December 31, 2012
I was going to blog today and say Happy New Year but of course that’s not possible now. The world ended a couple of weeks ago. The Mayans were right. We’re just living in a rerun. Or we’re going backwards. I did feel pretty spry this morning. And I could feel those follicles beginning to take root once more. So lets hope that 2012 will be as wonderful a year as it was last year.
December 30, 2012
I’ve written several short pieces about Mr. Harvey. I love this character. He is a small man in a small world always trying to portray himself in the most flattering and heroic stances. Mr. Harvey reminds me of Don Knotts in the Andy Griffin Show.
This story comes from my mss The Graveyard Shift, the third in a series of books of short stories.
THE ONE ARMED MAN SPOKE GERMAN
Mr. Harvey, a middle-aged balding man was sitting in a chair in the corner of the small waiting room. Like a caterpillar. In a classic children’s tale. Of a doctor’s clinic. In the back of the drug store. Where they kept the cotton swabs. Sweating. Feeling that he might like to kick the bucket. At any moment. And every time he thought of his name appearing in the obituary column, it was misspelled.
There was a kid beside him lost in a crossword puzzle and peeing his pants. His blue jeans were getting darker and the smell was making Mr. Harvey nauseous. And he wondered if the kid shouldn’t be out someplace playing in traffic. Mr. Harvey leaned over and noticed that all the kid needed was one more word to finish.
“Paper Moon,” Mr. Harvey said. He loved Tatum O’Neal. Heard that at Farrah Fawcett’s funeral, Ryan had come onto her. And he loved Elle Fitzgerald’s version of the song. Tatum certainly wouldn’t have sat on a waiting room floor peeing her pants. Since she seldom wore a dress. And was what they called a Tom. Like she was a cat. Or a turkey. Or something you kept stuck in your mouth until the anxiety left.
The kid looked up with a disappointed look on his face. The kid’s mother was listening to an Ipod. It was loud enough to hear the music.
The congregation sensed it and they knew what he meant.
My text today is you sinners must repent.
Who threw the whiskey in the well?
The kid tugged at his mother’s arm and whispered in her ear. It wasn’t something spiritual and in all likelihood had something to do with Mr. Harvey’s wandering hands. After she, the mother, had unplugged, the woman gave Mr. Harvey a dirty look and escorted her son to the washroom. On the way the kid turned back to Mr. Harvey and stuck out his tongue. Mr. Harvey reciprocated, although he was surprised that he was up to the refrain, having forgotten if only briefly, why he was there and where he was headed.
The doctor stepped into the room looking at a form on his clipboard. He looked around. He had the arrogant effluent appearance of a maitre d’ at an expensive restaurant.
“Harvey?” he cried.
Mr. Harvey raised his hand and approached the doctor. The doctor, nattily dressed in a shirt and tie and plaid jacket, put his arm around Mr. Harvey’s shoulder and escorted him to a small room.
“You think you’re having a stroke, Mr. Harvey?” the doctor said reading the form on the clipboard. He picked a blackhead on the tip of his nose, almost without thinking, as if it was a weekly chore.
Mr. Harvey nodded, looking up at the doctor through his glasses. His vision was still blurred. There wasn’t a sound in the room. Is that a symptom?
The doctor took the patient’s wrist and listened to his pulse. As if Mr. Harvey was a radio. And he was looking for some classical jazz. He asked Mr. Harvey to take his shirt off. The doctor listened to his heart, which from Mr. Harvey’s point of view, was pounding like the alien in its human host. Ready to explode out of its cage, Mr. Harvey’s ribs.
“Everything sounds okay,” the doctor said. “Of course we’ll take a blood test and an ECG to be on the safe side. But tell me, Mr. Harvey, why do you think you’re having a stroke?”
Mr. Harvey put his shirt back on. He couldn’t see the buttons. Knew that he was going to misbutton. Is that a word? He couldn’t spell either.
“I don’t want you to think that I’m one of those people who goes crying to a doctor every time a muscle flinches. You shouldn’t go to a doctor every time you have a flinch, right?”
The doctor smiled.
“It depends on the flinch.”
“Oh,” Mr. Harvey responded and then seemed lost in his own thoughts for a few moments. Visions of his mother scolding him after he had scraped a knee, flirted with his attention.
“Mr. Harvey?” the doctor enquired.
Mr. Harvey looked up. “Oh, yes,” he said remembering where he had left off. “I’ve seen death, doctor. Been as close to it as you are to me. Smelled his breath. So I know what I am talking about.”
The doctor nodded appreciatively, his eyes focused on his black head.
“Last summer, “ Mr. Harvey continued, “I went to Cuba. For the sun. I almost drowned. Pulled out to sea by an undertow. And then dragged down. I saw the underworld, doctor. All the floors of Dante’s inferno. Hell, doctor, is a shopping mall. That’s what it’s like. I thought I had been designated to a Goodwill store. But then a hand reached out to me like a miracle. A hand like the hand of God in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. I was pulled out of the froth by a German. Nice fellow. Thick accent. My savior. My savior only had one arm. Lost the other arm in an industrial accident. Or maybe he was in such a hurry to save me, that he left it on the cross. I washed his feet. I was that grateful. Of course it wasn’t necessary since we’d both just gotten out of the sea. But I felt that the gesture was appreciated.”
The doctor smiled. “And today?”
Mr. Harvey smiled. “Patience, doctor.”
The doctor looked at his watch. “Of course. Continue.”
“It’s more than one incident,” Mr. Harvey continued. “I was skiing at Mt. Tremblant. North of Montreal. I’m not much of a skier but I went for the air. One morning I went out for my constitutional walk. It’s important to get exercise every day. Well, I wasn’t looking where I was walking and fell through a snow bank. And stopped. And when I looked down I saw that I was hanging over a precipice. Death was looking up at me. With its mouth open. Like in a Spielberg film. My arms were stretched out like Christ on a cross. And it was all that was holding me there. And the next moment I was grabbed by a fellow and dragged back into this world.”
“And your rescuer only had one arm,” the doctor suggested.
Mr. Harvey shook his head. “But he was German. And once again I had looked into death. Two strikes. You see what I mean, doc. I’ve got one more strike coming.”
“And this is your heart attack?” the doctor asked.
Mr. Harvey nodded.
“Can you be more explicit?” the doctor asked.
“I’ve been watching those ads.”
“Those ads?” the doctor asked.
“Yes, doc. The ads about strokes. About the warnings of a stroke. Sweating. Blurred vision. You see, I’d been playing hockey. We play every Friday. It was a particularly tiring game. I was exhausted. Legs cramping. Trying to keep up with the kids on the team. These 20 year olds think that Friday night hockey is the NHL. Fighting for every puck. I was really having trouble after the game getting my breath back. And then I noticed, sitting in the dressing room, after I got dressed, that my vision was blurry. I remembered the ads. The stroke ads. I thought it would go away. The blurred vision. I was driving to the pub after the game to have a drink but the blurring wasn’t going away.”
“You thought you were having a stroke and you drove to a bar?” the doctor asked.
“It’s a tradition,” Mr. Harvey said. “We always have a few pops after the game. Talk. About the beauty of our passes, and the glory of our goals, and an assortment of other lies. About work. About women. Some of the fellows are having marital problems.”
“And the blurring continued in the bar?” the doctor asked.
Mr. Harvey smiled. “That’s right. Even after a couple of beers. So I thought I’d better get to a clinic. Just to be on the safe side.”
The doctor stared at Mr. Harvey.
“And your vision is still blurry?”
Mr. Harvey nodded.
The doctor reached out toward Mr. Harvey and took Mr. Harvey’s glasses off. Showing the glasses to Mr. Harvey, the doctor put his finger through a space where there should have been a lens.
Mr. Harvey blushed.
“Your lens fell out,” the doctor said. “That I think explains the blurred vision.”
“Then I’m not having a heart attack,” Mr. Harvey said.
The doctor shook his head. “I’ll send the nurse in to take some blood and get an ECG. But, I shouldn’t think so.”
Mr. Harvey smiled. Embarrassed. “Oh, my.”
The doctor turned to leave.
“Doc,” Mr. Harvey said.
The doctor turned around.
“You wouldn’t happen to be German, would you?” Mr. Harvey asked.
The doctor shook his head. “Lebanese.”
December 30, 2012
I always had a great affection for Wallis Beery. His gruff exterior apparently reflected a gruff interior. But there was something endearing about his boyish manner. The other actor/comedian who had a great affect on me was W. C. Fields. When I wrote Mr. Willis, I had both of these actors in mind. Something about a drunken buffoon that brings out the humanity in many of us.
Mr. Willis comes from an ebook called “The Box”.
Little Betty stood at the schoolyard gate waiting for the three girls, who had blocked her way, to attack. She was scared. There was no way to escape. The school building was locked up and retreating into the schoolyard would only delay the inevitable. All the other children had long since gone home.
The first girl, a broad shouldered red head named Sandra, jabbed her finger into Betty’s chest.
“What’s your hurry?” Sandra asked.
A second girl, Mary, stepped out from behind Sandra.
“Ugly shouldn’t be in such a hurry,” she added.
Betty pushed Sandra’s hand away and spit on the ground.
Shirley, the third girl, stepped out from behind Mary. Shirley waved her fist at Betty.
“I didn’t like what you said to my little sister. She didn’t do you any harm.”
Betty sneered, her arms folded defiantly across her chest. She didn’t know Shirley’s sister.
“I didn’t do nothing to nobody!” she responded.
The three girls circled Betty. Betty turned back and forth trying to keep each of the girls in her sightline, trying to prevent an attack from her blind side.
A man in a white suit stepped up behind the girls. He had a smooth puffy ghostly face and dark brooding eyes. His mouth was lipless and wiggled like a worm across his face. Though his appearance was odd, it did not detract from his otherwise amiable countenance.
“Now girls,” he said, “I don’t believe this is the way young ladies ought to behave. We must mind our oughts.”
The three girls who had surrounded Betty were surprised by the intrusion of the man in the white suit. No one had seem him coming. Shirley muttered something to Sandra who repeated it to Mary.
The man in white smiled. “I’m sure that ladies from Our Lady of Sorrows School ought not to talk in such a rough manner.”
The girls began to retreat.
“All talk!” Betty spat out in a last taunt at her enemies now in full flight.
The man in the white suit wiped his brow with a handkerchief and then grabbed the fence for support.
“I’m feeling quite faint.”
Betty cried out to the girls who had now moved off down the street.
The man in white laughed briefly than grabbed onto the fence with both hands. He hiccupped.
“That’s another word from the ought not list,” he said with conviction but with little energy.
“What’s it to you!” Betty cried.
The man in white took a deep breath.
“Actually, it is my business. That’s why I am here.”
Betty put her hands on her hips and examined the man in white who seemed in some distress.
“You some kind of pervert?”
The man in white’s smile broke under the onslaught of another hiccup.
“Hold your breath, stupid,” Betty suggested.
“Hold your breath. It gets rid of the hiccups.”
The man in white held his breath, held if for so long that he began to turn blue. Betty slapped him on the back. He gasped for air.
“I didn’t say forever!”
The man in white took several more breaths. He raised himself up and began to breath easily.
“You look like a pervert,” Betty said. “What’s with the white gloves?”
The man in white looked down at his hands and quickly removed his gloves, stuffing them into his pockets. There seemed little difference in his appearance. His hands were as white as his gloves.
“My name is Mr. Willis,” he said with a smile. “I am quite respectable, I can assure you. I have letters of recommendation.”
As the man in white talked, Betty stepped passed him and down the street. Noticing her departure, Mr. Willis turned and quickly followed behind. Betty turned around.
“Why are you following me?”
“It’s my job,” he said.
Betty turned so abruptly on the man called Mr. Willis that he almost fell over her.
“Are you from family services? Mother told me never to talk to anyone from family services.”
“And why is that?”
“They’re all a-holes,” Betty shot back and after appraising Mr. Willis, added, “And you’ve got all the credentials.”
“I am not from family services,” Mr. Willis said straightening out the cuffs of his shirt.
“You can’t be my mother’s new boyfriend. She doesn’t date pussies.”
Mr. Willis looked down at the little girl.
“Is your mother as charming as yourself or is this congenial quality of yours an acquired skill?”
Betty turned and walked quickly down the street. Mr. Willis staggered behind her, struggling to keep up. Grasping his chest, he cried out.
“Could we slow down? I’m afraid, I’m not quite myself today.”
Betty stopped and hands on hips, glared at Mr. Willis who leaned against a No Parking sign, coughing.
“You’ve been drinking. I can tell. My old man is a drunk. Mother’s last boyfriend was a drunk.”
Mr. Willis tapped his back pocket with his palm.
“Just a wee drop to settle my nerves.”
Mr. Willis took out his handkerchief again and wiped his forehead.
“This is my first assignment and I’m a bit nervous. Butterflies.”
“Who are you really?”
“I told you. I’m Mr. Willis. Your guardian angel.”
Betty was silent for a moment. She shook her head.
“I may be a kid but I am not stupid.”
“It’s the truth,” Mr. Willis insisted.
“You got some kind of ID?” Betty asked.
Mr. Willis searched his jacket pockets, his trouser pockets. As he did so, a small of flask of whiskey fell out, smashing on the sidewalk. He smiled sheepishly. Betty turned abruptly and stepping passed him, crossed the street. After looking down sadly at the spilt liquor Mr. Will stumbled after her. Upon reaching the other side of the street, he spotted a park bench and begged Betty to listen to him.
Betty stopped. “Why should I?”
Clutching his breast, and breathing deeply, Mr. Willis fell onto the park bench.
“You don’t suppose I could get a drink around here, do you?”
Betty shook her head and took a seat on the bench beside Mr. Willis.
“You don’t have a fag, do you?” she asked. “I’ve been trying to quit but it’s hopeless.”
Mr. Willis shook his head. “The other guys smoke.”
“What other guys?” Betty asked.
Mr. Willis pointed down.
“You’re not really an angel?” Betty looked at Mr. Willis with less apprehension.
“Oh yes, certainly.” Mr. Willis nodded. “But don’t ask me to become invisible. I get motion sickness.”
Pouting, Betty turned away.
“I need proof,” she said crossing her arms across her chest.
There was silence. Betty turned back to Mr. Willis. There was no one there. Betty got up and walked around, looking behind trees and bushes, but found no one. Finally she sat back down on the bench. Just as she sat down, Mr. Willis reappeared. Betty gasped, then giggled.
“That was great!”
Mr. Willis turned away and began to vomit. When he had finished he wiped his mouth with his handkerchief.
“That was disgusting!” Betty cried. “You still look kind of green.”
Mr. Willis wiped his forehead and around his neck.
“Can’t hold your liquor, eh?”
Mr. Willis put up his hand.
“Could we talk about something else?” he pleaded.
Betty shrugged her shoulders.
“You’re not a very likeable little girl, are you?”
Betty turned away.
“That’s not very kind,” she muttured.
“Wasn’t meant to be,” Mr. Willis responded as he completed his clean up. He reached over and dropped his handkerchief into the garbage. “You were quite correct when you described my actions as disgusting. I can’t help but question the evolutionary advantage of vomiting.”
“Angels are supposed to be kind,” Betty piped up.
Mr. Willis straightened up his jacket.
“Where did you learn that rubbish? Angels don’t lie. There’s nothing in the rules about being kind.”
“I hate them!” Betty cried.
A puzzled expression fell over Mr. Willis’s face. “Hate who?”
“Them,” Betty responded then added, “Everyone.”
“That encompasses an awful lot of people. Could you be more specific? Surely you don’t hate your mother.”
“She named me Betty. I hate my name. Everyone else is named after movie stars or astronauts or athletes. I’m named after a cake mix.”
“Surely there has to be more to it than a name? What else does your mother do that you can’t abide?”
Betty looked puzzled.
“What else bugs you about your mother?”
“Everything about her. Her new boyfriend. Her old boyfriend. Her hair. Her clothes. Her. Her. Her. Everything is about her. When is something going to be about me?”
“What about your father? Can you talk to him?”
“He took off on us when I was two. He used to come around to see me, but mother put an end to that. She is such a….”
“And then there’s my teacher. She just hates me. And the other kids in the class. They call me names.”
“Names. Yes, I’ve felt the slings and arrows of my peers as well. Often I have felt that…”
“This is supposed to be about me!” Betty cried.
Mr. Willis smiled sheepishly. “Sorry.”
“Anyway,” Betty continued, “They can call me what they want. I’ll show them!”
“Yes, I know.”
“No, you don’t!”
Mr. Willis nodded. “You plan on walking out on the railroad trestle that crosses Central Park, laying yourself down on the tracks, and awaiting the four forty five train. It will pass over the middle of your back, splitting your torso in two. They will bring small water cannons out on the bridge to clean up the mess. Nevertheless blood, muscles, fatty tissues and some intestine will hang from the trestle for several days.”
“You will be the talk of conversation for several days,” Mr. Willis added.
“Ya,” Betty said with a laugh. “Then they’ll be sorry.”
“And then everyone will forget about you.”
Betty’s mouth dropped. Angrily, she turned away from Mr. Willis.
Mr. Willis looked up at the sky and shrugged his shoulders.
“This isn’t working out,” he said as if he was addressing a third party in the sky. “You might want to consider sending down Anderson.”
Betty turned back to Mr. Willis, looked up at the sky, then back at Mr. Willis.
“What?” she asked
Mr. Willis turned back to Betty.
“You see Betty, this is my situation. I was sent down here to save you, but I think I’ve made matters worse. You seem so determined to end your life and I feel quite helpless to stop you.”
Tears began to run down Betty’s cheek. She opened her mouth to speak then threw her face into her hands and began to sob.
“Nobody loves me,” she whaled.
Mr. Willis did not respond to Betty but appeared to be caught up in his own thoughts.
“If they’d sent Duncan down, things might have turned out quite differently. The job he did in White Chapel was masterful. And look at what Brown did for that poor actress in Los Angeles. Insisting she take acting lessons was a sheer stroke of genius. But I have been sent down to solve a child’s problems and I’m not up to it. If I could find a bar, a drink might settle me down. You’re sure you don’t know any establishments around here where a fellow might quench his thirst?”
Wiping the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand, Betty turned to Mr. Willis.
“Do you love me?” she asked.
Mr. Willis smiled uncomfortably. Betty stared at him, her mouth hanging open.
“Aren’t angels supposed to love everyone?” she asked.
“In theory,” Mr. Willis responded. “You’re not actually that easy to love.”
Anger flashed across Betty’s face.
“What a thing to say! Is that what they teach you wherever it is you go to learn how to be an angel?”
Mr. Willis’s smile collapsed into an expression of despair. His face fell into his hands.
“There I go again. A complete and utter failure. I’m not cut out for this line of work. God, they’ll send me back to the choir. I’m tone death. And I hate singing. All that morbid and thoroughly depressing church music.”
Mr. Willis began to sob. His weeping shook the bench. Betty looked at Mr. Willis with concern for several moments before reaching over and patting him on the back.
“That’s alright,” she said. “I’m used to incompetence. Look at my mother and father. They’re quite useless. You’re a lousy guardian angel. I’m a lousy kid.”
A small grin wiggled across Mr. Willis’s face. He wiped the tears from his eyes away with the sleeve of his jacket.
“We do match up quite well, don’t we?” Mr. Willis said. “Do you think that’s why they sent me down here to begin with?”
“What are we going to do now?” she asked.
“Do?” Mr. Willis looked up at the young girl with a worried expression. “I have no idea.”
“You’re quite funny when you’re depressed.”
“I’m glad someone can profit from my misery.” Mr. Willis tried to smile.
Betty stood up and grabbed Mr. Willis’s hand.
“Could we go to Genova’s for an ice cream? Mr. Genova makes his own ice cream from snatch.”
“I thought you needed milk,” Mr. Willis responded.
Mr. Willis struggled to his feet. The two walked slowly out of the park.
Mr. Willis looked down at Betty.
“I don’t suppose I could get a drink at Genova’s?”
“You don’t like ice cream?” Betty asked.
“Actually,” Mr. Willis explained, “I’ve been trying to lose a little weight. I can barely get into this suit.”
Betty laughed and began to skip down the walk.
“The diet can wait until tomorrow,” Betty declared.
Mr. Willis attempted to skip, stumbled but was caught by Betty before he fell.
December 28, 2012
I just received my new CD. I have to take it to my ear throat and something specialist. To see if my tumor is growing. Or just squatting on the couch and watching TV. All these reminders of our own mortality are a pain in the ass. As I might have mentioned before I have named my tumor, B9. I hope she doesn’t take a stage name.
December 28, 2012
December 27, 2012
The first time I saw Bogart on television was an interview he and his wife Bacall did with Edward R. Murrow. It was floss. But there was something about the actor. I’ve seen most of his movies that are easily available. I’ve watched The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca over a 100 times. And some of his other films like Sahara, The Big Sleep, etc dozens of times. His characters always exemplify something weak, incredible flaws, as well as redeeming strengths. He is a romantic hiding under a cynic.
This excerpt is from my book The Black Bird. Have a look.
excerpts from bogart’s diary #1-37
huston decided to hold a costume ball before we began shooting the falcon . we call john the ambassador of dreams eyes in envelopes, umbrella prays for rain (so she won’t feel so useless) . bullet proof ears. he cannot hear death—he only knows it by smell he met each guest at the door. dressed up as fatty arbuckle & holding a jar filled with oysters anyone know i asked. the ambassador winked winked & sprinkled stardust on each of us as we entered while singing WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR MAKES NO DIFFERENCE WHO YOU ARE. i was dressed up as the invisible man . no one noticed … sydney stayed close to the bar or was it the reverse . he looked like the election returns . he said he was disguised as mt. everest . several young starlettes were clustered like small villages around his feet. one was wearing skis and reciting the koran . backwards . another wore two tablets and a long beard that began below the waist … mouth open oven a creampuff danced around the room looking for horny dps especially tall first lieutenants from toronto who read ts eliot. jeffery longstreet said he had a cake for her throat. unleavened, bruised, and circumcised… lorre sat at the piano playin’ popular tunes with a german accent. dressed up as hitler’s bitch in heat. his tail kept falling off. the great dictator received his instructions from his dog . the bitch would open her mouth and hitler would bark … the apaches are waiting at the edge of the desert waiting for the storm to pass . dying of tb . & learning how to square dance … cattle lena in a tux. practicing her courses. digging a plot in her pocket. spitting out cigars. & pinching any ass that grazes by… a pageant of people bursting with beginnings . yankee optimism . parmenides was right we never leave the beginnings, unless you put up your wrist and slash for permission to leave . there is only this solid mass of oneness . we are like creatures, extinct, & frozen in me NOW … why do i always feel like i’m sitting on the edge of the world spitting seeds into the emptiness, flushing the nothingness out of my soul … two colored girls showed up. or was it a costume . everyone gathered around to see them make love in the potato salad. i spent some time in a closet with one of them . she had eyes like a cathedral. i felt like st. francis begging on the front steps for one chance to light a small red candle. i told her she was very tight. she said she felt claustrophobic . being colored is like living in a box. all white women should be blind, peeling off her skin she placed it on a hanger. that i could hardly control … someone handed me a manhattan. i finished a cigarette and flew around the room , solo. i was hoping that it wouldn’t rain. i asked if everyone would mind cease burning their words until i could clear up this mystery. i ran into sydney who was rehearsing as a zeppelin in a bath tub. he asked me to leave . he already had some passengers . easy flo said that she now understood . everything i promised had been part of some plan . to lay her out like an airport and then land… laughing from the chandeliers tequila dorothy in feathers that fell off like snow swung above the drifts of faces. raymond the parrot told her to be careful . someone else screamed — melt … is there any alternative to feeling haunted . a little kid staring out through dusty windows, broken glass on the floors . mice in the rafters . eaves troughs filled with tears. perhaps it is my work . am i nothing more than a series of poses. movement is the illusion they love. i am the offspring of magic and mechanics . cameras have cataracts. they see only what they wish to see … is god some machine projecting home movies in his basement. he is in almost every shot. boring us with the details . all i want to know is, if i slept with you would it make any difference … i feel layered. schizophrenia is an oversimplification . consciousness is not the census taker asking embarrassing questions about your health & the brand of toothpaste you wear. consciousness is a series of skins . i am the latest skin . the snake is crawling back toward paradise
another cigarette … another drink … who is this woman leaning on my arm dressed up as robespierre . she says leave everything to me . i have sharpened my teeth. the basket is ready for your disbelief … i hardly know how to love . only the innocent can love. the rest of us are just flushing out our hearts … a guy called trotsky served champagne. said the revolution was a mistake. people’s stomachs were bored . there was nothing for them to do … beyond all this negativity i keep looking and smiling . smiling has become a task. my agent says that when i laugh on the screen it looks contrived . he wants to have my grin lifted … people swallow answers like pills . kills the pain for a while . once in a crowd of fans i was almost swallowed whole … all i want is flesh between my teeth. fingernails tracing the veins in my vanity. something fragile and warm . a dress thrown over a chair. legs wrapped around my spine . feel the darkness sleeping beside me … is comfort all we are to each other… a child star dressed up as a fire hydrant showed up with her mother. the mother was bela lugosi . huston said that he was offered the kid spread eagled for the weekend if he could find room for her in the falcon . said the mother had a bunker between her legs. louie said it was a machine gun nest … mary asked if i read the script . one scene was being cut. censorship . would i like to shoot it privately.., dash showed up. a head like a silver porcupine, he was not in costume . all he talks about is the war. hitler is the devil’s fallen angel . acting ,he remarked ,was protracted suicide. burying yourself six feet beneath someone else’s dream … does anyone still believe in the self … i remember the first time i gave up myself. she was a big girl . i was seventeen, said i was a saint as i knelt down beside her. i could not stop praying … someone asked me to dance. my feet ran away…
Bogart. Actor. Celebrity. Husband. As Sam Spade. In the movie The Maltese Falcon. Baring of a soul. Stripping down of a life. Reaching beyond the point of death. To Bogart as a boy. Steeped in mythic reality. Originally published in 1982 by The Porcupine’s Quill. Finalist in the 2004 Eppie Awards for Poetry.
December 25, 2012
December 24, 2012
When my nephew was born, many years ago, I wrote several short stories for him about a brother and sister named Raymond and Christiane Chocolate. Two publishers went broke before publishing them. So I retired the stories for the last couple of decades.
THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS
It was the day after Christmas and Raymond Chocolate was very depressed. He was uncommonly quiet. His long face got on everyone’s nerves so much that Mrs. Chocolate was forced to tell Raymond to play outside until he was in a better mood. Raymond was so depressed that he didn’t even object to wearing the pink tuke his Aunt Molasses had sent him as a present.
When Raymond stepped outside his breath came rushing out of his mouth and formed a nice round ball. Usually Raymond liked to take these balls and throw them at Ludwig Van, his invisible dragon. This day Raymond just looked at the ball. The ball waited a moment longer then usual, shrugged its shoulders, and fell into the snow.
“You are depressed, sir!” Ludwig Van said. “I was depressed once. I went to a dentist and had it pulled out.”
Raymond mumbled, “Isn’t nothing.”
Ludwig smiled and added, “It was a wisdom tooth. The only one I had.”
“Ya, right,” Raymond responded.
Ludwig Van became quiet. He was trying to mustard all of his courage together. He put his courage into his mouth like a hot dog and ate it.
“Sir, I don’t mean to be nosy, never have been nosy as you very well know, but what’s got you so sad?”
Raymond turned to the invisible dragon who on such a cold day was almost visible and sighed.
“Ah… you wouldn’t understand!”
Ludwig Van sighed. “I suppose you’re right. If it’s as bad as you say perhaps you could have it pulled out. I was once depressed and I went to a dentist… Oh, I told that story already.”
Raymond took a deep breath and then poured out his heart.
“I’m sad because… Okay, first, there were those socks Christiane got me as a Christmas present. Socks! Socks aren’t presents! And then there was the way everyone found Baby Alan so cute. Since he started talking there’s no way I can get a word in edgewise. I used to be the one that said the cute things. And then of course there’s always the big question?”
“Big question?” Ludwig Van gulped.
“Will there be another Christmas? I heard mom say that the bills were piling up. She wondered how we would make ends meet. And I heard dad say that he didn’t know how the country could be held together. So many people don’t have jobs and so many jobs need to be done. And I heard Christiane say that there might be another ice age and that it started yesterday.”
“Another ice age!” Ludwig Van cried. “That is depressing. I remember the last ice age. Everyone slept a lot.”
And so Raymond Chocolate and Ludwig Van trudged aimlessly through the snow, which had freshly fallen the evening before. Raymond Chocolate sank up to his knees with each step while Ludwig Van walked on top of the snow. Invisible dragons are able to walk on top of the snow because they are born with snowshoes built into their feet.
As Raymond and Ludwig Van trudged down the street through the snow they heard a voice.
It cried, “Hey!” Raymond turned to the invisible dragon.
“Did you hear that?”
“Yes I did,” Ludwig Van replied. “But, I can’t remember when. Was it Tuesday? No, that’s impossible. Tuesday is tomorrow at least for today. Maybe it was Wednesday.”
“Hey!” a voice cried again.
Raymond looked around. “I heard it again.”
Ludwig Van scratched his chin with the end of his tail. “Maybe it was an echo.”
“I’m here under the snow!” the voice cried.
Raymond stepped over to the side of the road and pushed snow off the top of a mount of snow. Underneath the snow he found a beaten up old jack-in-the-box. The head lay out of the side of the box like a tongue out of the side of a mouth.
Raymond asked. “Whet are you doing out here?”
“What does it look like I’m doing?” the jack-in-the-box snarled. “Getting a tan? Of all the people in the world I could have been rescued by, I have to pick a kid. I hate kids! What am I doing here? How many times have I asked myself that question? Why am I out here? Because I’m last year’s toy. Oh, the little monsters, they were very happy with me last year. Last year they couldn’t keep their grubby little hands off me. But now, this year, they say I’m no fun!”
The jack-in-the-box turned its head, looked up at Raymond and hollered. “I am fun! I am! Test me and see. Go ahead, why don’t you!”
So Raymond stuffed the jack-in-the-box in the box and closed the lid. Then Raymond turned the little arm on the side of the box. Raymond warned Ludwig Van to take cover. So the invisible dragon hid behind his master and put his hands over his eyes and gritted his teeth in anticipation of a terrible scare. Very slowly the lid of the box rose up and the jack-in-the-box crawled out ever so slowly and whispered in a very tiny voice, “boo”.
Raymond stared at the jack-in-the-box. Ludwig Van took his hands off his eyes and looked at the jack-in-the-box and puffed out his chest.
“Nothing scares me!” the invisible dragon proudly declared.
When the jack-in-the-box realized he hadn’t frightened anyone he began to cry.
“Oh, I’ve got to face up to it. I’ve lost the magic. Good-bye showbiz. So long world. You’ll never have this jack-in-the-box to kick around anymore.”
With these words the jack crawled back into his box. Raymond closed the Lid and covered him again with snow. Ludwig Van began to weep, his tears turning into icicles, the icicles slipping from his eyes and sticking into the snow just missing the invisible dragon’s toes.
“Maybe things will pick up in the spring for the little guy,” Ludwig Van said.
But Raymond didn’t hear his friend. He was too depressed.
The X-Christmas Tree
Raymond and Ludwig Van continued on down the street. The streets were empty. Everyone was inside being happy, Raymond thought. If only they knew. As Raymond and Ludwig Van turned the corner onto the street that led to the town dump, they heard someone sneeze.
“Was that you?” Raymond asked his invisible friend.
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised, sir,” Ludwig Van replied. “But, I don’t remember sneezing. Of course I have a short memory especially when I’m not warm.”
Another sneeze. Raymond turned and saw some snow fall off a tree. It was a Christmas tree stuck in a snowdrift, still dressed in tinsel, and Christmas balls, and colored lights.
“Was that you who sneezed, Christmas tree?” Raymond asked.
“X-Christmas tree,” the tree responded before it sneezed again. “I think I’ve caught a cold.”
“Shouldn’t you be inside?” Raymond asked.
“Yes of course I should. But they couldn’t wait to get rid of me. Christmas is barely over and here I am, abandoned, stuck in this snow bank and feeling… Haa Choo!”
“Bless you!” Ludwig Van said.
“And it all started out so beautifully,” the tree sniffled as its ornaments shimmered. “Last week when they bought me and put me up in their living room I felt wonderful. They treated me like a queen. Dressed me up, laid gifts at my feet. Well, I can’t begin to tell you how glorious I… Haa Choo! I thought that being a Christmas tree would be so glamorous. But, look at me now. I feel like crawling away somewhere and… Haaa Choooooo!!!”
And with this the Christmas tree began to cry and because it was so cold the tears turned into icicles and because the icicles formed only on one side of the tree, the tree began to lose its balance.
“TIM—BER!” cried Ludwig Van who just managed to get out of the way of the falling tree.
“I’m getting even more depressed,” Raymond said as he turned away from the fallen tree and trudged down the street.
“Well, sir,” Ludwig Van said as he followed behind his master, “judging by that x-Christmas tree and the jack-in-the-box you seem to have lots of company.”
When Raymond reached the jungle, which his father insisted was the town dump, he stopped. Raymond informed the invisible dragon that he was going deep into the jungle never to return. It was Ludwig Van’s decision whether he wanted to follow him.
“We’re a team, sir,” Ludwig Van smiled as he stretched his arms to three times their normal length and wrapped them around his neck like a scarf.
The two friends plunged into the jungle. Because of the numerous snowdrifts they were at times forced to take curving and sweeping trails. But none of this mattered since they were headed nowhere in particular. As they walked they passed half buried pickup trucks, telephone booths, rolls of fencing. A long green hose rose out of the snow several yards ahead, looked at them for a moment, than sank back into a snowdrift. Occasionally the heads of television sets and washing machines were spotted peaking out at Raymond and Ludwig Van.
Ludwig Van said. “This must be the end of the world, sir.”
The invisible dragons’ teeth began clattering together with the cold.
“Don’t you think we should turn back, sir?”
Raymond did not respond. Instead he turned his head and pointed his ear to the east.
“Did you hear that?” Raymond asked.
“I wouldn’t doubt it,” Ludwig Van replied in a cold mousy voice. “I’ve bean hearing things all morning.”
“Someone is singing!” Raymond said.
Raymond looked around. The singing was coming from an old abandoned car.
“Over there,” Raymond pointed.
When Ludwig Van found himself alone he hastened to catch up to Raymond who was headed toward a long very black car.
Raymond and Ludwig Van gazed into the old automobile through the windows but could see nothing because all the windows were frosted up.
“Oh, Iwish you hadn’t done that, sir,” Ludwig Van squealed.
“Yes,” a voice from inside the car replied. “Come in.”
Before Ludwig Van could stop him, Raymond opened a door and looked inside.
“Come in arid join me,” a hurtle smiled. “My name is Reginald Clifford the Third, but my friends call me Sam which is what you may call me.”
Raymond And Ludwig Van climbed into the front seat of the car. The hurtle had been enjoying a cup of tea and he offered Raymond and Ludwig a cup to help them warm up.
Ludwig Van swallowed his tea quickly and sighed.
“I never thought I was going to feel warm.”
Raymond asked. “Why were you singing?”
“Why?” Sam smiled. “It’s Christmas time my boy or at least that’s what we cell it in this neck of the woods.”
“But,”Raymond protested in a sad voice, “don’t you know what’s happening?”
“What’s happening?” Sam asked looking quite concerned.
Raymond proceeded to tell Sam about the jack-in-the-box, and the x-Christmas tree, and the socks, and being the lost kid in thefamily, and the bills piling up, about all the jobs that had to be done, about the ice age, and about the sorry state of the world in general.
“Enough! Enough!” Sam begged laughing. “I know all about those matters and serious matters they are, especially about being the lost boy in the family As far as the ice age is concerned, I thought it started yesterday and you can never have enough socks in an ice age.”
“Does it all make you feel unbearably sad’” Raymond asked.
“Yes,” Sam responded shaking his head, “if I let it. But today, I’ve taken a holiday from all those cares.”
“You mean you don’t want to face the truth,” Raymond scolded the hurtle.
Sam giggled for a moment.
“You are a very serious young man, aren’t you? I haven’t seen someone so upset since my brother Louise woke up one morning and found that someone had painted his shell pink. I thought it was a harmless prank myself.”
Sam reached over to the glove compartment and pulled out a small package wrapped in Christmas paper. He handed it to Raymond.
“For me?” Raymond cried.
Quickly Raymond unwrapped the present. It was a mirror.
“Thank you,” Raymond responded. “But, I don’t understand.”
Sam smiled. “The real present is inside the mirror.”
“That’s me,” Raymond replied.
Sam chuckled. “Isn’t that wonderful? You’re here. It’s better than not being here. My brother Velma was never here and he always had trouble doing up his shoelaces.”
“I know the feeling,” the invisible dragon sighed.
“You see,” Sam explained. “It takes courage to he here. And it takes even more courage to see all the problems of the world and stay here. And it takes even more courage then that to smile and maybe to even change the world a little, to make it a better place for everyone.”
“You mean there’ll he Another Christmas,” Raymond said.
“Of course,” Sam grinned.
“But the way people talk…
“Oh them,” Sam said shaking his head. “Sometimes adults talk very foolish. You’ll understand that better when you grow up.”
“Did you’ hear that Ludwig Van? There’s going to be another Christmas.
“Yes, sir,” the invisible dragon shivered, “But maybe they could hold it in the summer next year.”
Sam laughed. Raymond laughed. Ludwig Van laughed. And then the three friends began to sing Silent Night even though it was early in the afternoon.
December 23, 2012
Andre Breton’s Half Brother
I am a ghost. Searching for a ghost. Thoughts are memories. If you look into the rear view mirror. You’d better see yourself. Time waltzes. America’s essential puritanical naivitee has been ripped open. Thrown down the steps. Into morning.
A strong foul smelling yellow gas. Has escaped. Seeping into everything that has a hole. I hear ‘little boots’ running through the mob.
Fingers bandaged. Pieces of my nails stuck in the wood. The doctor doubled over. When I was born. The womb laughed. They had trouble getting my horns out. Had to pull me by my cloven hoves. As a kid I remember strumming a 12 string chain mail fence. And at 13 a premature ejaculation. Venus laying next to me. Asking me to be gentle. Every mother on every corner. Asking the same of each of their daughters. I ran down a hillside. In the middle of an avalanche. Of Buster Keatons.
I am the representative from madness. And Andre Breton. How long will the laws of reality bind us. I am a satyr. Put down on this planet. To satiate my cravings. If you want to find the truth. Turn off your television. Tape shut your windows. And doors and burn your calendars. Listen with your lungs. I am death. And I have an appetite. For bigots. And poets. And elevators filled with shutters.
This is a piece from a book that you can download for free at
December 21, 2012
The Beatles brought down the USSR. I heard that. A younger generation of Soviet youth listened to the Beatles and it changed their perspective on the communist world. (I’m sure it wasn’t that simple.)
But when did Entertainers become world figures? Before the Beatles there was Elvis. But Elvis had no content. He had no view on life. The only figure I can think of is Charlie Chaplin. He was at one time the most recognized figure on the planet Earth. His films were shown in every corner of the world. And he had a viewpoint. (Though not always political.)
Before the twentieth century and its inventions, the mass production of iconic figures was reduced to money and monuments. And those represented on the money/monuments were either religious or military figures.
The minstrel was just another fool.