Hell Is The Future

18 08 2008



Hell Is The Future

July 8, 2008 by Maynard G. Krebs

“The thing about the future is that it never shows up. And then suddenly it’s passed you. The counselor at school is always warning me about the future. Apparently it’s where you pay the price for slovenliness. Sort of like Hell. For atheists. People find comfort in the thought that eventually we will all be suffering. For something we’ve done. Or not done. It’s called justice. I don’t dig retribution, man. We’re all f***ed. And we know it… I can see into the future. Almost 200 years into the future. Something to do with the drugs the doc has given me. I like drugs. They make me feel fantastic. What a great word that is. Fan – Tas – Tic. It sounds like the special effects from a Buck Rogers movie. But, my powers for looking into the future are limited. Nothing sooner. Nothing in between. It’s a drag. I don’t see big events. Nothing cataclysmic. Like the end of the world. Or the next war. Or lottery numbers. I see small crises. Like dental decay. Or a burnt pot roast. In one of my visions I saw a young man. In a crowded elevator. Now I’m assuming it’s an elevator. It could have been some other kind of transportation device. Maybe it was a time machine. Sending folks off into the distant future. To help relieve the population bomb. Or maybe the subway. So this guy was in this device. And everyone in the device looked at him suspiciously. As if he didn’t belong there. He was middle-eastern. Except that his skin was darker, he could have been Dobie. Gillis. Dobie is my best friend. In the TV program and not the plaza. There was this time Dobie put on too much of the liquid tan and almost turned into a Zulu. Perhaps that is it. Racism. Although I assumed that we’d be over that in 200 years. Whatever it was these folks were uptight. Collars strangling them. So the doors of this device close. And this young man farts. Not loud. The silent type. But the sound was not equaled by the smell. The smell was not silent. It was toxic. People began to swoon. To grow green. Of course no one could know who had laid the bomb. And wouldn’t have discovered the culprit except everyone turned green. Except our young man. Who didn’t have the presence of mind to fake it. And when they discovered the source of their plague, they beat him to death. With their clipboards. Or lap tops. Tragic story. That’s what I see. Small tragedies. It’s not much of a gift. And I guess it will never do anyone much good. But I have it. There you go. Life is like that. You have gifts but there’s no market for them.”

The All You Can Eat Hotdog Contest

15 08 2008


“Good afternoon shoppers. The Stroke and Heart Foundation invites you to their annual fundraiser, The All You Can Eat Hot Dog Contest. Sign up now and keep those pledges coming in. Help us find a cure for this deadly disease.”

Blows Descartes Right Out Of The Water

11 08 2008

Architecture and Romance #10

Architecture and Romance #10


Paul McGregor stepped out of the drug store. The front of the drug store. He felt terrific. To have a cigarette. Fu sat. His legs twisted like a pretzel. He sat on the cement leaning against the drug store window reading a book. And looking bliss out. Paul dug into this shirt pocket. The uniform shirt that the drug store gave him to wear. He took out a package of cigarettes. Rothman’s. He wished they were Camels. He liked the name Camels. He lit one. Up. It tasted so good. Before he could put the pack away, Fu asked if he could bum one. Paul nodded. He felt generous. Everything was going his way. It was one of those days. Where you are sure that nothing could go wrong. What could go wrong? Dare anything to go wrong? Paul handed the package to Fu. Fu took out two cigarettes. Stuffed one behind his ear and lit up the other.

“What are you reading?” Paul asked. He felt like taking an interest in others. The feeling of wellness made Paul feel generous. Man was good. Human kind was good.

“Camus,” Fu replied. “The Outsider.”

“Any good?” Paul thought about Singh’s daughter. They had met the day before after work. They messed around. Paul had gotten to first base. And then to second. Home could not be far off. She wanted to see him today.

“It’s so good, I’ve read it twice,” Fu responded.

Paul nodded as if he understood what Fu was talking about. Fu handed the cigarettes back to Paul who stuffed them into his pants. A mistake. They would get bent. The first time he sat down. Paul remembered. And retrieved them. Put them back where he had retrieved them. Originally. He had to stop thinking about Mr. Singh’s daughter. It was making his tight pants. Tighter.

“How would you react if your mother died?” Fu asked.

Paul looked at the homeless fool sitting on the cement. Paul wondered what the hell Fu was getting at. He also remembered what his mother had said about sitting on cement. That you could get pneumonia. Or something worse. Resulting in considerable damage to your abilities to populate. Or copulate. He couldn’t quite remember what his mother had been getting at. But he was grateful that he didn’t have problems in that department.

“She’s already dead,” he said. “I was six years old.”

“How’d you feel?” Fu looked very professional. Or mystic. When he asked this question. Perhaps CEO was just another name for GURU in capitalism.

“I don’t remember. It was a long time ago. My dad remarried. I think of my step mom as my mother.”

Fu nodded. He took a small pad out of his pocket and wrote something down.

“What’s that?” The smoke escaped from Paul’s lungs. Like a stampede. Paul was a writer himself. Had a small pad that he kept notes in. Lately about Mr. Singh’s daughter.

Fu looked up. “Thoughts.”

He handed the book to Paul. Paul looked at the book. Page after page, there were words scribbled. Mostly there was only a handful of words. He read a few pages. They sounded pretty mundane to Paul but he wasn’t into belittling Fu’s efforts. Not today. When the world was so… hopeful.

“Why do you write in such short pieces?”

“You think I should write more. Einstein wrote his theory of the General Law of Relativity on one page.”

Paul thought about that for a moment. The smell of Mr. Singh’s daughter’s perfume. Disrupted his thoughts.

“Still seem short.”

“Not so short,” Fu replied.

“You think that way too?” Paul asked. “Like bursts.”

“I live that way,” Fu answered.

“You mean,” Paul said, “that life is made up of all these small crumbs?”

Fu smiled. “Ya. Small crumbs. The kind you’re fed. At the Master’s table.”

“But that doesn’t answer my initial question,” Paul said, pointing his cigarette at Fu. Like a branding iron. “Why write, think, live in morsels? When you go to the library, the books there are always huge. Like the importance of a book is dependent on its weight. If you want the world to take notice, you’ve got to think. Big. Why write in such small bursts?”

Fu was silent. He needed a moment. To consider Paul’s question. And to suck on his cigarette. He loved that swirl in his chest. That swirl in his brain. Was it thinking or nicotine?

“Because,” he began, “something might happen while I was biting off something bigger.”

“Something interesting?” Paul asked.

“Something dangerous,” Fu replied.

Paul thought about that. For some time. He thought about Mr. Singh. He wondered how he would react if he found out about his daughter. Fooling around with Paul. She had told Paul about her father’s fiery temper.

“Why do you pretend to be something you are not?” Fu asked.

Paul dropped his cigarette on the cement and ground it out.

“What are you talking about, man?”

“Isn’t your name Maynard?”

Paul laughed.

“Fuck no!” He said too loudly. Then looked around to see if anyone had heard him. They might report him. Mr. Edwards did not approve of profanity.

“You sure?”

“I guess I know my own name.” Paul was angry. He didn’t like people putting words in his mouth. Or making him out to be someone he was not. Or screwing up a day that looked so filled with promise.

“Where’d you get a crazy idea like that?”

Fu looked in his book then up at Paul.

“You did. About three weeks ago.”

“I told you I was someone named Maynard G. Krebbs?”

“I never said anything about your last name. Or your middle initial.”

Fu returned to his book. Paul stared down at the young Buddha for a minute.

“How did you know your last name?” Fu said before Paul could speak.

“A guess.” Paul took out another cigarette and lit it up. “I must have heard of it somewhere.”

“Do you know who your parents are?”

“Ya,” Paul sucked on his cigarette. “I guess I know who my parents are. And I guess I know that my mother died in child birth. Giving me life. Died because my fucking head was too big. And the doctor’s couldn’t stop the bleeding. And I guess there are things that happen to you that you never forget. Even if you don’t exactly remember them.”

Paul was silent.

He sucked on his cigarette for some time.

Fu did not look up from his book. Nursing his own cigarette between his fingers as if he were giving birth to smoke.

“Did I really say my name was Maynard?” Paul asked.

Fu looked up.

“I wouldn’t fuck with you, man. And that’s not all.”

Paul slid down the wall and sat beside Fu. Grateful later that he had moved his cigarette back to their home in his shirt pocket.

“You said,” Fu began, “that you didn’t believe that the people you were living with were your parents. You said that you were a fictional character.”

“A fictional character?” Paul’s mouth hung open. That sounds crazy, he was about to say but was interrupted by Fu.

Fu nodded. “You said that you were a character from a comedy series in the 1960s called The Loves of Dobie Gillis. You were a character named Maynard G. Krebbs. He was the only thing that was real to you.”

“Jesus!” Paul sighed. “The only real thing. What does that say about… this?”

Fu shrugged. “This is this.”

The smoke slipped out of Paul’s nose with a puzzled expression on its face.

“Sort of blows Descartes right out of the water, don’t you think?” Fu smiled sheepishly.

“How come I don’t remember any of this?” Paul asked. At the same time he had forgotten all about Mr. Singh’s daughter. And the day. The promise of the day.

“There was something else,” Fu said.

Paul turned to Fu.

“You have a tumor.” Fu said. “In your brain. Between your hemispheres. Like a hot dog. And you don’t remember any of this because you’re in denial. It’s the first stage.”

“No, shit.” Paul spoke like a man in shock. Unable to deal with the quality and quantity of information being fed into his cerebrum. Either hemisphere. Or maybe he was in the second stage.

Fu continued to slowly draw on his cigarette. Paul’s cigarette was stuck between his fingers. Burning down. Smoke going up.

“Am I fucked?” Paul asked.

Fu turned and looked at Paul. “Apparently.”

“Jesus,” Paul said.

“There is one good thing,” Fu said then added without being asked by Paul. “You seemed to have skipped all the intermediate stages and gone right to acceptance.”

Don’t Let Me Be Understood

10 08 2008

Nina Simone

Nina Simone

I’m having second thoughts about these pieces on female jazz singers. I remember in college I was quite taken by a book of poems by Eugene McNamara. The name of the book eludes me. The poems were about Hollywood actresses. There was something compelling about them. Something between the myth of these women and the actual facts about their lives. It seemed to go to the core of who they were. But how would I know? I had no personal relationship with those actresses. Nor did the poet…. I thought I might be doing the same thing with these jazz singers. Not that these are final. They still feel like marble. You can see some of the images but they haven’t yet been drawn out. Not fully. So I am digging for some kind of truth. But not necessarily about these singers. Do the facts themselves reveal who these women are? Do facts ever? It seems to me you have to allow the imagination to walk through their lives. And hope you stumble onto some clue.  I’m meandering here. Usually when I am happy with a piece of writing or a visual work, it’s because I have arrived at something that is beautiful. But by attaching the names of real historical beings to the pieces I feel a sense of guilt. Either that I have invaded their privacy. Or that I am involved in something akin to gossip. And yet. I find these women engaging.

This bit is about Nina Simone


Don’t Let Me Be Understood

August xx, 2008 by Maynard G. Krebs

b. Eunice Kathleen Waymon. Trained to be classical pianist. Elegant fingers. Stopped to listen to that horn play. Made money in clubs playing jazz. Changed her name. Shouldn’t be playing that devil music. First name, Nina. Little girl. Nickname from a boyfriend. Last name, Simone, from the French actress Simone Signoret. Large hard eyes. Filled with softness and pain. Nine didn’t care much about her career. Too much anger. About racism. About women. About stupidity and vulgarity. One performance, her parents were forced to move to the back of the hall. To make way for white people. Nina sat silently. Patiently. Would not move. Until her parents were moved back to their seats. Mississippi Goddam. Only solution was violent revolution. No one is happy in this country except at the end of a gun. Left U.S.A. In disgust. Government was after her. Through the IRS. Stayed in Barbados. Affair with the Prime Minister. Moved on to Liberia. Later to Switzerland. Fell for a man with four eyes. He had such smooth ways. His voice. His hands. Holding her close. Nina got beaten. Robbed. Abandoned. How could I have been such a fool! Kneeling over a toilet. Too many pills. I’d take him back. If he called. Settled in France. Wounded a kid with a gun for disturbing her concentration. The black wolves of night. Driving her car madly through the narrow streets. Diagnosed with bipolar. Medicated. Career revived. Great love affair. Like a volcano at the end of her days. Why couldn’t we do this all over again?