Had a kid come up to me today on the street (I may attract them: the guy in town once a week), my height, and say, "Hi, you're Carson's dad, right?" (pause). I nod, smile say, "Right". "Yeah, well, uh. . . do-you-remember-me?" I do but for some reason I say I don't. I'm trusting my instincts. So he goes into a whole song and dance about how he's hit hard times, and I can see it, it actually hurts me, too. I remember him vividly, or it seems the vividly is rushing to me and into my eyes and head as I listen to him talk, from some years ago when I was reading on the street in town for Katrina Hurricane relief. Making money with Greg Joly and we'd read a few hours on the street, at least once a week, and everyone thought we were preachers. Of course they never got close enough to us to hear actually what we were saying or doing, but that didn't stop them from having their forthright inaccurate opinions. We sent that money earned while reading down to New Orleans. None of the poets of the town would step near us, whatever poets there were. Greg told me they didn't, or wouldn't. I didn't care, who needs poets when you have street people, kids, children, dogs, bums, stragglers, smiling strangers. An ideal audience. We read this way for over two years. This kid coming up to me today was one of them and he would come with two of his buddies out of high school and the boys were beautiful boys, bright eyed and active, dreaming, sweeping with doubts and stumbles and hearts alive. They listened to us talk and read poems and the next day or the next day after that one, who knows, they came with money in hand to buy books. Wanted a signature. Left to go read. I could watch and feel their dedications. It was there. Today I see the best looking one of the three boys, actually handsome with a boldness Carson also once had, come to me bleary-eyed, rheumy in spots, hair dismissed to a gaudy henna something or other. He tells me he cuts his hair himself. Asks me how does it look? I say, not bad. "Chicks like it longer," he tells me. He says he figures you learn how to cut your hair by the shape of your face. He has a war torn and blitzed Kurt Cobain satchel over his shoulder. Hates it when people call him Kurt Cobain, because of the satchel and because, well, he does look a little bit like the dead grunge rocker. Now he asks me for money. Says he hates to do it so he asks the people he thinks he knows. I give him some money. Tell him I do remember him from some time ago. He has a Walkman in hand and the headphones are over his head. He can still hear me. Thanks me for the money. I move down to the door where I'll wait for a store to open. I watch him bum a cigarette from a bum. The bum takes out a packet of Bugle, they roll cigarettes and talk. Fifteen minutes later he is with me at the door, cigarette no longer lit flouncy in his mouth, about to talk more with me. A half hour's worth. He's looking half-baked. I'm just to listen. Sweetheart is with me, sitting on the concrete eating her brought from home breakfast pocket sandwich. She's taken her lovely shawl off to sit on it. The little crowd that usually comes to the store on this day is there and listens or watches me listen to my new friend who is unraveling. He situates between making perfect sense, even some brilliance, and absolutely no sense at all. Asks me like an eight year old girl again and again if he looks all right with his self-cut hairdo? Needs to know. Finally tells me he wants to be a writer. He's actually related to T.S. Eliot, and his middle name is "Eliot". He tells me his fully elegant and royally rich name. There's something about it all that I believe. There was one sentence he said during the whole visit of over a half hour of unadulterated bullshit that was indeed brilliant and could remind me of Eliot.
photo : young ts eliot