Friday, November 11, 2011

Documentary Review: The Bridge

"The Bridge"

Fascinated at the thought that something so brutal and distgusting could only be Rated R, I would have thought NC-17 would have barely sufficed. Maybe because it’s the innocence in someone’s shape as they leap and how their body language describes their surety, or their hesitation. Maybe because it’s 4200 feet all the way down from a beautiful bridge we admire, or maybe it’s because we’ve all despaired and thought of such things, but never took it to the next level. That’s their moment and we’re exploiting the fact that they’re over it, and this place. I would say that someone could easily be reaching out by doing it in such a public space but the access to a place so high, so magnetic, and that landing in water just seems more pleasant than rocks at the bottom of a cliff or pavement at the bottom of a building, I suppose it makes more sense. The walk that these people take is like that of the plank on a ship where the crew wants their passenger to swim with the fishes. None of them are racing out to the middle of the bridge and just hurdling the shoulder-high fence to get it over with. They pace themselves, they wonder about what this life has brought them and why. One woman gets arrested three times as she stands so long at the precipice. It doesn’t help her cause that she wears the same style hat each time but in different colors because someone definitely calls the cops each time she’s there (we are left to wonder if it’s the cameraman the last two times). The main character in this work of panoramic discovery is Gene. He’s the exact person you think would jump off a bridge if you were walking by him that day. Long ratty black hair that whips around in the wind so uncontrollably that it slaps him silly. He has a tight leather black jacket and a defeated rocker look about him. His friends all say he talked about killing himself when you would ask a simple question like “what would you like for breakfast?” “To die” would be a typical answer. Gene is interesting because he’s tall, and his pale skin against his all black heavy metal guitarist ensemble looks angelic, or gothic. If the dialogue didn’t constantly lead up to his death, we might’ve thought he could walk away, but we did not want him too. By the end of this movie all you want to do is see people jump. I found myself concentrating so hard to see splashes in the water when they would show us the time lapse photography, and was let down when I didn’t see one. There’s something about seeing death and the disbelief that you’re watching it happen. It’s an experience unlike typical movies and TV, which are make believe and therefore it’s easy to shrug it off when someone gets killed, no matter how gory. Oddly enough, after the second jumper, it was easy to watch. Their trajectory, if they lept at the highest point, if they stepped over the ledge onto another ledge to await their decision, you start taking little notes to guess how serious they really were and you get a bit angry when they don’t do it, or are saved by a passerby. Yes, your heart races when you see them put their little hand onto that massive cable wire to lift themselves up onto the ledge. Their insignificance in size, space and time just drifts with the whipping clouds passing below them and the bridge. Since you as the viewer already know that what you’re watching is in the past, you’re willing to let happen what is completely out of your control, and that’s whether they live, or die. It’s probably the purest documentary out there because there’s no acting, no person signing a waiver letting a cameraman in their house to film what is absolutely the most intimate moment. You might think it’s also the most selfish documentary ever made, for the exposure of tainted minds and characters that could have somehow been helped and pulled back. I, however, do not agree with that sentiment. All these people wanted was to be noticed. To stand as high in front of the world as they could, screaming fuck you to the city that surrounded them and the sea below. Picking daylight as their perfect time to leap when we all know that the night is the worst and most feared for its loneliness. Because of their displays they are now known and remembered by me, and the thousands of others who have seen this. In light of popular yet sick ways to make a statement these days, they could have self-immolated in some tiny city in the hopes of spurning an Arab Spring. Would they have had any more purpose, or gusto then a guy pouring gasoline on himself?

Gene is the last in The Bridge to go, and that’s because he had the most dramatic fall and the best film footage from takeoff to landing. Instead of ruining with words what really is something terrifyingly quick but undeniably unforgettable, please take a look for yourself. And if not, there’ll be around 25 more people that will do it this year, and the next, and the year after that…after all, we’re a growing population. As sick as it sounds, I don’t look forward to a follow-up of The Bridge, but if there is one that comes out, I am bound to watch it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Documentary Review: Buck

I used to date this girl that worked for Jaguar. She would be asked to attend these equestrian competitions, where Jaguar was a sponsor, and stand by the cars as a representative. She knew nothing about luxury cars but she looked amazing standing next to one.

The people who came to these events were the Bloomberg’s of the world, and Bloomberg. On display, besides for cars, were top bred horses jumping, strutting, walking shoe over shoe to the left, then to the right, back and then forward. Listening not so much to commands, they would trot along, grand in cadence and form, all by the movements of their rider’s body. I never knew this type of thing existed. You see horses jumping on TV, knocking over the bars as they leap too short over the Mercedes Benz rose fence, and you wonder if it hurts their legs to land so hard. You also assume some person perched atop these pristine yet innocent beasts is wealthy and ultimately proving their status by donning such a phallic black velvet helmet. Who knew these animals had heart, or in this case, a mind of their own to not want to be tamed and flaunted and on display. The documentary, “Buck” where our character Buck Brannaman is the horse whisperer of sorts, looks at first glance like some Disney happy-go-lucky-fest where horses share eyes and ears with a soothing-psychic cowboy. By the way, Buck is the real reason behind Robert Redford’s “The Horse Whisperer”. In the documentary however, it’s not until the brutal beatings and child exploitation of our manly Buck which he reveals to us about his childhood, do we realize this ain’t no dog and pony show. His pop would giddily whip his two young boys for any little mistake they might’ve made in the family rope-trick and talent show that they traveled around and performed for local towns. Once or twice, they made it on TV. When you’re hiding in your doghouse in 20-degree weather with snow on the ground, nuzzled up next to Fido for warmth because it’s a better option then being inside during one of dad’s dickhead binges, you know you’ve got no options.

To our eager expectation, we come to enjoy watching the stern demeanor and measured movements of Buck. When he’s taming a wild mare in the ring, we're confused at first because he takes what’s alien to us, and earns its trust, and makes it look so easy. Even if you know nothing about horses, you can tell by the astonished reactions in his seminars as he takes anyone’s horse that they bring from home where they’d been struggling for years to get through to the animal, he goes and “breaks it” in minutes. Give him a half hour and he’s saddling what no one could have thought was even able to ride. A turning point, or a parallel is drawn to our own lives in the movie when a troubled woman brings one of her “kids”, as she described him, to see Buck and she complains of the attacks and bones she’s shattered trying to raise this horse. She fears for her own life but also can’t come to grips with having to put the horse down since she saved the horse from near death during birth when it was starved for oxygen far too long before coming around. Sitting there watching, I couldn’t wait for Buck to win this challenge….to show this woman that nothing is out of his reach, after all, these are horses which heavily rely on humans to bring them their food, to wash and bathe them when they’re mucked up. This was the David meets Goliath moment, and we’re ready for David to fucking win.

There was something about the craze in the horse’s eyes that got you thinking. Burnt red against it’s ivory blond hair, and I mean bloodshot, haven’t slept in months, don’t talk to me, where’s my coffee, oops I burst a vessel manic fucking red. Buck’s assistant is next to the pen tying off a boot or wiping down a saddle, I don’t even remember because the guy never talked, but right then, the horse out of the side of the camera like a fish jumping from a pond, whamm! The horse swung its head down, mouth open, teeth born to chomp, and like wood clucking hollow wood, the horse shucked a chunk out of this poor guy’s head as onlookers screamed. We went from G-Rated Disney to blood gushing PG-13 in a millisecond. At first, Buck’s eyes turned to scorn for the woman for bringing the horse to the seminar, for raising the damned thing, but truly, it was his fault for attempting it. All of us react first instead of sitting down and mulling it over, and eventually, he did sit down and have a chat with the lady.

The film drew a fantastic juxtaposition on life, our own struggle with our conscience. This was a mother and her child, except that her child was mentally disabled. In our world you can’t solve the existence of a disabled human being with a lethal injection…. well, some might argue that. As the story always unfolds, it comes down to the fact that no matter what the animal is, human or horse, you could wash it, wax it, buff it and stand it on a pedestal to be viewed and admired, hell, it might look really good, but when you ask it a question, and try to gain some understanding beyond the physical, you’re bound to get an answer. It’s what you learn from that answer and how you approach a similar situation in the future that’s the truest test of your ability to do better. Buck still seems to be getting it, and getting better at getting it, even still.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupy My STreet

I think I should take a stroll down to Zuccotti Park, or wherever the hell these Phish lovers are squatting and tell them what type of commando guerillas they need to become if they're ever going to help their cause. You can't raise your hands to buildings and shout. Yes, I give them credit for what they're doing, or at least those that know what they're fighting for. Every party has a few assholes that show up, the key is to kick them out before the cool kids, or in this case the intelligent and informed ones, leave. These buildings that lease space on so called "Wall Street" consist of regular workers for companies having nothing to do with finance. The stock exchange is a ghost town; picture torn tickets blowing up and around a dead end street like that damn plastic bag in American Beauty. Banking has moved to the burbs. Ride your Vespa on over the GW Bridge and fill up for gas where the money rests....places like Greenwich, Alpine and Rye. Hit up the Hamptons, Aspen, Bel Air and Malibu for other players that rule the wary world of billions. There is practically no one walking around "Wall Street." That's why there's no restaurants, clubs or businesses there and you frankfurters can setup shop and somehow encamp without too much trouble. They're happy you're there. "Here, take your's arid land, terrible for production and far from everyone so good, luck....setup a casino if you'd like." There's no way we can possibly make a difference when we're targeting a mass - you must target the individual. Hide in the fucking woods and ambush these guys. If you have a couple thousand of you, I don't care what their security looks like, you're going to have them by the balls. Do a quick search of those top hedge fund managers, check out Magnetar, research the CEO's of Blackstone, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman, Merrill, Morgan Stanley - all onshore firms, and see where they live. Type it into your google earth and pick up your sleeping bag, broom, hacky sack and ramen noodles, and walk briskly to their home. There's nothing these people want more than their privacy, and you can take that away by being adamant protesting paparazzi. You can instill such fear that it will sway them to enforce change for the detriment to their lifestyle and personal family's discomfort. They know they will be able to make money another way, and that comfort of theirs will have them leaning more towards some sort of concession, which at this point, you should be dying for. Make them miserable, and they'll change.

Our government will not be able to change the financial system drastically and I say that because it's the Atlas Shrugged scenario. If you regulate the industry too stringently, all the smart people in banking will just go where they can make money without Big Brother telling them what they can and can't do. Hedge funds and private equity firms are unregulated and every intelligent banker is going to tip his hat to the bureaucracy of federal government and bid them adieu if they start dabbling in their business. This isn't to say that they have many places to go where they too wouldn't be restricted, monitored or taxed. If they did decide to up and leave their country for their disinterest in paying into the economy where they enjoy all their success, then exile them. Exile them, scare the shit out of them to the point where they can't come back. We should not be afraid of losing big businesses, or banks or brainiacs. People are born every day in this country; there will be many more to help us along and the best damn schools in the world to assist in the matter. If big steel left us, they would lose a massive market share that would be made up by new companies sprouting here in the states; accessing mining zones herein and as well as allied countries worldwide. Limit foreign companies sales of goods to our citizens. Make it a mandatory requirement that at least 50% of the goods sold in America or to Americans from that company are made in-America. Have them invest in our country by having to build a factory or manufacturing plant to make the goods here. As long as their profit margin is high enough, of course companies would come. If not, we'd build it ourselves.

These Occupy Wall STreet Eeyore's, moping around with their donkey tails pinned, and their woe is me attitude isn't what the recent events of public political takeovers was like. No, I wasn't in Egypt or Libya when these protests were taking place, but I sure as hell saw the brutal coverage and take no prisoners heat in their eyes. Those people were fighting to disrobe and poke naked at the breast of dictators, the sores that they well earned and would love to transfer to men responsible for such distraught social division. And how did they achieve success? Those dictators feared for their fucking lives. It was a lynch mob of hundreds of thousands coming for your head. You're giving up when that's the thought you go to sleep with at night. Here in the states, we can turn in circles and point feverishly at anyone who has ever took in unemployment wages and say you're part of the problem, and someone who took a student loan and didn't pay it back. Any person purchasing a home who didn't read their mortgage and got knocked on the head when their fixed rate became variable after the fifth year. Or anyone who has ever earned a pension, anyone who has ever trusted someone in finance that got lied too, because even though they lost their money, they fed the flame of greed themselves and got taken. SOme of it is out of our hands, yes. We don't get to vote on stimulus nor would we know though how the hell to solve the issues of the banking world. I'd say let any business fail that's doomed to do so. If you cannot operate for a profit, then do not do it. Take away those companies receiving subsidies to operate, even the big transportation firms that are massive debtors. If you have to get to work, figure it out. Drive, ride your bike, I don't care - if the train is too expensive because we take away government subsidizing (which, by the way, is a root of socialism where government steps in to control big business in their country) then let them fail because no one shows up to take the train. Yes, a lot people that hold that company's debt or equity will then lose out, but the pain is a band-aid removal, quick and sharp - unlike the steady decline we're crawling toward which will make our rise too difficult to traverse. Once that train company goes bankrupt, good-bye, good luck. A firm will come in and buy the rails, the train cars, parts and find a way to operate the system efficiently without massive overhead or lifelong pensions and high ticket costs. If you can't afford the train, don't take it. It'll be a luxury of the rich or else disappear like every bad company until a new one can replace it or our tax money can replenish it.

Take away bankruptcy protection laws - all you're doing is having the back of some asshole that got too far in over his head, and those that followed the words of the preacher or nut-job that led the company, such as creditors, will have to suffer too. If I invest in a stock and it tanks, that's my fault for investing in it.

Tax everyone at the same rate. Get your actuaries together, formulate a plan on a good rate for everyone, and tax us all the same. We want fair, give everyone the same headache. Why do we offer tax write-offs? Pay your taxes and end of story. If you decide to donate, that's your prerogative, don't start asking for sympathy when you freely chose to give it away. If you're putting money back into your business, good for must be good. No one asked you to do it, but you decided it will grow your business, well fantastic, go right ahead and invest in your own company...but don't think you're writing off your entire revenue stream for three years because you decided to grow your business to make more money. I would take away these incentives and the people will have to make due with what their own lifestyle, earning potential and financial comfort is.

Outside of my wild ideas and my sort of Darwinian fuck everyone attitude, for these campers, these rucksack nature dwelling Zuccotti spirits, they must target 6 individuals and make their lives a nightmare. Change the tides of our public view on someone by exposing them with grandeur, and you watch, whomever that wealthy baron typically donates to every 4 years during their campaigns, will be charging ahead with new ideas on how to solve this issue. It won't be easy, but it's a jog towards the finish, not a philosophical circle jerk between potheads and the unintelligible offspring of Wiley Coyote.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Art: Commercial, Accepted or Just Plain Ugly

So I'm watching this show the other day, "Next Best Artist" and I'm sitting thinking to myself, "I could be on this shit." They show a few really interesting, beautiful pieces and then some worthless trash you couldn't even find scouring a freeway flea market in the middle of Kansas. I must admit though, that distaste right there, is why some things artists make achieve the distinction of being effective. I on the other hand just don't like to think I'm being duped by some guy who pretends his clay-mation wizard the size of a Mr. Peanuts can, is a work of art worthy of national attention.

Let me divert for a second here because points will be made my friends. My disgruntled behavior towards work that's less deserving of praise than a soiled square of Puffs softest toilet tissue stapled to a canvas, all began when I first went to the Art Institute of Chicago. I walked up to my mother staring at a 60"x60" canvas of Cy Twombly's that had pencil scribblings dancing about, and then a stray crayon smudge or two, and I asked "is this a fucking joke?" I assumed he must have some disability and for him to have created this piece, it must have been a labor of love and a feat beyond my own comprehension. Instead of my mother telling me to keep it to myself or to accept that differences in opinion exist, she says "do they think I'm stupid or something?"

Of course I looked up Cy Twombly the next day with hatred for the fact that he'd been displayed so prominently in a national museum, only to truly appreciate his work and value those pieces he's made (not the one in particular though at the museum...still, no love). Funny how the tables turn even in your own perception just by reading a bio. That may actually be the reason why I am writing this. Your perception is what makes or breaks your love for the work; 95% of which is based on your respect for the artist.

Somewhere in the non-existent yet truly impenetrable laws of good art and bad art is the acceptance of the existence of subjectivity. Screw all of you that just said there is no such thing as bad art...get over your hippie self. Art is writing, composing, performing, speaking, creating, photographing....and within each of those lie bad versions. "Wow, that guy is a bad actor...." - well wouldn't that be subjective? When watching that show the other day, one of the judges said that this little clay-mation-looking wizard thing "spoke to her", whereas the other judges asked "well what does it say"? They too were upset that the work was a third grader's homework assignment they'd create with their eyes closed during a heated match of Cranium. Did the man get eliminated? Nope, and the reason being....someone sorta liked what he had done. The guy that did go was an artist whose work I would hang on my wall. He was sent home when the judges deemed him far too similar to another artist, and ultimately "commercial." Sooo...keep the clay-mation Gandolf puppeteer but not the artist that would resonate with the masses? Not having to assume anything, we the audience already know why this is. Clay-groping donkey douche who calls himself "The Sucklord," more like Suckload, had already earned the respect of the main host of the show. We were made aware of his successful art sales during the 1st episode of the show by our judge Mr. Simon De Pury. To believe that the respect he had already earned did not somehow play a role in the judge's belief that the piece "spoke to her", I find hard to swallow. Of course it's possible, but when the critique comes right down to "hey buddy, your art looks like something made to go on my's too looks similar to a dead artist we have also come to respect (Keith Haring)...we've gotta let you go." I would say the likes of Willy Nelson's wife who said the lifeless sorcerer spoke to her should have kept her mouth shut just like she did throughout her cameos in Paranormal Activity's 1, 2, 21 and 87.

Yes, it's TV....they need good ratings, they need Suckload, I shouldn't take it so seriously.....well, I wouldn't I suppose if I too weren't trying to carve my own path into the art world. Something like this makes me shudder a bit because art has gone so far off in one direction that it's circling back around to the raw talent of Fine Art painters. That's at least what I believe because we're going to get so sick of trying to pretend some things are beautiful when they really might take zero talent whatsoever, and it's a good thing. It's tough to find traditional talent in art like it's impossible to see the beautiful difficulty of making a movie in the 1940's with a cast of 1000 extras and set designs beyond a decorator's wildest orgasm. You just don't see that type of effort and dedication anymore. We want results much quicker. At one point last year I read that the new art is digital art, and that if you're not using technology, you're going to be left behind. I nearly vomited at the thought. There's me hanging up a piece of art purely done through software and an inkjet printer, and I hurl down my velvet wallpaper. Why don't we start making clothes with materials like brown paper bags? Mmmmm, that wouldn't be cheap or effortless....I could just feel the soft paper cuts along my ankles.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Gates

Trying to stay coherent, I find myself racing through gates of questions. Lapping around and around in circles til I reach the next steel cage. We have just trotted up to another. I could smell my breath, dancing in short hiccupy bursts like a pearl diver before submersion. Our hearts raced in anticipation; mine in my chest and hers, deep within my thighs. The green steel bars stand in front of us like subway exit turnstyles, steaming to gray with each breath. She licks away the small strands of hay clamoring to the bars like scattered mulch. I just realized she is not as anxious as I am; who can eat at a time like this? If we don’t answer this question right, we’ll be left behind. After all, that’s the key to unlocking our cell. We have to answer a question and the doors ding open. It makes perfect sense. I’ve pictured game shows like this my entire life.

“Pop, how was Vegas, you haven’t told us!?” Someone brimming with excitement shouts.

“What was your favorite game in Vegas?!”

Ah yes, I forgot. I have guests. It’s nice to have guests. I really can’t complain. I’m just not in the mood I guess. I’d rather rest but what am I going to do, ignore them?

Thinking first about the question, I process my response quicker than I can say it, and my lips squirm like a fish. Before I can push out the words….another question.

“Are you a blackjack guy?”

I know that voice but I haven’t put two and two together.

“Oh how about Poker Dad? Don’t you love poker, or whatever they call it these days, Texas Hold’Em?”

Now that voice I know is my daughter. And no, I don’t like poker, too much strategy. Too much thinking. Gambling should be fun, quick, exciting. Sitting there for hours and hours, I just don’t trust people. I try and voice my distaste for such five card shenanigans, but I can’t keep my lips away from each other. I lift my arm towards the ceiling and pull down. Up then down, up then down, and man does it feel good. I could feel the ball in my palm like a cue. The tick of the arm as it comes down….tick, tick, tick, tick, tick…..tick, ching. I love that sound. The reels are off and spinning as fast as my heart can run. I need to pull that lever. I’m most alive when I do. I guess it’s the possibility or the fantasy that winning actually could happen. Your dream could actually happen by taking a chance and pulling that lever. And you, and only you have paid for that right to pull it at that moment, no one else. You have a claim to whatever sum of money spits out. I love it. Not to mention, throwing my arm in the air is far easier then finding the air to speak. My skin flaps and tingles as new air cools the underside of my arm. I guess I had it resting in one spot for a while right on my chest. I can actually breathe a bit better now.

“Slots! Haha, that’s right!” yells a woman.

“You see, he’s doing the slot pull thingy” whispers my grandson. That must be my grandson.

“The one arm bandits?! Yea pop? That’s your favorite?”

I know this man speaking, it’s Alan, my niece’s husband. He’s a loud jovial man with a lumberjack look about him. He would make the perfect Santa Claus if he dressed up like him. I hope he does because he has three great children and a booming voice.

“Oh he’s always loved the slots. He could sit and have two machines going at the same time and be hitting on the lady next to him” says my daughter.

“No way! Pop, is that right? You’re pulling double handles and macking it to the ladies?”

“Macking it?” I think to myself. I want to tell Alan I have no idea what “macking it” means but I figure it’s like flirting when put into context. I dismiss the idea with a fling of my arm as if to say “get outta hear with that nonsense, I’m a one gal man.” They know what I’m thinking already. My action is fleeting enough to qualify their que to laugh, so I smile. After all, this arm gesturing thing is getting pretty easy.

“Oh we’re just busting your chops Bob.”

A woman’s speaking but I’m yet to place the words with a body. She bends down and kisses me on the forehead. I can feel her hair along my cheekbone and then inside my ear. An endearing gift but one I’m not so sure the reason. She’s never done that before.

“We know Elyse was and always will be your sweetheart.”

Got it, it’s my niece’s girlfriend. Her name is Lisa, no wait, Linda. Lisa is my niece. I reach out with my hand and she grabs it. I’ve always been aware of their relationship. I’m not stupid. I know what goes on out there in this crazy world, but as long as they’re happy who am I to say anything. It’s none of my business. Let them be if they’re not hurting anyone.

I begin to claw at both my arms simultaneously. They’re folded but scratching furiously because it feels too good. They’re so damn itchy. They’ve been like this now for the past few days. Once the yellow went away, this started happening. One thing goes and another shows up. This itching though, it’s like Athlete’s Foot all over my arms. You can scratch for hours and satisfy nothing but a deeper gash. I’d take the tan any day over this. I should put oven mitts on my hands and duck tape them at the wrists til it passes. My daughter just sat down next to me; I can smell her. She always wears the same scent. A tube squirts like an empty ketchup bottle; it must be that gel that lubricates my arms. She trims my nails first and gives me the same scratching speech since my skin is too sensitive to handle it. Like I need another friggin speech. She then puts the cool gel all over my forearms up to the tops of my shoulders. My daughter hangs around so much more often than she’s needed; I can rub lotion on myself, thank you. One stinking setback after the next, and she feels she’s gotta be here at all times. I can’t wait, in a few days I can get back out there and hit my routine. Say hi to my girlfriend Rose at Stop & Shop by the deli counter. Slip down the aisle with the wooden barrels and plastic covers. Raid a couple olives with those sun-dried tomatoes in the center; by God those are heaven. The sour twinge they squirt in the back of my mouth makes my cheeks clench and rise as my eyes water. Then I’m off to catch my senior special at McDonald’s and say hello to Ozzie. He probably misses me; I could imagine him people-watching and commenting to an empty table beside him. Then over to Ikea for those Swedish meatballs. Mmmm my name, just the thought of them is getting my taste buds puckered. Luckily I have a friend over there. Her name’s Margaret. Margaret always charges me for the kid portion but knows my addiction can’t manage only four of those little jobbys. She piles em on…. “shush…keep it quiet Bobby, between you and me”, and gives me a wink. She could be fired for something like that. I have a lot of respect for her. Then off to my usual post office parody….ughhh that friggin post office. I’d love to shoot the breeze with Ethyl and Harry, see what’s new with their families, who’s dropping out of school or getting a new tattoo, but I hate that place now. Ever since I had to be helped up off the concrete like some drunken invalid; it’s the site of my most recent malfunction. Who slips, falls and breaks their hip right after a massive surgery? In broad day light, no less….how embarrassing. At least I’m still able to ride her. I don’t notice any pain at all as she gallops, so that’s good. With her I cruise, light and fast like nothing exists in the world but us. I just hate to feel that breeze tempering in my ears; I would rather it whip so loud that it silences the world around me like sprinting through a desert at sunset. If we’re slowing down I know we must be approaching another gate. It’s like arriving at your destination when you would so much rather keep looking out the window to contemplate the many what if’s your life reveals in hindsight. Motion does that, it gives you a blank canvas to project yourself, no matter what way you wish; just for speculation of course.

“Grandpa, did you get to see any shows while you were there?” my grandson yells.

“Yea, did you check out Wayne Newton or any of those Cirque de Soleil shows? I hear they are great.”

“They are great, I must’ve seen three or four of them by now…” says my niece to her cousin.

Someone whispered about trying to keep the conversation going. Old must mean deaf. We did see a show actually, but the man’s name escapes me. I open my mouth to talk but I need to sit up and gather my breath. I push my back up off the sheets to adjust myself. This damn bed seeps so deep I’m like meat in a soft tortilla.

“Oh, help him up.”

Five people practically dive on me, digging their hands under my back to lift. I can’t imagine their help actually helping. Fingers pinching and pulling my damp t-shirt, applying pressure quickly to thin skin so they can get their fingers further under. If they all lifted at the same time, maybe, just maybe it would’ve worked but instead I’m wincing and bouncing around. I hold back from yowling and thank them; what good would complaining do, especially when everyone’s involved. Now that I’m propped up on a few more pillows, I burp. It’s a disgusting, empty burp; one of those throw-up gurgles, and it friggin lingers of aspirin and water. Ugh, that was disturbing, I could use some water. I’m always taking some kind of pill since the surgery and my daughter keeps trying to feed me some crap that I don’t want upsetting my stomach. I’ve told her I’m not hungry thirty times. I know what I want, what do you want from me? If she wasn’t so annoying, I might try to eat. Hocking up mucus and congestion in every breath, my daughter’s handing tissues constantly. The bed looks like a woman just got finished watching Ghost. If she wants to help she can stop wiping my scratchy face and friggin shave me for chrissake. I can’t wait to shave again. I don’t think I’ve ever missed a day but now I can feel the stubble press into the pillow when I sleep. It’s so weird that facial hair just keeps growing. What is hair? This weird strand of god knows what just starts forming under your skin, and then pops out? Where does it go once it doesn’t come back?

“Dad?” my daughter announces.

I shift my head towards her direction. I don’t think I’ve opened my eyes yet, but I can see everyone just fine. You know how you feel when you fall asleep at the wheel, you project the road in front of you as if you’re still driving but your eyes in the meantime have drooped closed? You don’t even notice the real world from a dream. I can hear all their voices and where they’re coming from, so I’ve painted my own visual. That’s the easy part, now if I could only separate these damn lips.

“Oh, he opened his eyes.”

“Hey Pop!”

“Shhh, he’s gonna say something.”

I find it odd that they’re so eager and attentive. I lower my eyebrows and I can see them become worried that I’m mad.

“We saw…”

“Yea pop, who’d you see?”

I’m trying to friggin tell you for chrissake, I think to myself, gathering breath.

“An illusion…”

“What’d he say?”

“I don’t know, we’ve really gotta listen.”

“Shhh…what’s that dad, you saw a what?”

“The rabbit….”

I breathe and try using my hands again as I gather some friggin oxygen in such a stuffy overcrowded bedroom.

“A rabbit?”

“I don’t know what a rabbit means.”

“I can’t believe how bad he’s gotten, so fast.”

A concentrated look comes over my grandson and I can tell he almost knows what I mean. Frustrated, I could feel my body wriggling and my lips munching cornbread without milk. I begin to pull a long-eared bunny out of a hat and open my arms.

’wwahh lahhh”, a frog says.


Maybe not a frog, but my voice sounds like a bad Dracula impersonation. It’s on the tip of Alan’s tongue.

“Haha, he saw a magic show” says my grandson.

“An illusionist! I get it now…who’d you see? Seigfried & Roy?” says Linda.

“Thank you” I say and shake my head no.

“Oh, who’d you see then?” asks my daughter.

“Wait, who’s that guy that used to be married to Claudia Schiffer?” asks Linda.

“David Copperfield?”

I throw my hand up and point to my niece.

“No way, you saw David Copperfield!?”

I nod. My words just don’t sound clear without my dentures.

“Wow Dad, you didn’t tell me that and I’ve been here for four days.”

I throw my hands up like I’m supposed to know she’s unaware of what Brian and I did in Vegas.

“don’t have to tell you every…”

“Yes you do!” she responds with a big smile.

I grab her by the chin and give her a bothered shake. My hand slips off pretty quickly. My hands are bone dry as usual. I don’t know if I grew up like this or when it started happening, but I’m the guy spilling soda all over the dinner table. I’d actually rather have butter fingers than mine. Always carrying around that damned pocket-sized container of hand lotion; talk about a ridiculous condition. God forbid I meet someone and they go in for a handshake; chalk. They usually rise to their tippy toes and suck in til my grip is released. Their smiles stiffen and jaws juice; I can actually hear it. I never did the whole vice grip thing though, that I can attest too. I hate those guys. One time Elyse and I were out at a corporate Christmas party for Metropolitan Life. Elyse was wearing her new sea foam colored dress, and I specifically remember it because she had just come back from Sears & Roebuck and was trying it on when she boasted how festive she looked. I looked at her hair clips to see if they had silver bells or turtle doves with red bow-ties…embroidered holly or jolly santas on her stockings, nothing. I just didn’t get it. I hadn’t even said anything and she read my eyes. “My dress dumbie.” I said, “what about it? It looks nice.” “It’s green, for Christmas!” Once we got to the party, we sat down at our assigned table, grabbed some egg nog from the crystal bowl in the center of our table, and one of my assistant’s sat down. Right next to her was her husband, which she promptly introduced to Elyse and I. And I tell ya, this guy took my hand and tried to suffocate a bird. “You’ve got a lot to prove with a grip like that” I said. He didn’t seem to like me but for all I knew, his wife was coming home everyday with stories of office discontent. Instead of blaming her, I went in for another quick shot during his silence. “You a military man? You shatter any lady’s hand helping her out of a car?” I kept sipping my egg nog as Elyse gave me a kick. I hated that macho, holier-than-thou crap. I sit up straight and breathe in. Jostling a bit, I grab the iron at my right and stand up in the stirrups to shift my pants from riding up. She is so strong, I can just feel it as she doesn’t even budge at my adjustment. Sitting back down, I practice my crouch and pat her on the neck. Her hair is so course but shines like velvet. I wipe my smooth face of any drool that flew out uncontrollably and prepare for the next sprint. We go so unbelievably fast I don’t even remember the question; I must’ve got it right.

Someone’s hollerin…“Pop, did he make something huge disappear, or what?”

He actually did and I’m surprised Alan guessed that. That must be something all magicians do.

“A sports car” I say.

“Oh yeah? A Ferrari I bet!” booms Alan.

“Yea, it’s gotta be something like that. I saw a show, maybe it was Cribs or whatever, and they had this panoramic view of his house and all these gorgeous cars lined his driveway. He’s such a showboat” says Lisa.

“The guy’s a multi-millionaire magician. Of course he’s a showboat. These guys get off on attention. They’re attention whores.”

I can sense a bit of jealousy in my grandson’s voice when he says it, but he’s right. Modesty is a great quality. I’ve been in this house my whole life. My kids get whatever they want and I denied my wife nothing of course. It’s not like she wanted a sports car or anything. Kenny and Robby, now those are two guys that love their cars. Robby has that beautiful Corvette; purple-paint, tan top. That thing shines like my shoes. You can barely hear the engine start-up; it’s unbelievable. The thing sits 6 inches off the ground. Not that I know how he gets in and out of it, being 6’4”, 245 and 61. Wait, 61 or 62? Karen is…well, hmm….they’re all five years different, that I know. Elyse and I were married in 1949 and had Robby right away so…..well, 9 months or so later, that’d be…well, that might’ve been 1950 since we were married in July, so, well then yes, he’s 61. If he’s 61, then Karen is 56, Brian 51 and Kenny 46. Got it.

“A Rolls Royce?! How about that pop? Was it a Rolls Royce?”

Nah, it wasn’t a Rolls Royce, Kenny could never afford something like that. He has that racing car…..oh darnit, this is going to bother me…what’s the name…it was yellow with black racing stripes. SuperCharger? Nah, something with an animal on the side of it, a little insect towards the tail. It kind of looked like that bee from Honey Nut Cheerios. Oh, SuperBee, haha. That’s right, the SuperBee, thank god. I would have thought I was losing it. That’s gotta be an antique at this point. Made out of real steel, not that fiberglass plastic nonsense. Back into a fire hydrant and it folds like cardboard. That bee’s a car from back when men fought for their jobs, back when they had a trade and rode it through their entire lives. Families were better for that. Not that I wouldn’t love to sit in Robby’s Corvette because it’d be a real smooth ride, I just think I’d like to feel that engine rumbling my rear, giving me confidence like a weapon in battle. That’s old-time muscle right there. Cars would roar down the streets and cops would give you a break if they caught you doing something you shouldn’t. They were all veterans. They knew that what these kids were doing was miniscule compared to what they’d done or seen overseas. There was no reason to penalize their own or drag them down. We would look out for our own. Lead them in a direction with a few less hills to conquer. I remember they’d brought Robby home that one night. They just kept knocking on the door until I flicked on the porch light, all foggy headed, standing in my skivvies. The officer took his hat off and introduced himself. Robby’s head was down. He knew he’d screwed up, but to be honest I was glad it wasn’t something far worse. They’d just said they’d stopped him after he was swerving around town and figured it’d be better to let his old man handle him before he hurt anyone. I wonder if Robby remembers that? Where is Robby? And where’s Kenny? I feel like I just saw them, today, yesterday….who knows. What is today? The weekend maybe; too many people to be otherwise.

“What time is it?” I ask.

“Hey Dad!”

I open my eyes to such an exuberant response. I’d thought my eyes were open; I must be dozing.

“Umm, it’s 730” says Linda.

“Not too late” I respond, forgetting why I asked.

“Nah, not too late for a Wednesday.”

I looked over at my daughter to see if she was trying to trick me. When I saw her face, I could tell she wasn’t. I pretend to act like I know. I don’t want to question it or act overly surprised because I despise being made a fool of. No one visits on weekdays; there’s no point in it.

“Pop, who do you think’s gonna win the world series this year. You a Yankees fan?” Alan asks.

I readjust the sheets for a second and scratch my arm. I can see splotchy bursts of dark red below the skin so I stop.

“Baseball is a great sport…”

“Of course it is. America’s pastime! My kids and I adore….”

I raise my hand to pause Alan; holding one finger high. A roar of laughter ensues. I glare a toothless grin and raise one eyebrow. I repeat…

“Baseball is a great sport….”


Everyone laughs as Alan smirks and crosses his arms, blushing. I guess I couldn’t have cut the thought off at any better a moment.

“I have never really been a fan,…

those jibonies get paid way too much…

to hit some friggin ball…

the size of my fist.”

I look at my grandson.

“Get a job like that…

I’m telling ya.”

My grandson smiles with an “alright buddy, sure” but I’m not buying it.

”You don’t like baseball?” I ask him.

“Not so much grandpa, plus I’m a little late in starting now, don’t ya think?

“Forget school and go…

hit a million golf balls….

See…forget baseball…

you can play that…

til you’re my age.”

I stare at my grandson still lacking intent while the others cheer me on. He’s such a good looking young man, I just wish….oh I remember now…. I’ve told him over and over.

“Didn’t I tell you….”

“Yes Grandpa.” He already knows where I’m going with this.

“Then go do it!”

“What are you waiting..?”

“I will Grandpa, I just gotta take some acting classes. You can’t just show up…”

“Of course you can!”

He laughs and smiles, but what he doesn’t know is my generation had to make things happen. You couldn’t just sit around and hope it comes. Just go do the bloody thing and see what happens.

“Alan?” I point at him.

“Yea pop?”

“I’m a ponies guy.”

“Oh yeah!”

Alan smacks his forehead. He’d long known this but I’m not surprised it’d skipped his mind.

“Well Pop, let me ask you this? What track you recommend visiting? You must’ve been to all the tops?”

It’s funny but what his question reminded me of wasn’t the memories of track visits or famous races, women in their finest hats and feathered dresses. What I heard the most in his sentence was the way he prefaced the question with a question. It’s something a salesman does. He’s prepping the audience to gather themselves in a position of answering a question that may or may not be intrusive or personal. It’s a technique. Someone who’s less then receptive in-person or on the phone, will automatically be more so when you do this. Alan is a salesman, and I know that. I just hadn’t thought how noticeable it was until I heard one of the same lines I used to deliver back when I sold life insurance. Every important sentence would begin with “let me ask you this.” The person on the other end of the line would so blatantly adjust themselves in their seat that you could hear it. It’s like that comfortable feeling that comes over you when you sit down in an airplane. You submit yourself to a world that will be out of your control for a specific period of time; relinquishing the platform to a new speaker as it’s no longer your turn. It was easier to sell back then. People didn’t have much in the sense of advertisements, TV shows, competing products, differing opinions and analyses on every little detail. People trusted people who were more knowledgeable. Life insurance was an easy sell. Who wouldn’t want to protect their family if they died? We loved our wives like no other. We know what it was like to not have them in our lives for years. We weren’t letting them out of our sight, unless we were dead. And if we died, we sure as hell weren’t going to leave them empty handed. Now, you probably couldn’t sell life insurance to a clairvoyant. In fact, he’d probably apply for every credit card he could, start spending like a banshee and then off himself before the interest kicks in. Kicks in….kicks…in…..kickin….kick. My beautiful girl let’s out a loud, disgruntling breath as she shakes her head hard up and down. I’m an idiot, I haven’t looked up. We haven’t moved yet. The gate is still closed. “Sorry about that”, I tell her, leaning low and close. I graze my hand in the opposite direction of her hair just to feel it pierce through my clammy hand. The color changes slightly like rubbing suede or petting a schnauzer or dragging your feet through a new rug. “I thought we were running babe, haven’t we answered them all?”


“Hey pop, is it Belmont pop?”

Apologizing, I wave him off because I really haven’t been to many tracks yet.

“There’s three I’m yet to see…”

“Oh?” Alan nods.

“Which ones you wanna get to see Uncle Bob?”

“Did you hear me?” I asked.

“Oh no, what’d you say Pop, did you say something?”

“I said…”

“…I’ve been to Belmont.”

“He lives at OTB” says my daughter.

“I don’t live there!” I growl. I don’t like it when kids say something, and they don’t know what they’re talking about. I’m only there for hellos and a few nickels and dimes. The minimum bet is a dime. Francis and the cats give me a “Hey Bobby” salute, and I usually curtsy a “gentlemen.” It’s my fraternity of TV addicts. No one mentions their actual bets to anyone unless they win, but Lenny could have six races going at once, but only talk to you about one, which is his golden goose. Even geese, to replace a more masculine word, poop the bed. I like to place one bet at Churchill Downs, Belmont, Dover, Freehold, Oaktree and Goldengate. I’ve had a lot of luck with Goldengate. It’s just one of those things. When you’re hot at a place, it doesn’t even matter if you lose 20 or 30 races, you’ll always remember the big wins and share those stories with everyone. Who wants to hear about losing? Not me. I’ve never done well at Turf Paradise. I don’t even like the name of the place. Sounds like some desolate desert putt-putt golf course off route 66 or something. I can just imagine it, dusty wind blowing off the hard crackled sand, cactuses as tall as palm trees acting as markers to remember where you parked your Caddy, 45 degrees in the early morning, 112 by mid afternoon, the grass outside the field-stand is bleached, short and flattened from relentless tires pursuing their fix. Anything with the word “turf” in it doesn’t sit well with me; that’s all. Name is everything in this sport. Same flies for the horse; if it ain’t named good, it affects your heart. You place your heart in every bet. I don’t care how low the payout is. We’re in it for the thrill of being involved. We love having a stake. It’s funny how we always say that. We all know what that means because it’s supposed to be a sort of tongue twister, or play on words. We have a “stake… the stakes.” “Hey Franny! You staking out your stake in the stakes?!” We’d yell it out over the benches when he’s reading his odds up at the counter. Everyone in the room laughs and someone usually throws in a dumb line about buying everyone steaks for dinner with the winnings, but it’s not the same word so I don’t like it. I’ll never say I don’t like it to whomever it is, but that’s the truth. Francis always likes to hand his money to Glenda at the counter. I shouldn’t say it’s just him; we all really like entering our bets with Glenda; we all have a crush on her. We only go to her though when we’re betting a decent amount. We wouldn’t want to look like cheapskates with our dimes and quarters, so we only stand there when our intentions are too the moon. We’ll use the machines for the really small ones. Those damn machines are so impersonal. They just take your money and lock it away. I like making eye contact. I always liked that. I always like the ponies I can see. They’ll look right at you, like you’re right there with them. You can see the fire in their eyes. Young and wild, that’s it, you’re indebted. I always wanted to ride one, hard and tight. Pinching em between my legs but hovering all the same to manage each galloping impact in my knees and hips. You’ve gotta manage it. Not like I’m light enough to really race but I always imagined it like being in a falling elevator. Right before impact, you somehow push off, curl, duck and roll to support yourself. I’d have my chin so low I would just bury it in her mane for aerodynamics. There’s no more powerful a smell I’d bet. Not even a woman’s perfume. I’d have her take me as far and as fast as she can go. Passing my friends as we would all get to challenge each other in one big race of course, and during that race I would just peer on over and yell “manage your jealousy boys, it’s my turn!” “Thwack, thwack….” the leather would land in rhythm with her leaps and I’d holler to the wind “gaw head baby, we’ve got it….open her up…I want to fly so fast that the ride won’t ever seem to stop.” In that same wind she did too whisper, and not through sound nor whistling breeze did her words travel, but through the hair that brushed against my face. And from face, the words trickled into my ear, and reassured me that she could handle this. “We’ve got it Pop, we’ve always had it” she said. And so I say in a whisper on back “let’s go get em sweetie….this is our chance…don’t you dare stop until you see that next gate.”