The Glovebox Chronicles #8Table of Contents
Cover by Androo Robinson
Introduction page 2
Notes from the Road page 3
Margate Takes Its Toll By Virgil Soft pages 4-5
Road to Pëtionville By Cali Ruchala pages 6-8
A Lot About Norway and A Little About Driving By Sarah Manvel pages 9-10
My Sister Ran Me Over By Jim Johnson pages 11-12
Wherever to Wherever By Zebulun pages 13-20
And Heres Where it Gets Raunchy By Ken Carl page 21-22
Fun Facts about Eric Lyden Special Driving Edition By Eric Lyden pages 23-24
Pig Alert By Fred Argoff page 25
Directions for Surviving Traffic Jams By Shmuel page 26
Rules of the Road By Zebulun pages 27-28
The Werecar By Vera Searles pages 29-31
The Caustic Gospels (excerpt) By Gregory Hikchak pages 32-33
Murder x 2 By Jean Hooper 34-36
About the Contributors page 37
Road to Pëtionville By Cali Ruchala
I awoke that morning to my own personal alarm clock: a man in a billowing white shirt roaming through the dusty streets of Port-au-Prince screaming to the world that he had been stabbed. The first time I heard his wailing, it was with a feeling of dread: it was as if the sky had knotted its wispy fingers into a fist and waved it over my head. Blan, youre not in Chicago anymore.
Now, I was getting used to it. He was stabbed every morning, running through the same routine like a mime on speed, gesturing to foreigners, reenacting the crime and shaking his head and wailing when they failed to show alarm. I wondered how Pierre could sleep through it, through the agonies of a man screaming until his throat turned inside-out. I would rise with a start, and watch his routine from the open window. Who needs Saturday morning cartoons when youve got the drama of a nation in shadowpuppets on your windowpane?
I was too high-strung to go back to sleep (and, needless to say, my victim didnt have a snooze-button). Ten days in Haiti had done nothing to quench the initial euphoria I felt when touching down at Guy Malary Airport. At first it was the spirit of adventure which cranked me up. I was here, in Haiti, after so many years! Now, though, it was something more. I had fallen in love with every molecule of sun which splashed across the narrow cobblestones and pastel facades of Port-au-Prince, every chirp from every exotic bird which sang to me from the steps of La Citadelle to the wilds of Mirebalais. Haiti had gotten under my skin, penetrated the marrow and settled inside my guts.
This morning or whenever Pierre got his lousy ass out of bed there was another reason to be excited: we were to make a journey to the suburb of Pëtionville, high above the capital where Haitis well-heeled roost among mountains that have been appropriately described as the Haitian Alps. Pëtionville is only about 10 km southeast of the capital, but the poor condition of the roads and the erratic rose of the winds they follow makes the trip anything but a quick commute. The stone roofs sprouting antlers from satellite dishes high in Pëtionville contrasted sharply with the destitute shacks of Citey Soley and Dalmas, two of the more tumultuous neighbourhoods in Port-au-Prince. Living with that portrait of high society constantly above you, like a mosaic of heaven, is a stark enough injustice to turn George Burns into a class warrior. Me, I was just visiting, and too enraptured by everything to hold any hatred in my heart. Haiti, of all places, had turned me into a hippie.
Pierre roused himself after about an hour in his boxer shorts, mumbling and repeating, sometimes in Kreyol and sometimes in English, that it was already so hot that his balls were going to explode. I considered stepping out, or at least taking cover behind my bed, but soon enough he was showered and we were out in the streets. The narrow alleys bring to mind some of the more authentically decayed parts of the French Quarter in New Orleans, or the dingy wharves of Marseilles. Finally, our golden chariot stood in front of us, and I came face-to-face with the catalyst of this mornings ecstasy fever: the tap-tap.
Tap-taps are the old, broken down, psychedelically-painted buses that most Haitians use to get from one place to another. Some go from one end of Port-au-Prince to the other. Others take hired hands from work in the fields to home in the slums. More infrequently they carry monthly travelers from one end of the country to the other, from Cap-Haitien to Jacmel, from Port-au-Prince to the Dominican border.
As Pierre talked in an impossibly dense Kreyol with the driver, I walked around to survey this quintessentially Haitian machine. Ive ridden on buses throughout the world, but nothing like this. Compared with the cold steel of Tashkents public transport, or the anger of contorted bodies on Belgrades musty deathtraps, the tap-tap was something of a revelation. I estimated about nine or ten layers of paint covering the ancient husk, and it looked pretty rusted underneath. Suspended along the sides were two ropes, one at the level of the wheels and another along the top. The windows had been punched out probably thirty years before I was born. Cosmic, abstract paintings covered the outsides. On the front I could make out some sort of pattern, painted over. With thin spindly legs and a cylinder above the head, it looked like the outline of Mr. Peanut. Pierre corrected me with a shrug: Papa Doc.
The bus was supposed to leave at eleven to beat the heat. By this time I was well-acclimated to the ubiquitous Carribean notion that things like schedules and deadlines are about as meaningful as wedding vows exchanged in Vegas. The tap-tap fired up its engines not a minute before one-thirty; the radiated waves from the chassis burned our faces in the glassy agony of the afternoon.
We were, of course, riding out on the outside. The seats are supposed to be reserved for women, children, and the elderly; I was very surprised to see this is actually carried out in reality. We grabbed hold of the back, slinging our feet into the bottom rope. I had the high-pitched nervous energy I remember feeling when I rode a horse (or a motorcycle) for the first time, preparing to be carried off by a movement independent of my body.
Pierre, beside me, showed me how to grab on to the top rope. You form a loose knot by slipping your hands under and then back over. I found out the reason for this a few minutes later, when the bus began navigating the rough streets of Port-au-Prince. Potholes, craters, and places where the road simply ceased to be played with the tap-tap like a toy. Up and down, back and forth - though the driver soon tired of swerving around the coffin-sized potholes and began to merely speed-up in hope that momentum would carry him through. Needless to say, tap-taps arent known for the smooth, comfortable ride of a Greyhound. My teeth chattered, the spinal column driven into the base of my skull and the sound of metal smashing against metal somewhere deep inside this ancient machine was recalling vivid pictures from the back of a medical dictionary from the alcoves of my memory.
After a few minutes I grew used to the pace to some degree, at least enough to take my eyes off the melting paint frescoes in front of me. Around us flashed postcards of Port-au-Prince: Men in white t-shirts and bright clothes standing in front of a house of cards; women wringing out the laundry of hair; children playing in puddles of gold and taunting a dog with decrepit scepters. The wind moaned from the skin of the Massacre River and pushed the halo of smoke from the cooking fires into the sea. As we pulled out of Port-au-Prince, the pictures became more sparse, until we began the lurch up the lunar highway, on the road to Pëtionville.
Contact Cali at 100 E. Walton #31H, Chicago, IL 60611; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.diacritica.com
Yet another rant from the fevered mind of Fred Argoff
Heres the deal: I live in an apartment located at a major intersection: Ocean Parkway and Kings Highway. The former is not what you usually think of as a parkway; the name goes back to the end of the 19th century when the word had a literal meaning it was a street lined with parkland. And as to Kings Highway, it isnt. Its an important roadway, but the name dates back to the 18th century.
Now, because Kings Highway was an Indian path through the woods before British colonialists took it over, it has never run across Brooklyn in anything like a straight line. It meanders rather drunkenly across the borough, creating odd-shaped intersections all across town. In the case of my building, Im on a small triangular island surrounded by Ocean Parkway, Kings Highway and Avenue R, and considering its the least important of the three roads, the traffic Im always observing is amazing.
This is because people driving east on Kings Highway think theyre saving time (and a trip through a major intersection) by using Avenue R instead. This is, if you dont mind my use of a fancy phrase, fallacious reasoning, at best. Traffic lights are coordinated so that if the light on Ocean Parkway is red, thats what you are facing whether youre driving on Kings Highway or Avenue R.
But, my observances of local driving patterns have led me to conclude that people in cars, around here anyway, arent advanced beyond the level of your basic lemming. If one person thinks hes cheating the system, everyone else falls unquestioningly in line.
Personally, I dont care how idiotically people drive just so long as their idiocy doesnt affect my life. My problem here is that while people are stuck on Avenue R waiting for the light (right outside my window, remember) they use their downtime to empty the contents of their ashtrays on the street. Must I be subjected to this scene on a daily basis? Fuckin pigs! I find myself shouting to no-one in particular.
I also get to watch drivers run red lights and dash down Avenue R (a one-way street on my block) the wrong way particularly after sunset. Ive witnessed collisions of every intensity and one time, a driver who actually jumped onto the sidewalk in an unsuccessful effort to avoid a red light. All of these things I take in stride, but the sight of people dumping their trash out the window onto the street absolutely infuriates me.
Remember the Dr. Seuss book, If I Ran the Zoo? Let me tell you something: If I ran this zoo, thered be a lot less in the way of car pigs around these parts.
Contact Fred for his zines Watch the Closing Doors and Brooklyn! at 1800 Ocean Pkwy., #B-12, Brooklyn, NY 11223-3037