FRANCESCO GIUSEPPI VERSACE was born in 1919 to Giuseppi and Carmela
Versace in a cold-water flat on 96th street on the East-Side of New York City. Frank’s
father died when Frank was 9-years-old, leaving him alone with his immigrant mother.
ZIA NINA managed to run a rooming-house on 72nd street on the Upper East-Side
where Frank grew up, went to school, and graduated MANHATTAN COLLEGE in
He met my mother, PAULA, in 1940, and we all lived together in Nonny’s rooming house.
All the time, Frank was a travelling salesman for an electric motor company in Dayton, Ohio;
and every morning, Frank would rise early, jump into his 1941 light-green Plymouth and
cross the Hudson River on his appointed rounds throughout his New Jersey and
Pennsylvania territories, returning at night--sometimes in-time for dinner and sometimes
not--followd by, what seemed to me at that young age, endless reports on his daily sales.
In 1949, my brother, JOE, was born and, two years later, Frank moved us to Newark, New
Jersey, and from there to Montclair, New Jersey, an idyllic suburb about a half- hour north
of Newark--where he continued his travellin’ ways, always providing for his mother, me,
Paula, and Joe--in these happy days of our lives.
in 1964, Frank travelled once more with--Paula and Joe--3000 miles cross-country to
LAKEWOOD, CALIFORNIA. What I never understood is exactly how Frank managed to
keep his 2-car caravan together over the highways and through the city streets of America.
But my father was a “travellin’ man” and, evidently, knew what he was doing.
Once in LAKEWOOD, Frank blossomed into his new surroundings--buying and running a
liquor store in Paramount (with the help of my now grown-up brother Joe and ever-
supportive Paula) and moving into his first real “California home”--a two-story dwelling on
Whitewood Avenue right behind the LAKEWOOD MALL. During this time , his liquor
store burned down, after which he became known--affectionately--among his many
Kawanis-club buddies as “the torch.” Personally, I never believed that Frank burned
it down since he seemed to be genuinely at-home interacting with his many and varied
clientelle, his ever-present “audience”: you see, Fank loved to talk--to anyone who would
listen, especially if that someone was from “back-East”--and if you were Italian to boot,
well,then, you had a new friend for life. Fank missed his New York-New Jersey roots and
all of his Italian friends that he grew up with. But all of his new California friends made him
feel at-home--and, so, he talked to them, too.
Tthe rest, as they say, is history, today being the final chapter in my father’s history here
on this earth. Fank remarried--after Paula died in 1988--to BERNICE, who stayed with him
for 18 years.
What does Frank’s life MEAN and what was the essence of this “travellin’ man”?
To me, Fank was an ENDURING man who worked all his life, always providing for
those he loved, while managing to serve his adopted hometown of LAKEWOOD as a
city-commissioner, as well as serving on numerous committees, and lastly, as an
enthusiastic and dedicated volunter for MEALS ON WHEELS, which he and Paula
started and which he and Bernice served for years.
In 1997, Fank was honored at L.A.’S MUSIC CENTER in a ceremony in the DOROTHY
CHANDELIER PAVILLION for service to LAKEWOOD. Frank was in his glory that day,
and his head shined with pride as he accepted his award and the congratulations of his
many LAKEWOOD friends.
Frank leaves behind me and my brother Joe, two grandsons--MARCO and NICO--and
nine-year-old great-grandaugher, FRANCA, and four-year old great-grandaughter, NIKE, all
of whom live in GERMANY. He was thrilled to meet FRANCA in 2007 when NICO
brought her for a visit and whom he commented upon that “she was always drawing.”
May Frank and Paula’s memory ENDURE, and may we all--one day--dance together
among the stars.
JUNE 25, 2009
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Michael Jackson died more than a week ago, and the
media is still feeding off his corpse; Sarah Palin has just
this Friday, before the 4th of July, announced that she will
resign as governor of Alaska so that she will not have to
engage in “destructive politics” anymore--and the media
will, undoubtedly, add her to its list of never-ending
Neither the passing of Elvis nor even of JFK commanded
so much attention in our national press and its attendant
public consciousness in 1977 and in 1963, respectively.
Why? Because our pop culture has gained enough
traction to command enough undeserved attention to
eclipse events that are worth our attention: namely, the
crises in Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan.
Who are Michael Jackson and Sarah Palin? Pop idols
created by a greedy media for their own venal purposes.
Fair enough. But, now, it seems as if we, the public,
at large, have bought into not only the hype but also the
seriousness of that hype: we really believe it.
Number one, no one is that important, enough to stop
the world so that no one else can get onto the front page
(unless North Korea, actually, reaches Hawaii this week-
end with its test missile, an erstwhile event that will,
probably, be drowned out by Tuesday’s scheduled
mega-tribute of the King of Pop in Los Angeles).
Our increasing problem as a nation is our increasing
manipulation by a corporate media to the point where
we are beginning to believe that events like the death
of an entertainer and a wanna-be politico matter in the
least: popular culture has replaced real culture in the
eyes of too many blinded “American Idol” and “Dancing
With the Stars’” fans out there in never, never land to the
point where we cannot tell the difference any more
between what has lasting value and what is merely
“reality programming” in our diminishing little minds.
Michael Jackson and Sarah Palin will be footnotes in
the history of a fading America and its loss of meaning-
ful vision unless we wean ourselves from our false
pop culture and its debilitating hold on our previously
Enough is enough: freeze-dry Michael Jackson and stand
him up in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame--in keeping with
his bizarre life-style and influence on American pop
culture as an empty symbol of what every young
teenager aspires to: “I wanna be like Mike--only I don’t
have the talent or the work-ethic to do so. So, let me
alone to delude myself in pretending to become some-
thing that I can never be instead of something real that
I can be--a doctor, a teacher, a fireman, a father.”
And instead of following like lemmings jumping off a cliff
in Alaska, let us think for ourselves and find more
believable leaders to follow (as hard as they are to find)
and to spend our time and intellects on than the media-
creation which is Sarah Palin, in all her heartfelt enthusi-
asm and naive history.
Pop goes the weasel and pop goes our culture--down
>top of page>
En-chanted sounds of the muezzin
Whine out through morning-evening air
Calling all to worship, all to prayer.
Purple echoes of a royal past
Repeat in hearts and minds of the Shah
Abandoned and betrayed, “Allah Akbar.”
Today’s defiant cries curdle in the blood
Of young martyrs in the streets,
Arms outreached at their fathers’ feet.
Regal and Islamic tones reverberate
And drone from out the bones of
the small and the great:
“Please set us free
That--we--may just be.”
>top of page>
Good or bad
Descend and depend
On past, present and future ends.
2000 years ago and far away
Three crosses cleaved into
A hill of rotting skulls
While, above, a cataclysm
Of Catholic catechism
Clashed in thunder and
Forked down lightening--
To light up darkened minds.
Today's good Fridays, or bad,
Hang in animated suspension
Below a time and in a land
Of dried bones and rattling winds
Half-way between boredom and passion
For soul-less ghosts
Revolving in random turns
Of earthshaking trivia--
Spent and mis-spent carelessly.
Ages from now in distant star-clusters
While worlds collide and explode in red-dwarfs,
When we are all forgotten and replaced
By clones of future imaginings--
Our "Fridays" shall still repeat
"Good" or "bad" and clad in new words
Of universal rules and reasoned order.
Or all will have been in vain and
And lost in forgotten Fridays
Here on this dappled blue-and-green
Spinning orb lost in space.
Live your "Fridays" as if they
Were your first and your last.
>top of page>
Even though you know
It’s not true--
What is it to you?
Why NOT believe--
In Santa Claus and
With all its sparkling edges
And glowing centers?
Don’t mope around
And retreating to your bed.
Every day that you grow old
For deep inside
There is gold.
>top of page>
T H O U G H T S
To cling to your flesh until it falls from your bone.
Or to decide--
to let go
Of those hands that you have clung to.
And, then, to put out the light.
The hardest part is the letting-go.
And, then, what?
Return to where we were
Before we were born.
No thing--the sleep of silence.
Speak to me there.
>top of page>
Under the dust of history
Slabs of concrete lie broken
Protruding from below.
In the far distance
Melancholy accordion sounds
Fill the cracks in my mind.
Yellow fogged light obscures
The pale grey disc of a full-moon
As eternal chipping sounds
Resounding in my ears’ memory.
It is November 8, 1989, and
The Wall has fallen.
Now, the robots of the old city
Hesitate in fear
Driven by panic and depression
Engraved on their eyes
Reflecting mesmerized images of
The Death Strip and its dark towers
Patrolled by uniformed guards
And their snarling dogs.
“Er ist der zweite Mann."
But I cannot walk through
The walls in my mind
As I can now pass through
The gaps in the real Wall.
Construction cranes rise from the ruins
As the West colonizes the East
And I am a stranger in my own land.
Lines and angles of modern buildings
Intersect with flocks of ravens
Swarming in the spot-lighted night
As they race across the black sky
Filling the stilled air
With their mordant cries.
Once upon a time, there was a city
That divided itself against itself
Until one day, their Wall came down
And there they remained
Trapped in their isolation.
The West covered over Potsdammer Platz
With shopping malls and Coca Cola signs
To hide their mutual evils
As punishment for terrible crimes
But in our effort to forget our pasts
We left the bombs--unexploded--
Under the rock and rubble
Of abandoned dreams.
And above all--
A Lady robed in white gossamer silks
Flies floating in the fetid air.
>top of page>
O J E L L O
T H E S C H W A R T Z E
B U R N T W O O D
(A TRAGEDY OF PRIDE, ARROGANCE AND STUPIDITY
FOR OUR TIME)
OJELLO, the Juice, Master of Rocking Ham Castle
NICOLA, his fair and faithful Schikze wife
MARCUS FURRY MAN, a duped pawn and assistant sherrif of Burntwood
RONALD GOLDEN MAN, an honorable inn-keeper and friend of NICOLA’s
SIR JOHNNY COCKROACH, a scurrilous and scrofulous villain
MISTRESS MARCIA, foil to JOHNNY COCKROACH and a handmaiden of the
SAINT CHRISTO FOR DARN-IT ALL, devoted and idealistic man-servant of
ROSY LOPEZ, a trollop maid of Burntwood and neighbor of OJELLO
KATO CALLIN’, OJELLO’s free-loading house guest
HONORABLE JUDGE ITO-SAN, Duke of Burntwood and Chief Agent of the Law
BARRY SHUCKS, deceptive lackey to SIR JOHHNY
A.C. HOWLING, OJELLO’s trusted friend and master horseman
THE JURY, OJELLO’s faithful followers of “brethren and sistern”: blind to justice
CITIZENS OF BURNTWOOD AND LOST ANGELS
THE MINDLESS SCRIBES & HERALDS OF THE AMASSED MEDIA
A MOCK SHAKESPEAREAN PLAY IN 5 ACTS
Scene 1: Burntwood, the Ojellian Castle at Rockingham
Scene 2: Burntwood, the River Air Jousting Club
Scene 3: Ristorante, Mezza Mara (later that evening)
Scene 1: Nicola’s Cottage (midnight)
Scene 2: an Inn in Shycargo (later that morning: 9 AM)
Scene 3: Rockingham Castle (later the next day)
Scene 1: Hall of Justice in City of Lost Angels
Scene 2: Same (the following days)
Scene 1: Rockingham Castle (later that same evening)
Scene 2: on the Highwayman’s Road (on a slow steed later that evening)
Scene 1: Rockingham Castle (later that same week)
A C T I 1
Scene 1: Burntwood, the OJELLIAN Castle at Rockingham
Enter OJELLO in a rage to his devoted and fair wife-in-waiting to serve him,
Where be ‘da bitch at?
Here, my most worthy Juice.
And wha’ da (F-WORD) you be a’doin’, honky whore?
Waiting on your pleasure, my goodly Buffalo Billy Boy.
Kiss my sweet black ass, Ms. Brown-Noser Slut.
Forsooth, thee do abuse me, Ojello. You have no cause.
Prithee, why for?
‘Cause you be the friggin’ blonde schikze ho, Bay-bee..
I gave thee no cause, Ojello. No cause.
May be, may be not, Bay-bee. But my honest Johhny-
Cockroach say thee nay.
On what grounds, my lord?
Whatever, Bitch-Broad, whatever.
I shall have grounds more relative than this.
Oh, yeah? D.N.A., hey, hey?
If the glove fits, you be the shit, dim-wit
O tay, ofay. All is fair in love--and wife-abuse. Be
thee warned, slut-ho.
I want a divorce, Juice. Turn me loose.
I shall keel thee--a thousand times, I weel keel thee first.
You know not what thou sayest, Juicey-Poosey. Stop
and think. Use your head, Ojello.
Da? Say wha?
Never thee mind, mindless one--oh great vacuous
air-headed Heiss Man.
Watch your tart tongue, you ho-ho-ho.
Go, get thee hence and away from my scarred sight,
you black-bottomed ram-a-wam-dumb-dam.
Pray tell, baggy-titted twat. Thy tale shall tell--if my
name be Ojello Juice. Fare thee foul, mistress murdered.
OJELLO exits with a flourish and a fanfare from his gallery of lackeys.
A C T I
Scene 2: Burntwood River Air Jousting Club
Enter OJELLO to his faithful gallery of sycophantic hangers-on.
Huzzahs, applause, acclaim.
RONALD GOLDEN MAN
O, darkening O, Jello Juice Man,
What sayest thou--Wilt thou tee or not to tee?
Say, WAAT-S games?
MARCUS FURRY MAN
Oh, come now, you great big (N-WORD).
Don’t play coy. It’s only a ploy. Don’t toy.
Can anyone aroun’ here axe me a question in
Plain ‘ol friggin’ Anglish?
RONALD GOLDEN MAN
Wouldst thou settle for Ebonics?
MARCUS FURRY MAN
Yea, bro. You be ‘da Juice.
Let’s call a truce.
All’s I wanna do is play some golf wid youse.
Can you dig it, pigs?
MARCUS FURRY MAN
Who you callin’ “pig,” pig?
Wouldst thou impugn my reputation?
“Im-pune” this! (and grabs his crotch)
MARCUS FURRY MAN
Reputation? A fig on reputation!
Let the Honorable Ito-San decide my case
And make and take my deputation.
RONALD GOLDEN MAN
Aye, there’s a hit, a palpable hit.
I do declare it.
Hit this (grabs his crotch again)--you Jubal swine
(and he places a golf ball on the tee for GOLDEN MAN)
RONALD GOLDEN MAN
Clear the way, O darkly brooding Boorish Moor.
I shall take a strike at it, (lisping) I do swear.
(GOLDEN MAN swings a mighty swing and the ball
soars out of sight)
(in a dark rage) A lucky shot, GOLDEN MAN.
Now watch the Juice--
He shall surely goose it.
(OJELLO huffs and puffs a great round-house swing--
and mises the ball altogether)
(swearing) Zounds! A racist WHITE BALL, I have found it out.
I ‘ll have at thee anon.
(OJELLO chops--axe-like--with his club at the
WHITE BALL and drives it into the rough)
(now enraged) Take that , you harlot twat.
I shall show thee who be the man ‘round here.
MARCUS FURRY MAN
(more lisping) I say there. Thou most truly dids’t show
that (F-WORD) little WHITEY BALL who beest the boss
on these lanky links.
O, praised be the great (N-WORD)--OJELLIAN JUICE-MAN.
Huzzah, huzzah, huzzah!
RONALD GOLDEN MAN
(joining-in) O, forsooth the uncouth:
Huzzahs in the highest and
Glory to the Heiss Man--
Such as he has become.
(yet raging even more darkly)
O, never, never, never, never, never
Shall I forget your jests and jibes.
Thee all shall pay. Off with your heads!
And that goes for my faithless bitch, Nicola, too.
GOLDEN & FURRY MAN
(mocking in-unison) O, we shudder
WE be SO fear-filled,
We be a peein’ in our pantaloons.
Who’s afraid of the big, bad Juice,
the big, bad Juice,
the big, bad Juice?
He’ll cook our goose.
Tremble, cower, shrink.OJELLO, you really do stink!
(storming off) Mark me, mockers:
I’ll cut your throats and remove your hearts.
GOLDEN MAN & FURRY MAN
(increasing their laughter as OJELLO rushes off in a huff)
What fools these (N-WORDS) be
To threaten me and threaten thee.
A C T I
Scene 3: Ristorante Mezza Mara (later that evening)
(enter GOLDEN MAN as a waiter to serve
NICOLA at table)
(rushing to NICOLA’s side)
O, fair and faithful wife NICOLA,
Long-suffering servant to OJELLO the dread--
I do fear for thy head.
(unaware in her innocence)
I pray thee tell, why soundest thou
Such fearful warnings,
O, sacred server?
(continuing) This very early morn, MARCUS FURRYMAN
and I did meet with thy LORD OJELLO upon the very links of
River Air Country Club for a rounding round of
Who possesseth the biggest, braggart balls.
(puzzled) Tell-on, my hero GOLDEN MAN.
(more earnestly) Thy LORD OJELLO--after missing and
driving the little “racist pill” deeply into the ground--dids’t
erupt into a rage--against me--and against thee.
And what foul-mouthed fetid sound oozed from out
his obscene and darkening maw?
He said, Fair Lady mine, that he
“Woulds’t have our heads--and our hearts.”
O, pay him no heed for
He reasons not the need,
But spews-off at the mouth
From his testosterone down south.
Perhaps thy words are sooth for
OJELLO is surely long-in-the-tooth.
But take heed and speed for
Thou musts reason the need.
O, loyal GOLDEN MAN, for thy pains and
Caring qualms and dreams in vain
Please do take these glasses
As a token of my most revered esteem.
O no, most lustful Lady,
I cannot, I dare not:
What would thy LORD OJELLO say?
The Schwartze be damned.
It’s thee I hanker after.
I prithee, do visit me at
My quaint cottage on Bundy on the sly
And I shall make it worth thy wiles.
Thy wish be my command.
Until then, I kiss thy hand.
GOLDEN MAN bends to kiss NICOLA’s hand--
after which she leaves, leaving her glasses
conspicuously behind her on the talbe for her
would-be suitor to deliver without a quiver.
A C T I I
Scene I: NICOLA’s Cottage
It is first dark of a balmy summer’s eve. A man passes
by walking his dog, pauses at NICOLA’s gate, peers in,
passes on by.
Enter GOLDEN MAN walking briskly up to NICOLA’s
gate. He rings her buzzer, NICOLA’s voice answers over
speaker-phone, and then, her gate buzzes open.
GOLDEN MAN, with NICOLA’s glasses in-hand, walks
into NICOLA’s cottage.
PAUSE FOR 15 BEATS.
Slowly and surreptitiously, a black-hooded hulking figure
creeps out of the bushes and onto the path and peers
through NICOLA’s cottage window.
He is shocked at what he sees, jumps up-and-down,
like a monkey in-heat, and brandishes a glinting steel
broad-bladed, double-edged knife from under his black
cape. He then settles down on the path to wait.
After a minute, NICOLA’s front door opens and
GOLDEN MAN exits. As he steps down the walkway,
the dark-hooded figure jumps out of the bushes and
attacks GOLDEN MAN, visciously stabbing and slashing
at him with his large knife.
The noises of the thrashing struggle alert NICOLA, still
inside her cottage, to come out to see what the matter is.
As NICOLA steps out onto her path, she sees GOLDEN MAN
and the HOODED FIGURE in their death-grip. The DARK
MAN finally subdues GOLDEN MAN, who falls down
bleeding profusely and mortally wounded.
DARK MAN then turns his now-doubled fury upon the fair
NICOLA--grabbing her by her long, golden hair, pulling
her head back exposing her smooth throat, finally pulling
his razor-sharp knife firmly across it, severing her
arteries, almost decapitating her.
As DARK MAN runs out NICOLA’s back gate, he catches
his gloved-hand on a piece of wire on the gate but manages
to wriggle-out of his glove, leaving it there in full-view as he
escapes into his white horse-drawn wagon parked in back of
An eerie silence--interrupted by the low, plaintive howl of
a solitary dog-- settles over the scene as twin spotlights
fade-out on the two slashed and bleeding corpses.
A C T II
Scene 2: an Inn in Shycargo (later that morning: 9 AM)
OJELLO is seen in the bathroom, washing his hands
furiously at the basin, as if trying to wash-out something
that refuses to be washed-out. He raises his finger to
his mouth and sucks at it, indicating that he has cut it
and that he is still bleeding.
He walks to the window of his room at the Inn, opens it--
and begins shouting, assumedly, in the direction of the
Bring up some ice and some bandages.
I just cut my hand on a broken glass.
NO, I didn’t KILL ANYBODY!
I just cut my finger on a piece of broken glass. Now!
OJELLO slams the window shut, and--immediately
thereafter--there is a “ring” on a newly-invented
invention: the “telephone” (the first one is Shakespearean
England, and the first one in one of his plays: THIS play)
OJELLO, surprised at the ringing sound looks in amazement
at this “instrument of the devil (and his own)” before circling
it cautiously and tentatively reaching out his handkerchiefed
hand to pick up the phone’s talking part.
When he finally does answer the call, he has composed
himself and can, now, say self-confidently into the phone:
Yes, hello there. Yes, this is Ojellian J. Juice OJELLO.
Yes, I was--I mean--I AM--married to NICOLA BROWN
What? The bitch--I mean--SHE--is dead?
Yeah, what a bummer. Do you want me to come back to
Lost Angels--and i.d. the headless--I mean--the heedless
OK, OK. I’ll catch the next wagon out--after I dispose of
a few things--I mean--after I compose myself. I’m all
(adding under his breath) See ‘ya later, honky-pig.
(then into the phone) I said, “the JUICE likes monkey figs.”
OJELLO hangs-up the phone, finds a duffle-bag, and
quietly and stealthily--
A C T II
Scene 3: back at Rockingham Castle (later the next day)
Hordes of media are swarming all over OJELLO’s Castle.
Guards and sherrif await OJELLO’s return.
OJELLO enters and all descend around him.
HERALDS & SCRIBES
(separately and in-unison)
Did you kill her, Juice? Give us the scoop.
No, guys. No, now cut me some slack.
So, get on back--and get off this black.
Sorry, Juice. But we gotta take youse in.
So, hold out your hands and we’ll put on these bands.
They restrain OJELLO in rope-cuffs and leave with him in-tow--
as the AMASSED MEDIA after them do go.
E X E U N T
A C T III
Scene 1: the Hall of Justice in the City of Lost Angels (one month later)
The HONORABLE JUDGE ITO-SAN presides over the gathered
lawyers, jurors, witnesses, and spectators, as well as the ever and
omnipresent AMASSED MEDIA.
(banging his gavel)
Hear ye, hear y’all. Say now! I hereby and herewith call this
quasi-kangaroo-court to order. Who represents the dee-fen-
SIR JOHHNY COCKROACH
(rises regally to address the court)
Yowsa, yowsa. I be dee head at-turn-key attorney ‘round here.
Wha’s the problemo, y’Oner?
(jumping to her stilleto-heeled feet)
I object, your Honorable ITO-SAN.
Approach the bench--and we’ll do lunch, MISTRESS MARCIA.
I yam all ears--for thee.
MISTRESS MARCIA & SIR JOHNNY approach the bench.
Muffled words only are heard from this first of many and endless
“side-bars.” The two lawyers return to their respective places.
Let us proceed wid de matter out-of-hand here. I yam open to
some openin’ statements. Who wantsa go first?
Ladies first, MISTRESS MARCIA.
(rising to the challenge and to her statement)
Thank you, SIR ROACH.
Gentle men, gentle ladies, and ho-ho-ho’s of the jury
We, the persecution--I mean--the prosecution, shall prove
and clearly demonstrate (with the help of all of our D.N.A.)-
beyond any shadow of an unreasonable doubt--that the
alleged accused, one OJELLIAN J. JUICE OJELLO, did
wilfully and brutally slash and slice his former and faithful
wife, NICOLA (mother to his two children), and her friend
GOLDEN MAN until they did bleed to death.
Yo ‘Oner, pa-leeze. Do counsel da bitch to be more modest and
less inflamatory in her language. She be only a rantin’ and a-
I say now, MISTRESS MARCIA. Cool it or be held in contempt of
uncourtly behavior and lack of courtesy. Be thou warned.
If that’s the way it’s going to be, then I’ll just plant my pliant buns
down--and let the COCKROACH have his slimy say.
SIR JOHNNY, the floor is yours. Speak the speech, I pray thee,
trippingly on the tongue and do not mouth the words or saw the
air with your gestures rude. In sum, COCKROACH, don’t be crude.
(arising with great dignity and authority)
Thank you, ITO-SAN. And you too, MISTRESS MARCH MADNESS.
I beg your indulgence, Lay-dees and Genle-mens of the Jury.
Hear what your Brother-Man have to say to youse. My client,
known far and wide beyond the gates of Rockingham Castle and
the borders of Burntwood to one and all as the all-hyped HEISS
MAN, good ‘ol boy, S.C. under-educated, cut-rate sportscaster,
B-movie extra, and the Whitest Black Man Oreo in captivity, my
most revered and mis-idolized client--MR. OJELLIAN J. JUICE
OJELLO did NOT--in fact and in fiction--kill (“slice and dice,” as
MISTRESS MARCIA-HO-FACE spews venemously forth); I repeat
did not butcher and brutalize either his strumpet wife, NICOLA,
OR her lecherous Jubal Lover-Boy, GOLDEN MAN,
In sooth and likewise, in truth, and on the night in question,
OJELLO was in the company and the clutches of his most
loyal house-honky, Brere KATO CALLIN’, who shall convincingly
lie for--I mean--testify for his master’s whereabouts on that in-
famous and by now, all too-familiar night of the wolf.
Further, we--da defense--shall side-step all direct questions and
block all pertinent evidence in a desperate attempt to preserve
and protect our well-heeled Sugar Dadddy, the one and the only,
OJELLO, the Schwartze of Burntwood.
What say, ye, one and all? Do you, will you buy it?
‘Cause I’s a-sellin’ it, and I be da hard-sellin’ man--
I yam, I yam.
Oh, yea-eh! Preach it, JOHNNY MAN. We’s wid ya all de way.
Go, Roach Motel!
(outraged and in a huff)
This is an outrage, a travesty of juris-imprudence.
I object, vociferously, your most Honored and one-hung low
ITO-SAN. I humbly call for a missed-trial.
Sid’own, Ho. I’m a warnin’ ya. One more burst-out like that
last one, and I’ll lock yo flat, white ass up for a week.
Yo dig, bitch?
OK. OK--I got your drift. I must then defer to my token colleague,
SAINT CHRISTO FOR DARN-IT ALL.
SAINT CHRISTO FOR
(rising slowly, shuffling to his feets)
Darn it all, yo ‘Oner. Yo sho shouldna’ be a talkin’ dat way
to dis here nice white lady. I knowd MISTRESS MARCIA longer’n
yo have, and she be the goll-darndest, sweetest, coyest,
flirtenest ofay lady-lay I iver come across. So, please, yo Honor-
Able Ofay Jappy Pappy--show this ho some occidental respect.
Get on wid it, Uncle Tommy Bald Head. What ilse has yo got to say?
SAINT CHRISTO FOR
O-tay, o-tay. I be callin’ me first dim-wit witness, MARK FURRY MAN.
MARK FURRY MAN comes forward and is sworn-in.
Do you, MARK FURRY MAN, swear to tell the truth, the whole
truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you OJELLO?
Well, something like that. Whatever.
That’ll do. Be seated.
SAINT CHRISTO FOR
MR. FURRY MAN, are you a racist?
OK, jus’ sheckin’. Tell us what you found on the night of the
I found--a bloody bloody glove.
And jus’ where did ‘ja find dis here bloody bloddy glove?
Behind the fence.
Behind the fence at Rockingham Castle.
(presenting the glove in question)
Is this the glove?
Sure looks like it.
(producing another glove)
And be dis da accompanyin’ companion glove?
Sure looks like it too.
This glove, yo ‘Oner, is the glove found on the back-gate
of NICOLA’s cottage on the night of the murders.
May I speak, ITO-SAN? (and not waiting for a response)
We can cut through all this (S-WORD) by simply asking
my client to try on the glove.
Overruled. Let the defendent try on the glove.
OJELLO rises and makes his hulking way to in-front-of the
jury box and prepares to try on the glove by pumping-up his
hand and putting-on a tight-fitting rubber glove BEFORE he
tries on the “bloody bloody glove.”
(in a catatonic squeal)
ITO-SAN ( singing)
Over and over and o-ver--ruled.
Now, MR. JUICE, please try to get that big black hand
into that tiny little glove.
(in a final desperate cry of anguish)
O-V-E-R-R-U-L-E-D. Continue, SIR JOHNNY.
Go on, JUICE. Go for it.
OJELLO makes a big fist and tries to pull-on the glove over it, but
he can’t. He tries again, and he fails again. The glove does
(triumphantly dancing up and down in front of the jury)
If it don’t fit, you must acquit ! If it don’t fit you must acquit !
(to CHRISTO FOR)
You idiot! I told you NOT to let him do it. Have you got
(S-WORD) for brains or what?
CHRISTO FOR hangs his shiny head in shame and shuffles away.
THE JURY are on their feet, dancing and shouting for joy.
(joining-in the prejudiced acclamation)
Disorder, disorder in MY court!
We recess until tomorrow.
Way to go, SIR JOHNNY.
Good show, JUICE.
I’ve seen enough.
Lock-up the jurly and let ‘em spook each other.
(then lifting up his black robes and dancing off the stage)
I be da judge...I be da judge!
God lawd a’mighty, I be da judge!
A C T III
Scene 2: the Court (the next day)
All lawyers are at another “side-bar,” animatedly arguing and
speaking all at once. JUDGE ITO-SAN nods-off as they continue
shouting at each other. Some of the interchanges are heard
(to SIR JOHNNY)
COCKROACH, that glove charade was a cheap shot.
How low can you go, SLIME BALL?
As low as it takes, HONKY WENCH. MY jury bought it--and thas
all thas counts.
Oh, JOHNNY, oh. How you DO disappoint me. I feels like
a-quittin’ me job, you slob.
Enough, enough already. You guys make me constipated.
Stop you whinin’ and let’s git on wid it. The pro-see-execution
may begin--agin. Amen.
(newly composed and sporting a new hairdo)
Your Most Honorable Honor, we have other evidence harder to
squirm out of this time. I would like to introduce D.N.A.--
blood-typing that proves--beyond all reasonable and unreasonable
doubt--that the blood drops found at NICOLA’s cottage and
OJELLO’s blood are one-in-the-same--within one-in-a-billion samples.
(rising and introducing himself)
Fat chance! Your Honor, may I introduce myself?
I am none other than BARRY SHUCKS, Master
Magician of D.N.A. And I wish to enlighten the
jury on a point or two regarding this alleged
Continue. But make it quick, dick. Yo is puttin’ me to sleep.
I shall proceed, your attention-deficit-disordered Honor,
with all due and undue speed. So, just try to heed.
Now, my brethern and my sistern of THE JURY, D.N.A. is an
inexact pseudo-science that depends on contaminated
and planted blood-evidence by pig-cops to impugn,
indict, and incarcerate innocent wife-beaters when their
wives just “hapen to eat it,” that is, die by mysterious means.
You can all plainly see that these alleged blood-samples are
contaminated by foul and filthy trace-elements of--RLP, PEP,
CUM, and just plain old JIG JIS that make the persecution’s
“one-in-a-billion” match-odds invalid and more like “one-in-
THE JURY is ALL fast asleep, snoring loudly.
Good. That’s all, your Honor.
(shouting at ITO-SAN, also fast asleep) Your Honor, I SAID--
(raising his head from the bench and rubbing his eyes)
Yawn. Right. Uh, sure. Whatever.
Does the prosecution desire to re-direct?
(flipping her newly coiffed hair out of her eyes)
Can you believe the chutzpah of that little Hebe?
He’s even slimier than the COCKROACH.
What a pair? the DEVIL and HIS TOADY.
ONLY in Lost Angels.
The prosecution calls ROSY LOPEZ and
KATO CALLIN’--TOGETHER, if it pleases
It don’t “pa-leeze da court.” But go on anyways.
Let’s git dis over wid. I gotta take a dump.
ROSY LOPEZ and KATO CALLIN’ approach the stand and are
Do you swear...yadida, yadida, yadida?
ROSY & KATO
“I do-do” and “Sure, why not?”
Close enough. Be seated.
(thoroughly composed and in-control again)
Please tell the jury--in your own words--what you saw
on the night of the murders. MR. CALLIN’, you may go first.
Huh, da? I don’t get it.
(exasperated but still cool)
Uh, thank you, MR. CALLIN’.
MS. LOPEZ, what did you see?
I see MR. JELLO’s blanco Bronco parka in da front of
hees a-housa ALL NIGHT LONGA. It never mova.
(then, looking at SIR JOHNNY)
Okay, MR. JOHNNY?
(SIR JOHNNY signals his approval)
(stepping back and looking at ROSY)
That’s a very nice dress, MS. LOPEZ.
Where did you buy it?
(flattered and grateful)
Oh, I didna buy it. MR. JOHNNY, he give it to me--
so I look nice in a da court.
(SIR JOHNNY motions “shut up” to ROSY)
Oh, I see. ANOTHER perjured witness.
I ob-jek, yo’s Honor. This here woe-to-men is abusin’
my integrity. I stand on my reputation.
A shaky “foot to stand on.” Better to sit on your
big, fat, balck ass.
Bite thy viper’s tongue, MISTRESS MALAPROP.
Heed MY warnings, HONKY HO, or you’ll be a-bendin’
ova fo me fore long--ifn you not care-full of that foul mouth
I sincerely apologize, your most respected Honor.
I lost my head--my maiden head--a long, long time
ago, and I’m just a wee bit horny, honey.
(hitting on her openly)
Perhaps I can help MISTRESS MARCIA relieve her
chock-full-of-crotch itch. I am most ready, willing, and
able to be at your service, fair bare-ass-titter.
I’d rather eat poo-poo and drink pee-pee.
I can help there too.
Why don’t you two horn-dawggies just go and find a
May we continue with more judicial prudence and
less personal impudence?
(throwing-up her hands in surrender)
I give up. Instruct THE JURY--and let it happen.
A most prudent proposition, your Honor.
I whole-heartedly agree.
You haven’t GOT a heart, COCKROACH.
You’re a snake.
That’ll cost you $500, bad mouth.
Pay-up or put-out.
May we take it out in trade, Sir?
I’m a little short right now.
I know the feeling.
(unable to resist)
I just BET you do, Shorty.
That’ll cost you another 50, you mini-skirted,
mush-mouthed wench. I’ll be a seein’ yo in
my “chucky-cheesy chambers” later, MARCIA BABE.
(adding an aside to her alone)
And I dig your hair--up there. Whatcha got down-there?
(shocked and scandalized)
These entire proceedins are disgustin’ to my sensitive
sensibilities. I think I’m a gonna cry.
(chiming-in) Oh, don’a cry, MR. CHRISTY. I still luv a yoo-hoo,
I’m going to puke.
Puke away, pussilanimous pussy pretender.
I’d jus LU-UV to see you wretch your gutless guts
(F-WORD) you, verbose vermin.
(anxious to end it all)
JURY, have you reached a verdict?
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E T E R N A L E X I S T E N T I A L I S M
To be free of time and space (that is, body, gravity, and location--Óone place at one timeÓ), one must move with the idea that ALL time is simultaneous: NOW, the PAST, and the FUTURE and FOREVER are the same.
This realization is the key that unlocks all the ÒlocksÓ of our earthly existences. Right NOW, we literally co-exist in ALL places that ARE, HAVE BEEN and EVER WILL BE. We are, in-mind and in-deed, EVERYWHERE AT THIS SAME EXACT MOMENT of NOW.
The goal, then, is to fly freely with--light, speed, distance, and time: that is, to Òcurve in simultaneity eternally.Ó AND, then, to MAKE CONTACT with--eternity.
Earth--and the body, mind, emotions, and spirit--is simply too limited and bordered by our artificially defined and constructed orders of imposen called ART. But where is the ART that no one witnesses--that is, the ART that has not yet been created into form and substance? IT is here, held in suspended simultaneity--until the next Ònow-moment.Ó There. ItÕs gone.
Therefore, this entire creation that we name LIFE ON EARTH is but the mere flash of a cameraÕs eye in the simultaneous singularity (omnipresence) of space and time. NOW, thus, becomes ALL time and places--as well as ALL non-time and ALL non-places: those BLACK HOLES of existence where the density of experience has overloaded itself into magnetic graveyards--places too ÒheavyÓ to support any MORE ENERGY. But and if one falls into a BANSFORM energy into another form, instead of that energyÕs being ÒdestroyedÓ as is now believed? Why not? Consider the possibility of the impossibility--the method of creative discovery.
The only CONSTANT in this simultaneous scheme is NOT change (the earthly K) but rather ENERGY--which IS, HAS BEEN, and ever WILL BE in ALL time and in ALL places : the THIRD LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS--ÓENERGY can be neither created nor destroyed but only transformed.Ó In this sense, ENERGY exists eternally in two different forms--body/consciousness and non-body/consciousness (relative to earthly definitions, of course). ENERGY , then, becomes the spatial CONSTANT in terms of which everything else is measured and transformed--as the speed of light is the constant for all astro-physical measurement.
Earthly transformation (change) is governed by the principle of the human relativity of time and place--as these affect the rate and degree of the evolutionXISTENTIALISM emerges naturally from this concept of spatial energy, that is, one can DO and BE all things in all places in all times. One can make CONTACT.
Further, oneÕs CHA
Now then, how DOES one--in earthly fact and reality--become freed of restricting time and space? How does one Òpress the correct buttonsÓ?
First: LET GO (blank-out, erase, repress, suppress) of the earthly mediums--language and thought, body and sensations, emotions and, even, your spirit. One can DO this by adjusting oneÕs mind with the concepts of simultaneity and spatial relativity, much as one would adjust a radio to tune-into a foreign station. It may help to induce this Òlet-forming in any way.
Then: travel. Specifically, move your MIND back into the past, lock it in to the now, and cast it out, beyond and out into the future. Engage with all the high-energy events that you have known (develop your memory) and that you are in at this very moment (develop present and high-intensity focus), and that you would be in in the future (develop imagination and fantasy). In short, time-trip with aware precision.
Next: concentrate your BODILY elements (senses and functions) into focii of Nature--light, sky, ocean, earth, vegetation, temperature as they register on your senses with higher and lower energy levels. Realize that these elements of oneÕs body are not only highly relative on earth, but thatly existed in space and time as unlimited ENERGY SOURCES, immutalbe and transcendent. We Òrose from the dead when we were born,Ó and we didnÕt even notice it. And we shall once again re-enter that source when we die/transform--and we WILL notice that-- but for only in that split-second of our final letting-go of our earthly concsiousness. The exact moment of our deaths shall, therefore, be like passing from waking into dream: we shall notice the ÒshiftÓ but, then, we will float free in ETERNAL EXISTENCE. We will have made CONTACT.
Or if ALL OF THIS THEORY thus far is, indeed and in fact, FALSE--then we shall forever drift in a NOTHINGNESS, devoid of all consciousness and all light--a Òp
Which state do I think is the true one? Which one do I believe in?
I would like to say the first which I have held fast to for more than twenty-five years (from 36-61). But as I grow older, I am leaning towards the second as the final and simplest ÒanswerÓ to the question--ÓWhere do you ÔgoÕ when you die?Ó But I still believe that the first has much to say for itself and to recommend it in the face of an all too universally believed emptiness which, to my mind, ÒinvalidatesÓ ALL of oneÕs living, striving, and achieving.
nothing and all other things in this life and other lives, immortal.Ó (from Isabel AllendeÕs PAULA, the last page).
Or is this Òultirnate replyÓ to Òwhat comes after physical deathÓ merely a re-wording of the first two ÒsolutionsÓ above? A VOID filled with the latent energies of the
cosmos? ÒEverything and nothing at onceÓ : a paradox that would resolve the dilemma. Or would it? Ms. AllendeÕs position seems
she ÒsawÓ and came-up with at the moment of PaulaÕs death.
But what is certain is the fact that no one--except for the silent dead--
know for sure Òwhat actually Ôcomes after physical death.Õ Ò And that
is why THE MOMENT OF OUR DEATHS is the Ò most interesting instant of
our lives, the ultimate journey and trip.Ó And one that SHOULD be not
feared but rather Òlooked forward toÓ with doubt, anxiety, anticipation,
But back to Òoption #1.Ó One tunes-into these energy sources by Òbumping intoÓ these ÒparticlesÓ on the earthly, sensate level (for instance, grains of sand in your hand, being near the beach) and THEN, ÒshiftÓ that sensation back into the past OR ahead into the future (for instance, the same sand felt by prehistor
SEE the images that have not changed over hundreds and thousands and millions and billions and trillions of years--light and dark, suns, eyes, fire, trees, birds, faces; TASTE--burned meat, fear, and love; SMELL--roses, salt-air, and flesh; HEAR--ocean, silence, laughter, and breathing. The feelings that you feel NOW have been, are, and will ever be felt by you and by ALL beings in ALL times and in ALL places. FEEL eternity in the soft crush of a ripe peach--and LIVE WITH THAT MOMENT. NOW IS, truly FOREVER!
On the EMOTIONAL LEVEL, do NOT let go of but rather sublimate (that is, re-channel) these high and raw energy sources INTO more concentrated and focused mental lazer-energies. USE emotional energy to supply and to sustain mental energy--the prime mover of body and emotion control. Where emotional energy CANNOT
As for SPIRITUAL ENERGY, tap-into this omnipresent source and--quietly--transmit YOUR essences (peace, happiness, motion) towards the essentilal infinities of space and time--suns, stars, moons, and gravity. Smile with the sun in your face (and with at least four Percodans in your blood-stream) and exchange spiritual energies WITH that sun until the two energies MERGE--and Òfall up and into the sun.Ó Lift-off of this earth and fly with the smile of your warmth.
And so, once in CONTACT with these INNER energy sources on ALL four levels (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual), MOVE them into their OUTER energy counterparts. Then, ENMESH these Òtwo gearsÓinto an implicit POINT--a singularity of the ommipresent presence of ALL spaces for ALL time. NOW, one can TOUCH ALL EXPERI
Having once attained this CONTACT, the possibilities for earthly life are limitless. Boredom, pain, depression and anxiety, and nothingness (respective of the four human levels) BECOME instantly transformable plus and negative energy-poles for time and spatial movement. Death, now, becomes redefined into energy-transformation--that is, free-existing random particles in a univeral relativity. Death, then, is shedding the body and Òflowing intoÓ space and time--WITHOUT HUMAN mind, emotion, and spirit and WITH total freedom of movement, dimension, and existence. Earthly death is, thus, the resultant state of releasing and letting-go of the four human levels.
Thus and finally, final and complete FREEDOM--the ultimate goal of ALL existential systems--instantly emerges FROM death and exp
WE ARE HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE.
So, my finitely infinite reader who IS the necessary witness to confirm this piece of creative imagining--merely focus on ANY sensate existence--for instance, a glass--and drift to, into, and through it into ALL space and time. Soar and glide with the reflections in the glass and BEYOND those reflections in your mindÕs eye with ALL simultaneous reflective energies. MOVE your life with artful and intense focus into and beyond earthly artifice and become ONE with the eternal ART OF SIMULTANEITY--and infinite transcendence.
A L L I S ; T H E R E F O R E, I A M.
December, 1977 Marina Peninsula
September, 2002/ Marina City Club
January, 2008 Marina del Rey
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A sweet evening breeze
Rises slowly out of the
Familiarity of knowing
Before caring for someone new
Until more air is breathed
Into and out of each other and
Eventually, they breathe together
As one being with two minds
And one heart formed and
Joined by love for the other’s
Thoughs and feelings.
Then, the discovery is fulfilled
And what remains is to keep it
Breathing, new and caring
From day to mundane day
Without reaching for more
Than what the moment of contact
Had first revealed when the two
Separate beings sparked
Each to each, as one to one--
As they surrounded and fed
Each other by
ALL LOVE’S AIRS.
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You'd take him for a loquacious and gifted performer
Commanding his kingdom of books and papers,
This brilliant pedagogue, prober of minds,
Exercising his daily practices of quotes and well-rehearsed aphorisms
Until the academic moment supreme
When he pierced mediocrity, dramatic and histrionic-
Technically perfect at his craft and scholar's art.
With sartorial grey-tweed jackets announcing his entrances,
And his magical exits, up and down closed-in halls,
I would sit, tightly bound in a student's desk,
With row-on-row of rapt listeners
Before his brain buzzed its literary incandescence
And collegial chatter reverberated in undertones-
As lesser lights scurried about with their calculators and sketch-pads.
Every day, on the edges of his blood cancer,
This Ph.D., a.k.a. thespian and academic dean of all he surveyed,
Positioned himself on either side of his bargaining brain and,
With veiled words, revealed the wisdom of the ages
And freed unspoken absurdities that he laughed out-of-hiding,
The ironies of mundane existences-
As his burning cells howled at him from the darkness within.
I remember at the end, a gaunt and bearded man,
The image of a kindred spirit, the Dionysus of epicures,
Sat opposite me, intellect charged and interrupted by coffees in the sun,
To edit a piece of my overwrought writing:
Maybe he really did come down for a closer look
But I think it was to be better seen by me-
He who reigned supremely over his dominion of words and wit.
What was it about this professional, this artist, this scholar
Who was so intent yet so softly sensitive and human
When he laid his blade's well-honed edge
Up and under my feeble strivings and lingering lines
In order to cut-out all unnecessary sounds and accents.
And, then, oh, so deftly, he let his silver-pointed pen
Elide with my bleeding phrases on the page
Until they disappeared and re-emerged
In clarion calls-
Now resurrected with flash and fire.
Who and what was this man?
A talented teacher, a faithful administrator, a creative teller of tales,
A loyal friend
A man with a gift who, through distant countries and sites hidden,
Lived, laughed and died.
And who, with magic charm and cunning arts,
Rejected the acceptance of all things dull
To pursue his glowing points of interest
Wherever they might lead-
Food and drink for his soul,
Light for his mind.
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BLASTS from--car-bombs resound,
*I.E.D.’s and E.F.P.’s roar, and
planes as guided missiles
fire-ball in azure and white skies.
Explosions around our spinning globe
Pierce the metal of our buidings and the
mettle of our hearts--
Until we can almost bear it.
Everyday, at home and abroad,
Random absurdist violence
Shatters our calm and blows holes in
Our paper-thin shields of security and purpose
Any meaning in our short-lived lives:
wars, armed conflicts, genocides,
Have always undermined our world’s order
And tested our resolve.
This time, something different.
Our children and our grandchildren
Must cope with a new kind of
Madness unleashed upon reason,
* Improvised Explosive Devices: roadside bombs
Explosively Formed Penetrators: a more deadly I.E.D.
How does one deal with
A desperate minority
That has nothing (past, present, future)
Except to immolate themselves
In flashes of the white butterfly
Where they devoutly believe
They will be flown
Beyond the stars and the darkness of their days
To an infinite paradise
Where they will partake of
The pleasures of earthly delights
In the gardens of Allah
As they quaff the nectar of their hallucinations?
Where you have nothing
Gods thrive and
Religions harvest the fallout.
A poet, once and long ago, sang:
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
Shall we hold fast to our centers of
Faith, Hope and Love
For one another or
Shall we, too, blow ourselves up--
And dance among our stars?
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“GREED, GUNS AND GREATNESS”
THE problem with America right now is--G R E E D : pure, simple and absolute. It
accounts for ALL of our current domestic and international dilemmas. Domestically, it
explains the screaming, critical-mass hatred of the Democrats for the Republicans and,
to a somewhat lesser extent, the Republicans for the Democrats. Greed also explains
the present record deficit, the highest in twenty years at approximately $477 billion ; the
still repressed state of our economy right down to our also record-high personal debts
and the stampede towards bankruptcy ; the dysfunctional state shortfalls with California’s
two-year profligate spending binge leading the way for other states to follow ; and greed
explains, sadly, the burning divisions between and among the races, as well as the
explosion of visceral hate-crimes. GREED fuels everything in our society from the out-of-
control glut of SUV’s on our roads and in our overcrowded parking lots to the even wilder
and overriding lust for “things” that have morally bankrupt our culture ; and, unlike the line
from the movie WALL STREET, “greed is NOT good” but bad. This is the stuff that
melt-downs are made of.
Internationally, just multiply and enlarge our foreign problems by an appropriate number,
say one thousand times, and the same terminal illnesses apply--from our devouring thirst
for more and more and even more foreign oil to our insatiable hunger for the latest cheap
Is there any time and place where greed can be, if not “good,” then at least enlightened
self-interest? Maybe : in our intervention in foreign countries like Afghanistan and Iraq and,
most probably and more dangerously, in North Korea and Iran. We are already involved
in Israel and soon-to-be in Liberia--and wherever “American interests” call us. Is this a
manifest national greed for occupation, domination and economic expansion OR
enlightened self-preservation? Depends on whom you talk to : some say, “You’d better
believe it” ; others say, “No way : we’re just trying to protect ourselves.” You decide.
Greed, I believe, is also at the heart of our gun-problem here in America. WHAT “gun
problem”? The fascination with and addiction to guns and killing upon which this nation was
founded--from the Revolution to the Wild West slaughter of our American Indians to all
of our wars to the underlying and rampant violence implicit in our glorification of a gangster
mentality from Al Capone and “The Sopranos” to Ganster Rappers and visible in the
long list of rage-killings in our nightly breaking-news,from disgruntled workers to whacked-out
students. THAT gun problem. Further, almost everyone in America believes in his/her
bones that he/she is “endowed with the inalienable right to ... bear arms” under the
Second Amendment--which stipulates “the right of the MILITIA to bear arms,” as in
“the Red Coats are coming, so grab your guns, boys!” Why is the U.S. homicide rate
the world’s highest per capita, that is, per gun-owning yahoo? For protection and out of
fear. Of what, of whom? Of “anyone who tries to take my stuff away.” And the operative
word here is “stuff” : most, if not all, Americans are consumed with a, by now, innate sense
of POSSESSION--of things, ANY things : the stuff that we all acumulate, hoard, and
protect with our very lives from our “fellow countrymen.” America is obsessed with its
wealth of possessions AND with the size of its guns : a phallic insecurity traceable back
to our repressed Puritan heritage (another group of intolerant and murderous religious
fanatics who were kicked out of England after they infected British society enough to lead to
the killing of King Charles the First to make way for their Puritan Revolution and Interregnum
under Oliver Cromwell from 1640-1660 and who were similar to St. Patrick’s “snakes” who
did not sail here on the Mayflower but who “swam” here and found homes under new and
free rocks). Take away an N.R.A. member’s gun and he will go screaming into the night of
his dark soul with his “cold, dead hands” still clutching after his firearm and waving violently
towards the Constitutional protector of his “rights.”
Lastly, however, greed can also relate to greatness. “To be great is to be misunderstood,”
or so thought Ralph Waldo Emerson in his great American essay of “Self-Reliance.” Why?
Due to his “greed of mind” : that is, “greedy,” desirous, hungry for knowledge, curious and
creative. All great people with truly great minds were and are “greedy” for exploration,
chance-taking, possibilites and experiment : Columbus, the Wright Brothers, Jonas Salk,
Ghandi. And perhaps the “greediest mind” of all--Leonardo da Vinci who is said to have
exclaimed on his deathbed : “ I learn, I still learn!” These models were all great of mind
and modest of possessions.
Greed for good or greed for ill : two sides of a basic, base and burgeoning human need
in all of us. “I FEEL THE NEED FOR GREED,” says AMERICA’S EVERYMAN--and
acts accordingly. HOW he acts tells all--AND affects us all.
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RICH AND STUPID
Tyler Monroe was at the top of his game: rich, famous, gorgeous, sought-after, and very talented. Tyler was a movie star of the first magnitude, shining brightly in the Hollywood firmament of luminaries. He had only five films to his credit, but he was--after all--merely twenty-five years old.
Tyler was born and in-bred in the deep South, still retaining most of his drawling charm and all of his startling good looks. Discovered by a studio talent-scout at a local theatre group where Tyler was playing a small-town bigot in Tennessee Williams’ ORPHEUS DESCENDING, he was signed on-the-spot and whisked away to L.A. Once there, he was made over from head-to-toe and his name changed from Bo Jones toTyler Monroe. He was assigned a speech-coach to even-out his Dixie drawl to points of comprehension and his hair to flowing flaxen strands descending just enough over his shunted forehead to make him look broodingly sensitive. In all, there was little resemblance between the old and the new personas, most of which were pure make-up--and a lot of attitude adjustments. In short, Mr. Monroe was a full-fledged air-head of the first water. And he didn’t even know it.
Tyler was in the habit of giving condescending interviews to unsuspecting reporters stupid enough to put-up with his inane asininities. Usually though and after about five minutes, any journalist with shit for brains could--and often did--realize what he was up against and thereby terminated the interview as quickly as possible or at once, whichever came first.
But there were always new, ego-challenged reporters eager to get at this hyped and hyper star-shined scion of god. And this one’s name was Henry Harrison, a brand new and very well-educated cub reporter for the L.A. STAR. The interview had been synchronized by the studio heads eager and needful of more objective publicity, for Tyler’s tirades were wearing thin in the dailies around town. The publicity directors had sent out slick and sexy glossy flyers to all the resident city-desk chiefs in hopes of catching a new and uninitiated fish. And now, they thought that they had one firmly on their line, ready to reel-in.
Henry Harrison was a graduate of the Columbia School of Broadcasting where he graduated with highest honors. His bright future misdirected him to his current position of celebrity feature-writer for the tabloid L.A. STAR due mainly to his fondnes for sun and his talent for irony. Henry could be one sarcastic son-of-a-bitch when he was moved to it by circumstances totally in his control. That is, if he felt his interviewee was a schmuck, he rushed to show his find to the visceral looky-loos of his reading public.
”Truth in advertising” was more than an m.o. with Mr. Harrison; it was a credo.
And so it came to pass one sunny Southern California afernoon that Henry Harrison arrived at 21st Century Fox to have at the newest, albeit fastest fading , golden boy of the glamor-glitzed gazettes.
Harrison was deceptively unassuming, down-playing his total image--from his scuffed shoes to his plain-speaking reportage. His was all an act to get at and under the plastique facades which would eventualy self-implode under his clairvoyant vision and rapier-like wit when finally released.
Harrison had been seated and kept waiting in a puke-green dressing room in bated anticipation of the grand arrival of the one-and-only, Tyler Monroe--or so the studio brain-trust had supposed and carefully planned. Harrison, however, had different ideas and to that end had come prepared for delays and circumnavigations of the stalling kind: he had brought a lap-top, a dozen confectionary-sugared donuts, three Big Macs, a six-pack of Coronas, a six-celled vibrator, and a big box of cigars. He called these his “props,” and he made use of their presence if not their individual attributes. So that when Tyler Monroe finally deigned to show, he was somewhat taken-aback to find his erstwhile anticipatory interviewer surrounded and fully engrossed in his retinue of refined regalia.
“Hey, Monroe, want a brewski?” Harrison greeted his star-studded subject as he strode through the door. Tyler stopped dead in his tracks, re-grouped and changed tack.
“Sure, why not? You must be Henry Harrison. I am Tyler Monroe, the movie-star.” Harrison could not believe that Monroe had really said that, but--indeed--he had. It was on-tape and preserved for all posterity.
“Yes ... really? Is that a fact? Can I quote you on that?”
“Mr. Harrison, may we proceed with the interview?” and the star took up his position facing the interviewer.
“By all means, Tyler. May I call you Tyler, Tyler?”
“Yes, you may--call me Tyler. I like the way it sounds. It’s not my real name, you know. It’s my ‘given name’; the studio ‘gave’ it to me. What do you think? Do you like it? Most people do.”
“Yes, I do. It suits you, Tyler. What’s your real name, the one you were born with? You know, the one your ma and pa pinned on your crib at the farm?”
“Bo. That’s short for Beauregard. Bo Jones of the Georgia Joneses.”
“Oh, THOSE ‘Joneses’! “
“Have you heard of ‘em?”
“Oh, well. What do you wanna axe me?”
“If you say so.”
Harrison began. “What led you to Hollywood?”
Tyler thought. “A drive I’ve always had.”
“A drive? You mean on Route 66 to L.A.?”
“Naw. I mean somethin’ deep inside ‘a me.”
“Oh, way down.”
“Can you describe it for your fans?”
Tyler formed his words as carefully as he could. “It’s a feeling that ... that ... that I just wanna be ...SOMEBODY...special.” And he choked back a gulp of rising emotion in his throat.
“I see. And ARE you ... ‘somebody special’ “?
“My fans think so.”
“Okay, let’s cut to the chase, as you guys say around here.”
“I’m not an action-hero, so I’ve never had a chase-scene before.”
Harrison swallowed, then continued. “I mean let’s get to the important questions--like what do you think of the media--of me, if you will?”
“I like YOU.”
“Thank you. I’m flattered. Have the media treated you fairly so far?”
“Well now, lemee see. Sometimes, I guess. But--sometimes not.”
“Well, once a guy called me an ‘air-head’ in his column. I didn’t like that.”
“ARE you--an ‘air-head’ ?”
“Aw, shucks, no. I’m jus’ a down-home country boy who got lucky, thas’ all.”
“Your humility is awesome.”
“Do you think ... the media has any influence on how you are seen by your fans?”
“Gosh, I suppose so. A little anyway.” And glad that he thought of it, he added with gratuitous glee: “What you see is what you get. Right, Mr. H.?”
“You can say that again, Bo. But don’t.”
“Shucks, Henry, you’r funnin’ with me, right?”
“As surely as the sun shines and the moon glows, Tyler. As surely as ‘God’s in His heaven and all’s wrong with the world.’ “
“You sure do talk funny, Henry. But now, let’s get crackin’, okay?”
“Yes, indeedy. I see--and I will,” retorted Tyler with a suddenly realized clarity that somewhat straightened-up the mocking interviewer. Tyler continued, “Can you help me?”
The star began to shine through. “By giving me a favorable review.”
“Why, of course, but that depends on you,” countered the media reporter. “What I write is what I see.”
“And WHAT do you see, Mr. Harrison?”
“I ... see... an image, not altogether substantial nor with much dimension. No offense.”
“None taken. But how can you KNOW what the real ‘Tyler Monroe’ is like?”
“You mean how can I separate the medium from the message?”
“Because the image created is all hype and designed shadow-tricks to disengage your public persona from your private self.”
“That’s a mouthful, Henry, but let me ask you another question: how can YOU be sure of YOUR writer’s mask, right or wrong?”
“Touche, Mr. Bo. I underestimated you.”
“Maybe yes, maybe no. Let’s see,” and the star rose from his seat and began to circle the room--slowly, deliberately passing around his anchored reporter.
“What are you doing, Tyler? “ asked Henry.
“Just trying to get a clearer view of you and YOUR ‘shadows.’ “
“Really?” replied Henry as he craned his neck to follow the star’s movements like a gyroscope tracking a satellite.
“Yes, really, Mr. Harrison. You see--if I am an ‘insubstantial image,’ as you say, then what are you?”
“I am a news-reporter, an interviewer drawing-out and drawing-down his subject.”
“Clear enough, I guess. But how can you tell that your ‘drawing’ is any more or less ‘substantial’ than mine?”
“Because I understand the media, and because it is my job to separate substance from shadows.”
“Of course. But which is which? How can you separate the reeler from the Reel?”
“You mean ‘the dancer from the dance’? “
“Yeah, that’s it. You DO have a way with words, Hank. You don’t mind if I call you ‘Hank,’ do you?”
“You can call me anything you freakin’ like, Beauregard, but I sure as shit know who I AM.”
“Who ARE you, Mr. Media Man?”
“Fuck you, Mr. No Man. This interview is over. Thanks for nothing,” and the reporter got up to leave.
But as he did, Tyler Monroe deftly removed a long knife from inside his flashy shirt--and stuck it very deliberately and directly into Henry’s heart, breaking it in two.
Henry, impaled and impressed, gawked in open-mouthed shock and horror, trying to utter a scream, but only muffled gasps of death sputtering from his shuddering throat as he tried to rise, overturning his chair and falling in suspended-animation to the dressing room floor with an unequivocal thud.
As he lay there dying, the star stopped circling and came to a full-stop over the now-fading media man.
“You see, Henry, reality IS ‘in the eye of the beholder’--and you can never have too much ‘reality’--or fame, wouldn’t you say, Mr. Harrison? Isn’t that what the frenzy of media madness is all about?”
Henry Harrison died that day so that a new star could be re-born, rising into the firmament of light and dark on the free and unfettered frames of fame.
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T W O
F O R
V E G A S
sunday, may 23, 2004
A P R I L 10, 11, 12
2 0 0 4
Tommy wanted to go to Vegas, so I took him; rather,
we took each other--for better or for worse. And it all
turned out better in the end.
We were on the road by Saturday noon in an April Santa
Ana, blowing out and over Los Angeles. To keep cool
as we drove steadily into higer temperatures and hotter
air, we maxed-out the A/C, drank lots of stuff, ate less
stuff and--we talked.
“What were the most important influences on your life,
Tommy?” I began, bypassing the small talk and getting
to the good stuff first. Before my driving buddy could
collect his thoughts to answer, I added, “You know, like
Schaefer beer and Trojan condoms,” just to try to take
the edge off this ridiculously significant question.
But Tommy, undaunted and not missing many beats,
responded at full-throttle. “Well, that would have to be,
first, my two sons; next, my work with the handicapped;
and last, my Alaska experience, especially with the oil
companies and the government.”
This exchange was typical of “Tommy-Lou Talk”: intro-
spective and, hopefully, insightful; direct, straight-to-the-
core issues; meaningful--oh, how meaningful, we could
only hope for; and lastly, not the least ostentatious or
corny. Why? Because we each BELIEVED in such talk
between friends who had some fifty years of history
together and apart--going back to our mutual discovery
of each other in high school and then, onward through
various partings and reunions that took us from northern
New Jersey to Boston to Alaska and New Hampshire
and, most recently, to L.A. on our way to Vegas.
The Santa Monica Freeway out of town moved steadily
into Route 10 west to the all-too-sudden turn-off north to
15 and then and after about four more hours, into Las
Vegas. Route 15 was mostly deserted desert highway
traversed by all kinds of motorized vehicles but without
a beast-of-burden in sight: Tommy missed these beasts
as he had lived, if not intimately, then knowingly with
many of god’s creatures, nobel and ignoble (moose and
fisher-cats, for instance), during his decade on the Out
Side, in Alaska.
We finally ran out of “deep thoughts” and nostalgic
palaver, which we never really did; we only pretended to
in order to give pause and rest to even the best of
conversation, more precisely “word-exchanges”
between kindred spirits. Eventually, either he or I would
put on some music, most often “Blasts from the Past,”
and since our past was the latter 1950’s, our blasts
were classic rock ‘n roll. As Fats Domino absolutely
outdid and killed Pat Boone in divergent renditions of
“Ain’t That a Shame,” we would each shout-out, over the
the music and over the hot wind of my convertible
speeding along at 80-plus miles per hour, our own hot-
air and mature phrases like, “Sheet, that ‘ol white boy
sucks.!” and “You go, Fat Man, show that honky white-
bucked preppy what for!” And on over the desert, over
the horizoned hills and down into Las Vegas, the very
real mirage that spread out before us.
Check-in was mechanically easy, the Strip hotels having
mastered and then, reduced all the shuffling of bags and
the hassling of directions to a straightforward and simple
ticketed procedure that takes the shortest duration of
time possible so that more and more guests can be
accomodated. Getting directly into one’s reserved room,
however, can be a different story. Our room was not
ready, of course, so we would have to wait. While we
waited, provincial-New England-small-villageTommy
struck up a conversation with the worldly hotel room
clerk, Enrique. By the time they had finished talking, we
had ourselves an upgrade into a ready room--thanks to
Tommy’s disingenuously genuine expressed interest in
The upgrade was in the Palace Tower, the second rung
on Ceasar’s Palace room-chain ladder, and it was a
mini-suite, meaning two connecting bathrooms with a
jacuzzi tub and a larger bedroom with a better view.
Tommy liked the mountains in the distance that ringed
the neon city because they reminded him of Nature,
especially in a town considered most unnatual by even
the Wal-Mart people who filled the streets below us.
We showered, shaved--I shaved; Tommy brushed his
gray beard--and relaxed with some imported Schafer
beers from the East Coast--and we talked some more.
“Well, my furry friend, what do you think of Las Vegas,
so far?” I asked.
“I thing I’d like to ‘get lucky’ in all possible meanings of
that phrase,” my guest replied.
“Do you think you’d recognize and realize it if you did?”
“Probably not, but that’s what I’ve got you here for, right?”
“Right you are, Mr. T., right you are--and ‘lucky’ you shall
Our first night downstairs in the bars, the casino and in
the restaurants were unlucky--except for a most unmem-
orable and rather ripped-off vodka martini with Chambord
raspberry French liqueur at a very immodest $12 each,
followed by another unlucky choice of food or what
passed for food: a BBQ indelicacy aptly named “Pulled-
Pork,” saturated with salt, more than enough to make
any functioning male run back to the room to pull his
The only antidote was, of course, more Schaefer beers,
which had saved many a New Jersey night and so, was
once again called upon to save this desert night.
“Well, what do you think now?” I resumed.
“About what?” my indulgent companion, ever resposive,
blurted out between beer-belches.
“About your ‘Pulled-Pork,’ ‘ol buddy. About this place,
you know, Las Vaguest?” I funned.
“I do believe, oh cosmopolitan one, that I haven’t seen
the real shining part yet, you know, the brightest Vega
in the firmament?”
“Firm my WHAAT?”
“Firm your sore back and your sorry ass, Louie mine.
Let’s just sleep-off the salty ocean-taste in my mouth
and the lingering Chambord scent in your nose. We’ll
talk in the morning, promise. If I can feel my tongue
again. Night, Animal. Sleep deep.”
The morning dawned bright and shiny, filtering day into
our mini-suite in shards of spinning dusty light rays that
passed around the room, probing our white bed sheets
as they moved in super slow-motion over and under the
enclosed darkness of our sleep. I was the first up and
out of my bed of back-pain and directly into a super-hot
shower and then, settling softly into an equally hot
jacuzzi tub filled with vibrating jets and whorling water
waves, I waited--in vain this time--for Tommy to
suddenly appear, camera in-hand, to posterity-snap me
in my sudsy cloud-bank.
Room service knocked and Tommy scurried into his
jeans like a snarf after a weasel and fell over his wallet,
figuring out how much to tip the centurion-servant.
When I emerged from what had now turned into a maple
syrup steam-room, there--lo and behold--on the desktop
table sat, proud as an oversized oosick in heat, a white
carafe of the finest coffee--well, as close as any large-
service hotel can get to “finest”--accompanied by two
large-sized glasses of orange juice, freshly squeezed.
“What was the tab on this sumptuous repast, my high-
rolling one?” I ventured between quick, thick terry-cloth
towel wipes of my formidable dripping body.
“Only twenty-five dollars,” squeaked my beloved fleecer,
that is, one who has been justly fleeced.
“See, I told you this town was great! Now, pour on,
most honored and honorable jaboni. And here’s to you
and to us on this, our first lark-filled day in Never Ever
Land. And may Lady Most-Whorish Luck nod us both the
head we so righteously deserve,” I managed to get off
as I raised my phosphorescently glowing O.J. glass to
my friend’s and our success this glorious day in glory-
less Lost Vegas.
And as Tommy and I imbibed our luscious liquid break-
fast and inhaled on cigar and cigarette, we read to each
other--what? Poems. Poems from his portable
Garrison Kiellor book of GOOD POEMS, as opposed to
“bad poems,” of which, I have heard, there are some.
And this WAS truly glorious, this time around, with the
images flashing, the metaphors metamorphing, and the
alliterative letters locking, knocking on our minds and
muscling-in on our emotions--until, until one could / WE
could actually HEAR Old Blue Eyes himself “weeping
from wooden joists and rafters--and it WAS grand.”
After we came down--stairs from breakfast, we went
up again, this time up two towering escalators into the
Emperor’s Tower, the top rung of Caesar’s food-chain of
ultra-decadent accomodations. The sliding steel-stairs
rose up and up some fifty yards each until until we finally
stepped out onto an inch-thick plush, purple carpet that
rolled on down a wide hall the length of two football
At the near end of this expanse of royal rug, stood two
all-white pianos, Elton John-like, clashing unceremon-
iously in their twin ostentatious presence, itching to be
played upon by some passing plebian. Enter
Tommy’s fingers moved gently and deliberately over the
black and white keys, piecing together both classic and
pop melodies while he accompanied himself with
singing in lower keys the words to the songs he, this
piano-man, played. I sat on the edge of the pianos, as
he moved from one to the other, just taking it all in and
wandering in pleasure at my friend’s hidden talent.
“Tommy, I never heard you play before. I like it. And
thank you for performing for me. It’s not quite Nat King
Cole, but I do like it, I really do.”
After a few more bars, we were off on our semi-obliga-
tory walk of the Strip. We passed hotel after hotel, one
more amazingly garish than the last one as we wended
our way through throngs of overweight people in loud-
colored shirts and mismatched shorts, pushing baby-
strollers and speaking in foreign tongues, about what,
we had no idea. I think that they were “oohing and
ahhing” at the man-made marvels around them, but we
weren’t sure. Perhaps, their guttering sounds were
saying, “Ech, theese is all vestern infidels’ pig-meat,
unclean and not strong like red-brick shit-house back in
Yemen. Vee shall berrry zem. But dat Elton John, he
one very ‘cool cat’. “
It was getting late on in the afternoon and the desert sun
was beginning to sink lower in the sky, glaring our eyes
as we pushed toward it and our hotel oasis. We had
tickets to a real, live Vegas show tonight, and we
wanted to rest and drink some more cooling Schaefers
before we went out on-the-town for the evening.
We exited later into the blaring casino lobby dressed in
sport jackets, slacks and turtle-necked outfits.
Tommy looked a little like Colonel Schweppes and I, like
a poor man’s godfather. But WE were dressed, more
than could be said for the capri-clad mammas and the
Hawaiian-shirted papas that milled and pushed about us,
trying not to lose their places in line. And so, WE stood
out. So much so that, when we entered the showroom,
the maitre-d asked us if we were “winners or losers?”
“Winners,” I quickly shot back and he, the maitred-d,
walked us to his “best table” at center stage. I did not
tip him because we were NOT “winners,” not yet.
The Second City Comedy Group were satiric, profane,
irreverent, and silly: a mediocre show for a medium-
priced ticket at $28. When one considers that the head-
liners command upwards of $100 a seat, it’s a wonder
that we were entertained at all; but we were, even
laughing out-loud at certain sketches and at some of the
more witty lines. “Death is easy; COMEDY is hard,” I
whispered to Tommy on our way out into the cooling
night air. He hadn’t heard that one--and he smiled.
We hopped a cab and made it downtown for the last
Laser Light Show of the night at the canopy-covered
street dotted with sore-necked, upward-gazing tourists.
The show was a funky ‘60’s psychedelic display of
primary colors and morphing shapes into flowers into
faces that lasted all of eleven minutes; then, silence
and natural light returned, or as natural as gaseous neon
can be. Tommy was caught for a while in the after-glow
of this ghoulish display of hyper-teched art and so,
wandered briefly between Vegas imagination and reality.
Stalls and stands lined the thoroughfare, selling all kinds
of super-schlock souvenirs and gadgets--from flashing
light-bulbed-framed picture plates of Jesus and Vishnu
to toys like the one that caught Tommy’s eye: it was a
piece of fur, which was supposed to be a “weasel,”
attached by a very short piece of string-wire to a battery-
powered ball that made the ball gyrate, thus simulating
a very active little “weasel chasing a live ball.” This
quasi-magic act was displayed on the ground in front of
us, contained in a cut-down cardboard box in which ball
and attached varmint bounced and ricocheted off its four
corrugated sides. Behold--the come on.
Tommy glazed down at this ten-dollar joke, asked me
what I thought, to which inquiry, I responded: “Whatever
turns you--and your ‘weasel’--on. Yes, definitely, every
grown man should have his very own private ‘weasel.’
Buy it--or you’ll never forgive yourself.”
My friend hesitated for a few more moments, eyed the
nasty little minx, then reached into his navy blazer and
pulled out--no, not his “own weasel” but his wallet and
popped it open and gave the huckster twenty-dollars for
TWO would-be “weasels”: one for his own amusement
and the other for his girlfriend’s obnoxiously yapping and
snapping little dacshund. Short of “drop-kicking” his
Lady Love’s precious treasure out of the nearest open
window, Tommy hoped that this intrepid and neurotically
twitching piece of rag-on-a-rope would, at least, alienate
his woman’s pest-of-a-pet from nipping at his heels as
he walked around her house bare-assed after they had
finished servicing each other. I am still waiting to hear a
report on his success or failure in this clever endeavor.
I told Tommy that “drop-kicking” was more direct and
certain of definite results, but he only said that he’d
“think about it.”
Back on the Strip again and having just stepped-out of
Tequila Bar in Bally’s, we were on our sleepy way to our
cozy, quiet and safe hotel room for what was left of a
fast-passing night before we had to drive the five hours
back to L.A. in the high-afternoon heat--when we were
approached and stopped by a lovely young blonde
woman--as fesh and clean as a New Hampshire
sring’s dawn--who spoke to Tommy, as I stood to
one side observing. Their conversation went as
“Excuse me,” she began in perfect English,” would you
please take a picture of me?” holding out a throw-away
flash camera to Tommy, who just stood there, kind of
She continued, “ I just left my husband back at the Paris,
drunk in the bar. I think I’m heading for a divorce.” It was
two in the morning, and no one else was on the streets.
Tommy took the beautiful young lady’s cardboard
camera--gallantly--already “in-love” with this poor,
abused and victimized gorgeous creature of the night.
Then, he posed her for her souvenir snapshot of
“the time she wandered, alone and abandoned on the
cold and empty streets of Las Vegas,” looking only for a
Tommy / John she could call her own.
Tommy tentatively handed the camera back to Cinderlla,
pausing, but not “going for it,” because he just “wasn’t
sure.” She thanked him quietly and, then, almost shyly,
she retreated down the empty boulevard, leaving
Tommy looking after her in confused adoration.
When she was finally out-of-sight, my friend turned to me
and said, simply, “What just happened?”
“A beautiful young woman asked you to take her
“Yes, that’s what I thought. Now, tell me--what REALLY
“You were just hustled by a working-girl, but you weren’t
buying. That’s all.”
“Are you SURE? She looked SO nice and SO sad!”
“Well, you think what you want, whatever makes you
feel good--and I’ll just shut up, okay?”
We continued our walk back across the Strip to
Caesar’s Palace, Tommy pausing every once in awhile
to go over in his mind what had just happened, WHAT-
EVER it was. “You know, Louie, I’m going to hold-out
for the twenty-percent chance that she WAS telling the
truth. She looked--SO NICE!”
“Better make that five-percent--and that’s stretching it.”
Bumping up against reality, he snapped back, “Shit! Am
I an idiot or what? I could have had her for the night.
“No, you couldn’t have, not in OUR room where I need
to get some sleep if YOU want to make your plane
“Yeah, you’re right. I couldn’t have afforded her AND
another room. But she looked--SO NICE!”
“Yes, she did. She was--VERY NICE.”
And so, Tommy slept on it, or with it, hard and fast in his
mind AND in-hand. I just slept.
Our last morning in Vegas came and went--with more
coffee, orange juice and GOOD POEMS. I read Tommy
one entitled “The Excrement Poem” by a Maxine
Kumin, a former politico of New Hampshire, Tommy
confided to me, feeling a bit shitty himself this morning.
I repeated the poem’s last line for his disillusioned
benefit: “I honor shit for saying: We go on.”
“Do you think that’s where the expression, ‘Shit
happens’ comes from, Tommy?”
“Yeah, shit DOES happen.”
“So, can we ‘go on’ now?”
“Yes, let’s do that.”
And we did.
E N D
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W H A T’ S W R O N G W I T H A M E R I C A ?
“MONEY is the answer...’It’s MONEY makes the world go ‘round, the world go ‘round...
It’s MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, MONEY, MONEY... that makes the world
go ‘round’ “--it is.
Our 229-year-old social experiment called “America” has gone off-course, crashed and is
burning around our ears as we crowd and crush our ways through the WALMARTS of our
land and decimate ourselves into debt--moved by a post-modern materialistic world gone
wild on T-H-I-N-G-S plus the palpable sickness, the disease also rampant in our once-
upon-a-nation-with-a-vision: now, the making of money for money’s sake alone--NOT
for what it can do for you, that is, in producing a cultural I.Q. above that of a Mickey Mouse
hat but for how much “mo’ money blues” we can suffer, store and hoard, not even out of
a misguided sense of insecurity but out of pure, white-hot greed.
And it is this engine of our national obsession with greed and with our all-consuming
consumerism that has and is infecting our collectivle consciousness with the omnipresent
feeling of a pervasive discontent, unhappiness and downright despair: our national
malaise that we carry around with us like some insatiable incubus that is sucking the life out
of our souls, in addition to our bulging credit-card wallets while riding “above it all” in our
THAT is what is wrong with America--and there is nothing on the immediate horizon that
gives the slightest indication of a shift in this ill wind.
But WHY? I want to know WHY because if someone can explain WHY--logically,
calmly and rationally and without shouting at me--then, maybe, just maybe, we can fix it.
If not, then forget it and just fall in-line for the next K-MART blue-light special and enjoy
the newest Disneyland ride: “THE FALL OF AMERICA, THE NEW ROME.”
WHY? Is it because the world has always split itself into “the haves” and the “have nots”--
instinctually, reflexively, unavoidably? “America” was to be AN answer to that
eternal schism, a place where YOU--the average hard-working individual
with some vision--would, could and did achieve his dreams. THAT is what “America” was
until something went dreadfully wrong. WHAT? And WHEN? I believe that this
purposeful accident began to happen after JFK, continued through the tragedy of LBJ
and culminated in the obsessivbe-compulsive venality of Nixon. Before Nixon, our
leaders HAD a sense and a source of tradition and an accepted culture: that of Europe and
the western world going back to the Greeks and up through the Renaissance of
Michelangelo, Leonardo, the artistic city-states of northern Italy--all firmly anchored and
given a unifying mythology by the Catholic Church: its doctrines, its art and its leadership
that held up the post-medieval world and kept it from falling into the inferno of the new
merchants of spice, silks and its revolutionary mercantalism as the new economic-political
system of powerful emerging nation-states.
JFK was the last--and lost--leader who understood where we had come from, and they
killed him. “Politics” has now replaced reason, learning, beauty, belief and civilized dialogue
between and among, granted, ruthless men but men who were joined at the hip by their
common bond of a meaningful culture.
That has all gone now. And what has replaced it is a devouringly destructive anti-culture of
materialism for materialism’s sake. We no longer revere art; we idolize our “American idols”
of no-talent into vehicles of pop-kitsch in order to promote and sell $10-dollar movie
tickets. We no longer commission carefully crafted works of art by concerned and aware
patrons and through genuine and euphorically creative competition; rather, we commit
atrocities of unrealistic “reality shows” by on-the-make television producers manufactured
through the eyes of arrestedly developed non-writers. “We write not of the heart but of
the glands.” We have lost our way and wander in a desert of decadence.
And our “good life,” just about rotten to the core and ready to fall from the money vine,
heavy with the maggot meat of real estate overdevelopment that is growing like cancerous
tumors on our shrinking landscapes, is, nay, has spread to “five McDonald’s Eateries” per
European, Asian, South American, Australian, Middle Eastern and African capital city.
English is the universal language of business and we are “giving the business”--literally
and figureatively--to all those countries who are lining up to cooperate, conspire, collude
and collect with us the unvictorious spoils of an uncivil civilization.
There is NOTHING WRONG with THE PEOPLE OF AMERICA: they are just fine--
caring, generous and concerned. IT IS OUR LEADERS who are the problem, along with
the CORPORATE POWER STRUCTURE of this country: they are infested with
special interests, lies, and greed. But then, again, NOTHING IS, INDEED, FREE. So,
this is the price we pay to live and prosper in the “GREATEST COUNTRY ON EARTH.”
And compared to the other countries on the globe, AMERICA isn’t doing that badly.
We are presently engaged in the world’s most crucial war, the ever ongoing war against
terror. The future of all modern civilization is at stake in this particularly and peculiarly
American-led high-stakes poker game-to-the-death for the lives of ALL our loved-ones--
from the three religious factions of a now struggling-to-be-free Iraq to us, here in our
insecure homeland, no longer invulnerable to attack from outside forces. And WHAT is
,at least, 40% of this country’s response to our leaders--and our military--who are trying
to keep another air-crafted missile from ripping through our already burned and scarred
national psyche? Reviling, venemous, pure white-hot hate. WHY? (This WHY depends
on how deeply one goes, and is allowed to go, into the heart of America’s darkest secrets).
For if one plumbs and then, plummets to the bottom of a mind-set so angry and resentful
of a man who is trying to only protect us from an otherwise certain and horrible death at the
hands of a methodically insane group of wholly committed religious fanatics, what one can
only be afraid of finding is the root cause of this minority’s loathing hostility. And that marrow
is--again, still and ever--the same self-absorbed and indulgently preoccupied concern with
“the economy” and how this particular politico is as corrupt, hypocritical and power-hungry
as ANY other former leaders-of -the-free-world: YES, this administration is as imperfect
as ALL of our governments heretofore have been. WHY? Because this is the nature
of power’s corrupting ALMOST absolutely.
And anyone who actually believes that our government and its brain-distrust of corporate
advisers went to war in Iraq “for oil” may have some oil of his own--on his brain. Our
government went to war, first and formeost, to protect us from another 9/11attack by an
intermingled matrix of countries--symbolized by one country and its defiant leader--with the
common “jihadist” goal of destroying “the infidel,” us, America and all its allies and protesting
allies. America, the great “unclean porcine animal” that eats its own farrow may have
“deserved” to be attacked in its soft underbelly but NOT by 19 unholy martyrs
commandeering four aircraft into two towers of world finance and one symbol of arrogant
military might, slaughtering 3,000 innocents in the fiery malestrom that ensued.
Only later, AFTER the major militalry campaign of ousting Saddam Hussein and his
barbaric regime had succeeded, did the incarnate American swine--under the corporate
greed-head banners of Bechtel and Halliburton--emerge to attempt to grab Iraqi resources,
as well as their own government’s resources for American business--what “makes America
Even if ALL the failed nation-states on this poverty-stricken and hungry globe we call Earth
were NOT failed, poverty-stricken and hungry, we--the other “haves” of this “have not”
unfair world--would still be experiencing this would-be holocaust and reign of terror. WHY?
Because of the competition of our gods: Allah over Jaweh, Mohammed over Jesus,
Buddah over Vishnu--”my god against your god” to prove which one has the more
“righteous anger.” “Vengeance is” no longer “the lord’s” (whoever and whatever THAT is),
but now belongs to his ideological disciples who interpret, decide and mete out revenge
with their own twisted visions of “divine retribution” on all those who “worship false gods.”
IDEOLOGY and GREED, organized and orchestrated by governments and religions
(and sometimes by religious governments like the fallen Taliban in Afghanistan and the
ongoing theocracy in Iran) have brought this once beautiful planet--in all of its primordial
violence AND peace--to the brink of, not nuclear extinction (our universal physical fear of
the ‘50’s and ‘60’s) but to the stained edges of bio-chemical virulents and suicide-bombers
who may make the “world end” in neither “a bang (nor) a whimper” but in a shrapnel-filled
atmosphere of choking poisons.
YES, we have ALL contributed to the spoiling of our great American experiment, myself
included, in a mere 229 years. What happens next and where we go from here is
speculation. But and if the world moves in cycles, perhaps the next wave by might just
bring us back to the past in our moves back to the future with our dogged attempts to try to
recapture our once golden heritage-and meaningful culture.
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D Y L A N T H O M A S’ LAUGHARNE
Laugharne is just as Thomas described it :
“sleepy, narrow-streeted, gull-filled,
curve of sea and bend of bay,
castle-promontoried--and dull, dull, dull.”
His “Boat House” residence (now a museum) plus his nearby (fifty yards away)
tiny, blue garage-converted-into-his-”writing-tomb” are on a rise lookng-out over the entire Laugharne Estruary with the ocean in the lighted and far distance : a motivationally inspirational site to write poetry from if there ever was one. But the “whorling words,” like the circling gulls, became HIS master and led him by THEIR
“singing chains” and “up to THEIR swallow-thronged loft” to his early grave, not in his “beloved-awe-full seaside town,” but rather in the fetid air of a New York City Third Avenue bar where he, in word-thought-and-deed, did commit suicide by downing “eighteen straight whiskey-shots” in a row after having been told by his New York doctor that--”if you have ONE more drink, Mr. Thomas, you shall kill yourself.” He did NOT die of an “unknown illness” nor of a “massive insult to his brain.” The only “insult” was HIS own action of succumbing to his ghost-demon DEATH and of the fulfilling of his “death-wish defiance” foolosophy that--”every moment you are living, you are also dyng,” so why not REALLY “live-it-up” !
What an unfathomable WASTE of such a God-given and HUGE talent for the indulgent and childish fit of a man-boy who, in Freud’s words, had “over-rationalized a profound revulsion” (i.e., against age and death’s inevitability).
But is there MORE here--in this loss of an angel-tongued magician of words?
If there is, perhaps it is this : that the required “price” that one MUST pay for a talent of SUCH magnitude is seduction BY that talent until the “hearer” of Dylan’s word-sounds-into-miraculous-meanings cannot tell who or which is “wrighting” whom.
That, together with the intensity’s power of his mind’s ear and eye, bordering precipitously on the edges of self-destructive madness, is what finally “done-him-in.”
It was Dylan’s weakness and self-absorbed volition that he not only surrendered to BOTH of these twin-demons but that he also aided and abetted their hold and control over him until he, perhaps, HAD “no other choice” BUT to do what he did: kill himself, in-effect, because HE-ALONE could not “defeat Death.”
WHAT ARROGANT CRAP!
So, sleep well, our Dylan--you enfant-terrible
you God-like singer
I, for one, would have liked to hear more--and more “controlled” use--of your golden-notes. But nothing is , indeed, free--and you gave us all you could. And for
THAT I am thankful--and forever in your debt.
--Wednesday, August 11, 1999, in Laugharne
where Dylan’s ghost “labors yet by spinning
light--for the lovers, their arms ‘round the grief
of the ages, who pay no praise or wages/
Nor heed (his) craft or art.”
--Thursday, August 12, 1999, still in Laugharne
Awoke at 4:30 , up and out to the Estruary by 5:30, for the sunrise dawn’s
calling-and-cawings of the birds and the rolling-along with the subtle stirs-of-the-waters : a morning’s mourning musicale to the new day. Welsh gulls flap glidingly, slicing the rosy-hued bluing-sky as high contrails of intersecting lines turn incandescent from the far-away streaks of crossing planes. A rush of softing wings flutter noisily when a clump of gulls lift in-unison into the cooling air. “Light breaks and (not) the crow makes wing to the rooky wood” but rather the clinking bottles and motor-hums of restaurant delivery trucks in the narrow, still-sleeping streets of the town “call quick”--and make their daily rounds.
Incrementally, the lighting sounds of the day all fall-into their proper slots and begin to align themselves for another go-at another time and another place.
On Wednesday evening, Viv and I , after having finally escaped a wonderful meal at THE local “Welsch Restaurant” together with two overly friendly and apparently starved-for-chatter with two visiting “American Afficianados,” found our short way up and down one of the wending streets to the BAR of Brown’s Hotel and sat in the very small room where the great poet had once sat--and stood--and more likely sat again after having “cleared-the-place-out” with one of his regular impromptu and inebriated uncommand performances, say of--”And death/Shall have/No/Do-min-i-on...”
Viv drank her Bailey’s On-the-Rocks (as its sign on its upside-down hanging bottle behind the bar proclaimed) and I my double-Hennesey’s while around us in the now (and most likely then) dilapidated room sat a trio (two men and one woman) in one corner, drinking-down their drinks, smoking, and talking sotto voce-animatedly; a sole man, forlorn and lonely, thirsty, and/or just plain drunk on a shaky bar stool at one-end of a briefly-curving bar; and the bar-keep herself this evening--a shortish, pig-faced, dour, homely woman with a bit of a moustache who took my orders with curt and almost surly efficiency (“These god-damned Dylan-worshipping tourists! Why can’t they all just go back where they bloody came from and--LEAVE US ALONE--but with their coppers in our coffers?’)
After our one-drink maximum, Lady Vye and I wound our way back through Laugharne’s now totally deserted ten-o’clock crooked streets to our bed and breakfast lodging for the night--a small green-stuccoed building book-ended between the owner’s family “Rose and Crown Restaurant” on the one-side and on t’other by the gift-shop “Choices” (run by a pleasantly middel-aged “farm woman” who had a surprisingly good collection of Thomas books, audio and video tapes, and posters: where we got Mary Ann’s “love spoon”)--by the white placard-proclaimed name of “MILKWOOD.”
(There are LOTS of “MILKWOODS” in and about Laugharne now.)
In all, a most enjoyable journey and an entirely pleasant stay-over in a town that IS, in-fact as well as in-many words, genuinely beautiful still--beyond “quaint, cute, and charming” : in short, the real thing. Yet over all of this quiet and suspended gorgeosity, there yet hangs--like the morning’s moving mists over the slow-flowing Estruary--the lingering pall of the death of “the dying of the light” but with NONE of the “rage, rage” against it. Laugharne, to me, was a sad town (just like Dylan’s “father, there on his sad height” whom he admonished to “curse, bless him now /with his fierce tears”)--a living reminder to what once was and is no more.
R. I. P., Dylan : you are stilled here. (@ 6:30 AM)
T H E D Y L A N T H O M A S E N I G M A R E S O L V E D ?
I now think that I have both figured-out and accepted WHY the great-voiced man-child--one DYLAN THOMAS of Swansea and Laugharne, Wales, AND of the East Coast of America and its more exclusive academic brothels--killed himself with his “eighteen whiskies” at the ripe old age of 39 on November 4, 1953 (to die five days later in hospital with his furied wife, Caitlin McNamara, by his side) :
As I have said in my very meagre lyric in my UNCOMMON POEMS (not fit to occupy the same space as this discussion of Dylan)--
“Bright burned your life’
A flame too intense to survive...
For what-you-felt at what-you-saw...”
ANY writer who daily, weekly, monthly, yearly (for thrity-nine long and full ones) labors on SUCH a level as Dylan Thomas did cannot help but “burn himself, from the blazing insides, out--to the almost parched paper upon which he wrights”; but he also cannot help but become so filled with “what-he-felt at what-he-saw” : the insuperable inhumanities and atrocities of the world rent by war, ignorance, and time--so that no wonder, at all, that he clamped-onto his deadly philosophy that “from the moment of your neighing birth, every second you are living, you are slowly or quickly (as in his case) dying.”
And maybe it wasn’t so much his trying (vainly, as he knew all too well and with all the other grand-illusioned romantics who have preceded and since followed him) to “out-distance, out-wit, and ultimately over-come Death itself.” So, the only way to “beat Death” was to BECOME an integral part of and with it--for Dylan, unlike his metaphysical and more staunchly sober and religiously hardened predecessor, John Donne, was just not satisfied with out-maneuvering Death ON-PAPER (“Death, Thou shalt die”) but had to “do-the-deed” in the flesh and with his hand-to-his-mouth.
Who knows or who can presumptuously presume to “know” what flaming thoughts went on and passed through Dylan’s teeming-with-words mind? I don’t.
Perhaps, the real wonder of Dylan is that he lasted as long as he did: thirty-
nine years, when Keats--Thomas’ model that he “said” he set-out to be “better than,” and maybe he just did--died at the even more tragically younger age of twenty-six (but of natural causes : tuberculosis AND of a broken-heart delivered with full-force by his idealized and idolized but quite unrequited love, Miss Fanny Brawne).
If Dylan had been only just a wee bit, not a lot, LESS of an angelically demonic singer and necromancer-of-words and an ostensibly automatic obsessive-compulsive
hearer of their sounds ; perhaps, it was the WORDS that, in the final appraisal and analysis (for what any mere “analysis” can be worth in the face of real, physical-mental-emotional-spiritual turmoil and chaos rent-into-order by the omnipotent shaper-of-language) that , first, created him and then, finally, destroyed him. I, we, shall never know--except by reading-hearing his echoing syllables written in his “chemic blood” and in loving anger-rage at “what-he-felt at what-he-saw.”
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