Another Day in Studio City

The guy sat there all shaggy hair and old clothes in front of the Union Bank on Ventura Boulevard. He was likely a bum; had a few things with him. Packages of some sort. Could almost smell him through the television set and then he pulled out a gun and  POPOPOP he fired into the air. Everyone has cameras everywhere so it was caught just like a movie. A bad movie. He carried on and eventually the cops came and surrounded him.

Everyone watched as POPOPOP he fired again up and around at nothing in particular and they smoked his ass right there and that was it for him. Protocol being what it is, the cops brought out a robot to inspect the packages, the idea being that the guy might have been a terrorist and the packages might have been bombs. They exploded the packages with the world watching and the bum’s equipment (ha) scattered everywhere, rags, paper, miscellaneous junk. They pulled the robot back in and waited for the CSI team to come.

By night the CSI team was doing their inspection and his body had been out in the valley heat for six or so hours, his body stinking worse, the blood dried black on the sidewalk. Some people still watched but not as many. There was too much to do and the guy was already dead. The action part was over and what was left was ugly and tedious. The guy hadn’t aimed at anyone save the cops so everyone knew what was going on, even if the cops had to wait and wait and follow all the rules. What did the guy care, baking there in the sun? Any way you slice it he got his reward.

A Birthday Party One Time

This was back many years before he drown. I had this big redheaded oaf of a friend named Jeff and I always looked forward to hanging out with him and swimming and playing Nintendo. Jeff’s parents used to throw his birthday parties in a wooded park and we would dress up in fatigues and have paintball wars. I looked forward to his birthday and we always had fun until the year the cops came and broke it up.

Most of us didn’t have paintball guns yet, so we had to play with wrist rockets which was still fun and made the fight more challenging. This particular year Jeff’s friend Chris came with a semi-automatic pistol that was the envy of all the other kids. It could shoot as fast as he could pull the trigger and at a much higher velocity that the wrist rockets were capable of. It was a neat gun and we were all in for some trouble. Especially since Chris was the kind of bastard kid that bullied others and whose dad had thick hairy arms and didn’t say I love you. I hated Chris before he had this neat gun.

Running around in the woods and through the creeks we had a great time until Chris popped up and battered you with a hail of paintballs. The paint stung like hell and Chris was the kind of kid that would have frozen them. I’m not sure if they were frozen but they hurt like they were. We all tried to get him and a few of us did, but the wrist rockets were no match.

Still, the day was good and we all ran and got tired in the woods. At one point Chris got the drop on me and hit me plenty as I fumbled to load a ball. I remember him laughing in a broken pubescent cackle. Chris was the kind of kid who grew up faster too, and would fuck all throughout high school and shave and have a car people envied. He cackled as he unloaded his semi-automatic on me and then ran off. The paintballs hurt and he had won. Guys like that always win, I thought.

Later, it was time for cake and we all talked about how much fun we had and how paintball wars were the most fun in the world. We exchanged battle stories with each other as the cake was cut and passed around. Then Chris began to brag about how he shot the shit out of me. I was little and had glasses then so it was easy to pick on me so he did. I didn’t say anything. Some kids laughed but I think most didn’t really like him and were maybe afraid of him. As the cake came around I took my wrist rocket and went behind Chris while he was talking to someone. I put a ball in it and went right behind Chris’s head and let the rocket snap. I was close enough that the leather pad slapped him right on the skull and he screamed in a screamed a pubescent scream. I don’t remember saying anything as Jeff stood in front of me, between me and Chris. Jeff was huge and he knew Chris would beat me up if he could get to me. Chris cried and screamed in rage. His fancy gun hadn’t protected him then.

Shooting a man in the back of the head is a shitty thing to do, but as a kid it felt right. We were done with the paintball war after that and one by one the parents came and took us home. I don’t recall if Jeff’s parents told mine what I’d done or not. I only saw Chris one more time after that, years later and he brought it up but said he was over it. I wasn’t, and still hated him. I don’t know what happened to him but I’m sure he’s changing oil somewhere or washing dishes with his big hairy arms and not knowing how to say I love you to his kids. Jeff continued to be a great friend until he took up kayaking in Oregon and flipped and drowned as his friends tried to pull him out. He was just too big.

Jamaica Me Crazy or A Misanthrope’s Journey to the Land of Riddim

I didn’t write a solitary word in Jamaica. That’s not to say that I didn’t make a note of everything, but my idea of writing in the jungle was washed away with so much rum and sunshine. I didn’t do any work of any sort and it didn’t take long for me to stop caring. Jamaica isn’t a place for work in the conventional sense, it’s a study in humanity and in its current state, the layers are as varied as the foliage.

Jamaica for many years held the same allure as Holland: that is, none whatsoever. A flock of stinking tourists, blubbering through tea-stained eyes held no interest. As was the case with Holland, I was mistaken. Jamaica is a land of heat and poverty, music and joy. The sea is warm, the weather always potentially vicious. The money has rolled in from abroad to create enormous monstrosities along the beach where the bloated and browned come to sip punch and smoke pot with the moronic and obvious secretiveness of teenagers. Not far are the half built houses of the natives, the benches lining the streets, the goats and dogs and motorcyclists giddily dancing along the streets just inches away from haphazard automobiles.

Fortunately, I made my stay in a couples only, bungalow-strewn jungle retreat across the street from its own small beach. The jungle never sleeps and at no point did I suffer the screech of children and miserable scolding parents. Being an all-inclusive situation, I appreciate the hypocrisy of my disdain for the large resorts. Still I hold to my judgments. I formed relationships, was sold nothing, ate wonderful food and learned from locals where the locals live and what they do for fun. What they feel is wrong with their country (corruption) and what they love (most everything else), but first on the docket was what brought me to Jamaica: I needed a vacation.

Getting settled in was a simple matter of fact. The bungalow was cozy and comfortable. There was no panes in the windows, rather mesh and plantation shutters. The bathrooms were small but updated nicely. The light was dim and the entirety of the space consisted of studio, bathroom and lanai. These cottages were originally built to house white miners in the 1940′s though now the compound passes seamlessly for the boutique tourist establishment that it is.  Still, there was an obvious balance to the place that certainly cultivated charm; a balance of resort and gentleman camping that could never pass off as roughing it, though also falls far short from the amenities of more moneyed establishments.

First activity was the beach. Bloody Bay is serene and smooth, the water bathtub-warm with practically nonexistent surf. Each hotel has its own section roughly cordoned off by a rope and buoy system, though nothing impedes walking the length of the beach save a stone barrier near the southernmost curve. Peddlers pass and lackadaisically hawk their wares, seemingly uninterested past initial contact if you buy or not. I opened with the tourist drink of rum punch which was sugary and approachable. I quickly switched to rum and Ting, the local grapefruit soda. And true to the local saying: rum and Ting does indeed go with everything.

There is a bar and grill on the beach where one can grab a burger, jerk cheesy fries, fruit salad and a ubiquitous Red Stripe. There are also plenty of activities for the restless, such as snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, fishing and parasailing. For those packing penicillin and a nostalgia for Spring Break, there is the “Wild Thing” a party boat equipped with a waterslide, two trampolines and a dancing staff blasting loud and redundant reggae. I cannot give a firsthand account of life aboard the Wild Thing save an interesting anecdote that goes as follows:

There is a nearby tourist trap called Rick’s Café where people go to spend money and either pay a Jamaican to, or jump themselves from the cliff from atop where the café sits. A while back a wedding party decided to take the Wild Thing out to Ricks, partaking of the local drugs and copious amounts of alcohol.

Upon reaching Ricks, one of the more inebriated of the grooms’ party decided he would like to jump from the thirty foot cliff. A perfectly acceptable activity, though it’s made clear that one jumps at their own risk. And feet first. Apparently the warning signs are everywhere and clearly visible.

This particular gentleman decided he was up to the challenge and dove from the cliff only to emerge bumping against the rocks in a prone state. Apparently the corpse sloshed around in the surf like this for a few minutes before the staff realized the situation. The drunken and stoned crowd evidently didn’t have much of a reaction as the lifeguards fished him out and rushed the body to the hospital via taxi, ostensibly under the guise that there was still hope of reviving him.

This was relayed to me by a pipe layer from Illinois and his wife who were on their third visit to Negril.

Now I have to way of confirming the validity of the story, but what I saw of the party tourists I have no reason to doubt. I have heard of many such stories over the years of tourists sustaining bodily harm or even dying whether by mere accident or stupidity. From what I saw of the scene at Rick’s driving by days later, coupled with the nearly daily distraction of the Wild Thing boarding party goes, a cliff jumper snapping his neck makes as much sense as a hiker rolling his ankle.

Growing tired of the same scenery after a few days I ventured out in the capable hands of Lloyd, a gregarious former military man-cum-tour guide who I quickly learned seems to know everyone on the island. For $150 American he will take you to a semi-secluded destination I had learned about known as Mayfield Falls. I politely asked to have as much of a cultural sightseeing as possible and was in no way disappointed.

The Mayfield Falls are tucked away up in the mountains outside Negril. About an hour drive, we wound through the narrow streets and got a fair view of what life must truly be like in Jamaica. There were people out on the street every step of the drive up into the jungle. There is no part of the island that I experienced that isn’t teeming with life. The roads are treacherous with potholes, sporadic traffic and other obstacles, but Lloyd made the drive look absurdly easy. Winding up the hills the marshes and grasslands were overwhelmed Mangos, bananas, African Tulips and among the trees massive bamboo groves, bushes and ferns of every sort.

Reaching the village outside the falls had a compound feel. This is an insulated community and as I signed up for the hike was immediately up-sold to purchase lunch – which I did – at nearly $16 for snapper. I found this exorbitant and Lloyd quickly talked the woman down to a more reasonable price. I soon learned that all the tourist money goes to sustaining the villagers and I gladly made up for the difference later. I suppose that being transparent and simply charging a few dollars and asking for donations either hasn’t been tried or has met with unsatisfactory results. Either way, charitable as many of us are, if the motives are clear… but I digress. Once introduced to our guide Dwight, we set off across the bamboo bridge and down into the water.

Your humble correspondent won’t weigh down the piece with the myriad details that make the Mayfield Falls worth visiting. Sufficed to say, it’s a unique experience and if one is fortunate to not go as part of a group – which was my luck – that experience is exponentially better. The pools, the river jumping, he underwater tunnel, not to mention the sheer magnificence of the environment growing along the banks have to be witnessed firsthand. On the hike back to the village Dwight talked about the flora and the curious absence of fauna (there are few animals native to Jamaica that exist today; the largest – and imported – predator being the mongoose) and shed the aforementioned light on the people of Mayfield Falls. They are private and wish to remain so, yet they depend on tourist dollars. A sad conundrum around the world as these experiences dwindle with exposure.

On the tour back to town Lloyd talked about the neighborhoods, took us into the wealth of Orange Hill, showed where the foreign currencies are spent and ended at the westernmost point of Negril where the island gives way to rocky cliffs. Being close to sundown we landed at Whoopee’s for a drink. This was to be my final tourist-free experience of the trip. The sun went down and as we made our way back to the resort, the people came out. Hordes of them; natives, tourists, rich, poor, cops, kids, drunk, hobbled. The trip back was a trip indeed. This is where we passed Rick’s with its slew of waiting buses, The Caves, the clubs, Sandals, Riu and the rest of the shit show. This is the Jamaica that brings people to Jamaica. This is the Jamaica that my elitist attitude makes no subscription to. A necessary evil and seemingly more burdensome to me that to the people whose homes are overrun by the throbbing mobs. Yet this is the way it goes.

The rest of the trip was spent near the resort, watching the sea, strolling the beach, swimming and meeting people from all walks of life. I stand by my opinion that where I was fortunate to land was the least overwhelming of the other resorts I saw, and most of the other guests found that aspect the most charming as well. One solid foray out hardly counts as an adventure, but truthfully I didn’t come for adventure, I came to relax. The taste I got will certainly bring me back and I can’t stop singing praises to the wonderful people of the island. Never an optimist, I’m certain the days of a true experience are numbered. Whether that means more difficult to find or whether the plastic pantomime will stomp it out entirely, I can’t be sure. What I am sure of is that the passion of the island – the “riddim’” as they call it – won’t ever be eradicated as long as the Jamaican people exist.

I wanted to write about Jamaica while in Jamaica but I felt I would miss something. Perhaps this is masturbatory, but I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad I spent as much time outdoors and experiencing as much of the pleasure the immediate part of the  island has to offer. It’s easy to sit and speculate and digest, but that’s what the wretched nineteen hour (multiple layovers) journey home was for. I leave you now a torn man. Don’t go to Jamaica because you might ruin it. Do go to Jamaica because they need you and if you truly want a great experience, all you have to do is ask.

Almost Over

Krebs sat nursing a beer in the clapboard bar adjacent to the Coconut Mallory while Cassie, far too young to be a grandmother at forty something asked him about life in Los Angeles and what the west coast was like. So do you see stars sometimes? She asked. Sometimes yeah, Krebs replied stifling a burp. He hadn’t been this was in a long while. What’d you do last night, Cassie asked. Oh, went down to Duval and drank at Captain Tony’s and then ended up at the Garden of Eden. The thought of last night or more the fragments of it – made him nauseous.

Cassie smiled, and said the Garden of Eden was strange but worth checking out at least once if for nothing else but to say you did it. He smiled feebly at her breasts and nodded agreement. Yeah, it was okay and then I ended up back here and there was that other bartender and then I don’t remember much. Cassie had seen this plenty and took it neutrally and then asked if he had gotten a chance to see an iguana.

This trip to Key West was the first Krebs had taken since he’d gotten out of the hospital and the idea of flying across country had him in nerves for the weeks leading up to it. His pal Smitty, who still lived up in Sac had come along and that seemed to help things some. They’d been friends for a long time and there was an ease about him that settled Krebs’ mind. The fact of the matter was that the flight had been fine as had the drive down from Miami. What he’d worried about, which was having another attack, hadn’t even remotely presented itself. Unfortunately, the smart idea to drink up the town now had him feeling awful.

Ostensibly the idea had been to make use of the timeshare and to visit the Hemingway house and maybe get some snorkeling in. Smitty had ear problems so going scuba diving was out of the question. They’d gotten in late the first night and the office had been closed and by the time they settled in to the apartment (which faced the air conditioning unit) they were tired and just drank a few beers and did a little bullshitting and then went to bed. After Smitty had closed his door Krebs sat up in his room and stared at the set with the anticipation that something had to go wrong, and eventually he drifted off.

That day they’d dug the scene at the clapboard bar and that’s where they met Cassie. She didn’t seem to take as much to Smitty, but Krebs kept up with her and flirted innocently and tried to learn as much as he could about the place. It was odd to him to be a stranger in a new place and the tense waves he normally felt were gone; here he was anyone he wanted to be. He was a big shot from the big city on the west coast, not some slob realtor with a few hundred in the bank and a beat up ten year old Nissan.

After a beer they went to the pool where they met Mike, a loud middle aged dago bachelor who was travelling with his pal John, a married guy who lived in northern California. The four of them shot the shit and Mike bellowed about the girls he’d gotten and the food he cooked and how no one would ever keep him down, especially no woman. John nodded solemnly and Smitty swam around keeping his distance from the obese women on the far end and Krebs just chuckled and agreed before calling out to Smitty, hey let’s head down to Duval Street and see what’s going on. They left the other two men on amicable terms and cleaned up and hailed a cab.

Krebs had been here before a number of years ago and had tied one on and ended up crawling like an animal back to the tiny apartment close to downtown and had then driven back the whole way to Miami while his friend had slept. It had been fun but it had been too much even for his twenty six year old self. Now at thirty two the idea of going around and actually soaking up the town had more appeal. He was still riding the high of this budding newfound persona as he yakked with the cabbie about Robert the Doll and tourist girls and ghosts and how the marlin fishing was this time of year.

One they got downtown it was a matter of what to see first. I want to try a mojito, Smitty said. It only seems right since we’re here. Finding a rum bar they sat and drank. Tastes kinda the same as every other one I’ve had, Smitty noted. Yeah, I don’t think there’s much to it, Krebs said. From there they went to the Boar’s Head and to some other Hemingway bar and finally settled on Tony’s, where they would spend most of their time when they were downtown over the next few days.

You wouldn’t believe the kinda pussy you get coming through here over spring break, the bartender said in his thick New York accent. Sometimes I pick me up two or three and we go party and it’s unbelievable, unbelievable what these girls’ bodies look like nowadays at twenty, twenty one. I remember them always looking pretty good, Smitty said. Yeah, maybe, but these college girls… whew. Almost make you blow your load before anything even comes off! And with that he laughed and moved down the bar. Too bad you’re off the market, Smitty said to Krebs. It’s not so bad. Fact is I was never any good with girls anyhow, Krebs said. Besides, it’s not even spring break now.

That was pretty much how the next two days went. Kayak or swim by the Mallory and then head into town and walk around and drink. It felt like a real vacation and there was something to be said for that. It had been ages since Krebs had flown somewhere with a friend and he was enjoying it. The anxiety was gone and all he had to bother him where the blisters on his feet.

Both Krebs and Smitty were aspiring writers only Smitty worked and didn’t write and Krebs wrote and didn’t work. Smitty was a grocery clerk and had been since his twenties. He would go off on adventures now and then and this was it for the year. Krebs was jealous of him in a way, and suspected that the opposite might be true. Krebs hated his life and his writer’s block and that’s what had lead to the breakdown. Looking back on it now it was surreal to think he’s put himself in the loony bin for a couple of days, but goddamn did he need it. Now he was here drinking a sickeningly sweet Hemingway daiquiri which he new damn well nothing Papa would have drank.

Whaddaya think of these? He asked Smitty. Eh, they’re okay. A little much on the ice and sugar and not enough on the booze. That’s what Key West felt like overall. Perhaps once it had been the hideaway of pirates; the bastion of bastards and grafters and whores and rapists, but now it was something different. All the hard angles had been smoothed out and diluted. The place smacked of the shitty tourist drinks they were choking down.

Finally Smitty had had enough after the Garden of Eden yielded not sexy coeds, but a solitary nude geriatric with a backpack. This was the place bartender had suggested. Smitty finished his drink and went home. Krebs, holding on to some hope stayed behind. There was some blonde stupid looking guy sitting next to him with a large gold star of David hanging around his neck. You a Jew? Krebs asked. The guy stared back at him and answered that no, he was not, but the necklace reminded him of his stepfather. This seemed incredibly stupid to Krebs, but he said nothing and ordered a few more drinks and drank them by himself before stumbling down the three flights of stairs to the street.

He couldn’t clearly recall the cab ride back to the Coconut Mallory, but he made it and wandered down to the clapboard bar where Cassie wasn’t working but rather some washed out ex-trophy wife stood stupidly dispensing beer and tiny boxes of wine. This woman was an idiot compared to Cassie and Smitty was long asleep so Krebs just kept drinking beer and looking around and hoping the plump brunette might turn beautiful but she did not. After a while Mike and John showed up to play pool.

Hi uh, Bob? Mike said. Krebs didn’t bother to correct him and instead launched into some diatribe recounting his adventures on Duval street and how the bartender told him about all the pussy that could be had around town during spring break. Then he retold about the Swedish-looking Jew and the old man with the massive gut and the tiny penis. At no point did either Mike or John say anything, but looked back and forth to each other uneasily as Krebs continued to hover around them.

Look buddy, maybe you should take it easy, huh? Mike suggested, clearly irritated. John said nothing and his expression betrayed nothing. I’m okay, Krebs said. I thought we were pals. You said, you know about Northern California… Finally John chimed in: look, We’re not your friends. That was the squirrelly guy who probably also got sick of your rambling. Now buzz off.

The next day Krebs couldn’t really remember much other than a vague guilt and how even at the time he felt hurt and alone. Laying nauseous in bed he dreamed that he’d composed himself or perhaps even threatened the men and they had apologized for being rude, though he knew that didn’t happen. He’d made a fool of himself and no amount of anything was going to fill that blurred confusing hole with consolation.

Downstairs Smitty was watching television. Really tied one on, huh? I guess so, Krebs replied weakly. You tried to make a pizza but got frustrated or something and I found it defrosting in a cold oven, Smitty informed him. Shit, I don’t remember that… and sure enough there was some pizza – now cooked and half gone – sitting on the countertop. I’m not surprised, Smitty said and went back to watching his program. I’m going to go snorkeling if you’re interested. I don’t want to sit inside all day. Krebs nodded as he began chewing his half of the pizza.

After vomiting and taking a cocktail of pills and fluids in order to settle his stomach, Krebs and Smitty had found themselves on a chartered boat with a small group of guides and three homosexual scuba divers. The day on the water had gone well, the rolling waves soothing Krebs’ sickness. In fact, he hadn’t gotten sick at all, rather one of the scuba divers did after being tossed around by the current inside of a wreck they’d been exploring.

The ocean was a tonic. The steel gray sky and the warm drizzle and the chop of the waves made Krebs feel better. Why was it every time he wanted to have fun he ended up with regret instead? He was a grown man acting like a damn fool, but there on the boat all was well in the world. To cap the afternoon he and Smitty had come face to face with a large barracuda that vaguely followed them around in hopes of scavenging something. Even the stings of the jellyfish on the way back to the boat didn’t seem to bother him and once on deck he looked at his red-banded skin where the tendrils had gotten him.

All the way back to shore he slept and it wasn’t until they got back to the hotel did the sense of irresponsibility return. The adventure was still fresh, yet just like the lingering phantom of the hangover, his mind was conflicted. Finally deciding to face himself he went down to the bar and found only Cassie working and he sat down and ordered a beer as the rain began to fall. This was the night before Krebs was going back to California and as Cassie spoke he looked out at the gently rippling water and the silently bobbing boats and wondered if he would ever find himself here again.

Lunch Break

The day the Wagstaff boy came in and said he’d found a little negro kid dead by the river we were all hunched over our lunches dreading getting back out in the heat to work. The village was just a few yards from the water and some of us went back with him where some of his buddies were standing guard over the body.

Sanchez and I had both been in the war and a dead body wasn’t anything particularly strange other than it’s always sad in a way to see a dead kid. He was wearing raggedy clothes and couldn’t have been more than maybe seven or eight. When we flipped him over Sanchez said Jesus, that it was no mayate at all, but a little Indian from Mexico. Some of the families had been in the area lately for field work and odd jobs. This must have been one of their kids.

What should we do, one of the boys asked? I told him to go fetch the cops and we would stay there. All three of the boys ran off and Sanchez and I crouched down to inspect the tiny dark face. Around his mouth was a crust of filth and snot caked on his nose; the small dead black eyes glazed over staring into space. Hard to think how they must live in those shitholes, Sanchez said. I nodded. What do you think did him in? I said I wasn’t sure, but best to not mess with the body and leave that to the cops.

Jake Nelson, who’d been sitting in his squad car by the park came back with the boys. He nodded a greeting; boys, he said. Hiya Jake, how’s things? He looked beat, which wasn’t strange since his wife just had a baby not too long ago. Okay, he replied. Don’t think I’ve got a good night’s sleep in six months though. What do we have here? Luke says it’s a negro? Indian, Sanchez corrected.

Jake crouched down over the body and felt the vitals as if there was any chance the kid could still be alive. Don’t think he’s been down here long, Sanchez said. Goddamn, he’s a filthy thing, isn’t he? Though it was doubtful, Jake checked to see if there was any clue that might lead to who the kid was. He told the boys to stand back and as he shifted the body to check the little pockets the ragged pants slipped down revealing the nakedness of a girl. Well I’ll be damned, Sanchez said.

Jake was quick to act. Get out of here and go find sheriff Lewis! He barked to Luke Wagstaff and his pals. And tell him to get the coroner out here too. The boys lingered momentarily, startled at the sudden order and confused as to what had just happened. Git! Jake repeated. The three of us didn’t say anything but it was obvious what had happened as we saw the dribble coming out of the little girl. Jesus, Sanchez whispered. Jake didn’t say anything and hiked the dirty trousers back up. We knew what he was thinking, it being that his kid was a daughter too.

You want us to hang around until they get back? I asked. Jake sort of shrugged indifferently, his eyes not leaving the body. Damndest thing, ain’t it? Can’t say I’ve ever come across this sort of thing… he trailed off. I noticed that the neck was darker than the rest of the skin and I had my ideas but I kept quiet. I could tell Sanchez wasn’t so sure what to do either which is why we were relieved when we heard them coming back down through the brush.

Well, I guess we better get going back to work now, Sanchez said. Jake and I both nodded, only he still hadn’t looked back towards us. Take care, Jake. I said. As we passed the sheriff and the coroner we nodded but didn’t say much since we didn’t know them the way we knew Jake. We just pointed down the hill and kept going on.

The View

The claim of a view from Catalina to downtown was bullshit. Maybe it was possible at sometime, but the smog usually made it so there was no way o see that far. Though right now it didn’t matter. It was night and the city spread out in front of him, a blanket of shimmering lights. It had take years to get used to this dump, let alone climb up the hill. But now he was up here and for the first time in over a decade, alone.

A drop of condensation fell from his glass onto his bare foot. Absently he looked down and was reminded how seldom he wore shoes or dressed in much other than shorts and a short sleeved shirt. Perhaps the view was largely a myth, but one thing for certain was that the weather… the goddamned weather was almost always exactly the same. As he fixed a fresh drink he thought about how ridiculous it was that people moved to Los Angeles for that, the weather. Of all the silly fucking things.

When he moved down he had come with nothing, just like most people. Unlike most people, however, he didn’t have a plan or aspirations. He came down for love and vaguely for a change of scenery. There were years cramped in that little apartment with a tight budget; the arguments bouncing off the walls, the noise from the street, the salad days. Funny how it seemed so hopeless back then and now at middle age there is plenty of space and money but no soul. No, now things were static just like the weather.

Going back to the window he wondered when the girl would show up. Doubtless late. They all showed up late and demanded too much and left a bigger hole than before they got there. That was the beauty of marriage, which he had to admit he still missed: the comfort of partnership. A partnership he dissolved as soon as he found his mortality in a few grey hairs. As simply and as stupidly as that, it was over and once the dust settled there was nothing more to be done about it. Now here he was, thinking about what it might be like to entertain a girl in her twenties for the first time in twenty years.

As if on cue the doorbell rang. He took a solid pull to brace himself and answered it. She stood there all perfume and make-up in an absurdly short dress and spiked heels. There was an almost costume quality to her outfit, but shit, that’s what they do nowadays. Oversexed children with something incomprehensible going on in their minds.

Right on time, come in! He said.

She brushed past him with confidence that only girls that look like that possess. An easy indifference in the absolute knowledge that they can have or do anything they want. Money couldn’t buy that confidence, though clearly it fed it.

Where can I put my clutch?

Wherever is fine. Can I get you a drink?

You have SkinnyGirl?


I guess white wine then and a straw if you have that.

She sat down on the couch and faced the city. Wow, this is really nice, the view. Bet you never get sick of it.

Yes, it’s nice. He handed her the glass of wine with a straw sticking absurdly out at a precarious angle.

You have some ice?

It was a ninety dollar bottle of sauvignon blanc and she wants a fucking straw and ice. He turned to fetch the ice, asking you have a hard time finding the place?

Not too bad. I used to see this guy had a place up here, but he didn’t have the view you have. It’s a really nice one.

He brought a small bowl with ice and having refreshed his drink for a fourth time sat down boldly close to her on the couch. For all his accomplishments, he’d never been able to shake off the crippling lack of confidence around women. He was that awkward teen again, just waiting to be rejected. The fact that it was his house and his couch and his booze and his view didn’t matter. This child still somehow held control. So how long you been in L.A.? he asked.

About two years I guess.

Like it?

It’s okay. I like the vibe and all but I dunno, I might check out Miami or maybe New York in another year or so. I haven’t decided.

Those are also expensive cities.

She looked at him quizzically, obvious that that aspect had never crossed her mind. Yeah, I guess so she said.

How’s the wine?

Good. I like it. Just had my teeth whitened and most people don’t know that white wine can stain teeth too. It’s cool the stuff you don’t know.

He took a pull of his drink and asked her what she wanted to do.

I don’t care, I was thinking maybe just stay in or something. We could order food, maybe watch some TV.

That didn’t sound like a bad idea. He wasn’t really in the mood for getting dressed up and calling a car to go down the hill. He didn’t want to run into anyone – not that this particular age discrepancy was anything out of the ordinary – he just didn’t want to make small talk. He glanced down at his father’s Rolex. Well it’s already eight o’clock. You have anything you’re craving?

Huh? Oh, I’m not really hungry, I just meant more if you were. I’ll have some more of this though.

He took her glass to the bar and called back. If you’re not hungry I’m fine. I probably have popcorn or something if you do get snacky later.

Snacky? Jeez, my dad says that all the time.


Yeah, it’s okay though.

You get along with your parents?

Yeah. I kinda miss being so far away, but it’s good I came out and they still help if I need it, y’know with money and stuff. I don’t want to talk about them though.

Tell me again why you moved out here? Naturally he already knew the answer, but the topic fascinated him.

I always wanted to be an actress.

I never understood that.

Well isn’t that why you came out? I mean that’s where you made your money, right?

Some of it, but I never was an actor.

Well, you know what I mean. What are you drinking?

An old fashioned.

You would drink an old fashioned! The wine was starting to loosen her up some. He thought back to the days when a glass or two of wine might have done something other than taste good.

I guess so, he said. Old fashioned guy drinking and old fashioned. Christ, had he just fucking said that? He felt his face flush hot, the teenage boy. Only she wasn’t looking at him.

You’re not that old. Of course, when you say stuff like that…

It sounded different in my head. I guess I’m still rusty with this kind of thing.

She turned back. What kind of thing?

This. Girls… dating, all of it.

She considered this and sipped her wine through its straw. She was beautiful. She had this fresh look to her that was supposed to make him feel young, but really just made him feel impossibly old.

You have a busy day tomorrow? She asked.

He shrugged. Every day is exactly the same. Busy enough. Can’t complain.

I should say not. She turned back out to the view, clearly lost in her own thoughts. He wondered what she was thinking about. I should say not. That sounded strange coming from her. Maybe she was smarter than he’d given her credit for. Maybe there was something else going on that he’d written off. Looking at her neck, her slender fingers and the curve of her breasts he wondered about this girl and what might be.

Then she said actually I have to meet some friends later, but first I wanted to show you something.

She put her glass down and stood up taking his hand. He took a final slug and set his glass down. Her hands were soft and the perfume was light but he felt drunker for it. She smiled and pecked him on the cheek and nibbled his earlobe.

So it’s like that, is it?

It’s like that, she responded.

She led him along the windows to the bedroom and pushed him back onto his ridiculously large bed. Everything was white, he thought. As the girl began a little striptease he wondered why every rich asshole in the hills has everything in white and he wondered when exactly he became one of them. Here he was, the exact thing he’d hoped he’d never become. All the way down to the girl.

You like what you see?

Uh huh, he answered thickly, his mouth dry. She wriggled out of her dress, her perfectly tan body lithe and firm. Heels on or off? She asked. He gestured that it didn’t matter. She lifted a heeled foot up between his legs and smiled as he leered at her waxed nakedness. She smiled, on then. Moving her leg back to the floor, she dropped to her knees and unzipped him as he leaned back and stared at the ceiling.

After they were done she rolled over and faced the window again. He couldn’t tell how much time had passed, maybe hours, but likely closer to one. She had been marvelous in a vaguely dreamlike pornographic way, the budding emotion he’d felt before now extinguished. One day I hope to have a place with a view like this, she said softly.

You sure you have to go? You can stay you know.

No, I have to get going. She rose from the bed and went to the bathroom. He heard the water running as she cleaned herself up and got back into her dress. A few minutes she came out as if nothing had happened. He hadn’t bothered to put on anything past shorts, his hands crossed self consciously over his little gut. You’re beautiful, you know that? He offered. She smiled slightly and crossed over to plant a peck on his forehead. Walk me out?

As he walked her to the front door he looked at her ass wiggling in the little dress and thought about how he could have never gotten any girls that looked like that before. Or maybe he could have had he tried. Better late than never, he supposed. She didn’t say anything until the foyer.

So how do you want to do this? Cash or PayPal?

I have cash. Old fashioned, remember? He took out his wallet and counted six hundred dollar bills and gave them to her.

You know, I like that you always have cash. That’s why you’re one of my favorites. Makes me feel rich. That and I could stare out that window forever. With that she gave his hand a little squeeze. See you again soon?

You bet. Have a good night. And be safe.

Jeez. There you go sounding like my dad again. Well, see you around. And then she was gone. As he walked back to the bar he could still smell her perfume in the air. Glancing down at the couch he could see little ripples in the leather where she had sat. He poured this one extra stiff and walked over to the window, alone again with his thoughts and the view.

The Social Shitwork

Brice couldn’t believe what he was seeing on his phone. This certainly wasn’t the first corn-based shitpic he’d ever seen, but Skylar had knocked it out of the park. This resembled the contents of an entire can of whole kernel corn held together with only the slightest noticeable amount of feces. If it wasn’t sitting in Skylar’s toilet right now he wouldn’t believe it. But he recognized the tissue dispenser sitting on the tank. Totes jelly.

This had been the third shock Brice had suffered this week. First his cousin in Amsterdam Vined himself taking a herring and beer shit which was already up to a hundred and seventy thousand hits. Then Django’s little cousin had autotuned her shit after eating Brussels sprouts and cheese; a cacophony of gas followed by just a few pebbles of hard, dark shit. It was hilarious. And now this cornucopia.

Brice’s mind reeled at how to top it. It seemed like everyone else was doing so many more exciting things with their shit. Glamorous things on a bigger scale. He felt he was falling behind and that his only true accomplishment to date – a smooth, fibrous turd at least two feet long that had coiled upon itself – was now old news and long forgotten.

Going downstairs he saw Crispin uninterestedly picking at a bowl of tuna and cheese while Kidz Bop played silently on the set. Crispin was lost in his new “Limoncello Piss” yellow Beats headphones. Even if he weren’t listening to Brokencyde he wouldn’t be much help. They’d been trying to top each other’s shit for years.

His iPhone 7, 12G LTE buzzed and to his horror he saw that Bianca from Home Ec. had just posted a picture of shit she left on the couch after eating some bad pizza. It already had ten likes. His heart sank as he clipped his phone back to its carabiner. It was unfathomable how this could be happening. Crispin chuckled hollowly from the table. Suely he’d just seen Bianca’s upload.

Going through the pantry Brice scrambled to find something, anything that he could work with. His shit from this morning had been unimpressive. He posted as they all did to keep up with shit, but it had only received several courtesy likes. He found a can of quinoa and some fiber powder which would be a good start, but not nearly enough. Some refried beans made with lard and jalapeno would help and he snatched those.

From there he moved on to the fridge. His phone buzzed again and within seconds his brother laughed. Brice wasn’t going to look. This is the kind of popularity contest that leads to school shootings and teen suicide. He had to keep his eye on the prize. Old Chinese food, good. Some finely shredded cheddar cheese. A bowl full of grease-filmed ground round. In the crisper he found kale, asparagus and onions. He took them all.

His brother looked at him and picked the crotch of his pants before pushing his bowl away and leaving the room. Brice placed all the items on the counter and started to figure a plan. The phone buzzed again and he couldn’t resist. Devon holding up her Great Dane’s shit in a napkin, Chadwick in Rio Instagramming a sweet pic of a public bathroom. Shit smeared all over the walls and floor. “Wish you were here.” The likes were instant.

More and more shit popped up in myriad forms, all of it incredible. What was going on? It was three in the afternoon. How did people have all this shit to post? Didn’t anyone study or work or sleep? He put his phone back and got out the blender and put everything in. At this point it would be a chunky paste that would take too long to consume. He needed something to add viscosity and settled for garlic-infused olive oil and two-percent milk.

Starting slow, Brice pulsed the concoction to break it up and then slowly upped the speed (adding fluids accordingly) until the blender whirred in easy indifference. After several minutes it looked like he was finished. He poured his creation into his old sixty four ounce Yo Gabba Gabba  Travelchug to shield it from prying eyes and poured in several squirts of Sriracha for good measure before moving to the couch.

He placed his phone on silent but still checked it constantly as he drank, each post further steeling his resolve. The goop went down well enough, oily and spicy and cool. A few chunks hadn’t broken down completely and he chewed these thoughtfully as he liked Raymundo’s ghost shit, evidenced only by faintest brown-orange smear at the bottom of the bowl.

By the time That’s So Raven came on he was done. The fear gripped him as he felt nothing. Nothing at all, nothing brewing, no gas no anything. He couldn’t let his Wednesday end like this. Come Monday they would be back in school and only the best shit would be talked about and there was a dance coming up and if he didn’t have anything… he was beside himself.

Ten minutes turned to twenty, turned to thirty. The day was dragging at a snail’s pace. How long would he have to wait? What if nothing happened? He got up off the couch and went back upstairs to play XBOX Palladium.  When he got to the top of the stairs, a grumble. Then another. He felt a hot jet soil his shorts and smiled.

Brice ran to the bathroom as the cramps grew acute and came at regular intervals. But what’s this? Locked! Crispin was probably in there jerking off again. More gas and shit started leaking out as he ran to his parent’s room. At last! He set up his iPhone on its built-in tripod and peeled off his jeans, hot shit flowing everywhere.

Shit sprayed on the shower door and seeped into the carpet. Shit got ankle deep and shit flecked up and soaked his shirt. The smell was wretched and he desperately wished he had the technology to share that. He took his phone and panned the room as the shit kept coming. It was massive and positively the most exciting thing he’d ever seen. This was the kind of shit that would get Lisle to go to the dance with him.

The unblinking eye of the phone caught it all and stored it safely in the cloud. Soon the bathroom looked as if someone had exploded an IED of shit in it. Not a square inch lay bereft of Brice’s glory. The stream had slowed down and he sat dizzily at the edge of the toilet. His head hurt and the shit seemed redder than it should have been.

As the bathroom bowed and shrank before his eyes he fumbled to post the video and peppered Facebook with some stills for good measure. The likes started coming in and he smiled as he stood and tripped over a length of lumpy red rope on the floor. He pulled it with his foot and felt it deep in his gut. His eyes widened and he took another step and fell forward into the doorknob lodging it into his right orbit.

It was uncertain how long it took his parents to get back from the farmer’s market and find Brice, but authorities calculate he lay dead in his shit for at least twelve hours before his body was discovered. The video received six billion hits, which means that roughly eighty six percent of the world saw what Brice had accomplished.

Back at school he was the talk of the town. People wore parachute pants filled with Jello pudding; the memes went into the hundreds of thousands. Dozens of blogs were created in his honor. “What Would Brice Poo” bracelets became de rigueur across the developed world. Brice’s glory radiated across the land for almost an entire week. Until a boy named Siegfried Carbuncle was taped launching his shit through not one, but three flaming hoops he’d set up in his grandmother’s back yard.

The Plus One

It was the usual boring gala, this time for charity benefitting the impoverished cataractous  Jewish children of the world, Krystal Klear Kids. It was the kind of event that happens incessantly in this part of Los Angeles at this time of year. The food was the same, the same tired hollow women, glowing in jewels and sequins. The old Hollywood with their fishbowl glasses, the climbers, the desperate wait staff. This could have been anywhere, but it was likely the Beverly Hilton. Or maybe it was the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The droning presentation over, the social hour commenced. He sat alone at the table, the cold plastic chicken in front of him still and his wine glass nearing empty. He was wearing an expensive suit he’d had tailored. He looked good and uncomfortable, but he was playing a role and this was important that he come and support her and drink as much as he could without drawing negative attention to himself. That was his sole duty at these things.

He couldn’t spot her anywhere. She always disappeared like this leaving him to drink alone. These weren’t his circles, his events or people. He was a heartbeat at a table. Mulling this over he drained his wine and asked for more. Anonymity provided him a certain comfort, so he continued to get drunk completely unnoticed by everyone aside from the awkward waiter who continued to fill his cup. The waiter probably thought he was someone. The idea made him laugh. The idiot probably came from Bumfuck Indiana to make his Hollywood dreams come true and here he was: trying to impress a ghost by being prompt with the cheap wine.

The minutes flowed into what felt like an eternity as his contempt grew with the drink. Why did he agree to this? He wasn’t the only one, true, but these appendage men – these plus ones – didn’t have soul left to befriend one another. This terrified him. He didn’t want to die like that. He didn’t want to sit here like that. He needed to get up and move around at least. Feel the blood move through his legs. He decided  he had to go to the bathroom. The first time he was on his feet since he’d sat down nearly two hours ago. It would be good to stretch and maybe catch an eyeful of some of the trophies bursting from their dresses as they milled dully about.

Weaving silently through the crowd he looked at all the breasts and legs and asses of the young women who were invariably attached to much older, richer and uglier men. He hated these people and the women in particular. He would have never asked any one of them out. They had never been an option for him and he hated them – and himself – for it.

Hot and angry he entered the empty bathroom. Pure silence. Was he truly alone? He glanced at himself in the mirror and thought more about the women and the city and being broke and never sleeping enough. He still looked okay, but that would fade. He would just continue to fade and fade a bit more each day until he was part of the landscape. No more than a pebble or a discarded can or a used condom drying in the sun.

Glancing around he noticed that the door to the last stall was open. He went over to investigate and was surprised to find it being cleaned by a young Hispanic woman. He knew nothing of these people; the people that clean and cook and fix everything. They too were part of the landscape, their brown skin matching the city. He looked curiously down at her. She was pretty in a simple peasant way and tried to apologize unintelligibly as he closed the door behind them.

The terror in her eyes froze her tongue as he pushed her back over the open toilet and tore open her uniform. He stared down into the quivering brown and black pools, daring a tear to come out. None came as he worked away her panties revealing a large mass of pubic hair. The sight of the tufted hair disgusted him as did her small flat breasts in their dirty,  too-large bra. Yet he’d gone too far to quit now and he pushed through and forced his way inside her the dry coarse heat giving way to slippery warmth.

As quickly as it had begun, it was over.  His hand had moved away from her mouth and still she made no sound, only heaved softly. As he zipped himself he felt a mix of pity and regret for the creature that sat crumpled quietly before him. Had she enjoyed any of it? What he knew is that now he felt nothing for the women outside, rather a feeling of shame set in.

She began to say something as she feebly attempted to pull her torn uniform up around herself. She seemed somewhat annoyed in a simple way that was somehow worse. He realized that he had nothing for her so took a utility knife from her cleaning bucket and sawed her throat open as cleanly as he could, pushing her head into the toilet to catch the blood like the slaughtering of a sacrificial goat.

Cautiously he peeked out of the stall and found that he was still alone. He thought it was curious that at no point had she made a noise. The whole ordeal transpired as if she expected it.  Had she made a noise he would have spared her. He didn’t intend on killing anyone but now that he had he was exhilarated. He smoothed his hair and checked his tuxedo for evidence. In no time he looked perhaps better than when he’s entered the bathroom. As he was drying his hands another man walked in, and his blood ran cold.

He looked about desperately for something to bludgeon the old man with but the man did nothing to acknowledge him as  he brushed past to the end stall. After an instant the old man muttered something about  ”someone should clean that up” before moving several stalls down and closing the door. He couldn’t believe his luck. Had the old man seen what he’d left or had it been a dream? He finished straightening up as the sound of flatulence and diarrhea echoed through the bathroom and he left.

Back in the ballroom nothing had changed. He scanned once again for his date and didn’t recognize anyone among the plastic sea of faces. Back at the table he gathered his coat and drained the remaining glasses of wine. He decided it was time to leave. Motioning for another glass of wine he began to rifle through the pockets of a jacket belonging to the man who was assigned the seat next to him. He hadn’t seen the man in a while but he had looked rich, so he took his valet ticket and was gone.

The lobby was no different, the faces talking at each other, saying nothing. The laugh-yelling and lack of communication was deafening. Still being relatively early, the valet line was short as he handed the ticked to the bored Mexican who passed a set of keys quickly to another boy who immediately vanished.

“Did you enjoy yourself, sir?” The Mexican asked in perfect English.

“You know, it was okay.” He responded as he looked down and absently scraped dried come from his suit .


The arrival of a Bentley Continental pleased him slightly while eliciting exactly no reaction whatsoever from anyone else. He fished in his coat pocket for a tip and gave the indifferent youth a twenty dollar bill before climbing into his new car. Not quite sure how to drive it, he assumed that it would be more difficult than in reality it was. After a few excruciating moments in front of the growing valet line he pulled the car off into the dusty black night.

Once free from the gala he was gripped by another anxiety, that of what or where he should go next. His phone was blank and with no date or friends, the entire city was his for the taking. The issue at present, of course was direction. Deciding to maximize the use of his vehicle he took a northeastern route to Sunset Boulevard where he would likely find what he desired.

Being a Saturday night the strip between Sunset West and Fairfax was, incredibly crowded with every sort of the worst people; tourists, poseurs and derelicts of every stripe. The Bentley blended in with all the other comparable cars as he somewhat disinterestedly scanned the sidewalk, looking for what, he couldn’t be sure. Then an idea crystallized in his mind, consuming his being. He knew what he had to do, and at the stoplight on La Cienega  he contemplated how best to kill as many of them as possible.

The size and weight of the vehicle he was in would likely afford him the most firepower, so he surveyed his options. As luck would have it, a large group was gathered in front of the Mondrian and he felt in his blood that it would be good and decent of him to relieve several of them from this world.  Pressing the throttle to the floor, the two ton beast roared to life and off of the street, onto the sidewalk and through the crowd. The image reminded him of Sean Connery spooking a flock of birds into the propellers on an oncoming Fokker. Like the Fokker, the Bentley lost momentum in the gore and suddenly slammed to a halt against one of the large and completely useless decorative doors the hotel displays at its entrance.

Mildly dazed, he opened the door to survey his work. Screams filled the air and a general sense of excitement stirred his adrenaline further. Now feeling on the verge of mania, he had to decide his next move. The voices and screaming came from everywhere, surrounding him and his crime. Yet no one even so much as questioned him, or checked to see if he was injured. No, in fact he had managed to appear as one of the victims himself.

Then he noticed something else, something disturbingly odd. Of all the screams and movement, he didn’t sense one iota of panic. No, in fact the whole scene contained a much different tone and vibration than a reasonable person might expect. He looked down at the partially crushed head of a man, comfortably nestled between the tire and the sidewalk. The one exposed eye gleamed up, almost approvingly, thankfully. In death, he had made it. In certain circles, the opulence of his demise would be the thing of legend.

The crowd then quickened to a rush and  the screaming swelled to a fever pitch. Women slipped in the blood and broken bodies, pulling off their heels and running barefoot; the wet slapping of perfectly pedicured and bunioned feet. The security showed up and kept everyone at bay as the surging crowd continued away from the wrecked Bentley. He was at a loss. The scene was surreal. Until he finally understood what was going on.

The reason accident had gone completely unnoticed was drown out by the powerful hum and chug of a diesel engine. A diesel engine that just happened to be attached to a large tour bus that had just pulled in front of the House of Blues. This was where the crowd was going and this was what must have caused the driver of the Bentley to swerve off the road. As it would happen, LMFAO was on tour.

Working his way down Olive to Santa Monica Boulevard he was astonished that lighting had struck twice for him, but rationalized that it often does for well-dressed men who prefer to stay quiet. The rush of killing en mass had completely eclipsed his murder of the maid. He had achieved a higher state of being and awakened a lust that he must satisfy immediately. The issue at present was that now he was without vehicle and his phone still showed no calls.

He paused for a moment at Fountain and beheld the city from there. Expansive and full, it glimmered with possibility. This was the medium view, however. The finest views are reserved for those who can afford the hills or top floor offices. Those who furnish their homes at Restoration Hardware and prefer the “bespoke” options of the mass produced. He sighed in resigned anger and continued down.

The East didn’t hold anything for him so he turned West. Quite soon he came to the Beanery, where, being a Saturday night, the drunken assholes from Universities and crowded apartments far and wide came to wallow in each other.  The usual group looked through him from the deck, sucking their beers and talking as he went inside. He felt overdressed as he looked for anyone that he might possibly know. He had gotten lucky. He had to think and be smart about his next steps. The blood pulsed in his ears and he wished he had a gun or a blade or the Bentley back. But wait, he had to get a hold of himself…

Then he saw a neighbor of his, a man he topically knew as a musical arranger who worked from home. He approached him and was surprised to find that he was recognized.

” How’re you doing, man? I never thought you’d actually make it!”

“I wouldn’t dream of missing another invitation.”

“Good man, that’s good. Sit down, grab yourself a beer.”

He was introduced as an old college buddy which was a lie. He barely knew this guy. Fortunately, this was a game he knew well and he settled back with a drink to listen and think. He even loosened his tie. The festivities continued for some time as the conversation shifted to various topics such as music and writing and women. He felt oddly comfortable and was thankful none of the conversation involved him.

Several drinks later his head was in a swim and he had to use the bathroom. Perhaps he would find what he needed there. Working his way through the yammering, snapping crowd, a sudden commotion erupted as several uniformed policemen entered. From the door they surveyed the crowd and  everyone froze in their own guilt. Outside, the lights flashed on their cars. There was a third stopped by the side door effectively blocking all exits.

One of the cops, a bull-necked cock of a man set his gaze straight on him and motioned his partner who quickly said something into his radio. The cock strutted mechanically towards him, the crowd parting before him. His right hand went down to his sidearm. He knew it had all been too good to be true. A sick and beautiful dream come to a close. He thought about prison and what it would mean. He thought about his bills and who would feed his fish.

The cop handily pushed him aside and went into the bathroom where after a brief struggle and as flush of the toilet he led out a scraggly bastard in cornrows and a tank top. He leaned against the shuffleboard and watched in quiet amazement. The cops, whose routine was dialed precisely, then left with their suspect and gradually the hush turned to a hum then turned to a conversation as speculation ran wild. For those in the know, the arrested man was a known marijuana dealer and they lamented the extra effort they would have to put into completing their evening.

Breathing hard, he went to the bathroom and decided on the stall. Though safe, there was the mixture of anguish and beer that caused him to feel sick. He faced the toilet and began to wretch. Wisely acknowledging that it would only be a matter of moments before he was joined in the bathroom by any number of drunken baboons, he settled on just pissing instead.

As he finished up he noticed something behind the toilet. Something different. He leaned in to inspect closer and found that it was a pistol and it was loaded. He’d found what he needed in the bathroom after all! With a renewed sense of hope, he holstered the gun. He splashed water on his face and straightened his hair before cutting across through to the side exit and back into the night.

Several blocks west, Santa Monica Blvd turns decidedly gayer. The sidewalks alive and the shuffle and music are everywhere. At first he felt the eyes, then a quiet comment or two, then not so quiet. He felt acutely aware of himself here and the effect was unsettling. Then came a catcall and he quickened his pace.

Passing by the patio area of one of the larger venues, he heard the wailing of more sirens and turned to see several squad cars rushing West. A reddish Midwestern queen who had been watching, saw his opportunity.

“Why don’t you step inside hon. You’ll be safe here and may even get a drink or two out of it if you’re good.”

Before he had a chance to work his reeling mind into an answer he was swept inside. The queen had been absolutely right, he was lost immediately in the driving music. The queen had also been truthful about the drink which he produced as if by magic. He knew the stories and eyed it skeptically.

“Don’t worry honey, I’ve never had to resort to that.”

The reply wasn’t ideal.  Glancing back outside the last of the police cars sped by. The queen took him by the hand, which he immediately withdrew. The queen sensed a flirtation that wasn’t there, and then led him over to a table of his friends. All pleasant, and all quite drunk. He fumbled absently for the pistol in his coat which was interpreted as a search for a cigarette. Like the drink, the cigarette was procured instantaneously and just as quickly lit for him.

Not a smoker, he puffed feebly on the cigarette and sipped the sugary strong cocktail. He felt he needed the fortification so he drained it to the great delight of his hosts. The strong drink took only moments to re-ignite his previous intake. A strong buzz came over quick and suddenly the place was completely unbearable.

“I need to get out of here.” He said.

The Queen suggested that they go back to his place. A feeling of flattery and nausea came over him as he thought about the fag’s car and how he might be able to use it. Then he decided against it. The buses were still running so he excused himself and left the bar.

Back on the sidewalk the air was clearer but his head was still feeling the swim and he now had another feel of fire inside of him. Still nothing on his phone which didn’t surprise him much whatsoever. He doubted if he would or could have ever truly been missed at a place like that.

Several bums at the bus stop reeked of hot shit and garbage. Fuck, he didn’t want to have to deal with this sort of wretchedness in an enclosed area. But he had thought about his next move and it was now imperative that he backtrack and push west, west as far as he could go.

He got on and looked around at all the miserable bastards relegated to riding a bus at this time of night. A Mexican laughed at something on his phone. More Mexican teenagers sniggered and carried on amongst themselves. He noticed a large, quiet black and a few Indians or Arabs of some sort. In fact, he was the only white person on the bus aside from the bums. He moved to the back and sat down.

The bus ride down Santa Monica boulevard is a tedious stop and go insulated from the chaos outside. The gay bars melt into the corridor through Beverly Hills which is carefully insulated from the road. A large sedan screeched into the back of a small hatchback, crumpling the rear end and sending the smaller car spinning off to the side of the road. He saw numb terror in the driver’s eyes and everyone moved on as if nothing happened.

As the bus moved into the west side Mexicans got off and more got on. Some hipsters and college age kids as well. He was the only person dressed up as well. He hated the west side and the people that lived here. He sat and he pondered and grew angry and felt that a personal emergency was imminent. At the next stop most of the other passengers got off and the lights began to flicker.

Slowly the bus moved out back along and he remembered a hookah bar that was just up ahead on this side of the street. He was confident it would be full and it was. He called out to the driver and said he had an emergency. She made no acknowledgement whatsoever as he stumbled up and towards the front of the bus. He had to get to her if he was going to steer the bus into the sidewalk seating of the bar.

The bus bore down steadily when gunfire burst from an SUV into the front of the bar, mowing down the patrons in a satisfying mist of blood and gore and bone. Several of the gunmen had jumped out and with precision pumped more rounds into the scattered bodies, some writhing and screaming, but most dead. One of the men turned to the bus as it bore down on them and shot through the windshield, blowing the driver’s head apart as the bus slammed into the SUV and over the sidewalk.

He couldn’t believe his eyes. It appeared everyone was dead. He looked back into the bus and saw the big black get up and walk off the bus. An old woman sat staring forward silently. He opened the door and stepped out into the blood. Not everyone was dead, but they soon would be. Apparently there were others that had had the urge to take out the hookah bar. He was furious. No matter what he did, there were always others out to do the same. Often better.

Amongst the bits of human meat that littered the sidewalk and the front of the café he found something that would make his night infinitely better. A sign from God and the sort of thing that can turn a man’s mood quickly around. The Tech 9 was beautiful and loaded. He looked around and found another couple of magazines that he stuffed into his pants. Traffic went on as usual but in the distance sirens could be heard approaching so he ducked off into the alleys and continued west.

Now it was just a matter of impulse. He hadn’t the luxury to think anymore, he had to act or others would act for him. He found a group of college boys walking drunkenly and killed them. He knew he would have hated them and felt nothing aside from the thrill of satisfaction. A girl was arguing with her boyfriend and he forced her to strip down before shooting him in the throat. Then he shot her too. They fell like pins. He giggled with manic glee and rushed on.

Down into the state streets there were more college kids and other types that he couldn’t relate to. They made him sick. If he caught any alone or off away from the street he would kill them where they stood. The death aroused him but once the girls fell broken and dead like deer he didn’t want them anymore. Still no calls on his cell phone. No sirens either. In fact the noise from the cars and people and music and everything seemed to drown out his actions. Despite it all, he still felt silenced.

His wake was terrible. The carnage climaxed within him and suddenly he felt nothing anymore as he continued put rounds from the into anyone and everyone he could find. The pause caused people to turn uninterestedly and then turn back to what they were doing. He killed them too, sending brains onto their friends before they too were killed. What had gone wrong in him? Was he sick? Something was dying in him and now his actions took on the mania of a dying animal.

Angrily passing a sports bar he now understood what was happening. A USC football game was on. Again he  was slighted by forces far superior and out of his control. He wished his guns were bombs. He wished he could tear everyone limb from limb and eat their bodies and reduce them to his shit. He couldn’t kill enough of them. He was losing control and couldn’t focus. He had to escape this hell he was in.

Just then, he was out of bullets and onto the sea. Nothing further out save the blinking lights of ships and oil rigs. He tossed the Tech 9 at a taxi and walked down onto the sand. The beach was dark and quiet, the rolling of the waves beckoning him closer. He pulled out the tiny worn Glock and turned it over in his hands. He looked at his cell phone again; still nothing. He pitched it into the black water. His pulse began to slow, but he felt empty, defeated.

He stared at the water for a long time with the gun still tightly in his hand. He turned behind him and down the coast and saw the city aglow reddish-orange as if it were burning. He knew it was hell. All of it was beyond him and he wondered if he had ever met another human being and decided he had not. He let the city burn as he turned back to the ocean and the Glock, which was all he had left.

He’d been a plus one his entire life and truly felt he was out of options. Alone with his thoughts at last, he didn’t know what to do. Then a splash. He turned and saw a girl looking out into the ocean as well. Naturally she didn’t notice him. Then another splash coming from the other side. It was the black man from the bus. He too stared at the ocean and turned to him and nodded before walking in.

Another splash and he turned back to the girl who was now in the water. The man was gone. A teenage boy threw his phone in and marched into the sea. It was incredible. Dozens of people were now marching in around him. Old, young, black, white, brown, yellow. Suddenly the beach was aglow as the hellfire of Los Angeles shone on them all. He decided to throw the Glock into the water. He wouldn’t be needing it any longer.

As he walked into the ocean the water was clogged with the drowned and drowning being tossed in the surf. The cold water splashed and pulled at him as he worked his way out until his feet no longer touched and the sea entered his lungs and he no longer cared about the other people or his phone or hate or any of it. The tide sucked at his legs and he felt warm before everything went dark and silent.


Ode to S.F.

Danse Macabre with the faggots in San Francisco. A twisted night of boozing and grabbing asses as they did coke and clawed to a greater understanding and purpose. The streets were narrow and full of people, a terrorizing notion at this point, yet we prevailed. There was no reason for these nights other than youth and a small sum of collected money and the driving, fiery urge to get fucked up and let the world know who you are.

So we played this game. We drank on the Muni and hassled the locals and ate late at Sparkey’s and my head pounded in abject misery for the following forty-eight hours. Yet I would never take a moment of it back. I have long held that a man (or woman) is only true when all filters are removed and they can properly express themselves. Many, (myself included) find a tremendous amount of shame in these times of personal base revelation. Yet the necessity is there if you want to feel ALIVE.

Those nights landed me in dubious company, stabbing a tire, running, and into the ocean more times than I can count. A stop-action fragmented blur of faces and places and sounds. There was a feeling of infinity then. Of limitless possibility that you either embraced or surrendered to in sniveling, kowtowed fear. Most of us end up with this fear as we get old; all of us have to fight it at some point.

Bela Lugosi is dead. Susan Sarandon feigning a dyke act with some frog woman while baboons screech like cats and age and die to dusty bones. The music and the feel of it. The blood-pulse of the City by the Bay, pre irony.

We drank and hassled and fought and fucked and trashed and spent and slept in the streets and the sand. We came hard as outsiders (we’re all outsiders in the city) and we stamped in human soul our mark in the pastiche that makes up the place. The gratuitous obscenity of it. The laughable ruse. All worth the drive and the time.

The Interview

It was time to play a game that I wasn’t particularly fond of but was told by reliable sources that I should be. It was earlier than I’d gotten up in a while. Out of current routine, I put on a suit and combed my recently cut hair.

I was exploring options this morning. Moving upward in hopes of the chance to get the chance to hopefully work my way into middle class comfort in twenty years’ time. A brand new day.

The air is different in the morning when you haven’t been out in a while. The colors crisper and the pace manic and irritable. The car started without issue and I eased it into the thick flow of traffic working its way southwest, the cradle of employment on this side of the hill.

A pleasant surprise manifested itself in a relatively painless commute followed by an equally painless parking experience. My destination was a standard courtyard-centric commercial brick job. People moved about like worker ants, each with a singular task in hand. I navigated through them and found suite number whatever-the-hell, and after a deep breath went in.

Looking around in the lobby I was only one of several in their late twenties and I was the only one wearing a suit. My transition from picture frame salesman to something more fulfilling hadn’t been going as smoothly as I’d hoped so here I found myself at ten a.m. on a Wednesday morning waiting to be interviewed.

I should have known something wasn’t right in that lobby. I represented a different facet of society that what was going on here. I was somehow a symbol of what was wrong in the world to these people and I felt it in  their stares. I was thinking maybe I shouldn’t have worn a suit.

After what seemed an eternity of staring at my resume and hearing the scratching of pencils on clipboards from all the other applicants that came streaming in a hundred at a time, my name was called.

As I stood up the pointed stares got worse. Who was this guy? Is he here to AUDIT the operation? To SHUT IT DOWN and RUIN our chances of WORK? Is that what’s going on? They hated me and I understood. I hated me too at that moment.

I walked into what looked like a back room at some underfunded elementary school. Short-pile orange carpet worn down to the linoleum. Wood-grained cheap siding on the walls. A “hang in there” poster and various other examples of desperation and misery.

The dumpy Mexican teenage girl that led me in stopped behind the flimsy desk and bade me have a seat.  Then she sat down. Evidently she was going to be conducting the interview.

She produced some silly looking reading glasses and looked down at my resume.

“How old are you Mr. –”

“Twenty nine. I’m not sure you can ask me that.”

I probably should have just walked out at that moment, but I had already committed hours of my life in that lobby and I needed to see this through.

“Of course, it’s for informational purposes only. So, what do you know about marketing?”

“I know that anything I don’t know I can learn.”

“Huh. You studied political science –”

“And literature”

“– what’s that?”

“Literature? Oh, well, they’re both nothing really. I guess I should have thought about that when I was seventeen, but here we are. ”


“I’ve pulled weeds, worked as a sales associate, gas station attendant, line cook, waiter, janitor, apprentice mechanic, groundskeeper, book keeper, file clerk, receptionist; I’ve worked light construction. I can pour concrete and wire a lamp. I’ve taught myself some computer programming, and I can type. I tried to launch several small businesses and failed, from night clubs to t-shirts.  I speak Spanish and am learning Italian. I know who Christopher Marlowe was.”

“So no marketing?”


“I see. Well, what we do here is take on highly trainable individuals and GIVE THEM THE TOOLS TO SUCCEED in the highly competitive world of marketing. Let me ask you, do you game?”

“My buddy wanted to name his kid ‘Wolf the Quarrelsome,’ but his wife nixed it.”

“Is that a World of Warcraft character?”

“Don’t think so…”

“Look, mister –”

“Rhymes with ‘wiener.’”

“– Why did you come here? I mean, what brought you to our company?”

“Well, I guess food and bills. Expanding my skill set. You know, it’s tough times out there.”

“Oh, I know it, I’m still paying student loans. Studied MARKETING at Cal State Dominguez Hills.”

“That’s fantastic.”

She looked at me for a moment, and  the stupid dance was over. She pulled her big ass out of the chair and extended her hand. I shook it. It was small and boney and damp.

“Thank you for coming in. We’ll keep your resume on file and will be sure to contact you if we feel that you might be a good fit in one of our branches. As a quickly growing multinational marketing company, new opportunities come up almost every day.”

“That’s very kind, thank you.”

“Leticia will validate you.”

“I’ll bet she will.”

I took my briefcase and my suit and my haircut and I walked over to Leticia at the receptionist desk and she validated me and I was on my way.

Driving home I was happy that it was still early and traffic wouldn’t be that bad heading west at this time. I found Pico and knew I was just a few turns and about half an hour away from getting out of this monkey suit and seeing what was playing on TCM.