Monday, January 31, 2011

Excerpt from "Danceroom Balling"

Hey Y’all,
One of the projects I’ve been working on these days is a book called “Danceroom Balling” about why, though I played in a million bands for a million years, I was always on the wrong side of music. The essay below is the proem I plan kicking it off with. Enjoy.

We Must Move Forward to Regress
(A Jerk’s Defense of This Book)

As both a leader and a follower, I find myself stuck in a lifelong game of Simon Says, sometimes leading, sometimes following, always getting off. Every move I make is based on this game. Simon says do this, Simon says do that, do this. It’s this tart infatuation with an acknowledgement of form, an approach to form, a swatting of form around (with paws not fists/teasing not torture), but never arriving at a full acceptance of form despite eventually conceding to something that looks quite like a form every time, over and over again -- every. single. time. Once the rhythm of the game picks up and a form starts to form, that’s when I start testing out advanced level omittive moves like, “Simon touch your nose” or “Simon soys jump up and down” to see who’s left standing. Then I relish in the fear cultivated by staving off the “do this” for an eternity. You wait for someone to criticize, “you can’t say ’Simon says’ every time” just to catch that chilling wave of ecstasy down the spine that comes when the basic core of it all, the phrase by which the entire game hinges upon, becomes bad. “You mean you’re telling me to not say ‘says’? You’re telling me that to be a good leader I must be a cruel despot who tries to weed my weaker subjects out?“ Next go at Simon you hit ’em hard straight off the bat with a “do this” sans “says” before building any momentum at all and watch ‘em drop like the victims of that death squad they only moments earlier begged me to form. But the fundament that really gets me fired up and randied about Simon Says is that an illegal move one turn can quickly be made legal the next move as long as the leader says “Simon says”. That’s all he need do. Simon says touch your head, Simon says touch your toe, touch the right tit on the person to your left. Wrong, so wrong. Simon says touch your head, Simon says touch your toe, Simon says touch the right tit on the person to your left. But the second time around? Right, got it! The people left standing after a round like that, i.e. the people who played by the rules, refused to do an illegal move they then quickly re-deemed legal. And that means that the best follower, the one who understood breaking a rule one turn is illegal the next (that is, to break the break is illegal, I get it), is the one who then becomes the leader. I can’t get enough, I just can not get enough.
Eventually you do get that prick leader though; the guy who doesn’t get the difference between teasing it out and plain old lame, who thinks it’s profound to (try to) end the game, who thinks getting bored with this game is even an option, who gets up and says “Simon says don’t play Simon Says no more” and sits back down proud of his douchiness and though a branch is thrown into the spokes for a crunk each time and the players wonder if this in fact means they are all now free, the freedom void brings with it a new provocation as soon as the next “non-game” move is made and a new Simon is crowned and new followers pursue the rogue rhythm and the game persists. Simon says play Simon Says ad infinitum with or without the “says“ (i.e. whether or not some form of the “says” is implied) or am I missing something?
When Simon Says as my lot in life first hit me and I was therefore forced to examine whether I was a masochist, sadist, badger backed into a corner, sociopath, amist, or whether they were all just yowling synonyms, or whether I was a frustrated antonym, it finally enabled me to see the connection between the verb “jerk” and the noun “jerk”. Why am I stuck in Simon Says? Well, because I like to pinch, I like to prod, I like to twerk, tweak and prick, but I’m not so fond of irreparable breaks. I like to drink before noon; use words that don’t yet exist next to antiquated slang; break bread at a table with you if it means I don’t actually have to eat; dance to James Brown because he twists me around, but dance to the relentless dj from Ibiza with equal vigor because I know he will eventually stop and a jerk will arrive, and when adding in that jerking pause after his reliable 2/4 all night it changes the sum to 2,000,000/4,000,017 and I’m jerked around just like I was to JB and I just can’t get enough! I like to jerk. I therefore am a jerk.
A jerk hangs out, has friends, holds down jobs, and is on the rare occasion even commended for being a jerk when an annoying situation demanded a jerk step up (often to confront another jerk) and the jerk stepped up. The jerk lives in the city. He doesn’t bail out to the country or the penthouse. He likes you guys. You are his lifeblood. Without you he has no him, he has no reason, he has no mirror to nudge, he has no game to fudge. He cooks pasta like the rest of you, though he might substitute cilantro for parsley when you’re not looking if and only if he thinks it might amp the dish up. When you asked the jerk to pass the salt as a kid, he was the burr who extended his arm with salt in hand just not far enough for you to reach it so he could see you struggle and beg for a millisecond. Point is, he still handed you the salt. The jerk isn’t a dick. A jerk might offer you some “water” but fill the cup with a booze you don’t drink; a dick would do the same, with piss or an empty cup. Conversely, the jerk is the guy who can still make adults laugh with banal jokes that last had an edge for most of us in 3rd grade. He can say just about anything about any genital and acts thereof and still hit home that this whole thing is so silly even though we‘ve heard it all before. He remembers that we daily forget how silly it is. And if it doesn’t work the first time, he keeps trying until you laugh -- until you finally admit that this is all silly world without end amen. The jerk is a slow learner with a quick wit. He plays mediocre pool at billiards halls, but holds down the table at bars where there’s more at stake. He might not be charming, but he’s been known to get into a pair of panties or two by accusing their wearers of farting or by betting that their panties have racing streaks they need to prove aren‘t there -- conquests no charmer could ever nail. The jerk is totally off, but only in relation to what is on. He is not out. Never ever count him out.
However, his ceaseless jiggling, fidgeting, provoking, fucking with, instigating, and precarious potential for fomenting make him come off as a reckless self-destruct even if his every intent is ultimately for the team. He might quote a Coptic creed arguing that Judas was a team player too. He enrolls in lessons after he’s mastered the tool just so he can be a good spy within the trade. He might kick the ball down field without aiming because, if everyone was expecting him to aim, he needed to throw off the scent this time around for the future good and anyhow he just wanted to see how the ball flew without aim or whether he could think aim like he heard people can think themselves to cum or whether “whether” and “weather“ were homonyms because that which is beyond us is always the most intriguing so let‘s see what form this intriguing takes, aren’t those also forms of aim? What this amounts to is that the jerk, being an indoor/outdoor calico filthy to the house inhabitants within while prissy to the beasts without, truly excels at one thing and one thing only. The instability of the vacillating urges the jerk has no choice but to wallow in eventually tones into an art form, like any mound of mud on a ceramic’s wheel would at some point, but a form-ish finally none the less. The pricking and jerking in every direction evens itself out, landing him right at the center of the social system he‘s been sizing up from the outside in. Simon says this way, Simon says that way, Simon says dip, don’t slip. That is, the jerk is great at one thing. The jerk is the king of the dance floor.
Since his “off” is subject to an “on” (remember, he‘s not out), he has all the rhythmic sense a great dancer must while at the same time owning the ability to throw in the unpredictable jerk right when the on was about to get boring, followed by the complemental ability to slide so fluently back into the groove that the 4/4 around him feels like 5/9ths to everyone else on the dance floor previously in sync together that now need his help deciphering this straight forward math which has begun to feel like weird math even though it hasn’t changed at all, it‘s still a 4/4 -- with every short 3/ 4 frame balanced out with a delayed 5/4. (And unfortunately, like the rarity of the beautiful girl also being the hottest, the jerk -- contrary to what we’re taught to deduce from great dancers -- is not necessarily the best in bed either. Breaking in and out of that same 4/4 right when you want him to do nothing more than be that dj from Ibiza cementing the rhythm down until you cum might not be in the cards tonight. If this contradiction of the mantra sounds shocking, extrapolate: imagine boning Martha Graham. Great for sure, but a different kind of great. Or better, male pigeons get their mates via excellent dancing, yet they don’t even have dicks. The jerk proponders, “but when I said ‘Simon Says‘ forever without a pause you said I was breaking the rule. What gives?”)
Sweet, you say, so at least the jerk has found his calling then. If he’s such a great dancer he need only choose a realm of music to operate in and baller should be set. Wrong. The dancer that knows when to jerk the groove at the right moment does so while the steady groove behind him continues to be steady. Put that same dude in control of the beats and the party is in some dire straights. Welcome to Danceroom Balling, some jerk’s stories about his days jerking with music.
I started playing piano when I was 4, trombone when I was 11, bass when I was 14, and guitar when I was 17. I was 16 when I joined my first band, “Mental Floss” (featuring the ex-drummer of Agnostic Front) as singer and was kicked out by the time I was 16 and ½. Started my next band, Native Nod, immediately thereafter. Then came The Van Pelt, The Lapse, Vague Angels, Pro Forma, and a million other projects accompanied by a million tours before I finally agreed to surrender. The making side was not the side of music I was meant to be on, at least not publicly. This isn’t to say I regret it. Everything surrounding the actual music part of the music I made was priceless (“priceless” in this sense meaning purely “without a price“), and even every album was graced with at least a few high highs. But that’s just it, a few isn’t enough to milk a life from (at least not the type of life I want to lead. The Grateful Dead have 10 more masterpieces than Television, but it took them 100 albums to get there when it took Television just 1 side of 1 to make a classic. Makes me think if you gave monkeys a million shots at masterpieces they‘d come up with a few too. I‘d rather be Television). Being off, I was using music to provoke an understanding of things; I was prodding when I should have just been accepting with the faith that there will always be prodding, whether willful or not. If I could have managed that, I could have tipped the scale in the other direction. But if I could have managed that, of course, I wouldn’t be me. I am the amazing dancer and being the amazing dancer responsible for the song does not foster the amazing dancer receiving the song. The Night, Mi Corazon, Il Mare, and L-L-Love were taboo clichés I almost never let mar the inside of one of my songs. I saved them for before and after. No way, my songs were to be about important things, huge things, progressive things, things no one ever talked about before in a song. Ugh. Luckily, there was one saving grace for my music; despite all my best efforts, I was simply too horny to avoid the fourth cliché necessary for hit-making. It found its way in, and if I happened to be passing through a weakened depressed state wherein I couldn’t fend it off, my balls took over the better part of the song allowing it free reign to contaminate the way it has with so many other hits in the past and hence, there were some high highs after all.
Feel for me, reader, because I knew it all along. I just couldn’t connect with what I knew. I knew music was not an argument. I knew it was an acceptance. But as my condition is chronic, I figured if I argued that music was not an argument, if I argued that it was an acceptance, it would equate to something even bigger than a direct acceptance would have. Simon says never ever ever do this, do this.
Yet here we are, on the verge of a book of vignettes and essays related to each phase of the author’s life as a musician wherein he tried arguing about things that should have either been argued about in a different forum entirely or should have simply never been argued about at all. Is my offness that chronic that I just can’t get the hint to drop it, to let it go? Of course it is, that’s how I do yo. If I did it differently, if I wrote perfect songs, my memoirs of my days with music could have been called “Ballroom Dancing”. Instead, I get hung up on “Danceroom Balling” and my argument in so doing is solid. Check it out: on the surface, “danceroom balling” means exactly the same thing as “ballroom dancing”. However, even though the “ball” in “ballroom” comes from the Latin “ballare” for “dance”, “ballroom” is currently a word while “danceroom” for some reason is not. “Danceroom balling” also has so much more depth than the limiting “ballroom dancing”; having long since lost the redundancy of “a room for ballare where you can dance” it now simply means just one specific type of dance, and one specific type of dance that doesn‘t get guys like me laid at that. “Danceroom balling” on the other hand could also refers to a dance floor where people ball, as in bone. Or it could refer to a dance floor where people bawl; tears, tequila, and tripping the light fantastic do go well together. And “ball” itself has also come to mean so much more than “dance“. A ball can just be a blast of a party now, as in “let’s have a ball!“, with or without the dancing. So “danceroom balling” could also be a dance floor where people just party. Or it could be that awkward cavorting on the dance floor seconds before the dancing. And ultimately, joining all the double meanings together, we’re still left with a redundant “danceroom balling” meaning a dance floor where people can dance without any form, without any prescribed moves, without any classes necessary, free even and especially if it comes at the price of form. “Danceroom balling”’s got all this going for it! Man, my argument is fortified and flanked! Yet at the end of it all we find ourselves back where we began: if “danceroom balling” really did work better than “ballroom dancing” we wouldn’t need to argue for it at all then, would we? Arguing for it is as misdirected as trying to explain to someone why the joke they didn’t laugh at actually is funny. No, if “danceroom balling” really did work better than “ballroom dancing” we’d just accept it. Simple as that.
And so it goes that we find ourselves right where I was during the days of these vignettes then. Which means, I’m still going Danceroom Balling so c‘mon!

Chris Leo

Note Bene: By design I don’t remember well, that stuff isn’t good for one’s movement. This book is therefore not a memoir, for those are written by dead people. This book is nothing more than fiction written by a living dreamer and the tales herein are intended solely for your entertainment. Nothing in this book conflicts with the truth because nothing in it claims to be true.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Up In This Cut

[This is the chaptered footnote for a dialogue that takes place in my novel
“If You Cut It It Will Grow”. Throwing you straight in, a few sentences before the footnote, the hero asked about getting up in the victim's "cut". The dialogue that ensued was going this way:]

Textural Tourettes tempts me to swear something out loud but I swear I have no opinions of this girl yet so I swallow it. Nerd Tourettes tempts me to say something stupid like “As in, ‘Let’s get up in each other’s mental cuts. The Temple next to our forehead being related to the PIE tem for “cut” like the templates to everything, the temples we hinge it all on, the temperature change my body experiences when it gets within 100 yards of yours, the smooth tempo I wanna execute this all with, the temptation the temptation the temptation, and all the those French temps wasted arguing all this’.”
drive, drive, drive.
I avoid one set of Nerd Tourettes but couldn’t hold back the next wave:
“And like the Indo cum Latin ‘cut’ comes from, –“
“Time to shut up, faggot. Wait, did you just say you came?!”
ram, ram, ram the retort home.
“Sker cum caros, from which we get –“

[The chaptered footnote picks up here:]

Embarrassing only because my timing was off. Not off like pink off, I mean pure off, careless (from the Latin “caro“ for “flesh and blood“, soulless). My reasoning was on though. Where do I begin? Well the whole ordeal happened in the night, cut off from the day via twilight, which comes from when “two lights” trade places. The Italian “sera” for “evening” comes from the same Proto Indo-European (henceforth PIE) ser root as “serrated”, it was cut off from the day creating two pieces from one making our day now “even”. Think about “pairing off” and “paring off” which are related to “par” for “even”. Things are balanced (bi-lanced, two cuts) when they’re split, hence we prepare all things to be separated. Are we in concert (“with separation”) here or do you find all these cuts disconcerting, Melissa (yes, even though it wasn‘t she in that bed when I slipped with the “cut“, it was she I was separated from and she I‘m trying to separate towards)? Maybe this is a good time to look at the subtle difference between the Greek “di” prefix and the Latin “bi”. “Di” has the sense of “in two” which when mutated to the “bi” in Latin lost its sense of what it was cut off from and became simply “two”, but two is just a singular “two“, it‘s a one like any other number, Mel -- just like a million zillion zillions is just >>> one <<< million zillion zillions. Therefore, to add to two we have to cut one and keep it; an addition is a separation. The diet that keeps us alive is a separation (from the Greek diainysthai “to take apart”); that is, if we digest it at all (“to carry apart”), and are you, babe? I read this in a digest, which you won’t be surprised collects info. A serrated knife has notches like the noche, the nacht, the notte, and the night, all niches cut off from the day creating this nook tonight (leading us to nigh? Nay!) for us to make two from one (or at least the act of making two from one) like the child from its ma. In PIE, when one and two were still synonyms, ma meant both “early” (still evident in “mañana“) and “late” (in “mature“) like the figlio (“son” in Italian, from the Greek filo for “thread“) and the file that cuts your nails down at the salon. The thread is that the cut is the thread, and philo in Greek was love, Melissa, uh-oh. Our kin are all cuts, even our kings (related through the Old English cynn for “family, race” like the English “stirp” for “family, race” from the Latin “stirp” for thread, related to the scarlet cloth “stammel” so named because it is blood red from all these cuts). Oh, you don‘t wanna be my princess, just my ol’ fashioned girl? “Folk“, from the Semitic for “divide”, is also therefore cut from the same stone, be we slivers of silver cut off or not) crusading (from cutting “caro“) against basilisks (the “little king“ in Greek); makes sense since the Kaisers, Czars, et al all come from Caesar, the king cut out of the womb. A “real” was a small Spanish coin the tradesmen once relied upon, and hence “is it real?” became “is it actual?” and as those with the most of these actual things were the nobility, we came to call them “regal”. A coin comes from the Latin “cuneus” which was a wedge cut from metal. These reals became so standard they became regular, and we are all cut from royalty in a million ways then -- even me, Melissa, even me! “Carl” comes from the Old Norse for “freeman” (the ultimate separation word, comes from the PIE *prijos for “beloved“: “If you love somebody, set them…”) because that Latin “caro” for “flesh and blood” became synonymous with breaking free, tearing apart (this is where we find real charity, real care). This makes Charlemagne (Carolus Magnus) the cut upon cuts. That Frank (frankly regal is the real truth) knew about the tangibility of cuts! France is seen as the true border of Roman and Northern tribes (despite other Latin words having already been put into use for regions further out; there are always borders beyond borders, walls beyond walls, so take yours down already, Mel!). “Beyond the Pale” may refer to Irish land free from British dominion, but all of its functions are Roman. A “palus” in Latin was a series of stakes used as a fence; some hypothesize a connection to the idea that it kept the pallid out. “Pole” comes from the same root and brings us to the other edge of Charlemagne’s empire, Poland. Polish claim their name comes from polijane, which means “field dwellers”, but to the King of the Holy Roman Empire the stark never-ending steppe was its own sort of fence (think "nowhere to run to" style Siberian gulag) and hence a competing etymology -- lack of border is border. It borders on another border, the Ukraine, which means "border" in Russian. Denmark was the northern border in the time of Augustus and though the root of "Den" is subject to much debate, it is generally agreed that the "mark", like "margin", comes from the PIE mereg for "boundary" -- beyond which is Scandinavia, literally "cut off"; from the same Proto Germanic skit that gave us not just “shiver“ and “shake“ and “shift“ and “shit” and “science” and the science of shit and shitty science and the cut of the cut off of, but also “conscience” -- to be with me is to be “with cuts“, even you got ‘em, Mel, even you. Every cut has a cut within too and hence the Italian state “Le Marche” literally means “the fences, the boundary” of Rome. Every cut also has a cut without as well, and hence all the marquises, marchesi, and marqueses caught fighting out of bounds, the borders bordering outside their bounds. Francon was an unrelated Old Germanic word that meant “lance” -- which brings us back to “palus” which brings us back to France: the country established with so many borders it’s become borderless, more subjective cut than objective cut. And that Franc in Old French meant “free, cut” (If you love someone, they are already free, cut ‘em in like they do in Spanish with the cutting “caro” derived “acertarse“ for “to pull close, cut in“ like “cerrar“ for “to close“ meaning “cut the cut“). The palus brings us back to the point at hand though. This is about skin, that cut cutaneous, and after all I wanna bone your brains our for now and forever, Mel. “Skin” was first used as “animal hide” and comes to us from the PIE sken, “to cut off”. “Palus” not only like my pole I wanna separate you with (just a little), but also like the Latin “pallo” for “robe” which I wanna separate from your body which comes from the Latin “pelle” which is your skin that separates us from each other and the Latin “scrotum” which was also a robe separating my little Latin “palle” (“balls”) from all of us. A “bully” was once a friend you would go “balling” with (from the French “boule” for “balls“, the fuck bully became the fuck buddy), so take this lightly if you think I’m coming off too crude, but “crude” also comes from that Latin “caro” for “flesh and blood” because there is no escaping these cuts and cuts and cuts that bind and bind and bend us together (same roots! “twist“ and “two“ too), Melissa. No, think of being bound to them, in all senses of the word “bound” -- as headed away from them as we are tied to them. Thai the country even means “free” in Thai even though it sounds like “tie” to us. We are all bound through and threw. “Spouse” comes from bound, and the pledge they make to each other comes from the French “pleige” for the cut out incarcerated “hostage“. If it seems like I’m too focused on things that bind, read the subtext -- so much of language is focused on countering the cuts, but it just falls short with cutting more cuts. Hell, country itself comes from the Latin “contra”, it’s its own antonym; and the “barrio” deep in the center (from the PIE kent, for “prick, cut”) of its city comes from the Arabic for “open country”, huh? This is where the logic of trying (from the Old French “trier” for “cutting off”) to separate takes us in a place where we are all already held together through these cuts and all I can see are cuts and all I can see are cuts and butts. In fact, Melissa, if I referred to my “scrotum” in the days of Vulgar Latin I’d be referring to my whore, my bitch, my “piece of skin”, my “animal hide”. Anything made of such blood and cuts is gonna bleed into each other; me to you, you to me, no way around it. That’s right, I jerked off to your cleavage today, the cleaved part between your tits. Cleaved is also its own antonym, mon amour, and that’s cool too because in my mind I cleaved those tits together with my sticky (from the branch, the “stick“, that’s been cut apart from the tree, another auto-cutting auto-antonym) jizz. Yesterday it was the crack between your butt cheeks butting out away from you. Cleaved them closed too. When I say something boring and unpoetic like “I wanna have sex with you” believe that I’m hearing the Latin “secare” for “divide”, the cut between the sexes (which makes “dissect“ another separation of a separation). Ah, you fucking prude, Melissa, what the fuck? Forget the “C” word, you even object to innocuous words like when I ask if I’m getting a piece of your “tail” tonight. “Tail“, from the french “taillie” for “cut off from“; a word so dry (so close to “seco”, in Latin “secco” was “dry”, the water “cut out of“) they use it in math for “tallying”, along with its dry friends “average” (from the Latin “habere” for “have”, it was the goods damaged in transit cut out of the final trade; what we “have“ and no longer “have“) and “absolutes”(from the Latin “absolvere“, to “set free, separate“); and “tail” in Latin was once “penis”, yet if you ever said you want a piece of my tail I wouldn’t feel cut off from you as you do from me. Melissa, if god willing you’ve had the patience to read this far, please allow me an aside to the exhausted reader for a brief (from the Latin “brevis” for “short” which comes from the PIE sker for “cut”; same root as the “court“ I would destroy you in if ever you took me there on this ish‘) ounce of time (from the PIE *da for “separate”) who may not understand why I’m so preoccupied with proving that our cuts are cut from the same thread cut from the cut the ancients cut up in just to get you and I back cutting up in the same cut again {and reader, do you believe some people can hear better when they’re not listening? Well this decree (from the Latin “de” for “off” + “cernere“ for “separate“, another fantastic double cut, from the same root we got “discern” from because our vision blurs unless things are clearly cut apart, and related to the “ex” + “cernere” of “excrement” your intestines are working at discerning you from now), if it works, is designed not just at getting her back, but at passassinating that fabulous flabulous ass of hers. That’s right, I’ve stockpiled so much jizz waiting on this conflicted chick, that if in fact I do get her back in the sack I’m going straight for that ass, the cut inside, behind, between, beneath, and on top of the cut. I’m invoking all the tormented pain (from the PIE pei for “hurt”) that was once attached to that word “passion” and as I rip mine in I will be elating at the ripples (diminutive of “rip”, little cuts; same PIE rei root for “to cut” as “row“. To “arrive“, from the Latin “ad ripum”, by rowing atop the ripples is to cut the cut on the cut) that roll around that meat seat of hers. Yummm. What, now I’m losing even you too, dear reader? You think I’m crossing my bounds? Well I think you’re bound to the cross then (as bloody and full of separating cuts as that same “caro“ “cross“ comes from, but also as bound and coagulated as the crust and crud and the curds separating from the whey. You think I should keep some things secret (from the Latin “se” for “apart” + “cernere”, another cutting cut), some things private (from the Latin “privatus” for “cut off”)? Right, well you and Melissa can just keep believing in your cuts removed from cuts then while I continue on with the other readers agreeing with everything you say while yet you deny us still. The only promises I ever make are the ones based on the Latin “promittere” (to “send away”) from whence we took the word from. Ciao, all my promises are public missiles because they would be anyway. As she is the public, I hope she just heard all that without directly listening.} So reader, I have no choice but to return to the ancients to prove my point because my point is as ancient as it gets, yet it seems that those with the most respect for the ancients are the ones typically furthest from this ancient point. Like this: The Romans called Cleopatra “the key to the fatherland”. Melissa hears that as “the Queen who opened Egypt up to the West”, but “key” is related to the cutting “cleave“. Ok, so the deeper delving Melissa might then suggest that by calling Cleopatra “the key” they were creating (from the Latin “crescere” for “grow” from the PIE ker related to the PIE sker for “cut” because to cultivate is to eventually cut as all cultures cut themselves off; like Ceres the dwarf planet cut off from some prehistorical kaboom; from Ceres the Roman goddess of growth and cutting; and from cerebellum, cut off from the rest of the body like the “skull“, house of “skill”, from the Proto Germanic skaljo for “separate“, the thing that holds our “smarts“ like it did in Old England when it was “cutting“ wit, or our “intelligence“ like it did in Old Rome when it meant “to pick out, cut“ and will forever cut us “clever“ of course with “creations“ from the cutting PIE sker) a double entendre -- Cleopatra’s also responsible for politically cutting the fatherland up, the cleaver of the Patra. But what sort of stinging stain the Victorian era has left on our dames, those frigid years but a blip on the Watcher’s watch when they tried cutting themselves off from further cuts they were already cut off from, what a damaging duh. It’s a fucking triple entendre! To “chiavare” (the act of keying) in modern Italian is slang for “to key someone, to fuck them“, which we know Cleopatra did to at least two keys of another Fatherland. I say Keyopatra! No, that’s where history ends for Melissa. No dick in history for Melissas. I mean, people may have been dicks in history for her, but world altering events all hinging on the groin, no way, she can‘t let herself make that leap; the core current (from that same cutting PIE ker) of human conquest and crisis (from the Greek krinein for “separate”) can’t be pulsed by matters of the heart. Well a “macho” was a small Spanish hammer, related to the cutting “mace“, which came from the Latin “macchiato” which is a stain that cuts across another color. “Alcohol” comes from the Arabic kahal, “to stain”, which they also picked up in Spain. “Mix” and “Mescal” are from the same root, which is all to say that the mixed logics of our base and earthly pursuits, Melissa, simultaneously cut across and mixed into every massive decision (from the Latin “de” for “off“ + “cadere” for “off”, another cut on a cut) ever made. Thank god. We can size the history of events up with incisors (from the Latin “in” + “cadere” for “into the cut“; contrary to my long-windedness here, same cutting root as “concise”), Mel, and I’m comfortable keeping the bit a bite, hiding in the tanned hide, housebound as the husband who‘s shed his shed for the inside outside in. No, I’m not shirking my responsibility, Mel. C’mon, let’s build something solid together. Let’s build a tall dungeon (from the Old French donjon for “tower”) and a high moat (from the Middle Latin “mota” for “mound“) with a deep wall and paint (from the PIE pek for “cut”) our house back down to the ground again. C’mon Mel, let’s build that romantic dream house (from the same Germanic roots as “hide” and hence “skin”, in particular the piece I wanna “hose” you with) in the Tuscan hillside and call it our “casa” from the Latin “castrare” for “cut off” because all these stifling walls are set to castrate me like the word for married in Spanish, “casado”, blocking out the sky (same PIE *(s)keu cut root as “skin“), trading cielo for sealed ceiling so the only clouds we’re left watching are our cut cuticles. You think I’m seeing what I wanna see, Mel? “Hogar” is “home” in Spanish, yet “ahogar” is “to drown” in Spanish, they’ve got the metaphor flanked. But this cut must be cut from something! This cut must be cut from something! Fine, let’s return to the cut we began in: if the night was cut off from the day then let’s return to the day. I’m opening the curtains (like the “short” and “court” type cut) just to be certain (like the omnipresent “cernere” cut) to let the sun in. In German the day is a “tag” like the Latin “tagliare” for “cut” like the “tailor” who cuts away in his Spanish studio, the “taller”, as each tick cuts a tock that cuts another away. The tag on the back of your shirt tells us which “cut” you are even though when you’re “tagged” in the playground you’re “it” -- the cut is thing -- which is exactly where I feel like I am with you, Mel. I feel like it’s lunch break (from the Spanish “lonja” for “a slice”, lunch is therefore another slice in the cut). If you push me down because you have a crush (cut to bits) on me and I break my shin (from PIE skei for “cut”) I will need a splint (from PIE *(s)plei for “cut”), or a cut for my cut. If you keep stabbing (cut) me with these sticks (cut) I’ll needs stitches (cuts), or cuts for my cuts, c’mon quit it already! The day is as cut with cuts as the night. The label on that tag of yours is from the Old High German “lappa” for a strip of “cloth cut and hanging off”, related to your labia hanging off of you. Cut your clothes on or cut your clothes off, we’re all cutting to the same cut. Like that strip of cloth as its own antonym just about to come off when you strip if you find me strapping enough (you know only women used to be strapping?!). Like that slip (from the Middle Dutch “slippe” for “cut, slit”) you slip in and out of. Or if I’m lucky, like that “lace” that comes from “lash” which of course cuts. Like the “garment” cut from the Old English spear the “gar” which still cuts, baby. Like your “bra” from “brace” because it makes things stiff from the Greek sterphos for “skin“-- all sorts of “separated pieces” stiff. Like your scarf cut from cloth that cuts the biting wind, all I can see is a tatter I wanna tear off so I can scarf you down. Like your collection of purses from the Greek byrsa for more cut “skin” you dig your lipstick out of and purse your pus (Irish for “lips“, which just gets me thinking about other lips that sound like pus) all I can see in the day are cut trappings of scraps trapping us in. Remember that Cleopatra? The Latin “clavis” that gave us “cleave” cleaved itself in two when it reached Iberia, creating not just “llevar” the verb you would need to “wear” all these cuts, not just the second meaning of “llevar” for the “cut away from” I’m gonna do with all your society scraps that scar my libido, but also the “llave” for the “key” both Julius and Marcus Antonius keyed her with. You think I’m being sarcastic (from the Greek sarkazein for “to cut off the skin”)? Well the key keeps appearing. A “clavel” in Spanish is a carnation, the flower named after the color of blood; and, yes, a clavelita is slang for a…look, I’m just trying to articulate that “articulation” (from the Latin “articulatus” for “separating into joints“) is a cut to make things clear; that when I say “cut” I’m as cut with you as I was when the PIE *wi meant I was cut “separate” from you; that when I say “cut” I’m as cut with you as the lost origins of cut are cut from, amidst, and into all of us.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


(2009, HEARTWORM).
Upon realizing I write about one thing and one thing only regardless of mask donned, I passed through a series of stages before I could get myself back into it. First was denial, wherein I made the puerilely forced decision to scatter my subject matter at extremes only to find the same weird vagaries sneaking in regardless (the Battle at Sassoferrato, justifying house music, ramifications of the degree of Celt in one’s blood, the benefits of being light not just like the bird but also like the feather, to name a few); then came depression…,…; then confused and angry lamentation, wherein >> I quit << only to find my excess ying spitting out legal briefs better suited for the pulpit than the court, drafting mortgage contracts in rhyme, and a delicate attention paid to the tending to parking summons disputes that not only got me off but got me off!; then came acceptance, wherein I slept in, cooked things I had to marinate first, and never left my protracted dinners until I was burping up cocksure haikus and quippy little truths without even the thought of a pen nearby; finally, I decided to try celebrating it with, and as, a uniform hodgepodge. Feathers Like Leather is a collection of poems, short stories, etymologies and occasional musings that blur, bridge, and play between the aforementioned forms while never straying from this one thing. (Uh-duh, and ever consistent with this “one thing only” theme, I first began compiling the components of Feathers to serve as a distraction from the completion of We Pulse in Pink when Pink began to feel like one quixotic endeavor, only to then find Feathers assuming the same obsessive weight Pink once had when Pink got edged out of the immediate frame due to my focus growing ever more acute on Feathers. My one thing goes something like that.)

*Feathers Like Leather is the only book of pure writing featured in the D.A.P. spring
2009 catalog.


We Pulse in Pink (unreleased, unfinished, beta available) is a long-winded, tedious (but think “runner’s high” type tedious) defense of a newly dumped writer whose ex has set him to the impossible task of composing a “wordless letter” as a last ditch effort to win back her love. Justifiably frustrated by her inability of understanding how her boyfriend -- a writer who’s allegedly dedicated his life to words -- can argue to the fury of zeal that it is in fact the spirit of tone which trumps the tangibility of text in actual conversations while it’s text over tone in matters involving the written word, she deems our writer “poseur numero uno” and with defeated palms splayed flaccidly to the sky dissolves their relationship pending one final challenge: supply her with a “wordless letter” that must manage to express this grand elocution of tone while at the same time be reliant on no definite words to support it. Accomplish this and she will take him back. We Pulse in Pink is the writer’s quest to craft a rebuttal so flawless and vast it feels as if every word and non-word alike make up the fabric of (their) love, and hence, it is irrelevant what words he chooses to plead his case -- if they all lead back to her, can he not just kick back and smile weightlessly?


57 Octaves Below the Middle C Buzzed by the Bee (2006, Fifth Planet Press) was intended to be New York City’s first epic poem. Seeing as New York lacks a proper epic poem in its name, I thought I found my calling therein and geared up for getting down to tackling that cross. The conduit thereto struck me late one night/early morning getting out of the speakeasy I’d hit after my bartending shift on the Lower East Side of Manhattan when, unable to hail a cab (a combination of there simply being none and of no wise cabby willing to pick up a zombie, which I was at that state in the game) I found myself trying to flag down the giant red tourist buses dominating the streets at that hour on their way to Times Square to pick up their prey and begin their day. If only I could work on top one of those things my material for our epic poem would sort itself out naturally, or so I thought. When I awoke the next morning I walked down to Consumer Affairs, took the legendarily rigorous three-hour 150 question NYC tour guide exam, and scored 147 out of 150 -- finding myself unwittingly with the highest score in the entire City of New York (fact)! For the next nine months I gave three-hour tours three times a day all around Manhattan and Brooklyn while all along pursuing what I believed would be our missing definitive epic poem. However, by the time my pen began hitting the paper it was clear I could produce nothing so reverential and purely beautiful for such an epigeal eye-to-eye city as ours (Incidentally, culling material from tour buses filled with obese Middle Americans, Eurotrash, and wild Israeli’s fresh out of mandatory military service did not support the exalted word much either). No, a work worthy of Byron or Pushkin frankly would not befit our honest city. I offer you the jaunty 57 Octaves as the most appropriate result instead (it’s not a poem).

I then enlisted the illustrator Marcellus Hall to help redeem the project. He added forty accompanying illustrations to the book which function as silent reposes to my endless words that communicate the same NYC savoir vivre in drawings the extents of my yapping only struggle for.

*57 Octaves is featured in MoMA’s 2009 exhibition of illustrated books.


White Pigeons (2004, Fifth Planet Press), being my first novel, is an explosion that took a lost freak-out to Bolivia to finally ignite. My hundredth band broke up after my millionth album; I was proving excellent at finding love but miserable at keeping it; was in the thick of my “omg-how-am-I-really-gonna-pull-this-off” late 20s panic having no idea the 30’s would soon bring relief; the wide open world touring offers started losing its mystique once the temporality of a different city every night began giving me more superficial broad strokes than essential minutia the sedentary normal professions are privileged to reap; and most importantly, my lyrics kept multiplying, extending well beyond the lengths of reasonable songs wherein repeating a chorus even felt like wastes of breathes that could’ve otherwise been used more economically for fresh ideas. No, no more nothing of this kind of life for me, I lunged towards the break with a one way ticket to Peru and returned from Bolivia two months later with (an incredible longing for NYC and) the blueprints for a type of love story I wished to purge thereby graduating myself to a better state; a state free of the turbulent flux that comes with raw youth; free from all the tyrannies of nostalgia and hope for a more accepting present tense instead; free from the violent sadisms of truth for well-worn ancient wisdoms I could ease into. White Pigeons is my uncomfortably temporal love story I offer up as fodder for our communal pyre (in a good way). This may be the last story of the 20th Century as well. The Towers were still standing and New York City was more Banlieue than Versailles.

The first pressing of White Pigeons included a twelve-song cd and its accompanying lyrics which serve as Chapter Seven, the (quasi-present) interlude between the past and future love story, as performed by the protagonist’s fictitious band in the book, “The Breaks”, as played by my actual group, Vague Angels . I have toured both the States and Europe several times in support of this book -- sometimes with a band, sometimes with only an acoustic guitar, and sometimes with neither. Since then the cd has been released separately by the German company Expect Candy and the individual songs have appeared everywhere from limited edition colored Swedish vinyl releases to Spanish television commercials to Jonathan Demme’s Manchurian Candidate featuring Denzel Washington.


“Minisupermercado” Does Not Signify “Local Market”

A Bloomfield Redux From The Middle Son of the Inner Suburb in the Micromegalopolis Where Density Does Not Signify Destiny,
Just Like Pretty Much Dense

50,000 inhabitants is the minimum amount currently needed to qualify for “city” status in the U.S., which as a kid I believed was the ultimate goal of all lil‘ burgs. A village was just a loser runt of a city to me vying for its own dominion, however unsuccessfully. Everything wants to grow up, doesn’t it? I certainly did. Bloomfield, New Jersey has 48,000 now and had 48,000 my entire life, but that didn’t stop me from dreaming while I was growing up. I knew that that island with the skyline right across the river once had just a few thousand Lenape living there not so long ago and look at it now! City Island in the Bronx even cheated a little by incorporating the “City” part into their name as a way to jump start their imminent status improvement because they just knew their port would one day rival New York’s down river (be wary of all cities with “City” as part of their name, premature Manifest Density always asphyxiates itself) and I thought we were all supposed to shoot for same star. My grandfather grew up eating goat’s eye soup because that was all his father could afford (maybe poor Calabresi shouldn’t have had 8 children, you say?) and through pure immigrant boot-strapping amassed a real estate fortune that at one time included 90% of all commercial buildings in Bloomfield, most of which he built himself. He claimed when he was a boy he made a pact with himself to eventually own Bloomfield's one and only skyscraper, which he did. To this day it remains the “Frank M. Leo Building” a decade after his death. He also built the street “Leo Terrace” and I was always troubled why he didn’t call it “Leo Avenue” or “Leo Boulevard”. It felt like he was selling himself short. C’mon Pops! We’re takin’ it all on, aren’t we? I was sure one day we’d do it, we’d cross that 50,000 pop mark and then there’d be no turning back. NYC watch your ass, Bloomfield’s hot on your heels.

However, in fourth grade I stopped growing at the same pace as the other kids. I was a
bruiser up until then who wheeled and dealed at the back of the line with the bullies, but month by month the nuns began moving me up towards the front -- where the official shrimps and fags cavorted. One by one over the years I was forced to improve my jump shot over my lay-up and it didn’t help any that I had a lisp. If “Chrissy the Sissy” was to keep trudging ahead with my inherent Manifest Density philosophy wherein all things get bigger, I’d write myself right out of this script. Time to find new theory.

Fortunately, my grandfather also built a children’s library and an adult’s library right across the park from my house and they were both connected via a secret underground tunnel which I was privy to all the secrets thereof. This is how you did it: enter children’s library sometime before dusk and then slip into the tunnel on your way to the bathroom; wait there in a nook until both libraries close; enter the adult library all for yourself (witness here the early stages of “adult“ morphing into a taboo word), bust gloriously out of the “emergency only“ doors when done, blame bad “public school kids”. This is where I worked my theory through.

My first (self-instigated) Manifest Density doubts came in the encyclopedia racks where I learned about all the failed attempts of non-cities like City Island, NY; City Island, IA; City Island, PA; the countless City Island, FL‘s, and the Carson City type ghost town outposts as well as premonitions from the opposite direction of all those cities that in fact earned their four star status but subsequently shrank back down to "town" yet were unable
to ever return to the green, like Camden now and Detroit soon. I uncovered the fail-safe compromise: work “town“ into your name rather than “city” in the event that one day you‘ll need to get back, like Clifton, Trenton, and George of Washington. It was here I became a fan of The Who when I heard Pete Townshend‘s name as “peat, town‘s end“. Edgy.

There were also books here of survey’s from Bloomfield’s legacy dating back 200 years and each book was as big as my little body. I’d spread them open on the library floor and learn the odd truths about the lumpen land my blood had made its mark on. Bloomfield was once a sprawling area as big as Newark. In 1868 a portion of town called “Montclair” proposed building a train to New York City because they believed that’s where the shit was gonna go down. The rest of the Bloomfielders found this preposterous, “New York City?! What are you crazy? Why would anyone want to travel to New York City when we have the ever elegant Newark right down the street?” Montclair seceded. They built their train to NYC, Bloomfield built theirs to Newark and now Manhattanites aren’t afraid of risking their reps by admitting they know someone in Montclair, yet Bloomfield is still a bourgie suburb of Detroit to most.

While I was young, Bloomfield was part of the “Pasta Triangle” now forever memorialized by the Sopranos. In fact, Bloomfield is the first town Tony Soprano requests as his turf in episode 1, season 1. Though these peeps were from the Boot, they were anything but Italian nationals. Word that Garibaldi had just united the Kingdom of Italy began reaching the villages these Southern “Italians” once came from as they were already busy embarking for the New World. The colors of the Italian flag therefore were not theirs, nor was the modern and distantly ordained Florentine based Italian language which had yet to be officialized by the Accademia della Crusca. This is why they took to the new tongue and red, white, and blue with such jingoistic zeal: these things were more theirs than Garibaldi’s Sardinian kings ever were (and of course as things go, by generation two the Italian flag had become more Italian-American than Italian proper and the pop culture
the GI‘s left in Italy had people thinking America was the super cool -- It -- all the way up to the Vietnam War).

Same goes for the Irish of the Pasta Triangle (Nutley and Belleville were the other two villes, and Poles made up the missing third ethnicity, but other than their unfortunate Slavic style I blame for the 80s, their overall presence was much less garish and imposing than the aforementioned two). My great grandfather on the Irish side made sure the Customs official stamped his new passport as having him arrive from the “Free State of Ireland“. It was all still fresh, and when one third of the Irish flag represents Cromwell and another represents the faux-unity between the feuding parties, of course they’re also gonna eat up the new flag and tongue with the same fanaticism as the “Italians”. This was all finally theirs.

But I digress, none of these people lived in Bloomfield when Montclair seceded and none of them live there now. In 1868 Bloomfield was made up of Germans who’d just fled their own potato famine, and the descendants of Robert Treat’s pilgrims from New Haven and victors of New England’s King Philip’s War who had come to establish a “New Ark” rather than join the imperialistic Connecticut Charter whose Manifest Destiny towards the Hudson was about to get them in hot waters with the Provence of New York‘s Manifest Destiny towards the Connecticut River -- bail out of it in neutral Jersey where they seek no more land. The books tell us the Marquis de Lafayette thought Robert Treat’s Connecticutians did such a marvelous job with New Ark he called it “The Pearl of the Americas” yet in 1812, the same year NYC broke ground on De Witt‘s world altering grid plan, Bloomfield separated from Newark and Manifest Density kicked into high limbo (I‘m sure you already know the entire State of New Jersey was even partitioned off from New York in a poker deal lost by King James II, the Duke of York, to Carteret at the end of the 17th Century).

Now the Pasta Triangulese of Bloomfield have given way to Latinos of every paese, the Poles became Russians after Glasnost, the “Blacks of Europe” Irish have been exchanged for Blacks period, and Filipinos, Lebanese, and former Upper West Siders cum parents fill in the gaps in between. Through all the changes, however, Bloomfield is still Bloomfield is still Bloomfield. A Bloomfielder now deduces, traduces, and loses as a Bloomfielder always has, be he German or Puerto Rican. Seems like tardo in the soil you say? Well first and foremost, all of their falterings are done with such damn character that we excuse and even rely upon their tardoness. Secondly, I’d say our inability to box our decisions up within any logical casement lies in the topography, not the soil. Montclair is the exception. It sits on the ridge of the Watchung Mountains and is hence able to monitor the progress of Manhattan’s skyline better than the rest of us, thereby keeping its provincialism in check. Newark sits at the base of the ridge on the edge of the great impenetrable Meadowlands swamp and hence had nowhere to grow but longitudinally up and down the Passaic River where it developed it’s own veritable Micromegalopolis. Hop on Route 21 North, the sprawl’s bizarre transverse along the Passaic River whose eastern views of what could have been NYC are unfortunately blocked by the very last ripple of Appalachians. There you’ll find little evidence another urbane option exists like anywhere (super) close. This is it, the Paterson-Passaic-Newark-Elizabeth “NYC who?“ Micromegalopolis!

The City of Paterson was founded by Alexander Hamilton to harness energy from the Great Falls. You’ve never been? Shame on you, second tallest waterfalls this side of the Mississip! They were strictly off-limits Hessian territory during my youth where the base was littered with condoms, conversion van seats minus van, empty 40‘s, and anything that no longer looked like something was believed to have been sacrificed goats’ heads. Get hip to NJ debate tectonics: a) Hessians spray-paint iron crosses on the rocks of the Falls, b) locals think they’re swastikas, c) punks defend Hessians with the argument that the iron cross is just a symbol of pride, not racism, d) Hessians return stealthily by night to add arms to the iron crosses turning them into swastikas after being embarrassingly informed their symbol wasn’t necessarily Nazi after all. Mexicans and Ecuadorians own the Falls now and though they’ve improved the furniture slightly with plastic lawn chair semi-disposables, the littering of soda cans, junk food wrappers, and babies everywhere brings with it a more insidious form of progress stalled gray depression. This is better amigos?

Hamilton hired Pierre L'Enfant to lay out the plans for Paterson. The governing board of the project don't get it, fire 'em. L’Enfant takes his plans to Washington DC. Voila. Imagine.

Moving south, hop off 21 for a slow cruise through the City of Passaic’s 1940’s era built-for-cruising downtown circular boulevard that makes a continuous loop around the business district not simply possible, but inevitable. No prob, you’ll need it. Passaic had it’s brief go with Manifest Density for a stint following the 1946 launch of the DuMont Television Corporation’s first commercial television network in the world. How the demographics happened after is a mystery, but my guess is it’s the spirit of channel surfing anthropomorphized come home to haunt. English is the mother tongue here for only 30% of the pop. Spanish speakers whatever, they intermix with a huge community of Orthodox Jews, Orthodox Christian Ukrainians, and Gujarati Indians exiled from East Africa, yes. Both Paterson and Passaic are also first stop 'burb starter posts for Dominicans movin’ on up out of Washington Heights. I’m rolling the dice they move back to El Alto by generation three. Don’t stop at any of the region’s minisupermercados though if you’re looking for local delicacies, they tend to be kinda what they claim to be: paired down supermarkets with all the trappings and wrappings of mass produced America, just fewer. Do however hit up Craigslist for weird things you didn’t know you needed before heading out and rent a truck first because more often than not you'll find yourself directed to some dude’s house in Passaic.

At the end of 21 on the southern tip of the Micromegalopolis lies the City of Elizabeth, last bastion of Treat’s Connecticut farmers and bizarre replica of Passaic -- Latino center surrounded by Orthodox Jew ring with weird dudes that sell everything sellable on Craigslist aboding on the outskirts. By Elizabeth we’ve made it beyond both the gnosis view-blocking Appalachian piedmont of Passaic and Paterson and the endless swamp separating Newark from the Hudson that leaves Newark with nowhere to go but hubris or sink in the muck -- and finally we've got a straight shot at the Apple! Sort of, problem, course prob, the path thereto from this standpoint takes us across Staten Island and read that word again -- “Staten” comes from the Dutch for “city” and aren’t we now back where we started with imploded Manifest Density? There are no cities on that island, just villages incorporated into one they don't even wanna be incorporated into! No, city is not ours from this vantage. Staten Island is another quicksand and hence we must make do with what we have here in Jerz as Jerz proper, not a connected extension of NYC swathe, rather something uniquely our own. Before heading back to Bloomfield to figure out just what that may be though, let’s stop by Newark’s lusophonic Ironbound section for a glass of cabernet and sprite for some more Micromegalopolis paradox. During the 1950’s and early 60’s Port Newark was sacked with Portuguese docksmen escaping Oliviera Salazar‘s regime. When they arrived they rooted themselves in what was then the cheapest neighborhood in Newark, the Ironbound (bound by train tracks). July 12th, 1967 rolls in, the Portuguese've just gotten settled, Irish-Italian cops beat a black cab driver senseless, the riots explode killing nearly 30 and evacuating half the population -- the half with money and industry. The Portuguese weren’t ready to leave yet though, they just got here. During the six days of riots the Portuguese held vigil with shotguns fixed atop the tracks separating the Ironbound from the rest of Newark: neither cops nor rioters would enter Ironbound that week. Now, Ironbound is the most expensive neighborhood to own a house in in Newark. Fantastic, but Salazar dies a year later and the Portuguese stop coming. I should qualify something germane here, these Portuguese were not cosmopolitan city-folk from Porto or Lisbon, there were Old World docksmen from the sticks. This note is important because, though the Portuguese from Portugal stopped coming, the neighborhood continued growing -- only now with Portugueseish speaking Brazilians and Cape Verdeans. They say there are still Welsh speaking communes deep in Patagonia. Imagine if a mother-tongued modern American English speaker headed to the pampa to set up shop because, well, Welsh have something in common with England, don’t they? It’s weird like that: tiny little pre-caliphate white people cohabiting with busty New World Afro-Germanic-indigenous-Latino mixes with two distant cousin tongues as disparate as Cornish from Newyorican. The bar we’ve stopped at is on Ferry Street and it’s called “Adega”, but quit your ogling at the chimerical scene if you wanna make it back to Bloomfield alive. And erase your minds of any possibility of getting one of these waitresses to hop on the PATH train back to the city with you, I’ve already tried a thousand times (thrice to be exact).
“The city? What city? Plainfield? Harrison? Montclair? What city?”
“New York City.”
“New York! My god no, I never go there…one day, one day I’ll go there. Maybe during Christmas for the holiday lights!”
Twisted. From favela all the way to Ferry Street and the topography of the Micromegalopolis still hampers the most inertia driven trajectories. Twisted. There is a New Jersey guid’ in me that just can’t let it rest. I know there are knock-out drop-dead Persian chicks fulfilled in their family homestead sifting surgeon guts with relatives as they’ve done for centuries that do not need me to save them through discothèque tonight -- or ever -- simply because they’re blazing, but I just can’t let it go like I can’t let it go that these Brazilianas are content to call it quits on Ferry Street.

So back to the Bloomfield between Montclair on the hill and Newark in the swamp, in the Garden State (" an immense barrel, filled with good things to eat, and open at both ends with Pennsylvanians grabbing from one end and the New Yorkers from the other") of New Jersey stuck between the cancering behemoths, between both American Heartland proper and New York City-State, we head with our tail between our legs, our spirit anxious to leap back across the River, but our head too testy to give up the impossible equation of this incredible Near and Far. The bar we’ll go to here is called my parent’s medicine cabinet in the biggest house of an inner-suburban town scored cheaply during the days of white flight and going cheaply yet again in this era of real estate short sales -- the manor of the manure, my mother’s joked -- where I'll tell you more things about what it’s like to grow up Irish-Italo-American with blacks on one side and wasps on the other, growth stunted at 5"9' like the tallest Bolivian from the highest mount or the shortest Dutchman from the lowest quag, a midling, not handsome enough to get anything without working for it, nor grotesquely Rasputinesque wherein only magic would meet my means, what it’s like being born the middle son in this gateway state on the outskirts of the Micromegalopolis where the NYC skyline pops into view at any interval reminding us, vanishing just as quickly allowing us to forget and get on with it. Polishing off my elder brother’s bottle of Jameson and washing it down with the blackberry brandy collecting dust behind it that generally only rears its head during eggnog season or when I pine for non-forthcoming explanations, I rethink “Leo Terrace” until it’s become the perfectly succinct Old World/New World message/symbol I need it to be. There must be a reason why Gramps didn’t call it “Leo Avenue”. I start with the street sign which truth be told only reads “Leo Terr.” Did I inherit my word hang-up from him? Did he come across this English word for "street" taken from an Italian word that means "veranda" and realize that the English improved upon an Italian word by bringing it back to whence it came? A “terrazzo” in Italian no longer touches the terra. In fact, hovering far above deems it quite the opposite. A terrace that’s a street, however, is thee urban synonym for earth. This is how I’ve packaged it: Francesco Mauro Leo, the Bloomfielder with the NYC skyline in vision, left me a sign that I need to prod things in a New World way while leaving them free to be what they be as one does in the Old World. Francesco Mauro Leo, the Bloomfielder with the NYC skyline blocked from view, left me something much more straightforward, “Leo Terra” is “we piss on trees like all cats do”.

Thursday, January 31, 2008


The word nostalgie was coined in 1668 by the Alsatian physician Johannes Hofer. Combining the Greek nostros for "homecoming" with algos for "pain, grief, and distress" Hofer invented a term to describe the disease of "extreme homesickness." At the time, this nostalgie was one ill plaque. It would jaundice the soul, blind the spirit, and wither one to dust if left undiagnosed. Doctors shuddered less even when encountering the similar stiffness of ennui because at least ennui , though an equally arresting condition, had a way of mutating randomly here and there into eurekic snaps back out to languidity; as if the sufferer of ennui, bored to death by life, kept whittling away substance he could no longer find interest in until he'd narrowed it all down to one single dot on the wall, a dot he'd then transfix on for weeks trying to whittle down further still until -- in the fortunate cases -- the force inside this dot propelled by cosmic ebb and flow would then reverse its own trajectory refusing to get caught (think past and future Big Bangs) releasing the ailed into a furious sweat of ideas, and hence, frantic liberation. The sufferer of nostalgie however had no similar simple reactionary hope. He would stare at this same dot transfixed similarly because it was also the end result of his attempt to whittle back to the point he'd come from unable to ever return. Depression came to the nostalgent from the feeling of being stuck on a line oozing pointlessly and joylessly forward, and yet to turn him around would be to place him back in the original direction birth had him running from: nostalgie then was an awareness of the same dot at both opposing ends of that line. And so the doctors were stuck too. No honest treatment could be found for this crippling disease.
Seemingly making matters more complicated, returning home in the Alsace- Lorraine has never come easy. Rarely could a doctor just send the sick homebound to start afresh. Home was often in someone else's hands. The first recorded history of the region has Celts fighting vertical wars with Romans over control of the salt mines; since then some sort of horizontal Franco-Germanic conflict has kept the area inflamed or at a minimum, instantly provokable. A-L (with a naiveté appropriately opposite to that found in L.A.) has been continuously pummeled from every angle. Who knew what language would be spoken in the home you grew up in, assuming your home was even still standing. Well miraculously, it was this same displacement that inadvertently produced the cure. Truth is, Hofer did invent the word nostalgie, but not the condition. The condition was already well researched, documented, and revered in German as heimweh; Hofer was well familiar with it.
Being Alsatian, Hofer spoke both French and German and had formal studies on both sides of the Rhine. In 1668 most of the Alsace was in French hands though, capitulated by the Hapsburgs in the Treaty of Westphalia only a few decades earlier. The Hapsburgs would then lose the rest to Louis the XIV within the proceeding decades therein making French that centuries temporarily imposed tongue (though whether it was by a Franco royal edict or personal preference to speak French, history appropriately does not document), so Johannes Hofer transposing a French word where a German word already existed stumbled him into the recipe for vaccinations one hundred years before the first vaccine was accredited in use for fighting smallpox. In other words, Hofer discovered that the antidote to the virus is always the same virus. The antidote is never very far or different from the original old dote. Dote coming from the Greek didonai which meant "to give" which shares the same Proto-Indo-European root with "grab" which is essentially the same thing as "taking" meant that by fighting heimweh with nostalgie Hofer was able to spin the victim's maligned existential lines into whirlwindic circles that vacillated the victims give-taking between languages thereby losing track of who's on first, what's on second, how will we ever get to third, ad infinitum until being flung from the infirmary on a long slow ginger skip home.
"Wait doctor, so is it heimweh or nostalgie that I suffer from?"
"Well you see, in a word son, both…it was heimweh, it is currently nostalgie, and if I have my way you may very soon carry with you something similar called nostalgia.
"Whatever word we chose to use, this condition which ponders the past exists in all tenses. It is always around us, yet it is also this inescapability that frees us. May I offer you October Fifth as proof? This is a day just deep enough into Fall to begin feeling nostalgic for past summer's follies while simultaneously near enough to the future holiday season you look forward to nostalgically as a summation of all the past holidays enjoyed. On October Fifth both the past and the future are nostalgic. Whatever direction you turn you see the past. This is an impossible equation, no? All things lead backwards? Well if this is the case then we must have mistaken what backwards truly is. Backwards must be forwards as well then. On October Fifth you therefore move forward with no other direction to go. Or better, On October Fifth you are finally just moving unconcerned with direction. It's for this reason you can not recall a single memory from October Fifth {sic: we are pausing while you search}. You were moving forward then, free of memory. You don't remember it, but you were also happy then. The day is so liberated from memory you aren't even sure if it's October Fifth precisely you fail to remember. It may have been the Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, or Eighth, who knows! And seeing as you can't remember the day, you also can't recall the date. Yes, you were happy then because regardless of direction, you were heading home to the cradled beginning -- as you are now.
"Patient, allow me to continue extrapolation. You must also understand that to bring you this word for your condition I had to travel to Greece to seek the words the ancients would have used to secure firm footing for my new word. You would have eschewed a proper new word as yet another propigant further forward and an old word would have been but another reminder of just how impossibly distant the past feels. I needed a nonchronistic offspring of them both. Thing is, with imperial forces in these parts toppled as frequently as they are, I also needed a word that would weather any crown. This is how I solved it: from the Alsace to Greece there are two routes to go, the northern and the southern routes. The northern route would take me through German states, through the circle of the central Hapsburg duchies, and across the Balkans to Greece. The southern route would take me over the Alps, into the Savoy, and down through the Italian peninsula where I would embark via boat to Greece from Brindisi. I decided to try them both as 'both' seemed to be the opposite of the singularity your malady has you only seeing now. I chose the southern route on my way there, and took the northern on my way back.
"As I passed through the Italian republics on my southern route I heard the first part of this word nos which they used to mean "our." On my return voyage through the northern route while winding through the Schwarzwald I heard the second part of this word tal which the Schwabians used to mean "valley." This suffix "gie" was used in some way in every language, dialect, and slang I encountered to mean just about anything so let's call this tail to our word "everything." Inadvertently, I discovered by taking this circular trip to and from my destination that I was in possession of a compound word whose separate pieces with entirely different etymologies from the same compound word of the nostalgie from nostros plus algos I invented in Greece share identical meanings to each other! Fraternal twins who happened to plop out identical! You see, in this circular etymology nostalgie translates quite literally to 'Our Valley of Everything.' Whichever homonym you choose we all therefore suffer from nostalgie to a greater or lesser degree. We carry it with us. It is our communal collection. It is therefore not just your disease, dear patient, we all share it -- and if we all share it well then it can't quite be considered a disease at all then, can it? Please, don't burden yourself with the weight of the entire load. It is there with or without your extra burden."
And so through the wordplay of Johannes Hofer the pain was imparted into all of us and nostalgie mellowed into the softer nostalgia and ceased tormenting us as a disease proper. It may continue to exist as a valley of sorts, but if we recognize it as "the valley" doesn't that in the very least say something of our position on the hill? Nostalgia exists like any element does. It is not a force to eradicate. It is yet another element to monitor and ride as it adds its hue to the impartial scene. Luckily, it's also a beautiful word and just to say it keeps its hazards in check. Say it with veneration, nostalgia. Gorgeous even.
Problem is, our northern fear of stagnation and lack of advancement has created an unbalanced cultural focus on all things future tense that clouds our ability to appreciate nostalgia's full spectrum. Our northern goals for our days and what we feel we need to get done during them place such an unbalanced focus on progress and societal betterment that we push nostalgia to a delicate periphery where a fear of retrospection (in the event that a spelunk too far down could suck you into some reminiscent unproductive bog) could cancer nostalgia back into a disease again. It's not necessarily a negative word though; it doesn't even have to be a depressive one. It is a word that demands a certain comprehensive time-sensitive breath to say right, true, but any word that complete should. Perhaps we get nervous around it in the north because our contribution to the word, the valley, the tal, is the heavy side. If that's the case, perhaps we should. Maybe even the jobs allotted for the proper functioning of nostalgia have been divvied appropriately then: judicial monitoring for the north, executive risk-taking for the south where the first part of the word, the collective part, the uplifting part, the nos came from on Hofer's southern trek.
Along the Mediterranean on his southern leg, Hofer found the northern and southern uses of nostalgia to be rather different, existing in concentric circles that overlapped in the 'comprehensive time-sensitive breath' quadrant and worded similarly in the dictionary, but with a nuance that rendered them almost different words entirely. The rest of the free space in the southern pie of nostalgia that does not overlap with the northern nostalgia actually leans towards things like progress, the timeless wisdom of masonry, and endless inextricable communion. Hofer came to surmise that this Mediterranean soul surrounded by ruins is raised on his imponderable equation: when every direction leads to the past you find yourself heading towards the future back to home. They don't need to learn it on the Mediterranean, it's in them. The ruins have stood millennia as Vespas, theocratic campaigns, and souvenir crazed tourists whipped within and without. They've been bombed, burned, pardoned, and recently internationally preserved. These people aren't living in the past by carrying it with them, they're celebrating the story of past, present, and future as it happens at once in all directions.
It is our northern inability to wrap our heads completely around this notion that not only impedes our ability to digest and enjoy the ruins as our own ruins but also impedes our ability to appreciate the gaudiness of the modern Mediterranean art being thrown up in seeming contrast around them today. We vacation to Rome to ponder both how a modern city grew around ruins without knocking them down (lazy or respectful?) and how the intellect of Michelangelo could produce something as garish as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We can dig into the gaudiness through irony, yes, but to discuss irony is to discuss a different disease altogether. There is another purer way to value gaudiness. Michelangelo understood it. The Egyptians got it. The Moors of Al Andalus sanctified themselves through it long after both their name and their religion have survived centuries of attempts at vilification. It's simple really, Mediterranean art is meant to ripen. Ripen over centuries with salt from the sea air, curious paws of passing patrons, bullet holes from wars we can't too soon forget. The colors are meant to be too brash, the columns are meant to be overly ornate, the grotesques are not all meant to remain. In Mediterranean art what may first appear as overdone is in fact a great understanding of humility. The artist knows that though he is a conduit for a Muse there is a man in between to contend with. A flawed man. A man who can't possibly get it right. Therefore, the Mediterranean artist overdoes it to allow the immaculate visions of history and the elements remedy his faults.
Interestingly, the Romans never specified which Muse exactly was the Muse of Art. Vermeer believed Clio, the Muse of History, moonlighted as the Muse of Art. Vermeer knew that now is the time to see the Parthenon, for example. It's ripened with history. It may have peaked in the past century, but it was certainly way too much to look at when Iktinos completed it 2,500 years ago. History has finally completed the job. It took away what wasn't meant to stand. I think Vermeer would also agree that Venice's Basilica de San Marco awaits some more. Clio's not yet done. She may be waiting for Venice to sink, when the only way to visit the church is by boat and who wouldn't concur with her then that that would perfect the project.
William Hogarth believed Thalia, the Muse of Comedy, masqueraded as the Muse of Art. He was on to something too. Moving west across the Mediterranean to Barcelona we face a metaphor too blunt, too cheesy, to admit: Antoni Gaudi is both the architect and archetype of gaudy. Painfully so. He's bedazzled Barcelona with eyesores Catalans have no choice but to esteem. It would be too much to expect the Catalans to humble into a confession that their number one attraction, La Sagrada Familia, is downright hideous -- Oh there I go with my northern mind already forgetting why Hogarth invoked Thalia! Yes yes, the Barcelonans are laughing at me! Gaudi's creations are modern history! They have yet to ripen with us and the elements! In due time they will mute, soften, breathe and be breathed upon, occupy a nook in "Our Valley of Everything," and our collective narcissism will both take credit for and adore them as they will be worthy of adoration.
I talk this talk though fellow New Worlders further West and centuries younger than perhaps the spirit of any New Worlder is qualified to do. As I pause for a minute to reflect on my own city I realize how hard pressed you'd be to find a single New Yorker not ready to tear down Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim and start anew. We don't just hate seeing it, we think it's dumb. But am I trying to tell myself that in due time this building will make sense? It's already starting to peel and the renovations made to it this year were the first on the abomination in over a decade. Are the curators already on my nostalgic tip? No, I don't buy it. Just because things go up doesn't mean they should stay up. The Guggenheim should come down and I promise my opinion does not stem from a rash American deus ex machina machismo. It just doesn't work. It won't ripen. We're gradually figuring out how to read these things. Beginning with the transference of the banners of modernity to the newer and taller skylines of Asia and then solidified by the bombing of the Towers, the spirit of New Yorkers is changing. We're almost part of the Old World. We're gaining nostalgic perspective. Even New Jersey is producing a successful organic vineyard these days. As New Worlders we're plowing ahead with our ability to accept the past in the present while attempting to carry with us our own past of a complete irreverence for it.
This is obviously no easy task. Thalia's been our Muse since conception. We've been tearing mansions down to build skyscrapers in their stead. We've been consuming everything that floats ashore and claiming it as our own creation. We've proudly sold shirts proclaiming things like "Welcome to New York Mother Fucking City, Now Duck Bitch." We've been laughing at ourselves.
That's not our city anymore though, and yet we're cautious to welcome Clio in as our new Muse. These are tricky times, go easy on us. This flux of Muses has left us debating helter-skelter things like whether to or not to tear down the legendary "punk" club CBGB's. The lease is up and the new one's got an extra zero. In the last century this debate would have never even existed. Goodbye Cotton Club. So long Copacabana. We awaited the next step. Goodbye Filmore East. Goodbye Cat Club. Couldn't wait to see what came next. The dance clubs in West Chelsea have changed names and hands a hundred times. The Palladium became an NYU dorm. Christ! Can you imagine if they all still stood? How old would that make us? CBGB's, though once seminal, still stands and hasn't supported a non-referential act in over a decade. Last call to define the genre boundaries of the bands that play its stage closed at a hardcore matinee in 1988. Of course, newness isn't an essential element of goodness, but packaging redundancy and selling it as newness is reason enough to support that new lease. Yes, love our northern minds for studying the ways of the south, the nos, by trying to officially make CB's "ours", but pity us for being stuck in the classroom still unable to get down to the curb. Eager to get the nos we've tried to lose the tal, yet you need them both to form the word and there are other ways to fill the valley than leaving all the ruins up. The air holds memories as well as the soil does. If we buried CBGB's in the soil of the Fresh Kills landfill rest assured the ocean air would breeze across Staten Island as it does now and bring CB's and all its original smells back to us everyday. CBGB's is everybody's now. Time to offer her up.
So aged Jersey rocker Little Stevie of E Street Band fame has been spearheading the movement to preserve CB's with the inane claim that "it's the last rock and roll club in the universe." Good god how my heart aches for all the good people behind La Sala Rosa in Montreal, The Earl in Atlanta, Kafe Kult in Munich, Mono in Glasgow, The Replay Lounge in Lawrence, Kansas and the myriad other crusaders across the globe losing money dealing with the petty idiosyncrasies of musicians because they believe in it when they have the nagging option all along of just turning on the jukebox and simply selling booze. Muddy Waters is spinning in his grave embarrassed by the hacks that consider themselves his offspring. Muddy Waters was tearing walls down, rockers, not putting them up. Where was Little Stevie in 1971 when Caetano Veloso released the song "Nostalghia (That's What Rock and Roll Is All About)"? Where was Little Stevie when Tim Yohannon led a parade of casket bearers carrying effigies of hippies down Haight Street proclaiming the Death of Flower Power in 1967? And could Little Stevie have possibly made it through school without reading Leo Tolstoy's "The Kreutzer Sonata" wherein the revolutionary grip of music causes infidelity amongst the refined against their greater will? Tolstoy managed to never use the words "rock and roll."
Yes, it is time to close CBGB's, but more importantly we should applaud ourselves for at least debating it. In debating it we've created something new; a debate where none would have existed in the past. And seeing as this debate truly is something new, I propose we offer up this newness as our appropriate eulogy to the newness CB's once spawned. We're looking back to our musical past for advice and it tells us to start a revolution towards the future, but to tear the building down is contrary to our architectural past which is on one hand ashamed we tore down masterpieces like Penn Station but proud we're rebuilding it in the future according to plans similar to those of the past. In other words, it is October Fifth or thereabouts today and I expect it to remain this way all year long. Savor this transference of Muses on our trip home because if things work out we won't remember it when we arrive.

{Postscript: In the summer of 2008, despite two years of benefit concerts and protests, Thalia's comedy overlapped with Clio's history and the doors of CBGB's closed for good. Thank god.}

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Historics Bio & the "Infinidelity" 3 x 12" series

I wrote this for Historics:

Everyone needs to see some sweat, but there's a fault with where we think we need to see it, due to this hard-wired Protestant work ethic that's still trying to cool things down. It's got us thinking we have to see you sweat before we'll believe you really mean it. But what about divination? What about gliding with the gift? What about finding the faith to believe some people are just tapped conduits channeling this stuff out with Jedi-Mind-Trick ease? This is where Don Devore's deftness is so dope it can have the affect of arching back around the curve of things toward being a disability. 'Cause really, how can you believe this guy isn't behind the scenes sweating it out like the rest of us? I mean, maybe he is, but if so, he does it like the savvy gentleman that doesn't really exist in this age outside of Graham Greene novels; which is to say, if he does it at all, he does it in classy secrecy.

The first time I met Don I played a Thanksgiving Day party he threw at some three-story town house in Central Philly. "Hey man, come down and play a party," was all I got from him first. Upon arrival I found a massive spread with cranberry sauce, stuffing, savory pies from ye olden tymes, weird beers brewed according to Ben Franklin's own personal recipes, a decent p.a. in the living room, a packed house, and not an exclamation point on Don's face. For all I knew, this was just how this guy lived it (except when he mumbled under his breath, "I actually prefer Thomas Jefferson's brewing methods"). Nothing about Don gave the impression that this night was any different than any other; nor that there was even a finger lifted to make it happen; nor that any worlds involving the spectrum of things between oxycodone and lawn croquet (or both together) would seem discordant to either nun or non. No, the dude just channels it and you follow. Always has. I've seen him play in Ink and Dagger with make-up on his face in front of 700 sweaty kids in an industrial suburb of Detroit. I didn't flinch. I've called him up to jam, only to find out he's in Melbourne recording a Souls She Said album for the week. I didn't ask. I've arrived at parties on the Lower East Side at like 11 am to find Don both bartending and DJing whenever he felt moved in either direction. I just accepted the drinks and danced. And whether there are or are not sacks of money following this guy around seems beside the point. Like a proper diviner, it appears like he's operating aside from even that tectonic.

Part of this particular brand of divining is a Gertrude Stein-like craft at curating the ever movable feast -- and that goes for not just Don but everyone in this band. In fact, it was Mickey Madden from L.A.'s Maroon Five that first envisioned how this puzzle should congeal. One might think Mickey’s already being busy with music non-stop would render the dude spent, but it doesn't work like that. When more is really on it always makes more, and if only the goodtimes weren't so fast that we could actually remember how they happened, I'd ask Mickey which cocktail lit the lightbulb that said, "Don, tonight we do not go to that party, we jam with Josh instead", Josh being Joshua Grubb of Austin’s Vietnam. So add to that trio of puppeteers the hard-to-catch wandering myths (that somehow got caught) of Ryan Rapsys from Chicago's Euphone and Dale Jiminez from Philly's Need New Body, and so begins the writing of "Strategies For Apprehension", on both coasts, in studios ranging from the sun soaked Sunset Sound studio number 2 (already made famous many times over by the likes of the Doors, the Beach Boys, and Zep, etc.) to Earl Greyhound's rat-infested Dumbo basement studio in the dead of winter. All the while the studio doors remained perpetually open with a collage of helpful hands and ears that might look like puke if you put all those colors together on one canvas at the same time (I'm sorry did I say punk, I meant puke)-- you just have to accept that these things happen casually, don't ask how, I tried. You stop asking when Don tells you he hooked the track up with Kool Keith at a chance encounter at Sundance when Kool Keith was transitioning between his Black Elvis and Black Warhol stages. Word dude, word.

Anyhow, it's also beside the point for Historics -- and this is where this sort of channeling bends all the way over the curve to a disability. Historics are not Rasputin-like augurs working to bed the queen and topple the empire (I mean, maybe that too, but first), they just wanna make perfect sounds and when the bliss is this guided no one will or can say no to the pursuit thereof. But listen, now I'm just looking to write this bio for reasons that may be obvious to you and me -- to convince people that they must, must, go forth and seek "Strategies For Apprehension" -- but this is not so obvious to Don. When I tried getting out of him what I deemed to be the proper info I intended to use to pique your interest, he instead took me through the entire album track by track describing where aerosol spray cans were used in place of a hi-hats, or how fat fingers hit heavily on a floor tom with a blown out mic sound like thunder, or why at some points it's necessary to run to Radio Shack and just buy the cheapest mic you can find. Dude, girls don't care about that stuff. There's a cover of Queen's "She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettos)" on this album along with a cover of Sub Society's "A Lot Less" and they flow with the spectrum of pure Historics surrounding them like they were always just there, you don't ask how. You just sweat it 'cause it seems like it always was, like these songs were already here and just needed to be tapped. There's sweat here yeah; it's yours though, not Historics'.

And Egads! In August 2009 RVNG Records will be releasing a 3 x 12" Historics series. Mark McCoy is on the art, here's my part for the words:

Part I

For awhile nothing happened. Fantastic excursions to amazing maize mazes with spiked cider and Dutch mansions with 400 hand-carved pumpkins upstate with couples Nick knew from academia; extended-hour museum galas with proven German djs and home in time for sober fucks with familiar hands that had figured out just how to slap me; pasta a casa in front of the tv for marathons of “Locked Up Abroad” and gossip; weekend strolls through the barrio with endless drool dripping from the corner of my monkey boyfriend’s mouth as we passed every Dominicana ass which I always balanced with something like, “I might not drop my pants for the entire Greater Antilles, mon amour, my tastes are a bit more selective, but I would and will do every last one of your friends and you‘ll never know, so who’s up?” So perfect that when one of us failed to tease jabs about infidelity for a long enough gap we assumed the other must be concealing something. This wasn’t an obsession of ours, more like an exercise in honesty, like c‘mon, after a complete spliff and an hour in the frankincense and culo drenched Iglesia Dio Poderoso we‘d hit up some Sundays, are you really gonna tell me I’m the crazy when I explode on Nick after all he had to offer was “do you have to find Faith to be the drummer in a church band?” that he must be hiding something because he hadn’t mentioned a single Dominicana ass all service? The drummer! Right, he was paying attention to the drummer when there was a swaying chain of three generations worth of Latinas who knew Dio loves the way they paint their threads on so tightly as to better facilitate His views of the fine work He’s crafted (at least that was Nick’s logic during what I perceived to be more honest times). I mean we were perfect. The cosmos had lost their frigidity, the homing pigeons homed, if the grippe grasped me I wouldn’t have flinched, and the confinement I once dreaded at first snowfall had given way to cozy with a capital Comfort, which is all to say we were veering perilously close to that nothing that consumed all our other “spoken for“ peers, those time-bomb relics of slavery. Nothing. Serendipity (when it came) came with a smiley face. Night had a destination. When New Yorkers walked fast I really believed they had someplace to be. This was solid. There was nothing I couldn’t do with him, nothing I couldn’t bring to the table, no chamber he wouldn’t let me in, I need only ask. Thing is, I didn’t always ask, neither did he. Knowing we could was enough to make curiosity feel like one fluid breast-stroke. Fluid, that was it. Even our fights were fluid. Slamming bedroom doors, storming out of bars with half finished beers, and poverty even felt fluid. Rare bouts of paranoia even felt fluid. Everything was breast-strokes. When the apartment was silent I no longer heard the Fear. Yes of course, “thank god” you say. I’m with you, the Fear blows. But to not even hear it when you know it’s there? That’s some frightening shit. The Fear slices, hacks, pounds, haunts, and terrorizes -- but at least it engages. This other thing, this residue, this seeming handle on things, stares up at you expressionless from your empty brunch plate, deceives through keeping plans, patiently replaces your frayed ends one by one with fauxly-synonymous fantastical encyclopedia entries. I unplugged the refrigerator because it hummed. I picked up my phone and frantically avoided all my impulses to call Nick (he'd become my go-to when I was scared), shaking the phone with nervous tears in my eyes staring at the number that memories-of-phone-calls-past had morphed into another image of him, I kissed the "Nick", turned the phone off, hid it in a nook in the couch, and left the apartment. To save this relationship, to highlight our chafes, to connect through tatters and pulsing vulnerabilities, to keep the breast-strokes blissed, I needed to conceal something. With a secret between us we’d be closer to the knowledge that the knowledge isn’t ours. I needed to conceal to remind us both that something is always concealed.

Part II

But now which avenue to choose? Since I was bubbling with ballz I thought about sneaking off and scaling Mt. Shasta alone to bring back some light through the lie (‘cause there’s that other conduit to the Fear through light, remember? The kind that reveals via the limitless vastness of the first summer days when too many options flatten into one grand inconsequentiality, where any path taken leads to a marvelous story, so what‘s so marvelous about that?), but no, no Shasta for me; passing the couples along that trail searching for the Fear in tandem with matching t's and posturepedic rucksacks would divert my attention to a bitter and very non-transcendent impotence, or whatever the girl version of impotence is, implodence? I could leave him a note saying "Babe, I'm off, I'm out. Try to not overunderstand my need for freedom, try to sweat some, try to let it bite a bit please, Yours" and hole myself up in a hotel room until I’d estimated he'd found the Fear again and, not knowing which road he went down (be it jealousy, suicide, moving on, worry, muting, rationalizing) I’d thereby work myself into my own palpitating horror wherein paranoia would bring me close to that fabric I sought. Can't though, can't impose the pain, that assumes some safety-netted interconnected “we’re in this together” support which is exactly what I’m trying to extract myself from. I could get a nose job or ass implants and return perfect, so perfect I’d conceal through the flaw which is lost for good and more impossible to recreate than a perfection. That would fix him fucked! But then the Fear would be ever present and overt and let’s not forget I only seek this slit so I can return back to a more well rounded breast-stroking. This is the same reason why I can’t just run down to the candy store to drain my retinas pale with complacency. Regardless of what they tell you, no one’s ever gone down that route and returned home, they remain elsewhere even (especially) in sobriety. However, they do sell things there that make you hyper-aware; I could conceal through accuracy and come back with my eyes bulging bright hanging on his every word! Still, could I really take credit when a guide led me there? No, I had to re-find the Fear myself without any vice as advocate. I could become an expert on something on the sly, maybe entomology so he’d have no idea I knew all there was to know about all those little creatures feasting off his filthy flesh flittering about him, my refocusing on the little guys would make him seem huge and who doesn‘t want that in a lover? Think about how lonely he’d feel if ever I was to bust out that I knew everything about katydids. That would bring the Fear on a‘ight, but it seems like a trick and tricks wear off. I needed something with a constant subtle sustain that I could never risk leaking. I thought about immersing myself into the icy healing waters of the River Béarn with no illness to heal only to therefore emerge hypothermic where others find Creed and wither in some Pyrenees bath retreat for months, backwards backwards backwards into history -- when you wander through those ancient villages don’t you feel eyes following from their shaded windows? That could be me! And what a pure way to conceal, simply by sticking a twig in the spokes. But nope, know why I’ll never do it that way? ‘Cause that way sucks, and I’m psyched on things. When I get back to that fissure I wanna greet it with a cackle not a cough. I’m finding this Fear again, I’m bringing it back home, and I’m getting off in the process -- not just for me, as an ode to us as well: Nick wants me happy, not miserable. Oooh, the Fear already tickled a trickle in once I’d made up my mind I was seeing this thing through. For a heartbeat I even thought that was enough, I proved my point, done. But no, no way, the only way to secure it was to live it. Up until this point my head had done all the walking, now it was time to lay her aside. Well, one more job for her before we parted ways; I stopped by the pharmacy on my way there to buy the same bar of soap Nick and I share at home so I could lose the trail in lather later.

Part II (I Mean, Really)

So now which avenue to choose? I thought about how often I regretted snapping at Nick that he only thinks about one thing. “One thing!?” he’d flip back, “One thing?“ and his eagerly inflating eyes would elate with the rare opportunity I’d just opened up for him to expound upon the fantasies he’d been harboring on this One Thing, “I think about little ones that get me pitched like a quarterback ready to receive the hike, and formidable mounds that position me as a lumberjack at one end of a heave-hoing saw prying open the sequoia’s base, and quick ones in public bathrooms so I can continue conversation at the bar with you, and lengthy one’s that give me something to talk about at the bar with them, and white ones that spent as many centuries under clouds creating diversions to kill the time that inevitably lead them to twisted obliquities off course as I have, and brown ones…and the brown ones!” etc etc until he’d hammered it in stiff for me to never ask that question again. And then the aftershocks he’d hit me with blocks down our jaunt, “…and the brown one’s that though sapped of pigment by the Februaries in New York we’ve all shared together are still not what you'd call white, and the short ones…” Fair enough, so which “non-one thing” would it be then for me? A Nick clone so I could examine nuance through similarity? A beast so I could limit my confusions that it might be about anything else (I’ve always envied hideous gay men for this reason, pure hole with friction)? Or do I take it when I’m least needing it to approximate that same purity? Or take it when I absolutely need it to approximate that same purity? Or one of his best friends I could walk arm and arm with at a later date with Nick present and Nick think nothing of it? Maybe even call our potential into question via a sexual joke to ensure he’d think nothing of it and conceal through transparency? With a close friend all things are possible; I could have close friend text Nick that he’s boning a skinny bitch like his chick and ask for pointers and see what Nick comes through with and see how close friend then acts them out. I could extract a small fee from close friend, something nominal like 40 bucks, just so we can notch that one off as well (and how much you wanna bet I could up it 10 bucks every time thereafter once I got that ball rolling?). Or what if I went with a man with a face of no coast? Could I implant a sea about such a face or would I be the one who walks plasticed with prairie? Foraging the fridge of a man with the face of no coast in a banana strap and no panties! Or along those lines, what about a man that looks like he knows no one? I could just grab a guy like that off the street. To smear across my belly the seed that spewed from a spring with no outlet for story could be one precious story indeed to keep; one that would bleed into fiction before I even started to sweat about keeping it a secret, and thereby one I’d need to do again -- remember, I need that secret. Or should I orchestrate a “swap” that isn’t a swap at all? That would be some multi-pronged assault with concealment: find my meat, tell him he needs to find a complimentary chick for Nick that he’ll pretend is his girlfriend and call it a swap and see if Nick ever catches on that in fact it isn’t, just four people fucking. Or is it not the who but the how? Do I in fact want to leave tracks that he can find and then chew him a new ass when he suggests I might be up to something? Men are such steadfast retards with their reasoning that without substantive facts he’d eventually sell-out his proper intuition laying it aside (as much as he could) for the “facts“. I could freak out on him about it! Blame him for paranoia about ever ever insinuating such a thing knowing the whole time he’s right! All I need to do is build a solid case in my defense and he’ll sell his own gut right out for reason. Or I could do something purely for me, something that wouldn’t torture Nick at all but that he thinks would; I could grab an ex, someone who knows my body but whom I also detest (as is the cases with exes), do it strictly for the bone and the breach. Aye, this is far too much jurisdiction to allow my head free reign in, she being the fabricator of those calcifying non-secrets, when it’s her grand collection of things that’s threatening to appear like some discernable picture that got us into this precarious state. No, I just need to leap. K, just one more job for her before we part ways though; I stopped by the pharmacy on my way there to buy the same bar of soap Nick and I share at home so I could lose the trail in lather later.

Part III

It’s incredible how little time it all takes! From buzz of the doorbell, to the stairs up to his flat (Jesus, another flight up? How am I supposed to fake any semblance of cadence?), to his opening of the door, to full on, through cigarette breather, to return to full on, through cuddling like we knew each other, through showering and the lingering molassesed infinity from the turning off of the faucet to having to peel my mind away from that image of the bar of soap I was leaving there, and then the drink together at the bar next to the bar that Nick sometimes goes to, what, was it even three hours? Best yet, our return to civility at that bar revved me up all ready to go again -- which of course is when I re-invited my head back into the hang to ensure the go-again would be with Nick when I got home. To return to that persistent statistic with a million epithets, scarlet letters, and inferred approvals within the respective sexes, that old fail-safe paradox that still bears such dripping fruit after all we’ve dredged her through that never ever ever dries up, to be just another faltered number while at the same time feeling like a vital viral piece working towards a more sinister unraveling gets your incisors bleeding ecstatic venom through the panthered panting. Venom? Venom, from the love-potion pricking goddess of beauty and love herself, Venus! And from where else could such a name come other than the Latin “venire” for “coming”. I’d succeeded at putting all the pieces back together again, all these words that once danced together around the bonfire in more closer-to-the-ground-living times: “amare” is "to love" in Latin, but a couple letters away from “amarus” for “bitter”, and hence always tinkering with/teetering on the “amoral” -- and “amorire” was “to kill“, baby. Really, have you ever savored placing your house key inside the lock and turning it? How ’bout even noticed it? How about fidgeting in your bag for eternities looking for those keys amidst the tampons, wallets, make-up, pens, gum wrappers, business cards, and assorted black matter? On this day it was religious, all of it, the two block walk from the subway home even had weight, felt like it meant something, the creaking open of the door to the hallway light that’s always on that no one needs, the quotidian menus from “Great Wall” slipped under the door that daily find their way directly to the garbage, the pallid glow from the tv that somehow blankets its dampened hues into the most light deprived cavities, the perfume of whatever sauce Nick was up to over the stove, all of it. My “Hey Cad” welcoming home together slap on his ass and subsequent big smooch had it all too, the complete pie, everything, which is to say that finally the all-out terror I’d lost now made up a gigantic piece of this puzzle again and his attack of my lips for a more curious second slip in meant the fibers of secrecy do ruminate! He tasted it, he liked it, he needed it, he didn’t ask about it, he didn’t want to, he needed it. I know I know, in time the Fear will (better) find its sweet spot on the bell curve sleeping snuggly in the convertable's backseat while we cruise up front with a wall of breeze between us (I’m no fool, I know the sensation of its presence will also dissolve in time like it had before and we’ll be back where we started; kinda can‘t wait), but for this moment at least I was trembling only slightly above hysterics with the idea of Nick at that same amazing maize maze that so bored me last fall disappearing around that same bend of corn stalks as something now no longer corny but frightening, freezing, my god petrifying because now I could touch it again, that one day he will in fact disappear behind those stalks. This horror was birthing some potent breast-stroke desire, and quickly. Maybe go to the movies together manana? And his stale colleagues from academia who’d never connected with a single thing their entire lives unless there was a published reference point functioning as mediator? Well their glacial separation from the rips, the cuts, the tears I was suckling like a fiend exposed their lack of abandoned joy as in fact the most brutal articulation of the Fear I’d witnessed yet and I could not wait for another excursion together. Call ‘em up Nick! And when we breast-stroked that night I felt a slight resistance in my wide brushes, little shocks as reminders to hold on tight, tiny snaking sizzles cautioning that none of this is mine, and again I found myself back with a man that I did not know, will never know, and yet whom I love and know unlike any other nonetheless. Fluid, that’s it. Fluid like the fluid that’s not only moving towards something, but also running the hell away from something else.