In The Now

In a voice reminiscent of Raymond Carver‘s minimalist realism, Charles Bukowski‘s raw journals of life’s underbelly and Alan Ginsberg‘s poet-political essays, Nick Masesso Jr’s fictionalized, short stories, philosophical essays, poetry and prose are funny, insightful and heartrending, describing often in non-linear dreamscape narrative with the liquid lyricism of a poet; the love, loss, joy and angst of the fascinating and often mystifying connections of men and women in the intimacy of their daily lives. His writing style is both Anti-Novel and Imagist; fragmenting and distorting the experiences of characters, forcing the reader to build a reality to the story from a disordered narrative, stressing economy of language; writing free; with precise imagery, clear, sharp language, clarity of expression and meticulous visual images in musical phrase. – Gino Rossi



“You are all a lost generation” – Gertrude Stein in conversation and epigraph to Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises

I wipe at the hot showers fog of soapy mist on the mirror of the medicine cabinet in the steamed bathroom that’s made my reflection almost invisible. It’s the same each morning; after having cleared that miasma vapor away it reveals my ripening. My skins as white as a cuttlefish bone from an epic long winter. The lack of sun has made my image nearly translucent. The medical term is seasonal affective disorder or SAD and maybe that’s the source of the depression that has the sink holding me up.
The tip of my index finger depresses the plastic nozzle atop the cylindrical can of Aramis; releasing a mist that doses my moist flesh; masking the pheromones that will later escape when my secreted fluids diffuse and mingle with whoever it might be tonight; coating our slippery tangled bodies locked in the frenzied obsession of a passionate lovers embrace.
I thought but didn’t much care that the toxic torrent unleashed, according to the latest scientific peer-reviewed report on global climate change, planetary warming that both arctic systems and coral reefs were already experiencing, the irreversible regime shifts from among other things, the atomizer’s chlorofluorocarbons propelling the liquid that covered my scent; or that my thoughtless gesture would, with a hundred other modern conveniences, be responsible for worldwide ecological collapse, famine, flooding and pestilence. I sent a silent apology to the remaining polar bears.
I gave the day away; dressed to attract and met the milky sky. Firing up my chariot I headed for the Kaffeeklatsch, downed a stab and kill and sped to the gym for an angry workout. I stopped off at the library to absorb a few more chapters of the manic rants and musings of Hunter Thompson’s canon and then uploaded some sustenance from the days blue plate special at the diner. The pool room closed at midnight. I was folding up my winnings when I realized the sips of Crown Royal from my secreted flask and the many rounds of Guinness had done their job.
Escaping the cool breath of wind from the street I passed into the local meat market; a hothouse of pheromones, testosterone and estrogen. Feeling the beast inside coiling as I pushed through the door of the roadhouse; floating as high as a monkey in a tree and content as a hog on ice; feeling holy. Stepping over the threshold breach gave way to an invisible curtain between two worlds; the outside, a Netherlands of normalcy with flocks of work-a-day sheep and herders bustling about; the inside a Fellini circus atmosphere that captivated my senses. The air reeked lust.
I felt that weird kind of adrenaline instinct that feeds on tension and high pressure as I clocked the strum and drang of the environs. I don’t know any of these actors so the image they are projecting back to me must be their favorite. The men fell about the place seemingly coordinated with the din of sound that passed for music; impersonating jokers, thieves, minstrels and madmen; their voices more brass than iron; a testosterone physicality overlaying the fervent messages they were broadcasting. The women wafted a scent with undertones of desperation, loneliness, uncertainly and mostly want, desire sharp enough to cut falling silk like a samurai sword. They were covered like an M&M in a thin candy coating of hope and optimism.
I sensed a desperate last call pre-dawn chaos enveloping the inhabitants; every soul recklessly humping the American dream as the juke box howled a bad noise mating call; the drugs kicked in. The Stones blasted Sympathy for the Devil with a fiendish intensity and the lights gave off a strange glow and vibration, the smell of stale beer provided the buzz kill. I was searching for the Holy Grail, a woman to share the secrets of my shattered soul, held together by scars and truth, to help me through the night and beat the devil in my head with a prosaic everlasting kiss.
She sat at the bar with a panther’s grace; her legs like pins encased in skinny jeans that appeared sprayed on; they jackknife provocatively on the bar stool like swizzle sticks. Her face could not hide the need to be taken and it made me fantasize a roaring wood fire in a dark night on some black sand beach fronting a lush green forest in Borneo where I took her like a Viking. She carried the scars of ancient wounds and instead of projecting defenses, sat reposed, like she’d already given in, like a mortally wounded lion that draws a circle around itself with its own blood waiting for a pack of hyena to catch the scent.
She said her mother had quit the Valium, said it made her too normal, no longer crazed and somehow this robbed her of her power. That was a red flag to be sure but her suppressed sexuality made me sweat like a wheel of cheese. “I didn’t see you there at first” I said. “I’m incognito” she said. “Beautiful things don’t try to be noticed” I said. “Want to get outta here?” The sky was white haze from the heavens to the lake that bordered the woods. The frozen moisture in the air sparkled like diamonds refracting and made dappled shadows flicker in the silvery half-light.
The all-night diner was right out of 1955 and like sex and pizza it’s hard to find a bad one; it had one of those open kitchen style layouts that hash joints of the era favored; designed for quick communication between the waitresses and the short-order cook. The chrome and neon sign flashed Open 24 Hours. The coffee cups were as thick as flowerpots and the waitress kept them filled to the brim with watery coffee from a plastic flip-top insulated pitcher she left on the table. A couple of hard eyed hooker’s were sprinkled in the drunken randy crowd; decompressing from a long and jangled night.
Maggie, our Moon faced hostess, shouted our orders to Peppy, the half-black half-Chinese madman with a spasmodic face twitch and a twirling metal spatula. “Adam and Eve on a raft for the lady; a cowboy with spurs for the gent” she yelled. For the uninitiated that’s poached eggs on toast for her and a western omelet with French fries for me. Pep nodded his approval and set to the task like he was made of mercury and had a black belt in jujitsu. His head spun about like a boat adrift from its moorings. He had the aggressive chemistry of a connoisseur of sharp knifed edge-work.
He held his hand aloft and towards me; opening it surreptitiously I spied a joint. He motioned me to the back and after excusing myself for a moment I met him at the dumpster that was as rancid smelling as a milk truck. Chatting him up as we passed the dubbin I discovered he was a triple Scorpio; a real character. He dressed like a crusty drifter recently stumbled out of a Hoover-Ville hobo-jungle. “You’ve got the moves Pep” I said. “All energy flows according to the whims of the great magnet” he said. Christ I thought, on top of everything else this man’s a mad poet.
He had long sinewy arms with a brawler jawbone and looked a burned out caricature of a Mexican Brando. His face had the scars of having been slashed and eyes like jellied fire with long blaze red hair as fine as corn silk. Just then some pals of Peppy roared up on Harley’s; a gang of Pit bull gladiators, muscle-bound weight lifters, cranked up drug enthusiasts that totally meshed with my karma. One humongous rat faced fellow had the look of having been left to snack on paint chips as a toddler; a lout of the first order having made lots of wrong turns and met many dead ends.
He gave me a sneer with angry eyes; a bête noire king hell speed freak as tightly wound as a spring inside the casing of a watch that made the adrenaline in my guts spin like a whirligig. The un-self aware un-self conscious type headed for a hellish descent into drugs, fugitive flight, prisoner status and finally dead man; jail, asylum, morgue; the usual.
Back at the table I found some preppy type vamping my girl who seemed in love with his own voice. He was working on a doctorate of some kind. “The age you are when you go to jail, fall in love or become famous is the age you remain” he said. “Sounds profound” I said. “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom” He said. “Studying William Blake I see” I said.
Her place smelled of incense and scented candles; an angel on a ribbon hung from the armoires door and a fine porcelain Cupid with his feet crossed looked down on the swaying cherub. “I hate everyone who loves me” she said. “They seem to revel in showing me just how ugly they can be”. I wondered if I’d come home with a rock star; some celebrity I was too old to know about. They say there’s no one cooler in the pocket than me but at that moment I felt like a man without skin. The drugs were fading as I oriented myself to the moment. Apparently I’d invited a demon into my belly. We waggled and dangled for hours and hours like we were digging up trees, grass and flowers; finally I rolled over with a moan and a cough and she coiled up next to me dozing off.
Her remembrances come back in the smallest things. This morning it was from the sense memory of how her arm brushed against my torpid remains, still glistening in our sweat as it brushed against the hairs on my chest when she reached for the glass of ice water on the nightstand after we’d become one again, making love in zero gravity for the third time in the wee hours. This afternoon it was her voice hanging in the air in front of me; how she said Ti Amo with that voice that had a bit of a dusty road and a timbre so lush and velvety I could almost rest my head on it. Imagining her in those moments, for now anyway, is my new favorite way of getting lost.

Hatred Trumps Hope By Tom Shachtman

The American Prophet Who Predicted Trump

The uncanny insights (and incredible life) of the American longshoreman and political prophet. By Tom Shachtman

Whether or not Donald Trump knows it, he’s running his presidential campaign out of Eric Hoffer’s playbook. That would be The True Believer, published 65 years ago this spring, a book about mass movements. Hoffer’s big insight was that the followers of Nazism and Communism were essentially the same sort of true believers, the most zealous acolytes of religious, nationalist, and other mass movements throughout history.

In 1951, it was stunning to Americans to be told that ultra-right-wing Nazis and ultra-left-wing Communists—their recent enemies of World War II and current enemies in the Cold War—were, according to Hoffer, cut from the same cloth. “All mass movements,” he explained, “irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred, and intolerance.”

Hatred and hope were the most important lures, Hoffer contended, hatred much more than hope: “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents. Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.”

Trump’s followers have responded most enthusiastically to the candidate’s diatribes against such devils as Mexicans and other “illegal immigrants,” Muslims of any stripe, unattractive or pushy women, clueless policy-makers, “loser” opposing candidates, and reporters who ask him other than softball questions.

The pollsters tell us that Trump’s followers share a decided affinity for authoritarianism, as well as beliefs that government causes more problems than it solves and that immigrants (and people with darker skins, and women) have stolen their jobs and their futures.

More: Trumpsters have little regard for facts that contradict their stances. Hoffer could have predicted this. “It is the true believer’s ability to ‘shut his eyes and stop his ears’ to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. He cannot be frightened by danger nor disheartened by obstacle nor baffled by contradictions because he denies their existence.”

Hoffer described in detail who the true believers were: the frustrated, the disaffected, the dissatisfied with the status quo, those who put their faith in a leader promising simple yet radical solutions to their and society’s problems. “We join a mass movement,” Hoffer wrote, “to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the young Nazi, ‘to be free from freedom.’

“Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the loss of faith in ourselves.

“All mass movements deprecate the present,” wrote Hoffer, “and there is no more potent dwarfing of the present than by viewing it as a mere link between a glorious past and a glorious future.” That’s what Trump is doing when he vows to “make America great again”—celebrating what was and will be, while denigrating what is.

Trumpsters are predominantly white, native-born American males who do not have college degrees, and are economically in the lower middle class rather than among the very poorest. Actually, in these ways they are more like Eric Hoffer than many other Americans. In a 1964 article, Hoffer identified himself and his fellow longshoremen as white men from poor backgrounds, with little education and no skills except for their willingness to do backbreaking manual labor, who “do not feel that the world owes us anything, or that we owe anybody—white, black, or yellow—a damn thing.”

Hoffer was the only child of Alsatian immigrants, born in the Bronx around the turn of the 20th century—sometimes he said 1898, at others, 1902—who grew up poor. When he was 5 he and his mother fell down a flight of stairs; she died and he went blind. His blindness prevented him from going to school, and upon regaining his sight at 15 he continued studying on his own until he was 18, when his father died. Using a small death award from his father’s union, Hoffer traveled to Los Angeles and in the 1920s became a day-worker and Skid Row denizen—reading voraciously in libraries between gigs—in the 1930s an itinerant agricultural field hand, and in 1943 a unionized San Francisco dockworker, a position he retained even after becoming a best-selling author, and until he reached mandatory retirement age in 1967.

He initially took that job on the docks to have more stability to write, but retained the wariness of the itinerant, knowing, as he told his first editor, that he must “guard against fear, self-righteousness, and wishful thinking, for these blunt the mind and the senses.” In the same vein, Hoffer chose not to read Freud, Marx, or other influential intellectuals—he hated intellectuals—so that he would not be swayed by their explanations and jargon. During his itinerant years he began jotting down his thoughts in 3-by-5 inch notebooks carried in his pockets and backpacks, which I was able to consult at the Hoover Institution for my 2011 biography, American Iconoclast: The Life and Times of Eric Hoffer.

Unlike Trump’s followers, Hoffer early on understood that “undesirables” were not the enemy. That revelation occurred in 1934, when as a transient fruit-and-vegetable picker he was swept up and placed in the El Centro camp at the edge of the southern California desert near the Mexican border, and for the first time had to co-exist with 200 other men. Prior to that, he considered himself “just a human being, neither good nor bad, and on the whole, harmless,” but after a month at El Centro he realized he belonged to “a certain type of humanity, the undesirables.”

Some were lame, some were foreign-born, some were tramps, some were much darker-skinned than the rest but, he concluded, all were the same as the “undesirables” who for generations had fled from Europe and Asia and became American pioneers, the people who for 300 years had built our farms and roads and cities and institutions.
Throughout the rest of his life, Eric Hoffer continued to venerate and celebrate the “undesirables” as America’s real founding fathers.

Noblesse Oblige

Nick Masesso, Jr.

Phone calls long distance to tell how you’ve been; you forget about the losses, you exaggerate the wins. And when you stop to let ’em know, you’ve got it down; it’s just another town along the road.” – The Road – Jackson Browne 

Mt. Kilimanjaro is a snow-covered mountain 19,710 feet high; said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called by the Masai “Ngaje Ngai,” the House of God.” Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.

When Ernest Hemingway wrote his short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro in 1938 he imagined the leopards quest for solitude to be like that of the writer or the boxer who goes off alone to commune with his demons and his final redemption. Rejecting the church that…

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Trumps Hells Angels

Nick Masesso, Jr.

Every mans life is a comedy, a tragedy and a drama” – Mark Twain

Having spent the best part of an entire year assuring folks Trump would suffer a McGovern style defeat; I awoke election morning shell-shocked inside a surreal dystopian nightmare; my thoughts flew scatter-shot like a bag of spilled marbles. What the hell just happened?

I was fond of saying Trump was cancer and now irony compels me to realize that like cancer it’s not one thing but a host of bad results that accompany the disease. I feel obligated to swim in this sewer of confusion and disillusionment long enough to make some sense of it all and deliver a quotient; a final reasoning for why this seemingly insane event occurred; if for no other reason than control of my own sanity.

Not one of the gentle people in my circle, many of whom voted for…

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“Time heals all wounds” – Rose Kennedy – Mother of J.F.K. & Bobby Kennedy

The last page of the wall calendar is torn from its moorings. It flutters in a time flies perennial death spiral to lie prostrate in a final wasted repose. We’ll recycle it along with the imaginary meaning we give time, that made up quantifier that satisfies our incessant need for epistemological certitude. Now too I think of the woman I left behind in the time it took for that calendar to perish – another town along the road – another woman, here, then gone. Last year at this time we were still feasting on the organically feed and locally raised Christmas ham. It was just her and me then, still whimsically skipping through what passed for the initial blinding cinematic throes of love.

Men fall in love, not women. Men need to be loved – women need to be wanted. Men rule through physicality and thus understand mercy. While woman are guided by intuition and socialized to empathize with others ( and here its prudent to stipulate that no man knows what goes on in any woman’s head), suffice to say for the purpose of this treatise, mercy is not on the menu when it comes to a woman’s bayoneted love; once the vessel is pierced there will be no appeal – it’s a one-shot deal.

While men are rendered virtually mute concerning the death of love; a woman can verbalize the geometry of its length, breath and width ad nauseam. While men are left hump-backed and crooked by the Armageddon-esque aftermath; woman are revitalized. They have a good cry, redo their hair and set out gingerly to find a new victim.
My best advice here and my personal life-long practice is to let her be the one who leaves. I don’t believe I’ve ever left a woman. That whole hell hath no wrath like a woman scorned is no joke and I don’t need that kind of psychic revenge hovering in the ether around my aura.

The wounds that time inflicts, the damage from blunt force trauma body blows by other men bruise, then heal; while the attachments formed with women tear the flesh when detaching; leaving scars – wounds, injuries that never fully heal, traumas that elicit painful sense memories when our mind decides to revisit it. Couples either marry or separate. Come to think of it even couples that marry separate. So it hard not to conclude that attachments only hurt – they never help. The temporary distractions they provide are intoxicating and I admit my own personal heroin. I want nothing more than to get lost, to lose all sense of time tangling the bedclothes with my latest paramour. Yet the knowing that some small difference will eventually drive a wedge between us is pushed out of the mind; because love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

Some say life is about loss. We start out with everything and gain more and more until a peak is reached. Then a tipping point occurs and we begin to lose; friends, parents, siblings, sometimes even children; our bodies break down – and in the end we lose it all.

I had a recurring dream as a child that I mistook for a nightmare at the time. I saw myself in a pure white room, sterile, on clean white sheets and a soft comfortable mattress. I took it to be a hospital room though I had no pain, no wounds. The scary part was seeing my spirit self leaving my body, astral-planning above my flesh and blood self. My soul rose slowly while the earthly me got smaller and smaller. I think now it was a projection of my death and I’m good with it since dying on clean sheets in a clean, white hospital room with, I assume a morphine drip, is just fine by me.

Rising weightless, having released all of life’s addictions; the desire, the hope, the ambition and the wounds. Its like that final calendar page free-falling with its symbolic lose of time both imaginary and real until finally the body that held the soul is left behind with the wounds of the time dream – just like 2017. #MeToo