Friday, September 16, 2005

Zero Station
(prologue to the new novel)

by Greg Ippolito

October 4, 2001

Ready for your first song chunk?

It’s an easy game to play. I give you a chunk of song lyric, you give me band name and song title. Ready? Go:

emancipate yourself from mental slavery

Wait, stop. Too easy. Consider that a warm up. Let’s try again. Ready? Go:

phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust

That’s right. The Clash. “London Calling.” Well done. Andy would’ve nailed that before “has.”

Andy and I play this game all day, emailing each other back and forth, passing the time at our respective jobs. I emailed this one to him just this morning:

my hands are tied

—and within seconds, a new message popped up in my Inbox. I double- clicked his name and read: body bruised... dude, stop. this is insulting.

Far too easy. Fuck me. Maybe I’ll hit him with a lyric from the White Album.

He always struggles with those.

It’s been 26 months since either of us has stumped the other—and yours truly was the unlucky contestant. Early one rainy July morning, Andy hit me with (of all lines): “Music is a world within itself”—the opening to Stevie’s “Sir Duke.” But my head was still echoing with some Sex Pistols I’d been blasting in the car on the ride in, and my brain just failed to search the R&B files that lay in the recesses of its music library.

We hadn’t been song chunking in quite a few weeks—since before 9/11. It just didn’t feel right. But when I walked in this past Monday, the vibe felt a little lighter, a little closer to normal. So I shot him an easy R.E.M. chunk—the first line of “Rockville”—to get it started again…and just like that, the handcuffs were off.

Anyway, I was in a particularly good mood on Monday because I’d just finished my book—the book you’re about to read. And I was at my desk earlier today with nothing to do (as usual), so I stared writing this introduction. I should say, I was staring at my monitor, watching the cursor blink, trying to think up a clever way to launch this thing, when the “new message” tone sounded and I gladly clicked over to my Inbox. It was Andy, of course, chunking me with this:

let your soul and spirit fly

…into the mystic. Jeanine’s favorite song. Not that Andy knew that. A serendipitous chunk, to be sure.

Jeanine, my mom, died about seven months ago. Lung cancer. What a fucking cliché. You never think about how you might die, but no one wants to die of a fucking cliché. She spent her last two weeks in hospice. The people there were lovely, lovely. She died in her sleep, all morphined- out—just sort of slipped away. It was a long time coming, no surprise to anyone, so I don’t think it very surprising that I didn’t cry.

I did cry three days later, the night before the viewing. My brother Billy and I went to the funeral home to see her body. I knelt down by the casket and looked at her powdered, waxy face…and I wailed. I wailed and convulsed, clutched the taffeta trim around her pillow. I pounded her chest and pinched the heel of my fist on the wire caging under her blouse. My mom was gone, really gone. They didn’t even leave her flesh for the worms.

Everyone was there the next morning. It was moving to see how many people came out to say goodbye or show support or pay their respect or whatever. Andy was a pallbearer. But above the solemnity, I carried an odd bitterness with me that day—I felt pissed that she didn’t hold on a little longer, just long enough for me to finish this book. She was, to a large degree, the reason I wrote it. I always felt I owed her an explanation for what happened during those three days in February 1991. You know, let her get into my head and understand what was going on from my point of view; show her that I wasn’t just a totally heartless fucking asshole. Almost ten years I’d been working on this fucking thing, and I was almost done… Ten years. And I’m pissed at her for not waiting longer. What a joke.

Ten years. Shit, that’s a long time. Or is it? It’s a long goddamn time to be writing something, anyway. I just hope that, over that stretch, I maintained some level of clarity. Andy and I had this kick-ass history teacher back in high school, Mister Zanello (who makes a nice little appearance in this book, actually). He said something once that I wrote down, and have since read it and re-read it and copied it a million times. He said:

“The truth is clear and pure as water---but man, while
gazing into that pool but unable to see it, can lose his
mental grip and spill salty tears of shame and broken
dreams, adding his own hazy drops of subjectivity.”

You should keep this in mind as you read my story. I mean, as honest as I’ve tried to be writing it, I can’t really vouch for how technically accurate it is. I did what I could with the past. The details may be pieced together from selective memory, many of them massaged and reconstructed for certain, but that’s not to say they aren’t the truth. The brain and the heart have their own will, I think, and we’re wise to give them a good amount of our faith; so I let the important things come back to me as they would and wrote them down; I trusted them to tell the tale. And I’m guessing that the parts of this story that are most wistful-- the rare moments that pluck the very note that makes me quiver from the inside till I just about fall apart--must be the ones that are most true. Or maybe, these are merely chunks of nostalgia… gems that somehow formed in the cloudy mineral tank of my personal history while my conscious mind was somewhere else. To be honest, I don’t know which are more precious.

Andy just emailed me:

dude, you there? i chunked you an hour ago. what up?

Oh yeah, Van Morrison. Almost forgot. I better go put him in his place. Hit him with “lizard on a window pane” and let him choke on that for awhile.

Man, I just wish Jeanine were here. Here to read this, to absorb my full
explanation line by line. Then finally, maybe, she’d understand. Would have understood, I mean. That’s one devastating change in tense, isn’t it? The fucking past, man. All the good memories you have: moments you can never live again. And all the bad ones, those unspeakable things you did (or failed to do): regrets in stone cold cement.

Well now you know me, more or less. And what follows on the other side of this page is my account of what happened to me during the last three days of the Persian Gulf War. No, I wasn’t there (in Iraq, I mean). This is a Jersey story (mostly). But it’s a war. You’ll see.

Ready? Go.

For more information on the author or the novel Zero Station,
please contact Mr. Ippolito at

Monday, September 05, 2005

Sadness & Outrage in the Aftermath

Gulf Coast communities in Mississippi, Alabama, & Louisiana--especially the ruined city of New Orleans--are suffering in what is likely the worst natural disaster in American history. The vast damage done by Hurricane Katrina has been exacerbated by human depravity in its aftermath, including the incompetence & indifference of state and federal leaders, and criminal actions by a small portion of the local citizenry taking disgusting advantage of the chaos & lawlessness.

Over a million people have been displaced, thousands are dead, many billions of dollars in damage has been done & countless lives have been ruined. The entire city of New Orleans has been ordered evacuated and will likely be shut down for at least three months. The psychological effect of this disaster is enormous for its victims and those helping in rescue and cleanup efforts. Even when New Orleans gets back on its feet, it will be a haunted city for generations, just like Oklahoma City after 1995 and NYC after 2001.

Possibly the hardest aspect to stomach from the New Orleans disaster is the slow response especially from federal "leaders" & agencies like FEMA and the so-called Department of Homeland Security. Days went by and people lost their lives from rising floodwaters, lack of food, potable water, medical care, sanitary shelter & protection from the elements & violence. While this is an overwhelming situation, why didn't our leaders anticipate what could happen if a major hurricane and flood struck this coastal region? Why weren't they better prepared to respond to this---isn't that their job?

It's scary to see demonstrated (yet again) just how vulnerable we are to all kinds of disasters. It's evident the government cannot be counted on to help us. Some have raised voice that the socio-economic and/or racial identity of the vast majority of Katrina's victims might have fostered a slower relief response. Would it have been handled differently if Martha's Vinyard was in a similar situation? Others have pointed out that the president has our soldiers & National Guard stretched so thin & far across the world that it takes a week for them to deploy to a major American city.

New Orleans is (or was) home to a vibrant zinester community. As an activist writers group with roots in the zine community, we of the Underground Literary Alliance will do all we can to help zinesters who have been affected by Hurricane Katrina. While our financial resources are limited, we can help get the word out about those writers in need, and hopefully aid their recovery & rebuilding efforts. If you're a small press writer who's been displaced by Katrina, or if you know someone who's been affected, please email

Look to the literaryrevolution
webpage for a ULA Monday Report about this real soon. In the mean time, consider helping all Katrina victims in any way you can. Donations of as little as $5 can be made to reliable organizations like the Red Cross, goods can be donated to groups like the Salvation Army, or you can volunteer labor for the rebuilding effort with Habitat for Humanity, or in the DIY spirit, start your own collection & relief effort. If you're unable to do anything like this, then keep all the victims in your thoughts & prayers.

Now it's time to bring some poetry back to this Adventures blog! Talented writer Doug Draime is just the guy to do it with these four poems that express a bit of outrage. Hope you enjoy them, and thanks for reading my longwinded speech. --Pat Simonelli


Four poems by Doug Draime....

Spiders And Madmen

Madmen hold their

greasy fingers

on the buttons,

while pigeons shit and


in Pershing Square.

As the fly is devoured by the

spider in the corner

of your living room;

its huge web a maze of

fly corpses.

Madmen trade your name

to other madmen.

You are nothing but a series of

numbers to them.

Or a piece of meat

meant for the butcher block.

Madmen think you are

nothing but a body to be

bought, then destroyed in mass

in the middle of a bright

full moon night.

Madmen see you as profit

or loss broadcast on CNN.

They don’t care about your

immortal soul, and curse

you and your descendants behind

armored doors.

While pigeons still shit and

congregate in Pershing Square,

as thousands of fly corpses

fall down from the web in your living room,

blocking your frantic escape.

War Mall

There could be time

enough, and even

energy enough,

but the will stumbles back

into unrepairable


The lungs have inhaled

marijuana, and the

day is dark, moving like

a snail uphill in fog.

Everywhere there is

preparation for war ...

where the big countries

bomb the little countries.

The mall is full

of robots called American Consumers,

blind and dull

as door jams.

I forget where I parked my car,

and almost desperately

search one row at a time.

And I find my beat-up, ‘92 Ford Tempo

at the end of the 5th row.

Some days I can’t walk into a mall

without being overwhelmed by the

mentality of war.

There is something blatantly

ostentatious, something

bellowing greed and arrogance,

that disgusts me!

On other days I am better.

I can come with my wife shopping for family

and friends, and be a regular guy.

Yeah, it must be the ganga, or the gloomy

dark Oregon day,

as I speed down the freeway for

home, like an army deserter

running from the front lines,

and more than happy to be one.

Requests To The Muse

Come rattle my cage.

I am in here somewhere

Washing dishes, doing laundry,

Or vacuuming the floor.

Arguing over what the local

News means by fair weather.

Lost in domestic pointlessness,

Which screams for worship

And souls to lynch

Come rattle my cage.

Prod me out of here.

Show me some hope,

A glimmer of anarchy.

Make me a poem to stop the

Deadening roar of the machine.

Still the rumble of complacency,

Battering down around me like

War mongering politics.

Hold me close with your true

And tough love.

Open my chest, eyes,

Ears and pineal gland.

Free the groin and the heart.

Stand me on a cliff overlooking

The Caribbean sea

And never let go of my hand.

Show me something, show me

Some hope, a glimmer of anarchy

Trip To Nowhere

Where I found answers I

could not find questions

for. The middle was not

in the middle but off

to the right side, positioned

like an open grave. Voices

spoke In English making

no grammatical sense. I

grabbed hold of

the edge

of something freezing and fierce,

which took off all my flesh up

to my elbow. There was no moon

or sun or stars or sky

only rain and movement all

around me like

speeding trains on

rusty tracks. No entrance, no

exit, no way of telling light

from dark. My bones

broke like pencils

against monolithic structures everywhere

I turned

and everywhere was nowhere

and somewhere was slaughtered with

no purpose and no direction.

Suddenly there was a sound like


of breaking windows,

smashing in echo chambers

over and over. I knew then, somehow, I had broken

through and that my bones would

heal, I would form new skin on

my arm, and the questions were something

in the middle once again. The moon, the

sun, the stars and the sky were

there too.


Doug Draime began publishing in "underground" newspapers and in the small press in the late 1960's. Most recent books include: "Slaves of the Harvest" (Indian Heritage Publishing, 2002), "Unoccupied Zone" (Pitchfork Press, 2004), "Spleen" an e-book (Poetic Inhalation, 2004), and forthcoming from Scintillating Publications "Spiders And Madmen. Mr. Draime lives in the foothills of the Siskiyou mountain range in southern Oregon, with his wife, Carol.