Radio Hindenburg

Beloved Morning Show personalities.

Beloved radio personalities relaxing and eating bread.

For a short time, Marko and I had a late night call-in radio show on KUNM.  A short time because we sucked.  I think it was two shows.  Maybe one.  I don’t know.  I wasn’t there.  The whole thing seems surreal.  Dreamlike.  A dreamlike disaster.

Our friend Kelly was a radio intern at the University of New Mexico.  She offered us the gig.  From 1AM to 5AM, Monday morning.  That’s right. Primetime, baby!

We had never done radio, but after a few beers, decided to expand our undulating horizons.  This might be fun.  Produce a few of our own gag commercials to sprinkle throughout the shift.  Take some calls from any bat-chain pullers,  Pretty much wing it from there with a beer.  What could go wrong?  We were guaranteed to be smash hits.

As long as we didn’t get too crazy.  Too crazy drunk and out-of-control.  On the air.

Okay to be crazy drunk and out-of-control.  Just not too. 

On the radio.

In order to prevent that, we enacted an iron-clad NO DRINKING rule.

No drinking.  Until at least midnight.  So that we wouldn’t be too hammered by one.  Still be able to do radio shit.  Like announce the time.

And not say “fuck” a lot.

It was only the professional thing to do.  It’s a tough business.  Had to be at the top of our game, so we would refrain from drinking until an hour before our shift.  That way we would be less destroyed than normal.  Because we hardly had any time.

It was hard, but we did it.  Had to rent a cheap motel off Central and hole up in it.  Count off the tick-tocks before showtime.

Of course I hated it, but he wasn’t feeling Johnny High-On-Life either.  I felt better seeing him miserable.  Sitting there in a dirty Albuquerque motel.  On a Sunday.  Not drinking.  Nervous about being on the radio.  Nothing to take off the edge.  Except caffeine.  Sugar.  Nicotine.  A few small tablets of Ephedrine.  Snorted whole off knife-point.

Yeah, it was a lot of laughs, until I realized I was in the same predicament.

Cleaning our finger nails.  Sharpening knives.  Tossing cards into the toilet.  Anything to distract ourselves from the gut-sense of doom.  Knowing we were going to be on the radio.  Knowing it would be bad.  Knowing that whatever happened that night, there would be witnesses.  Maybe not too many.

But it only takes one.

Twaz bruttle, bro.  Knowing the seediest Albuquerque had to offer was just a cap-flick away, and having to sit there.  Sit for a while then get up and pace.  Endure a crawling clock.  Murder the minutes.  With cigarettes.  Coca-Cola.  And Elvis.

Viva Las Vegas was on one night.  We sat there and watched the whole stupid thing.  All of it.  Without drinking, we had no options.  Without our brewed propellant, we were reduced to watching some guy in a pantsuit sing.

Like the rest of America.

It was humbling.

At one point, Marko started singing along.  His dad was into The Elvis, so he knew all the words.  Strange enough, but more disconcerting to watch him belt it out.  So earnestly.  With such feeling.  Eyes burning.  Really trying to sell it.  Singing like his whole career depended on it.  Like everything depended on this Elvis impersonation.

I’d never seen him like that.  Dude was David Lynching me.  Laying down a highly-effective creep-out.

What made it scarier was the fact that he was stone cold sober.  So this is what happens.  My God, he was falling apart.  Going full nut-job.  Stark raving mad.

I joined him in the chorus.


At the top of our lungs.  Like children would go hungry if we didn’t squeeze out every decibel.  And mean every word.


Sonofabitch we were happy when midnight arrived.  Oh, Holy Hour of Magic, Thou Art Come to slake our forsaken thirst.

I remember waiting outside in the parking lot of the station,  Marko’s beeping Casio our starting gun.


Right.  We have one hour to drink enough beer.  Before we go in.  Only one hour.  We have to drink a lot beer.  Really fast.  Before we go in.  Because once we go in, we’ll keep drinking of course.  But we only have an hour, to drink as much beer as we can…before we go in.

“So pound it, mother!  Because we couldn’t drink…”

“A beer every six minutes will still only be ten.”

“…all that time before!”

“Every five minutes will kill twelve.  But these are twenty-fours.”

“And a whole bunch of …Glug-glug-glah…other good…Glug-glug-glah…reasons.”

“We can kill fifteen.  But we’re gonna have to drink pissing. ”

“Don’t waste time doing math…Glug-glug-glooog-gah-glug ghaaach!  Pound!”

A determined individual can get pretty intoxicated, even in an hour.  But two motivated souls, supporting each other with encouragement, can achieve something really amazing.  Something rarely seen.

Gassing the big cans of Heineken straight down the throat.  One after another.  Non-stop.  Like some Indian sadhus showing-off in a beggar’s market.  Trying to get into the record books.  Trying to become eight-armed Hindu beer-drinking deities.  Popping a can with one hand while rolling out an empty to Kelly with the other.  To crunch.  Put in the trunk.  Recycle for cash.  Buy more cans.

“Every one of these is five cents we get.”

“Stop counting, fucker.  Pound!”

Gatling gunning them.  Spitting the casings out on the asphalt .  Kelly stomping on them with her big long legs like she’s dancing for rain.

“Are you guys going to be okay?”

“We’re gonna kill the world!”

Looking back, we would’ve been better off just coming in our regular amount of drunk by 1 AM.  Instead of pulling the elastic band all the way back, on a Sling-shot Sunday.  Then launching the show, after a Blue God Power Hour.

Live and learn, eh?  But at least now we were ready.   Ready to shine.  To radiate our bliss.  To bless the masses with our joy infernal.

Confidence restored?  Check.  Reckless disregard engaged?  Check  More beers in the jackets?  Checkmate.  We were ready.  For everything.  Ready for work.  We went in.

I don’t remember the D.J. we took over from, commending us on our professionalism.  For not drinking since midnight.

Fuck him.  We were plenty drunk now.  Thaaat whole caring about what people think wasss…ssomethinggggggg shhtupit 4 4 4 ofer chumfs an peepols wiff aaaahfukinon’t give-vah rattsaasss!  Mether feck head.  Hitler fecker…head-erhp I benner not say thaaat on a radio.  FC…CIA Nazi policituations an shit.  Wazz up Alqueburque?  Aneee strange stupf in a house? Here putty putty catty.  Gha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Pip.  Pop.  Fizz.  Glug.


It didn’t go well.

Really love a rewind.

Don’t get those on live radio.  Or life.  And since this was both, we were double-fucked.

It was so bad, I hesitated writing this little piece.  That’s right, I didn’t want to revisit it.  Shit was bad enough to scar, even beneath an alcoholic blur.  One of those treats.  What I like to call my “special memories.”  The gut still tightens when I remember certain parts.

Ah, but you guys are like family to me, so what the hell.  I’ll share what happened.


Not ready just yet.

But I will tell you, that not remembering to announce the time, wasn’t the worst part.

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.


Professional Pub Pugilist

I'm ready for my shift drink.

The guy had come up behind Marcos and clocked him right in the head.  He was a bull and had good torque.  He smashed Marcos’ glasses right into his face.  Marcos was the head bouncer, and now, on his way down.  All the other guys on our side had their hands full fighting somebody else.  I was the only guy not busy, so it was up to me to deal with this bald, thick-necked side of beef.  He looked up at me and narrowed his eyes.  I was next.  This was one hell of a first night as a bouncer.  It was everything I feared, and soon, much more.

Before I go on, let me clarify that Marcos was not my buddy, Marko.  That’s why they have different names.  If I meant Marko, I would’ve spelled it that way.  Marcos was the actual name of the head bouncer at Chelsea Street Pub, the place I had just been hired at, and was now balls-deep in shit at.  Marko was probably back at the pad getting drunk.  That’s where I would’ve rather been.

Marcos too, now that I think about it.

I didn’t even want the job.  I was semi-employed at the time.   It was winter and I was doing odd jobs for this temperamental Santa Fe artist.  He had just built a huge studio honoring his grandiosity.  The paintings were alright.   I think they worked because they were so big.  Paint anything big enough and it becomes art.

That’s okay, I guess.  It’s American, that’s for sure.  Big house, big paintings, big studio, big ego, big attitude.  An emotional Central European, he would hug me and tell me he loved me like a brother one minute, then yell at me like I was a scrubwoman that knocked over a bucket of shit in his living room the next.  I bit my tongue and took it because I needed his money.  The small amount was keeping me alive, but what he made me eat to get it was upsetting my stomach.

I lived with my sister, Ina, and our friend Keller at the time, and was having trouble making the full rent.  They were spotting me the short and not making a big deal about it, but I felt bad.  When I saw the ad for doorman at this small, live music bar at the mall, I had Keller drive me to fill out an application.  I didn’t think I would get the job, but I wanted to show them I was trying.   On the application, I lied and said that I had worked as a hospital tech at a psych ward.  I figured wrestling down enraged 5150’s would be considered good experience and qualify me for this entry-level bouncer job.

I figured right.  That would have been good experience to have before starting a job as a bouncer.  Except that I hadn’t actually done it.  I came home one day from serving my genius overlord, and Keller told me Chelsea Street called saying I got the job.  I sank a little.  I really didn’t want to keep borrowing money from him and Ina, as they weren’t exactly swimming in it themselves, but being a bouncer seemed kind of gnarly.  What if I got my ass kicked in front of a bunch of laughing people?  What if I got really hurt?  Or really killed?

I grabbed a beer to celebrate my good fortune, and take some of the edge off the terror that was pooling up in my solar plexus.

I wasn’t exactly new to fighting, as my lifestyle choices had assured enough encounters with other drunk angry males equally pissed-off about something.  That shit happened and you dealt with it.  That was different from coming in, punching a time clock, and waiting for it to come to you.  That seemed a little extra asking for it.  But then again, if getting into a fight was inevitable either way, why not make a little money in the meantime?  Thank God for beer.  Drink enough beer and everything becomes clear.  My destiny was unfurling before me.  I could tell the tortured artist to go fuck himself.  I was going to kick ass for a living.

The next night Keller drove me and dropped me off.  “Good luck,” he said.  “Yeah,” I said back, ” It’s a place at the mall, how bad can it be?”

What an idiot.  Chelsea St. was at that time, the premier club for bar brawling, much more so than up the road at Rodeo Nites.  (Taking into account fight breakout frequency on a per capita, of course.)  It didn’t quite rate a gladiator school, but wasn’t a day care either.  People were getting hurt at Chelsea Street.

Parzival the Innocent had just wandered into the dragon’s playground.

They served beer in pitchers and that spelled trouble.  I couldn’t see why.  If I was going to drink a lot of beer, I was going to do it, regardless of the container it came in.  Give me a shell with a hole drilled in it, and I will make your beer disappear.  All of it.

Turns out, the pitcher for semi-normal people is dangerous, because they wind up drinking more, faster.  Their judgement becomes impaired, inhibitions loosened, and whatever has been troubling their soul gets to find full expression in aggressive bad behavior.  Hey, welcome to my world.  At least we were all on familiar territory.

If I had realized just how at home I would become in this territory, I wouldn’t have been so scared going in.  I walked through the bar and found the manager, Rodney, a buffed-out black dude.  Far-out, I thought, it’s good to have a superman soul brother on the team.  At least I knew who to hide behind if I cracked in fear.  He introduced me to the three other guys working with me.

Marcos, was a tall hispanic guy, I immediately pegged as a Tae Kwon Do dude.  There was Larry, a short and squat black guy, and an Indian biker named Alvin.  He’s the ground fighter and that dude is the knife expert, I noted.  Seems I was the token white guy in this superhero comic.  Greetings gentleman, I hope you won’t judge my entire race by any cowardice you should witness me personally display.  I haven’t been issued any superpowers yet, but I’ve been told that I’m a quick study.

Marcos lined out the job.  Someone checked ID’s, someone else took the money, and the two other guys roamed around the place scanning for hot spots.  Start charging cover at nine.  If something happens don’t leave the door, unless the floor guys are getting killed.  Don’t let the boss see you drinking.  Make sure there’s no chairs in the aisle.  If people leave they have to get back in the line, and don’t steal too much money from the door.  He actually put it that way.  Don’t let the boss see you drinking and don’t steal too much money from the door.

So far the rules made sense.  He told me I would start by checking IDs and handed me a plastic flashlight.

“I’d rather use that one, ” I said, pointing to the steel, four battery Maglite he had through a ring around his belt.

“I bet,” he smiled, “The Beast stays with me,” and walked back towards the bar.

I gotta get me one of those.  I want a Beast.

I took my post at the door and started checking IDs.  I was a little uncomfortable.  I could feel all the men in the place sizing me up.  I’m sure many of them figured they could take me, and I’m sure many of them could.  The trick was to not get to the point where they would try, and that was a mindfuck game.  I was pretty comfortable with those.   I wasn’t so sure how comfortable I was with getting a beer bottle across the teeth.  That would take care of Mr. Mindfuck Magician.

Remember, you used to wrestle down psychotics at your last job, I reminded myself.  You can handle this.

It was a busy night, and a few scuffles broke out, but Marcos and Alvin were able to handle them.  Each time, I could feel my adrenal glands squeeze huge blobs of heart-attack gel into my system, and then stop.  Some guy starts yelling at you because you won’t let his jailbait date slide through, and again the blobs start pumping.  Is this going to escalate into a cage match to the death?  Is it time to kill or be killed?  No, they’re leaving.  Chill out.  Jesus.  I was definitely on edge.  The three quarts of beer I drank before coming in had long been evaporated by the stress.

“You look like you could use a beer,” I heard a voice say.  I looked up and saw an unlikely angel in the form of a living dead girl, Anna.  She was a waitresses bedecked in full death-worshipping  punk fetishistic finery: Doc Martins, torn fishnets, arms covered with ghoul-themed tattoos and cutter scars, jeans ripped short above the knees, black Halloween hair sticking out hither and thither, and a pallor rivaling that of any funeral parlor’s showcased corpse.  She applied her eye-liner with a switch blade  and had live black widow spiders for earrings.  She looked over her shoulder, then lowered a Heineken off her tray.

“Drink it in the bathroom.”

You have to know me to know.  How much I needed a beer just then.  How much I loved Heineken.   How much having one delivered to me, in this hour of need, by such a mordantly sexy, punk rock Elvira, free of charge, meant to me.  It gave me faith in an all-knowing and loving God.

I gave Larry the flashlight and ducked into the men’s room.  It was crowded.  The stall was being used.  Fuck it.  I tilted the bottle in front of everyone and drained it in three.   “All righty, back to work,”  I announced.  I dropped the bottle in the trash and went back out.

There’s a point where it all doesn’t matter.  The eviction notice, the search warrant, the bad job, the bad check-up, the lost car keys, the found keys to the lost car, the broken lock, the broken window, the broken heart.  They all sort of blend together in a downward spiraling force that holds your head under the water, but after a single beer, shotgunned down as fast as humanly possible,  you find the renewed strength to hang on and clog the drain just a little longer.  My superpowers were renewed.  I could handle this.

When I got back they gave me the money so Larry could take a break.  Not too much, I told myself, as I started taking cover.  I could feel my shoulders relax.  Things are going to be okay.

Shortly after that little affirmation, the shit hit the fan.  I’m not really sure how it started, but I looked up from giving a guy his change and saw Marcos get clobbered.  Instantly, everybody was kung fu fighting.  It was total fucking chaos and I couldn’t figure out who was who.

In the movies, the sword fighting guys go around the battlefield, slicing and sticking their enemies, left, right, up, down, off a horse, on a ladder.  They seem to know right away who’s supposed to die, and who to save, even though everyone’s armor looks the same.   In real life, it’s a tumble of entwined bodies, friend and foe rotating around a spindle.  The punch you meant for some Pirate Pete biker winds up landing on your buddy’s nose.  The leg you’re gnawing on turns out to be your own.  Nobody’s sitting still for their Sears portrait.

“Sorry, bro, sorry!” you yell to your buddy, then try to land your next one better, and with extra sauce to make up for the fuck up.  It’s a mess.  You can’t over think things, just keep hitting.  Your eyes dilated like a scared cat’s.  Keep hitting.  Everything strobing, fast and slow at the same time.  Mother of God help me!  “Keep hitting.”  I am, Mother!

I wasn’t hitting yet.  I was frozen, looking at El Toro stand over the collapsed tower of Marcos, his bald head glistening with sweat.  When our eyes locked, I knew.  This is it, old boy.  Time to grow some spine.  He started coming towards me and I started backing up.  I reached for my novelty paper weight.

I’m not proud of this, but a few months before, through a mail-order catalogue, I had purchased some brass knuckles.  The catalogue labeled them a “novelty paperweight” so they could legally sell them.  They weren’t even brass, but some cheapo lead alloy that would close up on your fingers after you hit somebody hard, making them difficult to pull off and throw away before the cops showed up.  But, I had yet to discover this fault.  I reached into my pocket, put them on, and stopped backing up.

It was a dirty advantage, and like I said, I’m not proud of it.  I had told myself that in war, the better armed prevails.  This was war, and I really wanted to prevail.

As we closed in on each other, I remember seeing he had a Denver Bronco pony tattooed on his shoulder.  He’s going to regret that someday.  They won’t have Elway forever.

I buried that novelty paperweight in his gut, as hard and many times as possible, my arm pistoning  a pneumatic underhand while my other arm squeezed his taurine skull.  Fuck the Broncos.  He was grabbing at my ears and trying to arch away from the blows, but I kept connecting.  He fell and pulled me down over a table with him.  The film kind of breaks after that.  I can’t remember clearly what happened next.

All I can recollect is a kaleidoscope of images whirling around in no apparent sequence.  Marcos waving The Beast over his head and bringing it down on somebody.  Rodney dragging a kicking guy out the door.  A wet cocktail napkin stuck to someone’s face.  Somebody’s fingers over my eyes.  A girl’s leather purse streaking by.  A sneaker kicking me in the cheek.  Alvin screaming.  A mug of beer teetering on a table.  And, punching-punching-punching.  Very Eisenstein.

I do remember that my fortuitous catalogue purchase helped me scythe the field.  I had the magic touch.  Even my glancing shots were ringing bells.  Bing.  Ding.  Dong!  Howdy doody, Rudy.  I was putting in a good day’s work.  Something out there was keeping me on point, and these ersatz brass knuckles sure add zing to any favorite casserole dish.  Next thing I knew it was over.  Everyone we were fighting either ran off or were dragged away.

Okay, I understand this is a guy thing, but they will appreciate how fucking sweet moments like those are.  You look around and realize, holy shit, we won.  We prevailed.  We met our enemies and smote their bitch asses!  Tables and chairs get put back up, everybody grinning, checking out where we each got nailed.  Puffy lips, swollen hands, perhaps a new tooth arrangement, but feeling joyous and triumphant.

The next best part was Anna bringing us a tray of shots from Rodney.  I figured it was okay to let him see me drink mine, so I tossed it back.  “Ahhhgaah-ha… heeeeze!  Sweet nipples of Venus, that tastes good.”  Warm glow.  Looking around, loving the guys you fought alongside.  Knowing they love you, too.  Girls asking if you’re okay.  The men in the bar acting friendlier.  It’s nice.

After work, there were more free “shift drinks.”  The entire bar staff sat around drinking and laughing as we retold our version of events, with very few matching up exactly.  I don’t know if anybody saw me don the knucks, but nobody said anything.   I don’t think they would’ve cared much.  I made the team.  Marcos was especially appreciative of the vengeance my upper-cuts had delivered to the minotaur.   I made his cheap shot a little more expensive.  Oh well, that’s just what I do… plant pain and reap sorrow.  You know, destroy transgressors and righteously avenge.

Gotta make that rent.

Eventually it was time to go.  Marcos told me to be at work the next night, 8:30 sharp.  No problem.

I had a long walk up Cerrillos Rd. and it was bitter cold, but I felt really good.  I felt like I finally found a job I could hold down, a profession to match my proclivities.  I finally had a place in this world, somewhere a guy like me belonged.  For the next thirteen years, off and on, I would work as a bouncer.  I’d eventually find out that where I belonged was not that great.  It was a stupid and brutal world, but for now it was bad ass.  Perfect.  Hopeful.

So I guess it’s good not to know the future.  It’s better not to know what’s lying in wait.  It’s better not to spend your life bracing for the sucker punches.  They’re going to land regardless, and hurt just as much.  You might as well take them standing up instead of curled up and cringing.  It sure helps if you’re clueless.  I was that night, and that made for a happy walk home.  I remember that clearly.

Rendered harmless for polite society.

Forget Me Not to Remind You

Just call me Angel of the Morning

I laid in bed watching faces form in the popcorn ceiling.  There was one that looked like Warren G. Harding, and another that looked like Moe.  I rolled over on my side and felt something.  It was a piece of fish.  I didn’t know how it got there, but it smelled okay.  It was half a piece of smoked salmon, the kind with all the pepper on one side.  It was still in the package so I decided to eat it.  I reached under my bed and found a bottle of beer.

I was sitting up in bed, enjoying my breakfast of salmon surprise and warm beer, when I looked over and saw myself in the closet mirror.  I had four days of beard, bloodshot eyes, a gut that hung out over my boxers, and a very content look on my bloated face.  “It doesn’t get any better than this,” I said to myself.  It didn’t get any better, but it got much worse.  Waking up to a mysterious piece of fish was getting off easy.

Mornings can be rough for the alcoholic.  “Carpe diem” is rarely the rallying cry, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to hit the ground running.  If it isn’t the baffling environment he finds himself in, or the strange company, it’s the sinking feeling that something really bad has happened.  Something needs to be fixed right away, but what?  What just happened?  What do I have to fix?  And why am I wearing this?

I had long ago given up trying to put together the events of any previous evening’s adventure.  By studying the credit card receipts, matchbooks, napkins with numbers written in either lipstick or blood (hard to tell), bruises, shell casings, parking tickets, drug paraphernalia, condom wrappers, and damage to the car bumper you could come up with a pretty good picture and timeline, but why?  You had a good time, and that’s all you need to know.  If God wanted you to remember exactly what happened He wouldn’t have made you blackout.

I once went out on an entire date in a blackout.  To this day I don’t know who the girl was.  I don’t know her name or how I met her.  I don’t remember asking her out, or even talking to her.  I do remember us going to see my friend, Chris Linson, fight at the Sweeny Center that Saturday night.  He won by a TKO.  I also remember wearing my black suit, and getting cut off at The Catamount.  Pretty much nothing else.  The guy who got knocked out remembers more from that night than I do.  I can only speculate how the date ended.

I came to that Monday at my girlfriend’s place.  I don’t need to speculate how that went.  It seems that while I was out on the town forgetting things all over the place, I forgot I had a girlfriend, too.  She didn’t let me forget about that.  We broke up shortly afterwards.

One morning the phone rang.  It was Louise, a girl I met in Santa Fe, who was now living in Los Angeles.  Louise was a delightful creature.  She was a little eccentric and a tad thirsty.  She spoke with an affect that made her sound like a socialite from a cornball 1930’s movie.  It got worse the drunker she got. “Daaahhhling, you simply must top off my little-wittle drinky-winkeeeeee!”   She was also a human wrecking ball.   She liked to dance around the room, showing me the ballet moves she learned as a little girl.  A shoe would go through the window, a chair would break, my collection of German beer steins would come crashing down from the shelves.  I got a kick out her antics, and we had a lot of laughs.  We were drinking buddies who should have stayed just that, but didn’t.  The fact that we were the opposite sex seemed too convenient a fact to pass up, so we complicated matters.  I was to complicate them even further.

“Oh darling, I am soooooo excited!” she said, “I’ve told my mother, and my sister, and they just can’t belieeeeeeve it!”

“What about?  What are you talking about, Louise?”

“The wedding, my dearest, the wedding!”

I started jiggling the bottles next to my bed looking for a survivor.  I didn’t like where this conversation was going.  “Whose wedding, Louise?”

“Our wedding, silly boy. Don’t you dare tell me you don’t remember asking me to marry you last night.”

I didn’t, and I didn’t dare tell her.  Wait, there was a distant, misty, almost dream-like recollection of some sort of vague phone conversation on the subject.  Oh God.  It was the red wine.  Red wine always made me magnanimous, almost sacrificial.  Get me drunk on red wine and I’ll step in front of a speeding car for you, whether it was coming towards you or not.  I got sappy on the grape.  The headache it gave me the next day was always accompanied by some big check my red-stained mouth wrote.  I don’t know how many times I was ready to join the French Foreign Legion to escape the consequences of my “purely symbolic” gestures.

Now it was looking like I was going to be learning French sooner than I thought.

“Let me call you right back, Louise.”  I hung up and called Dave.  It was time for him to save my ass.  We took turns.

“Dude!  Major wine drunkage.  I just asked Louise to marry me last night.  I only sort of remember doing it, but she does, and she’s holding me to it.  She already told her mother and sister!”  I pictured them picking out the color of the Jordan Almonds that go into the little paper cups.

“Where did you get the wine?”

“Pablo came by with some he stole some from an art opening,” I said, “Fucking hell, if he wasn’t such a klepto I wouldn’t be in this bullshit!”

“Which opening?”

“I don’t know, Copeland-Rutherford.”

“It was the one for Delmas Howe?”

“Yeah, okay, probably.”

“He does the gay cowboy art.”

“Yeah, and really dude, who the fuck cares?!  Listen man, I’m in a jam here!  I need you to focus on me for just a half a cigarette of your time.  Can you do that for me, brother?”

“Alright, relax. Did you ask her ‘will you marry me?’ or ‘would you marry me?’ ”

“I’m not sure.  I think ‘would you?’  Why would that matter?”

“Hold on.”

I heard him put down the phone, and walk down the hall to his bathroom.  I listened to him take an exceptionally long piss, flush, then walk back up the hall past the phone, towards the kitchen.  I could hear him drop some ice cubes in a glass.  The footsteps, now with clinking ice, started coming back towards the phone, but they passed by again.  He was heading to the living room.  Exile on Main Street, of course.  Finally, over the strains of “Rocks Off,” I heard the ice clink back towards the phone.

“Saying ‘would you marry me?’ puts the question in the realm of the hypothetical.  In other words, if I asked you to marry me, would you?”

“Then that’s what I said.”

I thanked him and hung up.  Good old Dave.  I called Louise and tried to explain our little semantics mix-up, but she hung up on me.  I never heard from her again.

I had lost another good friend.  Good old Louise.  Rather than really look at what happened, I decided to just make it all go away.  I wouldn’t have to join the Foreign Legion to escape.  Kelly’s Liquors had a sale on Heineken that week.  Murdering a few cases of Heineken would erase all the bad, for a while at least.  It would be easier than shooting bandits on The Ivory Coast, but the way I was drinking, not necessarily safer.