Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Paved With Good Intentions

By Ron Kolm


We’ve just left

Your best friend’s house

And so far

It’s been a pretty good day.

“Hey, I think your buddy

Has the hots for me,” I joke.



Out of the corner of my eye

I see you pop open

The glove compartment

And fool around inside

Coming up with a surprise:

A stainless-steel can opener.



You aim for my eyes

And I grab your wrist

Just in time

But I can’t disarm you

With only one hand

And I need the other to steer.



We’re skidding

On loose gravel

As I pump the brake pedal

Trying to slow us down

Until we finally come

To a complete stop.



“You really don‘t have a clue,

Do you, Ronnie.” you hiss,

Sliding back onto your side of the seat.

“I’ve been trying to tell her

About our problems in bed --

Now she can find out for herself!”




When he's not getting poked in the eye, Ron Kolm is busy organizing a gazillion projects at the same time. For instance, I met Ron when he was busily organizing events with the performance poetry group most active in the 1990s, The Unbearables. He also has been gathering submissions for the wee Public Illuminations Magazine for what (?), some 30-some years. (PIM is the first "zine" I ever saw and liked when someone handed me a copy ca. early 1980s at a Black Flag gig in Knoxville, TN!) His huge archive of Downtown New York lit was purchased by the Fales Library at the NYU. He'll always be a point man, living reference, keeper of the faith for that sort of stuff. Oh, yeah, and he's a fantastic poet, and occasionally churns out a longer yarn if you coax him just right.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What Was Funny Then...Cartoon Gag Postcards ca. 1905-1960



This post is here because I've always been a huge fan of Sam Henderson from the 90s zine days, & in general, his kind face cropping up around the hood in the so-called hey-day of Williamsburg. Sam's comicbook, The Magic Whistle has always been a favorite of mine. It mines the field of gags that you may find in Playboy, Mad, or even just The Family Circus. His humor is at times oblique and at other times poop-in-your-pants funny...and is often just about poopy pants. To push it all to another pondering level, he has a whole sub-genre of his own work that shows a gag, then has a caption that begins, "it's funny because..." which is funny because...

Anyhoo... Sam recently posted some 50s cartoon postcards on facebook. When I mentioned that I had a butt-load of these cards somewhere, Sam suggested I post mine. Today, though I certainly had other things to do, I looked...and looked. Well, I couldn't find the motherlode of exactly that type Sam was looking for, but as is often the case, I got sidetracked into a pretty decent sampling of things that...well...here. A brief overview of the cartoon gag postcard industry over a 50 year span (John Williams soundtrack please):



First tenant of the trade: Nothing is funnier than a wife joke. Period.



Unless a poem about women with dubious morals.



If that isn't funny enough: FAT Women...perhaps even a fat MAN! (by the way, I think the women are the most Sam's "type" ...of postcard)



Here are a few more of the 50s-60s era "Sam type":



These last three are my favorites of today's seach: "I'm Blowing Myself"; "Pooping Baby"; "The Old Cow Has Sagging Teets"... I don't know why. I just can't stop looking at them.



...I guess they're funny because...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jose Padua: melanbucolia awareness...




Country Life


For lunch today I ate another ham,

egg, and cheese sandwich with whole


wheat Wizards of Waverly Place bread.

It’s a meal that neither thrills me nor bores


me because I am never bored, even by food,

though there are times when, like a cow


chewing grass beside the highway, I am

a little less than thrilled, and am a little


bit smelly. It’s been said that you are

what you eat, which today would make


me a pig, covered in cheese, with an

egg in its mouth. If the smell keeps


those delicate people who eat people

away, I’m all for it, but other than that


I don’t see it doing me much good.


-Jose Padua




Parade

That terrible beauty that waves

its hand to you from a float in a parade.

What is this sinking feeling, I get?

Why, if I return the gesture, is my smile

forced and false? Why do I feel that

we’ve gotten smaller, that there is

nothing but distance between me

and her sparkling white crown?

-Jose Padua




Listen


Bad poetry I can listen to all

day. I can laugh at it, or let it


bore me, keep my feet planted

firmly on the ground while I reach


out for a glass on the table

or something to scratch my back


with. But when it’s good all day

is too much. I just want a little


of it, and then I want you to shut

up. I want you to leave me alone.


-Jose Padua




Jose's sardonic sense of humor is sorely missed in this city and lost (apparently) to rural Virginia... He and his wife Heather Lynne Davis do a great blog:


http://shenandoahbreakdown.wordpress.com/











Friday, December 18, 2009

Tim Tomlinson on failures to communicate...



Breakfast


In Heartbreak a half hour till sun-up

the barman dances with his best friend’s wife

to George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex,”

a loaded handgun tucked into his

beltless jeans. Opposite the jukebox

the game of 8-ball in the green felt glare

stops on a sloppy break that sends the cue

ball rolling between the legs of a bride

from Indiana whose husband is

interested, he tells the barman, in some

breakfast. That gets a laugh from the few of

us still hearing in English. The barman

says, “Well, could all use a little breakfast.”

The couple laughs like they heard some kind of joke.




FIVE-LINE POEMS


Walking Home


On Sterling Place

I walk behind a man

walking home. He waves

to nine people who wave back.

This is, like, New York.



Belief


tonight

you no longer believe

things will change.

Tomorrow,

you might.



Failure


the failure

of your ex-wife’s poems

pleases you.

your own –

that hardly matters.


Questions


you have learned

not to ask questions

when they cry in your bed—

questions

have answers



Tim is a great writing teacher. Was mine! I took his workshop in the 90s when I first started writing, you know, seriously. He now part of this New York Writers Workshop.


and here's an interview with Tim:


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Land & Airscapes of Ernest Hilbert...



The Envelope, Please



Thank you, oh, thank you (hold up statuette)

Thank you (breathe) so much. This is just too much.

I couldn’t have done it without the drugs . . .

And the booze. It took a whole lot of sweat

And tears. Mostly sweat. It’s such

A huge, huge honor to be here. It sort of bugs

Me that it took so long, but here I am.

I’d also like to thank the drugs. Wait, did

I say that already? Okay. The booze?

Right. Well, man (sob), I had fun (slam

Award on podium), and they were really good

Drugs. I’d also like to thank (ignore cues)

Fans, friends, you at home, dealers, mom and dad,

But most of all I’d like to (cut to car ad).




Diary of a Sex-Starved Communist



Something churns me from sleep.

I float and circle in a clogged toilet

Of 2AM and a pile of notices.

I watch streetlights click white and buzz.

Turned out of my lumpen mattress,

I wander bleak square footage.

Each step creaks like a bent hull.

A mass moves, so huge, we can’t see it,

Only feel it tug us against ourselves.

Too much coffee, just enough grief,

Or not enough, hard to figure.

I know how the world works, or did.

It labors to a time when we’re equal

And love each other in turn as family

Should but never seems to.

Piles of pamphlets and books drag me

Along like hooks in my skull.

This evening I wonder what do I give?

A good man against tyrants, a tyrant

Against time, I sit at the window

To watch pearled remains of clouds

Bank desperately against a crowded moon.





The Day He Became Omnipotent

While Trying to Read at the Airport


First I sought those

I despised on sight

And destroyed them.


Then I sought those

I wished merely to spare

(So few seemed worthy),


The quiet woman

Reading a good book,

Smiling boy at the coffee stand.


I spared no one.






Bonehead


For Andrew Hallman


The sunset took hours to drain off and left

The sky an ocean of azure and ash.

The prehistoric van, heaving with books,

Sputtered out of gas on thirteenth. I laughed,

Got out, smoked, looked around. A siren flashed,

But the cop sped past. Others threw looks

But then cruised slowly on. The city warmed

In the electric haze of spring; couples

Sauntered by, unaware of my jam—I had rolled

In front of a hydrant. Life grew loud and swarmed

From all sides. Time adds trouble to troubles.

Music erupted from a dark bar door. I strolled

Across the intersection for a quick one,

As they say, to stay the long, ruthless run.





Other booksellers will know this feller immediately. That cheerful, talkative dude from Bauman's Rare Books that is so often at book fairs. Ernie is somewhat the lit-star lately. A very satisfying collection, Sixty Sonnets, is out in book form. I also have the collector's edition of the Sixty Sonnets beer bottle, but it is not for sale. What was that you say? How much? Perhaps we're getting close...tempting, but perhaps you can find your own bottle here:


http://www.sixtysonnets.com/


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Here, this'll cheer you up: A few poems by auteur Michael Randall:




LISTENING TO WAYLON

When you smell the smoke it’s clear

there’s no more time.

Young girls just get lonelier and

every year the peacock

with its tail and buzzing

batteries is dying while

the starfish, by candlelight,

stands idly by.

Barely moving inherits the earth

while the rest of us

pitch fits just to get paid. Big-headed chicks

fall first from the nest

and it seems to go: outlaw, outlaw, whore, whore,

fat whore, town drunk, troubadour.

Now you know how babies get made down

here in Texas.







THE SEVEN DAY WEEK

Sunday

Partly cloudy, chance of thunderstorms

Monday

Chicken Noodle

Yankee Bean

Tuesday

‘s just as bad…

Wednesday

Ladies Drink Free

10-12PM

Thursday

: nothing.

Friday

somehow becomes transparent

Saturday

Night Fever made Travolta

a star.







HERBICIDE

There’s all that herb I smoked in high school and then

there’s my father Herb who sold refrigerators, air conditioners, dish-

washers. Liked football games,

white belts & westerns.

Also valued for his flavor, scent and other qualities. Peaches and Herb were once

America’s Sweethearts of Soul

and although there have been numerous Peaches,

Herb Feemster

has remained a constant. Born in Anacostia, an area of Washington, DC, in

which my father sold TVs

when the maw-maws and jungle-bunnies weren’t stealing them

off the trucks, Herb Feemster

grew up knowing that Love Is Strange and also how to Shake His Groove Thing

which would have annoyed, confused and disgusted my father,

not smudging him, but certainly making the sauce

taste funny.




HYMNS ANCIENT AND MODERN

The elevator doors in the lobby

of the hotel

over by the bus station open. She’s in town

from Caracas

until early tomorrow on her way

to see her brother

in Florida. Puffier than I’d remembered

and much sadder her mother

dead and also one of her friends

and mine. I take her out

for bad shrimp creole at a fake Cajun place on

Ninth Avenue that

I’d heard was good. The food isn’t but the table’s

by the window and the sunset

silhouettes her dyed-black hair. We drink slowly

at first and I pretend

I can see the pictures of undead friends

on the tiny screen

of her camera. She’s 53 and lost trying

not to cry and when

she goes out on the street for a cigarette

she taps on the glass

and waves to me through a bright cloud of

amber.







Mike is also the auteur responsible for the much more cheerful boobsploitation flick "Girlquake", where a bunch of hot chicks come out of the center of the earth to look for their leader who apparently resides in Coney Island. Hey, did you know Jimmy Rodgers spent his last day on earth at Coney Island? Mike also does some great paintings, very cheerful and not at all like the stuff published above. You can check them out here:



http://michaelrandallnyc.com/home.html


Idea 68.5/09



Monday, December 14, 2009

Who WAS Jack Kerouac? (A Rhetorical Question)


[This is a piece I did a couple years ago that this webzine accepted for publication but never published...maybe it's just no good. But it kind of explains what I've been up to the past few years...and you may notice it was written in "the bush era."]



I was rockin' down the highway mesmerized by 70s oldies. My gas gauge had been busted for months, yet once again, I was startled near point of death, by that fuel light shining so brightly from it's wedge between the speed and o domitors. Shining as if screaming, as if an electronic child screaming for attention from between it's round and dominant older siblings.

So down the exit ramp I rumbled, at Lowell, Mass, where the sign says there's gas, hastily decelerating as well as my overstuffed mini-van could manage, chock full with hundreds of pounds of books and shelves, the brakes in need of work. Upon acknowledging possible dangers, my neurosis perfected after living 20-some years in Brooklyn, take over, my life flashes before my eyes, my death flashes before my eyes. Such an end to such a life: ploughing through the intersection, the horns, the crash of metal, the ricochet of my van into the living room of, say, a family of five, not so unlike the Simpsons, or the Kerouacs, as this is Lowell. Regardless of which collision course physics would propel me towards, I would surely be crushed to death by my shifting load. The headline: Rare Book Dealer crushed by his own mistakes. That's a joke, son, the word is that in the Rare Book world, inventory is a synonym for mistakes. The good ones sell immediately, the rest become inventory. And such is life: whatever you have is too soon gone. What ever you want bears a heavy price. And there is another slogan and another, for this is America and we live, die, and live to repeat slogans. God Bless America. What goes around comes around. I won't even touch psychobabble.

This is where I came from: An Antiquarian Book Fair in Portland, ME. Need you know anything else? I'm in my 40s, hair gray and too long, in need of exercise and a shave. But I do my best to be charming. After a day of chatting up a few dozen strangers, some of which leave you money for your goods, most which do not, every bookman is confronted with the persistent disappointment of still owning 19 of the 20 boxes of books he brought to the fair. Then the realization hits in both a physical and metaphysical manner the state of one's existence, usually during the tedious packing up process at the close of each fair. That's when you see those who did worse nursing a cigarette at the back door reciting the following: "The internet killed this business" "Books are now ephemera" or more common for those who do not deal in Modern literature and despise the money made in that area, "books are just props for dust jackets." But for myself, I'm no old timer. I have no well-established theories on the marketplace. I don't even know what bookselling was like before the internet. But I can lend this observation: The book dealer is a mere schlepper, constantly transporting impossibly heavy dead weight, a helpless custodian of matter that is unaware of its absurd physical bulk, and the inconvenience it presents to its custodian. Ironically, these strongboxes of typography transport the weightless spirit of a man from one generation to the next. Like Lowell's own Mr. Kerouac.

There's a first in jacket of Big Sur behind me somewhere, which I'd hoped, to no avail, would have been bought by a 20-something with tattoos and a goatee. Either him, or a balding hippie who took his kids to Woodstock, 2000. But that didn't happen, did it? Rather, upon the failing of my brakes, during the slow motion reality of these moments, as the front of the car crumples into my legs, Big Sur will no doubt fly forward from its box, lodge itself in the back of my skull, or spine, or plunge through my shoulder blade like an axe into a seven-layer cake. Big Sur, Naked Lunch, 17 leather-bound volumes of Thackeray's Works, an entire brigade of travel books, and not in the least, that big-assed Joel Peter Witkin folio, will dice me to pieces and present me to the forensic team as some macabre chopped-corpse-salad in a startled stranger's living room, quite the photo op for either Witkin or Weegee. The headline reads: Rare Book Dealer Dissected in So Many Words, then 12 year old Gregory Labatt, distant nephew of Jack, successfully treated former orthodontal patient, collector of hockey cards, and 6th grade master of glib commentary, tells the Lowell Herald reporter, "We were just watching TV and voila!"

For now, I've kept the reaper at bay. I'm off the freeway and moving at a wheelchair's pace up the congested causeway of Jack's hometown. Perhaps for years, this road has been abused by delivery trucks bouncing over it's small-town potholes, their springs squeaking their cacophonous song, their loads pounding the earth a million times heavier than a battalion of kettle drums. Perhaps at one time this road snaked past Jack's house, those clamoring rigs waking holy Jack, old drunk holy Jack there passed out on a sofa, wrapped in his American flag like a very, very old and bloated old babe in a manger, old Jack that he was. Or sweeter yet, young Jack, not yet ordained as the dharma bum he would become, napping, safe to dream in one of those clap-board houses, over there, up the hill in the distance, past the new, ugly, instant sprawl, franchises that grow each year like cancerous ganglia from each and every interstate exit across the country pumping more and more toxins into innocent American hamlets, siphoning cars from the freeway, bloating bucolic valleys with spongy piles of food waste from styrofoam eateries. Oh, for those old days! Back then, when young Jack napped, dreamt away the wrestlessness cultivated in all these small towns, feeding the need to dream of bigger things: big ideas, big philosophies, big boobs, big places half-way around the globe, manners, customs and dress never seen, or more likely a comely waitress on rollerskates serving a cheeseburger topped with pungent summer tomatoes, effervescent coke in harmony with her sweet 16 lilt, just off Route 66, half way across the country, Kansas, Iowa, wherever they warehouse those midsummer wet dreams.

And what was the world at large thinking? The great war ended. Roast Beef at the corner. Communism. Yes, that great mobilizer. Suddenly the 57th parellel was so fucking important. All the ideas in the world, all the possible progress of mankind came to this one intellectual bottleneck: the cold war.

Remarkably similar to this very street. At this point in history, this street is that it's way too skinny. Traffic slithers like snails down hill and up and down again, car dealers encroaching to the left, shopping center to the right. All drivers on edge, waiting for the moment to nudge one car ahead. No Citgo, yet. Has to be Citgo, Venezuelan-owned Citgo, really, I mean the people not some dictator of Venezuela, not the international investors in Venezuela, no President Chavez won that victory for and by the people, fair and square. Even Jimmy Carter said so. Unlike Shell, which places hits upon reporters, or Texaco, that fat, flatulent bullhorn, shamelessly belching forth it's namesake, that horrid, bull-in-a-china shop state which has colonized the country from a small intestine near Crawford, declaring a majority rule by drones in ticky-tacky little twit-towns, void of culture, every house smelling new and brimming with prosperity, the antithesis to the quaint hidden by-ways of Lowell. Oh, sure, they love quaint, but only in quotation marks. A quaint bistro would be way too messy, way too flavorful. Chicken, not lamb, please. And make it white meat. Towns manicured like an elegantly dressed clipping from a magazine, newtown-bright with nothing to say, its armies pushing forward to the furthest point seen through the sites of their AK-47s, numbly marching and marching on, trampling the sweet, the subtle, killing anything that is worth putting effort into understanding, silencing witnesses by belching forth loud, stupid, obscenities from behind mesmerizing shields, evil 5-pointed Texaco logos, re-writing history, Texas-style, claiming a lone star flag blanketed Lowell's laureate, who by that time of his life could barely work up the consciousness to contemplate his own flatulence, let alone argue with history over the number of stars in the flag. Just let the old fart repeat his patriotic slogans -- might mobilize the evildoers.

Yes, from the land of Lincoln, to the Virginian hills of Jefferson, Washington and Lee, to the great cliffs and valleys alongside the Pacific, and right here in Lowell, you can watch as the new part of town, devours the old. Those over-funded tumors, fortified by so many IRA accounts, those random, thoughtless malls that are rated for investment portfolios according to how many dollars per square foot per year is made, or worse, is merely possible to be made, those impossibly moronic standards that drive the market place…what's that, you ask? What does an IRA account have to do with a mall? It's simple, I meant that literally. I once had a clerical job at Shearson Lehman, and the money for IRA accounts went straight into all those brand names, and those brand names are contained in malls, and there are huge quantities of charts and graphs analyzing profitability, strategies in turning over money, and if you are an MBA you might assume everyone knows this, and yes, by now, it's come up on NPR, PBS, and perhaps even Fox has defended Wallmart, but it goes on and on, and now the same economic strategy is hitting cultural Europe. Stupid, soulless numbers blaze the trail for the coming culture vacuum. The culture war is the war on culture. Life should be a song of subtle variations whose verses unfold in slight variants every time it is sung. So, please, for the love of culture, lets not privatize Social Security any more. Texas, even you are at risk.

And another thing, while I'm waiting to move forward 6 fucking car lengths so that I can turn off this lard-encrusted artery into the fan-fucking-tastic Citgo station, at every exit across this great interstate system of ours, one must drive further and further from these exits to escape the Styrofoam eateries in search of indigenous trees and the last and largest hill in this little holler of Lowell, Mass. Sweet God Almighty, an overdue relief to the eye after all that suburban blight. I've been through the valley, and now I see, at the hill's foot lies a Citgo, with older pumps, no steroid-bloated whipped-stucco fa├žade, rather Citgo looks frozen in a vintage photo: 60s, or, maybe 70s remodeling showcasing sparse, smoothe metallic lines that divvy up shiny vertical planes of white enamel, the ever so softened corners of the red Citgo triangle. It's neighbor across the side-street, from an even earlier generation, perhaps Jacks, a no-name roast beef place, white clapboard, green roof and carport, welcome mat, one neon light flashing in a large picture window: "Roast Beef", "Roast Beef". There isn't even a business name that I can see.

I get out to pump the gas but a red-head kid about 16 with his name on a blue denim jump suit greets me. I'm surprised, "Full service?" "Yup." It seems my wallet only bears a twenty and 3 fives, and I have a long drive back to the city. You see, I had more cash in my wallet, but just before the fair closed, I saw a nice copy of "Out of Africa", clean, right price. I can double it. So now me broke. "Make it 20." Though, I really hope that's enough to get back to Brooklyn. "No wait. 19 and one for you." I remember the days I spent as a porter at an auction house, the faint reward of recognition, the slightly larger than appropriate tips from those like to make your day. The hope that one day you might be in their position, and look at you now…

He squeezes the bill of his cap in a "Thank you" gesture, while I collect empty water and soda bottles from the car. Just a dollar, I think smugly. From over the trashcan I see there's a Wendy's up the street, and though the cursive neon "Roast Beef" beckons me from it's clapboard shell, clapboard similar to how I imagine Jack's house, I know it will be all the money I have left and I need that money for tolls. "Roast Beef" be gone, and retreat from my mind, as if a retreating turtlehead disappearing into it's clapboard shell. Convictions be damned, I'm broke! That's my new slogan.

Anyway, I've always had a soft spot for Wendy's since I worked at one after school when I was a kid in Nashville. The Wendy's up the street from Citgo is exactly like the one I used to work in when I was a kid in Nashville. Men's Room with an "Out of Order" sign taped crookedly to the door, here at 7 pm on a Sunday, probably no different than the 7 pms on Sundays, crooked "Out of Order" signs on the men's room was when I was a kid in Nashville. I use the women's room and am greeted coming out by a portly man, regular customer, I suspect, who says, "oh, we're using the women's room, today?" "You got no choice," I say, an exchange perhaps repeated in Wendy's across the country since I was a kid in Nashville. And finally, an adorable, slightly plump blonde cashier, nearly pretty enough for the cheerleaders, but for whatever reason isn't one, takes my order with a fresh-faced smile, just like the slightly plump blonde fresh-faced cashiers I had crushes on back when I was a kid in Nashville. I feel like asking her if they get tons of people here, all looking for Jack's house. But I'm afraid to find out whether she even knows who Jack is. Two junior cheeseburgers and a chili for three dollars! God Bless America.

Get this: The manager is a Mexican Lady. Perhaps she's from the Lone Star State, finally escaped the fate of being one of the tiny brown wheels on which the west rolls. Well good for her, escaping the undertow, riding the surf of corporate colonization, alongside those doughy white suits, quick with their projections, slow in explaining the criminal activity in near every action they perform. It occurs to me that the spirit of the east (coast) is more content with itself, smug, those out west might say, while the spirit of the west is forever discontent, always expanding, colonizing looking for whatever it never had, until those nimble, simple masses, armed with their stories of Donnor party cannibalism and Mormon persecution, finally ricocheted from the wall of Pacific waters, back east to make over their origins in an acquired style that is still not theirs. Left behind out west, little pockets of liberal utopias, those pioneers who gave up and realized they were as content as the lilies in the field, there they clustered in little utopias, flowerbeds of peace, Eugene, Berkeley, Needles, fostering all manners of deliberate and earnest thought about the sustainability of mankind. Not all are liberal, some are the opposite, but regardless of how tolerant they are, or how insanely intolerant they are, whether a hippie commune or a white supremist retreat, they move a step slower than those ricocheting okies who fill mega-churches, mega-malls, mega-freeways, vote as stiffly as blocks of wood, living in the lockstep joy of a dominating mass…or am I just looking into my own past, my upbringing, a twinge of self-hatred, the nobles oblige that applies to the new non-noble power-class, the white guilt.

Funny, the manager is a Hispanic woman, as well as the assistant manager. They are reminding the girl that she entered my order incorrectly. They discuss. I've no clue what they're talking about. Probably she forgot to press the button for pickles. No matter, they are more or less like and unlike the managers and assistant managers when I was a kid in Nashville. I remember the manager who fired me. I'd worked there for over a year, he, for a month, smack in the middle of his middle-age crisis, with Nashville hairspray in his preacher-hair, that silly Wendy's cap flattening his dignity, angry that I would want Sunday off to take my college entrance exam. For weeks, I told successive managers about these exams that loomed over me larger than anything I had yet encountered, but he scheduled me despite that, and no doubt to spite me, and of course I didn't go to work, but rather took the exam (even went to college), and of course he went through with his threat and fired me, and here I am, 27 years later, still annoyed that the cranky little fucker even exists.

Once served on a bright orange tray my 2 junior cheeseburgers and a chili for $3, I take my food across the dining area, feeling not so unlike the new kid in school, as everyone else seems to possess a comfort in their environment that I do not. I walk past table after table, the large man from the bathroom has joined his large wife by the window, who is negotiating the closing of a house they want from her celphone. At another table, a dweebie clique of 3 high school misfits, perhaps even late bed-wetters the way they hunch over anticipating danger from every angle, carrying the scars of abuse with them into young adulthood. I can't read their T-shirts, but if they had grown up in my time, they would certainly bear something related to Dungeons and Dragons. Look up, kids, for soon your imaginations, if not math skills will take you to high-paying jobs, and if you don't mind those cheerleaders, once they've had a kid, and are slightly plump and loose around the hips, still looking somewhat fetching in their mid-twenties, khaki shorts, perhaps even trying that Izod look, you might land them from the jocks of the world who now satisfy their sexual urges with the occasional lap dance at the V.I.P. Lounge on the edge of town. But for now, looking into the parking lot the brawny blonde jocks climb from their blue 80s vintage semi-compact.

You know, I watched the Breakfast Club, I watched Rushmore, I watched a lot of reports on Columbine, and the bowling thereof, & I even used to be involved in this fanzine subculture reading primary source material on the persecution of our more creative adolescents. But I must say, my elementary and tender underclassman years were spent in the unusually kind culture of the Seventh-day Adventists. We had no varsity teams: They foster competitive behavior, while we believed that all are equal in God's eyes, and coveting status symbols is wrong, and it's only a small step from a varsity letter to a flashy car. One should give that money to a less fortunate brother or sister or the church.

Even so, while living in a small Seventh-Day Adventist College town in Michigan during my 6th grade year, there was Cary Atherton, excessively obese, though strangely cheerful. Denny Matheson would chase Cary all around the school, before school, at recess, and after school. Sure, he could run faster than that fatty Cary, but he preferred to make a show of it, and try to get other kids involved in the spectacle. So the mob of jubilant 6th graders, Bible thumpers or not, would chase Cary into the wooded paths behind the school, out into a nearby tomato field, here, there, everywhere. Then they'd knock Cary over on the ground, pinching him in vulnerable areas, punching their kid-sized fists into his massive blubber, and miraculously, Cary came to school day after day, seemingly unphased, seemingly cheerful, even a winsome lad, drawing pictures in his notebook when he should be taking down math formulas, sitting by himself at lunch carrying on jovial conversations with imaginary friends.

About 10 years after high school, I was driving though that town and had the treat of having my gas pumped into my car by none other than Denny Matheson. I asked him how he was. He had married his first girlfriend that he had started dating in 8th or 9th grade and they had a family. I, on the other hand, was living in New York, had recently been to Europe twice, and the last thing I could think of wanting was to be strapped in a rather bland small town, even by standards of small towns, trying to feed a family on a gas attendant's salary. No offense, Denny, but, oh, to be Cary.

Back in Wendy's, Lowell, Mass, the dweeb is fixated on the jock. He envies everything the jock has. Mostly, he envies the admiration that strangers, and mostly girls bestow upon the jock. He is too envious of the phalluses of others to realize the girl who didn't make the cheerleaders has a plump little cherry, pulsating to the beat of the dweebs frightened little heart. If not that girl who didn't make the team, there's no doubt another. And a never ending mathematical equation of kinetic versus potential love wrapped in a weave of vectors, co-signs and tangents. The next Einstein will solve this equation. But for now, this is what transpires in Wendy's, 7:03 pm, Lowell, Mass:

"I know he's an asshole," says the skinny dweeb, the whole of his being remarkably focused on this single, local event, "but he's cool to me." His infectious optimism causes his two table-mates to look towards the door from their perpetual inward slouch. As the jocks enter, dweeby kid's thinking, Christ, this Kevin or Buck (or you, reader, supply the jock name) was nice to me. ME! And I don't want to screw up my chance at popularity. But, of course, when blonde Adonis walks in he barely notices the dweeb and shouts across the room to the older couple by the window. They are apparently friends with his parents. The dweeb sheepishly waves with 2 fingers over his shoulder. The jock shouts over to the couple that he just got back from Costa Rica and dreads having to wake up at 6 for work, no acknowledgement of the dweeb at all.

Costa Rica? That is kinda cool. No one from Nashville ever just got back from Costa Rica when I was a kid. Chalk one up for Lowell and the Jocks that inhabit the place. The jock who hung out with Bowles, the subterraneans wetting their feet in the foam of the Mediterranean. Yes, we know Kerouac made the football team. Kerouac was the reluctant beat alpha-male. And no matter how much you read, how much you reflect, this life comes down to a small purgatorial ring of questions: How content am I? Was I too good for the team? Or am I bitter that I never made the team? Is my discontent spirit propelling me forward into new experiences? Or am I just looking for that something I never had? Was my first love my true love that I will never again know? Or why did I marry the first ovulating bitch that unzipped my fly? Why does my car contain 800 pounds of books? Where is God in all this? Is he a jock? Is God there? Is God beyond Nietzsche, is God is not God, neither dead or alive, or concerned whether or not I play my life to the best of my ability? Is God not even watching while the content clash with the malcontent, or metal crumples into the flesh of crash victims? Does he cradle in his metaphoric arms those who die slowly, drunk, drugged, wrapped in the flag. OK. You've cracked the code. I'm not really talking about Jack at all. I'm talking about the word, which is both god and flesh. As discussed, both weight and weightlessness. The word, the book, society marching forward without a thought of its origins, destined to repeat the dumbest mistakes of history, destined to destroy that which it should treasure. In Iraq, guarding great reserves of mud while the museum is pillaged, in America, dismantling entire support structures to the arts because an artist depicts his gay lifestyle and someone has the gall to exhibit this in Cincinnati. The thick stupidity of it all, marching forward, faster, in greater lock-step, less time to think, less time for any thoughtful reaction. Now adolescents in Indiana who become pregnant are considered victims of sexual abuse and must report to the state before seeking an abortion under the pretext that they and all other youth are being protected by the state from sexual predators. Huh? The twisted morality of it all! You could write a book about it!

Into this children are born. In some classes of people, they are expected to be geniuses at 4, given computers at 3, in other classes, there are no expectations and they get a bottle of Kool-aid. In high school, Army recruiters are given the home telephone numbers of children by principals of schools, so that they can induct children into this hamburger grinder of stupidity. Denny Matheson, what clues are your children giving you about the future of our world? Oh, holy dweebs at the center of the Wendy's dining room in Lowell, Mass, what advise can I give you? What prayer of blessing can I recite? Rama, Rama!

Next week the dweeby kid, riddled by jock-envy, will pursue the accepting arms of counter-culture. Alas, he will meet a 19-year-old poet at Border's Books open mike. He reads a poem about wanting it. She reads a poem about getting it. She's majoring in American lit at the local junior college. Her male counter parts there, all the future restaurant managers, like their women with frosted hair. She calls them young fogies. She likes her men young, dumb and full of cum. He doesn't know what he likes, just knows that its that thing all the jocks envy and the thing that makes him constantly jerk off: pussy. Illusive, mystical pussy. While they walk up and down the isles of borders negotiating sex, he picks up a paperback copy of Big Sur. Once he is older, he will want a first edition in a jacket to memorialize his youth. For now, she tells him Jack was from Lowell. Her hand is in his pants at the check-out. She has a car. They have sex several times over the next week before she tires of him and stops returning his calls. Despondent, yet, now aware that the world is a much bigger place than it was last week, he reads the book. In the preface he learns the alpha-beat, the biggest icon of counter-culture, the messiah of that very sub-group that allowed a dweeb like him to finally experience what the jocks call "pussy" was once a star back at Lowell High. He got a football scholarship to Columbia. After bouncing around the world most of his life, he returned to Lowell with culture that was never really his, swaddled himself in the American flag on his sofa drinking Thunderbird and repeating beatnik slogans to anyone who would listen. Despite dying in his own incoherent blathering, not so unlike Marylin Monroe or Elvis, he joined the pantheon of American Gods, and we all know: Gods Bless America.