Let me tell you all a story ‘bout a man name Trump a simple minded bumpkin with a head full of fluff, he wouldn’t wear a mask now the Twitter corps says you can’t wish him ill because he is our fascist Prez.
The Naval base doctors gather around his sickness bed to determine if he is in or out of his head, it’s a difficult thing for a military doctor to declare because it all depends on the meaning of the word there.
He is well. He’s well. In fact he’s doing so gosh darn swell. He’s a pigheaded sturdy son of a gun that’s why we’ve had to put him on oxygen.
He’s well. He’s well. In fact he’s rather gosh darned swell. We’ve started him on steroids to correct his old hemorrhoids, it’s a comorbid condition as well.
Now when we said the president he would pull through, we said that because we’re messengers of his corporate crew, but to give the man the free will that is every man’s due we’re not absolutely entirely sure that’s completely true.
He’s well. He is well. In fact he’s extraordinarily swell. So we’ve upped the F’ing steroids which is a term we use in relation to how we administer them, And he’s doing extremely extraordinarily and fashionably well!
The newspapers reach toward the ceiling. Forming trees of yesterdays news today. They sway to-and-fro as pine trees in the breeze, a genetic memory. The windows are papered over yellow. The sunlight filtered and made artificial, for it is day outside. Inside time stands still. We are a people of the dark. You know how it is. The trees rustle. We like to be alone. Together. There is the tickling of keys. Piano keys.
A man is playing with the edge of expertise, sitting at a piano which forms the trunk of a mighty tree. His name is Langley Collyer. “We were afraid,” says Langley…
“Not afraid. Aware!” says a crumpled lump to his right. His head at his knees. “Eyes opened!” His eyes were filmed over. Blue cloudy azure. He is blind. “My brother, Homer,” says Langley. “A lawyer.”
“A lawyer of the Admiralty. The laws of the sea,” says Homer. “Are different than the laws of the jungle. On the open seas the captain is omnipotent. His omnipotence makes up for his lack of omniscience. But on the land, in the open, surrounded by the beasts, and man is a beast, you don’t know where you stand. My brother is an engineer, a chemist, and a concert pianist. And this is our safe place.”
“Father said we were overeducated,” says Langley. “Do you wonder what Fate places us here? I have studied mythology. My brother and I both served for years as teachers of Sunday school.” “Oh, yes,” says Homer. “But we don’t do it any longer.” “Oh, no.” “We prefer not to, now.” “Oh, yes.” “Too much bother.” “Oh, dear, yes. Tell it, brother.” “We prefer to stay here.” “Yes.” “Where we are safe.” “Indeed!” says Homer. “Home.”
“Home,” says Langley, a tear running slowly down his face. “Where one can be oneself. To not be overpowered by otherness.” “Because out there,” says Homer, “It is not safe. I never go out.” “Oh, dear, no,” says Langley. “I go out. At night. I dress in rags. Otherwise I would surely be attacked. For who I am. For what I have. Peace of mind. Robbed. This neighborhood has changed complexion around us.” “Darkness,” says Homer. “I’ve not left this place since 1933. And what is it now?” “1947,” says Langley. “February.” “Won’t you be our Valentine?” says Homer.
Really. You are speechless.
“You could at least thank us,” says Langley. “For thinking of you,” says Homer. “Are you having a lovely holiday?” “My brother is a master of rhetorical quests,” says Langley. “A necessity when one so rarely has houseguests,” says Homer. “Over.” “As we prefer not to,” says Langley. “I go out at night and I scavenge. Things. Valuables. Food from dumpsters. Anything. Everything. Did you know the great man Sigmund Freud said you judge a society by the separation of itself from the garbage dump? If you want to judge a people you must look at their trash.” “It’s where it is,” says Homer. “I used to walk sixteen miles every week day to go to work at my law office. A nickel to ride the subway? A waste. Not that I don’t have a nickel. But why part with a nickel?” “Perfectly good things in the dumpster,” says Langley. “If you are willing to cut around the rot.” “As we are,” says Homer. “One day I came to the office and the head of the firm looked at my worn-out shoes. And he said, ‘My dear man! Presentation is important in our profession.’ He immediately offered me a raise. On the spot. What could I do? I refused. The nerve. To suggest I cannot pay my own way. That I am not self-sufficient by my own means. I walked out. Right out. Never to return. Not even to get my last paycheck. That man was obsessed with fancy dress.” “Disgusting,” says Langley. “Thoreau warned us of this.”
“And then I went blind. Strokes, you see. Father was a doctor. We have all the books. And some abnormal specimens in formaldehyde,” says Homer. “And see a doctor? We have the books. And the doctors can’t be trusted,” says Langley. “Our father,” says Homer, “Was a doctor.” “And he left us his books,” says Langley. “I will cure my brother with a diet of one-hundred oranges a week and black bread with peanut butter. I expect results any day now. I save newspapers which I scavenge. When he regains his sight he will want to catch up with the news. Fourteen years worth! Any day now. This long night will end. In the meantime, I play him the piano. I read to him from the classics.”
“The old stories,” says Homer. “Odysseus. Sisyphus. Narcissus and Echo. Invictus. I am bloody but unbowed. Br’er Rabbit. The ascension of Horus.” “The unconquerable sun,” says Langley. “At night we listen to the crystal radio I built. Our link to the outside. The depression. The war. The peace, uneasy.” “My brother is quite the engineer,” says Homer. “Built a radio. Build a vacuum to clean the insides of the piano. Turned an old Model-T Ford into a power generator.” “Didn’t work,” says Langley. “Still,” says Homer, “ingenious. I’d never seen the likes of it. They had shut off our power, of course.” “Who needs it!” says Langley. “The telephone.” “Who are we going to call?” says Langley. “The water.” “Perfectly good water from public fountains,” says Langley. “Gratis.” “My brother,” says Homer. “A man after my own heart.”
“They even tried to take this house,” says Langley, “for in addition to not paying the utilities, we stopped paying the mortgage. Busted in here. Tried to turn us out into the streets. I had to write a check to pay it off in full to get them out of here. So we could be left alone. To be.” “In peace,” says Homer. “So we may rest.”
“Money is not our problem,” says Langley. “people are. They took the house next-door. The house I paid cash for because I saw someone try to look at us through a window. They also took the house we owned across the street. Back taxes, they say.” “We have money,” says Homer. “And we know the value of a nickel. And why do we owe taxes? We have no income. Just money. And goods. We left the rest behind. Sailed away, free.” “I have newspapers. Bicycles. Pianos. Goods. Goods are items of value traded for dollars. The dollars are just barter tokens meant for exchange of goods. And you can simply live, living simply on the things fools toss away,” says Langley.
“And what do you do with the parking tickets?” says Homer to his brother. “I take them,” says Langley. “I take them from the windshields of any car I see them on. We have a room here filled with them.” “I can’t imagine the bother my brother has saved all those people,” says Homer. “An altruist at heart.” “Those fortunate people,” says Langley. “Why they don’t even know.”
“But this is all very tiring,” says Homer. “Yes,” says Langley. “We prefer to be left alone. To be.” “In the darkness,” says Homer. “Go!” says Langley. “We have had enough of visitors. Though, rest assured, you have brightened our day.” “Shoo!” says Homer.
In 1947, Langley was bringing Homer food when he accidentally set off a booby-trap crawling through a tunnel and was crushed. Homer would starve to death ten feet away, ten days later.
Abbott was a straight man. The heavy. The ladies’ man. And he couldn’t take the pressure. In the end, he would become irate when Lou shouted his name at him to get his attention. Somehow he made it work. For him.
Hey, Abbot… Hey, Abbot…
Then Abbott began viciously slapping Lou in the face for saying his name over and over. Lou said Abbo… —slap, Abbo…— slap —repeatedly until Lou was winded and Abbot’s inner rage was appeased. It shouldn’t have been like this. They were like brothers. Or something. Lived in the same flop house. They were having an argument about Betty Grabble. Betty! Both men were just batty about her. And for some reason they had repeated run-ins with America’s sweetheart, confounding all.
But do not bring up baseball to them. They are fans but they don’t understand the strange nicknames the players have these days such as Who or What, or Ida Know.
And the whole thing made many a vaudevillian angry, as the bit had been community property. But now it was identified only with Bud and Lou, who had not originated it, though with it they had made it. Big. That was the curse of radio and film. The question of just who was on first.
“Please don’t hit me anymore Abbot,” said Lou. It was an abusive relationship. It would never fly today. People would not stand for it. And if they did stand, they wouldn’t clap. Certainly. And if they clapped they wouldn’t laugh. Unless everyone else did. In that case all bets were off. Societal pressure.
A man came into the Mercantile searching for a map. He was looking to light out into the wilderness. The Shopkeep, a woman short on words, stood on a ladder doing inventory. Last thing she needed was a customer to bring her down. She looked at the man. “Get lost!” was what she said. That man’s name was Alfred Packer. No one remembers the shopkeep. She never done nothing of note.
“I’ve had enough of your horseplay,” s/he said. “Off you go now.”
Everything in the world is seeking to stand on the highest point. Where one can see. There is nothing else which explains the urge to climb mountains, get there first, or pat oneself on the back. It even explains the eruption of volcanoes, the contents inside wishing to come out on top. That’s the prime real estate. No matter what one has to do to get there. That says a lot.
That’s why an eruption is such a sacred shared event. A seismic shift. People remember it. It burns itself on the social memory pad. Changes everything. I saw such an event once. It was my first. After this I saw more, but they were robbed of absolute novelty. Because If you see one you’ve seen it all, the world order set up.
At some point everything becomes common place. It starts to look alike. A revelatory illusion.
Everything is built on something else. The novelty is an illusion. The present is a time shift of the past. It seems clear because there has been a precedent. A prologue. An introduction. And when we left we said “Make it look like no one has ever been here before.” So as not to rob the future of its own initiative. Priorities. I don’t make the rules, I break them.
The present has to be built. In detail. For the purpose of references. Few check these out. Outdated.
Once it is built, it seems to have always been there. This is the natural order. It’s traditional.
My first book was a stapled together mess called A Child’s Guide to Suicide, and I handed it out at a punk rock club. Have you ever been hugged by a sweaty punk rocker? I don’t even have a copy of it. You come away looking like you were up on the stage. The copy I had drowned in a flood. It was from a hot water heater. Twenty years old, it sprung a leak into the basement apartment. The trauma of aging. I was dreaming at the time. I dreamt of water, a gentle flow. A steady dripping and splashing of the tropics. As if I were stranded on a beach. When I awoke I splashed down, as my feet hit the floor and were submerged. I salvaged what I could. And rebuilt. It’s what people do. By conditioning. Tradition.
So here we are.
She had short hair, light brown, when she approached me. She was tall and played the bass guitar. I had been admiring her from afar, but she had no way of knowing this. Like when you look to the top of Mount Everest with longing in your heart, though you understand the perils inherent in such a desire. It’s a question of preparation. How well you pack. If you are ready. If your heart is strong.
“Are you handing this out to children?” she demanded. And it was a set-up to a joke, but instead, for love, the punchline was moved to a footnote. And so the response was left wanting. And she walked away with a flourish. And perhaps that was the greatest gift I could give her. For who can understand the nature of love, for which so much is sacrificed in our perpetual present?