inventory

It took about three hours to get back to Los Angeles Street from Mission Avenue with its grandiose blocks of junked cars and guys who waved flags like bull fighters guiding you into their shop driveways to get your muffler repaired for $75. I thought about Hemingway’s story. Looking down at the dirty greased earth wondering why I wasn’t dead that afternoon trying to find the lesson or the meaning of that particular event in my life. I became aware that at some point in my journey I would have to take control. My higher mind would have to take control of myself come hell or high water, against all gods, all demons, against all angels, against all saints, against myself, against the world.

My body hurt and the concrete was harder than I had remembered. My feet were pulsating with exhaustion. The worn sole of my right Chinese girl shoe mouthed slowly at every step as it “peeoed-peeoed” at me like baby birds demanding food. My left shoe was now a casualty strewn under a fire escape at Werdin Place. I imagined my shoe embalmed with bum urine and cigarette ash. My shoe had served me well. I just needed to get to the Cecil.

I never felt pity for myself until that moment. My one black sock was still on my left foot and I stank like cigarette and latex. My navy blue hoodie was torn at the nape where the hood connects to the body from where I was pulled. It had scabby matted clots of blood and snot on the arm cuffs. I could smell the blood iron sickly sweet rubbery odor ground into the fabric mesh of my clothes. Memories of how well-groomed and perfect my mother and sister always were wafted over my mind. Impeccable make up, pressed clothes, matching jewelry and exquisite scents. Jasmines, roses, spices, musks; all offerings to the heavens and here I was dirty deep into the marrow. Blood, spit and skin ground into the tar. My body and feeble sanity violated.

I consoled myself by tearing the bandages off my throat and my left ring finger. The bandages caused me to admit defeat or worst yet, victimhood. I felt guilty thinking about my mom and her baubles. Those were her drugs and her costumes hiding scars my dad gave her both inside and out. I sat on the curve of Sunset and Spring St. amongst the scent of Peking duck and taquitos. I cried for my mother. I hated myself for crying just because I needed her. I didn’t deserve anything, so I just allowed myself to feel her pain like I did when I was a kid. I needed to punish my stupidity and my addictions. I didn’t like silks or jewelry anyway. I was too ugly. My mom never liked my nose, eyes or my boyish body. I was too short for her taste. I guess my father’s Portuguese genes were stronger than my mother’s German ones.

Dedicated to my friend Nick Reeves.

different circles

in my mind i had run away again it was just a fantasy a longing to be missed the truth was i was often absent from home and so was everyone else who lived there a modern family i thought about visiting Mr. Petrucchio but it was early evening he was probably asleep in his green upholstered chair with his brown Ferragamos still on and Perry Como on the hi fi killing me softly was his favorite

a weathered bench behind the Cecil was waiting for me old gray plastic too hot to sit on in the summer and always damp in the winter very decisive for a gray bench

i went to biology class today the teacher spoke about how eggs become fertilized funny because in English class we talked about how eggs are a symbol for rebirth life all around i took out a clove and lit up watched the smoke defy gravity up past my nose my eyes head and eventually gone to be part of the universal ozone

my mind went slightly blank and into daydream mode thinking about the electricity of boy chicken sperm fertilizing the girl chicken egg i chewed some of the black polish off my left thumb and came to the realization that i had been an egg too life was so intricate and fragile but forging forward man and beast go forth and multiply

out of my dream i snapped there was a four lane street between my bench and the old warehouse across the street with the permanently shut back door that transients used as a Murphy bed or toilet depending on the weather

at first there was a loud white woman skinny like a sausage casing she was yelling and flinging her arms wildly then two or three black folks gathered along side and spoke loud enough in religious tones he dead he dead Lawd take ‘im ta heaven po’ sona bitch

my watch said 5:57 p.m. another homeless person had passed in a door way i wasn’t sure what to feel i was no stranger to corpses my grandmother chose to pass at her home when i was a little kid and we didn’t have to wear seat belts driving through the north 110 speedway i witnessed a man dying like a fish out of water he was riding his motorcycle before that but had been hit and just left there i didn’t do it then because i didn’t know i was just a kid but every now and again i say a prayer for his soul

a small crowd gathered at my bench as they watched the coroner’s van pull in to the site one of the coroner’s people looked across the street at us and began making his way toward my crowd while the dead man’s crowd shook their heads smoked laughed yelled covered their mouths with their hand and then slowly left as the PD hung their yellow tape the sign of seriousness and solemnity

ain’t Nutbush City

1989 was a period in life when all back doors of an imminent hell opened to me my loved ones were self-deceived and in their view doing well so i let them linger in their truthful lies

the Cecil was really falling apart at that point a metaphor for the characters in my life i being a bit player young addictions mushrooming everywhere with most here and there would be one character more sophisticated than the other that player was Amos

the other being my mother she fancied herself a feminist with her valley feminist friends me i wasn’t sure what i fancied but  started to steal more of my folks booze and pills it felt good to be honest about my thieving it took the edge off the lies that we told about how bad ass we were in controlling our demons

Amos’s demons would wear pink hustle old has been business men for a suck that never seemed to happen they were rolled here and there after falling asleep taking their pants off on the faux zebra stripped bed

my folks never knew about my life in the city i was just a latch key mess 4.0 gpa high school back door graduate i went to college i don’t know why or even how or how i got a 4.0 shit just happened growing up i had to think faster than your common drunk or cokehead or devious spoiled beautiful caged in their superiority women who struck me as being in horrible painful relationships what was heart breaking was that in their fantasy of being happy and better than thou they were murdering their true potential with worthless crap

Amos wanted to be so much like those women but she just couldn’t go through the medical change or even tell her mother back in Haiti whom she adored i was ignorant as hell when it came to identity i just loved Amos and wanted her to be happy i saw a lot sex violence addiction pain tears orgies more violence but in a way i’m grateful to Amos she did the best she could to raise me if i happened to go by the Cecil drunk or high and she was home i’d had to stay there and get lectured until i passed out

for Amos life had to go on and the hustle continued i’d pretend to sleep or if a fight broke out i sneaked into the bathroom or the murphy bed on the wall no biggie i was a pro at hiding and by that time swinging the punches too on account of my folks and their way of life in a very twisted way sword life might not always kill you

in retrospect i somewhat owe my life to Amos she taught me many things such as using protection don’t go home with anyone don’t walk the street alone “be good kid for Chris’ sake” don’t ever leave your drink alone stuff like that

Capgras delusion

she brushed her hair slowly asking questions to the air i sat and i doodled in my math book algebra was not my friend although in high school calculus was a little kinder honestly being a student of the formal subject and theory concept philosophy and algorithm was never my cup of anything i preferred to daydream observe and think later on i was given diagnostic labels for all three on account that some people couldn’t understand  how to appreciate those foibles of me and thus my mind was pathologized to fit into a neat little category i didn’t mind i was a kid but in some strange way much deeper and wiser than they would ever be not intellectual perhaps more intuitive a reader of in between the lines of the lines

Abbey was decent looking very natural and i liked that at home my mother and her friends laid on the war paint rather thickly and it was hard to tell if they were human in retrospect now i understand that all of the women i knew as a kid had pain to hide their veils make up booze pills loveless sex marriage unwanted kids back stabbing hate rage sarcasm some had money and when the rare expression of love was directed at them all hell broke loose love hurt too too much

besides a killer record collection Abbey had bottles of beauty products for Mexico Spain and France i personally never tried anything on except for some nail polish in pearlescent pink that i didn’t really like Abbey tried to teach me how to put make-up on but it really didn’t interest me there was something in my soul that frowned upon that sort of thing a kind of defense mechanism and i found the make-up styles of her younger years a bit on the grotesque side but what did i know i was a rag tag tomboy

on a dark gray November morning i decided to cut the rest of the day and i headed to the Cecil i knew someone would be there i almost floated up to the sixth floor where Abbey lived knocked on 607 and nothing i almost left to go rap on another door further down that hall when i heard the knob turn and the chain lock release Abbey had an ink blue and red left eye ball shut by the swelling of traumatized flesh

she told me to come in and as i walked through the door she told me about how she had gotten mugged last night and her purse stolen i knew from memory Abbey only had one purse tan kid skin leather silver zipper and fringe which was sitting on the floor of her opened closet door looking at her as every second ticked by i could feel a tightness in my chest my teeth began to clench and i punched a softball sized hole on the drywall i had seen the same on my mother

in the room

the edge of summer is always rougher in down town the garbage cooks in the hot August sun and the mango pits baste in the pigeons’ bath water but i can’t help to be in love with the complex and undeniable lived in beauty of the city

as soon as i step into the lobby i see Mr. Petrucchio’s grand daughter with a mile wide smile because granpa will be moving in with them today i agree the Cecil is no place for an aging refined man or anyone else who didn’t have the junky sickness or the negotiating with the devil credentials

half of my life has gone by although i count my birthdays in dog years so old in my soul and experience but too young in some circles a gen x’er with no money too many bills the last of the missing generation child of war birthday cake candle blower outer low brow collector little girl but i still have me rickety cracked me

sitting in my bed room with my cats and dog we laugh and talk as i finger bang the keyboard i think about smoking a cigarette but i don’t i miss the Cecil the old Cecil full of the residue of Adam’s sin i miss a phantom childhood you know the one where we become our parents’ parent yeah i’m not bitter i got to play with real barbie dolls mainly holding their hair back in my mom’s bathroom when they were throwing up too many cocktails diet pills and i guess too much cock that made them pregnant who knew i was just seven

its August 2019 the edge of summer again its rougher now we have placeless people stewing in the system stewing in the tents waiting for a breath of help the Cecil has cleaned up mostly serves to house tourists looking for the LA experience i shy away from their questions like where’s the best Mexican Food where can we find parking how much are you asking for a blow job baby and being me i have to answer back i’m too big to fit down your throat sweetheart i’ve learned to disarm some but not all yet i love my city it’s my home and she’s disarmed me any way she’s wanted to my sweet Sensei i’ve been a good student though she can’t deny that

where has life gone and my summers and popsicles hot dogs and fireworks on the fourth where has the magic gone i’ve missed much so the Fall is coming along with the adverts of pumpkin spice everywhere the new Fall collections the new laws that question the very validity of what the Gods have created and the pangs of sadness come but also the reminder that life goes on in spite of decree or tears or me i’m learning to love something greater than the world at long last hobo girl i say don’t worry you can still smile a mile wide

atmospheric tiramisu

that Friday had been particularly rough my science teacher Mrs. Thorndyke must’ve been on the rag or something i’m not even sure why i went to school that day i guess i just needed the routine life was unraveling all over me my folks money politics and a robust octopus demon had it’s addiction tentacles around by mind i felt heavy lost i wanted to make it all go away if i got a gold fish took out the trash make dad a clay ashtray maybe if i behaved but my check engine light had been flashing for almost two years now

i walked around downtown til i hit Main street i was too tired to go to the nickel besides i knew Taino wasn’t home i didn’t trust sitting in the lobby of the King Edward by myself i had a feeling i went up to the roof of the Cecil i was a runt back then no one knew i was alive the sky was baby blue like a Joe Jackson song and right where the mountain crests with the horizon an atmospheric tiramisu of different colored smogs

looking down at the sidewalk on Main i would count the people coming in and out of the lobby i remember thinking these must be really happy folks well mannered with nice houses and lawns and supper my mind began to wander my body relaxed i wasn’t comparing or analyzing anymore i was just of the moment alone face to face with my 17 years of invisibility of course i thought about jumping but that streak of rebel pomposity fed by my love of the Sex Pistols thought jumping off the roof would be utterly trite

thank goodness for my photographic memory finger tips without having to shift my eyes from the helicopters pigeons and flag poles i reached into my book bag and fished out the Ritalin pills that soothed me when i felt like curling up and sucking my thumb in about half hour or half day the lines blurred i was thinking about the news and the Contras Viet Nam vets and crack cocaine i thought about how many homeless people there were and the crips and the bloods and everyone in between

nowadays i often think of that Friday and i wonder what would have become of me if i had been a popular girl a girly girl a girl whose parents were proper closet alcoholic church goers conscious voters PTA joiners and i wore dresses and never took anything stronger than grape juice but we were not like that no one was ever like that in truth we were all just ragers in our own way

my daydreams about the world its wars and LA were just smoke and mirrors to hide from what would inevitably be an incredible ride into familiar unknowns of wanting to die and fly and vomit and binge and fuck and love and cry and laugh and feel whole

spare cock Amos

on my birthday the ritual is to go spend it in downtown first a nice long walk by myself thin flip flops so that i can feel the pavement and the hot pulse emitting from the man holes i like the forest of gray monochromatic shadows strewn across alley way walls and on the sidewalks mottled by the grime and chewing gum ground into the compacted sandy mineral flesh of the streets

this year i felt bold so i walked into the Cecil the rays of stained glass fluttered upon me like crazed butterflies it was as though i could almost feel the velvet of their wings swatting me gently on my face my feet moved me down the lobby and i sat in an upholstered camel tone lounge chair even with the bustle and shallow energy of the young tourists hip kids the Cecil’s heart was heavy like a vault

flooded by memories the ghosts of my adolescence entered the stage one by one and sat in the lobby with me i became Hamlet when he saw the spirit of his father the spell was temporarily broken by an old woman asking for spare change fumbling with my pink coin purse i empty a few dimes and made an offering as i repositioned my face back up toward her she vanished only the scent of gardenias to remember her by

atop of the service desk was an incredibly tall birds of paradise bouquet in an urn kind of vase the vignette of the greens reds yellows and oranges eased my mind into taking note of someone i had all but forgotten Amos

Amos was from Cite Soleil Haiti tall slender muscular ebony angular loud graceful kind honest fearless vicious fighter when provoked transgender and broken in some parts of her spirit fragile little girl Amazon goddess bitch i had fallen in love with her strength without knowing that she was my sister in pain i was a kid she was ageless and smooth

with us there were never any serendipitous conversations about plans for the future family traditions favorite color boys t.v. or candy during my visits to her she shared that her street name was Tiffany de Mournay i shook my head and blurted she had a pretty name but at 12 i had no awareness of what all that meant to me Tiffany Amos was Amos Tiffany and i really dug them both

at other times men would call her out in the hallway laughing and banging on the door they’d yell hey spare cock Amos come out man we got some business for you i didn’t ask her what that meant although later in life i think i understood it she would say hold on sweet and go answer her door shout back in French and slam her door as she roared in laughter they all knew each other and liked to fuck around with her when Tiffany Amos got the blues they were dark violet

the seeds

being a kid with 24/7 latch key clearance life was a wonderment full of things that logically i didn’t get but knew were painful for the human spirits amongst me

i frequented the Cecil more than homeroom at D Starr MS it was like a carnival backstage up close contact with the carnies included it was cool

the sixth floor had Abbey the hooker she was a Mexican-American lady with flan tone skin and perpetual bruises on her arms her pimp was some meth enthusiast with tax problems and a wife who was the daughter of an LAPD cop Abbey shared her Jack in the Box with me sometimes and we’d talk about Belmont HS years in the 60’s the student marches and such i just looked at her while flipping her records with my bony hands self-branded with the Anarchy sign i liked Abbey she never took drugs or drank not that i knew about she was just angry and beaten

in the lobby Mr. Petrucchio sat and read Time Magazine the same one for months on end the one on the Contra Aid scandal he was Sicilian from Corleone he turned me on to The God Father one and two he also shared that the movies were too glamorous i never asked what his first name was he was always Mr. Petrucchio to me it sounded hella cool i liked it when he taught me the dirty words in Siculu like fetuso or puttana or minchia but you kinda have to draw it out he said

i met Amos in the lobby one summer day i was reading the LA Weekly about the night stalker having been caught Amos had an intriguing accent and beautiful ebony slick skin eyes like black olives bright red lipstick and was wearing mermaid cut dress in peacock with crystals on the yellow satin sash i liked his wooden platform shoes he carried them guess he got tired

i must’ve been starring Amos looked and asked who i was i froze he laughed like the Un-Cola nut guy ay Mr. P is this your grand baby Mr. Petrucchio responded by shaking his head no and blowing out pewter smoke from his pipe what’s your name honey never mind what you doing here where yo momma at that’s a cool dress can i touch it Amos’s laugh echoed through the musty lobby shifting the dust sure it’s crushed velvet are you a drag Amos’s laughter roared making the glass at the front entrance rattle i smiled like an idiot

the last bus to east Hollywood pulled up and i left black safety pinned book bag and markered skateboard with a black flag logo returning after a few weeks Abbey was sick i took her a Jumbo Jack and chocolate shake she told me she lost a baby i said oh as i gulped tears back we sat silent in the lobby as she didn’t want to sit in her room anymore we didn’t cry

at the Cecil

any road north at this time of the year is cold and wet

       my neighbor said   coughing out gray-white swirled                                 

                                  menthol smoke

            your journey need not be postponed

if you can live here for more than 23 minutes

                    you’re used to the inclement weather

        i squinted up at Jeannie her pin curls once golden

              lighting up the strip joints along

the weary loosed boulevard  were now dull piss

                 yellow and very very sparse

she couldn’t remember that she walked into my room

                 believing she was home

    as Jeannie orchestrated a plan to cross her shriveled

        go-go booted legs    still i sat silent on the floor

    crushing pills to help me think    i was never one to

          bother reading directions 

by the morning when the birds bathe in the puddles of acid rain

             and snails ever so slowly smear their way

to the dying ficus tree       and in a moment of pre-contemplative clarity     i   look up again at my lady

       her crushed velvet baby blue robe   casketed what time separated from the wheat of life

          then wild cat eyes darted    past her   nodded head to look out of     the  screenless  cracked window

             with Tom  rasping something through the radio about      

                          a downtown train

                     and a torn paperback about Lenny Bruce’s life   on the milk crate  shelf

       i couldn’t help to wonder   if we were also waiting for            

                      Beckett’s

                                  immutable  Godot