Mar 30, 2007


Mar 28, 2007

Pot holes and back fires and eye balls and sattellites: a bootleg

The band was sitting in the back of the panel van on the floor. The van was humping the road in the dark in Ohio. Some college town show. The base player sat with his back against the spare tire. The drummer sat on the wheel well hump, hunched over. The inside of the uncarpeted van was dark except for the red light of the one working tail light shining through and up the one side of the black van with a stoplight glow.

The band was wearing suits. Which was uncomfortable. The van was uncomfortable. Both were D.B.'s idea and he was there, sitting cross-legged like a meditating Indian at a camp fire with his eye lids half-closed and his eye balls rolled up back looking up into his skull.

The base player had his gray tie thrown over his shoulder like the hang-low ears in the children's song and he'd spilled most of a malt liquor down the front of his shirt. The sax player was trying to light up a joint in the passenger seat but his fingers were fat, pinching the paper, and every time the lighter got near the dry end of the marijuana the vehicle jumped.

Pot holes and back fires.

Machine hadn't had a tune-up since '65. They hadn't seen a store or a house or a street light in a long time. The driver was hunched up over the wheel, hand on the three-on-the-tree stick and his left knee bouncing up and down. He was muttering. The sax player was swearing at his Bic.

D.B. just sat there. He heard nothing. Everything. Nothing. The white of his left eyeball was red in the tail light and his right eye was black in the bumpy dark. That was the last show.

Place they played that night was an L-shaped bar with a stage at the joint and, whatever, it was a show. Someone said they had a bootleg and the thing was amazing and it got talked up by the critics as this masterpiece crucial mythic moment. But it was just a shit show like all of them. The soundman was a idiot. The drummer regularly lost his rhythm. The base player drank too much beer. Some short-legged girl danced the whole time with her eyes closed, doing all those Phish and Grateful Dead wave-your-arms-and-sway-dorky-white-girl moves. You look at the critic's piece that week and he writes it up as another show, whatever. Stage antics that were nothing but junkie's jerks and little kiddy kicks.

Later, yeah, they write the myths. Later, sure. Then they say it like they saw Jesus raising the dead and feeding the meek. They act as if it was divine light coming down, but all of that was made up.

That night, as the follow-up act at a venue for half-laughing comedy stands, it was just a show. Then it was over. That was it: Good night folks. The band got back in the van and D.B. stood in the parking lot looking at the 2 a.m. weeds and a sattellite blinked off through a constellation and that was all.

Later came cult followings. Later the critics wrote columns for kids who hadn't been born when D.B. wrote his stuff. Later you had lead singers saying how they played his one album until the grooves became ruts. Later the sax player died in a single-car crash and the base player went through therapy and wrote a book.

D.B. didn't know any of this. D.B. grew cacti in a gravel patch back of his mother's place on the side of sand dune. They say he was a genius. He watched the prickly pears bloom.
Alfonso Mason saw his face on television. It was an older picture, so his glasses weren’t as thick and his hair wasn’t as gray, but it was him.

The 56-year-old was in an extended-stay motel in DeKalb County. All he did all day was sleep and watch TV and when he saw his face and saw he was wanted by the Clayton County Police for the murder of a motel maid, the armed robbery of Stockbridge’s Suburban Lodge and the car-jacking of the assistant manager’s car, he decided to turn himself in.

Mar 26, 2007

Going away Jack

I had the 18th pallet jack. I don't know how many there were, but mine was the 18th. It was red, labeled R, with a bad right wheel.

When I picked up a load of water, bottles wrapped in plastic into a pine pallet, the jack would lean and wander to the right so I was always steered down the aisle in a stagger trying not to take out the super-mart shelves.

Somebody took a black pen and wrote REPUBLICAN onto the jack after the R. I never figured out what kind of joke that was, but thought it was funny anyway. I don't know who wrote it. It was there when I got there and it was a bad joke and bad jack so no one wanted it and I pushed it around every night that winter.

I got 15 minutes off at midnight. 15 minutes at 4 and 15 again at 6. I read some, about angels and economics. Just sat there, some, listening to the women turning the pages of the tabloids and the magazines. Listening to the smell of coffee in a paper cup. Listening to the talk.

In the back room of the warehouse store, that winter, in the smoking break room, there was an argument. I listened to it all winter, talk between cigarettes for 15 minutes at a time.

Chris said working there, stocking shelves at night, was the best job ever. They paid you and they left you alone. Jack said he was crazy. Every day Jack talked about leaving. In the morning, at the end of the shift, walking out through the sensor-run sliding doors into the day that was still cold and uncomfortably new, he'd say, another day down.

He'd gone away once. Gone away from this town to another job that was like the one he had here, but it was somewhere else. It was down in Mississippi at the end by the coast and there was a store there where he got a job and he didn't know anybody, which was kind of the point. He told me this once and he ended it there, talking about Mississippi and ending with, it was good, it was nice.

But you're not there, I said, you're here.

Well there was the hurricane. Where else was I going to go? I came back.

So now he counted down the days until he could leave again and when they argued in the break room he smoked menthols and wore his brown hair long and said this night work, this crazy shit of stocking shelves so they could be empty again so you could stock them again was the worst work you could have.

Why? Here, there, here, it's all the same. It's just the same, Chris said. You know people here so you know you have people here, you're from here. Somewhere else? The people be the same except you wouldn't know them.

It was like that all winter. I was working nights and the winter was dark and cold and smelled like a couch. I don't know if it was long or short for a winter but it passed and the argument ran on. It started before me, before I came and left again and, for all I know, it is still going on.

Mar 21, 2007

After a long time he stirred. He leaned forward. He turned the white porcelain bowl up and held it in the palm of his hand and regarded it. The world has no name, he said. The names of the cerros and the sierras and the deserts exist only on maps. We name them that we do not lose our way. Yet it is because the way was lost to us already that we have made those names. The world cannot be lost. We are the ones. And it is because these names and these coordinates are our own naming that they cannot save us. That they cannot find for us the way again.
                - Cormac McCarthy

Someone shouted amen: Painting the apocalypse
The American Accent project
The aerotropolis, the digital world made manifest, parts 1,2,
Authors speaking
Dressing room self portraits, picture of the love/hate consumer
American Communist Party archive
Cynics, fall guys, sluts, heists, and murders most foul: a dream
Interpreting people to interpret the law
'Helvetica' on tour
Finding the (Russian) moral in the amoral and absurdist 'Alice'
How James Madison is the best U.S. president
Keroac the Catholic
Amature philosophy asks, what's the meaning of it all?
Pen histories
What can be seen on the tip of the tongue
Building a "sustainable" business
St. Petersburg by Peter Schrock
Slate pictures the world's poet
Picturing 'This American'

Mar 15, 2007

A picnic on a Monday

He walked ahead of the others, carrying the quilt. It was folded and bulky in his arms and in the light of mid-Monday, the gray light of clouded spring, it was colorless. He held the quilt to his belly and walked apart from the two women so you couldn't be sure they were following.

They followed him, weaving a slight stagger through the short brown grass. The blonde woman carried a brown bag. The brunette woman carried three white styrofoam cups. What the hell, said the blonde. Where the hell are you going.

He didn't say anything, and they followed him and called at him and one laughed and he ignored them like they might ask for money.

The grass smelled of bugs breaking out of winter. Small black birds walked their way up and down in rows, back and forth like mowers.

The man laid the blanket down and laid down. He went to his stomach and put his head on a fist. His shirt edged up his back. He was too fat for his shirt. The women surround him, one on each side, and abandoned themselves to the quilt-covered ground. The blonde put the brown bag down. The brunette unstacked the cups, one, two, three. Like the picnics of proper children: a pantomime.

The man moved off his elbow and shuffled a hand into the bag, moving it around in a rustle and coming out with energy drinks in three tin cans. He set them next to the cups and the brunette and the blonde laughed loudly.

The brunette sat cross legged and pulled the bottle out of the bag. A half gallon clear plastic bottle of clear vodka.

A small bird worked at the upper roots of a weed. The weed hadn't bloomed, on the Monday, and was just a spot of green. The bird poked around it, on the one side and then the other, opening up the dirt and the top layer of hair-line roots. The bird opened them up to the air in a revelation and then, then, the weed slowly tipped over and died.

On the sidewalk at the other end of the grass a woman jogged three dogs on three leashes. A dogwood tree flowered.

No, said the blonde. I don't like that stuff. It tastes awful. The man said what do you want to mix it with. It's all we bought. The blonde said I'll just drink. The brunette pulled at the bottle by the neck, hoisted it up with a hand and passed it over the man's back to the blonde.

And they lay there on a Monday in the spring into their 30s.

Mar 8, 2007

Jean Baudrillard, who was a hyperreality theorist, who said the first Gulf War didn't occur, who was obscure, popular and misunderstood, who said "Everything eludes itself, everything scoffs at its own truth, seduction renders everything elusive. The fury to unveil the truth, to get at the naked truth, the one which haunts all discourses of interpretation, the obscene rage to uncover the secret, is proportionate to the impossibility of ever achieving this," died on Tuesday at the age of 77.

May he rest in peace.

Mar 6, 2007

The disciple of Moses

She said his name as a question. She said she tried to call. He said he didn't have a phone. She said she wanted to talk to him about those years with that man. She said I want to know. I want to know how you came to know him and what you thought of him then and what you think of him now. She said I want to know your story. She said I want to talk to you. She smiled. Her white teeth embarrassed him.

His hair was sticking up.

He put his hand on his head and he rubbed it. He watched the little bits of hair and dead skin fall through the light between him and the woman and fall down to the unpainted porch. Each bit caught the light and fell. Fell like lighting.

Everyone knew how it ended for Brother Joel. But some of them knew that that was all they knew and some of them wanted to know what came before. Sometimes they found Jeremy Lee and they asked him. He lived in a double wide about a mile after the highway ended. He lived in a mobile home with a half-built porch. The porch was unpainted and a box of ten-penny nails was set by the front door. The gray cardboard was wet and withering back to show the speckles of rust bumping up on the clump of nails.

There were some calls, in the first days after the news. Before he got rid of the phone. Mostly, they were just saying what they thought of the scandal, that they thought it was a scandal and they thought it was a scandal that there was a scandal and they said: you're a horrible person. Sometimes, though, they called him to say they didn't believe any of it.

They would have called Brother Joel, they said, but they didn't have his number and could he let him know they were praying for him and wanted him to fight the good fight. No one knew where Brother Joel was now. No one knew where you'd go now, after a fall like that. They thought he might know but he didn't.

They called to say support and prayer and blessings and beware of Satan's snares. They called to say God damn you to hell and you deserve to die and go be with your Satan.

Didn't really matter what they were trying to say, what way they thought about the thing. They all found their way back to Satan. All of them at some point got around to that.

Which made sense, he thought.

The woman from the magazine found him on a Tuesday. Last Tuesday. It was almost five years now, since the news.

She didn't mention Satan. She wore a small gold cross around her neck, the kind that might be religious or might just be jewelry. She came on Tuesday at noon and he was asleep because he slept days. She was at the door next to the nails and he opened it, surprised at the sun. Surprised at the woman standing there. He was wearing, he realized when he opened the door, sweat pants and nothing else.

She said I want to know your story and she smiled. She said when's the last you heard from him.

He said no, no, go away. He said another day, maybe, not right now. Please, leave please. It's not a good time. Another time. Come back later.

He had a spider plant in the window that needed watering. He watered it and he watched her through the window and she drove away. I could have told her, he though. Maybe. I could have gone through it and maybe she would have understood. How would she have understood? We don't understand and we were there.

The plant didn't need watering. It was dead. The brown was half way down the leaves. The water ran through the dirt without pausing and flushed out of the holes in the bottom of the pot and he didn't have a bowl under there to catch it. Which must mean he had never watered it. The water went through and spilled out dirty onto his feet and his floor.

Part 1. Part 2.

Mar 3, 2007

Falling down about it

Barton: You read the Bible Pete?
Pete: Holy Bible?
Barton: Yeah.
Pete: Yeah, I think so. Anyways, I've heard about it.
            - Joel and Ethan Cohen

They are hermits, hermits who live in a community... And if you have those moments of despair, those moments of really falling into the Nothing—which are usually the moments before you then suddenly find an image of extreme beauty.
            - Phillip Groening

Henry Kissinger: I went to two of [Billy Graham's] revival meetings. At the end he spoke in a very soft voice and it is really unbelievable how they all started to come up. It is to me very moving. You ought to go to one of his revival meetings. When those people step forward, it lasts as long as his speech was. His speech is very strong and traditional but he talks in a much gentler way when he asks them to come forward.
Kirk Douglas: Were you ready to go forward?
Henry Kissinger: No, but I was very impressed.

Mar 1, 2007

Brown-eyed sevens

And the girl with long brown hair and big brown eyes standing at the end of the grocery converyor belt, waiting for the rubber rollers to turn the groceries over to her, standing there with her right hand hidden in the open plastic bag, she said:

You know, with Darryl and me? Everything's sevens.

Emm hmmm, said the other girl, a girl with long brown hair and the big brown eyes and one hand on the cash register's keys and one hand sliding the groceries from the black belt over the red light scanner, beep, and onto the other belt. Dozen eggs. Ground beef. Milk, two quarts and two percent. Then the produce - lettuce, tomatos, onions, bell peppers, cucumbers, cilantro, spinach, lemons, grapefruit.

Both of the girls wore green aprons. Stood with their weight on one leg. Hips out. The bagger scratched her nose. The cashier brushed her hair back up over her right ear. She had three earrings. They stood there, in the queue.

Yeah, said the girl at the end. Either sevens or multiples of seven, like 49.

Did you notice, the other girl said, suddenly like it was a surprise, that nothing's priced per piece any more? Didn't all this use to be by the item? It's all by the pound.

Like both of us were born on a seven. Seven months apart. We started going out in July, which is seven.

They were silent, then, and the conveyor belts said emmm hmmm and the rollers turned the groceries down the row, towards the windows. The groceries moved slowly. The girls moved slowly. The three people in line stood there. Holding their wallets, their keys, their food. They stared at where the lights lined up along the speckled floor and the lines where the conveyor belt was scraped from turning. They looked at the candy and the magazines. They looked out the floor length window into the wash of the white of the sun.

I just think it makes more sense by the item. I don't know why they changed it. When did they change it? Did I just never notice?

Yeah, the girl said from the end, everything's sevens. Sevens, or sometimes multiples of sevens. Like I was saying.

So? said the cashier. Maybe it's your lucky number.

I guess, said the bagger.

I don't believe that, said the cashier.


Lucky number shit. That's not true. It's nothing. You just start to notice it all the sudden.

I know, said the bagger. I know. Coincidence or something. I just thought it was interesting. You know, sevens.

Sure, said other girl. Sure. Emm hmmm.