Sex $ Drugs £ Rock & Roll
Lou Katz & The Kunz
Tales, anectdotes, and considerations of an undying rock & roller.
Pics by Luigi Monteferrante.
Lou Katz called me one day to say:
‘Let’s get started on that book you said you wanted to help with and as we’re already late and you only live once…’
And then he dropped off for some reason – booze, drugs, or plain sleep. We’d met a few times quite by chance; I was on on a book tour for Stiletto Heels & A Pork Pie Hat, and he happened to be at one of the bars hosting one of the many readings. I recognized him, of course, but didn’t want to rush him for a chat. He came to me, said he wanted to buy a book and would I sign it for him.
‘Just write: To Lou, a kindred spirit,’ was how he wanted me to sign it. Then he got swamped by some fans of his, and that was it.
The second time, both of us were booked for an event at a local university; it wasn’t just him and me; there were plenty of other writers, poets, big names, prize-winners, and again he came up to me with a tumbler of what turned out to be whisky that he handed to me, went off, just like that, only to come back to apologize for being away so long. Lou said he really liked my work, and I said likewise.
‘You don’t have to say that. Just because I like yours, you feel you have to say you like mine.’
‘It’s the truth, Lou.’
‘Well, good. It’s nice to be appreciated.’
‘Appreciated? Lou: you’re filling stadiums. At best, I’ve got fifty people at any one reading.’
‘But they’re really focussed on what you’ve got to say, what you write. Me, it’s the noise, the thrashing guitars. The show. That’s all. The show.’
‘We gotta do a book together.’
‘Well, I’m flattered, Lou, but I’m not very good at working with other people. Actually, I’m very bad…’
‘I envy. Able to sit alone in a room, just you, and nothing: words.’
‘Ugh, yeah, well I don’t write anymore. I’ve spent a lifetime writing and reading, reading and writing, and now I just paint.’
‘Okay, so paint. I’ll tell you my story, and you paint, and that’s our book, alright?’
We shook hands, did our gig, and had a few drinks later that night at country & western bar called The Atomic Hee-Haw.
He wanted me to go along on his next tour across the Continent, but I wasn’t too keen on what was sure to be a crazy ride on a train without rails or direction. He ordered more booze, turned up the flatter machine, but still I wouldn’t go; by this time, though, my attention had drifted to this gorgeous young woman – pale as milk, with jet-black hair, blue eyes.
Lou called her over.
‘Honey, this man’s that poet I told you about, only he paints now, and I want him to come along for the ride to help me with that book we meant to do, remember? Only, he’s stuck to his chair, and his ways, and won’t come along. Now, you tell him how much fun we’ve been having on tour. And hey, all you’ve got to do is sort out my papers I got in my diaries here and there.’
‘We have lots of fun, see plenty of places, meet all kinds of people, and if you come along, maybe I’ll ask you to paint my picture.’
I don’t think I even opened my mouth, probably just nodded by head, my mouth open like an idiot, but all I remember was shaking hands with Lou, and Aurelie blowing me a kiss as she walked away with a smile.
I love to dance. I love to sing. I like to write songs, make music, paint. No real pressure, unless it’s your own guts like a volcano that blows you to pieces, kindles a fire with embers everyone take homes to brighten their rooms, warm their hearts, a hearth around which the herd gathers, murmurs and breeds. The aim of art.
Growing up, as a kid I listened to the radio a lot. An AM radio of beige plastic for the kitchen that was on the first thing in the morning. It was on most all the time, and when both my parents were away, I would sing and dance, pretending to be a famous star.
I was happy and satisfied with it until I realized my friends had real stereos with huge speakers that would blow the walls apart, and so I wanted one, too.
‘Out of the question,’ father and mother replied.
‘How about just a record player, huh?’ I begged. I was a good student. I got good grades. I shoveled the snow in the driveway. I was always on time for dinner. I came home when they told me to come home – and would sneak out the bedroom window and be back before five when my father would wake up to go to work at the steel mll. I hadn’t beaten anybody up the whole week previous that they knew about. ‘Please.’
They gave in, having laid seige to their NO without respite or mercy.
A hollow victory.
It was no stereo my parents bought me. The record player was small, portable, like a suitcase, gray and turquoise, manual, with a tinny speaker. It had a rigid cover you clamped on and, presumably, carried to your next party. Only I had no records, and record players without records, are useless.
What to do? At the mall the kids on the block and I used to hang out at in winter, when we weren’t playing hockey, or King of the Mountain, Hide & Seek, there was a record shop. The 45 rpm hung from pegs in the wall. There were different sections: Pop, Jazz, Rock, Classical, Soundtracks. The Top Ten were before the cash register, and behind the register, sat the watchful cashier.
I was used to stealing comic books, hockey cards and chocolate bars at corner stores, but we had to employ a different technique for records. One of our girls, usually two, would chat up the cashier. The cashier’s head turning side to side, the two birds chirping, the rest of the gang would roam around, acting as decoys, or on their own musical treasure hunts. But why stop at 45s? What with huge winter coats and parkas on, slipping an album away was quick and easy.
Course at home I had to explain where the records came from. I borrowed them. Elvis, The Beatles, The Stones. Led Zeppelin – the boys on the block were all nascent rockers, why a propos, The Song Remains the Same was the first movie I ever saw at a movie house. These guys knew how to play, but I wasn’t affected like my friends were affected – profoundly so. I mean, I was watching Tom Jones on TV with my mother because, I’d like to say, we only had one TV set, but really because I didn’t mind, even liked his style, huge voice and charisma. And I also watched Johnny Cash and Dean Martin on TV, maybe not a regular basis, but I liked different kinds of music, and still listened to AM Radio.
A song that struck me that nobody I knew said anything about was Love is the Drug. From the very first moment, the song hit hard, deep. I was there, I felt it, strutting, shaved, in a cool suit, hair brushed and tossed, ready to hit the streets, the bars, and hit a homerun with a woman who was dressed to kill.
But I was just fourteen, and I had nobody else to discuss the lyrics with. No, my friends had pretty much freaked out after watching the Led Zep movie, became real rockers like a lot of our schoolmates, in fact.
Of course with the music, the uniform: construction boots, tight jeans, jean jacket with the collar upturned, cigarettes, long dirty hair, and their favourite band’s logo stitched across the back of their jackets. Teachers were pretty much into the same bands, except for a handful who were very square, and stuck in the Fifties for all I knew, what with their crew cuts, strict disciplinarians, they were, with whom I had no real problem because I wanted to learn, I liked to learn, and if anything, I’d be punished for pestering them with questions or retort.
As for uniforms, my mother was a seamstress. She had a steady stream of working women, secretaries, bank clerks, pediatricians, teachers, who would come to the house where she had her atelier for a fitting. They’d drop in right after work, hence our sacrosanct six o’clock dinner. By six-thirty dinner we finished, the table was cleared, the dishes washed, and us gone before her clients arrived, women unlike the ladies on the block – working ladies: tall, with fair hair, straight backs, broad shoulders, long solid legs – and I’d burst into the atelier pretending I’d forgotten my homework to get a glimpse of their flesh – title of a track from the 1983 album Speedball Siren!
When mother wasn’t making clothes for them, she was making clothes for us, the family, which meant I was wearing made-to-measure trousers, blazers, coats cut and sewn according to the latest Italian or French fashions. She would buy imported fashion magazines that came with patterns she would cut to my size and shape, and voilà: the hippest kid in town, by far, sartorially-speaking.
Problem was it normally took some time for these fashions to drift across the Atlantic; hence, at school, I was laughed at a lot, made fun of, called a sissy or faggot. I didn’t care really – I already had my scars, and was used to it. May be why I have ignored or dismissed critics, both those who bombed our albums, or praised them to Heaven, but long before that happened, and rockers crowded the stage, and the airwaves, Saturday Night Fever happened, and changed the world forever.
Saturday Night Fever changed the world. Guys started getting dressed, not just putting on clothes, that is, jeans, and a T-shirt, jean jacket,or for a variant, a lumber jacket. Real clothes. There were now more school dances, and a few even began to dance. Before SNF, guys danced to slow songs only, a chance to hold a girl in your arms, or only your hands on her hips, but if you were lucky, a long Stairway-to-heaven-length French kiss awaited you – those were the options, the other being standing in the cold outside smoking a joint or a cig. I didn’t smoke. I stuck to dancing. And to her, whoever she was.
Girls appreciated guys who danced well, and dressed well. Some liked guys who could talk more than a grunt and sentence at a time, and I liked to listen to girls talk, too, because it was better than having to talk about hockey which I played, but what’s the use talking about it for hours, or days, on end? Same goes for music. Play it, listen to it, make it. Talking about it, unless you’re trying to share it, is useless. Big waste of time. Like art talk, and critiques. Just noise, or blots on paper.
Make it, buy it, hang it. Period.
Or fuck it. Exclamation point.
Disco exploded barriers. Everything became frothy, bubbly, sexy, and it coincided with our Sweet 16 parties. The SNF double album was played back-to-back, then replaced with Barry White, Chic, Sister Sledge, and I was seriously into girls – and sick of all that prog rock the rest of the gang was listening to, and the disco queens were better looking, a lot more fun, and I liked the glitz.
I was tired of hanging out with my old friends on the block. We’d played hockey, built tree houses in the forests when the snows melted, played street hockey, rode our pedal bikes across town to the river, sat on the grass in the park just talking for hours, summers and winters at a time, but I was starting to feel very different and apart from them. I mean, they liked Supertramp, Genesis, Pink Floyd.
Also, I was getting increasingly restless, impatient, intolerant, grumpy and bored. The neighborhood felt small, and getting smaller, like a vise. I started taking the bus downtown. I would walk the streets with no or little money in my pockets, look at the girls, stare into bars, bistros, and taverns; only, being just south of the North Pole, it wasn’t like you could stay out all evening, so I wandered into a shop, then another shop, until I walked into a newspaper store where they had magazines and papers from around the globe, a real find. Weighty magazines about politics, science, Kultur.
The ones that caught my attention were a couple of music magazines from the UK. The headlines screamed across the page in black and red, the ink would rub off your fingers, and there were pictures of these kids with orange hair, and pins in their cheeks, latex trousers, and chains. I read articles about squatters, and these outrageous punks were littering their streets with uncouth language, sound and fury, on the Queen’s 25th Anniversary, no less!
The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned – they made the headlines in floundering Britain, but between the lines, it sounded like the bands were getting more press than airplay. No chance of hearing them on local radio, this side of the Atlantic, for all I knew – and I was curious to hear what they were actually singing. On the radio: the standards – and disco – at parties, in clubs. with new discos being opened every other week; it was the craze.
And I won’t say no to a party.
Compared to a depressed squatter-riddled London, this disco music, and the nascent boom of Italian fashion, was turning the city into a huge glitter-ball of gloss, beautiful women, and silver convertibles with enough cocaine spilled on the open dashboards to keep a nosy kid like me high for a whole week, but we were looking to get wild on music. And girls. And clubs. And the riddle of growing up with your guts burning and ready to explode into infinity.
I sought out new record shops, going to places off my own beaten track, wondering if I’d be able to find my way home. I’m sure it was Mr Triumph, my then English Professor who told me about this record shop downtown. I took the metro, and the bus up the hill, entered this phantasmagorical shop with purple lights, burning incense, and candles flickering. The female customers wore stinky sandals and long skirts, with hairy shins, God forgive them, while the men sprung long hair and beards, shirts with floral patterns, and I knew I was in the wrong place the moment I entered, but what the hell.
‘Excuse me. I’m looking for anything….’, I didn’t need a list.
‘Hold on.’ Longbeard traipsed down the wooden steps into the basement, a lair where the ogre kept his fish-smelling princess, I figured. ‘I got this,’ he said.
It was an imported 45 pressed in transparent, bright yellow vinyl. The name of the song was: Pretty Vacant.
I paid my bucks, and took the bus home. I sat for dinner, nodded yes or no to the series of questions fired at me as to my whereabouts, school, friends, local gossip: Jim and Jules were found naked in the park, drunk and doped up, and you had nothing to do with it, eh? I mostly shrugged, ate my food as fast as possible, pulled the plate from under my father’s whiskers to clear the table.
‘Hey, I wanna finish my pasta.’
‘Choke,’ I said slamming the dish and storming out of the kitchen.
I reached my room, shut the door, pulled the record from the sleeve, set the record on the turntable, turned on the record player, and with steady fingers, grabbed the arm, and set it lightly, every so precisely, on the spinning record. I was standing, I remember, my eyes zoomed on the needle cutting into the groove, a diamond wedge, or a dentist’s drill, or your first fuck – I didn’t know what to expect.
Sounds. This was the San Andreas Fault of my life, the Before and After Christ moment that would change everything.
I played it over and over again, my parents banging at my bedroom door, but I didn’t caaaaaarrrrrrrre!
Transformed, an apostle of the creed, name of my first band, a propos, The Creed, I carried the 45 to my friends’ houses, guys I played weddings with, guys who knew how to play, who were talented, who could play just about anything, with all their money made from waiting on tables, landscaping, hustling, going to buy the best musical instruments and evermore sophisticated accessories possible, guys I really thought would freak on the energy and urgency of the Sex Pistols.
They hated it.
‘Crap, noise. They can’t play.’
‘Fuck you.’ I brought the record to school, wanted to show it Mr Triumph, my English Lit teacher, a cool guy with a TR6, who was dating the school’s sexiest teacher – she looked like Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac, only better looking.
‘Interesting, I suppose.’
‘Ah, you’re old,’ I said, but that was unfair, because he’d read about the tumultuous times in Britain, while my classmates, my schoolmates, either hated it with a passion, or were dumb-ass ignorant mules listening to fat cats playing the same old songs, and with nothing to say, playing it with more and more instruments, layers and layers of electronics, two drummers, each with every sort of percussion, and the obscurest lyrics this side of The Raven – name of a short-lived, but very intense band I’d sung in, a band which lasted five concerts after which two members OD-ed, the third jumped in front of a train after being found dancing at a male-strip club, and the fourth is miraculously here telling his story. Alone, roaming the streets, pestering the sales guys at the record stores for more, I began keeping notes, writing words, lines, phrases, stanzas – poetry, lyrics!
Now I needed a band, a real band, not Tony & The Cameos, or Frankie & Vamporators, or Peggy & The Beauticians, the bands I used to sing or play backup guitar to the backup guitar to at weddings, baptisms, communions, school dances, but a real band.
I put up notices at record stores.
WANTED: drummer, guitarist, bassist. Genre: punk. No synths, no covers, no shit-ass slackers.
I asked the guys at guitar shops, if they knew anybody, but lots of people hadn’t even read about punk, never mind liking it, so days passed, weeks died on the calendar, and still no band, because everybody was doing rock, prog rock, or disco.
And meanwhile: Never Mind the Bollocks was released.
Christ died and resurrected, and no, I wasn’t a man transformed; only I had found myself, at last.
When Mr Triumph asked the class to bring in songs and lyrics we were going to discuss, I brought Never Mind the Bollocks, and had transcribed the lyrics from memory. I was so excited, sure the songs were going to blow their socks off.
But all they did, my classmates, was cover their ears, pretend they were going to puke.
‘Okay, bozos, you don’t like Anarchy in the UK, but you can’t not like…’
Triumph had to beg me off playing the whole album. In the mildest most soft-spoken manner possible, he said, ‘we have to give everyone a chance, Lou, as much as I appreciate your enthusiasm…’
‘Fuck it, fuck you,’ I said. I wasn’t going to discuss Stairway to Heaven, or Sweet Madame Blue, or Angie or anything else the class had brought to class, and walked out after slapping the class bully across the back of the head, and knocking his sergeant’s books off his desk. What had I done?
I liked the guy – my teacher. I wasn’t telling him off, not really, but the rest of the class, the entire school, the rest of the world, for just not getting it.
‘What’s up?’, asked Mr Triumph, after cooling the bully brothers’ thirst for vengeance.
‘You gotta do your own thing,’ I said to Triumph, ‘write your own songs, get your own act together, not live just to consume what they package and feed you, like animals in a zoo,or a slaughterhouse! You have to bite the hand that feeds you. They always tell you that, don’t they? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, don’t bite the hand… well, why are they feeding you? They’re not providing for you, fool, because they like you. You’re providing for them. That’s why they’re keeping you alive, you idiot, because you’re feeding them their riches, and when they don’t need you anymore, when they’ve chewed and regurgitated you, there you go: swept away and washed out in the sewer.’
So, while these thoughts were spewing from my mouth, I suddenly realized I’d literally grown.
I felt huge.
I felt proud of myself. I had told them to fuck themselves, and we were at war, yessir!
A week later, I was called to the principal’s office.
‘Sit down. What’s this?’
I’d written a five-page essay elaborating and expanding on the thoughts I’d expressed to Mr Triumph that day for an Ethics assignment. The teacher, a nun-ish witch, was shocked at the number and variety of expletives, some pulled direct from Elizabethan plays, along with spittle and unnamed stains I hinted were excretions of love, with arrows, on the page, the title of the paper being: What shocks us, and why?
‘A few days at home will allow you to reflect on your actions, help you decide which direction to take in life, young man.’
Telling him to fuck off, too, was a titillating temptation.
Was I, or wasn’t I going to?
If I did, I’d be expelled from school, lose the year, and that would have been stupid. But think of the intoxicating effect of sitting there, meek-like and polite, nodding your head.
‘Yes, Sir,’ and ‘Indeed, Sir, I have been naughty.’
And head bowed, eyes to the floor, having your limp hand shaken, your bent back slapped kindly, you rise to say:
‘Take that whip, that rod, and shove it.’
But being thrown out of school wasn’t going to hurt him. It was going to hurt you. Me.
So I thanked him for the three-day vacation, weathered my mother’s tears, my father’s pent-up anger, both having been summoned to school to be informed of the situation, and my behavior, which was to be monitored, and while mother looked to Heaven, my father looked down where he was more likely to find me; only I was out wearing out my soles looking for a drummer, a bass player, a band here, there and everywhere.
Still no band.
I walked and walked, sat in dingy diners, live-music bars and taverns looking for somebody interesting, somebody who might look good in a band.
And one night, I saw a girl dressed like Cat Woman, minus the mask, and followed her inside a bar painted floor-to-ceiling black. There were plenty of guys, too many guys, with big mustaches, big muscles, leather and chains, but I was after the girl.
‘I want you in my band.’
‘I don’t play any instruments.’
‘Bass. You can play bass.’
‘Well, I can sing a little.’
‘My brother plays drums.’
‘How about you?’
‘I sing. And I can play a few notes. And I write my own songs. No covers. We write our own lyrics, play our own songs, do our own thing.’ ‘Cool. What’s the name of the band?’
I almost shrugged, I dunno, but I looked around, and found the answer.
‘Buttfuckers of Armageddon.’
We had a few beers, me and Charlotte, and when I tried to kiss her, she grabbed my jaws with her claws, and said:
‘You don’t kiss me until I kiss you.’
And then she kissed me deep and long, her claws sticking into my jaw, skin and bone, and pretty soon we were making out in the empty Ladies Room, after which she invited me to dinner the next day.
‘I live with my parents,’ she warned.
Mr and Mrs Le Blanc, Charlotte’s parents, lived in the swank part of town, on the hill. They made me feel right at home with their ease of conversation about music, foreverchanging, music, our favorite subjects, books, poetry, cinema.
‘Clockwork Orange and Apocalypse Now I’ve seen a dozen times!’, I said while we ate our chicken and salad, with nothing but a choice of water or milk on the table. ‘Sorry, but shouldn’t we have some wine with our chicken?’
‘Wine? We do have wine,’ Mr Le Blanc said rising, going to the cellar, the Mrs and Charlotte smiling faintly, amused.
‘We only have wine on special occasions,’ Charlotte said.
‘This is a special occasion,’ said Mrs Le Blanc, ‘how silly…’
Monsieur uncorked the bottle, went through all the motions of a refined wine connoisseur, which he was. After drinking my glass whole, I grabbed the bottle, and filled the glass Mrs Le Blanc had held up in those really long gracious fingers, and she had a strong slender wrist, and a long, smooth arm and nice square shoulders, and she didn’t have big breasts – they were actually rather small – but they pointed, I swear they pointed right at me, and I knew what that meant, and toasted to them for being – I dunno, such wonderful people – who, too bad for them, would have to deal with me for rather more time, effort and energy than they had bargained for.
Anyway, with the wine and the heat, I dragged her, and her freshly impregnated daughter, out of the kitchen.
‘Hey, where the fuck is your living room, and the stereo. Yes, Charlotte – oh, you, too, Daddy-O – you just gotta hear this. Hey, wow…’
In the living room was a mega-amplified super stereo from some Scandinavian Sci-Fi flic. After I sat them down, replenished the wine, this in their own home, I told them to relax, close their eyes, and listen. I slipped Never Mind from its sleeve, and placed it on the turntable, like I was serving the Body of Christ to the Unholy – name of our second worst-selling album, a propos, our worst being Kill the Bog Shits.
‘Anarchy in the UK.’ ‘God Save the Queen.’ ‘Holidays in the Sun.’ Mum, Dad, Charlotte – in that order, the songs they liked most.
‘Huh,’ was all my expressive self said, impressed.
‘To be honest, my parents think Bach is Divine, jazz mostly boring, and the rest is music for elevators, and shopping malls,’ Charlotte informed me.
‘I understand,’ I said standing there in the middle of their huge living room, Mrs Le Blanc seated back on the sofa pillows right in front of me, her legs long, wearing the sheerest stockings, her dress just slightly above her beautiful knees, ‘I respect that. And agree. Totally.’
Soon after, we – Charlotte, Lush, i.e. my soon-to-be-brother-in-law Sebastian, and I – started rehearsing in their unheated garage, which made playing our instruments difficult, but we were young, stupid, vile, passionate, and couldn’t give a fuck because we were the Buttfuckers of Armaggedon. And I loved Charlotte and Mrs Le Blanc so much my bones ached.
Years later, we were adults.
How and when did that happen!?
Anyway, we needed a break. We’d averaged three concerts a week, started losing pieces and members as we headed west after yet another tour: Hong Kong, Krakow, Berlin. Once across the Atlantic, Charlotte and I drove North to our chalet in the Woods, a house we’d bought with the proceeds of our second album, Bleak House, and the birth of our second daughter, Aurelie, thinking it’d be good for us.
‘What’d you expect?’
‘I got to get back to town. All these trees and fresh air are choking me.’
‘Everybody’s looking for inspiration, and we thought we could find it here. You think you can find it in a bottle. You believe you can find it in a handful of pills, in the turn of a phrase, or standing on the corner of a busy street, but if you’ve got the shutters shut, your eyes closed, your mind turned off, your heart on standby, chances are you won’t find it,’ she said turning away, unsmiling. ‘I want to go back inside.’
‘Well, we’re here now, so c’mon, let’s go for a walk in the woods and beat up some elves.’
‘It’s twenty below zero, and it’s late. And there’s nothing but trees.’ She went inside where I’d piled logs in the fireplace, and started a fire for warmth.
I hiked through the woods. Trees, snow, deer tracks, branches hanging low, made heavy with a thick glaze of gleaming ice, flakes of snow trapped in a frozen footprint.
Clean, cold, pure.
I hate it. I hate Nature. Trees, grass, earthworms, spiders, moss, and all those unfunny creatures that people the woods, hoot and caw and stare back at you like they know something you don’t.
Where’s my cement, steel and glass, my crowds, cars and smog?
I should have gone off with the others to hang out with the bums in the same old haunts as their dead precursors, winners and losers, but mostly losers, and definitely dead, dead as the turkey dinner Charlotte had left on the porch, a frozen turkey she was bashing against the kitchen table for no reason, no reason at all – except the moment you stop making things, the moment you stop climbing, hustling, creating stuff, writing songs, making music, making art, you slide back into bestiality, death and destruction.
With the full blast of the snowstorm now upon us, and no way out for the next few days, we tried writing some new songs, but I wasn’t in the mood for talk, for words, for stringing words together to fabricate an edifice I could not stand, so to my surprise, I did something new.
I picked up an old brush we’d used to paint the bathroom walls, found a several cans of house paint, and painted the first of a series of paintings called True North, which is what she was, that Charlotte of mine, my True North.
I was driving a motorbike across the desert when I fell asleep and crashed. There I was lying on my back, my mouth open to the rain, when a car stopped. The driver’s name was Caroline. She helped me into the car, set light to the scrapheap I’d turned my motorbike into, for the hell of it, she said, and away we went.
She fixed broken homes, hearts and lives. She gave me her card. Therapist. She said she was heading to the coast, and when we got there, the sunshine, the beaches, the apparently healthy happy surfers, cyclists, beach volley players, joggers and beach bums made her sad.
‘All that effort, and for what?’
We drove up and around the hills surrounding the city, and into the mountains, but the heights depressed her, and she wanted to go down, down into the valley, and past the gorge, across the plain.
‘Flat’ she said, ‘like the flat, dull and steady life I’m trying to escape from, but inevitably end up living.’
We slept in hotels and motels.
‘My suitcase, it’s full of blouses, business suits, prescription drugs, self-help books, good advice, trunk loads of optimism and good cheer. Let’s go.’
We got into the car, heading to places called Plainsville, or Dullsville, or Duncehead Field.
‘I know how you feel,’ I said, the fields yellow, the sky gray, nobody around for miles.
‘You don’t know how I feel. How could you? You’re not me. You don’t know me.’
But she wouldn’t. She ranted and raved.
‘Don’t tell me to relax. You know nothing about me!’ She pulled a gun, pointed it at me, stopped the car. ‘Get out.’
I got out of the car. I laughed – which was stupid, because that triggered the gun, right?
I went down, my thigh grazed.
She walked over, gun dangling by her side, spat in my face, drove away.
It began to rain, the smut and grime washed away in a thunderstorm that rolled across the hills and roared into my open mouth as I lay bleeding red ink, waiting for the bus to hell to make its way around again.
I was running ragged, drugged and dragged from venue to venue, one town to the next, one hotel room to risto, risto to bar, bar to club, club, bar, risto, bar, bed, fuck, snort, smoke, sponge.
‘Jesus was a man,’ I said that night in the Bible Belt during a concert, ‘who had to do some proselytizing before he got himself a following: fisherman, whores, and penny-pincers who, in turn, became preachers, Popes and Anti-Papists, but he doesn’t want all this blind adoration, or false idols twisting words he never said to their own purpose and gain, or even repeating every single word he supposedly said. The man, in my opinion, is probably pulling his hair, pinching his beard, and saying:
“Think for yourself, for Christ’s sake!” But if this is what you want, for me to be your Almighty, and your old man, I will be what you want, when you want, but never your saint and martyr. Never your saint, and martyr.’
Of course the person you want to impress most is the person who won’t be impressed. No matter what you do, she just won’t.
So what do you do?
No, you make a fool of yourself.
We were performing at the the infamous Crack, the worst club this side of the planet, when the woman who topped my ex-list walked in, turned around, and stood at the bar drinking her favorite drink: Lou’s Blood, a variation of Bloody Mary with jst that extra mysterious ingredient that would kill you.
‘Honey,’ I said, between songs – Turn Around/My needles in and You cut my throat each time we kiss –, ‘I don’t care if you broke my heart, stole my wallet, took my home, my kids, my life, broke the bank, my balls, broke my back and gnashed at my bones, beat me down when I was up, and kicked me out when I was down, because, baby, despite all the things you did for me, and to me, and more, I still wanna fuck you!’ But the woman who wouldn’t be impressed wasn’t impressed. She finished sucking the life out of the ice in her drink, and ordered another one, her thirst for vengeance unquenched, I guess, why I didn’t wait for her after the show, sneaked out via the back door, and ran like a rat up the alley into the next bar, happy to have found my own brand of booze happily displayed: Venom.
‘Routines. Obsessions. Passions. Addiction. Not bad. It’s what you’re addicted to, yeah? Bring together curiosity and boredom, and you get a potentially explosive cocktail.’
Did I really say that?
It was during an interview with that German music journalist writing about our piece, Himmler’s Daughter, I think – doesn’t matter.
Speaking of addictions, with no place to hang out in school, the library was a good place to go, sleep, but as in later times, whatever was available, I’d make use and abuse of.
At that time, barely a child, there were comic books, and books. I’d be captured by a book cover, read the inner lining, a preface, page and chapter.
‘If you are truly serious about reading, then you cannot not read the best, most brilliant, of them all,’ said Miss Appleby, the school librarian.
Now I knew you could borrow books for two weeks, bring it in for renewal, on condition nobody else had signed up for it, and then you had to relinquish it, and wait for subsequent turn, but I was sure it would take quite a while for me to read this next book she handed over to me from across the counter: Macbeth.
‘Should it take you longer, we’ll pretend no one else has asked for it.’
I took it home, told my friends I wasn’t going to meet them in the park for some rough trade and ribaldry, and finished the play.
God. I had nobody to talk to. Here was this mind-blowing, ambitious, bold, kick-ass, no-holds-barred type of guy in this tragedy written in the most head-busting language I’d ever heard, and nobody to talk to!
I couldn’t wait to go to school the next day, but of all the days the principal, who never canceled class for far worse blizzards, had to shut down the school, he picked that relatively mild day!
Cruelty, your surname is Asshole.
I stayed in bed, and reread the play, this time aloud, but I couldn’t lie in bed, stay in the house, because I was too agitated. I put on my parka, my boots, thick gloves, ski mask, and stormed through mounds of snow, my whole surroundings whitewashed by the violent storm – the perfect setting for an adaptation of Macbeth I later financed, but never actually got made, but hey, there’s still time!
What language, imagery, ultra-violence, beauty.
And then you go home, and you crashland back to earth. Or splat – onto the same old dinner table.
‘Stop brooding,’ my mother said, the wind still howling at my ears.
‘What’s brewing?’ my father asked, wondering, perhaps, about my furrowed brows, my bloodshot eyes, my white-knuckled hands clutching nervously at my fork and steak-knife, lost in thought, deaf to their mirth and chatter.
The next day I tramped through the beautiful snowstorm and ran up the stairs to the library, and Miss Appleby.
‘Won’t you at least give it a try?’
‘Not an easy read, I’m sure, but once you begin….?’
‘I read it twice.’
‘What else have you got, Lady Appleby?’
‘How about Hamlet?’
It took me longer, but three days later I returned the book to Appleby.
‘A real long play. Endless speeches. Stab the fuckin’ guy, like you skewered poor Polonius. C’mon, Hamlet. Poke ‘em. Put Macbeth in the play, and he’d kick your ass five lines into the play and gut Claudius before the end of the first act, he would, before you could even say: Long live the fucking King. As for Gertie, he’d leave her alone, what with Lady Macbeth hovering around like a buzzard.’
‘How about something else for a change?’
She dealt me Dickens, Tolstoy, Gogol, Dostoevsky, Herodotus, Thucydides – and that Alcibiades, he was a cracker – and before you know it, you were poking your pen at paper and writing, too.
Writing bad poems, awful lyrics, reading about troubadours, and stealing a guitar, learning to improve your playing via a book Learn Do-re-mi by the Groundbreaking Guitar Method of Mario Maroon, by Mario Maroon.
Oh, I’d already been singing. There were boys in school who played at weddings, and I had hooked up with them. It turned out I could carry a tune; more interestingly, I could perform in front of an audience.
The more they looked bored, the more they looked dead and dumb, the more I got anxious; the more anxious I became, the better I performed. I wanted their attention. I craved their attention. I was like Dracula. I had to knock ‘ em out, so I sang, yeah, shuffling my feet, shaking my hips, poking my arms in the air, clapping my hands, calling for them to join me in one sonorous orgasm.
‘Clap you hands, everybody!’
And the better I became, the better I wanted to be.
And look. A gold lamé jacket, that’s what I needed, and mom made it for me. And velvet pants of the darkest purple she could find. And black cockroach killers with gleaming silver buckles. And attitude, a-tti-tude.
Great fun, the weddings. I soon got paid more than the rest of the band for making the audience squirm and squeal, laugh and moan. There’d be five hundred guests in their silk red dresses, black suit and wide ties, fat dads dancing with their killer-daughters, ready to beat you with a bat they carried around in their cars if you dared touch their girls, Sacred Untouchable Vestal Virgins until she met you, and then she became a whore like the rest of them, which spawned: Virgin Mother Whore Bitch, and I’m your Dick, two songs on our seventh album, Killer Kunz.
It was through their sons, their snotty little brothers, that you’d have your chance to make out with the girls. These kids, they weren’t interested in girls.; they were interested in you: the band. Mesmerized, they would stand in front of the bandstand, totem-like, hypnotized, until their mothers sent their daughters over to drag the little boys back to the dinner table because the lasagna had arrived. That’s when you had your chance. Not when the lasagna arrived, but when the girls came to get their kid-brothers.
A wink, word, glance or gesture.
And if you were lucky, or bold enough, you were making out in a corridor, and then again in the park the following day, after school.
It’d go on for a few weeks until it became a pain in the ass taking the bus, or riding your bicycle, across town for a kiss or a blow job when, after all, there was food on the table closer to home, and one thing leads to the next, Verlaine, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud, Hendrix, Joplin, De Quincey – and before you know it, you’re shooting heroin, because after sex and more sex, and performing for larger and louder crowds, from clubs to theaters and concert halls, bigger and bigger stadiums, and reading mind-wrenching, gut-blowing poetry and music, how else were you going to come down, huh?
When there’s nowhere to go, you just go. Going some place, no matter where, is going some place. That place is not where you are.
And you go because staying where you are is no longer the place for you.
So you ride believing that when you get to the other side, something’s going to be different, you’re going to be different, but when you get there, when you reach your destination, Last Stop & Grill, it’s pretty much the same.
You took too much baggage. You’re dragging along that ego of yours, those tattered old dreams, that stupid bitch called Ambition who fucks you each time, and leaves you begging for more.
No matter how hard you tried, no matter how much you’ve succeeded in reaching those goals, dreams, it’s never enough, because you’re the bitch you’re taking along.
Only now you’re going to leave it all behind.
You ride and ride – and then you stop, leave the bike, strip off your leather jacket, and wait by the side of the road.
You are baggage you leave behind, a mound of dirt, eroded by time in time, a scrap of old bones and dust; once a star, now a turd.
With Josephine, there was no hope. Like that night in November, after the gig, she took me to Mo’s Alnite Diner where she told me her whole life story.
‘The story of my life is, in one sentence: there’s no story. No story, no life, no Josephine.’
Obviously, or not, I later used the line for a song, No Josephine, which reached Number 5 in the charts in the year who-the-fuck-remembers; it went: She’s like the headless horsemen/for giving head/she can’t recall/was it at/the ball?)
‘That’s two sentences,’ she added, pouting the prettiest pout since May and I met at April’s. ‘The problem is you have to believe in yourself, and I don’t. What’s to believe in? I have no talent, no ambition, no real passion – they say it’s all about passion, but I have none. Nothing really worth doing, is there? To what purpose? Life has no meaning. You write songs, paint pictures, but they have no meaning, no sense, no purpose. U-s-e, use-less, because if you think about it…’
And that’s when my body began to rise.
Inch after inch, it began to rise from the floor.
I put my hands forward to stop myself from banging up against the ceiling, now pressed upwards, my body breaking through, and onwards through the roof, and into the bright lights of the big city.
‘And no, Josephine, I am not coming down, not coming anywhere close to you, and your profound negativity, Josephine, no matter how much you want to talk about – oh, those most profound matters -, no matter how vehemently you insult me for leaving you far down below because I – yes, I am – superficial, a lightweight in the annals of rock, a footnote in the history of popular music, a bright sparkle on a birthday cake that burns intensely for but a brief moment, and oh, how right you are.’
Isabel and I go back, ugh, a month. She likes sex, booze, and black lingerie, so we have lots in common.
We were sitting around not doing anything special, except discussing Life and Love – she was one for endless quasi-philosophical discussions, and I say quasi, because knowing next to nothing about either subjects, I kept my mouth shut and listened.
‘Guys, they’re all the same. All they want is one thing: a roll in the hay, and by sunrise, off they go on their horses to the safe and familiar.’ She sat, legs apart, drink in hand. ‘Why are you still here, Lou?’
That was easy.
‘I’m getting old, Isabel. I ain’t so fast anymore. Ain’t so ready to roll. Been on the road so long, slept in countless beds from coast to coast, and back again. In Vans, buses, cars – even at the wheel. And I never slept much, not really. So, if you don’t mind, and it’s alright with you, I’d just like to sit here awhile, get some rest, and have a chat with an old friend.’
‘When’s he coming over?’
‘I meant you.’
‘Hm,’is all she said, put down her drink – and stripped.
That night we were performing for Anatole, the artist. The downtown loft was buzzing, packed with beards and whiskers, turtlenecks, and voices like cashmere, as well as collectors – buyers, that’s what they are: buyers – wonder-women, hangjowl execs and their killer-candy wives, toyboys.
After two straight numbers – Love is like a red hot rod and Molten Steel – Martha Bluette, the critic, has herself lifted onto one of the speakers, and starts dancing, which was alright, because she has great long legs, and in that severely-cut, strict gray business suit of hers, she was hot.
Anyway, she was doing her thing, and we were doing ours, playing I forgot my baby at the launderette, which I did once, when Tamara, the Japanese performance artist, jumps on my back, nude.
Okay, she’s a performance artist right, so she was putting on a show, right, but her legs were wrapped around my throat, and I’m trying to sing, and like I’m choking.
I shake her off, and she falls, her legs still roped around my neck. To escape, I lunge forward, stumble right between Martha’s legs, who by then, was sitting on her marbly ass. I end up face first into her crotch.
You’d figure somebody would have pulled the curtains on this embarrassing scene, but it was a private party with no curtains, no crew, and the folks at the party, they pretty much ignored us because, my friends, me not being a scurrilous type of guy, and a bit of a prude, I will not and cannot tell you what the rest of the party was up to that night at the vernissage.
Success is cool. You get to hang out with the President, and his staff, Senators, Generals, Members of Parliament, business hot shots who can’t resist singing your songs back at you.
After a few drinks, they’ve got Insider Tips for you, stocks you just have to buy, like now, and you do, and make millions – no shit – while the politicos like to sit you down by their side, and have you try some liquid poison they picked up on an official visit abroad, and once you’ve savored the distilled atomic bomb, they start on a long salacious story, Classified Info, of course, just to blow your mind.
And you are truly wowed, and no, they’re not kidding, and they trust you now because you’re one of Them now, One of the Boys. And you don’t mind.
What it’s all about, really. Love, sex, money, freedom, fucks, and this thing with Ida. Her, sex, writing songs, composing the tunes, performing, turning on your fans, listeners, a crowd. They’re not always special, the crowds, your fans. And it’s not necessarily our fault, the band’s. Sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. For some strange reason. But when it happens, it’s like good – great – sex. It’s what you want to do: make ‘em wet, make ‘em scream and moan, shout and twist, and if they were to die, they’d die happily, the high point of a firework display after a long slow burn, their lifetime experience at its culmination, and so I die, a happy death, after each uplifting performance.
‘You’re the one and only. My one and only. How could you even think that I’d go to bed with that wretch? I mean: Look at you! The girl I’ve waited for – all my life – Who plays guitar like the devil plays with souls. A girl who rides a bike, kicks ass, takes no shit from no one. A girl half my age who says: I love you. Makes me laugh and sigh with wonder. Now would I, could I, betray a girl like that? A girl like you, my daughter’s best friend!’
I found Dolores inside the bathroom just sitting there like that, unaffected by the fact that we were complete strangers, and she had broken into the flat – uninvited.
‘I told the thug at the door my dad played drums in your first band, oh, centuries ago.’
‘And Igor believed you, right?’
‘I’m a drummer, and I want to play in your band.’
‘I don’t need a drummer.’
‘I put her to sleep.’
‘What?’ ‘She’s sleeping at the Ritz. You can call, but she won’t wake up before noon tomorrow. You need a drummer.’
She played that night. Played okay. Didn’t miss a beat, and knew all the songs, which was flattering, I guess. And in the morning, after we’d talked and fucked, talked and fucked, she was gone.
And I’ve been longing for Dolores ever since.
You start from the stage, walk away from the fans, leave the venue, grab a cab, set off to a place called place. That place contains a piano, a pencil and pad. Like you knew what you were doing, you play the piano, press the keys, making noise, a sequence, maybe wasting time, but you’re wasting time, talent, and luck anyway.
Outside, it may be Friday, or Monday, June or January.
There are parties, concerts, plays, and people playing games, drama, news.
The cafes are full, the cinemas packed, folks line the streets trying to get into a club, and one thing leads to next.
Or maybe not. But who cares?
You’re inside with a noisy piano, a blind pen, senseless ink spots on a white page.
You stick to it.
Insignificant as you are, a brief amalgamation of atoms, you are the animus of your tools, a stump of wood, and carbon, without which there would no light to spark the cerebellum, no spark to fire the heart, no books, no art.
You are a crab, a fossil, a dull ass, a scavenger ravaging the earth for any scrap you could use. No emotion, no tragedy, no piece of a heart you broke, a life you destroyed, no tears shed in your name, no spittle spat at your person, no rage or folly left on your altar that you will not use.
Nothing is sacred. You write like it’s going to change the world. Like it’s going to change your life, like if this next song doesn’t get made, the course of history will end in disaster, humankind will extinguish itself before the end of the month, week, by morning!
You will grab what you can, what you need, put it together, and use it for your single and most momentous purpose: a new song. No more, no less than an assemblage of words, lyrics, melody and notes, three minutes and fifty-six seconds that amount to your own personal big bang, and for this we are pleased – briefly.
Now what? What’s next? are the two questions relentlessly echoing in your mind, so after a night out, a show, party, more talk of you and me, it’s back to work, compelled by your muses, impaled by your demons.
And so we begin, after the tea, bagels, and ham, on our next piece, the unfinished opus called Life, or why the fuck am I locked up in a room with a dumb-fuck idiot like me when I oughta be fuckin’ around the pool with Tanya and Veronika and, agh, play on, play on, Mr Katz, for no other reason that it’s what you’re here for.
And so you sit, work, compose – the artist, the ethereal spirit, the one and only Lou Katz, rock star legend, fool.
There’s not much I remember about last night, except she was staring at me through a whisky-filled tumbler as if getting a different perspective of who I am, or was, or who she, and we, were. Still here, without a name, no ID, just a pair of glassy eyes, cold skin and bones. And me, stumped and wondering: dead or alive?
We drove past barns and silos, waterfalls and nuclear power plants, shotgun shacks and Born Again Depots in our Purple Haze-colored bus when buckshot riddled the driver’s windshield.
Keep driving, keep driving,’ one of the Kunz shouted.
‘Stop the bus, stop the bus.’ I jumped from the bus, chased the two pick-up trucks wriggling their tails on the gravel, and whipping up a peacock cloud of red dust.
When the dust cleared, there was a shotgun one of the cowboys had shat.
That night we played at the Holy Cow Tavern. The Kunz went on first. The hicks started heckling, whooping, tossing their hats.
‘Take ‘em off!’
‘In the nude. Nude, nude, nude.’
The Kunz played behind a wall of solid sound: rock-hard riffs, a barrage of drums, the rat-at-at of bass, a string of notes from the keyboard she wanted to hang ‘em with, but the goons were oozing up against the stage, and the monkeys paid to hold ‘em back were hee-hawing, too, so I asked a stagehand to bring on the shotgun.
‘Hey, assholes. You shut up, and pay respect to these ladies, or I’m gonna take you out one by one, y’understand?’
I whacked a heckler in the head, and he dropped off stage like a brick off a fence. I kicked a pair of whiskers, and a couple of long-beards, and stepped back ready for guns to blaze; instead, they settled down real nice, toned down their heckling, slapped on their hats, raised their beer cans, and waited until two or three guys in the back said:
‘you gonna play, or what?’
‘Okay, okay,’ I said to the band, upsetting the play-list. ‘Let’s do: If you can’t beat ‘em, kill ‘em; and Rednecks with Tabasco sauce – to go.
One of our best concerts, best live album of the year 1992 according to Rock Da Jock Magazine, and we were granted an honorary citizenship and the keys to the city.
I love money. I love nice things. Not just things. Nice things. I don’t buy clothes off the rack. I have them made. I have a tailor who measures, cuts and sews British-style suits. Same for my shirts, and shoes. Ties and cuff links I have had made.
A side effect is that even at the height of my fame, when my picture would be on the cover of every musical magazine across the country, in the papers, on TV, I could walk out in a suit and tie, my hair coiffed and tucked inside a hat, and nobody would recognize me.
On stage, in the mags, I was always pictured in my unruly hair, later bald, my bared chest in a trademark vest, wearing leather trousers, boots, but dressed up, I walked incognito.
So, too, my residence differed drastically. I had converted a brick warehouse on the East Side, before the East Side became the place to live, and that’s where I would meet with friends, fans, the press, where the band would hang out, rehearse, chill out, party.
On the other side of town, however, I had a beautiful apartment, garishly Baroque, what some called the House of Usher, a place another set, another crowd, met with me, and knew me under an Italianate name, my mother’s maiden name, my profession never certain, but rumored to be one of the following: aesthete, curator, collector, obviously magnate, deals in arms, diamonds, drugs, or all of the above.
That was the talk, and so it was, a life unknown, a life incognito.
A double life, like Jekyll & Hyde.
You do what you do, surround yourself with people, objects, substance, but in the end, all you’re looking for is a little tittilation and good cheer. Yes, I am getting old, but must not – must not – let them know. Yes, I am getting old, but must not – must not – let them know. Yes, I am getting old, but must not – must not – let them know. Yes, I am getting old, but must not – must not – let them know.
For beautiful women. For being able to see them with my eyes, hear them with my ears, lick and taste ‘em with my mouth, tongue and lips. Feel them with my heart, balls, dick. Count each individual hair. Trace every vein and artery beneath their skin, bone and body. For breathing the air they exhale, living and sharing the good times and the shit, the endless rides through cities, back-roads, and lanes. For lying by me in hospital beds, holding the shit pans, for cleaning me out, and clearing out on me when I wouldn’t clean out. For lending me drugs, cash, cars they knew I would never give back. For letting me take them home when they were piss-drunk, and helpless. For letting me carry them up the stairs, take them to bed, take off their clothes, their fake nails broken, their lashes floundering, the glossy lips now white and dull, and giving me the opportunity of sitting up to take care of them all night, and all day, thanking me with sex, drugs, or simply: thanks. For hanging on, hanging out, hanging in there, I say: thanks.
Rosa Kunz was never somebody I could invent. Nothing I ever wrote, played or sung came close to being as beautiful as she was.
She irradiated, simply put, and I could only fuck her and grunt, fuck her and grunt.
I loved you Rosa Kunz, so why did you drive away, Rosa Kunz, and where are you now, Rosa Kunz?
We work hard for the money. Money our fans spend to buy albums, concert tickets, T-shirts, books, merchandise – money, and the time they take from their lives to wait in line to gain entry, sit or stand at our concerts full of great expectations we try to beat.
I know, we know, there are plenty of bands, lots of talented artists, trying to make it, trying to get noticed, attract attention, and it’s hard. Listen to the radio. Hundreds of songs played 24/7, day after day, year after year.
Each song comprises musicians, technicians, crews, each with their own lives, big, small, tragicomic, urban-pastoral, low-lifes and high-fliers, who never die, or sputter out young, whose dreams are broken by circumstance, or bad luck, or just rot to a bloody stink.
Some end up in a well-paying job, a job that actually pays, where all you do is put in your own eight hours, go home, and not worry about it too much because tomorrow, there’s more of the same. You produce, or process, one file or product at a time, until you punch out.
And for this you should be grateful.
You can set it aside. Once home, you have a life, another life, your life of friends and family, past times. You can pitch a game, go for a beer with the boys, hang out with the chicks, play with your kids, cuddle your wife, stay home and watch a silly romantic movie on TV because she’s happy, and if she’s happy, you’re happy.
But life here doesn’t stop. Where’s my next line going to come from? And will it come? And if it’s shit, and maybe it’s the best line I ever wrote, and it’s the end of that, what next? And will I think it’s good? And what do I know? What do critics know, and the audience is so fickle, and it would be the end.
Only you know it’s not.
But it could be.
Only you don’t give up. But what if you do?
Have nothing to say. Want nothing to say. What, then, huh?
Why you’re here, now, doing what you’re doing not because it’s going to end one day – that’s no news! – but because it’s better than being stuck in a dismal job you hate – as plain and simple as that, baby.
Conversation I had with Constance, my 16-year old daughter.
We were made for each other, but we had nothing to say: not to each other, nor to anybody else. That’s why she played keyboards, felt safe being behind the stacked goods, hiding in the dark, far from the lights, and deep into the shadows of her own scarred heart. Not seen. Unheard. Except for the music springing from her fingers on the keyboard.
After our shows, we would have a few drinks in the nearest bar. She watched the hustlers and whores talking, laughing, and she would stare into me, like I was no different, eyes that mirrored hers, void versus void, two mirrors facing each other, both full of cash, drugs, and sex.
She has a voice I like to hear, but she won’t sing, so I thrust the microphone to her mouth, and with the audience there, she can’t let them down. She, like the rest of the band, they’re always smack on, 100%, each time. They never miss a beat. Track after track. They sound as good live as they do on tape.
Some bands, I won’t say a lot, the drummer flies off into one direction, the bass line, instead of being a clear bold line, is a muddle on a smudged page, the keyboard is either too loud, or too low, the rhythm guitar too fast, the solo guitar unwinding like a ball of wall in a litter of wild cats,the singer flying through a dream-fantasy, or lone nightmare, while The Kunz are neat, tidy, cool, precise, surgically so, why it works magically with the chaos, havoc, and ruin I add to the hags’ broth.
‘Dance, Bella, Dance! You’ve got to show some energy!’
They make it look easy – dancers. They’re young, lithe. energetic, Ambitious, hungry. Or so they say. No, there are some. But most fall by the wayside. Give up at a certain point in their short lives because it’s not working out. It’s not where I should be at this point, time and junction of my life. I put in some much work, dedication. I gave it all, but it wasn’t enough. I gave it all, and nothing happened. There’s no change. Nothing to take home, put nn your desk, or bookshelf. No prize, award, recognition, no money nor glory.
As for me: I gave a lot, not all, because there’s plenty more, and so I dance, frolic and laugh because, ha!, I’ve survived. I’ve lived to be old. I am alive.
And you’re not. You: oh, so Young, Ripe, and so bloody Rotten.
‘I was wrong. You were right. I know I shouldn’t have, but I did. What’s jumping out the window going to resolve? Or do? But to deprive me of your company. Oh, that’s it, eh? Well, if you jump, I’ll jump, so I don’t have to suffer. I won’t have to live the rest of my life regretting what I did. I’m sorry. I will cut short the pain, the insufferable pain, and die like Romeo died. For you, for love. I won’t be missing you. I won’t be hurt. Which is what you want. So get off that window sill, come inside where it’s wife and cozy – nice! Nice,’ I said. ‘Shit.’
Albertine was a great teacher. She put me in a mold, strapped me down, hammered me into shape, chiseled, cut and honed me into a shine. ‘You’re not a machine. You’re a living organism. Your body will change, is changing even as we speak. Exercise your potential, reap its rewards, stay fit – mind, body, and soul.’
She’s in a wheelchair now in a home I pay for. Hardly recognizes me, but I visit and roll her out when I can.
The only real time her eyes light up is when I roll back the years, stand before her, ask for instructions.
‘Shall we pick up where we left off, Miss Albertine?’
And she glows. ‘One-two-three, one-two-three, pirouette!’
So I dance, prance and fly, forever the jester, but for a good cause this once.
Tammy and I were on the road a lot. A million miles across the plains, prairies, the tundra and wheat fields. Deserts of clay, sand and rock. Cacti and lizards, snakes and witch doctors, shamans and gurus. Shysters, bankers, and lawyers whose sole desire was to: – service you, provide for you, take care of you, make sure everything was going to be: Ok, just fine, simply perfect.
An oiled machine with the gears ready to click, turn, crush and spit you out, sucked and dried, broken and bruised.
But Tammy was no fool. And I stick to driving as fast as I can for as far as I can go in a race we we’re going to win because, hey, we’re having a good time.
5:05 am. Location unknown.
The truth is there’s nobody here but me. Me, a stranger, tales of fury and ribaldry, tales forgotten, tales retorld, tales revised, tales beholden, cherished, set aside, held in my hands and rubbed like the Genie in a bottle, tales of what was, is, without the ifs, or what might have beens, the had-Is, or ifs.
No, it’s just me, my accumulated goods, belongings, and the stranger.
After grass for breakfast, heroin for lunch, booze and bullets for the dinner date with Dana – Dana Destroyer.
This is NOT!
Visual artist and writer, Luigi Monteferrante was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1962. He lives in Italy.
His poetry has appeared in: Quills Canadian Poetry, Fractions, Neon, Forma Fluens, Poesia/Indiana Bay, Motel 58, Word Slaw, poetryfriends, kudos, Sonar 4, Poet’s Ink Review, The Battered Suitcase/Vagabondage Press, Twisted Tongue, Danse Macabre, Language & Culture, Kritya, Burst Now, Yellow Mama, greenbeard, Glass Poetry Journal, Wow, Orbis, Faraway Journal, riverbabble, Blueprint Review, Unheard Magazine, Toucan, Accenti, Sex & Murder, Sparkbright, Record, Valent Range, Skive Magazine, A Propos, Gloom Cupboard, Montreal Serai.
The Chicago Quarterly Review, Happy, and Taylor Trust have published his short stories.
Books: Stiletto Heels & Pork Pie Hat, poetry collection, available for download at iTunes, Amazon; At the Hearth of the Devil’s Lair, novel, paperback available at Amazon.