Friday, July 31, 2015

When we were pirates...

Totally Wired: Open Letter to a Friend

Dear Peter,

Weird that you have visited me again in my dreams. I thought maybe the last time would be the last. You seemed so angry. There you were though, and you don’t seem to have aged a day.

Hard to believe it’s been more than twenty-years since that totally wired sunrise on the roof, the sky all pink flake and Jose Cuervo.

Red sky in the morning – Sailor take warning.

You remember that morning? We won that game the day before in Tomkins Square Park when you drove the lane and dunked over that big kid from Avenue D. It seems like just this morning I was hunched over that mirror, clutching the dangerous dollar between taped fingers. You snapped that cassette into the box. The Fall.

That is punk rock, you said.

Yes, that is punk rock.

That was such a crew back then, Peter. We were swashbucklers. We were pirates on the bounding main. Fearless and invincible. Snarl and swagger. No risk too great.

You remember that time we floored it down Terrace Avenue with that rock vendor still hanging out the car window? You remember how we laughed? I have to tell you something, man. I was terrified. No joke. I was scared.

Or that time we went to cop down in Jackson Heights and those crazy Puerto Ricans held us with guns in that booth? They thought we were narcs or something. What was the name of that place?

You weren’t with us that last night on Murder Avenue when we all got the fear and decided to head back to port once and for all. Where were you? I don’t think you ever told me. I don’t know, buddy. There were a lot more close calls, like spending the weekend with all those messed up drag queens in the Bastille. That stupid possession charge. We were slowing down. Time to count losses and hedge bets. Nothing more useless than an old pirate when his sea legs get rusty. But you decided to stay out there and ride out that last squall.

I guess it’s been 16 years now. You showed up downstairs at my place on 22nd Street at 5:30 a.m. with that chick with the crazy hair, looking for a place to crash. Totally wired. You should have understood, Peter. I wish you weren’t so angry. I had a brand new baby upstairs and a new wife. No more pirate life for me. No more punk rock. I told you that was the way it was going to be.

I put forty bucks in your hand and told you to go home. It was all I had. No I’m not asking for it back. Just saying it’s all I had. I thought I was helping too but when I saw that nasty chick smiling I knew I was putting three more bullets in the chambers and telling you to take another spin. You were just going back out to put everything in your pocket on black. Going for broke. High diddle dee dee, the pirate’s life for me and all that. I remember that I laughed at first when you turned back at the corner and swept your hand up into the air with a grand flourish. It took me a moment to see in that pink dawn that it was your middle finger and you brought it back down like a cutlass, spun on your heel and disappeared. So punk rock.

Peter, my brother, I’ve never stopped wondering what became of you. We all got together a while back, the old crew. It was just like you said it would be. Old and fat. We became our parents, just like you said. Not very punk rock at all. I asked for you but nobody had recent news. Last someone or another heard, the crown had locked you up at some place out on the island. Piracy, presumably. You were never one to turn away from a challenge… and open door or a window of opportunity.

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t wonder where you are, my friend. I appreciate the visits and all. Those were good times. And don’t think I don’t feel bad about that morning on 22nd Street. I just couldn’t do it any longer, and that girl with the hair gave me the fear. We talked about the fear all the time. You remember? Hardly a day goes by though, when I don’t wish I’d let you up and left that devil out on the front walk. Some days I think maybe I’ll see you out on the street, all dressed up and on your way to work as a banker or something that. A stock broker. Then I see that weird hair bitch smirking and telling me…

Don’t bet on it, bub.

It’s not so bad on this side, Peter. I don’t miss being a pirate. I don’t miss being punk rock. And that fat little baby boy… you remember him from the Christening? He’s 6 feet tall now and plays drums in a band. I wish you could see him. And his brother too! It’s not so bad on this side. I wish every day that you’d come with me.



(re-post from 2010)


image via Dezz & Carol

I don't think I'm ready to write about depression.  The word is often overused or misused.  Writing about it seems an exercise in "you don't know my pain," or "my pain is worse than your pain."  There are endless cliches.  It's easy to fall into that cycle too, when the grief is larger than your personal connection to the vocabulary of mental illness or anguish.  It's easier to just point to someone who already described it...

"What he said..."

The words will come eventually.


4 Stages

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The unexamined life...

I wonder sometimes about Ol' Socrates and this business with 'the unexamined life is not worth living.'  I wonder if there isn't a law of diminishing returns on self-examination, whereby none is bad and too much is fatal.  It just seems that perpetual scrutiny would be withering.  What or who could possibly stand up to a scorching, 24-hour sun?

There is a line from the 1988 film BULL DURHAM that goes something like, "The world was made for people who aren't cursed with self-awareness."  Despite that I am probably only just self-aware enough to know that I am prone to negativism, there is something in that that rings more true (to me) than the timeless adage above.

This is probably more an admission of exhaustion than a claim to self-knowledge, but that's indicative of some degree of awareness, isn't it?

Fuck it, I'm tired, and I know people who are dumb as a box of rocks and they seem perfectly content with their lives.

I'm going to go home and get my dog and go out for a walk.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Occlusion -- from 2009


Today's episode is brought to you by the letter O, and the noun, Occlusion.

Cocaine, smokes, drinking and self-examination.  Had I given it some thought I might have quit them in reverse order.  And as I'm thinking these very thoughts, an advertisement appears on a browser page and the headline asks, "Are you dumb?"  Someone is trying to tell me something.

And I find myself standing above my heart and body, laid spread-eagle and pinned in place in a steel pan, looking down with the same curious detachment that I practiced before dissecting the frog in 11th grade biology.  Looking carefully down with the reference text close so that I can identify and memorize the names of the parts. 

Like a diligent and aspiring young biologist I've prepared carefully, injecting myself with dyes and chemicals that would more clearly demarcate the various arteries and veins that fed my living self.  I have laid myself open to the magnified scrutiny of the glass.  This is this and this is that.  This is the sum of me.  These are the parts of examined self.  This is the aorta and it feeds from the left ventricle tunnel out to the rest of me.  These are my carotid and basilar arteries feeding out, branching out, expressways, the shortcuts to my brain. 

A memory:  Waking up in a house that is not your own with something stuck in your face that you sure don't want there and sometimes it's more than a pillow over your face but sometimes it's like a pillow over your face like the words that you are here because they don't want you there, and never forget that and if you tell nobody will believe you.  There are things you don't want to wake up and see in your face.

The superior cerebellar arteries are the ones that feed everything else in your brain, if I'm reading this correctly. 

Vertebro-verterbral collateral circulatory system, and I've got to come up with one of those lyrical systems to memorize or I'm never going to pass this exam. 

The Persistence of Memory.  Well Hello, Dali.


One thing for certain is your past will always come back for a guest speaking spot in your present.  Sometimes it will bloom into your day like a perennial.  You will wake up one day and it will be there bright and flowering.  LIke when you see your 17 year old son, a mirror image of childhood self, chatting up some beauty.  Same sleepy eyes.  Same gestures.  Same side of the mouth smile. 

And then there are other times when it will pop back continually, like a turd in your toilet 10 minutes before company is due to arrive.  Embarrassing, and not accompanied by a particularly fresh odor.  Frustrating... confounding... promising to stay right there until at least one person important to you sees it, and maybe even has occasion to converse with it. 

And then sometimes you will find it has been waiting in a dark doorway or recess like a mugger, ready to poleaxe you when you least expect it.  Then you're proper fucked. 

So Senor Santayana says that those who don't learn from their past are destined to repeat it.  That applies truthfully to anything from an especially tangy lunch to a criminal history.  Good or bad, it's all coming back for you.  Count on it. 

"The posterior circulation, or vertebrobasilar system, supplies blood to the brainstem, cerebellum, and occipital lobes via paired vertebral arteries. The vertebrals converge beyond the base of the skull and form the basilar artery at the base of the pons."

Much more than I want to remember and when am I ever going to use any of this again?

"The anterior spinal artery arises from branches off each of the vertebral arteries prior to their convergence to form the basilar artery. Pontine and cerebellar arteries arise from the basilar artery before it bifurcates into the paired posterior cerebral arteries."


transitive verb : to cause to divide into two branches or parts
intransitive verb : to divide into two branches or parts


Bifocals.  I have no depth perception with bifocals.  Like a matching set of flatware with the other perceptions I find myself missing until someone else points them out.  Usually politely.  Sometimes not so politely.  It's all the same. 

Occlusion (per Merriam Webster)
1: the act of occluding or the state of being occluded : a shutting off or obstruction of something <a coronary occlusion>; especially : a blocking of the central passage of one reflex by the passage of another

A dream.  A high school talent show that never happened.  A dream, not a memory.  I developed a tremor right before my turn to go on.  My turn, the first performance after the lunch break.  I was to sing a song, but I developed a tremor. 

A tremor, not just a nervous shake.

3:  an unintentional, somewhat rhythmic, muscle movement involving to-and-fro movements (oscillations) of one or more body parts. It is the most common of all involuntary movements and can affect the hands, arms, head, face, vocal cords, trunk, and legs. Most tremors occur in the hands. In some people, tremor is a symptom of another neurological disorder. A very common kind of tremor is the chattering of teeth, usually induced by cold temperatures or by fear.

Fear.  What does it mean when you awaken from a dream and you still have the fear?  Even as quickly as the details of the dream disappear, the fear stays. I woke up from this dream with a tremor.  It took a while to abate.

Occlusion in the bifurcated artery between asleep and awake; between consciousness and unconsciousness.

A memory:  I got a C in 11th grade biology.  Mr. Kiefer suggested if only I didn't let my mind wander I could have gotten a B.  "You daydream.  Your mind is not on the frog."  But oh yes, my mind was definitely on the frog.  It remains on the frog.  I did better on the earthworm and the locust, but maybe I did better because there was so much less to remember.  They were so much more simple.  Simple nerve networks and circulatory systems and only one channel leading this way or the other way. 

And despite my lack of facility for biology, I had enough curiosity about systems and structure to move on to the cat.  Here's a bit of advice to 11th grade students and aspiring biologists and those with enough curiosity about complex systems and structure to advance to the next level.  Choose the smaller, skinnier cat.  Sometimes less is more.  There are fewer layers of fat obscuring the important parts that you'll want to spend the time dealing with.  Do NOT let your own ego goad you iinto pulling the largest cat out of the bag. 

a. An exaggerated sense of self-importance; conceit.
b. Appropriate pride in oneself; self-esteem.

Wait, let's backtrack here.  I just thought of something.

1. The self, especially as distinct from the world and other selves.
2. In psychoanalysis, the division of the psyche that is conscious, most immediately controls thought and behavior, and is most in touch with external reality.

"The division of the psyche that is conscious, most immediately controls thought and behavior..."  I will argue here that 2 is clearly at odd with 3, as it seems to me that consciousness is a bifurcated artery, not entirely unlike the aorta.  If I'm not wrong, 3 is informed by, if not partially controlled by a bifurcated artery fed by both consciousness and unconsciousness.  I'm not even going to touch 1 at the moment.  But I digress, and I've already admitted that I am a poor student, and I'm not entirely certain what compelled me to go as far as the frog, let alone the morbidly obese cat that I struggled over later.  Complex systems elude me.  I daydream, when confronted with complex systems.  Apparently.  The C definitely validates that conclusion. 

The effort makes my head hurt.

Etymology:  Middle English mygreyn, from Middle French migraine, modification of Late Latin hemicrania pain in one side of the head, from Greek hēmikrania, from hēmi- hemi- + kranion cranium
Date:  15th century
1 : a condition marked by recurrent severe headache often with nausea and vomiting
2 : an episode or attack of migraine

So close examination of complex systems and memorization drills give me a 15th century condition characterized by severe headache, and often nausea and vomiting.  The computer print-out of my diagnosis says that if the migraine is accompanied by: change in the type of pain you usually experience, a very severe headache that begins with suddenly like an explosion in your head or like a thunderclap, fever, numbness, tingling or weakness in your arms or legs, passing out, vision problems, episodes of vomiting.

All of which might be symptoms of an occlusion. 

The Bus -- Paul Kirchner

via Biblioklept

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Broadway the Long Way

Thirtysomeodd years ago I set about to walk the length of Manhattan.  I stopped somewhere uptown for a wee drink.  Today I went back for a do-over.  13 miles stem to stern.  

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Friday, July 24, 2015


All the pretty flowers...

En Memorium

More poetry

"turns out that thing i kept mistaking for love
was just an old victorian when the lease ran out.
all chipped paint and peeling wallpaper.
empty as the day it was built,
just older.
turns out,
i only called the creaking stairs a symphony
so there would be something there
to sing me to sleep, at night.
desperation flayed the skin from my bones;
and somehow,
i thought squatting in a place with no bed,
no heat,
might still be enough to keep me warm.
i never saw your arms for what they were:
skeleton rafters that couldn’t hold me right.
i put out pots to catch the water dripping
from the patchwork roof
and convinced myself that it was just something
everyone had to do.
four in the morning, and i am made of nothing
but text messages i wish i’d never sent.
you looked like home when my apartment didn’t.
you opened my chest and i swear, i couldn’t feel the draft.
okay, so i didn’t delete your number,
but that doesn’t mean i still love you.
i still love you.
i still love you.
i still love you.
call me back.

the “for sale” sign in the yard was the best thing i ever did.
and for once, i didn’t look behind me.
i don’t know who will love you next
but i hope she fixes the roof
and pays the electric.
i hope she stops trying to call you
when you, inevitably, stop calling her back."
— Halfway House, by Ashe Vernon

Rat Race

"Do you see yourself as a rat?"  She threw the question out the way she does every so often, breaking my flow, or my rant, as it were.  Usually it's just 'hmmm' or a nod to acknowledge she's listening but then she'll toss in a question, like poking a stick into the spokes of a moving bicycle, and I skid to a halt.

I had been talking about an article by Johann Hari on addiction and the discoveries of the Rat Park experiments.  The results showed that the determining factor in developing a chemical addiction isn't the subject, nor the substance, but the cage itself.  Provide all the other primary comforts, and bonding in particular, and the rat will choose not to use.

But she threw in the question, and my knee-jerk reaction was a hearty, "No!"  My response was largely based on common perceptions of rats as dirty, or sneaky or whatnot.  It was based on a question of self-esteem.  No, I don't hold myself in low regard that way.  Not so much anymore.

The broader question though... regarding cages or captivity... or options... That was something to think about over the course of the next several days.

Aren't we all, at least to some degree, held captive by circumstance at the very least?  There are genetic, economic or geographic limitations to begin with.  Then it boils down to the micro-scale, and beyond that to internal considerations like fear and prejudices.  Options become fewer and fewer, and quite frankly, who doesn't feel sometimes (or all the time) that they are held captive by forces outside their control?

I began thinking further about the full implications of the term "rat race."  Rats don't choose to race.  They are animals held captive and pitted against each other in competition for rewards.  Even then, they are unaware that they are racing each other or that there could be a winner or a loser.  They are being conditioned to respond in a certain need... by forces beyond their control.  Their 'needs' are developed by conditioning.  The gate opens and they run.

Rat race.

The internal forces -- the habits can be broken.  The conditioning can be un... Undone?  You have to see them first and then recognize them as self-defeating or destructive.  Where am I in that process?  I'm not quite sure.  It would be ahead of before but less than I would prefer to be, certainly.  And it often feels like I am going through the motions for reasons that remain unclear.

So getting back to her question:

There are days where life feels like some sort of cruel experiment or a really fucked up joke.

There are days (there have been months and years) where I feel caged in, or trapped... incarcerated.

I feel sometimes that I have been spent my entire life chasing instant gratification from false rewards.

(I am wording this poorly.)

I do, at least sometimes still) see myself as a rat in a cage.

Another day to face up.

Another day to wake up on the feed kill chain...

And I've got this story about rats, but haven't quite figured out how to tell it.  It's probably more simple than it seems but explaining oneself is easier sometimes than others.

Maybe it's because it's not really about rats.  It's about me, and you and everyone else we know.  It's about language, and limitations and fear and perceptions and genetics and another whole list of seemingly disparate things that only fit together in my head, at least for the moment.

It's about waking up and being put through the paces and never feeling quite connected and invested in what you're doing to fill your stomach and get by.

I'ts about when the crocodile says "fake it 'til you make it" and you just want to slap the shit out of him.  I'm faking it.

So much for that idea...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Where do I apply?

Who me?

Inspired by internet chatter about "ghosting."  

I'll plead guilty on this one.  I'm not proud, and I try to comport myself like an adult now.  There are two rules.

Be kind.

Be honest.

No particular order.  

Ashe Vernon

"People must think
that being a poet is very slow,sincere and quiet.But at nightthe inside of my chest isso loud,sometimes I stay awake for days,trying to out-howlthe hungerinside it."

Wrong Side of a Fistfight

(click to buy book)

Dear Mattie,

Fuck this.

And this is how it feels to drop your arms to your side and just quit fighting.  To stop caring about the consequences and stop fearing not only the KO but all the hits leading up to it. 

One day I will explain the headline and first sentence.  

For now... nobody ever got it or got that I got it anyway. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

American Dream

Ya know what... this woman has to be over 65.  We are not a compassionate people.  A nickel a piece in those bags and she will be lucky to get enough to eat.

We are not a compassionate people.  I will bet you don't see this in magazine articles about America back where she comes from.

Dragonfly or Drone?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Worldly Possessions

Just to be clear -- this is not a piss-take.  It made me think.  Homelessness in and of itself must be a hell of a burden.  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Makes sense.

There's miles of stone, jackhammer in my hand.

3 hours retching bug-eyed and sweating and this microscopic thing...  Doesn't seem to be finished.  I am not even going to attempt poetry here.  Not doing well here, the invisible monsters having had their way before the microbes stepped up to the plate.  Three hours in and considering maybe an ER or whatnot.  The compassionate .22 sort behind the ear.  This is your brain.  This is your brain on life.  Ugh.

Just listen to the song.  It says pretty much everything I want to.  I am weary of pavement.  I am tired of tearing things up to smooth it all over again.  I want to go home.