Sweaty Continued- Manny wakes up

Lying on the icy sidewalk Manny Fiesta came to after what, he could not say. He knew with great conviction that he was significantly responsible for Barack Obama becoming the first black man elected as the president of the United States of America. Not through his single vote, which he had not used since voting for Bill Clinton in 1992, but through the blasts of electricity that cracked from his brain and then spread like the veins in a leaf, connecting him to all leaves, everywhere, to spread the sense of urgency that Mr. Obama, the senator from Hyde Park, just 20 miles away from where Manny lived, must become President.

Back then, Manny was first learning of his powers in the Central Florida heat of July, 2007 as he suffocated beneath a tarp under an I-4 overpass.

The Artist Retreats.

I worry I procrastinate too much. We may never film the Paddle-boat Sonata where plastic bobbing boats of itchy fiberglass churn in a lurching murmuration designed by yours truly, and my co-founders of Slippery Horse-wink LLC, or Walm ART, or any of the hundred other names of production companies and art galleries never founded.  Filmed from above on a tiny lake in Alabama, our volunteers would launch on my command and draw a beautiful plait of wakes to a banjo accompanied by a Wurlitzer, hence the name.

Our film noir musical, Certain Death, starring my cat Iggy portrayed by finger puppets spectacularly ward-robed and shot in a shoe-box diorama also threatens to never arrive at the box office.  The images trapped in two dimensions struggle to rise from the page. Our naked fingers are on to other things.

Sweaty Duane and Black June still sit in Duane’s uncle’s apartment, awkwardly wondering if they are to be together, in passing or forever, or if they are simply pinky players in Manny “the Thumb” Fiesta’s story. Left standing at the stove, Duane holds an egg while June’s stomach growls.  Are they ever to eat?

The added pressure of the triple threat, not content to write and perform silently as Chuck’s dark conscience in Glitter Chariot, I now have two musical projects to not finish, with all of the instruments not yet learned.  Only Had One and Squirrel Bullet, headline stolen afternoons to an audience of birds and the eponymous squirrels, and one cat who fears not Certain Death.  Our nihilistic hit single, Sad Right Now, written and sung by an 8 year-old ingenue in a boon-docked Air-stream, drones on in d minor awaiting verses and a chord change.

These and all things stand behind the current masterpiece in waiting. When the earth eventually rolls around and points the humble panhandle of Florida towards the sun, and the dank, wool blanket wraps its loving folds around our town– I will revive and rinse myself beneath a fountain in the garden, or to put it meanly, an outdoor shower.

Yes! Once those waters flow from the garden hose and onto my beading head, all projects will be finished, all works rendered done.




El Viejo

There is an old man sitting in his old man chair,
He feels the price of every year.  His fingers tap merenge
rhythm for no one but himself to listen.

Dear wife brings his slice of cake, a glass of sherry, she thinks he wakes.

Not asleep, just gone for a ride, through the upstate Jersey countryside, he,  his brother,  nothing dies– the larder full of harmless lies.

The Florida grass is thickly green, the heat a soaking, sickly thing as sprinklers run, condensers hum is this success? And have I won?

Mis hijos, men- m’ija then, comes to watch the television. Fireworks fall outside and in, he holds her hand inside of his.

He drags the beat a hair within, the timing late, but on the one. Let it arrive but not too quickly– ¡da te prisa!, pero  en el uno.





The Self-Immolation of Reverend Moore

Wanting something is the wrong way to go about getting it done.

Nobody knew this like Reverend Charles Robert Moore.  He wanted so many things.  The ruling in Brown vs. The Board of Education ended legal segregation in the United States, and the young reverend was fired from his post for celebrating this in the most cautious sense from the pulpit.  He would not make that mistake ever again, to be cautious in the face of injustice. He stood outside the governor’s mansion protesting the executions of 150 prisoners during Governor George Bush’s tenure.  He defied the traditions and doctrine of the Methodist Church by opening the doors of his church to the nascent Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in Austin, but being tolerated by the church was not enough for him.  He stopped eating, and on the 15th day of his fast the bishops acquiesced to his demand that the church accept responsibility for its contribution to the suffering of the gay community, which they did by proclamation.  His faith took him to India, Africa, the Middle East, Chicago, Austin, and ultimately back to his hometown of Grand Saline, Texas where his deepest memories of shame and inequality were born.

Reverend Moore made a mess of his life.  All three of his marriages ended because he could not make room for the comfort and love of relationships that distracted from his desire for justice. His children suffered his absences.

At 79 years-old, in 2014, he was elated by the election of Barack Obama, the first and only black President of the United States, but the hatred and racism that accompanied the moment left him heart-sick and stricken with defeat. His lifetime of wanting had brought him nowhere. He was still in Grand Saline, Texas, a child unable to make a difference. Charlie Moore was a coward, a failure, a loser.

On June 23rd of that year he drove to a strip mall on the edge of town in Grand Saline.  He paced for hours in front of the Dollar General store, while curious watchers noticed him, musing about his circumstances.  They watched him finally open his trunk, pull a foam pad from it and place it on the ground.  Those watching assumed he must be praying, perhaps a Muslim.  He kneeled and lifted a container to his head and poured liquid all over his legs, his chest, and his head.  Being June in Texas it was a steamy afternoon.

As the fumes from the gasoline choked his breath away, he pulled from his pocket a lighter and sparked it.


On the windshield of his car, he left this note.





In the Yellow House

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailWhen I saw the fourth one it all made sense.  He is the dad, and the guy I always see with the boys is the uncle.  They live around the corner from us in a little yellow house.  Uncle drives an early 80’s cream-colored Mercedes Sedan.  He has the powder-blue tag of an antique automobile, but the car is not a showpiece.  It’s a workhorse, the back end caked with diesel exhaust.  Uncle and the boys ride skateboards past our house, making careful turns working down the hill.  I would not call them skaters, because there is none of the culture of skateboarding apparent with them.  They wear no helmets or pads, occasionally just bare feet, and they do not seem interested in tricks or energy drinks. From our brief conversations, the longest of which happened as we watched the utility workers triumphantly raise our pole after the storm, I know they are all ponderers curious about the world.  When I saw them I ran to get my own skateboard so I could sit on it and join them.  Just us skateboard owners.

This is when I met Dad, who is a slightly shorter, thicker version of uncle, and more gregarious.  I don’t really know them at all, but I delight in their company and in watching them work down the hill mostly cautiously.  The smallest of the boys, who looks most of the time like a pair of jeans pulled from the dryer, is the daredevil and the one with a natural talent.  Uncle calls out to him frequently.  “Think about how fast you have to run before you jump off.”  “Hold up, don’t get too far ahead of us.” Blue Jeans loves his uncle, and mostly heeds his advice.  These four guys are family. Serious family. They are intelligent and gentle.  They speak to each other with warm familiarity and kindness.  I get the impression that to really get to know these guys would be a trip into a deep and branching story with cul de sacs of segues into 15th century Tarascan architecture or theories on time travel. Perhaps Uncle and Dad are in a ska band or build model rockets. To me they seem a self-contained unit, not needing much else to enjoy life but to hang out together on Goodwill skateboards on the edge of Indianhead Acres.   I told them all my spectacular story of crashing on the hill around the corner.  I do the thing I do with my arm to provide the visual metaphor when I say it looked like a twisted old TV antenna.  They squeeze their brows in sympathy, but I see it is no cautionary tale to them.  They are just having fun.  Nobody is going to crash. They can probably see, or sense, that I was not just having fun when I crashed.  I was miserable and sad.

The boys are the free-roaming kind.  A month past-due for haircuts and so easily cool I want their nod of approval, to be acknowledged by their feral eyes. When in their company they are polite and look at me, but their true interest lies at the horizon, the treetops, or at my barking dog.  They would like to be her friend, and if they are patient they will be.

I don’t know their story at all, or even their names, which fly from my mind as I hear them, but I find myself occasionally preoccupied with wondering about them, and holding them up to myself as evidence that we are going to be okay, that we all deserve to be okay.




There was no light, just sound. It was 1:30 A:M and the frumpy little mess of a tropical depression had found its wings and formed into a proper Category One hurricane by the time it hit the coast down the road in St. Marks. Melissa and the dog were asleep, but the cat and I were awake.  I cracked open the carport door and peered into the night with my flashlight.  The treetops were swirling, the rain a steady stinging spray.  It was exciting. The electricity popped out hours ago with a boom at 10:00 P:M before the weather even rolled in, an ominous sign. Still, I felt prepared.

I heard the first deep cracking of a tree before the burst of wind got to our house and laid 100′ tall mature pines and oaks over as if they would be pushed back down into the earth.  It terrified me.  A life-long Floridian, I had never seen wind like this in person. I knew in my sour stomach we should be somewhere else, but it was too late. I shut the door and went back to our dark bed to wait.  The last forecast I saw called for winds on the back of the eye wall to be in the 90’s.  I believed our brick house could withstand that, but the time for options had passed anyway.  My plan was to rest until the calm of the eye came, then to take a quick survey before hustling the four of us under the house or into the hall.  I awoke to a total calm, only the sound of dripping water outside and sirens competing in the distance.  The storm moved east, and spared us the brunt of the tailing winds. I walked out to the street at 6:00 A.M. and saw my neighbor standing in the darkness, strong and sturdy, looking down the hill to our corner, which I no longer recognized.  Large trees and power lines were down across both roads, and in the dark it was hard to interpret the image. Headlights pierced through, weaving slowly around the debris, I expected it to be the police.  Instead it was my friend Kevin on his way to work, to see how the teen crisis shelter fared in the storm with nine kids, other people’s children, and the staff who look after them. They were all okay. He said they did great.

Melissa awoke, rested and in much better shape than myself, as did the dog. We walked our wooded lot and checked the house on all sides. There was no damage to the roof.  Our cars were fine, but carpeted on one side with fresh green pine needles and dirt.  The briefest exploration of our block determined that this would not be a normal day.  My nerves were shot, and I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything although I knew I needed to get something in me.  I chugged two warm protein drinks.  400 calories. After checking in with friends and neighbors the day took shape around the mission to free Paul and Stephanie, who had a massive tulip poplar across their driveway like a gate.  Melissa rallied me and I immediately felt better having a purpose.  Joe and Dan chainsawed while the rest of us rolled big chunks of tree to the curb.  An hour later the task was done, and thus began the ennui.  Nobody tells you the worst of the storm, should you survive, is the waiting.

The rest of the week would bring lots of sharing, a neighborhood kitchen set up in the park, and the endless tedium of preparing for nightfall.  We didn’t leave our immediate vicinity for 2 days until we heard word that stores were opening and the inevitable outing for ice had to occur.  Then each day brought normalcy to some, while others waited.  Countless offers from friends for places to stay, supplies, equipment, meals came, and continue to come actually, as there are many who are far from recovered still.  That’s what we do in a crisis.  We try to feed each other, to put a dry blanket around wet shoulders, food and drink, a break in the air-conditioning.  All of it welcome and necessary, while the one thing you really want, and the only thing you truly need can’t be had, or given by anyone in particular.  You want normal.  To be cool and full in your own living room, or to hang on the door of your own cold refrigerator contemplating a snack. So you develop the frustration of the ungrateful, for turning down so many well-meaning offers from those that regained their normal.  It is not that you want them to continue your suffering, your inconvenience, with you- well- maybe that is it.  Misery truly does love company, and this past week had its share of miserable.

Maybe those kids at the shelter did so great because their normal was already gone.  For once instead of being the ones without anything, receiving constant offers of everything but the one thing they crave, they saw the whole town coming to join them, and they were happy to have such good company.

During my next disaster?  I will still offer whatever small comforts I can should I be lucky, but my first question will be, “What sucks the most?”


El Veintidós (The 22)




I wrote this song in Spanish, based on factual events.  I don’t know the tune because the band I wrote it for, Tocamos Mas,  hasn’t written it yet, but I hope they will.  So Chuck, the Carbia family, and all the fans of two generations of the Carbias’ Latin music, this is for you. Te quiero. -Juancho


Click the picture to hear the man himself…



El Veintidós (The 22)

Hola detective, no esta mi veintidós
No lo envío en el correo
No lo envío en absoluto
Era sólo una radio
En el caja envié
Así que mija puede escuchar la musica
escuchar la musica
escuchar la musica
Puedes ver por ti mismo el veintidos
es abaja la cama in my cuarto
Cade noche y dia desde siempre

Envié mija una radio asi pude escuchar
la musica, la musica que tocamos
más que todos los demás

Es posible señor agente que hice un error
Es posible todo esto es una equivocación
Cuando puse la caja en el correo
tal vez fue el veintidós

Pensé que envié el radio
¿Quizas fue el veintidós?
¿Estoy seguro de que intiende
como pudo occurir?

Envié mija una radio
para que pueda oir mis canciones
disparar en el noche

Así que siempre puede oír mis canciones

disparan hacia la noche.

Translated to English

Twenty-two (The 22)

Hello detective, that is not my 22
I did not send it in the mail
I did not send it at all
It was just a radio
In the box I sent
So my daughter can listen to music
listen to music
listen to music
You can see for yourself the twenty-two
is underneath the bed in my room
like it is each day and night always.

I sent my daughter a radio so she can hear
the music, the music that we play
more than all the others play.

Mr. agent it is possible I made a small mistake
It is possible this is a misunderstanding?
When I put the box in the mail
maybe it was the twenty-two?

I thought I sent the radio
Maybe it was the twenty-two?
I am sure you understand
how this could happen?

I sent my daughter a radio
so she could hear my songs
shoot out into the night.

So she can always hear my songs

shoot out into the night.


Temple of Mars








Lightning charges the sky. My small dog is pitifully smaller cowering behind the toilet, trembling and afraid of the thunder. Three weeks since my last ride, and so much pain and suffering in those weeks they deserve their own name, a season of ugliness. The Dark Time. The Wickedness.

And yet, that is the way of war, that suffering falls hard on the innocent and yet you balance your grieving with the need to fill sandbags and fortify your redoubt against the next attacking wave. Carelessness comes sneaking on the western flank as ignorance attacks head on in its stupid stumbling.

Mars hangs low on the horizon, directing the assault and supervising disruption and destruction as I drive south through the storm unaware that my shoes are not in the back with my helmet. I park last in the line as riders are marshaling towards the edge of the forest. The rain stops and a blanket of steam rises above our heads. I accept a too big pair of shoes, pump a bit of air in my tires and fall in.

Last week in Orlando a fire alarm goes off just before midnight. I am lying wide awake in sweat when it happens so I am standing in the 10th floor hallway in the time it takes to find my flip flops. I board the glass elevator alone and begin the descent, picking up scared passengers at each floor. By the third floor we are packed, and a woman is crying in panic. “We’re going to be OK,” I tell her.

So it is a lie, but the type of lie that gives a little courage in the moment, just a breath of courage to get you to the next moment, and one more breath to the next until you get there, to a place where you are safe. A recorded voice, sickly sweet and calm tells us not to use the elevator.  I invite others to join me on the stairs, one man looks me in the eyes. Nobody moves or says a word. I get off by myself and walk down the concrete stairwell. Firefighters march into the lobby calmly, passing the word that it is a false alarm caused by the broken air-conditioning. I sit with the panicked woman and her husband. She can’t breathe between her sobs.

The forest floor is charred black from fire, so the normally thick tangle of green is gone, exposing us to Mars who can now take his time with us. Filtering towards the front my stale legs are warming, and I think I may not have lost as much as I thought. Two riders are just beyond my reach, but I see them dismount for a log and calculate that if I stay in the saddle I will be on them in seconds. I pull up and throw my bike forward, then I am in the air, legs above my head flying and then down, snarled in a brown weave of dead under-story. I am dizzy, but unhurt, and Bill pulls my bike from the net of vines and sees me back into the saddle. I fall way back as the adrenaline fades leaving me spent.

An old man I know sits in his old man chair listening to the music of his years through stereo headphones. His finger taps the air directing the clave. His brow delights and furrows as he critiques each note. He is not in a hurry, the count is one, two, three, four, FIVE, one, two, three, four, FIVE and the song must arrive at each note with a precise urgency, but not hurry. He is a bass player, and only he can resolve the tune and let the final note ring out.

Mars you bastard. Randy’s tire explodes and I think the roasting ground has melted it, but it is a broken bottle with a message in it that has floated so far into the woods. The message reads, “You must stop here.”

Again, there is Bill, assisting and teaching in a soothing voice. “Let’s patch the breech and re-inflate it, not too much.” A CO2 cartridge kicks back and slams Randy’s thumb into the teeth of his gears drawing blood that seeps around his nail. He doesn’t stop working, just grimly dressing the wound to the tire while his own wound flows red. The rest of us impatiently watch him bleed, eager to be moving.  Off we go. This ride is cursed, yet in some ways also blessed. This ride has become real life, not just play. I look at the strangers around me and begin to see actual faces and hear their unique voices instead of seeing them all as just them.

The sky is unquestionably turning to night, and Mars rises red over the power lines. A gray Lincoln Town Car sits buried to the frame in sand, its wheels spinning freely like a turtle paddling its legs upside down and helpless. A young woman, stress thin, sits slumped over the steering wheel of her mama’s car mewling into her phone, trying to recruit her ex-lover to come save her, despite their earlier fight. We want to help her, but she ain’t leaving. She has chosen her spot to make her stand, and hey, I can relate. We ride on.

Our platoon of riders now broken into squads, I let my guard down. Surely this is the final stretch and I have the legs to keep up. The four of us halt in a clearing and Bill looks up and says, “That must be Mars. Maybe that’s why this night is so weird.” There are no other lights in the sky, and no distractions between Mars and ourselves. We have no choice but to run for it.
Randy’s chain is skipping. I hear him cursing an oath behind me as the other two riders drift away and out of earshot. We can’t see the trail, and we don’t know it anyway, so it comes down to dead reckoning. We find them again, but Randy and I choose the open ground and light over a sure guide through darkness. The ride out is longer than expected, and we are unsure if we have made the right decisions. We call for extraction, but beat the chopper home.



The intersection

Duane understands there is nothing to be done. Some things can’t be taken back, most things actually, remain where they end up and make their own unsteady way down the dark hallway of the future- hands in front of their inanimate faces just like his own fat damp fingers. June watches him. She wonders if he has any food in this place, and why it smells like some person other than this nervous dork picking at a skin tag on his eyelid.

Well this is what I said I would do. Run everything together.

We spent the weekend at a Days Inn on I-75 in Lake City, mainly for the pool. The Florida Folk Festival, which happens on the Suwanee river just south of the Okefenokee swamp, is always a stifling affair. It is an important part of the charm. If you want to travel back in time to listen to traditional music played in the traditional ways, then you have to get your passport stamped by the deer flies and the heat. Being only tourists, and not emissaries for the event we retreat in the evenings to the concrete cenote bordered by a chain link fence, marked with a faded sign of rules nobody follows. Friday night we presided over a sweet American nucleus of hacking, tuberculous men pinning AAA maps between their elbows, tiny swimmers (and every girl a Disney princess) and an oddly regal tan couple who were certainly northern Europeans, and expatriates for good.

The usher arrived at 10:30 and stood by the gate. He issued no orders, just waited for us to get the hint one by one and ravel up our wears and move along. We asked if we were welcome to take our instruments to the parking lot and rage against the light until dawn. He said as long as nobody called and complained we could do whatever we wanted. So, like hoarders we counted up the free minutes left to us repeatedly, muttering to each other, I have enough here for at least five more songs, how much do you got? We set up next to an idling Kenworth, just north of the dumpster and proceeded to get down to business, trading instruments and recording lyrics in English and Spanish into smart phones, placed on the asphalt.

A man approached us, insistent in his hovering, and following some subterfuge requested if we were in need of prayer. Are you kidding? Pray for me! Chuck said, barn-dooring from the handrail of the camper. Pray for me! Paul said. I welcome love in every form! Why do you want to pray for us? I asked, and he then clarified. We (he had others waiting in the darkness of the stairwell) come to the festival to pray for miraculous healing, for specific ailments or injury. Do any of you have broken bones? Might you be slowly losing your sight? My initial thought was to grab him by the collars and whisper to him the names of those I know who suffer, and warn him that to leach meaning for his life from their pain is an evil thing, and so if we are going to link arms and walk this road together I am going to hold him personally accountable if the effort fails to provide salvation and release, very personally.

Chuck and Paul just kept on singing,

Hey my friend it’s good to see you, been a while since I passed through. I’ve got nothing special to say, but we may never say it again. We had some big ideas back then, still can’t believe you took me in. I still just can’t believe you took me in.



It has not flowed like this for a while. A bumper crop. A hundred year harvest. Not riding fast for 46. Not riding fast for a working guy. Not riding fast for a fat guy. Not riding fast for a weekend warrior. I’m just riding faster than I have ever ridden ever. I’m not sure how to explain it, and I don’t really care. As soon as you try to remember your dreams they just go away. Better just to live them as though they are real, because they are, and not question how you can fly, or why you are in class naked on exam day. Just walk your naked ass to your locker and put your Earth Science book away and check for notes from your sweetheart that she crammed through the vents. Never question dreams, just live in them.

You want to roll right now? Let’s go.