SILICA // SOL

faked by November 30th, 2013

SilicaSol

I’d been to Jackson before but never lingered; it always had the impression of being closed down, like rolling into the drive-thru of a McDonald’s at ten thirty and seeing the slow nod of the man at the fryer, drawing his finger across this throat like a knife.

I was twenty-four and traveled from Starkville down Highway 25 for a job interview. My roommate drove us—he’d gotten me the interview and knew the fellow who was doing the hiring for the Attorney General. It wasn’t the first interview ever had but it was the first where I wore a suit. It was utility wear—black, pinstripe, wearable to both weddings and funerals. I wore the same red tie speckled with yellow that I’d worn to my sister’s wedding, picked out and slid around my neck by a Catholic girl from Ohio.

Most of the other jobs I’d ever had involved me using my arms, my shoulders, my legs to get by. This one needed me to sit in a chair in a converted hotel and type. All the man did was shake my hand and tell me I was hired. It was anti-climatic, but in a good way.

I hopped in a turquoise Saturn with my roommate, who was also my best friend, so he could drive me around town. I didn’t know anybody there. It was early Spring, but already warm; the Legislature was in town, and so we went to this real sixties style hotel where everybody stayed because it was across the street from the Capital. The sign our front looked like they got it right off the Vegas strip, an outtake from Ocean’s 11: a floating golden triangle split with a chrome boomerang and Mondrian rectangles. Some nights in college we’d sit around and listen to Martin Denny and sip Aviators and this place looked like how that sounded and tasted.

It was open on the inside, as best I recall, with the rooms all opening out onto a courtyard. We were going to see a friend of my pal’s who was a Legislator from the Coast. His name was all alliteration, with a French twist on the end, something-or-other ending in an “eaux.” As we tread up the stairs to the second level you could hear tvs and radios echoing out of the rooms. Folks had their doors open and were just walking from room to room visiting and talking.

We made it up to the Coast man’s room and I was surprised to see that he didn’t seem much older than me. In fact, he looked a little bit younger, but he had on an old man’s eyeglasses, square, real out of date seeming, with wire rims and a bifocal part at the bottom. It had a dizzying effect of him seeming like a character out of play who looked the part from the audience, but up close you guessed was just somebody’s cousin who had a flair for Arthur Miller who they needed to fill out a scene.

He was wearing suitpants, like we all were, but had taken off his shirt and carefully laid it over the back of a chair, the jacket hanging in the closet. He was in what folks would call his shirt sleeves, what I call just wearing an old undershirt. There was an open suitcase on the bed, filled with back-pocked-sized bottles of Jack Daniel’s and Taaka vodka. He offered us a pull and we graciously accepted. We set and talked about the Governor and what all was going on with the Democrats in the House. He made us promise that when we moved to Jackson we would get real active in the Party and sign up to be officers in the Young Democrats because they needed new blood. We promised about as hard as we could because that was why we had gone to school in the first place, although of course we both ended up going to law school because all that other is real hard work.

We didn’t stay long, and to be honest I don’t remember a whole lot of it. I was tired from the drive down and fuzzy with whiskey and pride and some real fear about moving to a new place and whether I’d be able to make it. The sun was down and it was cooling off as our feet crunched on gravel out to the car. We weren’t talking about anything at all when the guns started going off.

I didn’t know what to do—the only shots I’d ever heard were out in the woods, with men I knew shooting them, or aimed at beer bottles out at the old baseball park where my dad played softball for Sandusky Baptist. I went face down in my only suit into a mud puddle, hugging the ground, gravel on the side of my cheek.

An old man in a blue jacket came running out of the lobby. He was wearing what looked like a badge. A car screeched around the corner just like it was carrying a group of toughs from a Magnum, P.I. episode. It was almost completely dark outside the 1960s glow of the hotel. He helped me and my buddy to our feet. “Dang kids,” he mumbled. “Always going around shooting off they guns, trying to scare folks.”

I moved to Jackson a month later.

I CAN FEEL THE LIGHT IN MY BONES

faked by November 20th, 2013

RedStickParade

I don’t remember if it was one of the cold parades, and if it was, we’d burned it out by 10 a.m. through a true dedication to the spirit of Mardi Gras. I look over and your Krewe of Southdowns cup is empty, only a trace of orange swirling around the bottom. I’m frankly dizzy, a lovely cotton candy headache pushing up against my fake Vegas Elvis sunglasses. A float scrapes by embedded on the back of a bright purple 18-wheeler, thumping a song that sounds like a robot rapping. It’s the kind of music I normally say that I hate but right now it’s the best thing I’ve ever heard. I can feel the beats tremble in my stomach.

I look over and you’re waving your hands in the air, Saints jersey already half covered with pink and green beads. “I’M’A BUY YOU A DRANK” scream the fifty people jammed around us, I’m startled and laughing, I love Spanish Town but have never been in a crowd of poets and painters starting to grind on each other before. I almost drop the antique camera I’m hauling around when the hail of beads comes—and I snag the best I’ve ever gotten, a rope of footballs with a Bud Light badge. The robot song dopplers down the street. The football beads clatter onto the golden dice and neon plastic fruit already roped around my neck. A trickle of sweat runs down my brow.

I look up at the sky and it’s so pretty, off to my right is a girl dressed in hot pink 80s prom dress mashing up on a boy with a brown suit coat straight out of a 70s detective show, I cock the shutter on the Land Camera, squint through the lens, the sun comes out and I hear cheers start up behind me as “Don’t Start Believing” screams down the street, and I like the way there’s all those busy wires and equipment strung overhead, hundreds of pounds of copper and steel and oil nailed to great shafts of wood and swaying gently as the beads begin to scatter and fly.

MIDNIGHT ON SOUTH BELLEVUE

faked by November 14th, 2013

Graceland2

3734 E.P. Blvd., Memphis, Tennessee 38116, Polaroid 600, film expired July 2007, Photo taken November 2013.

YOU ARE TWENTY-ONE YEARS OLD and on Beale Street. Just like every other 21 year old in the history of Memphis who is 21 and on Beale Street you have been drinking whiskey and dancing to the blues and sweating even though it’s wintertime. There was an hour of R.L. Burnside and then J.S.B.X. screaming about how now they got worry. Between the two bands there is a century of blues. You’re pretty sure they ain’t got the heat turned on in the burned out old theatre you’re dancing in.

Christina from Boss Hogg is there amidst the busted Budweiser bottles and she is impossibly tall and wearing a floor length white mink coat. She is the most beautiful woman you have ever seen. There might as well be a forcefield around her, a ten foot invisble cordon. After the show you shake Judah Bauer’s hand and it is a massive paw, your hand like a little kid’s in the middle of this great rhythmic device of calcium and cartilage.

You are with your two best friends. One is a drummer and the other a singer and sometimes you will make fliers from cut-up bits from 1960s DC romance comics and then pull on a pair of your girlfriend’s fake leather pants and put on a lot of makeup and plug in a knockoff Les Paul and drink Colt 45 and make a lot of noise. You are 21 years old and drunk on whiskey and you want to be in a band so bad, the only thing you really believe in is holy blues, sacred rock and roll. It is the only thing anyone on Beale Street at midnight truly believes in.

Sweat freezing on tender young necks, y’all load up in the van, drive ten minutes South, wind down McLemore and Mississippi and spit out onto South Bellevue—that’s what they still called it when you were little, even though they’d changed the name a long time ago—and there you are, he’s long gone, long gone, Johnny Bye-Bye. But when you put your hands on the rocks and blue suede Converse scrape against mortar you can just believe, cutting your hand on the stone, you can just believe that if you make it to the top of the fence he’ll be standing there, and in the dark you can see the long limbs of the Weeping Willow sway, if you just make it to the top everything’s gonna be okay.

STEAKS & CHOPS

faked by November 11th, 2013

maychops

I can’t stop from overhearing the couple in the booth next to me. I just want some fettuccine Alfredo, and it’s murderous here—like, can’t reheat it, there’s so much butter, it’s amazing. If you put it into the microwave the next day it just turns to pretty swirling yellow grease, and the cheese clumps up. It’s never worth it, but nobody could eat the whole thing, plus bread. I can’t, anyway. And this is after years of fettuccine being basically the only thing on the menu somebody that avoids pig and cow and chicken can get a hold of. Al dente noodles and a creamy sauce, what else do you want.

Anyway, this woman with tired eyes and brown bangs is telling her friend about how she got a new phone number after her ex got crazy jealous and threatened to kill her German shepherd, which I agree is super aggro behavior, I’m not sure what self-help manual she’s reading but “How to Kill Her Dog to Get Yr Girlfriend Back” is probably not a real reputable title even at the worst strip mall Barnes & Noble. So she gets a new phone number, and apparently it belonged to somebody who owes everybody in the world money, plus has a friend with a deer camp or something in East Arkansas. So there’s a dozen Citibanks and Sallie Maes and Imperial Credit Companies calling every hour, plus some goon texting her night-vision pictures of deer with glowing green eyes and “BOOM BOOM” as the caption.

The server brings me by another Diet Coke in a tiny green bottle. I have no idea how much they cost and don’t really care. She starts to set down a little water glass stuffed with blurry cubes, her hand shaking a bit, and I wave it off. The pleasure of a carbonated beverage in a real bottle with a thick lip on it is not to be missed, and certainly not to be avoided altogether, and then blunted by pouring that fizzy fake sugar drink over Jackson ice. A Caprice thumps by outside playing a Big K.R.I.T. song, the one with Ludacris doing the verse at the beginning, that was on like everybody’s mixtapes a couple summers back.

“So I get tired of fighting with all these folks and telling them I’m not the person who had the number before,” she goes on. “I try that for like a month, but it’s a nightmare. I’d end up in all this conversations with CSRs and they are just plain crazy, they always wanted to know my Social and when I wouldn’t give it to them they’d say that proved it was really me—I mean, that I was really the person who used to have the number.” She took a long pull off her sweet tea. “Kafka.”

She tilts the screen towards her friend. It’s a contact with a dozen dollar signs as the name. “So I just started threading all them numbers into this one thing, like alternate numbers for my mom or something, and then when I see a dollar sign come up I know to go on and mute it.” Her friend pushes around some mystery fish on her plate. “Nobody worth anything is calling me with any money anyway,” says brown bangs. I drain the rest of the bottle; the thing must only hold like five swigs.

“Deer camp, her I texted with for a while. I figure there’s a deer camp, might be fun to go out there one weekend, a few cases of Miller Lite in a refrigerator. But she couldn’t spell at all and Lord knows I can’t abide misspelling.” My fettuccine finally wanders back from the kitchen, hot white curls on porcelain.

[EARLY NOVEMBER 2013]

faked by November 11th, 2013

GracelandBLANK

I am standing in front of the stone walls of Graceland. They’re covered with names from all over the world. I wasn’t going to take a picture but there’s a Weeping Willow. I love Weeping Willows; I don’t even know if there’s one in Jackson. When I was little I liked to run through them, and feel the gentle fronds brush against my face. I thought of them as a character in a book: capital W, capital W. They weren’t necessarily sad, just ancient, majestic, filled with knowledge: like Aslan. Weeping Willow. Even the name is beautiful, like something I would name a plantation or a mansion if I ever made the money, bought up an old place outside of Minter City. I mash the big red button, but there’s just a dry click, and no whirr.

I am sitting in the stands of Bryant-Denny. I’m laughing because my Pop won’t use the crimson and white shakers they put on all the seats. Men of a certain age won’t; it’s unspoken but well understood. I have decided that I will give in a jump around to all the dumb songs that I was sick of even back in 1992. When “Thunderstruck” comes on, Pop starts to cheer, and I say “don’t you feel bad for grounding me from this concert now?!” He throws his head back and laughs, and the tall guy next to me who looks like Vince Vaughn starts cracking up, he can’t help it. He really did ground me, but Amy Leath brought me a fake dollar bill with Angus’ face on it, one of thousands they dropped from the ceiling during “Money Talks.” I’m just as happy 20 years later with being able to say I got grounded from seeing AC/DC as to remember the show. I wish I knew where that Angus dollar was.

The Vince guy is wearing one of the rented radio earphones, which lets me know that he is both hardcore and also probably a guy I like. He wants to hear what Eli Gold is saying about the game. He is not afraid to use the shaker. He also flips it around and uses it to stir bourbon into his co-cola. He’s got the same flask I have: heavy pewter, with his initials stamped into it. Every groomsman in America probably has one. I jacked the top of mine up at a Drivin’N’Cryin’ concert one time, couldn’t get it open. Mine has sat empty and cold for the better part of four years now. Maybe I should give it to somebody who could use it, but it feels like giving somebody an obligation, or a bomb.

There is an older couple in front of us. The man stands, gingerly; he’s wearing a khaki coat. We’re in section N, high up, just under the overhang, so the driving but gentle rain rarely reaches us. The wife doesn’t stand so well. She has the close cut white-gray crewcut of a cancer survivor. Maybe she just likes it short. It looks good; like an Emmylou Harris color, silvery shot through with dark gray. After Bama scores in the 4th on another run by T.J., the man leans in, and they kiss very softly, very sweetly.

The picture from Graceland didn’t turn out, but I kept it just the same. I’m going to smear an inky red thumbprint on the blank lemon-colored front, scrawl an apology on it, and mail it across the ocean. I don’t even know where yet. A bottle in the ocean with the same message on bloody parchment, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, it was all my fault.

SIXTY FIVE MILLION DOLLARS OF GLASS AND STEEL

faked by November 7th, 2013

Pyramid

Memphis, Tennessee, Polaroid 600, film expired July 2007, Photo taken November 2013.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”

faked by November 6th, 2013

Lorraine

Polaroid 600 (film expired 2005), 450 Mulberry Street, Memphis, Tennessee (November 2013).

JUST DANCE SOME MORE

faked by November 4th, 2013

StaxEast

Memphis, Tennessee, Polaroid 600, film expired July 2007, Photo taken November 2013.


Thank you, Margarita Luisa Chascarrillo

faked by November 3rd, 2013

MILKSHAKE ACHIEVEMENT

faked by October 29th, 2013

PretendersSideTwo

[SCENE: SOMETIME IN FALL OF 2012]

I wake up with a killer hangover, or
a bug that feels like it.
Can’t have a hangover, haven’t had a drink in
twenty-six months and—not that anybody’s counting.
Not that I count, not that I need to count.

Can have the damned flu. Can have wrestled a
bit with sleep last night and said screw it and
got up and grabbed the first Pretenders record off the shelf
and drove up and down I-55.
Kiiiiiiiid, precious kid,
Chrissie moans, over that beautiful rubbery riff, you got all sad,
so I feel sad, too
.

I kind of wonder how old she was when she
wrote that lyric. It seems simple isn’t.
I ought to just look it up,
but it’s one of those nites everybody on the highway
is driving like murder, and even a casual glance
down at my phone feels risky,
makes me feel guilty.

There’s a 24-hr. Burger King by where
Video Library used to be, I bet I can get a
milkshake for a couple bucks. I’d rather get a movie,
but I was always bad about picking them out, just another
Robert Altman film festival, and besides
I haven’t had anything to watch it on in a decade.
And Video Library is long gone, but I could really
stand to watch that one long shot at the beginning of The Player
a couple times.

11:17 at nite the Burger King
is a reality show crime scene. It’s sort of amazing
and beautiful, like being under the stands at a
high school football game.
Everybody in the drive-through line is clearly drunk.
It’s hard to miss the window, but the Tahoe in front of me
first blows past it, then backs up, scraping off
a side-view mirror.
You can hear the stoned laughter reverberate
off the beige bricks.

By the time I get to the window
the Pretenders are bragging about how they’re special
soooooo special, you almost believe her, and
Burger King is trying to sell me some kind of mushroom burger.
If it were just me and Mushroom Burger on a desert isle,
(the thought balloon over its head being me dressed like a turkey,
the thought balloon over mine of Mushroom Burger
as a block of tofu), I wouldn’t touch that thing, let alone
pay somebody money for it. There’s nobody else here,
I just want my milkshake, no one like me.

I mash—-> over “Lovers of Today,” it’s too maudlin.
The holy God drums of “Mystery Achievement” kick in,
like the Golden Mean of rock and roll, drums on a
precise mathematical algorhythm, then the bass, then
the guitar chimes in, then ooooooooooooOOOOOoooooo,
it’s all in perfect sequence,
you can count it off to eight each time,
I never wrecked a car to it, but maybe should have.

They hand me some kind of drooling
monster, a liter of ice cream and syrup.
I hand the girl at the window a five automatically.
The girls in the window are still screaming at each other
about the drunk boy in the SUV, how cute he was.
“I had a small,” I manage to say.
“What,” the girl says, no question mark.
I question their commitment to Burger King,
question their taste in boys.
“I had a small,” I say, sober, exhausted, sick of everything.
She shrugs, hands me back three dollars and change.