Archives for August 2016

TBT – Princess Diana and Me

Princess Di

In the 80s I wrote a weekly column for the local paper.  I know, that whole sentence that reeks of nostalgic and ancient terms:  1980, newspaper, column. Think of it as an early blog. Only with more readers.   For Throwback Thursday I thought you’d enjoy a taste of the past.  I don’t know how much I enjoy reading over my old material, but  it’s interesting to learn how little things really change.  Comment if you agree or disagree, then dig out your scrunchie  and try on the 80s for a minute.

My sister-in-law called me minutes after the news broke.  We just returned from a Labor Day family picnic, I had just seen her, so the only reason for a call was for an emergency.  I held the cordless phone and eyed the bags of wet bathing suits and extra food that was still piled on the kitchen counter. The boys had already run upstairs to avoid showering.  Did you hear the news?  Oh my God, did you hear what happened?

If I were to ask  any of my sorority sisters where they were when they heard  Princess Diana died, they would be able to tell me. She had belonged to us.  She was our generation and like many good, anti- monarchist Americans, we slavishly followed the British Royal Family.  We loved Diana, we followed her fashion choices, her parenting style, her  her triumphs.  We admired how she lived after the divorce, how she  manipulated the media before it was a thing. Her whole like was a work of art.  We wanted to be her, to live like her.

Until she didn’t. Until we realized in a terrible crash, that her fairy tale hadn’t been re-purposed like Disney, it was a Grimm original:   the mermaid dies for love, the princess doesn’t wake.

I know the sisters of Delta Delta chapter watched William marry Kate.  I was interested in their courtship but did follow the details as closely.  Reading the occasional breathless article in People Magazine was enough.  But I watched the wedding.  I cared when George was born. I cared that William wanted a different marriage that that of his parents.  I understand William vowed to posthumously elevate his mother to HRH status when he ascends the throne.  I know I’m not the only fan who  would love to see that.

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Drinks at the Last Cafe Final

She found herself on the web her legends lifted and retoldDrinks at the Last Cafe, a dystopic poem
Can I fix these? She complained.
There isn’t enough electricity. Sam squinted at the turbine slowly turning
She nodded and continued to look for her gods.

As they labored over the Sierras, they passed
the bone yard of wrecked trains, accordioned against the base of the mountain
on the sides of the narrow trail, blackberries
and poison oak
gold bars, black cooking pans, red parkas in summer, sandals in winter
The air was as thin as a myth
She felt she could melt her wax wings against the implacable sky.

She squatted down and ran a finger over a solid bar
so pretty; so insistent
But after a few miles, too much.
You could exchange the notebooks for it: it’s valuable.
She thought of the notes fluttering like the hawks
after hitting a turbine
No, no, the stories stay.

She slid the bar out and it landed with a thump and puff of dust
He bent and shaved off a handful of wrinkled foil
lighter than air
heavy as greed.

The Drummer was not as kind to the preacher.
He shot him mid-step.
Damn evangelical, thinks one rhythm works for all songs.

In San Francisco there is gold.
In San Francisco there is stripped copper wire.
In San Francisco ship masts litter the bay
Goblins call, chatter and unload boats with scary speed.
Mangos, green nail polish, knives.

The bars served more food than bread
More drinks than only beer
The Westin Hotel and Cabaret
An Official joined them and for a crease of yellow foil
Told them new stories.
Sam knew in wine there would be truth.

There was no elegant solution the Official admitted
no one says that of course
they sent me out here right before.
Goblins? The girl asked.
The Official grimaced, a practiced gesture
anyone who is different is a Goblin.

But you. I’ve heard about you.

They all flocked to her.
A mermaid singing each to each
she sang to them.

The crowd chanted knowing she could
break open their world
Howling through the night
on the corner of Columbus and Fillmore
jugs of wine passed through the group.

The Drummer sidled up to Sam.
She’s going to need a name.
It would be good for her act Sam agreed.
The Drummer shook his head keeping his eyes fixed on the girl
The battered hat, the ragged edges of her pink tutu thin as a memory
That is no act.

The girl looked better – eyes shining
I’ll tell you about the great mother; you are sitting on her skin
You need to caress her more often and stop hitting.

I will tell you the story of the three-hour cruise
How many of us start – believing
we have only three hours and it turns into
The girl lifted her hands – a natural gesture – the crowd roars.
A lifetime?

She insists they throw shoes as tribute
Size 8

I know how it ends. Sam patted the Drummer’s arm
And turned.
I never thought
I’d see how it begins.

Thank you for following the adventures!

Drinks at the Last Cafe Part V

Wasted hills, as if the apocalypse had arrivedDrinks at the Last Cafe, a dystopic poem
ahead of time – swept through
stranding the survivors: rocks, dried creeks,
chunks of asphalt road
haphazardly fitted together
like a jigsaw puzzle no one cared to finish
because the final picture wasn’t very compelling

No, he squinted against the big savage sky,
the blue washed out to faded denim
I think it always looked like this.

The rails blew
scattering Goblins like rubber toys.
Sam pushed the girl behind him
They were too close to the explosions, but not the target
the Goblins muttered and gathered fruit and baskets
and determinedly marched forward.

With a whoop copied from old films
the terror gang roared in throwing
more hard explosions into the crowd,
the girl and Sam hid among the dust and chaos
down, down, Sam hissed, reached for her hat.

The Drummer recognized her hat and distracted
With blown out parts of cucumbers and zucchini
Look here! The Drummer patted down the dead:
gold shavings, lumps of coal
he hefted a hand size lump – wasn’t there a story about this too?

Hey, a brother cut off a goblin head and pulled off a necklace.
did you hear the one about the people on the boat?
What about the boat?
They sailed for three hours then ship wrecked and never got off
The point? The Drummer asked. He knew Legends always had a point.

Don’t get on a boat. He laughed and twirled the necklace
Un-cut stones glittered in the setting sun.
Who would buy?
The Drummer shrugged and absently cut off a hand

Bring out your dead
Bring out your dead
But there were no grocery carts for the Goblins.

The Florida exodus was not working out.
Roads did not accommodate wheels, the carts
ditched along with 15 pounds of dried soup, a gallon of mayonnaise
Enterprising goblins snatched up products
and sold them again at the trail head.
It will be fine, they assured the new travelers
Each group weaker than before.
Buy, buy, buy
You will need all this mustard, cereal, peanut butter

The refugees were wiped out by a hurricane.
We knew that, the corporation advertised
How do you feel now?
1) deluged
2) dehydrated
3) disgruntled
4) dead

Fantasies hugged the left coast, no where else to go
but the grey pacific
dreams swirled around in the tide
the directors came to shore and pick up the remains like driftwood
and captured them back onto film and computers.

Yeah, yeah, the hunched man emerged from the bed of a truck
he eyed the girl.
Sam shook his head.
I just want to hear the stories, the old man insisted.
Tell me yours, she gestured to their fire
and I’ll tell you mine.

At the Timeless Tavern
A young man grinned, his teeth knocked out
a badge of terror gang encounters
Ignored the girl. You were a Letter Man.
Sam nodded. For a time he helped the cause
he could change Terrorists to Freedom Fighters
re purpose Hackers to Liberators.
Angry to Righteous; we fight for you.

It was merely outrage and opportunity.
Just a historic confluence of Anger and Talent.
It’s not like the peasants weren’t armed.
It’s not like they couldn’t read a bus schedule
they stole into the heart of the beast
the city of walls, all breached
whole collections of CEOs disappeared in seconds
gold parachutes do not open quickly
when thrown from the highest floor.

It was a good moment, it was a glorious moment
then the tide receded
leaving beached cities, gasping for air and temporary assistance.
Too big to fail
Except the most neglected
were the most angry
and in the end – they shattered the sky
With old plutonium and new resentment.

She threw a handful of dust
the grit blew away like starlings
Fear into flying

Drinks at the Last Cafe Part IV

Sam found a tin full of gas, surroundedDrinks at the Last Cafe, a dystopic poem
by skeletons with long fingered hands
Mad Max meets O. Henry
he grinned. We need a worthy receptacle.
It took hours until they found a sports car
low to the ground, fast he promised.

It roared to life cutting off every other
possible sound, she clutched the seat, the window
screaming like the demons from hell
She never moved this fast.

Sam yelled straight from his soul
They careened through the flat desert
in a more or less straight line.
Sound trailed behind them – 100 miles an hour

Took care of the next seven days, he grinned like a maniac.
Her heart was forever damaged
by all that speed. She just knew it.
Can we do it again?

Ketchup bottles red as the setting sun
Absorbing all the light
the old waitress served them ketchup and road kill
specialty of the house
The Last Café on Earth

I was in the meat freezer
I hate it in there.
So of course I was trapped for like
97 hours
All that cold meat
Her nametag read Fran
which was not her real name – just the name left

She fingered her tight neck
The pink scars growing up over her sharp chin.
Tell me again about the Mother God.

Careless children, the same children
Who cracked Pandora’s box
Unlocked blue beard’s last room
Inspired the flood
The angry god hunted and destroyed

But the Mother God patiently
gathered body parts flung across the Nile or
the whole universe
and reassembled those back into a better man
missing only an eye, back of a heel, sometimes a hand
she watches over us
The girl concluded.

The waitress sighed
Sam rolled his eyes

They grew bolder as the leaders lost
brothers, hands, teeth, brothers
no job was too awful, that was the legend right?
They quizzed the Drummer
Weren’t they the stuff of old legends?
Billy the Kid, Dillinger, the Okay Corral.
He didn’t have the heart or the balls
to describe the sacrifices legends require.

It was easier to find notebooks and pens
In the abandoned Union Station stores – than cans
Here, he tossed her a fruit pie
and Dr. Pepper because that was all that was left
eat this, you will live forever.
She clutched a new notebook to her chest.
Yes, she could live forever.

The wind turbine over the Last Stop Saloon
thrummed in the sky
Come, charge for free, called the owner
although there is little to say.

She offered a cupcake
Too fat, the girl automatically announced, recognizing the object
As a no in the magazines

Ah, the woman bit into the cupcake.
with relish.
Just so you know,
here. Along the edges of the world
we all eat dessert first.

Drinks at the Last Cafe Part III

Everyone moved slowly at the Rapid City Diner  Drinks at the Last Cafe, a dystopic poem
The bar tender wiped the countertop with a wet rag
leaving streaks of damp
that did not dematerialize in the heavy air
You know there is never a girl in these stories.

I know, Sam accepted the home brew
With appreciation born of deprivation
I thought it would be more sincere
With the girl
The beer foamed over the mug
Sam wiped his mouth and laughed

More often the RV residents tried to walk the rest of the way
fallen along the high mountain roads
Bring Out Your Dead she whispered

They wintered in airplanes
That’s what Sam liked to call it – wintering.
The sky was so fierce that she named it the Time
of Abandoned Gods
The Travel Gods, the Train Gods, the Grass and Growing Gods
Those hide underground.
Like snakes Sam said.

Of course they weren’t the only ones in line for the planes
A big woman with wild hair in row 16 asked about her.
No, a rescue. Ah, sleeping with her?
Sam shook his head.
The woman eyed the slender girl. She was old enough.
Sam looked at the sky instead of the wild hair
I am not tempting her gods.
So he and the woman went in the back.

Vision of the street. As the street hardly knows.
He called himself the Drummer
since that’s where the first terror gang found him
what were the choices?

Boys wilding in the center of the country, taking on
anything that moved – Goblins; they made the best story
Already the enemy. The terror gangs attacked.
They titled it the great train robbery
The Drummer posted the video on creaky You Tube
It never made money
so the Corporation never bothered to take it down.

The Mother God,
The girl explained to the men in the long light of spring
has to stay with us, must care for us
which is why she is the mother.
which is why she must be a god.

Her logic, impeccable; the beer, helpful
The desperate men nodded and gave them both

If you are abandoned. The girl continued
the Mother God will protect you.
Like a foster mom. One man said.
Yes, she agreed, not knowing what that meant
It didn’t matter; she and Sam were safe for another night.

By reasonable deduction
The rest of the gods were angry gods
I will find out why. She said.
Sam helped her down the muddy banks of the Missouri river
She scrambled and tried to imagine enough water
to wake and drown
Yes, find out
the names of the gods, ask around.
A trained roared overhead.
Cries of the Goblins mocked them from above.

He always tried to stuff her backpack with food
Cans of chips, ding dongs the stuff that survived in the Chevron stop
the notebooks took up too much room.
Leave them?
No, I will carry the stories, leave the cans.

The Preacher still danced on the graves of the wicked
The wicked! The wicked did perish!
I told you all so! He danced and danced a round, spinning dance

The girl drew up as she watched,
the ground shifted, the preacher stumbled,
Sam threw out a warning arm
She pulled up to her full height, taller by much more than when they began
he noticed with astonishment.
The wicked.
The Preacher fell into the dust and rocks.

All the voiceless women, she whispered
the stoned, the burned, the buried, the raped
How do you know the wicked?

Because they are gone!
The howl danced from his lips and was caught up in a train whistle.
What was that?
Sam smiled
The Goblins travel much faster.

Drinks at the Last Cafe Part II

The Corporation, you’ll be relieved to hear
is operating again, up and running, ready to take care
of your needs at some point. In the mean time.Drinks at the Last Cafe, a dystopic poem
Don’t Go SOUTH
Stay. We will REbUILD
not as catchy as
Eat your rat
It has no fat
Perhaps that was the trouble.

No, not all dead.
They could see the arrays ahead
Sucking in just enough unstable sun
to power a small lap top
a phone
an oven.
The Last Café
We have beer and bread
Sam smacked down cigarettes instead.
The girl – was not for trade.

Jerry was a poet and a thief
He wanted the girl, but accepted a pack
of cigarettes
It may cause death, she pointed out the label on the pack

Oh sweetheart. He blew smoke from his nose.
Everything causes death, even staying alive.
I saw them, Jerry said in exchange.
All headed south to Orlando
Pushing and Pulling suitcases, grocery carts
Costco flat carts, packed trucks the whole family
Pushing that stuff along.
whole morning to drag that much stuff
just a few yards forward.

Like the markets before
the Goblins controlled the trains
They worked the coal mines so long – the fuel
belonged to the Goblins
Sam smirked. We didn’t consider that.

YOU can lose unwanted POUNDS in just weeks.
They were right
losing weight was easy
she could count all her ribs.

I would love an airplane he said.
To fly, that would be like being a god.
There are no gods. She pointed out.
Not anymore. Sam kicked the rocks on the asphalt road.
But we need them, the gods, she continued.
Then make some up, he was tired of talking
Girls talked more than boys; he forgot that.
Okay, she said calmly, I will.

Some travelers were not thieves, but just wanted to share.
Sam still didn’t know which he preferred.
A handful of cigarettes adverted violence and bought silence
The girl took the stories – a traveling stenographer

In the Saloon at the End of the Line
a woman shared her huge apple
I had my arms up again,
her arms were deep red and scarred, her face spared.
He lit up right in front of me – a Roman Candle, remember those?
I hardly know what to do with myself now.

From the dark safe bunkers in the East, the corporation
issued questions from survey monkey:
1) how do you like us so far?
2) how’s the fall out?
3) do you feel more/less secure on a scale of one to ten
Ten being very secure.
A hacker from Montana sent in the results:
(1) Not secure
At all.
The site disappeared
Many forgot to vote

They came across the dead of course
Some random, caught in the blast, caught in the fall out, caught out.
Some lay in circular patterns, feet to feet, in a ragged cart wheel
Dead before the blast.

It was God, one guardian of such dead intoned
Your God killed them? The girl asked.
No, no, he impatiently waved his hand munching on a meat sandwich
No. They are with God
How do you know?
I sent them there.

100 miles per hour, Sam gloated stroking the dusty car hood
seven days of walking
accomplished in one hour, think of that.

Don’t you see?
At The Final Lounge
The woman of a certain age crowed
every wrinkle – gone!
Got them back when tanning was getting something done.
She pointed to the red stretched skin
blasted right away
I can’t stop looking at my face.

The center of the highway curved
over the bare horizon.
Shelters looked like casinos
Seven Feathers and a Squaw

The Drummer bragged –
Women loved me
he rolled his head, black hair flying
I was in the casino basement at the time
we thought it was a lame gig

You make music like I saw on TV.
The girl finally got up the courage to speak

Yeah, almost as good as fucking TV.

Deep in their bunkers, the easterners
snatched up random writers
as if Letter Men were wandering in packs
and only needed to be cut from the herd, and hauled underground
enough huddled in the dark and wrote for food and safety
From us it is the truth – DO NOT GO WEST
The survivors trudged through the sandy oily soil
And did not hear anything.

Packs of RVs, white land whales
Beached on their sides or backs, the attached furniture
Still serving a skewed purpose.
Yes, chortled the old man,
we had so much to eat
we needed a big cart to roll the food out of the store
a big car to take it all home
the refrigerators! The electricity!
The girl saved Twinkies to exchange for his story:

People like us, the old man remembered
stranded on an island, season after season
The professor tried to make a boat
The cabin boy struggled to help
He made the others laugh.
The movie star was very pretty.

Sam considered her notes. I don’t think that’s a legend
She finished writing with a flourish
It is now.