Noise

“For the most sensitive among us, sometimes the noise can just be too much.” – Jim Carrey – upon hearing of the death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

The cross city bus clamors out a murderous seasick solo backed by an orchestral scrum of whizzing internal combustion engines in uproarious brawl spewing invisible air and ear pollution death while begging for second gear; both instruments of audio-olfactory destruction, an offense to the ear and nose from landlocked personal space-ships bumper to bumper on the narrow streets of San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood; all, along with the antique streetcars sing out a cacophony of noise so disturbing I had to hold the phone, physically 1,500 miles away from the action, six inches from my ear.

Our story’s hero Jeff is laboring, careening up and down intensely inclined ski sloop streets chasing said bus while he screams into his cell phone at me “Man, the first thing you’d notice if you came back is the noise”. I tell him he’s preaching to the choir. The air in my environs of northern Wisconsin is so calm I can hear the sound of autumn leaves rustling along the well-kept lawns and iridescent blue birds singing their daily arias.

Writers flood into big cities, whether they know it or not, to be uncomfortable; since like the late, great Charles Bukowski opined “no one comfortable ever wrote anything worth a damn”. The city is life on steroids; it’s intensity keeping us all tense. The boulevard is a raging river of humanity and sometimes inhumanity. There is rarely a shortage of stimuli upon which to opine. Here the writers cup runneth over.

Our hero confides he’s been reaching back into his past to make that connection that sooner or later, sooner I think for some of us given recent societal developments, we all eventually make; that DNA linked memory to our roots. Jeff is currently covered by a warm blanket; surrounded by like-minded west coast social justice warriors – yet when looking back over his shoulder in contemplation of revisiting comrades from his mid-western past; he is floored, repulsed and catatonic over the addiction he sees in his childhood pals adherence to the new ersatz fascism; the redneck noise that is Trumpism.

In the same way it’s nearly impossible to escape the noise coming at us all like a Chinese parade, from eight different directions all at once; it’s the same for our natural inclination to decipher the content and arrange it in some assemblage of bite-size order. Is it as it seems? Is the new avalanche of information overwhelming our capacity to upload, sort-out and categorize it’s meaning and importance so we might get a handle on our collective future?

It can’t only be me and our hero who, overwhelmed by the noise, wish solace in heeding the wise voices from our past. Timothy Leary’s advise was “tune-in, turn-on and drop out.” Or the angelic voices of groovy guru of the day who suggest wandering in an open field for mindfulness training. Or the Birkenstocks environmentalist who insist we head back to nature and hug a tree; or the mental spiritualist that whisper meditation is the key. Maybe the best of them are the Tantra yogi’s who claim sexual pleasure is the way in and out; that the answer is a bit more of the old in and out. Being a hedonist myself I tend to flow in this direction.

Yet, with escape valves in place in case of overload and prayers to the universe for guidance, I can’t help myself wanting to sort through the noise and discover, like a pathfinder, which direction to point; for myself and others. The Stoics posited that the philosopher left the cave, examined the outside world and returned to tell the others of the joys and dangers outside the cave.

Now they’re be a noble and heroic cause; to be a fearless scout in the face of unknown dangers; to be a trailblazer for the greater good in a quest to report, interpret and transmit the findings. The conundrum seems to be we can’t translate through the noise to know what’s coming if we disengage from it.

In the end I’m left perplexed. Shall we try to make a path through the noise though we fear not knowing the answers and fear worse not even understanding the questions? Are we all just like our hero; wishing to be heroes; but succumbing to the dictates of surviving the day and reach for the safety and sanity of just catching that bus? #rednecknoise #Stoics #Trumpism #CharlesBukowski

A Drum is A Woman

“Give me the beat boys and free my soul; I wanna get lost in your rock n’ roll – and drift away”. Drift Away – Written by Mentor Williams – popularized by Dobie Gray.

Big Pauli and me skip-tracing a venue he’d told about somewhere in the bowls of downtown Oakland late that evening; clicking our Italian heels across the concrete sidewalk on a warm, damp, narcotic American inner-city night, glided under a bruised autumn sky crackling with atmosphere; the energy sending lighting bolts scurrying above our heads and sparks beneath our feet. We rambled serpentine passed rundown warehouses in Oaktown Cripps territory; Asian kids; hip-hop rappers with one foot in their graves and beefing mightily with the premiere Black gang, the 11 Five Mob; kept our heads on a swivel.

The music seeping from the storefront styled rat trap building cascaded; enveloping us in the rapture of a celestial choir; a sense impression causing me to imagine what it sounded like in heaven. The ecstasy to my ear lifted me nearly off my feet. I’d never felt an auditory sensation so all-encompassing, so movingly beautiful. We ducked inside to find a beatnik/hippie style flop, a homeless squat overrun with piles of personal effects from beings either dead or dying. It smelled like your grandmothers closet.

There was a stage of sorts at the end upon which rested a full size standing Harp behind which stood a beautiful angelic looking black girl dressed in an elaborate costume that made me conclude, from the quality of her play, she had just left a gig and was here to jam. Beside her rested her protegé; probably her boyfriend. I couldn’t tell. He had a fine-looking axe which confirmed for me they were probably professional musicians.

His guitar sang a twang perfectly accompanying her Harp. There was a microphone, an amp, speakers, a drum set and the like and sitting in front of it all a magnificent conga drum that’s hide stood just a bit above crotch high on me. I’d always wanted one long as I could remember since for reasons unbeknownst to me I was a born percussionist. Whatever it took to be that I was. I could always play. Somehow my inner workings had a mainline that tapped right into the beat; that first sound man communicated with; the drum; that primal reggae beat.

Pauli, Oakland’s answer to Harry Connick Jr., harbored fantastical visions of being the next Bobbie Darin modern jazz singer and truth be told wasnt half bad, grabbed the mic. I settled behind the Conga drum. The angel played, the guitar blended in and once I got a taste of what they were up to let my drum sing. Paulie launch into some Billy Holliday standard. Man, we waggled and dangled for what seemed an hour or more and once we grokked each other the angel Harpist asked me to open up and for the rest of the band to follow.

A few minutes in I guess it was I vanished into some space, some sanctum santorum. I was gone. The drum played itself or so it seemed. I couldnt hear a thing but I could feel it; the beat, the rhythm, the pulsing of some invisible cyclical that emanated from the earths center; a secret rhythm of the saints, the sacred beat of the universe flowed through me.

To this day I can’t tell you how long that Jam lasted but when we stopped like on cue I was saturated, soaked in sweat and the pain in my swollen fingers threatening to burst into a bloody mess consumed. I stripped off my shirt and undershirt and slopped them down on a chair. Our impresario, the angelic harpist, began to introduce the band, beginning with herself, the guitar player, a drummer who’d stepped in while I was trance-simpled out and then Big Pauli. All received what I thought to be above average applause.

I was getting a bit nervous while also completely exhausted and calmed out which took off the edge when she asked my name and I gave it. I didn’t know what I’d played so I kinda hung my head a bit a shuffled about like I’d dropped something when I heard “And Nick on Conga”. Just as quick the beast sprung as one, the assembled multitudes, numbering maybe 25 souls, erupted in applause. I can’t tell you what their faces looked like at that moment since being so flabbergasted I couldn’t manage the courage to look at them. The appreciative noise went on for a while. I’m pretty sure they were standing. It’s maybe the only time I’ve ever felt embarrassed. Anyway; that was my musical moment.

I said all that to say this. Yesterday the UPS man delivered to my door the spitting image of that Conga drum; a gift from my brother Big Pauli. Wow! I set it up carefully and ever since I’ve walked by it, positioned center most in my den, and with each pass I caress her buffalo skin top; treating her like a wild animal – letting her know she is safe and soon will be set free; to sing, to play, to release.

A drum is a woman.

Memoriam

Nick Masesso, Jr.

“There are women and women and, some hold you tight; while some keep you counting, stars in the night”  – Come Down in Time – Bernie Taupin

There’s a girl who lives in the north country of California; an eco-village of recyclers, compost turners and organic lifestylers, who united with me for a time back in the day. She was the only one of the élite women that affixed her heart to mine over this lifetime, and even though we shared the most intimate of hours, with whom I could never find purchase. Even in our most intimate hours there sat between us a kind of violence even in our ardent love-making. She remains to this day an impregnable force, like a freight train, whose gears I could not convince to yield, whose machinery chewed me up every time I tried. I was left to simply buy the…

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Extinct

“Now for me some words come easy; but I know that they don’t mean that much. I’m good with the words that are spoken with a lovers touch. You never knew what I loved in you; I don’t know what you loved in me; maybe the picture of somebody you were hoping I might be.” – Late for the Sky – Jackson Browne

Rose felt the trembling tingle of a sleepless night. She stared at the full moon outside her window on Charles Street in New Orleans as thoughts of her lost lover slipped through her fingers. Beams of blue flickered through her window pane and caressed her face exposing the brown stains under her eyes; etched there forever by her rusty tears.

Palmetto bugs danced all around the flames of the many scented candles she’d lit before she lay upon her futon to contemplate her lost desire. She wondered how that same pale blue moon looking down on her could shine down in his eyes all those thousands of miles away.

She dreamed that she was sleeping and in that sleep dreamed how every minute of pure ecstasy she’d felt with her lovers in their cathedral bed had brought 1,000 hours of torment when the alliances inevitably spun apart.

Planets rotated, glaciers melted; and without trying or practicing or even knowing it could be done, just by thinking it, she suffocated her desire, sure that like the morphine that rose like a flood, pounding in her blood, the rapture she felt from her lovers touch was not worth the sickness that came when, always, inevitably, they left her; lost and desolate.

And so, when the next lover arrived and the fevered ecstasy dance began anew, slowly moving them toward each other like a magnet, she surrendered to the pull. Yet, when finally they were inches apart and the game was surely afoot, she felt nothing but the bottomless abyss, completely deserted in a state of bleak and dismal emptiness. Her desire, once so omniscient, the thing which gave her life meaning, evaporated into a whiff of smoke; and she with it went.

Intimate Strangers

“She’ll change so suddenly; she’s just like mercury – She’s entwined in me, crazy as can be; yeah, but she’s all right with me“ – Mercury – Counting Crows

We met cute. I’d locked myself out of my apartment and if I’d a’ had a cell phone, which I do not, I wouldn’t have had the phone number to call for rescue anyway. So, by virtue of cosmic gamble, I walked east instead of west and knocked on the front door of the apartment two doors down from mine in my heavenly duplex complex. She answered the door cautiously, somewhat hiding at first behind some invisible worn-out wall of flimsy cardboard she’d erected to keep away those I suspect she thought might carry bad vibes. I scaled it in seconds.

She had a kind of dark hazy light around her that summoned something akin to the heroic in me and just as suddenly I felt a mild wave of protectionism surge in my psyche. In an instant it seemed we’d become what I can only describe as intense yet intimate strangers. So, words were exchanged, her phone offered, and the deed done; I split the scene to await my rendezvous with the cavalry. Later that day, out of a sense of panache girded by common courtesy I left a thank you note with my phone number in her mail box offering my services should they ever be needed. The rest as they say is current history.

Now she tells me she loves me every day, delivers hand-made artsy cards and love letters with great frequency and rubs my feet with sweet-smelling potions for hours at a time and I’ve never even asked for it once. Christ; she even cooks; and real good too. I normally can’t spend too much time with women unless it’s centered around sexual magnetic energy and the subsequent mattress gymnastics since they simply do not interest me. But on our first date we shared a gab-fest that lasted seven hours.

She tells me “you make me feel safe” and after the four words every man wants to hear most from his women, “I believe in you”, it’s the best five words any guy can ever hear from his soul mate. She has that perfect mixture of needing me while not being needy. She has her own life and that too ranks high on my woman/partner/lover wish list. She’s smart, sexy, sweet, loving and tilts toward her Mexican ancestral peasant warmth and strength. Her favorite way to make me laugh is her imitation of a Cholo switch blade artist saying, (if any other woman so much as looks at me;) “I’ll cut a bitch.”

She knows how to act like a woman and how to treat a man; a dying art form. She’s also promoting my career while having her own; a modern-day Lee Krasner to my Jackson Pollock. They say opposites attract and given our designer simpatico I guess so. However, and this may well be the best part of it all, my new girlfriend and I could not disagree more. I’ve had girlfriends wherein we were so alike, so precious, I ended up wanting to punch us in the face. If we’re out walking and there’s a split in the path, simultaneously, like a well planned comedy sketch; she says let’s go left while I point right. When she’s cold; I’m hot. If she’s hot; I’m sweating.

She’s got this 80’s goth cum Mestizo Indian style thing going and while she wears it well my contemporary American western style makes us look like we ought to be on opposing sides of the Spanish-American war or members of an savant-guard post punk rockabilly/jazz fusion band. She’s a technology geek perpetually wired in, while I still rely on a land-line for my phone; probably the last guy around without a cell phone or a GPS in my car. She’s into Werner Herzog and Wes Anderson while I favor Scorsese and Coppola. Maybe it’s our generational distance, which god knows she informs me of frequently, that accounts for our many dichotomies. Since she is the better part of two decades younger than me; that may account for some of our differences; but it works just about right for me overall since women my age are way too old for me.

I could go on; fill another page or two with similar contrasts that keep us loaded with debate material for conceivably the next millennium; but at this point you probably get the point. Yet despite this seemingly incompatibility we couldn’t be more attracted to each other. All our seeming differences pale in insignificance when superseded by the undeniable fact that she has the kind of face I want to fall asleep and wake up to? I can’t recall being more comfortable while at the same time more stimulated by any past love partner.

And so it goes. Just when I thought I’d jettisoned all attachments in an attempt to achieve my own personal brand of enlightenment, sequestered deep in my post recluse period, (now safely inside my new country gentleman period), I suddenly find myself jonesing for one more night wrapped around my loves warm and tender thighs like tinfoil; yearning for one more slow-motion kiss from her soft and yielding watermelon sugar lips.