Sonnet, my ass, you call this piece of shit A sonnet? Right, a sonnet, oh yeah, sure, sure. To write a sonnet you must be a man or woman of wit – It must be one-hundred percent pure, Cast in iambic pentameter – tick TOCK, tick TOCK – None of this slapdash fill-in-the-blank-piss- ass diarrhetic irregularity. Think clock: Tick TOCK, not TOCK tick, man. It’s got to fit The pattern. Then at the end – swoosh – you swerve the focus, attempt to solve the problem, knit a perfect combination of well-chosen words into a thought that ought to be uplifting Or ironic or aphoristic or clever or droll. You see, that’s a way a sonnet is supposed to roll.
It was my first son’s first birthday After his mother’s Mother’s Day death. I had never Ubered downtown before That windy rain-drenched Wednesday, But I would be drinking, drinking, aiding and abetting Zoloft’s numbing affectless effects.
A warehouse converted into a restaurant, Bricks, tables, a mirror-backed bar, Water dripping from the brim of my fedora, “A Jameson’s on the rocks, please.” Twenty minutes later, the rain still coming down in sheets, She came in drenched and sat down next to me as planned.
Later, we moved to a table, and I shared my guilt, What I had not done in those awful last hours. Shaking her head, she took my hand — Perhaps she took my hand — but I know for sure Word for word what she said — too sacred to share — Seeds of love sown that windswept Wednesday.
I can’t remember when I first heard the song “Bo Diddley” with its hambone beat, hypnotic riffs, and Jerome Green powered maracas, but it thrilled me. I realize that Chuck Berry’s more wide-ranging musically and possesses a deeper canon, but Bo’s early songs with their African rhythms reverberated in my marrowbone like nothing else in early rock-n-roll.
Later in high school, my friend Tim Miskel turned me onto the album Animal Tracks. On the final cut of Side 1, Eric Burdon provides a five-minute bio of Bo, which initiated a mild obsession.
One day, one night Came a Cadillac, four headlights Came a man with a big long fat cigar. He said “Come here son, I’m going to make you a star.” Bo Diddley said, “Uh, what’s in it for me?” The man said, “Uh, shut your mouth son and play the guitar And you just wait and see.”
From “The Story of Boy Diddley,” Animal Tracks
Whenever I’d go into a new record store, I’d see if they had any Diddley. No luck ever until one day I wandered into Fox Music House on King Street in Charleston. Their inventory was eclectic, old-fashioned, but sparse. You could cop some Doris Day but not the Stones. As I was flipping through their loosely organized bins, I found a first edition copy of Bo Diddley’s Beach Party (recorded live at the Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, SC). Fox sold albums for the exorbitant price of five dollars a pop. I actually tried to talk the clerk into a discount. “No one’s ever going to buy this record,” I argued. “It’ been sitting here since since 1964.” It was no dice, but I snatched it up anyway. By the way, the vinyl was heavy on those discs of yore; you could beat someone senseless with a pre-70s LP.
Alas, one debauched night in the first semester of my freshman year, I left Beach Party on the floor of the suite adjoining our dorm rooms, and someone stepped on it. The damned thing cracked like a glass plate.
Chalk it up to the wages of carelessness or drunkenness or gangafication or a combination of the three.
Later, in graduate school, all hepped up on Dada, my friends Jake Williams, Keith Sanders, and I had a mini Bo revival. We nearly wore out Keith’s Diddley’s records. We’d meet on Sunday evenings, prepare dinner, imbibe second tier scotch, and jive talk our way into the wee hours while listening to Keith’s world class vinyl collection.
A few flips of the calendar later, in the pre-children early years of my marriage to Judy Birdsong, I got to see Bo play live at a club in North Charleston. In between sets, I approached him as he walked off stage.
Wesley: Oh, man, Bo, I’m such a big fan. This is such an honor.
Wesley: Hey, Bo, where’s Jerome Green, your maraca man?
Wesley: How about the Duchess?
Wesley (finally getting the hint): Well, thank you so much!
Bo: head nod.
Well, in the course of the years that followed – childbirth, school days, graduation, empty nest, cancer, the death of Judy – my Bo Diddley obsession faded away, though I still listened to him now and then and sometimes included one of his songs on the mixed tapes and later mixed CDs I made for my students who won vocabulary bees.
When Caroline, my second wife, took me to meet her father Lee Tigner for the first time in the wilds of Awendaw, I discovered that he, too, was a Diddley devotee and could match me lyric for lyric. He also had met Bo in person but received a somewhat warmer albeit taciturn response. After Bo’s demise, Lee made the pilgrimage to Bronson, Florida, to visit the grave of the master. We’re talking about serious admiration.
Anyway, Lee and I bonded over Bo, which is perhaps a small compensation to him in light of my being an unintrepid indoorsman.
A couple of weeks ago, on an internet hunt, I found a copy of the late departed Bo Diddley’s Beach Party for sale and ordered it. It finally arrived today. So now, when Lee’s birthday comes around, I’ve gotten him a gift that I know he’s gonna dig, at least more than he did the last Christmas president I got him, an autographed copy of a mystery set on Folly Beach that Lee pegged as the worst novel ever published in the United States.
I’ll leave you with this:
 Back then, most albums cost under three bucks.
 If you’re gonna get all grammatical on me and say the “away” is unnecessary, I’ll respond by saying that it’s an allusion to Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” which uses the Bo Diddley beat.
I wonder what Matt Gaetz is up to this weekend. Shopping for lawyers? Taking one last peek at nude pix of his sexual conquests before erasing them on his iPhone 12? Checking out rehab facilities?
I suspect right about now Matt probably agrees with TS Eliot’s assessment that April is the cruelest month, breeding investigations out of his sordid past, mixing memory with desire, etc.
You’ve probably heard the Hemingway definition of beauty: grace under pressure. Well, Matt’s initial response to the revelation that he may have been involved with sex trafficking with minors wasn’t exactly pretty. He allowed himself to be interviewed by Tucker Carlson and spewed a bucketful of ill-considered information, for example, that his father wore a wire in an FBI investigation. And although Gaetz has categorically denied the various lurid allegations, the long list of colleagues and acquaintances who can’t stand him are sharing raunchy stories of deviant behavior stretching back to his days in the state legislature where he represented Florida’s Panhandle, the setting of the murder in Easy Rider, i.e., a rustic-ridden south-of-Alabama rightwing hellhole.
Well, all I can say to Representative Gaetz are the very words I said to a drunk who got punched out by a woman last night at the Surf Bar, “There’s some danger in being an asshole.”
This incident is the second instance in which I’ve been interviewed by the Folly Police in the last year. The first dealt with a couple behaving Gaetz-like on the screened porch of a neighbor who had moved. He had asked me to keep an eye on the house, and when I saw a strange car in the driveway and the workshop door open, I donned my Philip Marlowe persona and investigated. Despite my deafness, I heard some clamor on the screen porch and caught a heterosexual couple in flagrante delicto. I suggested they leave, and they apologetically obliged, but the police caught wind, so I had to be interviewed. The owner was benevolent, didn’t press charges, but wanted the lustbirds to suffer some slight discomfort for their misdeeds.
The fellow last night at the Surf Bar suffered more than a little discomfort: he got punched twice in the face by a young woman who could have been Laila Ali’s sparring partner.
Caroline, our friend Whitney, and I were braving the cold on the porch of the Surf Bar enjoying their excellent Philly cheesesteak. This short White fellow in his twenties, dressed like an Eminem wannabe, approached our table and asked for a light, which we couldn’t provide. There’s a fireplace on the porch, and five young women were sitting in a semicircle in front of it, enjoying the flames. After a while, I noticed that the young lighter-seeking man had joined them on the far end of the semicircle. I also noticed that the man and a couple of the women were engaged in a heated conversation. I asked one of the women who had returned from the restroom if the fellow was bothering them, and if so, I’d be happy to intervene. She smiled and said, “No thanks.” She then circled around the back of the dude and yanked the leg of his chair, sending him sprawling backward. As he attempted get up, she smacked him in the face twice with two well-delivered rights. Before she could cause more carnage, I leapt up and pulled them apart. He, of course, had been harassing them, had called one next to him the c-word, told her she was too ugly to sit next to, and continued to harass them until our heroine had had enough.
I suggested to the fellow that he mosey along because he wouldn’t want the police involved, but he adamantly refused and sat back down in the now upright chair, whining about how he had been hit. Some muscle from inside the bar emerged and escorted him out, trying, as I had, to reason with him.
It was sort of exciting in an adrenaline pumping way, and our meals were comped, but then who returns with policemen in tow. The twerp. He actually summoned the police because “a girl” had punched him. After interviewing the provocateur, the officer asked for my version, and I gave him a non-judgmental cinematic retelling of what had transpired, including the toppling and punching. The officer said this fellow had already been banned from several Folly bars and that he was from Philly on the lam from a petty larceny charge that was too smalltime to warrant extradition.
So that was that, but I couldn’t help but feel in light of how horribly Gaetz treats women, how horribly many men treat women, a certain warm glow of satisfaction to see the sawed-off Kid Rock get coldcocked by a pissed-off damsel.
Yes, there is some danger in being an asshole.
 I understand that nude photography is now commonplace among romantic partners and that sending explicit photos of oneself can be part of the early stages of wooing, and although I have no personal experience in the phenomenon, I do have some advice for Representative Gaetz: hire an airplane, fly down to Costa Rica, and drop the phone into the volcanic vent of Arenal.
When I was a child, I grew up across the street from Mr. Fagylalt, a Central European immigrant who owned and operated an ice cream truck. In the summers, he circumnavigated our neighborhood, his truck tinkling repetitive music that lured nickel-and-dime-toting children to the edges of their yards. Back then, even in the heavy humidity of a South Carolina August, we mostly played outside.
I doubt that Mr. Fagylalt could make it today with children ensconced in their rooms playing Mortal Kombat or OD-ing on TikTok videos. I know I would have stayed inside if I had owned Madden NFL 2020 instead of the electric football game we played with. Most of the vibrating plastic players merely rambled around and around in circles. With an open field in front of him, a running back would suddenly hang a hard right and run out of bounds. You passed the ball by putting a felt oval in the quarterback’s hand, pulling his arm back, and catapulting the felt in hopes of hitting the receiver. It was so boring I rarely found anyone willing to play it with me.
Anyway, in those days, people called mobile ice cream vendors “good humor men, ” and, sure enough, Mr. Fagylalt was always in a good mood when I talked to him, or rather, when he talked to me. However, now when I think of Mr. Fagylalt, the adjectives “dirty” and “old” have supplanted “good” and “humor” as modifiers. Let’s put it this way: although Mr. Fagylalt never attempted to molest me in any physical way, he did infuse my vocabulary with a host of Anglo-Saxon vulgarities, words that no one used (at least in front of us) in our house. He didn’t define the words; I picked up their meanings in context from the same old stories he told over and over.
Stories delivered in an accent as thick as Porkolt. One of his favorites featured a mutt named Champ and our neighbors the Foxes, who lived on the corner of Lenwood and Dogwood. The Foxes kept a meticulous yard with neatly trimmed shrubbery and manicured grass. They took great pride in their yard’s appearance, seemingly removing fallen pine needles on a daily basis. One day Champ got into some ice cream chemicals stored in the Fagylalt carport. He ended up slurping down the found treasure and urinating on the Foxes’ chain link fence. “Oh, zat, dog,” Mr. Fagylalt would say in an aside and launch into a side story about the time he saw Champ mount such-and-such a bitch, vividly describing the apparatus involved in the procreative act. Eventually, he’d return to the main plot, to wit: Mr. Fox mistook the brownish urine staining his fence for rust until a rainstorm washed it away. At the end of these too-oft-told tales, Mr. Fagylalt laughed and laughed. I hated every minute but was too timidly polite not to stand there for at least one retelling. I don’t remember if I faked laughed myself, but I doubt it.
Luckily, Mr. Fagylalt and I had a falling out. One summer, when the Fagylalts vacated their house for several weeks, some friends and I entered his ice cream truck, which was unlocked. When inside, I just looked around to see what it was like in there and discovered to my delight that the truck’s music was produced just the way a jack-in-the-box produces music – with a crank that propels a rubber mechanism that goes around and around plucking out notes.
Unfortunately, others at various times also got inside the truck and engaged in a bit of vandalism. When the Fagylalts returned and made inquiries, someone noted that he or she had seen a red-headed boy over there, so Mrs. Fagylalt told my mother, who ended up taking my word for what had happened. I also think my parents (and others in the neighborhood) were hip to Mr. Fagylalt’s off-color ramblings.
When I left for college at eighteen, the Fagylalts still lived there. I remember bumming a ride home one Friday for a weekend in Summerville. Upon arrival, as I walked across our lawn with a sack of dirty clothes slung over my back, a swarm of kids on banana bikes were popping wheelies in our yard. As I shouted “hey” to my nine-year-old brother Fleming, he yanked back on the handlebars too hard and landed on the ground on his rear end.
“If you keep that up, you gonna break your coccyx,” I warned.
He looked up at me with a puzzled expression.
“Sounds like you’ve been talking to Mr. Fagylalt.”
 Even though this man and his wife must be long dead by now – they were older than my parents – I’m going to obscure his identity in the very unlikely event that one of his offspring were to happen upon this post. Just for fun, though, see if you can guess his country of origin, as I sprinkle hints throughout the post. Hint #1: his native language is not Indo-European in origin.
 In James Joyce’s short story “An Encounter,” the young narrator runs across a Mr. Fagylalt-like man whose stories also orbit in circles: “He began to speak on the subject of chastising boys. His mind, as if magnetized again by his speech, seemed to circle slowly round and round its new centre. He said that when boys were that kind they ought to be whipped and well whipped. When a boy was rough and unruly there was nothing would do him any good but a good sound whipping.”
 A meat and vegetable stew popular in Székesfehérvár.
Here’s Faulkner’s physical description of Dilsey Gibson from The Sound and the Fury, Dilsey, the Black caretaker of the fucked-up Compson clan, as dysfunctional a collection of kin you’ll find this side of the House of Cadmus.
She had been a big woman once but now her skeleton rose, draped loosely in unpadded skin that tightened again upon a paunch almost dropsical, as though muscle and tissue had been courage or fortitude which the days or the years had consumed until only the indomitable skeleton was left rising like a ruin or a landmark above the somnolent and impervious guts, and above that the collapsed face that gave the impression of the bones themselves being outside the flesh, lifted into the driving day with an expression at once fatalistic and of a child’s astonished disappointment, until she turned and entered the house again and closed the door.
A remarkable human being, Dilsey, transcendent in her morality. She stoically endures subjugation, poverty, and the day-to-day depredation of having to tend to the Compsons, all the while doing her best to raise her own grandchildren and by proxy provide damaged teen Quentin Compson some desperately needed love. Dilsey’s just passing through this vale of tears, her degradation a temporary burden before the everlasting glory commences. She’s seen the first and the last, she says.
Like the woman in Douglas Balentine’s painting Cargo II.
When I saw the painting for the “first time in the flesh” at Douglas’s home last Saturday night, I thought immediately of Dilsey. There she is in the center of the canvas, transplanted from Yoknapatawpha, Mississippi, to Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. She’s traded her Mississippi ratty Easter Sunday purple for something more African, but the expression is hers, Dilsey’s, “with her myriad and sunken face lifted to the weather.” She, too, has seen the first and the last.
The freighters on the right side of the canvas heading to the harbor follow the path that brought Dilsey’s ancestors to Charleston as beachcombers loll about, attempting to darken their skin. The woman lying on her stomach between the two freighters seems to be developing a sunburn. These folks remind me somewhat of Edward Hopper’s People in the Sun, though they’re much more rigid than Balentine’s more relaxed and fleshy beachgoers.
Cargo II is truly a beautiful, thought-provoking painting. I absolutely love it.
 Generally I’m not one to lob f-bombs, but the phrase “the fucked up Compson clan” sounds so right you can almost dance to it, and I can’t think of a more apt word to describe their situation. .
 Okay, let’s start with Benjy, the thirty-three-year-old castrato with an IQ in the teens; then there’s his banished sister Caddie and her neglected way-damaged teenaged daughter Quentin, named for the Compson son who drowned himself at Harvard. The youngest brother Jason makes Bull Connor look broadminded. And, lastly, maybe the worst mother in American literature, the matriarch Caroline Compson, lying in dark rooms huffing on camphor day and night in a wallow of self-pity.
Look, I’m proud to claim the name Kafka and to share with Franz a common ancestor. I blame my mother, not him, for the absurd pairing of my names. Sure, it’ his fault that my last name is synonymous with dark unfunny gummed-up absurdity, with torture machines, with crushing heartless totalitarian bureaucracy. You hear Franz Kafka and you think hellscape, but it’s not like Cousin Franz consciously set out to make that his legacy. I doubt he’d be happy to know that thanks to him our family name has mutated into a negative adjective, the suffix esque attaching itself like a cancer to the Czech-German word Kavka, which means “jackdaw.” It’s my mother’s fault; she should have known better to turn my names into an oxymoron.
To me, Jackdaw sounds sort of cool, like a bird baked in a pie fit for the king. And as it turns out, jackdaws are avian, crow kin found in Africa and Eurasia. They’re famous for nesting in towers and ruins and also for taking bright objects back to their nests. Although not as black or glossy, they look a lot like carrion crows. Hey, it could be worse. My mother could have named me Carrie Crowe, Carrie short for Carrion.
Could have named me that because, weirdly enough, my father’s name was (or is) Crow but without an “e.” So I come from crows on both sides – ha ha! He was an Indian of the reservation variety and split forever before I was born, so my retro hippie mother laid her last name on me and slapped the adjective “sunny” in front of it. That’s exactly what it reads verbatim on the birth certificate, Sunny Kafka, just those two names, not even a middle initial.
She says she named me after the girl in the song “Sunny.” If you haven’t heard it, you can listen to it in the YouTube below. Sounds like parakeets and canaries. Chirpy. I’m more of a jackdaw caw-caw Tom Waits, Velvet Underground kind of gal. She should have named me Cloudy Kafka.
I hope I don’t sound too whiny. To tell you the truth, my name’s rarely an issue. After all, I’m a bartender on Folly Beach. Only a skinny fraction of my customers have heard of Franz Kafka, much less read him, and I suspect not a single one has “Kafkaesque” in their speaking vocabulary, though a few might know what an oxymoron is.
Which reminds me. I met a guy at Snapper Jacks who taught English at Trident Tech. When he asked me what my last name was, I told him, and he smiled but didn’t say anything after that, so I broke the awkward silence by squawking, “So I’m a walking oxymoron – Sunny Kafka!”
He chuckled and said, “Pleased to meet you, Sunny Kafka,” then launched into a tedious mini-lecture on Kafka’s being the great great grandaddy of Groucho Marx, Woody Allen, Larry David, and especially Richard Lewis. I guess I had a sour look on my face because he interrupted himself and asked if I was Jewish.
“Do I look Jewish?” I asked in my trademark snarky tone.
“How should I know? I’m blind as a bat.”
He took off his sunglasses.
He looked like a white Willie McTell or a thirty year old Doc Watson, squinty-eyed. By the way, did you know that Roy Orbison wasn’t really blind?
 And if you, listen, they do sound somewhat alike, both two syllables, accents on the first, the vowels rhyming sort of.
 I’m picturing a sepia-tinged abandoned Albanian factory, krow-like kafkas (sic) flitting out of its windows like black tears but coming back with Rubrik cubes in their beaks.
 I’m not making any of this up. Charlie Marlow’s my man. I wouldn’t lie to you.
Last night, the Moore Brothers, Fleming and Wesley, performed at George Fox’s Chico Feo Music Extravaganza. The elder Moore, Wesley, his head bobbing like, well, like a Bobble Head, recited his poem “Roaring Twenties Redux.”
Wowee, pretty silly.
Roaring Twenties Redux
O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag— It’s so elegant So intelligent
Once this pandemic is done, y’all, people gonna be hollering siss-boom-bah, packing the tattoo parlors, barbershops and bars, macro-dosing, doing the Hedonism like it’s wa-wa-tusi, dancing on tables, dancing in the streets, there’ll be swingin’ and swayin’ and records playin’, live bands blasting covers past curfew, PO-lice sirens wailing and blue lights swirling, sweatpants discarded, shimmering gowns flowin’, flasks flashin’ in the comet light of the apocalyptic party, alack and alas and all that jazz!
Brother Fleming, on the other hand, teamed up with Robert Lighthouse and David George Sink for a moving tribute to the Charleston Nine.
Here’s an excerpt:
As our late mother was won’t to say “There’s no accounting for taste.”