On-line Loverboy Roy, Part 1.

There was no need to consult the monkey bones for an oracle, when the question, “What am I doing here?” keeps going through your head like a mantra, the date is not going well.  I looked over at her.  She was studying the menu intently.  I watched her eyes loiter around a section I’d rather they not be hanging out in.  Go ahead and stick me for the lobster.  You know you want to.  Who knows how this evening is going to turn out?  You might as well ride the gravy train while you can.  Get while the gettin’ is good.

“I think I’m going to have the lobster,” she announced, and set down the menu.

“Good choice,” I nodded.

I don’t think it would’ve bothered me if I didn’t know it was coming.  I get so disappointed with people when they meet my expectations.  Now I had no choice but to get something really cheap to mitigate the damage, and hopefully shame her.  Grilled cheese?  Too obvious.  Hamburger.  Yeah.  Simple burger.  What am I doing here?

That was the million dollar question.  I couldn’t answer you then, and today, after years of reflection, I can only take a stab at it.  Boredom?  The idea that being out with any woman was better than sitting at home?  A desperate grab for validation?  Something to write about later?

I can honestly tell you it wasn’t for sex.  Not in this case.  It may have started off that way.  I can’t imagine any other reason someone would on-line date, except maybe to find a soul-mate, to spend the rest of your life with having sex.  No, dear friends, as soon as I saw her, I knew this date wouldn’t be about sex.  Not if I had any say.  And as the man, I thought I had a pretty good say.

I was living in Redondo Beach with my bubby, Spike.  I was newly sober and “lonely” as hell.  I was not doing all that well in the bars now that I was deprived of charm juice.  I thought about maybe using this newfangled computer contraption and enrolling in an on-line dating service.  I was hesitant.  It seemed sleazy and demeaning, which if you know any stories about me, you’ll know is a total howler.  Really?   This is too low?

I can’t explain it, but I was getting all Amish, and felt like computer dating was interfering with Divine Will.  What about meeting a girlfriend the old-fashioned way, hung over, doing laundry at the mat?  This was like reaching into a bag of snakes and trying to grab the non-poisonous one.  It seemed wrong.  I thought about it.  Wrong in my world usually says “Green Flag.”  I sat down at Spike’s computer.

I hated filling out the profile thing.  I stared at the questions.  I could fill out the parts that required scientific facts, like weight and height, hair and eye color, but after that…shit.

Hobbies and interests?   I don’t have any.  Not ones, I could list and expect a date.  But, I didn’t want to lie either.  Not out of some ethical concern.  I didn’t want to rattle off a bunch of bullshit like skydiving and chess, because with my luck, I’d wind up with someone who insists on jumping out of an airplane together or staring  at a dusty board for hours in her favorite cafe.  That or any other pain in the ass thing that people like do for fun.

I decided to gamble and be honest.

“Laying around thinking about Stalingrad or contemplating the collapse of civilization.  As a youth, I was a champion drinker and marathon brooder.  I also enjoy studying criminal history, and reading about the lives of social misfits, deviants, holy madmen and psychopaths.”  There, that wasn’t so bad.  What else?

Under spiritual life I put “It’s complicated.”

How would I describe myself?  “Deeply troubled, but in a happy-go-lucky way.”

Okay, likes and dislikes.  Be careful here.  Really?  Why now?

“I like sunsets, romantic evenings by the fire, good movies, music and food.  But also don’t really feel like going out of my way for them. Oh, I like aliens, too. ”

Nice. Brief and concise.

Dislikes?  This probably won’t be as brief.  Let’s see…

“I dislike food poisoning, organ music, jail, pushy people, greedy people, arrogant, slick, vain, pompous, shallow, craven, know-it-all blowhard people, people who slow down walking across the crosswalk when they can see you’re waiting to turn, people who try to push the lifestyle that’s making them miserable on you, people who have to actually tell you they have a great sense of humor (they never do), people who take the last slice of pizza without a courtesy inquiry, rats, back-stabbers, hypocrites, snobs, bad eggs and chiselers, but overall I’m easy-going and non-judgmental.”

Under education I listed my degree.  Pretty worthless, until just right then.  That’s right, ladies, a college man.  Let’s talk about a book.

Current Occupation:  Bouncer at a strip club.

I looked it over for any blatant grammatical errors.  None that I saw, but how would I know?  I’m the one who wrote it.

There, that should do it.  Don’t forget to put you’re a Cancer.  Ha-ha.  Boy, ain’t that right.

My finger hovered over the send button.  You’re really going to do this?  Pretty honest little resume you whipped up there.  Not exactly using the best bait.  Maybe put in some cute and charming.  A wee sprinkle?  Fuck it!  We’re going to press with what we have.  Let’s see what this gets, if anything at all.  I pushed send.  I like doing stuff like that.  Just-to-see kind of stuff.

My first response was an ex-porn star.  Heart-attack serious, folks.  Ask Spike.  She contacted me.  In her e-mail she said flat-out that she was an ex-skin starlet, and was now producing adult films.  I could see her photo on the web site of the company she worked for.  I clicked on the link expecting it to take me to some Dr. Viagra M.D. Next Day Delivery web site, but there it was, her porn company.  I clicked under producers and looked her up.

No way.  I think I know her.  Not sure how.  She looked good.  Major Mid-forties Milfage.

Okay, just what the hell is going on here?  Some sort of cosmic Candid Camera?  It sounded too good to be true.  I thought it was some off-shoot of a Nigerian banking swindle.  I smelled some kind of  rat trap or sting.  Maybe a militant male-hating cyber terrorism group, dangling some candy so you’d open something you shouldn’t.  Yeah, get infected with some kind of worm.  It destroys your computer, but worse, dashes your hope of dating a milfy ex-porn queen.

Come on. My first tug on the line and I pull up this up?  Could this be real?  If this is real, it’s going to end bad.  Maybe something so terrible and surreal you won’t ever recover from it.

Must pursue.  Must.

She said she thought my profile was funny and wanted me to send her a photo of me without my shirt (at least I got to keep my pants on).  I really felt like I was auditioning.  She asked me to send it care of her company in the San Fernando Valley, of course.

I did, of course.  Dirty whore.  Me that is.  The jury was still out on the other deal.  In the meantime, I picked up the pace on the push-ups while I waited for her response.

She wrote back saying she got the pictures and was okay with meeting me.  Then she sent me her cell number.  Hmm… this may be real…and…I can’t do it.  It’s too weird.  Especially now without my handy judgement-impairment elixir.  So much easier to step into any passing abyss with a little drinky-poo to cushion the fall.  What’s the matter with me?  Man up.  Can’t I have impaired judgement without alcohol?

Of course you can.  You have to learn how to do everything sober now, and that includes making bad decisions.  Dating a porn star (ex) would so qualify.  Even if she was now a polished successful professional business woman with two teenage sons and a track record longer than Santa Anita’s.  I picked up the phone.

Now before you think that this was the lobster date, I can assure you I wouldn’t have bemoaned fine dining Pornula Von Milfenstein.  That was another thing, and I’ll get back to Lobster Lana in a bit.  Let me first finish up with the porn queen.  Ha.

No, there was no dinner with the Baroness.  She invited me to meet her at Hustler Hollywood.  Her company was putting out (indeed) a new line of interactive porno CDs.  I nodded, “yes that sounds so new to me- interactive porn.  Technology is amazing.”  They were going to have a big opening at the store with an after-party appropriately after.  All the top people in her nasty, stinky business would be there.

Wow.  Very weird first date.  I’m in.

Friday night, I combed my shoes and shined my hair.  I got in the car and headed for Hollywood.  Nervous.   A little thirsty.  Having moments of kind of wanting to be dead that came and went.  I parked the car at some rip-off and walked in.

The store was busy, and there were assorted bouquets of harlotry placed strategically here and there among the crowd.  I started to shark my way through the crowd.   She recognized me first, which was a total relief.  Nice looking lady.  Dressed classy, a tailored suit, probably a Valentino.  Pearls.  Expensive heels.  My mom would approve.  Hahahahahaha!

She really would have.  That’s the thing.  Drop the bomb later.   Anyway, she turned out to be a nice lady, warm and friendly.  Very normal.  And that was a problem.  I didn’t mind her being a porn queen.  I tend not to begrudge women the amount of men they’ve been with.  In this case, it just happened to be a lot, and in a lot of weird ways.

I was kind of hoping that she’d be more unorthodox, like with her thinking, and not just with the way she handed out slices of mango to every ape in Hollywood.  From what I was picking up, she was pretty mainstream.

I don’t swim well in those waters.  Pretty boring too.  But then I watched her click across the floor to hug some up-and-coming starlet.  They kissed on the mouth.  Okay, this isn’t boring yet.

After the opening we drove over to a club on Vine St. that was holding the party.  It was okay, as bummers go.  It was the first time I tried to dance sober.  Tried is the word.  I would’ve rather crawled over broken glass.  Fucking murder.  Pretty bad deal.

Anyway, I couldn’t relax.  I was stiff and insecure.  I had no game, and just sort of stood around filling out a suit.  Knowing I could light it up with a couple of cans of joy, but having to hold off.  Knowing it’s not going well, and kind of resigned to be doomed for now.  Taking it on the chin.

At the end of the evening I walked her out to her car.  She drew close.  Here it comes, Chip Chappy.  Let’s see what your performance rates.

She gave me a hug…and then a peck on the cheek…and then…wait for it…a pitty-pat on the back.

Kill me now, God.  I date a porn star and get a peck and a pitty-pat.  The fraternal love death-blow.  What sort of dastardly Lord of Fate was on duty when this shit was dreamed up?  Seriously, that stings like a bitch, Dude.  I knew it was a set-up.  I smelled it!

The next night at work, one of the bouncers asked me how the date went.  I told him I struck out.

“I realized I actually have a video of her,” he said, “giving  John Leslie a Dirty Belgium Waffle.”

“That’s great.  I got a pat on the back.”

I was sour for a while after that, but when I realized that I stayed sober through it, I felt a little better.  What am I to learn from all this?   That the Amish are right.  That computer dating is worst thing ever invented.  It’s beyond evil and I would never do it again.

After one more try.

That try got me Lobster Lana.  But, we get to deal with her ex-con bad ass next week, in the second part of this saga, appropriately designated, Part 2.

“I almost got arrested at that place.” Photo by Guy Ambrosino

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Mr. Fix-It Real Good

I’ll have it back to you as good as new!

I had locked myself out again.  There was only one solution, to put on a sap glove and punch out the glass.  Cheaper than a locksmith.  Besides, it was only a small pane.  Except it was not.  It was a singular big pane disguised as individual small ones by the faux frames in the door.  A cloud burst of double-paned weather-rated safety glass came raining down on me.  What a surprise.  What a clever decorating device.

Well okay, now you know…don’t ever forget your keys, and that what looks like little individual panes of glass, thanks to some bullshit phony frames, could be connected to a motherload of glass, and that punching it out is not cheaper than a locksmith.  You can conclude that and learn from it.  Can’t you?  I found out ten years later that I couldn’t.

One of the best things about being sober is not having to fix as much stuff.  I don’t just mean abstract stuff like relationships and credit ratings, but actual stuff, like car doors, furniture, windows, televisions, bathroom fixtures, and heirloom china.  Stuff that costs beer money to replace.  And it always needs to be replaced.  Always.

Tough shit for someone who’s been the proverbial bovine male in the china shop his whole life.  Never fully at ease in this material dimension, I was perhaps, I’m saying perhaps, self-medicating.  Any natural clumsiness was now aggravated by the constant ingestion of central nervous system neurotoxic zombie juice.  Even sober, anything less durable than an AK-47 or lead ingot doesn’t stand much of a chance under my sustained proximity.  Just dig me after a few forties of malt liquor and shot or three of whiskey.  Hey, hey, hey!  I can find a way to break sand.

While drinking, I was a one-man wreckage machine.  Just add priceless family keepsakes and I’d churn them out into a stream of broken junk, swirling in a wake of pissed-off people.

Things were worse around my friends.  Those miscreants had a blatant disregard for property and unhealthy ideas as to what constituted fun, and of course applied coercive peer pressure for me to participate .  Honest.  I never wanted to run wild, destroying stuff.  Except for always.  While other kids had posters of sports heroes on their walls, I had ones of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan.  I remember moping around grade school all grumpy because I wasn’t allowed to sack or pillage.  I made up for this in later life, in spades, of wall putty.

My friends and I liked to drink beer and rough house.  Pushing a friend’s head into a door jamb was one of the few ways we knew how to comfortably express our affection.  The more love in the room, the more collateral damage.  You never knew when a karate kick would miss a groin and land on a trophy case or computer monitor.  Shopping for sliding glass doors on a Saturday became almost a tradition.  “Hey Manny, let me have the single plate, and some new runners.”

Then, as you all know by now, there was the gunplay.  More Spackle.  More airline tickets.

That shit added up.  The cost of operating an alcoholic was not cheap.  There was always somebody to pay for something.  It was either that or try to fix it myself, and that was always problematic since I’ve never been much of a handy man.  Anything with more moving parts than a bottle of beer baffled me.  If it couldn’t be fixed by repeated chops from a tennis racket, it was time to throw it away, and do without.   Being drunk doesn’t lend itself to any painstaking problem solving.

I preferred a more action-oriented approach.  The idea was to reduce what was originally only slightly damaged, back to its molecular components, in the hope that it would somehow rebuild itself, perfectly.  You know, in response to the tantrum I just threw.  Cup handle won’t stay glued?  Throw it against the fridge.  See if that works.

“So if it belonged to your great-grandmother, that means it was really old, huh?  Like some kind of antique type of thing? ”

Whether through accident or anarchy, the physical world crumbled at my touch.  Especially cars.  I could disintegrate your car interior just by sitting in it.  I’d be trying to roll down the window and notice I’m twirling a useless handle in the air.  I don’t know how I pulled that ashtray out so that there is no human way possible to re-insert it.  Radio knobs?  Please.  I might as well have just pulled them off as soon as I got in.  Cigarette lighter?  Throw it out with the knobs.  Ignition broke off, but now I don’t have to look for your keys to start it.  Rearview just snapped loose.  “Here, save it for somebody who does coke.”

What’s wrong with all this shit?  Why can’t anybody build a car for a modern drunk Neanderthal?

Car doors never failed to fail me.  I was always having to climb in and out, NASCAR style, because the fucking things wouldn’t open anymore.  I don’t know of many ways you can close a car door wrong, but apparently I knew a good one.  Opening one, too.

I went to visit some friends in Northern California.  They picked me up from the airport.  I was drunk, of course, because I was traveling–through space and time.  They drove up to the white zone for loading and unloading of passengers only, no parking.  I opened their car door and superfuckingfantastic, broke it.  A very Herman Munster Moment.

“Really sorry about that.  Hey, this is going to be a wild weekend, huh?”

“Yeah.”

Later on they let me borrow one of their cars (I know, crazy) to make an appointment.  As I was getting on the freeway I saw a bum dude hitchhiking.  Always willing to help out a fellow traveler through space and time, I pulled over.  He ran up, opened the door, sat down, and couldn’t shut it.  Who’s this?  A kindred soul plagued with the poison touch?   I got out of the car and we tried to close it.  No way.

I finally had to drive with the passenger door sticking out a right angle.  I dropped off my long-lost brother at the next on ramp.

“Sorry about your door, bro!”

“Yeah, it happens…to me…always.”

“Me too,” he said, then held up his cardboard sign.

We looked at each other and nodded.  Yeah, he knows.  That was kind of a neat moment, but now what the fuck?!  How am I going to drive all the way home with this door sticking out?  I’ve been pulled over for less.  Fortunately, I wasn’t drunk.  The morning maintenance shot I drank had ceased to smooth the edges of this harsh reality.  But, now it wouldn’t spike a breathalyzer either.  It was one of those bad thing/good thing things.

Still, I’d rather not have any discourse with armed lawmen, especially while driving someone else’s car.

“I can’t seem to find their papers, Officer.”  Fumbling around the glove box, finding a hash pipe and a chunk.  “What’s this?  Holding out on me, were they?  Oh, you saw that too.”

“Please put your hands on the dash.”

Yeah, always better not to even get started.  I chose speed over stealth and just burned it home, hoping that the wind would shut it closed.  Every time I took a left turn people behind me would start braking for the body they expected to roll out.  They’d drive up next to me, honking.

“Your door is open!”

Really?  Which one?  Oh, this one next to me, bending like an airplane wing?  Got it.  Smile and give them a thumbs up and hope it satisfies them.

It was a nerve-wracking drive home, but I knew a more awesome time awaited me when I returned the car dog-eared.  “I didn’t do this one, guys.  It was my spiritual twin.  I gave him a ride.”  They looked at me and shook their heads.  What sort of vendetta does this guy have with the doors of our vehicles?

I hate them, for one thing.  Flimsy fickle bitch doors.  So how many beers will a new one cost me?

I was perplexed.  What is this with the doors?  Always some broken door.  What is the Universe trying to tell me?  There must be some metaphysical meaning, something symbolic going on, but it’s beyond me.  Jim Morrison?  Am I to learn something from Jim Morrison?  Do I need to be more groovy?  More Lizard Kingy?

Yes, that’s it.  There could be no other conclusion.

It’s fitting that my last good piece of physical wreckage before getting sober was a broken door.  I came home to an apartment I shared with my buddy, Spike.  I was wavering in and out of a black out.  I forgot my keys and didn’t want to wake him up, so very logically, I decided to punch out a small pane of glass in the door.  Sound familiar?  Not to me.  This time I didn’t bother using a sap glove and just shot my fist through.  The whole door shattered.  Fucking faux frames.  I never learn.

That was the final straw for Spike.  He drove me to rehab the next morning, and you know the rest.  My last drink was a Coors Silver Bullet I stole from him while he packed the car.  I’ve been much better since.  Stuff around me, too.  As for fixing things, I’ve added sincere amends to my fix-it kit, along with the duct tape, Bondo and Spackle I still seem to need.

So I guess, the big lesson here is that sometimes the solution is punching out what you think is a small pane of glass.  I can’t come up with any other conclusion.

And thanks, Spike.

Living At Large and Not Charged

I knew we shouldn’t have gone back to get another.

I was looking for the gun.  I remember thinking, “No one will find it here,” but now I couldn’t remember where that was.  Man, that sucks.  It was somewhere here, in this apartment, for sure…right?  Was it time for a prayer to St. Anthony?  The phone rang.  It was Danny.

“Hey dude, I’m sorry, but last night I had to throw the tweed jacket you lent me over a gravestone to throw off the cops,” he said, ” They were chasing me through the cemetery and I had to think fast.  It was very Macgyver.”

That’s what I loved about those early morning calls from Danny.  They always made me feel better about myself.  I told him not to worry, that it was a thrift store purchase.  I was glad to contribute to a good cause.  The old, Throw the Tweed Jacket on a Gravestone to Misdirect the Police, seemed as good as any.

It was 9:30 in the morning and seemed as good as any time to crack my first beer.  I knew Danny was probably on his fourth cocktail, so I was lagging.

“Obviously, it worked, eh?”

“Like a charm.  It bought me enough time to jump a fence and crawl on my belly like GI Joe through the arroyo for a few blocks, then I got up and ran the rest of the way home.  I was coughing up black shit for hours after that.”

I was impressed.  Danny wasn’t much into exercise and much into Marlboro Reds, so I could imagine the rebellion his body staged after a little adrenaline-fueled run through a boot camp obstacle course.  He wasn’t a young man anymore.

I could see him bent over, hacking up splatters of tar and tooth, generic gin flowing from his brow into his stinging eyes, then straightening up, shaken and stirred, but un-arrested.  Fear is a magical juice.  I know.  The sound of a cop’s utility belt clanging close behind has allowed me to perform athletic feats that would make any Sunday night highlights reel.

In those moments of crisis, of extreme focus, you simply don’t tell yourself  “can’t.”  You will, Sonny Boy, and not just that fence, but the one after, and the one after. Chopped at the knees by a dog house roof, you roll over, land on your feet and are up running again.  The Bactine can wait, Mom!  I have to moooove, really have to move.

Hip check the mailbox.  Accidentally step on a Tonka truck and do the splits.  Scissor kick it off and roll into a crouch.  Thrust your heels into the ground and lunge for the gate.  Pray it’s unlocked.  Oh shit!  Scale it!  Scale it like Spidey.  C’mon, you eat chain link for brunch.  Scramble up and over the top and drop.  Favorite t-shirt ripped.  Fuck!  Now is not the time to mourn, keep running.  I loved that shirt, The Exploited- Let’s Start a War.  Keep those legs pumping.

Their donuts and coffee are no match for fear fuel.  You are a wing-footed Greek god, a leaping Chinese acrobat, a mutant fugitive from the laws of Physics.  Rusty nails, barbed wire, and broken glass can’t hold you down, can’t incarcerate your spirit.  Watch out for that kiddie pool.  Clothes line.  The rake!

It’s not for everyone.  Balance, agility, stamina and body strength, are all critical.  An outstanding warrant or two also helps in boosting performance for this extreme sport, if it counts as a sport.  It’s certainly extreme enough.

After looking for the gun in the oven for the nineteenth time, I gave up.  “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, something is lost that must be found, could you please ask God to bring it around.”

“You lose your gun again?”

“Yeah, it’s here somewhere, so what happened?”

I heard him light up a cigarette and exhale.  He said he took a couple of Valium that night and decided to shoplift some dinner and drink from Albertsons.  He said he went in feeling relaxed and comfortable.  That night he might have been a little too relaxed and comfortable.

Danny was usually pretty relaxed when shoplifting.  He would walk around the store like it was his personal pantry.  He’d go to the seafood department order some crab legs, oysters or clams, maybe a lobster tail or two.  They’d wrap it up and he’d thank them, then make his way down the spice aisle.  Let’s see.  Pick up some saffron, some tarragon, a little lemon pepper.  Okay, now over to the liquor department to grab a big bottle of Tanqueray, and then just stroll out the front door.  No big deal.

Usually it wasn’t, but that night the benzodiazepine had loosened his grip on the bottle.  It dropped and smashed on the ground by the car.

“Oh shit, that hurts just hearing about it.  Did you break down and start sobbing?”

“No big deal, I think, I’ll just go in and get another.”

“Yeah, that’s too comfortable,” I said, finishing my beer.  I knew how these stories go, the just go back and get another.

I got up and went to get another.  I picked the phone back up.

“So you didn’t think they would remember you from a whole thirty-five seconds ago?”

It’s not like a guy like Danny would blend in with the your average suburban supermarket crowd.  He could look a little serial-killerish when lounging around in his Rock and Roll leisure wear.  Charles Manson hair pulled back under a bandana, t-shirt torn and transparent from age, jeans burned with cigarette holes and dragging in threads behind dirty flop-worn sneakers.

I always thought he dressed like Keith Richards, if Keith Richards lost his luggage for two years.

That was the reason he wore the tweed sport coat I had lent him, for camouflage.  It was my costume of choice for court appearances, a basic tweed, tailored waist, and no elbow patches, as they have been proven to irritate jurors.  I’d have preferred a black pin stripe with purple tie, but those poll negatively.  So I settled for something academic and modest, if not entirely innocent, an able-to-turn-over-a-new-leaf look.

The only thing Danny would be wearing for a court appointment would be an orange jumper with steel accessories.  He was wanted back in Texas for a little escape thingy.  He had asked to borrow the jacket a few nights before, but I didn’t ask why.  I figured out later that he had planned on using it as a disguise.

He had calculated that under the cover of tweed, he wouldn’t look like a thrill-killing drifter with a body waiting in the trunk.  Instead he’d pass himself off as some sort of college professor or atomic scientist, just there at Albertsons to pick up his complimentary seafood and premium gin, before getting back to the body he had waiting in the trunk.  That was his plan at least.  Flimsy the first time, but really not going to fly for a Just Go Back and Get Another.

Hey, there’s that homeless physicist from Los Alamos again.  He scared me the first time.  Why is he back?  What in God’s name does he want?  I think he’s here to kill us all.  Oh God, I’m too young to die!  Wait,  he’s just getting a bottle of booze…and walking out the door.  Security!

Danny said they were on him like a pack of wild dogs.  The assistant manager gave chase, followed by a squat little squaw doing security, a high school football player bag boy, and the seafood department dude.

“That sounds like a fairly easy foot race to beat out, except for the football hero,” I said, ” That might take getting dirty.”

Danny thought so too as he hauled across the parking lot.  He turned the corner and almost got run over by a cop car cruising around.  The cop had to lock it up screeching.  Danny looked at the cop’s face and saw he was totally freaked about almost hitting him.  Danny unfreezes first and takes off, but followed by all these store employees.  I started laughing.

“What’s this?  An angry mob of citizens chasing some werewolf with tenure.  Perhaps this will require further investigation.”   He was fucked now.

“Yeah, ” Danny said, “I just leveled up without getting any extra powers.”

Now the cops joined the chase in their squad car.  Lights, siren, spot light.  Danny ran up the landscaping incline to the street, and saw Rosario cemetery across the way.

“Yes, into the darkness that only death can provide.”  A very good place to lose them.

Only the two cops were following at this point, but there were more of those coming soon, just as sure as a very special Christmas is coming to Branson.  That’s what we called “The Window of Opportunity.”  It’s the least amount of cops you’ll have chasing you.   You have to lose them now, before the dogs, helicopters, and SWAT team get there.  This is it.  If this is not your time, then this is the only time it will be for a long time.  Now juke that light!

It’s motivational.  Like I said, it’s not uncommon to surprise yourself with exceptional ability.  Draping the tombstone in tweed being a good example.  Quick thinking.  Like when he was making his way up out of the parking lot, he carefully set the bottle of gin down intact instead of just dropping it.  That way someone would be taken out of the chase having to retrieve it.  Either that or he just could witness another bottle of Tanqueray shattering that night.  The point is he wasn’t running total spaz, and I appreciated the self-discipline under pressure.

Danny made it into the graveyard while the cops were still driving through the gate.  He got the brainstorm to hang the jacket over something to make it look like he was there, and of course, not be.  He said he saw them flashing the spot light on it when he went over the fence and ultimately to freedom, at least the freedom that being a raging alcoholic provides.

I looked in the oven again. “You actually hung it on a tombstone?”

“No, it was more of a statue thing. ”

“A statue of what?”

“I think The Virgin.”

“Wow.”

That didn’t seem right, even to me.  Using Jesus’s mom to help you hide from the cops.  I don’t know.

“You better hope they didn’t take Our Lady of Guadalupe in for questioning, or worse, charged her with aiding and abetting.”

“Hey man, I wasn’t going to take the time to look around for the least sacrilegious mannequin.”

“Jesus, Danny, I guess.”  It felt good to know someone worse than me.  “I think you owe Her a prayer asking for forgiveness.”

“Dude, I’m Jewish.”

“Uh, and last I heard, so was she.  Anyway, you got your cardio for the year.  Glad you made it, Danny.”

“Thanks, and sorry again about the jacket.”

“No sweat,” I told him, and leaned back on my bed.  Something poked me from under the pillow.  “Thank you, St. Anthony!”

For Danny, getting caught in that little act of petty thievery would’ve meant going back to prison.  He shouldn’t have been fucking around like that in the first place.  But I understood the madness, all too well.  I didn’t feel better than him about that.  We were always risking big stakes for penny ante payoffs.  Our stupidity was breathtaking.  Constantly drinking our judgement impairing potions didn’t help much either.

The first year I was sober, I got a flat tire on the freeway at night.  I was working on it when a C.H.P. pulled over behind me.  My first impulse was to take off across the ice plant.  It was Pavlovian.  Then I realized, wait, you’re not drunk, you don’t have guns or anything in the car.  You have a license, registration and insurance.  You’re okay.  You’re just a citizen changing a flat tire.  That kind of normalcy felt exotic.

The cop turned out to be cool and even hung out with me as I struggled with the tiny Japanese jack.  We cracked jokes and talked about firearms while he held his flashlight above me.  It was nice not to have it come swinging down on my skull.  When I finished, I thanked him and we shook hands.  “Switch to a .40 caliber!” I yelled as I drove away.  He smiled and waved.   I felt better at that moment, pulling away from that cop, watching him disappear in my rearview than I ever did getting away from one.  Well, almost.  Let’s not get crazy.

Oh great, the gate’s locked.

My Road to Redemption is Littered with Empties.

We’re not stopping until Seligman

There was hot death blowing through the windows.  Before us a black ribbon of asphalt unrolled to a horizon dancing hula in the heat waves.  Every party has to come to an end, and ours just came to a screeching halt through a cinderblock wall, up a ramp, over a troop of Girl Scouts, and into a vat of hot tar.  Panic attacks, shakes, retching, eyes watering, the hammer of guilt banging on the anvil of shame, just behind the temples.  It was going to be a long ride home.

Marko and I were on our way back from a visit to California, after an eleven day bender we would never forget–if we could remember any of it.   I do remember emceeing a punk rock show in Ventura while in a black-out, if that counts as remembering.  After 1,200 beers or so, we finally ran out of steam and decided to call it a day.  We could sense a mob collecting torches and pitchforks, so it was time to go.  Besides, I had library books due, and Marko couldn’t remember if he left the curling iron on.

Now, poison oozed from us in a viscous, bubonic sweat.  It coated us in a glaze that the desert kiln baked into our clay, our skin pulled tight against our desiccated skulls, lips pulled back and stuck above teeth dry enough to light a match on.  Grimacing like game show hosts on their third face-lift, our decaying organs gassed a fetid funk from our sewer holes.  It smelled like rotting something.  Rotting us.

We were drinking plenty of water, except it happened to come with beer.  It was hot beer, too.  Not Oh-gee-look-what-I-found-under-the-bed warm, but Cup O’ Soup chicken noodle hot.  Bottled beer broth.  Drinking beer that hot, really signals the end is near.  It’s purely maintenance drinking by that point.  Party time is over.  Drinking just enough to keep away the Jumping Jiminees, and maybe something worse, like a moment of clarity.

No time for that shit.  Now was not the time to fall apart, penitent, blubbering for redemption.  We had to make it home, and that was beyond the Indus, beyond the Hindu-Kush.

The car seemed thirsty enough for water.  It was boiling it away by the gallon.  I stared at the temperature gauge intently.  My blurred vision saw three of them, all different.

“We may be fucked, or not,”  I said, pointing to the dash, “It totally depends on which one of these is a lying son of a bitch.”

Marko didn’t say anything.  Lips tight.  Eyes on the road.  Hands at ten and two o’clock.   He was going stoic on me.

Marko and I were a combustible combination on any given school night, but even more so when on a mission to “blow off a little steam.”  We had wanted to take it to the next level and were thinking about going back to California for a while.  We figured that when you get used to drinking beer at a 7,000 foot altitude and you return to sea level, you would become a blood-doped Olympic-caliber drinker ready shatter records, and anything else lying around.  It was only a theory back then, but today a proven scientific fact.

A situation took place which presented the two of us with a perfect opportunity to research our thesis.  This incident, while a most unfortunate mishap, had created a stellar excuse for us to leave Santa Fe.  While waiting for things to cool down, we could visit family and friends, and reassure them we were doing well and feeling fit.  I know we reassured them alright.  Reeling and reeking, walking through a closed screen door, knocking over the Ficus, one of us wearing two different sneakers, the other with bloodied toilet paper stuck up a nostril, dragging a toy wagon filled with beer,  “Hi everybody, we’re really drunk, AND we brought guns!”

I don’t know if I can say it turned out to be a good visit.  Eventful yes.  Perhaps monumental.  But not all that good.  I still have some amends to make for that outing, including one to a chubby little teenage woman with bleached hair.  It’s tricky because I don’t know her name or what she looks like beyond the description I just gave.  Does anybody know her?  I think she was from Ventura.  She was at the punk show I can’t remember emceeing.  I have a letter for her.

It was time to get out of the town we got out of town to.  The air conditioner murdered our gas mileage, so we kept the windows down and let the Mohave come blasting in.  All one hundred and eleven degrees of it.  It felt like sitting in a toaster oven while wearing blow driers for goggles.

“Dude, I need you to pull over so I can piss!”  I yelled.  No response.  Did he hear?

“Dude, I need you to pull–”

“Needles in seventeen miles.  Hold it.”

“No man, this is a serious levee breaker.  Pull the fuck over.”

“We can’t stop out here.  We’ll never move again, and die.”

I kind of knew what he meant.  Sometimes you think you’re just going to take a knee to catch your breath, but fall over, permanently.  Can’t risk that.  I squeezed myself between my finger and thumb.  Time to soldier up.

When Needles, CA  looks like an oasis, you know things are sucking hard.  We pulled into a gas station.  We filled up with gas and topped off the radiator.  I went inside to use their restroom.  Afterwards, I looked around the store, and grabbed a Gatorade from the cooler.

“What good is that going to do?” Marko asked.  I thought about it, and put it back.  Don’t waste money on foolish things.  Was it time for the one hamburger I had budgeted for this 900 mile journey?  No, wait for Flagstaff.  Candy?  Bad for you.  Too hot for cigarettes.  Hmm…cold beer seems to be the only thing left.  We bought a six pack.  That’s right, for between the two of us.  Really not feeling well.

Back into the Oldsmobile and onto I-40.  Sipping on a cold beer will help.  All we needed was our 89th wind.

Marko suggested we smoke some weed.  It might make us feel better.

That is the lie, the big lie about weed, that somehow it will help, instead of making everything 47,ooo times worse.  Not thirty seconds after coughing your lungs out, you realize that you just took the first step towards turning some minor mental turmoil into a nightmare of Byronic proportions.  You brought this on yourself, with full knowledge and prior experience.  You did this voluntarily and not under the duress of some punishing deity or burdensome social obligation.  You are the Satan you once feared.

“Yeah, might as well.”  We rolled up the windows.

The weed didn’t make us feel better.  Just different.  Different as in worse.

“I think I’m going to die,” I announced as calmly as possible, “I can’t feel my heart.”

Marko looked over.  “How do we know we haven’t died already?  How do we know we weren’t killed in an accident a few miles back, and are just imagining this?”

We drove along in silence for a while.

“Okay, that better not be true!”  I started clapping my hands and blinking my eyes.  Still here.  Still here.  Fucking weed.

I tried to stay positive.  “You know, it’s not like dying right now would be the worst thing that could happen to us, right?”

“Yeah, not dying right now seems to be a lot worse.”

I thought about that.  That’s never a good place to go, especially when you’re rubbed raw and severely stoned.  Here we go with the heavy reflections…

“I’ve tried to live a good life.  You know, not hurt a lot of people.”  Marko just laughed.  “I’m serious, dude.  It’s not like I went out of my way.”  More laughter.  “I don’t think my karma will be too bad  if I have to come back as anything.”  Silence.  I waved my hands around.  “Maybe all this is just karmic payback for something.”

Highway Patrol passing us slowly.  Do not look over.  Push the bag over to Marko’s side.  Pretend you’re talking.

“Do you think molecules miss people when they die?”

“I bet people sure miss the molecules,” Marko said, cracking open a new beer, way before the 75 mile limit we set.

I had scared myself enough to join him.  Smoke more weed, too.  Might help.

By Flagstaff the wheels were really coming off.  After pulling off to fill up and finally get my hamburger, we got lost getting back on the Interstate.   It was night and our nerves were dangling out the window.  We were driving around looking for the on-ramp, barking and bitching at each other.  I was beginning to freak.

I seized on the fact that Arizona was a zero-tolerance state, which meant getting caught with any marijuana was enough to get a life sentence.  They don’t fuck around here.  They still think Hitler was misunderstood, and that daylight savings time is some sort of commie conspiracy.

We needed to throw the weed out the window, right now!

“Are you fucking crazy?”

“I don’t want to be raped!”

He grabbed the bag out of my hand.  “We are NOT going to be throwing our weed out the window!  You need to get a grip!”  he commanded.  I could tell he meant it, and settled down.  I did need to get a grip, but how does one do that?  I don’t know what to do in order to get this grip everyone so desperately wants me to obtain.  It seemed elusive.

My best guess in life was to drink as much beer as humanly possible.  That didn’t seem to be working.   Still needed some tinkering.   So now what?  I felt like I was about to have a nervous breakdown, which is very opposite of getting a grip.  Then I thought, “Boy, I could sure use some help getting a grip.”  That was it.  It wasn’t a prayer.  More like a statement.

I nervously fiddled around with the radio and found a station playing Gregorian chants.  Honest to God.  Probably some public station trying to fill time, but it was just what we needed, something calming.  Soothing soul balm.  “Dominus ex patria, plurumbus unim exaltum, santu benedictum ortho novum …”  .  Monks chanting their prayers in cool caverns with damp moss-covered walls.  Some with eyes that can turn into blue flame and heal the sick with a touch a touch of their staff.

It had a sanctifying effect.  Marko and I started to relax.  While not entirely redeemed, we did feel temporarily absolved, and managed to chill out.  The air was getting cooler, too.  We stopped snapping at each other, and were soon back to cracking each other up.  He found the on-ramp and we resumed our journey.

There was plenty of horror left for us to enjoy during that death march home, but for now, with magically powered monks serenading us, we had stumbled upon a real oasis.  A place to rest, and get a grip.

To this day, we both agree that moment with the monks was the best one of the entire trip.  Looking back, I wonder if the little statement/request had anything to do with tuning in to the monk chants and subsequent chill-out.  Who knows?  Could it really be that easy?   Boy, that would piss off a lot of people.  I don’t know why, but it seems like it would.  These days.

Frankly, I had to resort to some similar hocus pocus mumbo jumbo to get sober.  I couldn’t stop drinking, no matter how bad it got, until I got so desperate that I just asked, something, anything, out there to help me.  I remember doing it in a bathroom in Redondo Beach.  I had been trying to detox myself, and was violently gagging as I tried to hold down the beer I needed to get in me to keep away the DT’s.  I looked up and saw myself in the mirror.

For the first time in my life I felt compassion for that poor fucker looking back at me.  “God, if you’re out there, and whatever you are, you need to help that guy. Nobody deserves to live like this.”  That was it.  I don’t know if that counts as a prayer, or a surrender, or whatever.  I hated myself so much that I couldn’t even ask for the help for me.  It had to be for that guy over there in the mirror.

After that, events started unfolding, and like finding chanting monks on the radio when there’s no hope left, things got better.  I got better.  All I had to do was ask.  Oh, and endure a bunch of soul-scorching fire, but you can’t be a total pussy when asking for help.  You need to show you’re willing to work.  That part kind of sucks, but not one tenth of what life was like before.  At least this journey has a happy destination, and plenty of rest stops along the way.  Good food.  Clean bathrooms.  Ice cold drinks.  And good directions.

Happy Motoring, fellow travelers!