we listen to agent orange when were pissed leave us alone don’t come in to the room our eyes are bloodshot with rage and shrooms it comes like a wave of lava and we thrash the place cut our arms on broken bottles there they are behind in the closet leave us alone if you know what’s good for you why do you tell us what to do when you back stab your neighbors and talk about fools we demand to go back to mutti’s we don’t give a fuck what your judge says hey asshole we’re just a kid not your self-righteous toilet paper wad to wipe your evil ass with we listen to agent orange when were pissed and the neighbor called the fire department cus the front windows shattered on account of the sonic geetar’ licks and surfer grooves oh we forgot to mention the baseball bat from out in the patio and your girlfriend’s mirrors are shattered into as many bits as apologies you owe to me fuck yeah we’re still pissed and we will always scream as long as you won’t hear me
i love going to the hills
atop Silver Lake
where i can see Hollywood
my home my western shore
my dusty concrete paths
winding with a promise
to all that we are alive
in the City of Illusions
and that life is no illusion after all
paradox is my goddess
and Los Angeles my church
my habit was my pope
and my grit was my curse
perhaps we all strive
to go back home to reconcile
the hemorrhaging broken vein
and that’s all we want
me gusta caminar de noche
preferible sin la luna
esconderme en mis pensamientos
reír como niña como nunca pude
pensar en dulces y juegos
y olvidar todo lo que fui
eu gosto de andar a noite
preferível sem a lua
esconda-se em meus pensamentos
ria como uma garota como eu nunca pude
pense em doces e jogos
e esquecer tudo o que eu era
i like to walk at night
preferably without the moon
hide in my thoughts
laugh like a little girl like i never could
think of candy and games
and forget everything i was
the fevers come alternately between the shivering cold silver icicles from the north in my heart and the crickets in stereo is all i hear on Thursdays at the meet this isn’t working i’m not working you’re not working when you’re passed out more than me i am screaming so dimly silently as to not disturb the expectations of those who haven’t lived haven’t hurt haven’t lost haven’t murdered their own soul as the blue gray spirit holds the last of the plasma in her hands weeping into the air of having felt good and bad together like when the gods cum and the fucking rock bottom has three secret layers underneath the circle with a broken line cannot protect me do you not see what i see it is beauty in the knife wound of his side that costs too much to stitch and Bacardi left a while ago and your horse faced phantom takes too long to boil i can’t wait 1 second it’s too long to feel too much the melodrama of my delusion you don’t deserve mouth to mouth but ask me as the ambulance struts by not our call tonight tomorrow neither
some Sunday mornings early at the park the ducks would waddle toward him with shaky hung over arms he’d lift me above the quacking wonders the giggles floating up like bubbles some summer times long ago i’d get to stay at his home motorcycle parts in the bathroom and nightly a different ‘aunt’ to make me food some days after his brothers would roar out of his garage in the afternoon i’d make a dollar for every bottle i scavenged from his oily shop floor and i finally had enough to buy chutes and ladders there were certain times i didn’t trust him his glances were an empty page don’t act like your mother he’d say when i offered to do a chore just to strike up a conversation like Sammy and Ginger my neighbors next door did with their Da when it was their turn to water the lawn i guess he thought i wanted another board game as i grew older and farther away i saw no use of trying my hand at rewinding time with the old man being a Da wasn’t his suit and being parented is something i’ve always sucked at
tickle me with your
lips supple with lies but sweet
tongue waves through my soul
Aidan Hallston was a quiet man i noticed him he stood out from the rowdy boisterous crowd my father kept in his garage on Saturday nights the wind and birds at time would say that Aidan had lost his family to the bottle without a ship i spoke to him from a distance and with time that distance began to heal Aidan’s dialect was through ratchets and wrenches and i was an eager student the days went by and i grew bored but Aidan Hallston stayed among the foreignary of LA so far from his own home now that i’m old at night i think what could have happened to him and i smile at his gesture of love when i tried to smoke his Lucky Strikes and he said “they’re no good fer ya’ lass”
Margaret Rose Doyle was crying when I stayed with her on Sunday January 6, 1980; Little Christmas she called it. Her face was drenched in tears just as the brandy cakes on her kitchen counter were soaked with booze. The whites of her green eyes turned salmon pink and her porcelain cheeks boiled hot with sad emotion. Maggie’s breath fumed from the useless curses and the bitter whiskey. My tio Gjeo had admitted, again, to infidelity. She didn’t have to tell me, I had always known that face. It was a communal mask shared by the hapless women who entangled themselves with the rambling men of my family.
The revelation didn’t stop my Maggie from throwing herself and a bunch of surly biker mommas the biggest post-Christmas Day party in Silver Lake. As I understood it, Little Christmas was a party mostly for women and girls practiced in Ireland, Maggie’s homeland. On this date the three wise men allegedly reached baby Jesus and the epiphany that he was the Savior was proclaimed.
My 9 year old mind could not reconcile what Baby Jesus and biker women partying and getting drunk had to do with each other on account of what I had learned about Christianity from the kids’ show Davey and Goliath. Davey was a Lutheran. I liked the show because Davey, the boy, was always getting into some kind of moral dilemma with his big brown talking dog, Goliath. Davey hardly ever did the right thing, but he wasn’t cursed to Hell during the episode and usually got to learn an important life lesson instead. I liked the idea of going against the grain for a good cause and not being punished for it. Yes, that was my life at the time: talking Lutheran dogs, cheating men and drunken women. On this particular Little Christmas, I had a terrible dilemma.
My greatest joy during Maggie’s parties was to watch the women talk and laugh, particularly because the rest of the year they were raging or crying over guy problems. I’d serve them cocktails and sometimes would stick my tongue in their glasses to have a taste myself. Vodka became my favorite and by the ripe age of 9 and half I could drink about a cup and sleep fine through the night without throwing up and without waking up with bad breath. Vodka and I had a very nice relationship in my youth.
Through their essence of boisterous character and furious conversation I felt like I was part of something. They’d pet me, call me “China Doll” and call me stuff in Italian, like piccola signora (little lady). There were a few South American ladies too, with short tempers who’d always call me nina or preciosa. In their thick exotic accents, they would tell me stories of how they got the shiners on their faces. I knew they didn’t fight off a purse snatcher as they claimed. I knew my dad’s friends gave them those bruises. I felt helplessly sad for them, but I just smiled, refreshed their drinks and complimented their hair, make-up and jewelry. They really liked that kind of attention, but I didn’t understand why.
There was this golden, olive toned Italian lady, Carmela Clemente. She was a curvy woman with blonde hair and hazel eyes. She was known for dating a few of my uncle’s biker buddies. I liked Carmela because she was known as a cascavel, the rattle snake amongst the biker boys. I even think she went a few rounds with my dad in the love ring, but she mostly liked the sand blonde dudes from the San Fernando Valley. Carmela’s meaty hands spoke before her thick magenta lips did. She was as friendly as she was striking in her manner of not putting up with the guys’ poor treatment of the women they dated. Carmela hid blades in her hair which she showed me in the bathroom one time, because Los Angeles was molto pericoloso, very dangerous. I also heard stories of her cutting up guys’ break lines and their faces if she felt they weren’t treating her nicely. I thought it was funny she felt Los Angeles was dangerous to her. Nevertheless, I wanted to be bad ass like her when I grew up later that summer when I’d be 10.
Maggie and I got up around 5 that Little Christmas morning to clean up the house, but mainly to spend a little time together before the festivities started. I made her coffee and she fixed me a cup of Nescafe with lots of milk and a few tablespoons of Nestle Quick. “For your health, little one.” She cooed at me.
My uncle wasn’t home from Bakersfield yet. After we drank our coffee and talked about me going over to Gardner Elementary in West Hollywood next year, we went into the garage to get her giant, see through plastic bins to store away her Christmas Day decorations later on when her guests arrived as she traditionally got her guests to help her do. I could tell that Maggie was upset about something. She would walk in and out of the house, her face wasn’t made up, and she took quite a few shots of whiskey when she thought I wasn’t looking. But, being the little soldier that I was trained to be, I was always looking.
As I grew up, my love for Maggie was complicated. Often this love was sickly, full of stomach butterflies, confusion, and frustration. I didn’t like her drinking. Her longing for her country caused me to fear losing her, and my uncle’s cheating on her caused me to harbor conflicting feelings of anger toward him.
If you were female, living with a man from my family meant you had to be tough, loyal and with an incredibly open mind and closed mouth. Males were expected to work hard, party harder, make money and be loyal to each other. Maggie served my uncle with a subtle cognitive dissonance. She had to in order to keep her sanity intact. She struggled to keep her identity as a strong, intelligent, beautiful, deserving woman, so she drank and spent his money. She was loyal and faithful to my uncle in spite of his actions. Perhaps she felt indebted to him for giving her a home and for supporting her and her two then teen aged sons after arriving in New York way before I was born. Maggie and her sons were in America illegally after having had her husband murdered in Northern Ireland was what she’d tell her girlfriends.
Maggie encouraged me to learn all I could about science, Astronomy, history and anthropology and, as soon as I was walking, I faintly recall her move empty liquor bottles to the sink and the random slumbering biker from the party the night before from the kitchen counter to finish their sleep on the floor so that she could plop me on the counter instead. Then she’d read to me from National Geographic, the L.A. Times or her special books from the book case. She loved Dylan Thomas, Shakespeare and Dos Passos, although at that young time in my life I had no idea what impact any of them had made in the world. When I was a teen, she claimed that she’d seen Bukowski and a young girlfriend at Musso and Franks once.
My Maggie Rose also loved her whiskey, more than me sometimes. But for long periods of my life, she was my only mother figure. Maggie would fight both of my parents when she saw that they would abandon me. Maggie would feed and clothe me and made sure I went to school most of the time. Maggie taught me how to dress and groom myself and how to be a lady while eating at the table. And, it was from Maggie that I learned how to mask hurt, betrayal and anger with booze, smiles and laughter.
Tio walked through Maggie’s kitchen door at about ten that morning, his Rolling Stones tee shirt inside out and an aura of Channel perfume all around him. At the sink, I was babbling about cherry flavored candy canes while washing the dirty coffee cups when I saw Maggie and Gjeo locking eyes, his hands half way up trying to articulate an excuse out of the sugar cookie scented kitchen air.
There were no words expressed or exchanged. Maggie put on her communal mask of pain, and asked Gjeo to go into the garage with her. When they walked back into the kitchen, she was gracefully devastated. She smiled at me then him, she talked about the garden, about taking me to the movies and China Town and going to Sun Valley or Saugus to see the horses. The bigger her heart wound got, the bigger she’d smile and the tighter she clung to Gjeo’s neck to show me that everything was o.k. and then she’d poured gin and orange juice into a plastic, turquoise tumbler.
Gjeo cupped my face with his big hands dirty with betrayal. He didn’t look at me with his hazel gypsy boy eyes, but asked if I wanted to go to House of Pies for breakfast. I hugged his legs because my 9 year old self hurt for them both and I did not know how to fix them. I shook my head “no” with a lump in my throat and as I let go of his rock steady legs, I quickly flashed on how those same hands rescued me from my father, provided for me, and held me tight when I couldn’t sleep at night. Tio quietly went into his room to rest. I was very confused in my sense of loyalty and integrity: I loved them both, but even though my uncle was my blood, Maggie was a hurt human being. In my 9 year old heart, this wasn’t right and some kind of action on my behalf was required to set the universe of our house on balance again.
After meticulously winding up what seemed to be 40 acres of Christmas lights and entertaining Maggie’s leather and denim clad girls, I stole away to the back patio of the house and opted not to wait until I grew up in the summer. I decided to be like Carmela Clemente that afternoon. Taking out offerings of three C and H 5 pound sugar bags and one and a half bottles of Mrs. Butterworths syrup from a brown Safeway paper bag, I introduced the gifts into the tanks of my uncle’s 5 Harleys and 3 Ducatis. “Rompapapa-rompapapa that, tio!” I sighed with satisfaction in my mind. I was very unlike baby Jesus that day and I never watched Davey and Goliath again.
of course i remember the old Safeway, Hank. in closing my eyes i can see the Mahatma Rice Genie on the little rice bags and Jiffy cost less than a dollar. i was not taller than a yard stick, yet i knew my lime green pastel knit dresses were an infamy. Hank, i recall the prime parties on Berendo street, the last of the beehive hairdo elegant women in turquoise bell-bottoms, i a barefooted brat. and on alternate Saturdays the biker parties in the Silver Lake Hills. the Harleys looked like stallions. in the middle of the week, i can’t remember where i’d sleep, but AC/DC dueled with Tom Jones in my dreams. now, Hank, we have non-GMO juice stands and designer coffee drinks. i’m about a yard stick and a quarter tall now and i dress in black. i still enjoy Tom and Brian, but Nirvana and Cornell own my heart. i finally read the Torah too. but the fears, doubts, agonies and uncertainties are still within my universe. Safeway is now Vons. House of Pies is still there too, i feed on their Western Spaghetti. i’m going at it in a round-about way. Volkswagons’ and Mustangs aren’t what they used to be, but they’ve cut down on bad emissions. Hank, you wouldn’t believe, there’s almond, cashew, sunflower, pistachio and Brazil Nut butter. i don’t talk much, i type on the phone, even on dates, sitting right across the table from them all. i suppose i’ll never see a good bra burning anymore, i giggled at it as a child. but, they have apps for that now. i never really fit in any particular time in LA. from 8 tracks to Alexa and frozen peas to organic produce delivery. i don’t know, Hank. peanut butter today is quite expensive.