I’d made some notes and had a bang at putting something coherent in writing, but in the end I just ended up sounding like everyone else: drones, FBI, the bugging of communications, Facebook, Trayvon Martin, the Eagles rock band is ruining my life, corporates, banks, corruption, hypocrisy, how can I get a grant from Creative New Zealand, Hollywood stars, people are watching me, Wall Street…. etc.
In short, all the stuff that bores me shitless and which is utterly devoid of any real life. All the guff that people get it in their heads that is disturbing them now that aspartame and high fructose corn syrup have had their day. Oh and then there’s Israel and the Polar Ice Cap. Those two topics are quiet right now but Al Gore or someone else will start them up again soon, we can be sure of that. Bring back Charlie Sheen I say.
This morning I finally ‘got it’ and I wrote my piece and then my computer crashed and I lost it all. So this is one shot, one kill. Perhaps it’s better this way.
I am living in Princeton, New Jersey in an apartment so small you could easily imagine Fyodor Mikhailovich writing The Underground Man in it. It is above retail shops and the apartments (many of them) seem to cover a whole city block. Downstairs, in the basement, there are catacombs and you seem to have to walk 500-750 yards to get to the laundry and then you wonder if you are actually in Mexico or am I the only Pakeha down here? But I know I am not in Mexico because no one is trying to sell me cocaine and with a fiendish grin to boot. God strike me down, I love criminals. I love people who are simple and direct.
I start each day at Starbucks at 5am as it’s the only joint open and has the best coffee in town. There’s a café from Lambertville, New Jersey run by a bloke I know opening just down the street in about a week. It’s called Rojos and they are on level pegging with New Zealand cafes which, in my opinion, are the best in the world.
Anyway, I have a poetry poster on the notice board at Starbucks (‘Slow to Learn’ by Gerald Stern) which has been there for two weeks and I have seen lots of people reading it. I also have a Hone Tuwhare poetry poster (‘Laconically canonical’) on the notice board at Labyrinth Books which is one of the very best bookstores I have ever been in and which is getting me in to a whole world of trouble. The variety there is astounding. Not only do they have everything William Faulkner ever wrote, they also have everything he ever thought of writing. They must have 1,000 volumes of poetry but nothing by a Kiwi. They do however have Janet Frame’s newly released book of short stories Between My Father and the King (released in New Zealand as Gorse is Not People).
At Starbucks a group of academic looking types gather in the early morning to masticate on the problems of the world. For a while there they were talking to each other in a loud, indignant fashion about Trayvon Martin (Trayvon Martin lasted as a topic of conversation for about five days) and then they’d get into their Mercedes or Lexus SUVs and drive off for the day, all pious and sanctimonious. These are the kind of guys who would have wildly upset George Jackson and I’m not feeling too good myself. To a man they express disappointment in Barack Obama. Well “Hope” sounds good but it basically doesn’t change human behaviour and human behaviour is often disgusting and the disguster is often found not guilty. No law will ever change that to any great degree. Some days I finish my coffee in the bog where it’s cleaner. I may be jaded, but I just accept all these things and put up poetry posters to bring some beauty to the place.
There’s a black guy who comes into Starbucks who I really like. He’s tall and skinny, easily six foot four inches and his trousers are about three inches too short and the pants are two sizes too big. He is manic and he comes in and can’t sit still for any longer than one or two minutes. While he’s sitting there he rubs his enormous hands up and down his legs, pulls faces, slaps and bangs his knees, and then he repeats it all. His eyes have a wild and frenzied gleam in them and he’s very friendly. He calls me “mate” and he’s the best person I have met so far in this town. We have had many good conversations about rugby. The academic types ignore him but he has become my close confidante in this very rich and pretentious place where Albert Einstein once lived and Robert Oppenheimer as well (“Now I become Death, the destroyer of worlds”).
When I came to the USA I arrived in San Francisco and stayed in the Mark Twain Hotel where Billie Holliday was busted for Heroin in 1949. I put a single rose outside room 203 for you all.
Then on to Rapid City, South Dakota and Deadwood, hell of a town or just plain hell. It’s like walking into a working men’s club in Hornby packed with poker machines and all these people sitting there with alternate feedbags of potato chips and liquor. I was there for July 4th and that’s a hellacious way to celebrate. The Black Hills surround the area and one of my favourite poster placements was a Hone Tuwhare poem on a wooden pole right out there in the loneliness of those Black Hills. When I nailed that one to the pole I truly felt it deep. This is Crazy Horse territory and he was born just out of Rapid City. I reckon he’s the one man who could sort out Barrack Obama and all other politicians because Crazy Horse didn’t debate the truth, he just lived it. He’d walk into Starbucks with a meat-cleaver I’m sure. The reason why they named a very true band after him was that they were enamoured of his simple high energy and his ability to call a spade a spade. Crazy Horse seems like he was a lonely man and a brooder as many good men are. His mother, Rattle Blanket Woman, caught his father fooling around when the Horse was just a nipper and she ‘offed’ herself in protest. It is said that Crazy Horse would spend much time and many days in the hills alone and when he came back it was always war. And if you figure on what happened to the Indians then you know why. No ‘Hope’ about it, just action.
I went out into the Badlands to put up a few Peter Olds poetry posters. I like the idea of Peter Olds and I love his poetry and I wanted to do something good. I was driving a rented, brand spanking new Camaro which I’m ashamed to admit was only a six cylinder and a mere 3.6 litre. Next time I’ll get a nine cylinder in order to compensate. But it still was a good ride at 100mph plus and I’d slowed down when the state trooper clocked me at 95mph. I don’t know where he came from, but all of a sudden he was there on my wing with a big shit-eating grin and driving a black Dodge with flashing lights everywhere. He was a real good bloke and told me I’d made his day and he even invited me into his car whilst he wrote the ticket.
He filled it out it that I was only going five miles above the 70mph limit and he was wearing about four kevlar vests and had mace, a taser, a 9mm on his hip, and a pump-action shotgun in the back. I bet he had a knife in his boots, too. He told me he loved high-excitement and that he was in a shoot-out two weeks earlier. He even took off his sunglasses (Randolph Engineering) and I felt special. It turned out he knew of the All Blacks and Dan Carter (they always come up in my conversations given five minutes or more) and I was too afraid to bring up Richie McCaw in case he ejaculated clean through them kevlar vests.
Anyway, it’s been a long day in New Jersey and I’ll finish this up here. In the next two months I have plans to go to Pittsburgh, Chicago and Nashville to put up poetry posters. Nashville? I always count that as my real home for reasons I’ll explain at a later date.
Phantom Billstickers has a poetry gig on in Christchurch for National Poetry Day, August 16th. Poets reading are Jay Clarkson, Tusiata Avia, David Eggleton. Frankie McMillan, John Pule and Ben Brown. This all happens at the Addington Coffee Co-op at 7.30 I believe. I’m proud of this line-up.
As always: Keep the Faith.
A Tinker’s Cuss started life on the Phantom Billstickers Facebook page – it’s a new feature here at Off The Tracks and we’re repeating the earliest posts before carrying on with new words from Jim Wilson.