Monday, December 07, 2009

Writing Poetry and Staying Drunk Until This Chaos Passes Over Us

Foto by tgw, "Another Moon Over Manhattan," NYC, 2009.
How I Hate Blue Monday
Lollygagging today. I can fingerpop while I lollygag, though there ain't no joyhopping going on. I'm going backwards in my music listening. Hanging around my 50s recorded CDs. [Right now I'm listening to my old pal theryefarmerfromqueens (the late great Bob Guida) singing Hound Dog Taylor's "Give Me Back My Wig"--I'm playing the piano--it's 1985 and I'm still young and dumb except for music, women, and drinking (in that order, too)]. Oh shit, reading Technocult and Wired and seeing them totally ignoring CDs--Tower Records has gone out of business--nobody buys CDs anymore. I do. I have over 500 stacked right behind me. Do I have to throw my CDs away now? I have a box over in THAT corner full of cassette tapes. Jesus, why can't progress slow the fuck down?

I can't get MP3 to work. I'm a god-damn dunce when it comes to going beyond the first 10 pages in a user's manual. I get past the set-up section and...I just don't have time for further learning. I lollygag a lot. Don't I have a right too? I let these damn computers do my work for me. I was excited today when I fired up my iMac G3, a blueberry, and it works like a charm except I need to upgrade the Panther it's running on. My new Toshiba laptop gives me shivers when I use it. Trust me, as a writer who has written on every kind of typewriter known to man, my laptop computer beats the shit out of any typewriter I've ever owned or used. My first typewriting machine was my grandmother's L.C. Smith she'd bought new in the middle 1920s--her pride and joy--the machine she wrote her 2 books of poetry and 1 novel on. I treasured that typewriter and hauled the damn thing around with me all over the world until I don't know what happened to it. I bought my second typewriter, an Italian Olympia, down in New Orleans while I was pretending to be William Faulkner, Jr., sitting in the Bourbon House on Bourbon Street at the same table where there was a plaque that said William Faulkner used to sit there and write. It's where he wrote his first novel, Mosquitos, a very strange novel about a social scene in New Orleans--it is a weirdly interesting novel to me--though I don't think it's anything near Light in August or Absalom, Absalom--damn, Little Bill wrote some great books, As I Lay Dying, for instance. Jesus, I haven't read any Faulkner in God knows when. Little Bill. You talk about drinking. Bourbon whiskey. I think it was As I Lay Dying he began by writing the opening chapter on the walls of his bedroom--the bottle of bourbon right by his side as he wrote away. Then it was said, he took his bottle and moved out in the backyard and wrote on it by hand before coming back in and typing it up--or maybe Bill had a secretary. I had a chance to take his class when he taught at the University of Virginia but alas it was too expensive--I was enrolled in a cheap ass state college--$50 a semester and that was a challenge to my expenses in those days. Little Bill's class was like $250 and I would have had to pay room and board to VU while I was there, like maybe another $600. $850 was like a year's salary to me in those college boy days, though I always seemed to have plenty of beer money when the weekend beer run came around.

I was up very early this morning. Was over on Fifth Avenue and 30th at 6 am getting coffee, a chocolate croissant, and a Juice Guys's "Big Cranberry." A bachelor's breakfast. And I am living alone so therefore I am a bachelor. Feels funny living alone after living with other people so many years off and on. I was writing on a Gestalt overview of the women I have driven mad, to drink, or as one of my exes put it, "You drove me back to reading the damn Bible again." When I really get a writing buzz on, the lollygagging ends and I go into my assiduous mode. On this project I ended up writing 5 or 6 pages rapid fire on just the first woman who came to mind, my very first serious girlfriend--she was in high school; I was in college. And I manipulated her like I manipulate all my women. I read George Du Maurier's Trilby as a young romantic college freshman. I shouldn't have read that book; it was a bad influence on my attitude toward women. But like Svengali, I considered myself a connoisseur of fine art, a master of choiceness, with the ability to hypnotize women, with the persuasiveness to put them under my mesmerizing spell.

Like my first serious girlfriend. She was all involved with writing and editing her high school newspaper--yes, the same high school I had graduated from a couple of years earlier. I was a sophomore in college when I was introduced to this girl by my brother, who at that time was the entertainment and arts and book page editor of my hometown newspaper. This girl wrote his "Record Review" column for him. When I was introduced to her, I knew she was exactly what I had been looking for in a girlfriend. Besides, I knew she wanted badly to be a journalist and my brother was to her a famous journalist. It was a perfect set up. In those days, I introduced myself as a poet--and I was a poet, too. I had already by the time I met this girl published two poems in the Piggott, Arkansas, newspaper--it had a poetry section. And then one night this high school rock 'n roll columnist asked me a question about T.S. Eliot. Of course, as a posing poet, I knew not one damn bit about T.S. Eliot. I hadn't even read him yet, though I knew who he was. However, I knew my brother knew all about T.S. Eliot, loved him; in fact, along with Gerard Manly Hopkins, Eliot was his favorite poet. Later, after my brother met Eliot at the University of Texas one summer, he named his second son after him. That kid had a signed letter from T.S. telling my brother what an honor it was for him to have named his son after him. There weren't many Elliotts in those days who spelled their names with one "L." So, old Svengali me took my wide-eyed young lover over to my brother's and he spent the evening with us explaining T.S. Eliot to us. Oh Lord, that so worked. I got some good lovin' that night.

Before I got to college any relationship I had with girls was strictly based on a principle of "which-girl-can-I-get-to-go-to-the-drive-in-with-me-who'll-put-out-if-I'm-lucky-on-the-
first-date?" That's right, my right of passage, from a shy naive fool to a brash, charming, half-sex-maniac. Until I read Trilby. Then I realized the power of my male assets. I knew I was attractive to girls. I had never had any trouble getting dates. I was just a sex-bumbling naive goofball in high school; got the dates but didn't understand what nuances I needed to develop in order to give myself enough maturity that I didn't even have to take girls to the drive in anymore to get some "lovin'." Now I could take them to art museums and indoor cinemas where I would go into long detailed insights into various pieces of art a la Elie Faure, or criticizing the movies a la Pauline Kael. Or perhaps exaggerating a bit on my own cinematic history: "I had an uncle who started his own film studio back in the 1920s. From him I learned film technique...blah, blah, blah."

Ah, the Svengali in me was evolving. Soon in college I was dating jazz singers, stage actresses (one, a truly beautiful young woman who really could act her ass off, too, who I wrote a whole stage play for), and women who wanted to be school teachers, especially music teachers. My sexual conquests came at the end of a long intellectual period of dating (at the library--in the stacks--a great place to date). I could actually get laid in college by simply acting like I was a high-brow intellectual. And meet the most interesting women, too.

Like this woman I went with who wanted to be a children's book writer. She developed this elephant character to whom I gave the name "Xes" (pronounced like Texas). Xes the Elephant. I wrote "Xes at the Grocery Store" for her. She got an A for the story. Xes at the grocery store was funny as hell. He was so big every aisle he went down he knocked everything asunder. As a result, Xes got banned from grocery stores and was beginning to tear up his neighbors's lawns and eating the leaves off their trees, eating their hedges, etc.; soon Xes became the object of an urban elephant hunt. I don't know if she rewrote the story and made it dopey or whether she turned it in just like I wrote it, but whatever, she made an A on the damn thing. I advised her to try her hand at some other art besides writing and she threw me out of her life.

The record review girl was another matter. God, when she looked at me I knew she was looking at me with admiration. She thought I hung the damn moon. And I tried to hang the moon right over her gorgeous young head. And she was my Trilby for several years. My Gestalt overview of her could turn into a novel easily.

One suspicion I have about being a writer these days. If you ain't got no connections forget getting published. Unless you publish your own books, which you can do in the Internet. You can even get your books bound. You sell them on your Website. There ya go. But don't expect anybody to buy your books off your Website. You've got to get listed on, right?

Maybe the writer of the future will be some silly goof who learns how to write animated novels--movie-like novels where you read whatever image you want into a passage--like the settings--make them any where you want them, like on the stage at the amphitheater in Ephesus.

Remember "Leisure Suit Larry"?

Shelby's Poetry Test

Shelby (Surdyk) of Skagway hasn't posted since April of this year. Could it be she's graduated high school? By the way, I made 85% on this test (it was very easy for me, though I goofed a couple of times)--the test result said I had super-poetry understanding, which I do, though like my current fav, Charles Bukowski, I am an intuitive poet. Here's Shelby's blog:

And Here's a Bukowski Masterpiece (that is if you think Charles is poetmaster)

tough company

poems like gunslingers
sit around and
shoot holes in my windows
chew on my toilet paper
read the race results
take the phone off the

poems like gunslingers
ask me
what the hell my game is,
would I like to
shoot it out?

take it easy, I say,
the race is not to
the swift.

the poem sitting at the
south end of the couch
balls off for that

take it easy, pardner, I
have plans for

plans, huh? what

The New Yorker,

he puts his iron

the poem sitting in the
chair near the door
looks at me;
you know, fat boy, you
been pretty lazy

fuck off
I say
who's running this

we're running this
say all the
drawing iron:
with it!

here you are:

this poem
was the one
who was sitting
on top of the refrigerator

and now
I've got him
out of the way
and all the others
are sitting around pointing
their weapons at me and

I'm next, I'm next, I'm

I suppose that when
I die
the leftovers
will jump some other
son of a bitch.

Charles Bukowski, Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Singers Begin to Bleed a Bit, p 18, Black Sparrow Press, 1982.

And, yes, poems are tough company.

I like the way Bukowski thinks. I can brag that I have published in the same issue of a magazine with Bukowski and for a couple of issues we were both listed as "Contributors" on the masthead page. I have visited his beloved Los Angeles. He loved Los Angeles for the reasons I hated it. It was his hometown however and I'm sure he would have hated my hometown worse than I hated his hometown.

I've been as drunk as Bukowski many a night back in my developing years. I drank beer all day and CC and 7 at night. In Texas in my youth you brought your own liquor to bars and restaurants and they sold you set ups--glasses, stirrers, a bucket of ice, and mixers (Coke, tonic water, seltzer, 7 Up). This meant if you took a fifth of booze with you to a club, you'd end up drinking the whole fifth. You could get mighty drunk. Every night when I moved to Dallas and got a job. Every night except Sunday night and Monday night--the rest of the nights I was out bar hopping or there was a party at somebody's house or apartment. Being drunk meant nothing to me--like showing up at work right off a night of tom catting and having to run into my office--my office had a bathroom--I was the office manager, an executive--and hit that bathroom and quick as a wink I'd be taking French whore bath. I even got to keeping a bar of Yardley's lavender soap there, and a stick of Old Spice deodorant, and a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a small bottle of bay rum in case the leftover drunk odors were stronger than the Yardley's, the Old Spice, and the Colgate's combined--then a heavy dose of bay rum and I was limey smelling the rest of the day.

I remember coming to work off a wild night one time to the juvy where I was office manager--the juvy was the juvenile detention center--only a square wouldn't know what a juvy
was--Bukowski would sure know. And as I ran in the door and headed for my office and a French whore bath and a dousing of bay rum, I ran right into one of the young smartass juvy girls, a loudmouth darling of 14 who looked 21 (and later got a caseworker friend of mine fired when they found out he was shacking up with her on the outside after she was released from the juvy). She blurted out real loud, "Hey, Mr. Wolfe, what did you use for deodorant this morning, bourbon?"

Now I can find that funny as hell. But when she said that I almost went up side her head--though I managed to laugh her off with, "Mind your own fucking business, baby girl," though as it turned out, she wasn't a baby girl at all--only in age.

So I've been a drunk, though not like Bukowski was a drunk. My best friend here in New York, a poet by the way, was a Bukowski-type drinker. He woke up and drank almost a whole six pack of Budweiser before boarding his commuter train to come to work. Then at lunch he'd have four or five Beefeater martinis (4 or 5 martinis in a martini glass equals one fifth of gin) and then after work, here he'd go again. And like Bukowski the whole time my friend was drinking or working he was smoking a cigarette.

I was never that kind of drinker. Also, the older I got the less I drank. Now I drink two Heinekens ever night when I eat in my fav Irish pub. If I go to the cheap joints, I drink iced tea now. Besides, Heinekens are $7 to $10 a bottle in bars, restaurants, and nightclubs now. Forget about it if you're a martini addict. Martinis must be around $10 a hit now. The last time I ordered a snifter of Jameson's Gold Irish Whiskey, they charged me $12. My meals are still relatively inexpensive; I can get my little sirloin steak dinner at my fav Irish Pub for under $20. With only two beers, the bill shoots up to $34. With iced tea the bill is still under $20. I'm a big tipper. Big tips used to get me special treatment anywhere I went where I was known, especially at my fav Irish Pub. Every 3 beers, I got a buyback. Pay for one Irish whiskey and get a buyback on the next one. Also, soup and/or a salad came with every meal; not so now.

But I am the same kind of poet Bukowski is--and my early poetry was written while I was drunk or drinking at least. In college, I drank Cherry Kijafa while I wrote my poems. One of my first stories I sold I wrote in my living room in Santa Fe while drinking a whole case (24 bottles) of cold Cruz Blanca brews. My wife came home and found me passed out over my typewriter, dead soldiers lying all around me on the living room floor. That's the first story I ever sold. My wife edited it and sent it off for me. I got an acceptance letter three weeks later. I got $600 for it, I swear, from Cavalier magazine, a girly
mag that was seriously trying to compete with Hugh Hefner's Playboy--putting short stories and poetry between the naked girl pictures--the tits and ass photos. Those were days when magazines courteously didn't even show a naked woman's pubic hair--and there were certainly no open-legged, spread-eagle vagina shots like there are in today's girlies or on the Internet.
Cavalier magazine. Note, the lead story is "Earl Long--Hottest Man in America" by William Bradford Huie. Uncle Earl. Huey Long's brother. Senator Russell Long's father. Uncle Earl was certified nuts. He spent a little time in a mental institution, but when they let him out he ran for governor of Louisiana and, by God, he won. Uncle Earl, that crazy motherfucker, became Governor of Louisiana. As governor, Uncle Earl spent most of his term in office on Bourbon Street in the strip clubs--Lili St. Cyr stripped on Bourbon and so did Uncle Earl's number one babe, Blaze Starr.
Blaze Starr
So there y'all go, a lollygagging post. A lazy post. An intuitive post. A head-arrangement post. I once had a bumper sticker on my 1951 Chevy that said, "Don't Hand Me No Bum Steer." I didn't put it on the car, the woman who owned it before me put it on there. I couldn't get it off, so it stayed on the car until I shoved it off the highway into a junk yard where I sold it for $35. So in hopes I didn't hand you a bum steer of a post, I'll shuffle on off to Buffalo a happy-go-lucky hyperbole-snatching tinker-writer and leave y'all to have a Merry....

Remember, old Santy can only come once a year...and that's down a damn chimney.

for The Daily Growler

No, we didn't forget it was Pearl Harbor Day!

No comments: