Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Non-Plight Of The Honky Gringo

Here's a broken-up story for you, fragments from a longer quasi-non-fictiony thing called The Non Plight Of The Honky Gringo.

Sleep is evasive. I read till I nod off, come up for air, go back down the pit, wanting those dreams where I fly and say, I'm flying in a dream and now that I know that, I can fly anywhere, any height, disrobe, be naked in the blue air, send my love to the ants below. Flying in dreams, because I've done it before, what I remember is the thrilling coolness of the breeze my soaring body makes.

My boss sleeps soundly, but then she exudes and orchestrates more energy in any given hour than most people do in a week, a genius of her noble profession, which is noble, truly and forever.

(It is books.)

Sleep for me hinges on what I aim to face the next day. I think this is flawed logic.

A nightmare of a job I won't sleep at all. An appointment, a job interview, the dentist, I'm a little better but not much. If it's a day of leisure, maybe the best, I drown like a baby.

What's the very best though is crashing into sleep from a day that is as long and interesting as an underwater canyon. Think of the last very long, very interesting day you had and go into pin-drop detail describing it.

This last night I lay there visualizing French farms and Polish weddings, pastoral customs I wouldn't know what to do with but that I'd like to observe.

The ashen, acidic, abattoir rot emanates from the botched piping, making me wonder what crime is being suppressed by the imbeciles below. A murder? A trainwreck of sloppy joes and ashtrays and dead rats in the walls?

When I walk now, I make sure not to go my habitual routes, not from paranoia but from a self-empowering espionage. I take unnecessary detours, I backtrack and skit down an alley as if trying to outwit an analyst who's trailing me with judgment on his tongue. Back in childhood, when I spent a lot of time in my room alone, either reading, writing, listening to music or doing generally odd, ritualistic things, I used to pretend there was a child psychologist hiding out in the wardrobe. He was a spy. (More often I made her a she.) People in his trade were forced into the position of spies and saboteurs. The most interesting children had tendencies to burrow deep into arcane alcoves of the mind, hard to pry out, hard to find.

I always thought he came in through the window, along with the coyote howls, the fig tree limbs, the smell of summer limes, sun-baked asphalt cooling under a blue moon, fuzz from lost tennis balls getting stuck in my teeth.

Food is something else.

I ate the plate called Happy Buddha but was disappointed by its lack of variety. I drank the tea called Green and felt less nervous than if I hadn't. The mangoes are delicious this part of the summer but I still don't know how to cut them properly. Their juice feels electric on my fingertips.

I had a dream last night that was more like news.
Poetry is news that stays new. My dream comes with a real-life prelude:

Another lifetime ago, when I was involved with a raven-and-nickel-haired poetess she took me, in her tiny blue clown car, to a tumbledown movie theater next to a gay blues bar, a Jewish pastry shop and a giant rotting lake that had a Christmas tree in the middle of it. This was called The San Antonio.

The theater served warm beer and cold pizza and had gutted couches for people to lounge in while they watched the movies. This movie was about Oakland, in particular about an old, notorious drug dealer who, when he died, was escorted in a massive, outlandish parade of horse-drawn carriages, top-hatted coachmen, major-domos, etc. all through the blighted areas that he had fed and ruined with addictive, powdery drugs much to his advantage, his legacy, his legend.

I used to walk past spit-polished Bentleys idling outside of crumbling SRO's.

In my dream, I was walking through a bad neighborhood that was inevitably filling up with people like me who weren't from bad neighborhoods but because of their artistic livelihoods felt like they had to live in them. In this dream, a funeral procession was turning a corner. Just as my friends and I were walking across the street

Sun blasted against the side of a brick building. Their was an old painted advertisement for bread against the side of some broken-down factory. The funeral was for a "Gangster". And it had all grandiose trappings of that real-life gangster's funeral in Oakland.

Suddenly as the funeral procession neared the center of the block, a legion of screaming police cars screeched to a halt in the opposite intersection, adjusted into barricade formation and cops, and plainclothes detectives, and strangely-uniformed volunteers all brandished rifles, pistols, automatic weapons and started just firing on the mourners, the carriages and the sympathetic onlookers. A barrage of gunfire, all of it done stoically, methodically, without too much concern.

They were aiming for the Gangster Second In Command. It was very shocking. But I awoke thinking, Cops probably do this. They go to Gangster's funerals and fire away at the other Gangsters. It's the best place to find other Bad Guys all together at once.

I know nothing about the hard life.

I talked to a nurse yesterday who had paralyzing eyes and who was jealous that I worked at a bookstore. Her job is usually sad, she said, so she doesn't need to hear about Afghanistan on NPR 24 hours a day, not that she doesn't need to, but it doesn't behoove her disposition to, so could I recommend a book maybe, a book on tape, something else to listen to on her commute?

Which is funny, because it's the kind of the thing I've talked about before. Ease of day-to-day life can sometimes inspire a darker aesthetic side. Whereas if you're a nurse, a truly brave occupation I could probably never do, the horrors of the hours need to be mitigated with something less heavy-handed, something, even, life-affirming. It's understandable actually. I realized this only later.

I read somewhere it's best to stay put now. Cultivate a place. Let your garden get interesting.
I can't stay put usually, or I can stay put in a larger context but in the smaller one, I fidget like a sugar-high waif.

I wolfed down a fried tiger shrimp sandwich at a bar. The same bar where I watched the tail-end of a no-hitter and realized that sports can unify people more than most things. There was genuine glee when he threw that final strikeout. Drinks all around. Aggressive hugs. Shouts to the skies.

A man on the 14 bus, unnerved by a gesture I made, called me a "foreign racist" and, bewildered, I looked around to find even the scantest evidence for this madman's accusation and I found instead a compact mirror a woman had left on a seat that showed me the Russian letters on my ever-present black, bleach-embellished shirt.

Which doesn't explain much.

I am not Russian. I am not foreign. I am not racist, insofar as we're all not racists but still make split-second, visual assumptions whenever a non-us comes our way. He also told an old man to "spit out the dragon, old man."

The old man didn't listen.

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