Monday, August 27, 2007

Another Side Of Bobo Dylan

Tiff says she's doing another stab at this month's Wordsmiths' prompt. I love a challenge!


I STARTED the day in denial. Maybe a tip, maybe a gift. I knew better. As much as people said they’d miss me, I wasn’t anyone’s priority anymore. The fact that I had been spending more time in the last month asking for payments than making deliveries was what you’d call your sure sign. Bet on me, folks; bet on me to lose, fade, and die.

I didn’t mind much. No pension, sure, but I had savings. My old man learned hard: salt it away, as much as possible and still live. So I lived in a second-story walkup. So I almost married once –once—only to find out that she didn’t fancy a guy who didn’t spend money going out. So I owned one suit that I bought for my father’s funeral. Pops woulda been proud of that.

Sallie didn’t mind at all. Sallie’s the horse. The fact that I gotta tell people Sallie’s the horse well, that says it all. Usta be kids would hug her neck just for being a horse. Nowadays they’re all in school when me and Sallie are making the rounds. NO kids know Sallie anymore. That says it all right there.

By the time I got to Greenmore Street, I wasn’t eager to make the rounds. Boss’s orders: make deliveries in the morning, take collections in the afternoon. When it’s hot, when Sallie hates walking. When housewives are home. When snot-nosed kids are there to look at you like you were bumming for handouts.

Used to be I could park the cart on the side of the road while I took up the deliveries. Nowadays they got concrete curbs that the cart wheels don’t like going up on. They hurt Sallie’s hooves when she tries to canter up on them, but she still does, out of habit.

I pull away so she doesn’t grind against the concrete curb. I swing down from the cart, thinking that I’m to be glad my old bones won’t have to do this anymore. I miss it already.

I stroll past Sallie’s nose, thinking she knows there is something odd about me not going back to the cart’s end where the stuff is. I give her head a rub, brushing up against her nose. She chuffs lovingly. She knows nothing.

I make it to the sidewalk before I start losing my nerve. Am I embarrassed to be asking for dough? Couldn’t I just forget it? “Sorry, boss, they just wouldn’t pay.” What’d I have to lose? My job?

As I’m deciding I hear a kid yelling, “Tommy! Throw it here!” And then there’s a screech and a thump, and a smell of burnt rubber in the air. I turn, and there’s a space where the kid used to be, and a car up against the curb across the street.

And I see that Sallie and I are both looking into the same empty space. And I wonder, do I really know how much Sallie knows?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

More Road Rage

SO I'm driving down Toddville Road, which is a nice, winding, hilly little road not far from our house that used to wind through farmland from one small community to another (and now winds through five distinct kinds of subdivision), and I get stuck behind a Cadillac.

Now, Cadillac's have the reputation of being big, expensive, well-built machines that are largely bought by people who have absolutely zero interest in driving. So it was little suprise to me that the driver of said vehicle was going thirty miles an hour up the road.

So, ok. No problem. Sure, it was hot out, and sure, I was on my way to get lunch, conditions that normally would lend themselves to conjuring my own particular brand of road rage. But there was nothing for it. I was stuck behind the guy. Besides that, it's a residential area, so I really should behave myself. And the speed limit is thirty five, anyways.

So I'm driving. I'm crowding him a little, but just because the gearing in the Miata doesn't like this particular speed. The guy in the red Mitsubishi behind me is crowding me a bit, but that's ok. It isn't a long road, and it dead-t's into another. Whichever way this guy goes, I can go the other way. There are many ways to get where I'm going.

We come to a stretch of road where I normally gun through a curve, picking up a few extra MPH's before hitting a long, straight hill, which would then coast down, wasting not a drop of fuel, not an ounce of momentum.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I have to gear down and brake to keep from running up the @#$%er's ass.

Fine. I restrain the car, and we drift down to the bottom of the hill, and we start up the other side.

Suddenly, I hear a foreign noise. Instinctively, I check my mirrors. The damned Mitzi driver has decided to pass. Across a double yellow line. Now, I am sure if you asked the asshole, he'd tell you, straight faced, "Oh, I could see for a mile." Of course, the reason it's double yellowed is that there are driveway connections every twenty feet up and down the road. So this is not a nice thing to do. So I yelled at the bastard a bit, just for the sake of form.

As he passed me, I could hear his engine straining. He seemed to be making headway, but he was hardly accelerating. As he passes me, I realize the car he's driving is not just a Mitsubishi, but a Mitsubishi Gallant. A Gallant. Doesn't this idiot realize that he is barely even driving a car?!?

So it takes him the entire length of the hill to get even with the Caddy. As we approach the apogee of the hill, there it is: a car approaching in the opposite lane, directly facing the Mitzi.

I laid off the gass, giving myself plenty of room for escape. The Mitzi driver really lays on it now, I can hear the strain all the way from four car lengths back. (And of course the Caddy driver doesn't slow down.) He manages to finally pull ahead and get back into the proper lane with less than a car length of space left. Two seconds later, this would have been a head-on collision.

Dumbass! What a dumbass!!! We get to the light at the top of the hill. The Caddy goes left, the Mitzi goes right, towards my Chinese takeout joint. As it happens, he turns into the parking lot adjacent to the Chinese joint. I go in and order my food, and then walk around the corner to the grocery store to buy some beer, thinking about what I would tell this driver, were I to encounter him.

"Hey, Dumbass-- if that is your real name!

"Don't cross the double yellow. It's just rude, and it can be dangerous.

"Also, if you absolutely can't be convinced to obey the @#$%ing law, at LEAST have the decency to pass going DOWNHILL, where GRAVITY is with you, not UPHILL, where it's AGAINST you.

"Finally, if you're going to be an asshole, and your're determined to be rude, and you are positive that you want to break the @#$%ing law, at least have the decency to DRIVE AN ACTUAL AND REAL @#$%ING CAR THAT IS CAPABLE OF PASSING UPHILL FOR CHRIST'S SAKE!!!!

"Thanks for your attention. Have a nice day."

So as I walk to the grocery store I notice that there are four red sedans in the parking lot. (In case I hadn't mentioned, the asshole's car, it red. It also have Georgia plates.) Not that I was actually gonna say anything to the guy, just noticing out of curiosity. Nope, that's a Pontiac. That's a Chevy. This one's a Ford . . . That's a Toyota . . .

The guy wasn't in the parking lot. He didn't stop.

Goddamned tourist.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Is This Thing On?

I guess I might be accused of having written too many poems about New York. This one is kind of specific, though, about a revelation from this most recent trip that has kind of stuck with me.


I’ve walked these streets
A thousand times, a thousand ways;
Up town, down town, all around the town
In this crazy cornucopia
Where anything is possible, everything and nothing
Is close at hand, around the corner.
You ask me why I go to Washington Square Park, I tell you sir,
Because I can see the end of it, plot a course across it,
Take a shooting from the corner of a building,
And plot longitude and azimuth.
Smooth sailing for this sailor of urban climes.

You ask me why I sail through the village,
I tell you, sir, the tide;
The tide draws me down, pulls me through Chinatown and Little Italy
Across Wall street, past Battery Park
To the dark, flat waters.
There are no monsters here.
The monsters are all on display
Up at the Museum of Natural History.

You ask me why I come here, sir, and I will tell you,
Hell if I know; you can’t even see
The ocean from here. But there is something comforting
About looking across the sound at Long Island.
I don’t know why. But I’ve always known it.
Somehow always known it. That somehow,
Somewhere, somehow, some day,
There would be a poem
At the end of New York.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Support Your Local Muckraker

I almost never watch public television anymore. Not since years ago having the revelation that most of what I was seeing was alot of posturing and posing backed up by not very much, or very good, science. That is not to say I never watch PBS shows, but just that I more often get like-themed stuff at the History Channel or Discovery Channel or what have you, since the formats are far less dowdy, the information comes faster and clearer, and I don't gotta wait forty-five seconds between each breathless proclamation by the narrator (or maybe they even call them "presenters," because as near as I can tell, the PBS geeks have never gotten over the notion that they either are, or should be, British).

And I have contribiuted to the local PBS outlets on occasion, like when they've had a booth out somewhere. (Which is rare; why would they stoop to that level when they can keep their loyal audience prisoner for the hell that is Festival Week?) Like any other bum or panhandler, I have gladly dropped as much as a fin in the outheld cup bearing the PBS banner.

That said, UNCTV has always had the crappiest advertising.

Go ahead, say what you will: it's not technically advertising, because it is not to make profits for manufacturing or blah-de-blah-de-blah. It's advertising. If they're saying Watch our show! or Give us money! it's advertising.

The levels of badness have varied over tyhe years, but the thing that came in the mail today . . . Well, it's really bad. The envelope is adorned with one of those crappy, squiggly-outline cartoons that usually go with self-help pamphlets or herpes medications. This one is of a guy walking a tightrope or highwire, balancing pole in hands. The message beneath this caricature is We took a chance on you . . .

Meanwhile I'm thinking How? How in the name of God have you taken a chance on me?!?

A little clarity might help here: UNCTV is the Chapel Hill based PBS. The local one is unaffiliated with UNCC, which means UNC at Charlotte, or University of North Carolina at Charlotte, because when, decades ago, it was proposed that the planned local PBS affiliate be attached to and located at the local UNC-system school, the pretentious bastards at the UNC affiliate, in goddamned CHAPEL HILL, threw a shit-fit. Much like they did after UNCC grew a radio station. The CHAPEL HILL bastards forced them to move off campus in order to get their government matching funds. True story.

So anyways, I open the envelope, and the text of the plea is like this:

We took a chance on YOU.

We took a chance that you would like . . .

A dozen different shows that I never watch. I never watch NOVA because I do not think it enriches the human soul to have the crap bored out of me for an hour, no matter how pretty the pictures are. I never watch ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, because I find I never give a crap how much someone else's old junk is worth. Even when it's a sword.

I have watched GREAT PERFORMANCES, but, hey, sometimes the performances aren't all that, y'know, great. I recall having watched THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, and having it put me damn near to sleep, all the while thinking "Well, it's an American experience, but I wouldn't say it's THE American experience." FRONTLINE is what I put on my dog to keep ticks and fleas away, I have no need to watch it.

I have never watched NORTH CAROLINA WEEKENDS, but that just 'cause we are always busy on the weekends. (Great typo there, that almost came out "we are always busty on the weekends." Tee-he-he.) I have watched WASHINGTON WEEK, but, really, LEGISLATIVE WEEK IN REVIEW? I barely care what the @#$%ers have done once it has become law.

As for CURIOUS GEORGE, ARTHUR, or SESAME STREET, I am way beyond the years when I cared, but even then those were just things we watched when Spiderman wasn't on.

But the worst part is the part that comes, traditionally, after their earnest pitch convinces all us unwashed,uncultured schlubs, whom they are sure they have convinced we know not what quality content is, the pitch.

In order to contribute, they want you to become a MEMBER. You gotta join up, be in the COOL CLUB! Otherwise, these quality shows might not exist! Fork over the money, or the muppet gets it!!!

Which is bullshit. Everybody knows that the real money comes from generous donations from insurance and chemical poison companies. And GE. We can't leave out GE. GE has to donate alot to PBS, or else they chance not getting those contracts to make the billion dollar fighter-bomber jets. My $25 would mean less than a spit in the ocean.

Oh, and that's the discount membership. Apparently, they expect us to be cheap bastards down here in the flatlands. Get away from me, ya drunk. No, I don't got a dollar I could spare.

Remind me to thank my wife for deciding to buy a shredder. This is what it's really for: GOP leaflets and PBS come-ons.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Deliver Us

Tommy stood in the street, at the same time aware that there was no traffic coming either way, and also no one to play ball with. He was looking at his house, specifically at the front porch, but he wasn’t really seeing anything. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Mr. McGinty, the milkman, patting and tending his horse. “Mr. McGinty? Didja deliver to our house yet?”

McGinty didn’t look at him, but kept attending to his horse. “No, kid. I didn’t yet. No.”

Tommy started focusing on the ropes that had been tied to the porch, across the place where the door would have been. “I think we’re out of butter. We still have some milk.”

“Sure, kid,” McGinty muttered, a little tremulously.

Tommy tossed the baseball into the pit of his catcher’s mitt three or four times. He was deciding that there was no one around to play ball with. Certainly not the men going to and from his house. “Nobody’s out to play ball with.” Certainly not the men in the blue uniforms.

McGinty fiddled with the horse’s harness, pretending to adjust it, really just distracting himself. “I guess it’s like that some days, kid.”

He wanted to toss the ball into the air, but for some reason, he felt like he couldn’t let it out of his hand, like if he ever let it go he might not ever get his ball back again. Ever. “I guess you would have to deliver to the Joneses’ house before you would deliver to our house anyway.”

McGinty dropped his head and stared at the ground. “Lookit, kid, your Mom killed your Dad today. I think you got bigger things to think about than . . . You got anybody you can stay with?” He let the silence build. Somehow he knew the kid wouldn’t answer that one.

He looked up and he was instantly embarrassed by the knowing gaze in his horse’s eyes. He let go of the harness and stepped a up onto the curb. The cops hadn’t even tumbled to the fact that this was the kids house, his folks. What do you do? Tell ‘em? Deal with the kid?

He was just delivering stuff. He had just noticed the kid walking back from the ball field when they both heard a scream and a bang, and then another bang. They both stood there while the cops came screeching in with their sirens winding down. McGinty had to figure that the kid’s old lady had called the cops and told them what she was up to. He couldn’t seem to figure anything after that.

“Mr. McGinty?” Tommy asked, “Do you think I could have some ice cream?”

Friday, August 03, 2007


I am a notoroious road-rager. Cut me off? I will yell at you. Change lanes without signaling? I will yell at you. Confront me? I will tell you witheringly to shut the @#$% up and get out of my way, which is all I really want in the first place. On the other hand, I am a very courteous driver. I never cut anyone off. I always signal BEFORE I change lanes or turn. I wave thanks when you let me in. I leave the door open* to let you merge. I wave you in or across if the right of way is in question, if our arrival at a four-way stop is a photo-finish. Sometimes I yell to be helpful, like when I am not sure the brain dead driver in the Overnight truck who just made an illegal left turn onto a downtown street knows I am there, and the if he changes lanes just now he will crush my car. (That was today.)

Here's what I don't do. (This was also today.)

I don't know who you are, A BARAKA, ye of the crappy green Subaru, but I suspect that you put your name on your license plate for the same reason your mother put nametags on your underwear. (Yes, I stole that; no, I'm not apologizing.) Given that we were in the Presbeterian Medical Center area, whose roads are a mess, seemingly designed to make it as difficult and slow and confusing as possible to get where you're going when seeking medical attention, I did not honk at you when you proceeded to go 25 to 30 MPH in a 35 MPH zone. Nor did I tailgate or rev my engine at you (something I do when, say, someone tuns right on a red light in front of me and proceeds to go 20 miles per hour in a 45; let ye without sin . . . ). And then, when we reached the intersection at Randolph Road, where the remains of the old ambulance entrance and the narrowness of the road required that the turn lanes-- both left and right, making a total of three lanes at the light-- are a mere car-length-and-a-quarter long, I did not, as you did, start honking and cursing and fingering the driver ahead of you, who was signaling that he now understood the the lane he needed to be in was the one on his right, the one he could not enter until the two cars in that lane had gone, something the two cars in that lane were having difficulty doing given that your choice was to crowd the right lane in an attempt to get around the car trying to get into the right lane.

The fact that you kept honking and fingering and yelling and gesturing after the other guy turned and was out of your way was just further insult. To yourself, not to me. I mean, man, I was just plain embarrassed for you. You were going like 10 miles an hour.

So, Mr. A BARAKA if that IS your real name (I am almost positive this was a white guy), if you are wondering why I made that intensely sharp right turn as we got to the next intersection, it is . . . Well, that's where I was going anyways. But I was glad not to be following your slow, abusive ass any further.

Oh, and assuming, as is likely, that you appopriated the name of the poet Amiri Baraka to put on the back of your @$%ed-up Suburu? He did his best work back when his name was still LEROI JONES. Schmuck.

*Open the door: leave a sufficient space for merging traffic to get in between your vehicle and the one ahead.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007


Happy happy.

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