Beginning to hear The Ticking now. A glance at the wall-clock. 2:05, just jerking up to 2:06…they’d have to get a cab/train/something by, say, 4:00…
Closing his eyes, letting the juices flow, spicy but not too spicy, the sausage skin crisp but the insides bursting with juice, and the fries with a little “burn” on the outside, but white as apples inside, sprinkled with garlic, fried in, it must have been sesame oil. Slowly finishing up the sandwiches. Another round of non-alcoholic beers, a break in the clouds outside, sunlight suddenly flooding the streets, like searchlights on white sequins, like being a mite inside of a giant vanilla-on-vanilla sundae.
“OK…we’ve got just a little more time….”
Paid, a quick visit to the John, the waitress happy with the ample tip, Buzz thinking to himself She’s probably a student at Loyola or Northwestern or Roosevelt or the Art Institute, remember how it wassssssss…like Hamlet’s father’s ghost —remember meeee.
Out into blast furnace brightness. Hardly feeling the cold. The secret was in the light. Hailing another cab.
“Fourteen eleven North State!” he told the driver.
“Where are we going now?” asked Malinche, “We have to get to the airport…”
“Just one short visit….”
And even if they missed their plane, so…? They’d stay overnight somewhere
and go back in the morning. Wishing he could miss the plane permanently as they drove north on Clark, the stores, old buildings, fire escapes, new hotels, once in a while a sign “Condominium for sale…,” imagining himself there, walking downstairs to some coffee shop every morning for breakfast, instead of (the way he did it now) coming down and taking out the dog, eating a single banana while the dog did his things, then coming in and drinking half a glass of milk, Malinche always at work, no one else around, just this hundred year old house and and lunar silence. Great for work and/or visions. But he really was a street person, an elbow rubber, a worm in Wormsville. You’d have thought, being an only child all his life, he would have gotten used to aloneness. But not so…pictures all over the walls of his wives and children…worlds that had been but were no more. As if the Final Phase were to be some sort of wrathful punishment by isolation, exactly the opposite of Job who lived on and on surrounded by generations of his children. As if the Divine Hand itself had plucked them all away, and all he would ever have was Malinche, no pork, no alcohol and the endless blather of nightly Headline News trying to make distant policings, star-sins and abstract budgetings somehow relevant for him — which they never were.
As they drove along Buzz’s spirit went into a hundred shops and bought a hundred CD’s, the latest Paris Match, a pound of the greasiest, hardest salami and a couple of baguettes of just plain bread-bread, like the bread of their Italian sausage sandwich, some little Belgian shell chocolates and a double cap to go…go up to their little flat (his and Malinche’s)…oops…condominium…which they’d never own, to eat a little salami and bread, bread-pudding, that they’d never eat, in a life they’d never have. Feeling like he was in the middle of a suicide right now, the blood draining out
of a drain in a vein, always a countdown, never ever There in some sort of expanded Bayeux tapestry Now, but always on the way Toward or the way Away From, reaching over and holding on to Malinche. Even missing the porn stores, whatever had happened to Candy Samples and Sulka and Annette Craven, in Grand Junction everything swept under carpets, exiled. Not that it was pure and shining, but just empty and dull, the absence of (depending on who’s defining it) Evil, not Good, but merely Absence…
A Walgreen’s looked like the City of God, a grocery with mangoes and fresh figs in the window, remembering in Spain how he’d go to the market in mid-winter and buy blood-red oranges and fresh figs…
Suddenly thinking of his last visit to his oldest daughter (Conchita) in New York. Her little daughter, Maria Elena, one and a half year’s old. No room for him in her apartment so he’d stayed in the Hotel Wentworth on the edge of Little Brazil in Time’s Square, and he’d spent long hours with the little girl with her bright blue eyes and blonde hair, somehow whatever blue-eyes and blonde-hair genes there were in Conchita’s and Sean’s (her husband’s) gene-banks, combining to produce this cherubic child, full of laughs, curiosities, banging on the TV screen during Sesame Street, like she wanted to be let inside the set, Buzz talking to her in Spanish, French, Hebrew, Arabic, buying her books she wouldn’t be able to read for years on the lost mosques of Muslim Spain and the excavations at Jericho, shamans and magic mushrooms, Teonanacatl, the flesh of the Gods, the real Gods of Here and Now, the walls and the sunlight speaking “There is no place else to go, no need…you are Here and Now…bathed forever in divinity…”
Trying to tell the little girl, “I’m your grandfather, pal, and I love you,” Maria Elena
laughing at/with him, going out for ice-cream and a visit to the Museum of Natural History to look at the stuffed bears and armadillos, him telling her, “In Bolivia they have hairy armadillos that they make ukeleles out of that they call charangas, and they dance dances called huinos,” dancing around for her, her laughing, really, gut-level enjoying him…but he knew he wasn’t going to be around for much longer, heart, prostate, who could tell what would snap, rupture, go sour…wild…
And he could just imagine her mother talking to her when she (Maria Elena) was twenty, “What do you mean you don’t remember your grandfather, he spent hours playing with you, you were crazy about him, I’ve never seen him have so much fun in his whole life.”
Never had so much fun.
But (age one and a half, visits every six months) she wouldn’t remember. The same way he didn’t/couldn’t (as much as he tried) remember his own grandfathers who had died when he was just a couple years old.
Sliding into the brownstone area now, sedate, elegant, lots of steps and balustrades and peaked roofs. When he’d pick up Petra for a date he’d come an hour early and just walk around the block, go down to the little park (the beginning of Lincoln Park) at the end of her street, calm down his nerves.
It was like walking into the world of Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point, Londonish. They knew who to effectively imitate.
Looking at the driver’s name on his I.D. — João Pessoa.
“Too much snow, no?”
“For me too much,” he answered.
Just four words, but for Buzz it was enough. He knew exactly where he was from, could almost see the house where he was born, see his mother and father and
“Bem diferente de Minas Gerais, não e?/Very different from Minas Gerais, isn’t it?”
“Quem e o senhor?/Who are you?” the driver asked, like he had been stabbed.
“Sou un ango./ I’m an angel.”
The driver suddenly swerving over to the curb, turning around, looking microscopically at Buzz, fine tuning, staring, staring, staring.
“O que esta fazendo o senhor aqui?/ What are you doing here?”
“Espiando un pouco. A gente mais além esta un pouco preocupada con voce./A little bit of spying. The people up there are a little preoccupied with you…”
The driver reaching back and opening the back door, nodding as if to say, please get out, I don’t want you in here any more…please get out…please…”
Buzz, an amused, bemused, quizzical look on his face, getting out, Malinche right behind him, pulling another twenty dollar bill out of his pocket and tossing it into the back of the cab, slamming the door, a big tree, the Grandfather of All Oaks, right in front of them, grabbing Malinche and jumping behind it as the driver reached back to get the money, but couldn’t reach it, got out of the cab, Buzz’s hand over Malinche’s mouth so she wouldn’t come out with one of her usuals.
A long silence, the driver obviously standing there and looking for them, but not looking too hard and long. Buzz could just see his anxious, terrified face…3,2,1…the cab door banging shut and WHOOSH….AWAY WE GO…
Malinche starting to move.
“Just another second,” he said.
Waited. Could just imagine the driver still looking in his rear view mirror, trying to see them, Buzz moving back to the south side of the tree so that when the driver did
look back, he/they still wouldn’t be there.
Malinche finally just stepping out on to the sidewalk.
“What was all that about?”
“I don’t know,” he said feeling like he was an angel and he had been sent from Up There to keep an eye on the cab-driver, a Catcher in the Snow, keeping them all from falling off the edge of the cliff called Cynicism, forgetting who and what they were, the sacred, magic mists they had emerged from…
“So what are we doing now?” she asked, “it’s so bright. I can hardly see.”
Reaching into his pocket. Two, three pairs of sunglasses. One for himself, one for her, little wet edges around the patches of snow that were left after the snowplows and the shovels. Already everything beginning to melt.
“It’s just a block down to where Petra Rossini used to live,” he said.
“Oh, that old girlfriend of yours?!? I don’t want to see her. It’s embarrassing,” she said.
“She doesn’t live there any more. They’re all dispersed now. Shattered. Scattered. No one ever stays around anywhere any more…”
Walking proprietarily down the sidewalk, feeling more and more like an angel, imagining he lived here, you walk in and the outside world disappears behind the thick stone walls and double-double windows.
There wouldn’t be a house here under a million, a million and a half.
And he couldn’t sell anything. No one wanted his visions. Even the New Age was on very well-defined New Age tracks. No one wanted visions-visions, but only prepackaged, like Chinese noodles, rip open the plastic and toss them in boiling water. Instant Kung Fu. Instant Samhedhi….
Feeling like taking his coat off, but resisting the impulse.
Feeling like taking off all his clothes and bathing in the sunlight of God.
This was his world, his hunting-dreaming ground, sacred territory, the sun coming back down, the moment of mating between Father Sky and Mother Earth. And it all flows free, dew falls on the Holy Flower of the North Star and the Buddha enters Nirvana.
“I love you so much,” he said, putting his arm around her.
“It is so beautiful around here,” she said, “it’s all like palaces. Wouldn’t you love to live here? And go have an Italian sausage sandwich every day with a fake beer!”
Suddenly stopping and enclosing her in his arms.
She had come inside his vision. She was a great holy person herself. To be able to come inside his vision and make it her own.
“You’re so wonderful, really,” he said, starting to cry in earnest now, thinking it all shreds and crumbles so fast, you’re just born and bingo, it’s time to die, you just barely get used to this Earth, barely figure out how things work, barely take off your hat and sit down, and it’s all over, into the eternal gas chambers…
“You too,” she said as they stood in front of the Rossini mansion, thick, heavy brown stone, floor after floor after floor. He’d walk up to the front door and ring the bell and Mrs. Rossini would usher him in like he was royalty, milk and cookies and a short wait in the waiting room, and then Petra would come in, always in a flurry, rush, a grand entrance, classic black pumps and classic black dresses, carrying centuries of snobbery on her back with the utmost ease, someone letting him instantly inside the whole vision of her whole world, so that if she was an immortal, her touch immortalized him too.
The whole time he had been growing up, wandering through fields of Monet’s flowers, down Pissaro’s bustling, vibrating fin de siécle Parisian streets, walking
through the mine fields of Pollack and the abstractions of Klein, having lunch with Petra in the Member’s Lounge at the Art Institute, those milagroso box seat Saturday nights with her at Orchestra Hall wandering through the cathedrals of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, down into depression with Bartok, into Bohemia’s meadows and fields with Dvorak…he had always known, hadn’t he, that this was the moment of miracles, maximum aperture, vision, satori, the center of shamanistic enlightenment when all the portals of his soul were open and the visions all poured continuously in non-stop.
It had come once, had nothing to do with his grammar school reunion classmates. They were in their world and he was in his.
And now he wanted it to come back again. He wanted so desperately to come back to Chicago for his dying time. Which was the way he really saw it now. Wanted to be an old man, cane, crutches, whatever it took, crippled and broken physically OK, but with the portals of his soul still wide open on this, his City of God.
Close enough to call up his cousins and, OK, call up his old friends, grammar school, high school, college…a whole life here…and then exile…what madness to have ever left The Plateau and descended into the Valley of the Angel of Exile…
An old lady and a dog walking by, nice unblemished legs, fur coat, wearing incongruously bouncy white jogging shoes, frizzed up blonde hair, sun-glasses too, the dog a fuzzy Pomeranianish duplication of the woman’s hairdo. So much so that the dog looked like a second head walking along the street, oh so delicate and aristocratic.
“There’s your old girlfriend now!” whispered Malinche.
And they both laughed, the old lady smiled at them and walked on.
He didn’t want to leave, wanted to take a key out of his pocket and walk up the
steps of one of the old brownstones and walk in and there his entire past would be, all his wives, no ex-anything, just all in a big expanded NOW, and all his kids, and his mother not how she’d been but another version of her, all simpatica and giving, intense and loving and accepting, his father immense and bounteous like an oversized capon, his grandmother speaking Czech and teaching him the whole time so that he’d have the key into The Slavic World…
This really was his Rome, his Carthage, Troy, Alexandria, Baalbeck, Babylon, Harappá. This was where his ghosts dwelt, all possible pasts and futures.
“We’re home!” he wanted to yell at the bricks and the trees and the sidewalks, “I’m back, the sailor home from the sea, the nerd back from the library…”
Back to stay,
Never to stray,
Turn into dust,
Still not blow away…
Looked down at his watch. 3:30.
“We’d better get out to the airport, you never know…”
A yellow cab passing by. Hailed it down, they scrambled in.
“Midway!,” looking at the driver’s face in the rear view mirror, skin the color of kiwi fruit, nose rounded, dark little gerbil eyes, decidedly brachycephalic, brachycerous….
“Baluchistan…Baluchi??” he chanced, Malinche’s hand on his sleeve trying to restrain him, but too late, it was already out. A sudden swerve almost to the curve, then back out into the center of the street again almost into oncoming traffic.
“Who has told you such a thing? Who has sent you?”
“God!” said Buzz quietly, “I have been sent by God. Relax, you have nothing to fear. I will explain.”
Messenger. Angel. The Hebew was so benevolent and benign, the Phoenician Molok so horrible and monstrous, but essentially they were twins, two fingers on the same hand.
Born in Chicago, 1932,polio at age 5, cured with new pre-Saulk experimental medicine, childhood immersed in opera, violin, piano, musical composition, art by his ex-violinist-turned-M.D. father, and frustrated actress mother, then 3 years of pre-med and a year of Medicine, dropped out of medical school and got a B.S. (Hum.) and M.A.(English) from Loyola U.in Chicago, first trip to Paris,London,Florence, Rome, Amsterdam, etc., then a PhD in American Literature from the U. of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign).Married Peruvian poet Lucia Ungaro de Zevallos. Prof. of American Literature, Loyola University in Los Angeles (now Loyola Marymount University) , 1958-1968,Professor in the Department of American Thought and Language, Michigan State University (1968-1999).Now retired, Professor Emeritus . Fulbright Professor of American Studies/Literature, U. of Hermosillo, Mexico, 1961, U. Católica and Institúto Pedagógico, Caracas, 1964-1966, U. of Florianópolis, Brazil, 1978-1980. Married Maria Bernadete Costa M.D. 1 yr. studying Lt. Am. culture at Mendoza Foundation (Caracas) with Mariano Picon-Salas. Organization of American States Grant to study Latin American Studies/Argentinian Literature, U. of Buenos Aires, 1971. John Carter Brown Library Fellowship, Brown U. , 1968 (Studies in sixteenth and seventeenth century Spanish economics and avant-garde literature). OAS grant as archaeologist, Atacama Desert, Chile, 1986.Lectures in Spain and Portugal 1975-’76. Founder and Board of Directors member of COSMEP, the International Organization of Independent Publishers, from 1968 until its death in 1996. Editor of Ghost Dance: The International Quarterly of Experimental Poetry, 1968-1995. Latin American editor of Western World Review & North American Review, during 60’s. Former contributing reviewer on Smith/ Pulpsmith, Choice etc. currently contributing reviewer to SPR and SMR.105 books published, the most recent Defiance (Higganum Hill Press, 2007) (poetry), Finalmente/Finally (Solo Press, 2007) (poetry), Opening the Door to French Film (World Audience, 2007) , Rediscovering America (World Audience, 2009) (archaeology), Alex (poetry chapbook, Rubicon Press), Peace/LaPaix (Higganum Hill,2008, another poetry chapbook), The Collected Poetry (World Audience, 2008…540 pages), Icehouse & The Thirteen Keys to Talmud (Crossing Chaos Press in London, Ontario. A novella and sci fi novel, 2009), Revoir (s.stories, All Things that Matter Press, 2009), Gesangvoll/Songful (Pudding House Chapbook Series,2010), Icehouse &Thirteen Keys to Talmud (Crossing Chaos Press, 2010).