smoke… And what’ll I do after meals? Or when I come out of a movie theatre? And after a long plane ride? What will I tell them at work? Jack break? Time to smoke the monkey? How can I type wuth 1 hnd..?”

YOU SMOKE WITH NO HANDS AND TYPE AT THE SAME TIME.

“By that logic, I can jack off and smoke at the same time if I want.”

DONT FORGET TO FLOSS.

“Fuck-you-eat-shit.”

YOURE WELCOME.

Knock-knock. “It’s me, your male voice of reason, rationalization, perfectly misconstrued logic and King of the sleight-of-tongue—the Despair Killer. Can I ask you a question?”

“No.”

Song Parodies—Epi-logue (sung to Vogue, by Madonna)

Song #94—Epi-logue

(sung to Vogue* by Madonna)

Four Stars: If you can sing this without rehearsing, you’re definitely gonna get laid tonight. (Play the vid and read the new words below).

Note: “Epi-logue” = “Eppa log”

Strike a pose [WAIT 9 SECONDS, THEN…]

Pick your nose [6-COUNT]
Gross, gross, gross
gross, gross, gross

Look around everything you see is jihad
It seems that’s all that we do
Call it anything you want to call it
Jihad, Holy, or Crusade

When all you mean is that you want to be
In charge of everyone else’s prayers
You know a god where you can get away with murder
and what’s it good for? So…

You’re toast
Happens to the overly bombastic
Pre-ten-tious
Epi-logue
Everybody loses the war
You know it can’t be won

Spend your time, looking for a new machine gun
And use it for what it’s for
Genocide, spread your holy ‘doctrination
Your schemes end up on the floor

You take your prisoners and off with their heads
And then you give it a twirl
Then the other side is gonna mount a crusade
We’re a bit bizarre, yes, that’s what we are, you know it

Hello roast
Happens to the overly bombastic
Pre-ten-tious
Epi-logue
Everybody loses the war
You know it can’t be won

Truth is there inside you
Not just where it’s pushed and shoved
Soul is a-political
How did we get so, terrible?
Awfully cruel, ugly too
Set fire to the scriptures!
No.

Happens to the overly bombastic
Pre-ten-tious
Epi-logue
Everybody loses the war
You know it can’t be won, The End

Truth is there inside you
Go inside and find it

[Wait for it…]

Presidents, Ministers
Clerics and the bearded guys
Suicides, what a scene
Just to sell it to the atrophied

Oil money, hello men
Capture all the bounty then
Get ready, stick it here
Holy Ones, grab short hairs

They had style, call them Grace
They all want to run the place
Make you do what they want to
Beavis-and-Butthead, rule the world

Killers with an aptitude
Gallows that are in the road
Have another brand new Bible
Pick your nose, there’s nothing like it… joke

Toast

Oooh, you’ve got to
Let your neighbor have their own wisdom
Oooh, you’ve got to just
Let your neighbor keep what they know
Or-r-r… you’ve got an… epilogue

Tropical Cancer—I’m Blessed

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2013

I walked out the back door carrying a handful of dinner scraps to throw on the mulch pile. It was a humid and warm evening, which always reminds me of the Summer months of my youth. Those were City nights; this is a tropical rainforest—a fact I remember daily. This is the jungle I dreamed of while encased in the cement, incinerator ash, iron bars and subways of NYC. To the south, a powder-blue sky with puffy white clouds are backdrop to pods of tropical mist making their wispy way over the top of nearby hills to the valley below. The mists will soon cover our exposed ledge of property like a soggy blanket.

An evening bird with a mellow voice repeated “Who? Who? Who?”

“It’s me, me, me!” I said aloud. “Como esta, birdie?” I dumped my trash in the dirt and stood transfixed, listening to the myriad sounds coming from all directions while the sun set. A toad sounded like a huge drop of heavy water. Ba-a-a-a-a-loop! There was a see-saw somewhere in the opaque thicket of old growth out there, accompanied by a set of castanets, the squeaky hamster wheel bug, the uh-oh bird, the “tearing paper” bug and the ever present heckling gecko.

A creature giggled. Twice. Three times, then laughed as if it found mushrooms and a pot plant for dinner. “Giggle. Giggle. Giggle. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!” Repeat, until the thing had me giggle-laughing also. We giggle-laughed in harmony.

A car alarm went off, but it wasn’t a car alarm. Bweep! Bweep! Bweep! Please back away from the bug!

“Giggle. Giggle. Giggle. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

“Ow!” I did the ant dance, “Putas olmigas!” (Whore ants!) and shuffled away.

“Giggle. Giggle. Giggle. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

“Shut up. Stupid bug.”

I do a lot of that.

I also grew a fig, started cantaloupes, and have twenty pineapples growing. Banana, avocado, papaya, pepper, tomato, spinach, plumeria, lime, halyconia, huevos de monos (sweet smelling “monkey eggs” trees), almond, aloe vera, coconut, various herbs… It’s all very cool and kinda bizarre to be called Farmer Meech by some, but that’s not the most unexpected result of moving to Costa Rica. Not at all. Of course I felt excited when we touched the tarmac as immigrants on the Ides of March in 2011, but I’m convinced now I know why. The plain and simple reason is the weather. When I mentioned how it reminded me of my youth, and those hot Summer nights that were so full of anticipation, freedom, optimism, curiosity, and heady mischief, it was a casual reference to what’s become a profound transformation. Sure enough, the association with weather, of all things, has turned this living, thriving, chirping, burping, blooping, dance-the-ants-away playground into my personal fountain of youth. Therein lies my fun-damental love of Costa Rica.

Either that or dementia is setting in early. Whatever, I’ll take it.

Headline encapsulations of other stuff:

I dropped about thirty pounds in thirty months. (Organic diet, lots of walking up and down steep hills, hauling rocks, digging plant holes and water control trenches, running away from ants, some pull-ups and push-ups (!), in a climate where whizzing outdoors breaks a sweat. Also, a Starbucks coffee cake and quad latte would require an overnight trip at a cost of roughly two- to three-hundred American bucks!)

It took 28 months, but I received the blessing of Immigración for Temporary Residency. My cedula was ready for pick-up after I joined the Social Security health plan. I’m card-carrying legal. Very cool news, particularly with regard to health insurance and meds (should I need some). When Babe joined in May, 2013, (residency approved separately, doesn’t matter if you’re married or even if it’s your kid, you’re not necessarily approved at the same time —requiring an extra over-nighter to San Jose) she was charged $48 a month for full coverage (hospital and meds) based on her income (SS). Since I won’t get SS until 2017, it won’t cost me anything for the same coverage. (And when I do collect SS, it’s likely no one here will ask if my income status has changed—which I’ll confess since I don’t want to take advantage of Grandma Costa Rica. She’s been good to me.)

That’s a boatload more than I could get health-wise from the US after forty-plus years of work. I’ve learned that the US totally sucks on tons of levels, but is a mere puppet (like every country) of the money lords, Mafias and malevolent aliens who successfully control the world.

I’m cynical, but happy. No longer does a night out qualify as a special event, but finding half a discarded cinder block makes my day. I will give it a use in the garden or fire pit. Who among us can say a cement block makes them happy? I am blessed.

˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜

Rules of Costa Rica

Rule Number Nine (Swanson’s Rule): Never lend anyone your vehicle.

Rule Number Seventeen: Men, never take a leak outdoors at night while holding a lit torch.

A bug the size of a small mallet knocked a flashlight out of my hand in mid-stream. Confusion ensued. Inches to the wrong side of that light beam, with zipper open, while placidly whizzing over a 20-foot drop-off… I’m just saying there could be lasting trauma. Your life (and that of your progeny) is in your hands!

˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜˜

101 Songs You Shouldn’t Sing on TV—Much Too Stoned

More fractured karaoke…

#18—Much Too Stoned (sung to Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, Bob Dylan)

Three Stars. Read it through first, preferably to the music.

Note: I wish this were the longer version (the one everyone in creation has), but couldn’t find an online video. However, thanks to one guy with an excellent audio system, I found the original, shorter, 45 RPM single version to which I wrote these lyrics. Since then, the shorter version on youtube was removed and the longer one showed up (link below). There’s room for more stanzas in this version so feel free to collaborate:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAG63bhuMQM

Well you’re too stoned when all you think about is food
The girls all look like Carrie Underwood
You’re too stoned when you’re gargling cologne
And you’re too stoned when yer drivin’ on the lawn
If your underwear is not your own
You mighta got much too stoned

Well you’re too stoned when you dress for Halloween
And show up at a gig for Christmas Eve
You’re too stoned if you walk out of the door
and just found out you joined the Marine Corps
If your head ends up in the commode
You mighta got much too stoned

You’re sayin’ things no one can comprehend
And put party favors in your rear end
You’re too stoned if you take up the sitar
You’re too stoned if you’re actin’ all bizarre
But when you order twenty-five scones
Ya-mighta got much too stoned

Let’s eat!

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Pretty-please Days With Sugar on Top (excerpt)

The greatest American author, Henry Miller, reached a point in his life when he proclaimed that he was “The happiest man alive!” He is dead and gone now, six feet under, so I hereby and unofficially declare myself to be the happiest man alive! This statement is all at once mantra, affirmation and state of mind.

Cinco de Mayo, 2005

When I turn on the music, It’s a Most Unusual Day will play, as if iTunes were now sentient—followed by: ’S Wonderful, Love Dance and At Last. Poetry and prose recites itself in my head, flowing through my mind like a jazz ensemble that shucks and jives at my slightest whim. I am missing turns on the road while the music plays up there, as if the Sirens of Odysseus’ time were straight ahead, singing full-tilt. A forum has materialized and the play is on. Curtains up! And I am naked in my own light—the light I shed when I created myself. I feel so fucking good that the next person who asks me how I am will receive an earful starting with: I AM THE HAPPIEST FUCKING MAN ALIVE!!! And should they ask: What are you, nuts?! I shall reply: I LOVE YOU! I love you as if you were myself.

Dare I say it, say it today, that Rue du Rogues is here to stay?

Strike up the orchestra, my regiment leaves at dawn! What has caused this tipping of the happiness scale to the Inspired side of the fulcrum? I am hoping this sticks permanently and is not just an emotional sparrow fart in the El Niño of my heart and mind.

What may come as a surprise,
Can open the eyes,
And galvanize the soul to do a selfless act.
When the act itself matters not to the giver,
The reaction of the action will last forever in their favor.
Somehow Love will be made new again, and I mean that Big Love,
The one that encompasses everything.

Yesterday I had a past—a medley of art, meditation, communication, sex, drugs, crime and rock-n-roll. Today I am living in the linear moment described as now, with no expectations for tomorrow. This triptych of perspectives is somewhat surreal. I’ve never had an acid flashback (though I was essentially promised I would some day). Having reached forty-nine years and eleven months old without one, could this finally be it? Will God rip the chair out from under my ass?

I am rewinding: A Master flies by on a Magic Carpet Ride, winks, and asks: “Any little birdies today?” He taps a rose with one hand onto the other and is sucked into the fan wearing the Smile of the Knowing. A first marriage rises like a phoenix, makes its course, crashes and burns in flames of redemption in California. A child is born. She lingers the longest so far—I have much mental-video footage of her. Her birth is the end of my immortality, not the next in a long line of Me. I watched it again in my mind, so perfect, and with her came The Fear. Fear comes with the placenta, and is never to be chatted about socially. It plops there and it just IS. Fear for her happiness. I could not bear thinking of this wholly harmless child of mine not being happy. Just happy, that’s all I want. And health. And good looks and etc. ad nauseum until you go crazy thinking about it and learn to let them have their own karma gracefully. Que sera sera and all that bullshit… Chronic crying dashes this reverie. The Sticky Lips graphic screams by in orange flames.

I get that feeling in my heart and I know what is coming next. I want to slow it down to just the right moment, the right second, the split-second that I fell in love again over a strong cappuccino where Babe and I often ate lunch together. Giant pink hearts bubble up, each with a different image of her stuck on them like schmaltzy little frames floating in one of those hi-tech aquariums with the permanent fish. All the impressed images I have of her are rising in front of me: in Kuaui standing in front of the eucalyptus tree… in her red flannel shirt, in the wrecking yard at night… reading a book by the lake and looking up to smile for me… buying a Xmas tree and holding it out for my opinion…. in her bathrobe, having a sleepy face… when she lifted up her shirt and flashed me her perfect, perky, champagne-glass-filling boobies… and the laughter that followed.

I am here to catch her tears should they fall and use them to water the seeds of Happiness that lie buried only a few inches below the surface of her thoughts. I am here to see that she keeps rising like those little bubble-heart picture frames that have captured her various likenesses. I am the force under her, trying to uplift her spirits at all times and, like Atlas, even though my neck hurts and with arms shaking under the strain, I am forever trying to hold her up. But I am not Atlas after all, and I waver and start to weaken. I feel like Charles Bronson in Once Upon a Time in the West, forced to hold the weight of his brother on his shoulders while he dangled tautly above in a noose. Collapsing with fatigue finally, he watched his brother swing in the breeze until there was no breath of life in him and there was no way to withstand the horror of it all but to close his eyes and only listen.

That is the micro-statement of my life—the Reader’s Digest, if you must—up to just before this point of writing. I am staring at my computer, thinking of the trip to NYC we have been planning for a year. This visit was to be a second, 2005 reunion of the nucleus group we were in ’02, to celebrate the years we all turn 50. I am the last to do so, the baby of the group.

It is then that the bubble mentioned earlier has reached the surface of my mind. Something occurs to me and I feel stupid when the light goes on: the Hot Fist syndrome is using me for a punching bag, again. My Babe has not had a good year—a year in which she has seen three siblings pass away. She is the baby of nine from her long deceased real father and the oldest of her mother’s four kids by her adopted father. She is all at once the baby, the oldest, in the middle, and an only child; since her real parents only made one Babe when they were together. One half-sister and her husband even offered to adopt her, they were so much older than she and even her mother. Her siblings are all step-siblings. She is the love child who has buried two fathers, one natural (‘Uncle Daddy’) and the other who adopted her. As a consequence, she has always felt a little on the ‘outside’ of her two families. Oftentimes it seems she is an afterthought in their plans, reunions and such. Some siblings have even come to town for one reason or another and not even called her while they were here.

She could never bear a child, probably as a result of suffering a burst appendix when she was fourteen… scarring some tube or another, making it impassable. She raised a step-son in her first marriage for fifteen years and he never calls her. He married and didn’t invite her to the wedding, or even tell her until it was already done. Some time after that, Babe was informed that she was going to be a step-grandma, which is all well and dandy until you find out they have been pregnant for eight months already. (Oh, by the fucking way….) I cannot begin to explain how this makes me feel; it is so sad it fills my eyes with tears and anger. This week her nineteen-year-old cat, Murphy, with whom she has lived with in dear friendship through times good and bad for 18 years, had to be put to sleep.

My Hawaiian Love,
Peaceful as a dove,
I long for your Joy,
And pray for your Peace.
You deserve much better than that.

When she thinks of Home, Hawaii is that place. In the meantime, Hawaiians are dropping like flies. The culture is diminishing along with the few hundred native Hawaiians still alive. Only a few hundred left! They are going the way of the dodo bird—flying off into another perfect sunset except they are not flying back in the morning. Soon there will be no sunrise the next day, not for her family there or for the Hawaiians who are disappearing. They will find themselves already absorbed into the Anglo/Japanese mix pervading the islands and Babe will be even more alone. No family, no roots, none of the old Hawaii she remembers as a happy child digging her toes in the warm sand. She will have no Youth to go Home to, visit, and refresh with. There will be only gravesites left, the tombstones telling the story of a culture that once supported an inspired, peaceful Utopia in paradise for 700 years.

I start to type out the following letter to my friends in NYC:

 

To the greatest friends a person could have in this world:

I have been stalling in my mind over our trip back east, couldn’t commit to a date, deposit and such and I don’t think I really knew why… weird huh? The fact was, and is, I feel incredibly guilty about buying a trip east when we really need to be going west. My poor lover, Babe, has seen three sisters pass away in the last year and we have not been to Hawaii since the spreading of her step-dad’s ashes in the sea some 2-3 years ago. She is my Island girl whose heart is there and never her body. Lately it’s all been, for lack of a better term, kinda morbid when we think of Hawaii. Babe thinks: how long before the rest of her siblings on that side are all gone? Hawaii has become a sad thought. I swear to you right now I am crying as I write this, and I think about how wrong that is for my Hawaiian Babe, my Tahini, as I like to call her, to feel that way about her Home. I haven’t cried in a long time, maybe it’s all come to a point and that’s why I can now write this to you. Perhaps there is Relief in those tears. I am going to take our meager monies for vacation and head west instead. I plan to have the best, most fun time I have ever had in that paradise. We are going to call this the ‘Create New Memories Trip.’ We are going to visit the living. I know this is the right decision. I am sorry my friends that I will not be with you this summer. And I apologize for jumping the gun and telling you all that we would be coming.

Fuckit, I guess there’s always next summer…

Babe, if you’re reading this at work on Monday pm, I love you. I’m sorry I didn’t realize this long ago…

 

A simple enough letter, I think. By the end of its writing, tears were rolling down both cheeks. I am not a man who cries. I absolutely REFUSE to let a movie, for instance, reduce me to tears. Real life is Karma and, as such, we all get what we deserve, good and bad. Even tragedy is a destiny. For me, personal tragedy is a living-out of someone’s karma and in that respect it is not only good and correct, it is evolution toward the greater goal of Enlightenment and, that being said, it’s all good. This is a concept that is easier to peruse than to live.

Why didn’t I think of this before? It is such an obvious idea. Where was that Hot Fist when I needed it to slap some insight into me? This might actually do the trick, this time—at least for two weeks and to introduce some current, better memories of Hawaii. Throw out the Jester, the Philosopher and the Guru and bring in the travel agent! I address the letter and CC a copy to Babe at work, hit Send. I lean back and smile, the tears still streaming. She will get it at the end of her hard day at work and hopefully smile for a split-second before succumbing to tears of joy.

Do good works without hesitation.

— Swami Brahmananda Saraswati Ji (‘Guru Dev’), Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath [1941-53]

The bubble of the Great Love pops just then and spills its juices all over me. I am awash in a feeling of Bliss. My heart feels so huge it is crowding out my stomach so that I couldn’t eat even were I to be served a broiled lobster, baked potato with sour cream and chives, with fresh asparagus on the side and a banana fosters dessert at the Stratton. Followed by a cappuccino, a Cuban cigar and a digestif. That reminds me, I have one last Cuban cigar a friend gave me. In a kind of celebration, I light it up, blow the fattest smoke ring on the planet at that second in time and watch it go through the fan into oblivion. Relishing its aftertaste, I check again for the Feeling, wondering, is it still there or will it, too, be only an aftertaste soon? At this writing it is still here. It is Here Now, that feeling. It’s not ‘in love’ but rather it is Love, surrounding and protecting us both as if our deflector shields were in place and James Tiberius Kirk was at the helm. It persists, pervades, permeates, and perfectly punctuates our love affair. It is the crowning glory of a short story and the beginning of another. It reminds me of a feeling I had in Geneva once.

Too bad Babe had already left work for home.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Lover of Love,
Lover of Life,
Lover of Nature,
Nurture and Sound,
Lover of Sight that knows no bounds.

Lover of flowers,
Lover of trees,
Lover of Everything,
All that she sees.

Lover that breathes,
Giving Sustenance and Life,
Lover that protects, guards you,
And diverts your strife.

Lover who does all that and more,
Lover, when you need Her, is at the door.

The car door slams in the carport. She gathers her stuff and heads for the door. “Babe!” I always say when she comes in and I’m getting ready to say it again as she heads up the driveway toward the door. I’m at the computer as usual, our daughter behind me. Incidentally, the step-child relationship is not an easy one. It takes two special people to make it work and the guy in the middle, me in this case, has ultimately no control over either participant. Damage control maybe, but that’s about it. Put one of them in full puberty/adolescence and make the other menopausal and sometimes the guy in the middle just wants to head for the fucking hills and die in peace. They have their challenges with each other, to be sure, but to their credit they have persisted, compromised and acquiesced themselves into what I might call a civil, accepting, even loving relationship. They are not the friends I had envisioned they might someday be, but they are at least sisters who, while arguing, are at least communicating.

I have told Katy that we are (finally) going to Hawaii. She’s never been there but has heard all the stories about this paradise of sun, beach, warm water and tanned surfer studs. I told her of my experience while writing the letter to my friends. I can’t remember if she has ever seen me with tears running down my face and I think not. When I tell her my feelings, and how disproportionally deep they were considering the whole picture (Christ, all I did was change travel plans!) and that I even gushed tears in the process, she did a double-take—flashing a look of surprise and an open, uncommonly mute mouth.

“Awwww…” was all that came out, and she seemed to mean it. Katy is already on the fast track to Love.

“Don’t say anything to Babe,” I told her, allowing myself the luxury of getting teary-eyed again but not looking at her. In her real life (that is, her exigent social life wherein all else is superfluous) she is a love-meddler and feeds on this kind of energy the way piranhas down a cow. She will even meddle electronically, in chat rooms across the country, when she can’t be physically present to perform this critical, self-imposed task. She is Cupid with a computer, armed with all the slings and arrows that go with the position. Now she is pushing from behind for me to get a move-on and show Babe The Letter already, before she has even made it to the door.

“Babe!” I call as the door shuts behind her. A tired but pleasant “Hi…” in return as she enters. She always ends her Hi on the up-side of the note, making it sound almost like a question. She starts unloading her shit—the purse, the bag of books she is reading all the time, the coffee cup, the CD player with all its motivational/inspirational cds, the empty container that was once her lunch… I watch, while coming up from behind, and slip my hands under the crescent moons of her wonderful breasts. (I’m not sure why, but a thin slice of moon in the night sky always reminds me of Babe’s breasts.) I squeeze, move some of her thick hair out of the way, kiss her neck and offer the traditional greeting:

“Hi Lover, how was your day today?”

“Oh,” (again ending on the up-side of the note), “the usual…” (down-side of the note), she offers tiredly, and accommodates another kiss to the neck. “How about you?” she asks as usual, reaching for perk and optimism.

I don’t really have to think about that, as my heart starts to feel even bigger than before. The sensation in my chest reminds me of Alien and I’ve never seen the movie. I force back a hiccup of laughter, pause, take a deep breath, collect myself and do a quick internal check. Yep, the feeling is still there—I am drenched from this Fountain of Love, can’t she see that I am soaking wet? I cannot hold back a smile; I know it’s coming soon and I’m going to watch it unfold. It’s not redundant to think I’m going to enjoy this smile. When it comes, it will be unforgettable.

Once I saw a woman walking along Lexington Ave who was so beautiful I stopped and stared at her. Then an even more incredible thing happened, she looked my way and I could see her full face. She wasn’t looking at me, she was just going her own way, but for some reason at that particular frozen moment of time she chose to SMILE. I don’t think she was even looking at anybody when she did, she just did so of her own free volition at what must have been a thought that overwhelmed her to the point where she simply had to SMILE. Her expression is stuck in my brain—an image file on my hard drive I couldn’t delete if I wanted to.

I say this because I have been on the other end of a smile like that, a TRUE HAPPINESS smile—one that is for no apparent reason. The SMILE that surfaces and you’re not sure exactly why and wonder: Did I miss something? Were every single person to have a GENUINE SMILE experience, just once, how much would this earth (as we give it the bums rush to an early demise) change? If that were to happen and someone then gave a War, no one would show up to fight, finally!

I have had two such SMILES in my lucky life heretofore the one I felt with a certified prescience was about to emerge. Once in L.A., after meditating for half an hour on the beach leaning next to a garbage can. I opened my eyes and my mouth, well, it just SMILED, and I remember thinking, Hello! What the hell is this? My old friend come to visit me? I hope to hell it lasts! Woo-hoo!

It didn’t matter who you were or what you looked like or what you were doing, if I looked your way you were going to get the SMILE and there was nothing I could do about it. People jogging by lost their pace when they saw me. Cafe patrons looked up from their Variety and trade mags as I passed by—for I was on the move now, trying it out like a new luxury car.

I surprised a beautiful blond waitress with my darshan gaze and was rewarded with a SMILE of her own in return! Of course I fumbled the ball, all I could do was SMILE. I couldn’t SPEAK. Mostly I sat there and just SMILED at her until she must have finally thought I was a lobotomy patient, or perhaps might benefit from such an operation. I had to be physically dragged away from the table. I remember someone saying as they did so, my heels scraping along the floor behind me, Man you’re BEAMING! Less than an hour later, I was back to ‘normal,’ but with the addition of the new and improved question in my head: When am I going to be that way again?

There was always Geneva in the back of my mind also, where I had the first such SMILE rammed from me by a cute girl wearing a red fez. I looked around in the street for it afterward but it must have melted back into its source.

I let it come, surface, whatever, from that place in my gut—my old friend, whom I had not seen in nearly (checks calendar to see what year it is) 34 years! My long lost SMILE… When it brushed past my heart it tickled and I nearly chuckled, thinking: This better not be a fart.

I had to say something pretty quick after all this reverie, so in response to Babe’s seemingly mundane, perfunctory question I let the lotus open up, SMILED, and said: “Oh, not bad…”

She had just been introduced to the SMILE, and noticed it. “Oh really?” She scanned me suspiciously.

I just SMILED, ear to slapstick, moronic ear, unable to help it and not wishing to. “How about a drink?” I offered, knowing the answer. I saw Katy in the near-distance roll her eyes. C’mon! she said telepathically, show her the letter! I decided to revel in the anticipation a while longer first. “Why don’t you slip into something more accessible and I’ll make you one, ok?”

“Oka-a-a-a-y…” she replied slowly, catching my sly innuendo. Katy had her arms crossed and tapped her foot like an impatient mother hen, wearing a SCOWL.

I bring the gin and tonic with a slice of lemon into the bedroom for The Babe. I am whistling and singing a little bit while trying not to be too obnoxious. We chat for a few minutes while I watch her undress, something I have always loved to do. I tell her to slow down, to peel it off, and she can’t help but pass a tiny smile my way while she unbuttons her shirt, knowing that’s my favorite part. Mmmmm… I purr. She still gets me going. As usual, by the time she’s bare-breasted I’m heading her way with both hands outstretched. I have to get there before the t-shirt goes on and I lose my window of opportunity. I probably look a little like Frankenstein’s monster on my approach, without the neck plugs.

She allows me to perform my ritual of kissing each breast, once on the top part and once on the nipple—each. She waits dutifully to put on her shirt until I am satisfied that they (both) have had enough (or not) attention. To her relief, I let her pull the shirt over her head so she is that much further away from work and closer to being really home now in her sweats and t- shirt, but I don’t give her much room to do so. I am literally breathing down her neck. She emerges from her shirt and I’m there, ready to take her face in my hands, look in her sea-green eyes and plant sweet kisses on her lips, cheeks, neck….

“I sent you a letter today,” I say, our faces so close together you couldn’t slide a slice of processed cheese between us. “You must have left work before reading it.” A questioning look ensues. “Come read it when you’re ready.” I give her a soft, loving kiss because I can’t resist. I want to be inside the same body as her instead of standing on the outside. I can’t seem to get close enough and our eyes are inches apart. Were it not for our noses getting in the way, we would be standing there trading eyelash kisses and I would be wearing her shirt, backwards. I didn’t want the bubble we were in to break. I take my leave, backing away, and the effort required to do so feels like the pulling apart of two magnets.

Katy is still sitting by the computer, arms crossed and tapping, tapping, tapping…. She sees me coming and the SCOWL changes to a look of query. “Is she coming?” she asks impatiently.

“Of course, she’s just changing… and bathroom, you know….” I trail off, preferring to wallow in the soft clouds of Love and not speak.

HUFFING SIGH…….. Those are her words for: “I’m patient!” But I think she notices, or ‘groks’ something through me she may not have been too sure about before. I think she sees in me what the definition of Love is and how it actually looks, the physical manifestation of it all. She can see it in my eyes and perhaps even empathetically feels some sensation in her chest— the Expanding that goes on there. More importantly, I believe it causes her to take a second look at the woman who has overtaken her father from her mother and with whom she has sometimes had trouble understanding and communicating with in the past. I am hoping she sees the difference between loving someone and being dependent. I am hoping there will be a small but important brain-file stashed in that craw, an image of authentic love that she can use to compare with her own experience in that venue.

“…Dad? Here she comes!” Katy stage-whispers a little too loudly. I open the letter and put it on-screen, and turn the swivel chair, my throne, to await Babe’s butt—fussily picking off a few cat hairs. She stops to read the newspaper! Katy almost panics (that could take fifteen minutes!), but I put my hand up before she can say anything. It’s time.

Going to Babe, I take her shoulders and start to guide her over to the computer. “Come read this letter first,” I implore politely.

Katy holds out the chair. She loves this shit. She is in ‘love’ every few weeks and when she is between loves she is helping someone else find some of their own. She is already a love-junkie and I’m hoping that’ll turn out to be a good thing, as it has for me. Babe has that questioning, almost concerned look as she sits down, finally. She swivels the chair and it is in S-L-O-W-W-W-W-W…….. M-O-O-O-T-T-T-I-I-I-I-O-O-O-N-N-N-N………

Slowly she turns… and Katy and I are The Christmas Story on that morning, getting crushed by the BIG present. Babe spins P-A-A-A-A-A-S-T the letter and grabs a smoke. Katy and I lock eyes, screaming silently: WILL SHE EVER READ THAT FUCKING LETTER? I grab the nearest lighter and light it for her, holding it out, because sometimes she’ll sit there and hold it for ten minutes before lighting up.

She takes her hit and is now ready. “What’s this all about, anyway?” “JUST READ IT!” Katy and I say in unison. So Babe turns, starts to read, and Katy and I share the wide-eyed and smiley anticipation of it all. I am watching Babe’s face as she begins the letter she had just missed at work. She reads….

I have been stalling in my mind over our trip back east….

(Her brows furrow just a bit, taking it in, concentrating.)

My poor lover, Babe, has seen 3 sisters pass away…

(Now I can see the definite lip-quiver, the saddening of the eyes, the downward turn of the mouth as she fights back tears.)

…I am going to take our meager monies for vacation and head west instead… We are going to call this the ‘Create New Memories Trip.’

(Her mouth is an upside-down U, eyes blinking through the welling tears as she tries to speak. “I… can’t… do… this!” She starts to sob.)

Fuckit, I guess there’s always next summer…

“It’s… your… birth…day… present…” sniff, sob…

“I changed my mind,” I said, the tears starting to well up in me now. I am afraid they’ll fall out and smear my SMILE. I don’t look at Katy; I only see those crying eyes, that down-turned mouth and hear the sobs and sniffing. “It’s what I want now,” I say. “I just feel foolish for not having thought of it before.” Taking her face in my hands and peering in her eyes, I sincerely do feel that I was slow to discover this notion.

Babe lets the full impact of it all settle in. She is sobbing fully now, her head in her hands and her shoulders heaving. I bend down and hug her, lifting her face and tell her I love her and that I am so sorry again for not having thought of this before today and we are going to have the BEST FUCKING TIME IN HAWAII WE HAVE EVER HAD! Ten days minimum. And lo, as I uttered the words, it was the dawning of her new SMILE. We were both smiling the SMILE of the BIG LOVE just then, wet though they were, and it was GOOD. Tears of relief…. tears of joy…. tears of Love….

Brushing a few aside, I shot a thumbs-up at Katy, who was visibly near tears herself as she watched our display. We were, all three of us and for a moment, sharing the same SMILE as it enlarged itself to accommodate us all.

Soon the two of them were pouring over the timeshare book looking at places to go, possible places to stay—heads close together staring at photographs and pointing at this and that. I step back to watch and listen and I feel HUGE. My chest is full, my vision still a little blurry through the tears, but I am living in this moment and the moment is Perfect. It is at once the Greatest Moment of All-time and the quintessential Moment that Stopped Time. It has both Yin and Yang, Light and Dark, Blissful Ignorance; and like chocolate and vanilla that has been blended into an ice-cream swirl, I am licking from a cone of frozen time and letting it drip down my hands like a grateful child.

Hug your loved ones as if your lives depended upon it.
Hug like you have never hugged before and will never hug again.
Hug until the cows come home and it rains flying pigs.
Hug until there is no more war or vengeance of wars passed.
Hug the Ignorance and Darkness away.
Hug your fuckin’ brains out before it’s too late…

 

Aquarius or Armageddon?

Aquarius or Armageddon?

So which is it, The Age of Aquarius or Armageddon? If there was another “stranger in a strange land” come to stay on Earth they’d think this world considerably more bizarre than during Heinlein’s time. I see placards to defund Planned Parenthood because “Abortion Kills a Person” but no signs to defund a military who routinely does just that. The same people who vehemently defend the unborn life can somehow support the death penalty. Save the unborn but fry the adults! Even I think that’s strange, and I’m no stranger to this stranger-than-it-used-to-be world. I read about people who migrate to other countries and command their hosts to change their ways or risk having their families decapitated with a fish knife. Excuse me, what? Is this not excessively rude? There are pharmaceutical companies who spend more time than I do thinking about my boner; doctors more interested in prescriptions than cures; psychos, killers, zombies and embarrassing surreality shows on television; and there are politicians who dismiss man-accelerated climate change as unproven. Government without enlightenment has become no less than willing slavery. With Nero on the fiddle, the world spins toward an untimely demise.

On the other side of the astrological coin is the Aquarian Age, an age some claim we are now entering—consigning Armageddon to no more than a Grimm fairy tale written for dinosaurs. The Age of Enlightenment is characterized by a higher state of human consciousness. A wise man likened this evolution into an enlightened age to that of childbirth—where there’s labor and pain. Mama has to push in order to deliver. There’s blood involved and cords to cut. There’s trauma, and crying to clear the lungs. Let’s face it, it’s gross—but necessary, apparently. (Thanks for that process, God. Why, btw? Character builder? Is it so we can grok the concepts of C’est la vie and It is what it is?) From this process comes the newly born Child of Man who understands that to be metaphysically Still is to be God.

Someone knows what this questionable constellation means as well as anyone who believes Armageddon is around the corner. Everything is true, on some level. In my mind, our time is likely one or the other—or both, with Aquarius following Armageddon (or maybe the other way around). Some day we’ll find out and I’m not sure I want to be around for the event. Like Humpty Dumpty, I’m content to Be Here Now on the fulcrum of Live or Die, the tipping point for either evolution or retribution. My job, at the moment, is to stay balanced.

How Not to Get Electricity for Your Property in Costa Rica

How Not to Get Electricity for Your Property in Costa Rica

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2011

We are going to the government run utility office to get electricity for our property. We’re optimistically attempting this on our own, without the help of a translator. We have a contact there, let’s call him “Diego” because that’s his name, who speaks English pretty well but we don’t know if he’ll be there. He was the first person we talked to about the transformer and meter we needed.

We presented the required documents, which included a  Personerîa (proving we were people in good standing) and a set of papers stating we were a Corporation (on advice from everyone we know here. All your major assets are enveloped by separate Corporations in order to limit your liability). Diego read every line of these common Official Documents before assessing: “These are copies.”

“Yes, I know,” I said. “The bank took the originals when we opened an account—”

“Hmm. I can do it with these.” He worked at his computer for half an hour and finally produced our application. “See, I am putting here that you only speak English. Someone will call and tell you when they will come to your property.”

“Excellente.” I said, in Spanish. “When will they call?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe a week?” It was a question to which he thought I might have the answer.

“I see. Okay, we’ll wait.”

“But when you come back you must see me.”

“We have to come back?” That turned out to be rhetorical. Of course, gringo.

Three weeks later…

I got a call from a guy who didn’t speak English. The connection was bad, so I had to walk around outside after dark to find the best signal. I thought he had a wrong number and almost hung up until I realized he was saying electricidad  and mañana.

Electricity. Tomorrow. “Oh! Si’ si’!”

Two weeks later…

I stood on our deck at 7:30 in the morning, coffee in hand, and a man on a quad (a four-wheel motorcycle, basically) showed up. He was from the utility company and was there about our power, but I understood nothing that followed. He drove away in order to pick up Jonathan, a worker who speaks English, and brought him back. Without removing his helmet, he and Jonathan had a long conversation while I sipped coffee and lit a smoke.

I was blowing smoke rings in the absolutely still air when Jonathan turned to me. “He says you need a transformer.”

“I know that, yes, and a meter.”

He spoke again at length with Helmet man, then turned to me. “You have to put your name on a waiting list.”

“Aha. How long does it usually take?”

More translation chatter ensued. In a nutshell, it could take a year unless I wanted to purchase one on my own—which will run in the thousands. Or I could put my name on the list and still have to pay something (he didn’t know how much) when they deliver.

So it was back to Diego in order to get on the waiting list. Once again, he read our documents and assessed, “These are copies. No puedo.” (He can’t.) Doesn’t matter, because he recommended we wait until we get our “cedula” (official residency card) before signing the list because “it’s better that way” and who can argue with irrefutable logic? In the interim, the Angry Mountain Villas community allowed us to patch into their power so it’s not an emergency situation. Still, it’s something I should have researched and known before moving all our worldly stuff and two cats here.

That being stated, the way to get electricity to your property in Costa Rica is to have your architect handle the details. In the meantime do like we did—get a long extension cord and plug into your neighbor.

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Rules of Costa Rica

Rule Number Eighteen: Get a Consensus.

If you need to know the answer to an important question get a consensus. Five people will give you five different answers, maybe seven. If two are similar, that’s probably not the right answer either. The true answer depends on who you talk to, when, and what they know to be true—and it’s probably not. Sorry. Your best bet, in all cases, is to find someone with a relative in the department you need information from.

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On Gratitude

People have been asking me lately what I’m ‘grateful’ for. At my age, I’m grateful my body isn’t in pain and I can take a shit every morning. But by now I’m used to being grateful. I demonstrate each morning that I still want to live simply by getting out of bed. For that, I must be grateful for something—or someone—even if it’s not in my conscious awareness.

For every something to be grateful for there’s an injustice to be pissed about. Idealists and other dreamers expect the best from humanity—which erodes over time and is exacerbated by the cynical decrepitude of getting older in the 21st century. One can only take so much crap before they become jaded. For every idealist, there’s an equally justified pessimist. For every dreamer there is a nightmare. Where there’s light, there’s shadows. It follows that we can be both grateful and pissed at the same time.

If we don’t rail vehemently against man’s inhumanity to man now, in this Age of Aquarius and transition, then we are not doing all we can to change toward an enlightened, humane society. To put ‘civilized’ back into ‘civilization’ a re-birthing needs to take place, and that is something which, unfortunately, comes with labor pains.

With my will to live intact, I’m still not satisfied. I’m in a rush to advance already. While I’m grateful for a rise in global consciousness I’m subliminally frustrated we don’t have free energy online at this point. Indeed, such advances have been thwarted throughout recent history by insanely sociopathic individuals and corporations bent on profit at the expense of the masses and the very life of the the planet we inhabit. This is dangerously insane, of course—not to mention a major inconvenience.

We’re all blessed to be living at this point in Life’s cycle—charged with doctoring the birth of an advanced consciousness and a prolonged period when there are no more social injustices. Questions will become obsolete. The Quest will be fulfilled.

I’m grateful I’m not a pessimist, existentialist or atheist. I believe in the Age of Enlightenment—it’s inevitable. From the dead flower comes a new seed. If fresh, clean water is what it takes to get through the dirt of ignorance into the flowering of a new age, the fertilizer helps it grow faster. Unfortunately, fertilizer can stink. Fortunately, that doesn’t make it any less effective.

I’m grateful global consciousness can be advanced one person at a time. I’m grateful I can advance my own consciousness. I’m grateful Life is a see-saw, it’s fun that way.

Tropical Cancer—It Won’t Cost an Arm or a Leg

It Won’t Cost an Arm or a Leg

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Every Saturday morning at 9:30, 10:00, 10:30  somewhere between 10:30 and 11:00 (ish) there’s a pick-up softball game at the soccer field in Bahia. This is coed, purely recreational, and all are welcome—especially chiropractors. You’ll find expats, travelers, locals, kids and other fool-hardy types in the field and plenty of onlookers in the shelter of a large ficus tree, which serves to block Chuck’s sharply hit foul grounders. (It also serves a somewhat clumsy iguana Adam got to know intimately [not the original Adam] when it fell on his back. Stupid thing crapped on my car, too. But anyway…)

After playing for five years I’ve come to think of my Saturdays as a weekly Labor Day, where family and friends come together to forget about “all that other junk” and concentrate on the truly important things in life: Beer, Mike’s baked goods, and a tropical breeze in the shade with good company.

All equipment is provided (donations accepted). Any age, gender, or trans-gender can participate—even Republicans. In all the years I’ve played so-called “recreational” softball (in “hangover” leagues), I’ve never been with a more socially accepting crowd. In the heat of battle there may be a contested call, but our “Commissioner,” Señor Bicker, is so annoying to argue with that we all just let him have his way. Play ball! Besides, he knows the rules of the game from as far back as 1890—some of which are news to the rest of us. (Who knew that a “pickle” is trumped by committing yourself to advancing more than halfway to home? The “Don” of Uvita softball knew.)

If that doesn’t impress you, the fact that there’s a bathroom on site should.

One of my favorite aspects of this unique gathering of people from many parts of the world is watching the neophytes learn the game. I love that they have an interest in not just the sport, but the ambiance of the event. Plus, they save me from getting picked last… again. (Reminder to self: When telling a beginner they have to tag the runner with the ball, specify that doesn’t mean they should throw the ball at them.) Don’t worry, there’s no barrel-chested pros on the field. Some of us regular players can make a routine play look more like an awkward suicide attempt. If you’ve never played the game, instruction is provided at no cost (abuse is extra). There’s also a short video here: How to Play Baseball.

It doesn’t seem to matter what mood you’re in, or how preoccupied you may be with the neighbor’s stupid rooster, or the bank misplacing your savings, or that you forgot where you parked your quad, softball can quickly take your attention off such inconveniences with a blistering liner to the kneecap. Works every time. When Mitch tried to catch a throw from the outfield with his nose he completely forgot about the dog digging up that medicinal plant.

Okay so maybe it’s not for the faint of heart—but for the young at heart, at least, it’s not to be missed. Compared to surfing, I can pretty much guarantee you won’t get an appendage chewed off. Amazingly, this activity is free. Even more amazingly, the road there is paved. (Turn toward the ocean at the bus station just south of the southern BM market.)

It’s good to bring a chair, and water (not sure what that’s for). Which reminds me, visit Oscar and Irina’s Discount Liquor Wine & Cigars in Uvita (near the gas station) before the game and tell them you’re going to play softball. They have a great selection and you’re going to need the fluids.

If we can’t use the field in Bahia due to an event being held there we move to a field 100 meters (or so) past the farmer’s market in Uvita. If it’s raining, we blow the whole thing off and head either to The Flutterby House (near Bahia field) for a beverage, a snack and some corn hole (will explain later), or Soda Lily’s in Uvita (across the Costanera from the northern BM market and BCR).

Wherever we end up, Saturday’s objective is to have fun and not get hurt (unless the game’s on the line, then go for it. We have chiropractors…).

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101 Songs You Shouldn’t Sing on TV—Where Everybody Knows You’re Gay

#13—Where Everybody Knows You’re Gay (sung to the theme song from the TV show Cheers)

STAR RATING SYSTEM:

One Star: Even potheads can sing this.
Two Stars: Most reasonably sober people shouldn’t have much trouble.
Three Stars: Read it through first, preferably to the music.
Four Stars: If you can sing this without rehearsing, you’re definitely gonna get laid tonight.

…where each song is rated thusly.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

SMALL, INNOCUOUS, PROBABLY IRRELEVANT DISCLAIMER: The lyrics presented in this karaoke bible do not necessarily reflect the author’s political or religious views, sexual or smoking preferences (ref; Fudge Packer and Vote In The Reefer), or personal bitterness against politicians—but in some instances, they may.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Two Stars: Most reasonably sober people shouldn’t have much trouble. (Listen to the original while reading the alternate lyrics.)

Making your way past bigots today
Takes everything you’ve got
Taking a break from homophobes
And remembering that you’re hot
Isn’t it great to be a gay?

All those nights when you get in fights
Because you sometimes swish
It’s the way of nature
But at times you have to wish
They’d get a life and leave you alone

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows you’re gay
And they’re always up for play
You want to be where you can see
Leather chaps, penis straws and brie
You want to be where everybody knows you’re gay.

Roll out of bed, Mr. Cockster is dead
The morning’s looking bleak
Your shrink is running for Congress
To vote against you freaks
And your boyfriend wants to date a girl.
Be glad there’s one place in the world

Where everybody knows you’re gay
And they’re fans of Tina Fey
You want to go where hot guys know
Who gives the best bee jay
You want to go where everybody knows you’re gay.

 

P.I.S.S.E.D. Ch. 7—Labor Day Sanity Cruise, 1978

7—Labor Day Sanity Cruise, 1978.

One year later.

Fuck Labor Day, it’s just another sunday in disguise.

“For $220 a month, it’s probably pretty basic,” Veronica told Mick the day they went to inspect the cottage for the first time. She knew more about renting than Mick did. At that point in their marriage, the sophomore year, Mick didn’t care what it looked like; it was about half the going rate for rent and within walking distance to the cliffs overlooking the surfers. He knew it was going to be good enough for him before they ever saw it. The alternative was to continue living at his parents’ home, which, after three months, was already too long for a young couple used to being on their own. When the Churchbuilder said he wanted to retire in Sanity Cruise and fix the cottage, he meant in that order.

Mick sneaked along slowly in his Austin America, showing steel belts on the tires and leaking fluid from the hydraulic shocks. Low-riding before it became popular, out of necessity, he had to drive around a bottle or a rolled newspaper in the road. Pine cones were risky. Fortunately, the Austin turned on a dime, even while holding a chocolate covered french cruller donut—which he was. With a grocery store nearby—and a pizza place, hardware store, laundry, bookstore, Sears, movie theatre, and the donuts—the cartoon-cottage was at the very least well situated; another reason Mick had lobbied for its approval.

Since they didn’t have a washing machine of their own, they preferred to store up laundry a few weeks and make an afternoon of it—filling up eleven washers and folding, folding, folding… Dishes in the sink were mostly handled in this manner as well, though they didn’t wait quite as long. Once the couple discovered four very different and distinct armies of ants living under the house, the practice of dirtying dishes stopped altogether—followed by the cessation of eating solid foodstuffs. Pretty much only the cats and ants ate there.

Two blocks away, an empty reservoir gathered dust.

“What do you suppose that’s for?” Mick had asked Veronica, Ms. Know-it-All, on that fateful day they went to look at the place for the first time. She didn’t know. In fact it was a giant run-off ditch for an underground stream that liked to swell on occasion.

Renamed ‘Meltdown Street’ after the Three Mile Island disaster (at least in Mick’s mind), their street had a ragtag collection of different shaped beach cottages on an uneven road with no sidewalks, while the next street, ‘Immaculate Boulevard,’ was all newer homes on a well-paved road with perfect sidewalks. Across the adjacent street was the Pink and Lime Mobile Home Park for retired citizens, which were more like piñatas on wheels. For all the activity Mick had seen from that place, they might just as well have been coffins on rollers. The real action was up the block at the massage parlor.

The cottage itself was pink on the outside, the wood walls inside painted yellow. There were four rooms, if one included the green kitchen. Each room was small. Everything about the cottage was undersized, appearing as if viewed through an inverted magnifying glass. There was the small gas heater that smelled like sautéed litter; the tiny ‘Wonder Bake’ oven in the kitchen which Veronica had pronounced unfit for service; and the refrigerator that was hardly more than a large green snowball maker.

It was a sunny day when they first looked at the place, and the light inside seemed bright and warm enough for Veronica’s painterly considerations. That was a good selling point. Mick was willing to turn a blind eye to certain, shall we say, glaring deficiencies, in order to get their own place. The front yard was a ‘no growth’ zone. Low maintenance, he thought at the time, another rent-able point.

Mick skirted a fallen leaf in the road on his way past Immaculate Blvd, probably blown off Owen’s yard with a 40 hp leaf blower. The Churchbuilder warned him about their backyard neighbor, Mr. Owen, who had convinced the last tenant to chop down a walnut tree, as well as an old willow, because to him they were simply ugly. The walnut never came back, but the willow sprouted seven new trunks, none of them very pleased. Since Mr. Owen watered more often than anyone, the venerable old willow’s roots were slowly breaking into the foundation of his garage. Mr Churchbuilder was okay with that, but Owen complained about it whenever he saw Mick, which wasn’t very often, as Mick was hardly in the backyard to hear it. The tree was long, full and beautiful on Churchbuilder’s side of the fence but hacked clean on Owen’s side—like a guillotine had come down and sheared the whole backside off. It was a patient, vengeful tree, biding its time, working its way through Owen’s garage and a hail of ever-present, miniscule white flies to get into his house.

There were two apple trees in the backyard as well, on the side of the house facing the Pink and Lime trailer park. Churchbuilder was right about picking the apples early, because someone knicked them before Mick could get any that season. A newspaper and a plastic bottle stuck in a row of hedges bordering the street. He left them there and considered it ‘artistic.’

A low, rickety wooden gate guarded the dirt driveway running alongside the cabana-like cottage to a tiny, mostly dilapidated garage on the back of the lot. Dry bramble stuck out from behind it to the end of the yard, which bordered the back side of Owen’s house.

For some reason, the backyard was a good twenty inches higher than the rest of the lot. This was inexplicable and summarily ignored. The spongy, clump-like grass sprouted smaller patches of wavy, tall grasses, which Mick thought looked very nice around sunset.

Veronica wouldn’t go near the backyard. She knew there was something or someone living in the spongy greenish stuff and didn’t want any part of it, thank-you-very-much-indeed. No way. “Johnson grass,” she called it, wrinkling her nose. No one told Mick that he might as well try mowing sea grass when the time for that came. Intuitively, and for no other reason, he had expected it to grow slowly. It reminded him of his old hair, in that it might just grow fuller rather than longer. That was autumn; with any luck, the severe drought conditions would continue and he wouldn’t have to trim anything until the end of summer. Here it was autumn again and, frankly, he didn’t give a damn. To Mick, it looked natural.

The yard was bigger than the house. It went behind the garage, where there was a pile of weatherized wood with rusty nails in it mixed with wild nasturtiums. Mick had virtually no caretaking experience, nor did he necessarily wish for any. Innately, he figured to improve the place simply by occupying it. Fact was, it was a squat little dump when they moved in and nothing so far had changed that sad fact.

Mick pulled in the driveway, stepped over the small mud puddle, and took a deep breath. It wasn’t that good. The nearby mushroom factory was fertile.

He remembered that first day…

The Churchbuilder kept a key hidden in a loose brick on the patio. Brushing away some spider webs, Mick muttered something resembling ‘yuck’ and shuddered as he did what he had to do to get it. The lock on the front door was as mushy then as it was now, like there might be oatmeal in there instead of tumblers. He had to shoulder the door open, trying to be delicate, but ended up stumbling inside like a drunk.

“Smells musty,” Veronica had said upon entering the place for the first time. Mick wasn’t sure what must smelled like, but took her word for it. Veronica was from East Rainforest Texas and knew her must. “It needs air,” she said. Of course it does, it’s been shut up for weeks.

The unpruned juniper bush still blocked virtually all the view out the front window, which was still molecularly melded shut with paint. Veronica would continue to point that out for years to come. “Don’t worry, we can hack at it later,” Mick had promised her, without quantifying ‘later.’ The other window in the room, facing the mud puddle, had already been opened before they moved in. By rocking it back and forth, it opened roughly ten inches, maybe eight. The spindly fuschia outside popped a few straw-like branches inside.

“No screens,” Veronica had mentioned a year earlier, implying bugs. Now that’s gonna require a tool.

Mick didn’t own a tool of any sort. Up until that point in his life he hadn’t needed one. He never used one before, except a screwdriver, and had trouble with those before the phillips head came out and saved the ape-man from extinction. It was the only tool Mick was even vaguely familiar with—that and a hammer, which he used successfully to build a wall in Everett’s Stress. Mick felt confident about someday owning a power stapler, though he never tried one. It’s time. I’m gonna have to buy some tools. He shoved the chocolate covered french cruller in his mouth and walked between the junipers to the door lost in thought about hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, tape and power staplers.

A hummingbird flew to a tiny red fuschia bloom outside the window. “Say goodbye to your security deposit,” it sang, and flew away. Labor Day my ass….

The heater sat neglected in the far corner of the room. “It never gets cold here,” Mick had assured his Mrs. before moving in. This wasn’t San Francisco, it was the beach! He walked to the Wonder Bake oven and turned it on. He could steam a giant pot of clams on it if he covered all four burners with the steamer. Mick thought about clams as he finished his donut. He loved fresh clams. Looking around the kitchen, he decided he hated ‘avocado’ green.

Public school green….

A box of stale pretzels and a quart of milk sat in the presumably dark Frigidaire, giving it a reason to be plugged in. Whether the ants couldn’t get at it, or didn’t want to, was an exercise in conjecture.

They didn’t have any kids, so what did door knobs matter? The fact that none of the doors met the doorframes well enough to close meant that the job was out of Mick’s handyman realm. In practice, Mick had no realm. The Churchbuilder would have to take care of that as the landlord. Mick was off the hook; he could wait.

After factoring all the variables and options based on their pitiful income, he weighed those against the bottom line: rent. At first, Mick wondered if he was domestically qualified to inhabit this dump. He knew now that he wasn’t. Originally he had hoped his wife was, but she wasn’t either. He had to buy tools. Veronica emerged from the bedroom. “You’re going to put screens on the windows today, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question.

“I’m just going to get some things I need, some tools… Here, have a donut.” Veronica raised an eyebrow. Before she could speak, he left.

Mick pulled the front door closed, grinding it against the door frame by pulling harder on the wobbly knob until he finally heard the latch click. He wound through the squeeze-track of bushes and over the mud puddle back to his not-so-trusty Austin America, the one that had thrown a U-bolt sixty miles outside of San Angelo, and drove away slowly without looking back.

Except for Toulouse, who could be heard half a block away, and the train that passed every morning around o:1∂, it was a peaceful, if somewhat crappy, street.

Between small breaths of mushroom, Mick glanced a bit wistfully at the massage parlor as he passed. Veronica ignored his longing, but it was no less there than gophers under the house and a pile of ants on the cat food. And, walking distance to a temporary, fleeting, hour- long diversion. He wondered for the thousandth time how much a nice massage was these days, then grinned at the old Karnac punchline: Regular, or Ethel? The tiny neon sign beckoned to him. He slowed, as he did twice every day, but didn’t stop.

Welcome!

So this is what ‘struggling writer’ means. Mick shook the thought off quickly. I’m not even writing anything… just struggling.

No one knew of his secret longing to be an author; no one took him seriously, that is. Mick harbored that sad fact, hibernating in books, more books, in an effort to gain a literary influence as elating as anyone he had ever read—and had inspired him enough to make his fingertips twitch over the typewriter.

There is no illusion, no trick. Just say it like it is; life’s a bowl of cat food covered with ants.

The problem was, Mick was more familiar with writing under duress. That is, something had to happen in his life that motivated him to write. Whether it was to express love, frustration, fear, loneliness, or whatever… there needed to be something to get out of his system. None of what he had written was any good, literarily speaking, but it relieved him like a vigorous shit.

Now, there was nothing. All was white, like the weather, with no clear beginning, middle or end. He had dwindled from hundreds of hand-written pages to a few hastily scrawled literary doodles in less than two years. His dreams and ambitions to that end slipped underground, surfacing only to bump him awake in the early haze of morning and forgotten over donuts and coffee.

Books were, in fact, Mick’s only friends. They stood by him side by side, between the wood and cinderblock shelves, always ready with encouraging words and flowery flights of phrase to inspire and motivate. Douglas Adams’s The Long, Dark, Teatime of the Soul sat on the plank as if to say: ‘Hey, if I can do it..!’ Miller’s first edition (US) Tropic of Cancer whispered: ‘All you need is a chair and typewriter.’ Doctor Zhivago looked Mick square in the eye and asked if he had the passion. His science fiction books opened a mental box to creative infinity.

He also had anthologies of authors he thought would never achieve anything beyond mediocre urging him to ‘put up or shut the fuck up.’ Mick would smugly wave his most dog- eared friends, his Webster’s and Roget’s, in their spines and tell them, ‘These are more interesting than your claptrap!’ and rest his case with a thud. Much of what Mick found at the bookstores to read he considered ‘suppository writing,’ made to shove up the author’s ass.

After a heated debate with his verbal friends on the shelf, a silence would prevail, revealing a quiet, singsong humming in the corner of the bookcase. Mick’s Cowgirl studied her large thumb and its relation to the railroad effect of the road disappearing in the distance. She was unconcerned, and not in the least bit self-conscious about her mis-shapen beauty.

My darling, Mick would tell her again and again, I shall never be as lovely as you. Then he’d smile at The Lord of The Rings and tell them not to worry, they were still the prevailing royalty, with a sly wink to his Nine Princes in Amber.

It all played out in Mick’s world with a good-natured competitiveness, for the pages were worth their weight in flesh-and-blood friends—Greg R. Greg being his only one of those, and not quite as interesting (although he did share traits with some of Mick’s Time/Life artist friends). A late 1950s throwback to the beatnik printer and sculptor of the nude female figure, and a Korean War veteran to boot, Greg-Greg was as close as Mick would get to male comraderie in Sanity Cruise—a common plight among the local gender, which had been known to cause certain, but not all men, to rename the idyllic seaside resort ‘Insanity Cruise.’

The lesbians, along with the rest of the women, didn’t get it and never would. The notion of male comraderie was the flipside of the male-female record and, as such, not meant to be understood, among other things, by either of the opposite sex about the other. If you played it backwards, it said: Just go about your business, nothing to see here… It followed in Mick’s mind, however convolutely, that attempts at relationships between any sexes is moot, or, one could say, no more than packing material for your coffin. And that being said, Mick ignored the gender of a relationship. For him, though, the Gay life never entered his head, not like the massage place up the street often did.

Welcome!

Whenever he saw the sign in front of the massage parlor, he hoped to catch a glimpse of a lovely coming out the door and bending down to pick up the morning paper in the afternoon, revealing a soft, loose bodice of lacy design… but the walkway was always bare. Strangely, Mick daydreamed of giving a massage. The female body was a map to the promised land. Words floated through his reverie.

“Start in the South, in the foothills and the tiny spaces between the toes. Spaces are key, never neglect the spaces between. From there you can see the peaks of Mother Nature, known since the Ages to be a place of soothing warmth, sustenance, and delight: The Empyreal Palace. Do not rush to embrace this hallowed property, but rather stroll your way toward the top, imbibing in felicitous fragrances along the way. Let the path ooze from between your fingers, sliding in easy passes of pressure and release, pressure and release… and as you waltz and gaze into the eyes of beautitude, you are healing as well.”

Passing the dusty reservoir, he drove toward his new tools, breathing impressions in silent, cerebral color.

“Bend at Wounded Knee, and tally there. Find its underside and whisper to it, you will know what to say. Pay your respects and pray to all the Gods, for there are many to satisfy along the way to Elysium Place. Collect forget-me-nots in abundance there; you will use all of them to get into Heaven.”

Poetry danced in Mick’s frontal lobe, never escaping lips that moved wordlessly:

Arise and realize With Promised eyes (And a growing delight!) Her heavenly design.

Maidenly thighs, In attractive guise, Offer their Surprise.

Breasts floated in front of his eyes, blotting out the road. A double yellow line led a trail up a giant, bobbling cleavage to Sears. He followed the maracas from heaven in a literary daze.

“Arise until the earth is a receding speck of truth on the map to your destination and you are in the constellations. Look for The Lotus—the delicacy of which can be hidden by its luminescence. Alight there, and gaze upon The Lands of Milk and Honey. Behold the swelling peaks and the nourishing valley they form. The canyon celebrates the summits. Tread softly to get there; linger for a time in the empty space of their design. Savor both pinnacles with an open mouth of moist prana, warm them with your breath. Dally but don’t dawdle there; lay your head on the pillows of the valley and you will see your path clearly from the embrace of their contours.”

He plowed through the cleavage in his mind….

Adore, and be pleased. From here, you are nearly there, (You sense redolent zephyrs in the air!) Savor the anticipation of the moment you are already upon. Close now, encircle your prize, With an easy glide and open eyes.

“I’m coming!” the tool-less Mick called on his way to Sears, wallowing in his lust for life.

“You will come upon a forest, pruned with care and fashioned into an arrow pointing south. It will rise on your occasion. Devote yourself to its maintenance, for it is Creation itself that resides within its mossy covering. It is the Source of the Big Bang and shelter to a smaller world tucked away inside, hooded and shy, awaiting your practiced husbandry. Plant your forget-me-nots copiously inside its sacrosanct walls. Bring it to fruition with the patience of a gardener who feeds his dear with two-lips of love. Devote your life to the service of The Promised Land and you will one day come to know God within.”

He pulled into the Sears lot and parked. The car rattled, sighed, rolled over and went to sleep.

Street of Rogues Ch. 12—Days of Blunder

Rated PG (language, situations)

(Previous Chapter, 11—Chuckie’s Sweet Sixteenth)

Chapter 12—Days of Blunder

 

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.—Albert Einstein.

 

I managed to creep home without incident, taking as many side streets as I could and going four blocks out of my way to avoid the obscenely large 112th Precinct. After that obstacle and Queens Boulevard, it was all downhill. I could afford to dream a little on the homestretch, to make plans. It was June, which meant we had all Summer to unload the stuff, eat in restaurants, go to concerts… Then? If I saved enough money I could take a red-eye to London and hitchhike my way through Europe to Paris, the city of my dream-to-come-true in the land of Rue du Rogues—my kingdom within, although I didn’t verbalize it as such at the time. It was more a feeling than anything else that always accompanied the memory of my dream—one that promised freedom, love and happiness.

Temptation increased in direct proportion to the potential accessibility of the idea. For the first time, I was in a position to make a dramatic impact on my own life rather than being at the mercy of some clown (other than myself). Even though I was fifteen, I could be captain of my own ship, setting sail and steering my own rudder to places unknown. I would have to wait and see how much cash unfolded in this deal before making any concrete plans. I’d probably have to get my parents to sign something in order to get a passport, but I’d deal with that at the appropriate time, or forge it if I had to.

News of a successful haul like ours traveled fast in our world. The word was all over town before I even took to the streets again, which was thirty-six hours later. To say that I was mobbed for drugs would be an exaggeration, but there were times when mini-mobs crowded around to buy and barter. Before long I was wheeling, dealing and trading with people from several neighborhoods. A lot of them I had never laid eyes on before, not once. Even an out- of-state acquaintance of mine got wind of the haul and approached me to front Blue Cheer acid for him. It added a little more variety to the product line, so I agreed and took sixty tabs to unload.

The conversations went something like this: “A hundred downs? Twenty bucks. I don’t have them on me though. A cab? Sure, if you pay for it. Want some acid to wake up with? No?” On an average night I cleared eighty to a hundred bucks. Stashed at home, a quarter-ounce of black, tarheel hash waited for me like a nest egg—a feeding spot for his highness. It got to the point that I couldn’t pull the goods out of my pockets without money falling out. Chuckie and I ate lobster at The Stratton on a regular basis, and fat burgers at the Hofbrau for lunch. We’d order pitchers of beer and toast ourselves into a drunken state of revelry, then head off to the piano bars in the West Village and McSorleys for more beer.

I wouldn’t say selling stolen drugs was all gravy. It was accompanied by the paranoia that comes with the territory. At night, when I couldn’t get a cab and was left to meander home on foot, I’d have to watch over my shoulder for unfriendlies as if I was listening for an avalanche. My instincts told me to lie low, to blend in, if that was possible. I kept expecting Miller to show up around every corner, waiting for me, and it wouldn’t be with spaghetti hanging out of his mouth this time. For over a month it went like that. Life was great, we had everything. Rather than sell all the acid I was fronted, the Blue Cheer, I bought it for use at concerts. Life was a smorgasbord of parties, pills, pot, acid and pleasure.

Money bulging out of our pockets, we were in a hurry to piss it all away. We took the elevated line to Coney Island and spent all day there—walking the moving stairs, falling down in the revolving tunnel, bumping the shit out of each other in the bumper cars, rolling skeeballs, trying to be the last one on the giant turntable in the funhouse, eating candy apples and foot- longs smothered in onions that you tasted for three days afterward, and cruising humanity on the beach. We watched the little kids dive for change as it rained down from peoples’ pockets under the Cyclone’s most terrifying curve, the same thing we were doing only the year before. Now that change was small pickings.

On a lark, I had a palm reader look at my hand. She told me I would have three children, that’s all I remember. After that, I didn’t hear a word. The thought stabbed at me. Three kids? Me? Adulthood couldn’t be that close.

On the subway home, with our eyes swimming in ketchup, ordinary people waved fan-like in their seats while the city screeched by on the turns. One dreamlike experience followed the next like glassy-eyed commuters through turnstiles. Time waited out the summer, also on vacation. Billboards smiled specifically at us. The city sang a life of its own and we were caught up in it to the tune of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.

We bought the barflies drinks and stayed until the bartenders threw us out. These were times of much spilling out onto the streets and eruptions into ridiculous song and buffoonery. We laughed until we barfed and then we barfed some more; until it came out our noses and I thought for sure I was gonna spit up my stomach and die. In the Bowery after a particularly hard night of drinking and smoking, I was on my hands and knees in the gutter, barfing again. I heard a rattling, scraping sound, like metal rollerskates on cement, and saw a guy flying down the sidewalk toward me on a dolly. He had no legs, but pushed himself with his hands; and at a good clip, too. He went by at eye level, said, “Hiya, Mac!” and kept going. The sound of rollerskates faded rapidly.

I mentally took stock of myself. That guy probably has his shit together more than I do. Speaking of shit, was I needing to fart just then? I sent out a little tester. It was shit. My whole life had evolved to this wonderful moment of now, and all I had to show for it was a fudgy, ass-crack brownie.

Soon it would be time to go back to school and the summer of ’70 was officially over. I checked my pockets after the three of us lined up at Sammy’s bar and produced three twenty- dollar bills, along with a few ones mashed in-between. Normally this would seem like a lot of money but now I felt broke again, and depressed. After all that, this was my savings. The stash was gone. I held the crumpled cash glumly in one hand, checking it one last time for any pills that might have gotten mixed up with it. Chuckie and Lewis were in the same boat. We nursed our drafts at Sammy’s bar, not saying much.

I was pissed at myself. “Damn, sixty bucks don’t seem like much right now.”

Forever the positive one, Lewis looked into his beer and with a determination born to be wild, said: “It’s time for another heist.”

With that, my Rue du Dreams reverted to old schemes.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Summer turned to Autumn, then Winter. The next school year was a course in ‘Stoo-pid.’

Lewis decided that he and I would go back to the clothing store we noticed during the drugstore robbery in search of a new wardrobe. It was cold the night we busted through the bathroom window and crawled inside. The alarm had gone off but we couldn’t hear it because it was frozen. It hung outside and hummed like chattering teeth. I noticed it as I made my way to the front of the store to check out the window merchandise. What’s that buzzing? I wondered. Then I realized it was the alarm, trying desperately to un-freeze. A cop car rolled by, its windows thankfully shut against the cold.

“We better get the fuck outta here,” I said to Lewis, explaining why. We grabbed a few dozen pairs of brown corduroy bell-bottoms and ran all the way to Lewis’s place, more than a mile away.

Once we were safely in his basement, we tried them on for size. None of them fit. They were all too tight and too short. We never wore shorts, and it didn’t seem worth it to make them into six-dozen pairs of corduroy cutoffs to try and sell to gay hookers at Times Square. I started to laugh as Lewis stood there in his underwear trying on the last pair just to make sure, but it was all a big joke by then. (Advice: if you’re going to steal clothes, try them on first.)

Mother! showed up at the top of the stairs. “Lewis? Is that you? What are you doing down there?” Her foot appeared as she made her descent. The stolen bell-bottoms lay in a dead, mangled heap in the center of the floor—a mass graveyard where brown corduroys go to die. The pile of disheveled pants stood three-feet high. You couldn’t miss it.

We froze.

Lewis stood with one leg in his pants and started to tip forward. “Shit! Gettum-inda- closet!” There was no time for that. I dove for the closet—leaving him there to explain why he just crash-landed on a heap of brown corduroy bell-bottoms in his underwear.

“Don’t come down, I’m changing!” he pleaded in a vain, desperate attempt to stall her. I slapped my hand over my mouth to muffle the laughter (my automatic response for all things uncomfortable), and cringed in anticipation.

“Lewis? Why are you in your underw… What are all these pants!?”

“Mother!” (He always called her Mother!)

“Where did you get them?”

Here it comes, I thought, the only possible answer is

“I found them, by the dumpster!”

Bingo! But stoo-pid. That was what I would call a stupid night—more so for Lewis than for me, but still. The only one who made out good in that heist was the owner of the clothing store. I was told by Sis’s boyfriend (who still worked there) that he cleared off the rest of the shelves for himself and his employees before calling the insurance company to claim the loss. Everyone but us got lots of new clothes. Sis got a leather handbag, which was more than I got. (Much later, Lewis’s younger brother was told about the corduroy episode and decided: Hey, that’s a pretty good idea! It was still a bad idea. He followed in his brother’s fingerprints and got caught. That clothing store was a regular family outing for those two—a real fun center. In a way, little brother’s added episode would make this two stupid nights in one.)

By the winter of ’71, the park had thinned out dramatically. Some people enlisted, got their license to kill, and went to Nam. The drugs were cheap there. Another score of poor saps were getting drafted or fleeing to Canada as a result. The recommended drug to take for the Army physical was downs. Sis’s boyfriend fell asleep during the hearing test with his finger on the buzzer and was declared 4F. Unfit for service, the lucky bastard.

A guy we called Big Bobby joined up because he didn’t want his younger brother to get drafted; the Army wouldn’t take your last boy back then. Lured by readily available drugs overseas, little brother enlisted anyway, so Big Bobby shot a hole through his own foot to get back stateside—where he hobbled around on crutches for a while before they sent him back to the jungles. Meanwhile, little brother had been diagnosed with ‘desk feet,’ and wasn’t infantry material after all. So it goes… We all had stupid days.

Many were busted for one reason or another and fled the state, most going to Florida and California. Some went to California to be-in at the love-in and wallow in free sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. Some even went off to college, mostly party schools upstate.

Billy Spivak, the only guy I knew with an actual pair of blue suede shoes, was tricked into going to Spain for a ‘vacation’ by his parents. We never heard from him again.

Some couldn’t freeload anymore and had to get real jobs.

Little Levine was shot dead by an off-duty cop he had antagonized and then threatened. They even ran a photo of him in the Long Island Press, lying prone on our handball court. Technically, that was a stupid morning for Levine—his last.

Jeff Stark was found stabbed to death in the old World’s Fair grounds, where we had gone to see Led Zeppelin and Iron Butterfly concerts; and where Billy King climbed the unisphere to bring thorazine to some poor, tripping sap stuck halfway up it so he could get down and on with his stupid night. They said it probably took Jeff two or three hours to die. We all knew who did it, too, on a drug deal gone sour.

Ronny Rosenthal got a mysterious bullet to the brain. He could still walk around with it lodged permanently in there, but he wasn’t the same.

I can’t remember one overdose that someone didn’t pull out of. If anything, we knew how to get stoned without killing ourselves.

There was, however, one addition to the park clientele. Margaret was pregnant. All I could think of was her father padding my shoes with cement and tossing me over a bridge into the cold, dark Hudson when he found out. I’m afraid I didn’t handle the situation very well.

“We can still get an abortion, right?” Which was less of a question than a hope on my part.

Margaret knew about as much as I did. “I don’t know…” She stared past me, through big, blue, red-rimmed eyes. She was in shock.

Take birth control seriously, or be prepared to make a hard decision—at the end of which there’s no guarantee of happiness. I should have asked her what she wanted to do instead of assuming she would get an abortion, especially since I knew how much she loved kids. For a while we even had a name picked out, but ultimately opted on the side of reason. Margaret was sixteen, her father was Sicilian—we didn’t want to die. Not knowing what to do, I confided in my parents. At the time you could still get an abortion for three hundred bucks in a hospital downtown and go home the next day. Ma drove us, and I felt stoo-pid. According to the palm reader at Coney Island, I had two more kids left to come.

Looking back on it now, I am conflicted. On the one hand, I miss the child who could have been. On the other, I’m happy with my life the way it is, so who’s to say this might not have been a disaster and heartbreak for all concerned? Perhaps this defines me as a pessimist, I don’t know. At the time, I had no such foresight about how I might feel later.

Winter didn’t help; it contributed to our downfall. The only warm place that would put up with us without spending any money was the local pool hall—a denizen of junkies, thieves, sharks, pushers, pimps, freaks, psychos, armed robbers and killers. All of us went there except Oscar, who had been caught robbing the till on one of his days of blunder and was promptly banned. He hid under a pool table when they were closing, then cracked the safe—a skill he perfected on his old man’s, the one with the stamp collection he used to have before Oscar pawned it. The plan was to stay there all night, then mingle with the crowd when the place opened and simply walk out. Once the proprietor found that he’d been robbed of his cash, he couldn’t open the doors that morning. When the cops arrived, they found Oscar under a pool table and before he could say oh, stoo-pid me, they hustled him to the precinct. The owner of the pool hall decided not to press charges. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Oscar’s last stupid day.

Oscar usually waited outside wearing his thin leather jacket. He’d freeze his ass off, but he’d also be first in line when the blue balloon came up the subway steps—indicating that Blue-Morphan Fred was open for business. If we were lucky he didn’t bring his girlfriend with him, who was just about the ugliest person I’d ever seen—of either sex. A hooker, we all knew her daughter, Sally Syph, who could give you a hickie just standing next to you. You’d find it later on your stomach or under an armpit and wonder how it got there.

We spent a lot more time waiting around for that pharmaceutical morphine than getting high on it. If we were lucky enough to cop some, we hightailed it to a safe apartment stairwell and broke out the gimmicks: the bottlecap to cook in, some water from the basement sink (preferably clean), cotton from a cigarette filter, a belt to get those veins to stick up, the stuff, matches to boil it down, paperclip wire to hold the heating bottlecap and a set of works you hoped had a clean, sharp needle that didn’t go pop when you stuck it in. We used either a regular plunger-type syringe or the makeshift nose dropper and pacifier bulb to boot it in. I hit the mainline on my second attempt and never missed again—a benefit of good eyesight and wiry arms. Afterward we might have a snowball fight, or simply hang around on the streets with our jackets open to the cold air.

When Fred and his balloon didn’t show, we sampled the smack. One day a dime bag would set you straight, the next day a nickel would knock you on your ass. That meant you had to sample it first, if you were patient enough, which left twice as many tracks in your arm. I never liked to shoot anything alone. Two people were safer; it gave you a better chance of getting an air bubble out of your vein before it reached your heart and killed you.

Oddly one night, when we were feeling particularly jonesy, it was Kleinberg’s father who saved our lives. The Kleinbergs had gone to play bingo and, more importantly, big brother Ira wasn’t home. It started out innocently enough with some barbituates and beer, but that wasn’t good enough. We had to snort the goofballs, so they’d come on quicker. Problem with that, Kleinberg found out, is that it’s like lighting a butane lighter up your nose, so we decided the best way was to shoot them. We’ll ram them right up mainstreet even if they don’t cook—which they didn’t, not very well at least. That is, if they don’t dissolve into liquid it’s impossible to shoot congealed lumps straight into your vein. We tried anyway. The first one foamed up, ruined. The second try produced a liquid when we coaxed it over the fire slowly and used it fast, before it turned to whipped cream.

Somehow we must have decided it’d be a good idea to nod out and die in the living room. The Kleinbergs came home and saw their fuckup son unconscious on the floor with his face resting in a cupcake (the kind with the white squiggle down the middle), and an abscess the size of an ostrich egg already turning black on his arm. Closest to the door, suddenly I was getting the bum’s rush and landing on my ass outside in the hallway. Mr. K. turned and went back for Chuckie, who quickly whipped out his knife. I remember thinking how glad I was that Kleinberg’s older brother, Ira, wasn’t home for the festivities. Mr. K. pulled up short at the sight of the shiny shiv. I watched him through the open door.

Chuckie waved it menacingly in his direction. “Don’t touch me, man! I ain’t bullshittin’!” Oh great, Chuckie, antagonize him some more… I thought, wondering if Kleinberg’s old man might simply pull out a pistol and put an end to this. He was from the South Bronx; this was just like the good ol’ days for him.

“Soooo, ya wanna play with knives, do ya?” he yelled, flying through the dining room toward the kitchen. Chuckie took that cue to show his heels to the door, while Mr. K. fumbled in a drawer for just the right knife to hack us into little, Hoffa- sized pieces. As we tumbled down the staircase together, Mr. K. came out brandishing a meat cleaver even Tarentino would have thought was overkill. We bolted and didn’t look back.

They managed to revive Kleinberg at the hospital; but that abscess… very nasty. With that under his belt, he was out on the streets again in two days looking for more. None of us, including Kleinberg himself, had seen Ira since the unfortunate encounter with Mr. K. The three of us nearly ran into him at the pizza place, but recognized his huge mass from half a block away and kept our distance. Kleinberg, showing some real backbone and pluck, went up to his brother while Chuckie and I hung back, far enough to flee at so much as a hiccup from him in our direction.

“Yo, I—” Little Brother managed to say. Ira’s arm was a blur. His upper body hardly moved as a vicious, open-handed clubbing came out of nowhere. With a whipping smack it actually lifted Kleinberg parallel to the ground before he crashed to the sidewalk like a piano dropped from a crane. Chuckie and I winced. We could see stars spreading copiously around poor Kleinberg’s head, and little birdies. In real life, only the crickets spoke.

While Kleinberg attempted to stand, Ira looked over murderously at Chuckie and me. From somewhere deep under unforgiving, malevolent brows—a searing, dangerous glare—he pointed at Chuckie and growled: “If you’re ever within arms reach, I’ll kill you.” It was plain and that simple. I knew pulling a knife on Mr. K. would backfire. Then he looked at me and just shook his head. I was poised on the balls of my feet, halfway turned and ready to haul-ass. Ira didn’t have anything further to add. I would have moved to Zamboanga had he told me to.

Kleinberg rubbed a huge red hand mark that covered the side of his face, neck and collarbone—but stood his ground. “Thanks, Ira,” he said. I was relieved that he was okay, and even more relieved he was taking Ira’s attention off Chuckie and me.

“How can you be so fuckin’ stoo-pid!?” Ira said to his flaming-red-haired brother. I took it as a rhetorical question. We waited for what was sure to be Kleinberg’s lame reply.

“So, this wouldn’t be a good time to ask you to lend me some money?” I closed my eyes, not wanting to watch anymore. Kleinberg was a little too quick for his older, more massive brother. The next thing I knew, we were all running for our lives down the block with Big Ira on our heels.

During the winter of this discontent, I managed to do something smart. When Sis’s boyfriend thrust Henry Miller’s Black Spring in my hands, I read it. From that moment on, I had a goal to become a writer. Though my habits didn’t change, my outlook was starting to. I tried to sit up and take note of all the stupidity in my life, but couldn’t seem to do much about. I had a mental addiction to getting high, and it was sure to lead me by the nose to places far worse than where my otherwise ordinary, middle-class life would have.

Street of Rogues Ch. 15—Transcendental Meditation

15—Transcendental Meditation

 

The crux of the biscuit, is the apostrophe.—Frank Zappa

 

January 1971. Ma parked the car and we walked down Bleecker Street toward the Transcendental Meditation (TM) Center. I carried my flowers, handkerchief, and fruit as offerings of thanks to the great line of teachers who had preserved the knowledge of the proper application of mantras, of meditation. I remembered the mugging I took on Bleecker Street at the hands of the not-so- Christ-like pupils attending ‘Our Lady of Pompeii’ Catholic school, and replaced that image with the Peter Max serenity-head floating above the clouds as we negotiated our way through enormous piles of dog shit. I was going to learn the practice of Transcendental Meditation, as brought to you by Guru Dev and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi—Great Teacher Mahesh; Paul McCartney’s Fool On The Hill in union with life. All I had to do was give my ‘initiator’ the offerings and he (or she) would do the rest, I was told.

With Pop’s blessing and my acquiescence, Ma dragged me into Manhattan to learn. “It’s good,” they both said. “You should do it.” That was the extent of my knowledge as I walked in the door. That, and the fact that Peter Max meditated. That’s all I needed to know. If TM inspired the serenity-head, I wanted in. I was also told to remain off drugs for fifteen days prior to learning. It lasted one day. The night before, I shot a fat tab of blue morphan—the Blues, as we referred to them.

The learning experience was painless and quick. Jonathan, the initiator (who seemed a bit spaced), performed the puja ceremony of thanks to Guru Dev and the tradition of saintly people before him. Then he told me my mantra. I was to repeat this quietly until he asked me to close my eyes and think it. When thoughts come, he said, never mind them. Once you remember to think your mantra, begin again effortlessly, until another thought comes.

That’s how you meditate. There’s no strain to concentrate on a mantra—which is essentially a sound without meaning, or a sound whose effects are known—and no position to assume other than sitting comfortably. Repeating the mantra effortlessly calms the mind. When the mind is calm, the body follows. At the bottom of it all is a place without thought or mantra, but it is aware. Shakespeare described the feeling in two words: To be…

Brainwaves went coherent… Yeah, that must be it! If I could just be, I wouldn’t be mentally in another space and time, stressing about this or that and always wanting. I could appreciate now for what it is. It seemed to contradict itself, this feeling of wanting to not want anymore, but was self-perpetuated by the vision of my own head floating above the clouds.

The following three nights I went back to the center for further information about what I was doing, and to make sure I was doing it right. Basically, if meditating gave you a headache you were either straining or not taking enough time before getting up. Using too much concentration was never a problem for me, so I was always comfortable. And, I loved the feeling I got while meditating. It was a sinking feeling, a very pleasant one. When that mental dive to still waters took place, my body felt totally relaxed. Afterward, I felt clearer—as if my vision was better. Other than knowing my mantra and how to use it, I didn’t have to learn anything or study or go into seclusion or any of that. I just had to do it.

I meditated regularly for a few weeks, but before giving it a chance for the effects to accumulate, my meditations became intermittent. There’s no denying I liked the way it felt, but the results were too subtle for me to fully appreciate at the time, especially with my lifestyle of mixing narcotics and alcohol. When I meditated, I fell asleep—which may have been what I needed, but wasn’t what I wanted.

I didn’t care about their philosophy of life, their respect for the Vedic tradition, their holiness, reverence, cleanliness, their incense or their rice. I just wanted my head to be like the one in the Peter Max poster—floating above worries, paranoia and addictions. When that didn’t materialize after a few meditations, I cast it onto the back burner. Within a year, I would become the youngest teacher of TM.

Street of Rogues Ch. 11—Chuckie’s Sweet Sixteenth

(Previous Chapter: The Chinese Bar)

Street of Rogues Ch. 11—Chuckie’s Sweet Sixteenth

 

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley.
—Robert Burns.

 

In my case, it was more a matter of running with the pack than it was any real desperation for drug money. Rumor had it that there was as much fun to be had burglarizing drug stores as there was profit in getting away with it. Case in point, the wild pill fight that took place during one of the burglaries. Wow, that sounds like fun! Plus, it would address the very heart of our daily reason for living, which was getting high.

While we panhandled and schemed for loose change, there were pots of pills in the local drugstores. It made sense to skip the middle-man and go right to the pharmaceutical source. Even a modest haul of unidentifiable pills could be bartered and exchanged for other drugs. And cash.

We were inspired by the challenge and its potential rewards, which could be a veritable windfall of pills and other assorted paraphernalia, such as syringes and needles—maybe even cigarettes. The stores were insured, so we thought of breaking and entering as a victimless crime. We’d rob from the rich and keep it because we were broke. It’d be our own version of ‘Robbing the Hood,’ and it put a twinkle in our eyes.

Chuckie, Lewis and I met up at the park the following night on Chuckie’s sixteenth birthday, stoked and primed to plunder. Chuckie wore all black. With his knitted hat, he reminded me of Michael Parks’s Then Came Bronson character from TV, the guy who aimlessly rode his bike across the country. I wore a navy blue, double-breasted suit jacket I had picked up at a second-hand store for seventy-five cents. In the forties it was a nice suit, and had lots of deep pockets. The old man who gave it up probably never expected Bozo would wear it on his way to a drugstore heist in 1970. Lewis wore what he always did, which was no more than a long-sleeve shirt, pants and sneakers. He slicked his hair back, ready to go. I cracked my knuckles and twisted at the hip, popping a few vertebrae. I was loose, alert, and amped-up to… Do what, exactly?

“How, exactly, do we break in?” I asked them both. Throw a brick through the window?

“Ready?” That was Lewis’s answer. They were ready, so I guessed I was, too. Lewis led the way.

For our first target we chose the biggest drugstore in the area—one that used to be a bank, in fact. I was skeptical but enthusiastic. We headed over and approached our targeted Bucket-o- Drugs from the dark side of the commuter railroad tracks, where Lewis mentioned the customary (though needless) warning about the third rail—the hot one that could toast your body into a smoking cinder and turn your hair blond. I had been putting coins on those tracks for years as a kid, running around trying to find them once a train had run over them. We had all heard hundreds of gory stories about the poor schmucks who were fried stepping on the hot rail. Chuckie told us about a drunk he heard of who pissed on one and got electrocuted through his dick. The tale was always followed by a long moment of silence.

What a way to go!

We climbed up a ventilator shaft to the roof, passing a window on the way up.

“Hey, I think this is the clothing store where my sister’s boyfriend works. They got some good shit in there,” I said.

“Some other night,” said Lewis, foretelling the future and beckoning us from above.

Once we were on the roof, we made our way across its shadows toward the drugstore half a block away at the corner. Lewis and Chuckie were lookouts while I went in for a closer inspection of what appeared to be a hatch. I had to climb to a lower section of the roof to check it out, and sure enough, it was a hatch door. It sat between two ventilators, semi- sheltering it in shadows from the lights on the street.

Lewis instructed me, “Pull it off.” I held my breath and lifted, slowly, ready to bolt with the first note of alarm. There was a momentary resistance as I tugged at it, a little snap, then it came free—dangling a thin, loose wire. I listened like a gazelle at the water hole, straining with every billimeter of both ear drums for any alarming sounds, perfectly still, not even breathing. There were no alarms that we could hear, so I took a peek inside and whoops! There were moving shadows down there! Quickly checking my watch, it was 11:00 pm on the nose.

I fumbled to replace the hatch cover. “Shit!” I stage-whispered, “Fuckin’ place is still open!”

“SHHHHH!” Lewis shushed from his lookout twenty or so paces away. I froze again, exposed on open terrain. Now I could hear bells coming from the street, faint from up there but sounding like they must be loud down below. No one had to say Run for it! Christ! as the three of us sprinted away like a covey of exposed quail.

How can we be so fuckin’ stupid as to break into an open store!? We dove off the roof at full tilt, slammed through the bushes, dashed over the railroad tracks like football players on tire drills, ran down the steps from the train station and around the corner, where we skidded on the brakes and strolled casually—idle boys out for a cakewalk, trying not to look sweaty and out of breath. We lit smokes, whistled affectedly and looked as innocent as possible as we approached the front of the store, the alarm still blaring.

Lewis hunched over and loped with his hands covering his ears. “The bells! The bells!” he said, as if Quasimodo impersonations might somehow clear us of all suspicion.

We could see two guys in the store presumably talking about it as we continued past and crossed the street to hang out in front of the pizza place, which wasn’t unusual, but not particularly inconspicuous. Meanwhile, one of the drug store guys disappeared into the back of the store. A minute later, the bells and sirens stopped. Then the lights went off, but we could still see him come back out front and chat with the other guy for a while. Apparently coming to a conclusion about what to do, they left the building. Locking it up, they just walked away.

“Figure they shut it off for the night?” we wondered among ourselves, strolling in a tight knot. There was only one way to find out…

We waited over an hour, cruising back and forth to check for cops or someone they may have sent to fix the alarm, but there was nothing; no one showed. Grabbing a slice of pizza before they closed, we reconnoitered the place some more with pizza juices dripping down our sleeves. We waited patiently, biding our time. We had all night if necessary, though I’d have to call my parents and let them know I was all right. Pretty soon we reckoned the place was wide open, beckoning to us like a native girl in front of a grass shack.

“It seems, gentlemen, and I use the term advisedly…” I pronounced, “…that the coast is as clear as it’s gonna get. Shall we do a little shopping?”

Chuckie rubbed his hands together. Lewis’s eyes were wide open and gleaming. This was the ultimate pot at the end of a gritty city rainbow. We had caught our leprechaun and were as prepared to let go as a pit bull might feel about a favorite body part.

I still couldn’t believe it could be this easy. How can we be so fuckin’ brilliant as to break into a store that’s already open!?

We went back, quietly and without banter this time, until we were in position —the three of us crowding the hatch as if it were a meeting on the pitcher’s mound.

Lewis offered some last-minute instructions. He hadn’t done this before either, but obviously researched it. “Watch out for tripwires and electric eyes. Oh, and cameras.” He looked at me, “You stay here and lookout, we’ll pass the shit up to you.”

“Right, got it.” Let them do all the work and I’ll just sit here nervously in the barely concealing shadows of the roof, from where I could see into the windows of the upstairs apartments across the street. I’ll just hunch here and try to look like a misplaced gargoyle.

Popping the hatch, its puny lock dangling along with the alarm wire, they made their way down the convenient ladder leading to pay dirt. “Stay low,” I whispered after them. Then they were the moving shadows below, friendlies at work.

The wait was interminable. They were down there a good eighteen minutes without a word. I needed a smoke badly but didn’t dare light up. Instead, I fidgeted with my lucky lighter, reading the slogan again. Life. To see life, to see the world, to eyewitness great events week after week. 

Another five minutes passed before Lewis finally poked his head out of the hatch and took a sniff around before climbing out. Chuckie quickly followed, and neither was carrying anything. I didn’t have to ask; something went wrong. “Can’t find the good shit,” Lewis said, wiping his hands. He was put-out and irritated.

Chuckie wouldn’t give up the chase until it played out its destiny, good or bad. “There’s a metal cabinet that’s locked,” he said. “It must be where they keep the good shit.”

“How big is it?” I asked.

Too fuckin’ big, that’s how big,” Lewis said, but he had an idea. “Van Heflin lives down the block. I know his old man has an acetylene torch. We’ll burn it open!”

“Torch it open?” I hazarded a wild guess, “That’ll take forever!” I could picture him with the face guard and leather apron going to work down there—a giant sparkler in the shadows.

“Got any better ideas?” I didn’t, after crossing off bashing it in with rocks such as cavemen might, or tipping it over and jumping up and down on it like chimpanzees.

Chuckie and I waited across the street while Lewis pebbled the correct window. Van Heflin lived in one of those upstairs apartments above the stores. His old man was a boozer and beat the crap out of him if he even suspected he was fucking up. Van Heflin, in turn, beat the shit out of anybody who might have given the old man that notion, so we retreated to the rear and let Lewis handle it. Van Heflin didn’t have weights to work out with, so he bench-pressed his living-room radiator fifty times whenever he walked through the front door. That sounded inconvenient, but it succeeded in giving him a body of steel. Eventually, the big, ruddy bulk of Van Heflin emerged from the front door, quietly carrying his shoes and a crowbar.

Lewis explained the deal to us. “I had to let him in on what we’re doing, but he doesn’t want a full split. He just wants something for the use of his crowbar. We’ll throw him a bottle of goofballs and he’ll be happy.” Van Heflin came up behind him, still adjusting his shoes.

Chuckie and I greeted him in unison. “Yo—”

“Let’s go, man. I gotta get back before my old man sees I’m gone.” We crept back again, professionals this time. Now it was personal. We couldn’t let this opportunity slip away into what-ifs. With the hatch away, and Van Heflin backing us up as lookout on the train platform well above the roof, down we went into the shadows. It didn’t take long this time. After Lewis notched the cabinet with the crowbar, Chuckie grabbed the door and ripped it open with his bare hands—proving an impatient adrenaline rush is more powerul than a iron rod. Inside, the thing was crammed full of the good shit. Big, bright bottles fairly sparkled under their own power in the dim streetlight and the shadows it cast inside. Seconals, Tuinals, Nembutals, Phenobarbitals—all the -als were represented, a great congress of them. There were legions of fresh pills—whole batallions of Dexedrines, Miltowns, and what we called Cartwheels and Black Beauties, shining behind color-coded labels.

“Resplendent Drugs,” I would have called the photograph, had I been able to take a picture. We giggled in awe, if that’s possible. It was beautiful. Before long all of them were being hastily swept into three large grocery bags that were open at the top and overflowing. I was stuffing the leftovers into every pocket I had until we literally had all we could carry up the ladder, a conga line of pills and other saleable pharmaceutical stuff.

I caught Lewis topping off his sack with a box of surgical gloves. “What the hell are you going to do with those?”

Chuckie snickered. “Sell ’em to a proctologist?” His mother was a nurse, so he knew what he was talking about. I had to gather the meaning from the context of his sick grin.

I laughed. “Maybe he uses them himself.” Lewis also had a box of cotton. I was pretty sure we didn’t need it. The cotton out of a cigarette butt was good enough to cook smack in.

Chuckie agreed. “He’s right. Lose the cotton, but keep the gimmicks!” There would be no argument from me about the syringes and needles; these were the finely-honed .22 pointers that went in so nicely. Having a ready supply of works sometimes bought you into a share with someone else’s stash. These were pharmaceutical grade, sterilized needles and, as such, much easier than having to put one together on your own with an eye-dropper and a baby pacifier. Besides that, anything you could offer a cranky junkie was just cause for carrying it around. It was always best to get on their good side from the onset. We looked around for smokes but they didn’t have any—which was just as well as we would have had to carry them in our mouths or smoke them all before we left.

“Let’s get the fuck outta here.” I split, teetering with my bag up the ladder. Climbing out, I looked for Van Heflin, gave him the thumbs up, and he disappeared into the bushes near the tracks to wait for us while we made our way across the roof. I stayed to grab the bags from above while Lewis and Chuckie came topside.

Lewis neatly put the hatch back in place, “So it’s not so obvious.”

“I think it’s pretty fuckin’ obvious already, man,” I told him.

Lewis looked almost offended. “From the outside.”

“Oh.” In case the cops decided to patrol up there, I guessed. I gestured grandly ahead with a wave of my hand, employing an old Groucho line, “Lead on, Kapellmeister, my regiment leaves at dawn! Ladies first.” Lewis smiled and got going.

We sloped along, trying to blend with the shadows. Ahead of me, Lewis picked up the pace once we got into more open territory. We were halfway across the roof to the jump-off spot and there were still no sirens or alarms going off, or red lights flashing on the street. I was beginning to feel like we’d make it, and what a fuckin’ haul! It was far more than I’d ever seen in one place, practically dump trucks full of the stuff! I tried a rapid calculation of how much money we held bouncing in our hands at twenty bucks per hundred pills, but failed. It was inconceivable, like trying to guess the number of jelly beans in three huge jars.

As we hit wide open territory, starting to giggle and laugh outright now, a sense of urgency overcame us and what started out as a slippery getaway soon turned into an unruly rout off the roof. The three of us tore across the rough tar-paper in peals of laughter. Bottles were trying to jump out of the bags and my pockets. I held tightly onto the top and bottom of my shopping sack, determined to not lose a single one, running like Groucho Marx. I looked over at Lewis just in time to see him kick his front foot with his back foot, tripping himself. I watched, horrified, as he hit the scratchy tar paper, where he stuck, with his feet falling over his head in some weird spider-like position. Hundreds of white pills scattered fan-like in front of him. Bottles rolled everywhere, but only the Carbotrals busted.

“Holy shit!” I said, stopping to help him get all the pills back in the bag, even the spray of Carbotrals that were lying so brightly against the black roof, and boom, just like that we were off and running again, trying to catch up to Chuckie waiting on an AC unit near the roof to help us get our booty down.

“You okay?” I asked while running, trying unsuccessfully not to laugh. I knew at least nothing was broken, which was good because I didn’t want to have to use him as a dogsled in order to carry him and all the goods to safety. Chuckie was belly laughing as he helped us down, trying not to tumble into the bushes. By the time we were back on the ground below the railroad tracks, we were in hysterics. To this day I can’t forget the sight of Lewis coming to such an abrupt halt on his chest. Even he was laughing, while checking for scrapes and skidmarks.

We made our way up the hill to the tracks, resting on a rail while waiting for Van Heflin to find us. With our hands on our knees, huffing for air, smiling and laughing between deep breaths, Van Heflin showed up and stood with his eyes and mouth wide open, staring at the haul.

Lewis handed him his crowbar, then fished out a giant bottle of three-grain Tuinals and held it up to him. There were three hundred pills in there, the best goofball money could buy and thieves could steal. “That okay with you guys?” he said, respecting his partners in crime by asking. Considering that it hardly made a dent in what was left in the bags, as well as all our pockets, Chuckie and I agreed magnanimously.

Van Heflin took the pills like they were a Xmas present. He smiled real big, turned and bolted for home. With a couple of those in his bloodstream, his old man could beat on him all day and he’d hardly notice.

First, we needed to organize ourselves. We stuffed bottles overflowing from the bags into more concealed places on our persons; bulking up by sticking them up our sleeves and down our pants, with some small ones in our socks. One friendly slap on the arm and I would be digging glass out of my armpits for a month. I felt extra vulnerable and slow to move. You never knew who you might run into in the streets at that time of night. Nobody good, most likely. There would be some embarrassing questions, some frisking, some running….

Looking either comical or deformed, depending on your outlook, we realized two loopholes in our non-plan. First, how do we get to where we’re going carrying three huge bags with pills without looking so guilty, and secondly, by the way, where are we going with all this shit? We had to sit down in the open somewhere just to see what was there and divvy it up so we all had the same variety. But where? Only my room in the basement was big enough to possibly get away with it, but I didn’t want to take the chance. Besides, I didn’t really have the facilities necessary to lay it all out in the care and luxury it deserved. I also didn’t want to get inconveniently busted by my parents and end up blowing the haul down the toilet as a result.

Lewis snapped his fingers and stood up. “I got it, let’s go.”

Chuckie and I looked at him without moving. “Where?” we asked.

“We’ll go to Jill’s apartment.” It took a few seconds for it to sink in which Jill he was talking about.

“Ha—”

I interrupted Chuckie, “Jill? You mean that big-assed junkie with the crazy, four-year-old kid? The one whose husband keeps sending her stereo stuff from the PX in Nam that she keeps hocking for cash? The guy she never knows when he might come home? The Jill that—”

“She’s harmless,” Lewis said. “Got any better ideas?”

“—lives two miles from here, across the boulevard?” Queens Boulevard wasn’t just any regular boulevard, it was eight lanes of concrete you couldn’t get across on one green light unless you were running. I’d seen many an old lady dehydrate out there on a hot day before making it across. It was a windy no-man’s land, with cars whizzing by just inches from your kneecaps.

“Look, we’ll take the side streets after we get across the boulevard,” he argued, which was the only way to get there anyhow. Chuckie and I knew how to get there. Lewis was just pushing his case, and there simply wasn’t an alternative.

“The sooner we get there the better,” I said.

Chuckie jiggled a couple Tuinals in his hand and grinned. “And the sooner we find something to drink, the better.” We left the tracks and hit the bricks.

Stopping at Frankie the Bum’s favorite bar, we sent Chuckie in for a dixie cup of water so we could gulp down our sedatives. Lewis and I hung outside on the boulevard trying to look small, nonchalant, and nondescript—which was of course impossible with my big, very-chalant and descriptive hair.

Lewis sensed my unease. “Y’know, cops wouldn’t expect people like us to be out in the open—”

“Yeah, it’s too fuckin’ stoo-pid!” I said. We laughed at ourselves. Cops were only part of our worries anyway.

“No, really! It’s too obvious!” he said, as if that were a point in our favor.

“Most people would have at least cab fare,” I said, lamenting our non-afterplan some more.

Chuckie emerged from the bar carrying a cup of water. “Cheers! Ha!” he said, handing it over to our outstretched hands.

There were two ways to get across Queens Boulevard. We ruled out the underground tunnel because of its limited escape routes. We could get trapped down there by cops, or worse. The other option was crossing all eight lanes above ground with the green lights. As we waited for the light to change in our favor, I was praying we wouldn’t have to run too fast—not after the way Lewis handled the roof. I didn’t even want to look up, because if you don’t look up it won’t find you. The light turned green and we committed ourselves to the crosswalk, unwilling to risk even jaywalking right now. With fake yawns to try and look bored and normal, we walked as if we were going home after a late shift at the post office.

I tried to calculate the sheer worth of our carryings, to keep my mind positive. The street value must have been in the thousands. To someone such as me, who lived on a sawbuck’s allowance plus the change I could garner through various methods, that was a whole helluva lot! It could buy a lot of freedom, even a trip to Europe and a search for my mythical Rue du Rogues.

As usual, the light turned against us before we were all the way across, but there were no cars coming so we kept going until we were ‘safely’ on the other side. Finally back on dark streets, a huge weight lifted off our shoulders, we relaxed a little and started daydreaming.

Lewis finally voiced what we were all thinking. “We did it man, we robbed a fuckin’ drugstore!” He said it as if we had just achieved enlightenment. I was feeling a little blissful.

“Like taking candy from a baby,” Chuckie added, grinning.

Lewis beamed. “This is the start of something big!” We knew, we knew..! Or at least we thought we knew. Certainly things were going to change in the near future. Multi congratulations were in order for a job well done. Bartender! Drinks for everyone!

“There’s a lotta cash ‘n hash in these bags,” I said. “What are you gonna do with yours?”

Lewis smiled, taking a moment to think about it. “First I’m gonna trade some of this for that black, African hash that’s going around, the real oily shit…” We all agreed. “Then I’m gonna get me the best meal I feel like, wherever I want.”

“Yeah!” we all agreed again. “Lobster at The Stratton! Yeah yeah! Every night!” Chattering along happily, we turned a corner and there, about forty feet in front of us, sat a parked cop car. Instant silence as we all saw it at once. Without breaking stride, because that would be too obvious, we discussed what we should do.

“What the fuck do we do now, boys?” I offered constructively.

“Cross the street?” Chuckie wondered.

“No!” Lewis quickly nixed that idea, adding: “Then it looks like we’re trying to avoid them. Keep walking. They wouldn’t expect us to just walk by like this.”

Small consolation, I thought, wondering what my bitch-name would be in jail. Then he added something which sent a chill up my spine: “I’ve got a plan.”

“Great, I’ve got Nembutals sticking up my nose and you’ve got a plan? What, run like hell at the last second?” Lewis stuffed the pill bottle deeper in my breast pocket and didn’t say anything as we committed to getting closer to our impending fate. My only consolation at this point was that the Tuinals we took should be coming on nicely soon, probably by the time we were safely tucked in our cells. In a few steps, we would know one way or the other how good Lewis’s plan was.

There was a light on inside the car. “Good, there’s only one of them,” Chuckie noticed first. “He’s probably doing his shift report, so he won’t give a shit about us. He wants to go home.” Chuckie was optimistic, but guessing. As the cop inside loomed larger than life, it’s what I told myself to believe. Sure, he won’t give a shit

We tried to sound as if we were small-talking; still out of earshot, we mumbled garbles that we hoped sounded like normal, easygoing, natural conversation from a distance. Once we were right on top of him someone said (don’t ask me who): “Ummm-boy, can’t wait to get these steaks home after that double shift at the post office…”

Walking past, no more than three feet from our taxi to jail, I could see the cop scribbling on a clipboard. I don’t think he even noticed us until Lewis put his plan into action. Still clutching his bag, he practically stuck his whole head in the window, nearly tipping the contents into the cop’s lap, and said: “Scuse me sir, can you tell me the time?”

“?!” That was his fucking plan? I held my breath. With the break in stride, Chuckie and I almost collided into each other. My big hair felt like a circus tent with searchlights out front. The cop didn’t even glance up, but looked at his watch and said: “Two-fifteen,” without hardly a hitch in his scribbling on those important papers.

“Thank you!” Lewis added merrily, and walked away. We left the cop behind us, finishing his report about how he had kept the hamlet safe and sound that night from clowns like us.

I reminded myself to breathe. “That was your fuckin’ plan?” Chuckie thought it was brilliant. “What..? It was the stupidest fuckin’ thing you ever did, Lewis! And you’ve done some stoo-pid shit!”

Lewis defended himself. “It worked, didn’t it?”

“Did it? Only because he wanted to go home! Listen,” I told him seriously, “don’t you ever ask a cop what time it is after we’ve ripped off a drug store, okay?” Lewis laughed. “You’re fuckin’ crazy, man.” You couldn’t control Lewis. He was always going to do what he felt he should. I could only shake my head and keep walking.

Somehow we made it to the lobby of Jill’s apartment without further incident. Jesus, I thought, nearly exhausted physically but up-n-at-em mentally, I still have to eventually get home from here—some three miles away and across that fuckin’ boulevard again, alone. At least this stopover would provide a brief respite to the burden of success we had to endure, if she was home. Lewis pressed the buzzer. Painfully exposed like three pigeons on a fence, we waited.

“C’mon-c’mon-c’mon…” I muttered at the intercom.

“Come on, you lizard…” Chuckie’s greeting. We all snickered.

“Shhhh!” Without so much as a Who the hell is this? the door went BUZZZZZZZZZ and we scrambled for it, diving inside. I wish I had a photo of us as we rode up the elevator, the background music adding to the surrealism, waiting patiently for the eighth floor and grinning over our bags full of pills. Urban Gothic, I would have called it.

Jill gave us her best lascivious-slut look at the door. “Here a little late, aren’t you boys?” Wearing a loose robe and baggy night clothes, she looked like my idea of a gypsy fortune teller ready to mutter incantations over a large stromboli. Perhaps getting ready to read our fortunes on the carton of a frozen lasagna, she said: “Whatcha got there, food?”

We barged in, not answering. Once inside, there were hardy handshakes all around for a job done supremely well, beyond any of our expectations. We were ecstatic.

“Jill-baby,” Lewis said, “break out the brandy and three extra glasses. Oh, and a punch bowl, the biggest one you got!” He seemed to have an idea. “Let’s go in the living room.”

“Will a salad bowl be okay? I pawned the punchbowl…”

We hurried into the living room, where all celebration came abruptly to a halt. There, lying prone on the couch, was Miller, one of the neighborhood’s oldest, most thieving junkies. If he woke up and took a looksee at what we had going for us, pretty soon every thieving dope fiend around would be after our goods; and they wouldn’t pay or trade for it. This stash wouldn’t be worth a proverbial plugged nickel on the streets. It’d be up for grabs. Bargain day! At least while he was asleep there was still time for us to split, with him none the wiser.

On closer inspection, though, it was clear that he was more than just asleep, he was wasted. Spaghetti was falling out of his open mouth and slithering onto the couch. His girlfriend, a skinny blond with a bad complexion and dirty fingernails, sat nearby holding a bowl of the stringy stuff. Never fall asleep with spaghetti in your mouth, it looks bad.

“Yo,” we said, cautiously, unsure of whether or not to bolt.

As if answering our unspoken question, she told us he was hungry but too stoned to get up and eat. “He wakes up every once in a while and swallows, and I give him another forkfull,” she said. We looked at each other, then back at the spaghetti hanging out of Miller’s mouth, draped onto the couch. It was too funny not to laugh. We decided that staying was worth the risk, as he was probably too stoned to remember who we were even if he woke up from time to time to swallow. The bimbo we didn’t care about—she didn’t know us from Adam. “Whatcha got in the bags, anyway?”

We moved to the dining room, an empty space without table or chairs, like most of the apartment, and dumped the stuff all over the floor. A moment of awestruck silence prevailed. Then we began emptying our pockets, pants and sleeves and the small bottles in our socks and under our arms until there lay before us a three-foot mountain of drugs, glistening and sparkling like treasure in their pristine, lily-bright, lemon fresh, prescription filling, pharmaceutically bulk containers. The awe lingered like a spiritual moment, followed by breaking smiles, laughing, and finally even some square dancing and singing.

“We’re in the money, we’re in the money!” we sang, hooking arms and dancing around until we were all laughing on the floor and running the bottles through our hands as if they were gold doubloons. Suddenly we were four-year-olds again, emptying our bags of candy on Halloween. Jill broke out a fresh box of wine, the extra glasses, and brought in the salad bowl.

Lewis guided us. “Everyone drink a shot of wine!” We did, toasting our success. “Now pour all the Tuinals in the bowl.” Wheeeee! we said, my favorite! while opening up all the Tuinal bottles, large and small ones, and pouring them inside. “Now everyone take three glasses full and put them aside in your pile.” There were more left over. “Now another. Now another…”

That was how we divvied up the haul—well into the small hours of the morning. “Now Seconals!”

“Wheeee!” Now we were eight-year-olds, toasting our first shoplifting of the five-and- dime. Now Nembutals! Carbotral! On Valium, Miltowns, Phenobarbitals and Quaaludes! With Santa driving the sled, we loaded the little pills into our holiday sacks. Miller woke up from time to time and bellowed, “More spaghet…!” The blond stick-figure shoved more spaghetti in his mouth and we’d get quiet.

Whispering, followed by giggles. Now the ups! Dexadrine, front and center! Black beauties, take the stage! Cartwheels, Benzadrine, three glasses full! Then we started with the stuff we weren’t sure about. There were irregular shaped ones, speckled ones, tiny white ones… We’d sell these on the street as beat shit to people we either didn’t like or didn’t know, for cash flow.

“What is it?” they’d ask.

“What do you want?” we’d reply.

“Speed, man.”

“Here, take this. Twenty bucks.”

“How many do we take?”

They’d fork out the cash and come back for more. We wouldn’t know what the hell they’d be taking. Try two and lemme know how it works out, ok?

By the time we were done splitting it up, gray dawn was rearing its creepy head. Lewis took Jill into the bedroom and started banging her, thrashing the headboard against the wall as they did it. “Oh-oh-oh…” came the cadence while I tried vainly not to listen.

Miller had spaghetti going up his nose, a sight I didn’t want to face if he woke up. Between the downs and the wine, I was starting to get a serious nod going for myself and didn’t want to risk falling asleep on the dining room floor of Jill’s apartment—especially with Miller on the premises. I couldn’t afford to have him wake up and see me with my arms wrapped lovingly around my new stash. Now was the time to make the long journey home.

I kicked Chuckie, who was also starting to nod. “I’m splittin’, man. I want to get this shit home before my parents wake up.” He agreed that would be a good idea. “Hey Lewis,” I called through the door, “we’re splittin’, man.”

They were thumping away in there. “Oh-oh-kay…” came his staggered reply. “Hey!” he managed to add, “Not a word about this to anyone, oh-oh-kay? We-hee gotta let the hee-eat die down.” It was agreed, mu-ums the word.

Chuckie and I loaded up our stash and split. Out in front of the building, ready for the last leg of our trek, we could taste the ashtray flavor of another monochrome morning. “Good luck,” we said to each other, and headed down the street in opposite directions.

A few feet away, I remembered something and called after him, “Hey man, happy birthday!” Chuckie turned to look at me and seemed to remember that fact for the first time. Technically his birthday was the day before, but we weren’t through with that day yet. He smiled and laughed, great big guffaws all the way home.

Street of Rogues Ch. 4—Playmates

Rated R (Language)

(Note: Although the following chapter is a true depiction of characters, technically it’s Creative Non-fiction in an effort to better describe the prevailing attitude of the time.)

 

All that is gold does not glitter. Not all those who wander are lost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken. A light from the shadows shall spring.—J.R.R Tolkien.

 

These were the years when the great street gangs of the ’50s were slowly infiltrating into regular society and their younger brothers and sisters were on the verge of becoming the Love Generation. My young parents were content to let the streets and public school system raise me while they sorted out their own lives. Leo Gorcey and The Bowery Boys were my heroes. Gang fights were at least regular, if not common. Personally, I had no interest in fighting. I simply couldn’t see the need for pain, of any kind, especially my own. To achieve this delicately balanced, relatively trauma-free existence, I tried to give the impression I was a tough-enough clown—more fun to hang around with rather than kick the hell out of for little or no reason. Such was my motivation, basically, molded out of self-defense.

The hot cars were GTOs, ’57 Chevys and Cobras. They were jacked up in the back, had fat tires on the rear and flames painted on the sides. They were four-on-the-floor and the shifters were skeleton skulls—don’t forget the glasspacks. I’d watch them go by sitting on my Stingray (with the ‘banana’ seat) and occasionally stick a baseball card in the spokes so I’d sound cool. The bicycle turned out to be my main mode of transportation for many years, until it couldn’t take me far and wide enough and hitchhiking took its place. The New York winters were notoriously tough for bike riding, but it beat walking with frozen feet on ice. When you get a new bike for Christmas in NYC you sit on it in your living room looking out the window until it’s nice enough outside to ride it—in March.

There were a lot of kids on the streets in those days. It wasn’t uncommon to find thirty of us lined up for a handball game against the school wall, battling our way to the serving spot. On a Friday afternoon, you could find fifty of us for a game of Tag. Once I realized I was the speediest kid in the neighborhood, it emboldened me in many ways. Whatever the situation, I always felt I could get away to safety with my feet. By the time I was in the second grade I could already outrun most sixth-graders.

That isn’t to say I never got beat in the school races. (‘Racing’ and ‘running away’ had two vastly different incentives.) The second grade was where I learned how to finish a race, having lost one at the last second I should have won. By the fifth grade, the competition got much tougher and I barely beat Melvyn in the 100-yard dash at the school races. He was so pissed he threatened to kick my ass. Fortunately, since he was bussed in I never saw him after school. We faced off again when the sixth-grade races came around. I ran my holy fucking ass off but he beat me fair and square, by an inch or two. Then Willie showed up in the neighborhood and I was the second fastest kid. That Puerto Rican could haul. No shit, the kid was Mercury in a jet pack. His feet never touched the ground.

The more kids there are, the more handicapped there are as well. Our public schools had special classes for those unfortunate people, many of them bussed in from all over the city. Most were simply ‘retarded,’ as they were generally referred to back then—’special’ hadn’t yet entered the American lexicon. They were funny-looking, but mostly harmless. Among the more benign and commonly found unfortunates who had been dealt a hand of lemons, there were others who were downright scary. They were either freakin’ TOO BIG, or they were angry! Usually these edgy and unpredictable types were accompanied by a school aide, but sometimes they’d get out of class and if you were caught in the hall with one of them you quickly ducked into the stairs and went down or up, then to the other side of the school, and back up or down again to avoid them. Some liked to throw chairs around the cafeteria when they thought you were staring. This was the beginning of learning to not make eye contact, especially if looking at someone meant you might have to dodge a metal chair. Now I don’t blame them. If I was fucked up like that I might have thrown chairs around, too.

Us ‘normal’ kids stayed away (by an unwritten code of conduct), avoiding any kind of incidental contact. I don’t know about anyone else because no one ever said as much, but I couldn’t help feeling sorry and downright sad for them, even a little scared for myself that I had escaped such a fate.

It was a long walk from my house to the park, I had time to think. Daydreaming on a humid spring evening while on my way there, I thanked my lucky fuckin’ stars that I wasn’t born a melonhead. God I felt sorry for them, and yet we snickered at their football-shaped heads and sublimated this very real fear with mockery and embarrassing name-calling. It was somehow slick to be better than the less fortunate.

By the time we were in junior and high school, roaming the streets and staying out late at night, we became friendly with some of the less fortunate souls of the city—some of whom lived and died outside. Many were not disadvantaged, but lived on the streets by choice. Those who visited the park became playmates, of a sort. We saw them regularly, and they were at least interactive types of rejects from society—like us.

After spending the winter underground, they emerged from the subways at the first signs of spring. When they couldn’t tell us their name, we gave them one of our own choosing. Mae the Poetess was one such playmate. Mae was a meager, toothless old hag who looked to be in her sixties and recited original poetry while bashing on a broken tambourine she must have found in the garbage. She roved the boroughs and even came with an entourage of faceless boobs that followed her, laughing and clapping and trying to keep up. Mae may have been the original rapper.

I turned the corner, hopped down the hole in the fence to the handball court and said Yo to everyone. Loitering in large and small groups at the park, we heard her coming from a block away. “Sh-h-h-h!” someone said, and we listened for the approaching telltale crashing of Mae’s busted but not-busted-enough tambourine. “Here comes Mae!” There were cheers from some and groans from others. We sampled her latest poetic offerings; some tossed coins her way until she wandered off—smashing and rapping her way through the night, leaving a dull throbbing in the heads of the people watching her go.

One-Ball Paul stared after her with his mouth open, “What the fuck did she say?” No one ever knew.

Panhandlin’ Pete showed up to re-tell stories of his fight with Jack Dempsey, and share other pug-like tales in exchange for nickels and dimes. “I fought him toe to toe,” he said, posing as if waiting for the pop of a photographer’s flash from our invisible cameras. Pete was also a most generous street person, and would give you the jelly donut out of his greasy trench coat pocket if he thought he spooked you.

At our hangout, the all-cement ‘park’ that produced mostly cracks and crackpots, you could get your Cons spit-shined and buffed with a greasy rag and have your shoulders whisked clean for a quarter by Frankie the Bum. “Going to the ball tonight?” he might ask, while brushing off your t-shirt. He must have been the first bum to come by the park, since he looked the oldest. Frankie’s fate was to be found frozen, hard as week-old biscuits, in the alley behind Mitchell’s Bar during a long-ago, forgotten winter.

Haba-cigar George was also in attendance that night. He seemed to materialize out of the thick, polluted air and stand quietly on the fringes of our group. The first night he showed up the ageless One-Ball Paul looked him over from the seat of his Harley-Davidson and finally asked, “Who the fuck are you?”

Haba-cigar George just smiled real big, showing yellowed teeth and brown gums, greenish in the street lights, and made a hand-to-mouth motion—back and forth, back and forth. “Haba cigar! Haba cigar!” he replied over and over, pumping his hand and smiling.

Paul looked confused, and a little disgusted. “Where ya from?” he asked. “Haba-cigar! Haba-cigar!” We quickly found out that was all he ever said and couldn’t help laughing at the poor, demented man from Nowhere. It was a slow night at the park. Kenny had gotten his draft notice that day and was depressed about it. In an effort to amuse himself, he looked at George and said, “Hey George, what should we do tonight?”

George blurted it out happily on cue, “Haba cigar! Haba cigar!” (hand to mouth, hand to mouth).

It was always good for laughs, but they faded quickly for Kenny, who looked at him with pity. “Anyone got a cigar?” he asked the rest of us budding thugs.

Someone produced a Hav-a-Tampa and gave it to him. George accepted it gratefully and smoked it right away. No one knew where he came from or went when he disappeared, but he was harmless so we let him stay. Besides, he was amusing, in a limited way.

Crazy Al brooded silently in a shadowy corner by the swing set. Al never spoke a word but had this thing about holding onto people. When I say holding on, I mean latching himself to a person—a person of our choosing, or victimizing, as it were. A man well into his forties and stocky, Crazy Al’s grip was vice-like.

He’d lay in wait until someone sicced him on an innocent bystander. “Go gettum, Al, go gettum!” we’d whisper in his ear, pointing to the mark, and watch in fascination as he mentally mapped his route to the prey, angling obliquely through the playing field, until he could grab the back of someone’s sleeve, or shoulder, always someplace hard to reach. Then began the stare process, which lasted as long as he could hold on. He would just stare, boring through you from under his pushed-up-in-the-front fur hat that only the disadvantaged wore. The dupes would struggle, of course, but there was only one way to free yourself of this snapper turtle, this pit-bull gone psycho. Crazy Al was the Japanese finger-lock of the insane, you had to ease out of him by appealing to his sense of right and wrong by saying things like: “Al, you’re being a bad boy!” and “NO, Al.” Once you got him thinking about that he loosened up for the split second you needed to make a break for it.

If he thought you were bullshitting him and you missed your window of opportunity to break free, you’d have to bring out the big guns: “Al, I’m going to have to tell your father you were playing in the subways again. I’ll do it!” This always succeeded eventually. He could never quite tell if we were serious, since we would see him and his father walking hand in hand down the boulevard from time to time. At those times, he wouldn’t even look at us, even if we said Hi.

In the glum silence of the evening I smiled, remembering the time we picked a particularly tense looking guy working his way through the oncoming crowd and told Al to “Go gettum!” He started his whole process while we snickered and laughed in the dark corners of the subway station. The man eventually ripped off his sweater and ran, leaving Al standing there with it hanging limply in his vice-like grip.  (Oscar, another partner in this sort of crime, got the sweater after shaming Al for terrorizing an innocent commuter.)

Of them all, Tommy Eat-Nyor was my sentimental favorite because I knew him since the second grade and was friendly with his younger brother, Allen, at PS 144. For me and the rest of the male population at the park, his arrival on his ancient truck bike was always a cause célèbre. All the women, however, eventually ran away screaming. Poor Tommy—whose real last name was Cackamont, but it sounded like Eat-nyor whenever he tried to say it—fell out of a quick moving car when he was just a baby and, the story as I got it, rolled along the highway for a while as a result. He was tall, skinny, wiry, strong, and very fucked up. At nineteen he had the mentality of a second-grader, and though his body was screwed by the fall, it didn’t seem to stop him from loving girls—he was apparently normal in that area. When properly instigated, Tommy could be convinced to go after any girl we chose for a ‘kish.’ Running after the poor girl singled out at random by us guys, he looked like The Mummy as he wobbled after them, drooling, with his arms out. Only a mother would kish poor Tommy. The girls were at our mercy when he came cycling around; they could live or die by our secret whispers to him.

“Heidi likes you, Tommy,” we’d tell him, pointing her out. “She said she wants you to spit on her.” Heidi was lots of fun to send him after; she was small, cute and squeaky.

“Oh no…” she’d hold up her hands. “Please don’t!” It was a well-known fact that if Tommy had anything going for him it was his memory, especially for a cute girl’s wishes that he should spit on her. Even if Tommy didn’t get to spit on poor Heidi, as she was running away and screaming, in twenty years he might see her on the street and clam on her as he rode by on his by-then-antique truck bike.

Having compassion today precludes guilt tomorrow. I want to apologize to all the people we unwittingly abused as entertainment for our own amusement. Humans are not toys. Andrew, if you’re out there (yes, you who stuttered so badly), I pray to all that’s holy you have the respect and success you deserve in this life. After having thought about some of the things I did during this time, the memories of ridiculing others were the ones I most wanted to erase. If you’re any kind of decent person as an adult, you’ll regret having made fun of anyone as a kid. Hopefully, my being more compassionate now will help improve the overall human condition.

That was fun stuff to do when there’s little else but other mischief at hand. By comparison to many other things we did, manipulating so-called playmates was seemingly harmless. Tommy Cackamont may still be happily riding his bike some thirty-five years later, but we had no way of knowing that poor Heidi would commit suicide in her twenties. I don’t feel as if we were the cause of her decision to take her own life, but I had only added to her misery when I could have very easily contributed to her happiness instead.

You were so easy with your smiles back then, Heidi. When did they turn to tears, and why? Were you spit upon once too much? I’m so sorry you couldn’t cope… so sorry I didn’t see it then, and so foolish… and I can’t hold back the tears for you any longer. Why didn’t I walk you home one night instead of helping chase you off? Why didn’t I walk you home, protecting you, and tell you what I really thought of you, my sweet, innocent Heidi? Why couldn’t I tell you that I thought you were so cute, and it made me happy when you came around with your giggles and easy laughter? Why did I make you scream and run away instead? Why must I seek forgiveness for these things when it’s too late?

It was this constant and unpredictable interaction that brought people from all over the city looking for something different in a hangout. For the locals who hung out there all the time, it was just another night’s entertainment with our human toys before they broke.

Bad Poem

gophers are red,
cats are blue,
when you hit ‘em in the head,
and smear ‘em with glue.

boxers are bred,
st. bernards too,
to knock you down,
and run over you.

peacocks are led
to whatever they do
and parrots, it’s said,
don’t care who they chew

ants in your bed
horses that moo
lice on your head
consuming you

(From Subhash)

Dodos are dead
Dinosaurs too
Snakes cause dread
In your pants poo

 

Romeo and Juliet’s Alternate Ending

Alternate Ending—Rated… uh, I’m not really sure. PG?

38—Romeo and Juliet

In this alternate ending to Shakespeare’s classic play, Romeo and Juliet have staged an elaborate ruse and are not really dead at all. Instead, they moved to Viagra Beach and grew old together. To give credit where it’s due, Bill Shakespeare wrote most of this.

ROMEO: …and the buccaneer saith: ‘Mine octopus shall playeth one such musical instrument after the next. Yea. Be they lyre, harpsichord or flugelhorn… One hundred doubloons to the first knave who bringeth forth an instrument he cannot but charm the sweetness from — like a bee charms honey from a rose by any other name.’ Twas well and good, til one codger did arrive with bagpipes…

JULIET: Butt soft! What wind from under covers breaks? Romeo, Romeo, why fart thou, Romeo?

ROMEO: To pee or not to pee? My fly is up, but my thoughts remain below. I go, and it is done. I suffer the slings and arrows of she who pulleth mine finger…

JULIET: Ay vey… Thou art the sphincter of my discontent. ‘Twas but the unkindest cut of all… Out, damned smell! I’ll be sick to-day for this morn’s wafting. A plague o’ both your holes!

ROMEO: Farting is such sweet sorrow… Now is the winter of my incontinence.

JULIET: O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain… Beware the hides of farts! What a piece of work is man! Shall I not, then, be stifled in the eiderdown, to whose foul mouth no healthsome air breathes in? Fie on thy own bagpipes!

ROMEO: All the world’s a potty… Floridians, Romans, countrymen, lend me some toilet paper…. The lady doth protest too much, ‘me stinks…’

JULIET: Something is rotten and is not, I fear, in the state of Denmark but ‘tis you in its stead… (Stage whispers: I follow him to serve my turn upon him.)

ROMEO: Asses are made to bear, and so are you to mine… To air is human, to forgive divine.

JULIET: Save your rhymes for future times, and Popes like Alexander; get thee to a potty! So all that bedsheet’s not mold. Thy slow burner doth not fade away… Nay, naught forthwith enough!

ROMEO: To sleep, perchance to shutteth up — oy, where’s the plug? I am constipated as the northern star; of whose true-fix’d and resting quality eludes the firmament in this fellow. Shall we on without apology? I cannot bound a pinch: Under love’s heavy burden do I stink.

JULIET: How now? A dead rat?

ROMEO (Aside: Is this a dagger which I see before me? Was ever woman in this humour woo’d? Was ever woman in this fragrance won? Only by the thumbing of my prick, something wicked this way comes, methinks. O unhappy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust, and let lie while like a hell-broth boil and bubble inside.)

JULIET (Also aside: With palindrome, I say aside, aside say I, that he’s bad, ‘tis true, ‘tis true ‘tis pity, and pity ‘tis ‘tis true. True, ‘tis ‘tis pity, and pity ‘tis true ‘tis true, bad he’s that I say aside, aside say I…) Love looks not with the nose but with watery eyes. The man that hath foul music in himself, nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet laxative, is unfit for reason, stratagems, and sweet cheeses.

ROMEO: Be not afraid of flatulence: some are born flatulent, some achieve flatulence, and some have flatulence thrust upon ‘em. Blow, blow, thou winter wind. Thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude. Let every nose negotiate for itself and trust no agent. What’s gone and what’s passed should be passed with relief. This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine.

JULIET: The course of true love never did run smooth. We should be woo’d and were not made to woo. Woo-who? Lord, what fools these mortals be. We that are true lovers run into strange vapors; but as all is mortal in nature, so is all nature in love mortal folly. My soliloquy ne’er ripped so foul, Romeo, O Romeo, as thou.

ROMEO: What noise is here? Fie, you slug-a-bed! O lamentable day! Stench lies on me like an untimely frost! O, I would have thee judicious use of flatulence depurates. You lay the dagger on my paté. I’ll re you, I’ll fa you; do you note me? And do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti you, too. Which brings us back to…

JULIET: What is the matter? (Aside: I give pause, forthwith to continue…) Canneth giveth and naught taketh?

ROMEO: (Aside: Says she, so trippingly off the tainted tongue.) Naught! How now, brown sow? Aesop was never so grim…

****************************************

(Enter FRIAR LAURENCE and PARIS, with Musicians)

ROMEO and JULIET: Nevermore now!

(Exit FRIAR LAURENCE and PARIS, with Musicians)

(Rip needle from record album.) Then they really did kill each other, simultaneously, by smotheration of scents over-foul.

****************************************

PRINCE (Offstage): A glomming crapulence this morning with it brings; The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head: Go hence, or have more scents of these bad things; Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished: For never was a story of more Whoa! than this of Juliet and her Romeo.

The Endeth.

****************************************

Fuck. This blows, dude… said my inner voice.

Too late now, I replied. Sorry Bill.

Daddy, Why Can’t I Say Ass? Ch. 35—Coffee Break

Rated PG (language)

Chapter 35—Coffee Break

There’s a very specific ritual about making coffee. First and foremost, you must start with a good bean. I prefer the dark roasts; Italian and French, for example, make a good mix. Ideally, coffee beans should be stored in the freezer. When grinding, care must be taken to achieve the perfect granule for drip-brewing, or powder for espresso. As a rule, powder unleashes the most flavor; however this is problematic for the drip-brew drinker at the bottom of the cup, where much of it settles. That shit will quickly turn your teeth a gritty shade of gray.

While I may appreciate the subtle nuances between drip-brewing or French-pressing my coffee, I am an espresso with steamed milk maker. That means I grind for powder. If you turn an Indonesian bean to dust and pack a full espresso basket, it still easily drips espresso. Try that with a French or Italian bean and you will require more than a small, home-style espresso maker to drip the dark roasts. To affect the perfect balance of a well-ground bean with slightly less than two-thirds of a twelve ounce mug of milk, the optimum time to grind dark roasts in a small, stainless nut grinder is twenty-five to thirty seconds. Go beyond that, and you’re espresso basket is impacted to constipation by the dust-powder, resulting in an interminably slow espresso drip. Impossibly slow. It’s the oiliness of the bean which clogs up the works. To remedy this, the powder must instead be a granule. This sacrifices some flavor, but at least I can get a cuppa joe in under twenty minutes.

Twenty-five or thirty seconds is a long time for a coffee bean to be hacked by two stainless steel blades. I counted out the ‘mississippi’s’ and carefully lifted off the top to the grinder. There, sitting in the center of finely chopped, brown dust, sat one lone bean covered in powder. It was whole — unsullied and untouched.

What’s this? Why hello, little feller! I took it out, held it up, and dusted it off. How the hell did you escape the blades of final dissolution? How could you possibly not be powder by now, crushed and disseminated throughout my grinder with the rest of the beans? Did you balance your tightrope act in the dead center of those blades, twirling like a dirvish on knives of steel? You, little bean, have passed through the flames of consumption and emerged unscathed! You are a survivor, much like myself. You are anti-centrifugal, and refused to lie down. You are an inspiration, to be commended! Where have you bean all my life?

“Dad…”

Off you go, little survivor… I tossed it back in the bag with the others. I’ll get you next time… Ah, it is the ‘morning’ version of the Wonder Child. That is, the early afternoon version. Her hair is early day-bed, her face Sleepy the Dwarf as she wipes her hand across Snow White eyes. Her pajamas talk to me slowly, “Who are you talking to? Can I have a cup of coffee?”

Flannel pajamas and a t-shirt with a dancer on it. She is at an age when her father had already conceived and subsequently aborted a child. She wants to be in love. Her father was in love by twelve, and again at thirteen, and fourteen, and seventeen… then once more. Her father never wore pajamas… “Did I say that out loud? Sure, I’ll make you a cup,” and I start making our coffee. Her father was drinking coffee by her age, having developed an early jones for café con leche in Spain. Her father was drinking a lot of wine and beer too, at her age, and trying to give up being addicted to getting high on pot and acid and heroin and pills and… Her father had lived a life of crime already, by her age. She is unlike her father in all the right ways. She’s going to love coffee.

When I picked Katy up from school on her seventeenth birthday she was covered in balloons, flowers, and small, pink stuffed animals. Everyone was nice to her that day. She told me her French teacher had cornered her at lunchtime and started speaking to her in French.

Katy told me, “I just nodded and said: ‘Uh, sure! Thanks!’ In class they all tried to sing to me, but nobody knew the song and it was all out of tune. Sounded terrible…”

I wanted to know what her French teacher said to her, but Katy had no idea. “Didn’t you ask her what she meant?”

“No..?”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m supposed to know!” Then she picked up my wine glass and took a sip.

“How do you like the wine?”

“Yuck, not good with gum…” This is something we have in common. Seventeen… out of the severe misnomer that is Sweet Sixteen and into another grand teen year of life as they know it at that age. For her birthday we gave her a gift certificate at a good book store, two chocolate bars, a fine dinner at an Italian Restaurant of her choosing and six lottery scratch-off tickets she won sixteen bucks with. The next day I received a letter from our bank stating that they covered five transactions of hers she didn’t have the money for, and she must now remit $105 in penalties. They didn’t know the half of it, as she had recently been fired from her part-time Juice Jockey Job and had no income other than what I gave her for lunch money, when she asked. I forked over the sixteen bucks lottery winnings and the non-existant money was floating out of my hands at every turn. “Do I have to use this for lunch?” I handed her three more bucks. Her father was stealing drugs for money, breaking into drugstores and doctors offices for more drugs… When he ate, he ate lobster at The Stratton. At seventeen, her father and his friend skipped out the side door of a swank Hollywood Boulevard hotel on a lobster tab. This is something we don’t have in common.

“Please don’t tell me you woke up with gum in your mouth,” I mutter almost to myself.

Katy goes to the bathroom while I finish the coffee. When she comes out, I hand her her cuppa joe. She takes a sip and some foam lingers on her upper lip area. “Mmm-m-m…” Her eyes close a little. She starts in immediately:

“On tuesday we have to perform at…” (time and place which I immediately forget to remember) “…and on Wednesday there’s a party…” (at some o’clock) “…for the dance team and we’re doing a gift exchange…” (sly hint for money) “…and don’t forget my haircut on Monday and OH MY GAWD I have to tell you… Missy and I were practicing…” (some dance step) “…and she fell right on her face! HA-HA-HA! We were laughing so hard! She was sitting on her butt and she pushed back and said ‘Oh my gawd, I just peed!’ Then she showed me the little puddle…” (on the gym floor) “…and we started laughing even harder! Missy had to get up and run to the boys bathroom and left little drops of pee all the way…! Oh my gawd I couldn’t stop laughing! First it was Amanda, then Kelly at camp and now Missy, HA-HA-HA!”

I’m thinking: I don’t really need to know this, it gives me the eeky-jeebies. Quickly man, change the subject… Still, I’m laughing. It’s potty humor and her father still laughs when anyone says ‘tushy.’ Her father looked his own fart in the eye of the mirror.

Deftly, I change the subject. “Coffee starting to kick in?”

“Uh-huh,” she nods eagerly. Her father’s cup only succeeds in warding off a headache, until the next one comes in the late afternoon. There is a silent moment.

“Your Aunt Jessica would have had a birthday this month.”

Katy nods. “I wonder how Beverly is doing?” She is referring to her Aunt Jessica’s cat, who we all tried to take care of while Jessica was in and out of the hospital with an incredible array of vast diseases, slamming her relentlessly. The cat clearly flipped its poor lid, attacking anything at any given time, with or without a possessed-sounding warning. When I went there I wore long pants, boots, a heavy jacket, thick leather gloves and carried an umbrella, which I used to back her away from the door when I entered — popping it out like a belligerant peacock when she went for my feet, where she once drew blood. To feed the cat and shovel her shit, I dressed like a bomb squad worker. Later I realized a much easier way to keep Beverly at bay. I smoked. When I smoked, I could go inside wearing a Speedo and she wouldn’t come near me. Shortly after that, Aunt Jessica passed away. Beverly was taken in by a family with two other cats and, I was told, they all get along famously well.

“I’m sure Beverly’s living life on her own terms,” I tell my daughter as she sips her latte.

Katy chuckles, thinking of Beverly. “That cat was insane.”

I agree, fondling my mug. Last night Katy went to ‘Teen Zone,’ which is a gymnasium at a local school that hosts an occasional dance for the kids. She also knows a member of two of the bands who performed, a drummer and a bass guitar player. They play ‘rock,’ I was told. I ask her how they were.

“Oh, pretty good.” Then she immediately downgrades them to, “Not too bad.”

“How was the turnout?” I ask.

“Only about twenty people.”

I’m surprised there were so few. When her father went to rock concerts at the The Fillmore East he had to negotiate millions just to get there. His Pop taught him to slice through Lexington Avenue at five o’clock like Emerson Boozer after taking the handoff from Broadway Joe. Her father took the subway to get to concerts, but much preferred the elevated line that took him to see Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, and others he could no longer remember.

“Did you know many people there?” I ask, sniffing around for the boy’s name I think might be behind this. She doesn’t go there, which could mean that she’s seriously more picky now than she used to be. I like to think she’s taken my advice and isn’t trusting anybody with her feelings. I don’t really know if this is right or wrong, but I’m pretty sure it’s the safest stance to take. I want her to hold out a while longer before committing her heart to anyone, at least until the hormones slow from raging to just monthly. Then, she’ll have at least three weeks a month to stay open-minded and clear-headed. (The other week, if she stays athletic, I can hope she’s at least clear-headed.)

“Yeah, I knew a few people. Most of the rest were from…” and she names the rival school. “They’re weird…”

Oh god, not more weirdness. That assessment always puts me on edge. Her father had weird friends once upon a time, when he was her age. They were weird enough to wield guns and knives, and commit acts of armed robbery, breaking and entering, grand theft, petty theft, any theft no matter how trivial, no matter from whom. They were really weird on acid, and glue, and too much booze, and barbituates, and morphine, and worse.

“How so?” I always have to ask.

“Well, the way they dress… I mean, in girls clothes… It’s the hard coursing.” She knows I’m going to take this a little strangely, so she pauses enough to let it sink in, warming both hands on her cup.

“They what? I…” didn’t quite understand. I didn’t even know what question to ask first. “What’s hard coursing?”

“Hard coursing..! It’s the hard coursing.”

“What?” Like I knew what she was talking about. “Hard coursing..?”

“Hard, core, scene!”

“Oh-h-h, it’s the hard core scene…”

“Yeah, you know…” (I didn’t) “…short jackets and frilly shirts…”

“You have to e-nun-ciate around me, especially with slang.” I’m trying to get a sense of how much of this is gay and how much of it is just campy. “You mean like Prince?” (The talented musician with the damned annoying Insignia.)

“Yeah, more like Prince, but they wear girl’s pants.”

“What’s the difference?” I want to know. She tells me in specific, no-uncertain terms that it’s the cut, and the low waist that makes them different than men’s pants. And the cost, I think. So I’m seeing pimply-faced teen Prince impersonators from Tyrol dressed like Twiggy, in my mind. This doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Katy’s father wondered if the boys were transvestites. He wondered if it was fair to ask that about someone their age. He wondered if anyone could know at that age whether or not they were a transvestite. But he knew it didn’t matter.

“So are they gay?” She doesn’t know for sure and I believe her — that she’s not sure. “What about eye liner?” I ask her.

“Oh yeah.”

Then I ask her the telltale question: “Anyone hit on you?”

“No.”

“That’s it, they’re gay.” I tell her.

She laughs, “Probably.” I don’t even ask her if they can dance, I don’t need to. Anyone who cross dresses even a little can dance. These boys could just be theatrical, or they could be gay. Katy’s already told me that she won’t take the Drama classes in school because the people are all gay and lesbian pot smokers. Katy is hetero and doesn’t get high; what would they have in common? Again, I didn’t pass any judgements. She did that for herself and decided it wasn’t worth the risk. As usual, she just wants the Easy way out of school. The path of least resistance. In this case it probably works in her favor.

We don’t care about the gay and lesbian part of working within the drama group. It’s the pot smoking I’m glad she’s avoiding. I don’t want her to start having too much fun yet; it’s distracting from actually finding an interest she can be passionate about. Her father found that passion, but it took many years of experimentation.

“What about the lesbians, do they buy men’s clothes?” I wonder.

“Only the butch ones. Oh…” she laughs, “…and then, Apryle pokes me and says: ‘Do you see those guys wearing chickens on their heads?’ It’s true! Some guys were wearing chicken heads! I said…” (to Apryle) “‘…Yeah.’ And she said: ‘Good, I didn’t want to be the only one!’ Ha-ha!”

Ha-ha, I think. Very funny? Cross dressing juniors with frilly shirts, low-waisted pants, eye liner, and chickens on their heads… that is funny, isn’t it? Her father’s time pre-dated punk. When spikes and mohawks showed up, he was freaked! How much more outlandish will teens be willing to take this show of independence? Now they are piercing holy places all over their bodies like they were pin cushions and spray painting their hair Rustoleum orange. While I’m trying to decide what’s next, Katy’s still talking.

“…he felt really bad because the lead singer started throwing up all over the stage and…”

“Wait, wait!” I interrupt. “Start that over again?”

“Yeah, he felt really bad (her friend in the band) because he convinced him (his friend, the lead singer) to go (perform) even though he was sick. Then he (the lead singer) threw up all over…”

“Oh… That sucks,” I commiserate.

“Yeah,” she says, studying the foam left in her cup and swiping at it with her pinky. “Can I put more chocolate on this?”

“Sure…” I’m lost in my own foam. When handled properly, foam can be nursed like a bar beer — pacing it all the way to the last, true gulp. After it’s gone, it signifies one thing only: You are done with your coffee. Oh sure, there’s that last little dribble to coax out, but that’s only a tease for the next cup. My second cup of this warm, autumn day is half empty already, this early in the afternoon. I’ve been gulping. I should slow down. I toy with the idea of speeding up and making another but I knew I wouldn’t. I have to pace myself, or the experience will diminish. Katy sits back down at the kitchen table. She’s still talking.

“And Missy, she wouldn’t shut up! She kept shhh-shhh’ing in the back…” I’m lost. “She and Lisa have been hanging out together because they both have boyfriends and I don’t. They have something to talk about…”

“Mm-hmm,” I offer sympathetically. “How about Kelly, has she got a boyfriend?”

“No.”

“So hang out with her,” I say. Then, after a pause, “So, no boy troubles then?”

“No,” she tells me a little dejectedly. “I’ve given up on boys.”

“Good,” I reiterate, like I have before on the subject. “Best to wait until you’re thirty.”

She seems truly depressed that I might be right, after all. “I know.”

I don’t want to squash her hopes completely, so I soften up a little. “It’s possible you can find someone in your twenties… if you’re careful.”

“Yeah, sure.” She changed the subject, “I was with Apryle. We were trying to shut Missy up. Oh, it was so funny, because we couldn’t laugh, you know?”

Of course I knew. The resistence to laughing is always in direct opposition to the seriousness of the moment. “Remind me again, where were you?”

“I told you, at the City Council meeting,” where the girls try to get money from the city for their Dance Squad. She’s talking about a few nights ago.

“So this guy comes over and takes her arm…” (Missy’s) “…and tells her to be quiet..! And Apryle started laughing, and…” (I think I know what’s coming) “…blew a giant snot bubble! Aha-ha-ha!”

Naturally… “Did you call her on it?”

“Of course!” Katy laughs. That’s my girl.

“What’d she do?” I wanted details.

“She covered it up with her hand.” I laughed. I mean, what else are you going to do when you blow snot at a City Council meeting? It was a stupid question. I think I should change the subject, move on to tonight’s plans.

“So, you guys are planning to go to the movies tonight?”

“Yeah.”

“What are you going to see?”

“Brokeback Mountain.”

Briefly I wonder why, but not for long. She loves love stories. She thrives on movies that make her cry and scream. “Why?” I ask her anyway, knowing already.

She tells me in no uncertain terms: “Because I hear it’s good!” She’ll want money, of course. Her father rarely paid to see movies. He crawled in on his hands and knees, under the ticket seller and through the door, past the candy counter, then ran up the stairs to the loge, where he and his friends could smoke and throw garbage down on the seats below — occasionally knocking a drink over the side before running out the door. Or he walked backwards in the side door as people were leaving, even lighting a cigarette so he’d look like he was egressing with the rest of the crowd. His daughter would never do that.

“Dad…”

“Yes?”

“Can I get my driver’s permit next week?”

I gulp more coffee. My foam is on its last gasp, the final lump will hit my mouth and bubble a little bit before going down. Then I’ll be left with only the dribble, and the recurring question, Should I have another? The answer will be No, as usual. I’ll nurse the dribble twice, squeezing a littler dribble out of the first, until the smallest, tiniest, last hope of a drip dries on the cup before it can make its way onto my tongue. Her father was learning how to drive when he was seventeen…

Why does this father hold up his past to her present? He compares, wondering what he can possibly offer her. Her chemistry homework is math to him and she’s talking about college, a place he has never once set foot. HOW WILL SNEAKING INTO MOVIES AND MOUNTAINS OF DRUGS AND WANTON SEX AND HAVING TWO ABORTIONS HELP HER? his conscience blatantly queries. WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR HER LATELY EXCEPT POKE STAR TREK IN THE ASS? WILL YOU TEACH HER TO LAUGH AT THE LESS FORTUNATE, TWIST THE CLASSICS INTO SOMETHING POTTY-MOUTHED, AND TO PLAY WITH FISH AS WORDS? WHERE WAS YOUR DAUGHTER WHEN YOU WERE BUSY STARING AT YOUR FART LIKE IT WAS A BULLSEYE TO AN EPIPHANY? DO YOU TALK TO HER AS MUCH AS YOU DO YOUR CATS? WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WATCHED THE SIMPSONS TOGETHER..?

What did his father before him, the Painter, teach him besides how to negotiate the sidewalk? He didn’t… he just was. He was himself, and no one else to anyone. He was there, invoking his passion for his son to see. Oh, his son said, fifty years later, licking the dry foam from the inside of his mug.

“Dad?”

“Sure… we can do that.”

“Yay!” she said to her father, fully upright in her chair with eyes the size of hockey pucks.

Scraping the last bit of foam with her finger and sticking it in her mouth, “Mmmm…” she said. “When?”

 

Random Writings—Too Much Information

Rated PG (language)

I am your creditor, your benefactor—ready and willing to approve you. I plug, push, serve and attend. I’m a facilitator and expediter, happy to aid and abet. I’m cooperative and eager to grease your squeaky wheels. My door is always open. The doctor is in. I’m a collaborator. I disburden and extricate you from yourself. I am the enabler. I’m the bartender, the commissioner of cocktails.

She comes in quickly and ducks in front of the bar. I peer between the stools and see her squatting there. “Can I get you something?”

“I don’t want my kids to see me,” she says. “Gimme a glass of merlot, please.”

I place it on the bar just as her hand pops up and grabs it. I exchange glances with Aaron, a regular of mine. The glass reappears on the bar, empty.

“I’ll have another, please,” she says from her knees.

I fill it up and look toward the lobby. “I don’t see any kids out there,” I tell her.

Slowly, she rises to eye level. “Good, I’m not an alcoholic but my husband—I hate that fuck, we were separated for six months—says I am. But I’m not, and we got back together for the kids sake but I want to divorce the asshole, but all I’ve ever been is a housewife—he made two-hundred-thousand last year but only ninety-thousand this year—and the kids are only going to be in the house for another four years or so—so I should stick it out, but what a pain in the ass… except I like the lifestyle, and I’m not sure I can make it on my own—I’ll take another. To go,” and shows me her glass.

“Whew, that was a mouthful,” I say to Aaron, who politely waited for her to finish before sipping his beer.

“I’ll say,” he agrees, and takes a big gulp. “Makes me want to kill myself.”

Me too, but I ignore that out loud and say to her, “But you haven’t finished this one yet.”

She drains it and pushes the glass forward. “I haven’t had a drink in a week but my husband will think I’m at the bar, and I don’t usually go to bars, but we’re taking the kids to the amusement park and all I want is a glass of wine but the bastard will look down his nose at me—and I hate that, especially in front of the kids—whoops!” She ducks again as people emerge from the elevator. Momentary silence. “Whew, it’s not them. I’ll just stay down here to be safe. I can use this coupon, right?”

“Sure, I—”

“Good. That way I don’t have to charge it to the room and he won’t find out, the dick…”

I pour the wine…

“…asshole—thank you!”

…and push it toward the lip of the bar where she can reach.

“My pleasure,” and it was. She needed it. As she slinks out the rear exit, peering around the corner first, I offer my litany of clichés: “Thanks for coming. And remember, at the end of the day—when all is said and done—if you follow your dream, don’t quit and never say die, you’ll be ahead of the game—wanna breath mint?!”

But she’s already gone.

Random Writings—Unforgivable (A Song Parody)

Rated PG

Listen to the original by Nat King Cole: Unforgettable

(Original lyrics to Unforgettable by Irving Gordon)

Unforgivable (a parody)

Unforgivable, that’s what you are
Unforgivable and quite bizarre
Take a piece of shit that clings to me
I would fling it like a ball at thee
Never before has someone been more

Unforgivable, in every way
A sociopath, is how you’ll stay
That’s why, dickhead, it’s untenable
That someone so unbearable
Thinks just like a common criminal too

Unforgivable on every day
Don’t come near the bar, please stay away
When you’re speaking, it’s unbearable
And I’m sure you’re unrepairable
We all know it, I’m afraid it’s all true.

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 19—Thanksgiving

Rated G

Chapter 19—Thanksgiving

We’re all there—the grandparents, the parents, and the grandkids—sitting around the dinner table. We’re talking about Pop’s old paintings that went the way of a fire sale at the church, when they left town so suddenly fed up with it all in NYC. The Wonder Woman, the Purple Horse, Lee Harvey Oswald driving the Chevelle… Pop has forgotten the one with me as a small boy, painted with dyes on glass as if it was my reflection watching the first homicide on television — the Oswald murder. The painting behind the glass was a grayscale/op-art rendition of the shooting that exaggerated the screen resolution of our old black and white TV. With the glass dye-painting of me covering it, it really looked like a television. What hectic times those were…

Ma says: “The whole country was in such denial back then.”

“Denial?” Pop says, buttering his biscuit. “I thought that was a river in Egypt.”

Unflustered after decades of this kind of verbal abuse, Ma retorts: “You don’t have to Rhine about it.”

I chime in my two cents. “Did I Mississippi something here? Or is this conversation getting Volga?”

Sis jumps in the fray, while the grandkids try to keep up. “I’m getting ready to Colorado the whole thing off!”

“I know,” I continue, “I can’t Stanislaus much more of this either.”

“That would be Rio Grande with me, this conversation is taking a rapids dive.” Pop decides.

“I’ll Klamath up if you will-eth.” I’m trying to get the last shot in, and add: “I’m not Russian into anything though,” just to be sure.

“I’m Delaware of that,” Pop replies. The grandkids are getting a geography lesson and don’t even know it. They listen quietly and watch as if it were a ping pong game. A long silence ensues in a thinktank atmosphere — as one of us is surely going to pick up the ball.

“A conversation like this could drive you in-Seine,” Sis serves up as she passes the candied yams. We are all laughing and spitting food out while we scramble for more river puns. “We Congo on like this for hours.”

“I was Euphrates say that. Someone please put me out of my Missouri… and pass the gravy.” I manage to choke out. We have totally forgotten the conversation. “It’s Amazon to me that we ever get anything discussed. Don’t worry kids, Elbe all over soon.” They still look worried. “Thames are changing.” Now we’re laughing too hard to carry on this stream of thought.

“Could you be more Pacific?” Pop asks me, biting the tip off an asparagus.

“I’m Red Sea whenever you are.”

“Better make it quick,” Pop says. “I’m Aegean fast.”

“Can we go outside?” All the grandkids get up to leave. It’s raining, hard, but that doesn’t matter to them.

“What, no dessert?”

“Maybe later.” They file out in a line. It’s a walkout. They seem to have lost their appetite.

I’m seeing more white meat on the platter and help myself to seconds. “Could you pass the cranberries?” I ask Sis.

“I’d be berry happy to.”

“Now you’re just being silly,” I say.

“I cran if I want to,” she replies. I’m pretty sure I want to join the kids now.

“‘Nuther biscuit?” Ma offers. I take one and look for the butter. It’s way down at the end of the table. Sis passes it over.

“Butter late than never,” she always says. I change the subject, fast.

“So… What’s for dessert?” I look at my brother JP and his lovely, brilliant, exceedingly patient wife, Leanne. This is their shindig, they’ve done all the cooking. JP looks at me, seriously.

“Don’t ask,” he begs. “Please.” He’s afraid, rightfully, what we’ll say about his pies. I turn to Pop.

“Looks like we’ll have to pump-kin him for answers.”

JP interrupts, getting up to leave the table. “Coffee anyone?”

101 Songs You Shouldn’t Sing on TV—I Love My Wife/A Date With No Shame

Rated R (language and situations)

I Love My Wife

Author’s Note: Babe and I have been together for over 25 years. The adventure transcribed below took place early in our relationship—back when computers were DOS and VCRs were still in use. This is an excerpt from my non-fiction, as yet unpublished book “Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass’?” It also goes with the song parody below, A Date With No Shame (parody of A Horse With No Name). Click on the YouTube link provided and read my lyrics while the song plays.

 

Babe and I left By Th’ Bucket restaurant after a late dinner of oyster shooters, steamed clams, salad, pasta and garlic bread, and headed home. There’s nothing like a steamed clam in butter and garlic. Throwing social convention out the window, we drank red wine with the meal.

We rode in silence down El Camino Real passing the great American variety of stores, restaurants, car washes, hotels and…

“Pull in here,” Babe said.

“The adult bookstore?”

“I’ve always been curious about those places. What are they like?”

“Beats the hell out of me. I’ve never been inside one. Well, just once, a long time ago,” killing time as a salesperson.

“Aren’t you curious?”

Definitely. I looked at Babe with a new respect and pulled in the driveway. “Sure!” My X- File wife would never have gone into one of those stores.

It was a small place, with no windows and quarter peep shows in the back. The aisles were narrow and packed with videos. Some guys hung out in the shadows by the peep show booths, watching Babe. She ignored them and started looking at the video titles.

Squirt Off. Fuck me Plenty. Swallow my Big, Fat….

Speaking of big fat… I noticed a huge, pink thing in a box and moved to inspect it. Whatever it was, it was circumcised.

“Hmm. What’s a nice, Jewish dildo like you doing in a place like this?” One of the peep-shady guys watched me. (Please back away from the dildo…) “What the hell’s this?” I wondered, looking at a fat, stubby… thing. Butt plug? For diarrhea? Must be. Surely no one would stick one of those up their ass for fun. Maybe it goes with the “Stretch that Ass” video. Other items had straps and harnesses and complicated paraphernalia hanging off them. Must be for engineers and rocket scientists, I determined.

There were all sorts of rubbery-looking apparati one was supposed to insert in their favorite places. A display of batteries stood nearby, ready to keep going, and going…. Perhaps someone stuck some of those in a favorite orifice or two as well, as a substitute for coffee. Use a pair of ‘D’ batteries for those hard to reach places, then sit on a butt plug to push it in.

A guy tending the counter hummed to himself and did some paperwork. I gravitated over to take a look at what was in the display. Lubes, condoms, massage oils, handcuffs…

“How you doing?” The kid said to me.

“Huh? Good, thanks. You?” I’m just browsing.

“Can I show you anything?”

Please don’t. “Uh, no thanks, I’m just…” trying to be nonchalant. “What the hell do you do with those?” I pointed in the case.

“Those are nipple clamps,” he told me, with a broad smile.

“Hmm.” I said, looking at the alligator clips. Ouch. Why would..? Never mind. He kept smiling. I turned back to the display, carefully avoiding eye contact.

“What about that?” I pointed to a gel-like hole with nubs on it, bigger than a silver dollar.

“Cock ring.”

“Oh,” I tried to imagine whatever for. It certainly wasn’t deep enough to fuck.

“This one vibrates,” the young clerk added. The kid looked like he was working his way through college, and spoke to me like he might just as well have been serving me a danish.

“I see…” Not really. I moved past the jelly to the playing cards. These I know. Except I didn’t know that. I cocked my head to figure out what was happening on the back of the card. Christ! You have to be a yoga instructor to do that! No way. I’m exhausted and my neck hurts just looking at it. I straighten up and move over to the adjacent wall of boxed… stuff.

More videos showing lots of leather, with studly guys on the cover. They’re wearing some slick, black hybrid of overalls and alpenhosen, bulging like ballet dancers with potatoes in their shorts.

Oh my god… elephantitis! I snicker. That’s gotta hurt. Then I read the title: Boys Will Be Boys, and moved on to another cover filled with gorgeous women in tight fitting, sexy dresses. They all have big tits and I wonder how many are real. Boys Will Be Girls, the title read. I guess that answers that question, and moved on. I think I’m in the wrong section.

Dildos! Dildos with knobby balls inside them. Dildos that are ‘actual size’ of porn stars. I look for Milton Berle’s, wondering if dildo envy is a viable concept. Vibrators lined up like missiles in every color, ready to heat-seek some pleasure. What’s this, a vibrating egg? I’ll take mine over easy, please. Something called a ‘Bullet,’ and something shaped like a butterfly that’s named after a bug-eating plant… dildos to strap on, put in your purse, or wear all day. Dildos for any hole and dildos with little smiley faces on them. Dildos ‘Pussy Galore’ and ‘Jack Rabbit’ with antennae inappropriate for those under twenty-one. There was a dildo for Valentine’s Day. What better way to say I love you than Here, go fuck yourself. Dan the Conehead dildo winked and blushed. Laurel and Hardy dildos in a boxed set, one fat and one slim. What, no Duke Dildo? The Duke would make a very fetching rubber penis. Surely if Milton Berle could have a sculpture made of his private self… I’m thinking a Presidential set put out by the mint would be a real collectible. (Try the Andrew Johnson!) One dildo doubled as a vibrating candle holder (candle not included), good for waxing afterward. Dildos in every color and nuance; even one for King Kong.

Strap-ons and love dolls and penis enhancers,
Silver-tipped dildos with red and green flashers…
These were only a few of people’s favorite things.

Whips, masks, riding crops, and chains with rubber tips. Clit flickers and booty bumpers, love dolls and disassociated lips and ‘helmet huggers’ and beads you were supposed to shove up your ass and girth pumps for your penis and something called a ‘hot seat’ I wouldn’t want to confuse with a whoppee cushion and a penis with another penis on the other end and a ‘backdoor buddy’ and extenders you attached to your dick so you could bang your partner from the barbecue and… what’s this? A latex pussy? Pocket sized, no less—a carry-on item for that next long flight. Next to it, oh no, can’t be… a ‘magic flesh’ vibrating butt. Just the butt, face down and buns up, cut off at the waist and thighs.

I laughed. “Hey Babe, look at this!” I grabbed the box and turned around, waving it over my head at where I thought she was still reading the video packages. Now there was an older guy there wearing an overcoat, looking at me from under the brim of his low hat “I… Babe?” I put it down with a humiliated grimace and looked around the store. She was by the peep rooms; sort of keeping her distance, but curious. I went and got her.

“What do they do in there?” she wanted to know.

“What do you think?”

“I heard there’s a hole in the wall in those booths,” she chuckled.

I was naive. “What for?”

“I heard people put it in the hole and, next door… someone takes it…”

“OH-h-h-h…” Get horny and stick your dick in the wall, makes perfect sense.

I remembered the first porn movie I went to, Deep Throat. It had just opened and the Santa Monica theatre was packed. I sat there when it was over and looked at my pal Cliff, “Great idea, buddy. Would you mind if I sat here for a while before walking down Santa Monica Boulevard with a boner the size of Florida?”

“Rhode Island, you mean,” he said. Very funny

“Can we get a video?” Babe raised her eyebrows.

“Sure,” I agree, heading that direction. “You pick it.”

“How about ‘Wanda Does the World?’” I suggest.

“I don’t think so.”

“The Bush Pilot?”

No.

“Midgets on Fire?” No answer. “Forrest Hump?”

“What? Lemme see that.”

I walked back toward the counter, where the kid was stirring up dust with a cat o’ nine tails.

“Finding everything you need?” he asked me.

“More than I need,” I told him. “But I didn’t see any dildo Christmas lights.”

“Those are in here.” He pulled a three-inch thick catalog out from under the counter and slapped it down. “Circumcised or au natural?

“No. Thanks anyway. Now I know where to get them,” I add.

Babe finds a video. It’s a collection of sex scenes from different movies. The tiny thumbnail photographs on the back are so microscopically small I’d need a 10x lupe to see anything clearly, but they look active. What I think is someone’s open mouth turns out to be something quite different, so I stop looking and find the price. It’s $39.99. Holy hell, why not add the nine-tenths of a cent, like a gallon of gas, to make it come out (almost) even?

“Forty bucks? Holy shit!” The kid at the counter smiles again. I’d like to rub jelly on his teeth. “Babe?” Where’d she go? I found her by a rack of newspapers, leafing through a tabloid called Swing Sets, and wandered over. The paper looked like sales ads to me. “Any monkey bars or see-saws in there?” I asked, looking over her shoulder.

“What? Not quite… Look at this.”

I thought I was an open-minded man; experienced and fairly learned in the sensual arts. After reading the ad about a couple looking for another couple to ‘swing’ with, and I’m not talking about the ones next to the see-saws, I immediately felt prehistorically old. How do I feel about that? At that moment, I felt like I’d just had a shitload of penises stuck in my face for the last half hour and wanted to bolt.

“What, exactly, does ‘swinging’ include?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Babe replied, and I was pretty certain she didn’t know any more than I did. “Wanna buy this?” The tabloid was a couple bucks, so I said sure, why not. “There’s pictures too,” she added as a sly aside.

******************************************

Later that night…

Babe has emerged from changing clothes in the one bedroom of our tiny apartment wearing her red flannel shirt. She doesn’t know it, yet, I think, but it’s the shirt that turns me on the most. It’s so… soft, and it’s a button-down. The thought of her naked breasts touching the inside of it never fails to warm my engine. “You look nice,” I tell her as she walks into our tiny apartment kitchen, which, from the bedroom, is no more than eight diminutive Babe-steps away.

She laughs at herself, “What, this? I bought this shirt at a second-hand store in San Francisco about ten years ago. I don’t even know how old this thing is.”

When she’s close enough, I’ll unbutton the top button like I usually do and run a casual finger over the top part of either breast, or both, if possible. I haven’t told her about the effect her red flannel shirt has on me because I don’t want it to be a pre-determined sort of thing. I like the randomness of it. I also like the idea of her knowing already that the red flannel shirt raises my ‘marital right’ flag and wears it when she secretly wishes I’ll ravish her like a ripe plum. When she walks out with it on, all I see is the cape of the Matador. My breath escapes heavily and I stomp a hoof on the carpet, internally snorting and…

I pick up the tabloid and read an ad aloud to Babe, “‘Not into watersports, ‘b’ stroke ‘d’ or kink. No pain. ‘H’ stroke ‘W’ proportionate. No STD’s…’ Could you translate that for me please? What, they don’t want to go to the beach?”

“I think watersports has to do with peeing on people,” Babe clarified.

“Oh, of course. The old ‘golden shower.’ I forgot some people like to do that. Sounds… warm, and… smelly.”

Babe continues, “And ‘b’ and ‘d’ must have something to do with bondage and discipline, or domination.”

“Ah, bondage I should have known. Domination is a little… vague. ‘No pain’ is something I understand, but don’t really get why it has to be stated. I mean, what the fuck, who wants to be in pain?” I was pretty sure I couldn’t carry a hard-on with, say, an alligator clip on my nipple. Babe shrugged and sat down next to me on the small futon we called a couch. She took the tabloid out of my hands and started reading while I looked down her shirt.

“STD’s are sexually transmitted diseases.” Of course, I should have known that, too. “There’s a lot of that going around.” Babe looked at me squarely. I kept looking at the top of her right breast.

“That’s for sure.” I straightened her shirt by pulling down on it a little, and opened the top part up a wee bit more. She looked down at her slowly uncovered cleavage, waiting till I was done arranging her shirt just the way I wanted it. “What else did you find in there?” I pulled some of her curly locks to the side, brushing a fingertip along her neck.

“Huh, what? Oh… let’s see. Let’s look at the photographs.” She turns the page. There’s a couple photographs but the low resolution halftones are completely plugged. “Jesus, they can’t even hold a 65-line screen,” Babe comments, ever the printer, and turns the page. When she looks to the right, she exposes her neck just a smidgen more than I can resist and I make my move to plant a kiss there.

From the very beginning we made an agreement: No tickling. I took a sharp elbow to the stomach when I tried that on Babe early on. Not only that, she promised payback was a bitch and started poking me in the ribs until I had to run from the room. So it was agreed, no tickling. But…

There’s a sensual fulcrum with regards to tickling and arousal. Then there’s the endorphins… When the proper amount of each are employed at the proper time, the effect takes on a heightened, sensual significance. One only has to know where their partner’s current boundary is, and when to back off. So I kiss her neck and run my hand across her stomach. The way she’s sitting, I can squeeze a breast or two while I’m in the neighborhood. The longer I kiss her neck, not moving my head once I get there so it doesn’t tickle, the quicker I have to squeeze at least one breast. In that way, I’m balancing the tickle with the arousal, and saving my teeth from getting knocked out.

There’s a photo of a guy, I think, fishing in a river. He’s got the whole fishing ensemble thing going on; waterproof overalls, vest and floppy hat. “What’s this guy into, rubber and blowfish?” I ask while rearranging Babe’s shirt, opening another button so I can see the inside curve of her crescent moon. She laughs and I run my finger along her soft, warm, inner-right cleavage. “Don’t tell me, he wants to show us his rod, right?”

“Ha-ha! That would be reely funny.” We both laugh.

“You think he’s salmon you’d like to get to know better?”

Babe ignores that and turns the page. “Here’s a couple looking for a ‘discreet relationship, group sex, three or more, miscellaneous fetishes or exhibition and voyeurism.’” She points to the photo. It’s an older couple who both look like truck drivers. I assume the one with the gray beard is the guy.

“Do they describe what ‘miscellaneous fetishes’ are?” I wonder.

Babe puts the paper down. “Wanna watch the video?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” and got up to slip it in. “Want some popcorn?” She didn’t. We kicked back and hit play. The leader fumbled through a squeaky set-up of snow and tracking lines before some type finally came on the screen, then a prim-looking woman in business attire sitting behind a desk. She started to explain some shit about porn in general so I fast-forwarded to the ‘cumming previews.’ A huge pair of breasts jiggled their way into existence and I slowed the tape down so my eyes would stop boggling like a lottery-ball spinner. Bobble-breasts turned out to be an ad for a 900 phone number. Suddenly cum was flying everywhere.

When one guy finished, another took his place and another and another and they all shot their wads close-up and personal. You get all this by phone? “Call this number and you can talk to me, and I’ll make sure you’ll feel like you’re plugging up my nostrils with your chism while I…” chatter like a chipmunk as I hit the fast forward button again. Fifty guys cum in three seconds as the chop-edits fly by. It looks like the fountain show at the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas; all that’s missing is the 1812 Overture.

A plain, typed title shows up so I slow it down. It tells us that this is movie No. 472 and cuts to the chase. Some guy in a red Speedo is chasing a narrow-waisted, extremely tall platinum blond in spiked heels around a kitchen block. Following her bouncing breasts on TV is like singing two songs at once. Then it gets interesting. Using some very creative shots of bizarre, distorted reflections in pots and pans hanging overhead (and, for a while, ‘over head,’ if you get my meaning), they were somehow able to tilt the cameras and crossfade into some very tight places. One moment you were looking at a two-quart copper pot, then realize it had turned into a 27-inch vagina and the handle had foreskin. I wanted him to pull out (the cameraman). It was making me dizzy.

We fast-forwarded, and watched, and did some Hmmmm-ing and… “Have you ever tried that?”

I re-focused my eyes on Babe. “Not that I remember.” We watched some more. “How about you, ever try that?”

“Have you ever thought about trying that?”

“There’s no fucking way that upside-down thing is happening,” Babe said at one point.

“Wanna try that?” She put her hand on the inside of my thigh.

My manhood suddenly felt like a teenager again. “How about now? I have a dildo growing in my pocket.”

The point is, that movie had a happy ending. Babe and I learned a lot about each other, and had fun in the process. Several times, in fact. Most importantly, it caused us to talk about our sensual fantasies. Once we did that, we were sharing secrets between ourselves. Armed with those intimate details, we wink at one another from time to time and pass the sly smiles only lovers who know each other too well can pass. She’s still got that red, flannel shirt too.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

#17—A Date With No Shame (sung to A Horse With No Name, by America)

Degree of Difficulty: Even potheads can sing this.

(Click on a link below to hear the original, than read along with the new lyrics below.)

The version you’re familiar with: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSAJ0l4OBHM
Alternate, techno/acoustic version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8uHVVq10B8

On the first aisle of the sex shop
I was looking at all the junk
There were batteries and cocks with rings
There were molded beaded things
The first thing I saw was a pussy with fuzz
And this guy with-out brows
The shop was hot and my mouth was dry
But my hair was looking good

I’ve been through a sex shop with a date with no shame
He asked me if I was in-to pain.
In the sex shop, you can’t tell people you’re game
Or you might end up as a vibrator name

La, la, la,
la-la-la-la-la,
la-la-la,
la-la

[repeat la-las]

After two hours with my horny chum
My face began to turn red
After three hours I wanted a gun
I was wishing that my date was dead
And the story he told of vibrators that glowed
Made me think that he was brain dead

You see I’ve been through a sex shop with a date with no shame
I saw dildos built like Great Danes.
In one section were blow-up dolls with a name
Kinda weird when you see one who’s called Elaine

La, la, la,
la-la-la-la-la,
la-la-la,
la-la

[repeat la-las]

[15 SECOND AIR GUITAR RIFF]

After nine hours I had to take a pee
I was thinkin I’d flush then flee
There were penis pumps and plugs for rumps
But no-toilet paper for me
You have to be perverted when you’re askin around
For a latex vibrating glove
And it’s not pretty, like a fart with no sound
But I know what I’m speaking of

You see I’ve been through a sex shop with a date with no shame
He picked out a big doll named Lorraine
In the sex shop, you should assume a new name
And there ain’t no one who will clean up the stains

La, la, la,
la-la-la-la-la,
la-la-la,
la-la

[repeat la-las] [repeat la-las]
[repeat la-las]
[slight pause, then repeat la-las]
[repeat la-las]
[keep repeating la-las]

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Street of Rogues Ch. 6—Exploding Invisible Goldfish

Rated R (language and situations)

Street of Rogues Chapter 6—Exploding Invisible Goldfish

 

I’m sure the reason such young nitwits are produced in our schools is because they have no contact with anything of any use in everyday life.—Petronius (d. circa 66 CE), The Satyricon.

I greeted Kleinberg outside the side door of the Junior High School we knew as the Titanic. “Wha’s happ’nin’, man?”

“Nuthin’, man.” We slapped hands. For all his high-strung unpredictability, Kleinberg just wanted to have a good time like the rest of us. I seemed to give him a few laughs, and in return for that he usually had a smoke for me when I needed one.

“Yo, Chuckie.” (Grunt.) “Yo, Sullivan.” (Giggle.) Hand slaps for everyone as I made my way up the line of forlorn faces getting ready to step into quicksand. “What’s on the menu today?” I asked, meaning, What’s the drug du jour?

I got the typical answer, followed by the usual question. “I don’t know man, nuthin’ I guess. Got any money?” Kleinberg knew I wouldn’t have any to speak of. I was lucky if I had a pack of smokes with enough left over for a Devil Dog and a package of black licorice Nibs. My finances at the time depended heavily on a meager allowance and loose change from Pop’s overcoat. It looked like another depressing day until Lewis came running up all breathless and sweaty, with glassy eyes and enlarged pupils. He blurted out the news in one gulp: “Robby Plott’s got this mescaline and guess what—it tastes like chocolate pudding powder and comes in this horsecap for five bucks and he won’t be there long and—”

“What!? Where is he now?” We needed to know at once, it was nearly time to go inside.

“Candy store, but we have to move fast. He’s leaving after his breakfast.” The five of us sprang from the gate en masse, as if a start gun had gone off, and beat feet up the street. It wasn’t often that I had five bucks on a school day, but I did have some contacts up that way I hoped to find as I sprinted along with the pack. We burst into the luncheonette candy store puffing hard-earned wind and scanned the stools for Robby. He was still there, finishing his English Muffin and egg-cream soda. Just as I had hoped, an old friend named Roth was also there. He was a good buddy from last year and due for a touch.

I always liked Roth. I used to spend the night at his house from time to time watching The Late Show movie on one of the three broadcast stations that constituted TV back in 1969. We’d eat Mallomar cookies and wash them down with real seltzer water—the kind Moe, Larry and Curly used with the trigger on the bottle. His parents were Jewish Hungarians with concentration camp tattoos to prove it. They were hard workers, the lot of them. While the rest of us were atrophying on smokes, booze, glue and chemicals, Roth and his brother got real jobs in their father’s produce business. Before long, both brothers were driving their own Monte Carlos.

Roth, me and a kid named Masloff—born of an Argentinian mother and a Nazi father— were inseparable for a time in seventh grade. Roth knew Masloff since grade school. For a full ten-month school year, Roth told me, they fought every Friday after school. It wasn’t anti- semitic on Masloff’s part, he was just a fiery kid who always got into fights. He’d fight anyone, usually did, and lost those bouts regularly. Routinely, Roth slowly removed his glasses and beat the shit out of him.

“The kid never learned!” Roth said with a laugh. That summer, Masloff finally cooled off and he and Roth became best friends. When Masloff died in a sailboat accident (he went sailing with someone who couldn’t swim, was knocked unconscious and overboard by the boom and drowned), Roth was the first one at his funeral—respectfully in suit and tie. That demonstrated a certain character to me which I quietly applauded.

Plus, he lent me a deuce, after I promised I wouldn’t say where I got it—which was a lot faster than panhandling ten, twenty-cent subway tokens. I was still short, but had one remaining chance of buying in if my girlfriend would show up at her usual time. Margaret lived across the street from the luncheonette in a thirty-story apartment building and, always fashionably late for school, was due to pass there any moment.

Christened Margaret Mary Magdalene Saint, she was the most voluptuous girl in school. At fifteen she was already a stunning woman. She had long, dark wavy hair, a full body, and swayed her hips sweetly when she walked. Her face was heart-shaped and had two blue glowing stars for eyes. Smiling all the time, she laughed with a grand gusto and held her liquor as well as the best of us, which she often proved. She may have been rough-cut, but she was genuine diamond. We loved each other deeply, and to this day I consider Margaret my first, true love.

The dicey part of our intermittent five-year affair was the fact that her father hated me. It was ironic, but most of my friends’ parents thought I was the rotten apple of the crowd, the big- haired instigator of everything. Unfortunately for us, Margaret’s father and I met before we were properly introduced. It was early in our friendship, and I’d gone with some guy to visit her in the old apartment she lived in. For some reason, this guy always went around in a straw hat and cape. I don’t remember his name; what was his trip anyway? I didn’t ask and never found out. In any case, as we sat on the lobby couch waiting for Margaret to make a chance appearance, this short, stocky guy comes over, takes a look at me and my hair and my pal in his straw hat and cape and says: “Whatta youse want?”

I didn’t know who he was, or that he was the Supe and Margaret’s father (The Supe was how we referred to all Superintendants, and they were a pretty dangerous lot if they caught you swimming in their pools at night or playing around in the elevator rooms. Some of them carried whips!), so I said something very much like: “Hey, it’s a free country, pal. If you don’t like it then take a hike.” The next thing I knew we were tossed out the front door by the scruffs of our necks.

Margaret described the encounter to me later, about how some ‘clods’ mouthed off to her Sicilian, connected father, who had a part-time business running vans full of unstamped cigarettes up from the Carolinas to re-sell in the city, and did I have any idea who the morons were? When I told her Yes, it was me, I believe that was when she fell in love with me. However, it would be years before I would ever see the inside of her apartment, and only when Cosa Nostra was in the Carolinas picking up butts.

Half Irish by her mother, who called her Margie, she was the oldest of five kids and sometimes took care of her baby sister—something I resented at first because two-year-olds need this constant attention, and it distracted my make-out concentration. Ultimately, I had to give up those designs and resigned myself to watching Margaret push a swing with little sister Kip on it. Somewhere along the line as I watched, I realized that this was one of the qualities I loved about Margaret—the way she knew how to nurture and love people. It showed in how easily she made friends, even in the way she walked. Her sultry stride was all at once casual, thoughtful, happy and sexy. She walked without a self-conscious bone in her beautiful, womanly body. I loved to watch her coming up the street to the park with those swaying hips; emerging from her building, walking toward the luncheonette like a cat on the prowl. I was The Thin Man to her Myrna Loy. Thank God she was being late on time! I ran over to intercept her. She smiled demurely when she saw me approaching.

“Hi Baby.” A little kiss. “Lemme see yer purse.” I started rummaging around in there, past the Kools, the lipstick, hairbrush, mirror…

“Gimme that!” She grabbed it back. “How much you need?”

“How much you got?” She had the fin so I traded her Roth’s deuce for it, coming out three bucks ahead. “Gotta fly, Baby. Seeya! Thanks, yer the best!

“Whatta my gonna do for lunch?” she wanted to know, following me with big, blue, rapidly receding eyes as I made the dash back to Robby’s pudding-flavored mescaline.

“Get from Julie, she always has money! Seeya at lunch?”

“K.” She waved, and I was a happy boy.

“Plott’s Pudding” did taste similar to chocolate pudding powder, but performed a hell of a lot better. By the end of the first period of class I was fully on it—a mellower hallucinogen than the Sunshine, Brown Dot, Blue Cheer, Barrels, LSD 25 and other Owsley-brand acids that were more prevalent at the time. It didn’t seem right, having to sit in a double period of science on Plott’s Pudding first thing in the morning.

Even when I was straight I could never make a formula balance on both sides of the equals sign. There were only three people in the class who could do that; the rest of us had been guessing at the answers for the past three lessons. Sullivan happened to be one of the three who understood it, and it was pissing the insane Mr. Gerble off. (I think he had shell-shock from The Civil War. If you dropped a textbook, he ducked.) Gerble kept throwing harder equations at him and Sullivan kept rattling off the solutions from his head, adding a shrieky, mescaline giggle after each correct answer. When Gerble asked him to explain himself he’d rattle that off, too, adding things like: “It’s obvious…” followed by another shrieky giggle. He was starting to piss me off.

In my seat in the last row by the window, I returned to gazing outside—where it was threatening another autumn storm, getting windy and darker. Construction workers were beginning to leave the site where I’d been watching them build a huge, centralized cop station directly across from the school’s front entrance. Convenient. Good, I thought, about the impending storm, anything to slow that down! Our ‘park’ would never be the same once the 112th Precinct was ‘fully operational,’ like the Deathstar before its time. Cops would be parking their cars on our street and wearing civilian clothes, disguised as regular people. We’d have to speak in whispers and finally straggle off someplace else. There would be no more neighborhood-wide hide-n-seek games to occupy a hundred people. No more Johnny on the Pony, which was best when played wildly drunk and disorderly.

Maybe I can get outta here under cover of rain, I began thinking. If caught, I’d make up a story about how I thought our basement might be flooding. It was a perfect day to go to the NBC building and catch a few game shows. They always coached the studio audience, telling half of us to yell Buy it! or Come back! at the appropriate times so it sounded natural, I guess. Of course, we yelled our part slightly before cue and louder than everyone else. If we couldn’t be seen, we made sure we were heard.

Musing thusly, I chanced a peek at the clock. At eighty minutes, a double-period of Science was interminable. I didn’t even want to glance past Gerble, fearing the possible eye contact might make him call on me, but I had to know how much longer I’d be detained there. Moving slowly, I zoomed in on the wall clock in the front of the class, did the math (thirty-five minutes to go!), and made the mistake of accidentally looking at the blackboard. It was crawling with formulas and squiggles and all kinda signs and crap, but that wasn’t the unexpected part. Instead, I felt like if I didn’t hang onto my desk I’d go headlong crashing down into the thing from the back row, which quickly lengthened to about a block away.

Whoa… weird. I hung onto the front of my desk for dear life. Don’t giggle! My hair fell forward like blinders, until I was looking into a deep bowl with Gerble wrapped up in squiggles as if he were struggling inside a Whirlpool blender with nine settings. Then my stomach started getting the squiggles. I couldn’t let that happen; it wouldn’t do to blow my load now and lose five bucks in the process. I had to grab onto a piece of reality in order to restore equilibrium to my stomach, so I strained to catch a few words of the lesson for an anchor against the hallucinations and sea sickness—pushing thoughts of my animated friend Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent (a Bob Clampett Cartoon!) aside to concentrate.

Gerble: “Yes, if I thought a kid was a bad seed I’d go out of my way to get him in trouble.”

Student (Sullivan, in fact!): “You mean to say that even if they didn’t do anything?”

Gerble: “Yes, if I thought he deserved it.”

I couldn’t believe my ears, or the translating mechanism that was supposed to make it all make sense. Was this so-called ‘educator’ admitting to a class of thirty-seven witnesses that he’d deliberately fabricate a false set of circumstances in order to get someone he didn’t like into hot water with school authorities? He’d lie, with blatant disregard for the stain it would leave on the student’s ‘permanent record?’ I knew he was trying to bait a hook, but I was only going to nibble. I raised a finger to get his attention, snapping it back to the desk edge quickly to steady myself.

Gerble barked at me immediately. “What do you want?” (NYC educators were so polite back then.)

A cone of silence fell over the class. Thirty-six mugs all turned to look at me, staring intently—a little too intently for comfort. It’s odd how the complexion of a room changes when everyone in it turns to look at you; it’s almost as if you’re in a different room altogether. I knew they were counting on me to stand up for their honor and put this guy in his place. I found Sullivan’s face in the crowd. It was clear he was trying to hold back hysterics. Clutching his gut and shaking his head, he mouthed at me: “NO!

I wasn’t about to take the fall, though; I was going to finesse this jerk. “I just want to—”

“Stand up!”

“Wha..? Me?” It was something I didn’t want to have to do. Having to try anyway, I slid the chair back, stood up, and fell backwards into the closet behind me. The class roared, getting their money’s worth already. I must have overcompensated for the tunnel-vision vertigo I was having. Fortunately, the knock was a relative point of departure from which to stand straight—I knew what wasn’t working, so, crawling shakily across the floor and up my desk, I tried it again and managed to waver there like a buoy in a choppy bay.

“Slipped on a piece of paper…” I covered and went on, ignoring the snickers and completely ignoring Sullivan out of self-preservation to keep from laughing to death if I so much as looked at him. “Anyways, you mean that if someone hadn’t done anything, but just ’cuz you didn’t like ’em personally, you’d actually contrive a false set of circumstances to get ‘em in trouble?” My plan was to overstate the obvious, thereby showing the class what a sick butthead he was—something they probably knew beforehand and Sullivan had previously made clear already. He fell right into my trap.

“Yes, that’s right, if I thought he was a bad seed.” I couldn’t believe the shameless audacity of the man. That’s when I forgot myself and made one, tiny mistake.

“Man, you’re crazy.” I muttered under my breath as I sat down. After the ensuing cries of approval from the class died down, I realized I had only thought I muttered it quietly, but in fact had just written myself a ticket down to the Dean’s office. Gerble had a self-satisfied grin on his face and was waiting for the right moment to leverage his complete authority over me. I looked at Sullivan, who was looking at the floor and shaking his head.

Damn, I really did mutter under my breath this time.

You! Down to the Dean, boy!” and from the front of the classroom, Gerble’s gnarly finger extended all the way to the tip of my nose.

I got out of there fast, ducking into the nearest head for a smoke. I had to think about this and work out my story. If I hadn’t been pre-occupied I would have noticed the smoke coming out from under the door and turned around. Not knowing who was in there, and without backup, the bathroom could be a risky place. (No one ever took a shit in there. It was too dangerous to be so vulnerable.) It was too late to avoid it, and I ran into speedy Melvyn and his boys smoking their Kools.

All the black kids smoked Kools; the whites smoked Marlboros, hardpack—except for Margaret, who also smoked Kools, which sucked every time I ran short of butts. Melvyn and his boys smoked in there and sang a cappella. They were damn good, too, until they broke up laughing before the end of the first chorus. To me, their presence meant one of two things: either I’d get blindsided and left to rot, or they’d frisk me first, then punch my lights out. Either way I didn’t like my chances. I was pretty sure they weren’t there to perform for me.

Too committed to back out now and run like a nerd, I lit up, took the first hit gratefully and blew a smoke ring that shot out three feet and exploded on the wall as if it were a zit hitting the mirror. “Fuck,” I said to Big Gerard, “I just got sent to the Dean.” I thought this might deflect them into extending me the courtesy of at least finishing my butt before they mugged me. Big Gerard stroked his goatee, watching me severely. I wondered how many times he had been left back.

Finally, he said, “Whachoo smokin’, man?”

“Huh? Marlboro, why?” They all frowned, in perfect harmony. “Don’t smoke those, man, smoke these… be Kool!”

He held out his pack of Kools, bottom up, from where they liked to open them. Opening the pack from the bottom was supposed to keep them fresher—so they’d ‘last longer.’ Fuck that, a real smoker smokes them stale, or before they can get stale. The soft packs supposedly gave you two extra drags per butt, too, but I wasn’t so sure about that until I could measure for myself, something I still haven’t done to this day. Damn pain in the ass if you asked me, soft packs. Where would you keep your roaches? Nah, hardpacks were the best. I flicked the head off my Marlboro, stuck it back in the pack and took one of his nauseatingly mentholated Kools—in no position to be anything other than thankful for it. Looking for the blindside rabbit punch to the head as I lit up, it never came. Once we got to talking and smoking I told them what happened (leaving out the part about the pudding breakfast) and they commiserated appropriately with me. Well, I said, gotta go now, and made for the door.

I was dizzy as I wove through the hallways, followed by a trail of smoke. Eventually I made it down the three flights of stairs to the basement, past the sour smelling cafeteria, and found myself standing in front of the dungeon-like door that was the Dean’s office. I had it all worked out. I resolved to simply tell the truth and let matters lie where they landed. After all, this was irrational, wasn’t it? I stood there for a second vainly trying to brush away the paisley patterns twittering about like butterflies on the door.

I knocked. Knock-ock-ock. Knock-ock-ock… It sounded as if old WW II bombing footage was being replayed. I sucked it up and tried the knob. If it was locked, I could hang in the bathroom for half an hour and hope he didn’t come barging in looking for smokers to bust.

“Hiya, Dean. I was just comin’ to seeya!” I’d say, but the knob went ‘CLICK’ and opened right up. Why was everything so LOUD all of a sudden? I bravely went in on the side of righteousness.

Fortunately this wasn’t Dean Coupler—he was on a half-year sabbatical. Even Ma was afraid of Coupler and refused to see him anymore after he tried to put the make on her. He beat the shit out of Lewis that time in the locker room, too, so I was glad it was Winegrow sitting behind the desk. He had some paperwork in front of him and was engrossed in it. I stood there silently looking down at his bald, round head. Four model airplanes dangled on strings over each corner of his desk.

Clearing my throat, I started. “I—”

“SHH-ush!” he said, waving me over to a hard metal chair without looking up. “Sit down and shut up.”

I sat there a few minutes getting more and more uncomfortable until I started to squirm, so I stood back up to take a closer look at the airplanes hovering above his desk. They were very detailed and looked to be miniatures of real, classic planes. “These are cool,” I said, testing the prop on one. It spun as if it had been freshly oiled, blurring into a transparency of its former self.

“Break those, and I’ll break you,” Winegrow growled in measured tones without looking up. Clearly, the paperwork annoyed him. Sighing at it, he then looked at me for the first time. He was so cross-eyed that one eye bulged out of his big, bald, pinkish, Charlie Brown head and appeared to be looking at the other eye. His upper body was thick, almost bloated; he was an exclamation point with a tiny waist and puny legs—so top-heavy that he looked as though you were viewing him from above through an ultra wide-angle lens.

I had to turn away to avoid the giggles, so I started looking at the many photographs he had on the walls. They were all pictures of airplanes, some of them with him standing next to them. Here he was next to a bi-plane, replete with oldstyle leather headgear. He looked ridiculous, wearing a crushed smile that burst out of that tight headgear, all pink and shiny but for those cumbersome eyes. I looked away from it quickly, to keep from losing it—a laugh attack not being advisable here. I had seen people go convulsive while laughing too hard on a hallucinogen, and didn’t want to go there. I turned to look at something else, anything.

There, on the credenza, I noticed the fish tank for the first time. It had water, gravel and a small, charcoal filter that bubbled inanely in the corner. There were no plants, no little plastic treasure chests to open up and reveal little plastic skeletons, and no fish. Just to be sure there weren’t really small fish in there, I moved closer to inspect.

Then I saw the sticker on the glass. INVISIBLE GOLDFISH, it read. I wondered, how did he know they were goldfish? Off to the side was a vial of Tetramin Fish Food and it had a sticker, too, which read, naturally: INVISIBLE GOLDFISH FOOD. I picked it up and hefted it, finding it empty.

Cute, methinks, and I started ‘sprinkling’ it over the water in the tank. “Hey Mr. Winegrow, how do you know you weren’t ripped off and sold guppies instead?” I said as I sprinkled, followed by: “Where’s the thermometer, also invisible? They could be cold… How do you know they ain’t dead already? I suppose if they’re still eating—” When he looked up and saw me littering his tank with invisible food he bolted out of his chair, sending it crashing against the wall, and rushed me.

Stop!” I stopped in mid-sprinkle, mouth open. Knocking me out of the way, he flung open a drawer and rummaged around frantically for a net, which he finally produced and dragged over the surface of the water repeatedly, back and forth, trying to scrape up the invisible goldfish food. “What are you doing, man!?” he bellowed. “These fish are stoo-pid! They don’t know when to stop eating, they’ll eat until they blow up!” (Note: The word written as ‘stoo-pid’ is occasionally used in this telling. For those who can’t extrapolate the translation, it means ‘stupid,’ and usually refers to something I’ve done. If possible, it should be read with a New York accent.)

I backed away cautiously. “These are exploding invisible goldfi…?” stopping myself before continuing on about his invisible goldfish or guppies or whatever the hell he thought they were, dead or alive. What we needed was a bigger net.

Clearly exasperated with me, he finally asked why I was there. “Why are you here? Quickly man, before you destroy the place!”

I stood there blinking at him, like that myopic girl in class. “I—”

“Wait!” He held up his hand for me to stop. Brushing me out of the way, he crossed the office and took a headlong dive into the closet. Scrambling around on all fours, he tossed out an old bean can with some dried-up tangerine peels in it, then a galosh, and an old calendar that fluttered out the way a startled pheasant might—his skinny butt waving enticingly at me the whole time. One well placed, steel-toed boot… Pay dirt turned out to be a wooden plank with an eye hook screwed into its dead center. Then he rattled out about five feet of heavy chain and a thick dowel about a foot long. For a brief moment I nearly panicked. If this had been old Dean Coupler I would have shouldered him into the closet and run for my meager life!

Fascinated by this display of incongruity, I stood bolted to the spot and watched as he put the plank on the floor, hooked the chain on the hook in the plank, then put the dowel through the top link of the chain. Then, while standing on the plank, he proceeded to try and lift himself up via the dowel with both hands. Pulling harder and harder, he started to strain. His reptilian eyes bugged out even more than usual and little beads of sweat erupted all over his head, hundreds of tiny sun-blisters getting ready to pop. As I watched, dumbfounded, he turned different colors; bright red at first, then he took on a musty shade of burgundy, until finally rifling through various shades of oxygen-starved purple until the veins in his neck started doing little dances. I thought he might very well just pull himself straight off the ground and levitate in front of me until he exploded like a gluttonous, invisible goldfish. I flinched just watching him. He looked as if he were blowing up a balloon too full, or someone had shoved a firehose up his ass.

He finally let go of the dowel with a bellowing “YAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaa…” that trailed off for an eternity, reverberating in pulses inside my head while he flexed his tiny hands and all the other blood he had in that dwarf body of his started returning to its regular locations. He changed back from purple to burgundy to bright red and then finally to just pinkish again. The chain lay crumpled at his feet, totally exhausted.

Jesus! I thought. Is this what seniority does to you!?

“What is it, boy? Out with it!” he commanded. “I haven’t got all day!” Obviously he had some pretty important shit to do; the fish tank may have needed invisible algae scraped off the glass for all I knew.

I stammered out my story, which I’m sure I would have totally forgotten by then were it not for the fact that all I had to do was remember the truth this time. “I told Mister Gerble… after he told us that he would get a kid he didn’t like in trouble…” Winegrow stifled a yawn. I was already boring him. “…who didn’t even do anything! I mean, for no reason…” Not particularly articulate but enunciated well enough, I told my lunatic Dean I had committed the heinous act of disrespecting the psycho Gerble by calling him ‘crazy.’

Bracing myself for whatever might follow, he walked to his desk, put the chair back on its legs, sat down and started shuffling papers again—dismissing me with a wave of his pudgy, doll-like hand. “Go tell him you’re sorry,” was all he said.

“?” Did I miss the tirade, or had he already killed me in a blinding flash of light I never even saw and this was to be my hell—feeding invisible food to nonexistent fish? “That’s it? Just like that? I mean, that’s all?” I stammered some more.

“Yeah, just like that.” Winegrow seemed calm now, placidly scribbling away about God- knows-what in disappearing ink under those dangling plastic airplanes.

I couldn’t leave just then. I had to ask him: “I’m right, aren’t I? I mean, what kind of teacher would do that?”

He looked up at me with heavy exasperation. “Hey, you called him crazy in front of his whole class. Just go apologize and give him this note to get back in.” He scribbled his initials the way a left-handed caveman might have on a stone tablet and walked it over to me, folding and crinkling it a little first. Then he said that thing to me which I will likely never forget.

“Look kid, he may be right or he may be wrong, but all that doesn’t matter. All you want to do is get back into class. Now get outta here.”

He backed me out of the room with a little shove and slammed the door. I stood there blinking at it for a while, not sure of what really happened, and for a split second wondered if I had imagined it all and hadn’t really gone inside yet. Then I remembered the note in my hand and knew I hadn’t dreamed it up.

Winegrow was right, of course. Being right or wrong won’t get me back in class, I thought. Whether Gerble was right or wrong, good or bad, the only thing that mattered was the goal, which was to get back in class, sit there and shut up so I could get my grade and be gone.

This was to be a mentality I would employ for years to come—keeping my eye on the goal and ignoring any other bullshit taking place that was a waste of time and out of my control anyway. That doesn’t matter. The idea is to keep your focus on what does matter and skip over the bullshit! I didn’t have to be right or wrong, I needed to do what I had to do in order to get what I wanted.

He was teaching me about the means to the end, and how we can control our desired results through whatever means necessary, and that means is superfluous to the end result. We have control over our lives by not getting distracted by irrelevant arguments and circumstances. He taught me that what I needed was more important than winning an argument; which can be not only a waste of energy, but can blindside you and even sabotage the end results. The end excuses any evil, Sophocles said, as a formula for success.

It was a revelation to me, standing there staring at a paisley-blank door, and it lightened my load somehow. It was liberating, this notion! I didn’t have to get sucked into some moron’s way of thinking, or risk trying to make them see things my way. I could just lump it and go about my business.

In a very real, tangible way, I learned more in school that day on mescaline by getting thrown out of class than I did my entire school ‘career’ afterward (although the invisible fish remain a mystery). Forget the fact that the source of this revelatory piece of information was bizarre, it’s all about what you make of it.

“Sorry about the fish,” I said to the door and left, badly in need of another smoke.

On my way back to class I ran into Chuckie in the hall. He was on his way to see Dean Winegrow. “What happened?” I asked him. He told me his desk caught on fire. “How’d that happen?” I wanted to know.

“Prolly ’cuz a da match I threw in it,” he told me, over-illustrating what Yeats said about education: “Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.”

P.I.S.S.E.D. Ch. 6—Top of the 2nd

Rated R (language and situations)

P.I.S.S.E.D. Ch. 6—Top of the 2nd

 

You camped on my doorstep,
While I sat on my throne.
You wanted my foresight,
But found no one was home.

You crowded the strike zone,
While I stood on the mound.
You wanted my fastball,
But I threw you the curve.

 

Queens, NYC.

“…I figured what the hell, the midgets added ambiance, ha-ha-ha! Ahhhh, it was a fun night.” Raingirl smiled at the imitation wood bar, shaking her long curls at Felliniesque roles played in the theatre of her memories. “It made him happy.” She was speaking of her husband, and of keeping a twenty year marriage interesting.

As a courtesy to the several other patrons now populating the neighborhood bar, Max un-muted the sound.

…arts us off in the top half of the second after spotting the Mets a run…

“That’ll keep it interesting, alright,” Max said. “I saw a midget sex movie once, on the internet. It was short.” Raingirl didn’t get the joke. After a slight pause, Max went on, “So, Raingirl, what’s a potato do on a Saturday night?”

“Oh gawd… Is this a joke?”

Max almost sneered. “No, I really want to know. Of course it’s a joke!”

“Oh… Hmmm. Lemme think about that, alright?”

Max sighed, ready to deliver the punchline, “He hangs out with his spuddies.” So saying, he tossed another beer nut into the trash behind the bar.

…swung on and fouled out of play, strike one.

With arms folded, Sonny scowled at him. “Would you quit it!”

“Hey, I’m two for three.”

“Ha-ha! Now I get it… ‘Short movie.’ Ha-ha!” You didn’t have to drop a house on Raingirl more than once or twice.

…that fan is wishing he brought his glove right now… Hampton will rub up the new ball…

“Nevermind.” Max figured she’d get the potato joke later, or tomorrow in the shower.

Dougie entered the bar, shrugged off the penetrating chill from outside and ambled over to sit next to Raingirl. His large, round frame obliterated the stool as he grumbled in Raingirl and Max’s direction, “Yo.”

“Yo, Dougie,” they both replied. Sonny-boy awaited his usual order.

“Gimme a Bud.” Sonny nodded, grabbed a bottle of Bud, flipped the cap off, and set it down. “What’s this, baseball already?”

Raingirl sipped her russian, indifferent to the game on television.

…last year, he had twelve at-bats in the six slot. This guy can really bring it.

Cliche, Max noticed, long since having lost count.

Dougie grumbled something unintelligible. Max and Raingirl were used to it, and nodded in agreement. “Hey,” he added, “Remind me to pick up a can of beans on the way home.”

…he’s got the stuff, but how will he respond to the pressure night after night?

“…or Karen will kill me.” Max and Raingirl nodded again.

…that’s a bad sign for the home team…

Raingirl wanted to know what kind of beans. Dougie took his eyes off the television and looked at her, obviously confused. “Whaddya mean ‘what kinda beans?’ Beans is beans.”

Raingirl knew her beans, but Max didn’t know one from another. “Bring her some coffee, then.”

Ignoring that, Raingirl started to enlighten Dougie about beans. “Well, there’s garbonzo and red kidney and black beans and caribbean black beans…” She counted them off while the batter dug in.

…takes inside, ball two…

“…and pinto and baked and onion baked…” she pointed out specifically, as if it were her favorite, “…and barbeque baked and ‘bold and spicy’ baked…” which she quoted with her french-manicured fingertips “…and vegitar or country or honey style. And, there’s baked beans with hot dogs and…”

“… don’t forget Beanie and Cecil,” Max said. “And Beanie Babies.”

…here comes the two-two pitch…

“…great northern beans and pork and beans and how about cannellini beans? Mmm, good with bay leaves in it…”

“Bailey’s?”

“Bay leaves. You know, the herb?”

“Oh, yeah, I knew that.” Max went back to not saying anything. Dougie looked shocked, and appealed to him for help. “What the fuck is a cannelloni bean?”

Strike three at the knees!

“Not cannelloni, that’s pasta. Cannellini, the common bean.”

Dougie was beginning to hate beans. He whipped out his cell phone. “I’ll call her.” The three of them waited for Karen to pick up the call.

“You forgot Mr. Bean. And Bean Franklin.”

“Hey,” Dougie said into the mouthpiece, “…what kinda beans?” Pause. “Okay, yeah.” Pause. “Yeah.” Pause. “Yeah.” Pause.

“…and mung beans.”

“What are you, a bean counter?” Raingirl laughed at her own joke.

“That’s better than being a has-bean! Ha-ha!”

“Okay… alright.” Pause. “You, too.” Dougie hung up.

…he had six errors last season at the position…

“Great,” Dougie said to the television. “Now I gotta remember to get a can of tomatoes.”

Raingirl picked up her drink and took a sip.

…he hangs the breaking ball and it’s slapped to right center!

“Chunky or whole?”

“What?”

“Peeled, ground or—”

“I don’t fuckin’ know.”

“Petite-cut, stewed, ready-cut, Italian style?”

…he’ll round first and head to second…

“Crushed or diced or petite diced or—”

“What are you a fuckin’ grocer?” They all laughed. Dougie was screwed, he’d have to make another call to Karen.

…he’s been the heart of the order for New York. One on, nobody out. Sandy Koufax tipped his pitches, all the way to the hall of fame…

“She might even want organic, dude,” Max added to Dougie’s mental maelstrom of beans and tomatoes. “Hey Sonny, gimme another gin.”

“Sloe, rummy, or mill?” Raingirl asked. It was Max’s turn to ignore her.

“Or ginsing?” Sonny added.

Max hung his head. “Just make it the usual carcino-gin…”

…that sinker died on the vine…

Max had his own midgets in the closet to play with in idle moments of lasciviousness. He and his own Lovergirl crossed that hump, so to speak, after only a few years together. He hid a smile behind his new gin. It was a long time ago…

They ran an ad in a Swingers magazine, just to see what responses they’d get. Hundreds of letters came in, which they read with eager fascination. Some responses included photos. One girl had a clothespin attached to every sensitive spot on her body, but her letter said she ‘wasn’t into pain.’ The young couple in Max’s mind chuckled heartily with the memory. One man wrote a seven page letter describing, in minute detail, how he’d like to come to their door in his fireman’s gear for a ‘safety check.’ Once inside, he would ravage Lovergirl. While Max looked on, he’d carry her to the bed and pound her—still wearing his helmet. They howled with laughter at the time, with Max going so far as to don some underwear on his head and chase Lovergirl with an eyeglass screwdriver into the bathroom, where they did it on the sink with the shower running.

That’s three straight breaking balls…

…and there was the time they did it while Max was driving over a very dangerous thirteen-mile stretch of road in the mountains. It was daybreak, after Lovergirl drained a bottle of mescal clear down to the worm the night before. Booze brought out the native in her. She reached across the shifter in the car and took Max out of his pants, grinning like a cat, and went down. Then she straddled him. Max was amazed he could climax and keep the car on the road. They were both more nimble back then. But Lovergirl wasn’t done; that’s asking a lot of a man in Max’s position, to return the favor indefinitely. So she slid off and moved to the passenger seat, where she distracted Max a whole lot more. God she was beautiful.

There was a fine line, however, between Lovergirl’s carnal lust and going on the warpath against the white man for stealing her ancestral home—Hawaii. Max never wanted to cross that path again, and warned would-be antagonizers who might mention the subject in her borderline inebriated presence against bringing it up, even by accident.

“Don’t ask her where she’s from,” Max would whisper at parties as Lovergirl approached her alcoholic redline. She was in no way, shape or form an authentic alcoholic. In fact, there were times when Max wished she’d get drunk more often.

We’ll go to the bottom half of the inning, with the Mets already on the board…

P.I.S.S.E.D. Ch. 5—Wheels in Motion

Rated PG (language)

Chapter 5—Wheels in Motion

 

 

Zurich, Switzerland

Holly tapped away at her laptop, fully plugged in with wireless tentacles to the greater world of cyberspace. Her chai sent curls of steam into the morning shaft of sunlight falling through the tall windows of her sparsely adorned downtown loft. Street noise played like a muted symphony in the background—urban music which Holly considered reassuring.

Practically every schmuck worth his weight in idle time dallies on the internet, including anarchists. Some are brilliant, while some are strictly henchman and delivery types. It’s estimated that seventy percent of all people on the internet spend some time in either of three places: the card rooms, chat rooms, and the porn sites. Only the artists, it seemed to Holly, had something better to do. She made use of all three cyber-venues from which to cull her crop of crazy cronies. At the moment, she chatted with Mighty Mouse in a designated, private blackjack room, anxious to discover his progress with the explosives specifications.

HAG: It’s been three weeks MM……………………………………

MM (takes a hit): You make complicat with all fucky spec. Soon.

Holly breathed heavily on the keypad and counted to five. Mighty Mouse had been hard-pressed to find time for Operation Flip-off since he was promoted to ‘Chef Explosifs Goy’ at the equivalent of ACME Fireworks in Peking. She stuck with her cards and decided to play nice.

HAG: I see your English is improving. I need ETA ASAP, Ok? Buyers have ants in pants.

She sent that, hoping he’d get the hint and give her an approximation of when he’d be ready with the specs, which then needed to be forwarded to NYC for manufacture, deployment, and, ultimately, detonation.

MM: I know in one week. He took another card and busted.

“Fuck!” Holly yelled at the screen.

HAG: Ok. I need hard answer, please. She added the code for their next online meeting. BJ 0641/7, which meant ‘Blackjack room at 06:41 GMT, in seven days hence.’

MM: Got it. CYA

She snapped her laptop shut and picked up the phone.

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 1—Red Snapper

Rated R (language)

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 1—Red Snapper

 

June, 2005—California; a large, shoebox mobile home a short, barefoot walk from the community pool. Modest, humble, almost cabana-like. Original paintings, prints and photographs cover every wall. I work at my computer, my throne, in a makeshift office that used to be a dining room. Stashed in an L-shaped arrangement of low bookshelves, this is where I proceed to fulfill my destiny—that of: the struggling writer. Living with my menopausal wife and 16.5 year-old daughter, I am the eye of the storm.

******

‘I smoke, drink, and don’t believe there’s such a thing as ‘dirty’ words—unless you count hate, bigotry, ignorance, abuse and politician among them. Religion ain’t so great either… Can we talk about Moral Arrogance and Death Penalty and Ten Commandments for a while? Let’s not, because I’m only interested in Truth,’ (The Guy) said.

(That’s good, said my inner, parenthetical, creative voice. I like that.)

(Get out of my head, I’m busy… I replied, also parenthetically, but without the italics.)

(I know you don’t mean that.)

(I told me: Yes, I do. Babe is stirring in the kitchen, I feel interruptions coming on.)

******

Babe, my Hawaiian tahini. My little almond butter. Her head is in the freezer. “What do you want for dinner tomorrow night?” she asks.

I knew that question was coming eventually, but this early? On Saturday? She is asking this about tomorrow, of a person who hasn’t worn a watch in nearly a decade; who so rarely knows what day it is he has divided the week in two: Weekday and Weekend. Someone who never, ever knows what time of day it is or even the day. I have a graveyard of watches hanging on pushpins on the wall, time of death precisely 6:47, 11:17 and 12:11. (I’m hoping to have one stop at 10:08, then it’ll look new.) They’re trophies. Mounted heads. A little monument to Einstein and Salvadore Dali. I’m never quite sure what I will feel like eating in some distant future.

The reality is I don’t care. “Uh… I don’t know. What have we got?” I never care what’s for dinner. When I’m hungry I’ll eat anything she puts in front of me.

******

(So what are you going to name this character?)

“I don’t know!” I say out loud. (Forget about that for now!)

******

“What?” Babe calls to me from the kitchen. I am on my throne, wiggling my fingers over the keyboard. “I bought fish yesterday.”

Sounds good. Not salmon, though. “What kind of fish?” I ask. Trout or catfish would do nicely. A perch, perchance?

“Uh…” She bought it yesterday. She knows what it is, just can’t remember what it’s called.

She’ll get it, eventually. Inspired, I continue:

‘(This Guy) fancies himself as ‘laid back,’ and maintains a very fine collection of Hawaiian shirts. He has a new one on today. It is a beautiful silk pattern of orchids, with koa buttons. More than that, the print lines up in places like the pocket, the yoke, the collar and down the front. A printer would say: the crossovers are dead-on. It is way too expensive a shirt for his means; it was a gift from his mistress of sixteen years, his Babe…’

******

(Do you know where you’re going with this?)

(Of course not, I say to myself.)

(I see, the Just Start method.)

******

“Tomorrow’s Father’s Day, what do you want to do?” Babe asks me, placing her hand on my shoulder.

I just want silence, and to sit on my throne and fondle my keyboard. “I don’t know…” I trail off.

“How’s the story going?”

“Hmm…” I trail off again.

“Are we going to Williams Sonoma today?”

I sigh, just a little bit. Not enough to be noticed because I’ve been married to one woman or another for the past thirty years and I know. I actually want to go to Williams Sonoma. I actually want to go to: The Mall. Every so often I like to share in this exciting world of hers. It is a modern day walk along the Boulevard. It’s the Easter Parade without eggs. It’s anything I can think of to make it something other than: The Mall, in my mind.

Babe can shop, there’s no doubt about that. She was a pro way before we ever met. I knew that. I didn’t care. She looks cute when she shops. I like to watch her try on clothes. I peek inside the dressing rooms, sometimes even going in with her, especially the small ones. It’s fun. She is sexy and exotic, and fills out her black, lacy bra.

Spending is not an issue. Since Babe is the major bread-winner in the family and the bookkeeper, I have narrowed down my association with the household finances to receiving an allowance. Pin money, that’s all I ask for and all I get. Butts, coffee and a keyboard are all I need. I feel lucky. Since I have nothing to do with the household monies, I no longer have to open mail.

I feel especially confident today. We’re not going to Shop, we’re going to return the popcorn maker she was given as a birthday gift five months ago. It’s an exchange, we should get out pretty cleanly. She wants a mango peeler. So do I. I know what this means. We are going to exchange a fifty dollar item and all we want is a twelve dollar mango peeler in its place. There will be a store credit—a credit impossible to ignore. To a woman who shops, a store credit is no less than a dare.

“Sure,” I assure her, reasonably excited. She has to take a shower first, that gives me forty- five minutes. I crack my knuckles and get back to work.

******

‘This Guy…’

‘This Guy…’

(Yes? This Guy? Haven’t thought of a name yet, I see.)

I hang my head. No.

(Don’t really have a plot yet either, do you… I say to me, not really a question. Time for a trip to the bathroom.)

I go there to not think. I assume the backwards position on the john, stare at my towel, and wait. It always comes to me in the bathroom. It never fails.

(Nuther cuppa joe?)

I chuckle. Ah, there you are, my Temptation. Time for a break. Mentally relax. Let it come…

(Have another hack at it first.)

‘This Guy…’

******

I return to my throne, where I Am Man and Master of My Kingdom! From here I control everything: music, TV, volume, picture, even the smell (incense or Marlboro, sometimes worse). I have no qualms about firing up a real Cuban cigar while on my royal chair, when lucky enough to have one. (Cigars are not a way of life for me, they‘re celebratory. Just having one is cause for celebration.) I am at the helm—ready for anything. Prepared, I am. Once my fingers touch the keyboard the “Just Start” method kicks in…

I hate TV. If it were up to me I’d disconnect the dish. I can’t even watch sports with background music anymore. You must take steroids and speed to compete, or you don’t compete at all. These are no longer games; this is lifestyle and greed. This is Status. This is young men trading their dick for a fat contract. I shudder at the thought.

They have taken the game away from me, like they took away the colors from my daughter at school. They took red and blue out of school. Imagine. I’m stunned. No red or blue. No gang colors. You can’t wear red or blue at school. I keep repeating that in my mind, incredulous. No red or blue anymore. You can’t have them. They actually took them away. Games have been replaced by big business with small members, and red and blue have been pronounced guilty. There’s no red or blue!! Goddamnit, NO RED. NO BLUE. YOU CAN’T HAVE IT ANYMORE! I weep for them.

(You weep?)

(Yes, it’s too sad, I tell myself. It’s not their fault! I want to scream. You’ve got it all wrong! I want to explain. It’s not them, it’s us!)

(So what about ‘This Guy?’)

I’m off to sit on the john again. Fuckin’ crips and bloods, you’ll never get uppercase out of me! You tried, Tookie, at the end, but the ball you helped put in motion ran over itself.

******

(Cat Box…)

(That’s it? That’s all you’re giving me? I came to the bathroom for this?)

******

Babe is in the shower. I peek.

“Hi Babe!” she says happily, pink razor in hand and looking slippery. She looks great wet.

Her naturally curly hair is long, dark and streaked with highlights of all shades. She is beautiful, and refuses to acknowledge that fact no matter what I say. I don’t qualify to make the call, because I love her. What I hate are those pink razors—the memory of a burn from one still etched in my craw. I’ll never run out of manly razors on vacation again. No, not ever.

“I’m almost done,” which is code for: Quit looking at me so I can finish. I take my cue and smile, stretching it out a little bit. I know the exact moment is near; when the loving, slippery look of demure sexiness turns to: Shut the fucking Mickey Mouse shower curtain and go back to looking at your towel. No boddah me! I know these things, and the timing involved with letting her shower in peace before, just before, it becomes annoying. The Art of Annoyance is something I learned at an early age and perfected on an older sister. I wish my daughter Katy wasn’t better than me.

I scan Babe from the top down and say, “I love it when you’re wet.” It’s a sincere compliment, not a double entendre. When you’re sincere, you’re understood. Dale Carnegie taught me how to win friends and influence people. She couldn’t help letting a small smile slip out. I slid the curtain shut and tucked the end around so it wouldn’t drip water onto the floor. Damn I’m good.

Fuckin’ pink razors… I don’t particularly care for hair gel either. It makes a terrible face moisturizer when you pick up the wrong tube.

******

(Cat Box.)

(I know, I know! But what about ‘This Guy?’)

(Garbage.)

(Will you quit that shit? Please?) Pause. My towel is green.

(It’s Sea Mist.)

(I come here for inspiration and you give me chores and color palettes? What kind of shit is this?)

(Both garbages.)

(Fuckit.)

(And you’re almost out of butts.)

‘This Guy—’

(Don’t think about the name yet.)

(I wasn’t.)

******

“Hungry, Babe?” Babe calls me Babe, too. Yes, I am hungry. We’ll have hotdogs.

******

‘But Hamlet was cross today, not laid back a’tall. They had taken away his Red and Blue and he was PISSED about it.’

(Hamlet? That works, I like that…)

‘But Hamlet was cross today, not laid back at all…’

(They didn’t take away his Red and Blue, that’s STUPID… oh fuck, [sigh]. Oh no, please don’t turn on the teevee…)

******

Babe turns on the television and scans the stations. Guys play cards… soccer barely rates a kick… some guy… Oprah looks concerned… a fly-by over basketball… forbidding weather looms over the Carolinas… Finally, Peter Pan meets Hong Kong and the hotdogs are ready.

“This is the world’s longest moving sidewalk…” the teevee says. With that, I’m sucked in. I want to rollerskate along the world’s longest moving sidewalk. I’ve always wanted to rollerskate along the world’s longest moving sidewalk and never knew it. I learn much about myself eating hot dogs in front of the teevee.

******

‘Hamlet was not laid back at all, he never was while watching TV. At least it had Red and Blue. And Green.’

(Just give up.)

(Never!)

‘It was never about anger with Hamlet, it was always Passion, he would say. That’s what he liked to call his tirades over inanity: Passion. He would have run for office but was much too sane for that…’

******

“Ready?” Babe asks.

“Yeah, sure. Let’s go.” We can’t leave through the front door because it’s stuck shut—what with the house titling and all. When the front door worked, Katy’s bathroom door was stuck shut. Now that it doesn’t open, her bathroom door swings open when someone walks by. Babe shuts it, we exit, and I yank the back door closed—hoping the knob doesn’t come off in my hand, again. We’re off to: The Mall, and get in the car.

“Did you bring the popcorn maker?”

I go back inside and get it.

******

‘Harry/Hamlet/This Guy was a schmoe, but he liked nice shirts…’

‘Macbeth needed a drink…’

(NO! NO! NO!)

“Red light!” Babe advises me.

I slam on the brakes. “Oh, sorry.”

******

This place isnt a Mall, it’s a fucking Metropolis. “Parking place!” Babe points it out. Hard left, hard left, hard left, handicapped… “Oh, sorry.”

******

Othello is laid back, he doesn’t care. He’s wearing his gorgeous new Hawaiian shirt (Aloha shirt?) and it’s a beautiful day smack dab in the middle of the Left Coast.’

(Cliche).

(I know but I like it here.)

(Othello? Is that a sly clue that your character is black?)

(Yes! Very good!)

(Will it have something to do with the plot?)

(Probably not.) “What difference does it make?” I say out loud.

(True enough, o wise one…)

“Well, about $400 bucks after it’s towed.” Babe told me, about the handicapped parking.

Hard left, so I’m driving in squares. I stalk a shopper heading to her car, toying with the idea of asking her if she wants a lift. We have to wait while she gets in. I wave off two other cars with intent to steal. Graciously, they acquiese. I’m hoping she’s not simply eating lunch in her car.

(Remember where it is…)

I remember this Mall when it was no more than a Payless selling prescriptions, flip-flops and Xmas trees. Twenty years ago it had an Outdoors. Now it was Little China in the Astrodome. Once inside, you’re in Tiananmen Square, with a catwalk. Squirrely asides cast you into Blade Runner on a shiny, silver platter. Who was real and who was Replicant?

******

Odysseus and his Penelope strode purposefully, boldly forward…’

******

“Which way?” I asked Penelope. I was pretty sure she didn’t know.

“Hmmm…” We merged with the current and veered left, always left, where it began to sweep us around its giant curves and alleys. Too many faces, too many things to look at. To continue walking meant to leave off looking at one thing as it was supplanted with another. What is it? What is it? Shoes. Crepes. Shoes. Phones in my path. Hawker… He’ll want me to buy a phone. I look him dead in the eye. Go ahead, make your pitch.

He eyeballs the popcorn maker. “Gonna have a party, eh?”

I slow down slightly. “Nope. I prefer to sauté my kernels,” and keep walking.

“Oh…” He doesn’t know what the fuck I mean. Gadgets. Knick-knacks. Shoes. Shoes. Shoes!

“I know it’s upstairs,” Babe says. I smell cookies. We go upstairs, hard left. Round and round we go… Now we are on a Walkabout. Sports Dugout. Dresses! I like looking at the dresses. Hmmm, nice manequin! Her hair is carved. Plus, she’s got big tits for a mannequin! Nice touch. She’s hot! I check for nipples… can’t tell, but the dress is nice. I’d like to see Penelope try the black dress on but Smart Enough to Know Better kicks in and I barely hesitate past it. We have a purpose. As a long-time married man I know, or rather I am hoping, that having a specific goal of going to: The Mall, to exchange a fifty dollar popcorn maker for a twelve dollar mango peeler, shouldn’t cost me much—another reason I am happy to shop with my beloved today. My almond butter

In place of empty stores, there are giant graphics mounted on thick foam-core advertising some such shit. I’m too close to be able to read the entire message, it’s so big. Two beautiful, blonde models, bigger than Shaquille O’Neal, allow me to look down their throats. Nice, but their free-throws suck. They look like they floss. Nice gums. No gingivitis here! A teevee show is being advertised: KYLE YX. I only read it because it’s illegible in the stylized font they’ve created to add to the movie’s Terminator-like aura. I force myself to translate it like it was an eye test, though I don’t cover one eye.

“Oh look, Hawaiian jewelry! Mmmm…” I hover while Babe peels off the track for a pitstop to ‘look.’ It’s one of those concession booths, too small for its own store. It is the tiniest layer of shopping in the maelstrom around it. The most powerful. Luckily, the sales attendant is attending the phone, sitting down, talking quietly. Her blouse is slightly crooked and I’m slowly heading her direction to circle back, hopefully to collect Penelope before she lingers too long. Babe is wearing her usual accoutrements: an ensemble of gold Hawaiian bracelets, her pala’oa, a smoothe, palm tree necklace and gold rings on four fingers. The gold is beautiful against her polynesian almond-butter skin. At just the right angle, I can peer down the attendant’s blouse as I pass. I check. It may be an A cup, but it’s a nice, pale blue. I am not a pig, this is my pastime and recompense for carrying a popcorn maker across the Kalahari.

(Please don’t ask me where we parked the car…)

I’m caving in—desperate now. There’s no choice anymore, nothing else I can do. I can’t keep going like this. I can drive for hours in a Lincoln Towncar through Boston until I end up where I started but I simply can’t do it here, not carrying a popcorn maker.

Unsteadily, I raise the torn and tattered white flag: “Don’t they have Directories here?” I completely capitulate, ashamed of myself, unable to look my Penelope in the eyes. I’ve asked for a map.

******

“Fuck,” I whisper, it’s color-coded. It may as well be three dimensional chess. I back off, let the pro handle this, feigning ‘no glasses.’ The perfect ruse. Damn I’m good. I rarely bring them with me anywhere. That way I avoid having to read anything small and important. Babe scans and translates the menus for me, automatically dismissing what she knows I won’t be interested in. She does this for the newspaper, the National Geographic, and nearly all the current bestsellers; providing concise, incisive summary of each. Saves me a hell of a lot of time and aggravation. Don’t misunderstand; I am not an ostrich. I read headlines.

“It’s downstairs now. They’ve moved.” I knew she’d find it. We depart the catwalk and take the stairs back to the lower level. It seems that when we want to change levels the stairs are always closer than the moving stairs. (Rollerskates wouldn’t work on moving stairs.) It’s so fucking crowded down there I wish the store would move back upstairs. Where did Babe’s mother ever get the idea we needed a hot-air popcorn popper? That suddenly seems so besides the point. We’ve curved twice since our first hard left into the Great Mall of China, now we’re heading back the way we came. Theoretically. Did I say Kalahari? I meant Sahara.

Shoes! Jewelry! Sickly Sweet Smelling Sticky Buns!

******

Out, damned Sticky buns! Out, I say!’ saith Mac, absconding his Lady’s line while fussing at the pearly grease of cinnamon on his freshly acquired silk Aloha raiment (Hawaiian raiment?) ‘Oh, I am fortune’s fool!’

Babe looks at me strangely. “What are you laughing at?”

“Nothing, fair maiden, I am but enamoured of you.” I would have bowed if I wasn’t carrying a fucking popcorn maker.

Suddenly we’re there, halfway past it before realizing. “Here it is.” I want to cry out loud: Olly-olly-oxen-free! (check sp.) and tag the first guy I see: a young kid with a bluetooth in his ear who looks like he ought to be in The City in The Clouds on a George Lucas set.

“Hi! Welcome to the store!” he says to me brightly, cheerily. Perfect. This is a good sign. Someone who worked there made eye contact, spoke, and offered help. The fact that he acknowledged me automatically qualified him as being an authority on what I needed to know.

“Hi,” I said with a genuine smile. “We’d like to exchange this.”

“What’s wrong with it?” he wondered, jumping the gun.

“I have no idea, we’ve never opened it.”

“Oh, right this way please.” Bluetooth walked us five feet to the registers and laid it out grandly with a fine, sweeping gesture. I would have bowed but…

(Repeat conversation with another boy at the register.) “Are you on our email list?” he wants to know. In a bit of quick thinking I tell him Yes. “Zip code?” I resist the urge to say Yes again and tell him my zip code, as if I have to. It’s one of the God-awful amount of numbers and passwords I have to remember. Social security, drivers license, three phone numbers, date of birth…

“Drivers license please?” like that really needs a question mark. I wonder why he wants to see my drivers license in order to return a popcorn maker, but let it slide. He works at my credit and I make use of his captive attention while my Penelope wanders off.

“You got that mango peeler thing?” Oops, he is not a multi-tasker. The question confuses him slightly but to his credit he recovers pretty well. I am the most critical customer in the known shopping world. Oh yes, I have every right—having spent many years in Sales, living on commission. I expect your full, undivided attention every time. If the phone rings and you answer it without checking with me first you’re fucked in my book. I won’t mind making extra work for you. I will ask you if I can try this sandal in a size 12 just to make you go get it. I’m the guy who wants honey in my coffee and a penny’s worth of jelly beans… Then, I laugh behind your back—good naturedly of course.

“I think it’s over…” he’s not certain where it is and that’s fine with me. You can’t know where everything is in a store. It’s moot. Babe already has another employee in her buying bubble and they’re chatting amicably near the Spoons. She’s already got something in her hand.

“I found it, Babe!” she calls to me. I smile and turn away. I truly am glad we found a mango peeler. I love mangoes and hate peeling them. I’m happy. Now comes the hard part.

I’m given a little plastic card worth $49.95 plus a lot of mental math at 8.25 percent sales tax and make my way through the kitchen bric-a-brac to Babe. “So you got the mango peeler,” I casual. “How much is it?” She tells me twelve bucks. I tell her she has $37.95 plus tax left on her credit. I say it not as a command, mind you, but as an accountant.

She reads me perfectly. “I wish I could find a Spoon like the one that broke, remember that?” Sorta, yes. Wooden spoon, kinda short, kinda flat, brown. She’s poking through slots after having already been through the rows of different styles of Spoons littering the aisle. She and the other employee, a woman this time, have been chatting about Spoons on a level way deeper than I could ever hope to join in on. They are talking edges and shapes and depth and…

I see one and try to help. “This one sorta looks like what I remem—”

“That’s a rice paddle,” both women say to me at once with seamless, natural, woman-to-man-dismissal and continue talking between themselves. Sheepishly, embarrassed, I put it back in its slot. I’m not offended. Men do the same thing, worse. I admit it, I don’t know the first fucking thing about Spoons. Or rather, the second fucking thing about Spoons—I think I know the first, but now I’m not sure. I may even be a little confused about Spoons. Maybe I should drift away

Finally, the women agree they are talking about the same Spoon. “I got mine in France,” says the helpful, sincere, employee Spoon specialist, adding a good-natured chuckle after realizing how pompous that sounded. “So my advice is, go to France!” and we all laugh together. It was pleasant. I wanted to ask her if she’d make me a turkey sandwich. Unfortunately, the Spoon on which Babe fondly reminisces is not among the wealth and battallion of Spoons at Williams & Sonoma in our: Mall Mecca.

That’s bad. It means our mission is over; we are simply standing in a giant: Mall, with no plan. We’ll have to drift… to shop. This is where it gets expensive, any man knows this. If you don’t, it tells me you have money but don’t know women. Which means you’re a sap. But I digress…

******

‘This Guy…’

(No…)

‘Mac and Beth wore their matching Aloha shirts and were pleasantly sipping a blue drink at the bar by the pool. It was a people-watching spot and they chatted happily between themselves while the alcohol dripped intraveinously (sp?) into their love tryst. Pink flamingoes, real ones, looked flamingo-like and, I’m assuming, never having heard one, sounded that way too.

‘Oh honey,’ Beth oozed onto Mac’s arm like an alcoholic tiger kitten and purred in his ear: ‘Wouldn’t you love to have a Cuisine de Chateau stove? Deep, midnight-blue enamel… with brass trim, stainless top, and…’’

******

“Oh yeah, that’s beautiful,” I agree. I don’t even want to know where the price tag is for this epicurean ‘functional centerpiece to [my] kitchen,’ this stove. “Very nice,” I say, noticing a display of CDs and sliding towards it. “Have you seen anything you want?” I meant here, in reality; rhetorically.

The CD was called New York and had Keely Smith, Mo’ Horizons and Oleta Adams. Fifteen bucks. “This looks good,” I offered my considered appraisal for Babe to decide. It was her birthday gift, the popcorn maker, so it was up to her. Also professionally married with a trained eye and perfect ear for nuance, she agreed to the CD. “That leaves twenty-three bucks… What about that cake pan I ruined not long enough ago, have they got another one here you like?” After Spoons and the rice paddle faux pas, I wasn’t about to tackle cake pans without guidance. She scoffed at the idea, brushing it off casually and moving on. Cake pan indeed! I may have crossed the line with that stupid cake pan remark. Damn, I thought I was so good… Of course not a cake pan, schmuck. That’s a kitchen gift, as far apart from a birthday gift as two different Spoons. Oh my gawd, what a rookie mistake! She is too kind by blowing me off completely and moving on. She is a Saint. She shows me Mercy. She shows me kindness. She shows me a knife block.

I blatantly reveal my naiveté about Knife Blocks. “How much is it?”

She looks at me sweetly, demurely, with her disarming, changing-room smile and says with an otherwise straight face and without hesitation: “Seventy bucks.”

I must stammer here. “I… uh… it’s what? Seventy bucks!?”

She looks at it longingly. “My knives get so dull in the drawer and this will open up some space and…”

I notice a different sort of Knife Block, the kind you put in a drawer. “How much is this one?”

“No. That’s for a drawer.” Negatory. Roger that.

“Great! Let’s get it, if that’s what you want. You’ve been talking about this a long time and…”

I’m selling her on it because she wants it and this way it looks like it’s partly my decision, too. We have bought the Knife Block together and haul it and the mango peeler to the register, where I give the young boy back the card he gave me in our pre-Knife Block and mango peeler days. We owe him $47.95 plus tax. I wondered if I could get to like hot-air popcorn and paid him.

******

’Free at last! Free at last! Great God Almightly I’m free at last!’ Hamlet was in rare form for a hot afternoon and put on his new silk happy-shirt with the brightly colored mixed drinks all over it to celebrate. He couldn’t remember where he parked his car but didn’t care, he was too…’

******

“It’s this way…” Babe knows my question before asking.

******

‘Odysseus and his Penelope had just negotiated the Sirenum Scopuli and were leaving the Sirens to their dalliance with Persephone. With Orpheus plucking the lyre, the Argonauts rowed them to the safety of the parking lot.’

******

Babe: “…red dress. I always like…”

******

‘Odysseus straightened his new, silk tunic.’ (Toga?)

******

“…looking for…”

“…those barrels and…”

******

‘Naught but Nyx, Chaos or Hecate!’

‘…and cast the ropes to the deck in relief. The entrance they sought was two doors down from the store. They had sailed around the world, seen many sights together, and discovered: the Mall, was round. By Circe, what wizardry is this!’

******

“…charms. Here we are.”

I open the car door for Babe. Not so much out of chivalry but because the door lock on the drivers side doesn’t work. It’s been busted over two years. It looks kind of cool when we’re together, so gentlemanly and all, but when you’re driving alone it looks dumb and inconvenient. I throw the Block in the trunk, strike up the beatmaster, and row home.

******

Later that night…

‘This Guy…’ I write, tiredly.

(This guy goes into a bar and…)

“Oh, put a cork in it…” I tell my inner, creative voice—out loud.

******

“What?” Babe asks. She has tired eyes. Slits are one thing, but when they start crossing she is only 3.2 minutes removed from utter narcolepsy. The National Geographic is open on her lap to the page she turned to a half hour ago. Virtually asleep, she will not lose her place. She is a sleep-reader.

“Go to bed, Lover,” I say, employing her alternate pet name. If she doesn’t, she’ll pinch her neck in the chair. Then her shoulders will ache. She’ll nap like that until 1:00 in the morning and awaken with a second wind—enough to scratch her lottery tickets for the next thirty minutes. She won $1000 bucks once. When the eyes cross, it’s too late even for that.

“I’m going to bed…” She rests her head on my shoulder and kisses me on the neck, then the lips. “I love you.”

“Sleep perfectly, Lover.” I kiss her in return, and add two new ones—one for each breast.

“You too,” she tells me, and patters off to bed unsteadily.

The house is dark. I am on the throne. I am Man and… (Yawn.)

(Yeah, me too…)

I have to chuckle a little bit, remembering earlier in the evening when I needed a knife. Of course the drawer was nearly empty, the knives having been moved to the Block. Where was that thing… ah, here we go, stashed neatly near the toaster oven, the Magic Bullet blender, the bright red Kitchenaid blender-thingy, the coffee grinder, espresso machine and two elegant and lovely bottles of oily liquid with a bunch of shit floating around in them which we never open. We don’t even know what’s in them. The closest thing to a label on either of them is a rafetta string-tie. What was I looking for? Oh yeah, the knife. Of course, by their handle they all look alike. It was easier when they were in the drawer. So this becomes one of those Man/Woman things both sexes are obligated to reconcile if they wish to cohabitate successfully for any length of meaningful time. These are the ‘little things’ they talk about the moment our God signs the wedding certificate. You know what I’m saying, men. It’s the moment you lose the Garden Section of the newspaper as a placemat. I don’t care where the hell the knives are, really, once I get used to it. In fact, I’m pretty certain I won’t even be able to find the mango peeler when I need it, but I don’t care! If it makes Babe happy, Penelope to my Odysseus, I’m happy. The place could be filled with raffeta, oily bottles of unknown substance, bread-makers and ice-cream machines; Ab-loungers, Bowflex’s, Nordic Trax or train tracks; old lottery scratch-off’s, hair gel with foreign labels or cone incense; but without her my home has no Flung Shway (or whatever the hell they call it). So long as I have my pin money, coffee, butts and a keyboard, and you throw a clam at me once in a while, I’m good. Without Babe, I am almond butter without the jelly and liable to get stuck on the roof of my own mouth.

******

‘This G—’

******

“Red snapper,” Babe says quietly, sleepily behind me. I turn around and her eyes are closed as she stands, but she has come out of bed to tell me: red snapper. I can’t help it, I have to laugh. Dinner tomorrow. Babe starts to laugh too. Feeling better, she can sleep soundly now.

“Sounds good. Sleep perfectly, Lover.”

“You too. I love you.”

“I love you too, Babe.”

******

‘This…’

******

Little Lindsay Chapters 13 & 14 (end)

Rated G

Chapter 13

 

Millie Tilly Dilly, the filly from Philly with a sister Lilly who called their brother Willy Nilly Billy, stood fast asleep on her hooves. A small jungle leaf hung from her saggy lips. One Son the Belcher Monkey lay flat on his back, also asleep. He dreamed of bananas in secret sauces—whole hot tubs filled with them while he lay on his back, floating in squishy comfort, shoving one after the other into his mouth and chewing. Ahhh, chewing. In his sleep, his mouth began to move.

Little Lindsay emerged from the center of the tree. Amber followed, carrying a wide-awake Lucky, wide-eyed and curious, by his neck in her mouth. “Wake up, you two! It’s time to go.”

One Son twitched once, scratched his armpit, turned on his side and let out a long, slow belch. It was not an unpleasant sound, perhaps similar to a medium sized tuba submerged in water, with the tremolo of a flugelhorn, except it didn’t come from his mouth.

“Oh! Cheese whiz, One Son!”

Millie awoke with a snort. “Oh, whew! Is somebody making popcorn?”

“One Son! Wake up! We have to go!”

One Son stirred grumpily, not wishing to leave his dreamy hot tub filled with bananas and secret sauce, but opened his eyes and leaned forward anyway. “You’ve ruined me for regular bananas, I hope you know that.” He rubbed his eyes and yawned. “BRA-A-A-AP! Where am I? How did I get down here?” He looked around, then straight up. “Uh-oh—”

“Cougher Monkeys,” Amber said to Little Lindsay. “We’d better get moving.”

“You mean the ones who get high in the trees?”

“That’s them, Little One. And they’ll be looking for munchies soon,” One Son said. “Amber’s correct, we should go. Which way?”

Little Lindsay composed herself and grew calm. Which way? Silence prevailed for a moment, then, “That way,” she pronounced firmly, pointing west.

One Son jumped up into the thick trees. “I’ll keep lookout from up here. If I tell you to run you’d better get your horse in gear and fly! Vamos!” He shot forward with great leaps, straight through the foliage, and disappeared.

Little Lindsay led the way, with Amber carrying Lucky behind her and Millie protecting her flank. “It’s not far, but we have to hurry. Mommy and Daddy are worried.”

They set a steady pace. Little Lindsay brushed aside branches easily, with no fear of what might lie beneath them, or on top. Young saplings were stepped past gingerly, like a ninja bypassing her own shadow, and left unharmed. They walked for minutes, then more minutes, and more followed by more and more until roughly thirty-eight of them passed before…

“What was that?” Little Lindsay said. “Did something fall from the tree?”

“Moofey fuffas!” Amber tried to say with the puppy in her mouth.

“I don’t mean to be an alarmist right out of the gate,” Millie said from behind, somewhat uneasily, “but there’s a lot of movement going on high in the trees. And… Ouch! That kind of stung!”

“Moofey fuffas!” Amber tried to say again. Finally she stopped (which caused Millie to stand on two legs for a moment with her rump in the air) and spit Lucky out of her mouth. “Monkey pellets! Little Lindsay, get on Millie’s back! Millie, run like you’ve never run before!” She grabbed Lucky by the neck and threw him onto her back. “Hold on tight, Lucky! We’re going to afterburners! Move over, Little Lindsay, coming through! See you at home!” With that, Amber turned on the nitro and bolted forward with great, long strides—Lucky flapping on her back like a small cape—and swerved in and out of the trees, dodging an increasing number of monkey pellets, until she and Lucky were out of sight.

“That’s gotta hurt,” Millie winced. “Come on, girl, jump up!”

“BRA-A-A-AP! It’s Coughers, and they’re a little testy. Fly, you two! I’ll try to slow them down.”

“One Son! One Son! Don’t be a hero, run!” Little Lindsay called into the trees. A monkey pellet landed in her open mouth. “Ew, pah!” She spit it out. “Disgusting!”

“Millie!” his voice came from above, fading as he spoke, “Run, you silly filly from Philly! Run like your lives depend…” but she could hear no more.

While Little Lindsay struggled to climb on her back, Millie had a momentary flashback. She had a distant relative in the country back home, long since passed away but a legend in the family. His name was Hidalgo. He was small, like Millie. He was strong, also like Millie. And he won a three-thousand mile long race in a desert called Arabia where he was a long-shot to even survive. Hidalgo was not a horse who shied away from long odds and danger. He was a proud Mustang who spent his youth running freely on open plains. Running, always running… Millie’s face was stern with resolve.

Little Lindsay finally made it onto Millie’s back. “Millie, are you okay?” she asked.

“Hang on tight to my mane, long-legged Little Lindsay. It’s time to fly!”

Before she knew what was going to happen, Little Lindsay was doing all she could to hang on tight.

~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 14

And run they did. Man did they run! They were flying! A toucan got whiplash watching them go by. A squirrel dropped his nuts. A sloth, two miles back, was still turning his head. “What th—?” he said. Monkey pellets rained from the sky. Little Lindsay squeezed Millie with all her might as they zipped through the jungle, never slowing down even a little for even an instant. Looking ahead, she saw Amber with Lucky flapping on her back. Millie was gaining on them. They were so close, but the pellets were coming in greater numbers and it was hard to see very far in the distance. Still, through all of that, Little Lindsay knew she was close to Mommy and Daddy. If they could only just push on a little more, a little faster…

Just at that moment, at that precise point in time, there came a loud sound. It was the biggest sound of its kind ever to shake the jungle. It was mighty. It was all-enveloping. It was…

“BRA-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-AP!!!!!”

…disgusting, but effective. Everything, with the exceptions of Amber and Millie, stopped in its tracks. Cougher monkeys close to the initial blast fainted and fell to the ground, some of them hanging off branches like limp towels. Or spaghetti. Or perhaps an old sock, if you prefer. One Son was nowhere to be seen. The kickback from his eruption had sent him soaring into the canopy, where he was last seen tumbling end over end out of sight. Millie and Amber kept up the pace while the remaining Coughers held their noses and re-grouped.

“There!” Little Lindsay yelled, pointing to a small clearing not far in the distance. “There they are!” The moment was at hand. The payoff. The cards were about to be shown and the winner announced. The curtain was going up. It was showtime. With one final push, one final stretch of their bodies, one final use of their juice and kick of the hind legs, Amber and Millie quite literally and unilaterally, summarily and undoubtedly, even unforgettably, soared through the air with the greatest of ease like those flying young men without a trapeze.

“Look out everybody!” Little Lindsay screamed with joy, “Hang on to your limones, this train is coming into Pura Vita-Veedaville! Yeee-hawwww!”

That’s when, clearly belabored readers, according to Little Lindsay’s account some non-exact time later, time stopped. All four of our unlikely set of travelers floated like a mist in the tropics toward their final destination. Experts refuse to even attempt to calculate the group’s alleged rate of speed during what they refer to as “This Floating Nonsense” stage.

What have you learned, Little Lindsay? It was Lemu-eel’s voice coming to her from she knew not where.

Being still inside is pleasant.

Yes?

And magic is no more than pure intention.

Yes.

Lemu-eel?

Yes?

Who won the poker game?

There are no losers, Little Lindsay.

This suspension of time, unfortunately, allowed the Cougher Monkeys to gather more pellets.

“Ouch! Daddy, did you throw something at me?” Mommy stopped hanging clothes and opened her umbrella, which she always kept nearby.

“Huh?” Daddy said, then “Ouch!” after a pellet hit him on the forehead. He picked it up to examine. “Smells like— Holy Cow!”

Soaring over Amber and Lucky, Millie hit the clearing first. She came down with her hind legs in front, sliding like a baseball player stealing home, and stopped in front of Daddy. Amber and Lucky followed, skidding to a stop barely inches from Millie’s midsection. Daddy could have sworn he heard the little pup laughing. It must have been a chipmunk, though. Or a cricket on laughing gas.

“Amber! Good girl. What’s going on here?” Daddy demanded an answer. Amber looked at Millie, who was still lying on her side, safe at home.

Suddenly a hand came from behind the small but swift filly, and a head popped up. “Thank you, Millie. I love you!”

“Little Lindsay!” Mommy rushed over and scooped Little Lindsay into her arms.

“We were so worried about you!” Daddy said, with immense relief. The pellets were getting more plentiful so he raised his umbrella, too.

Little Lindsay turned to Millie and Amber, both of whom were staring at something in the sky. Amber whispered to Millie, “Do you smell what I smell?”

“Unfortunately, yes. We’d better make room.” Millie got off the ground and moved to the side a little bit.

“What’s the matter, Millie?”

Millie looked up. Little Lindsay followed. “What’s tha—?”

One Son hit the ground with a SLAP! heard ‘round the world. What little breath left in him puffed out of his mouth like a tiny mushroom cloud. Monkey pellets bounced off his face but he neither flinched nor belched (nor anything else) as a result.

“One Son!” Little Lindsay jumped from Mommy and Daddy’s arms and ran to his side. “Speak to me! Belch at me, please!”

Daddy looked at Mommy with concern all over his face. “Belch at me?”

“Quickly! We have to move him inside. Everybody has to get inside!”

“Even the horse?” Daddy seemed confused.

“Of course, the horse! Mommy, grab Lucky.”

“Who?”

“Lucky, the puppy. Hurry!”

Pellets landed everywhere. Daddy picked up One Son, brought him inside, and laid him gently on the couch. When he turned around, there was no place to go. Millie shuffled uncomfortably on the hard floor right next to him. The pellet storm got louder on the tin roof.

“What the heck is going on out there?”

“It’s Cougher Monkeys, Daddy. They get high in the trees and then throw pellets at you when they get the munchies. What are we to do?” An avocado pit landed on the roof with a loud bang.

Daddy sat on the couch next to the sprawled One Son, crossed his legs, and rested his chin on his hand. His other arm hung limp on his knee. He was The Thinker of the family. Everyone held their breath to hear what he would say next.

“Well,” he said, “we could throw potato chips at them, but I don’t think we have enough. Besides, I like them with a sandwich and a cold beer some times. But, I think I have an idea…” He jumped up from the couch. “Uh, excuse me, horse.”

“That’s Millie from Philly, Daddy.”

Daddy gave Mommy that same look of concern. “From Philly?” He spoke to Millie, “How nice. You must be having a lovely time. Why the long face? Ha-ha! Get it?”

Millie got it, again, but didn’t want any part of it.

“I’ll be right back.” Daddy went into his study and closed the door.

“If I hear that joke one more time…”

“What did you say, Little Lindsay?” Mommy asked. “Are you sick? You sound hoarse.”

“No, Mommy. I’m fine. I’m so happy you and Daddy are okay. It’s so good to—”

The study door flew open as if it were Kramer on Seinfeld, the TeeVee show, except it was Daddy, and he was holding a plastic bag filled with…

“Magic Mist!” he exclaimed with glee. “This’ll slow ’em down!” He moved toward the door. “Excuse me, uh, Millie from Philly. Ouch, banged my knee…” When he opened the front door he held the bag high and squeezed it. “Take that, Coffee Munchers, or whatever you are! And that! And that!” he said, squeezing more and more puffs of Magic Mist into the air. He even swallowed one himself and blew it into a hail of raining pellets. Daddy was so brave!

Little by little the pellets became less, until there were no more. The Coughers were draped peacefully on the highest branches. They seemed to have forgotten what their purpose was, and began making their way back from whence they came.

“Yay, Daddy!” both Mommy and Little Lindsay cheered. Amber barked. Even Lucky felt the excitement and tried to bark like Amber but it came out like a mouse squeak and he fell over. Millie, along with everyone, smiled with relief and couldn’t help but chuckle at the little brown puppy.

Little Lindsay looked to the couch. One Son was still unconscious. “Daddy,” she said, “can your Magic Mist save One Son? Ple-e-e-ase?”

Daddy looked at the little bit left in the bag, and at One Son. “I don’t know, but we can try. I have an idea.”

Millie turned herself around and walked out the front door, then poked her head in the open window to watch.

“Smart horse,” Daddy said. He grabbed a dish rag and went to the couch, where he put the rag over One Son’s mouth and slowly fed Magic Mist into the Belcher’s nostrils. Everyone watched and waited for some sign of consciousness, some clue, some movement…

“Oh! There!” Daddy said, and he pulled the rag off. “His mouth is moving a little. It looks like… If I’m not mistaken, I think he’s chewing.”

“One Son! Quick! Mommy, can you make some secret sauce and banana? He loves that.”

Mommy laughed on her way to the kitchen. “Of course he does, honey. I have a nice, sweet banana, too.”

“That’ll work,” Millie said from the window.

Both Mommy and Daddy thought the other said that. “Are you getting a cold, hon? You sound hoarse,” Daddy asked.

“Oh, and can you make me some french toast, Mommy?”

“Yes, dear. Here’s the secret sauce. I have some already made in the refrigerator.” Mommy looked inside the fridge. “Oh Daddy, the power is out.”

Daddy groaned. “Again?”

“I know, I know,” Mommy said. “Here, Little Lindsay, take this to Daddy. Let him do it.”

“Oh he won’t hurt us, Mommy.” Little Lindsay handed her father the secret sauce and banana. “Just wave it under his nose and he’ll get religious.”

Daddy looked at Mommy again. “Religious?”

“Do it, Daddy!”

Daddy did as Daddy was commanded—on the double! He dipped the banana in the secret sauce and placed the sweetest end into One Son’s open mouth. It only took a second before his chewing movements increased in scope. Then his tongue slid the rest of the banana into his mouth. He chewed, then swallowed.

“Wa-a-a-it for it,” Little Lindsay said, and held her nose. One Son’s eyes popped open and he sat bolt upright.

“BRA-A-A-A-AP!”

“One Son!” Little Lindsay, unable to contain herself, ran to him and wrapped her arms around him.

“Oh! Cheesy nachos! I’ll go get the ozone machine.” Daddy ran to the bodega.

“Oh thank you, One Son! Thank you thank you thank you…”

A lone parrot circled high above. No one knew he was there. Just as suddenly as he had risen from the near-dead, One Son fell back onto the couch in a semi-conscious state, but this time with a bliss-ninny expression. “He’s fine,” Little Lindsay said. “He’s just being religious right now.”

Everyone laughed.

~~~~~~~~~~

And so it was in Expert eyes, Little Lindsay’s tale was all lies. “Balderdash and poppycock!” was what they offered. “Malarkey and baloney,” they also proffered. “Oh come all ye faithful, listen to Us. We will let you know what you must! This is ballyhoo, and too much to Tweet. If you don’t mind, Little Lindsay, please take a seat!”

Let it be noted this tale is now told. A lesson was learned for both young and old. Mind your intentions and let them be pure. The universe is magic, that’s for sure.

This Narrator now asks you, dearly beleaguered reader, to be the Expert.

FIN

Copyright © October 31, 2012, Mitchell Geller.

 

Little Lindsay Chapters 11 & 12

Rated G

Chapter 11

“Lemu-eel,” Little Lindsay said, “can you tell me where Pura Vita-Veedaville is?”

“Yes,” she who is known as Manasa and, to some, Ananta—the endless snake who circles the world—replied.

Long pause. Little Lindsay cleared her throat. “Where?”

“It’s here, all around you. Pura Vita-Veedaville is everywhere.”

“But where are my Mommy and Daddy?”

“They are where they should be, as you are.”

“But I’m lost and afraid, Lemu-eel.”

“To have fear is to make fear, Little Angel. She who is unafraid will not bite, or be bitten. At this moment you are safe, but not sound.”

“How do I find my home, Lemu-eel?”

“For that you must be quiet—serenely, divinely at peace. Once there, pay attention to your intention. With that, you will find yourself. With that, you will no longer feel lost.”

Little Lindsay, remembering to ask the right questions, tried to frame her words perfectly. “Lemu-eel, can you show me the way home?”

Lemu-eel swayed back and forth. “No, Little Lindsay. I can only tell you where the path begins.”

Little Lindsay was frustrated. Her mind bounced about like a busy bee in a bucket, wondering What to do? What to do?

Lemu-eel sensed Little Lindsay’s discomfort and said, “To do is what not to do. To not do is what to do. Now go. Go and be still—all at once and both together.” The Mother of all snakes lay her head back down and hummed a nearly silent vibration.

Little Lindsay hung her head in thought for a long time—frozen, it seemed, in a timeless state. Her breath became shallow. Her heart slowed to a tiny blip. Her mind was sinking, sinking, sinking… to where? Nowhere. To Pura Vita-Veedaville.

“Jeepers,” Pepe the peeved pizote whispered to Amber. “It’s like a wax museum in here.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 12

“Mister Swift! Mister Swift! How did I get up here again?”

“Not how, Little Lindsay. Why?”

“Shouldn’t I be in a hole in a tree?”

“Is a hole in a tree any different than a hole in the sky? All This is That, Little Lindsay.”

Little Lindsay swayed slowly in the light wind way above the jungle called Earth—or, as some of her inhabitants call her, Pura Vita-Veedaville. Her mind was blank but for the sweet sensation of bliss. All was as it should be. There were no questions, so no answers were required.

Mister Swift spoke inside her head. Little Lindsay, what is your intention?

Mommy. Daddy. I have to make sure they’re safe.

Mister Swift did a dance in thin air. Yes! When your intention is sincere and worthy, it will find support in Nature. When it is for the good of others, it is also good for you. When Nature and intention come together everything is knowable. That which was fear is replaced by charity. The need to give is greater than the need to receive until, finally, there are no needs at all. To want is to lack. There is no better state than a lack of want. For when you want everything you have nothing, and when you need nothing you have everything. Open your eyes.

Little Lindsay did as she was instructed and opened her eyes. Pura Vita-Veedaville lay sprawled at her feet under a glowing sunrise. Morning mist drifted lazily in patches below, causing shafts of sunlight to splinter and highlight trees with golden, sparkling light-ornaments. Some of Nature’s children were waking up, while others began to rest. And some were hungry.

What is your intention?

Mommy. Daddy… where? There! A donut hole opened in the mist way, way below. Within it, Little Lindsay saw Mommy. She was hanging clothes to dry on a line. But wait, was Mommy crying? And where was Daddy? There! But he was pacing back and forth, obviously agitated. I must go.

“Yes, Little Lindsay,” Lemu-eel said. “Go with the grace of your deepest self.”

Little Lindsay shook herself awake, back to the tiny discomfort of a hole deep in the heart of an old tree. Lemu-eel was coiled comfortably on her warm rock. Sleepy Sally was still poised to turn her cards over, but hadn’t. A slow breath followed by a light snore oozed from her slightly parted, thin lips. Her eyes were still closed.

“Thank you, Lemu-eel. Good luck with the poker game.”

“I need luck like I need a pair of suspenders. You are always welcome, little long-legged one.”

Little Lindsay turned to face Amber. “Grab Lucky, Amber. It’s time to go.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Little Lindsay Chapters 9 & 10

Rated G

Chapter 9

 

They moved ahead into the obsidian jungle, One Son leading the way from above. The moon refused to rise. Branches slapped long-legged Little Lindsay’s face, now an exact amount tall at so many feet and inches. (Do the math. Forty-eight inches plus seventy-nine inches plus sixteen inches equals how many feet?)

They walked in silence. Little Lindsay heard noises coming from way up in the tree canopy. “What’s that hacking sound?” she asked One Son.

“It’s time for the Cougher Monkeys to get high in the trees. They’ll be hungry soon. If you have any popcorn in your backpack you’d better hide it well.”

Little Lindsay didn’t think she had any popcorn in her backpack but was nervous all the same. It was warm, damp and dark. She thought she saw eyes piercing the night, following her every movement. Or were they hallucinations? She wasn’t sure.

Horse-sensing Little Lindsay’s uneasiness, “How much further, Belcher?” Millie wanted to know.

“We’re almost there. This is a sacred place. I have to ask you both to close your eyes and keep walking. Put your hand on Millie’s rump, Little Lindsay, and follow her. Ready?”

Millie and Little Lindsay closed their eyes and made their way forward one small step at a time.

“That’s it, keep going. You’re getting closer… closer… closer… and…”

BONK! Millie walked into a giant tree. “Ow! Stupid monkey, you did that on purpose!”

One Son laughed heartily. “Ha-ha-ha! Hey horse, why the long face?” and laughed at his own joke.

Little Lindsay tried to be serious, but it was hard. “Are you alright, Millie? That wasn’t very nice, One Son,” but she started to giggle in spite of herself.

“Stupid monkey,” Millie said, then she started to giggle. Laughter being contagious, soon all three were laughing out loud.

“Did you hear that? BONK!” One Son said through tears of mirth. “You sound like a ripe watermelon! BRA-A-A-AP!”

“Ew. Ugh.” More laughter.

“Excuse me!” came a voice from the tree. “Uh, excuse me! What’s going on here?”

“Oh, hello Pepe!” One Son said. “Sorry, we were just testing this horse’s head against the tree.”

“I thought I heard someone knock. You’re a little late for the game, though. It’s almost over.” Pepe the pizote looked at Millie, then scanned Little Lindsay from the bottom up. “Wow, you’re a long one. What are you, roughly eleven point nine one six six six feet tall?”

“Uh…” Little Lindsay said.

One Son hopped down to the ground. “Hey Pepe, who’s left in the game?”

“That would be Sleepy Sally,” he said. “I was done after Aaaron but stayed to watch. I think Sally may be wearing old Ma out!”

“I wouldn’t bet on it. That is, if I had anything to wager. BRA-A-A-AP!”

“Jeepers, Belcher.” Pepe the pizote looked peeved. “Haven’t you ever heard of breath mints?”

“No. Got one?”

“Of course not, I—”

“Then BRA-A-A-AP! Serves you right for not bringing enough for everybody. Is there room inside for us? The girl has to speak with Lemu-eel.”

Pepe the peeved pizote rubbed his proboscis with both paws. “Hmm, let me see. A horse, a twelve-foot human, and a Belcher with horrific halitosis in an area about as big as ten pineapples, five small invertebrates and a large zucchini. Should work out fine!” he said. “Go right ahead!”

“Oh yeah, I forgot about the horse and ‘stretchy’ over here.” One Son rubbed his jaw.

“Please don’t—”

“BRA-A-A-A-AP!”

“…belch.”

“Thanks for reminding me.”

“No hay problema.”

“Perhaps,” Pepe went on to say, “if we could get the dog to come out we’d have enough room.”

Little Lindsay straightened up so fast her head hit a tree branch. “Ouch. Amber?” she asked.

“I’d say more on the beige side of the spectrum, but she keeps telling us she’s amber. Whatever rolls your log, I say.”

“Amber!” Little Lindsay cried out again, and immediately shrunk to her normal size of forty-seven and three-quarter inches.

“What th—?”

Little Lindsay threw her tiara that had two, long antennae—each sporting a pink, fuzzy thing unknown to this Narrator—away and charged the opening of the tree trunk.

“Hey wait!” Pepe yelled after her, but to ears that wouldn’t listen.

“Little Lindsay!” Millie called through the opening.

~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 10

 

Sleepy Sally was a sloth.
The more she played the more she lost.
She thought she had old Ma beat,
That is, until, she fell asleep.

It was dark and creepy inside the giant tree with the long branches and sky-high canopy. Little Lindsay had to slow down and feel her way forward through the roots and vines criss-crossing her way. Water dripped from above, while puddles surrounded her feet. “Amber?” she asked, quietly. “Where are you?” There was a glimmer of light not far ahead. She made her way closer until she could see the back of a hairy animal and stopped. Nothing moved. No sound could be heard except the beating of Little Lindsay’s heart. “Amber?”

“Little Lindsay, is that you?”

“Amber!” Little Lindsay rushed forward into the small opening. There, lying on the ground, was Amber. Within her two paws was a small, brown puppy who was fast asleep. It was a tiny thing, no bigger than an average papaya, and it had some scratches in places where his fur was missing. All in all he looked pretty beat up, but was resting comfortably now in the embrace of his savior.

“Lemu-eel told me you were on your way here with Millie and One Son,” Amber said to Little Lindsay. She looked at the pup. “Isn’t he cute? I simply had to save him from that callous cat.”

Little Lindsay looked at the puppy adoringly. “Now I know why you ran away. I understand.”

“Yes. I saw you were in good company, Little Lindsay. And you’re not as little a Lindsay as you used to be, when you were littler.”

“Huh?”

“You’re growing up.”

“That’s for sure. Up and down and up and down… I get nauseous thinking about it.”

“No, I mean you’re getting too fast for me. I’m an old lady, almost ready to retire. You need someone who can look after you during the next stage of your life. And I need to get out more! I love this place! It gives me happy feet that won’t hold still! So much to smell, so little time…”

“But… but… Amber!”

“Don’t worry, not-so-little Little Lindsay. We’ll find Mommy and Daddy together. They’ll make junior healthy again and all will be perfect.”

Little Lindsay and Amber couldn’t take their eyes off of the sleeping puppy—curled in a tight ball and snug between Amber’s warm, dry paws. “He’s Lucky,” they both said at the same time, then laughed.

“What is this, Improv night? Don’t forget the buffet! Can’t you see there’s an important game going on?” Pepe the peeved pizote stood in the entrance to the tiny alcove hidden underground. All eyes turned to the players. Lemu-eel lay coiled on a rock, her head down. Sleepy Sally had her back to Little Lindsay and was motionless. One could say the scene was more like a painting than real life, for all the movement it lacked. With cigars and a poster of Dogs Playing Poker the imagery would have been staggeringly, breathtakingly, bizarrely, redundantly boring.

“What’s happening?” Little Lindsay whispered.

“Sally’s all in. Everything, including the sun crystal she found—though who knows why Lemu-eel is interested in the shiny object, maybe because she’s vain—is on the table. Ma called and Sally went to turn her cards over.”

Little Lindsay waited patiently.

Drip-ploink. Drip-ploink, the water said.

“And?”

“And promptly fell asleep.”

Drip-ploink. Drip-ploink.

“Asleep? She fell asleep? Right now?”

“Yep. Been that way since sunset.”

“So what happens next?”

“We wait, maybe till sunrise.”

“What?” Little Lindsay moved to get a better look at Sleepy Sally the sloth. Sally had two playing cards between her three toes, face down. Her arm hovered over the flat root that was their playing table but didn’t move. If Sally wasn’t a sloth she’d be a good marionette, for she sat as still as wood. To say that she looked like a statue would be cliché, but apt. Her eyes were closed and her thin mouth seemed to be smiling. Or was it? To ride the fine art metaphors to death, one might even think Sleepy Sally was the narcoleptic equivalent of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. (Or not.) “We have to wait until she wakes up?”

“I do.” It was Lemu-eel who spoke.

Little Lindsay bumped her head again. “Ouch!”

“But you don’t, Little Lindsay.”

“How do you know my name?”

“I read lips. I’m happy that you have arrived safely. Please make yourself comfortable, if that’s possible. What a pain it is having all those extremities, what?”

“What?”

“What what? Never mind.”

Little Lindsay realized she was holding her breath tight in her chest.

“Breathe,” Lemu-eel exhaled the word.

Little Lindsay remembered the moment with Mister Swift when time disappeared. It made her feel calm.

“That’s it. Yes-s-s-s-s.” Lemu-eel’s voice was soothing. They sat in silence for a while, with only an occasional drip-ploink to mark the passage of time. “It’s difficult to read an opponent who is asleep,” Lemu-eel said of Sally, “but not impossible.” She emitted a low, pleasant vibration in Sally’s direction. “Leave her be. The new mother needs her rest.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Tropical Cancer—Dog Owner’s Misnomer

Rated PG

Dog Owner’s Misnomer

(Note: If you’re here to read about Costa Rica it might be wise to move on, for this is not about that. It’s about dog poop—something I felt needed to be said. As a consequence of and befitting the subject the language may be, in some cases, offensive to the squeamish. I figure if you’re curious enough to read about dog poop you’re okay with certain “colorful” descriptors, but if that’s not the case you can choose a replacement word for s**t from the following list:

Bowel movement
Doody
Excrement
Caca
Chips
Cocky-doody
Crap
Discharge
A dump
Droppings
Dung
Manure
Poop
Stool
Waste
Bruised dinkleberries

Additionally, if you don’t like the verbiage “…take a s**t,” please consider using in your mind one of the following substitutes:

…defecate
…squeeze cheese
…pinch a loaf
…drop a log

Thanks for your participation, though you may have regrets. (Author not responsible for lasting trauma in the form of recurring visuals.))

Babe and I have had, all together, five cats over a span of 22 years. In all that time I think I’ve seen one take a shit maybe twice. I’ve watched them go in the box, but its obscured such that I don’t have to see the actual excrement coming out of… you know. All I see is their head, and how they flatten their ears when they push—seemingly annoyed with the process. And the little “ah” look when the deed is done. It’s all very civilized. Not so with dogs.

Our friends (John and Brando) have gone to Europe for three weeks and we’re staying in their villa, minding the two dogs (Toby and Chloe). For Babe and me, this is a chance to live indoors for a while—where there’s a tile shower, a real kitchen with an oven, and a toilet that isn’t a bucket over a shithole crawling with… whatever the fuck they are. You know, a “real” place that’s not a “dump.” That was the motivating factor when we agreed to watch the dogs.

“Yeah sure, whatever,” I think we said about the dogs. “No hay problema! We love dogs!” And for the record, we do. We just prefer cats. They’re less trouble in every regard—including repair and operating costs. They require less maintenance, generally. Plus, you don’t have to “take them for a walk.” Therein lies the dog owner’s misnomer. We’re not taking them for a walk. We’re actually going to make sure shit comes out of them some place other than the upstairs bedroom.

“Someone pooped all over the floor upstairs,” Babe told me one sunny morning.

I responded quickly. “It wasn’t me,” I said, backing out the front door.

And later, “Someone pooped all over the upstairs again.”

Babe knows I never touch warm bodily ejections. If a hairball lands on the floor I leave it there until it’s room temp before picking it up.

“I guess we have to walk them more,” I decided.

“Ya think?” she said (not really a question), as she headed upstairs with a roll of flimsy paper towels.

 

So this is how it goes approximately every four hours:

“Hey, you guys wanna go for a walk?” What I’m really asking here is: “Hey, you guys wanna take a shit someplace other than upstairs?” but they don’t get that. To them it’s just a walk.

Attach leashes. “Okay, vamos!” They’re all smiles and wiggles as they fly out the door, yanking me behind them. “Please don’t pee on my tires,” I beg.

They pull, they stop and sniff, they pee a little, and I’m obligated to watch all of it. I have to make sure they shit, see, so I’m forced to look directly at that scrunched up brown hole. And they can’t shit on the leash, so I have to watch out for that, too. The young Chloe is what Babe calls a “leash dufus,” since the thing is mostly lodged between her legs like a thong. If the pup walks a little bowl-legged, that’s probably why.

Eventually, after repeated false alarms of stop and go inspections for no apparent reason, they arch their back and assume the squat position. I have to quickly move the leash, but not so as to disturb the procedure, and I have to watch in order to make sure the shit looks normal and is a healthy size, shape and color. At night I shine a spotlight on the whole production, giving it a showcase sense of importance and a theatrical flavor. It’s all very dramatic and more than slightly disturbing.

Then, of course, it’s time for the unveiling of the matter. Lump after lump, the stuff is squeezed out of the tube we call “dog” like Tootsie Rolls coming out of a meat grinder. I’ve noticed there are varying speeds to this evacuation, but that’s not important. What’s important to realize is that I’ve noted the varying rates. I can tell the difference between a “casual” shit and a hurried one. What does that say about me? It says I’m an experienced shit-watcher, that’s what. The point is, I could care less about how they walk but I’m intimate with the gushy details of their bodily ejections. In other words, I’m not taking them for a walk, I’m inspecting the shit process. “Walking the dog” is only a polite euphemism for “watching the shit.”

All that being said, I’d like to fess up and offer my apology to my neighbors for not picking up either Toby or Chloe’s steaming piles. (As noted above, I don’t touch the warm stuff.) But I can assure you this practice will cease as of this Thursday, when John and Brando retake possession of their dogs. In the meantime, watch your step.*

*(I know what some of you may be thinking: Why not carry a shovel and bury it where it lies, you disgusting excuse for a neighbor? To which I say, you’re talking about a hand trowel, right? There’s no way I’m supporting a full-blown shovel along with the leash, an umbrella and a travel cup of Irish coffee on the shit inspection (let’s call it what it is). How could I smoke? And if you think I’m walking by a dozen Tico workers with a little white dog and a hand shovel you don’t know that I’m a cat person, and that these are not my dogs. The derision, however good-natured, would be unbearable! So I’m sorry, but no. You’ll have to mind your step until it rains.)

P.I.S.S.E.D. Ch. 4—Error

clownfish=clownRated PG

Chapter 4—Error

 

 

 

Sanity Cruise, California.

“Plant marigolds,” Greg R. Greg advised him. “They keep the gophers at bay.”

Mick mused on his friend and coworker.  What a stupid name.

Greg and his girlfriend Lorna had both changed their last name to Greg, so it appeared they were married. Since Lorna had two daughters in grade-school and Greg the-former-Sobel was an old hippie-type marry-phobe, they thought it was a good idea to trick the status quo. Mick thought it made the initial R stand out, and played the guessing game he and Greg R. Greg had going for the past two years as he tried to figure out what it stood for. He’d gone through the usual list long ago.

Richard?

No.

Ralph, Randy?

No, no.

Robert, Roger, Ray?

No, no, no…

It was never any of those traditional names. Mick’s last guess was Raskolnikov; but nyet, wrong again.

“Bullshit,” Mick told Greg R. Greg, about the marigolds. “Rasputin.”

“No,” Greg R. Greg was nominally amused at being referred to as the mad monk. “That’s what I’ve heard. They keep the gophers away.”

“Robespier-r-r-re…” Mick let it trail off, as if to entice Greg R. Greg to accept that as the definitive middle name and be done with this stupid, interminable guessing game.

Greg R. Greg stood hunched over the work table at Everett’s Press, which was semi-fondly referred to as ‘Everett’s Stress,’ scrunching his long, gray beard and staring at the chess board.

Rats-nest? Retard? Rumpelstiltskin?

Stacks of printed material were witness as he touched his Knight, but didn’t move it. Greg-Greg, as he came to be called, was short, predominantly round, and bald except for the long hair that had long since slipped from his head into becoming a bushy, gray beard. Should he stand on the lawn in December, one could easily mistake him for a Christmas decoration. At the moment, he looked like an exact replica of himself, cast in wax and poised to, maybe, finally move.

“Go ahead,” said Mick, goading him from the other side of the table, while occasionally tending to the small press running the tiny jobs that floated through the quaint but poor Mom-Pop print shop in the not very big town of Sanity Cruise. He liked to use all the tactics he had at his disposal to win at chess, though he hardly ever succeeded, and often told Greg-Greg, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” It wasn’t that Mick was a poor player. He knew how to castle, he even knew the en passant protocol, and getting a pawn to the other side of the board in order to get his Queen back—which was a common and typically futile exercise in desperation. He could think a few moves ahead, but often misplaced the first two in the process of getting there.

One day that’s gonna pay off, he thought, hoping he was getting better with each game he lost.

Greg-Greg teased Mick, still holding his Knight. “I found another photo in the trash bin. It’s a good one.”

“Lemme see it! C’mon…” Mick pleaded to no avail. Greg-Greg always found the naked girl pictures from the photo developer’s trash next door and brought them home without showing them to Mick.

“Can’t. I brought it home. She was standing in a stream…” Naked, of course.

 

There were several apartments above Everett’s Press. Over the din of the press, Greg R. Greg and Mick rolled their eyes at the young couple upstairs yelling at each other. They did this regularly, but always managed to kiss and make up. Today the unintelligible clamour was accompanied by loud footsteps back and forth across the ceiling.

Everett emerged from the back room, where he set up the graphics for printing, glanced at the racket above and shook his head. Mick finished swishing some ink back and forth in the press, watching and waiting for Greg R. Greg to make his move—who was still poised to, maybe, do something in this lifetime before melting. Everett, noticing the chess game set up between the stacks of jobs, stopped to consider Greg-Greg’s stork-like pose over the board. In the clackety hubbub of the press and argumentative grunts from upstairs, the three hovered on the verge of Greg R. Greg’s non-decision. With each passing tick, Everett’s blood pressure raised up a notch, until finally…

“Would you put that damn board away and get to work!”

The paper stacks wobbled and Greg R. Greg removed his hand from his Knight, looking like he’d just been awakened from a stressful nap. “Huh? Oh… Yes sir!” He saluted and went back to his work area.

Mick checked his paper feed, ducking down behind the stack as Greg-Greg scurried away. Damn, now he’ll start over.

Everett made a quick turn and left, back to the sanctity of his relatively quiet studio, where only instrumentals were played on the radio. He thought songs with words were distracting.

When Mick stood up, he was near enough the pass-through window to the reception area to see a customer walk through the door. “Oh no…” he said aloud, and quickly moved out of sight.

Beth, the meek sales help, greeted the man cheerily. “Hi Erra! How are you today?”

Mick groaned, caught Greg R. Greg’s attention, and nodded in the direction of the front door. “It’s Error…” Greg-Greg hunkered over his work, chuckling like a gay dwarf. “If he needs more resumés I’ll shove them down his throat,” Mick told the back of Greg R. Greg’s bald head. He slowed the press down to hear better.

“I need ten more resumés,” said the man they called Error. Mick thought he should order ten-thousand, just to be sure.

“Envelopes too?” Beth asked, ever the consummate salesgirl. Mick could hear the smiley face in her voice and mocked it under his breath.

Shall I pre-moisten them for you with my tongue? Smiley face.

Normally a reasonable request, from Erra this meant they had to be perfect. They must look exactly as if he had typed them himself. The letter thickness had to match the original precisely, and there could be no stray ink spots anywhere—which was impossible with the paper plates and quick-printing process Everett’s Press used. Usually it took at least five plates, each exposed within a second of the preceeding one, in order to finesse the image to perfection. With each plate costing over a buck a piece, the few-buck chump-change for the perfect copies was always a time and money loser. Hence, the nickname.

Mick thought of his competition down the street. They had been in business since the turn of the century and still printed business cards one at a time on an old letterpress. They were traditional, and respected the profession’s long-standing brotherhood among printers. When Mick needed some advice, or to cut down some over-sized paper, he could always count on the family of Mission Printers down the street. The old man knew how to handle customers. When one lady complained about her flyers, he tossed the job in the trash and said, “Next.” The memory always brought a smile to Mick’s face.

Beth came around the partition waving the new original. “We need ten copies on Strathmore paper, can you do it while he waits?”

Mick wondered if this clown would ever get a fucking job. “There isn’t enough paper to get this guy a job. I’d rather just hire him,” he told her, snatching the original from her hand.

“He’s an engineer,” smiley-face said. “What’s he gonna do in a print shop?”

“I don’t know. Your job?”

The stomping continued from above. The yelling got louder and all three looked up. There was a muted CRASH! and the three stooges had to wonder: what the fuck was that? Mick thought he heard a dripping, dribbling sound. Something caught his eye but made no sense.

Is that water?

He looked at Greg-Greg as if asking: ‘What the fuck?’ In precious few Everett’s Stress seconds, water started dripping from more places above. With the house dropped on them, both men quickly went for the plastic garbage bags to cover everything. Mick established split-second priorities as the streams grew thicker. Pull the plug, cover the press, then the paper and chessboard on the tables.

Greg R. Greg frantically laid out garbage bags as water cascaded in long sheets over all the tables, the press, and the two blue-collar workers. As new streams broke open, the men hustled garbage cans under the flow and threw more bags down. Error was idling in reception, leafing through an Architectural Digest, when Beth blew by and out the front door. In twenty seconds it was all over but for the remaining drips splattering intermittently on the plastic garbage bags in the new, tropical quiet.

“Holy fucking shit!” Mick looked up for more, feeling like the coach after a big win—except this was no electrolyte drink, or celebration.

“What the fuck is that smell?” Both men sniffed around, trying to identify the familiar odor.

Everett turned the corner and walked into the press area.

Uh-oh, phasers set to stun…

“What th—?” Everett wanted to know, looking at all the water dripping through the ceiling. His mouth was open but nothing came out.

“Don’t worry,” Mick told him. “I think we got everything covered in time.”

Everett sniffed the air, as if someone just farted. “What’s that smell?”
Just then, the kid from upstairs came running in—looking panicked and flustered. He stopped and looked around with the rest of them, then held his nose at the smell. All three men awaited his explanation with bated breath.

This should be good.

“Oh man, I’m sorry… We were… We…” The kid stammered himself into silence.

“What was it, dude?” Mick asked, showing resigned patience, “Spiked heels on the water bed?”

“Huh? Oh, no,” as if that were normally okay, “…it was the fish tank.”

There was a pause as the smell became recognizeable. “Oh. Uh… that makes sense,” Mick said. “How big was the tank?”

It was twenty gallons.

“I sea,” said Mick, employing the impossible pun anyway.

“But I didn’t lose the fish! It’s amazing, but he lived!” The boy said cheerily. “I’m really sorry…” and he left.

“That’s nice.” Mick said, watching him go. He turned to Everett, “What kind of guy keeps one fish in twenty gallons of water?”

Everett didn’t have that answer. “Did we lose anything?”

“Nope. We got it all in time, I think. Nothing to worry about, Boss. You just go take a spin in that pink Cadillac of yours and we’ll get it all shipshape by the time you get back.”

Everett nodded, thinking that might be a good idea. “It’s teaberry,” he corrected Mick.

“Hey, you’re the artist. Whatever you say.”

Everett went out the back door to the parking lot, started up his teaberry Cadillac, and drove away.

“It appears…” Mick said, “that Everett has left the building. Time to take out the garbage!”

“No! It’s my turn!” Greg-Greg was firm, and headed for the back door in a trot.

Fuckin’ pervert.

“Hey,” Beth peeked through the pass-through window, “Can I get my resumés now?”

“Can’t you see we have a tropical disaster here, woman? Tell him to go away.”

Beth thought Mick was kidding. “Sure, and how do—”

“Far away! And tell him not to come back until it’s raining cats and…” Mick turned the corner toward the back door and the trash bin, hot on Greg-Greg’s heels.

 

Little Lindsay Chapters 7 & 8

Rated G

Chapter 7

One Son the Belcher Monkey moved from to tree to tree, making his way above the slowly traveling coterie of Amber, Millie and Little Lindsay. What’s the big deal about having a house to live in, he thought to himself, when you have the entire jungle? He would never understand the human need for four walls, a TeeVee and washing machines, but whatever. Live and let others live how they wish, his mother said. Here, have a banana.

“Uh-oh,” One Son said to the others. “You’d better give a wide BURP!, I mean berth!, to Aaaron the armadillo. He’s mad. I’d wager he was the first to lose to Lemu-eel tonight. Let’s find out.” One Son dropped a banana peel on Aaaron the armadillo’s head. “Hey Aaaron, how much did you lose tonight?”

Aaaron trudged along like a little tank wearing a banana peel hat. “Don’t talk to me, monster-mouth. I’m an angry armadillo right now.” He was approaching Amber, who stopped immediately and raised her snout. “Outta my way, pooch. I’m in a bad mood. A bad mood.” Amber and the others moved to the side to let him pass. “A week’s worth of grubs gone just like that.”

“Like what?” Millie asked.

The armadillo stopped. “Like that,” he repeated. “What am I going to tell my wife? ‘Oh but honey, a full house beats a straight!?’ Stupid snake even winked at me!”

“BRA-A-A-AP? How patronizing!”

“I know, huh. That snake’s mother was overly proud. Hey, what’s this?” Aaaron crawled closer to Little Lindsay and sniffed her feet. Little Lindsay, as a result, grew seventy-nine inches of new leg. “Whoa! A human! A tall one, too!”

“Amber! Where’s Amber?”

“No worries, little tall one. She seeks the lost one. She’ll be back, with luck. And where, might I ask, is this unlikely trio going, One Son?”

“BRA-A-A-AP! I’m taking Little Lindsay to see Lemu-eel. That snake knows everything. She may know how to find Little Lindsay’s Mommy and Daddy.”

“Hmm? Maybe so. Maybe so.” Aaaron nodded his head, causing the banana peel hat to slide jauntily to the side. “They say snakes absorb the wisdom of the earth because their whole body is in contact with Her. I think the serpent cheats, personally, but it’s hard to prove someone has something up their sleeve when they don’t have any arms.” The banana peel slipped to the ground. “Well, gotta go! Good luck, little tall one. Hey One Son, how much you wanna bet Pepe is right behind me? Stupid pizote.” Aaaron pushed his tank-like little body further into the trees. They could hear him muttering to himself as he waddled away, the darkening jungle swallowing him up like a tough, exotic appetizer. “But honey, I flopped a straight! What could I do? What could I do? What would you do? What would you do? Ow! Stop hitting me! Ow! Oh, I’m in so much trouble!”

“Whoa,” Millie said, shaking her head, “I’d hate to be wearing his underwear right now.”

One Son and Little Lindsay looked at each other.

“BRA-A-A-AP?”

“Ew? Ugh, yucky. Can you back up, One Son?”

“Hey, you’re the one who came up here, chiquita grande. Mmm! Chiquita bananas!” He shoved another down his throat without chewing. “Ahhhh…”

“Amber!” Little Lindsay called out. “Amber! Where are you? Come back!” But there was no answer. “Now what?”

“I say we carry on,” Millie said. “Don’t worry, Little Lindsay. Amber seems like a very smart canine, though a bit pushy at times. And a little too frisky for my tastes, but hey, that’s what dogs do. Plus she snores, and that’s okay but… Do you think she has ticks? I hate those things. One time—”

“Millie, please. Can we move on?”

“Oh! Yes, sure. All I’m saying is that Amber didn’t just walk off without a good reason.”

“That dog has a good nose. BRA-A-A-AP! She’ll find us.”

“Hmm.” Little Lindsay decided they had no choice but to do what Millie suggested, which was to carry on, further into the dark and scary jungle. Further into the unknown. She had to confront her biggest fear head-on. She had to look the serpent in her eyes and, what was it Mister Swift had said? She had to “ask the right questions for the right answers.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 8

It’s been said of Lemu-eel that each time she sheds her skin she is born anew, and has thus become immortal. She has been called by many names over the years. Some call her Infinite, and some have referred to her as Manasha, the Mother, but Lemu-eel prefers to drop the ‘nasha and go by Ma.

 

“My mother brought me to Lemu-eel when I was a baby,” One Son was saying as he picked through the tree branches on their way to the poker game. “She said the snake would teach me all about the wind, and other worlds that shine in the night sky, and the dawn. She said Ma knew all about humans and their arts, and about what they knew and didn’t know, and what they wanted to know but hadn’t quite gotten to figuring out yet. She could teach me all of that.”

“So how did that work out, belcher-breath? You know everything there is to know now?” Millie asked, not without sarcasm.

“I know enough, silly-Millie-Willy-Nilly-sing-song-name, to feed my face and stay out of trouble, which is more than I can say for you two wandering whatevers.”

“Wait, can we stop please?” Little Lindsay asked. “I’m hungry. I think Mommy packed a lunch in my backpack.” Sure enough, there was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a banana with a note attached to it that read: Little Lindsay, I hope you enjoy this sandwich I made with love in my heart. When you eat the banana, drizzle some of the secret sauce (in the tupperware) on it first. And don’t forget to share! Love you, Mommy. Little Lindsay took a bite of the sandwich and held back tears. Millie grazed on small tufts of vegetation growing on the jungle floor.

One Son peered over Little Lindsay’s shoulder into her backpack. At the banana, specifically, while monkey juice puddled in his mouth.

“You gonna eat that?” he asked.

“What? Oh, yes. But you can have a piece if you like. Here, let me get it for you.” Little Lindsay peeled the banana and dipped one end into Mommy’s secret sauce. Handing it to One Son, she said, “But you have to chew it. That way you can enjoy the flavor. It’s much better when you chew.”

“Huh? What? Chew?”

“Yes, like this.” Lindsay took a bite of her sandwich and showed him how to chew.

“Oh, that. I can do that. See?”

Millie, her mouth stuffed with leaves, looked up to watch as One Son delicately placed the banana part in his mouth and started to chew, with his mouth open. The two watched in fascination at the faces he made—first surprise, then delight, then ecstasy—followed by a slow fall forward, a tumbling through the air, and a resounding SLAP! as he landed on his back on the ground. His face was blank and mouth open wide, with bits of strained banana covering his big, yellow teeth, and his breath was shallow.

“One Son! Are you alright?”

A lone cricket chuckled in the still, warm night. Off to the side, under a low branch, Margeaux the margay licked her paw. Nothing else moved.

“I can hear you, Margeaux,” One Son said. “BRA-A-A-A-P!”

(Chorus of Oh! Ugh! and Phew! from Millie and Little Lindsay.) “One Son, you’re alive!” Little Lindsay exclaimed with obvious relief.

One Son leaned onto one elbow. “Wow. That was a religious experience! Open your eyes, Margeaux, so I can see you,” he said aloud to somewhere, anywhere, in the black foliage.

Millie emitted a low growl and stamped her front hoof. “I have a D battery ready to throw,” she warned.

A tiny laugh tinkled back. “And I can smell you, Belcher, from three point four kilometers away…”

Little Lindsay jumped. In the process, she grew another sixteen inches, mas o menos.

“…in the rain, after the osas defecate in the deepest part of the woods. Every day and twice on—”

“Okay we get the point, Margie. How much did you lose tonight?”

“Everything, of course.” Margeaux said. “It’s okay. I think of it as an offering to Ma.”

“No pay, no game. Is that it?”

“Something like that. Although it didn’t pay off tonight. That’s why I’m licking my wounds. Some overweight dog with a rude attitude took my dinner away.”

“Amber?” Little Lindsay immediately asked.

“I’d say more blonde than amber, but what do I know? I’m color blind.”

“No, that’s her name. Amber.”

“Oh. Look, all I know is that she came flying after me like someone threw her from a train and ran around in circles shouting about how lucky she was. Oy. I can tell you it was most annoying. I had to give up my dinner just to shut her up.”

“That’s Amber, alright,” Millie said.

“Amber!” Little Lindsay called. “Come!”

Only the cricket replied.

“Don’t worry, Little Lindsay,” Millie comforted her. “She’ll find us. Let’s move ahead.”

“A head? Whose head? Where? BRA-A-A-AP!”

~~~~~~~~~~

Music—Tribute to Frank Zappa

Rated PG

 

The meek shall inherit nothing.—Frank Zappa

 

Originally, I was going to put together a Top 10 list of my favorite songs by the American composer Frank Zappa (1940-1993) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Zappa). However, considering how many different bands and orchestras he put together I could make a Top 10 for each one and have a Top 200 list. So, I culled through some of my favorites songs and picked what I thought were the best performances posted on YouTube.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with his work, Zappa described himself as a rock and roll musician and composer. He demonstrated an interest in everything from classical to jazz to doo-wop and blues, funk, country western and rock-and-roll—and recorded much of it live. He was also a humorist and a self-proclaimed “Constitutional fundamentalist.” He was, in short, my kinda guy—incredibly talented, intelligent, disciplined, irreverent, funny and a musical genius besides. He was Mozart on ecstasy (without the drug) and will be sorely missed by those who took the time to understand the scope and breadth of his rich talents.

BLACK NAPKINS (6:52)
—I love this song. Fantastic arrangement with Steve Vai joining in on guitar and Chad Wackerman on drums. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzZohsi0nXc

CHUNGA’S REVENGE (6:25)
—A haunting rhythm with more great guitar work from Zappa and a long solo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qi37ziNab_g

THE NANCY AND MARY MUSIC (9:23)
—Unfortunately, there’s no live footage of this. It’s direct from the album Chunga’s Revenge. I took my parents to the Fillmore East to see this band so it has sentimental value to me personally. My Pop totally dug “the guy on the vibes.” That was George Duke he was referring to. The band had both Ansley Dunbar and John Guerin on drums. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gidJxl1THTE

SON OF ORANGE COUNTY and MORE TROUBLE EVERY DAY (7:11)
—Lovely melody and vocals that transition into the hard rock sound of More Trouble Every Day. Rock and roll at its best. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aa1JR-TgPfU&list=RDqi37ziNab_g&index=6

MUFFIN MAN, Live 1977 (4:49)
—A crowd favorite. Great guitar solo. Warning: this hard-driving beat will stick in your head for a long time. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Jh6wnmRbvQ&index=8&list=RDqi37ziNab_g

STINK-FOOT(4:29)
— I puzzled over the lyrics in this song for decades until I finally cognized what I felt was the significance of the album title “Apostrophe” as well as the lyric: “…the crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe.” Read my take on this here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrmtAQvmfN8&index=26&list=RDqi37ziNab_g

COSMIK DEBRIS (7:58)
—Zappa’s stab at gurus. Humorous lyrics, tight band, rock and roll with a blues/boogie beat. Amazing solos on guitar, saxophone and keyboards.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbDbF1DONVE

THE LITTLE HOUSE I USED TO LIVE IN (Part 1—13:35, Part 2—5:05)—
This is my all-time favorite Zappa song. Beautiful piano intro, many tempo changes, jazz, blues and classical fusion, incredible muscianship (as usual) especially piano, drums and blues violin the likes of which you’ve never heard. Zappa’s been called our modern day Mozart and it absolutely shows in this orchestration. With no lyrics, it takes you on a journey of rhythms and transitions. Do not miss the incredible drumming in part 2, and the church-like organ in the pounding crescendo.
Part 1 (13:35) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AhmgaF46F8
Part 2 (5:05) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3NjXpCRptc


MONTANA (6:18)
—Another crowd-pleasing classic. Great vocals, solos, and super-tight band. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmcYTShN4Fk

FINE GIRL (3:14)
— This tune totally sticks in my head after I listen to it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gj5fQpuxkPI


ANY KIND OF PAIN (5:15)—
Incredible band. Check out the vocals and Zappa’s guitar solo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLhwYR0v0gg

ZOMBY WOOF (7:07)—This is Dweezil Zappa’s band performing with Steve Vai on guitar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpf2IoJZhqI

BOLERO (6:25)—Zappa shows his appreciation of Ravel’s Bolerohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2hiDYE5Qdw

FULL CONCERT, BARCELONA, 1988 (2:12:20)— For the true afficionado. This has comedy (from the album Broadway the Hard Way) as well as Zappa’s version of Ravel’s Bolero, an incredible arrangement of Whipping Post, I Am The Walrus, and the true story called The Illinois Enemy Bandit. See the master at work. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBGQ1xVroqk

Our God says
“this is the way!”
It says in the book:
“burn ‘n destroy…
‘n repent, ‘n redeem
‘n revenge, ‘n deploy
‘n rumble thee forth
To the land of the unbelieving scum on the other side
’cause they don’t go for what’s in the book
‘n that makes ’em bad
So verily we must choppeth them up
And stompeth them down
Or rent a nice french bomb
To poof them out of existence
While leaving their real estate just where we need it
To use again
For temples in which to praise our god
(“cause he can really take care of business!”)

—from Jumbo Go Away.

THE COMPLETE LIVE NEW YORK PALLADIUM 1981 (1:57:14)—This is the show I wish I could have seen. It has a bunch of my favorite songs. It visits places political, raunchy, symphonic, funky, orchestral, anti-religious and hilarious. Awesome musicians, as usual. Check out the symphonic version of Flakes, complete with a Dylan sound-alike. There’s a rare glimpse of Zappa on keyboards. They rock Broken Hearts are For Assholes and check out Chad Wackerman on drums in You Are What You Is (“and that’s all it is”). Also included is Zappa’s classic “traditional Halloween song,” The Torture Never Stops. For the finale, The Illinois Enema Bandit is rocked to the max.

 

DOES HUMOR BELONG IN MUSIC?, 1984 (56:32)— Starting with a seriously inspired version of Zoot Allures, this combination of concert interspersed with interviews throughout takes a rapid comedic turn into Tinsel Town Rebellion (where Zappa blasts the music industry) and revives a few classics such as: The Green Hotel, The Dangerous Kitchen (“…it’s disgusting and dirty, the sponge in the sink is squirty…”), He’s So Gay (“…maybe later we’ll all be gay…”), Bobby Brown (“…oh God I am the American dream, but now I smell like Vaseline…”), Keep it Greasy (“…any kind of lube will do, maybe from another part of you…”), Honey Don’t You Want a Man Like Me? (“…he called her a pig, a slut and a whore, a bitch, and a Republican and slammed the door in a petulant frenzy…”), Dinah Mo Hum (“…I don’t mind that she called me a bum but I knew right away she was gonna cum…”), a balls-out arrangement of Cosmik Debris (“…the price of meat has just gone up and you’re old lady just went down…”), and finishes up with Be In My Video, Dancin’ Fool, and to really get you on your feet, a rocked-out version of Whipping Post which may even raise Duane Allman himself out of the grave. Short interviews throughout touch on drugs, women, politics and music. And titties, of course. Crank the volume, pay attention to the lyrics, and laugh your ass off in amazement at Humor in Music.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbeFjEHE-XY&index=20&list=RDqi37ziNab_g

As an interesting side note, here’s a link to the old STEVE ALLEN SHOW (16:29) on TV back in 1963. Zappa performs a piece he called “a small improvisation for two bicycles, a prerecorded tape and instrumental ensemble.” He was 23 years old. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MewcnFl_6Y

 ZAPPA ON DRUGS (2:50)—An interview clip from 1971 about Zappa’s take on drugs, and his visionary insight about the plutocracy facing the so-called Acid Generation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7Vi1zusI3s

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 20—The Crux of the Biscuit

Rated PG (language)

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 20—The Crux of the Biscuit

 

‘Might is write,’ I wrote. God that sucks

I wasn’t writing during much of this period when Katy was younger. Instead, I concentrated my creative efforts on photography, and even did some paintings. On the surface, a picture was worth a thousand words. Underneath, I knew that a thousand words could be used to express almost anything. To shape a mental image within the friendly confines of verbiage was a much trickier and more sublime undertaking. Words had to be so specific… The visual arts were more of a pastime for me, until the real thing opened up and spilled into reams of perfectly strung words.

I paced myself, hovering on the fringes of my ultimate desire: to write. When I wrote letters and poems to Babe during our secret affair of several months they were inspired by a new love that was trapped in an old bubble. Sentences escaped like air from a deflating tire, rather than like helium raising a balloon. The suffering was there, and it vented like a hot radiator onto page after page of emerging thoughts about life and happiness and fulfilment, and how to get them all to line up into the perfect paragraphs of my existence. But once the heartfelt suffering was gone, the words went with them.

That’s what I was waiting for, the return of the words, but it wasn’t happening. I refuse to suffer for the sake of writing! That’s an old fart’s tale! I truly believe. But… but… where is it? Where do I get this inspiration; enough to overflow with the rich texture of language at my command? When I asked myself What do I have to do? the answer always came back: Nothing.

******

I’m in the bathroom, looking for ideas. I sit backwards on the john and face the wall. Then I wait. It usually doesn’t take long, typically less time than it does for me to take a shit, actually, though I don’t want to brag. It’s not that I have a writer’s block thing going, I’m just more confident on the john. The bathroom settles my mind; it’s where the bubbles rise…

 

Back again? my oft-creative, inner voice asks.

“You know why I’m here. Hit me with it,” I think, therefore I wait. I’m not impatient, this always works.

Hit you with what?

“I don’t know, make it up,” I muse, silently staring at my bath towel.

You didn’t run out of ideas, you just can’t remember some of them right now.

“True, then remember them for me. Please.” I add politely.

Pause. Nothing. Still nothing. Followed by nothing. Nothing is following anything.

 

Say it like: No Thing.

No thing. Still no thing. Foll—

Say: No Thing is following Any Thing… when, in fact, it could just as easily be: No Thing is preceding Some Thing.

“Fuck that!” I shake myself. “C’mon man, talk to me!”

Listen to yourself, I’m told. You’re like your old, addict self. You’re practically detoxing with the need to write something, aren’t you?

“Well, no.”

But it reads better that way, don’t you agree?

“Well, yes.”

Good, I’m glad we agree.

“Where were we?” I ask myself, calm now.

No Where.

Followed by more of No Thing

Not ‘No Thing.’ Write ‘Apostrophe’ instead.

Pregnant pause, followed by a double space…

 

“Oh yeah!” I remember now. “The Zappa song!” I ruminate about this for a time while staring at my towel, making sure I don’t have to whiz as long as I’m there. I know immediately where I’m headed with this, Stink-foot.

Maybe you should take some of Fido’s advice, comes the voice in my head.

“Should I add another ‘Pause’ here?”

If you wish.

I do, because it sinks in then what I’m telling myself. I am referring to what I think is perhaps the best verse in rock ‘n roll, the verse in Frank Zappa’s Stink-foot that goes like this (italics mine):

Then Fido got off the floor,
and he rolled over and looked me straight in the eye,
and you know what he said?
Once upon a time
somebody say to me
(this is the dog talking now)
What is your
conceptual continuity?
Well I told him right then, Fido said,
It should be easy to see.
The crux of the biscuit,
is the
apostrophe

I puzzled over the riddle of those lyrics for literally decades.

Do you get the point?

I didn’t want to but yes, I did. I didn’t have to think anymore, or listen. I just had to look at my towel. It’s brown.

It’s Cocoa.

“Whatever…”

I knew what the verse meant to me. Even if Zappa didn’t write it for my interpretation, this was the way I chose to understand it and it hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks. So much so, I felt I must surely be cognizing the artist’s intent.

Say ‘a ton of feathers’ instead.

“What? No one will get it.”

 

“God I love Zappa…”

You’re always in awe of his work. Even songs you’ve heard for, what is it, thirty-seven years now?

“Please don’t remind me,” I plead.

They never get old, do they?

“Not like I do.”

Ha-ha! That’s funny….

“Okay. Look, I get the point. You’re telling me to go back out and shut the computer down.”

No, leave the music playing if you like. Just don’t write anything.

 

I understood. The apostrophe is the space between the sounds. As such, it represents (to me) the existential stillness of life. It symbolizes the ‘No Thing,’ if you will, between the Other Things. It’s the ‘Be Here Now’ spot between the letters used to spell life’s stuff. It stops you before you carry on with the rest of the word; if only for the split second it takes to make the transition.

Not only that, it’s the ‘crux of the biscuit,’ too, as Fido said. Without the apostrophe, the break between, everything runs together and there’s no rest. Everything needs rest; witness Light resolving Darkness, and Stop always follows Go. ‘Rest’ is the analogy of drawing back the bow and arrow. The further you pull it back, the longer the arrow flies — the more powerful it is. Without rest, you soon have nonsense.

The apostrophe is that spot on the wall where the ball changes direction, before it goes the other way. The crux of the biscuit is to Be Here Now, and what better way to represent that than with the ages-old, reliable, important and trust-worthy apostrophe? Our old friend— who knew its sublime signifigance all this time? Zappa did, that’s who, as well as any loin-clothed yogi meditating on the banks of the Ganges would have — though it’s not likely they’d be listening to a Stink-foot raga for that bit of revelation.

Maybe I will whiz, as long as I’m here.

 

So what are you going to do now, as if I don’t already know

I laughed. “Sure, I’ll stop for awhile. I get it, right after I write this down.”

Are you hopeless? Are you addicted to writing?

“Well, no. And yes. Maybe. Does it matter? Are you saying I’m addicted to writing?”

Well, I, er…

“What does that mean, exactly, and does it matter?”

Let’s just say you’re ‘compelled’ to write, and leave it at that.

“So what’s the difference between being compelled and/or addicted?”

Nothing, I guess.

“So shut up.”

Sure, sure, whatever you say…

 

Feel that?

“Yes, I know.”

It’s only compulsion when you have something to say. Without that, it’s addiction. That’s why you’re here, in the bathroom again, looking for something to say so you can satisfy that ‘compulsion’of yours.

“I think I see the point…”

Probably not all of it. You also want validation, recognition and remuneration. In the meantime you treat it like your other oral addictions. Think about it, if you’re not smoking or drinking coffee, gin, wine, Irish Mist, cognac or tea, then you’re doing both. Have a Raisinette.

“So is that a bad thing?”

Could be worse.

I think about that. “I don’t think I’m addicted to sitting backwards on the toilet seat.”

That would be worse.

 

The Rookie walks through the bathroom door, poking it aside with a paw stuck through the crack. She is fast becoming Teenage Cat.

“Hey, you wanna play cards?” she asks me.

 

“I gotta go…”

I know, we’ll talk later.

 

Nods to Zappa. Stink-foot © 1974 Rykodisc.

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 12—Kittenspeak

Rated PG (language)

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 12—Kittenspeak

 

Christmas trees with shiny strings,
Tiny mice and what they bring.
Turn around in tight spaces,
Show my butt to their faces.
Covering a fat, cat crap,
Having a happy cat nap.
Successful when I’m able
To knock stuff off the table.
About this do I dream.
Some of my favorite things.

 

When I look at my keyboard and it goes blank, sometimes I make tea and talk to the cats.

“Tink…” (ROOKIE CAT knows that ‘tink.’ It is the kettle making ready to boil water.)

ROOKIE CAT (swishes onto the kitchen linoleum and skids to a halt): “Teatime! Teatime! Cmon-cmon-cmon, you’re so slow!” (Applies burning, hypnotic stare to MASTER FEEDER and thinks: Faster-faster-faster….).

MASTER FEEDER: “It’s a puddy! Such a preeeeetty puddddddy…. Acha-pretty-puddy?”

ROOKIE CAT (still hypnotizing): “What? Shut the fuck up and let me do my work. Get the teabag, get the teabag… It’s working!”

MASTER FEEDER (takes the teabag out of its wrapper, begins crumpling said wrapper into a tight little ball of paper): “Is that a big, mean ol’ hunter I see? Ooooooh, sucha mean ol’ puddy….”

ROOKIE CAT: Must… stare… harder….

MASTER FEEDER (with best impersonation of Star Wars Emperor and holding up the little paper ball): “Yes… you want this, don’t you? Come over to the Dark Side, your destiny awaits you at my side!”

ROOKIE CAT: “Fuck that shit, just throw the paper ball! Throw it now, throw it now…”

MASTER FEEDER (tossing the wadded-up paper on the floor): “BWAH-ha-ha-ha..! Yes! Give in to the Dark Side!”

ROOKIE CAT (slaps the paper toward the water dish, skimming it like a hockey puck): “What’s this? You think you can get away from me!?” (Charges it.)

MASTER FEEDER (grabbing a napkin and letting it drop to the floor): “That’s icing! Penalty! You didn’t cross the blue line!” (MF knocks it over with his foot to the center of the ice.)

ROOKIE CAT: “Damn! Get back here! Why I oughta…” (slides to a halt on top of it). “Where’d you go? What? Where? What’s this?” (Finds it under herself and slaps it towards the refrigerator, the goal).

MASTER FEEDER: “Oh! And it’s a slapshot from center ice! What a shot, what a shot! But it bounces off the goal and rests in the crease! Where’s the defense!?

ROOKIE CAT (bolting for it): “Now you’re mine!” (Slaps it under the fridge.)

MASTER FEEDER: “Score! Count it baby!” (Signals a touchdown at a hockey game.)

ROOKIE CAT (digging under fridge now): “Hey, where’d you go? Get back here, I’m not through with you yet, you pesky critter…” (dig, dig, dig).

VETERAN CAT (casually watches the ROOKIE CAT from a nearby chair, then looks at MF): “What a rookie.”

MASTER FEEDER (talking to VETERAN CAT): “Yeah, but she’s got at least fifty goals stuffed under the refrigerator this season alone. She’s good, you know it.”

VETERAN CAT (not impressed): “I’m not impressed.” (Yawns.)

MASTER FEEDER: “And what have you done for me lately? Where were you when that fly was buzzing the window, huh?”

VETERAN CAT (looking away): “Those things taste shitty. Ever eaten one?”

ROOKIE CAT: “What fly, where? I’ll kill that fucking bastard! Lemme at him… Hey, isn’t it time for another tea?” (Must… stare… harder…)

MASTER FEEDER: “Ooooooh, sucha great hunter you are! And such a preeeeedy puuuddy…..”

VETERAN CAT (jumping off chair and going over to door): “Christ. What I wouldn’t give for a dry furball right now.”

******

The writing was going well, I thought, at times. But it was sporadic, episodic, and there was nothing holding it together. Mostly, there was no point to it. There wasn’t much knowledge or wisdom showing either. If I was going to write something, maybe I should try and make it count for something. On the other hand, who cares what I think?

“Not me, if you’re asking,” said the Rookie. “Let’s eat some catnip. You need another cup of tea. What was that?”

“What was what? Where?” I turned around to look at whatever she was staring at. There was nothing. I turned back and Rookie was disinterestedly licking her paw.

“Made you look…”

It wasn’t coming as easily as I thought it should.

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 4—Anatomy of a Fart

FartNowLoadingRated PG (language, situation)

 

 

 

 

 

(Author’s Note: When my writing voice found me on 05/05/05, I discovered I could write about anything in which I had a sincere interest. All I had to do was sit backwards on the commode and an idea would surface (among other things) to write about. Brushing my teeth, showering and flossing all became tricks to let my mind do its work without the pressure of having a keyboard at my fingertips—waiting for me to type something epiphanous. Apparently, flatulence was one of those interests.)

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 4—Anatomy of a Fart

 

I’m sitting backwards on the commode. I don’t have to take a shit, I’m waiting for an idea. If something doesn’t come up soon I may have to brush my teeth. Or worse, floss. I face the wall, as usual, with my legs straddling the seat cover and look at my towel.

You’re going to fart, says my inner voice, my inspiration.

“I know. Why is that, do you suppose?”

I’ll assume you didn’t mean to ask Why do we fart? but rather, why is it that you always fart while you sit backwards on the toilet seat?

It’s true. Whenever I need an idea a fart precedes it. It’s usually not a tiny, cursory-type fart but a surprisingly loud one, too. Maybe it’s because of the seat cover being hard, I don’t know.

There’s good acoustics in here. Have you ever actually seen a fart?

I have to laugh at that. “Of course not, well not really anyhow. It’s almost by definition that you can’t see a fart. Like cleavage, it’s implied. On the other hand, if you light one up with a match I can tell you from experience it will explode. Depending on the nature of the specific fart, it could go off like a can of hairspray!”

That would be a ‘Category 5’ fart?

“Definitely.”

Then there’s supposed farts; ones that are disguised as farts but, when put to the test, are actually shit. Technically those are just shit—and, regrettably, a rather unfartunate experience. Basically, the only way to see flatulence is to cover it up with something; but then you only see the fart’s force, not the actual wind. I saw one travel down a guy’s leg once; he was also sitting on something hard. I don’t want to take any credibility away from the story by saying it was at the tail end of an acid trip when it happened because our trips always ended up in a farting match.

Are you sure that was because of the acid?

“No.”

Wait, here it comes!

I wait. There it is, like clockwork. The rumblings start in my intestines (or whatever they are) and sure enough, it drops down to the launching pad. Once there, I can almost decide how it’s going to sound on the way out just by the way I arrange my butt. Oh yes, a real virtuoso am I.

Quick, go look at it in the mirror!

“Wha…!? You want me to go look at it? I can tell you right now I’m not going to go watch my fart come out in the mirror.”

Why not, aren’t you curious?

“No.”

Well, now you are!

Fuck. My inner, creative voice was right.

You’re curious because I mentioned it. C’mon, it’ll be a gas!

“It’ll be sick.” I’m very sure of that.

Pause.

Who’s gonna know?

Pause.

…unless you say something.

“That’s cruel,” I say.

Rumble, pause.

I jump off the toilet. “Damn, I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

Atta boy!

I have my own rooting section. I run to the mirror and drop my pants, hoping now that I can hold it in for as long as it takes to get a good view of the thing as it’s delivered. I’ve had to look at my asshole before, naturally, but never with this in mind. Usually, well, nevermind…

Here she comes! We give it a gender. Get set!

“Okay, okay!” I get set, bending over and spreading my ass up to the mirror, hoping Babe doesn’t suddenly walk through the door. “This is a really bad idea.” I’m a grown man, I shouldn’t be holding my farts up to the mirror for inspection.

I have to move a little closer and flip on another light. I can now tell you for certain that No, the sun doesn’t shine down there. So I finally get my bunghole lit up and there it is, staring back at me as a mis-shapen, tiny hole surrounded by what can best be described as its own aureola. It looks almost prehistoric—like we should be evolving out of the need for an asshole altogether. It’s also got that crinkled look, which allows it to expand, I surmise. If you were to look at a photo enlargement of the thing, you may see it as an old roll of tan crepe paper that’s been stored in the sun too long. Briefly, I’m reminded of Crazy Bob and the shit he took off the Little League backstop that night in the pouring rain.

Shhh! Here it comes! (Fart protocol dictates you listen for it.)

At long last, Mission Control hit the button and sent it down the chute; or in this position, up the chute. I was poised, ready, and staring directly into my own asshole—waiting for it to emerge—to prove to my inner, creative voice that you can’t actually see a fart. Final stages complete, it was at the door and ready to break on through to the other side. I watched, actually curious now. When it came, my butt hole opened up just a little bit and actually pushed out, like an anemone discharges the bones of a fish, until it was in just the right position. Finally, at the moment of truth, it said: Pfoooot! and collapsed. The hole got smaller and went ‘at ease.’ At that point I was staring at my asshole for no reason and straightened up quickly. I hadn’t lost all my faculties.

“There, I told you! You can’t see a fart!”

Did you just say ‘Foot!’ with your asshole? Aha-ha-ha-ha! I can’t believe you actually did that. Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

We were both laughing while I moved away from the area around the mirror.

Your bunghole has an aureola, dude! Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Now I’m inspired. “I should make a movie. A digital one I can e-mail to people I don’t like.” Then I tried to imagine what it would be like to set up the camera and wait for a fart: “And… action!”

Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha! My inner impetus continued laughing. Put that idea on the back burner for now, okay? Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha! We both can’t stop laughing. I have to point out, though, aha-ha-ha-ha-ha!, that in the same sense as we see a cannon firing a cannonball, we can say that a fart can be seen in the same manner.

“No way, man. Cannons don’t fart!” I argued. “Technically, they’re taking a shit ha-ha.”

Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha, work with me, dude! Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha! If I were you I’d start flossing for another idea, aha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

************************************************

The writing gig wasn’t working out like I had envisioned.

Little Lindsay Chapters 5 & 6

Rated G

Little Lindsay Chapters 5 & 6

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 5

It was at this point in our tale, the Experts calculated, when Little Lindsay reached the apex of her height at an exact mile from the floor of a small, sandy area in the middle of the jungle where she and a seemingly miniature but slightly less than normal-sized filly transported from Philly named Millie Tilly Dilly with a brother Willy Nilly (her sister Lilly called Billy) stood—factoring in an average for sand-sink depression, of course.

Further, the Experts agreed that it would therefore not be unreasonable of them to reason that at that height it would be both reasonably cold, and unreasonably hard to breathe. It’s accepted practice that Experts require two reasons for every one reason in order for something to be truly scientifically verifiable, or not, so such a conclusion is reasonable since there’s more than enough proof to extrapolate the above from the story below.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Ama-a-a-a-zing!” Little Lindsay wavered in the gentle tropical breezes. Not knowing what might be underfoot, she did a little dance to keep moving. But she hardly noticed that once she looked at the beautiful sky with its swirling clouds and floating mists. The evergreen jungle sprawled below, streaked with flashing water runways and flush with distant sounds of far-away birds, animals, reptiles and insects going about their busy business of daily life. “Brrr, but it’s cold up here and hard to breathe,” she said.

Time slowed to a crawl, curled up, and went to sleep. Even though Little Lindsay’s life was far from acceptable in its current state, somehow everything seemed just and correct. All of life was what it should, would and could be at that frozen moment. Conflict was replaced by comfort. Fear was vanquished to the realm of ignorance far, far away. Patience trumped worry and serenity prevailed—as it should.

“Hello Little Lindsay. I see that you have reached the pure air. How do you feel?”

“Oh hello, Mister Swift. Yes, it’s rather pleasant up here. Why is that?”

“Because you are outside the realm of time. Look at your timepiece.”

Lindsay checked her watch. “It’s not counting,” she said. “Why?”

“Because there’s nothing to count. Moments are empty, like the inside of a seed. Only humans line them up one next to the other, but inside a moment there’s nothing at all. Add them all up and what have you got? A long line of the same thing, which is nothing. All the numbers add up to zero, Little Lindsay. Everything ends where it starts, and starts all over again. All this, Little Lindsay,” Mister Swift indicated his body as well as Little Lindsay’s, “…is that which you see above, below and beside you. There’s no difference.” The pretty parrot, Mister Swift, hung effortlessly in front of Little Lindsay’s face. “Life is within, Little One. Once you see that all moments add up to no moments you no longer have the need to change anything. All is as it should be. All is contained within the moment of Now.”

Little Lindsay became one with the silence of the moment—a place where there are no words, thoughts, or actions—and it was good.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Leg Experts scratched their collective jaw and proclaimed:

“We know nothing about the nothingness of moments. We have mountains of facts about all manner of things both big and small, but there’s no information for Nothing at all.”

And so the concept of Nothing was deferred to the Time Experts, who said:

“You can’t prove Nothing, so there’s nothing to prove. For this or that matter we can’t approve, or disapprove.”

The factual secret of the subject of Nothing is clearly revealed with the actual feeling.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Little Lindsay?”

“Hmm?”

“It’s time to find your home. Mommy and Daddy are worried about you.”

Little Lindsay didn’t wish to move. She loved the feeling of all the different moments coming to rest as One Moment. She had no need to do anything, or go anywhere, or be any different than she now was at that One, quintessential, primordial Moment when Time ceased to count. But she had to nudge herself to action now. She had to step back into the cycle of counting moments and find her new home.

“Mister Swift, can you show me the way to Pura Vita-Veedaville?”

“Never heard of it. But I can tell you where to start.”

“Oh? Where?”

“The answer lies at your feet. Find Lemu-eel, the serpent. She knows everything there is to know. Not all at once, of course. What an overload! Ask the right questions for the right answers.”

“Wait, this Lemu-eel is a… a… snake?”

Mister Swift stood to flying attention and with a crisp salute said, “Buh-bye!” before veering into a spiral dive toward the ground.

“Wait, Mister Swift! Wait for me!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 6

Poor Little Lindsay was under a lot of stress, as you, dear reader, can clearly see. What with all the hidden terrors of a jungle in an unknown land, the falling out of a plane and such, the rapid leg growth and being alone, it’s no wonder she wasn’t a nervous wreck. Experts were not in total agreement as to how to characterize what may have, or not, been Little Lindsay’s state of mind, so they agreed to the list of descriptors below. Little Lindsay may, or may not, have been (in alphabetical order, as opposed to their order of importance, which is a whole other question), according to the Experts: agitated, antsy, anxious, apprehensive, beside herself, a bundle of nerves, hyper, impatient, jerky, jittery, jumpy, spooked, twitchy, uneasy and/or worried. (The word calm was never discussed, since it was considered the “normal” state of mind—which, obviously, Little Lindsay lacked.)

If there was ever a time in a fable or a story for something good to happen, this will be the place in Long-Legged Little Lindsay’s (slightly) long-winded tale where it starts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Little Lindsay concentrated on what Mister Swift had told her. “The answer lies at your feet,” he had said. She looked downward. Clouds and tropical mist swirled around her knees. “I can’t even see my feet,” she groaned. “For all I know, I may not even have any feet! I can’t—” She stopped herself. Mister Swift had also said there was no can’t, only Do. Do, so she closed her eyes and became very still, willing her legs to shrink back to normal, eight-year-old size.

At first, nothing changed. Concentrate. After awhile, still nothing. Try harder! Followed by nothing. Repeat. Zero. Nada. Harder! Nix. No results. Quiet now… mind wandering… thoughts of Mommy and Daddy and Amber. Poor old lady (Amber, not Mommy) alone in the jungle. Followed by no thoughts about anything big or small or here or there or back or forth or then or later. No up or down or inside or out. Just is. Not a single thought about a place or a time. Nothing. Nothing, that is, but intention.

“Ooh!” Little Lindsay jumped. “What was that?” Instinctively, she reached down to touch her foot and opened her eyes. To her surprise…

“Amber!” Amber lay curled at her feet, protecting her. Actually, she was asleep. And snoring. Drool rolled off her tongue onto Little Lindsay’s foot. “Amber! Amber! I’m so happy to see you! Hey wait, I’m normal sized! Amber! Amber! Wake up girl!”

Amber opened her eyes sleepily and said, “Huh?” Once she saw Little Lindsay’s face she jumped up like a spry puppy and began running in circles around her. “Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay!”

“Good girl, Amber. Yes I’m happy to see you, too.”

“Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay!”

“Alright already!”

“Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay!”

“Doesn’t she know how to say anything other than Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay!?” a somewhat irritated filly from Philly asked.

“Hi Millie! Look, I’m back to my normal size!”

“Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay!”

“Yes, Amber! Okay! Can you shut up a little bit for now, please?” Little Lindsay asked nicely. “That’s better. Now, how do you like the jungle?”

Amber tilted her head and smiled. “You’re kidding, right? This place is a doggie paradise! Oh, if you could only smell what I smelled today! Did you know every plant has a unique olfactory signature? Each tree is different from every flower and vine and plant and bush and root and—”

“Amber!” Little Lindsay interrupted. “Do you know where Mommy and Daddy are?”

“Huh? Oh, no, I don’t. Do you think they’re okay? Should we look for them? Wanna take a walk? Wanna take a walk? Huh? A walk, huh? Sound like a good idea? Huh?”

Millie sighed out loud. “Dogs are so predictable. You don’t want to take a walk, you want to take a—”

“Millie! I think it’s a good idea. Mister Swift told me to look for Lemu-eel the serpent. She knows everything. She can tell us where Pura Vita-Veedaville is.” Little Lindsay turned to her faithful nanny-dog, “Amber, can you smell serpents?”

Amber thought about that. “I don’t know. Their butts are very tiny.”

“Ew?” both Millie and Little Lindsay said together.

“Hey, that’s how dogs work. There’s more to go by down there. It’s not like I’m addicted to crack or anything.”

“As much as I am not in the mood to go smelling serpent butts,” Millie said, “it makes horse sense to me to have you take the point. Lead on, Amber. We’re with you!”

“Yes! We’re right behind you, Amber,” Little Lindsay added.

“BRA-A-A-A-AP!”

All three jumped. “Oy, One Son, do you have to be so abrupt?” Little Lindsay asked, looking up into the trees.

“Don’t you mean: A-BRA-A-A-A-PT? Ha-ha, get it?”

“Oh yuck. Could you climb a little higher, please? Phew!”

One Son jumped up a branch. “What’s all the hubbub, Bub? What’s the plan, Stan? What’s the poop, Scoop? Gimme the skinny, Ninny. What’s the blurb—”

“Okay I’ve had enough,” Millie said. “Who invited Bugs Banana-breath?”

“Bark!” Amber commanded complete silence. All eyes turned to her.

“Did you just bark?”

“Yes! Poor Little Lindsay is lost. And so am I, I might add. We must come together and find our way, so let’s get on with it, shall we? You, monkey.” One Son straightened up immediately and gulped a whole banana without chewing. “Where might I find a serpentess named Lemu-eel in these parts?”

“Lemu-eel? I know Lemu-eel, alright. She never loses in poker. Why is that? I don’t trust her.”

Amber was all business. “Which way, monkey?”

“Nobody always wins, it’s just not normal. And not very polite, either, in my opinion. BRA-A-A-A-AP! Ahhhh.”

Collective “Ugh.”

Millie stamped her foot. “I’ll follow Amber and clear a path for Lindsay. One Son is your name? You stay in the trees and make sure we’re going the right direction as well as look out for any wild boars or pigs, or boring pigs, or whatever’s out there who might be hungry and not discriminating about what they eat. Little Lindsay, you watch our flanks. Where do we find Lemu-eel, Belcher-breath?”

“She sleeps over that way.” Everyone faced east, where One Son pointed. “But she travels way over here,” he said, pointing west. Everyone turned around. “And everywhere in between.” Everyone looked left and right. “That is, until dark, when she sometimes heads south.” Everyone turned south. “When there’s no moon she likes to go north.” Everyone turned north. “But when there’s no moon it’s almost impossible to see anything as small as a skinny serpent butt.”

“I think I’m going to throw up,” Millie said, dizzy after looking this way and that.

Little Lindsay sighed with frustration. “What are we to do, One Son?”

“That’s easy. Tonight’s the first full moon of the spring season.”

“I thought you said there was no moon tonight.”

“Read the minutes, honey. I didn’t say that. I know exactly where to find her.”

“Where?” all three asked at once.

“At the poker game.”

Street of Rogues Ch. 10—The Chinese Bar

Rated PG (Language, situation.)

Street of Rogues, Chapter 10—The Chinese Bar

 

“I don’t like jail, they got the wrong kind of bars in there.”—Charles Bukowski.

 

Wedged between those glory days of hardy-partying, I tend to overlook how bored we felt most of the time in those, ‘The Blunder Years,’ of my youth. School was busy teaching us to fall in line, shut up, and memorize. Parents left us alone and time seemed to hang heavy on our hands. Playing cards and handball pretty much filled in the blank spots—and drinking cheap beer and wine (which created a few blank spots).

If I combine all the long, boring days and divide them into equal parts, I find a Chinese bar with free hors d’oeuvres. We hung there many a night, mainly because they served us, but also because the clientele was slightly less seedy than Mitchell’s bar up the street (which was mostly old men in trenchcoats and one guy wearing an ascot who liked young boys)—the bar where Frankie the Bum fell asleep, was tossed outside in the cold and never woke up.

On a cold night, the Chinese bar was warm. On hot nights it was still warm, but had a soft spot for your butt at least; and it cost you a buck and a quarter for a draft pull of Bud in order to stay. It also had a juke box, which turned out to be a non-essential luxury item when you were already grubbing change for beers. With my ten-dollar-a-week allowance—a pittance, barely allowing me a few nights worth of pot, three packs of butts and four quarts of beer (or two nights of acid)—I had no hope of maintaining a ‘budget’ to last the week. If I wanted a five-dollar concert ticket and a tab of acid, I was broke the day I took the bill out of Pop’s hand and rifled through his coats for more change on my way out the door. In all cases, I was begging and borrowing by Sunday.

We’d start on cheap, store-bought quarts of beer—or screwtop bottles of wine—before going inside and taking up space for hours at a time with our one or two 12-ounce bar beers, listening to Levon and Billy Preston’s Outta Space with every extra quarter and trying to gigolo local patrons into buying us a beer every so often. It didn’t matter that I was fifteen and most of my close friends were no more than sixteen. We all looked older than our years, and a little run-down at times. I had the moustache going for me and the rules were lax. Except the titty bars—they were strict.

Sammy, the barkeep, looked out for some of us. I don’t know why, since we hardly bought anything, spilled a lot of what we did buy, barfed occasionally in the stairwell to the bathroom (Chuckie always blamed me) and never tipped. He was the greatest barkeep I ever knew.

“No mo’ fo’ you! No mo’ fo’ you!” he said to Lorraine, waggling his finger in her face while he wiped the bar clean of her beer spill. Chuckie, Lewis and I sat at the bar and watched Sammy’s slitted eyes disappear into two thin lines. “You spill two and no mo’!” Most of us illegals were quiet and respectful, so he’d let us stay. We didn’t want to risk blowing a good gig with the free hors d’oeuvres. To this day, I can’t find a shrimp toast that compares.

Sammy replaced Lorraine’s beer (who was now down to her last strike), gave her a fresh glass of ice, and ambled over to our end of the bar—clearly disgusted. Lewis and Chuckie had their heads together, scheming about how to get some pills while I concentrated on the beer nuts, only half-listening. Sammy spoke to me, “See her at the end of the bar?” He nodded in ‘her’ direction. A pale, sixty year-old grandma sat behind a mixed drink, smoking a cigarette and nervously swizzling her stick. “She pays,” he said. “She gonna reave soon, too.”

I watched Grandma’s jerky movements and darting eyes. She didn’t look like a happy, normal, well-adjusted person should look. Psychotic, neurotic alcoholic. That’s how I wrote her off in my head, especially if she hung out in this place—which was populated mostly by droopy barflies. I was more of a barfly on the wall, still in the cocoon of invulnerable adolescence. I knew this wasn’t the long-term me.

“Pays for what?” I finally asked.

At first Sammy looked taken aback, but quickly recovered and flashed a big smile. “Ha-ha! You funny-man! I see…” as if I had made a joke. He looked back at Grandma, who was stubbing out her smoke. “Seriousry, man,” he whispered to me on the sly, “she gonna reave now!” Grandma was putting her Salems in her handbag. “Yes?” Sammy wanted to know of me.

“Nah, I don’t think so, not this time. Maybe next time. Thanks anyway,” I told him, replying politely but generically enough to cover up my naiveté. At the rate we were tipping, you had to thank him for everything at least once anyway—even if you didn’t understand what he was talking about.

Sammy looked disgusted as Grandma got up to leave. “Ach! Don’t unnerstan’ you. She pay if you go with her!” He wanted me to gigolo her! Oh, god… No! I admit to being a horny teenager, but I wasn’t that desperate. Sammy knew I had the most gorgeous girlfriend in the neighborhood, Margaret, but this one paid for it! I almost had to gag in the stairwell and blame Chuckie for it.

“Nah, kinda tired tonight…”

He shook his head, grabbed the bar towel and muttered his way to the other end of the bar.

There were some pretty cracked cases at Sammy’s bar. Cracked case in point: Chuckie and I were sitting at a table when this big guy teetered over and just stood there, peering down at us. Solemnly, without saying a word, he reached into his pocket, pulled out some change and a matchbook and held it in his giant, outstretched hand. I was hoping he was offering us the loose change (I didn’t need the matches), but didn’t trust the black, vacant look in his eyes as he stared down at us—as silent and unmoving as the Lincoln Memorial. We waited cautiously for him to say something until he finally challenged us with how he didn’t have anything to do with our money, and that he’d knock us down to our knees and kill us if we thought he did. He looked deadly serious, too. We had no clue where he was going with this, but we didn’t have any money.

“Hah?” we tried to reply. Then Chuckie got his fight-or-flight thing going and, pissed off now, screamed at the guy: “Hey man, we’ll pull you outta here by your fuckin’ hair, man, and stomp on your fuckin’ head! Get the fuck outta here, prick!” It took a lot to piss Chuckie off, but I was glad to see it just then. The big guy looked slightly chagrined, then turned and teetered out the door like a blank clone.

Chuckie and I looked at each other. “Shit,” I said, “I think Lurch had his body snatched.”

Just then the door flew open with a Bang! I jumped and looked over to see a dwarf stick his head inside. “All right,” he bellowed, “all you people in here owe me money!” It shut the place up for a second while all the barflies wondered: What the fuck? “All of you!” he screamed, pointing at all of us in a wide arc. Then he left, exit stage right.

I turned to Chuckie, “Is it my imagination, or did he sound like Sinatra?”

“What is it with people tonight?” he wanted to know.

“Remind me why we hang out here, man.”

“Because they let us,” he reminded me, shoving another shrimp toast in his mouth.

Rosie came in and took her place on a stool by the juke box. She laid a pack of cigarettes on the bar, put her purse at her feet and smiled at Sammy, who immediately went to fix her usual gin and tonic. Rosie was pushing forty-five but in a friendly, sexy way. Her favorite book was The Carpetbaggers and we both smoked Marlboro, back when they only came in one color. I slid next to her at the bar as she took a smoke out of her pack.

“Hiya Rosie,” I said, flipping my lighter open.

“Hello! Why, thank you! Care for a cigarette?”

I smiled. “Well, since you’re offering…” I took one and sat down.

Lorraine was silent at the other end of the bar. No longer a spring chicken and already three sheets to the wind, she staggered off her stool and walked unsteadily toward us, eyeing me lasciviously. Using several empty stools as well as Chuckie and Lewis along the way for balance, she wrapped her arms around my neck, pulling me off the bar stool. I knew what was coming and smiled weakly at Rosie. Lorraine enjoyed pronouncing to all and sundry that I “might be young,” but I “knew how!” I did know how, but not with Lorraine. For her I suddenly drew a blank. With her arm draped around my shoulders, mostly for support, she said for all to hear, “He might be young, but he knows how! Ha-ha!” and put her face close to mine. “Wanna hambugger at my place?”

I stalled. “Uh… On a bun?”

“Any way you want it, honey.”

“I’m kinda stuffed on shrimp toast and peanuts right now….” I told her, squirming onto my stool.

It was sad, but the barflies accepted us for what we were so we owed them the same courtesy. Especially since Lorraine bought me a beer from time to time and taught me you could put an ice-cube in it if it wasn’t cold enough. Plus, it’s hard not to like someone who likes you. Life for these people was essentially an ongoing nothing-going-on syndrome. Ask any one of them a serious question and you’d find they had dozed off, dreaming of a holiday someplace nice.

Lorraine wobbled back to her stool by Richie, a grizzled regular, and continued talking loudly while straightening her tight skirt. In the process, her blouse slipped a little at the shoulder, revealing a dingy bra strap. Lewis and Chuckie slid over with their glasses of Bud and sat next to me and Rosie. Rosie watched Lorraine, who was chattering about Yankee the horse to a very bored-looking Richie.

Rosie scowled, “What the hell is she talking about?”

“Ha?” Chuckie rarely said more than one word in public, but ‘Ha’ had several meanings. With a question mark, it meant ‘What?’ On the phone, ‘Ha’ meant ‘Hello.’ With an exclamation point, it meant ‘Bullshit!’ A plain ‘Ha’ could either mean he was agreeing with you, or wasn’t listening.

I leaned closer to Rosie, trying to be conspiratorial and cozy, “She’s telling the story of Yankee the horse.” Rosie smelled good, too. I enjoyed being cozy with Rosie. “Unfortunately for Richie, he’s already heard it several times.” Rosie laughed, a deep one that reeked of sensuality. I wished she would make me a hambugger. I’d put it in her cleavage and eat with no hands. Then I’d ask to see her buns. I chuckled.

Rosie smiled, “Is it funny?”

I shook my mind out of Rosie’s cleavage and summarized the story of Yankee the horse, as told by Lorraine. “Yeah, actually it is. She shwears it’s true.”

“It’s bullshit,” Lewis said.

“Ha,” Chuckie agreed, and sipped his king of beers.

“Still, it’s a pretty good story, ya gotta admit.” I told Rosie about Yankee the horse, who lived in Scotland and loved two things in life: mash and kids. Every day, Yankee saw the kids off to school, and was there to greet them when the bus returned. One day he got out of his field and went to the brewery, where he found large piles of mash, got pitifully drunk—”

“Sheeeee… pish-ass drunken ol’ sot. Yep. Drunker anna… anna… sumpin’,” Lorraine yelled in Richie’s deadpan face, loud enough to be heard a dozen stools away. Richie was in faraway Barbados, thinking about tan women in white bikinis carrying buckets of Bud.

Lewis was adamant, “That’s bullshit. Horses don’t get drunk on mash.”

“Yeah, and you’re an expert, I know,” I said. “Eddie’s the one to ask.”

“Ha!” Chuckie laughed.

I continued in Rosie’s ear, “Yankee was waiting when the bus arrived, allegedly drunk. When the kids saw him, they begged him to come over so they could pet him through the windows.” Rosie nodded, appearing still interested, but glanced at her nails.

Richie said something to Lorraine. “Fuckiff I know!” she screamed.

“But,” I went on, “Yankee decided he’d rather board the bus! And before the driver could close the door, he walked inside.” I could sense another Bullshit! coming, this time from Rosie. “Wait, it gets better. He walked up some of the steps, but he couldn’t make the turn into the bus, see?” Rosie could understand that it might be a difficult maneuver for a horse. I couldn’t see how even a sober horse could make the turn. “So Yankee went to sleep right there on the steps, sorta half in and half out. What a pain in the ass, huh?” (Moral: never let a drunken horse attempt to board a bus.)

There was a predictable pause before Rosie spoke the inevitable. “That’s it?”

Lorraine fell forward onto Richie, who saved his beer from tipping over in the nick of time. “Ha-ha-ha! Moofed him to Louisville! Yep-up!” She was hanging onto his arm while he tried to keep his beer steady and change hands.

I had to laugh. “Don’t you think that’s funny?” Rosie was politely amused but no, not really. “It’s better when Lorraine tells it,” I said, looking in Lorraine’s direction. Richie excused himself and headed toward the bathroom.

Lorraine was animated. “Hey! Less go skiing!”

Rosie turned on her stool, “I’m gonna play the juke box.”

I told Lorraine that we couldn’t go skiing. It was June. Besides, none of us could ski.

Lorraine looked crestfallen. “Aw, yer so cute…. I’m pretty-goo-too!”

“What?” I turned to Lewis and Chuckie for help. “What did she say?”

Lewis translated. “She said you’re cute.” He and Chuckie laughed. “And, she’s ‘pretty good, too.’”

“Yep-up! I went down this REALLY BIG MOUNT’NIN!” Lorraine shouted down the bar, out the door and halfway across Queens Boulevard. We had to cover our ears it was so big! She stared at us, each eye wandering off in different directions. “I cudden see SHIT, my gog-ules were fudsing…”

I appealed to Lewis for another translation. “Her wha? Was wha?”

“Her goggles were… fudsing, I guess.”

“Oh.” I figured it was a skiing term.

“I went ZING!” Lorraine thrust her hand down the slopes, knocking over Richie’s beer.

Sammy wasn’t too happy. “No mo’ fo’ you! No mo’ fo’ you!” He hurried over with a bar rag. We shook our heads. What a waste of Bud.

Lorraine looked sufficiently contrite. “Fuckin’ fondaloop…”

“What’s a fondaloop?” Lewis wondered.

“It’s a skiing term, like ‘fudsing.’” I said.

The juke box fired up with a Perry Como song, “It’s al-l-l-ways fair weather, when hep cats get together…”

Rosie returned and sang along. “A hubba-hubba-hubba, hello Dad….”

Lewis nudged me with his elbow and leaned closer, his eyes big and bright, “Tomorrow’s Chuckie’s birthday. We’re gonna rob a drug store. Want in?”

“Well-a hubba-hubba-hubba, let’s shoot some breeze. Say, what-ever happened to the Japanese?”

I peeked across Lewis at Chuckie. “Ha?” He raised his eyebrows and took another sip of beer, indicating his blessing of the idea.

I thought about it. We had no idea how to rob a drug store. Still, it was his birthday… “Of course,” I told Lewis, and took a sip to seal the deal. My logic was simple. If we couldn’t figure out a way inside, then nothing was lost. However, if I didn’t go with them and they succeeded, I wouldn’t get a split.

Lorraine dropped her cigarettes all over the floor and was fishing around on her hands and knees for them. Richie got back from the bathroom, looked at the bar and said, “Hey, where’s my beer?”

The juke box blared, “It was might-y smoky over Tokyo…”

Random Writings—SPAM!

8x8.75 SPAMRated R (Language)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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P.I.S.S.E.D. Ch. 3—Opening Day at Shea Stadium, April 12, 2004

Rated PG (Language)

Chapter 3—Opening Day at Shea Stadium, April 12, 2004

Pro • base • ball – noun.

1. A game of ball between two nine-player teams cranked on steroids and amphetamines, washed down with coffee, usually for nine innings on a field that has as a focal point a diamond-shaped infield (‘the bling’) with a home plate and three other bases, ninety feet apart, forming a circuit that must be completed by a base runner in order to score—the central offensive action entailing hitting of a pitched ball with a wooden bat and running of the bases, the winners being the people who steal the most money in ridiculous contracts, television deals, endorsements, food and beer concessions, and ticket and paraphernalia sales from the fans who watch. (See: fanatic.)
2. The ball used in this game, being a sphere approximately three inches in diameter with a twine-covered center of cork covered by a former horse’s skin not typically volunteered.

Queens, NYC.

Franklin Thomas Weiner was his real name—after a mint, an English Muffin, and a private part. Diplomatically polished and an empathetic soul, he was never a moneymaker like his name bespoke, but at fifty-one he had a fair share of ‘nooks and crannies.’ His friends thought he should have become a dentist, so people could see what it was like to have a Weiner in their mouth. Franklin Weiner was not considered a ‘person of faith,’ not by ordinary definition, but he tried all his life to make good with people. Standing with his hand poised on the front door of the Tongue Sheen House, a quiet bar on a busy street in Queens, he relished the moment before going inside.

How long has it been? How would I measure that, exactly? Hours? Episodes? Epochs? He pulled open the door and went inside.

Adjust the eyes, walk down three steps and take a look around. Wait… The place looks the same, including the patrons. A bald, pudgy older man sat at the end of the bar by a juke box, smoking a slimy stogie. An old man—scruffy, thin and stooped—stood on the footrail at the other end of the bar, pointed his crooked finger at the bartender and yelled, “Crank! Got-flangin’-dangin’-doggit!”

The bartender tried to pacify the crusty old dodger, “Okay-okay, calm down. I’ll tell him!”

“Punky nun-chuck slingin’ chinks…” the old man went on, waddling off to mutter to himself in a dark corner toward the rear. The pudgy guy smirked and didn’t move, never deviating from his task of stinking up the place.

Franklin Thomas Weiner eyed a stool at the far end of the bar, on the curve, and sat down. “Call me Max,” he told the Chinese-American barkeep, who had casually watched him take his seat.

“What’s wrong with Antwar? I—”

“Nothing, the name served me well,” said Franklin/Antwar/Max. “How are ya, Sonny?”

“No worse than yesterday. The usual, Max?”

Max thought about it for a split-second. “Nah, gimme a gin and tonic with lemon.”

Sonny shook his head and smiled. “Okay, the usual.”

“In a tall glass.”

“Of course, Max…” Sonny mixed the gin and tonic like he was sewing a button on in two strokes. He walked over with the drink and flipped a cocktail napkin on the bar.

Max nodded in the old man’s direction. “What’s Chiggers so pissed at?”

Sonny brushed it off. “His miserable life?” Max didn’t think it was funny, but laughed anyway. “It has something to do with my father.”

“Sammy? Oh…” The two men had been screaming at each other since before Max had ever entered the bar as a young teenager, some thirty-four spring trainings ago.

Sonny leaned in closer. “Sammy told me to raise beer prices, but not for Chiggers, see? When I told him, he went nuts! I don’t get it and I don’t wanna get it. They’re both out of their heads.”

Max understood that there was no understanding either Sammy or Chiggers, and what kept them looking out for each other. Whatever it was, it had lasted near a lifetime.

“Tell me, Sonny, when was the last time I was in here?”

“That would be Sunday. You know how I know that?”

“Because baseball starts today?”

“No, because it’s Monday. It does?”

“Sho-nuff, massa,” said Max, feigning slave-speak. Max was white bread. So what, color? He always thought. Like I could give a crap. At this point in his life Max had determined that any person could be an asshole. “Find the remote and gimme it, willya?”

Sonny looked at Max suspiciously. “No audio games, okay?” Max liked to mute the sound during random bits of dialogue, making the speech stutter.

“I promise,” he lied, sincerely.

“Fuck you, Phil!” Chiggers yelled from his corner. “I ain’t scared a you, you fat fuck.”

Now that, Max thought, was funny—though he cringed and only glanced at the fat fuck with the cigar, who didn’t move or say anything, but sat there looking like Buddha after having swallowed a medicine ball. Phil was a retired cop who never retired his firearm.

Sonny went to get the remote. “You got it, Boss-man.”

Max knew Phil well, as a teenager—he was their version of Popeye Doyle. Phil had further fucked up an already botched robbery attempt of Max’s by showing up at the wrong time, which was every time he showed his mug, and the young Frank Weiner had a high-speed getaway ride over city potholes in the trunk of a Chevelle for his failed efforts. He was fairly certain Phil didn’t recognize him, since he was in the trunk. If Phil remembered chasing him out of a church fountain some thirty-five years prior he didn’t let on.

Must be the statue of limitations ran out.

Max picked up on Sonny’s subtle attempt to divert the escalating tension between Phil and Chiggers and changed the subject. “So, Sonny, how is yer old man?”

Sonny shook his head as he returned with the remote. “That’s one cantankerous old fart. I don’t trust him, he’s always up to some crap.”

Max let it go at that. “Yeah,” he said, resigned to knowing Sammy was apt to be into anything, legal or not. “Best not to ask.”

Max fished for the station and found it. Pre-game chatter spouted from pro-ball pundits faster than he could count the clichés.

The Mets hitting has got to continue to be hot…
One.

…manufacture runs…
Two.

…fundamental baseball…
Three.

…defense…
Four.

…pitching…
Five.

Well fans, it’s high time we kick off the two-thousand-four season, with Beer High Life, the cheapest beer we can charge the most for. We’ll be right back!

Max promptly muted the sound. “So, what’d I miss since yesterday?”

******************************************************************

Hello again everyone, I’m Buff McGargle along with my partner, Skip Malou, and welcome to Opening Day at my favorite french restaurant, Shea Stadium.

Ha-ha, Buff, and right you are, though let’s hope the Mets aren’t as stale as that old joke. Trachsel will take the mound and….

Max felt the heavy front door open when a cold draft shot up his back. A crack of daylight sheared the curve of the bar into something more blunt while a woman’s legs ticked down the steps. She turned the corner and stopped, adjusting to the low light.

Raingirl didn’t enter a place like any normal, full-fledged woman; she emerged like the sun through thunderheads, pulling an aura through the door that trumped all others. Shrugging off her thick sweater, she draped it over an empty chair and unleashed the full throttle of her long, dark curls—threaded with highlights of red, chestnut and silver that shined like a newly minted dime. Together with her golden smile, Raingirl was priceless.

She saw Max at the bar and made a fashion statement with her hips on the walkway coming his direction—swishing a long, flowing scarf behind her neck like the Noxema girl stepping up to the pole. “Hey Sonny-boy… I’ll have the usual, please.” Sonny jumped on her tall White Russian.

She took the barstool next to Max. “Yo, Rambo…”

Always pleased to have Raingirl in his midst, Max smiled. “Yo Raingirl. What’s happenin’?”

Raingirl regarded the teevee, “Oh gawd, is it that time already?”

This guy has a rubber arm; he can toss day after day after day after day after day after—

Skip it, Skip.

Thanks, Buff. A-n-n-n-d… here comes the pitch!

Max chuckled, rather liking the way Raingirl squirmed on her stool about baseball. Having a teevee in what was supposed to be a quiet neighborhood bar was villainous enough, in Raingirl’s opinion, but baseball was about as interesting as a snooze alarm.

Strike one! Painting the inside corner with a nifty slider that had a lot of movement on it—

A pitcher’s pitch, Skip.
Six.

“Like death and taxes, my dear.” Max liked baseball, but had lost all respect for the pro game—the Show. He would watch the seasons dwindle by until such time that Major League Baseball tried to make him pay to watch on cable, then he would quit. It was no longer about the game, it was about the lifestyle of the prematurely rich and manically steroidal. “Women’s softball is much better,” he said.

This elicited a deep sigh from Raingirl, and an acquiescing to the demands of her drink the moment Sonny delivered it. She swished it around, took a sip, and deftly changed the subject.

…from the stretch, here comes the delivery…

“Did I tell you I saw Doctor Take-a-shit?”

Max was genuinely surprised. “Take a shit” was Doc’s way of offering you a chair, which ended up sticking as a moniker. It was a name Max hadn’t heard in some time. The last time he saw Doc ‘Take-a-shit’ Greenblatt, he was writing a prescription for Seconals. Ten bucks later, Max was out the door and headed to the drug store. “No shit? They let him out?”

…it’s a pie…

“I guess so! Did he just say ‘it’s a pie?’”

“He said the pitch was ‘up high,’ ball one.”

“Oh, I thought he said… never mind.”

“Did you think he threw a pie at the batter?”

Raingirl liked that idea and laughed, to Max’s delight. “It would make the game more exciting,” she said.

“It would make the game a food fight,” Max told her. The pitcher waved off the next sign.

“Ha-ha! Anyway, yeah, I saw old Doc Take-a-shit in the Chock Full O’Nuts. He looked old and feeble.” Raingirl shivered, took another sip, and glanced at herself in the mirrored shelves behind the bar. “Have you seen Cheech Marin lately? Ugh…”

“Yeah. I’m sure the Doc’s ‘rehabilitated’ now.” Max’s sarcasm showed like a slip.

Another fastball on the inside corner, strike two!

The pitcher walked the mound, taking his sweet time. He spit in his glove and rubbed it around, then picked up the rosin bag and tossed it back down. With his cap low, he leaned over the rubber, adjusted his cup, spit again, which left a little dribble on his jersey, and stared a bullseye into the catcher’s mitt—ready for the next pie-sign.

In a moment of calmness, Raingirl harmonically resonated with the weather and declared, “It’s gonna rain soon.” She was always right. Each new storm was Christmas for Raingirl. Her brainwaves went coherent when it rained. It was a gestation period in ‘the ethereal wash of negative ions,’ she liked to claim. The storms were times of pause and reflect for her; a wet window into the safety of her own embryo.

Max saw the three-fingered sign and wondered if the breaking ball was coming next. “Good,” he said. Against the left-handed batter, a good curveball would come at his head and fall in for strike three. Sweet.

“I love the rain,” Raingirl said.

“I know.”

Here comes the wind-up… and the delivery…

Max called it, “It’s the curve… Stri-i-i-i-ke three.”

And it falls in for strike three!

Max pumped his fist. “Strike three, looking! Sit down. Grab some pine, meat. Ha!” Raingirl shook her head with pity.

A wicked bender with an impressive drop! All the batter can do is hope it doesn’t hit him…

Sonny watched the replay. “Nice curve,” he said.

Max looked at the curves of Raingirl’s profile. “I’ll say….” They smiled at each other. “A bonafide heartbreaker.”

 

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 2—Do Ants Sleep?

Rated PG (Language)

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 2—Do Ants Sleep?

 

It must have been a Saturday…

“…and he says, ‘Play it? As soon as I figure out how to get her pajamas off we’re outta here!’ Aha-ha-ha-ha!”

“Huh? Oh. Ha-ha…” Babe chuckled politely when my joke fell flat.

It was a nice day to lay out by the community pool. The clouds looked like they were from the midwest—a nice change to the typical California whiteness that passes for sky. The pool water was glass a few minutes after we had gotten out to dry off and relax. The place was empty but for us two. Babe lay on her stomach on the lounge chair, to even out her tan. I sat with a towel over my head, musing about nothing after my joke went belly up. The vinyl straps used to make the chair were white and uninteresting. I picked at one like it was a banjo string. Babe lay watching the ants underneath her chair.

“Do ants ever sleep?” she finally asked, casting a ripple into the still pool of our thoughts. “Or do they just run around all day until they poop out?”

Babe is my counterpart. Whatever absurd thoughts I haven’t had myself, she keeps track of for me to use later. After fifteen years together, we’re used to it. I had to think about that for a while, and came up empty about whether or not I’ve ever known an ant to fall asleep. I couldn’t say I’d ever seen one even standing still, unless it was mulling something over—some engineering project about getting a big leaf into a tiny hole, I suspect—and I’ve never seen one curled in an ant fetal position sawing logs. The whole question was rendered moot if they only lived a couple hours. If that were true, they wouldn’t even understand the concept of an ant-nap, presuming they could understand concepts. How long would an ant nap last, a few seconds? The fact was and is, I didn’t know, so I answered, “Shit, I don’t know…”

“Do they have a heart?” Babe tossed into my conundrum salad about ants.

It seemed to me it’d be pretty small if they did, so I said, “Seems like it would be pretty small if they did…” and quickly asked a question of my own, before she could paralyze my mind with more unanswerable queries. “Do they even have any blood to pump?” and followed with, “Could we even see it?” That got her wondering. Secretly, I wondered: Is it red?

“Hmmm,” Babe said, thoughtfully, while I tried to remember how much juice I got out of the last ant I stepped on (quite unintentionally, of course). Was there juice, or just flattened ant-skin? I wanted to ask if ants even had skin, but didn’t want to sound as ant-stupid as I really am. I’m pretty sure ants know more about me than I know about them.

“Of course we can see it,” Babe offered, confident that someone could see ant juice if they really wanted to.

“You sound confid-ant…” I said, which Babe ignored after a short moan so I continued, inspired by the little fellers. “Just to be an ant requires a huge amount of heart. Construction boots alone have got to be, what, ten thousand times bigger than the ant bold enough to venture out underfoot? Does that daunt him? No. Does it slow him down?”

Babe one-eye-balled me suspiciously.

“Yes, maybe, depending on vibrant soles and whether or not you’re a lucky enough ant to be standing between them when they fall around you. I would have to say a resounding Yes! Ants have a heart!
“What do we do when we play cards? We ante up, that’s what! It says you’re a player. And when you w-ant to stay ahead of the game, you anticipate! If you make it to old age, you’re antediluvian, that’s what!” (Pause while my brain went into overdrive.) “Consider, if you must, all the great music written: Gee Baby, Ant I Good to You? and Ant No Mountain High Enough…” I cracked myself up with that last one.

“Don’t forget: Ant no Sunshine When She’s Gone,” Babe added, against her better judgement.

“Exactly! And Ant Misbehavin. But do they sleep?” I asked.

“Shit, I don’t know,” she said. “It ant nobody’s business but their own.” We laughed.

“I agree, it’s an anti-matter. Maybe we should dally on llamas instead.”

Babe narrowed her eyes. “Now you’re starting to bug me.”

I threw the towel over my head and continued playing the vinyl-strap banjo, one pluck at a time… content to never know.

Next day:

Fucking ants!” Babe is chasing a line of them around the kitchen, wielding a toothpick with Grants Ant Goop on it, which she is attempting to smear on each, individual ant. “I hate them!” These are the tiny variety, no bigger than a millimeter, and scrawny. I lean on the kitchen door, sipping a cup of coffee and watch her drag a chair around to climb up and paste these nasty little fuckers as they crawl along the ceiling. Ants are okay, so long as they’re running around outside. Katy walks out her bedroom door, sees an ant and screams like a teenager. I’m inured to it; she’s been a teenager since turning thirteen, obviously, which seems like a long time ago.

“Is this what they mean by ‘ant-climactic’?” I asked Babe nonchalantly. She ignored me. “Maybe we should wait until they fall asleep, then—”

She sneers and interrupts, sensing I’m not about to offer anything helpful. “Where the fuck do they come from?” she wants to know, as if it mattered. Anywhere they want. Katy walks toward the kitchen on tip-toes, her arms hugging her chest in a protective, self-defensive posture. If an ant touches her, even accidentally, she’ll explode like a can of nitro that says: Shake Well. I’ve been slaughtering all manner of pestilence since Katy came to live with us when she was eight.

I venture a guess at where ants come from, “Antartica?” Babe stops, clearly exasperated. I back away slowly and disappear around the corner. There must be some yard work I can do…

Random Writings—How to Unsubscribe

Rated G

How to Unsubscribe

 

It suddenly occurred to me (like a hot fist at the end of a wet kiss) that some people may no longer wish to ever receive a communication from me again—not in this life and, hopefully, if there has to be one (which I hope there isn’t), the next. Thank you, Garo, for bringing this to my attention. You are correct, of course, and exercising your right to protect yourself from further subjection to my random acts of transparency and the crusades, campaigns, disappointments, complaints and personal commentary that sometimes accompany them (which may be deemed irritating to some).

To make it easy, all you have to do is choose from the following two statements and copy and paste the reply which best suits your feelings about my attention-span pressing e-missives (note: no foul language). If you choose A, you keep getting my blog-like slant, bird’s eye view, terse yet grammatically close-enough vocabulary, imagined incisiveness, and the crux of my near-proverbial biscuit (with reasonably correct punctuation). If you choose B, you’re telling me to suck eggs (if I can find any) and never to put a hurt on your nose with my literary Stinkfoot again.

Please only choose either A or B, rather than neither:

(A) Keep up the good work, Sport.

Or:

(B) Goat testicles (I’ll know what you mean.)

If you use the Ignore button (not worth looking for) your mailing list status shall remain unchanged.*

*Does not apply to people whose email address I don’t have. All replies will be confidential until you Reply All. All other Disclaimers, whether real or imagined, are in effect. No animals were hurt during the production of this, these, or any future exercise of free speech undertaken by Sender. All coincidences are coincidental, meant to be incidental, but not necessarily limited to, or by, what may be considered confidential, circumstantial, celestial or anything having to do with circumcision.

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Random Writings—Can I Get A Receipt? (Impressions of my father’s last days)

Rated R (language)

CAN I GET A RECEIPT? Impressions of my father’s last days.

I can fix anything with enough tape.—Barry Geller (December 2, 1932—April 10th, 2010).

 

 

When they carted my grandmother off to the hospital in an ambulance, where she would pass away two days hence, my grandfather, her husband of sixty-five years, wanted to know if he would be getting a receipt for her. That was the secret to their long-lived marriage. According to Nana, it was because Papa made her laugh.

FOR WHOM THE BED SORES

It’s hard to write when your father is dying upstairs. It’s equally difficult not to write. Our conversations are increasingly becoming nonsequiturs and frustration. Lately, it’s been impossible to simply watch TV with him—to relieve the boredom of his being bedridden.
How sad is it to take away a man’s remotes because he can’t make them do what he wants any more?

Pop wanted to watch (of all the shows he could have picked) Grey’s Anatomy—a hospital series laden with death. “Dying is hard,” was the first line of the show.

I froze.

Awkward moment for me. I glanced at Pop, who was watching intently. I couldn’t bear the idea of sitting through the entire show and begged off quickly. “Be right back, Pop.”

I went and got Katy, my daughter, who is also a fan of the show and happened to be visiting for a few days. “Katy, get upstairs and watch Grey’s Anatomy with your grandpa, please.”

“What, me?”

“Yes, you. I can’t do it. You know the show. You can talk about the characters and, you know… keep it light.” I smiled, pleading.

She gulped a little, sucked it up, and went upstairs. That’ s my girl.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m wearing a baby intercom so I can go about the business of home care—ever at the ready to respond to his yelling in panic and pain, or with which to lament his plaintive pleas of “Get me outta here” while I fold laundry, make a snack and, lately, supply the Morphine, Ibuprofen, Dexamethasone, laxatives and Lorazepam. I am the candy man who, for now, elicits the “Oh goody!” response from him.

It wasn’t that way at first, when he questioned and fought everything put in front of him that wasn’t a cookie. When he was done listening to explanations about what the pills did, for the 211th time, his lips disappeared—locked safely in his mouth. He gave us the clam. Once that happened, neither myself, my younger brother or my older sister could convince him that the prescriptions would help him feel more comfortable. Yes, even Sis, the motherly and utterly thorough one, failed.

I’ve been in Oregon nearly three weeks. It takes me 10-12 hours to drive here from the Bay Area but I prefer that to flying. Besides, it’s handy to have the extra car at home. Sis and brother JP have returned to their homes in Philly and Dallas to take care of some personal stuff. Other than the Home Care girls, who come for two five-hour shifts in the morning and evening, I’ll be alone in the house with Pop for three days before JP comes back. My job is to tend to Pop, who is bedridden with prostrate cancer, which includes giving him pills, or not, feeding him, or not, straightening him up when he slumps, watching TV with him, helping him through sporadic mental befuddlements usually involving TV, the phone, or remembering general shit, feeding the dog and cat, cleaning up after everyone, taking phone calls from Home Care and Hospice nurses, shopping, feeding myself and trying to catch some sleep in 1-3 hour increments.

And making sure there’s vodka in the house. In California I get vodka at the same store where I shop for food. Not in Oregon, where you have to go to a specific liquor store. Damned inconvenient, and what’s the point?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nurse Beth calls. She has a new mattress to address the growing bed sore infestation on Pop’s ass. Has he shit yet? she wants to know, in too many words.

(MOAN FROM INTERCOM)

Since nurses seems to want to be all technical about it, I tell her it’s been in squirts and “smears” and ask about the nerve prescription for Pop’s back pain. The Doc sent Nortriptyline. I read the literature. It’s an antidepressant that takes 2-3 weeks to fully integrate into the system. That’s what they give for nerve pain to a man who hardly seems to have 2-3 days left on his calendar? I’d have thought the Doc would have given him something for actual nerve endings. According to Pop, the pain is “crawling” over his entire back, emanating from the spine.

“Frankly,” Nurse Beth continues, “…we don’t know what the Nortriptyline will do. We’re hoping it will address the nerve issue.”

Thanks. She will be stopping by soon. Any hour now.

Write in short bursts because ass ripped from chair for one reason or another at any given second.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shirley (the bath lady) is here! I take her upstairs. She notices Pop looks like shit, to paraphrase her. I’m thinking: Good luck! and leave her to her task.

Season chicken with black pepper, garlic and paprika and put in oven. Don’t forget to set the timer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One of the Home Care girls, the morning shift, just left. That would be Irma. She’s a nice ol’ gal. Very helpful. She cleaned the toaster and the toaster oven. Maybe I’ll give them to her when this is all over. There’s Irma, Isabel, Lisa, Janie, Jeanie, Judy, Lynn, Shirley and Suzette. I finally have their names committed to memory.

Pop reintroduces himself to all of them, every day. When he met Shirley (for the first time) he eyed her like he does everyone, with his “Who the fuck is this person?” look.

“You must be Barry,” she said.

Pop responded almost jovially, “No one else wants to be. So yeah, I’m Barry.”

At least he hadn’t forgotten himself at that point. That is, until the pain caught up to him yesterday. He saw the candy man a lot yesterday. Morphine, Lorazepam, by the bucket.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PHONE CALL! It’s the nurse from the Doc’s office. Pop’s seen this doctor for, like, four years. He didn’t have the heart to use the H word with my old man. Now he wants to tell him, on the phone no less, that he’s in Hospice, needs to take his pain meds, to move his ass around on the bed, and he should strongly consider a catheter. Oh, and a suppository. Or Milk of Magnesia, unless he’d prefer an enema or a “digital” removal—which took me a while to figure out meant that someone goes in there and digs it out with their fingers.

Oh, those kind of digits!

OMG. How can anyone get in the business of Home Care? OMG.

I already know all this shit, Nurse. Since Pop is now in a delirious Morphine fog, I’m pretty sure the phone conversation is a moot objective and tell her so. If I change my mind, she offers by way of polite dismissal, I can set an appointment for the Doc to call in two days.

Fine. Thank you. You’ve been swell. Between cranky bursts of searing, expletive-ridden pain and tongue-waggling drug stupors I’ll have Pop call you. Maybe Friday, if he lives that long.

Turn and baste chicken.

I don’t want to grow old! Am I going to die in agonizing pain? Will I have insurance? Will I be able to score candy?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pop’s home is an “end of road” house. Roughly five acres sit on the edge of a 50,000 acre forest reserve. He has 4600 sq. feet and a big yurt on the property. There are deer all over the place, and wild turkeys. A mountain lion drank from a small fish pond behind the house. Pop saw it out the kitchen window. We’ll have to sell the place. I get one third of the proceeds. Should I even think about that?
Too late!

(Don’t burn the chicken. When will Nurse Beth show up? I’m fucking hungry. All I’ve had is coffee, cantaloupe and cigarettes between phone calls to Sis, brother JP, Nurse Beth, Lisa (the next Home Care shift), the Doc’s nurse and probably a few I’ve forgotten. Better check on Pop. BRB.)

A banana and a white russian settles my stomach. I’ve lost at least five pounds in the last two weeks, maybe eight. My guess is seven. That’s a good thing. Have to stay positive, you know! Keep your pecker up, and all that rot. Hoist the Jolly Fucking Roger.

What’s this? Another FUCKING message on my new phone from AT$T? Why are they hassling me about managing my fucking account online? Not now, not EVER do you send me a fucking commercial on my phone! Greedy bastards!

I have to smoke outside. Who can live with that kind of interruption? I’m going to smoke and look for deer.

Shit. I forgot to set the timer for the chicken.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nurse Beth arrives! I’m going to have to help her digitally remove feces from my Pop’s bowels. What an inglorious day. Will this be before, or after my chicken? She goes upstairs.

My appetite is waning. Maybe Nurse Beth can prescribe some pot.

PHONE CALL!

Nick wants to arrange a delivery time for the new mattress. It’s supposed to be easier on the bed sores. When can they deliver?

Uh… I wondered out loud how to move what I referred to as “the body on the current mattress” onto the new mattress.

(INTERCOM: “Hi Barry. Remember me, Nurse Beth?” MOAN!)

Nick says, “You mean the patient?”

No, the patient’s Maltese, you disadvantaged moron, Nick.

Note to self: Ask Nurse Beth what, and how, to feed Pop, now that he’s not eating—and hasn’t for twenty-four-plus hours.

Food, finally. I realize my ears hurt because I still have the ear buds to the phone in and take them out. Ah, chicken and beer.

Mouth open, poised, hovering over chicken leg… Nurse Beth comes back downstairs wearing a look that says: I’m ready for your help. She’s wearing fresh gloves. It’s April, that means baseball is starting. She is a “pinch shitter.”

I pound the beer and follow. I’m going to help dig shit out of my Pop. I suppose it’s fair. He may have cleaned the shit off my ass at one time, although I figure Ma did most of that—back when diapers were cloth instead of stretchy plastic with velcro tabs, wings, and perforations for various configurations and applications. You need a fucking mechanical engineering degree to make them work. Do not operate heavy machinery or fuck with Depends when you’re on drugs.

Nurse Beth is a shit-digging machine. She gives new meaning to Pop’s idea of “digital.” While I hold him on his side, she gives him the old-style digital J-hook.

A sphincter says, What?

Ew?

You haven’t lived until you’ve dug shit out of your father’s ass. I checked to see that she was still wearing her watch when it was over.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

…speaking of drugs, I’m fifteen minutes late administering the Morphine and Lorazepam, or Marzipan or whatever the fuck it is Pop won’t take unless he’s already stoned. I rush to liquify the pills and run upstairs. He’s asleep. Now what? I don’t have the heart to wake him, after what he went through yesterday, last night and today’s informal meeting with Nurse Beth’s digit.

It was bad yesterday. Pop folded himself in half and laid on his side. Then he curled like a potato chip, with his head in the crevice between the hospital bed and his own bed. His arm dangled, hand clutching the bed frame so he wouldn’t “fall.” He wasn’t going anywhere, but he thought he might. He was delirious with pain, basically.

PHONE CALL!

It’s Jeff, the scheduler for the Home Care ladies. They’ll be coming earlier in the morning now, I’m told.

Great!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Another AT$T message about the wireless account I recently got roughly 150 milligrams of Morphine administrations ago (however many days that is). I got what I want now leave me the hell alone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Come to think of it, have I taken a shit today? Or was that yesterday…

Are your digits busy, Nurse Beth?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Check on Pop. He’s still deeply into a Morphine-induced vacation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It finally quiets down and I’m drawing a blank wall. Conversations and images float to the surface:

“Hey, Pop. Howya feeling today?”

“Depends what day I’m in. I don’t know if it’s yesterday or tomorrow. If it’s today, it’s a good day.”

“You live in three days?”

“Yeah.” He smiles, chuckles. “It’s wild.”

“You have to get me out of here,” he told me when he was in the physical rehab facility. “Once we get by the nurses station all we have to do is get to the elevator and…” He was all conspiratorial, on the sly. I was his go-to accomplice. He was clearly addled. There was no elevator.

That was when he was “clear.” Now, not so.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lisa’s here! I fill her in on all that’s happened in the last 24 hours.

Sis calls. I fill her in on all that’s happened in the last 24 hours.

JP calls. I fill him in on all that’s happened in the last 24 hours.

I’m droopy-eyed with all the filling in taking place. I’m going to take a three hour tour of my dream state… saw some logs… catch some Zs… take a cat-nap… get forty w—

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

FIVE HOURS LATER

I woke up to knocking. “Can I get your help with your Dad?” Lisa called through the bedroom door. It was pitch dark and I was completely disoriented, to the point where I rolled off the bed onto the floor.

“Sure,” I said. Clunk.

Man, that was a deep sleep. I awoke in the transcendent and had to drag my awareness along with my body upstairs to help change Pop’s diaper. I don’t see why we couldn’t put five or so towels under his ass, separated by a water resistant “chuck” between each, and simply pull the top one off every time he wets himself. It might be easier on his ass. But I’m a piss-ant dealing with pros—an elder care neophyte.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Finally, some P & Q. The intercom went to static but it turned out to be Sparky, the Maltese, chewing a dog treat on the microphone. I get to eat my chicken, along with some steamed carrots. The vegetables fulfill my daily requirement of butter and salt.

Spoke with Babe, my wife. I filled her in on all that’s happened in the last 24 hours. Maybe she’ll make the twelve hour drive from the Bay Area on Friday. I’m thinking tonight and tomorrow will be a good indicator of whether Pop will have an upswing or continue to go downhill. It may be her last chance to see her father-in-law alive.

The plan is to cut back on the Morphine and Lorazepam in the hopes of establishing a balance of pain management with conscious awareness. I’ll know tonight how that’ll work out for him.

“Murcie sure misses you,” Babe told me. Murcie’s one of our two cats, along with the kitten, Lucy. Murcie likes to stand over the keyboard while I’m using the computer.

Of course she misses me. I tell Babe to be sure and hassle them both for me while I’m away. “Talk to you tomorrow. Wish me luck.”

“Did I tell you what your father said to me when I was leaving for home?”

She hadn’t.

“I went to give him a hug and a kiss and told him to concentrate on getting better. The next time I see you, I said, I want you to be dancing.”

I didn’t tell Babe that Pop never danced.

She said, “He pointed his finger in the air and tried to sing: ‘Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive…’” She choked up, then started laughing.

Was that snoring, or choking? Better go check…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Whoa, musta dozed there for a while. I missed the 1:15 am Morphine and Marzipan hits. Pushed it to 2:45. Slept through the timer alarm until Pop’s loud nonsequiturs woke me up.

“I like the flat ones!”

O-h-h-kay! So this is what we get when Pop’s not too deep into the rolling-eyes, tongue-waggling Morphine stupor.

Our most recent conversation went something like this:

“Hey Pop-dude!” (Slight smile. He recognizes me.) “Feeling any better?” I ask.

He replies immediately: “Is there any explanation about flight time?”

“What?”

“It’s a little bit luggy….”

Welcome pause as I try to intuit what “luggy” is, and what, exactly, or even remotely, is “it?”

“It’s lighten out. I want out.”

Pause.

(Mumbles.) “Mean right now? I don’t know what to tell you.”

Pause.

“Tell me about them. If I could do something, like a pen, or something…“

Pause.

“Now we have to hide the wedding. Good.”

Pause.

“Help! Pick me up! Another delight….”

Pause.

“E, Y, L.”

Pause.

(Moans.) “Ah!” (Mumbles.)

Pause.

“Oh, what’s this other one?”

Pause.

“Fwap!”

Long pause.

“Fine tuning now.”

Wait. Back up to hiding the wedding. Are you referring to your elopement with Ma?

“Damn.”

“Help!” That was a real, current cry. I rush to get the syringes. He’s starting his body-curl again. That’s a sure sign of pain. Damn. I kick myself for missing the 1:15 doses.

“Oh goody!” Pop opens his mouth and takes his medicine. “I’m always working. Have you seen the light? …looking for happiness…”

Oh man, I don’t like that kind of talk.

Cue the eyes rolling up in head.

I need a drink, and find the vodka.

It’s raining.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later. I bring food.

“Are those the seniorettes?”

“These are grapes, Pop, the best you’ve ever had. Giant, seedless black.” I put half a grape in his mouth.

“Mmm, good,” he responded brightly. “Medicare will pay for it.”

I ignore that last remark and ask, “What’s a seniorette, Pop?”

“A female señor.”

I laughed, but Pop was frustrated. Whatever he wanted to say got stuck in his brain somewhere such that what came out were lottery balls of random phrases.

“It poofs up but that’s good for industries.”

THE SUN ALSO SETS

Stupor. Noun: suspension or great diminution of sensibility.
Stupefaction.
Followed by delirium: Noun: a more or less temporary disorder of the mental faculties… characterized by restlessness, excitement, delusions, hallucinations, etc.

Etc?

A state of violent excitement or emotion.

There once was a man not from Nantucket,
When offered Morphine, gratefully took it.
His eyes turned blue,
His feet and hands, too.
Soon he would need not have it.

That was my day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

JP arrived tonight so I was able to get a good night’s sleep. He called me on the phone from upstairs at 3:20 am but I slept through it. He came downstairs to wake me up but I slept through that as well. Pop was suddenly not at all agreeable to taking his pain meds and JP wasn’t sure how to handle it. He handled it.

I talked to Nurse Jeanie about getting a patch of painkiller for Pop. It will administer something akin to Morphine through the skin. She is a believer in talking to the patient before administering any new prescription. She has moral issues with, say, sprinkling drugs on food unbeknownst to the patient. She tells me this as I’m crushing 6 mg of Ibuprofen, making ready to put it in a spoonful of chocolate pudding.

I tell her, “He’s delirious and irrational, operating under an automatic-pilot, pre-existing bias against taking drugs. I tell him we need to get him over this pain hump before he can begin to recuperate…” (a pipe dream at this point) “…so he should take the painkiller and agitation meds. Ten seconds later, we repeat the conversation until finally, after twenty minutes or so, he tightens his lips and clams up.

“What would you do, Jeannie?”

“If it was my father?”

No, if it was Sparky the Maltese. “Yes.”

(Pause) “I would want him to be comfortable.”

“Good. So can we get this patch today?”

“Of course.”

She asks me to list the meds Pop’s had over the past 24 hours. That’s 120 mg of liquid Morphine and a boatload of Marzipan. To eat, he’s had half a grape, a square inch of watermelon, two sips of chicken broth, and half a sugar cookie Suzanne the neighbor made. For measurements sake, in plain words, he’s filled approximately one half can of concentrated frozen orange juice with excrement over the past 72 hours. Same consistency, btw.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Time for Morphine again. He’s asleep and I don’t have the heart to disturb him. Twenty minutes later, I ask if he wants some water. I have a syringe of water and one of Morphine. He opens his mouth and I’m able to give him half the dosage of the Morphine before he closes his mouth again. He’s not talking very much, and when his eyes are open they quickly roll up into his head. Isabel is due any moment. Perhaps she can coax him into taking the remaining half of his candy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve opened a 2007 bottle of Coppola’s Rosso wine that I found in Pop’s cupboard. It’s a cab/syrah/zin mix and it’s not bad. Very delicate for a full-bodied red wine. Nice balance.

I’m trying to arrange a metaphor between the opening of a fine wine (a celebration) and the ultimate release of a human from their bottle.

Death is like a fine cab/syrah/zin mix. Once you pull the cork, the Rest is history.

Nice dinner of salad, artichoke with mustard, and corn on the cob. JP brought a feeling I had to the surface:

“I don’t want to go up there,” meaning upstairs. “It’s fucking depressing, man.”

I had the same feeling.

“It makes me feel guilty,” he said.

I know.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Isabel is amazing. Five-two, maybe a hundred pounds with clothes on, twenty-something with thick, dark hair she keeps in a swishing ponytail. Single mother of a six-year-old daughter, Chastity. She sits with Pop, syringe full of chicken broth, feeding him ml by ml, brushing his hair back, talking to him, manipulating his hand for circulation, swabbing the grit out from the back of his teeth with a sponge on a stick. When Pop periodically opens his rolling eyes, he sees and reaches out for her.

“I don’t know what that’s all about,” she said, “but I let him do it.”

The girl is a born caregiver. To see her in action is like watching a live painting. Pop might have called it The Caregiver, though he would have preferred to paint a live, nude Isabel. Or Nurse Beth, whose left breast he grabbed for support while we changed beds from under him.

“I’m sorry I haven’t gotten to the laundry,” Isabel said, with doelike, caregiving eyes. I almost cried in the midst of her saintliness.

Remind self to tip this woman.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Some friends came by earlier to visit Pop. I’m pretty certain he recognized them all but he is uncommunicative to any degree above the odd one-liner. And if you missed it, he had already forgotten what he said so asking What? was pointless.

“What?”

“What what?”

I believe he hears and understands way more than he can articulate. Talk about frustrating. Then you pump a heap of opiates in him and WTF? What a battle. Babe’s natural father died suddenly of a stroke. Her adopted father was brushing his teeth when he had a career-ending, massive, fatal heart attack. (Babe is no stranger to death. She has also lost eight siblings and many beloved aunts in addition to her two fathers.) That’s the way to go. Fuck this painful two-month sieve of your awareness into the Almighty or Perhaps Existential endgame. I’d rather get nailed by a bus.

Can I put that in my DNR form? Somewhere beneath Do Not Resuscitate: If it looks like it’ll be awhile, please throw me under a bus.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We now have a duragesic transdermal called Fentanyl. Or maybe that should read: a transdermal duragesic called Fentanyl. Or just Fentanyl, in patch form. All I know is, it’s a strong narcotic pain reliever, measuring 50 micrograms. First there were milligrams, then milliliters, now micrograms. If I was a fifth-grader I could probably make the relative conversions between the three measurements into tablespoons without a calculator, but Mrs. Cox failed to mention it would be 45 years before I’d need that particular skill set.

Isabel and I stuck the patch on Pop’s back, between the shoulder blades where he can’t reach. It kicks in after 12-17 hours. In the meantime, stick with the Morphine every four hours, the Marzipan every four to six, the Dexamethasone in the morning and half as much at night, the thyroid once in the morning, the laxative twice a day, and the Ibuprofen. Replace patch after 72 hours. I’d consider purchasing half a dozen timers but I’d have to label each one and it all gets so fucking complicated.

Guilt. Am I being impatient with the patient?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Everyone should have one or two epiphanies in this life. I’m pretty sure I’ve had a couple, but can’t remember what they were.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nature starves herself when she knows there’s no hope for recovery. Pop is not eating.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

THE OLD MAN AND THE SEEYA

My guess is there’s probably two or three days before Grimm’s Reaper ends Pop’s fairy tale. He is in his comfortable stupor, unable to speak, or chew, and can barely swallow. His feet are plum colored, as are the tips of his fingers. His breathing is shallow and rough. His hair looks thinner. Everything about him seems to have had the air and color sucked out of it—to the point where his skeleton is beginning to show on the outside.

Alas, I knew him well!

A question surfaces. If I have a colorful bowling ball, then “colorful” is the adjective. But if I have a “fucking” bowling ball, is “fucking” an adjective?

This is not Denial of the inevitable. This is called “Veering from reality.” I deny that I’m in denial about Pop’s imminent passing. I merely stray from the subject at times.

Time for bed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It’s quiet this morning. Too quiet. Pop is “alseep,” but I wonder what the difference is between sleep, unconsciousness, and coma.

No moans. No disconnected sentences. The nonsequiturs are silenced. There’s no defiance. No discomfort. His life is hidden and protected inside of himself. Pop’s experiences are relegated to the Akashic records, and the living will add their own memories of Barry Everett Geller to his story.

Forgive me for speaking of you as if you’re already dead.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Janie, would you shut the fuck up, please? You talk incessantly, as if I want to know what you think about dogs, or the weather, or what book you’re reading. Maybe you could check Pop’s diaper? I wish to sit with my old man and listen to what may be his last breaths.

I am cruising through our experiences together. You taught me how to swim. You taught me Checkers and Chess. You taught me how to ride a bicycle.

After that, not much direct instruction from you, Pop. You let me loose, and it turned out to be a good thing for me. Remember when Ma told us she thought we were friends in a previous incarnation? It’s hard to imagine, since we were never really friends in this life. We were friendly, but I never opened up to you like I do with several of my friends from the old neighborhood. We never went there, you and I, and it was okay for both of us. You led by example. It took me a while to realize that. When I became a parent, I began to appreciate your side of our story. I guess I had to grow up before I could understand you.

Your patience and generosity kept me in touch. Our common interest in art gave us something to talk about. Our mutual utilization of humor kept the mood light.

Wheezeling goes the Pop.

Nurse Lynn came and left. She says you are not asleep, but comatose. Your extremities have mottled quickly. Your breath is raspy and short but you seem to be comfortable. Is “comfortable” the right word for someone in a coma?

Sis will be here at midnight.

I’ve built a big fire in your honor. It crackles in the fireplace. Tony Bennett is playing. He’s in a New York state of mind. That’s where we spent the most time together, you and I. It’s already a lifetime ago. You tried to teach me how to drive in NY.

Sorry the Corvair didn’t work out for you. You should have kept the VW.

Your painting of Oswald, exhibited at the 1969 World’s Fair.

Pop art.

Op art.

Illustrations for Playboy and magazine covers and Herald Tribune editorials…

Paintings everywhere. Paintings of Marilyn, Wonder Woman, Jack Ruby, Jesus…

The fish tanks.

The books. You Turned the Fables On Me. (Can you fix this with enough tape?)

The series’. Artists in Cars. Cats 22.

Carpet paintings.

But wait, you opened your eyes! Is that possible when you’re in a coma? Spice eyes, like the Navigators for the Spacing Guild. Are you on Arrakis now, exploring the universe? (What, exactly, or not, are you Dune?)

“Lorna, what are you Doone?” you said during a TV commercial once for Lorna Doone cookies. Makes me laugh today.

“I’m not a good witch, or a bad witch,” you said during The Wizard of Oz. “I’m a sandwich!” I believe that play on words was the first pun I ever heard.

When I strained toward the ceiling on that not-quite-tall-enough ladder, trying to stuff some wires in a metal tube, you supported me. “You conduit,” you said. I nearly fell twelve feet.

When we drove to Yosemite that fall, and I mentioned that the roadside corn fields were lined up so regimentally. “Sure,” you said, “they’re colonels.”

And Denial is a river in Egypt.

Who among us can say their Pop had a Spaz Dance? Mr. Mica was a dental technician. Mr. Malossey a cab driver. Our Pop, dear siblings, painted naked women, wore vests, owned a hermit crab, and worked for gurus.

I don’t care that you threw a ball like a girl, and couldn’t bowl worth shit. Your pocket pool was lousy, too. But man, could you body surf! Those waves on Fire Island took courage. You went under for a long time once and came up bloody.

“That’s all for today! Let’s go eat some clams!” you said.

I still love clams. And the Mallomars we used to fight over. And the laughs we had. (Are the laughs not the father’s most important job?)

Did I hear a moan? It sounded like a moan. A blessed moan! They sound different when coming from this side of a coma. More optimistic. Or am I reading my own optimism into your searing pain? If I want you to die, for comfort’s sake, will I feel guilty later?

No.

No sense in dawdling if your quality of life is unbearable, eh? That’s how I’d want it, I think. I don’t want the bus to clip me without finishing the job. I’d have to wait for another to come along and you know how long that takes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Your fire is strong. It’s my voice that’s gone weak. I’m practically inaudible, not my usual, bartender-clear self.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dying is similar to getting birthed. You get through it and forget about the transition.

And so it goes….

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

JP and I play Wii—the interactive video game where you smash your fingernail on a piece of furniture while playing ping pong and the blood clot remains for a year or more. Katy pounded me in swordplay and kicked me off a very tall platform once. It went like this as she beat me about the head: Kank! Kank! Kank! Kank! Wheeeee! You lose!

Anyway, we finished and JP went upstairs to check on Pop. He came back while I was tending to the Fire of Strength. “Hey, come upstairs. There’s a smell up there.”

A smell, you say?

I approached cautiously, sniffing the entire way. When I entered Pop’s room, I saw he was snoring. Comfortably, it seemed to me. There was a distinct odor of human gas.  “Oh God.”

“What is  it?”

“It’s gas, man.” I moved into the adjacent sunroom, where the air was fresher. JP followed. We stood together and started chuckling. “I had my mouth open and everything, dude.” Then we started laughing outright. “How we gonna get across the room now, Brutha?” I asked.

“Wet towels on our heads?” he suggested.

That started me laughing harder, which required deeper breaths, necessitating more laughter. Not wishing to disturb Pop, we made our dash across the room, mouths trying to be closed, but belly-laughing by then. Sprint through hallway and downstairs we went.

I call Babe. It’s been a few hours since we last spoke. I begin to tell her about Pop and his lethal gas. The story seems so stupid under the circumstances, so utterly incongruous, that I can’t help chortling anew as I relate it. We are chuckling like junior high sophomores.

JP catches my eye and motions for me to hang up and follow him upstairs.

“Gotta go. Call ya back.” I take the stairs two at a time. “What’s up, bru—?” I say, entering the room, and closing my mouth. Abrupt stop. Pop is white. He is absolutely still. No breath, mouth open slightly. I can see it from across the room. JP is checking his pulse as I creep closer. Pop’s hands are white, too. It’s stone-cold quiet. You could have heard a Marzipan fall on the carpet.

“Oh God…” I whispered. I’m waiting for the last gasp to break free and scare the shit out of both of us, but there’s nothing. No pulse. Nary a blip. It’s too fucking quiet. Eerily silent. Pop’s gone. I have no parents. There’s no tears. I know where they are. There will be no final gasp. He has slipped away in his sleep. I’m relieved. I’m glad the struggle is over for Pop. He’s left one, unfinished canvas. It’s a carpet of nasturtiums bordered by tiny cat-logo shapes. The series he had planned has evaporated along with his spirit.

Overall, not a bad run.

Too fucking quiet. “Ha-wah!”

JP jumps and I start laughing. “Sorry, man. The silence was killing me.”

“You fuck.”

I laughed some more. “I was afraid he was going to suddenly gasp and scare the shit out of us.”

We gazed at the shell that was our Pop and Dad. His whiteness was in stark contrast to the pastels in the room. The paintings mourned his passing. Sparky, the Maltese, lay on the adjacent bed, Pop’s own bed, with his head down and eyes open. I felt sorry for his loss and wondered if a dog could intellectualize, or emotionalize, the death of their beloved master. I felt sorry for my brother and sister, and for the living who’d miss Pop’s presence. I was sorry for the paintings which died with him. Sorry for the humor he left behind. I am sorry for myself, and I will cry some time later—as I did for Ma.

I looked at JP, tears welling in his eyes. “You realize that the last thing he may have heard us talking about was running out of here with wet towels on our heads.” I couldn’t help myself and started laughing again. JP didn’t want to smile, but did in spite of himself. I laughed harder. “I guess it wasn’t gas… Aha-ha-ha-ha!” It was his farewell shit. His epi-log. Nature’s curtain call. The scenario was simply too bizarre—not what I expected. If I had any expectations they were about holding his hand as he dearly departed and did that loud, rattling, last-gasp thing. Instead, I fled the room howling like a school boy, running from my father while he passed gas and last gasped.

I laugh to cover up other emotions. It’s my natural response to all things uncomfortable. Like a dog peeing when they see you, I laugh during emotional peaks.

Oh shit. Babe. Better call her back.

“You okay, brutha?”

JP nodded, appropriately unconvincing. Of course he’s not okay. This sucks. No parents anymore… All that’s left is the history.

Sure, they’re fine, both of them, and our grandparents and Great Uncle Merv, too. But it leaves the rest of us with a big fucking hole, that’s what. Yer on yer own, kid. Seeya on the other side. Good fucking luck. Make the best of things. God bless. Have fun while you can. Write if you find work…

Mark the TOD (time of death). Can I get a receipt?

“I feel sorry for Sis,” I said. She missed the time of death by ninety minutes. Nice try, though, coming from Philly at the drop of a hat. When she sees both of us waiting for her at the airport she’ll know.

“Yeah. That sucks.”

“I’m going to call Babe back. I’m sure she’s wondering what’s going on.”

“Hey Babe.”

“Everything alright?”

“Pop’s gone.” It may have been while she and I were speaking a few minutes earlier. She grew silent, then started to cry. “It’s a good thing, Babe,” I reassured her.

“Yeah.” Sniffle.

“He was wracked with pain.”

“I know. Were you with him?”

Not exactly. “We had just gone to check on him because JP thought it smelled funny upstairs.” A giggle escaped. I felt the rising tide of emotion.

“What was it?” she asked.

“Well….” and I started to tell her about our brush with gas. It hit me again how stupid it sounds, and how absurd the end of life played out between my father and me. It was too funny. Pretty soon I was in full hysterics, trying to talk to Babe between bursts of “…I had my mouth open and everything…” and “…run out with wet towels on our heads…” and “…maybe that wasn’t just gas…” and OMG I was in tears. Even Babe couldn’t help laughing while crying. “…and it’s my karma for all the farting I did at the dinner table. Bwah-ha-ha..!”

So that’s probably a little unusual as far as familial last moments go. Am I the only one in history who has mistook the Grim Reaper for a grim ripper? Should I feel badly about this, the last contact between my father and I?

I checked with Ma’s soul. She gave me the response I needed. She couldn’t stop laughing either.

“Babe, are you okay?” Babe asked me. I could hardly talk, between laughing and getting the breath for it. I was afraid my sides would cramp—which has happened before, to the point where I laid on the floor in agony, twisting and turning until it subsided.

JP had come back downstairs and was staring intently at me. I tried to wave him off. It’s okay! I’ll be fine! Just let me get over this….

“Wet towels! HA-HA-HA-HA!” I was out of control.

“Babe..?”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I…”

“It’s okay, Babe.”

“It’s just so fucking ironical.”

Babe soothed me. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We drove what was now JP’s car to pick up Sis at the airport. I struggled through some giggles.

“You’re not going to tell Sis about the wet towels, are you?”

“No, no. Of course not. Not now.” I promised.

When she saw us, she stopped and her shoulders slumped. Her look said, No…

Our expressions replied, Sorry, Sis.

I wrapped my arms around her. “You just missed him. I’m sorry, Sis, but we have no parents any more.” The poignancy was instantly wet with tears. I probably shouldn’t have said that, but the notion hit me hard when I saw Sis. We are the closest in age, with a fourteen year gap before JP came along and was raised in completely different circumstances. Sis and I knew our parents when they were in their bold and beautiful twenties, and in their confidence-building early thirties. Fraught with faults and mistakes, they did their best and managed to fumble out three fairly well-adjusted, kind children. Now we were really, finally, absolutely and unequivocally on our own.

Note to daughter, Katy: As long as your parents are alive you’re not truly on your own. Whether you make use of us or not, we are still there for you to reference—like an online encyclopedia with a timer. All I ask of you is that you be with me at the end. I cleaned your ass, you may have to assist cleaning mine (without making any bed sores worse), so get over it in advance. Same with your mother, and your step-mother. Sorry about the three parents thing, what with Babe, but hey, Babe worked to your advantage many times so it’s a trade-off. Your parents need to see you at the end. If you’re lucky, we’ll have sudden, massive heart attacks.

The three of us gathered around Pop’s former body, which had turned to chalk. The physical Pop was reduced to a broken vessel to be cast aside. His glass was by no amount full. It was worse than empty. It just… wasn’t, him, anymore. He was an It. The body.
Sis finally shuddered. “We should call the funeral home.” And it was done.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Appx. 1.5 hrs. downtime—in shock, trauma, denial, acceptance, whateverness—where memory fails me. Downstairs, sitting around the dining table, talking or not talking, wandering around, fixing drinks. That’s it, Happy Hour!

That is, until Seth and his sidekick Leonard, from the funeral home, knocked on the door—all suit-and-tied up—at precisely 2:15 am. OMG? Are they really as creepy as first impression permits? Come in, please.

Oh yes, they are über-creepy. Seth has his hands folded in front of him, as if he were in church already. He acknowledges our sibling trinity, but with a bare minimum of eye contact. His face showed all the emotion of an Idaho potato. “We’re sorry for your loss.”

Of course you are. Paperwork? Sure. Please, sit down. Will Lurch be joining us later?

“We feel for your…” “We want to…” “…assurances of…” “…sign here…” “…and here…” “…upstairs?”

“Yes, upstairs. You may have noticed the ramp to his studio outside?”

Fine. So I guess you’ll get to it, and, uh, get it done?

Yes, we guess we will. We might be wondering if you’ll watch as we roll up the gurney, cover it with nice, maroon velvet, pull out a xxx-large plastic bag, remove the linens and pillows stuck in your father’s crevices, then slide his egg-shell white, stiffening body off the hospital bed and into the plastic bag, zipper up the maroon velvet and make it a nice, comfortable, insulated chrysalis of the dead.

I will, but my siblings won’t. Sparky will. Sara the cat would, indifferently, if she were in the room, but she isn’t.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“So, who’s the painter?” Sidekick Leonard wants to make small talk.

“You’re moving him,” I reply. (Wasn’t that hump on the other side before?)

I follow their every move, through the inconvenient bathroom leading to the upstairs studio through which to find the outside deck and the ramp where their Astro Van awaits Pop’s lifeless remains. Once outside, I light a smoke and watch them navigate the wooden switchbacks down to the driveway. They’ve thanked me. For what, watching? The body, It, is pushed inside the van and Seth slithers toward the driver’s seat.

From above, a question comes to mind I’m compelled to ask. “Say, don’t I get a receipt?”

Awkward pause while Seth chewed that cud. There was an outdoor spotlight behind my head. He squinted, rubbed his hands, and tried to find my shadow so he could see me better. I may have looked like an angel of God, which I very well may once have been, with a halo such as you might see in a Byzantine painting.

It is I who should be providing the receipt!

Poor Seth. He stammered. Sidekick Leonard actually chuckled.

Rookie.

Seth was confused, searching for a reply. “I, uh, it’s not something we usually do, but I can make one up for you.” Poor guy was literally wringing his hands. I could see the creases in his forehead from upstairs. I was smiling, but he couldn’t see my face well enough to know. My ancestors are laughing. It’s all a family joke. Grandma Nana playfully punches Papa’s arm. Ma is hanging onto Pop like a cheerleader in love with the water polo captain. Pop looks happy and relaxed. All that is missing is a Panama hat and an umbrella drink with a fat pineapple wedge garnish. Is that my old sheepdog, Richard, running in the background?

Kitty?

Oh, but to Seth the question is withering! His cheeks become gaunt as the sands of time drain the color from his face. His eyes bulge out, and he stoops under the weight of this deviance from the established path. The query sucks the life out of him right in front of my eyes. Like private parts in an April sea…

I let him dangle while I wonder what his receipt would look like.
This is a receipt for one lifeless body, formerly named (Your Father’s Name Here), claimed April 11th, 2010, at 2:00 am. Signed by Lenny and Squiggy, representatives of the Addams Family Funeral Home.

Post Mortem

Alone again. Sis left this morning with Sparky, and JP decided not to come this week. It’s 9 pm, dark and not quite lonely, but alone-ly, is perhaps a better word. I’ve spent the day gathering the artwork and ceramics both my parents produced over, let’s just say, a helluva long time.

We got the Death Certificate, and the obit from the newspaper. I guess I got all the receipts I’m going to get.

Here’s the receipt for your memories. In lieu of contact with the people who brought you into this life, cared for you, provided a bunch of stuff and loved you, we’d like to present these papers along with a Laurel and Hardy handshake.

Happy now?

Not really. But I do have slices of my parent’s souls. They’re in the art.

Oh the poignancy!

These are my parent’s prized possessions, their creative selves! When Ma passed, Pop kept everything, naturally. But now that he’s gone suddenly their souls are being split up.

I almost cried. Not yet. But I got that lumpy feeling in my throat.

Make that thorax.

My legs are throbbing as a result of the fourteen stairs in the house. There’s forty-six hundred feet in this place and every proverbial, real or imagined nook and architecturally cool cranny, ledge, and sill has a large, medium, or small ceramic Ma made in or on it. Many of them have dried, silk, or plastic flowers stuffed inside. There are hundreds of pieces scattered throughout, and I can only carry two or three at a time.

Fourteen steps.

Fourteen steps of poignancy. Hallways and rooms of memories. Pops’s room is the hardest to go into. The paintings left on the walls stare at me, watching me go about collecting stuff and putting it in a staging area downstairs, from where we will decide who gets what.

Something bumped. I turn up the music so I don’t imagine I’m hearing things.

Am I spooked? Holy shit!

I haven’t had a cocktail all day. What the hell was I thinking?

I still have Sarah the cat for company.

Sarah?

You want to talk about flower arrangements? I’m not suggesting these are dainty and small. We’re talking some thirty-pound ceramics with three-foot tall stalks of fake roses, hibiscus, lillies, gladiolas and god knows what else stuffed inside them.

You want to talk about the dust of nine years?

Three arrangements fill a thirty gallon garbage bag.

Just a while ago, after making my short, dark white russian, I made seven trips carrying ceramics from the kitchen to downstairs. Gotta keep going. I’m beginning to see peripheral flashes of movement. Things in the mirror… someone in Pop’s room as I walk past?

No fucking way.

Way?

Care?

Music louder, please?

Shit, I left my cocktail on the counter. BRB. May as well take a smoke break while I’m at it. Outside, under the partly cloudy stars, I conclude that sex after death is only possible with a res-erection.

And I find more ceramics.

And there’s hats all over the house. Ma’s flower arranging evolved to hot glue guns and hats. Lots of hats. Thirty-six, so far. Make that forty. What are we going to do with forty walking flower arrangements?

And furniture, lamps, rugs, albums full of photos, linens, dishes and over a dozen quilts, comforters and blankets, and tools and…. styrofoam heads. Why are there two dozen styrofoam heads above the water heater?

Found more ceramics, in Pop’s studio sink. Fourteen steps.

Where is Teal Cloth, the acrylic on wood? I can’t find her. But I find another ceramic in the upstairs bathroom. How could I have missed it?

…and another, outside.

…and another, outside. Ma! Yer killin me!

I guesstimate there’s a thousand paintings.

How many art books? There’s the Bonnard and Vuillard books Pop had once given me, then asked for them back with a promise to return—which I understood to mean when he was ashes. I didn’t mind. They were his books to begin with.

He has graphics and typography books and E charts and croppers and PMS books and color conversion charts and software and… What’s this? It’s Pop’s old twin lens reflex camera, the Yashica 124G. I take it out of the cardboard box with reverence, as if it were a family jewel. In the box is a roll of Ektachrome. This is the camera that took baby pictures of Sis and me, and modeling pictures of our mother. It would sit nicely in my collection next to Grandpa’s Bolsey.

I laugh again about wet towels on our heads. I should have been holding your hand and telling you it was alright to leave. We’ll be okay. Remind self to cry, later.

Recarpet, repaint, and put the house on the market. Drive out the driveway one last time. Cry then?

Make that forty one hats.

Will the son’s achievements match those of his father? Why did I go third person all of a sudden? You were right on the cusp of your ultimate recognition, that of having a museum show. Is that why you said, quite simply and with undeniable resignation, Damn for no apparent reason on page 15?

That’s a bitter pill.

Did you get enough soma this lifetime? How did that enlightenment thing work out for ya?

LOL, I know. Some “five-to-ten year plan,” eh what? It’s good to have hope. That’s what faith is based on, is it not? It may very well be that we’ll all see each other again. That is, unless our karma is done. For this Creation, that is—before we do it all over again, if we are to believe certain gurus. Should such a faith be so Assuring?

I bagged your clothes today and found five more ceramics, plus three paintings, in the process. How many paint brushes did you think you had? At least two hundred. I’m going to gather them up and put them in one of Ma’s pots as if they were a flower arrangement. Thanks for the sneakers.

Hope many pushpins did you think you had? Ten thousand and eleven?

Three more ceramics. Sun room, hidden behind seven-foot plants. And seven more candles.

You told me to treat Manhattan like it was a football field and I was a running back. I never forgot that advice. When you took the subway you knew which car to get into and which door to stand at so the train let you out in front of the escalator. Your fob hung just so. Your fingernails always immaculate. So linear and orderly on the surface and yet you were an artist. Passions and appreciation found their crossroad with perspective, rules and tools within you, as they had with Leonardo.

Sometimes when I look in the mirror I see your features and it bugs me. I don’t want to see you. We were more dissimilar than we were alike. We had few common interests, but I miss you.

PopPaintingSelfie
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Epilogue:

We had Sparky and Sara stuffed and put inside the wood shed.

Kidding! They were sold with the house.

Kidding again! They went to live with Sis, happily ever after.

To donate to the Children’s Education Program of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon in Barry Geller’s name, send check with note to:

Ms. Deidre Sandvick
Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
1223 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-1223

On the check simply write “Barry Geller” and Deidre will know what to do with it.

RIP Barry Everett Geller, December 2, 1932—April 10th, 2010. And as I write this, over four years later, the tears begin to flow.

 

Random Writings—What is Art?

What is Art?

Art’s a dart without the “d,”
pinpointing what we want to express.

Art’s a cart without the “c,”
taking us where we want to go.

Art’s a tart without the “t,”
tasty and sweet.

Art’s a wart without the “w”
and sometimes has to be removed.

Art’s a fart without the “f,”
sometimes it stinks.

Art’s a part without the “p,”
an integral piece of life.

But above all, Art is Heart with,
for me, a silent “He.”

Little Lindsay Chapters 3 & 4

GiantCricketThingDetail
Un-retouched photo of Dicey the cricket with cigar and shades.

Rated G

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 3

~~~~~~~~~~

Some of Las Lolitas’ least liked Experts disbelieve Long-legged Little Lindsay’s tale altogether—even suggesting she’s “looney as a tune.” (Parenthetically, The Narrator has no opinion. They never do. Everyone gets a “personhood,” if you will, except the Narrator. While we have First, Second and Third Persons, the Narrator is a hidden, ethereal voice, disenfranchised, whose mind is a blank sheet of paper represented by a body of words. A Narrator may argue that they are an articulation of that which hasn’t been said before, if they could argue, which they can’t, by definition, so it would have to be argued by a First, Second or Third person on the Narrator’s behalf. While “technically” a Third Person, the Narrator, quite simply put, just Is. Leave your opinions for the Experts, if you please. But all of this has nothing whatsoever to do with the tale of Long-legged Little Lindsay.)

“For instance…” the incredulous, disbelieving, and somewhat cynical Experts voiced, “…isn’t it all too coincidental that Little Lindsay landed in the lone clearing of the entire jungle—an unusually sandy area only big enough to accommodate one eight-year-old girl and a filly from Philly named Millie Tilly Dilly?” This Narrator (speaking Italic) might say Yes, one might think so. However, as Little Lindsay wisely says: “Seriously, you can’t argue with the truth.”

The Narrator will now articulate that which hasn’t been said before.

“Oh, my head…” Little Lindsay said out loud (to whom she didn’t know), while pressing her hands against her temples. She didn’t wish to open her eyes but didn’t like lying on the ground, so she moved her legs under her and started slowly, hesitatingly, cautiously (and a host of other —ly words), rising to her feet. Except this seemed different somehow. It felt like she had a long way to go. Was she still falling through the sky with the greatest unease? Was it a lingering woozy-dizziness? Or worse, a permanent dizzy-wooziness? Had gravity gone upside-down, or downside-up, or what? “Stupid gravity,” Little Lindsay moaned. “That ride was a dilly!”

“I beg your pardon?”

The voice, clear and strong, came from behind and below Little Lindsay and made her jump up another three feet in height. She looked down at her long, long legs, at the bottom of which stood a short horse. “Did you just say something?” she asked.

“If you’re referring to having taken a ride on me, well, I must confess I remember no such event.”

“But… but… You’re a talking horse!”

“Well I wouldn’t say that if I couldn’t say that, but since I can, I won’t, Little long-legged girl. I’ll let my talking speak for itself, or my speaking talk for itself if that’s what it takes—even if I have to talk to myself, which I’ve been at for some time now already. And what’s your name?”

“I’m Little Lindsay from Las Lolitas and I’m lost.”

“Well, Long-legged lost Little Lindsay from Las Lolitas, I’m Millie Tilly Dilly from Philly and the last thing I remember is being harnessed with a parachute and summarily chucked from a plane. I think I pissed off my owner when I told him his mother was a car. Did you know Mister Ed? He was my grandfather and—”

“My legs!” Little Lindsay interrupted. “They’re so long! What—?” Little Lindsay, feeling scared and lost and oh so incredibly tall, began to cry.

“Now, now, Long-legged Little Lindsay, don’t cry. I’ll help you find your way. Where are you going?”

“I’m going to Pura Vita-HICKA-Veedaville. Oh no! Now I have the HICK-ICK-ups!”

“Pura Vita-Hicka-Veedaville? Never heard of it.” Millie Tilly Dilly looked at the dense jungle surrounding them. “But then, I’ve never heard of anything around here. My brother would know how to find it, if he were here.”

“You have a HIC brother?”

“Oh yes, but Willy Nilly is back in Philly.”

Little Lindsay couldn’t help herself and had to giggle a little between hiccups. “What a random name.”

“You think Willy Nilly is silly? My sister Lilly calls him Billy.”

“Rilly? I mean HIC really?

“Yes. Lilly calls Willy Nilly Billy.”

At this, Little Lindsay began laughing and hiccuping and laughing and hiccuping until all of a sudden—

“BRA-A-A-A-A-P!”

“What was that, Millie?” Little Lindsay asked, frightened by the loud sound coming from above.

“It’s one of those disgusting Belcher Monkeys,” Millie said with a twitch of her tail. “You can hear them for miles. Sometimes it sounds like they’re throwing up. It’s gross—”

“BRA-A-A-A-A-P!”

“Oh HIC my! What should we do, Millie? Should we HIC run?”

“No, they’re—”

“HIC!”

“BRA-A-A-A-A-P!”

“They’re—”

“HIC! HIC! HIC!”

“BRA-A-A-A-A-P! BRA-A-A-A-A-P! BRA-A-A-A-A-P!”

“HIC! HIC! HIC!”

“Look, when you guys are done—”

“Who-who-who is making all that racket in my backyard? Can’t a monkey swing his banana in peace around here? What’s with all the ‘HIC! HIC! HIC!?’”

Little Lindsay held her breath, which caused her hiccups to go away, and tried to still her rapidly beating heart. She wanted to run like the proverbial wind but didn’t know where. At her current height, estimated by Experts as not quite precisely twenty-six feet and eight inches, she was trapped by the thick trees around her. She needed to be taller.

~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 4

“Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Where in the forest art thou?” Millie Tilly’s voice grew fainter as Little Lindsay’s legs thrust the rest of her body up through the tree tops and into the canopy. As she pulled and pushed at the branches in her face, Little Lindsay didn’t notice the Belcher Monkey sitting on a limb no more than eleven inches from her right ear.

“BRA-A-A-A-AP!”

While the belch itself was abrupt and disturbing, it was the accompanying breath which nearly sent Little Lindsay back on her knees. “Ew?” she said, trying to brush the halitosis away. “Didn’t you brush your teeth this morning?”

“BRA-A-A-A-AP! Ahhhh… If you think I’m bad, don’t ever pull the finger of one of my southern cousins. Yucky doodle dandy!” Belcher Monkey stuck an entire banana in his mouth and swallowed it whole. “BRA-A-A-A-AP! What’s your name, blondie?”

“I’m Little Lindsay. What’s yours?”

Belcher cast a long look down, way down to where Little Lindsay’s feet ought to have been visible but looked more like two bananas to him. “You’re not standing on two bananas by any chance, are you?”

“What?”

“Listen, Little Lindsay. If I might make a suggestion? When you’re as tall as you are, never wear a pink Princess/Ballerina outfit with a sparkly tiara that has two long antennae. It makes you look taller.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Besides, most folk around here want to blend in. It’s safer. Pink is not the answer.”

Little Lindsay gulped. “Safer from wh—”

“BRA-A-A-A-AP!”

“Oh, gee-whiz, wow, yuck….”

“Honey, there’s much to be cautious of in the jungle.” The monkey with no name counted them off on his fingers. “Number six: You got wild cats sitting in trees with their arms crossed that don’t often look happy. They eat anything.” He stared into her eyes and paused for impact before proceeding. “Number three: You got pisottis with names like Bubba and Billy-Bob running around looking for a tattoo artist. Know of any?”

“Which, pisottis or—”

“I thought not. Number nine: You got batty bats. There’s all kinda crazy things flying around here. They’re everywhere and none of them have eyes. I get the feeling that even if they did they’d fly into your face anyway. They’re grumpy. Always keep your mouth closed. Number seven—”

Little Lindsay was confused. “Wait, you’re counting all wrong.”

“Whatever. Do I look like I care? I can belch the ABCs for you if you like?” Belcher smiled, showing banana-yellow teeth the size of small toucans.

“NO! Thanks I’d rather you—”

“Fine. Number seven, or is it five? You got beastly beetles, scary scorpions and kinky kinkajous.”

“That’s three things.”

“Exactly my point, grasshopper. You catch on quickly for an extremely tall little girl. Now where was I?”

“I have no—”

“BRA-A-A-A-AP!”

“Oh! Ugh. Phew!”

“Speaking of grasshoppers, there’s a little guy wearing shades down there—usually chomping on a cigar. We call him Dicey. If you see him, tell him One Son wants to chat a little about that rolling crap game he has going.”

“One Son is your name?”

“That’s me, though I have seven twin brothers with the same name. There’s a Two Son, but he’s in Arizona.”

“Oh, brother,” Milly called up from below. “The last time I heard that I fell off my dinosaur and broke my stone harness. It’s about as funny as a submarine with screen doors. A porcupine in a balloon factory, a ventriloquist on the radio, a—”

“Don’t listen to her. If there is another number to be wary of it’d be the sneaky snakes. Watch out for them. How many numbers was that?”

“Oh One Son, what am I to do?” Little Lindsay wrung her hands with worry. “I’m lost and scared and…” Growing again.

“Whoa!” One Son backed up further into the tree. “Where ya going? I was gonna dry some banana peels for us!”

“One Son, you have to help me find Pura Vita-Veedaville! I have to get home! Please help me!” Little Lindsay grew and grew, extending ever toward the heavens in a wild fit of uncontrollable, personal hyper-growth. Never before in recorded or unrecorded history has there been such an exhibition of stretching one’s boundaries as there was during those moments Little Lindsay got her legs under her.

One Son felt sorry for our helpless, lost heroine. “Okay I’ll try, but it’s gonna cost you!” he called after Little Lindsay’s receding head. “And not just chimp change, either!” he added, shaking a banana in her direction. “We’ll do bunch! BRA-A-A-A-AP!”

While the Experts in La-Lo Land remain divided as to the cause of Little Lindsay’s colossal leg growth, they collectively guffawed at her account of One Son the talking Belcher Monkey—declaring that there’s no such thing as Primate Change. It was a ridiculous notion that was, at best, impossibly, implausibly, and even likely to be unlikely. It’s perhaps interesting to note (or not) that Millie Tilly Dilly the talking filly from Philly was taken into stride as an articulating equine anomaly as descended from the famous Mister Ed personality on TeeVee. Since TeeVee is Gospel in Las Lolitas, the phenomenon of a horse who speaks English is widely accepted.

It’s also common knowledge that parrots can talk. Whether they think in metaphysical terms is an altogether different question posed by, frankly, not many Experts. But then, the Experts don’t know Swift.

~~~~~~~~~~

Street of Rogues Ch. 2—The Dream and The Reality

Street of Rogues, Chapter 2—The Dream and The Reality

When you find yourself in the thick of it, help yourself
to a bit of what is all around you. —
Lennon/McCartney.

1969

It was a school day during the spring of my fourteenth year. At the time, I didn’t realize I had awakened with a présage—a sketch of my destiny. Ever since that otherwise normal night’s slumber, I used the following dream to bolster my faith that I would find true happiness. It dragged me in like a whirlpool, this search for Happiness, employing all manner of obsessions to attain it; dropping hints along the way that were no more than a Peter Max poster, a mantra, and an itinerary.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

The Dream:

It was a summer evening in the city that never sleeps; life seemed to be glowing from within. People were behaving no longer as passersby, but more as a part of the Family of Man. As I strolled the balmy evening streets, the air palpable and thick, strangers became brothers and sisters. I caught them smiling at one another and at me, the way they did in genteel Victorian times while parading the boulevards with their parasols, fine top hats and monocles. Back then you were acknowledged on the NYC streets at eye level by your fellow man. In my Dream, humanity was suddenly and inexplicably transformed into one loving family.

Lovers passed by, oblivious to all and crooked together like swans floating blissfully on the still surface of an alpine lake. Others sat in warm coveys on park benches. Slowly tracing a path with no destination in mind, I strolled behind several silhouettes sitting in relief against the Metropolis skyline—a hot and cold, gray-on-blue outline spotted with twinkling lights. Edward Hopper could have painted the scene.

Although I was alone, my heart swelled with the certain knowledge that a great fulfillment was coming to me. The Promised Land of Happiness would be mine, and soon. I couldn’t nail down the specifics of what was going to happen in my dream, who among us can do that? Dreams are beyond control. All I knew was to keep walking…

Keep going forward and follow the heart. The thought came to me: Reach out, there’s something here for you. Keep walking and enjoying the moment. Everyone seemed so blissful in my dream, as if a long-fought battle was finally won and calm fulfillment the order of the day.

Musing along my undefined, pathless path, I glided into the Tunnel of Love. Before I would ever grasp the mechanics of the change, it was upon me: Primal Love, with its full complement of joy at my command, where I floated my own little boat in a heart-shaped Playland of dreamy shadows and gradating pinks. Emerging from the other side, I was reborn. A feeling of confidence and power welled up inside me. Like Dorothy in Oz, I had found Technicolor.

Then I knew why I had come into such grace: it was a preparation for the fulfillment of a promise made to my soul, an assurance made to me by God Himself that for every person there was a mate with whom to explore eternity. It was a remembrance of something I had once known and forgotten. I had found love in its essence, all I needed now was to find my soul-mate.

Keep walking… and as I did, Gotham City morphed to become Paris. I watched myself like a security camera, from behind, walking a bicycle down a cobblestone street. A backpack on my shoulders, my feet would not touch my dream lane. I knew innately this was the City of Love, as many had said. It was revealed by its light and infused the air with giddy flavors.

Rows of flats on either side of me glowed a sunrise pink. Filigreed iron rails boasted beautiful, flowering vines. Some had delicate bird cages holding fluttering finches, busily adding their song to life. Even a few spider monkeys were swinging around, effortlessly gliding from window to railing to pick a blossom and stare boldly into warm, inviting rooms. Light morning breezes sweetened the air, sending lace curtains to wave through open windows.

A big-busted woman softly spilling over her windowsill scrutinized me from above, smiling broadly at my inspired state. I showed my overflowing heart through the SMILE on my face. She called to her neighbor and said something about me to her in French that I couldn’t understand, then they both smiled and watched me pass.

As I approached the next corner, a market square busy with vibrant life slowly unfolded before me. I savored the moments, sweetly tantalizing myself before the Promised One I hoped would appear. I could feel that life was at a peak here; the market was the center of the universe and thick like honey. I surfed with the flow. Everything my eyes alighted upon was transformed, blessed, left enhanced after my acknowledgement.

Here was where we would find each other, a pair of souls made from the same stuff, to share in discovering the sublime secrets of life together—the Promised Answers that are no less than best friends to The Questions. We would mirror and inspire each other, and I wanted this destiny to take place now. There was a street sign; the letters were clear.

Rue du Rogues. This had to be the place.

I parked the bike at a lamppost and moved into the life-stream toward a small stall selling hot food, the scent drawing me there. I wasn’t sure what to do next, but doing something specific wasn’t important. I knew that to be true even with the compulsion to keep moving. Peering through the crowded streets, I made my way to the counter. Then I saw her, busily cooking over a grill. It didn’t take much to know; I only needed to see a small piece of the soul I hoped to find. A hand or a finger would have done just as well, or an eyelash. Without so much as a thought, I reached out with my heart to call to her. Not a beat passed before she turned, looking for me, scanning the crowd.

Over here, I thought. One heartbeat sounded as our eyes finally locked. A thousand-petaled lotus of love blossomed. It opened fully, enveloping us with a robust and essential love that was at once healing and petrifying. I could hardly stand still enough, so as not to disturb the fragile perfection of the moment. She SMILED, a beacon of light, and in doing so sealed my soul to the Perfect Ending.

Removing her apron, she came toward me as if she were a vignetted figure emerging from a photograph. People instinctively avoided crossing our path, as if Moses himself parted the crowd. She came so close it seemed we were sharing the same space. When she took my hand, I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want the bubble we were in to break. I couldn’t speak. She raised up on her tiptoes and kissed my cheek reassuringly. As that moment stretched and lingered, I knew we were permanently bonded. We both turned to walk into Life’s Fulfillment as two pieces of the grand puzzle fit perfectly together, helping to make it the whole, universal picture—never to be separate again. Our Love vibrating in harmony with the Cosmos, I watched us walk away from loneliness for the last time.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

The Reality:

“Bacon’s ready!” called Ma from upstairs.

At thirteen, for the first time in my life I actually woke up on a school day refreshed and even inspired. I opened my eyes as if for the first time, wearing a huge SMILE. Even a school day couldn’t dampen my exaltation. I stayed in bed, allowing the feeling to continue washing over and through me—cleansing, I felt, as it did. I rarely remembered any of my dreams, but this one would linger for a lifetime. I knew I would never be the same.

Now I had, through my dream, certain knowledge of what love felt like—the primal stuff that’s independent of two peoples’ wishes and illusions but simply Is. I must have inadvertently remembered it was there for the taking, through some quirky wrinkle in my dreamlife’s fabric. I may have gone to some parallel universe or another dimension or something… Whichever, it certainly didn’t seem like normal reality anymore.

This must be Paradise Regained, I philosophized, never having read Milton’s great work but remembering the title from English class. I thought of the cute Miss Liptone, my English teacher. She never smiled enough.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Not only did I know that I wanted ‘something’ in my life, I knew what that ‘something’ was. I gained a subliminal direction. I often recalled this dream. What would it be like to go to Europe to find my ‘Rue du Rogues,’ my misspelled présage (that should have been ‘Rue des Rogues’), to hear new languages and walk about freely, to see other places and do other things that were prescribed by ME for a change? In doing so, I was pre-visualizing my destiny.

In my mind, The Rue du Rogues was my destination as well as my destiny. I couldn’t wait to feel the cobblestone streets underfoot and smell the European morning foods. Secretly I loved the impatient anticipation of it all, of That Which I Had Coming. When I thought about it on a conscious level, it put a little Gene Kelly in my step—reminding me of my premonition of finding true happiness. I was promised! The feeling transcended ordinary life; I felt above it all, released from the gray area of confusion I thought of as living. (Where are the answers? Come to think of it, what are the correct questions?) As I grew older, when I thought about my dream all the doubt-filled hopes about my future coalesced into anticipation of great things to come. The memory lingered like a perfume.

Tropical Cancer—The $500 Mackerel

Calendar illustrationRated G

 

 

 

 

 

 

November, 2011

When Babe suggested we go deep sea fishing I should have given it more thought before agreeing. Such as: No. For one thing, I didn’t think about what time I’d have to get up in the morning for such a venture. For another, we don’t have enough freezer space to store $80 worth of fish—which is what we hoped for after paying the captain that amount to take us out. And there’s the fact that I don’t know how to fish, nor do I particularly like to handle them.

What the hell was I thinking? Oh, I remember… how nice it will be to drift on the ocean in the sunshine with my thermos of gin and tonic and catch a nice, fat tuna. Ahi

Yeah, that’s it. Below is the condensed version of how the whole episode played out in my head:

It’s 3:30 already?

My eyes are scratchy.

Make coffee.

Make gin and tonics.

Pack cooler with tuna sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, papaya, bananas, chips, gin, tonic.

Wonder if it’s in bad taste to eat tuna sandwiches while fishing for tuna.

Jim is here to pick us up. “I just woke up 4 minutes ago,” he says.

Grab the umbrella for shade.

Jesus, does he always drive this fast down the hill?

Hunger. “What did you bring to eat, Jim?”

“Tomatoes and cookies.”

I peel a banana and think: Ew?

We pick up Bob, Wes, Jeff, Lisa and Christian—more suckers hoodwinked into this folly at $40 bucks a head.

Drive half an hour to the river dock. Daytime finally shows up.

The crew is friendly, the dock nice, the boat small. I climb aboard and pull out the gin, wondering where the key to wind up the boat goes.

Sky is cloudy, but the tropics are warm.

Thought: ALGEBRAT should be a Scrabble-worthy word. (Don’t know how that got in there.)

I convince Bob that Babe and I should sit in the back, so we can smoke downwind. He buys it and moves up front. The bow, I guess it is. We face the rear. Aft, I reckon.

Here we go! Only a half hour to get to the ocean, I’m told.

Was that a raindrop?

Love how the jungle looks from the river. Flocks of different birds (some black, some white, all with a dash of fluorescent color here and there) fly beside us intermittently, coming off the  beautiful palms, bamboo, mango and other trees lining the river. Thick, lush, redolent jungle. I breathe deeply and choke a little on the exhaust from the engine.

It was definitely a raindrop, followed by more of them. Lots more. I put up the umbrella and Babe and I are cozy and dry. Everyone up front is getting wet fast. Babe and I light smokes, congratulate ourselves about how toasty dry we are and pass the gin between us. For the next half hour I marvel in silence at the abundance of life along the river’s edge.

Aha, the ocean! Only an hour more to go, I’m told by Steve, the very pleasant co-captain who sits by the outboard. Or two, he says, looking over us at the ocean ahead. I’m thankful the bench is padded.
At least it’s not hot. Clouds and rain are a good thing in the tropics. Sun and humidity make an uncomfortable twosome. Wow, that’s a lot of rain!

Whoa! We’re going UP-UP-UP and D-O-O-O-WN, UP-UP-UP and D-O-O-O-WN.

Now WAY up and WAY down on fifteen-foot swells. The wind whips the rain around such that only our bust remains dry under the umbrella. Correction: damp. Each pounding wave is accompanied by screaming from the people up front.

I chance a look around the umbrella and get a bucket of water in my face. Poor Lisa looks like she’s been in the pool with her clothes on. Her hair is stuck to her face.

Wes barfs over the side. Pura Vomit, baby.

Steve corrects course towards Gilligan’s Island.

More gin, please, except it pours down my face as I try to drink.

Blank.

Is that… is that… motion sickness? The horizon is wishy-washy. The waves deep. There’s UP, there’s DOWN, UP and DOWN, up-up-UP, down-down. UP. Rock side to side.

Down.

Up.

Ugh. I close my eyes and concentrate on a vitreous remnant. It’s like a squiggly gyroscope on the inside of my eyelid and it stabilizes my queasiness.

Babe and I huddle for half an hour. We’re soaked except for our heads. “Good!” she says, I’m not sure why. The ocean is coal gray, spotted with whitecaps.

Remind self to thank Laurie for organizing this fiasco. When I see her next and she asks me how it went I’m going to throw a glass of water in her face and heave on her sandals. Then she’ll have an idea.

THANK GOD ALMIGHTY WE STOP. Time to fish!

Everything is soaked through and through—even the ocean looks wetter than usual. Jim is freezing and Lisa has goose bumps. Bob pees while Christian sings a good-luck song for fishing. At least I imagine it’s such because I don’t understand a word. Nice touch, I think.

Jeff vomits.

Steve is already casting off the back of the boat.

Grab a freakin’ fish and let’s get the hell out of here.

I try to eat a boiled egg but my mouth is dry. It takes forever since most of the gin to wash it down is flowing down my neck. Stupid thermos.

After much casting this way and that there’s a catch! Steve hands me the rod and I think I hear thunder. Oh great, a lightning rod in my groin area.

Crank-crank-crank-crank… Oy, this is a pain in the ass. I’m supposed to pull and crank, I’m told. Of course! I recall what I’ve seen on TV. Pull-crank-crank-crank, etc.

What is it? Boy or girl? Should I pass out cigars? It’s a 10 pound mackerel, sex unknown. Steve tears the hook out of its spine and throws the fish in the cooler on top of the oranges and juice. I feel guilty.

We’re moving on. UP-Down. Rock a little. UP-Down.

More of the same sin the fish.

We look around but still no fish. If there are fish they’re playing cards and laughing at us. I wish I was playing cards.

THANK GOD ALMIGHTY WE’RE GOING BACK.

Another hour and a half of… ugh, I can’t even write it without getting nauseous.

Pay the man $400 and another $100 for gas. That’s a five hundred dollar fish to split between eight people—a fish I had to get up practically the day before to haul out of the ocean. A fish that nearly cost me my life, or possibly my groin area. A fish who made me wear half a thermos of gin!

If you ever ask me to go deep sea fishing don’t be surprised when I ask you to sit on a blowfish instead.

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 14—Censor This

Rated PG (language)

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 14—Censor This

 

When Katy was eight years old, she sat down on the kitchen floor while I washed dishes and innocently wondered: “Daddy, why can’t I say ‘ass?’”

I sighed and stared out the window, looking for some wisdom to give her a good answer, and thought I found it.

“You can,” I said, brilliantly. “So long as you’re referring to a donkey.” Satisfied with that, I went back to washing dishes, wondering if she knew what ‘referring to’ meant. She thought about it with all the depth it deserved, then used it in a sentence.

“Okay,” she said. “That donkey over there has a fat ass…”

With shoulders slumped, I capitulated. “Perfect”

By the time she was sixteen, Katy had full control of her vocabulary—that is, her slang. She uses the word ‘ass’ in all its glory now; picking and choosing its location with verbal acuity, the appropriate amount of inflection, and the timing of an adult. She is comfortable with ass, and I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t even notice, in fact, when it slips out in context with where (or who) ‘ass’ fits.

In our household, Profanity is defined simply as: Abusive. Some would have you take it on faith that Vulgar and Irreverent should belong in the definition of Profanity. Using the word ‘Ass’ as example, which is hardly profane any more but used to be, though it didn’t start out that way, let’s put it in the context of Vulgar (which is, out of the two words above, its common association; although in the case of ‘mooning’ someone I would put it under Irreverent). Is it vulgar because doody comes out there? Notice I didn’t say shit, that would be vulgar. Yet to apply either of those words to offend someone’s character means two different things. It’s one thing to be an Ass, but quite another to be a Shit—and neither have to involve vulgarity.

You may think that doesn’t make sense; someone along the way has decided for us all that one body part is painfully more profane than another—notwithstanding what comes out of it. I guess that’s fine in a household that never ‘takes a shit,’ but in my castle it doesn’t fly. If a donkey can be an ass, then so can, for example, George W. Bush, but I wouldn’t say that as a matter of Free Speech because it’s Irreverent, see?

If I said Bush was a ‘Fuck,’ my daughter, at eight, would have asked: “What’s a Fuck, Daddy?” I would have had to reply with an incorrect definition of Fuck; that is, I would have said: “That means he’s an Asshole, honey,” (which is, admittedly, more specific than an ‘Ass’). As I understand the generally accepted concept, ‘Fuck’ mostly refers to making love, or Sex, and it wouldn’t have made any sense to her at all because I would have had to cast ‘fucking’ or ‘sex’ in a bad light and then it all starts to get too complicated for an eight-year-old (especially if Bush is in the mix). However, I can explain to her, as a teenager, the difference between ‘making love’ and ‘fucking,’ and that if she does it right, there is none.

None of this is very confusing, I know, but here’s how it grows up…

Soon my sweet sixteen-year-old was asking me different questions, which always led to the same end: “Daddy, can I have some money for the movies?” You’ve heard of the terrible two’s? At sixteen you are in the Broke Teen Years, or the Pre-Job era of their life. Movies provide the escape from reality most normal teens want. Who can blame them?

Parents start by sticking the young ones down on potty trainers in front of TVs so they can learn to understand that watching TV is as natural as taking a shit, so long as you don’t show someone taking an actual shit on TV.

Before you know it, they are being weaned through a system of movie Ratings. Starting with a ‘G’ rating, for parents who want to drop their kids off at the movies to get away from them for awhile, and perhaps go see an R movie while they’re there. Then ‘PG,’ because theaters realized that, at young teen ages, kids are too dangerous to let loose in empty, dark theaters without supervision, so someone old enough to go to an ‘R’ movie must chaperone. After that there’s ‘PG-13,’ which includes kids already beyond the control of parents and way beyond chaperones that the theaters employ extra clean-up crews for. Up the ladder to an ‘R’ Rating, which allows kids who are old enough to join the armed services and kill people or be killed who can’t legally drink alcohol but can at least smoke as long as someone old enough for an ‘NC-17’ Rated movie buys the cigarettes because, once they are already bought, it’s okay to smoke, outside. Ultimately, we succumb to the final Rating that excludes almost everyone except the truly Profane: The ‘XXX’ Rating—a Rating conjuring up in most people unnerving feelings not unlike the X in ‘ex-spouse’ might.

I’m no expert about the Ratings, but as I see it basically any movie that shows a penis is automatically rated NC-17 (I can say Penis, of course, so long as I don’t say Cock). Should the owner of the aforeskinned mentioned Penis be doing anything with it, then it’s definitely XXX, or actually three times as Vulgar as NC-17 (yet they still let you in at the same age and price as an NC-17-rated movie so it’s a better deal). It doesn’t matter if that Penis is peeing or in a can of ham, it’s XXX-rated and only if you’re old enough to kill someone and not have a stiff drink afterwards can you enter.

On the other hand, should your preferences lie in the Horror Movie genre, you are free to watch all manner of creative torture, horror, maiming, and terror for your $8.00 student-reduced ticket price. (Later, oh Broke Teen, you’ll be able to invest only two hours of your work life to be able to pay for that ticket at minimum wage, which, after the time invested watching The House of Incredibly Imaginative Terrors nets out to around four hours of your thoughtful, stimulating and otherwise productive day). For that modest (and reduced!) fee you are treated to Abuse, if you will, to use a mild term for the heinous acts of fantasy produced on film for the general consumption of our mind-molding teens. That is essentially what it is, unless you want to tack on adjectives like Hellish and Sick to it.

So at this point I ask myself (I could ‘ass-k’ myself, but that would be Profane), “Would I rather send my daughter to an X-rated movie or an R-rated horror pic?” I ask in reply, “Which one?”

Not all X-Rated movies are the same. Most are abusive and definitely not about ‘making love’ as much as they are about ‘gratuitous fucking’ (defined as: pre-marital). If you were to ask the industry why most movies are made with this attitude of domination and abuse you will likely hear a similar cry to that of the car industry, who insists on making over-powerful vehicles that are abusive to our ecosphere and all peoples within it “Because that’s what the consumer is buying!”

Anyone researching X-Rated sites on the internet these days will tell you that many sites don’t show full length motion pictures, but rather select scenes made specifically to show what subscribers are going there to see. There is no story plot anymore, as much as there is pure fetishness, per se’, or genre’s from which to choose your interests. Now you can watch the fetish without the abuse, horrific dialogue and trainwreck soundtrack. It’s more honest, if you will. When it comes to the Arts and Free Speech, moral responsibility lies squarely on the creator of content.

I do not have to go see these Horror movies, to be sure, but apparently my kid and lots of other people do because you know what, they’re out there! Am I promoting Censorship? No, but rather Responsibility by the producers of such horror when my kid could just as happily be absorbing fine stories of Art, Love, Science and Metaphysics if they were showing in its place. They only watch what is being shown, after all.

In concept, I would have to say to my daughter Yes! Go see Last Tango in Paris in favor of House of Wax! Teach my kid how to communicate with a loved one (or what to avoid!) and then how some people may make love; all within a medium she trusts.

Some movies she watches do teach her worthy ideas about communicating and love and other important lessons. Many times they are corroborating notions I have already told her that she may not have been able to put into a context she could relate to at the time. Sometimes just the fact that a notion or an idea (or even wisdom!) has come from me alone renders it suspect. Basically, she needs a second opinion, and Movies are something she listens to and tries to follow.

It took a couple generations to decide that armpits can be shown on TV without offense. How many generations must live and die before How to Make Love supplants The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a way of celluloid life? Which is the Profane? What, exactly, do I tell my kid? ‘Sex is nasty. Don’t have intercourse with anyone before signing a life-long commitment, but chainsaws in the forehead… fun stuff. You’ll get used to it. You should try it sometime! Ha-ha! You can plead ‘chemical imbalance’ in your defense! Ha-ha! You can have that library upstairs of yours filled with traumatic nightmares for decades to come! Sleep with Raisinettes and popcorn on your night table…’

All I know for sure is whichever donkey of a censor put this system in place has a fat ass.

OMV Photos—The Early Days

The Early Days, 2011 (click on photos to enlarge)

We fit all our stuff inside a 20 foot shipping container. The driveway hadn't been cut yet so we slid boxes down a ramp from the lot above. Many people came to help. In May, there's often thunder showers so we had to move quickly.
We fit all our stuff inside a 20 foot shipping container. The driveway hadn’t been cut yet so we slid boxes down a ramp from the lot above. Many people came to help. In May, there’s often thunder showers so we had to move quickly.
Original, highly-flawed configuration of Phase 1 living conditions.
Original, highly-flawed configuration of Phase 1 living conditions. What wasn’t in use at the time was stored under the deck and in the two storage tents on the left (which lasted around six months in the sun).
Started adding plastic on the sides. (It needed more. LOTS more.)
Started adding plastic on the sides. (It needed more. LOTS more.) Solar shower on the right.
DeckNightLightning
Lightning at night. By then the deck was covered with tarps. Those are horseshoe pits on the left.
View from the lot above.
View from the lot above.

Sunset view looking almost due west.Sunset view looking almost due west.

ViewOsa2Osa Peninsula with Terraba River in foreground.

ViewwClouds
Facing south.
Roughly 5:30 am looking southeast.
Roughly 5:30 in the morning.
Southwest view. When the tarps had to be closed it was like living in a garbage bag.
When the tarps had to be closed it was like living in a garbage bag.
Inside before plastic, tarps, wood, tin and anything else I could nail or tie onto the structure, including umbrellas.
Inside before plastic, tarps, wood, tin and anything else I could nail or tie onto the structure (including umbrellas) to block the wind and sideways rain.
DeckFromLot4
The plastic lung. The garbage bag lovingly referred to as home for the subsequent 16 months.
Almost finished adding plastic and tarps—and scrap wood, scrap tin and rope (plastic) to keep it all from flapping viciously in high wind.
Almost finished adding plastic and tarps—and scrap wood, scrap tin and rope (plastic) to keep it all from flapping viciously in high wind.
In case you were wondering...
In case you were wondering…

P.I.S.S.E.D. Ch. 2—Holly Al-Gutentag and P.I.S.S.E.D

Out of the boxRated R (language)

Chapter 2—Holly Al-Gutentag and P.I.S.S.E.D.

Valentine’s Day, 2004.

Drowned Iraqi ‘Was Forced into River by Five US Soldiers’—by the lndependent/UK.

Samarra,Iraq.

Five American soldiers have been accused of driving a 19-year-old Iraqi civilian to his death in the Tigris river in one of the main centers of resistance to the occupation. Zeidun Fadhil and his cousin Marwan Fadhil were allegedly taken to a remote spot on the shore and ordered into the river at gunpoint. When they refused, the soldiers were said to haveforced them into the river. Zeidun, who could not swim, drowned in the strong current. His cousin survived to tell the story.

Zurich, Switzerland.

Greedy, imperialist pigs! Holly Ackbar Féin KKK Ira Túpac Al-Gutentag, an equal rights anarchist and lightly armed pacifist lesbian from Switzerland, preferred chai. The air at the curbside cafe where she sat was as crisp and clean as the Swiss Francs she used as tender. She tossed the paper on the table and tapped her foot impatiently.

Tweety—her friend, accomplice and partner—tried to mollify her before she got all worked up again. “Don’t worry, dear, he’ll show up.”

“He better.”

“Ah look, here comes your chai. Now you can relax. Why don’t you take out your pencils and sketch? It’s been so long since you—”

Holly thanked the frau for her chai in English. Everyone Holly was involved with agreed to the charter of her organization and only spoke English. People Involved in Stressful Situations Every Day (PISSED) was its name, and they were terrorists. That is, they were going to be terrorists, if Holly’s plan went to specs. “I’ve got other things on my mind, Tweety. Perhaps later.”

Tweety rolled his eyes.

“Don’t say it.” She knew that’s what she always said, but it seemed like she always had a lot on her mind. There was the organization, of course, that was meant to, quite simply, promote anarchy. She got the idea while attending Cal Berkeley, picked up some contacts and fundamentals there, and with the use of random, public computer stations all over Switzerland was able to establish a budding group of anarchist enthusiasts around the globe.

The premise was simple. Isolated anarchists with no power or resources banded together under Holly’s leadership and offered their expertise in whatever field they were familiar with, which would then be used against the countries of the world to generate fear enough to break down amoral society into smaller bands of peaceful farmers. Organic, peaceful farmers. She believed terrorism was the quickest way to effect anarchy, and wanted to help it along. Holly meant to be, in fact, the Grand Central Station to all terrorist factions—which is why she changed her name to reflect a sort of ‘rainbow coalition’ of equality among maniacs.

The beauty of her ideas over theirs was that they didn’t involve murder, but instead favored extreme acts of defamation and desecration. The artist within her secretly apologized to Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor of what was to be her first great act of anonymous infamy in the interest of anarchy—her piss mark upon the stodgy imperialist puppeteers and harbingers of humiliation. The world insulted Holly Ackbar Féin KKK Ira Túpac Al-Gutentag, and she wasn’t a dog to roll over and play dead.

Tweety eyed her slyly. “Have you decided who you will award this soon-to-be fait accompli yet?”

There was another decidedly brilliant thing about PISSED—her members came free of charge and offered their specialty happily. For the most part, they felt honored to be associated with People Involved in Stressful Situations Every Day. In return for the efforts of her organization, the highest bidding terrorist group would be given credit for the nefarious deed-to-be-done. Apart from a helicopter rental, there were few, relatively minor expenses. The rest would be pure profit. “I’m still open for bids. Mumat Olly Oxen’s on the top of the leader board at the moment with an offer of half a mil.”

Tweety whistled. “Whew, that’ll cover expenses!”

“It’s not enough. The press will be world-wide.”

“True…”

Everyone had a code name, except Holly. Tweety was her first contact in cyberspace, so everyone else was given a cartoon nickname. Code name Mr. Jetson was ten minutes late, a very un-Swiss-like posture to take in light of the circumstances. She checked her giant Seiko underwater watch and sighed.

Tweety patted her on the leg, which was good for a busted finger if any other male tried it, and whispered to her from behind his herbal tea. “Don’t worry, honey. You said it yourself, ‘everything legal to point of impact,’ remember? No suspicions that way.”

Holly sighed impatiently. “Thank you, Herr Tweety. It’s just, sometimes I—”

“I know honey, the pressures. It’s lonely on top, I should know.” Tweety was once a chairman of the board of a high-profile fashion company for animals. There wasn’t a block in Beverly Hills that didn’t have a Pekinese sporting a closet full of his creations. “When I threw Prancer-boy out… That, that… roving wildebeast! I wanted to die.” Tweety’s eyes went dark with the thought of Harold, his former lover, who had deceived him.

That’s when he met the virtual Holly Al-Gutentag, in an online blackjack room. The following day, Tweety left America and went underground in Zurich. The fact that he was gay and Holly was lesbian was a sublime, anarchistic rub in the faces of all fanatical zealots who would eventually pay PISSED to advertise their slant on life. However, pragmatically speaking, Tweety was a marketing genius with many contacts and a lot of strings he could pull. He was always surprised to see who wanted a male blowjob in Hollywood, and had the pictures to fondly remember them by. These people would do anything for Tweety; all he had to do was ask—then show them the photos.

There would be no confusing issues between the sexes in this partnership. By now, Tweety and Holly were better than partners. They actually loved each other. Holly was the artist with the impossible dreams Tweety gave up, and Tweety the harmless and very sharp male comrade Holly could at once count and lean on. When Jean Lola Bridgeada gave up the PISSED Mission to become a nun, Holly had needed someone to steady her.

Then there was that other, rather compromised situation Tweety had found her in, which caused them to share a special bond. That was when Holly learned never to make love to herself while wearing headphones. It was the start of a distinctly peculiar flavor to their otherwise platonic gay and lesbian partnership, the ramifications of which neither tried to figure out.

They both sighed.

“Where the fuck is he?” Holly wondered out loud.

“I don’t know, honey, but how about him?” Tweety nodded toward a young man in very tight pants walking past. Holly laughed—an abrupt, childlike giggle. Tweety smiled and sipped his tea.

“It’s good to hear you laugh again. Uh-oh. Red carnation at two o’clock…”

“It’s about fucking time!” Holly made her move to intercept Mr. Jetson and brought him to the table, where she introduced him to Tweety.

“I am very pleased to greet you,” Mr. Jetson said. They shook hands and everyone sat down.

Holly glared at the Indian man in the navy suit jacket with the red carnation sitting opposite her. “I trust your flight from Bombay was satisfactory?”

“Oh, I love Swiss International Air Lines! How very nice of you to ask. Don’t tell anyone I said this,” he leaned in closer and shielded his mouth, “but their eggs taste very much like tin foil.”

Holly and Tweety exchanged surreptitious glances. “I’m sorry,” Holly told Mr. Jetson, tapping her watch. “But you are eighteen minutes late and—”

“She’s Swiss,” Tweety explained. “Like a cuckoo clock.”

Mr. Jetson’s eyes widened. “I should tell you, it is very hard to find a red carnation in this city! I am appalling! Very bad… Now, if you had said to wear a tiger lily, or tulip—”

Holly interrupted before Mr. Jetson could digress further into horticulture, “Mr. Jetson, do you have the plans?”

Tweety stared at him. “I like the tulip idea… Tiger lillies are so passé. Napalm?”

Mr. Jetson was confused. “What? Napalm?”

“Sorry, my french accent is… how do they say, ‘Vous devriez poursuivre votre tailleur en justice.’

Holly almost laughed out loud at Tweety’s suggestion that Mr. Jetson should sue his tailor, but covered her mouth and coughed instead. “The plans, please, if you will.” She held out her hand.

Mr. Jetson dug into his jacket pocket, “Oh yes, I very much have them right here…” He handed Holly a tiny USB drive.

She inspected the small device, then pulled a small laptop out of her large purse and flipped it open. “If you don’t mind, I’ll see if it’s all there and—”

Mr. Jetson erupted into a staccato of guffaws, sounding very much like a braying donkey, but more abrasive. Tweety looked horrified at the man. “You will have very many questions to look at that! Hee-haw, hee-haw!”

“I meant to see that it’s not corrupt in any way, that it’s readable. You understand, Mr. Jetson?”

“Oh yes, oh yes, very much so… I see. Yes. Please!—in fact. And, call me George.” He winked at Holly, oblivious to her obvious disinterest in the man as anything other than an engineer.

She plugged in the drive and downloaded. “May I offer you some chai, Mr. Jetson, while we wait?”

“Oh no, I very much hate that shit! Can I get a Kingfisher here?”

“This seems to be in order. I see you’ve included a clean-up list. That’s very thoughtful.”

George smiled and nodded, clasping his hands together like a schoolboy without the beanie.

“You’re certain this will work?” she asked him.

Mr. Jetson looked hurt. “It will very much work, Miss Holly. Oh yes… There’s no doubt about it. I got the original specifications on her structure and very detailed photographs. I have records, Miss Holly, of manufacturers and coppersmiths.” He leaned in closer. “If you put those charges in the exact locations I specified, it’ll blow that torch into the water and leave the middle finger undamaged. You must very much trust me on this.”

Holly nodded at him. “Thank you very… uh, much, for contributing to the cause. You’ve been a valuable anarchist.”

“No-no-no, you musn’t. It is you I should be very much thanking. Your idea is brilliant! It hits me in my third chakra, I think, like an arrow from Arjuna himself.”

“Yes, bu—”

“It says, Fuck you, world! Take your tired and hungry elsewhere! Hee-haw! Hee-haw!” Mr. Jetson thrust his middle finger in the air. “I can’t wait to see their faces when the precious symbol of liberty—an anarchist’s dream!—is flipping off the world on CNN! Hee-haw! Heehaw! Hee-haw!”

Holly looked to Tweety, who was already leaving to pay the check.

Street of Rogues Ch. 1—Background Check

I’m the nine-year-old kid sitting down pointing to himself already as if to say Who, me? It was the kind of Polaroid you had to smear that pink, Chapstick-like finisher on that always smelled so intriguing. In 1964, my interests revolved around Soupy Sales, Willie Mays, The Three Stooges, and comic books.
I’m the nine-year-old kid sitting down pointing to himself already as if to say Who, me? It was the kind of Polaroid you had to smear that pink, Chapstick-like finisher on that always smelled so intriguing. In 1964, my interests revolved around Soupy Sales, Willie Mays, The Three Stooges, and comic books.

Rated PG (situations)

Street of Rogues Ch. 1—Background Check

 

I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay in a world without love.Peter and Gordon

 

When Winston Churchill resigned in 1955, life was black-and-white. Eisenhower was President. Polio was conquered. The AFL and CIO merged. Disneyland opened. The Bermuda Triangle was given a name. Ann Landers debuted, Bill Gates was born, and Oscar Mayer, who gave us baloney in a bag, died at 96. Lolita was published. CBS introduced The Johnny Carson Show. Captain Video was canceled but everyone loved Lucy and the Brooklyn Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the World Series. As a reserved infant, I didn’t give a crap about any of this. I was sucking bottles—practicing for the cigarettes and coffee that came later.

Technically, if baby-boomers are considered to have been born in 1946 through 1964, then June of 1955, when I was born, is the dead center of those years. In 1957, my father decided to take his Commercial Arts degree from Los Angeles to Madison Avenue. His high school sweetheart, my Ma, readily agreed—that’s how badly she wanted to put some distance between us and my grandparents. One set was too controlling, while the other was busy cultivating dysfunction through beer. Then age twenty-four, Pop had landed a job at a big ad agency. He found a walk-up in Brooklyn Heights, and Ma followed with me and my four-year-old sister. At the time, they thought it was a wonderful idea. The Brooklyn Dodgers thought the opposite and moved to LA.

After several moves, eventually we settled in Queens. We lived in an attached house with a faux-Tudor façade. Now predominantly Russian, Rego Park and Forest Hills were a mixed bag of Italian, German, Jewish, Irish, and WASP back then—with a sprinkling of Puerto Rican and ‘Negro’ thrown in for color. As far as my own heritage, all I knew was that Pop’s parents were Jewish, and Ma’s weren’t. Always in the throes of searching, we seemed to be none of the above. All my relatives were in California. I didn’t know what we were, and didn’t really care except on school holidays. As far as I was concerned, sitting in Church was an uncomfortable mixture of Boredom and Fear. If I wasn’t trying to stifle a yawn, I was thinking about this “burn in Hell for eternity” thing. I just wanted to ride my bike, have fun, and be among people who were always laughing.

I was smoking by the time I was twelve and already Spinning the Bottle to kiss girls—a fifth-grade Hugh Hefner, turtlenecks and all. The drugs came later, at thirteen, in junior high school. By New Year’s Eve in ’68, I was drunk on hard liquor and asleep in a roll-top desk.

Huffing glue came next, which was always full of surprises: such as coming back to consciousness in a fountain, or finding myself in the middle of an alley in the pouring rain listening to a far-off voice repeating: Why are you in the rain? Why are you in the rain? followed by laughter and the strains of some kid practicing his trombone from an apartment window nearby. The weirdness began in those already weird enough, hormone-induced adolescent years.

By junior high the hangout had changed. New school, new hangout, more kids. In the summer of ’69 you would find two hundred people at the park on any given night. What we fondly referred to as ‘The Park’ was actually the cement playground behind the school—a monolithic brick enclosure housing 2800 kids in three grades. There wasn’t a blade of grass near it. It contained the basketball courts, handball wall, and one giant baseball ‘field’ we used for bottle-rocket wars. Upwards of fifty guys stood out there, taking sides, before throwing bottle-rockets at each other. It tested your speed, to be sure, and pushed your luck. Little did I know the park would turn out to be my Shanghai Noodle Factory—a place where I would be nowhere, doing nothing. Russell Sage Junior High School, where no one knew who Russell Sage was and, more importantly, didn’t care.

We enjoyed the park at all hours, occasionally loosening the rope around the school flagpole for a spin into nausea. We also played ‘Johnny on the Pony’ there, with fifteen or more guys on a side—where getting knocked out was common, kicked in the balls expected, and legs were broken. This was a game where one team lined up by bending at the waist and holding onto the guy in front of him and so on, leading up to the ‘pillow’—the one guy at the head of the line standing with his back against a wall or a tree, acting as a cushion. The other team stood back some fifty paces and sent one guy at a time to run and jump on the backs of the ‘pony’ to try and break the line, in which case the jumping team got to jump again. By the time the last guy jumped it was hard to hold on, so you grabbed any dangling thing that might help keep you from hitting the ground first. If the line team (the pony) held strong for a count of three after all the jumpers were on, it was their turn to jump.

Payback was brutal and oftentimes gameplay ended abruptly; cops and ambulances showing up will do that, while concussions were simply moved to the side. High flyers like George the Cuban could sail the entire length of the pony and still manage to hang on. Of course, when he went too far the pillow usually got knocked out. That was bad, because there weren’t many volunteers to be the pillow. Usually only Fish did that, and he wasn’t really volunteering. When One-Ball Paul pronounced him the park ‘Mayor,’ he took on the task more willingly but still whined. The title of Mayor implied there’d be protection along with it—from everyone but George the high-flying Cuban.

Drugs were bought and sold at the park. Fights happened. Other gangs would occasionally show up; gangs of junkies, or worse, the Irish, looking for a rumble. The swifter kids left the premises while the slow ones took the brunt. The big guys, some of them adults, stood around to watch the carnage. The speedy kids waited around the corner until the coast was clear before ambling back in small groups to take up the revelry where it had so unceremoniously left off—not unlike a flock of gulls regrouping after a widespread scatter from dogs running down the beach. Those times were the most troubling while on acid, when getting beat up would quickly bummerize a trip. I was thirteen when I took my first hit of acid, with some seventy-five or so subsequent trips over the next few years.

Soon I was no longer buying Justice League comic books but hash, pot, booze, cigarettes and glue. To supplement my allowance, I rifled the old man’s pockets for loose bus fare and subway tokens—you could cash in tokens for two dimes to rub together. When that wasn’t enough, there was always panhandling. A career day for me was making four bucks in half an hour outside the busy 34th St. subway station. What a haul!

Then came the amphetamines.

Imagine a teenage boy, in great shape from playing handball for three to eight hours every day, riding a bike all over creation and often locking it up, getting on the train to Manhattan and walking another ten miles on any given night, imagine the energy he has when given a couple three-grain Dexedrines! In a group, chain smoking a pack each off just one match, we had to take turns talking because NONE OF US COULD SHUT UP WE JUST KEPT TALKING AND TALKING and little balls of spit would form in the corners of our mouth but you didn’t wipe it off because it just came back again anyway and BLAH BLAH BLAH all through the night without any commas until day broke and you could see the soot from the incinerators floating down to earth and you knew it was going to be oppressively hot and another day which began with the question WHAT DO WE GET HIGH ON NEXT? Depression, the cotton mouth of an ashtray, the burrs in the eyes, they all came with the humidity of another summer’s morn.

Then came the barbiturates.

A drunk without the barf, how cool is that? In those days, pharmaceutical Seconal and Tuinal sold for three for a buck (an ‘ace’) on the street. You only needed two, otherwise you were worthless, so it made better sense to buy six for a deuce and split it three ways. Cheap high, and nothing hurt, ever. I fell asleep once holding a lit smoke and woke up with the filter butt, hollow and cold, between my fingers—and a raw burn-hole just above my fingernail.

On the heels of barbiturates came heroin and Blue Morphan, winter drugs. With a five dollar tab of pharmaceutical Blue Morphan (essentially morphine) you could weather a blizzard in a tank top. Mainlining was the only efficient way to truly take advantage of either. Over those five years, thirteen through seventeen, it got so that anything was worth trying to get high. At parties we scanned the parents’ medicine cabinet in the bathroom for anything ending in -al or -drine. Stuff we weren’t familiar with was taken first and asked questions about later—in one case ending up with blood pressure pills and ‘snappers,’ amylnitrate, which was used for jumpstarting someone’s heart if necessary. If I snorted one now I’m pretty sure my heart would explode, but at fifteen it was a nice, if short, rush. Romilar cough syrup, Carbona cleaning fluid, even separating the codeine granules out of a Contac capsule wasn’t too far beneath us. We were idle hands in the Devil’s pharmacy.

At fifteen I already had a moustache and long hair. Well, big hair would be more accurate. It didn’t grow long, it grew wide. Approaching six-feet tall, I weighed 110 pounds—in wet clothes. I was gaunt and haunted looking, maybe even a little scary. I looked old enough to be served in many bars in the city, which was eighteen at the time. My life revolved around scheming for drugs and keeping away from the Bad Guys in the neighborhood. And getting laid, of course.

My closest friends were all older than I was by at least a year, left back in school until we were all finally in the same grade, in the dumbest classes. My ninth-grade class consisted of druggies, rumblers, the dyslexic, the narcoleptic and epileptic, and the school basketball team. Classes were numbered from the smartest to the ‘most likely to fail.’ Our class, the last one, was 9-11—a numeric connection to future calamity. Teachers were afraid of us. Administrators left us alone in our cage with them—their backs against the wall and sometimes even shoved into a closet for the period.

Nothing was sacrosanct. We stole freely from each other. If someone pissed you off, even a little, it was okay to steal his TV or parents’ camera and pawn it downtown. Even if they didn’t piss you off, what they wouldn’t know couldn’t hurt us. Eventually the only Golden Rule was: Never give names to the cops. It was the pirates’ code; defy that and you’re fucked.

Friends, jonesing for smack, were stabbing friends over sour drug deals and leaving them to die in the bushes. Tough guys were murdered by tougher guys, or by cops. Jew, German, Irish, Black, Cuban—it didn’t matter, the Unbreakable broke. In those five years, the thieving got worse, the winters colder every year, and young teenagers were scattered in bars across the city like seasoned barflies with their heads down, nursing beers to keep from the cold, and scheming, always scheming.

By 1970, the era of “love the one you’re with,” the draft was in full force. Our once-proud cast of hundreds who gathered in the coliseum we called our park was losing the battle of attrition to jobs, Nam, murder, jail, and fleeing to Florida or California to escape prosecution for such crimes as possession and sale of drugs, breaking-and-entering, armed robbery and sometimes worse. Some fled to Canada after getting draft notices. Some went off to college, mostly party schools like New Paltz in upstate New York, where the beer was cheap and the girls plentiful—or maybe it was the other way around. I don’t know because I never went to college.

It was only a matter of time before my luck ran out, I knew that for a fact. It helped to have a dream.

Little Lindsay Chapters 1 & 2

G Rated

The Long-winded but Light-hearted Tale of  Little Long-legged Lindsay’s Lesson  (A Fable of the Utmost Importance)

Chapter 1

Experts come and Experts go,
They tell you what you ought to know.

Narrator: “Once upon a fairy tale in a galaxy near you there lived a young girl named Little Lindsay who— Hang on, it’s my phone. Yes?”

(Narrator and heroine consult.)

Narrator clears throat. “Ahem. Although somewhat unclear about why Little Lindsay called me on the phone while standing next to me, she has nonetheless reminded us that this near-true story is hers to tell. Therefore I acquiesce to, and otherwise introduce to you, Little Lindsay.”

Little Lindsay pushed her silky blonde hair behind her ears, straightened her pretty pink dress with the blue polka dots that match her eyes, held an air-microphone up to her lips and said in a loud and clear eight year-old voice, “Hi. First my parents moved me and our dog-Amber to the jungle and there were lots of monkeys and toucans and sloths’s’s and beetles and bugs and snakes and creatures that scared me so I jumped a lot and guess what my legs grew!” (Takes a breath, brushed an errant strand of hair from her face and—) “Yeah! I grew to be eight miles high but my feet were regular size so I couldn’t see the little creatures of the jungle—the anteaters and biscottis and kinkajous and howler monkeys and butterflies and toads—so what happened was I went up and down and up and down until my legs got regular sized again. See?” Little Lindsay pirouetted three times and curtsied once.

Big smile The End.

Narrator sighs and waits. Twiddles thumbs. Stirs coffee (which is difficult while twiddling) and wishes he had a biscotti.

“Okay you tell them. Do you want to take a picture of me?” Little Lindsay wanted to know but before Narrator can open his iPhone camera she ran to her room to play. Sing-song melodies could be heard through the door.

Narrator picks up the thread. “And there you have it, in summary. Allow me to elaborate. Once upon a… sorry, I already said that.” As the Narrator fumbles through his notes, the tale has already unfolded in the pages of time and floats faithfully in the ethereal record of unwritten history for all who have the vision to see it. Look it up.

Little Lindsay lived in Las Lolitas near LA (not Louisiana). Las Lolitas was a lazy little town of about six billion, nine hundred and seventy-three million seven hundred and thirty-eight thousand four hundred and thirty-three smallish if not downright diminutive people where many such little girls skipped down perfectly constructed sidewalks lined with evenly spaced “Lm” trees while singing “La-la-la-la-la” etcetera. Everyone agreed “La-Lo Land” was fun and patted each other on the back in a friendly, semi-conscious habitual manner.

It all began on a Tuesday.

“Honey,” Mommy said, “we’re going to move to Pura Vita-Veedaville and have a vivacious, vital life in the jungle.”

“What?” Little Lindsay asked. “Where’s the L in that?”

“Huh? Oh never mind. We’ll have so much fun! Right Amber?”

Amber cocked her canine head and wondered, “Woof? What’s a jungle?”

Little Lindsay looked pensive for a long time, maybe even 11.2 seconds, taking it all in—digesting what it means to move to another place far from everything she knows and ever knew. Sidewalks would be replaced by jungle. Even the language was different there. She would have to be a brave, rather grown-up girl in a hurry! Knowing this, she asked Mommy “Will I have to go to school tomorrow?”

Mommy laughed. “No, Little Lindsay. It’s time to start packing because we leave on the morrow.”

“What’s a morrow?” Little Lindsay asked.

“An archaic word for tomorrow. But it’s elegant, don’t you think?”

“Can I have some ar-cake? What is ar-cake anyway?”

Mommy took the next 91 seconds to explain how “morrow” came to be “tomorrow” and that “archaic” was an old word hardly used anymore—not an old cake—then ushered Little Lindsay into her room to help pack her clothes, books and toy friends so they’d be ready to leave early in the morning. Little Lindsay wondered why Mommy used ar-cakey words all of a sudden but didn’t ask why. Mommy sung a happy tune and that was very important to Little Lindsay. She noticed Daddy standing by the door but he wasn’t doing anything—he just stood there watching his two girls with a great big smile on his face.

In his mind, Daddy was thinking one thing: Pura Vita-Veedaville here we come! “I’m so happy,” he said, “I could eat a bruschetta.”

The next morning, Little Lindsay stood near Mommy and Daddy’s bed fully dressed in her pink Princess/Ballerina outfit with the sparkly tiara that had two, long antennae—each sporting a pink, fuzzy… thing unknown to this Narrator. She tapped Mommy on the shoulder with her star-shaped and predominantly ineffective but still fun Magic Wand while repeating, “Is it time to go yet?” until Mommy mumbled herself awake and slipped sleepily toward the coffee maker. Little Lindsay waited patiently until the first sip passed Mommy’s lips, whereupon she could now speak.

“Yes, Little Lindsay. It’s time to leave Las Lolitas. Are you ready for the biggest adventure of your life?” Mommy asked.

Pushing aside tears and a slight case of melancholy about leaving her friends, Little Lindsay was nonetheless aware of the fact that she was going to learn new things, see new places and meet all kinds of new monkeys and butterflies she had only seen on the pages of her book friends. An excitement grew so large in her tummy that she could hardly eat two pieces of french toast for breakfast. She was as ready as she could be.

~~~~~~~~~~

Chapter 2

No one knows for certain the exact instant Little Lindsay’s legs began to grow large. There is much discussion between leg Experts from all over the world as to what, exactly, caused Little Lindsay’s legs to extend to what is approximated at five-thousand two-hundred and eighty feet high. Rather than risk being accused of a knee-jerk reaction to that which was a mystery to an otherwise (moderately) respected body of leg specialists, they could only commit to referring  to Little Lindsay’s condition as a “mile case of extended legs.” To give it a more scientific name, they agreed, would require sticking their professional necks out. They would have to go out on a limb, as it were. For the moment, at least, some Experts agree that Little Lindsay’s legs started enlarging the moment she jumped from the plane.

“I didn’t know we had to jump from a plane,” Little Lindsay said to both Mommy and Daddy.

Mommy adjusted her parachute. “Neither did I, Daddy,” she said, looking intently at him.

Daddy cleared his throat and said in a brave voice, “Everyone jumps from a plane when they move to the jungle. That’s just common sense. Besides, we saved a lot of money.”

“So that’s what the airline meant by ‘No frills, but plenty of thrills.’” Mommy didn’t sound pleased.

“Are we common?” Little Lindsay asked her parents.

“Actually, no,” Daddy replied.

“Then how would I know common sense?”

Daddy considered her seriously, almost. “Like anything, Little Lindsay, you have to learn it.”

“Will I learn common sense in the jungle?”

“Yes, Little Lindsay. Now will you please jump out of the plane?”

Little Lindsay mustered her courage, pulled her goggles over her eyes, leapt from the plane without looking down and said in a very loud voice what can only be transcribed as “YA-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A…!” for the ensuing nine seconds.

Some Experts decided that it was during those precise nine seconds while free-falling in the air when Little Lindsay first began to become Long-legged Little Lindsay—and that it was the direct result of having a hugely sincere and deep desire to grow legs that were roughly five-thousand two-hundred and eighty feet long. (Conclusions drawn by Experts are not necessarily the opinion of the Narrator but in this case they are. Back to the tale…)

Little Lindsay hurtled through the sky at a death-defying speed with her hair standing straight up. She wore the same face as when she went on a roller-coaster at Six Flags amusement park, just after it went over the steepest part, but this ride was much longer. And it wasn’t really a ride because she jumped from a plane. She tumbled and turned and twisted and flailed as she fell. Plunging in panic, she passed a pretty parrot who paused at her predicament and said, “Little Lindsay! Little Lindsay! Pull the ripcord! Pull the ripcord! It’ll open your parachute! Open your parachute!”

Little Lindsay struggled to find the string at her chest and yanked it, which opened the parachute and slowed her descent to an easy glide. The wind stopped pounding against her ears and all was silent as she flew through the air with the greatest unease. The pretty parrot soared next to her, making sure Little Lindsay was steady. “Thank you pretty parrot, but how did you know my name?”

The pretty parrot cocked its head as if that was a dumb question and said, “Every form has a name, Little Lindsay. It’s written above the sky for anyone to see. I can’t swim, but I think it’s written below the bottom of the sea, too. My name is Mister Swift. How do you do? How do you do?”

“Not very well, Mister Swift. I’m scared! What shall I do?”

“Hmm, yes, I see. Let me think for a moment. Let’s see, um…. I have a modest proposal. You can make your legs grow longer!”

“I don’t know, Mister Swift. Is that even possible?”

Mister Swift did a somersault in the air, followed by a triple toe-loop and a flying butt-rest. Coming to rest next to Little Lindsay in thin air, his wings behind his head and little legs crossed as if sitting in an easy chair, he winked at her and said, “Oh yes, Little Lindsay. Oh yes. You can do anything and know everything if you believe you can. But you must believe. You must believe.” With a tilt of his wing in salute, he veered off to the west.

“I can’t!” Little Lindsay called after him.

“There is no ‘can’t,’ Little Lindsay,” his voice growing fainter as he flew faster and further afar, “Only Do. Do.” The breeze stopped and all was silent. Even the air held its breath. In the faintest way possible she heard, or at least thought she heard, one final thing Mister Swift had to say, “Pay attention to your intention, Little Lindsay.”

Little Lindsay looked toward land. Although hers was an easy glide, it was beginning to make her dizzy, then woozy. The breezes blew her to and fro, then fro and to, then here and there, there and here and even hither and yon. And back again. It’s making the Narrator sick right now, in fact. Her mind filled with thoughts of “Do. Do,” Little Lindsay tried with all her human might, as well as her potential might, to Believe. And, some hold to be true, may have succeeded.

Copyright © 2013 Mitchell Geller

101 Songs You Shouldn’t Sing on TV (Intro)

101 Songs You Shouldn’t Sing on TV

Impress your friends, acquaintances and innocent bystanders with trashed hits in nearly every musical genre. You’ll be instantly popular at parties, karaoke clubs, Bar Mitzvahs and biker bars. Your children’s friends (over 21) will idolize you! Now you can sing along to previously inviolable classics with new, perhaps even improved lyrics! Such as:

Moustache Sally, (sung to the tune of Mustang Sally)
Just a Skanky Ho, (Just a Gigolo)
Coochie Fire, (Ring of Fire)
Under The Boardwalk Blues, (Under The Boardwalk)
I’m So Fired, (I’m So Tired)
Good Vibrators, (Good Vibrations)
Good Morning Hardon, (Good Morning Heartache)
Plaid Booger, (Brown Sugar)
You’re So Strange, (People Are Strange)
Funny Cigarettes, (Benny and the Jets)
You’re Such a Reject, (You Can Do Magic)

With YouTube or VodPod links provided to the working soundtracks, you can perfect your delivery at home.* Try memorizing a few to pull out at special events. Born To A Rabbi (sung to Born Under a Bad Sign) could come in handy at the next bris!

*(Internet connection required, and an electronic device with a browser. Browser not included. If solar powered, sun not included.)

Even if you’re naturally retentive, you’ll have no problem wowing the audience by putting slyly embedded “[prompts]” to good use, such as: [get jiggy with 33 second air guitar solo], or [play vibrating comb for 14 seconds].

Included with some selections are “FUN FACTS,” such as: Did you know there’s a vibrator that will pulse to the music of your iPod? What woman wouldn’t want Good Vibrators on her pod? Think: Valentine’s Day.

We’re talking roughly six hours of raw amusement for some of the whole family!
Get ready to light your Bics and sway to your own sultry tones with: Hazy. Patsy Cline’s Crazy takes on a “ho” new meaning.

Think your favorite TV theme songs are safe? Think again! Top Cat gets a makeover and we re-visit Cheers, “…where everybody knows you’re Gay.”

Can you live without this book?*

*(Probably.)

Rx rated, 101 Songs You Shouldn’t Sing on TV is your prescription for meeting new strangers. “Karaoke” it with you wherever you go! Thanks to our nearly patented and practically unique “Star Rating System,” you’ll know how drunk you can be before making a stuttering fool of yourself with an ambitious song.

Standards Guarantee: Each song has practically meticulously undergone rigorous quality control standards in order to ensure the lyricist’s interpretation is phonetically feasible according to a relatively standard standard which doesn’t include, or exclude, people who should also be considered mostly standard under predominantly normal conditions.

You can’t hardly go wrong, with 101 Songs!

Ladies, want to drop some hints that you’re available? Try singing I’m Randy (to the tune of Black Oak Arkansas’ Jim Dandy) at the next company party.

Speaking of holiday songs, are you bored with the same old Christmas carols? Well, guess what mommy’s kissing now!

Don’t want to sing alone? Try our Duets!

Stink when you try to sing Aretha’s Think? Stink again! Our version, Drink, has been modified to fit an everyday, ordinary, non-Queen-of-soul person’s cadence. Perfect for Grandpa!*

*(May require extra Polident®)

Ever wonder what the real words to Benny and the Jets are? So do we!

Nearly 600 pages of original rip-offs!*

*(Actual count less than 250.)

Girls, does your boyfriend embarrass you sometimes in public? Now you can get back at him  on karaoke night, say, the next time you’re on a cruise, with a heartfelt rendition of You’ve Been… Masturbating (sung to You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling). (Gotcha covered, men. Reply with a “rousing” rendition of Don’t Get Enough Head, sung to Going Out of My Head. Little Anthony would be proud, perhaps.)

Is your singing voice kara-yucky? Ever been told you should sing solo (“solo” no one can hear you)? Has someone suggested you sing tenor (“tenor” eleven miles away)? Have you been invited to do a duet (if you “duet” in another county)? Has someone said you should have an “aria” all to yourself (soundproof)? Does this paragraph have any discernible point? Indeed, because…

Get a stiff one ready for eleven included BONUS TRACKS. Killer, smash-hit instrumentals for an all-new, untried, unwarranted karaoke format—the Hum-along! Had your jaw wired recently? No problemo!

Caution: Random and provoked commentary/dissertation/nonsense ahead.*

As if that weren’t enough, check out the optional prose!** That’s right, actual writing is contained within these shallowed pages. Shakespeare was referred to, just to give you an idea of how lofty this mini-opus can get. Totally random, often provoked, and usually unrelated to the song to which it is attached, with dizzying discourses, sassy essays, disconcerting dissertations, a bit of soft erotica… and the like… this writing ventures into places perhaps no one should have gone. Find out what coup de plume*** means.

*(All of which you can completely ignore.)
**(That’s “prose,” not Pros. Hookers not included.)
***(Look it up.)

Proudly display 101 Songs… in your library* as either a song book, or a quirky piece of poetic literature. (It’s like one of those reversible jackets they made in the ’70s, only this will fit better on your bookshelf.) Let your friends discover how unique, even exotic, you are!

*(Keep out of reach of children under 21.)

Copyright © 2013 Mitchell Geller

P.I.S.S.E.D. Ch. 1—Sunday

November calendarR Rated (language)

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1—Sunday, 1977

How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted o’er,
In states unborn, and accents yet unknown!—Julius Caesar.

Fuckin’ gophers…

Mick didn’t want to open his eyes, but knew he would. The Churchbuilder had told him to plant marigolds. He looked at the LED alarm clock that had several blown diodes.

b:14 a.m.

Henry Churchbuilder owned the cottage-not-quite-by-the-sea in the small but active ‘New Age’ town of Sanity Cruise, and planned to retire there some day. Gophers don’t like marigolds, he had said. Under the four-inch foam mattress, under the pine floor, about five inches below Mick’s left ear, a pair of them fought over God-knows-what. Every morning near daybreak, the two of them went off like The Honeymooners.

To the moon, Alice!

Mick wanted to kill them, then beat the shit out of both with marigolds.

Oh God, that dream… He was actually grateful to have been awakened. It was the suffocation nightmare again. This time he was under water, which was a change from the usual coffin in the dirt. He took a deep breath, waiting for a sign that he was glad to be alive. The dream of Lyle Waggoner detaining him at the airport was irritating, but only mildly uncomfortable compared to the suffocation dreams.

Tough row to hoe, what a way to go…

He sighed without moving, so as not to disturb the sleeping Veronica beside him. He wasn’t ready to face his quotidian wife yet—not at, he checked the clock again, h:16. At the moment, she was dreaming of the Tin Man and Dorothy. “Not now, robot!” she uttered in her sleep.

No.

What he wanted was peace and quiet, to be left alone to flip at random through his multiple ‘mini-passions,’ as he referred to what were more like pastimes. Would he read today, perhaps that new Time/Life book on Rembrandt? Or linger in the aisles of the local bookstore, looking for new authors in the Bukowski section. What a find that was… General Tales of Ordinary Madness! Perhaps it would inspire him to pick up his journal again.

Mick lived vicariously, losing himself in vinyl record albums and a ‘cuppa joe.’ No longer living the tales of extraordinary madness himself, Mick was a domesticated java junkie now, docile and contained. He was pure, with simple and eclectic interests. In Mick’s mind, everything boiled down to one thing: whatever that was.

Things just am, Mick liked to say, very much the minimal-dadaist/metaphysical-existentialist. The trick was getting used to it. He believed in the Great Whatever, and spent time thinking about it while building small gliders out of balsa wood, or taking photographs of… whatever. Occasionally, he made notes in his journal under the heading ‘random literary doodles,’ which he planned to put to good literary use someday.

Twain’s writing may be overrated, but his witticisms are priceless, was such an entry—along with notes for a book with the working title: ‘TEAL BANANAS,’ written in caps. It was, as yet, an unstarted and loosely inconceived manuscript.

There was a lot of water in Sanity Cruise to take photographs of, most of it at the beach. It hadn’t rained in nearly a year, which the fleas seemed to enjoy very much—not so much the ants. Mick missed its womblike effect. When it rained, Mick went fetal. When it rained, he was protected. Rain soothed him, and he took to it like a taciturn donkey to apples. Mick was certain that on some future day of rain he would find the peace, fulfillment and tranquility he felt was his destiny. Until then, he was wandering through the fog gathering words to sling at some distant canvas.

One of the gophers took a body slam to the wooden floor.
n:18. Cottage-by-the-railroad tracks… still two hours before the morning train grumbled by.

Fuckin’ train….

Any minute now, the parrot would awaken and start screeching until Mick removed the towel over his cage. At dusk, he would Ack! Ack! for it to be replaced. Toulouse the dwarf parrot. Mick thought of the grouchy bird as Conure the Barbarian, with a penchant for wooden gliders and human fingers—one of which he chewed into a pile of balsa toothpicks, the other a bloody, unacceptable forefinger perch.

Fuckin’ bird…

The two cats, siblings Fred and Flo, ignored the bird for the moment, preoccupied with the ants covering their food.

Fuckin’ ants…

What with the two long-haired cats, the mold creeping up the walls where the house sat directly on the dirt, the drought and the dust, Mick would spontaneously bleed at the nose from time to time.

n:19.

Fuckin’ clock… Time waits for no man, busted diodes notwithstanding.

None of these minor inconveniences were as much a part of Mick’s early morning immediate depression as the thought of what the day was: Sunday, the worst of all days. Mick faced the gavel every week on that day when time slowed to a crawl in his banal existence. Sunday was a solitary horse standing before the glue factory. It was a burial at sea, the dead cat on the side of the road, the slow natives between elephant’s toes…. Compared to the rest of the week, Sunday was the Gulag. If there is a purgatory, it’s Sunday. When you really fuck up there’s a place for you, staring into the hot maw of an eternity of Sundays—rife with angst. Sunday is Superman’s Phantom Zone wearing a necklace of kryptonite, and it gnawed on Mick like the mold under his mattress—thundering into his thoughts with each gopher blow.

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

Fuckin’ Sunday..! Mick held his face like a punching bag, peeking at the clock again through his fingers like they were the iron bars of a self-made prison. Somewhere buried deeper than the Titanic, Mick grieved for the murder he committed of his own soul. One day he would have to confess that sin and take his penance.

n:2c.

Flo, the female, speckled cat, gently pulled against the bedroom door and let go.

Banga-banga-bang…

Start the samovar, Raskolnikov. It’s time for more crime and punishment…

With no doorknob, a string was looped through the hole a knob should have occupied and tied to a bent nail in the door frame, which allowed for some play in its near-uselessness. All the doors in the cottage were knobless and string-tied, which is to say all five of them. The front door had a knob but it was wobbly; and the door itself was outgrowing its frame.

Banga-banga-bang…

“Go away, goddammit,” Mick whispered harshly, waiting for the next sound. With one claw, the cat hooked the door and let go.

Banga-banga-bang…

The door was so askew it wouldn’t shut—not even with a crowbar, had Mick been in possession of such a luxury item. The banging was almost slight enough to mentally brush off, but not at that hour of the morning, when he could hear the dew forming in the driveway.

Banga-banga-bang… Banga-banga-bang…

Fuckin’ cats…

He ripped off the covers. “God fucking dammit! God-damn-fucking-loud-ass cats! What the hell’s wrong with you!? There better be a good reason for this, not just some dumbshit ‘made you look’ cat prank…” He was pissed. At n:2h, he wanted to doze at least until Toulouse went off.

Bangabangabang-bangabangabang…

He fumbled to his feet, yanked the string loop to open the door, and found both cats sitting in the five-foot square hallway that held the litter box and separated the bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen. “What the fuck do you want from me?” he asked them both. Sitting calmly, the two cats watched him. “What is it, Lassie, you want me to follow you?”

Toulouse went off, sounding like a pterodactyl on a megaphone in an empty ampitheatre, finally fed up with being under the towel. Ack! Ack! Get up! Ack! Ack!

Alright alright! He rushed as if there were a colicky baby in the next room. Veronica didn’t stir.

Fu…

Another Sunday.
Just one day,
on Sunday,
I wish to say,
was a fun day.
Oppressive Sunday,
go away,
don’t delay.
Never a gay day,
on Sunday.

What a wasted day is Sunday, when you hate your job. Carefully avoiding Flo and the litter box, he turned the corner into the bathroom and concentrated on his depression while relieving himself. First you wake up to a family of angry gophers under your floor at b:14 in the morning, then—

Ack! Ack!

Christ. He pushed the final squirt under high pressure. Careful to not flush the toilet, which was a dare to overflow, he fumbled with the drawstring on his pants and headed…

Ack! Ack!

…to uncover his bird. Veronica can take her chances with the toilet. Innately stepping over a thick line of ants converging on the cat food in the kitchen, Mick yawned and scratched himself into the small living room. “Good morning, Toulouse,” he said to the bird, rearranging the towel so it only covered the side facing the bookshelf—where the cats liked to impersonate vultures. “Shut the fuck up now, willya?” The dwarf parrot backed up on his perch, eyed Mick nervously, and seemed to be snarling.

“Thank you.”

Mick moved to the window and tugged on the dingy shade, making it longer, then a little longer, before it went up a bit and stopped. Fred, the large male sealpoint, watched disinterestedly from his place at the other window—his paws disappearing under a lion’s mane of blue-gray fur. Mick tugged again and the shade got longer, then longer, until he wrapped the bottom over the top, where it remained half open to the chilly gray fog of another nondescript morning. The morning dew collected in a small mud puddle next to his car door, making inconvenient and inexplicable moisture under drought conditions.

Mick and Veronica’s cottage-nearer-to-the-railroad-tracks-than-the-sea was a steal at twice the rent—a price they paid for in every conceivable way. Two bedrooms, one of which housed Mick’s balsa gliders; a narrow, green kitchen to house the ants; and a tiny living room to fill with books, record albums, cat fur and a small, nervous parrot wearing an orange target for a crown.

The walls were covered with Veronica’s paintings—acrylic landscapes in an Impressionistic style. A weed grew out of a seam in one wall, which they kept trimmed. There was no television within five years of the happy but discontented couple, well on their way to… whatever. They were struggling, and it didn’t smell too good either—especially when the offshore breeze brought the nauseating malodor of the nearby mushroom factory the wrong way. Mick turned and automatically stepped over the thick gray line of ants on his way to brush his teeth, carefully avoiding the litter box again.

The bathroom was a mini-microcosm of the rest of the cottage-sans-le-mer—equally inconvenient, yet tinier. After flipping the light on, Mick flipped it off with his elbow while brushing his teeth.

Fuckin’ bathroom…

He flipped it on again and stared at himself in the mirror. His hazel eyes looked murky, and his prematurely graying hair stuck out in tufts. His mouth foamed with soap and dripped into the small, standalone sink.

Haven’t lost my charm… he thought, and spit into the drain.

Bulls-eye.

There was no shower, but a giant claw-footed tub reserved for evening baths. “Nice bathtub,” the couple had agreed upon seeing it for the first time. “One could lie down in it,” the six-foot-one Mick had mentioned. If necessary, he could stand in the tub while whizzing in the john, but he didn’t say so.

“One would have to lie down in order to wash their long hair,” Veronica told him. She had thick hair that grew more than halfway down her back. More often than not, she wore it in a bun, which Mick didn’t care for. Veronica had that ‘artist’ look—broken in, but comfortable. She was tall and broad, like a Victorian house in the south. Her smile, like a porch, was bright and welcoming, if not taken as wholly insincere.

Jamming a baseball cap on his head, it was time to officially start the day.

Coffee…

************

 

To say “ants” would undermine the significance of their numbers. Mick followed the trail in the kitchen to the cat food, which was in a different location every other day—and served to trick the ants for one day at a time. They sometimes found the bowls of dry cat food before the cats did, which was particularly annoying to the cats. With eyes adjusted to the dim, morning haze, he regarded the gray stripe on the floor. To the uninitiated, it might appear to be a shadow, but on closer inspection you’d find it was a line of ants as big across as a business card, walking off with the cat food piece by piece.

“Gimme a break…” Cat food? The cats couldn’t get near the stuff. The ants figured out how to get around the various moats of water Mick concocted to keep them away. Fred and Flo were messy eaters, for one thing, throwing food around so that bits and pieces were scattered nearby. The ants waited, biding their time, then pounced on it. It was no use fighting them. The dried food bloated up in water like a sponge, creating a raft to the dry nuggets Mick and Veronica asked the cats to thrive on.

At times, the ants came in relentless and insatiable waves from under the refrigerator and down the roof. Mick had to get in there and make it right or it would just get worse. Once other ant armies got ahold of intelligence like this, it wouldn’t be long before they sent more legions to the feedbag Mick and Veronica called their cottage-by-the-creatures.

If Veronica got up and saw the ants she’d have to spray the crap out of them and then would remain cranky all day. They’d have to take in four, maybe five movies to escape the mental muck the couple had about where they lived. Turning the light on only made it worse. Mick could tell, even in the silhouetted, desaturated morning flatness, the plate was solid with the buggers.

That particular morning, the food was on the dinette table opposite the very modest green refrigerator that couldn’t quite make ice, but did manage to impact the flip-door freezer in a bowling ball-sized snowball. Somewhere inside its snowcone of crystals lay a partially frozen lasagna.

The easy fix, of course, was to put the table legs in pails of water, but Veronica would hear none of that.

“We don’t even eat here,” Mick had argued. It was too small. When two people sat at the table there wasn’t enough room to open the refrigerator. “It’s claustrophobic.” That argument passed unnoticed.

“What if someone comes over?” Veronica’s response was absolute, if completely senseless—considering the overall impression the cottage made on visitors. But, she was the voice of God and it was now inscribed on a stone tablet as truth of the almightiest… whatever. “Besides, we can’t let our distributors see us like that.” Veronica referred to their budding soap business, the one that would free them of ever having to work again. They would sail the seven seas trailing a soapy wake after a few short years selling The Bubble Plan to potential distributors—and lots and lots of concentrated, ecologically sound laundry soap.

“But we don’t have any distributors,” Mick argued.

“We will.”

Thus spake Gawd. So be it, then. Let them find it on top the frigidaire! Fuckers…

Mick grabbed the litter scoop, wedged it under the plate undulating with black ants, and headed for the front door. This was the part he dreaded the most—yanking the door past its own frame while balancing a bowl of ants in a litter scoop and not letting either of the two cats outside. It was another command from Gawd that ‘cats shalt not go outside,’ lest they be smitten under radial tires before Mick and Veronica could get their money’s worth out of them.

Here we go, one smooth move…

Like a plate spinner, Mick didn’t dare drop the bowl—especially inside. He had broken a forgotten amount of bowls on the cement patio, but only one inside—which caused a fair amount of panic, a lot of base, personal epithets at the ants themselves, and some actual jig dancing before S:14 a.m. However, once Fred caught Mick’s anklebone in the forehead as he made his break for freedom one morning, both cats were shying away. Poor Fred; he walked off like a dazed rhinoceros after having rammed the Great Wall of China—with an instant migraine. Putting his foot down to block a speeding feline from escaping was an unpurposeful reaction on Mick’s part, but it kept Fred, at least, at bay.

Mission accomplished, the bowl of tiny ants was tossed in the tiny front yard where nothing but two malformed and inconveniently placed juniper bushes grew under the forbidding shade of a tall, opaque pine tree. Mick flicked the scoop free of stragglers toward the ice plants on the street and went back inside, sliding sideways through the door so as not to accidentally break the Cat Commandment. In return for this unnatural treatment, one, or possibly both cats, crapped, or perhaps just pissed, in the cottage’s lone gas heater.

 

The current source of heat for Mick and Veronica’s ‘quaint’ love nest was the doll-like gas stove, upon which coffee was made—warm milk with instant coffee crystals, the poor man’s latté. A legion of ants marched double-time in a battalion-wide path from an indeterminate source toward the dinette, passing in front of the Hasbro® stove. No matter how small and unworthy the prize, which was more often than not dried cat food, for little else was eaten in that place, they sent the whole team to get it.

Mick’s philosophy was simple: remove the offending food and stay out of their way. He watched absently as they began their empty-handed walkabout. The ants on point hesitated and talked about it between themselves, looking confused and pissed off, each blaming the other for having lost sight of the day’s eats.

Mick believed this was the manly way to rid oneself of ants.

The womanly way is to spray Lysol on them—following the shadowy, crawling line to its insidious, microscopic source and spraying the whole length of the way until they’re swimming or drowning in a river of the stuff. Mick thought his way was cleaner than Veronica’s, who had to wipe them up and wash them down the sink, picking individual ants out of the sponge like so many chocolate sprinkles.

Do ants eat flea eggs? he wondered, while his milk began to rise. Marigolds my ass…. Pouring the milk into his coveted cuppa joe and stirring at least twenty-five times, he walked to the terminally painted-shut front window and watched the indoor moisture mock the outdoor drought.

Such is Sunday. The rest of the morning, afternoon, evening and night would be spent dreading having to go to work the next day, unless he could be preoccupied otherwise.

Mick took a sip of faux latté and unfocused his eyes—his window gradually looking inside himself. The whole hemisphere is depressed on Sunday.

Even on holidays when Monday was a day off, Sunday was always the same. Three-day weekends had two Sundays, in Mick’s hemispheres. Sunday was typically Mexican food followed by a double bill at one of the local art theatres. What started on Sunday evenings soon encompassed Sunday afternoon, in the form of a matinee. It was as much to escape the inevitable Monday that always followed as it was to flee from the maddening sterility of the weather: fog-sun-fog, chilly-warm-chilly, fog-sun-fog… day after night after day.

Mick and Veronica would invariably go to the Mexican place with the great guacamole and hot sauce just two blocks over the railroad tracks. The small, family run restaurant appeared to be sufficiently beyond olfactory range of the Manure Factory. There was a prevailing crosswind between it and the donut shop where the two normally ate breakfast. It was easier not to eat or entertain themselves in the faux-quaint-cottage anymore—not with the ants, the condensation, the perpetual cat fur rolling like tumbleweeds across the floor, the weed growing out of the wall, the toilet from hell, and a kitchen for pre-schoolers.

Coffee in hand, Mick stared at the condensed water dripping down the window of his cottage-almost-near-the-sea. Outside, it was depressingly white—what passed for weather in Sanity Cruise, the brunch capitol of the surfing world. With a pass/fail University and a well-respected junior college, the small, coastal town was also a Fine Arts community with socialist tendencies, a large lesbian population, and had a great variety of excellent food. Between the students and the surfers, a sure sign of status was receiving unemployment checks throughout the late summer and fall, the best seasons. At the time, getting a latté meant driving clear across town and hoping the guy who made the good ones was on duty that day. Good coffee houses were on the rise, but you could count them on six or eight digits—before digits were popular. The only Starbucks anyone outside of Seattle had heard of in 1977 was Daddy.

Mick wondered, Is it ever going to rain again?

 

Copyright © 2009 Mitchell Geller

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 11—Obfuscate and Derail (Tushy Sushi)

katy1
Katy.

PG Rated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 11—Obfuscate and Derail

 

I have to face facts, I’m ridiculous. The problem is, I’m the oldstyle ‘ridiculous,’ not the new, bitchingly cool ‘ridiculous!’ To some of my daughter’s friends, I’m crazy—except it’s not the good kind of modern ‘crazy,’ it’s the old, stoo-pid crazy. If I say in friendly greeting, ‘Hey Nigger!’ I’m a raving bigot, not a brotherly soul. I’m ‘okay,’ but slightly anachronistic. I try to be ‘hella’ current, bitch, but come off as an old beatnik lost in an unknown part of the city.

I’m verbally behind the times, and have retreated into a real language with universally accepted terms: English. I capitulated, in other words. To some of Katy’s friends, this renders me oft-unintelligible and arguably superior, the way I like it.

One of the greatest allies parents have is their vocabulary, along with a platform from which to use it. Teens are obligated to listen to you, as a parent, so long as you have leverage. When you hold the keys to the car, you’re like EF Hutton—they listen when you speak. However, no matter what the situation, your teen will come to you prepared with an arsenal of arguments to prove what they want is just, correct, and the only decent course of action. They’re all lawyers at that age. That’s where having a vocabulary comes in handy.

“Dad!I need new clothes…”

What? I’m buying clothes all the time, most of which I see later in a brown bag earmarked for The Salvation Army. “What happened to the habiliments I keep getting you?”

“The what..?”

“Look it up.” Teens will do anything other than crack a dictionary, even if they have to do it with no clothes. Mostly, they’ll slip away in silence. Sufficiently obfuscated, now I derail. “Besides, you’re always wearing Missy’s or Kelly’s clothes. Have them buy something new. Have you done your homework?”

“Yes,” of course.

“Aren’t report cards coming soon? How’s algeb…” I’m talking to her back.

Like the cat who’s walking away, poor kid’s only got one eye… I chuckle to myself.

******
Example:

We’re in the car, ready to head to the movies. Missy is with us, a friend of Katy’s. The three of us are waiting for Babe in the carport. I can feel Katy ramping up to ask the obvious question and employ some pre-emptive derailment.

“Say something funny…” I say. This way I can deflect any hard questions before they arise, like: Is she coming? Meaning Babe, which I would have to answer with an unsatisfying and irritating: Eventually

“Like what?” Katy wants to know.

“I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking you.”

Missy thinks about it and says: “Tushy…” She remembers that whenever someone says ‘tushy’ I laugh. I don’t know why, I just do. “Tushy, tushy, tushy…”

I laugh. “Very FANNY…” and struggle with what to say next. Say anything that comes to mind… I think. Quickly! “We should open a sushi place and call it Tushy Sushi.” Which is so hard to say even once we all have trouble with it.

Missy: “Tushy Shushy.”

Katy: “Tushi Shushi.”

We’re all laughing and trying to say Tushy Sushi correctly, even once, then three times fast. It’s impossible.

“We can advertise that it’s ‘all that it’s cracked up to be,’” I offer.

The two girls reply in unison, “Ewwww?”

“That’s so asinine, Dad.”

“Think it’s a BUM idea?” (Delayed laugh.) While they’re scrambling for “ass” puns I get us back on track. “Sound YAKI?” (Shrieks of laughter). “HAMACHI wanna bet it’ll work?” As a sushi aficionado already, Katy gets this but Missy is lost.

I tell them, “I know… you can’t TEKKA MAKI me anywhere!” (This cliché is before their time.) “You SASHIMI on a good day though.” (Groans.)

“One more word and I’m gonna SAKÉ you,” Katy jumps into the verbal fray.

I mentally congratulate her. “Okay, okay, but it’s TOBIKKONTINUED though. TUNA in later—”

“Oh my gawd! Shut up?”

Thankfully, Babe makes it out the door, checks the doorknob to make sure it’s locked then stops—wondering, I’m sure, if she’s left a cigarette burning.

“What’s she doing now?” Katy wants to know, long past being ready to leave.

“I don’t know,” I set her up. “Looks FISHY to me.”

“Will you stop!”

“Want me to CLAM up?”

Both the kids groan. Babe makes her way to the car and gets inside.

“Thank God you’re here,” Missy says to her.

“Can we go now?” Katy asks.

“What are you guys talking about?” Babe wants to know.

“Tushy Shushy…” I try to tell her but it comes out wrong, again. The girls laugh.

“Tooshy Shooshy…” Missy laughs.

“Tushy Shlushy… Ha-ha!” Katy fails in her attempt to tell Babe what we’ve been talking about. Both the girls start flinging words around.

“Tushy Mushy…”

“Fluffy Tuffy…”

The three of us are laughing out loud. Babe is eyeing me with a sidelong glance as she situates herself in the car. I get the feeling she’s searching for an explanation.

“Ass fish,” I tell her.

“What the hell?”

“Best not to ask,” I suggest, and start the car.

Copyright © 2009 Mitchell Geller

Street of Rogues (Prologue)—Intro and Reverie

R Rated (language)

Street of Rogues, Intro and Reverie

 

Everything is true, on some level.—Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

 

Cinco de Mayo, 2005

So there I was, minding my own business, wondering just what my business was, anyway? I was smoking another butt, blowing what might have been my millionth smoke ring of all time and watching it get sucked through the fan in the window with nary a thought for such a one-time and propitious occasion. Unrecognized, it drifts toward the computer screen, veers to port, turns egg-shaped and exit stage left in a wimpy puff of no-glory—taking with it all my yesterdays and tomorrows—until all I was left with was the hole.

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Your youth. Remember?

I remember all right. At the time it was a damned pain in the ass. The further it slid away, the more I wanted it back. That’s what a will to live is, as I see it; it’s all about preserving our happy, carefree youth—our potential (which most of us hardly realize). I’m not here, after all, to protect my mediocrity. Eventually, after decades of ‘normalcy,’ one wonders if their glass is half full or almost done. It took me forty-nine years and eleven months to answer that question.

I’m going to be 50 next month. Being one month away vaults the idea into a new stratosphere. I hadn’t thought about it very much until now. Fifty. Am I a glass that is half full or half empty? So what? I check my body parts… Okay so maybe they suck compared to thirty some-odd years ago when I was running along rooftops, but they’re better than should be expected after what I’ve done to this poor, reliable, plod-along piece of Fine Art I call my body. Suddenly someone pulls the proverbial rug from under you and you are barred from the Pain-Free Club of Youth. My body went south two months, three days and some-odd hours after I got out of high school and showed up for a company picnic/flag-football game that I’m sure I never fully recovered from. There is no ceremony—you don’t even know you’re getting the bum’s rush while it’s happening. All you know is one day there’s another knock-knock at the door:

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
Fifty.
Sorry, what?

Would I still run the bulls in Pamplona today? No fucking way, probably. But the mental/emotional/spiritual/sexual/sensual parts (you know, the most important parts) are all present and accounted for in full regalia. I am comfortable with my spirituality, stable with my emotions, and sexually speaking, peeping in titty bar windows still turns me on. So I think that qualifies me as a reasonably young, stable, happy forty-niner with relatively few hang-ups who may even be slightly ahead of the curve in those respects should you put them all in a blender and call it Me.

Mentally, well, I admit I may not be as big a sponge in the ocean as I once was, but I would not trade that for the life wisdom that has taken its place. At nineteen I believe I could have memorized the Bhagavatam. At 49, I’m trying to remember if I’m looking for my glasses, or what? And of course they are in my pocket or I’m already wearing them.

Daydream: I am drifting through my past 49 years (and 11 months) like a smoke ring heading toward the fan… as if my whole life is flashing in front of me and it’s taking forever. I watch myself as a toddler try to flush Kitty down the toilet. Kitty want a swirly? (She didn’t.) In my mental hot-flashes, my first girlfriend (after Betty Boop) is already impressed with my red cape and matching, big red ‘S’—and the fact that I can fly! Yes, back then I could fly! (I didn’t care for smashing through windows though, preferring them to be open already.) Child years where I cling to my mother and cry when she sends me to kindergarten for the first time, the second time, and the third. I see myself being taught by a neighborhood kid how to throw a rock the correct way and hitting the target, a stop sign, on the first try. I remember cutting school, in freakin’ Kindergarten, for twenty-six straight days—hiding in the closet when my mother came home from her secretary job for lunch.

It is the beginning of The Fear, fear even in the dream state. In my personal, mental swirly, I graduate from Raw Fear and move to a new neighborhood: More Complicated Paranoia, Queens, NY. My new school is four stories tall, made of brick, and surrounded by fences.

Visions of prisons with dank, green walls,
In them we’re led, like horses to stalls.
The pretzels are stale, the playballs flat,
Your dreams of glory are crushed like that.

A kid we made fun of for stuttering floats by in my mind. Flashes of guilt. I want to apologize; he flipped me the bird and floated on, replaced with visions of old girlfriends—like girls on trampolines! Kathy, Margaret, Ruthie, Judy, Sarah…. I am poignant for a moment with each name, then chuckle and wonder when The Man Show will be on again.

I see a teen with addictions and stupidly long hair. Oh wait, it’s me! I hardly recognize myself. I am performing all the old crimes in my past. First I am stealing from candy stores—black licorice and Bazooka Joe bubble gum. Then from department stores, clothes and record albums mostly. The clothes will never leave the store. We take them to Gift Wrapping, put a freshly stolen cashmere sweater in a box they give us for free, bring it over to the return window and trade it for cash by saying it was a gift and too small, or big, or didn’t match our eyes.

What a sweet racket that was. I smile with a little bit of shame stuck in my teeth.

Now I am breaking into drug stores at night, stealing them blind and walking away with grocery bags full of pills. I’m trading those pills for hash, pot, acid, heroin, morphan and anything else someone says will get me high. I’m stealing from friends and they are stealing from me. We are stealing anything that’s not locked down and rushing to the pawn shops with the stuff. I’m eating lobster every night and pissing away my 100-percent profit drug money on food, booze, record albums, concert tickets and more drugs. I am living the Paranoia balls-out. Cops are picking me up, frisking me, then driving away with the contents of my pockets still on their trunk. Neighborhood junkies are looking for me with no good intentions. My two-year-old brother is finding phenobarbitals on my bedroom floor, holding them up and exclaiming: Candy!

I’m busted and I don’t care. That is, it is nothing I didn’t expect to happen sooner or later. I’m floating face down in a sea of confusion, paranoia, drugs, sex, crime… and I know it will be the death of me. Try as I may, I cannot change this model of behavior. There are too many people in my life on this pattern for me to stop. I despair that I will never shed this skin until I lose the body that lies within it. Demolition sounds so peaceful by comparison. My soul wants to move ahead and my body is raising a death knell I ignore.

Friends are murdered. People are dying young. I learn to keep overdosed junkies alive by smacking the shit out of them and packing their balls in ice so they don’t fall asleep and never wake up. I see Valachi, who, as I did so with him one day, slamming him against the bathroom wall and slapping, slapping, slapping his face to keep him awake, when he rolled his eyes over, tongue lolly-gagging around in there, and said: You’re enjoying this. His image wafts by in my mind and I say: No, it scared the shit out of me, and wonder if he’s still alive. Friends are leaving for Nam and coming back junkies, or not coming back at all. I’m next. I want out and don’t know how to leave.

At sixteen I am strung out, with no hope of climbing out of the pickle barrel of Temptation I’m in and I know it. It is Death or Begone for me. I know that to be all too true. I am weak and undisciplined in my home, I need to move out. I need the fresh air of a place I have never been before to distract me from what I should leave behind in the mud I call my life. The meditating is my only peace and it is elusive and fleeting.

I lapse back into the old ways and look for heroin or The Blues every night. I am a ‘second story’ guy, breaking and entering drug stores, doctor’s offices, and all my friends’ medicine cabinets. I mainline drugs when I don’t even know what they are, hoping they will get me high. I sell stolen pills without knowing what they are, telling people what they want to hear and raking in the cash to spend on other, better, more reliable drugs.

I tell my parents I hate them for all they haven’t done. I’m on the quick path to the Ultimate Burnout of no return and can’t look back, can’t slow down… I am literally lost in the street, so much so that cops are giving me rides home. I am a limp towel between two honor guards when they knock on my parent’s door and shove me inside. Cops are taking me to my bed. I’m waking up with scabs on my head and wondering How did that get there? There are burn holes in my fingers where I have fallen asleep holding a lit Marlboro. Pills litter my floor, my bed, my drawers. Like Kitty in the toilet, I am going down in a swirly of excrement. All that’s left are the sucking, gurgling sounds.

Enter Peter Max, stage right, drifting like a cloud in the sky. Suddenly all is silent. There is a head floating above the cumulus, well into the sunshine above. It is smiling and peaceful. Better, it is inspired. I stare at the poster for a long time.

Time waits for me, standing in front of that poster. Why am I transfixed so intently on that serene smile floating blissfully above the clouds? It is because I want and need that state of mind for myself. An inspiration begins to unfold the lotus petals of my mind. It is an inspiration corroborated by the feelings of my heart. Suddenly there is hope in those clouds. I see… wait, it is becoming clearer… I see… my potential. I see the potential of all humans in that beaming, placid smile. I realize that not only can I be happy, but that it should be my natural state. I resolve that I, too, shall be a head above the clouds of this difficult, relative life of temptations. I see hope where there once was the beginning of despair. I smile the smile of relief. It is true, I know now. I know that I can, somehow, separate from all that is maya and illusion and elevate myself to a unification of serenity, inspiration, love, peace…. It is at once our potential and our destiny, our purpose. Stop the mandala, I want to get off.

I realize that perfection is possible, after all, for the human condition. Would the notion be quantifiable if it were not inherently attainable? Isn’t heaven perfection? Is it really as easy to achieve as the simple act of losing one’s body? Perfection is manifested for our viewing pleasure every waking day as Mother Nature herself—Life, the Universe and Everything, as Douglas Adams so eloquently said. I further realize that everything I think of, can conceive of, is possible to attain. Why else would it be conceivable? Truth is there for the taking—“for those with the vision to see it,” a wise man once said. I may not see the Truth yet, but I see its light through a crack in the door. And I know, finally, that there is a light and for the moment I believe it is ‘out there’ somewhere for the taking—not yet realizing it’s within me, obscured by my own shadow. If I brush away the fallen leaves, I know I will find a path within to peace. I continue to meditate.

Suddenly I am reading voraciously. I am the whale, devouring millions of printed words like they were so many Ishmael’s. I am ingesting, digesting, then sticking my finger down my throat to make room for more. My friends are now Hermann Hesse (and I am Siddhartha), Richard Brautigan (we go trout fishing together), Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller (who know my morbidly funny side so well), Baba Ram Dass (whose legendary mantra Pee Here Now can be read as urinal graffiti around the world, in English!), Leon Uris (the master biographer of the modern Jew), Tolkien (for all the fairies, elves, dwarves, wizards, demons and balrogs in my life), Tom Robbins (skinny legs and all), William Burroughs (whose Naked Lunch is the only book I couldn’t finish, out of disgust), Albert Camus (such a sweet voice!), Max Shulman! Bukowski (and his beer shits at the racetrack), Kerouac (The Over-rated), Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries, James Clavell (Tai-Pan!), Douglas Adams (a tea time for my soul), Roger Zelazny (whom I have sign my copy of Jack of Shadows), and the other giants of Science Fiction: Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, Frank Herbert and Piers Anthony. I read Huxley’s Boring New World and Orwell way before his prophecy is laid to rest in 1984, Alexander Solzhenitsyn (because I felt literally, or literarily, obligated to read him), Seven Arrows (to capture my dreams), Steinbeck, as a sleeping pill, Shakespeare (so that I may speaketh in a manner of archaic romance and intrigue, shouldeth occasion requireth), Milton (never getting past Paradise Lost out of sheer depression), Dante (who’s Inferno made mine look like a bachelor party), Chaucer (we canter together and tell stories), Homer (to whom I just listen, enthralled, on the edge of my seat), The Upanishads, The Gita, The Bhagavatam, The Urantia Book (where verbiage, imagery and sound itself requires expert and enlightened interpretation), John Irving (praying for Owen Meany), Michener (a human camera into the past), Hemingway (yawn)—even King James’s version of the Bible! The only author I have literally thrown down in disgust is Herman Wouk. Through T.H. White I am The Once and Future King for a while. Van Gogh writes me letters.

And Henry Miller… especially Henry Miller. He has provided me with a new paradigm of behavior—one of many freedoms, both social and internal. He has told me I can paste cunt hairs on Boris’s chin. He has shown me a new voice and it liberates my first written words from their silent, mute source. He is also the fountainhead of my burgeoning vocabulary and reading list. I read everything he reads. I devour Dostoevsky with a fat dictionary at my side. Pasternak (and his wonderful poetry, and reading Dr. Zhivago after having already sat through the movie in utter awe, reveling in the author’s details), Celine, Rabelais (Some drink! Some drink!), Rimbaud, Tolstoy, Anais Nin, Knut Hamsun (Is it permitted to touch your muff today?) Chekov (yawns again), Nabokov… I am scouring Balzac for any references to my Street of Rogues. They are my playmates, cronies and mentors now (well, maybe not Nabokov). I have taken the Kool Aid Acid Test and emerged a Zen Motorcycle Master. My head is a sponge, my aching heart no longer a doormat. I am filling the vat of my mental attic and processing it into a heady liquor of thought, getting drunk. I am going places while sitting still…

…sitting still. That phrase lingers in my mental swirly. Like a reluctant turd it will not flush all the way. The thought hangs there like the eye of a hurricane; all at once unmoving, mute, and omnipotent. When it passes you are no longer the same person you were when it found you. The stillness changes you. You pick up your eyes and are more in awe of Life. You walk around looking like those paintings of the kids with the huge, hallowed eyes and scared expressions. If you linger long enough in the I of the hurricane and return to its center regularly you will eventually achieve a state of Perfect Awe-ness, which seeks to quantify nothing. Make it your home. Make it so that when you leave the house that day you are coming from a place of perfect calmness where there are no clocks and never have been, never will be. Be the hole in your smoke ring of life and spell it: Whole. You will find yourself laughing for no apparent reason. The sounds of life, the very vibrations of such, will play over your deepest sense of Self like the primal ooze of pure Bliss. You will float like a feather when you are Here Now, in the Eye. You will no longer be anonymous. Words like Loneliness, Fear, Despair, Shame, will be meaningless babble to you. You will hear the words: Unity, Universal Love, Inspiration, and God in their place—and the best part is you will always know where to find those things. They are in the ‘I’ of the hurrIcane, in the very middle of the word where they have always been, hidden and protected. They are in the center of the universe and the you-niverse is You.

Copyright © 2013 Mitchell Geller