Vanity or Sanity?

February 17, 2012

“I’ll trade your vanity for my sanity.” I said to Marcus in 1995.

We never made the trade.

I’ve had another blah day today. I had to do a “Stress test” at my Cardiologist early this morning. My mom likes to take me there to make sure I am ok etc. I slept at my mom’s last night.

I was instructed not to drink caffeine for 12 hours before and no smoking after midnight last night. Yes, I have a heart condition and I started smoking again. Not even close to half as much as I used to. I don’t drink that much coffee. But that’s not the point. It was rough waking up and staying up then going for a stress test. I was stressed from not having coffee and smoking.

I was there for over 3hours and or was mostly waiting around and 2 photo sessions after putting fluid in me for the machine. The only “test” I took was a 10-15 minute treadmill until my hear rate was up to 150 beats a minute. The Doctor was fun to look at except for her wedding ring. Well, it was a nice wedding ring. You get the idea.

I left there so groggy for some reason. Mom took me food shopping. She took me. I paid. Ha. Then we did lunch and I finally bought a coffee. A “French Toast Latte” actually, with 4 shots of espresso. I drank up and had a smoke finally. Ahh. I drank the whole thing and my ass was still dragging.

I came home with mom. I sleep here some Friday nights so I can help my uncle Saturday mornings. I helped my mom with a few things and cleaned out my broken down car in her driveway. I donated it to Purple Heart and they are picking it up on Monday.

It’s a sad loss. I loved that car but it needs too much work and I can’t afford it right now. I did score a bunch of coins from it. SO I took a walk to the bank to cash them in. TD bank charges 6% on the coin machine if you don’t have an account with them. I’ve and accounts with them for years even when they were Commerce Bank and they never charged. Now I don’t have an account and they charged me over a dollar and I ended up with just under 17 dollars. Oh well, it was still found money.

I took a walk into town to get some smokes and splurge on a Starbucks coffee (half decaf at this point) since I had some extra money. Chatted with the friendly kid at CVS I see every week about cigarettes mostly. My old friend from when I worked at Starbucks was working and we chatted it up a bit. One of the girls I used to see there almost every night a couple years back looked up at me and smiled. I smiled back. I used to think she was cute. She still is. I just don’t always think about these things all of the time. Just at my Doctor today.

“Are you the same guy..?” She asked then paused.

“That used to be her every night? Yes.” I answered.

“You lost a lot of weight. You look great.” She said.

I thanked her and almost told he she looked good too but wasn’t sure if that’s what I’m supposed to say or not anymore. I talked to her while she made my drink.

“You used to drive that big red car right?” She asked.

“Yeah. I’m not driving it now.” I said.

“What are you driving?”

“Nothing.”

“Where do you live now?”

“Fairview.”

“Where’s that?”

“ It’s on the edge of Camden near Collingswood. Where do you live?”

“Bellmawr.”

“Cool. Nice seeing you again.”

“Great to see you. Stop in more.”

I took my drink in a great mood. I gained a little of my weight back in the past month and have been a little self-conscious. I hadn’t shaved in a week and my hair was un-kept today so “looking good” was the last thing on my mind. It felt good to hear it. When I first lost the weight after a month or so recovering from my heart surgery months ago I was so confident. I was able to wear clothes I couldn’t fit into for over 4 years. That faded away fast with other priorities making me forget.

It occurred to me that I didn’t even feel bad about not having a car or even a job because “I looked good” to quote my friend John, even when I was at my worst.

I guess it was a good day. Because other people’s opinion’s of my looks makes me feel better than my accomplishments.

In reality I’d rather have created something like a piece of art, poetry or a novel than look good but I was nice to hear it.

I’ll keep my sanity (the little I have) and you can keep your vanity.


The Son of the Cockroach Lady

February 1, 2012

Caterpillar stairway leads me to the basement so I can hide from the monsters called reality. Comfort in the dark corner with worn warped plywood Grandpop set up as my office years ago complete with a make shift desk to draw on and read comic books. 1002 Niagara Rd. The invisible dog Grandpop warned me about never came to me. Was he teasing or crazy? I’ll never know. I liked it there hiding from hippies of my dreams that were going to hurt me somehow. My dreams, visions and creativity flourished, as an 8-year-old’s should.

It was much less scary than the House on Haunted Hill, The House by the Cemetery, The House by the park, The Last House on the Left, The Last House on a Dead End Street, The House that Jack Built and my former house on Monitor rd where I lived with my paranoid schizophrenic mother. The House of Cockroaches. The neighbors called her cockroach lady. I was the Son of the Cockroach Lady.

It was (is) a small part of Camden NJ. A village they called it. Fairview Village. Nice enough to my childhood nightmarish recollections. It was a big wonderland filled with talking gray trees, shimmering golden green grass, and dirty shirtless white kids that called my name and eventually called me names.

Daddy gone, mommy in crazy hospital, I moved on Niagara Rd with Grandmom and Grandpop. I got fat and didn’t like school. Too many children. Too many rules. Too many teachers. I made fun of myself after being made fun of for being fat. I wore pants that were labeled Husky. Kids called me Husky. I went to the basement or sat in front of the TV and I would draw and draw and draw.

The neighborhood worsened as I got older. I got worse as the neighborhood got older. I escaped when I was 11-years-old.

Now I am back. I feel more afraid than I did as child. I took a walk yesterday to see the 2 houses I lived in and they were different, smaller, odd. The entire neighborhood shrunk in size, grew in population and crime. I was almost the scared scarred little white boy being stared at and made fun of once again. I wore levis instead of Huskys.

Monitor Road House -in the middle


An Excerpt from my Novel, Yellow Socks: Confessions of a Non-Don Juan

January 14, 2012

This is an excerpt from my 2010 novel; Yellow Socks-Confessions of a Non-Don Juan

Barry

One Sunday I went to the Baltimore Museum of Visionary Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art. I went with a girl I work with named Janet, her friend Lenora, and their Museum Education teacher Barry. Although I’ve shared a few rides and a few cigarettes with Janet I was riding for two hours with relative strangers. Janet picked me up in at 8th and Market where the Patco Speedline (Jersey to Philadelphia train) dropped me off. I got in the car and we made our obligatory introductions. “Hi. Good to meet you.”

I sat in the back seat next to Barry. Janet drove with her friend as co pilot. Barry was pretty cute. She had most of my requirements for a fuck fantasy. Cute face, skinny, decent tits, and long legs. But she’s probably an idiot. She was dressed very normal. Trendy jeans and standard shoes and jacket. I started to write everyone off as an idiot when I first met them at that point in my life. I was also willing to change that if I had to.

Janet’s friend, Lenora seemed to be one of those babbling women. She picked up where she left off before I got in the car. Something about her workman’s compensation not covering her tuition and who she wants to sue. She’s already got a few strikes against her for being beastly looking. I don’t want to feel like this but I do.

I especially can’t stand women that incessantly complain.

When the topic finally switched to something else thanks to Janet, I was still bored. Janet brought up seeing the band or performer or whatever it is called some name I can’t remember but sounds like she’s saying Herbal Essence. “They played on David Letterman and it was the greatest thing in the world and I can’t believe Letterman made fun of them. ” “Let’s put on the their cd.” “I think I have it right there.” They put it on and were singing along and I can’t even describe the crap I was hearing.

I came prepared for something to read. Jim Goad’s Shit Magnet was definitely great escape from this ordinary madness I was trapped with. I read for about a half an hour before Barry wanted to look at the book I was reading. I gave her my best watered down version of who Jim Goad is and his influence on me etc. She was surprisingly interested. So the ride perked up a little.

Conversations became more interesting and so did Barry. She was twenty-nine years old. She has an under graduate degree in Art History. She was working towards her Masters degree in Museum studies. I actually like people that are cultured. I wasn’t used to it on my personal life.. She was also down to earth. She wasn’t pretentious but she knew her shit.

I guess I’ve become a bit of an Art History common sore myself. I’ve learned a lot more than I thought I knew working at the Art Museum for a year. Enough to carry an intelligent conversation to a certain degree. I’ve also gained an interest in outsider, folk and self-taught art.

I couldn’t wait to see Rev Howard Finster’s creations live in person at the Museum of Visionary Art. He was best known for his Garden of Eden junkyard installment in his own yard. Sam Doyle was a nice surprise. I discovered him at the American Folk Art Museum in NYC. Real raw paintings of people on pieces of steel. And I found new artists to drool over. Elizabeth Layton, an eighty something year old artist who does these detailed cartoon style drawings that are almost reminiscent of Alice Neel, another old lady self taught artist with national fame. Barry and I bonded a little more and we seemed to end up together separated from Janet and her friend. Either I was following her or she was following me. In my head I still kept my distance

The Baltimore Museum of Art was also fantastic. The Modern contemporary exhibit is so much more extensive and intense than the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There was plenty of Warhol, and Raushenberg,art etc. Barry introduced me to and explained Zoey Leonard. Zoey Leonard takes fruit and sews it back together after eating the fruit inside. It represents death and decay of humans. I enjoy someone explaining some of the art to me and she was a good teacher. When she took off her jacket I thought that she was a great teacher with a nice ass.

We went through the Cone exhibit.

“In the early 20th century, two Baltimore sisters-Claribel and Etta Cone assembled one of the most important art collections in the world. Visiting the Paris studios of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, they acquired an exceptional collection of art, which they displayed in their Baltimore apartments. The sisters also collected paintings by Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, and Renoir, and a variety of textiles, jewelry, furniture, and African, Asian, and Near Eastern art. Cone Wing galleries provide an intimate setting in which to view these masterpieces as well as insights into the sisters’ diversity as collectors.” A tour guide said.

It was pretty amazing. They also had this virtual reality touch screen that’s bigger than my TV. You can navigate your way around the collection on screen.

We’re all got pretty hungry by five o’clock since none of us but Barry ate all day. I had a pretzel but that doesn’t count. A fellow patron at the Museum suggested this Italian restaurant that I can’t remember the name of. We hit the gift shop then headed on our final mission together to get something to eat.

We pulled up to this Italian restaurant and it was next to a place called Moe’s Seafood. We thought since we were in Baltimore we should try seafood so Moe’s it was. The second we walked in the nasty stank of bad fish hit us. We looked around and it looked horrible. Dirty tables. Smoke filled room. We left and went back to the Italian restaurant. After all, a Baltimorean recommended it so it must be great. We walked in and it was the opposite of Moe’s. It was fancy and we were under dressed. We waited ten minutes to get seated and another fifteen at the table. We were starving so we left.

We walked the streets for another half of an hour before we ended up on Broadway and there were so many restaurants we panicked. So Barry fixed her eyes on a place called Bertha’s with a big sign that said “Eat Bertha’s Muscles”. It was telling us what to do so Bertha’s it was.

Bertha’s was a just a bar when we walked in. There was nowhere to sit. We were going to give it up but I spotted the sign that said Dining Room. We squeezed our way through the bar to the Dining Room. We were seated immediately. The service was fast. The food was awesome. We shared muscles and the laughs. Great conversations and I felt our bond growing even more as Barry shared personal stories and experiences. At one point she touched my thigh while laughing at some joke. I caught myself thinking about her naked. I caught myself thinking it’d be really different to get with a woman that has her shit together. I immediately dismiss these thoughts because they usually lead to nowhere anyway.

The trip home was comfortable. We all spent an entire day together and still liked one another. We were laughing and joking even more. The flirting and the connections were growing stronger and stronger. I knew better. It would all mean nothing to anyone here after a week or two. I shook her hand goodbye and said “it was nice meeting you.” I got out of the car and left Barry behind me.

I never saw her again and it’s better that way. The attraction. The flirting. The exchange of personal information. The temporary connection. It probably meant nothing to her. Sure she’ll say “Pete was a nice guy or Pete was cute.” but it really doesn’t mean anything. She’ll forget about me. Times like this used to mean something to me. Now it’s just what people do. We share moments. We share blocks of time and whether we bond or connect only mean something for that short time. I still remember these times but I don’t feel them anymore.

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A POEM: Rose Colored Goggles (for Joe B)

January 12, 2012

 

Rose Colored Goggles (for Joe B)

 

Speaks slowly as if expectations are for you to savor every word

When he’s not too busy exercising his inherent talent for listening

To the ranting, venting and complaining of others.

 

The secret mystic patiently awaits his turn to react and advise Wisely his positive spin on whatever it is

I am self absorbedly going on on on and on and on about persistently like an ADD child demanding attention

 

Intuition and listening are his gifts yet unrecognized because of his

ASSociations with the mentally challenged or selfish, self absorbed people in his life.

He has answers but has learned through the years to wait to share them

We are not always ready for the answers

 

As you get to know and love him you realize he is human too

Moody, judgmental and self righteous like the rest of the world

Showing this side to only the closest of allies

We and or I accept this for all he has endoured with our friendship

Through years upon years

 

Relationship dynamics change as with all intelligent free thinkers and sometimes we grow apart and then grow back together stronger

A selfless man in actions sets the example I strive for.

Well grounded yet spiritual, mystical, creative and verbally expressive.

 

I call this man

I repeat man

As my best friend

And a major contributor to society and God’s world.


2011

December 31, 2011

 

Found a new way not to launch a few businesses.

Found anxiety and loss of job in 2 days

Found no love.

No sex.

No desire.

Made new friends

Traveled. First time in years

Partied and stopped.

Smoked and stopped and started.

 

Found new ways to pay the rent.

Discovered being poor does not suit me.

Survived it anyway.

Found a new art. Photography. Ugly city photos.

Sexy women photos.

Found out my disabilities are true. The hard way.

I tried everything I could think of.

Found new ways of being depressed. Worst ever.

Found 7 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to get me through.

Found new ways of being happy.

 

Found out what a heart attack is like.

Followed by triple bypass surgery.

Found comfort in my brain-dead state with my adopted mother caring for me.

Found relief, as I felt better.

I found new ways of getting closer to God.

 

Found out about the “system” when a person can not work.

Found about having a car and not being able to drive it

Found taking a bus in Camden sucks.

 

Found my Guardian Angel in my dreams that tries to lead me from danger.

Found out my best friend died and lives with me

Every day.

Found his books I inherited to be nurturing and mind expanding.

 

Found a new way of getting mugged in my own town.

Found out there was a drive by murder the day after Christmas in the center of my town.

 

Found out who my friends are.

Found my family after not talking for years.

Found myself again and again.

Found you.

 

Tomorrow I will find 2012.


Smith, Burroughs, Curtis, Scarface and Shepherd

December 23, 2011

This story starts early on a Sunday morning. A couple of friends and myself took a ride to West Philadelphia to the last residence of our closest departed friends, Marcus. Our mission was to gather his belongings and get them out of the house. Since our one friend was in a hurry we didn’t have time to go through everything. When we arrived Marcus’s friend who rented the room to him greeted us and had all of his belongings packed randomly in milk crates.

Let me back up. My story concerning Marcus started a week before he died. Once my “childhood” (in my mid-20s) hero, Marcus turned me on to many authors, poets, music and some films that I may not have found without him. He was my Shaman and friend and I devoured a lot of his interests. He had bee in and out of hospitals this year and ended up in a nursing home to care for his final ailment, celulosis. I visited for the last time (unknown to me while visiting) a little over 2 weeks before he passed away. We talked on the phone a few times the week before he died.

For some reason I started reading poetry that he loved out of the blue, authors like Arthur Rimbaud, Walt Whitman, Allan Ginsberg, Patti Smith, Jim Caroll and William Blake. It wasn’t a conscious effort. I was writing poetry and devoured the greats that Marcus turned me onto. For some reason I actually understood the poetry for the first time. I even mentioned this to Marcus when he was lucid and not in pain, over the phone.

The day before he died I started a poem about him because he deserved one for his accomplishments and his contribution to the world. November 10th I found out Marcus died from blood pressure and heart complications, I felt as though he jumped inside of me that day. “ghosts crowd the child’s fragile eggshell mind” to quote Jim Morrison who claims to have had dying Indians’ spirits he witnessed as a child jump into him. He stuck with that story until he died mysteriously in Paris, France in 1971. I felt Marcus in me for a at least a week or so. The extreme presence has faded but part of him remains in me.

The week of his service I was reading Arthur Rimbaud’s biography and discovered that Rimbaud also died on November 10th, 1991, 120 years before to the date. How appropriate I thought. I told his friends that knew his love for Rimbaud and they all agreed that it was some kind of spirits working there.

So, my 2 friends and me are at Marcus’s last house, his last home before the hospitals trying to avoid the temptation of going through his stuff and loading it into the car. I did manage to take a few minutes to throw together a crate of books and cds for myself. I tried to go through more while we were driving but I was in the blind spot of the car so I had to wait. I’m still waiting but in no hurry because I have months of books to read and cds to listen to.

I am.

The very afternoon I came home I started reading Patti Smith’s autobiography/ Robert Mapplethorpe’s biography written by Smith called Just Kids. Patti was in the top 5 of Marcus’s favorite performers, poet/lyricists and both he and other friend mentioned how great of a read it is. I have been obsessed with it.

Another related side story. My love for Patti Smith, like the majority of my sub cultural loves, have come from Marcus. I listened to her tender and abrasive mix of songs, the spiritual punk rock Queen. Marcus used the line “the sacred and the profane” to describe her, stolen from her own words at a show or interview. I had heard her on vinyl, tapes and cds. Watched video of her, seen endless photos of her. I found out she went to high school, a grade between, my biological mother and my aunt in Deptford, NJ. I had never seen her.

One cold December night in 1995, while living with Marcus, I passed on the opportunity to see not only Patti Smith but legend Bob Dylan at the greatest and at oldest (it has moved but still the same vibe from what I’ve heard) Philadelphia venues, the Electric Factory. I was in my depressive, isolation mode at the time. Sometimes I would create some original art in these modes and I felt this was one of those nights. Marcus felt different. He bugged and pestered me to go with him, he would pay for my ticket (I had no money and he had money back then), It will be one of the greatest experiences of my life. I fought for my right to pout and stay home.

He left. I was relieved. The thought did cross my mind when he and my other roommate went to see David Bowie on his Spider tour with Nine Inch Nails and I regret missing that one. I’ve seen both bands before but it was a different show. Marcus wasn’t even gone an hour and he came back home and burst in my room.

“I am not going to let you miss this one time event, possible the event of your life. I bought you ticket and you’re going back with me.” He said.

I was guilted into one of the best and the most spiritual rock n roll shows I have ever experienced. Patti was first. Marcus made sure we were almost front row. I can’t recall the exact set list but she lived up to her “sacred and profane” performance and lyrics. The deafening speakers in our ears, the crowds cheering all became distant sounds as I became one with Patti Smith, with Marcus, with God. I was disappointed when it was over, walking to the back of the Electric Factory when the more than legendary Bob Dylan hit the stage. I’ve had an on and off love for Bob Dylan and his music. Patti blew me away and the several times I’ve seen her since.

Reading Patti Smith’s stories of New York and her relationship with the controversial artist Robert Maplethorpe almost mirrors my own memories of Marcus and I, Patti and I, art and I, God and I. I can’t stop thinking about Marcus because of our mutual connection.

In 1996 or 97, Marcus and a couple other friends went to a record store for Patti Smith’s book signing. Marcus had been into drawing his favorite writers and rock stars on t-shirts with markers or Sharpies to wear and show off his art, Patti Smith, Keith Richards, Marc Bolan, Walt Whitman, and his personal favorite Jean Genet. Knowing that Genet was Patti Smith’s favorite writer, he brought it to the signing, to show her (I thought because it was his favorite shirt). When it was his turn to talk to her get the book signed he gave her the Genet t-shirt and told her he made it for her. A mountainous sacrifice for Marcus to part with that shirt with his painstaking time consuming beautiful art covering the front. When it was my turn I told her that my mother went to high school with her. She shot me a dirty look and said “oh yeah?” I was speechless and grabbed my copy of her poetry book signed and followed Marcus, giddy as a young artist showing his first work to his teacher. I left pissed at Patti Smith for a while but got over it when I thought of how stupid what I said was or could have been interpreted.

To the last time I saw him, he swears that she wore it on stage at a show he attended. He was so proud. I missed that show. Oh well.

A few nights ago I had a dream about William S Buroughs, one of my favorite writers Marcus had introduced me to. It’s a recurring dream I’ve had for over 10 years where I have conversations with Burroughs or I am chasing him down at a convention of some sort. The next day I read about Patti Smith having a dream about William S Burroughs, one of her mentors, and then actually meeting him the next day. This blew my mind. I knew it was Marcus at work inside me.

The next day I went to Social Services in Camden, NJ. In the waiting room there are clothes for people to take. It’s mostly women’s clothes so I never bothered looking. This day there were 3 boxes of books. I didn’t expect much besides best sellers that I wouldn’t read. First I spotted a Howard Stern Book I already own. Then an AC DC biography I grabbed and put to the side. Like it came down from heaven I spotted the name Jackie Curtis on the spine of one of the books. I grabbed it so fast and gave up on the AC DC one, knowing I might not read it with all of the books I’ve been acquiring. I’ve always owning beyond my reading capability. It started with my comic collection. I had to read everyone I owned. The book was called Superstar in a Housedress: the Life and Legend of Jackie Curtis. Jackie was one of the early Andy Warhol’s drag actors. There was Candy Darling, Holy Woodlawn and Jackie Curtis. You might know the names from the Lou Reed song Take A Walk On The Wild Side. He mentions them all by first name. The book came with a dvd documentary about Jackie Curtis. Once again I knew Marcus had something to do with it being my only friend that knows who Jackie Curtis is and my fascination with over the top drag queens. My favorite was Divine from the many John Waters’ films.

I was feeling sick all day so when I came home I relaxed and watched the documentary. I loved it. I learned a lot about the actor, the writer, the poet, the addict and the superstar by the name of Jackie Curtis.

I was looking for another movie to watch after the documentary. For some reason I watched Scarface, not having seen it in years. I figured after watching a documentary about an artistic genius drag queen superstar I needed to even it out with a movie about a Cuban druglord. I usually watch the featurettes and extras when I am finished. I did. The featurette made references to the original Howard Hawks’ Scarface movie from the 1930’s and the phrase “the world is yours” was used in both versions of Scarface.

After dreaming about transvestites, fame, writing, Patti Smith and Tony Montana, I awoke confused, groggy yet awake and ready for the day. “The World is Yours.” rang in the back of my mind. My morning rituals, when I don’t have to rush off anywhere, are to find some decent light music to listen to, drink coffee, write and read, alternating the reading and writing. I even alternate which novel, prose or poetry I write and the books I read. The Patti Smith biography, Just Kids has been winning out as my reading choice more and more.

I came upon the part of Patti and Robert’s life where they are living at the famous worn down Chelsea hotel in New York, home to celebrities (underground, big names and has-beens), junkies, prostitutes and everyone in between. They get in with the Andy Warhol crowd slowly by showing up every night at Max’s Kansas City another celebrity haunt. Patti meets Jackie Curtis and is asked to be in her latest avant-garde play called Femme Fatale playing a male role, playing opposite sex roles was common and almost mandatory in a Jackie Curtis production. Marcus at work again, I thought after reading this. My mind was blown further when I read a comparison of a neon sign Patti and Robert were looking at to a scene in “Howard Hawks’ movie Scarface where Paul Muni and his girl are looking out the window at a neon sign that said The World is Yours.”

I used to think Marcus was full of shit when he would tell me of his visions and special stories or that they only happened to him Now they are happening to me with Marcus there every step. I’m not the only one.

A few of his closest friends and even those connected with him from a distance are feeling his power, his life, and his soul. Some are in the form of lucid yet surreal recurring dreams while others actually see and feel him while conscious.

In life he wanted to be famous, to be remembered. In death he’s keeping his dream alive. He knows if he comes to me I will write about him and keep him alive.


Chasing Angel’s Wings (for Marcus RIP)

November 10, 2011

 

Visions I could never comprehend spill from his head

Inconceivable trauma most could not endure.

A mystic. A Shaman. A muse. A showman. A pure genius.

Lost soul. Strong soul. Sensitive soul.

Mind so open it hurts.

Christ like at times.

Judas other times.

Power untamed and loose.

Touches the wings of angels we can only dream of.

Sees and hears things out of reach for us laymen.

Superstar. Rock Star.

Once in a while I caught a glimpse of the man deep inside.

He was me. I- Him.

He called me the Jolly Joker and learned to laugh with me through our adventures in life. Our adventures beyond.

I showed him that he is everyone, that he is he and he showed me I am no one, that I am me.

Self centered yet so generous and giving until it hurt him at times.

Screams for help and no one hears him. Not really.

Self-medication and sedation from the evil that followed him.

For a moment he feels normal. As normal as a visionary can feel.

He chases the Angel’s wings and the demons abandon his soul


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