from the completed novel





or  the little almanac  of

Famous Black Philosophers & Great German Comedians

 a novel as poem or symphony or joke

—-(download the 231-pg pdf HERE

Young Paul (PJ) is a poet and aficionado of experimental music of the late ’70s and early ’80s and he is “of color”. He is hanging out a lot, in this section of the book, with Young Joel (Jaye Zeus), the lead singer of a post-Japan band, because Paul is attracted to Joel’s girlfriend,  Young Tiara (also of color). Paul is having an on-and-off thing with a girl (with a lisp)  named Candyce…


Jaye Zeus and PJ met quite a few times during the weeks that followed but never with Tiara in attendance. PJ had to pretend to be interested in spending time with Joel, I mean Jaye, only because Jaye was himself an intrinsically interesting person, and never give the game away by asking about, or even just mentioning, Tiara.

Jaye and PJ always met at night, because sunshine was antithetical to the brooding and pitiless ethos they were pledged to uphold. Even meeting on a Tuesday evening, instead of a Friday or Saturday evening, felt like a mild heresy, a dip in the boring evil of the workaday banal. Jaye called people with normal, uncool jobs Drudgers and PJ pretended, to Jaye, that he slept all day and never rose before eight or nine pm and lived off of a mysterious source of money; he pretended that his day never really began before ten pm. He kept his secret identity (Paul the fucking house painter) well-hidden. Just as well as he kept the secret about his father.

When the two hung out, consequently, they kept the kind of vampire hours that were touchingly impractical in a Lutheran town in the upper Midwest, where last call for the evening, in the nightclubs, was usually a literal-minded midnight; at best, perhaps, at 1 am; opposed to never, as in Berlin, for example. When Jaye and PJ met at ten or 11 pm, they had a couple of hours of sitting saturated in old neon and drinking unserious drinks before being kicked out to wander the dingy streets or go back to Jaye’s place and talk until 2 or 3. After which PJ crawled home (even the night bus stopped running at 1am) to Linden Hall, slept fitfully for two or three hours and went to work in the early sunlight as Paul the fucking house painter.

Jaye had a great record collection, a German sound system and a house in the hills behind the Walker, so it was really quite something to sit in Jaye’s nightclub-sized living room with its pattern of matching red-leather divans and its three original pieces by rising neon artiste Cork Marcheschi on the walls and shout heartfelt opinions about Art and Music while being blasted with the new Love and Rockets LP, or classic Sheila Chandra (Monsoon) or the scary-sexy Nina Hagen. PJ was especially excited to hear the Nina Hagen material, which he rarely heard on the radio and which only trickled into his favorite record stores as expensive imports. Hagen’s NunSexMonkRock was the record that everybody (who knew of Hagen at all) knew, but Jaye had imports of ’79’s Unbehagen and ’78’s Nina Hagen Band and nothing was more thrilling than hearing German at the loudness Jaye’s sound system was capable of.

Together they lamented, over and over again, the commercialization of the Psychedelic Furs (Jaye was of the opinion that it would have been better if Richard Butler had actually died, and as cleverly as Ian Curtis, hanging himself like a captured Partisan in the hills of Fame’s outskirts, preserved in The Cool’s eternal amber as long as there were young men with neglected penises and record players on this Earth) . Were the sold-out Furs more, or less, tragic than the version of Ultra Vox featuring the showbizzy Midge Ure instead of the visionary John Foxx? Paul tried to remember the exact moment he’d first heard John Foxx sing My Sex, managing to recall, only, that it had changed his Life.

The first time PJ heard The Psychedelic Furs was easier to nail down. It was nearly a year after its release; he borrowed the LP from Donnie Himmelfarb the week after John Lennon died. Everyone in PJ’s circle (back then he was only always Paul Johnson) understood that Lennon’s death was an assassination; the first Paul had heard of it was when Donnie called Paul in the middle of an amazing fuck to shout simply “They got Lennon!” and hung up. Paul heard a tiny roomful of wails at the other end of the line (what an innocent era) before the connection went dead and he said to the mop-haired girl astraddle him “It’s happened!” but he didn’t lose his erection and he didn’t use the tragedy as an excuse to not go down on her (which he did finally, after coming on her tummy like he was frosting a cake, as she wept in little convulsions with her hands over her eyes about Lennon’s death, which didn’t stop her from coming).

A week later, when Donny Himmelfarb practically forced the album on Paul, and Paul had heard the second track on Side One, he felt a kind of hope he hadn’t felt since hearing I am The Walrus at the age of nine; he felt, maybe for the first time as an adult (rather than as an automatically, and credulously optimistic, kid), that he, his people, his kind, his circle had a cultural force at their disposal equal to the guns of the killers who’d ordered Lennon’s execution.

For Richard Butler’s raspy, detuned sneer was so above it all, so in touch with higher matters and so unlike, so categorically superior to, so infinitely-less populist than, Billy Idol’s crypto-SS Oberführer sneer in White Wedding or the loony-ginger sneer of Lydon in PiL or the semi-comical sneer of Mick Jones (versus the folky sneer of Joe Strummer) in The Clash. Butler’s sneer was pitched just right, just like his characteristically-slightly-sharp vocals. Sister Europe was the kind of song Paul would gladly suit up and do battle under or even for. Of course, there was a chunk of early-mid Bowie in the early, pre-sellout Furs (if only in Duncan Kilburn’s mystically modal saxophone) but PJ and Jaye Zeus considered Butler a special case among Bowie’s ever-proliferating brood of musical offspring, which they loved rating and re-rating and contextualizing late at night. Even Re-Flex, with their hit The Politics of Dancing (Jaye and PJ had no idea what the lead singer’s name was but the song was in steady rotation, again, recently, at First Avenue), were clearly Bowie descendants. Not as good as Pete Murphy or Gary Numan but better than David Sylvian, of Japan, who had spawned, in turn, the infinitely-less irritating (though irremediably lightweight) Duran Duran.

But the worst (and most tragic) Bowie Son had to be Charlie Sexton, doomed to the role by his cheekbones and his ability to affect a Bela-Lugosi-like baritone while wearing five pounds of goulish makeup and a cup of hairspray. Sexton had been a promising guitarist from Texas and would have been much better as the next ZZ Top than the next Bowie: everyone who knew anything about music knew that. Everyone but Sexton’s Judas-management.

It was at First Avenue that PJ saw Sexton in a video on the big screen that lowered itself over the dance floor, while the fog from the smoke machines rose, to play Sexton’s “hot” new MTV video. Sexton, who was something like 17 at the time, was miming “Beat So Lonely” with his foot-high quiff and black lipstick, looking like a tragicomic, reanimated corpse from a Tim Burton flop. Yes, this was clearly the work of Sexton’s vulgar managers, who should have gone to prison for twisting him so badly, so cruelly. Up on that twenty-foot screen being strafed with spangles from the death-star of a disco-ball the size of the floating mine that brought down the USS Corregidor, you could virtually see Sexton’s eyes screaming please kill me as his undead popflesh burned to MTV ashes on screen.

PJ was standing at the edge of the dance floor watching the screen roll back up into the ceiling after Sexton’s immolation, waiting for Jaye to fetch their drink-ticket drinks, and the precise moment Jaye came back with a Coke for PJ and whatever for Jaye (in a shorter, thicker, clearer glass) the electrifying intro for (Don’t You) Forget About Me kicked in and Jaye shouted “Fuck it! Come on!” and PJ limped forth like a Lord behind his hounds as Jaye danced toward the center of the underlit floor and they met in a sort of clearing, posing and pivoting to the beat while feeling weird and dangerous and cool. If only Tiara were here; where the fuck is she? thought PJ. But still it was something. Shoulder-padded suburbanites were staring in approving ways as though PJ and Jaye Zeus had transmuted their harmless upper Midwestern dance-floor into a batcave in Paris or Manhattan. As though this wasn’t The Sticks anymore because iconic-looking bisexuals had arrived to alchemically elevate the level of the discourse. Well, in their long coats and heels they looked like bisexuals.

Jaye was doing his perfectly-above-it-all sneer and sipping his drink while they cycled through clockwork poses recapitulating sacred stations of the beat and PJ’s walking stick was perfect. PJ became a dark, less pigeon-breasted Peter Murphy wielding the stick with such po-faced grandeur and without cracking anyone in the head or kneecaps although there were wooshing near-misses. People in the balconies freaked and scooped litter from the floor and tossed it down over the dancers in a litter-benediction as the smoke-machines chugged to life again and sent a thick Celtic fog through the strobes and green lasers to engulf them all. The Kohl-eyed corona of cognoscenti surrounding PJ and Jaye at the center of the dance floor actually applauded as PJ limped to the periphery with a wink and Jaye followed, sort of spent. Jaye even took a couple of bows and headed for the bar when (Don’t You) Forget About Me attenuated into the extended timbale breakdown and segued into the relatively boring intro to Little Red Corvette.

In the aftermath, shouting at the top of their lungs, they played the New Wave parlour game of naming the Top Ten Bowie Hits that Bowie hadn’t actually sung (but should have). Top of the List had to be the very song, Simple Minds’ (Don’t You) Forget About Me. At second or third place had to be After the Fire’s Der Kommissar. Tied, of course, with New Order’s sneakily Bowie-esque Blue Monday, which was surely a Bowie A-Side to Heroes’ B-Side in a much-cooler alternative universe where John Foxx was still the front man for Ultra Vox and Lennon had never been shot. They had to shout so loud over the music that PJ almost lost his voice.

What PJ began to sincerely appreciate about Jaye (as well as the ease with which life’s usual disappointments and difficulties seemed to melt away in the presence of sweat-free money: with all PJ’s other friends, last call meant wandering the dingy streets and ending up in your friend’s shitty little apartment, which was even more depressing than your own, but Jaye’s living room was cooler than most clubs in Minneapolis) was the fact that never, during all these learned discussions about The New Music, did Jaye look wonderingly (or with a smirk) at PJ and remark how strange it was to be discussing the intriguing falseness of Lene Lovich with PJ, of all people. Jaye and PJ may as well have been two Talmudic Scholars in a room amidst piles of Talmudic texts for all that Jaye noticed any essential contradictions in PJ’s love for the music that Jaye loved too.

Too bad Joel Schneiderberg was a sociopath.

And a fake.

A spy.


They were on the long psychological journey from Paul’s dingy demimonde hood full of peripatetic shit-faced Indian drunks and hatted Black men with cautious walks toward Candyce’s faux-Bohemian lake-side apartment building, with its side-street Frozen Yogurt boutiques and blank-faced, drop-dead Blondes walking poodles. Initially they had planned to walk all the way to Hennepin Avenue without crossing it, just to the catch the 6 Bus downtown.

“Lithen, I juth need to quickly thop off at my plathe to get my wallet. I think I left it in the kitchen. It’ll take fifteen minuth max.” She glanced at her watch. “Our rethervation ith for thix, tho we have plenty of time.”

“Okay, cool. But, listen, you know I appreciate you doing this for my birthday and everything but it’s really not necessary. And Chez Guevara is fucking expensive. We could spend that money on a boat trip or something instead of Duck Nipples a la Fromage or whatever. Let’s go to a movie!”

Paul was teasing Candyce. He suspected she’d engineered a surprise party. They’d “stop off” at her place to “pick up her wallet” and all of Paul’s lowlife Bohemian friends would be there as the kitchen lights came on, shooting streamers at him and blowing little horns and hanging around to sponge up on beer until the neighbors banged on the walls at three in the morning.

“Don’t you worry your pretty little head about any of that, Little Mithter. Money ith no object!”

“But what if I want to go to the zoo?”

“Don’t be difficult, young man! We’re almotht there!”

Yes, definitely. A surprise party. About which Paul had mixed feelings.

Surprise parties. They seemed to happen to him every other year or two, corresponding to whether or not he had a serious relationship going when his birthday rolled around. Who would go to the trouble of organizing one of these awkward occasions if you weren’t sleeping with them on a regular basis? A surprise party was really just a declaration to the community that the Surprisee belonged to the Surpriser. Candyce had already thrown him two. The people waiting in the dark room with the little horns and streamer-cannons were merely witnesses to the Surpriser’s claim on the Surprisee’s future. Surprise.

Paul knew that no matter how many modern, sophisticated talks he and Candyce had about not “tying each other down”, every time they fucked was another rope, tied in a fancy knot, for doing exactly that. Tying both of them together and to a much larger thing, which being The Normal. The Normal was always trying to get its hold on you because it had quotas to meet. Candyce’s detail-oriented and loving blow jobs and her Surprise Parties and the way she laughed at Paul’s jokes and all that were just a few examples of The Normal’s many traps.

But none of that had prepared Paul for what they’d just done.

Yes, Paul thought: maybe we should marry after all.

In fact, they’d been standing in the panelled wood foyer of the formerly-grand Linden Hall, holding hands, after getting dressed up to go to Paul’s birthday dinner, just about to leave the building, when Tim the painter came galumphing in his limp down the stairs in his troubled boots with turpentine vapors rising from his plaid shirt and Tim beheld them in his theatrical way (missing as he was several teeth and the hair at the gouda-colored crown of his Slavic skull) and said, smelling and sounding like Estragon, “Are you two going to a wedding?” to which Paul quipped, lifting their clasped hands, as if they were to be wed, “You’re an ordained minister of Beauty, aren’t you, Tim?”

Tim, a cultured wino, turned up and buttoned the collar on his plaid to make his signs of the cross at three points around the room.

“Introibo ad altare Dei,” intoned Tim.

“Cool,” said Paul.

“You are lucky in your woman,” said Tim, “If that’s not too sexist a thing to say. Is she lucky in her man?”

“Yeth! Very. Happy ath a clam.”

“Me, I’m an opportunistic Hermaphrodite these days,” said Tim, with a wink, in the melody of bemused regret. He was a Nomosexual. Being no longer young and worth less than the pile of change in the ashtray on the table beside his bare stained mattress in the curtainless attic room he paid for with welfare checks, he wouldn’t be having any sex for the rest of his life, would he? Tim was probably about forty, despite having been once as young as anyone. Life is replete with transitory heavens and their yanked rugs.

Could Tim tell what they’d done? He kept sniffing.

Well, then they were in the sun, standing at the corner at 28th and Hennepin, waiting for the light to change, the competing breezes strong and quasi-autumnal with gallons of brightly-heatless daylight blowing Candyce’s long magenta banner of hair across Paul’s neck and shoulders and her scent was everywhere on the street and on his lips and fingers and even the cars that zoomed by seemed to smell nicely of her (though not her pussy). Paul reached over and touched the spray of freckles across Candyce’s beautiful big monkey face and she closed her eyes and did her enigmatic monkey-sphinx smile and grabbed Paul’s hand and kissed it with protective reverence as though he were both Childe and Pope.

“Thay you love me.”

“You know I love you. But I don’t own you and you don’t own me.”

[Paul said this with lots less of a militant edge than usual and Candyce picked up on the modulation and her heart sang]

Candyce opened her eyes and pretended to look hurt. “Would you thay that to Debbie Harry?”

[Debbie Harry, a popular singer on the wane, was the standard of Grace and Beauty for those people of that time]

“Would I have to?”

Candyce laughed and punched him and grabbed his hand and they ran across the street, swinging their arms together when they reached the other side.

As they neared her apartment Paul could feel the lake like money in the air, Lake of the Isles, the lake for people with great jobs and ancestral mansions and liberal attitudes about sharing the placid views with well-behaved Serfs who wouldn’t litter or fight or boom their bass-heavy car stereos in grindingly horny cruises around the perfect tarmac that circumscribed the water; all those naughty no-nos were for the other lake, Lake Calhoun aka Lake of the Serfs. Paul found it amazing that people more or less stuck to this arrangement without having to be told. Just a twenty minute walk to the West, under a discreet little bridge, and you’d see the Serfs in their hundreds, sizzling on towels, playing volleyball or Frisbee and listening to loud rock or rap and cooking out with little grills smoking with savoury discount meats. Still, only one out of every thirty or forty bodies out there would be Black. The Black Serfs were congregating, largely, at various highly-chlorinated public pools on the North Side where Paul had never ventured.

The competing breezes strong and quasi-autumnal with gallons of brightly-heatless daylight were blowing Candyce’s magenta banner of hair and her scent was everywhere on the street and on his lips and fingers and even the cars that zoomed by seemed to smell nicely and faintly of lily of the skatole from Candyce’s ass.

Very few non-lethal sensations are as intense as anal sex in the missionary position, Paul was thinking, while the sensations, and invisible streaks of Candyce’s digested meals from the previous day or two, were still fresh on him.

The heat and grit and the infernal vice-grip of that other entrance (which isn’t an entrance at all), the pussy’s evil twin, the one they call… Carlotta (with a heavy accent)… the whole time Paul was up to his figurative neck in her ass, Candyce was giving him this heart-stopping look. Like: you are doing something ancient to me.

There was little or no movement. Certainly no thrusting. His thing was too big. You had to go so slow, go easy, he was defusing a bomb wearing boxing gloves and a Joycean eye-patch, everything happened in a crucial millimeters-per-hour way. Just greasing Candyce’s crinkled mauve anus with all that Vaseline that she’d brought over, in a brand new “family-sized” jar, in her prettiest purse, with the premeditated intention of getting fucked in the ass, was enough to make Paul blow his semen all over the room before even touching her with the pregnant bronze tip of his hard-on. An attractive young woman walks into Butler Drugs in big dark Jackie-O glasses and boldly buys a family-sized jar of Vaseline, everyone who’s there to witness the transaction… the pharmacist, the browsing secretary who works at the old law firm up the hill, the old woman in line with a twenty-five-year-old prescription to refill… they all know exactly what’s about to happen but they assume it’s going to happen on all fours like a brutal humiliation.

They’re wrong.

Paul gooped the petroleum product on with two fingers and felt the hard little ring-muscle of the slammed-shut iris push back against the pressure he applied and his hard-on bobbed with independent yearnings about a foot away from the pinprick-sized opening in the iris it was pleading to plunge in through. Paul had shifted his position and knelt very close while supporting most of his weight on one hand and guiding his maddened erection with the other and he concentrated, frowning and gasping, on the darkened mauve-and-black bull’s-eye of resistance, pushing but not too fast or hard, thinking about anything and everything but what he was doing until a very subtle pop of capitulation and the ahhhhhhhh of sweet welcome and the blurry hum of pleasure coating the disciplined denial, the controlled delusion that he wasn’t deep and deeper in the hot mouth of her shining streamlined ass so he wouldn’t ejaculate yet.

In he slid, all the way up to the musty hilt and oh the smell of warm Vaseline. Paul pictured the Progressive Parents of Candyce winking from their respective tandem treadmill and Exercycle.

Dreamy creamy arsecock on a Tuesday.

The profundity of it, as Candyce stared unfocusedly into Paul’s brown eyes and Paul stared unfocusedly into Candyce’s grey eyes and molten traces of Candyce’s lunch and dinner from the day previous burned the shaft of his thingy like Greek fire, was all about how rebelliously wrong it was, deliberately wrong, a thumb, so to speak, in Nature’s eye, so to speak. The pussy with its primal sugars is there not here, you filthy Neanderthals: God and Mother Nature were running to and fro and gesturing frantically and they were fucking livid but Paul and Candyce had agreed to this three days in advance because this was the kind of fucking it was best to discuss in detail before the fact and with a certain amount of planning.

Candyce had gone out bravely and purchased with a crisp twenty the Vaseline and Paul had ordered the satin sheets at a department store he normally wouldn’t have had the nerve to enter. They had decided on this primal form of victimization; this sacrifice; Candyce was being very gently sacrificed. When he was locked in Candyce Paul didn’t dare to move but sort of squeezed himself outwards to her depths from low and inside his own cock, expanded the ballooning bronze head toward the core of her body temperature. Candyce tightened her bottom’s grip and twisted the bulging effigy of Paul like twisting the cap off an agitated Coke bottle and Paul’s DNA exploded into the lunch-webbed antechamber of her duodenum, a red hot sneeze of seven billion hypothetical children. But all it took was one.

Then Paul dressed for his birthday, still a-tingle, wearing a very nice secondhand suit and homburg hat from favorite tailor, Lois’ Attic, the vintage threads shop on Lyndale near Lake, the last waves of the orgasm still receding from the shores of his soul’s beach. A vested grey flannel suit that was entirely too warm for the weather (and the cuffs were a little high over Paul’s sockless ankles) but he looked responsible in it. Especially now. All dressed up in this suit and with his hair tucked under the homburg hat, in the full-length mirror he’d gotten from a Department Store’s fire (in point of fact tornado) sale and walked home allegorically with four characters from Linden Hall helping him carry the heavy thing, he looked responsible in it alright. He looked responsible for having just gently fucked Candyce Thorgrimnson in the ass and still a-tingle. He lacked only the buggerer’s traditional handlebar mustache and center-parted, brilliantined hair but he felt the buggerer’s sweet soft lingering ozone fizz of song in his blood. He bid adieu to the shade of James Joyce (the patron saint of anal) on the corner beside them, crossing ahead of them in his jaunty plus fours and boater, disappearing into the Liffey or Lethe of traffic with his crusty pleaser as Paul’s orgasm finally petered out.

Everything on the lake-side of Hennepin Avenue looked so much less sinister now that he had microbial streaks of Candyce’s recently-digested meals on the contracted shaft of his recumbent consciousness. Even the money-green sunlight. Was he ready to join the parade after all? There remained one residual tingle of orgasm between his shoulder blades, twinkling like the morning star displaced to the late afternoon.

“You know I’ve never done that with anyone before? Theriouthly.”

Paul squeezed Candyce’s hand.

Through the front door of her building and up the carpeted stair steps to the second floor they went, giggling. Candyce unlocked her door and said, “Just go sit in the kitchen while I look for my wallet in the bedroom,” and she abruptly disappeared as though she’d never existed as Paul nodded, grinning and bracing himself for a chorus of “Surprise!” as he swaggered smirking down the short hall past the heavily-framed and signed movie posters (Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, King of Comedy, etc) …

…and into the kitchen where the light was already on.

No friends nor birthday cake. No streamers or camera flashes or noise-making thingies that roll out like tongues when you blow.

“Hello son.”

Nothing but Paul’s father sitting incongruously in a chair in the middle of the room beside a briefcase, dapper as an undertaker in his dark suit and white satin tie. He had another chair pulled up beside him that Paul was obviously meant to sit in. Otherwise the kitchen was just as empty as it had been the last time Paul had seen it and it smelled just as strongly of paint.

“Hello Bob,” said Paul.

Fucking Candyce, thought Paul.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR [letters are vetted for cogency and style]

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