Manhattan in A Shirt and Tie
by Christopher J. Bradley
Dedicated to Ricky Lee Tammy Sharpe The Impulse Foot Soldiers Jim M and Jim A
The New Culture Industry Manipulators Anyone Who Has Ever Had a Sales Crisis
The Venture Capitalists of Advent All of my friends at Electronic Data Systems and
The Social Reforming Activists of The University at Buffalo.
Inspired by the Music Video for "Sleep Now in the Fire" by Rage Against the Machine broadcast on Much Music on Friday April 14 2000 At Sometime Around 4 PM.
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Warning - Electronic Letter Bombs not delivered by Federal Express may contain
Action Provoking Patriotic Imagery. Do not read this poem partially.
As proscribed by the laws of The United States of America:
- Explicit Content
- that May Contain
- Statements of Fact.
Transmission Coding Footer:
The beginning is always a good place to start.
Manhattan in a Shirt and Tie
Behind countless vehicles of all sorts
Old new auctioned and in between
The monoxide drifted through clouded girders
Above the blue-green current below
Everyone behind the wheel
slowly pushing forward
toward the four dollar toll cages
at the end of the George Washington
A bicyclist passes wearing headphones
And I realize that there is music
Among the talking in the Shadow
Z-100 Boosts SWV with a hint of Michael Jackson
To the ears of the four of us
Ready to sell Kansas and Boston
From Black Bags loaded into the trunk in Jersey
We might have been selling poppies
Silver backed disks in sealed plastic
I was going to work the streets with an Italian named Joe
An ex Air Force mechanic named Steve
A hispanic account manager named Jose
And a moustached black man named Carl
We all knew that we were going to do it "My Way"
if things didn't work out and we were going to come home with money.
The day shift was enough for a thousand words.
We parked at Six A.M.
And hit the bars and pornography houses on fourty second street
with a furious vengeance
that could only be characterized as a kind of anger for gross earning
We enticed the Arab and ex-bounty hunter vendors and morning barkeeps to pick up
the Greatest Hits of Billy Joel
and Try on for size a digitally remastered Jefferson Airplane ticket
We had Sinatra and Benettar
And if you bothered to dig
We had some Chris Cross to make you Jump
The clerks ate up our numbing brain candy
Especially when we featured "Dust in the Wind" for them.
Everybody had a few nickels to drop
And we were there to pick them up
Like aluminum scavengers with Glad twist tie kitchen bags.
As I walked with the canvas slung across my shoulders
I saw huge billboards along the walks
Women dressed in underwear
Poked inviting fingers out at me
Supermodels I'd never seen on television.
People stood behind walls of plexi-glass
waiting for busses.
At first I was nervous
about going up into buildings
but that changed as the morning progressed.
I walked through a bread line
And watched a Mercedes and a Jaguar
glide by among the Yellow Taxis.
On the short steps of a building
Out near the Parking Lot
Somewhere around 9th
A girl collecting change in a pencil can
asked to see what I had to sell
I showed her some Mozart
when she said she wanted it
She paid with a fifty.
It was a new North America for me
Everything was for sale
You could feel it even if you couldn't see it.
I could smell the moisture evaporating off the concrete
As the legions of stock attired swindlers in sharkskin wingtips
Marched uniformly down Wall
With a lust for the shifting numbers
Of the never halting ticker
They stopped for no one
And hurled change
At the scraggled legless veteran
Buried under the water stained wrinkled sheets of last weeks Journal
I stayed away from that strip
It was erie
Like something you'd expect to see in Tokyo
But the pale angle shouldered business suited traders
Looked like Gillete Sensor sponsors with only one exception
They had wide lowered eyes.
I let myself imagine that their Rolexes cost as much as thourougbreads worthy of the Triple crown.
In front of a New York pizza shop in the grid
I bought a hip fanny pack from an Armenian.
I started using it for convenience.
Michelle had shown me one
When we were in Physics class together
A year earlier in nineteen ninety two.
By noon I was sweating
So I stepped into a store with no air conditioning.
They sold everything from
Canned soup to Wisk to Boones and Bottle Openers
There was an Asian College girl
behind the counter
I bought a pack of cigarettes
and an Arizona Green Tea.
I tried to strike up a conversation
without selling anything
And she ended up taking 90215 and the Eagles with her
before we went our seperate ways
and I became an "Owner of a Lonely Heart."
Next I found myself on Fifth Avenue
standing across the street from a woman with long soft shiny brunette hair.
She was wearing a long white
Custom designed dress.
It looked like the ones the models walked the runway in on CNN Fashion Extra.
I can't pretend to be an expert on clothing
But I was certain that the flowing transparent garment
Cost far more than my parents' humble estate of residence
Off a side street in DeVeaux.
She was walking five identically trimmed brown dogs that stood only
About two feet from the ground.
I won't lie and claim that they were terriers.
I will only say that they looked like
What I imagined at the time a well groomed high pedigree
Terrier might be.
The five of them all had long strands
Of thin hair that shined like gold
In the summer sunshine as it dangled lightly before their hidden eyes.
She looked like a master water skier
Flowing behind them as they toddled
Back and forth in front of her
Along with the cement current
Of the Metropolis.
As I turned away from the cosmopolitan woman
I looked at some delicately
Embossed pottery in the window
Of a shop with a black motif.
Seven years has taken the
Print scripted on onyx
Visible from the curb
Away from me.
I walked into the storefront knowing that it was a bad idea.
It was dark inside the shop
In the mid afternoon light
The clerks looked like clones of one another
They were both dressed in jet black turtlenecks
With small silver studs for earings.
My brain took a double take seperating the one with breasts from the one without them.
The dual sets of brown iris
Frowned at me as I approached
The curved polycarbon counter
And their hands waved me away
Without a word
As if I were some sort of flea ridden nuisance
The door closed hard but silently
At my back and I was back in the jittering traffic
Of elastic footsteps.
Before getting caught up in the tide
Of the river of knees and elbows
I viewed the span in my field of view.
There was a Jamaican of American descent
That may have sprung up from a manhole cover
Where the women with the dogs had floated by.
I walked over to him
Past the fenders of cars built in the seventies and eighties
Frozen in time as if stuck in a still frame of moving film.
The strap of the luggage was still heavy against my back.
I opened my pack for him and
Showed him my wares.
He outsold me
And I wound up with a plastic wrapped bundle
Long brown sticks of cinnamon incense.
I got away cheap.
I didn't buy his Marley album because it didn't have "Buffalo Soldier" in the credits.
The cart was a quick fold up table and while I was considering
Whether or not he'd ever dealt Three Card Monte
I discovered why he was really there.
A quick flip of my left wrist indicated that it was five P.M.
The pacers struck the grey stone and the asphault with a frenetic fury
Winding among the traffic obstacles
And ignoring the flashing signals
That spotted through my lenses everywhere.
I walked in the tangle for half a block
Then ducked into a shop selling neckties and stereo components.
A grey cardboard sign with medium sized marker print
In carelessly formed characters indicated that the price on the ties was
"Three for twenty dollars."
I spotted one in a glass display case that I wanted.
I flashed back while waiting for the salesman to a time five years earlier
When a drama student girlfriend and I learned about the wonders of the neck tie
While she taught me about the act of love and it's relationship to artistic license.
We would have been discovered by my mother
if she hadn't been a quick change practitioner.
I talked to the olive skinned man when he approached
Working consciously not to let the visions of the past escape my lips.
The item I desired had a print of Dali's melting clocks dyed into its fibers.
He casually informed me that
The ties in the display case cost twenty-five dollars a piece.
Our disagreement in price was understood
And I casually found my way back to the street
But not before I attempted to push the B52's and Talking Heads on him.
It was almost a great afternoon for "Burning Down The House" with David Byrne.
Trying to move that record drew me into thoughts of "Until The End of The World"
As I washed fluidly back through traffic and down an alley a couple of doors down
From that cascading toilet of Noir.
The corridor opened on the right
Into a market under a canvas tarp tent
Where hustling vendors were selling
Pirated copies of unreleased Hollywood Blockbusters taped on camcorders
By devious videographers out to capture a few of the drifting Benjamins
Awash in the current of
Under the surface rough trade
That couldn't exist on a level to any other cultural epicenter in the East.
Maybe Chicago had a confidence game going
But the operations of it's denizens were more visible
And easier to successfully circumvent.
A whiskery African near the Chicago Housing Authority
Confronted me one morning
As I had just crossed State Street
to attend Economics class
I was sporting a topcoat and boots
And he stopped me asking for gasoline money
Before the snapping retort I hoped to fire off
He offered me his driver's liscense
Out of curiosity I asked him to let me look at it.
The face on the license was a Caucasian profile.
The story got better when the line changed
And suddenly the weather beaten photographic identification was his brother's.
I handed it back to him and wordlessly proceeded across 33rd
To the Escher concept building
Where I carefully noted my Indian instructor's lecture.
The net result of the exchange
That I had with the quick talking Mexican
Wearing a thick chain wrapped like a tow rope and a Boss T-shirt
Was that he wanted half the product in my display
for fifty dollars.
I should have predicted that he would want to put the merchandise
Into circulation himself.
He gave me this "Yo no tengo lo mucho dinero" rap
before I could reverse the pitch on him
And I ended up mazing my way back to 42nd.
When I came to the realization that I hadn't eaten since noon
I blistered my drying eyes down the wide terrace of Broadway.
Words sequenced along old theater buildings
Formed two parallel lyrical structures of intentionally placed
Public performance art.
There were few strollers to click their heels against the humm of the motion
Back on fifth.
At some point in the space between
The babblings of the signwork
I managed to detect the scribbling of Chinese.
I had to cross the street
To narrow in on the menu written in English
Taped to the window within a griddle of Kanji washed flyers
In colors ranging from neon orange to pale mauve.
I sat down and ordered Kung Po chicken
From a waiter wearing an arm towel
And let the cumbersome baggage of plastic and laser burned media
Rest on the chair
Fourty five degrees away.
The dinner came with an egg roll hot and sour soup
And my own tray of specially prepared tea
With tiny cups lacking handles.
The teapot was ornate
With interwoven garden vines
Flowering into petals that could only have bloomed
In the climate of the opposite hemisphere of the globe.
I thought back to renting Enter the Dragon
Seeing Bruce Lee pose for combat among the mirrors
And then free associated back to my first taste of Moo Goo Gai Pan
Across from my old supervisor Rick
Who hired me for a Christmas assault on the shoppers of Summit Park Mall.
I helped him open the gate of Impulse World in the week preceeding Thanksgiving.
He let me listen to tapes of the Smiths Information Society and The Cure
Borrowed from Rob while my other friends
From the 1990 class election campaign stormed in and out
With newly purchased statues of Buddah
And several finger excercise Balls.
The Fascination Street of the Orient was alive in my hometown.
Customers looking for more elegant acquisitions
Sought out Kimonos
Three foot wide animated collapsing fans
And dressing blinds made of thin painted stone.
I re-designed the Rad Sys dissipater software documents
Before I was invited to work outside of the co-operative for him.
My fingertips cruised through the menus of WordPerfect for Dos
In a newly Moused world
until I was virtually a professional at typesetting.
When I left the tip I was generous
Where else in the world can you be flooded
By an ocean of good memories
For four dollars and some change?
I made it ten and the bell above the door signaled my exit.
With a rejuvenated sense of Chi
I worked beyond the magnetic poetry of the Broadway signs
My foot falls finding turf all on their own as I changed streets
And crossed the uninviting face of a brownstone.
What appeared to be an old factory of unknown production capacity beckoned.
Cutting through unlocked portal windowed wooden doors
I broke the threshold of the complex and found my way forward
To a freight elevator with diamonded collapsing brass rails
And climbed aboard for a ride
Not unlike one of my meddlings earlier in the day.
I was hoping that this engagement would come to a similar result
To that of my morning conquest
Which had not been far from where I stood at that moment.
To the general misfortune of the endeavors of humanistic reformers
Who had recently made headlines
With news of the calculating coldness of the Kathy Lee Gifford
Advertising and Manufacturing establishment
The members of which attempted to effectively put a stranglehold on market share
For women's discount business attire
Through a here to remain anonymous national retailer
My target audience for the pre-prepared shtick of my present employer
Evaporated as I assessed that these were not members
Of the privileged blue collar class of low level middle management
That I had had the good fortune of establishing
For the most part
A direct line of friendly convenience oriented one way communication
That generally concluded with an educated consumers intent to purchase.
These beaten brows were those of the victims
Of the Ancient Art of War in the condition of the economics
Of the modern capitalist mode of operation
By stealthy less than aristocratic foreigners
Making a business of the corruption of the frail American Dream
That barely came to realization for a very few citizens of this country
In the time pre-dating the Johnson administration.
The Sweat Shops of the city on the island were real.
Above the streets of Liberty
The pale green copper heroine in all her glory stands with a torch
To light the path to Freedom
For both woman and man alike.
With the dead Kennedy's she showed us the next step into orbit.
Lunar Landers launched by the National Association of Space Administration.
With Reagan she helped us realize the means
To align the stars in our favor
With sattelites and telescopes placed by Columbia
and the Challenger.
And with patience and progress
She will lead us toward a recognition
For the need for societal reformation.
One day the bamboo cage
Housing those Missing In Action
From the front lines
Of the healthy
Family construction force
Will have it's flimsy frame unfastened.
Entangled threads of stitch
will cause the fracture of the needle of brute ignorance
That binds the beauty of the imagination
Of the creatively souled Chinese American
To the fabric of the garments
Of the globally dominated Superstore consumer.
Bringing the political garblings
Of my only partially aware mind
To a close
It can be concluded in abbreviated form
That the Overseer sent me away
From a battalion of potential music listeners
With two simple words
That need not be repeated for the simple sake of commonality.
As he closed the wooden gate that divided me from the attention
Of the poor spirits
Of the class that goes without relief
Within the living field of possibility
That we like to reflect on
As we fixate ourselves on Network Television programming
From couches so easily earned
With the stylistic business
Of simple scientific methods learned
During the teenage years
That cannot be afforded
As a result of their contracts with the doers of the clandestine evil
Of the philosophically politically and socially challenged
whose motivation lies with those residing in the valley below the river Styx.
For the sake of clarification Greed.
To bring the world up to date
I am subject to the whims of greed at times.
I find myself in a Casino on occasion
In an attempt to pick up Lady Fortune
And have her spin the revolving marble of her wheel
To line my pockets with lint
I see little curvature in the spines of the
Master of the Roulette wheel
He gets a full range of motion
At his long digit coded tables in Ontario
Accept my smile as a token
Of appreciation to one particular Casino Associate
From the recently opened port of Hong Kong
Of whom I am particularly fond
For his ability to light up the magic numbers
That I randomly select.
He knows that there is a place for him
And the parents that gave him to Chance
Before he has scholared his first academic achievement.
I'm betting that he will find that place.
I walked out of that Sweat Shop
Believing that I had seen
The only atrocity I would find in America
And I made my way cautiously back to my car
Where my passengers had been anxiously awaiting my arrival
For well over an hour.
We released the trunk
And four doors closed on the compact black cherry sedan.
Before Joe realized that the radio wasn't playing
We were wedged in behind the freight
Of the roughly two ton carriages of engineered steel
Exiting by way of the waterfront
at the base of the urban cityscape of New York.
We saw our squeegee men and rose peddlers
During the Tortoise's race back to the rails of the Washington
To engage in Mass Transit
And find our well deserved rest
At a Jersey Motel off the Garden State Parkway
But not before a quick stop in a small plaza
For multidirectional product exchanges
At a Dunkin Donuts
That never closes.
I think we may have dropped a Zeppelin or two on them
And when we counted what was left
There were a few copies of that whole
"I want to be a part of it" compact disc
that had gone missing somehow.
You never know.
This Week's Lotto Jackpot is Seventy Five Million Dollars.