Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shakespeare says . . .

CONRADE

    Away! you are an ass, you are an ass.

DOGBERRY

    Dost thou not suspect my place? dost thou not
    suspect my years? O that he were here to write me
    down an ass! But, masters, remember that I am an
    ass; though it be not written down, yet forget not
    that I am an ass. No, thou villain, thou art full of
    piety, as shall be proved upon thee by good witness.
    I am a wise fellow, and, which is more, an officer,
    and, which is more, a householder, and, which is
    more, as pretty a piece of flesh as any is in
    Messina, and one that knows the law, go to; and a
    rich fellow enough, go to; and a fellow that hath
    had losses, and one that hath two gowns and every
    thing handsome about him. Bring him away. O that
    I had been writ down an ass!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Movie Dream Number 865


Where: 
Night in The Farmers Market

Who:
The Milkman -- Gary Oldman
Me -- me
The Horse -- Joe

Scene:
I ride Joe through the summer night, full of huge old maple trees with weirdly big iridescent green leaves and an unseen moon to the Farmer's Market. There are women everywhere, talking and buying vegetables. They all have long dark hair.  I tie Joe to a fruit stand and he pricks his ears, he stands still, but he's nervous. I pat his neck and tell him to wait for me. I walk away from him, not sure if I should leave him, and just when I get to the crates of artichokes, The Milkman taps me on the shoulder and smiles this huge wide smile at me. He wears a crisp white uniform and a cap, with a black brim -- he is every inch a Milkman, except for his unshaven face, which makes me slightly suspicious, I wonder if he knocked the real Milkman unconscious and stole his suit, and his bright white truck, and his milk . . . I briefly see the real Milkman bound and gagged in a warehouse on the wrong side of town, wearing nothing but his bright white briefs.

The Milkman, the one that is Gary Oldman, asks me if I would like to help him deliver milk to the coffee shop and he holds up two metal baskets of milk bottles gleaming with milk, and I am enticed by all this white and by the Milkman's grin. I take one of the crates from him and start to follow him, but I remember Joe and I ask a woman to keep an eye on my horse for me while I help the Milkman. She says she'll be happy to watch my horse. I turn back to see Joe surrounded by dark haired woman and there is panic in his eyes. But I run after the Milkman and now I'm in the coffee shop which is empty except for the barista -- she tells me the Milkman is gone. I run back outside to find the women running through the market with Joe, one woman is on his back urging and kicking him and the other women are running along side hollering for her to jump! Jump the boxes of oranges!

. . .  i wake up

Monday, March 28, 2011

Gorilla -- Part Four, The Final Installment

A gorilla on the sea is a lonely thing -- she won't eat, she just gazes out across the dark waves and not even the stars soothe her soul. She was brought there by circumstances so bizarre that her destination hardly matters and yet she strangely knows that this watery voyage might be the simplest part of her destiny. Will she be a side show in a traveling circus between the man with antlers and the woman who is half snow leopard? Or will she be stored away in a zoo where uniformed school children will jeer at her by hooting and throwing firecrackers? Worst of all, perhaps, although it's unthinkable, perhaps she will just be made into a grand fur cape only to be worn by a fat woman at the opera. These are the things that go through the gorilla's mind as she watches the lights of the city grow smaller and smaller and the sea begins to roil with an approaching storm. She bends her head to the hard squall and doesn't feel the hail and barely hears the captain calling for her to go down below.
I awoke from my desperate ape dream to find I was on a ferry caught in a gale. Darkness was all around me and I heard voices that seemed to come up from the waters -- had passengers gone overboard? There were so few who boarded an hour or so before -- had it only been an hour since I paid my fair and the ferryman smiled at me and quipped, "Hard day in the jungle?" And when I replied that it was indeed a grueling day and that if only he knew I was wearing a fear grin below my emotionless ape mask then he might not think he was so clever, he waived my fair. I gripped my handful of dollars and thought I might need them when Xavier would loose me of this horrible garment. Had a beautiful young mother sat next to me only a little while before the storm hit? Did she really scold her little boy for demanding of me, "Are you really a gorilla?" And before I could answer "of course!" she pulled him closer to her breast and apologized to me, "I'm so sorry, it's been a terribly long day, he's not accustomed to staying up so late and seeing, well, you know, the things one can see late at night on the ferry."
"It's quite alright," I answered her, disappointed that I would miss some lighthearted fun with a punchy child on the ferry, "I understand."
"Why, you're a woman!" The mother blurted out.
"Yes, I'm a gorilla and a woman."
"What a difficult way to make a living . . ." She rocked the little boy and I saw his eyes begin to close.
"Well, actually, I don't make my living as a gorilla. And at the moment I am en route to see a man about a zipper."
"A zipper?"
"Yes, a most stubborn zipper." I watched Manhattan rise and fall in the waves, as though it were a grand ship and I was stationary upon an atoll.
"You're stuck?"
"I'm afraid so"
"Why don't you just cut it open? With scissors?"
"Oh! And lose the deposit? Never!"
I wasn't sure if all of that had happened, because now I was certain of only one thing, the ferry was sinking. There was nothing gradual about it either, the bow was up, the stern submerged and then? A groaning roll leeward and that was it. I was in the night soup and funny thing, I was glad of the quiet that overtook me when I was pulled down with the ferry. No more thunder or voices calling and calling, no more metal against metal or the snapping of lines or the popping of the deck as she came apart at the seams like a witch being set ablaze.
A gorilla is more buoyant that one might think and though my gorilla and I were pulled down by various physical forces that I suppose I learned about in school, we were equally thrown back up out of the sea by another set of forces -- the sea was full, and not interested in a dessert of gorilla and we were rocketed up and the gods and the fishes must have marveled at our birth from the depths, and now that I think about it, I can only think of Godzilla you know? But I felt so tiny to be taking in such large gulps of air. I lay on my back and the currents took me quickly to nowhere but bigger waters -- the tide, something of my childhood, something that we lived with constantly; the coming in, the going out; and the occasional drowing; a clam digger caught on a sandbar and taken with a rip tide only to be found washed up, still clutching a clam basket, their neck coiled with seaweed, it was something we were all aware of, the possibility of being carried out to sea, like an astronaut cut loose in space. And I felt slightly like an astonaut in the gorilla, tumbling with the water and really not able to right myself in any sort of way, just completely played with by the waves and the water but I could breath and this alone, made me happy, I suppose.
There was no land anywhere when the sun came up. I was half way to the Canary Islands as far as I could tell. I saw bottles and a mast and sail who wanted to stop and tell me their tragic story, but the currents wouldn't allow the conversation. I saw an albatross and oh what a bird he was. He flew low and eyed me with one great albatross eye and then he banked on the wind of the Gulf Stream and the sun winked and the bird was gone like a boy's dream.
I drifted and held the smallest hope for being picked up by a ship. When one's situation is as grave as this one can still imagine the impossible happening -- afterall, if one can float out to sea in a gorilla suit, one can certainly be airlifted by the Coast Guard back to safety, complete with saltine crackers and hot cups of tea and the confused gazes of sailors, who cannot believe they pulled a woman in a gorilla suit from the pelagic.
The sharks would come before the Coast Guard though and they were a curious lot. A hammerhead circled me with one eye skyward and he bumped me continuously until a school of nurse sharks led by two or three black tips decided to make me into a game of gorilla toss. They pushed me and pulled me. I was a wet mass of llama fur that wasn't terribly appetizing to them at first and so they toyed with me. I was glad to have the company, as long as they didn't get too rough. The gorilla had served me well with the dogs on Madison Avenue, and had been my deep sea diving suit that saved me from the sinking of the ferry, why would I doubt it's ability to fend off the sharks?
But I was wrong. They grew tired of toying with the wrapping like a child on Christmas morning, and well, they tore the gorilla to shreds. Thing is, in their frenzied happiness over the acquisition of llama fur bits, they forgot to eat me.  I watched my gorilla swim away in all directions, sad to see her go, to lose her protection, but liberated from the sharks and ecstatic to be in nothing but my weary skin, treading water, waiting, and waiting for the little sailboat that came just before sunset that night. The boy in the boat scooped me out of the water; wrapped me in a blanket and gave me saltines and tea, "We should be in Hatteras by morning, does that suit you?" He had a dark shock of hair that fell over one eye and he drew it back across his brow as he asked me this. I had never seen him before, yet he seemed to be someone from the past.
"Oh yes, yes, that will be just fine."

The End . . .

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Giant

Liz Taylor on the set of Giant, 1955

I don’t know if this is true of not, but when I was a kid, my father told me he was an extra in the opening scenes of Giant -- Rock Hudson as Jordan Benedict gazes out a train window to the green hills of Maryland where a merry band of fox hunters are galloping, following their hounds and jumping fences. The fox hunters follow Rock all the way to the station where he steps out to set eyes on Elizabeth Taylor for the first time. She's riding the black stallion he’s come all the way from Texas to purchase and he can't decide who's more beautiful, the horse or Liz, so he takes both of them home. My father is one of those fox hunters who brave the coops and fields and ditches along side the train. Every time I watch the movie I fail to find him in the small crowd, but I like to believe he’s galloping with Miss Taylor, exchanging glances.

Giant is Elizabeth Taylor’s other horse movie, she doesn’t ride throughout, and the horse of the story is only a brief chapter in this Texan Odyssey, but Liz proves her ability once again to not only sit properly in a saddle, but to actually ride. It’s a rare thing to see an actress who can really ride. It makes me wish for just  a moment that she made more horse movies, but Burton took her away from all that and got her to reach deep down inside and find some really serious stuff, the stuff of Oscars.

I watched Giant for the first time in college, because I had a James Dean obsession. I could have cared less about Elizabeth Taylor back then, it was James Dean that I wanted to get every possible view of. And I got more than I bargained for. I had never seen anything like Giant -- everything about it was, well, gigantic -- the sky, the land, that house Rock brings Liz to, and Rock Hudson appears to be eight feet tall. All I knew of Texas back then was TV's Dallas -- but Giant made me realize that long before there was J.R., there was Jet Rink -- the dumbest, sweetest, meanest, saddest horseless cowboy in the West. 

Jet Rink has no use for horses or cows. He's got nobody and nobody wants him. He likes machinery and women and he’s strangely chosen by the fates to change the way of life in Texas forever. Circumstances swirl like a dust devil; Rock brings Liz to Reata along with the beautiful black stallion on the train and their arrival is the blessing and the curse that will haunt Jet forever. The stallion kills Rock's hard-as-nails sister Luz, played by Mercedes McCambridge, who is Jet’s only friend in the world, and she wills him a little piece of land smack in the middle of Reata. This gives Jet the foothold on life he always needed, and the oil begins to flow. But his wealth is nothing without Liz Taylor's Leslie -- she’s the other part of his puzzle that he can never have; all the gods will allow him is one lousy afternoon with her over a bad cup of dusty tea.

Liz and her black stallion are the harbingers of so many changes, one can barely stand it. Jet’s oil fields close in on the big house of Reata. Where there used to be open prairie with nothing but beef cattle and tumble weed, oil wells pop up like a weird crop, dark as the stuff they pull out of the ground. And Liz turns out to be nothing but a East Coast Democratic Hippie. That’s right, she want’s to stay up late in the parlor with the men to talk about politics and God almighty -- she treats the Mexicans as though they were human beings! She not only speaks to them, but she touches them, and goes to their side of town where she treats their sick babies and demands they get things like food, education, and health care. So it’s not surprising when she gives birth to Jordy, who grows up to be a young clean cut Dennis Hopper. He wants nothing to do with carrying on the Benedict tradition. His third birthday is a hair raising embarrassment to Rock -- presented with a beautiful pinto pony decked out in the finest western tack, the boy screams and cries when he’s put in the saddle. Nope, this kid is his mother’s boy, a pale goodie two-shoes who wants to go to Harvard and return to Texas as a doctor who marries, are you ready? Yop, he marries a Mexican girl.

See? Liz wreaks havoc wherever she goes. Old Texas is shattered and rages against the change, like a bronc fighting with all it’s might against the spurs of a cowboy determined to break him.

Down down down they go, riding the backs of the silver and red JeTexas tanker trucks, all of them drowning in oil and money and shame. But good prevails, the good hippie wisdom of Liz pulls back the clouds as Jet lies in the ruins of his banquet tables, a hurricane blowing through the tall windows of his empire. Rock finally becomes the hero Liz had been training him to be ever since she first saw him from atop her black stallion -- she converts the man to a freedom fighter, and you sit there in the dark, thinking, wow, that was three hours not wasted.

RIP Miss Taylor -- you were a wonder of the world.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Snake and The Egg

Snake had eaten eggs before -- many eggs in fact. But none as large as the egg he found near Mrs. Birdseed's abandoned garden. The egg was the size of a loaf of sour dough bread, and Snake knew this because he had eaten such a loaf in a road side ditch on Christmas Eve; a desperate night, with cold rain and a swerving car, Coyote in fact, Coyote in that Eldorado, and just when Snake thought he was beneath the wheels, he dove into the ditch, bounced off a beer bottle filled with mud, and there, to his surprise was a perfect loaf of bread . . .

But this egg, this egg was a puzzle. Snake faced the egg and the egg faced Snake.

Snake: Egg!

Egg: Yes Snake, what is it?

Snake: I am going to eat you . . .

Egg: No yer not

Snake: How do you know?

Egg: I'm far too large for you and besides, I'm waiting for someone.

Snake: Who are you waiting for?

Egg: Wouldn't you like to know . . .

Snake: If you don't tell me, I will eat you.

Egg: Try it

Snake: alright then, I will!

. . . Snake coiled himself around the great egg and turned her upright, so that her fine pointy top reached almost as high at the irises blooming in Birdseed's garden, the ones she planted last fall, the ones she didn't live to see bloom, and Snake opened his great jaw and Egg squealed with delight as Snake pulled back and groaned.

Egg: I told you

Snake: I'll eat you by sundown, by then, I will have figured out a way

Egg: But I'll be gone by then

Snake: Oh, oh no you won't. Whoever comes to get you now will find you in my arms, and they'll run for their life!

Egg: Coyote doesn't run from Snake!

Snake: Aha! Coyote! Your suitor? He's a liar, he won't save you

Egg: But Coyote needs me

Snake: What could Coyote possible need you for?

Egg: I'm the only one who can save him

Snake: Save him? Why would you save Coyote?

Egg: So he can get us back to Mexico . . .

Snake: Us?

Egg: Parrot and Polo Pony and me, Coyote's our only hope and we, are his only hope . . .

Snake: And if I eat you?

Egg: Then Coyote will find you here, with egg on yer face . . .

Monday, March 21, 2011

Groove

it is something that can be lost, Groove that is . . .

Groove and Muses are as constant as the moon, and so she is basking in her bewildering doldrums, casting out lines, sometimes marveling at the brilliance of the missing fish, and the deep water rises up and obscures the horizon, but she sees land in her dreams, and when she hits land, the words, you know, the Groove will return. As for the Muse, she will leave a line out always . . .

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gorilla -- Part Three

J. was supposed to meet me in front of the Garden -- it was getting late and people were already beginning to gather for a concert that night, Robbie Robertson and a whole host of legends were on the marquis for the night. I sat on a bench and waited for J., the sweat inside the Gorilla had pooled at my feet, I was glad the sun was going down, "Hey man you got tickets?" This kid, with jet black hair that hung down over one eye, poked at my napsack, "I'm not a man and I'm not a scalper kid." The kid backed away, alarmed by my reply, he tripped over the curb and just before he fell into heavy traffic, his girlfriend caught his arm and pulled him back onto the sidewalk, she held him tightly and gave me a look . . . the look said, "Hey, gorilla, what's your problem?" And she was right, I was grumpy.
The crowds of old hipsters were gone now, they were in the Garden digging Robertson and hoping for a surprise appearance by the man, you know, Dylan. But I was only interested in one man showing up and that was J. -- the clock on the Garden crawl read 9 p.m., I decided to catch a cab, no easy feat for an ape in the city on a Friday night, but finally a cabbie pulled over. "There's a costume shop on 36th near 8th Avenue, can you take me there?" The cabbie swung out and hit the gas, my head hit the back of my gorilla skull and seemed to exit the rear window of the cab. Minutes later the meter read $12.00, I took off my napsack and handed it to the cabbie, "Go ahead, fish my wallet out of there and take a twenty, keep the change, okay?" He tilted his head, he was confused, "Look man, I can't open the napsack with these ham hands okay? You gotta do it for me, go ahead, I trust, you." He opened the napsack, got the money and held up my phone, "Your phone is blinking, you gotta message."
"Okay, let's listen to it." The cabbie pressed the okay button on my phone, and all that came out was one word and some static, "Pistachios!" it was J., he sounded as though he was ordering Italian Ice. But I would never know.
"You want to call back?"
"No thanks." The cabbie shook his head and put the phone back in the napsack, zipped it up and handed it back to me.
"I think that's the costume shop you want over there -- be careful now."
"Yeah, that's it. G'night."
The cab screeched off into the night. I was alone again and a soft rain was falling, I was desperate to feel the rain on my skin, but instead it beaded and dripped and mixed with the gorilla's fine llama hair. I tipped my head back and let the rain come through my eye holes and the little opening for my mouth, I stuck out the tip of my tongue and a single rain drop fell and ran down my throat. It was so cool and left me wanting for more.
There was a single light on in the costume shop but the door was locked -- I pounded on the door with my ape fists, "Please, anybody!" But nobody came. I peered in the window and there on the counter were my clothes and my sneakers, neatly piled on the counter by the register. J. had left them there -- if only the little man were there, I could be out of the suit, in my clothes and on the train back to Connecticut.
I heard footsteps, and the rain began to fall harder. I turned and saw woman walking up the street, she was bent against the squall, "Hey, hey can you help me?" I called out to her.
She stopped, and I could see her eyes widen in the blue neon light coming through the costume shop window, she turned away and then back, and I realized that the sight of a gorilla on 36th Street at night was not exactly her idea of a good thing. She darted across the street and I called again, "Look, I'm helpless, please!" And she was gone. The rain stopped.
I leaned on the costume shop door. I seriously considered breaking the glass. So what if the alarm went off, so what if the police came, they're going to arrest a gorilla for breaking into a costume shop? I looked around for something to smash the window with, but there was nothing, the street was clean. And just when I was planning to throw my body through the window, a man came around the corner. I was crouched, readying myself to launch through the glass, he stopped and laughed. "Geezus, you're not going to break into the costume shop are you?"
"Well, I was thinking about it -- I'm in a bind here"
"Maybe I could help?" He came closer and held out his hand, "I'm Brad, and you are?"
"Jane -- me Jane. Look, I'm not going to shake your hand. I need you to make a call for me, my phone is in my napsack." I handed him the napsack. He unzipped it and rifled for the phone.
"Here it is, but it seems to be dead." He held it up, and indeed it was dark, no little lights came to life when Brad hit the buttons.
"Dammit, I didn't charge it up before I came to the city."
"Who do you need to call? I have my phone." And a horrible realization came over me. I didn't know J.'s number. It was stored in my phone, not in my head.
"My friend, but his number's in the dead phone. I'm fucked."
"Well, what do you need?" Brad was so calm, so logical in the face of a troubled girl in a gorilla suit, obviously he'd been raised right.
"I need to get out of this gorilla, into my clothes, and on to a train back to Connecticut. But my clothes are in there . . ."
"Ah yes. Well, I bet my wife would lend you something."
"Hmmm, that might work. Listen, I'm burning up in here, could you undo the zipper so I can at least get my head out?"
"Sure, then we can walk up to my apartment." I bent my head and Brad fumbled for the zipper. I felt him tugging and tugging, "Wow, there must be some trick to it, it's not budging."
"Please, keep trying, I'm suffocating in here." I was beginning to panic, I told myself to stay calm, this nightmare would be over soon. Brad kept at it, wiggling the zipper this way and that, pulling up, pulling down.
"Nope, it's stuck. Say, I know a man who might be able to help . . ."
"Really?" I turned to see Brad was dialing his cell phone.
"Yeah, he's out on Staten Island. He's real handy with zippers and things."
"Things?"
"Yeah, he's one of those Renaissance men. Wait, shhh, it's ringing."
"But I don't want to go to Staten Island Brad . . . "
"Hey, Xavier? Is that you? Yeah, it's me Brad, you know, Brad and Helen? Yeah that Brad. Listen, I gotta nice lady stuck in a gorilla suit over here on 36th Street . . . what? You could? Great!"
"Brad, I don't want to go to Staten Island tonight. Thanks all the same."
"Listen, the ferry is only a few blocks away. Xavier will meet you right there at the station, he'll have you out of this thing in no time. And he'll loan you some clothes -- he has lots of ex girlfriends . . ."
"Guess he's not so handy with women."
"Ha, okay, here's a couple of dollars for the ferry, the last one shouldn't be leaving for another twenty minutes, so you got plenty of time to get there."
"Thanks Brad, but maybe I ought to just spend the night here and wait for the costume man to come back in the morning."
"But you can't"
"Whaddyamean I can't?"
"Look at the sign on the door . . . " And there it was, the sign that I hadn't read earlier; Closed til Labor Day -- Gone to Budapest.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gorilla -- Part Two

In the gorilla you are alone -- people don't regard you as human and animals find you just plain scary. The gorilla I came to realize as I stood there on Madison Avenue was the safest place I had ever inhabited. Beautiful women walked by and I had no need to compare myself to them,  my insecurities were obliterated by my apeness. Men in their own gorilla suits brushed past me, their summer gabardine sparked against my black llama and if anyone felt a thrill, it was not apparent, it was too unseemly to be admitted. And then the dog walker appeared,  I saw him round the block and head straight for me. I wondered if I should cross the street to avoid the confrontation, but then I caught my breath and decided to stand my ground. He was a good looking boy, the dog walker, New York gay in his leaf green t-shirt, gym body, skinny black jeans, grey Pumas, and a stride made for walking dogs. The dogs were so numerous they couldn't be counted and together with the boy they made one great creature, like the snakes living off Medusa's scalp, like a grand octopus, they cleared everything in their path, tongues and tails and the clattering of paws, no stopping to piss, no time for that, none at all, they were maniacal -- and this was before they saw me. It was the Irish terrier who started it, he pricked his auburn ears and his eyes went black, and the quiver of his hackles sent a fire through the pack and the boy was no longer the master of his fate. The dogs were on me and we were a storm of hair -- my placard went to the curb, and I followed. as the dogs rolled me -- a Dane, a beagle, a bulldog, a long haired dachshund, a Dandy Dinmont, a gigantic pinkish poodle with skin disease, a dalmation, two chihuahuas, a Scottish terrier, a black and tan coonhound, and finally the Irish. The leashes alone were deadly, I was strung up like a captain of her ship by mutinous sailors, and the boy kept saying, "No, no, no! Leave it! Leave! It!" And as quickly as it started the dogs began to whine and back off -- they brushed off their coats and regained their composure, and then their formation, the leashes unraveled and they were gone, like a hallucination. I lay on the sidewalk for a moment and my cell phone began to ring, "weedle weedle weedle weeeeee" but I couldn't answer it  . . . it was in the bottom of my napsack, under the manuscripts. I would never know who it was.
"Can I help you up?" I rolled over from my gorilla belly to my gorilla hip and there stood a man who looked like John Updike, my literary hero.
"Yes, please." I said and realized these were the first words I had uttered since becoming the gorilla. The man picked up my placard and handed it to me and gently removed a crushed paper cup that had become stuck to my pelt.
"That was quite a mauling they gave you, are you okay?"
"Yes, I think so. A little embarrassed, but I'm okay."
"What's this about a book?"
"Huh?" I had completely forgotten about the placard, about my mission. Mr. Updike pointed to the placard, "Oh, yeah, the book! My friend's book. This was sucha bad idea."
"Maybe so, but is the book any good?" I paused to answer this question, because I wanted to blurt out all sorts of wonderful adjectives regarding the book, but then I wondered how believable it would be, coming from a gorilla who was just attacked by a pack of dogs on Madison Avenue. I decided to take my chances, "Oh yes, it's a damn terrific story. I wouldn't be out here, like this . . . if I didn't believe in the book."
"Do you have a copy?"
"I do, I do! Here in my napsack . . . but my friend specifically told me to only give the book to someone who could actually help him. Could you help him?"
"Well, I could, but I have to read it first, decide for myself, you know, gorilla good review or not." Mr. Updike winked at me and I practically swooned, because well, he was such a perfect gentleman.
"You will have to take it out of my napsack, I can't do a thing with these ape fingers . . . " He gently unzipped my napsack and I felt as though we had just gotten home from a dinner party crowded with the literary elite and I was tipsy and he was having trouble with the zipper, so he took one more drag off his cigarette and put it in the silver ashtray on my vanity and smiled into the mirror over my shoulder and tried again, and this time the zipper on my evening dress glided down my spine and . . .
"While I'm in here, do you need anything? Your phone is blinking . . ."
"No, just zip me back up. My friend should be returning any time now. With Italian Ice."
"Alright then," and Mr. Updike zipped the napsack closed and patted it, "here's my card. I'll be in touch. Do be careful, this jungle is no place for a sweet gorilla such as you my dear." And then he was swallowed by a yellow taxi and I held the card tightly. Wouldn't J. be proud of me? Oh golly!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gorilla -- Part One

It was high summer in my hometown -- a seaside village that was no longer the sleepy outlier. If it was ever a bedroom community, a sanctuary from the city, was questionable, because the place was now, unquestionably, a luxury garage town, where New Leather Smells hit you like the cologne on a cheap pizzeria maitre d'.

I was in town for just a few days -- to say hello to some old friends and then I would be on my way. I was planning a different kind of summer vacation this year. I would venture north, alone, to Boston, to look into some records regarding my Irish grandfather; to investigate his possible relation to a corrupt politician with the same name, and then I planned to go even further north, to Vermont to meet a friend about a round of goat cheese and a possible trip to Morocco. As a kid, Vermont meant only one thing to me -- skiing -- a thing I never did, but friends and their families seemed to be constantly packing up their Saabs and Volvos and heading to Vermont to ski and return home occasionally with broken knees. How long I intended to stay in Vermont depended entirely on my host and how inclined she would be to go to Morocco with me . . . would we leave immediately for Morocco? Perhaps. I was prepared for any eventuality.

But I never got to Vermont . . .

On the afternoon of my first day in my seaside hometown, I texted an old friend, a fellow writer, who had completed his second novel, and like his first novel, the thing was making no waves with takers -- the players in the publishing industry were immune to my friend, and to me as well. We agreed to meet over a slice of pizza and a coke and commiserate. We had both aged considerably in the year we had not seen eachother -- yes, it had only been a year, but something about turning 46 had weighed heavily on our brows and our temples and well, suddenly Over the Hill was something we knew personally, it wasn't a thing our parents were uttering downstairs by the fire, while we sat on the top step in the dark hallway late at night eavesdropping; hoping for some intimate scoop from the world of the adults. Now it was us.


We sat at the table near the window in the pizzeria where nothing had changed for forty years. We ordered the same pizza on the same paper plates with the same paper cups of Coca-Cola with the almost melted ice in them and we shook the little decanter of red pepper flakes on the pizza and the light came in the window and I looked up at the ridiculous ceramic Pizza Man that had been in the window since I was a child, "J. do you see him? The Eternal Pizza Man with his beautiful white apron and his handlebar mustache and his round belly and his chef's hat and his joyful left arm upheld with a silver tray laden with pizza?"
"Yes! He's always been here . . ."
"Always . . ." And the young pizzeria girl with the straight dark hair and the terrific tits stopped by the table to ask us if everything was okay? And we told her yes, and  J. did his best not to stare as she retreated back behind the counter and toward the pizza ovens and I watched two boys spin on the red leather stools and I wondered who they would go to the prom with this year, because you see, I never went to a prom.
And then, just as J. and I were leaning into our second slice of pizza, a rabbit walked by the window, a great white rabbit with a placard. But we couldn't read the placard because it was facing out to the street, and I watched the rabbit carefully and wondered who was inside the rabbit. I saw J's eyes follow the rabbit up the street towards the delicatessen. "I hate that." I said to J.
"Hate what?" J. was folding his pizza slice, and going in for the kill.
"That having to wear a costume as a job . . ."
"Oh, you mean the rabbit?"
"Yeah -- I seem to see it more and more. I'll be sitting at a light and a bear will appear with a sign telling me that I can get a fabulous deal on a set of tires. Or there's that poor bastard dressed up as Big Boy offering you a 99 cent hamburger. And last year I saw an alligator walking up and down highway 51 advertising a septic tank cleaning service, and I thought to myself, what the hell does an alligator have to do with cleaning out a septic tank? And then of course I thought of all those baby alligators that people used to buy as souvenirs while on vacation in Florida and they took them home to their apartments in the City, and when the buggers got too big, they flushed the poor things, and wham, now you've got giant alligators living in the sewer tunnels of New York -- right? So then the poor bastard in the alligator suit made sense to me. But . . ."
"Wait, stop, I have an idea . . ." J. put down his pizza and took a long drag of Coca-Cola from his straw, "What if?"
"What if what?"
"What if you?" J. looked out the window and the Rabbit walked by again, and this time the Rabbit was looking in the window at us.
"Oh no, not me . . ." I said.
"But you don't know what I'm thinking . . . or do you?"
"I know exactly what you're thinking? You're thinking I should rent a Gorilla suit and walk up and down Madison Avenue carrying a sign that says, "if I can wear this gorilla suit for J, why can't you publish his book?" I picked up my slice of pizza and the cheese fell in such a way that it drooped over that place between your thumb and index finger and you eat it without any compunction whatsoever.
"That's not what I was thinking at all, and that in fact is world's better than anything I could have come up with!" J. was elated and I damned my big mouth.
"Well, I never did think like you and I have always had great ideas." I looked down at my remaining slice and it was cheeseless, but sweet with tomato sauce and I considered how sad I would be when it was gone, would I dare to order another slice from the 17 year old girl with the great tits? Probably not, because I didn't want to face her again.
"Would you?"
"Wear a gorilla suit for you?"
"Yes! Please . . . " J. crumpled up his napkin and looked to the girl for our check.
"But I was going to leave for Vermont in the morning." I knew this was no out.
"What's one more day? For an old friend." Jay took the check from the girl and produced a crisp five dollar bill to cover the slices and Cokes. I looked out the window and the Rabbit was retreating up the street now as rain had begun to fall. A summer storm was suddenly upon us and the bill was paid, how could I refuse?

*****
"Theees is theee finest goreela suit you weeell eveh seeee madmoiselle" The little costume man in the cramped costume store somewhere in the garment district draped the petite gorilla, yes, in fact, it was a petite gorilla suit, just my size, over his arm, like a lifeless poached ape, as though he were showing me the Hope diamond, as though J. was actually the Marquis de Sade buying me ermine. I reached out and touched it, "The seeeecret of theees goreela suit eees that it eees black llama. Soft? No?" It was indeed, very soft.
"We'll take it." J. took the suit from the man, "Give him your credit card." J. told me.
"Me? Why my credit card?"
"You know I don't have a credit card and you're practically independently wealthy with your recent magazine deal." J. poked at my napsack, urging me to get out my wallet.
"They only payed me fifty dollars for that story J."
"That's fifty dollars more than I have -- pay the man and put on the suit." J. was getting a bit greedy I thought, I mean, it was July, it was hot outside, I suddenly wondered if I might faint while traipsing up and down Madison Avenue carrying the placard; J. had constructed it the night before and we carried it into the city on the train much to the concern of the conductor and one annoying passenger who asked where the gorilla suit was? We told him to mind his own business and he was sufficiently intimidated, something J. and I got a kick out of. We were on a mission, a mission to get his novel published, and nosy commuters on the train were just going to have to wait to read about it in the Arts Section.
"The deeeposeeet is $500.00" said the little ugly costume man, and just when he said this, I looked over his shoulder to see a framed movie still of gorillas driving mini cars in a French plaza and I realized the still was from the famous gorilla car chase scene in The Pink Panther and I asked the man if he had been involved in some way with the movie, "Oui, Madame, oui! I am theee goreeeela in theee red car!" And somehow this amazing fact made me hand over my credit card; I no longer cared how much it would cost to wear the gorilla suit.
I signed the receipt and he showed me to the dressing room. J. sat outside waiting like a proud mother of the bride; would the wedding dress be suitable? Oh yes.
I pulled back the curtain and the bright summer city sun poured through the front window of the costume store and through the perfectly made gorilla eyes so that my retinas now felt like those of a great ape and not of me at all. I had neatly folded my clothes and now handed them to J.
"How does it feel?" J. asked.
"A bit warm, but the fit is eery, it's as though the gods tailored it for me."
"Ah yes Madmoiselle, theees suit, it has been waiting for you and you alone."
"Well, then, next stop Madison Avenue!" J. was triumphant and I considered a vow of silence, as long as I was in this suit, why should I feel obligated to speak?
J. left me on Madison Avenue with the placard and my pink napsack full of his manuscripts. I was to cover the avenue throughout the day, offering manuscripts only to those who would exchange a business card with me; a business card that proved they were in the publishing business. J. declared he was going to procure us some Italian Ice and I believed him. This would be the last I saw of him . . .

Rudyard Kipling says . . .

He quivered his little, flea-bitten withers just to show how satisfied he felt; but his heart was not so light. Ever since he had drifted into India on a troop-ship, taken, with an old rifle, as part payment for a racing debt, The Maltese Cat had played and preached polo to the Skidar's team on the Skidars' stony polo-ground. Now a polo-pony is like a poet. If he is born with a love for the game, he can be made. The Maltese Cat knew the bamboos grew solely in order that polo-balls might be turned from their roots, that grain was given to ponies to keep them in hard condition, and that ponies were shod to prevent them slipping on a turn. But besides all these things, he knew every trick and device of the finest game in the world, and for two seasons had been teaching the others all he knew or guessed.

from Kipling's The Maltese Cat

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Excerpt 1 -- from her in-progress novella

    The Mexican boys’ father was a fire eater. Gustavo—Tragafuegos—the Eater of Flames, traveled in a small carnival that featured a troupe of pinto ponies, who performed by galloping in dizzying circles around a dark haired dwarf named Pineapple. Every night in questionable desert towns, Pineapple commanded the ponies to come to the center of the ring and they faded into a little painted formation with their brightly colored feathers that sprouted from the crown of red patent leather circus bridles, and as Pineapple cracked her whip, they all rose up and reared to show their white tummies for the audience of delighted children and drunken fathers. The finale featured Pineapple riding the ponies. She stood on one pony and commanded two others on either side of her as though she were a lilliputian gladiator. The ponies trotted politely for her as Gustavo lit an upright ring of fire. The flames were audible, streaking the night with a gassy orange pollution. As the children looked to their fathers, then back to the circus ring with unblinking bright eyes and their hands over their mouths, Pineapple and her painted ponies gathered terrible speed, orbiting wildly, turning gravity into some kind of black magic and the flames grew, pulling the little woman and her charges in like a comet collecting stars along its route. There was a great drum roll that seemed to come from a distance and then the bong of some kind of bell as Pineapple jumped her fierce horses through the flames. Upon landing, she always dropped her tangle of reins in a dramatic exhale, letting the ponies shake their heads, and as they returned to their original calm cantering orbit, she raised her little arms and the children squealed with delight, “Otra Vez!” But once a night was enough.
    Gustavo met Jesus and Manuel’s mother in a tailor’s shop in Hermosillo. The carnival had stopped in the town for two days of rest before heading south to Caballito. Olivia was a quiet seamstress, the daughter of a seamstress and the granddaughter of a seamstress. Olivia’s eyes were like dark sea pebbles, reflective and deep all at the same time. Gustavo asked Olivia to repair two shirts, the shirts he performed in. She wrinkled her nose as he pointed out where the seams were worn and needed to be re-stitched, “What is the matter? Why are you making that face?” Gustavo asked.
    Olivia giggled softly, “These are funny shirts. They smell of gasoline.”
    “That’s because I am a fire eater. I wash them and wash them, but the smell of fuel is always living in the cloth.”
    “I could wash them for you. I could make them smell much better.”  Olivia took the shirts and wrote up a ticket for Gustavo. She handed it to him and smiled. “Come back tomorrow, they will be repaired and smell much nicer.”
    Gustavo returned the next day. Olivia proudly brought him the shirts. They were pressed and hung starched and taut on their hangers. Gustavo put the shirts to his face and breathed deeply. They indeed smelled much nicer. They smelled something like horchata, sweet and vaguely vanilla. The bite of gasoline was completely gone. “I don’t know how to thank you! You must teach me how to wash the fumes from my clothes! This will make me a happy man.” Olivia came from behind the counter and stood close to Gustavo. She looked at his face carefully, she noted his strong hands, his dark Mayan hair and his bold nose. She smiled sweetly and pointed to a black and white poncho hanging on a hook by the door. “Do you want me to get your poncho SeƱorita?” Olivia quietly nodded. Gustavo walked across the room and retrieved the fine poncho. It too smelled of horchata. He helped Olivia put the poncho over her head. She pulled her long thick hair out from the neckline of the lovely garment and methodically twisted and rested her gathered tresses so that they lay across one shoulder and cascaded down her chest. Gustavo was suddenly overwhelmed by Olivia’s beauty. She gazed back at her little shop and then at the front door and took in just enough air to say what she wanted to say, “I cannot teach you how to wash the gasoline from your clothes—it is something my mother taught me and her mother before her. It is not something for a man, for a tragafuegos to do for himself. It is something I must do for him.” And that is how Olivia came to marry Gustavo.
    Gustavo would not live long. Fire eating took him too soon, but not so soon that he couldn’t teach his young sons Manuel and Jesus the ways of fire. Olivia watched quietly and proudly as her boys learned to spin fire and dance with it as though it were a young girl in a cantina. Late into the night Gustavo would urge the boys to juggle fire and walk through fire. But he never taught them to swallow fire. He was determined to be the only tragafuegos in the family. He wanted his boys to play with fire, not let it take their souls.

Gorey Exercise . . .

A is for Angus addled by ardvaarks

B is for Brian belittled by bunions

C is for Carl carried off by cats

D is for David delayed by dingos

E is for Edwina eaten by Enid

F is for Fenella felled by frogs

G is for George garroted by gallinules

H is for Harry harangued by hellions

I is for Isolda intimidated by itinerates

J is for Jarret jostled by jaguars

K is for Keri kicked by koalas

L is for Lisa left by lorries

M is for Matt marauded by mongols

N is for Nate netted by natives

O is for Ophelia ogled by ocelots

P is for Pete pitied by priests

Q is for Quintavia quicked by quarks

R is for Richard ricocheted by rocks

S is for Shannon sacked by solicitors

T is for Tilly torn by tales

U is for Uncas undulated by usurpers

V is for Vincent vilified by vampires

X is for Xlandia crossed by Xavier

Y is for Yolanda yipped by you

Z is for Zara zotted by zealots

Wednesday, March 2, 2011