please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Matlocked! An Eastertide Sermon

"There is nothing so eagerly believed as the things that are not so." These are the words of Clarence Darrow, who I often think was, in a roundabout way, the model for every disarmingly folksy lawyer in entertainment. Except, unlike Matlock, say, there was a dagger hidden in there, and after appealing to folks' trust of those who speak as they do, he would then appeal to their common sense, and make the prosecution look like a bunch of crazy zealots. Matlock, on the other hand (I don't know if this was intentional) seemed genuinely senile, and only won cases based on his charm, much to his deep surprise, as he had no idea where he was.
Mr. Darrow was always there fighting where the forces of bullshit were in their usual fervor to make more stupid laws and crucify the powerless. Can ya' believe that there was a time when one could do the real work of law, as it was designed, and spent only a medium amount of time being called UnAmerican for it? It would seem that though the common run of folks was every bit as stupid and predjudiced, back then they at least had not begun to vote against their own interests.
As opposed to now, of course. The Matlocks are running the show, and even the Appeal To Self Interest that I think will work with most folks isn't working this time. No jobs, no money, an unconquerably large debt, an international gulag we aren't gonna talk about. I Never Risk Inquiry.
I really mean we aren't talking about it. We're too busy talking about whether a certain damaged pop star might not be molesting children, and whether or not the state should be able to force a woman fifteen-years brain-dead to stay "alive". The media dutifully reports this as her "struggle for life". Oh, did you catch that thing the other day about how it seems that twenty-six people (that they're willing to talk about) seem to have died during torture conducted by our people, or friendly foreigners, in aforementioned international gulag? Didn't catch that? It's amazing they're even admitting it, but it is largely buried under the fact that Our President is playing politics of the worst sort, with a vegetable this time, instead of a fetus. It's even more amazing that he can leave the house at all, without getting pelted with rocks and garbage. Looks like we're drilling in Alaska, too.
We always are seeking to keep chaos at bay, through careful planning. The fact that the chaos nonetheless intrudes seems eternally surprising to the Nice Men who are running this here crapshoot. We had a pretty good empire once; right at the crossroads of Asia and Europe. Byzantium, they called it. It was where all the better elements of Rome ran to, when the whole enterprise there fell apart. Byzantium had to have a pretty tolerant policy, as far as inclusion goes. There were all types living there, and frankly, that makes a society not only more interesting, but richer, too. All the silly white ghosties from elsewhere want to come there and buy the exotic things and see the exotic sights.
But then, the landed class of Europe needed to shave off a couple generations of lesser sons, and the Catholic clergy was as insane as it was greedy...So it was decreed that a great Crusade was necessary. Then another twelve of them were deemed such. The end result? Byzantium, the last hope for understanding between the Islam and Christianity, was finally sacked and taken by the Turks. The whole thing had been planned so well, and God was on our side; what went wrong? "There is no God, and Mohammed is his messenger," as our Sufi friends say.
Iron Nails Ran In, and Islam and the Christers hate each other to this day.
So lessee...How to make oneself a divine instrument against the Bullshit Engine, which is always the enemy of the truly free, and anyone who thinks. I no longer know. Funny thing about the rest of us over here; we tend toward understanding, and can't help but see a bit of ourselves in those that we disagree with. As I've noted though, I don't feel that it's mutual, by a long shot. It's entirely okay for a large group of strangers to call me Immoral for not believing in this Bronze Age Hebrew War Deity that Lives In the Sky, but it would be bad manners for me to call them crazy. I mean, I could live just fine with all these believers in the Enchanted Pancake or whatever's up there this millenium, if only they didn't want to infect me with their insanity.
I'm digressing, though. Matter of fact, I wanna talk about what's obsessing me: INRI. You'll note that possible translations appear sprinkled about, above. I am also fond of:
Isis Naturae Regina Ineffabilis (Isis, ineffable Queen of Nature)
Ingenio Numen Resplendet Iacchi (The True God is Iacchus-or Bacchus, or Dionysius, the big ol' lush) and of course
I Never Reached India.
But moreso than any of these, there's what they tell ya': Iesus Nazarinus Rex Iudorem (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews). Whoever that was. The only historical reference to that person written by a contemporary appears in Tacitus' "The Annals of Imperial Rome", where he is referred to as 'Chrestus'. That word, as used elsewhere, seems to connote 'a collection'. As if maybe it was a bunch of people. That's very different from 'Christos', which of course means 'anointed' (or the even creepier 'chryse' from Greek: "golden"). Mind you, who was translating the classics during the Dark Ages? Monks. You'd think they would have been more careful to fabricate some sort of historiographical paper trail.
So the question again, is how you go up against the Empire, this time? They'll shoot you, bankrupt you, put you in prison or just marginalize you if you try that now...But wasn't that always the case? For all the failures of our largely mediocre media apparatus, consider that Jesus didn't even have one. We can talk to each other, but that's just echo chamber stuff. We can talk to the Dupes of the Conspiracy, if we are sufficiently, disarmingly folksy. Or you can just wait for the Bullshit Engine to fuck itself, as it always does...Except that fucks you and me, too, and long before it hurts Them. It'll happen. Igni Natura Renovatur Integra (All Nature is Transformed by Fire).
"They know not what they do,"? Sure they do. It's just telling everybody else what They do that is the hard part.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Greetings from the Emerald City

I had just received my bag of Fritos brand corn chips (who once employed what I feel is the greatest slogan ever: "I know what I like AND I LIKE FRITOS CORN CHIPS") from a vending machine in the train station in Salem, Oregon. I left the building just in time to see the back of my train, departing without me.
Well, I thought, with characteristic trooper-ness, at least I don't have to sit next to that woman with the eye melting down the side of her face from a stroke she, at some point, had suffered. She also had that unmistakable smell of adult diapers. I had been sitting there talking to someone who had been slowly shitting their pants, and that fact was difficult to ignore, and thereby maintain friendly relations.
The problem was, my posessions were on that train, and Amtrak is notorious for not being able to communicate with itself. When I told the station employee (the only other person there) what had happened, the scared look he got on his face didn't help. I proposed that there was probably someone I could talk to at the station in Eugene, where I was headed. For some reason, he chose to email the next stop, in Albany. He sent them some note that I could not see, and I had a sneaking suspicion that this would lead to my things getting off at the wrong stop. He hadn't even asked for a description of what it was that I had left on the train. This was rapidly getting Kafka-esque. I was also thinking: what if this was actually an emergency, instead of mere inconvenience? What if they needed to say-oh, school bus stuck on the tracks; pass it on? It would seem that they could not, even though they all worked on the same system. It didn't make sense.
So after a few minutes, I again asked if maybe there was an actual number I could call, at the Eugene station. I received a number, with the weird frightened look again, and a caveat; "I don't know if they'll be answering the phone this time of day..."
But we must try, sir, I thought, and dialed. I spoke to a perfectly nice lady who told me that the conductor could very easily get my stuff off of there in Eugene, but was my name in any way on my luggage?
No, I said, but I could easily identify its contents, including two packs of Nat Sherman Havana Oval cigarettes, one copy of "The Story of My Life", by Clarence Darrow, a New Yorker magazine bearing the mailing address of..."Alright. That's enough." she said.
I am fortunate, on these occasions when I leave the subterranean honeycomb of tunnels I reside in, that my support system is so vast. My Dad lives in Salem, and gave me a ride to Eugene, where I received by belongings with little (aside from having to politely avoid the efforts, made by a man with running sores on his face, at friendship) to no difficulty.
There are other things that have happened to me while being here, but they are none of your fucking business. I'll be back tomorrow. I love you all.


Friday, March 18, 2005


Any Joy Division fans in the house tonight? I'm listening to a mix I made in high school, which begins with their great song, "Disorder". Its first line says it all: "I've been waiting for the guy to come and take me by the hand..." Yup, someone to walk up and say, You've been crazy all these years, and we've been watching, Gawd knows... Come with me. And the equally great line from the last verse "Who is right, and who can tell, and who gives a damn right now? Til' The Spirit, new sensation takes hold, then ya' know."
Yeah, I know, "And then, on the eve of their first U.S. tour in '80, the author of those lines hung himself..." Yeah yeah...
I've been engaged in another one of those Exit Interview things, for the earlier part of the eve, with the lady who most recently has engaged me. It would seem, as always, that it is nothing that I did; I'm great, I'm told. No, no it's really that the woman who ends up with me one day will be the luckiest woman in the world, if she can give as good as I can...Bleah. People and their things. Personally, I had thought that the whole thing was just a good, uncomplicated situation, and if anything, she was the one who seemed to be falling into it too fast, which then caused her to spook and run.
Hard to say. That's Other People for you, and it does not do at all to try to suss their motives too deeply. I don't know why I'm even sharing this with you, O Notebook that Other People can read. What I really wanna talk about is Keisheimer.
We were getting ready to tape the teevee show the other evening, and I noticed that there was a reporter, with photog in tow, who seemed to be interviewing people on the show. "Great. There'll be a buncha great pictures of us standing around, drinking beer," I said. She was talking to Famous when I walked in.
"Well, like Rich here," he said, "He got a writing credit on last week's show, for a couple of jokes. And what's yer real title?"
"Uh, everything and nothing. 'Production Assistant'? 'Properties Manager'? I wait for things to go wrong, and then I fix them?"
What needed fixing that evening was Keisheimer. She is one of the editors on the paper that the aforementioned interviewer was from. No one was talking to her, which is something that just doesn't happen to The Talent on that show. She was sitting there, looking like every damned aloof hipster you've seen in your life: They're too Cool for You. But I know these people; I've been mistaken for them myself, once or twice, and I know that what most of them have going on is a crippling shyness, left over from being a weirdo, and largely ignored, when not taunted. It causes you, The Weirdo, to develop defense mechanisms along the lines of, "Well, why would I want lameasses like yourself to be my friend anyway? If that's all you got in the way of options, guess I'm taking No Friends, Bob." So you see. Someone like that moves to a weirdly provincial town that nonetheless has a vibrant scene (like Potland)(sic), becomes one of the de facto arbiters of taste, and is a big old drunk weirdo...Yeah, I don't think I'd try to act like everybody's buddy, either.
We had a fantastic time there, talking. I found out a number of interesting things, including why she was on the show at all. Our producer, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, had felt the need, while drunk recently, to destroy one of her car's windows (with his head? did I really hear that?). In lieu of payment for the broken window (after she chased his ass down, I might add), he said something in the neighborhood of "Wanna be on teevee?", and next thing you know, she is.
After we exhaust the many topics worthy of discussion, Keisheimer points out that she actually is cripplingly shy, and has no idea what to do once she's out there in front of the cameras. I hasten to point out that almost nobody watches this show, and furthermore that all she needs to do is sit out there and let Famous be funny, indeed he would be deeply offended if anyone was even attempting to be funnier than him. Show biz types. As I like to say, at the beginning of each show as a good luck intonation: "There's Plen-ty of business like Showww Business!"
She goes out there, and handles it like a pro. She is every bit the aloof hipster who does not care what you think; all that other stuff is submerged. You'd need to be an old pro like myself to see what's really going on with her. Meanwhile outside, while she is squarely inside, someone is breaking the windows, and not stealing anything, of five cars.
I would not find that out until later. One of the cars belonged to another guests, Poison Waters: a big black drag queen. I sit right on down next to Poison, before I find that person boring, and he immediately asserts, "Well, I'm glad you feel so confident as to sit down next to a lady without asking permission."
And I reply, "Pardon me. Do you mind if I sit down next to you on this couch that I carried out here on my back?"
Poison laughs, Tall n' Frosty laughs, everybody laughs. I tell Poison the story from last week, with the "I'm used to takin' it the hard way," punch line. He says, "Do you always say that sort of thing to black men in a dress?"
So I go over to Slow Bar, where all the Peoples from the big show go. They're one of our sponsors, though this does not get us free drinks, which I feel it should. In any case, I run into one of my friends there, and she tells me that Keisheimer and her boyfriend are sitting nearby, and we should go sit with them. Boyfriend's name is 'Keno', or something. He and I talk endlessly about the many contingencies that come with being a waiter in some stupid restaurant. I can relate, baby, I can...
Then Keisheimer tells me how she's been regaling the rest of the table with tales of how awesome I am, being the only person that even fucking spoke to her at that thing. I neglect to tell her that my own boss, minutes before, had described her as "a toad" (and referred to her the next day as "a turd"). We git to talking, and point out that sometimes...Shucks, I kinda like to write things too...
Turns out they need a restaurant reviewer at the Merc, and it looks like I might be their guy. Mind you, I had to put up with her screaming/questioning me, "What's yer favorite restaurant? What's yer second favorite restaurant? I'm gonna be yer boss!"
Yup, all the shyness was gone. She is a person who often refers to herself in the public pages of the medium-sized city weekly she works for as a complete drunk. She also does so in person, and now I was getting to see the not-so-terribly shy aspect of her that I strongly suspected was there.
The time came, and the bar wanted us to leave. We stepped outside, and one of their crew called a cab. I was asked where I was going, and I said that I was going the ten blocks west that would take me home. I wonder what would have happened had I gone with them, because...
A cab pulls up, way too fast even for bar-close. A bunch of people from My Fuckin' Pal, right next door, start to get in, because they're clearly the ones who really called it. Keisheimer looks over at them and screams, "EX-CUSE ME? EX-CUUUUSE ME!" Then she confronts them, a cabload of drunks at two-thirty in the morning, accuses them of stealing Her cab. Words are exchanged, and I see her punch this guy in the face through the open window (for the record, she denies this, and for the record, I can't trust my memory on this one). Keno is just standing there shaking his head and laughing, as if to say, "Oh, you incorrigible scamp," or perhaps, "What kind of nightmare did I fuck my way into this time?"
Right about that time, the cab ahead of us sped away, and the cab my pals had called actually arrived. It was hugs all around, and I was left with these two weird strangers who had been standing there. We spoke a while about my choice of cigarette, and I observed that I was very cold, and wanted to go home.
I'm still listening to that mix. The most recent song was Throwing Muses' 'Fish', which has the fantastic line, "Lonely is as lonely does/lonely is an eyesore/the feeling describes itself..."
In any case, I also learned that I definitely do not have prostate cancer today (for any of you trying to call, I'm sorry; I had a man's finger up my ass), on my first visit to a real live health care professional in six years. I also learned that yes, I'm going to review at least one restaurant for that paper, and it happens to be my favorite one, as per my conversation with that silly, drunk, shy/not so damn shy Keisheimer the other evening.


Saturday, March 12, 2005

Union of the Snake

The Baron calls me the other night as I'm shooting pool. He tells me that he and a small consortium of people are going to the Duran Duran show, and he has an extra ticket for me. Now, maybe he just forgot that I've never liked Duran Duran; I don't know, but it's been a long time since I've seen any live music at all, and more like ages since I've been to a big, dumb arena rock show. So I went.
The Baron and I became friends in the Eighties, and quickly immersed ourselves in that odd moment in cultural history that fell between the death of disco and the rise of rave culture (it described itself, hopefully, as 'progressive dance', which I found hilarious, even then). It was one of the last times I recall that there were truly new things happening in all the lively arts, not just the repackaging of earlier themes. Oftentide, the results were fucking awful, but at least they weren't just acts of homage. Me and The Baron wandered around Portland's then-thriving underage dance club scene, happy to be in the middle of something big and strange.
Somewhere in here, he became a software baron of some sort (couldn't cut it dealing drugs, I guess), had his own company for a while, lost it due to the incompetance of his partners, shortly before the dot com bubble burst, and now is a spear carrier in someone else's empire. He is my longest-running friend in Portland.
The Rose Garden was not what I'd call packed. Local media personality Daria O'Neill was there, shoved into this awful excuse for a V.I.P. area. Tall n' Frosty was down on the floor, and the beatific grin on his face made it worth going, just on its own. The show itself was just cheese glitz, with a weird patina of class reunion, and world-weary Where-The-Hell-Are-We rock stardom panoply. It was pretty clear to me that most of them weren't playing their instruments, and I couldn't hear the in-between song patter. No matter: these people would cheer anything. Matter of fact, at one point, I joined a cheer from the crowd with, "WE'LL CHEER FOR ANYTHING!", and yelled "Go home, ya' big fat junkie!" to Andy Taylor. But it was fun, all the same. It sort of felt good to hear the old songs, even though I always felt that they lacked anything in the way of an actual message, which is fine except when the band in question thinks that they're profound thinkers. The Baron paid thirty-five dollars for a t-shirt with that gawdawful Patrick Nagel graphic from the cover of "Rio"on it.
Afterwards, more pool, at The Fire Hazard. I spoke at length to a girl who was considering a career in the military. She comes from an armed forces family, but had previously thought the war to be a buncha shit. Then, the change came in her when videotapes of kidnapped westerners being beheaded started coming out. As always, the Difficult Argument presented itself to me:
"Well, if America was occupied by say-China, come to liberate us from our unelected president, and they had more money and more troops than we'll ever have, what would you do?"
"But beheading's not war!" she said.
Oh? I said, but bombing hospitals and residential neighborhoods is, and so is torture, and destroying infrastructure, making it so that the water can't be drunk and there is no medicine. If that happened here? You'd fight dirty, I reminded her.
But beheadings aren't nice, etc. Yeah, and it's killed a hundred people at most, while this stupid fucking war has killed thousands. I was reminded yet again what a bunch of whiners my countrymen are.
Strangely though, this wasn't an argument that she and I were having. I listened to her points, didn't interrupt, and she did the same for me. I had decided early on that I wasn't going to be the aging peacenik who was trying to talk her out of it, at all costs. I understand; jobs are scarce in 'Murka, and for that matter, she is literally the first person I've met during the course of this particular adventure who actually wants to join. I did remind her that she would not be defending America, she'd be defending the sacred right of our corporations to make money. She already knew that.
I'm always going to be in the middle of something big and weird, to draw a remarkably simplistic conclusion, and I'm always happy to be here. Doing The Show the other evening, the two biggest laughs came from jokes that I had inadvertantly dropped during rehearsal. At the end of the show, Famous looks at me and announces to the showbiz types who actually write his jokes that I should receive a writing credit. "Check's in the mail?" I said.
"Well, it's about time that you learned a little something about show business," he said.
"Yeah, I'm used to takin' it the hard way." I told him.


Monday, March 07, 2005

The Guy Travis

The guy Travis had biked down to Portland from Seattle that day for a reading at Powell's bookstore. He had just published a book ("The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power", by Travis Hugh Culley, New York, Random House, 2002), and was holding court at a house on N. Commercial that evening. He was lecturing his entirely bike-messenger-ing audience on various injustices when we walked in.
I could feel myself being categorized, being the only non-crusty in the room. I was still wearing waiter clothes, though yes, I had arrived by bike. When it came to any kind of historical overview of how Portland got to be this way, eyes turned to me because I've been here-for the most part-since 1986.
The naivete at work in the author there was starting to disturb me. He spoke glowingly about how lucky we are to be able to vote. Sure-but that process has become so completely perverted that, well...It is gravely in need of fixing, to put it shortly. He also seemed to be playing into that whole image of bike-messengers-as-working-class-heroes thing. It's a half-truth that I'm really uncomfortable with. For one thing, they ain't exactly poor, and for a much more important other, due to the overproliferation of automobiles, the corporate beast has room in its structure for a class of worker (an Immortal class, turns out) that risks its life to ensure that the great engine of, say, real estate proceeds unimpeded. Then they sit around and get drunk, talking about what brave warriors for the rights of the bike-riding individual they are.
We all recounted our run-ins with irate motorists. The overarching message seemed to be that it was always the car's fault, which just ain't true. Mind you, I have noted that most people who drive shouldn't be allowed to, based on their behavior, and they can kill me, either through negligence or malice, and unless I have a rocket launcher on my handle bars, we have a serious disparity of defensive function. All the same, a fair amount of bikers are jack asses, too, and we all know it. The only difference is that they are nowhere near as likely to hurt anyone other than themselves.
The guy Travis wondered how Portland got to be as bike-friendly a city as it is, and I was sort of called upon to tell the story of how Portland re-imagined itself, back in the '70's. What I didn't really get to say was-not only is livability in the larger sense a good idea, but it also makes really good economic sense. It causes people and businesses to want to relocate to your area...Which is part of the problem.
Their view remained simplistic, though; like somehow corporate monoculture and livability were mutually exclusive. When of course-it's Gentrification 101, I thought-that when you improve an area's livability, it then attracts people who visit, then move there, and in turn bring in the same retailers they're used to everywhere else. I don't know who mandated that every city in America look the same, but it seems to be heading that way, in any case. Then, the people who were so very invested in making their community better are driven out by rising prices and rents, increases in traffic, and the quick death of the local businesses that have sustained (and have been sustained by) the community for decades. You know, the kind of scenario that eventually drives everyone to the 'burbs.
Now it's in its terminal phase in Portland. More skyscrapers are being built, although I thought we weren't going to do that anymore, and largely they're sitting empty. Long time local businesses are swept away by national chains that only put a tiny bit back into the local economy. Now, a bunch of hotels I won't be staying in, parking garages I won't be parking in, and shopping malls I won't be shopping in are sprouting up, taking up all the space.
I usually maintain that sheer self-interest keeps the really bad shit from happening: these people want to make money, so they won't fuck it up too badly, right? They won't make it unlivable, will they? From initial good ideas do so many crap results spring. If they'd kept to the original ethic as opposed to the part that includes short-term profit, it might have been different.
But at least we got bike lanes out of the deal, eh Travis? It's a lot easier to see it as The People wanted a better Portland, so it happened. I pointed out that none of this would have happened without a ton of federal money, and co-operation by local business, but it was drowned out.
So-it was depressing to listen to this simplistic twaddle. When the inevitable question came as to what it was that I did for a living, I told them that I served food. The guy Travis thanked me for having provided the 'middle-class perspective'. To be fair, he was exhausted; to be realistic, he still deserved a smack for that one.
Because-as I said-I almost certainly made less money at that time than your average bike messenger, and besides, bikies come from all walks of life, a majority of them not blue collar by any stretch. They just act that way because it has this weird social cachet due to the peculiar yearning of white people for Soul. Only the upper and middle classes idealize poverty, as far as I've ever noticed, although white trash worship does seem to have filtered back down, too, to the folks who want something to be proud of, as always.
The guy Travis had this habit of being more poetic than accurate. So-he trotted out the expected line about America being formed in revolution, and how it should be a lesson to us all that it's always possible. I didn't want to do it, but I had to say it; "If anything is to be learned from the American revolution, it's probably that nothing happens until the rich people decide that it is to be done." Which made me appear to idealize wealth, I know. That ain't it: I just know my history, and am not in the habit of lying to myself.
Or, for that matter, I'm not so simple as to see corporate influence as bad, per se. My bosses at the Art Museum, for instance, I viewed with a bright loathing because they were shitty bosses with business practices that were questionable at best. But they did accomplish what they came to do: save a good but small museum that was going rapidly bankrupt, how they did it was art tourism at its worst, and everybody's jury remains out on whether or not this was a good thing. Nonetheless, the Portland Art Museum is still there; it wasn't going to be.
We left that evening, and I knew right then and there that nobody was going to be steering the boat of Dissent for a while, at least no one that knew anything at all about what they were fighting. And as always, I was forced to note what kind of person gets a book deal these days, in America.


Sunday, March 06, 2005

So, how was the weekend?

I went with Bobby Massage and his household to a party Friday night. It was a good one. Most of the people there assembled were dressed either as medical professionals, or people who were in some way injured. One of my cocktail serving friends was there: she was dressed as an ambulance-chasing lawyer. Brilliant. I didn't even recognize her, so far gone in her part was she.
As I stepped into the smoker's haven on the back porch, I heard a woman's voice ask, "Is your name Rich?"
Yup, I said. "Do you remember when you had that horrible stye in your eye, and I squirted my breast milk into it, and cured it?" she asked.
I looked at her a minute, and said, "Amelia!"
After this, we sat and talked a bit. She had a bandage on her head, which fit with the motif of the party, but it turns out that she actually needed it. She had slid in her own vomit the evening before, and had hit that arch that surrounds one's eye (name?) on a doorknob. Eeesh.
And the people they were very nice; attractive, too, lots of them. And what was the only thing I kept on thinking? "(sigh) I wanna go home and watch a movie or something..."
Yup, I'm getting boring. The social imperative is receding in me, and I've even declared a moratorium on being around certain people, if they are drunk, lately. The Me of A Few Years Ago never would have done that. These days, it's all about small groups of well-picked people that I already like. Boring? Hardly.
Maybe I'm just recognizing that I've already done enough partying and engaged in enough bad behavior on the high seas for two of me, at least. I've been lucky, and often very happy.
And I found this item in my notebook, circa late Nineties, titled "So How Was The Weekend?":
It started Thursday afternoon. I don't generally go on benders, but this was the beginning of one. Gretch and I started in on the Elijah Craig, and from there, it was all over. Hazel came home, and we continued drinking. Then we went to the Horsey Ass with Short for some beer and fish n' chips.
The next evening, Hazel and I sat on the fire escape, drinking whiskey and McMinimum's brews, until we both fell asleep, early.
The next morning, beer with breakfast. Then I helped Short pull his weeds. At some point, he said, "I'd like a nice, cold beer." I pointed out that we had that, and so the rest of the afternoon consisted of more fire escape action. He came back later with more beer.
We watched the mechanics of a guy who was too drunk to stand up, trying to use the pay phone. He couldn't reach the receiver from the ground, but couldn't clamber up to the point where he could both manipulate it and dial at the same time. This went on for quite some time, until our laughter, three floors above him, became audible. At that point, he looked up at us and made a grand, inclusive gesture with his arm. He asked, "Are we...To act as friends?"
This led to general laughter, and he just went back to laying on the ground, intermittently dozing.
Short left, and we went to the Handy Slut to meet Boom Boom. Tequila tonics were consumed. By this time, my reasoning was going out on me. I know I offended at least one of the Cacophony Society guys (who aren't easily offended), then we left.
Upon our arrival at the apartment building, we were forced to note that the crackhead guy on the second floor had, yet again, barricaded himself in his apartment and was screaming about how he had a gun, and a knife.
He was pounding on his door, yelling "OFFICERRR!", thinking there were cops all around his door. There was only his girlfriend, who kept pounding back, saying, "CRAIIIIG! Lemme in! I gotta peeee!" I kept hearing the crackhead say to whoever was with him in there, "Dude, you with me?"
I took my machete, so strong was my need to shut his ass up, and crawled up the fire escape. I went across the roof, came down on the third floor landing opposite my own.
There was a guy watching TV. I saw him turn around and look at me, shocked, naturally. I just held up my index finger, put it to my lips, and crawled back to my apartment. Boom Boom and Hazel had no idea I'd even been gone.
There was something in how he looked at me-standing behind him with a machete-that allowed me to see how I looked through his eyes, and therefore what a stupid action I was undertaking.
Went back in, and there was my poor fucking manager, looking like hell in his undershorts. He shook his head at the apartment ("OFFICERRR!") and said, "I can't go in there. That'd be breaking and entering. A felony! They'd put me in prison for a year!"
I don't know where he got the sentencing guidelines, or what he thought a felony was, but this whole thing was exacerbated for him by the fact that the crackhead was married to his granddaughter. I still looked at my manager and said, "Naw! Go ahead and do it!" I still just wanted some quiet.
We passed out hard that night, and woke up the next morning feeling like pure shit. When the crackhead was later escorted away by real police officers, he remarked to one of them; "I don't remember you from last time..."
Though the above is not the only story involving me drunk, wielding a machete, in general I pride myself on being the one in the crowd who isn't a liability. I can be seeing at four of you, and still maintain a coherent conversation. I still know when to remove myself from a situation. Nonetheless, it would be nice to be someone else for a little while, and as is often the case, the change comes naturally, on its own.
Besides, to study with one of the great social lions of all time, Dean Martin, it is worthy to note that it really isn't a contest, and if that's really just apple juice in a rocks glass you're drinking, it's not a shameful thing. Most people will assume that you're as drunk as they are anyway. The only barrier comes in not denying myself the honest feeling that most people are a pain in the ass when drunk (including me), and I don't like them very much. So the entertainment factor disappears past a certain point.
It's even more fun to be the only guy at the party on hallucinogens.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Man Who Was No Longer There

It should be noted that Hank Oak is back in town. He walked into Miss Kitty's kitchen this eve, as I was makin' up some victuals, and I said that I was glad to see him, and: "Where the hell you been? Last time I checked, you were goin' to Tequila!"
"For four days," he responded. Tequila actually is the name of a village in Mejico, turns out, and although he'd planned to stay there a month, we hadn't heard from him for six. He had, in fact, only been there four days, and some explanation was certainly in order. I received it, by fits and by starts, over the course of the bi-weekly Tuesday night dinner thing.
Turns out that he has turned his back on his old career in tech support, and is now making pseudo-Indo food at this Tea/food joint up on Belmont favored by hippies and yuppies. Thing is; the guy knows more about food than I've even forgot, and he has never even worked in a kitchen, like me. Tha' don't matter. What matters is that we are making plans for a dinner party competition, and perhaps putting together a food magazine for actual people, and he wanted to know where to find me, so we could go downtown and make fun of the awful people on First Thursday. "Well, I live over the Troika," I says.
"Over the coffee shop? Across the street from where you used to live?"
"Ohhhh!" he said. "Hey, do you live in the apartment where the guy who died lived?"
"I live in his room," I said.
"Yeah, I know, 'take care'!"
It's true, though. That's where Quicksilver died. He had a congential heart defect, and it was gonna get him some day, and on one particular morning of his twenty-fifth (?) year, it happened. I remember, because I was walking into the Troika, where I worked, at the time.
I was greeted by this little poodle dude who was dating one of the upstairs ladies. He was in tears, and when I inquired why, he told me, and I immediately was no longer in the mood to work.
Quicksilver was the nicest one of the activists, by any stretch. "He reserved his anger for The Man," was how his girlfriend put it. She put it to me on the occasion of his being dead one month. She was also the one who had been jarred awake by the convulsions of his body, trying to live, even though the heart was dead, the brain soon to follow.
They called out the ambulance, and unfortunately, News Channel Eight just happened to be driving by (or some loser local affiliate; it scarcely matters which one), saw the commotion, and couldn't get anything clear out of everyone, as every person involved was either grieving or a emergency services professional. They determined that since the near-deceased was tatooed and twenty-something, that clearly drugs had been involved. Thanks, as always, to you fucking coke freaks who make too much money, and are qualified to eat lunch at best, who nonetheless report the news.
A week before, he had been on the news, when the Nice Mister Bush had been in town. A lot of people (including infants, I needn't remind you) showed up on the news that day, being pepper sprayed, but Quicksilver made the front page of the paper, and I believe CNN. I had stood in the middle of all of it, wearing a suit and shades, photographing it all, as people on either side were being beaten and gassed...
I'm straying from the point. Our friend was dead. The nice one. I spent the rest of that day at work having to break the news to people who had not yet heard, and playing mournful songs. But far worse than this was that I also wasn't going to lie to strangers, and that led to awful exchanges:
(The chick with bilateral myopia from across the street says) "Well you know; Death Is A Celebration!"
(To which I respond) "I understand your point. Your comment is ill-timed."
And later, I go back to Gringa Alta Prima's joint, and I finally get to have the good solid cry I'd been needing to have all day. All day long, I'd been inadvertantly playing these songs that I'd just brought with me, but seemed like farewells for the Quicksilver. "Hold To the Unchanging Hand of God" by Ry Cooder, "Uncloudy Day" by the Staple Singers, and that song by Takako Minekawa where she just keeps saying, "In the skyyy....In the skyyy..."
Then I make the mistake of goin' down to My Fuckin' Pal, where I encounter a drunk bunch of people I parenthetically know. One is this silly girl with whom I had once shot pool. I told her the story. She decides that the best way to deal with this information is to say-"Well, in Mex-ican cul-ture, death is a celebration!"
To which I could only respond, "I ain't Mexican!", when of course what I really meant was, ' you silly white fuck, could 'ya just shut up for half a second, and not turn everything into your anthro seminar?'
I went outside for half a minute, to gather my thoughts, and was pursued by her table-mate and acquaintance of mine, Zephry. He chooses to respond to my distress by drunkenly gripping my hand and saying, "But we're still alive. We're still alive!"
I agreed, thanked him, and went back inside.
I encountered another group of people with whom I was parenthetically acquainted. For some reason, I still couldn't keep how I was feeling inside sufficiently, and told them exactly what was on my mind at the moment. One of them said, "Well, you know what they say; Grief is for The Living."
"I've never heard it expressed otherwise. You know, maybe I shouldn't have brought it up."
The rest of them rushed to make up, but by that time, I was over this whole being in public thing. Wherever I went, people had the awful judgement of either trying to make this actual death of someone I liked and could no longer talk to into either some awful Grieving seminar that they'd learned in Counseling, or some Life Affirming bullshit, of which it was neither. I've been well acquainted with Death my entire life, and don't consider it to be something out of the ordinary. At the same time, I also feel that it's entirely okay to be bummed about it. The fact that the rest of these people couldn't see that is a monument to more than just their crap communication skills.
Pathetic as it may be, I chose to deal with this by making a mix tape. Probably this is the one I should have analyzed, in lieu of the last entry, but it's not. It was called 'The Man Who Was No Longer There'. Side A is titled 'Grief Is For The Living', and has a somber aspect to it, and side B is titled, 'But We're Still Alive', which has just the opposite aspect.
Even that has a story. The next day, a friend was driving me up to ( a cemetary, of all places, to look at the view), and I was telling him the story of the last couple days, including the mix tape part. He chose this as being an appropriate time to tell me about the inherent superiority of MP3 technology, as opposed to those silly old magnetic tape things. I chose to not throttle him, on that occasion.
I missed the ash-scattering ceremony out at the coast, as I was not invited, and had to work in any case. It turns out that Quicksilver's mom had the zinger that day. She thanked those assembled for coming, and pointed out that they all clearly had 'big hearts'..."Hopefully not as big as his was, but..."
And the wake was the following weekend. It was too damn full of silly Wobblies who showed up ostensibly to say farewell to a brother union member, but it quickly regressed into a stupid party, with too many damn strangers. It was disappointing, and still too damn sad.
The aforementioned girlfriend dragged The Reverend and I into the apartment where I curently live, and poured three shots of whiskey. We held them aloft, waiting for the words to come. They didn't.
"You know," I said.
"You know," the other two said, and we drank it down.

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