Joe McCarthy's Ghost

The Minutemen @ 9:30 club, 1984

Metamorphosis (pg. 142)

—Stephanos Dedalos! Bous Stephanoumenos! Bous Stephaneforous!

Their banter was not new to him and now it flattered his mild proud sovereignty. Now, as never before, his strange name seemed to him a prophecy. So timeless seemed the grey warm air, so fluid and impersonal his own mood, that all ages were as one to him. A moment before the ghost of the ancient kingdom of the Danes had looked forth through the vesture of the hazewrapped city. Now, at the name of the fabulous artificer, he seemed to hear the noise of dim waves and to see a winged form flying above the waves and slowly climbing the air. What did it mean? Was it a quaint device opening a page of some medieval book of prophecies and symbols, a hawklike man flying sunward above the sea, a prophecy of the end he had been born to serve and had been following through the mists of childhood and boyhood, a symbol of the artist forging anew in his workshop out of the sluggish matter of the earth a new soaring impalpable imperishable being?

His heart trembled; his breath came faster and a wild spirit passed over his limbs as though he were soaring sunward. His heart trembled in an ecstasy of fear and his soul was in flight. His soul was soaring in an air beyond the world and the body he knew was purified in a breath and delivered of incertitude and made radiant and commingled with the element of the spirit. An ecstasy of flight made radiant his eyes and wild his breath and tremulous and wild and radiant his windswept limbs.

—One! Two! ...Look Out!

—O, Cripes, I’m drownded!

—One! Two! Three and away!

—Me Next! Me next!

—One! …Uk!


His throat ached with a desire to cry aloud, the cry of a hawk or eagle on high, to cry piercingly of his deliverance to the winds. This was the call of life to his soul not the dull gross voice of the world of duties and despair, not the inhuman voice that had called him to the pale service of the altar. An instant of wild flight had delivered him and the cry of triumph which his lips withheld cleft his brain.


What were they now but cerements shaken from the body of death—the fear he walked in night and day, the incertitude that had ringed him round, the shame that had abased him within and without—cerements, the linens of the grave?

His soul had arisen from the grave of boyhood, spurning her graveclothes. Yes! Yes! Yes! He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a living thing, new arid soaring and beautiful, impalpable, imperishable.

--James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Hot Engine Heart

Flying the Flag

Months ago my associate Darin got parked for a long while on a hectic job down in the fan, I'd call him up to see how it was going and his response would be "Just down here flying the flag." I have adopted the phrase myself anytime the best thing to do is to simply show up.


Judson #1

I Have Been Working Lately

On a house my buddy Judson bought just past Boulevard on Grove. He intends to live there when we're finished.

The Carpenter Mike Smith

Has been doing this work longer than me, Judson or Darin. I myself have learned a lot from him over the years, and we all consider him a friend. Last Tuesday morning he came by Jud's house while I was restoratin' the porch and borrowed my two-foot level, said he needed it to true up some framing on a job around the corner. I think I mentioned that was last Tuesday; I haven't seen Mike or the level yet. I purchased it eight years ago from a hardware store in Hoboken, and it's a weird thing: red, all metal and tapers down at both ends. I think it's considered a plumbers' tool. It doesn't read true plumb, but the level bubble is still okay. At one point I put Poke'mon stickers on it. If you see Mike Smith, please let him know I'd like it back.

Addendum--Mike brought it back this afternoon.


Young Til I Die

Pogo, you old fuckers


"Snapdragon" for Mary

Fig.26-Hot Engine Heart

I no longer trust the nail gun my father brought home from Costco two winters ago for me to build him a monster deck off his house in Florida. I don’t know that I ever did trust the thing. It ran hundreds of nails at his house; it did the same last spring—a whole box of two and a half, ring shank, in one morning, plowing down a squeaky floor over an anesthesiologist while he chewed aspirin downstairs and watched his TiVo.

However this week, at Judson’s house, it misfires and jams. The thing runs nails at wild angles if it shoots them at all. I’ve been playing Andean Flute music for Victor and José, the Peruvian painters outside, worrying about how ridiculous it would be to catch a nail in the face, having it ricochet off some case-hardened yellow pine, with the “flautas” trilling along behind. José has no English so Victor has to help me tell him “La musica del Andes’ llena mi corazon.” Fills my heart. We swap stories about summer musicians in the hot subways of New York. Later I run onto the porch and announce “La musica del Britney Spears llena mi penga!”

I have to stop framing in order to demolition more of the walls of the “play room.” I keep calling it Baby Mary’s room because of the ancient pink paint. The plaster buckles and peels off easy enough. The sooty pink walls of some old man’s daughter, full grown and gone, shatter and give way to grey scratch-coat, mortar webbed with horse hair.

At the end of the day I notice the gun sitting alongside with the air-coupling up, covered in grit. I worry that grains of it will pressurize inside the housing next time I hook it up to the compressor, that the perfectly smooth chamber will swim with grey imperfections, that it will explode anyway as I go to toe-nail studs to the bottom plate of the closet. I still have a half bottle of pneumatic tool-oil I bought at Harper Hardware over a decade ago. I double up on the morning dosage for the rest of the week, hoping to drown the grit and potentially quench what could be the hot, dangerous heart of the tool.

It’s things like this that keep me up nights. Tools breaking, the assholes I work with. Sometimes I take the motorcycle out after the kids are down. If it jostles me enough and I am feeling angry or reckless I bank off Kensington onto Ellwood, and just on the other side of Patterson, open it up on the ramp to the bypass. The best part is the three-way merge with 95 and 64. It becomes less complicated if I go faster than everyone else, which is how I address most of my problems. Speed makes traffic two dimensional. I only have to worry about whatever’s in front of me. I think about the potential of dangerous people on the road---drug traffickers up from Miami, truckers on speed. I think about whether or not there is enough air in the tires. I consider the sensation of being simultaneously angry and afraid. There are lots of ramps merging on that stretch and everyone drives it very fast. I can hear truck tires, my chain flying through revolutions, flinging grease, the pistons roaring away in their cylinders. I try not to think about what could happen.

On the ramp off 95 to the downtown expressway there is an open joint where the two roads meet in the air—in a tangle of overpasses. A biker got stuck in it just before we left town, years ago. This junction, this expansion joint between two huge elevated slabs of cement, channeled his tires to the divergent point and catapulted him over the side, a hundred feet above Shockoe Valley. The ramp beyond it is a perfect descending radius which tightens incrementally before launching you through the center of downtown. This is the way I complete the circle back to the Fan. This is the way I wind tightly around a city I’d thought I’d never call home again.

Neat Neat Neat

Ha ha, Captain Sensible eats shit there in the middle