Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Partisan

The tables and chairs began to occur like chance along the walkway, and if you sit, then someone will bring you something. It's like love. I sat. There is a nondescript young lady across from me. She says nothing, and neither do I. Ain't love grand?

I am brought the news that a certain Count has completed a project very dear to me. It wasn't, but I'm always glad to hear the news. What was the project?

Something involving an array of firearms. There is a picture of many pistols on a graph. It's supposed to be very creative. I am conscious that I am accepting regurgitated public wisdom again. I nod and grin. Here he comes, through the tables, smiling in the sun; the Count.

I stand and make to introduce my companion and the Count. Which isn't easy; I do not know the names of either. So I simply stall on names. "Count, this is - " and allow her to prompt me. "And this is Count - " and he gives the complete title. I promptly forget both names.

He has a model of his creation, which he sets before me with a flourish. We move off in various directions during the course of the general decorum of the setting, and when I return to the table, I find a note on the Count's graph.

"We in The League can no longer sustain you as a member. We are sorry, but your contribution to this atrocity is beneath our great mission and earnest hopes." There is a token messenger from The League, standing with great tacit opprobrium nearby.

Now she is reading me off quite proper. She repeats the dire terms of ostracism. When she is done and awaiting a reply, I say, "Okay."

She is disappointed. She had expected more turmoil, a row, maybe overturned chairs for the cause. But, really, my interest in the Count's project or The League either is no more heartfelt than my coming by the chairs and tables and the lady love and sitting there. I move off with precisely the same dedication as brought me to sit down in the first place.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Incipient Frenzy

The baby was placed in the walkway, sitting, with his toys and accoutrements stacked around him. He sat there, alone. Someone had decided they didn't want him, so just put him down, like an item in a store she at first wanted but thought better of it.

I am utterly disgusted. I go to the baby, take one of the items stacked beside him, and toss it behind me in the direction of a passel of matrons with strollers and shopping carts. It nearly hits one, who is aghast.

The area is like those grassy winding walkways of military bases. I pick up the infant and begin walking with him. There are now more and more others walking, with babies and carts, and there is some anxiety, an incipient frenzy. I realize the ladies back where I threw the carton have called the authorities, and everyone understands something has happened.

Not an abandoned baby, but a package tossed in anger, that's the trouble. I hurry now. There is a path beside the one leading to the main gate. I tell the baby to please wait on this bench, and I place him on it. I will go and move my auto and be right back. I avoid the gate and enter the lower parking lot. I am exposed to view but unnoticed.

We escape.

But now my companion is a rangy, thin pup, legs like a birdog. He is now cavorting over the trailer back of me. I'm driving a truck now. The pup worries me; he is bounding about back there.

I must work now. The pup is safe, but I've missed something back on the line. It's my old job as a Swiss extruder operator. For some reason, that job I left in 1969 recurs. Here, all my machines are down and one is running good wire, but on a scrap reel.

All I have to do is wind it onto a good reel and sell it. The wire is gray, an unusual color. I must set it up to wind, meanwhile watching the pup I have rescued. The job is going wrong; it always does in my dreams, and mostly back in reality. I worked for nearly twenty six years after that Swiss job, and yet that's the one that comes back most often. I don't know why that is.

I am working at making do with a mess, as always, but at least the pup is safe.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

And the Band Played On

The way we enter now, is, he said, and he began to climb pegs up the wall.

The villa was lemon stucco and it was vast. Niki J was looking for something I thought utterly worthless and so naturally she pursued and I watched in some dismay as she stepped on up the wall after him.

He was a subaltern, and he presented us with a closure of a conflict with the owner, who was an eccentric but presumably harmless crackpot. The lieutenant said, we'll close the claim on the cable. Okay, that sounds good. The crackpot had engaged us in a dispute over a cable for which we were not even responsible.

"But then there is the water damage, and we must be compensated ..." I blew up. You say we are to drop all claims and then be held liable for damages. He tried to assert himself, but I say, "You cannot even sign on this matter, can you?" No, he admitted. It was a waste.

Next picture, a cop of the sort you find in quaint dusty Mexican villages is confronting me. He makes to apply handcuffs. The crackpot has told him I am a bank robber, he informs me. I am again exasperated. I make the usual threats of the consequences of false arrest.

It goes away. There is on a screen on the wall a video clip of the antics of the balmy baron. He is in a theatrical disguise; wig and three-corner hat and droopy mustache, and he is dancing a sort of loping nursing home ramble. His wealth is such that nobody ever seems to tell him he isn't really getting over.

A wan maid, young, like an au pair, is mooning about. She is losing her job. She seems despondent. We talk to her some, and she doesn't mind talking. She is losing her job on some impulse of the crackpot.

Now here he is in the flesh. He has a picture. He says, it's you. I have you, right there.

What is this? I ask. It's a series of shots of old guys.

"The band of the Titanic," said the kook. I groan.

"The Titanic went down in 1912," I say.

"1920," he corrects incorrectly.

"Besides, none of them survived."

He doesn't say anything, but he doesn't seem to think my comment has any bearing at all on the subject. I stare at the photos.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Playing in the Park

At a desk inside a large extravaganza remindful of Bellagio's, they are handing out complimentary envelopes to all guests. I am designated for some reason as a courier. I am to deliver plenty of other envelopes to others.

Inside each envelope is ten thousand in cash, compliments of the house.

I say to Niki J as we proceed along one of many elaborate hallways, "Do you know how much money I have in my pocket?" Yet absconding with the funds never really occurs to me. Besides, even if I did, an alarm would most likely sound once I hit the exit.

Where is Scoobie? I am forever losing contact with my pal in my dreams. We leave him in a city? How can this be? Yet there he is, across a busy city multi-lane roadway, playing with other pups in a park. It's like I have a stroke and when I recover I'm without my boy.

I run to him. I am sprinting, and somehow not at all tired. I must ascend a hill into the park, and I do, at full blast.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Big Box

Inside a warehouse, there are many workers, and they are building a huge box. They rush here and back with tools and they apply them to a job and then they rush off somewhere else. The box is the size of a dumpster.

There is an indistinct, anonymous politician up on a catwalk with an entourage. They are watching the construction of the box with great approval. Sometimes somebody will pat the politician on the back, and he'll nod, and they'll all continue smiling down at the box and the workers constructing it.

I know I should recognize the politician. He's always on TV, in the papers. But they're starting to run together, like penguins. They're all slick and smiling and their images are like a mass entangling of photons. If one of them orients in one direction, another will be moving exactly the opposite in reaction.

It's a nuclear power plant, I'm told by someone who knows. I say, that dumpster? Well, it was once as big as a building,with other Politicians high up in a skyscraper smiling down at the construction site. But this Politician stopped it in Congress because it had been suggested by another Politician. That one would have powered a city forever. But this one, he scotched it, and now it's dead in the water.

So some blamed him. And he hurriedly before the next primary kicked off a smaller projet. This one is 10% of the other, and it will power one household forever. There's to be a lottery to determine which household. The Politician is taking credit for saving lots for the taxpayers.

Friday, November 23, 2007


I have a newsmagazine, I say. I don't remember which one. I don't read the cover to find out. I tell this one, a stranger standing on the street, I say, it includes a film clip. Isn't that marvelous?

He says, says this one on the street, oh, boy, more TV.

I say, yes, but it's a newsmagazine. His eyes glaze over, and I've missed my ride home in the telling.

I set out walking. The route is from my old high school home, forty years ago and more, but I set out.

Someone in a pickup picks me up. Hi, he says. I'm Mitch Romney. I'd like to be your president.

I determine to remember what he says so I can tell Niki J when I'm home. Maybe this guy is famous. He might even be in the newsmagazine. I listen very carefully, and he doesn't stop talking. It's as if he's broadcasting. I don't feel the need to say anything at all, because once I begin to encourage him to continue, he's already continued over me anyway. I just nod and act interested, like back in school.

So I just listen closely.

And when I'm home, I rush to tell Niki J. I say, guess who I rode home with. Mike Romney, the presidential candidate!

Oh, says Niki J, without pausing what she's doing, which has nothing to do with Mick Romney nor politics either. What did he say?

That's the funny part, I say, puzzled. I don't know.

You rode home with him and you don't know what he said?

No, I admitted.

He must be the quiet sort.

No, no, he talked the whole ride. It's just - his words were like breathing. They didn't cling together. They didn't say anything. They were exactly like the hum of the engine. It's a complete mystery. I thought at the time we were having a conversation, I mean, the sort you have with politicians anyway, and now that I reflect on it, there was nothing there.

What's that you have in your hand?

What? Oh, this. It's a newsmagazine. With the most remarkable content: a video clip! Inside the magazine!

Whoopee, says Niki J. More TV.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Movie Star Map

I am seeing a mysterious inset in the lower right corner of a colorful fan magazine page.

It's an obscure lifelike drawing of figures in some indistinguishable action. It makes perfect sense to me. I realize however that most likely not another human on the planet would understand it. To them it's probably like the inexplicable drawings in New Yorker which have nothing to do with the story, or like all the other photos in this and any magazine. But this one contains more important data than anywhere else on the page, in the magazine, in any other magazine. I am so amazed by this.

We have been a long ways off visiting, and now it's time to go. We set to go, dreading the long voyage home. There is someone in a long elaborate vehicle. Very delicate, for he is deliberately wrecking it. Making a false move at the wheel and the expensive contraption crinkles like crackers and I turn and walk away.

There is Rita, my sister-in-law, standing on a large platform in the shape of a twin bed. She is on the top bunk, and it teeters, because it overruns the bed below. She steps on the unsupported edge and it tilts. I see there is no danger. She will only fall harmlessly onto another bed. I am not alarmed. She does fall exactly where physics demands. I realize it is an accident, but not a very serious one.

After much thought, I suddenly realize there is a firm and fast link between the two events and the graphic in the magazine, for the drawing describes and identifies the rest. I am certain of this. I can see it all. It's like the first time some human looked up at the stars and beheld the very image of a bull. I see it all. I am utterly astonished.

Then more so, as I also become slowly aware. Someone designed the graphic. I'm not alone. Someone intended this.

I look all around, then up at the stars.

Monday, October 01, 2007


I work in a comic book network. I do some drafting, some lettering, come up with some ideas. I am struggling. You can tell from my work I'm struggling.

Almost anyone can draw better than me, letter better, come up with better ideas sometimes. I am desperate, actually, if you want to know. I may not be here much longer.

I see something. Sometimes, I do. That's why I'm still here. There is a story in the news. I see the story. An aging pop star of sorts who has become a noble has had a picture in an exhibition confiscated. What was in the picture?

Little girls at play. One of them quite exposed.

I do a frame consisting of a drawing of the exact scene. I don't really see any sense to it. But I'm sure those who are better able to gauge artistry than I will do so here. I ink in every detail of this rather sorry snapshot.

My editor says, are you sick? There is nothing that can redeem a disgusting exploitation of children. She shrugs, sneaks copies of the graphic story out to where the usual moral bleaters will see it. They do see it.

Along about the time the comic comes out, so does the clamour and outrage. Oh, the sin, the depredation, the utter depravity! and the comics fly off the shelves.

For the next printing, we added a bit of whimsy, some sardonic dialogue fore, and a bit of irony aft, and the frame ran as before. We added a banner proclaiming this the Satiric Issue.

We set a record in sales, and I suppose the pews also were filled up, so everybody was happy. It's what makes us strong.

I look for the next inspiration from pop culture, as do, I'm sure, the preachers.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Who's Sorry Now?

I am in bed with Connie Francis.

She is smiling up from under me in full album-cover makeup.

Scene wipes like a movie. I'm now riding with Connie Francis in an auto. She shows me a picture. It's like George Grosz, a bad drawing with an odd perspective. Maybe a Picasso, with two figures engaged and another one a bit apart. Connie Francis says, remember this from last night? And I smile and nod and remember nothing.

Our land is on many levels, and down in the lower quadrant of our grounds like it never was, an auto is backing into the brush off our driveway. Wait, hold it!

It goes through the bushes, and I see it's actually a gate I never knew was there. I approach carefully. On the other side there are many animals, some quite exotic, inside dark bars like a zoo. I stare.

Ask Niki J. Do you know there's a petting zoo just beyond our drive? There's even a gate I didn't know about. Neither did she.

But now, closer to home, we have (in the dream) a stand-up natural gas wall heater. Only ... there's another one, roughly bolted to it. Somebody else, I conclude, is leaching off our heat for their own. How can this be? I ask Niki J. No, she wasn't aware of it at all.

But now I must go down. There is a tunnel, spiraling, ever downward. It's so far down the air pressure is very light, as if we're on high. But, strangely, we are able to go down deep into the earth very quickly.

We cannot stay here. We'll develop depth sickness. It's why our national culture is so superficial, after all. But we must bring back the clothing on hangers in the chamber. Yes, of course we must. But there are so many of them, brocade gowns, heavy cloaks. Why are there so many? We cannot carry it all. But we must make do. I begin gathering hangers.

In the auto, I ask Connie Francis, "So, do you still see Dick Clark?" She is to my left, facing forward now. I suppose someone else is driving, because she doesn't seem to be doing anything but musing. "No," she says simply, then, very softly, "I must get out of here."

Dissolve. Our wall heater stands alone now. And the brush down in the lower section, it probably no longer has a gate. Yes, yes, I'm sure of it.

Wait, what's happening on this set? I look in.

Colonel Bureagard over there is sitting on a camp stool. He is waiting for the President-Elect. Lincoln has not taken office yet. Here, Mr President, says the Colonel. I must show you something.

He's a naturalist, the Colonel is, but he used his drawing talent to record what he had seen among the Seminoles in Florida during a recent field trip. He knows his old law partner Lincoln will give him a meeting. Look here.

The scroungy Seminole in all his inglorious spartan want is displayed, the rank and the pitiful, even to the smallest children, and the last portrait is the result of a punishing mission, as General Claptrap called it. Corpses abound.

Lincoln is crying. "I promise you this iniquity, this tragedy, will be requited and it will not happen more." He slams his fist down on the puny camp table so that it collapses.

Colonol Bureagard rolls up his artwork, and I awaken.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Burning Sheets

I have a new invention here, but it isn't mine, and I'm not altogether comfortable with it. A new means of remaining warm on a cold night.

You simply douse the sheets with a special water, then set fire to it. The water will burn at an acceptable rate throughout the night. If you would turn the thermostat down, as it were, you simply kick off sheets. The smoke goes somewhere - don't worry, I am assured.

Now there are three hounds at the carnival. I must retrieve them. They are in the keeping of one of the sideshows, a Pool for Pups, run by a burly congenial one and his slatternly spouse. Basically, it's a small wading pool. They are traditional carny folk. I take the leashes of two, presumably Maya and another I'm keeping, and say, hold on with Scoob; I'll be right back. I take the two to Niki J, way over on the other side of the grounds.

When I return, there is the spouse, and she's telling me, "He went to see if Scoobie should be barred from here." What?

I rush to find him. Up the hill and down the midway and into a tent. There's the guy, and over there's Scoob. He is being fed something scrumptious, and likes it exceedingly. I take the leash, and I back out with it, but only after Scoob is finished, which doesn't take long. I am shaking. Me and the boy retrace our steps back past the Pool of Pups. It's all right now, but I'm wary.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Three-Octave Scale

A very efficient librarian hustles to a volume on a table. I watch from a short distance. She expertly rips a print from a large book and starts back to the reference desk with it. I am appalled. I say to her, but, but, and she ignores me utterly. That's a Botticelli you just ripped out! Amateurs, she is thinking. They don't know the ways of the Library.
I am walking now in step with George, recently deceased, from my old home town. He was a lifetime substance abuser who grew up in the sixties and went away then came back, chagrined, on the mend, an outspoken definer of abuse and its various dodges.

He says, I hear you're quite the show at a party. He says, and so quiet other times. I think, George is such a nice guy. Then as we trudge along, I'm thinking, hey, wait a minute! He just defined a primary pattern of alkies!

One wakes up, startled into a new world. (Am I also waking? I remember a pleasant intricate dream but none of the details preceeding.) He blinks, confused. Someone comes to arrest him. Yes, yes, very well, come along now. He is nude under a blanket, and he stands up, very tall, and is cuffed with hands behind him. I am given the chore of transporting him. Come along now.
He is in a red ermine cloak, and as he walks, some startling changes take place. One, he becomes shorter. Another, I see his hair color turn to grey. His elegant covering becomes a horizontally-striped Indian blanket. Then, he is no longer cuffed, and he walks into a building, looking back at me in some amusement.

He is Bill Bybee, the class clown from my elementary school. I think maybe I should consult the authorities, but I can't see how they would re-arrest someone who has not been arrested in the first place. This is an entirely different person than the one I started out with, and he seems to know the joke is on me, but what is there to do?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Three Blind Tries

  1. There are notables of French thought arrayed up by an ancient rock wall. They're standing there at varying levels. I know of them. I watch. They don't say anything. Post-structuralism probably.

  2. There is a grouping of dimestory Indians inside a circle of onlookers. From somewhere outside the circle comes another. He is in a fringed buckskin jacket. The camera, or our viewpoint, pans close up to the fringe.

    He is an ordinary chunky guy with a weathered face. Reminds me of that legal buffoon Spencer. The chief until the entry of the Fringed One falls in behind, calls out, "He is the leader in all things."

    The Fringed One takes them in a children's conga line, weaving like a train this way and that. The tribe attempts to maintain dignity. I am thinking they are deriving their culture from old movies, just like us.

    When he stops, the Fringed One addresses the tribe, or us with the tribe as characters in the play. You, he says, set up demonstrations. And you, he says, arrange an appointment with the Secretary of the Interior.

  3. It is the time for slipping in. We go where we aren't allowed. We cause no harm, we only sneak in because we can. I cross some ground and hear the dogs bark over inside the compound. We can slither in this ravine to that fence. But I simply trot along the gulch.

    I'm too reckless. They come where I'm hiding inside the wall with lights. I step outside.

    I tell the one who has caught me, we can do good, we can show you where the defenses are weakest. He laughs. Do you think we cannot withstand such as you? He opens a door and I see another very solid one behind it. They had allowed us in simply because we were no threat.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Fire Etched on Ice

In my traditional setting for dreams, a dim room so I don't have to tax my visual imagination too much, I'm sitting over a printed circuit board. Miz Ethleen, my high school Spanish teacher, is watching me suspiciously, like she did the time Claudia in the seat ahead of me exposed lots of her middle to reach over for something dropped.

You can tell what folks look like by studying the chips on the PCB which represents them. You want to see conformity, nice simple sound lacing in the welds and pouty lips.

I am coloring a chip on the board we're studying. I am aware my betawife is complaining at one side. I'm waiting for her to desist. She says I shouldn't be coloring the chips on the board. Always she represents the public against me, thinking that will stand her in good stead. Very threatened.

It doesn't stop, so I stand up and walk away.

Onto a lift, which is nothing but the ordinary run into a henhouse. That's right, it's a riser about one inch by two feet with a crosstitch of a flat stick for traction paralleling all along the way. We shuffle up the run like chickens.

Up there are rooms where some fabulous displays are available. The art showings are in rooms decorated to look like where you go to find fresh eggs. One exhibit is fire etched on ice. Another is hope in formaldehyde. Still more is a still wind.

You cannot remove anything from these premises, not even theories. You will not even be able to remember the works long enough to describe them. Still we head on up.

Someone is shuffling extremely slowly just ahead. There is a gap in front of him, but I cannot pass. Maybe he's working as hard as he can to move up. But he isn't moving very fast.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Big Picture

I'm just so sad about it, but what can you do? Four months! Just snipped out of your life like commercials in TiVo.

I say to brother Joey, hey, I'll miss you, I'm sorry. He understands. He's very stoic. But then, it's me that's going into the slammer.

I don't feel guilty because I didn't do anything to deserve it. I just was. It's not even karma, it's the Lottery in Babylon, the one Borges told us of where interest is spiked if the drawing handed out bad news as well as good. You win ten million. You lose your house, your wife runs off. The citizens actively support it because they see good times for them which will mean more only if bad goes down somewhere.

I report to the front desk, which is wide and waist-level. A little lady, young, is across from me, and she is giving instructions. But I cannot hear in the clamor of the room. But the desk is wide. But I cannot lean towards her because that would be, I don't know, forward. And she doesn't care to lean towards me because I'm fixin' to be a jailbird.

She talks on in the same voice. I wonder if it really matters I'm understanding none of it. After all, I have the big picture.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I Dream of Lennin

I am afraid. I am on my back and someone is investigating. It's Lennin. Yes, Vladimir. He is adeptly slashing my pockets one by one. I have on a voluminous frock overcoat, and he is methodically slicing to see if I have anything hidden. I don't know whether I do, but I know it's curtains for me, for suspicion is sufficient in this camp.

Strangely, the above isn't the image of the Lennin of my nightmare. It's as if he's played by someone else, so it's a movie within a dream, which probably explains why I'm not terrified. The Lennin of my dream looks like the sniper and subway hijacker from French Connection.

Wonder what it means to have Lennin looking for contraband in your clothing.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Arroyo

My dreams are in shades of gray, but they shimmer.

In an urban setting is a grotto, an arroyo seco; the buildings seem to be melting into a central dry creekbed, like sewage in slums, but this is an upscale mercantile mess. We pass down this chute on foot, some of us.

And some of us expire. We carry them to the banks of the seco, and we place them carefully and tenderly on the bluff just off the passage. (The bottom of the arroyo is as uneven as any creekbed, but I don't see how a current could have formed this configuration in a major metropolitan area.)

A moderately overweight one with a pained but kindly expression is settled beside the arroyo. We ceremoniously carry and deposit him and return to the arroyo. There is nothing else to be done.

The mansion off the arroyo has many rooms. I'm passing from one to another, and there is really no symmetry. It's like people; some end off and another begins and there's no rhyme or reason to it.

I know before I see the large crates. Reloj is back. I see his goods stored fresh from the movers in an airy fringe to a corridor off a suite. I see Reloj's hair is long, luxurious even. He turns to see who is coming, then turns back without greeting.

I'm sitting with him over breakfast, or maybe dinner, as I'm not aware which end of the day we belong to, or what's on the table. There is talk, but strangely we aren't talking. I am conscious he does not seem aware of me.

There is a point when he will be leaving, of course, and then he's gone, without any reference to that transition. I just become aware at some point he's gone.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Way is the Way

There are doctors working on my hand, the one wounded in a bike accident in real time long ago. They can fix that little finger. They have inserted needles, without pain, and I'm back in a splint again. I am so amazed. Then when I look down in a while, the splint is gone. I tell ya, modern medicine.

They tell me I have every chance of restoring full use of my left hand, and I reply, "You have a debate with Dr Lewis then," referring to my (dreamtime) former plastic surgeon, and one of the new dox says, "No, you have a debate with Dr Lewis."

I must go from here to there now, from one clapboard village along these ridges through several more to yet another. I start out, naked, of course, but then I'm delighted to notice I have on a long T, with beet juice soaked onto the front tail, which I don't tuck in because I have nothing to tuck it into. Anyhow, I'm relatively well dressed by dreamtime standards.

It's a matter of ancient woody towns in close order, and I pass through them, and then realize I have left my vehicle parked back where I started, at the doctors' office. Oh, well. I start off retracing my steps.

I proceed in my usual dreamtreck, through a series of ancient stores featuring odd goods laid out to confound shoppers. You cannot easily transit through this confusion. Here I am in old dingy barnwood trying to find a door opposite the one I entered. You have to have been born here to naviagate this trail.

A young clerk offers moderate assistance, pointing out a dim path of light through indistinguishable fabric. I am most grateful, if only for her concession that my voyage is not utterly foolish.

A bunch of guys occur to me along the way. They know me, and one of them begins talking about the upcoming Dallas Cowboy season. That extra-point fumbler quarterback, Romo or something, his replacement is in camp. They all hope for great magic from the next maybe messiah.

I intended going out for high school football, even now, maybe as a postgrad. I was not able to make practice, but hope to. Maybe I can join these guys soon. They don't seem to blame me for not showing up. (The realtime football team looked down on any guy not suffering their idiot grind with them.)

My dream as always settles into a contented acceptance of an interesting trip rather than any fond anticipation of its happy conclusion.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Postcard from Rouen

This is the village where Papa roamed. It's in the south of Spain, near the sea. Hemingway came here and stayed a season, and now they have his every path and stop marked out and commemorative trinkets available.

I am in an open limo, and there are others in a long string, like a beauty pageant. I am studying closely an ancient tome with a chalky yellowing fabric cover. It's Cervantes, only I cannot figure out which. It might be the one of the crazed knight, but the pictures don't tell that story, and I don't read spanish, especially 16th century spanish, well enough to know.

I turn the page and a letter falls into my lap. It's old, but I cannot tell if it's as old as the book. I can make it out mostly. It's a shopping list. Wow. A four hundred year old shopping list. I'm trying to think about saving a shopping list for that long. It must be pure chance. Who would decide, I'm gong to keep this shopping list forever, to remember the rutabegas at La Dome and the melons from Valladolid. Maybe that's how history comes to be.

A lady in our limo, unknown to me, says, oh, Rouen is closed for remodel. She says it, Ray-een. She asks to look at my book, and I give it to her. I figure someone who is confident about saying Rouen in mixed company must be trustworthy.

I have to run back to my room. I am packing a box of books to trade at the local bookshop. They give you credit. I was wondering how much credit a first-edition Cervantes might be worth.

I really should not have left the old text in the limo. It really was not a good idea, no matter the lady knew French. I don't know French either. Maybe she knew that, and just said Ray-een to impress us. Maybe she said Rouen wrong. Perhaps she's never even been there. Maybe she only wanted the Cervantes.

When I find the limo, it still is moving slowly through traffic in its stately ceremonial pace. The space I have foolishly abandoned is vacant, and when I hop up onto the running board, I see the Cervantes is square in the seat I had occupied.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Whose Turn Is It?

We're going here and then there, through corridors and into rooms where nobody settles. Some of them are over there and some over here with me. I don't know how I'm connected with any of them, but I don't worry.

Now we're out on a dark street, going this way and that. I don't know these folks, I say. Someone makes reference to Neil Young. Another adds a cryptic comment.

I hear it. It's Bob Dylan said that. I try and interpret, using the only reference to literature I can summon at a moment's notice, the early scene with the Australian of the busted lorrie in Green Hills of Africa. Papa tells him, the people who praise it, praise it for the rhetoric, which is unimportant. They put in a mystery which is not there.

I say that, or something like, to ask if Dylan is talking about adding mystery where none exist. He smiles at me. I guess maybe that was it.

It's later, other rooms, and I am thinking, hey, was that so? Me and Bob Dylan? Maybe that didn't happen, I think, still within my dream. Maybe that wasn't him, or maybe he didn't mean that about mystery. I always have conclusions nicely drawn, like about movies, and then later on I see insider gossip from the creators and they incorporate none of my ideas. So are they wrong? I mean, I thought the day of the writer, the auteur, was over, and it was readers' hour now.

Whose turn is it?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

My Ship is Sailing

There is a lovely tune I first heard sung by a Cuban on the beach at Mazatlan, the summer of ’71. The chorus goes something like, “Wait a little, just a little bit longer, before you take away my happiness.” At first I thought it was just your usual crooning, but then I figured out from the title it was someone addressing his own memory.

La Nave del Olvido. The Ship of Forgetting.

My ship is sailing. I am losing the past, and it’s eating away the present. I slip down as in quicksand. I am young again. I am in the back of a vehicle driven by a man with a woman at his side.

They are utterly indifferent. No affect at all. She removes a pistol, one of those shining nickel and silver numbers patrician women might carry. She brings it out to no purpose, and it sort of hangs there in our presence.

I am able to secure the weapon, and I hide it. In a matter of moments the lady and I are in bed.

She is attractive as a mannequin can be. She shows no effects from sleeping with me, but I am much troubled. The night is ending. I’m not 18 come dawn.

I worry. Will this regression end my happy day life as a satisfied senior citizen? Will Niki J leave me? After all, this event of last night happened many years ago.

I hurry as best I can, through the night, down all the years, to a dubious dawn.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Carved in Stone

I am following a path carved in stone, specifically the granite along the peaks of a mountain range. I have one of those toys which will create music as you wave it, and I do that, worrying that perhaps the train of monks whose trail my own will shortly intersect might be disturbed. We are all seekers in these hills.

My mechanical chime looks like a lantern and it’s at the end of my staff and I wave it and wailing results. The file of Hindu pilgrims makes not a sound, even of footsteps. They merely trudge forward as if through cloud, each of them like the others. I see them slightly below my own rut carved in stone perpendicular to theirs, from slightly above.

I walk and I wave my lantern chime and the wail is all the sound there is.

Friday, January 12, 2007


We live in a community overrun by a liberal arts university. The Pulitzer committee is in town.

There is one of the ravers downtown who has attracted notice. She blares and babbles all the day long down on the main street, and her virtue is, no one can understand her. Abstraction is, after all, the roiling thunder in currents betoking depth. She is thus a postmodern marvel.

She is writing into her journal when she is not raving. Furiously scribbling, as if settling old scores. Apparently the university press has published some of her writings in one volume, and then they marketed it all around as a sop to the uneducated street masses, saying in their meetings, we must overcome our elitism by supporting these lowly dregs sometimes. The journal is supposed to be better than Jacques Derrida. She's a natural genius, they are saying. She will most likely win a Pulitzer. Wonder if she'll bathe in Sweden.

I find the book at a booth in a street fair for thirteen dollars, which I don't have. The husband of Heidi, a bookseller classmate of our boys in real time, is the merchant. Here, just wait, I say; Niki J will be along shortly. She'll have the price. I take the book and now it's up to me to pay, only I cannot until my loving lady returns.

There she is now, down the block, entering the square. I hustle over to solicit funds … only … it ain't her! How embarrassing.

Now I have the book and still haven't paid for it. I take the auto now. I don't know why. The road leads up a very steep incline. I will park up here. That's best. I don't know why that either. I will park in this space in front of a building which has obviously burned very recently.

Okay, I think to myself. I'm parked up the hill from the street fair with a book by a postmodern genius I haven't paid for, in front of a burned-out building, after mistaking my wife for a stranger, and none of these various parts hang together. Nothing relates to anything else. I don't even know why I bought, or made as if to buy, the book.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

DIY Transplant

It is like changing out a hard disc unit. I just don't know how deep to cut, is all.
A friend needs a heart transplant.

I just don't know how deep to cut. So I say, maybe we should consult my cardiologist?
His name is Hauser. We are in the habit of traveling up and down the Peninsula, Menlo Park and Redwood City and Cupertino and Palo Alto. In the night, we go up and down, seeking the next party.

I arrive at the apartment, with an anonymous friend. His lady is there, and she goes back to what she was doing when she realizes it isn't more interesting company. We catch a glimpse of her in the hall. She seems terminally bored. It's her relation, after all, who needs the new ticker. A son or brother. She is unconcerned. Best not to be too anxious, I think, in these circumstances.

I don't know how deep to cut, I say. I'll call my own doctor, I say. She asks, where's his office? She's worried about the toll call. Oh, Menlo Park, I say.

We call him. He is a slipshod sort of doctor. He walks into the apartment and he collapses onto the carpet in the living room. Hua-Vac, he says. That's the name of the artificial heart we need. There are so many brands. Skil, Block & Decker. Okay, solid, I say. Hua-Vac. I'm glad to have expert help.

He moseys on out. It's just that, I still don't know how deep to cut. Maybe I should've asked him that?

"It was a fifteen cent toll call," says the bored lady.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Mask

We travel, all of us, always traveling. Someone has an auto and recognizes the responsibility of carrying as many of us as the vehicle will hold down that road. When we stop, we always lay down on our backs like troops on bivouac. Just lie down and wait until someone else comes by with another auto.

Someone does. He has a superb ride and he intends a major trek, out of the way, beyond anything we have yet seen. All of us at this particular stop in time decline in unison. It's risky, and what's the purpose? After all, traveling is all we do, so why add to it an elaborate journey to an unknown location? We remain as we are, lying and waiting.

Me and Chico, we're to the movies now. We are in Zacatecas. We sit and we watch. The Spanish is surprisingly clear to me, and Chico is fluent.

This is Alejandro Rey onscreen, a noble of some sort, and he presents what appears to be an ancient mask to a dealer in antiquities, who glances at it and immediately announces it is a fake.

"You can tell by the eyes, you see," and he indicates, but Rey is glowering. The one who sold him the artifact has left the country, but he must be found, for all that. Nobody puts one over on Alejandro Rey.

The hero strides to the door, pauses, turns back. Freeze frame. There's no reason for him to be standing and facing the camera at a slight left profile. It's only because that's his good side, and also the composition is used on the marquee to sell the picture.

Outside now, there is a Mercado, well lit, with rows of tables. Me and Chico, we roam the tables. The stalls are along the sides with the tables in the center. I see now it is a mess area. We take a tray and sit.

It isn't very palatable, nor nourishing either, I think. Everyone around seems depressed. So am I. This is supposed to be exciting, exotic, but it is, I must admit to myself and no other, rather boring. We are sitting in a dining hall not very different from the one in our old grade school.
I rise and visit the shops along the fringes of the mess hall. There are varieties of goods, none of them well-made nor interesting. I roam through the stalls.

I cannot locate Chico back in the hall now. He isn't where we were seated before. Has he left me again? (In waketime, during our first hitchhiking On the Road trip together when I was 18, we were back in Dallas after visiting New Orleans, near brother Joey's apartment, and I said, "Wait, I'll leave my rucksack with Joey; the parents will be over tomorrow..." and I go off to do that. But when I come back to the road where I had left Chico, he had in the meanwhile been offered a ride the seventy miles home and jumped at it.)

I must see about going back home, I'm thinking. If he is gone, then how am I to manage that? I slowly pass through the mess hall, thinking, I'm alone now. I must think.