Performing Without A Net

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Tonight I’m drinking with Fitzgerald, Bukowski and Kerouac, those fuckers sure could spin a tale and drink like a school of drowning fish.  I invited Hemingway to drop by, but he was busy playing nursemaid to a typewriter and polishing his guns.  It’s just as well he couldn’t make it, as guns and alcohol make dangerous bedfellows.  Although, spilling ink can be equally as painful as spilling blood.

These fellas had so many foibles and bad habits that it would be hypocritical for them to say a bad word about anybody else, that’s why I hangout with them, cause they don’t come at me sideways with their God-speak, patriotic-mumbo jumbo or self-righteous, sanctimonious finger wagging. The whole lot of them are serial liars and dexterous sinners. Ya see, writers don’t really lie, they just kind of bend the truth a bit—-and as for being sinners, a life without sin possesses no sustaining storyline.  If ya don’t believe me, just ask God about his favorite protagonist—the devil. We all need our devils and our Gods to test our balance as we wobble across life’s tightrope.  One misstep and you could end up in jail, or worse yet, a Mormon or a new-age vegan.

In the corner of the dark dank bar Waits meanders about the piano keys playing a melancholy jazz riff on an old battered upright piano.  His whisker stubbled face is silhouetted in a smokey blue light, the derby on his head cocked forward and a cigarette dangles from his perturbing lips.  A cat named Bird stares blankly into space as he lifts a shiny alto to his mouth.  His improvisations are a soured marriage between black blues and leftover notes that fumble their way into dissonance—more or less a drunken lullaby.  Vincent sits at a table near the musicians. He makes his childlike sketches and occasionally looks up at the band to lend them his ear (so to speak). The duo plays forlorn melodies that we slowly get sauced to, as we indulge our miseries, such is the sad yet beautiful futility of recounting a long-lost love-affair or friendships now withered and gone by the wayside.  Most love affairs are doomed from the get-go, but friendships are all we really have to sustain us, someone to catch us should we fall.  I miss my friends.

I only see my old pals now at weddings or funerals. I once unsuccessfully attempted to organize a Mens Retreat. I called a few of the old gang and emailed a couple of others.  Most of them never got back to me and those that did offered up some slipshod excuses about how they were predisposed.  They awkwardly mumbled on about work responsibilities, family responsibilities, money responsibilities and other middle-age obligations.   This may sound crazy, but I miss my once young irresponsible friends—what they lacked in maturity they more than made up for in temerity.

To much time alone can cause a man to substitute regret for nostalgia.  What is, “is”—- what ain’t—- “ain’t”—-and what never-was— “ain’t never gonna be”.   Everybody changes, some for the better, others for the worse.  Shockingly, some of my old buddies have even thrown their lot in with the right-wing conservatives—-go figure?  I do my best to remember the good-times—And I’m fortunate to have absorbed so many fond memories.

I’m reminded of one of my old favorite tunes by Simon and Garfunkel, “Bookends”.

Time it was and what a time it was it was,
A time of innocence a time of confidences.

Long ago it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you

Unexpectedly, Twain, Steinbeck, Armstrong and Columbus drop by. They’re all excited about heading out west to explore some uncharted territories. They claim to have some rough draft maps and charts they got from a couple of fellas named Lewis and Clark. They came by to ask if we might like to throw in with them. We all looked at one another with that singular writers eye. Most stories don’t come to you, on the contrary, you have to seek them out.  Ah yes, only through adventure do we discover new worlds and in the process come to better know what we’re made of.  The decision is unanimous, we’ll all head out west come first dawn.

To often adventure is perceived as a young man’s game.  But I say, attitude will always trump age.  Adventure demands an odd mixture of risk, courage, stamina and as some might see it—-a shit load of irresponsibility.   George Mallory expressed it so concisely when asked, “Why climb Everest?” George responded, “Because it’s there.”  Now isn’t that a Goddamn foolish and irresponsible reason for doing anything—-”Because it’s there?”  But as for me, those three words sparkle with a stark and eloquent truth, to evolve and grow the heart must be pierced with a curiosity to see what’s over that next horizon.

What I love about adventurers, artists and writers is how they peer at the world through the eyes of a child.  They never seem to lose that youthful sense of wonder and imagination.   They may come off as brash, irresponsible and even a bit mad, but perhaps that’s why they aren’t afraid to perform without a net—–.  So Adios mi amigos, I’m off to see what lies out west.  Hey, why don’t you saddle up and come on along as well.

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This piece is dedicated to my life long brothers—Steve, Django, Mike, Chris, Pat, Danny and Norm.

Satellite Wishes (I Wish I May, I Wish I Might)

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03 Runaway Train

From a God’s eye view it all must seem so silly.  Lines drawn separating one person or place from another, borders, boundaries, the yours and mine of desire and regret—the willing, the wasted, the reluctant and those forgetting that we all end up old, ugly and woeful, but hey, ugly ain’t so bad once you accept that at best we’re all sideshow attractions in a traveling freak-show in this two-bit carnival life.  Oddballs, freaks and outcasts have always been my companions of choice—-so if you’re still my pal, buddy or sweetheart, then yeah, I’m talking bout you buster.  We all have our own personal measure of beauty, but baby you give me that sweetest ache deep in my chest, just like that feeling I get when I awake to a clear snow-covered mountain morning.  You make growing old not such a bad prospect when I know I have you as my mirrored companion—-you pump collagen into this weary heart of mine.  I’ll always follow you down.

Everybody’s scuttling about to secure their share of food and shelter, maybe even love scraps or its ghostly shadow locked within ones own pleading soul.  Down here, it’s a macro playhouse of clogged freeways, early morning skyscrapers blooming above the yellowish haze, the broken, the woebegone, those lucky few with the taste of a new kiss still on their damp lips, old creepy guys in shiny new cars, commuters waiting on meaningless buses taking them to meaningless jobs, lonely guys on desolate Nevada desert roads seeking something just over that next ridge, plain Jane looking girls clutching romance novels with their ragged dog-eared dreams, a dog pissing on someones perfectly manicured rose garden, mountain thunderstorms, salty sea scented beaches, coconut smelling  sun tanned bitches, grimy unshaven bums on skid row, blue birds on telephone wires joyfully singing above a gated community, breached levee’s drowning someones hard-earned promise land, someones first breath, another’s last—-uh-hum?  Mister, most are gonna lie to ya, but not me—no sir!

All the wise ones, like the giggling Dali Lama, chubby Buddha, rabble rousing Jesus wear that same smug lil grin.   They’re like a pack of good ole boys sharing some private inside joke.  They know the jokes on us as we do our twisted dance with Maya.  I feel my time slipping away, what will you do with your time here.  I do know this, that regardless of my foolish carrying on’s, I’m a lucky guy, to be chosen, to be alive, to be wandering this blue spinning sphere—-a temporary oasis for those trapped by space and time, a far-flung and forgotten Eden set against a backdrop of flickering lights and mumbled prayers.    I try not to forget this within each dissolving moment.  I stare up at the night sky and I can’t tell the satellites from twinkling stars, but they’re all oh so pretty—and I wonder what becomes of my satellite wishes?

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