Fame Game (for Joni Mitchell)

Now I understand, what you tried to say to me, and how you suffered for your sanity; how you tried to set them free. They would not listen they’re not listening still; perhaps they never will.”  – Vincent – Don McLean

Vincent fell asleep at four am with the lifeless brush still in his paint stained hand. He woke at noon and fixed himself a coffee and turned on the TV. A well dressed lawyerly looking man was enthusiastically extolling the benefits of his services. He said he could fix it so if anyone would simply phone him NOW he could get them “compensation for their pain and suffering”. Vincent thought this was a good deal but wondered how with the budget deficit and Barack cutting back NASA funding such an astronomical amount could possibly ever be raised. He also thought that if these gifts were distributed equally starting with those who had the most pain and suffering, like the natives in Africa without food and clean drinking water, that he and his ilk living in the luxury of the USA would come in far down the list of worthy recipients.

Vincent left his chalet and wandered the streets toward the Pub. He was dirty, disheveled and tottering a bit in his worn down shoes. He was welcomed at the bar by local prostitutes who loved to fawn over him while he drew sketches for them on bar napkins that they so admired; they let him trade them in exchange for their services. A man arrived and approached the bar. He ordered a drink and told the bartender to fill Vincent’s glass with the cheap wine he was drinking. They struck up a conversation and the man discovered that Vincent was a Painter.

The man told Vincent that he was an art aficionado and curator for a local gallery. He asked Vincent if he would take him to his studio and show him his paintings. They slapped their glasses down on the old, worn wooden bar, doffed their caps to the bartender, said good-by to the women and set out. Upon arriving at Vincent’s meager hovel Vincent displayed his paintings and the man was astonished. He thought them magnificent and that Vincent was a great undiscovered, unwashed talent not unlike Jean Michel Basquiat.

The man asked to buy a particular painting. “What’s it called” the man said. “Starry Night” Vincent said. “How much” The man asked. “Fifty dollars” Vincent answered.  “I do like it, but I’m a little disturbed by the yellow bit in the corner”. “That’s the Moon” Vincent said. “Could you paint me one like it but with a little more blue and grey” the man asked. “Sure” Vincent said. The man left and Vincent slumped in his chair. Vincent dined that night on yellow paint and feral squirrel and he dreamed all night about a beautiful girl.

A week went by and as Vincent lived on yellow paint and carrion he found in the streets that he cooked on a hot plate in his make shift kitchen he painted his palette blue and grey and looked out on the winter’s day with eyes that showed the darkness in his soul. He painted the shadows on the hills and the trees and the daffodils and caught the breeze from the winter chill that rushed through the open window. He painted the swirling clouds in a violet haze that reflected in Vincent’s eyes of china blue. His weathered face was lined in pain but soothed now beneath his artist’s loving hand.

Vincent finished the painting and the man bought it. The man held a dinner party at his house that Saturday night and proudly displayed the painting to his artsy friends. They decided that Vincent was their next great meal ticket. The men promoted Vincent’s work and managed to get him a one man show. Vincent and his now famous painting blew up and soon the men had Vincent flying around the world first class to great acclaim. He became rich and famous and the men who had promoted him made a fortune.

Vincent’s shows were the talk of the art world. He would create a painting live onstage in front of screaming crowds. Every time he’d start a painting the groupies in the Mosh Pit would yell to Vincent; “Do another Starry Night man”. “Do another Starry Night”. One fateful night when the absinthe and the cocaine and the women and the screams of the crowd to repeat his masterpiece combined with all the adulation that now overwhelmed Vincent’s flagging creativity, driving Vincent’s brain to oblivion, he faced the screaming fans, took out a pen knife from his pocket that he used to open the ends of the paint tubes and slowly, to the horror, shrieks and applause of the crowd, calmly, deliberately, sawed off his left ear. Vincent showed it to the assemblage and then gave it a great toss into the crowds in the cheap seats. The fans fought over it like a foul ball hit by Mickey Mantle at Yankee Stadium.

Vincent turned and walked down the old stairs from the podium and through the stage door. He felt ruined by worship and destroyed by success. He stepped into his new chauffer driven limousine and snorted a bit of the white powder that the men who fed off his soul provided and that had become his only friend; never asking a thing in return. As the car pulled away slowly he felt as though he was astral planing in a dream state, pious; calm and strangely holy; though mostly Vincent felt relieved. He drove silently to the Pub where his journey had started those many years ago when he met the man he now thought must have been Mephistopheles. He wondered; had he sold his soul to the devil? Vincent took the shabby piece of paper he had written the TV lawyers phone number on, and kept for all those years of somnambulist void, to the phone booth, closed the door and dialed the number. Vincent explained his conundrum as best he could to the lawyer, describing his indescribable pain and suffering. The lawyer listened. Then he told Vincent that he couldn’t help with the kind of pain and suffering that plagued Vincent.

And so, early that next morning, as the prostitutes from Vincent’s favorite place left the Pub; while Vincent’s paintings hung in empty halls; the women knelt weeping over Vincent’s lifeless body as he lay crushed and broken on the virgin snow.

For they could not love you; but still your love was true, and when no hope was left in sight on that starry, starry night, you took your life as lovers often do. I could have told you Vincent; this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.” Don McLean



Nick Masesso, Jr.

I’ve seen the needle and the damage done; a little bit of it in everyone; and every junkie’s like a setting sun” – Needle and the Damage Done – Neil Young

As Spring’s light struggled for breath a few nights ago word shot across the wire with the speed of a late night subway train; dope had taken another great man. Watching fine art go down the drain I was reminded that for the most sensitive among us sometimes the noise can just be too much and maybe that’s how Prince was feeling, when ensconced alone in his penthouse grave, life lost its fun and there was nothing to be done but pop his last death lozenge and play a last request. Maybe he didn’t notice the Grim Reaper’s death-stank cloud or the overdose hovering in the air.

Maybe it was the ceaseless soundtrack of the city, the song…

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Nick Masesso, Jr.

“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…

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“Feed Your Head” – White RabbitJefferson Airplane

Another Christmas in Pleasantville; this makes three. Winking goodnight to a good day I caress my beloved typer this evening feeling no pain and high as a monkey from the contents of an industrial size bottle of codeine laid on me via the local Nazi pharmacist; compliments of my enlightened doctor. Despite the knowledge that this was Howard Hughes’s drug of choice, and look how that turned out, my body, vibrating pleasure from another two-hour workout, (one pound under the super middle weight limit and reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Adonis), I’m feeling good and feeling good is good enough.

My Uncle Sam made good as well today; sending my guaranteed payment for decades of white-collar proletarian contribution direct to my vault at Wells Fargo with a dependability I have come to admire. These events have rendered both my essence and my psyche serene; and though impending doom surrounds an imminent visit from my mirror/shadow (son) and the fear this will result in my own looming Damocles sword, Jim Croce “cats the cradle” moment; I expect and accept the yin-yang balancing yoga.

Of somewhat less concern but annoying as a toothache comes the fear my intellect is turning to mush from neglect caused by a lack of stimulating conversation; an absence of dreamscape narrative shared with mates and like-minded seekers. I’m used to the interplay of happily cluttered minds that populate the Bermuda Triangle of diversity, acceptance and tolerance; Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco; where cerebral glitterati misfits from around the globe filter in and congregate like gold nuggets rushing to swirl and collect like water in a bathtub drain.

I left half a dozen magicians behind in that utopia when I split; seekers all, with minds embedded in a dance of colliding ideas; sage who ask the question despite knowing the answer; who speak in double helix of metaphors and allusions; taking a straight question about how ya’ doin’ and answering with the uniqueness of a Grateful Dead space jam drum solo and the surreal small print detail of a rental car agreement.

Here the conversation is parochial and pedestrian. The carpenter came a knocking yesterday to show me his hat; apparently he had noticed I have a penchant for hats, better to cover my shaved pate and keep warm. It was a beauty and he sure was proud of that hat; a Stetson of cowboy shape, the kind you could drop a brick on and not leave a dent, the variety that takes a couple of years of daily wearing to break in and, if once contoured to the owners head were to find itself taken, would result in a duel.

I feigned interest since I didn’t want to be cruel or rude; he was standing in my living room after all, so I went along. But there’s a half-life of about four minutes of available details to discuss surrounding one’s head cover. I’m not an elitist. My dad was simple folk; had that common man touch and I inherited it; finding more comfort and enjoyment with that ilk than those who went to Goddard.

Yet I’m missing the eclectic mix of eccentric minds that made my west coast family unique, exciting and fascinating. Big Pauli; artist, brainiac hustler, ladies man and fun factory, who can be found in his self-made maze heroically punching his way out of a paper bag each day, advised me to seek out the local writer’s community for comradeship and common ground. But I find too much of the Silvia Plath syndrome in those bent in that direction. Besides I ascribe to the Groucho Marks dictum of group connections, who when invited to join the Friars club, sent a telegram stating: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member”.

I miss the pulsing energy of that quixotic tribe of misfits going 200 miles an hour with their hair on fire; burning naked on the razors edge of possibility who could rescue me from myself; lifting and transporting me by sharing the joy and angst of the worlds of wonders they have swimming around in their minds.

Peter the Great; blood brother and clan titan Prometheus of alternative living solutions and Lancelot to my Galahad. Lisa, my Muse, all heart and soul living and loving on that angelic Treasure Island; an aptly named home for the treasure that is her, a bursting supernova of pure light energy sharing her vivid and honest experiences, making me wish I were as great as she sees me; sharing with me her communiqué’s of experiments in life, love and psycho–pharmacology.

Roy Bones; Consigliere’ and mystery vagabond wanderer, above it all, walking between the rain drops, back from the abyss, stalking, waiting, searching and wondering. I’m missing also Portia; my opposite, kryptonite and pseudo-sibling life loving companion; Liz Taylor to my Richard Burton, sharing our stage and acting out our Shakespearean dramas from Camelot to The Grapes of Wrath.

From that alternative family house, now sold, I traveled a long way looking for my roots, for something concrete in this life, tired of roaming around aimlessly, the distance done, the possibilities too many, to find something firm to build the future upon, another spot with warmth and love and togetherness. I leave high and hopeful, outside that warm familial environment to this one, yet again immediately confronted with the need to be free and the need for something bigger, more meaningful.

The search for a home becomes a deeper search, for truth and meaning in existence, the same thing millions search for. But it is impossible to be certain of it, so it’s always an illusion to some degree. Through the distance we hold hope in finding universal truths which even a prophet couldn’t give us, as it is our task to search for our own truth.

Perhaps Lisa’s advice is prescient. We find our truth in the beauty of each others souls, looking into and not at each other and we come to a point where the only thing that’s certain is love and that seems to give us enough meaning in life. We don’t need to have anything more concrete or any absolute philosophy or religion. Love in its simplicity is better and greater than anything.

Inside A Rainbow

Nick Masesso, Jr.

“Slow down, you move too fast. You’ve got to make the morning last. Just kicking down the cobble stones; looking for fun and feeling groovy”. – The 59th Street Bridge Song  Simon and Garfunkel

Another Groundhog Day at the coffee clutch; the pretty young women are full of welcoming smiles and cheerful banter as we face off to perform our ritual kabuki dance. “Want your regular Nick? Getting pretty nice out there, eh: they say?”  I swipe a finger across my throat and fake a stab to my heart signaling my favorite drink; the Stab and Kill; two shots of espresso over dark roast; as I retort. “I haven’t been warm in six months and I’m snow blind from the constant sight of white on my ocular nerves. Once it gets forty-two degrees here, which I remind you is ten degrees above freezing, everybody pretends they’re…

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