You demand too much. Now under this moonless sky. Can't you see I'm busy? I've got a safari hat on a restless head? Into a jungle I will explore. The dark alleys. The urban unlit streets. Mad men and monsters hiding in the darkness of shadowed lives. You demand too much, in this untimely way. Match the back beat Prince. WhenDoves Cry. Do something. Buy an Ipod. Learn the dance of light. Drive the Little Red Corvette. Zoom, Zoom, Raspberry Beret . Demand less and find more. Explore the jungle streets. But let me be, this untimely beast. Purple Rain.
I was drinking slowly at a loser bar named the One Lucky. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a guy sitting alone at a distant table, his body hunched over a bottle of bourbon like his whole life was in pain.
I asked the barkeeper 'Beer Mugs' Moran who the cat was. He said, "His name is Ben and he comes in sometimes, but not too often. He fought in 'Nam. He doesn't talk much, but when he does he's okay. Just don't mention the war. Otherwise his memories bleed into his soul. Then afterwards I gotta clean up the bloody mess."
I'd seen guys like him before. Like 'Beer Mugs's' lost brother. I think his name was Ben, too.
Blogs come and go Bloggers do, too Maybe that leaves you feeling cold, a deep chill inside It does to me Sometimes I think I should buy vintage eyeglasses See life as it once was But Eyeglasses come and go, like Bloggers do
I turned my back on the North Skipped over the South I fancy danced around the West Expunged all the East What's left to Sing? Voice gone to Dylan's 'Wild Cat Growl' Scratching I am, aimless Acoustically on vinyl yellow plain
Like what? A slack jawed sycophant sucking-up to powers that be? A brownnoser. A blowhard. Cool Hand Luke as a dog boy, iron chains to bind his wanting bones beneath a conniving heart.It's too late now, sycophant. You're too old. Too set in your ways. You had your chance. The opportunity is gone. Suffer in your silence. Failure to communicate was your sin.
I stand and read your work. Art, not a book. I see your brilliant colours. Your bold, powerful strokes. I see the shapelessness and formlessness posed on an unbordered canvas, gilded along an inverted frame. There's the symbolism. There's the reverse syllogism. The emblem of the fiery red core. I see it all, but I don't see your price. Wow! You could buy a couch for that!
I want to move to New York, live a writer's conceit. Post to a blogger's vanity. Absorb the self and the world and the lives imagined into a Square Corner's lingering post. Narcissist of the moment? Yeah, but I'll take what I can.
It was half-past eight on a Monday night and I dropped by on my friend Zigman Zibanski. He greeted me dripping wet, covered at his waist in a droopy towel. Staggeringly drunk, he held up to his mouth a cheap bottle of vodka and sang: "She tease you, ya...She unease you, ya...She got da' Bette Davis Eyes."
He swung his arms in a crazy figure eight motion and fell to the floor, nearly crashing his head on the broken bottle. With almost all my strength I lifted his heavy frame onto an uncertain couch and rested his feet on an armrest, placing a stained throw cushion under his head.
I loved the man like a brother. But sometimes he broke my heart too much for me to stay.
On my way home my mind played like a loopy Walkman,lyrics as wobbly as an old tape: "She'll take a tumble on you...She'll roll you like you were dice...She's got Bette Davis eyes."
I woke up in a panic. My face was gone. With a frantic heart I searched everywhere. In cupboards and closets, in used envelopes, behind furniture and under beds. I took apart old boxes and ran my fingers through a threadbare couch. I paused with a forlorn mind. Then I thought: think rational, of everyplace you've been, just as you do when you lose your keys.
"The mirror! The hand mirror!"
I found the antique in a wooden chest of collectibles. To my horror the mirror enslaved my face. It mocked me by stretching than compressing my visage in grotesque shapes, from the monstrous to the emaciated.
"Give me back my face!" I demanded.
In return I got an evil eye, my tongue extended in ridicule and defiance. Desperately, I wrapped my fist in old tube socks and punched the mirror. The eyes, ears, and nose that were mine flew out and fit comfortably where they should have been.
"You didn't have to hit me so hard, Tortelli," the cracked mirror cried.
"You f#!ked with my face." I said. "Nobody does that and gets away with it."
I'm wired to a cloud high in the sky. I pick up a cosmic reception, on some days a Godly static. Nothing is clear in a playful, prayful awe to this purity as mystery. Sounds of deity to a hopeful ear? Or a finite lapse as empty as time?
To those lost friends I've codified and coded. I've stacked and shelved you in the dark passages of my mind. From a youth far away you once sang. Now an autumn has fallen so fast. Where are you now, those erstwhile days? To whom, to where, to what time do you recall? I wonder whose fading memory will be winter's last.
Lady, you owned a look of surprise. That I understood. You found me aflutter in a tub of Ivory soap and still warm water. So this was the idea I had just for you: let slip the towel over your steaming heart. Then come aflutter with me under a low light; a tungsten twosome till our memories fade to dark. But I was too forward. Too demanding. You dropped nothing but a yellow blog on a Square Corner night. So here I am wet and alone, my bath towel gone. I speak bubble talk to a frosted mirror, my breath as steamy as a heart surprised.
Once I rode a mountain like an escalator. One foot each on a couple of moving boulders. I was going atop the roof of the world, to brush up with something mystical. To stretch and gain a bird's eye view of my life so faraway.
I was being upbraided by a half-drunk ex-drill Sergeant in a smoky bar called the One Lucky.
"Stand at attention, Tortelli!" he barked.
I'd never been in the service, but I stood as ramrod as I could in my beer splattered dungarees and undersized T shirt.
"Tortelli, I want you to take down that Japanese machine gun nest, and I want you to take it now!"
I swung open the kitchen doors and put the collar on a short order cook named Eddy Kim. He was a fifth generation Korean with a couple of Irish grandparents.
"What, da?" he said as I dragged him back into the bar.
"I got this here Tokyo soldier, Sarg."
Eddy the PoW became more than incredulous; he was high blood pressure hysterical: "I ain't Japanese and there ain't no war going on, not for sixty years, for cryin' out loud."
'Beer Mugs' Moran was behind the bar puffing on a Tiperello while wiping clean shot glasses. He was famous for his non-plussed manner in a bar of bizarre delusions. "Sarg," he said. "The war just ended. Its VE Day, they announced it on the radio."
The Sargent looked at Eddy sideways. "You one lucky Tojo," he said. The heavy smell of Jim Beam left his narrow mouth. He pulled a lit corn cob pipe out of his pant pocket, and right out of the Andrew Sisters, turns around and staggers unsteadily through the open doors of the One Lucky.
"This is one crazy bar, Tortelli." Eddy Kim said.
"Yeah," 'Beer Mugs' Moran interrupted proudly. "Just like a Square Corner, straight--no chaser, with a little bit of life."
I've spent time with fallen women. I've risen to their defence in times of need. I've kept musical time with jazz musicians from be bop to Coltrane to post modal flights of high trills in empty spaces. All this in finite shoes, and a Square Corner, too.
I spent most of my youth riding buses to avoid a reign of terror inside my head. Diseased, desperate, deleterious thoughts of a Godless demise in Naugahyde leather and the canned laughter of Tuna night fights. Somehow I lived around this reign of terror, until everyone I knew thought just like me. Now I ride trains with a relieved heart.
You don't mean nuttin' to me. Sweet young thing. You're like the zero calories in a diet coke. The puff in a puff pastry. The air in bubble wrap. You don't mean nuttin' to me. Sweet young thing. But can you give me my albums back? Thelonius Monk on the Riverside Label; so hard to find. No point in being petty about this. Is there? Sweet young thing.
Barefoot runner. Flatfooted on bubbly tar, melted on street of steam and heat and pyres of human flesh; smoke rising to Hindu God. Mumbai Hot Docs, western film of human toil, vendors with Mumbai eyes...spotting, seeing: squalor's vengeful demise of leper's fallen line. Lights! Film! Action! Barefoot runner. Act the noble soul in rendered adornment of popcorn fingers--taste the sweet butter from faraway. The starving, empty bellied in worship of needless despair. Popcorn flesh embedded in credit card crowns. I see thee with Western eyes. Sympathy across seven sea. But understand I know you cartoon creature with Taj Mahal heart on sallow skin.
Once I lived inside a radio. Youthful transmissions. WBZ free and clear. A.M. dial to Beatle Tunes, Stones, Norman Greenbaum Spirit in The Sky. Once I lived inside a radio. FM talk and jabber late into the night. Stories of politics and race, foreign wars. Hosts spoken to Boston boy with wild dreams of Red Sox diamonds on World Series ring. Sounds of songs, grooving riff to wished rebellion of time and place. Dial set, tuned as sixties rage. The Radio Boy, 13 year old awareness of life he lives. Plastic airwaves taken to summer joys. Friends, baseball. Then winter games on street hockey plain. Sticks like Orr. He scores on shallow net. Poses he does falsely of a time always to remain. Now disappeared are those Radio Days into a memory of space and place on Boston shore. AM gone. FM as youth is nevermore. Once I lived inside a radio. But now a radio lives inside of me.
2,000 words? Tell me how many paragraphs. Tell me how many periods. How many semi-colons stretched along an uneven page. Tell me about the stories, born and reborn. Ideas sent to the edge, to the awful margins of an airless demise. I think I'll disappear into a dreamless sleep. Awake to a new home, a new house, a new goal to write with a discerning heart.
Sometimes I'll slouch into a Square Corner . I'll stretch my spirit, spread my wings, touch my claws and toes. Blood and words pulsing through these elastic veins. Then I'll stand straight, move about with shoulders strong. But I do as I do, I slide back to the real world: slouched, my body hunched like an old dream.
I saw Lucifer in the eyes of glinting teeth. The glimmer of enamel nails, chewed to the hairy skin. There! The setting sun on a disbeliever's plane. Spoken to me in devil's repose: fly the carpet of the Golden Jet. Wings take flight on far flung wind; fandango of superhero songs, hooded ornaments of dissonant sounds, despair; powdered beatles touched in Epstien's Rubbered Soul. See me! See you! See the baby blue eyes eat unholy gaps between glinting teeth. Devil worship. Atheist in secret prayer. Believer in denial of lovers frozen, homeless in creepy dreams. The glint of the teeth. The rubber soul. Epstein and Lucifer in armbar of unquestioned life. Those rants; bodyguards of theological prose.
"I am an American, Chicago born — Chicago, that somber city — and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent.”
I'll make microwave popcorn. Open a box of chocolate. I'll lay in front of a TV and watch late night movies. UFC fighters. A funny man or two. Sometimes I'll belch. Or I'll pass gas through my a$$. Is this all there is to life?
Once I knew a strongman who could rip porcelain sinks out of concrete walls. He had a temper, too. One day he lost it so bad he tore apart fire hydrants and took down iron lampposts. Much to the chagrin of the police he was impervious to the pain of billy clubs and the sting of pepper spray. So twenty cops bravely tackled him to the ground and took him to a jail. But that night, with the guards asleep, he easily spread open the prison bars, slipping into the freedom of the night.
I hadn't heard from him for years. Then a postcard arrived. He says he lives on a tropical island of tranquility. Gentle tribes people have assuaged his turbulent soul. Now he loves a beautiful woman who has calmed his angry heart. And in a turquoise sea he sees his Maker. I am jealous of a man who is both strong and newly at peace with the world.