Friday, December 15, 2017

10,295. THE VICTORY BRIDGE, BACK WHEN IT WAS THERE

THE VICTORY BRIDGE, 
BACK WHEN IT WAS THERE
I feel like I'm working, even when
I'm working, and when I'm not, I
feel that way too. Once I was the
bridgemaster atop the Victory Bridge.
10 or 12 times a day, maybe, having
to scuttle the traffic and open the
bridge; everybody down below
pissing and moaning because I 
cost them seven minutes, maybe,
on their way to Two Guys or some
stupid store back then. Liquor. Rakes.
And potted plants. If they had a real
place to go they weren't on this bridge
anyway  -  it ran right along and parallel 
to three highways, maybe even five, all
depending on what you count: Routes One 
and Nine and Thirty Five and Parkway 
and 440, and whatever else you need to 
know go look it up. Those are real roads.
This was a dumb-ass path. No one ever
jumped off here either  - wasn't worth it
and wasn't high enough  -  again, real 
jumpers went to the other bridges, where
they could hiy real paydirt in one big try;
or whatever you call that. Like the elevator
guy says, 'Going Down.' Mostly, if we
had any problems, they were the head-on
crashes of the drunks. There was no 
divider, and the speed limit went 
unobserved; least-ways I never saw
it and neither, I guess, did they. 
Wrapped around a pole or two, or 
each other. And dead as all get out. 
Victory Bridge? We always called it 
Tragedy Bridge or Trouble Waiting 
to Happen. A few times some jerk 
drove right off the open edge. Not 
the same jerk, but I didn't want to use 
plural, to not blow it all out of proportion. 
Besides, everyone dies alone, as one. 
Ain't that what they say? The old bridge 
is gone now, with the swivel span I 
used to open, from high above, in 
my little wheelhouse. The new one 
they built is atrocious  -  it arcs so 
high into the sky that Saturn itself 
could safely fit under. And now 
there are jumper warning signs every 
200 feet. 'Don't Do It! There is Help!! 
Call...blah,blah'. Like the frenzied 
jumper is gonna' sit there and read, 
and maybe say, 'a phone number! 
Hey, that sounds like a good idea!' 
What a jerky world. Let them jump. 
We got too many people anyway.


Thursday, December 14, 2017

10,294. MY WHITE-BOY JAMES BROWN IMITATION DAYS

MY WHITE-BOY 
JAMES BROWN 
IMITATION DAYS
'Back when I had teeth that worked
I really used to chatter. Every other
Saturday night was some sort of
wild celebration. Now, it's all the
gristle that's left on a raggedy old
set of well-weathered bones. The 
boy can't talk. The boy can't sing.'

10,293. RUDIMENTS, pt. 165

RUDIMENTS, pt. 165
Making Cars
At 116 east 59th street, for as long
as I ever have known, there's been
an antiquarian bookstore named
'Argosy Books.' Simply calling it
a bookstore does it a grave injustice.
It's not hardly that at all. Nor are its
clerks and desk attendants anything
like bookstore people. Nor is the
atmosphere. It does nothing to keep
the swarming trade of book-browsers,
drifters, curious and otherwise roving
types, in. It wants, in fact, none of that.
Everything is done minimally here.
Perhaps the only real outreach to others
is a section out front, under cover but
outside, past which you walk to enter :
outdoor bookshelves, built into the
front, wood, nice, glass, keyed cabinets,
etc. There, with the marked-down items,
you, me, or anyone, is entitled space.
Once indoors, another matter.
-
There's an old-world flavor to things.
Woven, of rugs and tapestries, cases
and shelving. maybe 6 or 7 floors,
maybe 5, I don't know, and each floor
has its specialty. Nothing haphazard,
mind you, but a specialty. One floor,
antiquarian maps, large, framed,
wall-sized for the  (everything here
mostly has come from old New York,
the broken-out estate stocks of books
and such from passed on generations,
that great wheel of readers' deaths and
diminishments (much like New York's)
over the years. Let's accede to calling
it 'leftovers'. Sad, but true. And numerous,
too, but costly. Another floor is for famed
signatures, autographs, things inscribed,
the letter of Lincoln or Thomas Edison's
scribble on a notepage, a Churchill
birthday memo. Anything. Another
floor is New York/New Jersey books.
History. Photobooks, etc. Tomes, deep
writes, most anything except the jaunty
idea of fiction in place (which is, after
all, mostly a bookstore's trade, normally).
No matter, it's a place that must be seen, 
and revered. Here's a funny thing too. I
occasionally step inside and actually 
make a book purchase  -  and even
though I appear or come off as some
sort of chicken-fed street-bum lowlife,
perhaps (yes, I said perhaps), each time
this occurs these people come off as
if, just if, I may be some high-echelon
New York nobility they are not aware 
of. In their thinking and manners -  which
is always perfect, warm, structured and
quite nice, male and female  -  all old
and old-world; no niggling kids in this
joint  -  they reserve a form of fine
gentility and manner. I've grown
to appreciate that.
-
I've been going to Argosy for many 
years. One thing, above all else,
remains riveting : There are stairs
within the store to get to wherever 
you wish. But, yes, it can be a climb.
Just in the entry, and a real throw-back
to another world, to the left, is an
elevator and an attendant. A single,
small-box elevator, perhaps 5 people
and the attendant, tops; whether it
it goes by weight or people amount 
I don't know. Anyway, (always the
same, smallish, black man) in a 
little elevator cap and all (over the
years it seems the same person, 
but it must have changed) and,
as elevator attendant, he takes 
you in, closes first the gate, then 
the doors close, and then he clicks a
lever of some sort  into place, relating 
to whichever floor you've asked for,
and the slow climb begins. All 
small scale, and the little 
sight-window allows you to
see out to dead-walls, and then the
floor entry you're passing, and 
then dead walls again, and  -  upon
your destination  -  he shuts down,
uses the mechanicals to open
the door, and then the gate, as 
you step out. It's very regal, yet
rompy and interesting too. Only
one time have I seen or had
another person on the elevator 
with me.
-
I was reading today, about elevators,
which is how this got started. I 
thought it was all fitting and it 
jived in very well with my 
small-scale memory of same: 
"When I was a youngster, there
were still human elevator operators,
people whose job it was to go up
and down in an elevator all day,
stopping at the right floors to take
on and let off passengers. In the
early days they manipulated a
curious handle that could be swung
clockwise or counterclockwise
to make the elevator go up or
down, and they needed skill to
stop the elevator at just the right
height. People often had to step
up or down an inch or two upon
entering or leaving, and operators
always warned people about this. 
They had lots of rules about what
to say when, and which floors to
go to first, and how to open doors,
and so forth. Their training consisted
in memorizing the rules and then
practicing: following the rules until
it became second nature. The rules
themselves had been hammered out
over the years in a process of slight
revisions and improvements." Yes,
perfectly, and perfectly Argosy apt.

10,292. MY HILLBILLY PROFILE

MY HILLBILLY PROFILE
My hillbilly profile keeps coming
through, there are things I can't
conceal. The wicked ways of all 
who transgress shall surely get them
in the end. My friend Rubin, up
from 'Phildphia, said I shouldn't
say that, because where he lives
getting someone in the end has 
other boyfriend meanings. I don't
know about that, nor girlfirend
neither. My car's the kind I just
keep running in case it won't start
again. We were playing cards one
afternoon, on my side porch, a
game of our we made called 
'Drunkandweaving,' and the grass
underneath the car started to
smolder. I lost the game, but I
had to move quick to change
where the car was setting. Like
setting on fire, but just setting.

10,291. LONG TALL...SALLY?

LONG TALL...SALLY?
problems with questions
to bring things about
C'mon and bring the be-bop then
along. We've got the oldsters in
Sycamore; they play cards or they
dash at each other. Like children,
always wanting more : cookies for
Christmas, trays for the party, little
ribbons. Make sure there are cherries
on top. Now is the time for all good
men to come to the aid of their country?
-
Children in a sing-song way form 
pictures in a brain: William Blake,
innocence. T. S. Eliot, experience?
-('Gary's got a problem with questions?')-

10,290. SALMANDER RIDGE

SALMANDER RIDGE
The question never has been 'how
to get free' either. It's always been,
'how to stay free.' And that's a major 
difference. Before the pudding goes
into the pudding, or we call it such,
what is it, after all?
-
I stand alone, watching two ships
float the harbor : fierce tugboat to
chase, to watch, to work. Stratified
once more, there seems always to be
the big man and the little. Even here
on the water. Everything has to wait.
-
It's seems quiet, but it's not; even the
sun and stars make their noises,
sizzling away to nothing.

10,289. DREAMING OF DREAMS

DREAMING OF DREAMS
Like Walter Pidgeon in  a hayloft of fire,
all those old people are burning. 'We've
found our Heaven and we've found our
Hell.' A lot of this is just Harry Potter
stuff; same bunch of idiot kids, now
brought up to their 'maturity' and to be
thinking like that. The same bunch of
creeps who laugh back at Salem, saying
'what primitive thinkers they were.' 
It was always a danger, that such media
would create its own monsters. Now here
they are; say hi. Knowing little else as
they walk along the way, hello to this,
and hello to that. Dreaming of dreams
we can't ever take back,

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

10,288. RUDIMENTS, pt. 164

RUDIMENTS, pt. 164
Making Cars
Alan Turing, a logcian, once
put it thusly : 'In order to be a
perfect and beautiful computing
machine, it is not requisite to
know what arithmetic is.' That's
a very confusing statement. But
it sums up perfectly what it
attempts  to say, and, at same
time, encapsulates 'writing' very
well too. Let's call it 'Competence
without comprehension.' That's a
pretty scary concept. A computer
can be built, can be programmed, 
instructed, so that "if you observe 
a 0, replace it with a 1, and move 
left, and if you observe 1 leave 
it as is and move right, and 
change to state 'n'." A perfect 
mathematics ensues, though 
the 'machine' doing it knows 
nothing of arithmetic. It's like 
that, under the assault of 
inspiration maybe, for writing, 
as it becomes not so much 
composing and arranging, 
editing and constructing, as 
it does simply 'reading' what 
input you're given. Being 
able to do that and having an 
ultra-fine grasp of it, and self,
and being, has often, in religion,
been referred to as inhabiting
a 'state of grace.' God-like.
-
I thought of that a lot. I 
tried constructing a language, 
in fact, that would get that 
across  - but I found there 
was no one else to whom 
I could speak it. Much 
like having a telephone, 
why have one if there's 
no one ever to call or 
speak to, nor any desire
for that either. That's me.
There used to be rows 
of telephone booths, the 
real kind, where the sliding 
glass door, hinged in the 
middle, would close you 
in as you pulled it shut, 
the interior wood finish 
of the seat and the shelf 
as you sat to talk and the 
heavier than usual, strange 
feeling of the black telephone 
in your hand. Once the door 
was closed, the light came 
on inside, you were enclosed, 
cocooned to conduct business, 
other maybe could see you, 
but knew nothing except 
your occupying that space. 
There were perhaps 8 or 10 
of these in a row, every so 
often, along the corridors 
and hallways and great-rooms 
of the train terminals, bus-stations, 
taxi centers and all that. At 
the western end of 42nd street 
there used to be a large, 
Greyhound, bus terminal, 
for the longer trips, in sleek
metal Greyhound coaches  - 
Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Chicago, 
Miami, New Orleans, Savannah, 
Nashville, St. Louis  -  all these 
great geographic places far off. 
I used to love that terminal, 
always in the half-dark, it 
loomed over that section of 
the street  -  it's all now a 
rather unmuffled and fancified 
thing called 'Theater Row'. I 
don't know where the Greyhound 
operations have gone to.
-
I used to go there just to sit around  -
groups of fat, old blacks joking about,
or confused transients between trips.
This was before the 'luggage on
wheels' days, so there'd always be 
some collection of travelers from
Idaho or somewhere loony fighting 
with six suitcases of  junk. All you 
had to do was be nice and act polite 
(and interested in their plight) and
for schlepping or dragging about 
with a few bags, to the belly of a 
bus somewhere, you could get 75 
cents or whatever. No one ever 
stepped in or stopped the business.
Bus terminals of this nature weren't
very big on skycaps or redcaps, or 
whatever those help guys are called. 
All that stuff was airport business. 
1960's and 1970s bus terminals were 
mostly sleaze; nothing much else but. 
Like the rest of New York, it was all a 
cauldron  - people on the make, trying
to steal or swindle, make off with 
someone's wallets or belongings.
There was always a girl of two on the
make, finagling around with slimeball
business guy on his way home to
Harrisburg or Atlanta looking for a
quick hour or two of fun. There were
rooms everywhere for 4 or 5 bucks 
for hourly use. I remember, about 
1974, whatever, when the People's 
Republic of China finally got into 
the UN, they couldn't at first get it 
together enough to buy and organize 
and furnish, and all that, a 'Chinese 
Mission to the United Nations,' and
they instead took over, lock and stock
and barrel for maybe a year, the Howard
Johnson's maybe 10 or 12 story hotel 
that was nearby. That threw these girls 
for a loop  - they kept the place pretty
hopping with the hourlies, and now they'd
lost all that service space. It was all
quickly replaced by other little dumps,
but it wasn't the same. 'Declasse.'
-
Anyway, in all these places there would 
always be people in the booths, or even
lined up waiting for a booth. It was 
amazing. It was also quite mundane;
I'd overhear people stating their
call-business to others, or running on
with a conversation, and it was always
the most ordinary, worldly stuff  - rides,
timetables, arrivals, locations. I'd always
figure, who needed that? Certainly not
me. I was determined that my own use
of words wasn't gong to be brought
down to that level of land-chatter, glib
shooting for nothing. Like a transcribed
Eniac (the world's first, large, room-sized
computer, by IBM) all these people as 
one seemed programmed with the
perfect mathematics of efficient means
but absolutely no knowledge of the
whys and wherefores of existence and 
being first. I couldn't even blame them
for that, really, for what bugged me 
more was that that each seemed
completely unconcerned and not
curious about any of this at all.
Competence. Without.
Comprehension.

* Turing was also a computer scientist, and lots of other things.





10,287. THOSE DAYS TO COME

THOSE DAYS TO COME
No more dreaming, this is real.
It gets late around here early.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

10,286. THERE ARE FACTS, AND....

THERE ARE FACTS, AND...
Please don't pay the parking lot machine.
There really is no need, and the guy never
comes by. His name is Fredrick and he
calls himself 'Sem.' I have no idea what
that's about, but one time this other guy 
tried grabbing money from me as I was 
leaving. You see, he didn't really work 
there, and he said he was 'watching the 
place for his cousin.' Rather then give 
him eight bucks I told him to prove it  
-  he had no ID, no number, nothing. 
Plus the little guardhouse was locked
up, and he had no key to even open it. 
Useless rubbish. I told him to take a hike 
and left. That was over at 22nd and 
Cherry. In Philly. He said he'd call the 
cops. I said, 'Yeah, go ahead.'

10,285. I HAVE SANCTIFIED

I HAVE SANCTIFIED
My new coat is only a dream; I wear
the same one I've worn for nine years.
It works, if 'work' means to keep out
the cold. I certainly can't go 'stylin'
in it. Not that I would. I'd rather
be bare. I sanctify this skin by
wearing it everywhere.
-
Look skyward, tell me what you 
see : All those poor little birds, now
huddling from the cold, and hiding.
just as much, from that hawk seen 
up above them. Things that float 
in the sky are not always good.

10,284. OK, NOT SO BAD, LEMOYNE

OK, NOT SO BAD, LEMOYNE
They've taken down another trestle 
and another tree. I see that, clearly. 
It's as if every day now brings 
something new, but all the new 
is always the same. Hazel was
buried at St. James Hill, but her
gravestone has never been dated.
Nearby to her, those old Hungarian
crosses, of concrete, are now peeling
off the rebar beneath. All that gets
left are the metal-bar crosses, as the
concrete drops to the ground. Like
Death itself was the mason.


10,283. RUDIMENTS, pt. 163

RUDIMENTS, pt. 163
(Making Cars)
I always wanted to learn magic,
but never did, and then I realized
I never really wanted to learn it 
anyway. That sounds pretty circular
and stupid, and it probably is. In
my work-days I got to know two
magicians  -  I mean real magicians,
in the 'secret' federation of magicians,
the guild that covers all that. With
secrecy. They have these really
stringent rules and procedures, and
if a 'real' magician is caught giving
out trade secrets or otherwise
compromising the society and its
aims, there's big trouble. They meant
business, as much as Masons or
Knights Templars meant business.
One of these guys is dead; his name
was Martin and he was already 
old when I met him. Old-line and
old-school. But he had a good
reputation within the guild. He
died like a few hours or a day maybe
after a hip-replacement operation.
How many old-time adventures 
and secrets went to the grave with
him, I wish I knew. The other
guy, much younger, like by 40
years or more, was named John.
These two, although they were 
aware of each other, and at the 
the print shop did occasionally
cross paths, there was a dislike
by the old guy for the young guy,
who he felt dishonored the profession
and was a glib fool, by doing kid's
parties and shows, donning clown 
make-ups and costumes, twisting
balloons, and all of that. I never
got in the middle of any of it,
mainly because I didn't care and
I saw it all as generational anyway.
Competitive stuff. The old never
like the young.
-
I used to talk to Martin  -  not so
much to John  -  about magic and
stuff, and it got pretty interesting. 
Martin had these theories and ideas
about the 'screen' of the other world
just beyond the divide of our eyes  - 
a form of 'alchemy' of the natural 
world, which he knew how to tap,
and which was the root of real 'Magic'
anyway. Lead to gold. Dross to
treasure. He said the alchemists of
old, always in the employ of great kings
and/or sorcerers, knew how to transform
the world and had originated magic from
those roots. Only a certain, privileged
number at any one time on Earth alive
could share these secrets. That was one
reason, he said, the Guild protected the
secrets. Too many to know, some not
worthy, had to be killed. It had been
happening for a thousand years. Sorcery.
Magic. Alchemy. Charms. Even raising
the dead. He said Jesus had been a
magician. A carpenter-magician, which
was the cover-story, like Geppetto in
Pinocchio, another cover-story, who
invigorated carved wood objects he'd
first 'make' and imbue with his own
magical spiritualism. Yeah, it was
all pretty deep, and made me look 
twice and again at any rabbit I'd see
jumping out of a hat, white gloves
holding the hat, or not.
-
John, on the other hand, was pretty
much the childish version of his
own persona. Kid-like, round, red,
chubby, cute about things, kiddie
magic-shows in church basements,
Saturday birthday parties for eight
year olds. Sandwiches and cookies.
Smiles. I couldn't ever expect anything
metaphysical crossing his lips. I'd do
some printing for him, always late and
rushed, for a really close-up date (his
lead-times were horrible), and I'd 
nearly every time end up delivering
to him too. He lived in South Plainfield,
and on Park Avenue there was, back
then, an ice-cream shop and stand
called 'Bandy's.' We'd meet there,
amidst sprinkles and sprills, kids
and laughter.
-
It made me think a lot about magic, 
and what any of that was all about. 
I never really knew what these guys 
were up to, the presentation, the 
business, or the seriousness, or not. 
Part of the mystique, I always thought, 
used to be mysteriousness. Thus the 
old-world approach of Martin, against 
the frilly approach of John, and the
vague animosity between the two.
Pretty weird. One thing, also, that
I learned from Martin  -  and I'd
never faced this before, and it threw
me big-time at first exposure : He
could vary, totally and completely,
from one day to the next. One day, a
morning of happiness and greeting, 
a feeling that inside me that I'd
really made it with this guy, gotten 
through; and then the next day, or
another day, he'd be the most mean,
nasty, gruff and unfriendly person
you'd ever meet. Like it was
an imbalanced chemical thing
going on and completely without
any predictability. There used to
be a hardware store chain called
'Rickel's'. One morning, on  a Saturday,
I drove into the parking area there 
and saw Martin with his head under 
the hood of his old, green, '72 Imperial
He drove that for a long time, A real
monster of a car. It had broken down 
and refused to re-start. He was madly 
tinkering away, going at it. I figured,
'what the heck,' and I went over to 
help him. In ten minutes or so, we got 
it going. From that day on, and ever-after,
we were pretty good friends and he was
always in fine fettle around me. If I was
an alchemist, I'd say he was gold.