Failure As A Viable Option

Stands for so much more than Failure.

Stands for so much more than Failure.

God bless those crazy door-kickers, men for whom failure is not an option.  They’re fighting a war.  They can’t afford to fail.  Not me.  Failure is not only an option, but quite often, a much easier one.  It’s certainly easier than trying not to fail.

So yeah, you probably don’t want me on your night HALO drop team.  I’m the guy who’s so pissed-off about the snack machine taking my change that I forget to pack my chute.

Thank God there’s a difference between hostage rescue and putting out a weekly blog.  Smart of me to seek the latter gig.  Found myself a niche with a lot of slack.  Failure is not going to ruin my week.  Maybe the week-end.  And Monday.  But that’s it.

It was three-thirty Saturday morning and I had finished my little piece.  I read it over and decided I hated it.  “I hate it,” I said out loud.  Like it was a big awaited announcement to wake up my cats with.  They didn’t seem to give a flying fur ball.

Anyway, I didn’t push publish, and went up to bed.  Yes, I had failed, but somehow corn will still genetically mutate in the fields and cyclops children will continue to be born in the Ukraine.

The show will go on.

However, to be very honest,  I was a little pissed.  Pissed at myself mostly, but with a sprinkling of pissed-at-the-world-in-general.  No specific gripe, just a blanket resentment.  Just the sort of blanket you want to snuggle up to as you slide into your dream state.  For a good night of sleep.  After you read a little bit about Mexican prison gangs.

As I drifted off that night, I repeated a little affirmation, “I failed, because that’s what failures do best, and I am the best.”

Nighty-night.

I had a dream I was playing chess with my old film professor, Fred Karetski.  We were on stage in front of an auditorium audience.  When I looked down at the game I noticed my pieces were checkers while old Fred had a combination of chess pieces and what looked like over-sized Monopoly markers.  What the fuck?  I didn’t understand exactly how, but it appeared he had an advantage.  His big pewter shoe probably had more killing power than a red checker.

How exactly do you play this game?  I had no clue.  I didn’t even know if it was my turn.  And was too embarrassed to ask.

The place is pin-drop quiet.

I’m freaking out, but Karetski is just hanging loose, absentmindedly applying and re-applying Chapstick like he always did.  This little display of oral fixation would bug the shit out of me back then and did now. Partly to take the opportunity to vent my spleen, and partly to distract the audience from my obvious ineptitude, I decided to call him out on it.  I’ll save this situation with an inspired diversionary rant.

“You and that bullshit Chapstick, Karetski. Maybe you should give it a rest.  Personally I don’t believe in Chapstick.  I don’t even believe in chapped lips.  I mean I believe they exist, but not that they’re a problem big enough to go to the store and buy a cherry-flavored wax tube to rub around on them.  If chapped lips are such a big problem for you, then you don’t have enough problems.  You need your cities bombed while you feed on vermin.  You want a good way to deal with chapped lips?  Ignore them, and after a while they will un-chap.  They fucking always do, Freddy Boy. So maybe it’s time for you to scrape the protective and soothing emollient from your fat greasy lips…and man up.”

He reaches into his pocket.  Pulls out the stick, pops off the cap, and starts smearing.  He puts the cap back on and smacks his lips.

“Your move,” he says, grinning.

I woke up the next morning more tired than when I went to bed.  Lori was still sleeping.  I tried to walk downstairs while the two cats figure-eighted between my legs in a pre-feeding frenzy of affection.  We looked like a Balinese circus act.

“That’s very cute, you little fuckers.  You’re going to make me break my neck.”

I made it to the kitchen and started the coffee.  Then I opened a can of cat food.  For the cats.

I watched them eat while I waited for the coffee.  I tried to look for the positive.  Let’s see.  I said “I hate it,” instead of “This sucks.”  That means I wasn’t saying the article was bad, just that I thought it was.  That shows a little discernment.

Just speeding your way up the rungs of your spiritual ladder, aren’t you?  I poured myself a large cup.

What else?  Anything else positive I can take away from this experience?

Nope.  All tapped out.  I went outside to water the garden.  I’ve been lax about watering this winter and some of the plants died.  Sorry everybody.  Sorry I neglected you to the point of killing you.  And shit.

All form is transitive.  Without this fact there could be no sorrow.  Well, at least not without fixating on that fact.

I pointed the hose at the two rose bushes for a while.   Then I stood over the gardenias and let it soak.  Watering my Garden of Sorrow.

It’s only a blog, for crissake’s.  Why do you make a big deal about missing a self-imposed deadline?  It’s not like some big sweaty city editor is shouting his scotch breath into your eyeballs for missing it.  So why are you?

Because I’m insane.  We’ve gone over this.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  When I can’t write, I can’t be.  And I don’t want to fail at being.  It’s airtight.

I gave the poinsettias a little splash.  They grew too crazy last year.  The leaves were freakishly large.  Land of the Lost large.  They gave Lori the creeps.  Me too, kind of.  Paper plate-sized leaves you picture a Stegosaurus snacking on.   Yeah, that’s enough water for you guys.  I walked the hose over to the other planter.

Everything but the bush with purple leaves was dead.  You couldn’t kill that thing.  Cut it down to the stump twice and it always grew back bushier than before.   I watered it.  A little reward for perseverance.

“Good boy.  Fuck those pansy annuals.  Drink up.”

I put the hose away and went inside.  Lori had come downstairs.

“Hey, how are you?  Did you publish?”

“Nah.  I didn’t like it.”

“Oh.  How are you feeling?”

“I’m alright.  It’ll take more than that to kill me.”

I poured myself another cup of coffee and sat down at the computer.  I re-read the piece.  It was okay.  It needed some smoothing out, but was salvageable.  I might have been a little too hard on it.  It wasn’t a complete failure.

I guess nothing ever is.

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.

Some End Of The World This Turned Out To Be.

This party is not over!

This party is not over!

Yeah.  I figured.  Looks like The Void can wait.  Maybe next aeon.  I’m glad I wasn’t banking on this.  You know, using the excuse that the world was going to end to go completely ape-shit.  One final drunken, whore-mongering descent into violent abandon before the place goes up in flames.  That was actually a twenty-year lifestyle choice.  I know that when you finally realize the place isn’t going to go evaporate, you also realize somebody has locked you in a porta-potty and is now bulldozing you down a hill.

Still, I was looking at a pile of bills, wondering if I even needed to pay them.  If the Mayans are right, I would just be throwing money away.  Especially for this one.  Care Dental Credit.  Three grand for a bridge to nowhere.   Well, from back here to this tooth.  Seems like a costly structure to span only that far.  You could build an actual railroad bridge during the Civil War for three grand.  Well, the South could.

Anyway, the minimum monthly payment is not a princely sum, but it’s still not something I wanted to fork over…if the whole shit house went up.

What if I blew it off, and the Mayans meant a symbolic end of the world–like a new consciousness in Man?  Maybe from something like aliens landing– just a massive invasion from the whole Star Wars Cantina crowd.  That would symbolically end one world, sure as shit–but enough to make my credit rating not matter?

I would hope.

“Sorry, I’m mind-melding with Zorgan from Zeta-Articular, and he says there’s a new sheriff in town, and I don’t have to pay shit.”

That’s the best case scenario.

Then there’s the possibility that some calamity hits, killing millions, but not the ones running Care Dental Credit or Mercury Car Insurance.

Anyway, I knew there was a good chance that nothing would happen.  No alien invasion.  No meteor hit.  No major shake-up.  Just the same deal.  An endless parade of  human-created bad.  With complex problems.  Terrorism.  War.  Crime.  Corruption.  Hunger.  Disease.  The Real Housewives series.  With all the things wrong with our society, the worst thing to happen turns out to be…the world not ending.

This is what it’s come down to for me.  I’m pacing the floor and wringing my hands over the world not ending.  Talk about some ass-burning irony.

Especially since I don’t hate life anymore.  Not like I used to.  For a while, that’s all I did.  You could randomly stop me any day or night and ask me what I was doing, and I would tell you, “I’m hating life right now.”   And I’d probably be too busy for idle chit-chat or answering questions about what I was doing.  I had fires to put out, and my ass to save.  My life was all-hands-on-deck emergency.  All the fucking time.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still afflicted with a veritable tennis bracelet of blinding, multi-faceted flaws.  I’m a mixed bag of nuts alright.  It’s a wonder I don’t wander out into traffic or know which shoes go on which feet.

I am still tormented by nightmarish scenes the demons of my imagination conjure–scenes usually played before the mind’s eye of a delirious absinthe drinker or withdrawing morphine addict.  I am flayed by The Whip of a Thousand Fears, beaten about by my own ignorance, stumbling through the alley of life, confused, befuddled, lost.  Trying to find money for the parking meter while a Roman chariot rolls over my little lamb.  Seeing injustice, deceit, greed, and tragedy everywhere.  Either on the news or in my head.  And feeling powerless to do anything about it.

I have to gut-up pain, sorrow, guilt, jealousy, frustration, anger, hopelessness, rage, and regret.

I’m getting the whole modern human experience.  The full dose.  Usually by noon.

But strangely, I’m feeling pretty good.  Seriously.  I’m doing okay.  Even learning to relax a little more.  Been getting into life’s small pleasures.  Finding spiritual wonder in the commonplace.

It’s exciting progress.  So this wouldn’t seem the best time to be hit by a meteor.  I feel like I’m just getting the hang of this living business.  I like having cats and a garden.  I like to paint and write.  I like to box myself in the mirror, with Black Sabbath on the I-Pod.  Just normal stuff.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have my struggles.  I am constantly trying to wrestle myself from the tyranny of consensus reality.  Trying to kick the addictive delusions of duality.  There’s always some new brawl with out-lived thought forms–usually announced by having something smash a glass into my head.  Crotch kick that bullshit paradigm back to a lower dimension.  Throat chop that worry.  Backhand that bitch belief.

Life keeps me on my toes.  But these days I’m back to my fighting weight.  I bob and weave quicker, and my upper-body is stronger.

I’m game for it.  Bring it.  Let’s see what happens.

I don’t think it would be the same if I was still drinking.  Just the calories alone would blow me out.  Destroy this destroyer.  Real quick.

So I guess I have a lot to be grateful for.  Not being a homeless, pants-pissing drunk kicks ass.   Not being constantly ashamed of myself is also pretty tits.  Being an entirely fallible human being, and not having to take it out on anyone, is…well I wouldn’t say priceless, but it’s pretty good.

And still I bitch.  I can’t help it.  I can always find something that does not bring me immense pleasure and delight.  These days it seems there’s one crisis after another.  Planetary disasters.  Financial melt-downs.   Political gridlock.  Environmental poisoning.   Terrorism. (both imported and homegrown)  War.  Epidemics.  Bethany Ever After.   It goes on and on.

I don’t see it changing anything anytime soon.   Unless, something really weird happens.   Something that really blows some minds–on such a universal and collective level, that things could never be the same.  No matter how hard people try.  Something that can’t be spun into insignificance, or trivialized, edged-out, made fun of, discounted, contradicted, covered-up, or buried.  Something that really turns everything on its ass.

Either aliens landing, or the etheric structure of Reality tearing asunder.

Either one would be awesome.

Blessed Deus ex Machina, I beseech your sweeping wings!

I kind of knew something like that wouldn’t happen today.  Even though deep down inside, I wanted it to.  Every year I tell myself the Vikings won’t do well, just to save myself the disappointment.  And they never disappoint me.  They break my heart like clockwork.  Them winning a Super Bowl would feel like the end of the world.

Anyway, I think as an alcoholic in recovery, I’m wary of hearing about the end of the world.  If I got a quarter for every time I thought it was the end of the world, or knew someone who did, I’d have enough money for a cheap suit and a decent bottle of wine.  Sure, it seems like the end of your world (and isn’t that the only one that matters?) but it isn’t the end of the world.

You should be so lucky.

Sitting handcuffed in my living room while a news crew filmed me seemed like the end of the world.  In a way it was.  But that world was a drag.  It would take a while, with some thrilling twists and turns, before I landed on my feet again, but I did land.  Not too worse for wear either.  The end of that world turned out to be the best thing that could’ve happened.

My only hope is that the world follows the same template.  Sorry, but that’s all I got.  I’m hoping that trouble and woe brings people to their senses, and that we finally cry “Uncle,” and start changing.   Hell, it worked for me.   Maybe that’s just the bitter tonic we all have to swallow here.

The good thing is that as a person who believes that stuff like eternity and the infinite exist, I don’t stress too much about things “ending.”

The best part of anything always seems to live on, only to get even better.  Evolution seems to be the game plan.

Out-moded forms fall away.  Stale beliefs, old attitudes, warped ways of perceiving things, all die.  Either through the crucible of pain, or the sanctity of Grace.  Lots of times both.  But the journey continues.

It always does.

I’m glad I mailed those checks.

Writer’s Block And Tackle

I got nothing.  I’ve been staring at a blank screen for a while now.  I wish it were metaphoric.  I’d be happier.  Maybe it is, and I will be happier when I realize it.   As it is, up until less than one minute ago, it was literal.  Then I had to start typing something.  Might as well type about not typing.

Okay.  That’s over.  Now what?

I guess I’ll write about what I just wrote.  Attention everyone, I wrote something earlier even though I had nothing to write.  There.  Okay, now just keep going.  One sentence at a time.  It’s got to lead somewhere.  Hopefully fruitful, but at this point, I don’t give a rat’s ass.  As long as I don’t delete all this, it’s a start.  Let’s see if I delete it.

Nope.  No such luck.  Looks like I’m committed now.  Here we go.  I don’t feel good about this.

One of the things I liked about drinking was it helped me get over these stuck points.  Drink enough and you become a fucking genius, and everything you write is brilliant.  Until you read it in the morning.  If you’re lucky, you might be able to salvage a paragraph here or a sentence there.  Sometimes I would go back, into the scrap yard, and weld some loose, working parts together.  I’d come up with something, and label the abomination, “Post-Post Modern Lit.”

Nothing left to do after that, but stand back and see if the hipsters salute it.

Most of the time, those scraps of paper got trampled underfoot,  and were left to sop up beer and broken glass.  They never saw the light of day.

And the reading public was better off.

Regardless, without drinking, I wouldn’t have had even those mutilated parts to cobble together.  I needed something to silence The Voice That Hates Everything, just long enough to get something, anything, down on paper.  There’s actually a window.  You’re drunk enough not to listen to The Critic, but not too drunk to coherently do anything about it.  It’s a sliver of time.  If I hit it just right I could bang out some decent shit before the aperture closed.  And The Moron took over

I once heard of this writer that was an alcoholic.  Yeah, I know.  Crazy shit.  But I trust the source.  If you are one, I don’t need to explain how alcohol can facilitate the creative process.  You guys know.  Get one us drunk, and you are going to witness some original thinking.  Bold even.
Ideas not hemmed in by bullshit like reason or meaning.  Or fear of social rejection.

When your diving board is that springy, you’re bound to get a good bounce.  Where you land, is not as important as how much air you catch.  A belly flop into a drained pool is still better than sitting on a chaise lounge.  It’s certainly a better story to write about.

This one time I belly-flopped into a drained pool.  Okay, not true.  But it seems like something that could have happened.  Can I just write about stuff the could have happened?  I can write a whole story that climaxes with a dive into concrete.  Seems me.

That also seems like too much work for tonight.   Too creative.

I just want this screen to magically fill itself with words.

So far it’s working.

Okay, I shouldn’t have said that.

Now nothing again…

…for longer than you’ll know.

Tunes.  I need tunes.  Time to put some Billy Childish on the old I-Podular unit.  That always help loosen me up a bit.  Some bad-toothed Brit spitting out the words.  Mad Billy.  The Churl of Chatham.  One of Thatcher’s bastard children.  Doesn’t give a flying fuck.  Snarling cur.  Pissed drunk.  Pissed-off.  Grab a face.  Hurl a gob.  Knee a groin.  Rebellion and riot.  Boots and pint glasses smashing into your skull while a bird in white leather blows you a pink lipstick kiss, then jabs a pool cue in your eye.  Action.  Adventure.  Romance.

It’s not working.  I’m not feeling it.

I feel like putting on a Snuggy and watching a cable show about luxury RV’s.  Going through my closet and getting together a pile for St. Vincent DePaul.  Organizing my dumb-bells in the garage, in descending order, by weight.  Anything but writing now.

However, according to the WordPress Word-O-Meter, I’ve got 733 words.  Just a few more, and all this can be over.

Let’s see…this one time, in my past, something really funny happened.  I’m not in the mood to remember any particular instance, or even make one up.  But if I did, hoo-boy!  What laffs we would have.  We’d be pissing our pants.  Imagine how awesome that would be.

That added some words.  Come on.  Dig deep.

Why am I even doing this?  What’s the point?  What’s my motivation?  Not fortune and fame.  Not on WordPress.  Why this compulsion to write, even when I don’t have anything?

My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Wagner (who was totally hot) was the first person to encourage me to write.  She told me I had talent and that if I applied myself to it, I could go far.  Yep.  Yeppy yep yep.  She was so right.  If I applied myself.

She was my first muse.  Man, I had a crush on her.  I remember holding her hand when I was line monitor.  It was cool, white and chalky.  Holding it gave me intensely weird feelings.  The fact it was attached to a married woman made the medicine even more strange, more potent.  An attraction to females and danger was already reaching out through those cool, white chalkies.  The loving hands of death.

I wound up writing stories just so she would read them.  They always featured me as some sort of heroic force of nature.  I wanted to impress her.  Make her think I was something more than I was.  Working as my own publicist, you might say.  Anyway, she’d give them back with some positive comments and maybe one of her red-inked smiley faces.  Heady shit for a fourth-grader.  It meant she bought the lie, and maybe I had a chance.

It seems that writing was my earliest attempt at seduction.   Good thing I never tried that again.

942 words.  Almost there.  Maybe I’m already there.  I can just end this shit right now.  Kill it.  A little zinger and The End.  Make it a short one.  For a change.

I dunno.  I think it’s going to fart itself out here pretty soon.  Let’s poke it along and see if we can get it to crawl some more.

I had this gig once, writing a weekly column for a local paper in Santa Fe.  They paid forty bucks an article.  The deadline was noon Monday mornings.  I didn’t have a computer those days, so it’s not like I could just press send from the old home office.  Even if I could, there would be no point in sending something that didn’t exist.  I hadn’t spent the week-end working on an article.  I spent the weekend turning the old home office into a den of iniquity.  One filled with enough wretched excess and moral decay to have made Caligula uncomfortable.

Too busy living life to its fullest, baby, to be scribbling bullshit on paper.

On Monday morning, I’d be lying close to death from having lived so fully.  I’d stare up at the ceiling.  What the fuck am I going to write?  I was too poisoned to handle a pen and paper.  I would word-process the column in my head, in between vomiting and sipping canned beer.  Cheap, rancid shit.  Stuff that made you puff sewer gas out of your pores.  I’d be moving paragraphs around in my head.  Trimming sentences.  Inserting jokes.  Sweating and stinking.  Sprawled out on a stained mattress.  Trying really hard to be a genius.

For forty bucks.

Some mornings I wasn’t sure if I was going to live, but I was sure I wasn’t going to miss that deadline.  Or the forty bucks.  I never did.  It was my last vestige of responsibility and I clung to it tenaciously.  I’d get on my stolen bicycle with no seat, and peddle down to The Reporter.  I’d borrow somebody’s computer and bang out what I had in my head, while also trying to hold my alcohol smell in.  Tapping away, taking really shallow breaths.  Not wanting everyone in the office to know what a drunk I was.  Even though that’s what the article was about.  Genius.

Shit, that was hard.  This is easy.  We’re already at 1298 words and I haven’t broken a sweat.

Back then I needed a deadline.  Sometimes I would set up a reading, knowing it would force me to write.  If I didn’t have an ax hovering, I’d blow off the work at the first sign of a stall.  Whereas if I had a performance looming, I’d stick with it, and try to power through.  I had to come up with something.  The reading was in three hours.  And still, I would procrastinate.

I’d be burning it to the last minute.  One time, I actually finished a piece after I took the stage.  Wrote the last words after I sat down on the chair and opened a beer.  I’d have all these papers stuffed into a briefcase, sheets flying out everywhere, and the audience would think it was part of the shtick.  Fine by me.  Let them think this was performance art.  The truth was that I was totally unorganized and flying by the seat of my pished keks.

I wound up losing the part I had just wrote, that same night.  It was amazing.  I finished writing it up there on stage, set it down, and read some older pieces.  Things were rolling along.  Then I decided to lay the fresh one on them.  Hot off the presses this one, kids.  I get halfway through, and realize I can’t find the last sheet.

That’s funny.  I just wrote it.  I’m going through the whole briefcase while the audience waits, but it is gone, gone, gone.  I’m totally baffled.  I mean I didn’t go anywhere.  I was on stage the whole time.  So where could I have misplaced it?  Somewhere between here and here.  When was the last time you saw it?  When I was sitting right here.

Performance art?  Or just train wreck?  I’ll never tell.

I always wanted to see how close I could cut things.  Let me tell you, I could cut them wahfer theen.

There was a place in LA, called Al’s Bar, over by Little Tokyo.  They had an open mike on Thursdays.  Some friends and I would pile in the car and drive south.  We’d take turns going up to do something.  Didn’t much matter what.  It was for our own enjoyment.  The idea that we were up there “performing” something in front of an audience, was a pretty good rush.  But, it was even better if you could push the envelope.  Redefine what constitutes entertainment.  Get esoteric.  Make people wonder about you.  Provoke thought.

Scare the hell out of yourself.

One night, I decided I wanted to try an experiment.  I wanted to see what would come out of me if I had absolutely nothing prepared.  Nothing.  Just get up there and see what rolls out.  I’d create a vacuum in my psyche and hope something would fill it…at the very last minute.  Something interesting was bound to happen.  No matter what.  Maybe I’d even learn something.

I learned something alright.  I learned that I was fucking crazy.

As the evening proceeded, and my turn got closer, I started feeling some apprehension.  Maybe I should have some back-up, in case I can’t come up with anything.

And ruin the integrity of the experiment?  You idiot.  The whole point of this would be destroyed.  You’d be left doing something pointless.  We can’t have that.   Sufficiently penitent, I pushed any ideas away and tried to sit in mental void.  As best I could.

The place was noisy. There were people in the other room talking at the bar and shooting pool.  They weren’t paying attention to what was going on in the little show room.  In the performance space, there were probably thirty or so people.  All watching the terrible spectacle that is an open mike night.  Most of them were on the sign-up list to perform.  So you can imagine how pathetic.  How brutally dreadful.

That night, I couldn’t take comfort in how terrible the other acts before me were.  I didn’t know if my shit would be any better.  After all, I didn’t even know what my shit was.

Just be here.  Don’t think.  Stay present.

I was pretty awake by the time they called my name.  Not really able to anesthetize myself, at even dive bar prices, I was far too sober to enjoy the experience.  I always had stage-fright, but that night it seemed particularly acute.  The Fear had coiled in my gut and was constricting my throat.  Why was I doing this?  Nobody held a gun.  This was all my idea.  Of fun.

Why would I do this to me?

I got up and introduced myself.  I adjusted the mike, and looked down at it.  I stared deep into the meshed metal wire.  I really had nothing.  Nothing.  I clearly remember thinking, “Okay, I’m fucking out of here.”  I just stood there and checked out.  Evaporated.  My soul had left the building, leaving an empty husk staring at the mike.  Silence.  Then…

“I WANT TO FUCK YOUR MOTHER!!!”

I watched myself say it, from about two feet behind and above.  Sort of floating above it all.  Me looking at me.  I wasn’t too thrilled with what I was seeing.  The whole bar had gone pin-drop silent.  The people in the next room stopped talking and shooting pool.  Everyone was staring at me.  I guess that was good.  I had gotten everyone’s attention.  Or at least whatever possessed me did.  Good way to do it.  Although it seemed a little drastic.  No warming up the crowd with some friendly patter and a reminder to tip the waitress and bartender.  No.  Just cut to the chase.  Let everybody know what you would like to do to their mother.

Oh man.

Now I really didn’t know what to say.

Well, I wasn’t about to return into my body.  Not while I had to deal with this telling everyone I wanted to fuck their mother situation.  I decided that whoever yelled out that shit in the first place, could have the mike.  Maybe they can get us out of this, but I wanted no part of it.

It seems the invading spirit had some more things to say, some other pronouncements to make, because I was up there for the entire five-minute allotment.  I can’t remember any of it.  Not even right afterwards.  I had blacked-out.  And not my normal version.  It was strange.  I do remember people laughing.  Then afterwards, people clapping and cheering, and some guy wanting to buy me a beer.  Which I was nice enough to allow.

My friends said I did well, but I didn’t trust them.  I figured they had to say that.  I certainly didn’t want to press the investigation.  I never asked them what I had actually said up there, beyond the fabulous ice-breaker.  I really didn’t want to know.   My scientific investigation was over.  While many questions remained (like what happened)  I was able to come to some firm conclusions.

If you create a vacuum, something will fill it.  Whatever it was, in my case, got some dude to buy me a beer.  That was enough to label the entire experiment a resounding success.  It also helped my stage fright.  I was never as nervous after that night.  Maybe there’s some facing your fears message in there, but I don’t see it.

Oh shit, we’re at 2676 words.  That’s more than enough.  Okay, let’s wrap this fucker up fast.  Uh, yeah, things happened, blah blah, everything turned out cool, blah blah.  Explain some valuable insights.  Some lessons learned.  Maybe some shit about letting go and the creative process, or the entertainment value of demonic possession.  Ask some big questions.  Give few real answers.  Toss in a general observation.  Pair it with a specific absurdity.  Come up with a clever reference to something earlier in the piece, then a pithy popper to cork it.  This bitch is done.

And I had nothing.

Working on my article for Monday.

I’m A Rich Bastard Now.

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

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

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

Regards, Barrister Daniel Wataego (Esq) Lomé-Togo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indian elephant wearing a poncho made of rubies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Them, that is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not going away.

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

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

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

I dealt with my own shit.

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

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

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

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

Mardi Gras Death Trip ’89 Part 2

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

“Happy ending?” she asked.

“Make it the happiest,” I told her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you think this will be enough?”

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

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

I have had worse moments in my life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You can start with me,” Lu piped up.

My eyebrow arched.

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

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

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

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

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

“Step up little dude!” I kept shouting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m so glad.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was brutal.  Every fucking mile of it.

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

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

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

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