August 23, 2009

Bittersweet Thursday



I come into Manhattan late on the C train from East New York in Brooklyn...takes time...thinking I know where Social Security is...I was there two weeks ago...but I've been so many places filling out forms changing address getting chauffer's license...all sorts of bull for the Taxi & Limousene Commission the bastards...didn't sleep at all last night writing angry piece...it worked for me...I don't hold that crap in...why should I?...after all I needed to vent...posted it in this blog...I can get some satisfaction and hope the self-centered witch reads it...my "friend"...finally I laid down to sleep but didn't take magic pill because I knew I had to do this...Richard next door playing Joni Mitchell...I hear Circle Game and then I hear it again and drop into half-doze dreaming Circle Game...her sweet soprano gets tiring after awhile...can't sleep finally I get up...go pull ladders and sawhorses down from van for Gary...I'm gonna cut a French door to fit where there is no backdoor...only a sheet of plywood...somehow I pass the time...too much time...I leave a little late and the C train gets held up...I'm groggy on the train and thinking Social Security is on 34th near Eighth Avenue...suddenly I jerk awake realizing that's the damned DMV...oh hell where is the place I was there a couple of weeks ago...but I can't remember I was all over Manhattan doing shit for manipulative egotist...ain't she sweet?...see her speeding down the street...well I'll tell you very confidentially...she ain't so sweet...laughing to myself humming it...I dumped the whole damned crew...accusations accusations accusations in the end...what a jerk I am and so on...how she saved my ass the traitor...I'm laughing my ass off...how do you like those resentments babe?...something you wanted to say to me?...was there more?...I bet there was...but she couldn't get thru to me with a carrier pigeon now...see what I went thru for a year...unanswered e-mails ignored phone calls unable to say what I needed to say...how does it feel?...now I'm too busy to deal with it...
someone on the train says SS is on 50th St...another gal says it's on 48th...nothing rings a bell...I get off at 50th and race to the street...But I'm still groggy while looking for an authority in the area...New Yorkers walking doubletime everywhere...I'm still doing tripletime...I look at cell phone clock...holy shit it's 3:42 I bet the place closes at 4...I call Sprint...operator says it's at 1515 Seventh Avenue...that doesn't sound right but I do broken-field walking thru streams of New Yorkers and tourists on auto pilot...the way I can do in a hurry and I pass a thousand people not touching one of them...I get to corner of 42nd and 7th in no time...ah there ain't no such number...operator must've meant Broadway...I start to cut across the street but finally there are two cops standing around looking important.."Sir, can you tell me where Social Security is?"...I might as well have asked a horse...I give up at blank looks and walk to the corner cussing...10 minutes to 4 where is that damned place?...I'm thinkiing of wasted $5 for round-trip subway to Brooklyn and going back in the rush hour...good thinking Mike now I'm mad at myself...I go in 1515 Broadway this must be the place...nope...now I am getting pissed...I call 311 the City's Information...endless menu...give me a f-ing break...after five minutes of stupid menu and stupider music a guy comes on and I ask the information..."We don't keep that kind of information sir"...WHAT?...I'm flabbergasted..."You don't keep information on where the Social Security Administration of the United States Government is in Manhattan?"..."No sir."...I feel like strangling him but it isn't his fault...I call Sprint back...Now I am really pissed at wasted trip...I ask address, tell operator to wipe my last Information call it was wrong...no problem...this sucker gives me 4242 Broadway...I know for sure that is wrong but I go that direction anyway...whoa! there are two cops...I walk up to them and it's the same crew only they have moved from 7th to Broadway...I mutter to myself and veer away but one recognizes me and calls me back..."Did you find it?"...hell no sir...I always call them sir...but I call all men even college kids sir now...why not it's a sign of respect and I get respect back...young people look at me like I am crazy when I say ma'am...ha ha but screw them...I'm a southerner again...it means something and you'd be surprised the smiles I get...he's an old man after all...I decided to start capitalizing on the age that I detest...he's no help though he tries and I thank him and move on...completely pissed now but what's the use I know I missed it...I have outwalked a racehorse and if I didn't have a missing anterior cruciate ligament I could have run to Penn Station...that's how energized this old man can get...it's will and determination you know...she'll see...but she will probably be fat and lazy from having given up and married a rich guy living in Connecticut with three spoiled kids...two cars and a horse in the barn...most of you will be a bunch of rich sellouts by then...capitalism what capitalism?...war what war?...homeless?...are they still there?...not me man...did I ever tell you my motto?...Ni Se Rinde, Ni Se Vende...You figure it out...okay I'll tell you future sellouts...We Don't Give Up, We Don't Sell Out...that's what you'll be doing soon if you haven't already...make yourself comfy you already are...you went a week on Granola bars did you?...I went nine days without a single bite once try that tough guy...smartass know-it-all you got it all figured out do you?...ha, ha!...I'm cracking up...and I am "an angry old man who never grew up"...that's a good one...original too...whatever "growing up" means...I guess that means putting your passion in a box under the bed...never getting angry...bouncing grandchildren on your knees...and above all listening...I never listen?...maybe that's why I have a thousand stories I heard from people from the bottom to the top stored in a computer and my overloaded brain...because I never listen...finally I stand grimly in a small exterior alcove over where they've turned Broadway into a walking mall and call...oh God help me!...Social Security...
I know what this is gonna be and sure as shit it's a robot...with a menu...a programmed agenda!...strict parameters!...I decide to fight...I start cussing the machine...it asks questions in a sweet female voice...I pile on a barn full of cuss words...machine asks my name...I cuss it some more...it asks again..."Please spell your first name"...I spell F-U-C-K Y-O-U...it spells it back and gets it wrong...I cuss it some more...then I yell ASSOCIATE!...it asks for my last name...I spell S-T-I-C-K-I-T-U-P-Y-O-U-R-G-R-E-A-S-Y-A-S-S...it tries to spell it back gets it wrong again...I am cracking up...I pile on the vileness...I resort to Hemingway..."I defecate in the milk of thy mother!"...robot is going crazy with apologies..."I can't understand you sir"...I invent cuss words and smother it with them...finally it says "I can't help you sir"...I say I know that you motherfucking robot!...give me a goddammed HUMAN BEING!...people walk by looking at me like I am a crazy man...I am!...I bust out laughing...then the machine quits...I WON!...suddenly an actual human being comes on...I say "If I ever meet the guy who invented the automated answering machine I am going to tear his throat out"...WHOA!...it freaks him out he threatens to disconnect...I cool down and start kissing his ass..."Kissass a part of peace," said Allen Ginsberg in a favorite poem...this guy was offended that I threatened a non-existent person with actual death...they can't take it this new bunch...brought up so gentle...all the advantages television brains...so politically-correct...UGH they make me sick...televisioned to death...homogenized...an older guy my generation would have laughed and said he would too...but after I kiss his ass enough he gives me the address: 247 West 48th Street...just like the second lady said...and yes they closed 14 minutes ago...thank you I say sweetly and hang up...okay I had my fun...I defeated the son-of-a-bitch...so I walk into Walgreen's and surprise...I find a 99-cent tall can of cold Arizona mango drink...I take it out to tables but they're all taken...so I join a black guy asking can I share his table...he's texting says sure go ahead...so I pull up a chair and take out a pre-rolled cigarette...who can afford the real thing a week before payday...people look at me like I am about to smoke a joint so I say "Want to smoke a joint?"...and they hustle away...one of my guys would have said sure why not?...these people have no sense of humor and they live in fear...I light up and blow smoke away from the guy and ask where he's from...he says Harlem...I say I lived in Harlem he looks at me surprised...Where?...123rd near what is Seventh Avenue?...Adam Clayton Powell he says...yeah I say that's it...I lived there three months 1986 restoring dwellings for Harlem Restoration...we restored whole five-story houses and gave them to the tenants...he nods in approval...I tell him about Marie Runyon the former state legislator who ran the program...I ask him if he remembers Adam Clayton Powell...he says he's too young...I tell him about Powell who released an album through Cadmeaon Records called Keep the Faith, Baby...I had it for years...they ran Powell out of office...slandered the hell out of him...because he quit kissing the white politicians' asses during the early Civil Rights Movement...he didn't know that...goes back to texting...I see a nearby table open up and bid him goodbye he shakes my hand and smiles...I'm feeling good again...suddenly a nice young guy comes over and asks for a light...I give and ask where he's from...he's Basque!...I'm delighted..."Guernica!" I say...he says yes he lives close to there and tells me about Basques in France and Spain...I tell him some ETA guys just got arrested in France...he didn't know that...I tell him Guernica was not the first town bombed from the air...he is surprised...No, I say, loud enough for everybody near to hear...the first town bombed from the air was Ocotal, Nicaragua, in 1928, by US Marine and Navy pilots...200 dead...he is surprised and I am pleased...I tell him Picasso is reason nobody knows except people who cared to find out for themselves...people like me...I tell anybody when the subject comes up...most times I am the one who brings it up...see I'm an educator...I even visited Ocotal...sleepy little town in the jungly north...I remember two boys there...me and Margareta...she didn't know it either...we went there to document atrocities by Reagan's murdering torturers the Contras...we have a pleasant talk and I take his picture...
he tells me Basque language is very different...I say yes one of the most-difficult languages in the world...I know because I read a book by Trevanian...Shibumi...I tell him about the book and he appreciates...ah Europeans...so civilized and intelligent...not like the normal uptight rigid know-it-all distant fear-driven overworked Americans...who are even afraid of free medical care...he goes back to his good-looking girlfriend and I see him pointing to me...she looks and smiles...I'm suddenly sad I never made it to Europe and probably never will...
I pull out my notebook and start writing this...something cracks me up when I write about my war with the robot...people look at me like I am crazy again...an old man cackling to himself in Times Square...who cares?...I'm having a ball...I take my time...write most of it out...
finally I make my way to the subway after taking shots of garish Times Square...remembering other Times Squares...the word "war" never goes by on the moving newsstrip...I want another such picture like the one I took in 1969 just before I went back to Louisiana so Fate could lock me up for being impossible...
It's all good...now it is but believe me I paid for these fucking scars...don't give me that shit I'm "self-absorbed"...I helped an old lady with a big frigging bag up a broken escalator last week did you?...I educated somebody somewhere on the radio about Afghanistan...I cleaned a damned carpet to save expenses 14 hours on my frigging knees mostly and stayed up all night to return machine on time for no pay didn't I?...I'm putting in a free fence for a friend...he wants to pay me screw that...I'm helping Gary save this priceless house and four generations of family possessions...books...documents...photos of everybody...knives his grandfather handmade...newspapers you wouldn't believe...
I re-joined Veterans for Peace...I gave two bucks of my last ten bucks a few weeks ago to a homeless guy in the park...I'm "self-absorbed?"...fuck you...self-centered people...sheeesh...I busted my ass for you traitors..."hysterical" was I?...hysteria is a medical condition look it up...the proper term was "agitated"...another was "frustrated"...another is "disappointment" which causes anger...you made the appointment and didn't keep it...created the disappointment provoked the anger... how could I know what was going on dishonest person?...do you ever get agitated?...perceiving threats where there was none...cowards...chickenshit just like my sister who locked me up...afraid of everything...I was going to "poison her children"...Jesus X Christ...I stroll into the subway and there are four Peruvian guys playing beautiful music for money...
the music echoes and it is fantastic dance music...so I stand there and dance for them five minutes...hundreds of people speeding by like race cars...I'm feeling great I'm dancing better than I ever did with no professional training...they smile appreciatively...I take pictures and give them a buck...they thank me...I get on train and go to sleep...miss my stop by three stations...go back...drag my weary ass home...write this...but I can't sleep...so I tune in Bob Fass' Radio Unnameable (wbai.org midnight Thursdays)...Bobis playing dynamite music related to Woodstock Festival last weekend...that was my Thursday and I feel good...finally a roof over my head...a desk...two rooms...privacy...a kitchen...a bathroom...all my clothes out of the van and hanging up...books on the mantle...bookcases stuffed with generations of lovely books...all dusty and neglected...a bittersweet Thursday and Sunday is my 68th birthday...I'm doing it alone as usual...I'm not crying about that...it's something else.





A lovely backyard...Gary built a remarkably artistic brickwork exactly like the Brooklyn Bridge...but the place is a wreck...I gotta help Gary save this hundred-year old house that has two tax liens on it come September...he was depressed probably...four generations of his family and all their gear here...valuable stuff...a shame to lose this...says he started fixing it up when he was 21 and he's way behind...at least the roof is good and the two-story house is solid but a lot of work you bet...I'll do the painting and some carpentry and save these windows...caulk everything tighten it up for winter...
if I am not too "self-absorbed" that is...hopefully I'll have hack license again five days after my 68th birthday Sunday...damn I hate getting old...finally I'm having some fun and now I have to die...but okay I'm ready...Thy will be done...what a trip...I can't honestly say I did my best...but I didn't do my worst and nobody can say I didn't try...nobody can say that...Nobody...you can heap the insults on me but I know better even if you don't...it's depressing living in a world of you scaredy-cats...materialistic bastards...a coward's flight to New Orleans before some truth comes out of her mouth...endanger my nephew's livlihood will you?...destroy his good life...ruin me psychologically and materially?...if my van had been towed I'd have lost everything to the tow truck capitalists...but you don't care...you just want to win another argument...can't let it go can you?...text it to death before you'll sit down over a cup of tea and work it out...make it worse with every defensive word you write...now you have a problem...You'll run a hundred miles through football fields of Russian dogshit before you catch up with me...lose jobs...be attacked for things you didn't do...get a two-by-four across the back two broken ribs...get haunted by the FBI...get thrown in jail by people you loved...lose everything you had three times...go without sex for more than a decade...get depressed and suicidal...you're so sure you'll "die happy" are you...well ha ha how about that...a clairvoyant...you ain't seen shit yet..."Nobody knows the future"...(Indian chief I spent weeks listening to)...you bounce like a rubber ball now babe...someday someone might say behind your back..."she's just an angry old lady who never grew up."

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