Taking the Greyhound anywhere sucks, but taking it back from anywhere sucks even more. Especially from Mardi Gras. One minute, I was sharing a hotel room with five University of Michigan co-eds at ground zero of what has been traditionally known as a rather celebratory event. A festive little fiesta in Idsville, USA. The next, I’m on a stinking bus, surrounded by crying babies and newly released convicts, on the slowest way to travel short of rowing there with a canoe paddle on a furniture dolly. Fate is a fickle bitch alright.
Going down didn’t seem so bad. I was excited. I was on a grand adventure. Besides, going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans is pretty much a pilgrimage every alcoholic needs to take. For once, your environment will match your internal world. Now your behavior will be entirely appropriate, no matter how inappropriate. Especially so with drunken chicks from Ann Arbor. Drinking it up. Throwing it down. Slutting around. You would be hard-pressed to find more capable party warriors to run with then some wolverine wenches.
I had been running with a pack of wild ones, during the holiest celebration in Alcoholdom. Those little girls turned out to be quite a wrecking crew. They were crazy enough for me to sack and pillage with and not get bored. They kept up their end of the mischief and mayhem. I was impressed. They knew how to take full advantage of the generous temporary slack society had granted us. While they looked like nice, fairly good girls, under the collective spell of Mardi Gras Madness, they blossomed into beasts.
My girlfriend at the time, let’s call her Lu, didn’t change too much during Mardi Gras. Like me, she always felt Mardi Gras shouldn’t be boxed into just a few days before Lent. Hey man, Mardi Gras is a state of mind, man. Man.
Lu was a crazy Albanian chick, from a very strict, traditional household, but she just boogied right out of that noose. She still had more tackles to break before she hit open field, but she was juking family and relatives left and right. They had no idea what a hard-drinking Jezebel she had become. Had them scammed. A double-life double-agent.
She was also once my ex-girlfriend Patty’s best friend. Was.
Patty and I had spent a summer together. She was an odd chick. She could don her party cap, but her main thing was athletic outdoor activity. Fucking great. Mine was humping in a darkened room within arm’s-reach of a beer, while the battle for Stalingrad raged on the TV. All this hiking, biking, running and jumping wasn’t my prefered pastime. She had me sucking wind trying to keep up.
She would get up at 4am to bike to the ski basin and back, then wake me up at six to drive her to her waitress job. That really pissed me off. Now you don’t want to take the bike. Listen, why don’t you shave a mile or two off that mountain run, sister, and use it to peddle your ass to work. You’re interrupting REM sleep, and that’s important when you want to feel your very best. And maybe if you didn’t eat all that raw cookie dough, you wouldn’t need to exercise so much.
That fall she flew back to Michigan. We continued through letters and drunken phone calls, but when she came out to visit that winter, I could tell something was wrong.
That whole not having sex with me thing being my first clue. The way she stiffened up and clenched her jaw when I touched her was another. Finally, after a few days she came out with it. She had met someone new at school, and it was over. Why the fuck did she waste money on a plane ticket when a nineteen cent postcard would’ve done the trick? I didn’t understand women. Fortunately, she had brought her best pal, Lu, as I surmised later, for moral support.
Say, I know how to take the sting out of this rejection, and maybe put some of it back into the person rejecting me–I’ll fall in love with her best friend. I didn’t know women too well, but it seemed like it might be something that wouldn’t go down too well. It might create some weirdness between them. Mama some drama.
I did and it did.
Some people need to actually fall in love to fall in love. They are handicapped by small imaginations and limited ideas about what constitutes love. I could fall in love faster than you could uncoil a 15 foot garden hose and spray two humping dogs. So I decided to fall in love with Lu, and the dividends were plentiful.
Hey, check it out, all of sudden I don’t feel bad about Patty finding someone else. And now, Patty is all pissed-off because I have. How awesome is that? Love does solve everything.
Who needs to get over it and move on with their life now? C’mon girl, I just did, and it was easy-peasy. You’re right about Lu being good moral support. I thought you would be happier for her.
Lu turned out to be a better fit for me than Patty anyway. She could drink like a longshoreman, and was as horny as a stray cat. She could also make me laugh, which was big. Smart. Cynical. Wit sharp as a tongue piercing needle. A canister of napalm sarcasm in her purse, at the ready to flame anyone in need of a good soul-scorching. She was definitely her own woman.
One morning I woke up next to her and saw a tattoo on her shoulder. I slowly remembered her getting it the night before. It was a design she had sketched out right there at the tattoo shop on a whim. Who does that? What a crazy bitch…
I shot up out of bed and ran to the mirror in the bathroom. I slowly pulled back the bandage and exhaled. Okay. It was some Japanese writing. That’s alright. I can live with that. I guess I’m going to have to. I hope it says something cool.
What a crazy bitch.
One thing that both my sister and I dug about Lu was her ability to not only “go there,” but drag you along, kicking and screaming. She was a natural writer, gifted with a perverse imagination and a sick sense of humor. She liked to make up stories, intricate and detailed ones, involving you as the protagonist and a course of events that lead you to some horrible and revolting situation.
Well, my sister and I had been playing that game with each other for years, you know, to pass the time when we were bored, so she had a discerning audience. We both thought she was good. She knew how to spin a good horror yarn.
The trick was to make each stepping-stone episode along the way as believable as possible. Extraordinary coincidence was allowed since that happened in real life, and so were certain lapses in normal behavior on the protagonist’s part due to alcohol, since that happened in real life too.
The first part of her story usually involved something really awesome happening to you. She’d try to get into your head and personalize the story. She’d have me excitedly accepting an invitation to some celebrity party in the Hollywood Hills. A literary agent was interested in my work and wanted to talk to me about it at her party. A party with plenty of Heineken and Hollywood sluts.
That was crucial because it created a tiny desire to believe along. That’s how she’d lead you through the narrative. However, as soon as Rip Taylor or Fran Lebowitz, showed up at her fictional party, you knew you would wind up having sex with one or both of them. It was always due to the collective effects of drugs and drink. A standard literary device for this game, and I suspect not entirely one born of her imagination. She would dole it out in detail. The shame. The disgust. The need to shower eleven times. She’d describe it so vividly, it would leave you laughing, and maybe a little traumatized.
So yeah, she was fun.
When she called me from Michigan to tell me she was sending a bus ticket, I took it. We would rendezvous in New Orléans with four of her girlfriends minus Patty, of course. As soon as I hung up the phone, I was at the oven cooking up some of my special brownies for the ride.
My brownies were notorious. I never got the measuring dosage thing down, and always wanted to err on the side of psychosis-inducing overdose, rather than “not high enough.” I once gave some as a wedding gift to some friends. The groom ate three of them, when one was pretty much one too much. I had indicated the proper dosage, but eating dope is tricky. It takes a little longer to come on, and in the meantime, “these brownies are delicious!” When they do finally hit, watch out. Your stomach can absorb more psychotropic agent than your lungs could ever wheeze down. It’s makes for a wilder Mr. Toad’s ride.
I guess the groom totally freaked. I wasn’t there but heard all about it afterwards. So yeah, that didn’t turn out too good. Maybe a toaster would’ve been a better gift. I felt bad, but not bad enough to change the recipe.
At least I was baking it in brownies. When I lived in New York, and was even poorer, we grew a bunch of window-sill weed. It was shit smoke. All shade leaves and no buds. If you did smoke enough of it to get high, you were guaranteed a raging headache. The solution was to pan fry it up in a little butter. Activate the fat-soluable THC in some hot grease, then spoon the toasted ash into some Haagen Daz Mint Chocolate Chip. A delicious treat that unlocks portals of perception. The ones that may have been better left shut.
Well, after a while, we couldn’t afford the ice cream, and then later, the butter. We wound up toasting up the dried leaves in vegetable oil, and eating the charred sludge by the oily spoonful. You really had to disciple your gag-reflex. The process made you buck and rock, with a lot of hand-waving, as you tried to get it down. It looked like you were trying to jump out of your own skin. That’s why we called it “Jump.”
You haven’t lived until you’ve OD’d on Jump while riding a clattering E train underground. The lights flickering like Frankenstein’s laboratory. Sandpaper mouth. Eyes bulging bloodshot. Your heart bass-drumming in your throat. Knuckles gripping the steel strap so hard your forearm muscles start to cramp and spaz. Ice water running down your pits and spine. A vast cosmic ocean roaring through the conch shells that have replaced your ears. Paranoid fear so thick you can iron a dress shirt on it. Really an apocalyptic trip.
And just the thing for a boring bus ride through Texas. Besides being discreet, they would bring me to the edge of sanity, and my mom always said, “You can’t be bored while trying not to lose your mind.” She was certainly right about that. The ride through Texas wasn’t boring. Besides the bombers of Betty Crocker, I was tripping out on all things Texan.
The South has always kind of freaked me, but now travelling through these towns, surrounded by all these rednecks straight out of central casting was too much. Belt-lapping guts, straw hats, pointy shit-kickers, toothpicks, farmer-tanned arms, grizzled chins spitting out black juice, and that was the chicks.
Remember, Texas is the reason that the president’s dead.
I was already warped from the fun fudge, but now, seeing all these yee-haws and good ol’ boys really spun the merry-go-round. They sent me spiraling down a wormhole of thoughts and impressions. Are these people for real? Is anything for real? I can’t feel my spleen. Lot’s of pawn shops here. My prefered social safety net. I think I’m having a stroke. What if I need to ask any of these people for help? They think the end of the Civil War was just a temporary cease-fire. If they find out I’m from New York they’ll drag my body from behind a pickup truck during the homecoming parade. Just being this stoned in Texas is probably a capital offense. Do not talk to any of them. They’ll know. It’s against the law to even make someone suspicious in this state.
I was kind of enjoying the fear fest. Good brownie. Texas is not boring. Major freak show freak-out freak-a-thon.
I took it all in, while hitting off my flask, listening to The Butthole Surfers on my walkman. The Buttholes and The Motards, and maybe Willy Nelson, were the only things to come out of Texas I could relate to. I was a stranger in a strange land. I had no bearings. I took my cues from the people on the bus, most of them blacks and Hispanics. As long as they were laughing and joking, I felt like things were okay.
There was no joking around when we pulled up to a roadblock check point. I don’t know if they were looking for escapees or what, but we could see a bunch of cops waiting to board. One of them had a dog.
Fuck the dosage schedule. I crammed three days worth of brownies down my throat. Now was not the time to worry about dialing in just the right amount of buzz.
The cop with the dog climbed on the bus. He looked so stereotypical I thought he was wearing a Halloween costume. The air was crackling. Everybody looked straight ahead. I’m sitting there, and know this dog will sniff out the THC coming out of every one of my pumping sweat glands. Oh Jesus. Chain gangs. Microwaved breakfast biscuits for breakfast. Bologna sandwich and apple for dinner. Forever.
He walked down the aisle looking at each of the passengers. When he got to me, I smiled weakly while swallowing the last of the brownie, and forced my eyebrows to look happy and surprised. Oh what a nice doggy! The dog sniffed my hand, then continued down the aisle. He got to the end, turned around and walked back by, then off the bus. That was it. They let us go.
The whole bus exhaled in relief.
“Wooo-wee! I thought they was going to pull Darnell off!” someone yelled.
“Shutthefuckupnigger!” someone I imagined was Darnell, yelled back. Everyone laughed. Me too.
The driver closed the door and started the bus. The mood became almost jubilant. I started to hear beer tops pop. Maybe we were stuck on this rundown bus, but it sure beat some alternatives. My gratitude lasted about 17 to 18 seconds. It atomized with the realization that I now had a bellyful of cooked cannabis to contend with. My sanity was about to be ripped through like wet toilet paper, by a flaming meteor of burning brownie.
On a Greyhound bus. Going through Texas. The longest possible way.
It was now only a matter of time before things got really challenging. Tickity-tickity-tock. Maybe this won’t be good. Maybe this will be too intense. Not a lot of room to pace around on a bus. Pacing around is good. Really want to pace around and wring my hands right now. Get my fret on.
I finally found what to do with my hands. Gripping the arm rests in white-knuckle terror seemed like an awesome option. Let’s do that.
That bus became my rocket. To the End of Time, and The Final Sacrifice of Man. But, before all existence ceased, there would be time to day tour the three hundred and thirty-three levels of Hell, then stop at the Insanity Gift Shop.
I was surprised by how tidy and organized Hell was. All these levels and units. Your basic prison model. Makes sense. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of chaos and pain, but it was neatly divided in separate containers. Like your average suburban family. Man, I was seeing some crazy shit. Goats and tar. Dental decay. People being tortured with plasma instruments. A bobbing skull that lights the cigar of a leper with perfectly coiffed hair. A hundred thousand men pulling a huge phallic obelisk through a desert bristling with cactus. They were being bullwhipped forward by a huge mollusk riding on top of a tricked out 70’s party van.
What does this all mean? Who’s in charge here? Why am I feeling so crazy? I didn’t sign up for this!
My God, Texas is weird.
I returned to Earth just as we crossed over the Louisiana state line. It would still be a long time before New Orleans…and the real party hadn’t even started yet.