April 7, 2009

The Gripe



Mockingbird on a fence watching the scene: two rough & tumble dogs playing puppy on sidewalk front of coffee shop in Faubourg St. John…fat lady reasoning with them: “Now Henry, now Henry, you know you’re not supposed to do that”…yanking on leash…younger woman looking impassively at her from opposite bench…fat lady’s mouth going a mile-a-second about the important things in life…the poor dog needed a $500 operation she couldn’t afford it but did it anyway she couldn’t let the dog die…when it does die she'll probably spend another $500 to enbalm and bury it...mourners...headstone...candles...a shrine!...she worships the goddam dog...somebody to talk to...she goes on and on…her mother died 20 years ago next month…Mayor Nagin needs to be thrown in prison…the streets are awful…dangerous even walking in the Quarter anymore…it’s 36 degrees in New York…it shouldn’t be so cold here this time of year usually by now we’re sweating…at least the wind died down…and on and on and on…her yapper never stops…irritated I get up calmly walk 50 feet down sidewalk to smoke in sunlight standing in front of deserted house watching mockingbird watching dogs…he flies…I can hear her from here talking to Henry again…she is using logic…reasoning with them…they pay her no mind at all smarter than she…do dogs understand demonstrative adjectives or nuances of subject and predicate?...Surprise to me…soon she will explain to those the Theory of Relativity…and teach them to turn a doorknob…in the yard where mockingbird was grows a lovely Hibiscus…I keep my eyes on it trying to focus what was it? Oh yeah how to make some money with words…my problem that I never concentrated on making money I see it now Big Jim was right… make them pay for every mile…ever drop of paint thinner every piece of sandpaper every minute you are there and tack 20% onto everything you buy then add another 5% because you know something will go wrong…don’t let the bastards get away with anything…and never put your tools away until the guy says the job is finished and hands you the check or better the cash…thinking all this because I’m hocking tools again to make it day-to-day…pisses me off!...battery not charging…standing on streets all over town jumper cables in hand till a kind-hearted person who’s been through it stops to hook me up…sometimes it charges sometimes it doesn’t…thank God for the kindness of strangers…thank yourself for the mess you’re in…but sick of this…three years in this damned van what’s the matter with me…arrested emotional development probably…falling in love!...Jesus Christ Mike…sixty-seven years old…who do you love?...nobody…the flowers…the ruthless birds…the sunburned beaches and wise old trees...Venus the evening star...the lowering sky with fluffy gray clouds…warm wind in my hair…the triumphant surf…fresh-caught fish…campfires…the mysterious stars…silence…blessed marijuana...the natural world…tigers…male lions…



elephants…little babies…whew there’s a human being on my love list after all…maybe all is not lost…Wes I guess how can I not?...Johnny Mo…Jan the K...Abel Garcia…Micah…several lost women…Marc…Marc’s dad…yeah I guess I love some people but don’t think about it much or maybe too much…my son…painful love that…if I’d had my way he’d never have been born…now look at all the trouble he’s got…welcome to the human race…woman said to me “I love history” … told her I hate it…she didn’t get it…O well…wish I didn’t have to talk at all…so sick of the yapping yakkety yaking blah blahing human race…mouths never stop…all over the planet!...yakking from sunup to the late-late show talking in their sleep talking to themselves walking down the street talking to anybody with ears...talking to dogs & cats even talking to plants!...okay maybe plants feel good vibes…cats & dogs do too who knows maybe even the fish and insects pick up on our vibes...everything's connected anything is possible…but do they ever shut up?...TRY MENTAL TELEPATHY!...99% inconsequentialities and one percent content lost in the cross-transmission because the other cat is talking too…you cannot transmit and receive simultaneously…SHUT UP!...just shut the fuck up for awhile okay?...do you really think what you have to say is so important you have to pollute my mind with it?...let me think…do you realize what a drag it is to hear you?...write it down…get a small blackboard and chalk what you want to tell me and hold it up…write me notes…send memos & e-mail…hand signals…semaphore…I don’t care…just shut up…the alternative is to have my eardrums removed because you are driving me crazy with all this yapping…maybe earplugs…yeah that’s the ticket…earplugs!…next time I get some money…UGH!...money…such…garbage…like us men…we’re only swirling ‘round the drain…that’s what she said all right…okay…I feel the same way about your tribe sometimes…but I don’t mean it…feelings I understand though…feelings are dangerous they can make you so sad they can take your life…I felt death close once feeling too deeply…knew all I had to do was keep feeling what I was feeling and I would die right there…no shit…knew I could make my heart burst...had to clamp them down and forget them or croak…you can break your own heart…you can will it to stop…you can close the door on life…but what then?...you’ll miss the baseball game…the cookout…George Carlin…making love one more time…I realize I’m going nuts go outside for a smoke thank God she’s gone…what to do?...paint computer place as fast as I can get a trade-in on this piece of crap & some daily cash to tide me…suddenly it occurs to me to call Charlie H. in Dallas…guy I met and lent a ladder to last year he was painting a bank…plain-spoken God-loving Texan straight-talker no bullshit…works all the time…job in Baltimore one in Longview another in Port Arthur one in Lafayette…I kept calling him for six months…almost got the Baltimore job they opted out…would have been perfect…I tell him my troubles…”Something told me to call you Charlie”…he knows Who…hires me to work in Odessa interior painting endless production job brush-and-roll...my cup of dog shit…Charlie I say I got twenty bucks & I’m hocking my tools…he says I’m hired he just has to confirm the job call him back Sunday…ALL RIGHT!...ready to go to Odessa…WEST!...my favorite of the Four Directions…I think Charlie will come through this time he sounded pretty positive…just in time…if it happens…I can hold out painting computer place he will send me traveling money…Odessa on the other side of the world!...tomorrow at 4 meeting with the VA woman who saw me writing five a.m. & steered me to Disabled American Veterans for another try at increased benefits…she read part of my blog loved it then said, “YOU'RE homeless?” Says I need to apply for increased benefits...I tell her I already did...didn’t work before I tell her...she says O no you can get it all right…guarantees me I can get it and describes the VASH program…I can get you an apartment in Marigny she says…”You deserve it!” …I can’t figure why I deserve it but okay if you say so…about the only neighborhood in New Orleans I want to live in too…okay I’ll give it a shot don’t I always?...don’t I always try?...You know I do…but here’s how it works…I paint houses and stuff because I know how and hate it...sorry I just don’t like to paint don’t even ask me how I got into it or why…it’s a long story…story of my life…How I Became a Housepainter While Hating Nearly Every Minute of It…some kind of calamity happens…my son gets sick in the head and I have to make a trip drop everything give up the apartment go waste my time trying to fix another human being...can’t be done…everything goes to hell I get broker and broker…find some work…money from every check goes to buy tools because the others were lost sold stolen or hocked…automatic income-reduction program buying new tools…you can’t work without tools…the more tools the better never know what you will need…bought a pair of sidecutters I didn’t need three weeks later they saved my life…ten feet over brick sidewalk I cut into a live 220-volt wire…POW!...my finger an eighth-inch from metal four inches from my face…HOLY SHIT!...I'm thinking THANK YOU GOD FOR SAVING MY LIFE!...hear a little thought...I been saving your life for 67 years…me I wonder what for…I would have bought the farm using my old worn cutters…what made me buy those $12 cutters when I already had a pair?...so this is how it happens…the work dries up or you just get damned tired of doing it...a little money in the bank you can go almost a month without busting your ass for some asshole with too much money…you can write…you can sit all night in the backroom of a bar drinking Cokes or coffee and just write that’s all you do anyway…and what for?...no money in it...I go for more coffee stand in line too long to hell with it go to my van make my own coffee on camp stove…looking for coffee moving stuff around too much crap in this van now…look at all these damned notebooks full of scribbling before I got another computer…there must be 25 of them!...what the hell for?...I can’t help it I don’t even remember what I wrote in them it’s all new to me…it’s a habit now don’t want to break it either...spent 45 years trying to get exactly here…where it is easy…don’t give a damn if its even comprehensible...screw the rules...I’m finally boiling the water and watching a mockingbid...they are everywhere!... The last living birds in New Orleans apparently except for sparrows…haven’t seen a robin no cardinals no redwinged blackbirds...they used to be everywhere—mockingbird standing on a step looking at a bush…hops in & emerges with a tiger swallowtail caterpillar…Aw, I like tiger swallowtails better than mockingbirds…remembering time when six new tiger swallowtails broke free from their cocoons simultaneously directly in front of me walking near Statesville North Carolina to take a swim and flew off over my face their maiden flight...I even got a picture...lost in a storage unit auction...I watch him eat my favorite unborn butterfly…bug was spinning its cocoon when bird turned him into dinner…way of the world…everything has to eat…Universe is eating itself alive…that tiger swallowtail put here to feed the bird I am thinking...I come back inside…so the way it happens is the work dries up or winter comes or somebody stiffs me or the van breaks down or I WAS drinking too much and feeling sorry for myself, or whatever…I end up hocking the tools in batches...TO BUY GASOLINE! COFFEE! TUNA FISH! AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER IN TAXES!...If I find work I bail tools out…more income-reduction...prices going up like an inchworm on amphetimines...value of money going down like a thermometer in Antarctica…paying for the tools twice...if things keep going bad the greedy pawnbroker (redundant) gets them for nothing…re-sells them just below retail value...if and when I feel desperate-enough have suffered enough or had my jaw socked by a tough young guy for being old in Seattle..he was pissed at the world...somehow work comes along and what?...I’m buying more tools!...why?...YOU NEED THEM TO WORK!...so I hocked socket and ratchet set sledgehammer Dremel tools other stuff about a hundred-twenty bucks worth for twenty yesterday… next day battery dies worrying me to death parked in a no-parking zone on St. Joseph Street…standing for an hour traffic speeding by…finally I decide to try tightening the damned fan belt again it better not be the damned alternator I’m afraid to have it tested…can’t get at the nut…need a 1/2-and 3/4-inch sockets and half-inch drive ratchet with six-inch extension…guess where that is?...IN THE PAWNSHOP!...can’t get them back till end of month when SS check hits the bank…Bank of America might be bankrupt by then…I tear out the useless flex hose air duct in my way & throw it in the back of van…nothing will stop carburator from sucking air...still can’t get at the damned nut…bastards who design these things!...I want to give them a public whipping…they make it so hard!...1/2-inch nut in front 5/8 in back…can’t reach it…grease all over arm now…bleeding from fingers and wrist...I can't work on a car without damaging myself...FRUSTRATED!...calm down…finally someone stops a nice young guy on his way to work…cheerfully we hook up he shoots me the juice vroooooom! … van starts first try we unhook wave goodbye & this time I let it warm up…it started twice before…please don’t let it be the alternator…good van that’s a good boy...whew…I make it to coffee shop getting five bucks of gas enroute keeping the engine running...plug in to write this...drink coffee eat cheaper pastry surreptiously from grocery next-door…thinking about the Focus Group I’ll attend day-after-tomorrow…teach me to focus…part of my problem…scatterbrained…too many images too many thoughts too many connections like a damned chess game where do you go next…make some damned money that’s where…tired of this shit…become a goddam capitalist…(a little late)...charge them up the yin-yang & put it in the bank…finally I settle it in my mind…for six months that’s all I’m going to do…FOCUS ON MAKING MONEY!...(I snap to it just as we enter a Depression)...to hell with the writing it’s going nowhere anyway…back to the original problem…how to make money with words…look at all the crap on the bookshelves…the shit that people read…magazines full of trivial crapola...and some writer making a living writing that shit!...congratulations I guess…wish I could write a potboiler…hmmm I do have a detective story or two…maybe…detective is a fucked-up character like me though…and there is the screenplay based on the novel based on the short story about the blood…why not?...I never even sent anything out!...afraid of rejection I guess…couldn’t finish anything either...HAD TO WORK!…took me decades to find my voice…drank too much…depressed…lonely…couldn’t reconcile the losses…felt worthless…a piece of garbage…I go out for another smoke…black & white male cat crossing street…female mockingbird in a small fir tree yapping at him…he must have been too near a nest…two mockingbirds…cat makes a threatening move to jump in tree…bird hops to a nearby porch rail…back to tree…back to rail to tree to rail...cat sits…patiently watching…unmoving…bird hops from branch to branch scolding…this goes on for five minutes while I’m laughing my ass off alone on the sidewalk…cat watching close thinking come on down here motherfucker…just a little closer…mockingbird knows how close he can get…cat freezes pretending to ignore him…bird hops closer…even flies out and hovers like a helicopter over cat which completely ignores him knowing he’s not close-enough…licks himself…unconcerned…untroubled...go ahead and mock me but I'll eat your babies...he’ll eat at home later…maybe if I sit still he’ll forget I’m here…mockingbirds never forget…great memory!...one in California memorized an alarm clock waking whole neighborhoods at 4 AM..ornithologists say they can mimic 1,000 birdcalls…we call it singing…they call it survival…trick birds into answering you know where they nest…eat their eggs devour their babies…everything has to eat…some born to eat…some born to be dinner…sooner or later the planet eats us all the sun eats the planet the black hole eats the galaxy…something probably eats the black hole…come on Charlie…Odessa here I come…scorching hot Odessa land of my uncle who won’t talk to me anymore…be a shame to miss out on an apartment in Marigny though…want to stay in New Orleans but really don’t give a damn where I’m lost long as there is electricity and clean water…hardly any time left…I can write without electricity and finish a salable piece with only $500 more a month maybe take me six months or a year to do it…and a stable place where I don’t have to go to coffee shops & bars to write… painting toxifies my mind so bad I can’t concentrate…can’t focus on the piece…can’t think it through…too much other stuff in the way. ..like trying to find something in the van…I have to move everything twice to get anything I need…and then there’s that other crap…emotions needs memories longings wants unsatisfied sexual yearning the need to be touched...soothed…resentments…frustrations… lousy human relations…people who won’t communicate…everybody so focused so talented so purposeful successful connected educated employed don't bother me I'm working my work means everything to me...money in the bank so happy parties all the time one party after another...Jesus Christ seven years out of high school!...it’s all I can do to keep from crying…so stable!...So cool!...having such a good time even making money at it…AND HAVING SEX!..They can’t understand what’s the problem?...good God how do they do it?...am I the only asshole piece of garbage out here who can't get it together?...I go out for another smoke...very fat old lady with young bulldog...she is making love to it...goo goo goo!...she quits him goes to opposite bench...BARK! BARK! BARK! BARK!...good God lady I say and move off...She gets dog by her it's excited...jumping up and down up and down jumping on people as they pass..."Don't do that darling" she mumbles...dog does it to everybody...I'm hearing in my head Eddie Harris singing "...tired old ladies kissing dogs/I hate the human love for that stinking mutt!/trying to make it real/COMPARED TO WHAT?"...my feelings exactly...I want to shoot the damn dog and her too...for a minute I am in the Old West with a six-shooter and no Law for 500 miles...BAM! BAM! ah that felt good...HA, HA!...I'm cracking up...it's too much...the noise man the noise the unbelievable cacaphony of your phony splendiferous shit hole of a civilization...the cars! the trains! the jets! the factories booming VICTORY OR DEATH!...the radio! the television! THE GODDAM JUKEBOX!...the horns! the sirens! the whole goddamned city coughing hacking and spitting 24 hours a day and no way to get away from it sometimes...whole populations locked into hypnotic music beams from every direction into offices elevators homes and underground missile silos...HUP! TWO! THREE! FO'!...no time to get away!..."No time to think!"...FIND WORK!...it's unbelievable...your runaway mouth...I head back inside...dog leaps on me I give him my knee saying GET DOWN!...first time anybody's ever done that to him I bet...his first Logic lesson...he is shocked...I'm thinking yeah motherfucker I'm bigger than you watch out who you're jumping on I bite...people look at me strange...what's the matter with him?

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