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.

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Rita of El Rito

Is that just a mirage?

Is that just a mirage?

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

Alexis Zorba

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

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

This situation was made for beer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you?  Too wild?”

“That depends on for what .”

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

It’s a slumber party.

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

Major fuck-up.

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

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

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

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

We drove in silence for a while.

Telephone pole.  Telephone pole.  Telephone pole.

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

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

“Groceries and…soda?”

“Yes, and some beer and wine.”

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

“That’s cool.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re awful quiet.”

“Just thinking about death.”

“Oh.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The major boner-kill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I kicked myself for not buying two more six packs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had misled her enough.

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

Ain’t love crazy?

Like Sand Through An Hour Glass, The Days Of No-Strings Sex…

Pokey and Aurie were trying to sweat me out.  They weren’t about to leave me alone with her.  Not as long as they each thought they had a crack.  It was getting late, Sunday night, and everybody had work in the morning.  Or at least I did, and that’s all that mattered.  The shitty bottle of wine they brought was long gone, and now everybody was subsisting off my largess.  My Sunday beer.  It was killing me.

Go home you lousy leeches.  Go home and vaporize into non-existence.  Just fold into some passing parallel dimension.  Hang out in quantum possibility for an aeon or three.  My beer is almost all gone because of you two fucks.

“Whose ready for another beer?” I asked, getting up.

“I’ll take another one,” everybody said.  Everybody in the entire world.   I winced, but my back was turned.

“Some more of my beer, coming right up!” I announced.  A little pissiness leaked through the pants of my facade.   I was hamstrung.   I couldn’t call these two couch mushrooms out as blood-suckers in front of the chick.  Not so early in the seduction process.   I would look like a petty alcoholic.  She’d get to see that part of me later.  Hopefully much.  This was no time to sandwich board it.

Besides, they might make a case for being Even-Steven because of the Two Buck Chuck they spotted earlier.  Like that counts.  I hate wine.

I looked at my watch.  33 more minutes before Owl Liquors closed.  The rail was coming down.  Should I just drive to the store now?  I have a sneaking suspicion I’m going to wind up having to spot a whole new party package myself, and with the arrival of lots more beer, I’ll never get rid of the Toad Stool Twins.  I can try to wait them out a little longer.  I’ll give them sixteen more minutes.  I rolled my shoulders and cracked my neck.

“I really have to pee!” Bobbi informed us.  Well alright.  She pushed herself out of her lotus, brushed the cracker crumbs off her jeans and walked to the bathroom through our little dude triangle.

“Excuse me, guys.”

We all checked her out.  Nice butt-cheekage.  Two big melons straining the seams of her jeans.  Our shifty eyes caught each other looking so we turned away.

“Cool chick.”

“Yeah, she is.”

Bobbi had moved to Santa Fe from Providence, Rhode Island, which made her kind of exotic.  She was a little crunchy, and a little grungy.  She was Crungey or Grutchy.  No make-up, air-dried hair, torn jeans and thrift store sweater type.  She did sport a personal Kryptonite in the form of cat glasses, and you can tell beneath all the woodsy, wholesome burlap and denim, she had a burlesque stripper’s body dying to get out.  That was not going to happen with three dudes sitting around drinking beer.  I’m sure it happens, but not in the dimensions that I tend to frequent.

“So you guys have to get up early for a landscaping gig tomorrow?  Or, are you free to party on?”

They looked at each other.

“We don’t do landscaping,” Pokey said.

“That’s right, ” I said, looking at my watch.  Eleven more precious minutes left.  We heard the toilet flush, and looked at each other.  Uh-oh.  I could tell they were both in it to win it.  I just better go get some beer now.  This is going to be a long night.

She came out and smiled at us.  She went back to her pillow, sat down, and crossed her legs.

Is it even worth it?  She’ll just wind up hating you anyway.  Everything winds up rotting.  This whole game is rigged against us.  Death is our only true relief.

“Are you okay?” she asked me.

“Oh yeah, I was just wondering if maybe I should make another beer run.”

Everyone agreed that was a great idea.  Yes?  Great idea?  Not so great that anybody reached for their wallet.  Fuck it.  I break.  Lost this battle, but the war rages on.  Double down on victory in the Kursk salient.

I got up.  My death ray was in full effect as I looked at the two urchins avoiding my eyes.  Can’t penetrate into their souls if they don’t look.  Sneaky fuckers.

“Be right back, guys.”

“Let’s burble some herbal,” one of them said, as I closed the door behind me.

I walked out to my car.  No muffler.  The roar set off car alarms when I drove past.  Sometimes, like now, it felt good.  Sometimes it was just embarrassing.  The clerks at Owl used to laugh about hearing me all the way from Maynard.  Ha-ha.  I pay your rent.  Show a little respect.  A little awe.

I drove up to the window.  It was the old lady.  She looked like an apple doll.

“EEEEEEEE! Crazy huero is here!  We were talking that we could hear you–”

“A case of MGD bottles, and two 40s of Old English. Throw in a shot of Dark Eyes, tambien…por favor!”

I had no time for idle chit-chat.  Those two back there are probably filling her in on all kinds of information she hadn’t received clearance on.  Homo Todd’s Halloween party, The St. John’s Incident, any number of open mike nights, the Dread Zeppelin show, Soul Asylum at UNM.  Just a whole bunch of information she didn’t need to process just yet.

I didn’t mean to, but I peeled out from the window.  The tires were bald enough.  They didn’t need the abuse.  Like anything did.  It just seemed like when I got uptight, I would naturally scatter that shit wherever I doth roam.

My roaming took me on to St. Francis then a right up Alameda.  I cracked one open and murdered half.  Threw the cap out the window, and killed the rest.  Tucked the empty under my seat, and hand signaled a left turn.  I fished a butt out of the ashtray and sparked it.  I was feeling a little better.

I was grateful that the State of New Mexico had come to it’s senses about allowing package liquor sold on Sundays.  When I heard it was official, you would’ve thought it was V.J. Day by the way I rejoiced.  Jumping up and down and punching the air kind of joy.  For a long time, you couldn’t buy booze from a store on Sundays.  Just at a bar.  If you’re already passing up meals to keep the lights on, the extra financial burden of getting your grog on a Sunday, because you drank up your stash on Saturday, could be just the thing that upsets the household budget, and severely restricts how much beer Father can purchase for the rest of the week.

And that makes Father cross.  Hostage-takey kind of cross.

But those Dark Ages were behind us now.  We were moving into a brave new world.  I looked over to all the beer and smiled.  My happy bunch of beer.

I parked the car and cracked another one.  Might as well get a few under my belt to fortify me for battle.  I sized up my chances.   The trolls kind of came as a set, and women hate to break up a set.  I knew that much.  Advantage me.  However, they were more from the same tribe.  That woodland, Kashi-crunching, outdoorsy knit cap wearing, hacky-sack kicking peoples.  Advantage them.

They were easy-going and mellow.  I was hateful and dangerous.  Pretty even there.

They had weed, although I never actually saw it.  Advantage them.  I had lots of beer, although they’d never actually see it.  Advantage me.  Big advantage.  Okay.  I win.  I tucked the empty under.

I grabbed a six-pack to bring in.  Six beers between four people.  Heh-heh.  A party-spoiler if there was ever one invented.  I couldn’t pull it off with people who knew me well.  They’d see me walk through the door with a six and know I was hoarding.  But if these people really knew me, I wouldn’t have to go through this charade.

The whole night had been a charade for me.  I had been as fake as an electric fireplace.  A faux-finished one.  Sitting there, trying to nod my head in all the appropriate parts of the conversation, when I would have rather just stared, slightly slack-jawed and entirely not interested.  It was grueling.

Pokey had been talking about his idea for Judo trading cards.  God, what a stupid idea.  I had already heard part of this brainstorm before.  Typical late-night, unrealistic pipe-dream ambition caper.  Who the fuck cares enough about Judo, besides Pokey, to get into collecting trading cards about that shit?

I took Judo as a kid.  Pretty worthless as a martial art.  Unless you go to a bar where everyone wears the pajamas and agrees to only flip each other in a fight.  If some ass-hole grabs your chick’s ass, you could go over there, bow, grip each other by the pajama lapels and start waltzing around the dance floor looking for an opportunity to roll him over your hip like a jitterbug dancer.  Then Judo wouldn’t be worthless.  Other than that…

I had to act supportive.  Couldn’t just piss all over his Rose Parade.  Really wanted to though.

“That sounds like a great idea.  Everybody loves Judo, so everybody would love Judo trading cards.  I hope you will buy me a beer or four to replace the ones you drank tonight when you become a millionaire.”

Ha-ha-ha.  We all laugh together.  Ha-ha-ha.  We’re all friendly friends.  Ha-ha-ha.

I cracked open another beer.  I’ll go back in right after this one.   Not too eager for another earful of Aurie’s conspiracy theories, and the inevitable buzz-kill that results from believing some of them.  Sure most of them you could shuck aside, but if a dude just keeps coming at you with them, like that’s his thing, and he is very eager to share his personal nightmare with you, eventually he’s going to spin one out that you find yourself believing.  Especially if your stoned.  We’re losing the war for Man to the Lizard People, being one that rang true to yours truly.

Holy shit. He’s right!  It’s them.  From Reptilis Reticula or some shit.  Bush for sure.  Others?   Too many to list.  What can I do to overthrow them? I have trouble holding down a day job.  Oh yeah.  We are fucked.

I call it Fear Tripping.  Get yourself on a course of thought that leads from one scary thought to another, but always slightly scarier.  Amp that bitch up.  See if you can get your teeth to sweat with fear.  The thing I’ve found about scary thoughts, is that there are always other ones that reinforce them.  Once you go down that alley you’re doomed.   All you can do is stop thinking.  Meditation is one way.  I had another.

It started to get clinky under my car seat as I stuck number four under.  One more, and I’ll go in.  I snapped off the top.

I wondered how long Bobbi would be my girlfriend.  She seemed like a three-to-six month.  Stable enough to make it work for awhile, and then too stable to make it work anymore after that.  Those are a little rougher to bounce out of.  By then there’s enough history to pull out the long knives.  You’re not going to scoot out without getting shived a few times with The Dagger of Ugly.  She seemed like a nice girl, but that doesn’t mean shit in a break up.  I’ve watched Gaia Goddesses and Moon Mothers turn into Medusas once they smelled the funk.

Works with animals?  Helps the poor?  Teaches children?  Christian?  New Age?  Green?  Rainbow?  Doesn’t matter.  Hurt them and they all go wolverine.  God bless them for that.  Most dangerous animals will leave you alone if not provoked.  Why did I keep poking at them with my stick?

Well okay.  Yeah.

But is that really a good enough excuse?  Bobbi seemed like a really nice girl.  Nice enough not to deserve the likes of someone like me.

It was that last thought that did it.  I started the car up, and backed out of the car port.  I had this moment of clarity.  Or at least as clear as a moment you can have after 7-8 beers.  I didn’t need to get involved.  Just because she was attractive, and I was bored and “lonely.”  I didn’t need to insinuate myself into her life, and then feel bad for doing it in the first place.  I wasn’t up for the guilt this time.

I’ll hold out for somebody equally traumatized by life.  That way we’ll be even when everything goes to shit.  I’ll let the two trolls fight over her.  It was an ever so small inching towards something resembling a conscience.  An emotional troglodyte’s first evolutionary movement towards a sentient bi-pedal existence.

I turned onto St. Francis.  They’re going to be wondering what happened to me.  Hell, I was wondering what just happened to me.  I wrote it off as just saving myself a six-pack, but it felt like more.

A cop climbed up behind me.  The no muffler.  He had to be hearing it all the way in his bone marrow.  I was going to jail.  Going to have to wake up Marko for bail.  He followed me all the way down Cerrillos, but turned off on Baca.  Only in Santa.  Maybe my karma was getting a little better.  I aimed my car for home.  I had work in the morning.

Sanitized for your protection.

On-line Loverboy Roy, Part 2.

I love sunsets, too.

I guess she was attractive enough, like if you were just getting out of prison or something.  But, I wasn’t the one just getting out of prison.  I don’t know how to put this delicately.  I don’t want to come off as insensitive, but she just wasn’t a good-looking woman.

Ladies, you must agree that there are men out there that are not physically attractive to you.  I’m sure that if you carefully studied them from a safe distance, and searched deep in your heart, you’d find a beautiful human inside.   But I’m also sure that the thought of getting naked with them…would still make you want to vomit.

So let’s not pretend this game doesn’t work both ways.

Anyway, all I can say is she took a damn good driver’s license photo.  Who does that?  That’s the picture she used for her profile.  I studied it and deduced it was some from some kind of ID, but didn’t think more of it.  I was just relieved that she looked okay.  Cute even.  I also thought, “Hey, if this is her driver’s license photo, then she looks even better in real life.”

What I should’ve been thinking was, “Hey, what kind of person only has their ID photo to use in their profile?”  Oh, I don’t know, like a newly released convict?  Maybe.  Let’s see.

This would be my second and last date via cyber-whoredom.  Having just gotten sober, I found myself paralyzed around women.  Not just internally, like always, but with my motor skills.  I couldn’t make my feet walk over to the part of the room where the object of my desire was located.  Desire is a powerful motivator and when it’s thwarted, it’s late breaking news.  For me, at least.  It’s also a king-sized drag.

I’d go to bars and just stand around drinking oceans of club soda.  I was frozen in fear.  I had lost my ability to charmingly convince a women to give me a try.  To see if I would destroy her life or not.  I had no game.

Did I drink away my game?  Did I even have any to begin with?  Was it all bottled game?

Beer made dancing through the complicated quadrille of courtship so much easier.  Do you need to undress the hostess while her guests wait for dinner?  Got just the thing.  Beer made me bold, and bold makes things happen.

“Using the front porch swing like a Bangkok love basket with Thelma Lou, while her folks listen to Jack Benny on the radio is going to require some Moxie, young man.  Try Sots, delicious whole-grain, yeast soda.  It’ll put the giddy-up back in your gallop.”

Indeed.  I needed a bucket of liquid oats in my feed bag to get trotting again, but that wasn’t going to happen.  I needed help.  Desperate times call for commensurate measures.  Computer dating seemed appropriately desperate, but not without advantages.

You could weed out thousands of bummers by making your profile so insanely honest that only the hippest of chicks would reply.  The easily terrified would be scared off.  Whoever was left would be a woman so battle-hardened by life’s weirdness that a guy like myself could relax and be himself.  That was the idea, at least.

My first nibble was an ex-porn starlet that ended the evening with a peck on the cheek and a fraternal pat on the back.  The next bite on the line was a woman named Lana.  I looked over her profile.

Lana.  Sexy name.  Rhymes with “I wanna.”   Might be a fortuitous sign.  What else?  Likes sunsets, long walks on the beach, romantic evenings by the fire.  I guess I can put up with that…for a while at least.  I did some volume calculations with her weight and height.  Adding some size for number padding, I estimated that she wasn’t going to be petite.  Nothing wrong with that.  I wasn’t averse to spanking a full fanny around the ballpark.

The problem is this here, this part-time job thing she listed, selling Mary Kay cosmetics.  Those women are crazy.  Trust me.  Sure they’re great in bed, but you pay for it with your sanity.  What meager remnants of mine remained, I guarded jealously.  Part-time, too.  Means she’ll be around.   Cut into the napping schedule.  Well, we’ll deal with that chestnut when it gets too hot.

I called her.  She picked up on the second ring.

“Hello, Lana?”

“Uh-huh?  Hold on…Randy, if you don’t shut the fuck up right now, I’m going to come up there and beat your face in!  Okay, I’m back.”

“Hi, my name is Marius, and I am the guy from on my profile you answered to by sending something to my e-mail which I answered you from, from.”

“Yeah yeah, hey, how’s it going?”

“Okay, well, nothing I guess.  I mean good.”

Silence descended.  A vast, eternal one.  Pyramids were built and crumbled.  Civilizations rose and collapsed.  The distance between planets grew.

“So what’s up?” she volunteered.

“That’s funny, that’s what I was going to ask you? Ah-Hahahahahahahahahaha!”

“What?  What’s funny?”

“I don’t know.  So you like sunsets?”

Not the scintillating repartee of a Noel Coward bedroom comedy, and it would grind down from there.  I remember having the stupidest conversations of my life with that woman.  Not all her fault, either.  I was still scrambled and remedial myself.  Her being brick thick just anchored the dialogue to a muddy playing field.  She would underhand pitch me a rotting grapefruit and I would splat that bitch out into the cheap seats.

I think we had two conversations on the phone before our date.  They were just chock full o’ red flags, but I’m newly sober.  What are red flags?  I just learned what red stands for and don’t know yet what it means when it’s attached to a flag.

I was just happy to get through the conversation.  When she told me she just got out of prison for interstate transportation of drugs, I thought, “Good, she can’t give me too much shit about my past.”  Some of the best relationships start there.  We decided to meet at a restaurant.

“That way you don’t have to worry about me raping and killing you,” I assured her.

“Okay.”

On Saturday night I did that thing where you spray the cologne in the air and walk through it.  Walk through it and any nervousness.  Without drinking.  I can do this.  I’ve lived through much, much worse than a bad date and rejection.  And what else is life but a torture rack to endure until blessed oblivion?

I finished my pep self-talk and walked into the restaurant.  “Are you Morris?” someone asked.  I looked over.  It was a woman.

And then I saw her face.

Holy shit!  The smile did it.  Not a sexy Lauren Hutton front gap, but a multiplicity of them, scattered as though from repeated BB gun accidents.  Pellet gun, actually.  She looked like a jammer from the old Roller Derby on channel 13.  A Los Angeles T-Bird, but with a face someone carved in a pumpkin contest at Trader Joe’s.

She also still had a little prison smell behind the ears.  They get a look after doing a few years that doesn’t shower off easy.  I could see her spitting sunflower seeds while she walked the track in her utility CDC windbreaker.  She was not bull-dikey enough to be a shot-caller or yard boss,  but could be a unit soldier or shower hatchet.  The other women wouldn’t try stealing her Ramen soups, that’s for sure.

While I do admire a woman who can protect her locker of canteen goods from the other convicts, it’s not much of a sexual turn-on either.

Fuck.

You know you could have offered to meet her at a coffee place.  That’s a place where a lot of raping and killing doesn’t happen on dates, too.  You’d only be out a cup of coffee, but no, your male ego wanted to impress.  Unfortunately, that fucker isn’t going to pick up the check.  Or be anywhere around when you try to parachute out of this flaming dirigible.

She had the lobster, of course.  I hamburgered her in passive protest.   As she told me about the third restraining order she’s ever had to file, I scrutinized her.  How many beers would this take?  We’re probably talking thirty to forty, and by then…well…ain’t nothing gonna happen.  She was out of beer range.  Sober?  Not a chance.  Or as much chance as me making out with my dad.

She yammered on and on but my brain couldn’t pay attention.  It had to come up with an escape plan.  Too early to fake a seizure.  Someone needs to die.  Not a family member, but like a co-worker or neighbor.  Tell her I need to go and ID the body.  Please, someone call me.  Where are all the telemarketers when you need them?

One good thing, though.  I stopped being nervous about the date not going well.

“I put on a lot of weight in prison,” she announced, while the waiter poured her some more wine, “They feed you nothing but starches.”

That doesn’t bother me.”

“Thanks. I’m glad to hear that.”

“Yep.”  I can eat starches all day.

Over dinner she told me about her bust.  She said she was working for a woman who asked her to take a trailer full of furniture to Indiana.

Oh boy.  NEVER take furniture to Indiana.  My buddies Scott and Richie told me about that.  Cops are hip to that one.

She said she got pulled over and right away they call in the dogs to sniff the trailer.   I nodded.  They saw the furniture.

She claimed she really didn’t know the drugs were in there.  I kind of believed her.  Why should she bullshit me at this point?  It took her a long time to convince the feds she didn’t know.  Eventually, they gave her a deal.  Wear a wire and get the receiver to come out and pick up the trailer.  After the sting she would also have to testify against them and the woman that sent her.

She said she was scared to death, but did it.  The G-men got to polish their buttons over the bust and convictions, but screwed her anyway.  She got three more years than the deal they agreed on.

“That’s dirty,” I said, and picked up a french fry, “Feds always want to get their money’s worth.”

It was a depressing conversation, and I noted with chagrin that the more wine she drank the more flirtatious she became.

I was getting antsy for the check.  How much longer, O Lord, will You leave me tied to this stake,?  The ravens have pecked out the flesh from between my ribs, letting the hot wind whistle through in mockery.  I am humbled by Your might.  I tremble at the thunder of Your wrath.  I beseech Thy mercy.

The waiter finally came and set the check tray down.  I paid the bill with singles the stripper’s at my work had tipped me out with.  Quite a grip of them.  The folder bulged when I handed it back to him.  As I did, I realized I didn’t have an excuse ready for if she wanted to come back to my place.  I was so busy beseeching that I forgot to come up with a plug-puller.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  It’s 10 o’clock on a Saturday night!   Where are you supposed to be instead?

Okay, now is the time for a seizure.  Do it right here in the restaurant.  You can’t be shy.  You have to sell it.  Knock over a table.  It will be a little awkward but you’ll be home free before you know it.  Do it.  Let it rip.

“I’d like to come over to your place and hang out,” she said.

“Like tonight?”

“Of course.”

“Uh…sure.”  I watched myself say it while hovering just above my body.

If she gets into my apartment, not only will she know where I live, but will probably rape and kill me, all the time.  She only works part-time.  I know how this works.  First you try to let them down easy and say nice things about them, then you switch to why you are too terrible a person to deserve such a goddess, but as soon as they sniff out it’s a shove-off the tears turn on.  The next thing you know, you’re engaged.  It starts out as break-up speech and winds up being a marriage proposal–just to stop the crying.  Or in this case, the stabbing.

As we got up from the table, she wobbled a bit.

“Whoa, that wine kicked my ass!  I hope you don’t plan on taking advantage of me.”  She winked and gave me a big Halloween smile.

Oh God.  Here we go.  I grabbed the tablecloth with both fists and started shaking.

On-line Loverboy Roy, Part 1.

There was no need to consult the monkey bones for an oracle, when the question, “What am I doing here?” keeps going through your head like a mantra, the date is not going well.  I looked over at her.  She was studying the menu intently.  I watched her eyes loiter around a section I’d rather they not be hanging out in.  Go ahead and stick me for the lobster.  You know you want to.  Who knows how this evening is going to turn out?  You might as well ride the gravy train while you can.  Get while the gettin’ is good.

“I think I’m going to have the lobster,” she announced, and set down the menu.

“Good choice,” I nodded.

I don’t think it would’ve bothered me if I didn’t know it was coming.  I get so disappointed with people when they meet my expectations.  Now I had no choice but to get something really cheap to mitigate the damage, and hopefully shame her.  Grilled cheese?  Too obvious.  Hamburger.  Yeah.  Simple burger.  What am I doing here?

That was the million dollar question.  I couldn’t answer you then, and today, after years of reflection, I can only take a stab at it.  Boredom?  The idea that being out with any woman was better than sitting at home?  A desperate grab for validation?  Something to write about later?

I can honestly tell you it wasn’t for sex.  Not in this case.  It may have started off that way.  I can’t imagine any other reason someone would on-line date, except maybe to find a soul-mate, to spend the rest of your life with having sex.  No, dear friends, as soon as I saw her, I knew this date wouldn’t be about sex.  Not if I had any say.  And as the man, I thought I had a pretty good say.

I was living in Redondo Beach with my bubby, Spike.  I was newly sober and “lonely” as hell.  I was not doing all that well in the bars now that I was deprived of charm juice.  I thought about maybe using this newfangled computer contraption and enrolling in an on-line dating service.  I was hesitant.  It seemed sleazy and demeaning, which if you know any stories about me, you’ll know is a total howler.  Really?   This is too low?

I can’t explain it, but I was getting all Amish, and felt like computer dating was interfering with Divine Will.  What about meeting a girlfriend the old-fashioned way, hung over, doing laundry at the mat?  This was like reaching into a bag of snakes and trying to grab the non-poisonous one.  It seemed wrong.  I thought about it.  Wrong in my world usually says “Green Flag.”  I sat down at Spike’s computer.

I hated filling out the profile thing.  I stared at the questions.  I could fill out the parts that required scientific facts, like weight and height, hair and eye color, but after that…shit.

Hobbies and interests?   I don’t have any.  Not ones, I could list and expect a date.  But, I didn’t want to lie either.  Not out of some ethical concern.  I didn’t want to rattle off a bunch of bullshit like skydiving and chess, because with my luck, I’d wind up with someone who insists on jumping out of an airplane together or staring  at a dusty board for hours in her favorite cafe.  That or any other pain in the ass thing that people like do for fun.

I decided to gamble and be honest.

“Laying around thinking about Stalingrad or contemplating the collapse of civilization.  As a youth, I was a champion drinker and marathon brooder.  I also enjoy studying criminal history, and reading about the lives of social misfits, deviants, holy madmen and psychopaths.”  There, that wasn’t so bad.  What else?

Under spiritual life I put “It’s complicated.”

How would I describe myself?  “Deeply troubled, but in a happy-go-lucky way.”

Okay, likes and dislikes.  Be careful here.  Really?  Why now?

“I like sunsets, romantic evenings by the fire, good movies, music and food.  But also don’t really feel like going out of my way for them. Oh, I like aliens, too. ”

Nice. Brief and concise.

Dislikes?  This probably won’t be as brief.  Let’s see…

“I dislike food poisoning, organ music, jail, pushy people, greedy people, arrogant, slick, vain, pompous, shallow, craven, know-it-all blowhard people, people who slow down walking across the crosswalk when they can see you’re waiting to turn, people who try to push the lifestyle that’s making them miserable on you, people who have to actually tell you they have a great sense of humor (they never do), people who take the last slice of pizza without a courtesy inquiry, rats, back-stabbers, hypocrites, snobs, bad eggs and chiselers, but overall I’m easy-going and non-judgmental.”

Under education I listed my degree.  Pretty worthless, until just right then.  That’s right, ladies, a college man.  Let’s talk about a book.

Current Occupation:  Bouncer at a strip club.

I looked it over for any blatant grammatical errors.  None that I saw, but how would I know?  I’m the one who wrote it.

There, that should do it.  Don’t forget to put you’re a Cancer.  Ha-ha.  Boy, ain’t that right.

My finger hovered over the send button.  You’re really going to do this?  Pretty honest little resume you whipped up there.  Not exactly using the best bait.  Maybe put in some cute and charming.  A wee sprinkle?  Fuck it!  We’re going to press with what we have.  Let’s see what this gets, if anything at all.  I pushed send.  I like doing stuff like that.  Just-to-see kind of stuff.

My first response was an ex-porn star.  Heart-attack serious, folks.  Ask Spike.  She contacted me.  In her e-mail she said flat-out that she was an ex-skin starlet, and was now producing adult films.  I could see her photo on the web site of the company she worked for.  I clicked on the link expecting it to take me to some Dr. Viagra M.D. Next Day Delivery web site, but there it was, her porn company.  I clicked under producers and looked her up.

No way.  I think I know her.  Not sure how.  She looked good.  Major Mid-forties Milfage.

Okay, just what the hell is going on here?  Some sort of cosmic Candid Camera?  It sounded too good to be true.  I thought it was some off-shoot of a Nigerian banking swindle.  I smelled some kind of  rat trap or sting.  Maybe a militant male-hating cyber terrorism group, dangling some candy so you’d open something you shouldn’t.  Yeah, get infected with some kind of worm.  It destroys your computer, but worse, dashes your hope of dating a milfy ex-porn queen.

Come on. My first tug on the line and I pull up this up?  Could this be real?  If this is real, it’s going to end bad.  Maybe something so terrible and surreal you won’t ever recover from it.

Must pursue.  Must.

She said she thought my profile was funny and wanted me to send her a photo of me without my shirt (at least I got to keep my pants on).  I really felt like I was auditioning.  She asked me to send it care of her company in the San Fernando Valley, of course.

I did, of course.  Dirty whore.  Me that is.  The jury was still out on the other deal.  In the meantime, I picked up the pace on the push-ups while I waited for her response.

She wrote back saying she got the pictures and was okay with meeting me.  Then she sent me her cell number.  Hmm… this may be real…and…I can’t do it.  It’s too weird.  Especially now without my handy judgement-impairment elixir.  So much easier to step into any passing abyss with a little drinky-poo to cushion the fall.  What’s the matter with me?  Man up.  Can’t I have impaired judgement without alcohol?

Of course you can.  You have to learn how to do everything sober now, and that includes making bad decisions.  Dating a porn star (ex) would so qualify.  Even if she was now a polished successful professional business woman with two teenage sons and a track record longer than Santa Anita’s.  I picked up the phone.

Now before you think that this was the lobster date, I can assure you I wouldn’t have bemoaned fine dining Pornula Von Milfenstein.  That was another thing, and I’ll get back to Lobster Lana in a bit.  Let me first finish up with the porn queen.  Ha.

No, there was no dinner with the Baroness.  She invited me to meet her at Hustler Hollywood.  Her company was putting out (indeed) a new line of interactive porno CDs.  I nodded, “yes that sounds so new to me- interactive porn.  Technology is amazing.”  They were going to have a big opening at the store with an after-party appropriately after.  All the top people in her nasty, stinky business would be there.

Wow.  Very weird first date.  I’m in.

Friday night, I combed my shoes and shined my hair.  I got in the car and headed for Hollywood.  Nervous.   A little thirsty.  Having moments of kind of wanting to be dead that came and went.  I parked the car at some rip-off and walked in.

The store was busy, and there were assorted bouquets of harlotry placed strategically here and there among the crowd.  I started to shark my way through the crowd.   She recognized me first, which was a total relief.  Nice looking lady.  Dressed classy, a tailored suit, probably a Valentino.  Pearls.  Expensive heels.  My mom would approve.  Hahahahahaha!

She really would have.  That’s the thing.  Drop the bomb later.   Anyway, she turned out to be a nice lady, warm and friendly.  Very normal.  And that was a problem.  I didn’t mind her being a porn queen.  I tend not to begrudge women the amount of men they’ve been with.  In this case, it just happened to be a lot, and in a lot of weird ways.

I was kind of hoping that she’d be more unorthodox, like with her thinking, and not just with the way she handed out slices of mango to every ape in Hollywood.  From what I was picking up, she was pretty mainstream.

I don’t swim well in those waters.  Pretty boring too.  But then I watched her click across the floor to hug some up-and-coming starlet.  They kissed on the mouth.  Okay, this isn’t boring yet.

After the opening we drove over to a club on Vine St. that was holding the party.  It was okay, as bummers go.  It was the first time I tried to dance sober.  Tried is the word.  I would’ve rather crawled over broken glass.  Fucking murder.  Pretty bad deal.

Anyway, I couldn’t relax.  I was stiff and insecure.  I had no game, and just sort of stood around filling out a suit.  Knowing I could light it up with a couple of cans of joy, but having to hold off.  Knowing it’s not going well, and kind of resigned to be doomed for now.  Taking it on the chin.

At the end of the evening I walked her out to her car.  She drew close.  Here it comes, Chip Chappy.  Let’s see what your performance rates.

She gave me a hug…and then a peck on the cheek…and then…wait for it…a pitty-pat on the back.

Kill me now, God.  I date a porn star and get a peck and a pitty-pat.  The fraternal love death-blow.  What sort of dastardly Lord of Fate was on duty when this shit was dreamed up?  Seriously, that stings like a bitch, Dude.  I knew it was a set-up.  I smelled it!

The next night at work, one of the bouncers asked me how the date went.  I told him I struck out.

“I realized I actually have a video of her,” he said, “giving  John Leslie a Dirty Belgium Waffle.”

“That’s great.  I got a pat on the back.”

I was sour for a while after that, but when I realized that I stayed sober through it, I felt a little better.  What am I to learn from all this?   That the Amish are right.  That computer dating is worst thing ever invented.  It’s beyond evil and I would never do it again.

After one more try.

That try got me Lobster Lana.  But, we get to deal with her ex-con bad ass next week, in the second part of this saga, appropriately designated, Part 2.

“I almost got arrested at that place.” Photo by Guy Ambrosino