My Hillbilly Heart

Two outlaw legends.

What luck! Two outlaw legends need a ride.

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

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

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

Jesco White, King of the mountain dancers.

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude.

Gratitude.

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

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

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

Me without make up.

My natural default. Can I still get a ride?

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

Something about the lifestyle.

It appeals.

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

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

Well, that sounds like a gas.

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

“How do you like that, boy?”

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

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

I can get into that.

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

Me and Keith laughing as we roar out of there.

My 1970 Chevelle SS dragging caution tape tied to pylons.

Out to the back-roads.

And sweet freedom.

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

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

That part would be cool, too.

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

“Hey, I need a ride to my truck.”

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

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

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

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

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

SWAP!

All because I could.

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

Ain’t got a squad car? Hop a table.

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

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

Or for booze.

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

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

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

Fuck, he’s proved it.

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

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

Basically, to let me live vicariously.

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

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

Enough to last you through a really long pursuit.

.

Young hillbilly in exile.

Young hillbilly in exile, looking for a ride.

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Too Foofy To Fight.

So proud of Louie right now.  He finally went on the attack.  Saw the neighbor’s cat, Boris, strutting through our patio like he owned the place–and pounced.  Just bushwhacked him.  Got his fangs in first.  Really got into some fur.  They went around and around in one of those cartoon cat carnival wheels of clawing.  Screeching and yowling.  Going completely saber tooth savage trying to tear each other apart.  It was hard to call who was up.

But it was Boris who broke-off first.  And ran away.

So victory goes to Louie.

Let’s see, that makes 147 wins for Boris, and Louie with 1.

Hey.  It beats zero.  By a lot.

And every comeback has to start somewhere.

Louie came inside all puffed-up with electricity.  Tail all freaked-out and fat.  Eyes wide-eyed crazy.  Darting back and forth.  Totally amped with EPFP.

Euphoric Post-Fight Psychosis.

Diagnosed it right away.  He probably could use a shot of something hot.  And a bottle of something cold.  And a cocktail waitress leg to hold on to…while he catches his breath.

I went over to congratulate him.

“That was awesome, Lou.  Full-on beast ambush.”

He padded over to his bowl for some water.

“I’ve been telling you about the element of surprise, haven’t I?  Freak them first.  That’s the rule.”

I went and got a can of real tuna.  Tonight called for a celebration.  For the past year, Boris has been tormenting Louie.  We’d hear him crying outside.  You’d get out there and find Louis all cornered and cowering.  Boris swatting at him.  Pretty much at will.

Lori and I would have to chase him away so Louie could make a break for home.   He’d run inside and hide under the bed in a total puss-out panic.

Fancy and afraid.

Fancy and afraid.

I’d feel bad for him.  Could really empathize.  Unfortunately.

Still, I would think, “You’ve got claws, Louie.  Give something back.”

But I’d keep it to myself.  I didn’t want to lay any more shame on him.

Instead, I’d pet him and try to sooth his frightened fur.  Talk to him.  Like a father to his son.  Maybe tell him a heart-warming allegory.

“Dave told me about this time when he was in prison and got clobbered to the floor.  Some black cons who were watching, started shouting at him to get up.  To keep bringing it.  To dig down deep and rally.

‘Get up off that floor, boy!  Don’t you dare stay down!’  they yelled.  ‘Never stay down!’

It worked.  Dave got up.  And then managed to serve up a little something himself.  A little something for his antagonist to chew on.  Something to make a motherfucker think twice.

You see what I’m saying, Louie?  It’s okay to take a few shots.  It’s inevitable.  Just make sure you make a motherfucker think twice.”

He’d be licking at his privates, not paying attention to my heartwarming allegory.

If I didn’t love Louie so much, I could have been a little ashamed of him.  He’s just not as tough as our older cat, Bugsy.

Bugsy is all street.  Gone all day.  All night.  Comes home only to eat and crash.  Has an extensive network of people that feed him throughout the neighborhood.  So he’s got the resources to go a ramblin’.  Already at four months old, he’d be gone for days at a time.  Jesus, I can’t begin to tell you how stressed-out I’d be waiting for him to come home.  All the hand-wringing.  And pacing.

Makes perfect karmic sense.

Anyways, he’s grown up into quite a shiny beast.   Sleek and muscular.  Savvy smart.  Good cat chow charmer.  Knows how to run game on a sucker.  Good fighter, too.  Boris and him have an uneasy truce these days.  They’ve both hurt each other pretty good.  So now Boris doesn’t even mess with Louie if Bugsy is in earshot.

Because Bugsy is a badass.

Louie, on the other hand…

He likes to stay close to home.  Likes to play with his toys.  In the living room.  While the folks watch TV.

Sensitive.  Well-behaved.  Imagination Station crafts type of cat.  Into the fun-for-the-whole-family paradigm.  You know.

Wholesome Boy.

I’d look over at Lori quietly reading on the couch.  Blame her.

He’s just too foofy to be tough.  Too fancy.  His fur puffs around his neck, giving him one of those Sir Walter Raleigh collar deals.  His tail curls up like a fop’s feather.  He looks like he’s wearing a fur coat.  Which I guess he is.  But I mean like a Park Avenue parka.

Like what I used to have to wear to New York City Public School 178.  Oh man.  The rabbit fur coat my uncle brought back from his trip to Switzerland.  I can remember the dread after I opened the box.  I knew what awaited.  I would beg my mom not to make me wear it.

“But it looks like a girl’s coat!”

“It’s expensive!”

“They’re going to kill me.”

Took a lot punches, kicks, and snowballs because of that fucking thing.  Made me too foofy-poofy to fight back.  God, I hated that coat.

But I don’t anymore.  Turns out, that after getting enough humiliating ass-kickings, you stop being so afraid of them.  Then, well…something shifts.  You can detach a little.  Think a little clearer while getting one.  Which helps you come up with good ideas.  On the fly.  Like using common household items to destroy your opponent’s will.  And secure a glorious victory.

Indeed.  Getting your ass kicked, is the first part of learning how to kick some back.  Pretty essential, actually.

So yeah, I owe a lot to that coat.   Although it might have made me into somewhat of an introvert.  And a dreamer.

I’d watch Louie bat a twig across the living room floor in some pretend game he made up.  For hours.  Retreating into his imagination.  Becoming a Dungeons and Dragons type.  The kind that wears costumes at the comic convention.  Some swashbuckling character out of Final Fantasy.

Alright, I’d think, so he’s a dweeb.

Maybe even gay.

What are you gonna do?  Accept it.  Love him to death anyway.  He’s still your cat.  So let him play with his little balls and stuffed dolls.  Let him prance fancy.  As long as he’s having fun, right?  Live and let live.  Not everybody can be a badass.  Being cute is good too.  You and Bugsy will just have to look out for him.  Help protect his sissy ass.  Since that’s just the way he is.  And it’s okay.

To be the one that gets beat up by bullies.

Seething after defeat.

Seething after defeat.

Then out of nowhere…he’d go on these killing sprees.

Mice.  Birds.  Lizards.  A bat.

All left on the kitchen floor.  Headless.

What’s all this?  Maybe he has another side.  A darker, more dangerous one.

One night, while I was watering the planters on the side of the house. I watched him clap a fruit bat straight out the air.  He shot out from his crouch like a surface-to-air missile and smacked his paws together.  Dragged that flying sack of rabies right down.  Real Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom predator of the savannah shit.

Sure surprised me.  Well well.  All that chasing a little ball around didn’t hurt his skills.  That, and the fact that he’d finally been holding his own while sparring with Bugs meant he’s wasn’t a full-blown wanty-paste.  I just wished he’d channel some of that blood lust  to dealing with Boris.  Take on a more daunting opponent.

Then I’d remember that he’s just a kid.  Still learning the score.  Taking his lumps.  On his way up.  And Boris is helping him.

Helping him figure it out.

Figure out that just because he’s a little sensitive, doesn’t mean he has to be a victim.  That you’re never too foofy to fight back.

I think he took a big step tonight.  He finally took it to Boris.  Gave something to make him think twice.  I smiled.

“It would’ve been okay if you lost, Lou.  I’ll always love you.”

I put down the bowl of tuna and watched him eat.

.

Got my lunch and I'm off to my ass-kicking.

Got my lunch and I’m off to my ass-kicking.

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!

My Brother Strip Club Gladiator

Being of service to my brother bouncer.

Being of service to my brother bouncer.

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

And that.  Is pretty much.  That.

That’s what’s going on there.

Old Joe.  And me.  At my mom’s house.

Having lunch.

How about that?

Yeah, that’s some crazy shit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s when he’d meet The Panther.

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

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

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

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

Glad the windows were rolled up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He called me the day after.

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

I knew it.  I sat down on the couch.

“Over several lifetimes.”

“Oh shit, what happened?”

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

“What the fuck happened?!!”

“Just the best day of my life.”

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

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

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

“You saw her without her make-up?”

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

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

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

“Good call.”

“Roger that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You managed that too?”

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

“I fucking give up.”

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

“You’re bullshitting.”

“Afraid not.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Got your freak on, did you?”

“Freaky freak.  Freaky-deaky freak.”

“Wow.  That is whole package of WOW.”

“Now here’s the kicker–”

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

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

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

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

“You’re a dirty whore, Joe.”

“Oh yes. Yes I am!”

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

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

And night.

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

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

My work is done.

Raging Taurus

Beautiful and deadly!

Beautiful and deadly!

I’m training a new fighter.  A chick.  Em.  22 years old.  Natural jab.  Pivots her hips into her hooks.  Hits hard.  Really hard.  Not just hard for a chick hard.  But hard hard.  She also has Down Syndrome.  Which makes seeing her tear up the bag even more delightful.  Makes her one of the most wonderful women in the world to watch.  And I’ve watched a few.

But this one really rocks my world.

I’m holding a 70 lbs. heavy bag, and she is literally rocking my world.  When she lays one in, the bag swings me.  I can’t believe what I’m experiencing here.  Obviously her disability didn’t disable to her ability to kick some serious ass.  I’m hanging on for life, partly because she’s clocking me through the bag, and partly because I’m laughing so hard.

Just busting up thinking about the what the idiot who bothered her enough to warrant a beating would be experiencing right then.

Stiff jab, two rights, then torquing in a left body hook…deep.  Backing up and dropping to deliver the hammer groin strike I taught her.  She whips it up to a backhand to the head.  Then throws a knee back into the groin.  I wince at the thought.  She keeps beating them out.  This.  That.  That, again but harder.

I’ve turned her into some kind of M.M.A. monster, a one-woman pain train.  A raging bull.

How did I get so lucky?

I was working with her dad, her brother, and her cousin.  Just putting them through a physical regime I concocted–something based on the p.t. program of Sparta.  Hell, they’re all ex-drinkers.  They know how to take a beating and keep their whimpering internal.  Always a pleasure to train. Good lads, not afraid to vomit and push on.

We’d be working out at the park, and Em would come by while walking her dog.  She’d stop and chat.  I found her to be very charming and lovely. More importantly, our senses of humor clicked.  We got each other.  And when that happens you can relax.  You’re family.

So I was psyched to hear that Em and her mom also wanted to train with me.  They wanted to get their buff on and were ready to suffer.  Excellent.  More victims.  This should be fun.

I had no idea just how much.

Right off the bat, Em explained to me that she had Down Syndrome, but that she was high-functioning.  Okay.  High-functioning anything is good.  I wish I could be a high-functioning whatever model of disability I am.  My problem is that there are so many of them, I can never choose which one I should master.  Shit, I never even got to be a functional alcoholic.  So yeah, life isn’t fair.

Well, it turns out she was being modest.  Her personal achievements really turn the tables on who is actually “disabled.”  Let’s see.  She’s acted in films and on television.  (She has a SAG card)   And when she’s not acting, she writes stories and song lyrics.  Sings.  Dances.  Enjoys cooking and art.  Has an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture and film facts.  Plays multiple sports.  Lifts weights.  Goes to college.  Doesn’t drink, smoke or do drugs.  Volunteers.  Takes care of animals and helps other special needs kids.  Oh, and has been invited to the White House, and asked to speak before Congress.

High-functioning, my ass.

That’s living better than most people I know.

Including me.

Hey now.  What’s the deal here?  I mean, I think I could still take her in a fight.  She’s giving up a lot to reach and weight advantage. (It’s my wonky left shoulder that might get me in trouble.  I can’t jab for shit anymore)  But other than that?  There’s nothing.  She’s better at everything else.

Doesn’t leave much to hang my hat on.

Yeah.  High-functioning.  Good for you.  Now beat it, kid.  You’re making me look bad.

Anyway, I started Em and her mom off with some basic stuff.  Running with the medicine ball over their heads.  Burpees with push-ups.  Jump rope.  Crunches.  Dumb-bell shoulder presses off one leg, on a balance disk.  Crawling under pretend Normandy barbed-wire.  One-legged butt-blasters.  (ladies love those)  Planks off the balance ball.  More running with the medicine ball over their heads.  More almost throwing up.

But never giving up.

The women turned out to be as tough as their men folk, and they seemed to be having fun.  I sure was.  Em was always cracking me up with the gems that rolled out of her mouth.

She’s quite eloquent.  Not just eloquent for a person with special needs, but eloquent eloquent.  She certainly has a better vocabulary than any of the bimbos on Bravo.

“Come on, Em.  Let’s do this.  Don’t be stubborn.”

“I’m not stubborn.  I’m obstinate.  It’s because I’m a Taurus.”

Oh man.  She just …kills me.

All the time.

One afternoon, I mentioned I had some boxing gloves and punching mitts in the car.  Em insisted I break them out.  She gloved up and started smacking.  A little awkwardly at first, but began landing a few with some zing.  She knew when she connected well, and adjusted her technique to replicate the results.   Well alright.  I took notice.  Do all people with Down’s punch this well?

After that, at the end of every p.t. session, she wanted to work on her hitting.  Her mom was cool with it.  Nothing wrong with a young lady knowing how to lay a smack-down if necessary.  Make some predatory perv think about things…while handcuffed to his hospital bed.

For Christmas her dad got her a heavy bag and her own gloves.   So we started beating on that.   I taught her more stuff.  With each lesson, she got better.  And better.  She knows how to take direction.  I’ll  suggest something and she does it, and then remembers to keep doing it.

I wonder what that would be like.

I only had to remind her to keep her gloves up a few times, early on.  After that, they’ve stayed up.  It’s crazy.  I’m always having to harp on my clients, “Keep your hands up! Keep your hands up!”  Not with Em.  She keeps her hooks in close.  Turns on the ball of her feet.  Snaps her jabs out sharp, but doesn’t try to homer with them.  Uses them to set up her next punch.  Mixes up her head and body shots well.

Snaps a twist on the end of her jab to maybe open a cut.

Snaps a twist on the end of her jab to maybe open a cut.

Keeps those mitts up.

Keeps those mitts up.

Pretty soon, I felt like I was witnessing some kind of miracle thing.  There was some natural ability we’ve tapped into here.  She’s got some God-given talent to whup ass.  And I have been sent to help deliver it.  I must abide by my Creator’s wishes.

I’ll tell you right now, I’m not a boxing coach.  I’m an ex-bouncer.  That punchity punch-punch stuff is okay, but in the real world, brawling rarely comes down to dancing around a bar room floor while exchanging jabs.  It’s a lot of kicking, clawing, and gouging.  Stuff that really works.

I started teaching her how to scrap.  How to use her elbows and knees.  I even taught her The Ron Martinez Belly Bopper, a move I watched a fellow bouncer use with great success.  It’s just a simple open hand thrust into the center of your opponent’s mass.  It doesn’t sound like much, but if you do it quickly, and really rally some meat behind it, it’ll send dudes tumbling over several cocktail tables.  It’s also a low-profile strike.  Harder for witnesses to see than a Hollywood jaw shot.

“C’mon Em, become Ron Martinez.  Really get your bull on.”

I’ll swing the bag and watch her time her thrust for maximum penetration.

“Ole!”

Making Ron Martinez proud. Somewhere.

Making Ron Martinez proud. Somewhere.

I’m teaching this girl with Down Syndrome a move I learned from an crazed Vietnam war vet bouncer in Santa Fe, over twenty years ago.  How awesome is life?  She’s just got to remember to be sneaky about it.  Ron never telegraphed the Belly Bopper.  He also shot it out low so the crowd couldn’t see it.  Once your mark goes down, grab a salt shaker off one of the tables and bring it down on his eye as he’s getting up.  C’mon Kid.  Practice.  Practice.  Practice.

She’s improving.  And she keeps improving.  Who knows where she’ll be a year from now?

We also work on breaking out of holds via groin strikes.  A woman actually only has to think about throwing a groin strike and a male will instinctively start to cover up.  It has something to do with our only reason for living.  Regardless, she knows not to bet the bank on a ball-bonker, but to follow up with a foot stomp and throat shot.  Oh, and that kicking somebody when they’re down depends on what they did, and if you can time it to the beat of whatever song is playing over the juke box.  Keep it cinematic.

Going DOWNTOWN!

Going Downtown!

My choke-hold is about to loosen quickly.

My choke-hold is about to loosen quickly.

It’s not like I expect her to be able to walk into a country western joint and bitch-belt a shot glass into the teeth of some cowboy drinking at the bar.  Just drop his bony ass.  While the band plays Boot Scoot Boogie and security swarms.

Unless, that’s something she some day wants to do.  Then I’ll support her dream.  In the meantime, she’s getting some exercise, and a healthy place to take out any life frustrations.  And learn some skills she’ll hopefully never have to use.

That’s it.  That’s all I bring to the table.  But what she shows me, teaches me, gives me, is much more profound.  She has brought more joy and delight to this recovering alcoholic than he seemed worthy of.  Spending time with her is the highlight of my week.  I personally believe that angels will sometimes take human form.  What I can’t believe is that I’ve gotten to teach one how to take out a knee.

It’s been very rewarding.  I’ve gotten to actually see what makes a successful human.  It starts from the love they emit outwards.  That love is irresistibly returned by those around them, and that creates a force field that makes all those within it thrive.

Thank you, Em, for welcoming me into that force field, and helping me thrive.  God knows, I can use the help.

We will destroy you, ibut only f you're not nice to us.

We will destroy you, but only if you’re not nice to us.

Pot And Ponchos

Is that a real poncho, or a Sears poncho?

Is that a real poncho, or a Sears poncho?

Going through old photos the other day and came across this gem.  Ah, the poncho.  Difficult piece of clothing to pull off.  Women should never wear them, and the only men that can really rock them are Mexican revolutionaries or drug-addled hippies.  I guess at the time I fancied myself the latter.

But I look fucking ridiculous.   A poncho.  C’mon dude.  Really?

I know.  I know.

I was wearing that poncho the first time I tried scoring weed in Santa Fe.  I had new buddy drive me to the plaza where I had seen a variety of doper-looking scruffians and ne’er-do-wells hanging out.  A few were kicking the sack around.  Others huddled around in conspiratorial circles talking.  This was generally fertile grounds for sowing a pot connection.

Unless you’re a stranger wearing a poncho.

I jumped out of the van and walked over to a small group of these Plaza Rats.

“Hey guys.  Do any of you know where I can score a little herb?”

They all shook their heads no.  Emphatically.  It wasn’t like a no, not right now, but a no, never.  We don’t know anyone who ever sells marijuana.

Strange.  What gives?  I don’t see any X’s on their hands.  They don’t seem straight-edge.  Especially that dude with the knit rasta cap selling hand-carved soapstone hash pipes.  He’s shaking his head no, too.  Hmm.  I walked back dejectedly to the van.

For many years, my friend, Russell, would remind me of that day.  He was there at the plaza hanging out.

“We all just knew your were a narc!” he’d laugh.  “Oh, here comes some buzz-cut guy that jumped out of a white van…wearing a poncho!  Like that was going to throw us off.  He totally looks like a cop, but he must be cool, because…he’s wearing a poncho.  Hahahahahaha!  No way man.”

He had a point.  I wouldn’t have turned me on if I wasn’t me.  What was I thinking?

Fortunately, a little later, I met a guy named, David Scott, who sussed me out as a legitimate fuck-up, and finally vouched for me to his friends.  He invited Keller, my sister, and me to the house where he was living and introduced us.  I didn’t wear my poncho that night and we were welcomed warmly.  So that’s how I got to know The Plaza Rats, an indigenous tribe of freaks, punks and hipsters I immediately felt at home among.

And for the record, none of whom would ever know anyone who sold pot.

At least not anyone who would sell it to a burr-headed state trooper-looking dude wearing a poncho.

So what was the deal with the poncho in the first place?   Well, hear me out.   There was some reason behind my insanity.

I had just moved to Santa Fe, NM from Southern California in ’87.  Or was it ’88?  Doesn’t matter.  My sister and I had driven through a blizzard that got so gnarly we had to pull off and spend the night in Seligman AZ.  We had spent three hours of night driving in white-out conditions with everything we owned crammed into a Chevy Chevette (diesel) and a U-Haul roof carrier.

All I could do was try to stay in the wheel prints of the semi in front of us.  If he went over a cliff, I would have been following right behind.  It was some of the most wide-eyed, ass-puckered motoring I’ve ever had the joy of experiencing.  A memorable first time driving in snow.  I think that U-Haul carrier saved us.  Kept us squashed to the road.

When the semi finally pulled off at Seligman, we were elated.  To this day, that two-horse-turd town holds a special place in my heart.   I will never forget how good it looked that night with all its glowing neon angels.  Gas.  Motel.  Beer.  The holy trinity for tired travelers.  A sweet divine sanctuary.

We bought some snow chains, sandwiches, chips, and sodas.  (Try saying that with a bilateral lisp)  Anyway, there is a very good chance that I purchased some beer that night, but I can’t remember for sure.  The fact that I got roaring drunk in the town bar that night made the purchase of package store beer uneventful in my memory.  There were bigger things to remember about that night.

I remember my sister and I checking into a little motel and being very grateful to be alive and that we had made it, so far.  We still had a long way to go, over some treacherous snowy and icy roads, but for now, we were okay.  Breathe deep.  Holy shit.  What have I gotten us into?

I also remember feeling very proud of her.  She was damn good co-pilot.  Goddamn.  When things were looking grim, she kept her cool and that helped me keep my shit together.  I always knew she was gutsy, but that night, I got to see her at her finest.  Poised.  Steely-eyed.  Determined.  Scared for sure, but not letting The Fear best her.

She’s a good person to have at your side, pointing the way to go to avoid the burning zeppelin.

After I finished appreciating my sister, I decided to hit the bar.  She was in for the night, so I trudged through the snow to the only place open that night.  What I saw when I went in was pretty cinematic.

A black-haired biker babe behind the bar drying glasses, and one sole patron sitting at the bar.  A desiccated piece of grizzle, a wild-haired, bushy-browed, burned-out freak…wearing a poncho.   Oh fucking yes!  So exactly the bar of my dreams.  A sexy chick to look at and a weirdo to talk with is all I really need.

The place was rustic, with antlers and shit on the wooden walls, the plank saloon floor was urine-stained and varnished with years of vomit.  Probably a few quarts of blood splattered  here and there.  Nice.  Perfect actually.  I know you can’t have any real fun without spilling a few bodily fluids.

I ordered a beer and a shot for myself and the fabulous furry freak.   He nodded his appreciation.   Hell, I just looked Death in the eyes and didn’t flinch too much.  I could afford to buy the house a round or two.

I offered one to the bartender, but she declined.  She looked part Indian.  Probably a good idea.  She looked like she’d be a handful in a bar fight.  Strong arms.  Powerful legs…and ass.  I imagined us rolling around on a floor covered in broken glass, wrestling for the pool cue, knocking over tables, her biting into my shoulder, me pulling on her hair, then our eyes meeting.  Magic.  The look that says we belong together.  Then her mouth opening slightly.

“That’ll be sixteen dollars.”

I handed her a double saw.

“Keep it.”

“Thanks.”

“Roads are a motherfucker I hear,” the old head says, still looking straight ahead.

“Yeah, my ass hasn’t unclenched yet.  We’re driving to Santa Fe.  It would be nice if we don’t die.”

The head nodded.  The bartender told me nobody knew if I-40 would be open by tomorrow, and that we might be stranded.  That was fine by me.  This place seemed better than most.  But it was about to get much better.

“You want to burn one?” Mr. Poncho asked me.  Now I nodded.  We stepped outside and watched the snow come down while taking turns hitting at the joint.  It looked really peaceful.  Not like it did from behind the wheel.

I can’t remember how, but in the course of our conversation, Captain Beefheart came up.  I probably brought him up, since I was totally into Don Van Vliet.  A buddy had turned me on to Trout Mask Replica, and the rest was history.  Anything that utterly insane was not just something to listen to, but to somehow incorporate as a lifestyle choice.  The Captain was bat-chain puller insane and I was hoping that repeated listening would infect me with his liberated madness.  Like I needed more.  Bat chain puller.  Bat chain puller.  Puller.  Puller.

Anyway, not only did this guy know about Beefheart, but he could sing his entire catalog–pitch perfect, from the deep grumbles to the high screeching.   I shit you not.  It was an amazing thing to witness.  Especially stoned.  When we went back inside, I bought another round and he performed a little recital for me.  He not only sounded just like the Captain, but knew every single word to every song I threw out.  It was like having a living, breathing, weed-sharing, Captain Beefheart juke box taking requests.  Nothing was too esoteric.  I couldn’t stump him.

Ice Cream for Crow.  I’m Gonna Booglarize You Baby.  Dachau Blues.  Abba Zabba.  Candle Mambo.  Big Eyed Beans from Venus.  Tropical Hot Dog Night.   Mirror Man.  I Wanna Find a Woman That Will Hold My Big Toe Until I Have to Go.  And of course, Bat Chain Puller.  He knew them all.

“Okay, Man With A Woman Head.”

He’d take a sip of beer and begin.

“The man with the woman head
Polynesian wallpaper made the face stand out,
a mixture of Oriental and early vaudeville jazz poofter,
forming a hard, beetle-like triangular chin much like a praying mantis.
Smoky razor-cut, low on the ear neck profile.
The face the color of a nicotine-stained hand.
Dark circles collected under the wrinkled, folded eyes,
map-like from too much turquoise eye-paint.
He showed his old tongue through ill-fitting wooden teeth,
stained from too much opium, chipped from the years.
The feet, brown wrinkles above straw loafers.
A piece of cocoanut in a pink seashell caught the tongue
and knotted into thin white strings.
Charcoal grey Eisenhower jacket zipped and tucked into a lotus green ascot.
A coil of ashes collected on the white-on-yellow dacs.
Four slender bones with rings and nails
endured the weight of a hard fast black rubber cigarette holder.
I could just make out Ace as he carried the tray and mouthed,
‘You cheap son of a bitch’
as a straw fell out of a Coke, cartwheeled into the gutter.
So this was a drive-in restaurant in Hollywood,
So this was a drive-in restaurant in Hollywood,
So this was a drive-in restaurant in Hollywood.”

Son of a bitch.  He knew the whole thing.   Maybe I had died back there on I-40, and this was my heaven.   I felt like I’d discovered buried treasure.  What a magnificent gem hidden in a wasteland of Arizona desert.  More beers.  More Beefheart.  More pot.  Digging that crazy poncho, too.

I have experienced many wild and wonderful things in my life, but running into that old freak, in a deserted bar during a snowstorm, remains a highlight.  The human Beefheart beat box.

I think that’s when I caught the poncho germ.  I too wanted to be a solitary, desert-dwelling human repository of cult-music.  A sun-baked beatster basting his brains in a tin-foil trailer.  Not giving a flying fuck.  Too crazy to care.  To be so out there you don’t worry about whether you’re pulling off the poncho or not.  You’re too busy talking to crows, painting rusted car hoods with animal scenes, and remembering how to sing every single Captain Beefheart song ever invented.  Just in case.

I already knew The American Dream wasn’t for me.  This seemed like a viable alternative.  Puller.  Puller.

They opened I-40 that next morning.  I was nervous, but had renewed faith that something was looking out.  We chained up, topped off with diesel, and shimmied that clattering Chevette along the ice.  That next day’s driving was actually worse.  Slush from passing trucks would splash on our windshields and stop our wipers, leaving us driving blind, but we made it.  Santa Fe, New Mexico.

We had never been there.  We didn’t know anybody.  Had no jobs.  No place to live.  Very little money.  And we didn’t give a flying fuck.

There’s nothing like almost dying a lot to make you feel alive, and not worried about small bullshit.

So anyway, a few days after getting there, I walked past a shop selling ponchos.  Oh fuck yeah.  I had to get one.  We had already scored a trailer to live at, inside the Space Science Center for UFO studies on St. Francis Drive.  This would be the second important component to starting my new weird life.  The third was pot, which I would get next.

Wearing my poncho.

I can't give you my coat. It's gotten quite cold.

It’s gotten quite cold, I’ve decided I can’t sell you my coat.

You’re Not Going To, So Don’t Try

If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to get in shape this year, as a professional personal trainer, I would like to encourage you…to forget it.  You’re not going to do it.  You are going to fail, just like every year.  How’s that for some refreshing candor and honesty?

Save yourself the anguish of yet another blown New Year’s resolution, and don’t even try.

If you don’t try, you can’t fail.  Or maybe, you just need to try harder.  Yeah.  That one always works.

Let’s face it, if you could have done it, you already would have.  In fact, statistically, you are more likely to be struck by lighting while making love to an albino Indian in a canoe, then you are to keep any New Year’s resolution about getting fit.

One morning, when I lived in Redondo Beach, I walked out on the porch and saw the entire beach covered with running people.  At first, I thought it was some catastrophe.  Everybody running around in a panic.  Then I realized it was New Year’s Day.  My God.  How pathetic.  How predictable.  The next day there was half as many.  By the third day the beach was empty again.  Big surprise.

Every January at the gym, the crowds swarm.  Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, people show up in their new Christmas gift work-out gear, ready to turn over a new leaf.  And every year, they fly away, before the month is over–way, way, way before their three-year, automatic payment withdrawal contract is over.  By February, it was always back to  the same faces you’ve been seeing all year.

I worked at a Gold’s Gym for seven years.  Even though we were signing up new people all the time, you never saw them more than once or twice.  After that, they would just disappear.   The ones that were making a real honest stab at it usually packed it in after three weeks.  Thing was, our shark-efficient sales team had already shock-collared their checking accounts.

We had a slick sales gang.  Ghetto hustlers and ex-con sharpsters.  They called themselves “The Felony Fitness Crew.”   They weren’t about to throw any cold water on your fevered delusions about becoming a Greek statue.  No, sir.  Create Value.  Establish Rapport.  Get Routing Number.

I used to love listening to them laugh and joke after making a big sale.  Lot’s of high-fives while pantomiming prison rape.

“I banged their culo for $89.00 EFT, baby!  Didn’t even use lube, brah-ther!”

“Fitness Starter Pak, bitch!  $499. prepaid year with nutritional counseling, carnal.”

“EEEE-hoh-la-chingada-madre!

Both hands grabbing out to imaginary shoulders and pelvic-thrusting at air ass.

Those guys were a riot.  I miss them.

Anyway, if you have ever joined a gym and didn’t go, don’t feel bad.  Lots of people do that.  You should feel bad for joining a gym though.  Not a lot of people do that.  Letting them into your checking account was a big mistake too.  What the fuck were you thinking?

That you finally had it with the way you looked?  Sure.  I understand.  But apparently, you didn’t hate it enough to really do anything about it.  Or stay doing it.  That’s okay.  I don’t encourage hating the way you look as a motivator.   That only takes you so far, and makes the experience of working out, all the more miserable.  Which everyone will tell you is the key to success.

No, bad body image seems to demand replication in form.  Some kind of cosmic law.  So all your fist-shaking resolve, bold pronouncements and sworn oaths are worthless.

Hate your body, and it will hate you right back.  I can promise you that, on everything that is sacred to me.

I suggest trying to be grateful for whatever body you got stuck with.  Just because it’s not walking the red carpet is no reason to hate it.  Start with being glad it can even walk.  Can you move?   Are you somewhat ambulatory?   Well, that calls for some celebration.  If you were laying in a hospital bed, paralyzed, you’d be wishing you could be your old, flabby, but moving, self.

So being able to move is awesome, but if you’re lazy like me, it’s easy to resent ever having to.  I tend to forget that just moving around is a miracle of mechanics.  Neurons firing, nerves twitching, muscle fiber lengthening and shortening, bones pivoting around.  It’s crazy shit.

Freak out on it.  At first, it’s just enough to get into moving, and maybe…using stuff.  Light weights, slow treadmill, remedial Yoga class, whatever.  Add a spirit of play into it.  Throw a Frisbee around.  Play hopscotch.  Shadow-box to Static X’s Wisconsin Death Trip.  Dance around the room like you’ve come down with St. Vitus.  Anything is better than the years of nothing.  Set the bar low, so you’re sagging ass can easily step over it.  The less you can make it suck, the better.  Eventually, if you stay at it, you will naturally reach out for more challenging forms of play.

People who are active, tend to want to stay that way.

There’s a lot of ways to head-fuck yourself into getting active, but in order to want to stay active, you have to find something you enjoy.  Sometimes that takes time, and may require a few misses.  Don’t make a big deal about it.  Don’t feel bad about not liking something.  All my life, somebody seemed to be trying to make me feel bad for not liking something.

“For crissakes!  That was a classic movie!  One of Orson Wells’ greatest masterpieces!  How could you not like it?” or “It’s cheese cake!  Everybody LOVES cheesecake!”  I just shrug.  If they only knew the truth.  I don’t like most movies.  Period.  And, even though I hate cheese cake, I’ll eat it, because I don’t care about food.  It’s just plug.

Disneyland.  Dinner theater.  Magic shows.  Parades.  Monopoly.  Card games.  Amusement parks.  Christmas morning.  The latest based-on-a-bestseller, breath-taking, Academy-award nominated cinematic thrill-ride.  Chart-topping pop sensation.  Widely-anticipated sequel.  Old family favorite.  Ratings hit.  You name it.

If a lot of people like it, it probably leaves me flat, and does not motivate me to participate.  So I get not being into things.  Especially if they require a modicum of self-propulsion, and you’re a lazy, fat fuck.  That said, there still must be something active that you would like to do.  Even chasing a wayward kite around the beach is a good start.

“I like to waddle down the mall while cramming an ice-cream cone into my pie-hole.  Does that count?”

“Sure it does!  And after your stroke, we can play squeeze the rubber ball!”

And be grateful we can squeeze.

Look, if you can’t find any physical activity, out of the thousands of different ones available, then I strongly suggest you get okay with dying a fat load.  It’s not the worst thing.

In fact, it’s one of the things that makes America great.  We have more people dying because they’re fat than because they starved.  So kick out the Lazy-Boy into recline, and help yourself to another Rice Krispy Treat.  There’s probably a good show on TV.

Just don’t make any New Year’s resolutions about getting into shape.

I’m sick of hearing them.

Says it all.

Says it all.