Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Day 38 (fin): Wheel-less wagons, fumbling finales and the gift of a wound that refuses to heal...



 “…a boy in early adolescence touches something of the Christ nature within himself but touches it too soon. He is unexpectedly wounded by it and drops it immediately for being too hot. But a bit gets into his mouth (psyche) and he can never forget the experience. His first contact with what will be redemption for him later in life is a wounding. The first touch of consciousness in a youth appears as a wound or as suffering. It is regrettable but necessary—if we are not cast out of the Garden of Eden there can be no Heavenly Jerusalem.”

                                                              --Robert A. Johnson, HE.


I am lying in a supine fractal-limb titter on the Persian carpet  in the room where I write.  I have just gotten the  Sallie Mae shit kicked out of me courtesy of the SLP who vehemently insisted that I don’t know the date of my birth and that I will continue to accumulate interest on loans I was coerced into taking out to foster my educational milieu and global perspective of life on this planet. Over the next three months I will endeavor to pay them six more times and they will refuse to accept my payment stating that they need a copy of my birth certificate because the date of my birth doesn’t correlate with the date of birth they mis-entered into their computer.

“You alright, mate?” Kyle inquires. Kyle calls everyone mate. It’s rather endearing at times. Especially when we are drinking copious amounts of beer and he’s about ready to beat me at Chess.

I swipe my head from fleshy berm of shoulder blade to shoulder blade. If I squint hard enough I can make out a nimbus carousel with various ornithological-caricatures fluttering in counterclockwise fashion where the vision of my father’s wallet appeared to me in sub-atomic pointillisitic static of time  moments earlier.

Kyle asks me again if I am alright.  

I tell Kyle that I need to jump track like Kerouac hopping a vacuous freight-car and majorly blow off some pent up literary-locomotive steam, slamming the front door shut in stunted applause. I  withdrawal the money I had been saving to pay my student loans and walk in Dunkin Donuts and purchase the Keurig coffee maker they have on display justifying my rash purchase that I worked three back-to-back-back sixteen hour shifts over Christmas and didn’t get anything I wanted in terms of materialistic manna from under the pine tree holiday heaven.   I stop at the liquor store and pick up a 30 pack of PBR and a 12 pack of Sam Adam’s winter variety pack. I am holding the 42 bottles-slash cans of beer while precipitously balancing the Keurig coffee machine.  When I arrive home Kyle looks at me like I am some sort of distraught holiday hungover magi .We brew coffee . We have been living  off of what we refer to as Bohemian Brew, i.e,  used coffee grinds  stuffed in a chrome tea-egg infuser my buddy J. left at the apartment and bobbed religiously in a pot of boiling water until anything resembling lightly taupe-colored caffeinated ambrosia appears.

 For the first time in a month we have quality java. We crack open the Sam Adam’s and double fist with PBR, brandishing both beers like flailing hickory drumsticks into the taut percussion tarp  of a snare drum. The more I continue to drink the less I feel of a financial fuck-up.

After we slam ten beers between us close to fifteen beers I cache a few PBR's in the holsters of my denim pockets like cap guns and

point towards the castle in the distance. I point towards Western hill.

"Where are we goin'?" Kyle inquires.

I tell Kyle that I ned to get something back; something that was taken from me a long time ago.


"The wound that hurts us so much we involuntary dip it in the water we have to regard as a gift. How would the boy in our story have found out about his genius had he not been wounded? Those with no wounds are the unluckiest of all. Men are taught over and over again when they are boys that a wound that hurts is shameful…Our story gives a teaching diametrically opposite. It says that where a man’s wound is that is where his genius will be…The wound is now thought of as a door.”
                                                                         --Robert Bly. Iron John


When I was in high school I was sexually molested. I just had some unspeakable shit happen to me and when I reached out for help it just wasn’t there. In a period of about four months I went from being an All-american god fearing golden boy with a fledgling athletic career to being unable to look at myself in the mirror. I would shake at night and sweat. My anatomy would erupt in palpitations and rashes. I would break shit in my bedroom. I would dress in all black. I carved the word POET down the center of my chest. I remember taking a shower and, for no reason, just screaming out of control in muffled yelps of wimpled lost, stammering and crying and breaking down and not being able to move. My parents sent me to Christian Counselors. I was placed on more anti-depressants than a registered fanbase attendance at a Morrissey convention. It was the mid-nineties and Prozac was posh so a lot of rich kids from Ivory league classrooms thought they were Elizabeth Wurtzel  and no one understood them anyway.

 I simply hurt all the time. It was a wound.

Through all the confusion and hurt and morose gloaming that seemed to escort me overhead everywhere I went like verbal dialogue in a cartoon bubble I started writing. I would arrive home after wading in aquatic existential haze that is high school and go up to my bedroom and brew a pot of coffee and listen to the Writers’ Almanac and just scurrilously attack the albino countenance of the page, filleting each sentence into a listless sheath of ruffled notebook paper as if with a scalpel, as if there was something burrowed beneath the ashen white thinly-blue lined veneer of each sheet that I had to archaeologically unearth, chiseling away in inky hieroglyphic blotches of stilts and swirls trying to convey everything that was neurologically jisming inside of my skull. Trying to makes sense of all this shit.

Trying simply to feel.

Trying to learn how to hold my breath underwater and scream as loud as I fucking can.

Sometimes the wound becomes a door and to turn the knob is to heal.



We skulk down the gravel gulch of Western hill past the aerie-fairy tale castle that once housed Jumers castle Lodge into the sociological swan song and lower-income litany constituting the Southside of Peoria. I tell Kyle that when I was growing up we used to traverse down this hill everyday to school or church and that there was something surreal about a Bavarian castle arched above dilapidated dregs and loose shingles of society.

Kyle surreptiously takes a swing from his beer. He seems dubious. There is obviously nothing like this where he comes from in Appleton, Wisconsin.

I tell Kyle that I feel at home here. I tell Kyle about how I used to walk down Western Avenue to Bogards in the late eighties and buy comic books. I show him the spray-painted frescoes delineating the graffit’d difference between the turf-christening hieroglyphics.of Vice Lords versus Gangsta Disciples.

I think about the run-down sunken visages of the corner taverns from my youth. Beer signs swiveling from rusty hinges from the  exterior heralding names like postaged stamps from the swill of yester year. Hamms. Blatz. Old Style. 

I publically take a swig from my beer, forgoing the courtesy of having a alcoholic receptacle clad in a brown paper when drinking in public. I let my hair down from the sling of my pony-tail. I feel like I am growing boobs. I feel like I am Demeter. I feel like I am descending into the Underworld in search of something that has been usurped and unfairly abducted from me that once retrieved will restore the seasons back into the narrative sheet music that is my life.

I look around at the over-turned carts in ALDI's parking lot and quote TS ELIOT turning to my friend and stating that he has a vision of the streets which the streets hardly understand.

 I am holding beer in paw as I amble down Western Hill. He asks where we are going. I tell him we are going to seedy bars. Bars where there are more tattoos than teeth. Bars with bad plumbing. Bars that look like the exterior sidings have been constructed out of used Brillo pads. Bars where there are always a hitching post of motorcycles neighing in front of the half-lit neon beer signs guzzling in collected snorts.
Kyle is looking at me like I am crazy.
There’s always a crackled oratorio of gunshots in the background compliments of the firing range behind Kroger’s but occasionally you hear rippled-plops that almost always come in wisps of three’s accompanied by the high-pitch pig squeal of a police siren and you know you are in deep shit. There’s still a working class asperity to the Southside that appeals to me.  There’s still good people who keep their lawns clipped and their gutters clean. There are families who drive from thirty miles out of town to direct choir and warm the same church pews they have sat in for over half a century.

There is the southside where I was educated. The beautiful Southside where something was taken from me long ago.

 There are triangular shards of shattered 40 ounces of Malt liquor glistening like iridescent canine feces inconveniently splattered in pyramidal pyres every four steps.  Everything smells like cheap weed and sunshine ricocheting off of wet cement. I tell my closest poetic cohort and spiritual brother how I want to go to seedy bars. I tell him how, at the end of traipsing through the Inferno, Dante and Virgil poetically plod through the center of the earth which incidentally is located on Satan’s left testicle and how, midway through the spiritual trudge, due to the centrifugal gravitational shift, they cathartically discern that they are not going down, they are going up.
Sometimes you need to go down to go up.  

When I think about myself in high school and how I hurt all the time I think about the faceless reader. The reader with a static visage and haunched over shoudlers. The reader with salt in her eyelids from all the tears in her chest. The reader who is gripping the spine of a novel reading the same dog-earred thoroughly annoated stanza over and over again because it provides molecule of hope, a quantuum life raft in an existential pond of the cosmos.

 Twenty years ago when I was emotionally naked and drunk and needed soemone to hold me and had no where to go writing was there for me. Fiction was there for me. Poetry was there me. It made me feel accepted and special and loved at a time when I needed it.
Somehow I’m always writing for that faceless reader who desultorily stumbles up on my shit and feels less alone in the globe. Somehow I’m always writing for that kid in highschool who simply has nowhere to go. Somehow I’m incessantly hammering into the brow of the page, julienning alphabetical peels of each letter into a the fresh slice of a well-crafted sentence that I pray can make someone I have never met before sharing the scalp of this planet with me feel less alone. To feel special and intelligent and cared for.
To feel loved.  




We go to Duffy’s on the corner of  Anotinette and Western which is completely run-down and has a gnawed bar made out of what looks like  abraded sandpaper which I love. Kyle gregariously acknowledges one of our fellow South Side bar patrons as ‘Mate’ and they just scowl at him funny. We go to Dave’s on Shelly which I have been before an always  have a good time. We go to Boa’s on Western and imbibe the legendary Boa’s Juice which legend has it is concocted from a portion of every liquor in the bar.
We leave Boa’s on half-fledged Dedalus wings. It is spring and the overhead sky is the color of Windex. There is trash all around.  I am a block away from Christ Lutheran, from the church where I was baptized, confirmed—the beautiful stainglass russet brick of the building constituting my spiritual nest, the shadows from the steeple flooding the sidewalks before us like a nylon sail.


Across the street from Boa’s there is a desolate parking lot that was a service gas station another lifetime ago. The gas station itself is completely razed, leaving only post-war terracotta cement litter in its wake, it’s only remnant being that of the service station’s sign standing in almost totemic fashion. On the bottom of the sign there is a ladder where one can only surmise the attendant used to clamber to change the digits heralding the price of fuel.
Without consulting Kyle I imminently begin to ascend the rungs. It’s like I am mounting the scales of the cross, taking a loin-clothed crowned thorned thoroughly battered Christ off the wooden plus sign and supplanting him with all my hurt instead. It’s like I need to bleed under the penumbra of the steepled cross where I was confirmed. It’s like I need bleed the past out of my wounds, bleed the gauze of alcohol out of my nervous system, coddle my Persephone and kiss the forehead of spring, enter the glory of the faith that is the world to come.

Kyle follows behind me. It is the middle of the day. There are cops all around. In a way we look like twin beatnik snipers.
  I take off my shirt and just start screaming, howling, cursing, Sylvia Plathing-out-of-control, casting imprecations of eternal impotency on the people I love who have really hurt me, the lovers who have abandon me, the friends' who have fucked me over, the makeshift nest of mistakes I have made. I scream for five minutes as loud as I could, a koan of sorrow and loss. I then had a beer and forgave those I had damned, those that I love. Forgave myself.


I start  quoting poems. I scream out the fourth canto of Whitman's I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC. I reference Shakespeare's Let me not to the marriage of True Minds admit Impediments and that Time of year thou mayest in me behold. Kyle is looking at me with nucelar intenisty.  As if choregraphed we begin to quote the footnoe to Ginsberg's Howl. Everything is holy. The name of Peoria is already referenced in the footnote but we start adding writers we admire and people we love stating Holy David Foster Wallace!! Holy George Saunders!! Holy Dave McDonald!!! Holy Roxy Reno!!! Holy Lorie Moore!!! Holy eternity!!! Holy peril of the past. Holy the life everlasting and the promise of the eternal breath of enlightenment, the pangs of the human condition!!! The hurt!!! The loneliness!!! The resilience!!!

The joy!!!!


They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios,

  tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!

Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American


Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive


Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood!

  Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years' animal screams and suicides!

  Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time!

Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells!

  They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof to solitude! waving! carrying

  flowers! Down to the river! into the street!



I descended from the pinnacle of the gas station cross that spring day and continued to drink until, a year later, in March 2013, I decided to philosophically investigate why I felt the unerring need to drink all the time. While my drinking waned, the accumulating loans and financial fiasco that were my student loans did not. I went to court, was threatened to have my wages garnished. On the morning of day 38 of Succulent Sobriety my verse were frayed bundle of jumper-cables clamped to the antipodal battery sign. I had another appointment to meet with a loan counselor later that afternoon. I felt worthless. I spent the night at my mom’s house and told her that I needed to drink. Told her I was sick of simply dealing with this shit. Told her I was sick of feeling like a loser every time I answered my phone or went to my mail box.   
I'm next to impovershied all the time anyway. If my wages are garnished I'll have nothing.

Mother drops me off and asks me what I am going to do.

 “I just can’t take it anymore.  Everything inside my chest feels like a damp cardboard pieces.
I feel like Mama Academia is menstruating utilizing my diploma as a sanitary napkin for her final period avant menopause. I’m sick of being broke all the time. "

 My mom is a spiritual. Ten years ago after my father’s demise we went through a period of two years where maybe I saw her maybe once outside of familial holidays. Our rapport has been the best its ever been. I go out to her house on my one day off and do laundry and mow the lawn.

 “You can do this,” My mom says. She tells me that I have made a covenant with myself and that I only have two days left. I spent all day working on a draft for what I thought would be the third segment of Babies in Avocados on day 38. I write the scene where tell Nina that I’m sorry that it just won’t work out between us because, of course, I am scared what would happen if she actually moved in and if we actually decided to give it a shot. I write about my spiraling romantic detumescence. I chisel out the scene where, after Nina finds me griping my side and unable to move (what would later be diagnosed as extreme dehydration and nerves) I visit Dr. Wynn. Dr. Wynn is a cool doctor from the Ivory Coast. He has the whitest smile I have ever seen.  I can’t get enough of his British accent. When he gives me the results of my MRI he sits  me down in the fashion of a little league coach and a closing pitcher and basically says, look, you're a healthy young man. Your liver and kidneys are fine. If there's something in your past that's causing you to drink all the time you need to deal with it because obviously your prostituting your own talents and gifts simply by feeling the need to drink beer all day.

I have the bulk of day 38 written and all I can think about is how much of a failure i am because I owe everyone money. I find myself the morning of June 6th inside Walgreens on Western avenue, a six pack of Budweiser (because it was chilled) tucked under my arm like a lunch pail, a twelve pack of tepid unchilled thoroughly cost efficient Pride of Peoria PBR dandled beneath the antipodal  limb like a scarecrow at the post of a NASCAR affiliated racetrack. I have been clean for almost forty days. I have been in liquor stores almost every day to purchase tobacco and have refrained from buying beer. I have been in bars I love surrounded with human beings I acutely care about and adamantly refrained from a slinging a few cold ones back. I have been in this Walgreen’s nearly every morning to purchase my beloved New York Times and give cool Barb behind the counter a hug  never once having it pop into my mind to meander down the ersatz stem of the beer aisle and drool.

The moment I purchased the beer a metronomic-switch was flipped somewhere in my frontal lobe and I don’t hurt anymore.

I don’t feel like a failure.

I feel less depressed. I feel witty. I flirt with the two unassumingly naive white-trash girls behind me in line (which I readily assure you Peoria has no paucity thereof) that the electronic cigarettes they are smoking look like they are taking calculated puffs off a community tampon.  I walk home with a loping jig attached to my gait.  I toss the PBR in the freezer, doffed the  amber phallus of a Budweiser from the cardboard holster and gratuitously chug. In less than ten minutes I have already drowned three beers and am fishing for a fourth. In less than an hour I have seminally slammed around thirteen.

I am blasting music. I am feeling less like an artistic fuck up.

For the first time in over a month I unzip in front of the porcelain stump of my toilet with heterosexual male assenting horseshoe seat down and take a long-elongated beer piss, giving the virile baton of my anatomy a healthy shake before cracking open another cold one and slamming it into crunched aluminum oblivion following a gallant slurp. When I go to get more beer I saunter into a bum sifting through the dumpster behind the Get-a-Way looking for copper. I give him a twenty dollar bill and, in the words of George Carlin, tell him that the funds are to be used for beer and wine.

"Don't let me catch you drinking milk now out of a paper bag or anything like that."

 Within a week I’ll be pounding 15 beers a day.

It was like the entire month of May never happened.


As if metaphysically scripted I bump into ol' Cliff while walking back from the liquor store. Cliff who drinks 20 beers a day. Cliff with no teeth who built a helicopter in his front yard. Cliff who can build anything yet lives in a house with no plumbing and drinks 25 beers a day

 His anatomy looks like stale peanut brittle.
I give him a beer and five minutes into the conversation her just turns to me.
"I read some of what you been writing. I mean, about not there drinking and all. I mean, I couldn't understand half of it but I could tell that it was really good and all."
I am silent. Bridely I wonder if ol' cliff assayed the essay about himself. 
"I just wanted to tell you that I'm proud of you. I know its hard and I know you and I both like to drink. But I'm proud of you for really giving it a shot, even though you fell a couple of days short." 

 I don't know what to say.

I go home and call up the Student Loan Phuck. I refrain from making any references to Franz Kafka. After an hour I am able to forgo having my wages garnished.

I take another sip of beer.

Finally this shit is resolved.


Even though I capitulated a block and a half before the finish line I still had my party on Saturday June 8th at my favorite watering hole in West Peoria, the Tartan Inn.  Before I arrived I took my mom  out to dinner at Avanti’s and to see a play at Corn Stock,  MUSIC MAN. Music Man is a very special summer-sappy musical to me first germinal acting experiencing in CCT  back in the halcyon summer of ’92 where I portrayed Charlie the anvil salesman and had my first on-stage kiss and the ebullient director Miss Pam Tucker-White chided me because purportedly I tried to slip the tongue a seducing credential-waylaying Marian the Madame librarian, but more than that, when I was in Music Man the summer apres I graduated eighth grade with a bunch of kids culled from Tazewell county it was the first time I really experienced the world of art and how art can be used to connect and make an audeince feel less alone in the world.

 Before we arrived at the theatre mom informs me that she was pillaging through some old boxes in the basement and came across a box of my father’s belongings.  There was a beige sweater that my father used to teach in and I planted my nose in the musk scented teacher-lounge tweed and inhaled as if I were trying to snort crushed Ritalin.   As I did while looking at his glasses and wallet, listening to the money-grubbing soliciting carols of the daffy high-pitched co-ed requesting money, talking about the importance of meat trays in correlation to domestic grieving.
 The play got later than I anticipated and I arrived at the gala to celebrate my failed foray into sobriety almost and hour late.    When I arrive the Tartan Inn is agog and full of laughter and I am surrounded by people I love. Kyle devalk with glasses sans scruff- brittle beard looks like Harry Potter toddled into Lens Crafters with a prescription for a Nimbus 2000 and came out with a toppling pyramid of BEAT literature. He is reading a book of poems by Bob Kaufman.  Poet Megan Canella is seated at the bar a copy of Nathaniel West's MISS LONELYHEARTS next to her beer coaster. Inside the front cover  of the book is a poem that was so beautiful I told her I would publish  it in my blog:

The party commemorating my 40 days of self-discovery was a typical DVB bacchanalian fete. We drank beer and guzzled shots and closed down the bar and then adjourned to my apartment to continue to party and drink until the tangerine flavored sun squinted into the eastern overhead shoreline of my kitchen window.  It was cool partying with friends again. Cool having hot girls in my apartment once again. Cool hanging out with Louis the amicable neighborhood lush. Cool getting trashed and talking about books and hurling furniture off the deck of my back porch while having my friend take her top off and flash passing traffic skirting along Waverly avenue at 3:30 in the morning, all the while howling at the lunar bellow of the moon above.
But the highlight of the night happened maybe fifteen minutes after I entered the bar. In the corner by the new dart machine there was group of women drinking fruity mixed drinks, giggling with the manager cool Joe. They looked like they were at a bachelorette party. I am seated next to Kyle slamming a celebratory Guinness when Joe waves me over.
“These are your fans right here, Dave.” He says. I have never seen any of these women in my life. I thank them for reading. I buy them drinks.  The one in the middle has a beautiful shy hyphen smile and is in her early forties. She seems to no more about SUCCULENT SOBRIETY than does the author.
“I wasn’t going to talk with you. I was just going to take your picture with my cell phone.” She says, very demurely.
I look down in humility. I thank her for reading.
She then pulls me aside.
“I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable but I need to ask you a question.”
I tell her she can ask me anything she wants.
She asks me if Arthur Von Behren was my father.
 I nod and say yes.
“Your dad was my favorite teacher. I had him in sixth grade at Beverly Manor in Sunnyland. He would stay after and help me with math. He taught me how to play chess. He was just the gentlest, kindness human being I have ever met. I cried when I found out he died suddenly ten years ago.”
I look back at this woman who has unbeknownst to me been following my writing for the past month. She is looking at me with gratitude blinking in the petals of her eyes. I don’t know what to say.
I hold up one finger and tell her to wait here for a moment.
I run out of the bar. Two minutes later I am home and two minutes after that I return to my new found friend.
"Here," I say to her, handing her the sweater my mom opportunely gave me earlier that evening. The musk-scented beige sweater. The sweater that belonged to my father.
"My mom gave me this tongiht. It belonged to my father. I want to give it to you know as a thank you for knowing my dad and for reading my shit the past month. It means alot. Thank you."
She accepts the sweater. I tell her if she plants her nose into the sweater she can smell my father. She sniffs it like a bouquet.
While she is sniffing I swear, just for a moment, I can see what my faceless reader  looks like.
I take another swig of my Guinness. I think about my father staying after school making a student who struggled in junior high mathe feel special and loved.
I lift my chalice to the ceiling of the Tartan Inn and give my father a silent salute.
Somewhere if I squint hard enough I can make out the gruff folds of his gentle smile in the bar lights above.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Day 38 (cont): Wizened Roadhouse Wheels....


All I could think about on the phone that day while I was trying to validate the disputed corporate authenticity of the date of my birth was my late father.

The day after my father died the brick kiln of my mother’s house is clotted with relatives. Mom has been advised to go through my father’s closet and donate his clothes to Goodwill right away because if she doesn’t do it now, while surrounded by people she loves, she may never do it. Mother has told me that I should feel free to sift through the corduroy scented musk of my late- father’s attire and help myself to whatever articles of his clothing I like and that she will donate the rest in two days time.

Everyone is still stunned that he is gone. Everyone is psychologically muted. Everyone's face is ruffled with evaporated streaks of rivulets indicative of arid tears.

I can’t get the image of my father on his deathbed out of my mind.

His skin looks like a coppery flattened penny abandoned  that has been freshly urinated on. His eyes are completely sallow. His mouth is open and titled and he is fighting to exchange oxygenated particles.

In his room are his glasses that look like a folded checkbook (the glasses which he will later be buried in) and his wedding ring (which the funeral home will place on his clasped taxidermied hands during the open casket wake and then return it to my mother after the service). The house is full of meat trays. The living room has transitioned into an arboretum of fragrance and grief. Relatives are flipping through old   photographs of my father they will later array on a science fairesque mural that people will look at while waiting in line at the funeral parlor to pay their collected respects.  Humorous vignettes of my late father. The picture of him dressed up as Super Man at Aunt Jan’s annual Halloween party (he came claiming he wasn’t feeling well and didn’t want to dress up and then clandestinely planted my mother’s purse and claimed it was stolen and looked for it then went into a closet and popped out dressed up like Superman with my mother’s purse in paw). The picture of my father wearing almost Woody Allen goggles on the date of his wedding day. Pictures of my father clad in a late-seventies butterfly-collar spearmint t-shirt teaching young students how to read. Pictures of my family vacationing up in camp Arcadia. Pictures of my father playing the piano. The goofy picture that always embarrassed me of my father and Uncle Larry and Uncle Albert wearing pink underwear over their slacks circa Christmas ‘88 because it was some sort of a gag-gift.

My dad has been dead less than 24 hours and I am drinking a Guinness. His clothes are folded in trapezoids and pentagon-configured heaps. The phone rings and I answer it. People have been calling and stopping by the house all day bringing meat trays and plants and expressing their condolences.

   The girl on the other end of the phone has a daffy-high-pitched inflection itched into her voice. She sounds like she is from the Chicago suburbs and that her parents’ incestuously mated with rehabbing members of the Belushi clan. She asks if she can speak with Arthur Von Behren. From her voice it sounds like she is Polish and everything she says is punctuated with an effervescent question mark.

I ask whom may I say is calling. She says it is the Campaign fund at Bradley. She is a student at my Alma Mata, the same school where my Father attended.

She is soliciting alumni for money.

 “I’m so sorry. He’s deceased.” I say, looking at his glasses. Looking at the gilded oval and matrimonial socket of his wedding ring. Looking at my father's orange coin purse he always carried with him like a good luck talisman. On the front of the sylvan framed dresser that used to belong to my grandma I see my father’s wallet.

“Our records indicate that he is still alive, sir.” She says, asking me if I am sure.

I watched life leak out of my father’s visage less than one whole global rotation ago.

I don’t know what to say.

My father is dead. His wallet is lying in front of me. It is stuffed with insurance cards and identification cards.  There are notecards with bible passages scribbled on them that he was memorizing for his Sunday school class. There are awkward adolescent pictures of each of us his progeny in different stages of grade school development.

"No. He's dead. He's very much dead indeed." I tell her, thinking less of the word Kafkaesque and more of the word irony.  A carpeted bustle is heard one room over. Everyone’s eyelids and cheeks are stained with salty peninsulas from hours of crying. Everyone is wobbling as if with sea legs from complete lack of sleep. It is early February. The house smells like the botanical gardens after a light spring drizzle, the condolence botanical stem of choice being that of a Peace Lily.

My father has been dead for less than 24 hours. I can't believe the University I attended and dropped out of and will later return and owe forty thousand dollars to is asking for money.

I don't know what to say.

I want to erupt. I want call her a cunt. I want to bend her over her work carrel in Baker hall and forcefully undo the junior high locker combination of her belt buckle and zipper, sluice down her jeans in thunderous yank, manacle her goddam panties around to the caps of her knees and rape the hell out of her. I want to empty myself in guttural thrusts and  syncopated snaps, leaving braille-shaped teeth marks into the back of her neck. I want to empty myself of all the grief and the hurt and the pain and the moment i am ready to cum, herald out the syllables of my father’s name in a caterwaul of exclamatory grief, thinking that somehow I can bring him back.

I am thinking all this while looking at my father's glasses and wallets, sifting through attire that will soon be hung up  on wiry hangers at goodwill.

"Is there a problem, sir?" She asks.  Part of me needs to vent. Part of me remains reticent.

I take a calculated breath as if I am ready to wail into a brass mouthpiece.

"You know what? I was just thinking. The best part about funerals are the meat trays. I mean, when you really think about  it, the best part about a funeral are all of the meat trays and the potluck flavored dishes everyone drops by your house-- it's like finding a bassinet in front of the orphanage steps on Christmas morning. I mean, meat trays, that's really what it is all about, when you think about it. "

"Meat trays?" She says again, escalating her voice a nasal octave above completely annoying.

"The best part about funerals are the meat trays." I say again before hanging up. Before falling down. Before slamming another Guiness to feel the splotch of emptiness brimming inside my chest. Before planting my nose deeply into one of my father's beige colored v-cut teaching vests.

Before wielding shut the pigment blinds shuttering my eyes.

 Before I deeply inhale.



 "Wielding a sickle, Cronus, the youngest and craftiest son of Uranus, the god of the sky, severed his father's genitals and flung them into the sea thus fertilizing the water and Aphrodite was born...she is primeval, oceanic in her feminine power. She is from the beginning of time and holds court at the bottom of the sea. In psychological terms she reigns the unconscious, symbolized by the waters of the sea. She is scarcely approachable in ordinary conscious terms; one might as well confront a tidal wave."

                                   --Robert A. Johnson, SHE



The best analogy I know for living a life in the arts is culled from the end of the movie FIELD OF DREAMS. In the movie Kevin Costner portrays a cracker barrel blue collar farmer who hears a voice orienting him to inexplicably graze his rural source of vegetative income and construct a baseball diamond in the middle of a bumfuck nowhere. In the middle of Iowa. In the middle of an arable land sea giving birth to knee-high green femurs that will one day resemble corn. Costner's character heeds the artistic call, poleaxes his prairie income, experiences mystical mavens clad in  exiled Cooperstown pin-stripes, dances with the late-night magic of his dream.

What is so compellingly right-on about Field of Dreams is the needle point accuracy in which it portrays the Visionary's quest. When the simple farmer hears a voice that no one else hears and feels led to serve the call he voluntarily sacrifices his income and his security. His marriage suffers. His farm goes into foreclosure.  He has no money.  He has given his identity to a cause  greater than himself, so great that it defies the linear vicissitudes of logic and borders on the erratic and the insane.

At the end of the movie the protagonist has given every narrative molecule of his being to the fruition of his dream when  the ballpark wraith invite iconic counter-culture writer James Earl Jones (who is JD Salinger's doppelganger in the novel) to explore  the inscrutable sheaths of corn and not Kevin Costner.

Kevin Costner goes apeshit.


The austere-lipped ballpark wraith just looks at him demurely, stolidly blinks, and, with and with an angular nod to his chin states one of the most profound mantras I have ever heard.:

"Is that why you did this? For you?"

One of the cool things about becoming a writer is that, out of every artistic vocation and intellectual inflection that I know, no one can physically show you how to do it. Major in music or performing arts and your instructor will place your fingertips on the frets of the guitar; show you which vowels to enunciate in Alexander-technique fashion while performing that stage soliloquy, critique the allegro of your brush strokes as you swath your painted brilliance onto the canvas of your choice.

When you dedicate your life to this craft of arraying letters into fumbling sentences of creative sound, you realize that, in the immortal words of novelist Richard Powers, "The loneliness of writing is that you baffle your friends (and family) and change the lives of strangers."  Your life goes on hold for a half-decade as you wake up three hours early to hammer out sentences before attending a job you more than likely loathe. You watch the proverbial one-that-gut-away-eh-there-son girl of your dreams marry a man, ("One dull man--dulling and uxorious with one average mind. With one thought less each year.") propagate a family and hurt.  You monopolize spilled decades of solitude. You diagram the coalescing narratives of the human condition in verbal-chromosomes seen only to you and you do it for a faceless reader you have never met, hoping that your laborious craft will be there for them in times of hurt and need

"Is that why you did this? For you?"

It is ten years after my father’s death and I am on the phone in my apartment chatting with the supervisor of the SLP (Student Loan Phuck) who has never heard of Franz Kafka or Frieda Kahlo or apparently Financial Kindness when it comes rectifying the situation with my loans.  Six weeks earlier poet Kyle Devalk arrived at my house from the February frost of the Northern country simply to write. We have been hedonistic beyond all fathoms of fucks. The two of us usually kill about 35 beers a day between us. When we are not slamming beers while composing in our respective sanctuaries we are living at the Owls Nest or Champs West or the Getaway.  For about five hours every afternoon Kyle can be heard pelting stanza’s into his moribund late-seventies typewriter that looks like a diesel lawn mower engine. His sentences are greeted with plastic chomps emanating from my own keyboard one room over in an echoing tango of alphabetical quarks.  When Kyle left home he filched his mother’s credit card and we partied hardcore off it for three weeks. I’ve spent at least 600 bucks on booze.  We make a Jungian mandala from the diminutive doffed crowns once constituting the wonkavator on my kitchen counter while reciting  Kerouacian Koan’s of light .  We blast Leonard Cohen at high volume.  We make fliers for local poetry readings and pass them out to random strangers’ like unsolicited biblical literature. We have crazy riveting hedonistically-hyperborean roller-coaster literary conversations at all hours of the day pontificating the timelessness of poetry as we sip our PBR’s. We see Garrison Keillor up close, vow to fuck Heather Masse. Somehow Oliver Stone’s THE DOORS is always playing in the background and we find ourselves wading  in the chorus of NOT TO TOUCH THE EARTH several times a day.

Kyle is one room over typing. The supervisor comes on the phone and I explain that there is a problem with my student loan payment.

 “ My date of birth was just fine the last time I made a payment. It was obviously some snafu since I received a letter that the company I was paying my loans through is now going by a different name.  Whoever entered my data when you guy’s’ switched companies misplaced a digit. “

I tell the lady that I would like to make a payment.

The lady says that may be but she still needs a birth certificate or else she cannot accept my payment. She again addresses me as sir.

As much as we have poetically partied I still have 1000 reserved to make the overdue payment. It is all I have.

She tells me she could take a credit card. I tell her that I cut all my credit cards up. I tell her that I cut my ATM card up because I was always swiping it for frivolous expenses.

“You don’t understand. This is literally all I am worth on this planet. I busted my ass working sixty-five hour weeks so I could afford to make rent as well as to make this payment. I’m giving you all I have.”

My entire anatomy begins to oscillate as if on the iridescent petals of a psychedelic windmill. I am trying to refrain from emotionally venting while at the same time I am daintily endeavoring to discern why making an overdue payment for my student loans has to be so sentimentally scything, so psychologically wrenching, so physically draining.

Just so plain fucking hard.

If I squint hard enough I can make out the back of my head, my disposable trac-phone stapled and pressed into my temple like an electrode clamp from a defibrillator trying to revive a listless telephone pole in sporadic jilts.  I can see my auburn tresses dripping pass the blades of my shoulders in defeat. I can see my knees configuring into an inebriated curtsey before my shins and lower hemisphere topple into the carpet. I can see myself beginning to yelp in self-castigating staccatos.

If I squint hard enough into the sub-atomic neutrino valence that is time I can see myself almost ten years earlier talking with the lady in my father’s bedroom.

There is my father's wallet and his glasses and a heap of sweaters and he is nowhere to be found.