They’re always throwing goodness at you,
But with a little bit of luck, a man can duck.
—Lerner and Lowe
‘If you’re six four and weigh two hundred eighty pounds, maybe you should give up your dream of becoming a jockey.’ Those are the immortal words of the mythic Prussian martial philosopher, Hans Aough, and I’ve tried to make them my words to live by, in governing my own dreams. The thing about dreams for the future is that they have to be elastic because they usually have a whole lot of ass to cover with just a small patch of chintz.
I never dreamed Times Square could be ruined, but it was.
Used to be, you could go down there, score porn, find a hooker, black or white, boy or girl, didn’t matter. They had everything from mouthy midgets to aggressive cross-dressers, and drugs galore. A junkie could go down to Times Square with any jones you could name, score his pegs of large animal tranquilizer in less time than it takes to tell. They had grainy snuff films, every kind of fuck film you can imagine. They had that famous fuck film where the Texas stud and this young babe with huge tits have one going out on the wing of this small plane. Now, things are going good, and this guy is really putting the wood to this babe as they fly along. In the long shots, you see them gyrating around on the wing like a couple of rag dolls in a hurricane. The babe’s husband, the pilot, who they’ve drugged so they could get this big bang going, wakes up.
If you saw this one, you remember what happens next. The pilot sees his wife out there on the wing, goes berserk, flies into a jealous rage, starts doing loops and dives and all this stuff to shake the unfaithful whore and her all too willing swain off the wing. They’re buck naked, hanging on to the wing struts for dear life, and this guy’s hung like the proverbial horse, of course, so, his gigantic wang is flipping and flopping out there like a hooked giant eel, and if that isn’t bad enough, the babe’s hooters are waving in the breeze like the Union Jack on Trafalgar Square.
You couldn’t go down there now and see something like that.
It’s all Walt Dizzy and family stuff. Bring the family. It’s a family place. Bring the family. Go down there now, all you see is tourists looking up at the tall buildings and long lines of yokels trying to buy theatre tickets. No more outrageous pretty boys in Little Miss Muffet outfits. Hell, I got to thinking about it, thinking what they’ve done to Times Square. My old voice trailed off, I kind of swallowed hard, got caught up in the sudden eruption of a blender,—vvvvrrrreeeeee,—which only Jake and I are tuned to, sitting across the table from each other like a couple of stoned Buddhas, bag headed alkies that we are, graduated to semi-street folk because Jake has been staying with a lady friend, and I’ve been bagging at Jake’s flat, living the life of `Jake’, answering to Jake when I’m there, all having to do with a bunch of rent control bullshit you don’t want to hear about.
Of the forty odd folk within hearing distance of the blender, this being on the Friday night end of a brokenhearted weekend odyssey, us barely out of the gate when the hammer falls, us already one wavelength above the pack, due to recent involvement with a mutual friend of ours, from Panama, named Red, if you get my drift, I see in Jake’s eyes that he’s tuned right to that blender, and from there, to the tune that’s ripping on the speakers above the bar, `When the Whip Comes Down,’ with Mick and the boys blaring out over some fairly sassy woofers and tweeters flanking the moose head, which is the kind of oddball stuff you used to see down on Times Square, but don’t anymore because of who’s taken over.
That was my first dream, and it proved to be true.
I told Jake to mark my words. I saw it clear as Hell itself. The scum like us, the street people, all the armies of the slightly whacked out alkie professors like me, all the pill-ridden, sweat drenched perverts, our day was done. Times Square was being taken over by families on tour, every last one of them more starchy and scrubbed than the next, and there wasn’t a thing to be done. They rounded up the crazy old dude, Reverend Tuck, who was always pushing Jesus down everybody’s throat. They stuck his ass in a big old gray brick asylum in Brooklyn where he could rant all day, and nobody but the rats and cockroaches could hear his ravin’ ass. Jake sat him down one day, gave him a Snickers Bar, which the blind old dude loved, telling how he’d sat at the feet of the Lord in Paradise and how the Lord told him that everybody was given three dreams in their life, and that the three dreams told the story of their life in three parts, past, present and future, and it didn’t matter one flaming fuck if they liked it or didn’t because that was the way it was. Period. Which I thought was, you know, kind of arbitrary, not to mention petty autocratic, coming from Somebody Who’s supposed to act and think Godly, but I let it go with the Reverend Tuck because that motherfucker was battier than Carl’s Bad Cave, and might’ve come across the table, put a blade on your ass, like I saw him do one time when some low life street preacher named Pantheon Jones, was talking around the yard like Jesus, Buddha, the Shinto guy, Mohammed, all those guys were really the same guy, like Peter Sellers playing all those parts in Dr. Strangelove.
Somebody said it sounded like they could’ve been sent by the fucking devil himself, considering all the pure evil, all the turmoil, death, destruction, war, hatred and revenge had all been fucking carried out in their names, pretty much across the board. Well, old Reverend Tuck went after that motherfucker with a blade he pulled from nowhere, and would’ve iced him for sure, for lumping Jesus in with all these ‘false idols,’ which set some of the Muslim brothers on edge, muttering, ‘who you calling a false idol, motherfucker?’
It could’ve gotten ugly.
My second dream only lasted half a second. I dreamed a raccoon was up on my bed crawling across my face, and it woke me up. I figured that was the ‘present’ dream, because the present is a fairly elusive deal, here one second, gone the next. As for the raccoon, what can I say? A raccoon’s a raccoon, right? You say that word over and over again, any word, enough times, you get stuck in the present, and you see the naked reality. You say that word, you let the sound of that word raccoon, raccoon, raccoon, raccoon, bury itself in your brain long enough, you reach a state they call on the street, stuck in the fucking present. It’s a technical, psychological term you hear around. It means ‘muddle headed’, ‘fucked up,’ and there’s a lot of it going around. Stuck in the present, you have that same dream, over and over. Everybody’s selling something in the dream, just like life down on the new Times Square. Listen to what they’re saying down there. They’re selling.
If you don’t think so, listen closer. Say raccoon, say any word, over enough times, even your own name, and the meaning behind the sound you’re making will disappear. Right before your eyes, it will dissipate and be gone, until it’s just a sound, like a clap, or a rustling of the wind, and doesn’t stand for anything anymore.
If it doesn’t work, I’m sorry for you. You’ll be missing something. Maybe the fog in your head is too thick. I’m sorry, but it’s your problem if you can’t be bothered. For sure, if it freaks you to be disoriented, out of control, maybe you shouldn’t try the word repeating mantra. If it’s too much trouble, or, if you’re otherwise not up to it, don’t do it.
In the third dream, the one about the future, I’m down on Times Square, and run into one of the old rummies they ran off when the place was sterilized years ago. Old `Pistol Pete’, they called him. Damned if he wasn’t down around his old spot, near where the orange bar used to be, where all the sexual predators and derelicts used to hang out, harassing the tourists, leering at the young girls in their tight skirts, throwing smooches to the virile young college boys, having slavered over himself, having lost somewhere in his alcohol-ridden brain any memory of that dark spot on his pants where he’s pissed himself.
He gives me a grin. “Have you found Jesus, brother?” he says.
“I didn’t know He was lost,” says I.
It was an old joke but he smiled, shook his head, gave me a blank, happy stare that made me realize he didn’t remember me from the days before the do-gooders cleaned up Times Square. “Any spare change?” says he, so I give old Pistol Pete a fiver. He turns it over, snaps it a couple of times. His lips part in silent thanks, and he’s on his way down Broadway, heading for a place where he can buy a `shortie Rose,’ which is a bottle of Wild Irish Rose wine, get his head messed up.
Running into Pistol Pete that way, even if it was only in a dream, made me feel warm inside, like at least one of the old derelicts was still around, stinking up Times Square, bothering the tourists, leaving the face of human degradation out there for everybody to see, the pissed pants of a lost human soul. Yeah, I know, Pistol Pete died in a drunk tank a long time ago, and those people in that porn film weren’t really out on the wing during all the dives and loops.
I’m not stupid.
As old Hans Aough, my personal spiritual and philosophical compass, used to say, ‘Dreams, you know, don’t care about space or time.’
- M. E. McMullen
Note: This piece was originally published in issue #10 of Avatar Review (2008)