The long gone world
Here I am, was, and ever will be…it only took 6 decades to arrive at this moment. All my fears, lethargy, apathy, self- loathing, insecurity, failure, and frankly my “FUCK IT” attitude concerning everything has delivered me here now. Looking back at myself I can see the “braying oafish imp” the late Pam Purdy [of the City Paper} Baltimore’s free weekly, wrote of my behavior at a William Burroughs reading in D.C. in the early 80’s. It was Pam’s polite way of saying I was a drunk asshole. Burroughs was 45 minutes late to his reading so I passed the time chugging alternately from Vodka to Tequila. By the time Burroughs arrived on stage I was in a blackout. I will never understand why the Police didn’t drag me out of the auditorium kicking and screaming. The other poets I was with probably saved me, but I cannot recall. Two of those poets are long gone, my mentors, Joe Cardarelli, and David Franks. The other mentor a Romanian poet, Andrei Codrescu is still kicking at this writing. As for Pam Purdy, also long gone, we became the best of friends in the years that followed. By the time I turned 18 my fate was almost sealed. The Vietnam War conveniently ended and the draft lottery was over. They did it on TV just like the State Lottery today, if your ping pong balls came up with your birthdate numbers you won a one way ticket to Vietnam. All my fears about going off to war were gone and I was free to pursue freedom. My senior year of high school at Mergenthaler Vocational Technical , was one long party, partially due to the Baltimore city teachers strike and the close proximity to Montebello Lake and Herring Run Park. There were many idyllic days by the lake and in the woods partying with my classmates and existing in the moment. They don’t call it High School for nothing. One friend, in particular was a LSD dealer. He always had the best acid. One day he got busted at school with 200 hits of orange sunshine, and they gave him the choice of prison or Vietnam. I forget his choice but that’s how surreal everything was then, or so it seemed. And either way, he was fucked, this was the general malaise of the times. Not to say that the present is just as surreal as the past. A few short years later anarchy, revolution and rejection of all authority, was the rage. Punk had reared its pretty little ugly head and “No Future” was the theme of the day. I founded the first punk rock band in Baltimore in 1976, Da Moronics. But I believe these feelings were brewing long before Vietnam and LSD. I realized at a young age that the American Dream was a nightmare. I understood that the history we learned in school was all lies and the religion we were spoon fed was a big fat lie too. We knew war was evil and stupid. The atomic bomb leveled the playing field. Our history was built on greed, slavery, exploitation, and genocide. That civil rights was 200 years too late and we still have questionable rights now. The fact is that our so called leaders may as well be used car salesman. Yet the world still wobbles and we all go on pretending everything is normal and its business as usual and I still try vain attempts at make believe reality. The man behind the curtain is some strange god and the powers that be keep the whole mess rolling along. In spite of it all I still love this country because we have Freedom. Just don’t get caught exercising your freedoms. That’s as patriotic as it gets. I am no flag waver. One nation under gods false flag. In the immortal words of the late great Leonard Cohen, “It looks like freedom but it feels like death , It’s something in between I guess.”
I have vague memories of the fifties. They appear in my memory like old black and white Kodak Brownie snapshots. Born at Baltimore City Hospital in the summer of 1956. One more baby boomer. We jump from the Korean War right into Vietnam. Considering how I turned out, there is no doubt I was born about the same time as Rock & Roll. A few visual snippets of super 8 film like recall sitting in a rolling bassinet surrounded by chain link fence on a concrete square in a backyard row house alley behind Federal Street. The soundtrack of my life had begun. My father playing his records, Big Band, Jazz, Swing, Louis Prima, Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, The Ink Spots, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Dean Martin, the soundtrack of his life melting into mine. The AM radio playing Wayne Newton, singing “Danke schoen”. Aunt Helen playing Perry Como, “ Love letters in the sand”, Jimmy Rodgers, “Honeycomb”, Dean Martin, ”That’s Amore’”. Frank Sinatra doing everything all the time. My earliest memory of the power of music, was playing yellow vinyl 45’s on a tiny record player in a box, the speaker on the end of the needle arm sounded like the scratch sound inside a tin can and the needle was the size of a 10 penny wood nail. They were called Peter Pan records. The 3 Stooges singing “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth” “How much is that doggie in the window”, “Little Brown Jug”. Then it happened. I heard Elvis then “The Beatles” invaded. We all witnessed those nights on The Ed Sullivan Show.. The mop tops sang and played guitars and drums and nothing would ever be the same way again. Elvis the Pelvis gyrating hips. At a family party, my little sister was dancing The Twist to Chubby Checker and it was scandalous. All the relatives were either in shock or cheering her on to dance. She was maybe 6 years old. Sitting in The White Rice Inn Chinese restaurant on Park avenue with my Mom, brother, and sister, We are sitting in a wooden booth, bright red Formica table, my first chow mein and egg roll, There is a Herman’s Hermits bobble head set on the shelf for some odd reason.” Mrs. Brown you’ve got a lovely daughter ,”playing on the jukebox. Born in the summer of 56′, the decade was already half done. The birth of Rock & roll. The post war baby boom. I was a rock and roll baby. A few vision snippets , no memory of much happening then. It was just the times. Mom wore saddle shoes. A throwback to her catholic school girl days. We are third generation Sicilian. Our parents wanted us to be American, so they only spoke Italian to each other in the family, never to the kids. It was like they were embarrassed by our ethnic heritage. Or because the fascist, El Duce Benito Mussolini sided with the Nazi’s. And there was also the mafia stigma. It was just wrong and the Rolling Stones Can’t get no Satisfaction. The Sicilians have a name for someone like me. A “menefeigista”, one that simply does not give a fuck. By the late 60’s you were either a Beatle’s fan or a Rolling Stones fan. The ones you would take home to mom or the ones who went to the dark side. The Beatles good boys yang and the Stones bad boys yin. Guess which side I was on?
We moved to my Ma’s parent’s home around 1960. It was a big noisy family affair. I never knew my father’s parents. They both died before I was born. He was a shoemaker. His wife was a Mediterranean mama to nine children. One of which was my Dad. He was a Merchant Marine. Enlisted during WW2 and stayed through the Korean conflict and Vietnam war. Needless to say he was not home much. About 3 or 4 months a year until the late 70’s. After that he worked for many years at Sea Land in the Dundalk Marine Terminal as a night watchman. So the threat,” wait till your father gets home” had little meaning except when he was around. On my mom’s side of the family there was five kids. Sundays at Noni and Papal’s was a feast that started after morning church. Noni was always cooking, but Sundays was when all the family gathered. Brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles and friends and neighbors. Sometimes as many as 20 or more people during the holidays. Noni’s kitchen was in the basement at 2924 E. Coldspring Lane. Huge stainless steel pots filled with sauce, meatballs, sausage, and pounds of boiling pasta in the other. She baked her bread and made biscotti cookies.. Once a week or so we would ride the streetcar down Harford road to the Belair Market, now long gone. There she bought fresh groceries and on occasion live chickens that she would decapitate in the backyard. She gave us yellow, green ,blue, orange, and pink marshmallow peanuts to distract us while the butchering occurred. I recall a headless chicken running around the vegetable garden. Another memory of Noni soaking her feet in an old washtub sitting on the back stoop, scraping the dead skin from her feet with a razor blade and a giant pumice stone.
Papal’s broke down Model T sat in the rusty sheet metal garage behind the back of the house off List Ave. a relic from another era. Next to that garage was his big garden filled with tomatoes, corn, eggplants, peppers, carrots, onions all kinds of herbs , a grape arbor, and a peach tree. Papal made wine in the basement with the fruits he grew there. He also tended to a large group of rose bushes that he groomed and fussed over. He would take an old coffee can filled with turpentine and hold it under the rose blooms. Japanese beetles hidden in the roses would drop into the can, knocked out from the turpentine fumes. The saying on the coffee can was “good to the last drop “, it was our little joke. When he ate lunch it was always a ritual chunk of cheese, a hunk of heavy bread , a slice of salami or pepperoni, a glass of his wine, and a raw egg which he pierced with a knife and sucked the liquid and yolk with a loud slurp. Papal was a stone mason. He could chisel and cut rock and lay stone. He helped to build many of the churches along Harford road. At some point in the late 50’s, he covered the house on Coldspring Lane in form stone. A very strange Baltimore thing to do in those days. He was also my first teacher. One summer day at age 5, I was watching Papal tend his garden as I played with a large plastic black horse nearby. He came to me and took my horse , ” Follow me, I want to show you something.” I obliged and entered the garage where he was already grabbing wood and hammer. He nailed the horse to a piece of wood base, he then grabbed a can of silver paint and a brush and painted the horse with a flourish. It was transformed. No longer just a plastic thing. It was a monument. A trophy. A thing of beauty. I stood for a long time watching him at work. He stuck the brush in the coffee can of turpentine and dead Japanese beetles, pointing to the horse on the work bench. “Now that’s a horse, Tomaso”. I was in awe of the beautiful thing before me. The summer sun shining upon the silver paint made the plastic horse so much more than what it was. I didn’t realize it then but he created a piece of art. He made something from nothing. I’ve applied his lesson many times in my life. To create something from nothing.
Andy Warhol’s quote, “in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”, is true, but infamy is forever. For better or worse I’ve had my fair share of infamy in a dim limelight. Everyone has a thing and mine was the unholy trinity of music, art, and poetry. Some folks are good at sports, others at making money, my occupation was free thinker, rabble rouser, ne’er do well, rapscallion, artist, poet, musician, possibly subversive, even deviant. You could argue a career in obscure/plain view. Some may say I am an art snob. No more than your average sports or religious fanatics . I have a vast knowledge of useless trivia about music, art and literature. Also film and the like. I’m less inclined to Hollywood Smoltz and lean toward a more independent genre of film making. Classic life altering films like Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Mind bending films like Dr. Strangelove, the moon landings, 2001 Space Odyssey, Clockwork Orange, and Eraserhead. Spaghetti Westerns, sci-fi classics. Blue Velvet and Reservoir Dogs. Barfly, Wormwood, Drugstore Cowboy, Pulp Fiction, Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and many more classics of the human condition . Comedies of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, The Marx Brothers, The 3 Stooges, comedians like Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx. Classic television like Outer Limits, Twilight Zone with Rod Serling , and also the great variety shows like Sid Caesars’ Show of Shows, the Carol Burnett show, Red Skelton, Jackie Gleason, Arthur Godfreys Talent hour, Johnny Cash, Dean Martin, Laugh In, Saturday Night Live, Second City and also, all the classic horror films. Shout out to Rodney Dangerfield, Johnathan Winters, Robin Williams and too many more passed and still here. But it is the leaving behind that’s remembered. To dwell among the immortals as the gods laugh. Local shows like Bowling for Dollars, Pete the Pirate, the hobo clown Lorenzo and the Lorenzo stomp, Captain Chesapeake and, It’s Academic were very bizarre Baltimore.
I live a charmed life and have for most my life. Best of times, worst of times and all that. I still wonder when my luck will run out. Blessed with the luck of the gods, I have a beautiful life now and a beautiful wife too. She’s not perfect but then who am I to judge. She inspires me to write this story. Her name is Bronwyn and I love her dearly. We call each other coo coo like the love doves and also because we are crazy. We met working at Martick’s Restaurant Francois in 1977. She was 17, I was 21. Had a brief fling then lost track of each other until 2009 when we re-met at the late Carole Jean Berstch, my x- lovers memorial service. Three years later we married on my birthday, our anniversary, July 9th. Bronwyn has shown me a better way to live, without self-destruction , and negative energy because I dwelled on the dark side and the wild side most of my life. Because of her, I quit smoking cigarettes after 40 years of a pack or more a day. More if I was drinking , which was all the time. The dark side still lingers because you need both sides to balance, but the wild side has definitely calmed down and mellowed. Now I feel like a survivor of war. A war that has lasted for many decades. A war no one can win. Filled with spies and espionage, with weapons of slow suicide.
Chemical weapons and kamikaze tactics. Where you keep your friends close and your enemies closer. A psycho war of mind games. Long held beliefs shattered in seconds. People, places, and things that no longer matter much nor make any sense. Insignificant events and monumental dates of my history are filled with foggy smoke and mirrors. I was slowly beaten down by the American way, Brainwashed by the times. Lied to by the government and media. A war within and without. It is a slow deliberate infiltration of the human spirit and attack upon the soul by the powers that be. We live under this false flag of insecurity.
I was smoking cigarettes at 12 years old, started drinking too. In those days everybody smoked. It was considered healthy. Smoking by minors was frowned upon but you could buy cigarettes anywhere at any age. And booze was easy to get. Back then cops would let you go home if you were driving drunk. By the time I was in high school we were allowed to smoke during lunch on the football field. Of course by then everybody was smoking not just cigarettes but pot, hash, Thai stick, Nepalese temple balls, hash oil, opium, you name it. It was easily available then as it is now. Everything is a war in America. The war on poverty, the war on homelessness. The war on obesity, but the war on drugs is the biggest lie ever perpetrated by the government since the genocide of the Indians and slavery. The average high school kid in Anytown USA has easy access to every legal and illegal drug known. The irony is that all these wars championed by the government were created by the government. In my college years cocaine , heroin, PCP, mescaline, peyote, mushrooms, crystal meth, amphetamines and barbiturates, who knows what else was and still is readily available 24/7 on the street, in schools, at the doctor’s office and online. The war on drugs began with President Richard Nixon. He was nicknamed Tricky Dicky by hippies and democrats. A truly corrupt unrepentant bastard, a paranoid power crazed repugnant asshole who had to resign because of his never ending illegal criminal activities. We will never know the total extent of his crimes. He was the end of politics for me and any patriotic feelings I may have harbored then. The Vietnam war and civil rights just made an uncomfortable situation more so. I can still see the image of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s big space alien head on the black & white TV. This was the first president I remember. Watching his gruesome head morph on the screen. Something about Cuba or Russia or both. Even as a kid I knew there was something wicked wrong beneath the surface. There was insincerity and reality feeling not quite right. But my world was very black & white then. Like old film noir movies. I didn’t see color until one Sunday in the early 60’s, our next door neighbor invited us to watch Bonanza on their brand new color television. We went nuts that night, my world turned technicolor. Also The Wizard of Oz turning into technicolor when they wake up in Oz. We ain’t in Kansas anymore. Surrender Dorothy, enter Camelot, exit, Nixon temporarily, hello Kennedy, and rat pack mafia connections. Farewell Mr. uptight business suit and tie man square. Senator McCarthy’s Black List commie pinko faggot junkie beatnik space monkey sputniks. Things were getting way, way out.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was America’s great white whale of hope and the nations golden boy. He could do no wrong. Except the Bay of Pigs, Marilyn Monroe, and being a pain in Nixon’s ass, also in LBJ’s ass. Sam Giancana’s ass . Fidel Castro’s ass. Vladimir Khrushchev’s ass, and a few more asses too. JFK was an ass man. His pappy Joe Kennedy, kingpin of bootleg Canadian whiskey and Caribbean rum smuggling. It bought the presidency with a little help from his friends in the mafia and Irish mob. Also tied the knot with Hollywood jet set insiders and the new swinger era with Frank Sinatra and Hollywood B movie actor, Peter Lawford, Kennedy’s pimp. Somewhere along the way the Kennedy clan pissed off Prescott Bush, big kahuna of the Bush regime whose father/son tag team wreaked havoc on us for to many decades. The assassination. Where were you? All I remember is teachers crying, kids sent home early, and a nation in mourning. John johns salute as the casket rolled by. Back then death did not hold the high regard and respect of kids. It was an inconvenience. At the time of JFK’s assassination, George H. Bush was Director of the CIA. Nixon was trounced by Kennedy. LBJ was Kennedy’s vice president and they all hated JFK. Also the mafia who helped elect Kennedy was now getting fucked with by Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, JFK’s younger brother. All of this came together to organize the murder of JFK. Also Castro’s supposed bedside confession he put out a hit squad. These are my conspiracy facts. We will never know the truth in America about America. The agenda was then wide open to increase military force in Vietnam. Under the guise of the Communist threat to Democracy. Staring up at the clear blue sky on a summer day looking for falling Atomic bombs was a regular habit during the early 60’s. Air raid drills were practiced at least 2 or 3 times a month in schools. Get under your desk, put your head between your legs as far as possible and kiss your ass goodbye.
Back to Richard Milhous Nixon. He resigned in disgrace but should have gone to prison or hung for treason, along with the rest of his gang. There was a brief transition with Gerald Ford , Nixon’s vice president, who pardoned Nixon as the first official act of his mock presidency. Ford was a klutz who was always tripping over his own feet and falling down stairs a lot. His wife Betty Ford founded the world famous drug rehab, The Betty Ford Clinic. She was also a patient on many occasions. She was known for mixing pills and booze. There was a brief respite of calm when Jimmy Carter won the presidency in 76.’ It was also the American Bicentennial. Everywhere you looked everything was red, white, and blue. Toilet paper, clothing, cars, furniture. It was a field day for patriots. Much like today without the red, white, and blue. There’s a story about President Carter sharing a joint with Willie Nelson on the White House roof. His brother Billy Carter sold Billy beer. They were peanut farmers. It was a very down home aw-shucks Hee Haw time. Then came The Reagan Era. It was the beginning of a downward spiral that still lingers now. Ronald Reagan and Nancy, as Ronny called her “Mommy”, She began a crusade against drugs, with her “Just Say No “ campaign. She enlisted people like Mr. T and Gary Coleman to help her spread the gospel of “Just Say No”. It was a laugh out loud moment in the war on drugs. The Reagan years produced yuppies, gentrification, the Me Generation of greed and Silicon Valley. Oh, and Crack Cocaine. Thanks to people like Colonel Ollie North, who flooded the cities with cheap freebase coke to fund wars around the globe. To add to the debacle, George Bush Sr. former Director of CIA and co-conspirator in known and covert atrocities here and around the world. Then a brief respite with Bill Clinton, a blatant serial liar who did not inhale or have sex with that woman. It’s funny now because his wife Hillary is running for president as I write this. Bill Clinton lost to another Bush. The idiot son George W. Bush. The father son tag team who should be hung or in prison along with VP Dick Cheney for war crimes and treason. Selling heroin and cocaine to finance war machines. Selling weapons to the world’s highest bidders. Centered in the Middle East now our manufactured enemies. Now Mr. Hope, Barrack Obama, the first black president. It’s business as usual as it always was. The rich get rich and the poor stay poor. The American Dream is a wide awake nightmare. I do not condone the use of drugs, nor do I support the war on drugs. Drugs are a choice not a referendum. You cannot enforce laws against what people choose to use and abuse. In a free society we should be able to choose what we put in our bodies. Not to be considered criminals or subversive deviants for our choices. This country in its short existence has contributed more to the 7 deadly sins than any country in history. More than the Roman Empire and the Third Reich combined. The 1% who control the world today are all high right now on the finest controlled substances money can buy.
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about Spiro T. Agnew. Nixon’s vice president. He was voted the worst VP in the history books. He was Nixon’s lackey. Born in Baltimore, Hopkins graduate, Governor of Maryland. Integral player in the good old boy school of politics. Here in Baltimore it’s a tradition. The white envelope full of cash discreetly pushed across the dining tables of some of the more fashionable eating places around town. Most of those restaurants are gone and so are the good old boys. Men like William Donald Shaeffer. Who controlled Baltimore for half a century. Comptroller to Mayor to Governor he clawed his way to the top with the likes of Mimi DiPietro, Hyman Pressman, Louie Goldstein, Wally Orlinsky and countless others. These guys were old school gangster. The money machine that helped to land Agnew in the White House. Eventually Agnew resigned in disgrace for crimes in Maryland, ranging from bribery to extortion and only the devil knows what. Of course when Agnew wrote his memoirs he stated Nixon told him if he didn’t go quietly he would be assassinated. So is it any wonder why I despise and detest the US political system, the broken judicial system that grows out of that and organized religion to distract us. It is a sick joke we keep repeating. Four more years. How about no more years? How about dismantling the presidency and do away with the 2 party system totally. It is a sham, a scam, and a disgrace to the world. But then that’s what America aspires to. To insult our intelligence and distract us with cheap novelty store tricks. That old joke about us being mushroom people kept in the dark and fed shit. I believe the people know what’s best for people. Worshiping false idols like Hollywood celebrities, rock stars, and sports figures, we herd like sheep and accept intolerable bullshit and embrace material stuff so that we can live in a free country. Like I said just don’t get caught exercising your freedoms. Could get ugly.
Trump and Hillary, the same old freak show with new freaks. A team of comedy writers working night and day for a year could not make up half of the antics that has graced the news media in the last months of this so called campaign season. One could not invent a better pair of dangerous clowns. We must laugh at them, otherwise the reality of the sheer horror of either one of these buffoons holding the country’s highest office is terrifying. There’ve even been nationwide reports of children experiencing extreme anxiety, depression, and high stress levels directly related to the presidential campaign. No doubt passed on to them from parents, teachers, and other stressed out folks. Let’s face it politics in this country has always been a charade of the powers that be. Whoever they are, Big Brother, 3% elite, the Illuminati, Vatican, space invader aliens , lizard people, whoever, the sick joke has always been on us, the people. People are beginning to realize that presidents don’t care about them. Like us politicians have their own personal agenda and we are not included. People are finally starting to understand that our system is broken and worse it is corrupt, and impossible to fix. The fix is in. The earth is flat. The moon is hollow. NASA is fake. The moon landings were filmed on a soundstage by director Stanley Kubrick. The CIA, Mob, Nixon, FBI, and Bush murdered Kennedy. Elvis is still alive. Is anybody listening? Where is the proof? Right in front of us. Does anybody really care?
You can argue I have no right to complain because I have never voted in any elections. Although In 2000 I was coerced into registering to vote. Ralph Nader and the Green Party was running for office, an old friend Richard kept bugging me to register and telling me how important it was and blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda. So one day while having coffee with him at an outdoor café in Charles Village, I registered because he wouldn’t stop blabbing about how I had to vote. To shut him up I signed a clipboard some Hopkins University student had, who was recruiting Green Party voters on the street. Long story short, I never voted and I got stuck with Jury duty summons every year for the next 15 years in Baltimore city. Of course I never got picked for jury duty because I always made sure I looked like a defendant instead of a juror. Yup. A fine outlaw. I shouldn’t blame him or any other righteous folk who still believe our votes count. Around the same time another friend Dan confronted me in the middle of my poetry reading in a prestigious Charles St. art gallery telling me to remind people to remember to vote. I was so incensed and also very drunk, I went ballistic on him. I told him to get fucked and also said fuck anybody who votes and fuck the candidates too. After that if anyone ever asked if I voted I would say yes just so I wouldn’t have to explain myself. These days I proudly tell people I don’t vote. Never did, never will.
At the time of this entry Trump has won the election. It doesn’t matter. People are freaking out like he is the devil incarnate. Is he any worse than Nixon, Reagan, the Bush’s or any other president past? Come on, baby please… Its apples and oranges. Not my President? When were they ever your president? Remember they don’t care about you. You cannot get in that club. Its private, exclusive and you ain’t invited. So it goes…
I believe it is truly patriotic to question the government. To reject the media, the pundits, those in authority who think they have control over your life, your mind, and your body. Robbing your spirit, your soul, your very essence. Denying you basic rights or personal freedom, in the pursuit of happiness. In the name of God or the devil and the next big thing, will we ever be truly free of it all? In my early years running wild in the streets of Baltimore the police were to be feared and avoided at all cost. But also we considered them clowns like the Keystone cops of vaudevillian times. It was us and them. I was part of a loosely knit youth rebellion and revolution was in the air. The late 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s. Riots. Wars. Protests. More Wars. Civil Rights, More Riots. What are you against? What are fighting for? 2017 approaching. What’s changed? Everything. Nothing. You. The government sticking their nose in other people’s business. Rubbing our noses in their never ending river of shit. Shoving religion down our throats. I couldn’t wait till Confirmation at the age of 12 to become an adult of the church. And as such I refused to go after that. Saint Dominic’s Catholic Church on Harford Road in Hamilton. It had its fair share of pedophile priests, sadistic lesbian nuns and drunken Monsignors. Luckily I went to public school and only had to attend catechism class on Wednesday afternoons and some Saturday mornings. Saint Dominic’s church still stands but the catholic school closed long ago becoming senior housing apartments.