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.


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