A Sub-Literate, Sorrowful Not-Walt-Whitman Hitching

walt hitching

I missed a bus in Baltimore, and with no place to stay, restless, desperate, running low, I thought I’d try to hitch a ride.

I should have known. Ain’t no decent man gonna pick up a hoary-headed hobo nowadays.

I stood on the shoulder, stuck out my thumb, squinting down the highway through the afternoon exhaust, hoping that some good Samaritan might stop.

Eight hours later, round about one or so, a jacked-up pick-up pulled over, one of them monster pick-ups, black, four-door, with a stunted back seat of sorts.

“Hop in, old man,” the driver snarled. “Let’s go. Ain’t got all night.”

I slung my bag into the bed, climbed my way way up, and slammed the door.

The passenger rolled up his window, the driver grabbed the wheel, put the pedal to the metal, war-hooped a holler, laid some rubber, and we was on our way.

The two of them wore their baseball caps backwards, nothing but kids, white, maybe twenty or so, but right off I could see their eyes lacked light, like they was lost.

(And I could’ve been sleeping in that depot waiting for the morrow).

“How much you plan pay us for this ride?” the driver drawled. “We ain’t no commies, ain’t got no use for no freeloaders.”

I told them I was bust broke, that if I had me some money, I wouldn’t be standing on the side of a highway at one a.m. in the morning.

The passenger punched me in the chest, slapped my face, and while I was wallowing, jacked my wallet.

The driver pulled over, hopped out, slung me to the ground, climbed back in, then drove off with my bag in the back rattling around in the bed of the truck.

That was a month ago. I’m back in Mayo now writing these so-called adventures on scraps of paper.

I keep them on my person, in the pocket where my wallet used to be, so on the day they find me dead, they’ll know a bit about me.

Walt Whitman’s Boys

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It was you that broke the new wood.

Ezra Pound, “A Pact”

Old Ezra said to ditch the metronome
and use the musical phrase instead,
locked doors, keyholes, camisoles, not ideas.

Robert Lowell made it personal.
Mental illness was his muse,
his fingers trembling as the typewriter clacked.

Seamus Heaney brought us down to earth,
his pen scratching old words across the page,
bogs, tors, spades, blackberries, frogs.

But Old Walt Whitman was the daddy of them all,
whirling his words like a hurricane,
snapping trees, flooding streets, derailing trains.

Let’s Get Real

A few years back, I contemplated moving to western or southern Ireland for retirement, maybe to the Beara Peninsula down in County Cork or up to County Mayo on the coast, perhaps purchasing a rustic cottage with a glimpse of distant mountains or of the sea.

3229244181_a516f6ab0d_zHave you ever witnessed a rainbow in Ireland? I don’t know if it’s the air up there or the angle of the sun, but the rainbow Judy Birdsong and I saw in ’79 mesmerized us. It was so misty-shimmering wonderful that it could almost make you believe in leprechauns, in magic, in Lir.

Beara’s and Mayo’s landscape is gorgeous, their people gregarious. The Irish and my kinsmen, folk from the South Carolina Lowcountry, share a love for the oral tradition of story-telling. We’d get along fine I think. The Irish love music and poetry and literature. For example, before the Euro, James Joyce himself appeared on Ireland’s ten-pound note, which would be like having Walt Whitman on a US fifty. We Americans might put our beloved authors on stamps, but they don’t rank high enough in our estimation to appear on legal tender. Of course, Irish currency doesn’t have “In God We Trust” printed on it, which would not go all that well thematically with Mr. Joyce’s bespectacled mug nor with Herman Melville’s otherwise presidential countenance.

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melville fifty

 

 

 

 

But I digress. When I mentioned this silly romantic notion to Judy, she reminded me that my three trips to the Emerald Isle occurred in May or June, not December or February, and she reckoned that in those dark and dreary months the odor of burning peat might very well lose its allure as building a fire transitioned from exoticism to drudgery.

Miss Birdsong knows all too well that dreary weather and Wesley don’t get along. In fact, a shrink back in the day suggested that I could very well suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (which I have immortalized in a poem you can listen to me read in my golden Lowcountry baritone HERE). No, day after day of leaden skies, the sun setting by three or four, would be bad for my state of mind.

Take this winter, for example. We might as well be in Ireland — or Ingmar Bergman’s Sweden. A glance at the five-day forecast, more often than not, has yielded a succession of cartoon clouds, dark, with resiquite raindrops slanting down.

Max Von Sydow

Max Von Sydow

My neighborhood “pub,” Chico Feo, roofless as it is, has been closed for days at a time, often for rain, less often for cold, but closed nonetheless. As I have driven to work morning after morning through fog, I have half expected to see Max Von Sydow and/or Liv Ullman trudging along the side of Folly Road.

But as PB Shelley famously put it, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” Sure enough, the sun peeped out on consecutive days this week, so I popped in at Chico Feo. On the first day, I got to witness a book burning and on the second some low wattage police brutality.

Perhaps I underestimate Folly as a retirement locale.

bookiburning 2But, before I go, let me assure you that the book burning wasn’t Fahrenheit 451.1.0 but part of a very indie film noir murder mystery starring the Chico crew, my hobo hero Greg, and prolific Chris, a graphic artist and novelist who works at Bert’s.

And the “police brutality” merely consisted of a very, very, very drunk man having his arms twisted behind his back and then being slammed rather roughly to the pavement of Second Street. Alas, I had absentmindedly left my phone at work, so I didn’t get to capture the disturbance, which was quite a spectacle taking place as it did in front of the mural of Bert done up like a smiling, squinting, dismembered pirate.

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