…the caged bird/sings of freedom.–Maya Angelou
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER SEVEN: PART TEN: THE PLAN
On a cool evening in late spring Baby Boy Maddox sat in my apartment bedsit. We were on the second floor overlooking a busy street, so, as Maddox recounted on the words he heard from Cadger Tandy, the dying tramp, below us traffic whooshed and subway cars roared and a strange evening half-light filled the sky as the sun was setting, well after 8pm.
“I said I would get even with Smash Conklin,” said Tandy. “But as it turns out I was just whipping the devil ’round the stump. Me, I was always after finding the Bully of the Town and fixing his little red wagon, but I was a little Yellof and should have been looking to my own hidey-hole instead.
I began to think it was time I took up my few mingy togs and blew town to go on the High Toby and fend for myself until such time as I could come back a tiptop swell and make trouble for mine enemy and have him on toast. I thought I was all alone in ever dreaming of this outcome, Dick Whittington and his fucking cat notwithstanding; I little knew it was the dream of every ambitious Yellof as ever drew breath.
Maybe, I said, it’s just a local condition. Maybe, I said, ye need to gather up your tents and steal away into the night…move your coop to another location…maybe.
Most of all, I thought to take to the High Road that led to Destiny because I knowed that at present, I wasn’t nowhere near to toeing the scratch. I thought I’d best remove myself with electric rapidity; I was sure that my ham-handed looching about Doc Ketman and Tipsy Smith had been overheard by eavesdroppers, who were sure to snitch me out to Smashmouth Conklin, and I drast the day that I would drape by the Seven Stars to find that it was Under New Management; Tipsy gone, and me without enough wherewithal to knock a sick baby off’n the pisspot.
One day I did ask Red Mary about the whereabouts of Doc Ketman; he was on the Toby, said she; he left without so much as Good-bye or Good Luck or Toll-Loll-Loll Kiss-Me-Dear. Something must of spooked him, she said, and she gave me a wise look, but I kept mum. I was a tenderfoot; not up to a man’s work. I wished out loud that Doc had taken me with him. Red Mary didna like that palaver. Stopper yer gob, said she, and she raised up, then, and guv me a smack, and then she cried and whined, as women will, and called me an Ingrateful Yob.
You should of seen her at that moment, Yob—she looked like someone’s Maw, she did; tending to plumpness but with stray wisps of red hair escaping from where she had it up from a bun and casting a nimbus through the dusty parlor light like a high holy halo.
Never had I seen a sight more beautiful, before or since.
I didn’t know it then, but I was very soon to run into Peter Ketman anyway, tooling around on the Toby as part of a traveling medicine show. But that, Yob, is another story.
Ketman was gone; Tipsy Smith was likely on his way out; I knew of only one means to get revenge on Smashmouth Conklin, and that was by way of the Big Man, Cokey Stolas. It were a most dangerous game to play.
In spite of all her kicks and cuffs—given in pure love, as I well knew–I resolved to stick by Red Mary. But a Yob’s will is the will o’ the wisp; I was reckless in figuring that she alone was the key to reaching Stolas.
The Big Man had one weakness only—and it was for Night Hawks. Or what some called the Nymphs of Darkness. Doxies who roamed the streets at night. He liked to play rough with these heavenly bodies. Like God playing pool–and making his shots with the thick end of the stick. He liked to hear the shock of a resounding smack. He was a powerful man, and whores played stand-offish at their own risk, but, even so, even the most desperate Bats tended to steer clear of Cokey Stolas and his known proclivities. The word went out ‘mongst all the soiled doves and their fancy-men to step it and stall the mug when the Big Man loomed into view, but, usually, one sacrificial lamb was caught—and he’d usually give her a starting. For when the lust-mood and the murder-mood overtook him he could sometimes be a rip-snorter and leave the moll bruised and battered and very much the worse for wear.
I think it was because, to him, everything that got in the way of what he wanted was ugly.
The doxies all thought that what he was really fixing to do was to go out and kill a woman; but that something held him back.
I even dared to think that even Smash Conklin’s legs would turn to jelly in the rare presence of the Big Man. That maybe the best way to quash Uglyface was to somehow get to the Big Man.
But that was a thought that I never breathed to a living soul, and more’s the pity, because “Doc” Ketman and Doc alone had the real goods and if I could of delivered those drugs into Cokey Stolas’ hands I might have had an in—but all in all, it is just as well that I never followed through, because the Big Man was too much for me to bite off. Even Red Mary, who was afraid of nowt, lived in mortal terror of the Big Man. And no matter how hard-strapped, I don’t think that Doc Ketman would have been a party to it anyway.
NASTIEST AND CLEANEST US BEACHES
GERTRUDE STEIN REJECTION LETTER
WHAT TV SHOW RICH PEOPLE HATE THE MOST
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
NEUROSCIENTIST SEES PROOF OF HEAVEN
6* DAILY UTILITY
Classic Books Annotated by Famous Authors.
Don’t hate Nabokov because he’s smarter than everybody else–hate him because he never lets you forget it.
BEATNIKS, BONGOS AND BEER
THE WEIRD, RECURSIVE MAD MEN ADS
9*RUMOR PATROL KENNEDY CONSPIRACY SPEECH https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QeYgLLahHv8
10* LAGNIAPPE GEORGE ORWELL: POLITICS AND THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA ODE TO A PIMP
O big fat pimp, you stealth of Vice’s lure:
You, whose hidden lingering the whores all dread,
Will thrive–so long as man and wife endure.
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE. 694. AEROSMITH
It has grown fashionable among people of taste to deride Aerosmith as “washed up”. Of course they’re washed up…even though there’s no denying that these guys WERE big deals back in their day. Why should we be any different in OUR regard for them than the oldsters–Squares from Dullsville to a man– who, 40 years ago, worshipped at the altar of the likes of Der Bingle, Swoonatra, and Kay Keyser, long after they were in their prime?
But…sentimentality aside, has Aerosmith ever been more than second rate in virtually every aesthetic dimension that matters? Appearance, comportment, music: all seemed–and seem to this day–derivative of earlier and superior models. Even their vulgarity loses some of its power when you consider how much it owes to their sedulous aping of the Stones, et al.
At this distance, “Walk This Way” sounds as dated as “The Rapper” by the Pittsburgh-based band The Jaggerz. Doesn’t “Walk This Way” also owe a great deal to the (to my mind vastly superior) 1970 recording “Rock and Roll Hoochy-Koo” by the Edgar Winters Band? (Rick Derringer’s version came out in 1973.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q67drNe2aRg
Aerosmith is not merely kitsch; it is poshlust–kitch with no artistic aspirations whatsoever, and, therefore, with not even the possibility of being good.
Take, for example, Blue Oyster Cult. Critical darlings. Too much smoke and sentimental bluster and too few chops. (When you really think about it, a lyric like “Romeo and Juliet are together in eternity” is just the sort of thing a mildly depressed teenager might find “significant”.)
But BOC is merely kitsch–not poshlust.
Of Boston area bands, Mission of Burma was the real deal. Sure, there was also Throwing Muses (actually from RI) and Dinosaur Jr. (actually from Western MA), and the Pixies (actually also from elsewhere). MoB is another story altogether.
(I like to claim that I am their #2 fan. (Pride of place forever belongs to Eric Van.) I first saw them in the Spring of 1979 at the Mass College of Art and perhaps a dozen times thereafter–including their 1979 Rumble gig, their January 1980 Paradise show, their December 1980 San Francisco appearance at the Fab Mab, and their penultimate 1983 Boston-area performance at the Bradford Hotel. I also saw the very first Birdsongs appearance, at Jack’s.)
But…their early work owes a great deal to Wire. (Compare “Academy Fight Song” and “Surgeon’s Girl,” for example.) Even they have acknowledged as much. Still, their early body of work set a standard which their later (21st century) work, in my opinion, does not quite live up to. Though some of the Volcano Suns’ work does come close–for instance, IMHO “Balancing Act” should have been a hit, and “Bumper Crop,” is, in some ways, more exuberant fun than any MoB song out there.
And certainly better than anything by Aerosmith.