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Friday, December 25, 2009

the last tin box

When I was ten I stuck a tin box in the ground under the shrubs outside Stacić’s in Zagreb. I planted it down deep in the roots. I put my valuables in this box. A box of matches, a wad of prints, a shake-me-snowglobe. And in this tin box was another box – another tin box – and inside that one, another one, and so on, you see, like a Russian doll. But with each box things grew more valuable. From book of matches, to compass, to amber stone. Extrapolate on and… catch my drift? Box upon box until the last tin box.

So I stuck it under the shrubs for none to find. But the problem is, the whole neighborhood was crawling with thieving little runts, looking out for anything they could get their filthy fingers on. So I stuck it in the ground, deep down in the shrub roots and I packed it hard with earth and gravel because there was something in that last box. That last box, you understand, was the point of all this. Without the last box none of this would’ve been necessary.

Well, what was in it?

I spilt blood for that fucking box. I dug my nails into those marauders. I pulled out hairs and kicked groins for that last tin box. As a ten year old, Mica, I went to war.

My God, Lui.

You see here, Meek, my chin, you see this scar?

Yes.

These pillaging runts, ten, eleven, twelve year old, they went around with spiked sticks, probing the ground, spiking the shrubbery for my tin box. Every day, a band of these rovers. So I went after them. I threw myself at them. I fought them tooth and nail until one day, one of their spiked sticks was planted in my chin. Right here, you see... I bled profusely, but this goes without saying.

Lui!

A Montenegrin, a ten year old named Mulović. A beady-eyed worm of a human being. I wanted nothing more than to roast him on the spit he used to probe the grounds around my shrubs. He was obsessed. I was obsessed. All I could think of was that last box. I didn’t care about the crap in all the other boxes. It was the last box, Mica, to preserve the last tin box.

Well, why didn’t you just move it inside, Lui.

I couldn’t. Someone would see me. They were all over the place. They were my neighbors and their neighbors and so on. A ratbag of runts. A hundred eyes and spiked sticks, Mica. There was nothing I could do. And the thing is, after a while, I forgot exactly where I buried it.

Damn it, Lui, what was in the box?

That’s the thing, I don’t know anymore. I don’t remember.

How can you not remember - you’re lying - how can you not remember the content of the last tin box!

Really, I don’t know.

WHAT WAS IN THE BOX LUI? TELL ME!!

Mica, calm down.

TELL ME!!

Ooouuww! Meek, jeeeeeeez. Let go of my arm. Your nails! What’s the matter with you? Why are you so angry?

Why did you bring this up then if you don't remember?

Because, with all these shiny boxes under the tree, Mica, I remembered something today. Not what was in it, but where I put it. I know where to find it now. I know where it is!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

minus twenty

There were no Turks in sight and no beast showed its hairy face. Not in this fucking weather. It was minus twenty. Easy.

I was on the corner with Mica Spirelli (Mica wrapped in woolly layers). She kept whispering vapory Lui's in my ear – Lui, lets go, Lui – until her teeth chattered and she fell silent again.

Minus twenty. The pavement hard as steel. The sky solid blue. Even the pigeons slowed their pecking. For a second I though of those yellow-eyed hares that’d eyed me underground, how they must be freezing their little rabbit butts now; and that demonic pulse further down – that crazy, maniacal pulse – I figured it too must slow its beat in this glacial cold (not so scary now, are we?!)

Mica whispered more vapor – Lui-Lui – and then off we went, through the salt-slush, through icy air, through the glare of snow downtown Rotterdam. We didn’t stop until we hit the river, and there we stood as still as stalagmites. It was frozen solid – the river – a beam of ice miles in length.

In the distance a man on skates slid towards us. A crazy bastard in a linen suit. It was JK. Of course it was JK. His jacket fluttered. His cigarette smoked and his body fumed with vapor.

Your lips are blue, JK! Put on a jacket jesus christ!

I’m wearing one, he said as he turned a ¼ pirouette.

That’s linen. That’s a summer jacket.

You mean this old thing
, and he thumbed the lapels as if complimented.

Then I noticed his crotch-zipper wide open and my balls made a painful fist as I imagined his manhood chilled by these glacial winds. I was gonna say something , but he turned to Mica and cut me off:

You look beautiful in red wool Ms. Spirelli. Your eyes especially.

And you in linen JK.

He puffed smoke, finished his pirouette and skated off, unaware - this crazy bastard - that it was minus twenty and that as he puffed and sweated, most of Rotterdam stood completely still.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

riveting jobs

There are jobs out there that are unbelievable. There are things people do that are unbelievable. Pedicurists chip at toes, they pick out deposit and gunk that is hard to get at, but this is a useful profession in my book. I’m talking about the millions – correct that – hundreds of millions who face monitors the better part of the day, who enter figures; figures which get transferred to different departments where they are reviewed by like-minded but “superior” beings, who in turn call meetings to discussed these figures in plenary sessions. So now we have ten, twenty people in a poorly ventilated room. Coffee is circulated and guys touch girls to pass the cream, thank you. Everyone watches one another until a visual is projected on a wall where the abovementioned figures are displayed. Blah blah blah blah blaaaah bleeuh and so on until an underling from the monitor-class interjects a comment about a pie-chart on the wall. Finally, a man at the head of the table projects authority and makes a “strategic” decision. Then coffee is circulated once more and guys touch girls for cream.

Meanwhile, from the bowels of space, a thousand trollish thugs thrust forward at just under the speed of light in an armada of gunships that rips through space-time as a single vanishing line. These thousand "men" – let’s call them that – are partly naked and have nails that need care. But they are not concerned. They are armed to the teeth. Some also face monitors, but most are in the mess hall dicking around, cleaning their guns. They are scheduled to land on or near the Arabian peninsula (not because it’s Muslim territory, but because it's flat and there’s lots of space) and from there they will disperse.

Senior-troll (taller than the rest and fully naked) rises and projects authority as he makes a strategic decision to increase the speed to just over the speed of light. Pressure suits are circulated, a button is pressed, a lever pulled and the armada and its thousand trollish men fold up in space somewhere, approaching in the skies yonder...

I’m kidding.

But – you know – who knows.

Ok, back to work.

Pie charts, people!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

building a human being

You take the periodic table, Labas, you take the elements, yeah, you take zinc and nitrogen and carbon – you need carbon – and you throw an atom at it from the top of the table, a lighter one. Bang you got a compound. Then you stick this little baby in a vat of hydrogen and you spin the shit out of it in a centrifuge. You gotta pump out the debris you see – I’m talking rogue electrons, quark bits ripped off the nucleus and so on – and you hang this thing in a vacuum and you shake it, you shake it, you understand; don’t dillydally here Labas, you shake it hard – this can take years; you need a shitload of patience, I’m warning you. And when you’ve got a couple of these puppies lined up, you’ll see, they’ll come at each other, cling to each other like lovers – they do that, they love each other, all their electrons close and intertwined. So now you keep doing this until you got a cluster and the little dirtbag starts to move all by itself, kind of like a cell. Basically Labas, if you can pull out a paper, read all the op-eds and come back and it’s still moving, you’re good to go. Got it?

Yes. Ok.

Alright, now here’s the thing. Listen up, now you have to get off your butt and leap a few million years forward. So you just take giant-boot strides across time, Labas; don’t be sparing here, you just go; you just jump like a crazy-man, you don’t come back until you’ve put a couple of million between you. Ok? And when you come back –when you come back to the same place, guess what? Lookee-what-we-have-here, a hairy thing with arms – dumb as a box of rocks, but mobile and with eyeballs, a sentient thing with long limbs and big teeth. Don’t be afraid though, Lui, this guy doesn’t know right from left. You can screw him with your eyes closed and half your brain defunct. Alright?

Yes.

Ok, now comes the tricky part… Labas, are you taking notes?

No, I’m listening. I’m not going to do this myself JK.

Sure you are. Take notes. Alright listen up because now you have to throw some voodoo at it, now you have to get this dirtbag to talk, you understand, so you hit him with it, you do your thing, you throw the book at this sucker, you do what you have to, I have no rules here. Your guess is as good as mine. You invoke gods my friend, you invoke gods, you do what you have to do, but sooner or later – if you do it right – he’s going to talk back. They all do. Stop bustin’ my balls he said to me. They can be nice, but they can be pesky too. Either way, don’t complain because next thing you know – guess what? – he’s ignoring you. He’s sitting around, he’s got bouncy fluorescent things on his feet with a swooshy stripe and he’s fingering a cell phone sending text messages. Suddenly he’s talking shit Labas, spending money, screwing girls, getting in your face. Some are nice, but not all. You understand?

Wow. I guess so. That’s a lot of information JK.

I’ll help if you want. The hydrogen vat part is tricky. I’ll help you out. And I have space upstairs.

But JK, after the hairy arm phase, can you cool them down – I mean, get ‘em to talk nice?

I told you Labas, that’s the hard part, that’s the mysterious part. I do my voodoo on these suckers, but you get what you get. They’re their own man then. They plunge into the universe. They go their own ways. They are who they are. You have no say, you got it? You have no say.

Can’t you at least get them to be female and very tall, like three meters, and can’t you get them to stay hairy?

What the hell are you talking about Labas? You want a monster?

No, no, it’s for bigman.

Who the hell is bigman!!?!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

on the bridge

Mica and I met on the Erasmus bridge down where it hits the south side of the city. There was tons of wind and her spiky hair was all over the place. You’re a funny human being Mica Spirelli, I said, and she dropped her hands which were up to shield her face from the wind, and she laughed. Mica Spirelli, au pair extraordinaire, bird of flight and princess of Ljubljana. When I was done saying her name to myself my knees turned to goulash, my eyes watered and I wondered in a flash what mysterious vibration emanated from inside this girl and whether it had anything to do with the spark in her eyes, the bounce of her body and the way her words shot out to targets I was scarcely aware of.

I wanted to hold her hand on the way to the Balkan restaurant, but she kept messing around, eating pistachio nuts, throwing the shells over the bridge and poking in me in the arm. When she stopped for a moment to get oriented, I grabbed her hand and then she stood still.

You vanished Lui, she said, you just disappeared.

Didn’t you get my message?

What message?

I sent you a message Mica.

I didn’t get it.

Didn’t you feel it?

… that was you?

That was me.

Wow Lui.

You liked it?

I loved it. But what were you doing down there… in the dark with all those hares?

I… I was trying to get to the bottom of things.

Very funny. Ha-ha-ha. No, seriously.

I am serious.

Well, did you?

I would have – maybe – but I got pulled up.

Huh?

Come Mica, Let’s get those lamb chops. Bulgadov is grill master tonight. He’s extraordinary. He does magic with mint. I told him we’re coming.

So there we were, above ground, the wind on our cheeks, her hand in mine, and all around – everywhere – her frequency, her vibration, traveling out in waves… beyond this bridge, beyond Rotterdam, and even beyond – I’ve no doubt – this enormous galaxy.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

the pulse

I saw a string of light and then the ground shook beneath me. Chunks of earth dropped down from the burrow walls. There was earth in my hair, in my pockets, in my teeth. I felt lucky for a moment with my mouthwash and toothpicks, but when I was gurgling and spitting and cleaning out my gums, suddenly I felt something near, not a hare with yellow eyes, not another creature-subterranean… something else. It was like a tap on the shoulder at first, but quickly it became all encompassing, like a pulse from a groundswell deep inside these burrows. The toothpick dropped out of my mouth; the mouthwash out of my hands.

It was a dark pulse – dark not in color but in substance. It made my whole body shudder and my mouth run with saliva. My immediate reaction was to wish for JK and his contraptions to flash a gigawatt of charge at this mutherfucker – woooooooaaaaaaarghhh – but instead, uncontrollably, I went towards it, down.

I could not see my own hands, I could hear nothing of this soundless pulse, and my only active sense was the taste of earth between teeth. But so I went, down into the ground; here and there a set of yellow eyes stared out at me. In flashes I remembered who I was, and once the thought of Mica Spirelli fizzled through, and I murmured her name in full as I carried on… mica spirelli , au pair extraordinaire, bird-of-flight and princess of Ljubljana…

I would have gone much further towards the heart of this thing had a hand not appeared out of nowhere and pulled at me with a force that was not quite human. My arm was nearly wrenched out of its socket, and I was dragged up, down, round, over roots and rubble, down dirt chutes and funnels. I lost a shoe and everything else that was loose on my body. Dragged, pulled, thrust, pushed, until suddenly cold air washed over me and I emerged out of a spray of sand and brickwork… on my corner. My corner.

Against the back wall of the grillroom was a Turk drinking coffee. He did not seem surprised at the ruckus, or the pile of brick, or the man standing beside me, a man twice my size holding me by the arm. Yes, bigman.

We sat on the curb for about thirty minutes, and I wondered then whether Clay Dove and his men were after this; not a cache of gold bullion nestled somewhere in this maze, but this. This thing down there. Maybe this was it, this dark pulse that practically lifted me off my feet, cleared my brain and ran me like a puppet.

The pulse lingered like a strange atmospheric pressure. It took me two days to get a train of thought going again. Two days for a spark to come at the thought of Mica Spirelli. Two days to find my way. And two days more to decide what to do next.

Bigman didn’t say anything that night, but his hand on my shoulder spoke volumes: stay above ground my friend, and deal with what you know. I’m sure it was kindly meant but something inside me yearned to go back and get to the heart of this thing – this dark pulse – to get at it, to conquer it!

Friday, October 30, 2009

love-words to Mica Spirelli

Mica Spirelli – au pair extraordinaire, bird-of-flight and princess of Ljubljana – I bring you words of apology. I am underground, you see, and was not able reach you in time to let you know that our “date” could not transpire. If I had enough room here in these burrows I would kick myself, but I am cramped so I cannot. Forgive me, Mica, I punish myself enough and to console me I have only toothpicks and mouthwash.

Mica Spirelli – au pair extraordinaire, bird-of-flight and princess of Ljubljana – please carry on au-pairing for a few days more, time for me to wind out of this earthy maze.

I send these words as vibrations through the ground as I have no other means at present. It may feel funny in your toes, but these are words Mica Spirelli – au-pr extrdnre, brd of flght & prnc f Ljbljna – these are words.

I hope your français is improving très quickly and that –

Wait Mica! There.... a rabbit with yellow eyes.

I must go.

I send love (a peculiar vibration, no?)

Lui

Sunday, October 25, 2009

the rabbit hole

I was meant to go on a date with Mica Spirelli, my first date in eons – eons! Was I looking forward to it? (Do Serbs eat pork?) Yes, massively, and I was prepared for it too: toothpicks, mouthwash, I bought a shirt with a collar, and I even rehearsed lines in the event of a blackout (me blacking out) – What do you say you and me we go for a walk Mica? – I even called Brendan for tips in the event of the theoretical i.e. if things get hot – Shift the paradigm, Labas. Change the whole geometry on her. Get horizontal. Got it! She’s au-pair, they like that stuff.

I was ready, but nervous too, so I went down to the German bakery on Bergstraat (Ulrich’s Brothaus) for a loaf of Schwarzwald – that’s Black Forrest sourdough – but on my way back something happened and I got sidetracked.

Imagine coming out of a German bakery with a loaf of Schwarzwald and a tall guy in a suit hands you a card that reads Clay Dove Esq. III – CEO, Banque Internationale and he motions to an open door on a blacked-out vehicle with a driver in leather gloves. Imagine that.

For a minute Mica was eclipsed; for a minute I was taking in all this leather and gadgetry. Then I turned to Clay Dove with a question: Mr. Dove, is your dad called Clay too since you’re the third… and his dad, and his dad.


Mister Labas, we would like you to focus. There’s a great deal at stake. Please.

Mister Clay Dove, I’ll tell you what’s at stake, I have a date with Mica Spirelli in exactly two hours and... twenty two minutes. So I don’t know what you have in mind, but – and then I took a bite out of my Schwarzwald and cut myself off.

As we drove over the Erasmus bridge I thought of Mica, her gap teeth, her spiky hair and the way her laugh warms my belly. Mica Spirelli – father Italian; mother Slovenian, from Ljubljana –It’s true she’s au pair, but I did not know au pairs dig the horizontal. Is this so?


Trick question Mr. Dove: how many J’s in Ljubljana?
... Sir?... Mr. Dove?

(A real bag of laughs these financiers.)

The meeting at Banque Internationale was held in a pretty small room for sixteen Esquires and Thirds. One guy had a tiny laser he was pointing at a screen with charts. He looked like he knew what he was talking about so I asked him, I said: sir, tell me, what is hyperinflation... I mean, exactly? (Brendan would have poked fun: that’s like when your jeans get tight around the crotch, no? But I’m not Bren).


Hyperinflation, mister Labas, is hugujeei strajasm the money supply lieah tiy urg. And this about how much sense it made to me. I said, thank you sir. Yes, please carry on. But my presence had shaken the room and laser-man could not carry on. He could not.

This is when Clay Dove the Third asked for my opinion on (and I quote) “the coming collapse of the dollar and the investment opportunities in a global depression”. My mouth was full of sourdough. I needed a moment to think.


(Like I said) there were sixteen of them around the table and in the middle of this mahogany donut was a rabbit hole going into the ground deeper than the eye could see. I said to one of them – not Clay Dove but an even taller man – I said to him, Sir, you seem like a reasonable man. I have a date with Mica Spirelli –

But he interrupted. Mr. Labas, we want you to go down the hole and tell us what you see. So I said, why don’t you go yourself, it’s your hole, it’s right there. Or does this have to do with size, because I’m so much smaller than you. And then this wellspoken man – he wasn’t black, but he could have been – he said, we’re not asking you Mister Labas. We want you down the rabbit hole, we want you to look. Laser-man nodded and then a few of others nodded too.

I left my Schwarzwald on the table and thought of bigman as I climbed into the ground. Up above, laser-man pointed the way with his laser and grinned.

Funny, but I was relaxed on my way down, and I even calmly went over some things in my head: Toothpicks (check); mouthwash (check); collared shirt (check); "How about you and me we go for a walk…

(…to be continued)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

coming home


On a footpath in Yemen a man with a dog kicks up dirt as he takes a fig to his mouth. There is no shade for miles and the sun in Yemen, I suspect, is a nasty piece of work. I mention this man and his dog because at precisely this moment – with the fig – I show another man to the door of my cube here in Rotterdam City, a skinny little dude whose appeals for help I've just turned down flat. As I push him out – it’s come to that – he tells me I smell of horse’s penis and that my mother will beget children without heads, and children – anyway, all untrue, of course, my mother is too old to beget (period) and I shower regularly even by Western European standards.


I understand Yemen has customs different to our own, and perhaps Yemenis are generally more impulsive. But what the heck! He held a clipboard with signatures in wild Arabic script سید ابو الاعلىٰ مودودی عبد الحميد كشك‎ and with a pen, pointing to a blank line, he suggested I add my own: Lui Labas

Do I commiserate? Of course. Will I pay fifty euros and sign on to his campaign? No.

You smell of horse’s penis; your mother will birth children… etc, all the way to the front door. Don’t get me wrong, I understand his quarrel. The man with the fig and the dog is his brother, and I understand a fig is too little to keep a man together – too little anywhere, but especially under that nasty, blazing Yemenite sun.

I didn’t take it to heart, though. I checked my armpits and wondered for a moment at the smell of a horse’s penis, but imagined it must be like its urine and thus not exotic in any sense; then I thought of it no more. My head was still full of bright orange suits, water in gazillion liters, the cry of gulls and Roman’s stories of vulva in Riga. So the man from Yemen was not enough to knock me off course. It would take much more than a bit of Arabic script and horse piss.

You see, I was sipping hotdrink with bigman when this ingrate came barging in. Even bigman – who needs no money and has no real concept of it – smiled when Yemen raised the fifty bucks. I’m not saying it was a scam. Yemen probably does have a sunburned brother down to his last fig. I believe it, but that’s not the point.

The point is – the point is – I was home. Home! Deeply glad to be home.

When I returned from the sea and saw the grillroom on the corner, the Turks with their smoky noses; when I heard JK’s chisels and the crackle of his experiments, my heart lifted like an air balloon. I forgave JK the three hour blackout between nine and twelve and the long tongue of smoke that unfurled from his top window. Of course I forgave him. At this moment I would have forgiven my own assassin.

I was happy.


Not a feeling that shows its face much in the open . Usually, it comes wrapped in something: a redhead with nice gums, a bit of fun down in Dubrovnik, a plate of goulash from home… but here, in my candle-lit cube on this October night (a touch of smoke in the air) it came just like that. Plain and dressed down, an all-knowing, far-reaching kind of happy, as if all the world was practically within my reach. I felt Rotterdam behind me, hugging its massive harbor, twinkling in the lowlands. And my sister Bee – spacebird Bee – I felt her too, abuzz, lighting stuff up as she does, right, left and center. Even my friend Drago, on the rim of the galaxy, felt near. And, of course, In the back of my mind I could hear the soft cling-clang of Brendan’s dumbbells and the sound of Willy Nelson’s Highwayman.

To you bigman, I said raising my mug. Big looked like a bear in the darkness - a bear with a mug - and then he raised his mug too.


Home. Yeah!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

the North Sea

I'm in an orange jumpsuit on a deck suspended twenty meters above water, except this water is like no water I have ever seen; this is not Aegean ultramarine, this stuff is a menacing grey, shifty, jittery, surfacy. This stuff smells of dead bird and old rags, this is the stuff that comes out of the pipe when the plumber unscrews, bent down under the sink. And it's everywhere because this place has no corners, it has no angles, it has no place to hide. It's a space-water dictatorship too vast to be earthly and too full of stuff you cannot see to be comfortable for a guy like me.

I’m on the bridge now, in Arie’s field of vision – that’s Captain Arie. You won’t believe me if I tell you he looks like Popeye, but he does. Tattoos, big forearms, a disappearing lip. Maybe his wife is spindly. I’d believe it, I believe almost anything out here. I believe Roman too when he tells me of all his women. Roman is Latvian. I drink in his stories looking down at the water, my head over the railing, my hands tucked in gloves (no mittens onboard). We are shoulder to shoulder, me and Roman. There're only five things you can do out here: sleep, eat, smoke, look at water and talk. We’re doing three, the last three. Like I said, Roman tells me of his women in Riga. My ten year old cousin Popic speaks more advanced English than him, except for a few words like vulva and pubic hair which Roman uses as fluently as hardhat and stainless steel. Word has it Roman’s the best welder onboard. Word has it Latvians are the best welders period. But don’t quote me on that; there are so many words floating around here. Put fifty guys in a confined space and that’s what you get. Dutch, Russian, Hindi, French, English, Latvian. Ta mère, j’la baise – wat een paarde lul – her vulva was quite good, and so on and so forth.

I smoke Rome’s ciggies like an amateur; the smoke is so strong it’s like salt in my eyes, but I insist. It’s one of the five things and four is just too little. After Rome has run through his women, there are no more words for a while and my cigarette’s dead, so we drop two and do only one of the five: we look at the water, and we wait.

Way down, past the light, past the falling debris and sinking fish, past the point beyond which there is no point going unless you are Jacques Cousteau or Ed Harris in The Abyss… way down there, a thinking creature with night-vision eyes is looking at a cigarette butt drifting down slowly, a crooked thing discarded by a thinking creature above, that would be me...

...but I am interrupted in my thought by Captain Arie over the intercom – All to muster point. Abandon ship exercise. All to muster point.

On my way to muster I think of the thinking creature, Arie’s disappearing lip, Roman’s loves in Riga, and me on this strange surfacy space that smells of dead bird and rags.

At Abandon-Ship there is no more thinking involved: fifty heavyweights – that would be us – padded-out in fluorescent floaters crowd into an orange capsule in the middle of the night. Under real, life-threatening circumstances this capsule would drop at the pull of a lever and plunge – with fifty hairy men strapped to seats inside – plunge ten, twenty, thirty meters down into the grey waters, past the light, past the falling fish, past the thinking creature. Would it believe its night-vision eyes? An orange capsule dropping down out of nowhere, fifty men with heavy jaws looking out through portholes: Captain Arie, a Latvian foul-mouth, the Indian brothers, the French bargemaster, the Dutch paardenlullen crew, and me, like Ed Harris in The Abyss, looking out into endless water…

But it was merely an exercise. We did not plunge this time. Not really.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

heavy lift in Ålborg

Think of something – anything – think of it like it’s really there, like you’re about to grab it and pull it to your chest, like you own it – you feel that? You feel that!

***

I’ve been working on a construction yard lugging around objects with Serbs, crew-cut Poles and Danes from Jutland. Equipment, piping, stuff thirty times your size trolleyed around like toys. This week: steel-tube cathedrals for the sea hoisted whole into a massive Danish sky.

Me, I’m by the workers’ huts mostly, with my clipboard, my collar up, fjord-wind on my cheeks, hardhat and steel-cap boots. I note the angles when the cathedral rises, when it hangs and when it rests in the waters. It blows me away every time.

After the hoist, the Danes smoke amongst themselves and speak Danish – oodsk’de gansk’eurjeh’ twiege larsk – to my ear, sing-songs played in reverse, but I know it’s all crap, shit, fucker, whore, curses on Albania for the draw in the world cup qualifier the other night, the night we went out – the whole yard – forty-man strong strolling into Ålborg. I felt like a Viking conqueror. But Christ do these Danes drink! Holy mother of God! If the human spirit can be dissolved, these Danes know how.

In the yard, I stick with the Poles, and mostly with a painter called Vaichek, from Krakow. Paint-gun, gas mask and white pressure-suit. On his chest is a patch that reads VAICHEK that I keep reading every time we speak – VAICHEK VAICHEK VAICHEK – but underneath the gear, in his heart and mind, he’s a linguist – a scholar. Ai paint for de money, he says, producing seven fingers, seven times de money. I called him a sell-out once for fun, but he swung his gun around and debated me in seven languages. Vaichek, put it down, put down the gun, I didn’t mean it.

The first night, in the workers’ hut, I tried to think of something; I tried to think of it like it was really there, like I could own it, but nothing showed. So instead I reached for the money in my pocket and pulled it to my chest. Fresh money. Kroners. Call me greedy, but the first night it worked. The first night only. After that, I was left to my own devices, and had to conjure that stuff up all on my own, like those sparks out of JK’s boxes.


The trick is - I figured it out - the trick is you start with something small, a thing (people are hard; you do that later).

Tomorrow, another cathedral hoist. I’ll take angles again and talk to the Serbs – translate (that’s why I was hired) – I’ll tell them to get on with it, to get the hell on with it (foreman’s words), the whole day with my clipboard, my Bic, the sun poking me in the eye, fjord-wind on my cheeks and that something special, that something almost real – first a thing, then a person – close to my chest.

like so...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

ode to disproportionate people

None of you have ever seen me. You don’t know how I look, what I do at what hour, with whom or “whoms”. If you have no fallen space matter in your backyard, no Turkish thugs in your midst, then we are not neighbors. But says that something? (as my Dutch friends say). No it says nothing. I have been sitting still a lot these days – this is true– but I move whenever I can, right, left, down the center, across the Earth’s crust, and up and down sometimes too. So – thugs or no thugs – I could be in your midst anyway. As we speak.

But that's just space coordinates – and that's mostly irrelevant. The point is – what I mean is, I like people – persons – so I could potentially like you very much too. In short, I’m not fond of breathy-voices and I don’t like perms too much on girls (much less on guys) but I trust you have neither. For the rest I like all kinds: people with hair-lips and the giggles, funny toes and foibles; bouncy girls with bright eyes and guys with pat phrases – I kid you not. I like waving at small boats with off-board motors, and talking politics with Bren (we’re being jacked Labas, dicked in the rear by a dozen dudes in suits, I kid you not). What else? I like touching elbows with redheads at bus stops and terminals. I like… boy… so much in people that I like. So many people that I like. I could go on, I could go on... and yet, ultimately, it breaks down like this: there are people that I like – just like – and there are people that I LIKE, really and inexplicably, like bigman, for whom I have a fondness that is out of measure, doubly, triply, quadruply. These are the disproportionate people, arithmetically irresolute, bottomless fuel-tanks unto themselves – stand next to them and you refuel with that substance I traverse the globe to get my fill of. Like my sister Bee – another of the disproportionate – a fount of surplus and giver of free-Bees (sorry again for the head scar sissy, I was too young to know that a spade is a spade). These are the people I was thinking of flying over the Danish fjords two nights ago (in an aeroplane –yes I have not yet Drago’s space-folding skills). These people mean something beyond what they mean. Don’t do the maths on them because they won’t add up (2+2=78.41); these people, they have axes going into the unknown, funny angles and blind-spots all over them. They’re special. They’re disproportionate. They don’t compute. Don’t bother. Just do what I do… just…. well, watch,

Hi bigman. Everything good? Boy, it sure is nice out this evening … Mind if I stand next to you for a while?

Thanks, bigman.

That’s it. Life-fuel. And – I swear to god – if I have any left in me at any time, I’ll give you what I’ve got. All of it. I’ll try to be disproportionate. I'll do it. And maybe – if you’re a redhead and we're at a terminal or something – we’ll touch elbows too.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

the freedoms of land animals

JK rolled his Brontosaurus across his living room most of last night – I think he rides it – consequence is that I hardly slept. Instead I kept watch for tomfoolery on my block: Turks, junkies, riffraff and other land animals. Bigman didn’t show. I suspect he was in town resting against walls again, scratching his arms, kicking up his foot and dusting sand off his large body – the usual. He does this at different locations at different times of the night. We all have to keep busy one way or the other.

Then – very late; like at three – two Japanese girls strolled by. I was squatted in my doorway with a box of cookies. They giggled and walked bowlegged in an arc around me. Why the giggles, I thought, what is it? My “reptile” slippers? My y-fronts? or was it just the shadow of JKs prehistoric beast as it swayed past us on the sidewalk. Anyway, I gestured hello and they greeted back – like they do out east – nodding. Between us, on the ground, a pair of critters-with-teeth picked at the crumbs from the cookies I was eating earlier on. And across the street two Turks showed up from the Grillroom; older, mustachioed Turks with tea in tiny glasses, and cigarette smoke coming out of their nostrils almost non-stop. So there we were, the eight of us: the toothy critters, the girls, the turks, the roving bronto, and me. Land animals all. I made a mental note of this zoo, thankful to JK for keeping me up to bear witness.

Yeah, I was glad for all you land animals – glad to see you, I mean. I scratched my ribs like bigman and smiled. I was glad because my mind has been a watery thing of late, a vast, shifting sea: dark rolling waves; gale winds whipping up froth, salt-sting and wetness.

My work at the Plasma Center has been – mmmm… well.... the square of Delft in the window, the L-shaped desks bolted to the walls, the paper squiggles of Plasma Physics, the fire(meat)balls for lunch (one more fireball for Mr. Labas?) Enough! I’m done. I'm really done.

Crunching another cookie, I thought the obvious to myself, what are two Japanese girls doing here in the middle of the night? Kindly land animals from the East. The Turks too were puzzled I could tell. But then instantly in response I though, what the heck Lui, what about you? Caught in moon beams in the middle of the North Sea, salty spray on your Balkan nose, and sea stars in abundance overhead. Pretty unlikely too, but pretty soon that’s where you’re going be. You, land animal extraodinaire, hoarder-of-gravity and taker-of-ground-oaths. You... Lui... at sea.

Friday, August 21, 2009

practical mathematics

1) A swimming pool lies 10m off the foot of a high rise downtown Zagreb. On the roof, 100m* up, a desperate man stands in suit and tie, trembling, crying, shouting abuse in Serbo-Croatian, the foam of death on his lips. In his hands is a picture of a woman with blond hair, (probably peroxide) and breasts that look – how shall I say – well, fake. Anyway - irrelevant – the point is – the question is: what is the maximum speed he must stay under when leaping off the high rise to ensure his safe passage to the underworld i.e. the guy wants to die, not go for a swim. Note1: assume a perfect parabola and no air friction. Note2: We’re on Earth, so gravity – except around Labas’ meteorite – is approximately constant. Hints:

a) Drago Stanic – that’s his name; remember him? he called me from his yacht on the Aegean – is not a stuntman, nor does he wish to be one.

b) Drago and I used to play Mikado and number games in my yard after school. He was always good with numbers, then he got really good and turned criminal. Casinos and whatnot. He loved puzzles and food. Was he fat? Yes. But this is of no practical significance since air friction is zero.

2) Once desperate, now disembodied and strangely lighthearted, Drago must travel from the concrete at the foot of the high rise to a giant rock belt on the rim of the galaxy 300 light-years away. His punishment for whacking Serbs, beating Tania and stealing money is mild: he will run a hotdog stand for the Americans he so disliked on Earth, i.e. he will languish for the rest of eternity outside a football stadium, i.e. American football. Now, if Drago can travel at 30 times the speed of light (he's disembodied, immaterial, ectoplasmic – call it what you want – so he can do this now) how long will it take Drago to get there? Note1: disregard Special Relativity. Note2: ...and General Relativity. Note3: in fact, ignore all physics post 1916. Note4: Assume a straight line and no pit stops. Note5 Assume Drago hits no obstruction and has a working knowledge of blackholes. Note6: Even though Drago – as I remember him – is notoriously “distractable”, assume that for once in his godforsaken, fucked-up life he is going to concentrate on the task at hand and not wander around full of schemes to make a quick Dinar. No dollars or dinars in space Drago! Hints:

a.Drago and Tania – lady Peroxide – enjoyed a short but intense relationship. Tania cheated, but this is just for your information and of no practical significance.

b A light-year – like a relationship is a distance traveled, not a duration.

3) This is a two part question. If regret is a wave that spreads out through space like a ripple in water, lighting up the disembodied as it encounters them (1) how fast would this wave have to travel if it left the bosom of the regreter downtown Rotterdam to touch Drago just before he reaches the rock-belt stadium? And (2) how long would it take for Drago to appear as a shooting star for this Earthlings to behold. Note1: light must travel back the distance before it can be perceived. Note2: When he called me from his yacht - despite the jokes and tomfoolery - underneath it was a plea for help. Come to Zagreb, my friend, please come! But this is just for your information and of no practical significance

Extra credit (for smart asses and cookies): What hemisphere would see Drago if he jumped…now!

Note: Use pen & pad. You may test waves of your own and look at the sky at any time. That’s not cheating, it’s encouraged.

(RIP Drago!)

*source: Snezana Eugenia Birckenwald-Lekic IV (Snezi)


Friday, August 14, 2009

back in Amsterdam

It was time to go to Amsterdam again. I hadn’t been back since before Buenos Aires. I missed the junkies, the tourists and the trip-me cobbles. And – truth be told – I missed Brendan a whole lot too.

First I went to see Julien near Westerpark. I smelled weed and heard Jacques Brel. First thing he did when I arrived was hand me one of his freshly printed business cards: Juste Julien – legal counsel with a French touche (typo or style?). I was curious what “French touch” meant in legal terms. He has a law degree – I think – but the only law Julien has ever known was being busted at the Belgian border with a pound of weed . With confidence he pronounced: I weel bee lawyur for expat wis mush monay. He seemed determined so we left it at that. Then we moved to the balcony with some Pastise to discuss his latest attempts to exercise his French touche on the opposite sex. In the background, Jacques Brel thundered Je t’aime, oui, je t’aaaaime. The sun shined down upon us. It was a fine day.

After that it was off to Brendan's. He came back from the gym when I arrived. In the kitchen he beat an eggy protein drink with a fork and downed it, keeping me laser-locked in the corner of his eye. Clearly, he had something in mind.

Lui, you look pale. You need to get laid.

This worried me.

You need action, Lui. Pronto!

Bren, you have egg on your lip.

It worried me because this guy doesn’t understand strategy. Bren knows only trial and error. He's the Thomas Edison of womanizers – he'll try every damn bulb filament known to man, every trick in the book, and one will light up. He’s about statistics, not stealth. Needless to say, I knew ahead of time that in my case the accent would be overwhelmingly on error.

Give me your hand, he said.

Wha - ?

Give me your hand! I handed it to him and he grabed it like a doorknob.

You and me, right here, we make a pact, a fucking covenant, yeah. You don’t leave ‘til we get you some action. We shake on it.

Bren, that’s bad idea. That’s a baaaaa – ouw, OOOOUW!.. ok ok ok!

It’s a deal then.

The American touch. A little coercion never hurt anyone.

An hour later I was at the Waldorf café with a drink in my injured hand. The humiliation began. Six drunk Brits from Sheffield shuffled in (every alloy known to man), enough fat on them for six more. A hen night. All morals left at the chicken coop.

Ladies, ladies, introductions, introductions. Meet my friend Lui. A lightweight, yes, but quality equipment. A Bang & Olufsen for your Samsungs ladies, he said pointing to the guys, right and left. With Bang he winked and nudged. I cringed.

Then two polish girls,

Polish!? that’s a amazing, what a coincidence, my friend here is also Balkan

(Oh god)

Lui, speak Balkan, go on. Speak it.

I cringed.

And so on and so forth…

Finally, near closing time, Sofia von Spitzenwald showed up with her Brazilian friend. Remember them from the Switcheroo. Bren suddenly simmered down. Turns out he and Sofia “know” each other; “benchpressed” her many a time, but still this Autro-Hungarian blue-blood has a hold on him it seems.

Sofia, good to see you, ravishing. What brings you here? Have a seat. And your friend too. Drink?

Brazil sat next to me. Chats went smooth: You’re pretty tall, aren’t you? I opened. This is relative, she said, you are a small man. And so on, but good. Smart cookie, Brazil. I bought her a drink for free and we drank from our respective altitudes knowing there was no danger here; we would never “know” each other.

In the morning I snuck out like a thief, in contravention of the pact, the fucking covenant. Still pale and unlaid, but sated nevertheless. Amsterdam had delivered! My headache and gut testified. It was all good, the trialing – even the erroring so good that on the train back a haiku emerged unannounced:

Canal ladies in tights

Street-vomit on cobbles

Drunk dog barking at dawn

I was inspired.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

government

"Men are so simple and so much inclined to obey immediate needs that a deceiver will never lack victims for his deceptions."


We like Machiavelli where I come from – Niccolo Machiavelli – we like him because he’s smart, because he can screw you, bamboozle you, rip you off and smile all the while. He’s an artist in the manner of the great illusionists. With sleight of hand and deflection, Lookee-here, this bird in my hand, he says and then he cleans you out. He can do this because he never actually does it himself. The best scam artists in Serbia (the best are Serbian not Croatian) have someone else do it for them. Once robbed and stripped down to your underpants, Niccolo sidles up (fully clothed of course) my friend, he says, you have been robbed, I will help you. So you follow Nico to his home – what else can you do? – and you live under his roof, under his care. He serves you plum schnapps and lets you watch cable. Soon you forget that you once had your own house, your own land, and clothes on your back. And soon it becomes normal to walk in underpants – everyone should be in underpants! For years you do little else but drink schnapps and watch cable. But one day Nico tells you you must earn your keep. You see that man over there with the jacket and the hat, he says. Here’s a bird, go! Take everything he’s got and bring it back.

Now you are working for Nico, and soon there are more and more people in underpants and fewer and fewer hats and garments. There are hand-birds all over the place, and all you can find is schnapps and cable.

Then one day you start to think to yourself, shits, holy mother of god, I’m in my underpants, my liver is busted, my eyes shot, winter lies in wait, all I have is this hand-bird. How can this be? So you talk to other people in underpants and you find that they think the same.

What the heck! You say to the men in hats, this didn’t pan out, did it? This didn't work.

My friend, things are better, don’t worry. Things are better.

Stop calling me friend. All I see is hand-birds and underpants. What’s better, tell me?

Now Belgrade is astir. More and more people in underpants speak up. Hand-birds are let free into the skies. Thousands are on the streets. Thousands.

Three are home sick.

But that is enough. A few men in hats address the assembled underpants :

People! Listen all. You have let your hand-birds free. Now there is an illness in our airs and lungs. Soon Belgrade will be like Genova during the black plague. Listen carefully. Stay inside. Your life depends on it. We will help you!

Friday, August 7, 2009

pairs make wholes

First day at the Plasma-Center, Antun and I got on famously: chitchat; news of Zagreb; pork and sarma; the evils of the Ottoman empire. On the same page, right across the board. Oh, fellow countryman, what a delight. Then off he went to his fireballs, and left me a pile of papers with squiggles and footnotes, but no instructions.

He had hired me for what purpose exactly? My Croat tongue alone? The firm clasp of my handshake? My pyrotechnic heart?

I sit in a bunker of filing cabinets on the third floor, five by five by three, on a plastic-swivel, on oatmeal-colored carpet squares. There’s a window in the corner and a piece of Delft sky. I can smell cow and printer-breath from the machines in the hall.

Across from me sits Karla Sliedrecht. Dutch down to her fingernails. Her blood is the blood of the Dutch who ruled the high seas and worked the land with oxen. Blond, bovine, butter thighs – think Vermeer, ladies in petticoats, milk cans and frosty horizons. Even her soul that glimpses past the geraniums in her eyes is Dutch, Dutch, Dutch : you’re not really from here are you?

I am Lui, I volunteered. (Ik ben Lui).

Lewie?

No, l’wee. One syllable. L’WEE LA-BA.

Then in rapid succession she cross-examined: sister, brother, mother, father, hobbies and so forth. But my concentration was shot. I couldn’t get my eyes off the fuzz on her face, a film of hair beyond velvet, down her neck, across her collar bone. My mind raced - raced: I saw creatures scaling mountain fronts, large footprints, long hairs in the snow, I saw –

I think we should move our desks, Lui.

wha - why?

So we don’t stare at each other, she said in Dutch

I’m not staring.

You’re staring.

I’m not.

I was, but I was thinking too. I was thinking of bigman - lonely bigman - my subterranean friend. He too is fuzzy. YES! Put two and two together. Karla and bigman, romantic comedies and light drinks under the brickwork. There is order in this chaos Earth. There are pairs that make wholes. Bring all these pairs together, all of them, and this chaos consumes itself - wooooooooshshshshshshshshsh – until there is nothing but a hole -

Lewie!

Yes.

Help me move the tables.

Yes. Of course. Yes.

And so we slid tables over carpet squares in silence, our eyes inside our heads. Hers in hers; mine in mine.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

fireballs

The sun can’t get through today. The sky is cloud-paper. A few white scribbles here and there; a black doodle in the distance like a long-legged bird or a heli with a stuntman on a rope. There’s plenty going on though: the air is thick with electromagnetics from mobiles, from radios and from the Poles, North and South. They come from far these waves just to be here above my head: Zagreb, Sebastopol, Luxemburg, you name it. Meanwhile, down low at ground level, woodlice gnaw, Bigman sleeps, and way down in the darkness, at the bottom of the sea, eyeless fish scavenge for carcasses.

Hello?... Lui, are you there?

Further still, thousands of miles below the crust, a big sweltering, raging goulash of energy -

Lui, you're breaking up.

I'm here.

This line is bad. I’m going to call you back.

Click.

...big sweltering, raging goulash of energy -

Ring.

Hello.

It's me again.

Hi.

This is better. Lui, I'm calling about that job.

What job?

The one I told you about, at the plasma-physics lab in Delft.

Tell me.

The head-guy is a Croat. Dr. Antun Dragoslav. He needs an assistant.

I'm not qualified.

You're not going to do any physics. You just run the office. You file stuff, you photocopy, etc. You speak Serbo-whatsit, right?

Croatian. Yes.

Then you're qualified.

What's plasma?

It's like a gas - super hot - but it's not a gas, and they suspend it magnetically in a vacuum -

What!?

It's a fireball, Lui.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"scrotum" in Turkish

The party was last night. Pavlov Pop banged through their repertoire, people danced, hop-scotched over Meteor, and sat snug and kissy on the collapsed wall of my kitchen. I haven't had the stomach to clean up yet. Jk's butts, Brendan's crushed liter-cans and all the confetti from birthday-girl Bijou. It was a party!

When the cops showed at four, five Turks gathered on my stoop to back me up in case of beef. It was good of them, a kind gesture, but I managed despite Brendan's mooning from my backyard. Butt cheeks and I SMELL PIG doesn't help with law enforcement, he should know that. Anyway, we were told what we knew already: too much brass, too loud, too late at night, and after that, people started leaving. The Doobie Brothers could not revive the spirit the Pavlovs had conjured up.

The Turks were still there when everyone had left, so I invited them in, all five of them, Izimir (from Izmir, on the Aegean), his cousin from Istanbul and three other guys. We sat with the Pavlovs under a crescent moon - ten of us - doing word-swaps, Turkish to Russian to Serbo-Croatian. This is how I discovered the fastest way to get your testicles cut off in Istanbul. Call a guy ibne, pronounced eeb-Né (pansy, push-over, gaylord but worse, ten times), and by syllable two your pants will be down to your ankles and the scimitar at your scrotum. The Pavlovs chimed in with the Russian equivalent and we all laughed – fun stuff – my balls safe on my cooling meteorite. After that we did scrotum, head-butt and Zinedine Zidane (they call him something else in Turkey).

This is when I remembered Switchblade from the 'Ol Switcheroo, with his ten thousand head of cattle, the swirling cognac in his fingers, and the nymphs on either side to rest his Ottoman paws. And I thought, what is it with these Turks, they're all tough-guys.

You know this dude called Switchblade? I asked, I was curious.

No response.

I tried again: şviçblüd. You know şviçblüd? He's from Amsterdam. Big guy, drinks cognac?

Wow, Bang! Full Pavlov-reaction from the Turks – jerky-heads, jaw-muscle contractions, the works – What did I say!?Fuck. Suddenly I feared for my teeth and my soft Balkan features. Quickly I moved on,

Gentlemen, mint-tea? Yes? and vanished into the kitchen.

After a while they simmered down again and we carried on as before, down the tri-lingual lexicon: neck brace, goulash, side-arm, hemorrhage and so on and so forth until dawn.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

listening in

I'm stretched in trunks across the back of my cooling meteorite. The sun drags across the Northern Hemisphere like the tongue of a dog, drippy with clouds and humidity. I ignore what I can now, the chiseling at JK's above and my own whistly nostrils – hay fevered and cold. Instead, I try to imagine this rock as a cliff-hung outcrop above the Adriatic, somewhere off Split or Dubrovnik, this beautiful rock that only some days ago was zipping past lunarscapes through showers of cosmic rays... to land here in my backyard, into this perfect crater. Perfect and parabolic, like a dish, a huge receptor –

What's that! Shshshshshshshsththth – the beginning of that Beatles song? – no, no the unsheathing blade of a cut-throat in Baluchistan, yes; And that there, – plick pluck plick pluck – Chinese fingers, a thousand or more netting rackets in Guangzhou. And there – allez, allez, on y va mon vieux, allez – the Port of Marseille, an old man and his dog. And when I shift my ear a little like this, I can hear Thriller in LA; And like this, sixteen Sunni rebels in a trailer, insurgents and their English speaking overlord – What? What's that? SAY IT AGAIN! – but I can't hear it now over the cling-clanging of Brendan's dumbbells 40 miles north in Amsterdam. Interference. I turn my head to focus, but now I hear fires rage, voices cry, guns crackle, and from afar, the keystrokes of a bureaucrat and the dim bleeps of his algorithms. But now a ringing rips through everything, an incessant intrusive ringing, I can't hear –

Wait, that's me, my front door!

Quick I thrown pants on over my Y-front trunks.

The man at the door is bearded and massive like a bear. The sun is eclipsed. He does not greet, does not introduce himself, but clenches his fists and then utters his message of information:

Are you Mr. Labas?

Yes.

Mr. Labas, you are not to listen.

I'm just sitting on my rock, sir.

Again, Mr. Labas, do not listen. You can sit, lie, talk, do as you please, but don't listen. If I have to come here again...

His jaw opens and closes. The sun appears briefly behind his ear, and then he leaves.

I go back to my rock, and try in vain to blot out what I can. But now I wonder about this man who looks so much like Chuck Norris (was it Chuck Norris?). And I think, should I be scared of this guy? I mean – fuck – after all, if I can hear all of you, then surely, well, you can hear me too, right?... No?

Monday, July 6, 2009

fête terrestre

I thought about giving a party at my house, so I made some phone calls, how are you, what’s going on, this and that, and soon I had a handful of people good to go. I spoke to bigman on the stoop last night too, but he just nodded and said neither yes nor no. He shook some sand off his arm and went for a walk downtown Rotterdam. Brendan raved, of course, and immediately made a list of people: Joyce, Julie, Emerald, Bijou (see a pattern?) until I reminded him that this was a quiet kind of thing. A quiet party? What's the matter with you. That’s oxymoronic, Lui? I didn't know Bren knew that word (a burst of intelligence under pressure). JK agreed to come too, and promised to bring one of his BOXES, but I told him no, no BOXES, JK, and no animals, please. It’s a party. Bring food or something, and he looked at me kind of funny. Food, JK, real stuff, yes? He was startled, but he agreed.

Finally, when I had everything set up – who, what, when, where – it struck me across the face like an swoopy albatross: MUSIC! No furniture, is one thing, but no music! A body without spirit; a ground-hugging, invertebrate thing. What've I got? So I went through my records: Doobie Brothers, yes, lots of Doobie Brother’s. What else?... fuck! I made a desperate call to friends: guys! please, I need your help. Can you play next week? ... um, Can you come for free? I beg you. And thus was arranged live entertainment for my little soirée, a quartet of brass: tuba, trombone, and French horns, all pop repertoire, classics from Beat it to Labamba, whatever you like, Balkan stuff too. Pavlov Pop they're called – they're Russian friends. I got excited just thinking about it and made some more calls to Fer, Switch, and my sister Bee. None of them will make it, I know that, but I wanted to tell them, come, please come! My yard is all busted brick and interstellar rubble, my kitchen, a gaping wound, but no matter, no matter!! there'll be lots of space, foreign food for finger and fork, there'll be tubas, trombones, french horns and classy people..

Monday, June 29, 2009

meteor

Late last night something hard and incandescent plunged down from the sky, ripped off the back wall of my kitchen and lodged itself five feet deep into my backyard. My window was shattered. Everything shook. The world was dust and broken glass, and for a moment I wondered whether I should get up at all. For a moment I thought it might be best to just sleep through this and wake up in whatever other universe I had been transported to. Not think, not look, ignore. But there was knocking at my front door, it was bigman, and eventually I got out of bed. He didn't ask to come in, he just came in. We still hadn't said a word to each other, I still didn’t know anything about him, how he lived under the brickwork, but there he was and I was grateful for it. He stood for a while, all sandy and shaky, scratching his chin at this strange rock in the ground. Then he touched it, but it was still too hot from its descent through the atmosphere. So we just stood there, side by side, me and bigman, gazing at this beautiful, amazing meteorite from the sky. And I was happy somehow, in all this wreckage, that it had come to my universe, to my backyard, to me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

bigman

I’m in a bar on the Coolsingel with Bren. I haven’t slept in three days. I entered a dark hole from which I have yet to emerge.

Man, check her out, Lui, check her out! Bren elbows me in ribs. She's yours, Lui. Your name's written all over her. Step up.

Maybe later Bren.

Don’t be a pansy. Do it, man! Do it!

Three nights ago I felt quivers coming from underground. I imagined a Bangkok of rats coming and going from eatery to fornication nest. The sound strapped me to my space-cube as if gearing me up for a journey vast and interstellar. But the quivering was something else, something quite different. A large figure, man-like, but darker and taller, rose up from the brickwork outside. He dusted sand off his fuzzy body and looked around absentmindedly. Ten feet of head, chest and limb. Not a Turk, not a phantom, not a famished beast, crazed and rabid. Bigman kicked his foot up against the back wall of Ankara Grillroom and looked around the street calmly, as if he owned the place. I watched him through the blinds.

Do it, Lui.

Bren, please! I grab a handful of peanuts strewn with urine-microbes and I eat before I say something I'll regret.

Bigman... like one of JK’s contraptions morphed from cork to flesh; indeed, the sound of wood-creak and the tinkering of JK's little gas-stove have been on around-the-clock for weeks.

You’re a gaylord Lui. It’s official. You’re a disgrace to the race. Eventually we're gonna go extinct with people like you. I mean it. Look at her, man!

A redhead with pearls and colored nails. But it makes no difference. I order a tonic. Off goes Bren in my stead. Redhead ignores. Redhead stiffens. Bren flexes. Sleeves tighten. Hand on the bar. Then Bren speaks. Colored nails do the wave. Hair-flick and bracelet-pinch. Then she smiles, there it is. She’s screwed. Entry n+1.

I drink from my tonic and start thinking - I don’t know why, but I think maybe bigman is a friend. The way he was standing there, is just the way I would stand there. And the way he kicked up his foot. I do that! What are you doing underground, my friend. Come have a cup of coffee. A glass of milk. My kitchen is small but I can accommodate. Mi casa su casa. Dust of the sand and I’ll make you a sandwich. Pastrami? I have.

Bren swings around the bar: Lui, listen – big favor, huge favor – I need the mattress. I’ll make it up to you.

Bren – fuck – where the hell am I going to sleep.

You're skinny, you can sleep on my bench, no problem. I’ll make it up to you, man, I swear.

Bren!

Come on.

Alright... I won’t be sleeping anyway.

Friday, June 12, 2009

time is money

Drago Stanic, my buddy from grade school, called me from his boat on the Adriatic. You must come, my friend. I have too many dollars – you cannot understand. I am shitting money. It is coming out from my backside, yes. You listen [a huddle of girls giggle in the background] you hear? You must come to Zagreb for party Lui. And you must bring your women, yes, [giggle] good women [giggle], and your wife [giggle]

Drago, how did you get my number?

Your mother.

What!? How’d you get her number?

No more questions, Lui.

Earlier that night I was on a ‘business date’ with Ietje van Velzen: medium length hair, brown nondescript; bowlegged but brisk; dentures and hairnet. She’s 75 years old. My first venture into free enterprise.

I ate Chinese and conversed for money. It was easy. I know the angles: Is that lavender Ietje?... Let me get that for you... and so on and so forth.

But let’s face it, at twenty euros an hour it was a miserable start. I made more xeroxing in servitude back in Amsterdam. I could raise my price, yes, but I’m investing. Gratitude pays greater dividends. And don’t let the hairnet and orthopedics fool you. She’s the Drago Stanic of her class. She used to own van Velzen Vliegpapier – you may know it – that’s flypaper, but not those scrolls of grim adhesive; think pastel, gauze, potpourri and scenes from Aix-en-Provence. Bowlegs never stopped her from getting places. Her factory in Slovenia employed two hundred men. She’s a killer.

Halfway through dinner Brendan called in distress. For two weeks now he’s been haunted, he says, by “poltergeists” from his little black book. Girls. What else.

They’re ganging up on me Lui. I’m telling you, it’s a fucking campaign. This one chick locked me out of my house. MY OWN HOUSE. I need a break, man. I’m coming to your place.

Now?!


Yes, right now. You mind if I bring my bench.

A bench? I have a couch, Bren. Good couch.

My bench press, man!

Now Ietje was getting offended. She rapped her knuckles on the table and lanced tofu with her chopsticks. I hung up.

An hour later I put her on the bus and headed home. That’s when Drago called (...I am shitting money... it is coming from out my...) I took a detour west and watched some geese paddle in a pond for a bit. And that’s when it hit me – fuck-a-duck – That’s what I’m going to sell (why didn’t I think of it before): TIME. Plain and simple. Lui-Labas-time. By the second, by the minute, as you wish. It starts and stops at your command. It doesn’t weigh a thing. Comes in a JK-BOX, special design. Put it in your pocket. Twenty euros an hour; a hundred for six. Order while there’s stock!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

JK and the Turks

There was a fight on the corner last night. Ten Turkish guys went head to head on the pavement. As I understand there were no bodies, but blood was spilt.

When it happened I was at my upstairs neighbor’s, Johan-Karl – JK, from Charleroi – I was there to ask him (for fuck’s sake!) to please stop chucking his butts and cans over his balcony onto my square-meter of yard. I have thyme growing down there for my bouillabaisse and whatnot when I have visitors. Listen friend, I said, keep your waste-things out of my yard, cappice, yes?! Then I made a fist or a finger, but he didn’t respond. He left the door open and I went in after him with more shit to deliver, but once inside, my mouth dropped.

Do not fear friends! He is much older, yes, his suits are oatmeal-beige and he’s from Flanders – it all stacks up – but he’s not a pedophile. Johan-Karl is an installation artist. He makes wood and plaster contraptions; he builds animals, current and prehistoric. e.g. a full-scale, cork-built brontosaurus split in two: the rump is near the kitchen, the other half by his bed. The other thing he makes is BOXES... yes (I don’t know how else to say this except to italicize and capitalize). I was inside one when the shit hit the fan with the Turks. Six cubic meter of darkness, the highest grade, I couldn’t see my hands, there were no grooves, no fissures, the whole thing was totally hermetic. I could hear stuff, though, the Turks shouting abuse and JK rattling ice cubes in his glass. In my head – still annoyed – I was thinking of my bouillabaisse and my thyme-bush strew with Phillip Morris.

Eventually though, mmmmmmmm, I realized where I was,

Thank you Johan-Karl. Fascinating. Thank you, yes. Now, let me out.... you’re a true artist... Thank you... Johan... Johan-Karl?

I spoke Dutch. The Flemish are pesky with language, and what with the Turks dismembering each other on the block, I took precautions.

Johan-Karl... sir!

But then – Holy mother of God – something appeared out of nowhere, an electrostatic ball that sparked sporadically and danced in suspension – WFT! – an unearthly Teslian experiment, and I was caught, riveted, like the summer in Split under the pier when Nataša Franolić showed me hers and I mine and I was catapulted like a spitball into the ether (cops - sirens - ruckus - Turks caught in hand-to-hand combat) and briefly I was glued in space.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dear employment officer, wealthy heiress or man-with-cash

I am seeking employment in all fields. My skills are varied in discipline and quality, i.e. I am better with people than pneumatic drills, but I invite and encourage suggestions from far and wide: masonry, diplomacy, fashion. There is nothing I would not do – unabashed, I confess to my cramped circumstances – nothing, except:

One. people trafficking, any and all.

Two. pimping, any and all, (however, note: I was offered an attractive position in such capacity just last week in Stuttgart. Conclusion: I am an asset in all worlds, under- nether- etc.)

Three. I will not sell my body – hold that, in a limited sense perhaps, yes, I would escort heiresses, doyennes, elderly estate-holders and suchlike, all expenses paid, plus pocket money. I know nice restaurants and dainty eateries downtown Rotterdam (note: finger food is a winner, an icebreaker for all types). My conversation is outstanding: give me a topic and I will discuss, freewheel, extemporize or just listen with bated breath. Plus, I am not averse to elderly ladies – conversationally! I insist – I was raised by my grandmother outside Dudrovnik for three years; the place was crawling with old people. I know old ladies like the back of my hand, I know their foibles, their appetites, their sweet tooth – teeth, some have several, prosthetic or real that cannot, must not be ignored. Note: I have neither car nor license, so restrict searches to: able-bodied-elderly-female. Thank you.

There’s more. Tap my entrepreneurial core and you will get the unexpected. Did I mention I was asked to partake in a commercial venture to import Davidoff Slims over the Danube into Western Europe – contraband! you will argue but that’s not the point: The point is I was singled out on the force of my commercial skills and unalloyed loyalty, both so manifest they were evident after only a five minute conversation! Five minutes! I’m sorry to toot my own horn, but such is the nature of application letters. My contact for the Slims deal is currently in St-Louis, Senegal, selling canned goods. If you are interested I can put you in touch with him... for a commission of course.

In short, and to conclude: I am a highly employable individual, a linguist, diplomatic in temperament and unassuming in posture. I have brown eyes and my hair is usually short, it’s just that these days...anyway, what else?

Best call me. I am mostly available, but better after 10.

Kind regards,

Lui Labas

ps- we can also speak face to face; I usually have a coffee around eleven at the Turkish place across the street. Don’t mind the big guys at the door, they’re Kurdish, but they’re harmless.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

four by four by four

I took off to Stuttgart the other day. Just like that? – yeah, just like that; I had to go see someone. I spent two hours on the side of the road with a cardboard sign in my hands. S-T-U-T-T-G-A-R-T, it said in calligraphy – I have a pen-set from way back and plenty of time to kill – I even did some medieval shit on the first letter, some coils and frills and whatnot which I figured would attract the more enlightened drivers. But waving it around, it occurred to me that this much skill could attract the wrong kind of dude. It was getting on ten o’clock and suddenly I had this frightful image of a moustache-lipped Bavarian with leather gloves, leather cap, leather... I started heading back, but a car stopped – a Fiesta – and I got in.

(What the fu— Labas! You just got back, man.)

(Yeah, so?)

(Don’t you have stuff to do?)

(I have stuff to do, yeah... in Stuttgart.)

(Ha ha ha, very funny, ha ha ha. What do you have to do in Belgium you can’t do here?)

(It’s in Germany Brendan. Stuttgart’s in Germany.)

I love Bren – God bless him.

The Fiesta was tiny and dark. A large primate was at the wheel. Big, tattooed, bald, Aryan stock – think sauerkraut and Autobahn – I didn’t say Nazi, I said Aryan – that’s still a legitimate word last I checked anyway, not to worry, I don’t think this guy’s history or sense of himself goes back much further than the 2006 Fussball Weltmeisterschaft and the trauma of Germany’s defeat on home ground. Everything before that is unknowable or beer-soaked beyond recognition.

My name is Lui – Lui Labas.

I’m Jürg!

I know, I said.

That was stupid. The tiny car suddenly swerved way out as Jürg’s heavy Aryan head swung towards me. Woher wissen sie das?! How do you know?!

It says on your arm, Jürg. Take it easy, It’s written on your arm.

Ah, Ach zo, Ja. Das ist correct. Ja, ja. And the Fiesta settled back into its lane.

All the rest of his tattoos were basically doodles, scattered and incoherent, but his name – JURG – was written in clean, Gothic letters – you guessed it, calligraphy. And like my S, his J was a clutter of coils, frills and illumination, a beautiful piece of work, unexpected on such an undignified arm.

Eventually we got to talking,

...I wurk in nightlife, ja.

At the bar or something?

Nein. Nightlife-security, ja. Und also ze administration, ja, ze treasury.

The what?

Ze treasury.

Jürg has a lot of flaccid muscle he probably doesn’t use much but which I’m sure is integral to his services for “ze treasury”. I didn’t know what he was talking about and I didn’t want to ask. He said nightlife another twenty times before he finally mentioned the word girls: Ze treasury, is depending on how many girls are on ze floor, ja. Jürg shifted into fifth gear. What girls, Jürg, what floor? Then Jürg showed me his teeth and lifted his big hand – like some German, multi-grained loaf off the top shelf – to remind me once more – stupid Croat that I am – that he works in NIGHTLIFE. Yes, yes, yes, I got it Jürg, but something doesn’t square, man. We’re sitting in a Ford Fiesta, a diesel; we’re barely breaking 110 kph, we’re sputtering forth. What kind of joint do you run? Donations from your clientele to The Treasury must be very ungenerous. Where’s the Merc 600SL? In my hometown Zagreb, among contraband runners and pimps, you would be a disgrace,
Jürg, a laughing stock. What treasury is this!? But I kept quiet, and finally he changed the subject

Und you, why you going to Stuttgart, ja?

For work.

Ach zo. Wat wurk?

um... mostly manual.

Mechanisch, ja?

Yes, mechanical , yes,

ja, ja, sehr gut.

What the hell. I’m a liar.

I was stumped. I've lost the concept of work. My work these days is purely internal: a beating heart, the limbs on my body that, by necessity, I move from A to B; my work is the flurry of ideas that batter my brain; channeling them and filing them is work; my work... um... my work was getting to Stuttgart... and maybe Jürg was about to offer me a job at ze treasury or – fuck-a-duck – running the floor! Imagine that. I thought of his multigrain-hand giving directions, the eruption of tattoos across his arms, I thought of calling him boss from behind the bar, but then my mind slipped and for the next ten seconds all I could think of was my new cube of space in Rotterdam, my new home – four by four by four – now rid of rats, spacious and grand, and right then – caught in Jürg’s Fiesta – I felt like an emperor and the think-space in my mind filled the cube to perfection, fully, every patch of space – four by four by four – in length, in width, in height, and finally, in the last seconds, in an other dimension too.