Quid Pro Quo: Something for something.
QUID PRO QUO!
QUID PRO QUO!
GIVE ME THAT BANANA
AND I’LL GIVE YOU SOME DOUGH!
Read this midnight ramble, or I’ll sulk in my tent. That’s my quid pro quo.
There was rain at sunset, heavy rain. a spasmodic Florida rain as the nation freezes. Someone — some creatures — have been digging these recent overnights in my little backyard. Possums, perhaps? Raccoons, perhaps?
Or, Little Green Men, perhaps?
Many believe we’re due for a visit from them. Little Green Men, bulb-headed E.T.s, surreptitiously digging in the dead of night for clues to the nature of this Blue Planet, choosing my grubby little back yard for their excavation, thinking we might have something better than what they’ve got back home. I’ll bet they’d be very “green”, these Little Green Men. Martians with trowels, scooping up and examining clumps of this Earth and my yard’s green bahia grass and dog poop before being beamed back up to The Red Planet with their specimens.
It’s November 12th for a few more minutes, the birthdays of Grace Kelly and Charles Manson. Light, perhaps false lights and images, collide with the darkest of realities at every waking hour in our world. “Stars” and fiends are born, neither, perhaps, exactly what they seem. They dissemble “reality” long enough to entertain, beguile or kill us. Do any of us know who they are? Do we know who we are? Do we pray every moment to be spared The Dragon?
THE DRAGON IS BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD , WATCHING THOSE WHO PASS. BEWARE LEST HE DEVOUR YOU. WE GO TO THE FATHER OF SOULS, BUT IT IS NECESSARY TO PASS BY THE DRAGON. – St. Cyril of Jerusalem
Could that be who is digging in my backyard? The Dragon?
The day has drawn to a close. It is dark. There is too much darkness lately. On the brighter side, it is the eve, perhaps, of YOUR birthday. It is, as I write, the eve of many birthdays, of many deaths, of many things.
On the darkest side of our planet, it is the eve of the day many rodents will begin nibbling at the poisoned biscuit of Impeachment. Can you hear them? Nibbling? It’s on the air, on the internet, in the papers, for those of us still reading papers. It’s news. News is noise.
Are we no greater than the noise we make?” wrote Edward Arlington Robinson in ” Man Against the Sky”
For the record, by November 8, 2021, I’d come to loath Donald Trump for his horrible, rampantly egoistic de-railing of our political norms and his lingering impact likely to make persons such as me more vulnerable, i.e., nearly naked, to our ideological/political enemies. But, still….
I’ll trade you a Latin biscuit of Quid Pro Quo for a French cruller of Que Sera Sera.
* * * * *
It will be the 13th or well after by the time you read this. ( At the time I am re-reading it and re-writing this, it is the eve of the date, i.e., November 9th, that has so many resonances that I have written of it here in this block. And and the time I originally wrote this rumination — and now, the world is still raging like a crazed soul on a doorstep….raging, raging, raging.
The Dragon will be prowling. And most likely, you won’t read this, quid pro quo or no quid pro quo. So, Que Sera Sera.
Feel free to surprise me, as I ramble at 10:11 p.m.
Listen: and here commences the first installment of the occasional saga of an obscure (and entirely fanciful) edge-of-Boston watering hole….
Two guys are the last patrons of a Revere, Massachusetts bar called The Last Mile. They are talking.
They are talking about bricks.
“You ever been to Europe?” asks Jackie the Crow of Stickie Sammartino. Jackie is a brick-layer. “Back in the day, they started making bricks and then making things out of bricks. I guess they ran out of drywall, huh, Stickie?”
Stickie chuckles. They are side by side at the bar. Noise from the street has faded. There’s a juke box, but it’s broken. Joe Barron won’t fix it. Joe owns this joint. Fix it for what? Joe would say. It’s a nice antique, just sitting there in the corner. All glass and tin and plastic. All silent. Bless Joe. He likes silence. Who’ll use it? A jukebox. That’s his argument. No one wants it, none of the regulars. They forgot about music. They sing sometimes and they drink and they talk. Or they play Kino and dream of getting rich.
Joe Barron is in Florida. Some people say he’s rich. I don’t doubt it.
Yes, it’s last call, Tuesday night at The Last Mile and it’s just Stickie and The Crow. Presently, they both sip their drinks, first from the highball, then the beer chaser. They are, as noted, alone, save for Dean, the bartender, who is cleaning up.
“I’m talking way back, ” Jackie the Crow says. “After Jesus and before they came up with the bricks for Fenway Park.”
“You’re funny, Crow,” says Stickie.
“They ran out of stone,” Jackie says. “I’m talking along the Baltic. You been to Europe, Stickie?”
Stickie head-shakes a no. “I stay away from the airport,” he says.
“The Baltic’s my roots, Stickie. Me and the ex took a tour. I ever tell you that?”
“Stickie head-shakes a yes. “You and her still talk?”
Jackie sips first his ball, then his beer. “Christmas Eve, Fourth of July, maybe Easter, we talk. Thanksgiving’s coming up. We’ll talk.”
“Her and my people are from Poland, you know.”
“I know,” says Stickie. “You get any good food on that tour?”
“Tons,” Jackie says. “But the bricks were the best part. They took us around in a bus, showed us churches and stuff, all brick. It was interesting.”
“You sure you didn’t dream this?” Stickie says.
“Positive,” Jackie says. Even he doesn’t know when everybody started calling him The Crow. Or why.
“I told them I was a brick-layer soon as the bus pulled up and we’re getting back inside the hotel. They says them bricks got put down by guys like me, way back in the day.”
Jackie’s in the brick-layer’s union. Plans to lay bricks until he drops. Stickie Sammartino was a carpenter. Now he’s retired, sick of driving nails. They’ll finish their beers and balls and go home. Guys they used to meet here or on the benches under the pavilion at the beach have already gone home, one funeral at a time.
“Some of them brick churches went down when the Nazis come through,” Jackie says. Just like that, Jackie the Crow is, all of a sudden, talking about The Dragon. They’ve both seen the dragon, many times.
Sticky’s thinking of his grandfather, back in 1919 at the famous molasses explosion in Boston. Piles of bricks. Downed people and horses. Everything sticky and smelling of molasses. Somebody had built something wrong, and knew it. So, molasses everywhere. You could smell it for years, like sweet death. Everything sticky, or so they said.
Sticky’s grandfather told Sticky and everybody else that story a million times. After the millionth telling, they started calling his grandfather “Sticky”. About the millionth time Sticky told the story, they started calling him “Sticky”, too. His given name is Sal, just like his grandfather. But at The Last Mile and on Revere Beach, he’s Sticky.
It’s near closing time, but Dean the bartender will let the regulars stay for a while, finish their beers and balls and their stories. It was raining out before. Now, it’s actually snowing a little. Snow in November. The big freeze is pushing east, making history. Sticky and The Crow walked here, for God sake. They live in this rooming house Joe Barron owns. It’s a good little walk in the snow or rain.
“All goddamn Europe got broomed in the war, ” Jackie says.
Sticky sees Europe, like one long street, deep in molasses.
“You know how you talk about the molasses?” Jackie says to Stickie, like he was reading Sticky’s thoughts. “You sure you’re not dreaming that?”
Sometimes, Sticky isn’t sure. So he doesn’t answer. Silence is better. But then he says, ” it was in all the papers.”
Tomorrow Jackie the Crow will be laying bricks for a new sewage treatment sub-station in Lynn. He can hardly bend, but he likes picking up that trowel and spreading a nice, smooth layer of cement and laying down those bricks, one at a time. Plus he gets paid for it. He’s trusting that the sub-station walls that he and his fellow brick-layers rise up tomorrow will survive wars, fires, broken pipes, explosion of molasses — and all the depredations of time, as long as there are people around to take a crap.
In the November night, I see Stickie Sammartino and Jackie the Crow on their bar stools, chasing daylight.
* * * * * * * *
Let us pause, as we leave The Last Mile, head out the door into the chill of the outer world, and consider the holy mystics who first came looking to save souls on our continent — before any white man laid a single brick. Before everybody had a warm indoor place to take a crap.
(I know. This is all crazy. Yes, I am sober. No, I can’t stop.)
I dreamed of a very beautiful place. Here there was a man garbed in white, wrote Blessed Marie of the Incarnation, surveying the harsh lands and savage souls all around her in 17th Century North America. She had a mystic vision, grand enough to overcome this wild darkness — which, she wrote, aroused as much compassion as fear…
She had vision of Christ.
I said to him: You understand, Oh Love, You understand.
Then, words failed me completely and I remained in this silence.
Let us, God, remain in silence, not noise. And let us save souls.
I think I will rise in the silence of the dead of night to see what or who is digging those holes in my back yard. Little Green Men, I must confess, I don’t believe in.
So it must be possums. Or maybe raccoons. Or maybe The Dragon. I believe in The Dragon who prowls about the world, seeking souls to devour.
Back at The Last Mile, Sticky and Jackie have left their bar stool. Protect them and all of us from the Dragon, O Lord. They shall be walking these dark streets where I am walking just ahead of them.
I won’t pay attention to politics tomorrow, just as, two years ago, I didn’t pay attention to the Impeachment Hearings. Here in November, the Trump despisers are consumed by another date, January 6th. So be it. On and on it goes.
I don’t know what I’ll be doing tomorrow, actually. Maybe I’ll see if a neurologist can tell me why I can’t shake this — shake, meaning what is defined as “an essential tremor.” And I’ve been a little dizzy lately. But then, who isn’t dizzy these days?