Sunday, April 8, 2012

TEN - SHUN 7.9

"...and although the perverse neurotic often tries to relieve the tension that has built up due to this organistic (in Greek, the organa istus) fixation, there is no release possible and thus the organism (literally the organa ismata) must be terminated completely for the neurotic to experience any relief of erotic tension."

-- Uric Van der Vaken, First Principles of Autogenic Fixation (1932)


Friday, December 16, 2011

Tenshun 4.7

If the subject experiences tension on a persistent basis over a significant period of time, then eventually the subject will become completely psychologically impaired by this tension. The psycho-physical disorder that results will prevent the subject from experiencing the normal sorts of pleasures that others derive from life. Instead he will begin to fetishize reality until a state of hyper-manic perversion arises in which abnormal fixations become his central preoccupation. At that point, a return to normalcy is virtually impossible.

Arnold, J. Melnick, Tension and Psycho-Sexual Disorder in the Modern Male (1952)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tenshun 1.7



Der is tenshun in de organizm

Der is so much tenshun dat

de organizm feelz lik it

is abut to explod


TENSHUN
TENSHUN
TENSHUN

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Manifesto of Lamentations

yu critcize but yu
do not cree-ate
yu prognozticize
but yu do not ex-purgate
de faulti komponunts
in yr askeyud sistims

der is somting inuxkusable
abut yr fekal pom-positi
but onli yu now wat it is
nd wat is it kuz

re-align de sistims noe
befor it is to layte
!!??!???
b47

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

But Not Today

I may smile politely
and nod my head with heartfelt greetings
and obsequious platitudes
to help grease the rusty wheels of
social intercourse….
But not today.

I may grovel and serve
and grant the right of way
time and again
to you and your uptown kind…
But not today.

I may shuffle along the cityscape
an invisible member of the anonymous pack
content only to go unnoticed
in a sea of harried humanity…
But not today.

Today is for me and mine,
not for you and yours,
a day for glorious self-absorption
and cosmic autofixated revelries,
in which I am
the Supreme Unmoved-Mover
in my own self-contained universe.
Today is my day
and mine alone,
and you, dear friend,
are the uninvited interloper
in the myopic monologues
and solipsistic soliloquies
running through the endless channels
of my own egocentric mindspace.

Tomorrow there will be time again
for duties and obligations,
for oughts and musts and have-tos,
for all the silly stupid demands
the others so capriciously
seek to impose.
Tomorrow I will play
the serf yet again
and graciously do
my masters’ biddings
with winsome charm
and gentle subservience….

But not today.


[inspiration: I was in the city on Monday buying a coffee at Starbucks (don't ask me what I was doing there....I actually hate the evil place) and heard one worker say to another, "I may do that for you, but not today." Her comment got my creative juices flowing, and the result was this little poem which I finished in the Reading Room of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street. The point: anything in everyday life, no matter how inane it may seem at first sight, can become a source of creative inspiration if you will just allow it to.]

End Times: A Pointless Allegory of Death, Redemption, and a Bit More Death

I remember once, a very long, long time ago, in a far-off corner of the universe, there was this young guy. Just an ordinary guy, I guess, about 24 years old. He survived the miseries of childhood and adolescence with all the scars and inner turmoil that were prerequisite components of growing up the 1970s in New York City. He had made it through the bong-blowing, violence-ridden hell of his youth with his vital innards more-or-less intact and was just starting to come into his own during the time of the actor-king in the slick, superficial, days of excess and over-indulgence.

He was thin, had an abundance of hair on the top of his head, and, amazingly, looked moderately fashionable in the cool, sleek, retro styles of the 80s, especially after all those years of being compelled to wear the unearthly and unnatural fibers of Discotopia. No longer the skinny geek, he had filled out just enough to land dates with a crop of fascinating, if slightly off-kilter, women—the amazon twin who towered high above him and her equally massive sister, the insane, obsessive Aryan bakery heiress with her delicious neurotic twitch, the uptight Catholic high-priestess of respectability and virginal purity …and, of course, the wild, neo-flower child from the North Shore, who was occasionally accessible, but always just slightly out of his reach. He loved all these fabulous women and some of them even loved him, and they all laughed and partied into the wee small hours of the beer-soaked night in smoky dens of unadulterated inhibitionism.

He had his own tenement apartment in the Bronx with sweet urine-scented hallways, fresh brown running water, and smoke encrusted walls—a virtual paradise at only $180 a month. On holidays he traveled with friends to Peru, Belgium, Paris, Italy….wherever the hell he wanted to go, ‘cause there was no one to tell him any longer how to live his life. And he snapped photos of ugly people with beautiful, sublime faces, because he understood intuitively that, in the transcendent realm that awaited him, hideousness and beauty were but dual manifestations of the same perfect reality.

He was, in short, young, foolish, slightly imprudent, and completely free…a recipe for happiness if ever there was one.

But soon wanton livin’ in gritty tenement paradise inevitably gave way to thoughts of a career at a “respectable” institution, with job-security, a 401K plan, and a substantial home in the “right” community far away from the chaotic energy of the decaying city. And he became a paragon, an upright citizen, a homeowner, a role model for wayward youth, and career guy who always did just slightly more than was asked of him. He even went to the temple of the divine manifestation, pretending to be intrigued by the idiotic mumbo-jumbo that passed from the lips of Yama’s holy representative on earth. And, in a sign of his own wisdom, he quickly learned to excel at the kind of fabrication and crass servility that is expected of those who wish to succeed in our cellophane-wrapped, image-obsessed little world.

If you met him on the street you would think to yourself, “What a swell guy; how happy he must be.” And, except in the rare moments when he was capable of being totally and completely honest with himself, he might have even agreed with those sentiments. “Life is super-wonderful-terrific!” he would often think to himself, especially in those unsettling nanoseconds when true self-conscious awareness threatened to emerge from his dormant spirit to dampen the keen fabulousity with which he was expected to greet each and every day.

That man, alas, died a sad and tragic death—a victim of his own sterile conformist sensibilities. One day, as he was fixing his ever-so-proper paisley tie around his ever-so-proper 15 inch neck, preparing for yet another soul-deadening day in surburblandia, the life energy inside of him simply gave up and he crumbled to the ground in a twisted heap. There he laid for five years, two months and twenty days, as family and friends stepped over him, barely noticing the rigor mortus setting into his decaying body. Nobody commented on his rotting remains, because to do so would be to commit the unpardonable sin of acknowledge that something—anything—was wrong with the picture perfect universe in which they all resided. “He’s just tired,” they said to themselves, even as the putrid contents of his bowls emptied themselves over his remains. “Pewww,” said little Johnny, “Daddy needs to take a bath!” “He sure does,” Johnny’s mom laughed. “Silly daddy!” At least they were able to use his body as a stylish coffee table upon which to play fun family board games.

But the seed of his younger self managed to survive somehow within his withered corpse and reemerged suddenly and quite unexpectedly on that very day when the Cathedral of Corporate Corpulence came crashing to the ground. Amidst the fire and rubble, he suddenly awoke, discovering that he no longer recognized the world in which he was formerly a part. After the conflagration, everything around him seemed so petty, so shallow, so exceedingly small, that he wondered if he had not somehow been resurrected in a weird parallel universe. But the world had not changed; he had changed. And there was simply no going back to the life he had before.

So he did what all men do who find themselves reborn after years and years of stultifying get-along-ness. He began to rebel. You wouldn’t notice that he was any sort of rebel from the way he dressed or even from his outward mode of behavior—that would have been far too obvious. The real change occurred deep inside him, in the vast recesses of his long forgotten soul. For you see, my friends, this one small, insignificant man, for the first time in his life, began to understand the awesome power of artful indifference—indifference to the conformist expectations of the larger society which render human beings pawns to the whims of market forces; indifference to the externally imposed, but often arbitrary, ideas of right and wrong which had guided him his entire life; indifference to silly threats spouted by the high priests of eternal damnation in the fiery underworld for those who defied the Yama’s eternal laws. None of this affected him any longer.

Then one monumental day, as all of humanity looked on with horror, he sat down, kicked up his feet, and licked his toffee ice cream, completely oblivious to everyone and everything around him. “This ice cream sure is swell,” he thought to himself. “I think I’ll write a poem about it.” And that’s just what he did.

With that one thought, time stopped, the world collapsed in on itself, and all life in the galaxy was suddenly extinguished. What reason was there, after all, for any of it to continue? After billions of years, the entire meaning of the universe had finally been realized with the wanton lick of an ice cream cone on a balmy summer day.

Kill Daddy While You Can

“All arrogance will reap a harvest rich in tears. God calls men to a heavy reckoning for overweening pride.” — Aeschylus



I don’t care
what your daddy told you,
pretty baby /
killing folks in far off places
for no good reason
just ain’t right. /
it turns you into
a redneck goon
and makes you hungry
for the blood of orphans
and other small
woodland creatures /
don’t believe
when daddy says
they hate us
‘cause of our FREEDOMS
and our FINE CONDIMENTS /
they have plenty of
pickle juice in Iran
and don’t give
a crap-and-a-half
for the soothing pleasures
of american idol /
silly baby, don’t you know
your president is a murderer,
a coward,
a cretin
and pot of collard greens /
boil him if you like;
he’ll still taste bitter as hell /
take this from one
who knows,
my poor, sad baby,
everything your father told you
is a nasty lie:
the easter bunny don’t exist
and communists
sure as hell don’t cry /
don’t kill towel heads /
kill your father instead /

My Life in Technicolor

Because
my mind is a
purple haze,
I view the world in
spectacle-vision.
No putrid browns or tans
for me—
the colors of
the monochrome masses—
but reality awash in a
pastiche
of psychadelic
possibility
,
a rich mosaic
of popsicle pinks
and frothy waves of
vermillion….

The hueless ones,
with pasty corporate countences
and grey flannel underwear,
would drain my pallet
of its most vibrant shades
until my blood runs clear
like tepid
tap
water.
But I will never inhabit a
square universe
with whitewashed walls
or live a
flat
desaturated existence.
Much better indeed
to dwell like one of
the great ones,
who burn out fast
but spend each second
coating the earth
In their own
rainbow perfection,
determined to add
their own little splash
of vibrancy
to this drab reality.

So
when the time comes
to depart this life
let me do so
in a roaring blaze of color,
like a napalm flare
scorching the earth
in a fiery orange conflagration,
rather then burn out quietly
in a off-white,
smoky
pooooof.

There is no genius
in subtle configurations
that soothe the mind
and no great art
in dainty daubs
of tranquil banality.

Unrepentent Rants








Emptiness


Empty

empty
doesn’t have to be
empty
like shallow,
man.
it could be
full,
complete,
perfect
emptiness,
like
zen-fucking
total emptiness,
which is really
total openness…
empty like
the
lonely
milk-weed pod
in frosty autumn,
empty like
the vast and spacious
mind
of true
liberation.

infinitely empty.

Sutra #127

serene perfection is sublimely realized
in moments of still concentration

when the mind is not bounced
to and fro like a child’s plaything

but rests comfortably in the quietude
of the present, blissful moment.

i have never experienced stillness like this,
for my mind is a creature

of strange and erratic habits
and excruciatingly volatile sensibilities.

past endlessly merges with future
in the fragmented confines of my inner self,

and the present—if it does exist at all—
is but a promise as yet unrealized.

i have never smelt the sweet fragrance of spring
in the petals of the blossoming rosebud

nor have I seen the peaks of craggy mountains
rising majestically in the misty morning haze.

they exist as concepts and memories only
and thus they do not really exist at all.

reality abstracted from reality
becomes an empty canvas

of unrealized possibility.

Sutra # 42

the groves have been imprinted so deeply
that they have created deep, dark ruts

in the craters and crevasses of my mind
that are all but impossible to fill

with any sentiment noble or pure.
i have tried to smooth out the grooves,

to stop the impressions that formed them,
but my efforts have all been in vain.

so vast are the old, habitual processes of thought
that effort alone can not dislodge them…

something more is need,
or perhaps something much less.

i have sweated, and toiled and suffered—
i imagine—through countless lifetimes

to establish a more harmonious mind
only to find myself back at the very starting point,

a sad, disjoined creature, subject to
the inexorable laws of action-reaction.

more will not suffice, so perhaps less is more:
allow the impression the space to play

but do not give them too wide a birth,
and them to pass like wind trough the birch trees

where they can do no harm
and cannot leave lingering impressions on the mind,

and so create room for other lofty thoughts to imprint themselves
or perhaps the blessing of having no thoughts at all.

empty mind, pure mind.
The result:

annihilation of the thought-reaction process,
annihilation of the self that produced them.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Point of It All



when life gives you
the rare occasion
to twirl in the limelight
even for one brief moment,
oblivious to the
thoughts and sentiments
of all around you,
revelling only in the
sublime magesty
of the present...

then twirl, baby,
TWIRL!

Friday, April 22, 2011

I Machine

the machine is the master of the man
who is the creator of the machine /
the man programs the machine
whose programs create the man /
the man has become the machine
and the machine the man /
so who is the creator
and what has been created?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Midday Sun

This poem was inspired by the memory of a very simple event--hanging out at a pool with a someone getting a tan on a very hot day. I wrote two versions of the poem: In the first version, the focus was exclusively on myself and my companion was treated as virtually nonexistant. In the second version, which is found below, I decided to include my companion in the poem ("I" became "we"). Unfortunately, the combination of "hot" and "burning" imagery along with the inclusion of the second party in the poem gives it a connotation that was completely unintended (woe!). Just goes to show you that you have to be careful about how you express yourself in poetic form.

Midday Sun

We had some sun
together,
she and I,
and darkened
in the heat
of the midday sun.
Some say
we ought not to
cook ourselves
in this way—
it is unnatural.
Perhaps,
but I would have
my moment in the sun
while I can enjoy it,
rather than hide
in the shadows
with those pasty
and sallow folk
who can never understand
the exquisite pleasures
of seared flesh
on a balmy summer’s day.

We will burn up
eventually,
she and I,
until nothing remains
but the memory
of that one
pure moment
we had
scorching ourselves
in the heat
of the midday sun.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Duality



Self-portrait showing the duality of human nature--dark and light, compassionate and cruel, enlightened and damned for all eternity.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fragments

- how easy it is to descend into oblivion - move one more inch to the right than you are supposed to and the world breaks apart into a million tiny pieces - think the thought and reality comes crashing down around you - say the word and all life as you know it is obliterated in the twinkling of an eye - perform the deed and you become the agent of ultimate cataclysm -

- you are your own armageddon -


The Conclusion of the Affair

As he sat
innocently sipping
his morning
cup of coffee
the thought,
quite unexpectedly,
and without any effort
on his part,
came popping into
his unsuspecting mind.

And from this one,
rather insipid,
thought
the entire universe
came suddenly
to an end.

Into the Abyss

the slide
into oblivion
begins
with a
single step—
ker-plop
and you are
completely
undone.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Darkness and Light

The following is a dialogue between Daeva, a cynical nihilist, and Manu, an embodiment of the idealism inherent in all of the great religious traditions of the world. Of course, there is no Daeva or Manu. Each represents a different dimension of Self (the shadow and fantastic) that are eternally in conflict with one another.

Daeva:
The world is not as it appears to you. There are no squiggly-wiggly lines or plaid checker-board patterns in the cavernous wastelands of your mind, no morning sunrise over the Adriatic, no cute cowgirls all lined up in a row waiting for the farm boys to take them to the county fair. There is no George Bailey, uninspired dolt, or fair Mary, eternal spinster and virgin mother, or Mr. Potter, heroic Master of the Universe.

There is only the void—the vast, eternal, endless void. We are part of the void, but it is not part of us. It is the primordial essence of the universe in which we live. But the universe doesn't exist, and neither do we. Nothing exists except the void.

Try to escape from the void…try all you want. You cannot escape the void, because you are the void. Everything else is illusion and deception.

Manu:
The only void that exists is the one created by the self-imposed limitations of the mind. The past is but a distant memory; the future a fantasy that may never come. But there is the present. This very moment before us is all that we have. You can touch it with your mind’s eye if you would just abandon your delusions.

Follow the breath. The breath is all we have. The breath will lead you to the NOW—the source of all true liberation. And when the delusions arise, treat them with compassion and allow them to flow along the tranquil stream of human consciousness. Then you will come to that place of peace, joy, and harmony for which you so long.

Daeva:
Enlightenment is an illusion; peace is an illusion; liberation is an illusion. There is only struggle, conflict, and chaos. Attempts to postulate higher realms of consciousness are fictions created by minds too weak or timid to accept the SUPREME PRINCIPLE OF REALITY—that there is nothing more…no truth, no heaven, no gods…nothing but the black hell of the void.

Embrace the chaos, leap into the abyss, become one with the void. And, when the darkness calls out to you, accept it, for there is no other option. Darkness and emptiness…that is our ultimate destiny.

Manu:

The first blossom of spring arises in the barren wasteland; the child of man sings his joyful songs to strangers wandering through the dusty city; the enlightened ones sit in perfect stillness by the banks of the sacred river. Everywhere around us there are signs of higher realities at work in our universe.

Embrace the present moment, open up the heart of compassion, and liberation will follow. This is the truth that all of the great sages and prophets throughout history understood; this is the truth that allowed these divine beings to slip their mortal coils and become one with the eternal source of all things.

Despair and fatalism are the true signs of a fearful nature. Become bold: neither death, nor pain, nor the coming darkness can harm you if you have trained your mind to look beyond shadows and fog to glimpse the sublime beauty that permeates all things. There is a god dancing on the petals of each and every rosebud, if you would just take the time to notice.

Daeva:
War, famine, pestilence, greed...We are the very stuff of chaos in the universe. Look inside youself. No matter how sweet, pleasant, or kind you may appear on the surface, lurking deep within you is the Shadow waiting to emerge, waiting to consume all that lies within its path. We are the destroyers; we are the adulterators; we are the very monsters that lurk within our own nightmares.

The planet lies in tatters because of our rapacious greed and endless insidious desire. The planet is dying, dying, dying, and we will die with it. But the Shadow that lies within us will live on. It is the primordial stuff of the universe. It will ultimately snuff out the small glimmer of light that may survive the final confulgration until only the darkness itself remains.

Manu:
Darkness does exist within all of us...That is certainly true. But we human beings are so much more than mere Shadow. We have the potential to transcend our own moral and spiritual limitations and touch the sublime spark that lies within ourselves. For every Stalin or Hitler, there exists a Buddha or a Michelangelo or a Gandhi, who is able to reflect the true nature of humanity. We may often go astray, we may often be led by our brutish desires rather than by the pure light of reason and love. But we also possess the ability to tap into our own basic goodness and inner divinity....if we but make the effort.

I sit in perfect stillness
and follow the ebb and flow
of my life breath
till I reach that still point
where the spark of creativity resides
and then at once I come to
the fertile lands of superconsciousness
and touch the divine essence
that is my true nature.
God and I are one at these moments
and darkness is eviscerated
by the sweet penetrating light
that radiates from within myself.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Achilles No More

i understand you, Achilles,
brooding like a spoiled child…
stubborn, proud, unyielding
in the face of divine capriciousness /
i understand your reticence
to play any part in the farce
of this miserable game
that we philosophers call
the human condition /
let the gods take everything from you—
your love, your wealth, even your pride—
you will not budge,
though the world may tumble
from its very foundation
and humanity burn
in blazing inferno /
you will not yield
and your encrusted heart
will not be softened by pleas or laments.

the gods may laugh at the sorrow
that they inflict on
mere mortals like yourself,
but they tremble at the thought
of your intransient resolve/
you will die, my poor friend,
and be swept into eternal oblivion,
just as cruel fate has foreseen—
a horrible, ugly, untimely death /
but the gods will die with you,
for they cannot endure in a world
where men like you,
brave Achilles,
through the sheer force of will,
transform themselves
into their own supreme beings,
scorning all laws or powers
greater than those contained
within their own proud hearts /

you die, Achilles,
and the gods die with you,
but the world goes on /
and because of your defiance
one more link
in the infinite chain
of obsequious servitude
has been removed
from the shackles
of enslaved humanity /

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Saikaew Beach at Sunrise

Here is a poem that I wrote last summer about one of my favorite beaches--Saikaew Beach on the island of Ko Samet in the Gulf of Thailand. Before I left for Ko Samet I was told by my friends in Thailand that the island was a dump compared to others that were further away from Bangkok.

Don't ever believe what people tell you. The island had the bluest water and the whitest, finest sand that I have ever experienced. Best of all, you could stay in a bungalow right on the beach for only about $10 a night (a bit more if you needed to have air conditioning and hot water...but who really needs that?) and eat fabulous Thai food right overlooking the water for only about $3 a meal. Now that is how to live, my partners in creativity!


One morning I woke up around 7am, as the sun was rising over the Gulf of Thailand, and was inspired to write this simple poem:


The beach is loveliest
at this time of day
when the lazy morning sun
has just begun
to peek her sleepy head
over the dew covered cliffs
of Ko Samet,
basking the beach
in her warm maternal glow.
Millions of tiny sea crabs
burrowing beneath the sand,
have begun to transform
the beach with their
fantastic sand art—
more beautiful,
I think,
than any work
by Michelangelo or Raphael.
The warm surf
crashes gently on my feet,
burying my toes in
powdery white sand,
and I watch on
as a naked child
and scraggly beach mongrel
splash joyfully
in the passing waves,
as oblivious to me
as they are
to each other.
A lone peddler woman
carries morning fare
of rice and fish
precariously on
long bamboo sticks,
her darkened, withered face
aged beyond its years
by her life spent
laboring in the sun.
She offers me
a bit of breakfast
but I wave her on
not wanting to
disturb the sanctity
of this moment.

The beach is loveliest
at this time of day,
when the golden sun
shimmers playfully
on the emerald waters
and the palms trees
dance rhythmically
in the morning breeze.
I breathe in deeply
and stretch my arms
towards the open sky
hoping to capture
the magic of
sun and sand and surf
in my minds eye,
But I know full well
that all the things
I love most
about the beach at sunrise
cannot remain
the way I cherish them
for very long.
And there is some sadness
in this realization
but profound wisdom as well.

The beach is loveliest
at this time of day,
when the garish many
are not yet awake
to disturb
nature’s subtle revelries
with their crude cacophony.
And because I know
this moment of bliss
is but a fleeting thing,
I have resolved
to treasure it
for just as long
as it may last,
and not to pine
so very much
when my
dainty morning sun
becomes transformed—
as she inevitably must—
into a gaudy spectacle
of former herself
.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stray Parts...Claim at the Checkout Counter


We are parts of a whole, but the whole does not exist in reality. We are pieces of a gigantic puzzle that can never be put together in any intelligible form. We are toes and eyes and ears and snot - the sum total of our constituent elements. We are the stray idle thought that flows uninvited through out minds; we are overpowering emotions that arise when we least expect.

But we are not this person, at this time, or in this place. For person, place, and time are mere fictions of the mind designed to give identity to something that is in essence a no-thing.

Stick to the stray parts...you will find much more meaning there. The whole is much too much complex for mere mortals to fathom.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Angelinis

Have to write a poem about a significant relationship that I had with someone. I decided to reflect upon a minor relationship that I had in the distant past with a girl named, Angelinis. The relationship, as you can see, was purely platonic but was important to me at that time for some rather obscure reason. The fact that I can still see Angelinis' misty eyes all these years later says something about her impact upon me when I was a teenager.

Sadly, she did end up badly...a victim of the substance abuse that was endemic in New York during the late 70s and early 80s. And, yes, I did see her one day by Central Park about ten years ago. There was something about her that was very much the same as the innocent girl that I remember from Junior High, but I could see instantly that her life had taken a hard toll on her.

So the poem I wrote turned out to be a wistful, sad memory of a minor relationship from the distant past. I tried to write it in a more stream-of-consciousness style than I usually do to fit the character of the subject as well as the mood of the poem. Otherwise, this poem is very similar in style to most of the other ones that you will read in this blog, using free verse, short lines, and flowing stanzas.




When I was fifteen
I had this
really amazing thing
for an angel,
a real angel.
Okay, maybe
not a real angel,
but her name was
Angelinis.
And if ever
a name conveyed
the essence of a person
her’s did.
She had
eyes as blue
as misty sea water,
eyes
that could look
down deep into your
pitiful soul,
and when you gazed
into them
you beheld
the mysteries of the ages.
And when she smiled
at me with her
full, wide mouth
which she did often—
not because she
was into me or anything,
but just because
that’s the kind of
thing that angels
are known to do—
I would buckle
under the magic
of her sweet
seductive spell.
But I went on
to my own
white starch prison cell,
and she descended
with cruel inexorability
into the hazy realm
of methane soaked oblivion.
When I saw her
last on the street
of the windswept city,
not far from Central Park,
she looked
pail, fragile, disjointed,
like one who has had
her soul surgically removed.
She barely recognized me
at all;
but I recognized her
right away.
Angels don’t stop
being angels
just because
they need
to shoot a bit
of pixie juice
into their veins
now and then
to blot out the pain
of this tawdry existence….
That just makes them
all the more angelic.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Inspiration on the Bathroom Walls











I saw a series of really cool And Warhol prints on the wall of a restaurant bathroom in Asbury Park, N.J., and was incredibly inspired by them. They were just four rather boring portraits of Warhol, digitally pontilized with some of his inane sayings at the bottom (they are posted on the left sidebar of this blog). I thought that I would try to do something similar, stealing Warhol's basic concept. These are just a few of the images that I came up with, although I hope to keep adding more until I eventually have about 1o in total.

What I would like to do next is to use the power of repetition, just as Warhol did (1) to take a series of 100 shots of someone taken against a white wall with natural lighting, attempting to capture 100 different aspects of his or her personality, or (2) to do a series of 100 portraits of different people at Molloy like the ones of myself above with their own inane philosophical statements.

I admit that these are derivative, and not original, ideas. But who cares! Perhaps there are no truly original ideas anyway, so the very desire to try to achieve originality in art, music, literature, philosophy, or any other creative enterprise may very well be fool's quest. In the end, I think Warhol's insight about art is essentially correct: just crank out whatever interesting ideas you have and let others be the judge of their originality or basic worth.

.....................................

Continued Musings [September 18, 2008]

It struck me as I was thinking about the Warhol shots again that it is the form of presentation of these pieces that gives Warhol's "philosophical" statements a depth and gravity that they would not otherwise have.

When I did my own--admittedly inferior--version of these pieces, I intuitively recognized that, no matter what idiotic pronouncements I made on them, they would be treated seriously because the format that I was using rendered my own observations on life inherently profound. This is true even if the statement that I had chosen for one of these pieces was something as dumb as, "I like pizza." Given the visual context, that statement would be as lofty and inspiring as any made by Einstein or Schweitzer.

Perhaps in the kind of slick, superficial, advertisement-driven society in which we live, every one's observations on life deserve to be treated as seriously as that of the greatest philosopher or scientist. So here's the new "concept": 100 photos of 100 different people from all walks of life with their "profound" statements on life printed on the bottom, photoshopped to make them look like commercial art, and posted in a prominent location. The cleaning women treated as the intellectual equal of Plato...I like that!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Short-lived, Tall-Tale Adventure in the Great Outdoors c. 1982

the sun always sets on the lower eastside at exactly 6:47pm and the timing of this magical event is so precise that the great black bear can set his $575.00 rolex by it. he walks into the punk bar on 6th street off avenue a to get a drink. martinti and rossi on the rocks with a twist of lemon is his favorite during the summertime, but they don’t offer such beverages in punk bars, so he has to settle for a corona with lime. it cools him down after a long, hot day in the big city scouting for locations for his next teen slasher film.

all he wants is to be left alone in the cool, dark bar and enjoy his beer in peace. but some people just have an itch for unnecessary confrontation.

fucking bears think they can just waltz in our bar any time they want and order girlie drinks, the skinhead at the other end of the bar sneers. just look at him in his sear-sucker suit…not a wrinkle on him…why don’t you go back to the forest where you came from?

the bear knows that he has to take decisive action or his virility would be called into question, and the consequences of that were simply too horrible to contemplate.

bartender, he says, in a voice that instantly commands attention. would you be so kind as to play this audio tape that I procured in a local emporium not more than one hour ago? I believe it will calm the nerves of my bald-headed friend here.

in an attempt to avoid antagonizing the bear any further, the bartender pops the tape into his stereo. everyone waits nervously, not knowing what to expect. then the music suddenly starts…

‘the summer wind
came strolling in
from across the sea
it lingered there
to touch your hair
and waltz with me.’

jesus, fucking christ, the skinhead shouts out in agony. not frank sinatra! my mother listens to frank sinatra!

he covers his ears and begins to weep. no one could tell what sort of hellish memories have been unearthed by the sounds of sinatra crooning to the velvety accompaniment of nelson riddle’s famed orchestra, but they must have been horrible indeed, for tears are soon cascading down the poor man’s face.

within 15 minutes the bar is emptied of all it’s regulars, and only the bear and the bartender remain.

thank you for ruining my fucking business with your shit music, the bartender says to the bear.

no trouble at all, my dear fellow, the bear replies congenially. paying his tab, he leaves the bar and heads back out into the dark wasteland of the east village.

the bar is still there on the corner of 6th street and avenue a, but no one knows what happened to the bear. some say he tired of city life and bought a little place in central new jersey off the palisades parkway with the earnings he made from his last slasher film; others that he died only a few years later in a horrible accident involving an under-aged tightrope walker and a very large tin of pickled herring.

an account of the incident has been turned into a bestseller by robert ludlum and is awaiting film-treatment by a major hollywood studio. it is said that the part of the bear will be played by brad pitt.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Most Important Lesson of All

Transmitted by Dr. Don Cornelius in Nepal
Thursday, March 19, 2009

1. May I accept all that arises regardless of my wishes.
2. May I accept all that arises with equanimity.
3. I merit my karma. Happiness and unhappiness are a result of my actions, not of my wishes.


Everyone has to have a guru in his life. Mine just happens to be a 70 year old dude named Don, who used to teach Social Work at Molloy.


For ten years I did all I could to shock, provoke, and annoy Don, as is my custom with just about everyone I meet. Now, as anyone who knows me well will tell you, I have an amazing ability to piss people off. It's my special gift, actually. I do it without even really trying. But nothing I did or said ever fazed Don in the slightest. He would just look at me with complete equanimity and smile at me as though I was a silly, wayward seven year old.


Turns out that Don was a practicing Buddhist in the Vipassana tradition, and, unlike many so-called religious types actually tried to practice what he preached. Once when I was particularly agitated, he shared with me his secret for staying so damned peaceful all the time. "Just remember, Mike," he would tell me. "It is what it is."


It is what it is? I had no idea what the fuck that was supposed to mean. But I was intrigued by the success that Don had in dealing with life's adversities without ever becoming agitated or mean-spirited. His life was filled with no small share of suffering - like everyone's life, I suppose. But unlike most people, he used his pain to help him gain a greater perspective on the human condition and to rise above the ego-centered reactions that most of us have when faced with suffering.


Last spring when we were in Nepal together, a student protest completely stopped all traffic and we were stuck for hours in a shit-ass, god-forsaken, garbage strewn town in the middle of nowhere. The weather was about 95 degrees and the flies were picking voraciously at my flesh. After about two hours of pacing back and forth, getting dizzy from breathing in the fumes of the thousands of cars, trucks, and buses idling on the road, I was about ready to explode. Then I looked over and saw Don sitting on a rock, his eyes closed, in his typical meditative posture. I went over and asked him how he could stay so calm when we could be trapped in this hellish spot forever. That's when he shared the three teachings of the Buddha that he had made central to his own outlook on life:


May I accept all that arises regardless of my wishes.


May I accept all that arises with equanimity.


I merit my karma. Happiness and unhappiness are a result of my actions, not of my wishes.


He was putting these teaching into practice at the very moment when the rest of us were bitching and moaning about how unfair life was. For Don, life was neither fair nor unfair. It just was what it was. You could rage against the inevitable - in this case, the idiotic student protest that left us trapped in the middle of Nepal - or you could just learn to accept it and move on.


Hearing those words come out of Don's mouth and witnessing his Buddha-like tranquility even in such an inauspicious context, helped to calm me down tremendously. And just when I was becoming prepared to sit out the protest for another six hours, the traffic miraculously began moving again. That's the way life is, I guess. Good and bad, suffering and joy all mixed together. What Don taught me that day was that, although pain and adversity are an inevitable part of our human reality, suffering doesn't have to be. It's all a matter of perspective.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Touch of Freakiness

Though most of you refuse to allow the inner freak to emerge in your writing, my freak has to come through every now and then just to keep things interesting. I dare any of you to try to top this in terms of raw unadulterated freakiosity:

Dear Francis:

Your persistent attempts to browbeat and intimidate me are doomed to fail. I have met the likes of your kind before, and your sombrero and handlebar mustache do not impress me. It’s a look that may have suited Pancho Villa well, but it’s a bit dated now…just like the old kidney you carry all the time in your suede side pouch.

What is that kidney for, I wonder? Are you keeping it just in case you need a spare one, or are you planning to dress it up for Halloween and take it along with you when you go trick-or-treating? Carting around a used kidney may be a cute trick, but I seriously doubt that it will get you any more tasty treats from the old ladies who live on your block. Try wearing a smart costume for a change!

I WILL NOT BOW DOWN TO YOU OR YOUR DAMNED KIDNEY!!! Perhaps if you had a liver or appendix in your bag, I would be moderately impressed. But in my humble estimation, the kidney is a piss-poor excuse for an organ. (What does the kidney do anyway? Nobody seems able to tell me.)

But I digress. Your insufferable harassment must cease forthwith. I have already contacted my lawyer, Mr. Cyrus Mandlebaum, Esq, and he assures me that your attempts to force me to join your newly established barbershop quartet are not only illegal but quite rude as well. When you asked me to join your Mariachi band last year, I agreed, but the line must be drawn somewhere…and having to sing tenor with a group of morbidly obese evangelicals is as good a place as any to make my stand.

Answer this one question, if you will: what part of me are you planning to snip off to get my voice high enough to meet the requirements of your vile quartet? I WILL NOT HAVE VITAL BODILY PARTS REMOVED WITHOUT ADEQUATE COMPENSATION! I have already lost a pinkie, two feet of large intestine, and a quarter of my spleen to satisfy your pathological desires, but there are some pieces of me that, quite frankly, I hope to make use of at a later date. By the way, I still miss my pinkie and haven’t been able to hold cocktails properly since you started wearing it on your key chain.

Perhaps I am being a tad obstreperous (Is this a real word?). If I must sing with you, make sure that you provide me with a nice bowler hat and a crush velvet shirt to wear beneath my favorite orange sport’s coat. And please don’t tell my mother about this. She still talks about the time you made me wear the ballerina costume in your all male version of the Nutcracker. She is a sickly woman and has yet to get over the death of her pet parakeet, Manuel. She loved that bird more than life itself and they were planning to get married just as soon as he saved enough money for his sex change operation.

Oh, why does life have to be so damnably complicated!!!????!!! I just got a fake rubber pinkie and now you expect me to loose another piece of my anatomy. It seems so unfair. Just be sure to send the replacement parts at your soonest possible convenience by certified mail. This time I will settle for nothing less than antique brass, so do refrain from your usual penny-pinching. Certain appendages simply do not look acceptable in latex or stainless steal.

I look forward to seeing you next week at the annual corporate golf outing!

Sincerely,

Mr. Ricky Ricabono

P.S., When we meet next week, don’t forget to bring the nail clippers you stole from me in Fresno. I haven’t been able to trim my toenails for two years now and it’s embarrassing when I wear my favorite pair of Birkenstocks at the opera.

The Lessons of Springtime

1. It Doesn't Pay to Be Pretty

The young children
in the neighborhood
invariably pass by
my budding
azalea bushes,
hardly noticing them at all.
But over the years
I have learned
the most important lesson
of springtime:
you must always appreciate
beautiful things
while you have them
and solemnly morn them
when they are gone,
for everything in this
ebb and flow universe
is a precious gift,
available only to those
with open eyes.

2. The Devil Has a Furry Tail

The godless squirrels
have dug up my
zoysia plugs
for the fifth time
this week.
I know that
squirrels are
hard-wired
by nature
to unearth their nuts
in the dew-dappled
month of May
when the ground has
sufficiently thawed,
and that my
poor front lawn
is nothing more than
collateral damage,
in the wonderful
pageant that is
springtime.
It still doesn’t make me
hate the little bastards
any less.

3. Nature is a Cosmic Snuff Fest

Spring rains
pour over the tiny seedlings
in my garden,
bending them almost
to the ground.
Some of the weaker
plants will perish
under the rain’s fury,
but the stronger ones
always manage
to survive…
Take this lesson
to heart,
my son:
nature despises
weak things.

4. If You're Useless, You Will Die

The weeds
in my garden
always get
pulled up
by their
little asses
and left to die
a hideous death
in the blistering heat
of the midday sun.
I suppose
someone should mourn
their untimely demise,
but no one seems
to give a damn.
They’re only weeds,
after all.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Tippy Toe Poem

tippy toe

tippy toe

tip, tip, tippy-toe

tippy toe around the house

tippy toe quiet as a mouse

tra la li, tra la lo

tra la la tippy toe

tippy toe

tippy toe

tip, tip, tippy-toe

tippy toe all night long

tippy toe singing a little song:

tra la li, tra la lo

tra la la tippy toe

tippy toe

tippy toe

tip, tip, tippy toe

tippy toe till the break of day

tippy toe your cares away

tra la li, tra la lo

tra la la tippy toe

tippy toe!

TIPPY TOE!!!

TIP, TIP, TIPPY TOE!!!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

ARMAGEDDON

Bottom-line corporate fashitical-ism
Vapid lollipop-licking pop psycholog-ism
Autocratic autodafetic criminal clericalism
Dumb-ass redneck reaction-ism
Pretentious pseudo-intellectual Upper-Eastside snob-ism
Cover up everything but the eyes islamoabsud-ism
Rightwing blowhard Limbaugh-loving conserva-tism
Throw the fucking baby out with the bathwater anti-abortionism
Shrill, uptight “this shit is all your fault” frantic femo-nism
Mamby-pamby post-60s liberal-ism
The next fad is really it technolo-gism
Edubabbling race-to-the-bottom educational bureaucra-tism
Poor excuse for jis’m jis-‘m

Does anybody read Tolstoy any more?
Does anybody chat with his dear auntie in Scranton any more?
Does anybody bowl with his moronic buddies after work any more?
Does anybody piss away his sorrows in the moonlight any more?
Does anybody cry for Wall Street any more?
Does anybody even know that Mory Zucherman is dead?
Does anybody even care that Mory Zucherman is dead?

Armageddon is coming, but he won’t be dressed in plaid.
Armageddon is coming, but he won’t be eating any canap├ęs.
Armageddon is coming, but he won’t be bringing a date this time.
Armageddon is coming, but he’s not happy to be missing the Superbowl.
Armageddon is coming, but he’s changed his name to Norbert Dresner.
Armageddon is coming, but first he has to stop off to pick up his dry cleaning.

Mombo Italiano.
Joey Ramarez is a lousy cock-sucker.
You never know till you know.
I would hate you, if I didn’t love you so much.
She’s not fat, she’s generously proportioned.
Post-ejaculatory distress.
The good ones never win on “Dancing with the Stars.”
Are they real or are they fake?
They’ve gotta be fake.
Fetal alcohol syndrome.
Sara Palin is a real American icon.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Love Song

This is my first attempt at a love song. As you can see I am a pure romantic at heart.

Sweet Lorraine, Goddess of Sunshine

La, la, la, la, la, la, la;
la, la, la, la,
la, la, la, la, la, la, la.
Oh yea!

Chorus:
La, la, la, la, la, la, lo;
la, la, la, you and me.
La, la, la, la, la, la, la,
la, la, la, la, la, la, free.

La, la, la, la, la, la, la;
la, la, la, la,
la, la, la, la, la, la, la.
Come on.

Chorus:
La, la, la, la, la, la, lo;
la, la, la, you and me.
La, la, la, la, la, la, la.
la, la, la, la, la, la, free.

La, la, la, la, la, la, la;
la, la, la, la,
la, la, la, la, la, la, la.
till the cows come home.

Chorus:
La, la, la, la, la, la, lo;
la, la, la, you and me.
La, la, la, la, la, la, la,
la, la, la, la, la, la, free.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

34 Montague Street

The second version of this piece, cleaned-up with the help of Damian Hey, master grammarian and prolific writer.

One night in late July,
when the weather was as stuffy
as the inside of a cocker spaniel’s mouth,
I got up from my sweat-drenched bed,
pulled on my shorts and white t-shirt,
and planted myself on the stoop
in front of my building at 34 Montague Street
with an ice-cold beer that I had
commandeered from my barren fridge.

Alone I sat on that sad stone stoop
with just that paltry beer to keep me company
musing about the great mysteries of the universe—
a solitary man clinging to his cold can of comfort,
contending with the brute realties
of the human condition
on a sleepless summer night.

It was at that moment,
on or about 1:15 in the morning,
that she appeared as though from nowhere,
her cotton dress clinging tightly to her
with such extraordinary intimacy
that the two seemed almost fused together.
She was absorbed in her own thoughts,
like one who had more than her share
of great human mysteries to solve,
and I knew at once by solemn appearance
that she too was a wayfarer in
an otherwise alien universe.

Determined to catch her eye,
I placed the can down on the step where I was sitting,
and the sharp kabang of aluminum against limestone
cause her to turn towards me suddenly,
the yellow glow from the streetlight
illuminating her like some kind of ethereal being.
And she smiled when she saw me sitting there alone,
sensing, I assume, as I had,
that we two were cosmic bedfellows.
Then, noticing the beer can next to me,
she said, in a voice that purred softly in the quiet of the night,
“Got another one for me, Joe?”

Well, my name’s Bill, not Joe,
but that really didn’t matter much at all
when fate had conspired with such grand eloquence
to bring her to me at this very moment.
And I really wish to god-almighty
that I had another can of beer to offer her,
‘cause there was nothing that I wanted more
than to feel that angel of the night
pressed close against me
on my apartment stoop.

“Sorry. Last one,” I said
with a voice that betrayed my deep-felt regret.
And looking intently, she smiled at me again—
a smile so wistful that it
damn near broke my heart….
She smiled at me and replied,
“That’s ok, Joe, probably better off, anyway.”
And wiping the dirty blond hair from her eyes,
she slowly continued on her journey,
till eventually she completely disappeared
into the darkness of Montague Street.

“Better?” I thought ruefully to myself.
Better for whom? Better for her or better for me?
Perhaps it was better for the damned universe not to allow
two solitary creatures like ourselves
to find some single shred of cool consolation
on a blisteringly hot summer night.
“Yes, probably better, anyway,” I reassured myself,
not wanting to agonize over a possibility
that could now never be realized.
And so, draining the last drops of cheap brew
into my eternally parched mouth,
I crumpled the empty can in my hands and tossed it
spitefully onto the empty street.

I went back upstairs
around three or four, I guess,
but didn’t get much sleep at all.
How could I?
I lay there alone in my bed,
dreaming about that girl,
about her skimpy cotton dress,
and about the opportunity that was lost
for lack of one more stinking can of beer.

A few hours later, the sun finally rose
bringing with it yet another day
of endless preoccupations and distractions.
On the way home, I made it a point
to stop into the little grocery store
‘round the corner from my apartment,
and bought a few six-packs of Miller Beer
to store away…
just in case.
You never know, after all,
when some angel of the night
will suddenly appear at your doorstep,
looking to share some inexpensive swill,
while holding out the promise
of a few sweet sultry moments of magic
to help pass the lonely summer evening.

And, as every boy scout will tell you,
it always pays to be prepared.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Vanishing Point

.....Looking into the mirror one morning to begin his ritual ablutions—shaving his forehead and flossing his mind—he was startled to see the being he had always thought he was slowly beginning to fade from view in the mirror.
.....First the left nostril disappeared, then the dimple on his chin, and soon his entire right earlobe. Within minutes there was just an ominous black void where his bloodshot eyes had just been.
.....If things keep up like this, he thought to himself with some concern, soon there won’t be anything left of me that I can still call me. And then what will I be when there’s no longer any me left to see?
.....He lifted his hand to examine what remained of his face, but, much to his surprise, the hand itself had vanished, and his right arm was starting to disappear along with it.
.....He pondered for a moment: If I am but the thing that reflects itself in the mirror when I wash my dainty morning face, and that face no longer appears when I peer in the mirror, then who is looking at what and how? And who exactly am I when there is no longer even any I to spy in the mirror with my mind’s eye?
.....This could certainly pose some difficult metaphysical conundrums, he thought.
.....He hesitated to look down but when he did he was horrified to discover that even that was completely gone….vanished….disappeared. Zooks, he shouted, now I am no longer even a man! What will my girlfriend, Tanya, have to say about that, he wondered? I suppose the engagement’s off now, he sighed.
.....Nipples, left elbow, and all twelve toes disappeared in quick succession. Soon, all that remained when he looked into the mirror was his belly button—an inny to be exact.
.....“Well, I suppose that if I had to be left with just one piece of myself, my belly button is as good a part as any. I’ve gotten some very positive complements on that belly button over the years, he gushed to himself proudly.
.....But just as he was resigning himself to being nothing more than a mere belly button, even that soon disappeared.
.....Now there is no longer anything left of me to see in the mirror, he thought. With nothing better to do, he decided that he might as well use the time to wipe the streaks that had accumulated on the reflective surface as he was watching himself disappear from sight.
.....Cleaning the glass, the brute reality of his situation finally hit home. He reflected: If there is no me left to see and no eyes with which to see, then who is looking in the mirror at what once was me? And, if there is no me left to see, then with what hand can these streaks be wiped away from the mirror? And how can I—if there is no longer any I either in reality or mind’s eye—be thinking these thoughts about I, me, and mine?
.....But before he could figure out the answer to these riddles, the mirror itself disappeared, followed by his newly redecorated bathroom, then the house itself, and then the street upon which the house once stood. Soon every living thing on the planet simply vanished, followed eventually by the planet itself. Within a short time the entire universe itself simply ceased to exist any longer.
.....Now there’s not even a universe left, he sighed to himself—actually to what once was himself. But how can I still be here thinking when there is no thinker and nothing to think about? I suppose the only logical explanation is that I must be God, he concluded finally. And he felt extremely satisfied with that particular hypothesis.
.....It’s going to be pretty sweet being master of the whole damned universe, he thought to himself. But then the maddening reality suddenly hit him: I’m the Lord of the Universe, but there’s no universe to lord over and no Lord to do the lording.
.....So this is what hell is like for God, he cried to himself, wiping away the tears that didn’t exist.

You Never Know

When I was 20 years old my father got me a plum job acting as a security guard on the graveyard shift at 666 5th Ave, one of Manhattan’s most exclusive office buildings. The job paid $10.00 an hour, which was an astronomical sum at the time. The work itself could hardly be called demanding: basically I sat at the security desk reading until someone buzzed the door to be let in. Then I would check his ID and, if he proved to be legitimate, would grant him access to the building. It was certainly nothing that my college educated brain couldn’t handle.

One evening, though, I had committed a serious security breach by failing to lock one of the side doors on 52nd street, where I was stationed that evening. Normally, it wouldn’t have been a problem, because I had a perfect view of the door from where I was sitting. On this particular night however, I was more tired than usual and must have accidentally dozed off. When I awoke, I was dismayed to find a scraggly old bum-like fellow staring straight at me. I could smell the guy from my seat behind the desk and the odor that emanated from him was anything but floral. His clothes looked like something he picked out of a garbage bin, and his face was filthy with the kind of foul smutz that only a place like Manhattan is capable of producing. I don’t know what pissed me off more: the fact that this dreg of humanity was invading my turf or that I was so negligent in performing my duties that I had inadvertently given every psychopath in the area access to the sweetest piece of real estate on Manhattan Island. Whatever the reason, I was peeved and was not going to let some reject from the streets cause me to get into trouble with the higher ups.

The old bum stuck out his right hand, and in between his filthy index and middle fingers held a battered cigarette that he had either scrounged off someone or found on the street.

“Got a light, buddy?” he asked in a gravelly, gin-soaked voice.

“Sir,” I said, none too courteously. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave the premises immediately. This is private property, and you are not allowed in the building after hours.”

That would show him I meant business, I thought to myself. I certainly had mastered the art of perfect bureaucratese.

“I just need a match to light my cigarette, that’s all,” he went on, obviously not bright enough to catch the malevolent tone in my voice.

“Look sir,” I said, making no attempt now to be even remotely civil, “I’ve asked you to leave the premises, and if you fail to do so immediately, I will be forced to contact the authorities.”

The old fellow just looked at me intently and then took two steps closer to the security consol, so that our faces were now only a few feet apart. There was something decidedly eerie about his appearance, and I felt a slight shudder run down my back.

Still staring me straight in the face, he began to talk. Not just any ordinary kind of talk, mind you, but a flurry of strange sentences strung together from numerous languages, living and dead. Now, I’m certainly not a linguist by any means—I could barely get through high school Spanish and Latin—but even I could tell that this man’s mastery of German, French, and Italian was incredible. There were some other languages he threw in too that I was not as familiar with—possibly Polish and Greek—and a few strange guttural languages that seemed like they belonged to another world entirely.

I sat mesmerized as this strange fellow regaled me with his linguistical litany. Then, as suddenly as he began, he stopped.

“Be careful,” he said to me, now appearing much larger and more ominous than before. “You never know who it is that you’re speaking to.”

With that simple statement, I felt my guts collapse inside me. “You never know who it is that you’re speaking to.” It is quite literally true. Who was this man? And why was someone so obviously well educated going around trying to bum a light off dopey college students posing as security guards to earn some money during their summer break.

He turned to leave the building, but I knew that it would be wrong for things to end this way.

“Just a minute sir,” I said. “I think there might be some matches in the drawer here.” The matches were exactly where I thought they would be and I gave them to him. He stuck one of them against the side on the matchbook and lit his cigarette with it.

“There’s hope for you yet, my friend,” he said as he took a long drag from his cigarette, the smoke from it creating an ethereal aura around him. “Just never forget what you’ve learned tonight.” With that he turned around and walked out of the building.

You never know who it is that you’re speaking to. For all I knew, this bedraggled old fellow could have been Jesus Christ himself, coming back for his final judgment. There was definitely something otherworldly about him, although if you asked me, either then or now, what exactly it was about him that made such an impression, I suppose I’d be hard-pressed to give you an answer.

All I know is that if Christ was planning to come back to judge the living and the dead, I seriously doubt that it would be in the form of Michelangelo’s Son of Man—so damned powerful and awe inspiring. No, my guess is that he would return to earth looking like one of the scorned and forgotten many—an HIV positive transvestite or a mentally ill cleaning woman or a Republican congressman. Or quite possibly he would come back looking like a nasty old homeless person trying to light a cigarette on a hot summer night.

And, when that happens, woe to those who fail to remember the sacred lesson I learned that evening: “Be careful. You never know who it is that you are speaking to.”

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Violation in Aisle 11

.....She has stopped there, completely stopped...all three hundred and some odd pounds of her, blocking the frozen food aisle with her overstocked cart and her overbloated carcass. She is all that is standing between me and getting out of this damned supermarket in time for work.
....."Excuse me," I say in my most well-mannered, congenial voice.
.....No response from her.
....."Um, excuse me, miss," I say again, this time slightly louder. "I'm trying to get by. Would you mind moving your cart out of my way."
.....The woman finally turns around. I can see her squinty little eyes buried beneath a ton of gaudy mascara. She doesn't look happy.
....."What?" she asks.
.....I try again: "Could you please move you cart out of my way so that I can pass down the aisle. I'm running a bit late for work."
....."Humph," she snorts like a rhino expelling snot from its snout. I can actually feel the hot air coming out of her pudge nose. With all the dignity of a persecuted martyr, she grudgingly moves her cart a few inches to the side and then continues to explore the latest exciting offerings from Lean Cuisine, oblivious again to my existence.
.....The cart is still blocking my path, but I decide to make a game effort to forge on. The front of my cart pushes gently against hers, slowing moving it out of the way. Inch by inch her cart moves to the side. I'm beginning to think that I may actually be able to pass by unscathed, when the unthinkable happens: the cart brushes ever so slightly against the woman's left hip.
.....I have some vague idea of what's about to come, but I couldn't possibly have been prepared for the violent fury of it all.
.....The woman turns sharply around, her mouth twisted into a demonic grimace. Dropping the package of low fat Swedish meatballs in her hand to the ground, she clenches her fists in fury.
....."What is wrong with you?" she shouts, her voice echoing throughout the store. "Why do you keep harassing me? LEAVE ME ALONE!"
.....The sound of her piercing wail makes everyone in the store turn around at once. Then I hear a voice on the loudspeaker bark out, "Code Red in Aisle 11! Code Red in Aisle 11!" Before I can even move, the store manager comes running down the aisle, followed by three other workers, all carrying walkie-talkies.
....."What's the problem here?" the manager asks. "Is everything alright?"
....."Alright?" the woman screams, her hands now covering up her bosom. "Do you know...do you have any idea at all...what this man did to me just now?"
.....The manager, the store workers, and the customers in Aisle 11 are all standing perfectly still now, waiting to find out what sort of horrible offense I have committed.
....."Just tell us what he did, ma'am," the manager says. "We're here to help you."
....."He, he...." She stops, unable to continue.
....."Yes, ma'am? Go on. No one gonna hurt you in my store."
.....Hurt her, I think to myself. What the hell is he talking about?
.....She hangs her head as if in shame and then, with her voice quaking, she says, "He, he...violated me with the shopping cart."
.....Horrified gasps. Mothers cover up their children's ears. The men in the store clench their fists in rage.
....."He what!" the manager gasps, not completely believing what he had just heard.
....."I was standing here minding my own business when that animal violated my poor, innocent left hip with this shopping cart....right here in the frozen food section of your store."
....."Good God," the manager cries. "Not in the frozen food section! What has this world come to!"
....."Now wait just a minute!" I object. "All I was trying to do was get down the aisle."
....."Shut the hell up, you stinking degenerate," the manager says. "I've just about had all I can take of the likes of you. I'll be damned if you are going to turn this decent store into some kind of swinger's cruising area, violating the hips of innocent young women with shopping carts and other exotic paraphernalia."
....."Listen to me," I say, pleading with the mob that has begun to gather around me. "It was all an accident, an innocent mistake. I never meant to hurt anyone."
....."I bet it was a mistake," a stocky Italian fellow at the back of the crowd sneers. "Just look it him. He's got 'pervert' written all over his face. Probably got a thing for gals with big hips. I say we string him up right here in Aisle 11 just to teach a lesson to all the other fucking pervs looking to score a little supermarket action."
...."String the sick bastard up!" the crowd yells in unison.
....."Hold on, folks," the store manager says to the crowd. "We can't take the law into our own hands. Then we would be just as bad as this fellow."
....."But my left hip. I can feel it bruising up already," the woman says, tears running down her face. "Now I'll never be able to find a decent man to marry me. Who will have me after this? I'm damaged goods."
....."Now don't say that miss," says the store manager tenderly, grasping her pudgy hand. "You're still lovely, and any man would be damned happy to have a woman like you...even with your violated hip."
....."Do you mean it?" she asks, wiping the tears from her face.
....."Of course I do miss."
....."Well, I suppose that someday it will heal, and maybe I'll even be able to forget the shame I experienced because of what this disgusting man did to me. I know that it will take time, but I'm a strong woman."
.....The manager puts his arm around the woman's shoulder. "That's the right attitude miss. Whatdoyasay I take you home now and we'll let the authorities take care of this creep? If you feel up to it, maybe we can have a little dinner later on this evening. I've got a buy-one-get-one free coupon for Friendly's and I'm more than willing to share it with you."
....."Well I suppose that I will have to eat eventually," she says, "and nothing cheers me up quite so much as going out for a really fancy dinner."
.....They walk out of the store together hand in hand, and I can see them getting into the manager's rusty Honda Civic just as the police car pulls up in front of the store.
....."I hear we have a sexual predator in the store," the policeman says, his right hand reaching for the gun in his holster.
....."Here's right over here, officer," a store worker shouts, pointing me out to him.
....."You people did good work," the police officer says. "There no telling what a violent pervert like this might do to children or small animals."
....."Buddy," he says to me, as he puts the handcuffs on. "You're going to be paying for this hideous crime for a very, very long time."
.....The crowd disperses as I am led out of the store. They are content with how justice has been served. Now there will be one less violent criminal lurking in the frozen food section of the local supermarket, and a generously proportioned woman with a violated left hip and limited marital prospects will experience a night of sweet passion with a small, slightly balding store manager.
.....End of story.