Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Poem: A.M. Session

Bell propelled
into gray
ray light
morning flight
ritual of rubber
wetbins
free emptyways
point to
slippery rock
frigid fears
bracing baptismal
high-rise
shock-drop
clasped universe
foam tumbler
Sandpaper slam
home
we arrive as
watery One

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Letter to the Qatari Ambassador








H.E. Mohamed Bin Abdulla Al-Rumaini
Ambassador of Qatar to the United States
2555 M. Street N.W.
Washington D.C. 20037-1305

Your Excellency,

I am deeply concerned about the fate of poet Mohammed Ajami, who has been sentenced to life in prison for his work, "Jasmine Poem." I read about his plight in our "Los Angeles Times."

My suggestion that he be released, in the dark of night by a back door to the prison, would result in a win-win situation for all parties involved.

Mr. Ajami gets to go home, the Qatar government avoids the negative of appearing completely medieval in its administration of justice, and the poem takes on the importance all political poems enjoy when ignored by those in power. None.

You should try this. As a poet I can tell you it works great here in the U.S.

But seriously, the emir must be a very special guy if no one can speak a truth or, as you would have it, an untruth about him. Life in prison for some scribblings? Surely sir, your country adheres to a standard of justice more in line with a sense common to people the world over.

To wit: You kill somebody, you go to jail for life. You write a poem, you get a lifetime at a coffee shop and some pocket change to launch the literary effort.

You can't put up a wall around your kingdom and force its denizens to live in the past. Why, for example, I could get a large list of e-mail addresses in your country and, from my perch in California, pen "The Emir Really Sucks."

The emir lives in fear
he doesn't like to hear

the impact of his policies
on Qatari families

He doesn't give a fuck
if his subjects' lives suck.

And then I could send it to as many Qatari citizens as possible and everyone would know the truth about the emir: Which is that he can't hear the truth about himself.

What will you do? Arrest and sentence me to life in prison as well? Or would you empty the jails given that the secret is out?

Just some things for you to think about while you're informing the emir of our country's general embarrassment for him.

Warmest Regards,
highwayscribery

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Monipodio's House: A Consideration of Cervantes' Villain

Back in the early 1990s, highwayscribery lived in Spain where he'd gone to write his novel "Vedette or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows."

When the book was finished and the money gone, the highway scribe moved to Seville from Malaga to start a newspaper with Jose Pérez de Lama Halcón and Angel Delgado.


It was called "La Otra Orilla" and covered that part of Seville located on the right bank of the Guadalquivir River. The district was made up of two barrios, Los Remedios and Triana.

The latter whimsically declared itself a republic independent of the bigger burg while claiming to be the cradle of flamenco and the bullfight arts alike.

There are other barrios in other Spanish cities making like claims. But that's not the point. If you're from Triana the truth there is that they started "los toros" and "el flamenco" in Triana. Case closed.

The barrio was nothing if not historic and many locations were posted with ceramic-tiled signs explaining a particularly noteworthy event that had occurred there, or a person who'd resided and made art in the space.

"La Otra Orilla" ran a series called "Triana by Plaque" (Triana por Placas) wherein a reporter would flesh out the person or event highlighted with greater detail.

In the piece below highwayscribery, together with Jose Pérez de Lama Halcón, set out to determine whether a location claiming to be the place where Miguel de Cervantes' "Rinconete and Cortadillo" was inspired, was in fact that place.

Specifically, the plaque (pictured at right) claimed the Andalusian patio contained within served as headquarters for the den of thieves run by the novela's primary character, Monipodio.

We scribes turned to the actual text to determine the claim's veracity and have a little fun with literature in the process.



Monipodio's House

Obligated to Stay in Seville at the Service of Philip II, Cervantes Traveled the Nether Regions of the Imagination

According to the plaque which concerns us this week, the house found at the corner of Betis and Troya served as redoubt for a brotherhood of thieves led by the infamous Monipodio of Miguel de Cervantes novela, "Rinconete and Cortadillo."

It is enough that a student of local cultural, such as our own staff writer Marco Severo, says that this is not the case for a brief investigation into the claim to be launched.

You'll see that this investigation did not permit us to reach a sure conclusion, but did invite an engaging comparison between the Triana and Seville of today with that of Don Quixote's creator.

Cervantes came to Seville against his wishes. His petition to King Phillip II for a post in the Indies having been rejected, the writer was sent to Seville with the charge of gathering provisions for "The Invincible Armada" that would suffer a famous route in the English Channel.

Requisitioning wheat and olive oil from an unwilling populace was apparently a disagreeable task. According to his biographer Professor Valverde, Cervantes was subject to such indignities as being thrown into wells and "other tiresome pranks."

In 1597, the bank where Cervantes kept his ducados went belly-up and he found himself, not for the first time, in jail. If his incarceration in Algeria did little to dim his passion for adventure, his majesty the king was no more successful in dampening his lust for life.

In jail, Cervantes did not travel to distant locations, rather to the boundaries of his own imagination. Perhaps it was in jail where he learned the peculiarities of Sevillan thievery so wonderfully detailed in the novela.

"Rinconete and Cortadillo" is written by an outsider with the understanding of a person who has lived their entire life in Seville. En these two lads, about whom we know, among other things, "that neither one or the other exceeded 16 years of age, both of good humor, but very raggedy, broken, and maltreated."

It is no surprise for anyone familiar with Seville that the boys' first lesson upon arrival in the Andalusian capital is that it is far from an open field. In fact, it is just the opposite. Even in the world of robbing and mugging there are customs and a tax, in this case the monopoly is Monopodio's (El monopólio de Monipodio).

Having just committed their first bit of pilfering, the pair are pinched by a youth under the command of the King of Thieves who recommends they go and "register" with Monipodio and if not, "that they avoid stealing without his blessing for otherwise it would cost them plenty."
Rincón and Cortado (whose names will later be refined by the very same Monipodio), decide to take the youth's advice and depart with him from Plaza de El Salvador toward a destination unidentified by characters and author alike.

Triana is not mentioned in the ensuing discussion, nor does the Guadalquivir River, which one must cross to get there, although Cervantes informs us that the walk lasted as long as the speech by Monipodio's pawn, Ganchuelo, "which was long."

The trip is one across the surface of the soul, eschewing descriptions of the actual landscape. Ganchuelo explains to them that he, too, is a thief, but "one who serves God and good people."

"It's news to me that there are thieves in the world to serve God and good people," responds Cortado and thus it would appear that in the 16th century, as much as today, those who come from beyond quickly learned the extent to which Seville is steeped in Catholic ways.

Finally, at Monipodio's retreat, Rincón and Cortado are left to wait "in a small brick courtyard, so white and scrubbed that it emitted the richest carmine scent. To one side was a bench three feet in height and the other a broken jar with a pitcher on top that was in no better condition. Elsewhere was some matting made of cat's tail and in the middle of it all, a flower pot with basil growing.

"The youths," Cervantes writes, "looked attentively at the treasures of the house as Monipodio came down. Marking his slow pace, Rincón dared to enter one of the lower apartments accessed from the courtyard and saw two fencing swords, two shields of cork hanging from four spikes, a giant chest with nothing covering it, and more Cat's tail mats laid about the floor. On the front wall was stuck an image of Our Lady, one of those low-grade reproductions. Lower still hung a wicker basket and encased in the wall was a basin. Rincón reasoned that the first was for charity and the second for holy water. And this was true."

It was Cervantes' intention through his first draft of "Don Quixote" to pen a simple novel during his stay in Seville. If "Quixote" is, in part, a parody of the wealthy society upon which artists of his time so desperately depended, it's not out of line to suggest we find a little bit of the same in "Rinconete and Cortadillo."

The epic tale about the Madman of La Mancha was dedicated to a Sevillan aristocrat in an effort to curry favor, although it apparently did little to achieve the author's goal.
Rincón and Cortado find that the household of Monipodio is organized like that of a gentleman of the time, around a courtyard, mise en scéne and architectural symbol of the small aristocratic courts that marked the city.

In him they encounter a man who carries the contradictions of life itself.

Writes Cervantes, "The pair were in awe of the obedience and respect everyone in the house had for Monipodio, a man who was barbaric, rustic, and heartless."

Nonetheless, this Monipodio is capable of receiving guests "with much contentment and courtesy, because he was extremely well-bred."

And it is precisely with Monipodio that Triana possibly emerges for the first time in the story, because the man encompasses the same contradictions as the barrio that treasures both holy virgins and the flamenco ghost.

"And Escalanta, removing her clog, began to beat it like a tambourine. La Gananciosa took a palm broom laying about and began scratching it against the floor, making a sound that, although rough and grating, kept time with the clog. Monipodio broke a plate in two pieces which, placed between his fingers and clicked with grand dexterity, carried a counterpoint to the clog and broom."

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

All Hail "The Fact"

Aside from representing a sweeping progressive victory, the elections stand as a reassertion of the American faith in science and The Fact.

It turns out that just saying something over and over again doesn't mean it's true, nor will it fool everyone.

The durability of The Fact began to impose itself even before last night's results swept away the counter-narrative cooked up on the right 'lo these many years.

It played loudly in the debate cycle when the premise cooked up in the Republican bubble, that Obama did not consider Benghazi a terrorist attack, was put to rest by the moderator, who noted that the president had, in fact, characterized it as so.

The wall against obvious and verifiable truths began to crumble even as Republicans, faced with a television graphic quoting the president on this matter, chose to deny what was before their very eyes.

The American people did not. If you have a tape and transcript of the president saying something, it's fair to accept that he said it, based on the evidence.

Then there were the polls, those science-based thermometers cooked up by liberals to mislead voters about The Fact of a new and silent majority in America. A multicultural, youthful, sexually tolerant, weed-supporting mass that does not caterwaul much, does not parade, and did not go in for political kitch and lawn signs this time.

But they came out to vote, just as the polls predicted they would.

All of which brings us to the further diminished status of the untruth wurlitzer itself, Fox News.

On Election Eve, the highway scribe soaked up the Fox Team's frustration and marveled at the herd of experts predicting a Romney landslide in contrast to what the Non-Fox Media ("The NFM" as per Anne Coulter) was saying.

Trapped in their own ghetto, convinced their hatred was national and universal, the Foxies banged pots and hammers about Bhenghazi and "Obama's Katrina" to the general indifference of everybody else.

The image of Karl Rove campaign hacking from his perch on an election night panel at Fox was a new low in the Fair and Balanced bull chips the news operation serves up.

The guy had a ton of skin in the game and yet there he sat, posing as an expert whose objective opinion should be respected. Days before, Rove too, predicted a Romney landslide in a major American newspaper owned by the guy who signs his checks at Fox.

One has to wonder what Fox's credibility will be going forward with the true believers who kneel daily in its church. For months it posted news and facts from an alternative universe that never ceased to insist the president's coalition was coming undone and that red state redemption was just around the corner.

Fool them once, shame on Fox. Fool them twice, shame on them.

For the second election cycle -- this one spent attacking the president 24 hours a day -- Fox has been unable to impact the final outcome of either the Republican nominating process or the general election.

For a time, its reign as the first partisan news operation gave it a leg up. But its diversion from American journalism's long striving for objectivity led to the establishment of a similar enterprise at the opposite political pole.

MSNBC, while equally harmful to older journalistic traditions, does a nice job of articulating and packaging progressive views into palatable, televised messages and debate. It helped.

The center-left network's existence erases the old Fox advantage at partisan mind-bending while serving as effective check on its ability to manufacture its own truths out of whole cloth.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Black Swan Sandy

A Black Swan is defined by writer Nassim Nicholas Taleb as "an event that is both unpredicted by some observers and carries massive consequences."


As Sandy blasted ashore on Monday night, the usually ham-handed Chris Matthews of MSNBC asked if such a Black Swan, affecting the election, swam in the storm's maelstrom.


It was a reasonable question at the time, which now can be answered in the affirmative, and it signifies the president's reelection.


Prior to the storm, the people of the United States were cultivating, for better or worse, an expanding personal crush on Mitt Romney. He'd handled his coming out party at debate number one with panache and they wanted more, not less.


He gave them less in the next two debates, choosing to ride a rising crescendo of media accounts about his momentum. A comprehensive economic speech was slated for big-time play across the American newscape and due weighty consideration, given Romney's enhanced status.


The storm came and the shrill tone both parties cultivated throughout the campaign became suddenly and obviously off-note. The president had work to do and Mitt Romney didn't, which left the former woven into the ensuing headline stories and the latter to sit around and cool his heels.


Momentum requires continued movement. You stop momentum, it doesn't kick-in when you re-start. Usually, it swings.


Enter Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey. The Atlantic Ocean having taken a sliver of his state for itself, Christie needed help and knew where to get it. Obama was ready. They got together and, like two grownups, set about resolving the misery of millions.


In cooperating with Obama, the governor made the rest of his party look like the small-minded twits they are; challenged them to do their habitual best at putting politics before the good of the country.


When some Fox News talker asked if Romney was going to visit New Jersey to see all the devastation, Christie sent him straight to hell, asserting that this was no time for presidential politics.


Except that it is and Christie praising Obama's competence under fire was naught but a rank betrayal to the cause of no government.


Christie's a loose canon, but the GOP elevated him promptly to national status anyway. They can sit and ponder the wisdom of that move, but they will do so in silence.


The mood is somber and respectful now. Nobody will step forward to criticize a pair of men for doing their jobs. Obama and Christie met at the crossroads of devastation and tried to put an upended community at ease.


Romney was in Florida trying not to sound too political, toothless, robbed of his right to attack with full ferocity. Fox News was working overtime on cooking up a Benghazi scandal, now that the plan for removing Obama at the ballot box is unraveling.


But they will confront some heavy lifting for, like a true Black Swan, Sandy's impact goes beyond the loss of media time and the switching of a national narrative away from rake Romney's progress.


This watershed event has already empowered powerful politicians to reintroduce the need for a real climate change policy and yank the debate away from the no-nothings who have hijacked it for too long.


The storm has further revealed the rickety nature of our infrastructure and highlighted the fact that we are, in terms of development and building, an old country now.


Sandy has been a theater for government assistance and cooperation at all levels, a real-time display of what tax revenues buy, and what a lack of them doesn't.


In one felled swoop of terrible violence, the storm has put into relief the primary issues of American political life and resolved them in favor of those who prefer a country of neighbors and civic officials to one of individuals and ideologues.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Compawssion

This Spring, the highway scribe was hired by photographer Frank Bruynbroek to organize and put into prose his conversations with celebrities and notables who owned rescued dogs.

Among them were: Kim Basinger, Diane Keaton, Jackie Chan, Dr. Jane Goodall, Tony LaRussa, Brigitte Bardot, Emmylou Harris, Ryan Murphy, Josh Duhamel, and Gene Simmons (to name a few).

These interviews are draped around a collection of Frank's evocative portraits of rescued dogs, such as the one posted here.

The book's coming out shortly and Frank has created a Web portal for this coffee table concoction entitled, "Compawssion."

Please visit if you care about animals and their welfare. It's all, as far as the scribe can tell, for a great and good cause.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Book Report, "The Selvage," by Linda Gregerson

the words on paper make
     a sort of currency, which heaven,

against all odds, accepts.
    So Will, which is to say, May what

I purpose, please, this once, and what
    will happen coincide.


And who hasn‘t felt the urgency or desperation to ask that question? "The Selvage" by Linda Gregerson is a mostly accessible collection of 18 poems rendered in a prosodic style.

Certain of these confections are driven by an easy, if flavorful, flow of straight passages presented as verse and resulting in the slightest alterations to meanings.

Sure, it has been done, but this is a nice combination of elements. Add to the convenience of an unobtrusive read the poet’s sweet descriptive gift, wide-ranging curiosity evidenced in subject choice, and the aptly placed piece of richer wordsmithery and you have an evocative, at times emotional experience in your hands.

It's a kind of prose with dollops of poetry where most needed.

Gregerson's poems puzzle, but not too much. And even where you never really wrap your mind around the whole garden, certain of the flowers growing within are no less satisfying.

highwayscribery admits to having only a vague notion of what is going on the poem "Varenna," but still has room in the heart for:

Quaker-gray from taupe, until
      the blackwater satins unroll their

gorgeous lengths above a sharpening
      partition of lake-and-loam.

There's a music that is pleasing and it can be found throughout the work presented here. That said, Gregerson's interest in an antiquity has her wander where only those academic poets and their academic followers dare to.

You won't need to know who Theseus was to understand "Theseus Forgetting," its lesson universal like so much scripted here.

But "Ariadne in Triumph" and "Dido Refuses to Speak" are less decipherable than some of the other poems and a guide in the back of the tome to the classic personalities employed here may suggest the author and her editors realized that some of this stuff is beyond the ken of the common cur. (guilty)

"The Selvage," is free of cliché. Its locations are not worn literary beacons like Paris, London and Prague, but off-the-grid and unknown places that add to our knowing.

The chosen topics are both ancient and contemporary.

There is an (positive) expression of Obama’s election and a poetic critique of the little girl in a red dress in Stephen Spielberg’s black-and-white “Schindler’s List. There is an appreciation for a dead dray horse a, recuperation of poet Isabella Whitney and more.

Fragments of the wide world shining throughout “The Selvage,” represent a lovely return on a minimal investment.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Remembering Jim Carroll

Today is the anniversary of poet Jim Carroll's death. Below is a reprint of highwayscribery's homage to him from that time.



Once an artist reaches a certain level of technical competence their focus becomes one of flavor.

Jim Carroll, who died Sept. 13, was the flavor of Manhattan Island at a time when they could not give it away.

Yes, Carroll's apprenticeship unfolded in the halcyon days of Warhol, Edie Sedgewick, The Factory, and Max's Kansas City. But his specific era of sway was the late 1970s and early '80s.

At least that's what he tasted like.

The poet's heyday does not seem so long ago to this scribe, which makes his death at 60 the more striking.

Carroll's work and personality were branded by downtown's ragged districts, and Greenwich Village, when they were a low-rent melange of Italian-Americans, factories, and freaks. He was one of those freaks by choice.

Or at least it would seem. We are not talking facts here. We are talking flavor.

His haunts were the abandoned industrial sites of a machine revolution gone south, or Far East.

Punk, that avenging black army of spoiled children, had taken over the factory warrens and turned them into seedy soundstages and impromptu galleries.

Its music and related events, its spirit, had so shaken the foundations of rock 'n roll's royal houses that the Rolling Stones quit the jet-set, moved into town, and wrote a song that captured the thrilling mess of it all...

Shattered.

With a friend, an Iranian emigre who split Tehran during The Shah's downfall, highwayscribery went to see the crystal ball drop in Times Square on New Year's Eve.

It was madness, pornography, knife fights, beer cans in raw red hands, roving bands of black youths looking for trouble, the ghost of Herbert Hunke; the anarchy John Lennon so loved and which would kill him a year later.

We saw Carroll there. Or we didn't.

The poet's "Basketball Diaries" were hot then. Or maybe not just yet. Again, we are talking flavor, not fact, and these events and sensations are what the name Jim Carroll said at the time.

Stones guitarist Keith Richards took a liking to Carroll's work and the poet read his punky screeds to the accompaniment of the famous rocker's hot licks and to the kind of audiences others of his craft can only dream about.

Shadooby.

highwayscribery did not have a book of Carroll's poems nor had he read the famed diaries, but he knew of him because, if you were young in the New York metropolitan area of those times, it was understood you damn well should.

With George "Rasta" Powell, the scribe would comb the crowds of Washington Square for kicks before heading down to St. Mark's Place where Richards owned a dive, The St. Mark's Bar and Grill.

We saw Carroll there. Or we didn't, but we could taste him.

Moved by his ever-presence, the highway scribe bought Carroll's album, which was streaked with essences of Lou Reed and the New York Dolls. It was a great thing, this musical spoken word, this idea of the writer-rocker. You could not listen to it 'round-the-clock, but it reeked of invention and daring.

"People Who Died," is the piece that sticks out, endures.

A story about tough kids of Irish or Italian pedigree who ended up bad in the streets of Queens or the Bronx or Brooklyn, it conjures a time when being born white was hardly a guarantee of success or survival.

"They were all my friends...
And they died!"


This was how highwayscribery, for better or worse, came to poetry.

Not through the big "Dreamsongs" book of John Berryman, or by way of W.H. Auden or Sexton or Merwin or Lowell. It was through the verbal gymnastics of Allen Ginsberg on a Clash album, or the Clash themselves, or Carroll.

Shattered.

Maybe it was not the best path into the worlds of verse and vision, but it was a way.
And next came Rimbaud because there was another band from the same milieu called Television whose leader had the last name Verlaine, just like Rimbaud's lover, Paul.

There was, in that time, something of an effort to sell Rimbaud as the "first punk" to a new generation living "A Season in Hell" all its own and, in highwayscribery's case, it worked well enough to set the hook.

Shadooby.

The New York we write of here is mostly gone, the dark adventure of Times Square replaced by ESPN Zone and a lot of hum-drum security.

With Carroll's death the danger recedes a little further into the past and, 40 years from now, it will be up to his written work to conjure it anew for those unborn.

Dead poets work, too.

He carried the seed of that dangerous Big Apple in his heart, chewed on it, and spit it to the sidewalk where it might be frozen by a ghostwind whipping off The Battery.

Friday, September 07, 2012

"Hey Dad"

One day
steel yourself
gird
seek a lower center of
gravity
good
tell the girl or boy
tell them
the great sin of the world
that a person is capable
of anything
describe the deep and
terrible blackness.


Their eyes will smite you
scream the truth of
your lie
take apart
your idea
like a cheap toy
and lease your own
life back
to you the
way
it
was.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Here Comes the Sun

Over Labor Day weekend, California's solar fields set a new benchmark for generation capacity.

The California Independent System Operator reported that the state's large-scale solar feeds had cranked out 1.1 gigawatts (1.1 billion watts). The number does not account for smaller industrial and home installations that now dot the landscape.


The San Diego Union-Tribune, which ran a small report on the big news, said that's enough juice to "offset two large-scale natural gas power plants. It is also close to the peak output for a single nuclear reactor at either Diablo Canyon or the currently idled San Onofre plants."

That's real industrial-size power generation drawn from an unlimited source. It's the kind of news that takes solar/renewable energy out of the theoretical realm and drops it in every American's pot like a big juicy chicken.

The ramifications are thrilling. A reduction in reliance on foreign energy sources, a drop in tensions associated with the increasingly desperate scramble for fossil fuel, and a new hook upon which the American worker might hang their hats.

It did not happen in a vacuum, of course. It was the result of policy and the funds that go along with that policy. Out of the stimulus and new energy initiatives, the Obama administration has helped lay the foundations for a new industry and an alternative energy policy.

Yes, there was Solyndra and we can expect a bad apple or two with the kind of butter that was spread around southeastern California by the federal government.

But there were other companies too. These, aided by a rather bullying federal push and regulatory cooperation at the state level - sometimes at the expense of established environment review processes - have forged ahead, gotten permitted, and placed their panels throughout the southwestern deserts.

And now you have it. Solar energy helping bear the burden of a hot holiday weekend, filling in a gap left by an aging nuclear facility, and providing demonstrable proof that sun-power is for-real-power.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Surfonomics

Soon to be heard out on surf breaks everywhere: "Dude, you kooked me on a very EXPENSIVE wave."

The Washington post recently ran an article by Gregory Thomas entitled, "Surfonomics Quantifies the Worth of Waves," which is an excellent headline to the extent it says it all.

It recounts the successful effort of surfer Chad Nelsen to beat back condo construction at a sweet Puerto Rican surf spot, Rincon, by demonstrating the economic force behind its shapely wave.

His victory led to the launching of "surfonomics" a subschool of natural resource economics that tries putting a money value on a wave. It does so, according to Thomas' piece, by figuring out what surfers spend per trip. Save the Waves generated a report with such gaudy figures as $23.9 million annually at Mavericks in northern California, and $4.5 million at Mundaka in Spain.

Turns out, the average surfer doesn't live out of a van and borrow money from his mother to stay afloat. Surveys show the average surfer is mostly a "He" in his thirties who makes about $75,000.

The surfer's public profile has come a long way since Spicoli at Ridgement High and the "Psychedelic Surfer" profiled here a few years back. The fear is that construction at spots popularized by surfers alters the shoreline, changes the wave, and kills the goose that laid the Golden Egg.

The Surfrider Foundation announced Aug. 27, that it would monitor the San Diego Association of Governments $22.5 million beach replenishment program. The group will spend its own funds to videotape important surf spots and analyze the waves' height, duration, quality, and just how long surfers ride them.

The goal will be, "to preserve the traditional characteristics of each surf spot, with the recognition that surfers of varying experience levels prefer different wave types."

It's good of Surfrider, but really it should be something the government does. Conservative/Libertarians will say this is the proper and adaptive mechanism, that when Big Brother gives up the ghost, private citizens pick up the...tab.

But if Surfrider finds that the county is botching up the break at Blacks, there's little they can do other than point it out or try to outspend a formidable foe in litigation. But when you have a robust EPA as enforcement tool, you can use drones to just blow up the sand depot and sand replacement machinery.

The second way surfonomics seeks to value waves is by measuring the treasuring of waveriders themselves.

For example, as coastal enclaves grow pricier, surfers forced inland are obligated to spend more for a trip. There's more gas and the farther you are from home, the more likely you'll have to eat before or after the session.

There are drawbacks. Once you start playing the market, you might find yourself subject to capitalism's "creative destruction." To wit: your surfing numbers might demonstrate a very nice annual income for the locals, but offshore drilling could offer even more.

"Are developers then in a position to 'buy' that wave from surfers?" asks Surface Against Sewage.

Good question, but whatever the answer, the article makes clear that the kind of energy that organized surfers harnessed in beating back the proposed toll roads at Trestles Beach/San Onofre is beginning developing an intellectual component.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

"Sammy Beneath the Freeway" by Stephen Siciliano





AND ON SUMMER EVENINGS, the kind where the sun beats on your head while you walk the streets all day and then - wham! - it’s gone and suddenly cold the way it always gets in the desert city-by-the-sea, Sammy would lock the whole world out of his room in the big house beneath the freeway to be alone with the maddest passion in the barrio - Elena Gutierrez - while cars whooshed by above their lonesome loving heads.

He helps her shed her clothes: classics. And I love you and I love you and I love you. And he feels here warm Summer breath against his chest of tattoos and gold chains. And the window is raised halfway, and sirens and endless moaning buses make noise all around them - as they embrace, skin dancing on skin, engendering gentle shudders and a parade of exquisite passions. And the clock stands still, breathless, and the city waits, breathless, outside his window for Elena to embrace them, too.

Abuelita

Abuelita once banged hard against his door with a heavy shoe - and him with Elena Gutierrez in there! She demanded that Sammy open the door in a way that said she meant what she said, and Sammy said, “Shhhhhhh.” He told Elena, “Be quiet and just act like you’re not here.” She told him, “I’m not and never have been. You’re such a dreamer Sammy.”

They just looked at each other for ten seconds, neither saying anything and neither really understanding what it meant except that it couldn’t be good. Downstairs in the kitchen, Abuelita - little grandmother - waited so that she might have a word with Sammy about women and lust and this being a good Catholic house. But she never had a chance to open her mouth because down came Sammy half hysterical at his unspent passion. Ranting and raving and finally growing sad, almost crying, looking out the kitchen window. “Goddamn it - what are we going to do about this arbol triste, this sad palm tree crying all over our front walk!” She snapped at him forgetting herself. “Sammy, don’t you dare take the Lord’s name in vain.”
She pleaded urgently: “Sammy, I don’t understand your modern world, your electric everything. I don’t understand your language. I don’t understand at all where you are coming from or rushing to. Good God, Sammy, isn’t there anything I can do to help you?”
Then she would get up slowly and place a dark veil over her face and leave to meet with gray ladies like herself at la misa where they would kneel and say prayers and sing sad psalms for el savior, the salvador.

He’d argue with Abuelita whenever he was around her. There was not one iota of respect for what the other generation thought or learned on either side, and she spit gray language at him and stared him down with gray eyes beneath gray brows. Just gray gray gray, that’s what he thought of when he thought of her, and it was too bad because she really loved him. She’d grow concerned and tell him of a time when the world was not so shamelessly mad and go on and on about education and jobs and how in the days of the Kennedys - and he would say, “To hell with the Kennedys. Nothing’s changed. Nothing.”

When Sammy finally got a job at the Davis Pleating Company for el minimo wage he almost immediately got involved with Jaime Torres and his rag-tag union of garment workers. Abuelita tried to warn him, to stay working, to stay away from that union - it was no good, Sara Martinez said it was ridden with Sandinistas and terrorists.

But when that son-of-a-bitch called the migra to clear out the organizers because they were all illegals anyway, they called a strike and they struck and struck and struck for months on end, sabotaging the factory and chanting UNION! UNION! UNION! at the lunch hour. Finally the company went broke and Abuelita said, “See now? What the hell good is a union without a plant in which to earn money?”

“If they start it, we can finish it,” was all he could say with his catkid kind of smile. “If they start it we can finish it.”

After Sammy shot the guy from Whittier dead because it’s an eye for an eye in this life, he said without blinking that he had not seen the face of the vato he had shot at the back of his poor stupid head. He just went with a feeling inside that told him it was the guy that shot his cholo long long before, and then he went to church to pray because Sammy believed in God when he was afraid or when he was sure he was gonna die.

Abuelita prayed for days when she heard, in church no less, that Sammy had killed another man, and she scolded him for days and stopped cooking caldo for days and decided that it was this goddamn barrio that had taught him to do these things, and he told her, “The barrio is just fine Abuelita. What about out there in Chino where they killed that whole entire family and chopped them up with axes and slit that little boy’s throat leaving him for dead? In Chino, Abuelita. In Chino.”

It had nothing to do with age, really. His street friends and cholos didn’t understand him any better, and he would be walking on the streets with them and the sun would be shining - but with the brightness filtered out by the filth in the air - and he would say, “What kind of fatal sunshine is this?” And shake his head, and they would spit on the ground and look at each other through squinty eyes, and nobody knew what the hell he was talking about.

It was orange and purple and beautiful, just like it had always been.

He looked at them poor stupid fools, all his beloved homeboys, and wondered, “How could it be that all these young cholos, the first Californians, be nothing but dirt in their own tierra of Aztlan, and what a bunch of losers we all are to never be the masters of our own destiny, to be condemned to eternal night-and-day passage of cars on the freeway above our heads and, after all, was this fair?”

Still, he was the happiest sad person that the wide streets of the town had ever seen, and before heading out on one of his endless boulevard nights, he would grab a handful of change from Abuelita’s silver cup for the gray-bearded bums and boys he would meet in doorways and alleyways of Streetworld, Eastside, L.A.

Puta

One chemical twilight along the Broadway, he fell head over for a perfect puta pushing herself on whomever. Sammy watched her sweet face and he wondered aloud, “My God, I would do you for love, poor puta. How can you do it with anyone and just for money?” And she told him straight away, without breaking stride or even stopping to look at him, “I can’t eat love, vato.”

He watched her roll past him down the street until she had gotten almost too far to hear him before shouting, “Go ahead, woman, and find your many sugar daddies and do what you must to survive in this terrible gringolandia. I’m sorry for bringing up love in this hopeless place. I’m sorry. I...am...sorry.”

Portia...

Late late at night, Sammy drank coffee and smoked mota and listened to the radio for this girl deejay on some forgotten fading-in-and-out station named Portia with a voice as smooth as streetsmack or midnight crack. He would listen for a while and then call in requesting this rap and that jam, and finally he began talking to her, holding full-blown conversations with her for extended periods of time, and everybody listening in. And, in doing so, he became a latenight legend - a sort of street prince. Really. Everyone knew this kid Sammy.

...And What He Told Her

He told Portia that all musical history, as far as he knew, was “nothing but white people and Rolling Stones ripping off what the blacks had thought up all on their own and turning it to money.” Now, there was no great love for the blacks, as between us we had what was left of the rest, but we were all niggers somehow, and the whole barrio nodded in solemn agreement in the earliest hours of the so cool cool California morning.

He told Portia about his fantasy girl, a white girl, the kind with taught face pulled down over high cheek bones. The kind in perfume commercials with sullen gray eyes and a cotton dress draped over a skinny skinny body.

He told Portia about his fantasy house. It only had to be a simple place where grayness could filter its somber way through a window of countless hanging green plants. It needed wooden floors and two pillows for each of their lonesome loving heads and maybe soft piano music that would echo up and down the wooden corridors of the simple city home of him and his gray girl in the cotton dress, and was that asking too much?
“It is from me,” Portia told him and giggled sexy, ruining the whole thing saying, “I’m a deejay and must avoid things gray at all costs. It’s a matter of professional necessity, Mr. Sammy Streetprince.”

He told Portia that he wanted to travel and see and meet and tell people that he was from a city where the poor begged the poor for money with little styrofoam cups. A city where deer walked in the gardens of castles in the hills and looked over an immense carpet of ribbons of white light that crisscrossed and endless valley, where dark silhouettes of Mexican palm trees popped up haphazardly like exploding fireworks of shadows and dark velvet.

A city where coyotes came down one cool evening and killed Abuelita’s rooster chained to a tree in the backyard.

“Some inner city,” he wondered over the airwaves. “Some inner city,” he said.

What She Told Him Then

“Quiet now, Sammy, my thunderbird prince so that I can play this cryin’ baby bluestime record for all those people who have forfeited the gift of sleep forever. Good night.” That’s what she told him.

The Cocoa Girl and Her East L.A. Blues...

One Sunday, after watching the Raiders and finishing up his carne de res, Sammy wore black gloves and rode his huffy bike up and down the street poppin’ wheelies for the rucas and firme baby dolls waiting on the corner - always on the corner.

“Que-vo-let Sammy!” they shouted at him, “You probably thinking you a kind of bad dude or sumthin’.” They were all there - Lil Payasa de Los Angeles, La Giggles (the one with the gun) and La Bambie de East Dallas - all watching and acting as if they thought Sammy was some kind of fool.

Sammy rode over to the teen angels like he was the baddest vato in the whole of Aztlan, checkin’ El Chivo’s chola and sizing up that new one, that sweet lil’ sad girl. “Oh!” under his breath, “La Bambie de E. Dallas! Soy tuya mi amor.”

She was a small girl with a kind of cocoa complexion and blue eyes by God knows who, and she left with Sammy, and the rucas began talking as soon as they were out of earshot. “Wait ’til La Crazy Loca hears about this,” Chata Galava did say. “Wait until she hears.”

Sammy walked and talked love with Bambie and he told her like he told them all that she was the most beautiful chola in all of Califas and that now he was la chola’s vato - her vato.

Then they drifted across town. Walking and taking the bus, walking and taking the bus, because nobody gets anywhere in this town without wheels. So much so, Sammy told the new girl, that the first thing he taught a new brother fresh from the rainforests of revolution to the south was how to say, “Five bucks gas please.”

“How else could they survive, Bambie? How else?”

Finally he made love to her gently, like with Elena, up on the two hundred steps of Micheltorena while the greasy smell of carne asada drifted up from Zamora Bros. carniceria way down below, and Sammy seductively securing her delicate heart, barrio blossom baby, for his growing garden of love. She flipped for him. Just flipped.

The next Saturday, when Sammy finished his carne de res, he wore black gloves and rode past all the firme baby dolls on the corner. They were always on the corner.

Bambie glowed in anticipation and licked tamarindo from her icy little fingers. She waited patiently. After all, he was her vato, and all that stuff with La Giggles was just Sammy playin’ - wasn’t it?

But Sammy did not come around to her and instead left with another ruca, telling her that she was the most beautiful baby in all of Califas, whispering the same steamy “soy tuya mi amor.”

...And What She Wrote Sammy

La Bambie de E. Dallas wrote a dedication beneath the crying palm tree on the sidewalk in front of the big house beneath the freeway named for another goddamned Spanish priest.

to Sammy from little ruca sadgirl
the one who really love you
lo mucho que te quiero/my room
is lonely without you...
...let’s get it on

But these words were wasted ones, and soon the heart was broken forever, and the girl from East Dallas joined the thousands of others like her - the suffering madonnas de nuestra señora la reina de los angeles: riding the bus, toting children, never shaving their legs (letting the hair grow long on them) and working in la fabrica o la tienda.

What the Operadoras Said

Feeling for La Bambie and the hurt she carried forever inside, Abuelita warned Sammy that things go around and around in the timeless barrio. Sammy laughed at her for hours on the front step, just laughed and laughed - because he didn’t really have much to do or anywhere else to go anyway.

And soon after...he had his heart broken, too. Poor Bambie had heard the operadoras and sweatshop seamstresses saying that it had been the doing of La Crazy Loca from the 18th Street Gang. She’d heard them laugh, satisfied. She’d heard them say, “So he’s finally stopped playing reggae.” That his silly revolution had finally faded away.

She’d heard them say that Sammy had joined all the men in the doorways of downtown. The men with the enormous stomachs and sad eyes who stood growing old nursing countless Coronas, bottomless-bottles-of-beer men who watched the broken hearts in the buses go by.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Day 'The Marc' Died


"If it be radicalism to believe that our natural resources should be used for the benefit of all of the American people and not for the purpose of enriching just a few...then, Ladies and Gentlemen of the House, I accept the charge. I plead guilty to the charge; I am a radical and I am willing to fight it out until hell freezes over."

On this day in 1953, Vito Marcantonio fell dead on the streets of New York. He was downtown at City Hall to file for a run at his old Congressional seat.

The "New York Daily News" rendered the scene these passages:

"Drenching torrents greeted him as he returned to his law office from a weekend in Connecticut on a summer Monday morning. He was hatless and raincoatless as he got off the train at City Hall Park, and he began to trot through the downpour, and he was just at Broadway and Warren St. when he quietly dropped dead.

"Rushing through the rain themselves, New Yorkers in their fashion ignored the fallen man on the curb for 10 minutes or so. Finally, a passerby alerted a cop. A priest from nearby St. Andrews was summoned to administer extreme unction. One of the dead man's law associates came down to identify the body. Someone eventually thought of retrieving the forlornly soaked gold-initialed briefcase from the gutter."

And such was the day The Marc died.

We can console ourselves in the fact that there are no happy endings when it comes to the final step, and instead focus on what the man was in life.

A titan of New York and national politics, at the height of his power, he could enter the Democratic, Republican and American Labor Party primaries and win them all so as to avoid a general election fight.

He had allies in culture. Dashiell Hammett worked on his mayoral campaign, writer Howard Fast drafted political literature. He was allied with Dorothy Parker and the patrician painter Rockwell Kent.

For all that bohemian glitter, his biographer Gerald Meyer insists, Marc mostly played cards with the Italians in his East Harlem neighborhood where he was born and which he never left.


His own loyal constituents declaimed him "The Bread of the Poor," for his vision of a Congressman as an all purpose helper and guide through the system. And this he did in ways too numerous to list here. Needless to say, it was practical, hands-on kind of stuff.

In return, their support allowed him to withstand the attacks of columnist Walter Winchell, a full bore assault waged by Tycoon William Randolph Hearst through his newspapers, and a blanketing surveillance launched by J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI to win some 12 noisy years in Congress for himself.

There, he was a phenom, a shock to the southern gentleman who ran the shop and expected deference from junior members. Blessed with a golden beak, The Marc was also a master of the substantive game. The House Parliamentarian said Marcantonio was the only one who knew more about procedure than him.

Controversial in the Italian-American community for his unabashedly left-wing life, Marcantonio is an unblemished saint in the Puerto Rican community.

They were part of his district with strong links and recent links to their Isle. He saw them impacted directly by the politics of Puerto Rico and made it a point to intervene in its affairs on behalf of its beleaguered residents and his own neighbors.

He was a friend to black people and worked with disparate elements in that community such as Philip Randolph of the Pullman Car Porters Union and famed singer and activist Robeson


He fought to successfully open the arms industry to the employment of African-Americans during World War II.

He was a constant thorn in the side of President Franklin Roosevelt for his nettlesome introduction of anti-lynching and civil rights measures. These ran against the wishes of powerful Southern Democrats who killed them in exchange for articulate, public dressings-down by The Marc.

He told one such congressional rival that he was ready to campaign in his district and affect his defeat. The southerner said that Marcantonio campaigning against him could only help his cause.

"Oh I don't plan to campaign against you," Marc responded. "I'm going to campaign FOR you."


Hopefully we've taken the sad date and turned it on its head. Made it more of a celebration through remembrance. Why? Because sometimes we owe it to those with lives exemplified by self-sacrifice and service to the weak among us.

Marc's was one such life.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Believe in Eve"


"The Intra-realist borrows from all the failed movements of time, flings its way through the 'isms' the way it would through the scarf section at a thrift shop."

The Intra-Realist Manifesto

highwayscribery viewed the feature film "Believe in Eve," a night or so ago, and hasn't stopped replaying it since.

"Believe in Eve," was well-accepted in some dark and dank corners of our culture. But generally speaking, those of us who created and brought it to the big screen were mostly subjected to insult and ostracizing in the immediate wake of its 1990 release.

The movie was produced by elegant Mob Films, an evolutionary step in the artists collective of the same name that thrived in late 1980s Los Angeles.

The spontaneous clustering occurred around "READ" magazine, a literary review circulated at a nightclub of the same name started by Larry Karaszewski, Jaime Glanz, and Nick Griffin.

The magazine was run by Antonio Mendoza, Jose Perez de Lama Halcón, and the highway scribe. There was a core of some 20 regular contributors and a total of around 75 rotating poets, graphic artists, photographers and performance types who added to both the review and public events thrown at Zatar's Bar on Wilcox Ave. in Hollywood, and at Gorky's downtown, to name only the regular happenings.

One of those contributors, Javier Gomez Serrano, asked the scribe to script the movie Javier had in his brain. Jaime Glanz loaned the scribe a photocopied book with a title like, "How to Write a Screenplay and Make a Million" and a few weeks later, there was a script for what would eventually become "Believe in Eve."

The various currents of which The elegant Mob was comprised coalesced around the effort. We had the numerical might to cast and fill out scenes and crew with our own crowd and enough cachet as an edgy, artistic outfit to convince producer Jose Vergara we were worth a shot.

The powerful negative reaction we experienced would lead all but the most mature of artists to recoil from their own creation.

But 22 years on, highwayscribery feels only pride. It boggles the mind that a group of dynamic young people gathering their own resources, and leaning upon one another to make the film, should have been so maltreated, rather than granted the careers they richly deserved.

We were the honest ones.

True, we had no notion of the film industry's workings or of its commercial demands. If we had, we would not have cared a damn. We were intra-realists, disdainers of Mammon. What we cared about was the film being what it needed to be, which was what we wanted it to be.

Quaint, yes, but genuine to the extent that was the energy which drove the project.

When the scribe would view "Believe in Eve" some years after it was made, he gnashed his teeth at the metered discussions and the ornate alliterations from the script, ashamed they were amateurish juvenalia compared with the crisp and charged dialogue that would mark his later screenplays.

But The elegant Mob was, after all, a group of poets. The films that jazzed us were "Un Chien Andalou" and "Sang d'un Poete," and we sat around most nights writing poetry or reciting it somewhere.

It was only natural that we create a lyric and theatrical work for film. It was an "Art" film and announced itself to be so in the very first scene, which entails a furtive and tense walk through a gallery replete with Sergio O'Cadiz's renderings of Eve, the mother of all human beings.

In retrospect, the actresses, Monique Salcido and Anna Nicholas (Ann Royal), appear pitch-perfect and absolutely gorgeous. Alex Sellar as the wayward Juan Roman is thoughtfully nuanced. The powerful Keith Coleman maintained a menacing presence as Dash, while Andrew Koch made a Franval out of whole cloth, ignoring the script, yet somehow remaining sensitive to its boundaries.

Gene Butler's rendering of The Reverend seems now like something of a life-saver, his interpretation wresting some of the highway scribe's youthful rage from the role, tainting it with a dark sarcasm and terrifying congeniality.

the scribe did not see this at the time, because he'd imagined a movie in his head and transcribed it to paper, and these were not exactly the characters he'd had in mind. But the thespians, in the end, knew the characters better than the person who created them. And this is the magic behind the collaborative film process.

"Believe in Eve" represented the Platonic ideal of collaboration.

We were influenced by the Surrealists and Situationists. There is a scene in which Dolmance robs a postman of his mailbag in broad daylight.

"If people have to wait all day for you, why don't they get a robot? I'm gonna blow your brains out!"

There was some mechanical plot necessity for this, but it escapes me now and, what's funny is, it doesn't matter. We drew it up as a gag the way Dali and Buñuel did and it works without figuring in the plot, because of the film's generally chaotic progression and because it's funny.

Juan Roman doesn't know what's going on, and you, the viewer, are right there with him.

After the film was shot and edited, there was a great striving to demarcate what was dream from present reality, what was flashback from dream, and so forth, by the use of voiceover.

It did not work, but it did little harm as the three states of mind flow seamlessly into one another in spite of the attempt to erect boundaries around each.

The scribe made a rare compromise for those days, drafting the voice-over during post-production, but only because he lacked an argument, had not moved to Spain, and had not read Calderon's "Life is a Dream."

What is life?
A frenetic race.
What is life?
An illusion, a shadow, a fiction
the largest good small
all life is dream and
dreams are what dreams are.

"Eve" is a radical and wide ranging work that addresses racism, the anomie of Los Angeles, Biblical heresy, and our passions as a group at the time: anarchism, intra-realism, sex, philosophy, pacifism, environmentalism, communism, drugs and dream states, hallucination and, did I mention drugs?

It was the height of all that Nancy Reagan "Just Say No" pap, and enough to make any self-respecting intra-realist gag.

The inner cupola worshipped de Sade, from whose work all the cult members' names are derived (Franval, Dash, Madame Mistival, Dolmance). The film lifted scenes straight out of George Bataille's "Story of the Eye," (pictured) and sampled Eric Satie's "First Gnossienne."

Poetess Yvonne de la Vega lent her adaptation of that work - "Many Loves" she called it - as well as an original slice, "Bad Boys," which was employed in a scene where Terése rapes Juan Roman.

Sultry Yvonne performed "Many Loves" during the party scene, which we made by throwing a bash and filming ourselves behaving badly, something we were all quite good at. This was the spirit behind the film. Your years of misspent youth were not wasted at all. Players were needed to portray a church of pleasure! Free beer!

The soundtrack was composed by Don Preston, an original member of Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, and his wife Tina thrilled us with her interpretation of Mrs. Camper. Their availability and enthusiasm for the project stood as tribute to the depth and width of L.A.'s artistic rank-and-file. Back then, at least.

More than anything, watching "Believe in Eve" now is a deeply personal gift. Not everyone gets to see their youth, what is to say, their friends, lovers, enemies, co-creators, ideas, fashion and, yes, fresh faces, frozen in time, theatrically treated, and presented in the most literary of lights.

For the scribe, the scene of Brenda Lee and Juan Roman walking through the Los Angeles barrio, as Alex Sellar reads a poem from the script to sprightly flamenco music, is a keepsake like no other. Many poems are published. Few are produced and mounted with the glue of music and image.

Brenda Lee Underwood
If I could only catch her
sheet of bright breeze
again.

If I could only manage a smile
for every mile of Loveworld
she lived in.

Oh, Cajun-spiced,
twice as nice,
something to count on
something taken for granted

Watch out!

Leave your wildflower in the wind
and see it be supplanted.

The scene is as lilting as the afternoon it was shot. Javier and DP Juan Carlos Ferro did naught but set a camera up at a street light west of McArthur Park and have Monique and Alex walk through the barrio, toward it. The day was devoid of the usual headaches associated with filming. It was lock, load and shoot. Ian McColl had come to watch the process and wound up playing, with all originality, the drug dealer who briefly accosts them.

The sun set on cue, an Indian woman walked into frame with a tropical plant on her head, and the city blossomed around the lovers as they crossed the urban landscape, establishing an intimacy no amount of dialogue could have duplicated.

Elegant Mob Films endures as a maker of a dozen beautiful documentaries of radical and social cast. It is run by the director of "Believe in Eve" the aforementioned Javier Gomez Serrano, who has put up a link to "Believe in Eve" for all to enjoy. "Believe in Eve"

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Hillbilly Bikini Bottom" by Stephen Siciliano

This here short story was inspired by a Lynyrd Skynyrd song, "Cheatin' Woman." the scribe misses Lynyrd Skynyrd and what they might have made and said over years of maturity. Neil Young's "Down by the River," had a hand in the inspirational department as did the scribe's own years of university study in Arkansas. And so, without further adieu, "Hillbilly Bikini Bottom."

Jefferson Davis was in a fix.

It was towards the end of the fourth quarter already and the natives were getting restless. Bugs swarmed in the high and bright lights and the players' pads were soaked in Indian summer sweat.

Jeff saw Brenda Lee Underwood over by the south end bleachers, just above where they liked to drink beers and nip at each other most nights when football wasn't on.

That bitch was there with the prick with the Camaro from up north of county line and didn't she just love anything with pants on?

"Should've listened to Danny Joe Dean, the Highsteppers' bass player," he told himself, "when we was up at the Collection House and he said she wasn't worth the cheap dress she was burstin' out of."

Darnell Hampton was loping back to the huddle. He saw his mother standing in the north end, hands clenched in prayer, old before her time. There were others from the family and neighborhood standing frozen around her. Aunts and uncles come to see Darnell the Wonder Boy. He didn't need to look to know they'd all be praying, too. Or passed out already from the delirium of the Jaguars' pending defeat.

The football religion was strong on both sides of the tracks and both sides of the tracks were simmering in disappointment.

This was no homecoming crosstown rivalry. It was a little 'ol Catholic school you couldn't even find in the Arkansas state high school football rankings. And here were the Jaguars sputtering toward the final gun, ready to blow a shot at the perfect season in the first warm-up game.

Whitman High took a last time out. Coach called Jeff Davis to the sideline so he could draw up a play. As Jeff jogged in he scanned the bleachers and saw Danny Joe Dean giving him the finger.

Damn he loved that 'ol boy!

Coach whipped up Xs and Os that had a shotgun, a pulling guard, and a wildcat something or other. He sent Jeff back out to hunt with those words, but Jefferson Davis didn't hear a word of it. He just nodded and jogged to the huddle.

His left guard, Ralph Mazzanti looked like something come out of the meat grinder and Henderson, the right side tackle, was useless out of habit.

Jeff Davis looked at Darnell. "You hear that farm boy call you a nigger?"

Darnell looked out at the north bleachers again. The family was still praying for the Lawd to help Whitman High football win. They kept all the stories, the sad stories he had heard. Held them close and whispered them.

Uncle LeRoy was gone, because somebody had to get the chicken and ribs for after the game. That's when they would all rush back to the other side of the tracks to eat and sing and be apart from everything else happening in town.

Darnell was always invited across the track on football Friday nights, but before the clock clanged twelve he was back in the low shacks, a speedy Brougham turned brown pumpkin again.

"Ain't nobody called me a nigger all night 'cause they know I will kick a lot of serious ass if that was the case."

"Like Hayl," Jeff spit. "Number 77 called you a fast country nigger."

Darnell looked into the Maria Regina huddle for a Number 77. "He's black you fool."

"So he's cool?" Jeff asked. "He can say it?"

"Mostly," Darnell practically whispered.

"It's true anyway," Mazzanti said. "The bit about bein' a fast country nigger."

"D'jou just call me a country nigger Ralph?"

"Um, not direct-like. Not like, 'You, Darnell Hampton, are one very fast country nigger as per my word, Ralph Mazzanti.' No. I was paraphrasing."

Jeff knew Ralph picked up "paraphrasing" in Miss Keating's English class, because she wore patch pocket pants and he was focused.

Henderson knew none of those boys cared if one was green and the other blue as long as they could get a miracle touchdown, so he put it out there. "Hayl Darnell, Jeff's just a little hot-and-bothered about Brenda Lee Underwood and her being with that ol' boy from Paragould."

"Henderson you are a useless piece of shit," Jeff Davis shot back.

"Maybe, but it don't change the veracity of what I said none."

Jeff knew Henderson picked up that word, "veracity," from their "principles of dairying" teacher, Doc Hotstetler. He looked over at the south bleachers again and saw Brenda Lee kiss her new beaux.

He'd like to get a gun and kill her straightaway after the game. He thought he'd do it. Get a pistol, shoot all her friends, too. End her world, that fuckin' bitch.

He was drifted back to that night in July down by the river when Tiffany James come up and told Jeff all about how sweet Brenda Lee was on him, and how she was over by the swimming hole with the rope hung on a tree.

"You know the place," she tilted her head at him and pulled on a beer. He almost didn't want to leave.

Jeff Davis went up river and he saw Brenda Lee hanging down from the rope, swinging, her cut-off blue jeans getting pulled up her butt like a hillbilly bikini and this about drove him wild. He watched her swoop out over the water and let loose, landing in the black oily splash. He licked his lips.

Then, like a kinda swamp rat, some guy's head popped up laughing. Brenda Lee squealed and made like she was trying to get out of his arms and that's when she saw him, Jeff, standing there.

"Why Jefferson Davis!" and Brenda Lee looked at him with a kind of challenge in her face, before she turned and kissed that 'ol boy that was in the river with her.

The ref came over. "Break it up," and blew the whistle, waving his right arm around like a whirlybird.

This was the moment. Jeff Davis had never given his troops the play, because he never heard it, and because of Tiffany James and that night down by the river. Same kind of night. Summer night. Bugs and gnats in the air, in your lungs.

He looked over at the bleachers. Again. Brenda Lee pulled herself out of a kiss with the Camaro kid and stared straight at him. Her face had the same challenge in it as that July night by the river. Her button nose pointing skyward.

And he was sparked. Hard. Not by the challenge of a Camaro, but by the memory of that hillbilly bikini bottom.

Jefferson Davis turned to Darnell Hampton and looked at him across generations of black and whiteness and railroad track and said...

..."Go deep. I'll hit ya!"

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

"Vedette Does La Danza" (Reprise)

highwayscribery and his able collaborator, guitarist Omar Torrez will do a performance of "Vedette Does La Danza" at the monthly downtown Los Angeles Artwalk April 12. It's at night, probably around 8 p.m. Omar's band will also play.

For those who don't know, "Vedette or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows," is this blogger's first novel, and signature work. Omar Torrez is a singer, composer and master guitarist. He and highway scribe cooked up this "literary flamenco" or musical/spoken word presentation in 2006. It has been performed in Los Angeles, New York City and San Diego.

We hope to see you there.