Nut Jobs I’ve Known; #147

Mud Shark BluesInterested Gentleman

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I’ve met a few.  Over the years I’ve made the acquaintance of one or two…hundred.  Collected them all.  All brands.  All flavors.  The full spectrum.  Weirdos.  Oddballs.  Freaks.  Colorful crackpots.  Entertaining eccentrics.  Whimsical fruitcakes.  Absent-minded mystics.  Neurotic non-conformists.  Fevered visionaries.  The bat-chain insane.  Deviants.  Sociopaths.  Compulsive liars.  Babbling idiots.  Tortured geniuses.  Paranoid parolees.  Cross-addicted dope fiends.  Chemically-imbalanced cutters.  Klepto-Dipso-Nympho-maniacs.  Bi-polar bulimics.  Dual-diagnosed uni-brows.  Didn’t matter.  If they were haunted or hunted–they swarmed my front door like summer bugs to porch light.

I’m not sure why they sought me out.   Probably felt some sort of affinity or kinship.  Probably sensed I wouldn’t be too judgey.  Probably thought they found safe harbor.

I know I felt compelled to provide it.  I tried to be friendly.  Call it Stray Dog Syndrome, but I’d take them in.  Give them a chance to relax and talk freely.  I figured no matter what Beefheartian parade music they were marching to, or living nightmare they were enduring, they were doing the best they could.  In their own fucked-up way, they were just trying to make it.  Like everybody else.  They deserved a break from the withering blows.  A little breather in between beatings.  They were yearning to breathe free and I would be their Statue of Liberty.

"Looks like Sexy Webster is up early for breakfast duty. Nice! Don't burn my bacon, bro"

Looks like Sexy Webster is up early for breakfast duty. Nice! Don’t burn my bacon, bro

Besides, I knew what it was like to feel different or not understood.  It gets lonely.  Frustrating.  Depressing.  One is more apt to breakout in bad behavior.  Which is different than just flying your freak flag high.  Bad behavior means somebody winds up getting hurt.  And that’s no fun.  Not in the long run at least.  That’s why I did my best to cut them slack.  Made the effort to be respectful.  Tolerant.  Understanding.

But I also hid my wallet and extra beers.  Made sure to stash any medicine or solvents.   Kept the croquet mallet handy.

"Easy there, Sinbad. Watch the bong."

Easy there, Sinbad. Watch the bong.

Things didn’t always go well.  There were the usual misunderstandings, hurt feelings, broken promises, raised voices and violent attempts at physical submission.  But that’s people for you.  Nutty or normal, humans can be dangerous.  Say the wrong thing and you can get a stamp collector to come at you with a letter opener.  Or the onyx statue he brought back from his vacation cruise to Mexico.

Yes sir, a few poorly worded observations and the next thing you know Mr. Mild Mannered is attempting to bludgeon you with it.  15 pounds of Aztec War God head.  Just bringing it down with both hands.  While you cower behind his globe.  Crouching.  Dodging.  Waiting for your chance to tip the mahogany desk on him.

Trust me, angry ape-warrior shit can erupt anywhere.  In a lunatic asylum or a leather-bound library.  Things go down in the real world, baby.  Things you can’t believe.

Especially with the cannons I chose to roll around on deck with.  They were already cocked and tethered rather loosely to the boards.  Even more prone to misfire.  Break a vase.  Put out an eye.  Take off a head.

You learned to watch your step and mind your mouth.  You learned to be a gracious host.  That’s it.  I think hanging out with the emotionally-imbalanced taught me to be more polite.  More attentive to other’s feelings.

"Look Honey, this lovely couple is vending handcrafted souvenirs. Let's be generous."

Look Honey, this lovely couple is vending handcrafted souvenirs. Let’s be generous.

In one rehab,  I had to room with a dweeb in coke-bottle glasses, who as a kid, had stabbed his parents in their sleep.  No bullshit.  He even showed me an old copy of the Newsweek article.  He didn’t kill them.  See?  The article was about the parents suing the shrink that got his med combo wrong.  So it really wasn’t that bad.  And that was years ago.  And he’s better now.  Lots better.  Except for having to come off the massive amount of pharmaceuticals he’d been forging scripts to self-prescribe…

…to dull his desire to kill.

Well, that’s a relief.

Now he was in the bed next to me.  Bug-eyed.  His mole face pale and waxy with Vicodin ooze.  Fidgeting.  Agitated.  Now and then twisting at the crotch of his pajamas.  Telling me bedtime stories.  Stories about things he would like to do.  Stories about what he would love to do again.  Things he knows he shouldn’t do.  But does anyway.  Because it feels so good.  Feels so good to do them anyway.

And because he thinks he has a demon.  One that follows him around.  Everywhere.

Well alrighty then.

Nothing like a cocktail of revenge torture fantasies and disturbing sexual confessions.  Some relaxing thoughts on demonic possession and murder.  And fear.  Before bed.

While trying to kick booze.

Nighty night.

"Dude, I think it's totally normal to want to kill your parents. Chill!"

Dude, I think it’s totally normal to want to kill your parents. Chill!

My new besty.  You bet your ass when he wanted to talk, I’d lend a sympathetic ear.  He terrified me.  I nodded earnestly as he told me his troubles.  Clucked my tongue.   Kicked the carpet.  Periodic pats on the shoulder.  Did my best to keep his spirits up.

“I know, brother, I know.  One day at a time.”

But I also kept a cake knife from the cafeteria under my mattress.  And one eye open.  All night.

Hey, that’s people for you.  Gotta make them like you enough to not want to kill you in your sleep.  Same old dance really.  The Dance of Life.

He never did try to kill me.  So that was good.  I didn’t have to stress too long.  They bounced his ass the minute his insurance balked.  So that was good.

But probably not.

He was one spooky dude.  Clearly a troubled individual.  One I surmised was struggling with impulse control.  Probably in need of some institutionalized assistance.  A Dixie cup full of psych meds.  Some time doing arts and crafts under close supervision.  Special mineral baths.

I tried to convince staff that this gentleman needed to be housed somewhere other than a beach-side rehab.  Maybe somewhere less razor-wire-free.  More Thoraziney.

They didn’t want to hear any of it.  In fact, the folks at administration felt that without insurance, he was as good as cured.  Free to stroll around Laguna Beach.  With all kinds of feelings.  Thoughts.  Desires.  Ideas.

That didn’t seem right.

"Check this place out, dude. They serve Tapas and validate parking.  Looks fun."

Try this place out, dude. They serve tapas and validate parking. Looks fun. You should at least check it out.

I don’t regret being nice to him though.  I really did try to steer his thoughts toward recovery.  Not just out of self-preservation either.  I wanted him to feel better.  If only to defuse any bomb he was building in his brain.  Why not climb in there and see if you can’t stop the ticking?  Clip a few wires.

But then he’d tell me about another “thing” and I’d find myself reeling with revulsion and loathing.  If I had my usual eight to fourteen beers in me I would’ve gone ahead and beat him down.  Just on principle.  Give doctors at the hospital a chance to take a closer look-see.  But this was rehab and the lack of beer allowed me to think my actions through.  Really think about the consequences of striking another patient.

There was jail.  Sure.  But there was also the possibility of coming-to someday, duct-taped to a chair in a basement.  Having to helplessly watch as Mole Man searchs for a blow torch striker.

I decided to apply the love and acceptance thing instead.  Did my best to talk him down.  While maintaining a three-foot safe zone.  And a clear path to the box spring.

Who knows what good it did?  It’s not like I had many answers at that point, coming off my own World Destruction Tour.  But I tried.  Maybe a little harder than usual.

Hopefully,  I bought some time for somebody else out there–some quality time with loved ones– before the calming effects of my loving acceptance wore off.

After that you pretty much have to hope the next person treats him with kind deference, instead of open disdain.  You have to hope some SoCal snotball doesn’t set that mad motherfucker off.

Because brother, you have no idea what kind of hurt that overt eye-roll of yours could cost you.  Not when you roll them at a demon-host like that.  One that doesn’t like you making him feel bad.  One that really likes to feel good.  His kind of good.  And is willing to do whatever it takes to feel that way.  No matter what.

You have no idea.

Yeah, better to be kind to everyone, I say.  As much as you can stand.  And pay special care to those you find odd or strange.  It’s not only the right thing to do.  It’s the best thing.  Because most nut crazies are amazing creatures.  Masterpieces that inspire awe and wonder.  Holy messengers.  You never know what hidden wisdom they might possess.  Or giddy delight they can bestow.

And yes, in some cases,

un-holy wrath deliver.

You really have no idea.

So be nice.

Nighty night.

"Yeah sorry, he was here but they bounced him. You wanna give me your number in case I see him, or just wanna hang out?"

Yeah sorry, he was in here, but they bounced him. You want to  give me your number in case I see him or you just want to hang out?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Hillbilly Heart

Two outlaw legends.

What luck! Two outlaw legends need a ride.

I think I should have been born a hillbilly.  I think that’s been the problem.  I needed to be around people who understood me.

I’ve been watching a lot of videos of outlaw hillbillies on the computer machine these days.  Mostly Jesco White and his clan of kin, raising hell in Boone County.  More bat-shit ballistic, cold-cocked ruthless, knocked-down, chopped-up and snorted party people you won’t find.  Not around these parts.  Really love Jesco.  Really love that whole family.  Hell, I just plain love hillbillies.

I admire how tough they are.  They’ve had more than their fair share of shit dumped on them.  People living in places where having a job mining coal is considered “doing well. ”  In other words, it goes down from there.  Tragic shit.

Jesco White, King of the mountain dancers.

Jesco White, King of the mountain dancers, on the fast track.

Exploited for ages.  Starved thin.  Shot up.  Beat down.  Sold out.  Black-lunged.  And somehow still proud.  If you can endure all that bullshit and still tap out a dance on the front porch, more power to you.  Nobody dances better than the poor.  That’s a historical fact.

As for the outlaw element, I figure they’ve earned a little rule-breaking slack.  Yes, yes.  We all must take personal responsibility for our actions blah blah.  But I see a lot of people not taking personal responsibility for their actions.  They’re farting up their golf pants on a resort island while some great idea of theirs has just ruined the lives of thousands of people.  And nobody setting the hounds on them.

Fuck it.  If you’re coming from such a depressed socioeconomic status, there’s nothing wrong with paying back society.  With a middle finger.  As a salute to it’s magnanimous largesse.

“Somebody say large ass?  C’mere Lulu Lee, an’ let me spank some of that big white!”

Gratitude.

Gratitude.

Hell.  Why not try and do as much as you can get away with?  If you’re basically fucked either way.  Might as well go ape shit.

Create some memories.  Something they can’t take awayI always say.

I’ve created a few memories.  In between all the stuff I can’t remember.  Some good.  Some not so.  But not everything about being bad was bad.  Just like not everything about being good is good.  It’s just better to be good.  So I have to go with that.  Maybe with a little resignation.  Maybe with the thought that I wouldn’t have to do this…if I was born a hillbilly.

Me without make up.

My natural default. Can I still get a ride?

Could be some past life thing.  Maybe because I was conceived in Kentucky, when my dad was stationed at Ft. Knox.  I don’t know.  But I get those people.  I think I’d find a comfortable niche in a community of moon-shining, tap-dancing, porch-swinging, substance-abusing, unlawfully-discharging-of-a-firearms folk.

Something about the lifestyle.

It appeals.

Not all of it.  The abject poverty is a downer.  Not a fan of any racism, xenophobia, or inbreeding either.  Early death due to accident, sickness or murder are also bummers.

But karate-kicking the Jack Daniels mirror my cousin Keith won at the carnival in Brokewood–right out of ol’ boy’s hands?

Well, that sounds like a gas.

Especially if it had his last line of coke on it.

“How do you like that, boy?”

“You done stirred up a hornet’s nest of shit, son.”

Both of us scrambling for a shard of broken glass. “Only Daddy That Will Walk The Line,” playing on the stereophonic record player we stole from the Goodwill.  Granny on the rocker, gumming us a grin from behind her huffin’ rag.  Uncle Willie tapping out The Death Row Shuffle on the curling linoleum in the kitchen.  My hound dog, Boone, howling at an outhouse moon.

I can get into that.

Or going to the gasoline cart races.  Swilling half-gallon cups of beer.  Watching the cars go around the track.  Cheering when someone crashes.  Booing when someone wins.  Karate chopping my cousin Keith in the neck for no reason while stumbling back to parking lot.  Jumping the security guards sent to break up our fight.  Gassing them with their own pepper spray.  Mountain dancing on the hood of their squad car while they cough and vomit.  Then throwing a brick through the rear window before we bolt.

Me and Keith laughing as we roar out of there.

My 1970 Chevelle SS dragging caution tape tied to pylons.

Out to the back-roads.

And sweet freedom.

The money I saved by not fixing my teeth going under the hood of the beast we ride.

Cracking cold beers.  Ripping bong loads while driving with the knees at eighty-seven miles per hour.  The air-blower vacuuming up the white lines in the road.  Shooting at mailboxes with the .410 snake charmer we stole from his uncle, who’s also my dad, who’s now married to his mom, who is a stripper, that’s also good for pills.

That part would be cool, too.

"Hey, I need a ride to my truck."

“Hey, I need a ride to my truck.”

I’d want to cultivate a dangerous drifter look.  When I say “cultivate” I mean “naturally default to.”  Just walk around as the gnarly mess God meant me to be.  Let my hair go greasy.  Grow some stubble.  Let the gut lap.  Don the foam cap.  Start chewing plugs of tobacco tar–the dripping juice staining my red beard with black streaks.

Tattoo “Born too Loose,” on my forearm with a needle wrapped in string.

In Hillbilly Heaven, I’d live off Ramen and roadkill.  Canned beans and beer.  White lightning and black-powdered adrenaline.

I’d shoot empty bottles off my cocktail table.  Torch my tool shed just to watch the sparks fly up into the night sky.  Rock some large pile of woman back and forth in my rickety trailer while listening to Black Oak Arkansas.  Chain-smoke Pall Malls.  Pick at my electric cigar box guitar.  Take long pulls from the jelly jar.  Cough from the burn of liquid fire.  Jump straight out of my Lazy-Boy and knock out another of Keith’s meth-loosened teeth.  This time with a badminton racket I found in the neighbor’s yard.

“Jim Dandy’s not comin’ to your rescue, beeeyahtch!”

SWAP!

All because I could.

Ain't got a squad car? Hop a table.

Ain’t got a squad car? Hop a table.

The freedom.  The liberation.  Just the idea of it gives off some pretty potent vapors to huff on.  Activates the reptilian part of my brain.  The part I try to keep in check now.  So I can be the good citizen.  And stay out of the evening news.

The problem is that after sustaining long periods of good citizenshiphood, even in my doddering middle-age, I find myself hankerin’ for a heapin’ helpin’ of misbehavin’.  I miss courtin’ Miss Mayhem.  It’s the same irrational fond-recollectioning I do for some of the women that had made my life hell.

Or for booze.

You only remember scenes from the highlights reel.  A reel edited with Leni Riefenstahl propaganda wizardry.  Triumph of The Self-Will, if…you will.  All the brutally painful scenes left on the cutting room floor.  Only replaying the fun parts.

I selectively reminisce, then find myself longing for a long-lost self–a part of me that doesn’t get to come out to play anymore.  It’s easy to feel sorry for him.  Miss him.  And wish he wasn’t grounded…for life.

You know you gotta keep him locked in the root cellar.  Feed him under the door.  But that guy doesn’t die-off easily.

Fuck, he’s proved it.

So I better try to deal with him as best as I can.  While he’s still hanging around.

In early sobriety, I had to play a lot of Grand Theft Auto on the video machine.  Just to safely ween myself from some of my real hobbies.  Today, I  like to watch others run amok.  Soccer riots.  Public brawls.  Cage matches.  Russian mafia gunfights.  There’s always something to hold my interest on YouTube.

Basically, to let me live vicariously.

Anyway, it’s just something nice to think of.  Dream about.  Remember.  Whenever my goody-two-shoes start to pinch.  It’s good to remember what not giving a fuck feels like.  Maybe keep a little of it stuck in my sock.  For in case.

It sure helps knowing you already filled up on enough bad.  Earlier.  Really topped off the tank.

Enough to last you through a really long pursuit.

.

Young hillbilly in exile.

Young hillbilly in exile, looking for a ride.

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

Okay, now what?

Okay, now what?

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

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

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

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

It’s my version.

So yeah.

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

Then there’s the place itself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very slow.  No rush there.

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

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

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

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

Pictures of people standing around in nature.

I shudder to think.

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

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

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

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

I’ll keep you posted.

Okay, now what?

Okay, now what?

Red Ink In My Eye

Relaxing the other night, watching some documentaries about Russian prisons, I found myself being grateful.  Grateful the optical mouse worked on my bed sheets.  So I didn’t have to sit up at the desk to click.  That’s such a pain in the ass.

A Russian prisoner is being walked to a cell by four guards and a dog.  He’s handcuffed behind his back.  His legs are shackled.  He has a black cloth bag over his head.  And they have him walking bent over at the waist.  At a right angle.  The don’t fuck around at The Black Dolphin.  That’s the name of this particular prison.  The White Swan is another.  But that one is not as luxurious as the New Age spa this prisoner is enjoying.

“Come, be pampered in blissful sybaritic abandon.  The Black Dolphin, privately nestled between the jet-set playground cities of Novokuybyshevsk, Samara, and Ufa.”

The prisoners are forced to spend the day standing in silence.  Standing.  With a Russian head on their necks, one that makes them think Russian thoughts.   Keep that part in mind.  What a mental and emotional bludgeoning that in itself would be.  What vast endless steppes of melancholy confront that average traveler.  Now throw him into the worst place in Russia (which has a pretty decent collection) and see what kind of misery you can conjure.

These boys distill a potent brew alright.  And I know a thing about moon-shining a mental nightmare.  But they when they tap into that still, the sorrow just fucking flows.  I always say a Russian with a guitar is good for at least two suicides during any picnic.  So when the camera shows two of their prisoners standing in a cell, I always try to picture what’s going through their heads.  What the interior landscape looks like in there.  How those seconds would tick-tock by.

Time that must really crawl when you’re eagerly awaiting a delicious bowl of cabbage water.  Not to mention the fifteen minutes of luxuriating on the sinful comfort of a wooden stool.  Precious minutes.  Oh yeah.  That part totally rocks.  All that… getting to sit.  While eating water.

Best fifteen minutes of the day.  For sure.

It’s brutal fare.  And I need to see this.  A little reality-check.  To get more gratitudinal.  Which is an important tool in my sobriety toolbox that I hardly open.

I reach up for my can of Hansen’s Diet Ginger Ale.  I have to sit up to get at it.  If I put the can on the floor, I always kick it over.  So I have to set it on top of the dresser.  I’d prefer to just be able to turnstile my arm out at the elbow and have one in reach.  But alas, life is exceeding cruel.

I guess, if I dragged in something like a TV tray I could set up a little temporary nightstand, but I refuse.  You start using a TV tray as an end-table and it’s over.  You’ve officially quit the race.  Start picking out battery-heated booties from the Harriet Carter catalog and await your death.  It’s coming on swift wings.

I’ll keep having to reach up a little.  It’s good for me.  Good for the obliques.

Now there’s some dude showing off his tattoos.  A sullen, nicotine-stained woodcarving of The Eternal Mope, he’s pointing out what each piece of creepy Russian iconography means.  The church domes each represent a full conviction served.  It looks like he’s got pretty crowded Kremlin on his chest.  The black cat a burglar.  A beetle means pickpocket.  Stars on his knees mean he will not kneel before any authority.  Cool.  Spider web denotes drug addiction.  A light bulb means he worked in a Uranium mine.  Sorrowful Madonnas.  Orthodox crosses.  Church bells.  Ships.  Barbed wire rosaries.  Dice.  Diamonds.  Skulls.  Angels.

All of it signifying something sad, bad, or both.  Laid out there.  Bared naked.  For all to see.  Every one of your underworld merit badges.  On proud display.

Think of all the talking it would save.  Instead of trying to catch up a new friend with endless stories.  I could take off my clothes and just rotate like a rotisserie chicken a few times and they’d be up to speed.  Need to refer to a time in my life, just lift my shirt and point.  Let them read the codex.

Fuck yeah.

Okay, now I want some tragic Russian prison tattoos.   I want my own illustrated history tattooed in flesh.  I want to be a living billboard of bummer.

But only if I could design my own.  A bear drinking bees instead of honey from a hive.  An onion dripping  juice into a bloodshot eye.  A babushka mother wringing her hands.  A stack of poker chips on each shoulder.  A rabbit plowing a field.  A skull head hand-cuffed to a chainsaw.  A bullet going through a screen door.  A pair of black Converse with wings.  A wizard bong.  X’s on my eyelids.  A Mexican peso on my palm.  A monkey stealing a peach.  Well, one monkey stealing three peaches total.

I could also get 0.24, 0.26, 0.19, and o.o inked on my forearm–my blood alcohol level during arrests resulting in a conviction.  Maybe the ones that I beat on the other arm.

“This flying mushroom on my shoulder means I’m a skilled pilot.  The gnome bathing in the kitchen sink means I can handle the weird.  The salt shaker on my fist means I fight dirty.”

“What does the stiletto heel through the heart mean?”

Silence.  I break down in sobs.  Big rolling heaves.  Some renting of garments.  Hair pulling.  Really uncomfortable to witness.  Finally, wiping away snot, I manage to blubber out, “It means nothing!”  Then more sobbing.  More shirt tearing.  Hair pulling.  Just over the top shit.

“I shouldn’t have asked.  Sorry.”

That would be fun.

Actually, I always thought that if I were to really get my criminal creep on, I would like to tattoo a monocle over my eye.  With the string coming down from it, like the Planter’s Peanut Man.  Just to really keep ’em guessing.

“They called me ‘Professor,'” I’d  tell the cashier at the drive-thru.  Then drive off before getting my food.  But after paying.

Ah, it’s a pipe dream.  I’ll never do it.  I’m just not that into advertising what a fuck up I was.  Except in this blog, that goes out to the world via internet.

Huh.

The tattoos would’ve actually been a better choice.

Oh well.  Gotta take the bad with the bad.  Which is what these lads on the telly seem to being doing…with style.

They’re marched out at six in the morning for exercises.  That’s right, no cup of mocha espresso is going to wake you up like a few scorching lungfuls of Siberian frost.  The interviewed guard explains that the routine is made up of light movements intended to get blood flow into the limbs.  Just the thing after you’ve spent the night hung up with your arms behind your back, on a meat hook.

Just do some tootsie-tappers and wristy twirls.  Under searchlights.  And snow swirls.

Got to hand it to those Ruskies.  They know how to suffer.  Always have.  I think best of all.  Although Keller and my mom have been reading about North Korean prison camps.  They both tell me the No-Kos can give the Russians a run.  Keller said they have something there called a Three Generation Conviction.  In other words, the conviction is handed down through three generations.  Like a gold watch.  Or alcoholism.

Pretty raw deal, but I don’t know.  The Russians take anguish to an art form.  I really do enjoy their mournful songs of loss and regret.  Real soul-achey stuff.  I just can’t picture the North Koreans being as lyrical.  Maybe because they always do pep squad foot-stamp-and chant-stuff during the talent shows.  Running around with banners.  Spelling letters out of people.  Basic totalitarian regime half-time extravaganza shit.  That’s not going to translate well on the cattle car railing you off to work detail.  While everybody inside is fighting over icicles.

(Soda reach.  Sprinkle some trail mix on the chest to eat from.  Neck kind of hurts from watching sideways.   This pillow sucks.)

Okay, I don’t like this part.  Seen it before.  Always kills me.   The dad coming to visit the son.  See, the dad can’t visit too often since he doesn’t drop by Siberia that much.  He can only make the long journey twice a year, to be with his son– for two hours.

The visits only reignite the flame of pain.  But in this case, it’s clearly a pain endured in the name of love.

(Gulp)

They sit huddled in a small reception room nursing a cup of tea.  The son cradles some sort of beef-stick his dad gave him.  He doesn’t seem to care about the nitrates or high sodium.  They smile bravely.  The father is holding his son’s hands.  He has clearly forgiven him.  You can see it by the love in his eyes.  After all the fuck ups, the father still loves him.  Even though it makes it all hurt more.  It’s that kind of love.

(Hard swallow.  Eye-ball juice forming)

Now it’s time to part.  Time for Dad to catch the 5:15 back 2.300 kilometers into the city.  Time to tell the mother, who will never see him again, about her son.  Again and again.  During long winter nights.  To keep the memory of him from fading like a ghost into the forest.

They hug deeply.  Both men have tears.

(Achhh!  Achhhhh-hah!  Ghrrach!  Ahuuurrr!  Fucking pollen count.)

I move the mouse and click.  That’s enough of that.

I lie there for a while thinking.  I want to write my dad an e-mail.  Just to say “hey” and that I’m okay.  And that I love him.  I’m pretty sure he still loves me.  After everything.  More importantly, I want him to know that I do.  I kind of don’t feel like getting up.  Maybe tomorrow.

No.  Now.

It won’t kill me.  But not doing it might.  I sit up and reach for the keyboard.

Fucking Russians.

"This next number I'm going to play is a sad little song."

“This next number I’m going to play is a sad little song.”

Mardi Gras Death Trip ’89 Part 2

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

“Happy ending?” she asked.

“Make it the happiest,” I told her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you think this will be enough?”

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

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

I have had worse moments in my life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You can start with me,” Lu piped up.

My eyebrow arched.

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

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

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

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

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

“Step up little dude!” I kept shouting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m so glad.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was brutal.  Every fucking mile of it.

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

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

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

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

 

Mardi Gras Death Trip ’89, Part 1

Taking the Greyhound anywhere sucks, but taking it back from anywhere sucks even more.  Especially from Mardi Gras.  One minute, I was sharing a hotel room with five University of Michigan co-eds at ground zero of what has been traditionally known as a rather celebratory event.  A festive little fiesta in Idsville, USA.  The next, I’m on a stinking bus, surrounded by crying babies and newly released convicts, on the slowest way to travel short of rowing there with a canoe paddle on a furniture dolly.  Fate is a fickle bitch alright.

Going down didn’t seem so bad.  I was excited.  I was on a grand adventure.  Besides, going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans is pretty much a pilgrimage every alcoholic needs to take.  For once, your environment will match your internal world.  Now your behavior will be entirely appropriate, no matter how inappropriate.  Especially so with drunken chicks from Ann Arbor.  Drinking it up.  Throwing it down.  Slutting around.  You would be hard-pressed to find more capable party warriors to run with then some wolverine wenches.

I had been running with a pack of wild ones, during the holiest celebration in Alcoholdom.  Those little girls turned out to be quite a wrecking crew.  They were crazy enough for me to sack and pillage with and not get bored.  They kept up their end of the mischief and mayhem.  I was impressed.  They knew how to take full advantage of the generous temporary slack society had granted us.  While they looked like nice, fairly good girls, under the collective spell of Mardi Gras Madness, they blossomed into beasts.

My girlfriend at the time, let’s call her Lu, didn’t change too much during Mardi Gras.  Like me, she always felt Mardi Gras shouldn’t be boxed into just a few days before Lent.  Hey man, Mardi Gras is a state of mind, man.  Man.

Lu was a crazy Albanian chick, from a very strict, traditional household, but she just boogied right out of that noose.   She still had more tackles to break before she hit open field, but she was juking family and relatives left and right.  They had no idea what a hard-drinking Jezebel she had become.  Had them scammed.  A double-life double-agent.

She was also once my ex-girlfriend Patty’s best friend.  Was.

Patty and I had spent a summer together.  She was an odd chick.   She could don her party cap, but her main thing was athletic outdoor activity.  Fucking great.  Mine was humping in a darkened room within arm’s-reach of a beer, while the battle for Stalingrad raged on the TV.  All this hiking, biking, running and jumping wasn’t my prefered pastime.  She had me sucking wind trying to keep up.

She would get up at 4am to bike to the ski basin and back, then wake me up at six to drive her to her waitress job.  That really pissed me off.  Now you don’t want to take the bike.  Listen, why don’t you shave a mile or two off that mountain run, sister, and use it to peddle your ass to work.  You’re interrupting REM sleep, and that’s important when you want to feel your very best.  And maybe if you didn’t eat all that raw cookie dough, you wouldn’t need to exercise so much.

That fall she flew back to Michigan.  We continued through letters and drunken phone calls, but when she came out to visit that winter, I could tell something was wrong.

That whole not having sex with me thing being my first clue.  The way she stiffened up and clenched her jaw when I touched her was another.  Finally, after a few days she came out with it.  She had met someone new at school, and it was over.  Why the fuck did she waste money on a plane ticket when a nineteen cent postcard would’ve done the trick?  I didn’t understand women.  Fortunately, she had brought her best pal, Lu, as I surmised later, for moral support.

Say, I know how to take the sting out of this rejection, and maybe put some of it back into the person rejecting me–I’ll fall in love with her best friend.  I didn’t know women too well, but it seemed like it might be something that wouldn’t go down too well.  It might create some weirdness between them.  Mama some drama.

I did and it did.

Some people need to actually fall in love to fall in love.  They are handicapped by small imaginations and limited ideas about what constitutes love.  I could fall in love faster than you could uncoil a 15 foot garden hose and spray two humping dogs.  So I decided to fall in love with Lu, and the dividends were plentiful.

Hey, check it out, all of sudden I  don’t feel bad about Patty finding someone else.  And now, Patty is all pissed-off because I have.  How awesome is that?  Love does solve everything.

Who needs to get over it and move on with their life now?  C’mon girl, I just did, and it was easy-peasy.  You’re right about Lu being good moral support.  I thought you would be happier for her.

Lu turned out to be a better fit for me than Patty anyway.  She could drink like a longshoreman, and was as horny as a stray cat.  She could also make me laugh, which was big.   Smart.  Cynical.   Wit sharp as a tongue piercing needle.  A canister of napalm sarcasm in her purse, at the ready to flame anyone in need of a good soul-scorching.  She was definitely her own woman.

One morning I woke up next to her and saw a tattoo on her shoulder.  I slowly remembered her getting it the night before.  It was a design she had sketched out right there at the tattoo shop on a whim.  Who does that?  What a crazy bitch…

I shot up out of bed and ran to the mirror in the bathroom.  I slowly pulled back the bandage and exhaled.  Okay.  It was some Japanese writing.  That’s alright.  I can live with that.  I guess I’m going to have to.  I hope it says something cool.

What a crazy bitch.

One thing that both my sister and I dug about Lu was her ability to not only “go there,” but drag you along, kicking and screaming.  She was a natural writer, gifted with a perverse imagination and a sick sense of humor.  She liked to make up stories, intricate and detailed ones, involving you as the protagonist and a course of events that lead you to some horrible and revolting situation.

Well, my sister and I had been playing that game with each other for years, you know, to pass the time when we were bored, so she had a discerning audience.  We both thought she was good.  She knew how to spin a good horror yarn.

The trick was to make each stepping-stone episode along the way as believable as possible.  Extraordinary coincidence was allowed since that happened in real life, and so were certain lapses in normal behavior on the protagonist’s part due to alcohol, since that happened in real life too.

The first part of her story usually involved something really awesome happening to you.  She’d try to get into your head and personalize the story.  She’d have me excitedly accepting an invitation to some celebrity party in the Hollywood Hills.  A literary agent was interested in my work and wanted to talk to me about it at her party.  A party with plenty of Heineken and Hollywood sluts.

That was crucial because it created a tiny desire to believe along.  That’s how she’d lead you through the narrative.  However, as soon as Rip Taylor or Fran Lebowitz, showed up at her fictional party, you knew you would wind up having sex with one or both of them.  It was always due to the collective effects of drugs and drink.  A standard literary device for this game, and I suspect not entirely one born of her imagination.  She would dole it out in detail.  The shame. The disgust.  The need to shower eleven times.   She’d describe it so vividly, it would leave you laughing, and maybe a little traumatized.

So yeah, she was fun.

When she called me from Michigan to tell me she was sending a bus ticket, I took it.  We would rendezvous in New Orléans with four of her girlfriends minus Patty, of course.  As soon as I hung up the phone, I was at the oven cooking up some of my special brownies for the ride.

My brownies were notorious.  I never got the measuring dosage thing down, and always wanted to err on the side of psychosis-inducing overdose, rather than “not high enough.”  I once gave some as a wedding gift to some friends.  The groom ate three of them, when one was pretty much one too much.    I had indicated the proper dosage, but eating dope is tricky.  It takes a little longer to come on, and in the meantime, “these brownies are delicious!”  When they do finally hit, watch out.  Your stomach can absorb more psychotropic agent than your lungs could ever wheeze down.  It’s makes for a wilder Mr. Toad’s ride.

I guess the groom totally freaked.  I wasn’t there but heard all about it afterwards.  So yeah, that didn’t turn out too good.  Maybe a toaster would’ve been a better gift.  I felt bad, but not bad enough to change the recipe.

At least I was baking it in brownies. When I lived in New York, and was even poorer, we grew a bunch of window-sill weed.  It was shit smoke.  All shade leaves and no buds.  If you did smoke enough of it to get high, you were guaranteed a raging headache.  The solution was to pan fry it up in a little butter.  Activate the fat-soluable THC in some hot grease, then spoon the toasted ash into some Haagen Daz Mint Chocolate Chip.  A delicious treat that unlocks portals of perception.  The ones that may have been better left shut.

Well, after a while, we couldn’t afford the ice cream, and then later, the butter.  We wound up toasting up the dried leaves in vegetable oil, and eating the charred sludge by the oily spoonful.  You really had to disciple your gag-reflex.  The process made you buck and rock, with a lot of hand-waving, as you tried to get it down.  It looked like you were trying to jump out of your own skin.  That’s why we called it “Jump.”

You haven’t lived until you’ve OD’d on Jump while riding a clattering E train underground.  The lights flickering like Frankenstein’s laboratory.  Sandpaper mouth.  Eyes bulging bloodshot.  Your heart bass-drumming in your throat.  Knuckles gripping the steel strap so hard your forearm muscles start to cramp and spaz.  Ice water running down your pits and spine.  A vast cosmic ocean roaring through the conch shells that have replaced your ears.  Paranoid fear so thick you can iron a dress shirt on it.  Really an apocalyptic trip.

And just the thing for a boring bus ride through Texas.  Besides being discreet, they would bring me to the edge of sanity, and my mom always said, “You can’t be bored while trying not to lose your mind.”  She was certainly right about that.  The ride through Texas wasn’t boring.  Besides the bombers of Betty Crocker, I was tripping out on all things Texan.

The South has always kind of freaked me, but now travelling through these towns, surrounded by all these rednecks straight out of central casting was too much.  Belt-lapping guts, straw hats, pointy shit-kickers, toothpicks, farmer-tanned arms, grizzled chins spitting out black juice, and that was the chicks.

Remember, Texas is the reason that the president’s dead.

I was already warped from the fun fudge, but now, seeing all these yee-haws and good ol’ boys really spun the merry-go-round.  They sent me spiraling down a wormhole of thoughts and impressions.  Are these people for real?  Is anything for real?  I can’t feel my spleen.  Lot’s of pawn shops here.  My prefered social safety net.  I think I’m having a stroke.  What if I need to ask any of these people for help?  They think the end of the Civil War was just a temporary cease-fire.  If they find out I’m from New York they’ll drag my body from behind a pickup truck during the homecoming parade.  Just being this stoned in Texas is probably a capital offense.  Do not talk to any of them.  They’ll know.  It’s against the law to even make someone suspicious in this state.

I was kind of enjoying the fear fest.  Good brownie.  Texas is not boring.  Major freak show freak-out freak-a-thon.

I took it all in, while hitting off my flask, listening to The Butthole Surfers on my walkman.  The Buttholes and The Motards, and maybe Willy Nelson, were the only things to come out of Texas I could relate to.  I was a stranger in a strange land.  I had no bearings.  I took my cues from the people on the bus, most of them blacks and Hispanics.  As long as they were laughing and joking, I felt like things were okay.

There was no joking around when we pulled up to a roadblock check point.  I don’t know if they were looking for escapees or what, but we could see a bunch of cops waiting to board.  One of them had a dog.

Fuck the dosage schedule.  I crammed three days worth of brownies down my throat.  Now was not the time to worry about dialing in just the right amount of buzz.

The cop with the dog climbed on the bus.  He looked so stereotypical I thought he was wearing a Halloween costume.  The air was crackling.  Everybody looked straight ahead.  I’m sitting there, and know this dog will sniff out the THC coming out of every one of my pumping sweat glands.  Oh Jesus.  Chain gangs.  Microwaved breakfast biscuits for breakfast.  Bologna sandwich and apple for dinner.  Forever.

He walked down the aisle looking at each of the passengers.  When he got to me, I smiled weakly while swallowing the last of the brownie, and forced my eyebrows to look happy and surprised.  Oh what a nice doggy!  The dog sniffed my hand, then continued down the aisle.  He got to the end, turned around and walked back by, then off the bus.  That was it.  They let us go.

The whole bus exhaled in relief.

“Wooo-wee! I thought they was going to pull Darnell off!” someone yelled.

“Shutthefuckupnigger!” someone I imagined was Darnell, yelled back.  Everyone laughed.  Me too.

The driver closed the door and started the bus.  The mood became almost jubilant.  I started to hear beer tops pop.  Maybe we were stuck on this rundown bus, but it sure beat some alternatives.  My gratitude lasted about 17 to 18 seconds.  It atomized with the realization that I now had a bellyful of cooked cannabis to contend with.  My sanity was about to be ripped through like wet toilet paper, by a flaming meteor of burning brownie.

On a Greyhound bus.  Going through Texas.  The longest possible way.

It was now only a matter of time before things got really challenging.  Tickity-tickity-tock.  Maybe this won’t be good.  Maybe this will be too intense.  Not a lot of room to pace around on a bus.  Pacing around is good.  Really want to pace around and wring my hands right now.  Get my fret on.

I finally found what to do with my hands.  Gripping the arm rests in white-knuckle terror seemed like an awesome option.  Let’s do that.

That bus became my rocket.  To the End of Time, and The Final Sacrifice of Man.  But, before all existence ceased, there would be time to day tour the three hundred and thirty-three levels of Hell, then stop at the Insanity Gift Shop.

I was surprised by how tidy and organized Hell was.  All these levels and units.  Your basic prison model.  Makes sense.  Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of chaos and pain, but it was neatly divided in separate containers.  Like your average suburban family.  Man, I was seeing some crazy shit.  Goats and tar.  Dental decay.  People being tortured with plasma instruments.  A bobbing skull that lights the cigar of a leper with perfectly coiffed hair.  A hundred thousand men pulling a huge phallic obelisk through a desert bristling with cactus.  They were being bullwhipped forward by a huge mollusk riding on top of a tricked out 70’s party van.

What does this all mean?  Who’s in charge here?  Why am I feeling so crazy?  I didn’t sign up for this!

My God, Texas is weird.

I returned to Earth just as we crossed over the Louisiana state line.  It would still be a long time before New Orleans…and the real party hadn’t even started yet.

Go Blue!

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.