From here to infinity and beyond!

Sydney is freezing this time of year, the small hotel room i rented near the shop I’m working at is cold as a witches tit and has me bundling up as best I can come sleep train time. Work’s going well. I was in Fremantle Australia with a great shop and amazing group of peeps at Five Star Tattoo for a couple weeks. That’s in western Australia.

The crew at Five Star

Now I’m in Sydney with that beautiful Opera house just down the street. I had my friend Ryan Malley come out here for a visit, we met up at the airport and traveled well together for a week and a half. Not many people can just roll to the airport to buy tickets hoping that they can get on a plane, to go to Byron Bay from Sydney, without freaking out, Ryan can. And so can I.

Ryan Malley - the man, the myth, the legend.

I’ll be here in Sydney until the 27th then back to Melbourne and maybe back to Perth. London in September.

All the best out there-

JTG

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Tattourist Down Under

Here’s some work from my last two weeks at Dynamic in Melbourne. Just arrived to Perth, I’ll be tattooing at Five Star for the next 3 weeks – then off to Sydney for July and then back to Dynamic for August. Followed by the London convention in September.

remember your death

Thanks for looking mates.

JTG

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Melbourne Australia – Dynamic Tattoo

You arrive to Melbourne 16 hours after flying out of Saigon, 4 and a half hours of which were spent in a Chinese airport where you ate beef noodle soup that would soon destroy your stomach and have you gassing people out on the plane. The fat pimply, greasy Chinese twenty something sitting next to keeps drinking milk after milk after milk, chugging them down as you fart into the cushion trying to drive the smell deep into foam oblivion. Before landing the flight attendants walk by and hand out napkins to cover your faces while they spray down the cabin in some disinfectant to rid the plane of dangers to Australia’s agriculture. You watch the stewardess walk by spraying the overhead bins and the bathrooms with what looked like air freshener, you’ve never seen this before. You fart some more beef noodle gas into the cushion, and the fat kid next to you sitting there with his mouth open, burps up his milk. Welcome to Melbourne.

It's a different sky down under

The tattoo gods smile upon you as you get through customs with no problems. You step outside into the sunlight and the fresh air, take a deep breath of that southern atmosphere and board a bus heading into the center of the city where you plan on taking a taxi to Dynamic Tattoo. The windows frame a country side and suburbs, you still have yet to see the city but you can see this is a different world from where you spent the last three months, there are no chickens running through the streets, no rickshaws, there are traffic laws and people are obeying them and there are more cars than motorcycles. Band of Horses plays in your headphones as you ride along – reading the signs written in English, looking at the McDonald’s, the drive thrus, the cars, it looks… American – It looks Western. It looks white. You’re not an outsider anymore, you look like everyone else around you, no different from the rest. It’s slightly comforting but concurrently you feel some culture shock. There’s the city up ahead, Modern Architecture, a giant ferris wheel being constructed, an ice rink, trams and skyscrapers.

You step off the bus, smelly, jet lagged and groggy. Your friend Jaymin that you met last year in Panama is there waiting for you along with a woman named Tracy, whom you’ve never met but is the girlfriend of you buddy Dan, they have both come to pick you up, which feels nice. You’ve decided to head straight to the tattoo shop and touch base. Because there’s no second chance to make a first impression – you might as well smell as bad as possible and look like a fucking derelict jet lagged hobo. You walk with Jaymin to his van, throw your backpack in and go to get in on the wrong side, the American passenger side not the Australian drivers side. Traffic is thick on the way to the shop. You wonder about what the month will be like, what it’s going to be like working with Trevor. Conversation with Jay comes easily: you talk about your trip in South East Asia and you both reminisce about Panama – where you met last year and talk about how rad the rest of South America is. He informs you that you have just arrived in one of the most expensive places on the planet.

Lou rules - from Panama to Melbourne.

Jay parks the van, you grab your backpack and walk with him to the shop, there it is, you see the red and white TATTOO sign up above the door, and turn in. You’ve been wanting to come out to work at this shop for three or four years and you’ve finally made it. You’ve met Trevor three times before this and he was always friendly. He had taken progress photos of your back piece when you were getting it done by Grime. In the twelve or thirteen years you’ve been tattooing you’ve met some amazing dudes, Tony Derigo and Mark Warnick, guys who took you under their wings and shared some real good secrets with you, secrets that only 15 years in the industry could supply, guys like Justin Shaw and Jet, who live for this shit and take friends on as family. Not to mention all the talented people you’ve worked alongside over the years, but you’ve never known an older man, a pioneer, someone who’s put thirty years in. The fact that you’re going to be working with him makes you excited, nervous and honored. You can feel it in your stomach, is it butterflies? Is it tension? The buzz of the machines is coming through the windows and it sounds comforting as fuck.

Dynamic Tattoo

When you walk in, Trevor’s standing there, tall, with greying hair and a military looking flat top haircut. He’s at the counter along with his wife Debbie. You have your backpack on and your other backpack strung over your shoulder. He looks at you and Jaymin as you walk in. You shake his hand and he looks you up and down, slowly, taking in your bloodshot eyes, your tattoos, backpacks, puffy face, multiple chins, dirty shoes, ruddy pants and sweat stains, it seems like he’s staring into your soul and digesting all of the muck and mire. You regret not taking a shower and wonder if he remembers that he liked you at one point. You look down at your palms and see the healing wounds from your motorcycle accident in Vietnam, you wonder if they look like leprosy.

“Mr. McStay, it’s been a while sir. When was the last time I saw you? I think it was Arizona huh?” You say.

“Yeah – in Arizona – at Roepers. We thought you were getting here yesterday mate, we had an appointment set up for ya.”He says.

“Shit man, sorry. There must have been a mix up with the dates … I was on the plane.”

“Oh well, no worries young fella, we’ll reschedule it.”He replies.

You meet his lovely wife Debbie who you’ve been talking with while leading up to your visit. They take you back through the shop and introduce you to Rob, Matt and Ryo who’s visiting from Japan. They’re all working on sleeves.

“We have some boxes for you here” Debbie says as they lead you through to the back. You drop your bag off on the floor, excited to see these boxes, one is from back home – from Idle Hand and the other is a care package from Crash at TAM. Debbie grabs some scissors and passes them to you, you cut the tape and open them up – in the Idle Hand box there’s a pair of Vans from your friend Isaac, a patch that says “Fucking Shit Hippies” (which will look great on your backpack) and some supplies. You open the package from TAM (Tattoo Artist Magazine) and there are shirts and stickers and books and magazines and colors and a power supply and pens and markers and a machine and Christ almighty, it’s like a treasure chest. You’re fucking stoked. Trevor peaks over your shoulder and looks into the box.

El Maestro at work - Mr. McStay

Work by Trevor McStay

Trevor McStay killing em softly... yet again.

You pull your torn up portfolio from your rucksack, the loose pages torn off from the spine shuffle in your hand. It’s the same portfolio that you bought in Bolivia and it’s demolished.

“There are more photos in it than the one I had shipped out.” You tell him.

He takes it, inhales deeply and flicks through the pages.

“Well mate there’s none of this shit here in this shop” he says as he points to some of the work I had done in South America, “none of this whipple shading, none of this lazy tattooing – we do nice clean shading here, good solid tattoos.”  Your stomach tightens up. “Hey Rob? None of that shit here right?!”.

Rob looks up from the giant Japanese piece he’s working on smiles and nods.

You stand there, knowing this is why you came – you came to learn, to shut up and listen. “Yes sir – you’re the boss” you say.

He nods. “Well you look awfully tired mate.” he says ” why don’t you go get some food and get cleaned up…”

Jaymin, who is standing next to you says “Yeah let’s get some food and a beer.”

You go out to the pub next door and order 22 dollar fish and chips and a 19 dollar steak sandwich. “Man, I don’t think he likes you very much.” Jay says as he takes a sip of his beer.

You finish your food, take a shower upstairs at the shop, hang out for the day and head to Jays house, where you see his lovely lady friend Lou. You will stay with them for the next month. Jay will say it feels like a year.

Danimal Aranda, me and Jaymin - both of these guys housed me with great hospitality

That was a month ago and in the beginning of that month you started off shaky, you were nervous and had lost the hustle and flow that goes along with this job. You felt ring rust and the slight panic of realizing that working in a high standard shop after 17 months of traveling and maybe five solid months of working may not have been the best preparation for coming out to this shop. When you did your first tattoo Trevor walked over, stood over your shoulder and said “there better not be any of that whipple shading in there” – there was. Trevor sat down with you, went through your portfolio and gave you a really good hard critique, pointing out things that no one had ever mentioned before, you could see the passion in his eyes, you could see an earnestness that made you thankful to be receiving these words of criticism. This would lead to you doing one of the brightest tattoos you’ve done in years.

You watched Trevor work harder than most everyone you know, he answered phone calls and cleaned his own tubes, swept the floor and did tattoos that could put other tattooers to shame. You watched the rest of the crew, Rob, Matt and Jake making damn fine tattoos, all of them working efficiently and responsibly. They all got to work around ten in the morning and man, looking back at your approach to the job you felt like a lazy shit heel. Into the second week though you started getting comfortable, that machine in your hand felt good and familiar. You began working on projects, you began to study and feel inspired. The groove was coming back and so was your confidence.

Tammy Le - a future Gold Member

I just added the wings and the halo around the cross...

You went to a footy game with Trevor and Debbie and Matt, his adorable daughter Sakura and his special lady friend.

Lou, Mattycakes, his daughter Sakura and me at the stadium.

You went to see LA Guns and Suicidal Tendencies with Daniel Aranda.

Daniel wakes up to metal, eats breakfast, lunch and dinner to metal and dreams in metal.

You  tattooed script, kanji, tribal, more script, and things like this and you were thankful for all of it. You asked out a bartender who replied “I don’t go out with people ever”. You saw a burrito priced at 28 dollars. You got drunk with Rob and his wife Anthea and went to AC/DC alley with Jake and Tammy.

Rob and Anthea - they're kind of like Jay-z and Beyonce.

Rob Abel will tattoo 567 windbars this week.

You were invited by Rob and Anthea to eat an amazing home cooked meal of roast lamb that made your stomach happier than it’s been in months. The whole shop went to see The Hangover 2. You were blown away by the warmth and hospitality of these Australian folks who have put you up and shown you around, and here you are now, with a sort of life, a regularity, a new community of people, new friends and soon just as all of the other times over the past year and a half you’ll say goodbye and head off to the next spot.

AC/DC lane with Tammy Le and Ryo - reminds me of home.

You really do get by with a little help from your friends.  You’ll head to Perth in around 2 weeks to work at Five Star Tattoo, possibly visit Sydney, maybe Bali, maybe New Zealand. Then you’ll head out to Europe in September, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Morocco, Lebanon, Russia (fingers crossed), Poland, London, Barcelona, Madrid etc… it’s some kind of life.

Dynamic minus Jake and Debbi

“When the going gets weird the weird turn pro.”

Thanks for reading ,

JTG- Sunday, May 29th 2011

Melbourne Australia.

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Vietnam, Me, Motorcycle, Asphalt.

You’re in Hue – this is the center of Vietnam, the halfway point, this is the place where the North and the South were separated during the war. The North was Charlie, the Vietcong. The South was with the US and the puppet governments the US were funding. You’re here and it’s kind of cool but not too cool, grey but not too grey and it’s a bit more quiet than Hanoi which screamed out with energy, horns, touts and chaos.

Hue

You want to ride south on a motorcycle, from Hue to Saigon.  You’ve heard this is a great way to see the country, despite the 13,000 people who die annually in traffic accidents. For some reason though, the idea just seems to good to pass up.

You meet a Canadian couple that wants to ride to Hoi An, which is about 6 hours South. This sounds good – there will be safety in numbers. Later on in the night you run into the tall Dutch beauty you said goodbye to in the North, while you were in Hanoi, where you turned thirty-three years old and felt so trapped in your room and your body that you wandered around clutching your head and weeping like a big giant old baby. She decides she’s coming too. You all decide you’ll leave in the morning. Then you go out and eat amazing Vietnamese food in a restaurant with no other white people and you all drink far too much.  You wake up in the morning and get your bikes. They’re rentals from locals, who will take your bags and bring them to a hotel in Hoi An.

An American, a Dutch, and a Canadian couple walk into a bar...

The bikes are shitty, but not too shitty. There are three, one for you, one for the Canadian couple and one for the Dutchess and another Canadian tag along that doesn’t bring anything to the table. You put your helmet on and you’re off – into the crazy traffic, into the wind and the sun and the open road. You take the lead and there’s a rush of freedom, you’re not on a train, you’re not on a bus, and other than the fact that you’re with other people, you’re completely on the loose. Everything goes smoothly, soon you’re riding on dirt roads through small towns where the locals look at you and the others in a state of shock, the children smile and wave, some of the adults do too, they point and talk to each other “who are these white people?” they ask each other “I don’t know but the tattooed one sure is handsome” they reply. The ocean is creeping up on the right with the mountains in the distance.

That's me. Eat my dust.

Soon there’s a truck with a shit load of ducks running out the back of it, a constant stream of ducks. Everyone stops. None of you ever see things like this in the developed countries you all live in and you look at each other with amazement. The locals look at you like you’re retarded.

quack attack

The mountains, the valleys, the rice paddies, people drying rice on the asphalt, sea-side cliffs and the cutbacks, the smoke from trucks and burning trash, you ride through all of it, past all of it. Everyone else is hungry and you are too, you pick a restaurant on the side of the road where you saw families chowing down, it looked promising. You hang a u turn and park the bikes in front of plastic tubs full of crabs and fish, cigarettes get pulled out and smoked, then everyone makes it inside for an incredible meal of crab and fish and squid and rice, beer, noodles and spinach for about five dollars a person. Everyone smiles.

You arrive to Hoi An. Pull up to a small market run by a friendly old woman who sells cold beer and gives you chairs to sit on. You check the maps and find your hotel.

The next two days are spent relaxing in this small town that is supposedly the cheapest place to get custom tailored clothes in South East Asia. You eat pizza and ribs and seafood and drink on the beach with other tourists and locals, it’s night-time now, people are running into the ocean naked, you cant help but stare at the cold breasts and what the cold water does to them. You run in, in your boxers and manage not to lose anything. Score.

A collaboration between Da Vinci and I in a Hoi An hotel.

You decide it’s completely possible and not entirely crazy to buy a bike and ride the rest of the way to Saigon. It’s the 6th and you have to fly out of Saigon on the 15th to go work at Dynamic Tattoo in Melbourne. You have 9 days to do 566 miles. The Dutchess has a name and it’s Marianne and she’s in. So now you have a partner. Someone to watch you on the road and keep you cozy at night. The hotel sells you the bikes, they ask for 350 dollars. You both take them for test drives and talk them down to 300 each.

I got a hair transplant.

Zen and the art of JTG.

It's a start.

With bikes bought it’s time to put some miles on these fuckers. Marianne’s a fast and fearless rider. You feel badass riding these roads but a damn reasonable sense of fear accompanies that feeling of being badass. You ride down the 1, the main road – you pass rice paddies and people working in the fields, raking rice on the asphalt to dry in the sun. Big rigs scream past you with their horns blaring and then buses come straight for you as they pass the trucks, pushing you onto the edge of the road. Chickens run out in front of you as road dust from the car that just passed you flies into your eyes. A motorcycle passes with crates of pigs strapped to the back and the sides and the front. Another bike with a family of five passes, the baby on the handlebars. A local goes delusional and points at the white girl ahead of you doing 80 km an hour while taking photos and sucking on a lollipop. You ponder the possibility of God. A bee stings you in the bend of your left arm. You freak out, flail around, almost crash into a telephone pole and decide that if God does exist, you don’t like him very  much.

Drying rice.

a small load, comparatively...

Spend the night in an 8 dollar hotel in nowheresville and you’re off again in the morning. The Dutchess stops every fifteen feet and asks for directions or if anywhere sells Snickers, you think of making it to Saigon in the next 8 days and get pissy. You split ways later in the day so she can search for the ocean and Snickers and you can breathe toxic fumes on the 1.

Where can I buy Snickers?

You both decide its safer to ride with a partner and meet up the next day in Nha Trang, a beautiful beach city. You run out of gas a block away from the hotel, buy some from a lady on the side of the road who has it in an old plastic Pepsi bottle. You score a sweet room overlooking the ocean for 20 bucks, realize how sunburned you are and take a nap. Your nose glows in the dark.

A little wired, a little burned.

20 bucks a night for two people. Looks like Hawaii, sounds like Vietnam.

Two days in paradise. Good food, good people. You meet a 71-year-old woman who says she has traveled all over Vietnam but never to Hanoi ‘Those motherfuckers! Fuck Hanoi! Them motherfuckers! Never-never never! No! Never!’ she says as she waves her middle finger in the air. Even with her one tooth you can see she was once really pretty. And she’s still fucking cool. You feel a bit like an asshole for being an American and she makes you feel better about it. She had a GI lover from the war. She likes Americans and she likes you. You spend three days there and you’re down to 4 days to make it to Saigon.

You were hoping to sell the bike in Saigon but now you’re wondering if maybe you’ll give it away – maybe you’ll find some nice person that needs a bike and they’ll smile and you’ll smile and you’ll feel good about yourself and your nose that’s sunburned to fuck. You decide along with Marianne that you’ll head to Dalat a town up in the mountains. On the way there you ride up up up the cutback roads and up more into the clouds and you look down and you look behind you and it feels and looks like you’re on top of the god damned world. You think about all of the Napalm and the Agent Orange that was dropped on these towns that you’ve ridden through and you see how lush, green and stunning it all is and it makes you feel better that nature won out against war and attrition.

On the way to Dalat.

Your bike makes a loud popping noise that sounds like it’s from the rear brake as you head down hill and around a turn. You look down at the tire and the engine, like you could do anything about it at all and then you look up and you’re heading towards the edge of the cliff and the gravel and the dirt you hit the brakes and skid out, crashing while doing maybe 35 or 40 mph. “OH SHIT!!!” you scream as you see your left hand reaching out to cushion the fall, you think of tattooing and the job you have lined up in just four days, it all happens in slooow motttion and then you hit that pavement hard, it’s painful, you’re bleeding, your watch is smashed and laying in the middle of the road, your headphones are broken. There’s gasoline on the ground, and broken glass from the rear view mirror that used to be there and is now just jagged shards of plastic. You check your body and nothings broken but your hip hurts and your palms are all gross and bloody and filled with dirt and Vietnamese cement. You shake somewhat uncontrollably.

A couple of minutes before impact.

You lift the bike up, it’s kind of fucked but not totally fucked, just like you. You reach down, grab a double handful of balls, start it up and you’re off again. Marianne is pulled over around the bend almost out of gas, she asks if you’re okay and you say yes, shook but okay. Now, every moment is another potential crash in your vulnerable little head and that kind of sucks. You stop at a roadside garage to get gas for her bike and a man from a store across the street sees you pouring water on the cuts of your hands and searching through your first aid kit for bandages, he comes across the street and takes you to his house, you limp behind him, the children laugh at your red nose, he cleans you up with antiseptic and bandages.

Just a flesh wound.

You make it to a hotel and do nothing but lay down for two days and eat food. There are painkillers too.

High five!

Some skin, some cement and some tweezers.

Takes a lickin keeps on tickin...

You finally make it to Saigon with just one day to spare. It’s a nice city. The traffic is insane, like an obstacle course. You feel a part of it, like atoms in a molecule. Its absolutely insane. Your hands are healing and it’s hot and sunny. Life is good.

Saigon.

You eat some really amazing food on the side of the road, sitting on children’s chairs while the traffic passes by and people watch in awe, at how well you use your chopsticks. You visit the War museum which weighs heavy and makes you feel horrible. Inside a young man with no eyes plays the piano. Flesh passes over his ocular cavities, smooth and taut. You’ve never seen anything like it. He’s a product of Agent Orange and the horrible chemical Dioxin, the photos, the stories, all of it crushes the good feelings and replaces them with feelings of guilt and extended responsibility. The fact that the Vietnamese, welcome Americans back on friendly terms is a testament to the people of Vietnam and just how cool these fuckers really are.

I got mad skills.

It’s the day of your flight and you still have the bike, it’s time to get rid of it. You havent found the perfect person, someone who really needs it, but you did buy a t-shirt off a nice young girl and you decide to go give her the bike. She’s happy and you feel good that you did something nice for someone else.

Happy girl.

You kiss the Dutchess goodbye and head for the airport, with your healing hands and your peeling nose. Ready for the fourteen hour flight from Saigon to Melbourne. Ready to tattoo, ready to work and thankful that you’re still alive.

The land down under or bust!

Cheers-

JTG

Melbourne Australia, April, 2011

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Sketchbook pages

the boxer, the whale and the luck of the draw.

I started this sketchbook in December, while I was in Buenos Aires last year. It was a gift from a great dude, artist, designer, and friend: Benjamin Belsky.  Here’s a few pages:

Iguazu Falls

Sketchbooks are swell, nothing has to be perfect, nothing has to be anything at all.

I’ll share some more soon. Thanks for looking

JTG, Vietnam 2011

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The Hanoi Shoe Shine Wars.

I watched a movie the other day.
It was a Korean movie
about the Korean war.

One of the characters was a shoe shiner.
He loved shoes and was making a pair
for his younger brother –
the best pair ever.
They were drafted into
the war and there
the shoe shiner became a killer.

Walking down the street in Hanoi
a shoe shiner came up to me.
I snubbed him and kept walking.
He followed me, kneeling down
into my mid step
he put the brush against the side
of my black leather shoe.

I looked down and thought of the character in the movie.
I stopped and agreed to a shoe shine.
We sat on a concrete step on the sidewalk.
‘How much?’
‘Very cheap’ he said.
He pulled out blue plastic sandals
from a blue plastic bag
and told me with his hands
to remove my shoes.

I took them off
and passed him the shoes.
I stuck my feet into the sandals.
He began to brush the polish onto the shoe
he looked at the sole
shaking his head in disgust.
Reaching into his plastic bag he
pulled out a wide strip of thin rubber.
He pointed to the tire of a car
‘Same same, very strong.’ He said.

He put it against the worn leather sole
and applied some glue towards the front
then around the sides.
‘You live or visit in Hanoi?’ he asked.
‘Visit.’
‘How old you are?’
’33’ I said.
‘Oh you look more young – I would have guess 28.’
‘Thank you.’ I said.
‘You have wife?’
‘No. Ex wife and lots of ex girlfriends. You?’
‘Yes. Two babies.’
It felt good I thought. Supporting a family man.

He pulled out a long flat blade
with a wooden handle.
He sharpened it on a stone.
He pulled it along the side of the sole
at an angle, with care.
Cutting off the excess rubber.

Another shoe shiner walked by.
They spoke to one another.
The other one sat across from us
on the sidewalk.
My guy passed him the other shoe.
He looked at it
admiring the craftsmanship
of my fine vintage shoes.
“This is my friend.’ He said, pointing to the new guy.

‘Hello, Where you from?’ he said.
His teeth were crooked and had brown spots on them.
‘US’ I said.
‘Oh America! Number one! Hero!
How long in Hanoi?’ he asked.
‘2 weeks.’ I said.
‘How old are you?’
’33.’
‘You look younger, I would have guessed 20’s.’
I nodded.
“You have family? wife? girlfriend?’
They must have the same shoe shiner phrase book I thought.

He pulled out rubber from his bag
and put it against the sole.

The original shoe shiner started to buff my shoe.
He passed it to me.
I took it.
He reached over and bent it
this way and that, back and forth.
‘See? Is strong, very strong.’
‘Fine- okay. Thank you.’ I said.

He pulled out a calculator
and typed on it.
He showed it to me.
It said 600 on it. 600,000 dong.
That was thirty dollars.
‘Good price!’ he said.
‘I don’t have that much.’
‘We go to ATM?’
‘No.’

I reached in my pocket
pulled out 300,000 dong
and some change.
15 dollars.
It was a lot for a shoe shine
I didn’t want in the first place.
I passed it to him.
He shook his head and looked sad.
‘You no have more?’
‘That’s it bud. I asked you how much!
You should have told me when i asked you.’ I said.
‘Okay okay’ he put the money in his pocket.
Shook my hand and walked away.

The other one came and sat next to me.
An older man stood above us.
He was wearing an army helmet
it looked like a turtle shell.
He’d been watching for a while.
Next to him was a woman
with a Vietnamese cone hat on.
She knelt down
and pulled out a long large fish.
Placing it on a piece of blood soaked styrofoam
she whacked it over the head
with the flat side of her knife.

The fish flopped around in her hand
squirming to get free
or to avoid the blow.
He wasn’t going out.
She grabbed him by the belly
squeezing hard.
She started to cut off the dorsal fin along his back.
He looked miserable.
She gave him another whack and he went out.
She put him on the styrofoam
and ran the blade along his side
the scales popped off of him like confetti.

The new guy didn’t have the finesse of the other.
He used much more glue
and left rough ridges along the edge.
He began to buff it out.
Passing me the shoe
he asked for money.

I shook my head
‘I gave everything to to your friend –
you’re gonna have to split it with him.’
‘No, he’s not good man, he only care about money
he will give me no dong. He is not good person.’
‘Not my problem man, he gave you the job, not me.’ I stood up.
He stood up with me.
‘Okay we can go to ATM.’ He said.
I put my hand on his shoulder and squeezed.
He was very short.
‘Not gonna happen.’ I said.
‘Just 300,000 dong.’ He whined.
‘I have nothing, NOTHING! I gave it all to your friend –
you split it with him.’

I began to walk away.
He followed me. ‘ATM is right there.’
He pointed to the right.
I turned left.
‘Okay you want to go over here – there’s ATM over here.’
I put my hand on his shoulder again.
‘Not gonna happen.’ I said again.
I threw my hands in the air
and began to walk faster.

I lost him in the traffic.
And my step felt soft on the pavement.

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The Sun Also Rises

Words crawl across the page as

dead hands with dead fingers carry

throughout the ages.

Hemingway and Bukowski

lie tombstone still

with desert dry bones.

And the marks of Basquiat

still scream across canvas and

discarded wood – scratched out

like heroin veins,

hanging in the homes of millionaires

displayed in the pages of books.

Their voices still speak

from hollow skulls.

Across the void.

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