Thugs Like Us: A Book Review

Thugs Like Us, John Carnell

Thugs Like Us, John Carnell

I wish I wrote it.  That’s probably the highest compliment another writer can give.  Other than I think God wrote this.  Which maybe with some pantheistic mental gymnastics, I guess I could say.  But why cloud the waters?

When John “Carnage” Carnell sent me his book, I was an easy mark–a drunken tourist stumbling down a dark alley with bills fanning out my bulging wallet.  As a confirmed Anglophile, recovering drunk, semi-reformed nihilistic criminally-inclined maniac, I was a soft-touch for his tale.

“What’s this? A story of a young UK punk’s journey through the world of late 70’s drink, drugs, violence, crime and sex?  Well, that doesn’t sound like something that would interest me.  But, I’ll try to approach it with an open mind.”

Indeed.

I burned through it once quickly.  Then hit it again, this time more slowly–making it last.  I was digging the new friends I was making; Singe, Bill, Flea, Leech, Spiney, Martin, Uggy, Julie, Oily Harry and the Rent-a-riot Crew, Johnny Oldman, Darren the Fat-shit-dog-shagger, Mum and Dad.

It was even better the second time.

A lot of times it is.

And yeah, I’ll hit it again after I recharge a bit.

What makes it so readable?   The clean lines.  Bukowski talked about getting down “the clean line.”  He preferred simple declarative sentences, stripped of all extraneous fluff and frills.  A straight shot to the jaw.  Hemingway, Fante, Vonnegut, a few others, used the simple to capture the complex.  It’s one thing to pull it off in a haiku, but to nail it in the nose, from the speeding car of narrative, takes skill.

And a clean line.

Carnell is a master of the clean line.

For this story he has to be.  As the voice of his protagonist, a working-class “world’s forgotten boy” (the one’s that searching, searching to destroy) with a nagging sensitive side, and even more troublesome fits of visionary insight, Carnell must speak for both beings.  Our hero is a nature boy at heart, who loves birds, and yet can’t help shooting at them with a pellet gun.  He can’t help destroying the things he loves.  Hmm.

The divided self.  The eternal train crash.  The big wave splash.

Jim is a good little boy, one simply overgrown by hooliganistic thughood–a persona required as an adaptation to his environment.  It’s an age-old conflict, hardly unique, but what Carnell does with it is.  His man toils with diverging impulses, surrendering to one or the other, but eventually with a mystic fatalism.  Whether he makes a good decision or a bad decision doesn’t really matter.   Whichever one it was, it was the one required.

How can I explain it?  It’s one thing to ignore certain inner warnings out of drunken foolishness, and it’s another to listen to a deeper voice that says, “Do it.  Things will be bad, but everything will turn out okay anyway.”  It takes a deeper faith not to play hooky from your dharma.  To understand that something from the experience is required.  Regardless of how unpleasant.  As part of a bigger picture.

I know for a fact that if Carnell hadn’t made a shit-load of bad decisions, he wouldn’t have met his wife, and still love of his life, Julie.  Stuff like that really takes the sting out of your fuck-ups.  It does out of mine.  And this one time, I fucked up.

And now things are okay.

Win/win.

Eventually the intuitive mystic and the bat-chain-pulling hell-raiser stop arm-wrestling each other.  And join together in mutual purpose.

But you’re not going to approach that threshold without some internal argument.  Albeit sometimes, a very subtle one–your ultimate decision being made aeons earlier.

Tricky little high-wire act to pull off.  To capture both voices.  And then bring them together.  Synthesize them.  In the written word.

Lolling lapses into purple-trimmed prose are never going to ring true from a lad whose head seems to serve only to break beer glasses and pool cues against.  But in Carnell’s simple, work-a-day blue-collar language, things are described simply as they are, as they happen.  Clouds move across the sky.  The sea sprays.  Birds appear.  People talk.  A fire-extinguisher is thrown through a window.  A pint glass orbits the earth.

There’s beauty everywhere.  No matter what.

He knows how to use words, but he also knows how to use the spaces between those words. In so doing, the mystical and mysterious creep through, unannounced, like flowers through a sidewalk crack. Or the smell of bacon and eggs wafting through a rent-controlled apartment complex.  Without a lot of stress and strain, spiritual beauty is made accessible to every class of citizen, no matter how wretched.

At least to those that take time to pay attention to the spaces.  In between.

It takes a lot of discipline for a writer to leave those spaces.  And trust.  Trust that the reader will meet him on the corner, at the time you both agreed on.  But when that happens, and the deal goes down right, it’s one of the best feelings ever.

I showed up.  I scored.  And it was some good shit.

Thugs Like Us is available through Amazon in “Big Fucking Book” size.  Big enough to smite with, if circumstances warrant, and a masterpiece of sub-culture literature.  Win/win.  http://www.amazon.com/Thugs-Like-Us-John-Carnell/dp/1480203467/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363331904&sr=8-1&keywords=thugs+like+us   Strongly suggested.  Cult-classic status.
Also check out, Johnny’s blogula  @ http://wordpress.com/#!/read/blog/id/34992392/  It’s a gas, gas, gas.
Mad Lord Thuggington, John Carnell

Mad Lord Thuggington, John Carnell

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Failure As A Viable Option

Stands for so much more than Failure.

Stands for so much more than Failure.

God bless those crazy door-kickers, men for whom failure is not an option.  They’re fighting a war.  They can’t afford to fail.  Not me.  Failure is not only an option, but quite often, a much easier one.  It’s certainly easier than trying not to fail.

So yeah, you probably don’t want me on your night HALO drop team.  I’m the guy who’s so pissed-off about the snack machine taking my change that I forget to pack my chute.

Thank God there’s a difference between hostage rescue and putting out a weekly blog.  Smart of me to seek the latter gig.  Found myself a niche with a lot of slack.  Failure is not going to ruin my week.  Maybe the week-end.  And Monday.  But that’s it.

It was three-thirty Saturday morning and I had finished my little piece.  I read it over and decided I hated it.  “I hate it,” I said out loud.  Like it was a big awaited announcement to wake up my cats with.  They didn’t seem to give a flying fur ball.

Anyway, I didn’t push publish, and went up to bed.  Yes, I had failed, but somehow corn will still genetically mutate in the fields and cyclops children will continue to be born in the Ukraine.

The show will go on.

However, to be very honest,  I was a little pissed.  Pissed at myself mostly, but with a sprinkling of pissed-at-the-world-in-general.  No specific gripe, just a blanket resentment.  Just the sort of blanket you want to snuggle up to as you slide into your dream state.  For a good night of sleep.  After you read a little bit about Mexican prison gangs.

As I drifted off that night, I repeated a little affirmation, “I failed, because that’s what failures do best, and I am the best.”

Nighty-night.

I had a dream I was playing chess with my old film professor, Fred Karetski.  We were on stage in front of an auditorium audience.  When I looked down at the game I noticed my pieces were checkers while old Fred had a combination of chess pieces and what looked like over-sized Monopoly markers.  What the fuck?  I didn’t understand exactly how, but it appeared he had an advantage.  His big pewter shoe probably had more killing power than a red checker.

How exactly do you play this game?  I had no clue.  I didn’t even know if it was my turn.  And was too embarrassed to ask.

The place is pin-drop quiet.

I’m freaking out, but Karetski is just hanging loose, absentmindedly applying and re-applying Chapstick like he always did.  This little display of oral fixation would bug the shit out of me back then and did now. Partly to take the opportunity to vent my spleen, and partly to distract the audience from my obvious ineptitude, I decided to call him out on it.  I’ll save this situation with an inspired diversionary rant.

“You and that bullshit Chapstick, Karetski. Maybe you should give it a rest.  Personally I don’t believe in Chapstick.  I don’t even believe in chapped lips.  I mean I believe they exist, but not that they’re a problem big enough to go to the store and buy a cherry-flavored wax tube to rub around on them.  If chapped lips are such a big problem for you, then you don’t have enough problems.  You need your cities bombed while you feed on vermin.  You want a good way to deal with chapped lips?  Ignore them, and after a while they will un-chap.  They fucking always do, Freddy Boy. So maybe it’s time for you to scrape the protective and soothing emollient from your fat greasy lips…and man up.”

He reaches into his pocket.  Pulls out the stick, pops off the cap, and starts smearing.  He puts the cap back on and smacks his lips.

“Your move,” he says, grinning.

I woke up the next morning more tired than when I went to bed.  Lori was still sleeping.  I tried to walk downstairs while the two cats figure-eighted between my legs in a pre-feeding frenzy of affection.  We looked like a Balinese circus act.

“That’s very cute, you little fuckers.  You’re going to make me break my neck.”

I made it to the kitchen and started the coffee.  Then I opened a can of cat food.  For the cats.

I watched them eat while I waited for the coffee.  I tried to look for the positive.  Let’s see.  I said “I hate it,” instead of “This sucks.”  That means I wasn’t saying the article was bad, just that I thought it was.  That shows a little discernment.

Just speeding your way up the rungs of your spiritual ladder, aren’t you?  I poured myself a large cup.

What else?  Anything else positive I can take away from this experience?

Nope.  All tapped out.  I went outside to water the garden.  I’ve been lax about watering this winter and some of the plants died.  Sorry everybody.  Sorry I neglected you to the point of killing you.  And shit.

All form is transitive.  Without this fact there could be no sorrow.  Well, at least not without fixating on that fact.

I pointed the hose at the two rose bushes for a while.   Then I stood over the gardenias and let it soak.  Watering my Garden of Sorrow.

It’s only a blog, for crissake’s.  Why do you make a big deal about missing a self-imposed deadline?  It’s not like some big sweaty city editor is shouting his scotch breath into your eyeballs for missing it.  So why are you?

Because I’m insane.  We’ve gone over this.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  When I can’t write, I can’t be.  And I don’t want to fail at being.  It’s airtight.

I gave the poinsettias a little splash.  They grew too crazy last year.  The leaves were freakishly large.  Land of the Lost large.  They gave Lori the creeps.  Me too, kind of.  Paper plate-sized leaves you picture a Stegosaurus snacking on.   Yeah, that’s enough water for you guys.  I walked the hose over to the other planter.

Everything but the bush with purple leaves was dead.  You couldn’t kill that thing.  Cut it down to the stump twice and it always grew back bushier than before.   I watered it.  A little reward for perseverance.

“Good boy.  Fuck those pansy annuals.  Drink up.”

I put the hose away and went inside.  Lori had come downstairs.

“Hey, how are you?  Did you publish?”

“Nah.  I didn’t like it.”

“Oh.  How are you feeling?”

“I’m alright.  It’ll take more than that to kill me.”

I poured myself another cup of coffee and sat down at the computer.  I re-read the piece.  It was okay.  It needed some smoothing out, but was salvageable.  I might have been a little too hard on it.  It wasn’t a complete failure.

I guess nothing ever is.

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.

Apocalypse Much Later, Chapter 1.

To The Apocalypse!

I broke through the window and started to reach for the can of beans sitting on a hot plate, when I saw the bare wires.  Hmm.  I followed them up the wall to a marine battery on a shelf.  They wouldn’t leave them bare if they were using it to power the burner.  They would have at least taped them down, but they were dangling loose.

Nasty little trap for the looter?  Was there a clacker ready to spark a surprise?  I should have known.  Nobody showcases a can of beans like that.  Not in the window of an trailer.  Unless it’s rigged to something loud and bright.

“Dude, give me your crutch.”

Marko gimped over and handed it to me.  I pulled off the rubber skid plug and took a hit.

“Sssssweeeet Satan’s asshole, that buuurnsssss!”

Liquid fire scorched its way down.  Artichoke brandy.  Gnarly shit.  We had come across a flipped-over truck full of artichokes.  The driver was dead and didn’t seem to mind us helping ourselves.  We gorged on artichokes for days.  We didn’t want to waste fuel boiling them, so we just ate them raw.  I was crapping out fuzz for weeks.

Anyway, after we got sick of eating tough, spiny leaves and fur, we decided to make shine.  Marko had set up a rig and cooked up a batch of choke-brew.  We used pieces of broken laminated furniture, and bags of dried dog shit we had collected to fire the still.   The final product was a little disappointing in the taste department, but scored high marks in the effect department.  Special effects actually.  We agreed there was a slight hallucinogenic quality to it.  Above and beyond the pinch of Jimsonweed he added.

Some mild, color enhancement.  A pleasant vibratory blur.  Time donuts.  No big deal.  But, a nice little extra.  Who would of thought?

“I intuit the can is rigged.  Probably a load of Jolly Time,” I told him, “You think I should give it a poke?”

Marko peered in.

“They’re using a lot of juice.  Might not mean anything though.  If it does, that plate is pressured, for sure.”

“I think I should give it a poke.”

He uncorked the crutch, took a hit and handed it back.

“Poke it.”

I took the crutch and poked.   As soon as the can rolled off the hot plate, it blew.   I felt the blast flatten my face.  I saw white light.  Then some flashing, lilac shapes that looked like those Christian fish.  That’s all I saw for a while.  What is this?  Why is this?  When I opened my eyes I saw Marko’s screaming face surrounded by white puffy clouds of smoke.  He’s in heaven, I thought.  He made it.

My ears were ringing and I felt something hot in my cheek.  I was holding half a crutch with blue flames dripping off the end.  Marko cupped both hands around his mouth and yelled at me.

“ARE…YOU…ALRIGHT?”

I wasn’t sure, but didn’t want to look like a pussy so I smiled and tried to give him a thumbs up.

That’s when I saw I didn’t have a thumb.

This whole Apocalypse thing was turning out to be a major drag.

Marko and I were much more prepared for Y2K, or what we both now referred to as The Great Disappointment.   Society was supposed to collapse because people’s computers couldn’t go to eleven.  We were psyched.  A world gone mad was right where two dudes like us belonged.

We began to arm ourselves.  Pretty much ten years earlier, but now, we had even more reason to pick up some pieces we felt we needed.  You know, to fill the holes in our collection.  When you catch a gun sickness, there’s never enough.  There’s always one more you need.

Over-under .410 derringer?  Oh hell yes.  Just the last resort back-up my imagination could see myself desperately needing.   Some riverboat card game gone south.  For those times.   The camping survival rifle that folds up in your lunch box.  Check.  These two semi-autos just for flashing in front of the bathroom mirror while playing Taxi Driver.  Check and check.  You looking at me?

They all make sense.  A Japanese carbine that takes ammunition that doesn’t exist anymore?  Of course.  In case you ever run across a surplus.  You’ll have the gun to shoot it.  Blunderbuss?   Trench mortar?  Gatling gun?  The answer is always the same.  Oh hell yes.  After all, you never know.  Pretty soon it’s time for bigger gun safe.

Marko and I built up a pretty good collection.  We had some other supplies, but we didn’t worry too much about that.  We had enough guns and ammo to get more supplies.  We grew up on the Mad Max movies.  We knew how you parlayed power in a society that is reduced to eating it’s dead.  Gone is the glass ceiling that held maniacs like us down.  We’d finally have some room for advancement.

Unfortunately for us, society didn’t collapse in 1999.  Little by little, over the years. we pawned-off our armory for beer money.  By the time the Great Shit Hit, we were caught flat-footed.  We wound up with nothing but a .22 caliber target plinker, and a ceremonial sword that was used for Freemason rituals.  We decided to take turns carrying the gun.  I’d get the pistol on odd days and on even ones, I got stuck with the sword.

It really sucked.  It wasn’t like we had pictured.  In fact, this whole End of the World deal, was not what we were hoping for.  Sure, being able to smash into a vending machine to grab all the tasty cake snacks and gum you can carry is fun.  But you never realize that you might be doing it while a tooth rots in your head, or a cyst, that simple antibiotics could get rid of, is starting to fester.  Making  your underarm smell fetid.

We soaked a rag in some Angostura Bitters from a bottle we scavenged from a looted drug store.  All the other booze had been carried off, but people tend to overlook Angostura Bitters, because they were considered just a drink condiment.  Something  to tap out a few drops of in order to add character and depth to the flavor of certain mixed drinks.  They didn’t think of chugging down three bottles in a row on a vacant stomach.  Or carrying the bottles in a bandolero.  To have them handy during particularly hairy shoot-outs.  To calm the nerves.  They didn’t know how awesome Angostura Bitters could be.

Lucky for us they didn’t.  In fact, that was the luckiest thing to happen to me and Marko since the world really shit the bed.  It’s been pretty much bad luck, unabated, since.  So every time we found a bottle, while rooting around some smashed up grocery or liquor store, was met with great joy.  Great joy over bitters.  Bitter dregs.

I wrapped my hand with the rag and embraced the burn as best I could.  What a waste of 40 percent.  Bitters was a rough buzz, but they did the trick.  Drinking straight bitters was to drinking, what smoking bong tar was to weed.  A head-achy, murky buzz, but a buzz nevertheless.  And, in an extreme emergency, you could put a few drops in to flavor a whiskey sour, or to fight off infection from a blown off thumb.  Pretty versatile shit.

We had carefully gone through the still-smoking trailer.  There was nothing really in there of value, besides the marine battery and a deck of Bettie Page playing cards.  Whoever had been there had moved out and on.  They left the beans under black powder and ball bearings just to be dicks.  I didn’t get that.  I mean, what good is me having a disposable thumb going to do them?  Except to make them feel better they’re not me.  I guess I kind of get that.

Total waste of beans, though.

We hiked up our back packs and continued our trek west, to the sea.  We heard the ocean had turned red, just like the Bible said it would.  There was also talk about bodies of mermaid people washing up on the shores.  We had to check that shit out.  If we could get there without too many more body parts getting blown off, it would be a nice get-away.  Surf and sand.  Fun and sun.  Not to mention barnacles, sea weed and sand dollars to feast on.  Funny how you crave minerals and nucleic acids when you go without them for a few years.  You just crave kelp.

Something to take the edge off the radiation sickness.

We had this dream of one day opening up a seafood shack/trading post, featuring sea-gull on a stick.  Marko would run the bar, and I would put on a nightly show featuring my wry comments and oddball observations on everyday life in hell.   Maybe a woman or two would show up.  Someone we could bribe with our barnacles and bird on a stick.  Use food to buy human comfort.  Maybe someday start a sex cult.

Big dreams alright, but we were still outside Castorville, CA., so they would have to wait.  We had decided to cross the Central Valley of California on our march to the sea.  The abundance of agriculture, even when left untended, would sustain us through the trek.  We would be like The Gleaners in that old French painting.  We’d stuff ourselves vegan with kale and beets.  After that, it was just a matter of plinking-off rodents and birds for protein, and drinking water from the radiators of abandoned cars.  Marko had these PVC pipes packed with charcoal that would filter the water, as he put it, “pretty okay.”  Pretty okay would have to do.

My big invention was the stick sack.  I devised a way to hang a sack off my belt.  I would pick up sticks for firewood, and put them in the sack.  The stick sack.  The one I invented.  So we were both adding our own particular skills and knowledge to this partnership.  This grand endeavor.

“How’s your ankle, bitch?”

“I am very happy about it.”

Marko was using a plank as a crutch.  I could see his boot all swollen out.  He rolled the ankle about a month and a half ago.  Just trucking through a  parking lot of some mall ruins.  Crunch.  It was one of those things that could’ve happened even in normal times.  The problem was in normal times you could lay up a few days until the swelling goes down.  We didn’t have that luxury.  We had to remain moving targets.  Lots of different marauding bands out here.

All kinds of urban street gangs were migrating out to rural environs, and mutating into their own brands of evil.  There were cholos in mule-drawn low-riders that were big into Aztec human sacrifice.  Black gangs into medieval torture.  Escaped prisoners.  Biker gangs. Vigilantes.  Sex-slavers.  All the basic characters of an average Bethesda video game.  Bad eggs.  One and all.

Then there were the Pappy Parkers.  They were the scariest.   Gun nuts.  Survivalists.  Outdoorsmen.  These fiends had been salivating at the thought of society blowing out a colon.  Sound familiar?  They had been preparing for this for a long time.  And they didn’t sell off all their cool shit at Pawn City.  Yeah.  We envied them.   They could pan for gold, fish, trap, and hunt.  They always had huge stockpiles of ammo, supplies and food.  Gas masks.  K-rations.  MRE’s.  Soviet army trench shovels.  Those little pellets you light to heat up a cup of water.  Instead of pieces of tire, like Marko and I used.

Their thing was to take you out with a black powder musket or cross-bow.  They did it for sport, and to  save the real ammo for something more significant.  If they managed to wound you, they’d drag you back to their camp and make you guest of honor at their picnic lynch.  Then have some taxidermist mount you.  With everyone else in line behind him.

Fuck those guys.  I was itching to catch one of them on the clavicle with my 33d Degree Grand Master’s sword.  Bring down the wrath of Jachim and Boaz.  Maybe while he was taking a piss at night.  Outside their circled RV compound.  I’d take all his cool shit.  Get me a Confederate hat or a German helmet.  Goggles.  Cowboy holster.  A real gun.

That was a pipe dream.  We gave those fuckers wide berth.   The best you could hope for was to come across a pile of them after a government gunship torched them into beef jerky.  Pick through the smoldering wreckage for souvenirs.  That’s how I got this compass with a whistle.  It was all there was left.   It was never much of fight between the government and those dudes.  When it comes down to guns you bought from Big 5 sporting goods or a gun show at the fair grounds, against a battery of Hellfire rockets, well…

Being good at paintball and Civil War reenactments, hardly qualifies you as a force to be reckoned with on the modern battlefield.

It gave me a strange comfort  that somebody else had their Apocalypse fantasy turn to shit.  That’s one thing I learned about fantasies.  They can only exist, if you don’t think them through.  You never picture yourself being chop-sawed in half by a hot blade of depleted uranium while your pop gun dangles its cork.  Why would you even entertain that?  It would be a drag.  So having an A-TK M230 chain gun rip up a dirt road, spitting bullets through their crotch, wasn’t what a lot of those dudes were expecting.  Not when they were having their Red Dawn dreams of glory.

Anyway, just because they didn’t pose much of a threat to government forces, didn’t mean they didn’t pose a threat to our sorry, unprepared asses.  We tried to avoid them as best we could.  In fact, later that day, we got caught in a huge open field, and had to lie in a drainage ditch for almost an hour, waiting while one of their long convoys of horse-drawn Winnebagos and Airstreams clopped by.  Probably on their way to find a suitable oasis to set up one of their flea market tented cities.  A place to trade crafts, and establish a new religion.  One that allows marrying children.

They did have women though.  Pale and chubby creatures with floppy freckled breasts.  Women who quilted bandages and crocheted warm camouflage ponchos and lap-warmers.  Women who baked cinnamon rolls and bundt cake for the men.  We could see them working in the kitchens inside the RVs and trailers as they passed.   We could smell their sweet buns.  I quietly rolled over to Marko.

“Hungry?” I whispered.

He smiled and indicated something with a nod.  I looked over and saw a large woman through one of the trailer windows.  The rough road was jostling her around.  Making it all shake and jiggle.

I raised an eyebrow and grinned.   I turned back to Marko and nodded.  Me too.  I rolled over and went back to being invisible…and smelling cinnamon buns.  Funny how you crave dough…after you haven’t had it for a few years.

Night was coming.  We decided to stop and set up camp in a dried river wash.  Marko took a look at my hand.  He said I would probably live long enough to regret more stuff, then washed the wound with the last of our precious bottled water.  He wrapped another bitters-soaked bandage around it.

“Do you want some aspirin?”

My hand hurt like hell, but we only had three  left.

“Nah,” I said, “Let save it in case one of us gets really hurt.””

“That’s what this is for,” he said, pointing the pistol to his head.  “Come on, dude, take one.  I’m serious. ”  He held one out in his hand.

I looked down at it.  A simple aspirin.  Now looking very much like an Morphine drip.  A shot of Demerol.  But only one of three left in the entire universe.  Do you do it?  Or save it, and have something to live for?  The pain is now, but later pain could be worse without it.  Is some less bad now, worth more bad later?  What if he winds up needing it?   The ankle.  I’ll feel like shit.  Jesus, I don’t know.

“We’ll find more, dude, c’mon.”

He was being righteous.  I took it out of his palm.

“I’ll hold on to it.”

We had picked up a few pockets full of Brussels sprouts earlier that day.  We poked them through some car antennas and toasted them over small fire.  We leaned back against some big rocks.  The sky was clear, and the stars were out.  We ate our burned bulbs in silence.

“These things taste like farts,” I told him, “I always thought that about Brussels sprouts.”

“Taste this,” Marko said,  lifting a cheek and gassing one. “See if it tastes like Brussels sprouts.”

He did his evil guffaw.  I always loved hearing that.  I had set him up for it this time.   I knew he’d take the bait.  We stared at the fire.  Really quiet.  No helicopters out tonight.

“You know what I really miss?”

“Hot buttered cinnamon buns, stuffed in mom jeans,” he said, spiking another Brussels sprout on the antenna.

“Besides that.  No, fabric softener.  I  miss fabric softener.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I just started using it a few months before everything went to hell, when I figured out you could pour it into that… thing in that compartment, in the middle of the machine.  I always thought you had to wait for the rinse cycle before you could pour it in.  So I never wanted to deal with that bullshit.”

“What compartment?”

“Uh, in the middle of the thing that spins back and forth.”

“The agitator.”

“Yeah, there’s a place to pour it in, so the softener gets dispersed during the rinse cycle.  You don’t have to stand around and listen for it.”

“No shit.  I didn’t know about that.”

“Yeah.  I had some really fresh-smelling laundry there for a while.  It smelled like how they always talked about in the commercials. ”

“Uh.”

Marko looked tired.  He was barely holding his eyelids up.  I had seen that look before, plenty of times, but this was just out of exhaustion.

“Anyway, I really miss that smell.”

“Uh.”

He lifted his cheek, but nothing came out.  I could see it irritated him to miss the cue.  Great time to ask something like, “Do you miss this smell?” But he whiffed.  One more try.

“The smell was very artificial, but in a pleasant way.” I went on, “The smell of laundry softener is one of those rare, man-created things that didn’t totally blow.”

He didn’t even try that time.  He must be fading.

I didn’t want him going to sleep just yet.  He was my entertainment system.  He was the only person I ever talked to these days, besides myself.  And I was pretty sick of listening to myself.

“Hell, dude, sometimes I even miss standing in line at the D.M.V.  I mean, even though you were surrounded by terrible people, at least they weren’t trying to turn you into a skin drum set, or sell you off into slavery.  They were just awful to look at.  Small distress when I think about it now.  And at least being there meant you had a vehicle to deal with.  Even if it was trying to get it registered with no proof of ownership.  Right?”

He was out.  Cold.

It was back to just me for a while.  I felt my mood dip.  I had nobody to distract me from the pain in my hand.  I tried to watch Mexican television in my head.  I imagined long-legged Latinas jumping around in bathing suits while a guy in a dog costume played the accordion, but I always wound up thinking about gangrene and amputation instead.

I broke down and took the aspirin.  We will find more.  Have faith in things unseen.  I popped it with a hit of bitters.  I punched up my sleeping bag and climbed in.   I looked up at the stars and did what I always did, searched the night sky for UFOs.  I’d lie there and think.  C’mon, dudes.  Get us off this fucking thing.  I want you to teach me about inter-dimensional travel.  I’ll teach you how to make a stick sack.

Most of the time, I just saw the stars, but they were comfort enough.  I was glad they were still there.   Looking exactly as they did when I was a little kid.  They made me feel good back then, and they still did.  Sometimes you have to look to eternity for any sense of stability.  I felt my eyes start to close.

Hope, by Dave Gurz, 2012

Writer’s Block And Tackle

I got nothing.  I’ve been staring at a blank screen for a while now.  I wish it were metaphoric.  I’d be happier.  Maybe it is, and I will be happier when I realize it.   As it is, up until less than one minute ago, it was literal.  Then I had to start typing something.  Might as well type about not typing.

Okay.  That’s over.  Now what?

I guess I’ll write about what I just wrote.  Attention everyone, I wrote something earlier even though I had nothing to write.  There.  Okay, now just keep going.  One sentence at a time.  It’s got to lead somewhere.  Hopefully fruitful, but at this point, I don’t give a rat’s ass.  As long as I don’t delete all this, it’s a start.  Let’s see if I delete it.

Nope.  No such luck.  Looks like I’m committed now.  Here we go.  I don’t feel good about this.

One of the things I liked about drinking was it helped me get over these stuck points.  Drink enough and you become a fucking genius, and everything you write is brilliant.  Until you read it in the morning.  If you’re lucky, you might be able to salvage a paragraph here or a sentence there.  Sometimes I would go back, into the scrap yard, and weld some loose, working parts together.  I’d come up with something, and label the abomination, “Post-Post Modern Lit.”

Nothing left to do after that, but stand back and see if the hipsters salute it.

Most of the time, those scraps of paper got trampled underfoot,  and were left to sop up beer and broken glass.  They never saw the light of day.

And the reading public was better off.

Regardless, without drinking, I wouldn’t have had even those mutilated parts to cobble together.  I needed something to silence The Voice That Hates Everything, just long enough to get something, anything, down on paper.  There’s actually a window.  You’re drunk enough not to listen to The Critic, but not too drunk to coherently do anything about it.  It’s a sliver of time.  If I hit it just right I could bang out some decent shit before the aperture closed.  And The Moron took over

I once heard of this writer that was an alcoholic.  Yeah, I know.  Crazy shit.  But I trust the source.  If you are one, I don’t need to explain how alcohol can facilitate the creative process.  You guys know.  Get one us drunk, and you are going to witness some original thinking.  Bold even.
Ideas not hemmed in by bullshit like reason or meaning.  Or fear of social rejection.

When your diving board is that springy, you’re bound to get a good bounce.  Where you land, is not as important as how much air you catch.  A belly flop into a drained pool is still better than sitting on a chaise lounge.  It’s certainly a better story to write about.

This one time I belly-flopped into a drained pool.  Okay, not true.  But it seems like something that could have happened.  Can I just write about stuff the could have happened?  I can write a whole story that climaxes with a dive into concrete.  Seems me.

That also seems like too much work for tonight.   Too creative.

I just want this screen to magically fill itself with words.

So far it’s working.

Okay, I shouldn’t have said that.

Now nothing again…

…for longer than you’ll know.

Tunes.  I need tunes.  Time to put some Billy Childish on the old I-Podular unit.  That always help loosen me up a bit.  Some bad-toothed Brit spitting out the words.  Mad Billy.  The Churl of Chatham.  One of Thatcher’s bastard children.  Doesn’t give a flying fuck.  Snarling cur.  Pissed drunk.  Pissed-off.  Grab a face.  Hurl a gob.  Knee a groin.  Rebellion and riot.  Boots and pint glasses smashing into your skull while a bird in white leather blows you a pink lipstick kiss, then jabs a pool cue in your eye.  Action.  Adventure.  Romance.

It’s not working.  I’m not feeling it.

I feel like putting on a Snuggy and watching a cable show about luxury RV’s.  Going through my closet and getting together a pile for St. Vincent DePaul.  Organizing my dumb-bells in the garage, in descending order, by weight.  Anything but writing now.

However, according to the WordPress Word-O-Meter, I’ve got 733 words.  Just a few more, and all this can be over.

Let’s see…this one time, in my past, something really funny happened.  I’m not in the mood to remember any particular instance, or even make one up.  But if I did, hoo-boy!  What laffs we would have.  We’d be pissing our pants.  Imagine how awesome that would be.

That added some words.  Come on.  Dig deep.

Why am I even doing this?  What’s the point?  What’s my motivation?  Not fortune and fame.  Not on WordPress.  Why this compulsion to write, even when I don’t have anything?

My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Wagner (who was totally hot) was the first person to encourage me to write.  She told me I had talent and that if I applied myself to it, I could go far.  Yep.  Yeppy yep yep.  She was so right.  If I applied myself.

She was my first muse.  Man, I had a crush on her.  I remember holding her hand when I was line monitor.  It was cool, white and chalky.  Holding it gave me intensely weird feelings.  The fact it was attached to a married woman made the medicine even more strange, more potent.  An attraction to females and danger was already reaching out through those cool, white chalkies.  The loving hands of death.

I wound up writing stories just so she would read them.  They always featured me as some sort of heroic force of nature.  I wanted to impress her.  Make her think I was something more than I was.  Working as my own publicist, you might say.  Anyway, she’d give them back with some positive comments and maybe one of her red-inked smiley faces.  Heady shit for a fourth-grader.  It meant she bought the lie, and maybe I had a chance.

It seems that writing was my earliest attempt at seduction.   Good thing I never tried that again.

942 words.  Almost there.  Maybe I’m already there.  I can just end this shit right now.  Kill it.  A little zinger and The End.  Make it a short one.  For a change.

I dunno.  I think it’s going to fart itself out here pretty soon.  Let’s poke it along and see if we can get it to crawl some more.

I had this gig once, writing a weekly column for a local paper in Santa Fe.  They paid forty bucks an article.  The deadline was noon Monday mornings.  I didn’t have a computer those days, so it’s not like I could just press send from the old home office.  Even if I could, there would be no point in sending something that didn’t exist.  I hadn’t spent the week-end working on an article.  I spent the weekend turning the old home office into a den of iniquity.  One filled with enough wretched excess and moral decay to have made Caligula uncomfortable.

Too busy living life to its fullest, baby, to be scribbling bullshit on paper.

On Monday morning, I’d be lying close to death from having lived so fully.  I’d stare up at the ceiling.  What the fuck am I going to write?  I was too poisoned to handle a pen and paper.  I would word-process the column in my head, in between vomiting and sipping canned beer.  Cheap, rancid shit.  Stuff that made you puff sewer gas out of your pores.  I’d be moving paragraphs around in my head.  Trimming sentences.  Inserting jokes.  Sweating and stinking.  Sprawled out on a stained mattress.  Trying really hard to be a genius.

For forty bucks.

Some mornings I wasn’t sure if I was going to live, but I was sure I wasn’t going to miss that deadline.  Or the forty bucks.  I never did.  It was my last vestige of responsibility and I clung to it tenaciously.  I’d get on my stolen bicycle with no seat, and peddle down to The Reporter.  I’d borrow somebody’s computer and bang out what I had in my head, while also trying to hold my alcohol smell in.  Tapping away, taking really shallow breaths.  Not wanting everyone in the office to know what a drunk I was.  Even though that’s what the article was about.  Genius.

Shit, that was hard.  This is easy.  We’re already at 1298 words and I haven’t broken a sweat.

Back then I needed a deadline.  Sometimes I would set up a reading, knowing it would force me to write.  If I didn’t have an ax hovering, I’d blow off the work at the first sign of a stall.  Whereas if I had a performance looming, I’d stick with it, and try to power through.  I had to come up with something.  The reading was in three hours.  And still, I would procrastinate.

I’d be burning it to the last minute.  One time, I actually finished a piece after I took the stage.  Wrote the last words after I sat down on the chair and opened a beer.  I’d have all these papers stuffed into a briefcase, sheets flying out everywhere, and the audience would think it was part of the shtick.  Fine by me.  Let them think this was performance art.  The truth was that I was totally unorganized and flying by the seat of my pished keks.

I wound up losing the part I had just wrote, that same night.  It was amazing.  I finished writing it up there on stage, set it down, and read some older pieces.  Things were rolling along.  Then I decided to lay the fresh one on them.  Hot off the presses this one, kids.  I get halfway through, and realize I can’t find the last sheet.

That’s funny.  I just wrote it.  I’m going through the whole briefcase while the audience waits, but it is gone, gone, gone.  I’m totally baffled.  I mean I didn’t go anywhere.  I was on stage the whole time.  So where could I have misplaced it?  Somewhere between here and here.  When was the last time you saw it?  When I was sitting right here.

Performance art?  Or just train wreck?  I’ll never tell.

I always wanted to see how close I could cut things.  Let me tell you, I could cut them wahfer theen.

There was a place in LA, called Al’s Bar, over by Little Tokyo.  They had an open mike on Thursdays.  Some friends and I would pile in the car and drive south.  We’d take turns going up to do something.  Didn’t much matter what.  It was for our own enjoyment.  The idea that we were up there “performing” something in front of an audience, was a pretty good rush.  But, it was even better if you could push the envelope.  Redefine what constitutes entertainment.  Get esoteric.  Make people wonder about you.  Provoke thought.

Scare the hell out of yourself.

One night, I decided I wanted to try an experiment.  I wanted to see what would come out of me if I had absolutely nothing prepared.  Nothing.  Just get up there and see what rolls out.  I’d create a vacuum in my psyche and hope something would fill it…at the very last minute.  Something interesting was bound to happen.  No matter what.  Maybe I’d even learn something.

I learned something alright.  I learned that I was fucking crazy.

As the evening proceeded, and my turn got closer, I started feeling some apprehension.  Maybe I should have some back-up, in case I can’t come up with anything.

And ruin the integrity of the experiment?  You idiot.  The whole point of this would be destroyed.  You’d be left doing something pointless.  We can’t have that.   Sufficiently penitent, I pushed any ideas away and tried to sit in mental void.  As best I could.

The place was noisy. There were people in the other room talking at the bar and shooting pool.  They weren’t paying attention to what was going on in the little show room.  In the performance space, there were probably thirty or so people.  All watching the terrible spectacle that is an open mike night.  Most of them were on the sign-up list to perform.  So you can imagine how pathetic.  How brutally dreadful.

That night, I couldn’t take comfort in how terrible the other acts before me were.  I didn’t know if my shit would be any better.  After all, I didn’t even know what my shit was.

Just be here.  Don’t think.  Stay present.

I was pretty awake by the time they called my name.  Not really able to anesthetize myself, at even dive bar prices, I was far too sober to enjoy the experience.  I always had stage-fright, but that night it seemed particularly acute.  The Fear had coiled in my gut and was constricting my throat.  Why was I doing this?  Nobody held a gun.  This was all my idea.  Of fun.

Why would I do this to me?

I got up and introduced myself.  I adjusted the mike, and looked down at it.  I stared deep into the meshed metal wire.  I really had nothing.  Nothing.  I clearly remember thinking, “Okay, I’m fucking out of here.”  I just stood there and checked out.  Evaporated.  My soul had left the building, leaving an empty husk staring at the mike.  Silence.  Then…

“I WANT TO FUCK YOUR MOTHER!!!”

I watched myself say it, from about two feet behind and above.  Sort of floating above it all.  Me looking at me.  I wasn’t too thrilled with what I was seeing.  The whole bar had gone pin-drop silent.  The people in the next room stopped talking and shooting pool.  Everyone was staring at me.  I guess that was good.  I had gotten everyone’s attention.  Or at least whatever possessed me did.  Good way to do it.  Although it seemed a little drastic.  No warming up the crowd with some friendly patter and a reminder to tip the waitress and bartender.  No.  Just cut to the chase.  Let everybody know what you would like to do to their mother.

Oh man.

Now I really didn’t know what to say.

Well, I wasn’t about to return into my body.  Not while I had to deal with this telling everyone I wanted to fuck their mother situation.  I decided that whoever yelled out that shit in the first place, could have the mike.  Maybe they can get us out of this, but I wanted no part of it.

It seems the invading spirit had some more things to say, some other pronouncements to make, because I was up there for the entire five-minute allotment.  I can’t remember any of it.  Not even right afterwards.  I had blacked-out.  And not my normal version.  It was strange.  I do remember people laughing.  Then afterwards, people clapping and cheering, and some guy wanting to buy me a beer.  Which I was nice enough to allow.

My friends said I did well, but I didn’t trust them.  I figured they had to say that.  I certainly didn’t want to press the investigation.  I never asked them what I had actually said up there, beyond the fabulous ice-breaker.  I really didn’t want to know.   My scientific investigation was over.  While many questions remained (like what happened)  I was able to come to some firm conclusions.

If you create a vacuum, something will fill it.  Whatever it was, in my case, got some dude to buy me a beer.  That was enough to label the entire experiment a resounding success.  It also helped my stage fright.  I was never as nervous after that night.  Maybe there’s some facing your fears message in there, but I don’t see it.

Oh shit, we’re at 2676 words.  That’s more than enough.  Okay, let’s wrap this fucker up fast.  Uh, yeah, things happened, blah blah, everything turned out cool, blah blah.  Explain some valuable insights.  Some lessons learned.  Maybe some shit about letting go and the creative process, or the entertainment value of demonic possession.  Ask some big questions.  Give few real answers.  Toss in a general observation.  Pair it with a specific absurdity.  Come up with a clever reference to something earlier in the piece, then a pithy popper to cork it.  This bitch is done.

And I had nothing.

Working on my article for Monday.

Unplugged Thug

I was downloading Kindle for PC when the computer shit the bed.  Two days earlier, I had downloaded updates from Sprint that ruined my phone.  Now this.  I was already a little freaked about getting a virus from going bareback for a week or two after the security expired.  Instead of re-subscribing right away, I thought, fuck it, let’s live on the edge again, if only in this greatly watered-down way.  How about some of that reckless youthful disregard for common sense that created your legend, huh?  Just for old time’s sake.

Hell, I wasn’t going to be downloading midget lesbian porn from Romania.  I was going to be a good cyber-citizen.  I’d stick to WordPress, Facebook, and whatever links on those.  Besides, I didn’t need to be paying some place to protect me from something I’m not even sure exists.  Computer virus.  Until I’ve actually seen one and gone camel toe-to-toe with one, it’s hard to believe it’s real.  Sure, I have heard plenty of anecdotal accounts of it, but same with Big Foot and Chupacabra.

Frankly, I believed in Big Foot and Chupacabra more.  Mostly because I wanted to.

I remember early on in my sobriety I was still living at my mom’s, and was getting re-aquainted with the computer in my room.  I had just joined MySpace and was poking around.  I wound up on some punk rock girl’s page and clicked on her pictures.  Scenes of human gore started flashing on the screen, one after another, with bizarre sound-effects and crazy screaming sounds.  One image in particular stands out.  It looked like a close-up of a hemorrhoids operation.  Anybody who knows how squeamish I am about seeing operation scenes will delight in knowing that shit went into my eyeballs.  Fairly traumatizing enough, but it wasn’t over.

After the strobing gore accompanied by the Bedlam Cacophony Choir, the screen froze on an intricate collage of gay porn.  Not just any gay porn, but some really esoteric stuff, featuring old men in their seventies.  Very graphic.  I don’t think I would have liked it even if I was gay.  Then a loud voice over the speakers repeatedly announced, “Hey everybody! I’m looking at gay porn! Hey everybody! I’m looking at gay porn!”  I couldn’t make it stop until I unplugged the computer.  I’m sure my mom heard that from her bedroom.  What an evil thing to do to someone, I thought.  Well played, punk rock girl.

There was no lasting damage to the computer, but my psyche had some disturbing images burned into its retina.  I didn’t count that as a virus.  It was just another fucked up thing that happened to me, in an already intricate collage.  It wasn’t something to drink over though.  I shrugged it off.

So now, when the subscription expired, I figured eventually I’d subscribe to some security or look for a free computer condom download, some Trojan Horse Trojan…but only when it didn’t seem like too much of a fucking hassle.  That might be never.  Meanwhile, I wasn’t going to take any crazy risks, like clicking on some punk rock girl’s pictures on MySpace, or downloading stuff that says “Warning. Are you sure you want to be downloading this? File found to be potential virus threat.”  Except when Dave dares me to.

I had an expired cert and an antiquated firewall, but I also had a good feeling.  I was an intrepid adventurer paddling up a malarial river while drinking a local remedy through a human skull.

Man, I’ve been through some real shit in my life, what’s a computer virus going to do to me that I can’t handle?  I would find out soon enough.

One night, I’m typing away and the letters start to place themselves randomly within the earlier text.  What’s coming up on the screen looks like it was encoded with an Enigma machine.  It would stop for a while, let me clean up the text, write some more, and then like a venereal wart resistant to Podophyllin, keep coming back.  O h yuo ffffffffukcr! e

That kind of bullshit really slows down the creative process, but this little virus had even more things to demonstrate.  It seemed to be showing off its newfound power and control over my computer.  It started with random highlighting, then began repeating letters, and then spontaneous scrolling.  It was replying when I didn’t ask it to, and leaving the page without my permission.  Was this a virus, demonic possession, or just youthful rebellion?

Ghost cat across the keyboard?

There was only one thing to do in any case.  Pretend it wasn’t happening.  Just keep on keeping on.  Smoke pouring out of the hood?  Turn up the stereo and floor it.  As a drunk, denial was an important survival tool, so it’s still my default go-to fix.  My messages to Dave became something like, “Dud e, thsi thngi is doign some fcukde upshhhhhiiiiiiit  to my keyb or   !!!!”

Dave knew I caught a dose.  He is Mr. Computer, but in a Mad Max way.  Picture a dusty, road-worn, ex-con wearing wi-fi goggles, going giga-geek on a laptop duct-taped to his motorcycle’s sidecar.

His deeply held anarchist principles don’t allow him to pay for anything on the internet, so he deftly circumvents anything that smells like capitalist exploitation, which is pretty much anything that charges money.  He recently put out an e-book, Subterranean Emerald City Blues,  It’s a sharp slice of Seattle street life during the 90’s, that I highly recommend.  A delightful piece of Misery Lit, or rather, Post-Misery Lit.  Neo-Misery?  Anyway, it’s as real as Dave, and that’s pretty fucking real.  If you don’t want to pay the price you set yourself, you should contact him and he’ll be happy to teach you how to steal it.  Knowing him, he would prefer that.  Steal his book even though it doesn’t cost anything.

Anyway, he jumps into action.  I need to download this and upload that.  Run an EOD -13 driver optimizer through my Pre-Dat file digitizer.  I don’t know what the fuck he’s talking about, and instantly get ice picks in the temples when I try to know.  Let’s face it, I’m still a barbarian.  A Russian soldier in some bombed-out Berlin apartment using the toilet as a water fountain.  Tippy-tapping on a computer has only recently become a past-time.

Before that, my hobby was pulling the shower curtains down around me while falling into the bathtub pissing.

Anyway, I tried my best and did what I could, but it was too late.  The little cyber spirochete had burrowed itself into my brain and was eating away at my motor skills.  In the meantime, my screen was erupting in the wildest misbehavior.  I was dealing with what Dr. Vernon Woolf would call “a self-organizing unit of intelligence.”  A holodyne.  This one, primary manifestation of intelligence that it might have been, was already an asshole and pissing me off.  In a few billion years of evolution it would join a fraternity and drive a Corvette.

For now, it had to be content with irritating me like this.  There was a mischievous quality to its hijinks, like it was really just running amok, not oblivious to the displeasure it was causing, but delighting in it.  I’m sure I caught it from one of my motley mob of Facebook friends.  Every one of them could easily have been a carrier.  Scroll through them sometime.  You’ll see.

The screen finally went turned onyx on Thursday night.  All my attempts to revive it failed.  By that I mean, I turned the router off and on a few times, and then unplugged the power strip twice.  When that didn’t work, I said, “Fuck it.”  It deserved to die.  This was what Joseph Campbell would say represented the myth of the hero’s journey, only in this case, instead of retrieving The Golden Fleece, the hero fails, bites the curb, and dies all dead and shit.

Let the dead bury the dead.  I had to move on.

Now what?  I had a phone that had a touchscreen that kept freezing every 15 seconds.  I could still make calls.  I just couldn’t hang up…without taking the battery out.  Forget about doing anything on the internet, unless it’s something that takes less than 14 seconds, like seeing how much e-mail you have to answer but can’t.

The cool thing was that it finally got me and Dave to talk on the phone.  Before this we had only interacted via keyboard.   Now that we were able to talk, we could really trade some stories.  These were tales we held out because they were too involved to type in chat message, and too not-passed-the-statue-of-limitations to blog about.  Dude’s got some good ones.  Me too, I guess.

I broke out my paints and started splattering a canvas while we jawed.  It was great.  I laughed for hours, and wound up with sore abs and a masterpiece of abstract expressionism.  Not a bad deal.

It would take days before I could get the computer back or a new phone from Sprint.  I had to go Yukon and rough it.  I could use this time away from suckling at a social media tit, and really take a look at things.  Maybe even tidy up and reorder some life priorities.  Of course, not without first experiencing withdrawal.

What if someone posts on my wall and I don’t “like” it soon enough?  They’ll think I’m totally stuck-up and start talking shit about me to all the popular girls!

I actually did find myself feeling a little anxious.  I had shit I wanted to do on the computer, and now couldn’t.  I was trying to download Kindle for PC so I could read and review my friend, John Carnell’s book, Thugs Like Us.  It’s a novel based on a true story of crime, drugs and drink set in late 70’s England.  What’s not to love about shit like that?  I wonder if I got the computer clap from it.  It did come with a warning “This book does NOT contain any teenage vampires, dodgy S&M soft porn sequences, witches, dwarves, dragons or indeed any mythical characters whatsoever.  This book does contain nuts.”

John being the main one.  Dude is fucking crazy funny.  Who else writes non-fiction novels?

Speaking of nuts, I was also in the middle of writing a story about spending Mardi Gras with some University of Michigan co-eds when the box went black.  I had just gotten to the part where I had OD’d on brownies on a Greyhound bus in Texas.  Shit.  I was going to miss my deadline for the blogula, and I hated to do that.  Sure, it was an arbitrary, self-imposed one, but forgetting that makes it still matter.  There was also a pile of e-mail I needed to answer, some friend’s blogs I wanted to comment on, and a few reviews I wanted to write.  Hard to thumb out on a phone that freezes every few seconds.

Well, all that stuff is going to have to wait now, isn’t it?   I’ve learned to shift gears pretty quickly these days.  Just another part of being sober.  Things are going to happen, and some you’re just not going to dig.  How you deal with them will determine a large part of whether you can avoid popping the beer can escape hatch.  I have sober friends that can just go existential.  Shit happens.  It’s all meaningless.  Nothing matters.  Why stress?  And I admire that.

I have to go a different route.  I have to tell myself that everything that happens is for the best possible reason, regardless of how it appears to me initially.  Whether I’m deluding myself is entirely unimportant.  The cold hard fact is that when I do, my behavior improves.  I respond in healthier ways, and it becomes easier for me to deal with shit in a more present, measured, and tolerant manner.  If nothing else, I’m not aggravating my initial irritation with the bad repercussions from throwing a tantrum and broodfest.  I also don’t get thirstier for anything stronger than a Hansen’s diet ginger ale.

The really strange thing is that, eventually, I begin to intuit/see/realize how whatever did happen was the best thing to happen.  A new narrative emerges.  I just had to stop being a petulant pissy-pants long enough to let it unfold.

This whole bullshit with the computer and phone, as pissed as I was when it happened, got me talking to Dave on the phone, spending more time with my girlfriend and cats, ruining perfectly good blank canvases again, cleaning and organizing my room, reading some history, pruning down my garden for Fall, staying longer at the gym, working on my jail house shadow boxing, mailing out some packages and post cards to friends, and basically, understanding that my life should be bigger than just the part that lives on the computer screen.  I needed to be reminded of that.

It’s easy to forget real life happens out here, away from the screen.  It’s easy to become a pasty, hunched little troll, growing too fat, lazy, and sheltered to participate in it. Tip-tap.  Click.  Click.  Like.  Share.  Unfriend.  Delete.

Unfortunately, when the real shit hits the fan, you’re not going to be able to click DELETE.  You’ll be too busy trying not to get deleted yourself.  Then you’ll wish you had logged off once in a while to jog around the block and work on your combos, or actually held a loved one, instead of “liking” Enterprise Car Rental and playing Slingo-Bingo for magic tokens.

Still, it was good to get the thing back from the shop, with my cat pictures intact.

Today, everything is fixed, but a little better because it was fucked before.  The Hero’s Journey.

Well okay, I have an epic tale of drunken misadventure to finish, some friend’s work to read, and e-mail to answer.  Then maybe throw some iron around to remember gravity still exists.  BBeBBee Saef out  threrrr ! e!!

Kick your computer to the curb. Your world won’t end.

I Sold Out To The Mann.

I slammed the door in front of him causing him to run into it with his chocolate shake.  He smashed the cup right into his jacket, and now the ice cream was running down into his pants.  At first, when he looked down, he was sad.  All that delicious treat… ruined, and now soaking into his clothes.

However, by the time he looked up at me, he had already turned his sad into mad.  After all, he was on his way to sneaking into a free movie with his delicious chocolate beverage, when some person stepped in and fuckered it all up.

I was that person.  I was Marius Gustaitis, hired representative of Black Knight Security, sub-contracted to Mann Theaters for twenty dollars an hour (ten of which I would keep before taxes) and your worst nightmare, Mr. Sneak-in-while-other patrons-exit-the-back.

I bet you never figured on running into a petty and pissed-off dry drunk in need of either a program of recovery or a case and a half of ice cold sweating bottles of Heineken.  I bet you never thought when you saw that open door, that a man, strung tighter than a meth addict’s banjo, was watching it intensely, like an animal snare, just waiting for someone to trip it.

Well, you tripped it alright, and now you’re dangling upside down from a tree limb like a Piñata representing everything wrong with his picture.  Is it time to rip your head off and bludgeon your sagging torso with it?  Gosh, I hope so.  That would be swell.  What time is it?

“What the fuck, dude?!” he said, backing off and squaring his shoulders, then flipping his hands out in the universal sign for querying, ” Do you want some of this?”  Ah, the old Come-and-Get-It stance, except his had a coating of cool chocolatey creaminess that took down the threat-level a peg or two.  If he was going to come after me, he would’ve done it a long time ago.  Myself, I wouldn’t be asking a bunch of questions.  You food me, and I go into a red-out.  Just another thing I have.

“No happy show for you.  Only bad times,” I said, the adrenaline taking a toll on my eloquence.  I sound like an angry, Chinatown merchant, I thought.  Buck fever.  You see them in the cross-hairs and the scope starts to shake.  So close.  Don’t scare him off.  Don’t let him see The Crazy.  Calm down.  Goad him back in.

“You should be a good citizen ship,” I told him, “And sail straight, observing all bylaws.”

There I was, a middle-aged man in a suit and tie, with a thimbleful of authority, spouting off some some square do-gooder pablum.  That would have me swinging.  Do it.  Please take a swing.

They never do.  Not when you really want them to.  It never happens.  Never.  He smelled it.  His animal instincts were dialed in.  No, this suit is stuffed with explosives.

“Chocolate shakes are bad for you,” I scolded,” You need sunshine and exercise.”   I even managed my Happy Face with Bright Eyes, but to no avail.  He turned and beat it down the alley.

Alright, that was still semi-okay.  At least I ruined his night.  That’s something.  Nobody was going to have a good time on my watch.

Not if I’m not.

I walked back around to the front of the theater.  Out on the promenade, some long-legged sex bomb clacked by in ice pick heels, swinging a vintage Whiting and Davis purse.  I smiled.  She smiled back.  Dude, she totally wants you.  Or, she will once she finds out you’re a 40 year-old, non-drinking alcoholic, working as a rent-a-cop for a movie theater.

You’ll get some leg tonight, for sure.  That was a woman, right?  I didn’t see any Laryngeal prominence, but her mitts looked a little ping-pong paddley.

I went back inside the theater and took my post towards the back, where I could keep an eye on the patrons coming in and any renegades trying to cross-pollinate theaters.  Not that I cared about Mann Theaters losing out on money, or any kids seeing a movie with a higher rating.  I just didn’t like the idea of anyone thinking they got over on me.  Mine was an ego-based sense of justice.  I was beginning to understand the mind-set of cops and prison guards.

How bleak.  How utterly demoralizing.  This was my reward for giving up beer.  I don’t know if any reward would’ve seemed big enough at that point, ungrateful wretch that I was, but this job sure wasn’t it.

Let me back up.  After rehab, my buddy, Spike, invited me to stay with him in Redondo Beach.  What the hell.  It was hard knocking around Santa Fe sober.  I felt like some alien had invaded my body and was now making me live someone else’s life, somebody who doesn’t stop in at The Cowgirl Hall of Fame for a few pints of Guinness and a frozen Margarita kicker before hitting the liquor store on his way home from work.  It was just too disconcerting.

I took Spike up on his offer and loaded up my internally bleeding Ford Bronco II, and pointed it’s overheating radiator West.  I stretched a cumulus cloud of white smoke across two state lines and stopped when I hit ocean.

Spike was a good bro.  He let me sleep on his couch rent-free until I could afford to pay towards a larger apartment.  He really wanted to see me make it.  Looking back, probably more than I did.

My first job was working for a florist named Gary.  I saw the help wanted sign and walked in.  I told him the whole truth: almost 30 years of drinking, destroying my life, crashing and burning, rehab, now trying to live sober, and looking for a job while surfing a buddy’s couch down the street.  A Fortune 500 resume if he ever heard one.  It turned out that this charming little bald, gay man, was 20 years sober, and I had just aced my interview.

I got along with Gary and the ladies that worked for him.  Because my mom had always been into floral arrangement, I pretty much grew up around it.  I knew how to put together a Japanese Ikibana arrangement by the time I was eleven.  I know.  Pretty gay.  Not that there’s anything wrong with gay.  I just wasn’t, and would’ve rather learned to shoot skeet or drive a tractor by eleven instead.

Now however, being able to spike some pussy willows into a shallow vase, taking care to divide the branches to represent Heaven, Earth, and Man according to Japanese tradition, was winning me big points with my new boss, and his harem of female workers.  Big thanks, Mom.  The ladies and Gary liked my stories and would laugh as I recounted my drunken misadventures while we sat around assembling wedding centerpieces.  They didn’t seem to think less of me because of my past.  At least they didn’t show it, and I really appreciated that.

I wound up picking up another job as well.  I got a job as a bouncer at a strip club in Gardena.  So, during the day I played with flowers with a bunch of giggling gals, and at night, I tussled with drunk and drug-crazed degenerates, and hung out with strippers, at a ghetto flesh joint.  It was a full life to be sure.  I was enjoying the novelty of sobriety.  Stuff like having my boss walk up to me and not having to bend at a 45 degree angle at the ankles to avoid him smelling my breath.  I thought that all my problems were over now that alcohol was out of the picture.

The problem was that the alcoholic was still in the picture, and this one not doing anything to fix what was troubling him so much in the first place.  The novelty of not being drunk eventually wore off, and things began to bug me like before.  But now, I had no release.  So I just gutted it all up and tried to hold my mud as best I could.  If you pressed your ear to the lapel of my suit, you would hear the ticking of the time bomb.

I became a raging square.  I morphed into some kind of uptight Jack Webb, an angry middle-aged white man, resentful of anyone I suspected might be happier or having more fun than me, which when you’re that miserable, is everyone.

I remember when C.C., one of the dancers from the club, took me to Venice Beach one afternoon for lunch.  Instead of enjoying  the company of a pretty stripper on a beach full of freaks, I spent the date sneering at the colorful populace and mumbling epitaphs under my breath.  All the free-wheeling wierditry irritated me.  We’d pass by some rollerskating cosmic troubadour trying to hustle his next forty ounce, and I’d just hate on him.

“Good for you, Ding-Dong Daddy.  Wave your freeloading freak flag high, you bongo-beating, rainbow dong thong-wearing parasite.  Go ahead, use up all the freedom and fun under the warm California sun.  Some of us have to work for a living.”  Yeah, basically jealous. and when you’re  jealous of a lunatic panhandler, your way of life isn’t working for you.  More coffee.  More cigarettes.  More anger.

One of the other bouncers at the club, an ex- Marine named Joe Washington, had gotten a side job with a security company.  He told me this company provided executive security, something I was not entirely unqualified for, since my work credits in Central America would transfer.  Far out.  A jaw-clenching reactionary providing a little muscle to escort self-important paranoidals seemed like a perfect fit.  A God shot.  But there was a catch.

Joe explained, that the only openings the owner had were for providing suit-and-tie security for a few Mann movie theaters in L.A., including the one in Westwood where they held all the big openings.  But, as real body-guarding positions opened up, we’d be first pick.

I met with the owner and told him a little about my qualifying work experience, leaving out the couch-surfing-alcoholic-trying-to-stay-sober stuff.  He hired me and gave me a black t-shirt with a logo of a stylized knight chess piece.  “Dark Knight Security,” it said, “Knows Your Next Move.”  I remember he gave it to me almost ceremonially, like he was handing me an ancestral samurai sword.  I mean it was a quality t-shirt, you know, one of those Beefy Tees, but it was still just a t-shirt.  And a presumptuous one at that .

Regardless, I got a third job in as many months, was building up some savings, and soon enough, would be body-guarding the rich and famous.  That wouldn’t have happened if I was drinking.  I decided to drop the florist gig, so that I could dedicate more time to becoming the baddest sober bad-ass I could.

I ran the beach, biked to Marina Del Rey and back, worked out on my bag, and lifted weights like a convict.  The exercise did me good.  I shed the last of my beer muscles and leaned out.  I got back to my fighting weight.  I looked good in my suit again.  It would only be a matter of time before I was shepherding some rich sheep safely through this wilderness of pain known as Los Angeles, California, a pair of .40 caliber pistols strapped across my bullet proof.  I just had to wait it out at these stupid movie theater posts in the meantime.

What I didn’t know then, was that the meantime, would be the only time.  There were no body-guarding positions with this company.  It was all bullshit.  The owner was an ex-L.A.P.D. cop that had to suddenly resign from the force.  We could never piece together his story why, but Joe and I had our suspicions.  After a while though we did piece together that he was just stringing us along.  The only jobs he had for us were as rent-a-porkers, but in suits and ties instead of the standard Boy Scout/Crossing Guard uniform.

My first night was at the theater over on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.  I stood in the lobby, trying to front all Secret Service sinister while watching families and couples spill popcorn across the carpet, when it hit me like a bolt.  Oh fuck.  I’ve done this before.  When I was eighteen I got a job working as an usher at a Mann Theater.  It was now over twenty years later, and here I am again back at Mann Theaters, basically doing the same thing, and adjusting for inflation, getting paid the same.

Sure, my suit was better than the polyester, Mid-Western realtor’s jacket and tie they made me wear back then.  But, if that’s all you have to show for twenty years of evolution, a better monkey suit, you’re not setting the world on fire with your ascent up the social ladder, Rocket Boy.  I was right back where I was before my drinking took off.  Back at square Go.  The irony of it all stained my lips and teeth black with it’s bitter berry juice.

I was usually shuffled between two theaters, the one at Third Street Promenade playground of the well-to-do in Santa Monica, and a more run-down one in Culver City, with a lower-income, higher-gang member demographic.  At which one do you suppose I had all the problems?  Think about it.  You got it.

I never had any problems at the Culver City one.  I’m not kidding.  There they would be, Bloods and Crips, watching the same movie together, behaving like good little boys and girls.  I suspect there was a general truce regarding theaters, neither side wanting to fuck up being able to go to the movies in peace.  Sure, there were the usual sneak-in attempts and theater jumpings, but they never gave me a hard time when I caught them.  It was understood we were playing a cat and mouse game and there were no hard feelings.

I even had to empty the whole place one night, in the middle of everyone’s movies, because of a fire alarm.  There was some grouching and irritated questions, but nobody went ballistic.

Meanwhile, back in Santa Monica, I’m squared off and ready to start trading hooks with some dad, wearing a sweater tied around his shoulders and soft leather driving loafers.  He insists on bringing in his leftover spaghetti dinner against the no outside food policy.  He didn’t want to go put it away in his car because…he didn’t want to miss the previews to this Disney movie he was taking his family to.  I swear to you.  I’m not making this up just to create great literature.

I’m thinking, “It’s spaghetti with meat sauce, dude.”  This guy looks like he owns an Audi dealership, and he’s blowing a shit fit over 77 cents worth of food.   If those previews are so precious, I would take the foil tray outside and drop kick it over the sunglasses kiosk across the way.  This guy was willing to risk getting his ass kicked in front of his family over it.

He’s up in my face, seething with rage, white hot spittle foaming in the corners of his mouth.

“It’s the principal!  The principal!” he keeps sputtering.

Everybody in the lobby has stopped to look.  The manager, Mike, is hanging back watching.  I didn’t blame him for not wanting to get involved at this point.  A guy like this one is usually well-lawyered.  They don’t get this bold without knowing they can hang you with a juicy law suit.  Is this his game?  Is he trying to bait me into taking  the first shot?  Interesting role-reversal.  Maybe he thinks a shot is the chops is worth a three week vacation in Vanuatu, including the  jet-ski rental, on-call masseur and helicopter tours.

All this going through my head as he’s screaming at me.  His wife has got the kids, but she’s not trying to pull him back or calm him down.  She must be in on it.  The kids don’t seem to be too freaked out either.  Have you seen Daddy do this before?

“I am going to bring this dinner in with me,” he announces, “I am walking in, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

That’s where he was wrong, of course.  I’m mentally spinning a Lazy Susan of choices.  I recognized that his assholeness should have consequences, but how painful those should be was now being mitigated by the presence of his family, and the possibility of legal repercussions.  This was not stuff I worried about when I was drinking.  But what would be an appropriate response to punish this impudent and petulant little turd?  Just the right amount of pain sprinkled over a generous portion of shame.

That’s when I realized my old behavior wouldn’t serve me.  Sure I could kick out his knees and rub his snout into the rug like a bad doggy, forever scarring his kid’s image of him as Daddy Hero.  And while that would be deeply satisfying and personally gratifying, I might eventually regret it.  Why not play his game instead?

I decided that if he so much as brushed against me on his way to the Disney previews, I would go down like an NFL punter.  Totally take a dive, making sure to hit my head hard on the floor, so hard that I might night be able to recognize relatives or pronounce words with more than once consonant.  “I can’t feel my penis. What’s wrong with me, Doctor?”

We’ll see who winds up jet-skiing in Vanuatu, bitch balls.

“Please don’t make impotent threats. I command you to halt,” I said, holding my hand up, but splaying the fingers slightly to suggest a weak defensive gesture, my wrist bent almost effeminately.  I also used “impotent” on a hunch.  Hot button?  Hoped so.

Unfortunately, I have a bad poker face.  People can read the thoughts going through my head with the ease of a teleprompter.  As soon as I decided I would hit him where it hurt most, namely his Audi dealership, dry-cleaning franchise, or whatever enterprise had shod his hoofs with such elegant supple leather slippers, he started to balk.  His animal instincts were dialed in.

Instead, he looked up.  His rage was gone.  He was now weighing things in his head.  Meanwhile, I’m trying to telepathically implant crazy violent ideas, trying to stave off the sanity I saw leaking in.  C’mon, bust a move motherfucker!  Just shove the flunky theater security lug out of the way on your march towards victory.  Run for the roses.  Trample those that deny you your spaghetti leftovers underfoot, in the fierce day of your pride.

He turned to his wife.

“I’m going to take this out to the car.”

I watched him walk out of the theater, and with him, my hopes for getting out of this stupid job.  They never go for it when you really want them to. They never do.  Never.

There would be no quick fix to my situation.  Alcoholics prefer their fixes quick.  Deus ex Machina, descend upon our wretchedness!   No, I was going to have to learn how to wait.  Maybe things were unfolding at just the right pace.  How could you ever really know?  Except maybe in retrospect.  I resigned myself to think so, if only to delude myself into not being so uptight.  What the hell, right?  You can believe whatever you want.  You might as well believe something that helps you make it through another day with out taking  a drink.  Unless, you don’t want to make it through another day without taking a drink.

In that case, carry on.  You know what you have to do.

I went back to my post and checked my watch.  Two and a half more hours to go.  I looked up and saw two teenagers jump the ropes and run for theater 4.  They looked back at me.  I waved.  Fuck it.  Enjoy yourself, kids.  I’ll do my best, too.

Wishing you a happy show.