Sunday, May 30, 2004

Haloscan Ad

I'm considering a text ad on haloscan. It's cheap as hell, but I'm a bit stumped on what it would say. There are two sections, the actual link text (35 chr or less) and the advert text (75 chr or less). What are your thoughts?

PS I'll probably begin the next story tomorrow.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Next One Up

Man, this is probably going to bore you guys, but I think I'm going to write another road trip story next. There are a couple of tense moments in it (notably an encounter with US customs while in possession of a lot of psychoactive drugs), but mainly it will be a chance for me to relax and meander a bit. I've gotten a bit caught up in getting this shit out for your perusal, Gentle Reader, and while you certainly deserve a taut, spellbinding narrative, I need to slack off a bit. I'll probably only be posting every other day...but it's hard to say.

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend, and miraculously it's a 3 day weekend for me. Plan is to hit the hay shortly, then get up early and commence with Burning Man stuff. In other words, I doubt there'll be another post here until Tuesday or so. But check back. Quien sabe? Certainly not me.

Oh yeah, I downloaded a graphic the other night, which is 3/4 a banner containing the words "only outlaws have guns," with the other 1/4 being a picture of William S Burroughs. Nice. Now, if I could only figger out how to post it on this free blog. Jesus. Anyone who wants to devote pro bono tech time to this endeavor, let me know. Be aware, you're dealing with a moron.

Much Love
The Green Monkey

Fernando and Jesus 9: Epilogue

I thought about what had happened for a long time after the events I've just recounted occurred. The pragmatist in me was happy that Fernando had repented and was on the straight and narrow. Upon further consideration, I was somewhat pleased to see that ecstasy had done its work yet again--remember, this is stuff that used to be prescribed during marital counseling, because you just can't hate someone when you're on the shit. The goal of counseling is to improve your life, ergo, Fernando had successfully self-medicated himself into a better life.

In theory.

A week or so after all this happened (that is, when Jim lost that rather unreasonable conviction that what had occurred, had occurred for a specific reason), Jim visited the old tire shop to see how Fernando was doing. He was met at the door (he said) by a Catholic priest, who blocked his entry and intoned "Fernando is not accepting visitors here."

Jim, naturally, said "that's OK, I'll catch him at home."

The padre volleyed back with "Fernando will not visit that house. The house is possessed by the Devil."

What do you say to that? No matter how I turn it, it all seems contrary to Catholic teachings: if the house is actually possessed, the good friar should be over there sprinklin' holy water and genuflecting, right? And if not, shouldn't Father Karras be counseling Fernando about what's really going on? I don't know. I don't hold much truck with clergy of any denomination, and I wasn't there. But to me, believing in a higher power is a minor sin, and one that I can completely forgive if that specific shortcoming fortifies someone against other, worse character defects.

A couple of days later, Fernando showed up at Jim's apartment, to talk about what had happened and set some ground rules for their new relationship (Jim, as you might have guessed, is still a reprobate). As expected, Fernando started off with wanting to kill me because I had tried to poison him. This was completely understandable from my perspective, and we had previously worked out an argument to defuse that sort of ticking time bomb--because I was going to have to see Fernando again, sometime (although that was never the case), and the last thing I wanted was a SOBER, ANGRY Fernando on my case. I don't know how Jim managed it, but he managed to convince Fernando that it was actually my hair that he had hold of, without questioning Fernando's perceptions of the whole Jesus/Lucifer thing.

Three weeks after that, Jim called me (at work, of all uncool places) to tell me that Fernando had run into a little bit of trouble. In fact, Fernando had been deported.

To my mind this proves that a fucked up life is a fucked up life, with or without drugs. Fernando had gotten clean, but his life was still horrifying, and he'd upped his odds against by swearing off of all the shit he'd previously used to deal with it: coke and beating his wife. Or, preferentially, coke AND beating his wife, which is something I heartily support.

But Fernando had been under a lot of strain, trying to make an honest living with all those crackheads jeering at him and stinkin' up the neighborhood with those fucked up fumes. Finally, early one morning, Fernando snapped. He took off all his clothes (remember, this is in the dead of winter), grabbed a handgun, and stepped on over to the red crackhouse across the street. According to witness reports, he rapped on the door with a pistol butt until someone opened the door, then split that person's forehead open with said handgrip. He then dramatically entered the room (naked, and all of five foot four, yes) and proclaimed to the other two crackheads that: "SINNERS WILL BE PUNISHED BY THE HAND OF GOD. AND I AM THE HAND OF GOD!"

When I heard this bit, I cringed--but either Fernando didn't have any shells or he wasn't interested in that sort of punishment, because he just whipped on them for a bit, then took their blanket and left.

You know all that shit we're hearing about Muslim humiliation on the news? I thought for a bit that this is all being sort of blown out of proportion, until just now. I realized that one of the most provocative things one of our old crew could do to someone is to...yes...take someone else's blanket. I can remember the name and situation of every mother fucker that's ever stolen my blanket and replaced it with a leather jacket (Bob Swain, Dan's KCAI graduation, 1996--I'm not kidding) I can sort of see how something as innocuous as shaving can be a big deal. Anyway, there are dark days in my past (and Jim's), when stealing a blanket was almost as bad as stealing money or the attentions of a woman (Jim's antics in that realm are for another story). It's stupid, but it's true: Swain and I have been plotting to abduct Jim's blanket for at least 10 years, the ultimate goal being to make adult blue fuzzy diapers out of it and parade around in front of his slumbering carcass with a video camera in the background.

Yes, that's weird, but that's what you pay me for, right?

So, by stealing their blanket, he was doing the equivalent of throwing shoes at them. By the time he staggered back across the street to his place, the cops were starting to pull up. No one will admit to calling them, but of course I suspect it was Darlene. Fernando did too, because he grabbed her in a sort of choke hold and then TOOK HER HOSTAGE, there in his own living room, where I can visualize the whole thing unfolding by the gray light of a television stuck between channels.

This standoff apparently lasted for several hours, til one of the cops got 'hold of Fernando's sister, who according to eyewitnesses stomped right up the steps, smacked Fernando in the head, and took the gun away from him. Once they got the poor guy to jail, they realized he was illegal, so his newfound life (which was collapsing anyway) was cut short when he got shipped back south.

The most frightening thing was that it was one of Jim's guns. Well, let me correct that: the most frightening thing for JIM was that it was one of his guns that did the pistol-whippin'. The most frightening thing for ME was that it was a gun that Jim had carried around in a car that I used to own, and had loaned/sold to Jim--we'd always intended to do the paperwork, but never really got around to it.

Where are they now:

"Jim" is still a madman. Those of you who know me, know him. 'Nuff said.
"Fernando," and "Darlene" I haven't spoken with since then, and won't again.
I'm still me, although I'm a hell of a lot more cautious about giving drugs to newbies. That's wise, though, right?

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Fernando and Jesus 8: Resolution

I sat for some time, watching the old man across the street, and watching the sky lighten. I was mentally purged, yet physically as dirty and sore as I'd been in a long time. The net result was that I felt fine as long as I didn't move--so I sat, not moving, for some time. I felt like a Buddha: clean, but covered with this hard epoxy resin of sweat and debris.

Eventually it occurred to me that the sun was actually up, and the man across the street had gone back inside. I was still cold, and the house had been quiet for some time.

I had almost re-entered the house several times last night, but always backed out when the screaming quit. If Fernando was quiet, maybe he was coming out of it--and I wasn't about to fuck that up. I felt sorry for the guy, and while I would be content (and have been content) with never seeing him again, I didn't wish him any ill will, especially since he was by far the better parent of the two (I'll argue this point with any one of you, too).

So it was with trepidation that I walked up the front steps and knocked on the door. I had a brief flashback to the night before when it opened and Darlene stood there, blocking the television (still stuck between channels). She seemed sort of pleased to see me, but immediately left the room after casting a disgusted glance at Fernando and Jim.

Fernando and Jim were sitting, arms around each other's shoulders, on the couch. Grinning. They looked for all the world like they were posing for a photo captioned "best buds," and both of them were happy to see me, for radically different reasons.

Jim was pleased to see me because I was going to help him get out from under Fernando's arm. Fernando was happy to see me because he could tell me about his new religion.

There followed an hour of listening to Fernando speak frenetically in broken English about how he was going to church to take communion for the first time since he was a boy. He had spent the night in the arms of Jesus, who protected him against a demon and the Devil himself, who at one point threatened bodily harm to his baby daughter. Jesus and the Devil had striven all night, literally, for Fernando's mortal soul, and sometime before dawn both demon and Devil had disappeared, and Fernando found himself being supported by his new best friend Jim.

There was a lot more, how he saw his dead brother's face, and how he struggled but couldn't move, how every time he thought he was free, the Devil would come back and torture his some more...

I listened to an hour of this because he insisted we go with him to church, so we could be witnesses to what he considered divine intervention. Jim finally managed to convince him that he should probably go bathe first--and that we'd catch up with him later.

The last words I ever heard from Fernando were: "I give my life to Jesus. Jesus saved me. I no sell cocaine any more. I no beat Darlene no more. I wanna be good father and hu'band, and give my life to Jesus. I love you guys--you help me come to Jesus."

When Fernando rushed off to the bathroom, Jim and I gathered up as many of the scattered beers as we could and hit the door running. We sat in the car, facing east, and popped a couple of beers. We drove out, past the crackhouse, past the guy watering his lawn, and past a church, whose parking lot was beginning to fill up. It was one of those very rare moments in life--a moment when Jim was completely speechless. We were the only two people on earth who knew what had gone on there. We'd wasted our (e), we thought the whole night, but once it was all over with we felt both closer to each other and closer, somehow, to godhead. We (for the most part) had kept cool and done the right thing in a very, very weird situation, quite possibly saving someone's life in the process. I never thought about it like that before tonight, but I don't think I'm exaggerating: I think he would have killed Darlene if we hadn't intervened.

We pulled up, still without speaking, in front of Jim's apartment. Before I could say goodbye, he rushed upstairs. Wanting some sort of closure on this, I followed him. He met me at his apartment door, and thrust a fairly large baggie of cocaine into my chest. "Take this," he said, "I don't want it. I'm never doing drugs again. We just witnessed a miracle."

I pushed past him: "sit the fuck down."
I sat down at his table, and dumped out the baggie: "that was no miracle."
found a razor blade, and began to cut: "that, sir, was amphetamine psychosis. Get me a beer, would you?"

Just for good measure, we chopped up the remainder of Fernando's ecstasy and added it to the pile. Then we began to argue. Everything was back to normal.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Fernando and Jesus 7: Darkness Before Dawn

I was cold, and scared. I had been halfway convinced during the first few minutes I was outside that maybe, just maybe, we could pull this off without police intervention. We'd been unbelievably fortunate thus far, and somewhere in my subconscious a countdown to sunrise began ticking.

Because everything looks all normal during the light of day. You know it as well as I do--if you shine enough light on something scary, it becomes mundane. I personally know a couple of acidheads who were completely transfixed with fear for the better part of an hour by a shadowy figure that was revealed to be, at dawn, a large oxygen cylinder. It's there. It will always be there.

So if I could just, by force of will, keep the cops and the other baddies away til the sun came up, the entire evening would be recast as some sort of dreary drug binge, instead of the supernatural experience it had turned out to be. The sirens dashed my hopes of that--and I had to begin planning my escape route again.

This I did NOT want to do, friends. There was a lot of pacing in the back yard, with occasional nervous forays up the driveway to the front corner of the house, where I'd peer out at the nearest intersection. No cops. Yet. Fuck.

I was FREEZING. It was October, and the first cold night in October at that. I was half naked, having shucked my shirt inside, and I don't know when I've felt dirtier. I swear I could feel a kind of shellac of sweat cracking every time I moved my arms. I had long, wild hair, even wilder red eyes; in essence, if I was caught on the street, I was busted. Period. Even if I didn't get tied back to the weird shit going on in the house, I'd be picked up on GP, and taken to the drunk tank. Of course, there was exactly ONE warm beer in my system, but that's never stopped them before. But a night in the pokey followed by crappy breakfast and a brisk walk home was infinitely preferable to getting arrested in a house with a baby and a brick of cocaine. And god knows what else. I also had the inkling that Darlene would lie her ass off to keep Fernando out of jail, since he was the breadwinner and all.

Things got more grim every time I thought about the situation. That's how it works-as soon as you start having hope, the fear is much more powerful.

I counted four seperate instances of sirens wailing by within a couple of blocks, and every time I heard them I scouted the perimeter again. The back fence of this place was the only viable option, and I was going to make a hell of a lot of noise getting over it. I also saw a doghouse in the neighbor's yard, which in that neighborhood did not mean a Pekingnese. I paced through the weeds, and pondered whether it was better to go to jail or take my chances with Killer.

I had three options:

1) Stay, and get at least busted (a beating would probably occur as well, knowing them). I didn't like this one, but it was all tangled up in responsibilities to Jim (he's a delicate soul for all his yammering, and I'm not sure if he could have handled jail that night). However, it's just plain stupid to get arrested (and whipped on by some frustrated wannabe DEA agent), if you're the only one who knows to make bail.

2) Leave, which was a treacherous proposition for reasons already mentioned. If I didn't get picked up by the cops, I would probably be mugged (or worse) by any late partying Locos in the area.

3) Wait, then leave if the police showed. I chose this option, and sat down in the driveway to listen for sirens and look for flashing lights. I sat very still, listening to the wild shrieking that was still erupting from the house periodically. At least audible to the corner, I thought. At least.

For a long time, I sat there, not moving. Every time I heard sirens, I'd go back into the back and eyeball the fence again, just to see if it had gotten any easier. I got cold--very cold, but I didn't have the energy to move around, so I just sort of zoned out, staring at the stop sign down at the corner. I was insensitive to everything around me, except for the intermittent screaming inside the house. I tried not to think. I tried not to imagine what was going on in the house. I tried not to draw any kind of conclusion from the events of the evening until I was able to process them rationally. I tried not to shiver so much. I tried, unsuccessfully, to think of a time when I'd been more miserable. All of these failed, in fact.

Upon hearing the fourth set of sirens and checking my escape route, I realized that I could see the fence a little better. Upon returning to my post by the corner of the house, I could definitely tell a difference in the horizon. It was Sunday morning.

Now that I think about it, my reaction to mornings depends a lot on what had been going on the night before. When I was a kid, sunrises meant the bus was about to come pick me up for school--and there's something about the quality of the air here sometimes that takes me back to those solitary mornings watching for dust on the next section line road. I know that sounds like a country and western song, but it's true--and I like it. There's probably a paragraph I should write about -why- I like that subtle flavor of air, but I'm not quite that arrogant. Yet. You guys keep spoiling me like this, and I might get into it.

The above, of course, predicated that I'd been to sleep the night before. The second type of morning is the morning when you've successfully stayed up all night having a good time with your friends, and sunrise kind of sets it all in stone. You did something not everyone does; you lived life according to your rules, not the rules of a 9 to 5 timeclock, or church goer's mental rulebook, and you had a hell of a good time. Every single morning I can remember at Burning Man has been like this, except the ones I slept through.

Next is that horrible feeling you get when you suddenly realize you're going to have to do something big, and you're completely fucked up and smell like a goat. I sort of eased on into this one when I hit 30 (not too long ago, in fact, not too long after this story happened), and my weekend debauchery (which I call "research for these fucked up stories," thank you very much) left me with hangovers through Monday, instead of my body bouncing back with a nap on Sunday. It's the "fuck, what have I done, AGAIN?" feeling.

Fourth is probably the rarest. As I write this, I think back to one of the few times I heard my dad talk about the Vietnam War with anyone. They were discussing flashbacks. The other guy said "for me it's helicopters. Whenever I hear helicopters, I just get this feeling that everything will be OK."

[those of you who don't know me, please be aware that I'm not comparing what had happened to actually being in a combat zone--it's just the story that jumped into my head.]

It goes back to the beginning. The sun's up, there are no more shadows, and everything you took drugs to escape, or watched horror movies to enliven, or simply railed about being dreary was back to being dreary, only that very dullness made you feel like coming home. There's a reason why they call it an acid trip, folks.

So this morning was a helicopter type of morning (although I hate helicopters--but that's another story), and I watched an old guy across the street come out and pick up his paper, then turn the sprinkler on his lawn. The screaming had stopped.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Fernando and Jesus 6: Convulsions, and Release

The convulsions bit was absolutely terrifying. Once Darlene had made off with the kid (which we never heard from again, making us both wonder later if that had really happened at all), Fernando literally began convulsing. His eyes rolled up in his head, he would drool a bit, and his entire body would go completely rigid.

I was still trying to figure out a way where none of us went to jail, but really just couldn't see any way around it. The screaming had been going on without letup for what felt like forever, and it was LOUD. Even though this was crackville, eventually those crackheads were going to want to go to sleep, and aside from a slight fraying around the edges, Fernando's vocal cords were still going strong.

My body was tiring out. I'm not in the best of shape anyway, and I'd been ingesting pretty much anything that came my way for the preceding couple of months (if you don't count Burning Man, which is patently ridiculous). This, plus the whole heart racing episode with the white pyramid earlier, plus the ecstasy--I was beginning to crash. I found myself looking longingly at the pyramid and its surrounding plateau even more than I looked longingly at the beer. But it might has well have been in East Dallas, because I couldn't move anywhere.

About an hour after the baby insanity, Fernando had calmed down and focused his terrible eyes on me. He was consistently trying to get his legs free, and when that didn't work he'd try and work his arms free to strike at me. Darlene had evidently figured out that it was quieter when she wasn't in the room, and she'd gone back into the dark part of the house to fester. Fernando's outright screaming became grunts of effort punctuated by horrified shrieks whenever I moved much. I was carefully keeping my hair out of range--and Jim had his arms pretty well locked up anyway.

A kind of truce was called. Or really, Fernando gave us a breather. He was still completely terrified of something, but the animal panic was gone.

In between moments of sheer lunacy, Jim and I had been thinking the same thing--namely, that the worst possible thing that can happen to you on a bad acid trip is being restrained. Maybe I'll tell you about that one next...but finally, around 5am or so, Jim voiced what we'd both been thinking:

"Man, maybe he'll calm down if you leave."

I could have kissed him. I had decided that was probably the thing to do, but I would have held that psycho's legs down til I died before I'd let him up. Jim allowed as how he could handle him, now that he was a little tuckered out, so I slowly let go the legs and rolled out of range of his kicks.

Strangely, he didn't kick me, although he didn't take his eyes off of me either. I grabbed a beer and walked out the back door, into the darkness. The cold air felt good--I'd taken my shirt off so Fernando wouldn't tear it up, and even though the beer was warm and foamy I drank it with relish, sitting on the back step.

I heard the screaming start back up. Then I heard sirens.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Fernando and Jesus 5: The Baby

Fuck it. I'm bored:

At first, I couldn't believe it was a real baby. I hadn't heard a baby cry during the entire evening, even when things started to go sideways. I guess the kid had been born with a heightened sense of self preservation--but when Darlene picked her up in the other room, she began to cry.

The preceding hours had been tough on all of us, as you can imagine. Consider:

1) It was somewhere in the neighborhood of 4:30 in the morning. Jim and I had been struggling with Fernando for the better part of three and a half hours, if not longer, and all of us were drenched in sweat. This made it doubly difficult to keep hold of Fernando, who was fighting (still) like a madman to get loose. He seemed to be getting stronger, and we were getting weaker.

2) We were tripping our asses off, I think. I remember looking at Jim's eyes around this time, and the pupils were still huge. Luckily, we were veteran acidheads, and quite able to throw off the shackles of tracers and pretty colors when the going got weird. But it's still there--and you can only ignore so much ugliness before the horror begins to back up into your cerebrum. We were close, that night, to The Edge...

3) There was a constant creeping fear, or maybe resignation combined with dread, as to when the cops were going to show up. Lying there with one hand behind my head (protecting my scalp from getting ripped off), across the naked legs of a screaming psycho wearing nothing but a metallic purple set of bikini briefs, I had plenty of time to ponder just how bad this situation was going to look to the local PD. I've had a run in or two with those fuckers, and I knew there was a better than even chance that one of us would be shot before it got worked out.

Think about it: you're called to a house in crackville, and when your squadcar turns the corner you can hear screaming--dismemberment screams. As you approach the door, they get louder--very loud, and the fearsome monotony of them is enough to make you loosen your gun in its holster. It sounds almost like it's a recording--or like the person's brain is shorted out.

Of course, no one can answer the fucking door, because we're all inside pinning down the psycho, and of course goddamn Darlene is either out the back door or attempting ineffectually to flush bricks of coke down the toilet. So when it gets kicked down, the first thing our theoretical policeman sees is a naked guy being wrestled around by two other semi-naked guys (Jim and I had managed to remove our shirts, otherwise we'd have died of heatstroke). And a pile of white powder, and most of a case of beer that had been kicked over in the melee.

Which, come to think of it, I spent a large portion of the night looking longingly at a can of beer about 2 feet beyond my reach.

So by the time good ol' Darlene brings in the baby, I'm good and freaked out. Even more so by the feeling that I had when I saw her: "goddamn, that's a lifelike doll. that's a fucking doll, right? oh god, it's not a doll. I'm going to hell. I'm so going to hell, and I don't even believe in hell." Although Fernando was doing a great job of converting me, if just by force of creepiness. There's something weird about praying in Spanish--just ask Gibby Haynes.

That was obscure, but I'll explain later.

Darlene brought the baby in the room, and before either of us could react she sort of dangled it in front of Fernando's face. Being a stupid fucking bitch, she hadn't seen that Fernando had one hand free, gripping my ponytail like there was no tomorrow. The good news was that he finally let go of my hair. The bad news was that he had hold of the baby's leg, and was making a go at getting his other arm free to grab the other. Jim was completely taken by surprise, so it almost happened. The baby's screams (and her mother's) were added to the cacophony. Fernando's redoubled, and I swear I actually saw that baby stretch a little bit, as Darlene pulled as hard as she could to extricate her child from his grip. I had this horrible, permanent vision of the child's legs being torn off. Nothing would be too fucking awful for this night.

After an eternity of screaming and pulling and thrashing about, Darlene pulled the baby free and fled into the next room. Fernando was rigid, like he was in an electric chair--and I looked up to see the whites of his eyes, and just a touch of foam at the corners of his mouth. He was convulsing, literally, and screaming about Jesus and the Devil. All I could think of was him biting his tongue off, or swallowing it, while we held him on the cheap carpet, under the glare of a television stuck between stations.

Not Tonight, I Have a Burning Man Ticket

Sorry story peeps, I neglected my Burning Man duties this weekend, and I'm paying for it tonight. The good news is that I think I just finished with most of my cipherin' for two inflatables. The bad news is that I don't think the camp's gonna have room. Sigh...

I've got half an installment in draft form, so I promise there'll be another one tomorrow. I'm feeling a little bit of the pressure, you know?

The ticket's beautiful, by the way. My favorite part is still the words on the back:


Now that's living.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Fernando and Jesus 4: El Diablo Azul

If Jim hadn't been on top of things, Darlene would have been beaten senseless, I have no doubt. As it was, she just had her nose bloodied.

Jim grabbed Fernando's top half and pinned back his arms, so Fernando began kicking at her. I managed to get control of his bare legs, and in short order we found ourselves on the floor in a position that we would maintain, with minor variations, for the next several hours: Fernando on the floor, with me holding his legs, and Jim restraining his arms and upper body.

Then the screaming began. Once Fernando realized that he was completely trapped, he focused on me intensely and began screaming. He screamed almost as often as he could draw a breath for the next several hours. He fought us like a crazy person, with more energy and strength than I would have thought he'd possess. He could either lift me completely off the ground with his legs, or get nearly free from Jim, but not both. Which was extremely fortunate for us and his wife, who did a lot of screaming at him herself.

Fernando screamed and screamed, and in short order I began to wonder when the cops were going to show up. It sounded like we were feeding him slowly into a meat grinder, and I found out later it could be heard clearly from two houses away. It was probably 1:30 in the morning by that time, and I knew it was just a matter of time before we attracted some unwanted attention. Darlene was absolutely no help. She actually made matters worse, because we found that Fernando would calm down slightly when she wasn't visible or screaming at him--but we never could convince her to shut up and stay away. After an hour or so of steady screaming, she actually entered the room with a beer bottle and threatened to hit him over the head with it. So we were all yelling for a time, her screaming at him to shut up, Jim and I hollering over the din trying to convince her that bashing him with a bottle was not a good idea, and Fernando just raising hell. As rationally as I could (because remember, Jim and I were both still rolling on the ecstasy, although you couldn't tell), I explained to her that a) you rarely actually knock anyone out with a blow to the head, b) she might actually hurt him if she did so, and c) if she broke the beer bottle and didn't knock him out, the three of us would be rolling around in a pile of broken glass. With great reluctance, she dropped the beer bottle. I'm more than a little convinced she just wanted to get him back for busting her in the nose. That's the kind of woman we were dealing with.

At 4:30 or so, Fernando began to calm down a little, and Jim was able to relax his hold. The Fernando we knew was still AWOL, but I think we managed to tire him out some. Then Darlene came back in the room, and he was off again--screaming and literally convulsing, with his eyes bugging from his head like he was being electrocuted. He managed to get one hand free, and grabbed my hair. Darlene retreated, but there was no settling him down for some time.

He would have torn my scalp off if I hadn't been able to get my hand between his hand and my head, but he refused to let go, and I was forced to lie on his legs in an awkward position, to keep him restrained. He had my ponytail in a deathgrip for the better part of an hour, screaming in spanish at the top of his lungs.

This made the whole situation even crazier for me, because I understood what he was saying. To the other two, it was just meaningless babble, but I felt the floor drop out from under me again when I realized what he was doing.

He was praying.

He was praying for help from Jesus, and praying for protection from the Devil. He called out for help to his dead brother, his dead father, and any angels that happened to be listening. He screamed, he fought, and he pulled my hair. He seemed to be growing stronger, somehow, and it was all we could do to hold him down. This went on literally for hours--we were all soaked in sweat, with our hearts pounding and our heads aching, under the blue glare of a television stuck between channels and hissing like a den of cobras.

We'd both been operating under the belief that this was just the mother of all bad trips, and as with any bad trip, you can be comforted by the fact that it will eventually END. But I'd never seen anything like this, and it struck me that maybe this wouldn't end--maybe Fernando had been pushed over the edge into actual insanity, and we could hold him down til Judgement Day, but he wouldn't get any better. I looked at Jim, and could tell he was thinking the same thing. We were fucked.

That's when Darlene brought in the baby.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Fernando and Jesus 3 : Madness

Fernando sleeping on a pile of coke was worrisome for two reasons. I could feel my heart attempting to hammer its way through my ribcage, which meant that despite my best intentions, I'd snorted way too much of the Bolivian marching powder. And being that I wasn't an expert on it, I was kind of concerned about whether I might suddenly do a face plant right next to Fernando. Secondly, I knew that if -I- was so fucking twisted that I couldn't even string two thoughts together, how could this freak be SLEEPING? This wasn't sleeping, in other words. This was at best passed out and at worst dead.

I sucked down a couple of beers really quick to try and get my heart rate under control (which always seems like a good idea but never does much more than upset my stomach), and began to try and settle myself enough to plan my exit. It seemed like Jim had been gone for hours, and given that it was only 10 blocks, this was odd. Just as I was working my mind around to how to work the light on my cellphone, so I could see what time it was, Darlene entered the room and kicked Fernando in the ribs.

Not too hard, but enough to wake him up. He glared at us, got to his knees, and fell over sideways. I began trying to remember where pulse points were. She bent over him and gently shook his shoulder, and this had slightly better success. He opened his eyes and focused them past me and (very plainly, to me) onto the couch in the next room. She was talking, but I was intent on Fernando, who managed to get to his feet and take a step. He wavered, and I caught him under one arm. He didn't seem to notice, and kept his gaze fixed on the couch in the next room.

I was used to this sort of behavior. It's what I do when I'm too fucked up to talk--focus on a flat spot and hope someone gets my point. I helped him to the couch, but he didn't want to actually get on it; he pulled the cushions off and arranged a pallet on the floor.

This didn't please Darlene in the least, who began a harangue that lasted until Jim arrived (which was the better part of an eternity, I assure you). She screamed at him, and cooed at him, mostly saying things like "get up you stupid bastard, we finally got company and you go to sleep on the goddam living room floor," followed shortly by "c'mon, baby, I wanna get high...please, please get up and let's get high..."

Then she looked at me and said "I knew this was going to happen. He hasn't been to sleep since Wednesday."

Count 'em up, folks. Four days without sleep. Anyone else, I'd call bullshit, but I'd seen that perfect pyramid of cocaine, and I knew that he could have stayed up as long as he wanted with what was probably in his stash. Which I was growing less and less interested in by the minute.

It would have been a fairly standard domstic scene, if everything were different. I myself have been berated by a girlfriend for falling asleep while guests were over, or being disinclined to see them, at any rate. But that was due to being tired from work, really, and it never ever took place by the light of a refrigerator., nothing was the same...but the housewife was definitely screeching at her fucked up husband about social mores.

Gradually, she forgot I was there, and her tone became more cajoling and intimate, and her patter more and more focused on "getting high." I realized that Fernando must have done something really horrible to her in the past for snorting his coke when he wasn't around, because there was probably a thousand dollar's worth less than 10 feet away, still with his faceprint in it. God, I thought, how fucked up can this get?

Since then I've learned to never, ever think that.

Jim showed up a few minutes later, and I immediately dragged him out into the back yard to "get a breath of air." It was October, and there was a slight nip in the air, so it felt good after the dead hot air of the house.

"Jim," I said, "this is fucking weird. Dude passed the fuck out a minute after you left, and she's been fucking with him the whole time trying to get him up so she can snort some more coke. There is nothing good here for us. Nothing. Let's go."

His reply was logical: "we can't leave, dude, we dosed these two." Which is definitely good form on his part, and given his track record, which is definitely spotty on the ethics of psychoactives part, I was proud of him. So stay we must. I held firm to this til we entered the house, and saw the most fucked up thing I'd ever seen to date (and remained the recordholder for almost 5 minutes).

You remember those posters in the school nurse's office that showed homeless people smoking, with captions like "smoking is glamorous?" These are attempts to show how smoking really is in real life, an attempt to counteract Hollywood's attempts to show it as a cool habit.

I'm convinced that if I could jack into my brain and plug into your average 20 year old's head, and show him or her the scene I'm about to describe, that person would never, ever take drugs.

Fernando had stripped down to his (irridescent purple, since Wayne asked) bikini underwear, or she had done it for him. Fernando, if you recall, was much smaller than she was. He was also out cold. Darlene had him by the back of his underwear and by his hair, and was cooing at him words that I couldn't understand til I got up close to them.

Darlene had stuffed a rolled up dollar bill into his nose, and held his head suspended a half inch or so above a pile of coke on the floor. The television suddenly seemed very loud, and its light made everyone in the room seem dead. Occasionally, when she'd duck her head to whisper to him, she'd let the bill hit the pile or the floor, shoving it a little farther up his nose. It was a third gone already.

Just before Jim began hollering at her, I caught what she was saying, for all the world like a mother to her child: "c'mon baby, let's get high. mama wants to get high, baby. let's get high."

My skin crawls, two years later. I have never in my life wanted so badly to be somewhere else, sober, and working as a CPA or something. I was horrified. But the image of her as a sort of mother to Fernando's child stuck with me.

Jim broke the spell (bless his irregular heart) by yelling at her to let him go, let him sleep. An argument began, in the middle of which I noticed Fernando was awake. Thinking back I'm sure he woke up as soon as he heard Jim's voice.

Once again I helped Fernando up, but he was now focused on Jim. The woman was screaming, and wouldn't shut up, and this was putting all of us on edge. Jim immediately saw that Fernando wasn't doing well, and took his arm from me to help the poor guy stand.

Things at this point turn into a bad, slow motion horror movie.

Darlene screamed "FERNANDO!"

Fernando's head snapped around like he'd taken a punch, and the second his eyes lit on her I knew we were all in a great deal of trouble. Fernando wasn't home in those eyes. He was gone. What was left was a cross between a frightened 3 year old and a feral animal. He'd lost all grip on reality--I could tell that instantly, because it's happened to me before. And when it happens, you just have to hope there are people there to care for you, or you're away from any kind of human being, any chance of human interaction. Because nothing good ever happens.

Fernando's eyes bugged in fear. He started to hyperventilate, and clutched Jim like a shield. Darlene kept screaming at him (and by screaming I mean top of the lungs screaming, at 3am on Sunday morning, with all the windows open in a pretty bad part of town), something about guests and him being an asshole. When she said "guests," she pointed at me.

That's when Fernando noticed me. When he did, his face registered shock and utter horror, and he spun Jim around to shield himself from me. There was no humanity left in those eyes. Those were the eyes of an animal caught in a trap, an animal about to burst its own heart with fear.

I felt sorry for the guy. I wanted to ease his mind as much as I could--I still thought this was merely a bad trip, and I've dealt with lots of bad trips, from both sides of the abyss. And the first thing you do is get the person still, and not afraid. I backed away, keeping my hands palm out and in plain sight, to the front door. Then I stopped.

Darlene was screaming still--I've never ever seen so much anger and willful stupidity in any one person. She was spitting, and red faced, and had lost it to a degree herself. Everytime she's shout "Fernando," he'd jerk and rotate Jim to be his shield to her, then rotate back to me as Jim tried to calm things down. Jim, needless to say, was freaking out, but handled himself admirably through the whole thing.

After three or four repetitions of the "jerk to Darlene then ease on back to the other guy," Fernando started sliding to the right, never taking those eyes off of me. I was frozen--even if I wanted to, I couldn't have moved. Fernando was breathing heavy enough that I could hear him over the television set, and totally focused on me. He stopped Jim within a few feet of the couch where Darlene was sitting. Then, without taking his eyes off me, he punched Darlene as hard as he could, right in the nose.

All hell broke loose.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Fernando and Jesus 2: Darlene

Fernando beat upon his front door til the TV was blotted out and the door was opened by a rather obese and unpleasant looking girl, who was introduced as Fernando's wife. As Fernando intruduced us, I could feel his eyes boring into me--watching for any signs that I was interested in his wife. Which I was not--her hand (daintily offered, as if she were half expecting me to kiss it) was sweaty and spongy, and her eyes were cold and calculating. Or maybe it was just the glint of the television.

"Hi," she said, after he'd introduced her as his wife, "I'm Darlene."

I immediately knew what the whole thing could turn into, and it wasn't pleasant in the least.

Darlene had married a hot tempered Latin number who had all sorts of access to cocaine and spent a lot of time at work. She found out shortly after marriage that he was an extremely paranoid, jealous husband, and he didn't like her to go out at all. She was unhappy and bored, and hated Fernando enough that she flirted with me constantly.

Now, I understood this. I also understood that this was a sort of game for them--she would flirt until I made some sort of error in man etiquette and gave Fernando an excuse to (quite literally) attack me and defend his territory. And, although this would make her unhappy, she would no doubt be flattered that her man cared so much about her honor. From what I found out about her in the next few hours, she was perfectly capable of playing the role of some sort of rancid Rapunzel while simultaneously feeling beseiged by rabid men who were just out to demean her.

But forewarned is forearmed, and I had all of my radar pinging in every direction I could, for several very good reasons. I've also done quite a bit of walking that flirtin' line over the years, albeit never in such a dangerous situation.

First rule: Never, ever be alone with her. And by alone I don't mean the two of you alone in a room; I mean never let HIM out of your sight, when she's with you. Even if nothing happens, you open yourself up to either his paranoid fantasies or her sly insinuations later. Remember, these are evil, unhappy people we're talking about. They'll turn on you in a second.

Second rule: Never volunteer to do anything for her before making damn sure he thinks it's OK. I went one step farther and if she asked for something that was close to me, I'd hand it to him to give to her.

Third rule: Little or no direct eye contact, and no wandering off into conversational asides with her. Anything can be construed as flirtation, if the dude's crazy enough. And he definitely was that.

This went on for some time, as we settled into the dark house to watch the rest of the boxing match and discussed the events the evening would hold. Darlene made several attempts to act knowledgeable about drugs, but always shut up when Fernando glared at her. Eventually we got down to the nut cuttin', when Jim pulled out some of the pills and distributed them to us. It was kind of touching, for a brief second: Fernando was about five four, a hundred thirty pounds. Darlene was five ten, two twenty or forty. Yet they discussed briefly (in english, which I thought was kind of them til I realized that she didn't understand spanish) how they were going to dose themselves, then he broke the pill in half and split it with her. This was wise for him, since he didn't know the effects. With her bulk, though, I was iffy as to whether she'd even catch anything off of it.

Jim and I each downed a pill with our beers, then he busted out his stash of white powder to "help get things started." This actually works, although it's not really necessary, and in my view more trouble than it's worth. Unless you can combine those two with some nitrous and maybe a few amyl nitrate...but I digress.

Fernando and Darlene both were non-drinkers at this time, so Jim and I just grabbed beers out of the case when we felt like it. No one had invited either of us to leave the room, and I was beginning to get the feeling there were booby traps out there in the rest of the house. Which was doubly frustrating because as our beer got warm, my eyes were repeatedly drawn back to the only other light in the house: the refrigerator light in the kitchen. Jim told me later that Fernando wouldn't turn on any other lights at night, for fear of giving "them" a floorplan of the house.

After a bit, the drug began to kick in for me, and a quick glance at Jim confirmed that he felt it too. We both attempted to explain to Fernando what he should be listening down inside for, but were interrupted by Darlene, who whined to Fernando that "she wasn't feeling anything." Well, of course you're not feeling anything yet, I thought. You won't shut up long enough to feel it.

Darlene had an ulterior motive, though--which was why she was talking to Fernando. Shortly he got up and staggered back towards the refrigerator light, where he cut left and disappeared from sight. Darlene moved closer to me. I got up and got a beer, then sat down at an appropriate distance. Jim's eyes widened slightly when he noticed the byplay, but nothing was said.

Fernando returned presently with a solid pyramid of cocaine, which he'd obviously knocked off of one corner of a brick of the same substance. MY eyes widened a bit when I figured this out, and Fernando began chopping it up and making these crazy Cheech and Chong lookin' rails. Not being an expert in this, I was kind of worried about having a freakin' heart attack, so I hung back and ultimately did my line in two goes, prompting gibes and mean laughter from the couple. My eyes watered, but the coke and ecstasy began their evil work.

Ecstasy, as most of you know, has its high points and low points. Picture, if this isn't too trite, a rollercoaster. MDMA doesn't put you on a peak that last for hours--it'll swing you up and down three or four or five times over the course of the trip.

Cocaine produces a similar feeling as MDMA, only it's one quick ride up and down one hill. Then you want more, but you can't ever get as high as you did that first quick trip. What's insidious is that the drug also disables the parts of your brain that say "this is stupid behavior," so you keep chasing that elusive feeling til you run out of money and coke, at which point you either start robbing liquor stores or get some sleep and try not to think about what an asshole you are.

But if you can catch your (e) on an upswing, at just the right time, you can triple or quadruple your "uptime" by zapping it with a shot of cocaine. It's analagous to strapping a rocket engine onto the back of your rollercoaster and shooting it into the air after it's reached the apex of the track. This sort of behavior can be sort of dangerous, as you can imagine, but it's hard to resist once you realize how fucking cool it can be.

So that's the feeling three of the four of us were on, the exception being Darlene. She kept yammering about wanting more, which was a bit problematic because Fernando had decided to leave his remaining three pills at Jim's place. It soon became obvious, though, that Darlene wasn't going to shut the fuck up until she got more, so in short order Jim volunteered to go get the stash. Fernando plainly wanted to go too, but neither of us wanted me to be left alone with Darlene, and for some reason Jim didn't want me to come with him. I think he still harbored some hopes that Fernando and I would become friends.

After another improbably large line of cocaine, as a sort of send off, Jim left. I very quickly became aware of my situation and how dangerous it really was. I was in the house of a cocaine dealer who had bricks of the shit lying around, and was convinced people were out to get him. I was willing to believe this, after a short period of time watching the ant races on TV and listening to them talk.

Within a few minutes, though, my uneasiness became a genuine worry when Fernando put his head down on the album cover that held all the cocaine and went to sleep.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Fernando and Jesus 1: The Deal

All names in this sucker are false.

The weeks after Burning Man are traditionally a difficult time for my liver. My method of decompressing involved as much alcohol and as many drugs as I can get my hands on, which isn't the smartest way of returning to the "real world," but it works for me. It's a lot easier to slip back into the workaday rhythms of my life if I'm suffering from a blinding headache.

Money was tight, as I recall, but in late October of 2001, I came across a lot of 10 or 11 tabs of MDMA. Those of you who've read "Sketchy Bill" will recognize MDMA, or "ecstasy," or just plain "(e)," as a very happy drug. In the years since my first ecstasy experience, I'd managed to go on several ecstasy fueled rampages--which ultimately led me to realize I had a problem. This problem is that if I carry around a bag full of (e), I will eventually eat all of it and do some pretty entertaining things, like speak in tongues and pierce my own nipple. Among other things. Hey, leave me some dignity, OK?

I solved my problem with this simple rule: never, ever take more than four hits of ecstasy with you, anywhere you go. It's around five tabs that I start thinking I'm James Brown and the clothes hamper is the Georgia State Police, so I just don't give myself the option anymore.

But honestly, those massive doses obscure what MDMA is all about: connectedness, love, and happiness. You can tell that someone's on (e) because they keep touching you, themselves, and anything else with texture. Their pupils are generally dilated, and they can't quit grinning. Many people have awoken to rather awkward social situations after a night on ecstasy, if you know what I mean and I think you do. There's such an overpowering feeling of goodness and confidence and optimism, in every single MDMA experience that I've ever had. Every experience save one.

Here's what Erowid has to say on the substance:

extreme mood lift
increased willingness to communicate
increase in energy (stimulation)
ego softening
feelings of comfort, belonging, and closeness to others
feelings of love and empathy
increased awareness & appreciation of music
increased awareness of senses. (eating, drinking, smell)
profound life-changing spiritual experiences
neurotically based fear dissolution
sensations bright and intense
urge to hug and kiss people

appetite loss
visual distortion
rapid, involuntary eye jiggling (nystagmus)
mild visual hallucinations (uncommon)
moderately increased heart rate and blood pressure (increases with dose)
restlessness, nervousness, shivering
change in body temperature regulation
strong desire to do or want more when coming down

NEGATIVE (see the MDMA Side Effects Profile)
(negative side effects increase with higher doses and frequent use)
inappropriate and/or unintended emotional bonding
tendency to say things you might feel uncomfortable about later
mild to extreme jaw clenching (trisma), tongue and cheek chewing, and teeth grinding (bruxia)
difficulty concentrating & problems with activities requiring linear focus
short-term memory scramble or loss & confusion
muscle tension
erectile disfunction and difficulty reaching orgasm
increase in body temperature, hyperthermia, dehydration (drink water)
hyponatremia (don't drink too much water)
nausea and vomiting
headaches, dizziness, loss of balance, and vertigo
post-trip Crash - unpleasantly harsh comedown from the peak effect
hangover the next day, lasting days to weeks
mild depression and fatigue for up to a week
severe depression and/or fatigue (uncommon)
possible strong urge to repeat the experience, though not physically addictive
possible psychological crisis requiring hospitalization (psychotic episodes, severe panic attacks, etc) (rare)
possible liver toxicity (rare)
possible neurotoxicity (controversial)
small risk of death. Approximately 2 per 100,000 users have extreme negative reactions resulting in death. (rare)

The last bit sounds pretty scary, but I'd taken the drug dozens of times with probably scores of people, and never had anyone freak out, pass out, or otherwise not have an extremely good time. In other words, my experience with it had been limited to the positive and neutral stuff listed above.

[Incidentally, my naivete w/r/t the negative effects I blame on the government's War on Drugs, which has caused me to completely disregard anything they say. I mean, I know the shit's bad for you, but so's freakin' coffee. Get some perspective, Ashcroft, and then we'll talk.]

My friend "Jim" was getting pretty heavy into cocaine at this point, to the degree that most of the guys he was buying from didn't speak very good english. They were nice guys, but tended to carry sidearms and dislike talking to strangers. But I was good, generally, because a) I speak enough spanish to make simple conversation (which goes a long, long way for most of the Central American dudes I've met), and b) I was plainly one of Jim's good friends. And yeah, probably because I'm a good guy, underneath it all.

Anyway, I had visited Jim's steadiest dealer, "Fernando," several times with Jim. Fernando ran an auto body shop in an area of town that bordered on bad, so we'd meet him there (never at home) to conduct their business. I liked Fernando, really. I could tell he had much the same problems we do (tryin' to live his life under the thumb of The Man), plus all the problems of being an illegal alien (not even being HUMAN in the eyes of The Man), plus all the problems of being in constant possession of blocks of white powder (which was his own lookout--I won't try and defend him on that). He never quit looking at me askance, even the last time I ever saw him, but eventually he accepted my presence. Much like a large vicious dog will accept someone's presence, but never takes his eyes off them. Think about it this way: the fewer people that saw him deal his shit, the better off he was. But he didn't want to scare Jim away, because Jim was helping him get some other stuff square, which doesn't really have any bearing on this story. In essence, I was tolerated because Jim wanted me tolerated.

For my part, I just kept my trap shut and watched the door. Truthfully, the whole situation made me nervous.

That's why I was surprised when Jim told me Fernando wanted to buy some ecstasy from me. Jim had been talking it up, and Fernando had never done it, so it seemed logical that we'd do a deal. Not a TRADE, mind you--I needed the money, and I really don't like to just have that stuff laying around. People tend to call late at night, beat on the door at all hours, and in general become less than human. And I like all you guys, dammit, so I don't want to see anyone debased by chemical cravings.

So the three of us met at Jim's place (oops, almost typed his real name) on a Saturday evening. Like most deals, this was slated to happen at around 7pm, but nothing actually coalesced til near 11pm. This drives true junkies nuts, but I didn't mind. It was Saturday night, we were watching boxing and drinking beer, and I had turned off my brain for the weekend.

I had violated my rule of no more than four hits, because I was going to sell four hits to Fernando, and Jim and I were going to each eat one. I was a little surprised when Fernando invited me back to his place to trip with him and his wife (and Jim, of course), but I just figured he'd been snorting coke and was feeling magnanimous. Really, for all he knew, I was the ecstasy king of Oklahoma, and I might be worth getting to know. For my part, I was still in Decompression mode, so I was game for anything.

One of these days, I'll learn.

We hit the road about 11:15, Fernando leading and Jim following in his car, with me shotgun. Bear in mind this was almost exactly a year after the Sketchy Bill Incident, but I trusted Jim, so I didn't insist on taking my own car. I had a cellphone, which I purchased less than a week after Sketchy Bill shot me with a bag of sugar. Plus, I knew I'd be taking my relatively nice clean car into pretty bad territory, where it would be parked all night, so I opted for the ride.

We drove about 10 blocks, into a seriously cracked out neighborhood, a few blocks deeper into the hood than I had ever lived. The house we parked in front of was dark, except for a television flashing inside. Jim warned me when we pulled up not to look at anyone across the street, because that was a crack house, and Fernando had been over there fairly recently threatening physical violence at some minor insult. I later found out that (not surprisingly) crackheads are to cocaine as they are to, well, just about everything else: a blight. Fernando did his level best to walk the straight and narrow paths of honor that being a "real" cocaine dealer involved, and apparently that included not selling to rock artists. I lived across the street from a crack house several years previous to this, so I was careful to keep my gaze neutral as we walked up the steps. We reached the front door with no incident.

I remember thinking about how I'd best retreat from the scene, should it go bad. There was no easy way. I was a white boy that wasn't obviously broke, and I'd most likely be walking home early in the morning. The cops were the best I could hope for.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Enough Madness

I'm sorry guys, I'm just not feelin' it with the one. Rudy really does go over better in person, so I'm going to promise you I'll tell you a Rudy story next time I see you.

These stories are getting harder and harder to write, as my days get longer and more enervating. I'm hoping I just picked me a bad story, and getting on with the coke/e story will jump start me a bit. Maybe I can get it all out before I go into pre-Burn conniptions.

Much love,

Rudy Jones 5: Girls

Rudy genuinely liked girls, and just didn't seem to understand how creepy he was.

He saw one weekend that a female was moving in upstairs from him, so in keeping with a tradition of which I was unaware ("if man moves into a new place, the women are supposed to bring him a cake. If a woman moves in, though, the men are supposed to bring her a book"), Rudy gifted her with a 1st edition copy of Cab Driver, along with a few comments that apparently led to her moving out the following weekend:

"Hi! I'm Rudy Jones, and I brought you a copy of my book, which I made in my room! It's sort of a love story in space, and I thought you might like it 'cause I know you live alone up there! I live downstairs from you, you know, and I can hear you walkin' around up there at night. I live in my back room, though, so it really doesn't bother me--but if you hear a lot of weird noises coming from down there, don't worry about it. It's probably just me printing out more copies of my book! Hey, you don't have a boyfriend, do you? Cause it can be kind of dangerous livin' around here by yourself!"

She left the next weekend. No word on if she took the book with her.

Rudy also spent a lot of time in movie theaters during the summertime, because he lived in his car and it's fuckin' hot in Oklahoma. Plus, when your car is a V8, you can't just let that sucker idle all day. So, Rudy would buy a movie ticket, then spend all day slipping from theater to theater soaking up the a/c and eating gargantuan amounts of popcorn (I've never seen anyone eat so much in my entire life). One Monday, he came to the window and told me that he had "met a girl" at the movies that weekend.

He had met her because she and her friend had sat down next to him in the theater. Now, since there were a lot of empty seats around, Rudy naturally assumed this meant the girl(s) liked him. I know now from some of Zora's posts that this might not necessarily be the case. Anyway, he waited til the lights went down and he was sure she wasn't going to move, then put his hand on her knee. He said she was OK with that, and he was content for a bit. Midway through the movie, though, he began to either rub her knee or slide his hand up her thigh (which gives me the willies just thinking about him doing this, most likely in a company tshirt). This apparently sent the poor girl over the edge. She stood up in a huff, turned right around and looked and him, and said "if you touch me one more time, you'll be leaving here in HANDCUFFS!"

Oh Christ, I thought, how embarrassing for everyone concerned. Then Rudy busts off the punchline (which he didn't even recognize as such, I'm convinced): "I told her 'hey lady, you're never gonna get laid with an attitude like that!'" No word on if he was ejected from the theater, but I'm just glad he didn't make the freakin' news.

I was in a rough period in my life back then, having come out of a 3 year relationship with a lot of resentment for a lot of things, so I was taking a sabbatical from being human by frequenting a lot of the sleazier strip clubs in the city. My stated goal was to find a sexual freak (of which there were a lot) who was also cool and stable (of which I found nary a one, in two years of lookin'). I did, however, get to experience Rudy Jones in a strip club, which almost made up for it.

Rudy and I would occasionally frequent a really bad topless bar called The Midway Club, which wasn't the worst (the worst was PB's, where the dancers would give blowjobs for food stamps), but still pretty gross. It was dark and very smoky and none too clean, and small enough that everyone who came in more than three or four times was known by all the girls and other patrons. Rudy loved the place for the last reason, and really spent a large portion of his disposable income there over the period of a year or so. And if you're living in your car, you've got a lot of disposable income.

Eventually it got too painful to watch, seeing Rudy throwing money around to buy friends and attention, under the sad yet professional eyes of topless girls a little too far gone to make it in one of the bigger clubs. Before that happened, though, I found me a girl who was both a freak and reasonably stable. She taught me two things: I'm really not a weirdo when it comes to sex, and I'm a horrible judge of stability in a woman.

But she liked me, and I liked her, and we both enjoyed watching Rudy rock his way around the bar, buying draft beer and table dances for everyone he could get to sit still ("I like to feel like Hugh Hefner when I come into one of these places," he once told me). After our initial courtship, I talked her into quitting the stripping bit and getting into the bartending bit, which is pretty much how these sort of relationships work, I think. It also put Rudy a safe distance away from her, with a nice big bar between them--so I didn't have to worry about hearing from either of them that she's given him a lap dance.

So by the time her birthday rolled around the second year, we were living together and contemplating a move out of state. Serious stuff, although there were lots of conflicts (of a rather serious nature, if you haven't figured that out, since I'm single now (again)). At any rate, one of the few friends of mine that stuck around, John, decided to rent her a limo for a night of drinking and dancing around town, starting with watching a De la Hoya fight at the club. The birthday girl SPECIFICALLY asked Rudy to ride in the limo, although she insisted he shower before doing so. I was to meet them when I got off work, at the bar where the fight was to be viddied.

Which I did, and then we all proceeded to do what one does when you've got a limo rented all evening: get raucously drunk and go visit all your friends (hi Wayne!). Unfortunately, my girl got mean when she got drunk (another sign that things aren't meant to be), so at the end of the night she sweetly asked for my car keys and basically stole my car. This obviously leaves out a good bit of byplay, but it's not really pertinent to the story. However, it did permit me to do something I always wanted to do, namely, to tell a limo driver "home, James." This was a little of a gamble on my part, since I wasn't sure she'd let me in the house (I was right-I had to sneak around the back, which she forgot had a door as well)...but that's where Rudy and John had parked, so we really had no choice.

We sat there in the dark, sipping cheap beer from cans, pondering how things could go so radically wrong. I personally was wondering if this whole relationship was meant to be, and whether I'd fucked up totally, and whether we'd see a flaming wreck of a truck on the side of the road, probably run up under a cop car.

But Rudy, party champeen he was, couldn't bear for the evening to end on a sour note. "Man, guys," he chirped, "this limo ride was really great! You know what I wanna do? I wanna ride home naked in a limo! Naked in a limo! C'mon, guys, let's all ride home naked in a limo!"

Yes, ladies and gents, I've ridden home naked in a limo. Hey, c'mon, it was dark, and I was drunk and extremely unhappy, so it sort of seemed like the right thing to do. To be perfectly honest, I just dropped my pants, and when we arrived I just pulled them back up and began trying to break into my own house without my neighbors calling the cops on me. Which wasn't easy, mind you, with a drunk blonde hellion screeching at me out the windows.

But our relationship healed, for a bit, and limped along for another six or eight months. When I arrived at work on Monday, Rudy greeted me with his usual cheerful grin and wave, and trotted up to the window. "Wow, man, that was some party Friday night! Thanks for the limo drive, man! You know, I drove back to the hotel (he was attempting to make a living refurbishing computers, for which he needed a bit more stability than his LTD), walked up the stairs, and got all the way to my room before I realized I was still nekkid!"

Finally, Rudy hooked up with some sort of horrible barfly named Stephanie, who as usual was in about four different kinds of trouble (not least of which was someone named "Lamont"). The one that illustrates Rudy's essentially good nature the best, though, was that she had warrants out for her arrest--at the same time Rudy was preparing to sue the living shit out of the police department for false imprisonment and mental anguish. This, obviously, is another story, but I don't know if I'm going to write it just yet. Anyway, Rudy trained for months to represent himself in this court case, and came in every day with a stack of new books along the lines of "law for dummies." He had a serious grudge against the PD, which I can't really blame him about, but one evening he came in and asked me if I'd gotten a call from Bob Macy, the local DA.

Now, this isn't exactly top of the list for things I like for my employees to ask me at the end of the day, but he wouldn't elucidate til Macy hadn't called for about 3 days. As this placed Rudy at the deadline for being able to file his claim, he finally broke down and told me the deal: he's been calling Macy and telling him that he (Rudy) would drop his pending lawsuit against the city (which was going to cost the city several millions of dollars, after all) if Macy would drop the charges against Rudy's girlfriend. Rudy lost the case, ultimately, and the girl left him shortly thereafter. She was last seen hanging around Jamelle Holloway in some sleazy sports bar downtown.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Rudy Jones 4: The MMRU

Back in the early 90's, my boss became so obsessed with "production" that he bought a car to follow us around and make sure we weren't fucking off. The car was a 68 Ford LTD, a huge maroon boat that was actually really nice for being as old as it was. He had the windows tinted, just to make sure we wouldn't see him, and drove it exactly once.

The problem with spying on your employees is that you can't tell any of them you're doing it--in this case, he showed the car to one of our mechanics to see if it was worth buying. About 2 days later, everyone knew about this car, and since it wasn't exactly inconspicuous (being both large and purple), it failed miserably to catch us doing anything heinous like sitting down and drinking a cup of water.

The only other use it had for our company was when La Migra came to town. Once we heard from crews that the saw the green vans, we'd send out the MMRU to pick up the ones we knew were illegally here.

[MMRU stands for Mobile Mexican Rescue Unit, incidentally]

But INS doesn't come around much, and the car sort of sat and collected dust and got in the way. It did this for a couple of years, until Rudy's car rattled its last and he worked out a deal to buy the MMRU for something like $700, payable in $50 weekly installments. This was about $10 too much, since Rudy was a cash-only type of guy (for reasons, again, that I'll get into later), and he just couldn't seem to part with two twenties and a ten. Anyway, that's how Rudy came to move into the LTD.

The car was nearly wide enough for me to lie down completely in the seat. And it was a nice car--I'd considered buying it, but each time I drove it, something went wrong, either in my love life or with the car itself. I'm not a big believer in fate, or bad luck, or any of that, but I am a big believer in keeping my life simple and hassle free, so I opted out of the contract. But it was a nice car. Even to live in, it was a nice car.

The first thing Rudy did was install his inverter, and he drilled a hole in the firewall to get the extension cord into the cab. The second was bolting a powerstrip to the other side of the firewall, and plugging all his computer shit into it. Eventually he bolted the monitor to the transmission hump, and actually zip tied the CPU underneath the dashboard. The printer stayed in the back seat, since Rudy generally slept in the front seat.

All in all, it was a hell of a setup. If you're going to be homeless, get yourself a big car. The gas mileage obviously sucks, but they're hella comfortable.

Then, one day, I noticed a rectangle of window tint cut out of the back window.

I've found that Rudy was like a little kid: if he has something he wants to show you, he'll practically hop from foot to foot until you ask him what it is. I let him simmer for a couple of days, and then asked him what he had going on in the back seat. He got the patented Rudy Grin on his face, and hustled me out to the vehicle to have a look. You might have guessed: Rudy was going solar.

But he knew he didn't have enough room to power his computer with solar panels, so he was trying to improve the gas mileage of his car by hooking the panel to his alternator. He felt like this would ease the load on the engine w/r/t how hard it worked to power the alternator, since (obviously) the alternator would be receiving supplemental electricity from the solar panel in the back seat.

Now, as far as I know, this might actually have some merit to it. I'm not the mechanical one of my family, for sure. But I'm pretty sure the motor doesn't run just to supply electricity to the alternator, even if you're just parked and trying to play X Wing Commander or something.

The MMRU actually drove from Oklahoma to Houston (where he let off his girlfriend, who's yet another story) to Los Angeles (where he did some surfing), and then back to Oklahoma, where he was forced to sell it by his own growling belly. I'm quite positive it's still around the city somewhere, although the new owner probably can't drive it because of the baked in smell of Rudy Jones, Esquire.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Rudy Jones 3: Rudy Takes on Microsoft

Rudy was a computer geek as well. He also had a serious problem keeping his lights on, by which I mean he refused to own a checking account and thus couldn't keep track of his bills, for reasons I'll go into later.

One would think that not having electricity would be a serious problem for a guy whose choice of free nighttime activities was programming games in BASIC. No, not Visual Basic, BASIC. And no, it wasn't a problem for the Qmeister. Rudy was a tinkerer, a gadget obsessive, and he loved his computer more than anything in the world.

At the time he was driving this beat to shit Mazda RX7, which was truly a testament to Mazda's idiotproofing engineering team, because it didn't have belts or actual hoses left under the hood. As they'd broken, Rudy had replaced them one by one with something "better," and the car still limped along OK. Sure, the radiator hose blew twice a week, but when it was just 1/2" garden hose to begin with, that's no big loss.

Anyway, Rudy had installed some sort of inverter on the battery or alternator of his car. When he got home from work, he'd park his car in the back yard, snake an extension cord from the inverter through his bedroom window, and plug in a power strip. This was enough power to run his computer and a small lamp.

I found out all this the first time we had a big rain, because his car got stuck in the mud of his back yard. He hitchhiked to work til it ran out of gas, idling in the back yard like some sort of art generator. I'm surprised it didn't get stolen.

Anyway, he lost that place (I think it was condemned) within a few months of coming to work here, and he spent that first winter, which was bitterly cold, living inside his car. It never seemed to bother him, but it bothered a couple of us, and I know there were many nights I tried to give him money to stay in a hotel. Invariably, a sort of jaunty wave was his response, along with something like "loan it to me for lunch on Monday." I don't think he even owned any blankets, but I don't think he actually felt cold or warm. Maybe there's something to that dirt/oil resistance, after all.

While living in his car, Rudy developed a sort of hybrid Windows operating system. He never would bring it around for me to actually look at, keeping it locked in his spare tire slot during the day (he'd used our cutting torch and welder to fashion a crude safe lid over that part of the trunk) and working on it at night, with the monitor sitting on the seat beside him. Many's the night I left work a couple of hours after dark, seeing nothing but the bluish glow of radiation on Rudy's pocked face. Yes, it was very creepy.

In the late spring, though, he actually moved into an apartment. We were all aghast. We'd grown so used to Rudy's "roughing it" attitude, and we knew that he wouldn't be able to keep his rent and utilities paid, so this seemed like a disaster. A couple of weeks after that, I asked him about it.

"Um, well, I programmed this operating system, man, and I wrote Bill Gates about it. He hasn't written me back about it yet, man, so I figured getting an apartment would make my return address look better."

I actually saw screen shots (printed on his old dot matrix) of the system, and it really did look like a cross between Window 3.1 and Windows 95. It's been too long ago for me to remember much about it, but there's no question he'd done SOMETHING. I can't imagine that he'd actually hacked or reverse engineered two systems and melded them into one, but maybe he'd unlocked some sort of protoWindows 95. Of course, he wanted to show all this to Bill Gates, and either license it to him or sell it to him outright. "I mean, man, I'd really like to have that money coming in every week, but heck, I'd probably just spend it all anyway!"

In time, Rudy realized that he just wasn't going to hear from Bill Gates himself, and he might want to start taking these emails from underlings more seriously. I think he wound up sending one of them a few screenshots, and after a few exchanges of emails (or "haggling," as Rudy called it) they told him they'd take it under consideration and would send him something in the actual mail.

A few weeks later it arrived, and I swear to you that I saw it: a letter from Microsoft Corporation, stating that "they were aware of the software," but were "unfortunately unable to devote the time and energy to promoting the product as it deserves to be promoted." Furthermore, Rudy said that they had given him permission to market the software on his own, and keep all the profits derived thereby. To me, this was a complete kissoff, telling Rudy it wouldn't work, and that he'd never, ever be able to do anything with it. To Rudy, it was validation. He actually felt sorry for Gates. I believe his exact words were "yeah, man, I guess ol' Bill is probably pretty busy right now."

Rudy Q Jones 2: Triangles

Rudy told me this story after he'd worked here for about 3 weeks:

There was a time when he (Rudy) had a thing for triangles. He really liked triangles a lot, and he was always on the lookout for things that formed triangles.

One day, when he was out spraying some sort of herbicide on a lawn, he rounded a big pine tree in some customer's yard and found three mushrooms growing in a triangle. This he took to be fortuitous, so he ATE THEM.

At first, he only ate one of them, thinking that they might not be safe to eat. However, he carefully collected the other two and put them on the dashboard of his truck, until he finished the yard (roughly 10 minutes, from what I gather). Then, once he got back in the truck and began to drive to his next yard, he had the following Stoner's Epiphany:

"I thought, man, I'd better eat all three of these things at once. I mean, what if one of them wouldn't do any good!? Then I'd just be stuck with two of them, and then what if I found a girl to share them with?"

I actually found myself nodding sagely along with this, even though it really doesn't make much sense when you factor in things like, oh, his health. But I'm familiar with the internal dialogue that goes along with eating things that are known to be harmless but psychoactive, so I'm kind of on the same page with him.

He "started to feel funny" shortly after leaving the job, and pulled into a convenience store lot to get something to drink. "I thought it was just heat exhaustion, man!" He asks to use their bathroom, yarks into the stool, and then passes out in front of the door. Effectively locking himself in with his own body.

Something on the order of an hour later, someone reports to the cashier that they can't access the bathroom--and, in fact, there's some sort of dead animal blocking the door (apparently they could just see the back of his head and his hair). Rudy'd completely comatose at this point, so apparently they had to call the fire department to force open the door.

Imagine you're Rudy's boss. You're a little nervous about sending him out because he's a completely unknown quantity, but he's a hell of a worker and 95% of the time he does the right thing (when it comes to his actual spraying job). Anyway, it's May or June, so you're busy as all hell...

And then you get a call from the fire department, telling you that your employee has passed out in a convenience store bathroom, and it looks like he's ingested some sort of poison.

And of all the trucks this joker could be driving, it's the one which contains a myriad of poisons, so you can't just say "oh yeah, he must have drunk some Roundup," because if it was actually Trimec or Chlordane (these dudes were pretty sketchy) Rudy might just die from the treatment.

So now you've got a comatose employee, a very valuable truck sitting in a parking lot, essentially abandoned, and a bunch of paramedics asking questions about all the pesticides on your rig. A pretty impressive array of pesticides and pesticide labels are all spread out on the ground, sidewalk, and truck bed, while everyone argues about what it could have been that has done this to poor Rudy.

At the apex of the argument, Rudy sort of groggily raises his head, looks at one of the paramedics, and says "no, man, it was those mushrooms I ate!" Then passes out again for a couple of days.

He was in the hospital for three days total. All because he liked triangles.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Rudy Q Jones 1: Hale-Bopp

Sorry e/coke guys, but my head hurts and I need a little bit of levity (and yes, nostalgia) before I return to our regularly scheduled program featuring me trying to bash my head in with a gold brick dipped in mescaline.

Rudy Jones is a real person, and I believe he's probably a paranoid schizophrenic. He's alternately funny and pathetic, and I really hope I can do him justice. That's going to be difficult, because so much of his personality isn't so much in what he said or did, but how he said or did it. You know what I'm talking about, right?

I came to know Rudy Q Jones II (later, he added "Esquire" to his name after attempting to sue the Oklahoma City PD) in 1997, I think. My company had just bought out a smaller company, and he was their chemical applicator.

Now, briefly, about chemical applicators: these guys have to take a test and get licensed by the state before they can work. There are about 15 different types of pesticide licenses you can get here, and they're good licenses to have if it's a choice between going hungry and spraying pesticides. The guys make good money, on the lower end of the scale: at Rudy's peak, he was getting $12.00 an hour, which is half again what a regular crew leader earns here.

It's my considered opinion that spray techs (there's a distinction between techs and applicators, but I'll use them interchangeably in this story, or series of stories) are over-respected, and in many cases over paid. They tend to be a pretty strange lot, on the whole, pretty close in the weirdness spectrum to housepainters and irrigation techs (irrigation techs, judging from some of the shit that I've dug up in people's yards, wake up every morning and eat three or four grams of mushrooms with breakfast). I've never been able to tell if they get weird after they start working with stuff that will probably be banned in a few years, or whether it's just a certain temperament that gravitates to the spray gun.

There's no question with Rudy, though. Rudy was fucked up from the get go.

You also have to understand that I get some pretty rough trade into my office looking for work. I'm not talking about guys who come in with no resumes, I'm talking about guys who come in with RELEASED still stamped on the back of their hands, which for those of you who aren't steeped in the esoteric ways of the Oklahoma penal system is what they stamp on the back of your hand when they let you out of jail.

So I wasn't surprised, initially, when this big screwball with a bad haircut and sores on his neck showed up and started babbling about wanting a job. He was actually looking for my boss, who's the owner, and since I was pissed at The Man that day, I actually pointed down the length of the shop at him. Rudy bounded off, waving with both hands and hollering "hi," which made him sound like Gomer Pyle on acid.

He returned presently with my boss, who gave him an application for employment and surprisingly enough stuck around to make conversation. For a few minutes, that is, until we all realized that this guy would talk all day. To himself, or to anyone else who was in earshot.

After starting to fill out the application, which he did with his tongue stuck slightly out of the corner of his mouth, he looked up and blurted "I sure hope you guys don't think I'm weird or nothing because of my hair. Ever since Hale-Bopp came around, I haven't been able to do anything with it!"

(Hale-Bopp, of course, was a comet that was approaching Earth in those weeks or months)

I was nonplussed, to say the least. See, I know what Hale-Bopp is, but this guy looked like he'd slept in an abandoned house, and such folks generally don't keep up a subscription to _National Geographic_. Upon closer inspection (which in general worried me even further that my boss had lost his ever lovin' mind), I noticed that his hair was actually standing up. It didn't lay back down for about two weeks, after the comet left the news.

A description of Rudy: He's about 5' 10", around 200 pounds, with salt and pepper hair and muddy brown eyes. He had, as I've mentioned, lesions on his neck and back, and he never showered. This was the first of his eccentricities that I noticed, although certainly not his oddest. The reason for it, he said, was that he sprayed chemicals all day. You and I, being only half as smart as Rudy, would think that you'd need to wash all that shit off of you at the end of the day, right? No, not Rudy. Rudy figured all the sweat and oil that his skin produced during a work week was something he called a "dirt/oil resistance," and this was what actually kept him from getting sick. He'd generally shower the night before payday, which got to be a real drag if it was your job to ride around with him during the day.

On his application, he listed under "Areas of Special Interest or Studies" the word "girls," which was honest and I suppose intended to break the ice a little bit, all of us having that same interest and all. Over time, I found out he was also interested in driving cabs, poetry, and bodice ripping space operas, which he ultimately combined into a book, which I own, called _The Cab Driver With A Fare To Hell_. It was a limited run of I think 12 or 15, and it was printed in his bedroom on a dot matrix printer. The cover he laminated himself, at Kinko's, and he glued all the pages into each edition by hand. I was touched beyond belief when I got THE VERY FIRST COPY ever printed, especially since he had spent the months previous trying to get me to invest six thousand dollars helping him get it published for real.

Rudy had no fear of the literary establishment whatsoever. He knew without a doubt that he was more intelligent and creative than nearly all of the fan fiction writers out there, and he was in fact a published poet, or more accurately had had some of his poems published in collections. He showed me a couple of awards for some of his poems, which I can't describe, but they certainly seemed official looking. So just when you're starting to think this guy's just a big smelly boob who sounds like Gomer Pyle and looks like a leper, he busts off with something really quite interesting. I had him write a poem for projecting onto the dome at BM 2001, and I wish I knew what became of it. Maybe Dan has it.

Once Rudy got to know you, he told you everything that went on with him. In one day, I heard about his sister Velvet (yes, in case you were thinking he's the result of some sort of freak accident, his parents named his older sister Velvet Jones), how he invented cold fusion in a car battery, and how his uncle paid a friend of the family to have sex with him. Him=Rudy, in this case, and it was completely lost on him that maybe she wanted to do it in the shower for reasons not quite so kinky as he thought.

Rudy was also convinced that the USAF had injected him with plutonium phosphate in the 1980's, so they could track him while he was stationed in Europe. Yes, this man worked on airplanes, folks. Furthermore, he believed that the military AND Hollywood were stealing from him all the time, because he wrote a story in which figured a missile that he named the "Hellfire" missile, which as you may know is now stuck on the bottoms of Predator drones. Hollywood, of course, was just as steeped in space opera Trekkie madness as he was, so it's no surprise to me that plot elements in _Cab Driver_ show up in most Star Wars/Trek flicks.

He is, however, the only person I know of who approached William Shatner in an autograph line, with a book. Shatner reached for the book and lifted his pen to sign it, only to find that Rudy had already signed it--it was, of course, one of the first run of _Cab Driver_.

He also had a thing for the mom off of the Brady Bunch, which is all well and good until you find out he thinks your girlfriend looks just like the mom off the Brady Bunch. Apparently Florence Henderson gave him a poetry award at some point in the past, and he's never forgotten how nice she was.

Anyway, there's an overview of Rudy and his life. I think there are about 10 stories that I can post on here, and then I'll move on to poor Fernando the ex coke dealer. I think that'll be enough time to get my head straight, and maybe by the time I get done with Rudy you guys won't think I'm so crazy after all.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Cheating A Little

I'm writing this before I complete Sketchy Bill, mainly because I suspect I'm going to be hard pressed to get it done before Wednesday night. With any luck at all, that post dating trick will work out, and this won't be visible til Wednesday.

So, here are our choices for the story after next:

1) Selling LSD to military air traffic controllers. SATMATC, in other words. This is a long story, most of which is a road trip story about my visit to Watertown NY in 1992, and my experiences crossing the border into (and back out of) Canada. Eh.

2) Don't give ecstasy to your coke dealer. This is an incredibly intense but fairly short story that makes my head hurt just thinking about it, and it took place more than 2 years ago. The moral of the story is if you're going to give someone drugs, you should make sure they're in the habit of sleeping at least once every three or four days. Oh, and that coke dealers are bad, bad people with a bad, bad habit.

Talk amongst yourselves. I'll be back next week.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Sketchy Bill 19: The Wit and Wisdom of Sketchy Bill, Or How I Hugged A Naked Man

Bill held forth from his bathtub for the better part of an hour. He spoke and gestured grandly, which caused a lot of water and suds to slop out on the floor, but what he said made a lot of sense. His point, in general, was that I'd let him, as a friend, down. He'd trusted me, more than most people he'd known for much longer. He'd told me things he'd never told anyone, apparently, and while I'd helped him through a bad time in the preceding months, ultimately I, like everyone else, had let him down.

(I felt like pointing out that this is exactly what I'd told him the night before, that everyone will eventually let you down in some capacity sooner or later. I refrained.)

Next, and this eased my mind a bit, he talked about how much he liked me and how he felt like I had a lot to offer the world, if I would just sit down and Do Something With My Life. This meant a) the ecstasy was kicking in and b) he probably wasn't going to have me killed, since he was talking about my future and all.

He talked about how important friendship was, and how I didn't try hard enough to show my friends they had my respect and love. Which is true, in some cases, and I thought that was pretty canny of him. Finally, he said, I didn't have enough discipline, which is definitely true, but rather worrisome to hear in this situation.

He began to sort of drift around and repeat himself, which was another encouraging sign that he was losing focus on How Jeff Had Failed Him. In turn, my mind drifted off, as I sat crosslegged in this man's opulent bathroom. And it finally occurred to me.

Why hadn't the bastard used his garage door opener to get inside? I knew it worked, I'd seen it work the night before. Later, I asked Nefertiti, and she couldn't help. She had asked at the time, she thought, but he ignored her. Possibly in order to make myself feel better, I've decided in the intervening years that all this would have been avoidable if he'd just punched the button on his visor, instead of worrying so much about his only housekey. But then, if that had happened, this wouldn't be much of a story, I guess.

Bill was winding up again, in a rather unnerving way, and edging back into a mixture of "you gotta respect your friends" and "you're an asshole if you don't write more." Thankfully, Nefertiti came in at that point and, much to my relief, told him that "Mike and Rusty" had arrived.

Before I could think, Bill had lunged, wet and completely nude, from the tub. He waved one hand at Nef, sort of a "go take care of 'em" gesture, then grabbed me by both shoulders. I was, of course, rather uncomfortable with this, but his pupils were completely blown by this point, and that reminded me of how red sparks had appeared to spray from them not too long ago, so I let it ride. Bill said "I love you, brother," and gave me a big, wet, hug. Naked. For a lot longer than I felt good about, actually. Then he stalked past me into the bedroom, gesturing for me to follow him. Gingerley, I followed, with one eye always on the exit. I wasn't too pleased that half again the dose of ecstasy that had made me puke less than 48 hours ago couldn't even be found anywhere in my system, no matter how hard I looked.

Anyway, Bill had donned a silk dressing gown (yes, it probably looked about like you are picturing it) and started digging through his desk drawers. After a few minutes, he began thrusting loose pages of books at me, which after a few I realized were the pages of Bukowski's Love is a Dog From Hell, which I'd given him out in the desert a few months previously.

This was also rather encouraging--or maybe the (e) was finally kicking in. Yep, that was it, because I began thinking that whatever else Bill might be, he really just wanted to fit in. And here he was, cursed with all this money and power, so incapable of understanding humanity that he had to import me, of all people, to explain it to him. And, in the end, I'd been right.

The rest of the evening is pretty spotty. The guys downstairs were the owners of whatever club I'd recently fled. One of them, Rusty, was obviously gay, and very angry at someone (I'm pretty sure it was Mike). As a result, he didn't do much of anything except sit and sulk the rest of the night, and even refused my very generous offer of an ecstasy pill in favor of burning holes in Mike's back. I tried to be friendly, folks, but it just wasn't to be.

Mike and Bill kept disappearing somewhere, until I got smart and tagged along, at which point I discovered them snorting big rails of coke off of the bathroom counter. This being slightly more fun that sitting around talking at Rusty, who had this annoying habit of smirking and looking away whenever I said anything, I hung out in there for a bit.

I remember Bill staggering out of the kitchen and bellowing "hey you fuckin' Okie, why don't you go find Nefertiti?" Or maybe it was "bring Nefertiti to me, you fuckin' Okie!" Either way, "fuckin' Okie" became a term of affection, which I didn't really mind since I was all loaded up on (e) again. Anyway, I tromped upstairs, making more noise as I went up because I was getting worried that I wasn't finding Nef or Mike in any of the empty rooms.

Finally, I came to the bathroom I had so recently been schooled in, and (of course) the door was shut. I pushed open the door, and Mike promptly stopped it with his hand, trying to push it shut. He was staring absentmindedly at something on the floor, out of my vision. I pushed my way in, at least far enough to get my head in, and was greeted with the sight of a naked, supine Nefertiti, squirming around and rubbing what appeared to be baby oil onto her breasts. Mike was drizzling this oil onto her belly with one hand and had gone back to rubbing his (thankfully clothed) pecker with the other.

This scared the shit out of me, for obvious reasons. I'd spent a great deal of time worrying about how NOT to get killed by Bill, and here was his freakin' girlfriend cheating on him (or preparing to) in his own goddamn bathroom. I broke it up immediately, which strangely enough didn't seem to bother either of them.

Half an hour later, the two guys and I were downstairs when the bedsprings started again upstairs. Mike and I each took another ecstasy pill, and he invited me into the kitchen. In the kitchen was a fucking injection rig. This was the first injection rig I'd ever seen, and it suddenly struck me that Mike's whole laissez-faire attitude about the evening most likely had something to do with heroin. I also copped to the fact that Rusty was probably mad at Mike for just this reason.

None was offered to me, which meant I didn't have to say no to it, which I most definitely would have done. There's a cold, sort of withdrawn feeling to a person on heroin, and I didn't like it, especially as high as I was on MDMA.

Sometime after the sun came up, Bill came back down and Nefertiti left. The four of us sat around and drank beer and talked shit (mostly it was Bill talking shit to me and Rusty, but I didn't mind). I was high as fuck, and I started thinking about how long I could possibly stay this way (asking those guys didn't help--"the rest of your fucking life" was as close to a coherent answer as I got). This led to a sort of cascade effect ending with me bouncing around the house like a chicken on speed, looking for a clock (Bill having busted all the ones in that part of the house over the course of the weekend).

I'd forgotten I had a plane to catch, and I had about an hour before it took off.

And I was completely high on drugs, although my body was rapidly shutting down. Bill thought this was the funniest thing he'd ever seen, so he was kind enough to call me another cab and throw a fifty in the seat. He then dragged me back in the house for a big bear hug, a dangerously large hogleg of cocaine, and an admonition to "hurry, because you're probably going to pass out when that wears off!" Before I knew it, I was kicked out of the cab with about 10 minutes to reach my plane, with my pupils two different sizes, my nose running, and barely enough sanity to talk my way through airport security. My physical state did cause me to completely forget that I was smuggling illegal drugs over state lines, because I was more concerned with being able to board the flight at all, since I was plainly in the grip of some sort of psychosis.

All I can figure is that San Francisco International sees a lot of this sort of thing after Halloween weekend, because no one batted an eye.

Bill was right, I thought as I approached the counter. I've got enough energy to breeze through the line, hit my seat, and crash the fuck out for three or four hours. Then I noticed my flight was canceled.

Long story short (ha!), I spent the next eight or nine hours being shuttled around the southwest on various airlines, mainly because I looked so bedraggled and sad that no one wanted to have me sleeping in their terminal any longer than necessary. On the last leg, I had a woman ask to be moved because I smelled bad. I don't blame her. By that time, I was actually wishing my dismembered corpse was floating in San Francisco Bay, instead of on yet another stupid fucking airliner somewhere over the Rockies.

My original arrival time back in Oklahoma was to be 11pm--I didn't land until 3am, with work at 7:30am.

The next weekend (I slept the remainder of the week, when I wasn't working), we all gathered at my house to hear this story and take whatever drugs I had managed to secrete in my bag during the course of the weekend. After a somewhat less detailed version of what you've just read, I rummaged around in my flight bag and produced...exactly one small brown tab of (e). There was no joy in Mudville.