Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Archive for December, 2008

Twenty-five

Posted by ilbebe on December 24, 2008

This is the tale of the incident of the Sno-cone at the Eureka Zoo. Our setting is in the spring of 2001, April maybe, and our protagonists are myself and my first girlfriend Kaydee. The day is brisk and the sky is partly cloudy. There is hardly anyone else at the zoo. Admission is free, and I stop at a cart near the front gate being attended by an uninterested blonde girl to buy a pre-packaged sno-cone which I come to discover is frozen nearly solid.

Kaydee and I have never been to the Eureka Zoo, and no one warned us how depressing it was. They claim to have the oldest chimp in the world there, a sad-looking bastard named Bill who, so I hear, is a)not the original Bill, and b)only sexually aroused by watching human workout videos. Bill bums me out, but Kaydee is more accepting of his loafing around in visible despair. The only time he raised his arms above his head I was sure he was asking his heavenly creator to get him out of his misery.

There was one other monkey cage with maybe five or six of some long-tailed crazy sons-of-bitches from South America. We saw two of them get in a fight while we were there that included one monkey biting the other’s protruding asshole flap and eliciting an awful noise from the bitee.

I was ready to leave after thirty minutes and do something, anything else but stay in that pit of hopelessness, when all of a sudden the clouds parted. I began to feel better. I took a lick of the Sno-cone I’d been carrying around for a half-hour, and discovered it was FINALLY soft enough to eat. In my elation, I squeezed the paper cone it was in too hard, and it plopped out on the ground as if I was in a Warner Brothers cartoon from the late 20’s. We got the fuck out.

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Twenty-four

Posted by ilbebe on December 24, 2008

On Sunday, July 8, 2007, I was leaving Cape Cod, Massachusetts, after the wedding of my oldest friend, Benji Davies.  Home for the night was East Boston, where I was going to stay with some friends I had stayed with a few nights earlier. Instead of taking the freeway, which I knew would horribly congested, I left in the late afternoon and took the local highways, stopping for a while in several little towns and searching in vain for a Cape League baseball game to attend. It was a lovely afternoon.

I stopped in Buzzards Bay, a small town located on the north side of the Bourne Bridge, for a slice of pizza and a beer, and crossed my fingers as I headed up Massachusetts state highway 25 towards I-495, which would take me to I-95 into Boston. Things were going smoothly until just a few miles before the juncture of I-495 and I-195, when traffic ground to a halt. I took a few deep breaths and thought about other ways I might kill some time to let the traffic ease up. Mini golf had been on my mind for a few days, but it was approaching dusk, and I figured my chances of finding an open course were slim. Thus it seemed an act of the divine when I saw a mileage sign informing me that Providence, Rhode Island was only forty-four miles away.

I got onto I-195 and headed west, stopping once at a Dunkin’ Donuts for some coffee. I was listening to an NPR program about scientists who are also Wiccans, and the description of their multi-faceted pursuit of the meanings behind divine mysteries was nicely complemented by the insane thunder and lightning storm that came out of nowhere, as storms often do in New England. I got off the freeway in downtown Providence around nine and resolved to drive around until I found an Irish pub, which turned out to be Patrick’s Pub on Smith Street. I walked up to the bar and found myself the casual third member of a conversation between the bartender and his friend Brian about a friend of Brian’s who had caused a scene at the bar the night before. Apparently, it hadn’t been the first time.

Brian continued to regale me with tales of buying weed from Puerto Ricans that turned out to be laced with angel dust, getting into a fight with a bridesmaid at this brother’s wedding, and dating a teenage born-again Christian for three weeks before he realized she wasn’t really twenty-two.

I left Providence around eleven in a fucking great mood. The drive back to Boston included stopping at another Dunks for more coffee and listening to a live broadcast of some Monty Python members and Keith Olbermann re-creating the Holy Grail. I got to the People’s Republic in Cambridge just in time for last call, wandered around after the bar closed leaving my youngest sister a ludicrous birthday voicemail, and found Lee Street, so I took a picture.

I still didn’t have a place to stay. My friends who I’d stayed with in East Boston hadn’t returned any of my calls, so I figured I’d drive around until I passed out.

It is really fucking easy to get lost in downtown Boston. At one point I was going the wrong way down a narrow, brick-lined alley, cursing Paul Revere and the horse he rode in on. I got on some freeway and finally realized I was heading west instead of north when I had to STOP AND PAY A GODDAMN TOLL. After being fleeced of a dollar for my stupidity, I took out the map, figured it out, and shortly thereafter I was asleep on the lawn behind the public library of Reading, Massachusetts.

Mosquitos and rain woke me after an hour, so I got some coffee and got back on the freeway. I stopped at a rest stop to use the bathroom and found a small bottle of cologne on top of a newspaper rack, and a mere hour later I was in Concord, New Hampshire, thanks to the more traditionally dense development of the original thirteen.

Insane In The Brain came on the radio as I cruised into my old hometown of Contoocook, New Hampshire at dawn. I stopped by the Gould Hill Orchard, the Maple Street School, my old house on School Street, my friend Benji’s parent’s house on Penacook Road, and got coffee and a donut at Mister Mike’s, across Main Street from the old Bank of New Hampshire. I bought a bagel at the Cracker Barrel in Hopkinton, cooled my heels in Kimball Pond, and called my best friend Casey on the phone. I remarked to myself upon how good it made me feel to visit little memorial groves all over New England that commemorate the American Revolution, and the men who gave their lives for it. I was strolling to Hopkinton High to see if there was a comfy place to sleep in the forest behind the school grounds, and ran into Benji’s stepfather outside of the post office, 03229, where my father used to work as the night janitor.

My father told me recently that there were nights where he laid in bed, sleepless, wracking his brain to figure out how to make enough money to keep me and my sisters and my mother safe and clean. He worked at a grandfather clock factory just long enough to get a free grandfather clock, and one time he made me return a hundred-dollar bill given to me by my eccentric great uncle, who made his small fortune selling vacuum cleaners.

As my father often says, you don’t plant corn and get tomatoes. I’ve wasted a lot of time being angry with my father, but I’m changing my tune. I’m gonna make up for that time spending the rest of my life trying to make him proud.

And keep in mind, everything I do for anyone, I do for myself as well.

Peace.

12:18 PM, 11/17/08, 12:21.

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Twenty-three

Posted by ilbebe on December 24, 2008

This is the bad stand-up chapter, this is dedicated to Tieg and Travis and Joey.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve come out of retirement to talk about how great it must be to be a woman! It’s so socially acceptable for them to cry! Oh!”

Gawd, this hurts already. Enough bad stand-up. I just want to talk about crying and how awesome it is.

Rodney Dangerfield brings me to tears sometimes. “Oh this guy was tough, he came over from Italy when he was two. By himself!” Then the war in Iraq brings me to tears, which makes me appreciate Rodney Dangerfield all the more so.

Bill Hicks had a line, “I find myself in the unfortunate position of being for the war but against the troops.” Makes you laugh, right, makes you forget for a minute that our current administration actually seems to act that way? If it wasn’t for comedy and music and, basically, all the arts, who knows where we’d be…

It rends me asunder the way funding for education and the arts and, you know, everything that improves people’s lives goes under the knife first whenever any agency seems to have difficulties balancing the budget. I was just listening to a report on the radio about how with the rising economic difficulties, Glide Memorial in San Francisco is having trouble keeping up with services to those in need of food and shelter. A spokesperson for the shelter said that the increased demand for services has unfortunately coincided with the cost of food skyrocketing, again thanks to the economy going into the shitter.

It is amazing how your senses heighten, to a certain point, when you are hungry or fearful. That point comes when prolonged hunger or stress prompts your senses to fail. I’ve never been there myself, and I don’t hope to be. Until I have a million dollars, or a huge hotel, or a huge farm, the best thing I guess I can do for those less fortunate than myself is to try and remind other people that these people exist, probably closer to home than you think.

Crying’s okay, but it can’t make you whole again.

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Twenty-two

Posted by ilbebe on December 24, 2008

Back to the topic of amazing concert films, let’s discuss Rust Never Sleeps, Hey Hey, My My. After he plays After the Gold Rush, Neil Young jokes that “When I get big, I’m gonna get an ELECTRIC guitar!…When I get really big!…” The whole concert is such an incredible work of art; the music, the interlude Woodstock sound clip, the lighting, the stage design, the fuckin’ Road-Eyes!! It’s like a history lesson. The segue riff in Powderfinger is one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard, I couldn’t replicate the way they play it if I had a thousand years. My friend Becky told me Oh Man, I Got My First Speeding Ticket Listening To Live Rust.

Rust-o-vision must be real!

I recently read a story about a police drug raid on a home in the Laurel Canyon in the late 60’s or early 70’s that involved Neil Young. Apparently, there were a bunch of musicians and other people having a party, and of course there was some cheeba there, and when the police stormed the house with weapons drawn, it freaked Neil Young out so badly that he started having an epileptic seizure. Thus we must raise our hats to this Canadian-American, having persevered all the injustices he has suffered by the hand of his adoptive homeland and started a school for children afflicted with “severe physical impairments and complex communication needs.” Oh, and he still rocks. Some of my friend Shawn and his father Shawn’s favorite memories are of attending Bridge School Benefit concerts.

A concert that Shawn didn’t make it to was the Mooney Suzuki at Slim’s in September 2002. He didn’t make it because he was with his father in the hospital. His father had cut the greater part of four fingers off in an industrial accident. Thanks to medical science, all were re-attached, and he has good functionality in that hand today. He’s had some interesting battles with the California Worker’s Compensation System, battles that dwarf my own. But in the model of the Good Human that we all ought to aspire to be, he just fucking persevered, like his hero. Big Shawn said that when he was in the hospital, his mother, who had passed a few years earlier, came to him in a dream and told him things would be okay.

Who needs Saints when magic is real?

Let’s now raise a glass for Saint Kurt Vonnegut. He would find the notion that he’d been sainted hilarious, and it is for that reason I say, sorry, but I have to. He would have been eighty-six today, and it is in his honor that I carry his cause: When he was born in 1922, the eleventh of November was Armistice Day, celebrating the end of the War To End All Wars, of course now known as World War One. Inspired by my girlfriend, I went out two days ago to purchase a copy of Slaughterhouse Five or, the Children’s Crusade. I was lucky enough to chance upon a seventh-edition trade paperback, collectible for the fact that it’s old enough that the author is credited as Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. I was elated because it was a hardback edition of the same vintage and same cover design that I first read. I got it from my high school library. HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT LIBRARIES ARE UNIMPORTANT?!?!

I relayed these facts to the fella that had just sold me the book, and he said he had first read Vonnegut at age 13, and it kept him from killing himself. This guy had the sweetest little smile on his face as he told me this, and I wanted to hug him.

That’s why yr a saint now, kv, like it or not. I’ll try to use lower-case and abbreviate things to try and keep it modest.

I think of the plaintive plea of Tears of Rage, and I say on this Veteran’s Day, I know what those lines in the sand represent. I reject the guilt that I perceive to have been obligated to suffer, and I will not let the bastards get nor keep me down. I listen to the ragged glory of that riff from Powderfinger, and know that there is something here worth fighting for, something that the world just needs to understand a little bit better. It would help if we could ditch the ego of it all. I don’t have an American Flag pin in my lapel today, I have a yellow ribbon pin.

What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

When you dance, do your senses tingle?

High Tides and Green Grass are ours if we want them sincerely enough, or

even

 

perhaps

at all.

Singing out, 11-11-08.

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Twenty-one

Posted by ilbebe on December 24, 2008

If you’ve ever listened to a song that you introduced someone to and heard them singing along in hushed tones, tones still uncertain that the words they sing are correct, then you know that feeling.

Yesterday I saw the biggest tree in the world, and oddly enough, it was named after a hero of mine, General William Tecumseh Sherman. The tree moved me, in ways I cannot describe. The majesty of nature sometimes has the effect on a body of making you feel small and enormous. Rejecting a Saint as you praise ’em, and cursing their influence as you beg their forgiveness. Near that huge tree, I went to a small museum that contained a few lovely and modest displays explaining the history of the region and the life cycles of the trees in it. Nearly every display was accompanied by a John Muir quote. My favorite was this, paraphrased: “What else can one see in this natural destruction but creation. Beauty succeeded by beauty.”

William Tecumseh Sherman will best be remembered for his ‘March to the Sea’, where he commanded his calvary troops to destroy everything in sight between Atlanta and Savannah. No one will ever know the weight these acts bore upon his heart. After the American Civil War ended, I have read, many people urged him to enter politics, a calling he resoundly refused. He famously said, in rejection of a bid for the presidency, “If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.”

This from a man who had set fire to a not unsignificant part of his country.

There is a pairing of songs I used to daydream about, accompanied by a video I will probably never create. The songs are tracks nine and ten from the Neutral Milk Hotel album In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, ‘Ghost’ and ‘     ‘. The idea I had for the first song was of  a young man walking through a large city picking petty fights with everyone he saw, and eventually setting the entire city ablaze. The young man falls asleep towards the end of the song. As the second song begins, the young man awakens to find the city ablaze. He quickly remembers it was his doing, and takes a few moments to marvel at the wonder of it all. Then he races through town, recruiting everyone he meets to help extinguish the fire.

 They fail.

At the song’s end, the young man stands with his group of volunteers and other survivors at the edge of the city, and gazes upon the wreckage. The young man then looks heavenward and sees a single shaft of light pierce the charred ground, and a flower blooms instantly. A look of disbelieving astonishment crosses the faces of the crowd. The flower dies just as quickly. The young man and the surrounding crowd start crying, and as the point-of-view pulls back, we see that nothing can ever grow there again, and one can only imagine the people will eat garbage until they starve.

I still see this vision, but I see it in sepia tone, as if it really happened, years before I was born. So many words have been pissed away describing a calloused heart that sheds its wounds and throws itself back into the world, raw and innocent and vital…

This one’s for the eyes. I wasn’t supposed to cross the fence and get close to that enormous tree, touch it, so I didn’t, but I could see myself doing it, and I did it in my waking dreams. Stretch yr palms as far away from yr body as possible, and convince yrself that they’re right there by yr side. Yr not wrong. Laugh.

Laugh again.

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Twenty

Posted by ilbebe on December 24, 2008

West Wendover, Nevada, Friday, June 28, 2002. We pulled into town for the Ratfink Weekender in the stankiest new Ford F-150 west of the Mississippi around five and got a room at a motel adjoining The Peppermill, the fanciest hotel/casino in town, for the two-adult rate. Me and Jeremy waited in the truck. We got up to our room and were delighted to discover a little league baseball game occuring in the field behind our hotel, and better still, the hotel was shitty enough that it had windows you could open!

We had Souther Comfort left over from the night before, so we mixed up SoCo and Cokes, yelled insults at ten year-olds, and within twenty mintues, we had to call the front desk for a plunger. Essentially, this was the trip where my friends and I perfected the art of making a place STINKY.

After the SoCo ran out, we went to McDonald’s for dinner. Casey refused to eat on the basis of both principal and a desire to live past the age of forty, a decision that seemed noble at the time. Unfortunately, West Wendover proved to be a town where noble postures quickly faltered. We went to the ballroom where the opening night festivities were being held and quickly upped the count of festival attendees from zero to four. There were about twenty-five vedors, sure, but what the fuck? No one else wanted dollar Bud drafts? It became clear the following day that West Wendover existed solely as a highway rest stop and as the nearest Nevada gambling and debauchery escape for Salt Lake City and the rest of northern Utah, which would have good to know at the beginning of our time there…

The traditional rockabilly band was really good, and they obliged us with the first four bars of Back in Black when we refused to stop requesting it between songs. An hour later, we’d had about six rounds of beers for a grand total of thirty bucks, tip included, and we were ready to go get our free drink from the main casino bar. The bartender laughed at our request for Long Islands, so we settled for whiskey sours, and the events that followed are somewhat blurry, oddly enough. I remember playing blackjack for a long time and holding firm around even, and Shawn coming around at some point with a cup full of quarters that he was rather proud of. Casey and Jeremy had helped the band move some of their equipment back to their room via the guest elevators, and at some point we all headed out to see what else the night had to offer us.

West Wendover, Nevada is across the state line from Wendover, Utah, and I believe we headed back into Utah on foot because I was interested in a restaurant that advertised both tacos and hot dogs, but it was closed. Walking back, I got caught in a deluge of sprinklers that came on with out warning and was so drenched by the time I fought my way back to the sidewalk that I took my shirt off and started waving it around to ward off evil spririts and/or the masses of mosquitos that were menacing us. This distraction is what allowed me to walk at full speed into a street sign and put a satisfying gash in the top of my hea which I had no interest in treating right away.

I recall wandering around casinos some more after the fellas convinced me to put my shirt back on, and Casey split off to eat some humble pie at the McDonalds he had shunned earlier. Somehow I wound up naked under a comforter in the corner of our room, drfting towards sleep while listening to Casey get back in line with his principles by putting the twenty-piece McNugget meal he’d recently eaten back into the West Wendover septic system that it surely must have sprung from.

The next morning, Jeremy and I awoke around eleven and went out to search for Casey and Shawn. The second appealing component of the Ratfink Weekender was a drag race open to all contestants and all vehicles, and Casey had informed us that it was being held out on the Bonneville salt flats, five miles east of West Wendover back in Utah. We drove out to the end of the paved road at the appropriate exit and saw nothing but a big wooden sign explaining the geological events that had created the salt flats eons ago. Strange, I thought, and Jeremy and I decided to go driving around out on the salt to look for the races.

If you’ve never driven on the shining, barren, and seemingly endless expanse of land that is a salt flat, I highly recommend it. We were driving ninety, and with no visual reference points for miles around, I had no idea we were going faster than thirty. Ten minutes later, we hadn’t seen a trace of the drag races, and found ourselves miles from the paved road where we’d entered the salt. I-80 was only about a mile away, however, so it seemed prudent to just hop back on the freeway and head back into town to do some reconnaissance.

Our bright idea was ruined by finding the only fucking soft spot for miles around and sinking the back tires of the truck into the salt about twenty feet from the freeway. One of the several very frustrated attempts to get the truck out involved putting a briefcase under the power tire, and when that failed we hitchhiked back into town with a guy who said “Oh yeah, been there…” He also regaled us with several tales of having to pawn things in order to keep gambling, which gave us a clearer sense of how much crappier Reno could be if only it was closer to Utah…

We got to the hotel that was running a shuttle to the races and were unsurprised that the desk clerk had no idea where the shuttle would take us. The races turned out to be at the abandoned airstrip south of town, where we collected Casey and Shawn and rode the shuttle back to the hotel to consider our options. After discovering that Casey’s AAA coverage didn’t cover bonehead moves like getting your shit stuck in a salt flat, we called for a tow truck, and Casey and Shawn told us the tale of their morning:

They had gone to the hotel that the shuttle was running from around eight and encountered the same unhelpful desk clerk who at that earlier hour couldn’t even confirm that any such shuttle was running, as he was entirely unaware of the Weekender event his hotel was hosting. They elected to take a cab out to the salt flats, and the cab driver seemed totally unnerved by their stated destination. He glanced worriedly into the rearview mirror during the ten minute drive out there, and seemed on the verge of confusion-induced nausea when Casey and Shawn smiled and paid him as he dropped them off in the middle of virtually nowhere as the summer sun continued its merciless mid-morning ascent.

It took them less than half an hour to realize they were fucked, and sulked around the wooden sign at the end of the road, vainly waiting for a car to come and rescue them. After an hour, they started walking back to town, pausing only for Shawn to carve THIS IS WHERE I DIED into the salt with his empty water bottle. Roughly an hour later a car came and drove them back into town, making the tragic ellipsis of our stories that they had only been at the races for less than an hour when Jeremy and I jumped out of the shuttle van yelling We’ve Gotta Get Out Of Here!…

Back in front of the hotel, dehydrated and furious, Jeremy explained the deeply troubling revenge concept known as Glass Rod Theory, I  visited the Arby’s across the street and won five bucks on a nickel slot machine,and finally the tow truck came. An hour and two hundred dollars later, we were back on the road, heading home. The air in the truck was icy though the temperature outside was over a hundred, and conversation was kept to a bare minimum until we reached Battle Mountain, where the purchase of eighty dollars worth of fireworks made us optimistic about life again. Later that day, after an erroneous double-tip at a Denny’s in Sparks, I scattered a huge stack of tourist magazines around the parking lot and Jeremy ran over the curb fleeing the scene, which further helped reassure us that we were in control of our destinies again.

The four of us still have trouble referring to Wendover without prefacing it with the modifier ‘Fucking’.

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Nineteen

Posted by ilbebe on December 24, 2008

Near the end of June 2002, I traveled with three friends to Western Colorado to stay a week with my friend Shawn’s girlfriend’s parents’ home. The four of us packed up Jeremy’s new pick-up truck, absorbed Gran’s warnings about flash floods and drunk Native Americans, and hit the road around sunset. Jeremy was wearing his driving sweatpants, and Casey and I started drinking Tecates that Casey had purchased at the Tracy AM/PM by the time we’d made it to Stockton. Shawn refrained, as he was scheduled to take the second driving shift, and we were blasting AC/DC. 

By the time we stopped at some strange gas station off of I-80 between Auburn and Truckee, the first of many massive pisses was taken. We rolled through Reno, shuddered, and split off onto Nevada state highway 50 to head towards Fallon. After eating at an unimpressively unstrange all-night diner in Fallon, Casey decided his liquid jacket was in sufficient effect to sleep in the bed of the truck, a decision which led to him to pound manically on the back window of the cab about ten minutes later screaming Stop This Fucking Truck. Apparently speeding through the Nevada desert at eighty miles an hour around 3AM is rather Goddamn cold, colder than any case of Tecate could prepare you for.

We saw about five other cars on the highway over the next 250 miles, and arrived in Ely, NV to eat breakfast at the only casino in town around 7AM. I had done some internet research about this casino and came prepared with a printed-out coupon for a one-dollar margarita. The bartender looked at me as if I was asking directions to the moon when I presented it to him, and sought a second opinion from co-workers by yelling out Anyone Ever Heard Of This Thing? When a fellow employee, bless her, confirmed the existence of the internet, he served me the drink and apologized, saying Never Seen One-a Them Before.

I decided that with the sun up I stood a better chance of catching some Zs in the bed of the truck, and my theory proved mostly correct. East of Ely we split onto another state highway heading southeast, and I awoke a few hours later in Beaver, Utah, home of the Beavers. Every business in town was Beaver this or Beaver that, a fact which left us paralyzed at first. However, by the time we met the angriest gay man in Utah at a truck stop and headed north up I-15 to meet I-70E, we all had boners and the Beaver jokes were coming left and right. Such was our distraction that it was hard to focus on the majesty of the red rock canyons of Utah, which I was seeing for the first time; we just couldn’t stop making Beaver jokes (Sample: “Sure would like to go back to Beaver!”… Hilarious, no?) and talking about that angry guy who sold us all that beer.

We stopped in Fruita, Colorado, the birthplace of Shawn’s mother, and vowed to come back and see the Dinosaur museum the following day. In the meantime, we bought an air freshener with a picture of a topless woman to hang on the rearview mirror, as the truck was realy starting to smell. We turned onto Colorado state highway 50 in Grand Junction, which we re-christened Granjo, and pulled into Delta sometime around five or six. We went to the first grocery store we saw as Shawn wanted to buy flowers to bring to his girlfriend, A, and who should we run into at the store but A!

We followed her back to her parent’s house, and as we approached the front door, she explained that her father was the high school art teacher. I asked her what he did, and she replied that he painted, mostly classic Western landscapes and still-lifes. I Don’t Know If I Can Sleep Here If There Is Any Native American Bullshit, I proclaimed, and thus the massive feathered headdress hanging over the stairs down to the rumpus room where we would be sleeping was certainly of a harbinger of the madness that ensued in the following days.

We were honored to be the first Californians a few people had ever met as we wrecked shop all over the Highway 50 corridor; playing stickball in the parking lot on top the Grand Mesa, throwing bags of trash all over the Granjo mall parking lot, drinking quarts of Old Milwaukee in the parking lot of the Montrose Denny’s, nearly dying in an underground hot spring cave in Ouray, playing miniature golf and going to the batting cages, taking two-for-one shots of Goldschlager at the awful sports bar A worked at, talking in hushed tones so that A’s mostly deaf mother couldn’t hear us…

We played monopoly every night and drank beer and rum, and the last night we were there, A tried to hook Casey up with her obviously lesbian best friend, home for the summer from her first year at an art school in Denver. The final morning I had a minor heart attack, prompted, I’m sure, by my over-consumption that week of booze, junior bacon cheeseburgers, Mountain Dew, chocolate donuts, and corn dogs. When we hit the road on a Friday, having been there five days, the rumpus room at A’s parents’ house smelled like a mass grave that no one had thrown limestone chalk on.

We left on that Friday to attend a rockabilly weekender in the fabulous town of West Wendover, Nevada, but that’s another story. Let it suffice to say at one point I was engaged in battle with a swarm of insects that ended with me walking head-on into a stop sign, and that I slept naked in the corner of our hotel room and was clueless as to the origin of my head wounds when I awoke in the morning.

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Eighteen

Posted by ilbebe on December 24, 2008

If In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is yr favorite album, then y’ll know what I’m talking about… y’ll affect an accent, but not as much as much as an accent’ll affect you… th’ great unknown is the strongest reason I have yet encountered to stay with this life, and the great unkown is terrifying.

…the feeling goes but my head keeps spinnin’….

The way love goes as I have known it has been a confusing and wandering road, but goddamn if I’m tired of it. The way m’ heart swells is a neverending source of comfort to me. The change I’ve seen within m’self helps me to see the potential in all things, and thus a brighter tomorrow for me and everyone… every tone. Every dog that shits. I have seen the world in flames, and I still do, but I see it differently nowadays, I can see the renewal that must follow…

I miss the people I don’t talk to anymore, I miss the hell out of ’em. Many people have seen greater suffering than I have, but this leaves me to imagine this suffering, and I have become very proficient at imagining things. I can see m’self clocking a guy as well as I can see my girlfriend, time zones away she may be… I can see m’self kissing her and far beyond that… I see pictures of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen, Cambodia, and think of fields of sunflowers and corn… I think of eating corn and I think of being young, and I think of the astonishing beauty that my parents ever met…

My mother told me that there was a time in college when an informal survey was taken of the class and  more than half the people in the room had a direct relative who was killed in the Holocaust. I can’t imagine. I just can’t. I try to take the optimistic view that every ash that rose out of that time became a poem, but the resources may not exist and anyhow I don’t have the time to verify that…

There is good news. It is not an original opinion, it was initially someone else’s: Every strong emotion is a positive one.

You can fly if you can forget you can’t. These tears are what will nourish the bountiful fields of what’s next; those rarest of artichokes. The artichoke that feeds the many…

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Seventeen

Posted by ilbebe on December 24, 2008

At a certain level, some have said, the meaning of life can be reduced to pondering what one is going to eat next. In the United States, many of us are fortunate to have the resources, both mentally, physically, and financially, to consider several options nearly every time we ask ourselves this. Against this background, perhaps Billy Joel said it best: Darling, I don’t know why we go to extremes.

In the spring of 2007, I was fired from the job I’d had as a law office file clerk for nearly two years, so I took a job doing pizza delivery. That job turned out better than I ever could have dreamed; cash in pocket every night and all the pizza I could eat, plus it completed my spectacular devolution from promising young college graduate to guy doing a job that doesn’t even really require you to speak English in just under five years… I was content in nearly every way imaginable; in fact I was gaining weight for the first time in a year. After having that job for three weeks, my car was stolen and I had to resign my post.

I’d had travel plans for the summer of 2007 lined up for many months, my original scheme had been to save up money and quit the law office around mid-June, with three months of travel my reward for sticking it out at that hellhole for so long. Some tickets had already been purchased, so I figured fuck it, apparently God doesn’t want me working, I’ll just go into credit card debt to finance this shindig. And the summer, by and large, was a blast. But then there was me, drunk in Chicago, telling a friend I felt lonely a lot, especially when couples left bars together and I stayed. Then there was me, at a friend’s unofficial bachelor party, eating the remainder of his recently seized dog’s psych meds to see if something interesting might happen. Then there was me at that friend’s wedding reception, putting a cigarette out on my best friend’s shoulder just because I wanted to hurt something.

Finally there was me, broke and starving at a highway rest stop somewhere in Oregon, finishing Bill Ayers’ memoir Fugitive Days and crying my eyes out. I’d invested part of my last forty bucks in two packs of cigarettes because I figured smoking would be an acceptable substitute for eating until I got back to California and could borrow some money from a friend or my mother. I’m alive, apparently it worked. Taking your literal last dollar out of the bank is a strangely liberating experience, and tears and cigarettes make excellent appetite suppressants.

If only I’d started smoking before September 11, 2001. I remember that morning very well. I awoke, showered, finished labeling a tape I’d made of the first two Cake albums for a friend, threw the tape in my backpack and headed to school. My first class of the day was being held in the campus library, and I saw an easel with a notepad that read ‘CNN on in room xx’ as I walked in. I recall thinking, what a great service, to have CNN on every morning so people can watch the news if they want to.

An hour later I staggered of the library, numb. I don’t what I would have done with myself if I hadn’t been slowly moving through the university quad when a fellow came through playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. Finally the tears came. Bless that guy. He reminded me that I was safe and clean, and I think of him often now when I need to focus and get things accomplished. This book is for him, in a way. I went to the cafeteria to get something to eat, and a friend told a story about his pal in the army and a strange encounter with a Cambodian prostitute. Later that day the girl I liked called and invited me to a barbecue to celebrate the cancellation of the rest of the school day, and at that barbecue, I held her hand for the first time. Three days we made out in a movie theater, and I’d have to say that all things considered, it was a good week.

The next time tears were able to suppress my appetite was less than a month later when my roommate’s father killed himself, distraught over many things, including but not limited to money and a growing sense of unease stemming from the attacks of September Eleventh.

The next time Amazing Grace really moved me, it was February Tenth, 2006, at a memorial service for my best friend’s mother, killed by complications arising from a fucking spiderbite through neglect and mistreatment by her insurance company. Later in that service, my friend Chris sang a stunning rendition of All You Need Is Love, and I was so glad my mother was there next to me for support. I might have lost it otherwise. I was talking about that day with my best friend last year, and he said I can’t even listen to those fucking songs any more. I think that’s a Goddamn shame. Those songs are for you, Casey, as they were for your mother. They are our songs, and no one’s passing can take them from us. Fucking death rituals.

Then again, I have eaten some great food at funerals. If you are ever buried alive, eat the dirt and let the worms shit in your mouth, and perhaps you will be rescued, perhaps you will live. If you feel buried alive, remember that you are not. Have a sandwich, listen to a song that makes you cry, and sing along. Hug a stranger; you might get assaulted, you might not. Close your eyes and know that no one can tell you when to open them except yourself.

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Sixteen

Posted by ilbebe on December 24, 2008

Have you ever seen Don’t Look Back, the documentary about Bob Dylan’s tour of England in early 1965? I find it fascinating on many levels, and I came to understand the events captured in the film much better after reading a review of Chronicles volume one by Nick Hornby. I was living in Oakland, in the first room of my own I had there, it was a summer sublet of a basement room in a house on a hill near a freeway. Hornby said that in reading Chronicles, he finally realized God, this is just how this guy’s mind works.

What a thrill, to realize how yr own mind works, let alone anyone else’s. Sometimes you cannot see yr own tree fr the forest. Y’ can’t tell if yr elm or oak, possibly even beech or maple. This is how I had to train myself to be late.

In high school, I was one of the first people in my group of friends to get a car, so thus I had to pick everyone up when we were going places. One of my friends had difficulty having pants on when I arrived at the agreed-upon time, let alone being otherwise ready to go. I have spent countless minutes waiting for this friend to finish IM conversations with people he has never met so that we can get in the car and go pick up tangible bodies encasing friends we know personally. This bothered the hell out of me, so I started showing up earlier and earlier.

When I was in high school, it took about an hour to get into San Francisco unless there was unusually bad traffic. One time two friends and I were stuck in merge traffic at the Caldecott Tunnel in my Studebaker, a car which never gave me many problems but was certainly of an era where a mysterious problem arising wasn’t out of the question. My friend Jake asked me a question from the backseat, and I thought he had said Your Car Is Smoking. I replied WHAT?!?! and he said Never Mind. I said NO, I Need To Know!, Where Is It Smoking, and he started laughing. He explained between laughter that he had asked Is There Smoking In Yr Car. I then laughed and told him sure, just roll the window down.

Perhaps if we had left on time and avoided that traffic, I wouldn’t have that story. This sort of thing guided me in my post-college years, where I worked on being late to things. It is not hard. Just don’t show up on time. If you find yourself on time, go to a yarn store to browse, or stop and get beer for later. You’ll never regret buying beer, or at least I haven’t. It’s the same way I’m trying to feel about everything these days- this is my life. Why would any of it upset me?

It has, but I’m not gonna let it any more. I wrote this earlier than I thought I would…

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