Punked-Out Punk: Part Two

Needing a fix.

“It’s a beautiful day.”

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's what I think of your 'hood.

Here’s what I think of your ‘hood.

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

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

Okay then.

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

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

Instead of a punk rock show.

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

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

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

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

Glad I straightened that out.  No Google either.

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

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

Before the big show.

(to be continued.)

Mindful motoring.

Mindful motoring.

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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.