Glassine chirring of water over rocks. Distant and echoing, drawing nearer. The sound becomes almost musical, then rescinds back to order. A hollow tubular line snakes out over the river bank, spreads out in fingerlings, a dendrite of which pokes into my ear, then back out again. I close my eyes for a moment; the sprite of sound recedes back over the undergrowth, over the massive tree and uprooted root structure on which I sit, and then, a second later, forks into my ears and in wooden toy tones invades my dark empty consciousness. I startle and open my eyes. I’m smiling. I only stop smiling for a second of trance every few minutes or so, and resist the urge to turn off my mind completely.
The river is sparkling, smells fresh, it’s a warm, sun-drenched day. In all directions there are only a few different shades of green and blue and wood. I see no dirt perched at the crux of two large fallen trees. My shoes rest with me, feet bare. It’s hot, so I take off my khakis and peel off my drawers, stuff them into my leather rucksack. I feel clumsy and my cell phone feels like a slab of putty in my hands. I turn it on, look at it, and giggle at the absurdity. I turn it off. I am giddy. The river is calling me.
An hour earlier I had been dropped off. Within 20 minutes, I was feeling a bit attuned. Ten minutes later, a coyote had just evaporated back into the cover of flora. Our eyes met for a hair of a second, then the bushy tail and whispering leaves as he sped off up the trail. “Kie-Oh-Tay!” I hummed. “Kay-Oh-Tay! Come play with me! I have a banana. Bananas, I hear, are good for dogs!.” Coyotes are hunted here. Coyote would not reappear, though he would watch me for a while. This form of the Fool was a good omen for my trip.
I’m wading through ankle deep bog. The spring has finally pushed the river up over the connective tissue of an oblong shoal that a dry winter laid naked. The healthy levels make it again an island. The main current muscles past the far side; where I enter a crick has formed that barely passes my knees. With a loamy schlomp schlomping percussion my feet take me through a patch of grasses soon to be murdered by a sustained suffocation. On the island I shed my T-shirt, my green Wal-mart gotten “Lucky Shirt” with the 4 leaf clover. The last time I wore this shirt was my birthday-St. Patricks Day-a night on which I drank so much I badly botched entering a number into my phone. A very lucky number. The next day very truly thought I would die. I was still drunk 12 hours after ceasing drinking, and figured that on top of a fifth of bourbon, I’d had numerous several beers and numerous mixed drinks. The moment I’d decided to head home from the bars, I got an unwelcome text from a broken girl, who probably very unwittingly, was trying to break me for good. Like crabs in a barrel…
But I shan’t think of her with an ethereal brilliance of light strobing off of each divet of liquid that slides past these tufts of grass. I begin gazing at the small river stones. So many. So many that I am mad that I can’t sort through all one-hundred and twenty one trillion. First I’m searching in the shallows, then I’m back on land, combing with increasing edit of time and focus. I pick up a few and shove them into my pocket. The crystalline, vaguely granite-like, quartzite with red veins and pinkish hues are my favorite. Later, at a beach, I would find someone’s loose pile of gray blue smooth river rock, over which I cast a couple dozen of these ferric favorites. I go to the end of the sandbar and pull a completely rusted and broken off top of a large cream canister, probaly 80 years old. I hoist it over the branches of a small maple at the highest point of the island. A swallow begins braying at me from the shore.
"Shut up, bird," I say, "you don’t know my name." And I turn away from him, smug and overtopping with mock snootiness. The swallow continues. I say,
"Shut up, bird! You don’t know my name. I’m just an Indian, I am going down the river!" A Mason Proffit song cues in my brain, a lulling sedative of harmonic nostalgia.
Sometime later, I’m back at the other side of the earthen implement. I’m crouched in ankle high water, letting swallows bend air beneath their wings and buzzing my head so close that I can hear their flapping, snagging horseflies, and making a cheerful racket. A kingfisher charges downstream, and for a long minute I endure his knackering in hopes that I might see him catch something. I think to myself, “River birds are just kind of bums. Nesting in sheer banks that are sure to collapse or flood.” I get back on land with a new rock.
A grey lusterless imperfect disc. I like the way it feels beneath my curled thumb and forefinger. As I walk down the trail, I toss it and catch. Again and again, with perfect sympathy for the small muscles and tendons of my hand. Sometimes at a broader angle, letting it rip off of my middle finger. I close my eyes just before it reaches zenith, and it falls perfectly into the cradle of my thumb and forefinger. I would toss it dozens upon dozens of times, usually not paying much attention, sometimes counting the spins as it floated. I would not drop it till much, much later, after the acid had worn off. And I’d almost lose it in a backyard of riverstone. Absent minded, then seeing it a half hour later amidst all the jumble of tired stones, “hey, that looks like…” (checks pocket) “HAH! HAHAHAH! Oh thank BOG!”
By the time that I’m peaking, I’m closer to humans and civilization than all afternoon, but the acid and forest has gotten so thick that all I hear is silence. All that I can see is the gold and green. I begin to think that I’m experiencing the Garden of Eden. This primordial moment has always been here. Undisturbed by enterprise save for the paths of the goings of vertebrates. And for a moment I figure that we, humans, are evil, we are the disease, the virus, the demiurge, that we truly are what the worst environmentalists propose: a cancer, a destroying agent, an ape gone mad with intelligence. An invasive species, beavers grown thumbs with Babel intent. I had been calling for Satan. I called for him again. This time, with the patches of yellow bouncing off of the green floor dwellers, irregular whizz and churr of bumblebees, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, I hear a deeper root note, I hear the lurch, the crackling of roots, of tendrils, of mass consciousness, I hear hobnailed boots of roots and irritant defenses of leaves trickling out like exhaust from the motor of chloroplasts: of photons and water and chlorophyll, Satan abounds like a blanket of robust violent prodigal birthing. I would think of a movie I liked very much, “Antichrist”. I would not call out Satan again. I would only wish for Eve. I would only ask Winter for Eve. Autumn, that inevitable bringer of loss, I asked humbly for a lover.
Voices bounce off trees and remind me of the alienation and bounce off of faces everyday. I assume I’m about to come into the Nascar sphere while in the bubble of LSD Peak. I’m not scared, in fact the only times I got nervous where when I realized I might be able to “discorporate”, as Mike Valentine, the martian, termed it in “Stranger in A Strange Land” by Robert A. Heinlein. I could, afterall, in my heightened state of awareness, just decided by trance to stop breathing. I shivered and crouched, and in the eternal intermittent habit, smiled.
Hollers, guffaws, broad 17 year-old declarations of mindless whim. A loud knocking. “Dead as a doorknob!” He exclaimed. Ah. Ahhhh. Suddenly, I’m angry. I’m jumpy frustrated that I won’t just swim across the river to the shirtless marchers I’ve spied, and exclaim to them “BOYS! BOYS! Let us cleave this fucking fossil in twain and reap the sweet bounty of MOREL MUSHROOMS within!!!” I’ve no fucking clue what an Elm looks like, let alone a dead one. I’ll gladly admit that when I quit once and for all the Boy Scouts, it was because the very repressed homo-feeling meetings interfered with my NBC sitcom viewing schedule. But oh, ever since, how I regret not knowing what knots to tie, and what trees are which. These boys, before I shuffle off, acid a.d.d. taking hold, are shaking back and forth between them—in a measured and pure budding testosterone rage—an ashen fossil of a tree, hoping that upon falling it, that succulent nightdweller of a protoplast my befall them, and that they in all their homosexual tension, might toast with oil and flour in later hours that product of sexless regeneration. I imagine these boys might be the progeny of educated but faithfully detached people.
Sometime later, I’m picked up. I have called on Murph, my fucking asshole angel, brother, father, mother, whatever. As soon as the peak passed and I’d realized I had a few miles to go, I wanted out. I wanted in. I wanted comic books, heavy metal, cheap bear, sex jokes. I wanted rogue innocence. I wanted placid adult anger. I wanted hot food, abandon, careless evening, oblivious death. I wanted all that I could not see or hear and I wanted it without notice or measurement. I wanted to be a parcel without part. Just another sucker on the vine. I wanted a job—a job that I could attend to with vice, with acknowledged but unmeasured wildness. I wanted again to skate through people’s lives with novel fluidity, dropping hope like appleseeds. I wanted a sheet of acid. Johnny Acidseed.
I climb into the Forerunner to an innocuous familiar sound. Somehow I know it. “BUTTHOLE SURFERS!!!” I exclaim. It only made sense now, now as I was drifting into a supermarket for delicious sweet ambrosia, India Pale Ale. I make Murph buy the last pack in a clearance rack of cigarettes, Basic Lights, which so delight me that I smoke nearly a whole pack in a few evening hours. Nash commandeers Murph’s outdoor kitchen, a hobnob of clear glass prep tables and gas grills. I melt into sweet potato blobbed with Kansas City Barbecue sauce. I nibble on a gristly outcropping of some steak before making like a thief with the bacon. A week later, Murph and I are in Missouri at some shithole diner copping lunch, and in a booth outfitted with phone jacks from the days before cellphones, I order French Fries (which happen to be Steak Fries, fucking soddy assholes) a cup of chili and a piece of cornbread. All are delicious but in my manic, crazed appetite I request once again strawberry jam and tobasco. Such is how I like to dunk my fries. Oh, and I add butter. And lots of salt. I should be a Secret Service agent, my arteries so hard and my hunger for boughten sex so harsh. The waitress, Murph says, has “weak eyes.” She’s of auburn hare and pallor southern complexion. Boxy, but not fat, doesn’t smile, but doesn’t frown. If she’d the least of hips and azure eyes, breeding material, I think to myself. Later on we talk about the differences between honor, morals, and ethics.
We’re both of the opinion that, if you have friends, honor is the only wage to be obeyed.
I remember now a day long ago. Driving out into the desert, alone. 12 or 13 years. A cellophane wrapper sticking out of the neck of a defamed Mother Mary, like a Plastic Jesus, containing until that Holy Moment three quarters of a hit of fine and clear LSD. Climbing a sandy slope up to a barbed wire fenced that strung out for miles, and hearing a very distant sound. I put my ear down to the ground. The hum of the Earth is a B flat. I strode fearless out into the fingerlets of the mesa overlooking the painted desert, deadly falls on either side of me created by eons of whither, by rain and wind, and perching lotus-style on the outcrop, and seeing a coyote sit royally on the island decay that I so wanted to leap to, but knew I shan’t. And I scraped those sandstone walls and gazed upon a mountain unnamed over Flagstaff as the azimuth reached it’s frame, and lizards scurried for a micrite igloo home. And I thought: oh so long for a mountain to form, these eons of which there are no real names. Just change. True change. Change goes on without me. Within me, I am change. A coyote barks. A native chuckles at a pale figure, dusty and dazed from the wind of days. A horseflies lays eggs on a pile of shit on a monstrous verdant hill. Moccasins disarrayed by the cloisters of bramble beneath a development laden with the cottages and adjournments of professors and shaman. All for and to naught. All for and to naught.
Old Jacob, down on a corner in the French Quarter, chuckles, starts a Beatles song in mocking of an unsaying purveyor, thinking to hisself, “The shadow Knows! THE SHADOW KNOWS!”
Murph suggested several times that I read “Dry” by Augusten Burroughs. I finally did two days ago; or was it yesterday? I can’t keep days together when I’m not drinking. I’m not running a fever but I’m running hot, fatigue oscillates throughout the day and night, running a tight rotation with electric anxiety. Things skirt by my periphery and startle me, when I look, usually it’s nothing at all, sometimes a change in shadow light from a passing car. I don’t see spiders. Murph cautioned me this time. “Yeah man, should you read it, although…it might make you think that you haven’t gone far enough.” And he’s absolutely correct. I won’t see spiders detoxing. My shakes aren’t so bad I can’t maintain dignity. Sometimes jolts of lightning through my skull that I’ve only experienced from Zoloft withdrawal. My fever won’t keep me out of work or in bed. I haven’t been jaundiced, I haven’t been giving head in the streets for change. I haven’t wound up in a hospital from coma after being rescued from a gutter. I’ve woken up in a hospital back in my binging days. That didn’t make me want to stop. The only thing that ever made me stop was the realization that my wife was leaving me.
I was dead straight sober for two whole months as I fought like hell for her acceptance. I’d confessed that I had a problem and that I was powerless and all that technical talk. I wasn’t even a drunk up till that point; pot had kept me going for years. But I knew I had a problem, and I readily admitted it, but this woman held grudges. I had, after all, pilfered her Xanax whenever she had some. When I got shitty Hydrocodone for a toothache, I’d make a cold-water extraction out of the whole bottle, mix with Kool Aid, and get sweetly zonked for a few hours.
I could never drink again and still be a rather functional addict. I’d cop some kind of routine. Cannabis doesn’t do much for me anymore without adding booze, and though I love good coke, I don’t see myself in the required income bracket for that. It would most likely be prescription narcotics. Some painkillers I find delicious, like Percoset, Darvacets, the light stuff. Oxycodone is the bee’s knees, but I’ll never touch Oxycontin again. Oxycontin is designed by molecular structure for all-day pain relief. I guess you could cook it and boot it, right? No thanks, not into a death trip. Just something to rely on, like a needy lover, to devour me everyday into their placid cove. Something to quell the insistent dis-ease of my ego, my overbearing unintentionally nihilistic siren of self-judgement and long-hidden deep-seated resentment of this era and society.
You know, just enough to go to a shitty job everyday, or worse, go to my shitty career everyday, or in a nightmare scenario, just enough to keep me trudging down halls of academia towards some magical utopian accomplishment. It’s not like a habit would cure my depression; it would just ensure that I don’t give a shit about it. Every so often I’d take a break and drink and smoke pot for a month. And get an 8 ball! YEAH!
Nick Cave sang "Everything for which my heart yearns/ brings joy in diminishing returns". I modify and reiterate that everything good AND evil under the sun brings to me a phantasmagoria carnival experience in which even the dour prospects of death and loss of friendship are acquitted by some feeling of at-one-ness, universal balance, cosmic love of fates both foolish and wise. For a few days or weeks that is, and then the feeling is reduced and recedes, like a beautiful figure of a lover walking away, looking over their shoulder into your eyes and saying: “I love you, but I’m not in love with you anymore.” And because of that lover, so many other things just don’t carry on as strong.
It starts with a desire for freedom from external edicts, from fascist unilateralism on the part of society and government. I wouldn’t mind being a deli clerk the rest of my life. A deli clerk has quite a bit of responsibility: preventing food poisoning and using skillful interpersonal relations, making sales and keeping the leviathan of commerce semi-buoyant. But that won’t buy me a house, it won’t even pay all my bills, and it certainly wouldn’t afford me the cost of a vacation to Fiji, let alone the cost of dental surgery.
It transcends with a foaming-at-the-mouth yearning for intrapersonal freedom, and meditation is, let’s face it: totally boring to most people and besides; any guru will tell you, unguided meditation is dangerous, which I feel I can concur with from my experience. Since I’m either too busy living the life of the fractured Western Dream or not recrudescent enough to try infiltrating and insulating myself into an ashram or monastery for some bodhisattva vow or even an altruistic demand for a egoless bath in Clear White Light, drugs admit the simplest facilitation of mental variance and vacation. Work all day in the vacuous torture wheel of samsara making candy for it’s inhabitants, come home, eat the candy that passed the embargo, the laced ambrosia, the somnolent seed , and without pitch or compunction grant absolution upon those who through compliance alone make this Black Iron Prison possible and virile daily. And then sleep with the most decadent dreams of freedom.
And that’s when drug laws get clustered and maddening, leading to black-market addicts, who then can’t afford rehab, who then lie, cheat, steal and murder and also birth, cajole and feed the market which supports other addicts. Sometimes I feel like addicts, even the most puerile and emotionally stunted, are more mature than the culture that breeds them. The culture of abuse and molestation, of alienation and hypocrisy, of the schizoconjoinment of Roussea and Stalin that we have here in the West, and also basically anywhere there is government in the world.
Mary May texts me just now. She’s been upset; I told her I’d come see her last month deep in hinterlands of Middle America. Things get fucked up, MayMay. The best laid plans…she says “just quit being an an addict. Just quit. Do you even want to quit, I mean really?” I don’t know if she really understands the clinical terms. I try to deny defining addiction in the realm of “disease”. I can see the usefulness, but really, it seems quite an unassailable postulate that I consciously make every choice of what goes into my body. I can’t see it as disease, even in terms of mental health, I prefer to see it as an easily cured weakness of mind. Just as Mary has the power to choose to try changing the conditions in her life which cause her so much agonizing depression, as well do I. I too can use that power to create control, but:
If it’s not one thing, it will be another. It will be a girl. It will be pasta, BBQ, exotic sandwiches, and rare organs. It will be SUGAR. It will be gambling. It will be driving way, way too fast, which is why I’m not legally able to drive right now. It will be jogging, which will destroy my knees. It will be obsessive Narcissism, fawning over my abs and doting on my shoulders with the aims of becoming a fought over Alpha Male. It will be a career that will not fulfill me, which will bring deadly stress. It will be pornography or strippers or prostitutes. It will be a self-serving pursuit of material attainment. It will be an ego quest—a bitter self-righteous enterprise to belittle every person around me and whomp them over the head into submission with my material successes.
Or it will be rebellion, it will become a debasement trip; trouncing over the neighbor’s picket fence to piss on their daisies and kick over their water fountain, vomit on the hood of their Dodge Charger and try to seduce their teenage daughter. It will be a head rush, a thinning of blood and lightening of the head as oxygen floods veins as I break into any locked building and make with the loot. It will become a violence trip, the adrenaline junkies riff as he pummels senseless and pulpy another person’s face, searching out punch fodder like a whore on Vice Street in the City of Refuge looking to roust a priest. And to be sure and dazzling, I have done some of these things.
I think now of a girl, of many girls. Sure and dazzling, proficient in ways that demand mental clarity, a depth of emotion, and most of all, time. Many women, who got stuck on someone who gave them that for a flash in time, before they too succumbed to some kind of manic preoccupation with an autonomous gratification. A women who’s husband is always on the road, always on the nod, always on the computer, always playing video games.
A beautiful vibrant humdinger of a skirt with all her heart to give, who comes home to a World of Warcraft addicted manic-depressive geek asshole.
And of course, there’s always Murder. There’s always Law Enforcement. The Army. Neighborhood Watch. Border Patrol. Corrections. There’s always some way to legally put yourself in a position where it is not out of the ordinary to at some point aim and fire a gun on someone, and have the weight of a national bureaucracy and ethical ideal pushing with you against Justice. Or, you can always just go out and kill someone. What a rush. If you’re an addict like me, if you did it once, you’ll probably do it again, and again, always with the diminishing returns.
I search around my basement room for that long lost bottle of whisky, but in a semi-blackout, Nash must have been truthful, I really did drink it. I pull an empty out from beneath the bead. A thimbleful drops into the pouch between my tongue and lower jaw. I hold it there. Earlier I saw the another empty pint out in the camper; I go retrieve it, same act. I consider raiding the liquor cabinet. I consider that somewhere around here, there’s a fifth of Old Crow, and so little would set me right for the night…or maybe some Sterno. You get the idea.
I make a pork BBQ sandwich instead. From my visits to the plasma center, I know I’ve been gaining weight. Kidneys never feel good, all tingly, tight and sore. Sometimes, shooting chest pains, loss of breath, the terrific rumble and visual presence of elevated blood pressure. My blood pressure used to be a nice 115/55, and I could control it in high tension situations. Now it’s usually 140/85 when I’m at the plasma center. If I were in rehab, they’d see that and give me Lorazepam or better, Librium. I know I’m letting out a lot of slack on my line and it’s getting tightened to the point of breaking so fast that this must be A Big One.
Two thoughts cross my mind, the first is common: if I sold drugs, I could do more varied drugs, and be able to even out, instead of turning to the worst and solely legal of them all, alcohol. The other thought, is that tomorrow I’m going to eat LSD, go to a park, and hope to have one of those excruciating introspective ego-distintegrating hell-rides that brands you like a trauma, theoretically forges new neural pathways, and stirs up the silty layer of your consciousness so that when it all settles anew, the seemingly foreign dwelling beseeches one to act outside of habit.
A third thought: If I could just go 2 months, I could start up again. Goddamnit I just want to drink a fifth of Buffalo Trace everyday.
I remember the last time I felt sorry for myself. It was a few months ago, sitting a block adjacent from the Superdome in New Orleans.
My legs flopped over the curb. A guitar case filled with a guitjo by my side. A guitjo is a banjo with a guitar neck and a heavy resonant wood body, and I had been lugging this thing with me wherever I went for a week. I can walk like a horse, especially in a city like NOLA. It’s perfectly flat for miles in all directions, but after what I reckoned to be 8 or 10 miles that day, I was empirically exhausted. A leather satchel of all my worldly possessions tucked under my ass. I’d been left out, forsaken, despaired, refused, like some fat bespectacled and freckled kid at a preppy’s birthday party that he’d/she’d been invited to as a parental/political formality.
I had come to New Orleans believing I’d have some easy board. I wasn’t asking for fucking showers and breakfast, after all, just a base. A place to divide my carriage. And to the fault of that umbrage did I shed a frustrated tear on that curb. All lonely, strung out in alcoholic daze, and I’d no success busking. I’d like to say that, sometimes the more blues you got, the less you want to sing the blues. But it’s not true. I’m just a fuckwit Nancy Boy. A po’ boy a long long way from home, burdened by a sickness, by a broken heart, zero self-esteem, by that oafish instrument and a leather satchel filled with only the most dear possessions, being a few books and a few changes of clothing.
I’d been in a car meandering through these lazy metropolitan grids a day or so before, espousing to Marqueeta, by dear dear Lily of Loam, my Brownstone, my Nubian Princess, effluviating to her how I’d never again feel sorry for myself. I was on a fast manic cycle. I’d spent four nights total on Tulane Avenue, in a seedy crackwhore motel. I’d burned through the money too fast, on account that Marqueeta’s own living situation was tenuous. She had put me up for a night at St. Vincent’s guesthouse. And now here I was, so tired I didn’t want to walk, collapsed outside of some ultra-fancy restaurant just outside of the the Superdome, and texted her about how I felt a little let-down.
"I feel terrible" she texted. I should hope so. We went over this a couple weeks ago. But now, don’t let me get ahead. This is not a sob story. This is the Fates working through the nearest female in my life that they could find. In this case, it’s Marqueeta, and she’s escaping an asphyxiating living situation into one where according ((sighs)) to the story, you can’t move in when we said because we’re-insert excuse such as bug bombing, fixing a floor, etc, here now-and could you please wait.
She’s a sweet ebony baby momma. I’m in love with her. No, really, I keep it hid, but I actually texted it to her many months before she moved back here. All she said was, “wish you’d said something sooner.” I’m not holding any flames at this point, but, ok, I’m holding lots of flames. And not all of them seriously. All I know is that after a few days, I really have fun with her and her daughter. And I fucking love New Orleans.
For one, it’s all flat. It’s nothing for me to walk the length of the French Quarter, through downtown, and down to the southside of the Garden District. And back again. Nothing. Even with my pack. But anyhow; I digress. So I’m feeling sorry for myself. And I start ranting via text at her. And at the exact time that a couple fellas who are on break from a very fancy downtown restaurant allow me to share their spliff, I get a text from Marqueeta.
"Nigga, you need pull yo head out yo ass and get yo hustle on. No sense bawling like a lil bitch ain’t no thing turn out yo way ain’t nothing gon’ come ‘less you make it that way. GET YO HUSTLE ON!"
Or something to that effect. Actually, I kinda nailed it. I was stoned by then, just then, at that very moment. It all came together. I realized two things. The most important was: I AM NOT GOING TO FREEZE TO DEATH. You see, I’m northern. It was February. I literally couldn’t freeze to death. The temp wouldn’t drop below 55 degrees. The second thing I realized was: shit, I’m stoned! Everything is going to be all right!
I had no place to go for the night, and at the least I could cop a snooze in Marqueeta’s backseat while she worked in the morning, but that was 9 hours from now. I could have found a nook in an overpass, I could have crawled behind a dumpster and literally had to fend off rats (I was carrying sardines and Nice brand Corn Nuts). I could have snuck riverside and contended with the riverwalk security. But I bucked up, I was really stoned for the first time in a long time. I looked down the street, pulled out the money from my pocket and counted it. 14 dollars. I knew exactly what I was going to do.
I was going to Harrahs for the night.
Casinos have no choice but to cater as well to all the satellite vices that gamblers acquire and dabble in. Thus, they must cater to all the strange agendas that people cop when in the grips of delusion and desire. My phone is dead, so I go to the penny slots, and take the last in a row of machines, directly in front of the security office, because it has an electrical outlet next to it. They are like bees humming and going, walking right behind me, and sometimes I even press the button as they walk by—See, I’m a good boy! I’m spending money! I sit there for a few hours. Just drinking my pint, spacing off, occasionally browsing Facebook, occasionally hitting the stupid button on the machine. I’m getting really jacked up and it’s warm and safe. At one point a woman plops down a few machines down and passes out sitting up. A little later I notice what I surmise is a secret-shopper of sorts; a plain clothes security agent playing slots. She’s about 25, athletic build, shorter, blonde, and absolutely too intense in her brown eyes to be another sucker on the vine here at 1 or 2 am. I think I spend a dollar in a little under 2 hours. I finish my pint. Next, the video poker bar.
I must be a sight with my dark tan corduroy, my Wrangler vest and baja hoodie, my ranchero hat, big blue mirrored aviator sunglasses, hauling around this guitar case and leather satchel. A queer but inviting vagabond with an easy smile wide swinging gait. A fella hails me by the craps table and I shoot the shit with a guy for a while. Tell him some stories and explain how Craps got it’s name.
When I get to the bar, I sit down next to a tall gangly buzzcut with no chin. He’s seems a sort of hyper type, a wisecracker and pretty cynical. He’s burning through 20’s. I find that he’s a military air traffic controller. He’s been in Europe off and on for 10 years. He’s there with his mother, who is off somewhere in the gravestone yard of high pay-off slots. He explains that the house has to wait 15 minutes in-between free drinks. I put a fiver in the machine, and get a bottle of Coors. Soon he’s taken to chippy conversation with a blonde seated a few stools down. She’s a got soft features but rigid brow line. Her smile seems mocking. I guess her age at 33. She really does look it, and so when I challenge her, at first she says, yep! 34! After a little longer she confesses she’s 45. No-Chin is working his game on her, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Though I am too drunk to fuck, and heartbroken besides, I get up and leapfrog over to her. Here, I learn that it’s not best to be forthcoming about these things. She is completely unimpressed that I really just want to go someplace and talk or walk the streets looking for weird happenings. I say to her that I could surely rock her socks for hours, but hey, you seem nice. You seem like a nice person. This guy who’s hitting on you is married. He’s here with his fucking mother for christ’s sake. And he has NO CHIN!!! Come on babe. We can do whatever you want, but with me, it’s gauranteed fun. A boyish smile, a rural deference. I tilt my hips and tell her she’s got the face of an angel. I suck at pick-ups and women are fickle, if not deranged.
When they leave together, I figure it’s because she’s working. Seems the most plausible scenario. Or she’s just going to fuck him in worse ways. I can’t complain. At around 3 or 4, I’m bleary eyed and empirically exhausted, besides the pint I snuck in, I’ve had several beers and sweet talked the bartender into a few extra shots of whisky. I cash out my vouchers, and I don’t think I’ve lost more than 4 dollars in almost 4 hours of drinking for free. I walk out to the sidewalk, take a look up and down the street, and toss my guitar and satchel into the giant robust tropical leaves of the opulent landscaping right outside the casino. Another look up and down, and I crawl up. I lay down on the mulch, use my knife to cut some big-assed leaves for a camouflage & blanket, and pass out for a little under two hours.
For some reason, since that night, I’ve never felt a panicky woe-is-me. I used to do it all the time. Something changed just there, like I let go of something. My last night in New Orleans I slept on the public library steps, underneath the red neon sign across the street that reads “CITY HALL”. There were about 40 of us there. Around midnight a man walks up and takes the last slot, next to me. He’s wearing a blue janitor uniform and hat. His name, as his embroidered name tag, is Bobby and he’s out like a light, lying supine on the cold granite. When I wake up again around 5, I give the couple audibly shivering beside me my 3 plastic trash bags. It’s strange being told “God Bless You, Thank You So Much!” just for giving somebody some trashbags. I woke up a few times, walked around the block a few times to build heat. The rats are everywhere, skating the edges of our encampment. Some drunk frat boy type walks up and asks loudly if this is the Occupy Camp. At another point, some asshole walks up castigates us all in a loud sarcastic holler, “WHO WANTS SOME CRACK? NOW I KNOW THERE’S SOME CRACKHEADS HERE. COME ON NIGGAS GET YOUR CRACK. I SAID WHO WANTS TO SMOKE SOME CRACK!?” I’m told he does this nearly every night. He’s just looking for heads to crack. That night, I felt completely free in my destitute squalor. What was it Tyler Durden said? “Only when you lose everything are you free to do anything.”
The next day I sold my guitjo on the street and headed back North. It had been 4 days by then since i’d had a drink. Since the night I convinced Ralphie Brunson that life was still worth living and he called himself an ambulance. Of course, he called me an hour later and said he’d left the hospital and would I come get him. I told him get back in the hospital. I can’t get a cab for you anyway, remember I gave you my last cash so you could get vodka and crack? I wonder whatever happened to Ralph. The last text I got from him said “You should have stayed. I hit it big.” I know that’s bullshit. Guys like me and Ralphie, we don’t hit it big. Unless it’s a pipe or a bottle or a rail, we don’t hit it big.
The weather is seasonably brisk and affronting. I wake up at 9, but it’s really 12:30. I hate when that happens. I am blessed with pleasurable dreams; a girlfriend has gotten a new hairdo and all her worldly cares appear repaired. I am still depressed.
My general state of wellness seems to have a cyclical process. I am becoming aware of it in gradual husks as these fruitless years trample over me. One day I wake up, and the first thought in my head is a fantasy of a shotgun chainsaw obliterating my cerebral cortex. Then I get up and perform the perfunctory duties of a classy human being: scratching my ass, pissing, shitting, coughing, snorting, gazing disdainfully at a throw embroidered with the visage of Our Lord that is placed in mocking sanctity over the open doors of a wardrobe. And the same magazines by the toilet. I should really clean up.
And then again, if it’s not a shotgun, it’s a syringe. I was about to junk out last fall, I had the score all lined up, then I met her. Marla. ‘“I don’t have a tumor, but if I did, I’d name it Marla. That little cut on the roof of your mouth that would heal if you could just stop tonguing it, but you can’t.”’ Now I’m left with the same old guilty wistful hope of abandon, and she’s pregnant with my seed and not only concealing an opiate addiction, but concealing it from some sorry fuck that doesn’t even know my name, and actually thinks it’s his.
But I digress. Today, I’m going to spend several hours thinking about drinking, and then I’m going to spend money on drink. I’m going to spend the money I should be handing over to my patrons for groceries, water, etc, I’m going to spend that money on drugs. It’s a foregone foreclusion.
After I score, legally, easily, cheaply, I’m aware that the guffaws and witty outbursts are a telltale sign to my patrons. I suppose it’s about time I come to terms with the fact that: I AM withdrawn. I AM reclusive. I’m not really. I tell Murph we really need to hook up with that acid. I also ask him what he thought Lennon meant by “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”
He laughs. Yes, it is of the more transparent lyrical selections from Lennon’s career. All that I can surmise is: I’ve never made plans, therefore, all I’ve lived is pure unadulterated life. And to be certain and dazzling: when I did make plans, they led to unmitigated torture and woe—which so far as I can discern are truly some telltale signs of animation of the organism.
So I’m pretty drunk by the afternoon. I call Nash. He’s presumably been bed-ridden since being forced out of the ER yesterday. He actually answers. Yes, he says, I can get him tobacco and sandwiches. When I get there, he’s so normal it’s alien. He’s forlorn and not manic. He’s in serious, serious detox. He’s shaking all over once he gets up and moves about. I understand now why he wanted someone to buy him cigs:
He doesn’t want to hand the cash over for the shaking.
I almost tear up at one point. I get my point across, though, I’m sure of it, and to be sure, he’s remorseful. I tell him I’m not going to blame myself if he dies (I bring the whisky bottle out now, to my lips) and that I’m going to feel guilty if he dies. I reiterate that I don’t understand his trip, that if it would kill me quicker, I would and could stop drinking. Joux Joux had just the night before, in feathery tones, said to him: “You’re being a shitty friend, and a shitty person.”
When a fairy tells you something disparaging, it’s like a day-glo flamethrower emasculating you balls-up. It’s like waking up feeling great and finding a meat hook in your brain, and after a second of confusion remembering what you’ve done to deserve such a violation.
So I’m to go the grocer and get sandwich material. And this is where things go horribly wrong for me. You see, I”m a gourmet. So is Nash. We’ve both done our time under crank sous-chefs and downright manic-depressive Head Chefs. And along the way, we learned and cultivated the craft of cuisine; being artists, we both have imbued ourselves with the tenants of tradition as well as the frivolities of personality. I don’t like the way his apartment smells, and he thinks it’s crazy that I eat fries with tabasco, ketchup, and strawberry jam.
So I steal a flat of prosciutto (total fucking shit, as we found out, not worth sale) and buy a cantaloupe, loaf of bead, a tomato (curiously he’s tomato avoidant, fucking faggot poseur fuck!) and a red pepper, I’m thinking combined with whatever cheese laying around, we have ourselves some Flamingos. A “Flamingo” is any grilled sandwich with cheddar, prosciutto, melon, and a mayo or aioli. In this case, the mayo is raspberry preserves. I am the rightful progenitor of the “Flamingo” and any copyright cases will be dealt with forthright, and with no mercy or regard for morality or ethics.
When I buy the red pepper, I doubt it. I doubt that I’m making a savory choice. Not in a culinary disposition. I search the aisles for a canned roasted red pepper, but I’m pretty toasted, and grocery stores are usually kind of retarded. I buy a fresh one. It gets sauteed with the melon and butter, sea salt and black pepper. It get’s put on grilled wheat bread with prosciutto and cheddar. A thin slice of tomato. And that’s enough to make Nash vomit. Vomit like a pro.
There’s a prep bowl on the table by the grill on the way to the kitchen. He fills it 2/3 of the way. Not a drop otherwise. The kitchen is a little more messy. He fills another bowl, gets sloppy on the way to the sink, and seemingly carefully fills a bowl in the sink. Then he goes to the toilet to finish up. The whole while, I’m apologizing for the acids, for the whole idea, patting him on the shoulder, letting him know he’s surely not disgusting me. I clean up a lot of the mess. I tell him stories of the things that really disgusted me in my life, namely working at a turkey farm in my teens. I go into horrific graphic detail. I totally digress from and never mention my point, my point being the last time something made me wretch it was sanding dried cat snot off of walls. Instead I rail on about how turkey piss and shit dries at a fast comfortable rate, and I exalt about the experiences that Jeffrey Dahmer and I have in common. I’m not even aware that I’m really happy to have an unflappable, understanding audience. I’m really just hoping, as always, that I’m sufficiently entertaining.
There were no outcries. There were no sarcastic groans or pontifical grievances with my discourse. No lauds, no belly laughs, no overly amused half-cocked grins or even drawn out chesty chuckles. He just smiled at the appropriate times, sighed at the end, and watched and listened. I actually got to see him near his natural state. The librium, lorazepam, the steroids, it all barely touches him. He couldn’t roll a cigarette right now. He’s been RYO for over 15 years. He couldn’t do it now. I leave what’s left of my Camels.
Detox is a bitch. I’m a few hours—if even!—removed from a pint of whiskey, and I’m jacked up, ready for more. I’m about to run for more smokes and hope my plasma card can cover that and a 40 oz. All around Nash, on the walls of his basement apartment, the matter of his Soul hangs in acquirements and repositories of art. On cardboard, bits of wood and formica, in skulls and armadillos, in assortments of medical instruments, in abrogations of voodoo paraphernalia and of course in brushes, tints, sticks of colored oil, horned devils, part found reappropriation, part mutant prototype birthing of a freely deformed identity. All over the walls, floors, on his face, in his style, it’s all beautiful, singularly ineffable ART.
And there is no payment. There is want.
People like them need MORE people like us. Until they too throw up, and feel guilty, not for one or a few mornings, but for a decade of woeful mornings. Until they look at a Pollack in person, and feel nothing but hurt. Nothing but pain, like they are watching a stillbirth, like watching a crone wither with self-hate, like they are watching a war crime. That’s what the best of modern art seems to be made of; destruction.
When I wake up, I wake up with a start. As soon as the spark is lit in my consciousness, the dis-ease groans. I take a few seconds to collect dream memories, but I’ve awoken so fast that they are lost. Thank god. It’s hard enough to get over someone without dreaming about them every single night. And day.
After laying in bed for a half hour having distinctly immoral fantasies, I get out of bed. I’m wearing a hood, my favorite ironic tee shirt, boxers and socks. My left thumb is throbbing, upon inspection I see that it’s been split open, caked in dry blood. For a second, I fear that I’ve had another bicycle accident. I grab an Excedrin. Then I remember it is a wound suffered upon attack by a teenage girl, Alessandra. Alessandra is severely A.D.D. and I guess I’ve become a sort of brother or uncle to her since I’ve been living here. She says that I’m not a man, I’m a boy, and that I am very gay, which to be sure, I can’t deny. I had, in a state of drunken courage, invaded her room for inspection. I’m not acid tongued with her as her father, I’m not as coddling as her mother, and yet somehow I’ve garnered this mark of affection on my thumb. I can’t remember what she was swinging at me, but I remember laughing heartily and telling her that I’d block every shot, which I did. In a state of intoxicated grace, I deflected blows with the casual ferocity of a cat. Sometimes space and matter synch up with awareness in such a way that it transcends ability and skill.
The yard is a mess, disarray. Bicycles, a motorcycle, power tools, tarps, venetian blinds, a box of nails has tipped over, dozens of beer bottles, a prescription medicine bottle. I check my phone and realize Nash actually picked up his phone last night, and we talked for a half hour. He wouldn’t reveal his location; he claimed he was at home and that strippers had stole his car. In the light of morning, I realize he was probably being honest. I can’t remember what I said to him, but I remember what we talked about.
I pick up the yard and finish just as rain begins falling. Then it’s all John Cale, all the morning. By noon, I walk downtown to buy one single guitar string and two bridge pegs. And one 40 oz. of Mickey’s. I had found a one lone Summer Shandy in the fridge and it was just a lick before a whistle. I consider just getting a pint of Beam and trying to nurse it till I go to bed. But I know that by at latest it will be gone by 4:30, and then I’ll want another. Then I’ll pass out nicely sloshed around 10 after drinking a fifth. To be honest, I kind of want to stop. For a while. If I hadn’t gotten a call from Murph with orders to bike my ass over to Nash’s and then drive him to the emergency room, I would have probably doubled back down to the drug store for some good ol’ Jake.
Murph is a natural pill popper. He can mix the sauce in well. I take a picture of him last night with a beer bottle resting on his lap clasped between his hands as if in prayer, slouching in a chair in the backyard. Peter O’Toole in the film “My Favorite Year” plays a sort of aging Erroll Flynn, an alcoholic swashbuckler, and in one scene he walks into a meeting room, says a few lines, and face plants on the board table. Some dialogue ensues around him. Later on, he has recollection of the dialogue. He’s asked “You heard that? But I thought you were out!” He chuckles in that beautiful coppertone way and explains: “My dear boy. There is “out”, and then there is out.” It takes no talent to sleep while holding a martini glass; it takes inborn predilection to always wake up with it still there. That’s Murph. Some addicts aren’t addicted. They’ve merely learned to let the drugs in only when certain situational criteria are met, and then to allow the effects affect only their self and no one else, and most importantly, no familial or financial responsibilities.
So I slam the rest of my beer, and I’m there at Nash’s 10 minutes later. I knock on the door of his shitty basement apartment. “FUCK OFF!” I retort, “I’ll fuck up or down but not out.” I can hear that he’s got Murph back on the line. He gets nearer the door and I hear him say into his handset “Hold on, I’ve gotta find a sword.” And he’s rattling around the many implements of violence he keeps near the door. “I’d prefer a bludgeon, please sir, if you may.”
The door swings open and he’s got a nightstick raised. I’ve got my steel drawn chest high. “I’ll fucking kill you!!!” “Put down the fucking nightstick. Put on your boots.”
The place smells like roast beef marinated in armpit and days old urine. He’s wobbly, slurring. Rambling, incoherent, belligerent. “Put your fucking boots on, Nancy.” He wants to roll a cigarette, somehow his fingers finally find muscle memory once he takes his mind off of the task. The minutes tick. I know I shouldn’t dawdle. I get him to cough up his stash. A fucking Texas fifth of Five O’Clock and it’s almost all gone. I take a swig right in front of him, and pour the rest down the drain. His girl calls, dramatically shaken. More dawdling. “PUT on your GODDAMN BOOTS, SON, WE’RE GOING TO GET ICE CREAM. NOW. NOW. NOW.”
Somehow they let him out after 3 hours. We have to go inside to have him released to us. I want to ask if he’s being kicked out for being bellicose and lewd, but I just can’t bring myself to embarrass him much more, so when Joux Joux asks if he’s being “dishonorably discharged” ( wink wink, nudge nudge ) the physician doesn’t even acknowledge. By the look on the face of the woman who’s had to deal with him for these hours, I would say, yes: today an alcoholic who has drank himself onto a transplant list came into my job and made pathetic juvenile advances to me. And said I had beautiful tits and a great ass. And that he would pleasure me for several hours.
Nash isn’t a jerk. He’s just an asshole when he’s drunk. When he’s sober, he’s an excitable acerbic junk-picking hallucinatory artist oaf, with no fear of any man, save for himself. When he’s drunk, he’s an overly sarcastic cutesy boyish avoidant. He was a Ritalin kid. He was a side show act—shark hooks, fire-breathing, setting his whole body on fire, a freak predator engorged on pain. Now that he’s being forced to choose between dying from his favorite vice and dying from life…well, after divorce, after fate twists your maternal experience on this earth in absurdly tragic and lonesome ways, it’s not an easy choice; the path of the organism unto death becomes a hastening. The last time I was released, the psyche asked me “what is most important to you in life?” I was confused. “You mean right now, or generally?” “Generally.” Without any thought I answer “Freedom”. Freedom to live by my reckoning, not Johnny Law, not mom and dad, not societies imposed codes of moral and ethics. And, if I can’t find freedom here with the living, I’ll find it in death.
In the waiting room, he insists I can relate to what he’s been going through. He’s gone 90 days dry several times since finding out his liver is dying a few years ago. It’s 1/8 of normal size. He’s taking medicine that costs around a grand a month. He has an old flame returned to him, who is bughouse crazy for him, who happens to be an insistent caretaker to people; she grows medicine. She knows the score, she went off the rails and got back on a decade ago. Her mother drank herself to death. I tell him fuck no, I have no idea what’s wrong with you. I have an addiction and I am trying to cope. I’m nowhere near death. I’m nearing a state of health which will make death sooner than later. I predict that I will even out and get sober. If I had liver disease, no way would I drink. Especially with the kind of pot hook ups he has. I tell him, “It’s a disease I must cope with and try to prevail against death by being able to control it.” Nash has a definite death fixation. I just wanted anesthesia. To be sure, at one point I did want to die. Not specifically to die, just to make absolutely sure I could feel absolutely no pain. And so I drank. Now, I’m in love with life again, and the pain has become little shiny trinkets that dangle and mesmerize me. But I gave myself a sickness along the way…
The last time I stayed with Murph and Joux Joux, I entered, stated that I required a drink to take a shit, and upon inspecting the liquor cabinet, declared that before I left I would have to leave a few new bottles behind. Now that I’m back, I’ve been mostly perfect about not raiding the cabinet. Tonight, I’m so tired that I’ll be able to sleep in minutes of laying down. But I’m glad Murph has hid the whisky somewhere else. And the gin. And the vodka. And I’m sad that I don’t have another Mickey’s. And I’m sad that tomorrow this all starts over for me. And I’m sad that my kidneys, not my liver, are weak little things that hurt. And I’m sad that Nash is killing himself.
But I’m glad that I am, at all times, absolutely free to do whatever the fuck I want with my life and death. My father went out his own way, asleep and willing. I did get to tell him that I was proud of him before he went. The last time I saw him, I got trashed. I remember his eyes got squinty, steely and watery, and he smiled and shook his head at me, and called me a lush. “Whisky’s for sipping.” That’s what he’d always say—and he knew this by getting blitzed and driving around with a rifle one night long before I was born. The bullet veers a few inches and I never get born, and dad does a 25 year sentence for manslaughter. In my first 18 years of life, I saw him drink exactly twice, and once he actually got a little schnockered at his sister’s wedding. My mother has no issues with overindulgence, outside of maybe peanut M&M’s. Maybe it’s because her father was wild Irish drunk, and in all my life, I’ve never met him. If I wanted to, I could find out his watering hole, sit down next to him and he’d have no idea who I was for a few minutes. Maybe I’m just born under a bad sign, on St. Patrick’s Day in the year of the Monkey. Even my astrological birthchart—laugh if you want, but did you know the birth sign of the first A-Bomb blast was Cancer with Cancer rising?—says I have a pronounced tendency towards drug abuse and occult fascination.
But things are looking up—mayhaps very soon I dose on acid from the Mission district. I could really use another peak reprogramming. It’s been 12 years.
There is this new drug fad that I’m quite opposed to. You go to your local head shop and ask if they carry “Bath Salts”. For $20 you get a gram of unknown amounts of random research chemicals. The affects vary, in low dosage it’s just a bump of blow, if you do half a gram you might leave your body. I made that mistake one night at the last job I had. I’m pulling a loaf of ham off the wall, all to happy to slice it fresh for some nice middle aged women, when suddenly I’m only half there, at once I’m in this static black universe of ribbony dull light and fuzz tones, and also watching my body work a routine so familiar I don’t have to actually be conscious. I realize I’m losing control and I have to use a very sharp electric slicer. I excuse myself hastily: “I’m sorry ladies, someone will be with you very shortly, I think I’ve got a stomach flu.” The come down from this shit is particularly exciting. You get to feel like razor maggots are trying to crawl out of your skin. It’s awesome and when you’ve done the whole stash you get to keep a commemorative mini jar that’s labeled with neon rave dancer, a warning imploring against the sale to minors, as well as a familiar declaration from near-legal drugs: “Not for human consumption!” Is insufflation really consumption anyway?
When dealing with police, it’s best to to firmly believe that you have done no wrong, and if you have, it was just an honest mistake and no big deal. Lately Nash and I picked up a friend from work. There’s no back seat in the van and she’s crouched between us. When the cop sees her, he startles.
"Is there a little boy back there?"
"Ah no. She’s an adult. We’re giving her a ride home from work."
We call her Zombie. She works the local bikini bar. She’s maybe 4’10”, Korean, with a tongue that’s naturally too big for her mouth, so she has the cutest lisp. Her way of greeting me is to slap my face repeatedly. And she’s taken to sneaking in nut shots. She hasn’t got me yet, but I know the pain is coming. We all love her very much.
So Nash is positively wigging out: “no sir, I haven’t had anything to drink, I don’t drink, my plates aren’t updated because of this problem with my last name” and he goes on this whole discourse that I couldn’t even follow the first time he told me. I’m just jovial, smiling, making eye contact with Barney Fife. We had all just dosed on liquid THC and Nash had been drinking, which he is not not not supposed to do. He thinks we’re going down. The cop explains to him that he needs to get his registration updated. He’d plugged us because Nash didn’t have his headlights on. When the cop comes back from running our ID’s, he leans in and remarks that he smells alcohol, and would Nash please step out of the car. Nash of course starts stammering and I can see the cops hackles shiver from the near belligerent delivery, so I holler,
"Just tell him your a fire-breather! Officer, he’s a fire-breather. Some kerosene has spilled in the back seat, that’s all. See the wands? He’s been teaching us."
When we got home, we smoked some herb and Nash breaks out this head shop ether substitute. Another dissociative that I don’t like. I must be a lush for dissociatives because Zombie and Nash do a string of huffs and somehow stay lucid. If I’d done more than the one or two inhalations, I would have had to go lay down and talk to the shadow people on the outskirts of my corporeal existence while trying to maintain enough of a grasp on reality so that if the all pervading sonorous boom boom of my heart stops, I can hit the 911 button on my phone. Nash goes to the kitchen and brings back a glass of water.
"Here," he says to Zombie. "Drink THIS!"
"What is it?" She nervously giggles.
"Just drink it! It’s cool!"
"Oh I know what it is," I say.
"Don’t tell her!"
It’s fun to put people on. I’m not really good at it or so inclined to mess with people’s realities outside of simple metaphysical theorizing, or just making up strange flora and fauna of my imaginary native land and regaling them with stories of fishing for chickenfish with chickenflys, which is the only bait they’ll take because they’re called chickenfish because they only eat chickenflys. We don’t know why chickenflys are called chickenflys; chickens don’t even fly.
One time I snorted vodka. I tell the kids, “hey, if you wanna get REALLY fucked up, snort vodka!”
I called Mags the other night. The last time I saw her, we had checked into an hourly motel for the night. Mirrors on every wall and of course the ceiling. Closed circuit television playing the worst kind of crack whore porn, the kind where you see more scabby ass pimples than nipples, despite the poor lighting and motion blur. It’s not like I wanted to fuck. I knew she did, but I played it off as long as I could. She huffed crystal meth and and got jacked on Wild Turkey. I took a little puff, but I do so hate the effects of ice. I got to interview her about her Craigslist prostitution days. The time she met a john at his house and it was a well-to-do colleague of her well-to-do very conservative doctor father. The time a guy just wanted to pleasure her for hours with a humongous wand. The close calls and getaways and the near romances. It was stunning. She’d been out of rehab for a month at this time, kicked out for having sex with another patient.
I’m getting plasma sucked out of me the other day, and a technician sticks me through my tattoo. You’re not supposed to go through ink, and I told him my other arm is free, but he declines. This is the second time they’ve done this, and I know someone will notice and an administrator will inspect the puncture when I’m done and implore me to command the tech to use my free arm next time. This tech is a young man, maybe 24, nice guy. He mentions he has a tattoo in his lip, and I ask what it says. I’m expecting maybe some Jesus Freak stuff by his chipper demeanor and affable manner. But no, it says “scum”. “Oh,” I say, “like a GG Allin thing”. He smiles and tells me that’s not why he got it, but he appreciates Jesus Allin. I concur, and a few minutes later he’s telling another tech about the last time he had a q-tip inserted in his urethra. Made a bad decision one night, and the next day…well yada yada. You know.
I’ve never had to worry about that. Freaky unprotected sex is just one of the many activities I’ve never had the opportunity to purvey.
The day after I spent the night with Mags, a mutual friend informs me that she’s on her way to rehab again. And in the course of our dialog it’s explained to me the types of barter that Mags would endure to score when she had no money. And for a week, I waited, and inspected. A little twinge, any itch, was cause for paranoia. I also felt a little guilty. So when she messages me the other day, I call her up.
"Are you clean?"
"Yeah! For about 2 months!"
"Like, totally clean?"
"Yeah! Er, I mean I drink. I smoked pot once."
"That’s great Mags. You’re a great person. You should take care of yourself."
"Thanks! Are you clean?"
"Um…so did you finish rehab?"
"No, I got kicked out. After a few days of being homeless in Nashville I decided to come home, and my parents say if I fuck up one more time, I’m dead to them."
Drugs so proliferate through our culture that I wonder if we’re becoming a new species. Homo Intoxicant. Ambien to sleep, oxycodone for that disintegrating vertebrae, Adderall for Johnny so he can do math homework, a whole mish mash of steroids and antidepressants for mothers nearing middle age who must keep up with atavistic Johnny. A quadruple bypass survivor who won’t give up pork keeps chlorestoral at a base line with an army of statins. The last time I got released, the doc asked me what my drug of choice was. I say “whaddya got?” sending up Brando and Layne Staley in one swoop. They tell me they want to put me on anti-depressants, and I adamantly decline.
"But I would be interested in mood stabilizers, something for A.D.D., something I could take when I feel an anxiety attack coming…"
"We’re not giving you those because you’ll just abuse them."
I know I’m starting to get over my last girl because everywhere I go, pretty girls abound. I’ve been in love 3 times in my 30-some years. All three in the past 3 years, though the first of those lasted for 10 years preceding. In recent months, I’d wander through a miasma of single life, trading heated texts with her, keeping my cool to keep her on the spool, all the while searching every face I saw for a set of wonderful deep lively eyes. I saw a pair once, and they saw me, but I could tell by her garb she was too Cathy Duke for my liking. Then one day, she totally shuts me out again, but this time I let the release flow. And suddenly, women are attractive again.
Last night I’m at a show in a very small exhibition space; a dirty blues band pounded the gates of hell and among the two dozen spectators, one leaps out. Literally, she hops and rattles her solid frame around the floor, eyes smoky, relaxed in a fearless countenance. Could it really be another free spirit? Her arms splay, bangled wrists rise over her shoulders revealing a supple mid-riff that slightly ripples as she pumps her hip to the beat. Nash is fixated and begins to cough out a stuttering cry of “LAND HO!” but I interject, looking away from her, and shout “I know. I know.”
And yet I can’t delete her photographs from my phone. I can’t call her, she’ll not answer. She sent me an ultrasound proof; I know it’s mine. I predicted a girl. I had her right there with me the other night…but she’s still booting up. She’s still a self-hating little brat shitfuck 23 year old hipster-hating mirror breaking vitriol clad warrior of man hatred. “You’ll never be a part of her life so leave both of us alone!” I feel bad for the guy. She says he doesn’t even know I exist. Then again, I wonder just how deep her lies can get. Nothing makes any sense anymore.
I’m typically shy. It depends. After the show I’m shy and skipping over the phase of drunkenness where eloquence matches with sincerity; that is to say, between pints of whisky. I’m desperate, I can admit it, but to be sure: desperation stinks. So I try not to look at her, and I try to stop up that sieve of a mouth I have where whatever enters my mind comes sloshing out. I’m making some small talk, waiting to give the band props as they leave, and this girl is cutely stoned, a look of calm wonder. I catch an exchange between her and another equally queer but less disarming female.
"I think Jimmy John’s dumpster, I’m kinda hungry"
Her hair is dusty and matted. She hasn’t a trace of make-up on her noble mug. Her leggings tell me that she could kick like a mule. And she’s going foraging in back alley dumpsters for leftovers. I am about to fall in love. I think she said goodbye, I think I clasped her hand in a way that precedes a gentlemanly kiss, and I think I said something stupid like “Fare thee well.”
I started drinking heavily so that I could sleep, and also have the added benefit of not remembering dreams. After a while, my subconscious started penetrating that veil. It’s been long enough that the dreams usually don’t get me down in the morning. I actually look forward to them now; I’d love to be friends with her but she kind of divorced me after 9 years and married my ex-best friend after wrecking his marriage. So I get to see her in dreams, and I get to flip him shit. My latest ex only recently started showing up in dreams. Last night she was with me at a seedy motel. The songwriter Chris Gantry was there, too, and that was way cool. But it’s on the regular with my first ex. One night this week she was crying, she was ostensibly that happy to see me. When he asked her why she was crying, she started laughing and told him it was something funny that I did. I told her I’d go get her a Coke, she had a thing for Coke. When I got to the machine down the street, bottles were 23 cents. Then I woke up.
I savor the dreams that well adjusted people have when I’m lucky enough to go there. Such as: I’m security for a Mexican cartel. We meet with this family of Jewish/Amish farmers who are big time mobsters. We’re on their farm, and the patriarch, Abraham was probably his name, is telling us how meth is how he provides for his family, but his real passion is breeding Afghan dogs. So we go into this trailer, and Abe has some cholos working for him. There is soon some chatter between factions, and I pick up on a violent vibe. I try to relieve my cholo buddy and intervene, my hand on my nine, I’m really hoping I don’t have to waste someone. But next thing I know, there’s a box of cereal. And I’m munching. And after a few bites, I realize the corn flakes are meth-infused. I curse them for tricking me because I hate meth. We make a peaceful deal and retire to the farm yard. I perch atop a hay bale on lookout, but all I see is 12 year old boys in overalls and straw hats smoking corncob pipes, looking like Norman Rockwell paintings. And sure enough, Abe’s brought out some Afghans, and they truly are a specious achievement.
Last week I spent an afternoon making morel mushroom pizza with a Deadhead neighbor. He’s a rather high-functioning spaceman, and good friends with my patrons. Much wine, whisky, and roux-based shallot laced white sauce that was so rich I had to step out for a cigarette to keep from vomiting up. Long notes played from a clarinet in the basement where his post-grad son lives. His daughter stopped by, much to young for me, but an incredible sight of deceptive modesty. Studying Arabic. Boyfriend in the Marines. Later on I’m telling this story to my patrons, and when all I have to say is “oh and I met his daughter, she’s rad!” Within a breath, Joux Joux looks at me, raises an eyebrow and in a tone between teasing and a motherly scold, simply says “Stay Away.”
The title of this entry is a song by Guided By Voices that I’d never heard and began to play on Spotify at the very moment that I began this first entry. I empathize with it’s sentiment, it’s knee-jerk puerile reaction to unrequited or irresponsibly modulated acceptance of heartbreak.
Heartbreak moves the world. Not love. Love was the mistake. Romantic love is a moment, not institution, it is an instant sacrosanct memory. A holy divestment between two or a few people. It is a game that we take too seriously. A warning from our higher consciousness.
"Aren’t we all just hamsters on a wheel anyway?"
The moment she said that, I fell madly in love. She was beyond all this…effluence. All these distractions. Still susceptible to cats, and ultra quirky, super witty cute little Indie films, but even so: I didn’t think it would happen again. You want to know what I thought would happen?
I thought I’d wrangle someone either far above or far below me into loving me. Either a patroness or a pet. I didn’t think I’d have to endure a drama again. She proved how stupid I am.
"I only lie by omission."
Let me go back to that moment, please, and feel a twinge of paranoia. Let me get giddy at the prospect of playing at sparring with another persons psyche in delicate, premeditated, methodical ways, instead of the sledgehammer.
My friend Murph says our emotions are tools. We all have a toolbox. In mine, I have determined, are a sledgehammer, a jackhammer, and a microscope.
I usually wield the sledgehammer. Sometimes I wield the jackhammer. I always have the microscope handy, but that “I” is really some strange maladjusted, dystrophied ego monkey, who keeps it all hid.
So the sledgehammer says to her, “You are my everything.”
The moment I said it, I regretted it. I hadn’t learned a thing.
Moments we’ll have. I’m finally confident that I can do this thing I espouse. I’ve only been in love three times. Five times, if you count the one that didn’t exchange a word with me beyond her cashier duties, and the one that in her cashier duties was technically illegal.
Where are they now? Bound inextricably to moments we spent together. Moving away, then, back around, then out away.