Carson Street, revisited

This post continues one I started two years ago, about the time I lived in Pittsburgh, featured on Freshly Pressed.

Bingo Quixote was his stage moniker but his real name was Bob, Bob Zimmer. Myki said after I left Pittsburgh Bob had his first art opening but Lloyd attacked him, and they had to call the police. He got on top of Bob, pinned him down by the arm pits with his knees, started choking him. (Myki was playing cello.) Lloyd, who never drank, did that night, and Myki said he was probably jealous of Bob. Everyone was sad and embarrassed for Lloyd, who was a kind of guru on the art scene for everyone else. People started gossiping, saying Lloyd must have real problems.

Lloyd had Q-tip white hair from the time I knew him, like it’d always been that way. Like the other artists, he had a look: leather cowboy boots and jeans, belt buckles, sports jackets from the Salvation Army. The one time I went to his house he showed me the room where he kept all the jackets; he had a gray set of metal lockers he got from the Y when they gutted it and Lloyd asked if he could take the lockers, and now each one was full of sports jackets all hanging the same way. He went to the thrift store Monday mornings, that’s when they got their new shipments he said.

Lloyd smoked a pipe in the café where I worked and people gathered around his table like a prophet. One time he said the thing about art is, you have to know your medium. He tapped his pipe into the palm of his hand and looked at each of us and repeated it, know your medium.

He made glass mandala sculptures you could hang in your sitting room or wherever, to meditate on. The glass tubes were special for reasons he was proud of I can’t remember, some tie-in with Eastern religion or mathematical properties and LSD I think.

Lloyd collected mannequins in addition to the sports jackets and experimented with sunflowers, mixing species to yield multiple heads, and it must have been late summer that afternoon Myki and I went, for the sunflowers were all taller than us, even Lloyd, with their necks sagging down from the weight of all those heads, the three of us pie-eyed with pollen. He had a claw-foot tub he kept in the back outside and sometimes bathed in, there was a hose with an attachment and he probably kept his boots on, I think.

And he grew marijuana before anyone else did, or maybe I just didn’t know that many people back then.

Myki described the gallery off Carson, near our apartment. I didn’t know Bob was painting, he was more a poet when I knew him, a stage performer. I was working at a café with a coffee roaster in the front windows on Carson, and after a few months they let me learn it too, the coffee roasting, as a back-up to the kid who did it full-time (Christian), who’d gone to school in Boston for classical guitar but now just roasted coffee and drew strange pictures in his book, the one he was supposed to keep for roasting notes.

I thought with so many musicians and writers in the neighborhood we should use the stage to host an open mic thing so we started that on Wednesdays, and after a couple months the owners came by one night (they had been drinking) and the place was packed, and I remember how they smiled and slapped me on the shoulder and shook my arms and a couple days later Pete, one of the managers, said Bill, we want you for management, and they promoted me, and that was it.

I was getting ready to leave Pittsburgh and had my last coffee with Bob. It was 1995 and the open stage was closed now. There was a band called 210 I was promoting and we featured in a special performance at the café, designed as an acoustic, hour-long set, but 210 plugged in (and didn’t say anything about it to me before), and then played too long, and the neighbors complained about the noise, and the next day they said there’s no more open stage, it’s over.

I needed help with my writing, I told Bob. He was familiar with it, they all were, because I performed the same set of poems every week without much change. (I was MC, so no one could kick me off stage.)

Bob said I just think you need to live some more, that would help. I didn’t have much to write about with so little I’d seen, so young. Bob sat opposite me at the two-top out of character, no longer Bingo, just Bob with his beard, his soft voice—he seemed about 80 he was so wise, probably just 30.

This memory I’m sure of, though it’s as thin as a dragon fly’s wings and changes colors when you turn it, would probably break if you tried too hard to hold it, flickers out of sight again, and it’s gone.

Categories: humor, writing

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

14 replies

  1. Love the way you go from one character to another connecting them through a shared space and time to create a landscape out of a moment in time.


    • Hey thanks May! It was fun to go back to that street, one of the best times of my life, now 20 some years ago. Funny what you can and cannot remember from that timespan, what remains…glad you liked that, thanks for saying so. Bill


  2. And experience is overrated. What did the Emily Dickinson or Charlotte Bronte or even Mary Shelley know of the world compared to you at the time (besides a greater vocabulary perhaps ;)?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, they had the imagination, alright. There’s something about going deep inside one’s self to access those areas, experience or not. I didn’t know then, just starting to figure it out now (as I think you have, in your poems). Bill


  3. “This memory I’m sure of, though it’s as thin as a dragon fly’s wings and changes colors when you turn it, would probably break if you tried too hard to hold it, flickers out of sight again, and it’s gone.”-There you go. Lovely. Really.


  4. Magic, man. There’s something about memories from that time of life that really have an almost metaphysical power. You capture it. Feels like I’m right there.


    • Thanks Kevin — happy you call it magic, that’s what it feels like the rare times you make something come out of your sleeve. As you know, you have to go back there yourself first, and it’s been fun for me to do that and have you as a passenger! Bill


  5. Who’s got time to live more! What a preposterous piece of advice. I want it NOW.

    The last paragraph brought it all home, didn’t it?


    • It’s strange trying to remember vague but important scenes like that (unassisted with journals). I woke early Sunday morning thinking about this and wrote it down kind of cool, then groomed it some. Fun exercise. I call it the patina of age we get, through memories, that makes things more interesting in hindsight.


  6. Wow. So much to savor, visuals and characters. I pictured them all much older than 30…funny how that works. Live a little, yes, good advice. I think we all benefit from that though it takes its toll in other ways. I look forward to going back and reading the original post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think Lloyd was in his 50s then (I was 24); a bizarre time travel thing….thanks for reading Kristen. Bob Ziller was his name, not Zimmer. I had Dylan on the brain too (Zimmerman). I need a nap.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. the moments when you relive a memory are very real.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: