Friday, December 31, 2010

I'm not heavy, I'm a sausage made from pork and beef

My brain is turning to pepperoni. I knew it would. And so what?

Heard a beautiful poem earlier, spoken in Gaelic. Made me really sad. Such a big mistake, not learning it, long ago. As it is, just fumbling about, thickly. Relating to the world outside—ostensible, ultimately unproveable—in this alien tongue, unsuited for my processes. Misshapen sounds, imprecise meaning.

Sometimes I feel as though there is a caul separating my selves, constructed entirely from the limitations of my understanding. As if the thing I'm looking for so desperately on that beach at Whithorn is me. And the roiling water between us is the symbol of my inability to reconcile my true self to the things I percieve outside it. It is the slave language I am filled with, it is the Roman idea I cannot abide. It is dissonance.

It is pepperoni, for fuck's sake.

And it, too, is finally me.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Transference, part 2

(click to enhance view. i mean it dammit)

M.K. Brown

I'm a big fan. More here.

This is "Transference" (panel one).

(To enhance your view—in other words, to ENLARGE THE PICTURE, for those of you with unruly minds—just click it)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Back from midnight mass few minutes ago. Watching It's a Wonderful Life, with Paula Jane.

Hope y'all're having a serene and blessed Christmas.

The great Pavarotti, first singing Ave Maria; then, O Holy Night; and finally, Adeste Fideles. Then, the magnificent Joan Sutherland, and her version of Ave Maria:

Friday, December 24, 2010


Had to fire a guy yesterday.

Yeah, I know. Two days before Christmas. Didn't wanta do it—I fucking hated doing it—but I had to. He was a terrible employee. He forced my hand, and it was really the only thing I could do.

Remember in Lonesome Dove, Augustus told the Man-Burner he was the sort it was a "pleasure to hang."

There have, occasionally, been a few that it's been a pleasure to fire. An idiot teenager at the Auburn, WA, Godfather's Pizza comes to mind. I had assumed control of that bloated, corrupt, out-of-control restaurant just a day or two previous. I was in the kitchen, watching her cut a pizza with a pizza knife that hadn't been cleaned since Clinton's first term. She said that she'd prefer I not stand there. I asked her to repeat what she said. She did. I told her she was fired. She said I couldn't fire her (still don't get that one), and I said, Lady, get the hell out of my restaurant before I have a cop drag you out. She pitched a hell of a fit, which was fun, and ended with the Auburn Police escorting her off the premises, and warning her about criminal trespass. So doing, she provided an object lesson for the staff that saved me weeks of time. Must say, didn't mind firing her too awfully much.

Most of the time, though, it's perfectly awful. Like killing someone, in a way, and it takes a hell of a lot out of me. (Doesn't do them a hell of a lot of good either, I realize).

If you're gonna be successful running a business, though, you must have standards. Certain types of personalities are poison. Destructive, to everything you're trying to do. Sometimes—most times, I expect—you even like em, personally. Isn't that fucking awful???


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Maud Gonne: O Love is the crooked thing

Yeats wrote that. Then he said, "there is nobody wise enough to find out all that is in it."

Me, I've seen all kinds of it. A blonde girl black and blue, carrying a tiny yapping rat-sized dog in a purse slung over her shoulder, eating french fries from a paper bag, maundering to an unfurnished trailer on the beach. A lanky, glowering dark-haired guy, undone by his best intentions, and events beyond his control. A small, quiet, chubby kid, who loved to laugh and fish and drink beer, too afraid to ever declare himself. He ran out of time one Saturday, the fast lane of south-bound 45, between Galveston and Texas City.

Seen other kinds, too. Passion enduring for decades, passion that wanes, passion that never was, at least the way we might think of it—there's no recipe, really—lives completed, interrupted, ruined—crushed, beneath gnarled metal—haunted, by ghosts.

Could Yeats have loved Maud Gonne as deeply as he claimed to love her, if she did not reciprocate, in kind? I have always doubted that. Perhaps his love, impossible as it seemed, was merely a tool, an extension of his artifice, like Plath's resentment of her father, or Steven's evocations of human feeling.

I've always thought unrequited love to be an illusion—a projection, i guess—expressing the desire of the projector, and having little to do with the projectee. It is a desire, too, that can come at an oppressive cost.

But what the hell do I know?

Maybe Dante really loved Beatrice—the essence of Beatrice—with a pure and simple heart. Maybe his idealized vision of her was some kind of fucking truth.

And maybe the best thing he could do, loving her so, was to stay the fuck out of her life, so that she could be really loved—good and loved, so to speak—by someone with a pulse.

Maud Gonne was born 145 years ago, today. God bless your constant heart, Maud—for living on your terms. For rejecting objectification. For not permitting the throbbings of the ravening, flailing, desperate sex to define you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dueling Statues

Okay, most likely you don't give a fuck. I get it.

Still, it bugs me that when people think Statue of a Fool, they think Ricky Van Shelton, with his little pig-eyes and his gynormous head, instead of Brian Collins, who has a much better intuitive understanding of the material, and who really nails that motherfucker at the end, you know? Not fucking fair, is all I'm sayin.

Now, I know what lazy motherfuckers y'all are. Don't bother denying it, alright, cause I'm the one's gotta post all these videos all the time, cause y'all can't be trusted to follow a link—Oh, no, might sprain one of your precious little fingers or something—might not be able to text for a few hours, or twitter your every fucking brain-fart and then where the fuck would the world be, right?

So, yeah. I'm sympathetic. Just this once, though—puh-leeeeeze?—follow this link:

—After you've watched old scrunch-eyes sing it again (below), and then you tell me which one is better. Now, not only do you have to follow the link, you have to scroll down just a little, and click on the song (Statue of a Fool, if your attention is wandering). So, maybe set your cell-phone down, just for a moment or two? Gather your senses. Then, listen, and let the transcendence of it sorta wash over you. Maybe leave ol Brian a note letting him know you recognize the utter superiority of his version, compared to old lantern-head.

You'll feel better about yourself, and the world around you, too.

(Go to it—I can't very well click the fucking thing for you, can I?)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19

(This poem derives from the incomparable sensibility of Edward Estlin Cummings. Known to the lowbrows among you as e.e.)

(And who, no matter what you may have heard, is a poet of great sincerity)

a clown's smirk in the skull of a baboon
(where once good lips stalked or eyes firmly stirred)
my mirror gives me,on this afternoon;
i am a shape that can but eat and turd
ere with the dirt death shall him vastly gird,
a coward waiting clumsily to cease
whom every perfect thing meanwhile doth miss;
a hand's impression in an empty glove,
a soon forgotten tune,a house for lease.
I have never loved you dear as now i love

behold this fool who,in the month of June,
having certain stars and planets heard,
rose very slowly in a tight balloon
until the smallening world became absurd;
him did an archer spy(whose aim had erred
never)and by that little trick or this
he shot the aeronaut down,into the abyss
-and wonderfully i fell through the green groove
of twilight,striking into many a piece.
I have never loved you dear as now i love

god's terrible face,brighter than a spoon,
collects the image of one fatal word;
so that my life(which liked the sun and the moon)
resembles something that has not occurred:
i am a birdcage without any bird,
a collar looking for a dog,a kiss
without lips;a prayer lacking any knees
but something beats within my shirt to prove
he is undead who,living,noone is.
I have never loved you dear as now i love.

Hell(by most humble me which shall increase)
open thy fire!for i have had some bliss
of one small lady upon earth above;
to whom i cry,remembering her face,
i have never loved you dear as now i love

(happy 19th, Paula Jane)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Associations: Gap-toothed strangers, Pink Floyd, etc...

Contemplating one or other
lying noble Roman
searching the bottom of the row
of the history shelf
even less aware
than usually i am

Turned abruptly to my right
not thinking or glancing
not giving a damn
for oncoming traffic
you know

Nearly plowed her to the ground
poor thing
nearly murdered randomly
on a Saturday afternoon
at Waldenbooks
by a book-drunk stranger who
should have had his browsing license
long ago.

A pretty one, she was
kind eyes, brown and wide
with an amused, ironic mouth.
And a smile that graced
even reckless men
who menace chain-store aisles.

Mumbled apologies
so little aware was i.
No problem, said she,
looking up at me,
still smiling
as she squeezed on by.

And i
and i
i looked at her

then began my descent
into my favored hell
nothing beneath
to break my fall
just fell

and fell
and fell

into the place
where's kept her face.
And i reduced.
And she was not.
And nothing


was all.

Contemplating Romans
at Waldenbooks

was all.

(then darkness, again...some's forever, it seems)


For my mom, who's always loved Loretta Lynn (as do I).

This video's a rather remarkable artifact, of Loretta's time with the no-talent and litigious Wilburn Brothers. In spite of their mush-mouthed corn-pone chicken-fried schtick, these guys were hard-asses, who tried to milk Loretta for everything she was worth, and made her life hell when she tried to leave.

She's pretty young here, and seems a little scared. You know Mooney's right there, in the wings. Always liked this song, sappy as it is...

For me, cause I love Chrystal Gayle. And this is probably my favorite of her songs.

For Phillip—the craziest Coon Ass of em all, doing Diggy Diggy Lo

—and the inevitable Ricky Van Shelton, doing Statue of a Fool (the far superior version by Brian Collins is pretty hard to find these days).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Phillip Alexander, part three (conclusion)

May didn't begin well for Phillip.

The Cleo Johnson family lived across the street from the Titus's. A guy obsessed with one of the blonde, bland, indistinguishable daughters went ape shit on the first Monday of the month. Apparently she had broke up with him, and stopped taking his calls. Something obviously snapped, and he began driving his Trans Am across their lawn at around 5am, sideswiping cars and mowing down bushes and small trees.

When the first collision happened, Phillip looked out his bedroom window, and worried that the guy might hit his precious Cougar. Not bothering to dress, he ran outside waving his arms and yelling at him to stay away, prompting the guy to swerve, whirl around and smash into the Cougar's rear bumper. As Phillip ran toward him, the Trans Am backed up, swerved onto the Titus's lawn, and ran over his foot. It was Phillip's subsequent scream that woke the neighborhood, described afterward as being a cross between the roar of an angry lion and the throaty moan of a febrile, anguished bear. As the neighborhood poured outside to find freshly dented cars, chewed up lawns and two hundred pounds of very pissed-off Phillip clutching his foot and moaning (and wearing only tighty-whities), the guy squealed away. It was later, in school, that we heard that after arriving home, inconsolable and hopeless, the poor sonofabitch shot himself.

Phillip's graduation impended, and it should have been a really happy time, but he was troubled. His foot was okay in a few days (strong Cajun bones) and a friend of his fixed the dented bumper for nothing, but something else evidently was weighing on him, because he wasn't his usual carefree self. I didn't see him for days at a time, and once when I did, he and Mike were huddled together whispering about something. When Phillip left, I asked what was up, and Mike just shook his head, and said it wasn't good.

On a weeknight, a Wednesday or a Thursday I think, just after the middle of the month, Mike and I were hanging around the parking lot drinking beer, when Phillip showed up. He was drinking whiskey from a pint bottle, and was sullen and distracted, not himself at all. He came cruising with us awhile in Mike's truck, and before we completed a single circuit, he became annoyed with a guy driving a truck next to us, some guy I didn't know. Phillip was screaming obscenities at the guy, and telling him to pull over, which the guy wanted no part of. Philip was so angry he looked a little ridiculous—he'd packed his front lip with what must have been an entire can of Skoal, and he was flipping the guy off maniacally, with the first and third fingers uncurled, and flat against his palm.

The refusal to stop caused Phillip to become unhinged. As both trucks navigated the crowded boulevard, he climbed out the open window, and perched atop the cab. Mike screamed over at him to stop fucking around, but Phillip ignored him, and when we were near the other truck, he leapt onto its bed, ran over then and swung neatly, feet first, through its passenger window, and proceeded to beat hell out of its astonished and terrified driver. The truck careened sharply to the right, over a curb and into a vacant lot, before coming to rest about 30 yards in. Mike parked his truck along the road there, and we ran over to where Phillip was pounding the mystery guy, arriving just as a police car rolled in, lights and siren sounding. Several more cop cars rolled in over the next few minutes, and by the time we were permitted to get anywhere near him, someone was tending to the battered driver, while a couple of cops were standing over Phillip, who was hand-cuffed and silent, sitting in the back seat of an open-doored cruiser facing out, with his feet in the grass.

"Goddamn it Phillip, what's wrong with you?"

No response.

"What would your father think?"

A flicker in his eyes, but still no response.

"Well, your lucky the other boy doesn't wanta press charges. We convinced him—understand?—we convinced him—that in the interests of justice—and his own ass—that no harm's been done."


"And do you know why we convinced him of this, Phillip? Do you know why I'm disposed to leave twenty dollars on the table and a nice game of forty-two just to save your dumb ass from going to jail? You think its your dumb ass I'm thinkin of, son?"


"I knew your daddy, boy. And the only reason your going home now instead of under the fucking jail is because I knew him. Comprende?"

Phillip looked up, slowly. In a deliberate, neutral tone, he asked, "Can I go now? Or are you gonna keep jabberin'?"

The cop looked over at Mike and I, and exploded. "Get him the fuck OUT of here! Goddamn it! And don't make me look at him again tonight!"

We gathered Phillip in the truck, and drove back to the parking lot. Mike was pretty pissed. "You're trying to kill yourself, ain't you? Or go to fucking jail. It ain't funny, Phillip. It ain't funny at all."

Phillip didn't answer, or say a word all the way back. As he headed to his car, I told Mike I was afraid for him.

"Go after him, then, " he said. "He won't let you drive, though"

Phillip was just sitting in front of the steering wheel when I walked up. "Mind if I tag along?" I asked.

He actually smiled, just a little, and seemed grateful. "Let's go for a ride."

We made a couple of circuits, and I don't believe he said a word. Somewhere along the way he finished draining the pint, and we headed over to Zackies. I walked into the store side, bought a six pack of Lone Star, and said hello to Cathy Cee. Phillip walked in with a new fifth of Jim Beam in his hand, drinking from it hard.

In the car again, he turned right onto Texas Avenue toward LaMarque instead of left, back to town. After a minute or so, he said, "We're going to see a lady."

A few miles further west on Texas, we veered over to first street, and I realized where we were going. When we parked outside Cherie's apartment building, it was about 9:15.

I drank my beer, and Phillip sipped his whiskey, while we listened to George Jones, Gary Stewart, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Bush. Sometime during the evening, Bryan Collins Statue of a Fool (an inferior version by Ricky Van Shelton Can be heard here) was played, a big favorite with our crowd. Bryan came from Texas City, used to bag groceries at Weingartens, and we'd all been to see him at the Red Barn a few months earlier. The song itself was melodramatic and over the top, and we loved it a lot.

I sang along, and somewhere during the last verse—

"So build a statue/and oh, oh/build it high-i/So-oh, that all/can see-ee-ee-ee (da-da-da-da-da-da)/Then, inscribe it/oh, to the Wor-or-ld's Greatest Fool/And name/it/af-ter/me-ee-ee-ee-ee/after meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee"

—I looked over at Phillip, and saw that his eyes were glistening. I was surprised, and unsure of what to do, at first. Then, the situation sort of dawned on me—I'm slow getting there sometimes, but I usually do finally arrive—and my heart sort of sank. I reached over and put a hand on his shoulder. Phillip closed his eyes for a minute, like he was biting hard, then looked over at me and grinned a little.

"Fuck it, right?" he said, and took a long drink from the Jim Beam. For the next couple hours, we sang along with the radio, and drank, having a pretty pleasant time. It was about 12:30 that we saw the light switch on, in Cherie's second floor apartment.

The windows were large, and we had a really good view. Phillip leaned forward, expectantly, though what he really expected to see, I don't know. Cherie came to the window to close the drapes, wearing a low-cut blue dress, her hair down, over her shoulders. Immediately after, a man wearing an unloosed tie approached her from behind, and wrapped his arms around her waist. The drapes abruptly closed.

All the breath seemed to leave Phillip, that moment. He slumped in his seat, and gasped for air. When he jumped out of the car, I followed, as he stood under the moon, holding his head in his large hands, and bowling over, as if he was stricken, by bullets or lightning, or something even more terrible—his eyes told the rest, and the light was fled from them, and I feared, greatly, not only for him, but for the two people upstairs who had hurt him.

After a few minutes, when he began to breathe normally, he began walking toward the front door of the apartments. I followed after him, unsure of what to do, or how to stop him, if the worst began happening. "Are you sure this is a good idea?", I asked, lamely, as we started up the stairs, but he didn't answer, just began climbing faster, and at the top of the landing, I saw him clench both of his fists. I stood beside him when we arrived at the door, praying silently that no one would die.

Phillip rapped loudly on the door. After a few moments passed, I heard stirring, inside, then muffled voices. Finally, just the other side, voices again. A slight pause, and the door gingerly opened. Cherie was in her bathrobe, and she looked blankly at us, not sure what to expect, I guess.

More moments passed, and a large tear formed in one of his eyes, and then in the other, though he tried hard to bite them back. As they streamed down his reddening face, I saw him clench his fists again, tightly. "I was gonna marry you," he whispered, letting the words hang in the air a spell, before turning away, and headed back to the stairwell.

I stood there a moment longer, a little stunned. I thought I saw Cherie's face change, saw pain and sadness replace the feigned indifference. Tears were welling up in her eyes, as she closed the door.

Hurrying after Phillip, he seemed to be walking dead. Back in the car, he worked the last of the Jim Beam, and began beating his head against the steering wheel. He looked over at me, his eyes glazed and bewildered, like a wounded kid. "Why didn't she love me?" he asked, earnestly, nearly imperceptibly.

I reached out and touched his shoulder again. "Brother, I'm the last one to ask about that. Nothin they do makes any Goddamn sense to me."

He laughed a little, and eased his head against the wheel. He looked at me again, sidewise, and said once more, wonderously, reverantly, ever so softly, "I was gonna marry her."

About a half hour later, he attempted to start the car, but thankfully, he was too drunk to find the ignition. I waited another half hour for him to begin snoring before beginning the monumental task of removing him to the passenger seat. It was about 2:30am when I finally got him back to the Titus's. Lew and Phyllis, Scott and Mike's parents, helped me get him from the car into the bed. They hovered over him like they were his parents, Lew roughing his hair, and Phyllis kissing his cheek, as we left the room.

Next day, Phillip was his old self. It was like nothing had happened, and I don't remember him mentioning Cherie, or what happened that night, ever again. He graduated, a week later, and was working as an operator at one of the plants a few weeks after that.

Phillip wound up marrying a terrific girl named Rhonda that summer, a girl who I think he was undoubtedly better suited for, anyway. I hope he's plant superintendant, and I hope they have a passel of kids, just like they wanted.

Cherie, though, I wonder about. Screwing her bank president boss may have seemed like a percentage move at the time, but I kinda doubt it worked out well for her, even if he divorced his wife, and married her. Could be they deserved each other, but if I had to guess, I'd bet she lies awake nights, wondering about Phillip. Ain't all that many guys know how to love that deep and clean, and it seems to me once you've known one, you'll notice the difference, always.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Phillip Alexander, part two (a little back-story)

(Please read the first installment, immediately preceding this one—makes no sense, if you don't, and there's a point coming, promise)

Phillip originally came from some swamp-parish in Louisiana, though I believe his mother grew up in Texas City. His father was some kind of lawman there, and it was common knowledge that he'd been shot to death on the job, though he rarely mentioned it. He and his mother had been on their own after that, no help offered or given by the parish, or anyone else. Eventually, his mother made some choices that he held against her; during all the time I knew him, he did not speak to or of her.

There were, though, two things he loved passionately, one being his two-toned (green and white) Mercury Cougar, and the other being his girl-friend, Cherie.

The car was a major pain-in-the-ass. Seemed like there was always something wrong with the damn thing, usually relating to the transmission. Can't count the number of times I came by to see him, and he'd be underneath it, sometimes balancing the transmission on his chest (he was so strong he could remove it and replace it alone, without using a jack).

Cherie was nice, and very pretty, but she seemed older than us—she was Phillip's age, I think, but she seemed like a lady, not a girl, and her attitude towards us was a little condescending—Oh, aren't you too too cute—though we rarely saw her. She lived in La Marque, where she was secretary to the president of the bank she worked at. Phillip had left school after he and his mother fell out, and took jobs working where he could. At Cherie's insistence, though, he went back after Christmas that year. Since he could no longer work full-time, he moved in with the Titus's, a terrific family who lived down the block from me.

Scott and Mike Titus were both really good friends of mine. Scott was my age, and spent most of his time working on cars. He owned two El Caminos and a Dodge Charger, all of which he had bought cheap and restored. He was solid and conservative, and though he often went out with us, he rarely stayed out long, because he tended to be an early riser (he required every hour of daylight to tinker with his vehicles).

Mike was probably opposite as a brother can be. He was Phillip's age, and basically unambitious, satisfied filling his days with sleeping and his nights cruising and drinking beer. His vehicle was one of the most famous in town—a 1954 deep-blue GMC Pickup...Truck. He'd bought it from some Jesus-Freaks for $100, covered with rust and painted-on Jesus-Freak symbols and sayings, a blown head-gasket, a ripped up floorboard, and busted out windows. He'd spent the better part of two years fixing it up by the time I knew him, patiently sanding away all the rust, bondoing where he had to, tracking down glass, dropping a reconditioned 286 engine into it, somehow managing to save the original upholstery and dash. After getting it painted, buying new rims, and installing a new white bed-cover, it looked pretty sweet, and Mike began what was basically a 2 year vacation.

David's girl-friend—his fiance, excuse me—lived in LaPorte, about 20 miles up Galveston Bay. Consequently, he was often away, hanging out with her, and he worked in his family's plumbing business during the day. He'd show up now and again, and we'd hit the bars or cruise and pick up some races, but after the first of the year we saw him less and less.

I saw Phillip every day, though, and he was out with us most every night, after Cherie went to sleep.

Being his friend could be complicated. He was always broke, between fixing that damn money-pit car of his, entertaining Cherie in the style to which she was accustomed, and staying in school (she said she wouldn't marry him until he earned his diploma). You'd be in a store with him, and if he needed oil, he would put a quart beneath his jacket under each armpit, and walk out like he didn't have a care in the world. Once, after his car-battery fried, he asked me to drive him in my Impala to get another one. I thought we were driving to the auto parts store, but when we passed Jack Lane's car-lot (the evil bastard who sold him the Cougar), he told me to pull over. It was about 7 in the evening, so no one was there. Phillip walked over to the newest looking vehicle he could find, popped the lock, and the hood. Then, producing wire-cutters from his pocket, he severed the wires connecting the battery, lifted it out, shut the hood, and placed it on the floorboard in the backseat of my car. Redepositing himself in the passenger seat, he looked over at me casually, and said, "Okay, I'm good."

He was a hell of a good friend to have, though, funny and engaging, and always up for a good time (he did not countenance cheating, though—he never ever cheated on Cherie, or put himself in a situation where he might cheat on her. He chewed me out, more than once, because of my ways). His reputation could be valuable, too, for his friends. Can't count the number of times I've seen tense situations diffused just because Phillip showed up—he didn't have to do anything. "What's goin' on over here?" he'd say. "Ever'buddy doin' alright?" He would be smiling, and his eyes gleaming, garrulous and happy and ready to strike. Previously hostile personages would suddenly be unable to make eye-contact. Previous appointments would be remembered, regrets offered.

Once, though, after some freshman kid we knew had the hell kicked out of him by 3 or 4 guys from Santa Fe, he beat one of them so bad I was afraid he would kill him. The kid had talked to someone's girlfriend, and they jumped him when no one was around. We saw the kid for a few minutes, before someone drove him to the hospital. His face was bloody, eyes swollen shut, and he was doubled over, in pain, from what were probably broken ribs. When Phillip saw him, he didn't say anything, but his face tightened up, and he became very grim.

There was an argument going on about how to handle the situation, when one of the guys pulled up in his car, across the parking lot. I heard someone say There he is, and several people pointed in the direction of a hopped-up Mustang. The guy had his window rolled down, and was talking and laughing with a couple of rednecks I didn't know.

Phillip was there quickly. Smiling, he ignored the guy's salutation, grabbed him by the collar using his right arm, and with one tremendous jerk, pulled him out of the car through that opened window. He held him in the air, seeming amused for a moment, while the guy thrashed and cussed and kicked, before slamming him hard onto the Mustang's hood, with a crash that could be heard for blocks. Then, he began banging his head repeatedly, and slapping him, visciously, with the front and back of his opened hand. The guy's mouth started bleeding, and once the blood touched Phillip's skin, he picked him up again, and holding him upright, tried to shake the blood off, before wiping it on the guy's shirt. "Goddamn it, boy. You got blood on me," Phillip said, almost merrily, before hauling off and hitting him in the nose. The impact sent the guy sideways, onto the hood of another car, and the guy's nose sort of exploded blood. Phillip took a step toward him, and it was then that me and a couple of other guys intervened. I grabbed Phillip's right arm, and someone else grabbed his left. "C'mon, Coon Ass," I said, trying to settle him down (he really liked it when we called him that). He jerked free, but stopped walking. He was kind of teetering there, and I could hear him breathing heavily. There was a little smile on his face, so I wasn't sure if the danger had passed. Looking over at the Santa Fe guys, who were gathering their friend together, I hissed, "Get him the fuck out of here!", which they did, with dispatch.

When the excitement died down, and it was only Mike and Phillip and I sitting on the tailgate of Mike's pick-up sipping beer, I caught his eye, and said, "Goddamn it, Phillip. That was scary."

He looked embarrassed, and looked down at his shredded knuckles, and at the bloodstains on his shirt. "Boys, sometimes I scare myself. And that's a fact."

(part three tomorrow, i reckon)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Phillip Alexander, part one

The cruise in Texas City was a four mile circuit down Palmer Highway, from Sonic on the west side, past the high school and the stadium, to the Weingarten's parking lot, where everyone turned in, either to park and make the scene, or to turn around, and make another loop. There was a semi-riot occurring the early November evening when this story begins. Some guys from Dickinson were acting stupid, as they were apt to do, and there was intermittant fighting going on—one guy said he intended to kick every Texas City ass, one at a time. His knees buckled the first time he was hit, though, and that was the last I saw of him, though some of his friends made up for his noisesomeness.

Understand, I'm not a fighter. Been in my share, I guess, but the idea has never appealed to me—always seemed so embarrassing. So, you know, undignified. On this night, though, I was very, very drunk. A couple of those Dickinson guys were talking smack about David Connor, who I did not know, had never even heard of, but who seemed that moment very much the idea of a person worth fighting for. I rushed toward them, ready to rumble. "David Connor? David Connor?" I screamed. "I'll kick your fucking ass motherfucker!!!" (This was, perhaps, my first organic use of the prized muh-fofo epithet, inverted though it was).

I felt a large hand pull me backward. "Hold on there, cowboy," the guy said. He was about 6'3" or 4", must've weighed 200 or so. "I appreciate the offer, but I got this." David walked up to the guys, who immediately began to hang their heads and eat their words, especially when Phillip walked over. Him, I had heard of, as had the backtrackers from Dickinson, I'm sure. He was only about 5'10", but was built sort of square, and solid; he wasn't fat at all, but he was very, very strong. He had a shock of curly blonde hair that hung in front of his face, and was usually smiling, which contrasted with David's dark long hair, and glowering nature. They were each 19 (I was 16).

After the Dickinson guys departed, David turned to me and said, "You're riding with me." Thus began our friendship.

I formally met Phillip a few days later, when he came cruising with us in David's white Torino. Phillip was pretty drunk, this time, and really pissed off at the manager of the MacDonalds for firing him, several weeks before.

Phillip: I was the best employee there!
David: I know you were.
Phillip: They called me the french fry kid!
David: I remember that.
Phillip: That piece of shit had no right to fire me!
David: Piece of shit.
Phillip: Let's go rob 'em!
David (grinning, to my horror): Let's rob the shit out of em.

On the way to MacDonalds, I was kind of freaking out. Leaving home that night, armed robbery was about the last thing on my mind. While Philip had climbed half out of the passenger window, telling the pick-up beside us what he aimed to do to the MacDonald's manager, I attempted to talk some sense into David.

Me: David, what the fuck?
David: You're afraid we're gonna get caught, ain't you?
Me: Caught? No, David, I'm afraid we're gonna get fucking killed.
David: Nah. I'm not even sure it's illegal to rob a fuckin MacDonalds.
Me: I'm pretty sure it is.
David: Well, even if it is, not enough to get shot over. Not like robbin a bank or something.
Me: That's reassuring.
David: Prison, maybe. You're not afraid of the joint are you?
Me: It's not high on my list of things to do.
David: Well, don't be afraid—me and Phillip'll take care of you.
Me: Wow. That is so great. How many friends will take your slack when you go to prison together?
David: Fewer than you'd think, buddy. Fewer than you'd think.

When we pulled into the MacDonald's parking lot, I nearly pissed myself. Everything started going in slow motion, like I was in a really bad dream. Phillip and David became grim and determined-looking. They nodded at each other. "Let's do it," David said.

I jumped out of the car. "I'm goin in with you."

David stared at me. "You don't gotta do that."

"I ain't waiting in that car."

"You're not even packing heat, are you?" Phillip asked.

"I ain't waiting in that car."

"Well, come on, then, you crazy sonofabitch," David said.

When we walked into the lobby, David walked to one end of the counter, and began furtively checking everyone out. His right hand was hidden inside his jacket. From the counter's other end, Phillip did the same. I was busy looking for something to use for a weapon, once the shit went down. I wondered if we would have to go on the lam. If I'd ever see Teri again.

Finally, Phillip strode to the cashier, a tall rail-thin geek with acne and Elvis sideburns. "H-H-Hey, there, Ph-Phillip, " he said. "What's h-h-happenin?"

Philip's empty hand exited his jacket, and banged on the counter. "I wanta see that sonofabitch," he said, pointing at a pot-bellied bald guy in back of the store.

The geek took a few steps back, and called out: "Hey, J-J-Jim! Ph-ph-phillip wants tuh see you!"

When Jim approached the front, he looked nearly as scared as I was. He didn't say a word.

"Give me my check," Phillip said, quietly. "You piece of shit."

"Piece of shit," David nodded.

"Piece of shit," I agreed, tossing a napkin-holder between my hands.

After Jim returned, and handed Phillip his check, Phillip stuffed it in his pocket. "You shouldn't have fired me," he said.

"Piece of shit," David glowered, turning toward the door.

"He was the French Fry Kid," I said, setting the napkin-holder on a table. "Let's get outa here, boys."

Solemnly, we filed out. In the parking lot, Phillip punched me in the arm. "You're a crazy motherfucker, boy. You were gonna rob that place with a napkin-holder." David punched me in the other arm, and grinned.

We drove back to the parking lot, and bought a few six-packs of Lone Star. Some point in the night, I looked at Phillip, and laughed. Phillip understood, cocked an eyebrow, and smiled. "The important thing is," he said, "We coulda robbed the motherfucker if we'd wanted to."

"Damn right, " David agreed.

"Damn right," I said. I told them the story of how I was fired from working at Jack-in-the-Box, because of a party we had on the roof one night that ended with some of us throwing eggs at police cars.

"Oh, I used to work at Jack-in-the-Crack, too," Phillip said. "I was the best worker there. They called me The Taco Kid."

As he began to enlighten us with his observations about dumbass managers and the intricacies of taco-making, David leaned back against the driver-side headrest, and smiled. He'd obviously heard them before.

Stupid just keeps on coming, don't it?

From Raw Story:

WASHINGTON — Americans overwhelmingly think that WikiLeaks is doing more harm than good by releasing classified U.S. diplomatic cables, and they want to see the people behind it prosecuted, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll.
"Clearly people are very unhappy with it," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., which conducted the national poll.

The survey found that 70 percent of Americans think the leaks are doing more harm than good by allowing America's enemies to see confidential and secret information about U.S. foreign policy.

Just 22 percent think the leaks are doing more good than harm by making the U.S. government more transparent and accountable, the stated goal of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

So, seventy percent of Americans want WikiLeaks shut down, Assange prosecuted, for telling them the truth about their government.

It is apparent, then, that 70% of Americans are dumb-asses.

And you may quote me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Laundry list

Obama caved to the Republicans, the bankers, the billionaires, the worthless monied classes, yet again. This time, he not only signed off on giving trillions of dollars in tax-breaks to the wealthy, he in effect gave his blessing to increasing taxes on the working-poor.

If he is not himself corrupt—a possibility I am starting to doubt—he is ineffectual and weak to the point of cowardice.

It is cold and gray here, and filled with people I don't understand.

The Cowboys are 4-8. Don Meredith died.

I think maybe I'm beginning to doubt the efficacy of my devotion to poetry. I cannot live in it, cannot justify myself from it, cannot assign it supernatural powers. Having seen it up close, I can tell you it has been abducted by forces of largely mediocre ability. No ransom can save it. And hardly anyone gives a fuck about it anymore, even when it is good.

Good people, smart people even, don't like Keats. How can I understand a world like that?

Jonathan Franzen reigns atop fiction's shit-heap.

Thomas Wolfe is seldom taught anymore. Harold Bloom is licking his lips somewhere, thinking obscene thoughts about Sylvia Plath, while Camille Paglia metaphorically fellates his stingy, clammy whiteness.

There's a shitty poem stuck in my head. It won't shut up.

My fucking gym is starting to piss me off.

Is my brain turning to pizza?

Don't get me started on the snow.

Here's a fragment from another shitty poem.

...It comes, I think, to this:
All's been done so many times
and nothing's left to say.
Desire, need, possibility—
just words, anyway,
and they've all been said.
do-able done, thinkable thought.
Saleable sold, buyable bought—
and what has changed?
Not a fucking thing.
'Cause I'm still here
and she's still there
and you're still wherever
the hell you are
and I've grown tired—really tired.
A dragon, you said.
A pyromaniac— made weary of fire—
and of everything
but stars.
And maybe, in the end,
that's all
there ever was.

So, yeah.

Shitty line-breaks. Shitty poem.

No irony at all. Going on about stars, again. Still, maybe they are all there is. Or will be. Or ever was.

But maybe they ain't here, neither.

Maybe all that's real is this feeling.

Or maybe I've been asleep, since September 24, them years back. Or maybe I passed out in Mark Kimbrough's car, after drinking too much PBR. Or some other time. And I'll wake up back of a green Chevy, and hear a cheesy 70's song playing on the radio. Cathy Cee will be stroking my hair. Danny and Steve and Don (his head in tact) dancing with their girls, under the gentle Texas moonlight.

Or maybe I'm a vagrant thought, ghosting the dream of a girl with dark wavy hair and a gap in her teeth, who is crushed beneath the ruin of a 1972 Sprint. Maybe I am the gall she's been given with the vinegar that agitates her waning moments.

Or am I a figment originating with you?

Soon as someone knows, tell me, okay? Motivation is a key component of The Method. Wouldn't want to fuck it up.

Monday, December 6, 2010

So Long, Dandy

One of my favorite all-time football players, Texans, and all-around human beings died Sunday night.

Don Meredith was more than just a damn football player, to me. He exemplified something of the Texas character that has currency. He was smart, cocky, generous, courageous, and funny as hell. He reminded me of my Dad.

At right you can see him with Coach Landry—God's original quarterback, and God's coach—and at bottom, at work, his notoriously skinny legs and spindly frame twisting and squirming to escape a viscious pass-rush. He knew, though, what a silly game football was, at best. Half the reason I care about the damn game at all is because of Joe Don. I still hurt for when they booed him, still wince from the beatings he took, and ache for the rings he never won.

I doubt he gave any of that much thought, though, after he left the game behind. He just turned to a better page, and moved on.

Goddamn...I just can't believe old Dandy is gone.


You can read Galloway's column here. It's a good read.

We'll not be seeing Dandy's like again.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lover's Lullaby

Damn, damn, damn...Townes Van Zandt is so fucking good it's just wrong, ain't it? This is probably my favorite of his songs, written not long before his death...

(The Austin Music Channel logo in the corner of the screen makes me feel really sad...Finally killed a few years ago by the "pragmatic" white pseudo-liberal types (i.e., Will Wynn) who talk progressive while simultaneously selling out everything Austin stands for)