I still have the tablecloth. The red & white checkered tic-tac-doe tablecloth is the only thing I ever held on to. I decided to keep it, so years later I could remember the magical night that sealed our fate.

We were meeting at a Mexican restaurant that had been our favorite bad Mexican restaurant in New York before the yups discovered it, and it became El LameO.  In the beginning it had such sad-sad salsa, friends.  And gloppy not chunky guac that was so creamy and thick with white bread schmaltz it must’ve been blended canned jalapeños with a jar of Miracle Whip to get its texture. But cheese even Velveeta-wouldn’tve-claimed was why the place was so popular.  That and the prices.  Not too high, but not so low that you suspected they were stuffing the ever popular California burritos with dog, like all us amigos who had done major time south of the border believed they did in real Mexican restaurants.

Jesse and I’d been separated almost a year, but after the first couple of months I completely lost the linear narrative thread of time. All I could do was drink beer, smoke grass and swim in pain.  And not a wave of it either, but a whole fucking ocean I was sure I’d never get across.  But for one reason or another, every day I managed to keep going, though by this time I had no hope of ever spotting land on the horizon again.

Before I could even say a word, she went into a diatribe about what a bad husband I was (she actually used that phrase — a loop from her parents failed marriage), then started screaming and repeating there’s no magic left in our marriage so many times in a row it sounded like a broken record — though what it actually must have been was a magical mantra that somehow totally froze the entire yup packed restaurant like everyone was in one of those old E.F. Hutton commercials.

As she obliviously barked on, I looked out the corner of my eye to see if everyone was staring at us. But everyone else was totally frozen in time.  I mean, they weren’t talking or eating or even sucking up on the twofer Jimmy Buffett frozen Margaritvilles the restaurant served along with the-ever-popular-dinner-special.  They were all completely stuck in mid chew, or suck, as they case may be — trapped in the unconscious flytrap of our time warp.  Even today I like the way that phrase sounds — our time warp. We didn’t have much left, but we did have this absolutely beautiful time warp that froze a whole restaurant in mid chew, or suck, as the case may be.  If that’s not magic, I don’t know what the fuck magic is.  The whole scene felt right out of Carlos Castaneda to me – even though I admit it was on the low end of the curve, barely able to turn A Yaqui Way Of Knowledge into A Yuppie Way Of Carnage.  Still. . .


She was wailing on such a high vibrational frequency not even the waitress — “Hi, my name is Katja.” — could stop her when she broke in with a litany of the night’s specials, or came back and refilled the sickly sweet twofer Jimmy Buffett Margaritsvilles before laying out the-ever-popular-dinner-special on the red and white checkered tic-tac-doe tablecloth. And then came back all through the meal with “on the house” appetizers, we had never been served before.

All I knew was I wanted an ice cold brewsky.  But I knew if I ordered one, she’d go off on me for being a lush. For some reason I’ve never been able to figure out, she didn’t want me to enjoy myself. Though for some even more bizarre reason, I always thought that that conceit was aimed more at her father than me. I’d read enough psychology to understand her not wanting to make her father happy, but did she really have to transfer her revenge on him to me? It seemed like one of those Zen koans I’d have to solve if I didn’t want to have to face the same question all over again next life. If indeed there was one.

As she raged on, I was having some serious doubts about the whole cosmic mahgilla, though I’ve got to admit I started to get turned on anyway — as sick as that sounds. What can I say? Sex was always on a much more magical plain when we were breaking up than when we were together.  That was a clue to solving the koan, but I wasn’t sure where to go from there, unless it had something to do with something I read somewhere about opposites being attracted to each other, though they didn’t necessarily really like each other. In fact, according to some Doctor-Professor I had read somewhere, sometime, it was not only quite possible, but quite probable that we were more likely to fall in-love with our enemies than our allies.  This, according to this Doctor-Professor, was some sort of law of thermodynamics or quantum mechanics.  Like: Is it better to live the passionless life in the passionate way, than to live the passionate life in the passionless way?

        I was not about to debate this subject, even with myself.  And certainly not going to attempt to share it with her while staring down at the red & white checkered tic-tac-doe tablecloth, and trying to grasp the economics of her charges against me.  At the top of the list, of course, was the-ever-popular-money.  I had flunked the-ever-popular-money.  And apparently sex too; I could see it in her eyes that she thought I was some kind of dirty lowlife perv.  On top of that, she didn’t believe I was paying attention to what she was saying.  Over and over, she repeated ” I want to get on with my life,” as if what was happening at the moment was my life, and patently separate from her cliche

        Years later, I admit, the debate would occupy so much space I would have to go meditate on a metaphor on top of a mantra about a mountain, or a mole hill, or something that wasn’t quite what the alliteration seemed it was.  But on the night in question, I was more focused on trying to find a way to bring the magic back into our marriage before the whole damn thing dissolved along with the untouched ever-popular-dinner-special sitting in front of me.  Up to that point I had spent a lifetime of pulling rabbits that weren’t rabbits out of hats that weren’t hats, so I knew there had to be something I had up my sleeve to save the day before it permanently turned into night.

I can still remember the moment I decided to pull the red & white checkered tic-tac-doe tablecloth out from under the-ever-popular-dinner-special.  It may now be considered a right of passage by the self-satisfied yups who adopted my move as a nightly ritual in what was once my favorite bad Mexican restaurant in New York, but at the time I did what I did I was genuinely desperate. The question I asked myself before I made my move was, Would my feat qualify as magic in the eyes and heart of the beholder sitting across from me? Or would she ignore the best tangent to catharsis I could conjure up in order to change some pre-scripted bad karmic scenario out to end our us?

If you feel free enough to use your imaginations you can picture what happened much more clearly than I care to describe the WHOOSH of the tablecloth at the exact moment the-ever-popular-dinner-special felt the earth move beneath it.

I would like to tell you I considered the consequences of my actions before I made my move, but the truth is I am ruled by instinct, not logic.  I did what I could do at the moment I recognized an opening.  And oh yes, just to satisfy students of this sweet science’s appetite for insight, I could see what would happen if I failed long before I failed, but I didn’t believe that would ever happen.

Such is youth.

All these years later I have to admit I don’t know much, but I do know that it’s a fine line between courage and stupidity, and whether we fail or succeed in life has little to do with either.

I believed that with all my heart then.  I still believe that with all my heart now, though I must admit that time and the disintegration of cultural values have not only changed all our definitions, but chipped away at the belief system that holds together what we used to call the fine art of magic.

Whether it was this magic that brought Jesse and I together or ripped us apart, or this magic that brought Katja and I together, or ripped us apart, I’m not sure, but I know there was real magic there that night.  You just couldn’t see it.  And neither could they. Which is why, no matter how strong the magic, you can’t go back after you say goodbye, unless goodbye doesn’t really mean goodbye, but you’ll see me again next life . . . unless I see you first.

© 2016 Mike Golden
Originally published in Melt #13, 2002

Leave a Reply

At last a Smoke Signals NO BRAINER

Truly, we’re fucked if we can’t call off and reschedule this whole lose-lose election the failed two-party-system has stuck us with in order to keep control of the country. In order to change things it's going to take a plan that bars anyone who ran for POTUS in this election and replaces them with... »

Jack Wesley Hardin’s

If you unlucky enough to be out in the soup tonight, baby, you don’t have to be told this toxic brew of critics and crucifiers alike is not pissin’ chicken soup for the soul down on us. All you gotta do is watch the waves of rage exploding out over the high bluffs above... »

an Octoberfest hors d’oeuvre

I am FiFi (not my real name), the French maid sex slave of two beautiful, brilliant, strong Amazon Lesbians. And though they tell me I am badly flunking the French part of my maid, What, Dear Vibrator, I must ask, is the correlation between pain and sexual excitement? Am I a sickness? »


As she obliviously barked on, I looked out the corner of my eye to see if everyone was staring at us. But they were totally frozen in time. I mean, they were all completely stuck in mid chew, or suck, as they case may be -- trapped in the unconscious flytrap of our... »

Joey Amdahl’s
The Big Dumb Nothing
fiction from MODERN (you call this) LIVING

See my thirty-five-year-old boss Betty Allen standing at the door of the club. She scratches at an itch that’s under her tight black skirt and her hand yanks up her fish net stocking at the knee. . A tattoo of a zombie geisha fills up her entire upper arm. The tattoo goes against..... »

The 49th Anniversary of having to ask

Though they probably don't have the balls to do it, the best opportunity Trump will ever have to be trusted by the great majority of Americans would be by using MLK's 86th birthday to name who’s really responsible for the assassinations of JFK-MLK- RFK, before bad-politics-as-usual buries the truth again forever… »

Charles Bukowski's
Six Inches

Sarah picked me up and placed me down between her legs, which she spread open just a bit. Then I was facing a forest of hair. I hardened my back and neck muscles, sensing what was to come. I was jammed into darkness and stench. I heard Sarah moan. Then Sarah began to move me slowly back and forth. As I said, the stench was unbearable, and it was difficult to breathe, but somehow there was air in there—various side-pockets and drafts of oxygen. Now and then my head, the top of my head bumped The Man in the Boat and then Sarah would let out an extra-illuminated moan. Sarah began moving me faster and faster »

an excerpt from John Goodman’s
Avant-Garde and Tradition
Photograph by Robert Frank

I don't want to be so junglish that I can't climb a stairway. I got to climb mountains all day long? We're going to the moon, right? Well, I'm with the guys that wrote music that got us to the moon. Not the guys who dreamed about it. Bach built the buildings, we didn't... »

Excerpts from
A Counter Myth
from Mike Golden’s

Sad to Say, if you ask any graduating class today who James Earl Ray was, less than 10% of those over-priced diplomas would know the confessed, then-unconfessed, alleged-assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King was indisputably one of the three biggest hand-picked-stooges in history, along with Curly Larry Sirhan and Mo Harvey Oswald... »

A Thanksgiving Prayer from William Burroughs

Thanks for the wild turkey and passenger pigeons destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts... Thanks for vast herds of bisons... Thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes...Thanks for a nation of finks... »

Victor Harwood’s
excerpted from his novel

That Saturday night Malraux and I sat side-by-side, facing the room, watching the crowd flow in and out in waves as it passed through the Dingo, quick to find out what was doing in the Quarter, savor a Jimmy Charters Gin Fizz and head off for dinner at the Brassarie Lipp or the Dôme... »

Now entering the 50th year of having to ask

“I’d rather be dead than afraid,” the spirit said to Hicks It was Dr. King’s mantra, but all Wild Billy saw was a poor lost soul who didn’t know he was dead. “I never felt so small as when I realized it was my job to inform Dr. King’s spirit his body was gone »


They took their beer from the bar to a table in the back, and then Johnson started talking about whore houses it had been his distinct pleasure to know. Like shortstops or writers, there was a rating system."There was a place in Jersey. In Wildwood. A grand old House, for its... »

Die for it or live for it, it always comes down to whether you go for what looks most inviting in the moment or wait for what you're lookin' for. Call it Yes or call it No, to swing or not to swing appears to be the only room left to move in... »

What's Happening In:

Little Rock - Arkansas Times
Buffalo - Artvoice
Athens, OH
The Athens NEWS
Austin, TX - Austin Chronicle
Baltimore - Baltimore City Paper
Birmingham - Birmingham Weekly
Black & White
Boise Weekly
Boston Phoenix
Boston's Weekly Dig
Boulder - Boulder Weekly
Charlottsville, VA - C-Ville Weekly
Chicago Newcity
Chicago Reader
Chico News & Review
Cincinnati - Cincinnati CityBeat
Rochester - City Newspaper
Minneapolis - City Pages (Twin Cities)
Lansing - City Pulse
Des Moines - Cityview
Halifax, NS - The Coast
Colorado Springs - Colorado Springs Independent
Columbia, SC - Columbia Free Times
Atlanta - Creative Loafing (Atlanta)
Charlotte, NC - Creative Loafing (Charlotte)
Sarasota, FL - Creative Loafing (Sarasota)
Tampa, FL - Creative Loafing (Tampa)
Dallas - Dallas Observer
Dayton - Dayton City Paper
Oakland - East Bay Express
Hermosa Beach, CA - Easy Reader
Eugene, OR - Eugene Weekly
New Haven - Fairfield County Weekly
Calgary, AB - Fast Forward Weekly
Athens, GA - Flagpole Magazine
Jacksonville, FL - Folio Weekly
Fort Worth, TX - Fort Worth Weekly
New Orleans - Gambit
Vancouver, BC - The Georgia Straight
Hartford, CT - Hartford Advocate
Honolulu - Honolulu Weekly
Houston - Houston Press
Springfield, IL - Illinois Times
Durham, NC - Independent Weekly (NC)
Corona, CA - Inland Empire Weekly
Madison, WI - Isthmus
Ithica, NY - Ithaca Times
Jackson, MS - Jackson Free Press
Los Angeles - L.A. Weekly
Las Vegas - Las Vegas CityLife
Las Vegas Weekly
Louisville, KY - LEO Weekly
Long Island, NY - Long Island Press
Maui, HI - Maui Time Weekly
Memphis - The Memphis Flyer
Knoxville - Metro Pulse
San Jose - Metroactive

Great Moments in Sportz
Fear & Loathing @ The Kentucky Derby

RALPH STEADMAN remembers meeting HUNTER S. THOMPSON: I heard a quick hiss from the spray can Hunter was brandishing. He had Maced me again!...

HUNTER meets RALPH: Another problem was his habit of sketching people he met in the various social situations I dragged him into--then giving them the sketches. »

Mike Golden’s
Inside Outsourcing
Even if eating it is not exactly their thing they always have the option to use it as a dildo made exclusively for them personally by white trash fashionistas from the south of France collection, Dominique, would you like a tattoo of your face on your ass, dear, while you’re waiting for the designer to take measurements we can use to fit your soul into a gift package? »
Although Tuli was dubbed “the Noel Coward of Bohemia” by his friend co-founding Fug Ed Sanders, I always thought of the multidextrous humanist-humorist as “the Tom Paine of standup protest performance art”, but no matter what handle any of us pin on him it’s safe to say he has probably subliminally influenced more underground writer-poet-artist-publishers than any other Boho to come down the page this century. »


painting collage of UBU, THE DECIDER by aka
Fred Wistow introduces Malcolm Gladwell

Max Blagg Commercial

  • 1965 collage by d.a. levy

  • Before you leave...
    visit Lally's Alley
    for daily updates
  • Visit Richard Cummings'
    The Fire Insider

    for daily updates
    Dick Lit
    Missionary Positions
    fiction by Joe Maynard

    Painting by Peter Cross

    "dick lit" is here to acknowledge the good, bad and ugly that goes with it, as it celebrates every young boy's quest to get off the next time, and every old man's quest to get off one more time, before there is no time left to get off on... »

    an excerpt from Ellen Pearlman’s

    Nothing and Everything is about the relationship of Eastern thought, particularly Buddhism, to the arts in post-war New York City —from the early 1940s to the early1960s—a handful of individuals brought about major changes in music, performance, dance, theater, installation, video, mixed media, painting, and sculpture, as the evolution from modernism to postmodernism broke down the idea of art as a practice devoted to a particular medium. The world—or life itself—became a legitimate artist’s tool, aligning with Zen Buddhism’s emphasis on enlightenment occurring at any moment.... »

    A Message from Senator Franken

    Please take 2 minutes to watch this important video.

    Alan Greenberg’s

    For three hours Ali was in the ring sparring, and the entire time he never threw a punch. When he finally stepped down I asked him what he was doing. “I’m gonna get that sucker so tired of punching me he’s gonna fall flat on his face,” Ali replied. And so the “Rope-a-Dope” was born, not in the ring in Zaire, but in a gym in Pennsylvania. »

    Up on the stage a man who looks like Klinger on Mash lifts his dress for the audience to inspect him. He has a clit. An actual clit. Then suddenly the legs spread, and PRESTO SLEAZO, there's a schlong! What a bargain! A real live hermaphrodite is about to take the skin of his female genitalia and stretch it over his male genitalia and get it on with itself »

    Great Moments in Sportz
    Professor Irwin Corey Accepts The National Book Award for Thomas Pynchon

    It happened Thursday, April 18th, 1974, at Alice Tulley Hall, and those that were there will never forget it (if they remember it at all). The National Book Awards, commercial publishing’s now defunct version of the Academy Awards was in the bottom of the ninth, down »

    Mimi & Richard Farina Live

    In 1965, Mimi and Richard Farina dropped by the studios of WTBS (now WMBR) with electric guitarist Barry Tashian (of Barry & the Remains) for music and talk with DJ Ed Freeman. Richard is on dulcimer. One of Mimi’s two guitars is tuned like a dulcimer. The explanation for the brief gap in the tape has long been lost.


    Michael Disend's RIDER OF THE JADE HORSE

    Li looked firmly into his eyes. “No! I want man who is also a woman.” Penman nodded against his will, his gaze stealing down toward the strap-on dildo she was generously coating with lube. It thrust out like a red cannon from her leather harness. Why red? Is it because she’s from China?


    Dick Lit
    Stacia St. Owens’

    “Dick lit” has been around since the first caveman’s curiosity stuck his dick into the equation when he rubbed those two rocks together around it until....
    Millie tittered, which is how girls used to be taught to laugh. Tilda wondered if this were an intentional jab.

    Barney Rosset Interview
    (The Subject Was Left Handed)