Punked-Out Punk: The Merciful Conclusion

Trey Oswald and Paul Bakija of Reagan Youth

Trey Oswald and Paul Bakija of Reagan Youth

Ugly scene at the punk show.  Gurz and I wound up going at it.  Savage exchange.  Dude fights dirtier than me.  Beat me to the salt shaker.  Then beat me with the salt shaker.  Right there on the dance floor.  While the band played on.  I thought I’d met my match, but remembered a move called Monkey Steals A Peach.  That took the proverbial wind out.  Cops showed up and arrested us both for felony assault.  Essington posted our bail.  We paid him back by stealing his car.

Hmm.  It’s a good start for this piece.  I mean I really like it.  Right away we’re up to our elbows in action.  The writing is snappy and scrappy.  Lean and tough.  I get to work in a salt shaker and Monkey Steals A Peach reference.  Getting busted is rich.  The evil burn there at the end, too.  The whole paragraph is so me.  We’re talking signature shit.

There’s only one little problem.  It’s a balls-out lie.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with that.  It’s just that Gurz or Essington might yap.  Then everybody will think/know I’m a liar.  Which would suck.  And oh yeah, I’m supposed to try to be as honest as possible, in order to help stay sober.

Fucking staying sober.  Always tripping up my game.  Saving me from humiliation.

You want the truth?  You think you can handle it?  Well handle this-

I went to the show and had an okay time.  Got along with Gurz and Essington.  Nothing crazy happened.  Was asleep in my motel bed by 2AM.  Had a nice breakfast with Brisa and Dennis the next morning.  Came home.  The end.

After all that build up, that’s all you get.  I’m sorry, but that’s the truth.  No drinking.  No drugging.  No fist-fights.  No stage-diving.  No strippers.  No hookers.  No cops.

Not so hot on the truth now, are you?  Yeah, it’s easy to pay it lip labor, but another thing to have to endure listening to it.  Or in this case, having to read it.  It could set you free, but the truth just might lull you to sleep.  Like a bellyful of antihistamine-fed turkey, cold hard facts can be quite soporific.  Plain old boring truth.

Here’s some more boring truth-  I hate writing music reviews.  Mostly because I suck.  I’ll write “they sound alright, like some band I can’t remember the name of, only more hoppy-boppy,” or “the chick playing bass looks like someone my buddy went out with, back in Santa Fe, during the 90’s.  A real clingy, emotionally needy, pain in the ass.  The girlfriend, not the bass player.  I don’t know what her story is.”

I’m no Lester Bangs.  And don’t want to be.  First off, he’s dead.  Second off, I recognize my limitations as a writer.

Add that to the fact that nothing amazing, funny, or insane happened at the show, and you’ll know why I dragged ass getting here.  This thing became a book report I couldn’t find the Cliff Notes for.  I kept putting off writing about the show with a Part One, Part Two, Part Three, hoping I’d find some angle to make it interesting.  Well, the angle never came.  That’s when I decided to try to lie my way out.  Like a cornered rat.

Sure, lot’s of uninteresting things happen to me, all the time, and it’s never stopped me from writing about them.  But there’s usually some internal component, some gleaned insight or entertaining thought process to report.  Not this time.  The only thing I remember thinking was, “this music is okay, but I’m ready for it to stop now.  It’s starting to hurt my ears.”

Not much to hang your hat on.  Even for Lester Bangs.

Reagan Youth

Thank God, Michael Essington was there.  He can write about music.  Or anything else.  He’s prolific.  Smart.  A natural writer.  Very readable.  In real life, a solid down-to-earth character.  No posturing or posing.  And that comes through in his work.  I wish we could have talked more that night, but the music was…too loud.

Anyway, while I hemmed and hawed, waiting for some God Machine to descend from the sky, he banged out a review of the show.  You can read it here.

Okay.  That gets me off that hook.  No need to review the show.  And that should be lesson to all you kids out there.  Sometimes procrastination pays off.  So don’t put it off.

I’ll will add that while Essington was jumping hurdles trying to get to the show, I saw the whole thing.  13 Scars and Reagan Youth managed to tap into the wellspring of youthful angst and delivered the notice.  Especially noteworthy, since both bands are made up of generally older dude types.  It was good to see middle-agehood could still shred shit up.  Good for morale.  A mighty hammer blow struck against the evils of ageism.

But like I said, at one point my ears just gave out.  It wasn’t the musicianship, or even some age-crisis induced introspection, but the physical discomfort of decibels relentlessly beating against the skull that made me ready to bail.  But I didn’t.  I clung on to the bitter end.

And am a better man because of it.

Michael Essington and David Gurz

Michael Essington and David Gurz

If you read part one of this saga (and my stats show that’s not likely) you’ll know that I went primarily for the book-signing, Essington and Gurz were doing for their joint effort,  Under a Broken Street Lamp.  It was good to finally meet Gurz.  A deeply troubled individual.  Dangerously deranged old punk.  Ex-con.  Ex-heroin junky.  Street survivor.  You’re just not going to find a more subterranean creature.  If I had a stick that night I would have poked at him, just to watch him claw and hiss, the madness and menace glinting in his eyes.  A fascinating specimen of Demonous Nocturnous.

And all that comes through in his work.  But lots of other stuff too.  Sinister resume aside, Dave is a sweetheart.  Intelligent, funny-as-fuck, and–oh, he’s gonna kill me–sensitive and caring.  That’s right.  He’s what is known in folklore as a Noble Scoundrel.  Standard archetype, really.  What the turn-of-the-century criminal, Jack Black, called “a good Yegg.”

Anyway, we’d been corresponding and talking on the phone for over a year before this, so it was great to actually meet in person.  And not be able to communicate.  But hang out anyway.

That’s what this whole odyssey was about.  Making the effort to connect with friends.  Going against my selfish inclination for the apparent comfort and safety of isolation, and coming out to the show.  Just to be there.  To hang out.  To talk loudly to somebody who can’t hear you, and then not hear them tell you that.  To build that bond that comes from nodding and shrugging at each other.  Clueless.  While droplets of blood roll from your ears.

I wouldn’t trade it for all the treasure in Timbuktu.

Okay.  That’s not true either.

Damn.

Anarchy Transformer

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Punked-Out Punk: Part Two

Needing a fix.

“It’s a beautiful day.”

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's what I think of your 'hood.

Here’s what I think of your ‘hood.

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

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

Okay then.

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

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

Instead of a punk rock show.

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

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

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

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

Glad I straightened that out.  No Google either.

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

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

Before the big show.

(to be continued.)

Mindful motoring.

Mindful motoring.

Punked-Out Punk: Part One

Reagan Youth

Reagan Youth

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

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

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

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

Not like here at home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These Brazil nuts better work.

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

Because I really want to kiss a girl, instead.

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

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

Motel room service

Motel room service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(To be continued)

Rage on.

Degenerated!

Blogula Turns Two.

Birthdays blow.

Birthdays blow.

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

And get this party started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clap…………………………….clap.

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

Clap.

Clap.

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

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

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

I can think of no greater honor.

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

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

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

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

Just to show you we still got it.

Thanks for reading.  Trudge on.

Marius

Monk and The Meows

Some of Monk's gang

Some of Monk’s gang

My buddy’s heart hurts.  And there’s pretty much nothing I can do.  But keep telling him that I know.  That loving things that die is just the worst.  No. The worst is not loving things.  Loving things that die is second worst.

Still, I hate to seem him go through it.  All because he’s a good person with a big heart.  It doesn’t seem fair.

Monk was always good.  Even when he wasn’t.  When he was bad, it was the best.  The best kind of bad.  My kind.  And even though his bad period lasted shorter than mine, it was stellar while it burned.  Bonded us as brothers.  Of bad.

Today he’s just always good.  With maybe a light sprinkle of bad.  Which is kind of a miracle actually.

Childhood written by Dickens during opium withdrawal.  Dad died when he was two.  Alcoholic mother abandoning the family for weeks at a time.  The kids having to steal to eat.  Foster homes.  Abuse.  Just the fucking ugly worst.  Surely, he would grow up gnarled and thorny.  Somebody should pay for his misfortune.  Why not everyone around him?

Not Monk.  It never turned him ugly.  He endured it all with a quiet dignity.  Like they teach saints to do.  Only nobody taught him.  He just did it.  And has kept doing it.  Ever since.

Who does that?  Statistically he should have become a serial killer.  Instead of a man who goes around like St. Francis, taking care of animals.  I shit you not.  Wild rabbits, squirrels, and birds at home, and a bunch of feral cats living in the industrial complex he works at.  Him and a guy that volunteers at Felines and Friends have caught fourteen of them.  In cat traps.

All the cats get a trip to the vet.  Everybody gets a check up.  Gets spayed or neutered.  The ones with a suitable temperament are put up for adoption.  The ones too Marius, get turned back loose, where Monk continues to care for them.  The original family he adopted lives in the relative safety of a pile of pallets behind chain link.  He feeds them everyday.  Even drives into town on week-ends.  So none of them would have to take any crazy risks to eat.

It beats the shit they serve at The Sally.

It beats the shit they serve at The Sally.

Digs the crazy spats.

Dig the crazy spats.

These feral cats come to him.  Because he’s proven himself a good yegg.  A Square John.  A Stand-up.  They let him pet them.  Let him hang out with them.  Share their silence.  Together they stare at the beauty of the arroyo under big sky.  Everybody all squinty-eyed and wise.  Like they’re posing for an album cover.  He’s family.

And like me, they know they can go to Monk when they’re in trouble.  And that he won’t let them down.

He went to feed them one day, and noticed he hadn’t seen the mom around.  One of the boy cats comes up and starts meowing, then takes off like Lassie.  Monk follows him to a warehouse.  The workers tell him they’d seen a black cat in the back somewhere.  They like having the cats around because of the mice, so nobody tried to get rid of it.

Too scared to dart past the workers, Mom was holed-up in a dark storage area.  Monk called out, and she kept meowing back until he found her.  Let him pick her up and carry her past all the scary people.

They all go home.  Mama’s back.  Big happy reunion.  The whole family making a big furry figure eight around his legs.  Everybody frisky with the joy of life.  Monk the hero, petting with both hands.  Angels in the clouds getting cuted-out by all this.

Home safe in an easily defended fortress.

Home safe in an easily-defended fortress.

No surprise really.  Even back in eighth grade I had been telling him he should be a monk or something.  “You’re one of those spiritual mystics,” I’d tell him.  I wanted to guidance counsel him towards his strengths.  Something about his eyes.  You could picture him walking in the woods.  Drinking maple syrup out of tree branches.  Squirrels on his shoulders dropping nuts in his pockets.  Bees bringing him honey.  Putting it on his beard,  So he can have some later.

Since he just had some maple syrup and probably doesn’t want any honey right now.

A man whose love for creation and it’s creatures is returned ten-fold.  Walking lightly on the leaves, so as not to startle the shy wood nymphs.  Winking at snakes.  Knowing each frog by first name.  Strolling along, cloaked in love.

Yeah, he seemed like that type.  So I told him that’s the field he should pursue.  He should be some kind of holy guy.  Me, I wanted to be something more bad-ass.  Like a heart-broken Legionnaire or a Robin Hood bank robber.  I wanted to be more Noir.  But I never wanted to let that get between us.

I don’t know what Monk wanted.  I never asked him.

Well anyway, it doesn’t matter because he didn’t take my advice.  Instead of becoming a devout monk, bent over some scroll, he went a’Viking.  For a little while, din’t yeh?  Clocked your romper-stomper pillage and plunder time.  I saw it.

Watched him give the Bat Chain a mighty tug, I have.  Hell, he was entitled to some bad behavior.  But even then, if anyone was going to get hurt, Monk made sure it’d be the right people.  Racist skins.  Drunk Frat assholes.  He carefully discerned who truly deserved a running punch in the guts, and who needed a fast fist in the teeth.  And Monk always made sure it was the right people.  He was like that.

The other difference between us was that he knew when to reel it in.  He knew when it was time to grow up.  To wise up.  To finally follow my advice and become some kind of holy dude who treads the Earth doing good deeds and shit.

And now I feel like he’s paying for it.

On his way to work he found one of the little cats run over dead.  Smokey.   Son of Midnight.  Brother to Kung and Fu.

Well, it cut Monk in half.  Even though he tried to prepare himself for the eventuality, it still sliced.  Losing any of them was going to be bad, but finding one of the younger ones hurt to death… it just doesn’t suck worse.  It’s a scientific fact that bigger hearts hurt more.  If he didn’t spend all that love on those cats, his heart wouldn’t be squeezing with so much sorrow right now.  Instead, his love has been paid back with pain.

He should’ve never listened to me.

He wouldn’t have to deal with this if he’d become a mercenary.  Or a drug lord.

Wouldn’t have to deal with all this sadness,  Burying it.  Crying.  Praying.  Shiva in the heart.  Trance of Sorrow soul-ache.  For what?  To love?  Some cats?

Some deal.

I know he doesn’t regret it.  Because he’ll keep riding on, with more arrows stuck in him than St. Sebastian–eyes scanning the horizon for any other orphaned ball of fur that might need his help.   A guy like Monk is ready to pay the price of love.  I know him.  He’ll just keep loving, no matter how bad it hurts.  What the sages call “Faith above Reason.”  Doing the loving thing, no matter what the consequences to your self.

Love no matter what.

That’s not a very reasonable thing to do.

In fact, it’s absurd.

And that is why it’s so kick-in-the-balls bad-ass.  So bat-shit reckless.  It’s so insane, that I have to climb on-board.  It’s Noir as Nuit and just as sweet.  Beyond gnarly.  The ultimate rebellion.  Against a selfish self.  And if not a fatal blow–a real chop to the beast’s throat.  A little something-something to make it think twice.  Before it rears it’s ugly head again.  That’s for sure.  So count me in.  Love no matter what.

This is going to be my craziest stunt yet.

Fucking Monk.  You still got it.

Always did.  Always will.

That’s why you lead the way.

Smokey hiding.

Smokey hiding.

In lieu of flowers, The Temple of Bast has asked that donations to http://www.felinesandfriends.org/ be made in Smokey’s memory.

A Brush Fire, See-Through Yoga Pants, And A Wedding.

Rome wasn't burnt in a day.

It’s a nice day for a white wedding.

Apparently there was some big fire around these parts.  That explains the apocalyptic atmosphere.  I thought is was because my buddy was getting married.  If you knew what kind of guy Greg used to be, you’d think it was the end of the world, too.  The fact that somebody chose to have me in their wedding party was another sign.  Signs and wonders.  I’m telling you.

Anyway, I hadn’t paid too much attention to the fact we were surrounded by flames.  I was too concerned about this deal with the see-through yoga pants.  Have you heard about this?  Powerhouse yoga pant purveyor, Lululemon Athletica, had to recall what appeared to be perfectly puritanical…yoga pants…because they…showed too much.

Well hi-ho camel toe, this is treachery of the highest order!

Some young lady dons a pair of what she believes to be modest…yoga pants, let’s say, for church.  She can’t deduce anything from the fact that the material is as sheer as pantyhose.  She does not look at herself in the mirror before leaving–to notice she is wearing invisible pants.  Why should she?  Yoga pants are traditionally a conservative choice of apparel.

After the service, cruel fate has her clacking around in her high heels at the dairy department of her local market, where she bends over for the Greek yogurt.  Va-vow!  Mobile cameras start flashing.  Carts crash into stacked cans.  Teenage boys whimper.  She has no idea she’s performing a floor show to rival that of the dirtiest border-town whorehouse.

Absolutely no idea.

No warning label either.

That these yoga pants would be…so revealing.

What a betrayal of trust.

The manufacturers themselves have been betrayed– by physics.  It seems that as a woman bends over to squat thrust in tight yoga pants, the material can stretch thin enough to reveal a gauzy pattern of skin beneath.  This pattern can now be matrixed in the mind of some nearby deviant doing dumb-bell curls, into a holographic whole.  Basically, the same neuro-optical effect that makes TV possible, also gives men the power of x-ray vision through these pants.

Of course, the more sheer the material, the less strain on the brain to connect the dots.

And hence the firestorm of controversy.

And nobody saw this coming.

Well the executives over at Lululemon did.  They handed out bonuses to help parachute themselves to safety.  Right before leaving legions of pretending-to-be clueless women, walking around in see-through pants.

Dear God.  What a monstrous turn of events.  Where’s the justice?  The humanity?

There’s just so many terrible things going on in the world today.  It’s easy to lose hope.  Good thing we have attorneys to sort it all out for us.  Somehow, they’ll see us through.  Yes, even this.

Oh yeah.  The wedding.  Almost forgot.  I got to be a groomsman at my friend’s wedding.  My first time being one.  His first time getting married.  So we were both a little nervous, but mostly about one of our pals getting drunk for the 14th millionth time.  He recently went out after a year sober and has been having a hard time staying in the saddle ever since.

We had to make it clear to him that he was not to drink during the wedding or the reception.  No matter what.  Not so much to protect his sobriety, as to protect the safety of the other guests.  Dude is from my tribe of crap-shoot crazies.  In fact, I see a lot of my younger self in him.  Free-spirited mischief-maker.  Adventurous and bold.  A romantic dreamer with a roguish charm.  And sliding-scale standards.  An outside-of-any-box thinker.  An iconoclast, if you will.  Gets his best ideas after a few libations.

Yeah.  That’s no fucking good…at all.

So I brought along my old zapper from my bouncing days.  La Chicharra.

Before the wedding, as we were getting dressed at Greg’s house, I zapped a few sparks into the air.  A little demonstration for our prone-to-relapse friend.  To show how transgressions of The Law will be dealt with.

He’s really scared of electricity so he’s backing up in the bathroom, while I feint and stab at him with crackling blue fire.

“See that?  That’s for you, buddy!”

“Get that fucking thing away from me!”

“Greg has assigned me to oversee your well-being.  Now I’m not telling you not to drink, only that if you choose to, there will be consequences.  One of which will be me coming up behind you, placing this on your neck, and then delivering the wrath of Thor!”  I pushed the button to let a few lightning bolts arc between the terminals and waved it at him.

KZZZZZZRRRRK!  KRAKTAKAZZZZZZ!   ZZZZRRRRT!

“You like that?”

He jumped back, and was now standing up on the toilet, laugh-crying hysterically.

“Seriously, bro.  Cut that shit out!”

“After I electrify the piss in your bladder, I will carry off your limp body from the dance floor and drag it outside, where you will spend the rest of the wedding, handcuffed in my Suzuki Esteem…

…with NO FUCKING CIGARETTES, BITCH!”

He heard me.  Gave me a big yes.  Then a no.  Whichever one I wanted.

When common sense fails, La Chicharra.

When common sense fails, La Chicharra.

I concede my methods are not those generally recommended by most 12-step recovery programs.  I just figured if an electric shock can dissuade a lab rat from his Swiss cheese, the threat of one could dissuade our thirsty, but lovable, loose-cannon from his booze.  At least long enough for the wedding to go off–without any sudden eruptions of chaos–from one of the groomsmen.

Worked like a charm.

They got hitched without a hitch.  The shindig was at the historic Camarillo Ranch House.  It was a perfect day for it.  Brush fires burning the hills around us.  The filtered sun bathing everything in a muted orange light.  Sprinkles of white ash gently snowing.  The beautiful bride and her handsome groom uniting in matrimony, while towering clouds of smoke climbed into a baby pink, blood orange, lapis blue, charcoal black, off-white, and coalmine canary yellow sky.

One of the guests later told me that as the couple exchanged vows, the smoke clouds behind them had turned from black to white, surrounding them in a celestial cumulus cloud.  I took that as a very good omen.  That no matter what goes on around them, together, they will find sanctuary.

I hope so.  They’re great kids.  Genuinely good souls.  Fun-loving and funny.  But responsible too.  And both survivors.  Winners in the war.  Fine examples of the regenerative power of love.

So yeah, I really want to see them make it.  If they stay loving, no matter what, they’ll make it.  No matter what.

It turned out our parched friend didn’t make it.  Shortly after I left the reception, my trusty Tesla torture taser in tow, he started in on the beers, and who knows what else.  Whatever other booze he had stashed about his person.

You know how we do.

I used to have to walk like Frankenstein into concerts because my boots were so packed with plastic miniatures of tequila that I had to balance on my toes.  Seriously.  I figured out you could get an extra in each boot if you put one under your arch.  The only problem was that now you had to walk on your tip-toes.  And still look cool.

It was a small price to pay though.  For those extra two.  Those two–could be the last two.  And then won’t you be glad you had them.

So I understand the madness.  I’m not any better than my friend.  I don’t know exactly why I’ve been able to clock some years and he hasn’t.  I have my suspicions, but there’s a time to present them.  When somebody is really willing to listen.  If it ain’t that time, save the mouth gas.

I’ve given a lot of  futile sobriety pep talks over the years.  At least they seemed futile.  Especially when the person goes right out and gets shit-hammered legless.  You can’t help but wonder if all your eloquent oratory just got pissed out onto a gas station wall.  Who knows?   Maybe it only seems futile, and something does sink in, but later.  Like much.

In the meantime, you let them know you’re available, and that you love them, no matter what.  Then you just hope they encounter something that does sink in.  Like the hood of a cop car into the bridge of their nose.  Or two terminal prongs connected to a high-voltage stun gun.  Right where the cerebral cortex connects.

CHICHARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAH!

Sometimes it’s just the look in a loved one’s eyes.  Something that really hurts.

Hey.  We see the light, when we see the light.

Just make sure it’s not shining through your yoga pants.

That would just be the worst.

I hope your week was good.

Barnyard bouncer and sentinel of sobriety.

Barnyard bouncer and sentinel of sobriety.

Taking The Arsenic Cure At Ojo Caliente

Good for what ails you.

Good for what ails you.

I have a sharp pain in my upper back.  Almost a month now.  Feels like a prehistoric lobster clawing into my shoulder blade.  I checked in the bathroom mirror and didn’t find any kind of clinging crustacean, so I have to conclude it’s some knot in my Reichian armor.  A constricted ball of energy refusing to go with the flow, now stuck and radiating Deadly Orgone Radiation throughout my etheric body, but with some leakage getting into the soul itself.

Probably got it doing bent-over dumb-bell rows.  Bent-over dumb-bell, indeed.  Maybe it’s from all the time I spend hunched and brooding like a doomed cathedral gargoyle.  I can think of a few people who might be the source.  Not you.  They don’t read my stuff.  No, they’re just some folks standing on my back while I do my spiritual push-ups.

Something’s bugging me.

Man.  This pain is at that tricky six level.  Bad enough to suck, but not bad enough for me to pursue any proactive remedy.  Look, I’m a personal trainer.  Shouldn’t I use any of the stretching, physical therapy stuff I’m always recommending to my clients?  Maybe use the foam roller that’s in the trunk of my car to roll out and loosen the myofascial membrane?  Stuff that’s been proven to help.

Fuck that.  I need a chubby Asian girl to walk on my back with a pair of spiked heels.

Well.  I need a lot of things.  Things that maybe don’t have to do with the pain in my back.

They might be wants.  In need’s clothing.  It’s too confusing.   For now, I am content to use the sharp corner of our wrought iron bannister to press against.  I lock my knees out from a squat and thrust.  Dig that fucker in.  Deep.   Then grind on it.  Really try to torture it out.

Lori laughs when she sees me do this.

“It looks perverted.”

“That”s probably why it feels so good.”

“Are you sure that’s the right thing to do?  Shouldn’t you get a massage or see a doctor?”

“I tried the corner of the counter in the kitchen, but the floor is too slippery in there.  I just wind up falling on my ass.  I’ve got carpeted steps to push off from here.  This is definitely the way to go.”

“…Okay.”

I’ll tell you what.  It got better while I was in New Mexico.  I almost drowned the little demon in the hot springs at Ojo Caliente.  It was really nice.  Keller and my sister, got Lori and I, a room next to theirs.  Both rooms had private outdoor tubs, with piping hot volcanic earth juice on tap.  Not a bad set up.  Getting to be with people I love.  All of us bringing our A-Game to the mirth that night.  Laughing like lunatics.  Under a black desert sky scrubbed clean with wind.  The stars sparkling extra bright.

Just does not get any better for this old sot.  One of the best nights of my life, actually.

In the morning,  I ventured over to the public pools.  You know, see who’s who in Modern Rome.  It was interesting.  Everybody in their resort robes.  Whisper Only zones.  Everything all flutey-foofy and cedar hand-lotiony.  It always felt like places like this were just goading me into boisterous misbehavior.  The perfect place to be perfectly inappropriate.   A good canvas for some dramatic chiaroscuro.

Now I try to play well with others.   Sometimes that means just being invisible to them.  So they won’t engage me.  And tempt me into doing something bad.  So I definitely wanted to glide through this whole scene as Buddhistly as possible.  I even tried not to flip my flops too loudly as I cross the lobby.  Going ghost.  Leaving no footprint.

There’s all kinds of different pools with different flavored water.  Some has iron that’s supposedly good for something.  Another has high concentrations of soda, which I’ve always been told rots your teeth.  Then there’s the arsenic water.  Supposedly it’s good for arthritis, stomach ulcers and “a variety of skin conditions.”   I could see that.  It sounds like some medieval cure for crotch critters.

“If ever a bold bard gets ball boweevils by bawdy bar maiden, he need only to boil both bollocks in a bowl of its broth.”

Arsenic water?  Are you sure?  I mean, I’m as New Age as Donovan, but that can’t be good for you.  Isn’t it like poisonous in even trace amounts?

Apparently, this is once again, where I am the fool.  These trace amounts are just tracey enough to make them a downright tonic.  Homeopathic Dr. Death’s Miracle Cure, Hair Tonic, Ball Soak and Mouth Rinse.  Arsenic water.  Open your pores and let the poison in.

Arsenic as cure-all is hardly a new remedy.  But always as a last resort.  Like Lumera.

Freckled boob soak.

Freckled boob soak.

I went from pool to pool taking turns to soak in all of the different potions…but that one.  I was scared to.   So I thought about it.

“Dude, your whole thing is about how a little bad is better than no bad at all.”

“It is.  It really is.  I think it rounds out my character.  A little bad.  Keeps the ladies interested.”

“Why not add arsenic, too?  To go along with your collection of a little bad. ”

“Yeah, and maybe build up my immunity to larger doses of arsenic.  Like if somebody ever tries to Rasputin me.”

“No doubt.  It could save my life.  Besides, what kind of pussy can’t handle a little poison?”

“I do like a little poison.”

“Fuck yeah.”

“I’m in.”

“Me too.”

I got out of the rotting-egg pool, and tip-toed over to the arsenic one.   There were two middle-aged earth mother types in there already.  I hesitated.

Some women have described their first impression of me as “predatory”  or “surrounded by an aura of menace.”  Which is unfortunate.  I mean, that they can see that.  If anyone were to make that assumption, it was going to be these two wholegrain-fed mamas.  These types always hate me.  At least at first.  So now they were going to be uncomfortable with me being there.  And I was going to feel uncomfortable about that.

Fuck it.  I’m here to soak in poison.  Bring it on.

I eased my hooves into the water and slid in.  My horns glistening in the toxic steam.  I smiled at the ladies, but they didn’t smile back.  They turned and whispered to each other.  I sat back, closed my eyes and inhaled the arsenic mist deep into my lungs.  Let the poison mix with my own in chemical union.  Let the Periodic Table of Elements mutate my cells to It’s Will.

When I opened my eyes I found myself looking at a pair of boobs bobbing on the water.  They were elongated, and looked like two freckled salamis floating in a bathtub.  Hardly bone-crushing erotica.  At least for me.  I thought about something, and when I looked up from them, I saw one pissed-off Gaia Granola stink-eying me.  She thinks she’s caught me getting a perv on, when on the life of my cats, I wasn’t.  I was too zoned out.

Anyway, she turned away all violated and leaned in to tell her friend something.  Her friend looked over at me and nodded.  They got out of the pool.  Put on their robes and flip-flapped away with decided intention.

I knew it.  I knew something.  That’s why I hesitated.  Knew something would go down.  They were waiting for something and thought they got it.  Now they could leave content, thinking that their initial assessment of me was correct.

Very irritating.  But what am I going to do?  Run after them trying to explain–

“Look ladies, I’ve worked in strip clubs.  Your tits don’t mean anything to me.”

Yeah.  That’ll fix it.

The fact was that seeing those two beefstick boats made me remember going as a kid with my parents to the Hickory Farms at the Esplanade Mall in Oxnard.  They had diced samples of salami and cheese on toothpicks you could stick into different mustards.  That’s what I was thinking about.  That hardly constitutes prurient leering.  But try to explain that to a woman whose scurrying away with her smokey links flopping under her robe.  You’ll just dig yourself in deeper.

Fuck it.

Let it go.

I sunk back into my pool of poison.  I have no control over what they think.   I have no control over what anybody thinks.  And far from being a bummer, when actually realized, to it’s most fullied optimal, the liberation can be absolutely intoxicating.  Certainly frees one up for a wider range of motion.

Hmm…

Whatever arsenic kills-it’s better dead.  My back stopped hurting for a few days.

They were right.  Sometimes a little poison is just thing, to ward off a greater malady.

Unfortunately, the treatment didn’t kill enough of it, because the beast grew back a few days after I returned to California.  And is still digging in, as I write this.

There was a arsenic water fountain there you could drink from.  It had a health warning plaque attached.  Drink at your own risk.  I passed.  Soaking in poison and actually drinking it are two different things.  That’s one thing I’ve learned.

I should have guzzled a belly full of it.

I guess if I was a better writer I’d tie-in how caring what somebody thinks is really the source of my pain.  And how when I did let the poison I was surrounded by, kill off the real poison–the shit in my mind–the pain went away.  How that’s the real remedy for my present discomfort.

But, I’m just not up for it tonight.

My fucking back is killing me.

I feel like a new man!

I feel like a new man!