Bum Wines
The Night Train Ticket to Paradise

Bum wines are much maligned! Screw fine wine, unscrew a bum wine, better yet, a rectangular drink, you know, wine in a box, salad in a bag. Many believe that fine wines rule...others of us agree that bum wines rock. We don't worry about Reds and Whites, but rather necks of reds and trash of white, multi-colored fruit for wines from the immigrants hand picked from the vine. Bum wines are screwtop schizoid medication prescribed by mendicants, that once screwed, open that is, unleashed as a Pandora's box of gentle inebriation, raises the spectre of Phil, and the Medusa Head of many grapes of wrath. The wine tasting room of the wino is the dark city alley with broken food crates, dumpsters, and vino wino's sitting and spitting in the darkend alleyway. We don't pair our wines with filet mignon, but with fried Spam sandwiches and White Castle sliders. Fine wines make genteel love, bum wines fuck you fast, so you know you've been fucked when you wake up in a stupor in the sunrise morning, and can't remember your own name, let alone, hers, or his or them.

The difference between Night Train and a Chardonnay is the difference between dark of night and bright of day. Banana's flambeau? Not at this fine establishment Ma'am. The finer wines are symphonies at New York Philharmonic, bum wines are the hobo stew of Grande Ballroom MC5, Flamin' Groovies, New York Dolls and Ramones kind of high. A syrah with your Skynard, kind sir? Take the A-train, and the D-train, hop aboard the Night Train to Boones Farm to spend the night with Annie Greensprings under the covers with barely a Ripple sharing a bottle of a double wide trailer trash sized bottle in a plain brown porno wrapper while the home is protected by a Mad-Dog complete with 20/20 visions. Woody Guthrie rode the rails and Kerouac told the tales, and now you can ride and drink with brakemen along the tracks, and hop aboard the Night Train all the way to paradise for a buck 29......

The central Metro maneauvers you into the Beastro of the Metrosexual where the twenty somethings stampede for some Calgary cabernet at the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari's cabaret...let the games begin of terroir terror and a bouquet of sobriques of the sober, ok? Wine country is full blown ego's loaded carefully into bullet chambers, and spun around, click-click-click, for a taste of Russian roulette with Rigoletto and the hitman Riga-Tony, the Dago, once a communist, called Dago Red, who was friends once with Tom, but now in the corner. look! Tom waits! Along with Chucks barfly but his fly is open. Case closed. Bordeaux's a bore...and burgandy's are medicines for Mendocino coughs up the coast in the fog north of the Gate. New Mex wines ... California wines...little red wines, little red roosters and little red books read by Plato and his altered ego Play-doh with the cleft lipped and club footed eighth wonder of the world. It's all for the eyesockets to take stock of the skid row sacks and stacks of the drinkers of the night, the slum bums and the night time night train trannies

The Pink Lady laden with canned heat is in heat, and child of Mother De-natured, a brazen hussy really driving around and around all over the town, with her top down, topless in a Thunderbird car, with her bottle going full throttle through Seattle, unsettling in it's way with broken glass racing from her racy tailpipes, silver powered sexuality. The Cisco kid takes a pair of blitzed Berlin nylons to his wild Irish rose, now a refugee seeking refuge but refusing all help...she has all the help she needs when she unleashes her screw top genie sitting astride the strange little man with manic and magical powers for the far east, further east than Kansas City is from Denver, or the Colfax Ave. from Cass Ave. Further east to a bar where west never enters or gives a thought or a damn about west and no, they shall never meet unless it's on a heating duct and they fight over the right to warm themselves, solo, solitarily, but not in street bum solidarity, soldered and fused together as brother and brother, sister and sister, brother and sister, or some other incestuous relationship from the Garden of Eden.

The old bum on Congress Street in Detroit was pug ugly, and a pugilist from past victories in the ring that left a ringing in his ears, many belts of glory, but loose brains in his skull, and memories that flicker on and off like an old dying lightbulb in a Salvation Army. He keeps a little flask handy, by the way, the bums name is Jim, and he was a boxer in the far distant past, before he hopped aboard the Night Train with a ticket to ride to nowhere. He would be pleasant one moment, then have a nip, then be pleasanter and have more nips, more nips, not sips, then his mood would...?? It would get ugly, Dorian Grey aging as fast as rapid transit, only on time adhering to a facist time table to get to the next stop in Berlin to get off.

I'd pass this bum on the street everyday, hike 'em a buck or two for a bottle of Cisco or Wild Irish Rose to insulate himsef' from his invisibility. Only drunk, could he see, and could you see him, Jim.the Boxer was no longer a pugilist, but a poor man, not down on his luck, but up on his feet, fortified with cheap wine, he would talk to you in animated bum convo for a minute or two, the go blank as an unwritten check, then he would re-appear talking about the good old days ringside and every rumpug he sent to the mat for a 10 count. Then one day, I didn't have the bums buck in hand, so said "Sorry, Jim" and at that point propped up on strained sterno, he being the inebriated stove, took a swing with a broom he had at the back of my head as I walked on by, feeling the brisk whisk..I whirled around, instinct naturally, natural instinct and flattened the hobo to the sidewalk.

Jim apologized, Sorry, Mate is all he said, and looked sad, and drunk at the same time. I could tell that he knew, that we had torn the curtain and both had fallen through, and it would not mend ever again. On the way home, I bought him a good bottle of wine..a zin I thin' but he wasn't havin' any of it. 'Got anything stronger, mate? You know, some old rotgut or whatnot, something to fortify me through the night...gotta sleep on a heating duct and it's not quite duct season yet," he cried fowl. Heating ducts for the ductless are castles on the street, the cardboard box under the overpass, a castle of the realm, and cheap ass wine, the currency of the time. I gave him a buck, kept the zin and never saw him again, never again did I see Jim. Moved on somewhere else with the weather, but I can still hear his tirade on how a flop now costs 2.00 and not a buck, with this inflation, and this hobo infatuation. The flops aren't safe anyway...had to beat bums off with a show from my upper bunk in Gary, Indiana one night as I found out that jailbait boys attract those ol' bumfish like a worm on a hook, but this fish give 'em a fight, then they drank themselves into a stupor for the rest of the night...at dawn, at 7 am I took flight and made my escape into the dawn.

The Night Train Express went whistle stopping past skid row liquor stores skidding up and down the coast and even smack dab down Mack Ave. in Detroit, where it made a far left turn to San Francisco, Ess Eff, and to the upper floored Tenderloin apartment of Tyree, a true believer and booze and blues, man, could he play Delta when in the booze bag, and the blues flowed from him like battlefield blood from an amputee. Tyree the Amputee, playing long chord blues on keyboards on the street, the street with the beat, and the cheap bottle of wine, hidden in his coat, away from the tourists stare, cooked up a musical drink somewhere in the alcohol-decibel range of 15 to 20% to ferment into a tin can full of 100 proof alcohol blues, the kind that intoxicates the listener while the musician glistens with sweat from his own canned heat in buckets from deep within a well deep within his soul, and the alcohol aquifer flowing mysteriously underground in old lava tubes and subway tunnels. The Tenderloin Siren mused his music as she embraced the night, listening to the coroners truck arrive, only to haul the overdosed away from a second story balcony to be thrown out like garbage in a heap. Crazy out of their mind types, who yell as they OD and fall from balconies two, maybe three stories high and land on aluminum fences that act as spears or circular saws. That or end up arrested and incarcerated in Chino.

Tyree you see, also had a reputation across the sea, in Asia. Asian minors, and not youth in Asia, over there thought him mucho major when it comes or came to music and mojo. And not just Kimiko, either, she was a dancer in Okinawa with fringed mini skirt and tassels on her tits, but, also the war criminal decendents of Tojo, not to be confused with Dorothys Toto, yes, the Wizard was Oz'd and when a wino whizzes, it's not at all odd, the Whizzes of Odds, if ever a whizzer that whizzed that woz...that is a very odd spelling, Aaron. Back to Tyree...he played tight, but for loose change on and at the wharf, just below the chocolate factory, people tossing him coins and bills from around the world, mostly America, into his open guitar case, which he brought for show, purely, as he was a bum wino who played keyboard, but the guitar was also his passion that kept him in poverty impoverished, though rich beyond measure in so many other ways. Then there was that little Japanese kid, 17 or 18, Nipponese, I think, who Tyree taught to make love to a guitar in order to produce a rhapsody of notes, that though blue, made you cry with happiness, even as old lady bumettes chased flying newspaper in to the street by the bus stop at the university in front of infuriated drivers honking horns at her and flipping her off, she oblivious but on a mission to recapture the flying newspaper that has origami'd itself into your child running into the street, as maddly insane as her.

Li Po, and Li Poor met up with a Jake that shake'd in Ann Arbor. He too, a po' boy blues that wore big saucer sunglasses to hide his dialated eyes from drug, blues and booze, but no mistakin' the booze boy. Man, real Greyhound depot 3 in the morning am shit too. He played a guitar, harmonious harmonica at times, past the diners and the dives and walked like his fingers were also snapping to a tune nobody else could hear, and probably couldn't even if they could. The Fleetwood Diner was now an art gallery with all kinds of paintings, portraits and art hanging near the menus as the building went floating away, a silver bullet in the sky with Jake in the pilot seat, downing that Ripple like he was a suckin' on his momma's nipple, or someones nipple, probably some college girl he had just charmed into bed in the backseat of an abandoned car in a Main Street vacated lot, bangin' her to a delta blues beat while Robert Johnson looked down from his roof mumbling something about cotton fields and mules. In a dream sequence I would play a harmonica I found on the street, blues harp, key of g on one side of the harp and key of c on the other, to accompany Jake, to old numbers we found in a steamer trunk that belonged to John Mayall, real blues breaker ball buster Brit who grooved in vinyl until the drunken blonde spilt cheap wine on the Marantz shorting out the reel to reel and the real to real. and the turntable turned into and 8-track nightmare with tape rolling out across the floor like a red carpet with stains.

Enter now, and a round of applause for a gentlemen who needs no introduction. Ladies and gentlemen and those not so gentle or genteel or even gentile, I give you James and the Laceless Shoes, the Eighth Wonder of Skid Row!. He is laceless, and he is loveless, but the tennis shoes he holds in his hands as a hobo oracle are priceless. The not only tell of the future, but ask question too. Talkin' shoes, who ever heard of such of thing, or would admit they had seen, and heard. It's like those UFO freaks, always some shirtless redneck in an Allman Bros. trailer that got abducted and probed. If flying saucers are real, and they are that intelligent and advanced, would you pick up a white trash hillbilly to probe? Christ, you can't even stand the stench of their trailer what with dog shit and other shit all over the place, not to mention drunken mullets and wives who can change a truck tire with the finesse of a brain surgeon, but she can't cook. "Honey, mo' hominy, babe, oh yeah, and bring me that Night Train bottle. It's in the cabinet next to the babies formula and the ant traps and the rat poison. She is a simple barefoot woman, drunk all the time too, and related to him in so many ways. What did the Groovies say, "She's my second cousin, gonna make her my first wife" I think it was.

Oh yeah, James. He lived on the streets, a river of broken bottles to match the dashed dreams of what will never be ever more ever again. He walked up, determined, steady gait, like another bum, Gator, who I will get to later. See you later Gator. Jim: "Say, my man. My name is James, (I almost espected to be handed a business card with a Wall Street address he was so professional in that respect) I have a nice pair of shoes here for a couple of bucks. Looks like they might fit, so what do you say?" I looked at them old beat up sneakers, like old P.F. Flyers, never did know what P.F. stood for. "Jim," says I, "They don't have an laces!" Jim looked at them with a philosophical look of a quizical nature. "Well, yes, that is true, but you can get those for under a dollar and you;ll have a complete set to step out in," he explained as though it would make sense to me which it did in an odd sort of way. "Ok, sold." So I handed over 5 bucks, Jim thanked me as though he were the Lone Ranger getting ready to rid the town of bad guys with black hats and ride off into the wild west landscape. Ok, so they weren't Tony Lama's, but Jim, he was a working man, not a bum. He had a product, and a pitch, and a drunken way with cheap wine words and was worth the five bucks just for the effort. He walked away towards the auditorium across the street, Alice Cooper was playing I think at the time there that night, and never saw Jim again. The shoes? I gave them to another bum two blocks away, told him they were magic, and whether he believed me or just needed them, accepted them. Then I gave him two bucks for laces to buy, but know he never bought the laces, but a bottle of Cisco instead, so like the Lone Ranger I rode off into the sunset...Happy trails Jim, said Tonto.

Gator, came from Georgia, or Mississippi, or Alabama, even he couldn't remember which as the story changed everytime he bummed a smoke off of you. Somewhere in the deep purple heart of Dixie, with a sky full of moonshine stars, and bayou bars, backwoods stars and Stonewall Jackson bars.

Curious bum. He'd stop buy, never ask for a smoke or a drink, but, knew somehow you'd give him one or the other or both anyway, and then you'd smoke and drink with him as though you were tight and brothers to the bone. One day, he walked by with a shopping cart full of canned goods someone had bequethed him, a drunkards drunkerds dowry no doubty. It overflowed with these canned goods, that Gator had no use for, as he had little use for food, as opposed to liquids of all kinds, with alcohol swimming upstream like fish with damaged dorsal fins, gasping for air lying on the shore to be clubbed, scaled, fileted and cooked.

He passed the canned goods out to other's more in need, a regular Salvation Army one-man band of angels and banditos with bandaleros "I don't need this shit," he would say and hand a can of peas to another of the planets proletarians. An anemic amoeba and a prissy pair of meciums thanked him doffing hats that they had stolen at the five and dime, while living a nickle and dime existence. Gator nodded before nodding off and returned their doff in salutation.

One day, Gator disappeared until they found him, passed out pissed out dead drunk, or rather, just dead, lying under the bridge by the river. Empty bottles of 'train surrounded him as a protective prophylactic Stoned-henge..without geometry or astral physics dictating it's positioning to be argued by Aztec priests and and their counterfiet counter parts, professors at MIT. They all agreed though, Gator gutted himself with cheap wine, and now would be buried in a pyramid in the store room of the liquor store in the basement located one street level below Michigan Ave in Ypsilanti by the park where dogs and children run and play.

All the good bums have been crucified, hung up on a cross or washed away from shore, surely, with the Ripple rip-tide or else they bin' sanctimoniously sanctified and Sterno-fied, as the holy saint rode his bicycle down into the bowels of the train station to bum a smoke, not a ride, and enough spare change for a cheap bottle of wine, the passengers just passed him off, but gave him a home where roans and the buffalo roam, half a butt and the sum total of 15 dimes, which was just enough to pawn the bike, take a hike, and hop aboard the Night Train to paradise....one ticket?

A buck-twenty-nine.


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