Thursday, March 26, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Scowl

I’ve seen the best minds of my generation flirting with rebellion to drown in stagnation, scrambling, screaming through urban nightmare flash, chasing feeling in a world of anesthetic whiteness,

who were born too young to dream, choking on the dregs of the greatest generation, boomed into solitude by nascent parents, gnashing teeth against the ideals of their fight,

who skipped through the flashing, neon-dusk, telling stories of monsters and missiles and things that pass out drunk in the night,

who were told to dream big, then sent to institutions that taught them to have reasonable, bite-sized dreams, dreams that can be discussed in an elevator ride, over drinks, in the “safe nature” of a suburban golf course in the morning through a haze of lite beer and politics,

who crashed cars and parties and crashed hardest after years of baiting Nancy Reagan, getting off the train, these street kids, hustling change to change into powders and pills and bags and sometimes rent money, pouring desperation into Daddy’s Volvo,

who slipped through grimy punk rock clubs, slumming forties in parking lots, waiting for the beer to warm in sun-drenched sand,

who went to wars that we pretended weren’t wars,

who fought soldiers we pretended were enemies,

who died for rich men who were in conflict with rich men half a world away,

who went to lie on foreign soil in the oil-black night while Presidents smiled with bone-white teeth,

who found love in forbidden rooms, where Jesus never stayed, turned into a weapon by the ideologically barren suits selected by foreign powers to weaken the power of the citizenry,

who stumbled into flashing hospitals dragging unresponsive friends with pinprick pupils and hooded sweatshirts covered in blood and beer and bravado.

I’ve watched the country of my forefathers tarred and feathered, redesigned for easy sale, slipped under rugs of scandal and intrigue, left to rot on the vine of a dwindling independence, soft and brown and hollow in the sun while the sow bugs squirm,

and I have watched in horror, mind wrapped around the fruits of deceit, our inheritance chopped up and branded while old folks go bankrupt trying to die, while poor folks tell their children lies that they hope will help them sleep, eyes shut tight against the glare of nuclear dawn.

Friday, March 20, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Sunlight

The dust motes flirt through the gaps in the curtains; the air is ripe with potential. The trout are surfacing like a promise that things will never change, even though you know they will. The fish, the sun, the smell of wildflowers on the breeze. These spring salutations are what keep us going. Be like the dust motes; they’re just dancing.

Warm on your skin, the sun is the comforting arm of a loved one. The sun is holding you up. It is revealing the whole world in golden splendor. And the sun belongs to everyone. Rich, poor, black, white, happy or sad. The sun don’t care. It’s just there.

So let’s sing a song of wonder. Point our voices toward the heavens and call the sun right down. Say, hey man, it’s cold down here. It’s lonely. We need every ally we can get. Bring on the sun.

 

Clowns

It’s time to hit the voting booth, let’s send in the clowns. They’re painted up and ready, white teeth behind fake tans and optimistic hairstyles. How many of them can you pack into this little car? How many riders can we fit on this bill? How much bullshit can I shove down the throats of the working class?

Send. In. The. Clowns.

They’re juggling half-truths and taking pie charts to the face. They’re all together and it’s one big race. There’s money to be made, motherfucker. It’s ace.

Send. In. The. Clowns.

This one’s short and this one’s fat and this one’s a woman and this one’s black.

Send. In. The. Clowns.

It’s all a ruse. It’s all a con. It’s suspension of disbelief and it’s gone all wrong, but they’re coming for you – won’t be long…

Send. In. The. Clowns.

And when it’s all said and done … when they tear the big top down … hell, you can’t complain. You bought your ticket and you got your show. We’ve got overhead. We’ve got to buy more face paint. A trillion dollars’ worth. You wouldn’t want us clowns to go away, right? That’s right.

Send. In. The. Clowns.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Tell the smallest boy to go and warn the others; set up a perimeter and stay focused. Don’t let doubt run you out. Don’t let anger warp your vision. You want your eyes clear so you can see the SIGNS. Hear the whistles. Please don’t throw me into all that thistle…

When the white man barks, you throw him what he wants – don’t matter if you agree with it, you got your pick of octogenarians. Sure, if they were animals we would have shot ‘em by now, but they’re propped up with money, lies, and backroom bargains. Shit just bounces off their Teflon teeth. What, you think you got what it takes? Try it. An old man with marble teeth will stick his finger in your chest because it’s been too long since he got his ass handed to him.

Gather all the lies about you; never let the people doubt you. You are bulletproof as long as you keep on smiling, keep hedging, and keep using thirty words when you should use three. Go ahead and switch your style as you move about the country. Chameleons are hard to pin down.

Talk about how you respect women and they’ll never suspect. Talk about how you grew up learning hard lessons. Even if you didn’t. The people who actually learned hard lessons will be too tired to call you out. Make up a patriotic reason your kid died. Funnel money to the daughter you want to fuck.

What if they take their faces off?  Scalpel around the edges and the orange hair goes above the aviators and Clorox smile. The bodies are swapped and no one knows who to vote for. How much you want to bet it wouldn’t make a goddamn difference? They’ll never swap out the folks behind the curtain.

So, go ahead and get outraged. Get passionate. Get loopy. Be irrational. Vote! Pretend like you’ve got this shit on lock cause, son, the reality ain’t gonna sit so well. 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Ready. Set. Go.

Open up the shit tap. Let. It. Flow. You might just want company, but I. Can't. Go. I've been reaping mad rewards that I. Ain't. Sow.

What's it got me? Spry dichotomies. You can step to us, but accept that there's a lot of me's.

I just saw a blackbird, bitch was crazy loud. I've got lots of friends to call, but I'm. Too. Proud. I'll sidle up beside you, but no touching allowed. By the time you get to Memphis, I'll be lost in the crowd.

And call me when you're crying, when you're dying, lying low. Curse me when you wake up and ain't got no place to go. Tell my story when I'm gone, the folks have a right to know. I'll be floating like a spider silk when the cold wind blows.

Don't you lose no sleep about it; I'll be good and gone. I'll be sitting on the devil's shoulder, singing him a song. And you won't shed a tear for me, no, you'll be strong. The days are sad and lonesome when the nights are long.

Burn a candle by the window, girl, and smile when you sing. Open up the shutters to the wonders that they bring. Tie yourself in circles like a silly, drunken string. You've made it through the winter, and it's almost time for Spring.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Fear

They’re never going to hear you. They want you to shout so they can single you out. Best bet is to keep your head down, pretend you just can’t hear the sounds. The tallest blade of grass gets whacked by the mower blade. Ask Martin Luther King, Jr. Ask Kennedy. Ask Malcom X. Ask Lincoln.

Naw, they don’t want to hear you. They want to solicit opinions so they can weed out the dissenters. Here, take this census... Do you own property? No, a renter? Fill out this form. Do it properly. We’ve adjusted it so you don’t have to fit into as many boxes. Then, we’ll take y’all out like a million small poxes.

Stand on this soapbox, but, boy, don’t slip. You’ll hit so hard, you’ll never recover from it. You’ll suffocate under the happy notions and rallying songs. No one said anyone was doing anything wrong. We’ve all got different opinions, carefully carried by our minions.

Vote if you want to. It will make you feel good. But it might not effect the changes it should. Not happy? Stand up. Be counted. All this turmoil can be surmounted. You just got to stand inside this box real quick…trust me, it’ll be a gas.

 

Car

Yours isn’t nice enough; you must be poor. Yours burns gas; you must hate the environment. Yours is so clean; you must have your shit together. Old fries on the floorboards? You pathetic piece of garbage trash. Why you need a sports car? Compensating? Why do you drive that old piece of shit; ain’t you got no ambition?

You put stickers on your bumper, and I hate you for it. You have no brand loyalty, so that makes you a car whore. Why do you hate technology, mine has a built in laptop. Stick shift? Luddite. Automatic? Soulless heathen; do you even drive, bra?

Nobody could love somebody drives an old hoopty like that. No girls are gonna ride in your Mustang. No real man would drive a Mini Cooper. What kind of crazy lesbian drives a truck? Aren’t you supposed to have a Subaru Outback?

You ride a motorcycle, you selfish, stupid dirtbag? You ride a bike, you hippie piece of liberal garbage? You take public transportation because it makes buying heroin easier, huh? You don’t have a car?

Go back to Russia, Commie.

 

Redemption

I’m gonna show everybody. I’m down so low, I got nowhere to go but up. Or sideways, but I ain’t going sideways; I’m chasing salvation. I’m fixing to blast the stain right off me. I’ll buff that shit out and make it shine; no one’s got a long enough attention span to press rewind.

Haven’t you been listening the preacher? It don’t matter what you do – you just got to own it, ask forgiveness. What you want to do is rack those sins up early, so you can atone in plenty of time. You want to make them sign that non-disclosure agreement. You got to get ahead of that bad press coverage.

Yeah, you’re a dick to your kids, but you’ll be a great Grandpa. I know, I know, you’ll quit drinking tomorrow. Look. This is America. It doesn’t matter how you run the race. It don’t even matter if you cheat. What matters is how you look on the platform. Shiny? People like shiny.

The afterlife will sort things out. Figure out who gets saved and who gets tortured. Let go and let God, son. Redemption is for sale everywhere; you just got to know where to look. I’m waiting on the Rapture. I read about it in this big, black book.

Reparations are overdue. We’ve annexed the country for the chosen few. Yeah, second chances sound real nice, but what the hell are you gonna do?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Pie

The sun filters through the lace curtains, lands on the doily no one is allowed to touch. The light bounces off the old, scrubbed mixing bowls. The light twists the sounds of the morning: chickens, grumbles, early morning throat clears and tired farts. The sounds of the world waking up.

On the table, beneath a layer of steam, there are wonders. There are biscuits, freshly made and topped with sausage grave and sunnyside eggs. There is bacon. There is a pan of crisped up potato, and there is a jug of orange juice next to the coffee. The orange juice is from concentrate. Everything else is fresh. 

There is a peach pie. This is the crowning glory. There it is, fresh and made from scratch. Around it, there are strips of leftover pie crust covered with sugar and cinnamon. Grandma called these pieces “Indian Strips” and when you’re young, you don’t think about what that means; where that name came from. You just eat until you’re too full to eat anymore. And then you go fishing.

 

Sleeping

You close your eyes and reality shifts. You are lost between two worlds, each viable, each filled with happiness, confusion, betrayal and regret.

You swim through the images in your mind, gasping. If you open your eyes, you will be forever lost, forever wandering, forever chasing what you think of as sleeping. You have convinced yourself of the veracity of dreams.

You are living multiple lies, and several trips back to the well can’t solve that. Returning to the source ain’t gonna work for you. You need to find your own idols to destroy, boy. This ain’t the scouts.

You try to tell the world your story, but the world. Don’t. Care. You try to find your old t-ball coach, but he’s. Not. There. You are corrupted, your files are compromised. You have stretched yourself between two worlds because you could not choose, and, in not choosing, you made the biggest mistake of all.

To sleep. Perchance to never wake again.

 

Sadness

There are broken songs in the corners of the room, shards of rhyme and meter. You cast them away from you, but you only change their form. They will live in snippets that get locked into you; they will end up in the legs of your old trousers; whole choruses will hide under piles of dirty laundry.

There is heartbreak oozing from the pages that fill up your bookcase. Your computer is shouting at you. You are lost in a maze of self-doubt and haunting melody. You are facing a barren wasteland.

Outside, there is sun and hope. Inside, there are old food dishes and movie snippets. They dance around the middle school memories that stalk you in your sleep. You can learn so much about yourself from the traumas that you keep.

The TV wants you to know that you are alone. The New Yorker gives you more than you could ever need to read. The food you eat will keep you from dying. What more could you ask for?

Joy?

Thursday, February 13, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

It was 1998. 99% sure. That was a qualitative time. I am done with numbers.

I was in London, because my folks lived there, but it was coming up on New Years. I had amused myself whilst in London by strolling up the street to the pub, drinking whiskey, and then going to home to eat a sandwich and pass out. It was grand times.

The first time I went into that pub, I walked up and ordered a bourbon and the barkeep (pubkeep?) got all stoked and said, "Alright! Cowboy!" Then, he did that every time I walked in. Sometimes, I just wanted a pint. But I felt obligated. We had this thing. It was cultural coercion. It was damn near subversion. He was teaching the yank a lesson, and the lesson was: drink son. You're not in Kansas anymore. Or whatever.

A few days after Christmas I hear that an acquaintance of mine is going to be in London, playing a gig. Only met the guy once and it was a wine-drunk, hash-tossed hippie jam; I didn't remember him that well, but I knew we were on the same wavelength and that we would have a ball in London. I went back to the pub, then to Newcastles in my Mum's kitchen. Ad infinitum.

This dude whose name I can't remember (I might not have known it at the time!) comes over to my parents' house. I hated coffee due to many, many hours as the neighborhood yuppie crank dealer. Many stories in there, FYI. Anyway, no one hated kids enough to invent energy drinks then, so I made a pot of tea with like thirty tea bags and added milk and sugar and we got twisted. And we hit the streets.

And every. Single. Goddamn Bar. Was reserved seating only. Everywhere.

Now, knowing me at 19, we didn't leave the house until we were both a little drunk, and I think I'd purchased some good hash on the streets of Merry Ol' as was my wont. Usually from a hooker. Preferably a transsexual hooker. Always figured they were a little more honest.

Now, the streets of London on New Years Eve was the biggest drunken debauchery I had ever seen or been a part of. It was fantastic. Within minutes, we'd been passed bottles of champagne, scotch, gin, beer. It smelled like a reggae festival. Good vibes and all. There was one Indian man who asked me if I wanted to buy a woman. I thought he was joking. He looked real serious and intense about it, though. But we said thanks anyway, and rolled on.

So, we're bouncing drunkenly through the firecrackers and hooligan shouts. I'm hoping it stays positive and no one starts brawling or raping or colonizing or any of the other shit you can expect across the pond. We stop at every club, pub, and restaurant and I do my cute southern boy routine and they do NOT give a fuck. They laugh. All the fancy people in all the fancy clubs and pubs and bars? They're just laughing. But we don't even care; we're just laughing, too, having a ball.

Midnight comes and goes. We're stumbling, when we sea a goddamn oasis in the cold, drizzly night. There is a canopy entrance with a bouncer, yellow light and warmth spilling out of the doorway. Gotta figure that's a hallucination, but there it is. Neither of us know where we are. Not at all. England. Safe to say we're still in England. There is nothing else on this soaking, deserted street except this fucking magical oasis. You do what you do.

We step into this place and there is a full wooden bar along the back wall. The side wall on the right has a full cheese and crackers and probably mutilated goose parts spread. Grapes. That kind of scene. And. And fucking AND. EVERYONE in the place is either a big dude in a fancy suit, or a gorgeous twenty three year old eastern European beauty in a slinky dress. Not bad. I swing up to the bar and order two bloody Mary's and it's like thirty pounds, which breaks me, but I hadn't spent any money yet, so rock on. I bring the drinks back and we're sipping, smoking, watching the barlights and bottles do that blinky dance they do when the liquor finally catches up with the smoke.

My friend, whose name I don't remember, but whom I have fond memories of... He starts to walk toward the food. IMMEDIATELY, a big dude gets between him and the food and says, "This is not for you!" Fair. We reconvene, and I start looking past the blinky lights. Homie is swaying a little. I am starting to think we came into the wrong place. Or the right place? We came into a place, no doubt. And it was time to leave. They are definitely starting to stare at us. All of them. Especially the women. The women are fucking pissed.

I want to leave, and homie agrees. He just has to hit the bathroom. So, he goes to the bathroom and it's just me and the remnants of my shitty drink. And a million eyes, half of which I want to have sex with, but none of whom I trust. I light a cigarette because Jesus, you need to light a cigarette. I would have turned into a cigarette if I could have. And my boy is lagging. I'm smoking and the bar is staring daggers and I'm done, so I turn to follow my buddy into the bathroom. I push the door, and there's resistance. Shoulder in, I can see that the two sinks are filled with vomit. Nice. I shove the door all the way open and the floor is COVERED in blood. Thick; like half an inch thick and making small waves from where the door opened. And there's my buddy, whose name I can't remember, standing in the middle of the bathroom, white as a ghost and frozen.

I'm pretty slow on the uptake, but I took this in real fast. I grabbed the homie and pushed him in front of me through the door. The men were congregating, but not fast enough that I couldn't football by them, using my boy as a battering ram. Into the street, where it's run, fucking run. And we have that burned into us, there's no need for conscious thought any more. Just fucking run, man.

I have no idea when we parted ways that night, and I never talked to the homie again, but I swear to fucking Christ he was alive and well when I left him.

And he still owes me a drink.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Pencil

Scratch the paper, leaving darkness. Carve your ideas and images out from the white expanse before you. Don’t like it? Scribble it out, tear it up, snap the pencil. You hold in your hand a tool … you can use it to create truth or fiction, burn it, stab it into a yielding neck. No one cares, man. You think you’re digging yourself out, but you’re just going deeper.

Smudge the edges; the world is too clear already. It’s making me anxious. Fay was right about those straight lines, got Charlie all messed up. Don’t get me started on Algernon.

Stick a stub in your pocket. Give it away. Hell, pencils are cheap. And they can excavate revolution. Pick it up, and don’t put it down until you have created something. Until you have carved meaning from the darkness, perverting purpose. Your truth. That’s all we want. That’s all I ask for.

 

Rapunzel

Girl, I’m standing at the bottom of this tower for a minute now … what you gonna do? Don’t act like you ain’t up there. I know you’re locked in. Me? I’m just a nice guy looking to do a nice thing. Go ahead and throw that hair down; let me come up.

Rapunzel? I know you’re up there. Ain’t no place I got to be. Although I am getting hungry.

Yo! It’s getting cold out here. I’m ready to help you, dig? All you gotta do is throw those golden tresses over the wall, and I’ll scramble right up. Hey! I’m talking to you.

Alright, you know what? Forget it. I’m just here trying to rescue you. That’s fine. You stay in that tower. I never wanted to see your straggly hair anyway. I never wanted to rescue you. I got places to be. There are plenty of women want me to climb their hair up to a tower.

Bitch. 

 

Teddy Bear

The car is moving, desert rushing by, when the boy realizes that Apple Bear is gone. The realization is like a kick to the chest. Frantic scrabbling of fingers ensues. Heartrate escalates. The interior of the van is becoming smaller, warmer. It feels like being at high elevation. It is hard to breathe. The boy tugs on his mother’s sleeve. She will help him.

She looks, but cannot find the bear. The last time they saw it was at the last rest stop. That was hours ago. That was maybe in another state. That’s gonna be a tough sell for a Dad that wants to make time. Let me think about it. Let me ask.

No. Just no. We’re not turning around, and I don’t want to talk about it. This is your fault. Your bear. You should have been taking care of him. Stop crying. It won’t matter. In a few days you’ll be at your new house. Your new school. You won’t even remember that damn bear.

Or, you’ll be writing about him when you’re 42.

 

Fear

The night is long, and there are so many things to think about. You better think about all of them. You better not forget one. You better not waste too much time thinking about the things you’re supposed to be thinking about or you’ll never get to sleep. You better not worry about not sleeping; it’ll only stress you out. Be logical. Think about the things you need to think about in the right order, but not too little or too much. Don’t overthink it. Just think about it the right amount. Don’t think about the things that are distracting you from the things you’re supposed to be thinking about. Don’t give them your time. Allot your thoughts rationally or you’ll never fucking sleep. I TOLD YOU NOT TO WORRY ABOUT THAT! Great, now you’re agitated and you’ve opened the worry floodgates. Are you ever worried about the right things? The things you worry about are so small and inconsequential. Shouldn’t you be worried about your wife? Your kids? OH MY GOD, WHAT IF SOMETHING WERE TO HAPPEN TO THEM AND YOU WERE LAYING HERE WORRYING ABOUT WHETHER YOU’D REMEMBER TO GRADE PAPERS AND GET A SMOG CHECK! No way you’re sleeping now. You’re going to be tired tomorrow; you never teach well when you’re tired. Maybe you’ll get fired? Then, how will you pay rent? Oh shit, what if you forgot to send the rent check last month? Landlady would have called, right? Well, good job, champ! Now, you’re inventing worry. You better not worry about inventing worry, or you’ll never get to sleep...

Thursday, January 30, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

Josh, Kale and I had been tripping for roughly two months straight. Acid, for the most part. It was cheap and it was everywhere. Hell, we could get it for free without much effort. And I was determined to figure it out. Which is a fools errand, but I hadn't realized that yet. So, we were coming down, and it was past three in the morning and our lower backs were throbbing. No benzos, no painkillers, no muscle relaxants. It was a very shady scene for three skinny, tweaked out motherfuckers with nothing but cigarettes to rely on. We needed weed. 

San Diego is not San Francisco. It's not that straightforward, getting weed in downtown San Diego in the middle of the night. But we were game. Game as in desperate and chemically insane. 

We drove until we saw a likely dude on a likely corner. He was in his late twenties, black, with dreadlocks. And he knew exactly what we were looking for. Said he could get it and to meet him back in ten minutes. So, we circled the  block, smoking cigs, waiting for the weed fairy to reappear. But he didn't. And then, as we were about to give up, we see a dude. Different dude. This guy is also black, but dirtier and sketchier looking. But we were tripping. What are you gonna do. And I'm focused on race mainly because this is the most epic example of White Privilege I have ever experienced. 

So, we roll up and I ask dude if he is with other dude and he says: "Yeah, man. Yeah. I got what you need." So. Josh parks with the motor running. Kale and I get out to talk to the dude. He nods toward some bushes and we make our way over there. My spidey senses are going fucking crazy, and I can tell Kale doesn't like this either. Then, the dude reaches into his underwear and pulls out a bag of dirty crack rocks. 

"Nah, man. We're looking for some bud. Not crack."

Dude slaps a rock into Kale's hand before we can think of a way out. 

"Hey, man. We're cool. We were talking to another dude, and..."

And then. And fucking then...

The whole fucking silent, blackened San Diego evening turns red and blue. Like a goddamn movie. It's like the lights are inside my skull. And then the cop yells over the speaker:

"FREEZE CRACKHEADS!"

Now, this next part makes me seem hella shady, but let me tell you the rules. The rules are when you're buying illegal drugs at three in the morning from a stranger on a corner, it's every fucking man for himself. So, I turn and the cop walks toward me. Crack dealer bails. I point in the direction of the fleeing man and say, "I think that dude threw something over there." And then we are in the car. I'm telling Josh to fucking drive, just fucking drive, and we're pulling away; I can't believe we're not getting arrested. Both cops went after the dude. The black dude. Cue White Privilege. 

So, we're driving and we're tripping hard again. We're laughing that desperate, relieved laughter of the damned when Kale says, "I still have the crack rock."

Now, there were many options at this point. We'd just stolen crack from a crackhead in front of two cops. We did not have any downers or weed, and we DESPERATELY needed sleep. I hadn't had real sleep in weeks. So, we did what you do. We went to park. We put cigarette ash in a metal bowl and broke the rock up on top. And we smoked it. And I have never felt worse as a human being. They say crack feels like pure power. This was not my experience. I spent the next two hours trying to convince my friends to let me kill myself. And we never did get weed. Probably dropped more acid. I can't remember. 

I don't know if the dude went to jail, but it wouldn't surprise me.