Monday, May 25, 2015

The Wilderness Years - Naugahyde Pt. 2

Sitting there near the jukebox, the din of happy hour drunks steadily increasing, the alien light still flashing in every time the door opened, i leaned back and looked Hippie Jack in the eye and said, reeeaalllly, drawing it out, he just kept grinning and said yep, and i asked if i could see it, he said sure you can, i asked how soon and he said tomorrow, i said about the same time, he said yep, i said cool and we went back to bullshitting about bands, i let him do most of the talking, he was espousing the virtues of Frank Zappa and maligning his beloved Dead, he said the scene was dead and Frank was the future though with Frank having died a few years before i don't know how that was... and there was the obligatory cop discussion, i knew i had passed cuz he said he wasn't even gonna ask me, Dina was a top notch reference and she said i was cool, it was like passing the interview, sort of what you would do if you were out with your boss at dinner or some shit, it was the same thing and this guy sitting here might soon be my boss in a way, the guy who supplied, the guy you had to pay and bullshit and keep in good graces with, it was best to sit back and let him ramble, nod and laugh and say a few things, i bought him another drink and then told him i had to split because i had to work in the morning, said my goodbyes and told him i'd see him next afternoon, same time same sandbox...

As i stepped into the early evening and past the piss yellow light that lit a large painted sign reading Mitchell's Tavern, i was practically fucking skipping down the street, past the shitty laundromat and liquor store and check cashing place, a fucking break, of course i had to tell myself not to shoot my wad quite yet, this was of course a racket filled with an endless amount of fuck-ups, lunatics and con artists, guys who promised the moon but instead provided steaming piles of shit, but still the gut was telling me something good, of course the average Joe might be saying to themselves, some girl you worked with for three days walks into a bar, gets up in your mug and starts smiling and talking about how you were always stoned at work and blah blah blah and you end up sitting with her ex-old man, who just so happens to be in the same line of work and with what seems like a much better connection, but that's how it was, that was the risk one took and it came down to keen sense of reading people and a little luck, i once heard a cop talking about how the media fed the public a load of shit, had the common man believing that there were these huge networks of distribution and the like, he laughed, it was all freelancers he said... and he was right, there were loose organizations, it's why they were called connections, the guys doing it knew that shit could go south any time in any way and then the connection was lost and hopefully it didn't zap you along with it, the fact if anyone anywhere on the supply line fucked up it would disappear, it could be people far removed, names and faces you'd never see or know, you do it long enough and learn how good you have it when a bunch of loose cannons hold shit together for as long as they can all for the common good of their billfolds...

The next day i awoke and got stoned and made my way to work, coffee-oj-donut combo because healthy eating was of the utmost importance after spending the night sucking down Scotch and beer, remember this lovely combo because it will make an appearance at a later date in this tale, work dragged as i stood around like the kid on X-mas, i was hoping, i wanted to see what the Hippie Jack could do and even after i got off i still had an hour and a half before i had to meet him,  it did give me enough time to check the messages and do a little business if need be, for once i wasn't worried about any calls coming in, i wanted to get down to the bar and see three lucky 7's all lined up in a row, hear the bells and whistles of the fucking jackpot going off in my head... and so when i could wait no longer i made that walk over to the bar, a half-hour earlier than planned, ordered my Scotch and beer and tried to look as cool, calm and collected as possible, first hoping he'd show and then hoping it wasn't a line of horse shit, i grabbed one of the naugahyde booths with my face towards the door, picked up the local stripper rag that they put in bars all over this part of town and pretended to read while i waited, mainly i looked at half-naked pictures of our local entertainment community, then about 20 minutes after he said he'd be there Hippie Jack rolled on in, grinning yet griping about some injustice of the local transit system, i had already put a Jack and Coke in the wood for him and as Karen poured his drink he looked over and waved, he grabbed his drink and started shuffling over, brown corduroys and worn gray hoodie, couple plastic grocery bags filled with who knows what, baseball cap pulled down low, he could have passed for vaguely homeless...

He slid into the opposite side of the booth and rasped thanks for the drink man, i said no problem and then he proceeded to go off on how the bus system in this town sucks and how he was supposed to catch a ride with this chick he knew but she bailed on him with some bullshit excuse and had this not happened he would have been down here ages ago, i told him it was no big deal and he grinned and took a look around and i said so? and he grinned and said oh yeah man don't worry, he smiled again, you ain't a cop right? naw man i'm no cop and then he laughed and i could tell he had slipped something into his right hand and was reaching out under the table, the best fucking part was that i could smell it before i ever saw it, i looked at him and said shit man, he grinned and out of the side of his mouth cackled i told you it was pretty good, and so there we sat, two guys doing business, we sat and drank our drinks, i asked roughly how much this would cost and he whispered six a quarter pound and elevenfifty a half, he paused twentyonefifty an elbow cuz i can do those too he grinned, i sat back and nodded, told him it sounded good, added that i was gonna finish my drink and head back to the place and give it a test, asked if he wanted anything for the sample, he said no no it's cool, i smiled and got up, shook his hand and made my way towards the door...

There was a brown and blue plaid flannel shirt that i had bought one day at a Salvation Army i believe down on Madison Ave. in Lakewood, it had cost a dollar and it was a fine fucking shirt, warm and ugly and there were women who hated it and ones that tried to steal it from me but this shirt in it's first five years had always been a bit of good karma, good gris gris and juju, not that i believed in that shit but sometimes you gotta believe something and as the Dude had his rug El Kono had his shirt, though it should be pointed out the shirt pre-dated the rug, of course i had it on that night and as i walked out of the bar and into my not quite ghetto-fied hood, i was fairly skipping down the street as the bums and liquor store clerks and Voodoo Lady looked on in bemused indifference, i needed to get home and test this shit out...

I bounded up the steps and into my place and headed straight for my room, i kicked off my shoes and tossed my shirt onto the bed (aka mattress on the floor), pulled up my garbage picked chair and opened the bag next to my new and quickly gathering dust word processor, the smell filled the room and i took it out and there were nice green buds, not much seed, what would come to be known as classic middies circa 1995, it was far and away better than the shit i was peddling now and more expensive, i sat and crunched the numbers and tried to figure out what i could do with it, i stuck my head out the door and called to Jess, she loved getting stoned and would be a help in gauging the quality, she came back and sat down and i packed it up and we smoked, Jess smiled and shook her head, she had a naturally sultry voice, that's alot better than what you got now she said, i smiled and said it sure fucking was, we finished the bowl and she left and i went to work with the numbers again, turned on the radio and listened to the local uni's punk rock show, opened the chest and looked at how much money i had, basically it was about six bills, enough for a quarter pound but if the stuff was like this i figured shit would pick up, business sense dictated a half, that extra fifty saved put toward the head stash and the numbers still come out alright, cut up small it could net $70-100 an ounce on average, no it wasn't coke money but it would allow me to eat and pay my bills...

For those of us who attended college from the late 80's to early to mid 90's there was this remarkable phenomena, every day it seemed when you walked into the cafeteria or library or student union there would be a table with a couple of people not much older than us students sitting there inviting you over to get a free travel mug or backpack or key chain or fountain pen, and in order to receive these lovely gifts all you had to do was sign up for a credit card, hell you were in college and someday you'd graduate and find meaningful employment so why not get started on building that credit score and getting ready to be an upwardly mobile member of our fine society? suuuuurrrre right now you have no visible means of income but those bankers were pretty positive that your presence on said campus meant that somebody related to you had a fucking income, so they lined up for the chance to dole out credit cards to the future of America... and hand them out they did, you could get as many as you wanted, i knew people who had half a dozen, probably don't need to remind anyone how well that worked out for everyone involved... lucky for one worldwide conglomerate El Kono decided to sign up for their card one day and had managed to be somewhat responsible with it mainly due to his dabbling's in the grass business... and on this fine day he was hauling ass with said credit card down to the local bank on his lunch break to cash advance the rest of the seed money needed to upgrade the current state of his business...



Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Wilderness Years - Naugahyde Pt. 1

The ritual of the habit has always been one of my favorite phrases, and when you get right down to it home is where the habit is, you can feel at home almost any place as long as there is the routine, oh i know people don't like to admit it but it's there in everything we do, we are creatures of habit, my favorite habit was walking to the bar, Mitchell's in particular, the drinks were cheap and strong and the happy hour crowd colorful, i'd often throw darts or play pinball as the jukebox pumped out a steady diet of Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, Barry White, CCR, the Stones, the Kinks, P-Funk, it was a lovely fucking time damn near every night and i was becoming a fixture, the tall white kid with dreads, i was the well spoken kid who might have a side gig, the last time i had lived in this hood the good Doctor and i were regulars here and sometimes i'd do a little business out of the place, there was the legendary hash Thursday where i got about half the bar blitzed on hash, the pipe travelling to and fro and people looking bummed when it kicked on them only for someone to hand it back to me so i could pack it up again, back then it was college night, now it was the working stiffs and i was now officially one of them... or so i said...

So many nights i would come home from work and check the messages, things had picked up a little bit and every now and then to cut down on traffic at my place and give my roommates a break i'd head to the bar, i'd weigh and bag and walk over, Mitchell's had been home to so many petty criminals over the years it damn near felt safe, like a clubhouse for hoods, a nod and a wink sorta place,  that didn't mean you could be stupid and i wouldn't advise just shouting out what you had but it seemed like one of those places cops ignored, except of course when they wanted to score and a few of them were regulars, getting weed and coke from Karen the Jewish bartender, she was the go between, the buffer between the Fuzz and the hustlers, the cops were happy cuz they got their gear and the hoods were happy cuz if the cops ever heard anything was up the phone would ring and whispers passed about to be cool, all those who needed to know would be told and when the heat lifted it was back to business as usual... Karen had massive respect and the last place you wanted to be was on her shit list, she had a quick and dirty sense of humor and used to strut up and down the bar, frizzy black hair in tight jeans or a short skirt, she had no qualms about telling someone how she liked to fuck and she'd make men blush talking a blue streak about what she'd do to them, of course she never took any of them home when she was working but once she was off it was fair game, the brothers were her favorite and she had chewed up and spit out more than a few, but she commanded the bar for the happy hour crowd and in turn the place achieved a serene and strange peace...

Around this time i had fully embraced the cheap Scotch and beer lifestyle espoused by a certain poet, for less than five bucks (including a tip) i could get a Scotch and water and a bottle of beer, good city dive drinks too, a Scotch and water you'd have to choke down but come the third one and the world was fucking gorgeous... at least until the hangover kicked in, the dart board was in the back of the place and at times i'd be so drunk i'd have to hold onto the wall so i wouldn't fall down while i threw, at the dartboard i was a quick study and soon found it easy to find a partner to shoot Cricket, the old winner stays challenger plays bar rules and some nights i never put coins in the machine except for that first game, the games were intense but friendly and there was never any hustling, it was playing for the sport, for the competition and it was a good way to pass from late afternoon to early evening...

Now if i was going for the cinematic effect i'd say that it was a Tuesday afternoon and Sinatra's Luck Be A Lady was playing, Frank got his fair share of run at this place as well... but it wasn't, i was sitting at the bar near the door, when you walked in the past the grimy glass alcove and past the steel door the first thing you saw was a large rectangular wood bar, Cherry Masters in the corner straight ahead, the jukebox on the right next to the door, past the bar the place opened up with tables in the center and booths along both walls, the right side had the handshake drug booths, red naugahyde with high backs, a single light hanging above, there were about 4 of them and past the booths the bathrooms and payphone in the back corner, on the opposite was another alcove with a bench along the wall and more tables and then the dartboard, a set of steps led up to a door that connected to a cheap and good restaurant, the place was always dimly lit and seemed to get dimmer as the night went on...

And so there i was on my stool partaking in my first Scotch and water of the day, my bottle of High Life next to it, it had been a slow day at the office and so i took the walk to the bar, it was an Indian summer day, pleasantly warm and much to bright once you entered the cavern of Mitchell's Tavern, once the eyes adjusted it seemed every time the door open it was a blast from some alien world outside, i was sitting and mindlessly listening to the chatter when suddenly there was a face in mine, I know you she said and i blinked and examined the tiny space between her teeth and simple wavy black hair, the boutique hippie dress and scent of patchouli, she had worked at the bagel shop for three days on my first go round in the burgh, it had probably been 18 months or so since i had seen her and having only worked with her three days i couldn't remember her name, just knew she talked her way into the job to work a few days and collect a check, she confirmed as much as we started talking, she introduced me to an older hippie and by older i mean a guy in his mid-forties, it was her ex man and she just stopped by to have a drink with him, she sat there and started talking about how i was always stoned at the bagel gig, i laughed and concurred and the old hippy who's name was Jack added some yeah mans and laughed along too, it was just one of those things, a person sees someone they worked with but didn't really know and decides to start yapping, i had nothing to do i didn't mind, i began to glean that she was tiring of the whole hippie/ Dead scene and was definitely not into banging guys twice her age anymore, for a minute i thought she might be sizing me up but i didn't really want much to do with it and so we talked a bit more and then she said her goodbyes and then got up and left...

Her name was Dina and i watched her walk out the door and then turned to see that Hippie Jack had taken up the stool next to mine, now in it's own demented and warped way it was like that show Guardian Angel that once clogged up the airways, i didn't watch the show or believe in fucking angels but i knew the gist and maybe Dina knew something we didn't and now she had to go off and save a litter of puppies or something but first she had to put two potheads who wanted to make a living selling pot next to each other, Hippie Jack looked at me and rasped, i was really hoping she wanted to screw... she about killed me when we were together, i gave a wry smile and nod and then he proceeded to tell me all about the his ill-fated love affair with Dina, a girl half his age and who had sorta kinda broken his heart...

So i sat and listened as Hippie Jack told his tale, a tale of old hippie meets young nubile hippie and can't believe his luck when he beds her and then continues to do so and she moves in and he's thinking it's all PB&J, bliss and blotter until one day she stops fucking him and then shortly after moves out and in with her new much younger man, she enrolls in school, gets back in her daddy's good graces, (no more snagging a job for three days for a few bucks) and of course the last thing daddy wanted to see was his daughter shacking up with a guy who's much closer to his own age than his little girls and though parts of the tale are tinged with bitterness there is also a bit of self deprecation and the sense of who the fuck did he think he was kidding? he knew she wouldn't stay around forever but he was still glad she stopped by... even just for a little while... and in the end he sure was a likable fucking sort so i bought him a Jack and Coke...

And so we conversed... you know how if you're at a party and you put the two poets or marketing sorts or hypochondriacs next to each other the conversation will inevitably turn to poesy or shilling or fake illnesses? well the same things happens with wastoids and so the young guy with dreads sat with the older hippie with long black hair just starting to go gray, a full beard and the ever present sandals, and began trading stories about doing drugs, mostly about heroic doses of mushrooms and acid with the occasional grass story tossed in and in the course of this conversation which had gone on for over an hour or so i made mention that i sold a little bit of grass here and there, his eyes lit up and asked if it was any good, i told him not really and he smiled and leaned in and laughed the said i think i can help you...




Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Wilderness Years - Early Doors

When i had walked out of the hallowed halls of higher education the first time, circa 1993, i was walking into a job market rather barren and devoid of prospects, Slick Willie hadn't got us going in whatever direction it would be, hadn't boosted the markets and created disposable income, hadn't kick started the economy or reformed welfare... now by the time i flunked out of grad school just two short years later the college kids were blowing down the doors of corporate America and making bank, or at least that's what the papers said, i knew a few people of that ilk but most everyone i knew was in a band or made art or sold drugs or made art, was in a band and sold drugs, a few had real gigs, the Engineer, my Lawyer (who really wasn't a lawyer but a marketing guy,  a riff on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), the good Doctor who as the biggest introvert i knew took a job as a travelling salesman, and of course the good many of us who had taken jobs just to make ends meet like Jess, the good Doctor's lady who was shilling at the Party Haus and waiting to default on her student loans, she had actually helped me to land the warehouse gig and when we all sat around on Saturday nights drinking and getting stoned and indulging in too much whisky and various other substances one could describe it as a rather sad, less successful and less attractive version of St. Elmo's Fire, just a decade later and living in the land of Slick Wille and not Ruthless Ronnie...

The next week i managed to make it to work on time every day, start with small attainable goals, isn't that what all the self help gurus say? call it one for the working stiff and two for the hoodlum, the important business of getting the business up and running was taken care of pronto, Frat Boy Finance Guy lived across the 40th St. Bridge and into an old mill town now absent said mill, a run down little hamlet with a 100 bars, i was beginning to wonder who was shittier at finance as i pulled into his apartment lot, me for overpaying for his  mediocre smoke or him at his actual job, this was more Crap St. than Wall St. but what the hell did i know about the stock market? fucking nil, nor did i care, my market came in zip-locked plastic bags and with any luck made the room smell pleasantly funky, as usual luck was absent inside Frat Boy Finance Guy's apartment but at least the gear was a better than the dirt i passed of as ganja back at Podunk, it would do for now and we'd hope for the snowball effect to work it's magic... i had a feeling Frat Boy Finance Guy did too, i'm sure his asshole puckered a bit every time i came by, 6'4 and huge dreads, thrift store clothes driving a different borrowed car each time, even if i hadn't been doing illegal shit i'm sure i sorta fit the profile of a guy who would be doing illegal shit, and yet like Master Fucking Luke i'd slip in and out like a shadow and the local John Q.'s never saw me...

Maybe i was on the cutting edge of business models when it came to the weed slinging business, had i any foresight i should have planned out a few short seminars on the basics and then offered more courses on the advance and expanding model, been like the Tom Vu of grass, my face smiling across late night telly as i strolled across a yacht all blinged-out as bikini clad models lolled around and smiled towards me as we all drank champagne, i'd tell all the would be hustlers of America that i was once a stiff like them but now i'm making cheddar and that i could teach them to do it too! order my seminars on VHS or the new DVD format, $39.99 for the first three lessons and just 10 bucks for each additional lesson, call in the next 30 minutes and we'll throw in some free pipe cleaners and rubber bands (for all theeee fucking caaaash), don't be a fuck-up like all those other stoners, this method is tried and true and sure to make you a big success... the funny part was it was nothing more that business 101, do basic shit and do it well and people will come back, even god damn when your shit isn't as good as some other guy's...

And so i snuck in and out of the old mill town for the first few weeks, i had the numbers worked and had hoped to sell a couple of ounces a week if it went well, nickel and dime shit, eighths and quarters and maybe the occasional half, a small discount for buying weight but nothing drastic, it needed to be broken down to make a profit and so each day i'd roll home from the warehouse and check the messages, that's right, on the fucking answering machine on the apartment line, i didn't have a cell phone or a pager, it was all Ma' fucking Bell, then i'd make a few call backs and tell people when it was cool to come by, in the early doors sometimes it was 2 customers a night, sometimes it'd be 8, other times the phone wouldn't ring at all and i'd sweat it wondering if shit was going south but really i didn't have that many people on the payroll back then as we used to joke, but it went and people would stop by and we'd have a smoke and drink a beer and it was all quite polite...

The positive part was that i was seeing repeat customers and some of them had brought friends, apparently the new guy back in town was alright, of course there were protocols when new kids wanted to come to the party and so first it would be discussed and if things seemed cool then it was a go, the reference had to be a solid one as well as in no friend of a friend bullshit and said person had to vouch for new kid at risk of being banned or worse themselves, the worse part always left lovingly vague, often delivered with a chuckle but delivered just the same, and while you couldn't sit and dwell on what happened to even the lowest level street dealers for selling grass in the year of 1995 you had to put up some kind of protective barrier, maybe not as drastic or paranoid as Cowboy Dan from back in Podunk days but Cowboy Dan had passed on some important knowledge of what to do and at the same time what not to do, and what's a good student do? they study the teachers to learn the strengths and weaknesses in order to someday surpass that teacher, i just wanted to tilt the risk/reward ration in my favor as much as possible even though at this point i knew the reward was low and the risk high, it was maybe 200 bucks a week and if popped it was possession, possession with intent, any other thing the Fuzz could tack on, lots of threats and chances to help yourself (rat out or trade up) cuz it's good PR for the Five-O and the media loves stories about evil doers being taken off the street and who is more evil than your friendly neighborhood grass peddler? but i needed customers and i had to hope they'd need me or more correctly what i could provide...

And so those first few weeks rolled along and it went alright, i had a little extra cash for the bar and pizzas, i was settling in to my new place, the gig at the warehouse was cool, now i just needed something to break, a new connection specifically, one with better gear but for now i was just waiting it out, dealing with the few customers i had and scraping by, it was alright but it was no means to an end and by December the loans would start coming due and i needed things to pick up a bit, needed to generate a bit more income and as far as i was concerned the straight and narrow was for suckers...










Saturday, April 25, 2015

Louie

About a dozen years ago the girl and i were standing in some shelter looking at cats, debating actually if we should get another one or not, i am an unabashed cat guy, William S. Burroughs was one too, but we were standing there looking and truth be told we weren't even looking at Louie but at a different cat but for some reason i kept looking over at the cat who would be named Luis Garcia Shinobo Diego Rivera Marquez and every time i did he'd meow and stick his paw out of the cage at me and so i said to the girl what about that one? and so we asked to see him and we sat and played for a bit and when it was all said and done i was smitten with the cat i'd give six names, seven if you count a nickname, Louie as he'd become known...

He was the clumsy and had a penchant for landing on anything but his feet when he'd attempt to jump on or off something and yet i had rarely seen a cat so skilled at getting exactly what he wanted out of the garbage, of course that might mean tipping the wastebasket over and then pulling out everything inside until he found what he was looking for but he'd find it and then swiftly marshal it away to eat his fill, sometimes leaving the remnants for his large hairy people friend to find, he was a lap cat who loved laying around and i'm hoping he enjoyed his time laying around with me, he was a damn good cat, vocal and loving, he'd walk around loudly meowing when he was looking for you, i'd hear him wander from room to room and i'd call his name and he'd keep right on yapping and as soon as he'd see me i'd hear his motor start and he'd purr and jump up on my lap, lick my hand or arm, in a nutshell he was just a laid back cat, in fact i don't think i ever heard him hiss...

But he was old and things were going south and so last night as the girl and i watched him we knew it was time for a second emergency visit in the last three weeks, (not counting a couple of regular ones), his head was cocked from an ear infection and his ear was bleeding as well, he wasn't really eating and he seemed to be losing weight by the hour, after letting our boy Pablo go to long because neither one of us could pull the trigger we had learned our lesson and didn't want it to happen again... and so i took him and told the boyos to say goodbye because there was a good chance Louie might not be coming back and they did and i put him in his carrier and made my way to the vet... i sang to him, the little song i used to sing to him years ago, talked to him about how beautiful the night was, he meowed weakly and looked at me, i knew i was probably talking more for me than for him but it felt like it made him relax, he always hated the carrier and the car and if it was his last ride i wanted it to be a pleasant one, the night was creeping in and as i could see him turn his face to the cool night air as i took him out of the car, i stood for a moment and let him sniff the air...

I could list the myriad of things that were going wrong but i'll just leave it at what amounted to a quickly failing liver, the doctor told me more things but honestly i barely heard him, i knew what was coming and so i told them what i wanted and they told me to call them when i was ready, once again i talked, more for me i'm still guessing and told him i was glad he got my attention that day so long ago and that i loved him, kissed his head a dozen or so times and then he turned and licked my hand twice, i'll just say at that point it took a moment for a very tall and unshaven man to get his shit together, a few minutes later there was an knock and i nodded to the nurse and whispered okay, kissed my boy Louie once more and called it a life well lived...

Luis Garcia Shinobo Diego Rivera Marquez or Louie as he was known, was somewhere between the ages of 13-15 years old, he was a damn fine cat and i'm much better for having known him, like his younger brother Pedro i tend to think i'm gonna see him in all his usual places but when i look he isn't there... i miss him...

Epilogue: If anyone is really taking this hard around here it's little Nick Disaster, he's a bit awed and confused by the whole concept of death and this is the first time it's hit this close to home, sometimes he starts crying and asks if Louie is just asleep somewhere and that maybe they gave him the wrong shot and that he wishes he didn't die, i'm doing my best to help the little dude, talking to him and letting him know it's okay to grieve, to be sad, but i can see his almost six year old head spinning as he tries to comprehend it, i want to tell him that it's hard for the living to explain death for the sheer fact that we're alive and know nothing about it really other than how it effects us but i figure we'll wait for the teenage years for the really deep shit, now i just sit and talk and try to take his mind off it, as he sat in the tub today he looked at me and told me he wanted to get me a cat for my birthday, one that looked a bit like Louie cuz then i'd have a cat again, i smiled and told him that'd be great, tried to hide the mist coming up in his old man's eyes, then he smiled and went back to playing in the tub...

Friday, April 3, 2015

What's in a Name?

We now take a brief detour from the Wilderness Years to ponder the Wilderness Years, well not exactly, they say the past can be a grotesque animal or it can be a beautiful view or it can be a bitch slap, depends i guess really on where point A (past) collides with point B (present) and every so often out here in the lily white the old crashes into the new and i'm always left shaking my head because maybe if i've learned anything in the last 20 odd years (which is highly debatable) it is that i'm much more self aware now of my actions and ramifications thereof than i had been in my wayward youth, or maybe if i'm being brutally honest, once i was a narcissistic asshole and now i'm old, wasn't it Oscar Wilde who prattled on about the beauty of the young flower? i could be completely fucking wrong, somewhere there's an old photo i took of Oscar's grave the day i wandered around Pere Lachaise looking for Celine's grave (only to find out later that Celine was buried in Meudon), covered with flowers left by his adoring fans, but where was i?

In the very un-Wildean setting of a suburban hockey rink, watching Nick Disaster work on his skills, i had run into an old acquaintance who also had sons in the class, a guy i had known and hadn't seen in close to 20 years, we had recognized each other a few weeks back and since he was freshly divorced he was there every other week, in his younger days he had always been a bit of an uppity prick but the failure of his marriage had seemed to take the prickliness off him, he was a bit softer around the edges shall we say, not that we were going to be exchanging numbers and grabbing beers any time soon but we had mutual friends and so we sat back and watched the kids skate and listened to the sound of pucks cracking into sticks and i for one spent a good deal of time ogling the one instructor who reminds me of the girl in the Dragon Tattoo movie, (Rooney Mara i believe) though i've seen roughly 15 minutes of the movie and never read any of the books...

And so it happens the next time i see him he's with his new lady friend and we sit on the same bench and say hello and he introduces me to her, he uses my "Christian" name as they say in some parts and let's just say that my actual name is bit white trash, a nickname for an actual longer name or the kind of name that could be dignified on an adult but that a mother would worry about kid's making fun of  growing up, all shit that was taken into consideration by my doting and worrying mother... i'm also named after my old man whose roots are in the south and it's name more common below the Mason/Dixon line than above, also i'm not a junior... still with me? and so it's not a common name like Joe or Jim or Bob but it's not an exotic one by any stretch of the means, most likely you meet one or two over the course of your lifetime, so she says hello and shakes my hand and a moment or two passes and this look of surprise comes over her face and she says to him, Kono? like is this the Crazy Kono i've heard about? and he smiles a bit sheepishly and says yep that's him... she turns to me and smiles as if i'm a C-list movie star she's just met at the auto show, a cross between mildly impressed and somewhat fascinated as if i'm a side-show freak... i smile back and let out a cross between a sigh and a laugh and explain that these days i usually just go by Kono and try to avoid the whole "crazy" part, she then looks at me and asks why? she states very matter of factly that a nickname like Crazy is not handed out to just anyone and shouldn't be taken lightly, that i should be proud of my old moniker, embrace it, they just don't call anyone the King or the Boss and like that Crazy is a name hard earned and one to be respected... or perhaps more aptly it's given to fucking nut cases who drink way to much and take any narcotic put in front of them and then generally go out and cause trouble or do stupid fucking shit that should get them maimed or killed or incarcerated...

Of course i smiled at this and knew that part of what i thought  was a beautiful and brilliant explanation was because they both had thought they offended me and this being the lily white it was bad decorum to do so, i smiled back at her and told her that her rationale was a fine thing and after her having explained it i whole-heartedly agreed and the evening continued on pleasantly enough as we watched the kids skate and pass and shoot and we discussed the usual non-sense of music and books and old friends... i wasn't offended in the least...

Later that night as i sat in my flannel pajamas bottoms eating a bowl of Frosted Flakes, stoned outta me bejesus and petting my cat Louie while watching shit telly with the sound practically off i caught myself grinning maniacally as i thought about exactly what she had said, all the hard work that went in to earning that name, the aforementioned woman's new flame had known me some 20 odd years ago, there was another guy i knew who i hadn't met until about a decade later, he used to tell a story about how he came to know me, part of it was how he was in our favorite dive one night watching a local band and how suddenly this enormous ruckus came barrelling out of the corner, he said he turned to someone and said what the fuck is happening? and the person replied, oh it's just Crazy Kono raising hell it happens all the time, the other part was the night supporting the local futbol club where i did my best to piss off and antagonize the local law enforcement for what i believed was unjustified harassment, how was i supposed to know you weren't allowed to drink or smoke or take leaks in suburban high school parking lots when the local shite footie team called it their home ground, the low-life crew and i had been doing it for two years running and never had a problem, funny how a few years later i would move to that section of the burbs from my hipster city hood... but there was the evidence, two of many instances where my name would be prefaced with the word crazy, two guys who had never know each other and that i'd known some ten years apart and here they knew me by that name...

And don't fucking think for a second that i introduced myself that way, somehow it just followed me, there were bartenders and strippers and busboys and local drunks and pizza shop owners and of course customers and friends who had dubbed me such, many times they wouldn't say it in front of me back in the day but when it did come out they'd laugh and i'd laugh and they'd say you are fucking insane most of the time, the most of the time being my favorite part for apparently when caught in more contemplative moods i was quite a pleasant chap to be around... and when i was caught in Crazy mode i was fun but much the facilitator of bad habits and influence or in case this becomes a movie, fucking daring and roguish and handsome and brave... or maybe just lucky to not be dead or in jail... i didn't say no to much and i realize now i was hell on wheels almost every time i walked out that door and sometimes even worse if i didn't walk out that door... and so yes dammit i embrace the nickname, it was hard earned through actions and intake and blood and sweat and i realize now that for going on almost two decades a good many people in this town referred to me as crazy, i'd like to think more Randall Patrick McMurphy crazy but crazy nonetheless... at least it makes for a few good stories when polishing the mahogany...





Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Wilderness Years- One Small Step for the Man's Kind (pt. 2)

A few hours of fuzzy sleep in an absolute blinding stupor... i didn't feel as if i'd slept at all and when the alarm went off it felt as if someone had hit me in the side of the head with a monkey wrench, then said wrench swinger took a good look at me and decided one right between the eyes would do as well, i stumbled to the bathroom and attempted to brush my teeth, i splashed water on my face, dry heaved, and then went to my room and carefully sipped some water, then i packed up a bong and blasted a couple few bingers to the head, at which point i almost passed out, then i dry heaved again, sipped some more water, made my way to the kitchen and attempted to eat a piece of toast and then stumbled down the steps and out the front door... it was at this point i realized i was gonna be about five minutes late, not much but definitely not making a great impression at the new gig..

The great part about being able to walk to work is that you can walk to work, the shitty part is when you're late and only live about 7 minutes away and if you ran you could just make it but on this particular day you are so fucking hungover that even attempting to run would most likely result in projectile vomiting and loss of consciousness, in fact you are so hungover that it takes you 15 minutes instead of seven and by the time you get there the sweat is pouring out of you and you have an intense thirst and fear that anything you do drink will come spurting right back up, the weed had helped with the dull stabbing and thumping pains but what i really needed was to jack off and go back to bed, sleep for a good 10-12 hours and then, maybe eat some solid food and begin to feel vaguely human again, unfortunately this would not be the case, I was also still weaning myself from the hour on/hour off Fry Boy schedule, a schedule that was much more amenable to hangover management, i knew at the Fry Hut that all i had to do was get through each hour before i could go pass out of for the better part of the next one thus with each passing hour feeling a bit better until by the end of my shift i was damn near perfect and ready to go to the bar and do it all over again, this 2-15 minute break shit and a half hour lunch? it was patently uncivilized to my current tastes...

I bumbled down the stairs and bee-lined it towards the time clock, in the hot sticky warehouse heat of mid-September you could see the jet wash i was leaving behind, a trail of fumes heavily laced with alcohol, i apologized to Ron who laughed and  told me no problem just don't make it a habit, understood that i was just back to town and probably having a bit too much fun, i see the faint scowl and nodding of Augie's head and his look of just one more fuck-up in a long line of fuck-ups who've come through the door... and fuck up i did, every task i set to i managed to mangle, fucking up counts and tickets and dumb shit that a trained monkey could do let alone a college graduate and grad school flunky, but alas in my present state i could barely stand erect, Milo told me that i kept swaying, i couldn't tell really, i did know that if i stood still it felt as if i was on the deck of a fishing vessel amidst choppy seas, fucking hell, the bargaining in my head had already started, i needed this gig and it was close to my place and i had no car and it paid shit but really it was just something to show the tax man until the real job started, i told myself to make it until lunch and see how i felt post sandwich, until that point i had had nothing but water and Gatorade, my shirt was soaked in sweat and each five minutes felt like an hour but finally lunch arrived...

Now before the local monster medical conglomerate started gobbling up all the spare land it could get it's hands on Baum Blvd. was loaded with absolute ass burning places to dine, there was Rally's (remember them), Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC and a lovely gas station/mini-mart that served up death dogs and other assorted greasy specialties, of course when coming down off a ripping drunk and smack dab in the middle of the Bataan death march of hangovers one must be all Indy Jones and choose fucking wisely, now looking at the choices one could also quote Dr. Falken's computer and robotically say "the only-way-to win- is- not to- play", but i needed food, at least i thought i did and so i rolled the dice and ran for the border...

Now what i should have done was walk back to my place and eat a bowl or two of cereal but i was so fucked that though Taco Bell was roughly the same distance from my place of employment (in the opposite direction) as my apartment i opted for the Bell, perhaps the subconscious knew that if i went home i wouldn't go back to work and i figured soft tacos would slide down easy and any sane and rational person is laughing heartily and calling me an idiot... and i would concur... and so i slowly ate a taco and a few tortilla chips, sucked down some sugary soda to appease my detoxing cells and then sat back and breathed very slowly in and out, in and out, hoping to keep down what i had just ingested, in and out in and out, i could tell that my co-workers were giving me sidelong glances, occasional smirks would pass quickly over their faces, then my stomach made a horrible gurgling noise and i sprinted to the bathroom where a hot liquid jet of what felt like battery acid and Tabasco sauce came hurtling out of my ass at such force that i stifled a scream, the sweat beading on my forehead, i cursed the gods of liquor and fast food, my ass felt baboon raw and red, i'll never do this again i told myself, and you know at the time i was young enough to really believe that i'd meant it though even then i could recall myself promising myself the same thing a good half dozen times before, but there was still a half day left to get through and after cupping water in my hands and splashing my face repeatedly for five minutes or so i walked back toward some pallets getting ready to be loaded on a van and delivered...

Luckily i hadn't been cleared to drive the vans yet, though i don't think Ron would have let me drive one if i had, to drive one i would have either had to quit or risk a DUI because judging that it'd been about 12 hours since i had quit drinking and the amount of alcohol consumed was easily more than the recommended amount per hour, in fact quite likely 4 or 5 times that much, i was still very much the definition of fucked... it was at this point that while standing near a large pallet stacked with shit that i nearly fell over, as if suddenly the room just tilted i went stumbling sideways, the sweats started and the mouth watered and as i righted myself Ron came walking over and suggested that maybe i should take the rest of the day off, he smiled and said it was no big deal, i'd had a good first week and then he looked at Augie and started laughing, Augie looked at me and barked, surprised you made it this long you fuck-up and then starting making kissing noises and gyrating his 78yr. old hips and warning me to stop chasing the pussy until the weekends, i stood there sweating and shaking and told Ron i was sorry about today but for some reason did not add it wouldn't happen again, talk about the subconscious huh? and i shuffled over to the time clock and punched out and then headed towards the steps, have a good weekend you fuck-up, i looked up to see Augie in the aisle next to the door, i sheepishly smiled and said you too Sir, see ya Monday... the corners of his mouth turned up ever so slightly and he winked...

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Wildnerness Years - One Small Step for the Man's Kind (pt. 1)

From the sevenfivenine (over time the apartment would be dubbed as such and serve as a reference point for those of us who lived, worked and played there as well as the countless number who scored there) to the North Oakland hub was roughly a 10 minute walk give or take, across the street and down an alley, past the fire station that was catty corner to the sevenfivenine, from the alley you walked across a vacant parking lot and behind a set of dive apartments, there was a huge mystery warehouse on the opposite side of the parking lot, a cavernous building that seemed mostly empty except for a large space crammed with video poker machines and even after years of living there we never knew if it was the cops or the crooks who owned all those machines and ran it, guys would drop off and pick up machines and not Fred, Thelma or fucking Daphne knew where they came from or what they did with them, from the parking lot you cruised up the side of the dive apartments and crossed Baum Blvd., Anthony's Lounge, a strip club was on the left along with another of Andy Carnegie's libraries, this one for the blind hence why it may have been so conveniently located next to a strip club, down the alley towards Centre Ave and past what was then the new CVS, bust a right on Centre at Sweet Georgia Brown's, a bar that no white man went in unless expressly invited, past a run down barber shop and the House of Sauce, a chicken and rib joint run by an old black woman with graying hair who radiated voodoo, i was one of the few white guys who actually frequented the place getting ribs or quarter chickens, every order coming with two pieces of white bread to sop up the sauce, sometimes i'd add greens or get the BBQ beans, the voodoo lady's voodoo sauce working magic, from there it was across the busway, a worn dirt path on the right led to six or so row houses on a hidden street that would serve as headquarters for one of the Glimmer Twins, past the check cashing store, the state liquor store, a bodega that sold mainly lottery tickets, a greasy spoon and then an ancient pharmacy, across the street another flop house apartment building and a laundromat... and at that point you could smell the stale booze, see roaches scurrying up and down the sidewalk, a sidewalk decorated with cigarette butts, broken beer bottles, vomit and crushed plastic liquor bottles, Banker's Club and Nikolai Vodka, and of course the buzzing lights of the bars, fluorescent and neon mingling with the hum of humanity...

The North Oakland hub circa the last half decade of the 20th century was a soon to be boarded up and vacant Giant Iggle grocery store, Mitchell's Tavern on the corner of Melwood and Centre, and another half block up near the corner of Centre and Craig another trio of dives, Thirsty's which was a Deadhead bar on the corner, Chief's which was a rock and roll dive/old man alcoholic joint, it was one of the old school Steel Town places and opened at 6am, Pennsyltucky being the proud commonwealth boasting some of the most antiquated liquor laws in the country opening that early gave it special status, the morning crowd was often wilder and more lively than the night crawlers, there was a beer distributor sandwiched between the two and across the street on the other corner was the Luna, named after Pittsburgh's old Luna Park, roughly standing in the same spot as the entrance to the old amusement park, an old painted moon on it's faded marquee... each bar served cheap drinks and was populated by petty criminals, college kids, hard core drunks, the brothers and sisters from the Hill and East Liberty, low level dealers, basically the working poor all lit up and popping quarters in the jukebox and singing and arguing and dancing and crying their lives away... it was a beautiful wreck of humanity and i'd learn more on these streets than the average white kid who grew up in the suburbs should ever learn, but here i was and it was hard to wipe the grin from my mug...

And so here was week one of the rest of your life son, whachyagonnado? On Monday i got up and tied back the dreads, showered and rolled on down to the new gig, there was the formality of the usual paperwork and meeting my boss, a guy who was excited to have another college graduate in the warehouse so he'd have someone to discuss "things" with, of course as i sat there smiling and nodding my head as politely as i could, the muppet in front of me was a pudgy short guy wearing those tiger striped Zubas pants with a matching top, and by tiger striped i don't mean orange and black or what one would call like tiger-like colors, it was more like aqua and purple and black and white, he had the makings of a mini-mullet going and the sides of his head where shaved and the top tips of his tight white man's afro dyed bright blonde, if ever a train wreck i ever did see, that first day just looking at him made me feel as if i'd eaten a massive dose of LSD, he couldn't wait to ingratiate himself to me, explained that he was into wrestling and in his spare time aspired to be a wrassler, like 4th rate WWE shit or something, the kind you find on television very late at night in strange apartments while very drunk and high on a number of substances, already the shit was doing my head in, the beautiful and absurd existence of the grunt lumpen-prole... his name was Ron...

He led me down a large flight of steps to the warehouse... the building i would be working in was once an old Ford Motor Car factory from 1914-1932, underneath years of city grit and grime you could see the old ornate architecture, it was situated near train tracks and the story is that back when it was hopping they would use a crane to lift the cars onto the waiting trains and ship them all over the country, the stairwell was stifling in the late  summer and by the time i had reached the bottom of the steps i could feel the sweat dripping down my back, like most places of it's ilk it was shitty-hot and sticky in the summer and cold and crappy in the winter, a fine cloud of black dust rising up every time something fell to the floor, a more poetic type would have made some shining metaphor about the fine, black dust being like the souls of the lumpen-prole gone before but i'm not that poetic and i knew it was nothing more than dirt and diesel exhaust and an old building crumbling slowly over time, it's cement floor worn smooth like marble from years of use, the space itself was filled with flimsy metal shelves piled and stocked with useless crap, shit trinkets from China bought for pennies a gross and sold for .69 cents a piece, pallets of plates and napkins in a myriad of colors... pinatas, tablecloths, decorations for birthdays and anniversaries, graduations and divorces, all shit designed to be used once and fed to the landfill so that next party you were right back here buying more shit, it was the locally owned party haus and would stay that way until the national chains did it in, and on this day, the day marking my 25th year upright, it was my new place of employment...

I was introduced to the rest of the crew, there was T. Rex, a local glam rocker who was between bands and knee deep and sinking into a smack habit, there was Milo, a quiet guy a few years younger than myself but he'd end up being one my favorite people i'd ever work with, at the time he was the senior grunt having been there all of a year and change, there was a tattoo down his forearm and his musical tastes ran to some indie/punk bands that ran parallel and sometimes intersecting to mine, still it was a reference point from which a conversation started, then there was Augie, the owner's dad, an old Jewish guy and an absolute fucking gem, he worked a couple of days a week and was boss when Ron was on vacation, these were my new co-workers and looking around i couldn't say it wouldn't be an interesting crew, maybe not the nut cases and wastoids of the Chemical Crew but it was still early and the fry boys were still fresh in the mind, that was damn near a brotherhood and one could have easily swapped out the suits in the opening of Reservoir Dogs and cranked up Little Green Bag while a bunch of sweaty, grease-covered drunks and drug fiends came rolling out of work and toward the bar...

I'd spend the next few days starting to learn the in's and out's of my new gig, it wasn't quantum physics and like most manual labor jobs there were just enough tedious procedures to memorize and annoy, the kind of shit you had to think about until you got it and then you went about it in a state of semi-consciousness, Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday went by smooth and then my first Thursday night back in the North Oakland Hub rolled around...

And i got smashed... proper fucking smashed...

There are few things more enjoyable in life than a mid-September night, the waning days of summer when a coolness seeps into the heat and humidity of the nights, that first Thursday back and the sun dipping blood-orange over the Hill and i was gonna have it, walking up the street towards the Hub with the Engineer, the sky bruising from blue to black and the stars shining down on my own little barrio, the smoke of Mitchell's changing colors in the blue and red neon as it floated towards the ceiling, quarter beers and double shots, up the street to Chief's to laugh and cut up, junkies to the left of me queens to the right, then the scent of perfume trailing the from the packs of co-eds all heading to the Luna, following the nose and talking shit to pretty girls who wanted nothing to do with this dread-locked lumpen prole beast spouting off indie bands and avant-garde authors, drinking vodka and 7-up, drunk enough for three men... but oh those pretty things, trekking into the shit side of Oakland for the cheap drinks of Ladies Night, the teeth so white when they smiled, the curve of their breast in those fashionable blouses, the clean sheets they slept on, the expensive cars of their fathers, it was like an overload after having been locked up in Podunk and then working like a dog at the shore, i was back in North Oakland, months removed from the world of academia and i was drunk, on booze and lust and on the crickets and the streets... and as i stumbled home that gorgeous night, the clock grinning towards 3am, having lost the Engineer a couple hours ago, i smiled my way through the last call drunks and thugs and college kids and towards my new home, stopping once to throw up, laughing about it and then heading off towards a blanket on the floor and the swiftly approaching sound of the coming alarm clock...