American Hacker

photo (3)He brushed me on the leg in a half-hearted slap in order to give emphasis to his point. This was the second time he had touched my leg. “Why didn’t you tell me [the major landmark]!” He turned facing me, “Up and down up and down, what’s wrong with you?” he implored and chastised me for my poor directions in a thick Long Island accent. What are you, some kind of egg head, right? am I right…? Oh… Shit… Ha! Got by that one! Now from anger to happy as a child makes happy, he had won this round, nowhere was there any flashing lights, no siren, no having to pull over, he turned around more in his seat as if it were a swiveling Lazy-boy chair, fully facing me now, which would not be a problem, since I am not shy, I can face those I am in discussion with, look directly in your eyes when you are talking to me, don’t mind the casual back or knee slap, but this guy, this one, he was driving the car I was in. And he just blew yet through another stop sign.
I have been traveling about of late, and in doing so in areas of this great nation I would never typically place on my itinerary, as it were. We charged down the suburban lane, went around a school bus that has slowed down but wasn’t yet discharging students, and came to a screeching halt at an old lady wearing a headscarf considering as to if to cross the street in the crosswalk. The car ahead had already stopped. The driver blew the horn. Come on, move it, shit or get off the pot! Fucking headrag! What the fuck are you wearing? You know, he continued a previous story, my friend came by a photography of Yankee Stadium and we were thinking, it’s the 1960s but no, it’s the 1940s. Ah, I thought to myself, or said out loud or both. He then answered the phone and had a long discussion with dispatch about the photo and the Yankees, from the 1940s! Fucking 1940s just these two cute kids in front of the stadium and you can see how happy they are, no my landlord found it, yeah, I’m going to make an 8×10 out of it, yeah. My father started this cab company, he went on to tell me after his phone call, but I fucked up, I was too busy chasing women, now I’m 61 and just a driver, but I did that. Loved women, really fucked up – here he made a lewd approximate representation of the genitals of a woman with his hands to illustrate his story – I was just after this spot between their legs, so I fucked up but I’m doing all right, I’m single, don’t got no one, but I still got girlfriends, in their 20s, and I’m 61!
His hands in gesture maintained the “pussyesque” shape and considering it took both hands to describe this certain feature of females in this digital form, that left exactly zero hands on the steering wheel.
We sped down suburbia, past houses that looked exactly similar, a wilderness of material comfort unknown to former ages and the majority of the world.
Taxis in most major cities are about the same. A driver from Asia, Southeast Asia, the Subcontinent, or some vague land of the caucuses we choose to believe doesn’t exist drives about often talking in a language The Googles cannot yet translate on a phone that seems permanently embedded in his ear (except for one time it was a women from China who yelled at me). Taxis in the second cities, in the smaller urban areas, in the hubs of travel less visited are a surprising and diverse affair to this monolithic body of immigrants.
Failed college students, elderly men, former military, island refugees, dudes who claim to have grown up in “the hood” dudes who perhaps led rebellions in their former lands or belonged to strange cults all drive and inevitably chat extemporaneously. Each one of these characters drives the same car however. It makes strange noises. A clunking sound from the tyre region a ticking sound from under the hood. Doors that have tricks to open or shut, oh my god, they never fill the fluids after their shift, she said as I got in side a car about to fall into pieces that I was taking further into the woods in order to rescue my Jeep from the impound lot after a snowstorm in Northampton.
photo (4)The village hack is also always doing something else and just happens to be driving a cab at the moment I meet him or in rare instances… her (Portland, 2013, Northampton, 2010, New York City, 1999). “I’m working in construction, but came out here and took this job driving till I catch up on bills,” Ottumwa taxi driver said. Portland told me he was working in a bookstore as his real job. Getting to know the island, driving a taxi was the best way to do this for a year or so, Key West told me. Virginia Beach was working on a start up of some kind. Going to school, said Hudson. I had to leave New York and this just turned out to be the best job down here Orlando claimed. Jacksonville just got divorced but was an electrical engineer. Fort Myers was a musician and owned quite a few houses he was fixing up, he liked to flip property. Omaha grew up in Omaha and knew it all and challenged me to ask him trivia. While life is what we do while busy making plans, it seems that driving in this capacity is something that has to be accounted for, explained in some way as if to reassure the passenger that they are indeed normal people. Even if the elderly man in a cab I took in Huntington grilled me on what I thought of black people and told me his life story since the 1964 riots, he never assumed this was not normal. Of course we fled after the riots, I read The Post, I see the police blotter and it’s my old neighborhood just murder, murder, murder and so we came out here for the good life. He yelled at a car the cut him off, motherfuckerillkillyou!
Perhaps there is something to this reassurance. Based on some of the more eccentric rides, my vote is that there is nothing normal about the people who drive a cab. In Tzarist Russia the majority of the hacks were Skoptsi, ritualistically castrated devotees of a strange branch of the Christian religion. In the smaller oblasts and parishes of America it is indeed perhaps because several of these people look like me and you that we can see just how outside of the social norms they are, but I also propose that underneath the occult spices and exotic-seeming cultures of the drivers in major cities, were we to speak Urdu or know something about Kazakhi cultural norms, these people are also fucking batshit cray cray insane in the membrane and drive a taxi because of it.
Because there is some strange people driving taxis out there…
It was only a few blocks to the party. We had been at a bar, but decided to regroup at one of the member’s apartments, which was convenient for everyone but me since I was the only one who was not ridding a bike. The apartment was but a few blocks away, several actually, and we were out in Brooklyn, not too far, but far enough that one relies on radio cabs for transport since the issue about Brooklyn is that you can always get to The City, that is Manhattan, with all manner of public transportation but you can’t get to Brooklyn from Brooklyn. So I said I needed the air and I would walk, and so I did. Walk along, slightly buzzed perhaps. As I walked to my destination, I happened to hear a horn. The tell-tale sign of a radio cab attempting to solicit a street hail, which while not legal was one way to get a ride, but one that since there was no meter you had to haggle or fenegal or kibbitz or yagshaggal or yadayadaya or some other negotiation that cannot be named outside of the Sephardic tongue. Honk! Honk! I ignored it. Honk! You need a ride? I’m not going far, I checked my pocket and I had about $20 and needed to save that money for booze. Hey, you need a ride? I’m not going far and I don’t have any money. OK, where you go, goddamn he was persistent. The Lincoln Town Car with the TLC plate, the sticker saying no smoking, the number that was all 6′s all 7′s or 8′s as taxis seem to always obtain, the smell of too much car air freshener I could smell from the sidewalk, it was annoying but when I told him where I was going and he said, $5! I thought well, my friends would get there, have a drink and leave and then I’d show up. So I took him up on the offer. About $20 minus $5 leaves about $15 which is about three or four drinks. Which is a sad way to count funds, but at that time of my life, and by that I mean Saturday, this was important.
So I went to the car and he opened the front door and I jumped in and buckled myself my legs actually thanked me since it was a far longer walk than what those riding bikes had made it out to be and while I had been hoofing it hard, I had still a long, long way to go.
I told him the street I needed to go. OK. We pulled out into the busy avenue. Weedeebeviousesat? He asked. Ah, yes, it is warm this spring, but we deserve it. Weeeeeduboiezat? He repeated with slightly different emphasis on different syllable of his incomprehensible statement. Yes, I’m walking a long way why yes sir this was a good idea. I turned his statement over in my mind. Weeeee Deee Bouuies Zat…. Weee Day at? He asked. A question. No, I have this one. …wee…. deee…. at. Weee… where. Deee…. they. At. Where they at? Ah, I was making progress in my cultural exchange vis-a-vis the “other” the “outsider” and the “native.” I had been such a good fucking graduate student, I read all my Cult Stud books. I don’t know, I told him. At this point, he seemed rather excited and talked more, little of which I could understand, but he kept persevering on Dee Boise, De Boiz, De Boys! The Boys? I asked. Yes!!!! De Boys, Where dey at? Ah…. OK… Strange conversation, I said, I didn’t know…. I don’t keep track of De Boys, but then at that moment he laughed, he knew I knew he knew I knew or something like that, or else he didn’t care I or he or we did not know, since he just placed his free hand, the one he apparently didn’t need to drive right on my thigh.
At this, I was able to get out of a [slowly] moving car in about one jump.
Oh comeonweedeeboysat!! he implored, his advances thwarted but his desperate yearning seemed to make sense to him and I must admit, in retrospect, he didn’t waste time beating around the bush but got right to the point. I walked quickly, I was close to where I need to go, and he followed me…. I switched directions. He managed to turn his car about on a busy street, one of those talents of a true hack, and continue to entreat me to join him in some sexcapades. Oh myyy….. I turned again and darted down my destination street. I had a good story to tell my friends who, indeed were finishing their one drink and taking off, just as I had gotten there.
The night ended and my friends turned in or rode their little bikes home.
I did not take a taxi home.
The next day, upon telling this story, I was told by a friend that a similar thing had happened to him, with a taxi driver fitting that same description, except that this fellow, drunken far greater than myself, jumped out of the taxi and then over a little fence and bushes, that hid a 15 foot drop…. he had awoken covered in blood and needing traction.
Motor City Casino and Hotel was out in the middle of fields with a few random broken buildings and a few still inhabited and some burned out monuments to Progress in what was once downtown Detroit. For a work assignment I had to travel from the apparent bastion of neo-civilization that was the flashy titty Casino out to the hinterlands, the Beyond the Pale and venture to meet a client out by 8 Mile Road, in what was once suburbia and now was a rotting burned out hell-scape of Capitalism Gone Wild or a post-informational world where urban farmers took over the now lead-filled and mercurial earth returning to a forest and field already overrun by rabbits and pheasant (perhaps the most pheasant I have ever seen in a [former(ly) major] city) depending on your perspective. I took a hack from the queue outside the hotel – very rock star coming out of a casino I guess. It was a weekday but the gambling floor was just heating up, the proximity of the weekend coming was insuring that tonight the place would be full of soon-to-be-Nuevo Rich. The cabbie asked the usual questions associated with travel. Why am I going to such-and-such a location, what do I do, and will I need a return cab. I indeed was unawares of the taxi offerings out in 8 Mile or if there would be such a service since, as I got closer to my destination, I saw that the majority of houses were vacant, boarded up, or burned to a char as is out modern American landscape and from what I have learned from years of studying my Eminem mix tape. Yes, that would be great, give me your card. I will need pick up about 3:30. The driver, Tom, said he would be getting off his shift at that time, but would come get me since he claimed there were few options out here for service and, to paraphrase Tom’s words, a long wait outside in a half-abandoned hell-scape was less than recommended. I believe the actual quote is closer to “Man you be torn apart waiting, they have wild fucking dogs out here!”
I discharged my responsibilities in keeping with my contractual obligations and was in no time out in the front of my location wondering how it could be that right next to a certain civic institution there could be so many burned out rape shacks.
Seconds turned in to minutes. Minutes turned into 20 of them, and before I just assumed I was fodder for the wild canine population, the taxi arrived to ground-lift me out. I got in the back of the car and thanked the man for getting there on time. He muttered something about being at the end of this day and now ready to just relax after my fare. I at once noticed two superbly disturbing things:
a) the meter was not on
b) the driver was high as a kite on some unknown but stinky substance that was not marijuana
He drove on, but rather than turning on to the highway, we was to take a “short cut,” let me show you some of Detroit, my tour guide said, laughing, but not a Imgoingkillyou laugh but that it’s funny laugh because I’m high laugh. We drove on. I don’t know where since, like in so many of the horror movies, my cell phone was dead. However, I also didn’t have cash. It doesn’t matter, we will find a cash machine… the man reassured me…. then he started to tell me a story, interjecting with updates as to my whereabouts and some unique featured of the landscape such as, “before this burned down it was an [XYZ]” and “you should have seen this city before it fell down.” Basically, for the most part, the story and tour guide commentary were lost on me since the words were a slur of incomprehensible phonetics or a word salad tossed for for an audience of one, me.
As we meandered through the city, I was certain we were traveling at two very different speeds. For my driver, we were racing through space at time, perhaps achieving warp speed. For me, we crawled through pothole infested roads that cut through lumpy fields, the lumps I imagined old architectural details or bodies or both under those lumpy mools and hillocks… We turned a corner and there were tables set up on the sidewalk under a tree. Some church was feeding the unfortunate, and since that was 90% of the population of this ….. *neighborhood* there was a large crowd, some milling about, one lady, looking very normally dressed and with a pocketbook was strange only since she was lying on the curb face up with her pocketbook neatly next to her. Seagulls swooped for the leftovers. It was a mixture of birds and humans in some conflagration as people eating off of polystyrene plates and chemically created cutlery shooed away their avialae foes the discarded plates and napkins blowing into the fields as modern tumbleweed. “Mishmashwingbimbimbim… huh huh… tagalogatummywub wub” my cabbie exclaimed.
I was relaxed into the adventure. There was little I could do since early on I realized there was few other cars for us to crash in to in these abandoned roads and Tom seemed an alright man, harmless really, seemed to be having a good time giving me the tour, before he plunged into another language of his own making he assured me there was no extra charge and really, I was getting the tour… albeit, of things I cannot unsee.
We finally reached the outpost, the Fort Apache that is Motor City Casino. Sad, when a place of gambling and debauchery is the safe zone…. We located a cash machine in the bank…. I paid my friend. And after a painfully slow drive the last few blocks, I was returned to my hotel.
At the train station my cabbie said he liked me and hoped once again to be my driver. I got the receipt, and closed the door whereupon he peeled off, jammed on the brakes, and blew the horn, and then tore out of sight. He was very excited about the picture of Yankee Stadium. It apparently was what he was really doing as he drove a taxi in his spare time.
photo (5)

Hipsters of The Lost Kingdom

photo (2)At the top of the Catskill Mountains is a plateau of sorts, the steep mountain roads climb up to a landscape that opens up to rolling hills. One may not even know, if dropped to this soil that one was atop the mountains… mountains we are often reminded are themselves but an ancient plateau that has eroded. And while not as high as other ranges in these United States and Territories, there are clefts in the rock, cloves, and sudden elevations in keeping with the sharper, higher, younger brethren. On top of these mountains are several far-flung villages with names like Delhi (pronounced by the locals Dell-high), Acra (pronounced Ack-rah), Cairo (pronounced Kay-row), and Phoenicia (pronounced Phone-a-kai-a/ or Fo Knee Ku-wa). Along with these curious accents that seem almost Appalachian, strange towns and hidden clusters of houses, trailers, and forever falling apart structures crop up around each winding turn each one completely different in design, history, and income of the occupant. American Peasants with their rotting car collections in the yard are neighbors to trendy retirees who dress only in black. This is a kingdom of sorts with its own ways and means and while a short drive from the river towns, these hill towns are comprised of far different people and have a nature all to their own than those villages in the Valley that remain wealthy and do not so suffer the seasonal crowd and the inconsistent economy built on vacationing masses and tree removal.
Perhaps we can call the mountain tops The Lost Kingdom, so named after the many abandoned houses, torn down mountain houses, failed motels, forgotten gardens, and farm tools and implements both piled up and scattered about, the new roads build right next to the old abandoned road, the chimneys of vanished factories and sawmills, the dams and waterways scattered with works both Public and some private scheme. As close as this region is to one of the largest cities in these United States, you can still find quiet and private places, even if this quiet may be that not of peace and stillness, but of things hidden that for a moment, have stopped moving or uttering their usual sounds. The Lost Kingdom is a place of unusual weekends and quite a few campfires that end in unremembered relations.
The town has washed away few times, most recently just a few years ago. Every time it is rebuilt there are a few more hipsters. Perhaps a conceit, a little modicum of hyperbole, this blogger should perhaps say the village was inundated with dirty pestilent muddy water and silt. The buildings are still there, and they have cleared away all the muck, the junk that washed into town from beyond and restored the usual collection of structures to rotting perfection since to be Upstate is to maintain a certain level of dilapidation. However, I am serious about the hipsters. There is more and more of them after every heavy rain.
I used to work up by way off that region, up there, in the woods, a long drive from my intended home at a position of employment that may be far too scandalous for the confines of this blog. While the area was indeed pushed away from the city it is yet connected since this is Second Home territory, the Upper Upper Upper West Side of Gothem and in those woods are ridge line glamboxes filled with aged rockers and Captains of Industry who exchanged the boozie buzz of the city for thirty meetings in thirty days and the esthetics of a new life in the hills, but a two hour drive in their BMWs to the city in the event that someone there had A Show or there was some important meeting or other glamorous and well-paid happening that needed attending in order to keep the financial pipeline flowing, since, it is well known, there are few if any jobs in those there woods. The woods, however, have been inexplicably connected to Gothem for well over centuries. Since time began actually. Theater troupes, Weekenders, painters, poets, a few random cults, artists of all stripe and musical talent and those wanabe writers, poets, and songstresses best forgotten have all made their way to the Lost Kingdom in order to work, pretend to work or be out of the city long enough to be able to re-enter the city saying, “I have been away.”
When I worked in the region, the bridge in this particular village washed out, again. When it was rebuilt, an art gallery opened up. Nothing usual about that since the region has many art galleries in the woods inexplicably placed. There were some events, but the culture of the village appeared to be an occasional thing. Then the bridge washed out again.
It has since washed out so many times there is actually a sign reminding people that the bridge is open. Again the town has been fixed up and it is back to its almost charming nature, albeit with fewer poor people. That is unintentionally and not creatively poor…. like starting artists…
photo (1)There is something strange about the mountain towns of the Catskills and Phone-a-kai-a is no different from most of the villages of the Lost Kingdom. These places aren’t very quaint. Some are downright Fugly. Others are just moments, clusters of what once was at the crossroads where people used to stop, a place where 55 MPH becomes for a time 35 MPH…. The gas stations sits all plop in the middle of most villages in the Lost Kingdom and since more than likely this gas station is a Stewart’s, it forms a new village center of town since where else are you going to have the Milk Club and get beer for your under-aged 24 rack party? For those dear readers reaching this blog from far off corners of the Interwebs, let us take a moment to explain a Stewart’s. It is a place of ice cream and air fresheners. Open later than most establishments in the upper woods and for those of us who hail from those regions, we have so created a soft spot for this gas station that cannot be fully explained other than it was our first and to some of us, only place to congregate in groups and clusters. It cannot be anything else but a Stewart’s. A beacon of hope to the traveler, and a comforting sight as any to the traveled Upstater who longs for a riotous youth, carefree childhood, and 99 cent hotdogs and knows when they see that Milk Club sign, they are home.
With climate change and increasing violent storms, there has been some changes in the Lost Kingdom. More bridges are missing, more houses in the creek, more elder barns collapsed under snow, rain, hail, developers. I fear that again the area is becoming popular. Many have, including the Gray Lady, compared the Lost Kingdom to Brooklyn, and while there is a certain level of redunk in that proposal, with the advent to increasing numbers of trucker hats and beards, it is increasingly looking like that Brooklyn we know, perhaps even a little Portland. It is hard, and this is an unsubstantiated statement with no proof, not even a wiki entry, that women cannot be identified as hipsters as simply as men …. that is, boys… can. The hipster female, and here I may lose a few readers, may appear as dressed no more unusual than her sisters. Unless she too, dons a fetching mesh trucker hat and jeans with rips just so… of course, the carbine clip and keys… well, use The Googles to see what that may portend and flip a coin for yourself.
The village of Phoenicia has been growing in the creative community for several years. In the olden days that I remember the principality of Woodstock sucked up all the creative artie-farty types leaving scant little for the other jurisdictions that were generally populated by angry former-woodsmen, former-trappers- former-quarymen, all of whom were large, strapping, and unemployed. Considering the increasing numbers of essays about Why I Am Leaving New York City by the Creative Classes, Innovator Class, and Knowing Ones, it perhaps stands that these freedom seeking creatives will come in increasing droves, and those who would normally fight to get in to the city, the younger ones, will be content either never going or after a scant few years, not landing a trendy loft or exciting career in arts and entertainment, may yearn to voyage north to open a taco hut, recycled building materials depot, or cafe beside a waterfalls. And why shouldn’t they?
After the last traumatic spring where the waters ran dirty and hard, a certain diner on a certain route was closed down. Rather than join the parade of abandoned spaces in the Kingdom, this place reopened looking more like a diner than the original diner. Rather than the locals and another attempt at a “country kitchen” this new establishment has a menu right out of old Gothem itself and if the brunch this author attended, the crowd of beards, ironic shirts, and clusters of young creatives, it seems that perhaps the woods are again to experience a resurgence, art camps, writer retreats, and organic food collectives can only follow.
We will look to see what the rains bring this year.

On Horses

69395_495952525648_6380484_nShe was a itchy little bitch. A right royal fine piece of meat and I was right on top of her as I had so wished for many many years. I had looked for her in Russia but was frustrated by the language and cost. I had found her once in Peru for a good price, but a short little jaunt in the forest and a few steep hills did not satiate me. I do remember her. A long legged creature who walked down the path of the mountain with ease since this was the village she grew up in. Maybe that was when I was in Mexico. Maybe somewhere else. I know that in Honduras I was in a Finca, a coffee plantation of some note that grew the coffee in the shade in a way that allowed some of the jungle to thrive, and there I was able to have more control, more ability to play with my charge since it had yet to adopt all the articles of paranoid laws and regulations. Then there was that time I was in Long Island. It was a picturesque experience, the cold bark of autumn and the melancholic beautiful peace of the End of The Season where the shops and beaches all were sighing relief in unison at the dissipation of the crowds, but like parents who had wished for that empty nest for so long, were already tired and lonely without that joyful noise.
I had hoped to go on an epic horse ride in some exotic land. However, here I was on the Great Prairie of Alberta, the last of the dry season and unusually warm for this time of year but I was not to complain for my ride, Darkness or Shadow or some such name, fit this horse well. There is nothing better than ridding a itchy bitchy filly and those who have had such a horse between their legs will perhaps agree. Far better is it to ride a spirited mare than atop a stallion with a sex-addled brain or a sloppy gelding who has lost all spirit and thinks only of oats and knocking one leg into the stall once in a while to relieve the boredom. Ridding a horse cut proud seems to have somewhat the best of both worlds. Some management of both the primal drive and degree of control yet some spirit and joy of life. My partner’s horse had been cut proud and he extolled the virtues. He was an old Sicilian man out here on the Grande Prairie who had farmed all his life and now with his wife ran a guesthouse. All his mounts had been trained. I was on top of a fine oiled machine, one cough, one drop of the reign, a touch too tight with my legs and she was ready to take off. I complimented the owner on his training. I am a bad rider not out of experience but because I have had the wrong experience. Years ago, decades by now, I had previously only ridden those horses saved from the tubes of glue or some stew on a Frenchwoman’s table and done so only under the strict supervision of no one.
69047_495955930648_6118520_nYears ago, decades now, I worked for a certain institution in the Hudson Valley. Through this employment and I and my siblings obtained access to some horses kept on the property we rode in exchange for caring in part for them, if not but to muck the stables when we remembered. The context and full description of this situation of working on an estate of sorts is currently outside the ken of this blog, but suffice to say the key words to follow are “horses” and “ridding and “property.” We had four horses and 450 acres of waterfront property to play with them on as the estate was right up against the Hudson River allowing us million dollar views and while poor as church-mice to disport in the manner previously reserved for nobility in centuries past and neuvorich of the present. With our second-hand saddles, Salvation Army riding clothes, boots held together by tape, and four horses we did indeed make many references to the storied horses of said Apocalypse as we must have looked like a band of gypsies from afar and not gentile nobility and since we were usually trying to hit one another with ridding crops or whip the other’s horse with our ill-trimmed reigns, we perhaps sounded and cursed and stank in some manner as our ancestors, the Huns or Tartars or Magyars as it may stand depending on if one believed the version of sexual linage from my grandmother or that presented by my grandfather. We modern day Tartar we had the colours of the Four Horses of Biblical reference. Well, almost.
62381_489643825648_6304345_nThe White one was Father Jack Smythe. And he was a fatty. Fr. Smythe was an old police horse and he was every inch that part as if our of central casting as we also said he was every inch a sailor quoting a certain traditional Irish ballad. He had a slope back that extended his gut and we always said that dressed in an old police uniform he would fit right in within any precinct. Unlike his compatriots who thought only of the safety of the paddock and oats when they were on the trail (or excited for the trail when bored in the paddock such as horses are), Fr. Smythe was curious in a way that reminded us of cops poking their nose into people’s business, at least the cartoon cops or Norman Rockwell charactures. Fr. Smythe would always come over, check out the slightest disturbance and were there some event, not matter if it was his or not, he had to check it out and insert himself into whatever event it was. He also liked chasing things. Now, the other horses would run, canter, and trot, but Fr. Smythe would give chase to a target. Usually this was an errant deer, but while the others would pursue as directed, I could lose the reigns and he would continue to sprint after our quarry an agreed upon activity. Also, he was named in jest after a local priest who was of a certain order and who shared his character. A man of great bravado who rode motorcycles and tended to the poor in foreign lands.
The dun mare shared the name of the local village wandmaker, Erin. Perhaps Erin the horse was named after Erin, a girl who at 14 had a baby or seven in order to follow in the footsteps of her sister who single-vaginaedly was ensuring the continuation of the human race by having children in what my grandparents would have called “out of wedlock” but we kids being more in tune with rated R films, used more uncompromising and foul language while avoiding those old traditional gender-normative expectations. Erin (the horse) was young and not very well-trained but she was a Morgan and a wonderful horse with as much energy as a rider would hope and spirit yet pushed into a shape manageable by humans. In other words she was about as close to greenbroke as a horse could get while remaining of some utility to the novice rider willing to risk life and limb for an afternoon’s jaunt in the fields. She required a few slaps here and there when she would try to bite one of us or give us a kick. While youth affords some manner of natural confidence, Erin was for some reason suffering from PTSDs or something that led to a great amount of horse angst which when expressed by a 1200 lbs beast is something more frightening than the fretting of Woody Allen or some other bag of bones. When out for a ride, Erin (the horse) would often jump at the slightest thing. A log! Horrors a log! A branch! Scary branch! A bird. Make it stop! At the paddock she was the frothy one even if it was but a gentle ride and we would have to comb her down and walk her off until she was more at ease. So many nights I came home to my place with the stink of Erin (the horse) upon me luck to be alive after being attacked by some squirrel noise or other sudden commotion.
Fred, the spotted gelding was a former trotter, saved from some gambling den such as Saratoga or the Meadowland track (racinos had yet to be invented) and had been bound for the glue pot or whatever they do with horses these days that does not involve the French. It took many sessions in order to break him from a trot and the day he finally broke stride he almost killed us. Something burst forth in his horse psyche and he burst forth in a spirit that had been beaten out of him and for so many years his true power was unknown and to this moment be broke reign and galloped setting off a race among the horses I assume each thinking, I’m to die first, no me no me! Towards the woods, the cliff and the river they charged on without care for the obstacles coming or what would happen to his unfortunate rider and one of use had to cow/girl/boy/hermaphrodite it and duck to reach under the charging horse for the reigns and pull hard in order to bring him and his little friends who had also been wiped up into such excitement, under control.
Then there was Mike. He was a fine horse and because nothing was too unusual about him, he was often the one to take out when we went night ridding or hit the trails in a sudden snow storm because it was always fun to mix in the hazards of bareback riding with the danger of precipitation or the risks inherent in riding through darkened woods the only light that from an inconsistent moon hiding behind clouds and trees and allowing night to occlude our way forward.
It was with this experience that when I finally joined the civilized world I attempted to learn to ride. I joined a ridding club at the girl’s college I was attending and woke up early in order to make the bus to the stables and our ridding class. This lasted but a few weekends. After so many years of riding Indian Style, to fit my boney ass upon a saddle and to conform to some form one had to take in order to look good in the ring, and to practice such mincing wincing posture so one could compete against horse-girls from all over the world, ones who had grown up with posters of horses as teenage boys [used to have] had posters of [some half naked model here] and equal oanistic fantasies surrounded by these posters while in bed, there was no way I was going to drop in to this world now, nor would I submit to the instructor who removed my crop I always tucked in my boot since that wasn’t where it “belonged” as if I hadn’t had years of riding and always maintained the rule that the hoofs faced down… except for that time Fr. Jack and I took a tumble on an icy road and he almost fell on me. Or that time Erin jumped sideways having been startled and just made it over a creek. Or the other time…. The damage from these wild years was done. I was not to be satisfied with trail rides nor horse perfect conditions where these beasts were reduced to My Little Ponys writ large, to toys and games rather than the brutal and dangerous animals they were.
24043_428276835648_8282770_nAnd so for years I wandered the globe trying to find a more lawless place in order to take full command of my ride. I guess this is indeed a First World Problem and as most of us spoiled Firsties do, I went to the Third World in order to solve my problem. And I managed from time-to-time to ride. In Honduras on the Finca the El Jefe had me trade my well-behaved horse for one that was posing an issue to another guest who was unable to manage the obstacle course the man had us guests take in order to demonstrate our equestrian ability. Oh yeah, I felt like hot shit on a stick when I made the handsome All American Man get off his mount in front of his perfect girlfriend on their dream vacation and little old me was able to jump on and turn that nag into a speed demon.
And now, to the civilized plains of our Neighbors to the North I was again on a mount. However, this time I was indeed the amateur. Not only had it been years since I had ridden, I had foregone any training and now sat atop this machine so in tune with every signal from my body, my hands, who quivered with the tensing of one leg or another, that I was very impressed with the potential to screw up as I was feeling some sense of embarrassment in front of my gracious host whose table I supped at and home I lay about as a guest. Since while it was a Bed and Breakfast, I was the only guest and they were very informal with me. About the lunch table we talked of animals and their antics and this and that crop or garden issue. They bested my stories of animal madness with one of their own about how horrible it is to raise ostriches and how the lady of the house almost got murdered by one because it tuns out they’re stupider than a chicken, which is hard to believe. Because chickens in all their bock bock glory are quite, quite stupid. Just look up Mike The Headless Chicken. Mike is NSFW but you’ll see what I’m talking about. The stories of raising ostriches made it sound like we should indeed stop trying to raise exotic animals like lamas, and hippos, and all manner of creatures not native to the continent nor to the Western diet and be content on murdering pigs and turning their guts into bacon. The farmer and his wife were older and had lived in Alberta all their lives. His father was from Sicily and the family had almost settled in Montreal except that a contingent of Italians had discovered Calgary. The government was still giving away huge tracks of land and his father’s generation moved quickly out of the city of Calgary and into the countryside. This was just about the “lean years” of the depression. One still saw the sad and cold shacks of these years sprinkled about the landscape. The neighbor’s farm was over 3000 acres. The thought of the government giving a private individual, a non corporation, blew my little American mind. The old man had gotten this bounty of land in exchange for having to work it for at least a decade. He had three sons and each would get a share of this land. The thought that a man in his 20s could obtain such hard won wealth seems so foreign to my mind, trained to think in terms of colleges, loans for college, then loans for graduate school and then perhaps a Goodjob that has some benefits here and there and perhaps meets the bills.
71542_495951800648_7686901_nMy host’s father had gotten a similar deal but the farm I was at was bought when the happy couple met so-and-so many years ago. In those days it had been a working farm, with a large stock of cattle and a crop rotation, but now that they were older they were slowing down and had gotten rid of the animals and were looking to make a go running a bed and breakfast. As I sat at their table it seemed more that I had been inserted into a “natives” house, the sort of experience that when white people go to brown people places they move into a grass hut so that as part of their college trip they can brag that they did not do the tourist things, they lived with The People. And so, unexpectedly, since this trip was for business and this was the least expensive option, I had mistakenly been set into a strangers house, and at their table eating the finest pancakes I had ever had.
We set up the ride at the table.
This service was unofficial, sort of something only offered when the hosts knew the guest. That is, it was not part of the offerings but upon request. The horses were kept just out at the barn that was down a complex set of turns and fences. We captured two of the herd who when they saw the tack knew what was in store for them and attempted to bolt away, but we managed to toss a lead-rope about the neck of our respective horse and return through the complex maze of trees and boundary fences. We walked them first to the tie up next to the shed where we brushed them down and set the saddle on. I had totally forgotten how to tie a saddle. We then walked them down to a sand pit to fit them and warm them up. Certainly a horse is not something you can just start up and go, for the most part. Back in the day the sand from this property, since once in epochs past because this was ocean, was prized and most of the buildings of Calgary, I was told, were built using this sand. The pit made for the perfect paddock since it was out of the constant wind that blows across the prairie. We mounted and did a few laps and then walked out. So upon the crunching grass I rode having managed to take directions and improve somewhat in my control of an actual horse in my ride. Everyone tells me they can ride, my host told me, and then they get on a horse and I see at once they only know how to ride from movies. I had made sure that when I told him I knew how to ride, that I actually didn’t know how to ride ride I just knew how to hang on and make glue go very very vast in the general direction I wanted. After some laps he had me do turns. After a few turns we left the north field and went farther on. Far in the distance the mountains of Albert made themselves known as the clouds that had masked them the previous days parted and the sky opened up to dark blue of the distant mountains capped with white. We walked past a neighbor’s farm, all the time the unromantic hum of traffic and heavy trucks in the distance but in the unbroken landscape these seemed all too close. And on the narrow country roads indeed the rigs charged past at 80 miles an hour… I mean 130 Kilometers… or whatever it is. Under these fields, my guide and personal dressage trainer told me, ran thousands of miles of pipeline. We passed several well heads. If they find gas under your property they pay you rent for the well head and the pipe, but the gas is theirs. It belongs to the state and the state sells it to the companies. It seemed unfair, but this was the way of the land. We moved down the road to a large field that had round bales scattered all about. Since the land was flat and I had been taking some manner of direction, I was allowed to cut loose and run full-tilt towards the horizon, or highway, whichever came first. I rode hard and cut close to the piles off round bales nothing but the sound of the cool air and the occasional Jake-brake in my ears. The distant mountains became fully revealed and their dark blue contrasted the open flat miles of brown and the last spots of green. It was unusually warm or this time of year, my host told me, so I was lucky in my timing since by this point in the year there is some snow on the ground or at least one needs a heavy coat to be outdoors.
In time, we turned back to the farm and again followed the dirt road past the well heads and gas junctions and I wondered at the thousands of miles, the network of the modern age that ran underground. I wondered too at the now out-of-reach sport of ridding and how these animals propelled us in their own way into the age of superhighways and that now to ride is a privilege when it isn’t a rarity or something we middling classes can only afford when traveling in disadvantaged nations where our currency stretches farther and the rules of insurance companies and liability lawyers haven’t made ordinary activities extraordinary. Considering how inextricable this creature is to the rise of our civilization as it stands — for ill or as an eternal benefit — knowing the basics of how to ride, knowing what a fantastic animal a horse is, should be mandatory part of the most common of experiential educations.

The Road to Banff

IMG_2747Alberta comes in two flavours. Extra high bumpy white top and extra flat pancake brushfire. The flat bits are covered with a network of underground pipes and above ground well heads and other equipment harvesting the vast supply of natural gas and perhaps a few pockets of oil that are supposedly larger than that those reserves of Middle East, that vast milk shake of energy we have been drinking for about an hundred years. The mountains in Alberta start suddenly, with little warning of foothills and increasing slopes and shoot up to grand monsters, huge giants covered on the top with snows and glaciers even at the end of another Global Warming Summer.
I entered the road to the mountains from Calgary, a city of far greater charm than its sister to the north but yet utilitarian as only Canadians and Communists can. Tin boxes, houses made of cement that seem carved from solid blocks, and American-style suburbs except filled with the cultural mosaic promoted by the Ministry of Culture/Culture d’Ministry Avec d’Canada rather than that found in the United States of the segregated melting pot. The road out drove as an arrow across fields of gas and soy/bulgier/wheat/sorghum/gas/oil and then passed through reservations which as all reservations across The North Americas are sad sprinklings of First Peoples and Third World problems. Beyond the last Casino, I entered the mountains. Grand and fantastic and very true to their name, Rocky. I am glad that the people of the world generally name Nature in simpler and more obvious terms than they describe human actions and contours. At least we don’t name the features of the landscape or the beasts of the earth the way hipster bars name their drinks. However much fun it would be to drive through the Ten O’Clock Twin City Tea Mountains.
The road pushes in and the roadside crap-o-la of Canada drops off to nothing but the hush of forest and eight lanes of well-maintained and perhaps brand new highway. Canada is indeed an environmentally aware nation, yet they have that other side to them. The whole tar-sand James Bay Hydro strip mine clear cut strip mall way of them too where they can take an area of beauty and make it resemble a pile of shit tossed hard by a Bonobo monkey on a hot day in Tijuana. In Edmonton there is the Mall that was so big it made the National Geographic Magazine back in the 80s. I had ducked inside this monster city of mall and indeed it was grand. I rented ice skates and enjoyed the rink. I stared at the water park (closed for the day for some reason) and watched the highly attractive keeper of the highly unattractive sea lion feed her charge next to the pirate ship (also closed for the day). Then there is the wilds. Deep landscapes of nothing that continue for mile… ahem… kilometer after kilometer and perhaps this grand and sometime bleak open space compensates for the large malls, commercial strips, and fugly housing stock clustered about places with names like Red Deer, Oil Rig Junction, and The Gates of Hell. None of these signs of development were on the road to Banff.
IMG_2756I had a late start having had work that day so night fell as I came to the village close to Banff where I had a hotel. I had to complete some work the next day too, so my schedule was not my own and the Autumn days had been already growing short for those of us lower down on the parallels. I made for an early morning since I had a call with the East Coast and as I chattered away explaining something or other, the sun rose up and revealed the mountains I had not seen in the night. My cheesy little motel room opened on to a grand palace of a view, the sun bringing to light the blue gray rocks and the deep greens of the woods, the umber of clay and sands and the brilliant yellow leafs and white dapple and black marked birch trees in colorful explosions bringing to mind classic northern poetry or scenes of Russian tiga I had seen briefly from the train or the wall paper of certain individuals who thought a print of a forest on the wall would make their single-wide look that much bigger.
When I had discharged by duties, I made for the outdoors. The chill in the air was strong and my short walk down the little nature trail in the center of town told me I needed to put on everything I owned for that trip. The drive from my hotel in the little town took me back to the highway in order to reach Banff. I had not a solid plan, so I took a detour to the right rather than the left and wandered the often narrow roads from one stunning view to another. Had I a pin hole camera made by the F Troupe Cub Scouts or a disposable camera bought from a gas station outside of Reading, West Virginia (the kind with the $3 showers, I know, yuck right?) I am sure that every shot would make it into at least in to Nature Magazine if not grace the cover of that famed National Geographic. Stands of birch lit up by the sun exclaiming the end of summer. Rock faces built up in the sky, the clouds having to beg around them and some far off taller ones dabbed with a hint of snow this was the land of pristine-looking vistas and stunning lakes I can only imagine hold fishies I wanted to nibble on or turn into sushi.
After running low on fuel, since this tour of God’s Majesty was brought to me by Human’s Fall and I knew I was leaving a trail of minor shavings from certain ball bearings, some oil from tyres if not a little dust of synthetic material and perhaps a few drops of oil or lubricant as well as the usual fumes from combustion, I found my way to Banff and again was stunned. Rather than the box-d-cement or strip-o-bullshit or even the plastic pirate ships of the Edmonton Mall, I came across a town so picturesque and perfect in what you want Canada to look like that I imagine it indeed the work of Six Flags and Disney and not the happy accident that everyone agreed to build something wonderful and out of logs if not stone and brick. I know Banff is money, and the upper money classes can shape beauty when they have to, and for a moment I wondered if rather than people I had a disdain for poor people, as fraught with social ostracizing and self-loathing as that position may entail since I am one pay cheque away from poverty at any given moment and socially connected with as many of similar fate and position.
I at once made for the souvenir shop.
IMG_2973As well as the usual crap I had to bring home to this one or that one, I hoped to find some cheap hoodie or warm something I could afford. While the sun was dipping ever past the meridian I was intent on visiting the glaciers of Banff, located not at the The Shinning-style hotel on the outside of town, but the next huge hotel further off. I bought my allotment of crap, and managed to get a hockey jersey for cheap and that would have to do. I toured the village a quick spin and again to the highway. The highway was changing nature and there were weird overpasses… not for roads but for migratory animals. I could only imagine our most Red State people and their anger at these frivolous additions to the world of Nature at the expense of some tax payer, I am sure. Or oil company drilling away happily elsewhere. A younger kid at the hotel bar where I stayed claimed the mountains were logged, clear-cut to the nub but only on the other side of the mountain not facing the highway, as opposed to how we Yankees do it back in The States. I had not the knees of the hike nor the time to confirm this claim. I made for the parking lot of the hotel. The sun was setting hard, the lake blasted light up to all viewers. I consulted the maps at hand and pondered the time in and out, looked at more maps since I had to be in Edmonton this night in order to catch an early morning flight, so I had to weigh the time taken on the road as well as the potential that I was not prepared for a hike, I was still wearing office shoes. Nevertheless, I made a deal with myself, the same deal an addict makes and written on the same quality paper a deal meant to be broken at the right time and for the best reasons, because we addicts cannot help ourselves. We must push extra hard where others fall behind since some deep part of me needed to walk, touch, or see that glacier especially since it was advertised as not just one, but a convergence. It is pride. The Sin of Pride that pushed me. And that with each step, nature grew about me in a stark and mesmerizing way so that at my “turn back point” that end of the lake where I could view the hotel in the distance, see the mountains on both sides, and yet make it to the car before sun down, the chanting and evil bell of adventure rung and as a drone filled my ears and I looked on. Also, there was a sign that said “Tea House.”
IMG_2755Fuck.. Yeah. Tea house? I am from Gothem. I don’t care if it is closed, I am making it to the Tea House on the glacier. I would walk as far for a taco served out of a truck parked under a highway if it was recommended. I will Yelp the shit out of this experience. I had a goal to my quest that ensured there was to be no turning back. So I drew deep into the skills I have having grown up in the Catskill Mountains. No joke, I think these skills have prepared me for quite a few adventures and while the Mountains of Rocky are much more grande, the cloves and gorges of Patter Van Winkle’s dear sleeping grounds are well suited practice for other environments and I have gotten beyond middle age using these fare skills and have not sufficiently matured to actually be concerned or not get wrapped up in the whole quest thing, a thing I am sure Professor von Blah Blah Blah would said points to an undeveloped such-n-such of the scrotal-labial cremaster.
The Tea House Quest was on. I knew I had to make up for time so I tied up by shoes, put on my now lucky hockey jersey and jogged on hopping from rock to rock to avoid the ice patches that were already gripping the trail. I knew if I kept moving I would not mind the cold. I passed a few very confused couples in their sports gear, water bottles, shells and coats, sensible hiking boots as I jogged past in wingtips and a XXL hockey jersey and two pairs of pants on. I had forgotten all about the appearance of my survival gear and just spoke to them as normal only later in the depth of a selfie actually catching the state I was presenting myself to society. I did not care. I kept on, pushing up and up seeing more of the ice and counting the minutes until sunset, looking at rocks and trees that may help guide me back in the dark if not the tail end of the gloaming.
The trail became more difficult, even hugged a cliff with a life line as a guide and the patches of ice predictably grew in number and size. I faltered a moment but then saw the sign to the Tea House ever closer so I pushed on and for that was rewarded.
IMG_2909The first Tea House was built in the 1920s or so. I can only imagine the alpine wonder that those days presented visitors. Most traveled to this spot on horse, a service still available and yes, I am sure the ice pack was deeper before the Age of Climate Change (Change d’Climate). The building had been rebult a few times but always in more-or-less the same style and location. While originally an Alpine vibe, the neo-Canadians of the middling classes had decorated the structure with Asian religious prayer flags, perhaps Tibetan, and this still fit as well as added to the epochal mosaic as well as the satisfying sense of accomplishment that no quest would end in ice alone but a temple to that ice and whatever gods came to call there. Yes… I have seen too much of… insert Spirited Away Director name here, he must be in IMDB.
And as I watched the clouds fall over the ice grounds after creeping over the zenith of the ridge, I also noted that indeed the hour was late and that I was ill equipped to spend nightfall out here in the cold forests of the Ice Giants and Stone Gods. I made for the way back with haste. I passed the couples still making their way up in their gear as I bounded down the trail, how much farther to the Tea house, well not much farther indeed I was just there and you will enjoy it well and I continued on my way. As the grounds grew dark the animals skittering about increased and these mice or whatever they were startled me but not as much as a porcupine who meandered onto the trail and sat there defying me to pass. As he moved I made up time and reached the hotel parking lot quite cold despite my vigor sportive efforts and fatigued at the miles I had condensed into but a short few hours. I mean kilometers.IMG_2916
It was perhaps because of this fatigue I missed the turn off to Edmonton and made by mistake a journey that took several hours out of my night. It was well into the evil hours of night before I was on the Glacier Highway and while the road was narrow and fraught with frost heaves, I pushed hard and fast trying to make Edmonton first before midnight… then one…. Then three… then focusing on just making my six AM flight. While the moon was not out, there was enough ambient light to see that I was going through stunning territory and I stopped every not and again to jump about the car, admiring the wilderness and attempting to shake off the nods that were threatening my safety. It had been a long, long time since I drove with the nods, and I did not miss having avoided that condition for some time.
I had thought my quest was over when I reached the Tea House on top of the world. However, in retrospect, it was but the first leg on a long quest home, one that had me drive all night through the high peeks and returned back to the flat lands of the prairie to drive even further on to the night life of Edmonton.
When I came to the gas station in town, I was frantically searching for a way to find the car rental agency in order to drop my car and get to the airport. My phone-cum-computer was down since I did not have an International Plan and my map skills had degenerated in the decade I have used MapQuest(tm) and other such services. The gas station was set on by Goth kids, bored and sober and still bored even after their rave or convert or whatever. I set upon a taxi driver and asked him as to where I was and how to get from point A to point B, He offered to guide me, so I followed him to the closed and dark car rental agency, jumped in his cab, and made off to the airport to just make the flight before the door closed.
On the flight back, I was in that state of someone awake yet dreaming of all I saw in a pastiche with my eyes yet open as colors of day, the stars lighting the snow at night, the late gas stations and jitters from too many energy drinks blended together. Was there really a Tea House on the road to Banff?

Cooking With Dogfish

7558_10152270171910649_1029341572_nTexas geographically covers a lot of land mass, or in the parlance of the state Don’t Mess With Texas. Covering so much land, there is terrain of many variety and one can get buggery in the desert seeing no sign of human blight for miles in all direction, or you can drive mile after mile of coastal refinery and weird rape-shack villages, or see land so flat that the cows must find slaughter a respite from a life of cud-chewing ennui and the vacuum of the soul.
The day I drove south was just after an ice storm, the first such storm since Global Warming started back in ’97. The gently flat landscape was covered in a thin film of ice, and after the last condos and construction sites abandoned since The Great Recession of 2008, the weeds or shrubs or whatever glistened in the cold dim sun. It was winter, but the season down here usually maintains 60-70 degree days and today was about 40 or so. It was cold for Texas and considering that I had not brought warm clothes, I felt the damp chill of disappointment in not escaping Cold and her sister, Darkness the Weird Sisters of winter who I thought going off on a trip, I would escape.
The travel down the coast of Texas was long, longer than I wished and since the landscape both Human and Divine vacillated between ugly and boring by the time I came to my first truck stop, I was exhausted and confused. I felt a cramp in my arm turn very tight since I had injured it in a kayak somewhere in Florida the week before, such is my carbon footprint allowing me such a first world complaint. The burning sensation was gone, but there lingered a cramped discomfort that made me very aware of my shoulder in so many ways and reminded me that getting older was to be little fun for all the good laughs I imagine I will have with old friends and stories that bring just the right tear to the left eye.
As the road moved to the coast and away from the main highway, it got strange rather than picturesque. The settlement of the last few centuries were never thick enough to create a mass of historic housing stock, and what little there was like the rest of this Great Nation seemed squandered – equally divided between those who could not care and those who could not afford grand houses and quaint cottages other than to totally, thoroughly, absolutely, fuck them up. Peeling paint and plastic yard toys. Yards cluttered with boats, ATVs, Powersomething, and a dog or two. There is a sort of cottage that was build on the coast of Texas, perhaps inland too for all I know, that is very charming and while I am not familiar with the building habits of the Texans, seems to me to capture the spirit of Old East Texas, the small family house, a form of the East but tightened for the climate since most activities may have taken place outside long before air conditioning and comfortable ranch houses, a small porch incorporated into the house frame, tall dorm roof and simple windows lacking any ornament. Plan and simple, but in the shape very picturesque and charming, although sadly to a one, they were either ruined or unkempt showing signs of our age, where we need big houses in order to store all the shit we accumulate.
Port Aransas is accessed by a thin sandy road one can travel upon quite quickly, at speeds unheard of in most two lane roads Back East, but this was the Out West, this was the straight shot where one could see for miles and miles… and miles… and miles. Then, as if in a cartoon where the cop is hiding behind the billboard, the maximum speed drops and signs warn the traveler of access to the ferry and the many considerations of travel by boat. I had not considered this trip involving a ferry, but I was game for anything and the ferry crossing seemed ridiculously short for this day and age and for a deep Red State there seemed to be a lot of state workers minding this ferry and I imagined how much this service cost the municipality.
I had thought my trip was canceled. Several days before I got a call from the fisher woman I made a reservation with, she was very upset, apologetic and frank about how puke-tastic my trip would be. The fishing expedition was canceled for the day. Could I go Thursday? Well actually I am working Thursday and Friday. How about Monday? Well, you see the rub is I am not from around these parts and I will have to go home… I work Monday too. This is a weekend thing. OK, well, then perhaps another time. I was sad. That day blew chunks since other shitty things happened unconnected to rocking too and fro on some boat on the ocean. Then I got another call. Well the storm is moving faster so instead of 12-15 foot seas it should be 3-5 maybe 6 which is acceptable. The trip is on. I was very excited.
1555455_10152270175120649_2029444359_nI have never been deep sea fishing before this. I have not gone fishing really. My knowledge comes from reading books and Billy The Bass, the battery powered talking fish that is on the walls of certain dive bars I often frequent. So, this was more than booking a trip to go kill fish, this was entering an unknown, launching into the terror of the wild ocean and the salty characters I a sure to find on such a vessel… and killing fish. The death to all aquatic beasts… that part I was aware of since that first fish stick ever entered my mouth and I chewed beyond the fried bread part.
The hour was early. The only lit building was that in front of the fishing dock. The engine of the craft was revving up and the wind blew the acidic diesel smoke into the building, I choked a little as I browsed the lead sinkers and hooks perhaps tipped with arsenic in order to complete the toxic content of these products. Fishing licence in my pocket that I bought the night before from a rather meth-mouthed good-natured young lady at a IGA or some such food emporium of the southern sphere, I paid my full bill and got a ticket that I was not to lose as that was the only proof that I was on this adventure, and that proof I had to hand to the deckhand. Strange to be in such primitive times, but I did not question, it was too early, I stood outside in the cold woad-dawn morning with the rest of the fishers, these large and local men who I was to join out at sea as Iaaak Babel amongst the Cossacks a very slight individual not raised to be outdoors and having spent far too much time in Gotham, little versed in the deep Red of Texas.
The craft set out at the allotted time and in the dark chugged out of the safe port of the lee of the island, the engines loud and the fumes thick. The inside of the craft was basic, hard benches, hard tables, hard lights. Trash can tied to a pole. Grim morning, as if I had entered the free beer part of some strip club outside of some frat town. Of beer, the lone female of the crew was setting up the bar and true to form I followed one of the sea Cossacks up to get a beer prior to 6AM local time. No sooner had I gotten my refreshment, breakfast in a can, that we opened into the ocean and the waves broke against the bow. The men had gathered into clicks, friend circles, the three Hispanic men, each representing a generation, took to covering their heads with their hoodies and all attempted to set the boredom I assume comes with sea travel. The largest group of men started playing dominoes, which was rather difficult since we were sloshing and crashing about in the waves. The barmaid spoke to me about rougher waters, those 14-16 foot swells and how she was bounced and bruised by the end of the trip. The boat heaved. A crew member entered the hold and read us the riot act that all puking was to take place over the rail and not in the can. We set the prow up and crashed down. I could see nothing out the window to give me a sense of direction or perspective and I for a moment felt the heaving growing inside me. I ate crackers. Drank more beer (the first is a home remedy for seasickness… the second, not so much). The sun crested over the open waters and the sea calmed. The craft pushed ever further. The bench was no warmer than before. The men looked grim. Up too early, too cold, the boat rocking and spilling the dominoes, this did not seem a sport of enjoyment.
All at once.
We slowed down.
The captain or whoever came on the PA system. We have found a good place for sharks. So we will stop here a bit and see what happens. At this, the men leaped up, no matter how fast I moved these lethargic shapes, these sleeping ones, these hoddie over the face generations came too action as if a bolt had been thrust into them all and someone somewhere was yelling “It’s Alive!” Except for me. I managed to just get out and claim a spot, a fishing rod towards the aft of the boat. I was given short instructions by a salty crew member. I pretended to know what I was doing, but managed to tangle the line. I was casting down deep. For sharks? Really? Somehow I undid the ruin of my line without having to further out my “otherness” to the crew and the Cossacks. Meekly I dangled my string into the waters. I did not know what to do next. Tug? Was I to play with the line to animate the meat on the hook? Slowly reel it in… since I saw it done that way in movies and cartoons…. Before I was able to consider the technique, I learned there was none. Something, something large, bit my line and almost pulled the rod out of my hands. I fought back. Again, not knowing what to do but a crew, a ship boy of some girth yelled, reel in, reel in. And so I did… until the line broke and I was alone with my pole standing on the rail. He was large, whatever you got was much larger than the line…. I was directed to another pole, one with a meaty chunk on the hook already since we were to move to whatever pole was free, this was no place to bond with equipment.
I dropped the line in again. The sun had come up enough to show the contours of the ocean and some of the waves crested white and appeared much larger than they actually were there being no point of reference for perspective. The ocean is unique every second, changing shape and pattern perhaps never to occur again, all waves and white caps rising in just that moment and held for a second, never to return. Yet in this torment of eternal movement the water is monotonous as any desert and just below the surface even a few inches in the alien realm of the aquatic held reign.
We were miles out, away from any land. The air was yet cold, the sun was not fully exposed due to early morning clouds. I was to be cold and wet all day. Then, as before, my line shook and pulled. I this time carefully and without any emotion, as cold as whatever was at the end of my hook, reeled in with slow and methodical turns of the crank or whatever fishermen call that wind thing at the core of pole fishing technology. It was a hard fight, a war between atmosphere and ocean as I drew in some creature from the deep parts of the Mexican Gulf. In a moment, I saw that I had a small shark, and as directed I pulled him to the surface of the water, and as a cat’s claw a boat boy piked the shark with a hook and drew him aboard onto the deck and as directed we all stood back, many of the Cossacks unlucky in their own catch aghast over my winnings.
The little shark bled profusely on the deck as it flopped about. I was asked my number, the allocated number we all were given in order to identify our catch in the cooler and as I gave it the deckhand carved it into the skin of the wee beasty. I was both proud and revolted. Amazed and guilty. While I have eaten many fish sticks, eaten several schools of fish and vacuumed entire beaches of sushi, I had not seen the blood, the eyes, pulled one of these fine creatures out of the dark cold depths and said, you, you I will kill.
They say your first kill is the hardest. It was actually simple. All I did was stand back, the man with the hook subdued the creature and avoided the teeth, carved in my number, and tossed him in the cooler on ice. I knew that in the cocoon of technology I live, all of nature, the blood on the deck, the muddy strip mines, clear but forests, the pain and hard work of life was pushed from me so that as I bought my new iWhatever at the Apple Store and listened to Techies Under 30 talk about great ways to PhotoShop bananas so they look like skateboarding waterfalls ham hock boom rum ham iPod Twisted Sister, all I had to do was step aside and give my number. Order the Spring Monkey Fish Crunch roll… that’s #34 with miso soup…. I was programmed not to think of the chickens that went into my chicken nuggets (or spider goats or whatever), the rare earth children dig from the ground for Playstations(tm), or that being a pescetarian still lead to the deaths of countless fish and the waste of millions of other creatures caught up in the nets. We were out there to murder, perhaps not as effectively as the large trawlers, the ships that net all living creatures and dump back the dead ones no one wants to eat, but we were out there in order to eat the fishies.
1535557_10152270172485649_1706295220_nThe Cossacks all did not fare as well, while one or two others caught sharks much larger than mine, I was among a small society who managed to haul in that first catch of the day and be able to then brag that that catch was a shark. The rest of the day I was not as lucky, and I kept catching some kind of fish that the man on the line would tell me I was unable to keep – he would tear it off the hook and toss it back. One such fish, I was told they were not in season so hence had to be returned to the waters, was punctured by the slender knife the man kept with him, a thin filet knife stabbed the fish several times. I must have had pure horror on my face since he explained quickly that this was to remove the air that had inflated in his bladders and allow him the opportunity to swim back down to those depths I had rent him from. In one move, stab, stab, toss, the fish landed back in the water, however like so many, he did not just swim away. Catch and release is a kind term. Poor fishie just floated upside down for a bit… gulping at the air, then turned a bit, again, and then returned to floundering upside down…. I watched the waters. The shapes and patterns move the fetch of those trades pushing the rise and trough of the waters as the fishie was carried further and further away from that craft that has so discarded him. While my intention was to turn him into a sandwich, it felt hollow and a pulse of regret filled me looking at his large fishie eyes floating above his alien land half in his world, half in mine. The sharks love the Fish And Wildlife Management said one, we have to toss aside so many good fish because they don’t fit the measurement or are not in season but it’s a waste. There was several such fish about the boat in different states of distress and a few did come to and returned to the deep waters with but a few chunks of flesh missing. I gathered myself and took to a new rod, the dead squid attacked, I dropped it again to forage in those dark sour waters below.
Just then, one of the more experienced crew, a fisher himself, started a clatter and began to reel in something large. Up and up he pulled his catch – the man with the hook came for they knew it was a big something, perhaps a large shark. Indeed, it was exciting to see the shark manifest itself at the upper waters, the beast pulled and heaved, it looked like the pole would break at any minute, but the man with the hook stabbed the beast and three men took to the pole and hauled in the shark that pounded and hammered the deck in protest.
They measured this monster.
And, he did not measure up.
So, with no ceremony they lifted the shark out of his gasping pool of blood and sea froth and tossed him overboard, where at once it swam down and out of sight in order to tend the wounds and live for another day or be consumed by the shark we should have caught, the one of appropriate size.
The day continued on in this way. Fish caught. Examined. Tossed back to the sea or strung up and placed in the large cooler at the stern. At some point, the crew gave up on the day. The fishers returned to the hold and collapsed into inactivity, save for continuing to drink beer as we had all day. The barmaid started to take stock, the crew jumped about washing this and that of the boat, scrubbing off the salt, beer, and blood of the day. The boat turned back to safe harbor and the sun came out just in time to set and we returned to the port in darkness however to greet our arrival was the family members and fans of the Cossacks who eagerly awaited their catch. I gave my catch to the barmaid. The first time I have ever tipped a woman with a heap of fish and a shark, but she was excited about this as was her elderly aunt and uncle on shore who took my picture with my heap of killed fish. We hung the slaughter up on hooks and everyone took pictures as our forebears have since the invention of the camera. I was again disappointed that I had to leave my catch, as truly, despite all the violence I did want to smother some of these fish in butter or blacken them with creole spices in order to nom them. But I could see in the eyes of the young woman, that I had made her family very happy and that felt very primal, tribal, as I had shared my hunt with the village.
That night, floating in the hot tub, the steam of the hot water rising into the cold air, I gazed up at the stars. I wondered about that dark ocean out there. And the fish punctured and floating away his eyes watching the water and our boat recede from view hidden in the troughs ever widening. Was he ever eaten?

The Tao of Taos

1375138_10152344816850649_1292295516_nThe road up to Taos is indeed a winding thread through mountains and into the more wild areas of New Mexico. The road narrows after a sprint across the human wastelands of those regions far too close to Santa Fe, and the eight lanes winnow down to two, the steep hills on one side, the river on the other so that there is but a few chances to overtake slow traffic and ample time to consider how a simple mistake could end in your adding another roadside memorandum, of which the roads already are marked at regular intervals those places where individuals and entire families were wiped out, such is the Wild West that it continues to swallow whole travelers, pilgrims, and profits.
Route 68 or whatever it was is a scenic drive and the roadside has ample places to stop and take in the view, if not to launch into the river. Also along the way are a number of art galleries – the Bare Foot Gallery, the Scrap Metal Gallery, the Actually This is A Dump not a Gallery but the Shit Dumped Here is Cool. These galleries all seem worth a stop, I imagined that they to a space had some far out character or collective who had escaped the keen of civilization and made camp out here far from anyone. I am not sure if these were actual known establishments, listed in the proper guides and known by the art mavens the world over, or whether they were tree houses and snow forts for adults, again I am imagining some older duffer, “After Woodstock, I just saw the light at the end of the Lincoln Tunnel and never looked back,” my cabbie had told me in Albuquerque and indeed perhaps these shanties and collections of found, modified, and otherwise rusting sculptures were those castles of the visionaries, although I wonder at the lonely life out here in shrub and scrub. However, there is this fine road passing by and I was told that the winter is the slow season, no one goes up to Taos except for the skiers and they don’t usually stop for art breaks and wine and crackers. For all the dudes I have met who say they are ski bums and who act all relaxed in the summer as they talk about winter, in winter these are the least relaxed people I have ever met. They have to be in a constant rush, to get to the slope early in the morning, to find the powder, to make fresh tracks, to get to the other side of the mountain before it is all skied out. On the slopes I met a few of these “bums” and they refused to stop for lunch on a good day, maybe some of them actually had bags to pee in to such was their devotion to a “full day.” Who were these people in the lodge by the fire? At the bar getting blasted? And why is the persona of the ski bum make it sound like this person is not some angst-filled soul, wandering in search of snow, freaking out if they have to work “on a powder day,” rushing to be first in line, like a junky asking about for what trail is good, where the next powder is, if they can get a fix….
I entered Taos at night, having driven up from Albuquerque via Los Alamos via… some route through red rocks, piles of stones, and tall mountain forests that opened up on to shockingly beautiful valleys. The winter air was dry since the region had been experiencing a drought of late, very little snow and that bespoke of a hard and dry summer. I believe I was on route 4 for the journey. I had the option to take a straight shot to Taos via Santa Fe, but I was saving that for the return route, since after seeing Albuquerque I canceled my hotel in Santa Fe to opt for two nights in Taos. I was disinclined to stay in any populated areas if I could help it. Driving away from the urban area, I hit horrible traffic in Strip Mall America for a good hour before I broke out and started to see hope, the open road and more rewarding travel. When I am in a place of KenTacoHuts, Best Wesmotel8terns, and the Geography of Nowhere, I am not traveling, I am driving. And driving makes me angry and claustrophobic, to the extent that I actually start freaking out and thrash about uncontrollably saying things a respectable citizen, a semi-public anonymous figure, one afflicted with Turetts would not be caught saying, as I do if I drive in New Jersey for more than 20 minutes. The road I took turns off from the main road and starts snaking through the hills, creeping about rocks and mesas, past this or that Native Village with this or that collection of poverty and sad huddled into the bad and sour land. As their European-American counterparts, Native Americans also have tones of crap about their houses, the same algorithm dictating poverty to shit ratio. However, these settlements were few, and as I drove became even more infrequent. As the road twisted and turned, there too on the ridge were the houses of the well-to-do, perhaps scientists and those working on the development of military grade fighting borg, sexbots, spidergoats, swine-gene oranges, UFO anal probes or whatever they do today at Los Alamos in order to create the Brave New World Order we are quickly and quietly marching towards. These fine houses blended into the ridges they sat upon, each one more tasteful than the next and were I tossed the keys to any one of them I would not ask twice to move in. What was striking was those moments where the ridge-line houses were juxtaposed with the squalid mansions of the valley-dwellers –those with wheels, and those without. The wilderness is home to the hardscrabble existence, and the retreats, no different than before, if but in a new location and more of them as today there is more people.
1921218_10152340370060649_63841365_oSince the sun was dipping low, and the traffic had placed me behind schedule, I took a turn to head towards Taos a shorter route than my original plan to head further north and then cut east. I headed on the edge of Los Alamos, past a historic bunker that once upon a Cold War time houses guards. The sign said “Visitors Welcome” and also that we may be monitored by drones at any time. The old guard house indeed a quaint relic from a time when a few kids with guns, an MP or two would have guarded our secrets from the outside world. I kept to the main road and passed electrical installations, satellite uplinks, and cliffs of clay coloured rocks marked with holes, some large enough to perhaps be caves, others clefts in the rock. I wondered if this was bat country. My cell service was non-extant so there was no way to use The Googles then. I would just have to imagine the sun dipping low and the sky filling with bats, perhaps also space aliens, if not drones.
Passing a few other settlements, the road then merges on to whateverthefuck is the Cities Of Gold. These “Cities of Gold” are a strip of sad-ass casinos perhaps on the same reservation, perhaps more than one. Littered between the Cities of Gold are the closed motels, abandoned gift shops, half-ruined gas stations, and sundry other wreckage I wondered came to be when the Cities of Gold opened and sucked the life out of the surrounding areas. With little time at hand, I was unable to check in to see if these clip joints were as sad and tacky as I had experienced last time I was on a Reservation Casino out near Sioux City or wherever I was. Old people smoking away the final part of their life, spending whatever they had to pass time and get a little excitement into bodies unable to perform those formerly pleasuring pursuits since those bits of their anatomy no longer worked the way they used to. The traffic reappeared. It was amazing how cluttered these lands become. Perhaps with few roads in the state, the population are corralled into but a few arteries. And more than not, these are plugged up beyond belief.
Chugging up the road to Taos, the four lanes narrow to two precarious ones and one may become wedged between the car going 40 MPH, the truck behind you with the engine breaks chugging, and whatever idiot wants to pass you on a turn, so the experience can be somewhat claustrophobic if not down right harrowing. Again, in the dim twilight, there were the many crosses marking the spot where families of kith and kin were lifted into Heaven. Some of these markers seem to be growing in their design and scope since while in New England these are small crosses, in Florida actual road signs bought as memorials, in Texas they carry the names and often date of death, in New Mexico there are additions of solar powered Christmas lights, tinsel, ornaments, additional crosses and other decorations. It is a truly sobering aspect of the drive to know that this or that kink in the road and quite a few straight shots were far more deadly than most may consider and perhaps this was a fitting monument, not to the dead so much as dark houses to the living, markers to keep us true on course and not wrecked on the shoals and protuberances that line the highways and byways of the land.
Taos is indeed grown up and out since the old days and the small quaint section is compact and today a collection of souvenir shops as it perhaps has been since 19-ought-eight or whenever. It doesn’t matter much since the merchandise is of a type and kind that lends itself to the setting, Native pottery, beads, and cowboy whatevers. There are enough places to eat, and a brewery next to the hotel that served fine ale and for a short session I was there some live music.
There is a certain crunch to Taos that some call the Hippy-Doutch-Bag thing, but I did not stay long enough for me to quantify nor qualify. Winter was giving it the perhaps last blast of snow to a landscape everyone swore was covered in snow but had seen but a scant dusting – which like down south portended to a long and dry summer. Some of the guys looked like the musician Jack White while others looked like Jack White and the few females of the area came in one of two versions – crunch and extra crunch with age. I did not meet a single person who was not open to conversation or pleasant in a way that struck me as genuine, but then I was in town but a few hours between spending time in Ski Valley and while the cop cars flew back and forth and actually had some heavy activity at some abandoned house and I could tell that David Lynch-style there was a bit of Blue Velvet in the town, I did not come across it and cannot expand nor provide but one anecdote of blasted and parched hippies or addled-brained numbskulls and their wanton destruction and antics. In the dim quietude of winter, the cray-cray seemed dormant and awaiting the thaw, and it was no wonder since all the bars and establishments closed down before 10PM so that if the question often asked by WPIX (it’s a Gotham thing) “It’s 10PM, do you know where your children are,” would have been answered with ease, at least in these days where night is slowly ebbing to dawn.
I hope to again return to New Mexico, meet more New Mexicans, and perhaps learn more about this strange section of our Great Land I had only seen from the train so many months ago, and that just the southern most end where the slums of Old Mexico and Old Mexicans push up against a border that makes the Berlin Wall appear as but a snow fence or some child’s tape line down the center of their room shared with a sibling. The populated areas are camps of angry whites, angry Cholos, angry hippies, and angry meth-heads, angry Native Americans… angry Native Americans who still call themselves Indians, angry owners of casinos who pretend they benefit this or that tribe, and angry scientists who came to build a huge bomb or rape a space alien and goddamn it they will use that bomb or make extraterrestrial rape if it’s the last thing they ever do. Then, off the beaten trails, the narrow roads, it seems more the landscape those angry people came to find and in doing so lost as they coated it with KenTacoHuts and Carparks. The mountains, washes, and eroding hills are but fine examples of God’s/plate tectonics and erosion by water’s work and those small houses and failed ranches appear quaint in some ways, even with the piles of rusty cars since that is the image we all have bought of the Old West, even the West of this last century of lazy evenings and hard working mornings in a town where far off, ever so, there is always that one dog barking.

Dust In My Head

photo (5)The Land Of Enchantment (LOE) is indeed a place of fuzzy boarders and strange events. Since some of these happenings can be blamed, perhaps given to the “newness” of the state, joining in 1912 only a few months after Arizona… and we know how Arizona turned out…. It is no surprise that this land would be something of a Third World Shit Hole, like the rest of the former prefects and Land Grants of Old Mexico and a good part of the First World that is fast drifting downward in quality of life and the quality of those living. One of the most striking features of the LOE, if not perhaps the defining quality, after the beauty of the landscape created by g/G/o/d/ess/ss/es and the strange landscape that is attractive in the barren ugly of it all but wondrous is the clusters of poverty stricken denizens and the preponderant of pugnacious pill-popping models whose meth-degenerating faces grace such publications as BUSTED! and MUG SHOT and other publications that revel in the filth of humanity and seem ill placed out of some Dickensian fantasy. Over this rugged and sublime monuments to time and eons or the forces of Creation, as you wish, that are the mountains and mesas is set a thin smattering of all that is foul and degrading from today’s roadside America.
In driving about this land, actually 666 miles of LOE from the airport and back, I guess I saw a sample of this enchantment, dire and squalid settlements and crusty holdons at the side of the highway that breathed in and out from two lanes to eight and back again so that it seemed that the heaving was natural, part of the landscape. This landscape was dry when it was not locked in snow and ice, cold and damp was dry and hot, burning sensations and tingling of nipples. Frostbite and sunburn all in the same day. So too, the many businesses, the personal establishments and fortunes of individuals seemed to burn up in this new land, this unforgiving series of places to fry, bake, freeze or be torn apart by wolves or Natives. Too true, too true, the crows seemed to call and to that no wonder the spirit of that animal was given to trickery by the First Peoples. Too true, too true…. another half-abandoned house. Too true, too true…. blown out snack shacks, no-tell motels, big belly delis, all manner of small buildings in rack and ruin. For lease. For sale. For fuck you the property is posted. Left to the sun and wind to eat away, to gnaw on as the bones and suck the moist marrow of any of the previous animals that came to munch at the unlasting green of the fields and the momentary cold springs that ran foul and acrid when they were really needed.
photo (3)Perhaps this is a good thing. The lost gas stations. The closed motels, acre after acre of lost highways and breakdown lanes now closed off by cement barriers taking the byway to allow for the high speed highway, for the eight lane road to breath in the edges, to engulf those who had come before in an age old, perhaps wrote tale.
At the gas station the machine worked as it did in other regions. This particular chain gas station was a reservation or land grant or some semi-autonomous region however we reserve that phrase for The Third World or certain post-SOVIET regions. These are other countries. And in this one, gas was a few cents less than in my country. So were certain other products, except that the sign said that in order to receive benefits one had to not use the benefits cards for:
1. Tobacco
2. Beer
3. Hot food
4. Lotto
5. Energy drinks
6. Scratch offs
Since we know lotto and scratch offs are usually seen as the same sport, just a different expression, a new way to toss away some hard-earned government benefits. I visited one such gambling establishment on a certain reservation – I believe where there was no free food or drink, so why – and it being the first of the month it was packed at 4:40PM… on a Monday. The bells ranted and raved, the old people were lined up hooked to machines as if some evil healthcare system, all butter faces to a nob, women the parlor of the tobacco they were smoking, men with fat swollen legs, that same fat lady with the skin the colour of cancer that I swear I had seen in the casino of New Orleans, Cleveland, Sioux City, Detroit, Atlantic City, Edmonton, and wherever else I posted into these establishments in order to gander at the assembled creatures and see what free food/drink I could scam. These places look so very much the same, I may have gotten bored with checking them out. The same machines. The same noises. Fake ka-chhing ka-ching ka-ching when some POS is cashing out or CS is attempting to gather its “winnings” in order to try out another machine, because that machine is “hot” it is paying out like 80% of the time and the OFAH knows the next payout will allow for unlimited funds to divorce that FC back home and move on to a life of EDABM. I placed some dollars into the gape of the machine and pushed buttons until it was gone. There was no food. No drink. No sex. So, I moved on. FTP, I thought as I exited. What a rip off. We stole the Native’s land, they pilfer our dollars… with the help of various mafias I am certain. Nothing romantic about the modern Reservations. Come to think of it… was there ever a good time to be pushed onto a Reservation and managed by the Beureu of Indian Affairs?
photo (4)The city of Albuquerque can be divided into certain quarters as if Berlin after the war. There is the middle-class quarter, up on the ridge schmeared along the base of the mountain and Tramway Boulevard as close as the rich can get to building into the mountain, every American city a supernova with the prenumbra of expansion those rich enough to constantly be escaping the poor, who are always close on their heels. There is the quarter of endless KenTacoHuts and commercial strips. Were we to walk, it would be an endless journey since even in a car the drive through this quarter seems to last forever. Then there is quarter of Mexo-Hispanic poverty and large tricked out trucks such is the culture out here of El Caro and faco tattoo-o a la’ Sin Nombre and cholo culture, quite a few of these people having to shop at Hot Topic since Goth has crept into cholo and I think I managed to find just a thin mist of Hipster on a few of them. There is the Old Quarter, a small dot of history surrounded by the usual poverty – where TeeVee dishes were bolted on to mud houses that one would assume belong on the register of historic places but today just provide whomever dwells in there a place to receive a benefits card and some meager maintenance payment for whatever kids they managed to crap out before all that shit down there went south. I wanted to get more out of staying in the Old Historic Town, but it was a midge in the eye of an otherwise occupied giant filled with teeshits, Indian Souvenirs (made in China) and Authentic somethingorotherfartcanwegohomenows. Barking at my heals on the short walk to the hotel from The Old Town were the outsiders, the masters of the Forbidden Zone, the Buckaroo Bonsai methheads except in this early hour (6PM) they were still drooling and waiting for a fix to “clear their head.” I am leaving out the college quarter since you kids know that space well, perhaps someone better blogs about it, and I did not visit it. But, the college quarter…. exists. No shit hole city would be compete without a harem of victims to get R&R and activists who want to get the university involved in the community… because blah blah blah, blah blah – Ted.
Away from the cholo quarter, the republican quarter, the strip-mall quarter, and Old Town, ran a line, a sinister line of demilitarized chaos called Central Avenue. You may call it whatever you want. In some cities it is Division Street. In others, Canal. Some cultures speak of Broadway, but most call it Dr. Martin Luther King or Malcolm X. Some older residents of certain cities call it Main Street while younger kids call it That Street of Broken Dreams. For here, it was Central Avenue. Some told old stories of this road being known as Route 66, that storied highway that linked the old dirty East with the new and fantastic West. The highway of those early road trips. There was, to some extent, archeological evidence of these ruins, old motels with signs that once were lit, pointing to motels of rustic or clever designs called the Aztec of Hopi and now these signs pointed to chain link fences guarding ruins or flat gravel lots where the original structures had been flattened in anger and avarice. The few remaining in the upper ends of Central that still stood, were open to the public were now reduced to pandering to the Breaking Bad crowd, the fans off the show about the science teacher and the student who made Meth, and these fans swarmed everywhere and dressed and acted like they were on drugs, the bars on the windows, the gates, the filth of it all so realistic as to make me shudder that people, fans, could engage in such a cosplay…. or perhaps they were just drug addicts. Real ones. Which is even more frightening. I locked my doors. I have been to Morocco, driven in Mexico, wandered the wastes of Russia… and I was afraid of getting killed in the LOE – which, considering my love for Breaking Bad… may have been a good final episode for me.. although I am saving myself for being torn apart by wolves.
New state or not, this is a frightening thing we have done to our Nation and a frightening way to arrange the lives of so many people. Perhaps an anomaly, a stage in the development of a city that has yet to take shape, to shake off the old European buildings imposed on the city, to fold in Native American culture with that of India, China, and Meth, and to create a truly American City. Or perhaps we just did. Perhaps this is the American City, a split city of haves and have nots, enclaves of angry identity-mongers shopping at Hot Topic, a culture of instant gratification and bunker-building nutcases.
I expected more from Albuquerque. Perhaps I had just taken a wrong turn when I got there.
photo (2)