There are still over 200 pages remaining. You could buy it now and save cyberspace from more literary junk.
Break for a discussion about today’s human drama…
I know that I am nil. Not right in the brain. Sometimes I feel unable to cope with reality. Sure, I am a frustrated artist trying my damnedest to stay sane in America. Sure, but I am also a man. And you can’t put off that reality to suit your particular tastes for the day. That means when the family goes out with the baby for her first outing, and you stop at the bank to pick at your dwindling fortune, for the luxuries of bread and butter, and you are already wondering if you’re fucking crazy because half the world is starving to death and you don’t have the balls to say, I’ll do whatever the hell I want in this pot-bellied country of filthy rich plumbers—I’ll turn green if I must, and rot away, before I lower my head to these hermaphroditic cows. Work for a living! Ha! I’d like to see the man who works as much as I do. And my work ain’t your idea of slapping on aftershave, day after day, until you retire and then you’re dead. My work isn’t saving up for Thursdays with the boys playing threes, fours, or twenty-one, or wondering why I was put on this earth, if not to frighten the shit out of any man who is not exactly like me. I work every waking moment of my life. I’m inside this brain. I know. Great, so the true lord knows my worth, but I know that he’s a worthless piece of shit too. Is he gonna pay me? Are you? Why not? I am a starving child of Africa you god damn fake-a-lot! I thought my illusions were too great to ever achieve happiness in this life. It’s a fight every morning, not to get out of bed, not to love my wife, not to cook a fine meal, not to revel in merriment, not to joke, not to play, not to teach, not to learn, not wonder, not sing… Never to sing—Jesus Christ don’t sing! If you sing, you’re a goner. We’ll look the other way. If you sing without us; if you try to do it without us, we will become your tormenting torturers. We fight like hell to get out of bed. No, we really don’t. We pretend to. We hate ourselves but we hate you more. Why don’t you get it you poor baby sapling? We are not real! This is all here for you. It’s your test. The car just went dead in the bank parking lot because we are watching you. We know Murphy’s Law. We made that up on the spot so Marie would have something to say about the car dying. Marie isn’t real. Not to you. We will decide when you are ready to love a woman. Afraid aren’t you? Too bad! You’re the only one. We’re here for you, as instruments of torture. Look at us? Do you think we would actually look this pathetic in our real world? We look like slabs of granite that received sentience five minutes ago. So get out of the god damned car! No one’s gonna give you a red cent to write this drivel for a living. Can you turn a wrench? Join the plumber’s union. Put your kid in school. Buy a car that works. Stop pretending that an artist in Paris is respected simply because some streets are named after dead ones. The artist is a worm anywhere. You don’t write well. You have an eighth grade vocabulary. You stutter. Sometimes when we talk to you we wonder if you will actually start crying. Get out of the car! Scrap all the love letters. Feel around in your asshole while you take a shower and guess right that we shoved something up there. We are testing you, and we are not merciful.
Get out of the car!
That’s good. Now walk across the street to the mechanic and do what we do. Don’t you dare set the car on fire. Why should Marie abandon a car for the rest of her life just because you say so? We tell her what to feel—not you gumbo! Who do you think you are anyway? Get back in the car. Try again. Perfect, it started. Do you see? We knew it was going to start all along. Now get home you loser and keep up the sissy chores you call work until your wife and children despise you.
What happened last night? Hmm. That is why I am against the afternoon. I think the brain gets overloaded, like in dreams when the baby sleeps in the middle. One cannot fall deep enough into sleep to have normal dreams and forget about them. So he dreams about Michael putting his hand on your thigh. Never a beautiful dragon to befriend, who carried him on her wing and vowing protection from men.
At 3 p.m. my state of mind takes a turn for the worse. All downhill until darkness. In the night I am okay. I loathe to write in the afternoon, which seems to be the best time of day to scare the crap out of myself. I don’t really have little voices telling me what to do. That is the dog barking while the rent-a-car girl bangs at the door. And all that garbage about Murphy’s law? Marie could have stood at the door to tell me, “Time for cereal,” and the bad day would die. Sure the car didn’t start. Yes, of course I fear that no one wants me if I will not make a living with money. At six a.m. I can wake up feeling like a poor French farmer in February. There are chores that need to be done this morning but the afternoon is set up perfectly for idleness. By three I feel as though he never belonged on the farm. He spent the next hour dragging the anvil to the pond in the rain, and another half hour tying the rope to it and his legs. If he could stall just a few more minutes, the cold sun would set again, and the horse would need to be brought in and fed.
I can’t help that my brain sits by a pond tied to a heavy weight everyday at three. It’s been that way since I wanted to write, but knew I wouldn’t be any good at it, and so not even the people most dear to me would care.
Now baby Jane cries. The French farmer in need!
Later that afternoon…
I believe in heaven and God.
There, now that is beautiful.
So is this:
After I am through with grown up lying, I want to spend the rest of my career writing about a tree. It would take ten lifetimes if I had any guts. Men cannot live for long with art. The art crazy man, the artist most true to his art, could never complete his piece, in any medium, whether it be music, painting, literature, if he were wise to the tree. One tree. It should be the beginning and the end. The painting cannot end. How can it? A true gaze cannot lie about its infinity. Only men stop and start anew. Not again, anew. The more trees the artist carries under his arm, the greater the artist. Nobody except the lunatic can be true to just one tree. And when I say “lunatic” I mean exactly that—the moon barking up the wrong tree type.
The presentations were today.
I will get to the story in a moment.
I held Janie in my arms while I wept to the music of the past.
Yes I weep. I am a man with a heart.
I believe in heaven and God
I believe in angels watching down
Our babies go to God
The animals go to God
You go to God if your food dish goes with you
I have never made anyone happy.
I am such a stuffed shirt of wrong knowledge
Everything is inside God
And he’s gonna drag our noses through
the mud and stink of his own shit lies!
I love the beauty of heaven and God.
Whatever is so important about us not stopping
and going to see God?
This isn’t even what I mean!
If I should ever lose my daughter to him
I believe in the beauty of a heaven and a god
I shall become the final wrath of him
I love her believing in angels
O the bitter hard eternity of
forever and not believing!
Now the only fiction to this journal, other than the name changes, are the dates remaining. I want to give the impression that I am losing my mind.
Yet no matter how bad the situation, it’s impossible for me to lose it. I am aware of my sanity. I know that I am right because I am true to my belief. That is the second fiction. You watch—I will get desperate enough to lie to myself. What I promise not to do is give the truth anymore. Fools and fairy tales know the truth, and like to hear its bell’s steady chime through the maddest kinds of chaos.
So tomorrow I will fake the date. The rest of this work is purely
Vive Los Cerdos Se Llaman Sammy y Rosita!
En la casa verde pequeña
Sentiamos en el piso
como “ba-na-na a-eating moan-key”
con ojos como grande
como tus ojos
dale a uno en la cara
mira fuera de ventana.
El noche de invierno
con un poco de copos de nieves gordos
y un mapache detiene
en las pisadas de la zarigüeya
mientras que un luz caliente echa
de aqui nuestro espacio pequeño
Los cerdos cantan las alabanzas
de el cielo y la tierra
y sus plato amarillo de
Looks pretty damn good, don’t it? Doesn’t matter what kind of crap it is, I wrote it down in another language. Do you want the truth? It’s written in the ancient Iberian tongue, “Ballazan”. It was recited before the hunt to bring good luck and safe return of the men and their rabbit kill. I would attach a footnote like T.S. Eliot, to insure that enough college professors would know its meaning. Then everyone would be happy again. Ah poetic license! To rhyme rain with again, and jerk on and off to the sound of your own voice on tape.
But “Ballanzan” is Spanish and much too crude for dignified poetics. Now ancient Greek, there’s a language that even Greek goats don’t want to know.
“Mr. Pound, Are you interested in the price of partial immortality?”
“What do I have to do? Or rather, ºª£¢∞ª-tu-tu-agape?”
“Do you think goats would know it?”
“Not on your life Mon ser! Here’s ten thousand pages of dribbling nonsense. Ten different languages and if I go a little crazy, some even shittier poets will climb up my pretty Venetian staircase to pay their respects. Shh! I’m pretending to be Metropolitan. I’m a high class chap with a cane. I know the American Negro should have cracked my legs broke, and given me some real reason to walk with a cane. I used to ride past Sunday morning church lynchings with my ont and ooncle ∞£¥¨å-˙µ≤.”
You mean the great Ezra Pound actually lived in America?”
“Yes, I hate to admit it. But I am a coarse man. Though no less feeble than my goodfriend, T.S. (The initials stand for Takeanother Snackyoufake) His mummy and duddy had a sick psychic sense of humor.”
“Who cares? We got you worldwide fame. Now write anything. Become obsessed with language. Say ‘Viva Italiano!’ Start singing ‘Mussolini, Mussolini’ before everybody finds out that what you fear more than anything is your arm being sawed off on a stump. We can guarantee a smart place for you in university books for at least a hundred and fifty years. You did much more for American letters than a tiny mouse taking a drink from a rain puddle, then scurrying across a sheet of loose leaf paper, dropping turds. If it weren’t for your exhaustive efforts we might be living in a crazy world today, where children shoot children and poetry doesn’t do a bit of fucking good!”
“So, where are you going with this my dear friend?”
“Oh, Mr. Pound, I’m so sorry. Some ancient Greek, a woman’s scarf and a motor car. Twenty lines by next Friday and immortal fame. Fair enough?”
Do you get it now? Drippy drippy snot boy is having a breakdown. I live in a small house in winter with my beautiful family. A minute ago I let the dog out wondering if I could beg a dollar a week from a hundred people. Who in his right mind would donate to the enemy? Obviously no one wants to know the truth about the death of his eyes. In France I hear there’s a man running amok across the land terrorizing McDonald’s. What words? There is deed. Words from the messenger maybe: “Bon jour fellow Frenchmen. You have five minutes to drop your burgers and vacate the premises. José Bové awaits his vindication! Au revoir!”
José Bové is a sheep farmer and a folk hero. It’s not in his plan to kill people. But he has got to want people to kill themselves if he is ever to see in his lifetime all McDonald’s erased from French soil. What does that even mean? Kill themselves? Are you speaking literally? Does José Bové understand? Probably not. He is winning the fight with action! The battles against timid quarter-men with money. Yet no matter how brave his disrespect for his own freedom, the man is still a silly phony. You have to do to the corporate men the same thing you do to the baby lamb when the children are having hunger pangs. How in such a short span of history have we become so afraid of death for a cause? I expect to be killed for my belief. There are many like me taking their life in their own hands. Why not fight first? What have we become in two hundred years? Where is the guillotine of old to get the bourgeois’ legs up and running? If I was a shepherd raising my flock for food and raiment, and the majority of my fellows mocked and blocked my humble means of earning a living for the desire of a poulette de croquette, I could not stop at the polite burning down of their silly little eating houses. I would have three choices: Fight to the death anything that endangers my existence. Kill myself. Or run far away on this big fat planet to hide.
I would invite José Bové to come visit my street, never ever named after a dead artist, because America is a filthy degraded age old horror show of an old witch afraid of death and losing another tooth. Before my suicide I’d give the good Frenchmen a real taste of madness. A walk down the highway of a fifty thousand McDonald’s. We would invite ourselves into the home of the squirming CEO of the multi-billion dollar franchise and ask him a few polite questions that have waited long enough on the tongues of true poets and warriors. Questions first asked at the beginning of time and repeated again and again up to the moment, not long into our future, when the last fat slob died screaming in his lounge chair, clutching a double cheeseburger.
José Bové will have his list, but I want mine to be the last words heard by the CEO before we force feed him to death, pound after pound of the shit he peddles to humanity. Just a few polite questions to get down to this business of the madness of more business.
Why were you born?
How did you get into this house?
How many people can you kill a year?
I want to know exactly how much an apple costs. How much?
Where are your children?
What do you think of Jose’s mustache?
Are you afraid?
Did you know that you’re the last one we’ve come to?
How do you feel now?
Do you know who Rachelle is?
Have you heard of baby Jane?
Do you know Marie?
Is life glad?
Do you think highly of existence?
Why is there evil?
There is a woman on the planet who froze to death in the road last night. The baby wrapped up in her arms also froze. Two of your managers saw her lying in the road. Did you help kill her? Answer the truth or I will eat you alive!
Do you deserve to laugh?
If I leave right now would you send me a dollar a week in the mail? Even if I pay the postage?
Your turn José.
“Jesus Ron! That’s why I don’t like you wordy, poetic poops. You just take him by the hair like this. You put your eyes to his. You say, ‘I spit on your ancestors and I make love to your wife and daughter.’ And then you eat him. Here. Bon appetit.”
March 17, May 1, and August 22
Now I am trying to create the illusion of time’s wear on the potentially mad. I don’t expect anyone to believe that insanity happens just like that, lickety-lickety. Really, I just want to end this crap because it’s still winter and I am sad on and off. And I need to write something beautiful, or get a job so I can end the selfish worry. Most of my day is a “what if?” about me. Yuck. That is not love. Nor is being a smart ass know-it-all and everyone else be dead wrong. Don’t forget to tell them in writing so they hate you. They made you what you are by reading the paper and clipping coupons, when they damn well knew all along that there is enough fear and disgust of one man’s idea of himself to detonate a massive self neurotic bomb in his garage full of gardening equipment brain.
Two real conclusions for the modern man who feels:
Conclusion #1 (rip out page to write last words here)
I got a job mowing lawns today. I think I’ll start a landscaping business.
June 22, 2010.
It’s Father’s Day. Took Janie to camp. Rachelle called and told me to go to hell. I’m a shit father, she says.
Kevin and Jody are here to take Marie and I to the couple’s tournament. I write only to show the futility of conclusion #2. America is no place for the artist. It’s a shame when the only people he loves are American. Oh well, wish me a pleasant round.
From the gentle nuzzling of a pony searching your pockets for a carrot,
Ronald J. Throop
Book#2 March Madness In Oswego
I am living in a house on West Seventh Street in Oswego. The morning is wide open. I am up early writing once again. I do this every day to save my sanity.
Yesterday I interviewed for a position as a bookseller. I am trained to be a cook. Over the years I trained myself to be an idiot. When I was twenty something, I actually dreamed up how beautiful life would be if I became the village idiot. Then I knew the real value of an autumn day. I used to pretend that I was one of Oswego’s wild creatures. I collected horse chestnuts and dead leaves.
Anyway, the bookseller’s job. It won’t be available until May. It is March and ugly outside. Still, I was happy that the interview went well. That is, I didn’t throw up on Mr. Biley. He did most of the talking, which was nice. Said he lived in Manhattan for twenty-five years and wanted to plant roots in Oswego of all places. But it was imperative that he and his wife find the perfect business first, otherwise, do like I do, and create a self-destructive philosophy, and then just see if he can feed his family with that! If I am fifty years old without roots, I will be a dead tree that is still standing. If I do not know where I am at fifty, I have prolonged life unnecessarily. You can see that I am very bitter. I want the wind to blow me over.
I think I got the job. He wouldn’t tell me for sure. The clothes I need to buy would cost a week’s pay. My old cook’s clothes are too soiled to sell books in. It is difficult for me to digest the silliness of a minimum wage job demanding a dress code. I got paid twice that much for coming to work unshaven, unshowered, wearing holy shoes with last month’s food stains stinking on the laces, dandruff, bad breath, long, foody fingernails, minimal or no grooming whatsoever… I can get paid ten times minimum wage sweeping floors at the power plant. For that position I need to gain fifty pounds in my boobies alone, and have no bumpy sores growing on the inside lining of my colon. I don’t think there is any hope for people.
All week long I have had the nerve to dream about my next book. We have had some dangerous days this month. That I won’t deny. I say I had the nerve it’s true. It is a sin around these parts to dream or be happy. No one believes me and is quick to say that I am being a baby. But I am telling the truth. It is practically against the law to be an artist in Oswego. When my wife was in school a dirty short Italian slum lord commissioned her to draw his rental properties. The pride in Oswego is twisted and demented. She got more money for drawing aluminum siding and hose faucets than I have made in my entire life through creative effort. In Oswego I can be a roofer and make a pile of dough on summer days. In Oswego some say there is an art to laying shingles. I disagree. All the men are envious of the shirtless roofers tanning in the midday sun. They are free to listen to classic radio, dream of draft beer, and ride their bikes home from work… It sounds like a damn good job to me too. But I promise you the roofer would be a bitter crying baby if he didn’t make any money building roofs. Hence, no art to laying shingles.
I am through with politeness. It’s over. I am no longer a gentleman. I am off that path, waiting by the road that forks into the forest. I am eating my lunch of bread and cheese on a log. I am thinking.
Hmmm. The one road leads to present day Oswego, N.Y., America. The other to revolution. The sign pointing to anarchy reads: “First with words, maybe with deed, but never with a god-damn care for human beings.” The other sign, pointing to home and the electric bill, has a picture of a pot-bellied man with greasy hair, sipping coffee at a diner. It reads: “This way to the living death in Oswego.” Gee, I wonder which path will be safer, which more fun? Revolution or the status quo? Always a very difficult decision to make. Either way I end up alone. The decision will be made after reading the signs, and comparing their levels on the heart’s sadness meter. An inaccurate instrument for it can only make readings into a non-existent future.
It’s been a long, cold winter. All I wanted were a few months of hibernation. To be left alone with my family and attend to our newborn baby with the necessary care squirrels give to their young in freezing weather. Food, raiment, running water, soap, flush toilet, entertainment, and warmth. And I was looking forward to some extra time to write. That was in January, when winter was young and I was impressionable. Now it’s March and I swore last week that I will write a book expressing my disgust and bitterness. I swore that every Oswego man or woman blocking my path to freedom will suffer my rancor in words. Why? You’ll probably laugh.
Because civilization wants me to shovel my walk.
Yes, believe it or not, that was the last straw. That harmless demand from a confused friend was the final push that sent me backwards over the edge. I just wanted to be happy and left alone, but he thought it his duty to tell me that if I am going to live in society, then I will have to shovel my walk when the snow piles up. In fact, he even became upset after I laughed in his face. When I noticed he wasn’t laughing with me, I feared that our friendship could come to a quick end, unless I humbled myself immediately with silence and a head nod. How is it that another man could not want the freedom I cherish? Last year our neighbors let their grass grow as tall as their oldest boy. “Wonderful,” I thought, “now there are some neighbors to admire!” One day two police officers came to their door telling them to cut it down. If they refused, the city would hire a man to do it, at our neighbor’s expense. That afternoon their boy came out with a reaper making long awkward swipes at the grass. Joe came over for coffee and I told him the story. He said the city should make them cut it. I said, “But what about the freedom we were born with?” Joe argued that rats and bugs get infested in the tall grass. “You’re right!” I said, but privately thought of the human rats and bugs infesting the fat blades of houses on the squirrel’s overgrown lawn.
That was it! Shoveling my walk. Jesus, if he just left me alone! They want me to be like them. A square and level walkway. Don’t get it, do they? That is our damnation. We have always been and will always be exactly the same. True freedom in Oswego is a futile hope. A PVC pipe dream. They could never respect a man attempting the opposite of their inertia. Not while he is alive. I pray everyday to acquire the power from within to thwart the fears which menacingly confront me. I am bombarded! They do not understand that to block my movement in any way only strengthens my resolve to bury them out of my mind. It is energy that drives me. Energy and more energy. It is generated faster, more furiously, after each let down. I cannot stop it. It’s going to flow, fast and hard. With just a spark, I can heat and light all of their homes for the winter. Why would anyone want to turn against me? I have power to give! I am a powerhouse. I am generating more wattage for their own good. They must understand that only a smidgen of my power need be harnessed. That if I am different and feel electrically charged now, over time’s long drag, we shall balance each other out. I am going to get old and break down too one day. I’m just not ready to slow down and shut off. My best intentions have been blocked time and again with their massive wire nuts of defeatism. Now I will show them the damage they have done to a man with a heart and incredible energy. I have charged myself anew with a will to write out my vitriol because now I know, without a single doubt, that the negative is the last positive expression to a civilization that desires nothing more from its constituency than a mowed lawn in summer and snowless drive in winter.
The local artist true to his desire, his longing for the beautiful, must channel his excess energy toward destruction. How can he not be wise to the embarrassment humankind has caused the earth? I write to eclipse the power of the status quo. I write like no other man. I am alone. I am the second moon stuck in orbit to observe our careless waste of life. It’s cold and lonely out here. But I won’t come back down until I believe in men. I have made myself sick searching for beauty behind their dry, wrinkled skin. I have been pushed and poked to the point of not believing. Yet I still possess the life force. I will not lie. I won’t give man the satisfaction of my suicide. I am energy and energy cannot die. I believe in my energy. The ancestral blood flows fast through my veins, and I intend to fight with it until the bitter end. It is a fight I look forward too winning, for victory will have killed the bitterness. I will be a dancing, lunatic soldier. I will not fight to kill, but for the chance to spit in another man’s eye, to kick him in the crotch, to laugh in his face while I kick him in the crotch. I don’t want to put man out of his misery. I must put him in misery to set him free. I am an artist, not a general. I have no more interest in euthanasia than the gray fox who hops over broken beer bottles in the wet grass. I will do my best to tease and mock whatever it is men are claiming to be today. The reason? I didn’t give man life for him to be such an aggressive intruder into mine.
I intend to write for my satisfaction alone. I am a good letter-writer. This then is my opening letter of complaint to the people of Oswego. I am driving one of your silly race cars at full throttle into your home. My words are the explosives taped to my chest. You would want that I make a detour going a 100 mph into a cement wall. No. You can’t get to me that way. I am speeding off to California, Alaska, the most northern regions of Quebec, anywhere where I hope and pray man lives as I would want to live.
I have won. It was a photo finish. Lucky for me the judges were life in every form, and time. More than anything I want you to feel my nullity. I need you to realize that you’re nobody too. I was an open door inviting you in to enrich my life. Together we could have been proud and cheerful citizens. You repaid my gentle manners by dragging your muddy boots across my floor. And then you stood in my home launching one display after the other of life-hate. No more. I write because there is nothing left to write in an unhappy world. I need to be happy. This is my exercise. I must write this letter from the perspective of the grass, the tree, the lake water—anything not human. I no longer share any similarities with that race of fools. I am a species-ist.
This is my microcosm. This is my America. I don’t expect the non-entities of my neighborhood to suffer all the blame, but they should. I mean this is where I am living, and here stand piles of degradation taller than the stores of salt for the winter. It would be easier to condemn a Paris or New York. There the little masochistic poodles enjoy a sound whipping once in a while, after goose liver, or whatever it is the million monkeys are told to covet that day. No, I release my ill will into the air that I breathe. This is my home, for now. I should probably get a job.
Hopeless characters. Just got back from a drive out to Minetto. I am a cook by trade, and I heard through Oswego’s half drunk grapevine that the old Dubois Inn is looking to hire a sous chef. That is always unfortunate because I am an artist, and the best man for the job. Usually a better chef than the chef too. Which does not sit well with the chefs. For some unknown reason I feel more alive today than usual, singing almost with a fury while I drive out to Minetto. Now I’m flipping off the houses I pass by, gladly giving them back all they have given to me. I know beforehand that I am overqualified for this job. That’s a shame, because we could really use the money.
The Dubois Inn. You have to understand what’s going through my mind. It was built in 1806. I have a meeting with an Indian at an Inn along the Oswego River. Word got out that the new chef of The Dubois is in need of a sous chef. “Dubois” and “sous” are French words and I am a sucker for what is French and not American. It’s 1828 and the new proprietors, Gerard and Katherine Dubois, are rolling around in bed. The sheets are wet from sweat. It’s a hot morning. A bell rings at the door. A traveler wants breakfast and his horse needs pasturing. Gerard takes the horse and Katherine leads the traveler into the hot kitchen. She takes two eggs off a plate and cracks them into a bowl. The traveler smiles at Katherine while he taps a silver coin against a tin cup. Katherine takes a quick, nervous look out the window, walks up to the traveler and hikes her skirt up past her hips. The horse whinnies and gnashes his teeth…
What am I going to do? Yesterday the bookseller said I might be called to work in two months, right about the time we’ll have to start begging for our food. So I’m up against a wall. I have to go see the Indian. Otherwise I fear—
No, I’m not going that route. I am heading to Minetto on the grayest, ugliest road I have ever known. I am thinking of the Dubois road. I used to walk on it when my first daughter was an infant. I would sit on a log and draw a map of it and the surrounding forest. Still, nobody came out of their homes to invite me in. Not even an Indian. Maps! What the hell was I thinking?
It’s an ugly road. Every road is ugly in the American North Country. But only because of human beings. Without their input, this wild world would be paradise. I am going to see an Indian about a job. I imagine some tall, wide monster of a man who’ll break my back if I don’t start work immediately. Earlier in the day I drove to the Dubois making the same piss offs signs to the empty houses.
Nobody was home. Not at 10:00 a.m. It’s a work day, and I know well the loneliness of the statement: “Nobody’s home at 10:00 a.m. on a workday.” The Indian isn’t home. He’s not at work either. And the front door says they open for business at eleven. Oh man, I know where this is heading…
So I walk around back with my resume, cover letter, a brunch menu, and three page report on some interesting fish ideas for lent. More French words for my gracious hosts, the Dubois’. Sauce Choron, Codfish Cassoulet, Roasted Monkfish with Zinfandel Buerre Blanc. And some Portuguese dishes too—for Katherine, whose mother grew up in a fishing village south of Lisbon. Ttorro. Caldrada. Seasonal produce to use at the tail end of a miserable winter. Sauces to make the fish stink disappear. No wait, the fish are fresh. There’s an unpolluted river flowing on the other side of the road. Men and boys are leaning against the trees, fishing. Wonderful! Who do I think I am? Ron Bocuse? Holy God, I am a fool who will be offered the job and take it. I peek in through the dining room window. The glasses come from sets once sold at the end of supermarket aisles, with the bath towels and animal crackers—flower decals pressed when Jimmy Carter was president. I walk around the building and knock at the side door, No answer. Boxes of dairy products piled up against the wall. This guy is no chef. I know that much already. But damn am I a fool! I wedge my papers between the whipped margarine boxes. I’m late for another interview that must be declined before I get the opportunity to let anyone know who I am.
Yesterday I applied for a line cook’s job at a southern barbecue and bar. I’m so easy to hire. Just confide in me that you are an ass, and I’ll work like a dog for you. No way. People are too proud of their spit pit, food stains, cardboard beer signs, dirty floors, even their snotty waitress who, “don’t tell no bad news to the boss” for anyone. But she’ll kiss the greasy ass of a customer for a dollar ninety tip. Jesus, I can’t work here. Not even if I were starving. A place like Poorboy’s restaurant in Oswego is a spit in my eye. Of course I am delicate. If I work here, it’s obvious to me that God prefers despair. What sensitive, puppy loving, leper-caregiver would not run amok immediately after stepping into such a hole for dinner? I cannot imagine the food any better than what a sweaty tenant farmer would rub under his armpit with cornbread.
But here I am talking with the owner in my pre-interview. I am dressed as good as it gets in Oswego. My hair is cut, my neck and face shaved. I am tall, clean, and pleasant looking enough not to scare children away. I have a resume and cover letter that would get me hired at any big city American restaurant, and eyes that might land me a carrot-peeling prep position in some obscure, country restaurant in France, (but only if I begged). Truthfully, I believe I must be well-shaven and give the overall appearance of clean. A glance at the resume. Then one should say, “Cut that potato and cook it with salt.” I get hired if he likes the dish. Very easy. It’s a line cook’s position in Oswego at a filthy pit of a place to eat, and I am being pre-interviewed in my best clothes. Here’s a piece of the conversation, exactly as it transpired:
“Well, it says here in your cover letter that you’re looking for a well-managed place to work. I’ll tell you right now, we are not where we want to be. We are far from well-managed.”
“Oh, that’s fine. I’m looking to make my life more miserable.”
“What would you do if you had a confrontation with a waitress?”
“I’d pee in her salad.”
“Okay. You should know that I have two jobs beside this one. I work full time as a Human Resource Manager at the power plant, and I am also an adjunct professor in the Business Department at the college. This makes it impossible for me to run my business properly.”
“Oh well, that’s okay. I am just another human being. Is there anything else you’d like to put into my ass?”
“Yes, one more thing. I don’t believe in cooks not doing their own dishes. Not to mention I can’t afford dishwashers and busboys and stuff like that. Friends would come over for dinner and tell me that my food was great, and that I should open up a restaurant. I have no experience. Tell me, how would you put away 200 pounds of hot pulled pork?”
“I’d cut open my gut and hide it in there.”
“Wonderful. Let me just call up my associate to set up another interview.”
And that is where I am heading now, on my way back to Oswego, to decline the opportunity to be a cook at Poorboy’s Barbecue. I would never go back to that humiliation even if I were starving again in this new world. But Marie just had our baby, and we can count in our heads all the money we’ll have over the next three months. It’s not enough. So I go back to Poorboy’s for her and the children. But I just go back to tell them to piss off with a smile. That has always been Ron in Oswego. Piss off with a smile!
I get home and there’s been a call from the crazy Indian. He wants me to come back for an interview. Back at the Dubois Inn again, sitting in a metal chair, waiting to meet the chef whom I already disrespect…
Jesus, he’s an Indian isn’t he? He has allowed this to happen to himself and therefore lower the expectations for all men, has he not? He of all people has a desire to serve cut pieces of cow to old Caucasian widows, all of whom can trace their roots back to the
wanton slaughter of his grandfather’s race? There is a genocide outside of America, where the fanatics of the world murder their own kind. And then there is American genocide, tremendously more advanced because it culls from hiding, like in a sinister future world. Does he know that? There should be a voice screaming from inside his soul. But it’s as quiet as death in there as it is out here. It’s his restaurant. His game. I cannot blame him yet. I sit here and play by its awful rules too. I want money. Indians want money. This Indian will be no exception. How queer though, to make his money cooking chicken cacciatore for great great grandchildren of the men most responsible for his ancestor’s premature dissolution.
Here I am, sitting on a folding chair, property of The Dubois Inn, looking out at the gray afternoon through a smudged window. The river flows another shade of gray. I could be more happy at the bottom of the river. I want it to be 1806 or 18065. We need sixteen thousand and sixty plus years to reestablish our kingly ties. We can’t go back. We won’t go forward. I am waiting for my Indian to approach the table with a wild stare, and fling me like a stone into his kitchen. “You get to work you son of a bitch. I’m gonna make your life a living hell!” Oh how I wish he had the guts to try me!
But Geez, just look at this place! A thick brown carpet saturated with twenty-five winters of wet mud on the boots. Never been cleaned. The floors themselves were warped by river floods and snow melt. They creak louder than any dinner music ever could. Speaking of which, this crazy Indian has an old department store turn-table stereo with paneled speakers set up against the window. If I was two inches taller, my head would scrape the false veneer beams on the ceiling. The table and chairs are all set crooked over the warped floor. And the smell! God, I can’t believe this guy is open for business! It’s like he unlocked the front door for the first time in ten years, taped the hours onto the glass, reached around the wall to turn on the lights, walked into the kitchen and started to cook. After ten years or more of rat infestation and other wild animals spraying their piss in an abandoned Dubois, this crazy Indian wouldn’t dream of wiping down walls, mopping a floor, fixing the ten slow leaks staining the ceiling tiles brown. Damn! This place is worse than the joint George Orwell wrote about in his dishwasher book about Paris kitchens.
Suddenly, I get the old reliable urge to run away. I stand up to leave. But oh no, here he comes! A big goofy looking Indian for sure. Long black hair, big grin, big hands… Okay, the place is a hole. I’ll work for you. Just say something French, or Indian at least. Wild turkey throat wrapped in corn husk, stewed in English fat… Perfect! I’d stay with you until the end of time cooking a hundred of those a night. Just speak some French! Anything. Merde en croûte with Pee-pee Allemande. Tell me with your first words that your hobby is food. That after a night of sweat and madness, after the long, drawn out illusion of tricking them to believe thirty dollars a head was a very fine way to spend a Friday night in Oswego, you pedal your bike over two steep hills, out to a small farm behind dirty and damned Minetto, lean the bike against a fat maple, walk into the barn, feel under a chicken’s ass for the morning’s egg, skim cream off the top of this afternoon’s milking, and fall down into a pile of hay using Gastronomique for your pillow. Say, “Ragout” you wild fool and I’ll be your slave all the way, over many, many moons time.
“Hey-hey Ron. Howayoú?”
Oh no. An Indian from Utica. Worse. An Italian Indian from Utica. I recognize the accent. Please, oh Cold River Spirit…Please set me free.
“Look, I’ll be up fron-wid jew. Jew gotta a great lookin’ resume. Yer cover letta really catches da eye, juno whatta mean. But jew gotta prove to me how good jew is. I hired dis guy last week, said he bin cookin’ in dis bizniss 22 years. Jesusmuddermary, he didn’t know hodda make a club saindwich! Juno, dis paper is nice and stuff, but it doan mean crap to me. Look, we do hundred-fifty a night on da weekends. Whattya think?”
“No, Jesus, it ain’t great! I gotta do it all by myself. My son’s in da Boces culinary arts program. He comes up on Fridays to help. But dat ain’t enough. Jewed be my right hand man. Jew cook, just stay on da line, so I could move-bout freely, juno?
“Have you been cooking long?”
“I bin in dis bizniss fer yearz.”
“Are you an Indian?”
And then to myself, already in the process of getting my lips to form their polite “piss off!” smile… “I bet your kitchen is a stinking mess! I bet you can’t hold a piece of meat in your hands and love it for the life of your son. I bet you never gave him a god-damn bit of wisdom, either, Indian. Wipe your face clean you dirty fake. I’m an Indian. I am the new Indian. I am more Indian than your mother was Indian. I was born here. I will die here. And in the between time I am going to bury this waste ball of human misery in a hole, fertilize it with fillets of trout, and wait for it to grow tall so I can eat it with salt.”
Yea, I’m all messed up. I am thinking French when I should be sorting out the best way to murder him and keep his body put at the bottom of the river. Oneida Indian. Phooey! He’s from Bleeker Street in Utica. French cooking? Oneida cooking? Listen here, I am the new Indian. At five a.m. on a hot August morning, this fool’s naked ghostly ancestor could dive screaming through my window, knock me out with an iron spoon, and drag my wobbly ass to the center of some huge cornfield. And Dammit, I don’t care if I ever come out. I’ll walk around and eat bugs and corn all day and night. I would live out the rest of my life in the sun and tan. I am the new Indian. This is the menu he planned? Prime rib, Porterhouse steak, Chicken Cacciatore?
At first I felt sorry for him—an Italian Indian out of Utica, into Oswego, better off floating in the clouds, or burnt to ash to live eternity with the fire ants and worms. But when he shot off bragging about the huge bakery in the works, the beer and wine bar, the party he booked for 250 sober Easter Christians next month, and he being the only employee… No dishwasher, no prep person for lunch or dinner, the broken equipment, those pathetic tiny tongs, the toaster grill, and finally the funny talk about the modest wage I should accept until we got the ball rolling… Wow, that was all I needed to offer up my blessing to his body and soul. The same blessing I give to all eager entrepreneurs. I prayed that he will grow rich and fat in Oswego living out the rest of his life in this dilapidated food factory, lying and cheating people out of their money, infecting their hopes, and dreams.
Please Mr. Oneida Indian, please take their dirty money, your money, take all the money there is in the universe, sell ten slaughtered cows a day, cut three different ways, to be cut down even further by their false teeth, rotten intestines, and clogged arteries. You are my partner in crime. Your efforts combined with those of the other restaurateurs in Oswego, are pushing me further towards France. And France is release, restitution, freedom and paradise. I am not working for you. I will continue to cook alone these grand meals and memorable feasts for the one horse traveler, the thirsty Indian, the merchant’s daughters stepping off the canal boat into the brilliant July sun. Their eyes are sparkling gray like the river water. You poor sorry Indian! I know that after a busy summer’s night, Katherine Dubois won’t appear in your kitchen bearing her soft loins and wet mouth. I know you’re more of the living dead than Gerard’s great great grandson placing an order for sole meunière in Oswego NY. Some psychotic Irish culinary grad will decorate the dish with basmati rice and raw pieces of triangular-cut zucchinis, even on the coldest night in February! No, I feel the greatest pity for you and any living Indian ghost haunting today’s America. Sure I pity you, but I also hate passionately your standing before me. I was hoping for a real Indian to teach me how to cook. I wanted to see and hear the ghosts in your stories, to watch them hover above us, dangling their strings of lake fish and hearing some wise laughter to mock and befriend me. After five hundred years of suffering casual oppression from the white man, I would hope that any Indian wanting to open up a French restaurant, would at least know a thing or two about porcupine butter, raccoon con fit, venison a la birch wood fire, Bitter tart of bear gut and crabapple…
No. Nada. Nothing but Prime rib and Chicken Cacciatore. An Italian Indian from Utica, although he says Oneida. Probably employed a few years at the Casino. Now we should fear the Indian mafia. English deck of cards, German beer, and French chef. It is well-known that money bad medicine. Me want Porche and slutty white woman for wife or two. First drink white man’s fire water. Get mad and fight children. Then gamble white man’s money. Get rich like white man. Eat rich food. Drink fire water. Next, sell drugs and sex to Oneida farm boys. Buy Utica. Buy Rome. Buy mayor’s daughters. Watch movies. Go to sleep.
Oh go skin a buck on a truck! I think it’s about time the American 86’s all lands held by the Indian. Take them away. He is no longer worthy. Is anyone? Tuck that wasted, spent culture safely into a museum box where it has belonged ever since Ozzie the
Onondaga pedaled a bicycle for a good time. A big box crate for each tribe. Not much to toss in, I’m afraid. Three arrowheads. A sweat stained deer hide. Some smooth, brightly colored stone a little brave hid in his ass two hundred years ago out of fear that his grandfather would find it and chastise him for coveting things like the white man. The Mohawk box. Oneida box. What, five, six, ninety-six boxes in a room? Stacked one on top of the other beside more pieces of ca-ca humans leave around for a thousand years, for wanting to keep some semblance of rational continuation to steer the races toward an exploding finish line. Bunk and bull! The Indian culture is gone. Dead. Long ago vanished. Spirit remains but not to be possessed by any human who respects it with Proctor and Gamble toothpaste. Babylonians, Semites, Cretians, Vikings, Romans, Iroquois, Sioux, Navajo, and nincompooop! Holy, holy turtle earth, sister sun…Stop the preservation of death! The Indian goes to Walmart. Get the picture? The Oneida uses American money to pay for milk and cream from American cows. Anything useful an American gets in return is born from a dream of the eighteenth century. The clash of cultures, when men had real choices and living opportunities. Before Philadelphia could develop into the butt hole that crapped out New York. And what of it, if Mr. Oneida Indian chef can privately possess a trace of beauty? Well, dammit, so can I! I have English and Italian blood. But where is my Stonehenge to lean up against and wonder about the stars? What Vatican shelters me from these frequent internal storms? What forest surrounds my home that I may get lost in it freely? What wild creatures are left for me to respect, to follow, to hunt? I was born. The Indian sitting across from me… He was born. Why is he rewarded land rights and the opportunity to believe without cement sidewalks? Why are deer left alone to romp and run in his forest, until one of his brothers is hungry enough to kill it with his bare hands? I have to watch pot-bellied middle management kiss-asses waddle into the woods carrying the firepower equivalent of some African nations to bag their two or three girl deer, whichever the government tags happen to allow. The Indian is granted eternal rights to a lush green paradise in summer and a quiet empty, meditative winter stillness. He can also order strip steaks and ranch dressing from Sysco Inc. Yes, and perishable dairy products to lie in the sun rotting as I write this. Mr. Oneida is stopped at a convenient mart pumping gas into his ‘94 Toyota pick-up truck. No chef worth his hat would leave sour cream in the sun. No Indian in my dreams would open a French restaurant for money.
The Dubois Inn. What a joyless creature a man is.