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Dude Gets Around

Clayton’s back in town. After sneaking into the newly renovated “Cadillac” Palace Theater, he landed a gig with the show that was, at the time, going up there—and then he went to New York with it. That was something like a year ago. Back then, I gave him a direct order: “If you get to go to New York, you stay there. Don’t come back here.” Welp, Clayton got lonely. He patched up with his ex and moved back to Arkansas to be with her. (They’re both from Little Rock and, a few years back, they’d moved up north to the Windy City.) Welp, Clayton got bored with Arkansas (and/or perhaps his ex). He decided to migrate to the last place he didn’t feel bored or lonely: Chicago. *  12 January 2001  * [More recently, though, Clayton wound up working on location as some kind of technician with James Cameron’s Avatar franchise.] 

City Roots

Every time Ma or Stepdude flushed the toilet, their, um, deposits wound up on the floor of the basement. The plumber they called in sent a root grinding “rod” through the sewer pipe that ran beneath the front lawn. Somewhere on the other side of the street, the rod got stuck and the plumber couldn’t reel the thing back. To Ma, I said, over the phone, “Sounds like the hook of a monster movie.” The plumber told Ma and Stepdude that the rod wouldn’t budge until the city dug up the street for it. This was particularly bad news for Stepdude, as the bathroom was his favorite room in the house—and the toilet, his favorite seat. So he, Ma, and their bear-sized shaggy dog had to spend a week in a hotel room. When a city crew finally got around to digging up the street (a major suburban artery) in front of their house, they discovered that they’d gouged out the wrong patch of earth. Meaning: They’d have to fill the cavity they’d made, repair the street and the grassy parkway, and start all over

S T R E A M # 3 0

Start: The dog did not enjoy the tuna casserole, and by “dog” I do not mean Sally’s pet collie, I means Sally’s husband, Al. When we stop to think about the things that do not matter – which is something we often do – then, when the time comes, we check our watches and eat our respective tuna casseroles. We eat the tuna casseroles because we know Grandma would be sad if we did not. Thus, or hence, or hence-thus, the problem becomes one of consumption. Finally, the problem is ALWAYS one of consumption. What do you think about Al’s dilemma with the tuna casserole? Beets are enjoyed by cats in the winter when strawberries are not in bloom. DO strawberries bloom? No. Yes? No. I wouldn’t know. I am not a strawberry farmer. Who told you otherwise? Who led you astray? And why would you believe his or hers or their words over mine? What I feel the next time we meet when you are not sad with happiness in the tuna casserole. I haven’t – I couldn’t tell you about the last time I ate apple sauce i

SHUSH

Along with the stomping freak who uses the flipside of my ceiling as a floor, the folks with whom I share walls cannot tolerate silence. No, they must blast on repeat any of Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 singles of 2000 through their respective stereo’s speakers. This, in turn, forces me to blast all of my much less popular music to drown theirs out. It becomes a vicious circle of escalating sound. And perhaps the very point of loud music is to drown out all thought, fear, and pain. These days, who can bear to sit quietly and ponder life—let alone read a book? Indeed, the folks in this city—and perhaps the folks in every city—seemingly do whatever they can to stifle the natural inclination to think. At least, that is my impression. After all, the act of thought —the very act of reflection —necessarily slows production and consumption. And we mustn’t have that, no, no. Besides, we need not contemplate our lack of fulfillment or our actual worthlessness if we are too busy playing video

All The Fun I'm Not Having

Old pal of mine from high school’s having an affair with some pastor’s young wife. Maybe it was only a one night stand, I dunno. He met this pastor’s wife where he meets all of his lovers—on the internet. And, no, you wouldn’t call my old pal a Don Juan or a Casanova or a Lothario. He’s not a bad guy, but you wouldn’t call him “charming.” As for looks, like me, he’s squishy and plain. From what very little I understand, this pastor’s wife is forbidden from doing anything beyond keeping house and rearing children (two). Turns out she hasn’t limited herself to my old pal. No, she’s carrying on with a man old enough to be her father. And this other older dude has grown children who probably went to school with me and my old pal.  21 December 2000  [A few lingering questions will, alas, remain forever unanswered. E.g.: Did the adulteress only cheat with men who weren’t Christian? Were these spiteful affairs—that is, was the intent to make a mockery of her marriage? Was the cuckold abusive?

Cock-A-Doodle-Do

I have not watched an episode of The Brady Bunch in well over a decade, but, very early this morning, I woke with its goddamned theme song leisurely jogging laps round my brain. If that’s not a bona fide indication of insanity, then I couldn’t tell you what is. I can tell you this much with near absolute certainty: It is currently four thirty-five ante meridiem. If you must know, I am conscious this too goddamned early to open the goddamned coffee shop. I don’t have a key to the place, and the jolly man on TV says that “with the windchill, it’s eighteen degrees below zero right now.” Rubbing his own shoulders, he adds, “ Brrr. ” But since he’s paid to be jolly, he says it jollily. I do not have a key to the coffee shop, so Manager Mick better be there before I get there. I truly wish that I could, with ease, rise and shine this goddamn early every goddamn day.  12 December 2000

S T R E A M # 2 9

I’m sorry. I’m afraid I’ve lost sight of my objective here. This isn’t about you, the reader. No, this isn’t about amusing you. This is about me, the writer – the streamer. Thus, we’ll summarily dispense with all reason. Henceforth (or, at the very least, until the bottom here is reached), there’ll be a whole lot less forthright insight into what makes the FireVaney tick. The sky is grey because the bombs are not dropping on the sun at five o’clock in the morning when the trees are wishing for a new potato crop at the next summer fair. You’ve been to the summer fair, don’t say you haven’t, don’t lie to your uncle FireVaney. Dude, to say that the dreams are not true just because they’re dreams is like saying that the potatoes are dreams in the minds of so many apple seeds. NO, I won’t eat bananas naked anymore. That was a fad, a trend, a phase. Yes, we all go through the nude eating banana phase. Don’t tell me you didn’t skip to the tree’s beat last Saturday night. I saw you. I was spyi

Itchy Cheek?

The Family Redacted (and friends) came together last night to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of their beloved matriarch, Hattie Redacted. It was held in her son’s luxurious home in/on Chicago’s famed “Gold Coast.” The entirety of this author’s walk-in closet of an apartment would fit into Hattie’s son’s first floor half-bath, with room to spare. This event was catered, naturally, and the catering would put state dinners at the White House to shame. In her informal address to the family (and friends), Hattie, without airs, noted how she’d had the good fortune to chat with dignitaries the likes of Elenore Roosevelt, and dance with luminaries the likes of Isaac Asimov. She paused several times to wipe away a fallen teardrop. (Not the same fallen teardrop, no; rather, multiple teardrops that fell periodically. It was something just short of crying. That is, unless, perhaps, she merely suffered from an itchy cheek.) She’d lived through the Great Depression, abject poverty, two world war

Benefit

Who wasn’t drunk? Mister Wench: he wasn’t drunk. He was the only one. He doesn’t drink. He looks like he would, but he doesn’t. He’s the rare breed of teetotaler who fits right in with any dive bar crowd. But see, you can’t master much, let alone puppets, when you’re blotto. So Mister Wench was on his hands and knees in the men’s room wiping up the puke. “Think of it as another donation,” I told him. Believe me, it was his kind of snark, but he wasn’t in the mood.  When the girls weren’t flaunting and exposing themselves or kissing each other, they were gathered around me and Slange. We talked about love and desperation. According to Slange, I need to view love more as a concept than as something tangible. That is, unless these words of wisdom were instead spoken by Nikki.  (Something I didn’t think to ask: Unless you’re getting it on , when is love ever tangible? And, something else: How is love ever conceptual? I get how it’s consensual . But conceptual? No. democracy is a concept

For the Love of the "Art"

Damn near everybody I know who saw it called it: “Disturbing.” It was staged in a lovely little theater on the second floor of a church. This was a late night show. (It had to be.) One of my pals played an Eastern European * pimp who dabbled in bestiality. Another one of my pals was cast as one of two hermaphroditic apes. He wore a head-to-toe ape costume. So did the other guy. Said hermaphroditic apes were, as part of the plot, forced into sex slavery. But that’s not all. Said sex enslaved hermaphroditic apes were not of this world. That’s right, they were space aliens. The patrons were drunk and rowdy. (They had to be.) More than a few of them pulled out their cell phones to film the eastern European pimp and the enslaved alien apes as they danced to George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex.” This ninety minute show ran about forty-five minutes too long. At one point, near the end, my friend in the ape suit whips out a twenty-two inch dildo † and uses it to strangle two of the villains.

Big Len's Raccoon

Big Len, our rotund neighbor to the west, found a raccoon nestled in his garbage bin yesterday morning. As he looked down at it, it looked up at him. (In fairness, it is possible that, as Big Len approached, said raccoon was already looking up at the inside of the bin’s lid. I couldn’t say for certain; I wasn’t there. You’d have to ask the raccoon—presuming it would offer a honest answer, that is; and presuming you could hire a competent translator of Raccoon-nese or Raccoon-ish; that is, presuming you aren’t such a translator yourself.) Big Len tossed his bulging Hefty bag into the bin anyways and slammed the lid down. He fixed the lid with a heavy shovel to thwart the raccoon’s escape.  Then, yesterday afternoon, whilst strolling to and from the train station, Big Len told Pops that the raccoon was “too stuffed to move.” Sure, Big Len could’ve called up the animal control folks, but he figured they’d be off for the holiday. Fair enough.  Why Big Len had to “secure” the raccoon within

S T R E A M # 2 8

Last week was a better week. So what’s going wrong with this week? Could it be the cooler weather? You’re supposed to like the cooler weather. Your future is north of here. That’s what you believe. The national inclination is to move south, and/or west. You, though? You’re a contrarian. You’re always pointed in the other direction. “Against the wind.” But if not north, perhaps you’d go east. Then again, you’d consider going west. To Portland, Oregon. According to Chuck, you’d fit right in. Well. Ok. He hasn’t said so. Not exactly. Not explicitly. No. Besides, you’d rather go north. Way north. You’d rather be Canadian. You feel somehow lighter when you’re up there. There’s too much gravity down here. It weighs you down. Then again, Southern California – particularly during sunrise and sunset – felt good, too. But Canada felt better. Calmer. Lighter. Not brighter. Somehow lighter. But you don’t know if you’d actually relocate to Canada. Or even if you should , assuming that you could .

Prophesy # 1

Thanks to artificial intelligence,  Hollywood,  as we now know it,  will cease to exist  inside of three years.  Flesh and blood actors will only find refuge,  if any,  upon the boards.

I, Storm Master

A number of loud and flashy storms scudded through the Windy City last night. It’s been a few years since I’ve heard a strong Illinois thunderstorm. As I cheered on the wall-shaking thunder, I recalled the many violent storms of my youth, and then suddenly reminded myself that I was once the Storm Master. [Self-proclaimed.] That’s right, I had the “authority” to rate and judge [subjectively] thunder, lightning, and downpours. As you might expect, the more relentless and varied the claps and rumbles of thunder, and the more dazzling and blinding the streaks and flashes of lightning, the higher the rating. Bonus points if I could feel the thunder seemingly shake the foundations of the house. [To the best of my recollection, I paid little attention to the rain (I was inside, after all), unless, of course, it thrashed my bedroom windows.] Less worthy storms were those that executed strong starts, but petered out too quickly into a light rain [story of my life, really], and so on.  20 April

Lord of the Crumbs

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Betty slid two frozen Eggos into the toaster oven. I didn’t ask why she didn’t use the toaster. True, there is a “toast” setting on the toaster oven, but did she use it? Nope. She turned the temp dial all the way to max and burnt the hell out of those poor waffles. We’re talking burnt enough to trigger a freaking smoke detector. For real. Did she apologize? Nope. Instead, she pointed at the crumbs scattered over the bottom of the toaster oven. She blamed those crumbs for triggering the smoke detector. In other words, she blamed me. True, there are many scattered crumbs and, yes, I should probably clean them out. But I use the toaster oven several times a week, and I’ve never caught its crumbs smoldering. What’s more, I’ve used the toaster oven several times since Betty charred the Eggos, and the smoke detector hasn’t once peeped. Ergo, the crumbs are not to blame. Such being the case, I’ve left the crumbs alone and I’ve banned Betty from using the toaster oven.  29 April 2005    

Desperately Seeking a Straight Answer

It’s a simple YES/NO question: “Is it hot outside?” Pose it to Ma, pose it to Grandpa, and their answer? Always, always, always something like: “All I do is sweat.” Restate the question: “So it’s hot outside?” Respectively, their reply’ll go something like: “You don’t believe me, do you? I’m a liar, that’s what you’re thinking. How dare you call me a liar.” And so you’re lambasted when all you’ve done is ask a simple question. In sooth, nobody in my family—save for me, unless the remark I make is facetious (which, if it is, it’s typically as plain as Wonder Bread)—will limit themselves to a simple Yes/No response. In fairness, it isn’t as if they enjoy bloviating at the drop of the hat. You will receive many “I don’t know” answers—especially from Grandpa. Exempli gratia, he never knows what he wants for lunch or dinner. Ask him, point-blank, what he wants for any meal and he’ll say, “Not much.”  19 July 2006

S T R E A M # 2 7

Rufus ate potato chips all of his life. He ate all kinds of potato chips, but only potato chips. He did not eat hotdogs or hamburgers or French Fries. He ate BBQ flavored potato chips, cheddar cheese flavored potato chips, sour cream & onion flavored potato chips, you name it. He ate all brands and all varieties. He ate potato chips. And milk. Chocolate milk. Made with chocolate syrup . And so he’d munch all varieties of potato chips and he’d wash them down with chocolate milk made from chocolate syrup. And the milk was always 2% milk from the fast food place down the street. The fast food place down the street only sold milk in the half-pint size. Rufus only drank milk and bought potato chips from that fast food place, so he gave it a lot of business. He gave them so much business they started stocking bags of potato chips just for Rufus. (Or so he believed.) They weren’t the big bags, they were the little bags. But Rufus didn’t care. Rufus went on like that for many years. His

Irksome

Pop’s hearing gets worse when Betty’s around. That means every weekend he hears less of me. I’ll say something and he’ll turn to her and ask, “What did he say?” But when Betty’s back at Presby. Homes for the week, Pop, in general, hears me just fine.  I’m tugged between relief and resentment at everything Betty does for Pop. Her presence makes me feel like a leech for living here. Betty’ll say, “I have to earn my keep.” And I’ll say back, “No, you don’t.” Because she doesn’t, and I do. But she likes to cater to Pop; and he prefers her care to mine. In sooth, she was a nurse for two years some sixty years ago. But, now? Betty can’t entirely care for herself . That’s why her brother moved her out of her condo and into a Presby. Homes assisted living apartment. What this means is, on the weekends, I’m playing caregiver to two old-timers—when I really only signed up for one. Last weekend I caught Pop tweezing whiskers from Betty’s chin. She hadn’t asked him to do it, but he didn’t like

Praying for It

Yeah, sure, I pray for poontang. So what? I should feel guilty? God, after all, did say,  “Be fruitful … [mumble] and multiply.”  [ ALT : God, after all, did say, “Be fruitful …” and that other thing.]  Hey, lookit, I’m only trying to fulfill the Lord’s wishes here. Why should I feel guilty about that? And you might say,  “Why not pray for world peace? Or an end to famine and poverty and AIDS?”  Come on. Like my one little prayer could put an end to all of that. Like the Almighty is waiting on little ole me to fall in line with all the other World Peace and Prosperity Pray Mongers. It’s not like I spawned the scourges of the world. Aw, but what the hell, I’ll give it a whirl:  “Yo, Yahweh, I didn’t come up with the fan or the shit that’s hitting it. You did. And even if You didn’t, You let it happen. But never mind that. Never mind I had nothing to do with it. Never mind how powerless I am to do anything about it. I’m still begging You to fix it. ‘Cause that’s kinda how it works,

My Near Misses With Phissy

Today is Phissy’s birthday. No, I’m not going to call her. She’s blown me off the last three times I’ve tried to make plans with her. I think she’s shelved me like an old toy. What sucks is that she lives in my building. I can tell if she’s home (or if she’s left her lights on) by poking my head out the window and looking up. She’s found a new toy (boy) to play with. Or to play her. Every woman secretly considers herself a Stradivarius; and every Stradivarius longs to be played by a Julliard-trained violinist. Or maybe just Phissy does. I think I saw her with her new chew toy at the Sav-Yeh down the street. No, Phissy isn’t a dog. Not in the least. She’s perfect, actually. Very nearly perfect. But as she’ll often remind you (or anyone who’ll listen), she’s a descendant of King Naa Gbewaa. I’m completely serious. And, frankly, I’d love to believe that I’ve sampled royal bosoms.  So silly: I affectionately called her, “baby.” She hated that. She also hates to be tickled. She’ll claim tha

S T R E A M # 2 6

That was better than sex . Okay, okay, it’s been so long, perhaps I’ve forgotten just how good sex is. But this will do. Yeah, sure, what the hey, I’d go celibate the rest of my life if you could guarantee me a place behind a microphone for the next fifty-odd years. Oh, and, I’ll also need a real good pair of hearing aids. Yes, and I’ll probably need them inside of the next five years. My body breaks out when I sweat as much as I’ve been sweating. Currently, I’ve got a painful zit over my sternum. I think that’s my sternum. We’re talking the lower part of the sternum—if that’s what it is. The sweating, it’s not from sex (unfortunately), it’s from running the treadmill. And, tonight—of course tonight—I’m supposed to go to this singles thing. And you never know. Drunk, single, dancing women? You never know. Anything’s possible. Right? Right. But I wouldn’t want to get into a position where I’d have to take off my shirt. That said, I’m fairly pleased with the way my torso looks right now—