Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Another excerpt...

If only my buddy Brad were here to confirm this madness. He stayed at the shelter one night (just to see the deal) and then insisted on renting a room in the Crack hotel near the ocean. (Yes, the Crack hotel was arguably a better place to sleep.)It didn't take long for him to understand why it made no difference. Santa Cruz was overrun with disease. Might as well save money. We all piled into a crappy hotel room and the dogs shit on the floor and someone was being beaten next door. The crack dealers just assumed we were there to get high, but I was actually a raw food vegan who didn't even use salt and pepper because the Bhagavad Gita said stimulants repressed spiritual growth. Crack? I insisted on recycling the aluminum cans that had been used to smoke heroin. My girlfriend's bike got stolen. We didn't drink or do any drugs but we were too insane for them. They kicked us all out into the rain. Brad wasn't like everyone else. He laughed at the whole situation. At one insane point we were both dragging my girlfriend away from the television. Don't ask why. She grabbed it and the whole thing toppled and crashed to the floor. There was debris everywhere. Brad asked her to help clean some of it up and she threw a lamp at him. Anyone else in the world would have blown a fuse but Brad pondered this and said, "I am beginning to see what my father was saying when he told me I would understand things one day. All those times he asked me to clean my room or do chores and I defied his tyranny. Now I see. I was just a miserable selfish asshole." Then he cleaned up the room on his own, whistling, oblivious to me beating on the bathroom door to get my girlfriend to stop trying to cut her wrists.

That was literally the last day I saw him. He had a ticket to Thailand and was taking a bus to S.F. in a few hours. At the station he made me promise to tell him how it all turned out. We were both certain that day would come. No one could have predicted how it would turn out so he wanted to know exactly what happened. every detail. I said, "Brad, I'm so unhappy." and he laughed until I laughed. Life there was so complicated and every day it deteriorated a little. It never maintained a level of awfulness, it always got slightly worse every day so that whatever plans I had from the previous day to improve my situation were obsolete because the situation had deteriorated terribly. Every day the problems compounded and the combination of problems all interrelated so that a previous solution was nullified. He loved hearing my stories and I loved telling him my stories while we ate donuts at the coffee shop. I must've rehearsed this story a thousand times in preparation for the day I got to tell him all about it. I still think I'll get the chance even though that's crazy. "We've much to discuss," he would say. I think I became a storyteller because of the response I got from Brad back in the 4th grade. He was one of the few people who thought my stories were funny and not horrifying, although he also thought they were horrifying. But mostly funny. He didn't think I needed help but he did pay for that hotel room. So this is for you, Brad.

The book has many elements. Ponytail is just one part of that strange saga. here's another...

The River Street Shelter was a shelter in name alone. The green plastic roof of the eating commons kept dry a small area containing several picnic tables. These picnic tables, since it was now dark, had been converted into bunk beds. Adults slept on top of and underneath them. Children and teenagers slept on the benches with cardboard. Near the eastern edge of the covered area stood many wooden cubbyholes filled with old clothes. Rats roamed freely through these stacked boxes, scouring for food, shitting liberally, and taking material for nests which were conveniently located nearby in the ivy overgrowth next to Highway 1. On the opposite side a television played local programs and news to the vacant, insomniac eyes of a group of tweakers and runaways. Water dripped from the green plastic roof onto the top of the television. Since it was taking place in the realm of television this development was considered outside the influence of any person at the River Street Shelter. Many people saw the water dripping into the heat vents on the back of the television but to do something about it would require more energy than they were willing or able to invest. Furthermore, there were a dozen spare televisions nearby. Suffice to say, everyone was content with the status quo.
A row of bus lockers stood outside the fenced area of the shelter. The top of these lockers had been claimed as bed space by several people as they were protected from the rain by a plastic canopy. Two Godot-awaiting men were having a conversation on the top of the bus lockers as the rain dripped over the canopy.
“City don’t care about us. City keep us here.”
“We rats.”
“Dig a hole. Shit in the ground.”
“Nowhere to go. Nothing to eat.”
“Rain wash us all downstream.”
“Then what we do?”
“Time will tell.”
A tweaker named Steve was finishing a crooked line of cystal meth in the bathroom. He could hear every rain drop as it hit the top of the port-o-potty roof. He could even estimate the size and shape of the drop by its reverberations on the plastic. He flexed his biceps and felt his muscles ripple from his back to his chest. The toxic stench of the blue fluid filled reservoir tantalized Steve’s senses to the point where he could taste the mounds of shit and piss. Steve snorted the last of the line and tossed the piece of cardboard into the toilet, disregarding the sign that said “No Trash In Toilet”.
“Motherfucker,” yelled Steve as he kicked the door open. “I’m high!”
He stepped onto the wet chipped wood that blanketed the area and sized up the site. It would take some effort but Steve was confident he could transform the entire shelter before morning.
“You,” said Steve to a man hobbling past him. “Get some shovels and a rake. Pronto. We need to divert the water from the storm drain and build a hydroelectric plant to run all our power. I’m gonna take this whole place off the grid.”
The man hobbled away mumbling to himself about the curse of lice, while Steve proceeded to climb on a dirt bike and pedal, shirtless, muscles rippling, into a field abutting a welding factory. He sped up to a cardboard tent and skidded to a stop.
“Mary, baby, you ready?”
“Just wait. I’m hurtin’.”
“I’m gonna lay you like a Mexican.”
“Alright, babe. Just a minute.”
“I ain’t waitin’. I’m ready.”
A plastic curtain parted and a toothless woman poked her head out of the tent.
“Stevie, you got some left?”
“Bend over and I’ll see.”
Stevie,” she whined.
“Shut your mouth, woman. Shut your fucking mouth.”
Mary smiled a crooked smile.
Damn, you one fine fucker.”
Steve threw his bicycle to the ground and crawled into the tent. He turned Mary around so her face was buried in a pile of rags. His own head scrapped the top of the tent. It was dark. Suddenly, he didn’t know where he was. The sound of rain pounding on cardboard was like thunder in his ears.
“Mmdrr. Ahnrridd,” mumbled Mary into the rag pile.
Steve looked down and struggled with his belt buckle. Lacking excess fat, he managed to take pull his pants down without loosening his belt. His reindeer boxer shorts fell down also. His limp dick coughed out a tiny bit of white fluid.
“You see what you made me do?” cried Steve. “You see?”
“Abbdd. Abbdd,” mumbled Mary. “Abbdd. Abbdd.”

Cinema Paradiso

Watched my favorite movie of all time last night. The director's cut. It's emotional. I had a different reaction to the finale, like Alfredo knew that if Toto had all the love he wanted then there would be no hole he would need to fill with art. See? Art is what artists use to complete themselves. And if they are already complete then the art sucks. Maybe that's justifying my insanity, but I think it's true. The bigger the hole, the better the art, if you can complete it. Generally, there is a limit on how incomplete a person can be and still accomplish something.

this first shot is when Salvatore returns from the army. He is alone in the plaza. Everything has changed. The thread has been broken. It's an awful feeling. I felt this way in La Paz. I looked around at the hot dog stands and the closed shrimp booths and my van on the beach and thought. It's over. I don't belong here. Worse, I thought, "This is a Cinema Paradiso moment."

this second shot is the moment young Toto realizes he's different. He is watching his friend get beaten with a stick. IT was funny for a second and then it becomes...a moment. In Toto's mind he understands that this is something...he isn't sure what...but it is something to remember. And this is what Alfredo sees in him: not a projectionist, but a poet. Toto has a gift of memory and substance. It's a curse also because you see how happy everyone else is and Toto is in another world. That's the world Alfredo is trying to guide him to and that's the world his Elena can't be a part of...because she will fill the void, or worse she will forever be a symbol of something rather than a wife. It's awful but unavoidable. The story is about a man's struggle to NOT be a poet. You can't serve two masters. You can love flesh and blood people or you can live in a world of symbols. There's more to the story but that's what it meant to me last night. I only rented it as an excuse to talk to the librarian. Courtney. I was so bumbling I gave her my credit card instead of my library card. I babbled about getting fired from a factory. Forgot to mention I live in a van. I said, "Since I moved here you're the only person I recognize." Is that a vague opener or what?
She's got a widow's peak that would make Vivien Leigh jealous. And she wears four inch high heels and stunning turtlenecks that do her figure all the good in the world. It's not fair to talk to her since she lives in the real world and I live in a world of symbols. But I'm still hoping someone can tolerate me ignoring them. She's probably married.

sleeping with snakes review

Excellent book. Every story is excellent. Everyone should buy a copy.
Creative Commons License
Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.