"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

29 July 2011

Sunset

I was somewhere between ten and twelve when I sat, transfixed to the point of paralysis, watching my first full sunset. It's been so long ago, I no longer recall my exact age at the time or the date on the calendar. I do know it was summer, but after that, the details are a little fuzzy. With the fluid and phantasmal nature of time I observe, I find such details hardly matter.

It was like a junky getting their first angry fix. There was one of the first times I felt the presence, sound, and fury of the Divine. That incorporeal voice that cannot be described in the clumsy attempts at language of a species of half-bald apes that calls itself Man. I knew I was seeing something special. And, like that junky, I needed to repeat that moment of zen-excellent perfection, again and again. 

Watching the changing and fading of the light. The clouds, going from white to gold to flame to ember to pastel to faded purple gray is hypnotizing. I liken it to watching the autumn leaves in their deathrattle march to crunchy brown upon cold winds. Both find their vibrance upon the loving embrace of the sun.

Long ago, I sent correspondence to Sabina, describing a sunset I observed of special brilliance. She showed an interest in the words I purge from my skull and I decided to give her a one-shot. A bit of storytelling I meant to push from memory upon the utterance of it. Although, I vividly recall the last bit;

I'm sorry. I'm a sucker for sunsets, but maybe I just suck. Maybe I should just throw away my man-card now.

Her response was simple, in all lower-case, and the entire reason I remember that last bit of my correspondence;

don't apologize. i like sunsets too. i'd like to hand you back your man-card.

That was one of those omens, which told me I might just be in love with her...  

28 July 2011

The Two of Us

"Two of us wearing raincoats
standing solo
in the sun,
You and me chasing paper
getting nowhere
on our way back home,

We're on our way home
we're going home
..."-The Beatles

Many years ago, we sat in rented room, back in North Carolina, my father and I. We were half a world away from anyone who sincerely meant anything to us us other than one another. As the rented telly showed images of Drew Carey and Colin Mochrie doing improv, we were making phone calls. I had just left message for my daughter, not excepting a return call, but looking forward to seeing her shortly after getting back. I was waiting to phone Sabina, back then, at the time, she was still engaged in a dance with the dead for money.

My father, was speaking with my mother. And he was giving shit. Such is the way of parents' relationship. Rare as hen's teeth are the times that I'd heard either of them admit their amore for one another. In my family, if one is not fucked with, than one is not liked.

"I just want you to know, I don't miss you at all," my father said to mother, something I've said to Sabina once or twice in the years we've been together, when we've been separated by time and miles. "In fact, I am so glad to be out here so I don't have to deal with you."

And if that was not just about the sweetest thing I've ever heard in my life...

As my father and I were coming back from our journey, exhausted, dirty, hallucinating, he was speaking to my mother on the phone again. A badlands sun had been up about an hour. I half-awake listened to him go off about how to deal with flat tire.

"I reckon we need to hurry back, son," my father said to me. "Your fucking mother's falling apart without me."

True words. Say something against that, I'll not only call you liar, but get downright indignant. It was the other utterly sweet thing I heard back then. A confirmation. My parents were devoted to one another. Retardedly so.

My sister and were talking, over a dinnertime meeting all those years ago. It was decided then, our mother needed to die first. Twistedly funny how that played out. It wasn't a matter of meanness, but she wouldn't have been able to cope without our father. It was like that. My father, love and admire him as I do, just got cranky, perhaps, sometimes even quite unbearable, without my mother, but it's somehow been different.

And yet, that strange and wonderful relationship-my mother once being strange and my father being wonderful-is something I still strive for. My ultimate love story, even though I couldn't be romantic on a bet and anyone who'd tell you different is either daft or trying to sell something. Love, hate, apathy, for almost thirty-eight years, until my mother died, my parents had made it through it all. And my father still does sincerely love my mother, even when he slyly jokes about chasing women, in case anyone was wondering. He might not say it outright, but I caught him that one day, as we set out for North Carolina for the last time, saying into the phone;

"I love you. I'll be home soon..."

"You and I have memories
Longer than the road that stretches out ahead-

We're going home
better believe it
..."

27 July 2011

"You've Come a Long Way, Baby"

This was a guest post I did for Starlight over at her blog, Crazy Thoughts; http://crazythaughts.blogspot.com/. I've reposted it here to satisfy my sense of continuity... 

We first met as adolescents in a souk, at southeastern edge of the greater metroplex, attempting to earn a wage without our parents' help or hindrance. I was nineteen, nearly twenty, collecting and counting money for purchases. She was not too far from having first turned sixteen, packaging those very purchases I collected and counted money for. Just two badlands kids trying to start making our way in the wide world, even though we lived along one of its ends.

My first impression of her was she was rather shy. After all, she didn't talk. At all. There was once or twice I was full of enough adolescent arrogance to ask her if she was mute, to which she would shake her head and giggle. There were a lot of things I would say that she'd laugh at, which got me to think I was either that funny or she was that gullible, or perhaps that uncomfortable. After nineteen years of friendship, she had yet to tell me which.

The first two years of our friendship, she maybe uttered a paragraph's worth a words. She would tell you it's because I never shut up, but that's a bunch a who shot john. Even she's been around when my misanthropy has caused me to retreat deep within myself, hissing and growling at anyone bold, or stupid, enough to come near. Yet, I can own up, when held in comparison, I am the more vocal, the more social of the two of us.

She was the first of my friends to find out I was going to drop of university to get married. That I was going to be a father. A little over a year later, she hung out with me in diner into the small hours as I told her my soon to be x-wife was leaving me and we were filing for divorce.

Early into our friendship, I found out the reason she was so shy was far deeper and darker than simple introversion or the paradoxical misanthropy I was possessed of. One night, Jezebel explained to me she was sociophobic, and a little claustrophobic. Being uncomfortable in strange social situations and crowds like I could be, like I still sometimes get, is one thing. Her's was a horse of a completely different color. For her, walking out her front door could be the very stuff of waking nightmares.

So, a paradoxical misanthrope took it on himself to try and help a sociophobe face her deepest, darkest fears, and interact with the world. I know, it sounds like a joke. And, by the way, that is the punchline. 

To Jezebel, I was a social butterfly. Her teacher in the ways of interaction and the human affliction. To me, she was amongst the best of confidants and one of my favorite monkey watching partners.

Although, there were times we would rage against each other. Times I would have had better luck pulling teeth from a blood-hungry shark than getting her to go somewhere. To try something. To acknowledge when some guy might have been trying to chat her up. She would tell me how she had this image within her skull, a phantasm she called the person she wanted to be.

"You want to see that?" I snarled during one of our more heated arguments, and I all but shoved her into the water closet mirror. "She's looking right back fucking at you! Own up!"

Jezebel avoided me for a week and a half after that, but I may have deserved it...

The education was not all one way. She too would teach me lessons. Of course, in my experiences, travels, and adventures, the gurus, guides, saints, and seers I have encountered have not been the ones bedecked in the robes of the holy or found within the walls of temples and monasteries. They have been the most unlikely characters found in the most unlikely places. That sociophbic girl I met in a souk nineteen years ago now I would say has been one of my best teachers.

Jezebel was the one who reminded me the bardo after my divorce, and my relationship with the fucking psycho x, a few years later, that I did not need to be in a relationship. I spent five years being solitary learning to appreciate wanting to be with someone, instead of convincing myself I somehow required it. The irony of that lesson was I was three years into being without when we met Belushi and I convinced Jezebel it might be okay to ask him out on a date. At one point we didn't really get along, him and I, after all, one of my best friends, my favoritist monkey watching partner, was leaving me for a boy.

I had to learn to let go. The person she wanted to be, the person she already was, did not always need her strange, tall, lanky friend. It was a profound lesson.

When I was working with a little more earnestness to publish my book, I feared I might just be something I have found myself sometimes despising; a writer. An artist. But then again, I harbor a pathological hatred of labels and the limitation of which they impose. When I mentioned this to Jezebel, she chuckled and said I could not escape my nature, and, like it or don't, I was possessed of a gift. I waxed melodramatic as I told her I had no gift. If anything, having words fluttering about within my skull like angry hornets, stinging my maggot's nest of a mind, was a curse. I had to purge them or go mad.

She chuckled again and called me on being melodramatic and said;

"How ever you put it doesn't matter. How you deal with it does."

 And somedays I do better than others. Like when I don't take myself too seriously. When I take myself too seriously, I risk spirals into self-destruction. I do what I do. Not everyone who plays music has jack-off fantasies of becoming John Lennon, Gene Simmons, and Lady Gaga all warped into one abomination. They play because they play. Because it satisfies them on a level and in a way that has yet to be described in cold and clinical reptilian ways. The words are like that for me, and there is simply no other way to put it.

But it was Jezebel who taught me that lesson warped up in girlish giggles, which, nineteen years from sixteen, she still possess. I'd call her cute for it, but she'd tell me to go fuck myself. Although I still might...just because.
 
Belushi is one of those who plays music just because. The band he's in does classic rock covers at summer auto shows. He kicks around playing in a band that does originals, but if he doesn't, it's okay, because he still gets to play.

I had occasion him to see him play the last time I saw Jezebel. It was the first time we'd physically seen one another in almost two years, so it was quite the occasion. We've all been friends for so long I'm the only one who really remembers in detail how Belushi and I spent a year and a half plotting one another's horrible murders only to have a catharsis over late-night coffee.

I harassed Jezebel for looking like a groupie in her denim mini-skirt and Mike Ness t-shirt. She shrugged it off. I was introduced to the circle of friends she runs with these days and we drank beer. That evening, I watched her dance and hoop and holler for her husband's band as they preformed. Things I'd never have imagined her being able able to do even five years ago, although I always hoped she would.

"Well, Mademoiselle sociophobe, I think you've come a long way. Like light years," I told her at one point. "I'm very proud of you."

"Thank you," Jezebel said, giving me a hug. "I owe you a lot."

"Bah! Mon ami, you don't owe me a damn thing. We're more than even."

26 July 2011

Phone Call Complication


The phone rings with a sense of urgency that can only come from getting a call shortly after dawn. I all but jump out of bed, disoriented and terrified. Carmen, lying naked next to me, barely stirs, of which I am grateful as I grab my phone to see who’d be calling me at this hour. The screen is blurry, and I fumble for my glasses.

Out of the molasses of waking I see a name and number that sends a chill down my spine and illicits a sound similar to a growl. I grab a pair of shorts and head for my bathroom. A studio is not a conducive place to have these early conversations from a primordial time before seven years ago. Once my shorts are on, I’ll be out on my building’s communal balcony.

“Hey,” I say as I accept the call. My voice is scratchy, a few beers and the equivalent of a bottle of wine might just do that. I sound tired, being jerked awake after being up rather late enjoying the naked woman in my bed will do that.

“Hi, Joshie,” the twang of her accent tells me how much mine has faded over the last seven years. “I’m sorry to call so early. Did I wake you?”

“Technically, it was my phone ringing that woke me up, Tam” I say, fastening my shorts and stumbling from the bathroom to my coffee table to grab my tobacco, rolling papers, and lighter. “What’s up?”

“It’s about Grandma.”

“What about Grandma?” By this time I’m out on the balcony, scarcely aware of how quickly my hand-rolled is being assembled.

“She’s fading,” Tammy says, and I almost catch what sounds like a sob.

“Tam-Tam,” I say as gently as I can in my exhausted state. “Grandma’s been ‘fading’ for the past ten years. She was starting to go back before my mamma and daddy got killed.”

“Joshua Allen Storm, you asshole!” Tammy snaps, her voice on edge of tears. “Do think I’d call you up this early about Grandma just to hear my head rattle? When I say she’s fading, I fucking mean it!”

“I’m sorry, Tammy,” I say sheepishly. I light my hand-rolled and take the first drag. “What’d they say at the home?”

“Just that she’s getting worse,” Tammy replies. I hear the pause, the deeply held breath. What comes next is harder for her to say than telling me our grandmother is closer to death’s door than she has been. “You should get back here.”

“Shit,” I mutter. “You reckon she’ll even know who I am?”

“She’s been asking about you. That’s why you should come back.”

I consider this. Grandma’s mind has more holes than swiss cheese. It seemed to get worse after my parents getting killed in that train accident. We hadn’t talked in a couple years because half the time Grandma didn’t recognize me. How she’s managed to live ten years is nothing short of miraculous. Tammy and Uncle Joseph, who works at the home she was put in, promised to take care of her. Truthfully, I’ve always had more faith in Tammy than in her father.

“I’m gonna have to make some arrangements,” I say finally.

“I know,” Tammy says. “Just keep me posted.”

“I will, Tam,” I say. “You’ll hear from me soon. Bye.”

“Bye.”

The line goes dead. I finish my hand-rolled and have another. It’s bright, clear, and cool out. Under another set of circumstances, I might’ve brewed some coffee and continued to sit outside with a book. Maybe I’d have thrown on some clothes and gone for a walk. Under another set of circumstances I’d most likely still be asleep next to Carmen because my cousin wouldn’t have called me so early with news about our grandmother.

I activate my phone again and scroll through my contacts. There are arrangements to make. Arrangements I am not looking forward to. With another drag, I make my first call. Kisshandra’s sleepy voice answers. Instinctively, she knows to be concerned.

“Hey, Kiss,” I say softly. “I got a problem and I need to talk. Can you meet me for coffee down at Cafe Nairobi?”

“Give me a half hour,” she says, and that alone makes me feel a lot better.

24 July 2011

The Occasion of the Fuzzy Bunny

The room was lit by a single cobweb shaded light bulb. Within the webbed pattern of dying light, one could make out peeling paint, boarded windows, and water stains. The air was thick and musty with the scents of decaying wood, tile, and a thousand yet unnamed species of fungus. It would be difficult to imagine the space could have ever been inhabitable.

Directly under the sputtering light source, tied to a rickety chair, sat a bloody and bruised husk of what was once a man. Now, he was a prisoner. Perhaps, had he not tried to run, if he answered the inquiries of his captors, he could have avoided his present condition. It hardly mattered now. He knew things they wanted to know, and refused to tell. The effect of this was evident upon his battered body and labored breathing.

There were three of them. One, perhaps the youngest, stood almost out of the light, absently playing with strap of his rucksack. It looked like this may have been his first assignment. The other two were taller and more muscular. Given the sadistic joy they seemed to take in their brutalization indicated they had more experience in this sort of thing. In a sense, they barely passed for human. It would be better to describe them as predators of some infernal abyss.

"Tell us what we need to know!" The first captor roared, lashing out in a backfist, which almost knocked the prisoner over.

"Fuck you...!" He spat. Every so often, he found his consciousness waning. Perhaps, if he was lucky, he would fade into oblivion before he was hit again.

"This is getting us nowhere," the second captor growled, his gaze shifting to the third, "We need to use another form of persuasion."

From his spot, at the edge of the light, the third captor shrugged and pulled the rucksack from his shoulders. He opened it and began rummaging through its contents. The prisoner found himself imagining devices with blades or barbs. Maybe a whip or taser. He was not prepared for what was produced from the rucksack.

It was a louder shade of pink and very fuzzy. The object's long ears tied into a simple bow just above its white ball tall. As it was turned toward the first two captors, the prisoner noticed how their expressions softened at its large cartoonish blue eyes. For a brief moment, the brutality was gone.

"A bunny?" The prisoner rasped.

"The fuzzy bunny," the third captor corrected, then turned his attention his fellows. "Do we really need to do this?"

"If that," the second started, pointing to the prisoner, "would have answered our questions, it wouldn't have come to this."

"Give us the fuzzy bunny," the first added.

"But I just cleaned it!" The third protested. "Do have any idea how long that took? And now you want to use it again?"

"As a matter of fact, yes," the second said plainly. "We need our answers, and we need them now."

"Well, is it okay if I wait outside?" The third asked.

"Why?" There was fear in the prisoner's voice.

"Wait outside?" The first snarled. "It asks a valid question; why?"

"Because I don't want to watch, dammit!" The third exclaimed. "I'm only human after all! Jesus Christ! After the last time..."

"You will stay in here and assist us!" The second snapped. "If you do not, after we finish with that, we will use the fuzzy bunny on you!"

"I understand," the third said sheepishly. "I'll stay."

"Wait..."

There was a weeping sound. A scent of urine and excrement filled the air. The three captors turned to regard their prisoner, whose shoulders shook, and he tried to control his sobs.

"I'll tell you whatever you want to know," the prisoner wheezed. "Just please...not the fuzzy bunny. Anything, but that."

***

Much later, the three captors shared a good meal and exquisite drinks. Their conversation revolved around stories of respective families or hobbies. Usually, when they ate together, they made it a point not to discuss whatever occurred earlier in the day.

This time, was the exception. This time, they talked about how the human imagination could easily concoct the worst possible scenario when given just a suggestion. Even if that suggestion was something as simple a fuzzy bunny.

22 July 2011

Four O'Clock on Friday Afternoon

It’s four o’clock on Friday afternoon. Hazy warm sunlight graces the open doorway of the used bookstore. A lingering kiss from mid-June. It’s hard to believe that the longest day of the year is not even a week off. Days like this are the foreplay of summer.

I have a cousin back home who dreads the longest day of the year. For her, the first day of summer heralds the days getting shorter. Those times when everything is dull and gray and brown and the rain is no longer warm and the damp cold soaks clear through past the marrow. She comes out of it on the shortest day of the year, because it means, day by day, the sun’s going to stay out just a little longer.

My seasonal clock isn’t attuned like that. It doesn’t occur to me that summer’s ending until the leaves start to change color and fall from the trees. Even then, there needs to be at least one hard frost for me to fully understand. For me, winter ends on the first really warm day, and nothing can convince me otherwise. The place I’m trying to get to is right on the equator, and it’s always summer there. Maybe I’m just na├»ve.

It’s four o’clock on Friday afternoon, and I catch myself amazed it’s so near the first official day of summer. The last almost two months seem like a blur. The only reason I know Morgan Zayne last played at Juke on April twenty-third is because someone told me the date. I’d have just remembered it’d been back in the spring.

I guess Carmen Jordan and I are kind of seeing each other. Or at least the fact we sometimes go out, and the vibe is that of more than just trying to be friends, and the fact we’ve slept together a few times, would certainly indicate something to that effect. It’s been light and fun. We’ve been too busy enjoying this for what it is to worry about what it might become.

If Carmen knows that Kisshandra spent the next three days after that fateful Thursday Night Blues at Juke in bed, or if she knows of that level of my relationship with Kisshandra, she’s never let on. I’ve never felt obliged to bring it up. That’s Kisshandra and I, not Carmen. Besides, Kisshandra and I got our mutual wanting to fuck out of our systems for the next while at least, and we do have an understanding, after all.

Rio knew about it. But Rio always knows when Kisshandra and I have our times. She even went as far as to snark about it, when she cleaned my place after the three days.

“Ai! You two certainly were…athletic,” she said.

Another man, Jazz-Cat Johnny Hobbs, I imagine, would’ve taken that remark as a chance to brag about his prowess, but I felt a little embarrassed. Maybe because I know Rio’s Kisshandra’s other part-time lover. I wondered if those two ever had such sessions, and then felt dirty for ever thinking that.

“It was because of Borneo,” I said.

“Has she ever told you about how she’s felt about you and Borneo?” Rio asked.

“Why do you think my place was such a mess?”

“Say no more,” Rio said. “Although, I wish she never had to tell you that.”

It’s four o’clock on Friday afternoon and I have one hour of work left at Archives Rare and Used Bookstore. I can’t even call this my second job from Wildflowers, because I enjoy both so much, neither seems like work. Although my schedules between the two fluctuates constantly.

The day has been blissfully calm. Just enough customers to help the day go, but not enough draw me away from my daydreams. Sometimes, when sitting behind the counter, I read something literary and important, whether it’s out of sincere interest or social expectation depends on the book, and whether or not I read another word of it after the shift is done. Sometimes, I just grab stack of old comics and flip through those.

It’s four o’clock on Friday afternoon, and I have stack of newly acquired records by my satchel behind the counter. Most are vintage reggae, but there’s one or two calypso records as well. A gift from Rollins, who works at one of the music stores we all frequent. I had made and delivered a nice meal for a dinner date for Jules and him. If he wants to pay me in vintage reggae and calypso records, I really have no problem with it.

Not like for a second Jules didn’t know I had a hand in the meal for their dinner date. At thirty-four years old, Tomas Rollins has yet to master boiling water, let alone making a dinner of anything other than frozen pre-packaged convenience food. Me being seen as the cook-Kisshandra refers to me as the gourmet chef-of our little circle of friends, not withstanding, Jules would later tell me she simply knew.

“You do have a style after all,” she said.

“Well, everybody knows that, honeychild,” I said with a wink. “But I can cook too.”

Jules went on to tell me I was being cocky. I argued the point, like a self-righteous idiot. What I was displaying was a healthy self-esteem. We’ve been at this discussion for two weeks and I still haven’t brought Jules around to my way of thinking, and that’s just plumb annoying.

It’s four o’clock on Friday afternoon. The fates, which govern schedules, have been kind. I have nowhere I need to be tomorrow. No jobs, no parties or shows my friends have obligated me to. I have a day for just me, if I want it.

At home, I have two whole chickens, ready to be slathered in my variation of Jamaican jerk seasoning. I have five bottles of wine sitting on one of my racks and a six-pack of beer in the refrigerator. Rio cleaned my place so well two days ago, she borrowed my keys again to show it to a potential client. I have a stack of new acquired records and an itch to play them. As in cooking, I have the ingredients of an interesting evening.

I grab my phone and start tapping away at the keys. With having the potential of an interesting evening, it seems a shame to keep it all to myself. I decide to start with Carmen. If she doesn’t take an interest in my message, I can think of a few others who might.

I just got some old reggae records and I’m making jerk chicken. You wanna?

I haven’t even set my phone down when it buzzes with a response;

Should I bring some ganja?

It’s four o’clock on Friday afternoon and I’m snickering to myself. I begin to type my response to Carmen with a smile on my face. Light and fun, just as our acquaintance has been so far. It looks like I might have my own dinner date.            

20 July 2011

Toasting Borneo

Away from the curious and leering gazes of my friends, that awkward feeling begins to evaporate. It’s not totally different from interacting at the Co-Op. Although, without the wall of professionalism to scale, there is the feeling that something has changed. The formalities of customer and clerk begin to blur, and then fade altogether. A casual pretty face at place has been replaced by someone who might just start hanging around in some other form or fashion.

There are the moments of flirtation, but also moments of getting to know one another a little more than our brief interactions. It’s light. It’s fun. I’m enjoying myself, and I like to think she is too, but I know better than to ask. At least not yet. Asking would ruin it.

It seems almost too soon when Kisshandra, Rio, and Jazz-Cat Hobbs reappear with the shots. I check my watch and it’s eleven-thirty. Close enough to midnight, I suppose. Besides, with the addition of Carmen to the evening, it seems the rules have changed.

“Toast time!” Kisshandra announces, handing out the drinks. “And, Joshua, I’m going to put you on the spot.”

“Oh, Christ! Why?”

“To watch you squirm, hillbilly,” Rio teases with a wink.

“To one of my best friends,” Kisshandra begins. I try not look as uncomfortable as I feel. “To your dreams of Borneo. I pray you one day make it.”

“To Borneo!” Hobbs and Rio both say.

“To Borneo,” I repeat, taking a sip with a smile on my face. It’s not a night out without a toast to Borneo.

“Borneo?” Carmen asks.

“I’m going to move to Borneo,” I say. “My goal is to be there by the time I’m thirty-five.”

“How long does that leave you?” She seems genuinely curious.

“Four years.”

“Why Borneo?”

And I chuckle. It’s been three or four years since it all happened. I no longer remember where or the exact date, but it was that magazine. It was one of those glossy rags that advertised travel to all parts of the globe. Nowhere was too far-flung. It was there I happened upon the article about Borneo.

I read of tree houses, high up in the rain forest canopy. Structures, which could only be accessed by zip-lines. I was entranced. After all, what boy didn’t want to live in a tree fort at one time or another? I decided I would do it as a grown man, even setting the deadline of being in Borneo by the time I was thirty-five. When I first told the others, I remember Rio saying my fate was sealed. Kisshandra just got a sad and faraway look in her eyes.

“Girls never lose boys like you to other girls,” she said when I asked her about it. For three or four years, I’ve never been exactly sure what she meant.

“So, what do you know about Borneo?” Carmen asks after I recount the magazine.

“What’s there to know? There’s jungle and orangutans. I’ll figure out the rest when I get there,” I reply and she has an almost horrified expression on her face, to which I smile. “That’s what got me here.”

“It’s true,” Rio interjects. “He’s lived here for seven years and the three of us have known him almost since the day he got here, and he’s just always kind of flown by the seat of his pants.”

“Making it up as he goes along,” Hobbs adds, toasting me with his empty shot glass. “That’s our Stormy boy.”

“The spontaneous type…”  Carmen muses, moving a little closer to me, when I cast my glance toward Kisshandra, she looks almost impassive, except for that sad and faraway look she gets when Borneo comes up. “Interesting.”

“Well, kids, can we continue this inside?” There’s a sudden urgency in Hobbs' voice. “Zayne’s about to go back on, and Jules told me she and Rollins have a table we can sit at if we get our asses back in.”

“Say no more, Jazz-Cat,” I say, tossing the burned out remains of my hand-rolled away.

So, we continued our evening inside with a blues soundtrack of Morgan Zayne and Tia Williams. It is simply divine. Jules and Tomas Rollins had secured us a big table near the stage, which is why Hobbs was so insistent on us getting back inside. Those kind of tables can be a rare commodity on Thursday Night Blues at Juke. Especially when Morgan Zayne is playing and even moreso when Tia Williams joins him for a second set. There’s a round of drinks waiting for us upon arrival, Kisshandra’s treat. This means the next round will most likely be mine.

I catch up with Jules and Rollins, neither of which I’ve seen in a few weeks. The girls dance. Aside from talking to me, Carmen engages in conversations with the others, which I find to be a good thing. Every so often, I look toward Kisshandra. She seems serene as always, but I occasionally notice that sad and faraway look in her eyes, and at one point, it looks like she might cry. This worries me.

As much as I want to talk to her about it, it’s a little hard. There are other conversations we all catch ourselves having. The righteous blues being performed before our very eyes is not something that can be easily ignored. There’s dancing and getting a fresh round of drinks and shots. Priorities or distractions, depending on how it’s looked at.

I finally do catch up with Kisshandra outside of the bathrooms. She beams at me and gives me a warm hug. I catch a slight grinding motion within her hips in time to the music, which is more than a little arousing. I pull her closer for a moment before meeting her gaze.

“I like Carmen,” she says. “I hope she starts coming around more.”

“I’m glad,” I say. “There’s been a way you’ve been acting that got me to wondering.”

“Don’t be silly, Joshua!” Kisshandra laughs. “Carmen’s not the first girl I’ve seen you go home with, and she won’t be the last. Besides, we have our way of being. John once made that mistake with me.” I raise an eyebrow to her as a piece of the puzzle of her history with Hobbs slides into place. “That’s another reason he loves you; because you can deal with me the way I am and not bat an eye. He couldn’t.”

“Wow,” I say. “I never knew.”

“You’ve always been too much of a southern gentleman to ask.”

“I guess I was worried because when we were toasting out on the patio, and I was telling Carmen about Borneo, you got a weird look,” I say. “You’ve looked like you wanted to break down a couple of times.”

Kisshandra’s expression becomes deathly serious. Suddenly, she’s pressing her lips to mine. There’s a small part of me that wonders if Carmen sees this what she’ll think. That part is drowned out in the moment. I’m too intoxicated with the sensation of our kiss, the urgency of it, the strength of Kisshandra’s embrace. The last time we kissed so savagely, we were thrown out of a Latino discotheque for getting a little too frisky in a stairwell.

Then she’s pulling away. Almost pushing herself from my arms. I want to hold tighter, but I know better. This is Kisshandra. As Rio once observed, she doesn’t really belong to anyone. Apparently, Hobbs made that mistake once.

“Joshua, I love you. I really do,” Kisshandra says, her eyes are wet. “You’re one of my best friends. Don’t ever worry about another girl when it comes to me. If you decided you wanted to get married or something, I’d miss you…I’d miss us like that, but I love you too much to even dream of stopping you. You’re not the type to be stopped.”

“Okay?” I’m a little confused. “Then what’s wrong?”

“When you told Carmen about Borneo, it just reminded me of something,” Kisshandra replies. “The fact you set your mind to something and you end up doing it. I have never worried about losing you to a girl, because boys like you don’t get taken away by girls.” She stops a moment to wipe away a single tear rolling down her cheek, I want to do something to comfort her, but her body language keeps me at arm’s length. “I know I’m going to lose you someday, and it breaks my heart. It’s not a girl I’m going to lose you to, I’m going to lose you to Borneo.”

19 July 2011

Badlands [Lament, Prayer, and Hymn]

One of my misguided poetic attempts. This was done to someone I was saying goodbye to. Done and over. All the same, I wished them a little luck...

I see lines through names
and I know what it is you are doing,
Walking away
and cauterizing wounds,
A wise course of action
but be mindful of the infections,
Septic self-destruction
bubbling up from psychic wounds,
I know this better
than most,
Though you might know
more than I

Sometimes you must go into the badlands
to learn the lesson anew,
To see with fresh eyes
and gain a different perspective,
Whether the badlands are the dirt and rock
beneath your feet,
Or somewhere within
the recesses of your soul,
It doesn't matter
it's all one and the same

Learn the lesson
of oblivion,
Face the demon in the dark
and have it over for tea,
Kiss the angel
upon the forehead,
Take a picture
of a lotus and a dragonfly,
Have a simple moment
of zen excellence

Humptey-Dumptey had a great fall-
Humptey-Dumptey needs to put themselves
back together again,
Without all the kings horses
and all the kings men

Remember-
Despite everything
that has happened before or since,
There are those
who will wish you luck on your sojourn
out in the badlands,
Who despite everything
that has happened before of since,
Wish you well

-7, July 2006 CE

16 July 2011

Quantum Muse

I have fallen in and out of love in a day, having a life-long affair between dawn and dusk. I gave a week out of respect for the dead months-years? Lifetimes?-before I actually said goodbye. I was with someone for twelve years upon our first kiss. It was a week ago my daughter was the length of my forearm. Two days before that, I graduated from high school, vowing to never set foot there again. Two days from now, my little girl will be a grown woman, telling me she's met the love of her life, and asking me not use their skull as a trophy. I had coffee with my grandmother, even though she's been ashes for years.

Time is an abstract. I have looked into the jaws of entropy and the belly of oblivion. It's one and the same.

A picture book of Africa, given to me by my great grandmother, sits on a shelf in my house. Lifetimes ago, I wanted to be a zoologist and live there. There are those who playfully accuse me of being as obsessed with the Mother Land, which was once called the Dark Continent, as I am with the mountain enclave I've come to call home. I knew someone who would say we all have our Africas, just as I say we all have our Kashmirs. Snake chasing its tale, things have come full circle.

Although I don't believe in fate, I sometimes catch myself wondering. The universe works in queer and amusing ways. I'll be sixty and still wearing that ratty flannel robe. I'll have been to and from Africa at least twice, if not more. Until then, I'll revel in the moment, enjoying the fact my heart is still beating and I still draw breath.

15 July 2011

In the Hour before Midnight

After the shots and the beginnings of a fresh beer I find myself in that happy warm place right before the buzz kicks in and things can get either interesting or pear-shaped. A few other mutual acquaintances have happened by, and Hobbs has been more than happy to snatch them away to the bar for shots, all in the name of catching up, leaving me to nurse my second beer. That’s fine. It’s only eleven.

I have a personal rule, even when Hobbs is-no pun intended-calling the shots; I try to keep my wits about me until midnight. The witching hour. After the witching hour, all bets are off. I have an hour to go.

Morgan Zayne has been wailing away, pulling out old songs from back when we all first started coming to Thursday Night Blues at Juke. Rio was the one who heard him before the rest of us and demanded we come and check him out. It goes without saying that we were not disappointed. I think of him being like good wine, getting better and better with age.

No matter the nature of my acquaintance with Kisshandra, we always dance to the song Rattlesnake Waltz. Tonight was no different. Even if we don’t end up in bed tonight, I know I’ll fall asleep comforted in the knowledge that we got our moment on the dance floor that one tune.

Morgan Zayne announces he’s taking a break, but when comes back, another local talent, Tia Williams, will be joining him. We all cheer. Tia Williams is this mere slip of a woman who has never smoked anything in her life, but sings with the voice of someone three times her size who has smoked two packs a day for twenty years. I once had a chance to meet her and told her I wanted her to take me home and read me bedtime stories in that husky voice of hers.

So, I roll myself a cigarette and motion to the others that I’m stepping out on the patio. It’s muggy inside and the lines to the bar and bathrooms will be impossible for at least the next five minutes. Kisshandra and Rio each grab an arm and I shoot Hobbs a wink as we head toward the door. I don’t bother to check to see if he’s following because I know the answer.

Outside is cooler. Perfect. I light up, drawing the smoke slowly in, allowing its ghostly fingers to tickle and claw at my innards. Hobbs motions for me to roll him a cigarette and I indulge him. That’s fair. After all, he’s buying my shots.

It’s a beautiful night out, clear and clean. A good night for blues and standing out on patios with hand-rolled cigarettes. I contemplate a walk along the canal later, depending on how the night goes. Right now, as Rio observed, the night is still young.

“I didn’t know you smoked,” her voice is familiar, and, for some reason, I find myself blushing at the sound of it as I turn to see her.

Carmen Jordan always wears a straw cowboy hat. The difference between seeing her at the Twelfth Street Co-Op and out is the fact her thick red hair is not tied into tight pigtails. She’s not the type of girl to wear make-up, so seeing the tease of lipstick on her kiss-me-please mouth is a little shocking. I almost want to ask her if this means she shaved her legs and armpits. Despite the incongruence of lipstick, the playful dusting of freckles across her creamy-colored skin and intense hazel eyes stand out the most.

“No wonder you want to fuck her,” Kisshandra said the one time she was with me at the Co-Op and saw Carmen. “She looks like some kind of down-home tomboy. In fact, I think I wouldn’t mind a shot.”

“I saw her first!” I argued. “Find your own Co-Op hippie to crush on.”

Carmen is the type who avoids cellular telephones and microwave ovens for health concerns, of which she’s more than happy to share the research on. She works at the Co-Op because she likes the idea helping out her community through foodstuffs and the knowledge of where that food came from and how it was produced. The fact I cook at Wildflowers, and is often in charge of getting the restaurant’s order, is one of the reasons we talk.

“It never came up in conversation,” I say finally, taking a drag from my cigarette.

“Even with where you shop and work…” Carmen starts and I feel like I’m being scolded.

 “A man’s gotta have his vices, I reckon,” I say uncomfortably, before regaining my conversational footing. “Besides, why are you wearing lipstick?”

Carmen giggles, childlike in its shyness. I think I catch a faint hint of blushing. The others are watching. Hobbs is actually smirking, which is making me nervous.

“Call it a slight casual dressing up, Southern boy,” she says finally. I realize, dressed in a green and black soccer jersey, jeans, and cowboy boots, I have no room to really preach.

“The ‘Southern boy’s’ name is Joshua,” Hobbs interjects. “But we call him Stormy.”

“Thank you, Jonathan,” I all but sneer. “Now, don’t you have some Neil Young and Gordon Lightfoot you should be listening to while watching hockey and eating Canadian bacon?”

“That’s ham, you dick!” He shoots back, and I chuckle.

“It’s funnier to harass him about that when he’s drunker,” I say to Carmen. “But forgive the Jazz-Cat. After all, he’s…Canadian.”

“Oh, you poor thing,” she says, lightly touching his arm. “Is there anything you can take for that?”

“Nobody likes you, Stormy, you hillbilly,” Hobbs grumbles. “We just hang out with you because we feel sorry for you.”

“So you’re name is Joshua?” Carmen inquires in a bashful tone.

“Yes, Ma’am,” I say, hoping to dissolve some of the awkwardness, I take another drag from my cigarette and point toward my friends. “I don’t know if I introduced to my friend, Kisshandra Norbu, when she was with me at the Co-Op that one time. Next to her is Rio Santiago. The sourpuss with the funny nasally accent is the phenomena that is the Jazz-Cat, Johnny Hobbs.”

“You keep making fun of me and you’re buying your own shots,” he warns in a playful tone.

“Speaking of which,” Kisshandra interjects, “why don’t we leave Joshua alone for a few and go get some shots? Miss…?”

“Jordan. Carmen Jordan.”

“Carmen, would you like a shot as well?” Kisshandra asks. “John is buying. His way of making up for being an ass.”

“What?!?” Hobbs looks a little confused, but shrugs when the girls both shoot him a look.

“I’d love one,” Carmen says. “Thank you.”

“We’ll be back in a few,” Kisshandra says.

I want to thank her, but also ask her if this is okay, me talking to the cute girl from the Co-Op. Especially given the way we started our evening together. There’s a look in Kisshandra’s dark eyes that stops me. One that promises me we’ll be talking about this later. Just what exactly we’ll be talking about has yet to be decided. After all, the night is young. With that in mind, I take another slow drag from my hand-rolled, and turn to face Carmen.

“So,” I begin, hoping I don’t sound half as awkward as I suddenly catch myself feeling. “Alone at last.”

13 July 2011

Peddling Poison Elsewhere

Friends, Romans, countrymen-and women, to be fair-complete strangers, and other assorted bipeds of the hominid genus,

So, it was given as an invitation, but I took it as something of a dare. Taking a dare has gotten me into trouble in the past, but it's also led to grant adventures. This particular wager was to post a story elsewhere, and in doing so, I have a piece at Starlight's blog, Crazy Thoughts;

http://crazythaughts.blogspot.com/2011/07/guest-post-7-jezebel-by-robbie-grey.html

If you are so inclined, go give it a look...

Kai pei...

12 July 2011

Thursday Night Blues at Juke

I just get past the door girl at Juke when there was scream from an electric slide guitar that sends a chill down my spine and ignites a sensation of excitement in belly, of which would cause the Evangelicals back home to wave their Bibles and preach fire and brimstone of the evil inherent in the Devil’s Music. Those doomsday voices in my head are drowned out by another kind of preaching; a dark and smoky voice of a man who has been to Hell and back and maybe has a party bungalow along the river Styx. Morgan Zayne. Thankfully, I made it just in time to catch his first set. Hobbs isn’t so lucky.

My eyes scan the crowds for a familiar face. I half wonder if Carmen Jordan, that cute redhead over at the Twelfth Street Co-Op is here. When I was picking up supplies for work and my own groceries, I’d mentioned Thursday Night Blues at Juke and how fun it was, even saying she should check it out. Especially if Morgan Zayne was playing, like he is tonight.

I quickly dismiss the thought. The Co-Op, where I get my own food and the order for work at the restaurant, is not the type of place I go looking for a date, no matter how attractive some of the staff is or how much we sometimes flirt. I was starting to let my imagination run away with me. After all, I might know Carmen’s full name, but she only knows me as Southern boy.

Then I see Kisshandra. She’s dancing up by the stage, and looking quite flattering in her tank top and jeans. Suddenly my silly little crush on Carmen, if it could be called that, is out of my mind. I work my way through the crowd, coming up behind Kisshandra. My arms wrap around her waist and I pull her close to me. She smiles as my lips brush against her ear.

“Hey, baby,” I say. She leans back further, the grin on her face is serene.

“It’s getting to be that time of year already?” She asks, her breath is hot and seductive in my ear.

“Quite possibly,” I reply. “Unless you have some prior commitments.”

“We’ll discuss it later,” she says flippantly, looking at her watch. Then, she pulls away. “Now, go find Rio. She’s at the bar getting our first round.”

“That girl is too kind.”

“And, oh! John just texted.”

“What did the Jazz-Cat say?”

“That when he gets here it’s shot-thirty.”

“Oh, mercy me. One those kind of nights?”

“Maybe,” Kisshandra says, starting to sway again. “Now, go find Rio. I want to dance.”

And so I work my way through the crowds in the direction of the bar. Rio might be one tough little chick, but trying to manage three drinks on Thursday Night Blues at Juke, especially when Morgan Zayne is playing, could be problematic. Although, grabbing my beer from her will hardly count as a gallant rescue, she’ll at least appreciate the effort.

Rio has just finished procuring our drinks when I get to her. At five foot three-and a half! she’d add-there is something doll-like about her. Well, if there was a doll in existence that would kick your ass for calling her short, cursing in Spanish, Portuguese, and whatever indigenous dialect her family’s people speaks, while doing it. She was the first generation of her family to be born in the States, but she still has many relatives somewhere in South America that nobody has ever heard of unless someone with money is kidnapped by members of a drug cartel.

When we first met, she had already had a few involvements with Kisshandra. I worried about there being jealousy or some sort of weird competition. Rio seemed to find this funny. She explained her relationship with Kisshandra was much like mine, and, in fact, Kisshandra was not the type to belong to anyone, as it were. It made sense and Rio and I agreed to not sleep with Kisshandra at the same time, literally or figuratively.

“Thanks for the drink, dearheart,” I begin, grabbing a bottle of beer. “Reckon I owe you a round.”

“That’s usually how it works,” Rio says with a smile. “Has anyone heard from Hobbs yet?”

“Kisshandra got a text,” I reply. “Shot-thirty.”

“Ai!” Rio exclaims, but then shrugs and toasts my beer with her own. “I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have any plans for tomorrow. You?”

“It looks like my plan might include recovering from tonight, but no work, thankfully. Do you need help with the drinks?”

“I’ve got Kisshandra’s,” Rio replies before shooting me a sly smile. “Unless you were trying to be romantic.”

“Well, if you already had your own plans…”

“Joshua, it’s okay,” Rio says, bumping me with her hip playfully, which reminds me of what a great friendship I have with her. “The night’s young. After all, Hobbs isn’t even here yet.”

We make our way back to Kisshandra through a writhing mass of humanity, bumping and grinding to the dirtiest of blues. Out of my peripheries, I occasionally think I see someone I recognize. I never bothered to ask Rio or Kisshandra if anyone else was meeting us other than Hobbs. The four of us made up something of a nucleus of evolving and revolving characters. Thursday Night Blues at Juke was one of our main focal points.

The Jazz-Cat is dancing with Kisshandra as we walk up. Hobbs is tall and skinny with frizzy light brown hair. His glasses are tinted square things, as opposed to my John Lennon’s, as he often calls them, and he’s always smartly dressed.

Kisshandra twists around him like a serpent, and he moves in kind. Once more, I find myself curious about the history those two may have had. Even Rio raises an eyebrow, which further intrigues me, seeing as she’s known them longer.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d be a little jealous,” she says. “I haven’t seen them dance like that since right before you started coming around.”

Hobbs sees us first, and all but shoves Kisshandra away from him. The two of them walk up, Kisshandra taking her beer from Rio with a kiss on the cheek and calling us both her loves, which is nothing new. Hobbs gives Rio a hug and shakes my hand.

“I’m glad you made it, Stormy,” he says.

“It’s Thursday and Morgan Zayne’s playing,” I shoot back. “You think I was gonna stay home and read and miss this?”

“My man!” Hobbs declares, grabbing a sip from my beer. He’s pulling me away from the girls, who have gone back to dancing like we were never even there. “I’ll help you finish this on the way back to the bar and get you another. Kiss might’ve told you what time it is.”

“Shot-thirty,” I say, having a drink of beer. “Reckon it’s a good thing I don’t have no plans for tomorrow.”

“God would laugh at you if did,” Hobbs chuckles, taking my bottle, and having a swig.

11 July 2011

Breaking the Bank

Once, back when I lived in the greater metroplex, and was dancing with the dead for money, I was standing in a line. I was wearing what I called my la mang jacket, which has the Tibetan Wheel of Life painted on the back. On the right lapel, there is one of those ribbon pins. A green one, showing support for organ and tissue donation. An at-a-boy lasting over a year. Eventually, I would rename this garment my graveyard jacket because of the memorial patch for Jibril I'd have stitched on the sleeve. The pin and thangka, however, are important to this story.

As I was standing in line, someone bumped into me. He was an older male, looking about my father's age, pressed and immaculate in an expensive suit that stank of pretension. When our eyes met, he scowled at me, even though he was the one who did the bumping. I was raised with manners and etiquette, and said excuse me politely.

For some asinine reason I've never been able to ascertain, this somehow became my fault. I committed the affront. Probably because I have long hair and piercings, and was wearing a la mang jacket with Tibetan religious art on the back. Obviously, I must've been some kind of thug.

I let him rant. He was a banker, and he didn't need to put up with this kind of shabby crap from someone like me, for he was oh so far above that. During the course of his diatribe, I pushed some my hair away from my right lapel, exposing the green ribbon pin.

"Oh, what cause do you support?" He asked me in a condescending tone. Courtesy dictated I respond.

"It's for organ and tissue donation. See, I pre-screen potential donors."

"Really?"

My eyes narrowed. Now, were I as enlightened as the Dalai Lama, I could've propagandized and proselytized about the benefits of transplantation. Perhaps find out if he was a registered donor himself.

However, I am not as enlightened as the Dalai Lama. I really doubt I am enlightened at all. I had been slighted by some pretentious cunt in a pouncy suit. The look in his eyes conveyed I had gotten his attention with that little ribbon pin.

"Tell me, Sir," I began with a civil smile and formal tone. "You say you're a banker. Might I inquire what happens if you screw up at your job?"

"Well, it could mess up someone's account or ruin someone's credit, and that can take years to fix," he replied.

I chuckled. I had him...

"Oh, is that all?" My tone got a slight venomous edge to it, and then I growled. Some of the bipeds in line turned in our direction. "Well, Sir, at my job, were I to fuck up an organ case, I have potentially murdered seven to ten human beings. I have a close personal friend who is trying to get a kidney, and he could not get one if I am remiss. If I fuck up a tissue case, that's upward of fifty individuals that could not benefit, and I'll not go on about the research possibilities." I growled again. "And you have the audacity to look down your snout at me because you play with folding pieces of paper? You, Sir, are a waste of skin and thief of oxygen."

Now, I am not intimidating, but as I was speaking-I never raised my voice, despite growling-the banker's demeanor changed. He went from pretentious to terrified. It was as if a hellbeing had manifested in front of him, and was getting ready to go for his liver, after removing his genitals.

"I...I'm sorry," he stammered. "I didn't know..."

"That's right, you didn't know," I growled. "Do not assume and do not judge."

I spun on my heel. I was still in line, and my place was coming up. Besides, my father taught me once one makes their point, shut up. There was part of me, which felt very bad for the shaken and humiliated banker who now stood behind me, but now at a fearfully respective distance. Perhaps I shouldn't have snapped at him. There was another aspect that was impressed with myself for restraining from just eating him.

When I got to the end of the line, the cat in charge of it mouthed I was his new hero. Were I given to arrogance, I might have remarked how when I'm on, my words are like poisoned bullets, and I can kneecap the world. However, I know arrogance is weakness, which leads to suffering and perpetuates samsara. I inclined my head respectively, my own thanks for the complement, and left the line.

09 July 2011

American Static

It wasn't too long ago when I came across a story by Garrison Keillor regarding county and state fairs. Americana at its best. Once upon a time, I referred Garrison Keillor as one of my guilty pleasures, but I don't think that's completely true. Now cock rock, there's a guilty pleasure. At least to me, and part of me feels quite dirty in the admission of it. Sometimes, when contemplating whiskey or having had a little too much wine I find myself trolling the spider's web for old, old hair metal videos.

Those tales are not this one...

Back in the North Carolina, my father and I would listen to A Prairie Home Companion on the radio, or even watch it on the telly on occasion. Sometimes, my mother and siblings were there too. My favorite part was when Garrison Keillor would tell a story, his voice was like the great rivers and chocolate and soda and all the things good and wholesome about living somewhere rural. I think back to those stories now and wonder if I look hard enough on the spider's web if I'll find A Prairie Home Companion these days, or perhaps just archives of those stories I used to hear as an adolescent.

It's getting on a few years ago now when my father and I struck out for the North Carolina for what we both hoped would be the very last time. We were getting things from his mother's house before the rest of the southern relatives sold it off and carved up the bits of her estate that weren't going to my brother, sister, and I. There was a cooler full or beer and bottle of fine Irish whiskey. With resignation that this little trip wasn't going to do itself and some excitement over a having a father/son adventure-despite the auspice-we were on our way.

A game of ours was to hit the seek button on the radio and find a classic rock station. We would listen to it until the static came and swallowed the signal whole, and then hit the seek button once more, searching. I like the sound of static. More to the point, I like catching the disembodied signals through it. There is something haunting about it one does not find whilst listening to a satellite station, streamed music, or one of those portable players. I have a hard time putting this particular pleasure of mine into language.

We were crossing the badlands along a stretch of road near Topeka, where we would have to pay tolls to cross through labyrinthine cites to cross the first of the great rivers of the American Empire heading east. My father was mutherfuckering this circumstance. I was noticing the midwestern twilight and lamenting having put the American Maghreb behind me. I was missing my daughter and Sabina and all the tiny things that made that part of the world more my home than anywhere east ever was. It was my turn to hit the seek button.

And there is was; A Prairie Home Companion on the radio. I smiled at my father and he chuckled, as if to ask me if I remembered those younger days. We got my favorite part of Garrison Keillor telling a story, his voice was like the great rivers and chocolate and soda and all the things good and wholesome about living somewhere rural. Then the static began to creep in. I adjusted the volume, and leaned in closer, saying a mantra under my breath, as if I hoped that would somehow sharpen my hearing. Garrison Keillor's voice began to be swallowed. The signal began to turn to noise.

"You going to change that?" My father asked me, but I wasn't listening. "Son? Hey! Boy!"

"The story's not finished yet!" I protested, it was like I was fourteen years old all over again.

Then there was a rush of static, like a wave. A new signal, a new voice, came on the radio. It was some doomsday zealot's voice speaking in the tongues of judgment. I looked up at my father with a weak smile and shrug.

"Mei fei tsu," I muttered, hitting the seek button and reaching back into the cooler for another beer. I took a long swig, as if mourning for a sense of innocence lost.

08 July 2011

Prelude; The Getting Ready Thoughts

Jazz, fast and punchy, plays from my stereo. Mood music for the night. It’s from the community AM station, so it sounds like it’s tuned in from Borneo through a tin can, but I listen anyway. Hi-fidelity is for when I’m listening to my private music collection or I’m at a show, not for when I listen to the radio, and hardly anyone listens to the radio anymore. I’m just as guilty of that as anyone else.

But the jazz is on and I’m going out tonight. Also, I know the DJ who is playing this righteous music. I count him amongst my closest friends. It’s the man, the legend, the phenomena that is the Jazz-Cat, Johnny Hobbs. During the course of his show, although he’s made no mention of our plans for the night, he’s dedicated songs to those of us he expects to see; Rio and Kisshandra. He hasn’t gotten to me. Not yet. I don’t take this as an insult. Jazz-Cat Hobbs gives his shout-outs to the ladies first. That’s just how it is.

I actually catch myself thinking of Kisshandra, more than Hobbs, as I’m getting ready. She’s the reason I know everyone. Back when I first moved here, I was wanting to do the whole reset; new place, new life, new everything. I’d grown my curly blond hair to that perfect length before it became an unruly mess and got back in habit of wearing my glasses again, because I always felt fake with contacts.

There was the matter of the African show. Thinking back, that’s how it all really started. When moving, I had been listening to my daddy’s copy of Paul Simon’s Graceland almost non-stop. I remember something in the liner notes about the producer working with a group called Juluka and thanking an artist named Johnny Clegg. I got curious. Where I came from, there wasn’t a lot of acceptance of music from other parts of the world, let alone access to it. But I came from a small town in the rural south nobody would ever hear of unless there was a murder there that somehow earned national attention.

So, I got into Johnny Clegg and Juluka by way of an old Paul Simon record. The African stuff sure was cool, but there was so much more I discovered during trips to late-night record shops, stuff from Israel to Cuba, from Hungary to Indonesia, and just about anywhere else between. I found this to be a great layer on top of the classical and gospel training I’d received growing up against, which I’d rebelled with the raunchiest of blues and blackest of metal.

It was through one of my trips to the late-night record shops I found out about the African show and decided to check it out. The audience was an interesting mix; curios, like me, those who were either out for some cultural slumming or wanted to be another type of person than what they already were, native supporters, and those who just sincerely liked what was being played. It was my goal to one day be more like the last bit of demographic.

I was getting a beer when I met Kisshandra. Her mother was daughter of someone important in some African country nobody would ever hear of unless the Big Man was savagely murdered in a bloody coup or the genocide stories were ever proven to be more than myth, and her father was Sherpa who could walk up the grand Himalayan peaks backward while blindfolded and carrying a couple hundred pounds of gear. Somehow, out of this union, Kisshandra had spent some formative years in England, giving her the kind of clipped and clean accent of which Americans imagine being spoken in Buckingham Palace. There was also the fact she was covered almost completely with rather intricate and expensive tattoos, giving one the impression of worldly punk rock.

And really, what could’ve been more punk rock than being at an African show drinking beer with a blond-haired, blue-eyed southern boy? Instantly, I was in love. Well, probably just lust. In the heat of the moment it’s hard to tell and even harder to figure if it really matters.

Instantly, we got along. Clicked, on some primal level. Perhaps having the commonality of obscure places in our backgrounds at some point made us kindred spirits. Maybe it was luck. It’s only rarely we try to find a reason and then decide to forget about it until the next debate.

We did try to be a couple at one point, but that wasn’t us. It would play out we were incredibly close friends, who would just happen to fuck once or twice year. Given I find myself thinking of the ink-work running along Kisshandra’s perfectly sculpted stomach and getting a little excited in other-than-platonic-ways tells me we’re getting close to one of those times of year.

It was through her I met Rio, Kisshandra’s other on-again, off-again. Rio runs a housekeeping business and does my place for no money, but the price of advertising pictures to potential customers. It’s a fair deal, I think. I keep her, and a few of the others in free food, from my cook’s gig, and books, from my other gig at the used bookstore a block from my place.

And, of course, Kisshandra introduced me to the phenomena that is the Jazz-Cat, Johnny Hobbs. He would make fun of my southern twang, but I’d fuck with him from being from Toronto. Despite our own north/south dichotomy, we get along famously. I know he’s had a history with Kisshandra, but he’s never gone into much detail about it. My love and respect of both of them has prevented me from asking.

“Well, now, it’s Johnny Hobbs, the Jazz-Cat, getting ready to sign off” his voice tells me what time it is. I begin to roll a cigarette. “This last song goes out to my Stormy boy! Joshua Storm! I know you’re listening before you go out on the town! And for a cool, hep-cat, I want to give you something really cool…”

Miles Davis. Off of Birth of the Cool, no less. I light my hand-rolled and, after the first drag, toast the empty air between myself and the radio, thinking how Hobbs certainly knows what I like. I’m smiling as I finish getting ready. Life is good. We’re going out tonight.

07 July 2011

Joiner

It has been a long standing joke of mine that I am a member of the National Geographic Society by virtue of a 'zine subscription, and that's the closest I get to joining anything. After all, I am paradoxically misanthropic. I mistrust those half-bald primates, which walk upon two legs and call themselves Man. Even and especially when they're in groups of two or more.

On a more abstract level, I know I am a part of things whether I like it or not. A relationship, a family, a community, a species, a planet, a universe. All things are interconnected in ways that the most brilliant scientists, philosophers, and theologians struggle to find an all-inclusive language for. The words that would shake us all from the gray apathy of egocentricism we all become entangled in at one point or another whether or not we ever want to admit to it.

Upon that more egocentric level, perhaps it was nurture; the bullying I was on the receiving end of growing up. Being picked last. From the zoological standpoint, I know the other whelps we trying to find the shapes of their hierarchies in their packs, but becoming an exile at such a tender age did leave its scars. Things that still haunt me to this day.

But maybe it was also nature; I have always tended to be more solitary. Sometimes, I find myself aggravated when someone, even one of the quadrupeds, wants to share my company. It could be, back then, there were times, as I was trying to find my own shape and come to grips with that paradoxical misanthropy of mine that I might have tried too hard.

And it's not like I didn't try. There was a few years in the Cub Scouts and 4-H. Neither of which I particularly excelled at. From eighth grade to my sophomore year, I tried the history club because it seemed interesting, but never picked it back up after that. At one point or another, it comes up I do not work and play well with others, be it socially or professionally. Nature and nurturer made manifest in the monster that is me.

Lee was part of a biker tribe for a couple years after I moved to the mountains. Whenever we communicated, he neglected to mention this. It only came up when he was considering cutting his ties with group, as to be a better father to his son. The perspective of parenting aside, I chided him for feeling he needed to a part of herd so bad. I know terms like sheep and cattle came up in the discussion.

"You know me," he said. "I'm a joiner."

Despite the exasperation in his voice, he finally told me about his group affiliation for the fact I was not the most social of cats in the best of times. Just as he was the more extroverted and inclined to want to be a part of something, I was more inclined to watch. I like to watch. It's within the framework of this juxtaposition that our friendship functions as it does. 

A few days ago, I was at the Tea Room procuring some Moroccan Mint to help combat my allergies. One of the waitstaff sits upon the board for our funky little township's historical society. She asked me if I would be interested in a position. I bit my tongue from asking what kind of position and if Sabina and her husband would get to watch, but told her I would think about it.

Perhaps I'd be drinking a little bit more wine and whiskey than usual...

"You two are interested in the history and come to most the events we put on for preservation efforts," the museum curator mentioned when I spoke to her on the subject. "Why not make it official?"

The president of the board, my two doors down neighbor, a man you do not meet insomuch as experience, and I stayed up late into a night shortly thereafter. I'd like to say we were drinking lemonade and reading the Christian bible, but all that translates into is we were contemplating whiskey and he was telling me stories spanning from the halcyon times of the mining days to a year of two before Sabina and I showed up on the scene. When my being asked to be on the board came up, he confessed he had wanted at least one of us ever since we moved in.

"If I fucking do this, will it shut ya'll up?" A question I'd put to Lee more than once over the course of our friendship, which has been the source of trouble starting and high adventure.

"You'll make it look easy," my neighbor said.

"Tally-ho," I muttered, taking a sip of whiskey, realizing I was committed, or maybe should be.

The upside to all this is I might be a little closer to having our place in the world declared a World Heritage Site, should I want to be that kind of aggressive in pursuing it. I will perhaps uncover and collect more stories about the ruins, which pepper that mountainsides surrounding our funky little township. Means to an end.

Be that as it may, that paradoxically misanthropic aspect of me wonders just what in the fuck I've gotten myself into...