Showing posts with label women. Show all posts
Showing posts with label women. Show all posts

04 June, 2018

It's all casual along the dirty, sacred river

Mick Parsons, writing, Louisville, violence
I spied the end of a sex transaction while walking to the coffee shop. As I rounded the corner from my street to the main artery, I saw a young man trying to simultaneously pull up and snap his jeans while walking nonchalantly. He did neither of them very well. The girl he was with was short, blond, and far less concerned about being seen than he was. Then again, her clothes were in place and walking seemed far less of an issue.
The young man noticed me and tried even harder to look like nothing was happening... at one point, even trying to put his arm around the girl, who, to her credit, could have cared less about the appearance of things. They continued to walk together, but it was hard to imagine them being a couple. He was very tall and dressed like an extra from a late-90's gang movie. She was very short by comparison.
And except for his failed attempt to look like she hadn't just serviced him near a busy street corner in between acts of the torrential downpour, I probably wouldn't have noticed were it not for the fact that, at a distance, she looked underage and it was a little early for the street walkers in my part of town to be out and about. 
I'm being unfair, I know. They COULD be in a relationship. But the fact is she was far more interested in her sucker than she was in him -- and in my experience, even a quick oral cop in the late morning between consenting adults will most likely include just a little post-glottal tenderness. 
This wasn't the blog I intended to write today. I had something else in mind, something having to do with this dog issue on my street. One of the houses on my street had a husky tied out without shelter all day yesterday -- a day with weather ranging from hot and sunny to torrential downpour. After trying unsuccessfully to find anyone home --or, at any rate, anyone who was willing to answer the door -- I called the city, which, with its usual bureaucratic ineffectiveness, did not come.  At points the husky was pulling on the VERY short tie out she was on and making that high pitched whine that only Huskies and German Shepards seem to make. 
Casual cruelty and abuse offend me more deeply maybe than intentional cruelty and abuse. At least when someone is intentionally evil, deliberately cruel and abusive, the direct action to correct it seems just. There is an intelligence -- albeit a disturbed one -- at work when cruelty is committed in a deliberate manner. I could even make the case that cruelty in the name of passion -- maybe not deliberate, but focused and full of evil purpose all the same -- is at least understandable, even though it is abhorrent. 
But casual cruelty is not deliberate. It's rooted in ignorance, and the educator in me still likes to think that ignorance can be educated and eradicated. And I know enough about this neighbor in particular to know that there is nothing deliberate in the aforementioned cruel behavior. Some people just don't see dogs -- big dogs especially -- as anything other than a soulless animal, something maybe pretty to look at, but in the end, not human and therefore not entitled to being treated with love and dignity.
At some point in the afternoon, some of the neighborhood kids checked on the Husky. Not long after, she disappeared -- and so I thought maybe either the city came and picked her up -- she would have found a home in no time -- or maybe the owner thought better of his or her cruelty.
The husky was back out early this morning. At an appropriate time I once again walked over to try and talk to someone at the house. Once again, no one was home - or no one answered.  I once again called the city. Sometime later the husky was gone again. And I hope to God that someone came and retrieved her.
There's no accounting for the humanity or lack thereof here along the dirty, sacred river -- or anywhere, really. One of the things I love about living in Louisville is that when you strip it to the bare bones and look at how it functions -- and in some cases, doesn't function -- this town is just that. It's a small town with some tall buildings and the growing pains of a mid-sized Midwestern City in the process of redefining itself. 
But when you look at the bare bones of a place like this, it's hard not to notice that while many of the things that make it a small town still exist, there's a malignancy growing there, too.  Live here long enough and you start to find odd connections between the seemingly disparate people you know because they either went to the same high school or grew up in the same part of town but never knew one another because they were bussed to different schools. Locals give directions based on non-existent landmarks.
But that casual cruelty -- which isn't absent from small towns, either -- grows on the bones and spreads with startling innocuousness. 

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29 February, 2012

A Baboon in New York, Part 3: Coney Island Blues

[Apologies for the lateness of this post. Slowed down some by this bug I caught in Norfolk and delayed by the absence of WiFi on the train. Expect my Boston update: The Beantown Massacre tomorrow. I have some catching up to do. -Mick]


“I am waiting for the war to be fought 
which will make the world safe for anarchy” 
                                       ― Lawrence Ferlinghetti, A Coney Island of the Mind


(My friend Steve on the pier at Coney Island.)
I couldn't end my time in New York without going to Coney Island. But except for the day I spent with my friend Susan in Lower Manhattan, the weather was rainy and on the chilly side. And yes, I KNOW it's been a mild winter, more or less -- at least, every place I've been on this leg of the trip; and I KNOW, it could be a whole lot worse.

But you also have to keep in mind that cities, other being places where a lot of people can live on top of one another in a geographic location that can really only sustain a quarter or less of the population currently existing there, are also amazing wind tunnels.

It was Friday when I went, with my friend and other host Steve, to Coney Island. I had sort of an idea what it was like, based on descriptions. It's one of those places I've always wanted to see -- at least since I first read Lawrence Ferlinghetti's  collection of poems entitled A Coney Island of the Mind. I didn't quite know what to expect off season. I knew the rides would be closed; I was sort of hoping that the freak shows and the burlesque would still be open.

I know, I know. The world is a freak show, and why go to a burlesque when there's internet porn? Because there's something a scantily clad woman hiding behind large feathers that's just Sexy Awesome.

That's right. Sexy Awesome. There's an artfulness and a playfulness, to it. A sort of intimacy that's more satisfying. And yes, it's a fake intimacy. It's a show. An act. So is going to strip club. (You do know, don't you, that the girls don't REALLY like you, right? They're being nice so you'll tip them. Like the cute bartender in the low cut blouse who talks you up. It's business. You know... like marriage.

[AND NO: I HAVE NOT SEEN, NOR DO I HAVE ANY INTEREST IN SEEING THAT GOD AWFUL CHER/CHRISTINA AGUILARA MOVIE.]

This is Dannie Diesel, Aka Danielle Colby Cushman of American Pickers  fame. This is  what real burlesque looks like.

This is the bunnygator. One of the acts I missed because the show was closed for the season. :(

The train ride from Queens to Coney Island was a little over an hour. There's something soothing about the rocking and sounds of trains... even subway and commuter rail... so Steve and I both ended up falling asleep. Every once in a while the jolt from a stop or a start would wake me; but that never lasted long. It's nice to be able to drop off and catch a short nap; that's one the things I like about public transit. (It helps that I can sleep just about anywhere, including sitting straight up. I can also roll my tongue and bend my fingers back. Oh yes, Ladies, I am a CATCH!) And every time I opened my eyes, there were fewer and fewer people on the train with us.

Eventually, the train went from underground to on elevated tracks. We were in Brooklyn, and fast approaching Coney Island. Mythic places have always fascinated me... everything from Stonehenge to the Georgia Guide Stones, from the painted desert to that big ball of twine, from the St. Louis Basilica in New Orleans and the graveyard where Marie Laveau and Dr. John are buried to the places that are only sacred to me: Menifee County, my father's grave.

Coney Island is one of those places that, for good or bad, and probably mostly bad, has always had mythic resonance. It's magic. It's camp. It's kitsch. It's crass. It's classless. It's beautiful and gaudy and bawdy;  it's right on the Atlantic Ocean, a body of water I hope to someday cross and go to Europe. Choppy winter waves like the ones I've seen in Norfolk's Chesapeake bay, and the Hudson River in New York have seemed an appropriate metaphor for the things I'm experiencing, the changes in my life. Choppy, but steady. Consistent, but with multiple and dangerous under and cross currents I have to maneuver. And since I am, first and foremost,  a poet, I can't resist an apt metaphor.

The ocean wind was cold and it was spitting rain, which made it difficult to see. The first thing we did was go to the Nathan's Hot Dog Stand, which was one of the few things not associated with the train terminal that was actually open. Coney Island off season is on the desolate side; a few locals who came out to crowd the hot dog stand, there was no one around.

My primary reason for going to Nathan's was that I was told, quite specifically, that I need to go to Nathan's and eat a hot dog. I confess that one hot dog more or less tastes like another to me... except for veggie dogs and turkey dogs which, even buried under multiple layers of chili, onion and peppers, kraut, ketchup, mustard, and cheese, still taste like shit and should be removed from the pantheon. All beef dogs are better. Nathan's are -- technically -- kosher, which means they are prepared under the strict rules of Koshrut Law.

(Which, as far as I can tell, means nothing for hot dogs. I mean, chicken beak and rat turds are still chicken beak and rat turds  regardless of how they're prepared... right?)

All in all, it was a good hot dog. It's not something I'd write to people and tell them they HAVE to go and do... but... well... maybe the adverse weather conditions were affecting my palette. 

After I finished my chili dog, fries, and beer, Steve and I walked down so I could take a look at the Atlantic Ocean. Except for three people who were huddled under the shelter leading to the beach from the street, there was no one around. I took some pictures, stared out at the waves. A significant part of this trip has been about learning to let go, and there's something about the rhythm of ocean waves that helps me do that. I stood there, making small talk with Steve about the ocean and the water and how soothing it is to me, about how the waves of the Atlantic crashing up on the deserted beach reminded me of the waves of Chesapeake Bay behind the cheap ass motel I stayed in while visiting Stella in Norfolk.

Staring out at the waves, I thought again about how I have come to one of those places that feels like the end of the world, if only to release the stress and pain and sense of failure that had been building up in me over the years and over the weeks. 10 years, I thought. 10 years is a long time to wear on a person. 

10 years is a long time to be together, To live together. To experience life together. It's not as long as some marriages last; but I've seen a lot of people who just coast through their lives hoping they'll make it to the end as quietly as possible. But really, depending on how you live, a lot of life can happen in 10 years, depending on how you lived. And, if nothing else, I know Melissa and I lived a lot. We moved around a lot. We started over a lot. Started from almost nothing a lot. Maybe we didn't last; but we lived more than a lot of people do. It was a full decade.

Catch and release. Staring out at the winter ocean, that phrase echoed with the crash of the waves. Catch and release. If we treated the important moments in our lives that way -- understand that each moment, or series of moments, is only ours for a short time and that at some point, we have to learn to let go... not just for our sake, for the sake of the other people with whom we share those moments,and for the sacredness of those moments themselves, then learning how to move forward becomes less about actually moving forward and than it is understanding how to begin again. Because sometimes, there is no moving forward. 

Sometimes, you simply stand in the same place and cast out a new line. Because the universe is vast and life is as vast as we allow it to be.

After letting the ocean spit on us for a few minutes, I asked Steve, who was standing there, patient as always, if he would care to go down to the pier. He agreed. As we turned to leave, one of the three people I spied in my periphery asked me for a quarter.

Now, I'm almost always good for it if I have it. And as I've stated before, I don't really care whether people tell me the truth; whether they really need a dollar for bus fare, for whether they need it to buy a bottle or a few rocks, or some food -- doesn't matter to me. Humanity shouldn't need a reason or justification. 

But I don't like being threatened. And there was something about this guy, this kid, really, he couldn't have been older than 17 or 18, half standing in a shadow, his entire frame ready to jump. He already had one black eye. He looked like he didn't care if he got another, even if all he got out of it was a nickel. And there were his two friends, who were hiding back in the shadows, quietly. 

I'd seen this approach before. It's one that works based on fear. It's not much different than being mugged, really. And while I knew I could put up a fight if I had to, I didn't really want to. This is one of those moments when you have to DECIDE to be a pacifist. It's a conscious decision. But that also means, not giving in to the fear, either. Not allowing people to intimidate you into acting against your instincts. 

So I said no. If he had approached differently, not ready to pick a fight, I would've given him something, even though I really had very little to spare. 

"Oh." He said, and moved back into the shadow as Steve and I walked away.

"Have a blessed day!" One of the other shadows... a girl, called out.

"I'm working on it."

And then the cat calls began. The insults. Calling me selfish. Calling me fat. Calling me other things. Saying that I couldn't spare a quarter, but that I had plenty of money for McDonald's hamburgers and chicken nuggets. So easy. I thought. So easy to read wrongly into someone's life. I didn't particularly care about them calling me fat. I can lose weight. But making assumptions about my life based on the state of their lives? I felt like turning around and telling them what idiots they were; it's possible to live this life and still demonstrate a little class, a little dignity. I've seen it. They need to learn it.

But I thought better of it, and my surroundings. And Steve. And my promise to myself 15 years ago, to try and do no harm to anyone. It's the promise doctors make and some of them even keep. 

And ultimately, I wasn't going to let them destroy the peaceful mood I was in.

We walked down to the pier. Standing on the pier is like standing near the edge of the world. Further down, people were fishing, even on a lousy day like that. Standing that close to the water without being in it, hearing and feeling the crashing of the waves against the wood, you start to feel the rhythm and vibration of the world. It's peaceful and terrifying. 

It's one of those places, you need to remind yourself to breathe. Return to the basics.

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22 March, 2010

Excerpt from Novel Mss: Eau De Garbage

Randall caught me on my fifth and final trip to the dumpster; the bags were filled to capacity and with every step I worried that one of them would split and dump everything in the alley.


“Hole-ee shiit!” he gawked. “Is hell freezin’ over?”

“Nope.” I heaved one of the bags into the dumpster. The plastic lid came slamming down and I was punched in the face with a breeze that stank of old garbage, warm beer, and melted plastic.

“You get evicted?”

“Nope.” I opened the lid to heave my last and heaviest bag into the dumpster. Randall, in an act of misdirected kindness, held the lid for me. “Thanks.”

“Lynda coming back?”

“You’re funny.” I dropped the bag in and managed to move before Randall let the lid drop, narrowly avoiding another blast of Eua De Garbage.

“Whatever the reason,” he said, “it’s about fuckin’ time. Your place was turnin’ into a fuckin’ sty.”

“You’d know. I hear they let the pigs roam the streets like child molesters in Georgia.”

Randall didn’t like when I made fun of Georgia, his accent, or the South in general. He wasn’t one of those “The South Shall Rise Again!” mother fuckers; but he was often critical of movements to stop flying the Southern Cross over government building. I didn’t make fun of it often because watching him get pissed stopped being fun. But he had to go and mention Lynda.

He must’ve realized his faux paus because he raised his hands to declare a truce. “I tried callin’ you,” he said. “You know what TODAY is, right?”

“Should I?”

“It’s THURSDAY, son!”

“’Kay.”

He shook his head at me and smiled. “It’s THIRSTY THURSDAY. Come on, let’s go.”

“Where?”

“The bar, jackass.”

“You need a reason to drink? Besides, weren’t you just there?”

He shook his head at me, disapproving. “It’s got nothin’ to do with it BEIN’ Thursday. It’s… IN SPITE of it bein’ Thursday. So come on.”

“Is Eunice running specials? Trying to get that TGIT crowd?”

“Shiit.” He spat on the broken parking lot cement. “You’d think you were AGAINST drinking all of a sudden. S’got nothin’ to do with Eunice; she’s not even working today. It’s not that. It’s just a THING, okay? Come on. Everybody’s there.”

“Who?”

“Quit bein’ such an old woman and come on. “Everybody. Steve, Paul, Chris. The important people. So COME ON already. I don’t put out this much effort to get laid.”

I went inside and washed up a little to get the garbage smell off of me. The kitchen looked better, even if the stench still lingered. I supposed I could’ve opened the windows, but that would’ve meant opening the curtains and letting all the people who complained about me see just how decayed my little world had become. Besides, Marie Rubio might stop by, and even though she had a key, she couldn’t enter without good reason. Granted – she was trying to get rid of me, and that might give her the probably cause she needed; but I doubted it. She thought very little of me at that point, but she still wasn’t sure how I’d react. Besides, she was the kind who’d follow the letter of the law and give me enough rope to hang myself. That, at least, bought me a little time.

When we got to the bar, the music was loud with a thumping bass beat; I looked behind the bar and there was Eunice, in all of her blonde bleached, tan sprayed and stretched glory. It was actually Lindsay’s night to work, and she was pouring drinks for some regulars; Eunice was behind the bar mixing free shots for her posse of users, abusers, and hangers on. She exemplified the rule that governed the universe: the person with the best stuff runs everything. And though she’d lost her stuff physically a long time ago and had gone the route of the saggy and haggy club druggie, Eunice still had the hook up for good drugs, free shots, event tickets and swag, and for forcing na├»ve young waitresses with nice bodies into perpetual sexual servitude. The only real difference between Eunice and a pimp was that Eunice didn’t take a cut from each girl; she took their souls instead, and used them to keep herself going a little longer. And when the girls got too coked out, dried out, or got knocked up, she kicked them to the curb like an unwanted cat.

I looked over at Randall, who was flashing his shit-eating grin. “I thought you said she wasn’t working.” I had to pretty much yell over the lousy music.

He laughed and yelled back. “I lied.”

“Great. You know that bitch doesn’t like me.”

“So what? Who cares? Lindsay is working and wearing a low cut shirt. Who gives a fuck about ol’ Sag Bags?”

To answer him would have required me to yell again; besides, my throat was dry and I was already there anyway. Might as well drink and hope somebody would change the music. When I sat down at the bar between Chris and Hugh, who was one of Eunice’s, Lindsay saw me and poured me a beer. Darling girl, that one. And while I didn’t like Randall’s hyper-piggishness, he at least had taste in women. I waved at Lindsay when she placed the cold beer. She smiled a short smile and went back to work.

Chris was staring into his beer and Randall was on the other side of him trying to talk Paul and Steve into going in on a horse. I looked over at Hugh. He was drinking his usual Rum and Coke and laughing at whatever it was Eunice had just said. Hugh was an older guy – maybe his late 50’s – and besides buying and frequently sharing Eunice’s medium grade cocaine, he was also fucking Emma, a former waitress turned arm candy. Emma wasn’t my kind of girl. Nice enough body, and the high strong cheekbones and dark eyes that betrayed her Mexican heritage; but she had this huge beak of a nose, and you could just tell by looking at her that the years wouldn’t be kind to her. She was the kind who peaked early, maybe in her teens, and had learned to get through the world on her tits and the occasional backseat hand job. But that can only carry a girl – even a pretty one—so far, and she had begun realizing it. So, she latched on to a grateful old man who liked fucking girls the same age as his daughters and was just riding the slow slope down, waiting for her looks to give out before she “accidentally” got knocked up. I didn’t like her, but Chris did. When she worked there as a waitress, he made special trips during her weekend shift just to see her. Chris was a friendly guy; the women liked him, but he never pressed the advantage. As far as I could tell Chris was one of the few noble men left in the world; he wouldn’t turn something down if she dropped in his lap, but he didn’t hound after pussy like Randall, and he didn’t play wingman like Steve and Paul did. Except for the horses and his fondness of beer and Mexican food, Chris had no vices. Except Emma.

I let Chris stew over his beer and focused on Hugh, the lecher. Hugh reminded of a stock character in a black and white noir movie; everything he did was predictable. Hugh always told the same stories, always cracked the same jokes, and never deviated from the script. His latest string of jokes, which I was certain he’d heard from somebody else, were about Michael Jackson. As a matter of fact, most of his jokes focused on child molesting and that form of lukewarm racism that lingered deep in backwater red states like Arizona. He was one of those guys who’d look around and check the demographic layout of the bar before he muttered the word “nigger” or “spick”, but as time wore on and the drinks and nose candy got to him, he cared less and less. Randall wasn’t much better; but at least he didn’t bother to act ashamed of his ignorance. The only thing that probably made Hugh attractive to Emma was the fact that Hugh, besides having a taste for acting thirty or forty years younger than he was, also had a lot of money. She tolerated his stupid jokes and inane stories, and even managed to push out a forced giggle when he called out “Where’s my Spick Princess?” when he couldn’t find her. Which meant, as far as I was concerned, that they deserved one another.

He looked like he was about to put out the arm candy mating call when she appeared and latched onto his arm. Chris looked over, but didn’t say anything. He barely seemed to notice me. It wasn’t fair. Granted, I figured Emma for a manipulator; but what the hell? Don’t people deserve a little happiness?

“So how’s it going, Hugh?”

He looked up and smiled to return the greeting; right when he did, I sniffed and rubbed my nose. It was a casual movement; Hugh didn’t seem to notice, but he sniffed and rubbed his nose, too, like a subconscious response. I could tell by his eyes that he’d probably already been to the back room with Eunice and had done a few lines.

“Fine, fine,” he said like he was trying to remember my name. I didn’t help him. “Hey, did you hear about Michael Jackson? When they went through his room they found a thousand pairs of little boys’ tightey whiteys.”

“Oh yeah?” I sniffed and rubbed my nose again. So did he. This time, he blinked and stopped for a second.

“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, yeah.” He took a drink and I took the opportunity to sniff and rub my nose again.

“Yeah,” he sniffed and rubbed his nose again and looked around like he was nervous. “Yeah… he ah… apparently he used them as air fresheners.”

I sniffed and rubbed my nose. That time sent him off his stool, walking quickly to the restroom to check himself in the mirror. Too easy.

The minute he left Emma’s face went to stone and she stared off into the distance. I elbowed Chris break him out of deep meditation. He looked up at me like he hadn’t seen me the entire time. I nodded over at Emma. He smiled.

“Hey there girl,” he said. “What’re you doing staring off into the distance? How the hell have you been?”

She turned towards him and smiled. Then she breezed by me and hugged him the way girls hug old men and paraplegics. What the hell? It was something. They chatted it for a while and Chris seemed to instantly reanimate.

Meanwhile, Eunice was pouring another round of some pink colored shot for her crew and she set one for Emma right between me and Chris without so much as a hint of a hello or a recognition of our existence. Then she took her shot and walked out from behind the bar, heading for the back office. On her way there she ran into Hugh, who, after a few words, went with her to the back office. I looked over at Chris and Emma. They were chatting it up and Emma was leaning on him and laughing… just letting her boobs brush up against his arm. Poor, poor bastard.