Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sweet Jane

Two dozen nightmares and I search for one night's lasting sleep.

I live these dreams of terror, of being leveled into a grey tomb of a government building made of concrete and breathless double plated glass. My coffin--an enclosed cubicle shut away from all humanness, all but for angry bosses, fiery departmental serpents, undertakers of civil service protocols made by electric mandarins of fire and ice. My cemetery-- a giant room of thin men in white shirts and skinny black ties, their eyes beaten, their slight reedy voices whispering away their quiet lives of desperation.

These two dozen nightmares flickering in the burning technicolor of timeless horror, of an endless emporium where sorcerers bid on moribund spirits. Gothic grave looters of the moonless sky. Soul stealers. Coffin robbers. Trade mark examiners of 4 by 4 inch black and white facsimiles of symbols, words, and designs that define secondary meaning.

What of my dreams, my harrowing hallucinations mixed with the night? I can't turn away and ignore them. I can't deny sleep like a quixotic Ponce de Leon making his despairing journey to the illusory fountain of eternity. His journey to moisten his dying lips with the nourishing, promissory holy water of eternal flesh and blood.

Here's the dream that haunts--working with thin men in white shirts and skinny ties examining trademarks till light escapes the day. Evaluating, assessing, examining, deciding, approving, declining, disappointing. Telling men over black as carbon phones the logo is a reject, the wording is plagiarised, the design is infringing on the minds of unhinged creativity.

They can't take the news. They can't take the news...Eddy Woo won't hear the news, his ears closed, his mind shut down, the deprecating bureaucratise of office men judging the noodle of his desire: too confusing in shape, scope, and colour to the design of his great rival Jimmy Wong. Jimmy Wong, who owns another Szechuan all night eatery with hanging barbecue pork and dripping duck in a steamy window. The smell of fried ginger and boiled bamboo shoots singing along the street and through an open basement window where a tong of gambling mainlanders, flatfoot Caucasian cops, multi-hued fire inspectors sit. Sit in a comity of subterranean multi-cultural criminality.

All this Eddie Woo knows, but his gun powder temper, his oppositional defiance arrives in a fusillade of fulminating Cantonese exploding with English crudities, the universal argot of common men: "U Yuckin ah-ho!, U Yuckin ah-ho!"

I hang up the phone--the jarring, bellowing, fiery, unforgiving voice baritone invective of a behemoth boss with bulging lips flapping like over steamed sausages, ordering, demanding of me: "Tortelli, get in my office, now!"

I sit in an office chair and look at his porcine solar red face with his boiled white eyes, pushed in nose, sharp and chipped yellow teeth rising and closing. I take what feels like bullet hits from an index finger pounding my breast bone at the beat of a Bartok piano concerto: 'I'm telling you for the last time.' A vision of my union rep coming to my aid like a flying superman, but he's been in and out of drunk tanks too often, as often as Kansas City condom salesmen finding sales in Nevada desert whorehouses with politicians and mainland gamblers, cops and Eddie Woo's accountants; ad men without ideas, thin men in white shirts and skinny black ties, exerting lonely expresssions of carnal desperation.

I flee to my desk, calm puncuated by my boss's yell: "Tortelli, I just been chewed out in Chinese! Come into my office, now!"

What am I? A minor victimized character in a Wagnerian opera of cold authoritarianism? Am I the rising Lou Reed guitar riff in Sweet Jane, taking flight in assertive crescendos of individualism and declarative liberation. 'Standing on a Street Corner. Suitcase in my hand....Sweet Jane.'

I bear into my boss's office and push my finger into his barrel chest and pronounce in revolt the lyrical anthem from an old rock 'n' roll song: "I'm not going to take it."

His eyes roll back in his head, his Jackie Gleason pirouette, he drops to the floor like a large felled hairy animal. The men in white shirts fill the office and proclaim: "The king is dead!"

They hoist me to their shoulders and chant in a glorious unison: "Long live the King! Tortelli, King of the Trademark Examiners!"

Dreams, Dreams... I can't take these Dreams. Spellbound by uniformity and responsibility. Let the Piper Play. Let me sleep through a dreamless night.

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