Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, etc.

Towering over them all is Nicholas Sparks and he is naked, typing, his small fingers lively and quick and now in doubletime and bowing to Gena Rowlands, huge and tan and hairless, like an enormous infant. He never sleeps, he says. He says he’ll never die. He types a movie for Miley Cyrus and laughs deep in his throat and he is a great favorite, Nicholas Sparks. He has typed sixteen books and his fingers are light and nimble. He never sleeps. He says that he will never die. He types in light and in shadow and he is a great favorite. He never sleeps, Nicholas Sparks. He is typing, typing. He says that he will never die.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Closet Origamist

I’m interested in the Wild West; I am something of a “buff”, and I’ve been wondering lately about the “Dead Man’s Hand”. As in: I know it’s aces and eights, but I couldn’t find anything about the kicker (n.b. the kicker is the fifth card), or if there even was a kicker (Hickok could even have discarded it; source: The Poker Encyclopedia; Allen, Hayes), and I know that ghosts are always bitter little clowns (Ghosts: if you are reading this, I would be happy to be proven wrong!), but I decide to pay the 40 bucks and do that service where ghosts take you back in time to see stuff and explain the context.

This is still a new service and there are kinks to work out, for sure. My experience with this has been that the ghosts won’t ever go back to their own moment of death; they just want to look at stuff that happened after they became omniscient, so I settle on the ghost of Davis Tutt Jr, whom Hickok killed in 1865. I calculate this should give me about 10 years of context.

He comes the next night at 1am (ghosts always show up at midnight in the time zone they died in). He says, “Scroooooge just kidding it’s Davis.”

I tell him what I’m interested in and he says, “What are you, a ‘buff’? OK, let’s go,” and then he takes my hand, which is the only part of the ghost you can touch, and we are flying through the air. The wind blows through his gunshot hole and plays the tune “Kingdom Coming” by Henry Clay Work (which was a popular song in the Old West (source: Popular Songs of the Old West; Gibbs, White); to which he sings along :

Say, darkies, hab you seen de massa, wid de muffstash on him face

It makes me uncomfortable!

But the way in which I am made to feel uncomfortable by this masks the barfing that is typically concomitant with time travel by ghost handshake and the next thing I know it’s 1866 in Springfield, Missouri and so points for Tutt there. “This is where the railroad came through,” he says, “I just missed it by a few years.”

I tell him he didn’t miss it, actually, due to he was a ghost and therefore omniscient, but he tells me there’s a very confusing period after you die where there’s a lot of vengeance and you miss a lot.

“Sorry, I’m not King Ghost, PhD or whatever,” is what I should say but instead I say, “OK, What I am interested in is the Dead Man’s Hand.”

Tutt shrugs, which is weird when ghosts do it because they can actually shrug their shoulders through their ears: “Look over there, then,” he says, and we’re in a back room where Hickok and Sempronius Boyd, who was the judge for Hickok’s trial (source: Encyclopedia of American Government, 1850-1899; Herringsworth), are playing cards. Boyd has tens over nines and calls; Hickok does some weird legerdemain and reveals four Jacks. Boyd frowns and then leaves and later gives the jury mutually exclusive instructions in Hickok’s conviction, which leads to his acquittal. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s the Dead Man’s Hand,” Tutt says. Like a big pronouncement, like he’s earned the 40 bucks. Then he says: “If the jury had gone the other way, we might all have been spared ‘The Daring Buffalo Chases of the Plains’.” Like a joke, but if this is meant to be a joke, I don’t know what the joke is. We jump.

Now it’s 1869, and Hickok is playing cards with Bill Mulvey, which I didn’t know he had done that (he will shoot Mulvey in another week or so; source: Calamity Bill, Rosa). Mulvey lays down a ten high straight, and starts to collect the pot, but then Hickok does another hand gesture and shows that he has a flush. I don’t get to see what it is a flush of before we jump again.

Now we’re in a hotel room and Hickok is folding playing cards into little angular birds. Tutt elbows me, which I don’t notice at first because ghosts? Bad at elbowing. “One for every person he told George Ward Nichols he killed,” Tutt says, putting his shoulders through his ears. We jump to when Hickok shoots Mulvey by bluffing him into thinking there are more people there then there actually are: “Don’t shoot him, boys!” Hickok yells. Mulvey hesitates and Hickok guns him down, startling some meadowlarks upward. I remember the collective noun for birds is a “flush” and we jump to Abilene to see Phil Coe unfolding a bunch of the folded up cards (and being a grouch about it) so he and Hickock can play a game. “I don’t know why this is my job,” he says.

He (Coe) holds up a bird he is about to untessellate and says he once killed one just like it. Hickok says, “Did it have a pistol? Was it shooting back? I will be.” Pretty much unprompted! Coe will soon be Hickok’s last gunfight victim, I know from books, although “gunfight” is stretching it in this case. When they play, Hickok’s hand beats Coe’s two pair. It is either three of a kind or four of a kind. It can’t be five of a kind, obviously, but at one point it does look like that; we jump a few more years ahead.

Hickok has pretty bad trachoma and his lashes fold inward like a flytrap as he writes a note to his wife Agnes whom he abandoned not long before. He signs off:



With wishes even for my enemies, I will make the plunge and try to swim to the other shore.


He folds the hotel stationery into a little envelope with a “pull here” tab. Tutt and I hold hands; we jump.

And here at last we are on August 12, 1876, in the Dakota Territory, specifically in the Black Hills, specifically in Dead Wood, specifically in Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon. Hickok sits with his back to the door. I peer over to see his hand: an ace of clubs, an eight of spades, a four of hearts, a Jack and three of diamonds. So, basically, nothing? I don’t get it. Hickok will soon be shot in the back of the head by Jack McCall. I tell Tutt, “I don’t get it.” Tutt waits until McCall comes in, then we zip back to present day. Tutt’s bullet hole whistles and Tutt sings:


It mus’ be now de kingdom coming, an’ de year ob Jubilo

And we’re back in my room.

I would like it said that Tutt was courteous to me, and that is why I ranked him A+ and I know people are cheesed off at me for not ranking him lower, because that was the last A+ he needed to move on to the Afterlife. What I am saying is I am sorry for other “buffs” who may have had questions specifically for him (I hope you all “have wishes even for [your] enemies”! Source: above letter), and I will try to answer anything I can if you email me. I’ve gotten a few emails about parting words, and Tutt’s parting words were answering my question about my not “getting it” about the Dead Man’s Hand.

“What’s not to get?” Tutt said, “He’s famous. But who will remember Sempronius Boyd? Who will remember Coe? Or me?” which I would say is empirically ridiculous, given I just spent 40 bucks on him, but maybe he meant, “Who, other than the ‘buffs’?” And then he said his last thing before his body spread out through the room and then turned into basically the air in the room; he said: “That’s how it is with guys like him: even when he folds, he wins.”

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Brooklyn Lady Bloggers

To be clear, in the sex dream he had about the Brooklyn lady bloggers, he only had sex with one Brooklyn lady blogger, and it was in an implausible sex position, and yet the sex had been good enough that she subsequently chose to not blog about it.

But aside from that one (and it is not the one you are thinking of, probably) there were all the other Brooklyn lady bloggers in the dream, including some that were just made up for the dream, and were just representative of as-yet unknown Brooklyn lady bloggers. There was that one from Fort Green, and that one from Carroll Gardens, and that other one from Carroll Gardens and that one from South Slope, and then some unspecified Brooklyn lady Bloggers.

After the sex part, the dream shifted to a general appreciation of all of the Brooklyn lady bloggers, and the “plot” of the dream was that he was in the initial stages of dating one of the as-yet unknown Brooklyn lady bloggers, but this dating involved hanging out with all of them, as they traveled in a group. They were not individually solipsistic but if considered as a collective noun, then they were (in the dream).

In the dream about the Brooklyn lady bloggers he got off a few good bons mot. One was about how he was trying to sit next to the Brooklyn lady blogger that he was just starting to date, but this necessitated moving the other Brooklyn lady bloggers around to other chairs. But the Brooklyn lady bloggers were subdivided into groups of BFFs, so he had to shift these concave polygonal groups of Brooklyn lady bloggers around in a way that was partly like a sliding tile puzzle and partly like getting a couch into a small apartment. At the resolution of the problem, when he at last sat by the Brooklyn lady blogger that he was in the initial stages of dating, he said something funny about chess that all of the Brooklyn lady bloggers thought was quite good, although he does not play chess in real life.

Later, he and the Brooklyn lady blogger he was dating, and the other Brooklyn lady bloggers, including the one that he had had the good sex with in the beginning were all at an AIDS benefit. That was a weird part! What was that about? Shortly after, he was in the lobby of his office building, trying to convince his manager to get the law firm where he works to give a corporate donation to the AIDS charity, so at least you could say there was a call-back to that weird part of the dream. The Brooklyn lady blogger he was dating hung back by the revolving doors while he discussed this with his manager. In retrospect, this was the only time the Brooklyn lady blogger he was dating was separated from the other Brooklyn lady bloggers. Maybe it was because his subconscious was making him choose between doing actual work when he was in the office and surfing the internet all day. Oh man, nobody likes a preachy dream! Let’s get back to the sex part!

But just kidding, because the vast bulk of the dream took place after the sex part, and the Brooklyn lady blogger with whom he had had the sex was a minor character for most of the dream, and honestly the truly pleasurable part of the dream was the part where he was in the initial stages of dating the lesser-known Brooklyn lady blogger, and it was that feeling when you meet someone new and it seems like: OK everything can just stop changing now and we’ll just stay like this because nothing about this person is annoying me yet.

But the introduction of a real person from his life (the manager) seeded the clouds of reality and he started to remember pieces of his actual life that formed a mosaic and the mosaic said that he could not actually date the lesser-known Brooklyn lady blogger, since in real life he had been married for some time, and had an eleven year old daughter, whom he loved, God he loved her, but who at age eleven was probably perilously close to becoming a blogger herself, though not in Brooklyn (they live in Norwalk). How would he even know for sure? He uses the internet but he is not good at it.

At this point he woke up, and despite the sort of abrupt ending, it was some time before the overall pleasant feeling wore off and during the next few weeks he could recall most of the details of the dream. The sex part of the dream seemed increasingly preposterous with the progression of time, but made sense in a way because it had been with the Brooklyn lady blogger of whom he had been the longest aware. It was like a Farewell Sex Act immediately prior to the onset of the new relationship with the lesser-known Brooklyn lady blogger, and the fact that it had not been blogged about made all the other Brooklyn lady bloggers think, “That must have been some good sex!” and this open secret inside the collective gave him some confidence with which he was able to pursue the lesser known Brooklyn lady blogger, and to state it again, there are some feelings that maybe can be summed up as “confidence” although that would seem to be selling the feeling short, feelings which his brain has tenuously correlated to post-thunderstorm sunlight, bourbon, certain bacons, the album “Star” by Belly, the smell of the inside of the cabinetry in the kitchen of the house he lived in during the mid-80s and the “good” caramels his mother kept there, which he was not supposed to eat, some feelings related to just getting to know someone that still seems amazing and brand new to you like an unscratched scratch-off card, that is like the light violet color of rubbing alcohol on fire, the way it burns but does not hurt you: that feeling stayed with him for several weeks afterward.