Astoria
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Astoria. I fucked up, too bad, too bedridden from Hayward. From your slides of Cabo. From the taxicab, the pseudo mafioso driver with a penciled goatee. The ferry terminal. The newsstands, the coffee cart out on the curb—some repurposed Magirus Deutz still sporting shrapnel holes in its cab and expansion joints from when it was firebombed in Dresden, ash and bits of graphite still sticking to the petals of zinnia and daffodils agitated by the exhaust, the rumble of the Embarcadero Freeway—concrete and entombed rebar and hesitant sunlight peeking through torn awnings. One ridge of asphalt and plastic vegetation overlaid, crimped and smoothed with a front coming East.


Astoria. You should have wired me another twenty five. The sidewalks stoop down from the Salvation mission to the remains of the crabbing outposts—tin shacks filled with old cleats, reels of frayed, salt-eaten nylon cord that my thumbs couldn't resist to form a first loop, the thumb hooking in and pinching off the ends before I picture Marie Antoinette's pompadour—her shallow-cut eyes, dusted with two gauges of lead: Egyptian off-white and a guillotine’s counterweight tightening and making lateral twists in the bloodstream—and release, with only the middle finger wiggling free. Unscathed.


Astoria. I couldn’t take the ferry, nevermind reclaim the favor thrown out by old Juarez–huffing from an Captain Kirk thermos every third pass with an Rubbermaid mop past the vinyl benches, the clammed up teller booths, adding another film of backwood and watered down latex ether—smelling of cardamom and distilled vanillin—into the yellowed skylights, the rotary departure board with the busted timing circuit. Alameda. Martinez. San Mateo. Benecia. The arrivals: Sau3alito. Oh-eight-hundred-hours. School trips and produce sellers disembarking, shuffling in little clusters with duffel bags and milk crates, passing under a bank of PA bullhorns, canted seawards towards Alcatraz, an gray cyst encircled by oil tankers bleeding dry. Delay. Delay. Delay.


Astoria. IDs need not be required. I miss the Key System—or what was a primal impression of it—embossed in postcards, Polaroids tied together with rubber bands waiting for incineration on the curb. Soles. Gumtree, cork and regurgitated rubber needling dignified with two slivers of electrified steel underneath the Bay Bridge. Shoulders pale on seats backed hard with velvet and lace. The BART bus is lying dead in the center span, the driver fumbling around in the engine compartment as four lanes—sedans and Vespas and dented Volkswagens—jeer and whistle and split apart in its wake. Up front some kid in denim roll ups is blabbering away, talking about Nikita Khrushchev and what could have been: rotoscoped turrets pinning round an plane of plaster-of-paris and brushed aluminum stacked atop plowed orange groves, a bouquet of carnations clasped in one hand. I could smell his pomade, some fruity, high-posture mixture slicking back thick locks. One glance across the aisle and the game’s back on. A propane tanker howls by. Rattles the fishbowl windows misting up, no longer tempered clear by an overloaded radiator.


Astoria. His eyes behind polarized spectacles are bloodshot, and yet he isn’t shaking. Eddie’s his name—and when he places the carnations in the fire bucket on the stairway landing, the lower quarter of his nightshirt comes untucked. Stitch marks running the length of his spine. Integrated tapeworms. Disposable tourniquets make an impromptu cushion for his Tweety Bird Timex on the nightstand. He sleeps with an .45 sunny side up, color-sensitive nickel receding under Berkley sodium vapor. Says that it’s for posterity’s sake. For honing old friends—reflexes blunted after taking a fall and cracking his noggin open while retreating with a detachment of Marines from the gates of the Saigon embassy. Says he knows a guy or two. Says that the avenues, the enclaves of eucalyptus and accordion brickwork intersected by I-80 and State Route 24 are only a Pomtoken Village being absorbed into a traveler's check bloodstream. Says he knows a rhetorical libretto or two. Says I’m a dadaist washout. Says I argue fast and straight over a bottle of scotch. That I got to try my cards at laying speech against a battery of professors. Freud hardliners. Says he’s exiled. Says he’s dead broke. Says he paid off the admissions officers. Says he filches spark plugs from Pintos and bashes them open. Says he sifts through the ceramic with an electron microscope. Says he has the dexterity of a finch. Working his way through the powder as Cronkite gasps his gov't name on the radio. Knuckles and dental picks searching, searching for some semblance of titanium, copper, gold—and yet couldn’t pass muster to topple a cash register.

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