Pants On Fire

Our pants. our pants, our pants are on fire.

Our pants. our pants, our pants are on fire.

I watched a politician lie the other night.  I know.  Big surprise.  But I was only watching to see his technique.  Maybe pick up some pointers.  He had the body language down right.  Very relaxed.  No unmanageable ticks.  Or involuntary furtiveness.  Nope.  Clearly at ease with himself.  And his duplicity.

He was up there a long time too.  Long press conference.  Playing the “obviously if I had anything to hide I wouldn’t be all hanging out and jawing with you for this long” ploy.  Know it well.  I also know if you’re not on your A-game that day, it can back-fire.  That’s why defense lawyers always want to keep that shit to a min.

My mom always saw through it.  As a teenager I would always stop by her bedroom after a night of partying.  For a little chat.  To show her how high I wasn’t.  One night she flat-out told me, “I think you come in here and talk to me for a long time so I wouldn’t think you were stoned.”

Oh God.  She just busted me.  A clown squirted chocolate milk out of his eyes.  A laughing tulip licked up some of the drops.  I remembered looking at a Puerto Rican girl’s bra strap on the subway when I was six.  Then I pictured playing ping pong with Pasty Cline.  Heard somebody whisper something about Presbyterians.  The top of my head felt like a lava lamp.  I wondered what ever happened to Checkers and Pogo.  I saw a pyramid.  A vulture.  A lemon.

A soup ladle made out of purple velvet.

“Really? Well that sounds strange to me.  And not because I’m stoned kind of strange.  Which I’m not.  At all.  Just weird because…of the… weirdness…of…it.  And I can’t believe it!                            What you said.      Back then.  And I’m really tired with these allergies in my eyes so I better go to the bed.  Bed.  Not the bed.  Just bed.  I better go to bed is what I meant to say.

Anyway, I was watching this guy lie his balls off.  And I had to admit, he was pretty good.  Lots of apologizing for things.  Just not the things he was being accused of.  But that doesn’t matter, because with lazy listeners it all blends together.  Sprinkle enough apologies around and they think “Hey, he apologized.  What more do you want?”  It’s a way of taking the rap, but while maintaining your innocence.  A tricky dance to pull off.

“I take full responsibility for what happened.  For leading on your sister, to the point where she would feel compelled to write fantasy scenarios in her diary about me and her having sex in a bowling alley parking lot on the Friday night you went up to Santa Barbara.  You are right.  I should not have done that.  That was wrong.  Leading her on like that.  I should have known that once she realized she could never have me, her vivid imagination would erupt in a rebellious tantrum.  There’s simply no excuse for not noticing the level of her sexual attraction towards me.  I should have known that my innocent and innocuous flirtation would unleash a demon of desire.  But I was a fool.  A blind fool.  I should’ve never been nice to her.

But you shouldn’t have read her diary.  With all her fictitious private stuff in it.

So I guess we’re even.”

Tippy tap-tap.

Tap.

That one didn’t work.  Well, it worked getting me hit repeatedly by a screaming woman.  Worked like a charm.

Apparently, she wasn’t a porch swinger when it came to listening.  She listened real hard.  I don’t know if she would’ve hit me any less hard if I just told her the truth.  But I know I wouldn’t have felt as scumbaggy, while I stood there, lungs vibrating from the blows.  Sure, I still would’ve felt like scum.  Just not as baggy.

rx5Oc

I hate to lie.  Not out of any rigorous ethical principals, but because I hate doing anything I’m not good at.  And I don’t think I’m a good liar.  I get too nervous.  Give away a lot of poker tells.  And add way too many details.  Things that trip me up later.

“You said you had to go to visit somebody at ‘the brain unit’ at a hospital in Pasadena.  Which hospital exactly was that?”

“Uh, let’s see…I have to think exactly what the…”

“Because my father is a doctor at Huntington Memorial.  Was it at that one?”

“No, definitely not that one.”

“Memorial has the best neuroscience department in Pasadena.  I thought he might have gotten his cat scan done there.”

“No, I’m drawing a blank on the name.  I mean I know it.  Maybe when I give up trying.  You know how sometimes after that it will just pop up.  I remember it was fairly close to the Rose Bowl.  And I remember I got robbed by the Snicker machine at the cafeteria.  Took 85 cents.  I remember that.  And that they had a so-so brain unit.”

“Is he going to be okay?”

“Who?”

“Your friend.”

“Oh God, I hope so.”

“Well, we missed you at Easter brunch.  The kids really enjoyed the egg hunt. ”

“Oh man, I wish I could’ve been there.  But you know…”

Yeah, they know.  And you know they know.  And it’s a cringe-fest.

I can use the heat from my shame to propel me away!

I can use the heat from my shame to propel me away!

Early on in my sobriety, I used to go over to this old guy’s house to hang out.  He had almost twenty years sober by then.  We’d sit in his living room and chain smoke while he taught me some coping skills–ways to navigate the treacherous seas without a tankard of grog.  He was generous with his time, and was very helpful in securing the sails of my sanity.

One day, the subject of honesty came up.  He said my big problem was with “white” lies.  He said that’s where I should focus.  That was the crux.

He’s crazy, I thought.  Who gives a flying frankfurter about white lies?  That’s just being polite.

I’ve got bigger honesty issues to wrestle with.  All those years as a drunk, lying became second nature.  It became a survival mechanism.  Now I was having trouble disengaging from it.  I was having a real hard time being honest.  Those little white lies I told were just social niceties.  As problems went, they seemed like a low priority target.

We’re standing in a dining room ankle-deep in raw sewage and he wants to put the salad fork on the correct side of the plate.

But he insisted.  I only thought they were harmless.  I had convinced myself that I was lying not to hurt someone’s feelings.  Keep things nice-nice.  But at a deeper level, I was really worried about their disapproval.  I was afraid they wouldn’t like me.

“They’re corrosive.  Every time you tell a white lie, you’re telling yourself it’s not okay to be you.  You’re lying about who you are. ”

It wasn’t a burning bush or flash of light variety of insight, but I did hear a distant gong.

Lying about who I am?  Holy shit.  That doesn’t sound good.  It sounds creepy and insane.  And not in the way I enjoy.

“Instead of making up all kinds of reasons why you can’t do something, just say you’d rather not.  And then leave it at that.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yeah, just say ‘I’d rather not.’ ”

“And leave it at that?”

“Leave it at that.”

This was absolutely nuts.  I remember giggling with glee.  Simple honesty.  What a revolutionary approach to life.  I couldn’t wait to try it out.

I didn’t have to wait long.  I’m not lying.  The next day, one of my personal training clients asked me to come out to Disneyland with her and her family.  Oh boy.  A wholesome activity that I despise, but don’t want to admit to hating, because people will then think/know just how degenerate and jaded I am.

Now was my chance to say “Hey, I hate craft fairs, Renaissance faires, parades, dinner theater, magic shows, puppet shows, circuses, sack races, hot air balloon launches, and any kind of music that’s played from a bandstand.  But I really hate Disneyland.  So I’d rather not.”  And then leave it at that.

I stood there.  Do it.  Just say it’s something you’d rather not.  Then drop it.  Drop it like a hammer.  Strike a blow for being yourself.

“Oh wow!  Would I ever love to! But you said Saturday?  Yeah.  Ah.  I can’t.  I promised a buddy I would go with him to get a cat scan at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena.  They’ve got a great neuroscience department there.  He has epilepsy and they specialize in brain mapping.  And even though epilepsy is not life-threatening per se, he gets nervous about any medical procedure, and since he’s a recovering alcoholic he’s going to need somebody to be there…because none of his friends or family are talking to him yet, you know, him being early in recovery and all,” I said.

And then left it at that.

I went back to my friend and told him about my failure.  He said it was okay.  A lifetime of behavior doesn’t change overnight.  The important thing was that I was becoming aware of my dishonesty.  That, in itself, was an important step.  In the process.  The process of recovery.

Turns out he was crazy.  And right.  The white lies were the crux of my problem.  Not being okay with who I was–was.  That was the hydra head to a  multi-tentacled monster.  But little by little, the more okay I became with who I was, the easier it was to be honest.  And the more honest I was, the more okay I became with who I was.  It was almost like it was some kind of process or something.

So yeah, I’ve come a long way with honesty.  How long?  Well, let’s just say long enough to know I have a long way to go.

I’ll leave it at that.

In Case of Emergency

It Could Be Worse, And Will Be If You Don’t Stop Crying

Not a bad beer, actually.

Not a bad beer, actually.

Right now I’m drinking a protein shake that I ruined by putting in some sort of green algae superfood powder.  I tried to make it more healthy, but I made it too healthy.  Now it tastes like shit.  Like a chocolate, metal, and grass smoothie.  I can taste every one of the essential whatevers in it.  The traces of Boron.  Copper.  Molybdenum.  Chlorophyll.

Fuck it.  At least I’m not actually eating grass.  I’m not having to eat grass because the Cossacks have burned the crops and raped our cows.  So it technically could be worse.  See how I fixed that?  “It could be worse” is like a magic wand.  Now this shake is delicious!

That’s at the core of my survival mechanism.  “It could be worse.”  Instilled in me from my parents.  And I guess one more thing I should appreciate them for.  I don’t know if it’s a Lithuanian thing.  Seems like it.  I’ll ask some friends.  I’m pretty sure it is.  At least from the war refugee crowd and their off-spring.

It was the closer for any shit storm my family had to go through.  Somebody would say, “It could be worse,” and we’d call it a night.  Clock out.  At least now you could brush your teeth and go to bed.  I imagine it’s a form of gratitude.  At least some distant cousin of it.  It doesn’t work so good in jail.  But sometimes you can use it in a hospital emergency room.  Tie up the evening’s festivities with an “It could be worse.”

“The more you bitch, the more God will give you something to bitch about,” was another of our cozy sayings.   I still stand by it.  It seems to be true.  At least in my personal experience.  I don’t know if it’s some cosmic truth.

Like “Nobody likes a pants-pisser in their bomb shelter.”

As insensitive as that one may sound.  There’s some folk wisdom there, albeit of the rough-hewn and gnarled variety.  Basically, panic begets more panic.  And then nothing gets done.  To fix things.  You have to keep your head and not cave into The Fear.  That’s how they made it through the war in Europe.  That’s how they made it here when they came.  They didn’t shit themselves.

They Didn’t Shit Themselves;  An American Success Story.

Anyway, it’s a tradition I’ve tried to uphold.

It’s a lot easier now that I’m not drinking my weight in beer. You know, deftly navigating my ship, The Rocinante, through the Stormy Seas of Destiny.

And holding my mud.

I’ve actually gotten a little braver without alcohol.  It’s taken some time, and then even more time to see it, but I think I’ve made progress.

It’s not like I’m ready to hold the pass at Thermopylae, but I don’t have to drink a six pack before opening my bills anymore.  Or need to drink eight beers to prime myself for the next beer run.  And now (may the heavens tremble at my might) I can kiss a girl with no beers at all.  I mean for me.  She’d still have to be hammered out of her skull.

So yeah, it’s nice, this whole not being too-drunk-to-deal-with-it-all deal.  And, no matter how terribly I may being dealing with it all, at least I’m not dealing with it drunk.  Because chances are my sober fucking-up would look like water-walking compared to my drunken version.

Of dealing with it all.

It’s an advantage a recovering alcoholic has over the normal person.  No matter what our shortcomings, if we stay sober we always have some golden straw to grasp.  Right?  At least that.  At least I’m still sober.

Have some normal person throw that one out.  See who golf claps him.  Big deal.  Shut up and have a drink.

Of course, there’s always the chance the recovering alcoholic will succumb to his/her fear, and then totally destroy their life in a final drunken death dance.

And that, my friends, is where the normal person regains the advantage.

By not doing that.

When things get tough.

Lucky fuckers.  That’s a good advantage.

However, if I do manage to stay sober, well then…I’ve shaved the house’s dice, haven’t I?  C’mon lucky seven, Daddy needs a new pair of pants.

He’s crapped this pair.

(See what I did there, Pauly?  Craps.  Pair of dice.  Pair of pants.  Nice, huh?  I like it)

I don’t know how many of my readers are in some sort of recovery, most probably only from last night’s barf-a-thon, but it’s one of those things ex-addicts and ex-drunks have to do.  We have to be grateful we’re not fucked up on our choice of magic carpet ride.  You take anything for granted long enough, be it a relationship, a car that runs, or some money in the bank, and chances are that something…is going to slip away.

Sobriety is just one of those things.  If you don’t pay enough attention, she can slink off.  Her high heels clacking away into the night.

I really don’t want to go back to drinking.  So I try to be grateful.

I figure that life can be hard enough just regular.  Look, in my own half-assed, duct-taped way, I try to work a program.  I pray to the Unifying Intelligence That Binds Creation, meditate on the perfection of The Silence, contemplate the goodness of all souls, work to be less selfish, admit when I’m wrong, try to be a good listener, help when I can, surrender when I can’t, lift weights, stay away from grains, and get enough Molybdenum .

Basic stuff.  And for the most part, I live a life filled with a lot of wonder, laughter and joy.

But sometimes… old demons stop by the pad and ask to use the bathroom.  Next thing I know, they’re camped out, ordering pizza and pay-for porn.  They’re not leaving anytime soon. Then I find myself treading shark-filled ocean, trying to keep my lips just above the water line.  I’m barely making it.  Barely.  And I’m not even drinking.

The last thing I need right then is a bowling ball necklace.

Let’s see how I do with crippled critical thinking.  After I impair my judgement.  Enough to tap into some creative problem-solving.  Become a drunken genius.  Now I can save the day with a master stroke.  Employ some bold solutions.   Just the thing for delicate problems.  A sledgehammer.  And the blind faith to use it.

So yeah.  It could be worse.

And if you’re drinking to solve something, all you got to do is keep it up.  And you’ll see.

Because it can always get worse.

And probably will.

So cheers to that.

Sorry for the buzz-kill.  I’m out of here.

–By the way, this fucking shake is growing on me.  It’s got a weird tang to it.  And I appreciate that from a chocolate shake.

.

Stopped crying.

Stopped crying.

My Brother Strip Club Gladiator

Being of service to my brother bouncer.

Being of service to my brother bouncer.

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

And that.  Is pretty much.  That.

That’s what’s going on there.

Old Joe.  And me.  At my mom’s house.

Having lunch.

How about that?

Yeah, that’s some crazy shit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s when he’d meet The Panther.

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

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

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

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

Glad the windows were rolled up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He called me the day after.

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

I knew it.  I sat down on the couch.

“Over several lifetimes.”

“Oh shit, what happened?”

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

“What the fuck happened?!!”

“Just the best day of my life.”

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

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

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

“You saw her without her make-up?”

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

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

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

“Good call.”

“Roger that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You managed that too?”

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

“I fucking give up.”

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

“You’re bullshitting.”

“Afraid not.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Got your freak on, did you?”

“Freaky freak.  Freaky-deaky freak.”

“Wow.  That is whole package of WOW.”

“Now here’s the kicker–”

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

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

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

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

“You’re a dirty whore, Joe.”

“Oh yes. Yes I am!”

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

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

And night.

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

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

My work is done.

9 Years Without A Drop To Drink

Good to the last drop.

Good to the last drop.

I’m so very thirsty.  Somebody get me some water.  Just kidding.  Gotta soda right here.  I have to admit, I feel a little proud of myself, which is weird.  I’m patting myself on the back for something I didn’t do.  Something I really had no business doing.  Something that almost killed me.  A bunch of times.

It’s like being proud for not bludgeoning yourself with a ball-peen hammer.

“Hey Eddie, how’s it hangin’, bro?”

“Slightly left, Ace.  How you been, Goon-o?”

“Not bad.  Got an easy gig at a tool rental place.  New woman, too.  It’s still in the sheet-burning stage, so that’s good.  You know.  Basically kicking the shit downhill these days.  You?”

“Well tomorrow will be nine years since I stopped beating my brains in with a ball-peen hammer.”

“Holy shit.  That’s really great.  Is it hard?  Like do you still miss it?”

“To be honest, sometimes.  After a hard day, I’ll come home and think how good it would be to have a nice cold hammer.  Just to beat the shit out of any consciousness floating around in my skull.  Ah well, those days are over.  Now I think it through.”

“Glad to hear that, dude.  Good for you.”

“Yeah, I couldn’t stop doing it on my own so I had to summon a praeter-natural force to take over my entire guidance system.”

“Dude, that sounds like some crazy shit.”

“Tell me about it.  Now I talk to the invisible and it talks back to me.  Through everything.”

“Uh, yeah…that’s cool.”

“It tells me what to do so I wont want to start hitting myself again.”

“What does?”

“Everything.  Everything that comes from nothing, which is one.”

“Huh.  Yeah well alright, you crazy fucker.  It’s good to see you’re doing…okay and shit.”

“I’m just grateful to have been restored to sanity.”

“Oh for sure, bro.”

Silence laden with subtext.

“Alright, well… throw one to your new old lady from me, Eddie.”

“I will,  Ace.  From behind.”

“Nice.  Take it easy.”

Only another recovering Hammer Head gets it.   The miracle of it all.

It’s a miracle alright.  An absolute miracle that I’m sucking down a Diet Hansen’s ginger ale while typing this.  With no looming court date.  In a house without bullet holes.

Oh, I know.  I’m not out of the woods yet.  I guess no alcoholic is, until they’re dead.  That’s sliding into home.  In the meantime, try to be an alert base-runner.  Don’t let your ass get picked off between pitches.

I remain a deeply-flawed individual, but I now realize that the measure of just how much, is based on arbitrary judgements.  How fucked up I think I am, is always relative to a bunch of different moving targets.   I am free to choose any measure.  Some days I cut myself slack.  Other times I roll out the Iron Maiden and really torture myself.  Depends on the mood I’m in.

I seem to do better with slack.  I wish I picked it more.  What’s wrong with me?  What kind of fucking idiot won’t pick slack over The Rack?

Okay, there I go again.  Man, it’s a slippery slope before hammer time.  Got to stay all present and shit.

I’m okay with the spiritual component to recovery.   That whole “came to believe” thing wasn’t too much of an issue.  I always enjoyed contemplating stuff.  I’ve been a closeted mystic my whole life.  In fact, at one point, as a young man, I actually thought about joining a monastery.  It was just that whole celibacy deal that killed it for me.   Certain haircuts too.

So I embarked on a different course.   Hell yeah I did.  Kind of opposite of monk-like.  About as.

Dionysian  abandon was to be my path and I tried to  make the best of it.   Hey, you play the hand you’re dealt.  It wasn’t doing white martyrdom on Skelig Michael, but it had it’s challenges.  But where it would lead was surprising.

A while ago, I read in Jung’s letter back to Bill Wilson.  He recalled his diagnosis of Roland H., the alcoholic Jung had to wash his hands of as hopeless, leaving  him only the thin straw of spiritual redemption as cure.  He wrote, ” His craving for alcohol was the equivalent on a low level of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God.”

I dig it, Dr. Jungy.  That’s it, baby.  I had a thirst for union with God.  Can’t blame a guy for that.  Shit, all this time I thought there was something wrong with me.  Does that include the wanting to be with chicks part too?  That’s all part of that union stuff, right?”

Turns out, you don’t need nineteen Heinekens and a shot of Crown Royal to find God.  Apparently there are other ways.  A spiritual solution you say?  Okay, fuck it.  I’ve tried crazier shit.  It’s got to be better than listening to me when I’m drunk.  I’ll get us all killed.

I figured I’d try being a spiritual dude, especially if I could still bang it out.   I didn’t really have anything better to do.  I guess I could’ve built a tool shed or something instead.  But I didn’t need one.  So I decided to do the prayer and meditation bit.

Look, if this lunatic is going to make it through an average day without his amber anesthesia, I’m going to need some other kind of strong medicine.  I’ll gladly dip into my mojo bag.  Whip out my Obeah and Wanga.  My consecrated wand.  Anything to flag down a passing avatar to ask directions.

The crazy thing is, it works.  When I ask, I get good directions.  Something out there steers me right.  If I pay attention.  And follow them.

So yeah, now I talk to the invisible, and the invisible talks back to me, using everything…created by nothing, which is one.  You see it’s…

Ah fuck it.  Disregard.

Anyway, it makes for some pretty weird days.  And I love weird.  As long as sober can be weird, I’m good with being sober.  And being sober has been good with me.

Besides not pissing my pants all the time, I’d have to say the best part is being available to my family and friends.  I’m glad they don’t have to worry about me anymore, and that by not having to deal with the old version of Marius (Marius 0.24) their individual burdens are a little lighter.  They deserve better.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s bring them out right now.  My family and friends–

My mom, Chicken Head.  My dad, Bodine.  My sister, Inski.  My friend Keller.  Spike.  Mike.  Emmitt.  Spudman.  Sue Bob.  Mad Dog.  Marko.  Sir Douglas.  Riggsy.  Ripper.  Ramona.  T-Bone.  Tony.  Todd.  Tommy O.  Timmy.  Yimmy.  Youngy.  Danny.  Frank.  Garth.  Gurz.  Dez.  John ‘Carnak’ Carnell.  Johnny B.  Justin O’Kane.  Bubbles.  Lili.  Ruta.  Red.  Aida.  Swell Mel.  Flat Matt.  Marsh.  Max.  Mugs.  Mahoney.  Stacey.  Siggy.  Sammy Pajammy (and her mammy).  Gregula.  Super Terry.  Alexa.  Davey.  Candice.  Peachy Peter.  Guy Thomas.  Judy.  Ginger.  Bobby.  Ben.  Eme.  Ace.  Felipe.  The Mystic Man.  The Plaza Rats.  The Fellowship.  The Hidden Chiefs.  The Bang-Bang Girls.  And my cats, Bugsy and Louie, with Terry Bozzio on drums!”

(The stage parts to make way for a drum kit the size of an off-shore oil rig, with two black and white cats running around inside the double bass.  The crowd goes wild)

“And the guy nobody ever thinks of except Riggsy…Hot-Link!   That’s right everybody, Hot-Link is in the motherfuckin’ house!  Let’s bring it!”

(Polite applause sputtering to silence.)

“And of course, finally tonight, certainly last but not lost, my girlfriend, Lori Lee, the Sleep Pea.  Let’s give it up for her long-suffering ass!  She deserves a medal everybody.  With oak leaf clusters.  And caramel!”

(People rise to their feet.  She greets them like Evita.  It’s a long ovation.  Very pointed, and she’s milking it)

“Okay, honey that’s good.  Take your bow.  Alright.  Very nice.  Okay.  That’s good.  That’s…just…just go stand with everybody over there.  Right there.  Over by the kitties.  Very nice.

It’s not like I don’t have to put up with anything either.”

(Silence.  Scattered coughing)

“Well there they are, Ladies and Gentlemen,  just a few of the oh so many who have brought me joy in sobriety.  Thank you everybody for making my world a better place.  I’ll do my best to pay you back.  Including the vig.”

(Applause)

“Now let’s all pray I make another year without beating my brains out with a hammer.”

(The crowd bows their heads.  I think about the traffic getting out of here.  It’s going to be murder)

“Okay, I guess that’s enough.  I still don’t really know how long a prayer is supposed to take.  But that seemed like the right amount of time.  Anyway, thanks for coming tonight to our nine year gala extravaganza sobriety celebration.  Please be sure to drive home safe and embrace the ineffable mystery of the infinite as you stumble blindly through your lives.  And good night Austin Texas, where ever you are!”

The audience filters out, some hurrying to make last call.

All sober and shit.

All sober and shit.

Rita of El Rito

Is that just a mirage?

Is that just a mirage?

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

Alexis Zorba

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

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

This situation was made for beer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you?  Too wild?”

“That depends on for what .”

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

It’s a slumber party.

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

Major fuck-up.

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

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

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

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

We drove in silence for a while.

Telephone pole.  Telephone pole.  Telephone pole.

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

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

“Groceries and…soda?”

“Yes, and some beer and wine.”

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

“That’s cool.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re awful quiet.”

“Just thinking about death.”

“Oh.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The major boner-kill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I kicked myself for not buying two more six packs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had misled her enough.

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

Ain’t love crazy?

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.

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.