NCLE STANLEY HAD ROLLED UP in his gold Deuce-and-a-Quarter into our driveway on Quinn Street, an immaculate ride with gangster white walls. Mack Daddy Pimps were the standard drivers of that kind of ride at that time in Detroit. Stanley was a scruffy old codger in his seventies, bald domed with a dirty fringe of gray over his ears and down his collar, lots of nostril hair, ear hole hair, two day double chin growth, jack-o-lantern tooth stumps.
He opened the driver door and promptly fell out onto the lawn. It was early summer and the grass was coming in lush. I tripped off the front porch into the early evening and helped him up. He was a load. The grass stains covering his work pants legs smelled good. He didn't. He was working all the time and making big money in his cast iron business doing decorative porch railings, fancy fences and gates. No time to bathe. Just work dawn to dusk with breaks to eat mountains of bad food in greasy spoons. Stanley was busy running his crew and with heavy drinking in the shop and out on the jobs, E & B beer and Kessler whiskey, oceans of it. He was drunk now.
We had been running the streets joined at the hip since April, since the fateful dark and rainy night of gamble and chance at our meeting and union at a Rock show at the Grande Riviera.
I was in an altered state myself. I had come home from work and lucked into an empty house. I put on the radio loud, dropped a couple caps of Tuinal and eased into the bath for a long soak. There was a girl in the neighborhood in my plans for the night. We really had something good going on.
I was nodding pleasantly when the radio was killed. The college station had played John Coltrane's India, then the derivative Eight Miles High by The Byrds, and then the entire Side One of Albert Ayler’s Spiritual Unity was going and then the music was snapped off to a din of TV, crockery banging and screams. "I want my Twinkie NOW!"
I had got Uncle Stanley up onto the porch and into a chair. He was collecting himself and getting a Pall Mall going. I lit a Kool. Stanley stuttered pretty good when he was excited. He rose up from the chair and into my face. He went into a monologue that sounded like a pop song of the day. It was scary. He was stealing my good buzz with those words spitting out of his bad breath mouth.
"Jackie.... I need ja....want ya....gotta have ya.....do the job.....do dat dere sod over dere.....sod dat plot over dere...over at Guardian Angel’s cemetery...over my Clara...gotta do sod now...no big full ledger stone now to cover her grave...I need ja to do da sod job." His eyes got bigger. "CASIMER SAID!"
Bridge was my Love Supreme. She was my baby lover girl and saving grace. We had been running the streets joined at the hip since April, since the fateful dark and rainy night of gamble and chance at our meeting and union at a Rock show at the Grande Riviera. The night that would turn into the crimson and drizzling morning of Aunt Clara’s burial.
In that April I was emerging out of a black patch. I was through with Mr. Jones, jaundice, Rock and Roll, and the vagaries of revolution, mass movements, low crimes and misdemeanors. I was on junkie leave of absence from the university in just my first year of study. Sex was a Soft Parade. The Summer of Love was long gone. I had totaled my ’62 Rambler. It was winter in amerika.
But I had a job. I was digging graves with artistic precision at Guardian Angel Cemetery. Poetry was my playground. I had an old Remington typewriter and a cot in the attic of the family home. I had a record player and Pharaoh Sanders, Sun Ra and Albert Ayler were my soundtrack. I was introduced and schooled in jazz by the MC5. But now Kick Out The Jams was anathema to me. I was a New Ghost growing in New Grass.
I had a rough work day and was passed out cold on my attic cot when I got a shout up the stairs that Katz was on the phone for me, a ghost from high school. I took his call. He was home from the seminary. The priest-dream was dead. He was in possession of the family car and proposed a trip to the Westside of the city, to a new venue, to a show of Jethro Tull and the Chicago Transit Authority.
“Christ. I don’t think I can do that. Let’s go downtown and find a bar that might serve us.”
Babes and Flashlights in Cemetery Land continues...