There was one year we were there and there was no hurricane but it sure felt like it – the rain it was coming down in buckets. And everybody was running around like mad and looking for cover when we found a man with a corn stand underneath one of those big umbrella things. We asked if we could take shelter under his umbrella and he said he didn’t mind as long as we were paying customers, that as long as we were buying and eating corn we could stay as long as we liked. Well I’ll tell you what, we must’ve had about 8 or 9 ears each that day. Didn’t shit chunkless for a week, and I’ll spare you any more about that. Other than to say it didn’t feel so great, which I suppose you might have guessed.

Then there was the year I met my Dorothy. I remembered her name straight off, my Dorothy, as that was my grandmother’s name, though everybody called my grandmother Dot – she’d had a thing with Dorothy, I guess. The name, I mean. Not another person called Dorothy, as far as I know. And my first few months with my Dorothy it was difficult for me not to call her Dot, because I’d heard Dorothy corrected to Dot so many times that I almost couldn’t dare even say the name Dorothy, it’d just disappeared from my vocabulary, replaced by Dot. Like those dogs and their saliva – no, more like the racial words – they just get replaced and after a while you don’t think of them any more. That’s how it was with Dorothy. But that was the best year, the year I met my own Dorothy, my Dorothy, okay being Dorothy. There was no rain that year, no need to overeat to stay dry, and I was there with the usual bunch of guys. Only we weren’t hungry and were a little too old for the rides, all except for Joshua, who never got too old for things like that. He wandered off anyway before long, just like he always did. So the rest of us were just knocking around doing a whole heap of nothing, nothing but being there, making ourselves a scene, which is what guys like us did in those days. I don’t even think we were pretending to be having at a time at the place; we were really just STANDING there, probably not even talking much. Dorothy was there with her parents, and though she looked older than her years – developed, you know – she gave her age away by walking about four or five feet behind her folks. I’d been noticing it all day. You can’t help but notice things when you just stand around, after all. But the kids of her age, the ones with their parents, they all moved like it was scientifically impossible to be next to their parents. Like invisible bubbles. Or magnets.
So there was Dorothy, lagging with the sweetest scowl behind her parents, just ready to be plucked off. And there I was, with nobody paying a lick of attention to what I was doing anyway, because I was so good at doing nothing that nobody ever suspected I might do anything but. That was the best year, I think.

Then there was the year – what, must have been ten years later almost – that was the year I had too much fried dough. This is what happens when in the company of a three-year-old: you get fat. Because three-year-olds like sweets, a lot, but just don’t have the stomach for it, so you end up eating their share and no amount of chasing their squirming selves around is ever going to burn off too much fried dough. So I ate too much fried dough, and that was the first time that Samuel asked me why I couldn’t live with him, which made the fried dough find its way right back up-over-and-out, which, I mean, is better than getting fat, but not by much. And the other thing you need to know about three-year-olds is that they can’t keep their damned mouths shut, so of course the first thing out of his mouth is “daddy had a tummyache” and then her lips do the quivery thing they do before she cops to demonic, and she just can’t believe that I’d risk his health being around him when I’m sick like that, and that I must be just about the most selfish person ever to set foot. And she went on like that for a good long while.

So the next year I went by myself. And didn’t eat a thing.

Hat Trick (Oil, Slick)

March 7th, 2009

They say that what you’re reading is nothing if not an open letter, but there’s no such thing, really. Let’s think it through together and I’ll show you what I mean: ‘u’ is a letter, open at the top, with ‘n’ the polar opposite, and ‘I’ would be all-open if only we lived in Flatland. And together, there’s nothing to understand there, no matter how open it might claim to be. Do you get it? Any letter worth its weight while wet demands a response, and without the possibility of response it’s not “open” at all, not to anything but what it puts forward itself. And if that’s just a letter, even when open – even when nude, in the end –with its meaning tucked away in the hat check, we have no choice but to…

… actually, that gives me an idea, the hat check. There’s no harm in rolling in it for a while, getting our hands dirty, finding out for ourselves, if you don’t mind the various florochemical odors of haircare effluence. I hadn’t thought of the hat check before, and it’s not like we’re doing anything important here.

So here we are now, swimming with the lice and scalp-deep in this shit called dander, looking for a single open (and hopefully nude) letter, with a potential bonus of putative context though we know all too well that when it’s lentil day at the soup kitchen, you don’t ask for squash. But we’re not in the soup kitchen now. We can tell by the smell. And in case this has been anything less than perfectly absolutely walk-right-into-the-glass-door clear, I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing here. One thing I am discovering as I wade around here is that our domes reek in unexpectedly different ways from one another, and that en masse like this, with only oiled slicks remaining, it’s unexpectedly unpleasant. Worse than sewage treatment, I’d bet; it’s all the same stuff, more or less, just out the other end is all.

To be honest, I’m not sure this is worth it, and am less sure that I had anything to do with the decision to come down here, this whole scenario puppeteered by an abuliac fit (the thought of which being the first thing to have made sense this entire time, at least to me). It occurs to me now that perhaps you understand this way better than me, and maybe you always have. Maybe that’s okay, but I don’t think I’d go that far. I mean, who’s the one up past her waders in an unparted sea of loose follicles looking for a letter that’s supposed to be open, when we all know good and well that the only one open that’s supposed to stand for anything at all is you? I mean, I know you, and there’s no way you’re standing. Am I right?

Coprolaliar

February 27th, 2009

When he finally pulled the gripper snake from his eyes and managed to stent them open, he felt, or rather he saw, in the smear on his left index finger, that they, his eyes, had been bleeding. He did not know for how long, and he was too panicked to try and guess.

He wanted to ask somebody if it was visible, but instead to be safe, he stuck his head in a book, dipping his head further feigning deep focus any time he felt someone walk by. It was almost rose-tinted (the lens), and if only he could be sure he wasn’t crying, things would be okay. Still deeper he dodged into his book, though when he went too far a fleck would hit the page, dot an I with red or cross an f with a saccadic jig across the margin. A lady passed in front of him with a dog, who stopped for a sniff, licked his calf until the lady called the beast down and went on, dipping into the Tomahawk Café on the corner, or so the corner of his eye would have him believe.

When the kid set the snake loose on his face, he said it had had therapeutic properties, that it didn’t have teeth, just a mighty strong grip, that set loose in the eye it’d have no choice but to clear up his visionary problems. But elas, this was living slithering proof that all it was crack a few veins. Or maybe the eyes would clear up after; he would need to be fresh.

The door to the café opened again, or at least the bell rang, and he wished it would hurry up and leave a scar already, oh yes, the regular waft of dogtail-waving-breeze, while it might speed up the drying process, would be sure to submit to the triumph of the lady attached to it. He couldn’t allow it. Deeper into the book he went, deep enough to paint the Ts red with the bittersweet claret of consanguinity. And nothing else.

What could the healing intent have been of the gripper in the eye? Purity of Heart. The tail batted on, down the street, followed by the emanation of a Danish. Any other day he’d have chanced a look; to hell with timing, he should draw nigh to god, or maybe it was the snake.

He would have to be careful; how did it get lodged in there, anyhow, the snake of his, transparent with the purity of the deep true sea? He had no explanation but took comfort in the fact that while it might have been venomous, a snake is immune to its own bite. There’s comfort, too, in the knowledge that as the blood caked over, it may dry those eyes wide open. Or it may just be a figure of speech.

De-Story, She Said

February 20th, 2009

My red-toothed words are gonna leave the cleaning sting of this all-natural anise toothpaste hookwormed and sinkered to the staples in your stomach, that’s what she’d always say just before a friendly match of dodge-the-lit-cigarette-butt. Was a game that I’d regularly win, or so the holes in the drapes just left of my right ear would have me believe, but since I think often enough about what she might have meant, I have to go ahead and think these things aloud (talking to oneself a much more forgivable crime than admission of even the most numinous of voices-in-head).

So really, I asked her, are you just trying to set my hair aflame, and if so, can we do it without the whiplasherie? I might let you. I’ve been curious a time or three; we all have. And what about hookworm? Have you been poisoning my food again?

Instead of a response she flicked another round, which I think she won, a perfect 10-point-ohh! still barely there and only to be made out by someone with eyes sharp as her susurratory skills. And while her eyes themselves weren’t deserving of sharp, they weren’t entirely unadorned, vulcanized or just made vapid from my own less-than-decent aim but better-than-dumb luck.

I mostly don’t remember if we’re sisters or lovers, though if she’d loosen the tenterhooks so that I could take a breather I’m sure I could remember for the both of us by morning.

Because really, after an arduous day behind the shield, all one can ever want come nightfall is a tender rub-to-brow. I cut her a break because she told me she was present at the crucifix, and I believe her even though I know spectator sport simply doesn’t leave her with the gastricjuice morningbreath that purrs her motor.

(But I’m getting ahead of myself and not keeping score and that last one just grazed my cheek. Not a direct hit, no, but not a near-miss either and the scorekeeping is more fuzzy than her vision at this point.)

In Spanish, ‘puzzle’ is ‘rompecabeza’ and don’t think that’s just what’s gonna happen to your own little head as soon as you tuck off for the night, this is what she’s saying now, though I only half-listen when she speaks in tongues and dares to scratch my soundtrack.

The judge here has long been sidelined and so we’ve been stuck at love for what seems like always, and for the most part I can convince myself that I like it here, that my game’s just as solid, and that her errors themselves are the chosen ones. Though sometimes eternal volleying can tire any able arm.

But I’ve read the books on this and I know now that these are signs of trouble and in the next chapter will realise this can’t go on much longer. I’ve forced shots out of worse, with steady hand and clean cloth, and hell, she’s down to her last smoke and it’s due time someone break her serve.

Pup Tent

February 16th, 2009

It must have been one hell of a game of wet blanket bingo I was interrupting by unzipping the tent, if the dark patches providing polka pattern to the sleeping bags were to be believed, and if you can’t believe that, then there was the clear evidence of the call of a wild O-53 to be reckoned with, if you’re a reckoning sort.

And you might not be, a reckoning sort, but I am, and I reckoned I was crawling into trouble, as I dodged another wet patch on the way to my bedroll while noting that Marcy was either an I-24 or a B-3 from the win, a secret it proved difficult to keep. But those were beans that’d have to wait to be spilled: first, I had to get to the source of this leak.

I’d be careful, as I had gingerly reminded others to be careful, not to touch the sides of the tent while it was raining earlier, without even bothering to think that tent canvas engineers should really have improved upon their materials and waterproofing by now. But that wasn’t it – this water was coming from inside, and while the underclad miscreants causing all this would-be chaostrope were certainly capable of producing it from their not unenergetic secretions, it didn’t seem convincing as an explanation.

Let’s face it – I’m not a private-eye, definitely no dick: I can barely keep up with the letter-call routine (although it seems now that Bertie won on a Wild Card, and it looks as if they were well on their way into a new game). And beyond a general paucity of sleuthing skills, it’s not easy to get to the bottom of things when you’re virtually wrapped in the inappropriety of wild nubile limbs – the sort of things that likely aren’t capable of producing sweat or other effusions, so at least we can cross that off the list.

Hettie reaches over me as her paw’s on its way to grabbing a fresh card so she’ll be ready for the next game (is there such a thing as a Wild Card in Bingo? It’s news to me, admittedly not an expert.) while a hand that I suspect belongs to Mathilda tries for what I think is a surreptitious swipe at the outer reaches of my public arch, an attempt which is prompted thwarted (I may be lacking in the sleuthing skills of your run-of-mill de-tective, but I’m quick enough when prodded). It occurs to me that I’d never stopped to count the number of people in this outdoor slumbering vessel, nor to read the label for the number of people it claims to comfortably hold. But it was cramped in here – maybe we were talking about the imprudence of breathy condensation?

Now Evelyn wants a ghost story, a request that has the other occupants of this appliance at alert and their attention rapt up. And I had just been settling into a whodunit, revving up the motor neurons and sending it blazing down the road of those wet spots which led to the moon from there to lunar cycles and landing on synchrony and I was seconds away from my Archimedes moment when told to take that hard left at Ghost Story, but am more in my element with horror and gore. So I settle back to get a good one in telling shape and as things quiet down, Matilda comes in for some mouth-to-ear susurration. I think it’s going to be a few plot suggestions so I listen con gusto, but what enters my inner ear, beyond her tickling newly spouting Mediterranean peach fuzz, if I trust it and if you trust me, was more like “Boy, what I’d give to take my tongue for a ski-trip down the slope of your iliac crest right about now.”

But I keep my countenance close to my cuffs while making sure we know who swears and pants in this family, and at this their liege is well met, abreast and ready to spook the little bastards to a much deserved drive-thru trip to hell and back. But I don’t want to scare them to their senses, just give a collective shock to the spine, so I tell them the one about the guy and his wife and the monkey paw, with their Fausty wishes, and it works, as they’re scared fitless for a moment until I get to the part about their undead son rapping at the door, when Harriet howls a bloodcurler which sends Ethyl jumping straight up, not quite out of her skin but enough to jar the poles holding the tent in full-on pup position, sending the entire thing atopple and collapsing in on all of us, as we squirm and paw our way around and over one another on our way out.

Airborne Illness

February 15th, 2009

Cozied up in all thirteen plush inches of a third class seat after an unexpectedly uneventful trip down security lane, Trevor looks at the equine face to his right, curious as to her motive. A couple books last-minute seats to New York, only to find a paucity of conjoining seats available, though the ticket gatekeeper both reassuringly and sensibly suggests that they book two seats removed by one passenger, that she didn’t know the statistics on such matters but if asked kindly, “most passengers” would kindly shift over a space for a couple traveling together. Even an inheritance would only get him so far.

The statistics of most were against them, evidently, as she’d refused to budge (‘must be a superstitious phobic thing, her favourite lucky seat or something,’ Hazel’s stolen sidelong glance had suggested, and he’d agreed with a barely discernable nod of the head). In fact, kindliness was seemingly misplaced for indignation in the closet of this stranger’s emotional responses, and after the lashing they’d been given at the suggestion of swapping spots from the mouth beneath her extenuated jowl, they both sat frozen in their respective seats, the occasional furtive glance the most communicative they’d allow one another.

(‘Well, without her conversational distractions, at least I’ll be able to get some work done on the chinchilla,’ he’d thought, when he suddenly and unfortunately remembered, as he slowly began to sink into sleep, that he’d been awake an awfully long time now.)

It was classic airplane sleep, half-lucid of banging carts and artificial food smells, and half-dreamscape into which the lucid half of him hoped to ensconce himself more deeply, in hopes of rabbit-hole revelation. The dreams themselves, fragmented further by the regular interruption of a sneeze, cough (obviously the phlegmatic hack of the recently nicotine-deprived variety), and random expectoration of she next to him, and further punctuated with a crude elbow brought sharply to his coastal cartilage, and while his was a troubled slumber, he thought himself alert enough to at least wonder if he couldn’t work on the chinchilla, at least enough to use it for purposes of immediate vindication: was she really so resentful? All they’d done was ask her to shove over a seat. What kind of a ritual was the middle seat, anyhow? But consciousness was lost, and somewhere in the hinterlands of his own consciousness, his only thoughts committed later to recall would be:

He had been planning to send a letter, or at least he had skirted around a mention of a plan to have a letter sent, as the time he’d been shown had been great time, and a letter is requisite acknowledgment of a letter.
Despite etoliatory recap, the gist was squeezed tight: it had been a good time, and a letter was due. But to whom? And would it be worth sending a letter if he was going to New York anyhow? Was he going to New York in this dream, or was he being temporarily awakened by her tarty elbow again, and did it matter when he grew this weary?

Piano-sized scale (that’s “grand,” for those not paying attention) wasn’t needed to measure the weight of the world lifted listlessly from his axial rotators, but the occasional good mal (not great, nowhere even near) would be appreciated, just a synecdochic seizure, she’d said, while satisfying a mission to indulge in three good meals a week. Hence the need for a letter.

It had later been noted that, unfortunately, she’d only been feting the esophageal although (it should be noted) through no fault of her own. A typo will always take the blame when there’s no one else at whom to unpry a finger of disgust.

But she had been speaking in long-forgotten dialects, this is again, why a letter, not a phone call or the verbal striptease of an actual meeting. Didn’t she (speak the language, that is)? After all, it had been time greatly spent, and as far as letters go, mightn’t he therefore send the fuzzy feltish sort that might be stitched onto an outergarment as a proud display of her athleticism?

Finally, a fit, blamed for this recent lapse into unredeemable expatiation, but he might instead wonder: with everything spelled exactly so, where’s the typo to ogle? The temperature may have dropped, but the climate is, for better or worse, controlled.

And there she stood, freedom towering over the mailbox while demanding false hopelessness, and as she waited for the sky to rain down the other shoe, he made a sandwich of himself, and then started to seize, and grandly, and at last. After all, he was planning to send a letter, and she only hoped he’d remember that her favourite letter was “I.” And that he wouldn’t forget that despite it all…

Ooooof, good morning to her too, there she is – this time he finds himself awakened to the tune of what must be a basketball-sized ball of deeplyrooted throat juice, working its way in a volte-face up her downward tubes and a fine strand of it finding its way to the knee of his very trouser.

His head not moving by its own accord but by the weight of weary, and his eyes only open enough to see the impressively strewn path culminating on his right leg, salivarily connecting to what must be her palace of masticatory mush, and, out of only the more surreptitious sidelong glance, he watched in helpless horror as she, shaky hand extended, softly brushed against the cotton over his knee in hopes of cleaning the mess she’d made. Her finger disappeared from his limited purview and just as he was about to reenter the land of organic milk and macrobiotic honey, the announcer on the in-flight microphone begged them to prepare for landing.

He bolted straight up. They had arrived.

The Problem of Hemingway

December 4th, 2008

Frank O’Connor, in the Lonely Voice:

But the real trouble with Hemingway is that he so often has to depend upon his splendid technical equipment to cover up material that is trivial or sensational. For much of the time his stories illustrate a technique in search of a subject. In the general sense of the word Hemingway has no subject. Faulkner shows a passion for technical experiment not unlike Hemingway’s, and, like Hemingway’s picked up in Paris cafes over a copy of transition, but at once he tries to transplant it to Yoknapatawpha County. Sometimes, let us admit, it looks as inappropriate there as a Paris hat on one of the Snopes women, but at least, if we don’t like the hat we can get something out of the woman it disguises. Hemingway, on the other hand, is always a displaced person; he has no place to bring his treasures to.

(he then cites the influence of Joyce, Gert, and the German Expressionists, and the resultant reduction of character and plot to abstractions… specifically in the example of Hills Like White Elephants), continuing with:

I submit that there are drawbacks to this method. It is all too abstract. Nobody in Hemingway ever seems to have a job or a home unless the job or the home fits into the German scheme of capital letters…

Now I’m no stranger to stylistic excess or the joys of an overindulgence of technical chops, and displacement can work for some (c.f. Joyce, James), but O’Connor gets to the PROBLEM of Hemingway (more aptly than “for every pound of good writing he produced, he also churned out two pounds of utter shit”). But it’s disorienting, with abstractions of people displaced and wandering between leisure and restlessness, and as in Hills Like White Elephants, just waiting to be given something to do.

This is no Shepherd Fairey self-made spectacle, these Toynbee ideas. Whomever is (or was, or has been) responsible wasn’t trying to snag a review in graduate classes or be profiled as The New Enigma in glossy hipster magazines. The originator had a real message, real fears involving the Soviets, the Jews, the Mafioso, and the Media, and wanted us to know about it. He suffered the rare and beautiful and horrifying experience of total rapt possession, of belief in a cause and the willingness to disseminate it.

A persecution complexed paranoiac? Well, maybe. That’s probably not our place to say. But what is You Will Make and Glue Tiles if not a cri de coeur? And, of course, whose?

It’s all been covered: James Morasco died in 2003, which, some say, is when originals stopped appearing for a short while (copycats abound, or so it seems). Railroad Joe Julius Piroli, about whom not much is known

Meanwhile, I’m compelled to make and glue tiles myself, you know, because I must(!!)

The experts (and how glorious it is that it has its own EXPERTS) claim they know the answers, and they seem to have protected them under the buttoned lip of capitalism (watch the movie to have the answer revealed!). Which is, in a nice paradoxical way, the media controlling the message. Which seemed to have been one of the tiler’s fears.

The Question of Death Selection

November 23rd, 2008

We watched Frankenheimer’s Seconds, for the third time, and with this one the focus was stuck on Nora, and Nora’s job. Okay: She works for the Company so you know brings in a fine paycheck, and gets to live on the beach seducing reborns and attending pagan harvest orgies. Let’s invert that: she lives on the beach seducing reborns and attending pagan harvest orgies. And makes a mighty fine living doing so. The imdb’s keywords, always some sort of tasseographic good time, include faked death, female nudity, and plastic surgery, not a bad combination, and one which, together, yields only one other result. The other top keyword, though, was Snorricam, new to this dilettantish cinemaesthetic lexicon, but a quick consult of the Wiki cleared it all up. In fact, the concept wasn’t new around here, but internally defined as The cool camera-round-the-waist effect of Larenz Tate descending into a thugged-out club vertiginously while grooving to Sly Stone in Dead Presidents, admittedly probably the only lasting scene from that film, and now one, sadly, to be replaced with Scandinavian jargon.

It should be noted that New York, Drug Addiction, Drug Addict and Shotgun comprise the keywords for Dead Presidents, then, if that rings a bell. Which it won’t, because it describes about a million and ten drug-thug-and-heist movies. But the other top keyword, the one that makes it worth keywording: maggots. In fact, if you trust the IMDB, it’s the BEST maggot movie.

But back to Seconds, and back to Nora. Of course, there’s neither sign nor mention of a woman reborn, for obvious reasons (women weren’t the ones with money, they didn’t have unsettling soul-sapping careers or frigid, societally oppressed wives, and, okay, it may well have been just a tad more difficult to blackmail them into obeisance with video evidence of a drugged, staged sexual assault with a nubile little thing). And Mrs Hamilton during her visit with Wilson seemed, somehow, at peace. So, women are reborn when their husbands disappear, or, for those with a sex drive or just nice tits and a taste for the bacchanal, take jobs with the Company. It all works out just fine, really.

And Seconds isn’t a film about women, or a film about the lack of women. It’s a film about my dream job. And it would be perfect, if only it had anything to do with maggots.

Images snagged without any permission whatsoever from this guy and also this genius movieboy, both of whom have way smarter words than these about the whole thing.