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.


Good Luck: Episode Twenty-Seven

Most of the time when you see a piano you’re not allowed to play it, but you’re supposed to try, even if you don’t know how to play it. Or at least I’m asking you to, because I’d love to hear you play.

 

Watching William smoke a Marlboro Red on Cannery Row, looking out at Monterey Bay and the gulls going keekeekeeekeeekeee.

 

Then I woke up in Big Sur and heard the waves crashing on the rocks just outside the tent.

 

All these days, all these nights, a restless feeling, and never truly comfortable and always looking for peace. And maybe I’ll find it tomorrow. Oh I doubt it. Oh I don’t even want it.

Good Luck: Episode Twenty-Six

 

Well, it was a bad idea to wait to try and write this in the car, while all these beautiful things are flashing by outside. The last thing I want to be doing is looking at my phone. I’ll do it for this hour, and then, as I promised my brother, William, we’ll switch and I’ll drive the rental car into the Grand Canyon.

 

Into the Grand Canyon. Yeah. I’m gonna drive this Nissan right into the Canyon.

 

We were just at a rest stop near Sedona and there was a big sign giving a history lesson about the white guy who found the Grand Canyon. First of all, imagine being the guy who thought he found that, think about him having to tell his friends, “I found this reallllllllly big canyon” and his friends going, “Nice, what are you going to call it?” and he says, “The Grand Canyon.”

 

America is funny like that. What’s this big mountain range called? “Rocky Mountains.” “Okay, I guess that’s good, let’s check and see if anyone else already is using it…wow …no one has. Rocky Mountains is available, I can’t believe it.”

Trees

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Twenty-Five

 

“When Henry Hudson sailed up through the Narrows between Long and Staten Islands in 1609 and anchored in the upper bay almost opposite old Communipaw, and he looked over the surrounding country and, as his gaze fell upon the green plains and pleasantly wooded hills stretching away toward the setting sun, he declared his enthusiasm that it was ‘as pleasant a land as one need tread upon.'”

 

He was looking at Jersey City.

 

Pleasantly wooded hills stretching away towards the setting sun. Damn.

As pleasant a land as one need tread upon, he said.

Jane

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Twenty-Four

 

My friend, the vampire, wanted to go to the vampire dance club in Newark, New Jersey. I said sure, even though I was not a vampire and didn’t dance. Turns out I was driving, too. That’s fine. There was nothing else going on. September, in my bayside town, one hour south. We climbed in my silver Mercury Cougar and drove north.

 

I met Jane at that vampire dance club. She was not a vampire either.

Butterfly

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Negative One

 

In the beginning, I got born. The doctor handed me to my mother and said good luck. I was crying. My father came in the room with a handlebar mustache, and my mother said good luck to him. Out the windows, specks of dead stars were falling out of the sky, landing in the ocean, hissing. Grandma and grandpa came by and said hello, good luck. The other grandma and grandpa came by and said there was no such thing as luck, don’t be superstitious. Shortly thereafter, they died.

Fish Hook

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Twenty-Two

 

Your life is a house where you keep your memories. You built this house. Before you, and your memories, there was just a field here, with wild flowers and grass and bugs. You and your house and your memories displaced all of that, but it’s okay, when you die, the house will fall down and the rooms with your memories will collapse under the weight, and the wood that built the house will rot away and feed the ground, so grass and bugs and wild flowers return.

Rewrite

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Eighteen

 

It was raining. I couldn’t leave work. The flash flood too deep to drive through, and I knew better. Another work emergency. Five of us in rain gear, hoods up over our hardhats, rubber booties stretched over steel-toed boots. (I don’t write specifics about my coworkers anymore, no names, no record of what they say or think—this after I was told it is unethical to write about people without letting them see it first before it’s printed.) Nameless, faceless, Us, in the storm, ripping apart an elephantine machine. Gears and pulleys. Its metal guts. Black grease smeared our yellow. Thunderstorms spinning around.

I got home in darkness, with wet socks and a headache. My usual routine was to write for a couple hours after work, but that now felt impossible. I’d go to the couch and dream till dinnertime. I opened the PO box, and a flash of lightning dimmed the lights of my building. Among the bills was a response from a publisher I’d sent a story to a year before. A purple post-it note said they were sorry to pass, but to please consider them again, the story had reached the later editorial rounds. They felt the characters and their resolutions didn’t feel earned, or true to life.

Block

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Seventeen

 

This paragraph was written on a cellphone at my day job. With all the mess, and the noise, and the constant humming and slamming of million pound machines. I’ve run out of things to say, which is unacceptable. Usually this place sounds like angels singing, but now the demons have begun to shriek.

Salad

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Sixteen

 

Rae said something. I couldn’t hear. 7th was too loud. She looked back over her shoulder to hear my answer, so I just said, “Yeah.”

Her hair was getting long again, curled up at the neckline. Each boot step clicked in a nice musical way.

She motioned for us to cross. The sidewalk got wider and it was okay to walk side by side with her, people had all the room in the world here.

The bars were packed with people. The restaurants had full tables. The jails were at max capacity too. The bookstores and churches were empty.

Suicide in Bed

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Fifteen

 

We’re watching the movie The Apartment. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. We’re watching it because I didn’t know what an apartment was. Didn’t I feel stupid when I found out I’d been living in one for 14 years.

Little Guy

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Fourteen

 

Mom is the little guy. The youngest. Then Jonathan is born and he becomes the little guy. Seven kids. Jonathan, Robin, Lee, Elaine, Billy, Jefferey, Sandy, all of them have their time as the little guy.

Dad is the little guy, too. And stays that way. He has two older brothers, Joe and Jimmy.

Everyone goes to school. Grows up. Watches black and white TV. And then watches color TV. Dad is not my dad yet, he’s skinny. Mom is not my mom yet, she’s skinny in bell-bottoms, and feathered hair.

Dad wears wire framed glasses, has a red beard, builds a muscle car, and meets my mother.

She’s a little bit country. He’s a little bit rock ’n’ roll. They split the difference, move to Brick Town.

They get fried seafood somewhere.

Art

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Thirteen

 

First I want to say, art is done in a small room to make it big. Then I want to say, you’re going to die, you’ll need a distraction. Then I want to also say, art eats a gigantic thing with its many rows of teeny tiny teeth.

Grasshopper

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Twelve

 

[What follows is a transcript of a talk by Bud Smith given at McNally Jackson Books in NYC on Saturday, January 19th, 2019]

 

I didn’t know what I was going to say here tonight. I thought maybe I would read something, a story. I don’t know. I usually have my shit together.

For a while there, I was a wild goose about it, got nervous, couldn’t sleep. So I got out of bed and walked into the living room, asked for advice.

Someone on Reddit suggested I read y’all “The Swimmer by John Cheever. A famous short story. I didn’t know it, and it wasn’t available online. So I killed time, looked outside, where the night slipped into morning, blackness shifting into shades of rose and tangerine. That old familiar blue of morning, blooming.

Rae got up, asked if I was all right. Her purple pajamas became a black dress. She went to work. I walked over to the public library. They had John Cheever’s Collected Stories. That big red book. So I sat down by the Pepsi machine and read “The Swimmer.” A sad story about a man who drinks his life away, develops psychosis in the suburbs. I figured nobody at this city folk reading would even know what the suburbs were. So nevermind, “The Swimmer.”

Bullfrog

By Bud Smith

Essay

Good Luck: Episode Eleven

 

Our cacti can’t stand on their own anymore. We’ve braced them with toothpicks. I was gifted a ceramic lemon and a resin flamingo leaning left. They’re here on my bamboo desk in the pink room. I live here. She lives here. Friends sometimes live here. Come live here.