In the Shadows of the Castle

Hello Everybody,

Friday, I finished my career in the wig business.  I’d spent most of October – i.e. wig season  – picking up wigs, packing wigs, and hauling wigs to the post office, all in the swirling universe that is Metropolis’ Fashion District.  It was a dizzy gig at times, and for a while I felt caught in a vortex of human hair, didn’t know which end was up.  So busy, our lunch was sometimes on the company’s dime.

Fashion District

“Anything you want.  Have you heard of  It’s great, you do everything online, even tip.  You don’t even have to talk to the delivery guy.”

Boy, that’s efficient.  In no time, there’s a knock on the door.  I answer it and see an Asian man wearing a raincoat under an emotionless gaze, holding our grub.  I take the food, then stand there like an idiot as he walks off, his hands down.  Before, he would be counting his tip, maybe folding it neatly, putting it in his pocket, under his raincoat.  That little wad of cash would have made it almost worth the deadly bicycle ride through the crazed cavalry of taxi cabs, the hassle from security in the lobby, and the sneers and frowns of the annoyed young professionals who have to smell the food as he rides with them in the elevator.  But in the long run, I’m sure he’s OK with it, because I’m sure people are tipping as much as they did before  Yeah, surely, people are tipping as much.

My belly filled, I take the freight elevator – I have to, because I had a dolly with me.  Jose, a young and bald, muscular fellow, runs the elevator.  He smiles and says “ola”, for we’ve struck a report with each  other.  Then he frowns, because one of the businesses on the floor has left their trash by the elevator door, right underneath a sign that says:  “Do Not Leave Trash By Elevator Until After 5PM.”  It’s 1:15PM.

“They just don’t care man,” says Jose, as he picks up the leaky bag that reeks of old food.

Jose delivers me to street level.  Then he does push-ups, and will continue to do so until the elevator is called again.

I go to the wig warehouse, where Angel, Miguel and Marco work.

Angel says, “Jeez, man, I’m gonna set up an office for you with wig boxes, since you’re here all the time.”

Miguel says, “Ay, ay, ay…es muy busy, amigo.”

Marco says, “Wha, wha?  Mah, may, wha, ha.  Ah, ah, ah.”  (Marco is completely deaf).

The general hilarity of the wig business.

We always share a laugh over the general hilarity of the wig business.  I was already missing them as I wheeled through the wig strewn warehouse on Friday, on my way to their building’s freight elevator.

But my spirits are picked up by another Miguel, who runs the freight elevator.  He’s always smiling, and we spend our time together talking baseball.

“I played, you know.  The Houston Astros, papi.  Jose Cruz, Nolan Ryan, and JR Richard, I play with them, for a little while.  They would come to my house, even.  But I got injured, you know, and you gotta work, you know, so I come back here, and I work here.  Man, mijo, JR Richard would’a been a hall a’ famer if he didn’t getta stroke.”

JR Richard, in fine form before he suffered a stroke during a game, derailing his promising career.

When the elevator opens, Miguel says what he always says, “Alright, stay in shape, mijo, be safe on the way home.”

From there I wheel the wigs through the working class soup of Irish construction workers, Asians wheeling dresses and gowns across the street, Black men muscling huge rolls of raw fabric in and out of the freight elevators and Hispanic busboys unloading food trucks.  The street pulses with human energy, as these workers swarm among the street.  The process of Life, happening all around.

After I pack the wigs, I head to the post office and talk to Freddy as I toss wigs into First Class, Priority, and Express bins, inside the loading dock.

“I’m almost retired, three more years, man,” says Freddy.  “The job’s alright, I’ve been able to buy every power tool I wanted.  When I retire I can finally use ’em.”

Then I go to my favorite UPS man, to deliver more parcels.   He’s standing in the back of his truck on the street.

“Hey man,” he says, “Hit me, I’m in the endzone!”

I throw him the parcels, one touchdown pass after another.  I really like the guy, he’s always fun to be around.  When he isn’t around, his truck is locked up, enveloped in the smell marijuana.

Hear us ROAR.

When I leave for the day, I take the regular elevator.  I get to wear regular clothes, not a uniform, and I went to college, so I stealthily blend in with the young professionals, who smell the same as they do at the end of the workday as they did in the morning.  Floor by floor, they enter, men and women expensively dressed down – sneakers and high end denim, maybe a hoodie under a sports coat – staring into their smart phones.  Most work in web based businesses that I couldn’t describe to you if I tried.  (Someone explained their business to me and I just got lost.  From what I absorbed, he punches numbers and letters into his laptop, and in return, someone from the great OUT THERE enters numbers into his bank account, and the number next to the dollar sign rises.)  For these people, smart phones and elevators do not work fast enough.  They punch the “close door” button repeatedly, they sigh when the interweb stalls on their phone.

Glowing, hand-held opiate.

They don’t have time for shit like that, they are the young professionals!  There’s a dog to walk, or a gym in which to work out, then more take out, then maybe some Ambien.  Everybody’s smug, and if you smile at them, they give you silent reproach, as if their lives are too fortunate to be happy.  Our bodies heated the elevator, everybody tries to find their own private space in the sardine can, eyes toward the glow in the palm of their hand.  I feel trapped, like I’m on a very uncomfortable blind date, or a shy orgy.  Don’t worry, it goes no farther than that, because, OMG, everyone’s desperately trying not to touch each other.

On the 4th floor, a very handsome lady – about forty – rushes into the elevator, searches for something on her iphone.  She was quite a sight, the archetypal modern professional, so New York, progressive in her views while wearing a sexy business suit in an elevator of men descending in a man’s world.  She owns her style, let me tell you.  But she keeps looking at her phone, pawing at it.

“OMG,” she looks at me and says. “I literally tried to find the ‘Lobby’ button on my phone, how silly is that?”

“I’m sure there’ll be an app for that soon,” I say.

“And I’ll buy it,” she says.  “We all should.  The country’s going to Socialism, anyway, when they re-elect Obama.  We should spend all our money, because money won’t be worth anything after next week.”

The elevator door opens.  I follow her clicking heels through the lobby.  She walks through the door, out onto the street, then pauses.  Her mouth open, she points in one direction, then the other.  A perplexed look develops on her face, she looks at me, and for a moment she seems totally and forever lost.  Finally, she smiles and points to her right.

“Oh,” she says, “it’s that way.”

Converted heathens, serving the Aristocracy.

She click, clicks down the sidewalk, briskly yet delicately negotiating her way through the pagan savages that push/pull, raise/lower, construct/deconstruct and deliver New York City every single day.

Trust me, I’m not complaining about the class system in New York City, or my status in it.  Why would I?  I spent a month laughing and shooting the bull with Jose, Marco, Angel, Miguel, another Miguel, and my favorite UPS dude who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons.  For moments during the day, I communed with the fellows I did business with.  We did not moan and groan in each others paths.  We smiled, joked around, played football with wigs, and slapped each other on the back, encouraging each other.  I got to hustle heavy boxes of wigs down the streets and avenues.  Tired at the end of my work day, I went home, watched a little TV, then slept like a baby, not guilty for missing the gym.  I am in shape, mijo.  And I’m happy.

Vaya con dios, mijos y mijas.  Any dios you choose.

And be safe on the way home…

The Dance of Death and the Naked Eye

Hello Everyone,

The Highline

Last Tuesday, a friend took me to the Highline – the pleasant park up on the old elevated train track on Manhattan’s West Side – far above all the other humans, rats and taxis.  On Tuesdays, a group of astronomers set up a few telescopes and train them on whatever they can find, through the fog of light which encapsules Metropolis.  It was also a cloudy night, Tuesday, so the stargazers had there work cut out for them.

“It’s the Blah, Blah, Blah (numbers I couldn’t remember) Aquarii,” said one of the astronomers, a very science-y, gapped toothed, thickly bespectacled chap.  “Ya gonna see a blue stah revolvin’ around a red stah.  Of course, they don’t look like they’re movin’.  It’s called a binary stah system.  See…”  The chap looks into the microscope.  “Hey, Joe!”

“Whaddya’ want!”  said Joe, equally science-y and bespectacled, but displaying tightly snug chompers.  He was standing next to another telescope, chatting up with two very pretty young ladies.

“You need to fix this, Joe, it’s blurry.”

“Twist the knob and focus it.”

“It’s not that Joe, it’s somethin’ else.”

Joe reluctantly left the two ladies, did the “somethin’ else” and re-trained the telescope on the binary star system.  My friend looked first, and after she “oh wowed” for a moment, I peeked into the telescope.  I could barely see a blue dot and a red dot, close together.  They looked so isolated and far away, surrounded by nothing.

Blah, Blah, Blah Aquarii

“It can’t be seen by the naked eye,” said the gap-toothed fellow.  “But we can see pretty good with these from up here.  The two stars are cought in each uthuh’s gravity, just spinnin’ around each other, up there.”

My friend and I left the astronomers to continue their efforts to observe the heavens and woo the ladies.  We walked from the Highline, through the chilly evening, to a diner.  As we ate, the second presidential debate was airing.  Two stars of a different kind, Blue Obama and Red Romney were to duking it out again.  President Obama lost to Mitt Romney in the previous debate, badly so, said the well groomed, male news anchors and the just sexy enough female anchors, plus the curious groups of votors selected to decide who beat who.  Obama looked contrary to his intelligent, articulate self, and let Mitt Romney walk over him, so the anchors and citizen judges decreed.  Therefore, on this second go round, Obama had to win, to save his chance at a second term.  Oh, the pressure was in the air, all the way to the golden brown hue of New York’s light-blanket above us.  Apparently, Obama schooled Romney in the second debate.  Romney also didn’t help himself by the “whole binders full of women” thing, and proved that brain activity levels cannot be totally shielded with money.  News outlets reported the amazing turn around for Obama, but said it was still a tight race, OMG, sure to get the blood up in all us voters, get us all nervous and distracted for a while.  And, OMG, the anchors and judges say the Stars are neck and neck, caught in each others gravity and shuffling across Universe America in a violent embrace.   They will be baby kissing, union stroking, homeless shelter dish washing, memorizing long indecipherable non-answers to prepared questions right up to the third, and final, Presidential debate-to-the-death.  Is your blood up, yet?  My god, the pulses will only rise higher, right until late in the night of Super Tuesday, when the Blue and Red stars will finish the dance of death, and America will be watching, watching, closer, watching, wait, closer, we’re watching, oh, we’re watching…then BAM!  The ruler of the free world will bow, and clean himself as the confetti falls.  But WHO will it be, folks at home???  It’s such an exciting, dangerous and totally unpredictable run for the presidency, isn’t it?  OMG, you can’t script this!!!!  Well, actually, you can.  It’s television.

I have to be truthful and state that I did not watch the debate, nor did I the last, or have I really ever watched one.  Quite frankly, my naked eye has no trouble seeing throught he fog of light and night of such spectacle.  And, come on, neither does anybody’s.

On a New York City street at night, it’s sometimes hard to imagine there’s another 99.999999999999999999999999…% of a universe out there.  But that’s somewhat understandable, looking up isn’t it wise here, just come visit, stop and look up at 35th street and 7th avenue at 5:30pm and listen to the curses put upon you, and your children and your children’s children.  While walking to the train, Tuesday night, my friend and I kept our naked eyes focused at ground level, to negotiate a path around taxis that screech to a halt in the walk lane, or angry bicyclists, and of course, the already large and growing swarm of smart phone zombies, and a million other things.  But above beyond that muddy electric glow over the city, the universe goes on expanding, and a red and blue star, seemingly out in the middle of nowhere, dance violently, on a scale of force incomprehensible to Earthling’s brain.

Uh Oh…

There will be no happy ending for Blah, Blah, Blah, Aquarii.  One star could shake away, and loft out into loneliness, but more than likely one star will die, which is still no consolation for the other star.  When a star dies, it’s mass grows so heavy it creates a black hole, and the other star will be the first to get sucked in and obliterated.  The black hole will creep through space like a phantom devouring anything in its path.  Something the size of Earth wouldn’t have a chance.  In an immeasurable moment, Earth and Eathlings, even Americans, with our strong backbones and frontier spirit and apple pies and captialism and baseballs and smart phones and ideas of gods and ipads and referee strikes and abortions and and yellow ribbons for our troops will be sucked into nothing, pulled apart to nothing, completely and forever removed from Spacetime.   And to think it all began with an innocent dance between a Red star and a Blue star.

Le Danse Macabre

But those Red and Blue stars seem so harmless through a lens.

Be well…

Further Down the Line

Hello Everyone,

Yesterday, I hopped the Long Island Railroad out to Port Washington to install some ceiling fans for my buddy, Rick.  He’s beginning the process of “nicening” he and his wife’s, Nancy’s, place to sell.  Phase One included taking down the bulky, brass, 1970’s style fans and replacing them with white, antiseptic fans that would factor little in generating any possibility of negativity toward the condo, deep in the lizard part of a potential buyer’s brain.  After we put one of the fans up, the subterfuge appeared to be in effect, the fan blended into the white ceiling paint.  One would know the fan was there, but it wouldn’t make a buyer reminisce about their shag carpet and wood panneled childhood, which could possibly turn the apartment hunter away, maybe even cry over their parent’s divorce, those creepy hooded figures of the Iranian hostage crisis Walter Cronkite showed to them on TV, or remind them of that final, towering episode of M-A-S-H.  M-A-S-H ended in the early eighties, so they may have been too old to cry over that, but it could get in the way of pen-to-dotted line.  Blanco keeps the mine blank, and the wallet willing.

Rick and I grew up together, in a little tiny town way down in South Texas called Orange Grove, Pop. 1,212.  Both of us knew the other 1,210 people, too.  We pretty much had the same friends, for Rick is a year older than me.  We played on the same football, basketball, baseball teams, ran track together.  Everybody did everything together in Orange Grove, because the only other option was to go it alone, at which point the domestic disturbances, layoffs, DWIs of the Grown Up Class surround you, and a general isolation from the rest of the universe sets in.  Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change my childhood for the world.  I know Rick wouldn’t either.  How many of you ever tied a boogie board to the back of a pickup and skied the ditches?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.  You probably didn’t have your calf hacked open by a broken beer bottle in that ditch-that you probably threw there after drinking it’s contents the night before.  And so on…

Rick is very smart.  After graduation, he was awarded an appointment to West Point.  From there he became an engineer, then moved into psycology, then into law.  Now, he’s a lawyer running for an assemblyman position in the New York State Legislature.  Rick’s a Republican, and not ashamed to be so.  I’m a Spiritual Anarchist, which I’m not ashamed to be, yet don’t ask me to describe it for you, I’ll get lost in doing so.  Rick is a social liberal, equal rights for all.  He believes gay marriage is a civil right, he supports relaxing the noose around undocumtented workers….and a whole lot of other things I believe in too, like questioning the darkly curious edge of military ops, such as the drone program .  And, of course, there are things we don’t agree on, but one thing’s for certain, we’re friends.  And that usually trumps disagreements, if the two parties let it.

Rick and I let  it, so after the first ceiling fan was installed, and we realized that it was too nice a fall day to really work, we ordered pizza and clams and watched a football game as the golden autumn sunlight bounced off the TV.  Yesterday seemed a million miles from Orange Grove, Pop. 1,212, but it also seemed right next door.

Back in The Grove, teachers and parents told us we could go to college, and can be whatever we wanted to be because it is America, home of the free.  However, child’s eyesight is stronger than its hearing, and most of the kids I know carried on like those before them.  The boys end up doing something close to what their fathers did, the girls go to college until they get married.  Rick’s father wasn’t a lawyer, however, and he was able to listen over what he saw, and he holds onto ideals he was raised on while also shaping those ideals to fit in what he’s come to know as he’s forged on in his own personal frontier of Life, he’s changed while staying the same.  That’s a tricky thing to do, like practicing spiritual anarchy and wearing cowboy boots.

Maybe I listened over what I saw too.  My dad wasn’t a writer, he was a railroad man, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.  But just maybe I listened to him when-in his dirty work clothes after a long day- he’d tell me to go out there do what you want in life because workin’ for The Man will never get you ahead.  I’ve traveled some miles since then, and just maybe did I break out of my social class.  Maybe I’m one of the lucky ones.  However, Rick did ask me over to help him install ceiling fans.  He didn’t ask me to write a novel.

Be well…

Blast Off

Greetings Americans and “Others”,

I’ve made the jump to WordPress from Blogspot.  To those of you- that special dozen of you that will always have a place in my heart, which will have to do, because I don’t have a couch – that read my blog, “This Trip Never Ends”, fear not, it is not the end.  More so, this is the next plateau of its evolution, crawling out of the primordial ooze with its clumsy new claws into a world where it is both predator and prey…America.  It will, hopefully, continue to evolve, maybe gain a thumb, some feathers, teeth, or a big brain to help it thrive to be an elite machine of nature…until the next astroid slams Mother Earth.  Or – if they Mayans were right – until December.

Along the way towards extinction, I plan to submerge myself into all the Life that’s out there, whether it’s across the country, or on the next block.  Wherever, whoever, whatever, the story of you, me, Us, exchanging fluids in the great big IS, creating our universe, as we move from algae, ape to man to….?

So I hope you read along.  We beat back those silly waves of boredom together.

Live long or evolve…