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

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Fear of Erica Jong

It's nothing a drink will help.

It’s nothing a drink will help.

As the plane approached Albuquerque, it started to buck and roll with turbulence.  It was the kind where the pilot tells the flight attendants to take their seats.  Fucking great.  Wings tipping.  Seats shaking.  Deep drops and soul rolls.   Here and there, some involuntary yelps from passengers.

Once from here, for sure.  It sounded like someone stepped on a puppy.  Couldn’t contain it.  Just slipped out.

It’s not my favorite thing, doing turbulence, not drunk.

There are only a few things that I can say are better done drunk than sober.  The first is, of course, dancing.  Especially if you’re white.  The second is getting arrested.  Tried it both ways, and it was better drunk.  The last thing is bouncing around violently in a tube of aluminum, thousands of feet from the earth.

If I could have my choice, I’d always prefer to do that drunk.  While I know it’s better for me to not be drunk during times like these, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t easier shit-hammered out of my gourd.

I used to walk down the aisle to get to more booze, the plane’s shaking counteracting my stumbling so that I’m stepping straight, and make announcements to my fellow passengers.

“This is a great day to die!”  “We’re all going to die anyway. Let’s fucking get it over with.”  “Death can’t be worse than tomorrow morning!”

Stuff like that.  In my head I was keeping up everyone’s morale.  I wanted my lack of fear to inspire them.  To give them the courage to plunge to their deaths stoically.  Bravely.  Resolutely.  Even joyfully.

You know, shit-faced drunkenly.

If there’s ever a situation that I really can see myself blowing my sobriety, it’s on an airplane that’s going down.  If the cocktail cart starts rolling down the aisle as we plummet, I’d like to say I wouldn’t stick my foot out to stop it.  That I would choose to die sober.  Locked in solemn prayer.  Instead of trying to shot-gun down as many miniatures as possible… before our fiery wreckage scatters across a sewage treatment facility.  Or a field of beets.

But I really can’t.  I can’t be sure I wouldn’t drink.  As an alcoholic, you never can be… too sure.  It’s the nature of the disease.

For now, I was content to sit quietly in my seat.  Asshole, fists and teeth clenched.  Locked in solemn prayer.  First to The Creator.  Then on down the spiritual hierarchy.  I’m going through arch angels, regular angels, Kerubim, avatars, saints, sages, ascended masters, Buddhist holy men, Kabbalistic wise men.

I’m beseeching mercy like a mother.

My girlfriend is gripping my hand numb.  She’s a Christian, so she’s talking to Jesus.  Not a bad call to make.  I’ve dialed that hotline myself.  Quite a few times.  More than this heretic would care to admit.  What can I say?  He comes through, but sometimes I think because his phone is constantly blowing up with requests he gets overworked.  So I prefer to add a whole bunch of other spiritual beings to my emergency Rolodex.  Find somebody with more of a gap in their workload.  Somebody standing around waiting to get a call.  And maybe one who specializes in turbulence.

Like the Enochian Angel of the Element of Air.  He who raises and calms the storms.  He who protects air of Air.  Ardza, may Your holy name reflect the ineffable glory of God through eternity.  Help reveal to us His mercy.  Help calm the storm around us.  Help calm the storm in this humble creature’s mind.  Amen.

I look over to Lori.  She’s got her eye’s closed tight.

“We’re going to be okay,” I tell her.  I pat her white, bloodless hand and smile.

She opens her eyes and tries to stretch her grimace into a happy face.  Fails.  Goes back to talking with The Son of God.  Eyes closed.

I don’t blame her.  I don’t get all hurt if she wants to talk to some other guy.  I’m confidant in our relationship.  Besides, this is Jesus.  So I’m totally cool with her dividing her attention, especially at a time like now.

Another dip.  My guts bang against my throat.  They push out a whistling whimper through my teeth.  Not a yelp.  A whimper.  Big difference.  Then another drop.  A long, deep one.   I pictured the altimeter spinning.

I add Jesus to my list.

“Hey.  It’s me, Marius.  I know we don’t talk too much these days, but I’m always thinking about You.  Remember when I was thirteen and I scared myself into thinking I had a brain tumor and I held my illustrated children’s bible and turned my life over to you?  Well, I never officially took it back.  Even though some of my life choices might have made it seem that way.  Well, out of anybody, you’re the go-to guy for forgiveness, so we should be cool.  Right?  Always dug your message.  Just didn’t, you know, dig all the dogma that barnacled around it.  Anyway, if I do die, could you make sure I go to heaven?  And preferably not a weird part of it, like the Mormon’s version…

…Amen.”

I felt better right away.  Covered all my bases.  I gave my girlfriend another smile.  This time a real one.

What is death but the unknown?  I seem to be hurtling towards that all the time.  The Unknown.  And Death.  The death of something, at least.  In my life and all around me.  Something dies deader than dead.  And then, sure as shit, something else is born.  Usually something new and improved.  In my life, and all around me.

I thought my life was over when I had to quit drinking.  In a way, it was.  That life died.  But I don’t mourn it.

Because I got an upgrade.

It happens in other areas.  Everyday, I see parts of me die off.  Not like parts parts.  Oh God forbid.  I don’t know who would be appropriate to pray to for a certain special part not to die off.  Priapus?   No, I mean parts of my personality.  Parts I don’t mind shit-canning.  The parts that were spawned in fear.  Ugly parts.  Parts that have worn out their welcome.

I try to replace those parts with the ones born out of love.  Nicer parts.  Shinier ones.

That’s the plan at least.  I don’t know how well I’m doing sometimes.  But dude is trying.  I’m willing to go through the complete overhaul.  Whatever it takes.  I want to be a new and improved version.  I have this nagging need to feel that Whoever/Whatever created me, is proud of Their creation.  Cornball shit, I know.  But there it is.  For real.

The engine screamed in reverse as the wheels touched down.  The cabin clattered like crazy then stopped.  We made it.  As we taxied to our terminal I took a deep breath.  Everything was going to be okay.  It always is.  No matter how scared I get.  If I can remember that, I can keep the yelping to a minimum.  Like with this flight.  Only one.  One audible one.  That’s pretty good.  I’m definitely improving.

Yeah.  This was going to be a good trip.  I kissed Lori’s cold hand.  Then waited for the seat belt light to go off.

You Can Never Go Home, If You’re Lost, Que No?

Okay, now what?

Okay, now what?

They say you can’t, but I’m going home.  Back to Santa Fe, the place of my rebirth, death, rebirth, death, and rebirth.  Those are special places.  Places where a lot of shit went down.  Places with fertile fields to sow madness and mirth.  And rocky soil to pull plow through.  Places to choke yourself out in the yoke of toil.  To sweat out Dark Eyes vodka while a jack hammer batters your Juarez dental work loose.

Magic places.  Places to make all your dreams come true.

Santa Fe was one of those places.  Except for the making all my dreams come true part.  Some dreams are just too insane.  Even for New Mexico.

And New Mexico is one weird-ass state.  Totally, Marius Seal of Approval, weird.  I think by now, you’ll understand the magnitude of what my certification means.   This is not some corn-fed, roll-her-eyes-at-Adult Swim, mid-western housewife’s idea of weird.  No.

It’s my version.

So yeah.

New Mexico is weird.  In the best way.  I think it’s the people.  I swear to God, there isn’t a person in that state that isn’t some sort of character.  Funny, crazy, dangerous, dumb, brilliant, beautiful, bizarre, annoying, and delightful.  Name it.  We got ’em all in old New Mex.  The psychos I worked construction with.  The artists I’ve gotten criminally drunk with.  The madmen I fought in bars and parking lots.  The silver spray paint huffing vagrants I learned to ballroom dance in the arroyo with.  The decent cops that showed me leniency.  The friends.  The freaks.  The ladies that taught me to love…

Then there’s the place itself.

The landscape that taught me about God.  And showed me His more artsy side.  The sky actually talks to you out there.  Not always what you want to hear.  But the signal comes in pretty clear.  It’s the wideness.  TV signal doesn’t scramble it’s messages as bad.  Trees, rocks, water, dirt, plants.  All alive.  Also having something to say about it all.  Happy sun.  Stormy clouds.  Celestial snow.  Stars that stare back at you with wonder.

My big regret is that I spent so much of that time drunk.  Sometimes way too.  Certainly to appreciate some of it’s more subtle charms.

Like with a few women too, I guess.  I wish I was more present.   But you can’t be present when you’re deeply involved in shooting holes through furniture.  And trading karate chops with a buddy whose round house kick sends you crashing into a fish aquarium.  So yeah, I chose my career over having any stable romantic relationships.  Didn’t have the capital to invest enough of the emotional currency required to fund one.

What can I say?  I was a driven and ambitious young man.

I wanted to run amok.  As amok as amokably possible.  I needed a place to wait out my exile from the human race.  A desert inhabited by aliens seemed like good place.  To set up my own Area 51.  Run my own test flights.  A little elbow room to get my crazy dance on.

Under the moon.  While the hounds howled.  And a fire illuminated the madness in my eyes.  Grind the edge, until I drop off the rail, and plunge into The Abyss.  Then see what’s left after everything is destroyed.

Alright.  Did that.  Check mark that box.  What’s next?  Probably rehab.  And a slow descent to Earth’s orbit.

Very slow.  No rush there.

But I had to leave.  Hated to.  But had to.

I thought I could wash my sins away in the Pacific Ocean.  But the waters were already saturated.  And working at a strip club wasn’t exactly dry-cleaning my soul.  Should’ve gotten rid of all the guns, too.  I guess I had one more death left in me.

So I tried a different way of living.  One so jack bland, only the most desperate would even attempt to embrace it.  But it was all I had left.  And it turned out to be a lot better than I thought.  As my friend Mad Dog would say, “Ain’t that a kick for sore balls!”

And that’s what sometimes hurts about going home.  The ball-kicking realization of how much I missed out on. And now miss.  Being there and wishing I could have done it all sober.  Seen it all through clearer eyeballs.  But then we’d have nothing to laugh about, would we?  No mischievous hi-jinx to recall.  And if this blogula even existed, it would be insufferably boring.  Recipes for good mulch.  Illustrated core and balance exercises.

Pictures of people standing around in nature.

I shudder to think.

You should too.  You see,  I did it all for you, dear reader.  And it’s okay.  You guys are worth it.

Anyway, it will be good to see my sister and Keller.  Good to see Marko.  And whoever else I’m supposed to see.  Sunday afternoon I’ll be making speed-amends at a table at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.  Come by if you feel I owe you one.  I’ll try to guess what it’s about.  If I can’t remember, you can remind me, while I gnash my teeth with regret, and embarrass you with an overly dramatic public display of contrition.  And anything else to make things right.  Between us.

Buy you a beer?  You name it.  Even an import.

Because I want things to be good.  Between me and you.  And between me and New Mexico.  I want it to be a good homecoming.  I want to be able to go home.  Just to see if all those fuckers were wrong.

I’ll keep you posted.

Okay, now what?

Okay, now what?

Shemp Hair Blues

Another Lithuanian with great hair.

A Lithuanian with great hair

He had taken some old bills, like the ones for his phone, utilities, a few from credit cards, and splattered them with his own blood.  They were nicely matted in brushed aluminum frames.  I’m sure he was trying to make a statement somewhere among all those statements, but I didn’t get it.

did get that this art opening was only serving wine.  And that wine gave me a headache.  Had enough of those already.  Speaking of…

My date went from bloody bill to bloody bill, giving them her full aesthetic attention.  Judging them individually by some measuring stick in her mind, she’d nod at one then move on to the next.  Pause.  Stare.  Scrutinize.  Appear to discern something.  Smile.  Nod.  Move on.

Something about the whole act smelled like rotting baloney.  She was too earnest.  Too intent.  My Fraudulent Pantomime Meter was going off, reading “Total Fake-out.”  She just wanted to be seen appreciating the work.  To look like she gave a flying fuck.

I suspected this because that’s what I was doing.

“Very nice, see how he managed to get a clot over his cable late fee,” I pointed out.  “Pollock directed his splatter, but not this concisely.”

She nodded absently and looked over at the artist.  He was on the other side of the room, drinking a small bottle of sparkling water and talking to three women.  In his early thirties.  Mediterranean good looks.  One of those dark guys who can pull off wearing his hair in greasy dangling locks.  Like Shemp.

Very few guys can pull off that kind of hair.  I always admired the ones that could.  Guys like Gibby Haynes.  And Leo Gorcey.  And Danny Trejo.  And Iggy.

The blessed and lucky.

I always loved Shemp’s hair–the way he would curl it behind his ears after getting his nose clawed with a hammer.  Just one more thing to deal with.   Besides having furniture broken over his head, always having to flip back his greasy hair.  While spitting out splinters.

That says so much.  In other words, it’s all in a day’s work when you’re a gnarly fucker.  It’s important to keep your hair out of your eyes while your head is being pile-driven into a cast iron stove.  So you can see better.

That’s so badass it hurts.

It really hurt.  The fact that this guy had his own show at a prestigious Santa Fe art gallery.  That his work was selling.  That women loved him.  That he wasn’t drunk.  That he would soon be sleeping with my date.  And that he got to have Shemp hair.

It was too much.

I excused myself and went out to my ’73 Olds Omega where five beers were heating up in the August afternoon sun.  I got in the car and lied down on the front seat.  I gassed open a can and shotgunned it down my throat.  Dropped the empty on the floor boards.  Reached under the seat and repeated.

That’ll do.  Save three for later.  I sat up and looked around.  The parking lot was full, but there were no people around.  I wanted to stay there and hide.  I couldn’t bring myself to walk back in.

I lied back down and reached under the seat.  Pop.  Pish.  Gluggity-gluggity-glug.  Thirshhhhhhh-tee!

That one did it.  I recovered my intrepididity and rose up from the car seat.  Resurrection.

Back inside, I saw her talking to him.  No surprise.  Sometimes I just know how things are going to go.  Especially when it’s bad.

I circled the perimeter for a while, looking at his work.  What a bunch of shit.  Anybody could do this.  Sure he does some origami with some of the bills.  Whatever.  You can learn that from a book in the library.  But who has the nerve to present this mess to a gallery director?  Not me.  The gall.  The balls. 

Great.  We’ve established he has bigger balls.  More bile to swallow.  To go with the red dot by the $1,200 piece.

Finally, she waved me over.

Here we go.

She introduced us.  I took his hand, then bent down and kissed his onyx ring.  I don’t know why I did that.  It was just one of those spontaneous things you do while buzzed, then wonder about later.  I meant it as a gag, but here’s where it turned terrible–he received it.  He actually took it with a slight nod, all papal and shit.  Acting like it was appropriate.  What a motherfucker!

She noted the exchange.  Oh shit.  I clicked my heels and bowed, extending the gag.  Hoping to save it.  But the damage was done.  He had diminutized me.

It was clear now that I had to beat this guy’s ass that night.  To negate that awkward little scenario.  Seriously.  Dudes have gotten on the list for less.  I ran through the whole flow chart in my head a few times.  It always came back to beating.  After all, this was a major clowning.  He played me like a wash bucket bass.  In front of her.

He’s already better than me in everything.  That was hard enough to stomach.  Now this.  And I’m not even including the Shemp hair.  That’s just running the shank through all four gears.

Hmm…superior to me in every way.  Not enjoying that fact.   I should fix it.  Let’s see, he’s better than, in all things…ah… except perhaps in a mutual exchange of pain.  I might be able to endure more of that.  I might be better there.  I may best him in the ability to suffer.

Well, we would just have to find out.  We would have to exchange pain.  And before the crowd thins out.

Unfortunately, I lived by a strict warrior code, one that prohibited me from throwing the first punch, unless I could totally get away with it.  But this ran a little deeper.  Sucker-punching the artist at his gala opening is not going to win you any style points.

But successfully defending yourself from an over-sensitive, temperamental, thin-skinned effete, one who was over-reacting to some constructive criticism while being called out for false-flagging Shemp, was something else entirely.  Now that was a chapter I wouldn’t mind having in my bio.  I could see it.

I must make it so.

“Love what you’ve done here.  Instead of wasting money on a shredder from Costco, you used your mail to clean up after your menstruating dog.  And are now getting paid for it.  Fucking brill.  Mastermind caper you got cooking here.  I hope this scam is multi-level marketed, because I want to sign up for the seminars, Shemp.”

Except I didn’t say that.  I just looked at him.  And thought about things.  Wondered if goading him into a fight was the right thing to do.  What if he warranted the hair?  What if he had the holy power?  He looked fit.  The last thing I wanted was to be hitting on some guy’s head with a brick while he straightens his hair.  Plus, you could never get a good grab on that shit to whiplash the neck, something we in the trade called Bull-whipping.

“Don’t make trouble.”

That’s what I heard in my head.  Very clear.  Very loud.  It seemed to come from somewhere else.  Believe me, it didn’t come from me.

What?

Then again, like in case I didn’t get that something else was talking to me, “Don’t make trouble.”

I got it.  Clearly.  I was a little spooked, to be honest.  One time I heard something like that while washing dishes at The Natural Cafe, right before I was going to say something bad to the prep cook about a girl that worked there.  Something said, “Shut up.”  Distinctly.  Enough to make me shut up.  Not fifteen seconds later, that girl came in and hugged the prep cook.

“I’ll see you at home.”

“Okay, love you.”

Oh shit!  I had no idea.  Yeah.  That was close.  Good thing I…alright already, disembodied voice from beyond.  I won’t make trouble.  But don’t blame me if things get really boring.

“I like your work,” I forced out.

“Thanks, I like yours.  I read your column in The Reporter.  It’s some funny shit.”

I couldn’t believe it.  I had a crappy little column in the weekly paper.  I didn’t think anybody read it, much less liked it.  And here was both, in the same dude, and a dude with awesome Shemp hair.

Lightning 180 flip in my attitudey.  Feelings of brotherhoodship and good-fellowing welled up in me.

I couldn’t believe that I had been planning to beat up my only fan.  That would not have been a savvy career move.  Besides, he’s such a cool dude,  liking my writing and shit.   Making all this magnificently insane art, while looking all greasy.  And shit.

He turned out to be a decent yog.  Funny too.  We joked and bantered back and forth for quite a while.  He had a dry sense of humor.  I figured out that whole regally-receiving-the-ring-kiss was just him playing along.  He was just playing it straight.  With a more subtle touch than my inebriated mind could appreciate at the time.

What I did appreciate was that although all these artsy fartsy types were trying to draw away his attention, he would return to our conversation.  He didn’t blow me off to talk to some of the hot, semi-hot, or hot-enough-after-eight-beers women that were trying to glom on to him.  Which included the creature that rode up with me.  That really showed class.

When I invited him out to the Omega for a hot beer, he declined, telling me he was a recovering alcoholic.  Oh wow.  Poor dude.  Now I really wanted him to succeed in art.  Since he basically had nothing left to live for.

We wound up staying there until things wound down.  A bunch of people had decided to go to La Casa Sena for dinner and he invited both of us to join.  No fucking way I could afford that.  I begged off with a lie about having to write.

“I want to go,” she says.

“Go,” I say.

So she went.  She took the upgrade.  It’s not like I couldn’t see it coming.  I have a gift.

I can’t say it didn’t feel bad.  But I wasn’t pissed.  In light of recent events, I was wary of being pissed–being pissed about stuff I probably didn’t understand.  I could give it a rest.  At least until tomorrow.

Anyway, I don’t know if they ever hooked up.  I don’t know what happened to either of them.  To be honest, I can’t even remember the dude’s name.  He was just the guy with Shemp hair.

And he had what I wanted.

Note: None of the people in this story actually exist, including the author and Shemp.  However, any and all accusations of slander and libel will still be reviewed carefully by my attorney.  As I’m sure, by yours, as well.

Failure As A Viable Option

Stands for so much more than Failure.

Stands for so much more than Failure.

God bless those crazy door-kickers, men for whom failure is not an option.  They’re fighting a war.  They can’t afford to fail.  Not me.  Failure is not only an option, but quite often, a much easier one.  It’s certainly easier than trying not to fail.

So yeah, you probably don’t want me on your night HALO drop team.  I’m the guy who’s so pissed-off about the snack machine taking my change that I forget to pack my chute.

Thank God there’s a difference between hostage rescue and putting out a weekly blog.  Smart of me to seek the latter gig.  Found myself a niche with a lot of slack.  Failure is not going to ruin my week.  Maybe the week-end.  And Monday.  But that’s it.

It was three-thirty Saturday morning and I had finished my little piece.  I read it over and decided I hated it.  “I hate it,” I said out loud.  Like it was a big awaited announcement to wake up my cats with.  They didn’t seem to give a flying fur ball.

Anyway, I didn’t push publish, and went up to bed.  Yes, I had failed, but somehow corn will still genetically mutate in the fields and cyclops children will continue to be born in the Ukraine.

The show will go on.

However, to be very honest,  I was a little pissed.  Pissed at myself mostly, but with a sprinkling of pissed-at-the-world-in-general.  No specific gripe, just a blanket resentment.  Just the sort of blanket you want to snuggle up to as you slide into your dream state.  For a good night of sleep.  After you read a little bit about Mexican prison gangs.

As I drifted off that night, I repeated a little affirmation, “I failed, because that’s what failures do best, and I am the best.”

Nighty-night.

I had a dream I was playing chess with my old film professor, Fred Karetski.  We were on stage in front of an auditorium audience.  When I looked down at the game I noticed my pieces were checkers while old Fred had a combination of chess pieces and what looked like over-sized Monopoly markers.  What the fuck?  I didn’t understand exactly how, but it appeared he had an advantage.  His big pewter shoe probably had more killing power than a red checker.

How exactly do you play this game?  I had no clue.  I didn’t even know if it was my turn.  And was too embarrassed to ask.

The place is pin-drop quiet.

I’m freaking out, but Karetski is just hanging loose, absentmindedly applying and re-applying Chapstick like he always did.  This little display of oral fixation would bug the shit out of me back then and did now. Partly to take the opportunity to vent my spleen, and partly to distract the audience from my obvious ineptitude, I decided to call him out on it.  I’ll save this situation with an inspired diversionary rant.

“You and that bullshit Chapstick, Karetski. Maybe you should give it a rest.  Personally I don’t believe in Chapstick.  I don’t even believe in chapped lips.  I mean I believe they exist, but not that they’re a problem big enough to go to the store and buy a cherry-flavored wax tube to rub around on them.  If chapped lips are such a big problem for you, then you don’t have enough problems.  You need your cities bombed while you feed on vermin.  You want a good way to deal with chapped lips?  Ignore them, and after a while they will un-chap.  They fucking always do, Freddy Boy. So maybe it’s time for you to scrape the protective and soothing emollient from your fat greasy lips…and man up.”

He reaches into his pocket.  Pulls out the stick, pops off the cap, and starts smearing.  He puts the cap back on and smacks his lips.

“Your move,” he says, grinning.

I woke up the next morning more tired than when I went to bed.  Lori was still sleeping.  I tried to walk downstairs while the two cats figure-eighted between my legs in a pre-feeding frenzy of affection.  We looked like a Balinese circus act.

“That’s very cute, you little fuckers.  You’re going to make me break my neck.”

I made it to the kitchen and started the coffee.  Then I opened a can of cat food.  For the cats.

I watched them eat while I waited for the coffee.  I tried to look for the positive.  Let’s see.  I said “I hate it,” instead of “This sucks.”  That means I wasn’t saying the article was bad, just that I thought it was.  That shows a little discernment.

Just speeding your way up the rungs of your spiritual ladder, aren’t you?  I poured myself a large cup.

What else?  Anything else positive I can take away from this experience?

Nope.  All tapped out.  I went outside to water the garden.  I’ve been lax about watering this winter and some of the plants died.  Sorry everybody.  Sorry I neglected you to the point of killing you.  And shit.

All form is transitive.  Without this fact there could be no sorrow.  Well, at least not without fixating on that fact.

I pointed the hose at the two rose bushes for a while.   Then I stood over the gardenias and let it soak.  Watering my Garden of Sorrow.

It’s only a blog, for crissake’s.  Why do you make a big deal about missing a self-imposed deadline?  It’s not like some big sweaty city editor is shouting his scotch breath into your eyeballs for missing it.  So why are you?

Because I’m insane.  We’ve gone over this.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  When I can’t write, I can’t be.  And I don’t want to fail at being.  It’s airtight.

I gave the poinsettias a little splash.  They grew too crazy last year.  The leaves were freakishly large.  Land of the Lost large.  They gave Lori the creeps.  Me too, kind of.  Paper plate-sized leaves you picture a Stegosaurus snacking on.   Yeah, that’s enough water for you guys.  I walked the hose over to the other planter.

Everything but the bush with purple leaves was dead.  You couldn’t kill that thing.  Cut it down to the stump twice and it always grew back bushier than before.   I watered it.  A little reward for perseverance.

“Good boy.  Fuck those pansy annuals.  Drink up.”

I put the hose away and went inside.  Lori had come downstairs.

“Hey, how are you?  Did you publish?”

“Nah.  I didn’t like it.”

“Oh.  How are you feeling?”

“I’m alright.  It’ll take more than that to kill me.”

I poured myself another cup of coffee and sat down at the computer.  I re-read the piece.  It was okay.  It needed some smoothing out, but was salvageable.  I might have been a little too hard on it.  It wasn’t a complete failure.

I guess nothing ever is.

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.

Mardi Gras Death Trip ’89 Part 2

There was a small room attached to the back of the Greyhound, where a beautiful Asian woman wearing red silk pajamas had set up a massage table.  The room was dimly lit by candles, sandalwood incense burned, bamboo flute music was piped in from speakers shaped like laughing Buddhas.  “Well this is cool,” I thought, “I dig the black lacquered furniture.  Nice touch.”  I crawled up on the table.

“Happy ending?” she asked.

“Make it the happiest,” I told her.

I took a long thin pipe from her.  A bubbling piece of amber resin smoldered in the tiny bowl.  Opium.  Just the thing for a long bus ride.  The people at Greyhound think of everything.  I thought they banned smoking on buses.  Glad that didn’t apply to hop.

I puffed lazily on the pipe while the girl started to knead the sides of my aching lower back.  The blue smoke rose in expanding spirals.   One of the Buddha speakers smiled at me.  I smiled back.  She found the knot and pressed a bony knuckle into it…hard.  What the fuck?!

I woke up from the pain in my back.  I had returned to reality.  Some happy ending.  I was back on a Greyhound bus, the kind without the opium den massage parlor attached to the back.  I sat hunched forward in my seat, curled like a cooked shrimp, drooling on my lap.  I had been sitting for days, drifting in and out of pot brownie psychosis, and still had hours to go before New Orleans.

Next to me was some Ed Gein-type eating a tomato with salt.  I didn’t know when he showed up.  There was a bible-reading black lady there the last time I checked.  I sort of remember trying to tell her that demons were after me.  She said she would pray for me.  I think I asked her to hurry, before nodding off.

Oh man…okay, whatever.  She’s gone now.  She’s been replaced by the tomato-eating cannibal.  I had been given one strange road dog after another during this whole trip.  People that made me feel like I was the normal one.  I had it with odd-ball characters.  Thank God I was on my way to the Crescent City during Mardi Gras, where everyone is normal.

Those two days trapped on the bus had been a grueling endurance test.  The brownies I had been eating had cleaved a gaping gash in my psyche.  Universal weirdness poured in.  The influx of mind-bending strangeness to process was flooding my psychic septic system.  I simply had too many bizarre impressions inside my head, and no way to walk them off.  That usually spells trouble for me and those around me.

That shit has to come out somewhere.  Why not in my behavior?  What better way to chronicle my dysfunction than with symbolic action?  A chaotic form of Kabuki theater, manifesting the madness within.  It’s what I was born to do.  I just needed some leg room to do it.

When we finally pulled into the station that evening, there were five half-drunk co-eds from the University of Michigan waiting for me.  They cheered when I got off the bus, shrieking like teeny boppers.  Lu put them up to it.  It was meant to embarrass me.  Sorry.  It would take more than that.  I felt strangely at ease among wild adulation.  After one-arm hugging all the girls, I put down my suitcase and planted one on Lu’s pie hole.

“Now we can really get this motherfucker rolling,” she said, scraping, something from the corner of my mouth.

“Indeed,” I said, ” I think we need to launch this juggernaut with a little velocity.  We can start pacing ourselves in the morning.”

I took out the empty pint bottle in my pocket and tipped it to reveal a tiny corner of whiskey.

“Do you think this will be enough?”

“I told you, this excursion includes all-you-can drink.  Don’t worry, as your cruise director, I will take care of your every need.”

With that, she pulled me by the hand, and we were off to the hotel, followed by a posse of giggling girls.

I have had worse moments in my life.

Wading through the streets that night, I could see the party was in full swing.  People were already howling-at-the-moon crazy.  The air was thick and humid, which happens to be my favorite.  I am one of the few people I know that loves humidity.  The more the better.  I want to feel like I’m swimming around in a fish bowl.  Splash my face with it like a pig.

It’s a sexy atmospheric, and good for the pores.  Purge what ails you at the sultry sweat lodge of love.  Lickity leg stickity ickity humidity.  Spackle those cracks and crannies with smeared molten mojo goo.  Gooey times are gooooood.

The girls had gotten a room at a Holiday Inn.  Decent enough, especially when you’re on the bum.  After thirty-eight hours on a Greyhound, a Salvation Army cot starts to look luxurious.  Ooh, horizontal.  So I was psyched for the plush home base of operations, and at no additional financial strain.

Kind of cramped quarters with five girls though.  How are we going to sleep everyone in here, ladies?  Tell you what, I will volunteer myself as planning commissioner.  I’ll help sort this out.  The who sleeps where part.  And stuff.

While I was trying to come up with some sort of rating system to determine the proximity of their sleeping accommodations to mine, logging some initial observations, and then calculating those factors to come up with a workable probability model, Lu came into the room.  She had a gift for me.

Oh yeah.  Don’t forget the primary.  What’s this?

It was a case of beer, but made up of four different six packs.

“Hey look at that!  All of my favorites.  The Guinness, The Heineken,  The Becks, and even The Moosehead!”

“For mornings,” she nodded, “I remembered.”

She had given me a beautiful beer bouquet.  Wow.  I felt my heart explode a little.  She might be the one.  Serious, dude.  This one is a keeper.  Watch yourself around these other women.  Maybe try to behave a little.  Don’t go total Id.

Yeah, I know.  But at the time, I thought I’d try.  I’m not rotten to the core.  Just from that part outwards.

Her friend Maria was an especially spirited little drill-teamer.  Always go for drill team.  Over cheerleaders, for sure.  They try harder.  This one was certainly friendly.  Lots of smiley-look arm-rubby encouragement from her.  Seemed like a team player.  Whip out the slide-rule and plot that vector.

We hung out in the room for a while, doing some warm-up drinking.  We had been joking around when one of the girls laughed so hard she audibly farted.  It sounded like a door slowly creaking open.  A real burner.  You could hear the heat.  Oh man, we were on the floor.  Unfortunately, that’s where the dense gas settled.  That made us laugh even harder, the kind that gives you a side-ache, some of us gagging up bile.

Yeah, this was going to be fun.  Good ice-breaker.  A bottle of vodka made the rounds.  I hit it while I sampled the assorted flavors of beer.

“I think I need to cause some damage,” I announced, dropping the empty bottle of Becks close to the trash can.

“You can start with me,” Lu piped up.

My eyebrow arched.

We hit the street at midnight.  I held Lu’s hand.  Maria locked her arm around mine.  Lu didn’t seem to mind.  I’m telling you, this one is special.   I leaned over and kissed her.  It was Saturday night, and Fat Tuesday was still three nights away.  There was going to be plenty of time to create some magical lack-of memories.

And what memorable black-outs they turned out to be.  I wish I had a grandson.  Someone to bedtime stories about how Grandpop used to bop.  “I could really shwang dat thang, sonny boy.  Before this walker, feeding tubes, and fluid drainage holes blew my game.”

To be honest, Grandpop’s memories are already vague.  Trying to remember that trip has been like grasping at ghosts.  I remember a few specific moments.  Some of them, gentlemanly discretion prevents me from sharing here.  Others are not that entertaining to relate.  Can you see my quandary, dear reader.  There are things I just can’t spill here in print.  Not while any of the survivors are still alive and could happen upon it.  They might feel like I violated a sacred trust.

I know, total cop-out, but I’m still trying to grope my way along the edge between entertaining and downright dirty.  It’s tricky.  Perhaps a modicum of modesty and good taste is what’s called for here.  Let’s just say, it was a complete debauch, and that’s by the standards I was living then.  That should tell you something.  Full on, balls to the wall, sybriatic abandon.  Marius, the modern Roman.  Every bestial appetite gorged, feathered, vomited, and renewed.

I can tell you about how I got chased by a police horse though.  I was with Lu, standing on the edge of a crowd on Bourbon Street, watching a fight between two guys.  I was shouting encouragement to the smaller of the two.  He kept uppercutting and missing.  He needed to take a step in.  He’d connect for a spinning star jackpot.

“Step up little dude!” I kept shouting.

Then the cops showed up.  The ones with horses attached.  I guess this fight’s over.  Okay, whatever, right?

Some cops on foot rush in and grab the two guys that were fighting, while the rest sort of circle the wagons on their horses and face-off against the crowd.  They looked nervous, like being surrounded by a packed crowd was making them bug a little.  The horses and the cops.  They start shouting orders for us to back up, but we had nowhere to back up to.  We had our backs against more crowd.  Nobody was throwing shit or getting involved, we just couldn’t move back.

I don’t know if he was trying to move the crowd, but a cop started charging his horse at us.  Us the crowd, but me directly.  I clearly remember that big horse head coming at me.  Don’t get me wrong. I think horses are cool, beautiful animals, but having one charge right at me… freaked my shit out.  He was a foot away when I dodged left. The horse followed me.  I found myself inside the open circle.  He had chased me from the safety of an anonymous crowd, out into a gladiator ring.  I was now The Guy Running Away From a Cop, and thus a singular arrestable unit.

The other cops started after me.  I’m bobbing, ducking and dodging police horses, with people around me cheering like it’s some convict rodeo shit.  Everywhere I turned to escape a big horse head, another one was coming.  There was at least four cops on horses chasing me in a space not big enough to hold a bake sale.  Very Max Sennett.  I thought I was done for.

Fortunately, my years of practicing not getting grabbed, paid off.  I spun out of a Full Veronica pass and pivoted, and like Manolete, let a beast graze past me. Ole’!  I jumped back to avoid another.  I rolled my ankles and threw my hips.  Ran sideways in a circle.  Did the Limbo, The Swim, The Hurry, The Ice Machine.  I faked and feinted, and basically juked those horses flat-hoofed.  I really don’t know how I did it, but I was pretty fucking amazing.  It has to rank as one of my all-time craziest things to have experienced.

I spotted Lu in the crowd.  She was waving.  “Get the fuck out of there!”

I dove into the crowd and burn-wormed my way deep into the safety of its bowels.  She grabbed a hold of me, and pulled me away.  We zig-zagged through the Mardi Gras mob and kept going until we wound up sitting in Popeye’s Chicken, laughing too hard to eat.

“I thought for sure they had you.  Very impressive little dance performance you gave there, mister.”

“Well, I’m glad my Julliard training paid off.  You know, all of life is a dance.  It pays to keep a little twinkle in your toes.”  I picked up two drum sticks and made them give a little Rockette kick.  “I am so not arrested right now.”

“I’m so glad.”

Good times.  Unfortunately, the next morning I had to board The Dirty Dog for the long ride home.  It was Fat Tuesday, and there was still one last night of partying left, but not for me.  I had to get home to my menial jobs and routine.  Lu and the girls saw me off, and as the bus drove away, I actually wept a little.  Honest to God.  I didn’t want to leave.   I remember thinking, “That was how all of life should be.”  The drinking, fucking, and madness, all blendered up into a smooth and delicious concoction.

There was also something about having to leave before the party was officially over that this alcoholic found particularly distasteful.  All those people having fun without me.  How could they?  I mean, how can they actually have fun without me around to help propel it?  Unless they’re into some lame version of fun.

I reached into the gift bag Lu had given me.  There was a pint of hootch with a twenty-dollar bill rubber-banded around it, a pack of Camels, a Tall Boy of Bud, a can of bean dip with some beef jerky to scoop with, two Valium wrapped in foil, and an interesting Polaroid.  This girl and her gifts.  She could really read your heart.

I didn’t know it then, but that would be the last time I would see Lu.  I’m glad I didn’t know.  I was bummed enough.  My gut told me I’d probably never see her again.  I had that heavy feeling.   I would also miss the girls.  Over the course of those days and nights of unbridled hedonistic pursuit, I had bonded with them.  They were cool chicks.  Not lame fun, at all.  If any of you ever read this, thank you.

I looked around and snapped the cap.  I took a hit and put it away.  This was now just maintenance drinking.  Just trying to ease the crash, which was speeding towards me like a nostril-flared horse head.  I took off the plastic bead necklaces and put them in the gift bag.  It’s official.  The party is over.

A woman packed into a polyester pantsuit that was straining at the seams like sausage casing, sat next to me.  She smelled…how can I put this delicately?  With a very personal odor.  Not so fresh.  Dig?  I turned away towards the window and started to breathe through my mouth.  I could feel a wave of dread wash over me and foam out into swirling depression.

All those towns and cities, all the fellow passengers, ones that I didn’t care much for on the way down, even when I was in a decent mood, were now returning for a repeat performance.  Just so I could perceive them through the lens of alcoholic melancholy.  So I could scrape some soul off on their jagged edges as I crawled back by.  Poisoned.  Sweating.  Nervous.  Soul-sick and sad.  I had little mental defense.

A fat man with terminal diarrhea.  Some ex-cons trying to extort beers from me.  Some gloryholer putting his hand on my leg.  A paranoid conspiracy nut jawing my ear off.  A chick with mossy teeth and butthole breath, telling me all about her adventures in 4-H.

It was brutal.  Every fucking mile of it.

Detoxing on a Greyhound would soon join my all-time shittiest things to have experienced.

Ah, but I was younger and tougher then.  I made it through.  Amazing really.  Making it through all of it.  Nearly three decades of lunacy, and somehow landing softly on a feathered pillow, typing this.  So not drunk.  So not in prison.  So not dead.  Miracle?  Maybe.  I’m one lucky son of a bitch, alright.  A deranged, danger-dodger with a frantic guardian angel.

It sure didn’t hurt to keep a little twinkle in my toes.  Ole’!

How did I get such sexy legs? I should tryout for drill team.