Don’t Sleep On The Train No More.

“Black boy,
Black boy…
What you gonna do?
Barack Obama’s coming for you.”

-Dreadlock rasta man on 1AM L Train Union Square.

Begin paraphrase:

Singing Of Jihad. Benghazi. Iraq. 9/11. These things occurred in yr. heart.
That one day America will not be just a society, but a just society.
That yr. power is in yr. own heart.
That you are just a small dead boy named [REDACTED]. You look open-eyed, wide-eyed and sing deep.
(A) God bless America. [People on the train are smiling at what he says b/c he is funny]
That veterans and G.I.s with stumps are not looking out for handouts to oil pumps. But that there are drones in the sky that look and drones in the sky that bomb. And yr. only gonna be certain when yr. under the wrong one.
God bless America. God bless America. [I exchange a look with someone]

End paraphrase.

He went on. In spoken word pieces. Set between chooka-chooka rhythms and a palm-mute/D-note on the heavy E string. During which he sang the quoted chorus.

That was 1AM on the Brooklyn-bound L Train. He did this up and down the train car from U.Sq. until Bedford Avenue station.

I found myself agreeing with his methods. There’s no use in proselytizing angry. Better be goofy and sing it. You won’t make anyone say:

/I’m a human being goddamn it. My life has value/

But you may make them remember jumbled paraphrases and a caricatured accent. Then again, I was already thinking that this is not and will never be a just society. So he was giving these brain worms an outlet.

Before this?

Going toward Union Square:

Some white guy, biking clothes, 10:36PM, coasting on his bike down the Dekalb platform. It was a breezy night, no trains blowing the breeze. Just the air being breezy electric. He has this blissful look on his face breathing in through his nose.

He turns around in the middle of the platform and can see cops in the distance. Me and the girl on the bench can see them too. Two of ‘em loping toward us three like a pair of scuzzlebutts.

Bike guy hops off of his bike. He is walking fast, trying to get out of the subway tunnel. Off of this damned platform that is no longer breezy but is instead making his face flush. He is trying to escape.

But those goons – equipped each with a gun, taser, mace, handcuffs, two-way radio, billy-club, army boots, pens, and ticket books – well, that list is not exhaustive but, those goons caught up with him.

They caught up with this cyclist. And they were writing him a ticket when the train finally pulled into the station.

Going into Manhattan 10:45PM a homeless black man surrounded by bags shit himself at one end of the car. I could smell it at the opposite end of the car. I’m not going to sit on the shitty smelling car.

Once we’ve passed under the tunnel between stations I walk through the doors. I crinkle my nose and I shake it off and open my book. Everyone has gotten on the shitty car before. When the train pulls into Jefferson, a miniature exodus begins. And this happens at every stop, each time the swell of people increases.

‘Til finally the damn bursts and the ridiculous L train riders have appeared in full and they are making faces. Angry ones because sometimes the subway is shit. Mid-laughter ones with teary eyes. Saying things like ‘everyone gets on the shitty car sometimes.’ and other things like ‘oh my god.’

But one couple sits next to me, so I hear how their conversation goes after the laughter.

[keep in mind that I don’t have to and I don’t not have to listen]

“That guy was having a feces party back there.” he sez.

I think, ‘It didn’t seem like a party.’ but I have slept on the train and have no sense of humor and I really just wanted to read so I let it flow out of my mind. (I thought it was out of there.) I can still hear them in the present moment – that being the past now. When I was trying to read.

Now I can’t write so I’m editing. And someone reading this will have no idea what the original intent of the preceding paragraph (and especially that sentence!) was.

“I’ve never been on a car that smelled so bad. Like, I’ve been on cars that smell bad before but I have never been on one that smelled like that. It was like, the whole car.” she sez that sounds like the seamless.com announcement, you know, like “New Seamless order.” [ad naseum]

“I remember once,” he sez next, “I was on a train and everyone was making faces at some smell. And I couldn’t smell anything. I literally asked the lady next to me what it was. I guess my body chemistry didn’t register it.”

He sounded so smug in that moment that I dared not to look at him. He sounded as smug as “dared not to look at him” sounds pretentious. He sounded so smug that I wanted to whap his penis and balls with the spine of my book.

As we pull into another station and the exodus begins again, she sez, “I want to film people’s reactions as they change cars.”

And I look down and she has an iPhone in her hand. And I think, “GOD! She could actually do that.” but what I meant to think was, “She could actually record the people recoiling in horror at another human’s suffering.” b/c I meant to think grandiose since I was reading a hard cover (good for whapping p&b into jelly) copy of [REDACTED].

And now I think I was thinking that it is just weird living with humans. Since one thing we often do is document each other, but we don’t seem to observe these documents. We seem to only observe the documentation-action part of it.

And I finally get to U.Sq. and stay there for a while smoking hand-rolled cigarettes with [REDACTED] and talk about this piece of gibberish I’m writing and mental illness. And I have no intent to write about coming here b/c I’ve slept here before too and have already written about that.

And it’s been such a cool summer. Everyone is dressing awesome this summer. They seem to feel that way too. Someone offers someone else a sandwich. Until the police appear again, at 12:30AM to “Close the fountain.”

There was another homeless guy. He was sleeping on the fountain steps. He pissed right onto the ground while a 4 ton truck drove a foot away from his pecker. The truck was some kind of cleaning truck and I am only guessing at it’s actual weight… But it arrived in the nick of time.

And then some guy carrying roses asks us if we’re going to sleep in the park and we say ‘no.’ because we’re beyond that now – we hope.

But that’s about when I got myself back into the subway system, to wait on the Brooklyn-bound L Train – just like that song. And instead that other song is coming along.

Hear that D note shuffle?

Black boy, black boy… What you gonna do?

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Once Being Better Than Never

‘Was sitting on a friend’s stoop. Waiting for them in the shade with the sun behind the opposite row of buildings.

‘The door opened behind me and someone I recognized was standing there. I couldn’t quite place him but he said “Hey.” and I responded in kind.’

I was peeling potatoes and Chef was slicing beef into little cubes.

‘I saw his shirt and realized he’s a bartender at The Garcon. You know? The dive bar across from Ma’s? Anyway, he was wearing a Garcon shirt. He’s mostly a weekend bartender.’

Chef pouted his lips to indicate that he knew the person. We’ve been there together and have probably been served by this guy.

‘He was moving a dresser and I asked him if he needed a hand. Said “No, it’s pine. I got it.” so I got up off of the stoop to give him room. He made several passes getting the drawers out of his apartment.’

The chef looked up and said ‘yeah.’

‘I don’t think I’m going back to that bar.’

Ma

I want to revert because I am atavistic. This is generally frowned upon in society. Except in the cases of profoundly conscious artists.

However, the boys in this story are not artists, conscious or unconscious. They are boys that come to my bar. It’s called Ma’s Pub. I’m Ma. Neither a saint nor a poet. Just Ma.

They are brothers. They drink and steer one another along  on paths of destiny and debauchery. At least from what I see in the bar. I’ve never witnessed their selves in the flesh outside of my establishment.

I’ve hired a young lady to serve during the world cup. They start coming in at three in the afternoon. Especially to see her and flirt. There are only three of them, but the first half hour of happy hour is enough to make someone hire a dishwasher.

Which, I’ve also done for the world cup. He’s buying angel tattoos with his paychecks.

When Eric shows up at 3:00PM he consumes his usual two pints before the half hour mark and makes enough conversation. His conversation is easy regardless of the time. Shane arrives second, this day at half past and only has a water when he sits.

Shane carried on today in this manner for a little while longer than I thought normal. I wondered why he was drinking water. Was it to focus on the match? It was only France and Belgium today. I supposed he’d been fascinated by their history. Maybe by the second quarter he’d switch to whiskey and talk about the connection between world history and the match. Fools are prone to this. So are intelligent people.

By the point that their youngest brother arrived he’d been drinking water for fifty minutes here. This fact was pretty noticeable. The tangle of old men regulars were paying attention too. So I went to investigate, sending my new employee to untangle that other mess.

I said

Hi boys!

Hey Ma!

They said.

What’ll it be for the final five?

They ordered their pints except for Shane who again asked for water. There were only seven minutes in the game.

Shane.

I said

This is to celebrate France’s victory. You can’t be happy for yer fellow humans?

I quit drinking Ma.

He said

I could scarcely believe my ears. But I served him water as he requested.

In the final five Belgium scored and blocked France from reopening their lead. It would end in a tie ultimately. Shane might have never learned that though. He stood up after Belgium’s block and said loudly to no one “Jesus Christ! Can’t the damn people do anything without a camera?”

He left. We watched it down to the end and only after the match actually observed Shane’s exit. He was gone.

“What happened to Shane Ma?” The young one asked.

“We’ll say cheers to him.”

What about the Belgians Ma?

Someone asked.

“That’s fine and all. But anyone who’s willing to go through life sober is pretty fucking brave.”

Back To The Puss Factory

It was the day after the exhibition of Jim Herbert’s new paintings at English Kills.

Noon. I was waiting outside the gallery.

I was guessing that maybe I should have checked the schedule for the opening time. And not regretting it since it was one of the first beautiful days in Brooklyn in a while.

A long, bearded figure came down Forrest Street from Flushing Avenue. He was wearing a denim jacket and mirrored shades. It looked like someone I knew.

I wasn’t going to call out and shatter this peaceful anonymity between us. We were the only ones on the street. Even the corner with all the cop cars was quiet.

DonPabloPedroMural2He stopped in front of a garage across the street and rolled up the gate. It was Don Pablo Pedro. I walked across the street.

DPP was about to start breakfast. A hero sandwich of some kind.

The walls were still painted pink inside the garage from its tenure as his studio. He was painting a pink woman on the outside wall. She was intertwined with a long legged greenish man who was balding and sporting an erection.

“What are you up to?”

“I’m going to paint a face on this lady’s butt.” Gesturing outside where the mural was in progress. “It’s the first nice day for painting since I started adding on to the piece.” When did you start working on it? “I guess in 2009. When I first painted it there was a wheat-pasted baby just beneath the guys fingers. So it looked like he was reaching for the baby.”DonPabloPedroMural3

I sat down on one of the wooden benches in the garage. Behind me were a stack of paintings from the English Kills 7th Anniversary Show.

He devoured the sandwich – Not to sound like a boy crying wolf but heroes are put on notice here.

He would eventually sign the wall: “Don Pablo Pedro 2007-2014” in black cursive. I looked at the things he brought: paint, deli quarts, brushes, food, water.

He had turned his attention to a peach now, casually and thoughtfully gnawing around the pit. He turned his mirrored shades to the street. In profile he looked ready for a hike – flannel shirt, mesh hat, bearded and lean.

“Do you mind if I hang out and write?” I said, pulling out a blue composition notebook and sitting on a wooden bench.

“Go for it.”

He stood and went to the street. He put a bag on the ground and took one last bite off of the pit before throwing it to the sidewalk too. He came back in and emptied a viscous red paint into a deli quart. With this he went onto the sidewalk and began to paint.

First there was a loud bang across the street. The sound is the alley entrance to English Kills opening. Chris Harding appears in a soccer shirt. His head is down and he is taking something in a garbage bag down the sidewalk. He moves quickly and is gone.

When he appears again a few minutes later through the same door he calls across the street.

There is a face going into the Y where the pink woman’s thighs meet her pubic area. The face is just an outline in red right now. Kind of a toothy self-portrait from a time when DPP’s beard didn’t hang quite so low.

Since my impetus for being on Forrest Street today was across the street hanging on the walls like an ancient king’s orgy room, I stepped into the sun again and crossed the road.

DonPabloPedroMural5I could hear someone talking to DPP. “Can I take a picture?” it was a man asking. “You just captured my entire sex life.”

I turn around to see a man hold up an iPhone. He has a girlfriend or a wife with him, who must have been equally excited to see her recent sex life in a mural, because she also took out an iPhone and pointed it around.

They start asking him about other places to see murals. They want to see wild style… “Halsey” – “Jefferson” – the sidestreet beside the old “Factory Fresh.” A police cruiser rolled by. The mural-seekers were starting to move on.

“Vil is supposed to start hanging the show soon.” Harding says to me.

Pedro steps back and starts rolling his head from side to side. The way that people tell you to do when you are supposed to loosen up a little. He dips the brush in some water and then into the red paint again. Her buttface is getting eyes and hairy outlines on the brow and chin – the taint and clitoris.

I join Harding in walking back once again to the other side of the street. Now I’m going to see JH’s new work. Walking in, for the uninitiated, is to enter two rooms filled with enormous canvases of figures a la Monet engaged in pornography’s vision of sex.

But the trick to JH’s interpretations is that the people in these scenes have the innocence turned up on their sexuality. There’s little fellatio, and much more emphasis on the moment just prior to penetration in these paintings. They make you feel like a voyeur. But one who is looking into their own past, to an age when sex was unfamiliar and anticipatory in every sense.

I look up at these enormous paintings and wonder, if they invoke a longing to recall my old sex and self – at 1/4 of century. How does this painter feel at 3/4 of a century?

Speak to JH and you immediately sense his energy. Balled up in a physically fit old dude it practically comes flying out of him when he’s talking. His eye movements are keen – they are observing.

I walk around the gallery and decide that I don’t know anything. But it’s powerful.

In the alley outside the show rooms Harding is sitting in the shade. Rolling endless cigarettes and cracking beers from last night that are floating around in water. I sit and join him in the cigarette rolling and beer cracking.

The door is opened and sort of frames DPP in a small world. He’s almost laying on the ground now. Outlining her feet and double-jointed abdomen in black.DonPabloPedroMural1

The small, framed world looks like one in which a hairy, alien Pablo Picasso ate baby Keith Haring and does frescoes on the streets in baby blood.

DPP has a communion with paint. In this shared malleable weirdness he seems at peace.

Suddenly Frankie the dog appears. Frankie can’t be trusted anymore. At least that’s what Harding tells him while blocking him from the street. But he picks the little lhasa apso up and takes him along to the garage.

DPP steps back and gazes at the painting. “Buttface.” he says and walks away. He takes a sip from a Tecate.

Harding puts Frankie on a retractable leash. “Can you hold this while I move some things into the gallery?” I put the leash on my key clip hanging from a belt loop.

DPP has begun to add a shocking outline to her eyes. She’s become an Egyptian in the stunning quality and quantity of eyeliner and cheek shading. A Sphinx or a Cleopatra sitting in the sun on the last spring day of May.

A young lady and her mother arrive. The young lady is wearing a spring dress. She wants to sit with her father and Frankie. She spots the painter across the street.

“I want to see Pedro!” she says. When she gets to him she asks her mother, “Do you think he is painting good?”

“I think he thinks he is.”

She is getting antsy and wants to run around a little with Frankie. Chalk appears and she begins drawing on the sidewalk.

“Let’s make an art show A!” Pedro says.

“Frankie looks like a sheep!” She says.

“Yeah bahhhhhhhh!” sheepish vibrato on the h.

Water guns appear! Squirt Pedro!

It looks like DPP PP’D his paints now.

At 5:45PM the mural is finished.

“Do you like the buttface?” He asks.

Yeah. Pretty much.

What Am I Doing Here?

It’s spring. I’m back in Brooklyn.

Using the internet in earnest for the first time in about a year. I think I’m about to not be homeless.

I’ve been a curmudgeon-esque, Luddite-lite, notebook-filling human for the past year. My father had two strokes last year and I lived with him in Florida for nine months. I learned how to write again. With a pen and a composition book.

I moved back to NYC on April 1st. I lived in a homeless shelter in the Bronx for a month. I’m still processing that.

I’m typing and editing my book. Trust Fall is a tentative title. It’s about the hopeful three months in which Kronenberg and I began our homeless adventures. It’s nearly finished.

I’m going to model in Michael Alan’s Living Installation on June 21st. I think it will be something good to write about. I interviewed him a couple of Thanksgivings ago.

I’m also lining up some interviews and polishing some reviews. I suppose I’ll publish them on this blog. That will be nice.

I’m cooking on 23rd street next to the Flatiron Building. I’m learning a little Spanish. I even had a conversation en espanol with the Don Panchito guys in Williamsburg.

I don’t know what I’m doing here yet. But I’m getting close.