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February 16 - 22, 2004
February 20, 2004
Chernobyl Sunrise

I have not yet replied to Colette's earnest request for feedback on her cinquain. For those who were swept up in the excitement of the Assman's Dilemma, I would like to once again present her poem for consideration and analysis.

The masthead cuts loose the sails
The ship flounders on the boiling sea - crying
When love is not madness, it is not love.

The fourth line, as I said before, is not her work. It is the work of Pedro Calderon de la Barcy. As this is just a cinquain in progress, such a technique is completely acceptable, and in this case, I think, quite telling.

But what do I know. I've got six ounces of Jamaican 151 in me, and it has taken me twenty-five minutes to write this, one very careful fucking word at a time.

I am obsessing over my spelling. Among other things. It would be four in the morning in Jamaica right now. And the ocean would be black and endless.

It has been too long since I visited the sea.

February 19, 2004
The Assman's Dilemma

As things happen, I haven't talked with the Assman since Christmas. He phoned yesterday and asked if he could take me to Humpty's again, cause he had some business deal he wanted to run past me. Never one to turn down free food, I agreed, and we did it up early this morning.

When he arrived, I could tell that Ronnie, as he's known in some circles, had been getting about as much sleep as I had lately. We ordered up the coffee and the heavy schnizz skillets and he seemed pretty rumpled, but he still made with the conversation. The thing I like about Ronnie, besides being a strange fucker who always buys breakfast, is his genuine interest in my affairs, and of course, his devoted readership. It's a bizarre thing to have someone know so much about what you've been up to lately, but in some ways, it's quite pleasant.

"You hear from Colette, yet?" he asked, straight up.

"Sort of," I said, settling in. "In a way."

"What do you mean," he said.

"I don't know," I said. "She sent me a letter saying hello, asked what I thought of the situation in Haiti, added a cinquain that she said was based on a quote from some Spanish guy, asked what I thought of it, and that was it."

"What was it about," he said. "The poem?"

"Here," I said. "I wrote it down so I could think about it. The quote's on the fourth line."

I handed him my notebook. It read:

The masthead cuts loose the sails
The ship flounders on the boiling sea - crying
When love is not madness, it is not love.

Ronnie read it twice, nodded his head and grinned as he handed it back to me.

"Holy fuck, does she want a piece of you."

"That's what I thought."


"Fucked up. She's getting married in June."

"Decent. Mang, that's the best piece of ass you'll ever tap. You're going to be her last piece before the ring goes on."

"We'll see."

"Fuck that. We'll do, before 'I do.'"

The waitress showed up with our coffees and we shut up for a minute. I thought about what Colette wanted. And wondered what Ronnie wanted.

"And what about you," I said. "What's this business deal you were talking about?"

"Well, it's like this," he said. "And I'm trusting you to keep your mouth shut about this. I mean, you can write about it on your site, or whatever, 'cause those people don't know shit about my shit, but this has to be quiet. I'm telling you this, because even though we haven't talked for awhile, you know, I read your stuff, and you're a fucked up individual, but you still have some sort of principles, and I don't think you'd fuck over one of your buddies, like that Gander guy, or whoever. Am I right?"

"Sure," I said. "I'm a stand up guy."

"Kay, remember when I told you I'd been doing some freelance work as an AV guy?" he said. "Sort of a camera guy?"


"The truth is, I been shooting some, you know, some sort of low budget stripping videos."

He looked a little embarrassed.

"Really? That's all right," I said.

"I mean it's weird, but it just sort of happened, you know. You remember Michaelangelo?" he asked.

"The cocksucker who wouldn't shut up about reality tv?"

"Yeah, he's really a nice guy for a queer. And he's a good web guy."

"Hey, I'm sure he's a fantastic cocksucker. I got nothing against him."

"Yeah, well Mike knew this producer guy who had this idea that he wanted to sell stripping videos on the web. So I guess they shot a few, and the producer paid Mike to do the site, and it did pretty well. But this guy thought he could make more money if he did it direct, if he could just do live strip shows on the web. So Mike helped him set that up, too, in some office building, at night. Then the guy who shot the first videos, the cameraman, his wife found out he was shooting strippers, and he had to drop out of the web shoot. So Mike said that I might be interested, 'cause he knew that I used to sell cameras, and did some wedding videos and shit like that. And I was still on EI, and it was all under the table, so I said sure."

"Sounds like a pretty sweet deal."

"Fucking yeah," he said, getting a little louder. "I been shooting this stuff for like ten months now. And it's made some ok money, nothing great, but I think it's going to get bigger, cause..."

He stopped, thinking.


"See, it's really like this. After a couple of a months in this office, the producer bought a house so he could set things up properly, you know, wire it up. We helped him set up the gear, and even helped with some of the construction. So now, the basement has a pole, and a shower, and this little dance floor, and like three cameras so I can do a pretty elaborate shoot without any help. Mike's always there if I need a hand, but mostly he just does the web stuff, and the chat stuff."

"What, you guys got a grow-op in there too, or what?"

"Oh fuck, man. You'd be surprised. But the thing is, and this is what I'm not sure about, is that now that it's doing well enough, this producer wants to wire the upstairs as well, the bedrooms, right?"


"So the bedrooms would be wired, cameras all over the house, and we'd still run the strip shows downstairs, but the girls would live upstairs, so it'd be like a twenty-four hour pillow fight sort of thing. And you know, once in awhile, we'd shoot some porn. You know, stage it, bring in some fake boyfriends."

He paused. I tried to keep my mouth shut.

"So the thing is this," he said. "My dilemma is, do I stay? I mean, do I keep living there?"

"You're living there?"

"Yeah, me and Mike both have rooms downstairs, sort of like a basement suite. You know, kitchen, big bathroom that we share with the strippers, but it's a pretty big house..."

"You live in a fucking house with strippers?"

"See, this is the thing, you'd think it'd be awesome, but it's not really all that great. Most of them are fucking idiots. Potheads. With fake, fake tits. And the hours are shitty. And it's not like the girls stay around much after, unless they're smoking up. I mean, some of them are pretty alright, and we've had some pretty good parties..."

"But if these girls move in, then you'd be living with a bunch of strippers and amateur porn stars."

"Essentially, yeah. I guess."

I realized that I hadn't poured any cream or sugar into my coffee yet. Ronnie had almost finished his cup. He looked at me earnestly.

"I don't see what the fucking question is," I said.

"Well, do I stay there? I mean, I'm not going to have a life. I'd be working all the time, and the money would be great, but really, I wouldn't be able to bring women home from the bar, or really have friends over. It'd be all work, all the time. I just don't think I'd have much of a life."

I took a deep breath.

"Ronnie. You stop, and smell that fucking coffee, and listen to me very carefully. You might be confused right now because you been smoking too much chiba with too many strippers, but allow me to clarify something for you. If you do this, you might not have A LIFE, you might have THE LIFE. Do you understand?"

He looked at me sheepishly.

"Yeah, I guess so," he said.

"Ronnie," I said. "You don't guess so, you know so. And if that producer ever asks if you are interested, you do not say anything but yes. Yes, sir. And yes, I don't even need to be paid, sir. I will do it for bread and water, sir. I will let you sodomize me whenever you want, sir. As long as I can stay and live in the house with the strippers and the weed and the amateur porn stars and call them my friends, sir."

I pointed my finger at him.

"And Ronnie," I said. "If you ever do anything else besides answer that way, you are the stupidest man I have ever met, and I will never speak to you again. On principle. "

The waitress stopped and filled up Ronnie's cup of coffee. I shook my head, and finally tore open a pack of sugar. Ronnie looked into his coffee, nodding his head. After a long silence, he started up again about Colette, and we talked about other things, but I really didn't have much to say, 'cause in a way, I felt like I was in the presence of a humble, subtly shining god. I mean, who knew that Ronnie, the Assman, the great wandering fool, was really Buddha incarnate?

February 18, 2004
From Bad to Intolerable
Just when you thought Iraq couldn't get any worse, there comes an all new low. I'm not talking about the daily American casualties, the hundred plus potential army recruits blown to pieces last week, or the floundering electoral process shoved firmly into reverse by Ayatollah al-Sistani. Nope. This is worse than all that.

Somebody has started killing liquor vendors.

See, in Arabic countries, liquor vendors are often frowned upon. Lord knows, the last time I was wandering through the Middle East and I needed liquor, we had to sniff around like we were out on the street on one of those late Canadian nights that mushrooms seem like a good idea and a man asks everyone he can find if they got any mush, any zoomzoom, until he finds himself in the back alley around the corner from the all-night hot dog cart handing over a wad of cash to a guy with a mullet. It was like that, but in the desert. With pointy shoes. And when we bought our beer, the fellah wrapped it all up in newspaper and garbage bags, so it looked like we had purchased something more respectable. Like hashish.

Still, frowning upon alcohol sellers and shooting them in the street with an AK-47 is two different things. It's a sad fucking day when stepping out to buy yourself a beer means getting shelled.

So the moral question of the week is: what if that happened here? What would you do? Would you stop drinking? Brew your own? Would you arm yourself with a high-powered assault rifle and foray out into the streets and put yourself and your family at risk? Would you kill a man who stood between you and your bottle?

I guess this is the time we ask ourselves what is important in life, and think about our family and our careers and our loved ones. And then we answer, beer. Beer is important. And then we get ourselves that high-powered assault rifle and set it to fully-automatic and do what we got to do.

A man's got to have priorities. Fuck.

February 17, 2004
Review Number Zero

This weekend, I had a full three days to go through my book one last time before it went to press. I just finished reading it, for the sixth and final time. It had been some time since I went through everything, including Marvin's foreword, all together, at once.

And now, having read the whole fucking deal, front to back, with a clear head and an objective eye, I would have to say that it is a violent, vile, disgusting book. It spills rancour, it demeans myself, it demeans religion, women, men, drugs, everything that can be demeaned. It is raw, it is unprocessed, it it mean. There are good things, I guess. It provokes reaction. It tears out the guts. It is unrelenting in its honesty. It is, for better or worse, Mingus as he is: a drunk, womanizing, violent, murderous beast, carefully shaved-off every morning and made palatable for the society he lives in, because there is a definite sheen of civility that gets powdered on each day, and here, in this thing, it is gone. It is the pure rage and lust and love that was the time after Nat and I stabbed each other in the fucking hearts for months before I fucked off and dragged myself through a couple of hazy years of waking up in people's backyards and kicking dogs in the face.

And look now Mingus, how has that changed? Have the addictions changed? 'Cause that's what that time was supposed to be - trading one addiction for all the rest. And have I really cut that one off? I'm still thinking about that day in the book shop in December and I'm still thinking, every day, why haven't I heard from Nat, and maybe I should break down and call her, even though I'm beyond that. Or so I tell myself. And I am thinking about what she will say when she reads it. If she will show up on my doorstop one day and after that nothing else will matter, or she will be holding a shotgun, real unsteady, and crying, and say nothing and pull the trigger on one barrel, saving the other for herself.

Who knows. But if I were asked for my opinion, at this point, that's what I would say:

A violent, vile, villainous book. Raw, uncompromising, mean, but honest. Everything one wants in a first book from a future convict and national pariah. Everyone should order six, just to burn them.

Perhaps I should have quoted Divinity for the opening of the book. It would have been fitting:

Whisper of ravens.
Announce us.
And they trod a savage road.

Fear the man with the handful of sand.

Abandon all hope, all you who enter.

February 16, 2004
Post-Valentine Massacre

After that much drinking, I wanted to be sober, for just a bit. I didn't quite make it, because really, when it comes to being Mingus Tourette, sobriety is not an option.

A couple of nights, juxtaposed.

Went for a drink with Colette on Friday night. It turned into several drinks. Discussion of poetry turned into shameless flirting, which at some point, turned into awkward stares of lust and hands touching under the table and Colette's fearful departure into the night when she realized how late she was, and how much she had revealed.

What happens next with this, I'm not quite sure. She's supposed to be married to a fine young gentleman in six months.

What I know is that when I stepped out of the pub, trying to gauge whether or not I should take a cab or just walk, my head was humming. I was smiling. I felt like moving, and I did, and I walked whatever it was, thirty blocks, chatting gaily with myself, replaying those conversations, congratulating myself on a clever performance, and mostly, basking in the memory of the way her lips moved when she spoke, bitten by fire.

Saturday night, went for a somewhat conciliatory romantic dinner with Chloe. After I chased her out of my basement last weekend during a codeine induced rage, I didn't expect she would resurface for some time. However, the Accountant fell through or some other tragedy struck her circle of black book lovers, and she had to settle for a Mingus Valentine, or spend Saturday night staring at the wall and contemplating what a razor blade would look like against her skin. She asked, very nicely, if I would like to spend the evening with her. It seemed like the thing to do.

I made reservations somewhere pleasant. I scraped together a few dollars. I put on a nice sweater. She arrived in a black dress. And we went. And we ate. And we drank. And I have no idea what we discussed. It's a buttery haze. We returned to my basement, crawled on top of each other and made a sort of pale, limpid love. Nothing like what I remember from funerals gone by. And when she came, she was looking out the window, and probably thinking of somebody else. And when I came, I took my turn, and cast my eyes away, and did the same.

She fell asleep without saying anything. I poured a quick drink, stepped outside for a last cigarette, and watched the headlights pass. Wondered what Colette was doing. Let the smoke ripple. Let the liquor drain as the light streaked through the metal bars of the staircase. Let the fire singe the snow as it fell.

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