Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We Deliver

The US Post Office motto of 'Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds' was lifted from Herodotus' account of the Persian Empire's postal system of horse relays 'It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day’s journey; and these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed'. Last night I wasn't expecting any mail, but at the most furious hour of Hurricane Sandy hitting New York I telephoned the nearest Chinese Take-Out on Fulton Street and the young girl at the counter answered my call. "You want delivery?" I gave her my order for General Tsao's Chicken and Fort Greene address. "Thirty minutes." I gave the delivery man a $3 tip for a $7 order. A ten was all I had in the house, but this morning I dropped over to the store and gave him another two dollars. He said thank you without realizing for what. We all look alike to them.

Yikes Land Sharks

This photo from New Jersey appeared on Facebook. It might not be photoshopped, but judging from the height of the doorhandle I calculated that the sandshark is a 2-3 footer cruising the shallow floodwaters. He must be looking for a Micky Ds.

Storm Aftermath Day 1

This morning the East Coast woke up to the havoc of Hurricane Sandy. Reports of widespread destruction are just hitting the media. New Jersey bore the brunt of the storm's landfall, while Lower Manhattan was deluged by 13-foot high tides. Power is out for millions from Virginia to New England, as the remnants of the hurricane dissipate on its path through the Midwest to Canada. Most of my friends are fine, but a ConEd substation on Avenue D and 14th Street exploded last night. This vital link in the city's powergrid could harbinger muhc touhg times ahead, for in Katrina the chaos didn't start until after the passage of the storm. President Obama has declared a State of Emergency for New York. BBC News reported the following updates -Fire has destroyed about 50 homes in the New York City borough of Queens -More than 200 patients were evacuated from New York University's Tisch Hospital after power went out and a backup generator failed -A large tanker ship has been washed on to a street in Staten Island, New York -America's oldest nuclear power plant, Oyster Creek in New Jersey, was put on alert due to rising water, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said -The New York Stock Exchange will stay shut on Tuesday - the first time it has closed for two consecutive days owing to weather since 1888 -A crew member from a replica of HMS Bounty has died and the captain is missing after the ship sank in mountainous seas off North Carolina on Monday -New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the storm surge had surpassed the highest forecast, but he expected waters to start receding. Airports are shut. Railroads are shut. Subways and buses are shut. NYC is off-line, but the Fort Greene Observatory stays open.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Whence Comes the Storm

In 1978 I lived on East 10th Street with my girlfriend, a hillbilly from West Virginia. The bedroom of our 3rd floor apartment was situated on the airshaft. An actor friend lived on the 5th floor. Every night the building shivered with the screams of a woman in orgasm. This cascade of cries of 'oh god yes' continued for a week.

It could only be the actor and his svelte girlfriend.

My girlfriend went frigid under the aural assault and I couldn't maintain an erection. Finally I confronted my friend, "Could you tell your girlfriend to keep it down?"

"My girlfriend? I thought it was you."

We were both wrong.

The source of the sexual maelstrom was the 4th floor apartment occupied by two lesbians.

They were twice the men we were at half the weight.

So Far So Good Hurricane Sandy

Florida was spared a hurricane season and earlier this week my Palm Beach comrade hit the beach to enjoy the outer winds of Hurricane Sandy. Alison was surprised to be caught by the local newspaper photographer and even more agogged by the photo hitting the front page. Sandy was sunny in Florida. Not so in New York, but so far so good. My friends are safe and sound. Those is danger's path have retreated to safer ground to seek beer or wine to pass the time of weather, althoguht there are reports of flooding in Lower Manhattan. Hopefully we make it through without too much loss. Be safe. ps I was just out in Fort Greene. Safe and sound indeed. Looking for cheap wine. I drank the first bottle fast than the barometer dropped during Katrina.

Ray Ray of the Heat

In the summer of 2007 Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to form the Big Three of the Boston Celtics. The perennial all-star added a three-point threat to my hometown squad and #20 had a pivotal role in beating the LA Lakers in the 2008 Championship. The Celtics were back on top of the NBA and the following autumn basketball's most storied franchise hoisted a new banner to the rafters for the first times in twenty-two years. Injuries prevented a repeat triumphant season in 2009, however in 2010 the Celtics pushed the Lakers to a seventh game despite Allen's pitiful shooting display throughout the series. Boston lost, but # 20 was Ray Ray. Game after game he ran around picks to beat his defenders to a sweet spot for an effortless three. Critics claimed that the team was getting old and in 2012 they lost a tough playoff round to the Miami Heat, thanks to a preponderance of penalties for the Heat. I denounced the refs for fixing the game so the NBA could sell more LeBron James tee-shirts, but AK my good friend living in West Palm Beac said that it was sour grapes. Off-season the Celtics attempted to sign Ray Ray to another two-year contract, however Allen recognized the team belonged to the young point guard Rondo and jumped ship for the Heat. Traitor and it was for less money. This Tuesday the two teams meet in Miami to kick off the 2012-2013 NBA season. Ray Allen was quick to tell the press, "I want to win the game. It's good to see my past teammates. You have to be excited about this new chapter. You just make sure that you just enjoy what you're doing and pay homage to where I've been." Ray Ray I miss you, but we're beating the Heat on Tuesday. Go Green.

Last Train From Grand Central

New York City is cut off from the rest of the world. Airports closed. Trains closed. Subway closed. We are where we are.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Storm Warnings For Sandy

The wind is light over the rooftops of Fort Greene, as the city prepares for Hurricane Sandy's landfall late Monday night. Mayor Bloomberg has announced the closure of the MTA's subways and buses at 7PM on Sunday night to prevent people getting stranded by the storm surges into low-lying flood plains such as the Rockaways and Lower Manhattan. Governor Christie closed the casinos in AC and the presidential candidates had cancelled all appearances on the East Coast. Even worse are meteorological predictions of this storm meeting up with an arctic cold front from Canada and a Nor'easter from the Atlantic to trifecta into a duplication of 1991's Perfect Storm. During that Halloween Nor'easter ships sunk at sea and the tides rose to inundate the FDR Drive. My good friend Tim and I went out to Long Beach to surf the next day and we confronted by a savage sea filled with houses. "Acres and acres of unbridled hell," one local surfer call the ocean. None of us attempted to master the chaos. Jsut last week I had been thinking that this year's hurricane season had been easy. Sandy may prove me wrong. I'm going out to buy food for three days; tuna, bread, butter et al. The hurricane is still far to the south. It won't stay there, so be prepared for the worst.

THE EYE OF THE STORM by Peter Nolan Smith

My father loved a good storm and in 1960 Hurricane Donna in 1960 hit New England as a category 2/3 storm on the second Monday of September. WBZ announced numerous school closing. My primary school, Our Lady of the Foothills, was one of the first on the list. My older brother and I were happy to stay home. We were new kids in town.

That morning a raging gale howled against our split-level ranch house and the windows vibrated in their sashes. The electricity died at noon and my father lit a kerosene lamp on the kitchen table. Our family of eight huddled around the flame like Neanderthals sheltering in a cave.

Several hours later the hurricane abated to what seemed a whisper.

"The eye of the storm." My father rose from his chair and motioned for my older brother and me to follow him to the front door.

"Where are you going?" my mother demanded with arms on her hips. She was a beautiful woman, but her voice rang with the authority of someone who had carried six babies in her womb.

"Outside to show them the eye."

"Hurricanes are not a joke." My mother had been through the 1938 hurricane. It didn't have a name. Hundreds of New Englanders had been killed in its path.

"I know." My father shrugged weakly.

Hurricane Edna in 1954 had destroyed his sailboat on Watchic Pond. The hull lay in the backyard. Six years later he had yet to repair the damage to the mast. Six kids were a lot of work. He pointed out the living room window. "The skies have cleared. We'll only be a few minutes."

"I wanna go too." My second youngest brother bounced off his chair. My mother grabbed his wrist.

"Only a few minutes." My mother trusted my father to obey his promise. He loved her enough to convert to Catholicism.

"I'll keep them safe." My father led us outside. We lived in the shadow of Chickatawbut Hill. A sultry wind raced through the trees. Branches were scattered across the yard. Overhead a counter-clockwise swirl of the cloud funnel opened to the blue heavens.

"That is the eye of the storm."

The three of us 360ed on the lawn to gawk at the storm's awesome power and glory. Lightning pulsed within the cloud wall like the Aurora Borealis. If my best friend hadn't drowned a month ago, the cyclonic display would have reinforced my faith in the Almighty. Instead I said, "Wow."

Rain dotted the walkway. The brief respite was coming to an end, My mother yelled at us to get inside.

My father lifted his finger for another few seconds.

He had fought the Maine's Great Fire of 1949. I never had seen him scared other anything other than my mother's wrath. He quickly explained to my older brother and me how hurricanes formed in the tropics. We were 9 and 8. His meteorological lesson was lost on us, but the oppressive pressure of the powerful storm weighed heavily on our skin.

"Remember this for the rest of your life. Few people see this."

My mother's next demand was an ultimatum.

"If you don't come in, I'm locking the doors." She was serious.

"After it's over, we'll drive to Revere Beach." My father guided us inside the house.

The second half of the hurricane stuck within minutes and lasted into the evening. The weatherman on WBZ radio announced the all-clear message wagon, as we were going to sleep. School had been cancelled throughout New England. My father was excited as a child on Christmas Eve and he whispered a reminder.

"Tomorrow Revere Beach."

And the boyish joy in his voice kept us awake for another three minutes.

Tomorrow promised to be a big day.

Tonight Is Not Halloween

Halloween has been celebrated on Oct. 31 for my entire life. The date is indelible in everyone's head, but last year a Connecticut state representative floated an ill-conceived idea to change the holiday, so that it falls 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 this year New Yorkers have been sporting Halloween costumes for a week.

Call me old-fashioned, but I considered his suggestion a sacrilege and yesterday 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.”

“Hollow pumpkins smash easier.” Smashing hollow pumpkins was a time-honored tradition for young vandals.

“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 date back to 1956 on Falmouth Foresides, Maine, when 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 costumed as 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.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

DA AUTUMN LEAVES by Peter Nolan Smith

Back in the 60s my family home on the South Shore bordered on a small woods and every October the trees beyond the old stone wall turned brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges. The glorious explosion of color lasted several weeks, then the colding wind ripped the weaker leaves from the branches and they fell by the millions into our back yard.

My brothers and sisters loved running through the rustling layers of decay, but come the weekend the fun ended with my father ordering my older brother and me to rake the leaves into piles. Once the lawn was visible my father lit our labor afire and the smoke of those gathered leaves filled the yard with the fragrance of another burnt autumn.

Of course the next morning the leaves were replaced by their cousins. Less than before, yet throughout the next week my brother and I reaped another harvest of leaves and my father lit another fire. This Sisyphean ritual was repeated until the trees were bare.

I hated raking leaves. The task seemed as senseless as mowing the lawn, which was a chore my father demanded from his sons and we performed his command without question. Young boys in the early 60s were prized for their devotion to obedience. Merit badges and gold stars paved the avenues of success. My older brother followed the path through university and law school.

In the 70s I rejected the lawn, the station wagon, the two-car garage, and raking the lawn.

The East Village became my home.

The tenements were wrapped by concrete sidewalks and the the wind disposed of the leaves from the ornamental pear trees on East 10th Street. I didn't touch a rake for most of my adult life and loved this freedom from the fetish of neatness tormenting the suburbs, although I missed the smell of a good autumn fire.

Recently my good friend AP spoke of an Easthampton client who ordered the landscapers to blow errant leaves from the estate's 20-acre lawn. Before the ground crew finished the job, the billionaire came out of his mansion and requested that the workers pick out the finest leaves for a pristine pile of leaves for his children to run through after school.

"That's the way of the rich." AP deals with such people all the time as a architect.

We laughed at their excess. That 1% knows how to spend the 95% of the wealth.

After hearing that story I went to shoot baskets at my local park on deKalb Avenue. No one was on the court, but several park workers were raking leaves. I thought about my father and the East Village and then the rich guy in Easthampton. No one could escape raking leaves and upon leaving the park I commented to one worker about this task and he said, "Yeah, we're bringing them to another park, so the kids can run through them. They love that."

Same as rich kids in Easthampton.

And me too.

It does make a pretty sound.

For the rich the poor and the in-between.

My 5 Top Autumn Songs

My favorite autumn songs are; AUTUMN LEAVES by Cannonball Adderly's SOMETHING ELSE To view please go to the following URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPWA6Ds9FHw AUTUMN LEAVES by Nat King Cole To view please go to the following URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGM40vcAcJg AUTUMN IN NEW YORK by Billy Holiday To view please go to the following URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PS3ZTVeqJjA&feature=fvwrel URGE FOR GOING by Tom Rush To view please go to the following URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vk9QFRvVQQ0 YANKEE LADY by Jesse Winchester To view please go to the following URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oURRzaxH5jc

UPPER THERE by Peter Nolan Smith

In August of 1987 friends in Michigan extended invitations to visit them in Onekema and the Upper Peninsula. Paulie, Gregg, and I celebrated our departure at the Milk Bar in Lower Manhattan.

“Why are you going to Michigan for vacation?” Scottie the owner was a New Yorker. The rest of the country was a blank to him.

“I’ve never been there before.” My trips through the Midwest never ranged farther north than the Interstates.

“I want to see America.” Gregg was an English literary agent. His America consisted on Manhattan and Hollywood.

“The real America.” Paulie had been brought up outside of Detroit. His father had built cars for Chrysler. The bearded Midwesterner taught sculpture at School of The Visual Arts. “Onekema has the highest sand dunes overlooking the waters of the most beautiful of the Great Lakes and the Upper Peninsula is the Land Time Forgot with forests primeval by the shores of Gitchie Gumee.”

“By the shining Big-Sea-Water.” I had learned THE SONG OF HIAWATHA in grammar school.

“Have a good trip.” Scottie bought a round of drinks, thankful to be spending his summer in New York.

After closing the club we packed Paulie’s green Ford 150 pick-up, then left Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel. Our first stop was the Delaware River, where the three of us changed into jeans and tee-shirts. We didn’t bother to clean out the truck. The mess on the floor gave it character. Crossing the bridge we entered America with the sun rising in the East.

“I understand the attraction of Onekama with the beach on Lake Michigan, but the Upper Peninsula seems far away.” I was counting the miles on a map. It was almost the same distance to Miami Beach.

“The Upper Peninsula has about a third of Michigan’s land and only 3% of its population. The Yoopers or UPers came there to work the mines. Most of them closed and the towns are deserted and the forests are thicker than ever. It’s like traveling back into time. You’ll love it.”

“Sounds heavenly to me.” Gregg was keen on seeing the northern forests. He was from London, where there are more people than trees.

Traffic was light beyond the Allegheny Mountains and the day’s temperature rose with every westward mile. The blue sky gave way to haze by the Ohio frontier. Big trucks crowded the highway and fast cars sped past us. Paulie insisted on driving the speed limit.

“I’m carrying two guns.” A shotgun and 45 were under the driver’s seat. Paulie liked to be prepared for anything. “Neither are registered, so I’m taking it slow, plus who knows what you two are carrying.”

“Nothing.” Gregg and I said in unison. All three of us knew that both of us were liars.

After the next fill-up at a truck stop I crashed in the flatbed. The humid wind ruffled my clothing without any relief from the heat and the heavy sky held the promise of a tornado. An exit sign read AKRON.

I sat up and leaned against the back of the cab. Greg and Paul waved to indicate that we were on schedule. I wrapped a red bandanna around my head. Sunglasses weakened the harsh sunlight. We were a rolling version of MAD MAX, the prequel to the apocalypse.

We passed a state trooper was cooping in his cruiser at the end of a copse of trees.

His eyes met mine.

The battered pick-up was maintaining 60. Most of the other cars were traveling faster. The cop instinctively viewed the three of us as potential wrongdoers. His lights lit up and the cruiser roared onto the interstate with lights flashing and siren blaring.

The rest of the motorists parted a way for the statie. The cruiser fell in behind our pickup. Paul pulled over onto the breakdown lane and I thought, “Drugs, guns, drink. We’re going to jail.”

The young trooper got out of his cruiser. Paul was in his 40s. Greg and I were in our 30s. There was a big generation gap between the trooper and us. His hand flicked the safety strap from his holster. He was expecting trouble.

“You want me to get out of the truck?” I was good at taking orders in a situation like this. My grand-uncle had been a detective with the Boston Police.

“You stay where you are.” His hand went to his service revolver and the officer peered into the front seat. The trooper only wanted one thing. “Can I see your license?”

“Sure thing.” Paul fumbled with his wallet. He had been driving over seven hours. His search was taking too long.

“Sir, please get out of the truck?” The trooper stepped back carefully to avoid the speeding traffic. His knuckles were white on the gun.

“Yes, officer.” Paul opened the door. Several empty beer cans fell onto the pavement.

“You’ve been drinking.” His words were a statement not a question.

“Last night, yes, but not today.” Paulie was telling a lie. We had left the Milk Bar at 5am. “Those empties we were saving for the next trash stop. I didn’t want to throw them out the window.”

The trooper wasn’t impressed by his erudite accent. Cops only needed a high school diploma.

“Sir, please, come to the back of the truck.”

Paulie joined the officer and the trooper wagged a pencil in front of his face. Our friend’s head wobbled on his neck like a spinning top losing speed, but followed the pen without getting dizzy. The officer put down his pencil.

“Sir, I want you to walk in a straight line.”

Paul put one foot in front of the other like a robot.

The officer was disappointed by the results and looked ready to back up his hunch by getting out the Breathalyzer. The pencil dropped from his hand. Paulie picked it up with the grace of a 13 year-old ballerina and handed it back to the clean-shaven young officer.

“Where are you going?”

“The Upper Peninsula to see friends and family.”

“You’re from Michigan?”

“Born and raised.”

“There’s a rest stop five miles ahead.” The officer put away his pen. “I suggest you empty the truck of those beer cans and back on the road obey the speed limit.”

“Thanks, officer.”

Our two vehicles parted ways. I returned to sitting in the front. Paulie started the truck.

“How we get away with that?” Greg asked with relief.

“Because I’m from the Midwest. If it had been one of you, that stop would have led to a different ending.” Paulie pulled into the westward flow of traffic and I checked the map. The Michigan stateline was two hours away.

That night we made Detroit. Dinner was at a bar off Michigan Avenue. We chased down coneys, which were hot dogs with beanless chili, down with cold beer. I played the MC5, Iggy, Grand Funk Railroad, and Mitch Ryder on the jukebox. Gregg chatted up the girls. They loved his British accent. I shot eight-ball with the locals. We could have stayed there the rest of our lives, but Paulie crashed out around midnight and we loaded him into the truck. I drove north past Flint and stopped at a small hotel off the highway. We shared a single room. None of us snored that night.

The next afternoon we reached the Great Bear Dunes. Vonelli’s family had a beach stack a few feet from Lake Michigan. The art dealer took us out on a ChrisCraft. The vast expanse of water rivaled Conan the Barbarian’s Vilayet Sea. Three days passed riding dirt bikes off the dunes, swimming, and drinking beer. At the last evening’s BBQ Gregg recounted told the story about the Ohio cop to everyone. They shook their heads with disbelief.

“You always were a lucky man,” Vonelli’s sister said at a BBQ. They had gone to school together.

“Not lucky. That’s an old police trick and I was waiting for it.”

“What was a trick?” Gregg asked with a burger in his hand.

“Dropping the pen.” Paulie smiled in triumph. “Plus I wasn’t drunk. I was merely hung-over. Mind you, severely hung-over, but I got over it.”

We toasted his escape and finished the night watching the stars revolve over the Earth.

The following morning we said our goodbyes.

“Tell Jim I said hello.” Vonelli was heading back to Paris. The auctions at the Hotel Drouot opened in less than two weeks. He was flying out of Detroit in the afternoon.

“I hope I catch him.” Paulie was speaking about his friend in the Upper Peninsula. “He might have left for California, but his father will be happy to see us.”

We hugged the rest of the Vonelli clan. They were heading south to Florida. Paulie pointed the pick-up north. I sat in the back of the truck. The midday heat zapped my strength and I passed out in the back of the truck short of Petrowsky.

The Ford’s tires hummed over the Straits of Mackinac Bridge. I woke up to the spectacle of two lakes meeting underneath us. The temperature had dropped into the 70s. and I sat up in the back to breathe in the boreal air. Canada was less than a hundred miles away.

Paulie drove for another 15 minutes and pulled off Route 2 somewhere north of St. Ignace. We slept in the back of the truck and rose with the misty dawn. Paulie bought breakfast from an Epoulette diner.

“I know these.” Gregg held the hot meat pastie up in his hand.

“They’re a relic from the Welsh miners working mineral deposits in the mid-1800s.” Paulie bit into his. Flakes of crust scattered over his lap. “They remind me of my youth. Back in the 50s my father would drive up here in the summer. We went ice fishing in the winter. The UP was a paradise back then. Jobs, nature, and good people. Most of them gone since the mines closed. Now all you got are old Finns to stubborn to quit the land.”

“Same as the State of Maine.” I had been brought outside of Portland as a child. All the real jobs had headed south in the 50s.

“Except the Upper Peninsula has a population density of 10 people per square mile. It’s deserted.”

Paulie wasn’t kidding about the desolation.

I hadn’t seen more than 3 people in a clump the entire morning. The stocky men and woman looked the same in their jeans and flannel shirts topped by a baseball cap. Few cars traveled Route 2’s long straightways bordered by dense pine forests.

We pulled into Fire Lake around 3.

Paulie beeped the horn before an old farm house, whose walls had been weathered by many winters and the two-story structure leaned away from the prevailing wind. A herd of cows grazed in a fenced field. One cow stood by itself. It was not the bull.

Our host limped into the afternoon sunlight. Uvo was in his 50s. He greeted us with a firm handshake and a yellow smile. He lit an unfiltered Camel.

“Where’s everyone?” Paulie’s scratched at his beard. It was more salt than pepper.

“Down at the lake fishing, but Jim left for Ann Arbor two days ago, eh.”

“Sorry, I missed him.” Paulie had attended U Michigan with Uvo’s second son. Both were artists.

He tugged on the cigarette and exhaled a flume of smoke. “You boys fish?”

“Not much fishing in New York.” Greggregarded Uvo, as if he were a Norman Rockwell painting.

“No, guess they don’t like to swim in concrete.

The afternoon sky that filled with high clouds from the north. The summer was fading fast and autumn was ready to take its place. Uvo held a pair of axes in this hands.

“Going to get cold tonight, eh. Call me old fashioned, but I believe in the work ethic. You work. You eat. No work. No eat.”

The Londoner was no farmer and I was no Paul Bunyan, but we took the axes and laid into the wood.

Both of us had blisters on our hands within minutes, but as an Englishman Gregg believed in doing a host’s bidding and we hacked logs into firewood, while Paulie and Uvo drank Schlitz beer. They were examining Paulie’s 45 and the shotgun. Beer cans floated in a metal tub.

“I see you guys are into the real hard work.” Gregg attached no small amount of sarcasm to this statement.

“It may look like we’re doing nothing, but nothing is hard work to do when other people are working hard.” Uvo sucked at a tooth. He was missing one in the front.

“We’ll be joining you soon enough.” I swung the ax with wild abandon. The two men backed away from us. Hard work was dangerous to someone not used to it.

Gregg and I finished our task in a sweat and joined the other two. He slung the ax over his shoulder, as if he graduated from a dude logging camp. Uvo surveyed the woodpile.

“Not bad for trolls, eh.”

“Trolls?” I had been called many things in my life, but never a troll.

“Trolls is the Yopper euphemism for people coming from unda the bridge,” Paulie explained, as he handed us two cans of Schlitz. The beer that made Milwaukee famous was unavailable in New York.

“I used to drink this as a kid.” The gusto of the crisp cold beer brought back memories of my youth on the South Shore of Boston.

“American beer.” Gregg took a swig. “The only thing closer to water is a canoe.”

“At least we drink our beer cold.” I had been in England. “Your beer is warm piss.”

“But strong.”

“Strong beer is good.” Uvo nodded his approval.

“At least Schlitz isn’t Bud.” Gregg emptied his beer and Uvo handed him another from the icy tub.

I noticed a serious bruise on his forearm. The farmer glanced over to the single cow in the pasture. “Cow butted me, eh. They can get nasty this time of the year. You boys feel like a sauna.”

“Sauna?” I lived next door to the Russian Baths in the East Village. Hot steam was the cure for aches, pains, and hang-overs.

“Yes, the UP wouldn’t be the Up with saunas. Most of us that haven’t left are Finnish. We don’t like the hot weather, but love the sauna. It’s good for you.” Uvo pointed to a traditional Scandinavian steam room next to the barn. “I build that a year after finishing my house. I got it ready for us. Are you ready for it?”

The old man stripped off his clothing and waved for us to join him inside the sauna. The three of us were naked seconds later and entered the low-ceiling hut. The gnarled farmer threw water on the glowing stones. Steam furled from the rocks and the temperature rose close to the surface of Venus.

“Good to see new faces up here, eh. Fire Lake is a long way from anywhere. Most of the people in town are tired of seeing each other. They get crabby as a bear coming out of hibernation, but nothing gets them together faster than talk of a barbecue, so if you want to see people, we’ll have a barbecue.”

“Fresh meat too.” Paulie’s was a total carnivore, although his blood pressure was that of a 300-pound man. He ate steak four times a week. The waiters at the Homestead Steak House on 9th Avenue knew him by name.

“Y-up.” Tinges of Finnish clung to Uvo’s accent. He scratched his buzzcut then rubbed his unshaven face. “Go shot a cow after we’re done.”

“Shoot a cow?” I was a meat-eater, but my steaks came from a supermarket. I wiped the sweat from my face with an old towel.

“Would rather he kill it with an ax?” Gregg joked from the corner.

“That might get messy.”

“Why you killing a cow?” The English literary agent looked like a soggy mummy under his wrap of towels.

“I kill one cow every fall.” Uvo stated matter-of-fact. “Keeps me in meat until the spring. The way snow falls up here you never know when you might get supplies.”

“Winters are hard this far north.” Paulie was speaking from experience. “200 inches of snow are the norm. A few communities had recorded annual snowfalls nearing 13 feet.”

“I know killing a cow ain’t sport, eh. Heck, I known this cow all its life. I fed it as a calf.” Uvo seemed sad about the upcoming culling of his herd. “Strange, but the other cows sense what’s going to happen.”

“You think they tell each other?” Gregg hailed from London. The only cows in that city arrived dead at the Smithfield Market for slicing into steaks and grinding into hamburger.

“Dunno. Cows are funny, eh.” Uvo stropped the edge of an old straight-razor to the sharpness of an assassin’s blade and stroked the grizzle from his face with an economy of motion.

"You feel like a shave?"

"No place better than a sauna." Uvo re-stropped the edge. My beard was scrapped from my face without a nick. Uvo pointed to Paulie and Gregg. They shook their heads.

“What are you boys religious?” Uvo didn’t wait for an answer and said, “Because up here on the Upper Peninsula we take the Word of God for truth.”

“Okay.” I was a confirmed atheist, but kept my devout non-belief to myself.

“In da beginning dere was nuttin.” Uvo’s accent thickened to a nearly indecipherable patois, “Den on the first day God created da Upper Peninsula. On the second day He created da partridge, da deer, da bear, da fish, and the ducks. On da third day He said “Let dere be Yoopers to roam da Upper Peninsula”. On the forth day He created da udder world down below. On the fifth day He said “Let there be trolls to live in the world down below”. On the sixth day He created da bridge so da trolls would have a way to get to heaven. God saw it was good and on da seventh day, He went Huntin and that works as the Word of God on the UP.”

“Works for me.”

“Time for more beer.” Uvo led us from the sauna. We toasted his version of Genesis with a cold Schlitz and raised our cans to the sky. The sunlight dried our naked flesh. The wind lipped up the silver bottom of the leaves. Uvo looked over his shoulder to the large pasture. The herd of cows were standing against the fence. The one cow was in the distance.

“That the one?” Gregg lifted his head from a nod. He was handsome in a desperate way.

“Weird, eh?” Uvo reached into the bucket and pulled out four more beers. They were going fast. “They shun that one like killing might be contagious.”

Death awaited all creatures. We drank our beer. Uvo saved the empties for target shooting. The cows stared at us like we were holding a vote to change the sacrifice.

“Funny how they’ll protect themselves from other animals but not man.” Gregg aimed a finger at the distant cow. It moped in protest. “That’s because they trust us.”

“Trust?” Uvo laughed with a farmer’s certitude. “Cows ain’t no one’s friend and nuttins as dumb as a cow tied to a post, eh. How you think I got this black and blue on my arm.”

“The lone cow.” Paulie was sitting on a log. His legs were thin. The sculptor needed more exercise.

“Yup that’s the one.” Uvo walked over to the gate. He lifted his fingers to his mouth. A long whistle got the attention of the solitary cow. The others huddled closer to the fence. The cow shook his head.

Uvo whistled again and then banged the grain bin. Corn husk dust misted a halo around the farmer’s head. The cow meandered to the gate. Uvo slipped a noose over its head. Long scars crisscrossed the haunches. Something wild had had at it. Uvo led the beast to a trellis constructed of thick logs. A pulley hung from the beam. The naked farmer fed the lead line through the pulley and hauled the cow’s head upward.

Uvo returned to us. The other cows scattered over the pasture to munch the long summer grass. Gregg was sprawled against the sauna wall. The heat and the beer had taken its toll on the Englishman. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

“Something wrong with that troll. I don’t want no one dying on my farm, eh.”

“I’ll take care of him.”

“You a doctor?”

“No,but I know what to do, but my grandfather was a doctor in the First World War.” I went into the sauna and came out with a bucket of icy water. I emptied the contents over Grieg. The Englishman sputtered to life. Uvo and Paulie laughed as only naked men can laugh.

Hands over their genitals.

Gregg wasn’t too happy with the sudden reveille, but understood that he had violated his guest privileges.

“Thanks for the wake-up call.”

“No problem.”

“I have some calls to make and that cow has a date with a Winchester.” Uvo walked over to his house. He entered by the front door. The cow in the rear mooed our surrender. We followed Uvo’s path across the lawn. I went to my room. It was on the second-floor. The windows overlooked the cow. I stuck wet tissue in my ears waiting for the killing shot.

Uvo and Paul exited from the house. They were still naked. Uvo held a Winchester rifle. Paul had his 45. The cow mooed once and Uvo stuck the rifle muzzle in its ear. One bullet buckled its legs. Paul gave the coup de grace.

The killing took less than 10 seconds.

Uvo and Paul tugged on the rope around the dead cow’s neck. The creature was ready for slaughter. I lay on the bed. The mattress was old. The sheets smelled of the seasons. I fell asleep in a minute.

I woke to the sound of people talking and the smell of sizzling steak. I got out of bed and went to the window. Meat was burning on the grill. Ten people were drinking beer; Paulie, Uvo, Grieg, three women and four men. Everyone was wearing the UP uniforms. The only way I could identify Uvo was by his red cap.

I dressed in the uniform and joined the party.

Paulie’s truck was parked next to the house. The tape deck was playing a tape of garage music. Gregg was entertaining the congregation with tales of Oxford. I had heard them before, but he was a good storyteller and I laughed along with the other guests. We drank beer and ate steak. Blood dripped from our lips. The meat went well with the potato sausage and cudighi, a spicy Italian meat.

One of the women had brought a nisu, a cardamom-flavored sweet bread. Another juustoa or spueaky cheese and sauna makkara, a Finnish bologna. It was good eating. The sun went down quick and the stars ruled the cosmos.

Uvo gathered the empties and placed them on a shot-up fence post 50 feet from the grill. Paulie placed his 45 on the table with a box of ammo.

We shot the entire box in ten minutes. Only two of the beer cans survived the onslaught. Paulie put his pistol under the seat of his pick-up and I sat on the porch.

“Good steak, eh?” Uvo was aglow with beer. His smile was shared by his friends. They smiled broader when the stereo played DIRTY WATER.

“Delicious.” Better than anything from the Homestead. “But I meant to ask you. What were those scars on that cow.”

“Bear, eh.” The nisu woman answered my question. Paulie was flirting with the scrawny 40ish brunette. She was in her 40s. She wanted to dance to LOUIE LOUIE playing on the pick-up’s stereo. They did the two-step.

“Yup, a bear attack that cow last spring. I shot it dead.”

“Don’t say that too loud, eh.” The woman glanced around the guests. “Game warden hear that and Uvo has a big fine.”

“Maybe $2000 for out of season.” Uvo popped open another beer.

“But it was attacking your cow.”

Bears in Maine roamed the blueberry patches for a sweet treat. The police warned hikers to stay away from the patches. Last summer spotted two black bears. Smaller than a Grizzly, but big. They were scavenging a moose carcass across a river. Both studied me as if I were food.

“Bears won’t attack something big unless they’re hungry. Guess that bear was hungry. I shot him with that Winchester, eh.”

The same one with which he had killed the cow. It was almost like the scene in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA where Lawrence has to shot the man that he saved from the desert in order to seal the alliance of another tribe of Arabs.

“Uvo called me up and I came over with my backhoe.” A longhaired farmer nodded his head in remembrance of that day. “Big hole, eh.”

“Yup.” A chorus joined by the other locals.

“That cow was a little crazy after that. Always running around the pasture. Scaring the other cows. Sorry it had to go, but crazy cows are bad for milk.”

“Yup.” Another round of ‘yups’.

“Bear meat tastes like pork. Best are the legs and loin.”

“bears too strong for me. Too much grease.”

“Plus they get trichinosis.” Paul’s date made a face. “Bears are no good eating. Not like steak.


Gregg and I joined the chant of yups, for after the fifth beer we all spoke the language of beer in the land of bears.

It was a language common to everywhere forgotten by the rest of the world.

And few places were more forgotten than here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

STELARC- E11th and Ave. B NYC 1985

For the last two weeks I've been working at a high-level metal shop in Greenpoint with a friend from the East Village. Tim has been kind enough to employ me, even though I'm a threat to life and limb in a heavy machinery environment. Today was the final stage of my stint at Studio 40, which brings to life bronze, steel, copper, and iron designs for top-end consumers. I know my place in the feeding chain and at this morning's coffee klatch Tim was speaking about how the East Village was wild back in his youth. "One time we strung a wire across the street so this Australian performance artist could fly naked through the air suspended by meat hooks into his flesh." The trio of Mexican metalworkers shook their heads and Oskar said, "Gringos locos." "Yeah, completely crazy, but Stelarc is a Professor at an English University." "I sort of remember that." I wasn't there, because I was living in Paris at the time. "Here." Tim tapped at his computer keyboard. A photo of East 11th Street between B and C materialized on the screen. "He's completely naked and see that's me in the window of the building guiding him across the street. It was strange, but the junkies scoring from Adios didn't even blink an eye." "Adios was a bad motherfucker." He ran the Brown Door shooting gallery on 11th Street. No one ever fucked with him. I walked on the opposite side of the street to avoid any contact with him. "There were a lot of bad motherfuckers back then." Tim looked at me. He knew of my many street fights and smiled with a long memory of gone days and nights. "But you were never 'bad'." "No, I never was." I nodded in deference. It was payday and like I said before I knew my place. To see Stel Arc's new work, please go to the following URL Now he is still a bad motherfucker.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Want To See Peace

In 1968 Richard Nixon beat Hubert Humphrey by campaigning for the end of the Viet-Nam War. During his inaugural speech Nixon said, "The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker." The War lasted another seven years. As many troops died under his leadership as all the previous presidents going back to Eisenhower. Even worse millions of Vietnamese civilians died along with hundreds of thousands in Laos and Cambodia and secret recording between the president and his war-criminal Secretary of State Henry Kissinger revealed Nixon's true heart, when he said, "The only place where you and I disagree ... is with regard to the bombing. You're so goddamned concerned about civilians and I don't give a damn. I don't care." Two nights ago Mitt Romney announced at the presidential debate that he wanted peace for Iran and the USA, despite having repeatedly called for stronger measures than those provided by President Obama, thus flummocking a good percentage of those stupid as a bucket of mud undecided voters that he was not going to lead us into Armageddon to save Israel. "I want to see peace." Mitt is up in the polls. He's a peacenik. But he's the same slick haired motherfuckers as that Quaker Nixon. Say anything to get where he wants to go. In other words, "I don't care."

The Ralph Is Free

lph I just saw Ralph on the corner. He's been freed on bail. Everyone in the neighborhood is showing the love, but his troubles are not over so keep the support strong. Ralph is one of us. He's no Emily Worthington, a Tribeca girl from the NY Times article on 'the Beard's arrest, who was scared on her own shadow. 420. Free the Weed. Free Ralph.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

All The News

Ralph's deli has re-opened on Lafayette Avenue, even the owner remains on Riker's Island on drug and gun charges by the 'alleged' NYPD. Today the NY Times reported on the Thursday raid netting two guns, a pound of weed, and 'supposedly' several hundred prescription pills. Their reporter and blogger, J. DAVID GOODMAN, wrote 'all the news that is fit to print' according to the new NY Times. He was right about the money confiscated from the safe, but his comments about the police having purchased marijuana from Ralph is strictly hear-say until the Brooklyn DA brings the case before the grand jury tomorrow. Yesterday I spoke with a local criminal attorney, who said that Mayor Bloomberg's mandatory gun penalties could threaten the deli owner with 2-5 years in prison. Hopefully the DA will not seek punitive punishment for the well-loved bodega owner and drop the felony gun possession to misdemeanors, thus freeing Ralph from the threat of a long sentence. The New York Times writer seemed to have been instructed to paint a slightly dark portrait of the neighborhood, which was once known as the notorious 'Strip', but the streets are mostly devoid of drugs dealers to my eyes, however the reporter ended this article by resorting to the comments of three 'outsiders' trying to get a laugh. He fails, but serves Bloomberg's anti-drug campaign well with his reporting the young female from Tribeca saying about Ralph's, “I’m afraid to go in there.” Not me. Ralph's my friend. Unlike the New York Times and the NYPD. FREE THE RALPH.

Letter To A Legend

mr. cecil taylor I was walking down the street the other day and found myself engaged in conversation with the construction foreman renovating the house next to yours. Having worked in metal we spoke about scrapping rust from the ironwork on the stoop as well as our health. Both of us are in our early 60s and still work blue collar jobs. I live on South Oxford between Lafayette and DeKalb and we discussed property prices. I told him that in 1976 I had lived over of Berkeley Place. We rued not having the funds to purchase a house back in those days and he mentioned that a pianist was living next to the construction site. “Cecil Taylor. He plays jazz.” “I’ve heard the name.” I didn’t say much else, but I’m writing this letter because I had met you back in 1976-77 through James Spicer. I had shared that apartment on Berkeley Place with the silver-haired impresario until a friend of mine from the Gaslight Pub robbed too many banks one weekend. I found less unsettling digs in the East Village, but remained in contact with James. One night in 1978 I received a phone call from NYU. James was very sick. I sat with him for hours, singing songs. The doctors had no idea why he was dying from pneumonia. He wasn’t scared, except at the dawn, then he calmed down as I whistled FAVORITE THINGS. Probably off tune. I recall you being a big Knicks fans. I came from Boston. I’m still a Celtics fan, but I have a nice Knicks bag for you. Good for carrying sheet music. Last time I saw you play was at the Ocean Club. Please get in touch, otherwise you can find me at Frank’s Lounge and ask for Pete the Boston white guy’. They know who that is. Peace Peter Nolan Smith 347-822-7001 ps listening to "Imagine the Sound" I finally get it. To view IMAGINE THE SOUND, please go to the following URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP5L8tjnB6w

Spaceley John Spaceley

John Spaceley is one of the lost heroes of punk. A friend sent a link to STORY OF A JUNKIE in which John plays Gringo, a desperately cool skateboarding junkie. He was more than that, then again maybe that was all he had to be, but I loved the onetime PUNK MAGAZINE publisher's Jack o Lantern smile. The other day I was standing on the corner of 3rd Avenue and St. Mark's. For almost two decades his portrait on the outer wall of 5 St. Mark's Place welcomed vistors to the East Village. Lech Kowalski, the director of STORY OF A JUNKIE had paid $5000 in 1983 for the mural and John had been paid in pints of beer to pose for the painting. The owner of the building covered the image stating that the wall had commercial value. No one has yet to rent its space. Spaceley was not always nice, one night outside of Dave's Luncheonette he insulted someone's girlfriend. She might have been a TV. Spaceley pushed the boyfriend into the street. The cab knocked him out cold. His dragqueen friend smacked Spaceley with a chain. He didn't stop until John's eye was gone. It's a wonder more of us didn't die back then. John could have turned meaner, but a young girl tells of meeting the coolest skank; "a gangly, tattooed junkie with platinum blonde hair and an eyepatch. Spacely was fascinating to me because he was the former publisher of the notorious Punk magazine, plus he knew Sid Vicious personally. I also liked his spark—a sense of honor among thieves. I remember one afternoon—I haven't thought about this in 20 years—when he recognized me on St. Marks Place and immediately asked me if I could lend him whatever money I had so he could "pay his rent." He promised that if I lent it to him, he would return and panhandle it back for me. In my naiveté (remember, I was only 15), I lent him whatever I had—probably around $10, which was a fortune to me—and waited for him. The amazing thing to me even now is that he did come back. And he panhandled for a couple of hours, until he was able to get just over $5 for me. That was my "adventure" of the day—watching the legendary Spacely panhandle on my behalf. One sunny summer afternoon, Spacely offered to tell me who really killed Sid Vicious's girlfriend—if I'd give him $2 for a beer. So the two of us went to a grimy tavern called the Holiday Cocktail Lounge, I gave him the $2, and he gave me the answer (available upon request—I like knowing who's read this far). And he told me about his own addictions, which he then claimed to have under control. "So you pulled yourself up," I said, thinking of a line from some Talking Heads tune—my whole life was song lyrics back then. "No," he said emphatically, surprising me with his sudden seriousness. "You can't pull yourself up. Someone has to pull you up." John Spaceley was special. Everyone was in his eyes too. To view John Spaceley in STORY OF A JUNKIE, please go to the following URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21uJglN6siA

Hurrah Nightclub

Hurrah disco on West 62nd Street died after the opening of Studio 54. The owners experimented with a dance club featuring mainstream rock with video monitors hanging from the ceiling. When this scheme didn't work, the owners called on Jim Fouratt to animate the ex-dance studio and the impish impresario booked punk and new wave bands, then hired his friends to work the door and DJ booth since they were all into this music. I was put out front as the doorman, my security was an old black boxer Jack Flood and a moonlighting cop named Bobbie Gardiner, Haoui Montauk and Aleph Ashline sat at the desk dispensing tickets and free passes to the VIPs, and upstairs George Wrage took the tickets, Carlos Rodriquez was the lightman, Sean Cassette spun reggae, punk, and new wave, Randy the bartender was so so handsome and Jhourry his partner was so very wicked, Barney and the Odinesque Ron Jaggar paid our salaries every Saturday night. The owners fought with Jim about paying the bands so much money. It was the height of the cocaine era. They asked Jim to leave. He was rightfully pissed at them. They wanted him to leave. I asked him nice. If I had been more honorable, I would have left with him, instead he told me to fuck myself and I was a hothead back then. Still am a little bit, but that night I escorted him out of the club. I owe Jim Fouratt a big apology. He was a true radical and visionary. And not only with music. But then this is about Hurrah and it was simply sex, drugs, and rock and roll. To view the entrance of Hurrah circa 1981, please go to Merrill Aldighieri VDO http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TrP7L62awM&feature=youtu.be

Wounded Warrior Wives

Last Sunday I went out to Staten Island to visit with my oldtime friend Nick and watch the Jets versus the Patriots. We spoke about old times and ate a lovely pasta dinner, while my team didn't lose and his team didn't win. After a raspberry ice on Hylan Boulevard the doctor drove me down to the St. George terminal. I caught the 9PM ferry and sat at the stem to admire the clear evening sky. Several women were taking photos of the Statue of Liberty and I offered to shoot them as a group. They passed me their cameras and I posed against the railing. Each thanked me in a different accent and one lady explained that their group had traveled to New York thanks to the Wounded Warrior Project. "It's nice to get away from the care-giving." Another woman admitted holding onto her new friend's hand. "No one knows what we go through day to day." The first lady sounded like she was from Kansas. "MY husband came home and I'm glad he's back, but it will be a long road until he can take care of himself." These were tough women. They hid their tears, but they were also quick to criticize the government and the American people. The lady from Kansas was in her 30s. She had two kids. No one was helping her with her husband, who had lost a leg in Afghnistan. "Because they are volunteers, no one thinks about them, but I don't have that luxury." "I know." I see the apathy every day. "People care more about BooBoo Honeybear or whatever her name is than the troops." "It's Boo Boo Honey." Her friend corrected me and said, "We dont' expect them to care. They turned off this war long ago." "Not all of us." I remain firmly against the war and the neglect of our troops. Over 2,000 US troops have been killed in Operation Enduring Freedom and more than 17,000 have been seriously wounded in America's longest armed conflict. "Bringing the troops home is long overdue and taking care of the troops here is never mentioned by the TV, but people know of your sacrifice and that of your loved ones." We spoke a little more. They came from everywhere in America. None of them were walking about on their husbands and boyfriends or girlfriends or wives. They were a loyal group. I wished them well on their stay in New York and they waved with a smile. For more information about the WOUND WARRIOR PROJECT please go to the following URL http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bobby 4Q

Bobby Busnach sending a message to Mitt Romney from the distant past. 4Q.

The Sins of Helmut Newton

Sex for Helmut Newton was different from the Playboy magazine version. S&M tainted photos versus airbrushed farmgirls, however Hugh Hefner recognized the Berlin-born photographer's talent and hired Newton to shot soft-core pictorials for Playboy, including pictorials of Natassia Kinski and Kristine DeBell. His true vision of sexuality will always be renowned for its departure point being far beyond most people's ken of fetishism, because the lingerie is so expensive.

His ashes are buried next to Marlene Dietrich at the Städtischen Friedhof III in Berlin.

Click on this URL to see more of his photos


Sehr Mittel Europa and Stanley Kubrick failed to capture that spirit in EYES WIDE OPEN, mostly because neither Nicole Kidman or Tom Cruise are sexy.

But what else can be expected from Hollywood Barbie and Ken.


To view LOS ANGELES by X, please go to the following URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kAiQiz_XDs

Whiskey A Go Go

I saw this poster somewhere and thought, "How cool."

The Whisky à Go-Go on the Sunset Strip was made famous by the mini-skirted DJ Rhonda Lane, who danced in a cage during Johnny Rivers's set, thus giving birth to the go go girl. The Miracles scored a 1966 hit with GOING TO A GO GO and go go bars sprung up around the country. The LA club between Clark and Hilldale launched the careers of the Byrds, Alice Cooper, Buffalo Springfield, Love, the Doors and the Mothers of Invention.

In the late-70s the Whiskey went punk with The Germs The Dogs, The Runaways, Quiet Riot, Renegade, X, Mötley Crüe and Van Halen.

While I was living in LA during the 90s, I drove by the famed Hollywood nightclub without ever stopping inside.

I hated valet parking.

Yesterday I tried calling the number on the poster.

It's still working.

Rock on.

To hear X playing NEW WORLD at the Whiskey a Go Go, please go to this URL


On A Clear Day

Almost sixty years ago weather conditions over London blanketed the city with a damp toxic fog of coal dust. The gray air was thick with choking carbon particles. Visibility was dropped to one foot in the Stygian gloom. Thousands fatally succumbed to respiratory ailments with hundreds of thousands suffering severe breathing difficulties throughout that December. According to Wikipedia the roads were littered with abandoned cars. Midday concerts were cancelled due to total darkness. Archivists at the British Museum found smog lurking in the book stacks. Cattle in the city's Smithfield market were killed and thrown away before they could be slaughtered and sold — their lungs were black. On the second day of the smog, Saturday, Dec. 6, 500 people died in London. When the ambulances stopped running, thousands of gasping Londoners walked through the smog to the city's hospitals. The lips of the dying were blue. Heavy smoking and chronic exposure to pollution had already weakened the lungs of those who fell ill during the smog. Particulates and acids in the killer brew finished the job by triggering massive inflammations. In essence, the dead had suffocated. Some 900 more people died on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 1952. Then the wind swept in unexpectedly. The killer fog vanished as quickly as it had arrived. This disaster forced the British government and the energy companies to seek out cleaner alternatives to deadly coal, but the GOP political machine have attacked the Clean Air Act and EPA for restricting coal mining in America and the chairman of the Ohio Coal Association has claimed that coal production has dropped from 1.2 trillion tons per annum to about 816 million tons in black coal country, but a good percentage of that drop-off has come from the lack of economic activity during the Second Depression. Mitt Romney's running mate Paul Ryan doesn't see it that way and has said, "The one thing you can do is elect a man named Mitt Romney who will end this war on coal and allow us to keep these good paying jobs." As an easterner who has had to breathe coal dust most of his life, all I can say is "Fuck you and fuck Big Coal." I am a simple man. Coal is dirty. It will never be clean. The coal companies want to rip off the top of mountains and poison the air we breathe. In 1948 hundreds of people died in Donora, PA during a cold weather inversion, but the various industries in the valley refused to shut down operations, calling the conditions an 'act of God'. They never named which one and neither has Mitt Romney with his calls for more coal. "Burn, baby, burn." It is good for capitalism. ps painting

Doug Henders Opening OCT 26 NYC

Doug Henders and I played basketball on the courts of Tompkins Square Park for years. His painting of an astronaut hangs in the dining room of this townhouse. Last December I visited his exhibition in Koln. Do yourself a favor and see his work this October 26 at the Mayson Gallery.
Mayson Gallery 254 Broome Street 6-8pm Otherwise visit his website http://doughenders.us/

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sensual Spam

I love how computers write to me. It's so personal. "You can get what you want. But who will do all the house work? I love you! No wonder people say that computers are taking over the world. None of your business! I hope we can see each other again some time. I think so. Many young girls dream of being a fashion model. How are you recently? The enormous increase of population will create many problems." painting by tristam quartremere of the steaming muslims of paris

Still Lifes On Other Planets

NASA released photos from their Rover vehicle this last week and I was stuck how much the sere close-up resembled Yves Klein's BLUE SPONGE. Obviously it was another case of art imitating still life on another planet. There will be many more in the centuries to come. If we are going to the stars. And discover the cosmos and not God.

Free Ralph

Last Thursday night I walked down Lafayette to repay a debt to the local bodega owner. Crossing South Portland I spotted several undercover NYPD cops gathered before Lafayette Ave. Meat Corp. Just the other day the bearded Palestinian had lent me $80, so I could send money to my son Fenway. All I had to say, "Can you give me 8-0." "You got it." Ralph chucked down $80 from his office without question. There was no 'no' from Ralph Jawad, unless he can't say 'yes'. I approached the cops and asked, "Did Ralph get robbed? Is he okay?" "Ralph's fine, except we arrested him for selling drugs." An older cop informed me with pride. "And it wasn't a little amount either." "Pot?" I had heard the rumors, but my only trafficking with Ralph was beer, Perrier, and conversations about sports. "Can't say, but it was a lot." He was acting like he had busted Pablo Escobar. "What? A couple of bags of weed." I shook my head. "Sorry ass law." "You want to go to jail too?" The haughty officer straightened up to show his authority and I slunk away muttering about the 'pigs'. Calling them that isn't against the law, at least it wasn't in the days of the Black Panthers. Over the next two days I discussed the matter with several residents of the neighborhood. My landlord's wife said that she remembered the days when that corner was one of the hottest in Brooklyn. "Dealers hung out there all night playing loud music and dealing drugs from their cars. Two men were killed on that corner. It was bad. I knew that Ralph was dealing a little pot, but nothing else. I one time asked him about it and he said, "I don't know nothing." "Me neither." I was a little upset that I hadn't noticed the trade in weed, since I used to have a good sense of radar for such activity. Jay, the young attendant at the laundry, suspected that someone had snitched out Ralph. "I seen a couple of strange guys in there. Like one Latin brother who didn't fit in. He looked like Rickie Ricardo. Always watching everything. Ralph shoulda been more careful. But fuck that, Ralph ain't done nothing wrong and he was always there for you if you needed something. He was the Mayor of the Block. Fuck the PD. Fuck Bloomberg. In two years there'll be design weed store on Fulton." "Probably someone got busted and snitched him out." "Coulda snitched out someone bad, but not Ralph." "Free the weed." We slapped palms and departed with a nod of righteousness. The next day the hat salesman on the corner told me that the raid had netted some reefer and a gun. "Every bodega got to have a gun. Not like you can call 911 when someone is looking to stick you up." Nobody was happy about the bust and a retired pot dealer said, "None of this made the papers, which was strange if it was such a big deal. They got him on drugs and a gun charge. It's almost as if they were arresting him so they can steal his property. Remember Ralph's Palestinian and that's not an easy thing in this city." "I know." Ralph had recently returned from a vacation to see his family in Palestine. "Damn, po-lice." An elderly lady pushed a cart up the street. "Ralph always gave me a special deal on food. Ain't none of them supermarket gonna treat you like that?" Everyone agreed with her. Yesterday I saw Ralph's brother and gave him my $80. "Tell your brother thanks. He's a good man." "He'll be out Monday maybe." "That's good news." I walked back home, feeling a little better, but not 100%, because a friend was behind bars. Free the Ralph.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sylvia Kristel RIP

In 1974 Sylvia Kristel became an international sex star thanks to her lead role in the soft-core movie EMMANUELLE. The French film portrayed the actress as the bored housewife" of a French diplomat exploring the frontiers of sex around the world. I saw EMMANUELLE at a packed theater in Boston's Combat Zone. The movie sold over 3000 million tickets, however Sylvia Kristal was only paid $6000 for her effort. She enjoyed better pay days in the sequels, but the men in her life manipulated her without mercy. She deserved better. I helped translate EMMANUELLE IV for Alain Siritzsky in Paris. I never met her at the office of paramount France. Translators are very low on the totem pole, but my friends say Sylvia Kristel was a nice woman with bad weaknesses. The actress was my age. I hope that she rests in peace. To see the trailer for EMMANUELLE, please go to the following URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PZ5IxnlKxw

Tough As Porter Rockwell

My father claimed that Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, was a distant relative on his father's side of the family. My aunt has backed up this assertion, saying that our line remained in Maine, while the prophet's clan drifted from the mountains in Vermont to the religiously burned-over lands of Western New York. After announcing his discovery of the golden tablets of the Moroni, Joseph Smith formed the Latter Day Saints. Their belief in polygamy angered more conservative religionists and the Mormons were driven by angry mobs, but they didn't go without a fight and the most infamous of their protector was Orrin Porter Rockwell. The young convert served as bodyguard to the Prophet, who said to Porter at a Christmas party. "I prophesy, in the name of the Lord, that you — Orrin Porter Rockwell — so long as ye shall remain loyal and true to thy faith, need fear no enemy. Cut not thy hair and no bullet or blade can harm thee." According to Wikipedia the Mormon Samson earned a bloodthirsty reputation with an attempted assassination of Lilburn Boggs, the former governor of Missouri, who signed Executive Order 44 on October 27, 1838 known as the "Extermination Order" evicting Mormons from Missouri by violent and deadly means. Old Port defended his murdering ways by saying, "I never shot at anybody, if I shoot they get shot!... He's still alive, ain't he?" His former home is the site of the Utah State Prison. He was no Taggard Romney.

Tough As His Father

During the second presidential debate President Obama responded to Mitt Romeny's accusations of failure with fierce counterpunches of facts and accuracy, leaving the GOP candidate somewhat staggered by the incumbent's questioning his opponent's honesty. At one point Romney remained on center stage close to Obama and I was disappointed that the president didn't suckerpunch the ex-governor of Massachusetts. Vice Magazine held a poll of their trendie readership as to who would win a fight between the two candidates and Obama won 10-0. After the debate Romney's oldest son 'joked' about wanting to take a swing at the president for calling his father a 'liar'. The MSNBC host quickly challenged Tagg Romney by saying, "When I hear you talk about taking a swing and taking punches, why do I get the feeling that you've never actually taken a punch or thrown a punch? I didn't have that luxury in the part of Boston that I grew up in, but in your rich, suburban, Boston life, with your father filling a $100 million trust fund for you, I don't know, I just get the feeling that things were kind of different." While he might have lost some toughness at Harvard Larry O'Donnell is still Boston Irish and we like a good donny brawl, so the 59 year-old commentator continued hectoring his fellow Ivy League alumni. "You're mad at President Obama for calling your father a liar? Well, let's get something straight. He didn't call your father a liar, I did. The president just said that what your father said isn't true. I've been saying it all year that your father is a liar. I've repeatedly said that your father lies and is trying to lie his way into the White House. So you want to take a swing at someone for calling your old man a liar? Take a swing at me. Come on, come on...I'll make it easy for you. I'll come to you...Go ahead, Taggard. Take your best shot." Tagg kept his mouth shut after that exchange. Like a good

Friday, October 19, 2012

Bette Davis Eyes

The expression 'the eyes are the windows to the soul' have been attributed to many writers, principally William Shakespeare, although the actual phrase probably transcended the time of windows, which were very rare in the Dark Ages. No where more true than in the eyes of the GOP challenger. He has tried so hard to be one of us, but the man doesn't drink beer. Vote early, vote often.

SECTION 43 Country Joe and the Fish

To hear SECTION 43 Country Joe and the Fish, please go to the following URL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6MKfmjCDkU

Thursday, October 18, 2012

CIRCUS LIFE by Peter Nolan Smith

Whenever a married couple or single mother and kid visited me in Pattaya, I took them on a tour of the various tourist points of interest; the Khao Keo outdoor zoo, the Temple of Truth, the biggest wooden structure in the world, and Nong Nooch Gardens. while steering well clear of my usual haunts i.e. the Buffalo Bar, the Welkom Inn, and Heaven Above a Go-Go.

None of these family fare attractions were far away from my house on Moo 9 and they don’t give these innocent visitors a clue as to why you really came here, which was to partake life in the Last Babylon.

Sin sin sin.

I showed them flowers, temples, and elephants.

Back in the early part of the 21st Century my young nephew, Fast Eddie, and I went to see the Nong Nooch elephant show. We bought 50 baht of bananas from a vendor before the pachyderms entered the arena, The two of us sat in the front row under the shade. The music announced the first elephant. A giant tusker chained at his back feet. The beast took one look at our bananas and charged the stands. The minders had no chance of controlling him. I chucked the bananas at him and grabbed my godson’s hand before we were trampled by the rampaging behemoth. The crowd both Thai and farang laughed at our timidity, but even a 400-pound gorilla. The ape will get out of the seat to let the elephant sit down if it knows what is good for the ape.

Angie's mom was angry at me.

"Khang kill you. Who take care Angie?" We weren't on the best of terms, but I was staying with her for my daughter.

Angie started crying. She was scared stiff of elephants. Especially the ones from the tourist safaris who would strip our mango tree of fruit. Even the mahouts couldn't stop them from sating their appetite.

When I mentioned this story at my local, my French friend Bruno said, “You are lucky. Two years ago an English woman tried to hide the bananas and was stomped by the elephant. She was killed and the elephant fled the scene to Isaan.”

“That’s nothing.” An old-timer said putting down a glass of Mekong whiskey. “Back in the last century a circus dwarf was swallowed by a hippopotamus in a freak accident. He was a trapeze artist and dismounted onto the trampoline. The angle was bad and his disappeared into the mouth of a hippo. Hippos will eat anything and the beast swallowed the dwarf. Fucking audience applauded thinking it was part of the act. The handlers were unable to free the dwarf, but said the hippo was a vegetarian.”

No one laughed at the punchline, but Bruno muttered under his breath. “I heard that story before only the dwarf landed headfirst in the hippo’s asshole.’

“No.” This was starting to sound like an urban legend.

“Quais, and the dwarf survived, but quit because the circus owner wanted him to repeat the act every night.”

Which goes to show there’s no business like show business.

Pattaya Walking Street 1987

I wish I had a time machine to go back to 1987. I was living in New York doing blow. I can't even remember if I was working. Walking Street would have been so much fun. The one-way ticket to Thailand couldn't have cost more than $600, but I got it together by 1990.

I was Big Sexy.

22 years ago at the Marine Disco.

I was only 38.

Young for Pattaya.

Click on this URL to regain your youth http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCjPuk8nl28&feature=channel%20%22%3Ehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCjPuk8nl28&%23038;feature=channel%3C/a%3E

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Here's a quandry from Big Al Harlow of Pattaya fame, author of the Amazon-Kindle book WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE.

Please read the entire thing for the correct impact.

You are driving down the road in your car on a wild, stormy night, when you pass by a bus stop and you see three people waiting for the bus:

1. An old lady who looks as if she is about to die.
2. An old friend who once saved your life.
3. The perfect partner you have been dreaming about.

Which one would you choose to offer a ride to, knowing that there could only be one passenger in your car.

Think before you continue reading ...

This is a moral/ethical dilemma that was once actually used as part of a job application. You could pick up the old lady, because she is going to die, and thus you should save her first. Or you could take the old friend because he once saved your life, and this would be the perfect chance to pay him back. However, you may never be able to find your perfect mate again.

The candidate who was hired (out of 200 applicants) had no trouble coming up with his answer. He simply answered: "I would give the car keys to my old friend and let him take the lady to the hospital. I would stay behind and wait for the bus with the partner of my dreams.'

Sometimes, we gain more if we are able to give up our stubborn thought limitations. Never forget to 'Think Outside of the Box.'


The correct answer is to run the old lady over and put her out of her misery, have sex with the perfect partner on the hood of the car, then drive off with the old friend for a few beers.

Damn, I just love happy endings.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


My good friend AL Harlow aka Big Al has published his memoir online. Here's the opening; WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE by A. L. Harlow When I began writing this I was at a loss for the reasons why. Why would I open myself up again to all those feelings from years of being lost, broken, imprisoned and nearly killed? I felt I needed to get my story out in hopes that it could help people who have problem children and are ready to throw in the towel. If you have a child, or children —regardless of their age—who are incorrigible, hyperkinetic and argumentative, or have teenage drug users I say, do not give up on them.

Don’t leave them for society to deal with because its institutions will only extract their pound of flesh and fill their hearts with hate. Your job is to provide the family safety-net they need while growing up to catch them when they fall. Your job is to give them the tools they will need to succeed in life and to love them unconditionally.

Many people who will read my story may miss this point and instead believe they are to judge me, but judgment day for me has come and gone; it no longer matters what people think of me. I believe I’m a good person who has done some bad things and for those of you whom I have hurt in the past please accept my apologies because they are sincere. For those of you who have lied and used the courts to punish me based on your lies, I’m only sorry to have met you.

So as I go through a mental checklist of what I should write about, I realize that if I’m to use my past as a guide for what not to do, then I need to tell the whole story, no matter how painful.

In the beginning I was a willful, hyperactive child and was dealt a bad hand in life, but as I grew up to be a young man and stood at the crossroads of life on my own feet, I could see only one way to go. This direction always brought me to the same destination, but somehow I felt a perverse sense of pride for living my life as I wanted, no matter how twisted. My role models were gangsters, thugs, outlaws and drug dealers. As time went on I became respected and even feared by these same people.

Near-death experiences were common with my lifestyle, but one day something happened that changed my whole life. I had an accident that would have killed most people. According to Buddhist philosophy I had seen the face of death and this changed me.

This time when I returned to my crossroads I could see there were so many more directions, but by now I was the president of a well-known, notorious outlaw motorcycle organization. People just don’t walk away from this life. I did. The men who I once called brothers tried to kill me. They put a contract on my life. Things got really dirty when a hang-around club girl made accusations against me to the cops. The plan was to get me busted so they could kill me in prison.

The feds took this opportunity to tell me they could make it all go away. If I helped them, they would help me. I was trying to change my life, but being an informant was not the direction I was looking to go. I took a two-year deal and stayed on the main yard with only a couple of attempts on me when I arrived. At just under six feet tall, 300 (solid) pounds and no stranger to prison life they quickly learned to leave me alone. I hit a guy so hard he lost his four front teeth. I shattered his nose and cheekbone with one punch. The message was simple: “leave me alone”.

I had dug myself a hole so deep that changing my life was nearly impossible, but I kept on. Life’s many disappointments (and there are many when you start with nothing but a long list of failures) at times weakened my resolve and I found comfort in consuming whatever narcotics I could get my hands on. My addiction welcomed me back like an old lover.

When I was unemployed and needed to get high I would look for dealers I didn’t know or like and just take what I wanted. But inside I knew this had to change and I began to dig myself out of my labyrinth of holes and tunnels. I've known Big Al for a number of years. Mostly from Pattaya. I love his writing. He knows the truth and doesn't flinch from its reflection. Lives like his offer a maze of traps. Few can escape. To buy WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE by A.L. Harlow please go to the following URL /www.amazon.com/dp/B007JB1P9I/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_pD3Eqb16QDTHH/183-7233622-7206400

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cool Pockets

Back in the 1970s men wore tight clothing. Men were thinner than now. Beer bellies were way in the future and these men didn't have crew cuts like most men of the 21st Century. They were cool. Back about those pockets. Are these men Mormon missionaries?