24 November 2009

Falling In Love With A Gun Street Girl, and Other Tragicalamities

Every so often I get it into my head that I want to write songs. Or even just one song. This is not one of those times...and its all Tom Waits' fault. Unintentional, I know. 

Falling James in the Tahoe mud
Stick around to tell us all the tale
He fell in love with a Gun Street girl and
Now he's dancing in the Birmingham jail
Dancing in the Birmingham jail

I love music, all sorts of music. I listen daily, I am getting on more artists' mailing lists, and I think I may be getting a Christmas card from iTunes. Sort of like the year I got a card from my mechanic, after I brought him a couple of boat payments worth of repairs in the space of about two months.

Took a 100 dollars off a Slaughterhouse Joe
Bought a bran' new Michigan 20 gauge
Got all liquored up on that roadhouse corn,
Blew a hole in the hood of a yellow corvette
Blew a hole in the hood of a yellow corvette


Clarification: Tom Waits alone is not entirely responsible for this dilemma of mine. Pearl also had a small but important part to play. In one of her delightful posts involving music (this one) she mentioned '16 Shells from a Thirty-Ought Six' by the aforementioned Mr. Waits.

Bought a second hand Nova from a Cuban Chinese
Dyed his hair in the bathroom of a Texaco
With a pawnshop radio, quarter past 4
Well he left Waukegan at the slammin' of the door
He left Waukegan at the slammin' of the door

The song I am quoting is not that song. However, '16 Shells' played a crucial part in getting me to "Gun Street Girl", which I am liberally quoting without permission, 'cause I like the song so damn  much. It was after reading Pearl's post that I ventured over to iTunes to do a little research, and in the process I made a withdrawal from the memory bank. This withdrawal stirred up some things, it sure did.

Sitting in a sycamore in St. John's Wood
Soakin' day old bread in kerosene
He was blue as a robin's egg brown as a hog
Stayin' out of circulation till the dogs get tired
Stayin' out of circulation till the dogs get tired

When I saw the title to '16 Shells' on Pearl's playlist o' the day, I had a flashback to my days in college, listening to the school station ('WUVT' for anyone curious or keeping score) on my old turntable/cassette deck/stereo combo. It was a fairly low-tech number, tethered to a pair of Radio Shack speakers clad in that 'trying-hard-to-be-classy-but-uber-fake veneer' by skinny wires of the strip and clamp variety. It was outclassed by the block-rockin' stereos that many of my fellow dorm rats shoehorned into their rooms. Still, it was mine and it worked.

Shadow fixed the toilet with an old trombone
He never got up in the morning on a Saturday
Sittin' by the Erie with a bull whipped dog
Tellin' everyone he saw
They went thatta way
Tellin' everyone he saw
They went thatta way

The scene I was flashing on was early Friday or Saturday night, I think, and I was sitting in my dorm room wrestling with the eternal dilemma of laundry money or beer fund. Prepping for a night out was easy for me, because I was such a dork that my expectations were pretty low. I was listening to WUVT, I forget the name of the "show", but it was a pretty typical for a station trying hard to be hip and cool. To its credit, they aired a lot of what would now be called 'alternative', and some just plain bizarre. In short, it was perfect for me.

Now the rain's like gravel on an old tin roof
And the Burlington Northern's pullin' out of the world
With a head full of bourbon and a dream in the straw
And a Gun Street Girl was the cause of it all
A Gun Street girl was the cause of it all

It was then I heard Tom Waits for the very first time. It was a slow tempo song, that started out with what I thought was a banjo, accompanied by the rhythmic clank of a stick hitting a bottle, or soft blows on an anvil. Then Tom Waits started singing in that whiskey-soaked growl of his. I was transfixed. I hadn't heard anything quite like that, ever, and I was so caught up in it that I missed the DJ saying the name of the song. As it happened I heard another song sort of like it the next weekend and had the presence of mind to call the station and ask. the song was "16 Shells", which was on a different album than "Gun Street Girl". There were enough similarities in an aural sense that I figured that 16 Shells it must be. Funny, after that I forgot to track down the album and it slipped my mind for years and years, until the irrepressible Pearl brought it up in the post I mentioned earlier. Weird, how that works.

Riding in the shadow by the St. Joe Ridge
He heard the click clack tappin' of a blind man's cane
Pullin' into Baker on a New Year's Eve
With one eye on the pistol and the other on the door
With one eye on the pistol and the other on the door

So it was that when I went to look it up on iTunes, eager to hear some good stuff from my semi-misspent youth, I was quite surprised that it wasn't what I thought. I was confused, because I could still hear the song in my head, after all those years, and yet it didn't match. Chagrined and a little nostalgically melancholic, I riffled through the discography for a bit until I came across the title 'Gun Street Girl'. The sample played and I was immediately back in my room, 20+ years ago, feeling like a real hipster and looking like a dweeb and wishing I could play or sing something as cool as all that, even if not like Tom Waits. Why do I bring this up, you may ask? Because it was exhilarating and humbling at the same time and I had no idea at the time how a song like that would affect me so many years later...

Miss Charlotte took her satchel down to King Fish Row
And she smuggled in a bran' new pair of alligator shoes
With her fireman's raincoat and her long yellow hair, well
They tied her to a tree with a skinny millionaire
They tied her to a tree with a skinny millionaire

So it was, just this past Sunday, I was meditating on my so-called writing career, listening to some tunes and thinking big thoughts when the lyric bug bit me again. I like writing prose, but poetry and especially songwriting fascinate me. Similar ends, different methods, between writing a story and writing a song. My fingers and my brain were beginning to twitch as I thought back to some of the haiku and song snippets I had experimented with in my journals. "Some great stuff" I told myself, "I could do this" and I just as I reached for a pen, "Gun Street Girl" comes on the iPod. My train of thought immediately came to a screeching halt, as I sat there transfixed by the song and the gritty story it was telling. I drew my hand back from the pen, figuring songwriting would have to wait a little bit longer.

Tom Waits beat me to it, the glorious bastard. I'm in love with a Gun Street Girl, and I don't know how to tell her so.

I said, John, John he's long gone
Gone to Indiana
Ain't never coming home
I said John, John he's long gone
Gone to Indiana
Ain't never coming home
Bangin' on a table with an old tin cup
Sing I'll never kiss a Gun Street Girl again
I'll never kiss a Gun Street Girl again

23 November 2009

Okay, But What Kind of Meat?

I went to a local museum last weekend with my Wee Lass, to attend a birthday party for two of her classmates. In the room reserved for the festivities, I saw this sign upon the wall:

Everyone is a specialist these days. I think I'll pick...baloney.

In other news, I have been selected for another award, for a Post-Of-The-Week honor from the one, the only, the lovely Comedy Goddess! Please stop by, drop some luv and let her know I sent you. Please. Plus, she has wine!

21 November 2009

Running Lights

Christ, my head hurts. Sleep or liquor I can’t tell.

I heard your voice, or laugh, cupped by the waves and tossed into my ears. That dream again, waking up on the beach, cold and slick with dew. I’m never sure if I had been drinking. It’s the only reason I can think of these days, that I would fall asleep on the beach. Then again, I’m never sure if I am really waking up or just dreaming I’m waking up. I sit up abruptly. The gray smear of the horizon congeals into focus. My heart pounds in the usual manner as I struggle for balance. I think the sun is coming up, or maybe just behind a drapery of fog and mist. The salt-metal tang of the ocean fills my lungs.

The remnants of the dream I was having, it was a party I think, or were we just sitting in your room listening to Jethro Tull, or Black Sabbath? Albums. I had Aqualung in my hands and you were pretending to play the flute. We always thought if funny to hear a flute in a rock band.

Funny but cool.

I laugh weakly at the memory, then wince. I am clutching at the cold sand so hard the little fragments of shell and rock dig into my palms. It grounds me and the dream wisps vanish, blown out on the water by an offshore breeze. On the horizon something moves, small pale spheres seeming to float over the mercury sea. They fade in an out as I blink slow as an iguana in a blizzard.

The beach is empty, not even a gull to keep me company. The sand is pristine in its wind-driven undulations. If the feet of others had touched it, the wind and waves must have blotted out the prints long before I woke. The notion makes me sad, that I am alone. The tightness in my throat gets stuck while my muscles work furiously to keep it from erupting in a full-on sob. All I hear is the hiss and grumble of the waves with the grass on the dunes in counterpoint. I shake my head and make to stand.

Dizziness nearly takes me to my knees. The world swirling in my head while I flap my arms for balance. I surf a curl of nausea, chest and belly heaving in a struggle for dominance over the contents of my aching stomach. Peristalsis continues to work in the right direction and breakfast or dinner or who knows what I last ate stays put. My head bobbles in the wind and the lights on the horizon flare a little brighter, a little closer.

Or so I thought. It was then that I heard your voice again, I swear to god it sounded like it was coming from across the water and I rubbed my eyes and sonofabitch if those lights didn’t get brighter, turning red and green and sitting on top of the masts or poles or something and there it was the boat and it was heading for the shore and jesus Christ on a pogo stick there you were and you were waving and I yelled out your name and waved back grinning like a fool and my heart swelled up and I wanted to come welcome you back home so I started running and running hard right for the boat because goddamnit it was coming back to the dock they were throwing out the ropes and it must have been a good trip because you held up this big mother of a tuna fish and I smiled because you were back and I kept running to the boat and then you set the fish on deck and started shaking your head with that melancholy smile and the ropes were drawn back in and I said no, no, don’t leave let me get on board I want to come fish with you like we did when we were kids and please just one more time and you faintly called out “No, man, not now, I just wanted to let you know I’m okay and the fishing is excellent...” and then you waved and I came to a crashing halt falling on my knees and sobbing as the boat receded out into the sea.

It was then I came to and found myself on that sandbar, again. Soaking wet in water up to my waist with the salt of my tears mingling with the salt of the ocean. I screamed again, watching those lights hovering so far away on the horizon. The wind swallowed up my puny mewlings, the lights disappeared over the rim of the world. Swimming back to shore, I swore I heard you say “When its time, my brother, when its time.” The beach is no proper bed, but I lay down in the grit, my head cradled on seaweed, and dreamed of our youth.

20 November 2009

Ballad of the Reluctant Road Warrior

Turning to the door, eyes barely open
Stepping to the nacreous chill
Of a thrice ordinary Thursday
Slowly sagging in the drizzle

He would curse if he could
But a cage match with computer
And the phones, and another
Goddamn fritzy pen

Has robbed him of the energy…

A slow walk, in a sad rain
Is the refrain in his head
Courtesy of another man in black
That wears it, not thinks it

Not a zombie, exactly, bluish fingers
Fumbling with chill metal of keys
To pour into a seat shaped too much
Like his ass, which he thinks

Has been kicked too much…

Starting the car, a giant’s wind-up toy
He grins crookedly and thinks that
While he would likely not buy a Jaguar
He sure would accept if it was offered

Shiny metal box on the asphalt river
Where it always seems to be against the current
Demented, dazed salmon frantic for a lunatic sea
Hoping not to crash, mangled, exhausted

Until the arrival home…

Guardrails gleam, the oily hides of metallic
Serpents acting as guides in the syrupy mist
Mist he cannot discern from the fog in his head
Broken by the diabolical ruby glow of taillights

Taillights, unbroken smear of petrochemical blood…

Million curses, the swear jar full to bursting
Upon reaching home, coasting to a stop
To exit the belly of the beast, watering eyes
And fevered mind desperate for relief

Wondering, how many eons this will last.

18 November 2009

A Friend of Mine Said "I Quit Smoking Cold Turkey..."

"...and I said, 'Whaddya smoke now? Ham?'..."*

Badabing! Yes, ladies and gentlemen and indeterminates, I am a comedian! Sometimes...

You know, in my line of work, I regularly get accosted by idiots pretending to be savants**, people asking me patently stupid questions and the like. So it didn't surprise me when IB at Idiot's Stew bugged the shit out of me asked me very politely to lay up a guest post for his "Turkey Palooza" fest of all things Thanksgiving-ly bloggable. Having a soft spot in the Gumbo ticker for idiots, especially idiots as cool my bud Ian (an idiot who actually knows something, mind you), I immediately said f#*k off moron yes, I would be immensely pleased to be a part of such a horrendous travesty festive and heartwarming event in the blog-o-sphere. So my chilluns, go forth and visit Idiot's Stew for to read my humble contribution to the party.S tay awhile, rifle through his CD collection, steal some books...just don't touch the beer unless he says its okay...you'll enjoy the visit I'm sure!

*Yes, I ripped that off from Yakov Smirnoff. What? It's funny!
**Oddly enough, have not been accosted by any idiot savants.

And I just remembered to include the link. Ai yi yi...

16 November 2009

Sorcery and Violence, Part 1

The sour smell of man, and of death. Two entities Godl knew in ways painful and triumphant.

Pine sap. Wood smoke. Ice. Cold granite. Heather and gorse. Mud. Scents foreign and familiar threaded kaleidoscopically through the nostrils of the jaguar as it made its way through the forest. His mouth hung slightly agape, tongue pressing the roof of its mouth when a particularly intriguing smell trailed on the wind.

Muscles rippling like blood or honey pouring from a bucket the jaguar ran at a steady pace, loping his way along the riverbank while trying to keep to the undergrowth. His legs ached from the unfamiliar exertion, but with each paw forward he relaxed into a rhythm etched in his bones. The terrain was alien, and it puzzled Godl. The motion was not. It was not so different from the hunt of which he was the master. What he did not understand, as he had never really felt it, not once in his old life in the jungle, was the fear. It wormed its way into his lungs, riding on the faint reek of the Keeper and his kind, to slip into Godl’s blood.

His heart was cold. Godl growled sporadically, the sound of teeth sliding over bone, to try and shake it loose. When it would not, the jaguar curled his lips and snarled. The reek…

The Keeper swore a mile a minute, sweating even in the cooling air settling down the slope and congealing over the lake. The machete in its heavy leather scabbard banged against his left thigh. The strap was working its way loose, but he did not want to lose precious time by stopping to refasten it. Further compounding his irritation, the Weatherby Synthetic 30.06 was the first rifle he could get his hands on, but he had mistakenly grabbed an ammo belt stocked with shotgun shells, not realizing the error until he had made it downhill to the lake. All the cartridges he had were the ones in the magazine.

The jaguar had a good head start. The Keeper was torn about running uphill and tracking the animal with the truck. He reckoned he might catch up to Godl before the animal could cross the ridgeline further south, but only if he ran like hell. And dropped him with the first shot.

The Keeper did some calculations in his head, checked the angle of the sun, and ran headlong into the underbrush. He did not look back.

The heron flew down the center of the river, mindful of the setting sun and increasing altitude as he strained to keep up with the Keeper and his prey. Heron did not believe that the Keeper knew of his existence, but given the proclivity to violence and the awful weaponry the man carried, heron wanted to take no chances. He flapped his weary wings, tips caressing the icy water as green-gold eyes scanned the riverbank.

Godl was there, Heron knew, he heard the faint crashing of trampled underbrush. Over that, like distant thunderheads giving vent to displeasure of the gods, Heron could hear the growls and snarls of the anxious jaguar. He veered slightly, taken off guard by the basso profundo vibrations emanating from the forest and unsettling his bowels. Heron swept upwards to better see where the jaguar might be heading. Up ahead, in the not too distant south, the forest thinned out somewhat and the reptilian backbone of rock signaled the line of low peaks that stood in the way.

Heron clacked his beak, circling and troubled, knowing that Godl was unaware. Below him, not far behind, the Keeper clumsily made his way along the faint track left behind by the big cat. A few spirals and a glance at the lowering sun, and Heron changed direction to head for a notch in the ridgeline.

Blood was in the air, Godl could smell it along with the cool metallic breeze that was inching its way through the trees. The scent made him hungry, reminding his aching belly that he had not eaten the last consignment of meat the Keeper had brought. His stomach contracted around the memory of tapir and turtle eggs, the familiar squeal and struggle warming his veins. Godl curled his lips, squinting his liquid gold eyes into the sunlight that was beginning to brighten the tree line up ahead.

A growl, the sound of magma shifting under rock…and Godl knew the next blood to stain the earth would not be his own.

15 November 2009

Breathing Mars, Chewing Neptune

The beer slid down his throat, and Colin Hattrick wondered which might be worse: the dry vacuum of space or the liquid pressure of the ocean floor. Explosion or implosion. Both could be pretty nasty ways to die, he thought, but how much worse could it be than the searing cold radiating from inside the beach cottage behind his back?

Not much, he allowed, raising the bottle up to the moonlight, because either way he could die in silence. The silver of the moon cast a deep sepia stain across a face blurred by the neap tide of beer inside the glass. His arm grew suddenly leaden and he slowly lowered the bottle down to the splintery deck railing. Below him on the sand, a gust of wind sparked a conversation amongst the beach grass as the parched stalk nodded back and forth.

Colin looked out over the pale waters off the cape. The nighttime sea flickered in argentine semaphores under the influence of a gravid moon. Its fullness had brought Colin outside with his telescope, which now had pride of place on the rusting shrub that was the patio table. The table had been in the cottage from the first day they had come for vacation, so many years ago. Colin smiled to remember what his then new bride had said when they found it sinking into the sand underneath the raised belly of the house. She had wanted to throw it away. He had taken pity on it, even going so far as to buy some naval jelly and Rustoleum at the little general store in town. She thought him a bit odd for wanting to spend vacation time on what was essentially a housekeeping chore.

What? A little rust removal, some fresh paint…” he remembered saying, “…good as new!

She rolled her eyes and went in search of an umbrella and a sand bucket.

The table in his mind was akin to a friendly stray dog hanging around at the edges and wanting for a kind soul to take it home. He cleaned it up, tightened some bolts and painted it gleaming white. It looked a newly launched ship, and he put it on the deck the next day. A new citronella candle and the coronation was complete. Over the years, the edges of the table began to blur under the accretion of paint, white, always white. Colin felt a kinship with that table, realizing his own edges, his own outlines had begun to soften and fade with time. He knew it with certainty. He no longer could tell where his feelings ended and his body began. Numbness had set in, the side effects of a love gone cold.

Another swallow of beer. Tilting his head back brought his watery eyes into focus on the stars overhead. The outline of the telescope was a black cutout against the backdrop of the moon, and his thoughts turned again to the cold. What’s it going to be, boy? That voice in his head again. Launch yourself into the velvet blackness up there or dive into the black brine out past the strand?

Red Mars winked at him from the left of the moon, taunting him with its implied warmth. The waves along the beach chuckled in inky curls laced with silver thread, and for a moment he thought he saw a huge, bearded face grinning at him. Colin shook his head hard, rubbing at his eyes. The face was no longer there, Mars was an innocent red dot, and of the waves there was only a hiss of liquid over sand. He leaned forward in his chair, suddenly desiring to search the sky for an answer, an omen, a hint of warmth to melt the shell slowly crystallizing around his heart. The eyepiece of the telescope felt cool and slightly oily on his fingertips.

As he focused the lens, the back door of the cottage squeaked open, the metallic twangy voice of unoiled hinges announcing a visitor. Colin felt no obligation to turn, judging from the precipitous drop in temperature that it was the stranger he had once known as a friend and lover.

You coming in anytime soon?” she asked in a voice cool and shiny like an axe. His heart contracted into a ball of ice, blood rushing outwards and draining into the sea.

Maybe…I don’t know…Yes, once I’m done…” his voice leaden to his ears, “…once I have found what I am looking for.”

He felt her disapproval and annoyance boring into his back. Still, he stifled the urge to get up and go inside, pretending to look through the telescope all the while. Eventually, the hinges croaked again as she lightly slammed the door as she went inside. The light coming through the door blinked out abruptly, leaving Colin bathed only in the light of the moon. He sighed and wiped away a tear.

There was a tinkling, a sound of shattered glass or ice, he thought he heard, and wondered if it was his heart.

12 November 2009

She Hath Charms...

...to Soothe The Savage Breast...

Doing a little disassociative websurfing and blogtrolling last evening and I rediscovered a gem I had let slip from my overworked and strung-out noggin. Treat yourself to some aural berries and cream and visit the lovely and talented Rachael at rachaelpachaelwasmyname. Check out the YouTube and songs links in the sidebar. There is also a link to her webpage for more good stuff.

She can sing, she can play, she's all that and a bag of chips. Drop her a line, tell her I sent you and treat your ears to a 'winterlude' of music.

10 November 2009

Godl Slips

The heron could see Godl straining mightily, the chain a taut, heavy wire between the blocky head and the post on the other end. The lanky bird ruffled his feathers anxiously, rocking on his spindly legs.

The jaguar growled deeply. The muscles writhed like snakes wrapped in luxurious spotted silk. The fur stood out except where it was matted in a grotesque crimson mask, blood thick upon the head and neck of Godl. The leather collar was soaked and slick. Under the strain of Godl’s frantic tugging it was beginning to slip ever so slowly over his head.


Godl coughed heavily as the collar worked its way across his throat. Just as it started to stick again, his ears registered the unmistakable sound of the Keeper’s truck grinding through the forest. He was coming back. Godl redoubled his efforts, throwing up clods of earth as the obsidian daggers of his claws dug into the cold dirt. He did not want to be caught yet again.

The heron spread his wings, and watched through green-gold eyes.

With the suddenness of a flock of birds flushed from the underbrush by hunting dogs, the collar slid over Godl’s jaws with a wet popping sound. The collar shot across the clearing to land against the thick steel post buried in the ground. Freed from the restraint, Godl tumbled backwards and slid a ways down the low hill leading down to the lake. Coming to a stop in a tangle of thistles and blueberry bushes, the thick beast lay still, panting to catch his breath.

Up by the clearing, the metallic roar of the Keeper’s truck grew louder, reverberating out over the lake. It would not be long before the Keeper would realize his prize captive had escaped. Godl staggered to his paws, wobbling slowly but gaining speed as he headed down slope towards the mineral blue coldness of the lake. There was some good cover there, and Godl instinctively turned to it. He began a slow, liquid run, all the while the stony tang of the mountain air filling his lungs with purpose. His feline brain began shaking off the caked mud of captivity, nostrils dilating and claws flexing. It was an alien soil under his paws, but free. Free.

In the clearing, the air was suddenly silent as the Keeper cut the engine. Silence for a few heartbeats, then a loud fusillade of curses when he finally registered the empty collar. The heron saw the Keeper rush back to his truck, frantically pulling mysterious objects from the cab. He slung one across his back, and the oily glint of polished gunmetal flashed dully in the wan sunlight. The Keeper followed the paw prints and crushed stems down to the shore, loping swiftly but with purpose.

The heron had seen enough, and he lofted himself quietly into the air, circling behind the Keeper to head up along the shore, silent and unseen.

07 November 2009

Road To Mare Tranquillitatis

An invisible highway rushes on, and today your earthly remains will join the traffic. I remain land bound, too weak to follow and choking on the tears of shame. I will miss you.

When you left for good, it was to knowledge that I turned for comfort, as I often do. As if the tomes and the maps could bring you back, or make me understand why you had to leave. This time it was an effort doomed to failure, unless you count the sheer accumulation of data as success. Pardon my bitter laughter, but as much as I like a good, solid fact this time data may as well be vapor for as long as it lasted and as hard as it was to grasp.

The maps tell a very different story than the one I have written in my heart, the epic first recorded when you were born, and I followed, young lives becoming our Iliad and our Odyssey. The conceit I carry would make you laugh, of that I am certain. Maps. How do you map a surface that is restless and liquid? One that refuses to stand still?

The Spaniards “discovered” the Gulf Stream in the 16th century, using it as a highway for the ships carrying plundered gold from the Americas. Ben Franklin drew a map of the currents in the 18th century, all scratchy lines and sepia tones. Mr. Franklin’s map is in stark contrast to the digital satellite constructs I came across in my search, looking for that map of you. The bright colors writhed hallucinogenic across the screen and my eyes swam in my head. From tears or fatigue I do not know, but I smiled to think about old ink and Day-Glo posters and how these ends of the spectrum were the very essence of my memories of you.

Colonial powers used the mighty unseen power of the current as a road, and I cannot escape the comparison. This complex Ouroboros of upwellings and boundary conditions carrying life and salt over the swallowing vastness of the ocean is probably the perfect place for you now. The things you will see, at home with the fish and waves. I long to follow, but stand here on the shore, watching and waiting for courage which seems to have abandoned me.

Did you know the moon was full, five days ago? Of course you did, you have a spectacular vantage point I am sure. It was hypnotic and I spent some time staring at it through the naked branches of lonely trees as I walked through a chilly evening. The limpid breeze traced cool circles on my cheeks, lost in reverie. G-maw was there, too, telling me about the moon as we looked through her binoculars and the small telescope I used to have. She liked the moon, and could name some of the craters and seas. I still remember Copernicus and Tycho and Sea of Rains, their Latin names unfamiliar on my tongue. I stood still in the faint glow of streetlights as a memory surfaced, like Nessie in the murky loch of my mind. The big faintly blue smudge on the face of the moon, just right and up of center, that one is the Sea of Tranquility. It saddened me to think you may never have sailed those waters.

Speaking of waters today would have been your forty-sixth birthday, my brother, and it is today that your ashes will be cast upon the face of the Gulf Stream, by your beloved wife and in the presence of friends. I regret that I will not be there to see it, alone in my shame and timidity. Your loss weighs heavy on my mind and stayed my hand from making my way to join them. Know that I love you, my brother, and I hope that you forgive me my weakness.

Scientists say that the Gulf Stream carries the maximum amount of water in the fall, so it is fitting that you will be a passenger in this time of cold velocity. Brother, I bid you farewell, and pray that the current you loved to fish will carry you to your own Mare Tranquillitatis.

06 November 2009

No Wonder There Is An Epidemic Of Brushfires and Children Smoking...

 I was going to light some candles, but couldn't find a responsible adult.

02 November 2009

Lions Through The Crest

We were lions once, long ago and far away.

That summer the golden-haired boys we were ran along a beach of white sugar tinged with caramel. My Big Brother striding the sand and talking to the girls as if he owned the ocean. My timid self hovered at the edges of the hormone clouds and thought my little island a grand place.

Grand, if it bothered one very little to be alone and feel apart from everyone, all the while wishing that somehow the courage could be found to kick open the candy store door and grab some sweetness.

I was much too polite to make a scene.

Big Bro always found a way to do it. To this day I’m still unsure how, because I never really saw it happen. He just seemed to know people, or know how to start talking to them. On the beach, or at parties he would be chatting people up as if the introductions had been made long before. It was a skill I envied deeply. He made friends; I made time until he could make some friends for me. I resented it, sometimes, but was too grateful for the attention I did receive to bite the hand that fed me.

Can humans do what prophets say?
And if I die before I learn to speak
Can money pay for all the days I lived awake but half asleep?

That summer I was awkward and chubby. Like an overgrown penguin without the cuteness. I tagged along with Big Bro because I wanted to be a part of things, I wanted to have a life, get a girlfriend. I wanted to drink beer in the sun and pretend I was all that. Bag of chips, optional, because I ate too much as it was anyway.

Big Bro let me go with minimal fuss. I thought maybe he was taking pity on me. Behind the mask lay a sensitive kid who felt bad that his little brother was possessed of weapons grade dorkiness. He never said it and I never asked. The truth probably would have shamed me into hiding in my room twice as much as I did. I was living my life half-asleep, soporific under the effects of shyness I had not the courage to overcome.

It was at the beach that really started feeling the effects of oncoming puberty. All those pretty girls, tanned and curvy gulls flocking around my brother and his friends. Problem was, I failed to understand it. To me, it was like a perpetual state of that near-sick, that awful whirling dizziness when you can’t decide if you are going to puke or just need to lie down. I solved the problem by avoiding the groups, hovering on the edges and hoping for a glance or a word. Of course, I rarely did get one. Not surprising when most times it happened I shied like a nervous foal, floundering in the sand and pretending sudden interest in the beach glass and seashells. I usually ended up in the surf, even though the opaque emerald sea always worried me. Sharks and jellyfish were never far from my mind.

A life is time, they teach you growing up
A million years before the fall

In the water I was generally alone and felt little of the social pressure I did on land. I bobbed around, a human shipping container overboard in heavy seas. I never had a boogie board or a jet ski or even a wetsuit. My version of body surfing resembled a semi-svelte log tumbling over in the waves and smacking into the sand. There was no grace.

Eventually, I created my own peculiar ocean sport, which consisted of standing in near chest-deep water and waiting for a wave to break at just the right time. I crouched and pushed off from the bottom to launch myself through the face of the curl. Timed appropriately, I could ride the face a little and then burst out the other side in an cold jade rainbow of spray. For brief seconds I could be weightless and hovering over the water, no awkwardness, just grace. I was blessed with a slice of time free of the bonds of gravity and teenage angst.

My brother, he body surfed like a pro.

You ride the waves and don't ask where they go

That summer I rode the waves as much as I could. Jumping through breakers burned off some nervous energy. Eventually, I could get back to land with enough courage to work my way into some conversations, usually with my brother’s words “this is my little brother…” at which point the older, pretty girls my brother knew would usually would say “Aww…”. From the outside I suppose I looked like a goofy puppy. The chick magnet guys on the make bring to the park to get the attention of the ladies. Of course, I was so desperate and so much of a goober I never saw the leash. All I knew was the pleasure of being scratched under the chin by curves in bikinis smelling of coconuts and beer. In other words, heaven on earth.

You swim like lions through the crest
And bathe yourself in zebra flesh

That summer I had no clue that my Big Brother needed me just as much as I needed him. He needed a shield, a cattle catcher to help ward off collisions between his overloaded mind and the social pressures bearing down on him. He needed that shift in attention sometime, I know, because maintaining the façade of the Cool and Collected is exhausting. Jokes, beer and weird thoughts only get you so far before you have to retreat and let someone else be in the light. He was cool, he was The Shit, but every now and then, he coaxed me onstage so he could take a break from being the construct people expected him to be.

That summer, we swam the crest and the zebra flesh between our teeth was nothing less than life itself, a clandestine gift from one brother to another. I throw back my head to roar, and his voice echoes back to me. He may have been the heart of the pride, now and again, but he wanted me to be a lion, too.

Italicized lyrics are from “Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand” by Primitive Radio Gods. My plane took off from Baltimore, but hasn’t landed on Bourbon Street…