Monday, October 31, 2011

Zombie Dreams

Zombie Dreams

Two springs ago Brock Dundee hired my driving services for a road trip across the Midwest. The Scottish filmmaker was seeking out the statues of a dying Irish sculptor in Middle America. His plan was to video the works and then film the the artist seeing his works for the last time.

My boss at the diamond exchange wasn’t happy with my taking off two weeks.

“He’s paying me $1000 a week.” I had been asking for a raise for the last year.

“Have a good trip.” Manny had a good head for numbers. He was saving my salary and fought off another attempt for an increase in my salary.

“Sei Gesund.” I wished the eighty year-old well in Yiddish. His only other language was almost dead.

A week later Brock and I flew to Chicago and hired a car at O’Hare. The Scot didn’t know how to drive, but he unfolded a map to plot out a route on the Interstates.

“No fucking interstates.” I ripped the map off his lap and threw it in the backseat.

“Aren’t the interstates faster?” Brock wanted to visit five statues in St. Louis, Kansas City, Des Moines, and Minneapolis and we had eight days to cover six big states.

“Only if you’re heading to shopping mall.” I-80 was rammed with SUVs and long-haul trucks. I pointed out a state trooper cruising in the opposite direction. “We want to stay far away from them.”

“Aren’t there speed traps on the back roads?” Brock’s vision of rural America had been formed by the movies DELIVERANCE and EASY RIDER.

“The cops go where the money is and that’s the interstates.” I turned off I-80 at exit for Peoria and turned to Brock. “Welcome to The Fly-Over.”

“Fly-Over?” The Scot was unfamiliar with the American term.

“This is the land you fly over from New York to LA.” The square states of the Midwest are mostly flat corn fields. They offer little for New Yorkers, Californians, and Europeans.

“I get it.” Brock relaxed in his seat. He had chosen me for my ability to take the least obvious course of action for the next week we avoided the Interstates like a plague.

Our path wandered along a flooded Illinois River down the broad Mississippi across the spring farmland of Missouri into the terra incognita of Iowa. Sometimes my Scottish friend and I didn’t have any human contact for hours. The straight roads were devoid of cars. Everyone was on the Interstate heading to a WalMart.

South of Des Moines I remarked to Brock, “Not many people living out here.” “No reason for anyone to live out here.” The small towns were empty and the big cities looked, as if they had been hit by a neutron bomb.

“Young people move out as soon as they finish high school.” The farmboys treated their boredom with crystal meth. They hid well of of sight.

“Leaving only the dead and the dying.”

“Like we were in a zombie movie.” It was almost as if the real world had been replaced by scenes from MAD MAX II and I accelerated to 100 mph. We hadn’t seen any police cars in days.

“I haven’t seen any zombies.” Brock scanned the bare expanse of fields on either side of the road.

“They would starve out here.” Zombies liked cities, because fat people were slower than them. “I once had a horrible dream about zombies.”

“Really?” Brock took out his camera and shot a minute of the passing void. This trip was as much about us as the sculptor.

“It was 1975. I was 23 at the time. I had caught a Trois Estellas bus from Monterrey, Mexico to Texas.” I hadn’t thought about that bus in ages. driving the car must have resurrected that memory from the grave. “It was a long ride and I was reading a book by HP Lovecraft. THE TERROR AT INNSMOUTH. The bus stopped in a small town. I ate a taco. It tasted a little funny and that night I fell sick with food poisoning. I checked into a small hotel at the border. The Mexican side was cheaper. I lay on the bed with a fever. I read my book and fell asleep. Sometime in the night I dreamed I was being chased through a garden by slow-moving zombies.”

“I hate the way zombies moved fast in RESIDENT EVIL.” My Scottish friend was a horror film buff and he turned to camera to me. A nod was the signal to start my monologue.

“Slow zombies are classic, but there were too many of turtle dead in my dream.” I had told his story a thousand times. It was like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. “They cut off my escape and I ran to a gazebo. Old screens to keep out mosquitoes covered the windows. I locked the flimsy door. The zombies huddled around the gazebo. Their breath smelled of rotting flesh. They scrapped at the screen with long yellow fingernails. Their teeth ground in anticipation of sinking into my flesh, then a voice deeper than a six-foot grave said, “Tell us the secret of human life.”

“The secret of human life?” Brock like interrupting my spiel. He felt the breaks gave me time to collect my thoughts.

“I didn’t know what the secret of human life was and there was no stalling the zombies either. When they’re hungry, they’re hungry. They broke through the screens. I shut my eyes expecting the worse.” I usually stopped here to check, if I hadn’t lost my audience.

“You’re not supposed to die in dreams.” Brock was listening to every word. He picked up the map. We were coming to a turning.

"Freud said everything was driven by pleasure or death. Death in dreams was a way of understanding your personal sexual repression levels or you hated yourself, which wasn’t the case, since I was 23.” I put on the left-turn signal. The intersection didn't even have a name.

“Freud’s full of Oepidal shit. I’ve seen photos of his mother. She wasn’t worth killing his father for, of course Jung had a different take on death in a dream.

“Screw both of them.” My story had no place for dead psychiatrists. That territory was reserved for Woody Allen. “I tried to wake up, but couldn’t and I heard the voice say, “Tell us the secret of human life and I’ll let you live for another minute.”

“So what happened?” Brock was expecting a horrible demise.

“I realized the secret of human life was that no matter how bad the 61st second would be I still wanted the next 60. The urge to live.”

“And did you tell them to secret?”

“No, I woke up and foiled their attempt to destroy Mankind."

"A hero." Brock didn't use the word lightly. He had been to Afghanistan five times.

"It's not everyone who saves humanity in their sleep." They had seemed so real, but my flesh bore no teeth marks. " So I’m not really scared of zombies.”

“No?” Brock said that word, as if he wasn’t convinced about their status as myth.

“Zombies exist only in movies and video games. Not all of them bad. You ever see SHAUN OF THE DEAD?”

“That’s not a real zombie movie.” Brock was a traditionalist as was to be expected from a Scot.

I agreed that the British flick wasn't scary, but it was funny and after my dream I like funny zombies better than scary ones. We drove west toward Kansas City. They supposedly had some pretty women their according to Wilbur Harrison’s hit song from 1959.

A pretty girl had to be more fun than a zombie.

Zombie Alert

The word Zombie is derived from the melange of the words zonbi Haitian Creole and nzumbe from the African dialect North Mbundu. Zombies are the walking dead. They have been featured horror movies since their black-and-white introduction in George Romero's 1968 epic film NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Scientists and anthropologists have searched Haiti for zombies since the 1930s without having substantiated the rumors of voodoo priests seizing the astral or soul of their victims. According to Wikipedia Wade Davis, a Harvard ethnobotanist, presented a pharmacological case for zombies in two books, The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985) and Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (1988). Davis traveled to Haiti in 1982 and, as a result of his investigations, claimed that a living person can be turned into a zombie by two special powders being entered into the blood stream (usually via a wound). The first, coup de poudre (French: 'powder strike'), includes tetrodotoxin (TTX), a powerful and frequently fatal neurotoxin found in the flesh of the pufferfish (order Tetraodontidae). The second powder consists of dissociative drugs such as datura. Together, these powders were said to induce a death-like state. The Living Dead are creatures of legend, but this year the Washington area has been pestered by zombie flies who have been infected by an unknown fungus taking control of their brain. Scientists have conjectured that humans might be susceptible to such an affliction and Homeland Security has studied various strategies to handle a zombie outbreak. As far-fetched as this plague of zombies might seem there are actually five ways of humans contracting zombieitis according to Brain Parasites such as toxoplasmosa are weak, but in the hands of the Pentagon the fungus could be strengthened to affect humans very fast and there's nothing scarier than fast zombies a la RESIDENT EVIL. Voodoo poisons are another vector danger, but in a trance zombies are slow-moving ie not as dangerous as fast zombies. Viruses such as Mad Cow's Disease are a potential threat to humanity, but the living dead would be spastic and easy to avoid, unless they had numbers and in every zombie movie zombies seem to be everywhere. GM stem cell research could produce suspended dead to await a cure for their disease, but zombie's are not sleeping beauties to be awaken by a kiss. Lastly nanobots seeping into your brain to take over your 'free will' and some madman hits the kill button. Zombies Zombies Zombies Red Alert. Tonight is Halloween. Zombies are a favorite costume for young and old alike Beware of the real thing. One bite and you're a zombie and no zombie is a friend of mine.

# 7,000,000,000

The population of the world in 1952 was 2.635 billion. My birth in May of that year was lost in the infantile deluge of America's Baby Boom. I was anonymous to everyone, but my family. Today the population clock hit seven billion and the Philippines declared a baby born at a Manila hospital was baby # 7,000,000,000. The press flocked to the maternity ward and little Danica May Camacho was given her fifteen seconds of fame, which might last longer since a UN official was in attendance with a cake and financial support for the baby's future. The Philippines also claimed baby # 6,000,000,000 in 1999, although the UN gave the honor to a baby in a Sarajevo hospital. Best wishes to all the babies in the world. From # 1 to # 7,000,000,000. The more the merrier.

Séanmhar Samhain

Halloween has nothing to do with Christianity. The Harvest Holiday originated way into BC. The Romans dedicated the feast to Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, and the Celts celebrated the summer's end with huge bonfires to evoke the blessing of the spirit world for the dark half of the year. Walking between the fires cleansed the soul for the winter. The practice probably dated back to the PIcts and further into prehistory. The following day was the feast of the dead. For the dead are never dead in our hearts and minds, except for the Living Dead. In Gaelic the walking dead are called marbhán siúil. The modern usage is zombai. Thankfully they are creatures of myth and not reality like banshees and leperchauns. Nothing is scarier than the Living Dead. Séanmhar Samhain.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

7 Billion More or Less

The population of the planet in 1952 was approximately 2.635 billion people. I was born in May that year. I will be 60 in seven months. The UN announced this week that humanity has reached seven billion people faster than predicted by the most Malthusian experts on growth. The death rate of 150,000 people each day can not keep pace with the birth rate. 50 million short every year from the 1952 population means that over 3 billion people have died since my birth. 3,000,000,000 is a rough figure as is my estimate that 700,000,000 people out of 7,000,000,000 are 60 or over. One-tenth of the world older than me and 90% younger. That latter percentage includes my son Fenway and Fluke and my daughters Angie and Noy. Forever young one way or the other. ps I heard a population expert asked a question by a TV interviewer. "What will be the population of the world in 2050?" "One billlion," the venerable scientist answered without a pause to think. "One billion? The UN predicts 8 billion." The reporter checked his notes. "They're wrong." The scientist was not impressed by the UN numbers. "One billion worldwide." "And what will happened to the extra six billion people on the planet now?" "They will be gone." The scientist laid out his thoughts about how nature will reduce the global population through floods and natural disasters due to environmental change. "And there is nothing we can do about it." "That is a very dire forecast." The reporter was taken aback at such pessimism. "No, because those years will be very exciting for the young. The old will not survive. Not them it will be hell, but for the young, it will be a new time of adventure." In 2050 I will be 98. I will be living in Thailand on the shores of the new ocean. My rice factory will turn out the best beer on the planet. My children will be happy. Their children too. And their children too. It's all about location for the oldest man left on the planet. Shotgun in my hands.

A Last Sherman Tank

Yesterday I trained north from Luxembourg City to Clervaux. The guidebook stated that the chateau exhibited the works of Edward Streichen. His family had emigrated from his native land to the USA in 1880 and the famed photographer had donated over 500 photos to the Grand Duchy. The train ride was less than an hour and I bicycled through the narrow valley to the steep road climbing up to the chateau. The ticket taker informed me that the exhibition was closed for construction, but the Musees de le Battaille De Bulge and Chateaus des Luxembourg were open. I toured both in less than thirty minutes. Outside in the sunlight I walked the bike through the gateway and rolled over to a WWII memorial honoring the American defense of the town in December of 1944. The Sherman tank on the grass was the only one to have survived the engagement, in which a hundred American soldiers held off superior German forces for a night. In the morning a fierce attack set fire to the chateau and the remaining troops surrendered to the Wehrmacht. The tank stands guard along with a 57mm cannon, testaments to the defense of Luxembourg. It is a grateful duchy.

In the Words of Albert Finney

Few films are as bittersweet romantic as the comic road movie TWO FOR THE ROAD starring Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn. The two play star-crossed lovers traveling throughout Europe. Their honeymoon brings them to a country hotel in France, where they observed older couples speechlessly dining together.

“What kind of people don’t speak to each other.” Audrey asks in a haze of smitten amusement.

“Married people.” Albert Finney answered with a vow to never be like their aged compatriots. Of course within the movie’s plotline the two evolved into despicable people riven by greed. The ending had them abandoning the ways of the flesh and driving off into the scenery to save their love.

There was never a sequel, however years later a British TV host interviewed Albert Finney and asked, “You’ve been married six times. What was the similarity between your wives?”

“They all left me.” Albert Finney quickly quipped, fully understanding that some men are not made by the women behind them, but by those who have left them behind.

That last line is from James Steele, America's leading pseudo-intellectual.

He speaks.

He lives.

He left no one behind without a thought to see them one more time.

Men Versus Women – The Eternal Struggle

“Women are always right and they are never more right then when they are wrong and you try to convince of this." James Steele Women are different animals from men as proven by this mail from Brian LeBouef featuring a short story exercise written by a male and female student at the U of Phoenix. The professor told his class: “Today we will experiment with a new form called the tandem story. The process is simple. Each person will pair off with the person sitting to his or her immediate right. As homework tonight, one of you will write the first paragraph of a short story. You will e-mail your partner that paragraph and copy me on the email. The partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the story and send it back, also copying me. The first person will then add a third paragraph, and so on back-and-forth. Remember to re-read what has been written each time in order to keep the story coherent. There is be absolutely NO talking outside of the e-mails, and anything you wish to say must be written in the e-mail. The story is over when both agree a conclusion has been reached.” The following was actually turned in by two of his English students:Rebecca and Gary. THE STORY (first paragraph by Rebecca) At first, Laurie couldn’t decide which kind of tea she wanted. The chamomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he liked chamomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So chamomile was out of the question. (second paragraph by Gary) Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think about than the neuroses of an air-headed asthmatic bimbo named Laurie with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago. “A.S. Harris to Geostation 17,” he said into his trans-galactic communicator. “Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance so far…” But before he could sign off a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship’s cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit. (Rebecca) He bumped his head and died almost immediately, but not before he felt one last pang of regret for psychically brutalizing the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4. “Congress Passes Law Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel,” Laurie read in her newspaper one morning. The news simultaneously excited her and bored her. She stared out the window, dreaming of her youth, when the days had passed unhurriedly and carefree, with no newspaper to read, no television to distract her from her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things around her. “Why must one lose one’s innocence to become a woman?” she pondered wistfully. (Gary) Little did she know, but she had less than 10 seconds to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu’udrian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted wimpy peaceniks who pushed the Unilateral Aerospace disarmament Treaty through the congress had left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empires who were determined to destroy the human race. Within two hours after the passage of the treaty the Anu’udrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying enough firepower to pulverize the entire planet. With no one to stop them, they swiftly initiated their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his top-secret mobile submarine headquarters on the ocean floor off the coast of Guam, felt the inconceivably massive explosion, which vaporized poor, stupid, Laurie and 85 million other Americans. The President slammed his fist on the conference table. “We can’t allow this! I’m going to veto that treaty! Let’s blow ‘em out of the sky!” (Rebecca) This is absurd. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My writing partner is a violent, chauvinistic semi-literate adolescent. (Gary) Yeah? Well, you’re a self-centered tedious neurotic whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of Valium. “Oh, shall I have chamomile tea? Or shall I have some other sort of F—ING TEA??? Oh no, I’m such an air headed bimbo who reads too many Danielle Steel novels!” (Rebecca) Asshole. (Gary) Bitch. (Rebecca) F__K YOU – YOU NEANDERTHAL! (Gary) Go drink some tea – whore. (TEACHER) A+ – I really liked this one

To Grope or Not Grope

Somehow when men from the West come to Pattaya they lose whatever manners their parents had beaten into their thick skulls during their dullard childhood. Bad behavior becomes almost a prerequisite for a good time. Drunkenness, rowdyism, and macho studity are usually forgiven by our Thai hosts and hostesses, but there is always a boundary past which a breach of etiquette veers from fun to criminal. Go-Go bars in Pattaya are famed for the friendliness of the dancers. Their search for the golden buffalo necessitates their abandoning the natural conservativeness of Thai culture for a cheap grope or dtae ang from slobbering farang men. Not everyone in a go-go bar is on the game and several years ago a Swedish sex monger overstepped the lines of propriety at the Lucifer’s Discotheque, which is not a go-go. The Swede had touched a woman’s behind, unaware that she merely sang for the establishment's show band. The singer called the police and the men in brown showed up at Lucifer's in force. The Swede protested with contrition, but the woman demanded that he be taught a lesson. The police handcuffed the Swede and dragged him to Pattaya Central Booking to be arraigned for the crime of groping. At the Soi 9 police station the irate singer demanded his incarceration and the Swede was sentenced to a night in jail. The next morning the judge assessed a small fine and warned he didn’t want to see him again. The Swede’s only defense was that he thought the singer was an ex-girlfriend, which means fondling ex-girlfriends is an old Nordic tradition as is a slap in the face. Some men can’t keep their hands to themselves. Then again I can't recall another man before or since being arrested for that crime. At least in Pattaya.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Live Long and Prosper LOL

Q: How many Klingons does it take to change a lightbulb? A: TWO: One to screw it in, and one to stab the other in the back and take all of the credit. Q: How many Klingons does it take to change a lightbulb? A: NONE: Klingons aren't afraid of the dark. Q: What do the Klingons do with the dead bulb? A: Execute it for failure. Q: What do the Klingons do with the Klingon who replaces the bulb? A: Execute him for cowardice. Q: How many Romulans does it take to screw in a light bulb? A: ONE HUNDRED FIFTY-ONE: One to screw the light bulb in, and 150 to self-destruct the ship out of disgrace. Q: How many Vulcans does it take to screw in a light bulb? A: Approximately 1.00000000000000000000000000000000 Q: How many Borg does it take to change a light-bulb? A: All of them!

The River Is Wide

In August I took my daughter Angie to the highest point in Thailand. Doi Inthaton was wraithed by fog and I lent her my jacket, even though I had bought her a bright pink poncho in Chiang Mai. She liked anything to do with me. Angie is my daughter. She and I climbed to the highest pagoda and there she asked if i still loved her. "Pon lak kunh mak." She was my first child. We spent most of her first five years together, until her mother deserted me for an up-country lover. I have gotten over the pain thanks to my new wife, Mam, and our son Fenway, but my love for Angie remained strong despite her mother's betrayal. I had to ask, "Why?" Angie explained that she opened my computer and saw pictures of another baby, Fenway, and none of her. I felt her hurt and held her in my arms. "I will always love you forever." I told her this in Thai with a Boston accent. She made a face like I was speaking Klingon, but then buried her face in my chest. I could feel her heartbeat. My daughter said nothing. She has never told me that she loves me. Angie is a funny girl that way. Her mother was waiting at the car. We had a serious conversation about Fenway. I had kept him a secret. He was no secret now. "Angie has a brother." We drove to Sukhothai in long silence ripped to shreds by angry accusations. "You left me. You had a boyfriend. You made your bed. You keep up this shit and I'll get out of the car now and you'll never see me again.Is that what you want for Angie." My anger was verging on cold blood. "I love her 100%" She sat in the back. Like always she said nothing. Nu shut up. No one was right, but Angie came first. Night came fast. The road was difficult. My phone rang. It was Mam. I spoke with her and said that Nu knew everything now. No one was happy, although i had Nu stop at a gas station so i could buy some beer. Sukhothai seemed father away every time I looked at a distance panel, but around 9pm it was only 30 klicks away. The radio warned of flooding. The Yom River was over its banks. Nam tuam. Sukhothai was the ancient Thai capitol. The Burmese had burnt it to the ground on several occasions. There was nothing in the history about flooding, but as we reached the city proper, the water rose higher and higher until it was up to the doors. "This is fucked up." I kept driving towards the muang bulan. The ancient city was on higher ground. "Jam dai 5 pii gon. Anthong mii nam tuam." Nu was referring to high waters in Anthong 5 years before. "Jam dai." Sandbags lined the Asia Highway. Water gleamed an inch below the rim. I had never seen flooding like this. It was like New Orleans a day before it went crazy. We reached dry road and found an open hotel. Sukhothai is a town that closed early. We ate a late dinner and I had Angie sit on my lap. She was scared on the racing waters. "Mai huang." I told her not to worry. "I will be there always." And the same goes for Fenway. We are family.

The Polling Of The Right

RealClearPolitics was founded by a Wall Street trader an an ad flack to combat what the duo perceived as anti-conservative and anti-fundalmentalist bias in the mainstream press. They are backed by the pro-business Forbes Magazine, which is well-known for its annual release of the 400 richest people in the world. It comes as no surprise that there are no black Americans in the top 100, but a single race's exclusion from the wealth of the nation is of no great concern for RealClearPolitics, since they are dedicated to announcing poll results on President Obama's Job approval rating. Pro - 43.8% Con - 51% Obama has been GW Bush low in RealClearPolitics' polls throughout his first term, despite his staving off economic disaster, OKing the summary execution of Osama Bin Laden, pulling all the troops out of Iraq, and not telling the GOP to fuck off and die. The recent increase in the poll numbers reflect the public's exhaustion of negative news about the president, but the force of the right are relentless in their pursuit to paint the president 'Red' as well as black. Fox News attacked Obama's plan to finance the higher education of Americans by portraying this scheme as a socialist take-over of private enterprise, even though many of the private institutions are simply profiting from the distribution of public funds. Fox News even dredges out the name of a mythical Frank Zappa character from the Mothers of Inventions album FREAK OUT. Suzy Creamcheese. Fox News extract: "Take this example: If Suzy Creamcheese gets into George Washington University and borrows from the government the requisite $212,000 to obtain an undergraduate degree, her repayment schedule will be based on what she earns. If Suzy opts to heed the president’s call for public service, and takes a job as a city social worker earning $25,000, her payments would be limited to $1,411 a year after the $10,890 of poverty-level income is subtracted from her total exposure. Twenty years at that rate would have taxpayers recoup only $28,220 of their $212,000 loan to Suzy." They further suggest that Suzy Creamcheese is plotting to damage the credit markets, as if the banks hadn't done a better job during the housing bubble. Better for America to shut the colleges, universities, and high schools, because the private sector has no intention of creating any jobs from the wealth that they plundered over the last thirty years and it's not even the Forbes 400 who are to blame. The guilt lies with the bankers mad with the hoarding bug. They want to accumulate every last dollar in the system, so everyone else in the world is poor. Even the rich. Future Steve Jobs and Bill Gates beware. Not only will there will no free lunches, but the universities will be closed. Get ready to count on your fingers or turn outlaw like Pretty Boy Floyd. He never robbed an honest man.

Friday, October 28, 2011

You Bet I Would # 15

Belgium Beer Research

My first beer was a Miller in 1965. I drank it behind Our Aunt of Jesus Catholic Church. Two more foolowed fast. The contents of the three bottles met my stomach's disfavor and I spew out the beer like a whale breaching the surface of the ocean. The pastor's Sunday sermon was dedicated to the evils of teenage drinking. His words came too late for me. I had vowed to never again drink beer. That pledge was adjusted to restrict Miller beer from touching my lips. Schlitz slide down my throat smooth as a milk shake. My friends were fans of Bud, but I stayed with the beer that made Milwaukee famous. There was something about Budweiser that wasn't right and I only drink it when there is nothing else available. American beer has a bad reputation thanks to Budweiser. “I find American beer a bit like having sex in a canoe. It's fucking close to water.” ~ Oscar Wilde on American Beer Over the years I've drunk Olympia, Coors, Busch, Iron City, Narragansett, Carling, Labatt, Molson, Pabst, and hundreds of other brews, but American beer was knocked off my palate by Heiniken. Corona in Mexico, Karlsberg in Denmark, 1664 in France, Tiger in Malaysia, Bintang in Indonesia, Leo in Thailand have sated my thirst. Stella was my beer of choice during my stay in Fort Greene. I had several thousand at Frank's Lounge on Fulton Street. I miss drinking in that bar, but my recent move to Luxembourg has exposed me to the beauty of Belgium beers. Leffe, Duvel and Stella Artois are good supping beers. They are nothing in comparison to the Trappist beers such Achel, Dubbel, Chimay, Orval, and dark Rochefort. None of them are under 7% alcohol. Vonelli took me on a tour of a Trappist monastery south of Charleroi. The abbey was in ruins. Not a single monk inhabited the property. Abbeye d'Aulne was served at the nearby restaurant overlooking the canal. We had a fine meal of fish. Three courses cost $30. We drank three beers. I had never tasted better and we ordered a fourth. "What I like about Belgium is seeing little old ladies drinking beer in the cafes at noon. It make me feel good." Vonelli has been living in Belgium for years. "That's it?" The first sip of the fourth glass was as good as the fourth sip from the first beer. "That and the beer." There were other attractions and one of them was Charleroi, the ugliest city in all of Europe. It also has good beer. Beer is Belgium as much as frites and mayonnaise. In fact beer was so popular in Belgium that a low-alcohol version was served in schools up to the 1970s. I'm drinking a Duvel for lunch with Cod fried in olive oil. It's 8.5 % alcohol I think I'll have another.

More Than 10% Divine

right before I left for Luxembourg, my co-worker Deisy announced that she had no gay friends. She was a fundamentalist and a firm believer in the Bible. Hell was reserved for sinners and God has a special oven for the worshipers of man-sex for her church. Her church was not Catholic in origins.

"Deisy, you know many gays. And you probably have many gay friends, only they won't tell you." Most of my gay friends never mentioned their sexual preference, although it was fairly obvious by the way they checked out my rack.

Most people have no idea what is a gay man.

Certainly Rock Hudson didn't fit the caricature and I told Ava, "Jesus was gay."


"He hung around men, lived with his mother, had long hair, and wore a dress. You're lucky if he wasn't a transvestite." There was no mention in the New Testament about his liking Broadway show tunes or gladiator movies. "Some people could have considered him 'gay'."

"Why are you saying this?" She had her hands over her ears.

"Because my brother was gay and he wasn't bad. You only think gays are bad, because your pastor tells you that." She had no knowledge about the recent Gay Jesus exhibition in Europe and the USA. Most of the art was second-rate, then again Jesus faked dying on the cross, but that's another story.

"I did know a gay man."


"He belonged to my church." Deisy is a very good person. She loves her daughter and friends. I never discourage her prayers for my soul.

"And the pastor threw him out?" Gays weren't welcome in many churches.

"Yes, he was asked to leave."

"And you stopped being friends with him?"


"You're better than that. The church does not own your heart and mind. Those belong to who? "My baby." "Same as me." I will say prayers for you." In her mind I was doomed to hell and I gave her fundamentalist prejudice against gays a pass, for Ava loved her church, but later in the day I showed her the great YouTube ex trait of a faux Jesus lip-syncing I WILL SURVIVE. She shut her eyes. Ava was into see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil, but you can see it by going to the following URL

Needless to say my beliefs are my own.

Civil Disorder

The police are not here to create disorder, they're here to preserve disorder. - mayor richard daley at the Chicago 1968
More now than ever

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sex In Space

In 2002 I wrote a screenplay IN HEAVEN ABOVE in which a former Soviet republic attempts to save itself from bankruptcy by holding a lottery. The prize is not money, but the chance to be the first man to have sex in space in a revamped space shuttle. I sent the scenario to a number of film companies. Rejection followed rejection followed rejection. An old girlfriend working at CAA didn’t return my phone calls and I retired IN HEAVEN ABOVE into limbo.

A month ago I received an email from a film producer was intrigued by the possibilities of sex in space. I phoned him from Luxembourg and his secretary put me on hold. After thirty seconds I was ready to kill the call, but he came on line and explained that he was thinking about leasing a space flight from Virgin Galactic for a party in 2013.

“You mean an orgy?” My old boss Manny believed in telling it straight. The truth kept you out of trouble much better than a lie.

“Something like that.”

“And you’re calling me for what?” The A to B connection was unclear.

“You wrote that screenplay about sex in space. I thought it was great, but everyone else was too hung-up about sex back when Bush was in office."

“What about now?” Hope sprung from an eternal fount.

“I don’t do porno.” Rated R killed a film at the mega-plex, plus it was hard jerking off with popcorn crumbs in your hand.

“But the writing showed that you had done research into the subject and I was wondering whether you thought sex was possible in space.”

“Possible?” Another freebie for a complete stranger. Manny had a word for this conversation. A waste of time, but I had ten minutes to kill. “Everything is possible.”

“Has it ever been done?” The producer was calling from Hollywoood. His time was worth thousands of dollars a minute. He spoke as if every word cost him a thousand dollars.

“Firstly, NASA is too square. In fact NASA spokesman Bill Jeffs of the Johnson Space Center in Houston admitted and this is a quote, "We don't study sexuality in space and we don't have any studies ongoing with that. Astronauts are also very conservative by nature and will do nothing to jeopardize their seat for the next mission.”

Only one married couple had been rocketed into orbit. Privacy on the Space Shuttle was non-existent, unless they shut themselves in the airlock and they were too Christian for such a risk. “The fundamentalists would have a cow if the heavens were spoiled by copulation.”

“Well, what about the Russians?" He was speaking with a ‘hurry up’ tone. Script pitches were usually a hundred words or less.

“The Russians have brought up guitars and vodka, but I doubt they got it together for sex.” Hearing his voice I remembered why I hated LA. It’s shallower than an Archie comic book. “But they tried out several positions for sex. One with guinea pigs. That report is censored by the NASA and Russian space authorities.”

“I don’t give a shit about guinea pigs.” Hollywood producers only cared about how much popcorn they sold.

“No, I don’t imagine you would.” I covered my snide tracks with a shovel of information. “But keep this in mind. Only four positions work in space without any help. Are you familiar with the dolphin theory.”

A heart beat sounded his complete ignorance.

“The Ocean is much my space. Buoyancy is the same as weightlessness and some scientists suggest that dolphin need a third party to help them mate in a near-zero-gravity situation. It always helps to have someone pushing, but also if you were to be strapped to a wall by Velcro, that might help defeat the lack of gravity.”

Sort of like a bondage menage a trois.”

I had his attention and he asked, “Would you like to come along?”

I found the idea of being naked with anyone other than my wife Mam repulsive, but said, “Yes, as long as I can bring my wife.”

“Your wife?” The cost of the ticket on Virgin Galactic was $200,000.

“One of the great problems about sex in space is the welling of blood within your body. Same as a man in his 60s. One look at my wife and I’m hard as the titanium heat shield on a Space Shuttle.”

“Your wife?” He was asking me to be a pimp.

“Mine and mine alone. See you in heaven.” Manny would love that I left that I left the producer hanging with anticipation, but he would make it into Space with his harem of space hookers, unless Virgin Galactic was heading for Venus which everyone knows is populated by blue-skinned vixens in fur bikinis.

They do it for free.


I have heaven on Earth.

For I have Mam.

And a woman like her has never left the ground. She gets airsick.

Danger Doctor Smith

The Space Race of the early 1960s superseded young boys’ worship of westerns. Davy Crockett was ousted from our pantheon of heroism by America’s First Man in Space, Alan Shepherd and TV executives cancelled THE RIFLEMAN for MY FAVORITE MARTIAN. Cowboy hats, vests, guns, and holsters were retired to the closet next to toy boats and teddy bears in favor of model rockets and ray guns. At night my old brother and I lifted our eyes to the sky in hopes of being kidnapped to Mars. One way or the other we were going to the stars.

Enthused by President’s Kennedy’s vow to reach the moon, we pleaded with my parents for astronaut costumes for Halloween and my father came through with two gleaming space suits complete with a visored helmet. 

“My sons the astronauts.” My father was an electrical engineer. He believed in science.

“Better if one of them was a priest.” My mother’s heaven was reached by good deeds and daily prayers.

Her wish for a holy avocation was not a destiny to be decided by ‘one potato-two potato’ and only a miracle would grant us a seat on an Apollo mission. My brother and I had bad eyes, but we could pretend in our costumes. I held out my hands for the big box.

“Not until Halloween.” My father was a man for whom everything had a place and time. “Until then you’re Catholic schoolboys and I expected to see some hard work in math, because astronauts don’t count on their fingers.”

“Yes, sir.” My father expected complete obedience from his sons and throughout that week we received gold stars on homework and tests. 

Halloween afternoon the principal held a school assembly to warn her students about the dangers of Satan and razor blades in apples. 

“I have a metal detector, so we're safe,” Chuckie Manzi whispered in my ear. My next-door neighbor was the class clown and Mother Superior glared a warning in our direction.

“Keep it down, Mr. Manzi.” She was capable of ruining Christmas and we obeyed her edict with contrite expressions of our faces. She had her students well-trained.

The bell rang at 2:30 and the gathered classes stayed in their seats, until Sister Mary Josef clapped her hands twice. We stood in unison and marched from school silent as Trappist monks. Once our feet hit the parking lot, we ran screaming to the waiting school buses like convicts breaking for the wire.

Our yellow school bus seemed slower than usual on its route from Our Lady of the Foothills on the yellow school bus. It stopped before our house and we raced across the lawn to the garage. The front door was for guests, not family. My brother reached our bedroom first and tore off his school uniform. The large boxes with the costumes were identical, but Frank examined each box, as if one might be better that the other. 

“Pick one. They’re the same.” We had fought hundreds of times like Cain and Abel over books, toys, and cakes. My father bought us gifts in twos. My brother wrote his name on his things. Mine were unmarked. 

“Nothing is the same.” My mother had pretended that we were identical twins in our infancy. “Something is always better.”

“Not if they’re the same.” I sat on my bed and put my schoolbooks on the desk at the end of my bed. Tomorrow was All-Saint’s Day. Morning classes were cancelled for a Mass. The nuns loved marching the sixteen classes from 1st to 8th Grades to church.

“This one is better.” Frank picked one package and gave me the other with a slight scratch on the box. His fingers carefully opened his. He liked repacking   presents to pretend they were new.

I tore my apart and shook out the metallic uniform. It smelled of Cape Canaveral. 

My brother put TELSTAR by the Ventures on the stereo and dressed in the costume with all the dignity available in his eleven year-old body.

“I feel different.”

“You’ve never been in a space suit before.” The material scratched my skin and I looked for the zipper. There was none. “Houston to Apollo 13. We have a problem.”

“Astronaut have a hose.” He reminded me of the TV images of the astronaut walking along the gantry to the space capsule.

“I’m not wearing a hose.” Ours was green and way to long to drag around the neighborhood trick or treating.

“Then we’ll have to hold it. I bet Alan Shepherd held it.”

“He was only in space for fifteen minutes.” I had watched the launch at school. The nuns had us pray for him. I said mine to the stars. There was no God in the cosmos for a non-believer. 

“Fifteen minutes is a long time in space or else if you have to pee. No water or milk at dinner.” My brother had a good mind for planning. We were going dry.

Dusk was shifting to night and we left our bedroom with paper bags to carry our candy loot. 

“Just a second.” I sneaked into my parents’ bedroom and lifted sunglasses from my father’s dresser. They fit under the helmet and I checked myself in the mirror.

“You sure that’s a good idea?” My brother was better at following rules than me.

“They look cool.” Astronauts wore sunglasses. Steve McQueen too.

“Better not break them.”

“I won’t.” I hid them inside my costume and went down to the kitchen.

My mother made sandwiches for dinner.

“I’m not wasting a good meal on you. You’re candy crazy.” She said with a smile looking at my older brother and me. She had dressed us as twins the first six years of our lives. My father cut our hair short to make us look more alike. In the astronaut costumes we must have been identical. Her kiss was filled with the love, but my mother had had six kids.

She loved us all.

My father came home from work and took photos of us.

A little after Six o’Clock we walked out the front door and he counted down from ten. 

“Ignition. Blast off.” He loved the idea of going to space. My mother held his hand and told us to be careful. 

“Yes, ma’am.” We were good boys, but what she really meant was ‘don’t get in trouble’ and trouble on Halloween was revenge for no treats. Smashing pumpkins, throwing eggs, and spraying were a town tradition. Dirty tricks were saved for worst of the worst and our neighborhood had none of those.

My father led my younger brothers and sisters toward Hilltop Street. We were heading in the opposite direction. 

My best friend was waiting on the lawn.

His father owned a dry cleaner and had a tailor fashioned a Martian suit for his only son. Chuckie Manzi had painted his skin green and two silver-foil antennas rose from his hair. He pointed a ray-gun at us and said, “Take me to your leader.”

“We have no leader.” I wasn’t giving up President Kennedy to any fake alien.

“Then take me ‘trick or treating’”

Across the street Mrs. Sartini was greeting the first band of kids. The three of us stared at her outline in the doorway. Her full body was a mystery to us. The girls in our class were stick figures or balloons. I had dreamed about her on several occasions. They were not dreams to tell in confession.

“Mrs. Sartini is the last stop.” My brother was the boss. He was a year older than Chuckie and me.

We hit neighborhood for Milky Ways, Baby Ruths, licorice sticks, pumpkin kernels, Junior Mints, and Charleston Chews. A lot of kids were sitting on the curbs eating their take. We were a little older and knew that time was of the essence. Doors were shut by 8. We didn’t have a minute to waste.

“What about the sunglasses?”

For a second I thought I had lost them. They were trapped by the waistband.  I put them on and said to Chuckie, “Now I’m protected from your death ray.”  I had seen INVASION FROM MARS ten times. The Martians’ main weapon vaporized soldiers into carbon.

“It’s your funeral.” Chuckie put away his ray-gun. He needed his hands to carry his candy. 

We were coming to the end of our journey and my brother, Chuckie, and I walked up the driveway to Mr. Sartini’s house. He drove truck for Arnold’s Bakery. His wife put out cake instead of candy. She looked like Sophia Loren and even astronauts liked her.

The moon had set behind the trees and the night was pitch black with my visor down over the sunglasses. We climbed the brick stairs to the front door. There was no metal railing. My brother rang the doorbell. Mrs. Sartini acted scared by our costumes. She thought we were space men. 

“No, we’re astronauts.” My brother protested thinking that she was serious. “Not me, I’m a Martian.” Chuckie pulled out his ray-gun. His bag of candy spilled over onto the steps.

“That’s why I’m wearing sunglasses. To protect me from his death ray.” I lifted my visor. Even Alan Shepherd couldn’t eat turn plastic.

Mrs Sartini offered a selection of cakes topped with icing. I chose orange spice. Chuckie and my older brother opted for chocolate cake. We thanked her with filled mouths and I shut my visor. 

Chuckie bent over to gather up his candy. My bumping into his hip was hard enough to knock me off balance and I toppled from the steps. My free-fall lasted the blink of an eye, but my re-entry was marred by scrapping my little finger against the rough brick wall before thumping onto the lawn. 

“Are you all right?” Mrs. Sartini looked at my fingertip. Blood was throbbing from a long cut. She bent over and I could see the top of her breasts. They were white as milk.

“I’m okay.” My knees had been bloodied often, butI was more concerned with my father’s sunglasses. They weren’t in my helmet. 

“Here they are.” My brother held them in his hand. They were intact.

“Thanks for the cake, Mrs. Sartini.” I got to my feet and sucked on the blood.  “I’m so sorry.” Her hand was soft and warm on mine. I was in heaven.

“I’ll feel much better with another slice of cake.” My dreams had been nothing like this.

“Anything for an astronaut.” Mrs. Sardini gave me a whole orange spice cake and kissed me on the cheek.

My older brother led me across the lawn to our house. 

“Someone got hit with a stun gun.” Chuckie was wishing he had fallen off the stairs. He had a thing for Mrs. Sartini. Every man in the neighborhood felt the same way.

“I’m shaking it off.” A trace of her lingered on my skin. She smelled like fresh bread.

We entered our house by the garage. My mother would have killed me, if I used the front door and got blood on the living room rug. It was for looking at not walking on.

“What did you do to yourself?” She asked in the kitchen. My mother was always saying that we weren’t sick unless there was blood. My hand was drenched red. She hated seeing us hurt.

My brother explained the accident without mentioning the sunglasses. My mother admonished my dangerous behavior. She had six kids. We were always in jeopardy. A band-aid stemmed the blood and my mother send me to bed without a bite of the orange cake or candy. Sweets were bad for a cut not to mention my teeth.

My father came into my bedroom a little later with cake and a glass of milk.

“I heard about your adventure.” He wasn’t mad at me.

“I fell to earth.” I put down my book. It was THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW.

“I hope you learned your lesson.” He held up his sunglasses. 

“Yes.” I was ready for a long lecture, but my father put the cake and milk on the night table and said, “Never wear sunglasses at night.”

“I won’t.” How he knew about the glasses was beyond me. My brother was no snitch.

“Especially if you’re wearing a visor.”

“Yes, sir.” I was getting off easy and remembered his advice for years to come. 

Not 100%, for I have worn sunglasses at night whenever I couldn’t find my regular glasses. If I forget his words, the jagged scar on my little finger reminds me of that fall from grace, but that for a young boy the kiss of an older was better than going to the stars.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cowboy Versus Batman

My friend Haoui Montauk bequeathed me a Paul Smith suit in his will. We had worked at a punk nightclub together in the late-70s. He had collected the cash and I had worked the door as a bouncer. Haoui liked to call me ‘rough trade’.

He wasn’t wrong. I liked a good fight now and then. He said it ran in my blood.

I was taller and stockier than the poet, but the suit fit my body albeit a little tight. It was not a suit for all occasions, since the material was a bright blue plaid. I wore it pride and considered any venture so attired was like taking Haoui out for a walk through the city he loved the most.

I received many compliments from women for having the courage to sport such an extravagant outfit and my bravery was rewarded with further admiration upon their hearing about my deceased friend having left it to me in his last will and testament, but New York wasn’t the same city as before.

The rich had replaced the poor and the bankers had crowded out the artists. They were very uncool and on one occasion a banker in his 20s muttered under his breath passing me in front of a Prince Street deli, “What a fucking ugly suit.”

“Same as your face,” I wasn’t taking any guff from a Wall Street stooge.

“What you say?” He wheeled around with a gym-strengthened aggression.

“My suit is ugly, but so is your face.” Haoui was gay. People like this man had bullied him as a boy. I wasn’t backing down. My friend Billy O was waiting in the middle of the block.

The young man approached me, as if he wanted to fight, but Billie O was already taking my back. Two against one wasn’t good odds and the Wall Street stooge stormed away with a parting ‘fuck you’.

“And not only are you ugly, but you only have one eyebrow.” I was good at getting in the last word.

The banker looked over his shoulder with eyes blazing with hatred. He picked up an avocado from the fruit stand and threw it at my head. I ducked to the left and it whistled past my ear. A good throw, but a miss and the Korean grocer came screaming out of the store, yelling, “You pay for avocado. You pay for avocado.”

The banker ponyed up the money. Billie O and I had a good laugh, but he said, as we entered the Mekong restaurant, “That suit draws the wrong type of attention.”

“It’s Haoui.” I explained how I got it.

“Maybe it’s haunted.” Billy was Irish. We were both superstitious and I retired the suit for a long time.

Ten Halloweens ago I was stuck for a costume and remembered Haoui’s suit. It fit a little tighter than before, but I could pass for a carnival barker in it. My left knee was sore from buckling on the basketball court and I picked a cane out of my closet. I had one with an 8-ball for a knob. One look in the mirror said ‘carney’ and I limped through the East Village to Nolita, where my friends were waiting at two tables in front of the Mekong. It was a warm night and we watched the parade of costumes. Most people were heading over to the parade in the West Village. I sat next to our lady friend, Jane was dressed as a go-go girl from the 60s. The English model had the Swinging London look down pat. We were having a good time, until a Batman dropped into an empty chair next to her. Our friends laughed at the intrusion, but then the muscular Caped Crusader kissed Jane and then he stole my beer.

A Stella.

The cheapskate owner charged $6 for it and never bought back a round.

“Jane, you know this guy?” Women were sacred, but beer was holy.

“No.” Jane was horrified by his macho behavior.

“That’s enough.” I grabbed my beer. It was going to be in the way.

“Old man, don’t tell Batman when he’s had enough.” He was in his 20s and sounded Wall Street. His muscles came from exercising and his bravado was bolstered by a few boxing lessons.

“Old man?” I was only 49. It was the youth of old age.

“Yeah, take a look in the mirror. You’re farting dust like a mummy.” He resumed smooching Jane.

“Leave it off.” My friends’ kids were at the table. I didn’t want them to witness a fight. Still it was only Batman without Robin, so I said, “This isn’t your table. Move on.”

“Fuck off, you old git.” Batman grinned like the Joker, if the villain had perfect teeth.

The word ‘git’ ended the discussion. Git was my word. I seized Batman’s cape and threw him into street. He snatched the cane from my hands and swung it at my head. I blocked it with a forearm and caught him with a right to the jaw. I wrestled the cane from him, but he ripped off my glasses and ran away, chanting, “Nah-na-na-nah-na.”

It sounded mockingly like Stream’s hit TELL HIM GOODBYE.

My left knee was in no condition to chase him.

Shannon came out of the bar. The tall New Yorker was dressed as a cowboy. I thought he looked like Robert Duvall in TRUE GRIT. Shannon was a good decade younger and several inches taller than me. We had been friends since the Milk Bar and played basketball together in Tompkins Square Park.

“What’s wrong?” He could see scratches on my face.

“Batman stole my glasses.” I squinted and pointed to retreating Batman. He was having a good laugh.

“I’ll go get him.” Shannon loped down the street at a run.

Batman was resting at the gate to St. Patricks.

“Gimme back the glasses.” Shannon spread his stance. His fighting skills came from the street and not a gym. My money was on the Cowboy Versus Batman.

“Go fuck yourself, dude.” Batman threw a punch. Shannon blocked it with ease and KOed Batman with one punch. Batman slunk to the sidewalk like he was sleeping in Bruce Wayne’s bed. Shannon returned to Mekong and said, “Here’s your glasses.”


“I’ll be going.” Shannon didn’t need to speak with the police. “I owe you a beer.” It was good to see again. “You owe me nothing. That guy was a creep.” He downed his beer with an ear cocked for sirens. He knew Billie O and said, “One more thing. Don’t wear that suit anymore. It’s trouble.”

“You got that right.”

Later that night I returned Haoui’s suit to the closet. It stays there most of the time, but every once in a while I take it out for a walk. It’s getting small for me in my old age, but I can always suck in my gut.

Haoui wouldn’t expect anything else from me and neither would his ghost.

Tonight Is Not Halloween

Halloween has been celebrated on Oct. 31 for my entire life. The date is written in everyone's head, but a Connecticut state representative has floated an ill-conceived idea to change the holiday, so that it falls on a weekend. but a state lawmaker wants to tamper with tradition to ensure the holiday is always marked on a weekend.

"Halloween is fun night for the whole family, but not so much when you have to race home from work, get the kids ready for trick or treating, welcome the neighborhood children, and then try to get everyone to bed for an early school and work morning.”

Both Democrats and Republicans lambasted the suggestion, which included trick or treating in daylight for safety's sake.

I also disagree with this idea, but last year New Yorkers were sporting Halloween costumes for a week.

Call me old, but I thought it a sacrilege and on October 30th a friend said that he was celebrating the autumn fest a night early. We argued about the date, until Shannon explained Halloween's Celtic origin as Samhain, which marked the division of the year into halves of light and dark when the otherworld was nearest reality.

“It was a night of fire to cleanse the world.” I knew my Irish heritage. My mother’s family came from the West of Ireland.

"And it was turnips that were carved, not pumpkins." Shannon stated with authority. His fiancee Charlotta was smart. He had been busy mining google's vast abyss of useless knowledge to impress the German artist.

"So the band should have been Smashing Turnips." The Chicago alternative band had been big in the 90s.

"No, once us micks came here, we opted for pumpkins instead of turnips. They were bigger."

"Plus it’s hard to carve the jack 'o lanterns with eyes and mouth on a turnip.” Ben Franklin had favored the wild turkey over the eagle as the National Bird. He must have supported the turnip over the pumpkin just to be contrary.

“Hollow pumpkins smash easier.”

“Not it you carve smaller eyes and mouths on a pumpkin.”


“Because the pumpkin will rot within a day if the holes are too big." I had been researching 'pumpkin soup' on the Internet. Getting smart didn't take much of an effort these days.

"Plus a pumpkin is easier to cut up than a turnip."

"You got that right." I had narrowly missed slicing off my thumb splitting a turnip the other night. "What are you going as this year?"

'Some kind of monster." Charlotta was hosting a Halloween party the right night. She believed in tradition and so did Shannon. "The first Halloween in America was mentioned in 1911. Someplace in hockey-puck land."



"Then Happy Hallowmas." I wasn't contesting his learning. My Halloweens only go back to 1956. Falmouth Foresides. Maine. My mother warned that I couldn't go out 'trick or treating' unless I finished my beets.

Canned beats paved the path to chocolate paradise and I poured a glass of milk to wash down the purple vegetables. My older brother was watching in his cowboy costume. Mine wore an identical outfit. We were going out as Frank and Jesse James.

I put the first sliced beet in my mouth. My tongue skated around the jellied vegetable. The bittersweet chunk tasted twenty years old and I swallowed it while. My throat constricted on the unchewed beet's passage, but I got it down.

Only two more to go.

"No more milk." My older brother pulled away the half-filled glass. He had a date with Sandy the girl next door. The 5 year-old was dressed in white up as a good witch.

The James Brothers and the Good Witch. My best friend Chaney was a clown. His sweetheart was a ballerina. I had asked Kathy Burns to walk the rounds with me. She had decided to go with Jimmy Fox. I didn’t have a date, but I would have chocolate, if I cleaned my plate.

I stuck the fork in the second beet slice and stuffed it deep into my mouth. Maybe too deep, because I gagged on it. My father's clap on my back slapshotted the beet back onto my plate. My mother was not amused by my upchuck.

Her family had gone through the Depression. Food on the plate was meant for your stomach. This was 1958. Eisenhower was President. America was a Land of Plenty. The beets belonged in the trash, but not in our house. Two slices took two minutes to stuff down my throat.

"That wasn't so bad." My mother cleared my plate from the table.

"No." They came from a can and I vowed never to eat beets again.

Our neighborhood was rich with candy and chocolate that night. My bag was half-filled by treats. We had done no tricks. My brother kissed Sandy on the cheek and I went upstairs to get rid the taste of beets by stuffing four Baby Ruths in my mouth. I chewed them into mush and they sluiced down my esophagus into my stomach. The combination of chocolate and beets wasn’t meant for a 6 year-old and I ran into the bathroom to empty my belly into the toilet.

The color was purple.

I drank a glass a water and returned to my bedroom. My brother was separating his candy into groups. I picked up a Baby Ruth and chewed it a little more slowly than the first four. It was not a beet or a turnip or a pumpkin or a kiss from Kathy Burns. It was sweet chocolate.

And there was plenty of it.

As there will be forever as long as Halloween is celebrated on October 31.

Top 5 Halloween Songs

My top 5 Halloween songs; THE MONSTER MASH by Bobby "Boris" Pickett HAUNTED CASTLE by the Kingsmen THRILLER by Michael Jackson I PUT A SPELL ON YOU - Screaming Jay Hawkins PEOPLE ARE STRANGE - the Doors And the winner FIRE by Arthur Brown

To hear this monster hit please go to the following URL I bring you fire.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Twins of Ireland

Last year my older brother was my # 2 friend. My best friend was my father. The native of Maine was 89. His address was an Alzheimer hospice south of Boston. Once a month I took the Fung Wah bus to South Station and then the commuter train to Norwood. It was a ten-minute walk to his rest home. Throughout the summer his condition deteriorated to the point where he couldn't remember where he was or what he was doing there. My brothers and sisters warned that he didn't recognize him and last September I approached the re-designed doctor's house with a heavy heart. He greeted me by name. My sisters saw him 2-4 times a week. My father has no idea who they were and I asked him, "Why can't you recognizes them?"

"Because they don't look like they used to?"

"And I do?" At 58 I had my teeth and hair, but the reflection in the mirror was not me.

"No, you look like a stranger too, but something about you reminds me about your mother, so I think of Angie and then you." He shuddered at the connection. We were never friends until my mother's passage from this world in 1996. I talked a lot. She spoke more. In some ways we were the same person for him.

"You remember your son Frank?" His memory was dim as a winter candle.

"My # 1 son. You two were Irish twins." My mother had dressed her two oldest sons alike since I stopped wearing baby clothes. Frank and I fought over everything, but she also loved that people thought we were twins.

"We weren't really Irish twins." The term pertained to children born within a year. My older brother and I were separated by 13 months. Actually 59 days. He was born on April 1. I arrived the morning of May 29.

"60 days were a week back then." He was talking about the 1950s. TV was black and white. Eisenhower was the president. America was the top world power. My father pointed to the clock on his desk. Time meant nothing to most to Alzheimer patients. "You were never on time." On time for him meant to the second.

"I was never really late." My punctuality ran 15-30 minutes behind the clock, although I had achieved perfect attendance throughout five grades in grammar school. My mother had saved those awards. I have the one from 5th Grade.

"Only once and once was more than enough." "That's an old story." My father was talking about the time that I had stayed over my girlfriend's house well past midnight. Her mother was not on the premise. We were alone. The radio had been playing THE VELVET UNDERGROUND. We came close to losing our souls to ROCK AND ROLL. "If it was so old I would have forgotten it." "Forty years is a long time." Janet had been wearing her cheerleader outfit. It was football season. "Forty-five years to be exact." My father had been an electrical engineer. He had studied at MIT. Numbers and math were his expertise. "To be exact you're right on the money." The year was 1967. I was 15.

Janet's mother came home at 1:30. I had left through the backdoor with my clothes in hand. I dressed in the backyard and watched the lights go out in Janet's house. There was no yelling. I waited for a minute to see if Janet came to her bedroom window, but she was a cheerleader and not Juliet and the only breaking light was a harvest moon. My neighborhood in the Blue Hills was a good four-mile walk. Bus stopped running at 9. The houses were dark. Everyone was asleep. I heard a car coming from the opposite direction. It was my Uncle Dave. The Olds stopped at the curb. "You want a ride home?" He had been coming from the VFW bar. Uncle Dave had served in the Pacific. Three years on a destroyer. "No, I'll walk it." I was in no rush to get home. "Your mother and father know where you are?" Uncle Dave was a good man. He made no judgment of other people's kids, even if they were family. "Sort of?" It was a teenage answer. "I was a teenager once. Your dad's going to be pissed at you, if you haven't called. You sure, you don't want me to drive you home?" "I'm good." I thought about sleeping in the woods. It wasn't that cold, but that would make it even worse. "Thanks for the offer." The Olds drove off in the direction of Quincy. Uncle Dave would be home in five minutes. I figured that I had another hour to go. I was wrong. My father pulled up to me at the crossroads before the parish church. He flung open the door of the Delta 88. It hit me in the thigh. "Where have you been?" He demanded with a voice that I had never heard from him. "At a girl's house." I hadn't told my parents about Janet. My mother wanted me to be a priest. "At a girl's house." My father knew what that meant. He had six kids. "You have any idea about what your mother thought happened to you?"

"None." I hadn't been worrying about my mother or father or school, while lying next to Janet's hot flesh.

His right hand left the steering wheel in the blink of an eye. I never felt his wrist smack my face. "I didn't want to do that." Tears were wetting his eyes. "I thought something bad happened to you." "Nothing bad happened, Dad." I rubbed my face. He had never hit me before. I tasted metal in my teeth. All of them were intact. "Next time call and let us know where you are." "Yes, sir." "Let's go home. I'll handle your mother." He sighed with regret. The next morning my eyes were shadowed with black and blue. My mother was horrified as was my father. Janet cried upon seeing my face. She said that she loved me. In some ways I felt like she had become Juliet, although I was no Romeo. My father and I maintained a cautious distance throughout the remainder of my teenage years. Hitting me had scared him and at the nursing home I held his hand. I had kids now and said, "I understand why you did what you did that night." "What night?" The memory had sunk back into the fog. "Drove me home in the dark. You were always a good father." I kissed his bald head, as my older brother walked into the room. My father looked at him with doubting eyes. "It's Frank, your oldest son." "That's not Frank. He didn't look like that." My brother was wearing a suit and I thought maybe that threw off my father. I stood next to Frank. "See the resemblance." "We're were Irish twins," My brother took off his glasses. "You two were never Irish twins, except for your mother." "It was good enough for her, Dad." She had loved her children with all her heart. My father too. "Then it's good enough for me, whoever you are." He offered a hand to us both. We spoke about Irish twins three times in succession without his retaining a single word. His mind had been swept clean of the good and the bad and I was lucky enough to possess a memory of both good and bad for him. My mother wouldn't have it any other way. I was her Irish twin and that was good enough for my father too.

Ding Dong Gaddafi's Dead

Muammar Gaddafi’s decades long reign in Libya came to a bloody end last week. NATO airplanes attacked a convoy of vehicles fleeing Sirte, his last stronghold. Gaddafi ran for cover, as local militia surrounded the area. Finding refuge in a drainage pipe, the colonel fought for his life, but NTC fighters pounded the concrete tube with an anti-aircraft gun. The deposed ruler surrendered with his famed gold-plated pistol in hand. Badly wounded by fighting Colonel Gaddafi was put into an ambulance. He never made it to Tripoli. Someone shot him in the head. A summary execution and Libyans throughout the liberated country celebrated his death with honking horns and machine guns fired into the sky. No more assassinations. No more wars in Africa. No more money pouring into his coffers from the oil riches of the nation. No more prison massacres. The Leader of the Revolution is dead. Some people have criticized the manner of his death as inhumane. I say good riddance. The world is a better place without him, but the West would be sorely mistaken to think that this revolution was one for democracy. It was an uprising against the ruling classes of wealth. That is the story. The poor versus the rich. Free the world.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Burn Berlin Burn

This September my benefactor took me to the Monaco Boat Show. We landed at the Nice Airport and I was about to ask him how we were traveling to Monte Carlo, when I saw a Maybach waiting by the curb. Padraic looked over his shoulder and said like he could read my mind, "Our ride." The Maybach Guard is a sports car limo. 0-60 mph in 5 seconds. The company had built the Maybach T3 Assault Gun (Sturmgeschütz III) as well as the Maybach T3 during WWII. The car is now known for super-luxury and I enjoyed the ride to Monaco. The driver hit the pedal once and we were traveling at 120 mph for a second on the autoroute. My ass felt like a million dollars and a million dollars means something to someone in my position. We got out in front of the Hermitage Hotel and people stared at us and then the car. Padraic rode in them often. I doubted that I would ever again in my life, but luxury cars are having a hard time in Berlin. Over 300 Porsches, Mercedes-Benzs, Audis et al have been burnt in Berlin in 2011. The arsonists have been targeting cars in previously poor neighborhoods altered by gentrification. Rising rents and prices have driven people from the center of the city in favor of the new rich. The right-wing Bild-Zeitung has descried the attacks as class-warfare terrorism and citizens are wondering if houses are next on the menu. The German chancellor asked, "What sort of behavior is this?" The answer is no one knows the answer. The police are clueless, although this week they arrested a man for over a hundred incidents of the pyromaniacal vandalism. The accused was unemployed and indebted to the credit card companies. His reason for these attacks seemed to be wealth envy according to the BBC, but they haven't told the truth about anything since the Iraq War. The man did tell the police the following; 'I've got debts, my life stinks and others with fancy cars are better off and they deserve this'." Cars burned last night in Berlin. They will burn tonight. Burn baby burn. It's only the beginning.

Froide Comme Une Reine

The Financial Times, which is the foreign rival to the Murdoch-onwed Wall Street Journal, has reported that Buckingham Palace has joined millions of other homes throughout Britian in 'fuel poverty' in which a homeowner pays more than 10% of their income on fuel. Oil prices in Britain are at an all-time high as commodity traders have accelerated the value of coal, gas, and oil with speculation to steal more wealth from the people. It is not just the poor or middle class who are the target. It is also the rich. Wall Street wants no one to have money. Not even the Queen of England. According to the article ERII roams the palaces shutting off lights. The rest of the nation would be wise to follow her example, for the only peaceful way to hurt the oil companies is through non-consumption. Walk, don't drive. Shut off all vampire power drains such as power transformers without cut-off switches. Heat only the rooms in which you live. It will be a cold winter. Cruel only if you maintain the ways of the past. The Queen knows and you should too. By the way she will never be poor.

FIELD GREY by Philip Kerr

Philip Kerr has been writing about a pre-WWII Berlin detective for more than a decade. These novels cover Bernard Gunther's career from policeman to private detective to SS soldier to post-war criminal. The books introduce infamous Nazis at various points of their lives and in FIELD GREY the old veteran is entrapped by the CIA and French to undercover a mass murderer heading back to Germany from captivity in the USSR. Bernie is no friend to the Nazi, but likes his Cold War masters even less and given the chance to betray them to save an old nemesis, Bernie does the right thing. The Financial Times thought Kerr's crisscrossing time plot was too convoluted to force the storyline forward without confusion, but I read the book with enthusiasm, especially since Bernard Gunther never takes himself or life too seriously, but Kerr puts the right words in his hero's mouth for the wrong times such as telling a beautiful Cuban revolutionary, "Whenever someone talks about building a better society, you can bet he's planning to use a couple of sticks of dynamite." Bernard Gunther holds true to his honor. He is simple and pure. Like a glass of schnapps in a bad bar. Drank and not stirred.

Stags Shagging In Season

Putney was not exactly the center of London, but I chose to stay with Sara. We were the best of friends. Dawn came early at her house. Every morning the record executive walked her sweet little dog, Maysie, in Richmond Park. I was a stranger to the Royal Park, the largest in London, and was pleasantly surprised by its wild expanse of bracken meadows and even more so by the spectacle of rutting stags. Autumn was the time of the year, when the male red deer contest for hinds by a display of their antlers, bellowing, and plain old knock-down fighting. The stags roared at each other, as we walked past the harems. We were no threat, but barking dogs bring out the protective instinct in the big males. They don't want anything fucking around with their mates and I stay well out of their way. Antlers have points and Sara told me that several walkers had been charged by the big bucks. While I am covered by National Health in the EEU thanks to my Irish passport, I have little interest in getting gored by an irate stag. Sara guided me to safety. Maysie was not a barker. She knew her place on the feeding chain and I gave her a little treat as a reward for not irking the deer. She was a good little dog.

What's Yours Is Ours

AN OLD JOKE FROM THE 60S. A rich man comes out of his mansion and spots a young man camping on his lawn. Filled with indignation he strides up to the squatter and demands him to leave or else he'll call the police. "How did you get this land?" The young man remains seated by his fire. "What difference does it make?" The rich man wishes he had his shotgun to put the fears in this interloper. "The difference between my staying or leaving." "I worked for it." 18 hours a day when he was a young investment banker. "And who owned it before you and your kind?" "I don't know." Rock salt in the young man's ass would get him moving. "It belonged to the Indians, right?" "I suppose so." Buckshot might work better. "And how did they lose their land. Someone took it from them and I'm taking it from you." "You're only one." The rich man was thinking of a .45. A single shot to protect his estate. "Not one." The young man pointed to the ivy-covered wall. Hundreds of people were climbing over the barrier between those that have and those that don't. "We're many." "This is theft." The rich man would need more than the police to evict this many people. "We like re-appropriation better, my name's Jake, neighbor." And they lived happily ever after on the rich man's wine cellar and grilled foie gras, because a barbeque was better than a bonfire.

Anti-Protest Camp - London

After Fingers and I were scourged by the flail of high ticket prices from St. Paul's Cathedral, we walked to our respective Tube stations. A six-man patrol of riot police tramped down the sidewalk without a step in unison. They had been posted to the other side of the church from the anti-Wealth protestors in anticipation of any violence from the squatters. Weeks had passed in peace. The coppers looked bored, but their hands rested on long batons and their feet sported manly boots. They were waiting for the order to disperse the crowd of dirty counter-culture demonstrators. It would be their pleasure to break a few heads, although it is in their interest to play the waiting game, since they are collecting overtime for these extra hours of serving and protecting the public interests. Fingers and I walked by the four white riot trucks. I counted the police. Twenty of them were huddled within the trucks. The engines were running to heat the police. The weather was cold for late-October. None of them wore a smile, but this was a good gig. They still had jobs and in these days having a job was not a small thing. Occupy everywhere. It's a good thing.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Scrounging At St. Paul's

Last Monday I crossed the Thames on a pedestrian bridge. I had been at the Gerard Richter exhibit at the New Tate Museum with Fingers. He resembled a reformed pirate. We hadn't seen each other in 10 years. Most of my friends in Europe could say the same. Fingers took a few photos of me on the bridge. None of them made me look young. That accomplishment is a demanding trial in a city as old as London. St. Paul's Cathedral loomed over the buildings lining the banks of the river. At 365 feet high the church was the tallest building in London for centuries. My friend Fingers explained its history on our approach. "To this day nothing can be built to disturb the view of St. Paul's from the four cardinal points of the compass. Nothing taller can be erected to disrupt the line of sight. It's an unwritten law obeyed to this day. You ever been inside?" "Never." I recollected walking around it, but never down the aisle like Princess Diana during her wedding ceremony to the Prince of Wales on July 29, 1981. "Sounds like a plan." We approached the Christopher Wren cathedral from the south and worked our way to the western door. Hundreds of Occupy Wealth protestors were camped to the north of the entrance. A band played rock songs. I donated 5 quid to their cause. Fingers gave them 2 pounds. They looked harmless. We entered the cathedral and stopped at the ticket booth. The price of admission was 13 quid. "Fucking hell." Fingers remembered it being free. "Screw this." Thirteen was an unlucky number for an atheist to spend on a visit to a Christian church. We left the church and headed for the subway. Several passing police were carrying truncheons and plastic arrest bands. They belonged to the riot squad. Five armored trucks were parked on the opposite side of the cathedral. Craig shouted from a protective distance, "Attica Attica." The riot squad didn't even turn their heads, but the demonstrations against wealth were taking their toll on the church. This week the reverend canon announced the closure of the cathedral, the first since a bomb stuck in its dome during the Blitz. The protestors understand that the church is losing money, but they also refused to surrender to a government deeply connected to the powers of wealth. The church is not so sacred, for its daily operation costs about 20,000 pounds. At 13 pounds a head they need to reap over 1500 customers in a day. The reverend canon refused to say that his decision to close the cathedral was based on pressure from the Friends of St Pauls such as Sir Paul and Lady Getty, Goldman Sachs International, UBS Investment Bank, Prudential Plc, Charterhouse Capital Partners LLP, Standard Chartered Plc, J.P. Morgan, Canary Wharf Group Plc, the London Stock Exchange, and American Express. The telephones never stop ringing when they call. According to the BBC a wedding at St Paul's nevertheless went ahead on Saturday despite its closure to the general public. Natasha Ighodaro arrived at the cathedral to marry Nick Cunningham against a backdrop of dozens of tents and a banner reading "capitalism is crisis". Leaving the service, the bride said: "There hasn't been any disruption at all – it's been wonderful, really amazing." Wedding guest John Giles, from Godalming in Surrey, offered his support to the demonstrators. He said: "I think there are valuable comments being made and it seems to have been done in a peaceful way. They have a democratic right to protest." It's not about love. It's about no love.

London Redux

The City of Oxford is served by an express bus to London. The cost of a return ticket is 20 quid. I caught an afternoon bus last Saturday. The trip was quick and painless. I jumped off in Nottinghill Gate. It had been over ten years since my last visit to London, but my memory synapses clicked into action the second the soles of the shoes hit the sidewalk. My internal GPS plotted the Underground voyage to Putney and I descended into the station to buy an Oyster weekly pass for 27 quid.

"Where are you headed?" the clerk asked from behind a thick glass window.

"Putney." The District Line ran direct to Putney, where my godson was waiting on Swinburne Road with the keys to his mother's house.

"Not today, sir." The polite clerk explained that the Underground was undergoing weekend work. "The District and Circle Lines are closed."


"Best you go to High Street Kensington by bus and catch the train to Parsons Green."


His advice filtered through the dusty bins of my hippocampus and provided a concise map backed up by the amygdala's store of emotional recall. The double-decker bus provided a view on the sites of past incidents; a young girl shaving her armpit in Nottinghill Gate ( her name was Victoria ), breaking a tooth on a baguette at the Kensington restaurant, and meeting Osama Bin Laden's brother at an apartment behind Harrods. I jumped on the train at the High Street and proceeded to Parsons Green. The Fulham bus carried me across the Thames into Putney. Dusk was thickening into darkness. I thought about calling my godson for directions, but I am a man and preferred to rely on semi-intact brain cells and opted for a bus traveling along the Lower Richmond Road.

There is no such thing as bad luck in a situation like this, only bad choices.

I was lost within three minutes and couldn't remember the street name of my destination. My Luxembourg SIM card wasn't operating in England, but I was able to vampire a phone call from a perfect stranger. My godson muttered a swear. I was supposed to be on the Upper Richmond Road. It wasn't a huge mistake like Columbus thinking his discovery was the fabled isles of the Indies, but righting my direction required some trans-navigational re-interpretation of advice from the bus driver.

30 minutes later I was sitting with my godson, drinking a beer.

The house was warm and we were cooking steaks.

It was good to be back in London.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Back In The Smoke

Last week I arrived in the UK for a tour of London. It had been over 10 years since my last visit and my friends sought my presence like I was the only ecstasy dealer at a Berlin Rave. Saturday night a teenage party on Edgeware Road with my godson. There was no way I was taking a bus to Putney at 2 in the morning. I shut the door to a vacant bedroom and crashed out to the shouts of loud youth. Next morning I woke and took the 320 bus to Putney. I arrived at my friend Sara's home. MY afternoon was spend resting and that evening she, me, and her boyfriend went to a dinner nearby. Bangers and mashed. Beer and wine. My head on the pillow before 10, because the next day I was watching early to watch the stags joust with furry antlers in Richmond Park. Oh joy. My apologies for disappearing. I will be back tomorrow in full form. With an explanation too. Peter Nolan Smith

Friday, October 14, 2011

No More Zrooom

Facebook put the following poll on its site. Toyota Research Poll Do you believe that Toyota can make the world a better place by sharing its technology? 30% Yes 25% No 11% Not sure 32% Not aware of Toyota's technology sharing. Your response will be kept anonymous. I voted NO since cars are a thing of the past. But I've been wrong before. Disco for example. I was dancing to YMCA at an RAF Gala. Quelle blasphemy!

Hell No We Won't Go

"Hell, no, we won't go." This famous chant of the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era has been reincarnated by the Occupy Wall Street protestors in Lower Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg had announced plans to vacate the park for cleaning and the eventual re-occupation of the property. No one believed the lying rich bastard and the owners of the park backed down from the proposed cleaning after more demonstrators flocked into the park to prevent the eviction. Park ordinances have been waived for the duration of the truce between Brookfield Properties and the squatters. City councillors have backed the occupation to show the major that his 3rd term means nothing to New Yorkers on conscience. Zucotti Park was once called Liberty Plaza Park. The space was created by United States Steel in return for a height bonus in 1968. The new name is in honor of the owner of Brookfield Properties. Like all rich men he doesn't want any trouble that will cost him. "Hell, no, we won't go." ps Fuck Mayor Bloomberg.