You Can Never Go Home, If You’re Lost, Que No?

Okay, now what?

Okay, now what?

They say you can’t, but I’m going home.  Back to Santa Fe, the place of my rebirth, death, rebirth, death, and rebirth.  Those are special places.  Places where a lot of shit went down.  Places with fertile fields to sow madness and mirth.  And rocky soil to pull plow through.  Places to choke yourself out in the yoke of toil.  To sweat out Dark Eyes vodka while a jack hammer batters your Juarez dental work loose.

Magic places.  Places to make all your dreams come true.

Santa Fe was one of those places.  Except for the making all my dreams come true part.  Some dreams are just too insane.  Even for New Mexico.

And New Mexico is one weird-ass state.  Totally, Marius Seal of Approval, weird.  I think by now, you’ll understand the magnitude of what my certification means.   This is not some corn-fed, roll-her-eyes-at-Adult Swim, mid-western housewife’s idea of weird.  No.

It’s my version.

So yeah.

New Mexico is weird.  In the best way.  I think it’s the people.  I swear to God, there isn’t a person in that state that isn’t some sort of character.  Funny, crazy, dangerous, dumb, brilliant, beautiful, bizarre, annoying, and delightful.  Name it.  We got ’em all in old New Mex.  The psychos I worked construction with.  The artists I’ve gotten criminally drunk with.  The madmen I fought in bars and parking lots.  The silver spray paint huffing vagrants I learned to ballroom dance in the arroyo with.  The decent cops that showed me leniency.  The friends.  The freaks.  The ladies that taught me to love…

Then there’s the place itself.

The landscape that taught me about God.  And showed me His more artsy side.  The sky actually talks to you out there.  Not always what you want to hear.  But the signal comes in pretty clear.  It’s the wideness.  TV signal doesn’t scramble it’s messages as bad.  Trees, rocks, water, dirt, plants.  All alive.  Also having something to say about it all.  Happy sun.  Stormy clouds.  Celestial snow.  Stars that stare back at you with wonder.

My big regret is that I spent so much of that time drunk.  Sometimes way too.  Certainly to appreciate some of it’s more subtle charms.

Like with a few women too, I guess.  I wish I was more present.   But you can’t be present when you’re deeply involved in shooting holes through furniture.  And trading karate chops with a buddy whose round house kick sends you crashing into a fish aquarium.  So yeah, I chose my career over having any stable romantic relationships.  Didn’t have the capital to invest enough of the emotional currency required to fund one.

What can I say?  I was a driven and ambitious young man.

I wanted to run amok.  As amok as amokably possible.  I needed a place to wait out my exile from the human race.  A desert inhabited by aliens seemed like good place.  To set up my own Area 51.  Run my own test flights.  A little elbow room to get my crazy dance on.

Under the moon.  While the hounds howled.  And a fire illuminated the madness in my eyes.  Grind the edge, until I drop off the rail, and plunge into The Abyss.  Then see what’s left after everything is destroyed.

Alright.  Did that.  Check mark that box.  What’s next?  Probably rehab.  And a slow descent to Earth’s orbit.

Very slow.  No rush there.

But I had to leave.  Hated to.  But had to.

I thought I could wash my sins away in the Pacific Ocean.  But the waters were already saturated.  And working at a strip club wasn’t exactly dry-cleaning my soul.  Should’ve gotten rid of all the guns, too.  I guess I had one more death left in me.

So I tried a different way of living.  One so jack bland, only the most desperate would even attempt to embrace it.  But it was all I had left.  And it turned out to be a lot better than I thought.  As my friend Mad Dog would say, “Ain’t that a kick for sore balls!”

And that’s what sometimes hurts about going home.  The ball-kicking realization of how much I missed out on. And now miss.  Being there and wishing I could have done it all sober.  Seen it all through clearer eyeballs.  But then we’d have nothing to laugh about, would we?  No mischievous hi-jinx to recall.  And if this blogula even existed, it would be insufferably boring.  Recipes for good mulch.  Illustrated core and balance exercises.

Pictures of people standing around in nature.

I shudder to think.

You should too.  You see,  I did it all for you, dear reader.  And it’s okay.  You guys are worth it.

Anyway, it will be good to see my sister and Keller.  Good to see Marko.  And whoever else I’m supposed to see.  Sunday afternoon I’ll be making speed-amends at a table at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.  Come by if you feel I owe you one.  I’ll try to guess what it’s about.  If I can’t remember, you can remind me, while I gnash my teeth with regret, and embarrass you with an overly dramatic public display of contrition.  And anything else to make things right.  Between us.

Buy you a beer?  You name it.  Even an import.

Because I want things to be good.  Between me and you.  And between me and New Mexico.  I want it to be a good homecoming.  I want to be able to go home.  Just to see if all those fuckers were wrong.

I’ll keep you posted.

Okay, now what?

Okay, now what?

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.

Count Thugula

Count Thugula, Avenger of The Weak

I punched him square in the face.  It was a solid one.  To this day, I’m still a little proud of it.  It was a right jab and I was wearing leather sap gloves with lead pellets sewn in the fist for extra zing.  He got blinky, staggered a bit, and ran off, slipping along the icy road as he scampered.  I walked back into The Cowgirl and handed the wallet to the little guy who had it stolen.  The bouncer on duty, Ziggy, came up to me. “Dude, that punch-which I didn’t see-was a felony!”  he said, all worry-warty.  I guess the sap gloves bumped it up to a felony assault.  “Stealing a guy’s wallet is also against the law,” I said, “So it’s a wash.”

I went inside and drank the beer the little guy bought me.  He was grateful to get his wallet back, and I was glad for the free beer, and the opportunity to punch a dick in the face.

That was a good night.  I remember that night.  That punch in that guy’s face made it one to remember.  When I imagine all the dump trucks full of nights that I dumped into the landfill of forgetfulness, I think maybe I should’ve punched more faces, just to remember more of my life.

These days, I’m all for peace, love, and understanding.  I like cats and gardening.  Still, there was something about a well-placed punch in the face of somebody who really had it coming, that brought true joy.  I’d like to think I’m over that kind of joy, but I can’t be sure.  We all want satisfaction, and there is something deeply satisfying about serving as a hammer for justice.  It was especially so back then, when I didn’t have any other hobbies or recreational pursuits.

I’m not talking about getting into a fight.  Those were fairly commonplace.  Looking back on those, I know I could have defused many of them with some patience and discipline on my part.  I regret a lot of them.  No, I’m talking about delivering a righteous punch in the face, one that when you look back on it, after years of sobriety, spiritual recovery, and soul-searching personal inventory, you still think  “Yeah, I’d do that one again!”

I was constantly picked on as a little kid.  Either for the Little Lord Fauntleroy clothes my Mom insisted in dressing me in, or the fact that my English not speaking good in talkingness, I walked around with a bull’s-eye over my balls.  I didn’t need a “kick me” sign taped to my back, the directive seemed to be clear enough.  Anyway, something happened along the way.  I mutated, like in any comic book worth it’s paper, into a deranged vigilante.  The scared-of-his-own-shadow, son of Eastern European immigrants, turned into…Count Thugula.  I embraced my shadow, and became a deluded, self-appointed arbiter of justice, what our society labels a “superhero.”  A drunken dangerous one that caused more damage than fixed.

My earliest real-life superhero inspiration came in the unlikely form of a gentle, orphaned waif named Jim Keller.  He became my friend in eighth grade.  Keller endured a brutal childhood.  He suffered the kind of abuse that would have turned lesser men into sociopathic killers.  But he was then, as he remains today, the Buddhist ideal of loving compassion and patience.  Small children flock to him like squirrels to St. Francis.  Everyone’s happy, when the Keller is near.

That didn’t mean that if somebody’s bad karma required an instrument to deliver its repercussions, he wasn’t open to serve.

This skinny little fellow, who looked more like a monk than a thug, packed a punch that delivered the White Light of Realization to drunk frat guys, skinheads, and surf Nazi’s up and down the Gold Coast.  Trust me, none of them suspected that they were about to become so profoundly enlightened by The Buddhist Bomber.

One night up in Santa Barbara, in the college town of Isla Vista, Keller and some friends went to a reggae show.  He had decided to linger outside while the others went in.  His keen intuition told him to hang back for a bit.  Sure enough, right across from him, in the little town park, three skinheads had jumped a solitary traveller. They were beating on the guy pretty good, and having a having a grand time doing it.  “This will not do,” Keller thought to himself.

He hit the first skin while running in.  He jousted the punch into the guy’s gut.  Keller said the air came out of the dude so fast, it actually made an odd little whistle as it rushed through his teeth.  Tweetle-teeeeee!  Ok, that would be awesome.  Jealous of that.  So that guy dropped like a sack of horse shit.  Then as soon as the next guy looked up, Keller pasted his mouth.  He later told me that he was really able to torque his hips on that one and whip it in hard.  Zang-Pow!  That one was wearing braces (I love it, a skin-head with cosmetic dental work) so his lips shredded across the metal.  He grabbed his face and started screaming like a little girl.  That left one more upper-suburban neo-Nazi to go.

Having just watched both of his buddies destroyed in a matter of seconds by some guy that appeared out of nowhere, he decided to run for it.  The other two joined him.  Keller helped the victim up.  The guy couldn’t express his thanks enough.  Our hero wished him a peaceful rest of the evening, then went in to bathe in the good vibrations of the reggae show.  God, I love shit like that.  It was always sweet when Keller clocked someone.  You have to figure, if you manage to piss off an easy-going, peaceful person like Keller, enough to make him want to punch you; you so fucking have it coming.  It’s gonna have a little something extra on it too, because The Universe wants in on the action.

The recipients of my punches were generally in a more gray-zone of deserving it.  If I was really drunk, my aim might be off.  Maybe I took a statement out of context.  Sometimes it seemed inevitable, so I just got it over with.  I don’t do stuff like that anymore.  I’ve really worked on this.  Now I like cats and gardening.

A buddy from New York once told me that while throwing a good punch looks cool, being able to take one earns you even more style points, and an exponentially higher chance of getting laid because of it.   I had just written about this concept in my weekly column on Monday.  That next week-end, it would be put to the test.

I went to my job as a doorman at The Catamount.  Two guys I had thrown out (I can’t remember for what) were outside pissed at me.  One was tall, the other guy short.  Mutt and Jeff.  I was wary of this possible two-on-one situation, but tried to play it cool.  They’re yelling, I’m pretending to yawn–then zip–the short guy dives behind me and makes like an ottoman, and the tall guy pushes me over him.  It was a slick move.  Impressive, really.  They must have practiced it a lot back home at their trailer.

Anyway, I go down and hit my head on the street, and as I’m getting up, the tall one connects with my jaw.  He had wound it up and sent it all the way from Gallup.  He almost knocked my block off.  I saw buzzing blue and green neon parallelograms in a field of purple sparks.  When the buzzing stopped, I realized I was still standing.  I was totally fine.

It was amazing.  I was surprised, but so was the guy that hit me.  He looked concerned.  I would’ve been.  I did my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough… for you.  You rarely get a clean shot at the jaw.  It’s never like the movies.  He gave me his Pony-for-Your-Birthday best and I was okay.  Now what do you do?   What kind of brain-dead monster doesn’t go down after that?  I could feel my eye-teeth start to grow.

“I’m going to give this door money to somebody, and when I come back, I’m going to kill both of you,” I calmly informed them.

They started backing up.  I walked into the bar, which had been watching the whole thing through the windows, and gave the cover charge money to one of the cooks.  I felt humiliated.  These guys played me like a piano, and in front of a lot of people.  It didn’t get much worse than that.  It L.I.T. me up. (Lifetime Issue Trigger)  I didn’t know how I was going to deal with these two guys, especially since they already clowned me, but I knew there was a vast reservoir of rage I could tap into.  Marius just got his ass kicked, his demons were going to have to take over.  A calm came over me.  All I had to do was get out of the way, and let this infernal power handle it.  You see, it’s like a spiritual surrender, only opposite.

I went outside but they were gone.  I saw them round the corner up the block.  I wasn’t thrilled about going after them, but felt like I had no choice.  Here we go.  They were up the street, getting into a car.  There was a chick I hadn’t seen before with them.  She started screaming “Oh my God! He’s packing! He’s packing!”  I wasn’t, but I took the cue.  I reached behind me and grabbed the band of my boxer shorts.  They thought the only way I would go after them alone was with a gun.  They hadn’t factored the power of wearing funny clothes as a kid into the equation.

“I told you I would come back to kill you,” I said, walking slowly towards them.  Count Thugula was in full effect.  The chick even seemed to be fumbling with the keys like in the horror flicks.  “Hey man, we’re cool!” one of them yelled.  What a stupid thing to say.  Like if I did have a gun and was going to shoot them, I’d hesitate because one of them told me they “were cool.”  Whatever.  I’ve said stupider things when I was scared.  “Not cool enough to live,” I yelled back.

Finally, she got the door open, they piled in, and drove off as I approached.  It was hardly a satisfying resolution.  Yeah, I wound up scaring them off, but with some phony trick.  It did little to stop the burn.  I didn’t get my punch!  Fucking shit.  I knew this dose of shame would have me sitting up at night for years to come, and I was already a light sleeper.

I walked back to the bar.  I got the door money and sat down on my stool.  A few women who had seen me get hit came up to me.  They asked if I was alright, and I said I was.  I wasn’t feeling libidinous enough to try cashing in on their concern.   There might be some connection between a man’s ego and his penis, but I can’t be sure.  One thing for sure was that I lost my grandfather’s watch that night, probably when I bounced on the street.  I usually took it off, but I wanted to impress one of the waitresses that night.  That went well.  What a life.

I tortured myself that night sitting up on my mattress, pounding beer after beer.  What would people remember more, how the Two Stooges Dick Van Dyked me, or how I took the sledgehammer like Iron Man?  A typical alcoholic concern, anchored deep in reality.  I worried about everything, except what really mattered.  Poor idiot, nobody was going to remember any of that night, except if I ever brought it up.  And why the hell would I ever do that?

The Young Count as Beating Magnet