Watching the sky for falling stars on a mountain called Angel Crest with Donna on my lap, a bright campfire, a dreamy star filled night, and fresh picked peyote tea filled my wishes for heaven on Earth.
I plucked my guitar and began to sing, “Do the stars, looking down on us, make a wish when they see us side by side sharing dreams and do they like to hear me singing the blues?” I nuzzled Donna’s neck as musical words rolled from my lips, “Do the stars above make music like I do? Can they boogie woogie all night long and drink until dawn?”
“Stars don’t dance.” Donna said.
“Of course they do, can’t you see them shimmer, shimmer?”
“No more peyote for you,” Donna said.
“Maybe they make music to draw another star toward them and when they collide, it’ll create stardust that will form into a brighter star than either was before they danced?
“Stars aren’t alive,” Donna said. God just put them there to light the night sky for us.”
How egotistical to think that billions of stars were created only for us to see. “Do they have a desire to sing deep from their molten cores,” I asked. “Or are they just burning hunks of rock? How about the planets? Do you think any of them are alive?”
“Are you hallucinating?” Donna asked.
“I don’t need drugs to think that if the moon had a voice, it would howl louder than any man, wolf, or dog? Are planets hollow shelled conveyers of heavenly harmony played on quantum strings? Is music filling empty space plucked by an unseen hand holding stars, planets, and our destinies like threads in theoretical string?”
“I can’t answer those questions, but I’ll send you to the stars when we make love so you can discover if music is played and if stars and planets, like us want another to love.”
“Look!” I shouted. “A falling star.”
As we watched the speeding light, it slowed, stopped in midair, changed from white to a glowing red hunk of metal the size of a bus. It sank to the mountain top where we were. An acrid aroma of hot metal enveloped us. It reminded me of welding fumes.
“It smells like a dead star,” I said.
“Smells like barbecued steak,” Donna said.
It sizzled when it touched damp ground and sent up a cloud of steam that obscured it.
“What should we do?” Donna asked holding me tight.
“Let it cool off and then carry as much of it as we can home.”
“Meteorites are worth a fortune.”
The wall of steam began to dissipate in the mountain breeze and we saw the object from the sky wasn’t a meteorite. It was smooth shiny metal and it made a buzzing sound as a hatch slid open and beautiful celestial music wafted around us. Feelings of peace and wonder coursed through me as the volume increased and increased until Donna and I had to cover our ears.
There was movement inside the silver sphere and suddenly a young slender Elvis sprang from the interior singing, “Jailhouse rock.”
“The king lives,” Donna said.
I strummed my guitar and joined Elvis in singing, “Since my baby left me, I found a new place to dwell, it’s down at the end of Lonely Street at Heartbreak Hotel.”
Elvis set his guitar down and sat in a fold up chair I had by our campfire. “I’ve come to tell you that stars indeed can boogie and sing, but you’ll have to wait until you die before you can bond with heavenly things.”
“Does everyone live on after this life?” Donna asked Elvis.
“Only if you can dance and sing. No wallflowers allowed. They get in the way of the harmonic universe. So If you can’t dance, you’re born again and again until you learn how.”
“Is there a God?” Donna asked.
“You’re looking at me,” Elvis said.
Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words.
The winners are:
1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3 . Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.
The Washington Post’ s Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.
Here are this year’s winners:
1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.
8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
9. Karmageddon (n): It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.
12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just afteryou’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.
14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you’re eating.
And the pick of the literature:
16. Ignoranus (n): A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
The Matausas tribe in Papua New Guinea practices a cleansing rite of passage meant to rid boys’ bodies of the female influences left by their mother. Regardless of pain, boys go through the initiation to become warriors and cleanse themselves of any remaining female influences left in them from their mothers. First, they slide two thin wooden canes down their throats to induce vomiting several times and empty their stomachs. Afterwards, a collection of reeds are inserted into the initiate’s nose to further expel bad influences. Finally, they endure repeated stabbings to the tongue. This brutal ritual is said to purify them, turning them into true men. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hQEJIaciRM
Vincent Speaks To Me
As a graduation present, my parents splurged and sent me to Paris. Upon arrival, I could hardly believe that I was
in the same city where writers such as, Vladmir Nabakov, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Janet Flanner all lived at one time. As an aspiring writer, I hoped, like them, I’d be stirred and thrive in this city that has inspired so many artists over the years.
One sunny day at the Cafe La Rotonde, on the left bank of the Seine river, at the crossroads of the Boulevard du Montparnasse and the Rue de Rennes, I sat outdoors sipping my wine, people watching, and writing in my journal any unusual traits I noticed.
On this 29th day of July in 1993, I closely observed a red-headed man with a beard as he rambled up the pavement heading toward me. He walked directly to my table, took a newspaper he carried under his arm, and set it onto the table. Then he looked into my eyes and said, “How lucky we are.”
“Excuse me. Do I know you?” I replied. He had a gleam in his eyes that reminded me of the glow I had seen in inmate’s eyes the summer I had volunteered at the asylum. As though he knew what I thought, he said, “Insanity is great; it allows improvisation, denied to those considered sane.”
I saw that the clothes he wore had paint stains of many different colors, so I asked, “Do you paint?”
“You know that I do? I see by the sparkle in your eye that you like me, can imagine new things, and that you are thick with creative juice. You and I can create in our twisted minds, things others can’t see. I use paint to quell insatiable desires, and you; you must enslave words to fill your unquenchable needs.”
“You’re right; I do know that you’re a painter by your paint stained clothes, but how do you know I write?” “Why, that pleading light in your eye tells me all. I can see you’re in need of some new words, so to help you
fill your world with new ones, I’ll give you names of colors I often use. Star-shine-blue is one, and Sun-bursting-afire is another. Dark-umber-night would be used along with an Obscure-grey, to explain how I use Cats-scratch-streak and Moist-dog-nose for wet effects filling new imagery I generate.”
I found it amazing that a complete stranger knew so much about me simply by looking into my eyes. I decided to inquire how. I stood up, extended my hand and said, “My name is Joe.”
He took my hand in his that was twice as big as mine and twice as strong I discovered when he gave a slight squeeze while we shook hands.
“I’m Vincent, you probably never heard of me, but you will one day, because I’m true to my art and paint what I see, not what others want me to.”
How interesting. Although we practice different arts, I feel the same as he does. I write what I want and don’t care what others want to see. “You know, Vincent. I agree with your philosophy on creating what we want, but do you know that no one will care what we create until after we’re dead?”
“That’s where the beauty of it lays my friend, to keep getting paid long after we’re gone is the best thing an artist can do for art’s sake.” He sipped from the glass of wine I had ordered before he arrived.
I caught the waiter’s eye and ordered another. “I don’t understand how you can say that. I want to get paid while I’m alive.”
“That’s greed, and if you’re a true artist, you will create for joy and not for any rewards you may receive.” Vincent drained his glass.
I waved for the waiter to bring another. “What you say may be true, but how is an artist to live without any rewards while he’s alive?”
“A true artists doesn’t worry about things like that, he’ll create, create, and create some more until he dies. Look at me, I’ve never sold a piece of art, yet I’m alive.”
I did look at him and saw an emaciated man who dressed in paint-covered rags. I said, “Unlike me, who can create words without a material cost, a painter like you needs canvases and other materials to do his work. How do you manage to acquire what you need?”
While I questioned Vincent, I thought how my words aren’t at all new, but my heart and head keep filling with the need to create anything at all, and when I can’t, I suffer, and wonder how long before I can compel language to labor for me? I wondered if he felt the same about painting.
Vincent interrupted my wandering thoughts when he said, “My brother Theo supplies me with all the canvases and paints I need to fill my needs.”
“Is that fair? I mean being supported by your brother so you can pursue your career, what’s in it for him?”
“Because of me, he’ll live on long after he’s dead.”
“I want to live while I’m alive,” I said.
Vincent glared at me. “I was mistaken, when I saw what was inside of you, I thought I had met a true artist, but now I see you’ve been spoiled by greed and aren’t willing to sacrifice for art’s sake.” He drained his glass and stood. “There’s my brother now.” He pointed to a well-dressed man who leisurely strolled up the Rue de Rennes. He stopped to admire women, paintings, and dogs as he passed them.
Vincent left me sitting there trying to think of a reply of why I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my life for art. He hurried toward his brother, and they embraced. Then both evaporated before my eyes. They must have been obscured by something I convinced myself. I picked up the paper to see the news and what I saw caused me to drop it as if it
was on fire. I immediately looked down the street again to see if I could locate Vincent and his brother, but they had disappeared.
I picked up the newspaper, brought it close to my face, to be sure I had read the date correctly, I smelled the fresh ink, so I knew it had been recently printed, but the date on it was, July 29, 1890.
Things Happen Way Too Fast in New York City
Stepping onto the Greyhound bus in Kansas City, I look into the rearview mirror and see my dad’s old Chevy pickup pulling away. His last words ring in my ears, “Remember, I told you so.”
I’m finally going to the Big Apple, where I know I’ll find fame and fortune. I’ve been playing my guitar since I was ten and I’m the best ever.
I pat my wallet to be sure it’s in my back pocket with the $800 remaining after paying for the ticket. The bus speeds down the highway at a constant 55 mph. The harvested fields fly by and I wish to God that I’ll never see them again. Why the hell should I live in Kansas growing corn when I can live in New York City?
Falling asleep, I wake hours later when the bus pulls into the terminal on 51st Street in the heart of New York City. I get off; pick up my bag, my guitar, and walk out the door onto a dirty sidewalk where a smiling man points a gun at me.
“Welcome to New York my good man,” He says. Takes my bag, my guitar, and my wallet, leaving me with nothing but some change in a place where I have nowhere to sleep, no friends, and now no money. Why’d he pick on me? Did it show that I’m a country bumpkin? I thought wearing cowboy boots with a fringed jacket made me cool enough to blend right in.
My first night in the big city and I’m hungry, homeless, but never the less; I’m here. Kansas with its lonely barren plains will soon be erased and replaced with new and better memories. If I don’t starve to death first.
I walk to 42nd Street, looking for Broadway. Passing restaurants along the way, I endure aromas of cooking food that float through doors, windows, and walls. I smell pizza, roast beef, so many varieties of food that my head spins and my stomach rumbles.
I arrive at Broadway. It’s a wide street jammed with vehicles and people crowd the sidewalks. Looking up I see gray buildings rubbing against a gray sky. It’s not only me that’s mesmerized. Others like me that have never before seen buildings rise so high gaze up too. I know by staring up I’m marked as an out-of-towner, because New Yorkers avoid each other’s eyes and glaring neon signs, by looking at their feet as they walk.
Worn out from the long ride here, I need time to think how I’m going to survive without money, food, or friends to help, in this canyon of a city. I’ve seen on TV that homeless people sleep on subway cars. Jogging down steps I hear the roar of trains from below, I jump over the orange turnstile without paying and ride the escalator down to a place I never dreamed of. Posters on every wall, lights everywhere, warm air, and cement floors. Trains make wind and noise as they blast through to the next station. People congregate where they hope the doors will be when the next train stops.
Moving forward amidst the crowd, I hear stunning guitar music, as good as mine if not better being played by a raggedly dressed man gingerly plucking his guitar, and singing blues coming from his tormented soul.
“My dog done died, and my lady left me without a cent. Please brother, can you spare a dime?”
Reaching in my pocket, I run the few coins I have through my fingers until I feel a quarter.
“Here you go, my man. I’d give you more, but I have less than a dollar.”
He lifts his head, takes off his sunglasses and stares at me. “You lying to me boy?”
“Hell no,” I pull out all the coins remaining from those I brought from Kansas.
He looks into my hand that’s holding sixty five cents. He puts his guitar between his legs, reaches into a moneybag on his hip with two big hands, and pulls them out full of quarters.
“Take what you need boy, I make ten times this in a day.”
I can’t believe my eyes, he holds near a hundred dollars in his super sized hands. He sees me staring at the money. He says, “Whatcha waiting for boy? This is New York and I only got a minute.”
My stomach painfully turns as I think of how much food I can eat if I take a fraction of what he holds in his hands. Should I reach to take what he’s holding out to me? Can I take money from a beggar? What will people in Kansas think of me, here In New York, taking a poor man’s money? No, I can’t, I tell myself, but my eyes wander to a poster showing a burger and fries, reminding me I haven’t eaten. My eyes return to the money, thoughts of nowhere to sleep, shower, or eat course through my head.
“Come on boy, you want it or not?” the man shakes his hands up and down.
The chinking of the coins entices me to reach out my dirty hand. “Go on, take it,” I tell myself, but a vision of my father pointing his finger and saying, “I told you so” enters my head. I withdraw my hand.
“Can’t eat pride boy,” the man says, “go on, take what you need, hurry up. I got some blues to sing and some begging to do.”
I glance around to be sure no one sees a young man like me, stooping so low to be taking money from a beggar instead of giving. No one’s looking. I close my eyes in shame, and reach out my dirty hands, dreaming of a hot cup of golden-chicken-soup and crackers with a piece of piping hot pizza. My hands feel for the silver, but grab thin air, there’s nothing there. I open my eyes, and the man is nowhere in sight. I wonder if he ever really was there.