Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Chapter Four

The “real work” is an essay on nostalgia I owe a Canadian magazine. If I could finish this essay then I could justify writing my wordless letter to Jen, but to start my wordless letter to Jen before I begin my essay for the magazine (the paying gig) would seem like a procrastination of my real work. I recognize that my real real work is to write the wordless letter to Jen, this is what life hinges on, but having yet to purge myself of all doubt the piece with the deadline comes first. This is why I’ve lost Jen, this is why I speak of brackish things in purified moments, this is why I will fail to rid my wordless letter of a word slipping in here and there when I get to it. See, seeing that the wordless letter is paramount doesn’t equate to being able to live it as paramount, and anyhow before I go about writing it don’t I need to know if it’s even my idea or not? Jen told me to write it, but it was Jen in my dream (not to be confused with my ‘dream Jen’, the one that’s always wet and calls me papi, who I would take total credit for) that told me to write it. Does that mean I came up with the idea because it was my dream? Do I take full credit for the wordless letter that could save our relationship if only I lacked the words to write it? Maybe it’s a joint idea? These questions, I rationalize, will sort themselves out after I tend to the essay with the deadline first. The essay with the deadline I fear though, will therefore steal all my wordless words because my gaze is fixed beyond them. No part of this debate will change the chronology of my actions because as I said earlier I have doubt, which is very similar to saying I have chronology. That is to say the essay on nostalgia comes first, which in the long run Jen, may be like saying I lack doubt because I believe all flaws can be fixed in the future so I don’t stress flawing away now. In fact I have so much faith I revel in it. And seeing as this upper hand I gained in this debate last sentence may flee just as fast as it flew in I’ve gotta leap on it now and begin my essay. If I continue to argue for it with more sentences I may argue myself out of it again, so the best I can offer you, reader, is just to reread those last few sentences a bunch of times until it’s clear – Wait, woah! I’m on a roll, a supplemental thought triumphs through that shall ensure possession of my missing words! If I procrastinate writing the essay on nostalgia by writing something else first it will sync my gaze into the piece next in cue, which is nostalgia not the wordless letter! (Again, let me redirect you to rereading rather than extrapolating or I could lose it).
--Shift the pink! –
Therefore my wordless words should now fall forth in my procrastination at hand and later in the letter to Jen while we’ll purge the real ones out in the essay on nostalgia in between. Brilliant.
Well perhaps then it would suit you to know some back story on how your low rolling New Yorker got caught up writing this piece for a Canadian magazine. Well the prose was proposed mid poem on a dance floor in Montreal on the coldest night of the year at a martini lounge called Leika on Rue St. Laurent. My band had played next store at a dive bar called Barfly. The furthest we could make it was this martini lounge Leika before we let the arctic bleating in. From the Angel of Ignoring Bleats, I was given a man in drag at the opposite end of the dance floor who looked identical to an x-girlfriend of mine named Toko. My blood heated back up as I forgot the sow I missed and wondered how I was gonna bring the drag queen in. I leaned over to my bassist Gary and said, “Hey Gary look, there’s Mr.Toko” but I did not tell my friend that also running through my head was the question of how I was going to get my libido into the notion of sleeping with Mr. Toko just to keep things moving and confuse the impetus of spite. Instead I danced in the crowd and crafted this poem:

“Never a Gwen
(Until the Day Gwen and Guido are Etymological Siblings, a Terrifying Collapse to the Pure Who Refer Back to the Welsh “White Wave” of Gwen and the Soiled Immigrant “Brown Wave” Bombardment of Guido)”

There was Toko, a Mr. Toko, and there was even a Yoko.
There was Jen the gentile, Jen the Jew, and Jenny the half Jew.
There was Mika and Kika, a Jap and a senorita.
There was Yana, Una, and Uni, two Khims and a Khan.
There was Jen the twin who was also half Jew and from Philly like plain old “Jenny the half Jew.”
There was Nancy Whang and Nancy Wong, but Nancy Park? -- Better she knew,
(Soon the prude will call this ‘slander’ and sue).
There was Jessica who went by Jess and there was the Jen who hated the name Jessica but thought that at least it was trash which was preferable to Jennifer which never meant much to her.
There was Julie the Jew and Julie the half Gentile whose cousin was named Jen.
There was Nancy Khim, the other Nancy Khim, and the Nancy Khim who was everyone’s friend.
Maurice knows another yet that only Stefano has met.
There was Jen “My Jen” Jen and there was the Jen who only became beautiful a year or two after I refused more than a kiss outside her apartment steps who now thinks me the letch. I missed the catch.
There was Autumn, Harmony, and Gertrude De La Madrigal Fatima Martinez who would have all been better off had they simply shared the name Jen has.
Apparently there were some fat Jens, or so mock all my friends,
Even after you wake up, the nights never end.
They were all Capricorns ‘cept the rare Taurus
And ti da! I’m but another Chris in their crap Chris chorus!
There were several Alexandra’s, Ali’s (one a twin), and Alexes (one Alexis) but
The poem took over and said “There was blah blah de bleh bleh.”

Enter Charlene.
“Hi,” with a firm handshake, “Hi, I’m Charlene.”
“Charlene,” I said her name with the conviction to get me out of this loop, a new name.
“Charlene, Charlene, would you please dance with me?”
“Well, no. I’m leaving now with my boyfriend, but I love your writing and want to talk more about, um, possibly working {she put a premature exclamation point in} together {and then the appropriate one}?”
We exchanged emails, but my focus was busier adding her to the poem:
Charlene, who is as Korean as the Nancy Khims and who would have been named Jen if it wasn’t too obviously Western thus exposing her parents will of assimilation to this Francophonic nation (though I think it an Irish creation).
Charlene, my Jennifer Khim.
“Do we discuss this now or later then, Charlene?”
“Later” made me turn away dancing into the orbit of a Ruka whose friends dragged her home when we were still moving between songs, whose name now lives forever in the stanza where Kika and Mika belong. It’s a stretch I know, but with Charlene hustling home briskly through the Montreal snow next to her boy neither thinking pleasant healthy thoughts how could I be expected to process much more?
Charlene, my Lucille, my Annette, my Meg or Peg.
I returned to where I began when Ruka obliged wisely and danced back to her friends and Mr. Toko was still at the end of the bar and still not working for my cock. Why? Why give me a Mr. Toko if there is nothing I can do with him! Get hard cack! There’ve been times before when, after anal, I’ve proclaimed far and wide that I will never screw the other hole again. So why can’t I just be gay sometimes? That’s the hole I sneak attack nine times out of ten on the other beast (and get swatted away twenty-nine times out of thirty…but oh that one in thirty!) If Toko stokes my flame, can’t Mr. Toko at least bring forth some some warmth!
I abandoned my queer battle and existential queries about holes and empty spaces and we drove back to the hotel room the show promoter named Jean got us which I am told has nothing to do with Jen which comes from Guinevere (that “white wave” from the poem) while Jean comes from John who, if we know well enough we call “Jacky” which comes from the Olde English “Jankin” wherein “kin” is added at the end of a name as a diminutive and therefore means that Jack has as much a likelihood of coming from John as it does from Jaques. Ah Mr. Toko, Monsieur Jean Khim, I will never know which Western name your parents passed over for fear of obviousness!
I lay on my bed, one band mate on the floor between beds, the other on the other bed.
“So,” I began searching for something for this fleet that can’t sleep, “What theories yous got on the night?”
“Millions,” Gary of the bed threw out after a long pause, “Zillions…but since you asked my sum come to none.”
“Well what’s your theory on that?” someone had to keep prodding for a coda.
So Andy the drummer of the hotel floor threw out, “Cabbies know where all the hippest parties are. Not just where they are, but at what times they begin, peak, and end too. It betters their livelihood if they do. They make more money if they know where the best bet is that someone’s gonna fall into their cab blitzed into an ignorance of how the meter moves, yet these people that fall into their cabs consider the intuition of hip parties to be beyond the inverse factor of hip these Arab cabbies embody. And these cabbies consider their bread makers, those putting the naan on the plates of their twenty children, to be the enemies of Allah. Not to sound too much like you Chrissy, but it’s a question of pink, is it not?”
“Excellent. Gary?” I moderated.
“Fruit flies are nothing more than pancreases with wings. They live off the sugars in the booze at the bar. I was watching them fly around all night while they ignored me. They live off the stuff that kills us. Well if they can live off it we can too. We’re both alive. They’ll save us from diabetes one day, mark my words. We will isolate that gene. These little shits that annoy us will save us.”
“And me? Me, my good friends? I thought that to build a mausoleum is to demand post mortem desecration.”
After the show we all had different nights. One out the window, one at the bar, one in the thick, yet the night still lacked coda.


When Charlene made contact through email she to write an article on nostalgia for her magazine she, anticipating a flatter, said my writing was ‘history driven.’ Her “how do you know so much about history?” hit me more like “you’re out of touch” than the compliment she intended. Man, I do overlap historical events, the now with the then, just so the redundancies cancel each other out and we can see clearer what makes this moment this moment, but not because I’m trapped, Jesus. I read her email in Toronto later the next day and carried the torment with me for the duration of the tour through a few days in the Mid West, a few in the Plain States, through a week in the South and a few more in the Megalopolis until I reached home where I am now still a week into the torment without touching a response to her email or an attempt at this article on nostalgia. Every now and then I’d sit down and do some research on the fly, but nothing truly dedicated or inspired flowed forth.
I thought perhaps this essay on nostalgia I was meant to write began where the conversation last left off which I consider to be in the Montreal hotel room with my band mates. So last night I went by the next closest thing within reach which is the bar at the SoHo Grand Hotel Gary the bass player bartends at. Seemed similar or the best I could do. The reasoning is that a hotel with Gary at least, might bare a vaguely similar thread. En route, I found Gary in the back of the hotel on Thompson Street pissing between cars.
“I’m testing a few things out at once,” craning his neck partially as if to direct the words my way but they only connected dead on with the bumper ‘cause he never took his eyes off his action at hand.
“Oh, is that so?”
“Yeah, I’m working a double shift. I worked the day shift too and the boredom got my mind racing. First of all, did you ever wonder if the reason women stayed home while the men tilled the fields was simply because we could piss anywhere we wanted easier? It’s more practical for women to stay closer to the toilets than us. We can just whip it out wherever we want. Not only can we whip it out wherever we want, but no one is gonna get turned on by us when we do either. Is it possible that our societal roles developed from this one difference? Or, Chrissy, or does the vice versa explain our deflated male papillaries?!
“O.K. point two, is safety the primary reason we use bathrooms? Is the embarrassment of someone seeing you piss or shit just an outgrowth of the embarrassment that at that moment one is completely vulnerable? In Costa Rica they say time stops for the three s’s: surfing, sex, and shitting – which you can partially extend to pissing, which is why I’m out here now and not in the employee bathroom testing my vulnerability. It’s true I think. I was sitting on the can killing time earlier on in the day shift and I imagined myself sitting on a Viking latrine. I forgot to lock the door. In bursts Ygor with axe ready to crack! Technically a good warrior would still be able to grab his sword and defend from the low mounting, but would the rushing endorphins that come with a good shit counter intuit? Would the rush let us welcome the crush? Would the position out of time weaken our connection to mortality? I mean, why else would it embarrass us to do something no one would argue is not neccessary?”
As we walked around the block to the front of the hotel already at the next level of the composted theory where we were trying to conjure the same endorphin opiation through imitating squats on the ‘air can’ lazily lifting our air swords to defend, not really caring if we won or lost the battle, just searching for the rush – “If Chinese Dim Mak can kill with just a touch then its linguistic inverse Kam Mid, which we should Anglicize to commode, might be a point inside our gut we can press to live in timeless opiation if we squeeze the same muscle in squat!” -- the essay started to come:

October Fifth All Year Long
The word nostalgie was coined in 1668 by the Alsatian physician Johannes Hofer. Combining the Greek nostros for “homecoming” and algos for “pain, grief, and distress” he used each term to describe the disease of “extreme homesickness.” At the time, this was ill stuff. It could jaundice the soul, blind the spirit, and wither one to dust if left undiagnosed. Doctors shuddered less when encountering ennui because at least the equally arresting condition had a way of mutating here and there into eurekic snaps! They thought of it as nostalgie’s sister sickness because at the critical stage of each disease the stricken appeared the same. At said stage the ailing would stare transfixed on a single dot on a wall for weeks. It was as if the sufferer of ennui bored to death by life kept whittling away substance he couldn’t find interest in until he’d narrowed it all down to one single dot on the wall and in the fortunate cases, the forces inside this dot propelled by the ebb and flow of the cosmos would then reverse its own trajectory into a Big Bang sort of effect releasing the ailed into a furious sweat of ideas! The sufferer of nostalgie however had no similar simple reactionary hope. He would stare at this same dot because it was the end result of his attempt to whittle back to the point he came from unable ever to return. He got stuck on a line and to turn him around would be to place him back in the original direction he was running away from: awareness of the dot at the opposite end of that line.

I was ready to race home and continue it, but since I was already out and Gary was on fire ( I kind of consider that fire) I stayed, gradually molding the essay in my head as Gary continued on with what seemed like an endless well of bottom feeder theories and well needed puffs of a cigarette before stepping back inside to don his work ‘Gary’ role. I knew I had the next day off so I could finish it then and soak up the rest of it tonight here at the hotel nearest the hotel in Montreal that holds the conception of this nostalgia conversation. So when Gary waxed on about how women hold the family down either by raising children or maintaining risk free number crunching jobs, consistently doing better at schooling than men because men are sent out to find the loop holes, the wild cards, which means only ups and downs, it’s to balance out the swap of roles we share in bed where men go straight for the number crunching to make the family happen while women conjure the haphazard hazardous game – “Why isn’t it common knowledge by now that everything has it’s other, Chrissy?” – I finally figured out it must all be steam from his lady not putting out as of late.
“Uh…well it is, Gary.”
I threw in, “My friend, I get laid more when I don’t have a girlfriend than when I do” as an open ended Rorschach response to illuminate whatever it was inside that was blistering out these acidic theories of his.
“I know, right?” meant he really didn’t hear me. So I allowed him to finish his cigarette in his head while I crafted the next two paragraphs in mine. Fuck him, if he’s leaving I’m leaving too:

The doctors were stuck too. No honest treatment was available for the disease. In Alsace-Lorraine going home has never been quite so easy. You could rarely just send the sick home to start afresh. Home was often in someone else’s hands. The first recorded history of the region has the Celts fighting vertical wars with the Romans for control of the salt mines, and then some sort of horizontal Franco-Germanic conflict has kept the area inflamed to the present. It’s been pummeled from every angle. Who knew what language would be spoken in the home you grew up in, assuming your home was even still standing.
It was this same displacement however that inadvertently produced the cure. The truth is Hofer invented the word, but not the condition. The condition was already well researched and known in German as heimweh. Johannes Hofer knew it well. Being Alsatian, he spoke both languages and studied on both sides of the Rhine. In 1668 most of Alsace was in the hands of France though, capitulated by the Hapsburgs in the Treaty of Westphalia a few decades earlier. The Hapsburgs would then lose the rest to Louis XIV within the next few decades therein making French that centuries temporarily imposed tongue and so whether it was by Franco royal edict or personal preference history appropriately does not document, but Johannes Hofer inventing a word where a word already existed stumbled him into the recipe for vaccinations one hundred years before the first vaccine was accredited in use for fighting smallpox. In other words, he discovered that the antidote to the virus is always the virus. By fighting heimweh with nostalgie Hofer was able to spin the victim’s maligned existential lines into whirlwindic circles that vacillated the victims between languages losing track of who’s on first, what’s on second, and sent them out of the infirmary on the long slow skip home.

Gary finished his cigarette and I was happy to lay my essay on ice until today (and to quit using the dirty word heimweh) so I walked back inside with him for one free drink while he resumed his role behind the bar. Martini bianco with soda is a bit queer, I know, but a good tester to see if you wanna take the night to red wine or tequila next and seeing as everything was already going my way I had nothing to lose by opening myself up to a bit of queer. In it came! While Gary waited on people at the other end of the bar I eaves dropped on (and eventually couldn’t help taking credit for summoning) what I initially assumed was just gonna be the banter of two metro choches on yet another playless night out. To my great fortune I found the rare conversation that would both guarantee the night end playless while simultaneously using correct words. I think. Listen with me to choche one:
“If you ask me I bet it happens while the woman’s pregnant. Put yourself in the position of the fetus. You are the fetus. Are you there fetussing? You imagining yourself as a fetus now tucked in tight floating in amniotic fluid? O.K. now imagine this, you’re a girl. Now what if you’re upside down in the womb and every time your father fucks your mother in comes his dick and smacks you in the face, retracts and smacks. Are you gonna like that dick? Hell no, you’re gonna hate that thing. Not only are you gonna hate it, but its persistent smacking in your face is gonna bust you up, your bones are still tender, and you know what? – a few months later another busted lesbian is born.
“Now, put yourself back in the womb. Now you’re a boy and you’re right side up and every time your father fucks your mother he drives that thing far far up there, as far as it can go and every time it plunders your tiny ass just a little bit. Pat, pat, pound, pound, ooh la la! And therefore naturally that boy is gonna be born a severe homo, a total gay.
“So what’s the option, not sleep with your wife? No, you gotta do that. You can’t go fucking a whore while your wife is pregnant – there are some ethical limits and that’s one of ‘em. It’s like heroin. There are a few lines I just won’t cross; I stop at heroin, I won’t fuck whores while my wife is pregnant, and I won’t ever use pvc and tell my client it’s copper. But you do gotta fuck your wife, for her sake and for yours. If you don’t do that not only are you gonna blame that kid when it comes out for nine months of cock blocking but just as off putting is that kids born after nine months of no sex never develop their own sexuality properly and a non sexual being is more awkward than being gay or overly sexed, which may be the same thing. They see the world all wrong. If a person isn’t cumming once a day they’re missing what makes things move and if you’re missing it then you’re just fucking up how all things move, adding misinformation. At least gays are always in a state or on the verge of cumming. That’s what makes things move. So what you gotta do –-“
“Are you gay?”
-- “So what you gotta do is just keep pumping your woman, pray for the best, pray pray pray, pray to Magdalene, but love whatever comes out in the end for it’s your dick that made it happen, your dick more than your wife’s cunt. In fact, maybe you even owe her an apology, an apology for all the off things in the world. Most of ‘em might breed in those nine months. Yup, there ain’t nothing gays do that we’re not also responsible for. Wait wait wait, I may need to take a cigarette break, new theories are forming: are we the off and they’re the on? Oh my god I love the women species. I think, yup, I think we’re doing all right tonight too, my man. I feel a wave of ho’s coming our way.”
That settled that the Martini bianco led to a tequila cosmopolitan in honor of the queers, the choches, and me and hence no matter how hard I tried to hold my essay back until today these barside words around me still lubed it out. I grabbed a pen and doily to meet it half way. One more paragraph this night and then I put it away for the next day. I didn’t want to lose this night to an essay now though, that would make Charlene’s “you’re so historical” comment float.

“Wait doctor, so is it heimweh or nostalgie I suffer from?”
“Well, you see, in a word both…it was heimweh, it is currently nostalgie, and if I have my way you may very soon carry with you something similar called nostalgia. Whatever word you chose to call it, this condition which ponders the past you will see exists in all tenses. It is always around. However, it is this inescapability of nostalgie that frees us. May I offer you October Fifth as proof? This day is just deep enough into fall to begin feeling nostalgic for past summer’s follies while simultaneously near enough to the holiday season you look forward to nostalgically as a summation of all the past holidays you enjoyed. On October fifth both the past and future are nostalgic. Either direction you turn you see the past. This is an impossible equation. All things lead backwards? If this is the case then we must have mistaken what backwards truly is. Backwards must be forwards as well. On October fifth therefore you move forward with no other direction to move. It is for this reason you can not recall a single memory from October fifth. You were moving forward, free of memory. You don’t remember it, but you were happy then. The day is so liberated from memory you are not even sure if it is October fifth precisely you fail to remember. It may have been the fourth, sixth, seventh, or eighth. Seeing as you can’t remember the day, you also can’t recall the date. Yes, you were happy then because you were heading home as you are now.

I came up for a breath, surveyed the room, and found that everyone was still there. All I heard was the listener to the ranter, “Settle down, settle down” and I dove back in.

“Patient, allow me to extrapolate further. You must also understand that to bring you this word for your condition I had to travel to Greece to seek the words the ancient’s would have used to secure firm footing for my new word {we’re told that Greece was as far back as it went in Hofer’s time}. With the imperial forces in this region toppled so frequently I needed a word that would weather any crown. However, from the Alsace there are two routes to go, the northern and the southern routes. I decided to try them both. The south on my way there, the north on my way back. As I passed through Italy on my southern route I heard the first part of this word nos which they used to mean “our.” On my return voyage through the northern route I passed through the Schwarzwald where I heard the second part of this word tal which they used to mean “valley” {the first dollars were used by tal-ers}. This suffix “gie” was used in some way in every language I encountered to mean just about anything so let’s call this tail to our word “everything.” I realized by taking this circular trip to and from my destination I was in possession of a word with the same meaning as the ancient’s but with a different etymology entirely! In the circular etymology it translates quite literally to ‘Our Valley of Everything.’ You see, we all suffer from nostalgie to a larger or lesser degree. We all carry it with us. It is ours. It is therefore not just your disease. We all share it and if we all share it it can’t be considered a disease at all then, can it? Please don’t burden yourself with the weight of the entire load. It is there with or without your extra burden.”

Enough, as I said I wanted to keep last night about last night so I saved the rest for today (a little later in the pink).
“Let me guess,” Gary was back to check up on me, my eaves dropping, and my drink, “The guys next to you, Walt and Tanner, are getting serious on plundering ass, stomping cunt, and using eyes as cum receptacles. Every day, every day, dude. They never get laid, but that doesn’t stop them from talking like they do, drinking top shelf like they do, and always over tipping me like they do. I’m done with this place. I’m done with all these chodes, I’m done with bartending, with New York in general, with the whole fucking thing. At a certain point, I wrote it down on my calendar, even eye plundering lost its charm. I just wanna make music with Eva. That’s it. That’s all I wanna do, either at a farm upstate, a cabana in the Hamptons, or fucking Bahia once and for all.”
“-- Two…whadda you want? Two, two guava Cape Cods, a Jim Jones on the rocks, and a…a shot of schlager,” poesied our post Phi Sigma Phi Clydesdalian fawn pro forma busting her bust between Walt and Tanner and me to get our friend the bartender’s attention.
“Not only will I make them for you but I’ll buy ‘em for you if you’ll show him your tits,” Gary meant me.
They were confused, c’mon don’t be so mean reader, it takes them time with things.
“Wait, you wanna see our tits?”
“Well I don’t just wanna see them, but we can meet in the middle if you like. See, on the one hand this whole thing has taken you off guard, but on the other I’ve already assembled a long laundry list of the things I need to do with them tonight, so the way I see it is that if you just show them now not only are we even but you also get your drinks for free because we’re chivalrous on top of that. How many other men here tonight still believe in chivalry? I, I believe in cordiality, in the notion of elevated ladies, and in the rewards that come with restraint so I’m o.k. with it if you wanna hold off and only show us your tits right now,” cometh through your bard.
The shirt was up, the tits were beautiful, I was now the one taken off guard, and the previously bluffed and unassembled laundry list scrolled down out of nowhere and ‘need’ was a repeating word.
“I’m glad we could compromise,” I dunno, I’m never prepared for them to come out so easily and I especially wasn’t prepared for them to be so perfect. She returned to her girls with the drinks and Gary was back, “Yeah, I’m just done with it. What do I do though?”
Walt to Tanner, “Yeah, but I don’t wanna be responsible for what I saw today. I was leaving Rao’s walking to my car near the FDR and 116th and this white butchie is beating the fuck out of her black lassbian – that’s what they’re calling the female type lesbians these days. The butchies are going by lesbeaus, lassbians and lesbeaus, you didn’t get the memo?! Ha, well anyhow this small crowd forms, right and she’s yanking her head around from her hair like it was a leash inside a Rottweiler’s mouth and connecting, I mean fucking connecting her blows right across her brow. We can hear them smack from far away. They sound like rips in the heavens. Some homies were just there for the comedy, some people were simply too stunned to move, and then there were the rest of us like firemen and shit that wanted to jump in and break it up but a) we weren’t sure if we were allowed to hit a lady even if she was beating on another lady and b) we weren’t even sure if we could take her! She was a bruiser hopped up on hormones. So at a certain point the butchie realizes that everybody’s staring at her and she hollers back, ‘What! I don’t say nuttin’ to yous when you beat the fuck out of yo bitches at home!’ O.K. right so now we’re all a little bit scared, none of us are sure if we can take this thing. She drags her bitch into a car and we all watch and wait. We get coffee and sodas at the bodega and the lesbians are screaming at each other inside the car and none of us are willing to leave in case it gets worse when low and behizznold! The screams quiet down, there’s nothing for ten minutes, and then they both get out of the car and march past us hugging each other, kissing each other, each apologizing ‘sorry boo, sorry coo’ all of our dicks eunuchate in unity! So Tanner, you’re telling me I’m as responsible for that as anyone else is? That’s a lot to stomach.”
“I’m done, Chrissy.”
Our girl is back up at the bar, “What gives the Jim Jones it color?”
“Jizz,” Gary says, “Yeah so listen, I am done.”
“-- What gives it its color? Did you say Jizz?”
“Yes, Jizz, Chrissy’s Jizz, the same jizz that’s gonna bespeckle upon your tits for your next free round of drinks,” to her. “Now she wants us both,” whispered to me. “No more secrets divulged, just sit down and drink up so we can move on to the next round,” to her. To me “Yeah, so Jesus I gotta get out of here.”
“O.K. so then so do I. I’m going home to get you out of here. Check your inbox in the morning,” and I was out.
Tanner to Walt as I left, “Responsible? You have them to thank! The incomprehensibility of the lesbians broke down the barrier between everyone in the crowd at the bodega. Were you or were you not on the same vulnerable team as the homies and firemen for the duration of their battle? The lesbians gave you a shared moment with people you would have otherwise never opened up to and if you truly were in the eunuchal presence of an array of men you were somewhere you’ve never been before. You owe them thanks.”

The night weather was nice so I wanted to make the ride home as beautiful as could be. The most direct and reliably beautiful route was to head downtown to the Brooklyn Bridge, but as I waited at the light on Canal Street a little Latino kid was pointing at a gutter while his dad dragged him along and it caught my attention. To follow them east down Canal Street would put me on a whole new path, but something about the kid piqued my interest so I headed their way. It was long past any kid with a future’s bedtime. I can understand why his dad had little patience at this hour for any childhood curiosities that mine as well wait till morning, but the kid wouldn’t quit. Every sewer grate he passed he pointed to looking to engage his dad in some sort of intrigue. Man, if it was a yuppie dad he would have brainstormed a million questions with the kid in proto higher pitched adult language about what might be down there lurking and why. Yuck. I mean, the yuppie dad isn’t getting laid that late anyhow, so what’s he got to lose? Maybe this Latino guy is both worried about missing his last window for a lay while simultaneously panicking about how he’s possibly gonna give his wife a solid bone after such a long day. This is all to say that I was mildly relieved to see a parent not pretending to be just an empty facilitator. This dad wasn’t doing much. At least this kid looked up to a man that had more to him than just being his dad (though if the dad was thinking like I’m thinking he may still have been playing dad by trying to teach him a lesson about human empathy). I followed them, but I hope you follow me? His dad wasn’t engaging the kid in the mysteries of the sewer at that hour. He was just dragging him home.
Canal Street cuts through Chinatown so if there was gonna be a creepy crawly beast hiding somewhere in the sewers this would be the place to find him. Last year that amphibious fish, the mudsucker, crawled off a Chinatown stand and made it all the way down to a lake in Maryland where he ate every last fish dead. Alright, so for a change I take Canal Street inspired by the kid. At least I engage the kid’s query and it leads to the Manhattan Bridge which can also take me home which I also never take. This night won’t be beautiful per se, but at least it’ll be better.
As I ride past the kid and his dad my musings about the creepy crawly beasts have now contaminated my own non-fictive brain. I try to turn to look at their faces when I realize Canal Street is slippery, not with water, with ill oils and guts from the runoff of the things they sell down here. Everything they sell down here has an explanation point attached to its names: “Hau!Hau!Hau!”, “Lee Kung Quai!”, Sheeee(!)dawursurla!” so it’s only logical that their entrails would carry the same exclamation points with them through death. It stinks. If I should slip and fall into one of those gutter, though it would be an appropriate ending, it would still be an ending nonetheless and I’m not ready to go yet. So I never get to see what pop and son look like because I have to concentrate too hard on peddling on the sea of grease. I only know they’re Latino by their oversized baseball jerseys and trim doos. I swear I must be making twice as many rotations of my wheels and getting half as far as I usually do on this street beast grease. I bet there’s a white person from an apartment window in view that’s waking his girlfriend up right now to look at me in mockery, the Chinaman, on the street not even riding a bike right. “Look at the Chinaman,” the asshole says, “fucker, doesn’t even know how to ride a bike. Ah babe, what would we do without them?” Hey, that’s me!
Some things never change. Canal Street was so named because it was once a canal that linked the East River to the North River before it was called the Hudson. So utilitarian our city was with names! What a front! The Canal didn’t entirely draw its waters from either river though. It was also used to drain the excess from the freshwater spring in the center of the Collect Pond downtown, but as the city grew up the Collect Pond cessed into nothing more than a drainage pool of tannery, gunsmith, and garbage runoff and if it was high tide the waters from either side of the island would mask the cholera beneath (like winter does in Chinatown now), but at low tide the canal, fed only by a trickle of polluted Collect Pond sludge, bore its true colors of typhoid, yellow fever, and the gamut of maladies both clinical and cultural (like our summers in Chinatown now).
Next the City fills the Collect Pond and Canal Street in to prevent further epidemics, but they don’t realize that you can’t plug a spring. Today all of the nearly hundred streams that once traversed this island have been siphoned into underground tubes and led east or west to be deposited in either river. No stream that existed on the island when the Dutch arrived has yet to cease its flow. They’ve all just been bottled up and sunk (to sink a stream!). They didn’t know they had to do that then though. They filled in the Collect Pond and Canal Street and built buildings on top which of course sank, but before they sank for good – while they were merely in the air and state of rot – the poor moved in, the poorest of the poor, like the poorest of the poor in the entire world at that time. The Collect Pond became the ghetto known as Five Points and the swarm of the swamp lived on in sin and typhoid.
Now, with the Manhattan Bridge at one end and the Holland Tunnel at the other, even though Canal Street cuts through the heart of Chinatown, it’s a thoroughfare everyone in the city depends on, not just the Chinese. And seeing as the most common surname in New York is now Rodriguez I think about what a false friend its name must be. When Mr. Rodriguez reads Canal Street does he hear Canela Street? Does he think of Cinnamon while he smells farts?

Those inner ramblings take me up and into the footpath on the Manhattan Bridge and at this point, three minutes later, the kid and his father are already a distant memory. To its credit, I realize the Manhattan Bridge offers a better view of the Brooklyn Bridge than riding across the Brooklyn itself does. You can’t see it when you’re on it. Therefore, this bridge does have at least one purpose. And it also falls in the pink. There is never anyone on this bridge which means there’s also no chance of getting mugged. Late night on the Williamsburg to the north is dark and dicey. Late night on the Brooklyn to the south is well lit, but being a host to the easy tourist prey makes everyone who takes it greater prey to our locals. The Manhattan though, utterly forgotten and overlooked is free of even madmen.
The Manhattan lets you out in downtown Brooklyn which sets the model for all of the other American skylines you can see approaching from the interstate – except Manhattan: that is, the last place to find the American city is in the center. Brooklyn, like the typical American city, exists around its tall buildings. Once you enter downtown you check your character at the periphery. Brooklyn’s skyscrapers are as anonymous as the corporate faces that slink and disappear through the streets at their base. It isn’t until Brooklyners cross back out of the vortex that their characters resume. I swear there’s even more cripples, retards, and morbidly obese under Brooklyn’s skyscrapers than in its neighborhoods. Do they correct their posture and reposition the features on their faces when they cross back out? It seems so, even at this hour I pass a few lurking here and there content to wait hours at bus stops for the next specialty to bus to take them to their specialty homes.
The border of the periphery on my route is Atlantic Avenue where the character resumes immediately again once it’s been crossed like it’s been bottled up, clogged at the gates before entrance to the anonymous silence of the center. Shit, the center is sounding a lot like church (not Church Street, church) which may be why the food sold around its edges is abnormally holy. The Arab souks of Atlantic Ave sell rose water; almond, honey, and coconut baklava; and the Maronite Christians of Damascus make health conscious whole wheat pitas. Two blocks deeper in and the holiness is already contaminated with our clay.
The poet flaneur Samuel Menashe is fond of pointing out that Adem was the Hebrew word for clay, but go one step further with me and hear Adam as spelled etym (none of it was spelled with these letters back then anyhow; it’s come to us Phoenicianly phonetic); the Words are the Clay in Genesis, hence the deeper you dig the more they yap. Like there’s a small chain of ice-cream parlours you can find in Guinea neighborhoods (as in, right outside the city, not yet in the suburbs) in New Jersey and New York called Magic Fountain. In the Seventies they broke away from Dairy Queen when DQ began watering down their ice cream. A group of the Italian owners of these Dairy Queens agreed to keep the dairy content the same and regroup proudly as Magic Fountain. There’s one of these just a few blocks past Atlantic. I approve their firm adherence to beliefs; I just wished I agreed with their specific tenets: water is way holier than dairy. Or if you got better things to do with your day than reread that analogy a few times to get it, at least stutter next time you wanna clamp a yentas mouth shut when it just keeps running on and on. Both she and you are made of clay, man.
I’m glad food was on my mind for once in this late hour because I really didn’t want to get laid tonight and if I had a thirst instead of a hunger I couldn’t risk barring it -- I had a lot of work to do tomorrow morning -- and then wriggling myself out of breakfast or drinking my way through a waking coffee I wished I was having alone or leaving another apartment as fast as I could with my boots unzipped and my socks god knows where – leaving them reason to call me, “I’ve got your socks.” Man, I’ve done permanent damage to my ankles and knees run-walking in the a.m. without socks in unzipped boots just because I needed a nightcap and they fell upon me. Yeah, getting laid tonight would be counter productive to my immediate work of helping Gary escape (remember that!), writing my essay on nostalgia, meeting Rockwell for coffee, and I didn’t know it yet, but writing my wordless letter to Jen. Yes, I’d eat instead and write my letter to Gary tonight.
Fortunately a few blocks from home I found Fratelli’s Trattoria still open so I grabbed this Bergamasco lover’s delight in which somehow rum soaked polenta, marzipan, and chocolate cream are fused into a pasty that looks like a tit on a Hindi deity. I took it to go with a set of plastic utensils so I wouldn’t have to risk engaging in a hang with David when I slipped into the noisy utensil drawer in the kitchen.

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