Wednesday, December 31, 2008

This One's for You, Dare

I had another blow-out all-night gig last night. The testosterone factor, when guitar players get older, is out of proportion. It’s like all the really huge zoo animals are too close…elephants, lions. The bellowers. I wonder if zoo animals get tinnitus.

On the way home the Palestinian off-license guy started ranting at me about the Israelis. He speaks Hebrew. He has slept with Jewish women…maybe even loved them. But what is going on in Gaza is not comprehensible. The information we receive is excessive, and biased. A ship bringing aid was rammed in the water by Israeli boats. It is always the innocent who suffer, everywhere. The children…those who fail to be evil.

My friend’s boyfriend drank anti-freeze Christmas night. Something anti-poetic about that…but I couldn’t help thinking the guy felt stuck somehow. Frozen. It is an uncomfortable death and fortunately or unfortunately he survived. Another victim of the economic holocaust that is leveling the already-compromised struggling among us. Survival of the richest.

I have done this sort of hidden-camera test lately without the camera. Dressing as badly as I possibly can— noting the unbearable intolerance of the terminally bourgeois for the poor. We are nipping at their skirt-hems, tracking them down like hungry dogs after a lone car on a Mexican dirt road.

Try to return a gift at a department store without a receipt in dirty sweat pants and ripped sneakers. They’ll be on you like a master criminal. I’ll bet Bernie Madoff, just a month ago, got served tea by well-dressed sycophantic salesmen at Tiffany’s. A free side of Nova at Zabar’s. I wonder if he tipped his building staff proportionally as much as I did.

At a Chase bank I wanted to pay my Mastercard bill and they asked for ID. To make a deposit. All those smarmy pathetic fake-MBAs in their blue uniforms…walking around like proctors while the tellers do the only actual ‘work’ if you can call it that. Everything is in their computers… except attitude.

I am reading this new Charlie Smith poetry. The only contemporary poetry I can stand. I’m dressed for it. It is like walking on a lunar landscape—dark, monotonal and sharp. It makes me think that life is kind of the B-side of death. I feel like I know exactly what he means, like we are 2 mangy dogs on parallel dirt paths but I can’t tell him this because I’m just Writerless.

Some people drink anti-freeze and live. Other people, like the guitarist in my band, throw up one time from gastro-intestinal hypochondria and check themselves into the ER. He needed an audience, I guess. He needed some insurance-covered sympathy which was worth the co-pay. Not me. Medical self-indulgence pisses me off, when half a million African women and children were bayonet-raped and have permanently messed-up organs. Unspeakable pain and humiliation. When a Palestinian mother loses 5 precious children--5 times years of diaper-changes and breast-feeding and 24-hour bloody heart-ripping maternal sacrifice--- to senseless bellowing.

I'm not taking sides here; I'm not standing on soapboxes or sending out any pathetic holiday message. I'm not even singing. I’m eating flour-water pancakes, reading my Charlie Smith and toasting the anti-freeze guy. Wondering what the year has in store for those of us who go to sleep at dawn listening for the B-side.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Color Red

I read somewhere that 60% off is the new black. Not true. Red is the new black. Meaning ‘in the red’. The free weekend paper even verified: women who wear red get asked out more, have more sex, have more money spent on them. They didn’t state that they have more debt, but I’ll bet that’s a statistic.

Personally I hate the color. If I were in a famous rock band I’d make them remove the red M & Ms. I hate lipstick. I hate cherry pie. I hate cough syrup and Don’t Walk signs. I like road maps and globes, pictures of the earth from space with the cool shades of blue and green. Fortunately for me, aside from exotic flowers, a few fruits and berries and the butts of baboons, there aren’t a lot of things that are naturally red. That is, except in the current economy. For me, red is the color of anger and hatred. Ask any bull.

But mostly I hate debt. I hate the concept of it-- the trap it is, and the relentless marketing of it which sank the world into the current financial cesspool. I hate the hedge funds and multi-millionaires who bank the profits of it. Their blood runs redder than blue, and their souls are the color and consistency of a baboon’s butt.

To avoid the red of debt I’ve become invisible. I have no profile, no money to speak of, no debt. I get ‘young millionaire’ letters from my alumni association, which is a joke, because I have some meager savings and am apparently on some sucker debt-free list. I also get letters from Medicaid urging me to accept foodstamps, but that’s another story. So who am I? I know about tightening my belt. I’ve cut the fat so completely that there’s scarcely an ounce of meat left on my life’s bones. But I’ll starve before I let the debt epidemic get me. Give me Christmas green and keep the red.

Meanwhile I have one of those common, generic-type last names. I’m listed in the phonebook with an initial. As the crisis goes on, every month I get more and more calls from credit card companies who have been given my number as a reference by some debtor or other. Some of these people try to be smart. There’s an Annette, an Andrea and an Arliss who all have used my credentials at some point. One for the IRS. One for Metropolitan Hospital, uptown. That’s Annette. She’s had abortions, gynecological procedures, emergency room visits. Every single time, she gives my address and telephone. Slipping into my identity like a costume change, when it suits her. At least she’s consistent. She now owes the hospital over $100,000. But they can’t actually find her, so in one sense she’s debt free. She’s also about my age, but not my color—which helps when I need to prove non-responsibility. Which in itself is absurd. I’m on the phone several hours a year talking my way out of charges I know nothing about, while Annette is out partying.

Thursday afternoon I switched trains at 59th Street. On the platform was a girl with dreads, singing into a cheap microphone with karaoke tracks coming out of this tiny Roland cube amp. Singing R & B. She was dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, somewhere between street and hiphop. She had this style of bending over and singing to the ground, the way I’ve seen a couple of other street singers do. Like she has soul, and body language, and also a tiny bit of shame about it. It works. She was good, too…had a voice like the old time great singers, and was doing some obscure Motown. I was intrigued. In her open case was a sign asking for donations so she could make a cd. Join the club, girl.

I listened. I was actually sorry to hear my train pulling in. As I got ready to board, I thought about giving her some money. She got me. On the other hand, I’m down to $3 a day, including coffee, which is tough. So I shuffle up close enough to at least check out her name and did a literal double-take. Not Aretha, not Mary Jo….it was none other than my namesake, Annette. Singing her bloody bad- credit ass off. Part of me wanted to punch her in the face for all the grief she caused me, but the doors were opening; time was moving, and Annette was wailing.

I put $1 in her case. Got a little thumb up from my girl.

Whatever.