I haven't written in a while. This I know. And really, this post hardly counts but I had to share. This evening I was digging through an old memory box with a bunch of things from my childhood. Laying underneath a 1993 year book from St. Joe, I found this:
In third grade we had what was known as "Author's Tea." Why it was given this name, I do not know. What it was though, was a project for which each of us had to write a 5 page story based on the design of the small book that we were each given at random.
The cover designs ranged from soccer balls to princess' to strawberries and flowers. As you can see, I was given the latter. So naturally I was going to write a story about strawberries that played basketball. . .because I fucking loved basketball. The following is what resulted. I have not edited anything. Enjoy.
Dedicated to my favorite basketball player. DAMON STOUDAMIRE.
One day there was a strawberry basketball game starring the strawberries. It was Toronto Raptors against Utah Jazz. On the Raptors, it was Damon Stoudamire and Marcus Camby. On the Jazz, it was John Stockton and Karl Malone. They didn't like a crowd watching them because they'd get eaten! The score was 51 to 28. The Raptors were winning. It was half time and for drinks they had strawberry punch.
Half time was over and the Jazz caught up with the score. Raptors were losing. The score was 158 to 150. The Toronto crowd was saying "Go Raptors!" The Utah crowd was saying "Go Jazz!" The coach from the Jazz took out John Stockton. The Raptors coach took out Marcus Camby. So it was Damon Stoudamire and Karl Malone. It was a jump ball.
Damon Stoudamire got the ball. He made a slam dunk. The score was 160 to 152. Karl Malone and Damon Stoudamire were about to fall because they have skinny legs. So the coaches put in Marcus Camby and John Stockton. John Stockton wasn't doing good but Marcus Camby was doing good. They were breathing hard. It was 166 to 164. It was the fourth quarter. This time it was two on two. The players were so knocked out they couldn't breathe! Raptors had a plan but first they got new jerseys because the other ones had strawberry stains in them. So did the Jazz. The Raptors idea was they'd keep passing the ball back and forth until the Jazz got tired. Then they'd shoot.
Then they tried it and it worked. The players yelled, "Yes!" The scoreboard had three minutes left. Some people in the crowed yelled, "This game lasts forever!" In strawberry basketball they have six quarters. The Jazz weren't doing good or playing hard. The Raptors were playing good and hard. They weren't tired. They had so much energy that they could run to one side of the court to the other (?) in six seconds! The score was better than any of Larry Birds' games. The score was 499 to 166. The Raptors did a test on Karl Malone. They passed the ball to Karl and it knocked him down.
Page 6: (This is where it gets REALLY good.)
Then suddenly, the ground shook. Some people in the crowd yelled, "Earthquake!" Then it cracked open. When it came out everyone yelled, "It's Michael Jordan!" He said to the Jazz, "Need some help?" The Jazz said yes. Michael Jordan said, "Ok." So he got them in the lead. It was 500 to 400. This time it was the opposite. The Jazz were winning. The clock had 20 seconds left. The only way the Raptors could win is if they scored 100 points in 20 seconds. The Jazz didn't score anymore points but the Raptors scored 102 points in 20 seconds. The game was over. Some people call it a legend. Until they discovered the scoreboard didn't work.
THE FUCKING END
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Saturday, October 9, 2010
There's a bridge in Richland County that can only be found if you're really looking for it. There's an intersection at Chapel Hill Road and Deer Farm Lane that allows you to either go east and west on Deer Farm and only south on Chapel Hill. The north route of Chapel Hill is blocked off at this intersection due to poor road conditions that have resulted from years of inadequate ditch work and general negligence from the township. If one had a need to drive on this road, they would need a tractor; and even that would be an annoyingly bumpy ride. The road is littered with ankle deep potholes and contains areas where sections of it are literally missing due to water running across it during heavy rains.
The road eventually leads to a dead end and within that two mile stretch there are no outlets, making the intersection at Deer Farm Lane the only way to reach N. Chapel Hill Road. If one were so inclined to meander down the road on foot, a mile long walk would bring you to the bridge. It is suspended over what was once a creek deemed "Chapel Creek," which is now dried up and overtaken with weeds.
The dead end of the road used to be the site of a church and the creek wound it's way right next to it; hence the names Chapel Creek and Chapel Hill. The church burnt down in the late 70's and it is for that reason that the road stopped seeing traffic and why the township stopped concerning itself with its upkeep.
By the time I came to be in the world, the road had been blocked off for more than 15 years. It's existence came to my attention when I was around 10 years old. My dad would take my sister and I mushroom hunting in a patch of woods that bordered Chapel Hill. He always said you could find them in other spots but for some reason this patch of woods produced mushrooms twice as tall as the rest. He also claimed that they had a very specific taste although I could never tell the difference. I remember it always being a very 'hush, hush' operation. My dad was under the impression that we were the only ones who knew about the mutant mushrooms and he intended to keep it that way. I never particularly liked hunting for mushrooms. Truth be told I didn't even care to eat them at the time. The thing that I always looked forward to when it came time to hunt mushrooms was the bridge.
The patch of woods we frequented was about 30 ft. past the bridge so we always had to cross it to get where we were going. On a few of these occasions, I would let my dad and sister go on without me and I would hang out on the bridge by myself. When I was little, the creek beneath it still contained a considerable amount of water. I would always try to skip stones on the surface from the top of the bridge but was never level enough to make it work. I'd get bored with that and then I would lean over the edge and spit. I'd watch as my wads of saliva fell and it always surprised me how long it took to finally reach the water. Sometimes, if enough spit was involved, the wad would split into two and would take on a sort of amoebic shape. It was weirdly fascinating at the time. Hell, even today if I'm suspended in the air high enough and no one is watching, I'll spit. And I'll be just as fascinated with it as I was then.
Aside from mushroom hunting trips, I began to frequent the bridge often. Sometimes by myself and sometimes with other people. My sister and I once climbed down underneath the bridge where we found a lot of evidence that we weren't the only ones who found pleasure in simply hanging out there. On the underside of it, in large spray paint letters, someone had written "Mary is a big hairy cunt!" I didn't know what a cunt was so the message never had much of an effect on me. There were also broken beer bottles and smashed beer cans spread out all over the banks of the creek and there was a collection of cigarette butts in an old Foldger's coffee can. I remember thinking it was weird that they had no problem littering the ground with broken glass and aluminum but when it came to cigarette butts, they went through the trouble of bringing their own coffee can to dispose of them in.
I once even found a bra draped over a rock when I was with a couple of my cousins. I remember us laughing hysterically about it for the same reason a 10 year old boy laughs when someone says the word "penis"or "vagina." More times than not, however, I would visit the bridge by myself. My trips became more frequent the older I got and the bridge proved to be a very important factor of my high school years.
When some people get bored or get depressed they have nowhere to go and so they sulk at home and they just stay that way. Luckily, I always had the bridge. It served as the perfect venue for me to just lay back and be reminded that there are stars in the sky and nature all around me. That an insult by a peer or a rejection from a girl or a fight with the parents was nothing when put into this kind of perspective. When you realize that each of those tiny sparkling dots in the sky represents a galaxy full of planets that for all we know are just like this one, the petty shit just kind of dissolves.
The point to all of this being that the bridge served as a sort of sounding board for me. Although I never literally talked to it, it served the same purpose. I also took comfort in the fact that I didn't feel like I had to share it with anyone. It was mine and only mine whenever I needed it.
A week before I was set to graduate high school, my girlfriend of 2 1/2 years broke up with me. It was the whole, "I'm going to college and I really just want to whore it up for my first couple of years," excuse. Or something like that. In the back of my mind...and I mean the VERY back of my mind, I think I knew that this was for the best. In all honesty I wanted to start college as a single guy too but I wanted to be mad first. I did love the girl and the thought of some scum-bag, frat boy, college freshman wearing a backwards baseball cap and a diamond stud in his ear sticking his tongue in her mouth and reaching his hands down her pants...well it didn't sit right with me.
The night of our graduation, James Blackwell had planned a post-grad party in the woods behind his parent's house. It was rumored to be an enormous, drunken extravaganza. Graduating classes from three other surrounding counties were said to be there. We were no longer high school students and we had every intention to go out with a bang. With the recent break-up still hanging over my head, I was set to get sloppy drunk and just have as good of a time as possible. Little did I know miss whorey-McWhorestein, (my ex) was going to show up, coincidentally, with the epitome of the backwards hat, frat boy douche I had previously envisioned her with. I saw this happening a few weeks into the first semester of college but not now. We literally graduated hours ago and she's already replaced me? With this guy?
My original order from the 21 year olds that we knew was a 12 pack of Rolling Rock which in those days was plenty to get me hammered. But with this breaking news, however, I decided I should upgrade to Southern Comfort.
I found it extremely difficult to have a good time. There were, what seemed to be, hundreds of people all spread out in the clearing made for the party. Three campfires burned throughout the night and each was surrounded by a circle of hay bails for seating. Upon arriving, most of the hay bails were vacant so I picked one and sat there for a good hour. This particular hay bail gave me a clear vantage point of my ex and her date who occupied a hay bail in front of a separate fire. I sat there taking small swigs of Southern Comfort as I watched him put his filthy arm around her. She began shivering at some point and he took off his jacket and put it around her shoulders. She smiled at this act of chivalry and kissed him on the cheek to express her gratitude. But I knew it was all an act. He didn't care that she was cold. He only cared that he was keeping her happy so that he could have his way with her when she was too drunk to care. I wasn't going to have it, though. I needed to put a stop to it but without making a scene. At that point, she spotted me looking at her and I averted my gaze elsewhere in an attempt to look like I didn't notice. I wasn't sure if it worked or not but I stood up regardless to go take a piss. Upon standing, however, the world spun a little bit and I took notice that half of the Southern Comfort was gone. I hadn't realized I'd drank so much already so I decided to take a little bit of a break to sober up before working at achieving another buzz.
I was pissing on a tree and aiming the stream at a hole in the trunk. I had to use my left hand to support myself against the tree or else I would have for sure been unable to stand upright. I'd walked a fair distance so that the yells and chatter amongst the party-goers seemed distant. Other than the sound of streaming piss, the forest noises seemed especially loud. Crickets and bullfrogs and locusts and other players in the nighttime orchestra were building to a crescendo when I heard some leaves crunching nearby. My first instinct was that it was a coon or a possum but upon looking around I saw that it was a girl. I must have startled her because when I spoke to apologize for my indecent exposure she gasped.
"Holy shit!" she said. "You scared the hell out of me."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," I responded as I zipped up my pants. "I thought you could see me."
As I stepped away from the tree however, I noticed that the area in which I was standing had been completely cast in shadow, so much so that even the tree was now hard to see. I thought we were going to have more of a conversation but as soon as she caught her breath I noticed that she seemed upset by something other than me.
"It's Ok," she said as she continued walking in the opposite direction of the party.
"Are you sure you're alright?" I asked.
"Yeah it's fine," she said without turning around. "I'm fine."
She seemed like she just wanted to be left alone so I did just that and joined the party once again. My ex was no longer where she was previously sitting. I did a quick scan of the party and couldn't immediately see her. I continued searching but was held back by a group of people who brought me into their conversation. I didn't know any of them.
"Hey bro! Hey man, if you could fuck ANY girl...any girl in the world, who would it be?"
I had no interest in socializing but I also didn't want to be rude so I obliged. My first instinct upon being asked the question was to say my ex. Not because I was used to saying it while we were dating in fear that she would find out otherwise but because I really meant it. Obviously though, that isn't what I said.
"Rachel McAdams," I said off the top of my head.
They all looked at me with confusion. Upon actually looking at who I was talking to, I realized these aren't the kind of people I would usually find myself enjoying a conversation with. Three of them wore backwards baseball caps and it reminded me that I was on the hunt.
"The Notebook," I said as I turned to exit the circle.
I heard one of them say, "That movie's for chicks and fags." They all laughed in agreement at this ignorant statement which just confirmed that it was a circle I had no business in.
I was searching a little while longer and walking a little bit straighter so I decided it was okay to continue drinking. I became a little concerned after scouring the entire place and being unable to find her but at that point I heard a crowd of people yelling and cheering near the circle of douche from earlier. It seemed to be catching the attention of everyone at the party as all of the hay bails were once again vacant and people not already part of the crowd were scurrying towards the commotion.
I joined the crowd myself but was unable to see what the fuss was about. Everyone seemed to have formed a circle and they were all giving their attention to the center. I saw that some of the other people joining me in the back ranks of the circle had stolen some hay bails to stand on, giving them a better view. I did the same but immediately upon seeing what everyone was staring at, I wished I hadn't.
The spectacle reminded me of a porno I once watched and it took me a moment to register that this was actually happening. There was my ex, lying on a bed of hay with baseball hat guy on top of her and all of these people watching and cheering them on. His hand eased its way up her legs, hiking up her skirt along the way and revealing the thumb-sized birth mark on her inner thigh that I used to kiss in attempts to relieve her self-consciousness about it. His other hand had found its way inside her sweater and I noticed it was a sweater my mom had bought for her last Christmas. Their faces smashed into each others repeatedly with a ferocity I'd only seen in movies. She had raised her hands to his belt buckle but before she had it completely undone, I had already pushed my way to the center of the circle. My first instinct was to kick the guy in the face, and because the southern comfort had stolen any form of restraint I may have previously had, that's exactly what I did. I may have broken his nose because as my foot made contact with his face, I heard a sound similar to that of knuckles popping. As he rolled off of her, clutching his face, I pulled her up, grabbed her around the waist and led her out of the circle. She kicked, squirmed and screamed in protest but I held on to her tight and put my hand over her mouth making me feel like a kidnapper or something. In the heat of the moment though, I felt I was doing the right thing.
I made a quick glance over my shoulder and saw a posse of backwards baseball hat wearing dudes walking angrily in my direction. I realized this had now turned into a chase so I headed deeper into the woods. I swear one of them had lit a torch on one of the fires making this now seem like some kind of 18th century witch hunt. Luckily for me, it wasn't difficult to outrun a gang of drunken idiots.
Eventually we came across the tree from before that was ideally cast in shadow and I decided to hide there for a bit until the angry mob had passed. Upon sitting down I realized there was a good chance I was sitting in my own piss but at the moment I didn't really care. My hand was still held tight against her mouth and I could feel that she was now biting me. When I finally saw the orange flame of the torch getting smaller in the opposite direction I decided to let go. She was clearly not thrilled about the situation.
"What the fuck is your problem?"
"My problem? I wasn't the one who was just about to fuck some dude in front of our entire graduating class!"
"I wasn't going to fuck him!"
"Oh no? Well it sure fucking looked like you were."
"Either way, what fucking business is it of yours? We are not together. You have no right to intervene!"
"Excuse me for trying to protect you! I thought I was doing you a favor in preventing you from being referred to as 'that girl who got fucked on the haystack' for the rest of your life!"
"Well the next time you think you're doing me a favor, don't."
"Whatever. You're drunk. You won't remember any of this tomorrow anyway and if you do, I'll be the first person you call in the morning and you'll thank me."
"Oh please! Don't flatter yourself. I haven't had a drop of alcohol tonight."
Upon hearing this confession, I realized that she really hadn't seemed drunk at all. She was standing with perfect posture and speaking fluently.
"What? Then why... how did... what the fuck were you doing?"
"Fuck you," she said as she started walking back towards the party which seemed to have been resurrected at this point.
I stuck out my arm to stop her.
"Seriously. Hold on. What's the deal? I mean...a week ago you were with me and now yo..."
She cut me off.
"Jared. Things change. I'm not having this sappy, revelatory conversation with you because I can sum it up in those two words. Things change. I've changed, you've changed, we've changed. Just accept that and get over it. If you can't then that's your problem but don't keep dragging me into it with you, okay?"
"So your excuse for being a complete whore is because you've changed? And I'm supposed to accept that as a legitimate excuse?"
She stared at me with a stone cold gaze and walked closer. She was inches from my face. I almost kissed her but thought better of it.
"I admit, while my actions weren't the most admirable tonight, they were my decisions and I have my reasons."
"What? What were your reasons?"
And like a bomb, she let me have it.
"Because after two and a half years of "love-making" and sensual, romantic, high school bullshit, I wanted to be FUCKED for once. It's as plain and simple as that. And yeah, I could have done that in a bedroom. I get it. But you think I give a fuck what all of these people think of me after tonight? I'm going to college in a month and I probably won't see any of these people for the rest of my life. I'm a whore, fine. If that's what you want to call me now, I don't care. If what I just said makes me a whore, then I accept that. Because ten years from now it won't matter. If anything it'll be a story to tell of a time when I was a stupid little girl. Because in ten years, you, this party, all of these people, all of it will be a memory of another time. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is. That's the truth of it."
We stared at each other for a moment in silence. I had a lot more to say. I had a lot of questions that I wanted answered but there was a pleading in her eyes that begged me not to ask them. I felt like I knew the answers anyway so all that came out of my mouth was, "Okay."
I think she expected, and partially wanted me to say more but she turned around regardless. I'm pretty sure I head her cry as she walked away and it brought me a vague feeling of comfort. Not for malicious reasons but because it confirmed that she was still human and not the stone cold bitch, void of any compassion that she had just presented herself as. I watched her walking towards the party but before she made it to the clearing, she turned towards the area where all of the cars were parked. I could see her car from where I was standing and saw that baseball cap guy was sitting on her hood seemingly passed out. As she approached her car I expected her to wake him up and help him into her passenger seat but she instead just pushed him off onto the ground, got in the car and drove away.
Maybe she had a point. Things do change. But not like that. Not that abruptly. And what kind of excuse is that? She just wanted to get fucked? In front of a large group of people? I admit I was never the "fucking" type. I was always a fairly reserved guy when it came to the bedroom. Not very aggressive. But if it were a problem she could have talked with me about it. I don't know. Maybe there was more to it. Maybe there wasn't. I decided I didn't care anymore. And the night went on.
I couldn't re-join the party and I couldn't drive home so I pulled out the SoCo from my back pocket and began polishing it off as I wandered around the woods. Soon enough, the party was completely out of sight and I could no longer hear the yelling and screaming. Technically I was lost because I didn't have the slightest idea of where I was but the alcohol had drowned out any inkling to care. I looked up at the sky and for the first time noticed that there was a full moon out. A beam of its light shone down through the trees and landed on the ground in a sort of spotlight fashion, illuminating what looked like a very small tree. Upon closer investigation however, I discovered it was a mushroom. A very large one. It then dawned on me where I was. The Blackwells lived nearby my house, this I knew, but I didn't realize that the woods behind their house connected with the woods on Chapel Hill. I began walking with purpose, in search of the woods' edge and for the bridge. If there was ever a good time to get some petty shit off of my shoulders, now was the time.
What seemed to be 15-20 minutes later, I stumbled past the last row of trees that bordered the woods and found myself on a dirt road. With the first step I took, I caught my foot in a pothole and fell on my face. It's possible that I sprained my ankle but I didn't care because I knew I was on Chapel Hill road which meant the bridge was near. Despite the pain in my ankle, I stood up and kept walking and for no reason at all I started laughing and singing "Hit the Road Jack," by Ray Charles.
The full moon brightened the landscape more than the average night. I saw the bridge about 30ft ahead of me and took notice of what looked like a person sitting on its railing. I controlled my laughter and stopped singing and attempted to approach the bridge without being noticed. I'd succeeded in doing so up until I reached the edge of the bridge where I realized the person sitting on the railing was the girl who had seen me pissing earlier. It sounded like she was maybe crying. I was about to say something but realized there was no way to announce my presence without scaring her which I felt was a bad idea seeing as she could easily fall over the edge from where she was perched. I began to back track so that I could re-approach the bridge and make noise along the way, alerting her to my presence from a distance but once again, I stepped in a pothole, only this time, it sent me falling backwards off the side of the road and down the bank of the creek.
Nothing hurt other than my ankle but instead of getting up, I just decided to stay. The moon light reflected off the ground just enough to illuminate the underside of the bridge making the words, "Mary Is A Big Hairy Cunt," fairly legible. It made me laugh. I had fallen on the opposite side of the bridge from where the girl had been sitting but soon enough, I saw her head peek over the railing of the side on which I had fallen.
"Holy shit, are you okay? What the hell are you doing? You scared me."
"That's twice now tonight."
"Are you the piss guy?"
She made her way down the creek bank and helped me up.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I think so. Nothing hurts."
I wiped some dirt of off my clothes and gathered my bearings and noticed the moonlight reflecting off of her wet cheeks. She saw me notice and wiped her face with her own sleeves as she turned from me.
"Are you okay?" I asked.
"I'm fine," she replied. "I just get emotional with things like this."
"No, not parties," she said. "Moving on. Transition. Change."
"You mean, like, graduating? Going to college?"
"Yeah, ya know. Leaving what you've gotten comfortable with. Same thing happened when I switched dentists. I don't know. It's a thing."
We continued talking for a while. I found out she was from Jasper County and she knew some friends of mine. I discussed how my evening had went and she explained that she'd been at the bridge almost the whole night. I told her how I've been coming there for years and told her how therapeutic it can be. We ended up talking long enough for the sky to turn that morning shade of gray and with it came a very thin layer of fog.
I found the SoCo bottle lying on the ground where it must have slipped out of my pocket during my fall. There was about a quarter left of it and I split it with the girl. I realized that for both of us, what began as a very shitty night had abruptly and unexpectedly changed into a very pleasurable one. We were moving from high school to college and that was okay. My ex had moved on from being a lover to a dirty whore, and that was okay too. But the bridge was still the same and while this girl and I watched the sun creep into the sky, I took comfort in the fact that, as far as I was concerned, Mary, whoever she was, would always and forever be a big hairy cunt.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
You're leaning on the bar patiently waiting for the drink you just ordered. The person next to you gets up and leaves. Seconds later, the spot is filled with a girl. You never look at her directly but you pick up characteristics with the corner of your eye.
She's wearing something that shows a little cleavage.
She's not with a group of friends.
And then you do the casual look around the shoulder as if you're innocently scoping out the rest of the patrons but you pause for just a moment on her before completing the full neck turn. You now have as good of an impression as you can get in a darkly lit bar.
Maybe a little older than you.
And she may have noticed you looking at her.
She then orders her drink and you can hear that she has a sweet voice. She places her purse on the bar. She pulls out a debit card and joins you in the wait for your drinks. There's this invisible pull that makes you feel you should turn around and say something and you think you see her attempting to make eye contact. And maybe you'll do something and maybe you won't.
SCENARIO #1: You Talk To Her
You try and figure out a way to smoothly work your way into her bubble. You notice a tattoo of an owl on her wrist. It's more of an abstract owl, drawn in the same style as the sky in 'Starry Night.'
She doesn't notice you've said anything to her until your persistent gaze burns a hole in her peripheral. She turns to you and she looks a little confused.
"I'm sorry, what?"
You point to her wrist and she laughs. Not a laugh that indicates you've said anything funny but rather a laugh that confirms you've officially made your 'in.' She tells you some story about how when she was little, this owl would always perch outside her bedroom window and often stay there all night. She always thought of it as her guardian. When she moved from her home at 18, she moved away from the owl as well. So she got the tattoo to serve as a reminder of her "guardian." You think it's kind of cheesy but you feign general interest. You talk throughout the night. Maybe you hop over to another bar and then a million different scenarios could play out from there.
SCENARIO #2: You Don't Talk To Her
You wait patiently, fighting the voice in your head that is pleading for you to say something but your other voice is making excuses as to why you shouldn't. There's a break between songs that is momentarily replaced by the voices of people talking all around you. You sneak a look over and make awkward eye contact with her. You smile it off as you shamefully turn your attention to the part of the wall that's directly in front of you. You're voice starts in again saying you've already made contact and that all systems are a go. But the longer you think about it you're other voice is convincing you that too much time has passed. At this point there's no way to avoid an even more awkward moment. Your drinks finally come. Except you don't remember ordering a vodka tonic. And she doesn't remember ordering a whiskey and coke. You seem to notice the error at the same time.
"I think this is yours," you'll say.
"And I think this belongs to you," she'll reply.
You apologize for no reason and she smiles and says not to worry about it. You both take your initial first sips without walking from the bar, giving this moment one last chance, both possibly waiting on the other to do or say something. Neither of you does and you walk away in opposite directions never to see each other for the rest of your lives.
Scenario #1 allows you to potentially change your life forever.
Scenario #2 allows you to drink by yourself and go home by yourself and go to sleep by yourself knowing that your life is exactly the same as it was before you left.
Scenario number one is obviously a better scenario. However I find myself in scenario number two more times than I'd like to admit. This isn't only at bars. This is in elevators, book stores, the DMV, your apartment complex, work, concerts, the bus, etc. Most recently, it happened at the airport.
After having spent two weeks in Illinois for Summer break, I'd grown accustomed to lots of grass, trees, pastures, fields and everything else that makes a landscape green. Even taking off on the airplane out of St. Louis, the ground beneath us was green for as far as I could see and it stayed that way until I got tired of looking out the window. Three and a half hours later the captain announced that we were beginning our descent into Los Angeles. Looking out the window now, everything was brown and ugly. The landscape, as far as I could see, was now littered with buildings and freeways. I used to welcome this scene with excitement but I'm not so sure anymore. Pros and Cons. Just like everything else.
We land and I am surprised at how quickly we're able to depart. As the rows in front of me file out of the plane, the woman sitting next to me leans in and asks If I'm staying long . . . which I remember thinking was an odd question.
"I actually live here," I told her.
"Oh really? Huh. You don't look the type."
"Yeah? What am I missing?"
She takes a moment to look me over before responding with:
"I'm not sure. But it's something."
As soon as I walked into the airport through the little hallway thing that connects with the plane itself, I called my friend Erica to confirm that she was on her way to pick me up. She let me know that she was on her way but she was stuck in a considerable amount of traffic. I decided that since I was more than likely going to be waiting for a while I would buy a pack of smokes before I left the terminal. Little did I know airport cigarettes cost $11 but I convinced myself that it would be worth it.
I really just wanted to smoke my cigarette in peace but this monk with books was really pushing his product. He had these DVD's and books on Buddhism and the way of the monk and he was trying his hardest to convince me that I needed to have these things. He even let me hold one and flip through it, making me think it was mine before taking it from me and telling me how much it cost. Turns out it cost however much I wanted it to. He was collecting donations. So if I were an asshole I could have given him a penny for it. I had nothing to spare and I apologized. I said that if I had some cash on me I would gladly make a donation but that just wasn't the case. And then the fucker pulls out a credit card swiper and says,
"It's Ok. I take credit."
I begrudgingly swiped my card and gave him three dollars. He handed me a book and a DVD that I had no intention to watch or read. By the time the monk had left my cigarette had burned out so I began to fish out another. Before I could do so, however, I heard a pleasant laugh coming from the other side of the bench I was sitting on.
Her hair was blonde and put up in a style that, for lack of proper hair style vocabulary, I would call interesting. She wore a dress that was reminiscent of 60's fashion and brown leather boots that went up to her kneecaps. She wasn't looking at me but she kept on laughing. Seeing as there was nobody near her nor anything that could possibly make a person laugh for no reason, I decided either she was thinking of something funny that had once happened to her or she was laughing at my exchange of words with the monk. Because of my uncertainty of the source of her laughter, I didn't say anything.
I returned my gaze to the frantic travelers that were concentrating so hard on getting where they needed to go and the two of us sat patiently on the bench awaiting our rides. I knew I should have said something. A normal person would be at least 300 words deep into a conversation with her by now. I sat thinking of something to say, some way to break the ice, but everything I pictured myself saying made the mental image of me saying it look like every other Joe Shmoe that has ever hit on a girl like that. I wanted to be unique. I wanted to say something she could admire. Something that, upon hearing, she would genuinely think, "Wow. That was good." But nothing came.
I'd say at least 15 minutes had now passed and neither of our rides had shown up. At this point however, a man of asian descent sat down next to me and in broken english asked where he could find Terminal 4. I tried to explain that we were already at Terminal 4 but my explanation was lost on him. I even pointed to the sign that we sat underneath that clearly read, 'Terminal 4.' Even still he kept asking, "You know Terminal 4?" Eventually I decided someone else could probably help him better than I so I just told him I didn't know where it was . . . which he seemed to understand just fine. When he stood up I saw that on the other side of him, some dude with a pair of Ray Bans and a leather jacket had sat down next to the girl and was in, what seemed to be, a fairly successful conversation with her. She was laughing and he was laughing and I hated him. Him and his fancy haircut and his $150 dollar sunglasses.
My phone rang and it was Erica updating me on the traffic situation. She informed that it had let up a little bit but that she might still be another 10-15 minutes. I asked if she wanted me to keep her company on the phone but apparently there was a cop in the next lane about four cars away from her and she was on speaker with the phone in her lap so she had a hard time hearing me anyway. I hung up the phone. At about that time a blue car pulled up to the curb that was driven by a tall beautiful woman. Upon seeing it, Ray Bans ended his conversation and met the woman by the blue car. They embraced each other in a hug that lasted five seconds longer than a 'friend hug,' and upon release, they kissed.
I wasn't sure, but upon averting my attention back to the girl, it seemed she had moved closer to me. Was it intentional? Why would she do that if not to get my attention? At this point she had pulled out a book that I had recognized. I'd actually read it. "The Sun Also Rises" by Hemmingway. At first I thought this was the perfect way to get in. Just as I was about to make a move, my inner monologue once again intervened.
"She's reading. It would be rude to interrupt her," I thought.
"Yeah, but she clearly wants you to talk to her so it's doubtful that she would be upset," my other voice retorted.
"Ok. Ok. But if I mention Hemmingway, what if she's a die hard Hemmingway fan and she wants to keep on the subject of his books. I've only read two. She would think I'm a fraud. I can't go in talking about Hemmingway."
This argument between me and myself carried on but I noticed that she had never turned the page. Enough time had passed for her to easily read at least four, even if she was a slow reader. Having had enough of my own cowardice, I decided to just go for it. There was enough evidence now of her intentions that I would be a fool to just sit here a second longer without saying something. I opened my mouth to say something however what I was about to say was lost on me. I was just going to come out with it. Whatever it was. I had barely uttered a consonant when her own phone rang. Her ringtone was of a Mississippi John Hurt song; 'Candyman Blues.' If I was infatuated before, the attraction I had for her now had no definition.
"No, I'm still at the airport," I overheard her say.
"I'll probably be there in a couple of hours. I want to go home first and kind of settle in, maybe take a nap or something."
"Alright girl, I'll call you in a little while."
She hung up the phone and seeing that she was stowing her book back in her luggage she had apparently grown bored with "reading." She pulled out what looked to be a small journal and began writing something in it with a black sharpie. A few moments went by and I was counting the little blackened patches of gum on the ground around my feet that had accumulated over the years when she spoke.
"Excuse me?" she said.
I turned and saw that she was now sitting right next to me. For the first time I noticed that her eyes were brown and she had just one dimple on her left cheek. I'd never noticed dimples before but hers really stood out to me. It really completed her smile. She also wore lipstick which is something you don't see all that much. I liked it.
"Yeah?" I replied.
"You don't have a cigarette I could bum off of you do ya?"
"Of course," I said.
I pulled out the pack and handed it to her while I searched for my lighter. It was caught in my pocket between my phone and my keys and I struggled to get my fingering around it. I eventually worked it out. She handed me back the pack having pulled one out. I lit it for her.
"Thanks," she said.
She did not retreat back to her original position but rather remained right where she was in my bubble.
"Waiting on a ride?" she asked.
"Yeah, I guess she's stuck in traffic or something."
"No, no. Just a friend who happens to be a girl."
"Do you live here or just visiting?" she asked.
"I live here."
"Really?" she said with what seemed to be genuine shock.
"Does that come as a surprise to you?" I asked.
"Sort of. Yeah."
"That's the second time I've heard that today. I'm starting to get a little concerned."
"Oh no. Don't be concerned. If anything it's a compliment."
"Well in that case, thank you."
"You're very welcome. I guess I'm just used to people being more forward around here. Like that guy that was talking to me a second ago. Did you see him?"
"Oh you mean Ray Bans? Yeah I saw him."
"Yeah well he was definitely from around here."
"Ok. I think I'm getting it now."
"My name is Dahlia by the way."
She extended her hand to me and I met it with my own.
"Jared. Very nice to meet you Dahlia."
"Well you almost didn't, huh?"
"I kept scooting closer." she said. "I was trying to get your attention. I assumed you weren't going to talk to me unless I forced you to. Do I smell or something?"
Having been called out, I laughed an uncomfortable laugh and then attempted to preserve my dignity the best I could.
"No. You actually smell kind of nice. And I mean that in the least creepy way possible. But I saw you. I wanted to say something. I just . . . didn't know what to say. I don't know. I'm weird like that. But thank you for being the man here."
Just then a black SUV pulled up to the curb and caught her attention. She stood and as she threw down her cigarette I took notice of the pink blotch of lipstick she'd left at the tip. With her luggage in tow she extended her hand once more.
"That's my ride. Good talk."
I wanted to say more. To suggest maybe we hang out sometime but I was unsure of whether or not that would be too forward. So I decided to just let this be one of those chance encounters that will become a story to tell and something to think about on those days when I get caught up thinking about all of the things that could have been.
"Definitely. Take care." I replied.
I had my cigarettes in my hand and I saw her glance at them ever so slightly. I guessed that maybe she wanted another. I extended them out to her.
"Cigarette for the road?"
She smiled and said, "No thanks. I don't usually smoke." Her stare lasted a moment longer than normal, as if something were being conveyed that I was simply just not picking up on.
"Maybe you should have another, though," she said. "Sounds like you still have a while to wait."
I watched her as she loaded her luggage into the back of the SUV and continued watching as the SUV merged into the chaos that is LAX. And then she was gone. I sat back down on the bench and noticed I had gotten a text from Erica that read, "Exiting the freeway. Be there in ten." I noticed, however, that the message was sent six minutes ago. She would now be here in four minutes and I decided that was just enough time to squeeze in another cigarette.
I pulled out the pack and upon opening it, I noticed the corner of a little piece of paper slightly protruding out of the top. I pulled it out and unfolded it. In black Sharpie it read:
If you decide to stop being a pussy, give me a call. . .
I read it over and over again as if there was something to decipher. I determined that I liked her handwriting. It wasn't girlish. In fact, it was kind of sloppy.
I found it difficult to stop smiling. I looked up half expecting to see her standing there, as if this moment were part of a movie and we were reaching a heartwarming climax where the jilted lover arrives at the airport in the nick of time to stop me from getting on that plane to Amsterdam, but I was instead greeted by the sight of Erica waving enthusiastically from the driver side of her Jeep which had just pulled up. I folded up the note, shoved it in my pocket and made my way towards the car.
On the 405 going south there was hardly any traffic at all. The northbound lanes, however, were a complete shit show and It put into perspective just how much of a pain in the ass it can be to pick someone up from the airport. Despite this, Erica seemed very energetic as if she'd drank a case of red bull on the way to get me.
"So how was the flight?" she asked.
"It was fine I said. Pretty typical."
"Did they show a movie?"
"No. I don't think my airline does that."
"Lame. . . So what are you doing tonight, you wanna do something?"
"What did you have in mind."
"I don't know I'm just kind of in one of those 'don't care what I do just want to get hammered' type of moods. We could go to the bar. Maybe Short Stop. I could definitely dance tonight. You wouldn't have to dance but I would dance. Dancing bars are good places to meet girls. It usually helps if you're dancing but you could work your game at the bar I suppose. Oh but I guess you don't really have game, huh?"
Dahlia suddenly popped in my head. Those brown eyes. The boyish handwriting. That left-cheek dimple.
"No. Not really. But I don't know I guess I'm kind of tired. Jet-lag, you know?"
"Oh come on," she pleaded. "I don't have any other friends. Please, please, please, please, please. I swear I won't make you dance."
"Well yeah but drinking by myself doesn't sound all that fun either."
"Well shit, call somebody then. It doesn't have to just be you and me. Let's make a thing out of it. You have friends. There's gotta be someone you can call."
I really was tired. I wasn't lying. And the idea of going home, taking off my pants and watching a movie was very appealing. But alas, I agreed. Partially because I knew she would have talked me into it anyway and partially because I did in fact have someone to call.
When a person is killed, people mourn. There are people who are sad that they will never be in your presence again. People who grieve because they have to go on living without you. And almost every person, no matter if they are good people or bad people, will meet death with tears on their grave. We all have mothers and we all have fathers. Some of us have siblings and most of us have friends. People that love us unconditionally. And that's nice. I guess it's one of those perks of being human that can be easily overlooked. From human to human life is a precious thing.
But what about animals?
Yeah, sure. I have cried my eyes out every time I've had a pet that has died. Of course. Who doesn't? I'm talking more about animals that we don't directly have a relationship with. (PETA people and people who strive to be just like PETA people are excluded.) There are things like hunting season where it's in good sport to shoot, kill and eat various animals. Fishing is a sport. Roadkill is looked upon with a sympathy that lasts until it's out of sight in the rearview mirror. So far in my life I have killed four animals with my car. A rabbit, a squirrel, a cat and a bird. All of them either ran or flew out in front of my car and there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. Did I feel bad? Yes. Of course I felt bad. I just ended something's life. But did I go home and weep about it for days? Did I hold a funeral for it? Did I turn around and give a good christian burial? I sure did not. In a way, I feel it is weird that we don't. Because life is life right? Whether it belongs to a human or not. I mean I guess you can argue that plants fall into the same category and ask me if I feel the same way about plants. And I say sure. However I know that we must eat. And I know in order to do that, we have to kill some form of life be it plant or animal. And that is nature. So I understand that things must die but am unsure of why we feel that we're allowed to make our own standards for life. What life is important and what life is dispensable? What life is protected by law and what life is taken with a pat on the back?
The only reason I'm even talking about it is because my mind was stimulated, one day, after I'd found this deer in the middle of one of my father's corn fields. It was on the ground and kicking it's legs as I approached it. It tried, with everything inside of it, to get away but the bullet wound in its neck was slowly bleeding it out and making escape futile.
It was a Saturday morning. At around 6:00 a.m. I receive a wake-up call from my father. My dad isn't exactly the ideal person to wake up to. His every action is accompanied with something that makes noise. He wakes up in the morning, and turns all of the lights on. He clicks on the TV in the kitchen which has the volume set on ultra blast super sound which is a big old "fuck you" to anyone who had any intentions of sleeping in. He stomps from the kitchen to the bathroom and throws opens all of the drawers and slams shut all of the doors. (There are some details during this portion that I will omit for the sake anyone reading but just know that sounds were made.) He makes his way into the kitchen and either makes a bowl of cereal or fries an egg and slurps up his coffee. If you were lucky enough to get through this routine without waking up, you would soon hear stomping that grew louder and louder until it stopped just outside of your bedroom. The door would then swing wide open and in a voice that is bigger than God's at that time in the morning he says,
"Jared! It's time to get up. We've got a lot of work to do today."
Something about the way he said "We've got a lot of work to do today," never failed to piss me off. I didn't care that there was work to be done. If I needed to do something, fine, but I don't need to know the amount of work I'm in for before I even get out of bed. Just let me find out as it comes.
I don't know.
I've tried over the years to work out why this bothered me and that's the best I could come up with. Maybe a psychiatrist will explain it better to me some day.
I got up and took my time eating breakfast. Dad would usually have gone outside before I got around to getting up so I would often decide to make something that took the longest time to prepare and in doing so I was able to prolong the amount of time before having to go outside and see what needed to be done. I would then brush my teeth, put on some clothes, pretend I had to poop, put on some shoes, pretend I had to pee and then finally making my way outside to the shed where my dad was working on getting ready to rid his combine of all the dirt that it had accumulated during harvest.
I always approached with such disdain which is something I regretted later in life. I wish I would have been more excited to be working alongside my dad. I wish I could have been a little more supportive of what he did to help keep our family afloat. But I was a little shithead who felt he had something to complain about.
My dad sent me out on the four wheeler with the sprayer to kill some weeds where his fields bordered the creek. I'd went with him to do this on multiple occasions so I had a pretty strong grasp on what weeds and plants I was intended to get rid of. Honestly, I think if you sent me out there today I'd still have a pretty good idea.
So I rode out to "Grandpa's Place," the name given to a patch of land that sat on a piece of property once owned and lived on by my great-grandfather, Frank. His barn was still standing until a couple of years ago when my dad decided, after noticing all of its rotted wood, that it could be a safety hazard. At this point however, the barn was still standing. When going their as a kid I would play on the haystacks inside. The hay had to have been there for probably 30+ years so there was a healthy accumulation of raccoon and possum shit everywhere but that, oddly enough, was not the reason I vowed to never go inside there again.
Once, I'd been playing in the haystack and my foot got stuck in a hidden hay hole. (Anyone who grew up playing on stacks of hay bails knows exactly what I'm talking about.) Conveniently, right at that moment, a snake began slithering towards me and I was unable to get my leg unstuck. Luckily, just within reach was a pitchfork stuck in a hay bail. It was my only defense and on the first try, I speared him right through the top of it's head. It's body was active for a surprisingly long time after that. It flipped and flopped around all over the place but because the pitchfork was pinning it to the hay bail, it didn't move anywhere. I was finally able to get my leg unstuck and once I had cleared the threshold of the barn, I swore I would never go back inside.
Just as I was approaching the field, I was passed by a truck-full of men wearing bright, neon orange and camouflage vests. Three of them rode in the cab and four of them rode in the bed. The ones in the back held guns in between their legs and they were all laughing as if someone had just told a joke. The man in the far passenger seat held a pair of binoculars to his eyes and looked out his passenger window as if looking for something specific. I imagined them listening to Kenny Chesney or Alan Travis or some other bullshit country singer that was currently set to their FM radio station.
As I pulled into the driveway of what used to be my great grandfather's house I made my way to where the field and the creek met borders. Immediately I could spot at least six weeds that had almost grown to the size of small trees. One specific tree that I remember would always grow back within the year to the size it was when it was last sprayed. I believe it was called a locust tree and the reason we killed them is because they grew these long, thick and sturdy thorns that if not killed, would pierce the tires of tractors, combines, four-wheelers or what have you.
I got to spraying and the sun started its ascent into a humid and muggy sky. Many of the plants I had to spray were deep enough in the creek that I had to walk down the bank into the tall grass in order to reach them. I'd made the mistake of wearing shorts and could immediately feel the chiggers and the tiny insects having their way with my legs and arms. I'd gone along for about an hour when my path was all of a sudden blocked by the struggling pile of fur.
From the looks of it, the deer had been there for a little while. My judgement was based on the blood that had pooled underneath it's body and the trail of it that led to where it was. I turned off the four-wheeler and approached it with a curiosity that initially blinded my need to help it. I hovered over the creature and could feel its fear. It kicked it's legs with a ferocity that slowly began to unravel my sympathies. The more it struggled the stronger the blood seeped from its wound. The thing that shook me out of my state of shock was the way it looked at me with its mute eyes. The deer made no noise at all but its eyes seemed to plead with me as If I was simultaneously its enemy and its savior.
In reality it took me about 15 minutes to drive the four-wheeler home but in my head it felt like an hour. As I pulled up to the machine shed I noticed that my uncle was there and he was discussing, with my father, the impending rain storm that the weather man had predicted that morning. I met my dad's confused glance with news of the deer. He didn't react as quickly as I had hoped but we eventually piled into his truck and made our way to the field. My uncle followed in his own truck.
As we approached the deer I'd noticed it had stopped kicking. I thought we were too late. It had died already. But when my dad gave it a gentle kick to the side, it jolted back to life but with much less energy than it had half an hour ago. At first we all just hovered over it just as I did when I originally stumbled upon it. The whole reason I went home to tell somebody was that I wanted to help it but as we stood over it, watching it lose energy with ever moment, I realized that there was nothing we could really do. My uncle walked to his truck and fidgeted around with a box behind the seat. He re-entered the huddle around the deer with a pistol in his hand.
The shot rang out much louder than I had expected and when I saw a flock of black birds scurry off of a power line along the road, I wondered just how far the sound had traveled. The color of blood that now seeped from it's head was a much brighter red than the blood that had pooled below it. With the last bit of energy it had left inside of it, it kicked its legs for a moment longer before succumbing to its fate. The now lifeless body of the animal laid there with a stillness that struck me as peaceful. Although we were unable to save its life, putting it out of its misery seemed to bring some serenity to the whole situation.
When we got back home, my dad went back to cleaning the combine and my uncle went to go do whatever he went to go do. Despite the dark clouds in the west that usually indicated rain, I hopped back on the four-wheeler and headed back to the field. Before leaving this time, however, I grabbed a shovel from the shed and brought it with me.
Subtle rain drops started to sting my face halfway to the field and by the time I had reached the deer the rainfall had turned into a full-fledged downpour which made the dirt softer and easier to penetrate with the shovel. By the time I had dug a hole large enough to accommodate the size of the deer every inch of me was soaked and most of me was covered with mud. The deer was already heavy enough to make the task of pulling it into the grave difficult but the mud and water-soaked fur made it that much more straining. By the time I had shoveled all of the dirt back into the hole, the rain was still coming down strong and there was no indication that it would let up anytime soon. I determined that this would suffice as an excuse to go home without spraying anymore weeds.
By the time I had gotten home, the rain had washed most of the mud and blood off of me but I found myself shivering from the wet clothes I had been in for the past hour. My dad was inside the house eating lunch and when I walked in he made a comment about how I should take a warm shower to avoid catching a cold.
The warm water took away any notion that a cold was upon me and by the time I'd gotten out my dad had already went back outside. I got dressed and heated up some left over lasagna for my own lunch. The daily paper was spread out over the kitchen table where my dad had been reading it earlier and I began flipping through pages while the lasagna was rotating in the microwave. I came across the obituaries where I read about four people that had died the day before. I didn't know any of them. All of them were between the ages of 70 and 93. The pictures that their families had submitted to the paper were all professionally taken photographs in which they were dressed in their Sunday's best and posing with their arms strategically crossed in front of them. The thing that struck me as odd is that none of them were smiling. It looked as if they had attempted a smile but that there was something that kept them from fully committing to their grins. And there was something in their eyes. Something that hinted their acknowledgment that their time was almost up. A muteness that pleaded for my help and an apathy that knew there was nothing I could do.
The microwave buzzer alerted me back to reality and as I looked out the kitchen window I noticed the rain had stopped and rays of sunshine were fighting their way through the clouds. I then saw my dad walk out of the shed and make his way towards the house and it was only a matter of seconds before he walked in the house and informed me that the rain had stopped and there was more work to be done.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Sometimes I crave things that I normally wouldn't crave. It just hits me. I could be sitting on my sofa re-watching Return To Oz for the sixtieth time or I could be on a bus to West Hollywood or even in a guitar shop pretending to be interested in buying something . . . and then all of a sudden the need for the little powdered donuts that come in a box takes over me and there is nothing I can do to avoid it. It happens. And once that craving is satisfied, I may not crave it again for years. The craving is constantly presenting itself but the thing that is being craved is always a surprise; Twinkies, Strawberry Milk, Butterscotch candy, a whole chicken from the grocery store, a Little Caesar's pizza, Twizzlers, Root Beer, Clementines, Milk Duds, Kielbasa, a Double Down from KFC, popcorn, Hawaiian BBQ, burritos and sometimes just a stick of gum. This is a short list of things I've found myself craving over the years but the other day, I was re-visited by a craving I hadn't felt since I was a kid. This was a craving that came before my knowledge of a hot dog's origin and before I knew that the world of processed meats was neither black nor white. Was I eating a cow? A pig? A chicken? Maybe all three? I didn't care at the time. Just as I didn't care then, however, the part of my brain that controls my cravings didn't give a fuck now. I was learning a new song on the banjo called "Red River Valley," and it the midst of a bum-ditty, bum ditty strumming pattern my mouth began salivating at the thought of some good old fashioned fried SPAM.
As a child, I loved SPAM. I think my family and friends were all perplexed at my requests for the slimy brick of "meat" but that's just how it was. I was never one to eat it raw though. That fell on the same level as eating a cold hot dog or eating soup straight out of the can. Something was just not right about it. My two favorite ways of utilizing SPAM was to fry it until it was blackened around the edges, stick some cheese on top and make a sandwich. Pretty normal SPAM eating etiquette. My other preferred method of consumption was to again, fry it up but then dice into tiny pieces and mix it into a pot of macaroni and cheese. I would say that either of these dishes made up for 80% of my diet between the ages of 8 and 15. At one point I entertained the thought of someday opening a restaurant that had a special SPAM menu. It was a short-lived dream but a dream no less.
Up until my revelation with a banjo on my knee, I think it had been at least seven years since I'd even given SPAM a thought. But in my head, I could smell it. I could hear it sizzling in the skillet. I could taste the melted cheese oozing all over the place and I couldn't help but fantasize about chewing the salty mystery meat that my taste buds had been deprived of for so long. Without another moment's hesitation, I put down the banjo and threw on some shoes and set off for a walk to the grocery store.
The walk to Ralph's runs the length of four blocks. In the amount of time it took me to walk, I began to let myself get distracted. As I turned a corner, I got stuck behind three girls whose pace proved to be much slower than mine. I slowed down my own pace so that I wasn't walking creepily behind them. I even pulled out my phone and pretended to be texting someone to even further diminish the stalker illusion. This kept up for three blocks and by the second, I'd almost forgotten my mission. By the fourth block, the girls had turned and I resumed my original pace. I could now see the Ralph's sign and my destiny was put back into perspective.
I walked in the store and began my search. Not sure which aisle it was in and hesitant to let anyone in on the fact that I wanted to buy SPAM, I neglected to simply ask someone. I had it in my mind that it was in the same aisle as the tuna. That's the first place I went. I scanned both sides of the aisle twice and saw nothing. So I presumed that I had been mistaken and went through the surrounding aisles. Nothing. Starting to panic a little, I started from aisle one and went all the way to aisle twelve, examining each shelf with my utmost scrutiny. There was no SPAM. I had been in the store for about 15 minutes now and decided to just ask someone. I found the nearest employee who was stocking cans of soup.
"Hi. Could you tell me where you keep the SPAM?"
"Ohh I'm sorry. We stopped carrying SPAM. It wasn't selling."
"I'm sorry. What?"
"We don't have SPAM anymore."
"You . . . you don't have SPAM anymore. Like, there is no SPAM in this store?"
"I'm sorry sir."
Needless to say, I was devastated. However, I live in Los Angeles. There are shit loads of grocery stores. Just because I happened to walk into the lamest Ralph's on the planet doesn't mean I can't have SPAM tonight.
Having found a phenomenal parking spot the day before, I decided to take the bus to a Vons that was about three miles away on Vermont Avenue. I walk in and repeat much of the process that I had went through at Ralph's. I checked the tuna aisle. Nothing. I checked the surrounding aisles. Nothing. I checked every aisle from 1 to 14. Nothing.
"This can't be happening," I thought. "What has happened to all of the SPAM? Did I miss something in the news? Did they go bankrupt? What in God's name is happening??"
I approached a worker at the deli counter for some answers.
"Excuse me, sir? Where can I find SPAM."
The worker very casually looked over my shoulder and pointed his finger behind me and said, "Aisle 12."
I was overcome with a wave or relief. The tuna aisle. Just as I had thought. I must have overlooked it. I approached aisle 12 with a skip in my step. I walked up one way. I walked back the other. I walked it again searching the opposite shelf. And walked back. I repeated the process twice more before re-approaching the deli man.
"Sir, I just did a thorough check of aisle 12 and there is no SPAM there."
The deli man, with what seemed to be a gesture of annoyance, dropped the ham he was carving with disdain and walked out from behind the counter. He didn't say anything but I got the impression that I should be following him. We walked through aisle 12. We then walked through it again. Now the deli man seemed to be a bit confused as well. He said he'd be right back and I watched him approach another worker about the matter. They exchanged a few words and he came back with words that I did not want to hear.
"I'm sorry sir. It used to be here but apparently we stopped carrying it."
When I got back home I got online and did a search: "Where is all of the SPAM?" I was apparently not the only one affected by this heinous plot to rid the country of SPAM. Many people were just as upset as I. I went from forum to forum trying to figure out where I could find it. After about 20 minutes of searching I found a thread titled, "SPAM found!" The thread contained just one post. There was nothing more to it than an address:
130 N. Sandy Prairie Rd.
Fortuna, CA 95540
I looked up the address on google maps and found it to be 10 hours away. However, the address itself wasn't recognized. I was skeptical. But the skepticism only lasted as long as it took me to once again fantasize about what a SPAM sandwich in my hands at that very moment would mean to me.
It was around 3:00 p.m. when I finally got on the freeway and close to 2:30 a.m. when I got off of it. My level of hunger by this point had exceeded extreme and moved into a new category that I had never experienced. I could have stopped somewhere along the way but I wanted to quench the hunger with SPAM and nothing else.
My GPS hadn't recognized the exact address but it did recognize the street. Once I made a turn onto Sandy Prairie Rd, I stopped at the first gas station that I came across. It wasn't a Shell or Chevron or any big name corporate gas station. It was one of those old time, hole in the wall, auto garages that has a few gas pumps outside. The kind you warn a character in a horror movie to avoid at all costs. But really, the attendant was super nice and he knew exactly where it was I needed to go. He wrote out some scribble that passed as directions and sent me on my way. I'd been driving for about ten minutes thinking I'd misinterpreted one of the symbols the gas station attendant had scribbled on the hand drawn map. Just as I was about to turn around however, I spotted a rackety shack through a thicket of trees that was illuminated by a lone street light. A sign out front read, "Luigi's General Store." I pulled into the driveway and got out of the car. I approached the front door. Just before knocking however, I realized it was almost 3:30 in the morning. They're clearly not open. A sign on the door gave the store hours. They open at 7:00. Three and a half hours. I went back to my car and reclined the seat. On the floorboard of the backseat I spotted a bag of unopened trail mix; something that must have been left behind by one of my friends because trail mix has never been a part of my list of cravings. I gave in and I ate the trail mix. This would hold me over for now, I thought.
I don't remember actually falling asleep. I had turned on the radio and was thinking about Tom Hanks for some reason. I could never decide If I liked him or not. That's as far as I remember thinking about it. When I woke up the clock on my radio read 8:17. I sat up in my seat. The sun gave the whole place a completely different vibe. I noticed a lake behind the shack and a pontoon boat tied to the dock. It took me a moment to gather my bearings. I rubbed the sleep out my eyes and yawned a few times before SPAM entered my mind again. When it did, however, there was no excitement left in me. I tried imagining the cheese oozing off of a freshly fried slab of it and if anything, I felt nauseous. Now that I was no longer driven by anything, It seemed that all I could do now was go home. But I couldn't just walk away empty handed. I had to let this trip have purpose. So I went inside.
It wasn't much of a store. There were about 5 small shelves that had the kind of food you would find at a seven-eleven. An old man with a long white beard and wearing a pair of overalls sat at the counter reading a paper, seemingly oblivious to my presence. I approached him cautiously not sure what kind of people the city of Fortuna, CA produces.
"Excuse me, sir?"
He looked up at me as if just now noticing I was there and he chuckled and hearty old man's chuckle. "Hello there, son! What can I do for ya?"
"Umm, I heard that you might sell SPAM here. Is that true."
"Why it sure is!" He bent over and picked up an entire case of the stuff and placed it on the counter.
"Have to keep in behind the counter cause we've had some break-ins lately. How much of it you want?"
Looking over the case of SPAM, seeing all of those little rectangular tin cans with the elegant SPAM sandwich portrayed on the front, it all came rushing back to me. The hunger. The craving.
"I will take them all," I said.
As if this were a normal request, the old man rang me up without any further questioning.
"Alrighty, that'll be $67.80."
Initially I felt like I was being taken advantage of but then after doing a little bit of figuring in my head I decided that seemed fair. I pulled out my wallet and handed him my debit card.
"Sorry son, we're cash only."
A sharp pain hit me in the gut. Of course it's cash only. I'm in the middle of nowhere. I checked to see what kind of cash I had and found three dollar bills in my wallet and one in my pocket.
"I have four dollars."
"Well that'll get ya one of 'em."
At that point I should have just taken the one and walked away. But I needed to have them all. What happens the next time I want SPAM. Do I drive 10 hours north to get it? No. I couldn't. I had to have them all now.
"Sir. I drove 10 hours last night to get here. And I came for the sole purpose of purchasing a supply of SPAM. I need to have this SPAM. I NEED it. Is there anything you could do to help me out. Is there an ATM somewhere? Can I mail you the money? I'll leave you some collateral."
"I'll tell you what," said the old man. "There aren't any ATM's in town and I'm afraid I can't have you mail the money. I have a kitchen in the back. What do you say I fry us up some Spamwiches, no charge, and I'll take you for a ride out on the pontoon. Supposed to be a real nice day out. Then you'll have a belly full of SPAM and you'll be able to buy a can to take home with you."
This wasn't the outcome I had planned on but it seemed fair. Plus, I hadn't been on a lake in years and the idea of it seemed strangely appealing. I agreed to the deal. He fried up some Spamwiches and we ate them out on the pontoon. I have to say it was the best Spam sandwich I had ever eaten in my life. It was exactly what I needed and finally my craving had been fulfilled.
We sat out in the middle of the lake. The old man, whose name I learned was Jasper, turned to me and said, "Sometimes, a man needs something to make him feel whole. There are things that, throughout life, we realize we're missing and we try to fill in those missing pieces with all kinds of things; booze, women, God, jobs, hobbies, etc. But isn't it just so rewarding to find out that sometimes all you need to fill in that void is a goddamn Spam sandwich?"
update: I found this quote that I feel goes well with this particular post . . . .
"I wanted so badly to lie down next to her
on the couch, to wrap my arms around her
and sleep. Not fuck, like in those movies.
Not even have sex. Just sleep together, in
the most innocent sense of the phrase."
- John Green, Looking For Alaska
Having been a part of many discussions in which a group of guys talk about getting laid, going down on girls, jerking off and how well a girl, based on physical appearance alone, rates on a scale from 1-10, I have, what I believe to be, a fairly accurate grasp on the average conversation held between males of a certain age. None of these guys are degenerates. Nor are they incapable of surpassing a 6th grade maturity level. We're just guys and more times than not, these are the things we talk about. Our desires and our needs. Or at least what we want our male comrades to believe our desires and needs are...
(And just so there's no confusion, I don't think women are any different)
I had planned to have coffee with an old friend recently. He and I met at a Flaming Lips concert back in 2000, pre-Yoshimi and we bonded. Moments like that are rare and I've always been a believer in not turning a blind eye to that sort of thing. I once made an exception for a taco truck worker who had a lot to say about the various ways to prepare guacamole. Bonding, as it may have been, it felt a little too one-sided for me to take very seriously.
Anyway, my friend. His name is Josh. He's about a head taller than me and sports a patchy beard. From a distance you can't see the patchiness and it looks pretty good on him. Within 15 feet however, it takes everything inside a person to resist tying him down and shaving it yourself. Another vital characteristic of Josh is that he is always, always, always, (or at least every time I've seen him,) wearing a bandana that's tied around his bigger than average forehead. I've never been to his home but I imagine him to have a cardboard box over-flowing with bandanas of all sizes and colors. He says he sweats a lot but I think he's just ashamed of his hairline or something like that.
Josh and I's relationship was born from drugs. We were both high out of our minds when we met. The Lips were starting to play "Kim's Watermelon Gun." Wayne Coyne had these fake pistols that were 10x larger than your average handgun. At the right point in the song, when the guitars burst in, he pointed the guns in the air and fired them. They were filled with confetti. So much confetti in fact that it seemed as if there was a confetti hose or something attached to it that led to a never ending confetti supply. As I watched the confetti sway and flow through the air, some of it falling and some of it rising, I began following one specific piece of it. It was red. It kept falling and rising and falling and rising. It started making its way towards me. As it got closer and closer, I could feel my hand rising without me actually controlling it. I stood in awe as this red piece of confetti landed right into the palm of my hand. I was amazed and I needed to tell someone right away. I turned to the person directly to my left.
"I just summoned this!" I said. "I focussed on it and I willed into my hand!"
Josh turned to me very slowly, eyes wide and mouth agape.
"Really?" he said. "Can you teach me?"
After several wasted hours of trying to coerce a piece of green tissue paper into this new stranger's hand and having no success, our highs slowly faded away and we lost all of our motivation to use the force. We separately enjoyed the rest of the show but ran into each other on the way out. We had a few drinks and talked about women and music. He was the most open person I had ever met and completely void of any self consciousness. I admired that. It was something I didn't get a lot of. I have really good friends that do a lot of talking but from time to time I can't help but think that they are full of bullshit. Not Josh. He voiced all of his strong points and voiced them with great pride and conviction but on the other hand, he wasn't afraid to admit his weaknesses either.
It's been a couple of years since I've seen him but we talk now and then on the phone and the internet and what not. He's gotten married and has a little girl named Aster. His wife's name is Sheila but I have yet to meet her. She seems nice, though. Her and Josh met a few years back in Albuquerque. He had moved there about a year prior for a job. I think as a file clerk or something like that. I forget. Anyway, they met at a diner that Sheila was waitressing at. I guess Josh had made a point to frequent the same diner and was enamored by her. He went often enough to figure out her work schedule and then only went during those chunks of time. Sheila had noticed his eyes quickly reverting back to his stack of flapjacks anytime she made eye contact with him and after seeing him over and over again she believed it would be just a matter of time before he left her a phone number on a napkin or asked her when she got off so he could take her to a movie. Months passed, however and Josh never made his move. Fed up with the charade, Sheila took matters into her own hands. One day, Josh came in as usual and upon receiving his check there was an additional note written on the back of a receipt with a phone number and a message below it.
So he did and then it obviously all worked out.
We met up at a place called Cafe Crumpet. I like the music there. I got there what I thought would be 10 minutes early but was surprised to see, however, that Josh was already there. He sat on the front patio smoking a cigarette and seemingly taking great interest in the smoke ribbons that emitted from the tip. I sat down and we did our standard "good to see you, how are you?" banter. After all the bullshit was out of the way and after a painfully long conversation about his daughter's adorable attempts to say things like the alphabet or count to ten, we got on the inevitable subject of women. I briefly outlined my pathetic excuse for a sex life which didn't garner much further conversation. Eventually I handed the conversation to Josh by asking what it was like to be married. As far as sex goes. How often? Does it get old? What it like after Aster was born? He gave fairly general answers. Nothing short of what I had expected. He then suddenly changed his tone of voice and turned to me and he looked very serious.
"Best sex I ever had was with that woman, man," he said. " And my dick was never inside of her."
I had to remain staring at him a moment after he finished saying this just to make sure he didn't start laughing. He didn't.
"What? What do you mean? How is that possible?"
"That's what I'm saying, man! This woman has opened my eyes to what love making really is."
"Elaborate then," I said.
He then went on and did just that. Again, being one of the most honest and open people I have met, we began telling me that over the past few years he's developed some issues with his shit. There are often times he can't get it up and when he does, he's sometimes prematurely ejaculates. He explains how much it had effected his love life. There was a short period of time where he and Sheila were on the outs because of it. He was depressed and she didn't know how to help. So one night they decided to do some ecstasy together. Sheila had never done it and having explained how amazing the effects were, Josh had finally talked her into it. They felt it would be a nice break from the gloom that seemed to be a constant third wheel in their relationship. This was all before Aster was even a thought.
The night they did it they started out just sitting on the couch like normal, having a normal conversation. She rested her head on his leg while he caressed her shoulder. Before too long, their conversation began to dull down but their hands began getting busy on each other's skin. After a while of this, Josh suggested that they take a shower. It was a lot more of just touching each other and appreciating each other's beautiful figures; feeling all of the bumps and grooves and not letting an inch of each other's bodies go unappreciated. After the shower, they didn't bother getting dressed. They listened to music while still touching each other. Completely naked and high on ecstasy.
At this point in the story I felt inclined to interject. The guy I'd met at a Flaming Lips show years ago would not have been able to restrain himself.
"So were you trying to get laid? Was she just not having it? Or was it an erection problem."
"None of it. I was more than happy to be doing what we were doing. That moment felt more real than any other encounter I've ever had with any other woman and I could have done it forever."
Unfortunately for him, the drugs do wear off and the touching and exploring had eventually come to a close. Finally, Sheila began making more sexual moves making her intentions quite obvious. At that point what man could resist, right?
"No man. We didn't do it," he said. "I picked her up and I carried her to our bed and I told her that I love her. I told her that nothing would make me happier right now than to just lay here and be naked with her."
"Seriously? Was it maybe just the drugs talking?"
"Not at all. I just realized that something as simple as that can bring me just as much pleasure...if not more."
We parted ways after a few more conversations ranging from skin diseases to Geena Davis's mole but he left me with something to ponder. I'd never just lain naked with a woman just for the sake of lying there naked. I could see the appeal but could I ever be more satisfied with it than the actual act of sex? I imagined the next time I find myself in a group of guys discussing their latest hookup stories and their fantasies. I wonder what would happen If I tell them a story about a girl I'd picked up from the bar. After convincing her to come back to my place, we got naked and laid under the covers. All. Night. Long. I don't feel like it would go well but the more I thought about it, the more appealing the whole thing seemed to be. I determined that I would just keep this one to myself. Because that's what we do. We say what we think we're supposed to have on our minds. And that's fine. That's how things work. Why upset the natural order of things.
What's a person without their secrets?
A person with no secrets is what they are. And that's boring.