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Thursday, November 15, 2012

False Start Friday

Suze at Subliminal Coffee has organized a project called False Start Friday. She says, "It's so writers can haul out their shelved stash." Image above is one I abstracted from her site. I use it to signal my back page, and I like the idea of bookstores with cats in them. Time was, finding a book was a regional experience. You can identify people from that era by their frequent use of the phrase, "time was."

Time was, I used to do readings in bookstores, and bars, art galleries --poems and humor for small presses. I remember writing a first version of this in '72, delivering another version at Los Olmecas Gallery in '74, a final version for a tv show in '77, so I guess it qualifies as a "False Start" that never emerged from a state of flux. I am happy to retire it to this blog. It's called Gideon and I no longer have any idea what it means.


It was morning and I searched for Gideon. Called his house and his wife answered.

"He's been up all night." She said, "studying for a hearing test."

It was time to track him down. Gideon once wrote his address on the backs of my eyelids but it was morning and the light was bad in there.

Knocked at the first door I came to: "Gideon home?"

"He is not here," cried Quasimodo from the bell tower. "He has risen."

Wrong house. I caught a bus headed south. When I arrived in Bakersfield I looked up his brother, Don.

"Don," I said. "Have you seen Gideon?"

"No but he called last night, allowed he was headed for Mexico to drink tequila for ten years today."

"Any idea why?"

"Said Catechism."

"Catechism? For what? In what city? The jungle? Border town? A fishing village? Where, Don, where?

"Not his keeper. Need a cage, cheap?"

I panicked and went straight to the police: "You can't miss him, Sergeant. His eyes are initials carved in ancient oak. His body twists the firmament like a planet gone mad. His hair is thunder turning above battles and, when the moon rises, his hands are white curling fog."

"As a matter of fact," said the sergeant. "A man of that description was seen hitch-hiking in the Mojave just this morning."

I came upon Gideon in the desert. He was prostrate in the sand and I had thought him dead until he stirred and whispered, "I thirst."

So I gave him my canteen and said, "Why, Gideon, in heaven's name why?"

To which he struggled to his knees and answered, "You know I'm only looking for a contact lens."

Then I too kneeled and joined the search.


Now that I'm posting this, I remember Willie was at Los Olmecas that night. I was surprised because he'd been working in Spain, Southern California, then Santa Cruz and I hadn't seen him in years, which reminds me searches for meaning used up more shoe leather back then. Or maybe that's just my imagination. Then again, maybe that's what Gideon was about.


  1. Oh, my God! Geo., I have to type in this comment first before reading all the way through.

    Gideon is my false start this Friday, too!

    How crazy is this?!

  2. I love this madness.

    I have been on a crazy train ride in the past ten days and I was just calming down back to my usual stable and ordered self and now, this.

    I started getting weepish in the middle, well no really toward the end in the Mojave. The oak, the twisted firmament, thundering hair, the thirst.

    Then, the contact lens had me laughing through my tears.

    Geo., creation is craziness. A very good kind of craziness without a name (or with one I don't know.)

    Wait, maybe it's Gideon.

  3. Kind of a dreamy style you've got with this snippet. Thanks for sharing--I enjoyed reading it!

  4. "Time Was" is the best of times in my stash of memories.

    Your search for Gideon has all the delicious surrealistic intensity of a Max Ernst painting.

    (I've searched for more than a few contact lenses in my time....)

  5. I'm blown away. Utterly blown away.

  6. Wow. Fantabulous, dear sir. Reminds me of some of the readings my friends and I attended a million years ago at a funky little coffeehouse in Georgetown. We'd sit in the semi-darkness drinking copious amounts of coffee, and tapped our spoons on our cups after each reading, whether we understood it or not. We didn't always understand greatness, but we knew enough to appreciate it. I tap my tea cup in your honor, dude.

  7. But see? That's the beauty of it!

    Time was, having "no idea what it means" actually meant you fully grokked it's essence.

    Lyrical and with a nice rhythm -- I definitely liked it.

    Also enjoyed the synchronicity betwixt you and Suze with the 'Gideon' naming -- a great name, and it kinda made me giddy on the whole thing...

  8. Very cool. In my head, it sounds like a lost snippet of the mythical Fire Sign, or an apocryphal page out of the Someday Funnies... I'll certainly be back for more.

  9. I have a nephew name of Gideon, and this is quite like him. (He had two invisible friends, an ant and a bee and they ran an antiques shop. We walked round old furniture shops when other kids would be hankering for the park.) A slightly different but no less real version of reality.
    In my realm we say, 'back along' instead of 'time was,' how quaint we are!
    Very much enjoyed this- hope there will be more wanderings to report :- )

  10. Loved your story. I have never known someone called Gideon and would not know how to pronounce it – like Leon with a gee at the beginning I guess. English is my 3rd language so I don’t dare being humourous in it but I enjoy humour in others. Speaking of bookshops – I love them. I have taken a flight before, from Atlanta to Portland, just to visit Powell Bookstore there, or to New York to The Strand. When I came over from Paris and lived in San Francisco I was a book rat at City Light Bookstore – don’t know if it still exits.


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