Raconteur Street Blues


I grew up around some of the great narcissists of our time. History won’t remember them, so I have to. They were great storytellers, who forged a knack for survival into an unequivocal hunger to live like kings. They spoke of riches and wealth that they couldn’t have possibly known, yet painted a picture so alluring we had no choice but to believe. They were raconteurs, wizards possessed of a singular illusion that painted the world in their image and presented it to us, as if it were ours.

A Raconteur is “a person who excels in telling anecdotes”. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/raconteur Also, an anecdote (Please note: I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence. I mean to provide clarity.) is “a usually short narrative of an interesting, amusing, or biographical incident”. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anecdote A raconteur is a great storyteller. I’ve always considered the word to be closer to ‘being a good bullshitter’, which is worth its weight in gold. Anyone can tell a story, but getting people to care is a miracle akin to walking on water.

Storytellers are plentiful. You can see them in coffee shops behind laptops, biding their time until they have a chance to share, connect and separate. It’s in that singular moment, where we connect, that things change. They can become dangerous in a moment’s notice, as they infect your mind with complex riddles that the storytellers have been working on since the dawn of time. You might wonder, ‘why would a person share such a riddle?’ you can’t think like that. It’s how any good storyteller wants you to think. They want you to assume they have no reason to hurt you. There’s no harm in believing what they believe. There’s no harm in believing them without question.

The thing that all decent ‘raconteurs’ must ask themselves periodically is ‘do I care more about myself than I do the story?’ I’ve lived among some of the great bullshitters of modern history. We heard plenty of stories growing up, yet so few of them added up in a way that it could make me care. The raconteurs possessed this trait that added depth to their stories, not just with what images they infused, but with how they made us feel. We felt involved. They tugged on our heartstrings and moved us toward an end that we couldn’t see. They possessed our future, as we waited for these mindless heathens to comb through the vast wasteland of their psyches in search of an end to whatever narrative they were painting.

Any good story comes from a single point. It’s not the beginning. It’s just a point. They wanted to make a point. They’d lie about having sex, so they’d present a narrative that made the possibility of them having sex seem possible. They’d plant a few mental images here and there, forming past and future around this premise. Ultimately, their goal was to forge a real, however unlikely, narrative, in order to make us believe.

The raconteurs believed what they said. The proof was in their words. They told us to take it from there, because taking a man at his word is as good as taking it in blood… at least when you’re a child. When we were kids we lied and it helped. We had impossible things to accomplish in a collapsing world full of poverty and the imminent threat of some incomprehensible bullshit. We had to hide sensitive information from our parents, while taking advantage of our God-like inertia, limitless energy and simple-mindedness. We had to prove to other kids that we were cool, while, at the same time, making our parents think we’d never do the cool things that get you into trouble. It added to our personal mystique, having accomplished nothing, we needed something to set us apart. We’d lie about drinking and drugs, losing our virginity, feats of the utmost stupidity… you know… harmless bullshit.

Truth is the trickiest thing. Everyone says they want it, but when it’s not something they agree with they have a reaction that makes you wonder. Truth. It’s a funny thing, because I could write out the truth as I see it and (hopefully) half of you would love me and the other would hate me. The trick for any good raconteur is understanding the right formula, while having as full an understanding as you can of the truth. I believe that you can’t write a decent story, even if it sounds like nonsense, without a sense of truth. It has to be written, spoken and lived with conviction. Truth has to appear in every word, exactly as you’ve seen it, while managing not to conflict with the truth, as it is. You should, as a good storyteller, align yourself with the truth in order to make your narrative more honest and compelling.

I never thought about truth when I was young enough to fall for these stories. The morality of lying, as one presents it to himself, so that he might further his ends, has become all the more staggering as I’ve reached adulthood. I’ve been trying to think of the right way to word this question. I doubt it’s perfect, but it needs to be asked. I’m curious as to what everyone believes:

Can you have a moral premise without any evidence?

Some raconteurs have no regard for the truth. In all honesty, as a kid I didn’t care. I was surrounded by some of the greatest storytellers of my time. I couldn’t be bothered to figure out how some of these impossible stories could be real. I believed with all my heart, because I was a stupid kid who still believed in Santa. (FYI I believed in ghosts for longer than I believed in Santa, but I also assumed the ghosts would grant a wish or needed my help or whatever.) These are men who have learned to lie in a way that ‘everyone believes that you believe what you say’. You believe them, no matter the evidence to the contrary, because they, not their narrative, hold up well against the barrage of truth that assaults them on all sides.

They’re not not-sympathetic characters. Their truth is a depressing harangue of emotion and pain that most couldn’t understand. What’s worse, they keep it to themselves. They keep it! They hide all that pain and suffering, but even more, they hide the truth! They move with such intent when they tell their stories, as if revealing a deeper, more significant wisdom, while simultaneously hiding it from the world. It’s in their emphatic gestures, their movements, as if their bodies shift depending on the tone of their narratives, not to mention their eyes… it’s in all these things that those of us who were forced to listen HAD to believe.

We believed it all the more, because we lived it. They borrowed from our lives and, in this way, we added to the false narrative. Storytelling is a necessary skill. It made us feel good in a time where people were laughing at us, because our river was full of poison and visitors had no reason to… visit. The pain of being alive could’ve shown itself in crime and self abuse. For us, it showed itself in acceptance of nonsensical bullshit and downright lies.

Near-possible realities were a simple narrative that captured our attention, which begs the question: why do they need our attention? Evil raconteurs are like evil yogis. You can assume they don’t exist, as if there is no darkness when there is also light, but this is another simple narrative that’s easy to digest. The simple narrative is used to ensnare. You don’t need to talk about angels to be a good raconteur. You have to make people believe. This is that much more significant. You MAKE people believe. You take them on a journey, where they start out as a skeptic and then, through a few twists and turns… holy shit… you just made someone believe in angels.

(Also, if you don’t make them believe, you at least allow them to suspend reality for a time, which is kinda the same, although I admit there are differences.)

Making people believe and sharing with them a deeply personal truth is about as different as water and oil.

For what it’s worth, they thought they were kings, but that never stopped them from fighting to become that oh-so desirable, and unquestioned ruler of the universe. They lied and stole and fought, but the stories to me became all the more touching. These people, the Raconteurs, were at war with themselves, as well as the truth and as well as a circumstance of poverty and extreme depravity, which was plentiful, in our ever-collapsing society. They fought for freedom: the freedom to be as insane and harmful to oneself as you can get. They fought to make the world a weird place.

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The Bottle Men

Image of our Ancestors… I guess.


For a longer time than I can remember, the homeless have been presented as a thing, this massive structure that seems impossible to break down or an ocean, because it would be impossible to disseminate a drop of rain from the largest body of water on the planet. The homeless in this country lose their identity and, after a while, they all start to look the same. Even if they look different, after a while something happens where you don’t pay attention. You see them, but it’s like seeing a tree in someone’s office. You don’t think about it. You shut off. They blend into the scenery to such a point that nobody says anything and the world moves on.

It’s when you break down certain levels of poverty that you realize there even are levels. Homeless isn’t the furthest decline into poverty. If anything, it might be nearest the beginning. It depends on who you talk to, if indeed you can talk to anyone. The homeless aren’t always one for conversation. Some need a lot of help and have fallen so far that talk isn’t good enough. They move shiftlessly, like ghosts trying to find their own plane of existence. They have a way of blending in that’s quite miraculous, for although they share the same appearance of grime and disease collected over tattered clothes layered on top of one another for warmth and utility, each of them has a singular destiny relative to his condition.

The Bottle Men are nothing unique to our city. They wander around with steel baskets that they wheel around and fill with bottles. They get their donations from neighbors and businesses. They live among us, and aren’t a they, which is to say they aren’t a group. They’re individuals who make their living off recycling. They pick up the bottles that people don’t want to return and bring them to their recycling centers to get some cash. It isn’t glamorous, but it allows them to exist. I think it’s important to examine this story, because, although it’s not the lowest level of poverty, it’s somewhere within that delicate strata and deserves thorough inspection. It isn’t that they’re desperate, although some of them most likely are, it’s that they’re made to be. They’re made into ‘The Homeless’, when these are individuals under a certain set of stimuli that become a certain way. Their conditions are unique, despite ending up the same, I assure you they’re quite different.

Then, I guess we could ask, what creates this massive body of water that we call ‘The Homeless’, but does that really have one answer? I assume that they’re generated from across the river. They walk along the bridge and ask a question of the Sphinx that guards it. If the Sphinx can’t answer they’re allowed to pass. If he can, he must eat their hearts. You’d think we’d have more bodies washing up along the shore, but the river goes on forever. It’s our protector against the endless sea. If you’d just go over to the other side, you could see them sleeping beneath the overpass, roaming the streets around the mission that’s a block away from the bridge.

Some don’t care about bottles. They’ll scribble a few desperate words on cardboard and wait for passersby to hand over a few bucks. It gets repetitive on your way to work, day after day, as the place remains the same, yet the homeless person changes. I don’t know if there is an agency of homeless that take turns waiting at the same spots, but something must happen, some arrangement of stimuli to make them flock, like birds heading south for the winter. Something clicks in their minds that they have to be here at this time, always the same times each day.

Time seems all the more important to the homeless. You’d think they wouldn’t have anywhere to be, being homeless, but they shuffle in patterns, like the tides that come with morning and night along the river. When night comes, the tide moves in, when its’ gone so is the tide. Morning comes and the homeless move. Five o’clock comes with that rush of traffic and the homeless become vigilant. They follow a rhythm that has yet to be determined, as I doubt many scientists are looking into the migration habits of Bottle-men or the virulent mating season of people that live under the bridge.

Jahua the Debtor


Every city has a spirit and, perhaps a few are schizophrenic, because they could have many. The frantic nature of the world can create several voices that those within the confines of a city are compelled to follow. As to which voice you follow or which you hear, this could depend on several factors that I know nothing about. The voices are out there, summoning us to their whims in ways that remain beyond our comprehension.

Where we’re moved, we must at least hope, is in the name of good. Some spirits, however, choose no sides. They follow their whims and desires. Their means and goals are their own. They’re tricksters, because we can’t tell what they want. They do as they please, breezing through realities, as if they own them.

In this town, there are a few homes that leave out bags of bottles as an offering to such sacred tricksters. Usually, it’s the keepers of this faith that come to obtain these sacred offerings. The keepers of this faith are known as ‘the bottle men’, as they walk around with metal carts full of cans and bottles, in honor of their gods.

From time to time, an enigmatic figure appears on the streets of our city that appears to be just another ‘bottle man’, but is in fact a creature with intimate knowledge of other worlds. He wears a thick robe that covers most of his body. His eyes are silver and change to red when he’s mad. He carries a pack over his back that looks empty, but holds inside it the souls of countless vanquished enemies.

When a soul is stolen from its owner, the person remains as an empty shell of himself. The soul departs from his body, as in death, and he remains in a comatose state, for which he might never escape. The souls come from across the universe. Jahua wanders throughout the cosmos returning to those he’s defeated to mock them. He makes them pay for their souls with one penny a day. The interest he charges ensures they’ll never pay off his debt. Jahua goes door to door collecting his tariff and for those he’s yet to meet, he must go and challenge.

Jahua the Debtor comes to your door and waits to be welcomed, whereby he’ll come inside. He’ll drink nothing that you give him, take nothing that is offered. He sees it as owing you for your hospitality and takes it as an offense. Nobody knows what the challenge is, just that it’s some form of card game. The victim never seems to remember much, just the deck of neatly folded cards and glossy black. People have claimed to have bested Jahua, but have no proof. The effects of defeat are always obvious, as the color in a victim’s skin turns pale, their eyes become lifeless and without hope and their teeth rot into a vulgar yellow.

Jahua has taken his time in procuring the souls of the city, although he doesn’t have us all. It becomes necessary for those in the city to take precautions. Some of us never answer our doors. Jahua is a master of disguise and can even take the appearance of a close loved one. He cannot enter under an arch, so many people make their entryway into one to prevent his advance. This has been written off as ‘mere superstition’, however, several homes continue to make arches for their doorways, as a meager hope to fend off the offensive debtor and keep their homes intact.

Ballad o’ Brother Bear

Image result for spirit bearMashaReinI’maDoinyamom

I expect to live in a country where we’re allowed to make up words… just don’t expect my sympathy when you’re subpoenaed for a military tribunal. You can’t expect to commit such an audacious crime and express yourself without consequence. We all should have reasonable concern for those who make up language, because they go beyond our reasonable interpretations and make up their own. What if that’s all that language is? What if we’re clinging to a vocabulary that only makes sense to us? You could be talking in your own words, as if every conversation is between you and your imaginary friend! Then, there are those words that lose their meaning over time. If they don’t disappear entirely, that is, they become something else. They’re just words without any symbolism in our psyche to cling to and further themselves into the future. This is written in honor of those words.

Doesn’t ‘Masha-Rein-A-Ma-Doo-A-Ma-Da’ sound suspiciously like an Irish version of the N.W.A. song   ‘Fuck the Police’?   No… it’s just ‘Whiskey in the Jar’. The tale is about a highwayman who robs a British official, then comes home to find his wife cheating… not just cheating, but having sex with said British official. A-masha rein a-ma-doo a-ma-da!

The Ballad of Brother Bear:

(Now, remember it is a ballad and you must repeat ‘Masha-Rein-A-Ma-Do-A-Ma-Da’ as often as you wish) Lookin’ to the stars one night, I see ol’ brother bear, whose grinnin’, snearin’, snarlin’ teeth warned give’a bit’a care. For ‘neath the seamly starry sky I prayed for sweet surrender to cast down on the land of Tul and any mine offender. Beneath the glisten, guiding stars shines light to sling and pebble, ask God to grant me ‘gregious sin in blood be born the rebel. Takin’ sling and steady fast to rabid, dreadful creature, an’ as he spotted his demise I sent him to the preacher. Walkin’ with this wondrous night I thought against my blunder, for hopin’ for a wish fulfilled and saintly sinful plunder. But as I entered to my home I heard the head-board rattlin’ and lyin’ deeds of sweet Elise, our creaking bed was tattlin’. I walked in with an angered roar, and neither could be bothered, as sweet Elise was in delights, which she had ever wondered. Takin’ Tommy from my wall I let off two-click’s thunder, Ol’ sweet Elise arose from bed, t’was Brother Bear she’s under. That bastard bear, he smiled, with the wicked scar upon him, it seemed despite my murd’rous ways my wish was lookin’ grim. Readied wretched weapon toward the twinkle in his eyes, quick to catch the fates, who would make turn with my surprise. For as I readied him to death it was my sweet Elise, who would not let ol’ Brother Bear unto his damned release. She cried and poured her love upon him, ‘spite our sacrament, and even in his wicked deed ’tis I could not lament. His eyes upon me, in this moment we could see the humor and we could laugh as brothers, who should’a let the joke go sooner…….

There you go… a bear fucked his girl-friend… have a Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

The Forgetful Root Scripture

“To be radical is to go to the root and the root is man.” -Erich Fromm

Memory is this great big root that’s different in all of us, because we all have different experiences that allow it to grow stronger, dig deeper and compel our spirits toward the future. Causalities arise because of the root, which is somehow connected between body and mind and held strong by remembering this connection. In some, the memory is not so strong and the root is maintained, while it doesn’t offer any form of extenuation that would otherwise help it grow. Instead, the root maintains a solitary path without the minute branches that would allow it to thrive.

These minute branches are what maintain certain pockets of resistance against the memory that strengthens the connection between body and mind. There’s often significant memories lost in the mire of these small branches, although it can also be tedious moments out of our lives that the mind sees no reason to remember. If you focus on a memory it grows like a weed. It can overwhelm the powerful root of all your memories and before you know it nothing of your past is remembered beyond this single weed that has grown out of control.

It’s a selective process, but in order to ensure that no single weed overwhelms it, the mind works to cut away these branches and keep itself as sturdy as possible. There’s no telling which memory will be the next to assume the mantel of authority inside you, as the mind has no way of clarifying which connection is right or wrong. It just connects. Something connects and a weed grows out of control. There’s no honorable mention. Everything just happens without causality.

It’s a selective memory that rules the world and it starts with every root within every person. We cling to these memories inside us and the root is sustained, while we forget certain things about ourselves. As long as we remember who we are, everything is fine. However, we might miss these branches, for they provide the details that no one else will ever understand, except for you. It’s very personal. Only you can determine the worth of a memory. Otherwise, you’re just a man or woman, a person, a living thing with wrinkles under your eyes to show your age, like the rings of a tree.

The little things about you are what connect these roots to the outside world. They connect us, because out there in the distance is another branch of another person’s root who wants nothing more than to connect. The roots are unique and yet, somehow, out of the vastness of the cosmos, they find a way to connect with other roots that infest this universe. It might be a singular connection, a point in reality where two distant bodies meet, but it’s still significant, because two roots that meant nothing to the world somehow find their way. All signs pointed to the roots drying out under the sun, like a worm that came up for too long after a storm, but somehow, they beat the odds and proved to the cosmos that they belonged.

If we choose not to acknowledge this connectivity it disappears. The roots don’t go away, however, but the chance to connect is gone. It creates this horrible gnarled appearance out of the roots, as one reaches out to the other, while the other pulls away. They offer their warmth against the cold expanse of the cosmos and are refused. Their roots die out. They gave too much of themselves in order to reach you. Even you, in acknowledging this connectivity, will lose a bit of yourself. You’ll never regain this connection if it goes ignored for too long. The energy between you will die out and the world will move on.

The connection isn’t always easy to spot, but when you do, it’s most likely because of these branches that connect to the thick root of our memory. You lose some of yourself over the years and maybe that makes the root into a coarse thing full of barbs and nooses, something that appears far more treacherous than it is.

Two neighbors, Aldus Grim and Mekhi the Red, choose hatred over what they share in common. For some, hatred provides for them a sense of importance, which I think strengthens the will of the deeply ingrained root of their memories. In this way, they are connected, although their hatred will never bring them together. I think that maybe they just don’t see. Aldus the Grim used to be exactly like Mekhi the Red. Aldus got a girl pregnant very young. He was a punk and never quite grew out of it. The difference is in age and experience. Aldus worked his entire life to support his family, while Mekhi is at the very beginning, with two kids and two jobs. His girlfriend works as well, but has another child wrestling around in her belly. Aldus had three children and now lives alone. His wife died only a few years ago. The constant appearance of misery on his face never really changed, not with her death, not with anything I can remember. Alcohol helped him through the misery and Mekhi is much the same. He’ll have his parties, which get too loud for Aldus, who usually calls the cops.

Their connection is to keep away from one another, because they know that they share a branch of reality. One is the future. The other is the past. They are one within the same cycle.  They work hard to stay away so that they don’t have to acknowledge their condition. Whether they should be coming together, well, who can say for sure? You’d like it to be possible for Aldus to reach out and help, maybe seeing some of himself in this young man who went down the same path as him, but that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Maybe it’s because that connection to himself, and not to Mekhi the Red, died long ago. Maybe the root is reaching out through Mekhi, trying to reach him, as his root withers into the future. Maybe it’s his past self calling out, begging him to understand that he was a young fool once. Now, he’s an old fool and the moment is gone. It’s much simpler to believe that youthful version of you no longer exists. He had to refuse it in order to survive and thus, it no longer exists.