Once Upon a Time
Remember when fairy tales started like that? Now fairy tales begin with Kate Smith singing "God Bless America" and some pig-jowled set-for-life aristocrat with possum gravy dripping off his chin onto his US flag tie spinning a yarn of horror and fear and midnight raids and "Ohhh, you shouldn't'a said that" and "Look out, you better arm and prepare to kill or be killed. Hark, the Mooslims Are Coming! The Mooslims Are Coming!"
Sounds rather insane doesn't it? Didn't Oswald Spengler (I know, "Who?") predict all of this? Didn't Nietzsche (Really? Who?) prophesy this in his Superman ponderings? even in Thus Spake Zarathustra? Didn't Henry Miller write about this in book after book, especially The Tropics and The Rosy Crucifixion triology? Didn't Philip Wylie write about this? Isn't this what Picasso painted in Guernica?
And didn't Diego Rivera make huge murals (billboards) about this? And Frida Kahlo painting herself as herself was painting about this. The survival of the fittest. Oh hell, we're back to the corner of Creationism and Social Darwinism in this new US Kingdom of Neverland and Nevermind. Why look, here comes Raphael Hythloday.
It's the multiple conversations we have daily going on with ourselves that are talking about the various angles of all of THIS, this that is happening in the NOW, being observed as I type this, on the spot reporting of the coming either mass suicide or a coming to a taming of our multiple voices into one harmonious hymn to paradise--the only paradise there will ever be, this spaceship Earth.
A Man Like Raphael I Once Upon a Time Knew
I was just out of the US Army, free as a bird, with money on my hip for the moment but not much hope for the future, that is unless I got a job super-pronto, though I was prone in those days to either work at a high energy level or else be lazier than a well-fed fixed tomcat, all depending on how much unfixed tomcatting I had done the night before in the back alleys of Big D-little "a"-double "el"-Ass-- and I loved hangin' on Greenville Avenue and diggin' the blues bands over there or going down in the Trinity bottoms to Guthrie's Club and hearing BB King or Red River Dave or maybe Brother Ray Charles or maybe even our local blues hero Royal Earl, who later ran off with Guthrie of the Guthrie's Club's wife to Kansas City we heard--and since Guthrie of Guthrie's Club was formerly the sheriff of the whole damn place, I'm sure poor Royal Earl might have been hunted down and shot by the sheriff and physically made to disappear from the face of the earth to be sent on high to be singin' the blues up in the blues dives of Heaven--both Royal Earl and Sheriff Guthrie disappeared off my map as soon as I got mature, married, and moved to New Orleans. Another ironical thing, my favorite things in life you know, I was a good friend of this Sheriff Guthrie's son--aha! went to school with him...yeah, so what a life I was leading with a pal whose father owned one of the hottest nightclubs in the city.
One day after I'd sobered up over a hot sausage and swiss cheese sandwich out at the B&B after playing the piano in a club on Commerce, back over the bar, for beers and tips and getting to hang out with the big acts--like the Tommy Dorsey band guys and later the pop group the Del Vikings. It meant I wasn't getting home (I was living with my brother--his wife and 4 kids) until 3 and 4 in the morning, and then smelling like a brewery or a still depending on what I'd been drinking all night the night before, and then I suffered being ragged on all the next morning by my sister-in-law who wanted my sotty smelling ass out of her house, out on the streets looking for decent moneymaking work, but even if I didn't find a job, she still decreed I had to get out of HER house--"Get out of here by sundown or I'm running you out myself with a butcher knife or an ax, whatever the hell I can pick up and slam you with." So that morning I sobered up over a sausage and Swiss cheese sandwich, I decided to go clean, right, to make something of myself. So with a ringing in my ears and my head bleating like a howler monkey in the pits of a South American jungle, on this sobering morning with my bitchin' sister-in-law trying to peck my eyes out, after I showered, shaved, and put on my sharkskin suit, went to the B&B and had my sandwich, I trundled off down to my brother's job at the city's big afternoon newspaper.
My brother at that time was the paper's book page editor and going to his desk was fun because there were always piles of books around his desk waiting to be reviewed or for me to look through and read through while I sat there wiling away my time or there would be a lot of times famous writers hanging at his desk sipping coffee liberally laced with some sour mash whiskey--though my brother was a martini drinker, he always kept a bottle of bourbon in his desk for the writer types--playwrights, too, as Dallas back in those years had a lot of theater action going on with Paul Baker at the Dallas Theater Center and the crowd he attracted like Preston Jones or the guy that wrote The Gin Game--and all these dudes were drinkers, trust me. So that was a fun place to be for me--remember, I was a budding writer myself in those yonder days. I would cool out there until lunch, then go grab a bowl of chili rice at Shanghai Jimmy's and then hit the employment agencies--that was my plan that sobering day.
So on this day of righteous intention as I got off the elevator and walked toward my brother's desk I noticed a very nattily attired black man, late twenties, thin, sort of stooped, almost the spitting image of the jazz pianist Phineas Newborn two of whose albums I had and who I was heavy into since I was heavy into jazz in those days and especially jazz piano since I considered myself a jazz pianist among the many other dabbling efforts--to the exclusion of other musics altogether--that's why I'm so dumb about pop music from say 1969 until NOW.
So I walked over to the desk. On the desk in front of Phineas's look-a-like was a huge pile of typing paper. My brother had a fistful of this typing paper in his hand and was reading from it. "Hey, OK," my brother said seeing me, "wow, good shit, Thorn...yeah, and this is my little brother, Wolfie, we call him--he's a loner, you know."
And that's how I met the Thorn Man, the poet, the philosopher, and the man who lived by the conversations he had with himself--the title of the huge pile of typing paper on my brother's desk, three thousand pages (6 reams of typing paper) of a double-spaced manuscript he called Conversations With Myself. "It's like Charlie Parker heard those notes in his head, I hear these conversations, and they're going on at about the rate of Charlie Parker's thinking out those notes on his horn and I'm doing it on my typewriter."
So in a bold changing of my sober plans, instead I left with Thorn having just met him and we went out leaving the manuscript with my brother and we went down deeper up into the eastern end of Commerce Street, up at the end that ends at the State Fair Grounds and he took me up to his room; it was above a drugstore and overlooked the big gate of the Fairgrounds.
Thorn got out a bottle of Yellowstone whiskey and we knocked back shots and he put a record on his hi-fi and it was good shit and I said who's that and he said James Clay and I said, "The cat's the most...who's that with him?" "Lawrence Marable and Sonny Clark and Jamie Merritt." "Jamie Merritt; I know him from r and b bands and shit." "Yeah, man, that's him." "So, Thorn, what the hell's that damn manuscript you left back at my brother's?" "That's me, man. That's me back there. You're talking to me the typist here. You listening?" "Yeah, man, at least I learned enough jazz to know to listen, to listen cool, man." "It's like when I'm playing chess, too, man, I mean these conversations are going on, like 'Is wind breath?' Well, you know, like my voice will answer, 'Wind is a natural phenomenon, breath is....' OK, OK, then another voice is yelling, 'Wind, earth, fire, they're all the same things in the eyes of a poet.' Soon I got a full-fledged poetic kind of debate going on in my skull, like 'Wind and rain and breath and take a drink of water for the full force of the intake can never match Nature's blowing out, Nature's way of cooling us off, Nature's way of pushing us along, Nature's way of defining a certain song by whispering a title in our ears and then letting us write the song and the song sings itself, and that's Nature's way of putting dialog in the dialog already, the thoughts accumulated in the multiple conversations that make up our history, that give us thought, that give us breath."
I don't know if Conversations With Myself was ever published; probably not; it was a Tower of Babel when it came to reading it--you know, it was a beautiful structure but with so many meanings, entanglements of meanings, trellises of meanings, jungles of meanings--a deep book written by multiple pens--"Tiger tiger burning bright stuffed or not in dark there's fright the image being imprinted on our souls to see a tiger, tiger, burning bright, like a spear thrown in the night, my sight grows dim, my stripes are healed, a tiger burning now is only a trivial problem after the sun has rid the tiger of any fright and left him stone in front of a zoo or two." Just a little excerpt from memory of Thorn's way of writing out these conversations with himself.
"Irony has iron in it," I remember him saying over and over when we would sometimes simply spend an evening drinking Yellowstone and thinking up ironies.
The Cursed Yankees
This afternoon's game between the Yankees and the Mets was one of the most thrilling ballgames that I've gotten used to expecting everyday now--I mean, how could it be more thrilling than the 3-2 loss to the Mets last night?--but today's game--Holy shit. To tell you the truth, I was rather proud of the Yankees. They almost lit the fires up again. A-Rod hit only his second home run in May, his 16th, and he's still leading the league in homeruns and RBIs. Jorge Posada is the American League's leading hitter batting now close to .390 after going 4 for 5 today. But it was not to be. What happens? The Yankees start one of their 11 different starters they've used this year--most since 1890s in the majors--6 of whom have been rookies--and again tomorrow the Yanks are starting another rookie, a total unknown, against the Mets before they go up against baseball's best team, with a .700 winning percentage, the Boston Red Sox, currently leading the Yanks by 10 1/2 games. Still, as a Yankees fan, I was proud of them in this game even though they lost. Even though this Viscayano bum keeps giving up the walks and then the hits and then the runs and Joe keeps using him--though this game had the Bernie Williams curse on it--the 2nd batter in the first inning for the Mets slaps a line drive directly at this kid Rasher, the Yanks starting pitcher today, and what does this kid do? He sticks up his pitching hand to defend himself from the line drive hitting him in the face and what happens? He breaks his index finger of his pitching hand; the Yankees have another pitcher on the DL--fourth pitcher on the DL now--one pitcher with a broken leg; another just recovering from a pulled thigh muscle; and the perpetually injured Carl Pavanno; and now this kid Rasher with a broken finger.
I refuse to be worried. Willie Randolph knows this Yankee team is capable of being the most ferocious team in baseball--and Boston's coming to town and the Yanks best pitchers will be healed and available for that series and maybe they can win the next 4 games in a row and I can quell some of these multiple conversations that are going on in my cranium about the hell it is these days holding your head up high if you're a Yankees fan.
for The Daily Growler