April Remembers….

April 2012

*

V.J.Q. the 1st

( in memory of my father’s dad)

*

 Back from a gig-

Small house. Good check.

Got to have that money up front.

Six hours in the car out of nine.

It rained and the road was twisted

in glistening black ribbons

that bound your back up in knots.

Now I’m safe and sound lit pumpkin content

looking at the orange glow of the marigold

blossoms from my garden cut and assembled in pickle jars.

And I’m thinking of you.

You were the musician. The drummer. The back beat.

A member in the SUFFOLK SERENADERS.

You, asleep in the back seat of the car on the way

home from an engagement just after Christmas

that year. A drunk in the other lane crossed

the double line and ran the band’s car off the road.

You never regained consciousness.

You lingered in the hospital

until the afternoon of New Year’s day of 1939.

You died and left a widow called Dottie

who smoked Camels, who knew you screwed around

on the side and five kids, all under the age of

sixteen for her to raise by herself.

Your oldest son became and Artist.

His son a Poet.

Your son has told me stories about you.

The first Vincent James.

You were the grandfather I never met.

It is difficult to imagine you as I’m

older now than you ever grew.

Sometimes on nights like these when I’ve escaped your fate I think about it.

I think that the trio of us could have been

something in a room; I wonder if we’ll get the chance to find out in eternity.

Hey Vince,

the beer is cold tonight at my house.

White foam in a golden glow.

Maybe a little like it might have been in another glass in Southampton in 1923.

 And on nights like this, at this hour, I can almost see

him smiling, saying with cool, hard shiny dark eyes,

“Yeah you’re bullshit, all right, a lot like your dad,

but in a different way, and if I had the chance and was

with you there tonight, I’d smack you in the side of your

head, with the back of my hand.

*

 From Another Rubber Eden

V.J.Q. 3rd 11/1/91

*

*

How to Manage

 

                                                               (For my Father)

 

Ever wonder how to manage?

 

Ever wonder how we all seem to manage?

 

Ever wonder what you would manage

 

if you could figure out how to manage it?

 

I was born the son of a movie manager. When I grew older

he used to let me fill in for him on his nights off. He gave

me my first job. That was how I learned how to manage.

 

The theater was opened in 1938. It was a buffed

jewel stone of image land. Thousands of individual bricks

inlaid in intricate patterns that stood proud the edifice. The

marquee had an elaborate illuminated chaser system that

glowed and blinked orange and yellow brilliance in sequence.

The interior was a wild rich dance of flowered carpets, plush

deep red seats, opulent wall fabrics and soft mysterious

winking secret lights and shadows everywhere.

 

Such was the prime of the theaters’ life and many

were the nights that the people of the village waited in

long lines to get in to see the show.

 

Now forty years later it stands empty. It leans slightly

to the side like an old white elephant with Alzheimers..

It has become like a Deco-Desperado ghost hanger, where

the Zeppelins of showbiz Limbo past land just after

hours loaded with all the would-be actors and actresses and

little known extras who sit around all night in the empty

theater discussing why their careers never made it. Before

first light the Zeppelin comes back to pick them all up and

they all go out for breakfast at diners that no longer exist.

 

The theater is always glad to see these visitors of

the night, let’s  just say that these long dead failed

performers remind the theater of when life was young and the

theater was in better shape. The years have taken their

toll. The weary, worn out wiring makes the house lights

blink in hot flashes and then dim during show times.

The huge proud curtain which used to part dramatically

to signal the start of the show and sadly slowly close in

a sweeping gesture of finality at the end of the night

hasn’t made a move in years.

 

This embarrasses the theater to no end.

It’s like having your zipper on your fly

open and broken all the time.

 

Upstairs in the projection booth, the operator still

burn carbon rods to show each reel of tonight’s feature.

Sections of the lodge seats are roped because

the ceiling plaster is crumbling.

 

Tonight I’m sitting in the Manager’s desk. I know this

office as well as it knows me. It watched me grow from a

child to a man. My father sat in this seat at the office

desk most of his adult life. The time he knew as a young man

blows into the office tonight like a forgotten

passenger of the Limbo Zeppelin who was left behind by

accident and now tries to hitch a ride on the cuff of the next out

bound July thunderstorm. Such was the passing of his years.

He met my mother in this place. She was the box-office lady.

She sold the tickets, punched the keys on the magazine of the

ticket machine. She was a honey haired hometown girl from a

large Irish/German family. He was a jet black haired guy

from out of town with a thin black mustache like a young

David Niven. At first, they used to steal shy glances of

each other through the little door between the Manager’s

office and box office. It was 1947 and they were in

Show Business together. After the show they used to have

dates to go out for beers and soft shell crabs at a place

that has long since burned down to the ground.

 

So with that in the back of my mind, I always wear

a white shirt and thin black tie when I manage here.

 

The lights blink and flash and I hear a voice calling

me from the foyer. So I walk out to the candy stand, which

is closed at this late hour but after looking hard and long

at the hopeful young faces of the little boys, I re-open the

stand to give them Frozen Milky-Ways or Sweet-Tarts. I must

seem like so much slow motion to their eager fresh candy

hungry eyes. I like telling them to be quiet in a serious

low voice. With their hands full, they disappear and I

wonder if they will ever know anything as well as I do every

brick in this theater.

I’d match my own ghosts here tonight

with any phantoms left to whisper in hushed tones that echo

in the ladies room.

 

One of my ghosts plays on the floor of the office.

That’s me at about five. Another ghost hangs out in the

alley next to theater smoking a reefer. That’s me at

about seventeen. If you were to walk all the way down to the

front of the theater you could go behind the huge projection

screen. You can climb up twenty feet or better in the air

on the fire escape behind it. I’ve sat upon the top steps of

the fire escape behind the white snowy screen with

thousands of tiny holes to watch the backward images of

the night’s features pass through and be

projected onto myself like the wildest suit of clothes in the

world. One night you might wear the skyline of Nevada.

The next Sean Connery’s smirk at Dr. No

or air support from THE LONGEST DAY.

 

Soon the show will be over. I know how to lock it all

up from routine, observation and memory. I’m waiting for

the credits to roll. I’m in the lobby looking out across the

street at the Italian restaurant. She used to come out in

her white waitress dress to wave at me. Her skin smelled

like every good and greasy temptation that ever came out

of a kitchen. Even that was awhile ago now.

 

The late crowd is on the exit. I watch their faces

for signs of satisfaction or disapproval. It just looks like

they all had popcorn, whether they wanted it or not. I wonder

what the faces of those exiting reflected when the theater had

first opened. Well the show is breaking, this is how to manage:

 

1. Show up early.

 

2. Reassure the Owners (if they call)

 

3. Joke with the Ushers.

 

4. Never get pissed at the patrons.

 

5. Passes for Friends. Scalp the acquaintances.

 

6 Remember your keys to get in.

 

7. Drop hot ashes on the desk.

 

8. Keep all beer as cold as possible and December

Holy in the ice cream freezer. (This is because

You never know who might show up.)

 

9. Look out the lobby doors through the glass

And sigh deeply if they never do.

 

10. Pin back the lobby doors.

 

11. Pin back the rest room doors.

(Either take a deep whiff or hold your breath)

 

12. Check all the panic bars on the exits.

 

13. Wave at the shadows that refuse to leave.

 

14. Walk down the empty aisles kicking popcorn

cups on the way down to extinguishing the blower.

 

15. Take a walk across the stage in front

Of the wide, white blank screen of the vacated

Theater and thank everyone for coming.

 

16. Flip on the answering machine in the office.

 

17. Turn out the house lights slowly one by one

saying each one’s name as you do.

 

18. Put on the ancient security lamp in the lobby.

 

19. Before slamming the office door with a

Resounding thud make certain you didn’t

Leave your keys on the desk.

 

20. Listen to the sound of your footsteps echoing

In the lobby as you walk out, re-check the

Latch pins on the front doors. Lock it up.

 

21. Go out and get a cold one.

 

This then is how I manage.

By the way, how do you manage?

*

From 21 Short Dog Stories                           1983/94/2011

*

*

Greenport Christmas 1967

 

I’m walking next to my father

on a chilly, but clear Christmas Eve

down to the movie theater

just past supper time

under a brilliant canopy of stars.

 

The sidewalks are hard solid grey

cracked and buckled slabs.

We walk the mile

side by side

as we always have.

We have been doing this

since I learned to walk

and was able to keep up.

 

Tonight I’m going down to work with him.

 

The town glows silently tonight

The storefronts decorated.

We pass swiftly the last few blocks

down to the other end of town.

 

We can’t be late to start the show on time.

 

We stand in front of the darkened theater

as he fishes his keys out to unlock the lobby doors…

He has them attached on a long silver chain

There are a lot on the ring….

 

As I stand next to him searching for the right one

I can smell the low tide bay a block away

in the cool night air.

 

Once inside the theater is dark…

 

He goes in the office and I hear the snap of the circuit breaker

relays bringing to life the light the Deco Movie Palace

 

The orange chasers on the huge marquee dance in a mad circle

outside in the Christmas Eve night.

 

The movie theater is alive.

Gushes great sighs of forced warm air.

The crowd is sparse.

I sit up in the near empty

orchestra/lodge in the front row

of the one thousand seat house

eating popcorn and drinking coke

and watch a comedy farce

that I hardly understand.

Even the second time.

I sit through the two showings..

the Seven and the Nine PM.

 

There are even less people for the last showing.

 

A little after eleven I watch my Dad

kill all the lights

with the same circuit breaker snap

sequence.

I watch the movie theater go back to sleep.

 

We ride home with Jimmy D

the projectionist

in his work van.

I sit in the back with all the tools

on a overturned milk carton.

 

He smokes cigars

and barks a hard husky throaty laugh

as he farts

which makes him laugh harder…

 

I like him

and the sound of his laughter

but I hope when I grow up

I don’t find that stink as funny

as he and my Dad do.

 

He pulls up

in front of our house

near the Sound Bluffs.

 

As the engine idles

They talk in the front.

I ask if I can go inside.

I’m sleepy.

Need to go to bed.

It’s Christmas Eve

and I’m 12.

Too old for Santa

but not my dad.

 

From The Terrible Now                                  12/07

*

*

All Outta Orange

*

                                                                                                                 (For Frank O’Hara &  my son)

 *

I walk into the corner bar. Young artist are hanging their

work on the walls. The appear quite serious and sullen.

The dinner crowd strolls in. Ignores the paintings.

I have a look around at the art. Some styles appeal to me

more than others, however, I like the whole idea of it

just fine. After awhile the artists get up at the podium

down the far end of the bar to make a statement about their

work. Dinner crowd buzzes with small talk. Ignores the

Artists. Artists respond by cutting their mumbling short and

retreat to an especially dark corner in the back.

 

It’s business as usual. Bartender comes over bringing me

a fresh bottle of beer. I say, “I need you to do me a favor,

it’s opening day, could you put the baseball game on the

television.” She shrieks, “I hate you. “ My eyebrows flip

up. This is serious. I’ve devoted the better part of a

lifetime living by a simple, moral code: “Never piss your

bartender off.” I scramble for an apology. She meanwhile

is dutifully changing the channel while whining, “but

there’s a HOCKEY game ON.” I recover. “Not to worry, change

it back I only had a cursory interest in it anyway.”

She looks at me as her face twists into a question knot and

says, “A WHAT INTEREST???”

 

I give up. An “orange” interest, I riff out loud.

She shrugs. Tends to other customers. I scribble in my note

book;

 

“When Poets speak in color they are stuck with ears.

When the Artist paints with pigment the picture is at the

mercy of the eyes. So it stands to reason that the latter

is an image with no sound and the former is all hearsay.

The punch line is, however, you can’t dream of deaf

awake anymore than you can ignore the blind into seeing.

 

The bar starts to fill up. A quartet of beautiful

women arrive. Sauntering studs strike attitudes

accordingly. Dinner crowd ignores them. Young poet takes

the position at the podium. Tries to work his stuff out.

Dinner crowd manages some variation on a theme. One of

them makes a snotty aside. Poet cuts it short. Smattering

of indifferent applause percolates like stale popcorn

smothered in excess vegetable oil.

Man next to me in backwards ball cap and earring smirks,

“Enough of that sorry ass shit,”scans the hockey game and asks

“so what’s the score?”

 

A twilight tide leaks into the bar room, it’s last gasp coats

customers, artists, poets with a radiant fragile vermillion

shroud and for a shimmering instant a brilliant painting is

born, gasps and dies. Dinner crowd ignores it.

 

Bartender comes back with a cold one on the house.

I sigh relieved. All’s well. We’re pals again.

Host of the evening lurches up dejected. The night that

showed such promise is deflating rapidly. I try and help

by saying, “You know this reminds me of last night. I woke

up at three in the morning and couldn’t get back to sleep.

I’m worrying. My wife has the baby in less than a month.

Not only is our house a little brown shoe box that needs

a new roof for a couple of grand, it’s way too goddamn

small. I’m worrying that the new kid’s bassinet will have

to go on top of the television. I’m worrying that any day

now an inter-galactic kidney stone asteroid will make mice-meat

of this teetering global psychoses and some anchor person

on CNN will shit their pants on air, live in front of

40 million viewers. And then what? A nuclear free

winter for the next four years. Might be a little rough

ordering a pizza. So I’m worrying more. What if I loose my job

teaching in the jail? Worse yet, what if I keep my job

teaching in the jail? I’m worrying. I’ve still go

many bad habits. I drink too much. I smoke too much.

I’m never gonna pass muster at the social behavior

inquisitions of the new witch trials of the year 2015

And to top it off,  Bernie Madoff destroyed

N.Y. Mets !

 

So I get up and go into the living room and turn on

the TV. I find Fredrico Felllini’s Satyricon blazing away

life with the characters speaking in cryptic poetic verse.

As usual every other scene there is this set of eyes staring

out at you, watching you as you watch the scene. It took me

away. I forgot my troubles as I immersed myself in the story

of two young men having an epic adventure in grotesque Rome

as it shattered and collapsed under the sheer weight of

perversion, ignorance and brutality. It was great, ever

see it?”

 

I looked up. I was getting the hairy eyeball all

around. The woman sitting next to me was looking at me like

I was an escapee from Heaven’s Gate and was fixing to order

a round of Phenobarbital and vodka’s.

The bartender was polishing the glasses

shaking her head, she had heard this all before; nobody

within earshot had the foggiest notion of what the hell

I was talking about. And my young friend, the host of the

evening was giving it his best shot, “aaaaah, think I can

rent that down at “BLOCKDUMPSTER?”….”and what was the name of it again?”

“Orange” I said, “just ask for ORANGE.”

 

Guy next to me had heard enough. “You know I’ve seen you in here

before, whatyamean Orange, Orange what? Oranges are fruit

just like you are, you fucking windy old weirdo.”

“Nah,” bartender interjects dumping my ashtray, “Orange is

just a color, not my favorite one at that.” Woman next to

me dismisses the entire discussion with a hiss, “and you

don’t know your ass from an Orange hole in the ground.”

 

Subject gets dropped. Hockey games ends in a tie

in overtime. Artists take down their paintings. Poet

disappears into a pitcher of beer. Dinner crowd is

already home asleep in front of the tube.

 

Owner of the bar walks in.

We pass as I’m walking out.

He asks “Hey, how ya doing?”

“Not sure,” I go, “but Samuel Beckett would be proud.”

Owner yells after me as I walk out the door,

“Now don’t you fucking start with me!!”

 

From Another Rubber Eden /97-11

 

 

 

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