Monday, October 4, 2021

The Wilderness Years - Xmas comes but once a year pt. 2

 Beware the wounded animal... beware even more the wounded man. There was nothing to do now other than sit back and drink as the night was now going to be just like any number of nights where i do business, get drunk and then wander home with nothing more to do than watch late night telly and talk to the cats. It wasn't so much admitting defeat as this wasn't some competition, all i really had to do was leave the waitress and Veronica would have been handing me keys to her place. Having traveled together our learning curve was steeper than most and we knew that we'd get on just fine. But the facts were i was not about to do anything to upset the kingdom, the business was what mattered most and right or wrong that's how i was going about things. Like a bad Hemingway protagonist women were viewed as a luxury, something to do in my spare time. I should have been the last person any female should have wanted to be involved with yet i didn't seem to have any shortage of females who wanted to be involved with me. 

Across the club i could see Veronica talking to Franco and assuring him that things were cool. I bore the kid no malice yet had i walked over, bounced his head off the wall and kicked the shit out of him no one would have stopped me. The situation wasn't his fault though it was mine. And so i sat and felt this hollow feeling in my chest. If the first time it had ended hurt this one hurt even more... not that it had began again but in my mind there were those possibilities and now they were gone, gone for good. Franco kept his distance and Veronica came back over and told me that Franco said thanks for the drink. I nodded towards him and raised my beer and as she stood there gazing at me she wrapped her arm around mine and gave me one last hug. Then she walked to the waitress stand at the bar, grabbed the tray and delivered the next round of drinks. I sat and lit another cigarette. I needed to quit smoking. I was the loneliest man in a crowded room


So i sat and pondered what to do... the thought of going home crossed my mind but the thought of sitting in my apartment alone was depressing. On a normal night i would have relished it actually but considering what i thought this night was going to be i now didn't know what to do with myself. The thought of the all-night diner, bacon and cheese omelet and a milkshake, crossed my mind. I was lost in thought when i felt the presence of someone standing next to me... it was Red and Penny, a couple of veteran dancers who'd been working the Baum Blvd. circuit since i'd shown up five years ago. It was later that i found out Penny actually had a thing for me until i brought one of my minions in who she immediately took a shine to and started to see to the dismay and anger of his current girlfriend. Red was her best friend. She had long thick curls, breast implants and kept herself in top shape. She had these beautiful and shapely legs, strong thighs, just enough muscle but not bodybuilder type, feminine and attractive. They stood there smiling at me and began to talk, asking how i was doing and if i was okay. They said i seemed a little off and i said i was fine, that i was just relaxing. Later on it came out that they knew what had gone down and that Red had always wanted to talk to me and so with Veronica effectively ending things, information that seemed to rip through the place like a wildfire, she wanted to take a chance and pull up a stool next to mine.

Having been to my first strip club at 17 i was not a novice to how things worked in these places, a mark is a mark even if he is a ranking hood and so i was cautious as i told Red that she was more than welcome to pull up a seat next to mine. We began to chat. From the start Red was a bit demure but as she relaxed we talked and laughed at the usual non-sense of the club. She admitted that she knew about the things that had happened between Veronica and myself and that she thought Veronica was a great girl, beautiful and smart and then she added, lucky and gave me a slight smile. It wasn't long before it was her turn to go up on stage and she asked if she could come back and hang when she was done, sure i smiled, i'll save your seat. She got up and walked to the stage for the first of her three songs. It was going to be a good night for the dancers as the money was flowing freely at the stage, i walked up to the corner as she got close and she came over and i handed her a $20, said Happy Christmas, and walked back to my seat. When she was done she collected her cash from the stage and headed towards the dancer's room. She came back out and i could hear a bit of frustration in her voice, she had to give a lap dance or two though she told me she thought of turning them down because she wanted to keep sitting with me but the problem was they got in trouble if they didn't do them. Not a problem i said, i've got nowhere to be, go make your money i smiled. She gave me a quick hug and headed towards the two little tables where the dances were usually given. 

As she danced for her customer she kept looking over and smiling. It was obvious something was going on here, i had talked to Red before, brief snippets, small talk, friendly but not flirty and these were places where flirting was a way of life, it helped to separate the suckers from their money by giving them a sense of false hope. I noticed a lot of the dancers didn't flirt with me the way they did the "customers" as apparently i fell into a different category. It was told to me later that i was one of the most well-liked guys to ever walk in the place, i was quiet and respectful (which was a bit shocking to anyone who knew me), tipped well and generally kept to himself. The whole Veronica Experience had elevated me to legendary status as guys in these places made false promises all the time while i had followed through and Veronica had told a few of the girls she worked with that i was a really sweet and thoughtful guy... who fuckin' knew? When Red finished with her lap dances she bee-lined it over to sit next to me again and as the night progressed she became more touchy, giggling and telling me how attracted she was to me and asking if everything with Veronica and i was over. I said yes it was and she explained that she really liked Veronica and was glad she was getting out of this place and that she didn't want to step on anyone's toes. The last bit wasn't lost on our hero here.

With the conversation with my new found friend rolling merrily along the clock ticked ever closer to that hour when last call would be shouted and a large majority of the denizens left would head to the after-hours clubs or weave their drunken way home. As the lights came up and the last dancers finished up Red asked if i could stay and walk her to her car. No problem i said and laughed, she smiled and gave me a rather tight hug and went into the back to get her things together. There were a lot of glances going back and forth between dancers and Veronica seeing if she saw what was going on, that Red had moved in and had spent the last two hours of the night glued to the seat next to me when she wasn't dancing. It wasn't lost on me either as i saw the look on Veronica's face a few times... it was a look of sadness with a little shock. 

The dregs of the club poured out into the cold December night to stand and commiserate on who was going where and doing what, separate groups with the occasional shout to someone about plans. Red and i stood off to the side, she stated she felt a bit awkward and bad about pursuing me because she really did like Veronica then she asked if she could kiss me. Sure i said and leaned over. After a minute or so we stopped. I could see Veronica staring, a look of disbelief on her face, her eyes shining as she fought back tears. Beware the wounded man and in particular this wounded man as this one is capable of great cruelty... in short i was a shit-heel. I knew what i was doing, i knew it was going to hurt her to see me openly kissing and flirting with another dancer but i didn't care, i wanted it to hurt her because i'm a bastard and seeing her with Franco made the Alpha Dog non-sense erupt out of me. Tell me you don't want me? Fuck it i'll find someone else who does. As we stood on the sidewalk i watched as Veronica looked at Franco and said let's go, grabbed his arm, turned and headed to his car. I could tell she was upset. It hurt. Red was talking to her friend and came back over. She looked at me and then at Veronica walking to Franco's car and said she felt bad and hoped Veronica didn't hate her but she really wanted to talk to me. She then leaned in and began kissing me again. Would you follow me home? she said. Where's that? i asked. The West End, she said. We were standing in the East End, my territory, i hardly ever left my turf as i didn't need to, everything i wanted was right here at my fingertips, hell i'd lived in this city for five years and couldn't even tell you where the West End was... i stood there pondering, if you wanted to hang out some more we can go back to my place, it's like five minutes from here i told her. She then explained she had a four year old son and needed to get back because her sitter was there and waiting for her to get home. I nodded. Oddly for me i said we could hang out another time because in my head i was not keen on the prospect of driving across town to a hood i
didn't know in the DUI hours as i called them. Now she stood there practically pleading, please come home with me, please, i really want you to. I thought for a second and then knowing it was the wrong decision said okay.... to be cont.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Wilderness Years - Xmas Comes but Once a Year pt. 1

The morning of the 23rd and it was Chrimbo come early... i had to muddle my way through one last day of work before we lumpen-proles were given a few days off, three actually, before i would return to the clanking of metal and the smell of exhaust of the loading docks. On the 23rd we worked a short shift in the warehouse, normally we never worked weekends but because of the way the holiday fell they wanted us to make sure all the plumbers and HVAC guys had their supplies, though i'm quite sure none of those guys would be working until the middle of the next week. So i woke up that Saturday morning with the hangover meter somewhere in the middle, nothing horrible, a cup of coffee and a joint on the way to work and by the time i got there it was smooth sailing, better yet the coked-up manager had brought in some donuts and what better way to start the day than stoned and eating donuts while getting paid overtime to do as little as possible. By 2pm i was in my car and heading home thinking a power nap, a shower and some dinner and then it would be time to tally up the night's orders, weigh and bag and be out the door. It was just the cats and i and i had the music turned up loud as i bopped my way around the apartment, a mix of nerves, anticipation and excitement. 

I donned my weed carrying cargo pants, tossed on the old Carhartt and jumped in the Geo. I knew i had time because the club didn't close until 2am and Veronica wouldn't be out the door until closer to 2:30. The trick was to not get wasted. Being the night before the night before Chrimbo meant it was a busy and festive night. Everyone wanted to buy me a drink or a shot and i turned down more than i could count from customers and bartenders alike. I'd vaguely explain i had a lot to do that night and needed to keep my shit together though i was still feeling pretty good by the time i left my little corner bar. The day had been spent in trying to temper the anticipation of what would be taking place in the wee hours of the morning and into the next day. It was like being the kid on Chrimbo eve knowing that when i woke up it would be next to the woman i desired most, the one who had captivated me from the time i saw her doe eyes smiling back at me from the stage a year or so ago... pushing open the club door i was hit by the music and the mayhem, it was a busy night and the place was packed and everyone seemed to be having a grand time. The King of North Oakland sauntered casually to the bar and i took my seat in my usual corner, the two guys who had been milling about there gave a nod and moved away and i ordered a beer and sat back. 

One of the things the game had taught me was how to read a room, people skills, to detect the slightest thing that was off and by the time i had taken the first long pull from my beer i knew something was off. Veronica was busy but she saw me and smiled but it wasn't the smile i expected, it was more  worried and wane than happy and excited. I smiled back and she turned to take an order. I scanned the room and noticed Franco sitting in the back by the pisser. It was clear he was giving me a wide berth as he usually did but this time it seemed a bit wider. As i've said before i had nothing against the kid, i couldn't blame him for pursuing Veronica, she was gorgeous and street smart and still had this air of innocence to her. But from the start i knew something was wrong and already i had a sinking feeling that things had gone south without my even knowing it. Veronica came to my end of the bar and yelled her order to the bartender, she seemed a bit coy and she told me that when she had a minute she needed to talk to me about tonight. I nodded and told her no problem and she took her filled tray and glided back through the busy club dropping off drinks and collecting tips, it was a pleasure just to watch. 

Sitting at the bar i was trying hard not to just start downing beers at a furious pace, the nerves were on edge, i kept an eye on Franco and watched as Veronica would say a quick word to him when she waited on the tables near the back of the bar. He was nervous and subdued and it seemed like she was reassuring him of something. I pretended to not to notice. I was there for an hour or so when Veronica finally got a chance to talk to me. I had stayed at the bar but had wandered back and forth to the stage tipping all the dancers rather liberally, it was close to midnight when she leaned in and put her arm around mine and began. 

"I don't think tonight can happen," she said. I sat silent and listened. "I really wanted it to but I just don't know, i really like Franco and i feel a little guilty, he's a good kid but that's it, he's kid, he's not like you, and in case you were wondering i'm not sleeping with him it's just i know that i know i can't have you even if you are the one i want but i also know it's not good for me to get back into it because i'm trying hard to move past you and i don't want to get past you but i have to...." she trailed off. For a fucked up individual like myself who has often wondered if he's capable of love in a relationship i can say at this point i don't think i ever loved her more. She was ten years younger than me and wiser than i'd ever be. "You've given me so much, you've showed me show much and it hurts to stand here and do this when i told you i really wanted to wake up next to you one last time and i know that by calling off tonight that is never going to happen. I just, i don't know... i wish things were different." 

"It's okay," i said. "I understand." There were tears welling in her eyes and she gave me a long hug and then walked towards the backroom where she could be out of the public eye for a few minutes. As she walked i could see her wiping at her eyes. Had i not been obliged to uphold the fucking facade of macho non-sense i would probably have been doing the same. Instead i leaned back and finished my beer, called the bartender over and ordered another one. I told her that Franco's next one was on me and gave her the money. 

It's amazing how easy it is to feel so alone in a crowded room. It felt as if i'd just been punched in the stomach, to the point i actually felt as if i was going to vomit. I lit a cigarette and stared into space, the hustle and bustle around me melting into a shifting blur of light and sound that meant nothing to me. The day that had been spent in anticipation had now turned into a night of crushing disappointment. I took a deep breath and thought about what to do next. 

The low end strip clubs of yesteryear were strange places. The older dancers all wanted to play den mother to the younger ones while the whole time there was much shit talking and back stabbing, it was more like a den of thieves than a pride of lioness' and the competition was fierce for dollars and attention with often times the latter being even more sought after than the former. They were all living the fantasy of being hood famous, much like i was, except in my world there was a much more defined pecking order. Sure there was competition and people always trying to move up the ranks but it was a lot harder and the last thing one wanted to do was step on the toes of the guy one or two rungs up the ladder. At the club it was eat or be eaten. It seemed as if all the dancers had known about Veronica's plans that night and when the plans changed it didn't take long for some to spring into action. Sitting at the corner of the bar i was lost in thought about the whole situation. Little did i know that the hunter was about to become the hunted.  to be cont...

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Books and Theories #1

 There are rituals or routines that shift like the seasons or maybe they shift with the seasons to be quite honest, things that i must adjust to and work with in order to get my time here at the typer... mainly because i feel like a bit more of a productive human being when i'm writing fucking non-sense... not that anyone really gets anything out of it other than myself but when faced with just how absurd existence is when one really sits and thinks on it the best thing to do is to find something that one can work at and practice and with any luck see improvement while providing some modicum of satisfaction and joy in the process. Hence why i do this... whatever this is... sometimes i'll even pull out the old paints and pretend like i know what i'm doing when i really know fuck-all about painting other than i'm really not very good at it... but i like it and i enjoy it and isn't that the fucking point? 

So as i've adjusted to the new rituals of the boyos returning to school, my new occupation as gig economy serf, some local distractions i'm not at liberty to discuss, the time at the Lounge has wavered a bit and i'm working it out, slowly, but i'm getting there. Mainly it has to do with mental discipline and being able to shut off all the shouting voices in my head competing for attention to do what the squares would call "meaningful work type things" and what i call fucking bullshit... and look at this segue... since lately i've been reading an interesting little tome by an anthropologist named David Graeber, a limey i believe, who caused a bit of a stir when he wrote an article on bullshit jobs and because of that stir followed it up with a book on the subject as well. Now i'll be honest when i say that much of what was in the book was already knocking in around my head but like any entertaining and thought-provoking book it got me to thinking about things... 

A recurring theme here at the Lounge is just how much of a loser our hero is in the eyes of what one might call Productive American Society (PAS). At a few days short of 51 i've managed to avoid a career in anything other than being a derelict and psychonaut and to be honest i'm perfectly okay with that though i understand that living in the bubble of the burbs i'm a bit of an anomaly, a man with no "real job", who is basically a houseboy and aforementioned gig serf, a man who spends most of his time thinking about the most inane of things and daydreaming while PAS would feel that my time could be better used thinking about how to make more money, consume more shit, work longer hours, all while buying into the mirage that this is really what living is... working like a fucking dog in order to buy a lot of shit i don't really need. Which brings me back to the book.

Now somehow i often find my days an endless list of chores and tasks, most of which go unpaid, which according to Graeber most likely means i actually am a productive member of this society regardless if i actually want to be... the theory being that usually the more meaningful the work, task, what not, the less one is paid for it if they are paid at all (example #1 would be teacher or stay at home parent) while the more meaningless the job (usually white collar, prime example being corporate lawyer) the more highly paid it is... think FIRE (financial, insurance, real estate) and since this isn't a book review i won't go into any great depth other than to say it's a highly entertaining and well written book that will spur thought and raise questions. 

In the last 60 or so years the concept of the UBI has cropped up and while the book touches on it just a bit the fact is it's an important concept in a world where the relative few hoard the wealth while the ones who actually do the work scrape to get by... what Graeber does point out is how there has been a whole subset of managers, the Managerial Class, who don't really do anything other than create fake problems or non-existent problems to solve while the whole point is to never really solve them and hopefully make more which will give the impression that they are terribly busy. The fact the Managerial Class is paid well is what helps insulate the money hoarding greedy pigs at the top of the food chain, meaning the 1% instill their values of self-importance into the managerial class to help keep the filthy lumpen-proles at bay. The whole crux is if you exhaust the workers with work, meaningful or not, they'll be too tired to think about how much they're getting the shaft. Which also of course raises the ugly specter of the Protestant work ethic.

To understand how ingrained into American culture this is i think back to the Tribe of Crackers who used to occupy the house next store, it was a point of pride to prattle on about how much they work and hustle into order to get those dollars! A prime example of the 1% instilling the narrative that if one is not working endless hours in order to consume more shit they are obviously worthless leeches sucking the system dry... which is funny because the system is set up as a hamster wheel to keep serfs like the Tribe of Crackers to busy or exhausted to say? pick up a book and educate themselves on the so-called Captains of Industry royally fucking them in the ass. It's a quite brilliant concept that goes back to feudalism and much of what we're experiencing today is nothing more than the modern version of it. The Kings (1%ers) use the Managerial Class (lords, landowners, knights) to extract the value of work from the serfs and funnel the money to the top (except get this... the serfs often didn't work close to a 40 plus hour week for the masters, in fact much less), a Ponzi scheme where the people doing the least get the most money and benefit while the people doing the actual work are ridiculed for not working hard enough because obviously if they worked harder they'd be rich and successful like those a the top or at least the managerial class but the fact is the game is rigged to mainly keep those people in the caste of their birth. Now and then one does break out and move to the realm of the 1% and are thus used as an example to all the rest toiling away at the lower end of the pay scale. 

The whole idle hands, Devil's work bullshit comes into play when the prevailing attitudes of a culture place this stigma on those who don't want to buy into the game. One must be some sort of lazy grifter if they don't want to hustle and work 60 hour weeks so they can maybe spend all the money they saved that year for a week at the shore, hell usually they don't even save enough for that but then they go anyway there by accumulating more debt which is always good for those in the FIRE industries. It's the bullshit theory of work giving one a meaningful life but what happens when that work doesn't mean anything? and what happens when the meaningful work barely provides enough compensation to live on? I've never looked at the work-a-day world as anything other than work, a scam by the masters, yes i need a certain amount of money to survive but the fact is if i work my whole life away one day i wake up (if i'm lucky) old having worked my whole life away to enrich someone other than myself. Fuck that i say! When guys like Watts and Sagan and Wilson began talking about the UBI it was because as technology advanced it would create the ability to give people more time to live and, if you're not some backwards religious fanatic who believes we all must slave away or be tempted by that pesky Devil dude, ultimately if people had more time to do what they wanted more good would actually come from it, not only because we'd have a happier society in general but because people could take up the interests and causes that they enjoy the most... instead it's become almost a right of passage for all those but the 1% to hate their job... but they must be careful because if this info gets to the wrong person they may lose that job and then join the ranks of those leeches sucking off the system... get on the wheel and run rodent. 

The crux of the whole argument basically boils down to this... that those who provide the most value and do the most good for the society as a whole are usually paid the least (not always mind you but usually) while those that provide the least amount of value and do little good for society (think the bullshit term of "job creators" we hear so much about) earn the most, all while pushing certain values and viewpoints that benefit them the most while funneling the majority of the money/income generated up to themselves. It's why the nightly news is constantly prattling on about the stock market... i'd ask you to go into any bar in the city and start talking to the patrons about the market and you'd most likely get a bland stare or who gives a fuck? because those people are just trying to survive. Yes out here in the burbs you can talk about the market and golf because a vast majority of these people are careerists in the area of Bullshit Jobs and believe they are doing important things though if you ask what those important things are you'd get a lot of stammering and vague explanations. So where does it lead? 

Not surprisingly Graeber throws it out there at the end of the book, the UBI, universal basic income... for everyone, even Bezos and Gates because the argument is if you exclude anyone than they feel they have a right or the power to influence the policies and laws being pushed because they are above the rest of us. The UBI would basically give people to freedom do what they wanted to do as a job instead of doing things they hate because they pay more. There would be more highly qualified educators and quite possibly less corporate lawyers, and how could that be a bad thing? When it comes down to it when one dwells on the massive amounts of wealth hoarded by the few it's criminal that we don't have a UBI, that here in the so-called land of milk and honey there are kids starving, families just scraping by, one illness or lay-off away from homelessness, not to mention the homelessness that exists but of course the population would have to get the masters to pretend they are human and actually give a shit about humanity and history has proven that those in power are loathe to do that and always have been. 

If there is one positive that has come out of the pandemic it's that people had more time at home and to think about how fucked they've been and are now waking up to the fact the corporate oligarchs have kept them on that hamster wheel, the working class have woken up to the fact they were risking their lives in a pandemic for peanuts and now want a living wage. Will we get there? i don't know. I'm sure in the masters are sitting around in a secret room brainstorming the next distraction to keep us occupied from realizing the game is rigged and needs to change. Fact is the only people who can change it are the workers of the world if we have the balls enough to demand we take back our lives... and that is a tall order for a population starved of education and critical thinking skills, purposely starved by those at the top. Who will buy the ad time if they try and televise the revolution? no one because the masters know, the revolution will not be televised.... now Billy will sing one of my favorite songs...

Saturday, September 11, 2021

The Wilderness Years - 31*

 We're going to fast forward a bit due to a certain anniversary taking place this weekend... an anniversary which coincides with the day i was thrust into the universe, that would be September 11... except on the day in question i was turning 31 years old and was at the height of my powers, the King of North Oakland, the one man wrecking crew slinging weed from eighths to multiple pounds and back again, the money piling up, women at my beck and call, buying rounds for the entire bar and better yet all while collecting unemployment (which i'll get to at another time)... this is the my story on that day. 

And so it was that on my 31st birthday i rose at my usual leisurely hour of the morning, actually this day i was up a bit earlier because it was re-up day, Stiv had having gone to get more gear the night before he was now back and eager to unload the ganja on me so he could knock his anxiety and stress levels down a few pegs. It was the usual Tuesday, i opened the safe and double counted the money, usually anywhere from 65 to 70 grand, yes you read that right, each bundle of bills the price of a pound. Since i'd negotiated the nice price for my weight crew i'd divide the stacks up into regular price and discount price. It's called professionalism, the bills all in order, facing the same direction and nothing smaller than 20s... the small bills when i got them became my pocket change, back then i was hood rich, it seemed i never had less than a few hundred bucks on me sometimes more, spending money i called it. I'd then grab my large duffel bag, stuff the money in a different duffel bag, always with some laundry tossed in as a cover, toss that bag inside the first and be off. 

I was going through my usual routine when my phone rang, it was the Waitress who told me to turn on the telly, she said a plane had flown into the World Trade Center, i was still shaking off the remnants of Monday night's business and drinking session, slight on the hangover scale, and turned on the television. I don't need to describe the scene but as i sat and watched i tried to wrap my head around what i was seeing. After the second plane hit i was like fucking hell this ain't good, this isn't an accident but i needed to get moving and so i packed up my shit, walked out the door, took my usual casual glance around to see if there were any strange cars parked on my street and loaded the bags into the trunk. I drove over to Stiv's, a 10-15 minute drive through the east end of the city. I parked in back and took in the bags. Stiv let me in and we adjourned to his living room where we both stared at the television. I emptied out the bag with the money and Stiv pulled out his two large duffel bags of weed, forty more pounds, and i began loading them into my bags, tossed the laundry on top and then went back to watching the news. Stiv and i sat and discussed what was happening understanding this was going to be one of the most fucked-up days ever in the land of milk and honey. 

Now in what might have been one of the more callous exchanges of the day i asked Stiv if what we were seeing was going to fuck up our business. The simple facts were that the gravy train was rolling right along, i had my crew moving weight, three of which who would show up and take between five and seven pounds apiece and be back for more a few days later. It was like the pyramid scheme with weed. Not to mention my half dozen or more clients who took anywhere from a quarter pound to a pound and then of course my nickel-dimers or as i called them your average stoners. As we listened to reports that people were jumping to their deaths and that other planes had crashed Stiv and i were both thinking about our bottom line. How fucking American is that? Stiv then looked at me and said, "no man we'll be good, the little brown men we get our gear from are different from the guys on those planes." My response, "good." Then i picked up my bags full of grass and headed to my car, loaded them in the trunk and drove home. 

I got home and flicked on the television and went about putting the gear away. My phone was already lighting up with people wanting to know if they could get weed. It seemed to be a subconscious panic and i told the nickel-dimers we'd be fine. Before 2pm i had seen every member of the Weight Crew moving close to 20lbs out the door in the first few hours i was home. If there was ever a day to sling in America it was this day. No one was concerned about the local weed kingpin other than the stoners. I reassured my Weight Crew that there would be no supply disruption and it was interesting watching the relief on their faces. Seems i wasn't the only one concerned with looking out for number one. By the time i finished business that day and headed to the bar to meet the crew for some beers i had cleared over four grand... not a bad day. 

Drinking that night was a strange thing. The bar had a subdued and stunned feeling to it, we were at the House of Good Beers, a place with a plethora of imports on tap and in bottles, T-Bag was mouthing off relentlessly, loudly saying fuck this and fuck that and fucking kill 'em all. Finally an older gentleman turned from the bar, calmly walked to the table and asked if T-Bag could stop screaming F-bombs, that we were all upset and unsettled by the days events and his language and demeanor was upsetting the man's lady. Of course T-Bag told him to fuck off and i immediately told T-Bag to settle down. To the man's credit he looked at T-Bag and smiled, he said "listen son i'm a Vietnam Vet and over twice your age, fact is you should kick my ass, and then what? you beat up an old guy? or maybe i kick yours and then you just got whipped by on old guy, either way you lose." I told T-bag to relax and stood up, told the guy i'd like to buy him and his lady a drink, he said sure and we walked back to the bar and began talking. 

We talked about the days events and then began talking about other things mainly to take our minds away from how fucked up the day had gone. Back at my table T-Bag had quieted down, between the Vet and the rest of the crew explaining he was being an obnoxious asshole it hit home that no one wanted to hear his ranting. As the man and i talked we somehow moved to the topics of books and writers and what not. The guy seemed stunned at the amount of authors i knew and had read and i regaled him with my book store test story where i scored higher than anyone who had ever taken it but still didn't get the job due to lack of retail experience. We laughed and i explained i didn't want to be a cliche anyway, a writer working in a bookstore, the truth was i didn't write much of anything at the time, mainly i spent my time selling weed and partying but i was still reading a ton due to all my free time. It was then that he looked at me and said, i thought you might write. Turned out he was a creative writing teacher at a local university. He then wrote down his email and phone number and told me to call him, he said he'd like to talk more but felt a bit bad not sitting and talking with his girlfriend. I told him i understood perfectly and said a few kind words to his lady.

As we said our goodbyes he mentioned he'd like to see some of my stuff and that he thought i'd make a good candidate for the creative writing program. I thanked him and told him i didn't really have an interest in going to school to learn how to write, said my biggest influences were self taught. What i should have told him was that these days i was like a young Henry Miller in that i talked about writing much more than i did it and when i did do it it was fucking awful. This time he smiled and said i get it but said i could sit in on his class any time i wanted, free of charge, he was the damn teacher and could do what he wanted. We laughed, shook hands and i told the bartender to put another in the wood for him and his lady, handed that bartender the money and turned to head back to my table. The guy and his lady thanked me again and then he leaned in and said, you know your friend's a real shithead but i really like you, you're a good guy. Likewise i said, paused for a moment and grinned, and you're right he is a real shithead. He laughed and i went back to the table. 

What difference does a year make? The previous year i was planning to take Veronica to London around this time, leaving a little over a week later, my gift to me for making it to 30. Back then I had a safe with some money accumulating and now a year later that safe was filled and i was working on the next one. The business was booming, i was gainfully unemployed in the eyes of the squares and i was living the life of the hood famous, wine and women and song. The world was a fucked up place filled with tribal strife and in the end, if you look at it objectively none of the parties were innocent. This country just did a better job of hiding our atrocities from it's population, anyone who didn't expect some sort of reaction was a fool. But none of that mattered to the King of North Oakland. As long as the supply line stayed intact and the weed flowed out and the money flowed in everything was okay. Oh beautiful for spacious skies. 

Epilogue - The next night the Ginga Yinza Ninja and i went to see Built to Spill at a club in the Strip District. It was a weird night to see a show, no one knew how to act or what to do and it felt a bit strange having a good time in light of all the events. I'm sure the band would have liked to call it off but seeing as this is how they made their living and the tour was booked the show must go on. It was an excellent yet subdued show right up until they played one song as their encore... a song that is the butt of many jokes but on this night seemed to somehow fit the occasion perfectly... a 10 minute version with the guitars raging at the end... it blew the roof off the fucking place... for the first time all night the crowd went absolutely ballistic, it was cathartic, it was brilliant... and for a moment, those of us who were there, smiled and had a laugh. (This is the same tour 13 days later, not sure when they started playing this live but from what i could figure out 9/12/01 may have been the first time.) 

Friday, September 3, 2021

Leaky Boat

 It's been a while since i've unleashed a diatribe on the raging shit show that is the domestic situation of our hero... and while i've been doing my best to keep my pissing and moaning to a minimum sometimes it just has to come spewing out, a bit like projectile vomit, when in order to remain sane and not blow a fucking gasket calls for it. It's like a broken record, a litany of grievances that even i grow tired of but yet still sit and ponder and dwell on when it's quite obvious nothing is going to change and i could be using my precious time at the old typer to do something far more productive... but fuck all that, sometimes i just like to hear myself shout into the void.

These days my patience has taken a step back, what with a teenage boyo doing his best to try said patience on an almost hourly basis most of it is used up by the time it gets to the Breadwinner but fear not friends (or whoever fucking reads this tripe) this lumpen-prole knows his place and understands his role so most of the time i walk into another room where i resemble Cameron, you remember Ferris Buehler's friend, walking to his car and air punching while spewing expletives, albeit quietly so as not to draw the ire of the master of the castle... it's what i call Zen moments in the natural world.

And so it was the other day that i was being summoned... told "i need to start the potatoes" which would be no big deal in and of itself except when i bounded up the steps to get started i realized the BW was sitting in her usual place at the table pulling on her e-cig (a habit that annoys everyone in the fucking house) and playing a game on her phone, all which of course didn't deter her from barking orders at the help, i believe this is what she calls multi-tasking, something i'm often told i have no ability to do yet i can easily tell her to fuck off while preparing the night's starch so i'd beg to differ. It goes much like this every night, the summer being particularly fun as i run back and forth between the grill and the stove, inside and out, while the BW rarely moves except of course to make herself something. Once dinner is over the BW goes back to her phone and e-cig while i clean up, usually listening to roots reggae and dub of which the lyrics and messages dovetail nicely with my plight. 

Being the successful owner of a few breakfast joints the BW has absolved herself from cooking... though up until recently she rarely stepped foot in the kitchens at her restaurants, she's the boss, and when she announces she's cooked all day therefore won't once she arrives home i often want to ask since i shop and deliver for other people if i can use the same excuse come Wednesday when the lumpen-prole pushes the cart or gets the hose (a little Silence of the Lambs reference). Luckily i'm not that stupid as to pose that question as i'd be roundly chastised for being an asshole because it's obvious to all how much i enjoy my Wednesday where my reward for being such a faithful servant is a hot lunch while i listen to the BW pontificate on whatever comes to mind, usually the same inanities about work and what not, while i give the stock responses that keep the repast bearable. 

These days, though the BW helps out her understaffed joints in the kitchen, her hours are almost always less than mine and for some reason there is this trite dismissal of what i do as being in any way, shape or form physically difficult, when in actuality shopping and delivering will wear one's ass out. Lugging groceries up steps all day long and racing a full cart around a supermarket for hours at a time will sap ones' energy. Of course on arriving home i usually find the BW in mid-nap, something that's done every day on average of 1-3 hours yet lumpen-prole be damned if he makes the error of dozing off for 10 or 20 minutes, don't want to let the boss catch you sleeping on the job when there is work to be done. I'm often told how bored someone is and that they want to do something... in my mind i'm thinking, well fuck there is all kind's of shit that needs done but that of course is not what the boss had in mind, more me driving somewhere and pushing the cart while someone peruses the aisles of useless shit that she believes she might need... and unlike the brakes on my car that i use every day (and currently need replaced) none of this shit is a necessity. Granted some shit i just refuse to do, not openly mind you as my goal is to drift through the day with as little static as possible, but there are plants still sitting in their pots outside, never planted because it's too hot or someone is too tired and since it is my job to mow the lawn (though the boyos will be roped in soon once a new and lighter weight mower is brought in) and try in vain to tame the tropical rainforest that has sprung up behind the gaff i'll be damned if i'm going to volunteer to do it or even help for that matter.  

Since i read too much i was sitting in my servant's quarters the other day thinking of good old Abe Lincoln and something i had read years before about why he got into politics. Seems Abe would rather be out riding his horse around and speaking in pubs and taverns, imbibing some ale and talking philosophy, than hanging out wherever Mary Todd happened to be. Seems Mary Todd was a bit of an ogre to poor old Abe and so he did his best to make himself scarce. It was just a theory but one that i could find some truth in... these days i've added a second gig which now gives me a reason to leave the house in the evening and drive around while attempting to make a little bit of bread. The simple fact is when faced with the proposition of an evening spent with or near the BW or work i'll choose work ten out of ten times. Yes not the healthiest of relationships i know but sometimes one must do what needs done in order to make life a little more pleasant and bearable. Which isn't to say this little exercise in existence i'm partaking in isn't brilliant most of the time but as the yin does the yang so the yang does the yin... there is a trick in the balancing between the shit and Shinola... or something like that...

Having clocked a half century i know less now than i did when i started and since i started knowing fuck-all one can only surmise the shape i'm in at this juncture. That's okay though because there are times when the sunlight comes through the window shades so beautifully i practically weep, the record spins and fills the air with gorgeous sounds, there is a cat rubbing against my legs and purring loudly with not a want in the world than a little scratch between the ears, Fred the groundhog sits in the backyard lazily munching leaves and the tumult and laughter of the boyos comes bounding in and i understand that i have nothing to complain about... though i could... and just did... but then the moment is gone and the next has arrived and there is something else that catches my curiosity and so i scratch my head and stroke my grey beard, laugh like the Buddha and go back to the scrubbing of pots and pans, of cleaning toilets, of humping groceries for the bourgeoisie, basking in my innate ability to do nothing and everything at the same time...

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Boyos

 It's strange to think that when i started this little exercise known as the lounge that the I-mac was just six months old and his little brother just a dream, still two and a half years away from being thrust into the universe... it blows my mind a bit when i think about it, about where i was when this started, where i've been since and where i'm at now... funny how that shit works... 

and so yesterday as i was working one of my gigs and driving through the thick and humid air of an August night, the traffic light, the air blowing into my open car window cool and damp, i was lost in thought about my sons... about where they are at now in their lives, about how fucking brilliant it's been, about the challenges of raising the boyos, about my fuck-ups as a parent, about the shit i just might be doing right and how each day is filled with moments of brilliance and episodes where one or both of them drive me fucking bananas and how even then i still can't seem to be pissed at them for more than a fleeting moment... i'm a pushover, a fucking cream puff when it comes to me boyos... though i do my best to not let them know that and work tirelessly to teach them how to be decent human beings even when the jury on their old man is still out in that department. 

Of course i'm not the only one parenting here and there is a vast difference in how we go about things but we manage to do a decent job of finding common ground when it comes to the boyos... of course that's probably about it and i understand the boyos are front row for a veritable shit-show of a relationship... i also understand and do my best to explain to them in ways as gentle as possible that their parents do not have a healthy or normal relationship but that we try and do our best. One could call it a white lie... or something bigger... the I-mac is old enough to understand and we've had a few conversations about it and i was a bit amazed at how much the kid comprehended. In a way i was glad he was so aware and able to process it while i was also bummed that he had to see it. 

These days there are new challenges as i navigate the moods and madness of a teenage boy. The I-mac has his first real girlfriend and has been feeling himself a bit as they say, pushing the boundaries, growing up. It's the first time the process of the long goodbye has really hit home with his old man and i understand, it's the same thing i did when i was his age it's just now i'm the guy watching it happen instead of the kid doing it. As the I-mac's social calendar fills and he runs the summer streets i miss the kid, miss the conversations and hanging out, it's not that we don't talk because we do but i know that right now his girlfriend and friends are far more important than his old man and that's how it should be. It's times like these when i yearn for Pops, can hear his laugh and see his smile and have a pretty good idea of what he'd say in his relaxed and Zen way.

I also realize that Nick Disaster will be entering this world soon as well but for now he's just a kid... a kid who really wanted to see Space Jam so after his basketball game the other day he and i went to see it. He didn't want to take a friend or his mom, just me and him. As he told the BW "you don't have to go cuz dad really wants to see it with me." And so we went and had a terrific time... and lo and behold if it wasn't a movie about fathers and sons, about letting kids be who they want to be, not that i needed to learn that from a movie because as Pops said to me years ago, it's your life kid and you have to live it and do what you want to do with it. It's the same thing i tell the boyos and sitting there with Disaster munching our popcorn we laughed along with Lebron and Bugs. Disaster is in that strange world of the tween, where he wants to be a teenager yet still has the little kid in him... he's beautiful. 

So imagine my surprise when i was caught by one of those waves i talk about only this time it was not a wave of grief but one of love, the dusk settling into darkness, the air grey and sticky, i was singing a song and thinking about the boyos, about how fast it seemed to go, about watching them grow up and i'll be damned if i wasn't wiping tears out of my eyes, alone in my car and fucking up the words to the song i was caught off guard by that wave, it's hard for me to even explain... but looking at the night clouds, driving these now familiar suburban streets, thinking about all this stuff i was overwhelmed by it all, by the love for my sons, for the wisdom imparted to me by Pops, sitting at the traffic light and talking to the sky i told my father how brilliant it has been raising the boyos and how i understand a lot more how he felt when i was growing up and i could hear him laughing again and saying, "c'mon now kid, you know this is just how shit it works, it's called life..." 

When i think about it now i know the I-mac will be leaving the nest sooner rather than later, his brother too... i realize my existence is closer to the end than the beginning and that's cool... i try not to waste it, i try to live it as an example to the boyos, to enjoy each and every moment even when things might be a bit shit... to show the beauty and brilliance of music and art, of creating things just for the sake of doing and not for any other reason... and when the melancholia sets in and i miss the boyos being around i grin and know that they are doing exactly what they should be doing, running around with friends, having a girlfriend, growing up... and i'm honored that i have a front and center to see it, happy for those times when they sit down next to me and start talking, asking questions, joking because i know the world is going to keep on spinning... and now that song that started all this, it wasn't on the radio... it was just in my head... now back to the show... 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

The Wilderness Years - And After All... We're not John and Paul

 In the backroom of Anthony's the word had spread quickly among the dancers that Veronica and i were no more. What followed was what i'd refer to as open season on our protagonist here. I was always a well-liked guy around the club, mainly due to being laid back, polite and having pockets full of disposable income but now i was something different. It felt like it was almost a game between some of the dancers to see who could get my attention next and before i knew it i couldn't enter the place without having one of them immediately pull up a seat next to me... about the only place i could get away was to sit at the stage and even then the girl onstage would spend an inordinate amount of time in front of me. While it may have been amusing at first after a while it was a bit annoying as i just wanted to kick back and relax, this was a place for me to hide. Truth is sometimes i'd sit at the bar nursing a drink and watching college basketball... like i said it was a bit like your uncle's basement. 

Since Veronica and the Lil Blonde were friends LB had pretty much gotten the lowdown on the trip and everything since and LB seemed to make sure all the dancers were well informed as to events of recent history...  and while LB considered me off limits due to her friendship with Veronica a few of the other dancers did not. Let the games begin as they say... 

The story of Veronica and i can't be told without the music and in that music were some songs by Oasis, most coming from The Masterplan record and not what one would call a "hit." Now somehow or other the girls in Antoine's backroom had decided that the song i must unabashedly love the most was Wonderwall... or maybe it was the only one they knew... i can't be sure. What happened next was a very strange phenomenon. There are certain songs from that period that when i hear today put a wry smile upon my face... most of them are alt-rock radio shit but still transport me back to the smoke and body spray days of Anthony's. The one that is most effective is Wonderwall... mainly because there came a time when i couldn't go into the place without being guaranteed of hearing it... multiple times on some nights. In fact it became a bit of a running joke... from the how long will it take before one of the dancers play it to how many times do you think i'll hear it? yes i believe there were actually arguments among some dancers as to who got to play it first... and when it was played i'd usually get longing looks from whichever dancer played it while onstage...  it wasn't as if most of the dancers actually had a genuine interest in me it was more like i was a carnival prize, who could land me next? and like the arrogant prick i was i didn't discourage it even if i was laughing about it... part of me enjoyed the attention while the hurt little boy in me didn't object to the fact i could see it jabbed at Veronica.. i was a fucking asshole. 

But for all the non-sense it almost worked in my favor as Veronica and i had begun talking a lot more once the games had started. It was good to talk with her again, to watch her smile and laugh... yes she was still seeing Franco but she stated not in the same way she was with me.. she liked him well enough but she wasn't sure what she wanted. It felt a bit odd to sit there and listen to her talk about her dilemmas with a guy when i wished i was that guy. It wasn't lost on the other dancers that when her and i began talking as she worked the bar that it was as if i didn't see anyone else... i didn't... it was all her. Even when she had to serve a drink i'd watch her, she'd look up from pouring whiskey and ginger and smile back at me while said patron would try to engage her in conversation and she'd immediately excuse herself and walk back down to my usual corner at the bar. I'd slide her my pack of expensive Dunhill's and she'd smile and thank me and say she wished we could go back, i'd look at her say, me too. 

It was a little over a week out from X-mas when i was sitting at the bar in my usual spot. Veronica had mentioned this would be her last week here as she had scored a new gig tending bar. She wanted to get away from the scene at the club and who could blame her. These places were human meat grinders and i had seen my fair share of girls come and go, usually worse off then when they arrived. I was glad she was getting away and even she commented on the fact that Wonderwall tended to get played an awful lot when i walked in the place. We both had a good laugh and i told her i had my theories on why and that it most definitely had something to do with us and the trip. I then broke into the chorus, taught to me by Gulfboot, "and after all, we're not John and Paul."  Veronica being a Beatles fan giggled at the cheekiness of it and from there on out it's what we would sing every time a dancer felt the need to play it. 

And then one late December night that week before Jesus' so-called birthday Veronica asked me a question. She said, "i want to spend one more night with you." There was a moment of stunned silence... you do? i asked. Yes she said, but i want to wake up next to you... is that possible? I sat there a bit dumbfounded... but better yet luck was shining down as the Waitress was going home for the holiday leaving me for a few days on the Jack Jones... mainly because i had to work my shit warehouse gig which for once i didn't mind because it beat sitting around in a strange house with people who weren't my family... and besides if i could have gone anywhere it would have been to see my old man and sit on his couch drinking coffee and watching the Best of Sportscenter while talking about the state of the universe. I smiled and said yes, i can swing it. She smiled back.

Her final shift at the club was December 23, the last day it would be open until the day after X-mas... she was waitressing that night and it was decided that after i got done taking care of the last minute Chrimbo weed rush i would roll down and hang about until she was done with her shift and then we would go back to her place. It was like being a kid again and waiting for Kringle to deliver that bicycle or video game except now i was a ranking hood with a burgeoning weed empire who was going to hang out at a strip club in order to spend the night with his ex-mistress (for lack of a better term). Under the cool veneer i tried to project i was fucking giddy, i thought of it as a reprieve and knew there was a chance it could start things back up again. We sat and chatted at the bar and finalized how we'd go about it that night. When i told her goodnight and headed for the door her eyes were shining as she watched me walk into the cold December night... you couldn't have punched the smile off my face.