Mad Max at Home

It Passes for Night in New York City

Max screams the city down to its stubby edges, losing 5/0 and the ‘Riders just over the hometown side of the new bubble bridge. The deadfall is worth every minute and every streak of sweat that went into setting it up — he catches the trip pole easy peasy with the XB’s hard right fender, there won’t even be damage to the finish at the end of the day. There’s all the time in the world to spin out of the soft shoulder, fish to traction, and roar out of there before the crap starts raining down. A pallet of handtrucks and reject MOLLE gear it is, mollies and dollies in volleys, yeah, by golly, velly solly Cholly, you bite the big tamale. He’s laughing at that. He has to tell Ellie that at home, she loves it when he riffs.

This is urban renewal as far as Max is concerned, and if you rode a century in his leathers you’d feel the same. There’s always a 5/0 and there are always ‘Riders, lately it’s been 5/0 himself but soon enough, maybe starting tomorrow if the crash rig did enough damage, it’ll just be someone like 5/0 — cut from the same shitty cloth, no worth to trouble on in the first place but they can’t just let it alone, can they, they have to bring it right to you, get in your face, slime up the carpet, dank the sun out where you just got it to shine. They set up shop in the Rock and out by the Banks and that should have been the territory division, but that’s the thing about a parasite, isn’t it? They can’t suck on themselves. They have to come and suck on you and yours.

Don’t get him started, he’ll go on like this all night, and what a waste of a night it would be. He’s got things to show Ellie, things to tell her, some spaces for her to fill. He wants — you know what he wants? She’s been so wound lately, so wrenched, like a cloth twisted up, all ropy tension and no room for soft.

What he really wants is to stop her larking around, because she does that these days, pulling from one thing to the next in sharp jittery lines, what he really wants is to stroke her down, let his hands brush out the white hot and reel her in, land her; when he can close her eyes and touch behind her ear like she likes her breath goes slow and deep and that sigh spills out of her, deep and full of green, like it could breathe summer lush onto a budding tree. Do that and then put her head on his chest and press pause for a minute, or two, or five. Sometimes they stay that way, suspended in each other, eyes closed, and fall asleep like that. Max thinks it’s a chemical thing, their bodies soak up the moist human cloud like sponges, lap at one another, tasting, passing smells and tiny sounds and, what, molecules? hormones? gossip and chat? When they sleep like that Max feels like a part of her when he wakes up.

He stows the car in one of the camo sheds and takes a tunnel route home. The sky is heavy tonight, it’s no loss. He was pretty twisted up last week himself when he was uproad, Ellie taking off for Star City and not telling him, not quite lying about it but leaving stuff out. She was busy, she was this, she was that, and he knows she was down there but can’t pin it to her, and yes he sort of freaked, he can feel this stuff over the miles, doesn’t have to be there to know when she’s not home. The goal is the head on the chest, that’s all they need and he knows it, but they’ll have to do some dancing to get there.

They live up high because it’s safer that way, and Max is quiet on the way up. He opens one of the empty apts below theirs and goes for his surprise closet — how the Bergerac got in for barter he’ll never know, but he snagged a bottle and it’s been stashed for a special occasion, and that’s tonight — and he hops up the last steps feeling goofy and giddy and young. He loves this girl, winter’s over, it’s time to come to life again, and all the city is something that can just wait for tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. By golly, velly solly Cholly, you bite the big tamale.

As soon as he opens the door he knows she’s gone; the place is still, just still. As if the rooms are hoping they won’t have to be there when he figures it out. For a second his heart dies, he’s thinking of Jessie his first wife and Sprog, run down in the road in another age, so long ago like a comic book, but this isn’t murder: she’s just gone. Out in the world, and he no part of it. The sky outside is a baleful red, waiting for him to make his move.

Sorry Max, the note says, in ink the color of a lie. I’ve gone to Star City. It’s not you, it’s me.

Posted in General Musings |

The Mews of Avenue A


Whitehall Street on the 4/5 subway line clears quickly after the lawyers’ late rush, and that suits me fine; I work a red-shifted day, and I like my trains over and done with. Tonight I have this fantasy that I’ll make it up to Beast Buy before it closes, a fantasy largely due to the reality that I have not looked at a clock in the last hour or so. I’m still cherishing the notion that the big hand is near the 12 and the little hand is near the 8, which has me a good 270° out of whack. Which is what I’ll feel like when I find out what time it is actually.

Reality: Um, Linus?
Linus: Hello — you look so familiar. Have we met?
Reality: whack whack whack

There’s a pretty young thing across from me in the train, raven-haired and skittish with that “I’m not really a pretty young thing, go back to your reading” air. I’ve been ruminating through Middlemarch at the agonizing pace that comes along with a 10-minute commute, so I set to it. Mr. Bulstrode agrees to write the good letter vouching for young Fred’s character after all, which is a relief all around, and about this point the train pulls in to the Brooklyn Bridge station.

I change for the local, as does the pretty young thing (raven-haired). We match steps over to the local track and peer out into the dark distance, as one does, and as we do, PYT(r-h) turns to face me and turns out to be Sharon, a friend I haven’t seen in years.

Sharon was an oddball singer who performed, under the name Ms. La Nive, largely without instrumentation — think Diamanda Galas minus the piano, and hella cute. She was fairly alarming for the uninitiated, since she peppered her shows with a bramble of utterly insane characters who would prove the confluent similarities between dinosaurs and omelettes, say, or would attempt rakish and catastrophic things with the alphabet. She tended to the massively under-rehearsed, which made her too-rare shows a sort of distaff Andy Kaufman experience. You either got her or didn’t, and there was very little middle ground. Her songs, when not ludicrous, were spectacular and deep.

I fell for her completely one night at the Sidewalk Cafe when she did an aria (I don’t recall which one) entirely in karaoke cat language. Pressed play on her CD boombox, and sang a full extended piece with “meow meow meow” as the only words. Now, that’s good. What was visionary was that she pointedly promised a special guest performer, who would join her as a featured vocalist later in the piece, and who would be performing this evening in a foreign language. When the guest vocal solo arrived, she took out a stuffed dog and held him up to the microphone as if he were singing, bouncing him up and down in time, and then kept on going “meow meow meow” for him as well. Foreign language, see. It was amazing. Or perhaps you had to be there.

The last time I saw her show, she did her set dressed entirely in bubble-wrap. This is not nearly as sexy as a guy might hope — she used a lot of layers — but it’s not something you see every day. We weren’t allowed to pop the bubbles, sadly enough.

I haven’t seen Sharon since a few weeks after 9/11. No one much felt like doing anything but drinking and crying at that point, which made the bars desperate and miserable places, but since if we didn’t go out to have fun the terrorists would win, sometimes we did. The two of us sat through an evening at Sidewalk feeling stricken, and then went walking in that loud way you do when it’s late late late and your heart is a little broken. I bought her ice cream and we ate it in the window of Gracefully on Avenue A, and that night I didn’t cry until I got home.

Posted in About Last Night |

The Secret Interrogation

Austin: Sentry Eyes

We talk often about love, for two reasons I think: first because it is so vital to us both, and we are both so good at it badly and so poor at it well; second, secretly, plausibly deniably, because we are negotiating terms, kicking the notion back and forth, trying to find a way to it or from it or someplace, at least, where it won’t dandle in the air like a sullen inscrutable road sign, pointing down fictive roads to uncertain destinations.

We both know our roles so well, by now, after years in the field — I the hot needle of inquiry, impetuous, certain, fretful, who will not be turned; you the calmer of the furies, cool, deft, implacable, who will not be penetrated. When emotion surges up we ride the swells in amazement, startled by the sudden water. It makes me wonder if the beach is surprised, anew every day, when the tide batters in.

I know you have loved, have been in love, have been near love, have been choked, insensible, besotted with it, as I have. I know you’ve loved full bore, with folly, with need, with abandon, with fire, without cause, with pain, with disastrous results, with a will that might have made you burst. I know you gave when the well was dry and fed water to parched ground, have been the shark as much as the chum. And and and. Like most of us, you are neither dirty nor clean. You’re a woman in the world.

What I want to ask is this: have you ever been loved, free for asking, with open hands? By someone who watches the morning on your face, the night in the hair dancing over your shoulders?

Posted in General Musings |

St. Paul Travelers

SXSW 2006: Coach Said Not To - Lee Violet

At this year’s 20th anniversary SXSW Music Conference in Austin last month, Pierre and I pass our down-time travel day in good lazy fashion, as one will, down along South Congress. We’re hanging with career musician Bill Popp, as one might, which can be hazardous to one’s health and not least to Bill’s own health, since he’s just a couple of weeks out of quadruple-bypass surgery. This doesn’t stop him from wandering all over town, drinking copiously, chasing any girl who looks old enough to drive — “wanna see my scar?” — but that’s rock and roll for you.

After lunch and bevages at Curra’s Grill, we walk down the hill and stop at Jo’s for coffee, as one should. This visit is notable for a couple of things.

One is the murder of crows, or corvids, or blackbirds, or whatevertheywere, that loiters around waiting for unseasoned customers to leave the wooden lids on the coffee-fixin’s shelves open. When this happens they swoop down, snatch up sugar packets, clamp them to the counter, peck them open, and eat the sugar as it showers out. We rubes from New York haven’t ever seen such crafty birdworks before, and find it quite the show. “Yes,” opines one of the regulars, “that’s why we close those covers.” Chastened, we do.

The other notable is a little band poster stapled to the wall, an unassuming ragtag scrap with four figures photocopied so fuzzily that they might be teddy bears, or Teletubbies, or ancient roadworn blues singers, or four delicious young women from Minnesota. For argument’s sake. The only bit of clarity on the sign is the band’s name, Coach Said Not To, which is the funniest and most wonderful thing I’ve heard all day.

“Now that,” I announce, “is a band I would see.”

A couple of nights later, Coach Said Not To performs at The Hideout, the coffee house venue where I made my SXSW debut a couple of years ago backing up Jeff Lightning Lewis on the stately chords of C and G on guitar. But that’s another story. Coach Said Not To turns out to be a rambling, rangy, oddball, iconoclastic, curious, kitschy, and fetching outfit, with ropy songs that sometime lope and sometimes clatter about and generally get twisty in interesting ways. They emerge with spangly tops and a determined air; the ether churns for a minute or two, sizzling with text messages, and photographers start trickling in.

On May 5th, Coach Said Not To is releasing their first full-length with a big show at the 400 Bar in St. Paul. We’re flying out to see them and to have a quick photo session the next day. There are tunes for the downloading on their web site — don’t pass them up.

Posted in Music Theory |

Yellow Alert

Where We're Planted Isn't Our Fault

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. Taken all in all, it’s been a long and weary season.

I’ve been reaching for something very far away, like the daffodils in this picture. Reaching, glimpsing, dreaming, watching, pining, tasting. Reaching is a funny thing; to do it you need to believe in all the mechanics of muscle and distance, of dedication and separation and beating separation. You need to see the dream at the end of the road, and see yourself in it. And when you believe in all that, no amount of distance can set you back. Right? It’s all illusion anyway — the world is what we make of it. The world is a sly and wily maze, a mistress and a rumor and a shout. The world is our oyster, is it not?

As it happens, no. The world is not our oyster. As it happens, the world fucking hates oysters. I wish I’d known that before I ordered appetizers.

Posted in General Musings |

Ice Weasels Ripped My Flesh

The Lateness of the Hour

A friend quotes Rob Brezsny‘s Virgo today in her blog, and that means I must follow suit, as sure as willy follows nilly (and wins a Grammy, but that’s another story). It’s not just a good idea, it’s some sort of Natural Law. And I don’t have the strength in February to go fighting a Natural Ticket.

Rob’s weekly astrology columns always amaze me, not because they’re in/accurate — astrology is all things to all people, and I’m good with that — but because they’re so precise. Brevity may or may not be the soul of wit, but it sure slaps leather when it comes to tapping the pulse of the yearning disaffected. Who doesn’t want solid thoughtful witty advice in 150 words or less? I know I do.

Happy Valentine Daze, Taurus! After extensive meditation about what advice would be most useful for your love life in 2006, I rejected this observation by The Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening: “Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath. At night, the ice weasels come.” Do not, under any circumstances, make those your words to live by. Instead, consider the following counsel from Norman Mailer: “Love asks us that we be a little braver than is comfortable, a little more generous, a little more flexible. It means living on the edge more than we care to.”

I have the sinking sense that when they make the movie, Rob will be played by Robin Williams or Jim Carrey. Obviously he should be rendered by Philip Seymour Hoffman, or someone equally wickedly skilled, but who listens to me?

Braver than comfortable — that’s a notion to live by.

Posted in General Musings |

The Photographer’s Notebook

Miss Saturn I-IV: II
Miss Saturn, in nefarious scarlet, at The Delancey

Date: Mon, 12 Dec 2005 13:21:59 -0500 (EST)
From: Linus
To: Pierre, Seth, M., Blind C.
Subject: Last Night

So I completed Day Two of my Three Days With Saturn shoot for New York Cool
last night Jenny performed at The Delancey (which is a pretty cool place, I had
never been) as part of the Byte party, a fetish S&M-lite kind of thing.

I’ve been to one or two of these sorts of parties over the years, usually with
Chuck, and while I’m not interested in the sexuality of it the vibe is usually
pretty relaxed and fun. So I watched a lovely girl in a lacy angel outfit with
excellent feather wings chat with friends while a guy wearing leash and collar
licked her ankles until she got annoyed, and then she stood on him, sticking
the spike heels of her Scotty-style clear plastic platforms in his mouth and
making him lick the soles. He seemed pretty happy about it, and after she
ground her feet on his nipples for a bit — posing for beaming pictures all the
while — he scampered off into the corner and cowered with a big happy smile.

Two compact hot girls dressed as elves got elaborately tied up in the doorway
of the “dungeon” room, their wrists tied behind their heads and their upper
bodies bound in baroque complications; there were cameras everywhere, so I
demurely did not shoot any of the action. One huge guy, probably 6’4″ or
better, hugely muscled but going a bit soft, wore Marilyn Manson light
blue/white contacts, a leather thong, and nothing else. He had three-inch
black fingernails. A girl in leather halter top and fishnets enthusiastically
shredded her fishnets, bit by bit. Lots of spike hair, random leather. Very
laid back.

It was Mistress Harlequin’s birthday and there was cake promised for later, and
I’m sure the cake would have been an outrageous hoot, but it’s not like I know
who Mistress Harlequin is, or anything, so I left that part alone.

I got all inspired at home when I noted that Miss Persia at the door would pass
judgment on all patrons, and that if you came in or qualified as “leather,
latex, creative goths . cyberpunks. cyberdrags . material girls.
fashionistas… alternative sexiness…… and anyone who can leave their
inhibitions at home!” it was only $5, up to $7 if you at least wore all black,
and $10 if you came in “drab.” You know what lengths I’ll go to to save five
bucks, so I ransacked the closet.

I came up with my old faux-leather plastic pants (the PVC shirt fits a little
snug, it, uh, must have shrunk, so I left that aside), which are falling apart
but still hold together, a leather vest, and a black silk shirt. Miss Persia
asked me to open my jacket when I got there, surveyed the goods, and welcomed
me in at the insider price, which left me inordinately pleased.

Jenny and Selina were set to go on around 12:30, and they pretty much did. One
number each. The crowd seemed curious about the performance but didn’t get it
– Jenny did “Personal Jesus,” with a few new tricks on top, Selina did “Little
Red Corvette” — and if I hadn’t been there to whoop and holler I think they
wouldn’t have had much applause. People had a different agenda.

Since faux-leather plastic pants don’t count if no one sees them, I went up to
Rockwood for a final Chocolate Stout before heading home; Ken didn’t notice
my outfit so I had to point it out.

The pants don’t breathe, of course, but they are plenty warm.

Ciao – L.

Posted in About Last Night |

Silhouettes of our Former Selves

Organic Chemistry

It has long been my feeling that April is not the cruelest month at all, apart from that tax thing that happens then — and who on earth let that get started? People, people. You know all that money is going straight to Texas. They don’t have state tax of their own, so obviously they must be lifting ours. Because if there’s one thing we know about Texans, oh don’t get me started.

February, that’s the cruelest month. Even in soft winters like this one, when the sun is apt to creep out and toss us an eight-ball of 60° weather when we aren’t watching for it, there’s something about the early dark and the trickling cold that never relents, that slips needy fangs in and keeps the flesh pinned to pale colors. The thin washed light, the hard chill, the way the covers on the bed just don’t want leaving. February.

The name comes from Februus, the Roman god of purification (sez the Wiki):

In Etruscan mythology, Februus was the god of the dead and purification. The month of February was named after him. He was also worshipped by the Romans, where he could have become Febris, god of malaria. In his honor, the Februalia festivity were held.

Presumably the malaria bit comes from the Latin febris = fever, which I’d call suspect, but I am a bit transported by the idea of a god of malaria.

Myrtle: Honey, it’s for you. It’s the god of malaria.
Ed: The god of malaria? What does he want?
Myrtle: I don’t know. Why don’t you ask him?
Ed: Well what did he say?
Myrtle: He said, “Bzzzzzz.”

The pre-Gregorian Romans had the right idea — their winter had no months. It was just winter. And after that it was March.

Posted in General Musings |

Shofar So Good

Oranienburgerstrasse Morning

Happy New Year to all. ObEthnic Jokes:

  • I can’t believe it’s already the first of Tishri, can you? The months just fly by.
  • Last year it was weeks before I stopped dating my checks 5764.
  • (narrative part of the joke here) … “No, Hazel, no! We blow the Shofar, not the chauffeur!”

I’m up to my elbows in a suit report and bleary from running on this strange hemi-semi-demi-quaver sleep thing, which has me going to sleep at the Usual Hours (I’m rarely tired before 1:00 or 2:00 a.m.) and waking up at a most unfortunate 6:00, an hour that has largely been theoretical for me over the years. So a brief wish for a good year to come, but heartfelt.

The domed building above is the New Synagogue on Oranienburgerstr. in Berlin. It was consecrated on Rosh Hashanah in 1866, and seated over 3,000 people, making it the largest synagogue in Germany. During the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938 the building was damaged and set on fire, but it was saved from being razed by local precinct chief Wilhelm Krützfeld, who diverted the mobs. World War II did the destruction that the Nazis did not, and in 1958 the main hall was torn down on the East German and Soviet watch. The front section was left standing. In 1995, the year after I left Berlin, the New Synagogue was consecrated once again as a Jewish center and museum.

I lived about half a mile away, and the site was under 24-hour armed guard during the reconstruction — both Polizei and Wehrmacht stood guard over it. After President Clinton spoke at the nearby Brandenburger Tor, he was taken in for a quick tour; I was at the barricades at Tucholskystrasse, watching the bodyguards deploy.

The New Synagogue was designed by a well-known 19th century architect with the remarkable name Eduard Knoblauch — Edward Garlic, in translation. He died a year before it was completed and consecrated. How do you like them apples?

Why, with honey, of course.

Posted in General Musings |

Dewey or Don’t We?

Heels High: Mama Sutra

And where, then, where are the carefree days of my youth? Never mind, just kidding.

Hold on a minute, no I’m not. Where are the carefree days of my youth? I could swear they were just here a second ago. If you see them, let me know. Meantime I think I’ll go look for them on craigslist.

Dewey Beach Update: Greyhound did indeed abandon bus service to the plucky Delaware beach burgs of Dewey Beach and Rehoboth (home of Dogfish Head, one of America’s finest small breweries) some time over the past year, all without telling Ours Truly. It’s a good thing I fired up Mozilla to check the bus schedule on Sunday, otherwise we’d have been mighty surprised to discover on the day that you can’t get there from here. Or from anywhere else, for that matter.

After a dayna-half of pell-mell fret on our part, one of the Dewey Beach Music Conference sponsors stepped up this afternoon and offered to send a car to pick us up at the station in Dover, 40 miles away. This is a beautiful thing. Thank you, Alex. Under the circumstances, I think I’m pretty much obligated to buy jeroboams of tequila at your bar. This could work out to everyone’s advantage.

Posted in General Musings |