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Jack Babalon

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Terminus [Feb. 12th, 2017|05:38 pm]
Jack Babalon
The Word on the Street in Trump's America

Checks Cashed

Dusk on Memorial


Adventures in Public Transportation


Nocturnal Bloom

Blueberry Pie [Feb. 12th, 2017|03:30 am]
Jack Babalon
The Bad Place is not one reached but arrived at without warning transposing itself over even the most mundane of destinations. The Bad Place is a geography of chemical imbalances, tempest lit, a long walk along the shores of black drowning waters lapping at your steps. You know you're not the first person to have it show up suddenly at a bar or a job or a lover's bedroom but empathy sours and even an active triage would register as nothing more than a shrug. People will reach out and a voice disguised as your own will whisper in your head that it's always the wrong ones. You will behold the world as if you were a ghost and see that life goes on not only without you but as if you had never been there at all. People laugh, people cry, fuck, dwindle, die and in between do all the wrong things at all the right times and vice versa.

But don't think you can hide from the Bad Place but not going anywhere because then it can arrive in a room full of books and music to become a prison shrinking down coffin tight. Hide is what you got to do though. At least it is if you give a fuck about anyone you know. If you're lucky you've had some experiences with a bad trip or twenty and know how to ride it out with grace, with dignity, with noble silence. If you're unlucky you take to social media.

Your best option then is to get out and not go anywhere at all. Leave the car at home, ignore the bus, resist the urge for an Uber evac, and walk. Walk, as far and as long as you can. Past when the feet hurt, past the first dozen places to buy a drink, past the places you once lived before the Bad Place found you there too. By doing so you will make the Bad Place have to keep up with you. You don't give it time to settle into the details, to render bland the little miracles, to rob the laugh or awe at some random spectacle.

Which is exactly what I did tonight.

With wireless headphones broadcasting trip hop scratches and Raga beats. With brand new Chucks with a rubber tip white as a specter's grin. With the streets of Terminus under a six week early Spring bloom so that the wind is pungent with a scent vaguely floral, vaguely sexual. With just a whiff of a drizzle on the breeze. In a grave yard that serves as a backyard to an elementary school I performed magickal solar invocations beneath a iron dusk and watched a cloud that looked like an starship sized hawk sweep over the trees ahead. I stood inches from a roaring CSX just a stone's throw away a factory that makes what it claims are the 'World's Best Pies' and feeling the roar in my ears cackled manically just for kicks. Marched through Vampire Country and blew a kiss at the tender memory of a friend most precious who toasted me as I walked by the Admiral's Grave.

Finally a skipped lunch and a pinner smoked through a hidden nature trail along Memorial drew me to Mannie's. Haven't been here since they closed and reopened. It was packed but as luck would have it there was a tiny table unoccupied and wedged over by a window. Got a big glass of water and ordered up a plate of chicken parm substituting the salad for steamed broccoli. Patiently I waited for the Bad Place to catch up but then my food came out faster than expected and Fucking A it was just what I wanted. Meat and marinara and pasta and it all drizzled with what we used to call in the Home Country - "Moose-a-rella". Ravenous as I was though I didn't wolf that Shit down. Nuh-uh, went all Zen Monk about it. Savored every fucking bite I could before the Bad Place could ruin it. Eyes closed and relishing the steam across the roof of the mouth released with each bite. Then, done with my meal, I ordered a Jameson's and broke out Neil Gaiman's Norse Myths. In the introduction he's talking about how he got into the Norse mythology the same way I did - through Jack Kirby. When it was time for my second drink I inquired about getting a slice of blueberry pie. My waitress apologized telling me they only had pecan and apple. No worries, I told her, but when she arrived with my second drink she had a big old slice of blueberry pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. She explained that she found a last slice in the back.

And never before has a single slice of pie ever tasted so good.

Suddenly tired, not as if I had just walked from Fall of Rome Belvedere to Vampire Country, but as if I had been doing a 20 hour shit-shift back in boot camp. Still there was one last place I wanted to see before going home and there it was. Seaborn Avenue, a row of brick buildings across the street from a rail line and MARTA station. where I lived with Bud and Winter and Kid Stopper and his girlfriend who's name hurts too much to even write. Where I owned enough clothes to stuff in a duffel bag and a stack of books and a .22 that I never once fired. For all my troubles here, all the danger, all the drama, all the drugs the Bad Place never once found me here. Though I never felt like I was a punk rocker or a skinhead or a raver or drug-thug they made me feel as if I was family. As if my nervous silence and awkward banter was naught but a quirk. They made me feel smarter than I was, they made me feel invincible, as if invited by the coolest kids in the world to an endless party that laid beyond the responsibilities schools or jobs. When I was here I knew that no matter where I went in this city I would never be alone. I held the toughest son of a bitch while he wept here and held a gun behind my back while some frat fucks started static with him looking for a refund with a return of goods. It couldn't last forever, nothing worth a damn does, right? But a whole year of my life would I trade for one more night inside that apartment way back when.

Satisfied I summon an Uber and before the Bad Place can find me I'm already home.

Free, maybe just for tonight, maybe for a few months, maybe long enough to do a little good in the place I'm at.
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(no subject) [Feb. 10th, 2017|01:33 am]
Jack Babalon
“All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.” ~ Richard Adams, Watership Down


(no subject) [Feb. 5th, 2017|01:21 am]
Jack Babalon

"What you want to strive to be as a man is the taint," she told me last night, "that special place between being an asshole and being a pussy."

Patiently, I accepted this advice even while reminding her for the third time that I wasn't the guy she thought she was talking to.

"In fact," she continues indifferent or oblivious to my insistence with a sip of some gin contraption. "a taint would be the perfect candidate for the highest office of this Land."

Yeah, that's great but not this book I was reading at the bar before you attention-jacked me great, so if you don't mind...

"You know," she speaks as if I possibly could, "someone who's not too Democrat Pussy but not too Republican Asshole. Is that too much for a woman, I mean a voter, to ask for?"

Ever the diplomat, I point out that real life often isn't as easily framed into the dichotomy of our metaphors.

With a sour twist of the face she snarls - "When'd you start talking like someone trying to imitate a professor, Hal?"

Wrong Hal, I lie, my last name's Jordan. Tell her I used to be a test pilot but now work as a beat cop in the GLC way, way OTP.

"Just saying it ain't much to ask for," she glugs her gin thingamajig down as if I hadn't said a word, "so why can't a grown woman get a little taint attention?"

The bartender turns around, toasts a shot glass at her, and downs it with an old "I'll drink to that."

Well, the beauty of paying cash instead of a card, is that a man can lay a twenty down for two drinks and walk his happy ass on out of a situation starting to sour weird.

"Where you think you going?," she snarls or laughs not really sure which to be honest.

Pause halfway between her and the door. There's a hundred ways I have of telling her to fuck off.
Most of them I could without her realizing what she's been told before I'm clear across the street.

"I just haven't been myself lately," I tell her with a fake smile instead, "but the next time you see me I'm sure I'll be the same old Hal you know and love."

Who Me
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A Pretty Thing Like You [Jan. 31st, 2017|02:16 am]
Jack Babalon
Don't you just hate it when you're in the changing room at the gym and the place is empty until you return from the shower only to discover that there's someone sitting right at the locker directly across from yours? I mean like, Really? There's what? four rows of lockers here and no one else but us and you have to randomly pick right where I was going to get dressed. For a recovering misanthrope such as myself it's situations exactly like this that make you question why one would ever quit being an equal opportunity hater.

But such is the situation at hand, here at the Y on a Monday night just fifteen minutes before they close down and throat checking a stranger's no option so I deal with it. The guy, kid really, lithe, swimmer's physique, pale of flesh with no body hair, the bangs in the eyes goth black or is that emo now or some new shit way beyond an old fuck like me's cultural radar. The main thing is that he's all just sitting there zoned out staring into the locker, naked, dangling between his lap an open bottle of vodka he's been sipping on. None of this surprises or offends except the fact that he's got the rest of the bench occupied with his clothes and gym bag.

"You mind?," I huff seeing as Little Lord Smirnoff here doesn't seem to be registering me hovering ominously over him while I narrate all this shit to you in my head.

Without breaking his attention away from the empty locker he offers up the bottle my way. He does so real slow, mechanically, vibing somewhere between shell-shocked and hypnotized.

The gesture throws me off guard and I take the bottle from his hand before really thinking about what I'm doing. I look at the bottle, it's perfectly balanced between full and empty, I look back at buck naked Goth Boi (if Lux Interior & Joan Jett had a baby) who still won't look at me.

"Go ahead... no one's looking," his words have that tone you hear from young men in animes, a defeated stoicism that comes before they turn into some kind of killing machine or hentai beast.

I study the bottle a good second, tempted, it's been a long time since somebody offered me a drink, even if that somebody won't make eye contact. Nervous for some reason and I don't realize how much until I tell him - "Uh, you know, it's like a total myth all that stuff about people not being able to smell vodka on their breath."

"Good," he answers with a smirk 50 years older than him easy, "why hide you want?"

Without an answer to give him I probably look stupid with my mouth open.

"Did you drive here?," he asks.

"Nuh-uh," I say.

"Me neither," he sighs, "so what are you waiting for?'

But I've got the cap off and already hammered back a shot halfway between the last sentence.

Shit burns from the back of the throat clear down to the chest where it disintegrates a good month's worth of cigarette damage gumming up the lungs. Cheap vodka has this taste to me like someone tried to make an antiseptic out of a potato and a pair of old socks. I fight back the urge to vomit it back up, instead I manage to pass the bottle back, pop open my locker, and dig out the bottle of water I had stashed there for the walk home.

Goth Boi takes a swig back and hands me the bottle.

This time I take it slow and sip gingerly while he clears me off a seat by moving his gym bag.

I take a seat and offer it back but he just tells me to catch up. We sit there a moment, me dripping wet still from my shower towel wrapped beneath a gut I haven't been able to shake in over a year and him wraith naked without a shred of concern. I bide my time trading sips off the vodka and the water bottle waiting for him to tell me whatever it is he has to say.

"Can you do something for me?," he asks blinking into the locker and taking the bottle from my hands for another glug.


"Can you tell me something pretty?," he asks the locker because he sure can't be talking to me.

"Come again," I slug back water and already feeling a little woozy from the vodka.

"Can you tell me something pretty?," he repeats into the bottomless void there in the locker.

I scrunch up my face into a comical scowl - "Why?"

"Because," he says turning to me with pale blue eyes blazing as furious as messiahs presented with the doubts of the unfaithful, "the world is very much lacking in pretty things right now and it's going to become a place much uglier than we ever feared. So I know you're scared and I know you feel helpless and I know you feel alone but if you have something pretty, something beautiful and wonderful in you maybe you can tell me now while we still have a chance for it to be spoken between us. But mainly, mainly, you should say pretty things because it can make someone feel pretty enough to take them home with you and in return make you feel beautiful, make you feel like a man or a lady or something better, something they don't know how to name because it scares them the way their fear scares us. So please, can you tell me something pretty?"

Looking down into the white towel over my lap and the bottle of water I'm holding I whisper - "I don't even know your name."

"Does it matter?," he places a hand gently over my chest.

"Whatever it is," I say laying my hand over his turning my face with lips a breath from his ear, "it's the prettiest thing I could tell you."

"Do you mind?," the old gray custodian asks standing with a mop in the opening of locker alley.

I pull back and the stranger, with his bottle, are gone.

"It's just we close in five minutes and you've been talking to an empty locker here for a few minutes now."

"Sorry," I laugh humorlessly, "long day. I'll be right out of here."

"Uh-huh," he says and walks off muttering to himself about fools talking to themselves when a man is just trying to do his job so he can go home.

"Shit," I tell the empty locker he was/wasn't sitting at, "I just wanted to say something..."

And it doesn't matter, does it? I dress silently, zip up the backpack, fire up the headphones, and it's a fifty five minute walk home or a fifteen minute Uber to a drink. Either option I arrive at the same place - alone, angry, scared at a world afraid of all the pretty things.
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Time Machines & Lightning [Jan. 20th, 2017|05:38 pm]
Jack Babalon
"Don't you dare tell me how far to set my time-machine," she says relighting the same cigarette again, "I'm going back to when being alive actually meant something. When the drugs were an escape from reality instead of reality being an escape from the drugs. When I could hold my whiskey instead of being scared of drowning in it after a sip. When everyone who mattered was still alive and still fun and still beautiful and so was I. When it was called 'drama' because people used to pretend to give a shit when you had it. No, you can't stop me. No one can. I'm out of here. I'm going back and I'm going to do it all again and harder and when I'm done I'm going to go back and find all the future monsters and all the assholes and steal them as babies and I'm going to take them to the forest and tear them limb from limb then shove their screaming faces into the mud and the shit they made of our future."

She puffs on the cigarette with trembling hands and at that moment realizes she's been crying now the whole time she's been talking.

Tonight, well last night technically now, marked one year since David Bowie died. We were both at a bar drinking alone and each of us reading a book. Her something about a ghost who discovered they weren't a ghost and the memories of their death was a lover's whose name now they had to rediscover. Me I was reading about a struggling stage magician who had to work as a mortician and used the dead bodies as props for his sleight-of-hand. Pulling knotted swaths of colored fabric from the throat of a corpse, plucking coins from behind the ears connected to caved in skulls, sawing a cadaver in half only to miraculously reassemble them with a yank of a blanket. Then the bar started playing Gene Genie and we caught each other singing along.

I gave her a toast and she picked up her book and scooched down the bar to sit by me. We got to talking about Bowie, about the books we were reading, and all that idle getting to know you shit. The bar was closing and we were both drunk enough to know where this was going. Told her I had a joint if she had a place to smoke it. She did. Walking distance. We picked up a bottle of gas station wine on the way and went back to her place. We smoked the joint. We drank the wine. The TV was on Adult Swim but neither of us were really watching it. The conversation drifted into that awkward silence when the words have done all they can for the bodies that produce them. Had that magnetic anxiety drawing me to a kiss I was having trouble knowing was there or not so she took the first step. She pounced, straddled, and kissed me like I was someone back from the grave after being given up for dead. Clothes yanked, zippers tugged, hands phantoms drifting across the geography of our needs. She pulls away. She gives me my marching orders to the bedroom and I'm told to wait there while she freshens up in the bathroom.

I sit on the edge of the bed, stripped down to my boxers, drunk excited, stoned self-conscious, distracting myself by rehearsing what excuse I'll use to call out sick tomorrow.

She emerges out of the bathroom with nothing on but scars and tattoos. I notice that she's got her pubic hair shaved into a lightning bolt that she's dyed blue in tribute to Mssr. Stardust. I'm about to say something stupid/cute about it when she starts up with the whole time-travel routine.

"It's too late, Rick...," she says sniffling and jabbing the cigarette into a porcelain statue of the Virgin Mary with its head cracked off.

"Jack," I correct wishing my cigarettes weren't in my pants back in the other room.

"It's too late for him too," she snorts wiping snot off with her forearm,

"I'm gonna hop on my time-machine, make a better yesterday and undo all tomorrow's pity-parties."

"Nice," I say encouraged that she's stopped crying at least, "but I don't exactly see a TARDIS lying around anywhere in the vicinity."

"Oh I have something much better than that," she says stepping over to the edge of the bed where I'm sitting and pushes so the top half of me is laying down.

"Yeah... what's that?"

"You," she whispers crawling then mounting herself to hover that lightning bolt inches above my gasp before plunging it down across a thousand lifetimes across the reach of my kiss.
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It's Just A God Damn Job [Dec. 23rd, 2016|01:03 am]
Jack Babalon
Countless were the shit jobs we had to do in the Navy but none more tiresome than having to muster for Tentacle Duty. This was when the more expendable members of the crew were dutifully issued axes and told to hack away at the Giant Hentai Squids of the North Atlantic that were attempting to mate with the ship.

What a fucking chore that was let me tell you.

You'd be there chopping away at some great rape-beast from the deep, cigarette clenched in side of scowl, sleep deprived after pulling a 12-4 watch,weird green blood splattered all over your face and knowing you got three more years of this shit before your happy ass is a civilian again.Of course some of us found it more... cathartic than others and few are the times I'd run into some old salt at a bar who'd ask me how many Tentacle Duty Shifts I pulled.

Thirteen I always answer and we get to talking and drinking and inevitably we both get this faraway look in our eyes. Imagining writhing and freshly decapitated tentacles flopping on the deck of the fantail, the stray bursts of gun fire, the smell of dying Hentai Squid (like a dumpster behind Long John Silvers where a orchid garden has inexplicably grown), the screams of those unlucky shipmates hoisted up and dragged to the bottom...

... it could've been me or any of my buddies (but never a fucking zero naturally as they were too busy watching from the bridge with the Old Man).

Still... you don't join the Navy to NOT fight Giant Hentai Squids do you?

There will be Hentai

Terminus: Recent Travels [Dec. 14th, 2016|01:29 am]
Jack Babalon

Avondale After the Rain

Ghosts Circling Your Playground 2

The Pain at the End of the Rainbow

Idle Musings

Hungry Ghosts

The Lost Ruins of Glenwood

Ask the Dusk

Last Train to Terminus

7 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand When They're Rounded Up By the Alt-Reich into Camps [Dec. 3rd, 2016|12:59 am]
Jack Babalon
7 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand When They're Rounded Up By the Alt-Right and Herded Into Cultural Reeducation Camps

1. Fellow prisoners in the Breitbart Reeducation Camps see you on your own and believing you're lonely try to start a conversation not understanding you need some alone time.

2. After lights out when you lay in your rack, staring at the ceiling remembering how much you enjoyed reading before being forced at gunpoint to memorize passages of the Bible, the Art of the Deal, and Atlas Shrugged.

3. When the camp guard is an extrovert and won't shut up about how not all camp guards are racist but just ensuring the ethno-purity of the American Dream to put food on the table.

4. That awkward feeling as they drag one of your cellmates away and they plead with you to find a way of telling their family they loved them but you can't even.

5. Not having anything to say when you meet an online friend who's been rounded up in the cultural purges and now has been assigned to your Work Unit.

6. Wanting to join in discussions about escaping the camp but you don't know how to talk to people after years of filtering all communications solely through text and social media.

7. Finding in the day-to-day routine a fellow introvert like yourself. Your eyes meet in the Camp Mess Hall over slabs of uninspected processed meat and one-on-one you can finally have a real conversation. In time you confess that you were rounded up for blogging criticisms of the Alt-Reich while they will tell you they were rounded up for loving a member of the same sex. They will tell you that they weren't as strong as their partner was who went out swinging when that knock came at the door for the two of them. You will feel bad when you confess that you were caught at the Wall trying to escape into Mexico with a forged ID from the E-Underground Railroad. Your new friend will tell you that it was all right. Not everyone can be brave but yet over the weeks to come you will never know a braver soul. One unrepentant in the face of enhanced waterboard conversion therapy techniques, unyielding in the brutality of the guards who sublimate homoerotic rage into daily beatings, proof that the ultimate defiance is to be yourself in the face of terror or torture. On the night before the morning your friend was hauled away for the last time, how they snuck into your rack to hold you as you sobbed uncontrollably, how they kissed you, not as a lover, not as a final hook-up, but as a human being who stripped of everything else offers their kiss because they can never take that one tiny act away. Later, they hold you tight and you pass out before dawn knowing when you wake you'll never see them again and now... now being an introvert all you can do is scream silently through your tears even as world through its cruelty and beauty refuses to let you forget that you will never truly be alone.

7 Problems Only...

Confessions of a Fuck-Up Artist [Nov. 30th, 2016|12:35 am]
Jack Babalon
This city has a way of telling you things when it thinks you're not listening.

Riding the bus home from work. It's getting on 7 o'clock and everyone's got their casket face on to mask the exhaustion. Glazed eyes peer into handheld screens or headlines or bibles or out the window towards that invisible horizon demarcating where their future's been truncated and fenced in with a paycheck. All except these two graying dude sitting across from me, who, judging by the fluorescent green reflective vests, hardhats, and beaten-up work boots, must be like some kind of construction workers or something. They're deep in a conversation that's accompanied by sad shakes of head and punctuated by bursts of whooping laughter. I got my headphones on but the Spotify paused, bobbing my head to some imaginary beat while soaking their words up Sub Rosa.

The one on the right is explaining to the other with the body language of a stand up comedian about how folks out there in the Heartland got it rough. He talks about small towns ravaged when the offices got outsourced and the factories went automated. He talks about folks out there jonseing so hard for Oxycotin that they've taken up heroin as a suitable replacement. He talks about their children returning home from the War with nothing but the bottle or the barrel of a gun in the mouth for help. He talks with eyes looking past me at a great promise abandoned in a distant land and sums up these points with an exasperated shrug saying - "What'd you expect them folks to do?"

His friend on the left weighs this insight in silence for the length of a red light on Memorial Avenue before twisting half his face in a dismissive snarl counters - "Fuck them folks out in the Midwest."

The guy on the right laughs and removes his helmet to wipe away at non-existent sweat before asking - "Why's that now?"

"What I'm supposed to feel bad for them? Because all of a sudden THEY can't find work and THEY got a drug problem in their communities and THEY come home from the war messed up in the head that they get a special pass? They get to Seig Heil on camera while talking about being the victims of 'Reverse Racism' while calling us thugs when we demand police stop killing us in the streets?"

"Fuck that," he continues switching that snarl from one side of flat face to the other, "folks in the city been dealing with poverty and drugs and coming home from the same wars as them and what were we told when we asked for a little help but that it was our own damn fault for being in the world we were born in."

The other guy fiddles with the hardhat in his lap intermittently nodding and shaking his head but otherwise saying nothing.

"But when THEY get a taste of what we've been going through here in the city these last fifty years, when THEY get to know firsthand what being broke and angry and helpless feels like, what do they do?," the man pauses dramatically here tipping his own hardhat back on his head, "break out the white sheets and blame anyone who don't look like them. Then they start talking all this bullshit about 'White Pride' even while going on about how they're just as much the victim of racism if not more so. Shit, THEY wanna talk about White Pride but what do THEY ever really make but enemies out of the rest of us?"

And the other guy just keeps shaking his head and tells his friend that he isn't lying before reaching up tug on the cord signaling that theirs was the next stop. The bus slows and shudders to a stop. The doors hiss open and the two guys get up as if reemerging from suspended animation before exiting. The doors hiss closed and the bus rumbles back along the route.

"What do they make but enemies?" I repeat to myself but no one seems to hear me much less have heard them. I un-pause the Spotify and thoughts looping with beats wait for my stop to roll up.

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