(The following is the complete, unedited "author's version" of the "Two-Rivers Tape" transcript. It appears here uncensored, and contains some language not intended for those under the age of 17. Although based on a true story, all incriminating statements are pure fiction and some of the incidents described have been fictionalized. Don't drink and drive.)
E. Donald Two Rivers passed away on December 27, 2008. Click Here.
THE ROUGH WATERS OF TWO RIVERS
Story by C. J. Laity
"Racism my friend?" Eddy said, as Sergio splashed two more shots of Jose Cuervo into our glasses. "It's for people who are narrow. The sight of a sweetly fleshed thigh, regardless of color, removes all thoughts of hate, unless of course you be a rapist. But my daddy said to me, 'Don't you never let a little color come between you and a good time. Remember where you come from and you'll do just fine.'" We clicked our shot glasses together and toasted sweetly fleshed thighs and then we dumped the brown juice down our throats. "Come on," he said, "I know where we can shoot some pool."
I pulled out my wallet, but Sergio shouted at me, "Get the fuck outta here! That's Eddy Two-Rivers. You think I'm going to charge a famous poet for drinkin' with me?"
That night was suppose to be a "men's night out" with notable Chicago poets Marvin Tate, Tom Mladic, Gregorio Gomez, the old Native American poet E. Donald Two-Rivers (Eddy) and myself. We were all suppose to meet at Weeds and then go from there for a night of drinking and debauchery. I picked up Eddy in my car, and, as we arrived at Weeds, we soon realized it would be only the two of us. Gregorio was nowhere to be found, and a call to Marvin revealed he was staying home with his wife (though we suspected an orgy was more likely than not), and since Tom was to have arrived with Marvin, well, that was that.
Earlier, I was telling my girlfriend how Eddy, one of the kindest, gentlest of men on the face of the earth, is, however, a totally bitter, angry drunk. He ends up talking a bunch of shit when he's trashed, but then he denies it all later when he sobers up. So, before I left to pick Eddy up, I got the bright idea to bring along a cd burner and some extra disks and batteries, all with the capability of recording up to twelve hours of audio. I kept the recorder running in my jacket pocket throughout the entire evening, thinking it might be funny to whip it out at some later date when Eddy claimed he didn't say this or that. The evening took a few wrong turns, and the things Eddy told me that night had an unexpected, personal flavor to them, so I never mentioned to him the fact that I had it all documented.
Most of the audio I captured turned out to be nothing but completely inaudible bar noises, but there were a few long segments during which my device managed to pick up quite clearly Eddy's voice on that night. The following is a word for word transcription of that audio. I've taken the liberty to add, from memory, a few details and descriptions, in order to accurately recreate these moments.
We were working on our buzzes fast. I was shooting like shit. Not only did I miss the easy bank shot, but I used the word "removed." I understood it by the lowering of Eddy's brow and his sharp stare that I was for the moment a moron with blue chalk smeared on the crook of his hand. The cue ball sat there untouched as a dark silence hovered over the table.
"We didn't get removed," Eddy suddenly slurred, then he popped the ball with his stick, causing a firework of colors scattering around the table. "We just ceded more and more land, for things like education, housing and opportunity--the things that white Americans get all uptight about. Those things that the Indian people were promised in exchange for our homelands. We just let them take it away, bite by bite, until we ended up on a small Indian reservation with strict orders to become like white folks. History creates turmoil," he said, violently but precisely sending a striped ball disappearing into the side pocket.
"Can I play the winner?" a baby faced white boy who was sitting at the bar, watching our game, asked.
"Sure," Eddy said, "I'll put a hundred bucks up against your fifty."
"Is he serious," the baby faced dude asked me.
"That's Eddy Two-Rivers. He's a famous playwright," I said, "author of 'Briefcase Warriors.' He's always serious."
The dude sat there, biting his lower lip.
"That's the history of my people," Eddy said. "But Indians hate it when they hear it from whites, and whites hate it so much that they alter it. They white wash it because it makes them feel uncomfortable. Who can blame them? It wouldn't do much for their self image to know that their ancestors were killers and thieves, now would it?" Eddy was getting fancy, even shooting at a ball with the stick held behind his back. "What would happen to the American identity if it was based on the truth. Oh but geeeze, that hasn't changed one hell of a lot. Just ask folks around the world, especially in places like, well, you know where I mean. Dam Sam," he suddenly roared, throwing up his hand and nearly striking the guy at the other table with his stick, "you be doing the same thing with the Sheik of the burning sands that you did with Geronimo," he yelled. "His warriors were not much more than children either. People get emotional about this kinda thing, and sometimes it comes out in their art or in their poetry, so they can find a sense of balance. So, then the poetry and the writing and the art and the dance is in reality a medicine...sorta like 'Survivor's Medicine.' Hell, CJ, the stuff is used to purge those bad feelings inside in a healthy and sometimes profitable manner." Eddy gently tapped the cue ball, which kissed the solid yellow ball, which ever so slowly crept across the green and landed with a thump into the corner pocket.
"It's my shot," I said.
Eddy's lips puckered. He looked up and down, to the table and back and me. "Fuck you it's not," he said.
"Yeah, you just knocked one of my balls in," I protested.
He stared at me for a moment and then shrugged his shoulders, throwing out his palms, offering me the use of the table.
"Fine, you got a bet," the baby faced white boy said.
We took the fifty dollars Eddy hustled and went to another bar.
He leaned over and wrapped his arm around my back, his knee knocking the underside of the table, making the warm, flat beer slightly spill out from the top of the pitcher. He poked his index finger into my chest. "Emotional turmoil can be expressed or manifested in physical ways," he said, his words tainted by the scent of our drinking. "My stomach clenched in cramps, my chest seized up and retched to my throat, and my sinuses started to burn. I was sitting in the one room school house in Sapawe, Ontario. The teacher was discussing history. She was reading things from a book. From a book, CJ. A book! In the book they was saying my people were blood thirsty killers. A war-like people. Oh, my friend, my ears were burning and I felt my face turning red. Without thinking, I was on my feet. 'That's a bunch of bullshit' I said."
The bartender gave us a look, as did most of the yuppies in that place. I pointed to the two empty shot glasses and the bartender nodded her head and went to work.
"All eyes were on me, a full-blood Indian boy. Some of the white boys started to giggle 'cause they knew what I meant. I started to cry. Couldn't help it. I just couldn't believe what they were saying. I thought about my grandmother. How she sang when we walked along the dirt road looking for the herbs that she made into tea. She sure wasn't a blood thirsty savage. She was a beautiful woman, CJ, understanding and gentle. A wise woman who could make the pain of small wounds go away with a kiss and a cookie. Not much different than anybody else's grandmother. Ten years later, some of those same boys scared her real bad by standing on top of a high hill and shooting with 22 rifles at her chimney and making war hoops. I thought about how she would tell me stories when we picked mushrooms after a summer rain storm, and I got so mad, mad that education had become a thing that I figured to be all a bunch of lies to support a way of life, a way of life that was being used to kill my people in different ways."
The bartender delivered the two shots of Jagermeister to the bar in tiny, plastic thimbles. I brought them over. "I guess she don't trust us with glass no more," I said. We clicked them together the best we could and popped them down our throats.
"Up to that point, I had been a good motivated student. My parents were proud of that fact. I had always enjoyed learning, but after that, I didn't. I didn't want what they were teaching. I became truant, a bad boy who started hanging around the pool hall and running errands for the bigger guys to make some bucks. I started delivering stuff for the bootleggers in the town. I started stealing from anybody who wasn't on their toes."
A group of whispering yuppies sitting near us began objecting amongst themselves to our presence. As Eddy continued talking, they spent a few moments gathering their belongings, then they all moved to a different table as far away from us as possible.
"It was small, petty stuff, which eventually got me taken from my mom, got me sent to a reform school," and, like a delayed reaction, he grimaced at the empty shot, "where I learned to really get down with the crown," and he coughed and cleared his throat, shivered for a moment. "I stayed in that reformatory until I was sixteen. When I got out, I started back into crime." Eddy pinched his thumb and index finger together and held his hand to his puckered lips. I shrugged my shoulders. He pointed at me. I shook my head no. He shrugged his shoulders and continued. "My mom had remarried to a drunk Irishman who hated me because I scared him and we both knew it. So I came here to Chicago to live with my sister. We moved to the suburbs to get away from the gang thing. But that was a stupid move, because I didn't last long at all. I hooked up with bunch of guys in the suburbs and we started a crime wave like you wouldn't believe, including stick ups and burglaries. Let me tell you, by the time I was nineteen I had a brand new car, but no job. All the answers for me were at the end of my pistol." Eddy poked his index finger into my temple. "Now I look back on it and I can see that I was acting out of a need to be a warrior. Strange as it may sound." There was a pause during which it seemed Eddy was brooding, looking at some images in his own mind. "I finally got convicted," he said. "I had been arrested many, many times. My rap sheet was, like, three pages long. I always managed to beat the rap, though, by getting good lawyers. I didn't hate the police that busted me. I figured they had their job and I had mine. It only made sense to me that eventually they would catch up to me, and they did. I caught a sentence in the big house, seven and a half years. They sent me to Menard, and I'm not talking about the fucking hardware store."
I filled Eddy's mug with warm, flat beer. He took a swig of it, with a look on his face as satisfied with it as if it were piss, though his glassy eyes then looked beyond the moment, looked into some moment from his past.
Eddy continued, at times stretching his words as if in song. "While I was there, in the big house, I decided to get myself educated," he spat, the booze softening his consonants. "I sure as hell had the time and I didn't wanna be one of those guys who sits in a cell and does nothing. So I hit the books again. It took me three tries, but finally I got my GED. It took me so long because I didn't know a damn thing about the US history or the constitution. I finally got past that and decided to enroll in the college gang. You see, the warden had a new program. He made arrangements with SIU to have an extension program in the prison. I got into that and earned some credits thinking it would help me get a parole, but it backfired on me. When I went to the board, they said that I probably wouldn't continue with the education and so they denied me my parole. Man, I was hurt and pissed off. But, like my dad always said, there is good to be found in everything." Eddy smiled. "I studied under a Mr. Paul Crump. An author, he was. Wrote a book called 'Burn Killer Burn.' You see, he taught me lots of things. One of those things is that it is virtually impossible to be a total racist. Which was good, 'cause the joint was the epitome of racism. I mean it was all about race. You had to be hooked up. Black with black, whites with whites and brown with brown. I hung around the Latin guys." Eddy took a sip of beer. "There were four Indians in there. Two of us were in the college gang, one had 75 years and was too dangerous to deal with, and the other, well, he was an old man who had life and he was long gone. The other Indian guy was a Lakota."
"A what?" I asked.
"Lakota. Lakota, called prairie niggers by the red necks in South Dakota. Though the red necks in Minnesota call my people, the Ojibwa, timber niggers." I could feel the tension in the bar, as multiple yuppies turned to give us uncomfortable glances. "Lakota people are Sitting Bulls folks, Crazy Horse...they are a war-like people. Haha. They like to claim credit for having gotten Custer. Our tribes were traditional enemies, but in that place, that fact was almost forgotten, and we begged the assistant warden--who incidentally was half Cherokee--to put us together in a cell. He did, but with a big warning, that if we fought we were gonna be in some major trouble. He knew the history of the animosity between our tribes. We spent eighteen months together in that cell. Got along most of the time. He taught me to be proud of my people, and I also learned why our tribes hated each other. Haha. We got along good enough. Two more!" Eddy shouted to the bartender, who seemed to be ready to ask us to leave.
"No, no," I said, holding my gut. "I can't."
"Two more!" Eddy insisted. "Listen. I got out. Had I changed? I never went back, CJ. Never went back. Things had changed in the streets. The hippie movement was on full blast and I dived in. Then my younger brother went to Vietnam and got killed."
"Oh," I said, rising off my stool as the shots arrived to the bar, in plastic thimbles. "How did he die?" I asked as I delivered the shots back to our table.
"My brother," Eddy said, frowning, "Corporal Ivan Clifford Broeffle," and we both slammed the dark liquid down our throats. Eddy continued his story after delivering a marvelous belch. "He joined the army because he wanted to be a warrior. When he came back from boot camp, he kept referring to himself as a lean mean fighting machine. He was my little brother. I'll always remember him calling for me to pass him the puck when we'd play hockey. He was an excellent hockey player. You know," Eddy said angrily, "it is a fact, CJ, that our people sign up for the army to defend this country at a higher per population rate than any other group. We always answer the call. We do believe in defending this nation...this land."
"How did your brother die?" I asked again.
Eddy's eyes went glassy. He sucked down his warm beer in one gulp, which spilled out of the sides of his mouth. "His name is on the wall. I remember when it was here...I went to see it and we all cried. Couldn't help it. I remember, I remember now, he wrote me a letter and told me he felt funny fighting against those people who looked more like him than the other GI's did. His nickname used to be Chink, because he looked Oriental. Lots of Indian's do. He also said that he used to get stuck on point a lot. Remember, I have a poem that uses, 'put da chief on point' repeatedly. My brother was given the bronze star with a V device for valor and a purple heart; he was also given a burial in Canada...the army sent some GI's over to do it military style."
I filled Eddy's mug with the last of the stale $7 piss.
"I wanted so bad for him to grow old with me. He would have made a great uncle for my kids. He was the good one in the family. I was the bad one. Even though we had the same experience he was always the good guy. The jock. I was the greaser in dago T's and leather jackets. I loved him very much but we always had a different set of friends. His were the athletes and mine were...well, burglars and thieves. Just the way it was. After he died, I became very active in the movement against the war...all war. "
"How did he --"
"He stepped on a fuckin' mine! Does that answer your question? He got his fuckin' legs and balls blown off by a fuckin' mine. Alright?"
"I'm sorry," I said impotently.
Everyone was looking at us as if we were trash straight off the street.
Eddy slammed his beer down his throat. "Let's get the fuck out of this shit hole," he slurred.
"You're right, these people don't appreciate good company. This is Eddy Two-Rivers!" I shouted drunkenly. "He's been featured on NPR and he's been written up in Publishers Weekly."
As we left, Eddy crumpled up a dollar and threw it at the back of someone's head.
We were driving, or I should clarify, I was driving. I shouldn't have been driving. But I was driving. To where? Another bar. Another beer. Another shot. We saw a bumper sticker on a pickup truck. NATIVE PRIDE it said. Then we saw its vanity plate, which read SAVAGE. Eddy rolled down his window. "You are an Indian!" he shouted. "A despised creature, but you have despised yourself and that's the worst thing of all. What the hell do you expect from others?"
"Calm down," I suggested.
Eddy continued ranting through the streets of Chicago: "I ended up becoming more aware of things in a political sense after my bro died. Prior to that, I had always ignored the political aspect of myself. I started protesting with the anti-war folks and hanging around the American Indian Center when I got out of the joint. It took a while for me to fit in though. I had to go through a lot of changes. In those days, the American Indian Center was new. All of a sudden, all these different tribes were coming together. A lot of tribalism and infighting occurred. Take a left at the light."
"You gotta understand one thing here. Try to imagine you're Indian. While it is all fine and dandy that you came back to your people, you have to get to be known. You gotta earn peoples trust and respect. Man, that's cool, but you need to understand that what it means to be Indian has been filtered through a Christian perspective for you. The most harmful, though, is the sense of alienation from other fellow Native Americans that you're going to pass through. Go down this alley. And put that cigarette out already, do you want to die of cancer or something? Don't worry though, because just when you feel at the lowest, something will happen to reaffirm your comfort zone. Maybe you'll get laid by an Indian woman and then you'll feel like you belong. See, daddy was right - never let a little color, or tribalism, come between you and a good night in a bed. I started to earn my colors, CJ, and finding out where I fit in. Take a right. No, a right, a right! Man, wake up! I became active with the American Indian Movement. AIM for short. And I was eventually elected as the President of Chicago AIM. This alley, right here, take a left. Hey, did you know I led a demonstration against the Chicago Historical Society, to have them remove a racist statue. Wait. Park right here."
"What the fuck," I said.
Somebody approached out of the darkness and Eddy rolled down his window again.
"Oh, for Christ's sake," I said, my insides twisting into knots. "We're gonna get busted for sure."
Eddy rolled his window back up and turned his head toward me, smiling. "Where was I?"
"You led a protest," I said.
"Man," Eddy shouted, slapping his leg excitedly, "CJ, you should have seen what they had. It was as big as a house and depicted an Indian ready to scalp a white woman! Me, my buddy Richie LaRush, a Chippewa from Hayward, Wisconsin and this fine looking white hippie chick were tripping on purple barrels down in old town. Shit was pure back in those days. We walked toward the lake and it was hot. July. Hot. We were tripping out of our minds in the heat and we decided to go into the Historical Society because we figured it was air conditioned. Well, there was about a thousand little kids running around there. Summer camp kids. When they seen us they stopped dead in their tracks. 'So what's up with those little bastards? Why the rug rats staring at us?' Richie wondered. I saw the statue and I immediately understood. We checked it out closer." Eddy's head slowly nodded up and down. "They had this little log cabin and a display inside, a whole wall full of war implements. Arrows, war clubs, even had a scalp on display. On the opposite wall was a few farm tools and this question in big letters: American Indian! Friend or Foe? Well, those children's reaction showed what that damn thing did. We asked to see whoever was in charge and all these big security guards converged on us and told us to split. We promised we'd be back, and we delivered. One day we met with the big boss. He was this little bitch looking guy so we leaned into his space. Nervousness: he squirmed about awkwardly in his chair. His hair was a mess and he began to fumble through his pockets digging for cigarettes. Crossing and uncrossing his legs. I asked him if I could get a kiss and he got crazy about it. I told him it was okay, because he'd been fucking my people with his statue, and I said I didn't like to get fucked unless I got a kiss first. He just didn't understand. He started looking around. He wouldn't, or couldn't meet my eyes. His eyes darted from scene to scene. Anywhere, looking anywhere, but at me. It was then that I witnessed his guilty feeling mirrored in a big high window. We'd won, and he promised that they would always consult with us Indians on any displays, and they took the statue down."
"Come on, Eddy, it's been twenty minutes. Is this guy coming back," I asked, fidgeting in my seat. I had to get to a bathroom, something awful.
"Stop your worrying, my man. Listen. A few years later, when Mark Turcotte needed a job, we called on them and they hired him, but Mark wouldn't give me a kiss either. In fact, he never did even thank me for getting him the job. Na-na. I don't think he ever understood what had gone on before he came. Maybe he never cared, just got big headed and never tried to help out the Indian community. See how it all comes together, man. All because of those pure purple barrels we got from a white guy with this big, loving smile. All because of that - Mark Turcotte got a gig in a big shot institution. Me, I can't even go in there without a guard following me wherever I go. The new director doesn't wanna talk to me and I don't give a shit. Anyway, they did let me do a play in there once with Studio Z, and me and Arron Freeman, you know, that black Jew, clowned around a lot, which prompted our mutual friend Mary Shen Barnidge to say there was a lot of ham on the stage."
"Forget this," I said, fidgeting, "he's not coming back. Let's get out of here."
"My friend," Eddy said, smiling, "it is a funny world, and I can't be a racist, because every time I try to hate any race I meet someone from that race who is super cool, and all I can hope is that they see me the same way. Racism isn't worth the effort it takes and it don't feel good and I'd like to pass on the advice my daddy gave me. Never, but never, let a little color come between you and a good time. That means in bed as well. I added the last part. Ah-ha. See. What ya worrying for? Here he comes now."
I don't remember much about being in the Latin King bar, other than that they played loud music and that they treated us real good, like we were their homeboys. Eddy told me not to worry, because I was with him. They all knew him as the famous poet. They never heard of Jagermeister though. He bought us shots of Southern Comfort instead. Tequila. Jagermeister. Southern Comfort. When the bar finally closed, angry spirits were rumbling in my stomach. We both staggered to my car.
Eddy was carrying a pint of Southern Comfort in a paper bag, which he bought off the bartender. "My dad was C.W.," he said with a drunken intensity, "and he was a good guy. He tipped a few, screwed more than a few, and gave us all a clue." He unzipped his pants, pulled his penis out, and began urinating right there on the sidewalk. "I say he's a good guy. Here's why! He told me good stories when we worked in the bush cutting wood for the winter." He zipped up without missing a beat. "Like the story of Little Billy. He was something else, my younger brother. The one we called Little Billy or Bill-William. He caught my aunt sitting naked and sweating on top of my uncle doing, well...you know what that was all about. She was freaked out that Billy had caught her in the act. 'What was you doing to Uncle Tom?' Little Billy asked. My aunt always was known as a quick thinker. They said that she could think on her feet. 'Well,' she said, searching frantically for something...anything. Then it hit her, 'Your uncle,' she explained, 'well, you know he got a big belly, and sometimes I gotta sit on it to flatten it out. It's good for him. Makes him feel like a younger Indian, maybe even a warrior, ya know?' 'He likes it when you bounce on him like that?' Little Billy asked. 'He sure does, child,' my aunt assured him. Billy watched a big smile dance across her pretty brown face. 'Really aunty?' Billy asked with a confused look on his face. 'Really,' she answered, 'and the truth be known, so do I.' Again, the big smile two stepped across her face. 'Are you sure about that, Aunty?' Little Billy asked."
Just then, in the middle of Eddy's story, the spirits had their Armageddon battle in my stomach. A mushroom cloud of tequila, whiskey and schnapps rose. I tried to hold it down, but a heavy flow of thick, black liquid squeezed up out of my chest, and there was no stopping it as it at first sprayed and then came rushing out of my mouth, all over the side of my car, all over the street and curb as well, in whatever direction I turned my head.
A group of Latin Kings across the streets, who were still hanging out in front of the bar, started crying, "Hey, you can't do that here! Go somewhere else and do that!" But there wasn't any stopping the spirit battle and it kept on coming, until I was all tapped out.
A skinny woman with blotches all over her face walked by. She looked down at my mess with an upset glare.
"What's up?" I grunted, holding my knees.
"Please don't do that here. You're scaring people away, and I'm looking for a date," she said.
"Well, good luck," I said.
"What do you mean by that?" she snapped.
"Nothing. Just, good luck, is all," I said sincerely.
"Oh," she said, "well, thanks then," and she went away with a well practiced walk.
"So what happened to Little Billy?" I finally asked, spitting and wiping off the corners of my mouth with my shirt.
"Yeah," Eddy said, jumping back into animation, "so my aunt says 'Sure I like to sit on his belly to flatten it out. Why do you ask?' 'Well,' Little Billy said, 'after you go to the store shopping, Mrs. Deloria from next door always comes over and gets on her knees and blows it back up.'"
"Ahhhh," I complained.
"Let me tell you, CJ, Billy watched the smile do a fancy dance back to where ever those kinda smiles come from and my aunt started cussing like a drunken sailor. And, my Uncle Tommy got one of those there Indian divorces and Mrs Deloria got a black eye. All for blowing his stomach back up. Life in Sapawe was rarely boring."
Drinking the pint of Southern Comfort to wash away the taste of puke was not a wise idea. The night became a blur of traffic outside my car windows and Eddy began snoring. About an hour later we sat at a small table. Eddy opened his eyes. He seemed to have suddenly found his way out of a blinding fog. "Where the fuck are we?" he asked.
"Joliet," I whispered.
"What the fuck are we doing in Joilet," Eddy gasped, his bloodshot eyes opening wide.
"You asked me if I knew of any after hours places," I whispered with a shrug. "This was the only place I could think of."
"In fucking Joliet?" Eddy exclaimed.
"Shhhh," I whispered, "look around." We both looked around. There were a couple of dudes with ZZ Top beards, who wore leather jackets with the words "White Riders" on their backs. They kept eyeballing us as they shot a game of pool. A group of four pearly white men, all of them with clean shaven heads and identical red suspenders, sat at the bar. One was fatter than the rest, and one of them had tattoos covering every inch of both his arms. They also were eyeballing us. And there was this tall, ugly man with a long, dark gray beard with a white streak running down it, a tangled, greasy mess of hair growing out of his face around his rotted teeth. He was leaning against a wall with a framed Confederate flag hanging on it. He had a massive hunting knife attached to his thigh. There was also a pretty looking, green eyed man behind the bar, who was slowly scrubbing the inside of a beer mug with a towel; on his t-shirt were the words--"White Power"--in bright, red lettering. The juke box was blasting some eighties heavy metal song:
"My, my, my! Once bitten, twice shy!"
"Shhhh," I whispered again. "You passed out in the car. I thought I'd freak you out by taking you here. I used to hang out here a long time ago. But, dude, this place has changed. Must be some new owners."
Eddy looked at me and a slow smile formed on his face. "New owners? Fuck it. Two shots of Jack Daniels and a pitcher of Coors!" he shouted.
Somebody in the bar made a loud coughing noise. The word "Tonto" was obviously, purposely mixed into the cough.
"Ooooh," I moaned, my eyes squinting, "maybe we ought to quit drinking and get the hell out of here."
Eddy inhaled, clenched his teeth together and rose. He walked to the bar, paid the pretty man, and waited as the man huffed and puffed and reluctantly served the drinks. Eddy made two deliberately slow trips bringing the drinks back to the table. I noticed someone had scratched a swastika into the side of the plastic pitcher.
"Oooh, shit," I whined.
"You know," Eddy said belligerently, as he pushed his chair back and sat, the legs of the chair squealing against the floor, "back in the eighties, I quit drinking for about eight years. Didn't smoke no cigarettes either. Just up and stopped, because I was tired of the fuckin' coughing and feeling run down and I was working like 12 hours, six days a week. My kids were getting bigger, and I needed to work to keep food on the table and clothes on their back. It seemed like Eddy Jr. was growing so fast he needed new shoes every couple of weeks. I was totally into being a dad who spent all his time struggling to make ends meet. I didn't have much time to socialize, but I did develop a writing discipline. It was my escape from the drudgery of my reality. I would work until I'd fall out. I came home in the dark and went to work before daylight. They were some funny times."
"Tonto!" one of the bald men at the bar coughed into his fist.
Eddy suddenly raised his voice again. "Once I shot a hillbilly's dog with a stream ease bow. I'd be going to work half asleep and this mutt would wait and freak me out by scaring me with his barking when I walked by his yard. Every fuckin' time. The guy would laugh at me, and this went on for a couple of months. So, one day, I had no work, but I was up early anyway, and I snuck over across the street from that guy's house and waited until he let the mutt out." Eddy suddenly raised his voice even louder. "I shot his mutt from the gangway and ran home to hide the bow. The cops knew damned well that I did it, but they got a good laugh too. Hell. Everyone in the neighborhood knew I did it because the dog was killed with a bow and arrow. There used to be an archery range over by Lawrence and Drake where I bought the damned bow. I threw it behind the church. The hillbilly, and the dog, left me alone after that."
All the bald men with the red suspenders at the bar suddenly started coughing into their hands: "Tonto! Tonto! Tonto! Tonto!"
Eddy winked at me. He lowered his voice. "Fuck them," he whispered. "Then I got a chance to write for publication. I saw an ad in The Reader that was looking for a writer to do a weekly column called 'Life in Albany Park.' I got the job as a stringer. It didn't pay much but I didn't care. This was a dream come true for me. My work was gonna be published. I was writing every day, anyway as it was. I'd get up at 3AM...and work until maybe six, then head to work. I really learned a lot writing for the Learner. Deadline and discipline. Man, it felt so good, and people in the neighborhood were giving me a whole new respect. Respect based on a respectable thing. Not just because I was willing to bust ass if I had to, but because I was tellin' their stories. Shit, I could go from business to business getting stories. This was like free advertising for them. I would find all these tear jerking stories, or else these real nice, warm, huggy type tales about accomplishment. I mean, there were stories all over the place and I was making friends. My writing was showing me a different side of life. People were treating me differently and suddenly I was really beginning to like myself more. This, of course, was while I was still working away as a machinist. The side job wasn't getting me much money but it was giving me a sense of self...and I knew I was onto something that I could do and love doing. My creative needs were being met. I got to interview Alderman Laurino and that was something too. I liked him and he gave me two hours of his time. Shut his door and had a pot of coffee brought to us. What a guy. He gave so much material. If it was now, I'd have recycled the article and made some dough, but back then I was just happy to be getting published."
One of the pool players made a noise as well, like a long, extended burp: "Poookaaahaaantuuus." Everyone in the bar started laughing, except Eddy and I.
Eddy clenched his teeth and continued his story. "People were beginning to recognize me in the street," he said. "And I started drinking again. People would buy me drinks and tell me their stories. I took advantage of it, shamelessly, because they just wanted to talk...maybe get things off of their chests."
The bald guys seemed to be getting pissed off. How dare Eddy ignore them? "Hey Tonto!" one of them said openly.
We slammed the shots of Jack Daniels down our throats in unison, slammed them back down onto the table, and looked into each other's eyes, nodding our heads as if we were reading each other's minds.
"One day," Eddy continued, clearing his throat, "I was walking in the street and this Spanish dude jumps out of a car. I thought, oh fuck, what's this. I thought he was gonna kill or something, but he gets this big smile on his face. I recognized him then as a dude I'd met a few years earlier at the American Indian Center. An activist who used to run with other Indians. It was Carlos Cumpian. He was the kind of Spanish guy who acknowledged the Indian aspect of himself. Well, he wasn't gonna start capping at me but he did have this idea that he wanted to run down to me. His woman Cynthia had just written a book of poetry and he wondered if I'd write a review. Hell yeah! I was looking for something different to do anyway. So he hands me a book and I take it home to read. I liked it, wrote a good review, and then Carlos asked me if I wrote any poetry. I told him, yeah, but it wasn't all that good. He then invited me to come read with him at this joint called Lower Links. You remember. In Wrigleyville. He said I should dress up, so I wore a two piece suit, but I couldn't find my dress shoes because my girls had packed them up and left them some place. You know how little girls are. I had Vanessa and Leslie then." Eddy smiled widely. "I used to stand up on the bus and sing that I had two little girls with skinny little legs...boy, they'd behave for me then...anyway, they lost my dress shoes, so I wore some combat boots, with the three piece suit. That was my very first public reading. In a three piece suit and combat boots. My stuff was well received and I was in heaven. I got to meet Ms. Julie, who immediately took me under her wing, because she, too, was Indian, and I also met Mike Brown and his wife at the time... you know, Patricia Smith, who influenced me in many ways with her performance style and her content. About that time, Carlos and I started talking about publishing some of my work. The result was 'A Dozen Cold Ones'. Sold thousands of that little chapbook. In those days, I was reading this real militant stuff with guys like Marvin and Mike Warr. I started hanging out in the poetry bars."
"Hey, king-o-sabbie," the green-eyed man behind the bar said with a worried voice, "are you finished yet?"
"But back to drinking," Eddy said, shaking his head at the man. "I fell off the wagon over on the west side...Albany Park...I was partying with all these white moving guys. I wanted to party with some skins," he yelled loudly. "Next I hopped into a cab and went over to the Green Mill, which used to be a bar of ill-repute, where you could get anything you wanted. I didn't know that Dave Jimalo had purchased it and changed it. Remember, I wasn't drinking, so I didn't know the bar scene. Anyway, it was a Sunday evening and I walked into the joint. What a change. The place was full of yuppies. I started to turn around to leave, but this guy started to read some poetry. It caught my ear and so I paid...I think it was four or five bucks. There was Marc Smith reading a poem and I was captivated by his performance. The poem was real good too. I thought to myself...I could do this! I stuck around and introduced myself to Marc. He invited me back and a few months later I showed up at the bar ready to read some poems. I wasn't sure because the poems were just a bit on the political side, and I was thinking that the yuppies might not wanna hear it, but the reaction was thunderous and I was off and running. I was in love with that action. It met so many of my needs. There was one thing though that bugged me. Marc never did introduce me as a virgin virgin like he did other poets who were there for the first time. But that didn't mean shit because that brother helped me out in many many ways and he always was good to me. We both do this high school out in the suburbs, CJ, I been going for the last four or five years, but then Sheila Donahue and Marc joined in, and we do this workshop and reading with the kids that's just great. I have had many good experiences like that. Whenever I go to the Mill, he treats me real good. Introduces me in a good way but never as a virgin virgin. I see that man as a major influence for all of us. He's like his poem...he turns and reaches his hand to help others. For me, that poem he says really is true. He walks the walk and talks the talk and ya know darned good and well that's what makes it with folks like me. Big fuckin' promises don't mean shit. How you treat folks is what counts. Marc Smith's always been a stand up guy with me. He lets me give my political stuff without ever trying to tell me different. I love the guy for that."
A long, wrinkled hand with grease under its thick fingernails appeared behind Eddy and tapped him on the shoulder. "Hey, Tonto," the tall man with the rotted teeth groaned, "where's your fucking teepee."
Then the shit hit the fan. Without word one said, both Eddy and I agreed going completely nuts was the best way out of this situation. Our table went over with a kick of Eddy's foot, the pitcher of beer flying through the air and all over the wall in a million yellow drops, the shot glasses bouncing around on the floor like dice. In the blink of an eye, Eddy confiscated the hunting knife off the man's side, violently pushed him across the room, and damned if that ugly fucker wasn't pinned against the bar with the blade of his own knife slicing through his gray whiskers, right up to his throat. His eyes darted around helplessly. In that same moment, I was seized by a sudden state of hysteria, and I started making whooping sounds as I jumped around like a mental patient doing a rain dance. The ZZ Top duo's hair stood on end as if they were seeing a ghost. They tried to approach me. With a long, lunatic howl, I picked up a chair by its back and threw it with a vengeance at them, continuing to dance around like a possessed medicine man. The chair crashed on top of the pool table and bounced through the air, shutting up the music as it smashed loudly with a splatter of plastic and glass into the jukebox. The two men with the leather jackets jumped back as a thick spark and a puff of smoke popped out. An altogether foreign fire was burning behind Eddy's eyes as he pressed the blade into the man's beard. You could hear the ugly man swallow his own spit, as the four bald men with the red suspenders stood nearby like plastic mannequins, unsure of what exactly they should do.
"How dare you disrespect this man?" I roared like a god as I flailed around, kicking over chairs. "This man has read at the Smithsonian. This man has won an American Book Award!"
"Don't cut him," the pretty man behind the bar sobbed, his arms trembling as he raised a long shotgun to his chin. Everyone froze at the sight of it, including me.
As the Joliet after hours bar was suddenly seized by the silence of some seriously freaked out and confused Klansmen, Eddy spoke out, clearly and quite soberly. "Let's get one thing straight," he said right into the ugly man's face. "I am not Tonto. I'll cut your throat, rape your wife and then murder all your children, one by one, and that's just for beginners."
Eddy suddenly took a step back and released the knife from the man's hairy throat with a jerk. Something so comical happened next, that they all took their eyes off of Eddy and I, as they became engulfed in an uncontrollable laughter. Even the pretty, green-eyed bartender, holding the shotgun on us, became oblivious toward us for that moment. As he stood up off the bar, freed from Eddy's attack, the tall, ugly man's long beard fell off his face, from a clean, straight line where Eddy had pressed the hunting knife, revealing his undamaged skin. The beard floated down through the smoky air, landing in a pile on the tops of his boots, remaining there like a greasy, dead skunk. The ugly man looked down at his own whiskers with his eyes bugging, and his purplish tongue protruded between missing and blackened teeth, spittle flying as he blew out a sigh of relief.
Eddy and I took this opportunity to get the hell out of there. As we ran across the gravel parking lot to my car, we heard somebody in the bar shout "Hey, they're getting away!" and we heard some glass shattering and a bunch of men screaming wildly. We got into my car as fast as we could, and we tore out of there. Eddy kept looking behind us, scared shitless some of those good ol' boys were following us in order to lynch us. But I knew Joliet pretty well, and zigzagged around the blocks, got on the lonely expressway, and drove like a bat out of hell for several miles away from Joliet. It became clear, we had lost them. So we started laughing ourselves, laughing and shaking each other's hands in every conceivable way known to man.
But our troubles weren't over yet. The bright flashing lights of a State Trooper soon raced toward us. We were being tailgated.
I was standing, as ordered, at the back of my car, my palms placed on the top of the trunk, my legs spread. The hunting knife was placed on the roof. And Eddy was standing on the shoulder of the road, very short compared to the State Trooper, who was a big marine type with a stiff hat which had a wide, round brim. Everything flashed with the trooper's lights.
"You're Donald Two-Rivers?" he asked, looking at some form of ID Eddy gave him.
"E.," Eddy emphasized drunkenly, "E. Donald Two-Rivers."
"You have a little book," the cop said, his chiseled face absent of emotion. "A bunch of cold ones."
"A Dozen Cold Ones," Eddy said, arrogantly, as if challenging the big man.
"My wife has a copy of that book," the trooper said sternly, "bought it when she saw you at some art thing in the city."
"Could have been anything," Eddy said, shrugging it off.
"It was some kind of poetry contest," the trooper said.
"A slam," Eddy said, nodding his head.
"That's right," the trooper said slowly, cautiously, "one of those poetry slams." He stood there for a moment, contemplating something. "My wife's a poet too," the trooper finally said. "Can't seem to get anything published though. Maybe you could, well, you know, look at some of her writing, and, you know, give her some advice, you know, about the creative process."
"Ya know," Eddy said, leaning against the car and crossing one leg over the other, "I get a lot of people asking me about the creative process. Hell, I was in the Green Mill …"
"The Green Mill, that's it," the trooper added.
"… one time and this young dude comes up and introduces himself as a writer...just beginning, he added. Oh shit, I thought, but what ya gonna do? He asked me if I'd read some of his stuff. Sure I would, but ya know, I drink some good sippin' whiskey. He got the hint and called over the bartender. Jameison I told him. The bar keep smiled and watched as the kid pulled out a stack of papers from his bag this thick," and Eddy spread his finger and thumb out three inches. "I saw how many pages he had and told the bar keep to make it a double...and to not go too far away with the bottle. The young guy didn't seem to mind, so I spent about 45 minutes reading some God-awful poetry and drinking Jameison. Got sort of inebriated and told the kid he had a career in literature. That kinda thing always seems to happen to me. Just as soon as I mention to people that I'm a writer they just know they have a best selling story to tell me. I listen as long as the good whiskey flows. Hell, if it's a pretty woman, I'll even take down notes."
Eddy was getting cocky, that was for sure. But I couldn't tell what was going on with the trooper, couldn't interpret his stone face to tell if he was getting angry or if he was beginning to smile.
"Well, my wife isn't much of a whiskey drinker," he said, "but I figure she's pretty enough."
I couldn't hear their conversation for a moment as a semi truck drove by. When the truck was far enough away, I realized Eddy was rambling on, right there on the shoulder of the road, his chest sticking out proudly and his chin held high.
"I write different things," he bragged. "Not just poetry. I only write poetry to purge myself of those bad vibes inside. It's my way of dealing with all the shit that society hits you with and to get a sense of balance. I don't like to let outside or external influences get to me too much. When you do that, you are giving people power. Like if I say, that bitch makes me so mad. Well, I'm giving the power to her to determine my mood. Tell your wife to be real careful about that. Usually, if you take the weight and accept the responsibility, it is easier to do something about it. I write plays too, and I use a lot of humor. With stage plays, I be thinking about how the third wall concept lets me say things that I wouldn't have normally got to say. The magic of the stage is that people will listen to your ideas more readily than if you was sitting across a bar table or something. When you can pull people into your story they get to see your humanity even if it's just for ninety minutes. That's pretty much what I want to do with my plays. I want to share my humanity. I want folks to walk away from the play discussing things. I want them to see how everyone can be affected by each other. Once we see that we are the same we can celebrate those similarities, and then the differences seem to be easier to bridge."
"She likes to write short stories," the trooper said, standing firm and looking down at Eddy. "Maybe she can turn some of those stories into plays."
"I write short stories too. Tell her to write with the reader in mind. All writing is a collaborative event. No story can come alive just because some fuck head wrote it down. Hell, it don't come alive until someone reads it, and only then, when they have assigned their own meaning to the words, does it even come near to being alive."
The two of them seemed to be getting along just fine, so I took my hands off the truck of my car and took a step toward them. I guess I wanted to add my two cents to the conversation. The trooper's head snapped toward me and his voice was as sharp as a gun going off. "Did I tell you to move?! Get the fuck back there and put your hands on the car! NOW!"
Eddy winked at me as I obeyed in a hurry. "Now I'm gonna hit you with this concept that a lot of people might not understand," Eddy said excitedly, nudging the trooper on his arm and making an inviting gesture with his hand until the trooper's eyes were coaxed away from me. "You see, some folks might not wanna even hear it, but I wanna tell it to you because I know your wife is a deep, creative type, so just think about this for a few minutes. My people tell their stories in the oral tradition. Now, as an Indian, when I began to get published, the idea of moving my stories from the oral tradition to the page had lots of different kinda implications. First, I was stepping into an area that even in the white man's culture...or the dominate culture, so to speak…very few people go. I mean, you walk down the fuckin' street and ask people if they ever been published and most of them...the overwhelming fucking majority, haven't. Right?"
The trooper closed one eye under his brim, stuck his chin out and nodded in agreement.
"What is it?" Eddy nearly barked, "maybe one in every ten thousand? I can't say for sure but it is a lot of people you'll ask before you meet one who has actually published something. In the Indian world, it is even more staggering. A minority being published moves you into a whole new sphere. People even wonder if entering that elitist circle doesn't rob you of some of your Indianess. I have been asked that question so many times. The answer, I think, is no. It adds more to you."
"Yeah, but, but Helena's just an average, ordinary person, just stays at home alone all day. She doesn't have the experiences," the trooper said. His rock solid face seemed to be melting, allowing some humanity to show through the tough cop mask.
"Don’t matter!" Eddy shouted. "When I get set to a project I research ideas. Ideas. I make notes. I know that people are gonna read it, and they have time to digest it and think about it. When you talk a story it's different because you feed off of the audience reactions. With writing--no such luxury...you work at it. To be a fucking writer ya gotta write! Fuck experiences. Just write. I always hear these people say how they started a novel. Just recently a brother announced to me 'I'm writing the story of my life, all my experiences.' and on his face he had this big smile. I knew he wanted me to take him serious. This fuck ain't never written anything in his entire life but his name on a booking sheet...so what, he signed for his personal items...you know, like your belt, shoe laces and the chump change in your pocket...you know all about that, of course."
The trooper allowed a smile to break through the jagged edges of his mug.
"'How many chapters ya got?' I asked. 'Twelve pages,' he said. Twelve fucking pages and the guy is telling me he's doing his life story. Yeah right! You gotta write, ya gotta be on top of your own habits. Ya gotta make it an obsession. Ya gotta invest all your passion. And the bitch of it all is that ya gotta have time alone. It's good your wife has so much time to herself. Encourage her to use that time. Help her out. And work with her. At least that's how it works for me. Me and my old lady work together. She's real creative. Oh fuck, do we ever fight when we get together like that, and yet...when I listen to her ideas, they are always...without fail... good ones. She is generally right. Maybe once or twice have I said, fuck no...this is my idea and I'm gonna do it my way. Lucky it worked. Usually her ideas make my stuff better. More acceptable and more logical, because I am a nut when it comes to creating. I don't give a fuck about boundaries, and rules, rules, rules don't mean a fuckin' thing to me when I'm flowing like that, and I don't let no mother fucker tell me it can't be done."
I was still standing there with my palms against my car as Eddy continued to rant at the trooper.
"Maybe by their standards it can't be done," he said, throwing his arms around, "but if I wanna do something...real bad...I'll find a way. We have to go through this process and it is painful and it's centered on yourself, but the end result is always stronger when I use her ideas. But getting to that end result is a bitch. It's like being in labor for several hours. All of my better stuff is worked like that. We collaborate. She knows how to work me...I said work me. It's like good sex when it's right. We're working on a movie screenplay now. It's a project that we've cried over and fought over and then felt, like, so relieved when it comes out good. It's like one fuckin' scene at a time. Then that scene is reworked and reworked until it rings true. Until it sounds and feels like we want it too. We've rewritten it so many times, but when we get the balls to birth it, man, some people are gonna be shocked, and they gonna fuckin' laugh, and they sure as hell gonna cry, and then they gonna change the way they look at city Indians...that much is already there. The thing is, the screenplay is honest. It ain't Dances With Wolves and it ain't Home On the Range. It's a story gonna make you understand. Its a story gonna help define the American identity."
I think Eddy must have realized he was shouting, because he stopped suddenly as if startled and looked around. He had gotten carried away and I guess he realized he was talking to a man who held his freedom in the palm of his hand. He cleared his throat and gave me a bewildered leer. I lifted my hand from my car and appealed to him to continue satisfying the trooper's needs. The trooper shot an angry look at me and I slapped my hand back down upon the trunk.
"Now where the fuck was I?" Eddy said, as if coming up for air. "Oh yeah, about working the creative process. The whole thing is that even through all the fighting and the crying, we have this shared vision. Our motivation is love for our people and that makes it good. For her, she has to find ways to contain me because I sometimes wanna just get crazy and say fuck it and take it over the top. She has to curtail me and yet spur me on. Our relationship is tight because of that. With her...man, I don't hold back. I tell her when I'm scared. I tell her when I wanna just grab a pistol and pistol whip the shit out of someone. She keeps me sane. She touches me in ways no one has ever done." It seemed Eddy was talking over the car to me now. "Look at how much she has done with me. I mean, there's people who know us a long time as a couple, and they can tell you, it is her that keeps me going. Cathleen Schandelmeier knows," Eddy said, raising his voice and purposely directing it toward me, "how Beverly holds me up...how she puts challenges in front of me. People like to think of us kinda like a Bukowski team. Shit. I love and respect Bukowski's work, but in our circle, he wouldn't make it. Someone would probably off the dude." As Eddy continued talking loudly at me, the trooper looked at me with puzzlement in his eyes. "If I didn't have her I'd be out here crazy. Probably get myself killed or kill someone. I'd be like that other brother, you remember, CJ, Tom Luplow. Unofficial Soup Kitchen. Now that dude had it going on, but he didn't have no one to restrain him." Eddy shook his head and looked into the trooper's eyes. "I helped him get his hands on a gun one time. I wished I didn't do it, but he asked and I turned him on to one. He used it later to hold some poor sucker up. That's what I heard. On the streets you do stuff like that. I have Beverly to thank for helping me to get away from that way of life. Now, Tom, he never found the one woman who could grab hold of him and motivate him to do his best. His soul mate. It's about soul mates. I know this bad ass gay boy who was, like, a total fuckup, until he met another man who calmed his fool ass down, and now he's the best at what he does. It was always there, but he had to find someone to help him express it before the genius in him came out. It be like that. Soul mates. It's about finding that one person who can turn you around." Eddy took a breath and winked at the trooper with a sigh. "I found Beverly, and I was blessed. Our friend found his lover and they both do this great art work and make a fortune at it. And, believe me, sexual orientation ain't got a damned thing to do with a person's human worth. It's about finding the right mate. Soul mate."
"But what could I possibly help her write about?" the trooper asked humbly.
"What it's like to be a cop's wife!" Eddy scolded. "What the fuck you think?"
My jaw dropped as I saw a tear ease it's way out of the corner of the trooper's eye. But that was one hard ass man, because, I swear on my life, I saw him deliberately suck that tear right back in.
"There are so many inspirations," Eddy said calmly. "So many moments that define a need to record feelings. Memories of sage, advice from an elder. A woman walking with her child. Everything and anything can inspire. Old man Carlos Cortez has been an inspiration for me," Eddy said, shouting toward me once again. "Sometimes it is a political situation," he said, calming down and turning toward the trooper. "Like this anti-war thing. High emotional states do it for me. Losing a buddy. Never found his soul mate. Boozed and drugged himself down. Gone before his time. My babies playing. All my beautiful babies playing."
"You must be disciplined," the trooper said.
"I write early in the morning. I usually get up at three, have a cup of coffee and hit it. I fuckin' work at it. I won't be like the guy with twelve pages of a novel. I write and I rewrite because I know where the story is. It's always in the rewrite. You can't be lazy at this game. No one can tell me that they always sit down and write out of inspiration. If that was the case they'd be writing once a month maybe. Inspiration doesn't always happen but there are ways to stimulate it. You gotta be aware of your creative process. You gotta find ways to stimulate yourself. Music, photos...sometimes doing dishes from the night before. I work at it. You can't be lazy about writing. If you are, you will be telling people that you have twelve pages on your life story...yeah, right, bitch, get the fuck out of my face!"
The trooper's face turned into a landscape of ice. Did he think Eddy was calling him a "bitch," I wondered. No, it seemed the radio at his side was blurting some secret code which had caught his attention. His face filled with rage and he walked toward me and growled, "Have you been drinking?!"
"No, sir," I said.
"Are you sure you haven't been drinking?!" He yelled, so loud my ears hurt.
"Not a drop," I swore, my facial expression collapsing with the certainty that he saw right through it.
"Well," he said, pointing to the knife on the roof of the car, "put that tomahawk in the trunk, slow it down, and get your friend home before you kill someone!" It was a command. He walked to his car, got in, and zoomed away with his lights blazing.
"I'm not the same person who came to the Chicago Poetry Scene with fire in his soul and this burning need to purge myself. That dude has passed away, CJ, like too many nights in the bar, listening to hecklers or drunk poets reading about crazy ass shit. That dude is extremely happy to be tickling his children. He is happy working on his home, painting cabinets or tiling a kitchen floor, but always loving being alive. He is at peace when his children and his grandchildren pile on him and scream gitty-up grand-paw. Gitty-up. Oh hell, I had my times, and now I am treated like an elder statesman by the folks who been around. I always smiled at the irony of performing in the Cultural Center downtown because, in my lifetime, I sat across the street from it in the park when I was homeless, clueless, with nothing but a poem in my head. Then a few years later, I'm in there reading my poems with the mayor's wife in the crowd applauding me. I never get over the irony of being flown to Washington DC to read at the Smithsonian either, because I have a poem called 'Peeking out of Amerika's Museums'."
We both smiled as the sun peeked out from the horizon.
"This scene has been good to me, good for me, and as I approach the sunset of my life, I think of how happy and complete I feel. It was my poetry that attracted Beverly to me. It was poetry that gave me the honor of reading at joints with some of the most invigorating poets in the world and of our times. I feel extremely blessed and it feels so good when I see young people writing and reading their stuff. Old Marc Smith had a lot to do with the whole movement and it's a good thing. You had a lot to do with bringing the poetry to the people, too, CJ You know, you, provide opportunities for us to say what is happening around us and that is the true history. The greatness of a nation can always be measured by the depth of its poetry and people, like you, like Jared Smith, or Mike Warr, or Nina Corwin, or Effie Mihopoulos, Susan House, Joe Roarity, Mike Stevens, Ron Rosoff, Kelly Gilbreth, Justine Smith, Ted Aliotta, Carlos Cumpian, Mark LaRoque, Al DeGenova and Charlie Rossiter, the ones who make it available. Your names will always be sacred to me. I will tell my grandchildren how we lived in a time and made a place where we stepped over boundaries and considered each other like human beings, and how good that felt, and how healthy it was. I will always advise them to be like that, and to never, but never, let a little color come between them and a good time in bed. Haha!"
"What the fuck?" I asked, as I pulled up behind his townhouse. "You act like you're dying or something."
"No, just moving to Green Bay," he said. "We live in some challenging times but we can all live up to it. As long as we make it our passion to be without war and racism, the measure of our society will be good. The American Identity is still in the forming process. Our poetry will testify that we all were involved, in spite of our race. We share the pulpit, more so than at any time before. Our poetry will testify to that fact, C. J. Miigwetch. That means thank you in my language. So this is it, my friend...the sun comes up in a ritual as ancient as time and the need to get home and to bed takes over. All things in moderation...love, peace and lots of sex! I love you, man."
"I love you too," I said. "What the hell happened last night, anyway?"
"I don't have a fuckin' clue. I'll see you later."
E. Donald Two-Rivers' fourth book, "Pow Wows, Fat Cats, and Other Indian Tales" has since been released in February of 2003 by Mammoth Publications, Woodley Memorial Press. C. J. Laity has since quit drinking.
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