There was a small room attached to the back of the Greyhound, where a beautiful Asian woman wearing red silk pajamas had set up a massage table. The room was dimly lit by candles, sandalwood incense burned, bamboo flute music was piped in from speakers shaped like laughing Buddhas. “Well this is cool,” I thought, “I dig the black lacquered furniture. Nice touch.” I crawled up on the table.
“Happy ending?” she asked.
“Make it the happiest,” I told her.
I took a long thin pipe from her. A bubbling piece of amber resin smoldered in the tiny bowl. Opium. Just the thing for a long bus ride. The people at Greyhound think of everything. I thought they banned smoking on buses. Glad that didn’t apply to hop.
I puffed lazily on the pipe while the girl started to knead the sides of my aching lower back. The blue smoke rose in expanding spirals. One of the Buddha speakers smiled at me. I smiled back. She found the knot and pressed a bony knuckle into it…hard. What the fuck?!
I woke up from the pain in my back. I had returned to reality. Some happy ending. I was back on a Greyhound bus, the kind without the opium den massage parlor attached to the back. I sat hunched forward in my seat, curled like a cooked shrimp, drooling on my lap. I had been sitting for days, drifting in and out of pot brownie psychosis, and still had hours to go before New Orleans.
Next to me was some Ed Gein-type eating a tomato with salt. I didn’t know when he showed up. There was a bible-reading black lady there the last time I checked. I sort of remember trying to tell her that demons were after me. She said she would pray for me. I think I asked her to hurry, before nodding off.
Oh man…okay, whatever. She’s gone now. She’s been replaced by the tomato-eating cannibal. I had been given one strange road dog after another during this whole trip. People that made me feel like I was the normal one. I had it with odd-ball characters. Thank God I was on my way to the Crescent City during Mardi Gras, where everyone is normal.
Those two days trapped on the bus had been a grueling endurance test. The brownies I had been eating had cleaved a gaping gash in my psyche. Universal weirdness poured in. The influx of mind-bending strangeness to process was flooding my psychic septic system. I simply had too many bizarre impressions inside my head, and no way to walk them off. That usually spells trouble for me and those around me.
That shit has to come out somewhere. Why not in my behavior? What better way to chronicle my dysfunction than with symbolic action? A chaotic form of Kabuki theater, manifesting the madness within. It’s what I was born to do. I just needed some leg room to do it.
When we finally pulled into the station that evening, there were five half-drunk co-eds from the University of Michigan waiting for me. They cheered when I got off the bus, shrieking like teeny boppers. Lu put them up to it. It was meant to embarrass me. Sorry. It would take more than that. I felt strangely at ease among wild adulation. After one-arm hugging all the girls, I put down my suitcase and planted one on Lu’s pie hole.
“Now we can really get this motherfucker rolling,” she said, scraping, something from the corner of my mouth.
“Indeed,” I said, ” I think we need to launch this juggernaut with a little velocity. We can start pacing ourselves in the morning.”
I took out the empty pint bottle in my pocket and tipped it to reveal a tiny corner of whiskey.
“Do you think this will be enough?”
“I told you, this excursion includes all-you-can drink. Don’t worry, as your cruise director, I will take care of your every need.”
With that, she pulled me by the hand, and we were off to the hotel, followed by a posse of giggling girls.
I have had worse moments in my life.
Wading through the streets that night, I could see the party was in full swing. People were already howling-at-the-moon crazy. The air was thick and humid, which happens to be my favorite. I am one of the few people I know that loves humidity. The more the better. I want to feel like I’m swimming around in a fish bowl. Splash my face with it like a pig.
It’s a sexy atmospheric, and good for the pores. Purge what ails you at the sultry sweat lodge of love. Lickity leg stickity ickity humidity. Spackle those cracks and crannies with smeared molten mojo goo. Gooey times are gooooood.
The girls had gotten a room at a Holiday Inn. Decent enough, especially when you’re on the bum. After thirty-eight hours on a Greyhound, a Salvation Army cot starts to look luxurious. Ooh, horizontal. So I was psyched for the plush home base of operations, and at no additional financial strain.
Kind of cramped quarters with five girls though. How are we going to sleep everyone in here, ladies? Tell you what, I will volunteer myself as planning commissioner. I’ll help sort this out. The who sleeps where part. And stuff.
While I was trying to come up with some sort of rating system to determine the proximity of their sleeping accommodations to mine, logging some initial observations, and then calculating those factors to come up with a workable probability model, Lu came into the room. She had a gift for me.
Oh yeah. Don’t forget the primary. What’s this?
It was a case of beer, but made up of four different six packs.
“Hey look at that! All of my favorites. The Guinness, The Heineken, The Becks, and even The Moosehead!”
“For mornings,” she nodded, “I remembered.”
She had given me a beautiful beer bouquet. Wow. I felt my heart explode a little. She might be the one. Serious, dude. This one is a keeper. Watch yourself around these other women. Maybe try to behave a little. Don’t go total Id.
Yeah, I know. But at the time, I thought I’d try. I’m not rotten to the core. Just from that part outwards.
Her friend Maria was an especially spirited little drill-teamer. Always go for drill team. Over cheerleaders, for sure. They try harder. This one was certainly friendly. Lots of smiley-look arm-rubby encouragement from her. Seemed like a team player. Whip out the slide-rule and plot that vector.
We hung out in the room for a while, doing some warm-up drinking. We had been joking around when one of the girls laughed so hard she audibly farted. It sounded like a door slowly creaking open. A real burner. You could hear the heat. Oh man, we were on the floor. Unfortunately, that’s where the dense gas settled. That made us laugh even harder, the kind that gives you a side-ache, some of us gagging up bile.
Yeah, this was going to be fun. Good ice-breaker. A bottle of vodka made the rounds. I hit it while I sampled the assorted flavors of beer.
“I think I need to cause some damage,” I announced, dropping the empty bottle of Becks close to the trash can.
“You can start with me,” Lu piped up.
My eyebrow arched.
We hit the street at midnight. I held Lu’s hand. Maria locked her arm around mine. Lu didn’t seem to mind. I’m telling you, this one is special. I leaned over and kissed her. It was Saturday night, and Fat Tuesday was still three nights away. There was going to be plenty of time to create some magical lack-of memories.
And what memorable black-outs they turned out to be. I wish I had a grandson. Someone to bedtime stories about how Grandpop used to bop. “I could really shwang dat thang, sonny boy. Before this walker, feeding tubes, and fluid drainage holes blew my game.”
To be honest, Grandpop’s memories are already vague. Trying to remember that trip has been like grasping at ghosts. I remember a few specific moments. Some of them, gentlemanly discretion prevents me from sharing here. Others are not that entertaining to relate. Can you see my quandary, dear reader. There are things I just can’t spill here in print. Not while any of the survivors are still alive and could happen upon it. They might feel like I violated a sacred trust.
I know, total cop-out, but I’m still trying to grope my way along the edge between entertaining and downright dirty. It’s tricky. Perhaps a modicum of modesty and good taste is what’s called for here. Let’s just say, it was a complete debauch, and that’s by the standards I was living then. That should tell you something. Full on, balls to the wall, sybriatic abandon. Marius, the modern Roman. Every bestial appetite gorged, feathered, vomited, and renewed.
I can tell you about how I got chased by a police horse though. I was with Lu, standing on the edge of a crowd on Bourbon Street, watching a fight between two guys. I was shouting encouragement to the smaller of the two. He kept uppercutting and missing. He needed to take a step in. He’d connect for a spinning star jackpot.
“Step up little dude!” I kept shouting.
Then the cops showed up. The ones with horses attached. I guess this fight’s over. Okay, whatever, right?
Some cops on foot rush in and grab the two guys that were fighting, while the rest sort of circle the wagons on their horses and face-off against the crowd. They looked nervous, like being surrounded by a packed crowd was making them bug a little. The horses and the cops. They start shouting orders for us to back up, but we had nowhere to back up to. We had our backs against more crowd. Nobody was throwing shit or getting involved, we just couldn’t move back.
I don’t know if he was trying to move the crowd, but a cop started charging his horse at us. Us the crowd, but me directly. I clearly remember that big horse head coming at me. Don’t get me wrong. I think horses are cool, beautiful animals, but having one charge right at me… freaked my shit out. He was a foot away when I dodged left. The horse followed me. I found myself inside the open circle. He had chased me from the safety of an anonymous crowd, out into a gladiator ring. I was now The Guy Running Away From a Cop, and thus a singular arrestable unit.
The other cops started after me. I’m bobbing, ducking and dodging police horses, with people around me cheering like it’s some convict rodeo shit. Everywhere I turned to escape a big horse head, another one was coming. There was at least four cops on horses chasing me in a space not big enough to hold a bake sale. Very Max Sennett. I thought I was done for.
Fortunately, my years of practicing not getting grabbed, paid off. I spun out of a Full Veronica pass and pivoted, and like Manolete, let a beast graze past me. Ole’! I jumped back to avoid another. I rolled my ankles and threw my hips. Ran sideways in a circle. Did the Limbo, The Swim, The Hurry, The Ice Machine. I faked and feinted, and basically juked those horses flat-hoofed. I really don’t know how I did it, but I was pretty fucking amazing. It has to rank as one of my all-time craziest things to have experienced.
I spotted Lu in the crowd. She was waving. “Get the fuck out of there!”
I dove into the crowd and burn-wormed my way deep into the safety of its bowels. She grabbed a hold of me, and pulled me away. We zig-zagged through the Mardi Gras mob and kept going until we wound up sitting in Popeye’s Chicken, laughing too hard to eat.
“I thought for sure they had you. Very impressive little dance performance you gave there, mister.”
“Well, I’m glad my Julliard training paid off. You know, all of life is a dance. It pays to keep a little twinkle in your toes.” I picked up two drum sticks and made them give a little Rockette kick. “I am so not arrested right now.”
“I’m so glad.”
Good times. Unfortunately, the next morning I had to board The Dirty Dog for the long ride home. It was Fat Tuesday, and there was still one last night of partying left, but not for me. I had to get home to my menial jobs and routine. Lu and the girls saw me off, and as the bus drove away, I actually wept a little. Honest to God. I didn’t want to leave. I remember thinking, “That was how all of life should be.” The drinking, fucking, and madness, all blendered up into a smooth and delicious concoction.
There was also something about having to leave before the party was officially over that this alcoholic found particularly distasteful. All those people having fun without me. How could they? I mean, how can they actually have fun without me around to help propel it? Unless they’re into some lame version of fun.
I reached into the gift bag Lu had given me. There was a pint of hootch with a twenty-dollar bill rubber-banded around it, a pack of Camels, a Tall Boy of Bud, a can of bean dip with some beef jerky to scoop with, two Valium wrapped in foil, and an interesting Polaroid. This girl and her gifts. She could really read your heart.
I didn’t know it then, but that would be the last time I would see Lu. I’m glad I didn’t know. I was bummed enough. My gut told me I’d probably never see her again. I had that heavy feeling. I would also miss the girls. Over the course of those days and nights of unbridled hedonistic pursuit, I had bonded with them. They were cool chicks. Not lame fun, at all. If any of you ever read this, thank you.
I looked around and snapped the cap. I took a hit and put it away. This was now just maintenance drinking. Just trying to ease the crash, which was speeding towards me like a nostril-flared horse head. I took off the plastic bead necklaces and put them in the gift bag. It’s official. The party is over.
A woman packed into a polyester pantsuit that was straining at the seams like sausage casing, sat next to me. She smelled…how can I put this delicately? With a very personal odor. Not so fresh. Dig? I turned away towards the window and started to breathe through my mouth. I could feel a wave of dread wash over me and foam out into swirling depression.
All those towns and cities, all the fellow passengers, ones that I didn’t care much for on the way down, even when I was in a decent mood, were now returning for a repeat performance. Just so I could perceive them through the lens of alcoholic melancholy. So I could scrape some soul off on their jagged edges as I crawled back by. Poisoned. Sweating. Nervous. Soul-sick and sad. I had little mental defense.
A fat man with terminal diarrhea. Some ex-cons trying to extort beers from me. Some gloryholer putting his hand on my leg. A paranoid conspiracy nut jawing my ear off. A chick with mossy teeth and butthole breath, telling me all about her adventures in 4-H.
It was brutal. Every fucking mile of it.
Detoxing on a Greyhound would soon join my all-time shittiest things to have experienced.
Ah, but I was younger and tougher then. I made it through. Amazing really. Making it through all of it. Nearly three decades of lunacy, and somehow landing softly on a feathered pillow, typing this. So not drunk. So not in prison. So not dead. Miracle? Maybe. I’m one lucky son of a bitch, alright. A deranged, danger-dodger with a frantic guardian angel.
It sure didn’t hurt to keep a little twinkle in my toes. Ole’!