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Thursday, April 29, 2010

what I got

I got five bucks in my back pocket, a gold-coin hundred in my wallet and a quartz wristwatch worth ten. I got a belly full of goulash, a heart thirty years a’tickin’, and skull-load of ideas good to go. Yeah, these I got!

Plus, my friend, I got this body: I got these legs I can cross in tight seats, kick out in a squabble or scramble like mad when my life is under threat. I got two arms, two hands, two feet – feel that –I got those. And these little gems, my friend, I got them too, eyes to gaze at lush damsels in the spring and leer when I’m feeling dark & ghetto.

Yeah, these are mine: my dimpled cheeks, my busted molar, even this rogue lock of hair I’ve battled in earnest for years. Mine! I own this body. I don’t rent, it’s not on loan, it’s mine to do with as I may, to thrust at this world – helter-skelter – to thrust at this world with the fervor of a kamikaze, to throw into the air, to hurtle into space or drop into the fray.

I light a cigarette…

So now, my friend, I must tell you this:

This is my last cup of coffee in this great city. This rampart of the common. And I will miss it. I damn well will!

I will miss bigman under the brickwork; I'll miss the brigand gang of Kurds with their brass spittoons and mustaches. And I will miss the warm summer nights when the sky comes down in pellets of water and starlight. I’ll miss that. I'll miss you, Rotterdam City.

But I take what I’ve got now.
I take it all bundled up like this, like I said...

and I go.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

chartreuse and jungle-green

Before I could walk I wove through legs – human and table legs – I gripped adult fingers and scraped along floors on my hands and knees. I was six months old, pretty anxious for the most part, but never disheartened with life because I knew only one fear and it had a specific and identifiable location: my stomach. Plus, when the enemy emerged, I knew what to do: I just shrieked like my life was damn near its end, and since I still remembered how life felt when it began – birth fresh in my memory – I just assumed its end must be similarly excruciating. So I just shrieked and shrieked like a f*!#&ing maniac… and I waited. And this was life.

My eyes and mind at this stage were still in apprenticeship and not much good to anyone. Nuance? Forget it. Man and woman, for instance, they were just Man. Chartreuse and jungle-green, that was just Green. But I understood even then that I must shriek some considerable length before that milky breast would be thrust into my face and the enemy inside placated. I understood that. I understood very quickly – stinky-shrieky Croat, six months of age – I understood the rudiments of time.

But when I began to understand time, right then, at that instant, a new danger arose, a danger I would come to experience in depth, a danger without bounds: boredom.

I got bored. And this – after existence itself – was my first true condition. And it sucked.

When you get bored, you start to think needlessly. You think too far and too deep until your thoughts become more real to you than even the crap in your own diapers.

Deep inside my tiny body – even as I appeared busily crawling about – I felt something was wrong, something beyond the enemy-stomach. I intuited it, I sensed it, and, of course, I thought about it. But for a long time it remained non-specific. It was still, you might say, just green.

Now, moving on…

The other night I was downtown Bruges at a place that serves steak, beer and pretty much nothing else. Opposite me was a Belgian man in his forties: glassy eyes, piss-blond whiskers and teeth approximately the same color. (Note for travelers: Belgians are a charitable folk; a tad medieval in more ways than just that one, but overall, a pretty friendly, unassuming folk.) So there I was: cozy corner, three-square-feet of oak, steak-frites and a pint of Chimay. And there he was: cheery man from West Flanderen downing his fifth pint on an empty stomach. He spoke most of the time and I could see in his face and how he clutched his glass – much like I gripped fingers back in the days – that most likely this guy was still fully battling the enemy-stomach. So, I just let him speak and only once did I interupt to mention what a nice necktie he had, dotted red on jungle-green..

Thursday, April 8, 2010

this world of thugs

Half the street was hookers; the other half: Bulgarians fondling their belt buckles, fatso German truckers on the prowl and dwarfish men from the Belgian countryside. It was a shithole, the greatest darned shithole you will find. You will find such a place! Every major city has one.

There was crap in the gutter, wafts of urine all about and pigeons pecking squashed fries off the cobbles. The smell was human, but barely. I tell you, I was not here by choice. I took no pleasure watching spindly girls from Belaruse struggle on lacquered heels. I took no pleasure.

Rage is what I felt. I thought to grab some piece of piping off the ground and club these trolls, a hundred strokes each, then calmly straighten my cuffs and jacket like a made man… take that, you bonbon eating piece of... (to the Belgian dwarf ). And then with the same piece of piping, shatter the red-lit cages of glass, all of them, and release their thin-armed inmates to freedom.

I thought to myself, they'll run like gazelles through the streets.

But then I thought again. In every doorway a greasy ape fingered a cellphone. In every doorway such a man leered at his clientele – Bulgarian, German, Belgian – calculating in his oily skull the monies each will part with once they have partaken. You screw with these greaseballs and they don't hesitate, they snap your fingers back and smash your teeth with gold rings and Zippo-hardened fists. Make no mistake.

And so I thought again.

This place is a shithole, it is a well of shit, a fount! Nothing on Earth would have made me happier than to see these twenty gazelles leap to freedom on their lacquered heels. Nothing.

But freedom where? Freedom what? There are apes in doorways in every city. Here, in Bucharest, Bombay, even – yes – even Zagreb. No matter where, they are there.

Then the rage in my stomach became a firestorm and my mind turned into a blaze of nun-chukkas breaking every bone in this stinking alley – Man and ape alike – every bone like kindling wood.

HIIIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAARHG!
SWOOSH SWOOSH!
TAK!
SWOOOSH SWOOSH!

A dizzying wheel of strokes!!

TAK TAK TAK!!

CRAKX!!!

SWOOSH SWOOSH!

[German truckers in a heap; Belgian leches in the gutter; Bulgarians in a bulge before me; and all the greasy apes, all of them, begging, BEGGING for mercy.]

HIIIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAARHG!

SWOOSH SWOOSH!

CRAKX!!!


Meanwhile, there I was, pulling my trolley bag forward over the cobbles, minding the pigeons, minding my own business. And at the end of the street – nun-chukkas still in full swing – I thought of Bigman. I thought of him for a while because he calms me down.

***

Bigman, I thought, I understand why you only come out at night, why you are so careful to reveal yourself, why you smile but do not speak, and why you live so deep, deep underground. I understand.

The wells of shit, they are above ground
.