(This essay is about music. I love music. And I listen to every single band mentioned or quoted below. Who cares…)
Big city. The trains kept waking me up. That, and the cold in between the cracked mortar of the brick walls, and the nightmare that I’d lost five years and Janey was 14 and I was stuck running in circles. I woke up crying. I woke up cold. I was hidden away in a 2nd Avenue North Fire Station, centered between a true speakeasy and the Family Courthouse. There was a book about Satan on my night stand and I tried to go back to sleep.
He turned his wrist in to shoot himself in the heart.
I’ll stop there. Enough.
No, no I won’t stop I won’t ever stop. I’ll walk into every fire you set, I’ll grind glass in my palms and I won’t quit. And I’ll pick up your dead bodies. Forward motion. (Forward motion means I will write about it all)
He turned his wrist in to shoot himself in the heart. His wrists were scarred-slashed from last week’s attempt, and they were done the right way. Semi-sharp razors running from the veins to the forearms. It was cold in the projects, it was loud from the family member’s screaming, and it was blood-pooled from where he’d turned his wrist in to shoot himself in the heart.
Still alive, and screaming to let him die, in a cheap chair, reclined in a corner. Pepsi cans stacked in front of ash full trays, home cooked meal left uneaten on the plate and it was 6:30am. The police went in with us simultaneously. The gun was on a counter top and I was freezing cold, tough guy that doesn’t wear a jacket on 20 degree Tuesdays.
To me this was “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. English-accent diatribe bounced echoes behind colorblind eyes, in between the snatch-and-grab to get a pulse-barely man to UAB’s trauma hotel. For him it’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” a 70’s mantra on turntable vinyl turning, crackling, running around over the grooves. There’s no need to play the album backwards since the hidden messages are in the chorus.
Take your own life. Anyone can do it. Or take one, because anyone can do that too. Advice? Stay on the highways.
The highways of the Tragic City keep you out of the neighborhoods… neighborhoods forgotten over with abandoned factory hopes and shop-glass dreams. Soaped-up and dust store front windows. This is Lower Common Denominator economics and short term leases. The streets are not streets, they are alleys and pot holes. The houses are not homes, they are four walls with a roof-leak ceiling. The children are not children, they are the thieves, victims and bystanders of tomorrow. Kingston pushes against Woodlawn and into East Lake, my personal favorite*
*(When New Orleans arrived in town during a recent hurricane scare, the tourist gangsters beelined their violence to an all out war on Oporto and 2nd Avenue North. Across 77th an Asian shop keeper has killed two, attacked multiple and refuses to back off. 44 oz sodas and stolen beer. Once again, and said from long ago... East Lake eats you up.)
Downtown numbered avenues separate the East from Elyton, Ensley, Pratt City, and the other heavy hitters of the West. Stay on 31, believe me don’t get off 59, 20 or 78. Don’t even look off the highway, don’t make eye contact with the shadow-heart of the city.
Stay on I-59 through Kingston and the dead gang boy we pulled off a porch with a bullet piercing underneath his arm and into his lungs bouncing into his trachea. We locked the door, locked in the thick pot smoke that got me, straightedge boy since the eighties, really high really fast while his friends drew guns and wanted to see a magic trick. The magic of resurrection. The one cop in the house called in a 10-33 and an army and a stream line of blood ran over a tattoo of a David star, poorly carved in blue-black ink, with some cliché words of God judging him. Stoned, I went outside and the police calvary roped off the area with machine guns and yellow tape.
Inside I’d leaned my back against the door to keep the neighborhood from coming inside, their screams tearing open a silent night of Kingston, the creaking industry sounds of Stockham long long gone.
Stay on I-59, the safe passage over neighborhoods this big city tries to bury. But just staying on the highway... it’s not always enough.
Big evil city. Winter was just some girl. Cursed with the complex of never saying “no”, the complications of going along to get along. A boyfriend’s bully older brother cornered her once in a downstairs bathroom, there’s no romance in kissing like that. Winter bleached her hair white like snow and had buck front teeth that worked for her and shrugged off the bad shadows of the city. Winter had two kids and there was that time a different boy cornered her, held her arms, and shoved fingers inside her and she told me that it wasn’t rape because she never said “no”.
“You never say no” I said. This is “Sweet Jane” meets “Jane Says”, a mashup of sad, mixed musical notes that play the message: There was something here for me at one time, but even that’s gone too.
Winter smiles way more than I do, a pretty freckled-blonde smile. I thought about her once and I didn’t look at pornography for five years. The heart of the big evil city keeps beating.
So forward motion dictates to go to hell with it… let’s get meaningless. Lets re-write Anarchist manifestos to Rich Boy or Motley Crue. We no longer need Strike Anywhere, Public Enemy or (early) Against Me. Do you think that’s what I listen to when I conspire? I write “romance-dead-tragedy, with some string of hope barely threaded”. I don’t need reminders that this town is hell. I need alcohol-esque escape. I need songs with puddle shallow meaning, lyrics of nothing.
Look at my shoes, my haircut, my watch, they make the man, right? Flat black soles, a cheap Timex, hair not an option. This is N’sync’s “Bye Bye Bye” in the speakers, not Fugazi’s “Song #1” or anything that matters, or anything relevant or anything that will last. That said Big Evil Crumbling City…
I’m not going to work so hard to be your hero anymore. I don’t need jacket patches and silver spikes to prove my discontent and,
I will be the one to bash in your beating heart.
“You can't win. You know that, don't you? It doesn't matter if you whip us, you'll still be where you were before, at the bottom. And we'll still be the lucky ones at the top with all the breaks. It doesn't matter. Greasers will still be Greasers and Socs will still be Socs” – S.E. Hinton