The Golden Fleece Part 8 – Packing DNA

Read parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,  and 7 to understand what’s going on here.

 

Direct mail operations and hard-sell phone rooms are a weird little subculture with some truly rough edges, and by "rough edges", I mean things like getting shot for a briefcase full of customer data, or arrested with a briefcase full of cash. Almost inevitably, if you stay in the life long enough, you’re going to have one of those special, special days, when you bump up against one of these rough edges. At which time, you usually need to get gone and stay gone.

It won’t necessarily be a big thing that gets you moving. Maybe there’s just some little misunderstanding with local law enforcement, or with a local businessperson of a certain stripe – some little thing you can patch up in a couple days if you’re left free to operate. Maybe you just need enough time to call a good lawyer, or locate a suitable stack of fifties.

Or maybe it really is something big, and you need to disappear on a permanent basis. Either way, if you want to save your sorry ass you have to go low profile.

I’m not stupid. By the time I’d worked for Jason for a few months, I’d noticed how chaotic my life was getting. Of course it had occurred to me that I needed an exit strategy. I’d even made a few half-assed efforts in that direction. But it was Zeetz’s guy Moon who really taught me what was what. Moon taught me how to pack.

Which may not mean what you think it means. If you’ve never been part of the particular show I’m talking about, packing probably sounds relatively innocuous, or like a phrase out of a movie, or maybe a detective novel.

So let’s define our terms, shall we? To be "packed" doesn’t just mean a ready-to-go suitcase or book bag – although it does partly mean that. Nor does it mean that you’re packing heat, although it could certainly mean that, too.

Being packed is knowing the way out.

It’s a habit you fall into – to always know the best way out of a space, and where everyone around you is, at all times. It isn’t as hard as it sounds. It becomes a kind of recreation, to plan these things out and mentally test various alternatives.

Some people explore restaurants, go to museums. Some test escape routes.

Being packed means you know where the escape hatch is, at all times, and you can get there in the dark, hopping on one leg. It means you’ve got all your exit strategy ducks in a row, and that you keep them in a row. It means you know what to do and where to go once you do use your escape hatch. It means having someone to call on the other side, after you make the jump, if it turns out you need help.

Pro tip? You always need help…

It was after one of my visits with Zeetz’s little boy Theseus that Moon brought it up with me. He was driving me back to our warehouse at the time.

"You ever think about getting out?" He asked. He kept his eyes on the road and his hands on the wheel, but for just a flash his eyes met mine in the rear-view mirror.

After I got over being astonished, I nodded. Then, when I saw his eyes stayed on the road, I cleared my throat. "Yeah," I said. "Sure I do. I didn’t know what I was getting into when Jason hired me. Lots of stress going around."

"You got a plan?"

"A plan?"

"Yeah. A plan. You packed?"

"Sort of."

"No ‘sort of’. When it comes to this shit, you are or you aren’t."

"I’ve thought about it…"

"Zeetz wants me to set you up," Moon said.

"Huh?"

"He told me to make sure you had an out. He appreciates what you do for Theseus."

"Wow…"

"Don’t turn him down," Moon cautioned.

"Of course not," I said.

So it was Moon who first got me packed, and this was an important thing he did for me. Later, I figured out that he wasn’t doing me some big favor: he taught me so he could predict my moves, if he ever needed to. He was laying in an insurance policy, just in case he ever had to ice me, or even just find me. He was making me predictable, you see.

Which makes it less friendly, doesn’t it.

What’s more important, he was making me predictable only to him. Or to people like him – people in his "tradition".

Yes, there are traditions and lines of descent in this subculture. See, there are a lot of ways to get out of town. Everybody has a plan, and these plans fall into types, and to people in the know, your plan is like a signature. And even though everyone has their own unique take on the bug-out boogaloo, there are shared networks of contacts, and shared techniques. Moon’s tradition was well-established and well-known. For years after I left the biz, I ran into people who learned to pack from Moon. They all operate according to the same patterns, and will likely make the same moves, and I know them, because Moon taught me, too.

Predictability is the worst, when you’re trying to hide. Predictability makes you easier to find, but it can’t really be helped. I’m part of a lineage – a member of a tribe: the tribe of People Who Pack Like Moon.

Back in the good old days when Moon was learning to pack, his lineage was named after some other guy, who taught him. And before that guy, the tribe was the People Who Pack Like Al, and so on back into the depths… to like, the 1920s, when prohibition got everyone interested in breaking laws.

First thing you got to do when some kind of shit is going down is get mobile – use your escape hatch and get to the running part. This is the "go-bag" part of the game.

If anyone is going to hit you – cops or otherwise – you’re probably going to face it in one of your home places, either where you live or where you hang out. So make sure you have what you need wherever you are (usually by having a bag, or a case, or a duffel or something – something you always carry).

You want non-obvious stuff in your bag that can get you through a change of appearance, and a couple burner phones, plus the usual tools of self-preservation, which will be specific to the local turf. Moon taught me what to put in my ready-bag: cash, automatic and a couple clips, flashlight, candy, personal pharmacy with an emphasis on staying awake, change of clothes, sunglasses, and a hat.

He also recommended the usual serial killer stuff – duct tape, thirty feet or so of a nice rope, razor knife with extra blades, and a drowner, which is what Moon called a burlap sack. It isn’t just for drowning.

"This is what you grab when someone’s beating down the door," he told me, showing me his own. Moon’s ready bag was a nice-looking briefcase.

"What with the plane tickets and passport?" I asked, as I looked it over.

"That’s nothing," he said. "Fake. Just window dressing. I got a date tonight."

I didn’t want to think about that.

By the time I left the life, I had five ready bags in place. One at my apartment, one at work, one at Nestor’s place, one hidden one block over from our warehouse, and one in my car.

Two were briefcases, two were daypacks, and one was an old canvas mail bag.

Moon tended toward briefcases but at first, I preferred daypacks – they held more, and they left your hands free. When I put my first ready-bag together, I used a nice looking daypack.

But over the years, I learned that Moon was right – a briefcase puts you in a different social class, one less likely to get searched.

Not that I ever found out the hard way…

 

Wind Flowers New Moon Eggs Milk

New moon, and a meteor shower is still rocking the dark night – get out there and watch. Based on the trad names for the preceding and following Full Moons, this is the new moon between Wind and Flowers, between Eggs and Milk…

Stone City Run

 

Verse 1:

D            f#m      D

Stone cities fill the skies

bm             A

Circuit boards control our eyes

bm

We've built a world with which we

A

can't keep up –

D                      f#m        A

We have filled and overfilled the cup

 

Chorus 1:

D                       f#m     A

But if you ain't got no use for that, now,

bm               A

blow it into the sea;

bm           A                          D

get yourself free, in a little while. . .

 

Break Part 1:

D                      G        A

Run to the river – the river is dry

D                          G        A

climb the mountain – there ain't no sky

D

stare at the button try to

G              A

find the way I feel. . .

 

Break Part 2:

A

there ain't no

G

room for the livin in this

G

whole wide world – every boy and

A

every girl got to

G

grab what they can when what they want

G         A

is not to grab. . .

 

Repeat Break Part 1

 

Verse 2:  

Most our lives are filled with grief;

the tales we tell are filled with disbelief;

we've loved a world and we have torn it up;

we have filled and overfilled the cup. . .

 

Chorus 2:

But if you ain't got no need for nonsense

blow it into the sky

don't stop to wonder why it was ever made.

 

Instrumental Break: Verse chords

 

Chorus 3:

Now if you ain't got no sense of wonder,

blow it all to hell;

there ain't a soul to tell things were ever right. . .

 

Outro: Break Part 1, repeat into fade…

 

 

Ha Long Bay

before our deepest ancestors kissed

 

in the sadness of time

the standing rocks

in the midst of this bay

were highlands

 

all the love that has passed

since the first love

is like the roots of trees

tearing at the stone of this world

 

and passing away

amid seeds

and rot

and flowers

 

in the ocean of years

we are all lost

tattered

castaways marooned in isolation

 

amid the crawling ivies

and invetebrate sizzle

of endless desert islands

telling the stories of our lost loves

 

to the decorative and uncaring stars

 

 

Earth Day

Earth Day, a day to honor the Earth, which you gotta admit is a little weird: ball of rock, people, with a little organic fuzz on the outside. Nothing special about that.

Nothing to see here – move along, foax…

Still – given the nature of the assholes running this planet, we might as well pray to a ball of rock – it’s more likely to hear you than your congressperson…

So here’s to the Earth – long may she rock and roll…

 

The Her Knew My Me

I dance

in the presence

of all you knew

for we are

all your remaining hope

we are

the bare board

against which you rest

as friends become solitary

beneath the coating of your dust

 

and your tears

and the mist of your breath

are all

the condensing whisper

of your story

 

all pursuit

and every echoing footstep

fades

into

the noise of the world

and your scent

which sang a song

greater than entire worlds

is shredded

on the least of winds

 

and the ones you loved

 

who knew you

and spoke your name

and cared about your fate

 

have dwindled to a lonely few

lost in the fringes

of life’s forest

trapped

in the brambles

and bracken

of circumstance

along with empty nests

and broken shells

and last year’s broken blossoms

 

you know you

were of the highest presence

the where you tossed

 

so I dance now in offering

 

ghost to ghost

 

I miss my peeps.

I like some of the allusive rhyming in this poem. I hear these shapes in my head and there are words that make the shapes happen, and out they come… of course they don’t always make sense – not what you humans calls sense – so they have to be futtered with…

I was watching a very silly movie (The Pretty One – for the record, I see no connection between movie and poem beyond this moment of creation).

Cute, that I wrote this while watching a semi-romcom. Or rather, semi-watching a semi-romcom. Me being me, instead of really watching the film, I was updating my journal, talking on the phone, sorting watercolors, and doodling with a ballpoint pen on graph paper.

Which is where this poem showed up – in the doodling.

After it appeared, in a departure from my usual practice, I did the data-entry on a little Atom-powered e-book Jo gave me a while back.

This e-book is an incredibly lame device, underpowered and over-specified, running a full-on desktop OS instead of something suitable to its calling, and with a screen the size of an unambitious tablet. It’s something I take to the local greasy spoon and read airport novels on, while semi-digesting scrambled egg breakfasts.

My choices, when this poem appeared, were to try and use that truly underwhelming device, or hie myself off and find my laptop.

For reasons I prefer to keep to myself, running anywhere was a no-go at the time. Thus, I was reduced to data entry on a chiclet keyboard, with a pause between each letter while the machine caught up with me. The e-book had just enough power to open a copy of notepad and let me turn my handwritten scribbles into the necessary ones and zeroes.

That’s okay – it meant I watched more of the silly movie than I expected. Which was indeed silly. But then, how can anyone not love the work of Elia Kazan’s granddaughter?

She wrote a lovely script. Although the anger of her character’s lover (when he learns of her subterfuge) is unconvincing.

Or unconscionable, if I take his feelings at face value: how could he tell her to be honest with him – tell her she could say anything to him – and then betray her trust when she does so? How could he instantly abandon her, at the first hint of complication?

Either the boyfriend is spineless (which is difficult to countenance, given his lifestyle and presentation), or he’s overreacting due to some pre-existing trauma (in which case it should have been shown in the movie, right?) or Zoe Kazan dropped a few paragraphs out of her script…

 

Rough Wood

Wood is rough,

under my hands,

under the chisel,

wood’s rough.

But

I don’t take no for an answer,

and wood gives in.

 

Time takes time, Space takes space.

 

Your face is smooth under my hands,

under my touch it’s soft,

but when I try to

chisel you,

it’s rough under my hands

(you’re rough

and you’re always giving no for an answer)

and I give in.

 

You take time, you take space.

Everything needs time.

Everything needs space.

Take what you need.

Take it –

take time; take time.

Take space.

 

(we say goodbye, for a little

but remember now:

Time and Space.

Give yourself time, and space.)

 

Hug and kiss.

 

More juvenilia, but really – this is the last of it. I’ve had my fill.

This was a letter to l’wing in 1977. She’d come off the road in NYC and spent a few days with me – equivalent to long weekend, but in the middle of a week. Then she sailed off again in her minivan full of fabric samples and airbrushed lace. That woman could not settle down…

I was doing a lot of wood carving at the time; thus the analogy.

 

Gives Back

Sea eats sun,

sea eats land,

time raises hand

and gives back,

gives back.

 

Sun mists the sea,

land eats the mist,

we eat the land

and give back,

give back.

 

Time eats sun,

time eats sea,

time eats me

and gives back…

 

More juvenilia. Gotta love the simplicity (or perhaps simple-mindedness) of youth, eh?

You know, I’m getting tired of these old poems. They’re just… not worth it. I can’t even edit them, they’re so mediocre.

Maybe I’m not giving them their due, though. This isn’t so much bad work as it is immature. Which is what I was when I wrote it. I should think of poems like this one as fertilizer, perhaps. Or maybe compost.

Not necessarily fruit and flowers, but the source from which fruit and flowers rise. They have their place. It’s just that that place isn’t in my roster. This isn’t readable, even in a bar.

It might be singable, though…

 

The Washington Square Doves

Welcome to another exciting episode of Juvenalia, the series.

Washington Square Doves

 

from a different world

of no pointless exercise

and

no one

singing the song of any Other

from a lovely somewhere else

you are crammed down here

scrambling in a city

of corrupt swamp smells

and rabid rainbow shadows

between Park Avenue

and the tardy ocean swells

roiling up the rivers

 

you live on the avenues

and in the side streets

and in the park

you settle in the grass

beside me

you ache

and ache

for a home you never knew

but know you need

you ache

until enchanted

by a pair of doves

cooing and burbling

for your crust of bread

perhaps to ease

your grief at all this world

to saddest

loneliest you

they sing

 

they trust your wish

they take as virtue

blindly all your thought

sieve sight through insight

and sing

their song for a saddest other

 

listen to the birds

to ease the loneliest of all

to you they sing

 

they sing

ever they say

I they do I

 

blind

kind

hearts

they sacralize the virtue

of your wistful thought

refine your raw nerves

in the way you wish

not in a way

you

begat

were

 

too

much

too near

is the aching

in your dance

the song of the doves

 

is

the Fresh

as clean

as deep blue ocean air

is

the Old

of a time before oceans were

 

More juvenilia, but in this case, it ain’t bad. This has received more attention than my juvenilia typically does, so that might account for it.

Written for my buddy Soop, when the two of us spent a summer living four days a week on the Manhattan streets, with the weekends spent on the beach in Rockaway. Take it from me, this is a very very confusing way of life. But our choices were limited.

 

Windows

My spoken words are curtained windows

neat and prim beside my door;

the words I never say are windows

curtain free, on a higher floor.

 

Things I do are open windows,

curtains blowing in the wind;

things undone are darkened windows

I can’t bear to look within.

 

Written words are clouded windows

grimy with my sullied past;

words unwrit are broken windows,

mute, with tongues of broken glass.

 

All my dreams are gaping holes

where windows once were meant to be;

things undreamt are bricked up windows –

blind and deaf catastrophes.

 

Another shoal’s worth of ragged juvenilia, waiting just below the surface of reality for a chance to tear a gaping hole in the unsuspecting hull of my personality…

Four stanzas with a four-beat feel and simplistic rhymes. Probably make a better ballad than a poem – you know what balladeers are like…

 

Twixt The Names Of The Full Wind Moon

Full Moon – the "Pink", "Egg", and/or "Wind" moon, to be precise. Sounds ridiculous but then, we shouldn’t forget Eostre and her red, red eggs, and Ostara, all just a few weeks past, right?

Wind is a gimme, of course – the wind is appropriate for any full moon….

Here’s a somewhat "moonie" poem for you:

Twixt The Names Of The Full Wind Moon

 

Twixt the demimonde and the demiurge

lie the neutral growths, sacred,

hallowed beneath all fallow moons

in a Vernal pantheon –

an astrological illogical.

 

In ancient times (and harsher climes)

pagan fancy took flight around

the noblest of the shadowed forests:

the great trees stretching their limbs

to heaven in mute supplication.

 

Benignly, and in stark mockery

the suppler supplicants round the roots

did the same, mimicking the tree

as it stood at the roots of heaven.

 

And what deep truth

did their deep dreams smother?

Were the trees their faith,

and their faith a mother?

 

Did one and all pray

from birth to tomb

in a frantic attempt

to recapture the womb?

 

Hardly a poem at all, really – more the abstract from a scholarly psychological paper.

This is juvenilia, over forty years old, crabbed into my pen journal for early 1977, and only slightly modified from the original. I tend not to bother updating these old staves, when I bother revisiting them at all – this post is more in the way of an archaeological excavation than anything else.

I think that’s what I’ll do for the balance of this month – post all the rank juvenilia. Expose it to light and air, see what’s what…

This was written while Jimmy Carter was still trying to make things work out okay, and Mary Hartman Mary Hartman was playing on the painfully limited medium of network teevee. I was working in a fishing rod factory when I wrote this – spending eight hours a day in clouds of dust from the asbestos filler used in those unregulated times. I owe my current status as a COPD sufferer to that factory, and those "good old days".

Good times, right? Good times.

I remember the spill from that factory: raw plastic resins, heaps of powdery asbestos, and rank aniline dyes pouring into the local trout stream with nary a word said by anyone. Good times indeed.

Best of all? My employer was just one of the many small-bore factories that committed that sort of crime, back when men were men and women were chattels and no nanny-state was interfering with any ignorant asshole’s right to unbridled capitalist exploitation and degradation.

There are still a few fish in that stream, these days, but only bottom feeding trash fish. No trout anymore. Maybe in a thousand years or so it will be clean enough for Mama Nature to take another stab at it…

Good times…