Jim Trainer

Posts Tagged ‘City Lights Booksellers’

Too Skinny, Too Small by Don Bajema Chapter 2

In Uncategorized on October 6, 2013 at 10:43 am

(for Chapter 1 click here)

There’s a pecking order in every relationship, small unit, massive population. You’ve seen it, felt it, been subjected to it no matter where you work, where you worship, where you sat at the Thanksgiving table, even when you’re at your most ultimately anonymous-deep in a crowd of strangers- you’re ranked as peckee and pecker; be in any group of people and you’ve been assigned your place.
Move up you’ll get a few pecks in the face from the guys in front of you, someone climbs up behind you, you better attack or you’ll drop a slot, less food, less shelter, less everything. Attack, you have to, even, and especially, if you don’t want to. Fail to sink your beak into a cheek, or tattoo a forehead and you’re down a notch until you’re on the bottom, and there is a momentum, it works upward and it works downward.
Its there in every human interaction-there’s the bloody beaked world of your rank. All this necessary and as natural as the sunrise and moon hanging in the sky, this part we have to play to contain, measure and distribute the prevalent animosity and aggression within all of us in our numberless-planet-wide-human-primate troop.
How well do you compete? How willing are you to take? How unwilling to concede? How pragmatic with the part you play in the fate of others? How much fear-not respect-can you put into others? How far will you go if contested?
I watched the sidewalk way down beneath my window for a long minute. All those people, shifting right and left, stepping on the heels in front of them, being glared at and returning glares, shouldering around and through each other the sorting out of the pecking order.
There’s people who walk in a line, never giving an inch, willing to bang shoulders with strangers than give any kind of room-mindlessly it appears but secretly entirely deliberate, mostly some kind of inherited attitude, some innate quality that demands they themselves come first on the desperate primate self assertive grim set-of-the-teeth level.
Then there’s the other people ‘aware of their surroundings’, hoping to avoid conflict, hoping to keep things moving in some semblance of co-operation and common good who slip sideways through these more belligerent tough-hard assed-cowards who assert themselves from the sidewalk level, to the pop-corn line at the movies, for the parking spot, to be first to get through a door. Yeah, there’s a polite expectation to crowded interaction at the produce section, in the gas line, at the bar, and the deli counter-but its paper thin, useful only in mutual consent which given any stress at all, Christmas shopping, freeway stalls, virtually any excuse and the reasonable comportment goes right out the fucking window. You can count on someone being entirely ill equipped to see further down the sidewalk than their own immediate imperative-and don’t misunderstand I’m not talking about strutting ghetto hard-asses, or hyper aggressive silk suited ex-frat boys, some of these sidewalk stompers….these cold eyed shoulder slamming bastards are not gender specific-there’s plenty of young-don’t-look-at-me-I’m-too-beautiful-strutting snots, or fed-up middle-aged bitches clutching steaming lattes, heads jutting forward from their chicken necks, with their ‘Fuck you eyes’ and meaning business, and unhappy fatso’s terrified to be noticed and knowing that hope is laughable, hoping not to be resented, but knowing that too is unlikely making so many of them fattening up their kids and family in order to have company, in order not to stand out, in order to have a couple more beaks in the fray, skinny, nasty neurotics too, people of every description defending their wider-space-than-yours as they would any of their American possessions and entitlements beyond number.
These neurotic mid flock jerks will stand in the middle of a suddenly halted crowd shrieking their lungs out for as long as it takes to get any imagined aspect of their own, mindless way. You can see it. The sidewalk has a coward who fears that he will be read as weak, read as soft, read as a mark or a pussies if she doesn’t over assert themselves in every fucking situation calling for co-operation. The entire American crowded urban me-first culture is infested with these assholes.
There’s a black car blaring its horn at a knot of walkers failing to clear the intersection fast enough for the solitary driver weaving his Mercedes through the crowd, forcing his bumper through them, nudging them out of his way.
This warm, comfortable bastard behind the wheel is so anxious to get to the Lincoln tunnel and out of the metropolis he’s leaning on the horn in his sound insulated cab with his jaw twisted to one side mouthing spells and incantations at the people jumping out of his way or slowing to stare at his windshield in defiance.
He’s willing to knot the faces, and bend the knees of sixty cringing pedestrians, old ladies reaching for their ears, babies in strollers crying, men containing the urge to blast his window open with an elbow, yank him out by his silk tie and pound the fat motherfucker into the pedestrian cross-walk. But they absorb this because Modern Life Says You Have To Take This Shit-gone are the days of duels and respect demanded through the knowledge that disrespect will get your belly sliced open or your forehead crushed, so their jaws tighten under his incessant, Here-I-am-get-the-fuck-out-of-my-way blaring horn.
He’s just one man, doing very well for himself, at the bottom of the towering Manhattan architectural canyon inside his luxury car abusing sixty shivering people negotiating a crowded sidewalk in a sleet storm.
One man comfortable in his plush seat, he and his music, gliding to his mansion just beyond the city, his three crackling fireplaces, abusing sixty people cold in the January wind whipping their jackets, sleet freezing their faces, Whole Foods grocery bags disintegrating, briefcases and back packs tangling their knees.
And now the umbrellas come out and in case you sympathized with the pedestrians you can see them now blithely risking the eyesight of on-comers as they plow through the crowd, spinning here and there unconcerned with the needle sharp umbrellas fractions of inches from the faces of those around them. There’s a few gigantic golf umbrellas making fair negotiation of the sidewalk impossible for the shivering many.
The driver in his black carriage, the put-upon bitch with her latte, the general swarm of walkers, the cornea piercing umbrella fencers-most if not all of them are big football fans.

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Too Skinny, Too Small by Don Bajema

In Uncategorized on September 13, 2013 at 12:36 pm

1.
Everyone knew it would happen; they had to. But everyone shed the tears, bemoaned the game and watched the replay. Then the gurney and the straps around him, and the announcers were saying it was serious, and everyone was prayers with the family.
They sat at the bar, on the couch, in the silent stadium scared to utter the words; then it was all anyone talked about.
Five minutes after he was in the tunnel we were playing again.
On the sidelines and then in the locker room my teammates said a lot of stupid things intended to console me, intended to assure I felt no blame, intended to distance themselves from the reality. Then they ostracized me when I didn’t respond to their bro-down gestures. The coaches selected three very popular and media pleasing players to speak for the team. I was excused-at first.
Being a week before Thanksgiving heads were bowed over turkey from one coast to the other like the dark days of Dallas. The men glanced out of the corners of their eyes, mumbled as they excused themselves from the table pushed their chairs back and went into the living room and watched the game. The kids followed them. At halftime all the front rooms all over the country were watching in depth discussions of the tragedy and everyone cried again by the end of the profile piece of Chad Washington.
I couldn’t get the sound out of my mind, or the feel of the total sudden rag doll feeling of his body but I didn’t tell anyone. I was supposed to see a counselor and the police offered a shrink who had experience with cops who’d shot people on duty.
The league called it a clean hit-I don’t know what a clean hit is, and I haven’t seen the replay.
Pundits and writers condemned the game, everyone talked about the concussions, protecting the players, called into question the future of the league but the ratings went through the roof.
The league office called the owner who agreed with the Commissioner that my silence was making the situation worse, I didn’t know then how it could get worse, but they had a franchise to protect and called me into the inner sanctum to personally ask why I wasn’t saying something on camera.
I sat on his couch with my hands folded looking at a very uneasy man.
He cleared his throat four times, twice with his back turned to me facing the forest outside his window. When he turned he gave me that rich man smile that had nothing behind it but bemusement at the notion that anything but having his way was possible. He seemed to be in a mood to make it easy for me, but he took on a firm paternal tone,
“Why are we here, Eddie?”
I shrugged.
“Don’t start that with me. We’re talking here.”
I locked eyes on him without directly challenging him but I shook my head slowly left to right.
“Look, Eddie, I understand. And I want to help.”
He went to his desk and picked up a sheet of paper.
“Any of these statements would do you, and this team, and the league a lot of good.”
He waited.
“Anything you say is going to feel inadequate, Eddie. I know that. But you have to say something.”
I sat there.
He walked it over to me and extended the sheet about the height of my forehead.
I took it but didn’t read it.
“Try one.”
I put the paper on the table before the couch.
“Eddie. Eddie. Your silence…is..it’s putting a bad light on you, on my team, on the league, on the game.”
He started to say something more, I could see the rage building under his collar.
“I’m never going to say a word about it. I’ll just play the game. Nothing I can say will do anyone any good.”
He got brave, he owned the team, he signed the checks, he had the power,
“You’ll play the game? You play the game because I say so. We give you the money and the privilege to play the game. This is a business, Eddie. I am the boss of this business.”
“You know, Gordon..”
He swallowed hearing me use his first name, his eyes blinked, then he smirked, no one called him anything but Mister or Sir.
“..what’s weird about all this is that up to now you have had all the power, but now, oddly enough, I do. If I quit, if I site the reason why I quit the foundation of the league will drop into a sink hole. If I play you’ll make more money, the league will make more money than it ever has. Businesses like money, Mr. Shafer. So, don’t fuck with me-the tables have turned.”
I got up from the couch, balled up the sheet of paper and bounced it off Mr. Shafer’s chest.
“I ain’t saying shit, Gordon.”
I walked over the carpet opened the door and walked through the cameras and the writers who Shafer had planned to make a statement to, me standing beside him brought back into the fold by the benevolent and understanding owner from the tragedy that had driven me to silence.
Everyone shouted my name, microphones were thrust in my face and I kept walking.
All that was six weeks ago. I kept playing, never said a word, made four interceptions, scored on two them and had more fan votes for All Pro than any player in history.
Then I disappeared, now I’m on the phone with an interviewer named Clarence Johnson.
Johnson was going for ‘the apple never falls far from the tree’ angle for the havoc I’d brought to the national obsession-the generator of a million parties, the violent wet dream of much of the male population, the curious acquiescence hoping for insight and proximity into things male by women sitting beside them in front of television in bars and on the couch watching football like it was war and church rolled into one massive orgiastic celebration of violence and intimidation. Which it is.

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Who Will Judge the Righteous? PT II-Introducing Guest Blogger Don Bajema

In Uncategorized on September 10, 2013 at 11:23 am

PT II
violence is all around me
still my city sleeps
fallin through the curtains
I see nations crumble for me
Horizon Lion, Bev Haven

Who will judge the righteous?
It ain’t me, Brother.  That would take tenacity and wisdom.  It would take the strength of conviction, knowing what’s right and not giving an inch.  It would take what those young men do out on the field every day of the NFL Season, but coupled with the guidance of a crack playcoach whose cool&disaffected exterior only masks a keen&calculating hunger for victory.

Novelist, screenwriter, actor and spoken-word performer Don Bajema’s been there.  The former world-class athlete not only played for the St. Louis Cardinals, he’s toured Europe as a spoken word poet beside Henry Rollins and Hubert Selby Jr. no less.
There is a beautiful and searing clarity in his work.
Winged Shoes and a Shield, released last fall, offers a view of Sunrise in America that is both sweeping and penetrating.  Panoramic views of seemingly idyllic youth growing up in the 50s and 60s are presented in tandem with the malignant undercurrent of the draft and specter of the Vietnam War.  It’s not lost on Bajema that many of protagonist Eddie Burnett’s peers were using their young&naïve prowess to destroy villages of civilians in jungles far away from the track and field where Eddie excelled or the beaches south of San Diego where he fell in love.  Or worse, like Eddie many were suffering right here at home at the yoke of violent fathers who never really came home from their War years before, if only as shells of men, bitter and beaten.

I like Bajema’s America.  Maybe even better than the real one.  The man certainly offers a more authentic view of the “greatest country in the world” than the one that’s advertised.  Bajema’s America is at once hopefully idealistic and savagely dark.  It’s no accident that I hear rock&roll when I read Don Bajema.  It has as much to do with his paens to rock music’s innocence&potency as the dangerous world his characters live but dare to be in love in.

Aho.  My respect for him goes beyond acknowledging that he was there for that sublime and golden burgeoning of the middleclass and introduction of leisure such as the NFL to the gen pop.   Brother Don has kept his eyes open.  I’ve written it before, the man has remained beautifully awake.  He’s watched the whole thing come tumbling down.
He’s witnessed the murder of a dream and seen the promise of the hippie generation all but rot while a backlash rolled this country back 30 years and stalled our history sometime around 1989 and somewhere between willfully ignorant and grossly apathetic.

But, what do I know?  I’m just an apathetic ex-Pat postpunkrocker who admittedly sometimes just wants to flush it all down and watch it sink utterly into slothful oblivion.  I know, a bit much, eh Brother?  A little dark.  That’s why people like Don Bajema are important.  He’s wont to check me on Facebook sometimes, when I’m on some nihilistic, anti-Christian anti-American jag.  He never tells me I’m wrong but he doesn’t have to.  I can’t help but hear light and love coming from the voice of a man who’s been there, seen it come down, but somehow still believes.  The man is a true patriot and as close to a hero as you can get these days, when leaders and pundits and the big business of news reporting are all so busy telling you who to hate and what to fear.
Brother Don ain’t goin’ in for that bullshit, brother.  He knows that we won’t get fooled again, even if he needs to remind an unemployed and apolitical journalist like me sometimes.

Stay tuned for the first three chapters of Don Bajema’s newest work Too Skinny, Too Small, to be run serially on Going for the Throat over the next couple of weeks.  Order your copy of Winged Shoes and a Shield from City Lights Booksellers.

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