Evergreen Review

Evergreen Review The progressive literary and cultural magazine founded in 1957 by famed publisher Barney Rosset, who introduced Samuel Beckett, William S. Burroughs, and many others to the U.S. Now edited by Dale Peck and published by John Oakes. Join the underground!
Evergreen Review debuted pivotal works by Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, Marguerite Duras, Jean Genet, Allen Ginsberg, Gunter Grass, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, Henry Miller, Pablo Neruda, Vladimir Nabokov, Frank O’Hara, Kenzaburō Ōe, Octavio Paz, Harold Pinter, Susan Sontag, Tom Stoppard, Derek Walcott and Malcolm X. United States Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote a controversial piece for the magazine in 1969. Kerouac and Ginsberg regularly had their writing published in the magazine. The original Evergreen Review ceased publication in 1973, but the magazine was revived in 1998 in an online edition edited by founder Barney Rosset and Astrid Rosset. Evergreen's latest incarnation came in 2017 with editor-in-chief Dale Peck and publisher John Oakes. Check us out evergreenreview.com!
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07/06/2020

Watch poet Hannah Lowe read her piece “Dear Professor” for our continued Instagram reading series. Read her full collection of poems now at evergreenreview.com. Follow Hannah Lowe at @hannahlowepoet 🌲 #evergreenreads #hannahlowe #poetry

Contributor Hannah Lowe's essay on her father's mixed heritage and migration as part of the Windrush generation from the...
07/04/2020
Windrush Day: Memories of a Chinese-Jamaican father | gal-dem

Contributor Hannah Lowe's essay on her father's mixed heritage and migration as part of the Windrush generation from the Caribbean to the UK: "I wish I had that essay now, to see what I did know back then about my father’s earlier life, because I can’t remember him telling me much. I knew he came from a place called Yallahs on the south-east coast of Jamaica, and was raised by a Chinese father, Lowe Shu-On. His mother was a black Jamaican woman – Hermione. The Caribbean and China were both present in our house through Jamaican sculptures and Chinese crockery, and, in their strongest manifestation, my father’s cooking. He made elaborate Chinese meals – chai sui or roast belly pork – and Jamaican staples – stewed chicken, rice and peas. While my classmates went home to fish fingers and chips, the kitchen cupboards in our house held hoisin sauce, jars of black beans, pig’s trotters, sugar cane and plantain."

This Mother Country extract journeys through one father's history to uncover a story of Chinese indentured labour in the Caribbean, a Windrush voyage to the UK, and his love of gambling.

So Long, and Thanks for Nothing – Evergreen Review
07/01/2020
So Long, and Thanks for Nothing – Evergreen Review

So Long, and Thanks for Nothing – Evergreen Review

Man has known and now he's blown it Upside down and hell's the only sound, we did an awful job And now we're just a little too late —Aerosmith, “Nobody’s Fault,”

Check out this exclusive excerpt from Calvin Baker's forthcoming "A More Perfect Reunion: Race, Integration, and the Fut...
06/30/2020
A More Perfect Reunion – Evergreen Review

Check out this exclusive excerpt from Calvin Baker's forthcoming "A More Perfect Reunion: Race, Integration, and the Future of America" (Bold Type Books/Hachette):

"If the world understands me as a black man, if I deeply like being African American and have defined myself and my life by it since I had agency to define anything, what am I, besides a maverick or fool, if I let that go?

"There are metaphysical answers to that (too convoluted to engage—call it complex consciousness) and religious answers (a child of God), but in our secular, materialist world most of us would say: a human being. However, we all know that what we say and what we do come apart before lunchtime most days of the week."

On a recent fall afternoon a brilliant friend who had been my professor twenty years earlier e-mailed to see if I was available for dinner. I took it to be a social call as I went to meet him later that week at a West Village restaurant once frequented by the writer Richard Wright and his wife, Elle...

06/29/2020

Listen to poet Lune Loh read her piece “Femme Dialectics: A Process” from “Suiteroom - Take 1” and Other Poems, up now at evergreenreview.com. Follow Lune Loh at @omyhangu! 🌲 #evergreenreads #luneloh #poetry

06/26/2020
Navayana

A book AND a mask? our friends at Navayana need a helping hand, and at the same time they can give you one, too. Take a look at their excellent selection of progressive titles and get a gorgeous, handmade Indian cotton face mask for FREE (with orders US $50 or more).

Navayana teams up with its neighbour, Shahbaz Tailors, to bring you exciting new offers.

Buy books worth Rs 799 (or $50 for overseas customers) from our website and get a Shahbaz mask free. This two layer mask made from cotton will be plastic and elastic free.

Check out some of our package offerings which we have prepared for you for this sale. Buy these curated packages for heavily discounted prices and get masks free:

https://navayana.org/products/?v=c86ee0d9d7ed

06/23/2020
Singapore Unbound

Singapore Unbound

If you missed Pink Reads III, here's your chance to watch it on YouTube.

Co-presented by Singapore Unbound and The Evergreen Review, Pink Reads III was a virtual celebration of New York City's Pride Month and Singapore Unbound's Pink Dot Equality Rally, with readings by four emerging and established LGBTQ+ writers. Featuring Chris Campanioni, Lydia Kwa, Yasmin Nair, and Lune Loh. Hosted by Dale Peck and Jee Leong Koh. Recorded on June 13, 2020.

Check out The Evergreen Review at https://evergreenreview.com/ and Singapore Unbound at https://singaporeunbound.org/.

https://youtu.be/orsK6y3jv9I

06/22/2020

Hear James Midgley, the recipient of our Promising Poet Grant, read his poem titled “Domesticated Interior.” Follow James at @somestrangebirds and read his full collection of poems now at evergreenreview.com! 🌲 #evergreenreads #jamesmidgley #poetry

Congratulations, Hannah Lowe, for winning a Cholmondeley Award. From wiki: "The Cholmondeley Awards are annual awards fo...
06/18/2020
Society of Authors on Twitter

Congratulations, Hannah Lowe, for winning a Cholmondeley Award. From wiki: "The Cholmondeley Awards are annual awards for poetry given by the Society of Authors in the United Kingdom. Awards honour distinguished poets, from a fund endowed by the Dowager Marchioness of Cholmondeley in 1966. Since 1991 the award has been made to four poets each year, to the total value of £8000." You can read Hannah's poems recently published in The Evergreen Review here: https://evergreenreview.com/read/dear-professor-and-other-poems/

“The Cholmondeley Awards presented for a body of work by a poet. Congrats to winners Alec Finlay, Linda France, @Thisbhanu @hannahlowepoet & Rod Mengham. Watch at 6pm > https://t.co/nEDKibyrf2 #SoAwards”

06/15/2020

EVERGREEN READS: A new series showcasing pieces by poets and authors previously published in Evergreen. Watch poet James Reidel read his piece “Cotton Jim” now🌲#EvergreenReads #JamesReidel #poetry

A Statement in Solidarity by Dale Peck
06/06/2020
Statement in support – Evergreen Review

A Statement in Solidarity by Dale Peck

In March 1992, after four police officers were acquitted for beating the sh*t out of Rodney King, I, like most people in America, and especially most people in the media, referred to the subsequent violence that swept across Los Angeles as a “riot.” It was the same word, after all, that had been...

06/03/2020
Police On My Back (Remastered)

"Police on My Back"

Provided to YouTube by Sony Music Entertainment Police On My Back (Remastered) · The Clash Sandinista! (Remastered) ℗ 2013 Sony Music Entertainment UK Limite...

06/02/2020
Nina Simone: Mississippi Goddam

Watch Nina Simone perform "Mississippi Goddam" live in 1965. The song explores the experiences of black citizens living in the American South, and the violence of the criminal justice system. #blacklivesmatter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ25-U3jNWM

"Mississippi Goddam" by Nina Simone Recording session: Live in Antibes, July 24-25, 1965. The sixth Antibes Juan-les-Pins Jazz Festival took place from July ...

On this first day of Pride Month and amid the ongoing fight against police violence, let us celebrate the life of Marsha...
06/01/2020

On this first day of Pride Month and amid the ongoing fight against police violence, let us celebrate the life of Marsha P. Johnson--a black trans woman who championed the fight for LGBTQ rights. The Stonewall uprising of 1969 was a protest against police brutality. Today and always, Evergreen Review stands with the black community and the LGBTQ community on the road to liberation.

Right into her 90s, a consistent crusader for the underdog. A privilege to have known you a bit, Frances.
05/19/2020
Frances Goldin Literary Agency

Right into her 90s, a consistent crusader for the underdog. A privilege to have known you a bit, Frances.

We'll continue to share stories about Frances as they come in...we found this obituary from today's New York Times very moving.

05/14/2020

ONE MORE DAY for submissions to Evergreen's poetry contest! fame and fortune, yours for the taking.

Now at Evergreen: first in our PPE (Personal Protective Erotica) series. Photography by Joy Garnett. (This is also our f...
05/08/2020

Now at Evergreen: first in our PPE (Personal Protective Erotica) series. Photography by Joy Garnett. (This is also our first written work in about fifty years to garner actual death threats to our staff from a reader, so we must be doing something right.)
https://evergreenreview.com/read/camille-claudel-aries/

Please send a few bucks if you can: Lambda Literary is an essential megaphone that gets out the word about some wonderfu...
05/01/2020
Lambda Literary

Please send a few bucks if you can: Lambda Literary is an essential megaphone that gets out the word about some wonderful writers who otherwise might well be ignored. Seize the moment!

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on so many people, families, and organizations—including ours. Without immediate and substantial financial assistance, Lambda Literary will be forced to cease operations.

Now at Evergreen: in few words and fewer pictures, @dysmedia gives a dramatic portrait of a world capital under quaranti...
05/01/2020

Now at Evergreen: in few words and fewer pictures, @dysmedia gives a dramatic portrait of a world capital under quarantine. #rome #coronavirus #dichirico

Art by #paulchan
04/29/2020

Art by #paulchan

04/26/2020

A 17th century Marathi poem, "Smallness," sung and translated by Anand of Navayana
Lord, give me smallness
A granule of sugar that the ant gets
Airawat, Indra’s jewel of a mount
Gets beaten by a mahout
Those who grow big and fat
Will suffer the blows of fate
Tuka says to know this is all
We must grow smaller than small
A flood sweeps trees away
Grasses find a way

ALL funds raised by this GoFundMe go to the writers and visual artists whose work fills our pages. These are people larg...
04/24/2020
HELP WRITERS AND ARTISTS SURVIVE THE QUARANTINE organized by Evergreen Review

ALL funds raised by this GoFundMe go to the writers and visual artists whose work fills our pages. These are people largely ignored by the recent government relief plans. Things are pretty rough just now, and if you can lend a hand, they (and we) would appreciate it.

We're asking for help paying the writers, artists, and videographers … Evergreen Review needs your support for HELP WRITERS AND ARTISTS SURVIVE THE QUARANTINE

Keep 'em comin'!
04/24/2020

Keep 'em comin'!

04/22/2020

Earth Day is a good day to look up and out--particularly if you can't go out--and it coincides with the height of the annual Lyrid meteor showers. A new moon means better viewing, so around 10 pm this eve look up in the direction of the star Vega (find that by looking to the northeast--it's a bright star with a bluish glow).

04/21/2020

"You do not need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still, and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked,
it has no choice,
it will roll in ecstasy at your feet."
— Franz Kafka, The Zürau Aphorisms (with thanks to Centro Primo Levi New York for calling this to our attention)
https://primolevicenter.org/

CLMP
04/17/2020
CLMP

CLMP

This reading list for #ArabAmericanHeritageMonth includes special features in The Iowa Review, The Common, and Evergreen Review.

Hey, all: TER has joined with publishing pals here in NYC and around the globe (Chicago, London, British Columbia, Calif...
04/17/2020
Left Book Club

Hey, all: TER has joined with publishing pals here in NYC and around the globe (Chicago, London, British Columbia, California) at the Left Book Club to form a special covid-19 response. Check it out!
https://www.leftbookclub.com/partners

April new releases (Deciding for Ourselves and The Face of Struggle) are “pay what you can” through April 21. All AK Press e-books are $1.99.

Beautifully written piece on why Beckett is now more important than ever (also, surprising take on his "bright side")
04/14/2020
Sheltering with Beckett - Los Angeles Review of Books

Beautifully written piece on why Beckett is now more important than ever (also, surprising take on his "bright side")

Isolating for a month now, to the day, 200 miles north of New York City, where the deaths mount. Here we see no one. North of here, all the way to the Canadian border, there are no deaths. Yet. In the brutal daily calculus, we continue to count ourselves among the lucky. A country road, …

04/07/2020
12/27/2019

Alle C. Hall joins Brontez Purnell, Miguel Gutierrez/Artist,José Garcia Escobar, Natascha Elena Uhlmann, and Lonely Christopher in the latest issue of Evergreen. Fiction, poetry, criticism, reportage, interview: whatever your taste in literature, Evergreen's got you covered.

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Evergreen's latest incarnation came in 2017 with editor-in-chief Dale Peck and publisher John Oakes. Check us out at evergreenreview.com!

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About Evergreen

In 2020, The Evergreen Review enters its sixty-third year of rattling the Establishment. Started in 1957 by the famed publisher Barney Rosset, who saw Evergreen as a way to promote the authors of Grove Press, the magazine became something much more—the heart of the Beat Generation. Evergreen published pivotal works by Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, Marguerite Duras, Jean Genet, Allen Ginsberg, Gunter Grass, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, Henry Miller, Pablo Neruda, Vladimir Nabokov, Frank O’Hara, Kenzaburō Ōe, Octavio Paz, Harold Pinter, Susan Sontag, Tom Stoppard, Derek Walcott and Malcolm X. U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote a controversial piece for the magazine in 1969. Kerouac and Ginsberg regularly had their writing published in the magazine.

Now published by John Oakes and edited by critic and author Dale Peck, Evergreen publishes online and is available free to anyone who drops by the site. We don’t have a paywall, and we don’t accept advertising. We do pay our authors, artists and designers, we’re committed to a progressive outlook in politics and the arts—and to continue, we need your help. Read us, join our mailing list and send us a few bucks if you can!

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I feel compelled to write this brief message expressing my congratulations and offering very high marks to Minerva Martinez for her wonderful and moving text, "Mi Tio Duran," which appears in the current issue of Evergreen Review. Quite ironically, I live in the very same neighborhood the author grew up in - as I did - and have been a very serious boxing fan since I was not quite 13 and saw the epic "Thrilla in Manila" Heavyweight Boxing Championship between Ali & Frazier (their 3rd and historic fight) on 10/1/75, on ABC Television "Wide World of Sports," the brainchild of the extraordinary Roone Arledge. I have never forgotten that late afternoon and Martinez' thoughtful piece has caused me to cherish it even more. Que viva "manos de Piedra"!
Rock n Roll Stories, Chapter 3 Saving Annmarie (In which our hero bravely comes to the rescue of an ex-lover in distress—but not the kind of distress he’s expecting) In order to get to the meat of this tale, I do have to take just a little time to relate the backstory, a brief synopsis of the events leading up to the dramatic rescue that is the primary focus of the narrative. I first met Annmarie at a performance of mine. About halfway through my show, as I was onstage singing and playing guitar for an enthusiastic audience, I spotted her, walking in through the front door. At the time I was about 25 or 26 years old, and she clearly was older than that (42, I soon found out), and she was just really, really beautiful, with piercing blue eyes, long straight dark brown hair down to her waist, a petite and feminine body, and as she walked I noticed that one of her legs was just slightly turned inwards, pigeon-toed if you will, which in turn caused her hips to sway in a really unique and sexy way, and with them, her long hair also swayed back and forth, and her facial features were entirely European, strong-jawed, high cheekbones and thin but kissable lips, and she was evidently alone, and I was about to be single. I say about to be, because in those days my women always overlapped each other—I made sure of it to the best of my ability. I’d sense, just like anybody can and does, when a relationship was souring, things weren’t going well for some reason, I’d feel the end coming, and that would be my cue to open hunting season again, and the way I looked at that age, I pretty much never got rejected, so I’d go out, easy as pie, find my new girl, and have her waiting in the wings, ready to deploy at my whim. Things in fact had been going poorly with my girlfriend, and, whereas typically she’d attend my shows and parade around making it known that that guy singing lead was her man, this night, in a show of disinterest she had zipped off up to San Fran with some friends, and here I was, seeing my next opening, not to be intentionally crass. Annmarie sat towards the rear of the club, but still I could see her pretty well back there, and more than that, I could feel her eyes, those blue-ice-daggers, drilling into me in an electrifying and almost alien beam, and as I continued on with my performance, getting almost to the end of the night, I knew that the evening was about to get interesting. Finally the band and I concluded our performance, right at the stroke of 1:45AM, fifteen minutes before closing, and time for last call at the bar. Having no roadies or helpers at that early stage, we all set to packing the gear and cables, but as usual we did it while enjoying a few free beers, not in a huge hurry, and I looked up from packing and she was walking towards me, with that one pigeon leg turned inwards and her hips insanely sexy and funky in their gyrations, and the long, long hair swishing this way and that, and she smiled at me, showing perfect teeth, as she got closer, and I knew right then I had to have her for my own. I stood up from a crouch where I’d been packing up, and smiled back at her, moving now in her direction so as to enjoy a private conversation away from the stage and the other young and horny band members. As we approached each other, there was a huge electricity, a current, moving back and forth, our eyes were locked, and when she extended her hand for a handshake, I reacted without forethought or premeditation, or any sort of ethical or moral inner debate, I just did what felt natural, and I took her extended hand in mine, and rather than shaking it, I pulled it (and her, naturally) closer to me, right up against me, and then I guided her hand right into the top of my jeans, into my boxer briefs, and directly onto my pen*s, which by now was rock-hard and as big as it was capable of being. And that was our meeting, she shook hands with my dick. And she moaned a little with pleasure and then she looked at me with a huge grin, her small but nimble hand already stroking me, making me even more engorged, and she laughed a deep throaty laugh, she had been observant and wise and mature enough to appreciate the boldness and the humor of my gamble, she’d passed my little test, as not many do, and that throaty deep laugh coming from the petite body of this beautiful woman, was a laugh I’d hear and relish many more times, but this was the first, and her iceblue eyes suddenly sparkled and the sadness I had seen there for a flashing moment was gone. And from that day and that night on, we became partners and lovers. Annemarie was a hippie girl in the early seventies, and now in the late eighties and early nineties, she retained every bit of her youthful beauty and appeal, but now at age 42 she had matured, ripened, had remained elegantly strikingly gorgeous, had transcended the common beauty we all enjoyed to a certain degree merely because we were young and unblemished fruit. This was a woman, the first one I had ever been involved with, all the others were girls, naturally, more or less my age, as I was of course, at 22 or so, a boy in a man’s body. She was a hairstylist at an expensive boutique and enjoyed a loyal following of wealthy women living in the area. She drove a rust-red Audi convertible, the image of which is forever branded in my mind, even today, as you will come to understand and empathize with me, in my recounting of this story. Our romance began to blossom, and we had many wonderful times together. The good times we had, in fact, were so great and so worth recounting that I’ll have to indulge you in just a sampling, a peek, if you will, into our short-lived glory days. Flash forward about six months, and we were still going strong. She was talented when it came to knowing how to pleasantly surprise a man. Once, on a weekend, we booked a cute little hotel down in San Juan Capistrano, hopped into the Audi, put the top down, and rolled a few fat joints for the ride down the coast, then dinner, and a stay in the charming little room. It sounded wonderful to me, and it was, and then it got better when we arrived at the hotel and checked into the room, and without a word to the wise, or any kind of warning, she shoved me, hard, down onto the bed, on my back, and quickly tied my legs and arms to the bedposts, using some heavy rope she had stashed in her bag. I made no effort to resist, and in fact encouraged her to tie the ropes tighter—I wanted them to hurt and to chafe and maybe rip skin and draw blood a little bit. You don’t have to ask me twice to get kinky if that’s your pleasure, and having secured me firmly (I forgot to mention she had stripped off my jeans and underwear and t-shirt, so I was naked except for my socks), she went into the bathroom and closed the door, leaving me nude and helpless. She emerged a short time later wearing a pretty blue negligee and blue crotchless panties, and she made it over to the bed, laying her beautiful slim warm body on top of mine, her long thick mane of lustrous hair cascading over her shoulder and tickling my cheek. Then, suddenly, she rose slightly from me, and turned to face the other direction, reverse cowgirl style, and as I watched in amazement, she took the whole length of me deep in her pretty, dainty ass, in one go. Her grip was unbelievable, and although all my life I had been lucky to be one of those men that could ride it out and let my lover climax first, this time I knew instantly I would not last long. I could see a little bit of her arm and hand, frantically circling her clit, her little breasts bouncing in unison with the movement, and her long hair waving and flowing like a beautiful river down her sculpted back. The imagery, combined with the intense physical sensation, was too arousing to bear, and feeling the base of my cock surging with the rising force of my climax, I lost all control, I roared like a river into her, bucking against my restraints, and she came at the same time, ejaculating, her come all over my legs, and it was nothing short of amazing, the whole thing, and then as we came down she untied my feet and hands, lovingly kissing the rope burns along the way, and we got dressed and walked down along the shoreline, ending up at a cozy romantic little Italian restaurant, bottles of chianti in webbed baskets hanging from the ceiling, checkered red and white tablecloths, candles in little red glass vases, the accordion music, all that. And we enjoyed a wonderful dinner and some wine, afterwards walking slowly, arm in arm, back to our room, where we smoked a joint, made love all over again, minus the rope tricks, and fell asleep in each other’s arms. And we had many, many days and nights like the one described here, and I began to feel that our relationship was invincible, that there was no conflict or challenge we could not resolve or overcome, that we were, truly, meant for each other. And of course, as these things go, that’s right about when things began to get, for lack of a more expressive term, weird. The first time I noticed something awry was during a conversation we were having in her kitchen. I at some point thought it had concluded, whatever we were discussing, and so I turned away and walked into another room far down the hall, and it was then that I heard her, still carrying on the conversation, same topic, but with no one else in the room to hear her. I realized, feeling sick to my stomach, that actually it didn’t make a difference to her if there was actually someone there or not. Either that, or she perceived someone to be there that was not. Either way it was bad news. And sad news. Then I began to really see the cracks in her façade----in the middle of smiling at me, her grey-blue eyes would suddenly flash with rage, really a look I can’t describe, except to say that it made my blood run cold, made me afraid to sleep in the same bed with her. I tried my best to sort of humor her, to play along with her madness, her delusions, but in addition to being mentally ill she was quite intelligent and perceptive, and then she’d detect something in my eyes, my doubt, my concern, my disbelief, and then she’d explode, screaming and cursing at me, that amazing gorgeous long brunette mane waving wildly about her small body, and then her tirade would subside gradually, and she’d begin sobbing, and then, I learned, that was my time to hold her tightly, encircle her with my arms, comfort her, as she shook with huge gasping sobs, and this I did willingly, feeling terrible for her suffering, and at a loss to do anything else. And eventually she'd calm down and get quiet, and then we’d make love, starting the whole insane cycle over again. It was unsustainable and I knew our days were numbered. The final red flag, for me, came as we were in the red Audi, driving to the library, on a Saturday afternoon. I made a teasing comment to her about her choice of route heading to the library, too many left turns, ha ha, something totally innocuous and lighthearted, but I had unwittingly triggered her rage, and without warning, she swerved wildly over to the right lane, slammed on the brakes, and parked it/crashed it into the high curb, my head banging against the dashboard and then whipping backwards. Without taking her hands from the wheel, she turned her head from the road, and her eyes were full of livid, nightmarish grey fire, a look of such ferocity and pure hatred that I felt beads of sweat forming instantly on my upper lip, and then she said to me, in a very, very soft voice, “I am going to kill you, you know that, don’t you? It’s going to happen while you are asleep. You’ll never see it coming. I always wanted to kill my father with a hammer. A common, hammer-and-nails type of hammer, that he kept in the garage. But he died from drinking before I got the chance to kill him. And now, sometime very soon, I am going to kill YOU with that same hammer. I saved it, when we cleaned out his house after he died, that bastard. I saved it for a special occasion.” Well. I didn’t know what to say to that, really, so I decided to remain quiet, as she put the car back in gear, and proceeded again towards the library. As we drove along in silence, I knew, and I’m sure on some level she knew as well, that our relationship had effectively just ended, with that statement of intent. After those words were spoken, there was simply no way I’d ever be able to fall asleep in her bed, or even turn my back to her, and whatever remaining physical attraction I’d managed to salvage instantly evaporated as I replayed her words, spoken so matter-of-factly, in my mind. I felt like opening the door and jumping out of the moving car right then, but I managed to play it cool, as we dropped off our return books, and she drove me back to my place. As I got out of her car I knew I had to say something, something passive, and calming, so I just said, “hey thanks, see you soon.” And she drove away. But I knew that it was not the last time I would see her. I could sense a storm brewing. And just about then, as these events tend to transpire, someone appeared in my life to conveniently divert my attention from the dark hurricane of Annmarie’s building rage and psychosis. She was hired on as an administrator at the main office of the company I worked for, and she was about as different from Annmarie as anyone could be, a beautiful pale-skinned all-natural dark blonde from Texas, born and bred—she looked a lot like Jodie Foster and drove a big Chevy pickup and listened to country music and seemed very, very sane. We became friends and I felt a huge sense of relief, when, driving back to my place from the tense and increasingly ominous atmosphere of impending violence at Annmarie’s, I’d stop at my new friend’s place for a cold beer, sit at her counter, and watch her cooking in the kitchen. It was so relaxing and comfortable, and listening to her funny stories about country life back in Texas, told in her pretty feminine drawl, I soon began to have romantic feelings for her. She, for her part, was understandably wary of my LA slickness and especially of my still ongoing association with Annmarie, but eventually she began to warm to me, and her guard came down, and we came together, and now I had another overlapping girl situation on my hands. One day I mustered up the courage to spill the beans to Annmarie, to sort of marginally do the right thing, though there was no “right” solution to the situation and certainly no calm or collected response to be had from her. When I sat her down, in the kitchen at her place, a decent distance from the garage where hammers and the like were stored, I was surprised at her calm demeanor, and her nearly indifferent reaction to my grim announcement. She simply looked away from me, off into the distance, and with wetness forming in her eyes, she said softly, “Of course. I knew it. I knew it already. You can go, now. Please leave.” I felt as if I were sitting next to a live bomb, one of those big round black balls you see in bugs bunny or wile e coyote cartoons, with the fuse on top, burning down, and I recognized that I had better make like the roadrunner and mmm-beep beep the f**k out of there before it detonated. I literally ran to my 1978 4-door Fiat 128, slammed the tinmetal door closed, and screeched off down out of the Padua hills where she lived. I had escaped my death at the end of a Heavy-Duty Sears-Craftsman hardened steel hammerhead—but over the next couple of months, as my new romance began to blossom with my sweet Texas bluebonnet, Annmarie’s fury began to fester and build upon itself, and now I had both a new girlfriend, and a new stalker, a real, very persistent, very tenacious stalker. I’d be parking my car in the lot at my job, two cities away, and there, out on the street, would be that god damn rust-colored Audi convertible, sitting there empty, but letting me know in no uncertain terms that she was nearby, very nearby, and probably armed, and ready to kill me. I decided that to outwardly show fear or concern would only serve to stoke the fires of her vengeful hatred, so I tried to appear as nonchalant and unperturbed as possible, hoping that my lack of reaction would render her pursuit somehow less satisfying, and eventually lead her to lose interest in following me everywhere I went. I’d get home to my place in the evening, pulling into my driveway—rust Audi parked across the street. I’d go to the supermarket for a few necessities---rust Audi parked there, too. My new Texas flame began to be quite impressed with the off-the-beaten path destinations I was taking us to, to spend time, thankfully not realizing I was simply going to great lengths to HIDE us from Annmarie and her hammer and her f**king creepy Audi. It all finally came to an end (or so I thought at the time) at a live show I was performing. I had actually tried to spare Annmarie’s feelings somewhat, by warning her that my new girl M from Texas was attending the show, and that she would not like that, so, better that she didn’t show up etc etc. And I was young enough and naïve enough to think, whew, good, that’s handled, and I went onstage and performed like a champ, now and again looking over lovingly and blowing kisses to my Texas sweetie, initially unaware that another devoted admirer of mine was also in attendance. Much later I spotted her for the first time, well into the evening, as our show was coming to a close—far, far in the back of the venue, shrouded in darkness, I could not have made out her features or known that she was anywhere near, except for her god damn EYES….those blue-grey daggers were, how can I really describe it, illuminated with blistering fury, and for the last few numbers we performed that night, I was contemplating what the safest escape route would be for Texas and I, but there was, as the song goes, only one way out, so I resolved to greet Annmarie cheerfully, thank her for coming, and keep moving, busying myself with packing the band equipment into our van. Alas, this time there was to be no convenient escape for me—on my second trip outside, carrying several guitars, Annmarie was waiting for me. She emerged suddenly from behind a door, lunging wildly at me and causing me to instinctively throw my arms up in a defense posture, the guitars crashing horribly to the pavement. Screaming and wailing like a maniac, she began to punch me in the chest and face, as the exiting audience turned to watch in disbelief. Her long fingernails raked my face, drawing blood, and she began to tear my shirt apart, ripping away small pieces here and there, exposing my bare chest. By now, everybody had stopped and gathered around in morbid curiosity, to see what the outcome of this incident would be. I knew I had to stop the whole insane chain of events, the threats of murder, the stalking and following me, and now this ugly scene. I had had enough. Finally I was angry, too. With her next right-handed punch airborne and flying towards my jaw, I grabbed both of her arms and easily overpowered her, holding her immobile in front of me. Her eyes were wild and seemed to look in different directions, her face reddened and soaked with acidic sweat, a trail of drool hanging from her twisted lips, my god, poor baby. And then, ever so calmly, so as to try to help her minimize the embarrassment and shame she was about to feel, I said to her, very quietly, so that only she could hear me, “If. You. Hit. Me. One. More. Time. I. Am. Going. To. Kill. You. Where you. Stand, got it?” And with that, I released my grip on her arms, and she knew I meant business with my quiet threat and she turned to slink away then, her sad shoulders bent forward and inward, shaking and spasming with silent tragic sobs. What a f**king bastard I am, I thought, as I finished packing the band gear and went to collect my pay and my Texas honey. A real man would have stayed, would have tried to help her recover from her mental illness..but I was a coward, and I knew it, and besides that I knew, even at my young age, that her wounds ran far too deep for me to assuage, that it was hopeless for me to try. Suffice to say, I left the show that night with Texas girl, and with my head and body un-hammered and un-murdered, good enough. The stalking, and the creepy sightings of that f**king rust-colored Audi finally ceased, and I stopped looking over my shoulder all the time. It was about a month later, sitting at my place on a Saturday and enjoying a few lazy beers, that my phone rang. Not suspecting for a second that it might be Annmarie, I answered right away. “hello!” I said brightly, expecting to hear the voice of a buddy, or maybe Texas girl. Instead it was Annmarie, and she was crying hysterically. “Dave, I’m sorry, Dave, to be calling you, but I can’t reach anyone else, you have to help me, please help me!!” she sounded really terrified, so I took a conciliatory calming tone and said, “What’s going on up there?” As I mentioned earlier, she lived in a house in the Padua hills, a lovely area just above the main part of town, that was in fact quite prone to certain types of natural disasters, such as mudslides, sinkholes in the road, brushfires, and the like. She wailed into the phone, “fire! Fire! There’s a brush fire burning out of control!!! The whole hillside is consumed in flames! The fire department has cordoned off the area and they are issuing evacuation orders! My house is about to burn down!! You have to come and help me evacuate!!!” Oh, for f**k’s sake, I said to myself silently. I got up and went to my window, which looked northwards towards the hills where she lived, and sure enough, I could make out a brown haze of smoke hanging over the area. Holy sh*t, she’s not kidding, I thought, and I went back to the phone. “Honey?” I said, trying to sweet-talk her into calming down just a tiny bit. “Yeah?”, she blubbered, in between sobs and wild, unhinged animal moans and screams, “Honey,” I said reassuringly, “you just stay put. I’m on the way.” And with that, I put on my pants and shoes, stuck the beer back in the fridge, and went outside to my car. In my mind, I thought, maybe this is perfect. Maybe, once I save her from the wildfire, she will perceive that as some kind of compensation for what, in her mind was my heartless and disloyal abandonment of her so recently. I was going to redeem myself, and in doing so, permanently diffuse any further dangerous explosions or hammer attacks that might have been awaiting me still. I floored the Fiat Northbound on Mills Avenue, shifting through the gears like a racecar driver, feeling a bit like a hero, past Foothill Boulevard, past Baseline Avenue, and finally onto the graceful curves of her street, Via Padova. Now that I was actually there, I noticed that the haze of smoke I had seen from my house had dissipated, and the sky was a pretty light blue, typical of late summer in Claremont. I rounded another curve, and there in front of me, partially blocking the two-lane road, were several large fire engines, along with a number of smaller utility vehicles. I observed that the road itself was wetted down thoroughly, and several unmanned hoses lay across the road here and there, water lazily trickling out in the afternoon sun. There were no apparent roadblocks or restrictions, so I continued on, driving slowly forward in first gear, until I came upon the imposing figure of the Fire Chief, fully decked out in his helmet, with captain’s insignia, and long heavy field coat, surveying the landscape with squinted eyes. “Excuse me, sir, sorry to disturb you, but may I inquire, what is the status of the blaze? My girl called me, hysterical, and begged me to come and save her and her belongings.” He looked at me with kind of a sympathetic grin on his weathered face, and said, “Son, there’s no ‘blaze’ here. There was a minor brush fire, heck, I hesitate to even call it a fire, but all the same, this is our job, to keep these incidents under control. Some idiot we’ll never catch tossed a cigarette out the damn window and before you know it we have a potential forest fire on our hands, at least it coulda been. But the residents here were on top of it before we even arrived on scene. They had the damn thing already whipped, with just garden hoses, by the time we got set up to do our job. Still, since we are here already, we’re going to stay a bit longer and monitor the situation to make sure the danger is completely eliminated.” “And how about evacuations, sir?”, I inquired. He laughed a gravelly laugh and advised me that none had been ordered, and none were needed, and that I was free to pass on through as I wished. Now I almost felt like a hero—not only had I shown up to save the day, but now I was going to be the bearer of wonderful news! Her house, and all of her belongings, were going to be unharmed! She didn’t have to evacuate after all! With this cheerful good news bubbling out of me, I parked the Fiat in front of her place, ran to the front door, and knocked eagerly. Inside I could hear the sounds of rummaging, of items being tossed aside, this way and that, and of her voice, cursing aloud to no one in particular, punctuated with the occasional blood-curdling animal wail she had perfected. The door opened and there she stood, her long and beautiful brown hair matted and disheveled, stuck to her face with sweat and tears. Everything about her looked unhinged and verging on some kind of fearsome meltdown from which there would be no recovery. I stepped forward, taking her in my arms in a protective embrace, trying to soothe her, as she hyperventilated into the fabric of my shirt, her body shaking uncontrollably. “Hey! Hey, honey! Hey! It’s all right! Everything is all right! I just talked to the Fire Chief and he told me that the fire is completely out, extinguished, under control! He told me that no evacuations were needed, honey, and that none were ever announced or mandated, you must have heard incorrectly, honey, everything is fine, you’re safe, it’s over!” And with that, I gently released her from my embrace, gently rubbing her shoulders and stepping back to see her face, and to see the look of relief come across, but that moment came and went, and another moment, and still it had not sunk in that there was no threat, and then, with my heart sinking, I got it, I figured it out. The words I had said had not registered in the slightest, because Annmarie did not exist in the same dimension, in the same reality, as me, or the Fire Chief, and/or everyone else up there on Via Padova that afternoon. I began to feel strong nausea overcoming me along with sadness, as I perceived that in Annmarie-world, the fire was very much still active, with huge walls of flame inching ever closer to her beloved property and her belongings inside, the air was choking her with acrid smoke, the blaze advancing like an unstoppable blitzkrieg straight from the bowels of hell itself, all her most treasured art and furniture and record albums and doodads and knick-knacks were about to be incinerated and reduced to floating ash forever, all was lost—UNLESS…..suddenly she stopped weeping and wailing and a new focus appeared in her eyes. “Dave, if we HURRY, if we really HURRY, we might be able to save most of my things. RUN!!”, she yelled at me as I stood at the doorway in disbelief, “run, and start bringing out my clothes! Then, we’ll get the paintings and sculptures, stuff everything in the Audi, hurry, hurry, hurry!” And again, knowing the futility of what I was about to say, I tried to reason with her. “HONEY.” I said, in the most fatherly, benevolent, patient voice I could muster, “THERE IS NO FIRE. THE FIRE IS OUT. THERE ARE NO EVACUATIONS. THERE IS NO DANGER. IT’S OVER, OK”…….she stopped babbling for a moment and blinked at me then, perplexed, as if I had just spoken to her in some unfamiliar foreign language, and I held out hope for a few seconds that my statement had registered somehow. But it was not to be. The look of confusion on her face quickly reverted to one of panic and terror, and again she launched into her wild unhinged play-by-play of events that were strictly happening in her mind and nowhere else. I could have just turned on my heel and walked away, back to my car, and out of there forever, and in hindsight, now more than half a lifetime later, I wish I had—but no, I was going to stay. Yet now, in place of the lukewarm compassion I felt in coming up to “save” her, I suddenly felt furious, pissed-off beyond words at her nutty situations, her talking to herself, her following me around town, all of it, and when I get really, really angry, I sometimes do things that are unreasonable, illogical, foolhardy, and dangerous, just to make a point. It’s the actor in me, I suppose, my flair for drama coming into play at the worst possible moment. Now MY body was shaking, and with my eyes bugging out of my head, I screamed at her, “OK. YOU ARE RIGHT. THE FIRE CHIEF IS WRONG. THERE IS A HUGE FIRE BLAZING OUT OF CONTROL AND IT’S ABOUT TO DESTROY YOUR HOUSE AND EVERYTHING IN IT. I WILL START PACKING THE CAR NOW. OK? OK? OK? DOES THAT SATISFY YOU? And that’s exactly what I did, starting with her clothes, I emptied out two full closets of her hippie dresses and Stevie Nicks scarves and high-heeled lace-up boots she never wore, running in and out of the house as fast as I could, as if the fire were literally licking at my heels. Her car became full to the point that nothing else would fit, so I began stuffing her things, her books and knickknacks and pots and pans and record albums and table lamps and curtains and bathroom items into my car, back and forth I went, back and forth, now soaked in sweat and breathing hard, but fueled entirely with pure resentment and sarcasm and fury. I was going to play it her way, all the way, until the job was done, by god, god damn it, I was going to prove a f**king point, what point that was, was unclear, but that wasn’t stopping me, I was on a tear now, on a bender, on a rampage, and I was not going to stop until I had safely “rescued” all of her things. At one point, as I rushed in and out of the front door, a news crew with cameras rolled up in a little economy van—it was the good folks from the village newspaper, the Claremont Courier. They had stumbled across a vague report about a fire in the Padua Hills, and had rushed up post haste to get the scoop on the big, scary fire. Now, having realized that there was absolutely nothing to report, but still needing a dramatic, compelling cover photo for the front page of the upcoming edition of the Courier, the staff photographer leaped from the slow-moving van like a stuntman, landing in a crouched position in the road, and began snapping pictures of me running back and forth across Annmarie’s lawn, arms loaded to capacity with her furniture, shoes, TV sets, and so forth. I stopped running for a moment, dropped my current armload of stuff on the grass, and charged at the photographer like a rabid animal. ÝOU MOTHERF**KER, I WILL SHOVE THAT MOTHERF**KING CAMERA SO FAR UP YOUR ASS THAT YOU’LL BE ABLE TO TAKE A FRONT-PAGE PHOTO OF YOUR F**KING TONSILS, SO HELP ME!!” and even as I ran towards him he managed, the little prick, to rattle off a few more action shots of me, click click click, and then jumped back into the van, and off they sped, before I was able to smash his camera on the pavement, which was my intent. As the sound of their motor faded into the distance, suddenly it was very, very quiet and still, there on Via Padova. The fire department had packed up and left, the neighbors had long since gone back into their houses, and not a trace of smoke hung in the cool afternoon air. Birds chirped cheerfully, as I slowly turned to observe the front lawn, and the results of my absurd and pointless expenditure of angry, vindictive energy. Annmarie’s front yard looked like a closeout sale at a furniture store circa 1976. I had singlehandedly, in the course of about an hour and a half, successfully removed everything of value, and everything of no value, from her house, and there it all sat, getting warm in the sun, and I looked around and did not see my dear poor Annmarie. Finally, as I stood there panting, catching my breath, she appeared at the front door, very sort of nervously, almost flinchingly, as if she feared I might beat her with my fists, or maybe kill her with a hammer, but I had no such thing in mind. I just wanted to vent, to rain angry words down on her dumb head, to eviscerate her verbally, to tear her down, to shame her. “ARE YOU HAPPY NOW, HONEY?!?!? ARE YOU HAPPY NOW, MY DEAR? ALL YOUR THINGS ARE SAFE!!! LOOK AT THEM ALL HERE, ON THE FRONT LAWN, ALL OF YOUR F**KING SH*T DOWN TO THE LAST TURD ALL SAFE AND SOUND, OUT OF DANGER! SO, AGAIN, I WANT TO KNOW, ANNMARIE, ARE!?! YOU!?!? F**KING HAPPY NOWWWW?!?! My voice thundered and boomed all over the neighborhood, and finally I was done, I got what I wanted, I guess, because then she started shaking all over, shaking and crying, and she turned and ran back into the house, slamming the front door behind her. It took me a moment to locate the spare front door key, as the door had locked shut behind her, and I entered, now feeling maybe just a little bit guilty for raging on her so harshly. Not finding her anywhere obvious, I took a momentary break from the drama to go and piss in the bathroom, and there I discovered her at last, completely buck naked and lying on the floor, literally wrapped around the toilet bowl, her pretty hair stuck to the dirty floor, sobbing uncontrollably. Now I really felt like sh*t. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I have been more compassionate, more forgiving, less selfish? This poor f**ked-up woman needed my kindness and not my explosive display of temper and absurdly dramatic evacuation of her non-burning house. I really felt terrible, as if in some way the events of the day were all my doing, my fault. I reached down tenderly, and she allowed me to pick her up off the wet bathroom floor, it was pathetic, her sad naked body limp like a rag doll and her hair smelling of piss and cat litter, and I carried her, as lovingly and gently as I could, into the bedroom, putting her under the covers, and softly stroking her back, until her sobs turned to whimpers, and then to the steady breathing of a sleeping 42-year old former hippie beauty queen. Nothing ever worked out for anyone, I thought to myself, all my anger and revulsion now gone, and replaced with a sense of empathy for her, for all of us, for the fires that rage inside and outside of us, imagined or real, and I rose then from her bedside, taking care not to wake her. I went outside to the front lawn again, and with every bone and muscle aching from my prior superhuman rescue effort, I now proceeded to slowly and methodically bring all of her belongings back inside the house, each in its proper place, to the best of my ability to recall, and when THAT was finally all done, I tiptoed to her bedroom door to see her still asleep, snoring just a bit. Good, I thought, what a mess, she needs the sleep. As I turned away from the doorway to leave, I heard a cute little fart escape from her, from that cute and sexy little bow-legged funky middle-aged ass of hers that I had so adored and coveted, and I thought to myself, I love her, I really do still love her, no matter what, and just then I felt like laughing and crying at the same time, laughing and crying for all that we were and are destined to endure, in the Padua Hills or down on the flatlands with the commoners, or deep in darkest skid row downtown LA, or down in the salty South Bay in San Pedro, where I sit even now recounting this tale to you. I felt like crying, and laughing, and I shifted the gears on the Fiat, winding downhill towards town, and I cried, and I laughed, just like that. And the following morning, having mostly put the whole sad fiasco out of my mind, I happened to walk past the Claremont Post Office, and there, in the newspaper vending machine, front and center, in beautiful crisp dramatic black and white, was a huge photo of me, mid-gallop, both legs fully airborne, arms overloaded with a mishmash of hippie skirts and tie-dyed scarves, racing towards a familiar convertible Audi sedan, bravely saving the belongings of an endangered resident from a terrifying inferno and certain destruction. The newspaper, having failed to come up with any remotely compelling lead, had decided to commit completely to this blatant falsehood, to the insane and fantastic scenario I had cooked up, and the photo even came complete with a caption, in big, bold, stark lettering: RESIDENTS SCRAMBLE TO SAVE THEIR PRICELESS BELONGINGS FROM ADVANCING WILDFIRE. I was a hero, after all, if only on paper, and to commemorate the whole completely farsical absurd non-event, I inserted a quarter into the machine, lifted the lid, and retrieved a copy as a memento. Hey, it’s not every day you get the chance to save the world. But all I wanted, then and now, now this, wanted to feel the nightly lightning strike, wanted to open the dam, that's all i ever do, i turn the tap on and it flows, i don't have to do anything but catch the water and maybe sweeten it a little, maybe throw a bit of bitter or salt in it, drinkmixerbartender of words, throwing this and that, everything hot hot, and meant to be consumed immediately, lest the air get to it, and change the flavor, but tonight i turned on the tap,all i intended to make was a little chicken noodle soul, this freezing lonely foghorn rusty moldy birdsh*t night of drooping roofs, i tried to light the fire under my expressive ass, and, nothing, the tap is dry, as my late-night dead doppleganger slings les pauls over sweaty shoulder panting in the jungle, rocking the socks off of the equator, my ghost still haunts the mossy gutters of liang seah street, sweating glorious victory after a magnificent rock and roll show, ears ringing walking home on the slient streets passing young lovers and rickshaw drivers the toughest of all smoking rolled cigarettes at eighty years old and 80 pounds of sheer survival and bitter silent victory secretly winning secretly kiling the overlords with the quiet and steady whirl of the tricycle wheels with time and time alone as his weapon rolling down queen street or rabid ingnoring allnight children seeing him less than a dog while powering up a hill in his sandals he knows he dies a noble death more noble and honorable, and all this i see peering down from my sixth floor window on a steamynight fantasy that really happened, i was there, and now this, i prepare for bed, i have nothing to say, i have chosen the parachute over the plane, i jumped but you can't pull the string too soon, the dogs and rats and cats and meth zombies barking and tweaking screaming my nightly lullaby mixing with the whir of my fan and sirens fire and police both howling distantly over the port and it all mixes together and i wish someone was here that i could kiss or even talk to but there is not,as we are all more or less engaged in the same battle, but tonight i really didn't have anything to say, and that's why i decided not to write or post anything tonight, and now i need to go to bed, so i can get up at 5AM and call new york and perpetuate the success of dow chemical and monsanto, i even cold-called a company that makes, well, bombs, you know, bombs that kill people,it's very, very lucrative, and i'm lucky, you see, to be getting in on the ground floor as it were, of this great american industry--we're making america great again, and i want you to know that i'll always miss all the good times believing in art, in literature, in culture, in acceptance, it just doesn't pay. so i'll end this very, very short note by saying, my heart might be a lump of coal....but i've been recently assured by a very credible source, that coal is not dead, we're bringing back coal. all the way. ah, but in fact christmas eve and christmas day were the worst, not that i normally place importance on these dates--but that year what with being divorced and destitute, alone in a tiny room, so forth--it was enough, just enough to cope with. that was until the hindu landlord kindly slid a small christmas card under the door of each of the roomers. we all did the same thing, i imagine, what i did immediately, which was to tear open the card to see if there was money inside--none there. then i looked at the picture on the front of the card. there was a cute little cottage house in the forest, snow-covered and surrounded by beautiful trees--and inside, through the front window, you could see a fire going in the fireplace and people sitting around talking and laughing. it was too much. at that moment it struck me like a freight train that these were all the things i didn't have, all my failures illustrated on the front of a cheap christmas card from walmart. i had no love, no companionship, no laughter, no warmth from the fireplace..just a small, freezing room late in the silent night of lonely winos, a different kind of silent night, silent in the depths of our mutual sorrow, it bleeding through the thin walls back and forth, each room with a different broken man, a different yet similar story of downfall, of degradation, of hopelessness. like i say it was too much, this card. i threw it on the floor, got dressed in yesterday's clothes, and went down and across the street to the liquor store, which at that time did not sell hard stuff--we'd have all been dead if so. i purchased five one-liter screwtop bottles of the cheapest white wine. it was quite a noisy spectacle getting them all upstairs into my room, clinking and clanking together in plastic bags, but everybody in the building knew that sound anyway and exactly what it was. then i was there, door locked behind me, ready to make that little house on the christmas card go away--that, and the german girl, and my beloved ex-wife, and all the years, and all of it, and everything. i tilted the first bottle back, knocking off half a liter in several huge swallows. i set it down on the nightstand. things looked a little better. merry christmas, dave. i even laughed out loud to that one. four-and-one-half bottles left--enough to make the whole world disappear for a while, and i did, almost permanently. but the world was not yet done with me that night i awoke in the dark, damp 5AM christmas morning, covered in half-frozen vomit and piss, and dragged myself up and over to the sink, where i drank water from the tap and looked up into the mirror to see the horror of my face. three days of grey stubble on a beet-red face, eyes yellow and bulging, tongue white and pasty, a pitiful vision of wreckage and self-hatred. at that moment, listening to the other bums asleep and snoring, i knew i was the only person awake in the world, awake to this disastrous and blank day. i fell back upon the bed and decided not to breathe anymore. this came more easily than one might expect as i had already had walking pneumonia for about a month and could barely breathe anyway. a silent grey sun began to come through the one small broken window facing the alley. i laid on the bed, not breathing unless pure instinct forced me to take a small agonized breath. the room around me began to fade to black as i looked out at the sky. i felt some relief--i was finally going to be free a bird flew by the window, a large black bird of some kind, but rather than flying on by, it floated, hovered, just outside my window, as seagulls are able to hover on the wind by the sea without flapping their wings, but this was no seagull and we were far from any sea breeze. still, the bird continued to hover, and suddenly i realized that this was my late father looking in on me at my moment of breakdown, at the crucial moment, the end, maybe. i felt him telling me not to give up, that things could get better, telling me to breathe, please breathe. with this i straightened my back, and took a full breath with much effort. the room came back into focus. i rose from the bed unsteadily, shedding my encrusted clothes. in the sink i ran hot water and i shaved off the grey beard, then put on clean clothes. i still stank of death and wine and the tortured sweat of delirium tremens, but could pass for normal in a pinch. i looked at the calendar--sunday. one more day to try to recoup the losses, internal and external, of the weekend, before heading back to the cubicle, the telephone headset, the endless repetitive calls, the irritated recipients slamming the phone down in my ear. headed downstairs for the street, i ran into the landlord hosing down the sidewalk in front of the motel. on pure instinct i launched into an a capella version of mel torme's "christmas song", complete with all the key modulations and changes, in perfect 440 pitch, in the key of g. i went for the big finish, and when i was done, he stared at me silently, convinced i was insane. sensing his discomfort, i decided to irritate him further, complaining about the thin walls and noise of the screams, insane demented laughter, and weeping of the other roomers. he turned away from me, saying, "this isn't the f**king hilton. get out if you want." i left him there with his hose and walked up the street to the liquor bar--it was now 9AM and they were just opening for business. i was on my way to breakfast, meaning a double shot of whiskey chased with a beer, and that most amazing feeling you get when a merciless hangover is suddenly gone and the young shining day looks beautiful and full of poetic promise again. i would live another day, at least, and maybe several. it was going to be ok, all of it ok, after all. i went in and sat at the empty bar--i was the first customer of the day and the bartender was clearly not pleased to see me, in spite of my clean shave and clean clothes. "yes?" he said suspiciously, eyeing my shaking hands as i produced my last $20 bill and laid it on the ancient bar. "two double shots of jack, and one tall beer, please," i said with the confidence of a man who has certain convictions and knows what he wants from life. "why two shots at once?"he asked. I explained logically, "because i know i'll have to vomit up the first one, and then i'd just have to bother you again." he looked at me disgustedly and poured the drinks. i did the first double shot, and it sat remarkably well in my stomach for a moment--then i knew i had to run to the toilet. i made it just in time to wrap myself around the bowl and let go. the puke was a vile mix of the whiskey shot, last night's wine, and some blood, but at least i got it all in the right place and didn't piss anyone off. i flushed it all down, washed my face in the bathroom sink, and dried off with paper towels. i walked back out and took my seat with the other shot and the beer waiting. they looked great sitting there. the bartender looked at me for a moment. "that's not normal, man." he said, then resumed his duties wiping down the bar. "suit yourself," i said, feeling quite good and renewed. "would you like to hear mel torme's christmas song?" a man who could have been my old boss and who sports the same pair of shades, a guy who just raped his sister, an old black woman who talks sh*t all day but is really sad inside, a couple of ruined old pachucos in slippers and nightgowns, all the cruising over now, old Fords and Chevvies parked in purgatory rusting lost, a beautiful young girl happy to be locked down, a beautiful black girl who shoots baskets all swish and show and hoop like god herself, a very kind man who will talk sense to you, or to himself if no one else is listening, a tragic old hispanic man with beautiful hazel eyes who begs and prays all day to an unanswering jesus all day and night long all the time, an amazing young all-american Nosferatu with shining eyes and a lost heart, a ruined former mistress of high society begging for mercy and cigarettes, an ancient ghostly white woman already dead and smoking cigarettes from beyond the grave a sight to shatter your heart, a man that spews non-sequiturs all day, the guy who got so drunk a few times that it became impossible to ever become sober again, beautiful addled young blondes that just missed being the next big thing in Hollywood and cry mascara tears, the guy that can't stop walking, the guy that can't stop talking, the guy that can't stop fighting, the girl that can't stop crying, futile arguments out in the yard at midnight and the finality of the gates, the sound of the freeway and cars and the so-called real world mere yards away humming along pleasantly past the nightmarish moans of restrained inmates, people going home to homes, people going home to wives and husbands and lovers, people going home to lives that have not changed and will never change, a respected and different kind of institution you can be locked down in--what is freedom? Where are the many locks in our lives and the longed-for keys that fit them? This is the blues that only a few can blow and now I'm one--break time--smoke em if you got em. Reese Witherspoon on the Haloperidine, my god, it's her, but where's that perky smile? That delightful hint of southern drawl? It never occurred to me until I saw her in here how exhausting it must be to constantly be pleasing people, to be known, to have a Reputation for being happy all the time--that life would surely not allow for even the remotest chance of humanity--the internal side-effects of maintaining that perfect smile must be sickening--imagine this: that she had to come this far just to have a good cry, and yet, she wears the jewelry of captivity like a princess, with that same gentle grace you see in those bad movies, a patient ID and a little multicolored plastic anklet and of course they keep her separated from the big-time crazies and she looks more shattered and more beautiful than anything any Hollywood producer could ever conjure up. One learns quickly in here not to engage, not to attempt to connect because it turns out that the bi-hourly smoke break is an opportunity for most to express all of the rage and inner conflict that landed them here in the first place--most of the yellers and screamers and punchers and kickers and Code Threes are slowly and surely burying themselves forever, ever lengthening their stay in hell, and the whole affair is intrinsically self-perpetuating, and so even if you feel you might wish to exchange a smile or a joke for the sake of a moment's comfort, no, turn away, look away, stare at the ground, stare at the sky, look inward if you must, but please, don't beg the yard man for another smoke. He is seven feet tall and dark black, muscular at age seventy, and is the king of our bathroom. He spends 12-16 hours a day in there with the one bare bulb washing a dirty rag repeatedly in the sink, shining the mirror, and laughing, laughing, giggling, giggles hideously emanating from in there without warning at 3:30 AM raising us from our troubled sleep--if you want to take a piss you gotta knock first, then, the king will decide whether or not you may urinate or excrete--most of the time the ruling is that you may not--after all, it's his kingdom, not yours. Blue gowns, grey socks, and the slow movement of feet far from the normal path--a small circle or square is the only remaining road to travel, all these good folks daughters and sons of someone, someone's little baby boy or girl and now it's group time but I'm not in there cause I'm going home, leaving lice and death behind for now, the only sounds at night the screams and moans and wild terrifying laughter, the laughter being absolutely worst of all. Blue gowns, grey socks, and the color of the fences I will never forget, up early as the neighbors wipe the sleep from their eyes over to the metro 40 up to redondo beach green line to long beach blue north into downtown proper, then upstairs in my fortress two or three locks and a couple of fences from utter lawlessness and mayhem right this moment, some young man has spent the better part of the day detailing his car, the first car he's had. it's not much, an old toyota, and for sure bearing the battle scars of LA driving, repainted splotchy here, dents there, like the dents and scratches we all incur living here, and crashing into each other, but the kid's gonna make that car look like a million bucks--it's SATURDAY NIGHT in Los Angeles, a gorgeous early fall night, the temperature could not be more divine, nor the climate--and a girl, his, girl, is also getting ready--they will go dancing together,,for them the night will be young, always young, the clock will never run out, the body will never feel pain, and if the heart feels pain at age 16, that kind of pain is as exquisitely pleasurable as good old pleasure itself....and all this excitement and dancing and wild passion and discovery is happening right now on this saturday night, not far from here, just a quick 30-minute run from pedro to downtown but i'm not going. and that's ok. instead i am cradld here in this space, in my place. it feels really good, tonight, and i can tell i will sleep better than usual, but not just yet, i want to again rest my arms on those wide and dirty windowsills, look out at the night, listen to the sounds of all the crazy and sad and sometimes ecstatic sounds of a pedro night around closing time, some will die, most will live, then, we'll do it again, and a friend asked me, if i ever thought, here in the 21st century, about getting an rv and going for a drive forever, and yes, some kind of rolling den of earthy, earthly pleasures on wheels, bound for the cornfields of last century's nebraska, tires and wheels shined up right to roll into a country town at night, ask directions where to hide the thing safely, then a splash of clean water on our faces, holy water from the last town, comb our hair back and especially splash the backs of our travelled necks, eau de cologne and out to shoot pool with the locals in town, at some point, drunk, i play the piano as you dance, and the room becomes a song, a poem of good yellow incandescent edison light, american warm safe light and not the ugly accusatory light of prison or parking lots, then in soft moonlight we amble and preamble and ramble back to our abode, to our secrets, to the love that we and only we can know and taste, ours and only ours now and forever, under a wood-paneled overhang in the back of our recreational vehicle, i'll kiss you, and i'll kiss you, and i'll blow your house down, and i'll never kiss anyone but you, and we will hold hands in every one of the continental united states. and never lie to each other, and go to the grave together in the time we have, one last long lovely sunset, then we'll continue, road-tripping the immensity of space, always you by my side, blue eyes smiling at my brown frown downtown, in a heaven of drive-ins, smooth sailing cruising in heaven, nary an oil change required, the tank always full, and we hold hands as the radio plays in a forever america of our making in the sky always.i just woke up, and it's three AM and the 20th time i've awakened in this cold january night to scratch the bedbug bites on my back, to smoke a cigarette, to roll over again on the lumpy roominghouse mattress and try to sleep until six. the tv is on with the sound down--it's showing old home movies of hollywood studios taken back in the 1920s---everything in hollywood was so new and clean and innocent, childlike almost. i have three layers of street clothes on in the bed, as well as a winter hat pulled down hard over my ears, as the manager does not see fit to turn on the heat even in the dead of winter. i can feel a horrendous hangover coming on, but it hasn't quite arrived yet--should be in full force by the time i get up at six to get ready for work. the underwear i washed out last night in the sink in my room has more or less dried, hanging on the edge of the styrofoam cooler that houses my nightly 10 or 12 tall cans of malt liquor. the jacket and pants i will wear today cost $8 at the goodwill. the shoes i've had for years, likewise the shirt. the tie, like all the ties, is from an ex-girlfriend. i never seem to be at a loss for neckties and ex-girlfriends. three weeks ago i was in another country on the other side of the world, performing for packed houses of appreciative fans. now i am here, in an anonymous flophouse motel in la. two of my fellow bums died last week and were each carted out unemotionally by the coroner. no relatives showed up to claim their belongings, which were dispatched promptly to the dumpster in the back of the building. ashes to ashes. they were nice people.on the other side of my small room, on the floor, there's the contents of a box i received around christmastime from a beautiful married woman who lives in washington with her husband. she's german and totally gorgeous and makes her illicit phone calls to me every day while her husband is at work. recently she's been describing on the phone to me how she shaves her pussy and plays with herself afterwards. now she's sent me a care package--several books she likes and wanted me to read, some naked photos of herself, and a pair of tiny thong panties, scented heavily with her perfume. she herself must be very petite, as i can see by looking that these panties would never fit on me. on the phone i've told her i'd gladly come up to washington one way or the other, for a rendezvous, but she's scared to take it that far, she says. in reality she is just torturing me for her own pleasure, and as i will come to realize in the next few months, never had any intention of meeting me in person. i get up from the bed and throw the panties in the garbage pail by the sink. then i lie back down, pull my pants down, and beat off in the freezing morning darkness. it's over quickly. i go down the hall to the communal bathroom to take a sh*t, then get back to my room and decide to shave and dress for work. it's good to have a job, it's good to be back in LA. i am a man. i am in charge of my own destiny. i am a telemarketer. but after 8 hours of selling and the intense feelings of the day, i see that a few things slipped by, despite my pointlessly aggressive and passive-aggressively boastful rants regarding the importance of the use of correct grammar at all times, and so, given the current state of de-evolution, the idea of dumb as a fashion statement, a lifestyle, the marketing and corporate branding of thugs, despite the almost singularly despicable yet hypnotic quality of sitting in the orchestra pit front and center in that very theatre bill shakes made reference to, despite having afforded myself, out of pure gutless simpering depravity and glutton heart lookylooing at the sick bad accident of sweet black and white america ever more hi def, the invention of so-called smart devices that are the precursors of complete and total entropic deavolution, and as long as any good primate with two opposable thumbs can manage holding a smartphone in one hand and a banana or something more personal in the other mitt we might manage over tens of thousands of years to eventually re-evolve back to say, about the mid-twentieth century, and right then instead of building up the military industrial complex we might have found a way to put the brakes on history, using atomic forces to counteract the willful and whipping spin of our little lonely blue marble, our favorite one, blue and shiny bright and marbled with streaks of green and brown with little white wisps hairing about it all, even with all that on my agenda, all the many things to notice and taste and love or not love, all the flirty tickle and tease of our almost-climaxed lifetimes, with all that to burn and raze my corny limited last sunsets, i am still self-critical,i find the time to be, i want to be, and in fact i am my own toughest, most disparaging. sneering arbiter, ever arguing the case agaist myself, in the dreary cobwebbed grandeur of great dank oaken benches sullen and stolidly perservering silently stubbornly honoring their thick treetrunk forefathers that also would have lasted and creaked quiet library creaky sniggles in a musty bookstore forgotten on a sidestreet of van nuys or somewhere equally haphazardly swathed in last year's tattered tinsel, i just wanted you to know, that i have not yet decayed to such an extent as to have lost my passion for proper spelling, cause man, not being able to spell is also one of those worrying things, like the dumb person that now is basically in charge of the entire world but probably would fail in a spelling bee when asked to spell words like philanderer, bigot, charletan, you know, as we are so obviously on a rapid backslide to bows and arrows, then sharpenened rough hewn daggers of gleaming black obsidian ripping dirty flesh in wordless grunting massacres over the last few known locations of potable water, as even now the documentarians resignedly click off the yellow bulbs under clean green shades in ivied shady libraries doomed for kindling and ridicule, as all we created in the golden century, the finest century ever to be in all the human story, we were uniquely blessed to have arrived in the chapter we did--not the very last chapter--the one right before, and yes, i can spell, it's easy, look, i love you. As I was forced to come up with a title, i thought well, why sugarcoat the message and what am trying to articulste? and then beyond that i felt like an artsy LA poetry-reading pretentious dick, and i'm none of that. i never attend readings, i write because it is a necessary function of fully human experience, i mean by that when you get up in the morning and you have to sh*t, that's as natural as the sky raining or you having to write, i mean, if you sit down and you find you can't write, give it up and get off the bowl and it will happen when it absolutely needs to. and i have been missing and desiring a devoted and loyal and monogamous life partner for years, but as bad as the yearning has been at times, i wanted to wait until the urge to excrete was unstoppable, and somehow this particular metaphor, i just sniffed and it's as dead as three-day roadkill, now at least i have the good sense to bet back inmy vehicle and drive away, the nearest motel is 300 miles away, just about the correct amount of time to fall in love, so then (and of course here i am painting with a brush even broader than the widest coarsest horse-est whinnying terror dead brush of sweet straw locks like angelhair pastas leftover from some joyous tomato porky ethnic ancestral bawhen i declare that there is no happy ending. that we peaked, we drove our colorful and poorly-concieved mostrosity rolling unpaid fiberglass lies, through pastel duran nights britpop dippy clueless and ill-equipped, our time, seemingly, had enough memories, enough radiant artists and movies and love affairs, to equal the many other memorable moments of this the biggest ship ever to float its fat steel belly lugubrious languid molding dumb upon the inpenetrable wet and foamy doom of the tide's eternal piston stroke, the tide just and only the largest hammer in the universe, and divine before its time, nature's salty bomb to come, a flexing and perversely insenstive whip, an unfeeling and violating razor wind cutting the face and making easter island stonefaces out of our later icecream rewards now stony and confoundingly teasing,refusing to melt in the tiny warm shelter of christmasbirthday raggedly and hopefully denying dishonest stupidly bravely withstanding eaons of callous poor and needlessly grey suicide weather anomolies of stony mocking, and only the next invoice in sight, rivers of paper, but if you don't have just the RIGHT kind of paper, forget it, especially in los angeles, the biggest, boldest, display of free-range homosapiens, look now, they get into wheeled motored boxes and try to kill each other, inbetweenmiserablefluorescently painfully truthful silent films of us in the supermarket, myself now having denounced the elusive divine early melodies, the orchestral introductions, the grand and uplifting anthems of our sugary young peachfuzz thighs ripe for the harvest, just think of the absurdity and reckless adolescent ways we delineate and with almost warlike determination, insist that we knew, all along what the ending would be. and now, stop--listen! the unrelenting bombings and screaming war crimes and winking pretty betrayals, now all the lover-murderers, the unfeeling, the expressively emotionally still-born exectives born dead and living almost forever forgotten dandruffy in gated deathwait laughing at dear unretreiveable joys of bubble screentwoknob carson chuckles, you saw it, you lived it. but everyone y