Or why I’m such a good time to be around.
absinthe, alcohol, cannabis, chicanery, dope, drinking contest, foolish choices, gamesmanship, hemp, herb, Jägermeister, marijuana, peyote, reefer, Sun Tzu, sweet sweet cheeba, Tardsie's True-Ass Tales, vomiting, wagers, weed
I drank a lot when I was younger. Too much, I guess. I enjoyed the consciousness-altering aspect of booze, and for a while, there was a novelty to getting fucked-up. When, as is the nature of novelty, it wore off, I found I didn’t drink so much anymore.
Some years later, it turned out that a co-worker of mine, John, was acquainted with some of my old college friends. My college friends regaled John with only the most debauched and asinine of my collegiate exploits. It was a somewhat incomplete picture of the person I had been as a youngster, and about a million miles from the reality of my life at that moment. Based largely on this erroneous image, John challenged me to a drinking contest at an upcoming office party.
A drinking contest? The idea was a loser from the get-go. I had largely put my boozing behind me, but John had kept himself in fighting trim. This was a bet I was almost certain to lose.
Faced with this challenge today, I would have no problem begging off, using my lameness and general decrepitude as an excuse. But at twenty-five or so, I was still very much in the throes of a delayed adolescence, and my carefully crafted self-image would not allow me to ignore this challenge from a younger, stronger, faster predator. Moreover, I would have to go beyond merely showing up for John’s challenge; I could not simply shuffle complacently to my own ass-whipping. Not only did I have no choice but to accept, I had to win.
To assist me in this endeavor, I had a card up my sleeve worth a dozen battle-hardened livers, an advantage so pronounced as to change the course of battle even before the sound of the first shot: my exemplary cunning. John believed that the drinking contest would begin–and thus be won or lost–when we first took up our glasses. He was wrong.
“All right,” I said, showing him my game face, “Let’s do it. But I don’t want to pussy around, dude–if we’re gonna do this, let’s do it right: we’ll drink Jäger.”
For those unfamiliar with the cough syrup-meets-black licorice charm of Jägermeister, the iconic kraut tipple is made from a variety of spices and despite being only 70 proof, has fostered a reputation for fucking your shit up. People spoke of Jäger in the breathless, quasi-mystic tones normally reserved for absinthe and peyote. Some people said it contained traces of deer blood, others opium. For whatever reason, I’ve never had a problem with Jäger, and consider its fearsome reputation to be entirely overblown.
But that reputation had precisely the effect I’d intended. Having proposed the wager, John could hardly refuse. He agreed, but with markedly less enthusiasm than when he first suggested it. Jägermeister it would be.
The party was at a co-worker’s house, and being a work-related party, both John and I agreed not to start our competition until later in the evening when the more reputable guests had left. John and I went to the keg together and filled our cups. Although John and I both returned to the keg several times that evening, I was nursing my beer and “filling” it when it was already nearly full. John, however, appeared to be drinking with abandon.
When it was time to throw down in our liquor-based contest of manhood—well, I guess you already know that I kicked his ass. It wasn’t even close. When I left the party, John was on hands & knees in the front lawn, heaving a black and hideous mess into the grass. I gave his shoulder a squeeze and said some comforting but ultimately condescending words as I passed. I kept my dignity all the while, and waited at least until I was in the car before I began convulsively to spew, coating the door and good portion of the seat. Happily for everyone, it was my girlfriend’s car.
Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.
My encounters with police officers have largely been, if not pleasant, then at least hassle-free. It helps that I’m friendly, polite, and never in my life more caucasian than when I talk to a cop. I think most cops are pretty decent dudes.
Sadly, the cops I remember most clearly aren’t the officers who’ve helped me when I was in a jam, or even those who had to deal with me when I’d done wrong and had it coming, but rather the jerks who wore their authority like a crown and acted like thugs for no reason other than that they could, the bullies and punks getting off on the power of their station.
It was my displeasure to meet a particularly shitty cop on November 5th, 2002.¹ I’d left my job and apartment in Beaverton, Oregon to bum around the country by rail, and now found myself in Chicago’s historic Union Station, notable for the “baby carriage” scene in The Untouchables.
Filthy and bedraggled, I wander into the men’s restroom to clean up. Union Station is an Amtrak hub, so the bathroom is busy, but I manage to find sink space next to a wretched-looking homeless dude–a black guy with wild, unkempt hair and an eye-watering aroma. His emaciated hands and head jut twig-like from an artificially bulky frame, created by layer upon layer of filthy clothing. He yammers ceaselessly as he washes what appears to be several pairs of socks.
When the guy says “Can I have those socks?” I think at first that it’s just another facet of his apparently unending dialogue with God. But when he says it again, I realize he’s talking to me. He’s looking down at the open travel bag at my feet, atop which lie several pairs of clean socks.
After a span of time that seems longer than it probably is, I reach down to grab a pair socks, and hand it to him. “Here you go.” “Thanks, Brother” he says, and his ongoing conversation–which fortunately, no longer includes me–begins again. Not long after that, he gathers up his things, including his new socks, and wanders off to a stall.
I have just about forgotten about him when the cop comes rumbling in, his black and yellow police windbreaker flashing in the mirror just before our eyes meet. His small shaven head, bullet-shaped, with its tiny piggish eyes and ridiculously oversized mustache is poorly matched to his expansive, well-fleshed body.
“Whaddaya doin’?” he asks, and not at all nicely. My stomach tightens as I turn to face him. There is a uniformed cop behind him.
“Shaving,” I tell him.
“Shaving.” He spits the word back at me like an accusation. Then: “You sure you weren’t washing your feet?”
I tell him I wasn’t, and because this situation is so intense and because the cop is still smirking under his mustache and because I don’t know what else to say, I say “Jeez.” It is the wrong thing to say.
“JEEZ?” he says, seeming to swell as he steps toward me, either side of his mustache punctuated by the edges of a feral smile, and just like that I am fucking terrified.
Then the uniformed cop says something and points down to the stalls. I do not have to know what he said to know where he is pointing, and at whom. As they both charge off in that direction, the bald cop’s little head swivels to face me and, not stopping, he says, “Sorry.” It is a reflex, a word completely devoid of meaning, and he cares not a bit whether I know it. Then he is gone, carried along on a wave of black anger.
“WALTER!” he bellows at the homeless man in the stall, “Get your fuckin’ ass out here, you goof! You’re goofy, you know that?”
Suddenly awash in a rush of relief that feels an awful lot like shame, I slink out of the bathroom, but not quickly enough to miss the firecracker bang of a locked stall door shattering under the force of a boot.
Man, you have no idea how many times I find myself saying or thinking that.
Have a great weekend, folks!
I met a girl named Heather once at a party many years ago, back when I was single. High summer had come to Western Washington: long, pleasant days finally ushered into night by an extended twilight. Barbecuing weather. The perfect day for a house party.
Heather was a friend of a friend, and she was lovely. She was brainy and self-assured, funny in that easy way that wasn’t practiced, but was as much a natural component of her makeup as were her eyes, nose, lips or breasts. And she was cool, having mastered the delicate feat of managing to remain feminine while at the same time laughing at crude jokes and dropping the occasional F-Bomb.
I am not one of those guys for whom women go nuts at first sight. I guess I’ve been lucky in love, but all my serious relationships have been with women whom I’d known for a while before we started dating, ladies who were slow to recognize that they were already madly in love with me. Like arsenic, my appeal works stealthily over time, growing in secret until it overwhelms the system’s natural defenses, and the victim ultimately succumbs. But this time, maybe, I got lucky–Heather seemed as into me as I was her–an assessment, I hasten to add, made before alcohol clouded my judgement, rendering all such judgments moot.
We both made our individual rounds at the party, but it was never long before we’d find ourselves together again. Being tipsy only seemed to accentuate Heather’s wit and to embolden this already-bold girl. She was knocking the drinks back pretty fast, but so were a lot of people.
Heather grew increasingly hammered as the evening wore on. At 9:30 she was a funny drunk, flirtatious and playfully argumentative. But by the time 11:30 rolled around, she was a mess–an incoherent, apologetic, stumbling grotesquery. Where she had earlier been outgoing and vivacious, now she was quiet and uncertain, confused. Once, she slipped while descending a short, carpeted staircase, picking herself up at the bottom with a shaky little laugh that had nothing of mirth in it whatsoever.
Heather’s friends seemed to find this behavior funny, and when Heather shattered a beer bottle on the back patio a little after midnight, the ensuing beat of silence was followed closely by raucous laughter. “There goes Heather!” somebody said to more laughs.
“She’s like this every weekend,” my friend told me, explaining that, during the week, Heather worked a 9 to 5 job which helped to keep her behavior in check, but she really let loose on the weekends. She would spend her Friday and Saturday evenings bombed into incoherence. She suffered through Saturday and Sunday afternoons semi-comatose on her couch, the curtains drawn against the sun’s rays, and against the pain and nausea they brought.
As people made their goodbyes and the party thinned out, the predators began to circle around Heather, drawn to the scent of compromised vulnerability which was coming off her in waves. She was almost the last girl at the party.
One of the vultures, a guy I knew by face, was particularly determined. He’d moved into Heather’s orbit in the hour before the party wound down, halfheartedly attempting clumsy conversational overtures that often as not degenerated into innuendo, all the while moving steadily closer to Heather, his intentions naked on his face. Finally, he was behind her, rubbing her shoulders and murmuring banalities in her ear. He was nervous and twitchy; he smiled too much and he smiled wrong, as if worried some other predator might steal “his” kill out from under him.
Abruptly, Heather turned to me and said, “Take me home.” Her face was plaintive; her eyes huge and terrified.
“Okay,” I said, “I can do that.”
The creep’s fingers froze and slowly retracted from their perch on either side of Heather’s neck. His face wore a look of thwarted, impotent shock that made it clear he had misunderstood what Heather wanted of me. She wasn’t asking me to take her home so that I could have sex with her; she just wanted to go home.
Even with her diminished capacity, Heather must have been aware to some degree of the risks involved in placing her safety in the hands of a man she’d only that day met, and how quickly that situation could spiral beyond her control. Apparently, she thought her chances alone in a car with me were better than if she stayed here with her friends, enjoying the attentions of the creep. I flatter myself that Heather chose the way she did because the spark between us I had imagined earlier in the evening when we were both sober had been very real, and that the events of that years-ago evening are properly filed among life’s many great “if only” moments.
In the end, the thing that I’d wanted more than anything just six or seven hours earlier came to pass–I got to take Heather home. She gave me her phone number before she got out of the car, and said I should call her some time. I told her I would, wishing I could stop the lie even as it came tumbling from my lips.
In which are discussed tolerance, theft and weed abatement.
Of course this post is not safe for work. It contains lots of salty language and one particularly offensive word (not used gratuitously).
Many years ago, I remarked to my then-girlfriend Eva how awesome it would be to be the leader of a bizarre cult. Being a profoundly lazy man, I’ve always envied the life of leisure such a vocation would afford, living tick-like off the social security checks of others. My time would almost entirely be spent fornicating with my harem, cherry-picked from among my broken and attention-starved devotees.
Eva tossed my dreams aside like soiled Kleenex. “Every guy I’ve ever dated has wanted to be a cult leader,” she said.
Although Eva was, and is, a hell of a gal and a great girlfriend, the off-handed comparison to her previous paramours rankled me, not least because of her baffling inability to readily discern the many, many qualities which better suited me to cult leadership than any of those other losers. For one thing, I was way better looking than those dudes, and equally as important, I made a whole lot less money, two indispensable qualities for a deranged, would-be-messiah.
Eva’s air of smirking smuggery began rapidly to fade as I related to her my plans for the hypothetical cult. In fairness, the majority of my notions were every bit as prosaic as she’d indicated: enriching myself through plundered bank accounts, using my disciples like indentured servants, and of course, boundless oceans of frightening, quasi-ritualized sex. But the kicker was when I told her I’d name the unholy enterprise after her–the Evangelical Victory Association (EVA), which would provide us some deniability as a legitimate church. I’d come up with that final detail entirely on the fly, but as it happened, it was the thing which sold the story.
Once I’d finished, I waited for Eva to laugh. She didn’t. Instead, she stared up at me, seeming suddenly very small, her stranger’s eyes hard and bright. When she spoke, her voice was deliberate and her tone carefully measured. “You’re scaring me,” she said.
'self-abuse' isn't the same thing as 'cutting', choking the chicken, devil's handshake, douchebaggery, dumb kids and the dumb things they do to fuck up their lives, flogging the dolphin, Jani Lane, juvie, masturbation, misspent youth, punishment, Remann Hall, scratching the weasel behind the ears, self-abuse, Tardsie's True-Ass Tales, Warrant
When I was seventeen I did something that earned me thirty days in Remann Hall, a juvenile detention facility in Tacoma, Washington. It was pretty serious, and I was lucky in the end to just get the thirty days–in an absolute worst-case scenario I might have done twenty years. As it was, this experience nearly prevented me from graduating high school and subsequently starting college that fall. However, as things have a way of doing, everything turned out all right in the end.
The experience was profound: a watershed moment in my life, and I can trace who I am today in part to my days in Remann Hall. I carry them with me still.
I think a lot about the people I met in that place: the broken children–a collection of feral Lost Boys in a cancerous Never-Never Land, with only their dead-end futures on the horizon; and our keepers, the only-slightly-less broken adults who, through a series of poor vocational choices had come at last to serve as essential but interchangeable gears in that remorseless, child-devouring machine.
There was the small, gray public defender I had for about thirty seconds before my mom scraped up the money for a real lawyer. The PD couldn’t be bothered even to pretend any concern over my fate at the hands of the legal system, but still managed to give me advice which I regard as invaluable to this day. “Don’t tell them anything,” she urged me, “Just keep your mouth shut.”
One of the guards was a big black dude who had supposedly played a couple of years in the NFL. Everybody called him Brobocop, just not to his face. Brobocop didn’t like anybody, but he took an inexplicable–and obvious–dislike to me. He was invariably a contemptuous ass on those occasions when he would speak to me, and I quickly learned to avoid him to the extent that I could.
Somebody told me that the reason Brobocop had it out for me was that he thought I was a phony. He saw my sunny disposition, good manners and polished diction as a front, merely the affectations of a clever con. For a long time I accepted that explanation. Now that I’m older, and know a little bit more about people, I wonder. I sometimes think that Brobocop knew quite clearly that I didn’t belong there (which is not to say that I didn’t deserve to be there; I most certainly did), and just didn’t care.
The very first kid I met in juvie had the cell across from mine. He was there for molesting his little sister. “I didn’t do it, though,” he said. I told him I was innocent as well. The place was full of liars.
There was only one girl at Remann Hall when I was there, although I think there may be more now. I don’t remember her name, but I remember that she was beautiful: even in the baggy blue jumpsuit they made her wear you could tell she had gifts. She had bright red hair, so exuberantly springy that it typically defied her attempts to pull it back and fell about her face, which was pale and comely, highlighting lush lips. A swath of sunny freckles ran just below her eyes, which were blue and bright. She was sweet and funny, and the handful of times we were together (and never, ever alone) the minutes burned away too quickly. She was such a lovely girl.
She was there because she had killed her father, a charge that she never denied. So far as I know, she never gave a reason for it. One of the guards told me that they’d asked her repeatedly if her father had abused her in any way–she said he hadn’t–and I could sense a little bit in the guard’s voice how much he wanted that this girl should say something–anything–that would make her not guilty of this terrible crime. I wasn’t the only one who thought she was special. I don’t know what ever became of her, but she’s still breaking my heart a little all these years later.
Some of my memories are funny. There was one kid who told everybody he was the half-brother of the lead singer of Warrant (he had said “brother” until someone pointed out that they didn’t share the same last name). I didn’t know the first thing about Warrant, and didn’t think he was the lead singer’s brother anyway, but along with others who couldn’t have believed it any more than I did, honored the fiction by mutual consensus. Sometime after I got out of Remann Hall, with Warrant now on my radar screen, I finally saw an image of the band on MTV (which played music videos at the time). I’ll be damned if that kid from juvie wasn’t the spitting image of now-deceased Warrant frontman Jani Lane.
Among all the fading faces of that long-ago place, there remains only one to which I can still attach a name: a scrawny, twitchy half-wit who gained some notoriety throughout the wing through his unpredictable–and often disturbing–behavior. He was the juvenile delinquent iteration of the creepy paste-eating first-grader, and he would tell lies so fantastic that I don’t think he even intended that we should believe them. His bizarre behaviors were myriad, and had assumed the status of legend around the cell block, but the thing he was best-known for was sticking his dick through a small opening in the cell door and whacking off into the hallway. And that’s the reason I still remember that crazy fucker’s name and probably will until I die–his last name was Pettit.
acceptable racism, Andy Bell, crystal meth, drugs, Erasure, fun with stereotypes, ice, Margaret Cho, Me so funny!, methamphetamine, racism, Tardsie's True-Ass Tales, Vince Clarke, we love Erasure we just can't help it
Several years ago I was at an Erasure concert in Southern California. After the opening act, a painfully unfunny set by comedienne Margaret Cho which mainly consisted of mocking her immigrant mother’s English¹, I headed to the bathroom before Erasure took the stage.
Unusual for a guy’s restroom, the toilets were abuzz with conversation. The topic was Margaret Cho.
“I didn’t think she was very funny,” somebody said.
“Give her a break,” somebody else said. “She was all right.”
Then one guy asked, “Didn’t she used to have a really big crystal meth problem?”
To which a disembodied voice replied from the depths of one of the stalls, “Oh, honey–didn’t we all?”