Kamby Bolongo Mean River named one of 25 Important Books of the 2000s by HTML Giant

KBMR was named one of 25 Important Books of the decade by HTML Giant. And was a Page One selection of New & Noteworthy Books by Poets & Writers Magazine.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

No news today - Guest Post - Lynn Crawford

Compiling Information, My Way
by George Shankus

Yesterday my sister in law Meg (yellow, v-neck dress, gladiator sandals) and I talk.
She tells me my twin brother, her husband, Dino is not communicating with her.
I say I want to help.
She says she does not want help, just facts.
I wonder, can I learn what I need to know if I simply ask Dino the facts? Will he answer me, up front?
No, I decide, he will not. My approach, like some of my best business deals, will require a combination of subterfuge and face to face conversation.Today he travels north to his gal Ily. Her meat, customers, hoop earrings. Her restaurant with its tasteful, rustic, interior: logs, linen, fireplaces, heavy cutlery, thick legged chairs and tables. I trail him. See him stop for an egg roll at a breakfast cart on his way to the station. Watch him enter the station, bite into his roll. Catch my reflection in a store window. Predatory, heaving. I am not proud of my behavior. YET, yet: I am practical. Sometimes, assessing movements of a family member (with the close history, the past and present interaction), muddles, distracts. Establishing distance helps a person, me anyway, collect reliable data.
Less than twenty-four hours later, I drive north in my car.
The last time Dino and I spoke it was about a movie. The restaurant keeps him busy, he has little time for film, and there is only one theater in his new town. It shows block busters. I suggest Netflix but he does not have a DVD player. Just a television, with cable, and a music system. The movie he saw, on cable, was a romance. Ily fell asleep. Dino called, complaining, not about Ily falling asleep but about the romance. He wants to see a romance about a regular guy. Not about a guy who falls for a woman with chunky ankles and a good personality. Who sends that woman flowers (regularly). Whose idea of a romantic evening is filling a bathtub with bubbles and surrounding it with candles. That is some female idea of a guy. What Dino wants from a romance is this: a guy falls for a tall, gazelle legged, big breasted woman. Sexually voracious. A lingerie wearer. The big breasts are really important. She falls for him too. She is not vain, psychotic, anorexic, dizzy, or cocaine addicted. He is tired of movies about hot women who are nasty, conniving, sick, mentally simple. Tired of movies where unattractive women get men to see through to their inner beauty.
“Guys don’t see through any damn thing. We either feel it, pow, or we don’t,” he says.
“Dino you are such an asshole I cannot believe we come from the same family.”
“Hey, I say what I feel, not what I mean. Listen, I am just talking about what I want from a movie. Not real life. I mean, it is not as if Ily’s ankles are tiny. She stands in croc’s all day, her ankles puff up, you know. And it is not as if her breasts are, I mean it is not as if ....”
“Shut the fuck up Dino, just shut the fuck up.”
I get to their place early. Park my car, take a walk in the woods. Reluctantly. I am uncomfortable in forests. And aware this attitude is un-american, un-masculine. The fact is: I do not like density in nature. In a city it is fine. I enjoy jam packed streets, subways, theaters, bars, lobbies, diners. That density is not static, it always moves at some sort of pace. But trees just stand still, hiding who knows what. I am not anti-nature. I am at home in and near water, any water: lakes, streams, oceans, rivers. I am at home sailing, diving, rowing, fishing, swimming. And I enjoy spending time on a mountain, high up, looking down, out, skyward. It is just woods I have a problem with.
I walk for a nervous half hour, enjoy, admittedly, the smell: fresh, clean, piney. When I return to the driveway, thankful to be going indoors, even if it is to Dino’s trailer, a pick-up truck brushes the mailbox, and almost me right next to it. It stops. A man, long hair, psychedelic print t-shirt, thong sandals, steps out. He is not tall and he is not good looking but then he is not short or ugly either. Just a guy, dressed like an old hippie, with a chin beard in rimless glasses. He shakes his head from side to side, “Man, man I am so fucking, man...” He cannot finish the sentence. I take a deep breath not, as I expect, of pine but of pot. He gestures to the joint in his hand, says he is taking his prescription medical marijuana and that he comes by Dino and Ily’s in the morning, for informal breakfast munchies like potatoes, eggs, mushrooms. He has no problem talking now. I nod my head, remember never liking anything about pot, the smell or the high. Beer is different, I like both the smell and the high, the taste, the fizz, I am thinking along these lines when I feel dizzy and fall, bam, on ground. Turn my head to the side, see his toes, peeping out of the sandals. They are clean, even toes, not gnarled or dirty the way you might expect from an old hippie. That is the last thing I remember before blacking out.
I wake up, feeling as if I am in outer space.
A face, red, puffy, under eye bags, cracked lips, carefully groomed blond hair breathes down on me. I can see but not move.
“What happened?” the face asks.
“She just went down,” says the pothead.
“He, I am a he. He, named George,” I try to say but cannot yet speak.
“This is a man, not a she,” says the blond. Wearing a striped shirt with the name ED above the right pocket. I see there is a bus behind him I guess he is the driver.
A load of well dressed, well fed people surround me.
“Stand Back! Here comes the Doctor,” says ED to them.
“Do you mind if I examine you?” asks a brisk voice. A head, also blond haired, is over me. ED is gone.
“No, I do not mind at all,” I try to say. But I cannot speak so no words come out.
She pulls out a joint, asks do I want some.
“NO.” I badly want to say, to yell. And add I have not seen this much pot since college. But I just close my lips tightly together.
She looks at me, puffs her joint.
“Historically, I make my most accurate diagnosis when I have a quick toke.”
“Historically, I do not go to doctors who are potheads.” I want to respond but am unable to.
“She puts the joint out by pinching the end together with her fingers, tucks it in her pocket.
“Ok. Your pupils are not dilated. That is a good thing.”
She runs her hands along my skull, neck, shoulders. She kneads my neck. Something releases.
“There. You are fine,” she says.
I feel better.
“Listen,” I can now talk, even rise up on one elbow, and feel an urge to share with someone the bizarreness of what happened. Speech flows, ”Listen, doc, I think I got a contact high. I drove up here, a long drive. Got here before anyone was up. Took a walk. Came back to my brother’s. This guy came up, smoking his medical marijuana after almost ramming into me with his truck and I took one whiff and fell--”
“Contact high is a myth,” she interrupts, authoritatively. “It is scientifically proven to be impossible.”
It hits me like a ton of bricks: this woman, in crystal clarity, encapsulates why I hate doctors. Arrogance, drugs, rigidity. Their knowledge base is lousy. I was not wrong, after all, to miss all those annual physicals. My way to health: eat and drink well, have sex, work out does more for my longevity than any physical with a moron. I close my eyes, feeling good, feeling right.

Wake up on my brother’s couch. Still feeling good. Ily stands in the kitchen, drinking a glass of water. She wears her white chef top with loose fitting blue pants, yellow Crocs. The color makes me think of Meg’s yellow v-neck dress. That is not true. I do not need a color to make me think of Meg. Ily walks toward me, offers a sip from her glass, asks how I am, runs her palm over my forehead. This is the first person, besides ED, I meet here not toking a joint. I breath easy. She tells me Dino is at work, that I slept for an hour and that we have an appointment with a doctor later this afternoon. My mood shifts from relaxed to heated, want to express myself: Doctors are assholes and unimportant. I will not go to a fucking doctor this afternoon. No Way. This is all on the tip of my tongue until she gestures to a table laid out with a colorful lunch: sweet breads, lemons, arugula, tomatoes, pumpernickel. The smell pulls me in, helps me realize I am not thinking clearly because I am starving.I enjoy this food immensely. The sweetbreads melt in my mouth; the salad is fresh, crisp, the pumpernickel is soft but has heft and a balance of sweetness with a good rye seed taste. I wash the meal down with a glass of iced tea mixed with a raspberry lemonade. I feel good, very, very, good. Even consider going to see that doctor.
Ily sits down, spears a tomato, lets me eat in silence. This is something I appreciate, someone who understands when you just want to eat, when you have reached that pitch of hunger, and you just want silence. I finish, take a deep breath. Ily pours me a second glass of iced tea, and one for herself, and. starts talking. I sit back, sleepy, pleasantly full, ready to listen.

(Excerpt from novel, Shankus, by Lynn Crawford)

Lynn Crawford is an art critic and fiction writer based in Detroit. Her criticism has appeared in Art in America, Tema Celeste, Metro Times, Zing, Parkett, Modern Painters, American Ceramics and The Brooklyn Rail. Her books include Solow, Blow, Simply Separate People and Fortification Resort, a collection of sestinas responding to the work of visual artists. Her new novel, Simply Separate People, Two has just been published by Brooklyn Rail/Black Square Editions. She is a Kresge Literary Art Fellow and a founding board member of Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD).

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