Radio Hindenburg

Beloved Morning Show personalities.

Beloved radio personalities relaxing and eating bread.

For a short time, Marko and I had a late night call-in radio show on KUNM.  A short time because we sucked.  I think it was two shows.  Maybe one.  I don’t know.  I wasn’t there.  The whole thing seems surreal.  Dreamlike.  A dreamlike disaster.

Our friend Kelly was a radio intern at the University of New Mexico.  She offered us the gig.  From 1AM to 5AM, Monday morning.  That’s right. Primetime, baby!

We had never done radio, but after a few beers, decided to expand our undulating horizons.  This might be fun.  Produce a few of our own gag commercials to sprinkle throughout the shift.  Take some calls from any bat-chain pullers,  Pretty much wing it from there with a beer.  What could go wrong?  We were guaranteed to be smash hits.

As long as we didn’t get too crazy.  Too crazy drunk and out-of-control.  On the air.

Okay to be crazy drunk and out-of-control.  Just not too. 

On the radio.

In order to prevent that, we enacted an iron-clad NO DRINKING rule.

No drinking.  Until at least midnight.  So that we wouldn’t be too hammered by one.  Still be able to do radio shit.  Like announce the time.

And not say “fuck” a lot.

It was only the professional thing to do.  It’s a tough business.  Had to be at the top of our game, so we would refrain from drinking until an hour before our shift.  That way we would be less destroyed than normal.  Because we hardly had any time.

It was hard, but we did it.  Had to rent a cheap motel off Central and hole up in it.  Count off the tick-tocks before showtime.

Of course I hated it, but he wasn’t feeling Johnny High-On-Life either.  I felt better seeing him miserable.  Sitting there in a dirty Albuquerque motel.  On a Sunday.  Not drinking.  Nervous about being on the radio.  Nothing to take off the edge.  Except caffeine.  Sugar.  Nicotine.  A few small tablets of Ephedrine.  Snorted whole off knife-point.

Yeah, it was a lot of laughs, until I realized I was in the same predicament.

Cleaning our finger nails.  Sharpening knives.  Tossing cards into the toilet.  Anything to distract ourselves from the gut-sense of doom.  Knowing we were going to be on the radio.  Knowing it would be bad.  Knowing that whatever happened that night, there would be witnesses.  Maybe not too many.

But it only takes one.

Twaz bruttle, bro.  Knowing the seediest Albuquerque had to offer was just a cap-flick away, and having to sit there.  Sit for a while then get up and pace.  Endure a crawling clock.  Murder the minutes.  With cigarettes.  Coca-Cola.  And Elvis.

Viva Las Vegas was on one night.  We sat there and watched the whole stupid thing.  All of it.  Without drinking, we had no options.  Without our brewed propellant, we were reduced to watching some guy in a pantsuit sing.

Like the rest of America.

It was humbling.

At one point, Marko started singing along.  His dad was into The Elvis, so he knew all the words.  Strange enough, but more disconcerting to watch him belt it out.  So earnestly.  With such feeling.  Eyes burning.  Really trying to sell it.  Singing like his whole career depended on it.  Like everything depended on this Elvis impersonation.

I’d never seen him like that.  Dude was David Lynching me.  Laying down a highly-effective creep-out.

What made it scarier was the fact that he was stone cold sober.  So this is what happens.  My God, he was falling apart.  Going full nut-job.  Stark raving mad.

I joined him in the chorus.

“VIVA LAS VEGAS!”

At the top of our lungs.  Like children would go hungry if we didn’t squeeze out every decibel.  And mean every word.

“VIVA LAS VEGAS!”

Sonofabitch we were happy when midnight arrived.  Oh, Holy Hour of Magic, Thou Art Come to slake our forsaken thirst.

I remember waiting outside in the parking lot of the station,  Marko’s beeping Casio our starting gun.

Teep!

Right.  We have one hour to drink enough beer.  Before we go in.  Only one hour.  We have to drink a lot beer.  Really fast.  Before we go in.  Because once we go in, we’ll keep drinking of course.  But we only have an hour, to drink as much beer as we can…before we go in.

“So pound it, mother!  Because we couldn’t drink…”

“A beer every six minutes will still only be ten.”

“…all that time before!”

“Every five minutes will kill twelve.  But these are twenty-fours.”

“And a whole bunch of …Glug-glug-glah…other good…Glug-glug-glah…reasons.”

“We can kill fifteen.  But we’re gonna have to drink pissing. ”

“Don’t waste time doing math…Glug-glug-glooog-gah-glug ghaaach!  Pound!”

A determined individual can get pretty intoxicated, even in an hour.  But two motivated souls, supporting each other with encouragement, can achieve something really amazing.  Something rarely seen.

Gassing the big cans of Heineken straight down the throat.  One after another.  Non-stop.  Like some Indian sadhus showing-off in a beggar’s market.  Trying to get into the record books.  Trying to become eight-armed Hindu beer-drinking deities.  Popping a can with one hand while rolling out an empty to Kelly with the other.  To crunch.  Put in the trunk.  Recycle for cash.  Buy more cans.

“Every one of these is five cents we get.”

“Stop counting, fucker.  Pound!”

Gatling gunning them.  Spitting the casings out on the asphalt .  Kelly stomping on them with her big long legs like she’s dancing for rain.

“Are you guys going to be okay?”

“We’re gonna kill the world!”

Looking back, we would’ve been better off just coming in our regular amount of drunk by 1 AM.  Instead of pulling the elastic band all the way back, on a Sling-shot Sunday.  Then launching the show, after a Blue God Power Hour.

Live and learn, eh?  But at least now we were ready.   Ready to shine.  To radiate our bliss.  To bless the masses with our joy infernal.

Confidence restored?  Check.  Reckless disregard engaged?  Check  More beers in the jackets?  Checkmate.  We were ready.  For everything.  Ready for work.  We went in.

I don’t remember the D.J. we took over from, commending us on our professionalism.  For not drinking since midnight.

Fuck him.  We were plenty drunk now.  Thaaat whole caring about what people think wasss…ssomethinggggggg shhtupit 4 4 4 ofer chumfs an peepols wiff aaaahfukinon’t give-vah rattsaasss!  Mether feck head.  Hitler fecker…head-erhp I benner not say thaaat on a radio.  FC…CIA Nazi policituations an shit.  Wazz up Alqueburque?  Aneee strange stupf in a house? Here putty putty catty.  Gha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Pip.  Pop.  Fizz.  Glug.

Glug.

It didn’t go well.

Really love a rewind.

Don’t get those on live radio.  Or life.  And since this was both, we were double-fucked.

It was so bad, I hesitated writing this little piece.  That’s right, I didn’t want to revisit it.  Shit was bad enough to scar, even beneath an alcoholic blur.  One of those treats.  What I like to call my “special memories.”  The gut still tightens when I remember certain parts.

Ah, but you guys are like family to me, so what the hell.  I’ll share what happened.

Someday.

Not ready just yet.

But I will tell you, that not remembering to announce the time, wasn’t the worst part.

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When Every Day Sucked.

I remember driving home from work one night.  Eight and a half hours without a drink.  The bolts were starting to pop out of the seams.  The matrix of reality, warping and woofing.  Psychosis nudging in.  Fear already camped out.  Making S’mores.

Besides a suspended license, I was driving with two feet.  Why?  Because I had drop foot, which is some form of alcohol-induced neuropathy.  Or at least that’s what the Chinese acupuncturist diagnosed.

But what does a few thousand years of medical wisdom know?  All I know is that it made me unable to lift my right foot.  I can’t move it from the gas to the brake.  Which turns out to be an important driving ability.  And this was an important time in my life, to have good driving ability.  Dig?

My solution was to outsource the job of braking to my left foot, while my dead right one would be in charge of flooring the gas.  I’ll be honest, it’s not the easiest way to drive.  Lot of lurching and sudden stopping involved.   Especially when braking for the Iguanacolussus, an irksome multi-ton ornithopod from the late Cretaceous period that keeps scuttling out into the middle of the road.  And then disappearing.

Anyway, I finally get my beer and I’m almost home.  Whip-lash Larousse just has to cross Cerrillos Rd. and he’ll make it.  Hands trembling.  So close.  To my beer.  To relief.

Then I spot him.  A cop cruising by the other way.  I look up into the rear-view.  Watch his brake lights flash.

Oh fuck no.  Please no.  Of course, yes.  There he goes.  Turning around.  And coming up right behind me.  Oh God.  If he pulls me over for anything I go to jail.  That much is guaranteed.  Just don’t panic.  The most important thing is not to panic.

I look away from the mirror in time to see the light turn red.  I panic.  Mash both feet down.  The gas and the brake together.

Bad move.  In terms of staying under the radar.

My back tires spin in a smoking burnout.  Just lighting it the fuck up.  All N.H.R.A.  Funny car shit.  The chassis tap dances through the red light, and into the middle of the busy intersection, where it comes to rest after I finally picked up my feet from the pedals.  Traffic both ways screeching and skidding to a stop.  Me just sitting there with my eyes shut.  Awaiting impact.

There was one final tire-squealing brake, and then silence.  I had stopped the entire intersection.  Now sat there idling.

I am so going to jail.  I am going to have to detox behind bars.

“Sweet Lord. help me.”

I look up at my rear-view.  I can’t believe it.  He’s gone.  The cop is not there.  Honest to God, he wasn’t even driving away.  He was just…gone.  I don’t know if I hallucinated him being there in the first place, but I know I didn’t hallucinate him not being there.  Because if he really was still there, I’d be in his back seat.

Holy and most merciful Creator!  Thank You for vaporizing that peace officer.  And hopefully to a happier dimension.

I exhale.  My spine puddles around my pants.  I’m hanging on to the steering wheel, when I see myself in the mirror.  My eyes looked like oven-baked marbles.  All cracked from the heat.  Glowing red.  I looked insane.

Even I thought so.

I lift my left foot.  And then press down with my right one.  The car goes forward.  Okay.  We’ve got this.

I crossed Cerrillos and traffic resumed.  I was going to get to those beers.  And everything was going to be okay.  Until tomorrow.

I need a drink.

I need a drink.

I became physically addicted to alcohol around 1995.  The mental component had long been hooked.  But it took a while for the body to catch up.  It made it though.  Hooray!

Previous to this, I had, at times, experienced some ill-effects from consuming liberal amounts of alcohol.  Fire-hosing vomit across stranger’s laps could have been a warning that the quantity of beer I was inhaling wasn’t sitting well.  But once I realized I could carry a chopstick in my back pocket–a black lacquered Chinese one, I figured I’d solved that problem.  Now I could pick and choose where to discreetly dispel any tummy-upsetting froth.

The front entrance of Tom and Lenny’s Shoes, on 63rd Drive, in Rego Park, Queens was a favorite.  I had worked for them once, and felt my treatment there had been unfair.  Perhaps this wasn’t a valid way to protest it, but I just always seemed to feel better after barfing on their doorstep.  And that was good enough for me.

So you see, back then, the repercussions from my drinking, just weren’t bad enough, to even contemplate stopping.  Never mind actually trying to.

Sure, there were the usual hang-overs.  Some of them notably brutal.  But you learned to endure them.  They built character.

The Tuesday morning of a three-day bender, I’d feel a little out of sorts.  A little groggy and nervous about having to operate a vehicle.  Vertigo making the floor roll and buckle.  Eyes blurred from dehydration.  Ice pick in the forehead.   Tainted chowder gurgling in the guts.  Bones hurting and feeling too loose in their sockets.  Sore liver.  Acrid bile percolating in the throat.  Thoughts of suicide.

But it was nothing that a beer and chorizo omelet couldn’t fix.  A tickle of the chopstick, some Gatorade and a breath mint, and I was right as rain.

Then one day, I woke up and noticed my hands were shaking.  What’s this?  That’s so after-school special kind of alcoholism.  So stereo-typical.  So not my Ripley’s Believe it or Not kind of alcoholism.  When talking to friends, I would often cop to being an alcoholic.  “But I’m not one of those…you know…” I’d hold my hands out and make them shake, “I need a drink or I’m going to die kind.  All Ray Malland and shit.”

Well, it was looking like I was becoming all Ray Malland…and shit.

Accompanying the trembling was a rather snappy anxiety, one previously experienced while running from police or watching women take pregnancy tests.  Now it had me teething on a high-voltage power line whenever my beer levels went low.

Fucking great.  I’d sit there frozen in fear.  Too terrified to even twitch.   I’m scared to get up and brush my teeth.  How am I going to manage driving to work on a suspended license, then dealing with the public for eight hours?

It turns out, not very well.

There were moments, when the alcohol was leaving my system, that I thought I would go mad.  Only another Lost Weekender knows what I’m talking about.  It’s a bad dream.  Set-designed by a German expressionist.  The furniture bending at strange angles.  People are talking to you in Swahili or Urdu.  What are they saying?  Am I getting into trouble?  Or are they putting together a lunch order?

“Did someone just say something about Bea Arthur’s vagina?  No?  Never mind…I…”

I don’t know what is going on.

Except that I keep seeing sad angels in my head.  Skull people in concentration camps.  A coughing flower.

My pencil has become sinister and I have to throw it away from me.

As far as possible.

It takes every strand of will-power not to run out into the street flapping your arms.  Sweat pouring from your pits.  Stomach knotted in an icy grip.   Throat dry.  You hear strange organ music coming from the employee fridge.  Spy shadow figures darting around the periphery.  They’re waiting for you.

They can smell your death.

So can you, actually.  There’s a new strange funk that’s clouding out of your pores these days.  Besides, the sour beer smell.  It’s different.  It smells…like decay.  Killing off too many cells at once you are.  That’s kind of unnerving.  I better drink more so I don’t worry about that.

When I started morning maintenance drinking, it wasn’t done in any Cancun spring break, devil-may-care abandon.  It was conscious calculation.  I can’t function without having two or three beers before work.  I’m not drinking to “party down.”  I’m drinking so I don’t see the Devil while trying to make change for a customer.

I have to drink to make it.  Without it, I will fall apart.  Even faster.

I don’t care how much of a dumb-shit, clueless drunk you might be, but when an egg timer gets turned over after every last drink, you realize things.  Like maybe, you’re fucked.

Which is actually good.  To realize.

It’s the most important seed-thought an alcoholic can have.  If they’re going to have any chance.

Fortunately, I had been having that thought a lot.

So things were already good.  And I didn’t even know it.