Sunday, March 26, 2006

Chapter 32 - Hillbilly Girl Thonga

Last night, as if fueled by the story of the amazon private eye on NPR, I had a dream I was part of a traveling troupe of gypsy like hillbillies. They wanted to procure my services as a male stripper, stunt man and driver. I said okay without much hesitation. J seemed happy in the dream, but as the attentions of the Amazonesque hillbilly girl, Thonga, herself a stripper, began to focus more and more on me, J wanted to get far away from them, saying, “They're just a bunch of hillbilly carny’s…” But I was also the driver now and I had an incredibly souped up Camaro at the touch of my toe so there was no way I was giving that up in my dream. I was happy I must say. Fulfilling at least one of the roles god must have intended for me: Stud stuntman, driver, stripper,…Must be that I'm in my 40’s now and dreams like this are the equivalent of my red convertible...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Chapter 31 - Regarding Karl Loinpepper

Writhing and sweating Karl Loinpepper assaulted his infatuation with the hirsute metermaid, and when he could stand it no longer, his pillow...Later, from the Loinpepper tower he gazed to the frothy stars for answers to his lust...

Who knows where words come from, much less lust? Thought Karl in words. Or which came first? the thought or word, obviously the thought, he thought again in word, the gaseous dust that pulled together to form these tiny blocks that improperly gave thought form. But sometimes they just appear from a tingling tooth, a spout of steam, a twist of lemon... a hirsute metermaid...symptoms of something and nothing, portable playthings...or, perhaps, they spring from the earth, maybe they are our connection to the earth and we spout syllables in some language the earth is speaking for us, to us, through us. Pretty dumb of us to assume the earth is dumb, that we are the intelligent heirs of intelligence in this universal matter of the earth...

Two days prior he had had a sleepy daydream of the earth tracking in its orbit, that the exact orbit we are in will someday be the exact orbit the next planet out from us will slip into. He wondered how many planets have been gobbled by the sun already? One? Ten? A million? Maybe this orbit is the perfect distance from the sun, from which life can appear, thus planets closer, planets that were once in our orbit were also once living green things, Mars and Venus now shriveled to their smaller proportions by evaportion. How much smaller would the earth be if she were dried up?-- which it surely will be someday?...before it melts into the mouth of god.

Why don't our scientists ask these questions?

Why must science not dabble in imagination?

Why are their steel space peckers so fucking boring?

I will consider this and get back to you, said Karl to Cassiopia, dancing and dazzling and laughing with her billions of life giving suns...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Chapter 30 - Begging for Salt

Just thought I'd touch upon the title of this blog. Here is an excerpt of a novel in progress that thematically parallels our exploits:

...They got some burgers from the McDonalds dollar menu and drove back to the rest stop just north of Half Moon Bay, where they sat in the dark van for awhile, winding down. She was angry and afraid. She wanted answers. How could they do what they were doing and make money? The soap was a sinking ship. They were sliding down a sink hole. Mike visualized a large olden sailboat sliding down into an anuslike mudhole. Why was he so lazy? Mike felt his eyes drooping. Sleep always came hard on him when things became scary. It had always been his place to go where everything was allright and he struggled to hold it at bay. She wanted answers. Concrete ideas on what they could do to make money.

Mike churned butter in his imagination. With lidded eyes and empty buttermilk mind he fixed on the rearview mirror. Earlier she had mentioned a rock salt idea, wherein they would sell colored rock salt imbued with scent, it would give off the scent when it was heated. The idea suddenly came to him of car air fresheners to add with it. They were both excited. It would be easy to do, to wrap the crystals in muslin bundles. "Zen crystals," he offered and they both liked that. He imagined how the light might play off the little bundles and the nice scent they would give off. They could also make satchets and bigger bundles. It was going to work. Low overhead and a simple execution.
"We'll have them begging for salt," said J and they turned towards each other with laughter and kisses.
They slept soundly that night.
(end of excerpt)

Things going fairly well but still waiting for a check from one of our customers. Hopefully today it will arrive. We've been living on the charity food bags we got from a local church group. Good stuff like peanut butter and jelly, spaghetti and beans, spam...when I pulled this out of the bag at home I told J how the Indians in NWT, Canada called it "Click".

"Why'd they call it that?"
"I'm not sure. I never asked but assume it has to do with the sound it makes when you open it."
"Why would they eat that discusting stuff?"
"It's easy to take with you on a hunting trip, full of protein and it cuts into sandwiches easily..."
She shuddered and went back to reading Foer, "Everything's Illuminated" while I fried some up and ate it on bread with thick hunks of fried onion. Wasn't too unedible but I had to give most of it to Lucky who wolfed it up in chomp slobbering bites while Hank looked on at the unjust act, with a look bordering on outrage. I wanted to give him some but the merest hint of pork makes him sick.

I must mention that J is a remarkable cook and she took the bottled charity spaghetti sauce last night and whipped it into a bolognese of luscious dimensions with carrots, garlic, celery and turkey sausage. My god it was good and we each had two bowls of it in the romantic semi-darkness, with hot tea...

It has been very cool lately, esp. at night but we are sleeping very well under the down comforter, legs and arms entwined and with Bo and Ollie, J's two enormous stuffed animals.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Chapter 29 - Cold Water and Oil Lamplight

Even though we must heat our water with the propane burner to bathe and read by flashlight and oil lamp our new home has been sweet as a five star hotel. Last night we ate our black beans and rice and worked for awhile on cuff bracelets since one has already sold on Ruby Lane. We were happy listening to Garrison Keillor, a rerun of a 2004 show in Nashville featuring BR549 and Allison Krause. I had just finished the new installment of Brown Dog ("The Summer He Didn't Die") by Michigan writer Jim Harrison and realized I must send him a letter since he has had my novel for nearly 2 years and our address and email and phone number on the thing haven't been current for over 8 months. J gave it to him at a reading in Manhattan and he said he would give it a look but it would "be awhwile"...

We feel we are closer than ever to being able to travel with impunity to far places and not have to be totally dependent on craft fairs and farmer's markets and fleas. J sitting beside me here in the Coffee Underground reading "Everything is Illuminated" by Jon Foer, the boy wonder of eight or ten years ago who took New York publishing industry by storm after Joyce Carol Oates discovered his talent in a writiing class she was teaching. J likes it mostly but said a curious thing this morning: "It's like a wonderful sweet thing you've just tasted for the first time, but after about page 80 you begin to want some meat..."

Hard to believe anyone can write a book at 21 though. I think of my writing of this time period and am glad most of it was lost through my many migrations.

I wonder if irony has passed out of the literary lexicon so soon, remembering a fairly recent rejection I got from one of Dave Egger's crew on a short short I had sent his McSweeney's ether rag. Something to the effect that it wasn't ironic enough and was too strange for them, although the reader said he like it. In itself an irony it seems, that you could actually like something but not send it on to the higher ups.

Oh well. The lit'rary life is rife with riddle and not a lot of it can ever be sorted out until long after we are all long gone. Will my first novel ever get published? - much less last through time, only a few people holding the puppet strings of taste and profit can determine that on a short term timeline and unless it is turned into a graphic novel or a movie long term respect and readability is doubtful even for some of the masters. Which reminds me of the other day in the library, J bringing me "The Moon and Sixpence" by Somerset Maugham, whose yellowing card check-out date we stared at in silent amazement: 1972.

This intrigued me about readership of the area so I did my standard library quality check, heading first for the B section of fiction. Not a drop of Bukowski. Not a good sign. So then I tried Behan thinking it might be a fluke. Nothing. No Burroughs either. I stopped there realizing beyond the beautiful interior and exterior of the place some censoring puppet hands were at play in the wings. With a solid readership this would not have been allowed and I remember in my way younger days getting involved with a few librarians over their author choice...when certain authors were nearly important as food. Spiritual food being neccessary to actually finding the courage to go get the corporeal stuff.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Chapter 28 - Mirrors Reflecting Mirrors

I awoke next to J on the mattress in the living room with the grey morning light coming in the venetian blinds of the big front picture window. Hank was stretched out on the big mattress next to me that had been abandoned in the place. His own princely cushion. Lucky was at the foot of the bed under a black tablecloth. I got up and used the bathroom. Joy. A bathroom of our own. I looked at myself by candlelight in the mirror. A mirror of our own. Joy. I made my way over the wooden floor to the kitchen and filled the teapot with water from the sink. since we have no stove I used the propane burner and heated the water, then made the coffee with the metal French press. I sat outside on the cement steps of the porch and smoked a cigarette and read more of "The Fountainhead". Such a wonderful novel in so many ways, even with the "suspended disbelief" dangling up there like my very own Roarkian pinata...

J and I talked about the book in candlelight the evening before and I told her how Rand had been villified by the small group of left wingers I used to hang around with at an Ann Arbor Coop. I was so ill read and green about so many things back then that I mostly just listened. Gertrude Stein was the darling of the moment (early 80's), Hemingway could not write women, was just a macho braggart hiding a love for young boys, Henry James was allright for some reason...and all the most violent feminists were very much in. But I never really fell for any of it, especially where Hem was concerned (I had read much of him) since nobody who had really read him (they hadn't) could deny what he had done with language and style, bringing it into a new realm of modern, much like Rourke in fountainhead. But it still kept me from picking her up and now it will be interesting to see where Maureen Dowd, whom I admire, gets her dismissal of Rand in one of her recent columns where she says dismissively, "Rand's paens to capitalism". Rand ignites so many pertinent questions about the nature of capitalism, the hidden interests, the distorted and distorting use of media...the selling of ones values and ideals, what Hemingway called rubbing the dust from a butterfly's wings, or something like that...

Hank had to crap about halfway through my cigarette out there on the porch so that ended that.

Later I went out alone to a flea market looking for an oil lamp. One guy had one, next to a table of small figurines. I reached for it and looked it over. He wanted five for it but it was missing the wick so I put it back. I brushed one of the figurines and it fell onto the table.

"You knocked over the nigger," said the man playfully.

The south is the south is the south...I guess.

But we love it here just the same. It is more laid back, nobody messing too much for that immaculate lawn, an easy politeness that one feels is real. No ridiculous stares or shaming behavior because we drive an older van or might look a little weathered sometimes. The things that upbraid are the deeply ingrained things, like the marquee in front of a church we drove by the other day that said, "God's love is not accepting sinful behavior". One immediately knows what they are driving at but it can be easily turned into a mirror if one thinks of hatred as sinful behavior...Mirrors are wonderful things. I might even decorate a few with rusty nails and old bedsprings and jewels and put it up with the jewelry site.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Chapter 27 - Billy Slaughter's Place

So we managed to scrape enough together to get a cheap apt here in Greenville, SC, but the word quickly came down that J's credit was not good enough so we looked around at some cheap motels but quickly stopped that when she fought back tears after the first look at a room, dark and dingy walls, dirty carpet, the smell of dust and death and I started to imagine those curtains closed, J gone, me sitting in the darkness behind them listening to the sirens staring at a nearly empty bottle on the pressboard table.

Of course my credit was shot through the temple, a neat little hole going in, a mess that only time could heal on the other side, with the eviction in Jersey. So we stiff upper lipped it like the British who we are both starting to admire more and more, for their understatement in times of crisis more than anything, and looked at houses. There were many to look at, most run down to the point of no return, most in questionable neighborhoods, with S.C. ranking higher than Detroit for violent crime making them out of the question-- even with Dog of Chuckie (Hank).

And then we found it. Right next to a little bar called Billy Slaughters Place. We both loved the name. It was a finely built little house with a large living room that looked out onto a busy road. The rental owners were nice, funny and ran no stupid anal probe credit check, charging us only 450 a month for a whole house, to be paid month by month. Our first night, since we don't have enough for the $200.00 electric deposit (more anal probing) was spent in candlelight and with our lantern. It was wonderful. The next day we shot some pics and got some of my jewelry up on R.L. and are awaiting their decision. Could take a few more days but we are confident they will deem it worthy of their wonderful site.

We shot the pics of the jewelry with our digital camera at Starbucks. I asked the big man managing the place if it was okay and he said it would be fine. But we did not look right, too wild perhaps and while I was adjusting the copper wires with colored Swarovski crystals on them that, hairlike, extended from a jacaranda pod filled with concrete I had died purple, the manager came out and said, "How's it going?"


"Well, listen, I don't want to interrupt you or anything... but I was just wondering how much longer you folks'll be?"

"Oh, I don't know," I said, suprised and now on guard.

"Well if you could give me a timeline..."

"Another hour maybe." We had only been there less than an hour. "But we don't have to do this here. We could go some place else."

"No no. That's alright. Another hour should be fine. It's just that we like to keep those cushioned seats in the corner open." The place was deserted.

I told him we would be happy to move to a table and he said that that would be fine and we could stay as long as we liked. But I was put off. Irked, I told J about it and she wanted to go immediately. I argued a little and she told me she had a much lower tolerance for being a spectacle than I. So I wrapped it up. Took all the set-up down off one of the outdoor tables and angrily loaded it up with all the jewelry I had lined up to shoot.

In the car she said she knew for a fact that he wouldn't have said that to a businessman looking guy, say if he had his papers spread around him and was working on his laptop. "He could be working on child pornography but if he looked like a businessman is supposed to look around here that fuckstick wouldn't have said a goddamm thing!"

The truth of this made me angrier and I grasped for something that would explain people like him. J explained it for me.

"He just wanted to assert his authority. Something about you, us, bothered him. It was like an itch. He couldn't understand what it was but it bothered him. We didn't look right and he couldn't figure it out. We don't look like his conception of artist either. We would need berets for that..."

I knew she was right and told about how Allen Ginsburg, having so much flak to deal with because of the way he looked, was told buy his buddhist teacher to wear a suit and this simple advice saved him a lot of hassle. She agreed that this was probably useful advice but told me I secretly needed that kind of attention. I disagreed but maybe she is on to something. All I know is if I did in the past I don't anymore. But I also don't want to cut my shoulder length hair since it took so long to grow it. And certain clothes are just more comfortable than others. Still, in our society, if not every society, you are judged by the way you look. This is a fact there is no getting around. When I had my short, military style haircut a few years ago I got immediate respect from many sectors and then, while visiting a bookstore in Ann Arbor a young woman looked me directly in the eye and hissed at me. Of course I couldn't resist saying, "And what might your major malfunction be missy?" To which I thought her tomato colored face was going to explode all over the nice shiny book jackets.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Chapter 26 - Hank

When we crossed the border into Georgia a true feeling of wellbeing came over us. Then in Atlanta we stopped at the Dick Blick and J looked at prices of raw canvas and paint while I dug around in a little wooded area behind the place and found some ancient rusted pieces of metal for sculpture. After that we were heading toward the Starbucks when we got pulled over. I tossed the keys on the dash and left my hands on the wheel as he approached. It felt like it was all over. Our insurance had long since expired and I thought there might be a warrant in New Jersey for me...

The incident had occurred in Plainsboro when J and I were temporarily separated, while I followed my bender to its logically illogical conclusion. I was staying in our old apartment (she in Manhattan with a friend), drinking every day and selling our homemade soap at the flea markets around the area...I was in the process of being evicted for non-rent payment...One day I was walking Hank to the liquor store in a strip mall near the apartment complex. I had learned at least not to drive when in one of these lush kick modes...After I got the bottle Hank and me strolled the strip mall to the little pet store, went in and looked things over. The man who ran the place was not around but his wife was. I only had enough for a little strip of treat at the counter so I pulled the change out of my pocket and layed it down on the counter. The treat said 99cents or something and I knew I was close. I said, "Is that okay?" referring to the money. I may have been short a nickel or so. I believe I saw an nod of her head, definitely a look of disapproval at my long hair and disheveled appearance, a slitted look of hatred actually. I walked out happily, Hank with the treat in his mouth. He dropped it outside the door sniffed it and left it there. We headed back to the apartment. Halfway there a large, new pick-up cut me off at a cross walk and stopped. Here it comes, my mind said, thinking that I had been selected by some neighborhood bullies for an ass kicking, ready in my just having taken a drink frame of mind. The man from the pet store came around the back of the truck saying, "Hey. My wife said you stole some pet treats at our store."
"No I didn't," I said innocently, with a smile, thinking this guy can't be serious.
"Well that's what she said."
"Well she's lying," I said.
"My wife doesn't lie. Anyway, I don't care if you did or not at this point. Just don't ever set foot in my place of business again. Okay?"
He did some kind of cut-off thing with his hand, like a politician, as he spoke. I probably would have let it go at that if he wouldn't have stood there waiting for a response. This caused me to boil with indignation and there he stood, waiting for me to respond. So I did. Like a grizzly bear. My mind was gone. I came toward him, saw the look of terror as he ran around the back and jumped into the driver's seat. I grabbed hold of the pick-up bed and began to rock it. I felt like a beast with all the adrenalin and pent up anger at my being evicted and everything else and I growled. He chirped the tires down the road, yelling out his window, "I'm calling the cops you crazy bastard!"

I came back to my senses immediately, seeing Hank sitting there with a look of curiousity on his face. "Come on buddy!" I said and we hurried toward the apartment. We almost made it to mine when I saw the convoy of cruisers approaching. They saw me and I stood there calming Hank, talking to him, saying everything was going to be okay and not to worry as they surrounded me and got out with pistols drawn.

Thankfully one of the grounds employees was watching all this go down so as they were cuffing me and reading me my rights he offered to take Hank, barking like crazy, back to the place. I thanked him. A young hip-hop kid with a great big heart.

They set my court date and when it arrived I showed up, waited there all day for my case, but the store owner did not show so they set another. I never showed since we were on the road by then, but I did call and tell them...

The cop who pulled us over looked suprisingly young. He unsnapped his pistol as he approached. Then, right at the window Hank stuck his big head out and after hesitating at his pistol he smiled. "That's Hank," I said. "Hi Hank. The reason I stopped you is that your registration tag says 05. Could I see your license and registration and proof of insurance?"

I gave him my license and looked for the registration and expired insurance while he went back to his car and ran my license. I found my registration stuck to my social security card, all the info peeled off onto the ss card. When he came back with my license Hank stuck his head out and licked it and gently tried to take it out of his hand. "I don't think you want to eat that Hank," said the cop and we all laughed.

Thankfully there was no warrant. It certainly wouldn't look very good in jail to be asked, "What are you in for?" and have to say, "Dog treats." Nicknames are born instantly from such occurances. Unflattering nicknames like Scooby Snack...

Later, at a Flying J an hour south of our destination, J was inside using the bathroom and I got tears in my eyes looking at Hank, his eyes burning into my own with love...realizing he had been traumatized by the police arrest and in licking my ID it was his way of saying, "Please don't arrest my daddy, he's a nice guy and I love him."

We got off with a ticket for the registration being expired and I'm sure it was Hank that decided our fate in that one. That and the luck of the draw in the cop being an obvious dog lover.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Chapter 25 - Concrete Vision

The day before yesterday we drove north after letting the dogs have one more romp at Bonita Dog Beach. It was a sweet scene, the water at high tide like lemonade and turquoise with deeper sweeps of blue out further, people laughing and playing with the happy dogs of all variety. Hank ran for the entire time, had no interest in fighting or dominating other dogs and Lucky wallowed in a tide pool with a satisfied smile. This is probably the last time they will be at their beach this year. It felt good to be driving out of the heinous Ft. Meyers/Bonita Beach area and, as if a goodbye gift from the land which is indeed bonita in spite of the strip malls, I found a bunch of rusty old bolts and metal pieces in a rusted barrel while adding air to a tire at a Circle K. I was actually more excited about this find than wandering through a great bead store.
J and I discussed art yesterday. She is reading Rand’s Fountainhead and it is sparking observations and ideas, primary among them the notion that mediocrity has always outgrown and outshined, even strangled genius, truth...

We got to our Flying J outside of Tampa and waited word from the TNT promoter about last minute entry into Artwalk at Baywalk. We have heard disparaging things about the woman who heads it up. Apparently she was very tight with the Howard Allen people and ran ACE for them for awhile before a falling out where she was canned. Anyone who could get in tight with those rude, obnoxious people has to exude and wellspring some of the same poison. Also another crafter who said he would never do another TNT show told us she "went off" on his partner at a show. She replied to our request to be last minute entries at Baywalk with: “Sorry it took so long to get back to you, there was a family emergency…” This of course sounds innocent but she most likely put it together that I was the one who had previously entered and was accepted to one of her shows but had to back out due to lack of funds using the excuse, worded exactly like hers… Well, it’s kind of funny if that’s the case but the fact that she doesn’t know we actually didn’t have a family emergency hints at a real mean bone sickness in this woman. She is probably just stringing us along and will not allow us in at last minute. J wants to leave now anyway. I would like to wait until the last minute as we have heard this is an okay show and any extra money would be useful as we are moving to South Carolina now to get a place, Greensboro, S.C. being the cheapest place in the Union to live according to J's thorough research on the subject...

So we stayed there the night and in the morning went about our usual tasks. I was again very excited to wake up since I had made more concrete bead sculptures in the night. I had mixed the cement, added Ritt dye powder (Scarlet red) and poured some of it into a rusted bolt glued onto a triangular piece of copper that had been glued onto a triangular piece of rust. Then I snipped some 24 guage copper wire and stuck them into the red cement in the bolt like hair implants. I was so into what I was doing, an almost autistic childlike reverie, that I failed to comfort J when she came upon a passage in Rand that brought back the terror of her childhood, waiting for the beatings of her stepfather, pleading with him not to do it...I kept losing the wire in the darkness while she was crying, so into what I was doing I only half heartedly asked her what the matter was. She showed me the passage after she had talked herself off the ledge.

"Listen, what's the most horrible experience you can imagine? To me--it's being left, unarmed, in a sealed cell with a drooling beast of prey or a maniac who's had some disease that's eaten his brain out. You'd have nothing then but your voice--your voice and your thought. You'd scream to that creature why it should not touch you, you'd have the most eloquent words, the unanswerable words, you'd become the vessel of the absolute truth. And you'd see living eyes watching you and you'd know that the thing can't hear you, that it can't be reached, not reached, not in any way, yet it's breathing and moving there before you with a purpose of its own..."

Of course her family looks the picture of normalcy on the outside, and although they have made half hearted attempts at atonement it was with a scurrying, shifty, and ultimately harmful attitude. Always ready to fold in on themselves like a plant that abhors the light, to commiserate, rationalize "G was suffering from depression and he had a terrible temper..." "We may have been a little strict..." "We've said we're sorry..." I have even heard, in the beginning of our marriage J's brother say his older sister "exaggerates" and "she brought a lot of it on herself"...This about a girl of 5 or 6, when the beatings began...Truly though, like in the quote above and like in Dostoyevsy, the worst is the wait, the true torture is that her mother would make her wait in her room for the beast to get home, to get worked up and then to come down the hall.

And after all this the last thing J heard from her mother, over the phone, before walking away from the whole family, was, "How many times do I have to say I'm sorry?"

Hopefully she will never see or hear from them again...and truly since that departure my sweet baby has made some incredible strides toward recovery...

Upon wake up I located the colored cement pieces and turned them over in my hands happily, like a kid, knowing this form of childish passion is probably the truest form of my capacity to create art. I had also made some concrete beads with copper wire in them and these came out well...After that we went about our morning routine. J went in to use the bathroom while I let the dogs out and tied them to the van. I took the white tarps that covered the load on top, then loaded all the bins back in, watered and peed the dogs and went in to use the bathroom. Then we went to Starbucks to see if the TNT promoter had emailed us.

I found my cup from the day before and went in while J waited in the car reading. The cup was in pretty good shape so it was a suprise when the man said (loudly): "Uh, umm...okay...If you bring back your cup from the day before the refill price doesn't count. But I'll let it go this time..."

I laughed and told him I had just bought that cup of coffee at a Starbucks down the road but their wi-fi was out so I came here...

The crowd staring at me looked like they didn't believe me, nor did he...I wasn't shaken though...

The promoter had not emailed us but I was in a leavened mood and when the Arab man sitting next to me asked if there was a store nearby where he could buy cigarettes I offered him one of mine. "What kind are they?" he asked.

We decided not to wait around to find out and headed north, feeling better with each mile...