Jay Passer

‘I can’t wait to never see you again’ is a HST feature novel by Jay Passer, that will be published in monthly sections until the mother fucker is fully out there and read. Check back here on the first of every month for more psychotic goodness and rantings, this naughty girl runs the entire race!

Chapter One.

Today Superman died. I mean the guy who played Superman in the movies. So he wasn’t so hot after all. Superman dead? What a wuss!

Sirens in the street. . . Who’ll save ‘em now? I’m trying to sleep, but there are the neighborhood lawnmowers running. . . Plus yowling dogs, truculent crows, grinding garbage trucks. The usual.
Plus this insane heat.

Who can sleep? I’m in bed drinking beer; she’s looking at comic books. Fuckhead in the apartment above. The methamphetamine-fueled pacing pacing pacing back and forth getting on my nerves! I want to perforate the ceiling with a machine gun.

I drink a shot in the kitchenette.
It’s just the two of us.
That was so hot!

I must agree. I roll off, panting, practically dead. Usually I like to kiss and fondle after, you know, those little intimate acts sometimes keep them around longer, but not today. What, I’m supposed to pick up the pieces after a goddamn nuclear blast?

So now she’s gathered all her punkass-girly shit and disappeared. I drink a beer; think about that tight little ass of hers. And how it can’t last. So I fucked like Superman. Then I died.
Knife Fight. It’s her nickname. Since she pulled a knife at a show and got booted out. The truth is, she was showing me hers, and I was showing her mine, and it got a little out of hand, us grappling with cold steel against a wall. The truth is, we both got kicked out.

She’s a punk, Knife Fight. Her real name’s Joanne, she’s a little Jewess, I could be her father, but I am her lover. Not to mention the horrible, pulsating crimson welts cropping up around the head of my cock. Christ! Will she notice? She’s blind in her left eye; the slanted orb wanders off into space, a distinct, adorable flaw. I wear five condoms a night, I don’t let her suck it. . . Joanne, full of beer, hauls off and socks me in the stomach. Her hands are sweaty and she chews on her fingernails. Joanne graduated from high school just last year. Sweet little pissed-off Jew bitch, we’re Jews together, we fuck like brother and sister. Depraved, I wait for her call. She holds me at arm’s length. Keeps a distance. . . A day passes, sometimes two; then she latches on with a fury, with a vengeance. Rowdy, debauched! Then I have to go too far and scare her off, by being too kind, letting in some sunshine after the storm of our affair, but it’s too much. She’s sick of it. She’s tired of screwing her daddy. So she dumps me. Too close for comfort. But she’s not entirely sure; jeez, she’s still a kid. So one day, she calls. She calls twice, three times. She misses me!

Ego aside, supposing I have certain attributes. The whole poet, writer, artist scam-o-rama. The pseudo-rock-star gravity of excess, the psycho-aggravated malignancy of the drunken drug fiend, the lack of integrity, the running at the mouth, the degenerate don’t-give-a-rat’s ass attitude; all that is a banquet for Joanne, she stuffs herself silly! But now she’s moving to Europe.

We made it so good. So complementary in our destructive vision. Gleefully sucking away at each other’s nasty orifices. Wake up and scowl. Not another day of work for fuck sakes.

She wants me to get my nipples pierced. God no! Godless bitch! Goddesslessness! She tweaks my nipple as she mounts me, so I’ll do anything now. . . I get drunk as hell, say something wrong, perhaps several things. . .
But no. I made the mistake of giving too much, smoked her out too much, made her too many sandwiches, bought her too many tall cans of beer, and then the capper, a pendant to wear around the neck. . . A mitzpah. Token of our mutual heritage, reminder of everlasting affection. Whoops! Too deep! Too many strings! She ran like the wind, my cute-ass Joanne. Darling Knife Fight. . . Now I’m moving off the scene, in order to save my life, in an attempt to remember the days in order, to travel a bit of the world, with fuck-all in my possession.

Coincidence? So’s Joanne, packing it up for Ireland, where her mother was born; Jewish, Irish, Ishish. Just a waif blowing in a tumult; the fickle industry of transience.

Now she misses me. Three phone calls Saturday alone, now the day! Brighter than the inside of the sun. My cell phone low on power, the ringer barely audible. I got my ringer on a ring which is supposed to sound like an old-fashioned dial-phone, I can’t stand the pre-programmed sound-bytes, each one different to identify the incoming caller, so amusing to all those who disgust me, the fashionable ones who’re just a pack of posers, who can’t think at all for themselves, who have to have some novelty or another to make their lives seem plausible.

Problem is, I can barely ever hear the damn thing when it does ring. Maybe if I download the Rite of Spring, the kettledrum part. . .

I get the messages, Joanne wants a final romp. The finishing touch.

Chapter 2

I was supposed to record with the renowned Bern Neesen.  We get all lit up at the Kennel Tavern after hours.  Bern Neesen likes to get wasted, he’s old school punk rock, we went and saw X, and Sonic Youth.  Not back in the day, but recently, in this new century, old fogies trying to rock out.  Well here we are, all older now, but wiser?  Fuck sakes, hell no.  Just a couple wasteoids, doing lines in the head and dwelling on the past. . . Bern Neesen’s longhaired, shambling, beer-thickened, and still wears the thick black Buddy Holly specs.  Drummer; technician; recording-studio artist.  I’ve got him sold on some prose pieces, some spoken word tripe, some idiotic ramblings penned at a time when I was either inspired or mad.  Of course I was neither/nor.  Bern Neesen’s of the opinion we lay down the tracks, maybe a train will come.  But I flaked, since Bobo called, tempting me with an invite to a dinner party including the presence of a certain lady he once made out with.  Kind of a ‘see ya later, Ivan’ affair. . .

She’s got huge tits, dude, Lyd told her all about you, and I don’t know why, but she seems interested. . .

I’m not sure I want to spread my little STD’s.  The future of mankind depends on hygiene.  Oh hell.

Nice ass?

Fuckinay!

Well, I suppose.

I’m really just a bit nervous about the studio deal.  Superstitious maybe.  Something primitive.  You know, like recording the spirit, the duplication could possibly lessen the original, and by what degree?  Can such things be measured?  One for the philosophers. . .

I call Bern, postpone.  We’ve been at this for months.  It sounds like a good idea when you’re all tweaked, you’re enthused, amped up about it, in fact anything and everything seems like a great idea, fucking awesome!

Then the next day you have a 5-star hangover and the last thing you want to do is attempt any stab at immortality.

Needless to say, the ‘party’ out at Lyd’s ends before it begins, but not before I get the usual requests to break out the weed. . . Hey, this shit’s expensive, and I’m doling it out like candy canes at Christmas.   Your friends never seem to understand that drugs are a business.  Say I sold microwave ovens, it’d be the same, all your friends would want some kind of deal, because that’s what friends are for, right?  What a load of crap.

C’mon, I!

Whip out the shit!

Ya fuckin’ Jew!

Quit holdin’ out!

Now I take a look at this chick.  She’s got a broken foot; it’s in a cast.

I steer Bobo aside.

What’s with the gimp?

Dude, she used to be a dancer.

So fucking what?

So she had an operation, something about her arch; it’s fucked up, they had to rebuild it.

So what is she now, bionic?

Lindsey Wagner!  Now that was a good show.

Bobo raises his ferrety little brows for my response, which, no matter the subject, beholden to the prompt, is barked out:

Damn good show!

Turns out she’s got an eleven-year-old daughter she has to go pick up from somewhere.  We’ve been over at Lyd’s all of twenty minutes.  And Lyd’s kid, George, is running rampant, a two-year-old maniac.  Fuck, Lyd, I say, that kid is murder!

How come you don’t have any kids, I?

I was neutered as a puppy.

Ivan!

Lyd’s gone typical, although she used to be quite the psycho.  Motherhood’s made her practical.  But so what?  Her kid’s punk rock.  We all play air guitar to the Melvins; it tires him out.

That’s some heavy shit, huh George!

Dude, can you cut out the fucking swearing?

For fuck sakes, Lyd!

All angles, is Lyd, long and lean, with crystal blue eyes and jutting tits, still good tits, damn good tits, and a sky-blue thong peeking above her jeans, creeping up her hips. . .

I comment, of course.

Ivan!  I’ve been wearing a thong since I was thirteen!  What’re ya looking at my ass for, anyway?  How dare you!

Women, they’re perfect spy material.  They conceal their wandering eyes brilliantly.  Sublime.  Us men can’t see past our own dicks.

Oakland, California.  Hanging on Piedmont with my stepbrother Charles.  Charles and I walk through the bright morning light stuttered with cool tree-shadows to the cemetery.  The Jews, my people, are clustered in their dead doldrums on the flat street-surface.  The sun at 9 a.m. glinting off the small smooth stones clustered atop the grave-markers, the humble headstones marbled, aged, eroded.  As we ascend, higher up the hill, the change is significant.  Headstones? Oh no.  More like small homes.  These memorials reek of old money.  Crocker.  Creed.  Ghirardelli. . . Bay Area bigwigs from way back in the day.  Marble angels eroding, high winds off Oaktown apex.  Sweeping view from high vista.  Foreground, the humble skyline of downtown Oakland, the cranes on the wharf to the left. . . Sprawl of West Oakland. . . It’s a bright, clear morning, you can see all the way to San Francisco, certain individual buildings, Transamerica, BofA, Coit Tower, through only the slightest haze.

Here I remember why I left California in the first place, nothing like the old ways leaping back at you, snarling and panting and threatening to annihilate you completely.  It’s the air, the allergies acting up. . . Not to mention emotions on the prowl, lurking around every corner. . . Memories impossible to bury.

California.  Joanne a memory, we last hooked up the day before my departure.  At first she puts me off, says Ah, Ivan, I’m kinda busy Wednesday, I work till four and then they’re throwing me some kind of ‘going away’ thing. . . And I got a party to go to later, maybe we can meet for an hour for coffee so I can say goodbye?

The nerve of the child.

Ah, fuck it.  Goodbye.  Nice knowing you.

Wait, wait!  Whoa!  She sounds a bit desperate, which excites me.  C’mon I, where are you?

I’m at the Flowershop.  Joe’s picking me up.  I’m running errands.  Malaria pills.  Battery for the camera.  Mylar boxer shorts.  The works!  I’m busy with the last-minute details, you’ll see for yourself, Miss Euro-bound for life.

Ivan, I’m coming down.  Twenty minutes tops!  Okay?

I concur, but grumble about it.  She knows I’m full of crap.

Of course, of course I want her with all my heart.  But I have to fight, I got to make like I couldn’t care less- the opposite of how I feel.  Doomed is the modern relationship, a cat-and-mouse affair, no rules, no truths, no compromise, no sacrifice, no vows, no romance, nothing but fuck-all drunken anarchy. . . Romper-room antics and a last look at her receding figure bicycling down the street, you can’t make yourself turn around, after a couple at the Flowershop where Fadi lets you bring her to drink, against his better judgment, his better interests. . . At the bar we slouch on stools.  Joanne doesn’t remember a time when cell-phones didn’t exist.  And then I had to ask, not what her e-mail address was, but if she had one.

Ivan, you live in the dark ages!  I’ve had the same e-mail address since I was eleven years old!

She digs through her pockets, pulls out a fresh pack of generics, rips off the wrapping, pulls out the first smoke, reverses it while pulling out another, puts the first back in the pack upside-down, lights up the second, using my lighter, which she pockets.  The ‘wish’ cigarette.  The kids did the same when I was in high school.

Fadi pours me another Scotch.  Joanne wants only coffee.  Drink?  Too early in the morning for this teenager.  Like she can’t suck ‘em down after dark, at the Twilight on Madison around the corner from her rooming-house hovel.  Her fake ID miraculously does the trick, especially considering the picture looks totally unlike her. . . But she’s such a cutie it rarely matters, a guy will not only chance a hefty fine for serving her, but jeopardize his goddamn life, for a chance to talk her up.  That cute.  I buy her a pack of smokes for the road.  Her eyes are little slits, she’s so stoned, but she’s ruminating, since the time is here, I’m about to walk away from her forever, and that takes a bit of an edge off the high.

My cute little teenager.  And what am I?  Almost forty years old, fucking around like a gigolo with girls half my age.

Fadi is cool, while the lingering lunch crowd sneaks glances at the lecherous fiend sitting at the bar with a fidgeting adolescent. . . I hear them whispering.

He’s touching that young boy!

Fucking pederast!

At first glance Joanne does appear boyish, as she styles herself in the punk fashion, always wearing black Dickies and men’s short-sleeve button-down shirts and a cheap vented brown-and-white NRA baseball cap pulled down low over her eyes.

Tomboyish.

I know better, under all that crap is a real live superhot woman.  Fadi knows as well, so I tip well; mum’s the word.

We embrace outside the Flowershop, a final kiss.

Any last words?  Joanne’s still holding my hand.

See you in hell.

She smiles, turns away.  So do I.  I don’t look back.  Never look back, no matter the temptation, even to see that ass one more time.  I set my face for grim reality and walk on up the early winter sunlit University Way, otherwise known as the Ave, the future a stain, hallucinatory, a mirage before my blurred vision, and I’m a wreck.

Such a sweet thing.  My girl. . .

Goodbye!  Sweet baby.

I don’t know, Ivan, I don’t know about that baby shit. . .

Je n’sais pas.

It’s all Chuck’s fault.

I’m drunk as a pig, fighting the demons; I haven’t even met Knife Fight yet.  Lurching about my hovel, upset, scattered by every detail, a broken ray of light in the mind of a fallen hero.  Why the hell bother?  What the hell good is anything?  The typical whine, bitch, and moan of the maudlin.  Death!  Come for me, already!  It’s about fucking time!  Can’t even jerk off, to relax for a half-hour nod, enflamed cockhead, the gift from the last little girl, that trollop, the gift that continues to give, even after the bitch is gone.  Warts.  My cock is a toad.  Generous slathering of hydrocortisone pilfered from a veterinary clinic by a sympathetic vet-tech ex.  Don’t forget Superman, or his weakness.  Nietsche, bulge under the belt.

The cell phone inevitable, like a new appendage to my body. . . I wait for some call, as if to arms.

When it comes, it’s no picnic.

Hello?

It’s my stepbrother, the one born in England, the Colonizer.  Goes by Charley, Chuck, Chuckles, Chaz, Chuck-bucket. . . Charles.

How’s it going Ivan?

But to the point.

It seems Charles has inherited about half a mil from some limey great-aunt he’s never even met.  Score!  So he’s got an offer.  Feel like traveling?  Naturally, I want no part of it.  But to putt around with Charles, well. . . He and I share a certain like-minded perversity concerning life in general.  We could rip a gaping hole in any old country.  Why not?  I hear, through a depth-charge of alcoholic imbroglio, my own voice.  Where to, Chawles?  I drawl, it’s simple to titillate that naughty schoolboy inbred in his genes. . . I’m not going to make it easy on him.  But he just laughs it off.  That’s the nature of the privileged.

India, you bastard.

Naw, naw, how ‘bout Mexico, me habla Espanol muy bueno.

Fuck Mexico.

So it’s India or nada?

Yep.

Oh well, I suppose. . . So, you pick up much Hindi last time you were there?

Ivan, I got school. . . You’re going alone.

Charles likes to live vicariously, financing my exploits, perhaps simply for the pleasure of hearing me tell the story of my failures at some later time, of course, at his convenience.

I’m speechless for a change, thinking fast, cutting out of the fog, sobering up despite myself.  I don’t know, I finally sputter, I better sleep on it, think it over. . . Can’t just dive into this kinda thing.  How ‘bout I call you tomorrow?

Ivan!  What’s there to think about?  It’s a free trip.  On me!  Five months.  C’mon, where’s your vaunted spirit of adventure?  You’re rotting in your own complacency.  You’ll love India!  Think of all those adorable brown girls with bindis on their foreheads.  There’s millions!  Fourteen-year-olds, begging for it.  Waiting in line!  Poetry of the Ganges!

Poetry of the Ganges?  Try corpses and excrement. . .

Amsterdam, blue balls and a million bicycles. I’m gonna pay Vincent a visit tomorrow morning, 10 a.m. sharp. I’m pretty excited, hell, it’s fabled Amsterdam, you can smoke weed on the old cobblestones without fear of the Law. It’s like a flat Frisco, and I can say Frisco, since I’m from Frisco. All the bikes, all the straight-backed women astraddle, the canals, the wrought iron arabesques, the tiny toy cars, the weird sirens, the alien buzz of the phones ringing, erh-ehrrr, Europeans clearing their throats, amazing, the fact there are still any old-school phones left anywhere. But most of all the van Gogh Museum, which I avoid, the anticipation is too great, like facing the sun, or God, or a bully in a dream. I go back to my room at the Quincy, a basement matchbox where I watch MTV, drink Scotch and rum, smoke copious amounts of green stank, and photograph various still-life studies of my traveling trinkets on the night table: drinking cup, flashlight, bottle opener, sunglasses, dental floss, stack of coins, rolling papers, bag o’weed, Zippo, passport. . .
I go by the building I don’t know how many times, I stand alone in the park, till I finally simply walk up, pay, and enter with all the other tourists. The collection on display is on the 2nd floor. The building, quiet in a church-murmuring sort of way. . . I take the staircase. . . I venture forth into a rather large room, the paintings way in the distance, tiny on seemingly vast walls. I inch up to investigate. In the back of my mind the wheels race through the big glossy coffee-table reproductions. . . A wheat field or two, self-portrait with bandaged ear, crows, cypress trees, peasants, boats, stars. . . Jesus! They look so small! And behind safety-acrylic, glare reducing the impassioned textures to shadowy murk. Plus the frames, cropping the edges of the paintings a good 1/2” around! What the. . . I feel ripped-off. All those years of pent-up anticipation; my Master, my Hero! In person, I don’t see what’s the big deal. Anesthetized by the art-world sell-out, I’m robbed of a vision of my own. . .

I’m drinking rum in my room. Chuck says get out of the room, go find a girl for god’s sake, carpe diem, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Go get yourself a fine-ass 250-euro whore. My treat!
I’m U. S. Pacific Northwest underdressed, Hawaiian shirt, sandal-loafers, khaki pants of no distinguishable color or even recognizable hue, navy-blue billed cap with gold-stitched stars forming the Big Dipper and the North Star, and under that the word ALASKA in gold embroidery. Tourist. American tourist. Marked! I eat some cheese and bread and mussels in chile oil and carrot sticks and pork rinds procured from the Chinashop on Overtoon. Taking it easy with rum and stink-bud from the hash-bar on Princedenstraat, where I e-mail stateside contacts, though I can barely see but for the clouds of smoke and my dirty glasses. Internet access, espresso, Heineken, and drawers and drawers of bud, graded in several categories, cache in the back bar. Reflection off the water in the channel, glistening silver-blue tinsel. Eyes ache from the assault of Amsterdam. Picturesque to every cobblestone. Heartburn from diet of fresh baguette brie olives ham and rum and Scotch and golden beer and Gauloises. Sure I’d be more willing to join the fray, say I had a damn scarf, or a decent jacket, but thanks to Chuck’s sage advice I kept my bedroll and rags to a bare minimum.
Naw, it’s moderate in Yerp this time of year, you don’t need shit. . . Be a man. That’s Chaz, smile three Valiums wide.

here in this quaint old city
cobblestone-arched bridge over smooth canal
wrought-iron curlicue pissoirs
cars you can fold up and put in your pocket
the Quincy English, my lavish abode
there’s a music school nearby
you can hear the faint plinking
and plaintive strings
murmur through the chill wind
you know, this place is pretty damn cold
I bundle up in several thin shirts
the music students ride by on their old rusty bikes
the kind with drum brakes and zing zing! bells and
fancy chrome headlights
powered by a little generator attached to the flywheel
a sparkling light
guiding you through the mists and fog
Amsterdam
all your women ride straight-backed on their bicycles
seemingly in tandem
as on a merry-go-round
they are tall and fine-boned
bundled up against the chill
of December morning just after
St. Nick’s Day
all the discarded Christmas trees
out on the streets
in repose
by the curb or leaning in slumber
against cold wrought-iron

The ticket’s for India, that’s my ultimate destination, so I’m on the plane. Goodbye Europe, I barely got to know you. You’re like distant relatives I never knew I had and don’t really care to meet.

Ten 5-mg tablets Diazepan for ten rupees- fifteen cents worth. Ain’t India sweet? Wondering, can you chop ‘em up?
They call the pharmacist a ‘chemist’. These purveyors don’t even flinch. Just hand over the shit.
This one guy’s been tailing me, trying to pass off chunks of incense as hash. Can’t shake him. No matter where you go, no matter how saturated the mob, they find you, single you out, as if they can see into your mind, straight to the dim place where the pang of chemical longing quivers.
I happen upon a clean-looking shop on the Main Bazaar in Pahar Ganj, it’s where I buy hash from the dealer in silk, incense, computer-time and tattoos, Kamal. It’s close to the Anoop Hotel, where I stay. Rooftop terrace restaurant shared with statues of the gods and gigantic rubber plants. Green curry for breakfast. 360’ view of New Delhi, what you can see of it, pollution thick enough to cut with a machete.
Rama House: I have found the Jews, Habad House within, black orthodox hats and curled locks long beards and heavy black glasses, knowing smiles as I hesitate, glance in the door. . . He steps forward, hand upturned, saying, in the kindest manner imaginable, The door is always open, friend.

Joanne
the death of love
most insipid and obvious
romantic love
the kind which drives you
as a kid
hormonal
maniacal
suicidal
from atop the world
mountain crumbled under
murderous foot
Joanne

Black coffee, fried eggs, curried potatoes with onions and tomatoes. That’s what they’re eating, the Israeliac women at the table beside mine. I’m about to scurry but the two just sat, so I linger. One passable, but somewhat lumpy in a red woolen Mexican-style shawl, olive skin and black curly locks bunched close to her head. . . I maintain an aloof nonchalance, then her companion arrives, a real beauty, same type of shawl but a tighter fit, oh yes, and her face! Delicate, perfectly composed, Queen of Sheba type. . . Eyes obsidian, black dancing pools of sensuality. . . Not a flaw. Hey, maybe my luck’s turning, maybe I can use some of those Trojans Chuck encouraged me to procure for the trip. . .
All the Indians are watching cricket on the wide screen TV, incongruous in this courtyard decorated with potted ferns, rubber trees, ficus, marble terrace and wrought iron, brass sculptures of animals and deities. Buttered toast and coffee is all I can handle after two pints of whiskey, six valiums, a half-gram of hash and too many cigarettes to count, yesterday. Before I can muster the bravado, which normally comes so easy for me, some old, fat, chattering Nana sits with the duo of cuties.
I don’t understand cricket. Maybe I ought to buy a book on the subject.

2 weeks
seen enuf
drown it
this jerkwater
stumps for legs he pedals with his hands
she peddles 9 yr old daughter
family of 5 on moped
cows
eat better’n children
strung out
over the abyss
over Delhi rooftops
my shoes!
run over by 6 dozen rickshaws
flannel torn in 5 places same rickshaws
everyone!
is your friend
HASHISH? GRASS?
trash piled up
mud and sloppy mountain
buildings crumbling
bombed out!
I slice thru pollution
machete of metaphor
sip Coca-Cola
bottled back in
1959

An object lesson on time is in order. The end of the day, you sleep. At the end of your life, you die. Simple! Everything else happens between, isn’t it funny? In other words, nothing is on time in India.
Scheduled for Goa, Chucky talks me out of it, saying they’ll fleece me worse there than in New Delhi. Well, he’s the expert traveler, can I argue? Who can argue with five hundred grand? So Varanasi it is.
The train is two-and-a-half hours late.

When the birds fly in a flock, randomly? Why? Leaderless? The Indian pigeon. Collectively misdirected? Going nowhere but the next crumbling rooftop, black wing aflutter before glinting sunshine on soaring bellies and sleek undersides. . . Gliding. . . Maybe they’re working off their dusk swill of trash off the Ganges.
I am an American.
Endlessly circling, or as I check my cheap Casio watch, rubber wristband always either too tight or too loose. Many handy features however, 24-hour time, alarm, timer, little green light.
The birds have split into two groups of about thirty, the groups jammed together, then spreading, seemingly at random, one group tight formation, the other wider, spread out; is it a game? Territorial issue? A challenge? Indian pigeons, they must avoid the myriad colored paper kites whizzing and darting- dozens of ‘em.
I am an American.
What does ‘go fly a kite’ mean in Americanese? It means: Fuck off.
I have nothing to do, and all the time in the world.



I’m supposed to meet my ‘friend’ today on the way back from the G.P.O.  A slim, black, oily-haired soul who doesn’t exactly look murderous, but close.  It is fog city but sure to burn off.  Sometime last night I lost it.  My baseball cap with the Alaska logo, with the dipper and the North star.  Cheap cap but sentimental.  I am an American, Americans are sentimental.  Little Big Horn.  Hiroshima.  On the other hand, gritty fingernails, feet perpetually hazed with a film of dirt. . . I go days not bothering to change clothes, going ‘native’.  Yet all the white people in their immaculate attire, backpacks from Northface or REI or Timberland or whatever, perfectly groomed, preened, not a stain, not a smear, not a smudge, poised at every shrine, cameras clicking, every guru, gesticulating, every outdoor food stand, video rolling, every cow, rickshaw, monkey, goat, every chewed-apart skiff on the Ganges.  I was told I’d never be alone but I didn’t expect to be the lone white trash.  Is it because I am an American?  Or is it just myself, urban slouch?

Suni is my new friend, or should I say guide?  I’ve finally found help, among the natives, getting around.  His array of uncles and cousins and brothers and aunts and sisters and nephews seems endless.  Him or her’s silk factory, he or she’s chai shop.  The bakery?  In-laws!  Uncle’s hostel.  Auntie’s seamstress shop.  Grandfather’s bidi-rolling stall.  And best of all, of course, is cousin Shiva’s ‘bidness’.

What can you do?  You’re in a different country, but the rules are the same.  Respect first, money up front, no pyrotechnics.

Taking the bicycle rickshaw, still, I’m asking if we’re cool. . . I am an American!  Ultimately paranoid!  I’ve heard about these 3rd world prisons where they dump you in a fetid pit and you’re never seen again.

Oh no, my friend, you are like brother to me!  I know!  I know the American and you are like, different breed!

That is, I’m a customer, potentially a good customer.

Labyrinths, dank alleyways, chipped paint, broken masonry, piles of garbage and rubble, sickly pups huddling in the gloom.  I follow Suni to a small room.  Shoes removed, and for good reason, mud and cowshit everywhere.  Natural resources. . . Some balance. . . Milk consumed from chai and curds and cheese. . . Versus the mounds of shit on the streets where the cow reigns supreme.  And hey!  Better watch out for those black cows!  No touchy!  Think it’s for luck?  Whammo!  Head butt to the hip, send you flying twenty feet!

Another injury!

The black ones you be careful, explains Suni.  Bulls not like western in the movies.  White are woman cows, very docile. . .

I wince for days, the little Indian children giggle at my disjointed limp.

There has to be five or six guys in the very small room.  Suni points to a thin matt, I’m to sit and drink chai.  The women are all upstairs cooking while the men sit in the small room drinking tea and getting high.  Introductions.  Two guys. . . One in western garb, silent, oily, sinister.  The other, in saffron and spotless white robes, introduced by Suni’s cousin (or is it uncle?) as the guru, the Guru from the Northern Mountains. . . Crimson bindi, a piercing 3rd eye. . . Liquid black moustache. . . He looks at me quietly, disapproving.  Reads me like one of those books with nothing in it, a nothing book.  That’s me, an empty book. . . Shit!  What’s a guru doing in this den of miscreants?  Where’s the fucking drugs?

Where’s my friend, my brother, Suni?

And here he comes with the tray and the hot chai.  Business time.

An hour later we’re back in another bicycle-rickshaw, headed toward the ghats, and all I want is to do some shit in my room, but Suni’s got big plans, more uncles, more brothers, more cousins, parties, whiskey, whores. . . Suni wants to fleece the very core of my existence. . .

Thanks, pal, I shake his limp brown hand.  Gotta go!

Ah!  I see you tomorrow, yes?  Brother!

Yeah, yeah, maybe. . .

I hustle on into my hotel.  Luckily the natives aren’t allowed in.

They tolerate the monkeys here, and the tourists love them until they get scratched or bitten or downright mugged.  Smart monkeys!  Hindus have a monkey god, Hanuman; they have a god for everything.  So the monkeys run wild like everything else, man or beast.  I find the monkeys a total pain in the ass.  Worse than raccoons: since really, monkeys are just cut-rate humans.  At least on raccoons, scientists don’t even bother experimenting, they’re still too animalistic, it’s not like humans evolved from them.  Monkeys though?  Junior heads-of-state. . . One snuck in my room when I wasn’t looking.  Feral primate in the middle of my corner room, 250 rupees a night, the mice I don’t mind, the cockroaches, no matter, in this city of Shiva, my lonesome balcony room with old peeling blue paint and papaya-colored roof beams!  My cold clay floor and bells and more bells ringing through the open-air windows and French doors!  Squeeeeech!  Is that me or the flailing-armed monkey?  Matters not, the little ingrate splits lightning-fast, as I rush it like a linebacker.  Spy a double-A battery on the floor in the corner, jet out to the balcony and one floor down peg the little cretin right on the nose.  Nothing terminal, just a friendly reminder:  I am an American!

I throw the fucker in the Ganges.  Call it a sacrifice.  Call it pissoffedness.  The damn thing kept opening up in my pocket.  Not that it’s any threat, the little fucking thing’s so dull it wouldn’t slice a slab of warm butter.  My Smith and Wesson back home’d cut me apart if it knew I ever even entertained the idea of keeping such an infidel blade in my pocket.

My old Smith and Wesson would laugh. . .

Submerged, bottomed out in the murky, Christless, shitty depths; that shitty back-alley blade wouldn’t cut a rotten mango.

someone locked the guy in the from the outside

in the shit-and-shower

the Indian porter

Bengalesian

I let him out from the decrepit shower stall

I’m nursing my own injury

right foot I turned playing badminton in Germanica

metatarsal #5

partial fracture

gimpy me shows the boy my camera

his eyes light up!  New technology!  He poses, muscleman stance, for a photo-op!  I shoot a couple frames, he’s happy looking at the  instantaneous results, and giddy as a kid at Christmas

then he shows me his problem

right foot

fucked up, like mine

but this poor guy!  Oncoming leprosy?  Broken skin, sores, horrible gangrenous splitting between the toes. . . toenails black, rotting off. . .

ever hear of shoes?

or antibiotics?

or washing your feet with soap?

he doesn’t understand English so well

he accepts his predicament

with a smile

it’s the inevitability of his condition, or conditioning, or karma

my foot doesn’t hurt so bad anymore

maybe the valium, opium, weed and fifth of Smirnoff

has something to do with it

The lack of abstract art in India is heroic in the face of modernity.  What is modern art anyway but an indiscreet mixture of advertising and pornography?  Here the art from primitive to contemporary India retains a constant theme.  The gods.  Their exploits.  I’d like to say the same for modern Anybodies.  Nobodies, they just don’t cut the mustard.  Does a man who walks the streets barefoot treading through cow shit and a rain of spittle and firecrackers need art?  Art?  How about a dream cake, a fount of lemonade?

Just when you think you’ll explode with frustration and rage a small girl walks by and with absolute genuine affection smiles, says hello.

It’s like a lightning blast to the soul, this sheer honesty and purity of nature.

A sunbeam daffodil.

Then:

Where you going?

What you want?

Where you from?

What you need?

http://www.myconfinedspace.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/theres-no-such-thing-as-an-old-junkie-weed-355x500.jpg

The power’s been faulty.  It goes out in the room from time to time.  Worst is internet- can’t get through to the States.  It’s been days it seems.  The bum foot inhibits serious travel, the stones of the street even making cows ascending steps an act of high comedy.  I stay close to the room but the foot still throbs- there’s no ice.  250 rupees a night and no ice!  I’m dying from being coddled all my life, even during ‘supposed’ times of adverse poverty. . . Face it, there was always a safety net. . . Goddamned ugly to admit, but I could always have called the old man. . . To help me out of a jam. . . Any crazy hypothetical problem.  I never made the call.  He resents me for it, for my lack of need, for my own fucking birth, the fucking bastard. . . Me?  Him?  My mother lying through her teeth, insisting she’s on the pill. . . Power!  The power.  It’s been a bit on the wane. . .  I’m bitten on the wrists by mosquitoes, they find my skin while I writhe in sleep, jackpot!  And here it is the cool season, what kind of inferno is it like the rest of the year?  Most Indians seem weary except the service-industry types, they’re very serious. . . All they really want is to brag and boast, or piss and moan.  The power.  Surely a spent generator, non-central.  Well good for them, fucking slackers.  I could care less.  Time here is of little, if any, importance.  Provided, of course, you’re well patronized.

there’s hoopla around the kite festival

rooftop sky blue heat and shrill whistling

rice-paper kites

cheap chintz jobs the size of dinner napkins

purple with flipping black tails

maybe orange with lime-green skitteroo

purple half-crimson, avocado,  lemon-lime, you get the picture?

the air itself, vibrant, an odd dance of scented delicacies

catcalls animate, chants indecipherable to the non-Hindu

el jefe, the pizzu

his garb, his stick, nailed to the end’s a long, dirty purple rag

he waves it about!  In the air!

whistles and shouts!  yahyahyah!  yahyahyah!  yah!

I look around, what the. . .

what the hell just happened?

the kites all seemingly performing the same dance, but for the little flock of flitting birds

remember? they look a lot like pigeons

are they all of a sudden

on collision course for the kites?

deep blue, cobalt, cerulean?  the sky?

the screech and scream and chant!

flat-color skiff chugging through the muddy murk of the Ganges?  thick brown water?  some strange alliance with the birds?

these dark jeering shouting whistling men wrapped in rags waving sinewy arms walking around the high precipices of ancient crumbling edifices, built diagonally from the bank of the river, these men with the  speed and agility of monkeys

the kites the boys the men the birds

the kites jerk like crippled butterflies

day after New Year’s up on the rooftop terrace of the Ganpati Guest House

the help is rather slow even though there’s gotta be 6 or 7 of them loitering about, basking in the baking sun

they’re always hanging around

whistling in dark ancient language

Will they sue me?  How could they?  If say, I appropriate a blanket for the trip on the train to Calcutta?  I’ll leave them a fat tip, say a 50 rupee note. . . One of the ripped ones, I’ll tape it together. . . It’s not fear making me feel I’m becoming one of them.  After only a couple weeks.  Chameleon-like. . .

Morning tea at the GG Hotel, my favorite spot, invaded with the international traveling backpacker set.  I sit too close to other tables but there’s little choice, the place is packed.  I hear them talk as I stare at the hordes of flies settling about the dishes and small squirrels that run about the balcony railing and the hawks and the kites up in the sky.  I don’t utter a word but I’m not contemplating, not meditating, just wasting away, counting minutes on my Casio wristwatch. . . Till I have to move to some other room down the street, they’re tired of me here. . . The international set flit about to different countries doing important volunteer relief work for the natives. . . They’re quiet enough till this old woman appears, a Spaniard, complete with flourishing Gypsy attire, all silk and bright colors, whose yap never shuts. . . Lived in Korea a spell. . . Just returned from Nepal by train. . . Isn’t it great, she intones, with a great fluttering of hands, being independently wealthy?  I can travel all the time. . . But it was so sad, she continues, with flawless sympathy, I saw this little girl on the train here to Varanasi, she was so sick, and her parents, you see, were bringing her here to be burned on the Ganges, and the poor thing wasn’t even, you know, dead yet!

It’s a sorry state of affairs.  When Charles says, You’ll give away a lot of stuff, you’ll give yourself away in India, I say, Yeah right, sure, fuck that.

Purple cotton shirt, why the hell I bought it, look the damn fool, then tried to wash it by hand, all the dye ran out.  Already torn at the collar.  I go to see the chai-man at the corner, D. 36/149 Dasaswamedh, directly across from what appears to be a major public watering hole.  The poor and decrepit. . . Fakirs, Sadhus, male whores, goats. . . Bank of the Ganges, right down the ghat steps, dung-patties set out to dry, fuel for the old women’s cooking fires.  Just ahead the marketplace is a jamboree loaded with mangos and eggplant, potatoes and peppers, brass vessels, brocade saris, garlands of marigold.

This old dude, I can’t understand a word out of his gnarled and betel-stained crimson mouth, but a couple of his four sons possess a smattering of English, though we don’t really speak, it’s more a pantomime than anything else.  I sit in the sun on an old crate watching India in the morning, the spectacular color in direct contrast to the shit and mud and chaos of it. . . Somehow it relaxes me, sipping gritty chai in a chipped glass, smacking my lips to the delight of the chai-man.  He still, in his gnarly, wasted-tooth, cyst-faced manner, goes for the kill. . . Maybe?  20 rupee?  Tomorrow?  You come tomorrow?  The tea costs 5 rupees a cup, he wants a down payment for the next couple days. . .

I’ll never forget this man, patting the paint-speckled, worn down piece of board he sits on, an invitation, of course, for me to take the spot of position.

I humbly decline, follow with a sweeping gesture, arching my brow, How about another glass?

Old chai-man, and I don’t even like milk.

Old chai-man, needs a dentist bad.

Old chai-man receives gift of purple shirt.  He is impressed, but more by my sitting with him, day after day, watching the traffic at the foot of the alley.  Practically in silence.  Offers me bidis.  I tip him like an idiot.

That, that nice, shirt.

Extends his hand, fingers the fabric, a total purple embarrassment to me, yet for him, exquisite treasure.  Or maybe he was bullshitting me the whole time.

I put the shirt in a bag for the chai-man.  I save everything.  I got the bag buying asswipe.  A lighter shade of purple plastic.

His root-like hands and feet, his face a mass of red and yellow buck teeth and wild gray whiskers and dark creases, harsh angles. . . Four sons. . . Two wives. . .

Benares

at dawn

a holy endeavor

pilgrims come from afar to burn the dead on the Ganges

the dogs fight in the mudcaked streets

the foodstuffs piled high on the antiquated pushcarts

limes blood-orange carrots round brown potatoes

phlegmatic cows grinning cripples auspicious mendicants

in the street the generators fart and shake on the verge of bursting apart

convulsing directly in front of a shop featuring ‘The Finest In Silk’

about to blow its top

sweet twisty donuts and lassi

plaintive singing beggars blind and woodsmoke

where the bodies at dawn recline

weighed against the sticks the old women squat to trim with dull precision

bent to their work, wooden caricatures a thousand years old

the true heartsong of the bells at dawn

kites jitter hawks squall a child shouts a bidi smokes in a fist

where and when

there’s fire there’s Marnikarnika ghat

bamboo stretchers swathed in orange and gold linen, festooned with wreaths of marigold

corpse doused in the Ganges

carefully weighed stacks of carefully trimmed sticks

absolve, karma

freewheeling incarnate

join, the Infinite

devotees writhe and chant along the slow molten river

Shiva is the sun of this city on fire

mist pale chiffon

marigolds drift amidst floating candles and waft of sandalwood

the bodies burn while the living wait their turn

Benares

The demise of romantic love begins with Felicia.  My love and the end of it I ponder in a city of beautiful death, Varanasi.  Benares.  So I recall. . .

Jesus Christ, the way she struts.  A miniature Marilyn.  I’m a bit appalled to see posters of Marilyn Monroe on the walls of her apartment.  Too obvious.  But her body makes up for it, and that jaunty toss of her head, that naughty pout.  Least that’s how it seems at first.

At the Kennel.  Gotta start from the beginning, where the roots take hold.   Of the tree?  Or the man hanging from the rope?

It starts with Felicia.  See her at the bar, bleach-blonde, bouncy, quirky, just a new girl in town.  Flirting with Uncle Nian, rhymes with lion, and king of beasts is he. . . Professional addict.  You name it, he can get it, but it’ll take a while.  Nian loves to make ‘em wait. . . He looks a bit stressed, I give him a bit of the old massage therapy routine.  The girl gives me a quick scan. . . Ooh, I wish you’d do me. . . I touch her for one second, say Naw, you’d take way too long. . . Bright catty smile, then she’s gone into the melee of the Saturday night Kennel crowd.  Tight, faded blue jeans, white tank top amply displaying supple upturned breasts. . . Bluntly put, a tart.

Oh yeah, she’s here, says Kennelkeeper Red, pointing back to the heads, yep, she was getting off the bus, reading a book, walked right-into-a-telephone-pole!  Kinda ditzy, you know?  But shit-howdy, what a bod!

I walk past her on the way to the head.  Out of my mouth like a captive bird the fatal words escape.

Hey beautiful!

She hesitates, barely concealing a hint of concern, her brain wheeling for the memory, this can’t be a total stranger, so forthright?  She’s having trouble recalling me, my touch, one smoke-filled night, at a tavern. . . In fact, this very tavern. . . Where every man in sight wants to screw her.

Why do I hate this country so much?  Why my own?  Why hate?  Black-cracked coal-leaded feet?  Infernal baskets of midget bananas, determined blue-black crows?  Nothing wasted, they save everything here yet everything else crumbles to dust?  The lassitude of anything remotely structured?  No hot nor drinking water?  The constant scrutiny?  The impossible-to-read faces of the natives?  The constant runs?  Hiccups?  Cramps?  Delirium?  Wiping my ass with poems written on napkins?

I find a place, I like to eat at this corner stall, maybe once, twice even, after several exact orders (a simple sandwich of baguette, white cheese, cucumber thankfully peeled of skin and seeded, unmentionable meat, butter and mayo) they’re standing there, the locals, looking at something a wee bit out of my sight.  Ahhh!

What?  What?  Fuck!  Why are you microwaving my sandwich?

I slap forehead, argueless, pointless. . . Ruin of lunch, beseech me, I’m done.

The spider, in the corner of my little squalid room, I make a deal with.  You eat the skeeters and I won’t murder you.

Why?

Why my own country?  Born of riches and scorn?  Can I ever return to?

The cars: Ambassadors.

The Kali temple, where they coulda stole my shoes.  They insist I wash, scent my hands, and an offering for a small price, incense (I’m allergic), a small wreath of red blossoms, and this, and that, all piled in my hands.

I watch a steady stream of Indians crowd into the temple, a primitive swooping edifice lovely with mosaic, yet the sky seems to promise shitstorms of rain.

Fucking shit, I say, who’s gonna watch my shoes?

I’m that way about my footwear.  Then of course, who in India would steal my shoes?  Even though I’m relatively (American standards please apply) average of height, 5’10”, (sans mulish slump), my feet are a good 42 European fit, or size 12.

Yeah, well they’ll just rip ‘em apart and make four pairs!

No no!  That man watches your shoes.  This from another tiny man, apparently in charge of the removal of footwear, in accordance to temple decorum.  I look, the old guy’s rheumy with cataracts, eyes spookily drooling pearl white.

Naw, forget it, I say. . . Settle for snapshots of mosaic and footworn marble etchings surrounding the temple, beat it, thankful for shoes, walk the interior market a bit, ripe for the fleecing.

But first!

As I first approached the Kali Temple I noticed these two guys perched in a huge tree sawing away at a particularly outlandish limb.  Already trimmed, pruned, whatnot. . . Probably already sold for myriad uses.

A whole audience of Indians: watching.

Fascinated.

So as I walk out of the temple and into the street I’m in the usual stupor of dreams and hangover and bewilderment when twenty Indians lunge forward yelling!  Whoa whoa!

As I wander straight beneath the neatly sliced limb, now in slow-motion, falling.

They pull me back, twenty, thirty strong brown arms. . .

Sit me down, look at me, extremely lucky, or extremely crazy, or extremely stupid.

My heart like a jackhammer.  Some nice old brown lady smiles, refills my chai glass.  Yellow sari with red stitching.  I realize I love her.

That fucking limb out to kill me!

Superman!  Withered in his wheelchair, nobody caring a fuck about those stupid 80’s comic book fantasies. . .

Now?

I can relate.

old man all gimpy and askew

he’s just an old junky

honest he keeps insisting

prove it man

maybe

he can find me something

a hundred rupees worth

gets me 2 grams of pot full of stems and seeds

half chaff half dried snot

but I roll it up and smile to the corroded skies

maybe there’s a god

maybe there’s several

I see the guy every day since my hotel is on his street

our paths always seem to cross

ceremonial chai

he points

informs me of every waking habitué

every stumbling intrigue

every whore on the corner

every kid on their jumbly way

toothlessly he points

leatherhanded

pinpoint eyes jet with nervous shadows