shepard fairey

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gustav dore

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death and burial

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

KIDS OF THE BLACK HOLE--Chapter 3


(Ed.--Here it is, fans and friends and family, the third of seven, lost till now, but utterly true tales of life on the streets in (now it can be told) Burlington, Vermont, deep in the Eighties. Our scribe hasn't surfaced yet, but I'm hoping we draw him in. Till then, friends, gasp in awe.)



KOTBH--Chapter 3: Takes a Licking . . .


Junior was drunk. He was a happy drunk, though. He wasn’t one of those guys who got ruffled up by a few drinks and got angry with the world and you. Nor was he the type that cried in his own drink and moaned away his blues until the sun came up. Junior really was the cheerful drunk.

“Six pack, twelve pack, case of bud. Daylight come and me wanna get drunk.” He sang merrily as he climbed up the long flight of stairs. Nick, David and I trailed behind.

Before long the stairs ended at a darkly painted door. Junior gestured for us to be quiet. We tried. No noise could be heard from beyond the door. All was strangely silent.

“It’s too quiet man,” Junior stated flatly. “Are you sure this is it?” he added, turning to Nick.

“Yeah, this is it,” Nick replied. “I think.”

“Well, it doesn’t sound like there’s anything going on in there,” I put in.

“We should at least knock,” said Nick.

“Yeah, you’re right,” I agreed happily, hoping it would be some super-straight-laced family dude or something, so I could see his reaction to finding Junior at his door.

Junior was not a pretty man by any standard. Small children often panicked and fled at the sight of him. He was a large man, tall and muscular with a big beer gut and chubby cheeks. He had long ago lost his teeth in some bar fight and had them replaced with a false set that he liked to remove from time to time to see people’s reactions. His hair was usually died black or dark red and he always wore a beat-up old motorcycle jacket with punk rock patches and pins all over it. It was like his second skin.

I watched as he removed his teeth and prepared to knock. He looked back momentarily and beamed a hideous, toothless smile at us. I hoped whoever opened the door didn’t have a heart attack.

His meaty fist pounded solidly against the door three times, then halted. Still no sound emerged from the other side. Again he pounded three times, even harder this time, then waited. Still there was no answer. We waited silently, ever hopeful that someone was approaching the door to let us in.

“Oh well, let’s take off,” groaned Nick.

“No wait,” I said. One more knock.

“Let’s just go in,” said Junior, twisting the door handle. It was unlocked.

I wasn’t so sure about just walking into someone’s house, but now that the door was open I could hear music playing somewhere inside, distantly though, or quietly. Maybe this was the place. Maybe there was a party here. If so, it was well disguised.

As we took a few steps in the music got louder. A light flashed on to my left. There was a large hole in the brick wall and the light was mounted inside. A face built of broken bricks rested inside the hole. It had an elaborate headdress made from pine cones and feathers, and bottle caps were glued all over its rocky face. Small plastic soldiers were gathered around it, preparing to burn a Barbie doll with a Mohawk who was bound to a Lincoln Log with a rubber band.

“Yep, this is definitely the right place,” I said.

I had heard that the party’s host was some sort of mad, new age artist type, and the freakish sculpture to my left confirmed that this was indeed his place. Voices could be heard now as we made our way down the hallway and navigated a few strangely decorated rooms. The music was louder now but there were still no signs of any people. Only a few oddly dressed manikins and a stuffed monkey mounted on the wall. A gas mask covered its furry head, perhaps to shield it from the smoke that drifted in from a nearby room. Finally we came upon the source of the noises: another staircase.

Upstairs was a dimly-lit smoke-filled room, covered wall to wall, floor to ceiling with strange artwork. A number of people were milling about talking to one another in polite tones as we entered. The Buzzcocks were blasting from a nearby room. At least the tunes were good. The scene was kind of new wave/rocker/artist, which was cool, but I had been hoping for something more rowdy.

A few people greeted Junior as we entered. He gave them warm toothless smiles and made for the refrigerator. There was plenty of booze, more booze than people really. We proceeded to get drunk and check out the strange “art."

One room in the back had become a small shrine of some sort. An open casket sat in the center of the room. Inside was a baby doll with the head of Nixon on it. Candles were placed in a circular formation around it but remained unlit. Below that lay a pile of small plastic arms. They looked like they had been torn off of Action figures. I recognized one arm that had belonged to Skeletor, the arch-enemy of He-man. We sat on the altar and smoked a joint.

David had disappeared somewhere along the way and Nick was off chasing after some girls he knew from shows at 242. Junior had somehow acquired a bottle of rum within five minutes of entering the place. We shared it with some punk girls and Junior entertained us with tales of his crazy brothers. He had eight of them so the stories never ran out.

We sat in the living room with a few others, leaning out the window to smoke cigarettes. They had positioned a few chairs in front of the window for that very purpose, and propped it open with a bizarre statue that consisted of a black bowling ball resting on the seat of a child’s potty. On the smooth top of the ball was an elaborate crown. The whole of it was perched precariously on the window sill, bracing the window open. It struck me as a bad spot to keep a bowling ball but it was only a passing thought.

I listened to a multitude of stories covering everything from barroom brawls to bestiality until Nick appeared again, distracting Junior from his rantings.

“Come up to the roof you guys,” Nick pleaded. “A bunch of people are hanging out and drinking wine.”

Junior looked doubtful. “What for? We’ve got rum right here.”

“Bring it with us. It’s nice up there.”

Nick was right, it was nice on the roof. The warm summer breeze felt rejuvenating and the stars in the sky were out in force. The fresh air filled me with excitement as I inhaled deeply. The excitement of youth. I staggered over to the edge of the building and kicked some pebbles over the side. Main Street was a mere four stories below. It looked close enough to jump to.

“Better not,” said Nick stepping forward as if he knew what I was thinking. The street below us was filled with drunk frat boys and college students yelling and hooting and generally making a nuisance. I was glad to be four stories up. It was quiet and peaceful up here away from the carnage of Main Street.

Nick was getting cozy with a cute young girl. She passed around a bottle of wine as Junior began to spin yarns again. He had the tendency to lean in really close at times when he was talking to you. His breath smelled like death, or worse. It made me want to vomit over the edge. Instead I moved away from him. Still, it was becoming a challenge to hold down the foul mixture of wine, rum, and god knows what else that was brewing in my gut. “I’ve got to go to the bathroom,” I mumbled, and made for the stairs.

Downstairs, the party had really picked up. There were about five times as many people as there had been when we arrived and everyone was about ten times drunker. My stomach churned as I pushed my way through the crowd towards the kitchen. To my dismay I found that the line for the bathroom stretched through the kitchen and all the way out into the hall. I groaned and sank into the line.

It always sucks waiting in line for the bathroom at huge drunken parties. Chances are someone is either puking, fucking, or doing drugs in there right when you really need to go, and the line is not moving. But that’s not the part that really sucks. The worst part is that there is always some total freak-job in line next to you who wants to tell you his life story or just be a general nuisance. And of course you can’t get away from him because you’re waiting in line.

I got a good one this time. One of the paranoid types who thinks everyone is after him. The FBI, the CIA, the SPCA, this guy thought they were all on him. He was probably tripping his balls off in addition to being shit-house drunk. He wanted me to watch another guy watching him, over his shoulder.

“Make sure he’s not watching you watch,” he demanded.

“Don’t worry he’s not watching me watch,” I said sarcastically.

But he definitely was watching.

In reality, I was not paying much attention to either one of them. Something else had caught my attention. One wild dancer was leaping around spasticly, jerking to and fro in mock spasms. He inched closer and closer to the open window as he flailed. The shitting bowling ball king still braced it open. Then he was doing his wild dance right next to the window. His whipping throes sent him leaning towards the king with every leap. From where I stood he seemed dangerously close to knocking it right out the window. I wondered if I should say something. I could have just been being paranoid.

People danced in front of him then, blocking my view momentarily. When they cleared, the king was still in his throne. I decided it was OK and forced myself to forget it. At that very moment the wildman leaped into the air with a savage flailing motion. He stumbled upon landing and attempted to catch himself by making a wild grab at the king.

The potty pitched over and the crown shattered on the tile floor as the sleek, solid, black bowling ball rolled out the window and plummeted to the street below. I gasped in horror along with the few others who saw it go. The window slammed shut with a crash.

Four or five of us rushed to the window. Someone clawed it open. We looked down. On the sidewalk below us a young woman was lying face down in an ever-growing pool of her own blood. The ball, now splattered with crimson, lay beside her. Another young woman was on her knees in the blood, screaming hysterically. A crowd of Friday night partiers had gathered around her sprawled body. College students, bar-hoppers, and the usual downtown riff-raff all staring in awe. The woman did not move. The crowd was bewildered and confused. Their confusion quickly turned to anger when they looked up and saw us staring down at them from the window.

Some frat types, possibly friends of the poor girl, were screaming vicious obscenities up at us.

“Let’s kill these motherfuckers!” they screamed, charging for the front door of the building, their faces choked red with rage. The combination of the alcohol and anguish on behalf of their friend filled their hearts with bloodlust as they kicked the front door to pieces. I had little doubt that they really would kill us. Who could blame them?

“Let’s get the fuck out of here,” said Junior seriously, and he rushed for the door. Nick and I followed.

Others, it seemed, had already gotten the same idea,. They rushed out into the hall and down the stairs, only to be met by tide of enraged frat boys. The first few guys down the stairs were beaten into the ground hard by a sea of fists and feet. Others kicked and flailed at the attackers from the higher ground. Still others retreated into the apartment to seek an alternate escape route. That seemed like a good plan to us. A bottle bounced off the back of my head as we fled.

Dazed and wired to hell we managed to escape the melee and reach the top of the stairs, only to find the apartment door locked. The sounds of fighting echoed through the stairwell, swelling up at us, closer now. I imagined that this would be a terrible way to die.

“Fuck this,” said Junior, sprinting down the hall to face a door I had not noticed before. It was locked. The three of us tore into it, kicking and beating it until we had broken the lock out of the wall and it swung opened to reveal a fire escape.

Moments later we were down on the street blending in with the spectators as the poor girl was loaded into an ambulance and driven away. The amount of blood on the sidewalk was ridiculous. It shimmered brightly in the lights of downtown and flowed into the gutter in front of Snow’s Deli.

David crouched on his knees in the blood staring at it in amazement. It was then that I realized that we had forgotten him. He had ended up dosing during the party and it looked as if he was having in interesting trip.

“It’s incredible,” he said dipping his finger in the blood and smearing it around a bit. Nick and I quickly collected him as the cops began to take notice,and we made our escape into the night.

It was a pretty fucked-up night. I felt really bad for the girl and wished that I had done something to stop it. More than anything though, I was just glad that it had not been me that knocked the king off of his throne. Amazingly, the girl lived. I guess she had brain damage though, and was never the same after. From what I understand she did manage to lead a productive and happy life despite the injury.

There was a rumor around town for a while that she did a commercial for Timex Watches some time after that. I think it probably just started as a sick joke, considering their ads.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Spin, Once Again


I steal most of my lines from the same dude. I’m hoping
he won’t mind to be so honored. Anyway, it’s getting harder
and harder to enter the pantheon of the worthy. I mean,

everyone is, can anybody doubt? O well, look at it
this way: when you feel it, you’re gone, friend.
Did I already say that?


Lastly, I Would Like To


say, when the heart is high in me, it’s hard
to get serious about feeling good, but every git needs it

at least once. I’m overdue. Still, (so like your host)
within no time at all, I see how it plays. And what now?

I was squeezing quinces at the Register, she said,
dude, look at your legs, you’ll go on long after you’ve gone.

OK, I said, I’m down with that, but I ain’t going anywhere.
She laughs, the gyro-sock turns over and that

sick feeling is a swoon with
never a knockout, nor return.


I Should Write Songs


of life lived in extremis, invisible to any.
I ought to say, give me mine, in song,
‘cause so compelling, conferring finally
one’s due, starting in the throat,

throw it out
as last swallowing.