Monday, April 18, 2011

Erosion Corrosion

    Sundays in the tube are different from every other day. The later it gets, the more different it gets. I slide my transfer into the machine-it beeps and allows me to pass through the turn-style. The beep echos past the caged store and bounces off the unmanned customer service booth. The escalator is off. I find myself lifting my feet awkwardly and anticipating moving stairs; though they are clearly not moving. As I laboriously descend the stationary staircase into the tube, I start pulling one of the clubs out of my golf bag. I pull it just a little bit further out of the bag so that it is at the ready. Ready for what?  It is eerily empty at the LaSalle stop. My intuition is telling me to have a club at the ready to defend myself from nobody. I am alone. I should have swung that club at my paranoia. I laugh at myself and tuck the club back into the bag.
   There are noises in the distance that I cannot identify. It does not sound of an approaching train. It is this difference that makes Sunday in the Subway different. I can hear. I can focus. I have the time to dissect the structure. I have time to make up the stories. I have time to imagine this at a different time. I look at the cracks dripping water or some other corrosive substance from the ceiling. The cracks are at regular intervals-about every sixteen feet. It is then I realize that it is built in sections. Sixteen foot sections, maybe. The cracks signify where two sections meet. A mason would have to fill those cracks with concrete and smooth it over. After the mud dries, a painter finishes the look. He rolls on a coat of brilliant white over the crack. The paint begins to bubble where the water has found a way through. The bubbles get heavy, big white water balloons-ready to pop. The water pushes the latex to its limits and gives way for a steady ceiling drip. This inevitability of water coming through the ceiling makes me reach for my golf clubs again. Again there was nothing to swing at. If the train doesn't come soon, I may have to abandoned this post in fear of the ceiling coming down.
    The train would undoubtedly change the subject. The moment it arrived, I would be in a different part of the story; no longer worried about the possibility of death via subway cave-in. But it hadn't arrived and I was torn. The taxi home is twelve dollars. This ride is already paid for but I could end up paying for this ride with my life. I'll just wait for the train. I look over the cracks again. There is evidence of a half-assed caulk and paint job. They were poorly composed cosmetic jobs in need of further attention. These walls are coming down.
    There is a rumbling in the distance. It is from the opposite direction. Not my train. Will anyone get off at this stop? I walk over to the other side of the platform to watch the train shake its way towards the station. Through the dark tube, I can see the yellow orange lamps hit the curve of the wall.  The lights strafe along the entry in sync with the rattling of the wheels. The far headlight comes into view followed by the near side. It slows, shakes, and humbles itself. The doors open. The train makes an automatic announcement warning that the doors will close. The doors close but before the train moves again, a man pulls on the emergency handle to open the doors and he gets off the train. His shoulders sit forward as his arms pull him to the ground. His legs are slightly bent and if there was a high stool underneath him he'd be sitting rather than standing. He stares at me. I inch a club from the bag. I think its a nine iron. He says something under his breath. I think he is talking to me but I'm not sure. He turns his head and faces the other set of tracks. He doesn't leave the station, which meant to me that he had nowhere to go. I don't really believe in coincidence, so the club comes further out of the bag. My train nears.
    The man who got off going one direction followed me unto the train that headed in the direction from whence he came. We sat looking at each other; his eyes less afraid than mine. He stared at me but not in confidence. It was empty stare; one that didn't realize that it was a stare. Next stop-Jackson. I'm moving to a recently vacated seat so I don't have to stare at this man. As soon as I got up, he started to speak to himself but out loud. He pointed at my seat and then motioned his finger in my direction but he didn't look at me. His words were incomprehensible. A young Cubs fan was next in the stare seat and got up to move away from this man-just as I had. It was at this moment that I realized that his stare, moments earlier, was not empty at all. When the kid got up to move away, the man rolled his eyes and dropped his head. He was hurt. It was a pain that I couldn't imagine. The next person to sit in the empty seat followed in suit and moved before the next stop and it sent the pain through him again like a whip against his back. I could see the agony in his face. I could see how lonely this man was; it would would only be a few more stops before he would get off and go the other direction again in hopes that people would tolerate his presence.
   I had a set of golf clubs on the train. The light hit the clubs and reflected off the plexiglass window and called attention to my minds eye. I looked at my reflection which was a contour drawing with obscure features. I wondered who I was today. I'm not really a golfer, but I am making logistical problems for myself by traveling all over the city via public transportation with a set of golf clubs. I shot at least twenty over par in a nine hole run. I am not a golfer. I suppose I am an opportunist. The opportunity I capitalized on this time was the chance to go spend money that I don't have; aggravating myself over my inability to send a little white ball where I'd like it to go. I forgot a book to read on the train so I stared at my reflection-wondering who I was, why I was, and where I was going. During this moment of reflection in my reflection, I knew why the man had stared at me. I was sitting on the same train with a set of golf clubs, with a destination, and with privilege. My reflection came into focus as we passed through the eroding tube.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Orange and Blue Make Black

 I don't know what I am doing here. It feels right in some ways 
but wrong in others. It feels like I'm an intruder on some days and 
others, it feels like home. There are old graystones next to new 
condos with cerulean metal balconies. The power and cable lines 
crosshatch the air painted by the stucco walls. There is not much room 
to breathe. The wind is automobile produced and carries the odor of 
the road. Burnt rubber. Burnt fuel. Burnt air. It squeezes through the 
fine mesh of my screens and fills my home with that sweet city aroma. 
In between the new condos flashes the cars and trucks on the Kennedy. 
Horns bounce through the alley and reverberate off my walls. The 
screeching tires of a semi indicate brake lights. Indicate a reaction. 
Indicate trouble. I wait for the crash. It doesn't come. I'm 
disappointed. I listen again. I give up. I get back to work. A 
catalytic converter needs to be replaced in the distance. Its sounds 
of a machine gun that morphs into an anti-aircraft weapon as it nears. 
The dog just covered his ears. If it hurts my ears, it must be nails 
on a chalkboard to him. It goes as fast as it came. 
    The sky above the tallest building is always periwinkle gray naked 
of clouds. The nude body lays very still above the puncturing 
structure. Its gray haze makes a translucent layer over a layer of 
flesh. The flesh over a layer of periwinkle. The periwinkle over 
cellophane. Cellophane over salmon. It glows underneath but is opaque 
from a distance. The sun makes its best effort during day hours to 
break the layers. Its too thick. There is too much paint. Too dry. Too 
old. Too accustomed. It lays still. 
    As it lays still above, all things are restless below. Nothing can 
stand still. People can not stay still. It doesn't matter what time it 
is, Ashland never sleeps. Its pavement is pounded by rubber around the 
clock. Dripped on. Spit on. Spilled on. Set ablaze. Gouged. Pierced. 
Scraped. Its abused all day every day. Its only one road. Where is 
everyone going? Why so fast? Why so angrily? Why so decisively? Why? 
    Its embryonic layer is rebar and gravel. Concrete spread like 
chocolate frosting on top and finished with a hot tar tar. It was 
level at some point but the constant beatings have worn the road. The 
frequent position of the cars impact the pavement and create hills and 
valleys. The icing cracks, and holes make airways for the concrete 
below. The salt and plow trucks of winter's past chew up any lose 
material and open canyons through the surface. The sewer caps rise 
from ground making drainage impossible. The fix is not near. The 
manicure is long overdue and possibly never happening. Maybe if 
Daley's car got a flat tire from the mortar holes in Ashland avenue, 
it would get its tardy facelift. Most bus drivers do not even attempt 
evasion of pot holes. They blast right into them. Bump right out. I 
don't know how the tires put up with that shit. It seems as if the 
drivers speed up when they see a crater. The bigger, the better. My 
coffee is sure to spill out of the top and onto my hands. I only get 
pot hole renegade drivers when I have a piping hot Dunkin Donuts 
coffee. Not only will I not be able to read because my book is on the 
slushy floor, my hand is now scalded. 
    Sometimes I feel the alien. Sometimes I feel home. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Humming Cars and Rumbling Trucks

 ZZZZZEEEEEEZZZZZZZZZZEEEEEEEEEEEEEwwwwwwWWWWWWW 
sssssssssssssssssssppppphheevvvvvvvvvsssszzzew. Repeat. Repeat faster. 
I can see them working on it. They were gentlemen. Some were 
gentlemen. Some were pock-marked spics and sweaty niggers. Some were 
lying racist micks. There were a few stoshes bearing the stench of 
stale vodka. A few zips, a chink, and a gook. A coupla snot-nosed 
summer help from the north shore. They all wore work. They wore it in 
their faces, in their hands, in the arches of their feet, and the 
curves of their backs. Crack. Crackety Crack Crack. Beep Beep Beep. 
Reverse. Reversing. Reverse. They looked like cool hand Luke and the 
gang, but not at all. There was a hero, but not at all. They worked as 
a team, but not at all. The concrete guys do the concrete. The 
laborers do the bullshit. The operators work the thunder. The 
electricians play with each others pricks. The plumbers aren't needed 
but they are on the clock-they want a piece of the action. The 
carpenters zip and saw. Zip and saw. Nail and pound. Nail and pound. 
Lightbulb yellow. Sewage Orange. Rusty Red. Oscar Green. Bullfrog 
Blue. All the helmets. All the helmets. I can see the work. I can see 
the gang box over here. The foreman's trailer over there. I can hear 
the work. I can feel the vibrating ground below my feet. It's a 
squiggly line of vibrations running through the rubber soles of my 
boots moving vertically through my legs dancing around my knees and 
tapering in my hips. The Checker Board Lounge style vibration. Blues 
vibration. Squiggly line, blues, checker board lounge vibrations. That 
kind. The concrete pillars are new enough to not be painted, tainted, 
stained, and painted. Speckles of pale yellow and coffee. Dark roast. 
Medium roast. Dashes of cinnamon. Swirls of water and sand. Pebble 
lined ocean floors just beyond the sand bar but not far-close. It was 
perfectly edged, trolled, and finished. Hadn't seen the heat, the 
cold, the salt, the acid, the poison of the humming cars and rumbling 
trucks. Its life had just begun. It stood defenseless. Prey for the 
predators. Opportunity for the elements. 
    A whistle blows for nine thirty break. Fifteen minutes to wait in 
line at the roach coach or unpack a sandwich and ruin your lunch. Some 
eat alone. Some eat together but all separate. There's the sports 
crew. The drinking crew. The car crew. The bible thumpers. The 
complaint crew. The brown nosers. The tokers. The jokers and weirdos. 
Buckets and planks are the tables and lunch pales, the seats. Hot 
spot...on the front right, near the big toe. A blister, a muscle, an 
ache. The heat freezes the frame. A car flashes and cools. A bus air 
conditions. Another pillar pour after break. The roller arrives. Red 
and white striped conical spinner with a mouth hurling slow motion 
globs of wet crete. A man on the hose. A man on the shovel. A man on 
the barrel. A man to strike it off. End break. The screaming voices 
are drown by the humming cars and rumbling trucks. No one can hear 
anyone and everyone can hear everything. Work happened here. 
    I sever my thought. I pull the plug. I disconnect from the server. 
I lose the signal. I have no bars. My battery is dying. A police car 
rolls past. I consider my position. Im staring at the guts of a 
seventy year old bridge. I was here before. I consider my position. I 
feel odd. Why shouldn't I stand here? 

Whitebeard

  He walks around. Even in the winter. Even on the coldest days. The 
blizzard didn't even stop him. He must have to go out to keep whatever 
sanity he has left-I'm guessing. I wouldn't think he was the hustling 
type. He wasn't going out and scamming anybody or stealing. Well, he 
wasn't stealing anything significant and his scams-no doubt-a waste of 
energy or defunct. His coat was a neon blue puffy cloud that kept him 
from freezing to death. It enveloped him. Swallowed him up. His little 
head arched out of the top of the cloud reaching to be able to see his 
feet. His whitebeard-an obstacle as well. It is matted at the tips and 
turning yellow. Piss in the snow yellow. It bends off his chin and 
curves out of the top of the cloud obstructing the view of his feet. 
Maybe he used to be a blonde. If I had to guess and I do-the blonde 
hair screamed and left the scene a long time ago.  He mostly floats 
along in his cloud through the alleys-when he can. Once in a while, he 
carries found objects. I don't mean things to make art with-I mean the 
type of shit that is going to help this creature keep breathing. Keep 
thinking. Keep collecting for the betterment of his existence. 
Sometimes, the objects seem pretty useless to me. What the fuck are 
you going to do with a broken lawn duck? Yeah a broken lawn duck-he 
was carrying one the other day. You know the ducks that folks put on 
their lawns and dress up for different seasons and what not?  Isn't 
that fuckin thing heavy? Maybe he is making art. Maybe the broken duck 
reminds him of his broken soul. His damaged body. His beaten self 
esteem. His severed hope. Maybe the garbage he collects is art. Maybe 
he wanted to decorate his lawn. Only his lawn is the littered muddy 
gravel pit underneath the Kennedy. 
    I saw him climb up a ledge on Ashland and slip through a section 
of chain link fence that had been cut and carefully folded over to 
make a nice doorway into his realm. So I was curious as to what things 
looked like up there. It is my neighborhood now too. I can go up 
there. No law protects this place. Well, not one that would protect 
him over me. So I went up. Followed the beaten path. You have now 
entered the realm of Whitebeard-I heard an atmospheric voice say as I 
narrowed my frame through the doorway. I stood on an old railroad 
overpass above Ashland Avenue. As those with an agenda zipped 
underneath and past me, I looked down the tracks. The tracks dive into 
the earth and disappear. The grass reclaimed the space taken by 
eminent domain. I stood on an abandoned way of thinking. I stood on 
abandoned ideals. This is the site of abandoned wants and needs. 
Nobody needs whatever these tracks used to facilitate the delivery of- 
a declaration of the possibility or inevitability of change.  I stood 
between the two pieces of iron that made the exterior of the bridge. 
Studded iron arched and supported by studded buttresses. The fa├žade 
held a sign for all the cars and trucks to see, but the guts held 
different signs. These signs were sprayed on, drawn on, scratched on, 
and scribbled. White Food Food was printed in gold over the rusted 
studded deteriorating iron. What does that even mean? Gotham painted 
on another spot in white food coloring that dripped off the vertical 
metal page-stars on either side of the word. It did sort of feel like 
Gotham up there- otherworldly. It would take a step, a climb, and a 
slither to get there. The passer by could never see. I could see the 
sanctuary these high walls created. I could see possibilities for an 
adolescent mind. I could see that I wasn’t seen. No one would wonder 
why I was up here. No one would care. I could see the allure. I could 
see why Whitebeard stays somewhere up here. Where? That was to the 
left. It couldn’t be to the left. To the left was the elevated strip 
of land that the trains used to rumble atop-huffing and puffing 
through the neighborhood. Shaking the table lamps. Rattling mom’s 
china. Making a poorly hung picture droop even further to one side. 
Forcing you to hold what ya got till the terror passes. Till the 
caboose waves goodbye and thank you. The obtrusive invader carrying 
your needs along the tracks of salvation disappeared into the curve 
and never returned. That was to the left. 
        To the right, the tracks stopped at my feet. Abruptly. Stopped. Chain- 
link fence covered in green tarp. Above is the massive concrete slab 
that is the Kennedy expressway. The tarp is opaque. Not country club 
mesh. The type that says ‘stay the fuck out.’ For people like me, it 
translates to ‘find a way in.’ There is a flap of the tarp at ankle 
height alarming what’s inside of my presence as the wind kicks up. The 
clouds keep me camouflaged. I stick the camera under the flap and snap 
a pic. 
     I look at the digital display to discover that I have found 
Whitebeard’s castle. It was a tent with a painted green lizard on the 
side and a broken stone duck on his muddy gravel pit lawn. Whitebeard 
is an artist. Although his lawn is littered with garbage- literally-he 
has a white plastic garbage can just outside the door to his tent. 
Once that fills up, I guess he walks about ten feet or so and dumps it 
out on the lawn. Makes sense I guess. That’s what I do too-kind of. I 
put it in a black garbage can, that goes on a truck, and eventually it 
gets dumped somewhere too.  I guess the point is to not see the 
rubbish, as that has always been the point. 
    There are also the bleak remains of another settlement to the west 
of White Beard’s castle.  I wonder if Whitebeard made them leave. The 
place has an acrid smell. Frankly, it smells like death. Maybe 
Whitebeard killed them. They probably staked their claim on his land, 
a vital portion of earth that Whitebeard uses as his studio.  What 
else is there to do but murder? The site is perpendicular to the high 
north wall that protects the castle from the cold north-westerlies. To 
the east, the brick wall of the west side of a factory defends 
easterly intrusion. The south wall is a sloping slab of concrete from 
ground to roof. The roof was the Kennedy. It was the most brilliant 
site of survival I had ever seen. 
    It is somewhat comforting to know that Whitebeard is not homeless. 
He has a castle, a realm, a tent, a studio, a lawn, a roof, a garbage 
can, a broken lawn duck, and his very own warm cloud. His existence 
belittles mine. I write or paint or tend to needy people while he 
collects and survives. I stuff my face with cheeseburgers, fries, and 
a coke. A sausage and pepperoni pizza with a side of mozzarella 
sticks. A milkshake. A coffee. A venti chocolati espresso latte 
mochachino. A Chop-pak. A side of bacon. A ham and cheese omelet, 
pancakes, toast, and hash-browns. A Big Gulp. A McRib-when its on 
special. I super-size it. Made to order ice cream. Buckets of ice 
cream. While I’m eating ice cream I make faces at people as they walk 
by the ice cream parlor’s windows. I stuff my face. Stuff it again. 
Then I stuff it once more for good measure. Then I go to sleep in a 
California King sized bed that I sleep in alone.  One day I hope to 
have a realm. 
    This place reminds me of another. Another place. Where did I see 
it before? Maybe I saw it on the television. Maybe I saw it in the 
newspaper. Maybe I saw it on the internet. Maybe I read about a place 
that was just like this one. It has the dynamic quality that a new 
place tends to have-the kind that makes me feel like an intruder. The 
kind that makes me slightly uncomfortable. The kind that prevents me 
from asking the questions that I want to ask.  It makes my stomach 
turn. Swirling up and around in circles. My double burger is doing 
flips. My fries are jigging for bits of bacon in the cesspool of 
cheese that sloshes from left to right as I sneak around this foreign 
landscape. 
     I look for clues. I look for signifiers. I scan the land. I see a 
pair of old sandals-half eaten by mud. I see a big silver dog bowl. I 
see detergent bottles. A soiled blanket. A dirty diaper. Eyeglasses 
with one lens. I see the sun trying to pierce the haze. It punctures 
the smog just enough to make a rectangular shaped beam that hits the 
top of the castle. This hostile beam was where the realm and the rest 
of the world collided. 
    I feel that it is a justifiable hour to awake the king. I consider 
that my call from the fence, a simple, “Hello?, ” could set a king 
off. No guillotine for me. Kings can be very erratic, especially a 
king who is dealing with all that racket from the Kennedy. I would 
like to see him emerge from the castle at a distance. I’d like to be 
able to judge his sanity from afar. I’d like to be able to run or grab 
something substantial, if need be, to defend myself. So, I call, 
“Helloooo???” “Anyone in there?” 
    There is no immediate response. I hold my position and turn the 
volume up to a considerable decibel. “Heeeellllloooooo-anyyyybodyyy in 
thereeeee???” Nothing for ten seconds. Something begins to move in the 
castle. A circular shape presses against the rectangular sunbeam and 
moves in a triangular pattern. Finally, the zipper begins to open on 
the castle door. The door flap falls into the castle and two feet 
emerge from within. The feet were followed by legs, followed by a 
waist, followed by a neon blue puffy cloud, followed by a tiny human 
head, and pulling up the rear was the piss in the snow yellow tips of 
a white beard. 
    The emergence of Whitebeard stopped my brain. The moment was still 
in my eyes. The images hadn’t gotten past the looking stage. I was not 
thinking. Just looking. He looked for the voice. He knew, because of 
the way he designed the castle, the voice could only come from one 
direction. He saw me. I could tell I did not worry him right away. He 
just said, “What?” 
    “Hey, how’s it going?” I asked. 
     Whitebeard was on his knees, his eyes on me, his body facing the 
door flap, stranded in a physical state of confusion. He had his wits 
about him, it seemed, but his body was confused about what movements 
to make. “What?” he asked again. This time he wanted an answer. 
    “I saw you carrying that broken lawn duck, and I wanted to know 
what you were planning on doing with it.” I returned. 
    “What the fuck are you talking about man?” His voice was filled 
with ashes, smoke billowed from his lungs and he rasped his responses 
with labor. 
     “That broken stone duck out in front of your tent. The one that 
had the head of a goose or duck or a swan or something at one point 
before someone threw it out and you found it. I was just wondering 
what your plans for it were-if you don’t mind sharing.” 
    He was shaking his head while I asked about it. He put his 
knuckles on the ground and used them to push the cloud into the air 
and used his toes to lift his legs. “That thing made me laugh.” He 
said. 
    “Is that why you have it?” I asked. 
    “What, is it yours or something? You can have it back man. I don’t 
want it. I just found it man.” 
    I interjected. “ Nahh dude, I’m just curious, I saw you carrying 
it, it looked heavy so, I thought I’d ask.” 
    Whitebeard walked toward me but slowed his approach as he neared. 
“I saw it on somebody’s lawn. It had a yellow rain jacket, and a 
yellow hat. Fuckin’ thing had clothes man. Then I laughed, cause I 
wondered why someone would buy clothes for a fuckin stone duck.” He 
laughed as he walked past the broken duck on his lawn, and he glanced 
at the duck in transit. “Ya, fuckin dressed up, u bahleed dat?” He 
asked. He stopped fifteen yards from my position. He considered his 
own comfort level with the line of questioning.  “Fuck u care anyway?” 
    “I wondered why you would carry that thing around. I wanted to 
know the story behind the duck,” I said. 
    He shook his head at me. “That seems as dumb as me carrying it 
around, man. I picked it up cause I didn’t want someone to go lookin 
for the guy who broke it. Now I’m just the guy who founttit-it was all 
broken when I fountit. You see?” 
 “Yeah, I get it. So what are going to do with it?” I asked. 
“Fuck u  mean?” Aint gonna do shit but walk past it-makes me laugh.” 
“Do you collect a lot of stuff that makes you laugh?” I asked. 
“Nah.” He looked right and left and found what he was lookin for. 
There was an orange five-gallon bucket that he flipped upside down and 
took a seat. “You got any change you can spare man?” 
“Nah, “ I said. “But if I come up here again, I’ll bring you some 
food.” 
“Whatever.” He looked mad. Mad that he was woken up. Mad that he 
didn’t get anything out of being woken up, and was now up and stung by 
the cold. Awake and alive. A new day. He looked around. He scanned the 
area, seemingly, to make sure all was the way it should be. His head 
snapped back at me. “Gotta smoke? He asked. 
“That I got,” I said, and I pulled the squares from my pocket. I 
handed him one. He stuck it between his hidden lips and I lit the 
smoke while he blocked the wind from blowing out the flame. He stood 
up and walked back to the tent. “Don’t wake me up no more,” he said as 
he lowered himself to enter the castle. 
    “I’m sorry buddy, but its three in the afternooon,” I said. 
     He stopped just before the tent and said, “Not for me.”