Train I Ride

The Last Pale Light in the West.

The Last Pale Light in the West.

I looked out from the window.  Watched the passing shacks, sheds, shanties, and week-end torture cabins that dot our great Northwest.  Haunted houses.  Suicide barns.  Junked cars.  Algae-filled kiddie pools.  Crumbling brick buildings.  Rotting timber.  Rusting machinery.  Rusting everything.  Everything rusting and getting overgrown.  Moss.  Mold,  Weeds.  Plants.  You can see the earth trying to digest all this man-made ugliness.  Trying to return all this shit back into molecules it can use.

Lori and I were on our way to Seattle.  We love the Pacific Northwest.  Gloom is good for our complexions.  We flew into Portland, hung out for a few days, then took the train up to see her brother in Wallingford.  I like train travel.  Always preferred it.  Very relaxing.  I like staring at the landscape.  I like it when it’s beautiful.  But I also get a kick out of seeing ugly places.  Always have.  Ever since I was a little kid.  My favorite family vacations were the ones to Tijuana.  After that Las Vegas, which is a different kind of ugly.

Anyway, the best way to enjoy any kind of bleak landscape is from a train speeding away from it.  Barstow.  Gallup.  National City.  29 Palms.  Folsom Prison.  There it is.  And there it goes.  Perfect.  Now make your way to the bar car.  And really make it go away.

Take Amtrak and see America.

Take Amtrak and see America.

Speaking of bar cars.  While we were sitting at the station in Portland, these five business guys clad in Casual Friday climb into our car.  They’re all together.  Going to somewhere to do something.  Where or what I couldn’t give a rat’s ass.  Guys like this are so un-intersting ta me they usually turn invisible after my first glance.

They overhead their little rolly suitcases, sit down, plug in their lap tops, and evaporate into thin air.  Poof.  Gone.

Actually, only three of them.  They were on their way to the bar car before the train was even moving.  The first man up was a porcine chap with a burr haircut and a red face.  Of course him.  Retaining a little water he was.  You don’t just get bloated eyelids…you earn them.  He was the first to hop up.  He also made it easier for the other two to follow.  The Ice Breaker.  Taking point.  God bless you, soldier.

“Hey get me one,” the guy sitting right behind me calls out.  In a pointed way.  Like he knows the score.

Buzz-haired fat guy stops.  He gets the dig.  Decides to take it head on.  Turns to the guy and asks him what he wants.

No answer.

He turns back and opens the sliding door.  The three file out into the next car.  Well played.

“Do you have a lot of work to do?” the guy behind me asks the guy sitting next to him.  I figure it’s to feel him out.  Like maybe unwinding with a cold one in the lounge wouldn’t be the worst idea a man had ever had.

“I’ve always have a lot of work,” the other dude says.  He stays seated.  Uh-oh.  He’s that guy.

Shit, I’m thinking.  He’s blocked in.  Can’t climb over this one to do a little early afternoon drinking.  That’s giving away a lot of leverage in the office power struggle.  Might pull that ace out of his sleeve someday.  Especially now that there’s been talk of downsizing.

Fuck it, dude.  Climb over the corpse.  Leave him to his lap top, while you suck suds and watch hobo jungles roll by.  You hate this job anyway.  Just get drunk in the bar car and hop off at the next stop.  Where ever it is.  Wander around.  Looking for adventure.  And love.

He could max out his cards.  Hock the company computer.  Shack up with some cocktail waitress that only has her kid two days a week.  Get into a fist fight with her ex in the parking lot of a KFC.  Spend the night in jail with him.  Listen to how that woman ruined his life.  Feel guilty he ever made it with her.  Get to experience the awkward handshake when she bails you out and not him.

But it was not to be.  He remained seated.  Starts clacking away at his keyboard.

Not one of my people.  Not like the Ice Breaker.  I bet he’d hop off.  Given the right barometric pressure.  He’d make that run for freedom.

I put on the Bose headphonic system and cued up Ben Nichols on the I-podular.  It helps to listen to good music while appreciating the passing scenery.  It really does.  I take better pictures too.  Sets my imagination free.

Beach front property.

Beach front property.

I watched a dilapidated Victorian house pass by.  A child molester’s ghost lives in the attic.  There was an abandoned mill that used to grind human lives into meaningless gristle.  A trailer where the wife beats the husband.  A tree fort with moldy Playboys.  A once magical place.  Where hope was born.

A decrepit men’s hotel.  Where it died.  In a hot plate fire.

A tin shack.  Bad things happened there.  More then once.

Sad gas station.  Spray-painted boulder.  A pile of tires.  A toxic pond.  A man with a big head standing by the road.  Holding a small stick.

A rusting swing set.   Last swung in 1991.  By a guy who did a lot of meth in Tacoma.  Robbed pizza guys before he got sent up to Walla Walla.  Now doing a fifteen-year bit.  Still remembers the swing.  It was his happiest time.  He knew it would be.  Even back then.  And he was right.  Now he dreams of dying.

I really love travel.

A choice of bridges to jump from.

A choice of bridges to jump from.

We hit a patch of beautiful scenery.  I watched but couldn’t add anything to it.  It spoke for itself.  After a while I took off the headphones.

Lori was under the influence of Sudoku.  Forget trying to talk to her.  I decided to listen to the two guys behind me.  The conscientious employees.

I had to piece things together, but I got that they were all from some company.  One that sells supermarket check-out systems.  Pretty exciting.  Every kid’s dream.  Anyway, their main competitor is NCR, who according to the guy behind me, has been aggressively underbidding them.  They’ve also been offering a very generous service agreement.  One their company can’t match.  NCR is also better at innovation than the company these guys work for.

Why those dirty fucks.  Sounds like you’re on a sinking ship.  Better hit the bar car.

Thank God they still have the Safeway supermarkets contract.  Problem is Safeway doesn’t  keep up a lot of their stores.  They spend a lot on their check-out systems, but don’t spend enough on remodeling.  Some of the fixtures are over thirty years old.  It drives him crazy.

“My wife’s parents tell me they love to shop at Safeway…because there’s nobody there.  Oh God, I think, don’t tell me that!”

The other guy just grunts.  He’s the one who always has work.  Probably doesn’t appreciate all this defeatist talk.  Especially when there’s so much work to do.

The whole thing was depressing beyond anything I could cook up watching rural-industrial blight.

Pretty sweet deal alright.  I had hit the bummer bonus.

These were some unhappy warriors.  Lot’s of sacrifice and no glory.  Or whatever glory there is in paying the daughter’s orthodontist bill on time.  Doing the right thing, as best they can, and still pretty miserable.  Charging the bill.  Charging the hill.  Even when they know it’s going to murder them.  Pretty heroic, actually.  Heroes.  Everyday ones.  Like me.

Because it was pretty heroic of me not to get up and head to the bar car.  And try to drink their misery away.  For them.

The most brutal part was when they all had to get off the train at Tukwila, just before we hit Seattle.  The town was a quarter mile away from the platform.  It didn’t look like much of a town either.  I nudged Lori.  We watched them pull their little suitcases along a path so overgrown with summer weeds, it looked like they where making their way through a rice paddy in the Ia Drang Valley.  The Ice Breaker pulling up the rear.  His suitcase wobbling wildly.

Our train started to pull away.

“Just let them make it to the treeline, God.  Before the Cong get them.”

“What?”

Tukwila, the end of the rainbow.

Tukwila, the end of the rainbow.

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Vengeance Is Okay, I Guess.

Vengeance is mine. What do I do with it?

Vengeance is mine. Now what?

Three and a half minutes.  That’s how long I can rub my hands together in fiendish glee, before even that gets boring.  I just timed it.  Kind of a let down.  Doesn’t make sense to make a hobby out of it.  Maybe I should get out the paints and see if being creative is still fun.  Not tonight though.

I found out that an arch nemesis is about to be destroyed.  The D.A. has him in the rack, and big iron bolts are clinking while he turns the crank.  Financially he is ruined.  All that remains to be seen is if he will do time.  Regardless, it’s not too early to call it.  Game Over.

The Blind Creature of Slime is crushed under the chariot wheels of  Justice. Voltar is victorious!  Time to leash the baying hounds.  Light the woods with fire.  Pour mead into our skull mugs.  Throat lusty ballads of plunder and pillage.  Invite the giant warlords to our victory feast.

Let us celebrate the smiting.  Let us quaff from our joy eternal.  While our foes eat flame in the Wasteland of Woe.

Drink up everybody.

Huh.

I thought I’d feel happier.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy.  It’s just that I thought I’d be happier.

Eight years I waited for this news.  And now, well, part of me  feels sorry for the guy.  What kind of bullshit is this?

Why oh Lord, must all my victories be Pyrrhic?

How can I expect to loiter among the gods with this stain across my suit?  This hot dog mustard of Humanity.

At least this one is karma-free.  I didn’t lift a finger, drop a dime, arrange anything.  He did it all to himself.  Like I knew he would.  Eventually.

I’ve stood by and watched this guy pull some scandalous shit over the years.  Screwed a lot of people.  Like me.  Most importantly.  Because I’m one of those people that don’t like to be fucked under deres, Pally.  Capezio?

I had all kinds of chances to sting back.  Trust me.  Figured out some good ones.  Couldn’t help it.  I slide into Evil Chess Master mode easily.  And this guy seemed to be designed for the express purpose of goading me to engage.  To bring down some Byzantine bitch slap.  Teach him what blind worship of Moloch can lead to.  Help him see The Light.  Steer him towards better citizenship.

But I never deployed.  Came close.  Started to squeeze, but never pulled the trigger of my V-Weapon.  Practicing restraint, you see.  Voltar was in the lap dance booth, but he was keeping his hands on the couch.

I can blame that on recovery.  The whole thing reeked of some kind of a spiritual test.  Biblical life that I now lead, I can smell a rat trap.  Too temping this cheese.  No.  My deal would require trusting that there would be some kind of justice.  Even without my vigilante assistance.

What can I say?  Voltar likes to experiment in his lab.  He wanted to see if all this shit was for real.  This spiritual angle.

It was hard.  The little fucker was getting away with murder.  So it seemed.  Dodging every projectile thrown by the angry mob.  Bobbing and weaving, but somehow remaining untouched.  Irritating to witness.  Frustrating to grasp.  Double-U, Tee, Eff.

It’s exactly at times like that , I would have expedited things.  How about we save the Universe all the trouble of arranging some karmic payback, and I just kick his ass right now?  You know, cut to the chase-o, Pedro.

Alas, my only weapon would be patience.  My only medicine a dyspeptic tonic of tolerance.  None of which I’d mastered or learned to stomach.  I would also have to holster my magic powers of cunning and deceit, and forsake any Machiavellian machinations.  Nor would I take advantage of the pro-bono attorney I had on speed dial.  Basically, I set myself up for an ambush.

For no other reason than it might keep me from drinking, which is my favorite thing to do.

Sounds perfect.  -Ly bad.  Where do I sign up?

He did fuck me under.  Many, many, many times.   And for the most part, I just took it.  Looking back, it was nothing I couldn’t recover from.  But he did make life harder.  Especially when I let him.

All the torrents of poisoned-tongued venom I held banging behind my teeth.  All the tight-lipped, wide-nostrilled attempts at civility.  Eye-lid spaz-flapping from the strain.  White knuckles stuck in pockets.  Mumbling my motherfucker mantra.  Trying to keep it together.  Keep cool.  Grip the imaginary neck.  Then let it go.

Good old-fashioned clenched teeth sobriety.

It’s not like I was an angel.  But the bad things I did do back to him, we’re downright saintly compared to what I had cooking upstairs.  There was a decided dial-down on the Nob of Wrath.  Whatever lashes I whipped back were involuntary.  Like when a friend unexpectedly chops you in the neck with an ironing board and you freak out on them, before realizing they were only fucking around.  Knee-jerk stuff.

Besides that, I would try to leave him to himself, and let what happens to him… just happen.  His fate I would see, like Ozzy said. “after forever.”

I can wait.

Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

Tick.

I didn’t realize Eternity was so long.

Tick.

“He’s a creature of God.  Perfect in his apparent imperfection.  A pilgrim on The Path.  Beloved by the Creator.”

And a total dick.  His personality poisons our pool with plague.  I strongly suggest destruction.

“Everything you hate about him, you possess within yourself.”

Yeah okay, sorry for giving the high-hat.  Go ahead and destroy us both.  Just don’t let him get away.

And so it would go.  Back and forth.  To and froward.  The struggle itself felt futile.  There didn’t seem to be any pay-off.

Until one day, we parted ways, and I forgot all about him.  He became an insignificant ghost in my mind.  Maybe I didn’t love him.  But I didn’t hate him anymore.  I had managed to climb as far as Indifference on the spiritual ladder.  What’s that like, good for a bronze?  Anyway, it was definitely short of Compassion.

Until today.  Like I said, now I kind of feel sorry for him.  A little.  It’s weird.

I know.  I’m getting soft in my old age.  But maybe we’re supposed to.  Ripen.  It’s what makes grandparents better than parents.  A little more of the unconditional love.  A little less Hammer of Thor.

We could all use a little less Hammer of Thor these days.  Shit is hard enough.  For everybody.

Unless of course, you’re just begging for a hammer blow.  And Thor really wants to deliver one.  A real smiter.  Something to make the anvil ring across valleys of Valhalla.  It’s golden echo sending black birds up from their trees–into red skies streaked with lightning.

Then we’ll have to honor that.  As well.  Accept it.  Like all the other stuff.

It’s just that some stuff is easier to accept.

You know what I mean?

V.

My Brother Strip Club Gladiator

Being of service to my brother bouncer.

Being of service to my brother bouncer.

Decided I’d pick a random picture out of a pile and write about it.  What can I say?  I’m desperate for topics.  Okay.  This one should be easy.  Me and Joe.  We’re at my mom’s house having lunch.  I’m pouring him a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice made from concentrate.  It looks like I’m wearing a chandelier, but I’m just standing behind it.

And that.  Is pretty much.  That.

That’s what’s going on there.

Old Joe.  And me.  At my mom’s house.

Having lunch.

How about that?

Yeah, that’s some crazy shit.

Obviously, this was taken during a period of sustained sobriety.  Because that’s how cray-cray I roll when I’m not drinking.  Doesn’t lend itself to a good story though.

I guess I could write about the dashing black devil dog I’m pouring the OJ for.  That’s Joe.  We became buddies while working as bouncers at the same strip club.  This was the dump in Gardena.  Not the one by LAX.  The one on the Compton border.  Just get on Rosecrans Blvd. and follow the sound of gunfire.  And the smell of sex.

It wasn’t one of my more stress-free gigs.  There we were, sitting on piles and piles of cash, one block away from the 110 freeway on-ramp.  It was as close to a sure-thing armed heist jack-pallooza pay-off as you’re going to get.  At least that’s what all us bouncers had decided.

Now…if we could only find some people around here desperate enough to try.  Yoo-hoo!  Anybody in this zip code like some free money?

What made it even better was that I took the cover charge and carried the majority of the cash.  Felt like I was wearing a bacon-bikini to a dog fight. Eventually the owners let me carry a piece, but in this neighborhood that didn’t really guarantee anything, except drawing more fire.

So I really appreciated having a guy like Joe watching my back.  Ex-Marine.  Funny.  Sharp as razor wire.  Strong as an ox.  Squared-away.  He wanted to be a writer too.  We became pals and hung out when not at work.  We’d lift weights at his apartment and talk about writing, life, strippers.  Travel to border towns in Mexico in search of adventure and romance.  Just normal stuff.

He was a good fighter.  I got to watch him work his magic a few times.  He had a pretty impressive beat-down delivery system worked out.  Mostly thanks to Uncle Sam, but he also had a natural talent.  Which is hilarious when you knew Joe.  When you knew what a total sweet-heart, good soul he was.  To watch him go from genial, charming guy–to ring gladiator–was an amazing thing to witness.

They never saw it coming.  A flash of white teeth, then a storm of blows.  Black Lighting.

He didn’t have to resort to that very often since he had this natural ease about him.  It put other people at ease.  He could defuse a potentially explosive situation with a well-placed wisecrack, or a “C’mon now, work with me, brother!”

He never showed fear.  But he also didn’t get up in dude’s faces.  Instead, he would gently steer potential trouble down and away.  I liked that.  Now that I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t so gung-ho for fisticuffle solutions.  A fella could get hurt.

Sometimes though, you’d run across a dude whose personal karmic debt was just screaming to be paid.  A man intent on blowing past all the safe exits being courteously offered by this gracious gentleman.  He’d misjudge Joe’s nice as soft.  Think he could steamroll him.

That’s when he’d meet The Panther.

Surprise!  You’re suppositions were errant.  Now you get to do The Chicken while being choked out by in a powerful ebony bicep.

We worked well together.  Like some salt and pepper super hero duo.  I was salt.  Since, you know, me and the salt-shaker thing.  Although, at that point, I had moved away from those to a kinder and gentler 300,000 volt zapper, La Chicharra.  A light touch on the back of the neck.  Arcing blue spark blowing out CNS circuits, a little mountain dance, then a collapse into a puddle of electrified urine.  Much more humane.

Relatively.  That little Tesla cattle prod packed a wallop.  I know.  I accidentally sat on it one night getting into my car.  Forgot I had it in the back pocket.  All I know is I’m reaching for the ignition and a Frankenstein bolt of electricity blasts down my right leg.  Kzzzzaaahrrrrrr!

I screamed like a little girl.  Yes it hurt, like a bear trap snapping repeatedly along the limb, but it freaked the fuck out of me too.  Your first thought isn’t “Oh I just accidentally sat on my zapper.”  No, you think something very terrible is happening to you.  Something mysterious.  Some unmeasurable new torment.  From God, maybe.  And your involuntary screaming frightens you into more screaming.

Glad the windows were rolled up.

Anyway, it was good to know Joe had my six.  I sure had his.  I loved that guy.

We wound up working for the same security company after the we left the strip club.  That was dead-end, so we’d try to pick up free-lance work doing escort for scared rich people.  Most of the time we just wound up doing security at rap shows and private parties.  But, whatever we’d find individually, we’d try to get the other guy in on.   Always looking out for each other.

One day, I got to do him a major solid.

One of my contacts, a successful jewelry designer I carried baubles for, had one of her girlfriends coming in from overseas.  She needed a driver and escort while she stayed in LA.  My lady friend told me this woman was beautiful, and like I mentioned, prosperous enough to pay well.  Just to safely shepherd her around.

Why I didn’t take the job I don’t know.  Something just told me to pass it on to Joe.  I knew his financial empire was struggling a little more than mine at the time, so I told my lady I’d have Joe do it.  She had already met him one night in Santa Barbara when we all had dinner together.  (Actually, that was the night before this picture was taken.)

“Oh yes,” she said, “Joe would be perfect. Mmm yes, PERFECT.”

Huh?  Oh.  Okay.  I got it.  Our company just expanded it’s service line.  This was going to be one of those deals.

Shit.  I may have just fucked myself out of a very enjoyable paid gig.  Oh well.  This was going to be quite a happy surprise for Joe.  I called him and dialed him in on the basics, but left out my intuitions, not wanting to get his hopes up.  I shouldn’t have worried.

He called me the day after.

“I owe you more than I could ever repay.”

I knew it.  I sat down on the couch.

“Over several lifetimes.”

“Oh shit, what happened?”

“All good things, man.  All good things.  I so owe you.”

“What the fuck happened?!!”

“Just the best day of my life.”

“The one that could have been mine.  Go on.”

He tells me how he goes to pick her up at the hotel she’s staying at, and into the lobby slinks this blonde cougar.  Early forties.  Classy.  Sophisticated.   Clearly an intelligent and together woman.  But maybe unstable enough to be fun.  Maybe some unresolved issues that periodically erupt in deliciously bad behavior.

“Nine,” he says, “with make up.  Solid eight without.”

“You saw her without her make-up?”

“Hold on.  I’m getting there, but it’s part of a whole package.  A whole package of WOW!”

He’s laughing.  You can hear the joy.  Oh man, I’m thinking, a whole package of WOW sounds so good.  Even half a package.  I felt a tinge of something I didn’t like, so I shoved it away.

He tells me that after he picked up this clickity-clackity sexity society kitten, he took her to 3rd St. Promenade in Santa Monica.

“Good call.”

“Roger that.”

They walked around, looking at the stores and restaurants, Joe just being the young-charming-good-looking-intelligent-witty-chivalrous-chiseled-mahogany individual that he was.

“We hit it off right away.  She seemed fairly happy hanging out with me.”

“Really?  I’ll never figure out women.”

They stroll along the beach.  It’s a beautiful day and the freaks are out.  Lots to talk about.  Laugh about.  Poke playfully at each other about.  She takes him out to a long, leisurely lunch.  Over a glass of wine, she tells him about her life, with Joe asking all kinds of questions that showed his deep interest in her personal history.  He throws in a gentle tease here and there.  She throws her napkin at him, and they smile.  Order more wine.  Let their feet touch under the table.

“Get to the no make-up part.  Actually back up to just before that.”

“Chill my brother.  The story is unfolding.  Elements are…coming together.”

“You managed that too?”

“Not every time.  Just on the last one.”

“I fucking give up.”

Well, it turns out that our sexy and successful client wanted Joe to take her to a girlfriend’s house.  Why not?  Her friend’s a well-known actress, one that’s married to an even more-famous professional football quarterback.  One who also happened to be an African-American athlete Joe greatly admired.  How about that?  His job now required taking this beautiful charge to their mansion, to party.

“You’re bullshitting.”

“Afraid not.”

Fucking rough.  Raw deal.  It meant more people to charm, more people to make laugh and have fall in love with you. Having to sip the premium liquor your personal hero keeps pouring you, while a sexy vampula keeps sneaking you hungry looks.  With teeth-licking.  And eyebrow-raising. Mr. Quarterback’s quarter-grand sound system blasting Bootsy Collins.  Everybody in the kitchen.  Bumping to the beat.  Drinking.  Laughing.  Eating sushi appetizers prepared by the private cook.

I got up to get a beer, then remembered I didn’t drink anymore and sat back down.

“Please tell me you all get food-poisoning.  From the sushi.”

No such luck.  After soul-brother hugging his hero and kissing his beautiful actress wife goodnight, he takes the slightly-teetering client back to her hotel room at The Four Season.  After a few hours of endurance-testing, porn-worthy, jungle-fevered gymnastics they finally collapsed.

It was then he saw her without make-up, as she snuggled next to him in moist, twisted sheets.

“She taught me some shit.  Man.  Tore me up.”

“Got your freak on, did you?”

“Freaky freak.  Freaky-deaky freak.”

“Wow.  That is whole package of WOW.”

“Now here’s the kicker–”

Yeah.  Need one.  A good donkey kick in the gut.  Just to send me somersaulting down the stairs of self-pity.

“She paid me my hourly…up to when I left the next morning.”

“That only seems fair.  Making two month’s worth of pay to endure all that bullshit.”

I inhaled deeply through my nostrils.  Exhaled through my ears.

“You’re a dirty whore, Joe.”

“Oh yes. Yes I am!”

It was weird though, the jealousy was only a pang.  It sort of hit and binged off.  It didn’t lodge in and smolder.  Sure, I wish I had his day.  But something about knowing that Joe got it, a guy I really loved, took the sting out.  I found myself being genuinely happy for him.  More happy than pissed about missing out.

It was strange.  Nice, actually.  It  felt good knowing I kind of helped make it happen.  That I helped a bro have that kind of a day.

And night.

A guy like Joe deserved it.  All guys like him do.

Anyway, that’s what I think about when I see this picture.

My work is done.

You Can’t Punch Gas

I decided the other night that I wanted to be more vague.  Really want to cultivate it as a quality.  You can do that you know.  Reinvent yourself. Not just for credit fraud either.  But as an exercise in character building.  Become a different person.  One with new super powers.

Being nebulous as gas is a good one.  To be able to disappear into vacuous vapor.  And leave them swinging at air.

It’s a power I’m only beginning to harness, but it’s already yielded rich rewards.  The power to be vague.  With long periods of silence in between.  Vague and laconic.  Somewhere in that quiet, your next move becomes clear.

It’s an important skeleton key to freeing yourself from the cage of modern life.  No wonder I blew it.  I always tripped myself up with specifics.  Tried to tell the cop too much to prove I wasn’t guilty.  That worked great.

Like a charm.

Fucking specificity.

Always talked myself into a corner–one I could only break out of by clawing like rat set on fire with oil.  Very ungraceful.  Unladylike.  Screeching and scratching my way out of  life’s jams.   It was all so unnecessary.  A fool’s errand.

I should’ve been hiding in the foofy cloud of an ambiguous response.  Don’t try to explain anything.  Just smoke-bomb the room with a big cumulus question mark.

It’s getting yourself out of the most ass-burning trouble with a “Hey, it is what it is,” as your only defense.  And maybe a shoulder shrug.

It is what it is.

How can you argue with that?  Locked in logic.  Universally applicable.  Bullet-deflecting smoothness of surface.  No traction at all for a counter.

It is what it is.  If that is my only assertion during any conflict, short of a shank attack, I will win.  Simply by default.  Because what I claim is true.  Something is what it is.

That leaves them with having to argue that it is what it isn’t.  And that’s a harder row to plow.

Trust me.

It is.

Really amazing what can be achieved with a simple hunch of the shoulders.  And a blank look.  Gotta have that.  Essential.  If you can  toss a pinch of  boredom in that’s even better.  Not like you’re in a chemically-induced stupor, but existentially resigned.  Like apathy.  But more spiritual.

The trick is to become one with the wallpaper behind you.  Blend into nothingness.  Pretty soon people forget you’re there, and then why they were pissed at you.  If the heat gets too much, I’ll disappear into Oneness.  I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I’ll cease fighting everything.

“Maybe.”  “I don’t recall.”  “That might be true.”  “I don’t know.”  “I’m sorry.”

These are not the responses of an obtuse idiot.  These are power words.  Words that open the Gates of Heaven.  And the Door to the Palace of Slack.

These days, I don’t want to fight with anybody.  I just want to be left alone.  To be able to enjoy time with friends.  To eliminate as much drama as my housecleaning skills allow.  I want to Aikido any bullshit right past me.  And move on.

Whether it’s some paranoid fanatic screaming some insane and offensive political diatribe in my face, or somebody accusing me of the most heinous character deficiencies, I  just nod.  Regardless of how pissed I may be, or how much shit I have to throw back in their face.

Go slack.  Give slack.  Get slack.

“You may be right. ”

Put hands in pockets and shrug.

“But I am right!”

“Maybe.”

That’s it.  Don’t say anymore.  Let your eyes slowly roll up white like Lurch, to let them know you’ve left the building.  Stand there like a propped up corpse.  Go mummy on them.  Just be.  Listen  to a distant siren.  A dog bark.  A fly buzz.  A radio from a passing car.

It’s hard to argue with wallpaper.

Eventually they run out of gas and shut up.  And maybe even leave.

Anyway, it’s just another skill set I’m working on in sobriety.  Then there’s total honesty.  That’s the ultimate mind-fuck.  People don’t know how to handle it.  Really freaks them out.

A few years ago when I was personal training at a gym franchise, I came into work at 8 AM for my first client.  I see the owner training a lady.  He’s never there that early.  And he rarely trained people at that point in his career.  So I knew right away.  I was in trouble.

My first time ever.

I go to train my lady and as I’m passing by the owner, he says to me, “I’d like to see you in my office after you’re done with your client.”

“I assume this is about my promotion and raise.”

He just gives me a pained, tight-lipped smile, with nostrils flared and high-tension eyebrows raised in maximum pissed-offness.

Alright.  Whatever.  If I get fired, I’ll be okay.  If I wasn’t going to be okay, it would’ve been long before this.

This is nothing.

I finish with my client and head up the stairs.   I knock on the door and he tells me to come in.  He’s sitting on his leather throne behind a big desk.  I look around.  There’s lots of golden trophy statues of muscley men in Speedos surrounding him.  Plaques and honors of some sort nailed on the walls.  An entire wall of CCTV monitors.

“What time were you supposed to be here today?”

“I thought eight.”

“When was the last time you checked the schedule?”

“I don’t know, maybe three years ago.”

I was serious.  I never looked at the schedule.  I kept track of the appointments without the posted “schedule.”  And unless they threw in a surprise early ringer like they just did, everything went along just fine.   So I told him the truth.  Well, not the whole truth.

“Scratch that, I’ve never checked the schedule.  In the six years that I’ve worked here.”

That was the whole truth.

He just looks at me.  He doesn’t know what to say.

He starts sputtering about how they just signed up this new client for a few grand yesterday and put her with me at 7AM, how she got there and waited for me, and how she finally called him and made him drag his ass down to the club to train her.

Well nobody told me.  I have a cell phone.  Holler at me, bitch.  Make sure I’m dialed in.  Don’t dry-erase it on a greasy piece of yellow plastic curling up behind the microwave in a filthy employee break room after I leave, and expect me to somehow know.  Even if I was Johnny Check-The-Schedule.

Which I am fucking not.

You guys sold her the training after I left for the day, and nobody called me.  This is a major fuck-up on your part, dude.  No way to run a business. You almost lost a big account.  My God.

I bet it hurts, too.  Especially since…well…you pride yourself as being Mr. Business man, and shit.  So losing big accounts is the fucking worst.  I bet you’re a little frightened too.   Frightened and angry.  Like a teen rehab chick.  There there.  Don’t worry.  I’ll cut you some slack… this time.  In fact, I’ll even fall on this sword for you, fraidy cat.

“Well, it looks like I fucked up.”

“Yes! Yes you did! YOU FUCKED UP!”

I nod along.  Agreeing.  My face pleasant and happy that we can agree.  At least we all agree on one thing.  I fucked up.  On the same page there.  Seeing retina to retina.  We all vote “yes.”  I fucked up.  More than once, actually.

“Yep.” I said, “Looks that way.”

“You almost lost us a big account!”

“Wow.  That would’ve been bad.  Sorry.”

“It would’ve cost this club a lot of money!”

“Good thing you came down and trained her,” I said, bending down to re-tie my Converse.

He goes blank.  He can’t process this.  I’m completely at ease.  Frankly, I was looking forward to the early nap I’d get to take if he fired me on the spot, so I wasn’t entirely indifferent.  I was leaning for a certain outcome-but trying to stay neutral.  Trying to stay Zen about it.

I finished tying my sneaker, stood up and pulled my workout pants out of my crotch.  Gave them a little straightening pat.  Okay.  What’s next?  What do we do now?

“Well, like I said before, I’m sorry.  Is there anything else?”  I asked him.

He’s looking at me.  Looking at me.  Looking.

I look back.

Both of us looking at each other.  For a long time.  A pyramid erodes into sand.  Rocks grow.  A galaxy implodes.

I stare at the shafts of morning light illuminating the dancing dust across his desk.

The silence is peaceful.  I let my mind drift.

I picture a red balloon floating through the streets of Paris.  A girl in heels and yoga pants chasing after it.  I contemplate death.  How it’s really  birth.  And how that’s really worse than death.  Then I remember a redheaded kid in third grade whose constantly snotty nose made it look like he carried peas in his nostrils.  God, haven’t thought about him.  I look outside the window.  A bird flies by.  Have to gas up the car before I leave Oxnard.  Grateful for the decent mileage it gets.  Love that car.  Paid for too.  Suzuki Esteem.  Fuck yeah.

I have to scratch my chin.  So I scratch it.  Then go back to looking at each other.

Finally.

“No, that’s it, ” he says, dismissing me with a wave of his hand, “Don’t ever let it happen again.”

I stopped by the door.

“Well, I didn’t want it to happen the first time, boss.  So I can’t really guarantee it won’t happen again.  But I’ll try.”

More looking.

I reach out to shake his hand.  He hesitates, then takes it.  Shakes it.  I smile.  He doesn’t.

Good-bye early nap.  Oh well.

It is what it is.

I go downstairs.  I find out my next client cancelled sick.  The next one is at ten.  Thank you, Universe.  Good looking out for Johnny Honesty.  All is not lost.

I go outside and walk to my car.  It’s parked in the shade under a tree way back in the lot.  I know he’s watching me from one of the monitors.  I take the keys out of my sock and open the door.  I get in.

I’m grateful the rear seat folds down.  It means you can totally stretch out lying down.  Perfect for a nap.  Perfect nap mobile.

Suzuki Esteem.  Fuck yeah.

Fuck Yeah!

Fuck Yeah!

My Favorite Stripper.

Let me know when you're ready for a lap dance, player.

Let me know when you’re ready for a lap dance, player.

I’ve managed to meet a few exotic dancers over the course of my life, but she holds a special place.  For some reason, I always get to thinking about her around Thanksgiving.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because I was grateful to have known her.

She was a piece of work alright.  Men had no idea what they were in for.  But I did.  That’s what made it so wonderful to witness.  I’d watch some drooling letch walk arm and arm with her to the lap dance booth.  Or in the case of many Japanese business men, getting dragged into the booth by her.  Regardless of how they got there, they were all thinking the same thing.  “What an aggressive and nasty little slut!  What kind of a dirty whore has my good fortune chanced upon me here?  This omnivorous sexual creature, lacking inhibition and moral restraint.  This perfect woman.  At least for the lap dance booth.”

It was that or some variable of the same meme.  I could see it in their faces.  Their wild eyes.  Spinning Japanese eyeballs behind coke bottle glasses.  They were so excited.  Why shouldn’t they be?  This girl seems like someone who will let you get away with a lot.  They sensed a total disregard for boundaries.  A Devil’s playground for their wildest desires.

They were in for a surprise.  A boundary was about to punch them in the eye.  Knee them in the groin.

I was a manager at an L.A. strip club manager.  Stressed out.  Trying to stay sober.  Depressed.  Nervous about a big court date.  No money.  Shitty car.  No girlfriends.  And no, not doing any of the strippers.  Like I said, I was depressed, and maybe still mourning the loss of my drunkenhood.  I certainly wasn’t digging having to deal with things in a responsible and healthy manner.  My recently instilled moral compass had me baffled.  Navigating around the world with all kinds of restrictions and parameters was definitely harder.  No wonder I never wanted to do it.

It sucks ass.

It also seemed like every time I did do the “right” thing, something bad happened.  I was in deeper legal shit, then I had ever been in while drunk.  That didn’t seem like a very happy reward for giving up the thing I loved most.  Seemed like a total gyp, actually.  I was really getting the feeling that maybe it wasn’t worth all the effort, this new sober life.

Things kept coming at me, on an endless conveyer belt of bullshit.  Served continually, with no breaks.  With no beer to take the Nestea Plunge into.  No refreshing refreshments.  No oblivion to crawl into and hide.  Instead, it was Reality 24/7,  hammering and hammering on me.  Beating it out of me.  With no bell to end the round and take a stool.

My job didn’t help.  I was one of three managers at an ancient, bio-hazardous waste dump of a strip club.  I had to police over fifty different damaged bundles of dysfunction that we featured as entertainment.  Besides them, I had an owner to deal with.  He was a total money-crazed lunatic, who drank a lot and was prone to stroke-tempting rages.  Then I had a bunch of semi-retired gang bangers and ex-cons working as cashiers and doormen, a couple of odd-ball, tin-foil hat conspiracy nuts working as DJs, some strippers doubling as waitresses, and a few perpetually pissed-off bartenders, each with their own hornet’s nest of issues.

Then there was the clientele.

It would’ve made anybody want to drink.  It sure made me ready for a beer or seventeen after my shift.  Instead, I’d stop for a Cobb salad at Ralph’s and listen to the AM broadcast of Art Bell’s Coast to Coast on the late night drive back to Redondo Beach.  Coast to Coast is not tin foil, by the way.  Lizard people do exist, and many are in positions of great power.

Anyway, the barrage of bullshit was slowing eroding my resolve not to drink.  Also, the possibility of having to do time was hanging over my head, and that didn’t do much to slake my thirst.

So it’s never with great fondness that I recall those days surrounded by g-strings, glitter and thongs.  Go figure.  No, that’s a time in my life I tend to fast forward through when doing the Total Recall thing.  It was generally a gloomy two years.  I had to work at finding any silver lining.  The fact I could find some from such an unlikely source is note-worthy.  Lynx, the bad-ass, speed-freak stripper.  Oh shit.  There’s a song.  I call copyright.

Anyway, she was this  manager’s personal pet.  Out of the fifty or so girls we had working, she was my Number One.  My sunshine.  My only sunshine.

An attractive-enough little brunette, she wore her hair ratted up in a pony tail, like Pebbles… or Gene Simmons.  Had a pretty nice chassis.  Firm fanny.  Perky little peepers.  Sometimes she wore too much eye make-up and had a tendency to over-accessorize, but so did Gene Simmons.

I liked her because she could always crack me up.  I also found out that like me, she was trying to stay sober.  A fellow traveler on the Trudge Turnpike.

Not many of the other girls were trying to stay sober.  Like none other.  Not that every single one had a problem.  Just that of the many who did, no others were trying to do anything about it, but get money for more.  And while most of the other girls were criminally scandalous in their attempts to rip-off the house, Lynx was always square.  That’s the other thing I liked about her.

She showed me the respect of not making my job any harder.  She was still running game on a lot of the chump customers at the club, but she always rendered unto Caesar.  I appreciated that.  I never had to watch her.  Unless I wanted to.  Just for laughs.

I have to stop and make this clear.  Although she was attractive, I wasn’t necessarily attracted.  One of those strange things.  Like she was my younger sister in some other life.  I never had any pervy feelings for her.  Seriously.  I just got a kick out of her.  She had a loud laugh that made me laugh.  She was also a trip to watch.  She had the wanton whore thing down.

She’d be clomping around onstage in her black boots.  Not really dancing, but pacing back and forth like a caged dominatrix.  Step, step, turn.  Gyrate.  She’d have this look in her eyes like she was searching for someone to rape.  Raw animal lust, pausing only to choose who to violate next.  So many eligible and willing victims.  Step, step, step, turn.  You?  Gyrate.  Gyrate.

Ooh, pick me!  Pick me!

Poor suckers.  She didn’t have trouble snagging customers willing to pay for a private lap dance with her.  Guys were very eager to spend some quality time with her, to share some precious moments, inside one of our semi-private, shower-curtained, ripped couch, “what’s all this tissue on the floor?” suites.

After all, the mark had pretty good reason to believe he had pulled a live-wire.  He’s picked someone who would make his twenty-seven dollar, three-minute dance, worth every penny.  Those dirty fuckers all thought she’d be a pushover for some verboten grinding and rubbing.

I should probably explain how the lap dance thing worked, at least at this club.  Girls would dance on stage for tips, but if a guy really liked a girl, he could pay to take her into a booth and let her bump and grind on him.   He was supposed to keep his hands at his sides and never touch the dancer.  Well, at this club, all this took place in a dark booth, behind a plastic curtain.  I had floor men who would peek in to make sure everybody was playing by the rules, but strippers are a sneaky breed of greed.  If they can get away with earning a little extra, by allowing a little extra, most do.

Well, it turned out, Lynx was not that kind of girl.  She policed her privates to the legal letter of the law.  And she enforced that law with her bony little fists and pointy boots–much to the customer’s chagrin, and my utter delight.  I remember watching her take this excited, chubby business man into a booth.  He was leering.  His sweat glands were salivating.  Oh man.  He’s going to go for it.  Gonna make a grab for the gold.

I listened to the song start.  Sure enough.  After a couple of bars of music, I hear a commotion, and out from behind the shower curtain, Rolly Polly rolls out.  He’s sprawled on the floor, holding his eye.   She comes out of the booth putting some money in her purse, kicks the sorry lump, then steps over him on her way back to the dressing room.

“He touched my tits,” she told me.  I nodded.

The guy came to me complaining, but I didn’t want to hear any of it.  “You don’t touch her tits, dude.  She’s like a sister in a past life to me, you sick fuck, you filthy degenerate?   What kind of place do you think I’m running here?”   I had Danny throw him out.  No refund.

Turns out that guy was with a bunch of other guys.  They got pissed I was throwing out their buddy.  So I threw them out too.  They tried to make a stink, but found themselves surrounded by a bunch of guys right off the post office wall.  Yeah, that’s right.  No refund, you fucking fucks.

That’s what not drinking did to me.  Strung me way too tight.  Especially that first try.  I had no clue what it took to successfully not drink.  Being an asshole is not part of the program.  Maybe embracing your inner-asshole, and making friends with him.  Accepting the fact that you’re an asshole,  and then invoking some sort of supernatural force to run interference.   To mitigate it.  That’s part of my program now.  I’m mitigating.

Back then I was unmitigated.  I was the 100 percent, un-cut, pure shit.  It didn’t make life any easier.

Lynx was struggling too.  She had all kinds of Life problems.  Lots of wreckage.   Legal troubles.  Painful relationships.  Health concerns.  The whole recovery bouquet.  So she was trying to deal with all that and stay clean…while working as a stripper in a dirty L.A. club.  She had a lot on her plate.

I did my best to help.  I’d go to bat for her with the general manager for schedule changes, let her leave when she needed to, take her side in the cat fights, cut her slack for fuck-ups, and basically, tried to look out for her.  She repaid me with her goofy laugh and crazy stories.

One afternoon, during a dragging day shift, I was bullshitting with one of the bartenders.  I had just said, “And that’s when she broke out the turkey baster,” when Lynx walked by.  “Turkey baster!” she shouts, “Were you into those too?”

Here’s the thing.  A long time ago, in some story I wrote, I wanted to imply that something kinky was about to transpire, so I wrote “And that’s when she broke out the turkey baster.”  I always liked that line.  A nice blend of strange and nasty.  I reused it a lot.  It became kind of a standard device of mine.  It really makes a great last line to just about any story.

Anyway, when I came up with it, I didn’t have anything particular in mind.  I just thought the nastiness was inherent, but in an amorphous way.  Turkey Baster Time?  Hmm.  Something weird is about to happen.

So that was it, and I was actually using it that way while talking to the bartender, when Lynx overheard me.  Now she was all excited, asking me about using a turkey baster, and I don’t even know what she meant…what that would actually entail.

“Uh, I don’t…know…what that’s all about…even though…I was talking about it.”

“Oh fuck, that was my favorite way to do speed!”

What’s this?  I had to think about it, but I got it.  Wow.  That’s pretty crazy.  So crazy, my own imagination couldn’t have come up with it.  That’s pretty crazy.  Disconcerting, actually.

“Oh yeah, that way…the turkey baster, ha-ha! Yeah…sure.”

“I used to have different colored ones.  Even had a rack of six different ones mounted by the wall of my bed.”

Okay.  That was too much.   My mind was officially blown.  What-the-mother–?  Is she pulling my leg?

“You’re fucking with me.”

“No Marius, I had them in this thing, like a spice rack, my boyfriend made and mounted for me.”

She was serious.  Turkey basters.  For taking speed.  Via culus.  Different-colored.  Collect-them-all, but keep your best six in a happy rainbow by the bed, in a rack, that your boyfriend made as a handyman shop project.

Wrap your mind around that.

To think I was proud of myself for coming up with a turkey baster being used in some generally implied kinkiness.  Real life had out-weirded me.  Had run circles around me as a writer.  As an artist.  It was humbling.

Even if I could make something like that up, I would never use it.  It’s not very believable.  The reader isn’t going to buy it.  Maybe the shooting drugs in your butt part, but not the spice rack with different colored basters part.  That part, is just too.

And yet, there it was.  True fact.  Stranger than fiction.

I love it.

Lynx was always good for stuff like that.  She was full of surprises.

Anyway, it was only a matter of time before my white knuckles lost their grip, and I was drinking again.  All the stress finally made me snap.  As it started to look more and more like I was going to go to prison for a few years, I caved.  I was scared, and didn’t want to think about it.  So I told myself I could get sober again while inside and started bolting them down.

Then my lawyer beat the rap.  Oops.  Ha-ha.  Jumped the gun there.  Maybe I should have waited a little longer.  Oh well.  Now it was too late.  The genie was out of the proverbial.  I had unleashed The Beast.  Nine months of absolute destruction.  Stepped into the elevator and pushed B.  One more time.  But this time for good.

I was very quickly out of a job, and then an apartment, then a mind.  Made quick work of all of them.  Who needs that shit anyway?

I drank myself helpless, and wound up in rehab for the second time.  This time in North Hollywood.  A place, appropriately called Cri-Help.  Or as we lovingly called it, “Cry Help, Bitch! ”  After detox, I was transferred to residential.  One day I went to the office where they handed out mail.  There she was.  As a patient, but working in the mail room, Lynx.  I guess she couldn’t stay straight either.

“Hey!”

I started towards her, wanting to give her a hug, but she stood back and shook her head.  I had forgot.  The place was strictly non-contact.  As members of the opposite sex, we were not only not allowed to touch, but to talk, or to even make eye-contact.  This place was pretty uptight about it, too.  You’d get written up for even acknowledging a chick in the dinner line.  Of course, everyone broke the rules when they could, but there was a counselor right there in the room.

“Uh, I’m here to see if I got any mail.”

“What’s your name?”

It was strange.  It felt bad.  Not being able to talk to a friend.  Not being able to ask what was going on with them.  How they wound up in rehab.

“There’s nothing here for you.”

“I figured.”

We stood there looking at each other.

“Okay, I guess I’ll check back some other time.”

“Yeah, try again later,” she said,  looking over at the counselor.

One day we did manage to talk.  She had come over with another woman to the picnic bench me and some other dude were sitting at.  They sat at the other end of the table, facing each other.  A counselor was talking to someone at the next table, so we used our friends to beard the conversation.  It was absurd.

“Last I heard, you were going to prison,” she said to the woman across from her.

“I beat it,” I told the guy across from me.  “But I went out anyway.”

“No shit,” she said, poking the woman.

We laughed at our respective conversation partners.  There was that  laugh, loud enough to bring unwanted attention from The Man.

“And you, dude?” I asked, “Did you go back to the turkey baster?”

“What?” My guys asks.

“Not you.  Her.”

“No, heroin.”

“That’s one way to keep off meth.”

Everyone nodded.

“Did you ever wind up dating, Emma?” she asked her friend.

“Dating is hard to define,” I told my buddy.

“Yeah.  I know,” she said to the woman, “You’re a whore.”

We sat there for a while, but it was awkward trying to catch up while pretending to be talking to two other people.  Looking at some dude and asking him if he still plans on stripping when he gets out.

It became really difficult when the two other people started to talk to each other at us.

“Do you think they ever fucked?” the guy asked me.

“I can’t figure it out,” her friend told her.

We finally decided to wrap it up.

“Well, I’m glad you’re here,” she said, getting up from the table.

“Me too, bro. It’s good to see you.”

That was it.  That was the last time we talked.  I’d run into her around the rehab and we’d do the slight nod to each other, then I stopped seeing her. I’m pretty sure she got released before me, because one day she was gone.   I never saw her again.

Too bad.  She was a cool chick.  I wish we could have stayed in touch.

So I guess I’m hoping this entry is like a note in a bottle that I’ve thrown on the seas of the internet.  I’m hoping that she’s alive and well, and will somehow, some day, stumble upon this while surfing.  Even though I changed her stage name, she’ll know it’s her.  After all, how many women have had a mounted rack of multicolored turkey basters by their bed?

If you are reading this, I want to thank you for being a good friend during a hard time, and for entertaining me, and always keeping things interesting.  I really owe you for that.  Let me know if there’s anything I can do.

And that’s when she broke out the turkey baster.

Let's party!

Let’s party!

I’m A Rich Bastard Now.

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I won’t be writing this bullshit blog anymore.  Why?  Because I don’t need to.  I don’t need you.  I don’t even need me.  I’m rich now.  All of a sudden.  Filthy, dirty, stinking, obscenely rich.  I will simply be too busy indulging my degenerate appetites to waste time writing some worthless, free blog.  This was only something to pass the time until I stumbled upon a windfall.  Well, I’ve stumbled… and the wind has fallen.
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Of course, my elation at this turn of events is tempered by the fact that some people I don’t know, but blessed with my last name, had to die in a terrible tragedy.  Someone had to pay the ultimate price to deliver me.  But, like the old saying says, “Whenever a Gustaitis dies, an angel is born.”  Well, I have been reborn.
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Please witness:
Roger Silas Kokou
Attn: Gustaitis,

This is an official legal notice of unclaimed fund left behind by Eng. Jacob A. Gustaitis, a national of your country, contractor by profession who died in a car accident along with his wife and their only daughter.

As the former official/personal attorney of the deceased and witness of fact of this subject matter, I hereby solicit for your immediate response and positive committed efforts to facilitate the transfer of the total amount valued at twenty million, Six hundred thousand U.S.D which he left behind, since you bear the same last name with him thus you are legally authorized to apply. Kindly Respond via my private email for details: cabinetwatdan(AT)yahoo.com or call: 00-228-9-95-27-743.

Regards, Barrister Daniel Wataego (Esq) Lomé-Togo

Can you believe my luck?  I’ve been waiting for something like this.  Deus ex machina, baby.

Twenty million, six hundred thousand dollars.  Even in today’s money, that’s a decent chunk.  I can put the twenty million in a CD, and then coast off the six hundred grand until it matures, in three or six months.  I haven’t decided which.  Is there a tax on getting money from dead people you don’t know?  Seems like there would be.

Well fuck that.  This money is mine, Uncle Sam.  That whole “render unto Caesar” admonition might have applied in olden times, but not in today’s economy.  I don’t care if I have to fly every week to use an ATM in Togo, I’m not letting you touch any of it.  I worked hard during various periods of my life.  When I wasn’t laying around drinking myself into a stupor, I was busting ass at all kinds of brutal and stupid jobs.

Thank you, sweet Lord.  Of course, I’m going to share my good fortune.  I promise to tip generously and hire only struggling young attorneys.  I think You knew that by bequeathing me this ample harvest, I would spread it among my fellow man.  And woman.  One rolled-up hundred-dollar bill at a time.

I don’t know where to begin.  I mean, I don’t want to go apeshit, but there’s been a lot of things I’ve needed that I just couldn’t afford.

Jet Ski with a grape jelly flaked paint job.  Gold-plated gatling gun.  Armored car with 10,000 watt trunk of funk and champagne slushy machine.  Private bowling alley with a stripper pole in the middle of the lane.  Rocket powered hang glider from Acme products.  Things I didn’t know I needed.  Until now.

Indian elephant wearing a poncho made of rubies.

I’m telling you, this really simplifies my life.  No more having to run the rat’s maze.  No more jockeying for position.  No more dealing with the complicated Rube Goldberg machine of social acceptance.  I no longer have to try to earn the approval of my peers.  You see, I don’t need their approval.  I just need the approval of some corrupt Third World bank executive…and I’m golden.

Everyone will hate themselves for not being me, and that’s approval enough.

I always wanted a satin trampoline.  To bounce around on naked while high on nitrous.  And a spider monkey trained to do cute stuff, like the laundry.

Will this change me?  It depends on what you mean by change.  Sure, it will change the way I act towards others, but it won’t change the person inside.  No.  That person is just going to feel a little more free to assert himself.  That’s all.  I’m still going to like what I like, but now will be able to stick my snout into the trough a little deeper.  Or better yet, pay others to stick it in for me.  Create jobs.

I might be getting ahead of myself.  I still have to come up with the $3,700 to release the funds.  This barrister dude,  Mr. Daniel Whataego (What a ego?) has been pretty firm about me coughing up the money before he can proceed.  I told him, “Dude, I will sign anything saying that as soon as I get my millions I will pay back the four grand.”  No dice.  My Sprint bill from talking to this fucker is going to be a whopper, but I can’t stress.  I have to be patient.  I’m sure there’s all kinds of legal bullshit, and probably a greedy official somewhere along the line that needs to be greased.  I know how this shit works.  People are just not going to hand over twenty million dollars.  Until you send them four thousand dollars.

Mine really is a typical American success story.  A son of immigrants wastes 30 years of his life as a dangerous drunk, gets sober, then one day while scrolling through spam featuring male enhancement products, comes across $20.600.000.  It’s Horatio Algers.  It’s the feel good movie of the century.  It’s now my story, an American story.  A story of redemption…and revenge.

Not everyone is going to be happy about my success.  (I’ll make sure of that)  There are a lot of people out there who will resent my millions, and I expect that.  It’s human nature.  I myself was human once, so I know how those miserable creatures roll.  Lot’s of people I know are struggling these days.  They’re going to see me as a soft touch for a handout.   They are in for a rude surprise.   I might have been willing to help them out when I was poor, because that meant I couldn’t give them much.  But now… now my generosity could really hurt.

Them, that is.

Look, I don’t want to rob them of the wonderful journey of self-discovery that financial insecurity and its panic provides.  If I help pay for an operation or make a rent or car payment for them, it’s only going to keep them from looking deep within themselves.  Do you really need a place to live?  Reliable transportation?  A biopsy?  Or is that just stuff our consumer-driven media brainwashed you to believe you need?

Well, the best way to find out, is to not get any of it.  Maybe you’ll discover that a cardboard box, a thumb, or a spoonful of rat poison will suffice as substitute.  You won’t know unless you try.  Try it a bunch.  You don’t have to report to me.  I know that sit-rep.  It seems like only yesterday I was at Ross Dress for Less, looking through the clearance rack.  Which is weird, because it happened today.

I rarely shop for shit.  Except for food.  I’m doing okay, but I’m not big into spending.  I think it’s residual survival instinct.  All those years living hand to mouth.  So anyway, I needed some essentials.  A new pair of those stretchy lycra thermal underwear for under my work-out gear this winter.  They make me look ridiculous.  Like a villain from the old Bat Man show. but that’s why I disguise myself with other clothes on top.  So nobody snaps.

I’d prefer to clothes shop at a thrift store, but not for underwear.  That’s a little too gnarly.  So Ross it is.  It’s hit or miss there.  They have some of the most hideous clothes ever invented, in my size, and some really cool threads, that don’t fit.  Anyway, I’m in luck.  There’s a set in my size.

Decent price, too.  I pull out the top from the box and try it on.  It fits.  Except the neck hole is too tight.  Everything else fine.  Hmm.  I can go next door to Target.  Target, right?  Not Rodeo Drive.  I can probably find a pair with a neck hole that doesn’t choke me.  The difference in price is really not going to make or break me.  But I’ve got this great deal over here, and except for the blocking my airways situation, it’s perfect.

“Fuck it, I’ll stretch the hole,” I decide.  I should be grateful.  There are people out there that don’t even have a hole to stretch.  And I saved enough to buy a twelve pack.

That’s how it is with me.  There’s this feeling that by saving money, there will be more money for beer.  Even though I don’t drink beer anymore.  Old habits die hard.  Back then, if I got, let’s say a traffic ticket, instead of being happy I didn’t get hauled in for D.U.I., I would picture how many imported beers the ticket cost.  Then I’d picture those bottles being smashed, one by one, in a drainage ditch.  Just to drive the pain in harder.

Lose a gas cap?  Six bucks to replace it?  That’s a sixer of Becks.  Forget it.  Stuff a rag in and drive a Molotov cocktail around.  Buy three forties to celebrate your savings.  No need to waste money on an oil change, not when you have to put in a quart every three days.  It changes itself.   Registration due?  Break out the paint set and change the color of the tag.  Proof of Insurance?  Pay the dude at Kinkos to make you one using an old one.

I knew lots of handy cost-cutting ways to stretch the family budget.  Savings enough to buy a Mayan pyramid’s worth of beer.  Instead of a real house.

Unfortunately, drinking on an empty stomach became a common cost-cutter.  My dire financial situations made that one easier and easier to employ.  When you choose to stop eating so you can keep drinking, it’s probably a red flag.  One to whiz right by on your glorious victory lap.  Some kind of end is roaring towards you.  Wave back to the flags.  Won’t be long now before something significant happens.  Will it be getting twenty million dollars?

It’s been hard to change my attitude about money.  Sometimes I think I’m still that bum.  I sure remember where I came from.  If I go to a restaurant, I will really agonize about making a waitress or waiter go back and get something.  I know what a pain in the ass it is to dance to somebody else’s tune.  If I go to a hotel, I have to tidy up the room before the maid comes so she wouldn’t have to work as much.  My mom cleaned motel rooms for a while and it was hard enough when the rooms were neat.

I was on a cruise recently with my girlfriend.  There’s all these Indonesian people serving as crew.  We’ll, I’ve been to Indonesia, and already knew those people are some of the most beautiful souls on the planet.  Happy and good-natured, they always friendly and provide excellent service.  And that’s what bothered me.  They’re such nice people, I didn’t want them to have to do anything for me, and when they did, felt like I had to over-tip and thank them like they saved me life.

If we ordered room service, I would ask the person taking my order, to tell the guy delivering it, that it was no rush.  I had been a room service waiter and knew that whole frantic hurry go-go that came with that gig.  I didn’t want to add to their stress.  If we had to call for something, like more towels, I’d hesitate.  They’re probably really busy now.  I didn’t want them to have to deal with my shit.  Speaking of…

One afternoon, Lori had gone up to one of the top decks.  I figured this was a good time to use the bathroom.  I like to be private about some things, and it’s kind of close quarters, dig?  So now’s a good time.  Well, I finish and push the flush.  Nothing.  Again.  Nothing.  Again.  Nothing.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again.  Again…Again.  Nothing.  Oh fuck.  I can’t believe it.  This can’t be happening.

It’s not going away.

You see, I also used to work for a plumbing company, so I know what having to deal with something like this is like.  I remember having to work through somebody else’s problem while they casually popped peanuts and played ping-pong in the next room.   I cannot subject somebody else to it.  Can not.

It was one of those crucible, just-crapped-my-pants moments.  I MUST handle this.  Into action, NOW!

I’ll spare you the details, but I handled it, so to speak.  It was a secret stealth mission.  I felt like I was smuggling enriched Uranium trying to get it out of cabin and properly disposed of.  I left the package on the counter of the health and beauty spa.  Not really, but I dealt with it, so nobody else would ever have to.  I think it shows character.  Rugged individualism.

I dealt with my own shit.

Anyway, when I got back, I was able to finally call the ship’s maintenance guy.  He fixed the toilet.  I tipped him.  Thanked him like he saved my life.  Closed the cabin door and slid along the wall.  I felt like I had aged years.  So much for relaxing cruise.

I don’t know if that part of me would change if I were rich.  I couldn’t pop peanuts and play ping-pong while somebody else was dealing with my mess.  It wouldn’t feel right.  I don’t think it should.  I hope that part of me never goes away.  It’s a slippery slope if it does.  Next stop, total assholedom.  For me at least.  And tons of money wouldn’t solve that problem.

I do have some friends that have done pretty well for themselves and haven’t turned into total assholes.  They haven’t lost their humanity.  They’re still cool to hang out with and would probably help a friend out if they needed it.  That’s encouraging.  Not that I would ever ask.  Like I said, I’m doing okay.

Which reminds me, I have to get a cash advance off my cards to Western Union some money to Mr. Wataego.  He’s expecting it.

I Sold Out To The Mann.

I slammed the door in front of him causing him to run into it with his chocolate shake.  He smashed the cup right into his jacket, and now the ice cream was running down into his pants.  At first, when he looked down, he was sad.  All that delicious treat… ruined, and now soaking into his clothes.

However, by the time he looked up at me, he had already turned his sad into mad.  After all, he was on his way to sneaking into a free movie with his delicious chocolate beverage, when some person stepped in and fuckered it all up.

I was that person.  I was Marius Gustaitis, hired representative of Black Knight Security, sub-contracted to Mann Theaters for twenty dollars an hour (ten of which I would keep before taxes) and your worst nightmare, Mr. Sneak-in-while-other patrons-exit-the-back.

I bet you never figured on running into a petty and pissed-off dry drunk in need of either a program of recovery or a case and a half of ice cold sweating bottles of Heineken.  I bet you never thought when you saw that open door, that a man, strung tighter than a meth addict’s banjo, was watching it intensely, like an animal snare, just waiting for someone to trip it.

Well, you tripped it alright, and now you’re dangling upside down from a tree limb like a Piñata representing everything wrong with his picture.  Is it time to rip your head off and bludgeon your sagging torso with it?  Gosh, I hope so.  That would be swell.  What time is it?

“What the fuck, dude?!” he said, backing off and squaring his shoulders, then flipping his hands out in the universal sign for querying, ” Do you want some of this?”  Ah, the old Come-and-Get-It stance, except his had a coating of cool chocolatey creaminess that took down the threat-level a peg or two.  If he was going to come after me, he would’ve done it a long time ago.  Myself, I wouldn’t be asking a bunch of questions.  You food me, and I go into a red-out.  Just another thing I have.

“No happy show for you.  Only bad times,” I said, the adrenaline taking a toll on my eloquence.  I sound like an angry, Chinatown merchant, I thought.  Buck fever.  You see them in the cross-hairs and the scope starts to shake.  So close.  Don’t scare him off.  Don’t let him see The Crazy.  Calm down.  Goad him back in.

“You should be a good citizen ship,” I told him, “And sail straight, observing all bylaws.”

There I was, a middle-aged man in a suit and tie, with a thimbleful of authority, spouting off some some square do-gooder pablum.  That would have me swinging.  Do it.  Please take a swing.

They never do.  Not when you really want them to.  It never happens.  Never.  He smelled it.  His animal instincts were dialed in.  No, this suit is stuffed with explosives.

“Chocolate shakes are bad for you,” I scolded,” You need sunshine and exercise.”   I even managed my Happy Face with Bright Eyes, but to no avail.  He turned and beat it down the alley.

Alright, that was still semi-okay.  At least I ruined his night.  That’s something.  Nobody was going to have a good time on my watch.

Not if I’m not.

I walked back around to the front of the theater.  Out on the promenade, some long-legged sex bomb clacked by in ice pick heels, swinging a vintage Whiting and Davis purse.  I smiled.  She smiled back.  Dude, she totally wants you.  Or, she will once she finds out you’re a 40 year-old, non-drinking alcoholic, working as a rent-a-cop for a movie theater.

You’ll get some leg tonight, for sure.  That was a woman, right?  I didn’t see any Laryngeal prominence, but her mitts looked a little ping-pong paddley.

I went back inside the theater and took my post towards the back, where I could keep an eye on the patrons coming in and any renegades trying to cross-pollinate theaters.  Not that I cared about Mann Theaters losing out on money, or any kids seeing a movie with a higher rating.  I just didn’t like the idea of anyone thinking they got over on me.  Mine was an ego-based sense of justice.  I was beginning to understand the mind-set of cops and prison guards.

How bleak.  How utterly demoralizing.  This was my reward for giving up beer.  I don’t know if any reward would’ve seemed big enough at that point, ungrateful wretch that I was, but this job sure wasn’t it.

Let me back up.  After rehab, my buddy, Spike, invited me to stay with him in Redondo Beach.  What the hell.  It was hard knocking around Santa Fe sober.  I felt like some alien had invaded my body and was now making me live someone else’s life, somebody who doesn’t stop in at The Cowgirl Hall of Fame for a few pints of Guinness and a frozen Margarita kicker before hitting the liquor store on his way home from work.  It was just too disconcerting.

I took Spike up on his offer and loaded up my internally bleeding Ford Bronco II, and pointed it’s overheating radiator West.  I stretched a cumulus cloud of white smoke across two state lines and stopped when I hit ocean.

Spike was a good bro.  He let me sleep on his couch rent-free until I could afford to pay towards a larger apartment.  He really wanted to see me make it.  Looking back, probably more than I did.

My first job was working for a florist named Gary.  I saw the help wanted sign and walked in.  I told him the whole truth: almost 30 years of drinking, destroying my life, crashing and burning, rehab, now trying to live sober, and looking for a job while surfing a buddy’s couch down the street.  A Fortune 500 resume if he ever heard one.  It turned out that this charming little bald, gay man, was 20 years sober, and I had just aced my interview.

I got along with Gary and the ladies that worked for him.  Because my mom had always been into floral arrangement, I pretty much grew up around it.  I knew how to put together a Japanese Ikibana arrangement by the time I was eleven.  I know.  Pretty gay.  Not that there’s anything wrong with gay.  I just wasn’t, and would’ve rather learned to shoot skeet or drive a tractor by eleven instead.

Now however, being able to spike some pussy willows into a shallow vase, taking care to divide the branches to represent Heaven, Earth, and Man according to Japanese tradition, was winning me big points with my new boss, and his harem of female workers.  Big thanks, Mom.  The ladies and Gary liked my stories and would laugh as I recounted my drunken misadventures while we sat around assembling wedding centerpieces.  They didn’t seem to think less of me because of my past.  At least they didn’t show it, and I really appreciated that.

I wound up picking up another job as well.  I got a job as a bouncer at a strip club in Gardena.  So, during the day I played with flowers with a bunch of giggling gals, and at night, I tussled with drunk and drug-crazed degenerates, and hung out with strippers, at a ghetto flesh joint.  It was a full life to be sure.  I was enjoying the novelty of sobriety.  Stuff like having my boss walk up to me and not having to bend at a 45 degree angle at the ankles to avoid him smelling my breath.  I thought that all my problems were over now that alcohol was out of the picture.

The problem was that the alcoholic was still in the picture, and this one not doing anything to fix what was troubling him so much in the first place.  The novelty of not being drunk eventually wore off, and things began to bug me like before.  But now, I had no release.  So I just gutted it all up and tried to hold my mud as best I could.  If you pressed your ear to the lapel of my suit, you would hear the ticking of the time bomb.

I became a raging square.  I morphed into some kind of uptight Jack Webb, an angry middle-aged white man, resentful of anyone I suspected might be happier or having more fun than me, which when you’re that miserable, is everyone.

I remember when C.C., one of the dancers from the club, took me to Venice Beach one afternoon for lunch.  Instead of enjoying  the company of a pretty stripper on a beach full of freaks, I spent the date sneering at the colorful populace and mumbling epitaphs under my breath.  All the free-wheeling wierditry irritated me.  We’d pass by some rollerskating cosmic troubadour trying to hustle his next forty ounce, and I’d just hate on him.

“Good for you, Ding-Dong Daddy.  Wave your freeloading freak flag high, you bongo-beating, rainbow dong thong-wearing parasite.  Go ahead, use up all the freedom and fun under the warm California sun.  Some of us have to work for a living.”  Yeah, basically jealous. and when you’re  jealous of a lunatic panhandler, your way of life isn’t working for you.  More coffee.  More cigarettes.  More anger.

One of the other bouncers at the club, an ex- Marine named Joe Washington, had gotten a side job with a security company.  He told me this company provided executive security, something I was not entirely unqualified for, since my work credits in Central America would transfer.  Far out.  A jaw-clenching reactionary providing a little muscle to escort self-important paranoidals seemed like a perfect fit.  A God shot.  But there was a catch.

Joe explained, that the only openings the owner had were for providing suit-and-tie security for a few Mann movie theaters in L.A., including the one in Westwood where they held all the big openings.  But, as real body-guarding positions opened up, we’d be first pick.

I met with the owner and told him a little about my qualifying work experience, leaving out the couch-surfing-alcoholic-trying-to-stay-sober stuff.  He hired me and gave me a black t-shirt with a logo of a stylized knight chess piece.  “Dark Knight Security,” it said, “Knows Your Next Move.”  I remember he gave it to me almost ceremonially, like he was handing me an ancestral samurai sword.  I mean it was a quality t-shirt, you know, one of those Beefy Tees, but it was still just a t-shirt.  And a presumptuous one at that .

Regardless, I got a third job in as many months, was building up some savings, and soon enough, would be body-guarding the rich and famous.  That wouldn’t have happened if I was drinking.  I decided to drop the florist gig, so that I could dedicate more time to becoming the baddest sober bad-ass I could.

I ran the beach, biked to Marina Del Rey and back, worked out on my bag, and lifted weights like a convict.  The exercise did me good.  I shed the last of my beer muscles and leaned out.  I got back to my fighting weight.  I looked good in my suit again.  It would only be a matter of time before I was shepherding some rich sheep safely through this wilderness of pain known as Los Angeles, California, a pair of .40 caliber pistols strapped across my bullet proof.  I just had to wait it out at these stupid movie theater posts in the meantime.

What I didn’t know then, was that the meantime, would be the only time.  There were no body-guarding positions with this company.  It was all bullshit.  The owner was an ex-L.A.P.D. cop that had to suddenly resign from the force.  We could never piece together his story why, but Joe and I had our suspicions.  After a while though we did piece together that he was just stringing us along.  The only jobs he had for us were as rent-a-porkers, but in suits and ties instead of the standard Boy Scout/Crossing Guard uniform.

My first night was at the theater over on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.  I stood in the lobby, trying to front all Secret Service sinister while watching families and couples spill popcorn across the carpet, when it hit me like a bolt.  Oh fuck.  I’ve done this before.  When I was eighteen I got a job working as an usher at a Mann Theater.  It was now over twenty years later, and here I am again back at Mann Theaters, basically doing the same thing, and adjusting for inflation, getting paid the same.

Sure, my suit was better than the polyester, Mid-Western realtor’s jacket and tie they made me wear back then.  But, if that’s all you have to show for twenty years of evolution, a better monkey suit, you’re not setting the world on fire with your ascent up the social ladder, Rocket Boy.  I was right back where I was before my drinking took off.  Back at square Go.  The irony of it all stained my lips and teeth black with it’s bitter berry juice.

I was usually shuffled between two theaters, the one at Third Street Promenade playground of the well-to-do in Santa Monica, and a more run-down one in Culver City, with a lower-income, higher-gang member demographic.  At which one do you suppose I had all the problems?  Think about it.  You got it.

I never had any problems at the Culver City one.  I’m not kidding.  There they would be, Bloods and Crips, watching the same movie together, behaving like good little boys and girls.  I suspect there was a general truce regarding theaters, neither side wanting to fuck up being able to go to the movies in peace.  Sure, there were the usual sneak-in attempts and theater jumpings, but they never gave me a hard time when I caught them.  It was understood we were playing a cat and mouse game and there were no hard feelings.

I even had to empty the whole place one night, in the middle of everyone’s movies, because of a fire alarm.  There was some grouching and irritated questions, but nobody went ballistic.

Meanwhile, back in Santa Monica, I’m squared off and ready to start trading hooks with some dad, wearing a sweater tied around his shoulders and soft leather driving loafers.  He insists on bringing in his leftover spaghetti dinner against the no outside food policy.  He didn’t want to go put it away in his car because…he didn’t want to miss the previews to this Disney movie he was taking his family to.  I swear to you.  I’m not making this up just to create great literature.

I’m thinking, “It’s spaghetti with meat sauce, dude.”  This guy looks like he owns an Audi dealership, and he’s blowing a shit fit over 77 cents worth of food.   If those previews are so precious, I would take the foil tray outside and drop kick it over the sunglasses kiosk across the way.  This guy was willing to risk getting his ass kicked in front of his family over it.

He’s up in my face, seething with rage, white hot spittle foaming in the corners of his mouth.

“It’s the principal!  The principal!” he keeps sputtering.

Everybody in the lobby has stopped to look.  The manager, Mike, is hanging back watching.  I didn’t blame him for not wanting to get involved at this point.  A guy like this one is usually well-lawyered.  They don’t get this bold without knowing they can hang you with a juicy law suit.  Is this his game?  Is he trying to bait me into taking  the first shot?  Interesting role-reversal.  Maybe he thinks a shot is the chops is worth a three week vacation in Vanuatu, including the  jet-ski rental, on-call masseur and helicopter tours.

All this going through my head as he’s screaming at me.  His wife has got the kids, but she’s not trying to pull him back or calm him down.  She must be in on it.  The kids don’t seem to be too freaked out either.  Have you seen Daddy do this before?

“I am going to bring this dinner in with me,” he announces, “I am walking in, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

That’s where he was wrong, of course.  I’m mentally spinning a Lazy Susan of choices.  I recognized that his assholeness should have consequences, but how painful those should be was now being mitigated by the presence of his family, and the possibility of legal repercussions.  This was not stuff I worried about when I was drinking.  But what would be an appropriate response to punish this impudent and petulant little turd?  Just the right amount of pain sprinkled over a generous portion of shame.

That’s when I realized my old behavior wouldn’t serve me.  Sure I could kick out his knees and rub his snout into the rug like a bad doggy, forever scarring his kid’s image of him as Daddy Hero.  And while that would be deeply satisfying and personally gratifying, I might eventually regret it.  Why not play his game instead?

I decided that if he so much as brushed against me on his way to the Disney previews, I would go down like an NFL punter.  Totally take a dive, making sure to hit my head hard on the floor, so hard that I might night be able to recognize relatives or pronounce words with more than once consonant.  “I can’t feel my penis. What’s wrong with me, Doctor?”

We’ll see who winds up jet-skiing in Vanuatu, bitch balls.

“Please don’t make impotent threats. I command you to halt,” I said, holding my hand up, but splaying the fingers slightly to suggest a weak defensive gesture, my wrist bent almost effeminately.  I also used “impotent” on a hunch.  Hot button?  Hoped so.

Unfortunately, I have a bad poker face.  People can read the thoughts going through my head with the ease of a teleprompter.  As soon as I decided I would hit him where it hurt most, namely his Audi dealership, dry-cleaning franchise, or whatever enterprise had shod his hoofs with such elegant supple leather slippers, he started to balk.  His animal instincts were dialed in.

Instead, he looked up.  His rage was gone.  He was now weighing things in his head.  Meanwhile, I’m trying to telepathically implant crazy violent ideas, trying to stave off the sanity I saw leaking in.  C’mon, bust a move motherfucker!  Just shove the flunky theater security lug out of the way on your march towards victory.  Run for the roses.  Trample those that deny you your spaghetti leftovers underfoot, in the fierce day of your pride.

He turned to his wife.

“I’m going to take this out to the car.”

I watched him walk out of the theater, and with him, my hopes for getting out of this stupid job.  They never go for it when you really want them to. They never do.  Never.

There would be no quick fix to my situation.  Alcoholics prefer their fixes quick.  Deus ex Machina, descend upon our wretchedness!   No, I was going to have to learn how to wait.  Maybe things were unfolding at just the right pace.  How could you ever really know?  Except maybe in retrospect.  I resigned myself to think so, if only to delude myself into not being so uptight.  What the hell, right?  You can believe whatever you want.  You might as well believe something that helps you make it through another day with out taking  a drink.  Unless, you don’t want to make it through another day without taking a drink.

In that case, carry on.  You know what you have to do.

I went back to my post and checked my watch.  Two and a half more hours to go.  I looked up and saw two teenagers jump the ropes and run for theater 4.  They looked back at me.  I waved.  Fuck it.  Enjoy yourself, kids.  I’ll do my best, too.

Wishing you a happy show.