The Benny Poda Years
22 - Chicago
"Gonna get low-down, I'm gonna fly sky-high. All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie, I'm in love with a woman who doesn't even . . . appeal to me." — Bob Dylan
Well, folks, we all knew where I'd be going sooner or later, and Maine, well we're not there Yet. But I caught the train as fast out of Baltimore as I could and what's the best pool-shootin' city in America I hadn't stopped at in those Years? New York City? Somewhere in Jersey? Don't shit yourself, man. There is plenty of time left in your sorry-assed life for That.
Part Four, huh. Okay. It's not dark yet, but it's getting' there. Let me introduce you to my Band, and we'll get on with it.
Ladies and Gentleman, on drums, tonight, today, this morning, the driving force behind these Years, Damon Sauve of Oakland, and one couldn't Beg God for a better Driving Force. On bass, Lawrence Johnson of Raleigh, a super, super friend. On guitar, a man whose name I will not mention at his own request, but he Knows Who He Is. On lead vocals, well, Good Evening, Chicago! Guys, play GODdamn loud.
I was staying on Franklin Street in the Loop with a girl I know, listening to Monk by day, hangin' out at Joe Segal's at night, smokin' pot with every tenor sax man in town. I did what I usually do, which is sleep thru days and play thru the night. THOSE were some nights, too, pal. NOW, I live my life with a temperature of 103, but THEN, the next day was brighter than the sleet that got you sick, and you just kept going.
Chicago, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Denver, Nola, Kansas City, Pittsburgh. I've seen them all. Sacramento, Provincetown, Boston. You can run but you can't hide, Cocksucker. Tampa, Richmond, Vegas. Visa, MasterCard, American Express. DeLillo, Purdy, Exley. Death, taxes, and haircuts. Budweiser, Pabst, Salem Lights. Whose Land is it, Woody?
I want you to know just how Scared I Am. I want you to put it in your pipe and Toke it. I want you to know I am the Loneliest Man who ever walked across America. And I want you to know I will never, ever stop.
Here, then, is the lesson of those Years: do not EVER squawk shit to me about SHIT. You want it, well, go get it. You wanna paint? You wanna write? You wanna Rock? You wanna suck somebody's dick? Well, DO it, or shut the FUCK up. You wanna meet a rock star? Call him. You wanna meet ME? Call my publisher. You wanna go to hell? Go to hell. You wanna go to heaven? Nobody's here to stop you. When you've lived enough to know just what This Life is, you will have no compunctions, and if'n you DO, well, Death is waiting right behind the door, Razorstrap. I came, I saw, I saw shit I didn't like, I realized I couldn't change it, I fucked, did drugs, drank, passed out, woke up, and I came, I saw, and then I LIVED. It's a world of cigarettes and implicit sex, son. Don't let it pass you by.
I'm writing this on a napkin at a jazz club called Joe Segal's in Chicago. Haven't heard of it? Well, He and It have been here Longer than You. Houston Person is blowing tenor sax. I am getting drunk on Red Port. Juliet is digging it. As well she should. And I think I wasted my Life.
Don't you? What would you have done different? Just what the FUCK did you want? To be immortal? To live forever? To back up Houston Person on piano? Can't have it, son. Can't have it. Did you want to be Somebody Else? Did you want to be Me? Did you want to know what I have to know to sit here and write this shit? Well, I can't BELIEVE you. You're a LIAR. Play GODdamn loud. Play a song for who I Never Was, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for ME! So how does it feel? How does it FEEL to be on your OWN, Velveteen Rabbit?
I want you So Bad and Everybody must Get Stoned and all that, but I'm plowing STRAIGHT ahead, like the way I fought that bastard Luke Primo, I'm coming RIGHT at you, Daddy. The Best Place in America in which to write your memoirs is Chicago, because Chicago doesn't know nor Care just WHO the fuck you are. Even more so than New York City, it'll stone you when you're riding in your car. Yeah!
I used to think that Everybody in the World was thinking about Me. Well, that was swell of me to think that, Old Sport, because Nobody thinks about Anyone but Them, including myself. Until you shove an Eight up somebody's ass, they neither know nor care WHO the fuck you are, and why should they? Are you special? Are you Different? Well, so am I. And look where it got me.
What did you want? What DO you want, she asked me.
I want to be the biggest liar on the Face of the Earth. I want to have No Consequences for Jack FUCK I do. I wanna rock. ToNIGHT! And just who the fuck are you. 'Cause I really wanna know.
See, the thing about Being Human is that You Are One Scared Motherfucker. See? Deal with it. How? Coke, Heroin, E, K, God, Sex, Writing? Won't work. Won't get you Thru the Night, Babe. And neither will I. And I am going into this HEAD ON.
Why? Because I failed every other way, in those Years. Ob-La-Di-, Ob-La-Da, Brother. The Sky is the goddamn Limit for you.
So before we rack 'em up in Chi-Town, before we jump off a bridge somewhere in Minnesota or walk into a lake somewhere in England, I'm gonna sit here and Tell you just what I have learned, just what I came to Know in those Years.
Nothing. Nothing, except for maybe One Thing. I am scared, I am lonely, and I am Gonna Die. But That's not the Thing. The Thing is, that until you can WRITE this shit, the shit that's in your heart, until you get to the goddamn point where you do not give a RAT'S DICK about the petrified opinions from Other People's Failures, you are locked in tight, you're out of range.
I used to care. But things have changed. And thank God. Because with Change, the Sky is the Limit for You. Brother.
Don't let it pass you by.