I am not responsible for the things I write. There is this little voice inside which makes me do things, makes me say things. Writerless, he calls me. Hey, Writerless, check this out.
If you see me on the street, just pass me by. I’m nobody. I’m a victim. We live in this new city of terrorism. For me, some days this is the fear that I’ll open my mouth and Hip-hop will come out. That I’ll stop at Starbucks and instead of ordering a Venti drip no-room, I’ll start rapping like Jay-Z. Or L’il Kim. Big Kim. Bad-rapping. Or Rosie O’Donnell will come out through my mouth. Or I’ll order a mocha skim-latte or one of those designer drinks and I won’t even be able to pay for it. Start saying nasty things about the music, about Dave Matthews and the Bird and the Bee who for some reason make me want to punch someone. Oops.
Some days it is the fear that someone will put up a building. Right in my living room. I’ll protest, make some phone calls, even get on Channel One. But in the end they’ll be
bulldozing right through my living room—I’ll see my copies of Proust and Celine and Henry Miller flying around, spattered with mud, bindings splitting open…and I’ll be hearing the voice, laughing at me. Check it out, Writerless. You’re now Homeless.
Coney Island. An American Institution. Stuff of memories, old movies. They’re going to just rip it down and put up another version. The expensive version. The version without families and sandwiches and brown paper bags and cotton candy and rides on hand-painted roller coasters and heavy metal bumper cars. Designer Nathans, cyber games. No more darts and guns and galleries of moving ducks that creak. This terrifies me.
New York City kids walk around with attitude. They are terrified, too. Any moment the guy next to them can blow up a skyscraper. Can hold them up with a gun or a knife. Maybe they are ordering a slice and some loser with an attitude decides he’s had it. One of their classmates brings an uzzi to school. So they walk around like they don’t give a shit. They do not kiss their mother or say ‘Good Morning’, or ‘May I have a Second Helping? They tell their parents to go fuck themselves when we ask if they have homework. Maybe it is the terror they have shoved inside, they have learned to live with. Not the kind Israeli kids have—the kind that makes them tough, or the Muslim kind—the kind that makes them want to die for their God—but the New York kind—the attitude. And the entitlement. Yeah. So what? Give me some money.
This is not me, it’s Writerless. My own personal terrorism. My Jiminy Cricket that rides around and whispers in my ear. Makes me say things. Occasionally whispers something poetic, wakes me in the night with a song I may sign my name to.
I wonder if all the people with bad grammar have that voice….the people that say I’m not having that good of a time’. I have to catch my little terrorist from opening up my mouth and saying ‘What’s up with the ‘OF’?
The other night after a blues show, some guy comes up to the lead singer and says ‘It ain’t ‘Further on up the Road’, It’s Further on DOWN the Road’. We have learned to let these people have the last word.
I had the honor of meeting some of the blues poets. Many of them couldn’t read or write. It wasn’t what they said but how they said it. No terrorists there. They said what came out and they had a point of view. They knew who they were. They didn’t have Rolexes and Hummers. And they gave credit where credit was due—black or white. John Lee Hooker once remarked, after watching Lassie ‘That dog is smarter than a motherfucker’. I want to see that in my Bartlett’s. Grammar or no grammar.
So if you recognize me on the street, don’t hold me up for my words. They just slip out when I forget to keep my mouth shut tight. Last night a guy called Budweiser Bill came up after our gig and told the harmonica player he was so good OF a harp-blower that compared to him, old Budweiser just ain’t shit.
‘Sure you are’, Writerless blurted out. Terrified, I looked around. And Budweiser, who’d been drinking his name all night, was shaking his head ‘No I ain’t’.
‘Sure you are’, I reassured him. And my guitarist winked at me. He knew who was talking.