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Sippin’ Alligator Wine (Miami pt.1)

Motivation Posters Theory

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Currently in Shot In The Dark cafe, downtown Tucson, gnawing these travelogues up to pace with returning to the desert. Slipping. Exhausted. Editing out emoticons showin up as black blocks instead of moons. Slow brewed caffeine habits renew their cliche & sharpen their fonts for motivational posters stretched over full eating habits/stretching quietly slipping out the window, the way a cigarette slips in when you’re not thinking about quitting. Blood flow tightens w/ that flushed forehead of hangovers knocking on to-do lists, asking to be let into the schedule: “make room, make room!”

Poking embers of memories w/ photos as dusters to organize the story & keep some semblance of linearity that doesn’t exist. One that dissolves in memory like a tab of acid under tongue.

Learning self-love, learning self-love.”

The phrase hangs like a motivational poster over plaster pierced by knuckles balled in a red-rubber ball furious to bounce.

How many more times am I going to write this?”

Let’s try & get this story out before it’s too starved to hold itself up to language.

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Cafe Con Leche Sunrise

This whole trip didn’t go as planned. The Everglades already sucked us up in one hit, exhaling a fried engine for Sid after punching in ~4,000 miles on Siouxsie Sioux’s odometer.

Sid bought Siouxsie maybe a month ago. A lil 2002 Chevy Malibu. Recent repairs in Naples weigh us down w/ lighter wallets. Our funds are drying quicker than the swamps bordering Miami, where we’re returning to to crash w/ N! homie Brendan, a poet/entrepreneur we met during 2015’s tour to Oakland’s Beast Crawl.

“Ya feelin some Alligator Wine?”

The old man, who housed us up in Naples while threw us a ride to Miami. Re-trekking Tamiami was dull. The landscape was beautiful. Our benefactor, a middle-of-the-road cliche republican w/ an American flag on his front porch & “an utmost respect for the law,” stopped in at a gas station to grab us road beers. “Just drink em quietly till we’re in alligator alley,” he said. “Or I can go get us some straws,” I said.

“There aren’t many differences between republicans & liberals in this country, are there?” his beer says. “Hah, liberals are just okay republicans okay w/ abortions. There’s no left in this country. Obama’s to the right of Nixon for crissake,” my can says as its cracked.

“Haven’t drank beer thru a straw before,” the old man says.

“I’m not feeling beer. I want some alligator wine,” the straws say, sighing.

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The Sharpest Edge of a Sword

If we learned anything reading Jitterbug Perfume into New Orleans, it’s laughter. Laughter is the sharpest edge of a sword—its hilt.

If we’ve learned anything in 2016, it’s try to laugh.

So we’re doing all right. Shit, without bite, adventure lacks adventure.

It’s hilarious that the engine torched fumes over a cross-threaded radiator cap. A $5 part. Heh. Hah. Hah-hehe-HAH!

Knowledge vs. understanding.”

& back in Shot, no longer in that alligator wine state of mind, the computer keys push back against fingers. I’m struggling w/ writing all of this sober [editorial phase : heheheh], to trigger those processes—that empathy w/ the past, the imagery. The fresh piercing in my ear is leaking pus. The safety pin crusting to my lobe. Music over the radio trespasses the white space between words, stopping the blood, further hesitating these already resistant keys.

The future garrotes the past before the past has a chance to mutilate the future, & the present is caught between bone & skin like unused muscle.

Then I remind myself these stories are for me to process what’s happened. Then keep going. Oi! You’re good. That fight to self-love is continuous. You’re in a perpetual state of change. These ideas aren’t revolutionary—they’re ideas you’ve been writing about for years. What’s revolutionary is the attempts at understanding.

You’re always relearning to laugh to learn to laugh.

The principal difference between an adventurer and a suicide is that the adventurer leaves himself a margin of escape (the narrower the margin the greater the adventure), a margin whose width and length may be determined by unknown factors but whose navigation is determined by the measure of the adventurer’s nerve and wits. It is exhilarating to live by one’s nerves or toward the summit of one’s wits.”

―Tom Robbins, “Another Roadside Attraction”

Besides, this adventure’s teeth are nowhere near as sharp as past times on the road, past tours w/ Books & Shovels. We’re doing all right. There’s no mad man out to kill us. The dogs haven’t cornered us (give it a San Francisco morning & 3000 miles). That 3am Denny isn’t licking our throats (hehe, Los Angeles, here we come !!).  The road’s spoiling us rotten! & she’s continuing to do so.

& maybe this lack of external noise will provide opportunity for more self-reflection to shine thru, like that moment you’re in your body right before falling asleep & can feel your heartbeat. Or maybe I’ll get drunk & review via what’s becoming more a personal narrative than a traveling bookstore tale.

Snortin’ Around the Nose of the Cocaine Capital

Brendan’s space is a small studio behind his parent’s house. We’ve been here a few days & haven’t seen much of his parents less than 10 feet away. His mother bums feeble smiles reluctantly like last cigarettes when she comes in to do laundry. His father is MIA.

“Well, we’ve been here long enough. Let’s get shit rolling.”

“Spare a Dime, Paradigm, I Feel Fine!

Sid & I buckle down into making cash. Well, trying to. Craigslist & door knocking & asking thru Coconut Grove circles.

Luck doesn’t scratch our itch, & after three or four days, ensuring our return of the vehicle for the kind elderly couple in Naples, luck takes up a broken bottle & throws a tantrum.

“My dad’s a dick. He wants you out,” Brendan says, lighting a cigarette.

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How to describe Brendan? Well, for one, his smoking of that cigarette is unusual. He vapes. He’s an entrepreneur of sorts. Real estate, among other ventures. He’s a writer- stream-of-consciousness sorta rambler. His book collection is to envy. He’s—well, fuck, can this picture suffice enough for now? We’ll wrestle with the slobbering humane details later.

“They’re about to fly outta town for a week. My mom says you can come back tomorrow morning after they leave. I’m going to put you up in a hotel for tonight.”

“Dude, you sure? That’s not needed man.”

“I’m not gonna leave you outside, & shit, I’m working 50-60 hour fucking weeks for something. Don’t worry about it dude. The fact this makes you uncomfortable makes me more comfortable. I trust you.”

Blessed be Brendan for that dirty-motel-cliche-sheet -throwing night that Sid & I danced around like bored maniacs w/ a camera & too much self-reflection to be self-reflection.

NOTE : What about the hilariously cliche “youth trying to be middle class adults” (or, at our age, are middle class adults?) repressed dinner you & Sid gratefully/uncomfortably attended?

NOTE : What about the cocaine jog? The first jog you took in years? ~3 miles. Replicating it the following day, you felt every bit of tar paved thru your lungs melting in the sorta heat only rapid heart beats produce, janky songs of highways ripping off caution tape stuffing your crutches like gutted smiles.

NOTE : It’s our third or fourth night (or third or fourth morning?), & we haven’t made a dime.

NOTE : Shit, what was this note going to say again? That kid moaning loud like a tortured gila monster distracted the words right off the tongue & stuffed em in that space between ideas & actions

Sippin On Coconut Grove

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I haven’t busked w/ any frequency since I first hit the road in 2013. With cute lil chubby cheeks & naive baggage full of poems, poems less of hurt & more of romantic glossings of experiences I was walking into without knowledge nor understanding of. These poems seemed successful. I had a cockier swagger that made pushing books easier, made talking with others easier.

Transitioning into buskin’ here, w/ noses unaccustomed to Miami’s customs, was an anxious freight to hop. Necessity pushing its groaning metal a lil too fast for skill/passion to catch up.

I mean, goddamn, the game of censoring the pieces for lil ears meandering by, while great practice for improvisation, showed how much I fall back on cursing for an impact that’s more battered up than the moon. Lil baby boi Jeremiah cursed less & made more $$.

Having not yet transitioned into busking my pieces, & thinking something folks have read & could easily identify would bring in $ quicker, I put on a smoothly blank white mask & started shouting “Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas.” Coconut Grove didn’t pay up or give much of a damn, besides a pity dime & a smile.

I met another dude who just landed in Miami, a homeless cat camping near the Grove. We shared a beer & he asked if I freestyled. “I used to dude, I’m outta touch.”

“I freestyle, I drum, let’s do shit tomorrow in Wynwood. Wynwood’s dope on Friday nights. Get there early, other buskers will be settin’ up fast.”

Everywhere’s the New Goddamn Brooklyn. Even Brooklyn.

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I’m lapping up weak beer thru my backpack. I’m wrapping up the last pages of “Fear & Loathing.” Folks giggle, I’ve made a couple bucks. A kid, frightened by the white mask, started crying. I take it off.

“Ah, look at this literary man over there! This is my personal reader!” a man w/ a boa constrictor wrapped around his neck says. “This is my personal reader ladies, aye, don’t stop reading! Keep going, keep going! Ladies, wanna hold this snake? The one up here, the one up here, she’s friendly, good souled, look at these big brown eyes of hers!”

The snake could strangle a grizzly bear. She’s wrapped lazily around her companion’s neck as photographs flash. She looks bored.

The women threw him $5 for photos with the snake wrapped around all three of them.

I sigh. I don’t conflict. They give me a glance as they pass. I’ve stopped reading.

“Why you stopped reading boy? Keep goin, keep goin!”

I transition into poems & conversations w/ passing folks, trying to laugh.

The drummer shows up & sets up. The beers take hold. I’m getting cockier. I’m feeling more fluid, less tight. My shoulders are relaxed. I laugh fully, but it’s a laugh that those who can laugh like that sober would call “watered down.”

jeremiah walton busking

I begin freestyling w/ this guy, passing the mic back & forth, folks comin up & joining, battling, change rattling in the hat. We each break $15 in a couple hours, & start my walk home.

Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run, but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant.”

―Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”

The Sun Rises & The Sun Sets, Rises & Sets, Rises & Sets, Unnoticed

At night, it’s busking ‘round the drunks. Come day, it’s hunting odd ball jobs w/o much hope of finding odd ball jobs. No skills in these pockets outside of dressing up like those inflatable tube men outside car lots for Nostrovia! Press.

Well, & I’ll throw writing into the mix. It’s a belly laugh need to.

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A project I was introduced to in New Orleans is a “poetry-to-go” sort of deal. Folks will take feelings/ideas/subjects/anything as prompts from passing folks to write them a personalized poem on the spot. If the patron digs the piece, they’ll tip.

It’s a humbling experience. even w/ repetitive requests for love poems. Some folks didn’t like my take of “relationships are special because they are going to die” take, or my “where is the line between friendship & romance drawn?” poems. But giggles aside, I’m grateful to have been loaned a typewriter that first round in NOLA.

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After having spent a couple hours writing/being heckled on Frenchmen St, I started getting into a groove, one that I tried replicate in Coconut Grove, & failed. Not a single poem. Nada. Na-da-da-hee-hee.

Miami magic & New Orleans magic are different beasts. One is up the nose & beats bodies w/ strobe & clubs, and one is oil lanterns, second lines, and communities pounding fists against gentrification’s ugly white picket fences.

“Well, wait, where’s Books & Shovels at?”

The traveling bookstore’s stored in Brendan’s closet. I poked around for venues/events near enough to Coral Gables/Coconut Grove to be viable for Brendan to shoot us over straight after work, or before work, but even w/ his well-acquainted history w/ the Grove, we’re not finding spots to set up.

Of course, it’s cops keeping us vending where vending is economically viable. Can’t in Wynwood. Can’t in Coconut Grove. Can’t in most places around the damned country. It’s donation based books, a “direct threat to the economic well being of Barnes & Nobles and good ol fashioned ignorance we encourage the red-white-white-blue loving families of America to indulge in round the Thanksgiving turkey sliced according to nuclear familial hierarchy!”

The poking around for venues slows. We don’t have much time left in Miami.

I found an open mic near our last days, one that we couldn’t shake dust off the binding gathering on the pig-pile of books we’ve added to Brendan’s already heaping pile of lit, but even without the smear of fingerprints perusing our shelves, I did manage to sell a copies of “From Here Till Utopia,” a donation based micro-chap Ghost City Press [editorial note: how smooth…heh] had just published, in-exchange for change & over-priced drinks.

Much love to that Chilean couple that gave us outlines of why Miami is the alleged “gateway to Latin America,” & why there’s beautifully unapologetic cafe waitresses demanding you (me, the gringo) adapt to their language, their ways, their neighborhood.  

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“From Here Til Utopia” cover // art by Shy Watson

The lil toast of poetry over book sales was rejuvenating, & with all this bitching, it needs to be said, that while Sid & I struggled w/ our environment, struggled w/ making $$, struggled w/ climbing out the cave of lit we’d been living in, & while I struggled w/ the volume of uppers surrounding us, & while Sid struggled w/ keeping up yoga, her body, her own healings, it needs to be said that most of our struggles were (are) internal.

Our external environment laid out the map for our internal conflicts to come gurgling up to light, like mouthwash tattered teeth begging for a rinse, to put our words & thoughts into action to see how well we’ve cleaned up our past from our present, how much of who we are is who we say we are.

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Filed under: Books & Shovels, Uncategorized

About the Author

Posted by

Oi ! I’m Jeremiah Walton. For the past ~3 years I’ve been bopping around the U.S. between hitchhiking + rubber tramping, running traveling bookstore Books & Shovels + indie publisher Nostrovia! Press. My focus is in-person distribution at open mics + features + busking. Word of mouth is a fulfilling & feels to be a more intimate promotional process. I’ve featured at the NYC Poetry Festival + San Francisco Lit Crawl + Snoetry Cleveland + Beast Crawl Oakland + This Lil Lit Fest + street corners across the country. There’s a handful of my books floating around the country, but most recently is “From Here Til Utopia” (Ghost City Press). Raccoons + coyotes are my companions. Hope you dig the poems, much love, thank you❤

1 Comment so far

  1. Pingback: Smog Moon Breathing (Miami pt.2) | Nostrovia! Tavern

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