The Tame and the Untamed World

The tame and the untamed world

Inflict their savage sadness on the multitudes

We all digress together into a fetal position of inertia

Our crinkled hearing awakened to the dead pinging of wireless detachment

A seance for the songs of childhood

Copy written memoir

Of fog strewn history

Blisters become calluses on the hot asphalt of enlightenment

So we reach out in the darkness for the snooze button

Dive back into our dreams

With only our nightmares to awake us

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Jerusalem Thorn

 

I am sitting on my porch,

drinking coffee.

Examining the wind,

trying not to fall in love with the swaying

of the newly budded ash trees in the far off whereabouts.

It is at a rock concert up there.

Over the second story roof tops,

flailing its many branches like arms in an audience;

east for the sun that is not there,                                                 west for the moon to come.

The violent North and South winds are at war

with their own hyperbole.

The ash tree’s many bows will bend in the direction

of the strongest gale.

It cannot think for itself,

only follow,

It likes the attention;                      it likes not having a choice.

I sit here on my enclosed porch,

a couple of stories down from the action;

loving the tossing

music of the limbs as the front blows in.

Shocked by the quiet at 10 a.m.,

I watch the denuded Retama tree on the terrace.

An alien creature,               paloverde,            native to this climate,

awaiting the warmth of the soil

to spring forward,

oblivious to shallow figures,         proud taunts,

the perpetual thirst of the Southwest.             This climate has been its home since it

evolved ever ago                  and it

endures way past the hooliganism and the brutal boasting

of wind storms;                                                     unwary climbers beware,

it’s hide was built to outlast generations of suns and slaughter.

 

Down to the dregs of French Roast;                         the final drop,

I place my fingers on my empty cup

and head in to change the clocks.

 

 

End Poem 2017

piano portland

As I came to a halt on my bicycle
A driver rolled up aside me
Rolled down his window
Greeted me good morning
And let me know he was going to give me
The right of way

A cheery Santa Claus of a man

I thanked him and went back to my stance curbside
At the everlasting 4-way traffic light
The greening keeping me waiting
Then he God blessed me
He felt the need to curse me with good luck
For the rest of the day
Was not sure if I needed his curse for the rest of the day

God if he actually existed,
Might have had it in for me until Santa man’s blessing
I thanked him and wondered if God was out to get me
Or if he had already gotten me a long time

And I wondered what manhole
Santa man crawled out of
What tragedy washed him through
The spin cycle of experience.
Soaked to the bones,
Dried to the hide
Until he was slowly able
To crawl out to the sun

The same sun that arose on his fate
Many years ago
Until he worked his way behind the wheel
Of a suburban at this very suburban intersection
Where a man on bicycle peddling like mad
To make the light where a thousand SUVs
Block his path with their unnecessary amenities
And luxurious waste of space

He decides to bless the bike rider
And the cyclist looks at him like he is crazy,
But does not want him to become unhinged
By discourtesy

So I thank him and wheel my ass to work

ROBERT-Chapter 24(When The Wood Is Gruene)

merry-x-mas

He has to be some kind of plant. Get it? Planted deep inside this nursery, an odiferous spy Weghorst dug up.  Smells like Perma-Greune Compost fresh out of the bag and I bet his kiss-ass captain Guillermo put him up to it. Mason says he used to run his own store back in Harlingen or wherever. I don’t know exactly what to think or the amount of fuck I want to assign to this particular paranoia.
If the old man wants me out then tell him to say it to my face. I don’t have
time for all this underhanded, intrigue bullshit. He can hand this store over to anyone he pleases. I can only kiss so much ass. It’s just not in my DNA. If God had lorded me the ability to suck up to the amount I needed to climb this latter he would have given me bigger lips. The old man is getting ready to pass the business off anyway. He has a daughter waiting in the wings, but I know Guillermo is really going to be running the show. Who else is going to keep all these Mexicano managers in line? They’re chomping at the bit, wanting to bronc their masters off their backs; leave them in the dust.
Not sure what Weghorst’s beef with me is? He sees a fat slob like me and assumes I.Q. has something to do with appearance. Appearance is the fall back for having no I.Q. “Dress For Success” when you are lacking in the brains department. It must be some G.I. Joe bullshit that has stained his thoughts like old war paint. Things are changing and he can’t relate. It isn’t a Dean Martin/John Wayne world anymore. Wars are not even fought with the same weapons. Not anymore.
I was in ROTC in high school studying to be a cadet. All of us in it were there for the same reason. We were afraid of our fathers. We respected them. We wanted to be like them. But they scared the shit out of us. You know, maybe if we followed in their footsteps they would love us more. Meanwhile, you’re in this stupid uniform like you’re waiting to take someone’s cheeseburger order.
Desert Storm was kind of interesting. It got you rooting for the old red, white, and blue, but it was over in a second. Like a televised football game. Stormin’ Norman 10, Hussein 0. A military exercise not accounting for losses or the butterfly effect of disrupting ways of life. Don’t fuck with the U.S. cuz we loves our oil.
That reminds me that I have to fill my Silverado up. Takes about 40 dollars.
Actually I would have loved to have gone to Kuwait. Too young for Vietnam. Kind of lucked out of that one. Yet there is a part of me that would have liked to test my mettle; stand in my father’s and Weghorst’s shoes. See how I compared with the old men.
We’ll never know. Because military ingenuity has changed. What are you going to do? Face off against a scud missile? There is no hand to hand combat. Just picking off your opponent from far, far away without benefit of seeing the lights go out in their eyes. No knowing if you could be as courageous as the old guys. All you could be was as frightened as they actually were when they were there and then you would be over.
Still the old man fought his war so I wouldn’t have to fight a war like that.
Maybe Weghorst can’t relate to me because I am not a military man and I must admit that when I am alone with him things get awfully quiet after the subject of horticulture ends. Sports. There is always sports. Thank God for the Dallas Cowboys.
Otherwise, I run out of subjects. He and Guillermo go way back to the fifties, so he does not mind his prodigy tipping the scales now. Geel was probably skinny back then. An ass kissing hustler. I guess I can understand that kind of partiality. I play my favorites at Perrin-Beitel, watch them grow up and better themselves at what they do. Yet something is going on.
I hate this feeling that the rug is going to be pulled out from under my running shoes before I can track my path. The big box monstrosities are starting to take and even Walmart is jumping on the wagon. Can you believe Walmart trying to get into the nursery business? If they run it the way they run their stores, then I don’t want to live in that world.
I’ll just sit out Gruene Nursery until they fold, and then retire with what me and the wife have got banked. Although there is still the boy and putting him through school. My bad for starting a family so late.
We’ll see soon enough if my paranoia about Mason has a foundation in fact. If I have him wrong, I might take a u-turn anyway. I have been sitting in this office too long. Makes me wonder if this store will be here ten years from now. Twenty years? Thirty? Forty? Time. Time to walk the store and see what these cabrones are up to.

CHE- Chapter 12(When The Wood Is Greune

merry-x-mas

CHE

I’m watching Ponce haul Ray’s ass. He’s cussing him out in Spanish. Ray understands he is being insulted but that’s all. We are building Christmas tree racks out of soil and mulch pallets and two by fours. You stand two pallets on their side, about ten feet apart, nail the two by four across it, like a letter H, and then a couple of pallets under   those  boards. They are interconnected into several rows, and there it is. I sat out the fall semester at SAC, and now here I am, translating Spanish to English, and Texican slang to English, so Ray and Ponce don’t spend the rest of the morning out-yelling the wall of their own understanding.
“I know what an ‘hijo de puta’ is, you better tell him that.” says Ray.
“If you stayed in school,” I reply. “You could learn Spanish right now.You could be just as insulting.”
“I aint learnin’ no Spanish.”
“Well, you aint learnin’ you no English, either there, Beowulf.”
“Aw fuck you, Che. There’s only one language I need to know. Anything else is for foreigners. Black may be beautiful, brown may be profound, but white is still the color of the boss.”
“Yeah, David Duke, but your manager, your boss, is profoundly brown.”
“Este gabacho, maricon.” says Ponce.
The old man is staring at the boy, saying this through clenched teeth.
“Yeah, well who won the Alamo?”
“We did”
“But we won Texas.”
“So what, we are still here. As per our master plan to retake the country,one illegal at a time, by 2050, and as a citizen of a re-unified Mexico, you will have the opportunity to learn Spanish for free, or be shot, por pendejo.”
“You’re  pendejo if I’ll ever speak Spanish. And if I do, you can shoot me.”
“Hable con el martillo, pinche gringo.” Ponce says and hammers
loudly in the youngster’s face.
“Hey! You watch that peenchee hammer, old man. I’m going to
get Robert to revoke your  greencard. How do you like those enchilidas?”
“Tas bien hodido, guero.” replies Ponce.
“Robert would rather have you shipped to Tamalipas UPS, than lose
Ponce.” I say.
“Fucking cranky old man. He don’t know everything. He can’t drive
a car. He takes a bus everywhere or rides a rusty old bike from the fifties.”
“It still works, Ray.” I say.
“Work, Gringo. Chingau!”
“Will you tell him to stop calling me Gringo!” Ray screams.
“You ashamed of being white, Ray.”
“Shut up, Che, you fucking communist coconut. I’m going to tell Gunter  you’re a Communist so he can judo chop you into mulch.”
“Communism ended about the same time Democracy ended. We just
don’t realize it. And we don’t care.”
“Hey America works!” Ray insists.
“If America worked,” I reply.  “You wouldn’t  be here, and neither would I.”
“Work, Gringo, work.” Ponce grunts, he is doing all the hammering.
“Ernesto, no hables con este inutil.”
“What’d he say? I know he’s talking shit about me.”
“He’s just telling me what a great American you are.” I assure him.
“I am a great American, just like he’s a great Mexican, and you’re a great Coconut.”
“Thank you, Gringo!” says Ponce and I laugh. Then we say it in unison.
“Thank you, Gringo!”
“Fucking mo-hoes!” Ray blurts out, savoring the taste of a new word.
Ponce and I both drop our jaws and pop our eyes open.
We finish the pantomime before we correct him.
“Mo-hows, Gringo!” we say.
“Mo-hows.” he repeats.
“Mo-hows! Como traese huevos.” Ponce says. Ray looks up at me.
“Say it,” I translate, “as if you had balls.”
“I’ve got balls!”
“Dije la vieja.” Ponce offers. Which is roughly, according to the mid-wife who delivered you. So, from a bio-logical standpoint, you were born a man, but the jury is still out. All I tell Ray is: “Say it like a man.”
“Mo-how!” we sing.

I leave Ponce and Ray to their Spanish lessons and head to the office. Yolanda is standing outside the office door in a  yellow jumpsuit,a soft, light fabric, which looks like crepe paper. A bright, yellow, Chinese paper lantern of a girl. The out-fit still manages to accentuate the contours of her curvaceous hips and more than adequate posterior, a condition once described to me as Apache Butt, alas the descriptive person was hardly an anthropologist. She is raking her fingers through her jet-black hair, entwining it, getting it caught in split-ends. While her hand is ensnared, she smiles at me with reddened face, tells me amidst a giggle that:
“The fat man wants you, Ernesto.”
Behind the door:   “Yollie is that Che?”
“Yes, Robert, I told you I would get him. Jeez, Marie!”
She withdraws her hand from her hair and puts it on my shoulder,
pats it, to brace me for bad news. The facetiousness is palpable.
“He wants you to go to the ghetto.” she says with a smirk.
“Don’t you mean the barrio?” I reply.
She makes a double-u with her hands, implying, “Whatever?,”
and gives a cute grimace.
“And I mean that.”

So after a “Hi Senior,” hey says:   “I need you to go to the Ruiz store and pick up some flock, Deleon, or one of the new flockers left some of our extra flock in the rain. Mas triste, eh? We need some extra bags, and our buddy over there said yes already. You know better  how to get there, all these other maricons would get lost. Got me?”

I shake my head and nod, meaning–yeah, sure, why not, do I have a choice? Am I going to be reimbursed for gas. All I say is:
“Sure. Road trip. I had some cassettes I wanted to listen to.”
“Don’t mess around, we need that fucking flock.”
That will not be the last use of that particular alliteration. I have misgivings about driving down to the westside, for one, there is the bumper to bumper on Loop 410 before lunchtime, all that cluster-shopping at the malls off San pedro, forcing you to tap the brakes or gas every five minutes, and there also seems to be for me, a slight transgression into depression involved, driving from the rich side of town to the poor side, and before I leave, Robert blurts out:
“And say hello to ‘The Gonz’ for me.”

The Gonz he is referring to is my brother, Gonzie,or where most nick-names come from, a three syllable Spanish first name, Gonzalo, who is manager of the store on Ruiz street, several blocks south of Culebra. I used to be his employee, but I had to transfer, on account someone felt there was nepotism going on. For example, I might sort my way through the best potted roses, since we were
adjacent to the Gruene warehouse, and amidst tall piles of potting mixtures, planting mediums and soil conditioners, all the best of the best hybrids would be selected by me.
This would drive the warehouse manager, a loud, tall, squeaky voiced man, named Torres, crazy. He had a limp and a handlebar  mustache–Captain Hook, without the feathery hat and a comb-over. He and Gonzie were always getting into it, I think my brother’s University education would get under his skin. I looked a lot like my brother, even though I was way more of a slacker, and not being a manager, more inclined to practicing the finer arts of smart ass, but every time Torres saw me, he saw Gonzie. Then he heard my Torres impression, I am a pretty good mimic, and I think in passing, I performed it for a warehouse worker. Well, it was a big hit. There was suddenly an edict from Weghorst and all of a sudden no more nepotism.
It is funny, Gonzie had always gone out his way to ensure I was not getting special treatment on the job. Assigning me the shit jobs to prove he was Mr.Fairplay. Bagging sand, spraying stinky Rose-n-ex, like my Dad’s sweaty feet it smells, re-stacking three-cubic foot bags of Pine Bark Mulch. He went out his way to see I was not coddled.
So I was out of a job. Then an old assistant manager, a man I used to always make fun of behind his back, made a call on my behalf, and I was able transfer to the Perrin-Beitel-Store. At the time, I felt I might as well drive to New Braunsfels,  or Canyon Lake, but as things  progressed, I came to prefer the North side. Not having to drive through the poverty stricken neighborhoods of the San Antonian Westside was a relief to me.The dirt lawns drought-ed by neglect, countless muscle-cars up on jack-stands, German Shepard mongrels and Collie mutts chained to front fences or free to roam the streets, and kids in yesterdays clothes, it depressed me that it was just a drive away. At any given time someone would notice you staring and demand: “Que Miras?” I felt bad for them, but their violent, angry pride arose  my angrypride as well  and I drove on.
I pull into the second parking lot of the Ruiz store.Behind it is the Gruene Nursery warehouse proper, bare-rootroses and  fruit trees are readied for early spring. It is overcast, the clouds streaked with a smokiness, like a chemical fire. The neighborhood around this store is quite full of tree variety, age-old pecan with a harvest
of nuts on the ground. Mulberry, Hackberry, Mesquite, and Huisache, weeds that survived the green stage to become indestructible shade trees. Live Oaks and Red Oaks are noticbly absent, you have to cross Culebra for that kind of stuff.
I walk through the Gruene Nursery gates and greet the workers with many “Como estan?” and “Como le ban?” and “Que tal?” They nod at the fact that I am working too hard at this. They recognize me, not by name, but by the fact that I look a lot like my brother.
“Es el hermano de Gonzalo.” they say to each other. I really don’t get the walking mirror-image thing, I have my own face, and there is the  same old conceited joke about me being better looking or him making the same claim. Anyway, now he is heftier than I am these days, all the good  Mexican restaurants in this neighborhood. That and all those manager meetings. He has some salt and pepper to his hair from maintaining a wife and kids, a house payment, whereas I am still a bachelor. He has the weight of the world on his shoulders and I am kind of adrift in a clueless, career anti-gravity.
His office door is open and he is seated at his desk, eating hurch’s Fried Chicken. He is dipping a drumstick in ketchup and biting into a jalapeno while he greets me. He sucks the straw on his soda cup, and says:
“Hey Guy.  Pop wants you to mow his lawn. Momcalled, she can never find you.”
“She  called to ask you to do it, dude. Don’t lie to your kid brother. You can lie to Mom, don’t lie to me.”
I reply.
“Hey, just go mow the lawn, cabronsito.”
“Cabronsito? Woe, you’re really becoming a true west-sider here aren’t you?”
“Yeah, yeah, when are you going?”
“Dude, at least, I’m there once every other week” I say.
“Every day off I get, I go over there. You know I can’t refuse his beating around the bushes. I hate those pyracanthas. Why did he plant such a stickery shrub?”
“To keep the neighbor’s kids from running on the grass.”
He replies.
“The berries are great in the fall and winter, but an ass-kicker to prune.”
“You let your ass get kicked too easily.” He bites into his second drumstick, dipping it in ketchup, tearing into a jalapeno, immune to its fiery juice. After running several napkins past his mouth he says: “Look, Bobby!Remember, what’s his name?
Fonso ,Mando or whoever, who use to call you Bobby all the time?”
“Wasn’t it Cleto?”
“Arnulfo, maybe?”
“Yeah, ‘Panocha,’ I forget what his name was, only that he was like four-eleven, covered in flock. He had this sweat-shirt, the kind with a hood, the flock was on his goggles, his mask, and every once in a while, he would spit it out his lips and say:
‘Ahora le, Bobby, otro Scotch Pine, otro Plantation Fern!’”
”Oh yeah!” he laughs. “He called them ferns! Douglas Ferns!
Plantation Ferns! Grand Ferns!”
“What did he call River ferns? River Fir?”
“Yeah, he’s in construction now. There’s good money in that.”
he says.
“Yeah, there is. If I want spend all afternoon in the “viva sol”
with the Arnulfos, Mandos, and Cletos of this world.”
“Your too good for that right?”
“I’m no better than they are, I just choose to do other things with my free time than accuse people of looking at me the wrong way, they still living out high school, and they were dropouts for the most part.”
“Well the Anulfos have houses, cars, wives, and kids. What do you have?”
“An extensive library?”
“You mean excessive. And you live with your folks, and eat their food, and the least you could do is mow your father’s lawn when he wants it done.”
“Hey I never said I wasn’t going to do it. Next chance I get, all right? Now give me the bags and let me get the flock out of here!”
“Tell Bobby to keep stock of his inventory. All right, Bobby.”
He says.
“Ta ‘buela.”
“Your grandmother is my grandmother, stupid.” he mutters.
“I’m sorry, I’m here on the west-side, it was just an automatic response.

Yolanda-Chapter 23(When The Wood Is Greune)

merry-x-mas

Mason has been messing with my business. He’s been spreading the word, and I think Che is listening, because, all of a sudden he does not follow me around like a puppy dog, doesn’t try coordinate lunch schedules or talk to me about the latest movie he has on his mind. The other day he even grouched out: “Why don’t you get Lopez to take you?” I was like: “Who pissed in your Post Toasties?” I mean, what kind of nonsense is that? Why do guys? Boys? I won’t say men, act like complete asses when it comes to friendship? Why do they have to possess you entirely? Isn’t it enough that I choose to spend my time in your company? Why do they have to make it into a thing?

My mother said: “Look out for Latino men! Look out! Because for one thing, they will compare you to their mother who is sort of Mother Theresa combined with Julia Child, and also they are very possessive. Like in a tribe or cave dwelling unit.

I’m like: “For real?”

“Still?”

She nods her head with an expression that allows all the air out of her face. I give up and I have not even started.

I just mentioned lunch to Che. He tries to ignore me the best he can. His face is all red like he just got slapped. It was not like he was going to drive me either, or pay for my lunch, but I can tell he is pissed about something and I have a feeling it was Mason and his big freckled mouth, because that is the only thing that has changed lately.

It also just so happens that the last time we were all out drinking I might have spilt some of my history onto the billiard table. Mason is kind of slick. You can tell he had those big ears wide open like satellite dishes. We were shooting pool and he was trying to give me tips to improve my game. It was chili night at the Carousel Club on Perrin Beitel, which is this dive that Lopez, Jake, and Ray found in pursuit of the ultimate dive bar experience. The guys kept making trips to the john in between pitchers of beer. He might have sidled up to me like the snake in the Garden of Eden and asked how things were going between me and Lopez. My first thought is: “Fucking Lopez is bragging!”  My second thought is: “What’s it to you Dr. Zaius?” Still if he is trying to put this jigsaw together, who is it going to benefit?

I think he said the info would not see the light of day. I was tipsy and I guess a little too confiding. So, he probably told Che that this virginal Catholic schoolgirl that he hoped he could bring home to his mother was actually playing the field like any normal twenty year old that was not raised by nuns.

If that is true and it bothers that boy, so be it. I am kind of tired of hiding my feelings for Lopez even if those feelings may be temporary. I am trying to get a degree folks, my mom sacrificed a lot so I could.

I am not sure why it bothers me that I am not this princess that Che has conjured up in his mind. This maiden does not need to be rescued.

I was hoping he could be my friend a little longer. I never asked him to fall in love with me, anyway. I am flattered because Che is smart and he makes me laugh. I hate when he goes quiet when I come around.

He is really good at walking around with a broken heart. If anything, I was just trying to cheer him up because he is so serious sometimes. He really is throwing all his attention on the wrong girl. Waiting for time to change me or my mind. I should be relieved that the cat is out of the bag.

Now I can be who I am and if he does not like it, he can work out his own drama.

Life isn’t a movie.

 

CHE- Chapter 22(When The Wood Is Greune

merry-x-mas

So this Mason dude is a real John Waters fan. I basically know of Waters as a T.V. personality who makes smarmy comments about movie-stars and films. I was thinking, any movie with Divine in it; I saw LUST IN THE DUST, HAIRSPRAY, and CRYBABY, and found them rather silly. I think I went to CRYBABY because it had Traci Lords in it, but she kept her clothes on and Johnny Depp was sort of over the top funny.

“Naw, man, he didn’t he make “Lust in the Dust”,you need to see “Polyester!”

And he goes on about POLYESTER and  I have to schedule a visit to Blockbuster, although sometimes Hollywood Video has harder to find films. That place is a drive all the way to Thousand Oaks.

“But ‘Pink Flamingoes’ is the movie!”

For the next twenty minutes we lean on the fertilizer stacks and he goes over the plot. The way he tells it is very funny and odd. When I finally watch the videos on my own I find them funny, odd, specifically looking for the scenes he was referring to, but also very low budget and sad. It was also kind of too gay for my comprehension, I guess I am not as liberal as I thought I was because I had to shut off  FLAMINGOES half way through. Maybe because Mason lived in Dallas, Houston, and Austin, which he goes on and on about. He has been exposed to more degradation than myself; different degrees.

Apparently, Mason is a Libertarian. First time I have ever heard the term. He had an entire list of things they wanted to do; like abolish the income tax, which I was like: “How do you do that?”

“You ever read “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress?”

Thinking? Richard Burton? I think my brain has been partied out by the Eighties, I still feel a slight guilt about being a part of the generation that allowed Reagan to become President, but it is kind of hard to keep your eye on the ball when you are knee deep in suds and your twenties are the only time you can really drink like that. I think the Elders count on that, and by the time you wake up to who is screwing up the government, you are working at Greune Nursery and not exactly a political threat.

“You ever read Robert Heinlein?”

There always seems to be more going on in Science-Fiction than space ships. One minute you are imagining interplanetary travel and the next you are in a weirdo cult. I think I only read one Heinlein novel and it was about these twins. One goes  up in space and does not age and the other gets old, there must have to  been more to it than that, but it is all I remember. I really tried to love sci-fi but at some point I reached a literary puberty where it all seemed like kid stuff to imagine futuristic worlds when other writers were doing cool stuff with the language or how the story was told.

“A few.” I lied. I looked like a person who reads science fiction, or when people would first meet me, they would say stuff like: “I bet you like a good mystery.” I think for that reason alone I had discounted mysteries from my readings. Maybe when I am old I will enjoy mysteries.

Mason can also not shut up enough about Tobe Hooper, who I did not realize had directed THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. I knew of him from POLTERGEIST, which felt a lot more like a Speilberg movie to me, and since he produced it, it might as well have been. So he was mentioning one obscure, low-budget horror movies in the same vein as MASSACRE. He said one of the actors in it was a young Robert Englund, whose big line was: “I’m Buck and I like to fuck!” Interesting. I don’t get to discuss film with too many of the inmates of Gruene.

“Yeah, Kubrick is always good, man.”

Of course, he loves A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, which is one of those movies I always wanted to claim as my own. I would have to say I had built up an appreciation for BARRY LYNDON, but my heart will always belong to the dark, zany, slapstick of DR. STRANGELOVE, and especially loved the alternative title.

He is a weird looking guy,Mason. When he gets excitable his voice escalates into a nasal whine. Sort of looks like a skin-head who has let his hair grow out into an orange bush. Seems to have a story for every occasion and does not mind stretching the truth when necessary for the sake of a fable. I really have nothing better to do with my life, but listen. Waiting on sale, or for someone to declare war, forcing us to act. We both to old to draft.

He also reminds me of Dr. Zaius from PLANET OF THE APES, that dead orangutan stare in his eyes before he smiles.

“But one of his best movies is ‘Eaten Alive’!”

“Kubrick’s?”  Sort of listening.

“Naw, man! Hooper! Tobe Hooper!”

“He made more movies, huh? When did that come out?”

“I don’t know? Mid-Seventies? Yeah, man, Neville Brand owns this motel in Louisiana. He feeds his guests to this giant crocodile.”

He laughs a juicy laugh.

“It’s fuckin’ great!”

“Aren’t there more alligators in Louisiana? Native species, like that?”

“They don’t get as giant as a croc, though. I think he brought it home from his travels.”

Now I have to rent a movie, that might suck, just to verify a storyline, and catch someone in a lie. It is a full time job to verify useless data or expose a lie, especially when you have nothing better to do.

All I know about Neville Brand is that he is a famous heavy from the cowboy movies, took John Wayne’s grandson hostage in BIG JAKE. Or was that Richard Boone? Anyway. Famous bad guy.  Black hat.  Aging, and looking to pay the rent, thus EATEN ALIVE.

Of course, he loves A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, which was one of those movies I wish could site as my own, but at it’s heart it is about bored, young guys getting together and breaking stuff, kinda like high school, you have to know when to walk out of theater.

“Like MOTEL HELL?” I ask, trying to correlate memory and movies.

“Yeah, kinda, but you know the stole that shit from Hooper.”

He’s a storyteller in search of an audience.

Later, on we search the nearer Blockbuster Videos for a copy and cannot find it. Lopez says there is a H.E.B. that sells videos on the side of their grocery store. We investigate. Sure enough, it is there in the horror section, the plastic case looks faded, ancient. Some kind of alligator/crocodile on the cover chewing on a blonde, busty women. We take it back to Lopez parent’s house where he lives with his brother Jimmy. The Jimmy who is never there Jimmy. Their parents left them the house and moved to a better house. All I could tell you about Jimmy is that he worked nights, seemed to have no life other than re-taping  as many  new releases of  HBO and SHOWTIME movies onto VHS. He had several seasons of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, it does not get much sadder than that.

Ray and his wife live right across from him in yelling range, except now with air-conditioning all arguments are sound-proof.

We watch POLYESTER and FLAMINGOS and both movies are straight up dumb. I’m like, we could have rented something good. Ray comes over at some point and asks: What the shit we are we doing? Not much, watching some nasty, transvestite movie. It reminded me of how awkward I felt when I first saw ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. Watching Frankenfurter in garters was pretty weird, but the theater was full of all these crazy white girls from the Northside, tramping it up in lingerie, trying to be wild, imitating their favorite character from the movie. Girls have no problem with gay stuff.

“Why don’t you stop watching that shit and let’s go to the back yard and throw the ball around?”

Lopez clicks the remote.

We are outside and following Ray across the street and through the side gate to his back yard. He finds the football and we toss it around. His wife is cooking something that does not smell too bad. Some kind of extended hamburger-helper with greens. They invite us in and we take part in their little ritual.

Don’t ask me how it happened. I think it had something to do with Jake leaving to Iraq. Anyway, somehow we fell into friendship. The important part was not saying it out loud. At some point I wanted to question it, but I had to admit it was nice not having to drive all the way home to the west side and be alone with my aging parents as they watched MAGNUM P.I. and BARNABY JONES back to back. Don’t get me wrong, they are great, but at times I believe they are stuck in the past and they want me to tag along. I feel sorry for them and what is worst is that I get the feeling they feel sorry for me. They sense me all alone on the patio listening to R.E.M. or Tom Petty. Making my way through a six-pack of Miller Lite and a pack of Marlboro Lites. The two lites of my life. They can sense me howling at the moon along with Bono and U2. Trying to picture a way out of the pitiful desolation of my own situation.

Introspection was always my strong point, but I tend to dwell on it too much.

I can’t get Yolanda out of my mind. By the fifth beer and half way through the cigarettes, she’s all I see and it almost frees me to wallow in the melancholy tone of the music. And by the time WITH OR WITHOUT YOU begins it’s slow march to the eventual crescendo; I am done for. I can see her so clear, I can talk to her shadow in the moonlight.

By the sixth beer, as it comes to the last the guzzle, I realize just how far out of reach she is, and that I should let the idea of love go. Also, that a beer run would be a bad idea.

My parents would never forgive me for wrecking my car. But I am running out of time. Running out of miles. I am like, in my thirties, and have yet to publish a word. Not even close. Hemingway and Fitzgerald were my models of aspiration and at the same age, that ambition is also out of reach. Maybe people will discover me when I am an old dude like Faulkner. He was short and considered himself a failure; if I can only fail like him, then I could get some sleep. All that Holden Caulfield kind of crap.

And if I did succeed, would I hide away like Salinger on a private island? Would I ask Yolanda to share a lagoon with me? Would I want her after all that? After I had to throw an entire island into the bargain?