Thursday, December 13, 2007

Street Sweeper

Most of the time I would have remembered, but somehow I found myself holed up in Richmond with the Hawaiian Schefelera and a pile of bologna wrappers. I think there was an after hours club somewhere, going out a bit before the clubs shut was ok and I could sleep through afternoon. The lesbian down the hall would knock on my door sometimes, and I think some of my early flip book drawings were passed under her door in jest.

Most days had me lonely lonely lonely. My face was plastered on me then. I think the flying gate was the only bike I had, before I put the old Super Record on it, I rode with some guys from UofR who were trying to start a velo team. They thought I was in much better shape than I was. The bike only got out one or two days a week anyway, so there was more time in the room.

My old friend Cindy wanted to know why the girl down the hall plead to come out with us, sounded incredulous when I told her, maybe excited. She winked towards my bed on the floor.

The brownstone was high-ceilinged and had nice breezes, passing out in the kitchen or den bothered no one. One couple downstairs was shooting and the lesbian told me she wanted to try. I asked her not to and she didn’t, came to listen to my radio one night.

I had a police scanner with two shortbands as well. There was an Israeli show at five in the morning, European House that we enjoyed. Not wanting the lesbian felt fine, she slept nicely in my arms: had been abused by her father and carried a gun in her purse for that.

The police were always at our door. That was still the South then, in the 70's, crew cutted good old boys not much for our sort of abandon, some things coming to us just a little to easy. They were waiting.

Once the door in the room opened to a patio but now it is gone. A summer day the lesbian and I pryed its painted jam and sat in our underwear legs dangling the alley. The sun was beating the needles down the hall into a plan.

The lesbian said no so I left for Israel myself. Cindy tried to take care of her but she finally stepped onto the lanai.

Monday, December 10, 2007


The stewardess turned mid word and caught herself saying Sir, realized that I didn’t intend to appear belligerent, wouldn’t want to ask me to disembark for that. Smiling askew I fumbled my bags overhead reaching inside for the vile, elsewhere everyone settled in. The fitted polyester uniform swaying the isle, finally looking down to Her smile.

I felt her looking and didn’t want to. Three pills came from my pocket and a tiny bottle of bourbon. Then, as our plane taxied we came to rest at the runway with brakes locked and engines revving. “This is the best part”, her eyes held my flashing glee. Smiling in acceleration I opened the bottle to find her hand grasping mine, opening the palm. The plane tilted upwards as she nodded, indicating two pills be returned to the vile.

In the white silence of Pratt and Whitneys, succumbing to the give of flex and fold brushing whispers back into me. Then hours later, just another unexpected landing.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Past Light Cone

I had never spoken to Ray, the guy who sat behind me in Algebra, but I read about him in the newspaper. Apparently he had been hanging out with friends at one of their house’s when someone discovered what they thought to be an older brother’s cocaine stash. After inhaling the entire quantity between them they quickly succumbed to the affects of PCB and one by one fell into a deep comatose state. Just before collapse one of the girls had dialed 911 and Ray, hearing this, miracously climbed into the attic and hid there until paramedics found the open door to climb in and administer cardio pulmonary ressesutation. That, to me, represented a certain level of experience and dedication.

Our Algebra class took place after lunch and I frequently smelled booze on Ray. That, Ray’s reputation as an ass kicker and the fact that he was older and had an easy hundred pounds on me combined quite effectively to instill draw clenching fear every time I sat down. Still, I knew that if liquor was detected in our vicinity the blame would certainly fall on him since no one at the time suspected I was drinking my lunch. I would have let that happen too as I knew that the address given with the police report had listed Ray as living at some church, and I imagined a poor derelict orphan rattling around echoing halls badgered by clergymen to do homework. I didn’t care what happened to him.

In the silence of our first Algebra test a finger in my ribs pushed me to the side of my chair. I understood and let him copy my answers.

The school was undergoing a large renovation project then so afterwards I ducked into a construction zone for a smoke. When I was done Ray was just heading in, surprised to see someone like me there. As we stood for a moment he looked over and said “cool”. I knew he was talking about the exam.


I was a loner yet also a bit of a loose cannon, and there happened to be a rather pleasurable circumstance with a nicely formed specimen which had gone awry. I didn’t blame her but apparently that generosity of spirit was not reciprocated. During an inopportune moment surrounded by many people she accused me in a loud tone of being gay, and I let loose. The verbal assault attracted a great deal of attention, including that of some athlete type senior year dork in the mood to play night in shining armor. Undeterred I went on as this guy came in for my neck, but just as he was about to land he was yanked from the ground. Ray. After the smoke cleared a gym coach came through the waning crowd and asked me if she called me a “fag”. I confirmed that and he smiled and said “well done. I didn’t see a thing”. Imagine, a coach and a 225 pound juvenile delinquent abandoning their differences to come to my side? The feeling of that sort of comradery during my time of duress has stuck with me to this day.

Last night I was hanging out with a bunch of guys down by the cay. We were all more than a bit schnockered and feeling pretty good. I didn’t know everyone but, you know, I knew someone that everyone knew. One of the guys I didn’t found it necessary to grab his guitar and smash it against a tree. I thought to myself What an impetuous fool, stay away from that one. And then I remembered Algebra, how I had been deceived by my early impressions, understood that all I knew about this guy was that he
harmed nothing but his own guitar.

It turns out that Ray truly was the orphan I imagined him to be, and to many people made the mistake I did in class. So now, even though I’ve forgotten most of the Algebra, I’m going to remember the sentiment and see if I can save the next guitar.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


For the past four weeks I’ve been aboard the unregistered Pacific Seacraft Dana marked Collette off the coast of Eastern Central America. The waters have been, for the most part, calm and delightful. As I’ve tacked easily across the Gulf schools of fishes have been traveling afoot as I’ve teased them with my fly rod, using circle hooks to ensure that most could be safely released. Because the owner has installed a propane refrigerator I have had reliable food storage so I take about one fish every other day. On the first day I have sashimi then throughout the second and sometimes the third I have yaki sakana and ceviche. Other than that I read, listen to shortwave radio and scan the horizon, always beset with guilt for not doing so for fear of missing a distressed vessel or crewman.
Though I have experienced remarkable sites during this delivery I have not enjoyed the sensation of sharing them. I have painstakingly corroded two circuits on my radio to provide an explanation should the Coast Guard board Collette. I do not watch TV or movies. The lapping of wave on hull is small comfort to my ears.
Very Large Crude Carriers known as Panamax or VLCCs frequent these waters, and sometimes when I go to sleep I wonder if I will succumb to their inertia and mass, woken only to drown among sunken fiberglass splinters. I’m sure I would not be the first and only wonder how many Chinese junks Collette would join in heaven.
Unforeseen factors aside I will birth in Miami in three days. Before then I will adjust the aspiration on the spotless Volvo diesel and test, analyze and monitor the entire electrical system. I will polish teak with lamp oil and eat from cans to maintain a spotless deck. Within one day’s sail I will no longer allow weary birds to rest aboard ship as they will be well within land’s and other’s reach.
On the morning of the last day I will also uncleat collette’s halyard and lower the jib, spray it with fresh water, allow it to luff dry, then stow it below. Within an hour of port I will do the same with her mainsail. Both will be inspected carefully beforehand.
Shortly before port I will shower and don a ridiculously pretentious nautical cap, blazer and slacks. I will wave only to sailors, then motor in awkwardly so that my skills appear to match my outfit, cleat up and come ashore. I will hand the keys to Collette’s cabin and electrical system to a man who has been hired specifically for the occasion to relive the harbor master, strip off my cap and glasses in a rented car and disappear into traffic.
Twelve hours later a flight, a bus ride and a cab will bring me to the cottage. I will double check my pockets and backpack for any paper, put my marlinspike in a drawer and step on the scale in my bathroom. As the mechanical dial spins I will take a deep breath, hear my weight finally register and come back into being to prepare for my bed. In Vermont. Impossibly inland from VLCCs.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


If you’ve never heard Foghat’s “Smoke on the Water” you’re probably an Amish farmer reading a computer screen for the first time or one of those Japanese soldiers they found on Iwojima ignorant of the outcome of WWII, so none of this is going to make any sense to you.
The rest of you recognize this Rock anthem from Beavis and Butthead, every stoner movie made, or heard it blasting from that primered El Camino the weird guy who hangs out downtown drives.
My brother and I witnessed the introduction of this beacon of pop ignorance around the time we were in junior high and of course recognized it for the genius that it was.
Our father, having studied bassoon throughout his youth and early adulthood was unaware of “Smoke on the Water”, or pretty much anything that came along after the Gutenberg press.
We used to get to tag along with him when he performed at The New York City Ballet, which of course meant a chance at a brief interlude with a Balanchine-sexy ballerina. There was other cool stuff about that too, like seeing Lincoln Center from the pit and watching Dad warm up for the show. One by one musicians would wander in to tune, toot or pluck their instruments into shape while the audience awaited the conductor.
You know where this is going, right?
The house is packed and silent: Dad is the first musician in the pit; he assembles his bassoon, arranges the evening’s sheet music and plays the first five or six bars of “Smoke”. People said they could hear the audience roar all the way from the fountain.
Everyone knew who put my Dad up to this and Roderick and I were pelted with admiration like rose petals on matadors in the musician’s lounge that night.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Occasionally, if you’re unfortunate enough to live through a couple of lifetimes of the usual pitfalls, you’ll come across a decent soul who sees whatever the hell it was in you that you never saw yourself. I’ve been around without the chemicals long enough to realize the guilt of having two of those: It’s heartwarming and it sucks, that’s all.

One has found me opportunity and the other is attempting to find me work. As a writer. People think of me as a writer. I can’t reconcile my humility when I hear them say so, but to me it is a glamour that no Hollywood Star will ever know upon red carpet or otherwise.

The embrace of all this kneads in me like flower and yeast, rising.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ecological responsibility, Red Goshawks and the 19 plastic box cutters that conquered the most powerful army ever to exist

I’m one of those environmentally conscious people who bicycles instead of driving, separates all his recyclables, boycotts products made by large corporations known to commit atrocities against mother earth and eats as low on the food chain as possible in order to conserve this small blue planet we live upon. I was a member of the international retired Olympic relay swim team that swam the Mac G3 hard drive under the US coast guard’s radar and into Cuba from Mexico in order to revise the sugar refinement technology of that socialist country.
But you know what…I’m not doing any of that crap anymore. What is the sense in it all? Mere perpetuation of the planet, the people who will continue to mess it up and the other detritus that was here before us? I simply can’t see the value in that. Am I to leave my ’67 Ford F10 in the garage just so some smiling infant can grow up to guzzle the petroleum I’ve conserved for her? Or maybe I should forego using antibiotics when I’ve some disease just so that particular strain won’t become more virulent and compromise the teeny bit of life remaining in some octogenarian who pillaged the women of the French countryside during WWI. It’s all idiotic.
And don’t think you’re some particular breed of intellect because you’ve read that idiot Sartre and you think I’m just regurgitating his drunken blather. Because you and I both know that if he was around today he’d be writing editorials for Harpers, spending $37 for a loaf of whole wheat stone pulped peasant bread from Dean and Deluca’s and mail ordering 12 year old boys from Laos .
But you know what? All kidding aside, starting this very minute I’m living it up. I’ve got the frikin’ truck idling in the driveway right now just so the AC will be nice and chilly when I step into it. I made out holiday cards bestowing lavish donations to the NRA in the name of all my friends. I’m going into town tonight to buy 15 bags of heroin and a rig, and I’m going to teach myself how to use it without any assistance. I’m itchin to make an omelet out of a California Condor egg. And if I live long enough I’m going to vote for that Mitt guy.
So cheers to all the amputated limbs we’ll be leaving behind in Iraq and then Iran, how’do’you’do to the Andean herders who’ve shed their skins under the ozone hole and pleased to meet you to the silos of multi-headed nuclear and nerve gas infused missiles of Omaha and Nebraska.
If anyone needs me I’ll be out in my ’47 Hataras harpooning bottlenose dolphins with incendiary harpoon tips.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Global Warming Melted the Snowcaps so Now We Can See the Mountaintops More Clearly

Many years ago a boy grew up among a dusty Pueblo in New Mexico crooked between a gas station, a small market and a five-and-dime. The boy had sun kissed cheeks and felt nothing between his heels and the earth his family worked and lived upon. Together on Sundays they walked eight miles to church, holding hands, breathing the day and feeling their Sabbath clothing. The boy walking next to his father, the man’s passion for faith flowing down through his hand and into his son’s. As the boy knew crops rose to the sun, that night came after day he also knew he would become a preacher.

Far from the Pueblo his cracked and dated valise held all but his faith. He felt the big city, overlooked vice and embraced the people and their ways. He preached in a small storefront, was offered morning hours on a local radio station. Soon, all the other girls and boys who felt the earth of their Pueblos while growing up listened to the boy and remembered their churches and helped fill the city with kindnesses.

In much the same way a small Belgian farmer’s son worked and learned alongside his father. Their family tilled the land, and the father had a small tractor repair behind the house were he offered honest maintenance to the machines of the community. That boy knew also, as a stone falls to earth or an object in motion will come to rest, that he would grow to be an engineer.

As both boys grew the world became smaller and the possibilities of all we could accomplish as one emerged. And through this truer spirit of freedom, ingenuity and thought the boy from the Pueblo preached to his fellows. He taught and listened, and understood that he had been granted by them their leadership. But others to far away who never felt the earth and only knew cold cities became afraid.

Our Belgian mechanist embraced his fathers tenacity and craft, and was renowned for solving difficult technical problems. His disciplined mind addressed only it’s task, as was the way of a good scientist. Three of these tasks, however, led to the design of firearms. And these were drawn and produced to operate with the reliability and precision of a tractor repaired in a farmhouse shed by a man who knew that a family’s well-being relied on its operation.

In Los Angeles the boy held forth hope and led the children of Pueblos to embrace, forgive and accomplish all that God had put in their hearts. He asked them to glimpse a far-off vision of where their faith and patience and labor could take them. A thirst grew for this simple, natural spirit and the boy would travel about to quench it and lead the hands of people to that of God’s.

One other boy grew up. He had lived with many families. He spoke of no father. He gave no thought to his future which one day led him to the back seat of a Plymouth, across from a small, seedy hotel, with a Belgian rifle designed by John Browning in his lap.

The hopes of the Pueblos and the purity of a father's son spilled that day on the hotel’s cement balcony, dried, and disappeared from the earth. Today small boys in Pueblos wear Chinese shoes and watch television. Belgian fields are tilled, plowed, sown and reaped by maintenance free machines manned by computers. And father’s hands hold bars now, not children.

Every year that April fourth passes silently we fail all three.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Green Coconut Milk with Gin

You kind of have to know how young city mothers pat their children’s buts in admonition to understand, but I saw exactly that one day long ago in Christianstedt. I was walking back, in early morning I guess, still drunk probably but those soursops called to me. I had my own swagger then and had no doubt about its affect, but as I walked the curb ahead there was a mother with her daughter stepping hand in hand. A man, a Rastafarian, passed us on horseback saddleless as slow as Conquistador upon smoldering city. Hair down to his trousers, slouching to the clop clop clop of hooves.
With mischievous sincerity the little girl spoke upward…. “Mommy, when I grow up I want to marry a Rastafarian”.
I hope she has.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Thanks For Lunch

The unusually large expanse of porcelain inherent in the design of an indoor swimming pool obscures ordinary sounds, but when a fist fight breaks out the scuffling rings with Wagnerian intensity, so I was not the first to run over to assert civility. Just as I grabbed one guy from behind though his assailant went for a roundhouse and landed it square on my jaw. Turning back I realized the errant swinger was my brother whom I hadn’t seen for upward of ten years. That we both found our way to a semi-private club’s Olympic swimming pool in the outskirts of the Hamptons is an entirely different matter.

Whilst the punch’s bruise darkened he and I decided to have lunch and catch up, as we had many mutual friends in days gone by. We were both reminded of long forgotten triumphs and tales, and of course the delights of this place’s roast beef sandwiches with their vigorous horseradish sauce.

The story of another lunch involving a Vodka family reunion of sorts came to mind, and I’d like to take this opportunity to share that with you.

My brother Roderick was attending Julliard at the time, and had already become quite bored with the sampling of notes and bars he had come across. My mother, who by then was living in Purchase, had decided to lunch with my brother in an attempt no doubt to cheer him up. As usual my brother astounded all involved, this time by suggesting that they meet at the then newly renovated Plaza Hotel.

They spoke and ate, and by the time my brother leaned back in his chair to digest neither truffle nor trite had been spared, and several bottles of botyrized wine lay in carnage. Smiling, my brother received the check and continued the conversation which I understand never ran toward the subject of expense.

After an appropriate amount of time had lapsed Roderick excused himself to see to a matter at the front desk. There, a studious young lady in an impeccably pressed uniform inquired as to how she could help, whereupon he asked for a sheet of hotel stationary. While discretely writing the three words on such he requested that it be placed in the box of a Mr. Southington. Noting my brothers own well-heeled appearance the clerk assumed Roderick had meant Mr. Wellington and said so, placing the note in the box meant for room 617. My brother, of course, took the opportunity to note the number.

Returning to the table he thanked my mother for her indulgence, forged Mr. Wellington’s signature and room number on the check, and draped my mother’s stoal over her shoulders. On the way out my mother, who apparently had just sacrificed her annual pilgrimage to Bermuda in order to cover tuition, made it known that she had glanced at the twelve-hundred dollar check and her look betrayed something less than glee.

It seems that my brother chose to wait until the pair was five or six steps outside the hotel before disclosing his subterfuge, and it was then that they took to fleeing through the streets of Manhattan like turn of the century pickle thieves starving in a market.

Laughing at both incidents a sharp pain hit where the blow had landed as Roderick picked up the tab. And while he winked at my faux protestation I remembered that he had become a high-profile contractor to the DOD, and let’s just say the founder of “Wellington Aerospace”.