Mark Halliday Reality USA

I feel I should go to Norfolk Virginia and drink gin with sailors on leave from the Alabama, talking baseball and Polaris missiles and Steve Martin movies, another gin with lime juice, then Balto, Balto, hitchhike in and out of Baltimore for days back and forth for days in a row discussing the jobs of whoever gives me rides, salesmen, shippers, small-time dispatchers of the much that can be dispatched. For the ACTUALITY of it!

Most Recent Book: Little Star (William Morrow, 1987) I20 MARK HALLIDAY

Books dominate my head. I read in them, I read at them,

I'm well into my thirties. What about real life?

The woman in the light-blue skirt on the cigarette billboard has such big thighs!

What is it about thighs? Smooth and weighty, weighty and smooth: you can tell there's really something there. And to think that the woman must really exist, it's a photo after all not a painting, she is somewhere in America—

and to think that some guy gets to lie down on her and her thighs . . . She's a model, she probably lives in New York, New York baffles me

I know I could never find her there—but listen, her sister lives in Baltimore, hanging out sheets to dry from the balcony of a light-blue house, lifting her arms—

reality. Along with her dimly dangerous ex-husband, her speed pills, his clumsy minor embezzlement of funds from

Pabst Auto Supply, and what else?

The boxing matches he goes to, and the stock-car races and—maybe I should go to Indianapolis?

But I feel sure I'd be bored in Indianapolis despite the smoky reality of Indianapolis.

But it's this idea of American experience how I don't have it, how I ought to know the way things are really and not just from Hemingway or Dreiser, John O'Hara or

James T. Farrell or, say, Raymond Carver or Bruce Springsteen but direcdy: firsthand: hands-on learning.

What if I were to take a Greyhound to Memphis, quit shaving, learn to drink whiskey straight, lift some weights (maybe I should do the weights before I go)

and get a tattoo on one bicep saying KISS OFF

and meet a guy named Eddie who chain-smokes and rob a record store with Eddie! Yes, we smash the glass at 3 a.m. on Davis Avenue in Memphis and grab 300 albums and 200 8-track tapes pile them into Eddie's red pickup and bingo, we're gone in five minutes. Next day we paint the pickup yellow and change the plates, no sweat. Eddie knows, he knows stuff, he knows how to fence the loot and he says next we hit a certain TV store, he slugs my shoulder laughing, I get my piece of cash but really it's not the cash I care about, it's the being involved.

Eddie thinks that's weird, he says "You're weird, man" and starts to act mistrustful so I leave town. Kansas City here I come.

No, skip Kansas City, I want to save Kansas City. Just in case.

—In case what? What am I talking about? How many lives does a person get, one, right? And me,

I love my life with books!— Of course it's not just books, I've got bills and friends and milkshakes, the supermarket, laundromat oh shit but still I keep feeling this thing about reality—

the world is so loaded: a green beer bottle is chucked half-full from a speeding Ford Mercury and that beer sloshes exactly like this loaded world—what?

Forget the world, just take America, sure there's the same hamburgers everywhere and gasoline fumes but among the fumes and burgers there's detail, tons of it, you can smell it.

There are variations ... All the stuff

Whitman claimed he saw, there's the really seeing that stuff!

I don't know—there's a waitress in an Arby's Roast Beef and her name is either Donna or Nadine, you buy the Special on the right day and you get a free Batman io-ounce glass, she makes a joke about it, you say "What time do you get off work" (only this time it's really happening) and that night Donna or Nadine does for you what you thought they only did in fiction . . . That's right. Next morning her bottom in the light from the window looks so pearly it's like home, just glad to be home.

It's April, all cool and sunny, and across the street from Arby's there is a ten-year-old black boy wearing red hightops and we talk about the Braves (this is in Georgia, now, and the asphalt glistens) and the kid says something beautiful that I'll never forget.

Good. So then, the kid's uncle sells me some cocaine or teaches me how to aim a pistol or takes me for a ride in his helicopter—

there must be a few black men who own helicopters?

Up we go roaring over Georgia!

The roofs and poles and roofs the components, the components!

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