Beach Boys

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Twenty-Eight

 

I was dreaming I was a Beach Boy, but now I’m home and I’ve given that up.

I can hear the state flag of New Jersey whipping in the wind against the face of this building.

Yesterday, I walked over to the public library and got a library card. I’m reading Hamlet, and a book about Hamlet written by Harold Bloom. And I’m finishing off a few letters I still have to send. Trying to run to the post office. You know how it is, you can be alive 111 years and there’re always more letters to send.  More people to thank for your life.

 

All said and done, we drove 2200 miles. The rental car looked like shit when we returned it. William and I saw a lot of things, a lot of people, and a lot of places. We slept on the ground seven out of the ten nights. He was happy to see the rolling golden fields that went on forever and he was happy to see a tumbleweed. I was happy to see the ocean and to smell it. When he said he couldn’t smell the ocean I said he should get that looked at. I don’t know if he’s going to get that looked at. I think he thinks it’s an advantage to not have to smell the ocean. Some people who don’t know better have said the ocean smells bad.

 

Somewhere, back there, by the light of the campfire, surrounded by woodsmoke, my brother said, “Hey, what are you doing?”

I looked up from the notebook. He was provoking the fire, moving the coals around with a big stick he’d found in the woods. It’d be our last campfire, so he was using up all the firewood we’d bought and/or stolen. There’d be no more fires, set by us, here in the west.

Big Sur was our last chance.

“What am I doing? Hmmmm. I’m writing Rae Buleri another letter.”

“Another letter?”

“Guilty as charged. I’m sending her one every night.”

“That’s a lot.”

“That’s the point,” I said. “A lot is always the point.”

Sparks shot up. Ashes flew in the wind. The moon was on the rise again. I hadn’t seen the sun rise in a while, but I’d seen the moon rise every time out here.

 

Then we were on the Pacific Highway 1 and I said, “Do you want to stop in Santa Cruz and look around?”

“Eh, not really.”

“All right,” I said.

You can’t force anybody to do anything.

So you wait. And the miles peel off.

And you look for your next chance.

My friend Brian Kelly said the trip William and I were on was funny because it was like On the Road if Kerouac and Neil Cassady didn’t want to stop and do anything.

Well, I’d stop anywhere, and I’d do anything. This was my fifth or so big drive across America and I’d lost all my small town fear. My brother was still a little bashful. He was scared to look like a tourist, so he was scared to stop and look around like he didn’t belong. Joke is on everyone. No one belongs. Nobody, William, blow your nose.

I thought of a way to sell it to my brother. “Hey you know what happened in Santa Cruz?”

“No, what?” he said bored and annoyed.

“It’s where they filmed The Lost Boys.”

He jerked the wheel. He took the exit.

He really likes that movie. He likes that there are vampires and a boardwalk. I took him to the boardwalk but we didn’t find any vampires. They’d paved the boardwalk over with concrete. And all the Lost Boys were back in never never land where they didn’t belong, either.

He got himself some stickers for his laptop, and a brisket sandwich on the wharf, because he doesn’t eat fish.

 

I woke up and had to piss. I walked out of the tent and pissed in the dark. When I came back into the tent, I thought about a time, turn of the century, when I’d woken up to the sound of a pitbull named Bobbi going wild, trying to break out of a different zipped tent. There had been a bear in the dumpster just up from our campsite. Bobbi couldn’t get out to get killed by the bear, and I had held her collar while she snarled in the dark and I nearly pissed myself, and so did Jane. Jane who is long gone. And Bobbi who is long gone. And that California which is long gone. All of it eaten up by time. All of it reborn into whatever it is now. Look at me, I could let myself out of a tent again, having laid here with my memories. I could stand in the dark again. I could piss into it. I could even look up and see the stars. I could close my eyes and go to sleep. And the grizzlies could do whatever they want. William was snoring. Maybe in the morning I’d tell him about sleep apnea. He’s probably got it.

 

In Los Angeles, William was surprised by the traffic. We were dead stopped on the 5 and he was talking shit to cars, having trouble merging.

I said, “This has all happened before. More famously, too.”

Traffic didn’t move. We didn’t move. I said, “Do you have any interest in seeing the Hollywood sign?”

“Not particularly.”

“All right.”

We moved up 3/4 of an inch.

When I first came here I was so happy to see the Hollywood sign, I think I thought I could go and live inside one of the Os.

“All right.”

We moved up another ¼ of an inch.

 

Palm trees and vines full of bright purple flowers growing up the sides of people’s houses. Terra-cotta tile. I thought, “Bald eagles really should consider the palm tree.” I said, out loud, smiling, “Bald eagles really should consider the palm tree.” William smirked. I went on Twitter. I posted “bald eagles should consider the palm trees”. It got 14 likes.

 

Midday. Driving slower. Echo Park was full of college graduates. Gowns, tassels. Pictures taken with the lotus blooming, and the fountain spray in the background. The crowd of graduates standing among small tents, as if the tents were rocks interrupting the sea as it pushed against the coast line. I wondered why there were so many tents set up for the graduation.

I was disorientated. I’d been looking at nests and nests of tents for the previous nine days, from the Grand Canyon, through Death Valley, Sequoia National Park, then Yosemite, then farther west to the golden coast.

I saw the graduates posing, getting their pictures taken.

Snap snap snap, smiling, jumping, playing, falling over, landing on an orange and gray tent, cartwheeling into a blue tent, having so much fun. The future was so bright for them.

“Why do they have all those tents set up for the graduates?” William said.

I just put up my hands. No answer.

I hadn’t graduated from anything. I had no idea.

 

Later, nighttime, another moon, walking back from Taix, through Echo Park with my friends, drunk, and getting ready to leave Los Angeles in the morning, I said, “Shit, I saw all these tents earlier.”

“It’s a homeless camp.”

“Fuck. Well, there was a big graduation ceremony at the homeless camp. That’s what that was.” I slapped William’s shoulder. He nodded like he knew.

A little cactus standing in the sunshine. Pink flowered and beautiful. Pushing through a crack in the sidewalk. Soon I’d be returning to Jersey City, a place that could kill a cactus just by looking at it. I looked down at the cactus and decided, “Fuck everything else, fuck my bills and my health and my books and my car and my regrets and my misremembered memories and my exhaustion and my squeamishness at whatever there is to be squeamish about that I can’t recall,” and I knelt down and I thought I’d kiss the cactus. Get those little spikes on my lips. But then I figured it’d be better not to be a fool for once. I got back on my feet.

Everything that wasn’t blue was white and everything that wasn’t white was gold and everything that wasn’t gold was human, and human was best, whatever form it took, because it was fallible and it could laugh at you and you could laugh at it and being mortal was fine when laughter was involved. The best way to feel small was to head out on the road. On the road, you’d learn to be human again. Mountains and oceans and rivers and forests might make you feel immortal for a minute. And a minute is all you need.

 

I’d race all those letters home.

I was faster than the Pony Express.

Everybody is nowadays.

 

 

Some of my heroes live in Los Angeles.

Ben Loory is one of the best living writers, no one can doubt it, except I guess he would. He writes short stories which often take the form of modern fables. He lives in a yellow house behind another yellow house, both houses hidden from the street. When you walk up his brick stairs, and into the yard, it feels like you are walking through the Shire. And when you go inside Ben’s house, it feels like a hobbit house for tall people. Peaceful. Comfortable. Full of books, of course. I can see why he has lived there for fourteen years. He is a teacher, and gives writing classes, and if you are lucky, you can sit there in his house and talk about your stories with him.

We had another drink and the afternoon drifted along.

William had gotten on a city bus, and taken it down Sunset Boulevard to try and find some stores that sold Dungeons and Dragons stuff. He was perfectly capable of finding his way anywhere in the world. I could have set him down, no cell phone signal, in the jungles of Laos and, despite his bashfulness, he would have been able to find his way to other like minded people—the citizens of Laos who wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons.

There were eighty white cards taped to the back of Ben Loory’s front door. Each card had the name of a short story he was working on. The top forty cards were stories he was thinking would make it into his next collection, the bottom forty would make up the collection after that. One of the cards was a story I had read on the internet in 2008 or so. The first of his stories I’d ever read. I was hooked, and I still am.

Ben asked if I had read a book by Brian Evenson, about Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. I said I hadn’t. He said it was one of the best books he’d ever read and I should check it out. So I will. Then he asked me if I had read John Water’s Role Models. I said I hadn’t. Ben explained the book was John Waters talking about people that were important to him, people that had influenced Waters’ art. There was an essay on each of these people. Ben said the book was so fascinating because it led him down all kinds of rabbit holes of new people (artists) and things to explore, and new books to read, films to watch, and albums to enjoy, which is the best thing a book can ever hope to do.

I said, “Something like that is such an unselfish thing for a writer to do…give you all these other things to check out. I remember, when I was a kid, I liked that Kurt Cobain did that, he would talk about the bands he liked, and he would talk about the books he liked and that got me exploring them, even if it turned out I didn’t like very many of them very much. You know who was good at that, too? Bukowski.”

“Oh yeah?”

“He would, just there in the middle of a novel, interrupt the plot just to tell you you should go and watch Eraserhead.”

“Bukowksi liked Eraserhead?”

“He said it was his favorite movie. Everybody has their opinion of the man, but I always thought it was cool he would interrupt a short story to tell you you should go read Knut Hamsun’s Hunger, or Celine’s Journey to the End of Night. Nowadays it’s popular to bash him. He’s out of step. But he took the time to say hey, read John Fante, read Ask the Dust, read The Road to Los Angeles. I wish more people would stop a softy to give a suggestion about what they love.”

And here I am now, in Los Angeles.

Oh wait. Stop what you are doing—please read Tales of Falling and Flying by Ben Loory, it will be one of the best books you’ll have ever read. I promise.

 

In the last few years, I’ve read great books about L.A., all by women. Eve Babitz, Lucia Berlin, Joan Didion. When I read “The White Album” by Didion, besides it being one of the best essays I’d ever read, braided, and jumping around in time skillfully, it kind of seemed to me like Forrest Gump goes to Los Angeles. I mean, here’s Joan Didion hanging out with the Black Panthers and here’s Joan Didion sitting on the floor watching The Doors record Waiting for the Sun, and here’s Joan Didion handing out with one of the Manson girls. I can’t remember which Manson girl…

It gets to be that way, I can never remember who people are and what they are famous for. I don’t have the mind for it.

Just as I can feel the legend of Los Angeles, I can’t can’t really truly know any of it.

It’s all just a movie, or a dream of a movie.

And I am thankful to live in a town nobody cares about, one with few myths, one with even fewer ghosts, because why would they haunt my little east coast city?

All the ghosts want to live in Paris and Los Angeles, and they do.

Ben said one of the best essays in the John Waters book was about a woman named Leslie Van Houten, one of the Manson girls, who he was secret friends with for many years. I wondered if she was the same girl Didion was friendly with, or if I’m getting that wrong in my mind. I took out my phone and ordered Role Models, and figured I’d find out soon enough.

 

Rachel Andersson came over. She lived just a few houses down. She laid down on the couch like we were her joint psychiatrists. “Okay, now it’s time for your psychoanalysis. Tell us how you feel about things.”

Rachel laughed. I couldn’t remember her last name. I asked what it was and she said it was Anderson, no wait, Andersson with two ss.

She told us when her family came to Ellis Island they had taken one of the s’s off. But the family had reclaimed the s again. Or some of the family had. The branch she was from.

“Double S. Like Tove Jansson,” I said. And then I wouldn’t shut up about Tove Jansson, because it seemed like anymore all I did was babble on about Tove Jansson, the famous Finnish illustrator and creator of the Moomins, who later in life wrote cranky novels about making art and living on a tiny island with her partner. In the novel Fair Play, my favorite of all Tove Jansson’s novels, she complains bitterly about being sent letters by sweet children who read her books, and she gets lost in the fog in a little motorboat with her partner and they fight about crispbread while they drift blindly towards Finland or Estonia, and in the climax of the novel, Tove and her partner leave behind their life of making art and watching Fassbinder VHS tapes to venture out to the American Southwest, to see the desert for the first time, to see the Grand Canyon, and to see cactus and coyotes and cowboys. William and I were on the same cranky trip as Tove Jansson. We were from New Jersey, which out here might as well have been Finland.

And I’ll mention it again here because I think it’s great—Rachel Andersson’s father and mother went back across the Atlantic and tracked down their ancestors. While they were there they drank aquavit and danced with flowers in their hair to celebrate the Midsummer. They took back the “s” that Ellis Island had cut from their name. They went from Anderson back to Andersson.

Isn’t that nice?

You can go away, and you can find out who you really are. And when you come back, you can tell them all, hey this is what you will call me now, this is who I am. And Ellis-fucking-Island will have to listen or face the penalty of death! That’s what going home is all about.

Rachel got off the couch. She went home to clean her kitchen. We would see her again in the cool of the evening, which is always coming soon.

 

 

Driving down from Big Sur, the song “You Still Believe in Me” came over the stereo. William was driving.

“No Beach Boys,” he said. “Please.”

We’d been working through a 1200 song playlist of whoever, on shuffle. This was the third or fourth time The Beach Boys had come on, and he was angry about it. Before now, I’d switched those songs off, and sent them shuffling along to whatever was next, but this time I didn’t.

“It’s a good song,” I said, turning it up.

And come on, it’s off Pet Sounds, there’s not a bad song on Pet Sounds.

I was insufferable.

I was dead set on listening to The Beach Boys as we moved through Beach Boy country, knife edge of the country, as if those songs were the culmination of Manifest Destiny, the crazy terror and sad white boy grief of it all, blood and pianos and falsetto and going crazy for what you’d done.

Insufferable, the same way I’d happily been a tourist on Cannery Row, having just bought William Cannery Row by Johnny Steinbeck.

But he’d surprised me earlier on the trip when he said he liked The Beatles.

He was just a normal guy and you can never tell what a normal guy is going to like.

But he requested The White Album so I put on The White Album, and he was driving along, singing “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “The Continuing Story of Buffalo Bill.”

So now I turned up “You Still Believe in Me” and said, “Do you know the story about The Beach Boys and The Beatles and Charles Manson?”

He gritted his teeth. “No.”

“Well, it’s a good one. I might get some of the details wrong but it’s a good one. Want to hear it?”

“Change the song first…”

“Sssssssso Rubber Soul comes out, Brian Wilson hears that and decides, ‘Enough songs about fast cars and surfing, he’s going to write a personal album to compete with Rubber Soul. He’s going to write a better album. And so he decides not to go on tour with his brothers and he locks himself in his room and he writes Pet Sounds. They’re still out on the road, he goes into the studio and he hires these musicians called The Wrecking Crew, and Brian Wilson is their conductor. He doesn’t play an instrument, he plays the entire recording studio…You ever hear this part of the fairy tale?”

“No.”

“Okay, I’ll keep going. So the other Wilson brothers come back from the road and hear this album and they’re mad about it. They’re mad that they’re not on it. Somebody else is playing bass—Mike Love—and somebody else is playing bongos—Carl. And the songs are weird. They’re not songs about sucking big titties in the California sun and driving T-Birds into Vietnam. The songs are super emo. They’re all about being sad in your room, being bummed out, and nobody respecting you, and one song about going on a boat ride and having a real bad time. Brian Wilson is like, ‘It’s cool, you guys can still sing on it with me.’ Which they do, and those punks sound like angels, let’s face it. Then the album comes out and it’s got a picture of a petting zoo and a goat stomping on Brian Wilson’s nuts, and his brother’s use that photo because he has this big double chin and they’re like fuck you, Brian, you loser. Eat shit.”

William drove straight ahead, saying nothing. I continued. “Meanwhile, in jolly ol’ England, Paul McCartney hears the song “God Only Knows” and he goes ‘Oh Crikey’. McCartney suspects he can’t write anything that good, and he’s right. Nobody can write anything that good, except Brian Wilson, and Brian Wilson never does it again. But The Beatles do their best, and they all band together, three genius songwriters and Ringo, and they create Revolver. Which, okay, so even if you don’t like Pet Sounds, just knowing Revolver was written in response to it has to mean something to you. Does it?”

“Sure.”

“There’s more, we are just getting started. Brian Wilson hears Revolver and redoubles his efforts, working twice as hard. He isolates himself even more, starts to really lose his mind with a project about health food. Yeah, he’s going to make the world’s first concept album and it’s going to be about peas and carrots and exercising. His brothers are really pissed now, they don’t want anything to do with an album about eating like a rabbit and drinking lots of water. The brothers are still on a mission to crush all the pussy in the world. And the songwriting is slow going, and then the recording starts and it’s even more slow going. Brian Wilson is really upset, he’s struggling, but he’s determined to top Revolver. The problem is, it’s just him all alone. His brothers aren’t any help and they are working against him. The record label demands a single, it’s been too long since Pet Sounds was out, so two of the more ‘normal’ songs from the health food project are released, one of them is “Good Vibrations,” which is an instant smash. McCartney and Lennon hear that and they’re like ‘Aw shiiiiiiiit’ but Sgt. Pepper’s has just dropped and not only are they competing with Brian Wilson but they are also trying to one up Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, so they just brush “Good Vibrations” off their shoulders and go drop acid with the Maharishi. But, back in the States, Brian Wilson is getting more and more obsessed with his health food album, and now it’s called Smile, and the project is so expansive that his attempts to record it really do drive him right into an insane asylum.”

William pulled the car over, gots out, looked at the ocean and lit a cigarette. I said, “So now Brian Wilson is institutionalized or whatever, and the brothers take the reins again and try to right the ship, but they can’t write songs. The only one with any real idea is Dennis Wilson and he’s got his own problems. He’s got all these hangers-on and he’s getting loaded every night with them. And so The Beach Boys just limp along, a bastardized version of Smile comes out and it’s called Smiley Smile and it’s kinda great but also kind of a defeat after Pet Sounds, and the brothers hurry up and write an album to get back on track called Wild Honey and it’s just really crappy because Brian Wilson lets Carl Wilson lead things along, considers himself a failure, retreats. The Beatles then dropped The White Album. Like what the fuck…Brian Wilson just, like, quits. He gives up trying to write songs until 1977. But there are bigger problems. Charlie Manson is living in Dennis Wilson’s house and every night the Manson girls are having orgies with Dennis Wilson and there’re constant drugs and Neil Young is trying to get Manson a record deal and Dennis Wilson is too, and neither of those guys are having any luck—”

“Hey what do you think that is,” William said, pointing out at the horizon.

“I don’t know, some kind of ship…Yeah, it’s a ship. What else would it be? Anyway, so what I was saying, the important thing I was saying about California and the end of Manifest Destiny, and the end of the hopefulness of the 1960s, the psychedelic movement, the hippies, and the counterculture in general all came to a startling collapse all because Charlie Manson heard the song “Helter Skelter” and decided the song was about how he was supposed to start a race war to—”

William tossed his cigarette off the cliff and went to the passenger side door and climbed in the car, slammed his door. It was my turn to drive, apparently.

Starting the car back up, I drove us down the twisty Pacific Highway 1 and I continued, “So, the Manson family shaved their heads, carved 666 on their foreheads and went and killed Sharon Tate and some other people. They’d write “Die Pigs” on the walls so the cops would think it was the Black Panthers who had caused the murders, and for a while people had no idea who the killers were…It wasn’t like the Manson family was immediately apprehended. So anyway, like I was saying, Pet Sounds might be the best baroque pop album ever recorded, Smiley Smile is good, and then in 2004 Brian Wilson finally released Smile, which is closer to what he meant to do with the health food album or whatever. Is it better than Sgt. Pepper’s? I don’t know. Want to find out for yourself? Want to listen to Smile?”

“No fucking way.”

 

 

At seven o’clock, William caught the bus up Sunset and made his way to meet us at a french restaurant called Taix. I walked downhill with Ben and Rachel Andersson. As we passed through a neighborhood full of the good stink of jasmine, Ben pointed at a house and said, “Have I ever given you my Chinatown tour?”

At first I thought he meant, a tour of actual Chinatown, but then I remembered the movie, and remembered it was filmed in Echo Park. Roman Polanski. Sharon Tate’s husband. Ah shit. The Beach Boys and The Beatles and the Manson Family, even the member John Waters is buddies with. Leslie Von Houten.

Ben said this was the house where a woman was killed in Chinatown after making a phone call. He pointed across the street at a different house and said, “That’s where Jack Nicholson parked his car.”

 

Since then. Since my dream ended. Whenever I think of Los Angeles I can’t help but think of the city as an assemblage of spots where Jack Nicholson has or hasn’t parked his car. Where he may still. Where he may never in forever do.

 

We walked farther down the hill, and on and on, and I saw that Brite Spot, which had really good pie, had been renovated. Ben said, “It looks like an ice cream shop now, but the pie is the same.” The light was red, and Ben pushed the button for pedestrian crossing, as if the button made the light change faster, a thing I had been led to believe didn’t actually work on the east coast, but I don’t know maybe it does work out here on the west coast, where they at least pretend to value pedestrians. The light changed, we crossed the street and walked into the restaurant, where my friend Jon Lindsey already was, sitting by the fire and watching the Trailblazers play the Warriors. I waved Jon over.

My brother came in, sat down with us, and then Brad Listi walked in and sat down with us.

Brad Listi has done a lot of great things. He created this website here, on which you are reading this essay now.

When I started submitting my writing in 2006 or so, I had the goal of getting a short story on The Nervous Breakdown and I never could. There was no way for me to submit stories there. So I started writing poems, because I could send poems, and I kept failing and failing and failing and then one day, while I was at work at the oil refinery I checked my phone and saw they’d accepted a poem of mine, and holy shit it just meant the world to me. I tried harder and harder to write better stories and poems. Brad Listi has a podcast, too. Otherppl. I listened to that and I learned what living like an artist really is and that the myth is just a myth. An artist lives however they live and they make their art however they can, by whatever means. Listening to Brad Listi talk about all of that helped me figure out what I was doing. I know he has done that for thousands of people. There’s a lot to doubt about oneself while making art, but listening to Brad Listi talk about it, all frankly and without pretense, made it all so much easier for me to navigate. He is such a help to so many people. A saintly man. He doesn’t ask for anything back. I’m not sure he gets much back. Well anyway, I’ve written 27 essays in this series here for The Nervous Breakdown, and I’ve been able to do it here because Brad Listi made this site, and took care of it and its people, and here I am now at this table with him, lucky.

Thank you, Brad Listi. You are a great man.

We all talked about this trip I’ve been on here with my brother. How we drove all those miles together for no reason. And how people sent us money for the gas, and how we’d camped the whole time, except in Dublin where Joe Grantham put us up for the night.

William and I thanked Brad because he was putting us up in a hotel room for the night. The Sheraton. Swanky. My brother and I would sleep in luxury. Me and William, on our last night out here before returning home to New Jersey. Retreating east.

Ben Loory got the bottomless potato leek soup and a cup of coffee.

Rachel ordered a sazerac and so then I ordered a sazerac. She ordered another and so I ordered another.

I got a chicken sesame salad. Or a sesame chicken salad. Whichever way you want to say it.

Brad Listi had two glasses of red wine and lentil salad.

Jon ordered another drink, the same one he’d just had but I don’t know what the first one was that he’d ordered from the bar. Jon and William talked a while about Dungeons and Dragons. But then he had to leave because it was his wife Allie’s birthday and they were leaving early to go to Hawaii. Happy birthday Allie, I hope you are having a nice time. Happy birthday to you. We missed you, and see you soon in New York.

 

Here, right now, flat on my back on the floor of my apartment, my suitcase still reeling like a campfire, I see Jon has just tweeted, “Here in Hawaii researching my Hawaiian shirt”.

 

Soon it was time for everybody to go. We all walked through Echo Park and past the homeless camp of tents.

It was time for Brad to go back to his family. And it was time for Ben and Rachel to settle in for the night. And it was time for my brother and I to be done with this trip, all those miles and all that traveling. I’d go back to Jersey City, and he’d go back to Bayville, and maybe we’d grown a little closer, I don’t know, it’s hard to tell at first, everything takes time. Maybe we wouldn’t be miserable old strangers the way some brothers are. Maybe we’d be comfortable old friends, despite our differences, the way some brothers become.

 

In the morning we got on an airplane and flew to Newark. I finished reading Don Quixote and started reading Hamlet on my phone. William watched an M. Night Shyamalan movie. The guy in the seat next to me read The Book of Genesis. The other guy in the seat next to me was playing a game on his phone.

Back at my apartment, I yelled from the street, “Buleri, I’m home, can you let us in?” She was there to let us in the door and it was so good to see her. She had a stack of letters and postcards from me, on the kitchen table. My brother listened in amazement as she said how happy she was about all the letters and postcards I had sent her. He had not believed around the campfire that she’d be this overwhelmed.

She said, “Bud doesn’t have to buy me a Christmas present! Or a birthday present! This year or maybe next year either!” She had tears in her eyes.

Fuck, she’s even taking me out for a lobster dinner tonight, now that I’m finally back. They have a special at Hamilton Inn. Two lobsters with potatoes and corn for $38. Tuesday nights. If you ever want to go with us, just let me know. A single lobster is $21. It’s the best place to eat in Jersey City besides Ibby’s Falafel.

All right, I’ve got to go. I’ve got to get to the post office. It closes in ten minutes. I’ll tell you more about life later.

 

 

 

 

BUD SMITH lives in Jersey City and works construction. He is the author of the novel Teenager (Tyrant Books '19), among others.

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