Inhibitions

How can you write if you cannot imagine something in all its horrifying, gruesome, most intimate details. No matter how taboo the topic, the writer must write about it without hesitation or reservation. If we censor our writing, so it is only appealing to the masses, then we limit ourselves and our ability to tell intricate stories. Our ability to live inside our characters, to feel their emotions, to breath as they do, is what makes the tragic hero, the despicable villain, the cheating husband, the buoyant teen. Without our ability to see as they do, feel as they feel, emote as they emote, we just have soul-less avatars filling prolix pages between two artfully constructed covers.

If the writer is inhibited, then their writing will be the same, and if the writer is embarrassed and holds back, this will show. Do not be reticent, instead write as foul mouthed as your character wants to be, allow your character to be who they are supposed to be, how you envision them in your head. I for one think back to all the books that were banned, and, well, I wouldn’t mind my work being put on the shelf, nestled next to those authors.

Check it out

A story of mine has been featured on the blog site Drinkers with Writing Problems. I thought it perfect to submit a drinking story, or a story about drinking.

 

http://drinkerswithwritingproblems.com/2015/03/03/david-jester-blackout/

http://drinkerswithwritingproblems.com/contributors-3/guest-writers/david-jester/

 

 

 

Shock troops of Gentrification

While the hipster seems to be the unwilling and unknowing shock troops for gentrification, their intent is not malicious or deceptive. It is with great admiration that I begin to write about hipsters, and hopefully those reading this will understand that the media tends to stereotype groups with a banality that borders on neuroses. And what we know of the hipster stereotype is far from any truth imaginable.

In Portland, Maine we  see the current process of gentrification, as it has been and is occurring in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and how it is changing the city. Now what is occurring in Portland is what Sharon Zukin describes in her book Naked City , discussing the urban environment, and what Richard Lloyd discusses in Neo-Bohemia as he analyzed the culture of Wicker Park Chicago in the eighties to the late nineties. What they both notice in their work is that post-industrial areas seem to attract a bohemian crowd, a group of like minded individuals who want to come together, and form communities, neighborhoods, where they can be around people who share similar traits and qualities. To be honest I find this normal, and in no way out of the ordinary. If you are a liberal who is anti-gun, pro-choice, and pro- immigration rights you don’t choose to move to Texas thinking there will be a plethora of individuals who will share you passion for your beliefs. Instead you find an area that suits your needs better.

These artists, bohemians, hipsters, how about just plain people, see the attraction, appeal, and even beauty of these post-industrial complexes and in renovating them, create a community which brings mass appeal to others. In doing so, they begin to renovate neighborhoods that would be untouched before, and unaccessible to the general public out of fear of crime and lack of public services. By doing what all other people do, enhance their own surroundings and try and find affordable housing, they create an area that is livable again out of a wasteland that would otherwise have crumbled and disappeared into oblivion, as time seeped into the cracked mortar between bricks, slowing cleaving the old dilapidated structures in two. In creating a livable environment though, unfortunately the vultures begin to buzz overhead, unbeknownst to these homesteading urban pioneers.

As the bricks are mended and storefronts fill up with boutiques, coffee houses, yoga studios, used bookstores, bars, and restaurants, this creates an inevitability which is unfortunate and out of the hands of these initial entrepreneurs. Rents begin to rise, more new stores fill in, and older bodega’s, corner bars, and other small businesses which once filled these storefronts, begin to disappear. As Zukin notes, this isn’t a bad thing, it is the beginning of a cycle, the genesis of a neighborhood. But, this is where gentrification occurs. It is not at the hands of the initial urban pioneers who cleaned the neighborhood, bringing in art galleries and coffee shops, but at the developers and real estate investment firms, that we begin to see the neighborhood’s landscape altered.

Eventually rents raise so high that the boutiques and coffee shops catering to hipsters, bohemians, and artists begin to disappear, replaced by chain stores. Not chains like Wal-mart or Target, these still would have no market here, but chains that are regionally based, usually within the city, or specific stores that cater to that lifestyle. In Williamsburg, clothing stores from Manhattan have opened chains within the neighborhood limits, and in Portland, Maine hotels and restaurants seem to be the commodity of investors in the Old Port.

As the process of gentrification goes into full swing, housing begins to change the landscape, and older homes are bought up and torn down for development of luxury apartments and condominiums. In Portland this is happening on the East End and Munjoy Hill, while in Williamsburg this is happening right on the waterfront where the old factories have been torn down to make way for luxury riverfront apartments. This is an unfortunate matter of fact that was not anticipated by these urban pioneers who sought to create their own neighborhoods, and bask in their own created environment. What has occurred is the area is now desirable, and people from outside want to live amongst the hip, the cool, the tres Brooklyn. This is the unfortunate side effect of these bohemian hipster neighborhoods.

Eventually rents raises so high that the original bohemians, artists, hipsters, urban pioneers, can no longer afford to live there, and must move out of the neighborhoods they helped create and design. And this opens the door for super gentrification, as Zukin calls it. But that is another conversation all together.

 

The Hipster….or Is It?

The hipster is a media invention to further categorize a subculture of individuals. In my recent research I have observed that there are hipsters, but there are not. First off, who is responsible for creating a category of a people. Who has the authority to group a people together, homogenize their characteristics, and then come out with a name which somehow, becomes their identification? This always complicates research when you begin to delve into thoughts such as this, and ponder questions of a more esoteric nature.

The hipster exists, in the sense that the media and mainstream culture has created the designation, and then adorned a group of individuals with such a name. It is like designating an area of nature as a national park. In doing this we somehow change the landscape of that natural wonder just by placing a moniker upon it, altering the lens through which we view this area. Now this is not to say that the identifiers–traits, idiosyncrasies, characteristics–that are attributed to the hipster subculture are not accurate, that would be far from the truth. But a problem arises from this. To simply categorize a subculture on identifiers is such a hollow undertaking, it smacks of typecasting. So the newspapers, magazines, newscasts all take this name, this category, and begin the conversation on this group of individuals, which then lends credence to the belief and existence of hipsters. You begin to see books written on such, and it becomes a catchy phrase–sometimes good and sometimes out of disdain. Whatever it may be though, this is an invented name. But, this then leads to something else, isn’t everything invented? Isn’t it all a cultural construct?

The hipster exists, and is a person who does not self identify as such, which poses the unique conundrum, are there really hipsters? This interesting dynamic has much depth and philosophical thought propelling it forward. Because again, who creates identities such as “hipster?” Who holds the cultural authority to lump a group of people with like characteristics into one category and ignore the fact there are so many facets to one human being, let alone thousands and millions? A group of people will always be heterogeneous, no matter how many similarities they possess. So the hipster exists on paper and in my research, as an easy way to show similarities between a group of people who have come together, existing in close proximity to each other, in communities they help mold and create through an immense entrepreneurial spirit which is fascinating and inspiring. For the public at large, “hipster” exists for people to easily identify and find comfort in the ability to categorize another human, with a quick judgement based on exterior features. This quick reference tool, is what we do everyday in life.

But in the end, the hipster does not exist. The hipster is a myth, a phantasm, an illusion. Because how can you say a person is something, if they truly believe they are not? Remember, its all a cultural construct.

No bet too far

As as firefighter, I tend to work with men, who, you could say, have twisted, sick, morbid, and dark senses of humors–and I, in no way, exclude myself from this. As a result, we tend to fill our down time at work swapping stories of crazy calls, reminiscing about calls that are memorable, and, also, placing bets–dares for a lack of better terms. For me it first started with a chiclet, forgotten, hidden behind a stocked supply shelf in a Burger King store room. This little square, candy-coated piece of gum rested on the dirty, greasy, reddish-brown tiled floor. A piece of rat shit stuck to it, poison pellets were sprinkled all along the floor around it. My lieutenant picked this piece up between his fingers, and holding it up so nonchalantly said “Eat it.” Five dollars later, I snatched that tainted piece of  gum so quickly from his fingertips, and popping it in my mouth, sealed my fate as the man who eagerly takes bets.

Over the years, bets became more and more excessive, and so too did the money which exchanged hands. I graduated from a chiclet to an onion. That horrid, disgusting onion. Like bitter poison, I chewed half that white, rotund, bulb, like an apple in fifteen seconds, and then vomited in my mouth. The bile mixed with that acidic vegetable, burned my throat and turned my stomach. The rest of the night I stank, reeking of B.O., as I sat cramped in the back of the ambulance, my poor patients subjected to my stink. I lost that bet, not having eaten the whole onion in forty-five seconds, one of the few bets I left incomplete.

Just so you know, if you eat a magazine, pieces of articles do not come out in your fences–I know that has been plaguing you for years. So, yeah, they spared me the grief of having to eat the glossy cover, but that was the only quarter I received. Each flimsy, thin, ink printed page of the Northern Tool Catalog was slowly ripped out and crinkled up into a little ball. Chewing slowly, it was like the most dense, thick, bubblegum, I had ever masticated, and with a large gulp, it was gone. One hundred and fifty pages later, only the covers remained.

We like to go out as a crew, drink together, commiserate, party hard. The rock music from the local band pounded the walls of the shit bar. Stale beer wafted in the air as our shoes stuck to the floor, each step walking in wet sand, as our soles pulled on the tacky wood. He wiped the wet table with the two napkins and unscrewed the cap on the salt shaker. Wet napkins become paper maché. They became two liquor soaked spitballs. It was like a slag shot in my mouth, all the liquors combined off the tabletop. It was horrendous, but it was nothing compared to the shaker of salt. My tongue was numb for days. Hell, that sixties dollars paid for my drinks that night.

The Worcestershire Sauce was the worst. It makes my stomach turn, to think about it now years later. The pint glass was dark and salty. It tasted horrible, it wasn’t even genuine, it was generic. Salt, garlic, onion, salt, and more salt. Eighty dollars was a steep price, one I could not avoid. The pint of liquid went down easily, but it tasted disgusting nonetheless. The few minutes after, my tastebuds left me. There was nothing left but a stinging in my mouth. My tongue seemed removed from my body, ripped from my mouth, a lifeless paralyzed appendage. This was not the worst part. An instant perspiration enveloped me, and like an open faucet, sweat soaked my clothing. I had never experienced something so erratic. I sweat like I had just run a marathon mid-July. Stripping, I lay on the tile floor of the bathroom, the cold small squares of ceramic cooling my bare skin. I lay in a puddle of my own salty moisture, while my body excreted thousands, upon thousands, of milligrams of sodium, instinctually protecting itself. But, hey, I made eighty bucks.

There were others, many other bets, some never completed due to the recession. There was the Bisquick, the fan, the matchbox car bus, the letter opener, and many others. Oh, yeah can’t forget about the chili peppers, snorting, not eating. No joke–some guys withdrew bets because of monetary hardship. You can’t make this shit up. I made some money over the years, but I guess, in the end, it wasn’t the money, but the stories that were created, and the pleasure I brought to those guys. And, hey, everyone loves a risk taker, right?

 

Clown Torture, or a Tortured Clown?

I found an odd and unsettling sense of serenity in that darkened room where the painted faced clown screamed at me. His repetitious impression of a spoiled child, supine, legs kicking in the air, his fists pounding the floor, screaming “No! No! No!” was, for some odd reason, comforting to me, in fact, enthralling. This video image looped on the silver screen, positioned flat against the wall, over and over again, his shining yellow and red striped satin paints, seeming to billow with every kick of his legs, and the white frill around his neck very old fashioned.

The walls of the room were black, so black they seemed to eat all light emitted from the projectors overhead and four small, nineteen inch tvs, two stacks of two, which projected the nightmarish images of painted faces and brightly colored gaudy outfits. Across the room from the paroxysmal clown, was the same clown, on a twelve foot by twelve foot silver screen, sitting on a toilet, his pants around his knees, fumbling with a newspaper, which kept falling from his hands. Wedged between the walls of a dirty public restroom stall, this clown shifted uncomfortably, constantly fumbling with a large newspaper, while the sounds of pedestrians entering the bathroom could be heard around him.

There was something soothing in those sounds.

I felt at home in the cinematographic lamp light, with the screams echoing through those darkened walls, images of brightly painted clowns, inundating me from all sides.

Bruce Nauman, what a genius?

There was something hypnotic about it, something confusing, yet enthralling. Fascinating, it was goddamn fascinating.

I wondered, what would it be like to walk into the Art Institue of Chicago, day after day, and sit in this room, bathed in the halogen lamp glow, watching screaming clowns. I wonder, would that be torture?

Occupations

The prostitute whistled back to her pimp, with every loud, echoing clap, of his cupped hands. Out the window I could see a dreary fog hanging in the sky, turning the streetlights into a twinkling luminescence. The neighborhood seemed quiet, an eery pall draped over the old, cobbled street. I could hear the click of her heels on the sidewalk with every step she took, like two wooden blocks being smacked together by a toddler at play. There was a slow rhythm to her gait, and the cadence seemed very methodical, very intentional, as if someone out for a slow, sauntering stroll. Her sundress swished in the moist night, as a cool, early autumn breeze, blew a few dry leaves in her direction. Her skin pimpled from the cold, she rubbed her arms for warmth, as each drop of moisture in the air floated listlessly, separated in the murky light.

A loud thunderous clap, thrice, came from around the corner of the street, and placing fingers to her lips, she whistled a shrill, ear piercing sound, twice, continuing her rounds. The hushed street, her office, and she strolled down the sidewalk, familiar with every crevice, every fissure, which frost had heaved in the concrete surface. Watching her, it was as if she floated down the street, with a subtle and hidden grace. Her feet moved deftly atop the concrete, her heels belying her height, and she moved as if on a fashion runway, toe to toe, head held high, yet she did not exude the confidence that models show. Her head, held high, her eyes gazed to the heavens with a wistful stare, as if she could somehow peer through the fog and twinkling lamplight, to see the celestial bodies above.

Her brunette tipped, blond hair, fluttered in the slight breeze, and bracing herself against the chill, she hugged her chest, rubbing her long bony fingers across her shoulders. She looked haggard, like a skeleton in a loose hanging skin suit, and in the tenebrous light, her eyes seemed to sink in her head, dark sockets void of any life. Jewelry hung from her spindly wrists, almost falling off her hands, the small bobbles and beads seeming to weigh down her spaghetti arms. Somewhere in the distance, masked by the fog, three booming claps reverberated through the mist. Her whole body heaved with an frustrated sigh, and she flung herself onto the concrete wall next to my apartment window. Cupping hands over her face, sobs broke their way through the glass, which separated the two of us. She did not whistle back, but instead, he did. This time a sharp, strident whistle came from the fog, one loud shrill blast. She uncupped her hands and clapped, thrice, and the night went silent.

She sat there for quite a while, the fog, a moist blanket embracing her body. Her hair hung straight and wet onto her shoulders, she sat there, still, in the cool brume of early autumn. Standing up, she slowly wiped her fingers under her eyes, wiping away the mascara, which smeared on her cheeks. With the same fastidious step as before, she moved down the block, a sharp click of each heel. As she moved away from the window, her figure began to dissipate into the fog, but before dissolving into the grey, she stopped under a streetlamp. The dull orange light basked a glow over her, and she seemed to take on a warm feature. From the abysmal night came three booming claps, and placing her fingers to her lips, she whistled to this unrevealed character, and wiping a tear away from her eye, she moved into the consuming darkness.

Her silhouette faded into the dark fume as she moved down the street. Eventually she faded into oblivion, her features all waning from my view. Occasionally, as I sat in that window seat, I could hear the loud, thunderous claps, followed by a shrill whistle. An empty, hollow, despondent whistle.

The Corner Bar

I sat at the bar. The dark, dank, smoke stained and saturated wood panel walls, create an atmosphere of comfort, and I languish in its embrace. Over the old, poly’d bar-top, hang three stained glass lamps, Schlitz mosaically emblazoned in blood red, against a field of green and yellow glass, held together by poorly soldered lead–small streaks of the poisonous metal trailing down shards of glistening colored glass. Encased by these hemispheres, dull, forty watt, yellowish bulbs, strain to brighten the room, but it is as if the lost hopes and damaged dreams of the patrons, swallow the light, which struggles against the stygian gloom. In the corner, an old, outdated, cigarette vending machine still occupies a space lost in time, as if a temporal vortex has opened up a conduit, a wormhole, transporting this bar space to the 1970s. The only update, that makes this machine modern, is the dollar changer, which is affixed to the wood veneered machine. The handle’s clear, molded plastic pull knobs, are no longer transparent, but yellowed with age, as if the  nicotine, which stains so many white mustaches of habitual smokers tawny, has jumped from their tobacco stained fingers, to the knobs themselves.

This bar, which lives in two times, torn between the old and the ever changing present–the quickening technology of this age–has a digital jukebox attached to a wall, down and across from the bar. Its blue digital light, simulating neon, encircles the device which spits out heavy metal, 80’s rock, hair bands, and the occasional indie rock song. The small confine of the bar space echoes the music louder, as there is one volume, excessive. The patrons, all lined up on stools at the bar, sitting along the wall, and standing in any open space, don’t seem to notice the deafening sound, and instead their stentorian voices commingle with the music, creating a cacophony of revolting conversation and death metal.

A ‘Gansett in hand, and cheap shot of Old Crow sitting next to it, my writing ambitions wane away. Like an hour glass, my zeal for literary pursuits are grains of sand, slowly sifting, dropping into oblivion, one astringent sip at a time. Pen in hand, and composition book open, I spill a drop of amber colored liquid, of what passes for whisky, onto the clean, virginal, white page, lined by a pale, cornflower blue. No words to spare, I tap my pen against the empty space, the void of memory, the dearth of prose, which builds a frustration inside me.

Tipping back the tallboy ‘Gansett, the bartender comes over. Her wrinkled hand touches mine as she seeks my attention.

“Nother, hun.”

“Sure thing.”

I turn my attention back to the bar. The couple sitting in the dark corner practically fucking, the hipster picking music off the jukebox, the older woman sitting next to me, her flaxen dry hair cut to a bob, they are all rich characters. These are my people, my characters, they inhabit the pages of my notebook, and find their way into my stories. They may never know it, but they will be immortalized in words, and their essence, even if it is a small, superficial bit, transferred to some literary persona. Their actions are fodder for my work, and farmed like potatoes plucked from the field, but that is for later. Tonight, I drink.

As I tip back the can, I converse with the woman next to me. We drink, we commiserate, and I find a character, the lonely barfly, the empty vessel, the lost soul, and then I wonder, what character will she play?

A Muse of Utter Convenience

Goddamn you Muse. Goddamn you. You touch my shoulder and whisper into my ear at the worst times. You tickle my neck with your verbose lips as you run your soft fingertips through my hair. But why, oh why, must you do this while I am driving. Why must you visit me when I am entrenched in work, elbow deep in blood, or in the heat of a blazing inferno. You entice me, and force your words into my thoughts, but I sit there impotent, unable to act on your foreplay. You fill my mind with beautiful prose, multisyllabic lines with such deep enthralling content, and I am afraid of losing it forever, vanished inside my alcohol addled brain.

So you are a tease, a constant tease. I sit, staring at the screen, typing away at the keyboard with droll content barely eking from my mind, but when I am walking through the woods, with no implements to write or duplicate my thoughts, you come to me. My hands firmly grasping the wheel of my vehicle, plying the interstate at high speeds, you sit in the passenger seat, just rambling on and on, never halting your speech for even a breath. Why must you be so difficult?

And then there are those nights, those dark, cold nights, when you slither into bed, curling up next to me, whispering sweet loquacious sentences into my ear. You curl your warm body against mine, interjecting the most garrulous topics into my dreams, which render down to beautiful stanzas and prose. In a stupor I sit up, grasping at the last lines remembered in the painterly visions of my sleepy hallucinations, clinging at hope that I can scribble the pleonastic utterance of my mind’s characters.

Oh, Muse of mine. Let’s set a date, a schedule on my calendar. We can meet on the days I am free to write, or you know, just drop by whenever the feeling strikes you, like when I am walking through a museum, engrossed in the quietude of art, you know a time of utter convenience. Please, come to me whenever you feel like, but I would prefer you to schedule your visits in advance. Oh, and next time, bring a bottle of wine. I prefer red.