Clockwork Cat Fight

Every morning, Louie wants out.  He has an important engagement.  He has to fight Boris, one of the other neighborhood cats.  I’ve written about their relationship before.  Humans might recognize it.  It’s a relationship based purely on antagonism.  All they do is fight.  Or wait to fight.  That’s their deal.  Their mutual agreement.  To be sworn enemies.  Forever.

He's late. Hope nothing happened to him.

He’s late. Hope nothing happened to him.

Each AM, Louie patiently waits for Boris to pop his paw up through a warped part of our deck.  That’s the signal to begin a hissing, yowling and howling cat brawl–with each one giving and taking swats while ducking in and away from the fightin’ hole.  It’s an amazing thing to witness. Louie will claw from above.  Boris from below.  They’ll go at it like that for twenty minutes or so, their cries and moans echoing off the lake, which I’m sure the neighbors appreciate.  Ah, the soothing sounds of nature.  “Dear God, is somebody strangling a baby out there?!”

Sorry about that, but you never saw Marlon Perkins or Jim run out and try to break up a cheetah fight on Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.  Oh hell no.  They stayed put–crouching behind some bush.  At least Jim did, while Marlon had his ass cheek parked on a TV studio desk in Nebraska.  The point is they only observed.  If they ever did deal with some lion, it was with a tranquilizer dart.  Tag his ear and set him free.  Back to a life of tearing apart Gazelles.  Eating.  Banging lionesses.  Eating.  Napping.

Back to nature.

And Nature always takes Its course.  Eventually, Louie and Boris grow tired or bored of the sparring, cease fire, and go their separate ways.  Until next time.

I’m glad they’ve decided to fight like this, with each cat relatively protected from the other.  It’s better than when they used to free-style it top-side.  That’s when they would really fuck each other up.  Fur tornado shit.  I’d feel compelled to run out all clapping and flapping trying to break them up.  Cat fights, whether in a whorehouse bar or on a sunny patio deck, are hard to break up, and it’s easy for a well-meaning bystander to get hurt.

So this is better.  And they came up with it on their own.  It’s a morning ritual I’ve learned to tolerate.  Even respect.  They obviously both need it.  Or Louie wouldn’t wait.  And Boris wouldn’t show up.  Right on time.

On his way to an ass-kicking

On his way to an ass-kicking

One morning, I saw the Blonde Beast hurrying over from across the street.  He was a little late for his appointment.  I figured I’d prevent him from showing up at all, thereby making Louie winner by default.  A victory without violence.  So I chased Boris off with a bullwhip and a club with a big rusted nail through it.  Then I went inside and looked out on the patio.  There was Louie.  Waiting.

Waiting for his hit of Ultra-Violence.  From his favorite enemy.

But now waiting in vain.

Because I ruined it.

I robbed the fight.

And denied him the fur-bristling rush.

It fucking broke my heart.

What have I done?  Me and my misguided do-gooderism.  That’s when I decided, if the boys want to fight, let ’em.

Scarred but not scared and ready for more.

Defending the Motherland from inside his pillbox bunker.

I remember when I was in 7th grade, I was trading trash-talk with this other kid, Mark Koroknay.  We were at the Lakeside Village pool and my mom was there.  She told us we should duke it out and that she would referee.  She lead us to a patch of grass where we could fight.  I remember feeling embarrassed that my mom was taking such an active part of our conflict.  I’m sure Mark was wary of the impartiality of her refereeing.  He didn’t need to be.  My mom reffed a clean fight.

After trading some initial blows, we went down to the ground, where he got me in a headlock.  My mom stood by, waiting for me to either tap-out or turn it, but I couldn’t break out.  The best I could do was to reach around and hit Mark in the side of the head– repeatedly rabbit punch him with my middle knuckle.  The harder he choked, the harder I hit.  It was a classic match-up, The Choke versus the Chinga-su.

We fought like that for a long time.  Planes flew overhead and landed at the airport.  A newly married couple opened up a joint checking account.  A retiree put on a second coat of varnish on a cabinet he built.  Finally, after our shadows grew long enough across the length of the lawn, my mom stepped in and stopped the fight.  She called it a draw, and made us shake hands–which we did.  And that was it.  No hard feelings.

Actually, we became friends after that.  Mark and I used to party together.  He was a cool, funny dude.  If you’re reading this, Mark, good fight, bro.  Was real close to crying “Uncle.”  Maybe my mom did rob you.

Now, I’m not sure if you could extrapolate a Geo-political policy based on these two examples of controlled aggression.  But I could.  That’s because when it comes to extrapolating Geo-political policy, I’m notoriously lazy.  I’d probably spend more time coming up with a jingle for a breakfast food than I would deciding the fate of the free world.

“We don’t have to rush into every conflict to play peacemaker.  That’s a good way to get hurt, and make everybody involved hate you.  Fuck that.  Let ’em fight it out.  But try to make sure nobody gets too hurt,” I’d tell my defense ministers.

Before turning back to rooting for my cat.

“Use your right, Lou.  He’s got a cut over his left eye.  He’s blind to your rights.  Right paw! Right paw!  Now left!”

High on post-fight euphoria.

Strung-out on post-fight euphoria.

I Come Bearing Gas, Mylar and String.

Can't argue with a balloon.

Can’t argue with a balloon.

One of the cool side-effects of quitting booze is the increase of strange coincidences.  At least noticing them.  Some really mind-blowing ones.  Stuff that really gets your attention.  Stuff that makes you think.

Alcoholics in recovery call them “God Shots,” probably because it sounds like “Got shots.”  Jung called it Synchronicity.  Others say it’s just coincidence.

I prefer to call it “The Weird.”

Like I mentioned before, The Weird has followed me around my whole life.  My mom was open to some outside-the-box beliefs, and I think that helped my sister and I be more aware of the possibility that things were…maybe a little weirder than we gave them credit.  We learned early on to pay attention to certain stuff.  Because that’s where it all begins.  Once anything knows it might have an audience, it starts hamming it up.  Really tries to keep your attention.  With some real razzle-dazzle semaphore flagging.

That’s been our experience.  With everything.  Talk nice to something.  It talks back.  Nicely.

These days I’m pretty used to it.  It’s become a normal part of my recovery.  Don’t get me wrong, I still marvel at the show.  It just doesn’t upset the balance of my entire reality when I witness it.  But now and then, things will happen that take my wonder to a new level.  Like this balloon thing that happened a while back.

We have a housekeeper that comes once a week.  It’s nice because it forces you to clean the house, at least once, before she comes.  Anyway, very sweet lady.  Always feel guilty watching her work hard.  Make sure to pay her well and that the toilets are already cleaned.  Okay.

So on some special occasion, I forget what, she brought Lori some flowers and a Mylar balloon.  Okay, whatever.  I have nothing against balloons per se.  As long as they’re not attached to a clown.

Unfortunate association.

Unfortunate association.

But balloons by themselves don’t give me any especially festive feelings either.  No more than, say, looking at a soup ladle or half a bar of soap.  They’re just things that are there.  Things I wouldn’t care if weren’t…there.  Dig?

Very much don’t give a fuck about balloons.  Especially Mylar ones.  (they’re a little tacky)

Well, apparently something out there decided this was no longer a tenable attitude for me to maintain.  That instead of mild disdain, whenever I see a Mylar balloon, I should be filled with mystical reverence–to think of Mylar balloons as a most holy gift.  Nothing less than messengers sent directly from the gods.

And there was a plan for how this disturbing new attitude would evolve.

It started with You’re Special.  The very balloon I’m holding in the picture above.  There he is.  Miss you, brother.  That balloon might have said that you were special (and I’m sure you still are) but let me tell you, that balloon was too.

Miss you, too.

Right back at you, bro.

Right away it managed to free itself from the bouquet, but it didn’t rise all the way up to the ceiling.  Clearly it wasn’t driven by blind ambition.  I liked that.  Instead it free-floated mid-high in our living room.  For six weeks.  And not all around the room.  Just in one area over the couch, equidistant between the floor and the ceiling.  No joke.  This thing just hovered in place.  It never strayed out of a two to three foot radius.

Didn’t go up.  Didn’t droop down.  Doors opening.  Cats jumping around.  Didn’t matter.  Never wandered.  Stayed right there.  Hanging out.

For six weeks.

I think it was after the second week that it started to make me feel weird.  Seeing it.  Always over the couch.  Watching TV with us.  Constantly telling us we were special.  But I didn’t say anything to Lori.  Until after a month.

“I don’t know how to say this, but the balloon-being there all the time-makes me feel weird.  Like it’s somebody else.  Watching TV with us.”

“Oh my God, you too?”

That was good to hear.  At least it was weirding her out as much as me.

“It just floats there saying we’re special.  It’s…I don’t know…”

Oh, I knew.  Sometimes I’d look over at it and a strange feeling would come over me.  The surrounding environment would start to melt into one…thing, of which the balloon was only an outcropping.  Like a captioned cartoon balloon blorping out from the whole, in order to deliver a cheery message.  A loving little reminder from this big one thing.  To us.  That’s the best I can describe it.  It was fleeting but the feeling was that everything really was all one, and it was a nice and loving One.  Wanted us to know it, too.

Then everything would go back to normal.  Back to us just watching TV.  All together.  Acting like nothing happened.

If it happened once I’d say it was my imagination.  But it happened a lot.  More than I’d want to imagine.  I get bored imagining the same thing over and over.  Most guys do.  No, this balloon was trying to get into my head.  He was trying to tell me something.

I may be anthropomorphizing, but he still needs to get off the couch and look for a job.

I may be just anthropomorphizing, and I really appreciate the mystic insights, but you still need to get off the couch and look for a job.

Anyway, after two more weeks, the old boy finally started to deflate, slowly sinking, eventually coming to rest on the couch cushion he had been claiming this whole time.  I was disproportionately saddened.  I actually felt a sense of loss.  Over a tacky Mylar balloon.

Lori too.  Why wouldn’t anyone be sad?  It never bothered anyone.  Kept quiet.  Never complained.  Politely paid attention to your shows.  Always told you how special you were.  Fuck yeah, we were going to miss it.  It was a righteous balloon, bro.

I buried it in one of the planters.  The one I bury the dead animals the cats drag in.

The next week, Lori had a procedure done on her back.  The nice lady housekeeper brought some flowers and… three Mylar balloons.  Oh shit, was Lori happy.  New friends!

Just here to break yours.

Just here to break yours.

Alright, I think.  Here we go.  What now?  What are these three going to be up to?  The last tenant was pretty quiet and I’d like to keep it that way.  What’s the deal with these guys?

A yellow smiley face.  A red heart.  And a Get Well Soon.

Seem alright.  We’ll see.  We untied them and all three floated up to the ceiling.

“The last guy never did that.”

I didn’t know if I liked the whole new floating all the way up to the ceiling thing.  A little too ordinary.  Too predictable.  I couldn’t see getting any mystical impressions from it.

Well, I didn’t need to stress, because in less than one hour, all three would be gone.  Gone.  Gone.  Gone.  Out the door, and from what the nice lady housekeeper said, were last seen under our neighbor’s boat dock.  But not there now.  Now just gone.

So that’s their deal.  Not hover over the same spot on the couch for six weeks.  Very much the opposite of that.  A flee-the-scene crew.

Somehow they all floated under the valance, out the sliding door, then under a dock.  But only for a while.  Once nobody was watching they took off.  Where to?  Who knows?  On their way to Argentina.  In six weeks they can get pretty far.

Lori was totally bummed.  I tried to console her.

“Look, think about how happy they’re going to make some South American kid.  Maybe one that has nothing.  It’s going to bring a smile to some poor little salsa slum dog.  That’s a pretty good thing.  Right?”

“What are you talking about?”

I explained how Mylar being able to hold it’s gas in for a long time, along with a well-timed thermal current, could bring joyous blessings to some poor south-o-the-border urchin.  But I couldn’t sell her on it.  We both did agree that it was probably a corny little lesson in “letting go.”

“If you love something…”

“Stop.  I’ll throw up.”

Yeah, we both knew those balloons weren’t coming back.  Whether they were meant to be hers or not.  Hey, no great tragedy.  Still a little stingy.  Didn’t even get a chance to get to know them.  Hell, I could’ve lived with the floating all the way up to the ceiling.  I just needed some time to get used to it.  They didn’t have to bolt.

Fucking Smiley Face.

Escape threat.

Escape risk.

That was on a Friday.  On Sunday I go over to my mom’s to deliver some library books.  She lives across the little man-made lake from us, and then down about ten houses.  I give her the books and we’re standing in the entry talking.  She’s telling me about how a girlfriend came by but was in too much of a hurry to stay.

“She didn’t even want to take the balloons I had for the kids.”

“What balloons?”

“Those three.  One for each of them.”

I turned around.  Smiley Face.  Red Heart.  And Get Well Soon.

“Somebody tied them to my front door.”

WTF???

Everything started to melt into a single blob.  A blob made out of vibrating and shimmering multicolored fire. “We are you.  You are us.  We are one.”  The grandfather clock chimed.  Right on cue.

So much for not getting any mystical impressions from this gang.

They were the same three escapees alright.  I could pick them out of any line-up.  But who would round them up and tie them to my mom’s front door?  The neighbor on her left was the one who pointed them out when he came over to return a bowl.  “Are you sick?” he asked, pointing to Get Well Soon.  That’s when my mom immediately suspected it was her other neighbor, the one she’d recently had a fight with.

“I thought the bitch was trying to say I was sick in the head by giving me get well balloons.”

Of course, given the vast choices of possibilities, it would have to be a hurtful and negative one.  I get that from her.  We both need to get well.

Thanks, but fuck you.

Thanks, but fuck you.

“I don’t know about that, but I know these fugitives belong to Lori.”

I explained to her what happened.  Even she was impressed.  Tried to imagine what kind of odyssey brought them to her door.  She said they were all dirty and that she had to wipe them down.

“I didn’t understand why Sabrina wouldn’t take them for her kids.”

I did.  Because these three were coming back with me.

I came home, but Lori was out.  I picked a rose from the garden and wrote a little note saying “We’re back!” then tied them to the balloons and waited for her to come home.

While waiting, I thought about this bizarre series of events.  I mean seriously.  What the hell?   The whole thing.  Even if in every step along the way, there was a perfectly normal explanation for how those balloons wound up at my mom’s house, there’s the fact that they wound up at my mom’s house.  At all.

But especially after I was paying extra attention to what these balloons were going to be about.  Because of You’re Special I was open to any more possible weirdness floating our way.  They didn’t disappoint.  Very much the opposite.

I heard the garage door open.  Watched Lori walk in.  Watched her face.  You could see it register.  Smiley Face.  Red Heart.  Get Well Soon. They were back.  Oh the joy!  Oh the crazy mind-fucking mysterious, pants-pissing hilarious, heart-filling joy!

Not so much about the balloons being back.  But what it meant that they were.

What that said about stuff.

All this stuff.

This wonderful stuff.

This holy stuff.

This “They were at my mom’s house!” stuff.

This “No fucking way!” stuff.

This “Yes fucking way!” stuff.

Punked-Out Punk: Part Two

Needing a fix.

“It’s a beautiful day.”

I pointed the Mercedes punkeast and smogward.  La Ciudad de Los Angeles.  The City of Angels.  Ha.  That’s rich.  The bitchy irony starts at the name, and doesn’t stop until the wino piss puddles around your Hollywood sidewalk star.  Always hated the place.  After 20 years of trying to make it work, you just know, Los Angeles, it’s not me.  It’s you.

Where else will you see a fifty-one year old man driving a Mercedes to a Reagan Youth show?  Like I said, always with the bitchy irony.  Just a nasty city.

Turned off the satellite radio.  Too many choices.  I’d rather listen to nothing.  Nothing but the sound of my mind grinding gears as it pushes boulders up steep inclines.  Only to have them roll back down.  Crushing and destroying everything in their path.  Including the equipment operator.

Deep in thought I was.  Too deep for tunes.  Dint want the distraction.  Twas a busy day at Monkey Mind Construction.

So what’s the deal here?  What’s the angle?  How do I approach this little outing?  What do I have to do?  More importantly, what should I not do?  How can I avoid having any regrets?  Am I too old for this?  Am I still “punk as fuck?”  Is eight car lengths safe enough?  Is it too late to invest in the Gerber Baby Grow-up Plan?  What if I have to fight a guy with an ax?  What do I have in the car that would give me a chance?  How about one of the dumbbells in the trunk?  Really?  Against an ax?  Why not one of the ten pounders wielded like a war-hammer?

Maybe.

Why am I planning on having to fight a guy with an ax?  When that almost never happens.

Just a lot of questions.  Few answers.  I didn’t need the Margaritaville or New Age Spa station to interfere with hearing any either.  Silence was golden.  Especially before tonight.  I had a sneaking hinky that I was in for an aural assault.  Reagan Youth, 13 Scars, Dust Angel, and a couple of other bands.  I estimated about at least five hours of music beaten into my skull before it was all over.

Yeah, we’ll keep the radio off.  Save the ear bones a little wear-and-tear.  Good chance to pay attention to my driving.  Hands at ten and two.  Ankle holding the pedal at a steady 70.  Check rear-view.  Side one.  Wup.  Brake light flashing 2.500 feet ahead.  Ease up on the gas.  Hover over brake.  Not required.  Continue to depress accelerator.

Only thirty-two more miles.  I just might make it.  Is that a cop?

Even with a valid license, current registration, proof of insurance, and not being drunk, I still drive like I could get pulled over and hauled off to jail.  Can’t help it.  Some groove I cut deep into the limbic part of my brain.  I remember getting a flat tire the first year I was sober.  I was by the side of the road changing it, when a CHP pulled up behind me.  Oh fuck.  Both my feet jerked hard left, ready to start running across the ice plant.

Hold on.  You haven’t done anything wrong.  Nothing is wrong with you.  And you don’t have anything wrong inside the car.  You are merely a motorist in distress.  And not over the fact that Xanax slows down your backwards ABCs.

Well, he had pulled over to see if he could help.  Even let me use his jack so I didn’t have to deal with the Japanese can-opener that came with my car.  We had some laughs over that.  He turned out to be a cool copper.  It felt strange waving good-bye to him as I drove off.

Good citizenshiphood is a trip alright.  And not too bad a deal.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against outlaw stuff.  I remember this one time I broke a law.  And it was deeply satisfying.  It’s just the constant tap-dancing required to maintain the life-style that gets tiring.  So does getting busted.  Being broke.  Hungry.  Hunted.  Haunted.

Trying to find the gun you hid while in a black-out.

“The last thing I remember is thinking ‘nobody will ever find it here,’ then the film breaks.  Please St. Anthony, help me find my gun.”

Having to thank Him after you find it in the microwave.  Feeling weird that you had to pray.  For that.

Yeah, all that shit pretty much blows.  I’ll put on my Mr. Rogers sweater instead.  The loafers too.  Did he change into loafers or sneakers?  I can’t remember.  As soon as I find a safe place to pull over I’ll Google it on my phone.  I watched enough of that show as a kid, you’d think I’d remember.

At night before going to sleep, I’d fantasize about lying down flat across Trolley, so I could ride it through the tunnel into the Neighborhood of Make Believe.  (There’s a Fellini image)  Once inside, I’d run amok and destroy the place.  Twist off King Friday’s head and proclaim myself the new Emperor.  Kid Caligula.  I’d imagine bashing in or burning down every cute little building.  One by one.  The castle.  The grandmother clock in the tree.  The rocking chair factory.  The platypus mound.  The Eiffel Tower.  That rotating columned cake thing that Lady Elaine lived at.  I think it was some museum or shit.  Doesn’t matter.  I would reduce it all to smoldering ruins.  Turn the Neighborhood of Make Believe into…Stalingrad.

Is that a normal fantasy for a seven-year-old boy?  Probably not normal for a normal one.  But normal for me.

Here's what I think of your 'hood.

Here’s what I think of your ‘hood.

Anyway, I turned out okay.  So I don’t think there was any lasting harm in it.  Okay, start signaling for your lane change.  Plenty of warning for everybody.  Thank you Mr. Pancho Villa Mustache Dude for letting me in.  Wave the thank you hand to him.  Did he see it?

“That’s right, bro.  You’re cool!”  Give him thumbs up.  Nod.  Mucho gratitudo, dude.

Okay then.

Did I mention I didn’t want to be driving to Hollywood to see a punk rock show?  No?  Well, truth be told, I’d rather be toasting my moccasins in front of a roaring fire tonight.  Watching some show about living in Alaska or prison.  My girlfriend snoring just enough to let me know she’s not dead.  My cats curled around me.  Both of them radiating their serenity, as my sister described “like two incense cones of coziness.”

Yeah, Mr. Destroy-Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood would rather be home with his woman and kitty cats.

Instead of a punk rock show.

Wow, that sounds really lame.  I need to make sure nobody finds out.  Vault that shit right now.  Right there with The Phone Sex Incident.  Bury it deep.

Fact is, I’m doing this as an act of contrary action.  Choosing to go out into the world and connect with friends.  Instead of continuing to isolate in my comfort zone.  I feel an obligation.  That it’s important to do.  Especially when I don’t feel like it.  It’s my small offering upon the altar of Faith Above Reason.  Connecting without fear of consequence.  It’s pretty insane.  Punk as fuck.  Actually.

Here we go.  This is beginning to feel more tawdry.  Must be getting close.  I need Sunset.  Three miles.  Signal.  Look over the left shoulder.  Right shoulder.  Rear-view.  Side-view.  Right shoulder again.  Begin merging.  Done.

It was sneakers not loafers. Well they were more like deck shoes.  That’s what he changed into after he put on his sweater.  But did he put his sweater on first?  Pretty sure.  Yeah.  He goes straight to the closet, takes off his sport coat, puts on the sweater, then sits down and changes his shoes.  That was the proper protocol.  For a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Glad I straightened that out.  No Google either.

At least I was getting some answers.  Not to anything important.  Yet.  But I should keep listening.

I exited on Sunset and turned right.  My motel wasn’t too far.  Good.  I’ll have time to take a nap.

Before the big show.

(to be continued.)

Mindful motoring.

Mindful motoring.

Punked-Out Punk: Part One

Reagan Youth

Reagan Youth

Went to Hollywood last Sunday to see Reagan Youth and 13 Scars play at Los Globos.  Attached my portable oxygen tank to my walker.  Laced up the Martens and left the Miracle Ear at home.  Always dug Reagan Youth.  They were from Queens.  Aaayyyy! Fuckin’ Ay.  Woodhaven, yo!

However, the main reason was to meet up with Dave Gurz and Michael Essington.  They were going to be there signing copies of  Under A Broken Street Lamp.  Both cool dudes.  Real people.  Interesting thinkers.  I’ve enjoyed their writing.  This would be my first chance to get to hang out with either of them.  The next day, friends from Santa Fe were going to be in Hollywood.  Perfect.  I figured I’d rent a roach box to comfort in for the night, and then see Brisa and Dennis the next morning.

Okay. This was going to be fun.  I had a lot to look forward to.

You wouldn’t know it by the way I left the house.  You’d have thought I was going out to die for the last time.  I don’t know if it’s old age or being sober.  Probably the synergistic effect of both.  I have a hard time getting my lazy ass out the door these days.  There’s just so many irritating things that can go wrong “out there.”  And nothing that really seems worth it.

Not like here at home.

Sure, if I stayed at home I would probably wind up having to chase out dog-sized racoons from the kitchen, break up a cat-fight between Louie and Boris, poke-out a hissing possum with a mop handle, or swat at bats with a broom.

Actually, I make Lori do that last one.  I have to hold a blanket up by the stairway so the bats don’t fly up to the second floor.  She’s not tall enough to get a good seal.  So that leaves her with broom duty.  I’ll hear her swatting and swearing.  Knocking shit over.  But she always gets them out.  She’s pretty good at it.  That’s because she’s from hillbilly stock.  I’m better behind the blanket.  I’m from Queens. Aaay.

My point is that it can be sheer chaos here at the house, but it’s my own…cozy chaos.

Some might say I like to isolate.  I call it tactically withdrawing from an oppressive consensus reality.  Whatever Post-it note you want to attach.  I prefer desolate places.  Where I can sit hunched on a jagged rock.  Alone in the world.  My webbed wings beaten flat by the Broom of Life.  Now and then sighing deeply.  Beholding the sheer majesty of the Wasteland of Woe.  Bitter winds salting the desert with the dried tears of its victims.

Only friendship could coax to come out from the sorrowful sands of Bou-Saada.  And go to a punk rock show.

It wasn’t going to be cake walk.  Not for me.  Somewhere between February 1st  2004 and last night, I misplaced large portions of my edge.  I needed to prime myself.  But with what?  What was left for me? What could I safely use to torque myself into the proper state?

I bought a bag of Brazil nuts.  I read they naturally raise testosterone.  I think because of the Selenium.  I don’t care.  I just didn’t want to go to a punk show while suffering from low T-levels.  I wanted to get my Agro on.  And everyone knows that Agro is just thwarted horniness–from too much testosterone.  A rage few men over the age of fifty get to enjoy.

These Brazil nuts better work.

So I can want to rip somebody’s head off.

Because I really want to kiss a girl, instead.

Okay then.  That takes care of the head.  Now what about the gut?

I stocked up on salami and beans. Old-school fuel.  Liquor store war rations.  Protein.  Fat.  Salt.  A slow-burning carb.  Plus nitrates to add a toxic edge.  An army can march on a bellyful of that.  No wasting time preparing it.  Or waiting for somebody to bring it to you.  The preferred grab-n-go of go-getters around the globe, Plug.

Motel room service

Motel room service

Before I left, Lori insisted I take her Mercedes.  She was afraid my 2001 Suzuki Esteem wouldn’t make the 47 mile journey.  Well, it’s one of the many things that keeps us together as a couple– being afraid of the same things, so I agreed.  But reluctantly.  I hate to drive her car.

Of course it’s a thousand times better than my rattle trap.  That’s the problem.  I’m scared I’ll somehow wreck it.  I have to be extra careful driving, and Lori already laughs at me.  She says I drive as slow as an eighty-year-old woman stoned on medical brownies.

That’s not true.  I’m just cautious.  I’ve been in so many car wrecks, starting at age five, that the idea of getting into one no longer seems far-fetched.  Not like to the ass-holes weaving through lanes with inches to spare.  They are immortal gods playing a video game.  They don’t care about the sacks of meat hurtling through space in sharp metal boxes around them.

Well this time I wasn’t as concerned about wrapping it around a pole as I was about pulling up at a punk show in a Mercedes.

Besides the ironic social comment it would make, I didn’t want to park it near any roving gangs of anarchists.  I could just see one of them keying “Capitalist Pig” into the side of it.  I don’t know why I could picture it so clearly.  But it made me nervous-er.

One more thing that could go wrong in a scarey world gone mad–having to deal with people like me.  Oh God.

At that point I knew I needed to get a grip.  Stop the frettin’ and knuckle rubbin’ and man up.  Who is this worried little twat?  How did he get into me?

Truth is- that quivering worm was always in me.  Wiggling just under my sternum.  I used to beat it into submission with beer.  But eventually, it learned to beat back.  Now I have to lay the smack down differently.  Have to find a new way to connect with my inner Beasthood.  Then strangle The Worm.

I thought about how I could do that.  Perhaps drink once more from the fountain of Reagan Youth.  Regain the unrealistic ideals of my deformative years.  Recapture the rage.  Electro-paddle the passion back into arrhythmia.

I hit the signal.  Cautiously merged into the Sunday afternoon traffic on the 101.  Slowly dragged my Brazil nuts south for the night.

(To be continued)

Rage on.

Degenerated!

Creeped In Connecticut

Wants you to take her rollerskating.

Wants you to take her rollerskating.

Well, I hope everybody enjoyed the annual thinning of the veils.  Frankly, I’m Halloweened-out.  At least from the mainstream version of it.  Pumpkins.  Candy corn.  Miley Cyrus.  Even the hooky-spooky stuff gets old.  I guess it’s because we’re like the Addams family over here.  Ghosts, growlers, gremlins, and Greys don’t phase us.  Every day is Halloween.

The other night Lori and I were watching a paranormal show.   Some homeowners were dealing with a demon in their basement.  In Connecticut.  Of course.

Connecticut has got some bad mojo.  I’m no Nervous Nellie when it comes to the paranormal.  I’ve witnessed my fair share of the unexplained.  No joke.  I don’t know if it’s because I was always open to it, or this unique birthmark, but I’ve been followed around by some freaky shit my whole life.  And I’ve actually enjoyed it.  Seeing a candle light itself has a way of bringing a little mystery back into life.

But something about the Connecticut brand.  Really creeps.

We watched the priest performing the exorcism.  He gets his toupee tugged on.  Stuff starts to fly around.  He feels hot scratches along his back, then gets doubled-over with what appears to be gas pains.  Clutching at his guts, he keeps trying to send the demon back into the bowels of hell.

“Classic back-fire,” I explained, “Didn’t close up his circle and now the little bugger ricocheted into his bowels.”

“Listen to the arm-chair exorcist.”

“Hey, I might not be able to put up shelves, but I think I could perform a pretty damn good exorcism.  The key to successful mediation is to establish rapport.”

“No problem for you.”

“Exactly.  I think my way would work better than this old-school antagonistic approach.  Why piss the thing off?  Just thank it for whatever lesson it came to deliver then politely send it back to Hell to await reassignment.  Look at this poor priest.  He looks like he’s about to crap his pants.”

He kept at it though.  Making the sign of the cross with holy water with one hand while grabbing his cramping pelvis with the other.

“That’s a weird place, Connecticut.”

“Uh-huh.” She rearranged her pillow.  “You told me.”

“Did I tell you about the rollerskating rink?”

“Yes.”

I wished I hadn’t.  It’s a good story.  That’s the trouble with being in a long relationship.  You use up all your good stories.

Finally, in a tornado of dishes and drapes, Latin and lighting, the demon was gone.  Everyone’s relieved.  The terrorized family, the ghost hunters sent in to investigate, and the priest they called in–when they realized this was more that the ghost of Aunt Fanny on their hands– everybody hugging each other, rejoicing and so forth.

But I could have sworn I saw two glowing eyes looking in from the corner of the kitchen window.  Nice.

“I love a happy ending,”

I looked over at Lori.  She was out cold.  Exorcisms make her sleepy.

Hey.  I didn’t tell you guys about how creepy Connecticut is.  Especially the roller rinks.  Hold on let me turn the lights down…

Okay.  My family was close friends with another Lithuanian family back in New York.  They had four kids.  One boy was my age and the girl was my sister’s.  We basically grew up together, so we were sad when they moved to Connecticut, where they eventually built a house in the woods of Danbury, by Candlewood Lake.  You know Danbury, where the first US trial in which demonic possession was used as a defense for murder was held.

Cozy old Danbury.

Anyway, we used to love to go visit them.  They were my funnest friends and I have many happy memories.  But I remember other stuff, too.  Like the woods around their house.  Something really bad dwelled there.  I could feel it.  Something evil.

Keep in mind, I grew up traipsing in the woods and parks of New York and loved nature.  There was nothing creepy about quiet trees.  But walking around those Connecticut trees, I’d see things from the corner of my eye.  Get the feeling that somebody or some thing was watching.  My arm hair was always brush stiff while playing and exploring in those woods.

It didn’t help that they lived next door to a guy that had blown his brains out with a shot gun.  I also remember that we’d run across these abandoned homes.  Old-timey clapboard shacks with the windows busted out, but all the furniture still inside.  Pans still on the stove.  Clothes in the closet.  Even old boxes of cereal in the cupboards.  Where did the people go?

My buddy and I would try to vandalize these old shacks, more than they already were, but one of us would always wind up getting hurt.  On a nail or broken glass.  Something would always abruptly end our fun.  One time while bashing out an un-bashed window, he got stung by a bee as big as a fist.  Right on his thumb.  It swelled up really big.  Our parents debated taking him to the hospital.

One day, while we were standing outside the shot-gun suicide house, talking about what a mess it must have been, a bottle broke between us.  We were only a few feet apart, but neither of us could tell where it came from.  We looked around for any neighborhood kids, but never saw anyone.  We had a wide view through the woods, and never heard any leaves crunching either towards or away.  Besides, it didn’t skip like it had been thrown.  It just exploded.  On the leaves.

Another night, we were sent out to get firewood,  On our way back, I looked up and saw a hooded white face standing about fifty feet away.  Mother of God.  I dropped the wood and blurred through time and space getting to the front door.  My friend hadn’t even seen it and he was climbing on my back trying to get through the door.  So convincing was my panic.

I’ve scared myself with my imagination before.  This was different.  Too much time getting a good look at it.  My eyes actually focused and there it was–a hooded, white mask-like face.

Even remembering it today, gives me the jeebies.

Actual photo

Actual photo

Anyway, all that stuff, as bizarre as it was, didn’t hold a candlewood to the Danbury rollerskating rink.  That remains one of my creepiest memories.  Ever.  Not just mine.  It’s in my sister’s Hall of Fame too.  And there was nothing paranormal about it.  Normal can freak plenty good.

One Saturday afternoon, the parents decided to drop us kids off at the local roller-skating rink.  My sister and I had never been to a roller rink.  We always went ice-skating instead.  Okay, but this should still be fun.  Hooray!  We’re going rollerskating!

Yeah.  But in Connecticut.

As soon as we drove up to the joint I knew it was going to be memorable.

The place was decrepit and dusty.   Looked like it hadn’t been renovated since the forties or fifties.  The people too.  Everybody in the place was dressed like extras from an episode of Green Acres.  Old-fashioned rural clothes.  Coveralls.  Red-checked flannel.  Hats with flaps.  Girls with dresses made out of patterns.  Everybody slowly skating around with blank New England expressions.  Real time-warp vibe.

I remember there was even a gumball machine that dispensed stick pretzels.  How fucked-up is that?

Well, we get our skates and roll into the rink.  I’m looking around.  It’s really dark.  The light has a root-beer amber quality.  There’s just enough of it to avoid bumping into some Ed Gein skating the other way.   Instead of canned pop music, there was a live organ playing some kind of Hokey Pokey funeral dirge.

I skate over to the other end of the rink.  I see a sad pile of old toys arranged around a window.  They’re all the scariest kind.  Monkeys with cymbals.  Homemade dolls.  Ventriloquist dummies.  Crude wooden trains.  Mangy stuffed animals.

Clowns.

All set among sagging tinsel and dim Christmas lights.  And not moved or dusted in thirty years.

Then I looked up at the window.

And saw where the organ music was coming from.

Behind thick, nicotine-stained glass, a hunched man sat playing the organ.  I’ll never forget what the fucker looked like.  Instead of trying to describe him I’ll draw him-

Police sketch

Police sketch

Yeah.  I’ll take a hooded white face.  Any day.  My parents had spent a lot of time trying to convince me that Lurch was not real.  Now it looked like that was just more of their lying bullshit.

Something about him being behind thick glass.  It made it look like he was being kept in a room built especially to safely house him.  So he wouldn’t break out and start eating hillbillies.  Was he some sort of serial-killing musical savant?

The whole scene was disturbing enough, but seeing that ghoul behind glass was the crown jewel.

I skated over to my sister.

“I think you need to roll over to the organ grinder and get a good look.”

She did.  It’s something that stays with her to this day.

And I’m sure she’s grateful to me for it, too.

Anyway, it shows that something doesn’t have to be paranormal to scare.  There are plenty of terrifying things right here in the “real” world.

Like getting drunk and ruining your life.  Nice and normal-like.  And to be honest that scares me more.  More than some Enochian demon growling from under my bed.  Although, that still gives me a good jolt.  You know, when it wakes you out of a dead sleep.

It’s good though.  Reminds me to pray.  When in doubt, shout it out.

Over the years, I’ve experienced so much strangeness, both supernatural and organic, that when it came time to ask an invisible higher power to relieve me of my alcoholism, it didn’t seem so far-fetched.  I already believed there was all kinds of stuff out there.  Some of it good.  Some of it not so.  So unlike some alcoholics coming into recovery, I didn’t balk at praying to stay sober.

Cracks me up.  One guy told me that praying made him feel uncomfortable.  Said he felt stupid doing it.  The guy who pissed his pants at his sister’s wedding.  Drank eleven beers before his probation hearing.  You’d think he’d be comfortable with feeling stupid by now.  He’s not yet.  And still drinking.

No big deal.  That’s where demons come in.  Their main job is to scare everyone back to The Creator.  One way or another.  Everybody finds themselves praying.  They’ll make sure of it.  Turn up the heat until you do.  And the way things are popping off these days, it looks like they’ve brought their A game.

So I don’t think there’s any need to push prayer on anyone.  Suggest it sure, but to get a really sincere one out of somebody, there are experts out there.

And they are consummate professionals.

Boo.

Post-script:  While Googling “Demons in Connecticut” I came across this little tid-bit from the Fortean Times, “Across the state-line, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, an employee at a local radio station told me of druid-like gatherings, at night, in the woods surrounding Candlewood Lake, near Danbury.”

.

Product of my imagination

Product of my imagination

Blogula Turns Two.

Birthdays blow.

Birthdays blow.

The blogodometer finally kicked over 25,000.  A minor triumph.  Time to put a shot-gun blast through the screen door.  Microwave a can of beans until it explodes.  Throw a bottle of high proof alcohol at the wood burning stove.  Bust up some wooden chairs to feed the bonfire.  Drop in the Mentors tape, and swan dive naked into an empty pool.

And get this party started.

As C.E.O. and acting Operations Manager of T.T.T.F., it warms my cockleshells to have this opportunity to self-congratulate myself.  Since nothing pleases me more than pleasing myself.  Except of course, pleasing others.  Which I would do more of, if it wasn’t so hard.  And I could remember to.

This month at T.T.T.F., we are not only celebrating another arbitrary milestone in spam-driven statistics, but a two-year anniversary, as well. -Pause to let polite applause die down- That’s right, Trudge turned two this September.  And I am proud to announce that the future of Trudging Through The Fire is going to continue hinging on the fickle decision-making process of an alcoholic in recovery.  Which means it’s future is not only uncertain, but as C.E.O. I can assure any stockholders that all their fears are warranted.

I have to go to the board meetings.  So I know.  The people at the top are fucking clueless.  Oracle reading ape-shit thrown against a wall would yield richer intellectual heft than some ideas being tossed around.  The best one being to kill the whole thing.  Just take Ol’ Yeller out to the barn and tap one into the T-Zone.

My God, look at the format.  It hasn’t changed or had an upgrade the whole time.  Why?  Because the people in our Creative Marketing department are playing Grand Theft Auto 5.  Instead of coming up with exciting new ideas, they’re running over hookers in an attempt to flee the police.

It’s criminal what goes on behind the scenes here.  You’ll find more work ethic in an opium den.  And corporate couldn’t care less.  Why should they?  They’ve got their parachutes and are ready to bail at the slightest turbulence.  I’ve never seen such craven, self-seeking leadership.  These dogs are swimming the Volga and Kiev hasn’t even fallen.  And that kind of cut-and-run cowardice runs from the top hat to the toes of this organization.

Only the fact that it is not a success-driven enterprise keeps it afloat.  The whole thing  survives…because it doesn’t need to.

How creepy is that?  It’s Un-American.  Pathogenic.

But you didn’t hear any of this from me.  As C.E.O. I’m supposed to wave the flag and rally the troops.  But then again, I’m supposed to do a lot of things.  Besides elbowing old ladies on my way to the life boat.

Anyway, let us not forget why we’re all gathered here– to celebrate something by now I am so totally over– our Turquoise Silver Jubilee. Twenty-five thousand hits in two years!

Clap…………………………….clap.

And yes, that’s less than the video of the girl having an attack of diarrhea at the hot tub party got in it’s first hour on Youtube.  But we’re not trying to compete with that.  Nothing could.  The fact remains, we now have over a quarter of a hundred thousand hits!

Clap.

Clap.

I’m sorry, but I can’t get excited either.  It all leaves me pretty empty.  And feeling like this project was a complete waste.  A waste of time.  And a bitter disappointment.  Let’s face it, this blog is not going anywhere.  And sometimes I hate doing it.  So to continue would be insane.

Good thing all that doesn’t phase me anymore.  I can eat that bullshit like bucket chicken.  So I’m good.  Good and ready to lead us on to our third year together.  If you will only continue to trust me, I promise to lead us to places more fantastic than any Byronic nightmare.  We will scale heights that leave Olympic gods dizzy, short of breath, and wondering which arm going numb is bad.  We will plumb depths darker than any ex-child actor, and then emerge, not only unrepentant, but cocky and streetwise.

Stories of our journey will be used to frighten children into obedience.

I can think of no greater honor.

And we’ve made some good friends along the way, haven’t we?  Met me some crazy mofos through this blog, friendships I will treasure to my dying days.  And that wasn’t in our Mission Statement.  If there had been one.  No, sometimes you just have to do things, like write a blog, or paint, or practice lap dancing on the couch in the garage, for no good reason at all.  Other than it’s something to do.  And as long as you chasten yourself against the lust of result, the disappointments will be few.  The happy surprises many.

I’m just glad to be writing again, for whatever lack of a reason.  Don’t think I would have had the chance if I kept going like I was.  So that’s reason enough to mark the milestone.  If you’re still hung up on reasons.

So now, I would like to raise a glass and make a toast.  To Reason.  May it be damned for a dog.  Okay, now those of you who can do so with apparent impunity, please drink yourselves into a joyous stupor, and do something insane.

Those of us who can’t drink anymore will be watching.  Maybe getting a little crazy on ourselves over by the coffee.

Just to show you we still got it.

Thanks for reading.  Trudge on.

Marius

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.