Tuesday, December 30, 2008
As Peter Tosh and Mick Jagger sang: You gotta walk, don’t look back. The year will end and a new one begins. In 2008, Barack Obama is elected — change has come to America, global stock markets plunge, Iraq and Afghanistan, Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe continues terrorizing, chemist Albert Hofmann who discovered LSD dies at 102, Beijing summer Olympics, pirates off Somalia’s coast, America cuts 533,000 jobs in November — the biggest loss in 34 years, Israelis and Palestinians. Good bye 2008… we gotta walk, don’t look back.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Making a List, Checking It Twice
By John Bennett
Yesterday I wrote down dreams. The day before I made a shopping list. The day before that a wish list. I took the wish list into a bank and slid it across to the teller. I had a woman's nylon stocking over my head.
The teller smiled the way tellers smile at old people. "Oh, Mr. Whitman," she said, using my real name, much to my alarm. "You silly," she said, sliding the list back at me and craning her neck to look over my shoulder. "Next," she said.
I stood outside the bank in the whale gray light. People brushed by me in the swirling snow. I struggled to get the nylon stocking off my head. Once it was off I folded it neatly and put it in my coat pocket, where I discovered the shopping list from the day before. I transfered the shopping list to the opposite coat pocket where I'd put the wish list after the teller shoved it back at me.
I kept my hands in my coat pockets as I walked. I didn't have gloves. Gloves were on my shopping list. They were on my wish list, too, along with a request for love and understanding and all the money in the till. I didn't want to leave fingerprints, that's why I needed the gloves.
I took my left hand out of the pocket where the nylon stocking was. The nylon's soft warmth was arousing me. People hadn't paid any attention to the nylon when it was over my head, but you can bet I would have raised a few eyebrows if I'd gotten fully aroused. I stuck the hand in my pants pocket. It was a bitter cold day.
My fingers began examining the coins in my pocket. Was there enough for coffee? It wouldn't do to sit at the counter at Ranchero's drinking coffee without enough money to pay. The week before I went through six refills and couldn't pay. The waitress looked at me like waitresses look at men they wouldn't go to bed with to save their lives, even if they were drunk. She whisked the cup, napkin and spoon into the tray under the counter and wiped the counter top in front of me with a damp white towel the way a sexually frustrated mother wipes at a smudge on a small child's face.
I couldn't chance coming up short. I took the coins from my pocket and sat down on a public bench that was bolted into the concrete. I lined the coins up in numerical order on the frayed wool of my trouser leg, quarters up high, pennies down around the knee. There was a hole in the knee, and a nub of shiny white flesh showed through. I had 97 cents.
I looked up from the coins. Across the street a Salvation Army man was ringing a tiny bell over a red bucket hanging from a hook on a pole stuck in a large circular metal base. I stood up abruptly, and the coins fell from my leg, puncturing the snow like bullets and disappearing.
I sat down again and stared at the holes my coins had made in the snow. I took both lists from my coat pocket and smoothed them out. I put the shopping list on my left leg and the wish list on my right. I needed a pen. Or a pencil. Something to write with. Something to circle some items and cross others out. Something with which to make asterisks for cross references. At one time 97 cents would have bought a cup of coffee and a hamburger with change left over.
It began to get dark. The streetlights came on. I pulled my feet up on the bench and hugged my knees, like someone I loved dearly and hadn't seen in a long time.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Hi there. I'm in a cool coffee shop in Milwaukee listening to your album Black Coffee. You'd like it here. You may remember me from when you came to Milwaukee and played at a dive called Humpin' Hannah's. I think it was 1971 or '72 and you played two nights in a row. Remember? I was one of the guys sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of you. The first night I was there with my girlfriend who had long brown hair. The second night I was alone because she said, We've already seen him. He'll probably play the same songs again. What's the point? She was a bit of a nihilist, so there was no point in arguing -- no point at all. The reason I was alone the second night -- just so you know -- is my friends were all stupid. I'd say, Al Kooper is in town, do you want to go see him with me? And they'd say, Oh Alice Cooper, that might be weird. And I'd have to say, No, Al Kooper, you know...Super Session. And then they'd say, Oh yeah, that dumb album you keep playing over and over. Yep, I stand Alone, too. Well, as you remember, I was alone the second night because, as I said, my friends were all stupid at the time. So, anyway, I'm just writing to say "hi" and hoping all is well with you. Hey, if you're ever in Milwaukee, let me know and we can meet for a cup of coffee. For now, I'll listen to your album on my iPod and enjoy this cup of black coffee in your honor.
All the best,