Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Holy Goof by Mark Anthony Given

Condense some daily experience into a glowing symbol, and an audience is electrified. 
-Ralph Waldo Emerson


          WHEN I WAS eighteen I hitchhiked across the United States; I got all my stuff stolen in Oklahoma and was a wanderer on the side of the road penniless with nowhere to go and no hurry to get there.  After I lost everything I had spent months preparing, the next night I was alone in the middle of the New Mexico desert a hundred miles from civilization, I suddenly knew why it's called "The Land of Enchantment," when the desert under a million stars and early Fall became completely alive, like I was in Grand Central Station in New York, except you couldn't see anything.  The strangest sensation of being completely alone with millions of eyes watching you.  Years later my first night in the middle of Montana miles from any town again the Big Sky Country was alight with stars, but a creeping eerie feeling from the complete absence of sound....complete silence... it took some getting used too, but it was exactly what I was looking for.  I lived in the Helena National Forrest in Grizzly Gulch, Montana where I could stop all the outside distractions, the incessant car alarms in the city or car doors slamming in the parking lot and time clocks and deadlines that need to be met.  Somewhere I could read and study the Torah.  No cable bills, car insurance, rent or mortgages.  Turn off the digital age long enough to grab onto to something that has been around since at least the Tenth Century before the death of Christ.  Before I even finished the Old Testament the first time I knew it had to be true.  What history of people would make up a story of betrayal, disobedience, murder, incest, on and on and expect you to believe it?  You would think they'd leave that part out....
          BUT BEFORE THAT, standing on the side of the road/interstate hitchhiking with nothing but the shirt on my back and shredded dignity, it became increasingly difficult to meet the eyes of oncoming traffic blowing right by me and never tap the brakes.
           CRISES OF CONFIDENCE and defiance and youth gave way to shame within hours of facing head-on hundreds of people glancing at you and stomping on the gas and merge onto the interstate and you and the 'likes of you, five minutes from now are a distant/forgotten memory.  There are a few times in your life where you are called on to the carpet to answer to yourself.  How the fuck you get here?  What the fuck just happen and WHAT are YOU going to do about it?  You idiot.  I had stuff in that backpack since the sixth grade, everything you would ever need to hitchhike across America and like the best-laid plans, I had no backup plan.  It never occurred to me that I would lose everything I owned in the middle of the country and be standing on the side of the road with nothing, and what surprised me more than anything, and my biggest disappointment at the time? I didn't have anyone to call.   Nobody to rescue me or send me money or check into a motel to figure something out, make a few phone calls...


SLOWLY THE IDEA of a perilous journey was recreated out of the debris of failure.

-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Last Tycoon

To be continued.10:34 AM 10/19/2014

Here's another story about loosing all my stuff while on the road.  Six time across country over twenty years....!/2014/10/the-sandals.html

"The Holy Goof," is a line from "On the Road," by Jack Kerouac
“The HOLY GOOF,” a wanderer incapable of fulfilling his obligations as a father and husband.
and also the title
The Holy Goof: A Biography of Neal Cassady


Copyright 2014 by Mark Anthony Given
All Rights Reserved
28 USC 1746, Invoking 90 Stat. 2541 and
Article 2(4) of the Berne Convention for the Protection
of Literary and Artistic Works

Friday, June 20, 2014

But still, like air, I'll arise. -Maya Angelou


You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll arise.

-Maya Angelou



Wednesday, June 04, 2014

NEED WORK NO HANDOUT by Mark Anthony Given

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
 -Thomas A. Edison


          THERE WAS ALWAYS a group of Mexicans waiting at the gates or entrance of all the Home Depot's down south. There were about ten when I walked up there and seen the sign lying in the dirt with nice black block lettering, 
That's all it said on about a 20x24 cardboard. Roofing trucks and Concrete crews would pull up, and groups of men would disappear. I had seen the sign the night before, before jumping in a brand new enclosed trailer and crashing until right before daylight and went across the street to a Waffle House and got some cardboard out of the trash (They separate the garbage from recyclable cardboard) and made me a nice sign right there on the breakfast table. In less than twenty minutes of standing there everyone was gone but me. Shorts, construction boots, military haircut and a big Go Cup of black coffee. Traffic was bumper to bumper after Hurricane Katrina, and they stayed open 24 hours a day for the first few months, and there was only one way in and one way out; everyone had to go right by me coming and going. A stone throw from the most prominent interstate interchange I-10 and Highway 49.
         ONE MONTH after hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, I hitchhiked from Montana to Mississippi because I knew there was plenty of work down there. It took nearly two weeks because I won't hitchhike at night, it is just too dangerous....Half an hour before dark I will find a spot usually next to a Wallmart Super Store or Truck Stop, but it really doesn’t matter. I quit worrying about where I will sleep tonight; with a little brains and good intention, that will take care of itself.
          FIRST WEEK of October isn't that hot, nights are cool, but sleeping on the ground anywhere Down South takes a lot of balls; Rattlesnakes, Fire ants, 4" Cockroaches, Moccasin's, Mosquitoes....   it isn’t for everybody, and because there are so many other people sleeping outside/homeless people, it is a challenge. But I loved it! I didn't think it of being homeless one bit. In the Great North West, you see folks hitchhiking, hiking frequently, they are not "homeless." I thought I was "camping out," and just surviving it was its own reward... I still do. I carried a full backpack with sleeping bag and lightweight tent, long johns, mosquito spray, oatmeal and sardines...extra socks and a Leatherman, fishing line, magnifying of the early foster homes I was in, the father was a Scout Master, and I was an Eagle Scout at sixteen years old, and I practiced mastering different knots and Morse Code while other kids my age were watching cartoons....
Morse Code Art      

            TOP OF THE LINE everything: I scoured the thrift stores of the North West for; Patagonia, Columbia, Solomon hiking Boots, Oakley Thump's, North Face -20 sleeping bag, two sets of rain gear.  I hold out for the best.  I love the feeling of everywhere I went; I was totally self-contained not needing anything from anybody. There was a Hampton Inn right next door where I would spend my days off soaking in their Sauna and pool in the back.  They never even knew I was there...
      OLD MAN in a pick-up truck in an oil field Driller's jumpsuit on, probably 65, pulls out of line up to me behind a gas station and leans out his window, spits tobacco on the ground and pulls forward a few more feet until we were parallel,
"You ever lay any Tile, boy?" 
"Oh, yeah, hell yeah," 
I told him. I'd bullshit my self into nearly any job if I thought I could do it and it wasn't too dangerous. I bullshitted my way into roughnecking in the oil field. You show me how to do it, how to drive it, I can probably do it, and with a little practice master it...

"Well, you want to come help me? 

We were on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but there was no mistaking his South Louisiana "Coonass," or "Cajun," severe accent. An amusing, rhythmic language and from my years in the oil field I knew these characters well. Loved to laugh and party, down to earth people everybody loves. 

"How much does it pay?" 
"What's your rate, you get paid by the hour?" 
"You got somewhere I can get cleaned up there? Where is it?" "I'm a few blocks from the beach in here in Gulf Port."
He said.
"Well look, I can help you do it, but I can't do it myself."
"No, I got the material I'm all ready to go. I'm just old, and I can't do all that."
"Ok," I said, so I'm the muscle, and you’re the brains?" 
"Right, right," 
He said. I told him what I told nearly everyone I worked for:
"Ok, well you’re the Boss, and I'm nothing."
"Yeah, that's right," they would usually reply.
"Well,” that makes you the Boss of Nothing!" 
That would usually break the ice...
"I get paid 12$ an hour, cash at the end of the day."
"I can do that, come on and get in, throw your pack in the back." 
        I wound up living in his beautiful nearly new motorhome next to his house a few blocks from the beach under ancient oak trees for several months until wanderlust came and got me again. For twenty years everywhere I went I wanted to be somewhere else. Wanderlust is a disease of the Soul.
         NEARLY EVERY house in his neighborhood was damaged but not his, just minor wind damage and I rebuilt his parameter fence. He hooked me up and treated me right like old friends, even after I messed up the expensive eighteen-inch Travertine Ceramic Tile floor royally! I can still see me, his old wife holding a little wheezing Chiwawa dog in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and the old man apologizing for me, standing in the center of his living room easing the tiles around with our feet to obscure the nearly one inch gap between tile right dead center of the room! But I knew there was fixing this short of a big throw rug or a wrecking bar and a shovel. I wanted to laugh so badly, but I saved that for now as I write this. I told this story to lots of folks along the way. I told the Coonass I'm not any tile setter; they are like Electricians or Dry Waller's and they all specialize in what they do. I said you I could help "you" do it, I can't do it. He was trying to save money, how hard can it be kind of thing... He was actually very understanding about it and went to Radio Shack and got cable, crawled on his roof and run TV Cable from his house to the motor home that evening for me... I got dozens of stories like this...

1204 Words
Copyright Mark Anthony Given 2017
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Man or an Angel by Mark Anthony Given

       He whose intellect overcomes his desire is higher than the angels: he whose desire overcomes his intellect is less than an animal. -Rumi   

           I TRY TO REMEMBER my quick encounter with death every day because it reminds me I must have done something right but secretly suspect my life today is the result of some more significant and more important barter with fate and destiny, in days past...  I imagine the oppressive weather of the bogs of Ballyutogue, Ireland, and the miserable climate burnishes a pure desire for something more in their life, something you would trade all your tomorrows for a single day of someplace other than here...

           HAVE YOU EVER through your very life on the line for one roll of the dice, betting it all against the built-in odds on the house, fuck it!  I just so fucking sick of my life I want to either life wholly alive or dead and stinking?  I did.  At the very end of Interstate 10 in downtown Los Angeles having started in Jacksonville, Florida ten days or so earlier. Everything has to come to an end and so do I burst across ten or twelve lanes of California car Crazy traffic flying at every bit of fifty or sixty miles an hour at ten o'clock on a Saturday night.  Probably a little drunk on the frenetic energy of the entertainment capital of the world, I rolled the dice to finally find out....

           RIGHT NOW as I write this, I am trembling remembering it right this minute and every time I thought of it 10,831 days ago because it ain't nothing you will ever forget.  And I wonder if that is precisely why I did it, if you can do this you can do anything.  I just wish I didn't have that damn backpack on because that is what almost got me killed... 

           THE  CAR'S FLEW by me in half a nanosecond, and I can still feel the late summer midnight air and all the fluorescent lights and the magical feeling Los Angeles has to it when you first arrive.  Even now, I have an overwhelming sense of "WAIT!"  "WAIT!" till an opening, there's no hurry... but like a moth too close to the flame I had to finally find out of if I was a Man or an Angel....

394 Words
 COPYRIGHT 2017 by Mark Anthony Given
All Rights Reserved 28 USC 1746  Public Law: Pub. L. 94-553 (Oct. 19, 1976)
U.S. Statutes at Large: 90 Stat. 2541
11:06 AM 1/28/2016

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Freemesser's Bar by Mark Anthony Given

Everything you are and do from fifteen to eighteen is what you are and will do through life.  - #FSCOTTFITZGERALD

             YOU KNOW HOW in The Godfather where you got a room full hot headed Italian guys ready to take action and right in the middle of them is a smooth talking Irish guy as the voice of reason?  That was Freemesser's Bar with Frank Costas, in reverse.  Except he would party with the best of 'em but everybody knew he had the last word, and when he got ready to go home he would pick out the soberest in the lot....  First time I met him I was eighteen driving a white fake rag top brand new baron red Chrysler with Florida dealer tags I had stolen off a show room floor along the interstate somewhere in Florida. He had me take him home in it not knowing it was was stolen and refused to put his feet on the floor he was so impressed with it.  Couple years after I knew him we tried to goof on him about it, but he said he was too drunk to remember....
              FREEMESSER’S ON Clinton Avenue South in Rochester, New York, was a neighborhood bar owned by an old Guinea, Frank Costa's, and had been there for years. Smack in the heart of "Swilburg," now a mixed neighborhood before entering the suburbs, but once an enclave of Irish and German potatoes farmers. There were no bar stools, you had to stand up and women could not drink at the bar, but would come to the door of the back room to be served. I got busted by my parole officer for a dirty UA and locked up in the Monroe County Jail for a month or two. While I was in there, I had my girlfriend pick up my last paycheck and take it to Frank to cash and pay my bar Tab.
              FRANK WOULD try to have Frank Guesford or someone drive him home about six o'clock at night because he was tired and too drunk to drive, so if you seen him in there after six, something was going on. A wedding, a funeral, a party for Fire Fighters, Roofers Union, whatever. I walked in there about seven at night and the place was at full tilt, but still only twelve or fifteen people, which was a lot in a little corner bar. As soon as Frank seen me come in the door he pointed at me and hollered across the whole Bar, "There's that son of a bitch! I been in business twenty years and never had anyone send me money from jail! Drink's on the house kid!" You would have thought I gave him first Grand Son they way he treated me after that.  There were so many people in there all of Swillburg probable heard about it and it was a good feeling knowing I was always good for a 'few buck's a Freemesser's Bar....

Copyright 2015 by Mark Anthony Given All Rights Reserved


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Star On My Ass by Mark Anthony Given

Any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
 -Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy


             I HITCHHIKED the West Coast of California from just below San Francisco to Malibu and back again, it's several hundred miles of the most magnificent views I had ever seen, centering around San Louis Obispo where William Randolf Hearst's Mansion can be seen from Pacific Coast Highway 1.  Hairpin turns and death defying curves with death a second away if you look to see a dolphin in the brilliant blue surf it was everything I imagined it as a kid growing up on sixties television.  This was my second or third trip to California.  The first time I started in Jacksonville, Florida at the foot of Interstate 10 goes right to downtown Los Angeles and a shit storm of traffic going six different directions I think I was a little drunk and I knew if I didn't get run over at ten o'clock on a summer night, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's would grab me and save me from myself.  I turned around and headed back to Florida just to say I did.  Crossing twelve lanes of traffic in downtown Los Angeles at midnight my story almost ended and I must confess, is the most scared I ever been.  Looking back on it now, probably the stupidest thing I ever did but after Ms. Rita in New Orleans told me I had a "Star on my Ass!" after I give the New Orleans detectives the slip a couple of times, I felt invincible but I was a split second from being run over by someone who never even slowed down. I thought about it almost obsessively for weeks and nearly quit hitchhiking for good. 
           SOMEBODY STOPPED for me in a midnight blue Pontiac Tempest with headers and an 8-track playing REO, dude was kinda drunk.  He looked at me with wide eyed amazement after I jumped in as fast I could and I told him I had had someone drop me off right there and was going back to Florida just to say I did.  He said "Well you better hold on," and floored it for twenty miles all the way to San Berdoo after he handed me a beer and a joint.  You will not believe this but God as my witness, hauling ass in that jacked up muscle car drinking a cold beer and smoking California Bud I noticed this was biker dude and I think he recognized Donald Duck sitting there that just like him, I didn't give a fuck and probably wouldn't start no trouble, but if you did....  Traffic at that time of night was thinning it was an eight or nine lanes somewhere around race track in Riverside, you can see along the Interstate, this candy apple red corvette appeared in the center lane tracking us to get a look at what we were working with;  we were doing every bit of ninety miles and hour the windows were open and I couldn't keep the joint lit this Vette took off like we were standing still... The last thing I seen was 454 across the hood of his car before evaporating down the interstate.  Dude looked at me at me and said, 

"What the fuck was that?"  
"What size you engine you got in this thing?" 
"Fuck that!" 
and he fucking stomped on it but we never seen more than his tail lights. The interstate was alight and everything was flying by as we went faster and faster weaving in and out of lanes passing cars the fresh California medical weed and Coors's beer were eliciting a building excitement I hoped would end with Blue lights on the headliner before this maniac killed us...
          NINE HUNDRED and seventy miles from Orange, Texas to Anthony, New Mexico, took me three or four days and probably ten rides of some of the loneliest road anywhere.  As soon as I got into Arizona, I was half way down the entrance ramp so the thru traffic could see me, it was perfectly flat and people who did get on there were hauling ass by the time they went by me.  An Arizona State Trooper stopped me and gave me the whole nine yards.   Ran my ID that I didn't have, read me the Riot Act about the perils of hitchhiking and then told me if he saw me hitchhiking anywhere there wasn't water he was taking me to jail.  Said people would wait many hours there and start walking off into the desert not knowing there wasn't another Exit for eighty ninety miles.  And besides, it's a great place to get run over by people dozing off at the wheel...
          I HAD NOWHERE to go and no hurry to get there and born with little or no ambition, all I ever wanted to do was be a writer but I had something more serious than "Writer's Block," I didn't have anything to write about.   I could tell you about growing up the only boy and twelve girls in an orphanage in Florida and the nightly trials and tribulations of The Temptation of Youth, but you would never believe me.....

          SOME PEOPLE can't be alone and actually, ride up and down the Interstate looking for people to take home.  You ever heard of anything like that?  After just a few months of being on the road I had to lay down some rules from what I had learned so far:  I ain't going to your house if it's more than a mile or so from the Interstate, and no hitchhiking at night.  It is ten times more dangerous and you will get run over and more importantly 
Bad People Come Out at Night... 
Bad things happen in the day but it's ten times worse at night.  More drunks, more fugitives, more felons, more feigns, more faggots, more desperation and you just feel like shit when you get where your going.  About an hour before sunset I'm looking for a somewhere i can pitch a small tent until just before daylight I'll be up and gone.... and feeling like a Champ.

To be Continued
 2:30 PM 5/21/2014

Friday, March 07, 2014

The Elegant Sadness by Mark Anthony Given

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things,
but their inward significance. -Aristotle

         TENNESSEE WILLIAMS WASN'T born in Tennessee and The Battle of New Orleans wasn't fought in New Orleans, but ten miles up the river in Chalmette, Louisiana just past the parish line in Arabi where sheriff deputies on one side, and New Orleans detectives on the other watched the "Da Parish" Line day and night like they were sitting on a private stocked pond, often with a highly trained big Belgian Black Shepard Police Dog, that can smell you coming before you got out of bed this morning, and just like the British at the sudden turn in the muddy fast running Mississippi River, they could have spun their battle ships on a dime in the treacherous and fast current but by the time you see the motley crew of determined early Americans, they lit their ass up so fast it was like shooting ducks in a barrel and just like you, 'they didn't stand a chance....
           THE WHOLE PLACE with it's wide open expanse of wasted traverse with ground level fox holes and makeshift garrison belied the enormity of the Battle of New Orleans, and not even the brightest sunshine and clear blue skies overshadowed the number of withered headstones behind me and either them are American boys and girls laying claim to the soggy dirt or some of them ducks got out of the boat...   

           I WAS PROBABLY LOADED out of my mind driving a little old red Volkswagen, or VW Bug stole from who knows where.... both my girlfriends two children in the front seat they were maybe seven and eight years old and fit in the same seat.  Right past the Battlefield is the Battlefield Cemetery you pass thru a little gate to walk from the battlefield, or you can drive right down the middle of an old red brick road under ancient oak trees smothered in Spanish Moss darkening the already foreboding zone I was doing five miles an hour on Halloween evening.  I have a long-suffering habit of talking to my automobiles, and they knew it even if they never saw this car before. 
           "I'm sorry Mr. Red, 'bought bringing you back here like this on a night like this, but these two kids made me!"
           "Know we didn't! Jefferey screamed;  I didn't even know this place was here! 
           The littlest one Jillian was sitting in the middle and couldn't see over the window sills, but she was looking concerned.
           We are driving as slow as possible because I know if we run into one of these frightening gravestones you go straight to Hell without even a Bond hearing...  I traded a beautiful 1977 two-tone baby blue and white landau top Oldsmobile Cutlass 225 with white lettered tires for this old Bug that didn't have a battery in it and no reverse and had to be pushed to start.
          "Alright, I'm getting scared!" "Whose idea was this, the suns going down were not supposed to be back here!" 
 You had to turn around at the end towards the River to get back out, and I started acting like I was really scared and like we were having car trouble or running out of gas again, and reminded them they would have to get out and push.  It would 'start rolling down a small driveway it was so light and pop the clutch it would fire right up and run without even a battery in it and eighty cents of gas you could drive around all day in that refinery town.

            AFTER I WHOPPED them up into a hysteria of near frenzy I hollered, 
"That's it!, I'm out of here!" 
and I bailed under the front seat of the passenger seat with my foot still on the brake and the look on the kid's face, Jill was standing up on the front seat like a boat captain at the helm, and Jeffrey was trying to keep it in a straight line then I popped the clutch stalling it out and made them get out and push it started.. 

             Andrew Jackson's resounding defeat by outsmarting the British propelled him to the Presidency.   I used to drive out there and do a complete circle over a mile all the way around I would park all the way in the back with my back to the River, and could watch the park entrance right by the ancient cemetery behind low rusting wrought iron trying to hold back Time. I would park with a half a can cheap cola next to a half-eaten sandwich by a map on the dashboard with out of state plates like Joe Tourist except, I would go out there to shoot dope out under the bright sunshine, and blue skies and battle and it was kind of fitting of the elegant sadness left behind...

            THE CHALMETTE NATIONAL Battlefield is just off the highway behind a row of tall hedges opens into an open battlefield and makes a complete circle and straight back almost a mile and then circles back and there are places to pull in and read plaque's and hear tourist groups by the River.

         Peace negotiations in Ghent, Belgium. Although the peace agreement was signed on December 24, the word did not reach the British forces assailing the Gulf coast in time to halt a major attack.  Jackson's 4,500 troops, many of them expert marksmen from Kentucky and Tennessee, decimated the British lines. In half an hour, the British had retreated, General Pakenham was dead, and nearly 2,000 of his men were killed, wounded, or missing.
U.S. forces suffered only eight killed and 13 wounded.   Although the battle had no bearing on the outcome of the war, Jackson's overwhelming victory elevated national pride, which had suffered a number of setbacks during the War of 1812. The Battle of New Orleans was also the last armed engagement between the United States and Britain.

Anonymity in the world of men is better than fame in heaven. -Sal Paradise

All Rights Reserved
12:26 PM 3/7/2014      28 USC 1746