Thursday, November 20, 2008

Banded with Great Fanfare


 am Michael Madsen, and I band garages. You may know me as the Michael Madsen who writes books of poetry and I am that Michael Madsen too. I am the author of Burning in Paradise (1998), which I wrote during the filming of Donnie Brasco in which I played the Mafia boss Sonny Black. During the day I was Sonny Black and in the evening in my trailer I wrote a book of poems that allowed me to remain within the character of Sonny Black. Burning in Paradise is my Donnie Brasco book. The book evokes the loneliness of living in a trailer and staring for hours into one’s reflection in a Zippo lighter. But many people confuse the speaker of that book with me, Michael Madsen. They say things like, there goes Michael Madsen again, cultivating his bad-dude image by writing a poem about gang-banging a married woman when he was just 13. But of course, in the poem I am referring to, which is called “Good-bye,” I am speaking in the character of Sonny Black, not Michael Madsen. The real Michael Madsen is not “driven over the edge” by the “yakkity, yak, yak” he hears while waiting at the counter for his “fucking French toast and bacon.” That is Sonny Black. Eventually I grew weary of being confused with Sonny Black and now I write very little poetry. I band garages.

I am Michael Madsen, and I cut my teeth on the Oak Titmouse. The Oak Timouse is feisty and vociferous for its size! You do not want to put two Oak Titmice together in a banding bag. You do not want to underestimate the pecking power of the Oak Titmouse. You do not want to get yourself in a tight spot with an Oak Titmouse. Everyone thinks, it’s Michael Madsen, no Oak Titmouse is going to intimidate Michael Madsen. But the truth is, no Oak Titmouse ever did intimidate Michael Madsen. I am not saying that Brad or Leonardo or Orlando would be intimidated by an Oak Titmouse. I am just saying that I was put up against an Oak Titmouse and it did not rattle me. I am Michael Madsen, a member of the human race who seeks personal growth through challenge, and because I was not rattled by a feisty Oak Titmouse, I set my sights higher, and that is why I now band garages.

Dennis Hopper knows about banding garages. Dennis wrote the foreword to Burning in Paradise. As everyone is aware, Dennis is a Top 100 collector of contemporary art and speaks with authority on a wide range of art topics. Dennis was my mentor in banding garages. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Dennis. It is only because Dennis is such a monster of generosity and competence and can throw his weight around with such efficiency that my banding has flown under the radar, so to speak. If I publish a book of my banded garages, there is no question that Dennis would write the foreword. I have recently published a book of photographs called Signs of Life and it would be nicely complemented (or as Dennis would say, “augmented”) by a book of photographs of garages I have banded.

I am Michael Madsen but in 1992 I was Vic Vega, Mr. Blonde, Toothpick Vic. During the filming of Reservoir Dogs I was Toothpick Vic during the day, but at night I locked myself in my trailer and ignored Quentin’s deranged pounding on the door because I was in a period of intense creativity in which I produced not one, but two books of poetry, Beer, Blood, and Ashes and Eat the Worm. Those are my Toothpick Vic books. It was when I wrote those books that I first came to realize that some people are so dense that they mistake lines like “I was alone in Sedona, Arizona/ And went to sleep without getting undressed” as Michael Madsen cultivating his bad-dude image instead of Toothpick Vic speaking in character. The ultimate in crudeness was when a critic referred to me as a “garage bard.” The directness and plainness of language that the critic recognized was in fact a tribute to my success in writing the book in the character of Toothpick Vic. You would think that critics would be capable of making the distinction between the author of the book and the persona of the speaker of the poem, but critics have the intelligence of a jib arm. This confusion has persisted and is the main reason that I have turned from writing poetry to banding garages.

When I band garages at night I am Michael Madsen. That is the beauty of banding garages. I am not Toothpick Vic or Preston Lennox or Morris Poole or Budd a.k.a. Sidewinder. I am purely Michael Madsen, alone in the night stalking a garage, preferably a feisty garage, but not a vociferous garage. I band the garage and then I have an early breakfast of French toast; not “fucking French toast” but French toast. Sometimes I will band my French toast and leave it uneaten on the plate. I am hungry and there is a part of me that is still Toothpick Vic and would pour gasoline over the waitress and set her on fire just to have a chance to eat that French toast. But I have been taught restraint by my mentor. I know that it sounds like I am being facetious in saying that I have been taught restraint by someone who was blackballed by Hollywood for eight years, but you would understand what I mean if you ever had a conversation with Dennis about the role of self-discipline in the work of Lucian Freud. In any case, Dennis has taught me that I will continue to grow as a human being, and one day (night, really) I will be worthy of banding warehouses. Dennis says that banding warehouses is to banding garages as banding garages is to banding the Oak Titmouse.

Fortunato Salazar lives in Los Angeles and has work that was, is, or will soon be in thieves jargon, Johnny America, Monkeybicycle, and other journals.

Submissions, in Their Entirety, to Zeptofiction: The Journal of Excruciatingly Short Fiction Very short stories from Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, Stephen King, Jackie Collins, and Terry Pratchett.
Eleven Improbable but Nonetheless Real Baked Goods Listed in Descending Order of the Amount of Puerile Imagination Required to Make them Ripe with Sexual or Scatological Innuendo.
That Time When Time Was Different Than Normal When a team of distinguished scientists approached me about time traveling to the year 1682, I was like, "I need to know what I'll be getting paid first." Then they said that there would be a small remuneration, and I thought that remuneration meant fortune, so I was like, "Sign me up!"

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