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.


Still a Ghost

August 25, 2011

I am a ghost. I am dead. I died years ago.

 

I walk. I move. I eat. I shit. I haven’t lived in years.

 

That fateful day or was it weeks or months back when I was on top of the world I fell off of it.

 

Lost love. Lost family. Lost friends. Lost my mind. My mind.

 

Everything I accomplished and worked hard to become was lost that day, that month, that year.

 

I can’t remember how fast or slow it happened. I slowly realized that everything I loved and created and accomplished was nothing but a distant memory. Memory.

 

I have been a ghost of Rich Hillen Jr ever since. I am reminded constantly of what I had and who I was and it’s sad.

 

It’s sad but I don’t feel it most of the time. Ghosts don’t feel. Maybe they do but this ghost doesn’t feel most of the time.

 

No regrets. No sentimental memories. No anger. No happiness.

 

Just a ghost of what I once was.

 

I can accept this sometimes.

 

Sometimes it’s unacceptable.

 

I try and live off of my past. My personality. My accomplishments. My loves. I am acting.

 

Who you see is not who I am. What I am.

 

I’ve lost my mind and no one knows. Not even me sometimes. I forget that I am a ghost.

 

Boo.

 

Boo hoo.

 

I watch my new world collapse around me and I complain and I plan and I try to find a solution. Doesn’t work.

 

Neither do I. Work.

 

I look back at who and what I was when I was living and it does bring me comfort to know that I was somebody.

 

If this is true. If I am dead. I know that I will be remembered. I am remembered. Isn’t that the goal? Isn’t that what we all want? To be remembered?

 

Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems. I knew that then and I know that now. I can accept it today.

 

I am a ghost and I am remembered.

 

Thank you.


A Christmas Carol Story

December 24, 2010

I’ve been uninspired to write a “holiday” blog today so I am posting something I wrote in 2008.

 

A CHRISTMAS CAROL STORY

 

“Bah Humbug.” I mumbled under my breath to a customer at work the other day when she wished me a Merry Christmas.

 

That’s the way I felt. Bah fucking humbug.

 

I just got dumped a little under a week ago by the latest love of my life, Carol. A had high hopes this Christmas with her. I wanted to be the guy that made her happy this year. Fill her floor under her tree with expensive gifts and fill her empty stocking with even more. Share our hopes, and goals and have the best Christmas ever for both of us.

 

Bah Humbug. Fuck Christmas. I’ve had enough miserable ones to know better. This one will be the same. Crying all alone in front of my computer lonely longing and hoping that there is some fellow suffering soul on the internet to comfort me. That’s how I spent last year.

 

I went to bed last night with that gnawing in my stomach, my head filled with conversation I just I had with Carol and disappointment and hurt in my heart. I’m not sure how long it took me to go to sleep but I think I did for a little bit or I was hallucinating.

 

I heard a knock on the door. I thought it was either my pill filled neighbor or a drunk Patrick once again. I was wrong.

 

I opened the door to see a giant fat man with a full brown beard and long brown hair wearing a snug green dress with motor cycle boots. He looked like me with a beard in drag. An older fatter hairier version of me. He had a chain wrapped around his waist that he dragged into my apartment.

 

“I am the Ghost of Girlfriend past.” he said in a low transvestite type voice of a man trying to sound like a woman as he grabbed my hand and took me into my bedroom.

 

My bedroom had changed. For one thing it was clean and organized for the first time since Belle moved out. It looked exactly the same as it once did when Belle and I were happy together. There were two figures in the bed. I was freaked out. What happened to my room and who were these people in my bed? I thought of the scene in Back To The Future 2 when Marty went back in his house and there was a little black girl in his bed. I knew this was a dream. Right?

 

“This is what it was.” he said.

 

I looked at the couple spooning on the bed and realized that it was me and Belle. I was smiling. So was she. We were happy. I vaguely remembered us being happy.

 

“This is what you left.” he said to me.

 

I did. I dumped her for another. I dumped her out of my craziness. I dumped her when we had so much potential.

 

The fat transvestite waved his hand in front of my face and my head went into a fast montage of happy times I had with Belle. It was the way I’ve heard people with near death experiences describe their life flashing in front of their eyes. Trips to art exhibits, movies, dinners, just laying in bed talking. All the things that Belle and I did together. I felt her. I smelled her. I loved her. I smiled then cried. This was just a dream, right?

 

“Follow me.” the Ghost of Girlfriend Past said as he walked into my living room.

 

The living room looked the same maybe even messier with two people on my couch having sex. It was Carol and I on the long couch. The smiles on our faces were huge. I watched us finish and cuddle afterwards. We were happy.

 

He waved his plump hairy hand in front of my face and another montage flashed before my eyes. Watching movies. Not watching movies. Dinners. Carol and I having long talks on her couch and my couch about life and our future together. Sex on her couch, my couch, our beds. The cuddling. The affection. The look in her eyes when she looked at me and the way it made me feel. Those beautiful eyes. Ahh. Carol. She felt like my first love. As if no other existed. I felt everything all over again at that moment.

 

“Would you like a quicky big guy?” the Ghost of Girlfriend Past broke the spell.

 

I woke up back in my messy room with the covers half on and half off like I always do. I sat up and lit a cigarette and took a piss. I didn’t want to go back to bed after that nightmare.

 

Tap. Tap. Tap. I heard a tapping on the bathroom window that is above the bathtub. It scared the shit out of me. I tried to ignore it and go back to bed. It kept getting louder and more intense. I pulled the covers over my head.

 

I thought of Edgar Allan Poe for some reason.

 

As of someone gently rapping, rapping on my bathroom window. “Tis some visitor,”I muttered “tapping at my bathroom window- Only this, and nothing more.”

 

I got up and went towards the bathroom. The tapping kept coming. I had no idea what to expect. A murderer perhaps? A robber? A bird? I stood in the bathtub and opened the window and it was a small Asian girl on her tippy toes smiling.

 

“Come outside.” she whispered .

 

“What? Who are you?” I asked.

 

“I am Ghost of Girlfriend present. Come outside.”

 

This had to be a dream so I had no problem meeting her outside. She was so small and wore a dress that seemed to best fit a hooker. Tight fitting sequin short dress. She stood there bare foot holding a tiny torch with her tiny left hand.

 

“Look upon me” she said as she grabbed my left hand with her right and we took off into the dark sky. This is what it’s like to fly, I thought. She pointed the torch in each direction we moved.

 

I watched as we flew towards the town of my ex-girlfriend, Jesse in New Jersey. We flew towards her house and landed outside the window.

 

“What am I doing here Ghost? Why have you lead me here?” I asked

 

“Just look inside”

 

I peeked inside her window the way I did when we used to play “peeping Tom” way back when except this time I kept my pants on and she didn’t know that I was looking. Jesse appeared at the window and looked right through me her eyes filled with tears. I was invisible to her. I saw and felt her pain. I wanted to reach out and touch her. Comfort her in some way.

 

“She has been rejected once again just like when you rejected her.” the ghost said to me.

 

I looked at her large greenish brown eyes and started to cry feeling her pain and my own guilt for leaving her.

 

The ghost took me to Pennsylvania next to check up on Belle. As we got close to her house I started to get anxious. I’d never seen her place before. It was a shitty looking apartment in a broken down house. I hyperventilated as we walked right through the door without even opening it to find Belle on her couch painting a landscape in front of the Television. I wasn’t phased that I could walk through doors especially after we were flying. Her place was decorated similarly to the way my apartment was when we lived together except she had more photographs of me of everywhere. Everywhere. Tears filled her wide brown eyes as she took a break from her painting to reflect. It was just as sad of a sigh as seeing Jesse.

 

“Why here?” I asked.

 

“Another heart you broke. She still can’t get over you.” the ghost of girlfriend present said.

 

*poof*

 

We vanished from Belle’s and reappeared in Carol’s house. She was on the phone.

 

“I still really love him. He just wasn’t what I was looking for. He’s a great guy but he wouldn’t have been able to take care of me. He couldn’t fill my needs. I’m tired of settling for guys that won’t be able to take care of my needs and I’m tired of losing incredible friendships because the relationship ends. I want so bad to be his friend and keep the good stuff that we had but I’m afraid he will always want more or not want to be friends with me. ” Carol said on the phone. Her eyes teared slightly.

 

“He makes me happy.” she continued. “I don’t want to get emotionally tangled up with someone that I know I don’t have a future with again. Too bad we can’t still have sex. Ha ha ha” she laughed.

 

“This is your girlfriend present. Or your ex-girlfriend present. This is how she feels and what she wants.” the ghost said.

 

Somehow, hearing her say that she loves me took away the hurt I was feeling. Knowing that she wants me makes me feel better. Hmmm.

 

“You want a happy ending now, Joe?” the hot Asian Ghost of Girlfriend Present asked.

 

“Uh. Well. . . ”

 

I awoke again in my bed. My snoring woke me up this time. I thought about how my snoring really bothered Carol. I looked at the clock and it was 4 am. Am I ever going to get to sleep for the rest of the night? I went to the kitchen and put on the hot water to make some Sleepy Time Tea. Yes, I drink the stuff. It actually works on occasion. I lit another cigarette and sat on the couch. I heard coughing in the dark.

 

I turned on the light and the gagging voice got louder.

 

“Turn off the light. Ah heh. .” the voice cleared her throat. And coughed again

 

I was onto it now. I was onto the tricks of these reappearing ghosts. I turned off the light.

 

“You must be the ghost of Christmas Future. Hi, I’m Rich Hillen Jr.” I said sarcastically.

 

“I know who you are.” said the ghost.

 

I looked close in the darkness and tried to see what she looked like. My eyes were still adjusting but I could swear she looked like Joanna Angel the porn star of such classics as XXXorcist and Re-Penetrator from Burning Angel Video. She was dressed in only black panties and a black bra with black heels. Now I know this is a dream. Right?

 

“Are you . . .?”

 

“Joanna Angel? Yes. This is my part time gig. When I’m not doing anal on film or making appearances at local porno shops I am the Ghost of Girlfriend Future.” she said.

 

This ghost thing is pretty cool. I thought to myself. Yeah, I was real confused as to what message I was getting out of all of this but I got to hang out with a Fat hairy transvestite, an Asian prostitute and a porn star.

 

“Where to now?” I asked.

 

Follow me. We walked outside to a black Lincoln Town car stretch Limousine. I climbed in the back seat with her.

 

“Driver. Take us to the Future of what might have been.” she ordered the driver.

 

The limousine speed off into the night and I got nauseous as we screeched to a halt in front of a mansion. The Mail box read “Hillen Family”.

 

“This is what might have been if you stayed with Carol.”

 

I followed my hot ghost trying not to stare at her firm ass and long legs into the mansion. Her heels clicked the way.

 

There I was. A seventy year old Rich in a wheelchair on a respirator reading comic books when a 58 year old Carol came in screaming. I was bald and wrinkled and over weight. She was still beautiful from the plastic surgery and hair dye but she was really fat.

 

“You just couldn’t accept the break up 30 years ago, could you? You had to guilt me into staying with you having the stupid performance art wedding and having kids that turned out to be fat depressed losers. I wish I never met you, Rich Hillen Jr. I wish you were dead! ” the future Carol screamed.

 

“This is what would have happened if you and Carol had a future together. You thought by making millions of dollars you could make Carol happy. She stayed with you out of guilt after you were crippled in a car accident when you were showing off how fast your completely restored 1982 Delorean could go not long after your first child was born. Your kids grow up with no ambition. No personality. No artistic interest or political interest which disappointed both you and Carol. ” The Ghost of Girlfriend Future said.

 

“Damn. That’s fucked up. Is there more?” I asked.

 

“Just one more thing.” the Ghost of Girlfriend Future porno star kissed me deep with tongue. “Do you want some . . .?”

 

My alarm went off and woke me up. I was exhausted. I could barely get out of bed. Did that really happen? The dreams seemed so real. I’ve never had dreams that picked up where the other one left off before. I made coffee and smoked a bunch of cigarettes while I tired to shake the dreams out of my head. It was just a dream? Right? Either way, what am I supposed to learn from all of this?

 

Well, I have gratitude for what I’ve had. I’ve had some great relationships with some great memories. I’m lucky to have loved and lost than .blah blah blah . . .you know the rest. Although, I’ve caused sadness to some of my ex-girlfriends I managed to leave Carol with some good memories and mutual respect. My visits to the past present and future helped me see this.

 

Through all the pain I feel about Carol dumping me, she was right and we wouldn’t have worked out. I now know that she loves me and loved what we had. That makes me feel good despite the feeling of loss. Loss. I didn’t lose. I gained a friend. Maybe we should still get together for Christmas. Merry Christmas Carol.

 

But I sure do wish I remembered if I did anything sexual with the transvestite, the Asian hooker and the porno star. Maybe they’ll come back as Ghosts of Employers tomorrow night.

 


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