Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The View From Room 812 South

I took these photos from my father's hospital room, mostly to show how flat the land can be south of the city. Granted, this is eight stories up, but it still amazes me that you can see the Loop behind the Nabisco Factory. The factory is two miles NW, downtown is thirty miles. I just think of the suburbs further away from the city, with their hills and valleys. The second and third photo pan east, and in the third you can see the Evergreen Park Bank at 95th & Western, three miles away. There was a comic shop near there and I would ride my bike from my house, and I still find it hard to believe that I could ride six or seven miles each way on a bike, nowadays my knees crack if I'm on a treadmill. The fourth photo, which was difficult to get, is of the Alsip water tower. The printing plant I worked at was in Alsip, the tower is at 135th. With our grid pattern changing a little outside of the city (instead of facing TOWARDS the city), it might be only five miles. The last two shots are of the massive Oak Lawn water tower. If I cross 87th Street, I am going from Burbank into Oak Lawn. At 95th and New England Avenue stands the tower, and it is big. The last photo is a zoom, and I'm in the hall now, facing west. My first job, in 1975, I washed dishes. One of the guys I worked with lived in the house that had the water tower in its' backyard. There was a fence around it, but what would that matter if lightning split open the water tank? And that is my tour for the night.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Two Times I Saw Ava Francesca

The Two Times I Saw Ava Francesca
By Wayne Allen Sallee
          Everyone who reads my work knows that I rarely start a story until I know the title as well as the first line. In this case it’s the second line that is more important, because I am going to try and gain redemption for the night I was so drunk and talking trash, that Darcie later questioned Greg why he even considered me a friend.
    Darcie had met me maybe twice prior to that July night in 2006, once when she was dating Greg and another time when she was pregnant with Ava Francesca. Greg has summer parties, barbeque, booze, and hours of volleyball. I can’t make it out there that often, as I have no real way to get home. It’s common knowledge that my cerebral palsy keeps me from driving.
    But it sure as hell doesn’t stop me from drinking. Well, that should be past tense. I have stopped drinking, but that is a different story that has been told elsewhere. That second time, late into the evening, I had found myself in a truth or dare game and this blonde friend of Darcie’s dared me to strip naked, which I did inside the bathroom and then walked around back. Darcie was sore from the pregnancy thing and was sitting on the couch, on the phone. Who the hell knows what she thought. That had been, I dunno, 2005? Had to be.
    I didn’t mind doing the dare, as I had been looking at the girl all day, because that’s why guys who are drunk by two p. m. do. Greg used to joke that I never took my socks off, truth was I forgot. Greg is my best friend, one of the most incredible artists you’d ever come across, and years back, he would do the covers for my story collections, Fiends by Torchlight and Running Inside My Skin, as well as my meta-memoir, Proactive Contrition.
    I wish to hell I knew how to forgive myself before I started doing stupid shit back then.
    The past in ellipses: I’d known Greg since we were barely out of our respective colleges, and ended up having mutual friends, the majority of them artists. Well, I seem to have omitted the dot dot dots, I’m not stopping now, though. We’re talking thirty years, more than half our lives.
    Because of the distances between city and suburb, it would be a rare thing to meet at Baker’s Square or see a film and get hot dogs at Portillo’s afterwards. By the mid 1990s, he and several of my other artist friends were making loads of money from their commercial art. I was always living just above the poverty line, my one trick pony line being, I screwed myself to the bottom, and then crawled to the gutter.
    That was somewhat a joke, as I had one novel and had stories in over seventy anthologies, though the pay was next to nothing in most cases. I worked at a job I hated in the Loop, because I needed health insurance because of by stupidly being crippled. I’d put crippled people in some of my stories, with others involving personal pain, and these were the ones Greg liked most.
    He’d talk me up to everyone, like I meant something. The guy with no girl and maybe thirty bucks in his wallet. Come to think of it, since I mentioned never having a date, Greg’s wife and that truth or dare girl were two of the four women who have seen me naked in my entire life.
    OK. July 2006. The night I ended up acting with all the social graces of a man throwing the contents of a junkyard down a wrought-iron spiral staircase. I was in a bad state of mind for a few months preceding, being a new employee at a printing plant and my supervisor rode my ass every day until, months after that party, he ended up imprisoned for vehicular homicide. I had to work a few hours that Saturday, he was hungover, so I had shit slung at me for six hours, starting at six a. m.
    Afterwards, I walked a few blocks to 127th Street, waiting for the bus that would take me past the Cal Sag Channel and then northeast to the party. It was pouring out and there was no shelter; I was pretty much standing near an off-ramp for the Tri-State Tollway. The bus was late, and air-conditioned. So my muscles contracted as I sat, my elbows were shoved together and I held my hands in the air the way a surgeon who had just scrubbed down looked as he waited for the latex gloves to be snapped on.
    I showed up at the party midway through the festivities, just a small group in the kitchen, no volleyball because of the rain. I was introduced to a very tiny Ava, this after I had already dry-swallowed three Vicodin just so I could at least think that my shoulders weren’t bent like a hunchback’s. She was beautiful, but was soon back in bed.
    The hours passed. I drank, as did everyone else. Miller Lite. Tequila. Stuff I had never heard of because I could never afford it. And then one of Greg’s friends–I know this because she had been to parties before Greg had met Darcie–started in on this parody of a crippled person’s voice, all “aarrs” and “wrhoo,” which is how most people imitate someone without the ability to speak properly.
    I hadn’t been part of the conversation, but it led to my belligerence within minutes. I do not recall this, but I was driven home by a couple who went twenty miles out of their way to get me home safe.
    I skipped the next few parties, afraid to face Darcie. I knew she was upset because of emails Greg had sent me way back when. In the summer of 2009, I had been sober for two years, not out of discovering I was an alcoholic–I only drank when there was free booze–but because I was now taking a bipolar drug.
    I had purchased a pop-up book about a frog for Ava, and Greg put it on a high shelf in her room, planning on showing her after guests stopped arriving and things had calmed down.
    The train I planned to take home, something I couldn’t use when I was working off 127th Street, would arrive at 7:54 PM. Just about then, Ava was saying her goodbyes before bedtime. She walked up to me at the edge of the garage as I was grabbing a can of pop for the long ride home, and shyly thanked me for the book, leaning in so I could hug her.
    I can still recall her eyes, the red sun dress and her brunette hair haloed by the setting summer sun, a moment that makes your heart stop beating for a split-second. An image you see in films, for pure exploitation, syrupy music playing in the background.
    I hugged Darcie and Greg saw me to the front lawn and watched as I walked down the street, the train platform a few turns away. I had to pass through a block party and weaved around two black girls in white shorts who were laughing over cotton candy.
    I’ve mentioned when that was, but it doesn’t matter how long ago it was as I write these words. It doesn’t matter where I am now, or where I went in-between.
    All you really need to know how it was I felt that night, that second time I saw Ava, and the way my pulse thrummed in my eyes as I watched the approaching beam from the commuter  train in an orange sky that smelled of confections and perfume.

                                Wayne Allen Sallee
                                Burbank, Illinois
                                27 Apr 11

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Calliope

Dad didn't have a stroke. I was up here typing Saturday afternoon around 2: 30 PM and I heard what really sounded like a calliope. Then a light banging sound, a cabinet not quite shut. My dad had been out walking the dog just minutes earlier, a sunny days in the 50s. No humidity. I came down the stairs (we live in a bi-level) and saw him stock still clutching the kitchen counter, facing towards the living room, not facing the window. That is, I was staring at him, at his tensed up body, the cords in his neck and arms. The coffee pot was in the sink, so I think he spun around backwards, to be able to hold the lip of the counter top. The plastic holder that you put the coffee filter in was swinging in his hand and then fell to the kitchen floor, rolling on the wood, sounding like a tiny bowling ball. The calliope sound was coming from his mouth, he wasn't blinking, just staring. I knew he was aware, both from past incidents and from friends who have petit mal seizures, and I told him I'd bring him to the floor, and that I would make certain he did not hit the top of his head where the 1986 hematoma occurred. I know this was why he clutched so hard to the counter, to not fall. I'm not sure how long it took, probably only seconds. It seemed like ten minutes.

He was shuddering all over and my hand left a wet palm print on his red shirt. Once I had him in front of me, I started doing the splits sort of, until I knew we were close enough to the floor. Then I was on the floor, my dad's head in my armpit. (This was something I learned at United Cerebral Palsy camp, the armpit part.) His eyes stayed open and unfocused. I called 911 and then my sister. By the time the ambulance arrived, my dad started moving, then had another seizure, so I did the armpit thing again. He had two more seizures in the ER. I kept count in my notebook, 22 gunshot wounds in the eight hours I was there. He didn't take his anti-seizure meds on Sat morning, but that might not be the problem. Today he looked incredibly different than yesterday (Mon/Sun, I mean). He was sitting on his own, he had a CT-Scan and an MRI and he can talk a little. The brain won't let him. He'll often say "Not the what, the who." This means what he said is close to what he means, and most times we can figure it out. He remembers the police catching the two guys in Boston, but he doesn't remember what they did. So he will have eight weeks of speech/cognitive therapy when he gets home next week. How he fights this at the age of 82 I have no idea.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Flat Rock Road and Busha's Farm

The best way to pull this off was to take overhead shots from Google Earth. I've previously posted photos of me at various times on my grandmother's property. The land was sold in the late 90s to a neighbor, who then sold the land to whomever was going to build an ugly subdivision complete with a lake a few years later. The subdivision abruptly ends with a road that points directly at where the farmhouse is now barely visible.

Google Earth offers a feature where you can click back to various months and years where the Google satellite had taken photos, so you WILL see the blueish roof of the house, and even part of the stables. The photos will likely be out of order, as if I post more than a few, moving them around to the right order is hardly worth it once I've described everything. The main thing to know is that US 60 to Flat Rock Road brought you past a cemetery for 'coloreds' and another that was mostly made up of baby spoons attached to a small piece of metal, and then you'd turn left on a gravel road (blacktopped over in the photo you'll see). Two or three houses still stand closer to Flat Rock Road, but my grandmother's farm was at the end of the line, maybe a half-mile in length. Most of the road is no longer visible, though for all I know, it never was visible in the years and decades before Google Earth. Anyhow, a shot of the subdivision that will eventually swallow up the rest of the farm, although there has been no development since 2010. You'll see the trees and bushes retreat  in GE images from 2005 and 1999. Sad to look at.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mitchum and Supergirl Naked on Roller Skates

I have these four posters pinned to my wall. The last is a piece of art that I have no information on.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Good Night & Good Luck

My friend Jannah Ortstadt died in January. Fought a long battle with cancer. I'm hoping she was never aware of the shootings in Newtown. And I'm happy she never saw the bombings at the Boston Marathon earlier today. Even without battling cancer, at times, things are simply to hard to deal with. Jann lived in Knoxville, we talked as part of a group of people who watched LOST, and after it ended in 2010, a few of us still talked about various shows that have come and gone, THE EVENT, FASTFORWARD, V, and before we stopped messaging on Facebook last November, THE WALKING DEAD and REVOLUTION. Television can be a needed escape. I still catch myself at times, thinking how I'd have to mention xxx or yyy to Jann. I have several things she had sent me over the years, the Tennessee Smokies baseball and go cup with the Cubs logo on both, as they have a farm team, there. Neither of us knew that. A bunch of stuff, really. And earlier tonight I was looking through my CD collection and came across the soundtrack for GOOD NIGHT & GOOD LUCK, the film about Edward R. Murrow. Months before, I had mentioned watching it. She found the CD in an odd place, remembered my comments, and sent it my way. I sat at my desk, trying to finish pulling a sticker off, it covered the top half of the CD box, Jann had bought it at a reduced price. As I worked it, I remembered that Jann had started on the opposite side, being right-handed, and she had to stop as she was weakened at the time. So I caught up to her and the sticker is gone, I had made it a personal mission to use my fingers and not a Brillo pad. I know this all sounds ridiculous, but as I listen to "One For mMy Baby" by Diane Reeves as the rain falls outside, I have this image of Jann and I working together to get that label off, our fingers eventually touching when we reached the middle.

Sunday, April 14, 2013


You've probably only seen my postings on Facebook, but I continue to compile photos of ghost signage in Chicago. These are signs that are faded or partially obscured by newer buildings. Many times, it will be an advertisement for a product that no longer exists, or an establishment that no longer exists. I just discovered one last week that has been in full view (for me) for decades, a black on yellow rectangle advertising the long-defunct DAILY NEWS just past the Armitage Avenue el stop for the Brown Line. I just happened to be staring south as the train was moving north. I'll try to get a photo from the Red Line as I head towards Fullerton, and again from street level. Here are some of the photos I took last year.

Please Hold For Gloria Christmas

Here are some photos I took off the TV during last week's airing of NAKED CITY, a mid-60s cop show set out of New York City's 65th Precinct. Part of syndicated-MeTV's Sunday Night Noir, one can also watch THE FUGITIVE, Boris Karloff's THRILLER, HONEY WEST and ROUTE 66. Burgess Meredith is trying to mail all of his poems and is hit on the head by a rock, thanks to the bartender who had owned the poems in lieu of giving Meredith a bar tab. Never fully explained, I guess Meredith's character's writing would one day fetch money.

The story plays backwards, after the bartender shows up to confess to the cops. We see a blind guy working at a newsstand, in one scene a copy of AMAZING FANTASY#15--the first appearance of Spider-Man--is prominently displayed, and in the next, it is the JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY issue which introduces THOR. Meredith wanders the city and ends ups at, I guess, his editor's party--Candace Hillegoss from CARNIVAL OF SOULS is there!--is handed a check, which he then rips up, and goes to a tavern. There is a beat poetry thing going on and Alan Alda--credited as "Young Poet"--in a crazy-ass white suit and tie trashes Meredith, who then grabs his poems from the bartender and we sort of get back to the beginning. Meredith had claimed that the woman in the episode's title was his yet-unborn daughter. And, of course, I forget a key point, the bartender became enraged because Meredith let the envelope--loaded with stamps bought from a machine on a street corner!--slide into a sewer.

The young cop on the show, partnered with an older cop, though you never know who the real main character is, finds a book of poetry for $1.50--hefty 1960s pricing!--and mulls them over. After the shift ends, he goes to the street corner, completely spoils his suit to grab the envelope after a bit of trouble. There it is, HOLD FOR: GLORIA CHRISTMAS, GEN. DEL. some town in IOWA. The cop contemplates maybe opening the envelope to read the poems, then decides to put it in the mailbox and walk towards the subway.