Exposed

There are so many layers. Ripping the hide off, the hide that has been there way too long, exposing the raw untouched nerve, The nerve that was overdue to be exposed and made right. My god, the pain. Not that nerve. Not that one. I can hardly draw a breath now, or maybe ever again. I waited too long, I didn’t give enough. There was too much me. Now it is just me. And my raw nerve.
Draw another breath.
Then another.

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Confession

“Yeah, you read my sign right, I’ll listen to your confession for a dollar, but just one. Man, really, I’ll listen to you if you just keep dropping ten dollar bills every few minutes. This is my corner, this is my gig. No one else does what I do.”
“Okay,” She said, ” I just left a man tied to a tree. I tried to beat him to death, but I’ve broken both of my hands on his face and he was still breathing when I left him. I kinda ran out of hate, too. It felt good.”

Day One

DAY ONE
I wasn’t new to cities, I had learned how to survive in a couple of them, but Manhattan in 1982 would take everything I had learned from a year and a half of traveling and living on the street, chew it up, mix it with some depravation, cum and blood, spit it back at me then lick it’s lips and sneer. New York City was a dragon.
I was nineteen years old, grooming Standard Bred Harness Racing horses along the east coast, in Florida at first, then up to North Carolina and finally to the Meadowlands in New Jersey. I quit the day I arrived because, from the Parking lot looking across the river, I saw the New York City skyline that stretched as far as I could see from north to south. I didn’t hesitate. I didn’t even unpack my Korean War ruck sack that I had been traveling with for about a year and a half. I just left.
I found my way to the Lincoln Expressway and started hitchhiking to The City. A passing Yellow Cab pulled over and when I ran up to the passenger side door he shook his head and pointed to the back. I had never been in a cab, but I knew it cost money. I had about seventy dollars on me and I knew it wouldn’t go far.
“Man, you can’t hitch on this road. These Jersey cops don’t play nice. Got any money?”
“About thirty dollars.”
“Oh, man. Do you know anyone in the City?”
“I don’t know anyone here. I just want to see Manhattan. Central Square I think.”
He just looked at me then. He seemed stunned.
“Nah. A kid like you, with practically no money, you gotta go to the Port Authority and find a locker for your shit, then you won’t look like some Midwest new fish.”
“I’m from Minnesota.”
“Jesus. Keep your money, kid, you’re gonna need it. I’m headed to the garage anyway. Out of service. I’ll take you to the Port Authority. Once you stow your gear and go out to the street, don’t look up. All the tourists and new-fish runaways walk around looking up at the big buildings.”
“I’m no runaway, I’m 19.”
“Yeah whatever, kid.”

I put my pack in a locker at the Port Authority, stepped into a Deli that was accessible from inside the station that had a bank of plate-glass windows facing 8th avenue. I got my first bagel and “just a regular coffee.” Turns out some animals have been fucking coffee up for so long that they consider a coffee with cream and sugar not only something that you could put in your mouth but “regular”. They don’t unfuck your order, so I just watched it go cold and untouched, which is the only proper response, and ate my bagel.
I spent the rest of the day finding landmarks that I’d seen from movies – Penn Station, Grand Central, Times Square, Park Ave., Fifth Avenue, and 42nd Street – where in every other doorway was hooker, dealer, cop. The cops didn’t see larceny and sex, they only saw violence- muggers and purse snatchers.
I made my way back to the Port Authority, which is a transportation hub for buses and subways and started thinking about which seat near the departure doors looked the most comfortable spot to nap later. I still hadn’t made it to Central Park and Rockefeller Center yet and was thinking about that, just relaxing from walking around. I had been there for about 10 minutes, sipping a coffee and leaning against a pole, when a young preppie kid stopped and answered a ringing phone from a long bank of payphones about 20 feet from me. He talked, listened and then turned and looked directly at me and motioned for me to come to him. I shook my head and he said,
“It’s for you.”
“Nope can’t be, nobody in this city knows me.”
“It’s a woman, she says she wants to talk to the good-looking boy behind me, that’s you, man.”
I stepped up, took the phone form him, told him thanks as he walked away and then said hello to a stranger.
“Hi there cutie, do you want to party?” She sounded older, sexy, and had a heavy New York accent. I looked around at all the other pay phones, trying to figure how she could see me.
“Yeah, I always wanna party.”
“Oh yay, well listen darling, I saw you there but I had to rush away, but my brother is still there. Do you see him waving by that door on your right?”
I saw him and told her so. He was tall and wore a tight white t-shirt over a lean muscled rock- hard torso. He looked like he threw engine blocks across the yard for fun. He had mean lifeless dark eyes, an olive complexion, and jet- black hair greased up into a James Dean look complete with a pack of smokes rolled up in his shirt sleeve. He saw me nod at him with my chin, stopped waving and stuck his thumbs in his belt loops, waiting.
“I’ll see you soon darling, go by Jimmy’s place and pick up some booze and then he’ll bring you here.” Her voice was dripping with promise.
I followed Jimmy out and he pointed to a crappy cream-colored rust-bucket Volvo and I got in. He reached back over the seat, grabbed a cold beer from a cooler and handed it to me, but stayed stone cold quiet during a quick 15 block drive. He was big in that seat. I started to feel a cold dark thing gnawing at my subconscious, but I followed him up the stairs to the top of the three-story brownstone.
A black and white Quasar was on in the large studio apartment, but the sound was turned down and hard punk rock played low from a stereo under the television. Jimmy motioned for me to sit down, handed me another beer and a blue pill.
“Eat that. My Sis wants you to be on the same level as she is when you get to her.”
I ate it, drank beer and watched as Jimmy started cleaning trash up around the room. Ten minutes later M.A.S.H. was on the T.V. and the Psychedelic Furs were screaming out of the stereo and I couldn’t move. I was completely awake, but I didn’t have any motor control. I couldn’t reach up to scratch my itchy nose. I started slipping off the couch and I couldn’t stop myself. I passed out for a moment and woke up to Jimmy pulling me up to my knees, forcing my mouth open with his fingers, and sticking his cock in my mouth.
“ If you bite down, I will snap your fuckin’ neck.”
He used my mouth until I passed out again. I woke up in agony. Jimmy had me on all fours and was ramming into my ass. There was no lubrication. It was agony, I could feel tissue ripping but my arms and legs were useless. He was holding me under my chest because my arms wouldn’t support me. I passed out again and woke up in the passenger seat of his car. He had carried me down three flights of stairs.
We pulled up to an apartment building on Christopher Street and I was just getting control of my limbs again, but I was shaky as a lamb. He came around, pulled me out of the car and walked me over to a stoop and sat me down. Jimmy just walked away then and drove off. I couldn’t really talk to try to ask him anything and I didn’t try. The demon was gone. Something was leaking through the back of my jeans.

Day Two…

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Eddy Cook

Up on The Range

Up on The Range is where we everything
Remember when the County Fair was in Hibbing?
Six of us went, the girls on our laps
T.J. Swan and Schnapps for them, we had Southern Comfort, Jack and Jim.
A little Columbian with some of the worst homegrown for backup
More friends met us there in Bubba Pender’s pick-up
We had mini-donuts and elephant ears and we made bad decisions behind the carnival trailers
Those two broke up and that one threw up and it went bad from there

Up on The Range is where we everything
Grandpas, Dads and Uncles working swings at the mine
We had our first time and did our first crime
Got our first cars and lied our way into that one bar
Some of us graduated, some dropped out, some died

Some grew roots, some of us couldn’t be held down
We moved or stayed, found our tribes and lived our lives

But we all have it in us, with us, in our being

Up on The Range is where we everything4a21c4b82b4e0fc151c33ed9f8eea843

Carny Rap

thNJD7ZLEF When you’re born into the life it’s like being raised by wolves. Growing up a carny kid prepares you for no part of the real world. Not one thing about it is common. Some families in the business go back generations, to the turn of the 20th Century, and have generations of traditions unique to show-people. Other show families came along in the last couple decades or even as recently as the last season. It gets in your blood. Not everyone is wired for the life, but there are those that were raised as citizens that found “the life”.
When I was a kid, my parents would take us off the lot to shop for clothing or whatever and usually I thought of those trips as trips into the real world and that when we returned it was to the midway- wherever it was that week. As I got older, I considered the show as the real world. It was where all my family, both immediate and Show Family- which were truly family, and lifelong friends were. Fuck the rest of the world. If they wanted my time, they would have to come to my world.
We come from generations of tradition and myths, lies and manipulations, and a sense of family that many of the carnies never experienced when they lived back in Bum-Fuck Minnesota or wherever they’re from. It’s a self – contained off the grid nomadic community that is unrivaled in today’s age. Street gangs and bikers are probably the closest in the dynamics of infrastructure within the group.
We bang the occasional town-mark, but more often each other, and try not to fuck a concessionaire’s wife or daughter, but a show-owner’s women are fair game.

The green help don’t know about the old days and ways. When a carny yelled “Hey Rube!” it meant he was in trouble. You stopped what you’re doing and come running and bring a hammer or a joint brace with a hinge on the end because shit is getting real on the Midway. Everyone knew they better be in some deep shit that involved blood and some town marks before they yelled those two words.
Ours is one of the last to have a Freak Show – Snake Girl, Two Headed Woman (slept with her. Boy howdy), Wolf Boy, Sword Swallower. The canvas was painted by one of the last few carnival artists in the world, trained by a master.

The show started with just a Ferris Wheel on one end, a Jenny on the other, and a rotating kiddy airplane ride in the middle. Jonny G had an Italian and Polish sausage grab joint, Big Connie spun floss out of a tornado of a joint. Billy had a Duck Pond, and Dirty Darrel had a Shoot out the Star.
The game joints are where the money is. There was a certain knot that you had to learn to stake a joint down. There are a lot of aluminum framed joints around now days, but back in the day they were all panted and carefully pin-stripped wood and canvas stick joints held together with hinges on two-by-fours, and Kotter keys, we call them R keys. You’ll see show folks wearing them as earrings, necklaces, and on their key chains. The rides were held together with them too. It’s a symbol.

 

Snap Shot – Minneapolis Back in the Day

Prince aand Husker Du and later – Tina and the B-Side rumbling through the coolest venues and Kid Johnny Lang playing everywhere. But it was more than that. Deeper. The music came from the vibe. The vibe came from the streets; the tribe of street people, the tourist restaurants, the drugs, high end clothing and shoe stores, gay bars, local bars, and seedy bars like The Speakeasy, adult book stores with 24 hour video arcades – the hunting ground for the chicken hawks. The labor pools and Catholic charities drop-in centers, Rifle Sport Pool Hall where the hustlers hustled the hustlers, and Tourist Education establishments like Moby Dicks where, in the back at the pool tables, some of the best acting, finessing and double-talking sharp shooters will rob you in a few games of straight-eight call your shot. Money was laying around, you just had to pick it up

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