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I Don't Say
I got up early and drove the three or four minutes to St. Philip alongside Armstrong Park and brought the truck to a stop on the right side of the street by the fire hydrant near the side entrance to the park, right inside of which is a cluster of buildings and inside one of these is the headquarters for the public radio station, WWOZ. On the way back from the French Quarter (which at this point in the telling I have yet to reach and), which begins just outside the park on the other side of Rampart, I sat on the first of the two green benches on the right side of the driveway leading up to the building inside of which is the radio station. On those benches you can catch a little early morning sun if that is your inclination.
In the French Quarter I had walked its length or breadth all the way to Decatur and was one of the first customers at the Café du Monde, which is nearly an impossible thing to be considering that it is an establishment which operates 24 hours a day.
Walking back to the truck along St. Ann and then Dumaine I had passed some Quarter residents walking their dogs--one dog was a very cute puppy and I smiled at it--and a Creole-looking gentleman in a billowy dark pink shirt who greeted me a little more directly than I found to my liking but I just said back to him as my greeting, "all right," with none of the more street-wise urban inflection.
In the café trying to drink my small coffee black and eat my beignets before they got cold I was taken by the manner of a well dressed, grey-headed businessman who looked nothing like my father but reminded me of him just the same. My father is dead but he used to come here to New Orleans on business related to politics and it is possibly that, the headlines about yesterday's elections that I can see as the grey-headed man turns the pages of his newspaper, which triggers the part of my mind where my father is stored.
Right after I finished my coffee I contemplated briefly the beauty of the two young daughters at the table to my left but I felt myself drifting too far from the piers of provinciality so I got up quickly and left out of there, walking up that ramp to the moonwalk where there is a cannon that if operable could shoot a hole in the front of the St. Louis Cathedral. If you are looking at the Cathedral from up there the Mississippi River is behind you shimmering like some really impressive metaphor. Tankers and ferries and tugboats pass by. The two side by side grey steel suspension bridges are off in the distance stage right. The early morning winter sun is bright, blinding, and low in the sky.
When the grey-headed gentleman in the café turned to the metro section I read the headline about yesterday's shooting death at the corner grocer's in Central City. I was watching a Stephen King movie on tape last night and bored with a particular scene I had switched over to a news channel and caught the silent movie surveillance tape from the store. The tape showed a group of young masked boys exiting the store, the last one extending his arm straight out towards off camera behind the counter and calmly firing with very little recoil of his handgun the kill shot at approximately head height.
Bare Breasts Of The Bourgeoisie
The thing about trying to keep in tune with your environment is that you sometimes run the risk of already having a lot in common with your environment and it's not all good, you, or your environment. But you have pledged allegiance for better or worse and the thing that is your days, and your environment, will play itself out with or without your accord. You can set a thing into motion, which you cannot stop, until it plays itself out to its final act.
I've stopped reading books that make me want to kill myself and have set about the task of completing the thing I have tried to control for so long by not completing, Rocheblave. Church lady passersby sometimes pause and say "that's really pretty" and I go and assume they have been around long enough to know what was here before and I feel pretty good about it I don't mind saying.
I have to redo two of the three sets of stairs and put up a railing and this I started after much "let's wait just one more day dwelling in darkness." I was even doing other unnecessary detail work on the house rather than complete the thing that grants me this modicum of freedom; a taste of "you're not a complete fuckup."
I re-glazed the last 18 panes of glass on the two salvage yard replacement widows that I paid too much for but had to have to plug the fire-ravaged hole in the eastern wall of the bedroom. And that only needed doing in the sense that I knew I would use it against me if I didn't re-glaze them. I cleaned up a few years worth of giant sycamore leaves and accumulated construction debris from under the house and hauled two heavy pickup truck loads to the dump on Elysian Fields.
I had to listen to Killer bark relentlessly for two days and breathe in the smell of wet fermented dog shit on successive, hot, muggy, New Orleans days. In the end I was calling him Butch and suffering his sporadic and inexplicable silences. I used a reciprocating saw with a jagged blade to trim some junk tree limbs from the fence which separates us while his master lady yelled at him to leave me alone and I wondered would I increase or decrease his intense feelings for me if his snout got slashed while he tried getting his fangs on my white knuckles.
The book, excellent, despite the fact that only Dreiser's Great American Tragedy has depressed me more, was The Sheltering Sky, by Paul Bowles. Here's your excerpt: "If she could only give up, relax, and live in the perfect knowledge that there was no hope."
Mardi Gras happened. Three bystanders got shot and one killed on St. Charles on a stretch of the neutral ground (median) that is known as the "freedom zone" (although that's not the exactly what it's called), which is a length of about 8 blocks prior to Lee Circle where rival gangs (although gangs are not exactly what we have here in New Orleans) and their families are supposed to co-exist peacefully for the duration of Carnival parades.
Also, I am told there was a letter to the editor in the Times Picayune bemoaning the fact that in 2004, the 21st century, 40 years after the hard won successes of many a civil rights battle, that in Metairie, the first westerly suburb of New Orleans, and the recipient of the great "white flight" legions those 40 years ago, that an all black New Orleans marching band participating in the suburban version of Mardi Gras, was racially berated along stretches of the parade route by a small but hateful and vociferous minority.
I quit going to Metairie parades after witnessing a similar situation eight or nine years ago. Anyway, there is always a whole lot going on here, during Mardi Gras, and otherwise, and not much of it makes it onto those tapes sold on independent TV stations featuring the bare breasts of the white middle class on Bourbon Street.
Rules Of Engagement
By the time you pass that corner, you have been so studiously avoiding everybody's street business that you are electrified by the calling of your name and the implied kindness of that declaration in that it says you exist in a way that is not a threat to others and that in fact he really is glad to see you, this despite or partly because you have hated each other for brief periods over the past seven or eight years (as love demands.)
You always knew you had no business asserting your idea of rightness into a system that in large part is disdainful of your presence but to let yourself be scavenged seemed right enough and in the end it turns out nobody took anywhere near as much as they gave.
The childish exhilaration of a (jailhouse) kid who is now a man by law and for so many years lashed out at the world at large for holding him back from this rightful position (king of a corner for a day?), is the part that gets me.
This simple thing he is telling me, him on the corner, me in my idling truck, as the cars line up behind me, is an admission of a shared lifetime lived out over a few lazy afternoons spent lollygagging about town with him and his cousins. I can't hold up traffic too long, it's not allowed. I want to get out and jump up and down with giddy abandon, and tell him just how "neat" is this thing he is telling me which in and of itself is nothing, nothing at all. But I'm way too cool for that, and besides, that would also be a thing that's not allowed.
M, in the privacy of her New Orleans ghetto dwelling, was tutoring a kid in her so-called spare time after her full time job as a medical consultant/grant writer and her second job as a professional tutor for less than stellar performers from the surrounding suburban ghettoes.
My back was to it while I checked email and posted my latest self-absorption and this kid was getting cut no slack at all. M does not humor punk ass bitches and this kid was standing up to the test in admirable fashion despite the fact that we should all be volunteering for literacy programs, each and every fucking one of us. Money is great if you got it, face time is better. The kid is a very bright survivor of a totally fucked up New Orleans educational system and I'm happy he could understand as many words as he could but that's only because I have heard worser. U hoid me?
A couple of kids on the border of adulthood came in making exaggerated shivering noises and M shushed them while I called them pussies and pulled up a picture of the snow encrusted mansion of my future. "Pool's in the back," I said. "Got a heater in it? Should have a heater," was the extent of their marvel.
I asked the one near adult if he had completed the online job applications M had brought up and left for him to complete while she was at work and he shook his head and I said, "you're meat." The other near adult youngster affects a harsher look, which is perfectly suitable for the neighborhood. You would be afraid of him if you passed him in his context, and I knew he wanted online after me so when I finished I said "go ahead," and he wouldn't make a move. I interrupted M and said "P wants online" and she looked at P like he a piece of a man and said, "when's the last time you did a dish in here or lifted a finger to help in anyway?," and he looked away ashamed but ready to smile his way out but M preempted that with, "don't you even think about giving me that smile." He didn't. I suggested to the other youngster maybe he could fill out those applications. Then I left to go back to my own adjacent ghetto.
I was on the front porch heading for my truck parked in front the house and a voice called out from the street and I wish my sight wasn't so fucked up but it is so I just went to meet the voice and by the time I stood in the middle of the street I saw it to be Shelton so I said hey. He was shivering.
"Yeah I'm cold," he said. Said he was waiting for his father to come pick him up. He was really shivering.
I didn't know what to say so I said, "You want me to give you a ride?"
He didn't get exasperated with me being a dullard, he just said, "No, I'm waiting for my dad."
He shivered some more and told me of some flu-like symptoms, which didn't sound nice, and I asked him what kind of car his dad drove. He said it was such and such a make and model and that it was like the car Mama D used to drive.
He said he had passed by my house with a friend a few nights previous and he said he had said some nice things to his friend about my abilities as a ghetto renovator.
"What time?" I asked.
"Oh, it was late," he said.
"I go to bed early," I said.
He shivered some more. I said, "Do you want to sit in my truck and wait?" He shrugged off that suggestion and said he was going to wait in the barbershop. I nodded.
"Stop by sometime if you see the light on."
"Ok," he said.
I was elevated on a ridge below sea level walking an area where posted signs warned not to feed the alligators but I saw no such thing to feed, just lots of tiny birds nibbling on Spanish moss. Getting off trail my leg rubbed up against the sign that said not to and I walked the twenty feet over worn marsh grass to dig my fingernails into the soil beneath the raised roots of a two hundred year old live oak tree that had grown from a thousand year old midden of discarded Indian shells. It was a common type shell I took, like that which is used if you have ever seen a shell road but this particular shell may have been handled by a native pre-Louisiana Indian one thousand years ago and I fancy that connection. There are so many things you can do that are wrong that it's hard to choose sometimes.
This was my first trip to the Barataria Preserve in winter, so called winter, I wore a jacket but it was near sixty for a high and the combination of cool air with bright sun and virtually no humans was sweet there is no denying it.
Its almost all hearsay regarding Jean Lafitte the pirate but he roamed this area as its first most famous gangster with a crew of as many as a thousand men and possibly a hundred vessels. He dealt in fine goods and flesh. He brought in slaves, how you gonna love him, but people do. You can't see the harm in it from that little raised mound of trail lined with occasional placards of interest, one in particular paying homage to a pirate who must have had a devil's worth of charm. How much that is wrong do we really distance ourselves from by any more effort than a furrowed brow in a bar over cocktails?
Beautiful fucking day though. I plotted out a strategy that has me living another 86 years just by willing it to be that way. The simplicity of it is the really beautimous part. Maybe at some point it will get more complicated. I mean I may have to start gulping down a tablespoon of vaseline a day as some long-livers advise, but that's cool, I'm up with that. I'm down with that? Well, probably it's better to stay out of synch, it's more consistent. Consistency, Regularity, Discipline and possibly a slew of other boring behaviours are the key to the long life I desire.
In retrospect the grey-headed man with wife and telephoto lens was just trying to be friendly but I had already psyched up to be non-threatening on account of I was sitting alone along the trail like a highwayman, I've read books afterall, and I know everyone is down deep expecting the worst and I just don't want to be that for them. I wasn't prepared for his, "have they all gone?" meaning birds I presume, the day's cacophony suggests that that is what he meant, and my answer of "for now" was not only uppity but suggestive of a knowledge I do not possess. Fuuccck Me. I know they were from Minnesota, the accent was a hint if I were the type to pay attention (which I am not) but the license plate in the parking lot was the dead giveaway. I didn't mean to be that way, friend. I am not all that representative of how friendly we southerners can be. By the way, what is secret of you and your grey-head companion's success? I mean, assuming you don't hate each other every fucking day of your lives. It didn't look that way. Good job man. I'm not going to make it the next 86 years without some help. I wish I knew what you knew. Huh? Oh sure, I can shut up.
She is floating by effortlessly on a single speed below sea level on a street that may not be the heart but will not be denied its categorization as a vital organ in the exquisite corpse that is New Orleans.
Maybe she believes that I really do when she says "oh, you know," in response to my asking how she is. She pedaling the circuit of two parallel blocks, on one of which shyness and lack of curiosity has prevented me over the ten years from being anything but that white boy to its occupants, especially those in the middle near the bumps where you have to slow down. I won't make eye contact with any of those guys because there is no point to our meeting but sometimes she hangin' with them and calls out my name and I wave with a slight twist of the head to prove I am not unfriendly by nature and am also a cautious driver on a street with young children learning how to ride bikes with training wheels.
I may know a little bit about it but not the thing in its totality, no matter how intently our brown eyes connect in the telling of her unfathomable despair from running free toward ruination for twenty years to find only five off the calendar.
Looking over her shoulder coasting to the corner she says while I insert the key in the door, "that your truck?" and I say, "yeh," and she says, "nice."
Okay, I really need to access some of these ideas. They, the ideas, are literally coming at me in the night with butcher knives drawn, hacking away in the darkness at my inability to pay attention. "Pay attention," the ideas scream, sometimes wearing the costume of me, my hand flailing, shiny blade finding no purchase.
What the hell do you mean to do they or I might ask, awake, again, on the edge of my fears.
It doesn't rain where I am when I am but of late the skies are striated shades of grey, offering meaning beyond my understanding.
I read of an art opening, saw a sample of birds on a wire spelling out clearly some message I can't remember. I thought it seemed kind of silly, but there they are now, on the wires above the auto title establishment, pigeons, less than random, spelling out in some language I do not read.
It has been warm here everyday of January. I don't wear shoes when I don't have to. Seems to fit the pattern.
Day Before Super Sunday
I went out looking for a smile today and despite the fact that I had no line, bobber, or hook, I snagged one after not too much fishing, so I was good to go. I read a while back about Golden Gate Bridge jumpers and this one guy, a survivor, I guess, or maybe this information comes from his suicide note, but he said the day he decided to kill himself that if on the way to the bridge he passed one person who smiled at him he would not jump. But you gotta at least consider, dude, how many people you passed were wishing for the same thing, from you?
After stuffing my face with enough food to feed a family of four I came back to New Orleans and walked it off in City Park.
You can argue that there are too many laws already and that YOU would act right without any restraints because you have some highly-tuned inner moral/ethical compass of common decency but I believe there to be way too much evidence to the contrary. Hey all you high end City Park dog walking excrement extruding celebrators--do you find nothing the least bit ironic or troubling about leaving the refinement of your palatial City Park area homes, going into one of the few serene environments that exist in this town, and then shitting in it.
Anyway, after stepping in the dog shit I crossed a bridge, walked past the new restaurant tent by that field in which the boys used to play football, and studiously avoided all the amateur Egyptologists milling around the NOMA.
They have a new sculpture garden in the park, just behind the museum, and it was free to enter which is how I like my art and I'm sure just sure it was all minor accomplishment and insignificant as art goes but good job Besthoff Foundation, did I misspell your name? It felt good to be inside the garden. I felt no more in tune with my fellow art lovers or time-killers than I did in that Dallas sculpture garden I visited over Christmas but…where ya gonna go?
I thought about walking the length of the park because I'm a hiker without a trail but circumventing the golf course was something I did not feel like doing so I just U-turned, celebrating geese and girls, and called it a minor circuit hike. Heading south in the truck back to my house I snaked through or over some bombed out roads and ended up on Bienville. When I passed Kjeans I saw Hot Crawfish scrawled on the blackboard outside so things are happening and I'm not (although crawfish this early in the season are likely to be small and therefore, possibly, overcooked.) I need to synch up. Oh yeah, that oughta do it.
One of the things I will miss when I am away from New Orleans is the fact that you can score drugs here 24 hours a day. By drugs I mean Guinness Stout. Are you wide-awake in the middle of your night? Can't find sleep's sweet oblivion, your guaranteed birthright? Don't use a needle? Question the prudence of popping too many pills? Think heroin, even snorting it, too mean a solution? Giving Herb a break?
Well, if you have a vehicle, armored or not, venture out into the New Orleans morning, noon, or night and find a 24 hour corner store. (If you don't have a car and need the fix then get to Bourbon St., if you can stand it.) If you have driven more than five blocks and haven't found a quickie mart then consult your map because you're probably not in New Orleans. The Stout may not exist on the shelf of every small store but if you ask for it, it will be there next time, no matter what the time. Here's to hoping there isn't a next time. Sleep tight sweet prince, sweet princess.
Ideas And Insults
It did not make imperfect sense when Jacque said it, that I should get a Koala Bear to tend to the bamboo instead of engaging in all these labor-intensive efforts.
I had used a sawzall to cut down a couple hundred fifteen foot stalks the other day and yesterday he and I were slicing through the large piles with a circular saw. The more manageable six-foot lengths we were then grouping into not so heavy bundles, which we contained with twine.
Before loading these many bundles into the bed of my truck and securing them with criss-crossing tie-down straps, we had loaded up and hauled to the dump on Elysian Fields, with a fair amount of frustration on my part, a huge pile of shredded banana trees that under the mandate of M had been massacred by E. Greeyne.
"E kinda effed up these banana trees," I said.
"Yeah," Jacque said.
I was frustrated. I said, "F-ing college boy."
"Yeah," Jacque said.
"I shouldna sharpened that machete for him. Made it too easy for him."
"Yeah, he made 'em like confetti," Jacque said.
About fifteen minutes apart from each other a couple of bangers who I respect made fun of Jacque, behind my back, for helping me. I like the guys but I wanted to kill them at that moment. Figures of speech sometimes aren't. The one banger came by me later, after the truck was fully loaded and I shook his hand and insulted him under the radar and that ain't right if I did indeed mean it in the way it could be construed. But fuck you man, I've had this keyboard in front of me for many years and I haven't really disrespected you in any real proportion to the amount of material I have regarding you. I know that super ego of yours has helped you through some recent hard times but you need to keep it under reign regarding me and mine.
Another man, looking like the Bigtimer, came by later, blowing hot air to M about how she shouldn't cut down all her landscaping and whether inside or outside his earshot, I don't know or care but I told him to go fuck himself and mind his own business. A fucking idea man who don't lift a finger. Sack of excrement.
Well, I awoke out of a fevered sleep, took a shower, then realized it was only one in the morning. So I wrote this. Now I don't know what to do. I can read, I guess.
Nine Life Metaphor
Kitten got it good. She shiny. She soft. She got the perfect black and white markings of cuteness. She got people. She got life.
Kitten does not appear to be in need of anything. One of those boy cats from her clan (same markings) was sniffing her up out there a minute ago and she turned around and batted boy cat upside his head, with impunity. Impunity, that mean no harm came back her way.
I saw a black cat up on the roof of Mr. Bunn's store and I wondered if it might be Shorty because she ain't around here no more. I don't think Shorty is dead because she survived too long to forget how to do it in just the few months I was gone. I did not spoil Shorty with too much food scrap because I figured that to be her death. I maybe spoil her a little though. So she could be dead. All science fiction aside and no offense to the imagined richness of your existence but it may be true that we all dead. So cheer up. If we all dead, Shorty lives.
I see the yellow bastard. And I see Johnny and Susie and I see Michael and Robert and…that lady on Romper Room never did once see me. I was always right there with my common name and she would just look right by me. Arlen and Cassius my ass.
Ain't no cats want to hang around here now with that Pentecostal lot all manicured. No place to hide from the evil that lurks. It sure is improved though. Man, property values just skyrocketing right through the roof. Right through the roof.
They be waiting to build that fence to see if I am going to sue them right back to the stone age (that'll cramp a body's style) for accidentally cutting down my little weed trees when they cut down those big shade trees. I ain't gonna sue nobody but maybe I will, I unpredictable. Crapshit. Who knew I was gonna say that? There a time period after which you can't sue a body and the day after that you will see a fence next door to me. They a wily bunch them Pentecostals. They also got the patience of Job, which ain't no big trick when you spend all your days in a church building. Affecting a religious metaphor I mean is the part that ain't a big deal.
I was doing the math a few days ago, counting up how many of my nine lives is left and I became discouraged after the count to six so I just quit counting and what a bunch of nonsense that is anyway. I mean what are the rules for determining the potentiality of your expirations? Nine lives my ass.
I have driven the six blocks back to Rocheblave to get some tools because Jacque said he could put the new rim on the portable basketball goal if he had a pair of grip pliers, also known as vise-grips. The goal, with its plastic base which acts as ballast when filled with water or sand (or on Dumaine, has an eight foot piece of 6"X8" heavy lumber laid across it) has been laying on its side up against the curb across the street with a rim bent almost closed for I don't know how long. One hundred basketballs, three entire goals, two or three extra rims, and a dozen nets, or more, have come and gone in the nine years I have been acquainted with the activities up and down 2600.
On Rocheblave I also plan to change clothes because it is ten degrees cooler on Dumaine, which is a fact noted by many but understood by few. Charles, the man who does good work for me, is recently out of jail, and comes over from across the street. I tell him my plans about the basketball goal, changing clothes, etc., all in a rush because the sun is setting and I want to watch some street basketball and changing a rim on one of these new-fangled portable goals is not as easy as you might think. Charles is always polite but as if this needs to be said, my problems are not his so what can he do for me to earn a few bucks. "Not a goddamn thing."
"Let me cut those weeds for you."
"Nope, don't care about those weeds."
"Well, what then?"
"I gotta be able to do something."
"Let's see, you could try to sell me a parking space in my own goddamn driveway like you did that first time we met."
"I would if I thought you'd go for it."
"If I weren't so hip to the angles of your deceit?"
"That's a pretty way to put it, I guess."
Daylights burning. I'm still in a hurry. "I could offer a shot of Irish Whisky?"
"And I would gladly accept," said Charles.
I go inside, change my clothes, pour a double shot of Jameson's into a cleaned out yogurt cup and take it out to Charles sitting on the front steps. Then I go back inside and find the tools.
On Dumaine Jacque collects the tools and I sit back and watch him and the boys go at it while I sit on the steps where I used to live and drink one of those tall Heinekins. I had spent most of the day over here working. I started out jumping the fence into Esnard Villa and cutting off the creeper vine that grows on the shared fence and up the side of M's house. If you don't attend to it every once in awhile it will literally envelop an entire dwelling. I would take breaks and sit on those brick steps that once led into Buddy's apartment before that day when the cumulative bad decisions of the new owner led to her being burned out by the wife of one of her lovers. The night of the fire I had sat on different steps, at four a.m., across the street at Mama D's, drinking her whisky from a little white styrofoam coffee cup as the blaze destroyed a grand house that had stood pretty much intact and unaffected by time, termites, war, and two or three Category 5 hurricanes since its construction, in 1854.
Other than trimming back the creeper vine I was harvesting from that little side yard in Esnard Villa what for me is some of the purest raw emotion to which I have access, which comes in handy when circumstances find me in need of some. As for the gangbangers not familiar with me, eyefucking me from way across the street, I have mumbled reminders of how close is our hatred to our love. Peace, you little bitches.
Before Jacque had asked me for the tools but after I had cleaned up the vines, and the trash along the curb from corner to next door neighbor's, and severely trimmed back five years worth of overgrown bamboo in M's backyard, I was sitting on the front steps of M's house, drinking my first tall Heineken, and Shelton appears from the horizon of the corner store. He's in pretty good spirits these days and like old times he sits down and tells me of his defeats in a way that makes them sound like successes.
"Still Working at MacDonald's?" I said.
"Naw, the manager threatened to fire me so I just quit."
"What what about?" he said.
"Why did you quit, why did they threaten to fire you?"
"Oh, you know that girl I told you about, work in the kitchen with me?"
"The one you liked?"
"Oh Lord no, Mr. Jim, uh uh, no, no, no." Somehow the thought of it trickled from his brain into his nasal passages down to the back of his throat and became a bad taste in his mouth. He popped a few colorful Skittles onto his tongue to cleanse his palate of my ridiculous suggestion. "She just worked with me washing up, she was the same as me but she tried to act like she was my boss, telling what I could do, what I couldn't do."
It crossed my mind to say "she was trying to 'handle' you?" but I knew he would laugh at me, one, for trying to be too cool, and two, because the idea that a woman can handle a man has yet to fully sink into his consciousness. I know that it will one day occur to him that it's not of matter of, if, but a matter of, which one, he will not be able to resist being "handled" by.
"No, she just get on my nerves, being bossy, so I threatened to knock her out, and she tell the manager. The manager act like I'm the one done something wrong and tell me he can fire me for that but I don't need that so I just quit."
"Probably shouldn't hit a girl."
"She wasn't no little girl, Mr. Jim, she probably could knock ME out."
"Sounds like she wanted to move up out of the kitchen, show she could manage people."
"Well she didn't manage me."
Yeah well, not that you realize.
Shelton is very eager and confident to talk on camera so I shot a few grainy thirty-second videos on my little Casio. He said he would talk about anything so I got him situated sitting up on the railing with the banana trees behind him, got him framed in the way I liked it and said, "ok, tell me about your childhood." He lost his cool, blushed, grimaced, laughed, and shook his head, so I said, "sorry, just kidding, tell me about jail," at which point he gained back all his confidence and told me a few things from his experiences.
Across the street they did not absolutely need my help but out of selfish desire to watch basketball I offered it anyway and took charge of the unscrewing of a difficult nut or two while Jacque handled the actual reconstruction and cars rushing to the corner whizzed by my right ankle which I had bent behind me into the street as I poured cooking oil along the threads of a nasty bolt.
"Don't we need a bolt on this side too, Jacque?"
"Naw, the hole stripped out, it'll work with just the one side."
After the goal was up people just appeared out of nowhere and there was a game. Occasionally grown men would park their cars on the street and join in for a shot or two before going around the corner to do whatever they had come to do.
M said, "See what you did? It was quiet around here before you showed up and helped them put on that new rim."
It will not go without saying that the rim came out of her foyer.
Love No Preposition
Do not, I repeat, do not tell Mark's girlfriend up there in the hills above Santa Cruz that I am torturing animals here in New Orleans. She never understood the necessity of my BB gun campaign against wild dogs so let's just assume that she would also totally not dig me torturing chained up animals.
I left my (Mark's) BB gun and my shotgun in Virginia because especially in regards to that shotgun loaded with hollow point slugs I was mentally exhausted from the mindset that would for any reason permit me to use it against another human being. I'm not saying I can't still see the reason why such a thing would be necessary but I just don't want to keep seeing that. I don't want to live with that freak that sets himself up in a vulnerable position and then says to the world of harm-givers--come fuck with me. This is a great place, New Orleans is, to live out that Charles Bronson fantasy but I'm thinking now that if there is a local bullet or two meant for me that I would rather be fantasizing about peace and love when it comes. In which case I only have to drop a preposition, and hope for the best.
Shortly before I left Virginia I was in an antique store outside of Sperryville with Mr. BC's wife and we split up and looked at the tons and tons of stuff we would never buy before rejoining for imminent departure and I was fingering the brown wooden handle of this really beautiful ten dollar machete and Mr. BC's wife suggested I was getting into my New Orleans mood and I said oh no, I have left that behind, and I'm not bringing it back with me when I return here in the spring. That's what I say anyway.
Sometimes he just won't shut up, and I know it's only a cat or a distant barking dog that sets him off, Killer that is. Watchdog hipped up long ago, good Watchdog. If I clank a pot in the kitchen it can set Killer off. I live here dammit, Killer. I live here. This is my home. I am a human being. Please shut up. And then I start yelling at him because he is so relentless in his barking. Twenty, thirty minutes straight he can go on. I have no doubt that some people have better success at pretending they are above evil thoughts but I gave up on that for good after that string of hallucinations I had when I was quitting my twenty-year cigarette habit a few years ago.
I'll put some downers in a piece of meat, here puppy.
No, I'll shoot him dead, dammit, why did I leave that gun behind.
I have to do something. Ignoring a problem is like the cigarette smoldering behind the cushions of your couch. So I go out the back door, which really sets him off, and then I hose the bitch down, using my thumb to make the water shoot farther. Killer shuts up. Success. Charges the fence, barking. Failure. I hose the bitch down again, wishing I could find that jet stream nozzle. Killer retreats, stops barking. Success. This process has to be repeated a few more times before I am convinced that, one: it was a good idea, or, two: I am enjoying it too much. Either way, Killer quit all his barking that night.
Last night, taking a break from the hopefulness of my new reading campaign, I am in the bathroom, dancing (like you don't do anything weird?), and Killer starts up. I go to my desk and slide the Winamp bar to 100 percent and then go back to the bathroom and dance through the entire greatest hits of Sly and the Family Stone, imagining just briefly that Killer is my date. I'm not going to get any more weird than that, today.
The Wheelie Poppin' Lifestyle
"What he do, kill someone?" was not a rhetorical question on my part nor would it be taken as such nor was it answered.
For the first nine or ten years of his life he was cute as a little bug and his occasional forays into creative usage's of cutlery were mostly ignored as the petulant acts of an upset child. Last year at 12 he cut a kid in the Dumaine house, the kid went for stitches and Bug skittered away to avoid the charges which were pressed upon him.
About ten days ago I photographed him on Dumaine popping wheelies on a bicycle. Seeing him I got my first notion that the aging process of the street was finally working on him. His eyes, which had so persistently seen the darkness now, gave some of it back. He wasn't that cute anymore. He could pop a mean motherfuckin' wheelie though, the whole length of two six hundred.
Over the years I would say he mostly hung by himself or on the fringe of a group. I don't think he was a loner by choice but rather because he did not neatly fit into the grouping into which he was born. Nor did he fulfill in any real way the needs of others. Maybe the other kids resented his persistent cuteness. Maybe he was just an annoying brat. I know when I lived on Dumaine I shooed him away many times, as he had a knack for showing up and ringing that bell just when the other kids had gone away and left me to the unique peace that can only be properly given back by a house that has recently endured the pitch of screaming children.
Sometimes his smallness was to his advantage and gained him a place stuffed in that little hatch back area of the smallest car built by Ford and I would drive them (eight was as many as we ever fit in there) around town on Sunday afternoons, or to the dollar theatres before they all went bankrupt. He was a good worker and showed eagerness and diligence while cleaning the street of it's substantial weekly buildup of garbage, which was the chore they did in exchange for my chauffeuring. Other times the adolescent boys did not want him in their company, he too young, he too small, he just a kid.
He's thirteen or fourteen now. I had you scared with all that past tense, yeah? Last week he stole a car and crashed it up pretty bad over on Ursulines, had to be cut out of the wreckage. I know the system does not work this fast so this last part is diluted information from the full strength of hearsay, but the word is that they talking about giving him juvenile life. Locking him up until he 21. That'll show him.
Crime And Safety Minus Satan
I only thought I had the music collection to end all collections. After delivering him those first few CDs I asked JL to make a list of stuff he wanted because I was pretty sure anything he would be aware of I would have. But on his list of 24 I don't have the first six, or the last eight. Some of what I am missing is from the mainstream, like Creed, Evanescense, Eve 6, Three Doors Down, and Sevendust. Also I would like to say--for a kid who didn't do well in school he sure has great penmanship.
Just because I have a lot of this music does not mean I have ever listened to it so last night I listened at moderate volume (higher volume was upsetting Killer next door in his rain-soaked doghouse) to samples from my own rather large list. I sampled songs by listening to a few seconds of their beginning, middle and end and got a pretty good idea of the meaning of "derivative." But JL seems to be drawn to some of the less than melodic strains of modern music so I burned for him discs from Atrocity, Cradle of Filth, Crazytown, System of a Down, Staind, Stompbox, Soulfly, Spastic Ink, Praxis, and a few more before I found something on my list that struck me as happier fare. Unfortunately, the title of the disc was God Bless Satan, from a group called Mephiskapheles. On my list they fall between MegaDeth and Metal Church. I am not inking on the disc the name of the album, just the artist, so I figured this would be ok. I deleted the song Satanic Debris because even though most of the song is bouncy and happy it does start out with a semblance of satanic gurgling, which was making me want to slit my wrists if I could only find a razor in this mess I call my home. Don't tell me I'm not a concerned psuedo-parent.
There is this long legged cajun girl who works next door at the auto title place and she just about as elusive as a person can be. And all business too and hard to make smile. Hair like black silk. Eyes to burn holes in your soul. The paper prints a sampling of crimes from each district, this is the 1st District, and today I read the crimes for Dec. 28 (I was in Austin) which is a late enough post date to be almost worthless as news but all the same I mention it because it was an armed robbery at three in the afternoon at Iberville and N. Rocheblave and those people at the title place are mostly the only humans that inhabit this block so I wondered about her because I think she's the one that runs deposits to the bank. She's been parking near my driveway a lot recently and if she would just ask she could park IN my driveway, use my phone, my bathroom, get me to do her laundry, deter bandits with my unique bandit-repelling ability, massage whatever the hell aches her and well, probably just about anything is what I would do for her and when the Martians give me full power that is the way I will arrange things to happen. For now though, I'm just gonna stay right here behind this desk, whereupon there should be a standup plaque that reads--safety through inaction.
I saw BigHead yesterday and he did not, in the traditional sense, look all that well. His head is still big, which may bring you some small measure of comfort--that things you have come to expect are exactly as you expected them to be. And he looked like he had recently done battle--his face had a deep bloody scar, a thing also consistent with my memory of him, and his gait, although clearly suffering from the penalty of age, was proud if somewhat less than swaggering.
He walks the sidewalks in broad daylight, as many neighborhood cats are for good reason fearful to do--predators are plentiful--and on this occasion was on my side of Rocheblave apparently heading for Miss L's yard which is a strewn mess of mid-reconstruction garbage and probably harbors a good many rodents, yum.
Everything behind the head is gaunt. His flanks if cheeks would be described as cadaverous. His fur if skin, sallow, his legs if legs…okay never mind. His black is still black but his white is considerably less than bright.
He came by again today while I sat on that little side landing and when I called out to him from a hundred feet away he stopped. I cooed and he considered. He walked toward me and I went for the camera. He stopped about twenty feet away out in the now neatly trimmed Pentecostal grass and I took a few not very good shots and one very grainy video. When he got bored with me he headed off for the gap to Iberville.
There's a kid on Dumaine who shares my initials and has recently shunned the rap music of his peers to embrace heavy metal. I sense he is going through some hard time, not tied to the brotherhood of gang and also disengaged from the schoolyard; he wasn't passing the standardized tests which allow one to proceed forward. The other day I asked him if he had an mp3 player and he said no. I considered getting him one for his birthday but I can't afford one on account of I am currently a lazy non-working bastard. I have a pretty fair amount of music in the mp3 format, a lot of it metal and rock, not to mention the complete work of Coltrane, but most of these street kids ain't too interested in jazz, despite (or because of) their proximity to the birthplace thereof. So I went out and bought a spindle of 50 CD-Rs for fifteen bucks and now I'm burning him some stuff. So far he's getting Led Zeppelin's I, II, III, IV, and Physical Graffiti, and a full sampling from Queensryche, Iron Maiden, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, Korn, Ozzy Osborne, Machine Head, Megadeth, Metallica, Alice in Chains, and a little Critter Buggin to cleanse the palate. Depending on his response to these, or frankly, whether he wants it or not, he also will get a full plate of Hendrix. I want him to know we are all the same--existing, nothing but existing. And that's not all bad.
Getting It Down
I can, and will, toot my horn now. After forty-four years of not getting it I did the other day finally come to an understanding about how to tie a shoe. It happened accidentally as my fingers made what my mind perceived as a mistake and then there it was--the tying of a shoe in such a way that I was in synch with contemporary American shoe tying. I do not want to underestimate the implication or value of this feat. To consider that I may have the potential to overcome past failures and, yes, even master simple tasks, makes me fairly dizzy. What I mean is, don't give up on me. I'm a comer, a late bloomer, a graying boomer, a man now cautiously synching up to the mainstream of aspiration. What? Oh, you liked me how I was? Well then, fuck it all.
I never got it when I was a youngster, the proper way to tie a shoe. I settled for all these years on a method that was a reasonable facsimile, and let me at least suggest, possibly superior way, of tying the lace up shoe or boot. But superior or not I felt the mark of outcast when tying in public. On those rare occasions when I found myself under close scrutiny I would obfuscate the shoe tying with my prematurely craggy hands. "Hey man, you have the hands of a ninety-year-old man and you are what, 25?" If at the time I was 27 I would say "27," happy not to be found out as someone who could not master what most every five-year-old has mastered. The vanity deficit of craggy hands I filed for later self-consciousness, behind, oh you know, all the usual pedestrian concerns of our time.
If this new method of shoe tying--which by the way I do not now employ as I have found it inferior as regards to my needs--is at least a sign of blossoming potential, then watch out world. I may someday soon return from my morning ablutions to find that, holy mother of Christ, the bed is made. The miracle of this will be in the succumbing to the mechanics of accidental behaviour.