Thursday, August 24, 2017

9867. RUDIMENTS, pt. 52

Making Cars
One time I had a job that afforded me,
as part of the job  -  in fact, a major part
of the job  -  the opportunity a few times
a week, in their car, to race down to
Philadelphia, most usually leaving about
10am, and having to arrive there for a
3pm deadline in some Appellate Court
docket room. We used to print and produce,
for a lot of the courts around, attorney's
briefs for court appeals. An attorney's brief,
having nothing to do with boxers vs. briefs
or an of that stupid Clinton underwear story
stuff. (I found it unbelievable, in 1992, to
see a candidate for President resort to such
foolery in reaching a job he would soon
besmirch anyway). These are legal
summations of argument and review,
usually 30 pages or so, which lay out the
basis for and strategy of, an appeal. They
had to be filed by certain ties and dates,
and if they failed, the case was rejected.
So, it was incumbent upon me to be sure
they got there. I had at my use a new Ford
Galaxie company car. I usually sped, the
NJ Turnpike mostly, but not always. I had
my share of pullovers and speeding tickets,
but was told to just take what comes. The guy
who owned the company said he had a deal
worked out with some traffic court guy in
Trenton of getting them squashed. Which I
guess was the case because I never got fines
or points on my license or anything  - I'd just
turn the 8 or 9 tickets I got (over time) each
time I got one and never did I hear more.
The owner guy, Ron, he would boast about
all this stuff  -  calling his connections 'assets'
to his business, and courting his own business
acumen at having attained all these connections.
I also did Trenton and Hackensack (Bergen
County Courthouse) runs too. And lots of
Newark stuff. He even had ways, a few
times, if something important was late, of
getting back-dating and timing done. Which
all ever just proved to me that rules were
made to be broken, that all you needed were
the right connections and some cash, and that
most of the business world was a huge crock
of shit. Newark was always trouble parking  -
he told me to double park anywhere needed,
pop the hood up, take the keys, and do my
business, all the while pretending the car was
broken-down or disabled. Only once or twice
did I have trouble over that stuff. Once I
crashed into some dumb lady who was
swinging wide around a little roundabout
traffic circle thing they have at the rear of the
Newark train station, as you enter Ironbound.
It was no big deal, I talked my ass off to her,
kept the cops away, took her information, etc.,
and promised we'd send her a hundred bucks
for her light and chrome trim and stuff. I guess
they did; I never knew.
Back to Philadelphia. I liked it. Even wanted to
move there for awhile. The problem with it was
that all my exposures to New York had colored
for me what 'urban' was supposed to be about.
In Philadelphia, the variants were severe; nothing
muted. It had its great little spots, ethnic and
neighborhood, the place was lovely, the girls
and people really pleasing, but it had this
'Pennsylvania' thing that I just thought was
no good. Even if t was a 'city' it always just
seemed as if the people were waiting for the
crops to come in. No good for me, not a general
judgment. All I'd ever end up seeing was a
person in some oddball clothing who'd not last
3 seconds in New York. That mattered to me,
then. Everyone seemed to have come to
Philadelphia from the western farm areas, and
it just didn't have that grit and hustle, that
sensation of scrounge, that I needed. It had
a section with some really nice art schools
and cultural areas, but they were all Norman
Rockwell and Abie's Irish Rose kind of stuff
compared to the snuff films and glam-art of
NYC. I couldn't bear the lack of dirt and drizzle.
A facile judgment, yes, but that was the sort I
made. Also, things there did go up and down
so much like New York  - buildings ripped
apart and replaced in a month. Everything in
Philadelphia was staid and solid. (Or stayed,
and stolid  -  same kind of words. It gets to be
confusing); I'm meaning to say the change was
nothing there like New York's constant change
and churn.
I'd blow into  Philly (I never really called it
that), park the car, get to the very cool City Hall
with its big center courtyard, walking proudly
through all these great monuments and statues,
agape, deliver my crap, get the docket stamp,
time receipt, all that junk, and then I'd steal
two hours or so  -  always pretending to be,
later, late because of traffic, in getting back.
I'd just roam. I didn't drink, so I never saw
that side of Philadelphia (wish I had)  -
these were, I've read, the years of the era
when Bukowsky used to hold court at some
4th street bar along Brown street. He'd drink,
as usual to excess, with little money, and hire
himself out to whichever braggart would pay
him five bucks or whatever back then, to go
out in the rear courtyard and fight. Usually
beating Bukowsky up, but he got his money
and could keep drinking. This is the guy
who, somehow, got revered as some great,
big, authentic real American poetry voice.
He still has his fans and legions. Charles
Bukowsky  -  they ever made a film about him,
called Barfly. I never could stand the guy, and
his work sucks too. Anybody I ever knew who
liked him was usually a younger kid, but not
a college younger kid, a working-stiff kind,
with tattoos, male or female (usually, but that
was then). No telling for taste. He was pretty
ugly too  -  not that it matters much, but I threw
it in here so I could point out how strange it
is to be writing about how unpleasant looking
someone was and have to juxtapose the two
very opposite words to express it  -  'pretty
ugly'  - I mean how's that go? Usually, you're
either pretty or you're ugly. But not here.
My times in Philadelphia were always memorable.
They had street stalls and outdoor book sales that
were a first for me and really cool. There used to
be a lawn around the city Hall and some of it had
gotten covered with dark green, wooden book stalls.
I'd pore over that stuff and be delighted. Most things
were like .25 or .35 cents. One dollar was out of
sight expensive. I found lots of stuff. For years
afterward I always searched for information about
these now-long-gone books stalls. They were a real
treasure and should not go unremarked. I even went
over to the Atheneum place once  - not so far off
and very Philadelphia important and proper  -  but
the 'Historian' they had there claimed no knowledge
of what I was talking about. And was about 50. To
my 40. I figured I probably knew more than him, and
you really had to be a retard not to know what I was
referencing  -  if Philadelphia history and lore is your
game how the hell couldn't you know? Tuned out,
years later, I was reading the three or so books
written by Patti Smith  -  a regional kind of raucous
female rock star, marginal music and the rest; she
was (is) about my age and came from Deptford, NJ
and used to steal away to Philadelphia on runaway
days and pore over these very bookstalls for hours,
just like me and about the same ties too. And she
wrote about it, in one of her books, 'Just Kids,'
maybe, or 'Wool Gatherers,' one of them. I could
have kissed her for the references. Hell, I'd have
married her just to thank her. (She was about on
par with Bukowsky in that department, but so
what. If looks could kill they'd both be champs.
But, then, hey, you ought'a see me). Only still 
later did I find, in a little niche on the inner
porch wall of some building's outside there,
a tiny pen and ink-bowl plaque memorial to 
the 'lost bookstalls of old Philadelphia'. Could 
have knocked me dead  -  all these idiots and
not a real soul among them.
I'll be back to all this ,because I have thing to 
go over. You see, New York just grew, all sorts
of geography, once, and haphazard streets and
alcoves downtown, and then they put that grid
plan overall the new stuff after about 1805, so
the rest of the city's like a right-angle prison.
Everything's got numbers and particular
dimensions, the blocks and all. Philadelphia,
by contrast, was 'planned' one of those L'Infant
designed places, Like DC too. Everything centers
around the City Hall square and plaza and spokes
put to there, to the two rives. broad thoroughfares,
pleasing sight lines, the 4 squares in equidistant
measurements out from the center, parks and
fountains, and above it all, Fairmount Park and
Schuylkill Heights and all. It's fairly nice. I'll 
get into it all another time. And Patti Smith
some too  - she was always a little annoying. She
got this dash of fame and then parlayed it into
other things. Like Polaroid, the old camera 
company, she hooked up with them for a
full, free supply of their instant film stuff 
and cameras, and wherever she's gone, for
free she's gotten cameras and film and taken
all these really crummy Polaroid time b/w's,
mostly, of things  -  writers' graves, their old
homes and tables and desks and stuff, and 
gotten raves and made millions  -  and gets
all religious and mighty over it all. Boy,
stuff like that really gets my goat. It's the
almost equivalent of Bukowsky renting 
himself out to go and get beat up in the alley.
So like stupid three-chord rock n' roll junk
that debases music, so too does this debate
art and, for sure, photography.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


This perch affords me nothing; the sailor's
mast, a failing turret. The eyes of the swan
are brutal, running backwards on a endless
lake. To be confused with the sea is wrong.
Wherein the does this air force lie? Are we
to bomb the escarpment only to sit too
late and fail the challenge. ?
I took a friend to Bitting's Brewery, at the
bottom of Main Street. Endless junk juice,
and full-service half-staff. The flyers
have died in their tumblings.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

9865. RUDIMENTS, pt. 51

Making Cars
I'm never done, and when I'm done
I'm not over, so be advised. When I
lived in Elmira, a few blocks in from
the central campus of the college, the
Octagonal writing building, about the
size of a big shed, with lots of glass as
windows all around, with, inside,
a bench and a desk and one of Twain's
last, old typewriters. The writing shed
had been a family gift to him and had
originally been located at Quarry Farm,
where they spent some time, about
4 miles out of town. Back then all that
was real country, and they would
'Summer' there, as it was put. It was
moved, with some celebration, onto
the college grounds and a few plaques
went up about it being 'Mark Twain's
writing studio, where he wrote and
finished up Huckleberry Finn, while
'Summering' in Elmira. Big civic pride
thing  -  of course he's buried here too.
I used to say 'Simmering' in Elmira,
more'n likely. I've since read it was,
even as he used it, which he did, covered
with cats, some 10 or so who lived there,
jumping up onto things lounging on the
desk areas as he write, etc. (See, I told
you Mark Twain wrote in  a cat house).
The thing that's different about those
days, and those times  -  and I simply
use Mark Twain as my example or
point man because I'm most familiar
with him  -  is that he was one angry
dude, and allowed to express that in
his unique way. People were different,
and times and fame were different too.
The entire 'Mark Twain' thing he did
was a theater : not much of that would
come across now. Everyone now tries
to go for high and ironic sophistication,
but back in his day the best things were
gotten across as a rube, a yokel. Like that
entire homespun voice thing of his. Now,
I myself could try that now, but before the
smoke would clear from the smokehouse
and bunkhouse too, I'd be found out like
a catfish in  a barn. There's no tarrin' a man
too good for lyin' and making stuff up. The
Devil himself should come and try to arrange
the punishment, for it's too great for me to
do. No simpler anger ever existed that the
anger of a man betrayed.
See what I mean, that's the voice and the
e-locution of someone that's parrying a
thrust to make a point with. You want to
listen slow, but it's too engaging and you
end up wanting to listen fast. That's a bit
of the charm  -  once you capture an
audience like that  -  even if it's in a tent
and they're sitting on straw  -  they're
yours. And in Twain's case all that big
panoply of posture and horse-sense kind
of talking covered over a world of sin and
anger. Nay, almost despair. It's a wonder
the man never did kill himself. It's too bad
he's not read now nearly as much as he
ought to be. Everything's against him. In
Huckleberry Finn alone the word 'Nigger'
is used at east 200 times. And oh, how they
tried to cleanse it all  -  turning it, in contrast,
into a sweet-chuckle library book for boys and
girls. Over the years, in  fact, now nothing
more than a boys' adventure-raft library
book. he wrote something called 'Letters
From the Earth - Uncensored Writings'
that could blister your heart with its anger
and venom. He wrote, 'The Mysterious
Stranger,' and 'The Diary of Adan and
Eve,' and 'The Personal Recollections of
Joan of Arc,' and 'On the Damned Human
Race.' This guy was a pitiful pratfall, a
raging rube, a 'sure and yangry yokel.'
I honestly think there are people today
who live in a fantasy world in which all
are the same, and nice, and nothing 'wrong'
or untoward can ever be uttered  -  let
alone that someone should call you out,
or a group, or whatever, for what it is.
That sort of thinking and behavior 
reminds me of nothing more than the
music of Jacques Offenbach, some French
lilting happy-kick group music that never
wants to stop and in which everyone is
reduced to their own stupid status of
Muppet. All that communitarian 'it takes
a village' crap. In my own experience of
long years of bookstore work, in two 
different, major, locales, the only thing
that sort of junk is good for is selling book,
ginning up the store and sales-floor and sales-
staff to go on peddling supposed 'enlightened'
kid's books pushing the dumb premise.
More insidious than anything ever done,
or just as, in the nae of a negative value.
There's a certain form of blindness, you
see, that thinks  -  and then demands  - 
 that everyone begin seeing the same
thing they do.
What was cool about Mark Twain was
how he played off this dark side and sold 
his 'I too can be a clown' bill of goods to 
the world. When the world was still small.
As it got big it never got 'better,' just uglier.
Mark Twain managed it  -  to be known
without that 'dark' side, which was really
the constant string that tied him to (his) 
Hell, and all people really ended up 
knowing was the dumb, happy balloon
he floated off that string, a sometimes
art bit of colored nothing. Sometimes
not. The persona of Mark Twain that
you and I know,and are presented with, 
is the light and jocular one that covers
over everything else. The guy was a
furnace. A volcano. And, man, he died
Remember the Elvis stuff, last chapter? 
They tried all that with him too, and it failed.
They used him to actually try and 'advance'
their dumb idea of rebelliousness, as if they
were wishing for trouble. He missed that boat,
and just turned into their goon. It took another 
decade, at least, before the real shine hit the
mirror. By then it was all over. 


I liked that phrase a lot : a distant
wind chime on a rolling green hill,
a distaff blast of desert sand blowing
in. People standing in a line, looking
skyward; three magi sunning.


Everything I may have ever owned was
stolen. Maybe. There were fractures at
the wall and in the corner. The grey cat
we called King - a shadow of a former
self  -  kept crouched to the arm of a
favorite chair. My life was a still-life
when I needed a friend. 
Eventually everything was cleared away,
in an over-running tide from one of those
storms or hurricane things they go on
about. Boy, I hate the natural world and
all its supposed splendor. I mean, shelter.
Things hold up  -  for a while  -  wear
down, and get blown away. Wind. Tide.
One part I remember was how all the
plumbing fixtures, the entire set-up,
from my friend's 5th street barbershop,
at the corner, with Langford Ave., was
washed away, across the street and to 
higher band of sand. Which is where
it still was, the last I saw.

Monday, August 21, 2017

9862. RUDIMENTS, pt. 50

Making Cars
The night Elvis Presley died I was
house sitting, right here where I am
now, oddly enough. My wife's parents
were traveling, as was their wont each
Summer  -  England, Wales, some sort
sort of Jubiliee I think too, for the Queen
or something. Two weeks; it was all a
vacation for us, and pretty big time  -
by our standards this was high living.
Even if it was Avenel, NJ. Two of our
friends had come over as well, from NYC,
and we just walked around, talking books
and stuff, and then came back here and we
heard abut his death. I was never big on
traveling like that  -  air-travel, luggage,
international places, passages, and all
that. I don't mind driving myself to
wherever, enjoy it all actually, with one
small bag of junk maybe and what's on
my back, catching a low-budget motel
here or there along the way. I like to
get lost, meander about, find this or that
new local thrill or something old and no
longer kept up, history, etc. All I really
need is the few states around me and
a decent vehicle. I never had any passport
or things like that. Just never interested
me and I'm not that kind of traveling kind.
Elvis Presley never meant anything to
me, fact he was kind of a creep, I always
thought  -  something like a 1950's version
of a speed-freak dynamo, always stupid and
always out of control. By the time he died
he seemed pretty useless. I never knew why
all those other rocker guys were so determined
that they owed him so much. Hindsight is
20/20, except when it's not. The one thing
he did do to me, for me, is open my eyes to
the idea of what mass-entertainment is or
was becoming or could be, and that led to
a lot of things for me later  -  not that I was
the entertainer but just more that I could
learn about what all went before.
So anyway, Elvis was dead, and everyone was
supposed to care -   all those Graceland people
lined up to gawk, leaning teddy bears and all
that. Boy, that stuff gets me going. What he
left behind wasn't even a legacy, more just a
pile of junk  -  dumb-ass, sneering movies and
theatrical  -  bad theatrical  -  fakery, bad songs
a semi-legendary Vegas come-back concert
where he seemed more like a dirge-sex-icon
to lonely, disappointed, middle-aged women
that anything else. A hundred years before all
that. I had learned, things were different.
I had always been a Mark Twain fan, though I
cannot really say why. Some of it gets a little
simple, some cute. His persona wears a little
thin, later in life  -  his life. But back in his
day, tent-circuits, traveling shows, town to
town along raggedy dirt roads, small-size
big cities, by today's standards, he'd always
be on the road (let alone being in debt and
pretty much having to constantly work,
contractually, to turn coin and generate
book sales and gate). He developed this
very essential stage-show thing -   which
later took off and others followed and
hundreds imitated. He'd take the stage for
hours, with, here and there a sidekick for
a bit, a shtick, do a part comedy show,
stand-up thing, read his own work, in
character voices, interrupt himself, have
an off-stage sidekick be doing some other
sort of distraction as a foil, he'd stumble,
forget, recover, laugh at himself, and use
various voices  -  bungling old men, the
country rube, the teller of tale-tales, the
big liar, and more. All to entertain the
audience, which was often coming and
going, uproarious with laughter, and sitting
on the edge of their seats. He had the cigar. 
He had the big suits, white or whatever. 
David Byrne took notes. Twain made sure
they got their money's worth, and often just
went on. Town to town, a few days here,
a few days there  -  announced by quick
poster saturation two towns off, and word
of mouth that was constantly building.
Mark Twain (Sam Clemens) was wise and
smart enough to know what to steal from and
how to integrate it all into the whole of his
new performance. Banjo. Pieces of minstrelsy.
Here and there a bit of song and more tall tale.
If you read Huck Finn, there's some of that in
those two devious fake-traveling Shakespearean
actors who float in and manipulate things for a
while until they're found out. It's presented
very well, and all rings true.
The country was small but growing. (Mark Twain
did a long European tour with all this material
too. Lots and lots of the famous places). All
these little dirt towns were getting connected.
There was no media to speak of, just the loud
mouth and the megaphone, handbills, maybe
some telegraph stuff, runners and town-to-town
messengers about what's coming  -  like the
circus coming to town. Excitement had to
be generated. Nothing like Elvis, I guess, and
he'd probably have been a real hoot. Somewhere.
A lot of old movies kind of, or try to, play on
this idea  -  small-town energies, brash and
naive young kids trying to put together a real
show on hay bales and barn loft platforms. The
traveling minstrel, the traveling band, the local
high-school troubadours. It sometimes seems 
like poor, sad America likes to talk back to its
older self, when things were real and, maybe
simpler, or more curt anyway, more balanced
and hands-off. No one else touched your stuff
like happens today. It's all a throwback
effort  -  to when America really did have a
weird, authentic 'past'  -  but before it was the
past. There's a good book somewhere, by
a guy named Greil Marcus, called, the 'The
Old, Weird, America' that gets to the point
of these matters, although somewhat in the guise
of today's music scene, or the 1980's anyway.
It's the kind of stuff I like to know about, even
if I'm never keen on the newer stuff and the 
nowadays of what he sometimes talks about.
I like the old and that's the way I try to live
and the way I'll probably die.


Or  -  if I'd seen a hawk  -  This could have
been titled, 'The Carrion in Fort Tryon Park.'

9860. COULD IT BE?

Could it be just by chance that this dove
with the broken wing has fallen at my 
feet? Like some tender star from the
swollen sky, it fell and limped away.
I can only look on in wonder.


My qualifications of Love are simple :
Niagara must fall upward, and the sky
much change its tune. No more of this
Greek Attican stuff  -  puny soldiers in
leather togas tied short at the waist,
watching a dread eclipse they had no 
way of knowing. 'Had we only known,'
they said in their Greek passion, 'we'd
have killed some 5 or 10 thousand and
had them ready here.' It's getting too
dark for me.
Now the hard part comes. All those bra-less
female she-devils wailing like the end of 
the world. It's only childbirth, honey, the
sun once more begets a moon, so quite 
your fake-ass cosmic singing. I've seen
you in the supermarket aisle with some of
the things you buy. There nothing of natural
Druidic about you.
The mailman will still bring the TNT; wrapped
in brown paper it looks like he's delivering
bread. No one asks. What's a mailman doing
delivering bread? The sun will be  back
in a minute, with a book of the
very same name.


In bounds, they are keeping things steady
while the seal balances the ball. As malachite
turns to copper, I find myself still in love with
Yorick's skull. And oh hell I knew him well.
There's a blue door at the siding, like a barn's
door with those sliding rollers that push the 
door along so it doesn't open out. The builder
guy told me they use them when there isn't
room enough to open things outward. I told
him, 'You mean like a secret?' He laughed.
Here in the city, they have to do things
differently, he also said. 'A lot of these places,
no matter what they are, they don't want things 
done cheaply  -  faucet handles and doorknobs 
and hinges and all. I said, Why's that?' He
replied it was because 'a lot of these large
spaces, with the economy being what it is,
they keep sections clear to rent out as clubs
at night  -  you'd be surprised the big time
crowds.' I said, 'No I wouldn't, I've seen what 
you mean, Thursdays, Fridays, and weekends.
they start lining up sometimes by 4; but I
never thought of it in that way. Double duty,
so to speak.'  He said, 'Yeah, that too. And
I've seen triple duty as well; you'd never
guess who ends up doing what sometimes.'
I said, 'Yeah, you can't judge a crowd by 
its mother.' He laughed again.