Exposure & Aperture: Stories in Focus

I woke suddenly with a knee buried in my back, a size 12 boot on my head.

It’s fortunate I’m a “belly sleeper” because the weight of that policeman could’ve broken bones, caused internal injury. It was unfortunate that this vacant 1920s stucco Hollywood bungalow had been sold at auction that afternoon to a LAPD Captain, so said his street soldier, pressing my face deep into that filthy carpet one evening in 1986.

I’d been mistaken for friends, who squatted this property just a few doors off Melrose. (Earlier they had been) “told to get out of here”, screamed the policeman, as his partner flung me by the handcuffs off the floor crashing into a wall.

Prone, head and neck propped against the wall, I could now see four  LAPD Hollywood Division patrolmen as I proclaimed, “those were my friends (not me)!”

max_hands up

A well groomed, mustached officer reached down, grabbed my throat and banged my head against the wall for the insolence. I was guilty but only of being homeless.

Within that year my longtime uxralocal relationship fell apart. Not only losing a girlfriend , I had also lost the one-room shack dwelling on her father’s property.

It was all my undoing. As “only-children” will, I’d been selfish. Worse, I’m the bastard son – look at me wrong, it was a fight or I was trying to bed you, mix with alcohol and stir (best not shake). I was fully employed, even mid-management by title. However, without first, last and security deposit, I couldn’t acquire an apartment.

As I flew from wall to wall, I understood the consequences of my actions, being exposed “on the street”. I could only afford to recuse myself on weekends at sketchy Sepulveda Boulevard motels.  My sleepy sanctuary – a flimsy dead-bolt door well worth investment, because on the street, you’re subjected to unanticipated drama and danger.

max_motel 86

Trying to catch my breath, I answered their inquiry regarding work.  Mistakenly I added that I was also a part-time Graduate student at CalState LA which doomed me to further abuse since I declared my major in Jurisprudence: “Oh! we have a lawyer here”, one said to the others.

And as one violently spun me by my handcuffs toward another, he tore my shirt exposing blood running down by left arm.

Earlier that day as I walked down Melrose toward Vine, an anonymous black two-door LeSabre likewise eastbound, windows down, fired a shot.

In a second my senses captured the muzzle sound, a barrel retreating into the LeSabre and sharp pain. In that fluid shocking moment, I pulled my jacket down.  Buried in my bicep was a projectile, the slimmest edge of a pellet exposed when I wiped away blood. My thick, old school biker leather slowed the disc. I could squeeze and tweeze it by fingernail from my arm.

It was shoot a freak Friday for some suburban kids in mommy’s car.  My orange, raggedy Andy hair a beacon for these pellet rifle toting toughs. Hours later, still bleeding, it was exposed to these LAPD toughs.  At the story, they howled, “Ahh! He’s a victim.

In 30 years since that day on one street in America, victims are still victimized. Nothing’s changed except there are now handheld cameras to testify to trespasses, be they black, Blue, brown or white.

Even then, the aperture and exposure to a public with their experience, creating their truth, their disposition enhanced by the guile and craft of their advocates, it dims the optics; that, what you see, it really is not what you see. Let me tell you what you see and share.

On the Periphery of Life

I took the Paris Metro to an underground garage to rent a car in the Place des Ternes.

It’d been a chaotic week in Paris enjoying the sights with thousands of foreign visitors who came for the European Football Championship.  My family tired traveling by foot.  It was time to drive into the countryside.

Driving in Paris is chaotic. Since I drive Boston, I was possessed to drive directly to the Arc de Triomphe for a wicked spin in its massive rotary. As I repeatedly screeched to halt at the veering Mercedes and Citrons, my joy transcended to the idea, I can get used to this.

Fun aside, my wife’s texts requesting an ETA brought me back to reality. My family was in the lobby of the condominium over in the thickly settled, one-way streets of the 17th arrondissement.

We had walked several evenings North to the Avenue de Clichy. My youngest, Lily and I walked there for a Metro station to Saint-Denis for the Germany Poland Match at the Stade de France (the suburb from which the jihadi cell resided who executed the November atrocity).

As one journeys along Avenue Clichy, one notices the population become more racial diverse, Middle Eastern, North African. I found that path with surprising ease; well, navigating was easy the traffic thoroughly congested.

The car loaded, I followed the trajectory of the Metro – station names I recalled from Match night.

I knew there was a Périphérique on the way to Saint-Denis. Paris has multiple travel bands, “Périphérique“, which ring the city; that, Americans might call “Beltways”.  They make movement easier, eliminating cross town travel, street gridlock.

I’m blessed with a German acuity, an intuitive, natural GPS that seldom fails me, and once again, didn’t let me down. Because as traffic worsened, I knew we neared the “Boulevard Périphérique“. Our escape was imminent.

Then my eyes spotted a makeshift settlement of tents and canopies. It was blocks long.

I grew up in Los Angeles. I’m familiar with homeless enclaves of refrigerator boxes, canvas covered street squats, the adept no cost shelter of the poor, the displaced.

Syrian refugees 2

June had been an exceptionally overcast, wet and windy cold month.

The rain fell every day during our stay and this makeshift community built along the frontage street of the Périphérique was wet, mildewed and as dreary as the steel sky.

As we crept toward the on-ramp, we saw the human element under the corrugated roofs, tarps and tents. Tanned old men, browned, unshaven, grey beard stumble contrasting with their light, dead, staring eyes, they sat paralyzed on jersey barriers.

Behind them between the rows of shelters, children played safely from traffic. Old ladies walked up traffic lanes, Syrian passports raised in hand, pressing them to each drive-side car window begging for Euros.

Younger men, fathers held hand-written cardboard signs. In French they read, “we are Syrians. Please help us eat today”.  My wife fought tears.  In a daze at this sad visage,  I entered the Périphérique – the wrong direction.

I exited immediately.  Returning along the other frontage, there was a parallel settlement of hundreds, perhaps thousands of families along a periphery of life.

Syrian refugees Paris

 

 

Living The Obverse and Reverse

Yesterday I reacted to a reading of The Obverse and The Reverse by Albert Camus by saying “[The] poor only have the sky and stars”; that, “their wealth are in dreams.”

Within hours I was told of my cousin, Michael’s untimely death. As I contemplate, again,  the happenstance that befalls us – consciousness, breath, life, I see our undeniable life parallels, too obvious to deny; front and back trajectory.

At this moment I recognize again there is greater pain in life than poverty.

He and I grew up in poverty. Poverty is physical. Like hunger, palpable, though it can be solved.  A simple dream be it food, shelter, security. These can ease poverty.

When there are no dreams, there is no ease to this life. One sees no cure. One is exposed to deep psychological bankruptcy greater than any material hardship. Deep existential pain, worse than hunger or physical want, a search for definition, a basis for hope.

As dreams disappear I sense live ends at some quickened metric to the detachment.

My cousin was a kind, gentle heart. He, as I, did not know paternal fathers. He was born and suffered of a dysfunction of his mother’s consequence. Addiction, turmoil, perhaps also not of her making, as likely as was my teen mother, however, their dreams were lost to some sad collision of truths.

Camus might inject that I was bestowed “une grâce sans prix” –  a priceless grace when an  incidental moment; that, moment of truth, my mother could not nurture another baby in a fatherless house with other fatherless siblings, who also deserved dreams.

And in giving me away to strangers, they the most honorable, I could have dreams and, by chance, she could dream again.

A gamble of faith or resignation to truth to resurrect hope. An acute difficult decision that likewise could end tragically but did not for the reverence to life of those strangers, who pledged to become my parents .

This was the grace not afforded Michael, though there had been lessons taught twice of his mother, when she birthed and struggled twice before him. For whatever reason – love, selfishness, the hollow promise of an unworthy man, who she never disclosed to her son, her pain was so unbearable, she chased each day with some sedation or illusion. She focused upon and pacified her pain, neglecting the dreams for her children.

Left on their own device, through 52 years Michael’s pain and anger was never absolved. His priceless grace was bestowed on a baby girl that, though when found not biologically his, he did not abandon. He gave as much heart and soul to embrace as was possible under the duress of a lifetime of torment.

Michael Natalie

Though he could not further dream, he gave that baby dreams and his brother, who fought through these terrible circumstances, will carry those dreams forward.

For this twisted corollary, on this Memorial Day, Michael’s uncle, my decorated father, Max and I are proud of him for his compassion, heart and honor battling fate. He is at peace at last.

 

The Kalends of My February

written February 11, 2016

“… I certainly don’t expect you to understand”, I spat back at my long lost sister. “You call it ‘happenstance’; that, Jesus is the reason.”

“Well that’s nonsense. He was just a man. A good man thrust upon a small world of illiterate shepherds. Alone he dared, did his best, as I’ve dared and made the best. But I will not work myself into an early grave or nervous breakdown” like your son or husband.

“I can easily be called a piss poor German for this work ethic. I am guilty as charged with an abandoning indifference toward Revolution. But it’s all accidental – birth, education, property. An accidental capitalist. Accidental husband. Accidental landlord. I was just making best of an accident.”

When you haven’t known your sibling for 47 years, there’s no time for antecedents, details.  It demands candor. No synopsis or Cliff Notes. Timidity wastes time. Time we do not have.

“Gosh if someone heard us they might think this is a fight”, Jutta injected, “but I wish [my son] could be more like you… me too”, she admitted.

jesssus

 

“I’ve conquered childish fears and fables” although my desires and demons remain challenging. Still I’ve navigated virtually alone, indigent with the winds usually blowing in my face, rarely at my back.

Schwesti, we’ve survived” but unwittingly our success crowds our lives with influences that will be our death. We’ve anointed the  Kalends of our February that draw us to the ides of our March.

On queue Jutta announced her son had his fifth baby last night, filling her “with joy and thanksgiving to [her] father in heaven who blessed this undeserving woman with such a great family.”

As bastards of Occupation, I see again our shared reality, contradictions: undeserving, we were adrift yet found an enriched path leading us toward death. (A death she desires.)

I am proud of her. Happy she has Jesus.  Happier I had a man who wanted to be a father. Staff Sergeant Maxwell Horace Pennock, USA. The same United States Army that created Jutta and me; that, brought the unknown “swinging dicks” to conqueror and occupy our hometown.(“Don’t you want to know who they are?”, she’s asked. “No! They got what they wanted and went home to their wives and lives”, I reply.)

Long a societal stigma, being fatherless is demeaning. You disguise it yet must own it.  My sister thankfully had a twin, was not given away. She found a father in Jesus.

The grace of age has allowed me to recognize the impact and importance of  male elders. In a world now with so many fatherless children, they’re essential.Three men formed the rails that guided this little engine that would down an improbable path.

accidental

Though my father’s last breath was long ago yesterday, he nurtured me through adolescence. Another, born long ago this very day, he unleashed my imagination. My third elder, an octogenarian survives –  this his birth month. Though he’d refute it,  he was my accidental mentor. He pushed me out the door of youth into a big world that – due to no one’s fault, I had closed in adolescence.

All three antithetical of the other, they taught tenacity and obedience, guile and defiance, calculation and risk. By the springtime of my life, I fought lessons, as bastards often do. Never pretty, I flailed and failed.  Unlike the man that I never knew they did not abandon me.

Now without elders, I recognize that I am an elder, as all good men must embrace.

Personally I fight sorrow yet it’s outweighed by tremendous thanks, even if they knew not what they did.

 

 

 

This is Not News

This is not news.  It was once News. Documented. There are photographs.

December 1979, the Soviet leadership of Russia intervened  in an insurgency over their border. Russia has big borders. The Islamic Revolution was on their border in Iran. The Revolution needed to stay in Iran. They acted.

Jimmy Carter reacted. In many ways.  He brought back the Selective Service registration – preamble to conscription, the Draft, suspended after Viet Nam.

Any young man 18-25 born after January 1960 was required to register or face penalties.

Born prior to that date, I was exempt and went down to the Post Office to protest, leaflet, persuade young men against registering until properly counseled, consider options. With all the reaction to the Soviet “invasion”  I could react within boundary.

USPO

Some young men came to register while a steady stream of citizens wished to ignore me. Courteous but, it seemed my conscientiousness was less important than a Federal education grant or other financial aid to these young men.

A man walking with a cane asked, “can I hang out with you awhile?” He said, he was crippled in Viet Nam. Quietly he sat on the wall saying, he wished someone was there when he registered. He watched as I couldn’t close appeals, dejectedly closing “then sign ‘under duress of penalty’.”

After he left, a late model Lincoln Continental stretched to the curb. I offered a leaflet to this middle-aged housewife as she walked inside. When she returned, she berated me about World War II. As she retreated she spat at me. There was name-calling all day.

Later a paraplegic veteran lent support. He too drafted, a single enemy round sentencing him to a wheelchair. Yet they continued to register.

As a young man this was action. I wanted more.

The coming morning, of all people in a small dusty central California cowboy town, a Hungarian immigrant approached, veins erupting on forehead, in neck. He dove nose-to-nose, yelling about Russians; how, when he was a child, they drove tanks into Budapest. People died and disappeared.

Intellectually, I stuck to the Peace narrative; that, a new multi-polar world required new reactions to old Cold War narratives. Emotionally I feared we were coming to blows. (I had heard over night likeminded locals were showered by yellow paint cans at a Post Office.)

Surviving that interaction, a young Episcopalian priest joined me in the afternoon.  His collar defused reactionary aggression.

Another middle-aged woman with a familiar accent approached. She told how her two sons, who were not citizens had been required to register and were drafted to Vietnam.

I asked if she was German. She was. As her light blue eyes watered highlighted her withdrawn face, she explained they were killed in action; that she regretted not saving them by leaving.

I thought of her a moment ago when I saw on social media the story of a Guatemalan mother.  Her sons enlisted and killed in Iraq. She is now being deported because, like her dead sons, she’s undocumented. I thought of these mothers. Of many mothers. The thread of motherly pain.

As an older man I feel pain acutely. Now my protest, how I wish I’d never returned to that post office.  Human struggle is difficult to bear, especially up close. The weight of these people’s pain, unnecessary, unbearable, I was injected with it.

It’s difficult enough to carry one’s own weight through life. But after all these years, these stories, this is not news.

The Ends of Earth – Getting Lost in a Big World

The Summer of 1990 was vastly approaching. I was 30 years old, becoming restless. Since graduating college, I’d been back in Los Angeles a half dozen years, had a cramped apartment and a trophy girl friend return from a failed romance.

The year before, distraught by her apathetic return, I totaled my four-wheel drive truck along with a traffic light and telephone pole at Roscoe and Coldwater Canyon. It was the result of an emotional phone call with her.

Actually, it occurred when the coil mounted cellphone fell to the floor board when slamming the handset at my failure.  Reaching to pull it back in position, I faded right through the intersection into the street light and telephone pole, crushing the passenger side of the truck, sliding to a halt on the driver side like some movie stunt in front of a bus stop bench with three horrified patrons. (Should’ve seen their faces when I emerged top-side, passenger door like  a submarine.)

As luck would have it, the next day after I tore this first generation mobile technology from the mangled truck, I swapped it for a large shoulder sling first generation portable cellphone and qualified for a promotion – a free flight for two to Hawaii.

Thus at year’s end I found myself on Maui with said former girlfriend, who had a miraculous change of heart. The weather dismal but it was a good time.

Now summer loomed. I received a letter from the hotel chain where we stayed on Maui. They offered a free week in a condo tower in Fort Lauderdale, Florida that August. Flights to Miami were tremendously inexpensive, I booked us for Florida.

My naiveté had no bounds. No one goes to Florida in August due to the oppressive, heat and humidity.  Likewise, I found December is rainy season in Hawaii. Dumbass. And that girl was not in love with you. Romantic dumbass.

We hit Florida, walking out in a sauna. My eyeglasses fogged. Arriving in Fort Lauderdale I saw more Hassidic Jews on the beach than the Brooklyn D-Train platform at New Ultrecht. God they looked hot in those clothes.

A day after this scene, every day was necessary to journey out. One morning I decided “let’s go to Key West”. Under a blazing mid-morning sun, a couple ounces of psilocybin mushrooms and a joint in my pockets, we set out.

She wasn’t just a trophy girl because of her looks, she could bake and didn’t  smoke or do drugs. At Key Largo I set the rental’s cruise control and enjoyed the Atlantic Ocean on my left, the Gulf of Mexico on my right, as we rolled down the highway surfing the bridges and Keys.

Keys are islands. I noticed each of various size, alternating speed limits.  Roaring down Islamorada Key, I saw a sheriff cruiser in the brush. When he didn’t emerge I didn’t cancel the 65mph cruise control. Within a mile, a similar cruiser parked on the northbound lane, wiped around, he came after me.

Panicked I stabbed at my pocket for the mushrooms, swallowing them all along with the joint as a rotund Monroe County – as he repeatedly reminded me of the jurisdiction – sheriff emerged at my door. As he looked at my California license he asked “why the hurry, boy?”

Before answering, I noticed I’d given him my license with bleached blond hair and pulled it from his fingers, replacing it with a newer ID. “They let you have multiple IDs in California, boy?”, he asked. Quickly I said, “sure, don’t they here?”

blondie

He wrote me my ticket. We were off again on this never-ending drive. So weary by late afternoon, we stopped on Marathon Key for a beer, reconsidering the destination. Some local barflys insisted “ya’ll came this far, ya’ll might as well go to Key West”.

We walked out of that double-wide trailer posing as a bar, noticing it abutted Marathon’s airport. The propeller props whipped the air a convincing calm to my ear. The falling sun to the southwest – our destination, warmed by face and belly. I was digesting the psychedelics from the traffic stop.

By Key West I was a blaze in the late summer night. We bar hoped tourist trap to tee shirt shop, everything named Margaritaville it seemed.

We sat at some restaurant’s seaside balcony, a clawless lobster plated before me. The bastard was so rigid and coarse, his spiny shell ripping my left index finger open. I bleed over its vengeful corpse, as I forced down his tail.

We left Key West within the hour, starting the long, dark night drive back to Lauderdale. The radio station was oddly dated. I felt like I was driving in a 1952 Desoto as the radio played Buddy Holly, Bill Haley, the Platters and Cadillacs while my headlights spotted baby alligators, frogs and varmint darting ahead.

As Elvis ended “Teddy Boy”, suddenly the Star Spangled Banner played. The station signed off, not another could be found. Dead quiet. Mind blazing. Dark.

I had driven to the end of earth.

When I returned the rental car later, Hertz demanded I pay the speeding ticket – $125.00 or they wouldn’t allow me to return the car. Charges would apply. Almost late for the flight, the counter guy said, “we wouldn’t want you getting lost in this great big world without paying your ticket”.

I should’ve known nothing’s ever free.

Earth-4

First World & Fatherless

Set adrift fatherless sons, I recognize them with immediate intimacy. It doesn’t matter at what age because I have been through most of the stages as I pass through my middle age. Now closer to the end, it is with resignation rather rage at the circumstance.

My salvation  – that which tempered me was that one man had stepped forward, albeit unprepared, he provided security, some routine, the discipline to fight through the fear, as did he as a teen stepping into a world war of other fatherless men’s making.

You could find Alan routinely on my couch weeknights. Generally quiet. At times amused.  He took in every word, interacting only with regular visitors of equal age and status.

He was a decade my senior. California born, his straight stringy light brown hair still collar length since the Sixities. His face and body belayed a unambitious, unathletic, satisfactorily lazy laid back pay-check to pay-check existence.

He must of been a handsome teen as he graduated Van Nuys High in the Summer of 69. Physically he resembled a cross of Peter Fonda and Troy Donahue with a John Wayne voice but life was catching up quickly on Al.

Surviving his younger years without a father, never knowing who his father was, he, like me was a latchkey kid. His mother, Dolores had to rise for work every day before dawn to wait tables at Dupars on Ventura Boulevard.

Dolores had taught him how to rise every agonizing morning for a menial job and introduced Marlboro reds to pass time.  Later, suffering from emphysema and on oxygen, her example brought him to reduce a three pack a day habit to one as he watched her bring a lit cigarette to her oxygen, savagely burning her face.

Alan was an intriguing combination of integrity and sloth. He could be trusted with money and secrets. He didn’t ask questions but was oblivious to his appearance and body language.  So much so, employment became a revolving door of odd driving and delivery jobs in The Basin.

Lost in a generation and setting of dashing, gracefully aging middle-class suburban commuters, he felt strangely entitled but abandoned by his position in Tinseltown. Often racist, generally angry, his poverty was not of his doing in his mind.

Gentlemanly yet perverted, his contradictions were exposed only in private. His sadness at being alone apparent, his hatred at being white and looked over a constant dialogue.

To his credit, as the years on my couch went by, he once said, “I wish I would’ve had a father who taught me some skill, something of value for my life.”

I recognized this statement because my loving father, sparing me the orphanage and an uncertain life could only teach me “don’t lay down near a [Sherman] tank for a firing position” and “don’t break your back for 40 years working” like me.

Perhaps, Alan knew the latter advice of my father, he sat smoking every bit of free weed he possibly could on my couch, enjoying the socialization he never found in his little Reseda studio petri dish of a dungeon.

As I migrated permanently east, I often wondered how he was doing. I recognized the fatherless son and cared about his welfare.  My suspicion is that he has passed away, since I’m compelled to bring him alive to you.

Swingers revisited

Twenty years ago last month I met my wife.

It was just after Christmas and my roommate, Jim had been AWOL all of December.

I was fairly certain he was hanging out with a young lady we had met at the Ye Old Kings Head in Santa Monica one night in November.

Jeanette and I had chatted about Mose Allison and Ron Hubbard over drinks, while Jim prowled the pub. Left out, her friend wanted to leave. She offered me her telephone number.  We went out twice, both times concluded with her hugging my toilet bowl.

Anyway, Jim had two gal pals due to arrive from Boston.  He had barely said a word about it but I’d been on business all month between Austin and Chicago. When I returned he was still absent. Yet I assured the cute voice on the other end of the telephone that, “if I have to make a sign and stand there like a limo dude, look for your name, Kim, that’ll be me”.  Oh, by the way where you staying?” I asked. “I thought your place”, she says.

Jim hadn’t spoken to me since December 3rd, the night he played tongue twister with Jeanette outside El Torito on Santa Monica Boulevard, while I paid our check.

It wouldn’t have been so bad but it had been a really hard day.  Though I saw Clayton Moore, the Lone Ranger – my childhood hero – ride by in the Hollywood Christmas Parade, a good friend had committed suicide that morning.

One can only take so much. I was mortified a “good guy” had gone badly while petrified by the action of a “bad guy” I had thought was good. All senseless.

As I got in my car to leave the Valley for LAX, Jim showed up. “Where you been?”, I asked. Nothing. Nervous. He spoke gibberish about “women” while we drove.

His late arrival made finding Kim and Lynn easier on a busy Sunday night at the airport. They commented that they had noticed me. Vainly I wondered what they had thought?

I asked them what they wanted to do? They were game for going out to have drinks so I drove them to Hollywood, near where I lived for a decade, off Cahuenga.

I parked down the street on Fountain.  We started at the Dark Room or Burgundy Room, one of which was a bigger darker sister bar of the other small dark bar across the street, both without signs. Since the door was in the back, we walked up the alleyway.

I could feel the ladies’ tension with every step. We came upon some men, one on his knees blowing the other behind that hot dog kiosk down from the newsstand on Cahuenga.

As  I assured them there’s a gay bar at the other corner, the shrill crackle of a laughing street woman and the metal wheels of her shopping cart rattled off the ally walls. It made Jim and the ladies jump; just another night off Hollywood Boulevard.

Safely inside, crowded we had a couple rounds as my eyes transfixed at the taller, porcelain faced Kim. Her light brown eyes shined, reflecting the glow of those dimples. It seemed she couldn’t stop smiling at me while Lynn was in sensory overload.

I thought we should move on to a more lit bar. I suggested The Dresden on Vermont. Maybe Marty and Elaine were playing. They can do the entertaining and give us a chance to unwind.

The Dresden is an old glam club from the 1950s. Classic tuck-and-roll booths, chandeliers, long curvy countertop bar. Between Boarderners and The Dresden I had wasted years with my goofy friends drinking, killing hours, being stupid.

Marty and Elaine were playing “Staying Alive” and it seemed Kim and I were coming alive. It was magic but I had to make sure and called a friend who lived in Silver Lake “to  come down here for a drink… I’ll buy. I want you to meet this girl”.

We didn’t speak of movies or bands, drop names, kiss or hug, we had no contact; that, she was under the same roof sipping coffee once I was done posing as some hipster that night made it all the more real.

Days later we kissed at the Tiki-Ti and the morning after we packed up a rental El Dorado, Jim, Jeanette, and Lynn heading for New Years Eve in San Francisco.

One night a year later at our first home in Providence, we saw this movie by Jon Favrue. It was called “Swingers”. He traced our entire first evening together (without the alleyway oral sex of course). “All the cool bars in Hollywood have to be real hard to find and have no signs”, went a line.  We looked at one another in shock.

The jig was already up though. I was just an extra in the phony, over-managed, repetition of a screenplay called life going nowhere as a L.A swinger.

As I always said, it’s seductive. So near to stardom, one can reach out and touch it, yet so far away most can’t pick up the check.  At least over the years, I proved I could pick up the check, even if not the girl.

As much as she enjoyed the thrill, this woman knew the end of a good script; what was the furthest from the regular lives of people outside that bubble;  what was of real import.

She trusted I knew deep down too but allowed me to decide. 20 years, two children, two houses, thousands of miles away, we swing happily to our own script every day.

baby N me

Summer Beat

my heart pounds slowly against the rhythm of the night

suppressing it slows the sweaty glue that eminents  from my pores with the slightest movement 

rendered motionless in this bed, these sheets my only respite, salvation but I’m stuck

because there is no air the cat cries at my window, exhausted, defeated, dim witted by the day

his shrill an octave higher than the thousand dying crickets that cry a story below

that pierce our ears, I hold down a beat with my heart, all one vibration, competing

all dying at our own pace, dim witted and desperate for nothing but a breath, one wet breath after another

Wild Week in 74

I’d just turned fifteen and my father decided we’d take an August road trip. It was 1974 and we were driving the Pinto to go to see my father’s mother and family in Philadelphia.

Hormones running wild, I was very unhappy to leave my friends, pool jumping, delinquency.

Unbeknownst to my mother and I, dad made a bet with his seven siblings that he’d make it to Philly in under 5 days. We dint stop for food till Amarillo.

I was cramped in the back of that two-door Pinto sedan with a styrofoam ice chest as a companion. no air conditioning.

In the middle of the first night my Mother fell asleep driving through the desert. She crossed the double line, nearly driving head-on into a tractor trailer.

I was in the front seat for that light show and horns. Shocking. The noise woke Dad in the backseat. He took over. I was happy to be in the backseat. I stayed there for the rest of the trip, even after my first wet dream.

It was terrible. I had almost died several times before, I got over that but this, after never masturbating, it was awfully uncomfortable in every conceivable way. I went to sleep.

When I woke we were off the side of the Interstate; dad asleep on a concrete picnic table. Mother and I locked inside the Pinto.

We made St Louis by the next afternoon. We were staying the week with one of Dad’s WWII Sargent buddies, Tony.

Tony had a daughter. She was 17 or 18, a sizzling Sicilian beauty. I had no chance. She disappeared an hour after we arrived. Like a roach when the light goes on, if I caught a glimpse, she ran. Gone.

It all sucked until Tony and his wife started yelling. They were Italian. Funny. Loud. The whole block was Italian. “Diego Hill”. Loud. I swear I had pizza every night.

Down in his converted basement Tony had built a bar. He insisted I join in a few beers with him and my dad. Away from the women. Falstaffs. Man like. These were my first beers with my dad.

Tony looked like an ugly Humphrey Bogart. Real dog face G.I Joe. People did what he asked. My dad laughed. You know that “ahh fuck it! why didn’t I think of that? Wife will kill me” laughs.

Over a few Falstaffs I sat silently as they talked soldier talk. How the country was going to shit. Bad word. Really bad words. There were bad words flying like the Allies over Hamburg. Dad only said these while driving. I knew them.

Every day Tony and Dad would leave for a few with a bunch of Tonys at the VFW. I found Tony’s Playboy stash and tore out all the center folds, stole them. (One had Sybil Shepherd.)

Mother was always with his wife, Jeanne, while she cooked in the kitchen. She looked like Danny Devito. She was always cooking. We never left that house.

I listened to Yellow Brick Road over and over while tearing out centerfolds and watched the Cardinals on TV alone.

Yea rock and roll.