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The last place I expected to see my friend Bud was on the big screen tonight, some fifteen years now after his death. He wasn't there for long, popped up in some quick footage, standing there at the front of the stage of a local punk show with arms crossed like the guardian of the door of the law in Kafka's parable. Face instantly recognizable, Robert Mitchum eyes grafted onto a young Henry Rollins face. He's wearing a black watch-cap, arms folded, face stoic even as the crowd sings along drunk, drugged, invincible. Here I am in the audience, my black watch-cap tucked in my leather jacket, my Wu-Tang t-shirt emblazoned across chest like some sort of superhero logo just like the one he used to wear. Instant epiphany, I dress as the dead to channel their spirit, their courage, their spark.

On screen I sit there and listen to ghosts and survivors recount that primal flame they tapped into with the band, with the scene, with the world at end of a millennium. It begins with misfits kids in Fayetttenam, it begins with mutual appreciation for fellow freaks and fuck-ups. It begins with after school jam sessions, it begins with a screamer when you can't find a singer, it begins with the basement of the Somber Reptile, it begins with a fuck this that builds into a fuck you. I arrive midway through their story. Two ex-shipmates who needed a roommate in Terminus and enter Jack Babalon with a duffel bag full of clothes and a crate full of books on Beats and Magick. At a bonfire party I meet their friend Bud and we hit it off despite me initially calling him a testosterone redneck when I manage to Karaoke some Crass on the spot. "Jesus died for your sins, not mine!" Despite being this awful poet, this comic book geek, this criminally shy wise ass with more wit than common sense, he takes me in into his world and what a fucking world it was. A world of chemical rushes, bipoloar dispositions, Molotov drama, broken toys rowdy in the playground apocalypse.

The Terminus Punk Scene, 19-90-Never, and I'm midnight embedded, couch surfing, filling notebooks with dispatches from rousting Nazis back to the OTP, dodging gunfire, kidnapping fools for coke dealers, B&E, waiting around phone booths to use code words off pagers, watching an Uzi laid on top off a QP while an infant crawls over a pile of 2 month unwashed laundry, everyone ghetto rich, rap sheet accredited and somehow unaware of the strange kid in the background of the cosmic night just along for the ride. Christ only knows what they thought of me then or if they even remember me now.

After the movie, I said goodbye to Winter, Bud's ex and widow, and walked from the Plaza down to the Admiral's Grave. Along the way I pass the under constructions mixed use intown living Borg-Cubism slab of hell ready to come. I pass the Highland Ballroom where last year I read to a crowd amongst the literati for charity, and where next door I read twenty years ago a poem dedicated to the just then recently deceased Allen Ginsberg. It was there I had my first date with Alexandra who broke up with me the day she returned from the abortion clinic and pronounced me an irredeemable fuck-up. Another block and there's Mannie's but that's the Gloom Patrol's tale to tell, there's Buddy's where I would pick up the Creative Loafing to skim the want ads when I first moved down here, there's Videodrome where I educated myself on Beat Takashi and Peckinpah. Keep going, cross the bike trail where you would ride with Magpie stoned and we'd spitball projects that would never be. Down the block where I watched Bud ricochet some asshole's head off the steel bars behind the Junkman's daughter's parking lot, past the Cowboy Fashion Boutique that was once the Point where I would peacock flex between rounds in the pit or write love letters to bored vampires on the back of napkins, keep going, past the pizza joint where I'd buy dime bags under a table carved with other miscreants past, keep going past my comic shop and there at the Admiral's Grave.

There I drink, as previously posted, myself stoic and shake off the visions replaying whether I open my eyes or shut them. I keep it limited to two, so I don't weep or punch out the glass in the little side booth I occupy. Just two, that's all I need. Anything else and I'd be acting strictly from hunger as James Elroy might say. Two is enough to limp me out of Vampire Country and somewhere an Uber can pick me up. On the ride home I bust into routines about life unreadable. Lately it's Uber or Lyft drivers I talk to the most. I make them laugh, even if only politely so, I hear their observations and reflect it back with a harmonic succinctness. Occasionally they even remember me but because my account with them is linked to my Google rather than my bank they all call me Jack. So even late at night, when returning from the movies where I watched my ghosts both intimate and casual speak, after two drinks, after a ride home with a stranger who can't stop giggling at my 'observations' on gentrification, he calls me by my code name, my nom de guerre, my mask unshakeable.

So, Jack Babalon tips him well, leaves him on another chuckle, closes the door and walks back into a little dark room where his secret identity sits imprisoned to blog victorious.

All of which is to say, I think I sufficiently remember why I chose to be anti-social these last few weeks, months, years, not only as armor against arrogance and indifference but because it's better to be a ghost with a story to tell than live alone among the crowds.

I miss you man, I miss a lot of the people I loved who are no more, but tonight I miss you special. You had a way of keeping my thoughts from getting too black and making me laugh where others could not. No matter how crazy the trip, how dangerous the situation, I never felt alone when you walked the earth. I wonder if you would've read the book or saw me DJ that New Year's or saw one of the plays I worked on. I wonder if you would've been half as proud as I was to know you.

Heh, fuck it, I should've spent this energy on the next book but I needed to talk to someone, a stranger or someone I know longer talk to will do I suppose. At night, when I'm stoned, I imagine that on some drunken and forgotten evening I made a deal with the devil. In return for the audience the work makes me crave, I will forfeit company, comradeship, back-up as I had known in the past.

Maybe, but then again maybe just because I only had two at the bar doesn't mean I stopped drinking when I got home.

Alright, you brave half -dozen souls who've made it this far, thanks for being giving me a witness, now why don't we all fuck off to bed and call it the night.


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September 2016

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