Abstract Lack of Expression

$1,700.

$1,700.

Edward looked at the canvas he had spent all summer on.  It had four brand new razor slashes across it–a creative addition by his newly-exed girlfriend, Mia.  A real hot-head.  Perpetually pissed and ready to shoot hostages, she finally blew.  Earlier, she had taken all her stuff and left, but not before vandalizing some of his best work.

He fished out a half a butt from the ashtray and lit it.  Easy come, easy go.  The girlfriend, not the painting.  He wasn’t so flippant about that yet.  Fucking oil paint.  Took forever to dry.  He really tried with that one.   Not his usual slap and splash.

It was of a cartoon devil smelling the stocking-clad leg of a fat woman eating a drum stick.  A signature piece.  Now ruined.

Fortunately, he had been suffering loss his whole life.  This stung, but not enough to want to make him change anything.  Except maybe to go back to acrylics.

And keep his fucking mouth shut about Pilates.  That’s what started all this.

He got up and walked to the fridge.  He opened it and counted seven beers left.  He closed it and put on his jacket.  He felt around for the keys in the pocket.  Not there.  Oh man.  He walked over to the window and lifted the blinds.

It was gone.

Walking to the liquor store, he debated calling the cops.  They ask too many questions.  He’d somehow wind up getting arrested.  So he wrote off the car too.  He had paid $1.700 cash for it three years ago.  The last time he sold any work.  All was not lost.  He still had some bolt cutters.  In the morning, he’d take a bus to the junior college and clip himself off a bike until he could figure things out.

He walked into the liquor store.  Devon the Dick was working.  Great.  Not in the mood for his brand of ball-busting.  Not tonight.  Feeling too sensitive.

“Ah, it’s the great arteest!” he greeted.

“Ah, it’s the great liquor store clerk, ” Edward greeted back.

Motherfucker.  At least I’m trying.  Living off the largess of some pretty vulnerable people, but I’m still trying.

Edward put two six packs of Steel Reserve on the counter.  Devon the Dick looked down and smiled.

“Uh-oh! 211 in progress!”

“Yeah, that’s funny.  A half a pint of Dark Eyes.”

“Hey, the good stuff!  You must have sold one of your masterpieces.”

“And Camel light, hard pack, please.”

Why is it that some guys can only communicate by being assholes?   It was always something with this one.  A remark about the shoes.  The gut.  The cheap shit you’re drinking.  Always a jab.  Fucker dying behind the counter of some shit-hole liquor store trying to make me feel like the loser.

He took the bag and started to walk out.  Here it comes.  He could count.  One…two…three.

“Hey, don’t forget us when you’re famous!”

“Yeah, don’t worry.”

You never forget the demons that have tormented you…as you lay in bed at night, chainsawing their heads off.

Edward knew he wasn’t going to make it.  He knew a long time ago.  Way before he blew his art school student loan smoking opium with that coven of performance art lesbians.  A good time, for sure, but not the power career move it felt like at the time.  Eventually, The Academy of Art kicked his can down the road.  He wound up delivering pizzas and eating handfuls of mail-order Tramadol to ween off the poppy.  Then he borrowed more money from his grandmother and moved back home.

He was resigned to languish in obscurity, using the tortured artist bit to cut him slack for his fuck-ups.  Show some stuff in group shows.  Try to bed chicks that go to those.  That would be good enough.  It would have to be.

While he knew he had some talent, he also knew that he lacked the self-promotion skills that move you up the gallery food chain.  He sucked at talking about his work.

“Tell me about this piece, Edward,” some divorcee in a western skirt and concho belt would ask.

“It’s a man licking a dog’s balls,” he’d say, which would be very clever, if it really wasn’t.

For a while, he tried playing the disinterested iconoclast, but it seemed his disinterest was contagious.  The less he acted like he cared about his work, the more people seemed to want to join in.  And not care about it either.

His new plan was to create a body of work while drinking himself to death.  A tragic death would have to help sales.  Trouble was, the older he got, the less tragic his death would be.  It was now a race against time.

He was walking along when he felt his his phone buzz in his pocket.  A text.

“I am telling EVERYBODY about the herpes!!! ;)”

He put the phone back and climbed the stairs to his apartment.  He could hear Narco rap blasting from the neighbor next door, a latino kid, that installed garage door openers.  He was okay.  Always had pretty good weed.  Told him about the volume, but he always claimed to forget.  Good weed will do that.

He went inside, and put the beer in the refrigerator.   He snapped off the cap of the vodka and took a long hit.  It tasted oily.  Dark Eyes.  He opened a beer and sat down on the couch.  He looked at his slashed painting.

The longer he stared, the more he liked it.  It really was a signature piece.  Now.

After his death, it sold for $1.700.

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Rita of El Rito

Is that just a mirage?

Is that just a mirage?

“God has a very big heart, but there is one sin he will not forgive! If a woman calls a man to his bed, and he will not go.”

Alexis Zorba

The whole drive up I was sweating the liquor store situation.  Did they have them in El Rito?  Would they all be closed by the time we got there?  That would be a severe drag.  I would be stuck up there with this woman I hardly know, in a place I’d never been, and not have beer to make sure everything was going to be okay.

If I had beer, I could deal with anything.  Without it, it seemed like I couldn’t.  I know.  Nutty.

This situation was made for beer.

I had agreed to spend the night with a woman I hardly knew, which was hardly new, but she was friends with my boss.  So I could see shock-waves if this whole deal got ugly.  It’s not like I could leave her at some Travel Lodge with nothing but a fake name and number.

She used to come into the photography bookstore I worked at.  I was a shipping clerk who packed boxes all day for the mail order part of the business.  She was a photographer and would drive down to Santa Fe to show the owner her latest work.  We never really talked.  I’d smile and say hello, and basically try to keep my distance so she wouldn’t smell the beer coming out of me.

She was cute enough, a curly-haired, skinny little brunette, but she seemed a little prissy–a little too wholesome for my taste.

One day, she just came up and asked me drive up and spend the week-end with her.  Wow.  What do you say?  Yes, of course.  Always.  That’s the Zorba law.  And my law.  Look, if you didn’t like her before, finding out that she likes you, makes you like her now.

Enough for sex?  Cross that Rubicon when it’s time to get the ankles wet.

She picked me up after work to save the wear-and-tear on my Olds Omega.  She told me on the ride up that she had inquired about me to the owner of the bookstore, and that he tried to dissuade her from pursuing anything.

“He said you were a nice guy, but that you were a little… wild.”

I wasn’t too thrilled when I heard this.  I knew what he was trying to telegraph to her.  That whole italicized “wild” shit.  Drunk, he meant.

“Oh did he?  Huh.  Well, that really hurts.”

“Are you?  Too wild?”

“That depends on for what .”

I looked down at my watch.  I’ll tell you what, if there’s no open place to buy beer in this one-horse town you live in, you will see some wild.  Wild desperation.  I should’ve brought a backpack full of beer.  It  just seemed like bad form on a first date sleepover.  What was I thinking?  This is exactly the kind of date you can bring a backpack full of beer to.

It’s a slumber party.

Everybody brings treats.  You get the popcorn and the movie, and I’ll bring eighteen tall-boy cans of Guinness.

Major fuck-up.

Now I had to play Coy Boy and coax out some hard facts.

“So will any stores be open in El Rito?  You know, so we can stop at to get like potato chips and snacks.”

“Oh don’t worry, I have plenty of snacks for us.”

“Great.  That’s great.  Well that’s a load off.”

We drove in silence for a while.

Telephone pole.  Telephone pole.  Telephone pole.

“So do they have…like a convenience store there, or some sort of mom and pop type place?”

“There’s a little family-owned place.  They have some groceries.”

“Groceries and…soda?”

“Yes, and some beer and wine.”

Oh sweet fucking glory!  Holly-Rolly thank you, Mother of All Good Things, for being so merciful to your wretched children!

“That’s cool.”

I took a deep breath.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Look at the passing scenery.  Wait.

“What time do they usually roll up the welcome mat?”

“I’m not sure, around eight or nine, I think.”

It was now 7:30.  There could be a big difference between eight and nine.  I don’t get people like this.  If I lived out in the sticks, I would know what time the place opened and what time it closed–every single day of the year.  I’d know which holidays they observed.  What shift the grandma-who-closes-the-place-whenever-she-needs-a-nap works.  I would have her schedule, and plan accordingly.

All I could do now was will the car forward, faster.  Before the little abuelita’s eyelids get too heavy.  I stared out the window.  What the fuck was I doing here?

The fall sky can make certain parts of Northern New Mexico look extra bleak.   Slate blue with smeared chalky clouds.  Long shadows.  High altitude light illuminating a coyote fence, a crumbling adobe wall, some tires stacked by some siding, a cluster of trailers.  No wonder heroin is so big up here.  If I lived in Truchas or Chupadero, I’d probably pick up a habit.  On top of everything else.

Something to make staring at water dripping into a bucket more fun.

I love New Mexico.  I think it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.  But there are parts of it that suck.  Not just Albuquerque and the State Penitentiary, either.  Some of the smaller, sadder towns.  They seem to suffer from a crushingly depressive malady.  Big sky fever, is what I call it.  I don’t care if it’s the Russian steppes or Kansas, anytime you have a really wide expanse of sky, melancholy is going to oppress it.  The sheer vastness dwarfs all human activity, and relegates it to the junk pile of eternity.

Telephone pole.  Billboard for Indian Casino.  A dirt field.  Orange filter making everything look extra sad.

Think about death.  Think about it for everyone, especially the people you love.  All dead.  We are all going to be dead.

“You’re awful quiet.”

“Just thinking about death.”

“Oh.”

We rolled into town just in time.  The little mom and pop store that sold beer was still open.  Thank you, my sweet Lord.  Once again, you have delivered me from my own evil.  I got two six packs, hesitated, then got two more.  I didn’t care how it looked.  Fuck bad form.  Good form just leaves you dying of thirst.

When we went back out to the car, I could see her trying to fight down the eyebrow that was trying to raise itself.  Not to fear, darlin’, there’s a new fiesta in the making…as we speak.

All that oppressive melancholy and dread I was experiencing earlier, seemed to have lifted.  Maybe it was the sun finally going down that did it.  Certainly, having two dozen loyal troops, standing by to bodyguard me, made me more intrepid.

Let’s see what kind of weirdness we can cook up with this situation.  New chick.  Always weird.   But you can always make it more weird than that.  That’s kind of your specialty–taking an already weird situation and making that look normal in comparison.

Okay, so maybe at first I was apprehensive that maybe this chick was not my type.  But she obviously likes me.  Isn’t that my type?

Interesting change of attitude.  A radical pivoting of point-of-view.  And I hadn’t fired down a single beer yet.  It’s all about morale.

Regardless of my new-found positive attitude, the date went the way in was supposed to.  It was a disaster.

Not at first, but let’s not forget who was piloting this barge.

We ate cheese and crackers while looking at photos she had taken.  They were pretty good.  At one point we had moved to the couch.  That’s when she told me about the guy that broke her heart.  How she mourned over him for years.  All the pain.  The self-doubt.  The loneliness.  The bitter tears.  The savage loss.

The major boner-kill.

Forget it.  This mission just got scrubbed.  Condition No-Go!  Condition No-Go!  Yes, I was younger then, but old enough to already be haunted by plenty of ghosts.  I wasn’t exactly eager to pig-pile on top of all that pain.  I also didn’t want Rixon’s warning to be right.  I may be a drunk, but I’m not wild. 

Now I had to evade capture.  Duck and dodge.  Play the clock.  Play the gentleman.

What is it about that, that makes women act more horny and wildly available (definitely my type) than they ever would if you had given yourself the green light?  It’s an amazing thing.  Except you can’t fake it.  Playing hard-to-get doesn’t work.  You have to really have sincerely decided not to sleep with them.  Cosmic Irony knows if you’re pretending.  So do the women.

But, decide to do the right thing, and every form of succubus that ever crawled into a bed, seems to take possession.  It’s strange.  I don’t always try to do the right thing, but when I do, everything in Creation will try to get me to stop.  I wound up fooling around a little, then stopped short.  You’ve gone far enough.  Time to balk and back up.  I put it in reverse.

Well, all my back-pedaling started to hurt her feelings.  I could tell when she said, “All you’re back-pedaling is hurting my feelings.”

How do you explain a sudden outbreak of conscience?  I was pounding the pups, just shot-gunning them down, hoping I could impair my judgement long enough to excuse any transgression from my previous vow.  But I couldn’t seem to get there.

I kept seeing a very lonely person.  Someone needing somebody, and knowing that I was the last fucking somebody they needed.  She was getting all hurt that I wasn’t engaging more, and I couldn’t seem to pull away fast enough.  For both our sake’s.

I kicked myself for not buying two more six packs.

She went to bed that night while I stayed up looking through her monographs.

That next morning we had an uncomfortable breakfast at El Farolito.   After that we walked around an empty field for a while.  We came across a dead crow and she took a picture of it.

“Our love,” I said, trying to make a joke, but it fell like doom in a German opera.  By then, it was clear nothing was ever going to happen.  We were just hanging out, killing time–trying to make it seem like it was no big deal.  Like this was all we ever expected.  Just walking around taking pictures of rotting carrion.  Not talking much.  Waiting until it seems it’s been long enough.

Those minutes are murder.  Long, arduous ticks.  You start to envy the dead crow.

Eventually, it was decided it was time.  It was a quiet ride home.  Despite my gallant knight routine, or because of it, she was hurt and angry.  I can’t blame her.  I should have declined her invitation in the first place.  But who does that?

I later heard from the owner that she really hated me from then on.  Actually, I heard that from several people.  She wasn’t shy about broadcasting what a bastard I was.  She didn’t spare the stink-eye either when she came into the bookstore.   Maybe it wasn’t for what I did or didn’t do that week-end.  Maybe it was just for the person she saw.  A drunk unable to cope with painful feelings–his or anyone else’s.  It didn’t matter that I didn’t totally mislead her.

I had misled her enough.

And for that, Uncle Zorba, I know a woman will never forgive you.

Ain’t love crazy?

The Year in Review, Including Ear Hair Trim

"You've got a luxurious ear of hair."

“You’ve got a luxurious ear of hair.”

There’s a joke about Supercuts, but I can’t remember it.  Something about how there’s two kinds of haircuts you can get.  I don’t remember what they were.  I don’t even remember if the joke was funny.

Mind is really going.  Oh well.  Good riddance, actually.

I looked down at the magazines by the bench.  Here’s one.  A Year In Review Edition.

What could be more boring?  Canned media serving up one more helping of stuff they’ve staled to death all year.  Still, every magazine has to feature one.  What are you going to tell me about?  Who won the World Series?  An election?  Tell me about a school shooting?  Storms?  War?

I kind of know about those events.  I’ve managed to stay conscious enough this year to realize what was going on around me.  Hoo-fucking-ray for me.  No, seriously.  That’s big for me.

Let’s see.  Here’s a feature on The Movers and Shakers of 2012.  Riveting stuff.  I can’t believe I didn’t make it this year.  I tossed the magazine aside and watched the barber chick cut a bald guy’s hair.  She was taking forever.  One would think cutting an old bald guy’s hair would be a three minute turn around, but you would be wrong.

Old bald guys actually take longer.  I noticed that most barbers don’t want to just pass some clippers over the head and slap their neck with a towel.  You could do that with a young dude, keeping his head shaved, but not with old bald dudes.  There’s a lot of Kabuki theater involved.  The barber does a lot of pretend clipping with scissors.   Comb, comb, comb, air-clip air-clip.   Comb, comb, comb, air-clip air-clip.

It used to drive me crazy.  Well, crazier.  Clearly, they were trying to make the old guy feel like he was getting his money’s worth.  By spending fifteen minutes in the chair.  Fifteen minutes of my valuable time.

One afternoon, after my guy gave a rather extensive performance, I had to bring it up.  He tied off the bib and asked me what size blade.

“Two,” I told him.

“Summertime, huh?”

“”Yep.”

I waited for him to start cutting.

“So I noticed you have to do a lot of pretend hair-cutting with old bald dudes.  Is that so they don’t feel like they got gypped?”

“Well…it’s actually more than that,” he said, “For a lot of these guys, getting a haircut is the only human contact they get.  So I want to take my time with them.”

I looked at dude.  Did I hear him right?   He didn’t strike me as someone who would concern himself.  Straight guy, shaved head, tattooed neck, ring-through-the-nose regular dude.  Not the touchy-feely, sensitive New Age type.  He was into choppers and the LA Kings.  It surprised me he would reach out like that.  I sat there trying to digest this anomaly.

“That’s kind of sad, when you think about it.”

“Yeah, no shit,” he said, “They already come from a generation that didn’t touch much.  Except maybe for sex.”

“I think sometimes not even then.”

“Ha…yeah…Hard to pull off, but possible, I guess.”

“It is.”

“All I know is that as they get older, there’s even less of that.  So what does that leave them?   An awkward hug now and then?”

“Hmm.  And maybe a pat-down at the airport.”

“Yeah.  Exactly.  So that leaves me.”

He was right.  What really impressed me was that this guy would care enough to do his small bit.  Holding their neck, combing their hair, massaging their scalp.  A hand on the shoulder.  Shit.  I felt like a heel for bitching about it.

Once again, something revealed it’s true nature–something that had bugged me before–and now made me feel like a dick for resenting it.  I hate when that happens.  And trust me, it happens a lot.   Not surprising.   My knee-jerk interpretations of events are nothing but some slapped together immediate impressions stuck in the glue of some unexamined prejudices.  On a foundation of underlying fear.

My summary is usually worth the amount of time it took to come up with it.  Zero flat.

Beth called over to me.  “I’m almost done.”

“I’m good,” I told her, “Take your time.”

I go to Beth now.  As cool as that other barber was, he never got the hang of wrangling my cowlicks.  Not like Beth.  She knows my cowlicks.  She knows how to tame those beasts.

I looked at the pile of magazines.  None of them interested me.  I remembered how in jail I would’ve killed for a scrap of anything to read.  When I got locked up in Redondo Beach jail, they had a huge stack in the cell.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  Good stuff too.  Rolling Stone, Spin, Outdoor, and some hot rod mags with sexy chicks.  It was the quietest, cleanest jail I’ve ever visited.  Dark enough to sleep.  Light enough to read.  Two pillows, two blankets, and the whole cell to myself.  I could clock some hours in a set-up like that.

Of course, I got bailed out fast that time.  It figures.  Thanks anyway, Spike.  Good looking out.

Beth was trimming the old guy’s ear hairs.  Man, that is so gross.  Of course, not getting that done is even more gross.   If I didn’t cut that shit every other day, I’d have grey beards growing out of my ear holes.   That’s the most humbling thing about middle age.   Seeing stuff on yourself that even grosses you out.   A bouquet of nose hairs.   An ugly toe nail.  Bushy eyebrows that could earn you a bandstand seat at a Soviet Military parade.

Just getting gnarlier and gnarlier.  Until the only time anybody touches you is to shave your neck or attach heart monitors to your chest.

Alright, let’s not think about that.

Beth looks cute today.  Dig the knee-high leather boots.  Single mother from Georgia.  She works hard.  Her boy means everything to her.  I don’t think she’s dating.  Might not have the time.  I’m sure it’s logistically difficult for a single mom.  At least for one that cares about her kid.

That’s too bad.  I wish she’d find someone.  Some guy that takes a real liking to her little boy, and does all kinds of father shit with him.

Fishing.  Playing catch.  Camping out.  Mayberry father kind of shit.  Not guilt-tripping you about what a fuck-up you’ve become kind of shit.

I looked back at the pile of magazines.  Kanye and Kim.  Very important.  Can’t not take them away with you…when reviewing the year.  A year’s worth of some of the wildest shit imaginable, and I need to remember those two.  Two of the most forgettable creatures that ever used up air.  Remember them and push out something vital.  Like remembering to pay the cable bill.

I would rather pray to the ancestors of some Borneo headhunters than think about them.

Not to get all Max Von Sydow, but with the bullshit we fill our heads with as a society, it’s a wonder we can find our asses.  Is Snooky pregnant?  Is Hoda leaving?  Whatever happened to Chachi?  Will Bristol ever dance again?  Does Bonk-Bonk love Vagella?  Will Thog call off the wedding?  Will Yuddy Van Rence be killed off in the season finale?

Will Regis rise from the dead?

These are not questions.  These are pork rinds and Tab.  To stuff ourselves with while waiting to die.  Anything to avoid having to really live.  And wonder about important stuff.

Check this out.  We watch Reality TV.  Think about that.  We watch…Reality TV.  I have not mastered Reality, but I’ve seen a lot of it on television.

I get it though.  Confession time.  When Lori was gone one night, I watched two hours worth of Full Throttle Saloon.  There was some stuff I didn’t want to think about, so I zoned out on a bunch of white trash running a biker bar in Sturgis.  (And making more money than God doing it.)  Well,  I just got sucked in.  It was the owner, the dude with the mangy blonde dreads and no chin that I couldn’t stop staring at.  He just freaked me out.

Oh sure, there’s also lots of power-drinking miscreants, sexy scanties dancing around greased-pig poles, and sporadic outbreaks of drunken violence.   It’s basically lifestyle porn for domesticated hell-raisers.  So I lost myself in it for a while.  I let my nagging concerns circle the airport, burning up fuel.  Instead of looking at what I didn’t want to look at, I tried to count how many shots Fajita took, and wondered if Jessie ever banged Angie.  If Michael watched.

Finally, I snapped off the idiot box and faced my demons.  Might as well.  They didn’t seem to be antsy to leave anytime soon.  I’ve learned you can’t out-wait a demon.  And you’ll never outrun them.

The best way to confront them is in a very stern paternal way.  “Look you wicked little fuckers, I made you!  You are the products of my tortured mind and I appreciate what you’re trying to show me.  Now beat it.  Daddy’s got this.”

It seems to work.  Losing myself in other people’s drama doesn’t do it.  I’ve tried.  Even tried to lose myself in my own.

Beth undid the old guy’s bib.  That’s right.  A little powder on the neck.  Rub it in.  I bet he digs that more than if some tattooed dude did it.  Or maybe not.  He gets up to pay.  I stay seated.  I wait until she finishes with him.  Then I let her clean up a bit, and wait until she says she’s ready for me.  I used to hop up right away, because I was so pissed at having to wait.  Now I try not to sweat the barber like that.  I wait until they’re ready.

I also cut my own ear hairs before I go.  So nobody else has to deal with them.

Small improvement.

There’s my year in review.  A bunch of small improvements.  That hopefully add up.  It’s too early to tell.

I put my soda on her counter and sat down.

“Do you want a number two or three today?”

“Number two.  Cut it close, Beth.  I feel like I’m losing my edge.”

Hairstyling by Beth

Hairstyling by Beth

Pot And Ponchos

Is that a real poncho, or a Sears poncho?

Is that a real poncho, or a Sears poncho?

Going through old photos the other day and came across this gem.  Ah, the poncho.  Difficult piece of clothing to pull off.  Women should never wear them, and the only men that can really rock them are Mexican revolutionaries or drug-addled hippies.  I guess at the time I fancied myself the latter.

But I look fucking ridiculous.   A poncho.  C’mon dude.  Really?

I know.  I know.

I was wearing that poncho the first time I tried scoring weed in Santa Fe.  I had new buddy drive me to the plaza where I had seen a variety of doper-looking scruffians and ne’er-do-wells hanging out.  A few were kicking the sack around.  Others huddled around in conspiratorial circles talking.  This was generally fertile grounds for sowing a pot connection.

Unless you’re a stranger wearing a poncho.

I jumped out of the van and walked over to a small group of these Plaza Rats.

“Hey guys.  Do any of you know where I can score a little herb?”

They all shook their heads no.  Emphatically.  It wasn’t like a no, not right now, but a no, never.  We don’t know anyone who ever sells marijuana.

Strange.  What gives?  I don’t see any X’s on their hands.  They don’t seem straight-edge.  Especially that dude with the knit rasta cap selling hand-carved soapstone hash pipes.  He’s shaking his head no, too.  Hmm.  I walked back dejectedly to the van.

For many years, my friend, Russell, would remind me of that day.  He was there at the plaza hanging out.

“We all just knew your were a narc!” he’d laugh.  “Oh, here comes some buzz-cut guy that jumped out of a white van…wearing a poncho!  Like that was going to throw us off.  He totally looks like a cop, but he must be cool, because…he’s wearing a poncho.  Hahahahahaha!  No way man.”

He had a point.  I wouldn’t have turned me on if I wasn’t me.  What was I thinking?

Fortunately, a little later, I met a guy named, David Scott, who sussed me out as a legitimate fuck-up, and finally vouched for me to his friends.  He invited Keller, my sister, and me to the house where he was living and introduced us.  I didn’t wear my poncho that night and we were welcomed warmly.  So that’s how I got to know The Plaza Rats, an indigenous tribe of freaks, punks and hipsters I immediately felt at home among.

And for the record, none of whom would ever know anyone who sold pot.

At least not anyone who would sell it to a burr-headed state trooper-looking dude wearing a poncho.

So what was the deal with the poncho in the first place?   Well, hear me out.   There was some reason behind my insanity.

I had just moved to Santa Fe, NM from Southern California in ’87.  Or was it ’88?  Doesn’t matter.  My sister and I had driven through a blizzard that got so gnarly we had to pull off and spend the night in Seligman AZ.  We had spent three hours of night driving in white-out conditions with everything we owned crammed into a Chevy Chevette (diesel) and a U-Haul roof carrier.

All I could do was try to stay in the wheel prints of the semi in front of us.  If he went over a cliff, I would have been following right behind.  It was some of the most wide-eyed, ass-puckered motoring I’ve ever had the joy of experiencing.  A memorable first time driving in snow.  I think that U-Haul carrier saved us.  Kept us squashed to the road.

When the semi finally pulled off at Seligman, we were elated.  To this day, that two-horse-turd town holds a special place in my heart.   I will never forget how good it looked that night with all its glowing neon angels.  Gas.  Motel.  Beer.  The holy trinity for tired travelers.  A sweet divine sanctuary.

We bought some snow chains, sandwiches, chips, and sodas.  (Try saying that with a bilateral lisp)  Anyway, there is a very good chance that I purchased some beer that night, but I can’t remember for sure.  The fact that I got roaring drunk in the town bar that night made the purchase of package store beer uneventful in my memory.  There were bigger things to remember about that night.

I remember my sister and I checking into a little motel and being very grateful to be alive and that we had made it, so far.  We still had a long way to go, over some treacherous snowy and icy roads, but for now, we were okay.  Breathe deep.  Holy shit.  What have I gotten us into?

I also remember feeling very proud of her.  She was damn good co-pilot.  Goddamn.  When things were looking grim, she kept her cool and that helped me keep my shit together.  I always knew she was gutsy, but that night, I got to see her at her finest.  Poised.  Steely-eyed.  Determined.  Scared for sure, but not letting The Fear best her.

She’s a good person to have at your side, pointing the way to go to avoid the burning zeppelin.

After I finished appreciating my sister, I decided to hit the bar.  She was in for the night, so I trudged through the snow to the only place open that night.  What I saw when I went in was pretty cinematic.

A black-haired biker babe behind the bar drying glasses, and one sole patron sitting at the bar.  A desiccated piece of grizzle, a wild-haired, bushy-browed, burned-out freak…wearing a poncho.   Oh fucking yes!  So exactly the bar of my dreams.  A sexy chick to look at and a weirdo to talk with is all I really need.

The place was rustic, with antlers and shit on the wooden walls, the plank saloon floor was urine-stained and varnished with years of vomit.  Probably a few quarts of blood splattered  here and there.  Nice.  Perfect actually.  I know you can’t have any real fun without spilling a few bodily fluids.

I ordered a beer and a shot for myself and the fabulous furry freak.   He nodded his appreciation.   Hell, I just looked Death in the eyes and didn’t flinch too much.  I could afford to buy the house a round or two.

I offered one to the bartender, but she declined.  She looked part Indian.  Probably a good idea.  She looked like she’d be a handful in a bar fight.  Strong arms.  Powerful legs…and ass.  I imagined us rolling around on a floor covered in broken glass, wrestling for the pool cue, knocking over tables, her biting into my shoulder, me pulling on her hair, then our eyes meeting.  Magic.  The look that says we belong together.  Then her mouth opening slightly.

“That’ll be sixteen dollars.”

I handed her a double saw.

“Keep it.”

“Thanks.”

“Roads are a motherfucker I hear,” the old head says, still looking straight ahead.

“Yeah, my ass hasn’t unclenched yet.  We’re driving to Santa Fe.  It would be nice if we don’t die.”

The head nodded.  The bartender told me nobody knew if I-40 would be open by tomorrow, and that we might be stranded.  That was fine by me.  This place seemed better than most.  But it was about to get much better.

“You want to burn one?” Mr. Poncho asked me.  Now I nodded.  We stepped outside and watched the snow come down while taking turns hitting at the joint.  It looked really peaceful.  Not like it did from behind the wheel.

I can’t remember how, but in the course of our conversation, Captain Beefheart came up.  I probably brought him up, since I was totally into Don Van Vliet.  A buddy had turned me on to Trout Mask Replica, and the rest was history.  Anything that utterly insane was not just something to listen to, but to somehow incorporate as a lifestyle choice.  The Captain was bat-chain puller insane and I was hoping that repeated listening would infect me with his liberated madness.  Like I needed more.  Bat chain puller.  Bat chain puller.  Puller.  Puller.

Anyway, not only did this guy know about Beefheart, but he could sing his entire catalog–pitch perfect, from the deep grumbles to the high screeching.   I shit you not.  It was an amazing thing to witness.  Especially stoned.  When we went back inside, I bought another round and he performed a little recital for me.  He not only sounded just like the Captain, but knew every single word to every song I threw out.  It was like having a living, breathing, weed-sharing, Captain Beefheart juke box taking requests.  Nothing was too esoteric.  I couldn’t stump him.

Ice Cream for Crow.  I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby.  Dachau Blues.  Abba Zabba.  Candle Mambo.  Big Eyed Beans from Venus.  Tropical Hot Dog Night.   Mirror Man.  I Wanna Find a Woman That Will Hold My Big Toe Until I Have to Go.  And of course, Bat Chain Puller.  He knew them all.

“Okay, Man With A Woman Head.”

He’d take a sip of beer and begin.

“The man with the woman head
Polynesian wallpaper made the face stand out,
a mixture of Oriental and early vaudeville jazz poofter,
forming a hard, beetle-like triangular chin much like a praying mantis.
Smoky razor-cut, low on the ear neck profile.
The face the color of a nicotine-stained hand.
Dark circles collected under the wrinkled, folded eyes,
map-like from too much turquoise eye-paint.
He showed his old tongue through ill-fitting wooden teeth,
stained from too much opium, chipped from the years.
The feet, brown wrinkles above straw loafers.
A piece of cocoanut in a pink seashell caught the tongue
and knotted into thin white strings.
Charcoal grey Eisenhower jacket zipped and tucked into a lotus green ascot.
A coil of ashes collected on the white-on-yellow dacs.
Four slender bones with rings and nails
endured the weight of a hard fast black rubber cigarette holder.
I could just make out Ace as he carried the tray and mouthed,
‘You cheap son of a bitch’
as a straw fell out of a Coke, cartwheeled into the gutter.
So this was a drive-in restaurant in Hollywood,
So this was a drive-in restaurant in Hollywood,
So this was a drive-in restaurant in Hollywood.”

Son of a bitch.  He knew the whole thing.   Maybe I had died back there on I-40, and this was my heaven.   I felt like I’d discovered buried treasure.  What a magnificent gem hidden in a wasteland of Arizona desert.  More beers.  More Beefheart.  More pot.  Digging that crazy poncho, too.

I have experienced many wild and wonderful things in my life, but running into that old freak, in a deserted bar during a snowstorm, remains a highlight.  The human Beefheart beat box.

I think that’s when I caught the poncho germ.  I too wanted to be a solitary, desert-dwelling human repository of cult-music.  A sun-baked beatster basting his brains in a tin-foil trailer.  Not giving a flying fuck.  Too crazy to care.  To be so out there you don’t worry about whether you’re pulling off the poncho or not.  You’re too busy talking to crows, painting rusted car hoods with animal scenes, and remembering how to sing every single Captain Beefheart song ever invented.  Just in case.

I already knew The American Dream wasn’t for me.  This seemed like a viable alternative.  Puller.  Puller.

They opened I-40 that next morning.  I was nervous, but had renewed faith that something was looking out.  We chained up, topped off with diesel, and shimmied that clattering Chevette along the ice.  That next day’s driving was actually worse.  Slush from passing trucks would splash on our windshields and stop our wipers, leaving us driving blind, but we made it.  Santa Fe, New Mexico.

We had never been there.  We didn’t know anybody.  Had no jobs.  No place to live.  Very little money.  And we didn’t give a flying fuck.

There’s nothing like almost dying a lot to make you feel alive, and not worried about small bullshit.

So anyway, a few days after getting there, I walked past a shop selling ponchos.  Oh fuck yeah.  I had to get one.  We had already scored a trailer to live at, inside the Space Science Center for UFO studies on St. Francis Drive.  This would be the second important component to starting my new weird life.  The third was pot, which I would get next.

Wearing my poncho.

I can't give you my coat. It's gotten quite cold.

It’s gotten quite cold, I’ve decided I can’t sell you my coat.