Archive for the ‘Nonfiction’ Category

2014 was good and hard and ugly. I did things I wanted to, and things I didn’t. I lost and gained more than I think I realize. Mostly, I got older. My teeth hurt and my hair’s thinning; I’m weaker every day. Sometimes my chest aches for no reason. My vision is sometimes blurry. I cannot run a mile.

I read a lot of books. I did 30,000 push-ups, not in a row. I was on the radio a few times, and I met an incredible girl. She left me, but she knew me, and I even think she liked me. I wrote two or three jokes I’m really really proud of, and I’ve written for 35 days in a row.

I signed up for a contest I didn’t get into, so I signed up for another one.

I quit smoking, and I quit a city I’m pretty sure would have killed me. I moved to one that I hope will. Someday.

I thought my sister was going to die and she didn’t. That’s probably what this year should be about, but it doesn’t focus on me so I’ll ignore it. This might be the year I learned to love my sister.

This is the year my dad got his knees done, and maybe got his needs met. It’s the year I learned how to fight with him, and decided I don’t want to.

My car caught fire, I was questioned as a domestic terrorist, and I talked to the Columbus Free Press. They thought I was cool.

My best friends both had babies. My nephew had one too. They’re all going to be neat people. I sort of got on TV. I sort of will again. My niece got married and a friend got fat. I learned how to put text on pictures.

A buddy moved to the West Coast, we’re thinking of starting an alliance. I lived through the coldest winter I’ve seen. I slept in my car a lot. I grew a ponytail.

This year was one of the hardest of my life. I’m going to fucking crush you 2015.

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One Last Ride

Posted: December 27, 2014 in Nonfiction

I lost my car to natural causes a few months ago. I wrote about it in “Riding through the desert in a car with no name.” I’ll try not to repeat myself. This week I got one final gift from the old girl, and a little bit of closure.

The car broke down while I was out of town, and my buddy turned it over to a junkyard. They gave him some money, and told him we could get more if I sent them the title. I was in Indiana at the time, but I did. It was probably a mistake. I shouldn’t have just sent it to someone, but I typically assume people are on the level. I sent the guy the title, and called him a couple of times to organize things. He told me he never got the title. I didn’t believe him.

He said he’d pay me anyway, which made less sense, and told me I might be right. My roommate went to pick up the check, because the guy said he couldn’t send it, which I also think was a lie. They told her she needed the VIN and license plate information. I sent them again. It was consistently difficult to get him what he needed, and when I did, it always seemed to change.

I remained persistent, more persistent than I really am. This car was really good to me, and I feel raw about not being there when she died. It overperformed. I owed her.

I’d call the guy at the junkyard every couple of weeks while I was on the road, enough to remind him that I meant this, even if there was nothing I could do. We arranged for me to pick up my check when I got back to LA, which was a few weeks ago. It took me a little while to get around to it. The garage was a long way away, especially without a car.

It was in East LA. I’m not real familiar with LA.

I took a bus, the 88, downtown to get on another bus to drop me off about a half mile from the spot. I was the only white guy I saw for the last hour of my trip. I’m not often the only white guy anywhere. For all of my liberal ideals and progressive lies, I really only have about 3 friends of color, and my cultural insensitivity considers any non-black person more than 2 generations into America, “white.” I recently worked with a very funny Latina and referred to us as “a couple of white dudes.” She corrected, “I’m Spanish” (she was cool with “dude.”) I answered half-jokingly, “I just couldn’t tell… we were getting along so well.” We both laughed at how clever I am and felt bad about who we were.

I was scared on that bus, and more so off of it. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was nervous. A bunch of well meaning Mexicans riding home on the bus made me nervous solely because of who they are. I’m a coward.

I got to the place and it was a pretty standard junkyard; a couple of dudes walking around a few dozen cars all piled up like New York City parking. I spoke to the first guy I ran into and asked for the man I’d spoken to on the phone. I’d call him the manager, but such titles seem meaningless in the tribes of Junkyard peoples. I might be uncomfortable around Mexicans, but I’m super comfortable around Junkyards. The guy was short and fat with a mat of black chest hair. He spoke good English, and with it told me he didn’t have the stuff he needed to pay me. I had brought the stuff with me, the information, the numbers, the dates I’d called. He told me he was leaving for the day and the boss would be there tomorrow. I needed to come back in the AM to get things taken care of.

I came in in the AM, and he wasn’t there. There was a shorter older dude with no English. He sat at the chair outside the gate. We staggered between languages for awhile. I have a little Spanish, and he was good enough at talking to people who didn’t understand him to get the job done. He told me the place was empty and it was. I looked around and it made him uncomfortable. He told me they’d be gone all day, and I’d be better off leaving. I sat down next to him. I’d brought a book. He brought over another guy, a good looking dude with a curly mustache who might have spoken both languages better than I do. He translated for me that the guy in charge wouldn’t be there today. He said both he was at the doctor, and that his kid was at the doctor, and I think he might have known he was lying to me. I think he might have even felt bad about it. I told him I was fine waiting, and he grinned and shrugged. “You’re within your rights,” he said, which sounded wrong. It sounded like I might have made a mistake.

Four more guys came and told me to leave throughout the day. One got a little short with me. No ugly words were thrown, but our voices got louder. He told me I was wasting my time and I should come back later. Coming back seemed really important to everybody. I told him it was later, and I had a pretty good book. A guy showed up pulling two cars with his truck, and another one on its bed. It looked awesome. I had a really good time watching the comings and goings of a Junkyard. He was related to the guy I needed, the guy who’d give me my money. The money for my car.

I heard him talk on his phone for awhile, then tell me who couldn’t get a hold of anyone. He told me, like everyone, that I should go. I didn’t. He asked if I had traveled far, I said I had, North Hollywood. “That’s not very far,” he corrected. “It is on a bus,” I smiled, only partially looking up from my book. I waited there for about 4 hours on the day before Christmas.

Eventually a guy showed up in nice blue shirt with spiky hair. He came in in a slick car and talked fast about money. I told him the situation and told me to come back with the VIN and License plate number. I had them. He frowned. He went inside and made me sign something and gave me 200 dollars cash. He declared he was paying me in cash loudly. I walked back to the bus stop quickly and without looking back.

I was afraid I was going to get robbed on the way out. I was afraid my mom was going to be right about everything and every old man in my hometown would use me as an illustration of the dangers of meeting people. It was weird to get cash, it was weird he announced it, it was weird to get hustled out, and it was weird to walk through a bunch of stares from people who didn’t look like me. I was so mad I’d told folks how I was leaving.

I heard a big truck pull up behind me two blocks from the Junkyard. It squeaked when it stopped the way big trucks do. I glanced over my shoulder, with my fists clenched and my back foot planted. The little guy who’d yelled at me earlier got out of the truck and walked around towards me, “You get it all handled man?” he asked. “Yeah,” I said, ” a good looking little dude helped me out,” I said approximating his height with my hand the way tall guys do without realizing it makes us look like assholes. “Cool,” he said, and hopped back in his truck, giving me the two fingered pistol salute I thought only rednecks knew about. I walked to the stop feeling like a hypocrite and a coward.

On the way home I got off the bus too early and had to walk through a bum town. That made me feel a little tougher. When I got in I was exhausted. I looked at the money. I felt good. It was good to feel scared, it was good to feel dumb, it was good to learn things. I know not to get off the bus on 6th & Central. I know I can bluff my way through fear in 2 languages. I know I’m not as cool or good or smart as I pretend to be.

I accidentally got 50 more dollars out of the deal than was originally agreed to. I didn’t feel bad about it. That car was Always good to me. It took me to a lot of places I needed to go. Maybe it did again.

With A Big Enough Lever

Posted: December 20, 2014 in Nonfiction

You know how teachers will teach you things miles removed from their subject matter? Lessons in life and fairness or the lack there of. One of my seminal experiences in humor came from a Physics teacher my senior year of high school. He was a tall man who looked like a Cigar Store Indian. He was 6’5″ or 6’6″ with a quiet demeanor. He was smart, and you could tell. He had the unidentifiable smugness that tall smart guys have. “I’m a nerd, but nobody ever figured it out because I was good at basketball.” In Indiana 40 years ago, that was probably like having money.

Mr. Weber was a good teacher, especially for smart kids. He knew physics, and structure, and his lessons always used the 90 minutes of class time optimally. He also didn’t get bent out of shape if you cussed a little bit, so I liked him. Mr. Weber didn’t think I was funny.

I always thought funny was a smart thing. People who got the joke were the brightest folks in the room. I learned funny by seeing what grown ups laughed at: See, it’s funny because “balls” also means testicles. Oh, now I get it, that’s very funny.

When my aunts would tell me jokes I didn’t get, I’d giggle. Then, they’d explain them to me and I’d love them. It might have been how I learned every single thing I know.

I was rewarded for curiosity and creativity. I quickly learned it was a terrific masking agent for bad behavior.

But sometimes it wasn’t. In fact, sometimes it was the opposite. Sometimes my affinity for the ridiculous got me into trouble. Sometimes seeing something funny is a ghost that lurks in the room and you have ESP. It can’t be explained, and if you demand it’s there, you’re insane, not brilliant.

One day in class Mr. Weber introduced us to Marie Curie. She discovered X-rays or how to use them, and she studied radiation. Then she died from radiation poisoning. I laughed a lot when he read that. It was the Hard Cut that made it funny, and the somber serious tone of a Cigar Store Indian. I laughed honestly, and expected the other kids to too. They didn’t.

“What’s so funny,” He asked sincerely. “The wording,” I answered, wondering why no one else in the room could see Patrick Swayze talking directly to me. “It was like… she did this… and it’s great… but it killed her…” He looked at me like I had killed her, or that I knew who did and wouldn’t tell anybody.

The room was filled with a long slow quiet. It was the sound of no hands clapping. It was that awkward moment on stage when something fails and it’s your fault and maybe everything you think is right is wrong. “Doesn’t anybody… ?” I searched the room for support but got nothing. 40 or 50 eyeballs just staring.

“Maybe we don’t have your twisted sense of humor,” Mr. Weber said. Or any, I thought to myself but didn’t have the balls to say. But I knew, right then and forever, it was and is, super funny. Suck it Mr. Weber.

A few months ago I was at a friend’s wedding reception. She was in the same grade as a couple of Mr. Weber’s daughters and they were there too; smart pretty girls who seem to laugh often and easily. Mr. Weber was there smiling amiably, and looking exactly like a Cigar Store Indian in a well-cut suit.

I was happy to see him and say hello. I don’t remember if he asked or knew that I was doing comedy, but he asked if I had any Physics jokes. I searched my brain for anything I could muster. I squirmed like a fat kid in a high school desk/chair. “A girlfriend tried to split a prime rib with me…” I submitted, and waited the appropriate amount of time for a set-up, “I was like hey, this is the Prime rib, this isn’t divisible by two.”

I maintained eye contact with him as no expression crossed his face. I smiled gracelessly and wondered if maybe I was babbling to myself in an insane asylum.

“It’s really more math than Physics,” he offered and smiled politely.

And sometimes you’re haunted by ghosts.

While I was back in Indiana my car died. It was in Los Angeles. I left it with my roommate and it caught on fire I think. Or it went clunk clunk clunk and then quit working, or he sold it to elves. I don’t know, it was working well, she was on her last legs. Around 300,000 miles, and hard miles too. She was a Saturn L200. I bought her for 5 grand 6 or 7 years ago, and her took her for granted ever sense. When I got her, she smelled bad. Really bad. Like somebody died in her. I liked to think somebody did, but they didn’t, she just smelled bad. I used all kinds of cleaners and air fresheners. My dad used more. He can clean a car so well it’s almost upsetting, like when your mom can clean the bathroom after you just did it. The car stunk. One day I took my nephew to the movies. After I let him out, I realized he’d spilled a slushie all over the front seat, not on the seat, but down where your feet go, the front passenger floor. It was just soaked. I couldn’t believe the idiot didn’t tell me. I soaked it up and went on with my life. It got all wet once when it was raining too. I’m kind of lazy, so I never did a thorough job of soaking it up, just a towel stomp drying. I figured it would do. Eventually I realized my car wasn’t surviving mishaps, the wet was coming from the car. There was a leak or something that resulted in the front passenger floor getting filled with stink water. It almost doomed the car. My dad took it to the shop and he cut a part out of something. I vaguely remember him saying he wasn’t supposed to do it, but he did it, and the car drove smoothly and stink free for 240,000 miles for me after that. It literally drove from coast to coast, and from the UP to Florida too. I probably sat in that front seat more than any chair I’ve ever owned, and that’s saying something, I’m a very lazy man. I ate in it, I slept in it, I got laid in it, I had fights in it. It’s the first and only car I’ve ever loved. And I think it loved me too. The car always ran, and ran better than it should. I bent a tire all to hell one time missing a turn, a friend fixed it with a hammer and a block of wood, and it never once complained. The gas gauge broke, and once or twice I ran it out of gas, and she never once complained. She leaked a little bit around the back window, and would spill water in when I opened the trunk. I never pointed it out, and she never apologized. We just knew neither one was perfect.

240,000 That’s a long time inside a car. I think she thought I’d saved her too. I think she liked going to all those places. I think she even liked going in the snow in Michigan. We used to listen to the “Game of Thrones” audiobooks, and she wanted to see The Wall. She listened to a lot of books, and a lot of talk radio. She’d make fun of the church channels driving through Iowa. She hated the radio out East.

She brought me to LA and then died there. I wasn’t around when she went. I wanted to give her a Viking Funeral, I wanted her to catch flame and disappear. I was always afraid we’d do that together. We got close once or twice. Maybe that’s what she was afraid of too. Maybe getting to die like a person’s exactly what a car would want anyway. Tucked away safe with other hunks of metal, to be salvaged when the aliens come. I don’t know. It’s weird that she just disappeared. It’s kind of beautiful. I’m going to think she drifted away like Jesus or Elijah. Three days after they junked her she just flew off in the air. Maybe that’s what the D1 or D2 gears I never used were for. I hope so.

If there’s a car heaven, she’s in there. Running drug deals from James Dean, or fucking a Jaguar, I don’t know what cars dream about.

I’ve talked about this a lot, with a lot of people. I think I have the right answers for me, and for not idiots. In this scenario you get to keep your human intelligence when you’re an animal, and you can go back and forth, but you only can pick one. These would be my finalists:

1. Gorilla- It’s tempting to go giant apex predator and fuck shit up, but I think I’d go Gorilla first. Gorilla’s could probably beat up anything I’d need to beat up, plus, they can wear pants and drive a car if I need to. A Gorilla in a track suit and mask can get away with a lot of stuff I don’t think a Tiger could.

2. Hawk- I’d want to be be a bird, and hawks are just tough enough to be awesome, without being so rare that people would notice or get too interested. You could live in a city or places where people go and not have to be a pigeon. It would be a good move, even if owls are sexier (fact.)

3. Bear- Probably a bad choice, but I’d still take it. You’d turn into it once, and people would freak out and and shoot you, or the government would capture you and turn you in to Vladimir Putin or Ted Nugent.or whoever really runs the illuminati and they’d turn you into a rug. It would still be badass though, and maybe I could move into the woods like Beorn in LotR, but it seems like a big risk.

4. Barn Cat- A lot like the hawk, you could get away with this pretty easily. I’d want to go dog, but cats are more agile, and can get anywhere. They hide really well and can make big jumps. I’m picking a barn cat because it sounds tough, but any cat would do. I wouldn’t want to have long hair, unless I could get it done in cool cornrows or a mohawk, but that seems like a great deal of work. I think I stray cat would be a pretty sweet deal though. Heathcliff always seemed to be having a good time.

5. Blue Whale- I’d love to go to the bottom of the ocean. I could walk away from humanity, (swim away from humanity) if I was a blue whale. I lie sometimes that I could be hermit, but I couldn’t, but scraping the very bottom of the world would be worth it. The ocean’s where we come from, and I’d love to look at it’s emptiness. Knowing I was the biggest thing I’d see, would probably melt my brain a little, and I’d be down for that. I’d have to avoid Japan, but I’ll probably do that anyway. I might come back and tell people stuff. I’d listen to a big blue whale.

Thursday there was a bomb scare in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. That was my fault, and I’m sorry. Hollywood Boulevard was shut down, dozens of cops came out, there was a robot, and a lot of people were late for yoga.

Again, I’m very, very, sorry.

See, at about 5 I went to get coffee with my buddy Mike Bobbitt, he’s a comic out of Detroit, and we hang out and eat pizza together most days. LA’s a great place to get in shape and do amazing things, but it’s also a terrific place to get high and eat pizza. (My friends from Indiana would still enjoy it here.) On Thursday we weren’t so super hungry, so we settled on coffee and trying to figure out who’s the worst X-Man (Go Fuck Yourself Gambit.)

While walking to the coffee shop we passed a lightpost that doubled as a street sign. Around the street sign was a package, wrapped neatly and tucked into itself like a necktie. I’m going to be honest here, I was a little high. I’m usually a little high. Being high, or being me, or maybe those two things are kind of the same now, I decided I had to know what was in that bag.

“It’s probably shit right?” I asked Bobbitt.
“Oh yeah, it’s almost certainly shit.” He replied.
“I still want to know.”

It was high, but so was I, and I’m also very tall. I’m 6’4″ but I can stretch up like a 6’6″ guy. I have long arms and a deceptively wide chest. If I tilt that sideways and monkey arm it… I can reach into a couple of loops on a basketball net. So I could reach it, barely. I undid the bag and looked in it. It wasn’t shit.

It was a nice camera. I think it was a nice camera. I don’t really know cameras. I showed it to Mike and we both agreed that it was better than shit.

“I don’t really want a camera.” I said, in a surprisingly confused tone. I had just wanted to look in the box. I didn’t want to be responsible. I don’t know what I was looking for, probably magic beans. I had already decided it was going to be shit… and when it wasn’t… it really threw me off my game. What was I going to do with it now? I didn’t want to throw it away.

“Do you need a camera?” I asked.
“Not at all.” said Mike.

We looked at each other stumped.

“I think I’m just going to put it back there.”

I climbed up the lightpost and Mike handed me the bag. I secured it back to where it was, but not with the same diligence with which it was originally put there. I just let it hang from where it had been wrapped up snugly.

“What the fuck do you think that was doing there?” I asked. Mike said he thought somebody had probably found it, realized it was nice, and, being a good citizen, strapped it up on the sign in case it’s owner returned. Mike’s smart. I thought angels were probably testing my morality. I think I passed with like a “C”.

We went, had coffee, and agreed that Gambit’s a fuckface.

On our way back we saw that Hollywood Blvd had been shut down hard. The roads had been taped or chained off. Dozens of police were there, with their cars blocking the intersections. There was a bomb truck (like a firetruck, but black,) and, when I tell this story in the future, I’m certain there was a helicopter.

Two of Mike’s neighbors were on the corner of his block letting out their dogs. “What’s this about?” we asked. “Bomb stuff,” they said. We were oblivious. It took about 5 minutes of serious belly rubs for me to piece stuff together. “That bag had been there for a couple of weeks,” said one of the women, “I saw it there, but I guess somebody moved it.” I dropped a coffee cup in slow motion while Kevin Spacey walked purposefully out of the police station.

“Holy Fuck that’s us.” I said, roping Mike into my possible assault on the central government.

We walked up to the the nearest group of officers. They were being impossibly polite. You know how cops usually don’t tell people anything and just try to scowl away their insecurities over their tiny dicks? These guys didn’t do that. Cops in real cities, in my limited experience, are human.

“Hey, is this about that bag on the sign?” I asked.
“Yeah,” said the cop, “there was a…” he started, but I cut him off.
“Yeah, it’s a camera… I sort of put it there.”

That peaked his interest. I explained everything that had happened to the cop as quickly as I could, trying to make clear that; 1. it wasn’t a bomb, 2. I didn’t bring it, and 3. No, I didn’t smell like weed.

“That’s what we figured,” said the cop, clearly appreciating my candor.

He spoke into his shoulder the cool way cops do and a voice crackled back, “yeah, that’s what we figured.”

He said he had to take us somewhere to talk to somebody in charge.

“I get it,” I said. I felt terrible about shutting down traffic. I felt terrible for wasting these guys’ time. I felt pretty good about the coffee and marijuana.

“We’re going to have to cuff you,” said the cop. “I get it,” I responded. Mike got excited. I think Mike’s a good kid, and this was probably his first time in cuffs. I assured him it’s less fun than it seems. And it WAS less fun than it seemed. Again, the cops were cool, but the LAPD is designed to fuck with you. “Cuffed and put into the backseat” is a six word expression that sounds effortless, but cramming the 500 lbs of me and Mike in there was difficult, for them and for us. I tore my pants, and Mike busted his noggin pretty solidly. We laughed and chuckled about it, but rest assured, it sucked. I don’t think we realized how badly it sucked until afterwards. (Maybe I’m just realizing now.) My hands fell asleep to the point that I couldn’t tell they were hands, and my feet fell asleep so hard they hurt. I think I have a little nerve damage, (My thumb feels like it burnt the roof of it’s mouth) and I’m currently very sore. I’ve been handcuffed a few times, and this is the only time I remember them hurting. They didn’t put them on too tight, in fact, they gave us each two pair. But being immobilized is painful, and they held us there, in the back of a car, for about an hour. It’s funny how we never think of that as an awful thing. I read about being shackled in “Game of Thrones” or something else and never realize that that HURTS. It’s not an okay thing to do to humans. We laugh that The US doesn’t torture people, and radio-cunts say they could handle what happens at Guantanamo Bay. People say jail is a hotel and it should be worse, that criminals have it too good. They’re wrong. We’re all wrong. Don’t get put in handcuffs unless you’re into that, and even then, please be careful.

The cops who took us in were friendly, their superiors were not. They weren’t antagonistic or shitty, but they were deliberately joyless. Mike and I sat in the back of that car, and were hilarious. “Oh they’re sliding off my face! quick “Lady and the Tramp” my glasses back on!” he laughed. “Are we going to Prison? Are we there yet?” we whined. “They Call it Sodomy, but they should call it SodomUS.” It was fun. The cops even joked about our descriptions being “spot on.” “Oh god,” I said, “I hope they weren’t hurtful.” Mike’s 5’8″ and around 230 lbs, just thick enough to maybe be strong. I’m 6’4″ and fairly simian. It’s a funny pairing. I’m sure they sketch artist drew something that looked a lot like Scooby-Doo villains or The Riddler’s lesser henchmen. He got it from one officer that we were described as “probably not homeless,” I’ll take that as a compliment and try to maintain my dignity.

After twenty minutes of our hands and feet going numb, we started to change moods. I surveyed the situation. This was an enormous endeavor, a huge operation, and it was my fault. I couldn’t help but wonder the cost; dozens of Policemen, the bomb squad, that chopper. It had to add up. I also wondered why this had happened. Had I done something wrong? I had just been me. Then I remembered “me” is something most folks do not care for. There is something about me that frightens the type of people likely to phone in about a suspicious package. I scare squares, and even here in Hollyweird, they’re a shit ton of squares.

I’m big and I’m loud and I’m usually a little bored. I look dumb, and because of that, people want me to be. And if I’m not dumb, I’d better be, or else I’m dangerous. I’ve got an unkempt appearance and diction that doesn’t suit my demeanor, so I’m probably up to something vile. I’m not pretty, no part of me; tall, heavy, and lumpy, but I’m still curious and, I hope, capable. Squares hate that, and they don’t trust it. Big guys are villains or dunces. A big guy put a bag on a post deliberately, and didn’t look dumb doing it… so he must have been a monster. I can be Hodor or the Hound, but I better never look at the god damned princess. People think I’m trouble. Maybe they’re dumb. (spoiler: They’re dumb.)

The cops pulled out the robot, a bomb diffusing device that looks like “Short Circuit’s” Johnny 5 without a head. “We’re pulling out R2” said one cop. “No… that’s Johnny 5” answered a second. “That’s what we said!” Mike and I yelled simultaneously. We asked to get our pictures with it. The superiors didn’t think that was funny.

The other officers did though. They were having a blast. I think blowing stuff up is probably a good day for cops, not good like getting handjobs in a prostitution sting, or getting to wail on minorities, but pretty good, way better than watching for speeders or chasing Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves around town.

I know they had a good time, because they didn’t stop. They continued the robot mission. They wheeled him out, ran his arm up, placed a bomb on the “bomb bag,” and blew it up. I told them it was a camera. They said it was a camera. And after they blew it up… they verified it was a camera. I think it would have been cheaper and easier to not do that… but they didn’t drive all the way out there and disrupt traffic to not blow something up… I get it. They had a monster to fight.

I wish this was an angrier piece. I think it could be, but I don’t have it in me. I wish I was outraged at the cost of the operation, I wish I wanted to rail against the bullshit conformity to procedure and expectation, but I can’t. This was a waste of money. Probably a lot of money, tax money, your money, but, nobody seems to care. If I say “I think we over-react to terrorism” people shrug. I’m an asshole or an idiot, depending on who you ask. At any point any person there could have said, “it’s a camera,” and people could have gone home, but the wheels of institution grind on and no one there could stop them. Security’s important. Security’s an illusion. Illusions are important. I’m lucky this one didn’t ruin my life.

The Drunkest I’ve ever been, is impossible to say. I’ve drank too much so many times in my life I can’t possibly identify the drunkest. I’ve drank too much more times than I’ve drank enough and many more times than I drank too little. But I’ll write about the First time I drank too much.

It’s awful. And it’s funny. And I don’t want anyone who likes me to read this. It wasn’t a “come to Jesus moment.” I’d like to say it was, but it wasn’t. It would take years of much bigger mistakes to slow me down, and I know I might speed up again at any moment. More concerning, I know my driving is so poor regardless, I might go off the rails for no reason at all, even at the most reasonable of speeds. Anyway. here’s a story about stupidity.

One time I got drunk and danced with a guy in a pink sweater. Which isn’t so funny by itself, except I made him dance with me. And it was swing dancing. And it was kind of like a hostage taking.

I was 18 or 19 and I was just learning how to drink. As with everything, I was taking advanced classes. When you’re smart, or learn quickly, or the school says whatever, people assume you know more than you do. I understood quadratic equations so I had to have learned my times tables right? I hadn’t, but what the fuck, I’d be fine… I was smart? Drinking was a lot like that.

It was Veterans’ Day, or Memorial Day, or whichever one comes early in the school year. I was home from my first semester at college. I was there to finish up community service I’d gotten for having a Minor in Possession the previous summer. (This is my first time drinking too much by MY standards, not by the standards of the Indiana State Police.) I thought it’d be funny to have an Off Of Probation Party, and for the record, it was.

Folks came over, not much happened. I think we BBQ’d. People from various groups of friends gathered together; my football friends, the outdoors-y kids in camouflage, a couple of my nerd-class pals home from different schools. Pieces of a fucked up quilt of bored kids in their late teens. I ended up procuring a bottle of rum from somewhere. This was a midday gathering, and really nothing happened. At about 3 or 4 o’clock, people decided to head out to various parties around town; as it was an eclectic gathering of people, they went to many different places. My best friend Don and I, (and probably a girl,) wound up driving to someone’s house I didn’t know. I hadn’t been drinking, but finding out we were going to somebody else’s house changed the situation entirely. I took a shot or two quickly and packed to leave. When we arrived, I probably drank more. I remember the place was nice, and that everybody there was a year or two younger than I was, and that was weird. I was a college freshman, and they were high school kids. We’re all glum idiots in our thirties now, but back then, it was gross, and I was a weirdo. I decided to hide behind bottles. I show off by drinking, I don’t understand why. Maybe it makes it easier to be myself, or be somebody I like more, or maybe, at that time, it just gives me the confidence to show off the karate moves I’d learned in a college rec. class. I took shot after shot. At first I chased them with coke, but then just started taking tugs from the bottle. a bunch of them. Later, my pal described me as “Belushi-ing” the last quarter bottle of rum.

This, I remember, but it’s fuzzy.

What happened next is a collection of other people’s accounts. They’re similar enough that I believe them, and don’t suspect any elaborate ruse. I spent a while showing off how high I could kick and telling folks I was invisible. I’d wager I meant “invincible,” but folks say “invisible,” and since I wasn’t there, I’ll have to trust them.

I fell down at one point, and came real close to de-braining myself on a tailgate, catching my temple on the corner, but I got lucky, I just collapsed in a pile. Then I bear crawled around the drive way for a minute, barfed, and fell over. Then I barfed again. I barfed all night. People took turns rotating me around like a terrible barf lawn sprinkler.

People say they sat around me like a bonfire for a while while I got sick and snored loudly. I like to think they brought marshmallow.

I’m lucky my friends were sweet, and strong (I’m very heavy, and dragging me around couldn’t have been easy.) They took me from party to party, lugging me into the back of pick-ups, and wiping the barf out of the beds when they arrived, dropping me off in yards and driveways while new folks drank around me.

I like to imagine there were a couple of Weekend at Bernie’s moments, and no sodomy, but it’s all conjecture.

Nobody wrote on me or drew dicks on my face, and that’s pretty remarkable.

It’s important to note that in this story, it was still only 5 or 6 in the evening, and, in the summer, that’s just the afternoon. As the evening progressed, kids got drunker, and I was less entertaining. I was abandoned for a short time under a kiddie pool, so not to attract attention from cops or passers by. Assuming if someone drove by, they would think, “hey, there’s a seemingly lawful arm and leg sticking out from underneath a kiddie pool, nothing to see here” and move on.

I’m not sure how or when I got to anywhere. I know I woke up around 10. In a bathtub, at a party I didn’t understand. I’d thrown up so much my contacts had fallen out. I was blind, and drunk and staggering through a hallway. I think I remember, or it’s possible I just remember cartoons showing me what walking around that drunk feels like. I remember pictures of people I didn’t know hanging from the wall coming in and out of focus as I lumbered past them. I remember my own barf covered hands leaving streaky palm prints on the wall like messages from The Manson Family. I think I remember shooting Jasper.

I walked into a living room with a couch that curved around the edges of the room. 10 or 12 people were on it, listening to music, or watching TV awkwardly the way you do at high school parties. I looked over the blurry shapes in front of me unsure if the aliens were captors or cohabitants. They made noises like me, so I was pretty sure they were human. I saw one that was slender and cute in a pink jacket. If I was stuck on this space ship with other people, I’d at least establish dominance. Since I was too drunk to showcase my karate, I’d go with dancing, which is really just sex karate anyway. I picked her up from the couch in a big dramatic swoop and pushed her away coyly, holding one hand as delicately I could.

Swing dance was incredibly popular for 15 minutes in the late 90’s, and I got really good at… I got sort of good at it.

I have no rhythm, and can’t hold a beat, but I’m strong, and my arms are long. And that’s all a guy has to have to be a decent swing dancer. I can throw a chick around like she’s nunchucks. Factor in my utter disregard for someone else’s safety when I’m in that state, and I’m a terrific dancer.

I don’t know what was playing, but I can state assuredly it probably wasn’t swing dancing, let’s assume it was Green Day’s “Good Riddance.”

I tossed her out and pulled her back dramatically as Billie Jo Armstrong sang about growing up. I lifted her up and swung her from side to side. I lofted her up on my shoulder in a showy flip when a blob that sounded like my buddy Don said, ” Hey DJ, you’re dancing with a dude.”

I froze up for a second with the kid on my shoulder. He was stuck there, just kind of resting, in a weird adaptation of playing dead that I assume every old west hooker appropriated. Don’s face took shape in the middle of the room that could have been a hallway or a space lab or the inside of a raindrop, and I realized, calmly, what was happening. I shoved him off of my shoulder in an unceremonious dump. The kid landed in a heap, bewildered, on the carpet that might have been cement.

I don’t remember laughing, I don’t remember sound, but I guess I was at least friendly. I kind of yelled, mostly out of confusion. “Why did you Dance With Me!?”

“You danced with me!” he corrected. I don’t know for sure, but I like to think I scratched my head like a caveman with big stupid eyes before shouting, “Why are you wearing a pink sweater?!”

He didn’t have a good answer.

That’s it. That’s the whole story. The rest of the night I passed out or drank more or passed out then drank more or drank more then passed out or the reverse of both of those. It doesn’t matter. The next morning I woke up at my friend’s house with no contacts, clothes streaked in grass stains and vomit, and a loose feeling that I’d done something wrong. A vague stupid regret that I still have sometimes. An empty “I’m sorry” that I don’t really know where to put or who it goes to.

I’d keep drinking like that for years. I don’t know why I stopped, or even if I did. But sometimes when I’m down, and feel like I need to feel different. I remember that that was certainly “different,” And I don’t need to feel that way again.