Friday, October 2, 2015

If you've seventeen minutes and change just laying around

Spend it here:

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Nice Read

I wish I'd written it. Because I'm more appreciative than bitter:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

After Hours Online: an excerpt, Dickie Short Arms update

Readers: What follows is the third in a series of interview excerpts with Dickie Short Arms, Owner/Operator of Dickie's Joint, the longest tenured after hours establishment in the Tri-State area. Those who are unfamiliar with the earlier excepts should be warned: the exchange is unfiltered, thus the language tends towards coarse.

It's been a year and a half since we last spoke. What's new in your world?
Yeah, you think so? How about 605 days, which aint no year and a half in my book.
Please forgive me. Thank you for the correction. Once again, your precision impresses me.
I'll sleep better tonight.
Yes, of course. Well, um, let's begin again. What's new from last we spoke, 605 days ago?
For starters, that jamoke with the hair is running for president. That fucker's been stealing two handed since jump street, maybe this'll slow him down some. Not that I give a fuck. What I pay in taxes he can have. Nobody will get rich off that.
I was hoping you'd tell the readership about what's new at Dickie's, and not necessarily in the world at large.
Why the fuck didn't you say so?
You're right, the first question was terribly inexact. Please forgive me, and, if you don't mind, answer the follow up question.
Sure. But nothing's ever new at Dickie's. It's same old same old, round the clock. The faces sometimes change or they get older, grayer, whatever, but the game don't change.
Has the boy poet been back? Is it possible he's fully succumbed to the allure of your establishment, if only for purely creative replenishment?
What aint new is that you're as full of shit as ever. Creative replenishment? Fuck, do you listen to the bullshit rolls out of your mouth?
I could reword the question, if you like. But I believe you ascertained the meaning; so, if you wouldn't mind, the readership would like an answer.
You're a tough guy, now? You believe I ascertained the meaning, do you? How about you ascertain I got two broke mean Guineas sitting around Dickie's at all fucking hours of the day or night, twiddling their goddamn fingers, can you ascertain that? How about these two broke mean Guineas hop in my caddy and take a little road trip to go pay some snotty east coast literary fuck a visit and give him the beating of his lifetime, can you ascer-the-fucking-tain that?
Please excuse my misspeak — I'll rephrase the question, with your permission, of course.
Good. Let's not forget who picked up the fucking phone and called who. The next time you decide on breaking my balls, will be the last fucking time. Just so we're clear.
Crystal clear. Please accept my apology for the earlier tone. Now, if you don't mind, has the boy poet continued to visit your establishment, and, if so, might you take a question or two in regards his exploits?
Was that so fucking hard? Although I could do without the exploits business. Nobody gets exploited at Dickie's. It's real world and everybody knows what lies in store for them. And those that don't know get clued quick enough.
Yes, another poor word choice on my part. Perhaps if we exchange adventures for exploits — has the boy poet come to visit, and what can you tell us of his adventures?
Sure, he comes. He's a regular mutt now.
A "mutt" — that sounds disturbing. Please explain?
No, I won't fucking explain. Who's never heard of a mutt? Minga, use your fucking brain.
Of course. I only thought there might be a unique bent to a "mutt," in this particular context.
Yeah, well, he gets bent plenty. He's a mutt in more ways than one.
I see. Please cite an example? The readership has grown quite fond of him.
Right. They've grown so fucking fond that they wait 605 days without a peep? You don't listen to yourself, do you?
I see your point. In my defense, it's a unique interest that I speak of, a sort of peculiar curiosity. The readership is like a voyeur, a Peeping Tom, if you will, except the readership has permission to look. That may not be the best analogy.
Yeah, well, my expectations are low, so it'll do. The kid, he bangs whores a couple nights a week, plays blackjack a couple more. He smokes now, but probably only here. He's one of those "I've got rules" guys, so he can keep it straight in his head that he's got a lid on things. He aint got a lid on shit.
So, he's now one of the crowd.
I didn't say that. Where did I say he's one of the crowd? I said he comes around a lot. Why are you always putting fucking words in my mouth? Since day fucking one that's how it's been. So you know, I wasn't kidding about those Guineas.
No, I don't doubt that at all. I didn't mean to put words in your mouth. The reason I call you is because my readership loves to read the words that come out of your mouth. My job is to facilitate your conversation with them, and it seems I've taken several missteps already in that regard. Please forgive my poor attempt to synopsize. It's a rhetorical device that can create more problems than it solves.
You're the fucking genius using it.
Point taken. Please, tell us more of the boy poet. You sound disappointed by him.
That's a fair way to put it. The kid don't belong at Dickie's, I knew that from the first. In fact, if I ever see that cocksucker Haircuts again, he's gonna catch a beating for bringing the kid around in the first place. He knew better and he did it anyhow.
But he came once, and then he came back. Now he always comes. Have you thought of closing the iron door to him, telling the muscle at the front door to not admit him? Have you thought of telling him to beat it, take a hike?
Nobody talks like that. I don't fucking think like that. Take a hike? What the fuck's wrong with you? You need to watch better movies.
Yes, so I've been told. Well then, put it in your words. Put into better words if you've thought to make the boy leave?
Sure. Every time I see that little fucker walk a step into my joint.
Yet, you've chosen not to act on that impulse. Why not?
It's a free country. And like I said last time, I aint nobody's mother. If the kid wants to piss away his life fucking my whores and paying vig on my blackjack table, that's his business. And since him and Louie have got the ordering drinks "neat" bullshit straightened out, Louie's grown fond of the kid. It's funny to watch sometimes, like that movie the mouse and the man.
You refer to "Of Mice and Men"?
Yeah, that's the one. Louie's like a big jamole around the kid and it's funny to watch. He never knows what the fuck that kid's gonna say. Never. Not a fucking clue. I mean, give that kid two belts of scotch and then's he going on about some totally off the wall bullshit about a sunlit garden or an art show or some fucking sentence he heard on the L.  He'll go on and on and on and fucking on while Louie's trying to be a good sport and listen, standing there and shifting about on one foot then the other, like the big dope from the mouse and man movie when the little fucker's telling the big jamole something, giving him one of those longwinded speeches. The jamole's waiting for it to stop because he don't follow what the fuck's being said, but at the same time he's wanting it to be said because whatever it is, it's pointed at him. That much he knows and so that's enough for him, being a fucking jamole and all. It's all pretty pathetic when you think about it.
I might categorize the scenario you describe as endearing. Please continue, if you don't mind.
What's more to say? Don't you get the picture?
Does Louie looks out for the kid when he's there, like a "big brother" type might. Louie is touched by this interaction, and, perhaps, his role as protector?
There aint no protectors in my world, least not for long. And what the fuck is a big brother type? You're a big brother or you aint shit, that's how the fuck that works. Louie didn't have no big brother type when he was growing up, just an old man who ran numbers and collected the downtown book for Stanley's little fucking cousin. He said he was his cousin, no one knew for sure. Maybe their grandparents were neighbors in the old country — who the fuck knows, and at the end of the day he still works for Stanley, but a little shit prick like that talking out his ass does bug some people. He thought we called him The Shoe because he bought the best shoes straight from Italy and got at least one shine every fucking day.  That shit's true but it aint why we called him The Shoe. It was because he was a midget motherfucker who looked like he could've come out of that shoe the mother and her kids lived in. What's the name of that fairy tale?
AHO: I believe you refer to a nursery rhyme about a woman who lived in a shoe. I don't know that it had a title, but I'm no expert on folk songs or tales.
DSA: Louie's old man collected for that little prick and so that's the hand Louie got dealt, being a big enough kid at fourteen that the old man started taking him on the rounds. Then started having him deliver the beatings too. The old man drank too much and over time he lost a little stomach for his work. It happens, a career hazard you might say. After a couple years the old man is sending Louie out solo. And then other shit from The Shoe or Stanley or some cocksucker in between followed, and Louie had no out but to take what came his way. Like it or fucking lump it.
Do you think Louie sees some of himself in the boy poet?
You don't listen worth a fuck, do you? You think Louie's old man only old gave beatings to degenerate gamblers that couldn't pay? Whatever the kid do or don't remind Louie of, it aint himself. He aint seen himself in so fucking long he couldn't pick himself out of a lineup.
Yes, of course. Thank you for once again rescuing the readership from my ignorance.
It's a full-time job, right? Like I said earlier, watching Louie all fucking nervous around the kid makes for a good laugh on a slow night. Louie, who's used to pounding on anything makes him nervous, or putting a hole in, if you get my drift, except now the kid comes in and Louie wants to give the kid a big fucking hug, like he's family, like he's one of Louie's children, but Louie aint got no children and even if he did, the kid wouldn't be one of them. He wouldn't be family neither, because Louie's family is shit, the whole fucking lot of them, and Louie knows this and he wouldn't wish none of that on anyone, especially the kid, so Louie, he don't know what to do about this nervousness when the kid's around but to stand there an just fucking shake a little, the whole time the kid's sitting at the bar, while at the same time not wanting for him to leave.
That's beautiful, I think. May I have permission to ask a final question? It's a respectful question, but one you might not like.
It's your dime.
There's not a Louie working at Dickie's Joint, is there?
You, cocksucker, better hide good. Real fucking good, I'm telling you.

the place I sit to write

It's been more than fourteen months since the move downstairs. Left behind: the rambling excess of a top floor suite, the unknowable expanse of more than I need, the fifty six windows.

Two of those months I pouted. Artistically I refused to work. I wouldn't set up on the desk in my bedroom, the desk in front of the window looking out onto Market Square, because I don't write from a bedroom, I sleep in a bedroom. And the bedroom's desk is for handwriting: letters, birthday cards, get well wishes, and the such. It wasn't built, or bought, with the idea of installing a computer on top of it and writing anything meaningful.

A child can only hold his breath for so long, or a stupidly prideful fellow, so one day I pushed the L-shaped desk, the one I had to have to work upstairs, flush against the back wall of this tiny windowless box of a room that came with my apartment. The room is one step into the apartment, first door to the left where a coat closet might be located. Coat closet might have been the original intention but then they ended up with a couple yards extra of square space, so the architect said, Ah, what the hell, call it an office.

The first day I sat down to write, I felt the loss acutely. Anyone other than a wretched stubborn bastard  might have weeped. At least broken something, flesh or furniture or machine. Never has a place been so insistent about what it is not. There are no windows, no aesthetic. It is a tight box that squeezes like a powerful but disinterested hand. When I sit, the loss is immediate and constant. Once finished, relief is sudden, like sleep, or perhaps death.

But it's not all gloom and doom. I've learned to adapt. What's gone is gone, now let's see what can be done with what's left. What is left is a gaping tear in a fabric that I didn't know I had. That is not a good metaphor but I don't have a better one right yet, so we'll continue on with it. While the fabric being torn is itself unreal — remember, only metaphor — the tear is quite real. So in this way I consider the force in this room to be quite real, although it only acts on that which is not yet manifest. Silly stuff, no?

On the rare morning I set down my coffee and turn on the computer while feeling playful, I'll write a humor piece this morning, eh, I'll be chuckling to myself before the thought is even completed. But the room doesn't know I'm chuckling, doesn't understand the fleeting nature of mood. The room views mood as thought and thought as action: the man plays!

It was ignorant of me to add the exclamation point. I felt like it fit, but admittedly have no way of knowing how accurate it is. The room plays, but with what level of exuberance I've no way of establishing. It's a troubling admission, similar to not knowing if your sexual partner reaches climax. This is not sexual, that is only an example. We play simple games with simple rules, like Good and Evil, or Destination and Transport. In the latter, I am simultaneously location and conduit to location. Imagine: highway and diner coexisting together in the same time space. Something like that.

I inspected the walls closely before I moved in the L-shaped desk. I don't know why. It's all walls in the same way that a gangly teenager is all knees and elbows, so maybe I thought I should go ahead and have a good look before getting settled in. So I looked closely, took out the magnifying glass I used in the other place for the wall poetry, and saw only Plain, Barren, but also smooth, with not so much as a needle puncture. That seemed very odd, so I looked again and again, but found nothing. Perfectly barren, I decided, if such thing exists. And nothing will be hung on the walls to distort their nature, not even this new cork board thing I bought specifically for this room to keep track of the scenes and chapters in my novel. To hang it on the wall and keep order, but also keep reminder of work getting done or not. It sits off to one side now, away from the desk and the door. I'll do something with it, eventually.

WALL STREET, prominently displayed under the clock at the other place, is stuck into the top of the outside door jamb. It's crooked a bit, which I like and I think Bartleby would like too. Some days it feels like I've found Bartleby's way station. Other days it feels like the dead letter post. On every day that I make time to think about Bartleby I always believe he'd approve of this room and my place in it. I think he'd like standing in the corner, near the cork board thing. I think he'd like it quite a lot, and this pleases me more than it probably should.

In addition to the L-shaped desk I also kept the chair on wheels. It feels comfortable, fits, and yes, it reminds me of good times upstairs. Sliding around on the concrete from one spectacular view to the next. Looking in on my stick men, first from one vantage then the other, then another. I'll admit, some mornings digress into reverie, the hours lost. As if the chair would re-balance the room, pull me back into before. But those lost days are few. Always now there is the counter-current I fumble to accurately portray, my own private low tide, insisting to me each minute is a return to purpose


I have another project now. I've got quite a few words down, some better than others, and I feel attached. I also feel relieved, to have something.

I hope to not let the air out of this by talking too much about it. I read that somewhere, where a fellow asked for opinions about talking about his work before it was finished and sold. Another fellow said, Well, if you can talk about your work like a writer talks about his work, without ever having actually written it, well, you probably won't bother finishing it. In other words: why bother with the work when you've already gotten the payoff?

I'll keep that in mind, as a guideline and not a hard and fast rule, because I don't/won't consider myself a writer until I get something that pleases me finished and sold. So I'm still waiting for the payoff, not taking false payoffs. But, I get the overall message and realize I'm as likely as the next fellow to self-decieve. Actually, I'm trickier than most next fellows and much more likely to deceive, but to my credit, I might also be a hair better at catching myself in the act, and sooner.

I will share the epigraph to the new work, because:
— it pleases me;
— it feels like a declaration but not a pronouncement (Please, not the latter: I'll have to argue with a certain obstinate fellow who lately tosses aphorisms like wedding rice: "Here, you two, I've plenty! No, you don't know me, but that's not important. Here, take some more, I've plenty! Not getting married? That's not a problem. Here, you two random people, take some more, I've plenty!");
— enthusiasm can be fleeting: it is good to capture and pose some for shield against drought;
— it pleases me.

The day Harry Shavik declared himself bird, he spread his arms like wings and let himself fall, the wind upon him in a rush and the sounds of the city a sudden thrilling silence. Harry's arms did not make him soar, nor glide, and he was too proud to flap in a panic. Thus he fell to the pavement entirely like a man falls from a building.

Monday, August 31, 2015

knock knock joke

I was cooking dinner — roast garlic chicken with fresh summer squash and sautéed spinach — when my phone rang in the other room. I let it go to voice mail. It rang again and again and again, each time going to voice mail. It rang and went to voicemail and then immediately rang again maybe ten times before finally I picked up the phone.

"Speak," I said.

"Mister Parish, there is a man …" he lingered on the "n," then the voice faded in a familiar way. I recognized the name Parish and the slow soft voice.

"Eddie? What the hell. Eddie, what do you want?"

Eddie used to work for me as a cook many years ago when I was in the restaurant business. One day he started calling me Mister Parish. Never in front of other employees and always with a deferential tone. I interpreted this new address of his as two parts weirdness and one part compliment, and I allowed it without comment. Maybe I allowed it because he was the only person in the restaurant who called me Mister, or maybe I just liked the oddness of it and being connected to this small mystery. I had always thought of him as an odd fellow and now I was in some small, apparently harmless, way complicit in his oddness. Months later he started calling me at home to let me know things that were going on when I wasn't there. It had probably been twenty five years since I'd last heard Eddie's voice.

"He is up to something no good, Mister Parish. I will try to stop him, you know I will try my hardest, but, I don't know."

"Eddie, how does the man know where I live?"

"Mister Parish, he knows. I don't know how he knows but he does know and so he will come to your door. He is not like the others, but is a very bad man. A frightening man."

Then he hung up. In the past he would always wait for me to speak last before hanging up. I might say, "Eddie, run after the man who took the fifty dollars from the cash register and tell him if he does not return the money I will be forced to fire Sharon tomorrow, because, as you well know, every action demands a reaction. I know you are fond of Sharon, and I'm sorry it has to be her, but I have no choice. Do you think you can catch the man, Eddie?"

He would always catch the man. In the morning he would recount some version of: after great effort he caught the man, got the money returned to the cash register, but when his back was turned he thinks the man may have run off with either: a fork, a teaspoon, a small bag of coffee from the waitress station, a raw hamburger patty from his cook's line. One time he said the man got away with a lemon and maybe a lime too — "Mister Parish, he had both of his hands closed when he was running away; I don't know what else might have fit so perfectly that he could close his hands all the way like that." The man also brought liquor into the restaurant, took money from a waitress's purse, ate a meal without paying, wrote graffiti on the dumpster, masturbated in the employee bathroom.

The man was never given a name or age or description. It was sufficient that the man committed actions that mostly could be undone and that Eddie kept me apprised of his doings. He also kept me informed on what others were doing. I came to understand that if Eddie didn't like someone, which was almost everyone I hired, then I needn't worry about that person. The occasional new hire that he'd praise, I'd almost immediately replace. When other managers came to visit my restaurant if Eddie was working I always introduced him as my head cook. This pleased him greatly, and I might go two weeks thereafter without a phone call.

While eating my dinner I ruminated on those long ago times and mostly smiled at the recollections. After a full night's sleep I woke to my morning pot of coffee and my normal routine with no thoughts of Eddie or his warning. Midmorning, after a long bath and full shave and an extra slap of cologne, I left my apartment for the office. I may have been whistling when I turned to lock the door.

My door was painted red. All of the door was freshly painted, including the knob and lock. It was slightly sticky to the touch, with the obvious implication. I looked up and down the corridor, both sides of the hallway: all doors and walls and ceilings white, except for my red door. Was it maroon or scarlet or raspberry or merlot? I don't know. It might have been one or all of those colors for all I know. I know the names but not the colors because I've always hated red and done my best to avoid it since childhood when I almost bled out from a boy's game gone wrong.

What I've recounted happened last evening and this morning. I did not go to the office, but instead called maintenance and insisted they come immediately to repaint my door. I was told multiple units had A/C problems and those repairs took priority but that they would get to my door soon thereafter. The tone of the young lady's voice suggested she didn't share my urgency. I thought to argue with her but decided she was unlikely to be persuaded, not over the telephone and not with my argument saddled by an increasing level of agitation. So I wait. And if they have not painted my door by this evening I will go to the hardware store and buy a gallon of white paint and a brush and any mess I make in the hallway will be their problem. I will not live behind a red door and I will not flee. There is always a man. And there is always another man after that one.

Friday, August 14, 2015


I find myself especially intolerant of things that cling:

conversations that do not end distinctly but bleed into a strained continuation
reminisces that are delivered not found
intertwined fingers
shouts with anger enough to bend bruise but not break

Friday, June 12, 2015

girls girls girls

sometimes i wake in the middle of the night and sit by the window and look at the almost empty streets  below and think of the girls. some nights i think of all of them, consider them individually, like counting sheep, and yes, it helps me finally return to sleep. other nights i get stuck on one or the other, or a few of them, and those nights i always sleep poorly. i know i am bad for them, or, at least, unfair with them, and so my conscience has its way with me until i get up and play some loud music on the computer or turn on the television or find a podcast on the laptop. voices, i have to have voices then to shut up my own.

the girl i had coffee with last week, i was so glad to see her, and listen to her life. it has been turning very nicely and i was happy to hear of these changes. the mood was good and i was feeling bold so i told her the secret and she was kind about it and didn't dwell. then we talked about books and making a book from a story that would then become a chapter, a final chapter at that, and then she wrote it down for me, like a diagram or like the instructions you find in a box with some toys you buy. this is how to do that her note said, and it occurred to me i wasn't making myself clear, that i wasn't talking about a toy and i didn't need he writing it out like that but kept writing and i decided i liked watching her write it out, so after not too long i said give it here and we both smiled and i put the note in my pocket and it felt a little like getting a phone number from a girl back in the day, so far back in the day, but it felt pleasant like that although in actuality it was more like a string tied around my finger so i wouldn't get lost. later, when i found myself at home and remembered the paper in my pocket, i opened my note and read: in media res — a device for starting in the action. i cried a little first. then i was angry, but i didn't know at who or what. she was only being kind.

salon girl called me yesterday and she was either faking it or she didn't know who she was calling. yes, hello, so you were in to salon on May one and i wanted to say again thank you and do you need me to set another appointment for you to come back I can do that for you right now if you would like and if you would not that is okay too and I am happy you tried the salon. it was a lousy sales call and i didn't book an appointment. listening to her bad sales talk i kept waiting for her to stop and laugh, to tell me it was just a joke her and the other girls thought up in between appointments. but nobody laughed and i think it was a very unfunny joke.

the first girl i told the secret to left in a hurry. it was only the latest in a series of disappointing tales i've told her, so i don't blame her getting out fast. she's had her own losses lately plus no one wants to hear another's bad secret, no matter how much they pry. but i was afraid i would tell no one if not her and i thought she was sturdy enough to handle it. i thought maybe it would explain some bad behavior of mine and if not make things right, at least make them sensible. now i wait and wonder if she'll ever look at me again. some people hate secrets and you'll never understand that that until you tell them one.

i sent her an email and gave her good advice. it was thoughtful and measured and from a gentleman's perspective and in exchange she wrote me back hateful comments. and some of it in caps too with very poor grammar. i thought to forget her entirely or chalk it up to some people can't help but shoot the messenger, but instead i wrote her back a correction of her email with better insults added and without the childish caps. i thought i should block her address but instead decided i can do this ad infinitum. at least as long as she will play.

this other girl and i were talking and i told her by way of explanation about my reclusive tendencies that i am not made of water like you other people but rather am made of air. when i take a walk i come back feeling changed. or maybe it is more like exchanged: some of me given away, some of the world in its place. i read once, Deepak Chopra i think, that a person exchanges roughly 90% of his molecules with the world in any given year. one can become a brand new person every 13 1/2 months. but because i am air and not water i become a new person every time i so much as take a walk. i leave part of me behind and i don't get to choose which part, i just return different. so forgive me if some days i will not risk it and only stare out the window, or draw the curtains. we are all so unlike. how can anyone begrudge me that.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Elevator Ride Girl update:

She stood so close. That was the main problem, the one unshakable fact. All the rest of it could be argued away, like the odds on a prop bet. Improbable? Sure, but the chalk doesn't always win. But then, the one irrefutable intrusion on my little fairy tale elevator ride — she stood so fucking close. It explained everything. She stood in my physical space, which meant I also stood in her physical space. Me, a complete stranger, and frankly, typically viewed as a gruff unapproachable stranger. And me, a much older stranger. Twenty five years, at least. Yet, there we were, almost chest to chest. Almost mouth to mouth. Her, weight on her toes, pointed up. Jesus, as unlikely as it may sound, she was definitely stretching towards me. It's not made up. Her extended to her physical limit, reaching up. To an impartial observer, as if lovers.

A week later I saw her in the hallway. A daytime fire alarm was screaming in my apartment, the voice on the intercom shrill and futuristic. Please exit your apartment now! Do not, I repeat, do not use the elevators! Please, exit your apartment now. I had been napping — still recovering from the surgery — and surely looked like disheveled hell when I stepped out into the hall. Looking around for smoke, wondering if this was a fire drill or the real thing. Within seconds she was stepping out of the unit two doors down. My very pretty neighbor.

She startled seeing me. I suppose she wasn't expecting to find anyone else home this time of day. But her mind connected the dots quickly enough and she smiled. A warm smile that might have been practiced. But I'm no expert. She stepped closer even though the exit is in the other direction. To collect me, I suppose, when she touched my elbow. A gentle tug. A pull, maybe. The warmth in her fingers, the trace of palm. Her scent, when she leaned in. What do we do now?

Her story, delivered somewhat nervously, like from a liar who realizes after the words have been spoken that he didn't put much thought into the story: she had a window between classes and had stopped home for a bite of lunch, and a quick nap, time permitting. If I seem edgy, she said, it's because the fire drill ate my nap. Hmmm. That would make me edgy too, I said. I lied, but if she caught it, or cared, she didn't let on. I lied because nothing makes me edgy. I am edgy. Always edgy. More than edgy. That others can't see this amazes me. So for me, no need to lie about it. But, I allowed, maybe it's different for a girl. Such a pretty girl.

We took the stairs down and down — if she slowed her pace to accommodate my weakened one I didn't notice. And not because I didn't look. It was like we'd been taking walks for years. For fifteen levels we gabbed about this and that, mostly question and answer, introductory stuff, like that first you-come-here-often drink at the bar. Well, better than that, but there was a similar unease, a similar uncertainty, that we couldn't walk off or shrug off. Probably because of the lie, but maybe something else. When we hit garage level, 4th floor, she got off because, she said, she had a mathematics class to teach at the university, and, well, the fire alarm ate her nap. I escorted her to her car. Waved when the late model Mercedes pulled away.

A decent fellow would've let things be. Left things alone. He'd have taken the unexpected win that fell into his lap twice and called it a day. Maybe availed himself of the multiple sensuous impressions she'd imparted when he found himself in time of need. The scent of her inflating an otherwise listless hour or two. I suppose. I can't really speak to what a decent fellow would do. Whatever another fellow does, or doesn't do, might as easily be attributed to cowardice as decency. Which would make him a pussy fellow and not a decent fellow, now wouldn't it? That's been my experience anyways. Most so called decent fellows would fuck you right in the ass, given the chance to get away scotch free. Given only half a chance, a lot of them.

I added two plus two and got four. Simple enough. I found her class schedule online. Office hours. Rate a Prof scores, and comments. Facebook. Blog. Linkedin. Result: Single, 26, adjunct professor at University, PhD candidate Mathematics (topology) at (different) University. Fluffy dog named Spank that she saved from the shelter. Spurs fanatic. Family in Laredo. Father proud of his little girl's accomplishments. So she has stated. Repeatedly, across multiple platforms. Youngest sister is 14 and the only pictures show her wearing a white dress with a flower pinned into her long black hair. Thick luxuriant black hair, like her older sister. Dad is shown within arm's reach, smiling. Surely proud of his girl. Both of his girls.

There's more. Much more. I'll update again when I can.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

John Olson says

"Turning words into art is unnatural. It begins with a contrary attitude. It says, I am unhappy with the way things are and desire to make things different. Rather than represent the world, I will make something wildly and savagely new. I will defy logic. I will invest in new perceptions. I will combine and recombine and fabricate and juggle until something that I have never experienced is experienced. The process is alchemical. The process is violent. It goes to the heart of creativity. It disrupts and shatters. It is splendid with provocation. It is an aggression against banality. It is sharp and loud like a janitor scraping frost from a window. The hectic bounce of steam on a street after a truck roars by. The anarchy of waters, the comedy of the face, dangerous feelings vented from a cage of skin."

Lovely, huh?

But now I think I've been doing it all wrong.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

liking tom howard

This story

forced me to read it much faster than I am accustomed. As stubborn as I be, that's impressive. Plus, I usually don't like "this sort" of story. What is real, what's at stake? It's like playing poker for funsies. It's not fun.

Yet. I totally dig this story. You whipped my ass, Tom Howard. You da man.

p.s., I've been thinking on this story all day and have decided I hate it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

elevator ride

She was already on the elevator when I returned from grocery shopping. Early afternoon, two forty five, almost the perfect dead zone for human contact. Except for today. She had parked on four and I failed to notice her when driving past and on up to my parking spot on five. I'm sure I looked. I always look.

The doctor said no driving for six weeks, minimum. Lifting restricted to five pounds, pending further examination of the wounds. That's why I was only going to buy a few things at the grocery store. Dairy and produce, a few cuts of meat. A whole chicken, maybe. But then it got to feeling so good to be out and about. Fully ambulatory, even if restricted. Driving my car to my grocery store, shopping for what I want. Free. Free to drop whatever I wanted into the shopping cart.

When the elevator doors parted there she was. Standing just inside the door, to my left. By the control panel. I needed to pause the elevator but she was in the way. Rather than step into her space I asked would she mind holding the elevator while I went about loading my groceries stacked outside the door. One bag at a time. Reduced to using two hands to lift one goddamned bag at a time and then groaning at that. Fucking pitiful. She smiled the smile one smiles while dropping an envelope into the passed collection basket, or while dropping a dollar into the bum's tin or grimy hand. The fully gracious but detached smile. Or is it fully detached but gracious smile? Either way, it sets me off. The poor you, poor poor you, poor piteous you, smile.

"Let me help you?" No. Fuck no! Can't you see - I've got it. "Please?" Without waiting for another mumble she stepped in front of me and grabbed up the remaining four bags and set them down beside the others. Turned and faced me, square on. Smiled. Rolled up a sleeve to show me a muscle she had an hour earlier been working on at the gym. Smiled an almost laugh. Posed like a bodybuilder, while the doors closed and the bell chimed. Posed one way then another. Finished posing and stepped closer. Cut the elevator like a skilled boxer cuts the ring. Cornered me. Just like that.

Her standing close. So close. What did I notice first? That's easy - the wash of her breath across my neck. Her breathing, full, deep, came in rushes. Like a pretty dainty soundless bellow? Sure, like that. Just as sudden as that. There's no planning for this sudden taste of her. Her breath pouring across my neck. Jesus. Her breath bending me over. Pulling my face and head down, towards the source. Compelling me to lean into it. To lean into her. Drawing my face into her breath. Then she is pouring breath into my eyes and I feel I might weep. But one needs oxygen to weep and I find myself without such. My own breathing long since stopped. I picture: a bent stickman, mouth agape, a silent gasp.

I didn't weep and I didn't suffocate. I got air into me somehow without choking, while appearing, I think, somewhat normal in the process. But I knew there was nothing normal about this predicament. Me: a shell, weakened to almost death, empty, barely a cardboard box of a man and quite fully ashamed of the implications. Her: so spectacular as to defy description, intelligent exuberance pushing against her every seam, clawing and shouting, even when just breathing. It was not lost on me that we were like two opposite ends of a spectrum, two distant outliers.

Then an odd thing happened: the discomfort of this predicament, of her, pushed into me, into all of me, into even the dark places I will not visit, and pushed words right out of me. Like a plumber's snake: winding and winding and winding, no telling what it will find? Well, this snake found words. Blurted shabby words, at the first. Like how a dope gabs. The first thought into the pea brain gets spat out, lest it be forgotten. But her breathing continued, uninterrupted. As before, as encouragement, or, maybe, as salve, and then blurted shabby words eventually became banter. Words and words and more words, Jesus, like a goddamned race or something to see who could get the most words out. Some laughter and smiles and I can feel her hand on my arm. No shutting us up as the lights on the control panel next to my head blink and blink.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

another character with a life more interesting than mine own surfaces

Often I feel more geometer than writer. "Often," in this instance, means when I'm frustrated with process. With result. When I'm tired of exploring him, and instead would explore her. Or vice versa. But something prevents me. I feel a need to move along. Some instinct pushes for only length. Ignore depth. Get a snapshot of a duration. Two dimensional will do fine here. Character for illustrative purposes only. Make haste along the x-axis.

Other times I would dawdle in one spot, on one set of coordinates, indefinitely. I would latch onto this point, burrow to the very center, then expand, making the competing axes shake to accommodate this new scale of Universe. Shake it into four dimensions if need be. Five, six, seven, eight, nine, however many the stringers say there need be. I would have them all. Look! Damn it, look around. I could survive forever on what I find here. This miniature infinity.

Of course, the reader has long since yawned away. Or, at least, that is the fear.

Choosing a narrative path is pure terror. Writing this means not writing that. Or at least not writing it in that order. Not writing it then. And sometimes then is the most important thing. As the Poet has said, "But you already know this." Yes. This is no original lament.

But some days everywhere I look the world is on fire. Burning like a secret. And I so fear getting it wrong.


Friday, January 30, 2015

who the (expletive) am I kidding

A rhetorical question, I suppose. The answer is well known. I am, after all, a repeat offender. Which reminds me of a story. A story about my cousin Patsy, who was born into life on a poultry farm with four older brothers, and a stubborn as hell old man who served bacon and eggs every morning for breakfast. Patsy didn't like eggs. I don't know if she once liked, or didn't mind, eggs, and over time grew to dislike them, or, if she disliked them from jump street. But, either way, Patsy's dislike of eggs was sufficiently large to be classified as hate. And so some mornings she wouldn't eat her eggs. She'd eat the bacon and toast, drink her orange juice, and then ask to be excused. "Finish your eggs," my uncle would say. "I'm finished," Patsy would say. Then he would give her a sharp look and she would pick up her plate and take it into the kitchen, put it into the refrigerator.

Confession: I witnessed more than one of these breakfast "sessions." I too giggled with my brothers and my male cousins. I doubt that I actually thought it funny, but there was so much I didn't understand at my uncle's farm that I suppose I was relieved to find an easy enough way to fit in with the other males - just laugh at the girl along with everybody else.

At lunchtime my uncle would serve Patsy the eggs remaining from the morning. He wouldn't heat them, or doctor them in any way. The same plate would be set at her place at the table. A cruel anticipation would build amongst the rest of us - would she, or would she not, eat the eggs? Her face offered no clue - her face freely displaying the distress she felt. She looked continuously on the verge of tears. I thought: a word, a look, and she might spill.

And some times she did spill. Loud enormous fully expressed girl tears. She might also scream. Or pound a fist on the table. But never two fists. She knew to always keep a hand on the plate during the storm - a special hell to pay should the eggs hit the floor. After she'd fled the table, she'd be summoned back to retrieve the eggs and take them to the refrigerator for dinner.

Thinking about cousin Patsy recently, about her plight, it occurred to me that certain fates can not be escaped. Get born on an egg farm and you're going to eat eggs. Or maybe it's just that sometimes the cure is more destructive than the condition.

My attempts to finish John have in many ways mimicked the eating ritual of my poor cousin Patsy. I have gladly eaten the toast (with lots of jelly) and bacon. Drunk several glasses of orange juice. Cup after cup of coffee. And then pushed away from the table (desk) expecting - what?

Did Patsy ever sit down to the table expecting anything other than the uneaten eggs? Did she think they'd magically go away, replaced by her favorite sandwich meat or a lovely cobb salad? Did she really believe her father, my uncle, would ever relent from his particular form of justice?

It's much easier to ask those questions of cousin Patsy than myself. What did I expect when pushing away from John? Did I expect that I'd return to the metaphoric table to find a delicious meal consisting of everything I like and none of what I hate? None of what frightens me, intimidates me?

Aside: I recently read a thoughtful piece on Writing, the author making the argument that Writing need be Fun. I thought: if you're having Fun Writing, I'm likely not having Fun Reading. But my opinion is likely Minority. I also once told Writer Friend, as Criticism: you're just not smart enough to engage or entertain me with only your Brain - I need Heart.

(No, I'm not re-inventing myself as a Hunter S Thompson wannabe. A sudden Urge, that has mostly Passed.)

Like Jesus on the cross, taking all of our sins, Patsy's memory lives to inform me. John will ALWAYS be there. Your father is the same as my father. Long on memory. Insistent and inflexible. You need not like it, she tells me. Pain is mandatory, suffering is optional, she reminds me.

So. I can't be rid of John just yet. I have re-learned this fact. I am always pleased when I feel I've learned something important, even if it's a re-learning. Admittedly, there's some ambivalence then - shame does bleed through. But after I have dealt with the shame, the after-hue, the basking, often reveals what I call bonus truth. Bonus truth is like a silver lining, an epiphany, a realization, a blessing. Call it what you will. A little jolt of understanding. Connection with Correct?

Maybe bonus truth is like a gratuity from Above. Hey kid, good job on working through that re-re-re-realization (Fucker keeps impeccable score) and so here's a little something extra, for your trouble. Who ever turns down a gratuity?

My bonus truth: the poet Mudd was needed to introduce John. Not exactly, but in a "linking" sort of way. In a John way. And, if I've done my work properly, "in a Mudd way."

I wish I could describe the delight I experienced when the poet Mudd ambled his way into the Foreword. His bemused indifference, his famed obstinacy, his intellectual acrobatics, all combined to  offer counter-balance to an eager, mirthful, and uncertain author. Maybe the last is clue to the necessity of the poet Mudd - I never feel quite as certain as when conversing with Mudd. I am always Right, and he is always ... drinking? Maybe Fun will be found here now.

Soon enough I'll have a few words from the poet Mudd. And more on John.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

after John

There was a girl. Of course there were before girls and after girls, but mostly there was a girl and then there wasn't a girl. At least that's how I demarcate, where I draw the lines. Where I drew the lines. And when I'm weak, feeling sorry, I'll say where life drew the lines.

The girl and I spent six months intensely entwined. Then no more. Then I was packed and driving, stopping in Texas only because, Why not? Distance the only prerequisite. I'd spotted her six years before she became the girl - yes, I knew, who doesn't know - but we'd only had the one night: music and drink, moonlight and pier, a borrowed blanket; water ripples I occasionally hear. We also had an unhappy after: letters and phone calls, her on a plane. Her back on the plane, two days early. Tears. Fucking sobbing. Locked doors now where before windows.

This morning I was thinking about the girl over coffee. Over writing. She's there, often, for a bit. Then I get down to business. Some days, anyways. This morning I realized John* and I had also spent six months entwined. Every morning waking to John. Talking to John. Coffee with John at my square solid wooden desk (the same desk Alan Mudd turned into a table to stack his liquor bottles on) and then hours at the computer - where today? anywhere is good, John, anywhere - and then late morning walks and trolley rides and some days coffee at Espuma with the poet: How's John, he'd ask, the poet knowing as is John as is me.

I failed at John as I failed at the girl. It should be admitted, it is true. He remains, like her, as placeholder now. When I am desperate for a certain feeling I will break him out, like I do with the girl. I told her once, the last time I visited her, when I write of love I write of you. What I didn't tell her is that I rarely write of love. And when I do, I flail at it, fail at it. Feeling like I don't know a damn thing about it. So I write of loss, that's what I understand. Of course, that too is of her. But now it is also of John.

Now, some good news: after the girl, after the reconciliation attempts and after trying many  approximate girls, eventually, came a second girl. The second girl got me to unlock some of those doors. And now, after several John reconciliations and approximations, comes after John. It's become time to tell someone else's story. Time to entwine again. I have a shape of things and an insistence. That's about it for now. But the insistence is strong. Which is why it's insistence. And I like the shape. I know the shape. Or it knows me. For now let's call it some combination of these four words: low city high rise.

* John is reference to John Duff, a fictional character from an unfinished novel.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


His knock has alway sounded more like a scratch. And my apartment is configured such that rarely am I within earshot of the door. So I expect there have been many more times I didn't hear him at my door than I did. But this is only conjecture. He hasn't said, nor have I inquired. I think his expectation of others is such that surely he is surprised each time my door opens and I show my face behind the chain.

He doesn't talk much. I think he either doesn't like the act of speaking, of forming words. or the mental activity of gathering them. Maybe the process is too taxing to be worth the trouble. And when finally he does speak, it comes in a sort of rushed whisper. Leaving a large portion of his words lost in the space around us.

He'll come most often to borrow perishables: a couple of eggs for breakfast or afternoon baking; cream for his morning coffee, or milk for his evening tea; a stick of butter for pie or Hollandaise; a couple of mushrooms for an omelette; a missing herb or two for the bouquet garni. Now and then a staple will run out and on these occasions he'll bring his measuring cup or utensil to take exactly what he needs: 1/2 c of sugar, 2 tbsp flour, 1/4 tsp allspice, etc.. These times we don't speak at all -- a shared embarrassment. When I see him at the door with cups and spoons in hands I simply open the door and let him at the kitchen. He knows the pantry well enough. After he's left I'll find a dollar or two or a couple of quarters on the counter.  

The borrowed perishables he'll return, and with a hefty interest. Three eggs will return a dozen. Four ounces of milk yields a gallon. And the quality is always first rate. Free range and organic and local, whenever possible. Occasionally he'll add a surprise: a piece of fresh white fish, filleted and iced; a couple of center cut pork chops; half a goddamn prime rib roast. He is a generous and thoroughly particular shopper. He just hates to go out, is my theory. Hates it more than talking.

One night last week I dreamt that we were cooking together. In my kitchen, it seemed. The equipment and arrangement felt familiar enough but the lighting was too bright. Much too bright actually, like an interrogation room. He was working on the consomme, which might have been for aspic, but more than likely not. I prefer hot soup and I was in charge of the meal. He seemed fidgety, uncertain, hesitant, not unlike the stickman, but, of course, now from up close. It was getting under my skin. Then I noticed that he was sweating, heavily, but the kitchen wasn't hot. I remembered the lighting and thought, Well, maybe I've a hand in his sweating, but before I could give much thought to the lighting problem and his sweating, I could feel the perspiration from his face and scalp somehow running down my arms and onto my fingers, causing the french knife I was chopping vegetables with to slip and slice across my knuckles. The red quickly flowed, but then just as quickly coagulated, and this mass grew and grew like an inflating balloon, like a pulsing red deformity. Meanwhile he's pulling the consomme from the stove, carrying it to the sink to strain. It was obviously too soon to pull the pot. Christ almighty, the raft hadn't risen yet.

"Goddamn it, no! Put that pot back on the stove and leave it be."

He didn't say a word, or look at me. He did return the pot to the stove. I could feel the anger in me welling, at a rate, in retrospect, similar to the growth on my hand. I was inflating.

"Go set the table or something," I said, without looking up from the cutting board. A nasty kitchen insult. The sort of thing the chef only says to a cook once he's decided to sack the fool at day's end. Even then, it's considered a really mean thing to say. But it felt good to say, and immediately the wound began to dissipate. As did my anger. Although the anger was replaced by a feeling of wrong, a heavy and full wrong. The type of wrong I suppose one feels after killing someone. Unequivocal. The type of wrong that when it comes in a dream it reaches deep and shakes so much that it wakes you up. Perspiring and with heart beating rapidly. Needing air to steady. Jesus Christ, almost gasping. Feeling emotional. Feeling unsettled and exposed. Feeling vulnerable to the point of fright. To the edge of panic. Breathe breathe breathe, it was only a dream.

I have thought since waking from that dream that my neighbor won't come again. A feeling that I've cosmically driven him away. Warned him as to how toxic I'm capable of being. Shown him what a mean fucker I really am. And I wonder why I couldn't have dreamt about all of the time I've spent writing out my shopping lists, carefully listing all the foods and brands the neighbor uses, sometimes stopping at three grocery stores while out. Silly me. Of course that isn't dream material. Nor is a man sitting in a back room, sometimes reading sometimes dozing, but always these days surrounded by the cheap faint static from a baby monitor -- the thin pale breathing, this man calls it -- waiting for the device to report scratching at the front door. Praying to hear the beggar's familiar scratching.