Lady and I in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper 9.23.2009 – foto by Larry Roberts

Turns out Lady and I did have our foto in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for reading G20 protest poetry… I found it doing an internet search. I love the internet.

Friday night Lady K and I read at the 3rd annual writers celebration at Visible Voice Books. Each year they choose one author and invite writers and poets to celebrate in voice. First year was Jack Kerouac’s On The Road; second year was Charles Bukowski; this time it was Hunter S. Thompson.

Everyone but Lady and I read from Thompson’s excellent output, but she and I read a few pages from our memoir of my life: CRIMINAL by Smith & Lady. Figured it was fair because I’ve done almost as many drugs as Thompson and was giving him a pretty good run in the alcohol race until I drank myself to death 18 years ago. Plus I’ve got him beat on two outlaw counts – he never shot up for 30 years, and never served time for armed robbery.

Here’s what Lady read (pages 175-177):

My brother and I moved in together in ’76. We didn’t have any money and had to decide what was important. Alcohol won out over milk and sugar, so we started drinking our coffee black. To get more alcohol, we tromped through snow to empty lakeside summer cabins and kicked in the doors. It’s not as easy to kick in a door as it looks in the movies. We took guns, drugs, alcohol and what not. Our friend Jones sold the guns. I was having fun, but I was definitely going the wrong way.

The first night we moved in together we got stoned and wrestled, goofing off. We were trying to claim the house for ourselves. Cat was on his back on the floor with his knee up. I tried to pin him down, his knee against my ribs. I slowly sank an inch down, breaking my rib. It was the most gentle breaking imaginable. The hospital gave me codeine. I took a lot.

Pappy didn’t yet know his manual laborer was broken, so at five in the morning Cat and I went to pick up my replacement, Jones. Heading back, me driving, my brother kept shouting, “Faster, faster!” I kept saying, “Where is it, where is it?” looking for the driveway. We weren’t yet familiar with our neighborhood. I pulled around an older couple at ninety miles an hour. Just as I pulled back in front of them my brother shouted, “There it is!”

I stomp my foot on the brake, turn the wheel, and the car flips over onto its top and skids through the driveway, across the lawn, and stops six feet from the house, upside down.

Rolling it squished the top, popped the windshield out and slightly twisted the frame. Jones drove it over to a tree, jacked the car up opposite the way the roof was bent, wrapped a chain around the roof, tied the chain to the tree and kicked the jack out. As the car fell the chain jerked the top back where it was supposed to be. We epoxied the front window back and bondoed the driver’s door shut.

Jones had an easy loose attitude toward vehicles. He had a Jeep without brakes. He’d drive it through the woods, stoned. To brake, he’d downshift, and to stop, he’d run into a tree.

Later I was out of work and hadn’t been making my payments. I’m sitting on my mother’s trailer porch when these two guys drive up to repossess the car. I tell them, “There it is.” As one walked over toward it I said, “Oh, you have to get in the passenger side. We bondoed the driver’s side shut.” He looked at me, shook his head, got in and drove away.

After they repossessed my car, I needed wheels, so I bought a 1977 750 Kawasaki, 450 lbs of metal with an incredibly huge engine. After I signed the papers, the salesman took me to the motorcycle. You should have seen his face when he realized I had never been on one before. He was torn because he was worried about me and concerned, but he also wanted to make money, so he showed me how to turn it on and work the pedals. I practiced going around the parking lot several times, sort of got the hang of it and took off up Route 37. Four miles later, the bike died. I didn’t know anything about mechanics. I didn’t know anything about the bike. I didn’t know what was going on. A guy stopped and showed me I hadn’t been using the main gas tank and had used up my reserve instead.

I start back up 37. It’s a gorgeous summer day. Route 37 is a two lane highway going north through Michigan. It’s up and down and up and down with all these gentle dips. There’s a lot of traffic because it’s a holiday. I’m on my first motorcycle ride ever, feeling really good. I’m zipping past all these cars. I look ahead, and it’s clear. I figure I can pass about seven cars. I pull out and I’m going a little over a hundred miles an hour when this car pops up in front of me, out of one of the little dips! I can see the driver’s eyebrows go up, I’m that close.

I leave the road going over one hundred miles an hour, in the air. At one point–this is just so magic peaceful–I’m upside down in the air, my feet are up over my head, my hands are below my head hanging onto the motorcycle bars, the motorcycle’s beneath me, and we’re flying. It’s so peaceful it’s almost like it’s slow motion. There’s no panic, no nothing. Then I think, I don’t want to be holding this motorcycle when it hits… and I let loose. There’s no sound. I don’t feel a breeze. It’s like I’m in a silent movie, a slow motion silent movie.

The bike hits. It lands in meadow field. Later on, I hit the grass and roll over a lot. I get up and find three tiny scratches on my side. I walk to the bike, pick it up, no damage at all. I look up. Everybody on the highway had stopped and were looking at me. I wave to them, yell, I’m alright, and drive home. That night, one of the rare times I play poker with my family and friends, I can’t lose. I mean, I knew I couldn’t lose, I was totally charmed.

– excerpt from CRIMINAL by Smith & Lady.

We’re looking for a literary agent and a publisher to help us get this 102,000 word memoir published.

oh the places you can go – foto by Smith of Seuss art

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