This began as a diary entry the other day and ended as a poem.
A thirtysomething Bulgarian-Canadian
with a hipster mustache and a mail-order Azerbaijani
bride. He’s at it again.
He’s been trying to get it right
all week. The first three or four notes of Bohemian
They come trundling down
through my ceiling, off-key, jarring,
just after midnight.
Hey Asshole. We, your neighbors,
ask for some sleep.
Not a full night’s worth. Lying awake in the dark
is no big deal – I do it all the time – but being kept up
by some louse’s banal and bungling
piano antics is.
I’d rather hear anything but this.
Your dog dragging its ass up
and down the flooring, your loud and incessant footsteps,
you and your wife
True, I’ve only heard the last
sound once, about six months ago; your Cro-Magnon
grunts bringing down the walls,
your wife silent as a corpse.
The whole thing only lasted about thirty seconds,
but brevity, as you know,
is sometimes what’s needed.
I flop around in my bed, the Bohemian Rhapsody
down through the ceiling,
a testament to poorly ripped-off
a half hour passes, he hasn’t gotten
but refuses to give up.
He’s gotten desperate,
you can hear it in the angry and discordant banging
of the keys.
It’s as if he’s forgotten he has neighbors,
or that it’s past midnight.
It’s as if he thinks that when
he does get the song right,
who can only
communicate with him in the most rudimentary
English, will see in him
something she never did before,
something beyond language, something that will finally
I spent more time than I’m willing to admit on this drawing yesterday (and still didn’t get it right), but it brought me to some wonderful, nostalgic places. Pictured below is my old friend and customer Russell Wayne Mendes. I’ll never forget all the Friday nights we spent in the back of my shop drinking and carousing and playing poker. On one of those nights, Russell went into my mechanic Captain Kirk’s cluttered Winnebago and did a few lines. When he came out, I thought he was going to have a heart attack. He kept pacing around groping his chest and stomach, and lay down for a while on the hood of his F150.
“Are you alright, Russell?” I asked
“I’m fine,” he said. He spoke a little like Jack Nicholson. “Just a little gassy, that’s all. Just… gassy… Must’ve been the Wendy’s burger I had for lunch… Or something.”
I ended up going to a convenience store nearby and buying him some TUMS. His recovery was slow after that. At one point I thought I was going to have to call 911 and report a dead man on the property, but he managed to pull through and the night went according to plan…. poker, beer drinking, lots of laughs because that’s what we did best.
I eventually lost touch with Russell. He must’ve moved away from Florida around the time I did, in 2011. I looked him up recently to find out what became of him, and discovered he got killed on his motorcycle in Virginia Beach by a car going the wrong way on a one-way street. He was 57; highly intelligent, half-insane (nickname: Mad Max), brazen, vulnerable, a con artist and natural-born salesman with a beautiful gift of gab. I miss him.
“The great thing about being crazy is that we see E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G… even what’s not there.”