Mickey Again


There is beauty even in the corny evaporating ugliness I see everywhere, but I practically have to stop and stare at something or someone for minutes to see it ever, because my mind is a river of concepts as irregular and illogical as rapids, ragged as burlap and flowing through eroding boulders of misconceptions with the sheering force of razors, while my body burns with a persistent unquenchable and nagging desire. I stand on the street smoking every muscle tense feeling all even in this old body from the pavement beneath my soles to the air on my head, tense the way I like to feel, alive, like I could spring or dance--and I do dance, but alone, and--there beauty is in the exposed leg and breast of a studious woman.

There it is again in the curve over the old arched doorway, invaded by mold, and again in the rusty tin structure, once a WW II factory making something for The War. It was filled with working men and women and the clamorous clanging & banging of metal. Sparks flew and war spewed from old beautiful but ugly tin buildings like this, wonderfully rusted now beyond repair. And passionate sparks of anger and love flew between the workers , the men and women. Beautiful? The stuff of movies. How many romances? How many abandoned unhappy children? How many successful and happy marriages? How many "date-rapes?" How many dreamy unteseted young boys gone to war who never returned? How many drunks, suicides and homicides? How much domestic violence and how many murdered mates? What happened to them all? Who were they? Why did they live? What beauty did they know? What beauty did they make, see, leave? When they made love, did they really make love, or did they only fuck? Did any attain wisdom? Tell it to me.

Women. From within them beauty reigns through Natural Law (not discredited!)especially for men to know. Who can't understand the obsession of artists with women from Vermeer to Georgia O'Keefe? Young or old, gay or straight, poor or rich, unless they were raised by wolves and trained to be bad-mannered, thieving whores--and of course whores above all contain the most tragic and excruciating beauty--women, after babies, and unless they are totally without desire, love, or empathy, exemplify all beauty in Universe. FOR ME! THEY ALL WERE PUT THERE FOR ME! Sometimes, ha, ha, I'm convinced the whole Universe was made especially for me. Go ahead and disprove it.

For years I tried not even to look at women, especially American white women; they taxed me for every glance, fined me for every advance, treated me like a loser or a maniac, always wanted (and often obtained) something for nothing, wanted to confront and charge me with every offense they ever suffered, and, worse for some than that, even gave me life. Actually, I looked, but tried not to be seen looking.

Poor Mickey, my mom, with a man she hardly knew in New York City 1940, me in her belly. Coming North from the Depression of the rural, still-post-Civil War South as she was, was Mickey Lee afraid for me, as I was afraid for my son, when Joey told me he was enroute? "...the fear to bring children into the world” (Dylan) was real to me during the Cold War. Okay, so maybe I'm overdramatic. But I was a Boy Scout, and you have to "Be Prepared." They looked ready to blow up the world over consumer-markets and who owned the oil.

Knowing my mother, remembering & feeling how she was before a dishonest haze of alcohol veiled her eyes, she was probably a little frightened at first in big old New York City, after questing in desperation from rural Louisiana for the man who had left his seed and address only, because she had some guts and wasn’t afraid to take a risk. She was an Irish lass, after all. She followed the careless bastard up there anyway, and shamed him into giving her a harbor for the borning of his child. ME! The bastard! What a coldhearted son-of-a-bitch my father must have been. Taking us to Chicago a year later and walking out. I think I located him once, while fipping through the Las Vegas phone book, when he was old and probably didn’t even remember the country girl he had knocked up after getting her drunk with alcohol (the original "date-rape drug,) and forcing it on the steps of the San Jacinto Monument. A woman on the phone old enough to be his daughter and my sister identified him as the right age and origins. But I didn’t even approach him. Why trouble an old man, and what difference would it make anyway?

Mickey should have been a reckless adventurer like me; throw your fate to the wind, baby, cast the bread upon the water. She wouldn’t have suffered much worse than she did, and she certainly might have satisfied her wanderlust. Always she was bound to a man, because it was the only way she knew. Women then had the right to be near-slaves. (But they could vote for men.) Men could earn more money and protect her from other men. That’s what we’re supposed to do. Protect and cherish. That’s how I see it. Of course I suck at it. The difference between us is that I would not mind at all being bound to a woman, now.

And there I was inside her absorbing nutrients, forming eyeballs, growing a brain a heart and a vital organ THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE! that refuses to atrophy from dis-use, an uninvited child of rape. And she, a raving beauty with flashing eyes! She wanted to be a movie star. But long before legal abortions, this guy whose name was supposedly Donald checked her into Polyclinic under a false name, and she birthed me in pain --“You almost died!”--and nursed me with her firm young breasts, and bundled and rolled me around Central Park in winter, and went through a stranger's apartment to crawl onto a roof on Central Park West to retrieve my teddy bear, after I sailed it out a 10th-floor bathroom window during a blizzard. Then after the Chicago adventure gave me legally to her own mother and hit the road again, seeking more of the taste excitement and fun of New York & Chicago, to escape Louisiana; joining the war-effort, finding a good job at last, and rising to be a secretary to Col. Parsons in Oak Ridge, who armed the atomic bomb over Hiroshima. He's written up and pictured inall the books, and there is hardly a trace of my mother or the thousands of other women who typed the mysterious letters for the Manhattan Project. She could type like a machine and always had a smile. That job was, she thought, her main distinction, and maybe so. But I don't think so.

When I think of her distinction, however, I remember her firelit auburn hair at sunset and two sweetly-amused eyes, one brown, the other green, with a genuine smile that lit up rooms, when first I fell in love with the beauty of her. I never knew until I finally met her at age nine that women were beautiful. My guardian-grandmother Louise was old and plain as a Quaker. My own mother was my first experience of Beauty. Perhaps other children grow up with innate understanding and love, taking it for granted, but my first awareness of female beauty was an electric shock. I can almost smell her perfume sixty years on. I’ve never been able to forget how it nearly overwhelmed me, how smelling and hugging and kissing her goodnight, the black dress the pearls the lovely small breasts revealed as she leaned over me, and the excruciating pain of her temporary departure for a nightclub with my new stepfather, tortured me from a nine-year pent-up sorrow, tears bawled or painfully stored in the back of my throat, since I had choked them back sometime after she had abandoned me to a woman who sent me to a Chicago orphanage--and, no matter how much I try to ignore women because they don't see my own beauty, (yes, sometimes I know I'm beautiful too,) and because I am such a fuck-up, sooner or later one comes along who knocks me flat on my ass. And I make such a stupid fool of myself. AND SUFFER! And become angry and lost, defiant and scornful, suspicious and hurt all over again, just wanting to get out the door to hit the road. And wishing I could see Mickey Lee again. I understand her now. And love her more. And all this crap is only in my own mind. I live in a vault like a vampire, needy & greedy, and when I look in a mirror I see no reflection, because I seldom get much feedback. My mother was entirely different, however. She was gregarious and sociable, gracious and generous, non-hurtful not spiteful and certainly not crude or impolite. She was honest and straightforward like her own mother, and had suffered enough blunt criticism and failure in her life to have learned and been changed by it. But alcohol cancelled most of that out in the years I knew her best. Later, after I was gone and the other kids were elsewhere, she stabilized somewhat, and I think she lived a pretty placid life with her last husband, mostly in Las Vegas.

Living in the past and wanting an impossible future. That's me. Once I was cooking for some Indian firefighters in Canada, way out in the boonies by helicopter. They were Slave (Slavey) Indians of the Athabasca, and their boss was a chief named Joe. As an American Yippie represented by the dumbest and most-arrogant government on Earth, I thought most Indians were wise--at least they are wise to the white man-- so, one night by a fire after dinner while we were sitting around talking about nothing much, I asked him, "Joe, what do you think is going to happen? I mean, are things gonna be okay, are they going to blow up the world, or what?" After only a beat he answered, "Oh, no one knows the future."

There it was. The simplest and best answer in the world. You can't beat it. Indians are wise, wiser than me. Here I was looking for assurances from a wise old one for things that didn't even exist, and no one, not he not Black Elk not Sitting Bull or Crazy Horse or Wind-in-his-hair, could predict what the different combinations of circumstance and human behavior would produce or abort, or know the plan of a Great Spirit who has it all under control. Joe told me what I had been told and had forgotten in my rush to understand and change--HA, HA!--the world. When he gave me the wisdom I'd sought, I felt really simpleminded.

I've long been convinced but often forget there's only The Now, this moment; that the future doesn't exist, and the past is only imperfect memory preserved in myths, archetypes, wishes, lies, and pure fantasy. Somewhere back before Herodotus some fool started writing it all down and history & literature resulted; now look at this mess. Somebody printed a book and others had to do it too. 360 degrees of war-suffering, manmade diseases, outright slavery, poverty, deprivation, penguins with license tags, capitalism, desperation, and STUPIDITY! plus more than a billion books better-suited for toilet paper. But that's Cynical Mike. I wish I could bury him and keep breathing.

See? I’m looking around New Orleans for beauty, real beauty, feeling shamed that I'm so self-obsessed, and seeing some but not enough of it. Sure, I can see it in the babies and flowers, in the architecture and the changeling sky, in a curve of metal or a timeless rain-pocking of stone, or in the tragic food-giving busy-ness of poor doomed honeybees, and in the logical, reasoned, near-perfect symmetry of certain social relationships and historical movements and in the Great Noble Ideas and all. But vital essential memory summons Beauty’s archetype, and in my mind sudden unexplained goddess appears like my mother did, to reveal the essence of my preoccupation--my obsession if you insist.

Beauty? All I really know is what my senses tell me; didn’t some famous brain convince us of that? And that there "are no ideas except in things?" (Olson)I don’t know. I’m not an intellectual. (I'm still stuck on, '...life is absurd & the only serious question is whether to commit suicide.') Since most of my thoughts & concepts are learned from others, all I have of my own are my feelings. Some of them seem unreasonable even to me, but I can't deny them. I refuse goddammit! And I try not to hide many of them; it's dishonest. Some are ugly feelings; I seldom share them, although sometimes I cannot refrain from expressing dissatisfaction with the careless inefficiency and greediness of merchants. I can turn your hair white with stories I know. A sublime few expansive and even cosmic feelings come but too rarely, and I'd give them away to you every day if I could recall them at-will. I can suspend my feelings a little, examine and analyze them, turn them upside-down and inside-out, and even freeze them if I have to, or coldly execute them for the sake of mental stability—but I cannot and will not deny that I have or had them. I swear it would be like death to me. What else would I have left? Painful as they often are, I'd still rather be dead than numb. When I'm trying--and I have to "try" because I have been witnessing an expanding torture session for 50 years--to see past the ugly to the beautiful, I don't discover beauty in the ordinary the common or mundane, but in the extraordinariness of the things of Nature and Cosmos and the unique & exquisite attraction of Women, and how it all makes me feel.

But expressing it is something else altogether. I doubt I will ever be able.

Knowing to focus on one thing if it is to be found, I couldn't decide whether to seek beauty or wisdom, which I naively assumed to be Ultimate Truth. Everybody seemed to be living for the former--having a ball with gorgeous women!--so I chose to suffer for "wisdom"--ha, ha! Good luck. Some things stuck in my mind though. Like this:

" 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." (John Keats)(I know it's corny, everybody knows this one; and Coleridge thought it was bull.)

So I got the idea from that (in a college Logic class!) that wisdom and beauty are the same. Ultimately, despite my pained obsession with self and spaghettied relations with humanity, they are all I care about, or all I want to care about, whether they are the same or not.

Damn. I am standing in the doorway sucking on an American Spirit and staring a hole in the brick wall, and I look to the right, and there is a nice-looking gal in the doorway waving slowly at me . I wave back and we stare at each other for a full minute. She turns and walks to the bar, stands straight as a post. I stare at her back and wonder if she feels it? She doesn't know what she just did to me. Should I fold it up and move across the street? Ah, I waited too long. The place is closed, and she is gone.


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