Friday, July 19, 2019

2 Minutes. Go!

Join me on my journey; we'll be looking for misfits and scaredy-cats. Sycophants and misanthropes. I just want to hold this sad, dirty teddy bear - wrap me in morphine blankets, let me die. I smell decay and recompense. I'll shake my head until the lie makes sense. I'll grit my teeth and choke back the blue and pearl reality bumpers; we got a city full of buildings and not enough jumpers. 

Look up in the eaves where the pretty birds sing. Tell your lover that you're leaving and your taking everything. Watch the blood pool under the head of a man who didn't wear his hard hat. That's a hard lesson. Rat a tat tat.

I forgot that America was so fucked up. I forgot I was right about it. I thought I left the worst of it behind, shaking white pan-handle sand from my sneakers. Eyes closed and ears just inches from the speakers. You can feel that bass in your chest. 

I didn't know so many men were rapists and sociopaths. I guess I've been mostly lucky to meet relatively OK dudes. Maybe I'm too poor to hang out with the truly depraved. My crew was all: Yo, we got forties and zig zags, what you got? Rich dudes: let's kill this woman for fun. 

I don't know man. Let it snow, man. Let it snow. 

We've got everything so twisted up, and it's hard to see into each other's yards. Around here, it's Bay Area beautiful. We got folks of every description. We don't even describe them. You do you. But the Bay is small and the country is big. The preachers are predators and the President's a pig. There are bats in the belfry. 

They feast on blood. 

You are standing on the edge of nothing. You are complicit if you aren't seditious. The wolves have taken off their sheep hides. Double down, let your money ride. Time to see how the sheep and wolves will out the lions. We cling to noble hope that, somewhere, there is someone with the courage of our convictions. As we cower alone and outraged, culture-suiciding while the fiddlers burn the whole damn place down with riches. 

You got to decide what you want to do and do it. Stop telling people you're going to do it. Quilt, revolution, or mountain climb, talking ain't getting you nowhere. 


  1. I'm just a geezer on the street,
    could be any age.
    Ask me and I'll tell you;
    doesn't matter at this stage.

    Kid picked my pocket
    ain't no major crime.
    He took my nickels
    but I still have my dime.

    1. Simple, beautiful, and I wwannt to hear that goes with it!

  2. Wow, Dan, that is a call to revolution if ever I’ve read one. Damned honest, dark, and yet the last paragraph is an oblique reference to hope, and a reason to fight. Well done, sir.

  3. This one’s not finished... but starting is important, yes?
    My Mother, Two Men, and Every Dog I Ever Met

    There ought to be more to life than that. Than the title of this book, I mean. We talk about love, meaning, and purpose, but mostly we talk because we’re afraid we don’t have any of it. And while we’re talking, we don’t even realize what we have. Until it’s gone, I mean.

    “I love you.” Those are the first words I have a memory of hearing. I’m sure I heard millions of words before that, but those were the first where the words had meaning, where I understood that the sounds had something they stood for.

    But how did I know? Can a child have any understanding of an abstract term like love? Does the word “love” mean the same thing to a two-year-old as to a man who is sixty?

    And why do we use the same word to describe our feelings for chocolate as we use to express the emotion we feel for family and friends?

    It was my mother who said those words to me. And it was my mother to whom I said the same words back. She always told me that they were the first words I said.

    My father recalled differently. He believed that “Dada” was my first word. There, in my baby book, in his careful penmanship, it is written. It must be true. Or maybe that was the first word he heard me say.

    I don’t recall saying those three magical words to my father. Almost said them a hundred times, and as if he were reading my mind, he’d move away from me or interrupt. Maybe he knew anyway.

    There were a lot of things I never told my father. Never told him when I got kicked in the stomach at school. Never told him I was going to be valedictorian of my class. Never told him about the first time I got drunk or the first time I got high.

    Keep the peace. That’s what my mother muttered to herself under her breath whenever he’d get angry. He got angry a lot. Looking back now, I think the anger he felt had its roots in disappointment.

    He tried to teach me how to play catch with a mitt and a baseball. I was hopelessly nearsighted, which he might have dealt with, but I was clumsy besides. And I’d rather be reading a book than trying to live up to some expectation of what a twelve-year-old ought to be.

    I was confused, then alarmed, when he started alluding to how the cattle mated, how there was always a bull and a cow. “Male and female,” he said nervously but with a forced strength.

    I met these talks with how I often responded to him: with silence and a head tilt. I figured I was just living by a code he often referred to when decrying the stupidity of the average human being. “Better to remain silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

    It maddened him when I was silent. He wanted, I learned later, to get into discussions with me. To strengthen my thinking and debating skills.

    When I left for college, I kissed my mother goodbye, and shook my father’s hand.

    And I didn’t tell either one of them the first time I kissed and fell in love with a man.

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  6. Now, this is interesting, I went to high school with the fireman. We only knew each other in passing but knew of each other. Well one night while waiting on a date, I get a message and an invite for drinks. I decide that I have a couple of hours to kill so why not. We meet at a local restaurant/bar. We see many of our old high school friends from different crowds and some family. Anyway, we end up parting ways that night but continue to talk for a couple of weeks and then start sleeping together. It was all right. I did all the work. (I know what you’re thinking, “poor girl,” don’t. Remember, I like sex! Sex, just like beer, even when it’s bad, it’s still good.) So I’m slowly losing interest in the fireman. He’s nice but I need more….
    I start back on the dating site. I like a couple of people and start talking to this guy who is into S&M. I mean he had so many toys. I mean weird shit. Bars, dildos, whips and handcuffs, I couldn’t believe it. Anyway, I got adventurous so I told dispatcher we should have anal sex, he was like ok. (Of course, what guy is going to turn that down, right?) So I get down on all fours and he tells me I need to be lower. I’m like, “what the fuck do I need to do this too?” So he lubes up but he can only get the tip in which is hardly anything. It lasts about a minute and he comes then I’m like, “I gotta go.”
    I never really saw the fireman again. I had already started dating someone new. He had special talents and I became addicted but it was only to be my downfall. Here’s where it gets weird...

  7. Part 1 (Part 2 in Replies)

    When the article came across Paula’s desk, she could barely believe it. Hundreds more Mexicans had been “repatriated” last night. A knot tightened her throat. Repatriated. An insultingly benign word which meant that police had descended on a park in Los Angeles, rounded up all the people who looked Mexican, whether they had been born in the US or not, and quietly deported them to a land that many of them had never known, and where some of them didn’t speak the language. The heat of outrage flooded Paula’s face; her fist wrinkled the paper and stained it with the cadmium dust from her ever-present red pencil. She dropped the copy like it was suddenly searing hot, and rose from her desk. “I gotta…go to the john.”

    Nobody responded. The deadline for the afternoon edition was closing in. But Paula needed air. She paced the halls of the copy editing floor of the Los Angeles Times building, but that didn’t help. She needed out. What she really needed was to march over to City Hall, that shining Art Deco colossus, and demand answers. But who would listen to a cubbie editor, essentially a proofreader, who hadn’t been on the story and, until a few months ago, didn’t even live in California? Especially when it was a policy dictated from Washington. The president said that in this economic downturn, it was essential to “keep American jobs for Americans.”

    Her next thought sent her down to the great, sprawling floor where the reporters pounded their stories into life. She was met with a cacophony of typewriter keys, zinging carriages flung back to their starting lines, a cloud of stale cigarette smoke and ribbon ink and old coffee and sweat.

    She stopped in front of Dale Windham’s desk. Dale looked up from his typewriter with recognition in his tired, sagging eyes, then disdain. “What’s wrong with my story now?”

    “Everything is wrong with it. Oh. Not the writing. Or the punctuation. Dale. It’s insane, what they’re doing. Don’t you think it’s insane?”

    Dale shrugged. “They don’t pay me to have an opinion. Talk to the guys in editorial.”

    “Yes. I understand. Journalistic integrity, and all that. I wasn’t born yesterday. But human to human. This is wrong.”

    He sighed. “I know it is, honey. But if we shine a light on this, who knows? Maybe it’ll make enough noise to wake the right people up.”

    “You’re mixing your metaphors again.”

    “Stop editing me and get my story into typesetting.”


    Paula rarely sat down and read the entire Los Angeles Times from cover to cover; she’d pored over a good deal of it—at least the articles that had been assigned to her—and by the end of her workday, she’d often had enough of the day’s news.

    But that evening she parted with a nickel and took one of the papers from the newsboy on the corner. She read Dale’s article again. While the policy had originated from Hoover’s desk, implementation was up to state and local officials. When asked, the mayor had no comment. When Dale asked if he could speak with the Mexicans being rounded up for transport, he was told he could not. But they didn’t seem to mind the paper’s photographer shooting a big, lurid picture of a group of Mexican women crying as their husbands were being herded into a bus.

    She respected Dale—he’d been with the paper since she was a child—but the reporting on this article seemed lazy. She would have pressed harder to get something out of the mayor’s office. She would have demanded to talk to the Mexicans, refusing to leave without at least one quote. She would have…

  8. Part 2

    Paula barely slept that night. In the morning, she left her rooming house early, and instead of turning left at the downtown streetcar stop she turned right and stormed toward City Hall. Inside, she quickly found the mayor’s office but was stopped by his officious and slightly scary assistant.

    She flashed her Times ID badge, hoping the woman wouldn’t notice that it didn’t say “press,” and demanded to speak with the mayor.

    “Oh, ya just missed him, doll. You know our mayor. Always moving. But you’re more than welcome to wait for him.”

    Like fun, Paula thought, taking a seat. He didn’t show. She waited until it was time for her to hightail it to work.

    This business went on for the next four mornings. After they’d put the Friday afternoon edition to bed, Paula covered her typewriter, tucked her red pencils in the drawer, and booked down to the second floor, hoping Dale hadn’t already gone. He was plopping his hat on his head and gave her the stink-eye. “I’m done, honey. Unless you got something to say about my articles for the weekend edition.”

    “No, I… Dale, how did you get to be a reporter?”

    He chuckled. “Hard liquor and graft, like anyone else.” When she glared back, he said, “I’m teasing, for Pete’s sake. It’s hard work and shoe leather, mostly. What, you thinking of leaving the glamorous world of correcting commas?”

    She couldn’t think of a good way to answer.

    “Oh.” He sat on the corner of his desk. “You’re still chewing on what’s going happening with the Mexicans.”

    “Wouldn’t you be?”

    He sniffed. “I don’t know, kid. I’ve covered a lot of tragedy since I walked into this place. Riots. Lynchings. When the old building got blown up and we lost twenty of the best people I ever worked with. You gotta… I don’t know. You gotta hang on to something good, something real. I trust the world will come to its senses someday, but since that doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon, I cover my usual beat and hope copy editing doesn’t savage me too badly.” He gave her a little smile. “Now, go home. Go… I don’t know, pray or something.”

    Then he left. But Paula didn’t go home. In her gut she knew she only had one choice. She swiped a pad and pencil from Dale’s desk and set her cap for the barrio.

    1. Of course the writing is awesome, as always, and I love that YOU are shining a light on this horrific event. Using cadmium to describe the red dust was a new one for me. I always think of cadmium as the yellow pigment, but it looks like it can be red, too. Carmine might work there, too. Thanks for writing this story!

    2. Ugh! It was probably carmine. I was just reaching for a word at that point. Thanks!

  9. “Tell me about the old days, Daddy.”

    “It’s getting dark, punkin’. You should get some sleep.”

    “Awww, please?”

    “Okay, one story.”

    The little girl clapped her hands.

    “I used to work in a big building, every day from eight in the morning till five in the evening. Winter, summer, spring, fall, it didn’t matter. In the winter, it would be dark when I went in, and dark when I came out.”

    “That sounds boring.”

    The man laughs. “It probably was, but I didn’t notice it. We thought we were very important. We thought what we did shaped the world.”

    “You made the world round?” The little girl’s eyes grew big.

    “You’re a funny girl. No, I mean, we decided who got money to build houses, start businesses, that sort of thing.”

    “What’s ‘money’?”

    “We’ll save that for another night. Anyway, we all dressed alike, sat at desks that looked alike! And when the day was done, we went home to houses that looked alike. We thought we were happy.”

    “Was Mommy alive then?”

    The man brushed his daughter’s hair out of her eyes. He whispered, “She was.”

    “When did you stop making the world round?”

    “One day, it was a Friday, I left the office and got on the train...”

    “What’s a train?”

    “Something that carries a lot of people and moves very fast. The train was taking me home, to your mommy, and I looked out the window, and I saw something very bright, very near the building I worked in. It was like the sun, that bright.” He held back the sob that he felt rising from somewhere near his heart. “The train stopped. The doors wouldn’t open. Some of the other people helped me pull them open and I ran and ran down the tracks.”

    “What are tracks, Daddy?”

    “They’re sort of the road that a train travels on. Anyway, I knew you’d still be at the babysitter, so I ran there first. I was so glad to see you. I hugged you and held you and you asked if I was okay.”

    The little girl scrunched her eyes together, trying to remember.

    “I lied to you and said I was...”

    “Lying is bad.”

    “I know. And I shouldn’t have, but I didn’t want you to worry.”

    “Well, don’t do it again.”

    “Then I picked you up and carried you all the way home. And when we got there, I was sure your mommy would be so glad to see us...”

    “But she wasn’t there.”

    “No, Baby, she wasn’t. She was going to surprise me, and meet me downtown, where I worked. I’d forgotten it was our anniversary... the day we got married. I found her notes about the restaurant we were supposed to have dinner at. The same one we had our first date.”

    “What’s a date, Daddy?”

    “That’s when two people get together and talk and get to know each other.”


    “And the next day, I packed up everything I could carry, and you and I started walking here.”

    “Because it’s safe here?”

    “I hope so, honey.”

    “I wish I remembered Mommy.”

    “We’ll remember her together. She loved you very much. Now, I think you should get some sleep.”

    “Good night, Daddy. I love you.”

    “I love you, too, punkin’.”

    The man turned the kerosene lamp down, closed the door to her room, and found the instrument he used every night. A Geiger counter. The clicks were further apart that night.

    He put another log in the fireplace, and at last, he cried.

    1. "When did you stop making the world round?" Love that. I love the hope and the memories in the bleakness.


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