EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 13:THE GIRL ON THE MEXICAN ASHTRAY

Sometime in early 1972, after two years of anxious planning, my father moved to Vegas from Chicago, inspired by the assassination of Fred Hampton, who was offed by “The Pigs” during the Xmas season of ’69. My father saw the writing on the wall but he couldn’t quite read between its lines: he assumed Fred was executed for working for Black Power. Father fled to Vegas and he took his much-younger wife and his two sons (well, one definite son and one possible artifact of my mother’s counter-infidelity… my little brother always looked and acted uncannily like a Mexican half-brother, … Continue reading EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 13:THE GIRL ON THE MEXICAN ASHTRAY

EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 8: MR JIMMY

    Aunt G and her husband G ran a prosperous Funeral Home in a section of Philadelphia called Germantown. Aunt G was my great-aunt, my grandmother’s sister. She and G were in their seventies.  I moved in with them, taking the top floor of one of their three three-storey houses. I brought an antique trunk full of books and a duffel bag with clothes in it. From the train station to the Funeral Home was a seven dollar cab ride that Aunt G had paid for in advance. The ground floor of the middle house in the complex housed … Continue reading EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 8: MR JIMMY

CLASSLESS TALES of CLASS and AGE:  FUGUE & GIGUE

There is a holy stupidity to youth, the necessary lack of wisdom,  which makes copious Experience possible.  I’m grateful for the memories of the things I’ve done and seen,  when young,  which I am now far too experienced to do or see again, precisely because I have done and seen them. The knowledge I derived from these metaphorical pratfalls stayed with me. The first hominid to ever not know that it shouldn’t be able to walk upright was probably a teen. **** “Is that a chick or a dude?” was a popular, mildly satirical,  question in 1969.  In the 2020s … Continue reading CLASSLESS TALES of CLASS and AGE:  FUGUE & GIGUE

EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 5: NEVER TRUST A HIPPIE (A VALENTINE’S DAY ALLEGORY)

One day in the year 1969 I heard my Uncle C— say to my mother that “Hippie stands for hypocrite.” This statement made an impression. I was nine or ten when he said it and my understanding at the time was that the Hippies were all about wonderful things like Peace and Love and colorful clothing, so to hear this negative judgement of Hippies from a source as trusted as Uncle C—, who had attended the University of Chicago and was the smartest person I knew: that was intriguing. It opened me at an early age to the notion that … Continue reading EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 5: NEVER TRUST A HIPPIE (A VALENTINE’S DAY ALLEGORY)

NOT EXACTLY JEAN SHEPHERD: AN XMAS REPRINT from 2019

Almost all of the shops in Berlin are closed, today,  because of a Bronze Age Creation Myth, believe it or not, and on most every Sunday of the year, in fact, the majority of the shops are closed owing to the oddly specific strictures of the same myth. Imagine calling your Telecom provider to request they send an associate to take a look at your Optical Termination Outlet (which is emitting sparks) and a robot customer service voice telling you  “Thank you for your call, at present no Service Associates are available until after the Feast of Bacchus…” Which would … Continue reading NOT EXACTLY JEAN SHEPHERD: AN XMAS REPRINT from 2019

EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 2: IMAGINED

[re-posted every year around this time] 1– I can’t remember if it was Kurt’s idea. Maybe it was mine. Ideas come out of the air at that age. As you grow older they have to be created. Also the idea of driving to New York before Christmas was more of an impulse than an idea. Though, again, at that age, ideas are impulses. They are hormones. Wait… that’s right… …It was Kurt’s idea. He didn’t want to spend Xmas with his mother. He thought that by driving out there a couple of weeks before Xmas day he could avoid the highest … Continue reading EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 2: IMAGINED

EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 42:STOCKHOLM SYNDROME

This is an autobiographical narrative about the ecstasies of escape. There are probably very fine filaments, in all of us,  of vestigial hardwires reaching back to the pre-mammalian times during which escape was a life-and-death matter: that may be part of it. Not to mention the slavery in some of my genealogical background. The yearning for, and/or joy in, escape. It’s a thing and it’s separable from the generally pleasant sensation of “freedom”. The moment of escape is an extremely particular and intense sensation. And, sure, any armchair psychoanalyst would say that I deliberately (subconsciously) got myself entangled with difficult … Continue reading EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 42:STOCKHOLM SYNDROME

EXCERPT FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: Chapter 10: THE CHAMPAGNE RABBIT

They can only get away with the total falsification of the present if They can make us reject the past. * The present is the past wearing a latex mask. The structure of the skull determines the mask’s appearance. * The first girl who ever sucked my cock was a white girl.  Jewish. I was eighteen and we were on the sofa in the room outside her parents’ bedroom at about 11pm, watching the Johnny Carson show, my big brown cock stuck in her little white violet-rimmed mouth. I want to say my cock was the size and color of … Continue reading EXCERPT FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: Chapter 10: THE CHAMPAGNE RABBIT

EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 16: A BOHEMIAN BESTIARY

  —-In 1978 I moved into a one-bedroom flat with my best college friend and the mousy albatross who had bound herself to me with the rank epoxy of suicide-threats and lies which only adheres to rookie surfaces in the sex game. To which category I cheerfully admit to having belonged at the time. Rookie: oh yes. I had lost my virginity 18 months before that and I  ran away from college a year after losing my virginity and here I was in my first real flat, working in a department store by day and experimenting with LSD in the evenings and … Continue reading EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 16: A BOHEMIAN BESTIARY

BRIEF SKETCHES of an ANTI-SNOWFLAKE’S CHILDHOOD (in AMBER)

  I spent a little more than ten years of my life, from 1963 (age 4) until 1973 in a classically perfect post-War ghetto, on the Southside of Chicago: rats, broken glass, petty crime and burning garbage. Some of the garbage burning was very near to our kitchen window because it was in flames in the incinerator built into the block of contiguous two-storey apartments our apartment ( #649) was the very end of. Every block had its terminal incinerator; I think there were perhaps twenty or thirty blocks like this in our ghetto. You could step right out our … Continue reading BRIEF SKETCHES of an ANTI-SNOWFLAKE’S CHILDHOOD (in AMBER)

EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 22: DESERT LAWNS

  [autobiographical disclaimer: Truth may or may not be stranger than fiction, but it’s far more difficult to write, with any clarity, because Fate is a sloppy and/or nutty Novelist. I do my best to tell my Life as it happened, changing the names, and a few incriminatingly-unique descriptors, of people who would not choose to be remembered here…]     Sunday, April 8, 2000, late afternoon: prologue The character Steven Augustine was about to leave the country so he let it be known that he was looking for quick cash. There’s more to the story than that: he needed to … Continue reading EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 22: DESERT LAWNS

EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 27: GIANTS

The Convoluted Real Life Romantic Adventures of a Bohemian Serf Abroad and at “Home” During Fewer Than Two Months of the Clinton Administration. This is not a quick read… Let the Sex pull you through it. — preface I used to call myself Crank.  I don’t know why. July 1995-A There was a very confusing war in the Balkans and it had something to do with the break-up of Yugoslavia or the calculating evil of the Clintons or something. M nodded. I read M’s mind.  She was eighteen. Nodding yes yes yes. To be eighteen and know you’re eighteen is … Continue reading EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 27: GIANTS

GOTH AND CHOCOLATE: AN INVERTED ME TOO TALE

[autobiographical disclaimer: Truth may or may not be stranger than fiction, but it’s far more difficult to write, with any clarity, because Fate is a sloppy and/or nutty Novelist. I do my best to tell my Life as it happened, changing only the names, and a few incriminatingly-unique descriptors, of people who would not choose to be remembered here…] Early in 2004 I was looking for a bass player. I had gotten my first serious royalty check, as a songwriter, a year before. I had to post a classified  ad in a free newspaper called “Zweite Hand”. A couple of … Continue reading GOTH AND CHOCOLATE: AN INVERTED ME TOO TALE

EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 26: NEW WAVE NIGHT MAYOR

I stopped reading serious fiction from 1985 until the year 1990, when I picked up a paperback of The Sheltering Sky, during the first week of my first winter in Berlin,  after five lost years of watching music videos and reading Rolling Stone and The Face instead of Calvino,  Kundera, Ted Hughes, Nabokov or Anne Sexton et al. Five long years of mindlessness and thrilling sex. It didn’t start off thrilling but it certainly ended that way, a few weeks before I left America for the first time, my Grace-Kelly-esque girlfriend on her back on the kitchen table, my penis … Continue reading EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 26: NEW WAVE NIGHT MAYOR

EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 42: ART ANNOYS

“During the civil war, Trotsky wrote a book on art.” -Harun Farocki, Dog From the Freeway I was shaping snakes and mice in clay with my three-year-old in the year 2009 when the penny finally dropped and I realized I was handling a feces analog. The Art we were making was shit. My daughter probably knew that all along (and quite happily), but for me there had been a long gestational period, the decades during which I’d deluded myself into believing that the basic materials I was handling, in my life as an Artiste, were stardust and fairy diamonds. My … Continue reading EXCERPTS FROM “THE VELVETEEN GULAG” [a memoir]: CHAPTER 42: ART ANNOYS