I tiptoed past the kitchen to my room unnoticed, sat down at my computer, carved up my cake and paused while my plastic fork was halfway to my mouth. Is not something set to interrupt me now? No earthquake, lonely roommate, technical glitch, girl I’ve ceased laying looking for a talk, friend in need demanding one – just one – nightcap, nothing? I’m free? The night sky sent dead silence through my window and aside from my confusion at the ease I was granted, I was free to give my best towards the liberation of Gary and at allowing the fork passage in:
My wallet tried to find a fatter suitor three times these past two weeks. The third time it even tried giving itself back to the designer who created it which I consider tantamount to suicide; anything to get away from me. I’ve been emaciating it and I don’t feel bad. As the autumn leaves inside it browned to heavy copper seeds in my pocket not only did they matter more (to matter is to have more matter?) but they also had a louder more pertinent voice chiming away with every step I searched. Castanettes. Yeah and so on the third escape attempt I even got laid in the process by the wallet’s said designer which could swell itself into a grand metaphor if you stopped for a second to let if form! Listen, can you hear it? Ah, celestial! Oh and when I say “process” I mean an evening that pales in comparison to either one of our standard evenings. Our typical nights defy type. We offer them up to ourselves. No one ever needs to hear about them but us. As they roll with a complete irreverence to sequitors they would read poorly anyhow. The slightly sub par ones though, those are the ones we can document, embellish or disembellish to call, and offer up for the rest of the planet. I think this is your way out, man. Set up a routine.
Turn your computer on first thing in the morning.
Go get your coffee.
Make sure Eva is still sleeping and just jot it down. If your mind is on her at all your thoughts will be dishonest and abbreviated.
Don’t worry about making it pretty either. Have faith that it already is and just let it come.
Mine would go like this:
I got laid last night and this is how it happened.
So Tracy Kuscher made a wallet for me five years ago out of green leather. I had a slight problem with supporting something made of cow hide, but it was fly enough to make me think greater more ethical things would come in the future if I supported her now so I did, or such was what I made myself believe. The bigger dilemma was that I couldn’t fuck her then because she was sober and eighteen and though I was a decade older than her my conscience was still going through puberty and it didn’t sit right. I hadn’t rid myself of patrimony yet, which is pathetic because she was and is everything I’ve ever wanted in a woman. She’s got those pale blue eyes I only associate with junkies and Sephardim. With the Sephardim I see a millennium of corneas bleached by sea salt, the sea fleeing Jews. I imagine them facing the saline spray of yet another sea head on thinking through every bleaching, “Dead Sea. Dead Sea. Dead Sea.” Eyes that pale make it seem like their focus is fixed on Zion and nothing else. So if a night ends with my brown and red pubic hairs poking them on top of all that imagine my triumph! They were also our city’s first Jews, kicked out of the Caribbean in 1653, so laying one is like paying homage to our ancient city. Sheareth hereth Israel!
I fall for the Sephardim all the time but I’ve learned my lesson with junkies by now, or at least it will always only be a lesson partially learned. The truth is, more often than not some sort of intelligence leads the junkie on their wayward way. I wanna see a study on the IQ’s of junkies. It’ll never be done because the results could scare us, but I bet the average IQ of a junkie would prove higher than that of the vox populi. I mean the average IQ amongst the autistic is higher than the rest of us and they share the same sort of vacant stare as the junkie. Both are either not with us or see beyond us or both so it’s possible to fall for a junkie’s pale blue eyes when you think that they’ve lost their pigmentation only because the life force within was intelligent enough to already make half the leap to the life force without. They’re conduits. Before the lesions they can also be beautiful. And all along, while they avoid eye contact, they can be smart and the fool spends the rest of the night chasing after the missing center of the eye.
So my sister’s become a Swedish citizen. Good for her. Wise to get away from me and our city. She fell in love with a Swedish boy, packed her bags, and built a whole new world for herself overseas. Once when I was off to visit her and play some shows in Scandinavia I flew Icelandic Air which offered a special Take a Break deal if you stopped in Iceland for a night or two to spend some bucks. I was in a rush so I only spent one night. It was snowing so hard the furthest I made it on my evening in Reykjavík was from a stool at the hotel bar to the bay windows to double check that I really was witnessing snow blow horizontally and back to the stool at the hotel bar where I fell in love with my final junkie.
It began when she bent over to pick up a rack of glasses. From far away she could see me gracing her grace with a glance. Up close though, I would later find out, she second guessed my mere existence.
“Are you hungry?”
“Yes, but I don’t imagine there’s anything for a vegetarian to eat up here in the land of nothing that grows.”
Exhausted by the weight of the back story I pause to polish off the rest of my treat and call upon Court Street once again to produce something to drag me away. C’mon Jen! Lay your Irish prudence aside and relax. Just relax. Come to my window, you must have tracked me down by now, come to my window and relax…
“You Americans always think you’re a step ahead,” as she pointed to a salad entrée on the menu entitled “A Flawed Theory on Flaws.”
“What, you think you’re part of some progressive culture that’s moving away from meat? Progressive people don’t eat meat, not entire cultures, Yank. What? Ben Franklin, Thoreau, and Emerson weren’t eating meat back in your country eons ago. People listened to them in every way except when pertaining to diet. You guys went on to supply the whole fucking planet with beef! What, in the height of booming Twentieth Century America neither Edison, Henry Ford, nor Einstein were eating meat. Schweitzer wasn’t eating meat. I’ve done my research. The Beatles, Dylan, and Russell Simmons weren’t eating meat. They managed to sway the world in every way except in getting them off the meat. Fucking Darwin didn’t even eat meat and now carnivores across the globe invoke ‘the food chain’ and ‘evolution’ as their carte blanche to eat whatever the hell they want. Don’t come to my country with your gringo insecurities posing as progress, sweetheart. You’re facing a history of Lao Tzu’s, Buddha’s, Gandhi’s, Van Gogh’s, Isaac Newton’s, Da Vinci’s, Tolstoy’s, Rousseau’s…Plutarch’s…”
“Alright! Alright! Jesus, you misread my tone –“
“—whose lack of meat eating within carnivorous societies had zero impact on the diet at large.”
“You missed it. You missed me. You are missing me. Nothing said across the wood of the bar should be treated like it was actually heard. This is a spot to exercise words, not bind ourselves to them. C’mon –“
“Oh, I was just trying to be your crass gringa bartender, Yank. I thought pistol packin’ beeches are what you Americans are used to.”
“Well then so I haven’t ruined everything just yet?”
“I don’t get it. I don’t get you Americans. I don’t know what you want, what you’re getting at. That’s why I’ve called this dish the ‘Flawed Theory on Flaws.’ I invented it and I know my invention is flawed but I’m not exactly sure why yet. I arranged it to follow alongside the eating pattern of my favorite flawed vegetarian, Pythagoras of Samos. That guy was a virtual raw foodie! The Pythagoreans didn’t even eat beans or anything that resembled body parts. They didn’t eat walnuts because they thought they looked like brains.”
“What if I love walnuts?”
“Me too, don’t worry I put walnuts and kidney beans in the flawed salad. I put in anything that resembles body parts. I like thinking this way. I put in almonds and olives because they look like eyes, cauliflower because it looks like alveoli, white asparagus because it looks like our appendages, spaghetti squash because it looks like our intestines, Anjou pear because it looks like our ass as connected to our body not hanging out on its own like a peach, hearts of palm because they look like our bones, I dress it with an avocado, lemon, macadamia oil sauce because it looks like our lymph and a goji, acai, cherry coulis because it looks like our blood. You can set it on a bed of lettuce if you need some hair, but I prefer to use lettuce as a garnish only since hair is simply for vanity anyhow.”
“Well he would have hated it wouldn’t he?”
“Ah ha! So you’re the girl in the playground who pushed Pythagoras down because you really had a crush!”
“Yes, yes! But we only do that to make you boys stronger! Just because he was a genius doesn’t mean he saw all things clearly. I needed to bloody his knees with the playground concrete so he can feel what he knows. Fucking Jesus went and got himself killed and started thinking he was god and shit. These smarties don’t have all the answers. To believe that the genius’s got it all figured out is to believe that the idiot has nothing to offer and if that were so why would I be here wasting me time with you right now and not stacking glasses?”
“Be careful, you might just get yourself fucked with talk like that, little girl.”
Gary! This is when she turned away. There’s something about the genius and the junkie that avoids sex! What do they see that we can’t? Are they on to something or is their neglect thereof their flaw? Jesus, anyhow I should have known then that this was not going to lead to where I hoped it would.
“Don’t turn away, I’m with you. Look, if Pythagoras was tapped into the formulas within and without the body parts may have felt binding to him, restrictive. They may have kept him here preventing him from getting loose to see the everywhere. I don’t know, look I don’t know, but listen I’m not unwith you.”
She went back to her menial labors, taking martini glasses out of the dish washing racks and stacking them in the overhead shelves this time.
“Hey, aside from liking to order your ‘Flawed Theory on Flaws’ salad and ordering a glass of local wine –“
“We don’t grow wine up here in Iceland.”
“Well that…well can I get a glass of any Old World wine while I’m here.”
“Old World? This isn’t the Old World. You’re in between worlds.”
“Don’t get me started on equating geography with history and your Pythagorean theories lady or else you really might find yourself laid.”
“Stop talking like that! Ahh! Stop talking like that! It’s rude!”
And she whipped around to stack some coffee saucers as loudly as she could.
“Don’t talk to me like that,” she was back up and close, “I like you” she pinched my cheek, “don’t make me stop liking you. Don’t –“and she put her head down for a moment of repose before getting back to stacking the glasses which required less orchestrated frenzy than the saucers.
This was when I took that walk I was talking about before to really make sure I was in fact witnessing this snow fall horizontally.
“Does the snow ever land? I mean I know it must land because I took a cab here over snow covered roads, but how, when does it land?”
The junkie holds no responsibility to respond to what you throw out. This should have been my second tip off that she wasn’t with us after the pale blue eyes.
“We are both worlds…which means we simply are the world.”
“All this just because of where Iceland is situated?
No extrapolation, nothing further. Fortunately I didn’t need anything further because I knew where she was coming from anyhow, I knew it sat between tectonic plates, but it would have been polite and more fluid as things should be. So I continued for her:
“I suppose the northern American states are the right lung.”
“And The United Kingdom is the left.
“Because Nova Scotia mirrors Scotland, New England mirrors England, New Jersey mirrors Jersey, Wales and Long Island are the bottom brace ribs, Ireland having no mirror on my side of the Atlantic is the heart positioned slightly to the left. Iceland and Greenland, you’re arguing, comprise the head at the top of the ocean. As the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body and the right side the left, Greenland is icier than Iceland which is greener than Greenland which is why you got so angry at my ignorance before when I suggested that nothing grows up here. You were treating my comment in relation to Greenland, not in relation to the whole.
“So when do you get off?”
“Oh, lovely! It would be so nice to plop ourselves down in one of those couches or run around the back rooms of the hotel with my stupid cowboy – come closer –“ in a whisper with her arms linked around my neck – this is not as warm as I may be making it sound. The closer she pulled me in the more apparent her distance became, “have you ever done cocaine off a brick of snow?”
“I’m not going outside!”
“I’ll go get some snow and we’ll do it in the kitchen together. But if I go get it you have to wave to me from the window. I’m getting off soon. This is gonna be great.”
I guess soon meant right then or whenever she wanted because she immediately started bundling up and in a few seconds I could only see those pale blue eyes I couldn’t ever really see, everything else was wrapped under thermal protection. She ran out, I ran to the window, she waved up at me through the storm, she looked cute alive from the distance, and she was back inside unbundled with a brick of snow in seconds. The more clothes she undraped the less she revealed and by the time she was down to her work outfit again she was gone. This is my problem with strip clubs: it disappears when it’s in plain sight.
“Ah, c’mon,” she grabbed my hand and led me out of the soft sepia fireside lighting of the lounge around the corner of the bar and into the neon lit kitchen where not a soul inhabited which meant I wasn’t getting my salad tonight. Shop was closed. While she packed the snow into a brick on the marble expediting table and handed me the rock to break up with the blunt side of a clever I figured I’d continue:
“So, why does your Atlantic man planet end with the lungs? You know the land body keeps going after that…as does the body body?”
“Hey, do you have any American money? I’ve always wanted to do this with dollars. Got a Benjamin?”
“Well hey, nobody actually calls them Benjamins and no I don’t have one. I’ve got a twenty though.”
“Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!”
Two can play at this game so as she rolled it up I asked her about Georgia and Spain.
“You know Georgia sits right where our stomach is and Spain is at the liver. So couldn’t you also argue then that Georgia juts out into the Atlantic Ocean because of all the fried chitlin fatty crap the Southerners deposit in their guts and Spain being at the siphoned edge of the Mediterranean functions as a filter not unlike the liver?”
“Yup,” she handed me the bill to do my line after she had already done her first and never looked up from the brick except to tilt her head back making sure it all got in.
“But I like to think of Spain in a different metaphor that begins in Italy,” she takes the bill back from me to go for another line off the snow.
“O.K. right, so we agree things look like they’re supposed to. Therefore we shouldn’t be surprised that all the best shoes in the world come from Italy because it is one fine looking boot, but what’s at the bottom of the boot?” She handed me back the bill, but I declined a second line.
“Trust me, I’m fine. You’re fine too.”
“No you must. Neither one of us is fine.”
“You better watch out, too much of that stuff and the Fear sets in. It takes a turn on the dark corner and you’ll be left with all the clarity you never wanted to see except the fear that this stuff can also just kill you today as in right now, makes your heart stop.”
“I’m not done, nor are you.”
“I’m telling you I’m fine. I think a peaty single malt would compliment my line better than a second line would.”
She ran back to the bar, poured me a Laphroaig neat to which she added a bit of the cocained ice and said, “The bar is closed. If you want this you need to do another line.
Well I wanted it.
“Good boy,” and she went in for another too, ”now this thing at the end of the boot we call Sicily, let’s pretend the boot is kicking it which it is. I mean think about it, it’s poised in motion to kick it which is what it’s done. Sicily’s been kicked over and over again by every regime throughout history. Now follow the direction of which it’s kicked. Next up is Sardinia where the language slurs to an Italo-Frank and then Corsica where it’s nearly a completely slurred French language with only hints of Italian left. Have you ever been socked in the jaw? You’d be slurring too. No word ending vowels for you! So imagine each one as a Sicily as it travels on its kicked path. Like the piece of mud it is it loses mass and firmness of diction, the letters get jumbled up, like it’s truly getting knocked about with every ricochet. C’mon, follow me. From the force of Calabria’s toe it loses a bit of mass becoming Sardinia and then a bit more as it becomes Corsica.”
“Tell me about Corsica.”
I had just caught my first hunch of what was making her eyes so pale so I threw that out and there is one great thing about most junkies; whereas on one hand she’s rejecting my refusals to more coke up my nose, on the other she will not pull me in to do smack with her unless I pass every encoded diction of despair.
“After Corsica which began as Sicily bounces off of Marseille –“
“Tell me about Marseille.”
“No, I told you. After it bounces off of Marseille it shatters into the Balearics and by this point the language has been jolted into the Franco-Spanish creole Catalan after which it hits Gibraltar and the many quick ricochets against each continent it endures scrapes it through now smashed into a billion little pieces and it falls down Africa catching the hook of Capo St. Vincent and bruises further into a Portuguese tongue and calls itself the Madeira’s before bouncing off the foot of Morocco beginning its journey of a reverse bell curve up and down from east to west across the Atlantic and attempting to regroup at the shoe it thought of itself as coming from. This regrouping is called Ireland.”
“But you already used Ireland in your first Atlantic man planet metaphor.”
“That’s O.K., Ireland as the heart means it’s game for whatever poem we stick it in. It’s the heart. Anyhow, the trajectory off of Africa is only enough to send it as far north as Ireland which becomes Iceland as it curves back around on its southern decent from there falling back down on its own with nothing to ricochet off of except the Mid Atlantic Ridge which tears it into the Azores as it crosses the ocean, leaving remnants along the way until BOOM! It nails French Guiana and splits into a solid two as Trinidad and Tobago then continues splintering north into little tiny islands throughout the Caribbean slowing down until it finds its final resting place as Cozumel alongside the inverse boot, the Yucatan. And! If you fuse Toltec with Olmec and say them in reverse you have something very similar to Camelot! A perfect inversion! This is why the Mayan’s called their god who presented himself to the Earthlings as a serpent, ‘Malo’ which meant “the Good” but that was like saying, ‘Our god is one bad devil’ to the Conquistadors. And! Every island I just mentioned is made up of a mixed race and mixed tongue as I pointed out of the many peoples that have conquered them --”
“Brilliant, now back to my continuation of your Atlantic man planet metaphor --”
“It’s not a metaphor. It’s actual.”
“Well back to it anyhow –“
“You know Ireland is a shoe too you know.”
“Listen, I am not on that playground you pushed Pythagoras down on with you. I’m an adult. I believe in reciprocation and sequitors. You can’t just do that. What do you have to gain by just keeping going in the presence of Joe X? Go tell it to the mirror --”
“Well it is. It is. Look if you begin with Ireland and forget all of the ricocheting islands before it, begin the tale with Ireland and even begin it as a shoe. It can kind of look like a shoe, especially an Irish shoe all torn and beaten and shit. I mean, why else would they name the Irish accent after a shoe? A brogue was a type of shoe worn by the Irish all over the world as they looked for work on the railway away from home between Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and Leeds, as they paced nervously back and forth across the pub’s carpet wearing it down to the wood and their heels down to their heels, as their prancy panting cut the rug at the parish social right down to the linoleum to forget it all. You’d name them after a shoe too and when they only had one kind that they beat and beat and beat to death... So follow the path of the Islands again and wind up at Cozumel. Instead of seeing the Yucatan as an inverse boot imagine the entire country of Mexico as an Irishman that has finally made it to the land where he needs no shoes. Baja is the back frame of his reclining beach chair, the bulk of the country is his body, and the Yucatan is his shoeless feet kicked toe up into the warm Caribbean sun. He made it! He finally got rid of his shoe!”
“Impressive to say the least but I’m not letting go of your first theory. You never finished the Atlantic man planet.”
“Sure I did doot doot do do do do do I’m coming up, I’ve got the world do do,” she danced her way over to a small box radio and was singing the songs before she’d even found them. Once she found them she grabbed both my hands and we were dancing under the bright aseptic lights, but it was a silly dance not a tight one. She was flying and nowhere to be found and I felt awkward and frightened by her drained remains. If there were only black people in Iceland I could have told her that she was dancing like a white person, but I feared that falling on just more deaf ears.
“There’s more continent after Georgia and Spain,” I insisted.
She looked up and smiled but there was no human behind it. She shook her head back down in dance and giggled.
“What do you make of the rest of the land masses after Georgia and Spain?”
Do I sound feeble? I had already gotten more than I could have ever asked out of my evening in Reykjavik. It would have been too easy to call it at that though, lying, when at the end of the day there is truly only one thing I wanted that every word in the world could not stand in substitution for so I had to keep pushing it.
“Chris, pleasure to finally meet you Lydia, but why are you ignoring Florida and Africa?”
“Shhhh, shut up and keep dancing with me.”
“Lydia, are you alive underneath there?”
“Shhh,” dancing with giggles and her finger to my lip.
“Lydia, an old man is spending his last days at a retirement community on a flaccid peninsula while an African with a huge cock can’t even be bothered with pants on his while each peninsula abuts the vast vast…vast…PUSSY at the end of the spine we call the Mid Atlantic Ridge in the center of the ocean!”
She slams her foot down.
“The northwest coast of Africa and the northeast coast of South America outline her hips!”
“The Amazon and the Niger are her fallopian tubes. Deep within their sources are the basic elements of life.”
Stomps her foot, clenches her jaw, and very very nearly shows me some life.
“You’re made of crack, Lydia!”
“Arrrgggh!” She stomped her foot a few more times as if to knock knock on my skull, shut off the music, stormed out, and I was left sitting down on an expediting table flying high in a hotel kitchen acting as dance party in Reykjavik all alone, huff.
I couldn’t leave the kitchen right away in fear of her thinking I was chasing after her, I couldn’t hang about twitlling my thumbs in fear of her thinking I was waiting, so I opened up some cabinets, found some bread, olive oil, and salt and fixed myself some tapas il rustico just to look occupied before leaving for the lounge and plopping myself down on one of the sofas Lydia alluded to before and I watched the snow fall horizontally. There was no one left at all in the lounge by now, not even a porter. A few minutes later she came back and plopped down right next to me, thigh to thigh, shoulder to shoulder.
“I went on vacation to Michigan with my dad once on a government sponsored trip. It was so cold. As bad as this but not beautiful. When I looked at a map I thought I knew why Michigan looked like a mitten, but I didn’t understand what the Upper Peninsula was supposed to be. Later my dad corrected me and told me the mitten was actually a glove worn by workers on ‘Automation Alley’ and the Upper Peninsula was a part of the assembly line they were pulling down to solder the cars with. He said ‘Look at Wisconsin and take note, that’s a glove in waiting mirroring from across the lake. One day it will lessen the burden from Michigan.’ ”
“Did your dad also tell you that New Jersey is the shape of a postman because it’s a high speed message center in the middle of the Megalopolis with the two biggest cities at either end?”
“Did he tell you that shanties in the Chesapeake Bay are built on stilts which make them look like crabs because that’s where we get our best crabs from?”
“Really?…Then why, why didn’t he tell you that if I were to call your pussy a clam right now it would not be as vulgar as you seem to think it would be? It would simply mean that in the very near future I would pry it open to find your pearl the clit which is the real reason clams are aphrodisiacs. How could he leave that one out, Lydia?”
I was convinced now she was a junkie though there had still been no mention of the vice. She couldn’t be a Jew way up here, though there does always seem to be at least one in every town. Ignoring me, she jumped up from the couch and fixed herself another Laphroaig from the bar.
When she came back she looked me dead in the eyes but didn’t see me. Her head fell and she looked at the melting rock in her Laphroaig and then looked back up at me and didn’t see me again.
A few minutes later, “He did tell me he was killed though.”
“He told you he was killed?”
“I mean, they killed him. The Russians killed him.”
“I am not from Iceland. My father was an Italian who defected to Montenegro once it was apparent that the Communists lost Italy for good. He was one of the inventors of the Yugo.”
“Yes, yep, the Yugo car. Then the Russians came and started butting their heads in Balkan politics. We didn’t need them. Most people knew they were trouble. Y’know, I know my dad knew too, but they offered him an incredible opportunity. They recruited him to build his own perfect city on the shores of the Caspian and that was the last I saw of him. For months he would send us updates on his plans and then nothing. I’m not even sure if his city was ever made. Gringo, you might be happy to know it was inspired by a Franco-American model.”
“I wasn’t aware there was a Franco-American model,” resigned to discussion, how emasculating. My dick hated me. It was enough convincing it to operate in the cold and now here I am ‘talking, just talking’ with a girl I only wanna bone.
“It’s a big joke in Montenegro that France has lost more wars than we have, than most have, and yet it maintains its spot at the top of the world players. Our beaches are prettier, our cities are lovelier, our women are stunning, our ski slopes exist, our wine and cheese, well they may just be better as well. So why, how France?”
“It’s because they’ve built all of their most important cities inland. You’re not in France until you’ve driven a hundred miles inside France. It’s the opposite with every other country. As soon as you leave their bustling port towns you’re too often in no man’s land.”
“They’ve built a cultural land buffer zone.”
“Of course, so if their borders don’t actually mean much you can never be sure of when you are or are not in France. France is a state of mind. The rest of the world divides their borders along prominent geographic boundaries and when you know where something is you can destroy it. No body can really kill France when they can’t even find it. Alsace-Loraine always will and will not be France. It’s designed that way.”
“You’re incredible.” I turned away thinking maybe I can be as aloof as she. If she can’t find me then she also can’t find something to lose and then maybe I’ll be in. One last effort. I ran back to the kitchen and cranked the box so we could hear it in the lounge. As I came back around the bar,
“Boo! Ha ha ha,” and she grabbed my hand for more arrhythmic silly dancing behind the bar. I knew they didn’t have black people up here but I figured they must have Asian businessmen so I was about to say she’s dancing like an Asian, bumping white people up to the soul spot, when the song ended and she pulled me in close for the calamitous secret, “There’s a huge chunk of France in America my father found.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
“La bouche de la route de Saint Laurent est Montreal!”
“-- And after it passes through it opens up into organ pockets of Great Lakes before meeting up with the digestive tract in Chicago where it’s led all the way down the Mississippi to New Orleans –“
In unison and to great cheer, “The ass!”
“The Delta is an immense filter! New Orleans is a swamp of sin concentrated with the toxins about to be expunged to the Gulf of Mexico!”
“Yes, and this is what I saved your Florida metaphor for. You were right. It is flaccid and the guts of the Southern states do jut out too far. That is not because it’s sick. It’s because America is an old wise man with the skin of an Englishman and the insides of a Frank. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. A great deceiver. The Englishman façade attacks and conquers as an Englishman does. The French wait as long as they can and they are prepared to wait forever.”
“The Louisiana Purchase lives within!”
“Oh yes it does and St. Louis is right at its center, a port away from the sea, built atop Cahokian Indian burial mounds, the great and mysterious predecessors of the Mayans, their football team is the Rams – touchdowns for the ancient pagan rite! -- right in the center of your country.”
“Unheralded magnificent avenues, forgotten parks by Frederick Law Olmsted, Parisian-cum-DC inspired architecture, a vacated downtown lying in latent wait, and the giant steel belt!”
“The suspender in the sky!”
“Or my dear gringo – a double helix in single form, a heart necklace split in two to be reconvened when the stars align.”
“I’m believing you.”
“I’m believing you too.”
She wasn’t with me.
“Where’d you go?”
“Where’d you go too?”
“O.K. back to you seeing as I don’t exist. How does this apply to your father’s city?”
“He published a piece about the French innards of the American land man. In it he went as far as to say that the only reason the world despises Americans is because they’re fat. When you were young killing Indians growing into your land the world admired the baby upstarts playing in clothes that were too big for them. When America realized its aesthetic by the early Twentieth Century it was at its coolest because you looked like Jack Sprat who --
Could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
And so betwixt them both
They licked the platter clean
-- because everyone sweats the skinny guy that can ride the fat broad. There are assumptions about what he packs beneath. Now though, now you fat people are as fat as your country is. The only way to remedy your obesity is to cut your country down. I mean it’ll happen regardless. Things can only get so fat until they burst like what happened to England when they signed the treaty of Paris in 1763. After winning the French and Indian Wars on your continent they walked with nearly the whole lot. France was mostly out and Spain was barely holding on. They thought that’s what they wanted, but you gotta wonder guy – if each of the European powers still held their initial chunk of North America would they have been able to maintain it better and kept you from revolt? Your Revolutionary War only happened because England bit off more than they could chew in the Treaty of Paris. You owe England your freedom. They were offered the all-you-can-eat-pan-cultural buffet and they left bloated and weighed down. They failed. So don’t fret you’re international derision now, once you burst you’ll be envied across the globe again. It’s a cycle guy, don’t take it personally. He talked about the French gastronomy at the center of both countries and he warned that America was not devoid of hope because of what it sequesters at its center. The Mississip’, a swift detoxifier. The Russians called him up and told him to build St. Louis on the Caspian, their best answer to your Lake Michigan thereby setting them up for not just another Michigan industrial powerhouse, but a Wisconsin to simmer slowly! How’d they miss the imminent break up of the Communist Block in all that?”
If this is moving too fast for you, dear reader, imagine my plight! I didn’t even have text to refer back to. I had to take a break in the email ‘cause I was racing from reliving it:
Gary, listen you owe me a liquid lunch tomorrow for this encouragement. If we have nothing else to talk about remind me to tell you my theories on Jack Sprat. I didn’t waste them on this girl because she was too far away. She didn’t see anything in present tense.
Making both the coffee with Rockwell and then the liquid lunch with Gary seemed unlikely, but it was another question of pink. If I burdened myself with too many engagements I’d just give up trying to make any of them and feel freer to play it by ear, whereas if I had just one commitment I’d feel guilty when I missed it. Back in:
“We’d get letters from him every few weeks. One week it would be ‘all of the stores that sell shirts will be shaped like shirts, pant stores like pants, car dealers like cars, schools would be shaped like skulls’ the next it would be ‘the peripheral highway will be called the Belt. Each direction will have five lanes. The speeding lane will be in the middle as to mimic the middle finger and form a phalanx wrapping themselves in a dual direction massage around the waist of the city. This will aid in digestion, add sensuality, and prevent accidents because every driver would want to be part of the hand to increase their own digestion and sensuality and those of others; the better the rest digested and felt sensual the better…well, you know.’
The final letter was a vodka soaked confusion in which he couldn’t find suitable mirrors:
‘My littlest Lydia, sweet sweet Lydia, if only I had you in my arms today. Daddy is so lost. If my city is to be our counterbalance to the neo-Parisian St. Louis in wait then what to make of old Moscow and St. Petersburg? St. Petersburg is my adopted country’s planned city like DC, but it no longer holds an official purpose. Moscow is now both our capitol and organic cosmopolitan. Russia has not separated its fiscal and governmental centers like the U.S. has. Moscow is an all in one Paris and London and St. Petersburg has no counter balance. One side of the Atlantic has supplied me with a false metaphor and I don’t know which one it was! Oh dear Lydia, I am so deep into this continent I could even switch oceans entirely to work my metaphor with, but would the Pacific then be the back of the Atlantic man planet or a metaphor as of yet uncovered? There are too many peninsulas! Too many peninsulas, baby! Oh sweet Lydia avoid the mires of your father who has met the major minority Koreans of landlocked Tashkent who could think only of the major minority Vietnamese of landlocked Oklahoma City. Which metaphor are we working with?! I am so lost my sweetheart and I fear they’ll come for me. My city is a threat to the exposition of the inequality of Communism within the cosmos. I am doomed my dear. The beaches of the Caspian are rocky and gray unlike our Montenegro where we fight for different things while we look back at our native Italy across the sea.’ And I never heard from him again. I’m sure they killed him.”
“Do you know if they ever built his city at least?”
“Who knows? No one knows anything that happens in Central Asia. Even when there’re wars the names slip into the public lexicon for the duration of the affair and then they slip back to exoticism. Let me amend that: that is why there are wars; they’re screaming out to be pulled in. Has anyone ever really seen the Caspian except from Myr? Who knows? It keeps a tight reign on its exoticism. Look, I really don’t wanna talk about him anymore, really really really really.”
“No one’s made you talk about him.”
“Good because I really really really don’t wanna talk about him.”
The couch sucked all of a sudden and I wanted to head back up to my room to nurse my blue balls and end this night but I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep with the coke pulsing through my veins unless I had another Laphroaig.
“Can I pour myself one more Laphroaig?”
Without looking me in the eyes or even anywhere near the face she motioned a swat for me to go fix it. While I was up she marched towards the exit, marched back, flailed her hands a little and started to head back out before turning and saying, “It’s time for us to be strangers now, yes strangers. Will you be my stranger? Won’t you be, please won’t you be…my stranger?” And she was out.
I got a second wave once she left so I went downstairs into the lobby to see if the concierge was willing to chat. No concierge, off duty for the night. I’m pretty sure I pretended chatting with him anyhow. Then on my lost lost walk with Scotch in hand I stepped a little too close to the motion detector in the lobby and the door to the outside storm opened up and froze me straight through like I was on that whale watching expedition again. Once blood flowed and I could move I was in the elevator, down the hallway, into my room, and hiding under my sheets with the Scotch in my hand in seconds.
That settled it, the pale blue eyes of the junkie are unattainable so I’ve devoted myself to those of the Sephardim instead who if you’ll recall gave me that wallet that’s been trying to lose me for the past two weeks.
The first time it left I get this call from Eric from Tallahassee while giving it a go at a bar with an old partial flame, Jennifer Collier. I was in the middle of, “Oh c’mon Jen the only reason my askantic antics are eating you frantic is so you can stock pile some blame for the big doozy down the lane. You and all your timid sisters against sovereignty will marry the safe bet, bore yourselves to death in fifteen years with another man’s four kids tugging your rear and you’ll come running back to me with ‘I let you down by making you wait all this time but it’s fine we’re even, because it’s your fault too for being so damn flighty back then.’ But your veil is made of lace my dear which means not only does it draw my eye towards it, but the closer I get the more I see through. The only flighty one here is you –“
-- When my cewll phone rang and I ran outside to escape the noise.
“We’re just having fun, right? I’m gonna take this call ‘cause I don’t recognize the area code. Tell me if my side of the spat is coming off wrong or too believable when I get back.”
“Who is this?”
“Dude, Eric, Eric from Tallahassee.”
“Eric! Well then our night at Tiki’s Tornado did happen, lad?”
“If it works in your favor it happened! Well brother, when was the last time you bowed down before the all mighty all knowing benevolence of All-ah?”
“You know me. Devout. I never miss my five a day. Mecca is just south of east of here. Gets the chicks every time.”
“No man, I’m not being crafty. What I mean to say is that you never called me you fucker.”
“Woah, you’ve lost me now.”
“I gave you my number on a scrap of paper to call me when you got home from tour. You stuck that piece of paper in your wallet and then you lost your wallet outside the mosque on Eleventh and First yesterday – what the fuck were you doing there?”
“I was gathering Arabic words for my children’s book, Coomoococklemungmung!”
“Some saint named Mustafa finds it, finds the only number inside: mine, calls me and I don’t even have your number so I call all over Florida looking for it because brother, you’ve been on my mind lately. I’m not in Tallahassee anymore. I moved to Seattle to help them run their tenth annual Seattle Music Festival and I wanted to invite you out to play. I didn’t have your number though. I knew it should be easy enough to track down, but you know when things aren’t directly at your fingertips…anyhow so then Mustafa calls me “Hello? Hello? Who is Chris?” and I take it as divine intervention. I am getting you to play this music festival by hook or by crook my man and it never would have happened if you hadn’t been the careless fuck that you are who loses his wallet and never calls me when he gets home, asshole. So I call all the people I know in Florida that you may have exchanged numbers with the night you played the Pita Pit and eventually who’s got it? Krishna! Remember Krishna who books the shows at the Pita Pit? He had it. He told me to say ‘hi’ by the way –“
“—so here I am calling you telling you that not only are you coming to Seattle to play our Music Festival in August but that Mustafa awaits your call. This one was written up above, my man. What the fuck? What else is going on? I miss you and I miss us. I miss what we have yet to make together.”
“You caught me at a bar chasing a tail tale.”
“I hate those!”
“You get these too? That’s comforting I suppose, but my hormones are about to step in and topple my buoyancy with the shakes. Even the knowledge that I’m not alone can’t reason with testosterone. This lunatic girl Jennifer Collier calls me once a month late into the night, drags me out, and then puts out very little in the end and I keep coming back persistent to crack the code.”
“I have confidence in you man. Tonight’s your night. You’ll get it.”
“Christopher, listen to me, you will.”
“Thanks, Eric from Tallahassee.”
“So take down Mustafa’s number and then you and I will talk more in the morning. Good to know you’re still alive my friend.”
“Eric, good to hear you’re still as lost as I, aye.”
So I call Mustafa who tells me it’s not too late to come meet him outside the mosque right then and there. I race my bike up to Eleventh and First and he greets me on the curb. There are a million Muslim men and yellow cabs around. Service must have just ended. There’s a husband on the Upper East Side as we speak who is catching all the flack for his wife’s inability to find a cab to hail. The delicacies of their last hour’s dinner date are negated. All cabs are on Eleventh and First.
“Here is your wallet my friend. Look inside and make sure everything is in there that was originally in there.”
I see cash.
“Mustafa, I can already see there’s too much in here. The rule is, when you find someone’s wallet you keep the cash.”
“I can not take your cash.”
“I knew you’d say that. Twenty? Can you take twenty bucks at least? Or can I give you a gift?”
“You can give me a gift. One moment…”
He runs inside the mosque and comes back with a pamphlet on Islam for me to read.
“Your gift can be for you to read this. Will you please read this? We’re not as strange as you may think.”
“Oh c’mon I know you’re not that strange,” I lied.
“Tell others then, please. These are hard times for us Arabs in America.”
“I know. I’m so sorry my friend, but oil is from the bones of dinosaurs. When you’re dealing in body parts of course the trade’ll be nasty. All parties involved are gravediggers. What must Up Above think of that? I am sorry though my friend.” This guy’s English, thankfully, must have been shite because he nodded away through my unnecessaries.
“Thank you, thank you, now look inside your wallet again. I think you will find that one thing is missing.”
It took me a second, but without looking I knew it was a rubber.
“Do you know what it is?”
“Yes I know what it is Mustafa. You did the right thing in taking it from me. I hate those things.”
“They…they are not good. But if you want that one thing it is in my apartment. May I invite you up to my home down the street? Please.”
Muslim’s are just so off that there is a chance he was not asking me to screw him. The problem was that I would have rather nonsexually picked the brain of Mustafa than Jennifer Collier at this stage but I declined just in case there was innuendo involved.
“Another time, Mustafa? I have to get back to my date.”
“Please, another time. Yes, please.”
He held my hand and broke from the shake slowly feeling every cell of skin as his fingers peeled down my palm out to meet my fingers and off my hand into the air and yet still I was not convinced he was flirting. He may have simply been that concerned over my soul. Either way, I felt dirty now. If I ran into a bar just to wash my hands I think I’d make the people around me feel dirty as well so I stopped at a deli to buy a pack of gum. If my mouth felt clean maybe I could forget about my hands.
God, you get so caught up in this city it’s easy to forget there are schools all around. Colleges even. Children, teens, and young adults the city through are growing, blossoming on every block. In front of me in line were two NYU co-eds in their late night the-city-is-my-bedroom slippers and sweatpants get up and typical of their type they argued for the store to hear, first over the tomato: fruit or vegetable, then on the difference between a porpoise and a dolphin, and finally they just wouldn’t let me out of this one:
“Flippers, right guy, flippers are what separate a tortoise from a turtle?
“No Colleen! It’s land or sea. It’s not as simple as just flipper or hoof.”
“Hoof? Gillian, they are not called hooves. Mister, what’s the difference between a hoof and a paw?”
“Quit it Colleen, stop harassing the nice man! Let him buy his gum in peace.”
“Thanks for your intervention, Gillian. I can tell you girls this: turtle and tortoise both came to us from the same Sanskrit word, tantric, which means very…very…very slow.” What better gift to give the young dormers than the ability to run back to their quad and tell the others they met a pervert, “Eeeeyoo!”
My tongue now as pointed as a spear of mint I race back down to the bar to wrap it up with Jennifer Collier.
“Aye! I’ve got cash now. What’re you drinking?”
“I’m done drinking. You took too long. Take me home now.”
Que shade! “Let’s go.”
At her doorstep I get the usual “You’re not coming inside, Chris” business to which I respond, “Well why would I want to do that” and her mouth is mine. As I send a hand down to grope her ass she grunts an attempt at a lady sound so naturally I have to grunt back all the more like a pig, “arglllgrrllargll.”
“You’re an asshole! You’re really an asshole! What the hell do you want with me anyhow?”
“Oh I guess I haven’t made that clear.”
“Ahh! I hate you. What am I doing? I have a boyfriend. What am I doing?”
I lean in to kiss her another time, all else aside she is excellent at it, but she pushes me away.
“No! I’m done with you tonight, chief.”
As the glass door to the building foyer closed behind me she winked, twinkled her fingers, and sashayed her ass as she walked to the stairs. She’d rather us both go to bed losers than risk screwing me only to conclude in the morning that I worked one over on her afterall, whatever that may mean. Gary, I will work one over on her though if she thinks I will. What’s she thinking? Whatever, I’ve got my wallet back and thinking I’m headed to Seattle for free and thinking it all works out too perfectly -- a friend of mine happens to be getting married out there the same weekend as the festival. So who’s writing this and what are they getting out of it? Who’s my scribe?
I hopped in a cab, don’t remember getting home, but remember waking up to the telepathic message from my bike to go pick it up where I left it locked in Thompkins Square Park before someone else claims it.
I’m out of the house, in the subway, and taking Eric’s call in the morning on a sun drenched bench in Thompkins Square Park.
“Eric, I never even got around to telling you that my friend is getting married in Seattle the same weekend as this fest.”
“Well hold the horses. Hey man…I woke up to bad news. After ten years the City of Seattle has finally called us quits. They pulled our funding. The fucking fest, the fest I moved out here for, is cancelled.”
As soon as sobriety sets in the stars go their separate ways again too ashamed that they could ever be so bold. They never learn.
“But listen Chris, there’s a reason Mustafa brought us together. This is just the beginning of our collaboration.”
Nah, I like Eric from Tallahassee just fine, but sometimes just nah.
Lost my wallet again three days later.
Out with the Colombian Argentine waitress I work with, Natalia Fonseca Cruz. Her mother is a conduit for voices, or ‘the voices’ as she likes to say. And like the rest of my misfortunes, Natalia’s a fatherless Capricorn. She’s also a vegetarian who lives in Spanish Harlem, uses words like “blaze” to mean “smoke pot,” pulls me in by telling me to “llame me” making me think some chick out there will finally call me Papi and she’s another decade younger. She waits tables at the restaurant I cook for on Seventy-Ninth and Lex. This all sounds better than it is because she suffers from horrendous acute acne. The terrible kind that covers huge patches of face in raspberries where it’s impossible to tell what is and what is not a zit. Otherwise she’d be beautiful. Underneath it all you can see it. In fact, not to sound too much like her mother, but though I’m not attracted to the actual zits, I am attracted to what caused them. Sometimes I think, “well if I can just get her shirt off it’ll all be fine, there are other places to kiss” and then I catch her bending over to lay a menu down on a table and see that hirsute Latin patch of hair right above her ass as her shirt comes up. I could deal with that if when she has to lean over even further you didn’t also get to see where the hair ends and the zits begin right on her lower spine. Poor Natalia, but poor me more. I’m eating my tongue because in ten years I know I’ll meet her again and she’ll say, “See, you didn’t like me when I was pussy, now look what I’ve become, Papi” so I’m hooking up with her here and there, just heavy make out sessions, so I can set the stage for bliss later on down the road. I must say though, when we “blaze” back at her place she can settle so serenely into the dream that she’ll let me pop her whitecaps while my tongue is deep into her throat and my hands are holding her head tight and my thumbs meet up right in the crown of her forehead where I can always find a juicy one. Pop! And our teeth hit together a bit, you feel it in the back of your skull, and then I’ll find another one and pop! Our teeth hit together a bit and it’s seismic in forgotten places and then I’ll search for another with my tongue down her throat and that’s when she’ll come up for a breath and say “o.k.” which is the saddest most beaten down well-mannered way of saying “stop, this is humiliating.” Then I roll her over and make my way down her back thinking of her spine as the volcanic Mid Atlantic Ridge where two plates collide and the centerpiece to my theory the Icelandic junkie avoided. A cyst is an old sleeper volcano, a blemish is an explosion under the ocean, and the rest of them are mine to erupt to fruition. The more I explode the more islands I create paving the way for the lost continent of Atlantis to rise once again between the Old and New Worlds and restore peace. I love it, and her ass is zit free and fucking fantastic in any equation anyhow. Then there are the rare rubies on the other side. Sometimes she’ll get one on a rib above a tit and those are treats so fine they’re weep worthy; cupping a breast gently in both palms while my pointer fingers work the puss out of the pimple above. The skin is tender there too so instead of saying “o.k.” to mean “stop” she says “aaaaahhhhhhh!”
Try this: tit to tit, tit to zit, mouth to tit, tongue to zit.
I’m getting it. I’m getting the lay of my life when they clear up which should probably be about the same time she hands the pink unsightlies over to the imminent gin blossoms on my nose.
So Natalia and I are out dancing in the West Village all night after work when I figure it out. Her roommate is beautiful. We passed on our way to the bathroom early one morning. If I imagine myself dating her roommate then naturally I would wanna fuck her roommate regardless of how she looked. In fact, the more hideous the better. So if I could imagine Natalia as my girlfriend’s roommate I could probably get past the zits. I’m working up to meet my theory when I get a call from two of the chefs from the restaurant. Remember, generally I wanna keep the night going as long as I can with Natalia because I don’t wanna be put in the awkward position of backing out of lay after lay. I like her a lot, just not until she outgrows her late puberty. It’s best if I just pass out of the lay. And not knowing just how long I can keep my fantasy of Natalia as my girlfriend’s roommate going I opt to meet the chefs who’re eating Indian takeout on a stoop outside Punjabi’s on Avenue A and Houston. We hop in a cab across town, shovel down some curries on the same stoop they just finished theirs on, and that’s all I remembered until I was woken up by a black guy shaking me on an entirely different stoop in an entirely different borough with the sun way way up.
“You wanna sleep on my stoop you gotta pay me ten dollars?!”
I was so tired I fished around for the money to rest a little longer only to find that again my wallet had gone missing. I was disoriented and afraid of falling over again at any minute. I walked a block in a random direction because I had to do something and realized I was somehow back home in Carroll Gardens.
I pass out for real on my bed and wake up at two in the afternoon still unable to move. My eyes can go back and forth but my body has solidified. I expect the swelling that follows rigor mortis to begin at any moment. I’ve heard about some Haitian drug that does this to people so they can bury them alive and I think about Natalia’s potentially Santarista mom. Uh-oh.
The previous night she lost her cell phone and got her car towed after one of our dates too. Something’s afoot. I struggle not to atrophy to stone and make it to work by six. I barely overcome it and arrive on time. They tell me Natalia just called and that she also lost her wallet last night. Something’s going on. Fortunately they send me home after feeding me because the Upper East Side migrates to the Hamptons all summer and the streets are dead, one cook would do and I was spooking them. On the long bike ride back to Brooklyn I get a call from a couple of dudes I catch up with on the fly here and there. They’re barbequing in the garden of a bar on Atlantic and Third and I got the feeling that it was about a casual Sunday afternoon nursing the hair of the dog so I swung by without a will in my cap. I have never felt so hungover or confused by a previous night.
While at the barbeque I get a call from a restricted number.
“This Chris? I got your wallet.”
Since my escapades with Mustafa and Eric I was smart enough to leave my own number in my wallet from now on.
“Can you meet me at the McDonald’s on Atlantic Avenue?”
That, frighteningly, was only a few blocks from where I was. I’d been all over the city in the past twenty four hours, have just recently begun to think that I wasn’t even aware of the half of where I’d been, and here this guy is calling me from only a few blocks away.
“And can I get a finder’s fee?”
“You know the rule, if you find someone’s wallet you get to keep the money. I was actually gonna ask you to be kind with me. You should have just struck gold. Yesterday was pay day. Can you leave me twenty?”
“No, no, no, there ain’t nuthin’ in here. Can you give me fifteen?”
I borrow twenty bucks from my friend and ride up to McDonald’s. I see the shady character and ask him if he’s got my wallet.
“No, man, no, but can I borrow fifteen dollars from you?”
“Oh, so you got my wallet?”
“Just wanted to make sure you weren’t a cop.”
I didn’t quite follow the logic.
He takes me to some hedges surrounding the parking lot where he digs my wallet out from where he had it stashed between prickly branches. My Metrocard is also gone.
Days later I found out that after the Indian food I went to a bar called the Library and this chef buys me a “Backdraft,” which is Cointreau and Sambuca lit on fire. Someone blows the fire out and the victim inhales the fumes and shoots the drink. The chef confesses later that he’s never seen anyone not black out after that. He said I still managed to take them to a party a few blocks away and hang out for another solid hour before they put me in a cab. The question of how I wound up at least close to home and many other questions are never recovered. Twas a pyrrhic victory that left me committed to restraining my wallet all the more for what would my troops do in peacetime by now anyhow?
A treaty was reached after my wallet’s third and final attempt to escape last night.
I hadn’t seen Tracy since she gave me the wallet five years ago when we would see each other all the time. Even though we weren’t screwing back then I still used to crash at her apartment on the west side of Prospect Park as much as I could if I didn’t want to make the late night trek back to Newark where I was living at the time. And as it goes, of all the apartment buildings in this city, my little sister happened to be living in this same one as Tracy. I fantasized about stumbling out all booze sugar poofy faced in the early morning while my sister was heading to work thereby petrifying her in concern. There is a goodness though; we never crossed paths. Well last night I was at the TriBeCa Grand Hotel where I bumped into Tracy after all those years. I picked her up like a caveman and heaved her to the dance floor where we commandeered the revelry. It’s like this, by then saying “Me, you” bringing added attention to my prehistoric ways I cancelled them out. So easy. We then proceeded to clear out an entire section of the bar on the dance floor once the groping began.
Turns out she moved to L.A., became a woman, and started drinking champagne in the interim.
When the first heckler rang the requisite “get a room!” we both shrugged “fine” in unison.
We hopped into a cab the cabby should have paid us for and fumbled to the fancy brownstone in Gramercy she was staying at.
The romp gets so rough the girl who owns the place comes in while we’re rolling around naked on the floor and asks if everything is O.K. I invite her to join in, but that just horrifies her more.
“Argh!” I howl at her roommate like a pirate as she slams the door and I tear back into Tracy like she’s my rack of lamb on the mess hall table in the galleys after a pillage.
Tracy can’t stop laughing.
“Hey, knock it off,” I beseech.
“Ha! This is too ridiculous, Chris! Mad!”
My tongue on her clit cut the cackles curt and it was time to find the condom quick.
-- My wallet is missing –
-- Bastard, me and my wallet. –
Tracy knows it too, “Bastard!” in plural.
We tear apart the room which we already tore apart like the movies taught us the C.I.A. do, turn on the lights, think about crying, and then just as I start throwing my socks on to run to the deli to buy more with Tracy’s money it reappears at the foot of the bed!
“You’re still using that thing!?”
“Of course, you made it for me.”
“You nut job. I stopped using leather a long time ago. I’ve got a new one made out of cork for you.”
“Oooh la, oooh la.”
I throw on my last rubber wearing nothing but socks and a ring with an Irish rune on my pinky while I consummate the long dance, arch my back into the night, and elate that in due time Natalia will now most certainly come back around. At this moment my cock was as long as my torso, or in reality, my cock and torso formed a check sign. Check!
“What the hell is this Irish embarrassment doing in the house of a Hebe?! There are no Irishmen here tonight my friend, only filthy New Yorkers.”
The things girls notice. The lights are off, the night is drunk and late, I’m wearing socks, and she still catches my ring.
“Take that shit off!”
“Fine, but only if you can dig” – I dig –“a yarmulke for me to wear out of that disaster on your floor.”
“I don’t have a yarmulke! First of all only boys where them, psycho and Secondly I’m not a super Jew anyhow! I haven’t spoken to Yahweh in years.”
“I don’t care, maybe your friend is a believer. Find that yarmulke!”
“A believer? What do Jews believe in?”
I flip her over to her ass and the side of the bed and sway her back and forth while I fuck her like she’s an industrial size leaf blower blowing our disaster aside to find the yarmulke.
She flails her hands about the air and clothes until she chances upon a canister of musk and starts spraying me like it’s mace.
“Away you beast!”
“But then I wouldn’t be your beast!” and reacting to the canned pheromones I try and chew a chunk out from her tit only to notice that the musk covered her too.
“Tracy you idiot, we’re both covered! This makes me feel more man and more queer at the same time if I’m gonna eat you, ah fuck it find me that yarmulke or I’m turning your slip into a turban!”
“I missed you, you faggot! Where’ve you been?”
“Listen, I’m flattered my lady, but as a dear old friend I’ve really got to admit I’m concerned with the course you’ve taken if you’re sleeping with guys like me.”
Fuck it, we both fall back on the floor and continue pounding away. I take my ring off and shove it up her ass.
Glad to get rid of that burden.
She rips it out and hurls it into the mess. I knew my ring felt better soiled.
The phone rings and our eyes meet. She knows one of the two things I’m thinking. She doesn’t know I’m also thinking I should marry her.
“Chris, you are not going to answer this phone.”
“Let’s just see who it is.”
I answer without checking. It’s my sometimes bandmate, sometimes citizen of L.A. Donald Quinn who also happens to be friends with Tracy through some cross coastal connection.
“It’s Don Quinn. You talk to him.”
“Don! I’m fucking Christopher!”
It wasn’t until she said it like that that I slowed down and really paid attention at trying to get her to cum, enough nonsense.
“Well you guys wanna hang out with me for a drink when you’re done?” We’re sharing the receiver in our ears.
“Sure! We gotta get more rubbers anyhow. Fucker ran out!”
For the next forty minutes we both keep telling each other in slow whispers to “hurry up, we gotta meet Don” which changes to an even slower “hurry up, Don is waiting” and as soon as we’re both all cummed out the night resumes to lightning pace, throw back on our clothes, exchange wallets -- old for the new, leather for cork – and are out to meet Don around the corner for a nightcap.
By the time we get there Don is so hammered he can’t get the notion out of his head that his calling is to go
down to the Caribbean on an inverse Heart of Darkness hunt for Jimmy Buffet and join his band.
“I pursue darkness and it takes me into the light! Into the light I can play the steel drums!”
His madness leaves me the liberty to feign a hammered state as well after just one drink, walk Tracy back to her apartment, say some unintelligible things about why I need to get home and other stupid things. She puts up a brief fight with “You can’t leave. You’re fucking me in the morning” and again, I know I should marry this girl but my mind doesn’t work like that anymore so I just stumble through Gramercy not quite as hammered as I pretended and I listen to her laugh from her stoop. I wonder, I hope, I hope I wonder that she’s the one now waiting for me.
A few blocks away I had what I romantically hoped was either the last slice of pizza eaten in New York that night or the first piece eaten that day. Hopped in a cab and was sleeping in the star position in my own bed minutes later. If I had two other arms they would be swatting the sky.
I can’t remember a single dream I had last night, Gary.
This is your way out. Dare them to take better control of the language than we have.
And in the meantime call their fucking bluff.
And call me for the liquid lunch when you wake up.
So Court Street, what do you got? I’m done. All cleaned up. Where is it?
Well the only sounds I heard were those of a dumptruck in the distance clanging over a pothole, screeching its brakes to pick up trash, and then revving its engine again to continue down my way. I knew it must be getting late if the whales were already coming so I hit the sack.
After my escapade with David, my email to Rockwell, and my shower shit and shave, I was ready, bursting really, to finish this essay on nostalgia once and for all so I could tend to the new issue at hand, the epic wordless letter to Jen. I dug the doily from my pant pocket, said a prayer to Walt and Tanner for their deliverance, and dug back in:
And so through the wordplay of Johannes Hofer the pain was imparted into all of us and nostalgie mellowed into the softer nostalgia and it ceased tormenting us as a disease. It may continue to exist as a valley of sorts, but if we recognize it as the valley doesn’t that in the very least say something of our position on the hill? Nostalgia exists like any element does. It is not a force to eradicate. It is yet another element to monitor and ride as it paints the scene. Luckily it’s also a beautiful word and just to say it keeps its hazards in check. Nostalgia.
Oh it’s a great word, but our northern fear of stagnation and lack of advancement has created an unbalanced cultural focus on all things future tense that clouds our ability to appreciate it. It’s such an unbalanced focus it borders on a fear of retrospection in the event that it could suck you into some reminiscent unproductive bog becoming a disease yet again. It’s not necessarily a negative word though or even a depressive one. It’s a word that demands a certain comprehensive breathe to say, true, but any word that pretty should. Perhaps we get nervous around it because our northern contribution to the word, the valley, the tal, is the heavy side.
Fortunately, the first part of the word, the collective part, the uplifting part, the nos came from Hofer’s southern trek. He found that along the Mediterranean things operated differently with the northern and southern uses of nostalgia existing in concentric circles overlapping only in the ‘comprehensive breathe’ quadrant. They’re almost different words entirely. The rest of the free space in the southern pie leans towards things like progress, the timeless wisdom of masonry, and communion in fact. He believed this Mediterranean soul surrounded by ruins is raised on his imponderable equation: when every direction leads you to the past you find yourself heading towards the future back to home. They don’t need to learn it. It’s in them. The ruins have stood millennia as Vespas, theocratic campaigns, and souvenir crazed tourists whipped within and without. They’ve been bombed, burned, pardoned, and recently preserved. These people aren’t living in the past by carrying it with them, they’re celebrating the story of past, present, and future as it happens at once in all directions.
It is our northern inability to wrap our heads completely around this notion that not only impedes our ability to digest and enjoy the ruins as our own ruins but also impedes our ability to appreciate the gaudiness of the modern Mediterranean art being thrown up in seeming contrast around them today. We vacation to Rome to ponder both how a modern city grew around ruins without knocking them down and how the intellect of Michelangelo could produce something as garish as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We can dig into the gaudiness through irony, but to discuss irony is to discuss a different disease altogether. There is another purer way to value gaudiness. Michelangelo understood it. Mediterranean art is meant to ripen. Ripen over the centuries with the salt from the sea air, the paws of the patrons, the bullet holes from wars we can’t too soon forget. The colors are meant to be too brash as we are meant to enjoy the changing of copper from bronze to green, the columns are meant to be overly ornate, the grotesques are not all meant to remain. In Mediterranean art what may first appear as overdone is in fact a great understanding of humility. The artist knows that though he is a conduit for a Muse there is a man in between to contend with. A flawed man. A man who can’t possibly get it right. Therefore the Mediterranean artist overdoes it to allow the immaculate visions of history and the elements remedy his faults.
Interestingly, the Romans never specified which Muse exactly was the Muse of Art. Johannes Vermeer believed Clio, the Muse of History, limelighted as the Muse of Art. Vermeer knew that now is the time to see the Parthenon, for example. It’s ripened with history. It may have peaked in the past century, but it was certainly too much to look at when Iktinos completed it 2,500 years ago. History has finally completed the job. It took away what wasn’t meant to stay. I think Vermeer would also agree that Venice’s Basilica de San Marco awaits some more. Clio’s not yet done. She may be waiting for Venice to sink, when the only way to visit the church is by boat and who wouldn’t concur with her that that then would perfect the project.
William Hogarth believed Thalia, the Muse of Comedy, masqueraded as the Muse of Art. Yes, he was on to something too. Moving west across the Mediterranean to Barcelona we face a metaphor to blunt to admit: Antoni Gaudi is both the architect and archetype of gaudy. Painfully so. He’s bedazzled Barcelona with eyesores Catalans have no choice but to esteem. It would be too much to expect them to humble into a confession that their number one attraction, La Sagrada Familia, is hideous – Oh there I go with my northern mind already forgetting why Hogarth invoked Thalia! Yes yes, the Barcelonans are laughing at me! Gaudi’s creations are modern history! They have yet to ripen with us and the elements! In due time they will mute, soften, breathe and be breathed upon, occupy a nook in “Our Valley of Everything,” and our collective narcissism will both take credit for and adore them as they will be worthy of adoration.
I talk this talk though fellow New Worlders further West and centuries younger than perhaps the spirit of any New Worlder is qualified to do. As I pause for a minute to reflect on my own city I realize how hard pressed you’d be to find a single New Yorker not ready to tear down Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim and start anew. We don’t just hate seeing it, we think it’s dumb. But am I trying to tell myself that in due time this building will make sense? It’s already starting to peel and they haven’t done a renovation on the abomination in years. Are the curators already on my nostalgic tip? No, I don’t buy it. Just because things go up doesn’t mean they should stay up. The Guggenheim should come down and I promise my opinion does not stem from a rash American deux et machina machismo. It just doesn’t work. It won’t ripen. We’re gradually figuring out how to read these things. Beginning with the transference of the banners of modernity to the newer and taller skylines of Asia and then solidified by the bombing of the Towers, the spirit of New Yorkers is changing. We’re almost part of the Old World. We’re gaining nostalgic perspective. Even New Jersey is producing a successful organic vineyard. We’re plowing ahead with our ability to accept the past in the present while attempting to carry with us our own past of a complete irreverence for it. This is obviously no easy task.
Thalia’s been our Muse since conception. We’ve been tearing mansions down to build skyscrapers in their stead. We’ve been consuming everything that floats ashore and claiming it as our own creation. We’ve proudly sold shirts proclaiming things like “Welcome to New York, Now Duck Mother Fucker.” We’ve been laughing at ourselves. That’s not our city anymore though, and yet we’re cautious to welcome Clio in as our new Muse. These are tricky times.
This flux of Muses has left us debating helter skelter things like whether to or not to tear down CBGB’s. The lease is up and the new one’s got an extra zero. In the last century this debate would have never even existed. Goodbye Cotton Club. So long Copacabana. We awaited the next step. Goodbye Filmore East. Goodbye Cat Club. Couldn’t wait to see what came next. The clubs in West Chelsea have changed names and hands a hundred times. The Palladium became an NYU dorm. Christ! Can you imagine if they all still stood? How old would that make us? CBGB’s, though once seminal, still stands and hasn’t supported a non-overly referential act in over a decade. Last call to define the genre boundaries of the bands that play its stage closed at a hardcore matinee in 1988. Of course, newness isn’t an essential element of goodness, but packaging redundancy and selling it as newness is reason enough to support that new lease. Yes, love our northern minds for studying the ways of the south, the nos, by trying to officially make CB’s “ours”, but pity us for being stuck in the classroom still unable to get down to the curb. Eager to get the nos we’ve tried to lose the tal. You need them both to form the word and there are other ways to fill the valley than leaving all the ruins up. The air holds memories as well as the soil does. If we buried CBGB’s in the soil of the Fresh Kills landfill rest assured the ocean air would breeze across Staten Island as it does now and bring CB’s and all it’s original smells back to us everyday. CBGB’s is everybody’s now. Time to offer her up.
So aged Jersey rocker Little Stevie Van Zandt has been spearheading the movement to preserve it with the inane claim that “it’s the last rock and roll club in the universe.” Good god how my heart aches for all the good people behind La Sala Rosa in Montreal, the Earl in Atlanta, Kafe Kult in Munich, Mono in Glasgow, The Replay Lounge in Lawrence, Kansas and the myriad other crusaders across the globe losing money dealing with the petty idiosyncrasies of twat musicians because they believe in it when they have the nagging option all along of just turning on the jukebox and selling booze. Muddy Waters is spinning in his grave embarrassed by the hacks that consider themselves his offspring. He was tearing walls down, rockers, not putting them up. Where was Little Stevie in 1971 when Caetano Veloso released the song “Nostalghia (That’s What Rock and Roll Is All About)”? Where was Little Stevie when Tim Yohannon led a parade of casket bearers carrying effigies of hippies down Haight Street proclaiming the Death of Flower Power in 1967? And could Little Stevie have possibly made it through school without reading Leo Tolstoy’s “The Kreutzer Sonata” wherein the revolutionary grip of music gets people fi-zz-ucked against their greater will? Tolstoy managed to never use the words “rock and roll.”
Yes, it is time to close CBGB’s, but more importantly we should applaud ourselves for at least debating it. In debating it we’ve already created something new; a debate where none would have existed in the past. And seeing as this debate truly is something new I propose we offer up this newness as our appropriate eulogy to the newness CB’s once spawned. We’re looking back to our musical past for advice and it tells us to start a revolution towards the future, but to tear the building down is contrary to our architectural past which is on one hand ashamed we tore down masterpieces like Penn Station but proud we’re rebuilding it in the future according to plans similar to those of the past. In other words, it is October fifth or thereabouts today and I expect it to remain this way all year long. Savor this transference of Muses on our trip home because if things work out we won’t remember it when we arrive.
Free. Scared. Anxious. Liquid lunch beats out the coffee so I place the call to Gary not Rockwell.
“Please, I haven’t even had a chance to read it yet.”
“Hurry up, hurry up.”
“Give me thirty minutes. I’ll print it out and read it on my bike ride down. Where do you wanna meet?”
“What if we were just to drink wine at a diner?”
“O.K. I’ll see you at the St. Claire on Atlantic and Smith then.”