My Letter to Nicky

My Christmas card to you.

My Christmas card to you.

Dear Santa,

Sorry I haven’t written lately, but ever since my folks told me you were bullshit…well…I’ve felt a little stupid about keeping up any correspondence.  I know.  No excuse.  It’s not like it’s gonna kill me to write a letter and feel like an idiot later.  I should be used to it.

What with your 24/7 North Pole NSA surveillance capabilities, you probably witnessed me penning that lust letter to the four-eyed lynx intern at the acupuncture clinic back in ’95.  Seven pages of handwritten heart-pour.  To a chick I only answered questions to.  Questions like “How frequently do you urinate?” and “What is the consistency of your stool?”

But that didn’t stop me, eh?  From writing her. 

So why not write to my old pal, St. Nick?  Catch up on shit with a guy who doesn’t exist.  Maybe put in a wish list.

Can’t be any stupider than driving one-eyed, all the way down Agua Fria to her clinic, and delivering it personally.  Remember?  It was right after that disastrous week-end with Bubbles.  In Tuscon.  Drinking more than usual after that little visit.  Heart all hurt.  Ego-aching.  Embarrassed as fuck.

No wonder I freaked and went full-court press on the cat-eyed Jr. needle jockey.  I had to fall in love with someone else.  Right away.  And make sure she fell too.  Brought out the five-alarm charm that afternoon.

Shit-hammered on store brand vodka and Mickey’s Big Mouth.  Reeling and red-faced.  Crashing into the bamboo wind-chimes they had hanging up by the door.  My poison-reek cutting through the Mentholatum spa-smell.  The terrified and confused look on her face when I gave her the letter, slowly turning to pity when she sussed what it was all about.

Magic moment alright.

I also remember walking back to the car and realizing–with pristine divine precision and clarity–what a major fail I just perpetrated.  Fucking great.  Now I get it.  Twenty-two seconds after I finished doing it.  Not the twenty-two before.

It was always after, eh Nicko?  And then, like clockwork, you’re not too drunk to care.  All of a sudden.  It’s like the batshit buzz that got you in the jam, suddenly hightails, leaving you holding the sock. 

Yuuhgrhhh.  Every time I remember it, my guts twist.

Love to time-machine that one.  Hey, it was par for that whole year.  From what I recall.  Perfect candidate for lump of coal I was.

But I think I got some leather gloves, a camping ax, and a Hendrix box set.  Don’t know if that was a mix-up or mercy on your part.  But thanks anyway, dude.

Which brings me to why I’m writing.  As you probably know, I’ve been a little grouchy this holiday season.  Bitching and moaning about having to stand in long lines, find parking, gift wrap rhomboid-shaped gifts.  Post Office.  UPS.  The usual sleigh-bell blues.  And yeah I’ll admit, kind of sick of seeing your face all over the place.

Well, Friday I get hit with a stomach flu.  A real sidewinder.  All of a sudden I’ve got bigger problems than constantly losing the Scotch tape.

I go from bitching about small, irritating shit, to worrying if I’m gonna squirt out all my sacral fluid.  Major attitude shift, Nicky.  Capisce?

Lori’s gone to Europe, and neither of my cats have a driver’s license, so it’s toaster waffles and tap water for two days.  I’m laying in bed the whole time.  Bugsy and Louie holding vigil over their only food-giver.  The only one until January 4th, when the other one gets back.

I’m so very weak.  So very tired.  Can’t push the buttons on the remote.  Have to roll over on it in the bed.  Hope a good channel comes on.  But too sick to watch anyway.  Can only let whatever is on blend with my delirium.  World War 2 documentaries.  Gangsters: America’s Most Evil.  Full Throttle Saloon.  Lock-Up; Extended Stay.  Adult Swim.  Hour after hour.  Sleeping off big chunks, but awake enough for marathon series of fevered visions.

My mind wanted to show me things.  Pulled me out of my body.  “Check this shit out!”

British POW’s in Japanese camps.  Trying to build a bridge while dysentery wrings out their bowels.  A little brown boy lying on a banana leaf. Shivering with Dengue Fever.  A moth in a dead guy’s mouth.  Jungle rot.  Cholera.  Maggots in rice.

We visit a leper clinic in India.  A Russian prison infirmary.  African refugees eating sand.

Then I see paralyzed old people.  They’re in a skilled nursing facility–watching the shadows of twilight lengthen across the room.  Wondering if anyone will come see them.  Thirsty.  But unable to ask.  Sad.  But too dry to cry.  Trapped.  But unable to die.

Wheel of Fortune on.  No way to turn it off.

(I think that’s worse.  I’d rather have to build a bridge in diapers)

I’m telling you what, St. Boy, if I ever visit sick old people, I’m going to make sure to keep the mood light and laughy.  And bring them orange juice or whatever.  And make sure that the TV is on their channel.

I caught a glimpse of their hell, and it snapped me right out of the mopes.  This is a stomach flu.  I’m a recovered alcoholic.  This is nothing.  I got this.  I knew I was probably going to roll it up in 48.  But a lot of others are down for life.

Like some drunks I’ve known.  Lying there floored and helpless.  Alone.  Every time you make it to the toilet a small victory.

Sad sun coming through the window.

Not even cats to keep you company.

Death feeling like a real thing.

Sometimes being one.

So yeah, grateful for the pathogens that bring on hellish visions.  Grateful for my stomach flu.

And as far as any presents this year, don’t sweat it.  Being able to drive to the store.  Wash the sheets.  Hold down food.  Change the channel.  Big gifts.

And of course the cats.

Give my share to somebody who needs it.  There’s plenty out there, Nicky boy.  Believe me.

Anyway, give my best to the Missus.  Rudy.  The Elves.

Take some time off.  Belize.  Good banks.

Marius

Advertisements

My Favorite Stripper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It sucks ass.

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

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

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

Then there was the clientele.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ooh, pick me!  Pick me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re fucking with me.”

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

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

Wrap your mind around that.

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

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

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

I love it.

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey!”

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

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

“What’s your name?”

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

“There’s nothing here for you.”

“I figured.”

We stood there looking at each other.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?” My guys asks.

“Not you.  Her.”

“No, heroin.”

“That’s one way to keep off meth.”

Everyone nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We finally decided to wrap it up.

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

“Me too, bro. It’s good to see you.”

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

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

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

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

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

Let's party!

Let’s party!

I’m A Rich Bastard Now.

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

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

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

Regards, Barrister Daniel Wataego (Esq) Lomé-Togo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indian elephant wearing a poncho made of rubies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Them, that is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not going away.

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

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

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

I dealt with my own shit.

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

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

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

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

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!

My Road to Redemption is Littered with Empties.

We’re not stopping until Seligman

There was hot death blowing through the windows.  Before us a black ribbon of asphalt unrolled to a horizon dancing hula in the heat waves.  Every party has to come to an end, and ours just came to a screeching halt through a cinderblock wall, up a ramp, over a troop of Girl Scouts, and into a vat of hot tar.  Panic attacks, shakes, retching, eyes watering, the hammer of guilt banging on the anvil of shame, just behind the temples.  It was going to be a long ride home.

Marko and I were on our way back from a visit to California, after an eleven day bender we would never forget–if we could remember any of it.   I do remember emceeing a punk rock show in Ventura while in a black-out, if that counts as remembering.  After 1,200 beers or so, we finally ran out of steam and decided to call it a day.  We could sense a mob collecting torches and pitchforks, so it was time to go.  Besides, I had library books due, and Marko couldn’t remember if he left the curling iron on.

Now, poison oozed from us in a viscous, bubonic sweat.  It coated us in a glaze that the desert kiln baked into our clay, our skin pulled tight against our desiccated skulls, lips pulled back and stuck above teeth dry enough to light a match on.  Grimacing like game show hosts on their third face-lift, our decaying organs gassed a fetid funk from our sewer holes.  It smelled like rotting something.  Rotting us.

We were drinking plenty of water, except it happened to come with beer.  It was hot beer, too.  Not Oh-gee-look-what-I-found-under-the-bed warm, but Cup O’ Soup chicken noodle hot.  Bottled beer broth.  Drinking beer that hot, really signals the end is near.  It’s purely maintenance drinking by that point.  Party time is over.  Drinking just enough to keep away the Jumping Jiminees, and maybe something worse, like a moment of clarity.

No time for that shit.  Now was not the time to fall apart, penitent, blubbering for redemption.  We had to make it home, and that was beyond the Indus, beyond the Hindu-Kush.

The car seemed thirsty enough for water.  It was boiling it away by the gallon.  I stared at the temperature gauge intently.  My blurred vision saw three of them, all different.

“We may be fucked, or not,”  I said, pointing to the dash, “It totally depends on which one of these is a lying son of a bitch.”

Marko didn’t say anything.  Lips tight.  Eyes on the road.  Hands at ten and two o’clock.   He was going stoic on me.

Marko and I were a combustible combination on any given school night, but even more so when on a mission to “blow off a little steam.”  We had wanted to take it to the next level and were thinking about going back to California for a while.  We figured that when you get used to drinking beer at a 7,000 foot altitude and you return to sea level, you would become a blood-doped Olympic-caliber drinker ready shatter records, and anything else lying around.  It was only a theory back then, but today a proven scientific fact.

A situation took place which presented the two of us with a perfect opportunity to research our thesis.  This incident, while a most unfortunate mishap, had created a stellar excuse for us to leave Santa Fe.  While waiting for things to cool down, we could visit family and friends, and reassure them we were doing well and feeling fit.  I know we reassured them alright.  Reeling and reeking, walking through a closed screen door, knocking over the Ficus, one of us wearing two different sneakers, the other with bloodied toilet paper stuck up a nostril, dragging a toy wagon filled with beer,  “Hi everybody, we’re really drunk, AND we brought guns!”

I don’t know if I can say it turned out to be a good visit.  Eventful yes.  Perhaps monumental.  But not all that good.  I still have some amends to make for that outing, including one to a chubby little teenage woman with bleached hair.  It’s tricky because I don’t know her name or what she looks like beyond the description I just gave.  Does anybody know her?  I think she was from Ventura.  She was at the punk show I can’t remember emceeing.  I have a letter for her.

It was time to get out of the town we got out of town to.  The air conditioner murdered our gas mileage, so we kept the windows down and let the Mohave come blasting in.  All one hundred and eleven degrees of it.  It felt like sitting in a toaster oven while wearing blow driers for goggles.

“Dude, I need you to pull over so I can piss!”  I yelled.  No response.  Did he hear?

“Dude, I need you to pull–”

“Needles in seventeen miles.  Hold it.”

“No man, this is a serious levee breaker.  Pull the fuck over.”

“We can’t stop out here.  We’ll never move again, and die.”

I kind of knew what he meant.  Sometimes you think you’re just going to take a knee to catch your breath, but fall over, permanently.  Can’t risk that.  I squeezed myself between my finger and thumb.  Time to soldier up.

When Needles, CA  looks like an oasis, you know things are sucking hard.  We pulled into a gas station.  We filled up with gas and topped off the radiator.  I went inside to use their restroom.  Afterwards, I looked around the store, and grabbed a Gatorade from the cooler.

“What good is that going to do?” Marko asked.  I thought about it, and put it back.  Don’t waste money on foolish things.  Was it time for the one hamburger I had budgeted for this 900 mile journey?  No, wait for Flagstaff.  Candy?  Bad for you.  Too hot for cigarettes.  Hmm…cold beer seems to be the only thing left.  We bought a six pack.  That’s right, for between the two of us.  Really not feeling well.

Back into the Oldsmobile and onto I-40.  Sipping on a cold beer will help.  All we needed was our 89th wind.

Marko suggested we smoke some weed.  It might make us feel better.

That is the lie, the big lie about weed, that somehow it will help, instead of making everything 47,ooo times worse.  Not thirty seconds after coughing your lungs out, you realize that you just took the first step towards turning some minor mental turmoil into a nightmare of Byronic proportions.  You brought this on yourself, with full knowledge and prior experience.  You did this voluntarily and not under the duress of some punishing deity or burdensome social obligation.  You are the Satan you once feared.

“Yeah, might as well.”  We rolled up the windows.

The weed didn’t make us feel better.  Just different.  Different as in worse.

“I think I’m going to die,” I announced as calmly as possible, “I can’t feel my heart.”

Marko looked over.  “How do we know we haven’t died already?  How do we know we weren’t killed in an accident a few miles back, and are just imagining this?”

We drove along in silence for a while.

“Okay, that better not be true!”  I started clapping my hands and blinking my eyes.  Still here.  Still here.  Fucking weed.

I tried to stay positive.  “You know, it’s not like dying right now would be the worst thing that could happen to us, right?”

“Yeah, not dying right now seems to be a lot worse.”

I thought about that.  That’s never a good place to go, especially when you’re rubbed raw and severely stoned.  Here we go with the heavy reflections…

“I’ve tried to live a good life.  You know, not hurt a lot of people.”  Marko just laughed.  “I’m serious, dude.  It’s not like I went out of my way.”  More laughter.  “I don’t think my karma will be too bad  if I have to come back as anything.”  Silence.  I waved my hands around.  “Maybe all this is just karmic payback for something.”

Highway Patrol passing us slowly.  Do not look over.  Push the bag over to Marko’s side.  Pretend you’re talking.

“Do you think molecules miss people when they die?”

“I bet people sure miss the molecules,” Marko said, cracking open a new beer, way before the 75 mile limit we set.

I had scared myself enough to join him.  Smoke more weed, too.  Might help.

By Flagstaff the wheels were really coming off.  After pulling off to fill up and finally get my hamburger, we got lost getting back on the Interstate.   It was night and our nerves were dangling out the window.  We were driving around looking for the on-ramp, barking and bitching at each other.  I was beginning to freak.

I seized on the fact that Arizona was a zero-tolerance state, which meant getting caught with any marijuana was enough to get a life sentence.  They don’t fuck around here.  They still think Hitler was misunderstood, and that daylight savings time is some sort of commie conspiracy.

We needed to throw the weed out the window, right now!

“Are you fucking crazy?”

“I don’t want to be raped!”

He grabbed the bag out of my hand.  “We are NOT going to be throwing our weed out the window!  You need to get a grip!”  he commanded.  I could tell he meant it, and settled down.  I did need to get a grip, but how does one do that?  I don’t know what to do in order to get this grip everyone so desperately wants me to obtain.  It seemed elusive.

My best guess in life was to drink as much beer as humanly possible.  That didn’t seem to be working.   Still needed some tinkering.   So now what?  I felt like I was about to have a nervous breakdown, which is very opposite of getting a grip.  Then I thought, “Boy, I could sure use some help getting a grip.”  That was it.  It wasn’t a prayer.  More like a statement.

I nervously fiddled around with the radio and found a station playing Gregorian chants.  Honest to God.  Probably some public station trying to fill time, but it was just what we needed, something calming.  Soothing soul balm.  “Dominus ex patria, plurumbus unim exaltum, santu benedictum ortho novum …”  .  Monks chanting their prayers in cool caverns with damp moss-covered walls.  Some with eyes that can turn into blue flame and heal the sick with a touch a touch of their staff.

It had a sanctifying effect.  Marko and I started to relax.  While not entirely redeemed, we did feel temporarily absolved, and managed to chill out.  The air was getting cooler, too.  We stopped snapping at each other, and were soon back to cracking each other up.  He found the on-ramp and we resumed our journey.

There was plenty of horror left for us to enjoy during that death march home, but for now, with magically powered monks serenading us, we had stumbled upon a real oasis.  A place to rest, and get a grip.

To this day, we both agree that moment with the monks was the best one of the entire trip.  Looking back, I wonder if the little statement/request had anything to do with tuning in to the monk chants and subsequent chill-out.  Who knows?  Could it really be that easy?   Boy, that would piss off a lot of people.  I don’t know why, but it seems like it would.  These days.

Frankly, I had to resort to some similar hocus pocus mumbo jumbo to get sober.  I couldn’t stop drinking, no matter how bad it got, until I got so desperate that I just asked, something, anything, out there to help me.  I remember doing it in a bathroom in Redondo Beach.  I had been trying to detox myself, and was violently gagging as I tried to hold down the beer I needed to get in me to keep away the DT’s.  I looked up and saw myself in the mirror.

For the first time in my life I felt compassion for that poor fucker looking back at me.  “God, if you’re out there, and whatever you are, you need to help that guy. Nobody deserves to live like this.”  That was it.  I don’t know if that counts as a prayer, or a surrender, or whatever.  I hated myself so much that I couldn’t even ask for the help for me.  It had to be for that guy over there in the mirror.

After that, events started unfolding, and like finding chanting monks on the radio when there’s no hope left, things got better.  I got better.  All I had to do was ask.  Oh, and endure a bunch of soul-scorching fire, but you can’t be a total pussy when asking for help.  You need to show you’re willing to work.  That part kind of sucks, but not one tenth of what life was like before.  At least this journey has a happy destination, and plenty of rest stops along the way.  Good food.  Clean bathrooms.  Ice cold drinks.  And good directions.

Happy Motoring, fellow travelers!

Honorary Irish

I love the Irish.  I love everything about them.  I love the music, the drinking, the fighting, the way they can sleep eight family members in a twin bed like a litter of puppies.  From The Book of Kells to Shane Macgowan, their art has lifted many earthbound souls to realms celestial.  Their service, both public and military, to this country is immeasurable.   Those hard-working, hard-drinking, lyrical lunatics have brightened my world and lightened my load.  They have picked me up (sometimes literally) when I was at my lowest.  No drunken regret, when confided to an Irishman, will seem as bad.

“Ah Marius, sorry tah here about yar troubles, but dere’s no need tah beat yourself up. I remember when I…”  From there he’ll launch into a tale of drunkenness that will magically make your shame lift.  “Pissed thah whole dance floor.”  “Wiped myself off on duh mudder-in-law’s curtains.”  “Barfed guts on dere wedding cake.”  “Crawled into thah casket and passed out blind.”   He’ll laugh and shrug, what can you do?  Indeed.

I am convinced that during the Dark Ages, the Irish saved Western civilization, just so they could kick it in the ass today.

My best bars were always Irish.  Guinness is the God of Beers, and when every third pint came free with a knock on the bar, it didn’t come closer to heaven for this thirsty lad.  I pounded my pints down a bit faster than the micks around me.   People would shake their heads and smile.  It’s actually considered bad form to glug one down quickly, unless you’ve gotten a call on your police radio, or the bar is on fire.  I was told to slow down, that a pint was meant to be enjoyed.  I figured I could enjoy it more once it was in my stomach.  I wasn’t using some trick like opening my throat, either.  It was more like opening my soul and pouring it in.  Now you see it, now you need to get me another.  I spent a lot of time standing around, drumming my fingers on the bar, waiting out the excruciatingly slow process required to pour another.

One of my proudest moments as a drinker came when I was visiting back home.  I had been drinking  at Biddy Mulligan’s, my old neighborhood bar in Queens.  One afternoon I walked in and ordered a Guinness, and they told me they were out.  What?

“How can you be out of Guinness?” I asked, incredulous at even the possibility.

“We weren’t expecting a certain visitor from New Mexico,” the bartender explained.  Apparently, I had single-handedly drank them two days short of the delivery.

“Next time send a postcard warnin’ us of yar arrival,” some guy said.  He held up his bottle of  Budweiser and looked at it.  “Please.”

That night, people would come in and order a Guinness, only to be told the bad news.  The bartender would answer their angry queries with a thumb over to me, The Lithuanian.  They called me The Baltic Black Hole.  I had earned the right to sit there.  I was okay by them.  I’ve been sober for a while now, and shouldn’t be proud of stuff like that.  So I won’t admit it.

The Irish make the best drinking buddies.  Great storytellers, sympathetic listeners, talented musicians, generous with their coin, drink, and fists.  They’ll fight someone for you just so you can finish your beer.  They’re useful, too.  Besides making good father confessors and bar room therapists, you can use them as crutches and leaning posts, or better yet, as battering rams.  They don’t mind being used as a weapon.  That hard head is more of a blessing than a curse.  They’d rather not be left out of any melee, whatever their contribution.  The only time you’ll see an Irishman on the sidelines is if he’s a cop doing crowd control, and that must just kill them.

I’ve watched old guys, frail as twigs, square off against much younger and stronger guys.  The crowd usually steps in to save them, but damn it, they were ready to throw down.  You’re just not going to find that kind of fire in some old fart WASP in golf pants.  I overheard this white-haired goat tell an upstart punk one night, “I’ve broken more men than cowards you’ve chased, Paddy.”  They’re all poets, I thought, they just can’t help it.  Sure like to kick ass, too.

Irish-Americans make for dangerous playmates, but when you get to tumble around with the mischief-makers straight from the Emerald Isle (the imported, pure, uncut shit) you’ve got to really step up your mayhem game.  You are now playing among some of the world’s elite.  Wear a loose shirt so so it will tear easier when you’re grabbed.  It’ll also give your liver room to grow.  As a drunken maniac, I always felt like a man without a country.  Then I discovered a country I felt I belonged in.  I met Dez.

He was a wiry, strong little elf, with a choke-hold that could black you out right quick.  (He put me to sleep a few times during our scraps together)  We’d throw each other around the room in full-on cage match savagery, and then stop to take a break and drink a beer.   We’d sit there drinking, he would console me over my problems, make me laugh, make me cry, wish me better days, then cuff me across the ear and we’d be on again.  It was the full Irish experience.  Strong stuff.  Not for the timid.

One morning, I was having breakfast with Dez and his family, who were visiting from Tipperary.  His father was talking about someone back home, a young guy that was helping him lay bricks.  When he went by in the morning to pick him up for work, “Sean’s fadder came out and gave me thah wave-on.”  Everyone nodded.  I asked what that was.  Dez explained that  if the person that’s supposed to be picked up is too poisoned to work, someone will come out and signal to the driver to go on without them.  In Ireland, it is so common to be too hung over to go to work, that the whole explanation has been abbreviated to a simple hand gesture.  They even have a term for it, The Wave-on.  How unbelievably fucking awesome.   I especially like how other family members will come out and perform The Wave-on for you.  That is so beautiful, so decent, it kind of chokes me up.

Later in the conversation, the mother recalled an anecdote about Dez’s younger brother, who got so drunk one night he came into their bedroom thinking it was the john.  He opened up his father’s closet and pissed into his boots.  “And it was me favorite pair!”  the Dad said, and everyone just laughed and laughed.  The whole family was teary with hilarity.  Okay, let me tell you, I’ve gotten my family fairly inoculated to my shenanigans, but that’s not how that story would have been retold.  It would be refered to, if at all, as “The Incident,” and maybe how it proceeded another rehab visit.  It would not be a happy ha-ha tale to regale your company with.  In Ireland, they laugh off things that would make you want to kill yourself in shame over here.  You can really cut loose over there.  You can be yourself.

I made a mental note, “Going to Ireland would mean my death.  Hold off, for now.”

I have yet to make that pilgrimage.  I’m still in a holding pattern.  I’m not sure I’m ready for Ireland sober.  I’m not sure Ireland is ready for a sober me.  I’m not as easy to choke out.

At the heart of the Irish is heart.  Bigger ones you won’t find.  They are fierce friends, loyal, brave, compassionate, cheerful, and funny as the devil.  I can’t think of a better brand of human.   These divine madmen, under all their craziness, pour out more love than you could ever drink.  As an outsider, I am eternally grateful for their taking me into their tribe, at least for that little while.  My life is richer because of it.  So in honor of your great snakecharmer, St. Patrick, I raise this phantom pint.  I salute your entire race.  You blessed sons and daughters of Eire.  Thank you for existing.  Cheers!

.

Guinness Is Good For You!