Cigarettes & Salem

My mailbox was full… that, I am sure. As for the rest of the night, it could have been madness – the kind of madness sinking and rotting into the soul, when the soul has been spent and left in a city.

The city of Winston/Salem. That is where I found myself two nights ago. It was dark: past nine PM. Security Guards were checking permits, and doing their duties/jobs. Their white negro smiles and batons ablaze…

And what was I doing?

I was looking to smoke a cigarette. You would think a city such as Winston/Salem would support such behavior. It is the American Tobacco Motherland. Hell, two brands of popular smokes originated in that concrete jungle of hypocrisy. Because of nicotine junkies like me, there is such a city, never mind the hospitals the cigarette companies paid for.

What started as a low – a low evening, in wait – turned even lower, still.

God bless the big man from the gas station (he gave me the book of free matches). That was a long hike from the hospital. It was a BP gas station. He would not permit me to simply use a lighter. My pockets were already carrying around discarded, half-and-quarter cigarette butts from the streets.

This was a mirror to my past – and its desperation.

I have walked MANY streets. Been down some dark alleys… the type with glowing eyes and razorblades in the corners.

I’m not sure what came first. The dumb, stuttering and stupid, pathetic attacks… or, the thought to rationalize them. What could not – would not – be rationalized was the horror with which my wife found herself. A man – her man – sick in the brain, and still wanting nothing more than to fill his cup with overflowing addictions and predilections…

My hundred yes, yes, yeses to the sky, and to the air around me, served as my mantra to go on. To finish this rotten endeavor I’d put myself into: smoke a damn cigarette within 30 mins. And then back to my hospital room, back to the mechanical bed and television. I was NOT looking forward to going back to the room, the endless television, and the many “check-ins” with the nurses throughout the night. The damn blood-pressure cuff, needles…

Truth be told, I was LOST. I walked around and around the massive, massive medical building.

(I think I entered into seven different ENTRANCES/EXITS.)

Just being lost – not in the city – just LOST around a building, IN THE MIDDLE of the night was crazy enough. I was out of breath, hot… feeling lonely… and all the wonders in-between served me well.

I DID NOT have to be in a hospital.

That is what I came up with.



Southern Afternoon

So many exciting things are happening. One moment, my head is barely able to be lifted off the pillow to wake up (don’t worry, that is normal before the “ritual” begins), & the next moment, I’m head-crazy excited about a story. A story I care deeply about – including an interview with a renowned, important poet, travel, luxury – has presented itself to me.

I’m heading back to Louisville, KY.

Assignment: Cover GonzoFest, 2022, on October 29th.