Talk, Talk

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I don’t think we learn much when we talk. Mostly we just impart what we already know, and that has never had much appeal to me. I prefer to listen or not listen at all and write what I can’t articulate vocally. Let other people jaw away. At least with writing there’s a kind of permanence to the act. There’s also an opening out and an expansion of potential.

I have spent too many hours of my life subservient to the human voice, trapped in cramped quarters by didactic gasbags with nothing to say and all the time in the world to prove it.

They’ll always get you. They’ll call and you’ll make the mistake of picking up the phone or they’ll turn up at your door or corner you in a bar and begin, opening their flapper valves and prating and chittering on, bragging and blasting out, and swelling, and soaring, admiring the sound of their own voices while failing to perceive in their self-love the deadening of your expression or lack of engagement, so hell-bent they are on bending your ears and cramming them chock-full with doggerel and seaweed and vowels and bird droppings.

“How the hell do I get out of this?” you start asking yourself. “I know, I’ll add nothing to the conversation but a few ‘uh-huhs’ and “right-rights,’ and wait for a pause.” But the pause invariably comes too late, and by then you feel utterly soiled, demoralized, wasted.

“You are living as if destined to live forever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply.” ~ Seneca

Which is why if we are to be greedy with anything, it should be our time, and if we are to be leery of anyone, it’s the watercooler windbag who wants nothing more than to rob us of it with witless slush.

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Poem: Walking Through Neukölln in the Rain

Walking in the silvery drizzle at midnight, no umbrella
soaked to the skin,
nerves torn open, the city slashed away
by glares diamonds seafoam cathedral spires half-veiled
outcries,the quivering semblances
of people. They pass through me in a heave of mists, dark sultry
shapes floating on rhythms of whispering white echoes.
They pass through me like blackbirds
through a mulberry forest at dusk, carrying with them whistling
air brakes and the throne
of Saturn, a nausea of soaked flowers.

Walking in the silvery drizzle at midnight,
gaslamps hurling halos
of color on wet cobblestones, slender pitches of fog
lifting along the vanishing alleyways,
a quartz clock glowing in a window murmuring Hebrew
psalms and drinking up shadow.

And the people
they pass through me, glancing spirits
like the last refrains of a dissolving
orchestra, their eyes lips hearts kidneys trachea bones
eaten by imaginary
water-maggots and gone up into syllables
of diaphanous cloud.

Walking along in a blur
of whirling color,
past second-hand shops, a Kurdish brothel with shuttered
windows and the front door open,
doom palpitating,
and now the hour comes down.
Merlin tunes his instruments. Enchanted skewers
of bloody
light glitter off the hood of a Ford Capri Turbo. Egyptian cobras
and golden zucchini
sing in the Chamber of Amazia.

And the people they pass through me.

Love & Shandyism

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I have just returned from walking my girlfriend to U-Bahn Hermannplatz and seeing her off. She’s flying back to London today. I have no other plans but to write today. I haven’t written anything since Friday a.m., and I’ve dealt with it pretty well, but last night it started to get to me and probably would’ve been much worse if we hadn’t gone to the bar.

From now on, I’m calling my girlfriend Erica on this blog. The name is the Latin of her real name and was her 3rd choice when I asked her what she wanted to be called. Her first two choices were duds and I had to reject them.

Erica and I originally met three years ago in the bar we went to last night which is called Travolta. The night we met she tells me I was totally drunk and that’s why she kept looking at me. Not sure I believe her, although I did drink a flask of vodka on the way into the bar, and somehow we ended up sitting at the same table. Then my friend Bernd, a six-foot-six-two-hundred-eighty-pound-Teuton-got-up-like-Johnny-Cash plunked down between us.

“Soooooo, Mike,” he said, in his thundering bass-baritone. “Wait, she’s not the Polish girl. Wha? A new one? Huh?”

I’d made out with a Polish girl the week before. I pretended I didn’t hear what he’d said and introduced the two of them. A few minutes later, he worked his screw in again.

“Have you told her how old you are yet, Mike? C’mon, fess up.”

“43,” I muttered, and cursed him under my breath. Erica was only 24 at the time. Nevertheless, we kept talking, mostly about books. Her favorite was One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Marquez, and she knew the first line by heart.

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

I was impressed, both by the first line and that she’d remembered it. I told her a few of my favorite books, one which was The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne, and she’d read that too, which shocked me. I’d never met anyone who’d heard of Sterne, let alone read him and got his brilliant Irish wit.

I cursed Bernd again.

Then I got up from the table and lit a cigarette at the bar. Erica now says I did that to hide from her the fact of my smoking, and she’d be right, although if I really wanted to hide it I would’ve gone outside. The bar was only 10 feet away.

After that night, I started seeing Erica every week at Travolta, but didn’t do anything except once when I invited her to sleep at my place because it was closer. She told me she couldn’t that night because she had to work early the next morning, but said maybe some other time. So that confirmed it. But I still rested on my chesterfields. I’ve always been slow to act. I’m no Lothario, nor do I try to be. I go to bars for drinks and crackajabloking and good conversation, everything else must arrive by itself. So I sat back and watched as this 26-year-old Welshman started buying Erica drinks, and stealing my seat, and blockading me from her, trying to court her. A month or two went by like that and finally I got a haircut and trimmed my toenails and made my move. I challenged Erica – no that’s not true – I commanded her to memorize the first line of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and present me with the results the following week.

The first line goes as follows:

I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly considered how much depended upon what they were doing; – that not only the production of a rational Being was concern’d in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind; – and for ought they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost: – Had they duly weighted and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly, – I am verily persuaded I should have made a quite different figure in the world, from that, in which the reader is likely to see me.

She memorized it to the letter, and soon after we went out on our first date at a beer kneipe, and soon after that we were making out in the back of some dark bar in Mitte, and I looked out the window and saw the Welshman looking at us, his mouth hanging open, his face pale as a toad’s belly. He took a slow drag from his cigarette and stood there decomposing in his cloud of blue smoke.

Poor sod. I felt sorry for him. I really did! I tried to think of what I could do to help but for some reason was all out of ideas. I turned to Erica and we continued.

The Meaning of Life Is What You Make It Be

I wish I could say I haven’t been blogging the past three days because H. is here for the week and I’m devoting all my time to her. But it isn’t so. A few hours after my last post, my internet went down. I reported the incident to the company and they gave me a tracking number and say they’re working on it, but that proves nothing. I say I’m working on my German.

It is now 6:11 a.m., and I am here sitting in the kitchen again as H. sleeps. She thinks I’m a freak for waking up at such ungodly hours all the time, but I’ve been institutionalized. For 16 years, I owned and operated a construction equipment rental business in South Florida, and had to be there at 7 a.m. everyday. I’m still on that clock. Wednesday, however, I slept in till 9:37 and was very proud of myself. It meant I had slept 8 hours and 37 minutes. Or so I thought. H. told me later we didn’t actually get home until 3:15 a.m., and I believe her because I don’t remember. Also reported was that I’d drunk five large German beers, four Thomas Specials (tequila and lime juice), a tequila shot, a Mexikaner and a margarita. I believe that too.

“What’s your life-motto?” my friend T. was asking the bartender. It was the first of two philosophical questions he would pose that night, probably because it was his birthday. I don’t know how she answered, but then she asked me the same question and I told her mine had to do with seeing things with my own eyes rather than with other people’s.

If all the people of the art world tell me the Mona Lisa is a beautiful portrait, and I don’t see it, I might try to understand where they’re coming from, but I’m not going to take their word for it. If 20,000,000 Christians including my sister tell me Jesus walked on water, I will not believe them. I will tell them to have some respect for mythology.

T.’s next question came a few hours later. “What is the essence or meaning of life?” he asked.
I said, “That’s the easiest question you’ve ever asked.”
“Then what is it?”
“Are you ready?” I said.
“Yeah.”
“You sure?”
“Come on, man. Get on with it!”
“Okay,” I said, and took a slow sip of my beer to draw the agony out further. “The meaning of life,” I said, and put my glass down, “is whatever you make it be.”

The answer was a flop.
More was to be expected from a self-published author.
Neither T., nor his German friend Marcel were satisfied with it.
Marcel then started saying the meaning of life is to “make it better.” But I wasn’t satisfied with that because so often those trying to make it better are only doing it for themselves, or are so misguided in their approach all they do is botch it up for the rest of us, and you can’t help but admire instead those rare and shiftless souls, devoid of vanity and self-importance, with no more ambition than a dog, forever enjoying their folly and today, today, today.

Relax, be private, don’t worry too much
about whether people are suffering at all;
be glad to accept the here and now, and don’t
be serious.
~ Horace

Later that night, the bar was paid a visit by one such fellow: the German shaman. I call him that because when I first met him in 2011, he told me the earth talked to him. The earth was crying and said, ‘what are you people doing to me?’. There is also something about the way the German Shaman looks around and the way he moves through a bar. If Christ were alive today and homeless in Berlin, I could picture him with the same kind of demeanor. He’d just got out of jail, he told me. He got a year for stealing a Vespa motor scooter and three months for riding the trains illegally. Now he is selling homeless rags, and I gave him a euro, but didn’t get the rag. I always give him something. He’s the only homeless guy I consistently give money to, partly because I know him and my heart goes out to him, and partly because whenever I see him I am reminded of Heinrich Heine’s poem Gotterdämmerung, and can hear (somewhere in my head) the lines being read by Klaus Kinski.

Poor earth, I know your pains! I see the glow rage in your bosom, and I see your thousand veins bleed, and see your wound burst wide open, and flames and smoke and blood stream wildly forth. I see your huge defiant sons, primeval brood, climbing up out of their dark abysses, brandishing red torches in their hands; – they set up their iron ladder and charge wildly up into heaven’s citadel; – and black dwarfs clamber after them – and higher still all the golden stars burn themselves out with a crackling sound.

POSTSCRIPT

All the above was written yesterday morning before 7 a.m. Tonight I am at my son’s mother’s house along with her husband and my girlfriend, and we have just eaten dinner and have three bottles of wine waiting to be drunk. Meantime I am using her internet. Mine is out till Tue or Wed. Getting new box. Repair proved a failure. See you then!

Another Country Bookstore

I started writing a post yesterday about my wanderings through the flea market on Sunday, and was planning on talking about the burden of having too much stuff,

What a lot of things I don’t need! While others acquire expensive luxuries from the market, I get myself greater pleasures than theirs from my own soul without expense.” ~ Socrates

but then I realized time was running away and I hadn’t even started the Herculean task of tidying, scouring, bombing and disinfecting my place for H., who was flying in from London, and is now staying with me for the next eight days.

It’s 6:41 a.m.

She’s sleeping in my bed right now. I am in the kitchen and have just drunk my first Sicilian espresso and feel like I’m being rushed to write this so it’s either going come out like shit or have to be aborted. The good thing is, H. usually sleeps 3 or 4 hours longer than me – she’ll quite often sleep 10 or 11 hour a night – so I have time, but I still feel like someone’s got a knife at my back. Maybe it’s because I just quit smoking. I’d only been doing it for a couple weeks, and am not craving a cigarette at all right now, but I was smoking like a diesel engine toward the end, and maybe I’m unnerved in ways I don’t even know now.

So, I will keep this post quick and simple.

Friday night I went to the Friday Night Dinner at Another Country Bookstore. Dinner was served in the basement there, and after dinner we went upstairs into this small cozy room full of books, and there were about eight chairs arranged in a semi-circle, and we sat down and started talking and drinking and some of us were smoking. The conversation was good. There was an Aussie going on about this hammer drill he’d just bought and how efficient it was compared to screwing the old-fashioned way. And there was a German women talking about the beautiful, variegated light in New York City, and the wonderful food there, and the polite help in America, and tasers, and overly-aggressive men and their need of being tasered, and this and that. Also there was a Chinese woman, a guy from California with half-a-mohawk, and a few others including my friend Bernd, a giant bear of a man who kept nodding off which I found really disappointing, although not unusual for him. Bernd’s never been one to stand on ceremony. If Bernd needs to express his part-German, part Huguenot (he claims) opinion by falling asleep while you’re telling him a story, he’ll do it. He doesn’t care.

Luckily, it wasn’t me he was falling asleep to. I was talking most of the time to the guy next to me who’d just moved from New York to Berlin. I eventually told him about my novel Fortuna Berlin, and he bought the Kindle version on Amazon. Then yesterday, as I was trying to write about Socrates and the Burden of Stuff and feeling like I should start tidying, scouring, bombing and disinfecting my place, all the while reading Bryan Ray’s most recent blog and thinking about some emails I need to get to, I got this notification on Twitter:

Hey! Not sure if you recognized me from the twitter bio. We met at Another Country on Friday (the Indian guy). I just finished your book yesterday. I was glad I read it on a trip to Prague I took over the weekend. John was such good company for the solo-traveller :). He’s such a keen (or “mustard-keen” to unnecessarily use a phrase I learnt yesterday) observer too. it was great to see the world through his eyes for a bit. Especially parts of Kreuzberg I’ve stumbled across over the last 2 months. Some of those conversations he has with The Elephant regulars were my favourite bits. You must have edited those down ruthlessly. They’re so tight. No ponderousness. No rambling. Always with a point that’s not too directly stated. Always funny. Loved it. Going to go read some Goethe after that. Anyway, just wanted to say hi and thanks for the book. Hope we can talk again in person soon.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through Donald Trump – and there is only one thing, BUH-leeeve me – it’s that sometimes you need to toot your own proverbial horn. So there it is. Buy a copy! Link to $1.99 Kindle version here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00SSCL94S/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Church bells, Music & My Grandfather

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It’s 12:00 p.m. in Berlin, and I’ve got the windows of my flat open to the garden and can hear the sparrows in the trees and the church bells tolling in the distance. Mark Twain used to complain about the sound of church bells, but I’ve always liked it. Probably because it’s something I never heard in the little seaside town I come from in Florida.

I just shut the windows. It was starting to get cold in here. And now I’m listening to J.S. Bach played by Pepe Romero on guitar. I can only write to music without lyrics in it, hence the millions of hours I’ve spent listening to instrumental classical music. J.S. Bach has always been my favorite composer, followed closely by Beethoven. After that comes Mozart, the Baroque composers: Buxtehude, Vivaldi, Couperin, etc. Where are the modern-day Bachs and Beethovens? They have to be out there somewhere. The world population was around 1 billion in Bach and Beethoven’s time. It 2010 it was 6.9 billion. If we look purely at the statistics, there should be 6.9 Bachs and 6.9 Beethovens walking among us. So where are they? Crushed by the awful weight of the corporate music industry? Lost in the sheer mass of numbers? Rendered kaput by the era?

My maternal grandfather started off as a musician. He could play by ear just about any song on any instrument he picked up. Unfortunately, none of his kids or grandkids or great-grandkids inherited the talent as far as I know. He kept it all to himself, passing it onto no one, which was a very miserly thing of him to do if you ask me, but totally in line with his personality. To call my grandfather a skinflint would be insulting to skinflints. Here was a man who, in 1987, drove down from Illinois to Florida to visit us with the windows open in the car to save the cost of air conditioning. Never mind that it was 90 degrees out and the humidity was 100%. When he got out of the car, the entire back of his shirt was drenched with sweat and he was mopping his forehead with his sleeve.

On the plus side, he did become a lavish spender later in life… when he realized he might have something to give in the way of inheritance.

Items found in his Arizona trailer post-mortem: fertilizer, handguns, bagpipes, ivory canes with knives that pop out of them, everything QVC ever sold (or couldn’t sell, let alone give away). Also, a sex tape for beginners.

My maternal grandfather was 84 when he died and republican and his name was Wallace but my dad used to call him ‘Slow Wallet Wally’ because whenever it was time to pay his part of the bill at a restaurant there would be a monumental hesitation or his attention would be drawn elsewhere or the motor-workings of his arm would fail and he’d dive into a detailed conversation about pneumatic armchairs or the passengers on the Mayflower or the beautiful eucalyptus trees of Dubai or Spanish guitars and finally my dad would foot the whole.

“Wait, you sure?”

He was sure.

So, it’s now after 1 p.m. and the church bells are calling me. Time to go out people watching in the sun. I’ll probably be back later to write more. It is my compulsion, after all.

Novel: Fortuna Berlin

The other day, a young woman from the States who’d just read my novel Fortuna Berlin sent me an email that I think every writer would be happy to get. I’m cutting some parts out because they might give away the plot, but here is most of what she said:

To Mr. Powers

I just finished reading your book Fortuna Berlin, and I am in love with the whole story. I felt compelled from the first few chapters to complete the book, and I read it all in a frenzy–finishing it in less than two days. I thoroughly enjoyed it for many reasons. The main one was it’s believability.

I very much enjoyed how you grounded the work in reality–describing the sights, sounds, and ambiance of Berlin and all of it’s unique character. I also enjoyed John as a character. He reminded me of myself in that I often ponder why things work out the way they do and also how he looked for signs and symbols in his everyday life.

I cried when (…), and felt terribly outraged(…).

I think you did a wonderful job of exposing how a life can unfold, how it can change in an instant and how there is a horrible beauty in it.

I am currently studying English literature and I fear being stuck in a drab 9-5 work routine when I graduate. Like John, I detest the hoards of people who stay in the same place all their lives, who lose their personalities in their jobs, and who live uninteresting lives. I could relate with John also because he left, he sought adventure and whatever might come with it. I am wondering how you did it–How did you develop such memorable characters? How did you develop such a memorable story?

Thank you so much for writing and publishing this work. It is something that I very much enjoy and will probably read many times over. I also really appreciate the historical, literary, and philosophical references you make in the book. I look forward to reading works by those authors as well. Thanks again and I hope this letter finds you well.

She also wrote a review on Amazon that does a beautiful job of summing up the book. I am so happy it found such a great reader, and was not at all surprised to find out in a later email that she’s an artist, though too humble to admit it. I knew if my book appealed to anyone it would be to the artist, the poet, the deep-feeling soul.

Check out the link above, read all the reviews and buy a copy if your curiosity is piqued. The Kindle version is only $1.99.

 

A Night on the Eastern Comfort

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Wednesday night on the Eastern Comfort I met for the second time a red-haired Scottish woman who’s a stand-up comedian. She’d come with a porno magazine and on the cover of it there was a photograph of a naked dude sitting down with a hard-on about a foot long. She flashed it around and then rolled up the magazine and slipped it into her back pocket. Then she told us how she was the organizer for the next stand-up event and wanted to know if we had any material. I brainstormed for a moment, but I think my faculties were still disturbed by the image.

“Tell her your Wallflower story,” said my friend T.
“I can’t,” I said. “I forgot what made it funny.”

Then I told how standing in front of an audience is not my forte. For one because I lack the nerve, and also because I’m horrible at remembering lines. My memory doesn’t work that way. I have a freakish memory for faces, but for written text I am beyond deficient. I’d be even worse in front of a crowd.

T. didn’t have any material either. “How could I?” he said. “I’m German.”
“Germans may not be funny,” said the Scottish women. “But their jokes are very well-structured.”

We laughed. She left on that note with the rolled-up porno mag sticking out her back pocket. Then the complimentary peppermint schnapps arrived and we drank them down with our beers.

A German woman named E. turned up after that and we started talking auf Deutsch, but I was embarrassed by my Deutsch and E. said it was fine, that I didn’t need to keep apologizing for it. Then someone, it may have even been me, produced a joint and the three of us smoked it, talking about the difference between verstehen (to understand) and verstehen (to understand) when it’s pronounced differently. One implied a more intimate connection.

T. then went off for another round, leaving behind a strange tension in the air between A. and me, even though she knows I have a girlfriend. I naturally made the tension stranger by just being myself, which cracked E. up. I tried to remain deadpan but it wasn’t easy. Then T. got back with the beers and E. made a remark about how we looked like a gay couple. T. didn’t hear it so I explained it auf Deutsch, and that only made E. laugh harder. She had to sit down she was laughing so hard. Then she got up, left the stern and went inside the boat somewhere. We wondered where. She wasn’t at the bar or on the dancefloor or on the sofas. That left only the bathroom or the side of the boat that no one goes on.

Finally, about an hour later, she came through the doors and cast a quick sidelong glance at us. Then she went slinking down the stairs and disappeared into the night.

“Weird that she didn’t say goodbye,” I told T.
“She did,” he said. “It was a Polish goodbye.”

We drank two more shots.

After that we sat down at the table with an Englishman from Bristol who was in Berlin for the week. He was a very friendly chap it turned out, and an artist too, so we talked about art for a while, and then his beard came up. I might’ve said something. His beard was ginger-colored and huge, fanning out like foliage under the jaw but almost completely bald of mustache and in the U-shaped patch from the bottom of his lip to the bottom edge of his chin. It made him look like a sunflower. Did he paint sunflowers? I hope his art is better than his beard, I thought. But what kind of artist would see the beauty in that hideous spectacle? I was tempted to tug it off and throw it overboard. Instead I finished the last of my beer, said goodbye to everyone the non-Polish way and slouched my way home.

On Truth, Power, Denial and Death

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Today is the last of my eleven-day odyssey with my four-year old, which means tonight I will be back on The Motherfucking Boat, and hopefully not too hungover tomorrow. In the meantime, someone left this comment the other night on my recent post Morning Commute, Melancholy and the Human Face:

I wonder if instead of “too much power” in the human face, there is too much “truth” in the human face. It’s harder to look at truth, easier to avoid. Power is compelling and draws our fascination. Just a thought.”

I disagree. It’s the power of the glance and perhaps the corresponding play of the features that we are struck most by and averts our eyes. The reason: the face is a hologram of all a person’s thoughts, and thoughts are infinite and mysterious and therefore powerful, whether they’re true or not. They’re often more powerful when they’re untrue.

The only time I can imagine there being “too much truth” in the human face is when the onlooker is in denial of something.

Do you want to know what there’s “too much truth” in?

A human corpse.

That’s why we immediately cover them and shuffle them off into obscurity, as if with disgust. The truth they represent – Death, something most of us live in constant fear and denial of – must be suppressed. Our Western sensibilities must not be cognizant of man’s ultimate destiny. We must not know that

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing

Which only shows we keep way too wide a berth from ordinary reality and fact. Now I’m not saying we should be like the tribes of Papua New Guinea who keep the skulls of their ancestors in their living rooms. But we should be a little closer in our acquaintanceship with Death so that when it does ride in on its ghost horse it’s not such an unnatural shock to the system.

If you live in harmony with nature you will never be poor; if you live according what others think, you will never be rich.” ~ Seneca

We should also keep in mind that Death is not the greatest misfortune of all, despite what we are bred to believe and led to believe at funerals and on the news, etc.

It might, however, be the greatest fortune. We’ll never know.

More light!” ~ Goethe’s last words.

My Experience with Hurricanes

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Last time I was in Florida, I spent a day on Sanibel Island, where the eye of Hurricane Irma came ashore yesterday. My sister J. lives about fifteen minutes from there in Ft. Myers. Luckily, she took her family up to Atlanta so they’ll be alright. Don’t know about her house.

I have been through three major hurricanes: Frances, Jeanne and Wilma. I talk about them in the novel I just wrote, Ramblin’ Fever, so I won’t say much here. Only that it’s true: people do come together in times of widespread catastrophe. You can almost feel the empathy in the air when it’s happening. It’s like the molecules have been changed, and for a moment you think maybe mankind has a chance. But then it’s over and everyone forgets and goes back to being the same shit they’d always been. Some are of course shits while everyone else is feeling benevolent, but that’s to be expected.

I feel like there is a battle going on all the time between light and dark, and I wonder sometimes if the dark has one more spear.” – Fred Gwynne.

Catastrophes also tend to bring out the absurd in people. Take a man’s electric away, the means to his TV, and you don’t know what he might do. One of my customers, a Hungarian named Bela who had a warehouse behind my shop, became so desperate after Hurricane Jeanne he walked out on his wife, picked up a prostitute and spent the night with her in my mechanic’s clutter-filled Winnebago. My mechanic said he woke up the next morning only to see Bela’s bare ass suspended above him in the bed up top. Later that morning, Bela came into my shop and sat down in my office, drunk. I’d never seen him drunk before. I’d only seen him in work-mode, laid-back, cheerful and polite. That day he sat down in the chair next to my desk and started telling me about the Hungarian mafia and how cold and brutal they were. He told me a few stories, but I can’t remember them. I only remember he kept telling me that if I ever were to encounter them, I’d shit my pants.

“Yewwd shit yo pants,” he kept saying.

Bela was probably the most mild, polite and reasonable customer I had, and then the hurricane came and he walked out on everything and ended up on the chair, drunk and fierce-eyed at 11 a.m., with more confidence in the control I had over my bowels than anyone I’ve ever met.

“Yewwd shit yo paaaaaants!”

I just got an email from my mom saying everyone in my family is fine.

“Can’t believe it!!” she wrote. “So happy! Quite an experience!!”

She said my brother D. didn’t even lose power.

Good thing. I don’t think he knows much about the Hungarian mafia, but he likes TV and I would hate for his bare ass to find itself suspended in someone’s clutter-filled Winnebago in the next few days.