My Letter to Nicky

My Christmas card to you.

My Christmas card to you.

Dear Santa,

Sorry I haven’t written lately, but ever since my folks told me you were bullshit…well…I’ve felt a little stupid about keeping up any correspondence.  I know.  No excuse.  It’s not like it’s gonna kill me to write a letter and feel like an idiot later.  I should be used to it.

What with your 24/7 North Pole NSA surveillance capabilities, you probably witnessed me penning that lust letter to the four-eyed lynx intern at the acupuncture clinic back in ’95.  Seven pages of handwritten heart-pour.  To a chick I only answered questions to.  Questions like “How frequently do you urinate?” and “What is the consistency of your stool?”

But that didn’t stop me, eh?  From writing her. 

So why not write to my old pal, St. Nick?  Catch up on shit with a guy who doesn’t exist.  Maybe put in a wish list.

Can’t be any stupider than driving one-eyed, all the way down Agua Fria to her clinic, and delivering it personally.  Remember?  It was right after that disastrous week-end with Bubbles.  In Tuscon.  Drinking more than usual after that little visit.  Heart all hurt.  Ego-aching.  Embarrassed as fuck.

No wonder I freaked and went full-court press on the cat-eyed Jr. needle jockey.  I had to fall in love with someone else.  Right away.  And make sure she fell too.  Brought out the five-alarm charm that afternoon.

Shit-hammered on store brand vodka and Mickey’s Big Mouth.  Reeling and red-faced.  Crashing into the bamboo wind-chimes they had hanging up by the door.  My poison-reek cutting through the Mentholatum spa-smell.  The terrified and confused look on her face when I gave her the letter, slowly turning to pity when she sussed what it was all about.

Magic moment alright.

I also remember walking back to the car and realizing–with pristine divine precision and clarity–what a major fail I just perpetrated.  Fucking great.  Now I get it.  Twenty-two seconds after I finished doing it.  Not the twenty-two before.

It was always after, eh Nicko?  And then, like clockwork, you’re not too drunk to care.  All of a sudden.  It’s like the batshit buzz that got you in the jam, suddenly hightails, leaving you holding the sock. 

Yuuhgrhhh.  Every time I remember it, my guts twist.

Love to time-machine that one.  Hey, it was par for that whole year.  From what I recall.  Perfect candidate for lump of coal I was.

But I think I got some leather gloves, a camping ax, and a Hendrix box set.  Don’t know if that was a mix-up or mercy on your part.  But thanks anyway, dude.

Which brings me to why I’m writing.  As you probably know, I’ve been a little grouchy this holiday season.  Bitching and moaning about having to stand in long lines, find parking, gift wrap rhomboid-shaped gifts.  Post Office.  UPS.  The usual sleigh-bell blues.  And yeah I’ll admit, kind of sick of seeing your face all over the place.

Well, Friday I get hit with a stomach flu.  A real sidewinder.  All of a sudden I’ve got bigger problems than constantly losing the Scotch tape.

I go from bitching about small, irritating shit, to worrying if I’m gonna squirt out all my sacral fluid.  Major attitude shift, Nicky.  Capisce?

Lori’s gone to Europe, and neither of my cats have a driver’s license, so it’s toaster waffles and tap water for two days.  I’m laying in bed the whole time.  Bugsy and Louie holding vigil over their only food-giver.  The only one until January 4th, when the other one gets back.

I’m so very weak.  So very tired.  Can’t push the buttons on the remote.  Have to roll over on it in the bed.  Hope a good channel comes on.  But too sick to watch anyway.  Can only let whatever is on blend with my delirium.  World War 2 documentaries.  Gangsters: America’s Most Evil.  Full Throttle Saloon.  Lock-Up; Extended Stay.  Adult Swim.  Hour after hour.  Sleeping off big chunks, but awake enough for marathon series of fevered visions.

My mind wanted to show me things.  Pulled me out of my body.  “Check this shit out!”

British POW’s in Japanese camps.  Trying to build a bridge while dysentery wrings out their bowels.  A little brown boy lying on a banana leaf. Shivering with Dengue Fever.  A moth in a dead guy’s mouth.  Jungle rot.  Cholera.  Maggots in rice.

We visit a leper clinic in India.  A Russian prison infirmary.  African refugees eating sand.

Then I see paralyzed old people.  They’re in a skilled nursing facility–watching the shadows of twilight lengthen across the room.  Wondering if anyone will come see them.  Thirsty.  But unable to ask.  Sad.  But too dry to cry.  Trapped.  But unable to die.

Wheel of Fortune on.  No way to turn it off.

(I think that’s worse.  I’d rather have to build a bridge in diapers)

I’m telling you what, St. Boy, if I ever visit sick old people, I’m going to make sure to keep the mood light and laughy.  And bring them orange juice or whatever.  And make sure that the TV is on their channel.

I caught a glimpse of their hell, and it snapped me right out of the mopes.  This is a stomach flu.  I’m a recovered alcoholic.  This is nothing.  I got this.  I knew I was probably going to roll it up in 48.  But a lot of others are down for life.

Like some drunks I’ve known.  Lying there floored and helpless.  Alone.  Every time you make it to the toilet a small victory.

Sad sun coming through the window.

Not even cats to keep you company.

Death feeling like a real thing.

Sometimes being one.

So yeah, grateful for the pathogens that bring on hellish visions.  Grateful for my stomach flu.

And as far as any presents this year, don’t sweat it.  Being able to drive to the store.  Wash the sheets.  Hold down food.  Change the channel.  Big gifts.

And of course the cats.

Give my share to somebody who needs it.  There’s plenty out there, Nicky boy.  Believe me.

Anyway, give my best to the Missus.  Rudy.  The Elves.

Take some time off.  Belize.  Good banks.

Marius

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Punked-Out Punk: The Merciful Conclusion

Trey Oswald and Paul Bakija of Reagan Youth

Trey Oswald and Paul Bakija of Reagan Youth

Ugly scene at the punk show.  Gurz and I wound up going at it.  Savage exchange.  Dude fights dirtier than me.  Beat me to the salt shaker.  Then beat me with the salt shaker.  Right there on the dance floor.  While the band played on.  I thought I’d met my match, but remembered a move called Monkey Steals A Peach.  That took the proverbial wind out.  Cops showed up and arrested us both for felony assault.  Essington posted our bail.  We paid him back by stealing his car.

Hmm.  It’s a good start for this piece.  I mean I really like it.  Right away we’re up to our elbows in action.  The writing is snappy and scrappy.  Lean and tough.  I get to work in a salt shaker and Monkey Steals A Peach reference.  Getting busted is rich.  The evil burn there at the end, too.  The whole paragraph is so me.  We’re talking signature shit.

There’s only one little problem.  It’s a balls-out lie.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with that.  It’s just that Gurz or Essington might yap.  Then everybody will think/know I’m a liar.  Which would suck.  And oh yeah, I’m supposed to try to be as honest as possible, in order to help stay sober.

Fucking staying sober.  Always tripping up my game.  Saving me from humiliation.

You want the truth?  You think you can handle it?  Well handle this-

I went to the show and had an okay time.  Got along with Gurz and Essington.  Nothing crazy happened.  Was asleep in my motel bed by 2AM.  Had a nice breakfast with Brisa and Dennis the next morning.  Came home.  The end.

After all that build up, that’s all you get.  I’m sorry, but that’s the truth.  No drinking.  No drugging.  No fist-fights.  No stage-diving.  No strippers.  No hookers.  No cops.

Not so hot on the truth now, are you?  Yeah, it’s easy to pay it lip labor, but another thing to have to endure listening to it.  Or in this case, having to read it.  It could set you free, but the truth just might lull you to sleep.  Like a bellyful of antihistamine-fed turkey, cold hard facts can be quite soporific.  Plain old boring truth.

Here’s some more boring truth-  I hate writing music reviews.  Mostly because I suck.  I’ll write “they sound alright, like some band I can’t remember the name of, only more hoppy-boppy,” or “the chick playing bass looks like someone my buddy went out with, back in Santa Fe, during the 90’s.  A real clingy, emotionally needy, pain in the ass.  The girlfriend, not the bass player.  I don’t know what her story is.”

I’m no Lester Bangs.  And don’t want to be.  First off, he’s dead.  Second off, I recognize my limitations as a writer.

Add that to the fact that nothing amazing, funny, or insane happened at the show, and you’ll know why I dragged ass getting here.  This thing became a book report I couldn’t find the Cliff Notes for.  I kept putting off writing about the show with a Part One, Part Two, Part Three, hoping I’d find some angle to make it interesting.  Well, the angle never came.  That’s when I decided to try to lie my way out.  Like a cornered rat.

Sure, lot’s of uninteresting things happen to me, all the time, and it’s never stopped me from writing about them.  But there’s usually some internal component, some gleaned insight or entertaining thought process to report.  Not this time.  The only thing I remember thinking was, “this music is okay, but I’m ready for it to stop now.  It’s starting to hurt my ears.”

Not much to hang your hat on.  Even for Lester Bangs.

Reagan Youth

Thank God, Michael Essington was there.  He can write about music.  Or anything else.  He’s prolific.  Smart.  A natural writer.  Very readable.  In real life, a solid down-to-earth character.  No posturing or posing.  And that comes through in his work.  I wish we could have talked more that night, but the music was…too loud.

Anyway, while I hemmed and hawed, waiting for some God Machine to descend from the sky, he banged out a review of the show.  You can read it here.

Okay.  That gets me off that hook.  No need to review the show.  And that should be lesson to all you kids out there.  Sometimes procrastination pays off.  So don’t put it off.

I’ll will add that while Essington was jumping hurdles trying to get to the show, I saw the whole thing.  13 Scars and Reagan Youth managed to tap into the wellspring of youthful angst and delivered the notice.  Especially noteworthy, since both bands are made up of generally older dude types.  It was good to see middle-agehood could still shred shit up.  Good for morale.  A mighty hammer blow struck against the evils of ageism.

But like I said, at one point my ears just gave out.  It wasn’t the musicianship, or even some age-crisis induced introspection, but the physical discomfort of decibels relentlessly beating against the skull that made me ready to bail.  But I didn’t.  I clung on to the bitter end.

And am a better man because of it.

Michael Essington and David Gurz

Michael Essington and David Gurz

If you read part one of this saga (and my stats show that’s not likely) you’ll know that I went primarily for the book-signing, Essington and Gurz were doing for their joint effort,  Under a Broken Street Lamp.  It was good to finally meet Gurz.  A deeply troubled individual.  Dangerously deranged old punk.  Ex-con.  Ex-heroin junky.  Street survivor.  You’re just not going to find a more subterranean creature.  If I had a stick that night I would have poked at him, just to watch him claw and hiss, the madness and menace glinting in his eyes.  A fascinating specimen of Demonous Nocturnous.

And all that comes through in his work.  But lots of other stuff too.  Sinister resume aside, Dave is a sweetheart.  Intelligent, funny-as-fuck, and–oh, he’s gonna kill me–sensitive and caring.  That’s right.  He’s what is known in folklore as a Noble Scoundrel.  Standard archetype, really.  What the turn-of-the-century criminal, Jack Black, called “a good Yegg.”

Anyway, we’d been corresponding and talking on the phone for over a year before this, so it was great to actually meet in person.  And not be able to communicate.  But hang out anyway.

That’s what this whole odyssey was about.  Making the effort to connect with friends.  Going against my selfish inclination for the apparent comfort and safety of isolation, and coming out to the show.  Just to be there.  To hang out.  To talk loudly to somebody who can’t hear you, and then not hear them tell you that.  To build that bond that comes from nodding and shrugging at each other.  Clueless.  While droplets of blood roll from your ears.

I wouldn’t trade it for all the treasure in Timbuktu.

Okay.  That’s not true either.

Damn.

Anarchy Transformer

Punked-Out Punk: Part Three

Oh thank God, they're American-owned!

Oh thank God, they’re “American-owned”

I pulled into the motel parking lot carefully listening for the crunch of syringes and crack vials.  Didn’t hear any.  They must sweep the place.  Classy joint this Comfort Inn.  Can’t see why Expedia only gave it two stars.  Maybe at night it becomes a stable for hookers.  Better get the top floor.  Don’t want to be hearing a bed creak every thirty minutes.  Unless, of course, I’m in it.

I parked the car and went inside the office to register.

A gentleman with a southern Mumbai accent processed my reservation, then directed me to a room on the first floor.  I thanked him and went out to get my bag from the car.

Wow.  Plastic key card.  Free buffet breakfast and WiFi.  Dish TV.  Little refrigerator.  Coffee maker.  Call me the King of Siam.  I was ready to settle for windows without bullet-holes and free local calls.  And I get all this.  The gourmet shit.  The Creator is too good to me.  Spoils me rotten.

I went in.  Nice enough digs.  Didn’t smell too funky.  A dark room.  Always like that.  Especially after I make it darker.

I dragged the blackout curtain across the window.  Unpacked some rags.  Put away the soda and beans.  Checked out the bathroom.  Didn’t get the vibe anybody had ever died in it.  Cool.  That’s worth at least half a star.  I got some ice from the machine and filled the sink.

Still feels a little weird not sticking in a bunch of beers.  But not as weird as waking up in a Mexican jail.  Here, see if you can put in cans of soda instead of beer and somehow still survive.

I did.  And did.

Spent the next twenty minutes trying to figure out the remote for the bullshit Dish TV.  Got to the point where I just started pushing buttons randomly.  That’s what finally worked.  I don’t know why I didn’t just do that right off the bat.  Don’t try to figure it out.  Just keep pushing buttons, baby.  Let mathematical chance work for you.  If you’re not hung up on any particular number–every one is a winner.

Wound up tuning into some football.  Two teams I didn’t give a fuck about.  Perfect.  A stress-free sporting event to kill some time.  I can relax a little before getting my eardrums punctured with punk rock.  I leaned back into my stack of pillows and exhaled.  Exhaled everything.  My previous stress.  My present apprehensions.  My future concerns.  Just gassed them out.

I don’t know what particular meditation technique it is, or from which tradition, but I like to make myself disappear.  It’s easy.  Just let the boundary between self and surroundings blur a bit…and poof.   I cease to be.  At least for a little while.

Now and then, I need to dissolve into the arms of Nuit.  “Oh, holy Eternal Void, I fling myself into Your infinite potential.  My fate to You I trust.  Redeem me, if You must.  But I don’t mind being dust.  Amen.”

Sweet inky oblivion.  It’s very relaxing.  And I’ve learned how to obtain it without a motel bathtub filled with beer.

We're going to need more ice.

As if the TV would be there. I call bullshit.

I woke up– if not entirely redeemed–certainly more refreshed.  I decided to take a shower.  Already talked to Gurz and he said the bands were still on their way to the show.  That meant I had time to stand under the hot water and realize some things.

Like as long you don’t put any expectations on the evening, you can’t be disappointed.  Don’t feel bad if you don’t feel like you’re twenty years old again.  You didn’t feel so great then either.

And even if the music doesn’t somehow erase all your hard-earned wisdom, you can still make bad decisions.  It’s a choice.

And there’s nothing wrong with mellowing.  So what if you’re not the reckless monster you used to be?  Who cares if you don’t pull down the scenery around you in an operatic gotterdammerung anymore, or make a hobby out of endangering the safety of others?  In fact, everyone is pretty okay with it.  You’re really the only hold-out– the only one giving yourself grief.

Huh.  Fucking me.  It’s always something.

Well, that’s where you come in.  You’re going to take care of you.

Me?  Why me?

Since you already have an in with old boy.  You being him and all.  You can put in a good word.  Get you to call the dogs off you.  You know, cool it.

Hmm.  Maybe.  I’ll see what I can do.  But you know me.

I do.  And I know you know you.  And if you’re cool to you, I know you’ll totally be cool.

Yeah, I know.

So we’re cool?

Totally.

Good shower.

I got dressed.  Laced the Martens.  Ate my salami and beans.  And Brazil nuts.  Washed it all down with a can of diet ginger-ale.  Put a key card in my wallet.  One in my sock.  Left the TV on.  Closed the door.

Okay, let’s see if the kids have anything on this old dog.

(to be continued)

Only the Bible survived.

That’s more like it.