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

Rome wasn't burnt in a day.

It’s a nice day for a white wedding.

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

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

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

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

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

Absolutely no idea.

No warning label either.

That these yoga pants would be…so revealing.

What a betrayal of trust.

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

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

And hence the firestorm of controversy.

And nobody saw this coming.

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah.  That’s no fucking good…at all.

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

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

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

“See that?  That’s for you, buddy!”

“Get that fucking thing away from me!”

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

KZZZZZZRRRRK!  KRAKTAKAZZZZZZ!   ZZZZRRRRT!

“You like that?”

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

“Seriously, bro.  Cut that shit out!”

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

…with NO FUCKING CIGARETTES, BITCH!”

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

When common sense fails, La Chicharra.

When common sense fails, La Chicharra.

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

Worked like a charm.

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

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

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

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

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

You know how we do.

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

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

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

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

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

CHICHARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAH!

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

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

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

That would just be the worst.

I hope your week was good.

Barnyard bouncer and sentinel of sobriety.

Barnyard bouncer and sentinel of sobriety.

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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.

Thugs Like Us: A Book Review

Thugs Like Us, John Carnell

Thugs Like Us, John Carnell

I wish I wrote it.  That’s probably the highest compliment another writer can give.  Other than I think God wrote this.  Which maybe with some pantheistic mental gymnastics, I guess I could say.  But why cloud the waters?

When John “Carnage” Carnell sent me his book, I was an easy mark–a drunken tourist stumbling down a dark alley with bills fanning out my bulging wallet.  As a confirmed Anglophile, recovering drunk, semi-reformed nihilistic criminally-inclined maniac, I was a soft-touch for his tale.

“What’s this? A story of a young UK punk’s journey through the world of late 70’s drink, drugs, violence, crime and sex?  Well, that doesn’t sound like something that would interest me.  But, I’ll try to approach it with an open mind.”

Indeed.

I burned through it once quickly.  Then hit it again, this time more slowly–making it last.  I was digging the new friends I was making; Singe, Bill, Flea, Leech, Spiney, Martin, Uggy, Julie, Oily Harry and the Rent-a-riot Crew, Johnny Oldman, Darren the Fat-shit-dog-shagger, Mum and Dad.

It was even better the second time.

A lot of times it is.

And yeah, I’ll hit it again after I recharge a bit.

What makes it so readable?   The clean lines.  Bukowski talked about getting down “the clean line.”  He preferred simple declarative sentences, stripped of all extraneous fluff and frills.  A straight shot to the jaw.  Hemingway, Fante, Vonnegut, a few others, used the simple to capture the complex.  It’s one thing to pull it off in a haiku, but to nail it in the nose, from the speeding car of narrative, takes skill.

And a clean line.

Carnell is a master of the clean line.

For this story he has to be.  As the voice of his protagonist, a working-class “world’s forgotten boy” (the one’s that searching, searching to destroy) with a nagging sensitive side, and even more troublesome fits of visionary insight, Carnell must speak for both beings.  Our hero is a nature boy at heart, who loves birds, and yet can’t help shooting at them with a pellet gun.  He can’t help destroying the things he loves.  Hmm.

The divided self.  The eternal train crash.  The big wave splash.

Jim is a good little boy, one simply overgrown by hooliganistic thughood–a persona required as an adaptation to his environment.  It’s an age-old conflict, hardly unique, but what Carnell does with it is.  His man toils with diverging impulses, surrendering to one or the other, but eventually with a mystic fatalism.  Whether he makes a good decision or a bad decision doesn’t really matter.   Whichever one it was, it was the one required.

How can I explain it?  It’s one thing to ignore certain inner warnings out of drunken foolishness, and it’s another to listen to a deeper voice that says, “Do it.  Things will be bad, but everything will turn out okay anyway.”  It takes a deeper faith not to play hooky from your dharma.  To understand that something from the experience is required.  Regardless of how unpleasant.  As part of a bigger picture.

I know for a fact that if Carnell hadn’t made a shit-load of bad decisions, he wouldn’t have met his wife, and still love of his life, Julie.  Stuff like that really takes the sting out of your fuck-ups.  It does out of mine.  And this one time, I fucked up.

And now things are okay.

Win/win.

Eventually the intuitive mystic and the bat-chain-pulling hell-raiser stop arm-wrestling each other.  And join together in mutual purpose.

But you’re not going to approach that threshold without some internal argument.  Albeit sometimes, a very subtle one–your ultimate decision being made aeons earlier.

Tricky little high-wire act to pull off.  To capture both voices.  And then bring them together.  Synthesize them.  In the written word.

Lolling lapses into purple-trimmed prose are never going to ring true from a lad whose head seems to serve only to break beer glasses and pool cues against.  But in Carnell’s simple, work-a-day blue-collar language, things are described simply as they are, as they happen.  Clouds move across the sky.  The sea sprays.  Birds appear.  People talk.  A fire-extinguisher is thrown through a window.  A pint glass orbits the earth.

There’s beauty everywhere.  No matter what.

He knows how to use words, but he also knows how to use the spaces between those words. In so doing, the mystical and mysterious creep through, unannounced, like flowers through a sidewalk crack. Or the smell of bacon and eggs wafting through a rent-controlled apartment complex.  Without a lot of stress and strain, spiritual beauty is made accessible to every class of citizen, no matter how wretched.

At least to those that take time to pay attention to the spaces.  In between.

It takes a lot of discipline for a writer to leave those spaces.  And trust.  Trust that the reader will meet him on the corner, at the time you both agreed on.  But when that happens, and the deal goes down right, it’s one of the best feelings ever.

I showed up.  I scored.  And it was some good shit.

Thugs Like Us is available through Amazon in “Big Fucking Book” size.  Big enough to smite with, if circumstances warrant, and a masterpiece of sub-culture literature.  Win/win.  http://www.amazon.com/Thugs-Like-Us-John-Carnell/dp/1480203467/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363331904&sr=8-1&keywords=thugs+like+us   Strongly suggested.  Cult-classic status.
Also check out, Johnny’s blogula  @ http://wordpress.com/#!/read/blog/id/34992392/  It’s a gas, gas, gas.
Mad Lord Thuggington, John Carnell

Mad Lord Thuggington, John Carnell

Rita of El Rito

Is that just a mirage?

Is that just a mirage?

“God has a very big heart, but there is one sin he will not forgive! If a woman calls a man to his bed, and he will not go.”

Alexis Zorba

The whole drive up I was sweating the liquor store situation.  Did they have them in El Rito?  Would they all be closed by the time we got there?  That would be a severe drag.  I would be stuck up there with this woman I hardly know, in a place I’d never been, and not have beer to make sure everything was going to be okay.

If I had beer, I could deal with anything.  Without it, it seemed like I couldn’t.  I know.  Nutty.

This situation was made for beer.

I had agreed to spend the night with a woman I hardly knew, which was hardly new, but she was friends with my boss.  So I could see shock-waves if this whole deal got ugly.  It’s not like I could leave her at some Travel Lodge with nothing but a fake name and number.

She used to come into the photography bookstore I worked at.  I was a shipping clerk who packed boxes all day for the mail order part of the business.  She was a photographer and would drive down to Santa Fe to show the owner her latest work.  We never really talked.  I’d smile and say hello, and basically try to keep my distance so she wouldn’t smell the beer coming out of me.

She was cute enough, a curly-haired, skinny little brunette, but she seemed a little prissy–a little too wholesome for my taste.

One day, she just came up and asked me drive up and spend the week-end with her.  Wow.  What do you say?  Yes, of course.  Always.  That’s the Zorba law.  And my law.  Look, if you didn’t like her before, finding out that she likes you, makes you like her now.

Enough for sex?  Cross that Rubicon when it’s time to get the ankles wet.

She picked me up after work to save the wear-and-tear on my Olds Omega.  She told me on the ride up that she had inquired about me to the owner of the bookstore, and that he tried to dissuade her from pursuing anything.

“He said you were a nice guy, but that you were a little… wild.”

I wasn’t too thrilled when I heard this.  I knew what he was trying to telegraph to her.  That whole italicized “wild” shit.  Drunk, he meant.

“Oh did he?  Huh.  Well, that really hurts.”

“Are you?  Too wild?”

“That depends on for what .”

I looked down at my watch.  I’ll tell you what, if there’s no open place to buy beer in this one-horse town you live in, you will see some wild.  Wild desperation.  I should’ve brought a backpack full of beer.  It  just seemed like bad form on a first date sleepover.  What was I thinking?  This is exactly the kind of date you can bring a backpack full of beer to.

It’s a slumber party.

Everybody brings treats.  You get the popcorn and the movie, and I’ll bring eighteen tall-boy cans of Guinness.

Major fuck-up.

Now I had to play Coy Boy and coax out some hard facts.

“So will any stores be open in El Rito?  You know, so we can stop at to get like potato chips and snacks.”

“Oh don’t worry, I have plenty of snacks for us.”

“Great.  That’s great.  Well that’s a load off.”

We drove in silence for a while.

Telephone pole.  Telephone pole.  Telephone pole.

“So do they have…like a convenience store there, or some sort of mom and pop type place?”

“There’s a little family-owned place.  They have some groceries.”

“Groceries and…soda?”

“Yes, and some beer and wine.”

Oh sweet fucking glory!  Holly-Rolly thank you, Mother of All Good Things, for being so merciful to your wretched children!

“That’s cool.”

I took a deep breath.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Look at the passing scenery.  Wait.

“What time do they usually roll up the welcome mat?”

“I’m not sure, around eight or nine, I think.”

It was now 7:30.  There could be a big difference between eight and nine.  I don’t get people like this.  If I lived out in the sticks, I would know what time the place opened and what time it closed–every single day of the year.  I’d know which holidays they observed.  What shift the grandma-who-closes-the-place-whenever-she-needs-a-nap works.  I would have her schedule, and plan accordingly.

All I could do now was will the car forward, faster.  Before the little abuelita’s eyelids get too heavy.  I stared out the window.  What the fuck was I doing here?

The fall sky can make certain parts of Northern New Mexico look extra bleak.   Slate blue with smeared chalky clouds.  Long shadows.  High altitude light illuminating a coyote fence, a crumbling adobe wall, some tires stacked by some siding, a cluster of trailers.  No wonder heroin is so big up here.  If I lived in Truchas or Chupadero, I’d probably pick up a habit.  On top of everything else.

Something to make staring at water dripping into a bucket more fun.

I love New Mexico.  I think it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth.  But there are parts of it that suck.  Not just Albuquerque and the State Penitentiary, either.  Some of the smaller, sadder towns.  They seem to suffer from a crushingly depressive malady.  Big sky fever, is what I call it.  I don’t care if it’s the Russian steppes or Kansas, anytime you have a really wide expanse of sky, melancholy is going to oppress it.  The sheer vastness dwarfs all human activity, and relegates it to the junk pile of eternity.

Telephone pole.  Billboard for Indian Casino.  A dirt field.  Orange filter making everything look extra sad.

Think about death.  Think about it for everyone, especially the people you love.  All dead.  We are all going to be dead.

“You’re awful quiet.”

“Just thinking about death.”

“Oh.”

We rolled into town just in time.  The little mom and pop store that sold beer was still open.  Thank you, my sweet Lord.  Once again, you have delivered me from my own evil.  I got two six packs, hesitated, then got two more.  I didn’t care how it looked.  Fuck bad form.  Good form just leaves you dying of thirst.

When we went back out to the car, I could see her trying to fight down the eyebrow that was trying to raise itself.  Not to fear, darlin’, there’s a new fiesta in the making…as we speak.

All that oppressive melancholy and dread I was experiencing earlier, seemed to have lifted.  Maybe it was the sun finally going down that did it.  Certainly, having two dozen loyal troops, standing by to bodyguard me, made me more intrepid.

Let’s see what kind of weirdness we can cook up with this situation.  New chick.  Always weird.   But you can always make it more weird than that.  That’s kind of your specialty–taking an already weird situation and making that look normal in comparison.

Okay, so maybe at first I was apprehensive that maybe this chick was not my type.  But she obviously likes me.  Isn’t that my type?

Interesting change of attitude.  A radical pivoting of point-of-view.  And I hadn’t fired down a single beer yet.  It’s all about morale.

Regardless of my new-found positive attitude, the date went the way in was supposed to.  It was a disaster.

Not at first, but let’s not forget who was piloting this barge.

We ate cheese and crackers while looking at photos she had taken.  They were pretty good.  At one point we had moved to the couch.  That’s when she told me about the guy that broke her heart.  How she mourned over him for years.  All the pain.  The self-doubt.  The loneliness.  The bitter tears.  The savage loss.

The major boner-kill.

Forget it.  This mission just got scrubbed.  Condition No-Go!  Condition No-Go!  Yes, I was younger then, but old enough to already be haunted by plenty of ghosts.  I wasn’t exactly eager to pig-pile on top of all that pain.  I also didn’t want Rixon’s warning to be right.  I may be a drunk, but I’m not wild. 

Now I had to evade capture.  Duck and dodge.  Play the clock.  Play the gentleman.

What is it about that, that makes women act more horny and wildly available (definitely my type) than they ever would if you had given yourself the green light?  It’s an amazing thing.  Except you can’t fake it.  Playing hard-to-get doesn’t work.  You have to really have sincerely decided not to sleep with them.  Cosmic Irony knows if you’re pretending.  So do the women.

But, decide to do the right thing, and every form of succubus that ever crawled into a bed, seems to take possession.  It’s strange.  I don’t always try to do the right thing, but when I do, everything in Creation will try to get me to stop.  I wound up fooling around a little, then stopped short.  You’ve gone far enough.  Time to balk and back up.  I put it in reverse.

Well, all my back-pedaling started to hurt her feelings.  I could tell when she said, “All you’re back-pedaling is hurting my feelings.”

How do you explain a sudden outbreak of conscience?  I was pounding the pups, just shot-gunning them down, hoping I could impair my judgement long enough to excuse any transgression from my previous vow.  But I couldn’t seem to get there.

I kept seeing a very lonely person.  Someone needing somebody, and knowing that I was the last fucking somebody they needed.  She was getting all hurt that I wasn’t engaging more, and I couldn’t seem to pull away fast enough.  For both our sake’s.

I kicked myself for not buying two more six packs.

She went to bed that night while I stayed up looking through her monographs.

That next morning we had an uncomfortable breakfast at El Farolito.   After that we walked around an empty field for a while.  We came across a dead crow and she took a picture of it.

“Our love,” I said, trying to make a joke, but it fell like doom in a German opera.  By then, it was clear nothing was ever going to happen.  We were just hanging out, killing time–trying to make it seem like it was no big deal.  Like this was all we ever expected.  Just walking around taking pictures of rotting carrion.  Not talking much.  Waiting until it seems it’s been long enough.

Those minutes are murder.  Long, arduous ticks.  You start to envy the dead crow.

Eventually, it was decided it was time.  It was a quiet ride home.  Despite my gallant knight routine, or because of it, she was hurt and angry.  I can’t blame her.  I should have declined her invitation in the first place.  But who does that?

I later heard from the owner that she really hated me from then on.  Actually, I heard that from several people.  She wasn’t shy about broadcasting what a bastard I was.  She didn’t spare the stink-eye either when she came into the bookstore.   Maybe it wasn’t for what I did or didn’t do that week-end.  Maybe it was just for the person she saw.  A drunk unable to cope with painful feelings–his or anyone else’s.  It didn’t matter that I didn’t totally mislead her.

I had misled her enough.

And for that, Uncle Zorba, I know a woman will never forgive you.

Ain’t love crazy?

The Year in Review, Including Ear Hair Trim

"You've got a luxurious ear of hair."

“You’ve got a luxurious ear of hair.”

There’s a joke about Supercuts, but I can’t remember it.  Something about how there’s two kinds of haircuts you can get.  I don’t remember what they were.  I don’t even remember if the joke was funny.

Mind is really going.  Oh well.  Good riddance, actually.

I looked down at the magazines by the bench.  Here’s one.  A Year In Review Edition.

What could be more boring?  Canned media serving up one more helping of stuff they’ve staled to death all year.  Still, every magazine has to feature one.  What are you going to tell me about?  Who won the World Series?  An election?  Tell me about a school shooting?  Storms?  War?

I kind of know about those events.  I’ve managed to stay conscious enough this year to realize what was going on around me.  Hoo-fucking-ray for me.  No, seriously.  That’s big for me.

Let’s see.  Here’s a feature on The Movers and Shakers of 2012.  Riveting stuff.  I can’t believe I didn’t make it this year.  I tossed the magazine aside and watched the barber chick cut a bald guy’s hair.  She was taking forever.  One would think cutting an old bald guy’s hair would be a three minute turn around, but you would be wrong.

Old bald guys actually take longer.  I noticed that most barbers don’t want to just pass some clippers over the head and slap their neck with a towel.  You could do that with a young dude, keeping his head shaved, but not with old bald dudes.  There’s a lot of Kabuki theater involved.  The barber does a lot of pretend clipping with scissors.   Comb, comb, comb, air-clip air-clip.   Comb, comb, comb, air-clip air-clip.

It used to drive me crazy.  Well, crazier.  Clearly, they were trying to make the old guy feel like he was getting his money’s worth.  By spending fifteen minutes in the chair.  Fifteen minutes of my valuable time.

One afternoon, after my guy gave a rather extensive performance, I had to bring it up.  He tied off the bib and asked me what size blade.

“Two,” I told him.

“Summertime, huh?”

“”Yep.”

I waited for him to start cutting.

“So I noticed you have to do a lot of pretend hair-cutting with old bald dudes.  Is that so they don’t feel like they got gypped?”

“Well…it’s actually more than that,” he said, “For a lot of these guys, getting a haircut is the only human contact they get.  So I want to take my time with them.”

I looked at dude.  Did I hear him right?   He didn’t strike me as someone who would concern himself.  Straight guy, shaved head, tattooed neck, ring-through-the-nose regular dude.  Not the touchy-feely, sensitive New Age type.  He was into choppers and the LA Kings.  It surprised me he would reach out like that.  I sat there trying to digest this anomaly.

“That’s kind of sad, when you think about it.”

“Yeah, no shit,” he said, “They already come from a generation that didn’t touch much.  Except maybe for sex.”

“I think sometimes not even then.”

“Ha…yeah…Hard to pull off, but possible, I guess.”

“It is.”

“All I know is that as they get older, there’s even less of that.  So what does that leave them?   An awkward hug now and then?”

“Hmm.  And maybe a pat-down at the airport.”

“Yeah.  Exactly.  So that leaves me.”

He was right.  What really impressed me was that this guy would care enough to do his small bit.  Holding their neck, combing their hair, massaging their scalp.  A hand on the shoulder.  Shit.  I felt like a heel for bitching about it.

Once again, something revealed it’s true nature–something that had bugged me before–and now made me feel like a dick for resenting it.  I hate when that happens.  And trust me, it happens a lot.   Not surprising.   My knee-jerk interpretations of events are nothing but some slapped together immediate impressions stuck in the glue of some unexamined prejudices.  On a foundation of underlying fear.

My summary is usually worth the amount of time it took to come up with it.  Zero flat.

Beth called over to me.  “I’m almost done.”

“I’m good,” I told her, “Take your time.”

I go to Beth now.  As cool as that other barber was, he never got the hang of wrangling my cowlicks.  Not like Beth.  She knows my cowlicks.  She knows how to tame those beasts.

I looked at the pile of magazines.  None of them interested me.  I remembered how in jail I would’ve killed for a scrap of anything to read.  When I got locked up in Redondo Beach jail, they had a huge stack in the cell.  I couldn’t believe my luck.  Good stuff too.  Rolling Stone, Spin, Outdoor, and some hot rod mags with sexy chicks.  It was the quietest, cleanest jail I’ve ever visited.  Dark enough to sleep.  Light enough to read.  Two pillows, two blankets, and the whole cell to myself.  I could clock some hours in a set-up like that.

Of course, I got bailed out fast that time.  It figures.  Thanks anyway, Spike.  Good looking out.

Beth was trimming the old guy’s ear hairs.  Man, that is so gross.  Of course, not getting that done is even more gross.   If I didn’t cut that shit every other day, I’d have grey beards growing out of my ear holes.   That’s the most humbling thing about middle age.   Seeing stuff on yourself that even grosses you out.   A bouquet of nose hairs.   An ugly toe nail.  Bushy eyebrows that could earn you a bandstand seat at a Soviet Military parade.

Just getting gnarlier and gnarlier.  Until the only time anybody touches you is to shave your neck or attach heart monitors to your chest.

Alright, let’s not think about that.

Beth looks cute today.  Dig the knee-high leather boots.  Single mother from Georgia.  She works hard.  Her boy means everything to her.  I don’t think she’s dating.  Might not have the time.  I’m sure it’s logistically difficult for a single mom.  At least for one that cares about her kid.

That’s too bad.  I wish she’d find someone.  Some guy that takes a real liking to her little boy, and does all kinds of father shit with him.

Fishing.  Playing catch.  Camping out.  Mayberry father kind of shit.  Not guilt-tripping you about what a fuck-up you’ve become kind of shit.

I looked back at the pile of magazines.  Kanye and Kim.  Very important.  Can’t not take them away with you…when reviewing the year.  A year’s worth of some of the wildest shit imaginable, and I need to remember those two.  Two of the most forgettable creatures that ever used up air.  Remember them and push out something vital.  Like remembering to pay the cable bill.

I would rather pray to the ancestors of some Borneo headhunters than think about them.

Not to get all Max Von Sydow, but with the bullshit we fill our heads with as a society, it’s a wonder we can find our asses.  Is Snooky pregnant?  Is Hoda leaving?  Whatever happened to Chachi?  Will Bristol ever dance again?  Does Bonk-Bonk love Vagella?  Will Thog call off the wedding?  Will Yuddy Van Rence be killed off in the season finale?

Will Regis rise from the dead?

These are not questions.  These are pork rinds and Tab.  To stuff ourselves with while waiting to die.  Anything to avoid having to really live.  And wonder about important stuff.

Check this out.  We watch Reality TV.  Think about that.  We watch…Reality TV.  I have not mastered Reality, but I’ve seen a lot of it on television.

I get it though.  Confession time.  When Lori was gone one night, I watched two hours worth of Full Throttle Saloon.  There was some stuff I didn’t want to think about, so I zoned out on a bunch of white trash running a biker bar in Sturgis.  (And making more money than God doing it.)  Well,  I just got sucked in.  It was the owner, the dude with the mangy blonde dreads and no chin that I couldn’t stop staring at.  He just freaked me out.

Oh sure, there’s also lots of power-drinking miscreants, sexy scanties dancing around greased-pig poles, and sporadic outbreaks of drunken violence.   It’s basically lifestyle porn for domesticated hell-raisers.  So I lost myself in it for a while.  I let my nagging concerns circle the airport, burning up fuel.  Instead of looking at what I didn’t want to look at, I tried to count how many shots Fajita took, and wondered if Jessie ever banged Angie.  If Michael watched.

Finally, I snapped off the idiot box and faced my demons.  Might as well.  They didn’t seem to be antsy to leave anytime soon.  I’ve learned you can’t out-wait a demon.  And you’ll never outrun them.

The best way to confront them is in a very stern paternal way.  “Look you wicked little fuckers, I made you!  You are the products of my tortured mind and I appreciate what you’re trying to show me.  Now beat it.  Daddy’s got this.”

It seems to work.  Losing myself in other people’s drama doesn’t do it.  I’ve tried.  Even tried to lose myself in my own.

Beth undid the old guy’s bib.  That’s right.  A little powder on the neck.  Rub it in.  I bet he digs that more than if some tattooed dude did it.  Or maybe not.  He gets up to pay.  I stay seated.  I wait until she finishes with him.  Then I let her clean up a bit, and wait until she says she’s ready for me.  I used to hop up right away, because I was so pissed at having to wait.  Now I try not to sweat the barber like that.  I wait until they’re ready.

I also cut my own ear hairs before I go.  So nobody else has to deal with them.

Small improvement.

There’s my year in review.  A bunch of small improvements.  That hopefully add up.  It’s too early to tell.

I put my soda on her counter and sat down.

“Do you want a number two or three today?”

“Number two.  Cut it close, Beth.  I feel like I’m losing my edge.”

Hairstyling by Beth

Hairstyling by Beth

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!