No means no :
even for men
"Gathered together were bums and charlatans, hippies and crack-heads, retirees, natives, travellers, businessmen, students, dropouts, homeless beggars, mystics, whores, laymen, soldiers, vagabonds, pushers, and renegades, all and everyone, no one left out, no one denied, no one judged because all were judged, no one condemned because all were condemned. A crowd of thieves dangling from their crosses and not a messiah in sight to be traded for them.
I’d often slide quietly in, sit down at a table by a window, order a beer, take out my notepad, and let the madness begin. Hardly had I written a single line when a man named Mustaf- a huge, powerful, constantly drunken Muslim man- would approach me, grab hold of my hand with his iron grip, sink to his knees, and wail out- “I know who I am, I know who I am. I am nothing!” And an authentic tear would trickle down his cheek, and he’d begin his melancholic soliloquy on his duty and reverence for all life, and how he had never wanted to kill any man, but had to, for his country and his soul, and his thick lips would suck on the ever-present cigarette dangling from his mouth, and he’d declare his oath to God and move on.
And then another pilgrim would arrive at my doorstep. This time it would be a homeless Italian barber who lived in a warehouse, begged for beer and cigarettes, and claimed to have a house in Rome with three-thousand bottles of wine in the basement. And his toothless yarns would begin and he’d sip his beer and tell me of his fishing exploits, his economic ruin, and his favourite places in Chinatown to get a two-dollar meal.
Then he’d be gone and a young junky would come along, a fellow who had been a great musician until his whole family was killed and he took to the needle and bottle to escape what he could not escape. And he would sit down and patronize me and pretend to befriend me and then try to coax a few bucks out of me for another drink- which I gave to him at first but then I realized I was only adding to his and everyone else’s dumb luck by paying for another round of misery and I learned what might be the most valuable lesson I was to receive in that bar in all the days and nights I sat there- to say no.
I learned how to squash a vexing spirit from invading, cajoling or guilting me out of myself. And that is no small thing. And for me it took a bar full of ever-invasive, determined and skilled individuals so that I might learn to see some of the ways in which others can climb inside your skin; it took this antagonizing throng of separated selves to create the fluid obstacle-course necessary in which my spirit learned to surf, to glide, and to fly free.
“No” became my battle cry and my banner- one which I would have to learn to deploy in the future, in many different places, under many different circumstances again, as the vexations of separated spirits became all to obvious and affronting to my softening shell.
Sitting there, learning how to drive away those who would steal my peace was quite an effort. Men and women of all types would come and sit or filter past, hawking their stolen goods, or their art, clothing, sausages, cheese, dope, cigarettes, or booze. It was a constant train of reprobates and street merchants, attempting to get rid of their disreputable wares. One spectre would leave and another arrive. Another story, another pint of beer, another woe-begotten song about their dance through the dark and disorienting doom they were not aware of creating for themselves. ..."
What the critics have said about Jack Haas' books:
"...very strongly recommended reading..." Midwest Book Review
"The Kerouac of the new millennium." Frank Wolf (author of Blind Bay)
"...inspires us to rediscover the mystery of ourselves..." Judine Slaughter (Express Yourself Books)
"...Read in awe." Benjamin Tucker (author of Roadeye)
"...groundbreaking..." Joanne Turner (The Messenger)
"...an embarrassment of riches..." George Fisk (author of A New Sense of Destiny)
"...poetic and stunning..." Nancy Jackson (Dog-Eared Book Reviews)
Books by Jack Haas
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