You are currently browsing the daily archive for September 28, 2009.

The Unfortunates by B.S. Johnson, 2009, New York: New Directions

The Unfortunates by B.S. Johnson, 2009, New York: New Directions

I was hearing music. Soccer on three screens in three rooms of the Haitian restaurant, TiGeorges Chicken. A man on fire fell down, stood up, fell down. He was sleeping under a molting quilt beneath a shopping cart. Beneath the bridge. Beneath the bowls of lentil soup high on the table overhead, which was like the Sierra Nevada mountain range spinning around the sun. A child who was an Indian wore his backpack from school. I promised that I would be there and I went there and every time I go back. I could go back. If I was under a crow. I was driving down Third Street when the woman drove her big SUV backwards, looking backwards over her handsome bare shoulder, the sun shining on the tattoo on her breast. A motel with child’s hands. A hotel converted into apartments with child’s eyes. Big walls and things. Some walking.
Roughing It, by Mark Twain, 2002, Berkeley: University of California

Roughing It, by Mark Twain, 2002, Berkeley: University of California

Writing postcards to Dad, to Paul, to Lisa, to the Smallhouses. 25 cents, with a veritable Yellowstone of Figueroas, with streaming Sotos of mountains and desert, a woman’s body was found burned up in a parking lot, and pustules of radio yellow, and motilities of shoring islands, and yards of hemorrhaging apples, and lobes of yeast fat. Converted translucency broad about the California necks. Converted tan transparency through many ankles. Some police cruisers, mile markers, COLDEST BEER IN TOWN, LIQUOR wife Fortinbras in one hand, Highland Park. Cold blood—we could love offices. Some said. Pure dusk brown twilight on the San Gabriels, ah. 1,000,000.
Here is Tijuana, by Fiamma Montezemolo, Rene Peralta and Heriberto Yepez, 2006, London: Black Dog Publishing

Here is Tijuana, by Fiamma Montezemolo, Rene Peralta and Heriberto Yepez, 2006, London: Black Dog Publishing

 I have much sex with yogurt married man on a velvet setting of impuned ivory game skulls, she wrote. I scoped out banks, Hollywood apartment complexes built around nice gardens, asphalt townships, she wrote. The president walked out upon the swaying suspension bridge with a cup of coffee early one Tucson morning I had tremors of cake in my hair, he wrote. Leaning down upon the topiary automobile signage, I came upon whole nations of ancient tribes, smoothing their hairs with petroleum jelly playing a hand game, she said. I broke the man door down, took out his pane face, kicked off the landing jam hesitancy, threw him bodily to the offramp on the way to the Bay Area, Portland, she wrote. Somebody rubbed the sausage between chorizo fingers (flies, with spiders), somebody aimed the roofline popped smoky (moscas, with mosquitoes), somebody brained the neighborhood council guttural homologue (flies, with crickets), I saw burnt, she wrote. Nobody has a loneliness like I have a loneliness on my ass, nobody has a beautiful plugged somebody stuck on their belly like I do, nobody has a bright red worst feeling ejected from my heart as a hard projectile shale spit like I was, he wrote.

Selected Poems, by Masaoka Shiki, 1997, New York: Columbia University Press

Selected Poems, by Masaoka Shiki, 1997, New York: Columbia University Press

Stupid cars killed 2,455, 465 people over there, because the trickster Chop Girl had sex with Orthopedic Coyote, serene items came about on greenery for many motion pictures, foolish windows sloped toward climbing orchards, because armies demoralized could not trust the trickster Chop Boy, so many people flooded in and out of the Chinese restaurants with juice in and out of dumplings, because Chop Aunt had relations with gardening, silvertipped sagebrush, most ways, stupid fires killed 34 people over there, because Greek diners spread west with Route 66 by the Hualapai Reservation, emboldened flesh juice jumping vinegary but unsightly toward the Past, because stupid dirty glue killed 55 x 67,000,000 salmon, because Chop Coyote brought Maldonado Ahwahnee and forgot tiny whitish Nancy Maldonado and forgotten whitish Nancy Ahwahnee.

 

The Three Way Tavern: Selected Poems, by Ko Un, 2006, Berkeley: University of California Press

The Three Way Tavern: Selected Poems, by Ko Un, 2006, Berkeley: University of California Press

“On a bus in Nicaragua in 1987 I met Ernesto Cardenal’s British translator and I told him I admired his New Directions translations of Cardenal’s work and he said, ‘You’re among the few hundred who’ve read it. That’s all it sells in the U.S.'” “On a bus in Managua in 1989 I met Daniel Viglietti and I told him I liked his music a lot, and he asked the North Americans who were the new voices in music, and they said Bruce Springsteen, who he said was not all that new, and Bob Marley, who he objected was not really from the U.S.” “On the Hopi Third Mesa we met some local kids who were playing with our kids as we cooked dinner at a campsite, and the kids shared markers and drew animals, plants and landscapes, where the Hopi kids drew animals, trees, clouds and mountains using Hopi glyphs.” “In a dream I met a professor who took her college class to the top of a grassy hillside at night to instruct them in night storytelling while I was making love to her, trying to be quiet in the high dusty grass, and later I walked along dark streets peering into the lighted windows of bars looking for her.” “In the street I met the toddler peeking out from behind a car, grinning at me from under his Harpo mop of curly hair, and I carried him up the driveway to a nearby housing calling out and banging on doors till I awakened his dad, who sprawled in the garage doorway, and he took the kid from me and went inside and closed the door. He hasn’t been seen since the sheriffs vehicles arrived (even though this neighborhood is patrolled by local police).”
Last Evenings on Earth, stories by Roberto Bolanos, 2006, New York: New Directions

Last Evenings on Earth, stories by Roberto Bolano, 2006, New York: New Directions

Cosmopolitan eyeball—“I see you”—“horse utterance”—(I happened to be)—stuttering opalescence—Blistered Fellini—(architected-sickness)—“butter oils”—“mustard intimacies”—“don’t stop”—“don’t stop”—Broadway whitefish—golf turd—muted typhoon—(my bloated belly juts out like railroad cars)—plaster city—cities distorted—“rubbing vibrancy”—my my—(crash, he’s just burned out on drugs all the time)—“excuse me”—“eh, sorry”—time landscape—big bracket—lizard piles—soil music—skink cars—(couldn’t recognize exacly what)—“para que lo necesitas?”—Zapotec taxi—many centuries—petals broke—(it seems to take about two years)—advantages immediate—“up at 5 AM, to work out for an hour”—“hey, I thought it was you”
Leaves of Grass 1860: the 150th Anniversary Facsimile Edition by Walt Whitman, 2009, Iowa City: University of Iowa Press

Leaves of Grass 1860: the 150th Anniversary Facsimile Edition by Walt Whitman, 2009, Iowa City: University of Iowa Press

The protagonist of this book goes bric-a-brac while I have my coffee in a Haitian liver; the narrator of this narrative goes barreling through the arroyos raising a flag of yellowish dust like _______________________________; the minor character waiting in the shade of a tree east of the house is thinking, “Boldness has a sign of genius in the time of ants, wattles, fencing, cardon cactus;” the registers of the lexicon of this book are perforated, caffeinated, mettlesome, silver, sweater, Ford Apache; the soundtrack of this book equals point of departure, mud splash, beetle caught in collapsing dust, organic espinas; the arrangement of this book equals vertical formulae, correspondences with estrogen cycles, swarthy Indian princess of fruit crate advertisement; the index of this book gives clues to Pomona, to Veracruz, to nausea, to Old Man Coyote, to you; the subtext of this book goes to the desaparecidos, feeling black shoes, black sobs on hair streets, microphone treble lemon seed; the thickness of this book mounts bicycle bitterly accomodating rising spoilage, I hand you the keys saying, “Here, stop talking about White People and drive.”
A Picture-Feeling by Renee Gladman, 2005, New York: Roof Books

A Picture-Feeling by Renee Gladman, 2005, New York: Roof Books

 I remind this book for Malibu curtains drawn across swallowing foamy seawater; this book nods amicably at restorative Italian deli sandwiches provided by your host, the Station Fire; this tonality streams Pain is Good Garlic Syle Batch #37 Hot Sauce video podcast; this criminality beats choppy waves under a head-wind Anita O’Day beaten, imprisoned, raped, cold turkey; I recommend this Latin for status check, nobody has loneliness like I got loneliness My Ass; I recoil this Orthopedic Chop for delivery inside North Cascades Highway, where the man with his daughter in the next campsite explained that he knew too much about the Bank of Credit & Commerce International (he could never return); I crimp this book with the phrases, “bold italics underlined 12 point font,” “Sex Male Cord Height Centimeters,” “gender of Deciduous ground squirrel plastic,” “Girl in a Coma from Austin, for a few days.”

 

The She-Devil in the Mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya, 2009, New York: New Directions

The She-Devil in the Mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya, 2009, New York: New Directions

 

So…I’m walking down Highland in Hollywood, with my thumb stuck out but I’m not holding my breath for a ride because I know that in this town everyone is Ted Bundy until proven innocent when I walk up on this old Country Squire station wagon with it’s hood up.  It’s a great old wagon that really takes me back to my youth, peeling wood print sticker and all. An old woman is standing there next to the car looking nice and hopeful at me, which is unusual given my looks,  but I’m a sucker for hopeful.  
Inside the car are 5 or 7 kids.  Its hard to tell because they keep moving around so I focus on the old lady and she says something to me and gestures to the bigblock so I drop my pack and give her my version of hopeful back with a snaggley grin and a shrug.  I ask her with my hands…”whats happening?” and she says “nada, muerto”, which I can figure means nothing and dead.  I poke around a little and see nothing obvious and ask her to try the key and she does and I hear the starter whir but no kick to the fly.  I’ve heard this before.  Locked solenoid.  Looking around I see a broken piece of 2 by 4 in the weeds, pick it up and whack the solenoid, which I can see sticking out humplike on the side of the starter, a couple of times as hard as I can get the angle to do…..and it starts right up.
Guess what.  Snaggletooth is the hero.  Kids clap I laugh and granny shakes my hand and the world is a better place.
As I pick up my pack to walk granny says something which my 15 words of Spanish (mostly fight and bar and barfight talk) cant glom.  So I say “you’re welcome” and start to walk away but then one of the kids says out the window….”She wants you to drive us…she’s afraid to drive now and is not sure how to get home”.  

Crap.

So I say “where’s home?”  And the kid says “East L.A.”

Well, strangely enough, that actually works for me because I’m trying to get to my cousins bar in San Berdoo and East anything fits damn good and I like serendipity every time I try it so 5 minutes later we are cruising south on the Hollywood doing 65 and 10 minutes after that we are on first street in the hood and the granny says something and the kid says smiling  “she wants to buy you lunch”.  And I say with a grin, “bueno”.

So this place Chalio’s is on 1st street and it is worn and cool and noisy inside and I am the only gringo.  I’m liking the vibe right away because I can see a dude sipping from a sweating bottle of Negro Modelo which is right up my alley and the place smells like everyones favorite aunt’s kitchen..  We take this giant booth right in the window and a guy comes over and spouts some stuff and she spouts some stuff and he goes away.  The kid says “on weekends they only do meat and quesadillas so there is no menu”.  In about 15 minutes we are flooded with plates of goat.  There is goat chunks, there is goat ribs, there is goat on the bone, there is quesadillas for the littlest ones, and there is Negro Modelo for me and granny.  And man, I’m telling you that this stuff is killer.  I’ve eaten goat and loved it, but this is the moistest most succulent meat that I have had in ages and it is going down really really good with the beer.  There are these hand made thick corn tortillas that are so hot you can hardly pick one up but I follow the oldest kids lead and tear off a chunk and load it up.  Granny has hit the bowls of the meat with a mix of cilantro, white onion and hot sauce and sort of stirred it and when that flavor combo hits your mouth wrapped in that little bit of corny tortilla goodness.  Oh My Freaking God.  This goat has none of the gaminess that you might be afraid of.  It is mild in its meatiness and touched with spices that make it something really new to me.  It is exotic and wholesome and lean and fat. Just like Zacatecas, which is where the recipe comes from…or so the old lady relayed to me as she sucked her teeth and sipped down the last of her 2nd beer.
We ate it all.

So they went their way and I went mine and I am now sitting in the shade of a skinny tree on the side of the onramp to the 10 East, digesting contentedly, and scribbling this eventual yelp missive on the back of a placemat that I picked up from a Taco Bell in the valley yesterday.  Life is good from where I sit.  How about from where you are?

Go to East L.A.
Stop at Chalio’s
Eat the goat.
Live a little.

MP

 http://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=wuouYwwc_19EY5dzM8evsw

 

Small Hours of the Night: the Selected Poems of Roque Dalton, by Roque Dalton, 1996, Willimantic: Curbstone Press

Small Hours of the Night: the Selected Poems of Roque Dalton, by Roque Dalton, 1996, Willimantic: Curbstone Press

Some small face with a Tijuana in it, some short life with a pair of good shoes, some rough seas with twin headaches shining like the space shuttle burning in the atmosphere. Musicology of pork neck bones, given the thumbs up by twenty-something preoccupied female driving, white egrets in the rice fields flaring orange in sunset. Towns like Craig, Grand Junction, Rangely, Rawlins, Lander, Rock Springs, Creston Junction. Given the A-OK by legions, crowds and herds. Tin of sardines with Nez Perce experience, can of smoked oysters with oil of Russia, cellophane wrapped churros fried in Mexican entropy, boiled eggs without intention, skin open. If you can believe it, something in your body sees with its own eyes in the midst of willows, wires.
Revolutionary Letters by Diane di Prima, 2007, San Francisco: Last Gasp Press

Revolutionary Letters by Diane di Prima, 2007, San Francisco: Last Gasp Press

1. Who knows, but how far will you get carrying that extended tube?
2. Crime & Punishment, but first you must stand at this line and look in this direction.
3. Gold.
4. Throwing food at the darkness, in order to see if the barter system will kick in.
5. 1974 – 1994, almost a complete skeleton located.
6. “I don’t want you to be no slave, I don’t want you to work all day, I just want you to be true,” said Fear by Nature.
7. In your tribe, the men have all male dances behind the bus station.
8. Palm trees bent under the storm, Sixto Tarango 1957 – 1987.
9. Grapefruit bursting, maroon disrupting, habaneros orange, Beckett obvious, supercilious obviating, military expending.

 

The Poems of Sidney West by Juan Gelman, 2008, Cambridge UK: Salt Press

The Poems of Sidney West by Juan Gelman, 2008, Cambridge UK: Salt Press

The radio played a chicken… dirt scoffed a sidewalk… in Heaven the brochures were… in the dentist’s office women looked over the counter… I tried to use Suzy Shitface, but she needed batteries… I tried to use Charlene Hospice, but she needed batteries… I tried to use Peter Paul & Mary, but he needed batteries… I tired to use the crosswalk, but it needed batteries… I tried to use the shade tree, but it needed batteries… I tried to call Krispy Kreme donuts or Africa, but they needed batteries… I tried to fill out a grant application, but it needed batteries… over time, the dog by the underpass swole up… ice cream trucks all liked the same song… corrugated… thyme…
Sierra Nevada: A Naturalist's Companion by Verna R. Johnston, 2000, Berkeley: University of California Press

Sierra Nevada: A Naturalist's Companion by Verna R. Johnston, 2000, Berkeley: University of California Press

Apple orchards turn estranged from the laundry-like fog on hills underneath the condos in the format of Buildup. Up front the wind in your hair goes stymied by Brylcreem Blue Jeans, bell tolling in a tower. Some day when we are washing the dishes together, all of our children, yours and mine and the generations all together, Calif. will suck. Hoopla by now, hype for the time being, buzz & jive, what about it? Why not? The blue sky dead drunk on space (space is the place) and tartar and harbor and Death Valley and Chevrolet. Elbow grease and Mexican elbows, blackbirds, there is no stopping the continent—there is no end to the desert—the ocean is rolling—some day when we are all driving on the freeway together, our children from all of the generations together—intensity of kid hearts—whoa—burning rubber—ocean rolling—fingertips caressing your nape—
Soul and Other Stories by Andrei Platonov, 2008, New York: New York Review Books

Soul and Other Stories by Andrei Platonov, 2008, New York: New York Review Books

Q. How did you research the meat packing plant?
A. I spent years trying to get in there. They don’t like people hanging around; they figure you are a PETA agent. Nonetheless me and Teto walked around and around the perimeter of the plant on various occasions. It borders the L.A. river, where brown foam and suds floats down the concrete causeway. Teto took photographs that I have used numerous times during readings projected large on the wall. Security guards would chase us away; it was the only place I can ever recall where the security guard rode a tricycle. He asked us what we were doing at the truck bays where the pigs were being unloaded. I tried to elaborate stories about being pig fanciers. We love chorizo, I asserted, he and I gotta have carnitas every week. We like pig’s feet in our menudo, nervios, pork neck bones, we love bacon, we were raised on the savory sizzling of pork fat frying in the pan. I went on about cutlets, chops, belly, lard. I think I lost him somewhere, because he was bemused but not convinced, and he told us he would have to escort us off the premises. As we emerged on the boulevard, Teto shot video of the guard riding around the empty parking lot on his tricycle. I had written to the management, told them I was a journalist, I was writing a book—no good. We hung around the front gate where workers went in and out of a smaller door where another guard checked trucks entering and exiting. We studied their jumpsuits and work clothes, but the workers had a look to them—they avoided us—we did not look like them. We walked up the train tracks behind the smoke house, along the river. High fencing topped by barbed wire with locked gates blocked off that side. There was a poor view of the pens where the hogs were first unloaded under a roof of corrugated sheet metal. Of the kill house, there was no view at all, except possibly high up on an otherwise featureless concrete wall a very small vent with the fan blowing out the stench of the plant. After two or three years I finally got in, using another route entirely. I tagged on to a tour of someone who had actually been invited; word had gotten around by then, and they asked me if I wanted to go. I should not have been so obvious with my notepad and taking notes on everything. We got a tour of most of the entire plant, except for the kill floor. That would have been very interesting. But we saw pretty much everything else—the dissembly line where the chilled hogs are separated into various cuts, ribs, hams, hocks, chops, roasts, etc. A multicultural crew of Asians, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexicanos, Central Americans, uses big knives they take out of big wooden boxes of knives, doing the hard risky work of slicing all that pork apart. 6,000 pig a day. You gotta be strong to stand on that line every day. They showed us everything, from the separation and dissembly to the smokehouse where ground pork became Dodger dogs and hams were honey-baked, and even blue plastic barrels of hog intestines readied to ship to Asia for use in sausages. “Nothing goes to waste,” we were told, “nothing goes unsold, except the oink.” They were careful to point out the rodent traps, the spotless metal stairways, the carefully clean corridors and numerous safety features of the plant: signage, precautions (gloves, face masks, hairnets, headcovering and shoe covering, white or blue coats), chill factor (serving to both preserve the meat and to impede bacterial growth), with the interior of most of the plant kept below 50 or so degrees. It was clean in the plant, yeah. They gave us hot dogs fresh from the cooker and I ate it.  
The Stories of Vladimir Nabakov, 1996, New York: Vintage

The Stories of Vladimir Nabakov, 1996, New York: Vintage

Vladimir Nabakov changed his name to Vladimir Nabokov, partly because he could speak 65 languages. He could write in twenty four languages, but he chose to write primarily in the language of his host country out of politesse. He is mostly known for his novel, “Lolita,” which is about a linguistic prodigy 12 year old girl who knows more languages than Nabokov himself. What? Now I am supposed to write about Milan Kundera? How many languages does he know? Does he write French with one hand and Czech with the other? When I was a child, they told me you could catch a bird by putting salt on its tail. There is a lot more that could be said about Vladimir Nabokov, but now is the time of Milan Kundera.
Transparence of the World by Jean Follain, 2003, Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press

Transparence of the World by Jean Follain, 2003, Port Townsend: Copper Canyon Press

In the mountains in southern Wyoming, Mexican workers taught us to shoot craps and we took a bunch of their money. In the Mexico City airport, one of my former students who is now a television news producer saw me with my crutches and my broken ankle, and carried my luggage for me through customs. Outside of Casablanca on the road to Marrekech, when the bus stopped at a stand where lamb and goat hung and curly ram’s heads were piled underneath, a woman noted our reluctance to go out because we’d been harassed all the way from Tangiers, so she herself bought two grilled lamb sandwiches for us as a grizzled dude in the back turned over a sheep’s head and started eating from it. Atop Zenobia peak in Dinosaur National Monument, we visited the lonely fire lookout starving for company all summer long and played poker till none of could see straight, win or lose, and we drove down the mountain in the early hours. At an orientation meeting for a work brigade going to Nicaragua to plant trees in a reforestation project, Ron, a mate on a tugboat heard that I didn’t have the money and told the organizers he’d cover my costs. Zoose and I were trying to keep from freezing in the back of a pickup in a chill wind, heading south on Highway One to Big Sur, when another pickup passed and the pessanger leaned out and tossed a beer can at us—it riccocheted around the bed of the truck, hizzing and fizzing as it emitted a jet of foam.
Distant Star by Roberto Bolano, 2004, New York: New Directions Press

Distant Star by Roberto Bolano, 2004, New York: New Directions Press

He went into the field, with the brush whipping in the warm night wind. He stumbled across the furrows in the light of a distant house. He popped the tab on a can of beer sitting on the floor of a room in a house with the Mexican workers, eyeing the girl who came and went from the kitchen. He slammed the pickup door, and laughed and waved to the driver as he sauntered away, still talking a mile a minute in his mind. He was hunched over on a mining town bus bench in the north Cascades as it snowed, and when the others, a father and son, walked into the light with snow on them, he grinned at them. He drove 80 miles an hour on the paved highway and as fast as he could, over 30, on the rutted dirt road heading to the fire, because the radio said he was over an hour late getting the food to the fire fighters, but after driving furiously for two hours, the only radio station he could get said that it was out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a whole different time zone. In Miami Beach, the skies shone withan  entirely different spectrum of blue-yellow-orange, with great cumulus clouds scudding on high winds overhead as he rose at sunrise and jogged around a park between white buildings. In the downtown L.A. jail, not knowing how long he was going to be stuck inside, he bought some news magazines as reading material, and when his bail came through he tried to give them away but no one wanted them. In Hilo, a long-haired Hawaiian asked him for directions, but he had to admit he didn’t know, he wasn’t from around there.
September 2009
M T W T F S S
« Aug   Oct »
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930