King of Cool ~ A Story/Prose Poem


McQueen jumped his bike over the velvet rope out front, screeched to a rubber-burning stop at the door and gave me that wild-eyed expression of his where looks like he took a life-sized bite of something raw and is holding it in his mouth, but then decides to swallow it, because he’s Steve McQueen, King of Cool, damn it.

When he swung through the door of this gin mill, he couldn’t help but hear burly Papa goading Archie to bust him one in the chin, but Archie, tan and suave and dressed in wool trousers, an immaculate white shirt and red speckled cravat, turned and oh-so-cooly told Papa to throw his own rum punch, because he’s Cary Grant, damn it.

Both elbows and almost his chin on the bar, Bukowski yelled at Papa to shut the fuck up, because Buk was communing with and tossing back his spirits and the spirits knew old Buk just as they knew young Morrison in the corner, another LA poet like Buk, but without the staying power of the pickled old man with the gin blossom nose and nicotene stained life, damn it.

As always, from the outside looking in, I wondered what made these bastards so special, redolent of Cool, like Kerouac in the back, snapping his fingers as Miles rasped an aria into his trumpet, his back to Jack and Kind of Blue, which happens when you’re Miles’ Kind of Cool, damn it.

I thought I’d figured it out, flipping up my collar, puffing out my chest, scribbling on a napkin about beer and bimbos, squinting feral disdain for the uncool in the street, when McQueen put his arm around my shoulder and steered me like he did his 650cc Triumph TR6 Trophy outside–which he told me not to touch–and said, “If you gotta try hard to be cool, kid, you’re too square for the life, but, really, that’s okay…Oh, and stay home.”

“Damn it.”

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