Excerpts from ÒChurch of the Red ArrowÓ by Michael Houlihan, © 2011, Michael Houlihan (available as ebook and as print on demand on iuniverse.com)
Mr. Religion is here. He just walked in. Dripping with bibles, crosses, stars, Buddhas, beads, and holy trinkets from all corners of paradise. When he walked in, everybody got happy. He sported the Koran too--donÕt worry. Mr. Religion prayed and davined, and prayed, and sang, and killed animals as sacrifice, and he even danced the hula, donÕt ask me why. He had kosher and non-kosher food with him, vegetarian food, and no food too, only air. Mr. Religion can live on just air, just like some plants. He had a big laugh. He laughed at any kind of holy, religious question you asked him. Some people didnÕt like that, but I liked it. Mr. Religion had sex with people and no sex too, and he spoke to both God and rocks. He talked to animals, and he never worried. He granted wishes and pardons, and gave out recipes. He refinanced mortgages and he gave out serious money seemingly at random. Bubbles came outta his head. He shattered paradoxes, and fused antitheses. He was a lie detector, and a big wind translator. Mr. Religion is here. Put on your woolly socks and go out and see him. So fun!
After the first war, they waited for a few years before they could start the second, because there wasnÕt enough money around to start it, but then they got enough, and they started it right up. They complained and bitched about it the whole time, just like all them millionaires who are constantly complaining how they donÕt have enough money, i.e. their money is Òall tied up.Ó All the money is always Òall tied upÓ because nobody wants to pay any taxes, especially rich folks, (that moneyÕs all going into the war chest), and thatÕs how all the wars get started, strictly through paradox. DoesnÕt really take that long to get them started. As soon as things get really problematic and require serious thought, thatÕs when itÕs time to start up a new war. Everyone knows that thinking is much harder to do than fighting. Ask any little kid in school and he will tell you that. Then you get a year or two breather, and then the next war starts. This is just like it was Then you get a year or two breather, and then the next war starts. This is just like it was when I was a kid in the neighborhood, fighting Òmy warsÓ. Nothing really changes. This is how we all stay so nice and young, especially here in America, fighting wars! (Last war, we hadda stop building jails for a minute in order to finance the war, but then after a while, there was plenty more money for building jails again.) The moral of this story is that both jails and wars are good as long as youÕre not in em! Lucky for us, there is plenty of folks just itchinÕ to sign up for the next one. It is quite apparent that lots of folks just totally enjoy blowing stuff up.
I was a little biddy boy and I was living in a tree with Merlin, because King Arthur was through with that tree after he got to be in love. I drifted all about the kingdom and everybody looked at me funny. They werenÕt sure if I was crazy or just messy or both. I had two toy palaces that I went to, and I had some evil enemies who were real. The game of chance ruled the sub-universe, and the best way to stay nice was to avoid everything and just go hide in a sock. But I chose that tree with Merlin.
Once in a while I would go visit bars with people in them, but you werenÕt allowed to talk to the people, because if you did, the people would get mad. Unless you told them lies. Then they would know that you spoke their language, and they would smile at you. Time faded glory in those bars, and younger help kept moving in to weed out the old-timers who had recently gone over the hill. (Have to get them before they go too far over if you wanna avoid any serious consequenzes.) This is the way that everything sorta started over every 20 years or so in the USA. In a culture where absolutely no one knows any history, or remembers practically anything more than 10 years back, that whole society stays fresh and new (sort of), sort of like mass AlzheimerÕs. I think itÕs more pleasant to think of it this way. Otherwise you have to be thinking on the lines of mass psychosis or mass amnesia or at least mass neuroses, and this is too clinical and educated. You canÕt get anywhere like this unless youÕre shooting for tenure in some university, i.e. youÕre a welcome mat for each new generation of morons coming up, and none of em want to learn the road to perdition or memory-- too afraid of winding up living in a box. Upper-east side is the target address—thatÕs the place for the brain-dead. Besides which, the advertising agencies, including the government, are constantly in need of a brand new impressionable audience to soak up their horse-shit like a sponge. ItÕs not even horseshit. ThatÕs an insult to our horses.
So I stopped by Tompkins Square Park in 2005, and a big rabbit popped outta a bush. First the leaves rattled, and then he popped out. He said, ÒSurprise! IÕm not a squirrel! IÕm your rabbit!Ó
Wild rabbits in the middle of the small New York City parks is rare though there are probably some in Central Park, but I donÕt think my rabbit lives in that park.
Sometime you see some child waddling around with his mother, and the child just seems completely and totally lost in this big world—like he has no idea at all what he is doing in it period. And his mother watches him running around, and you can tell that she canÕt tell what heÕs doing in it either. She looks at this boy like he doesnÕt belong to her at all--like heÕs an apparition. This boy will be somebodyÕs bunny in his next life. Perhaps his next life is coming up really quick. Then he will be really happy!
I got this idea and it means nothinÕ to nobody. It was very involved including a Òscrew-youÓ mobile that would roam the streets, but it was funny. No one with a cell phone was allowed into the city on Wednesdays and never on trains. As long as Americans are uncomfortable, thatÕs the main thing.
As to my situation—I gotta yell into the thing and screw everybody—they can get their own thing to yell into too. If these mothers could just shut their traps for two seconds that would be unbelievable.
He finally cracked up at an advanced age. There always was a hairline fracture running down the length of the porcelain teacup that was his soul, and finally, with the weight of advancing years on him, the fracture just totally cracked as these teacups are apt to do. People remarked how he had just lost his bearings and thatÕs why he was riding round in the screw-you-mobile. Also his moral compass—that was lost too.
IÕm in church and IÕm crazy as shit and IÕm drunk and naked with an assault charge and itÕs not only that, itÕs everything else.
(If you look at a girl like that, youÕve got to marry her)
Well, I finally figured out what IÕve been doing. What IÕve been doing is just going along, oodly-doodly, letting everybody drive me crazy, and being resentful while IÕm letting them, well, sure enough, they are succeeding, so then I wrote all this down in a couple a hundred pages, and I showed it to some people, and they went, oodly-doodly, hell, we donÕt want to read all this about how we drove you crazy, donÕt you have a nice meat-ball story we could read instead that you just made up outta your head, instead of this roadmap about how we drove you crazy from here to there and around again, and I said, well, hell, oodly-doodly, but this is the wreck that you have made outta me so you better come over here and take a real good close look at it, but they said, oodly-doodly, isnÕt he rude and crazy, we donÕt want any part of that unless heÕll let us drive him crazy somemore and turn it all into a nice made-up story all oodly doodly about some bullshit about this bullshit and that bullshit upsides the head, maybe a murder or something, maybe some kind of adventure shit or something, any kind of oodly doodly thing you got but that old yonder truth about how we all drove you crazy, because itÕs not enough that they go and drive you crazy, but thatÕs got to stay youÕre little secret, and thatÕs the real meaning of the hidden mystery. If youÕve got to go around telling everybody that and spilling the beans all the time, just go over there by yourself somewhere in the corner, because all of us over here are trying real desperately to just forget every fucking thing and we need a lot of entertainment and we donÕt need some asshole like you coming around trying to remind us about how we fucked everything up including you and everything like that all the fucking time.
Smiley-Man addition: EddyÕs getting married to this really ugly woman. She is so ugly, he says, that he can HEAR her coming up the street. ÒThatÕs why I love her,Ó he says, ÒÕcause sheÕs just the ugliest thingÉSometimes these beautiful woman, you know, I see them and I look at them, and thereÕs just something about them,..they stink! But this girl, God, I love herÉ if sheÕd just marry me. She says sheÕs on junk, so no, Eddy, I canÕt marry you, but you know, I know that if I could just pump her up with enough booze, sheÕd start withdrawing from junk, and sheÕd forget all about it. A big water bug was in my apartment--this big-- he went walking by and tipped his hat. These people, theyÕre so in love just where they are, just where you are, thatÕs the best place to be, this place, IÕm happy. And that band in DocÕs last night, God, what a sight, what drums, now that was a serious band, they gave them their own floor!Ó
ÒSome people though, they say no, youÕre not this, youÕre not a real photographer, youÕre not a real musician, youÕre not really this or that. So I say to hell with these people saying these things. Hell, IÕm up there grindinÕ away, sheÕs got her tits hanginÕ out, IÕm a sweaty mess, and theyÕre going, oh God, heÕs not really this and that. I say just fuck those people. If they knew anything real when they fell over it, itÕd be just like that water bug-- tip your hat and say hello. GoingÕ off to dinner now and get me a drink. I was going to be recovered, but I canÕt stand to go in the bar like that. ThereÕs nothing in there for me straight; it just stinks. But when IÕm drunk, man, I was in there till closing time, and they say, Eddy, get out of here already, and I go, hell, Johnny, you just opened up!
He went a little out of the way in a little out of the way town. The air hung in the town and was this kidÕs town kind of air. Relax in the wee tub air of time, the air said. He met a little out of the way girl in the little out of the way town. She gave out of the way kisses out up in the kissing tree. They did not sort out of the town. There was an out of the way band playing in an out of the way way up at an out of the way church up in the town. It was a heavenly sound. Gabriel blew 13 horns. There was a little out of the way cemetery where his people were buried out of the way. He bought a house across the street from it, so he could see their yonder out of the way graves from his window. He was a friendly bird in the town. He kept to his own self, and yonder own self was out of the way. There was no danger there out of the way. Down home yonder, profound out of the way thoughts paraded through his mind. The thoughts banged on drums and blew on the 13 horns. There was a room there. He spoke to his girlfriend. She liked him out of the way. The further away they were, the more she liked him. Mr. Licky did not like this, but he was banished from Britain.
So he shifted to an alternate song. He did not take drugs in order to make this transition. People may not have understood, but people forgave him. Many people are infinitely forgiving. These people have stars in their hearts. Songs were sung and the people understood. Out of the way people came to the out of the way songs. They said there is another way. Gabriel blew thirteen horns.
Up in the country, there is singing air. Birdies fly through it and tell you what they think. At night, the thickets and the crickets sing and fireflies parade themselves all around. Siren-dances go off in the bushes, and beetles and bugs and jumpy things wake everything up in the most sound-a-sleepy ways. Then it stops suddenly and then it goes off again. What a silent racket! Then that big bullfrog bassoon starts playing, and everybody goes out in that moon! When you get a summertime free, go inside that!
I would like to tell you more things, but IÕm runnin out of things to say. I really ran out a couple of years ago, but I failed to shut-up, and thatÕs when folks just wanted to knock my block off down in the city. ThatÕs because I was trying to get THEM to say something, and they didnÕt want to say it. They just kept wanting to say nothing, and I just kept on trying to get them to say SOMETHING—and that really gets folks violent.
Old Joe Hannah, the naturalist, was a strange bird. He would eat his breakfast while sitting on the jon. I think he was inspired to this by his frequent observation that birds in the wild seemed to delight at eating and shitting all at the same time.
They were into some dead-pan violence, our country
And you were with em with your rusty frying pan
And you had very tired eyes
Could you stare somebody right outta the human race and into the bird kingdom?
I need to drink
I need to think
There was a little silhouette of love down at the depot, but nobody wanted to work it.
Stay in yourself, donÕt shoot your mouth off, live to love another day
I have a funny suit on and a tie
And a big, red nose
I heard a bird singing in my head
He sang ÒThereÕs a Hole in the Bottom of the SeaÓ
Larry was tellin me about Charlie Parker, senior Charlie Parker, how when Charlie was an older man, he took Larry in and let him live there. ÒCharlie was a beautiful manÓ Larry said, Òbut too rich, you know what I meanÓ. ÒHe had all these statues everywhere, cost hundreds of millions of dollars, you know, too much.Ó But Charlie was great, he said, and wild too, just like his son. Larry told me he (Larry) got burnt on the job and when he was on his death bed, The Union came over with a great big check, about Òthis bigÓ (like a foot long) and it was for 12 million dollars, and they gave it to him. Now LarryÕs got a job riding on his bicycle as a messenger for the hair salon up the street. They send him out for all their natural ingredients, because they make their own solutions. They tell him that theyÕre gonna keep him on a long time, because they really need him. LarryÕs got this great polka-dot hat on and this gleam in his eyes and thereÕs this big light behind them, and heÕs laughing.
I was talking to Larry about little things, and then they became big things. I didnÕt know that he could cook, but he can. He started talking about cooking meat, and his own recipe for kishka, and then he started talking about everything big and small that he used to cook. And then he said, chickens came along, and we needed them so much. But I thank them, he says, and I pray for them. Larry said we were ÒtogetherÓ doing these things. We were together at Coney Island sitting up in the lifeguard chairs. We had so much fun there, he said. Larry said that he always felt very safe and not disoriented at Coney Island. ÒWe had so much fun there, didnÕt we?Ó And then he looked at me with his big, dark, mystical eyes and said that I used to be a great marshal artist and a body clown too--that he remembered that-- nobody could beat me. He waved goodbye with his beautiful, big hands. We were all there together, through it all.