Archive for June, 2013

The Homecoming Game – Part 5

You need some familial drama at the beginning of your summer weekend, right? well, here you go…

…..     …..     …..     …..     …..

Here I lay

Still and breathless

Just like always

Still I want more

- Passenger, Deftones

 

IV – CELL

 

The room is clean. Four walls. King bed. Unoffensive abstract painting hanging above it. No doubt purchased in bulk from a Taiwanese art school. Plain geometric furniture. Flat colors, square lines. Completely without personality. I throw the laptop on the desk and my Location bad on the bed. Stand there between the two bags, trapped for a moment by indecision.My usual pattern on checking in to any hotel is to unpack. Throw a liner of paper towels in the bottom of each of the dresser drawers. Socks and underwear in the top drawer in rows. Shirts the next drawer down. Pants and sweats in the third drawer. Bottles of meds lined on the left of the sink. Toothbrush and toothpaste resting on a folded washcloth on the right. Razor and shaving gel in the shower. It’s a habit that goes back years. Helps me feel in control when I’m travelling, keeps a sense of familiarity to my surroundings, no matter how foreign the location.

I’m fighting doing it here. Unpacking feels like admitting I’m staying… whether for a day, a week… I’m staying. When all I want to do is grab the first shitty flight out of here, and head back home. Be with Elispeth and the kids. Put a couple thousand miles between myself and this place. This melodrama. The last of the light fades. Darkness falls. I’m still standing here. Paralytic. Frozen between here and escape.

My cell rings, the jangling tone snapping me out of myself. Startling me with an charge so intense that every nerve and muscle twitches, like I’ve been hit with a police taser. I’m trying to slow my breath, bring my heart rate down before I thumb the answer key on the phone’s surface. Glowing above the digital button, the caller ID tells me who’s calling. A picture of El with the kids. Grinning and covered in chocolate batter. A moment captured during an attempt at family cake baking. The simple white font reading one word below the picture. “HOME”.

I sit on the edge of the bed, and pull out my cigs. Lighting one and taking a deep, painful drag before tapping the button. Exhaling as I hear the bouncing chatter of my daughter Layney’s voice. “Daaaaddddy!! Areyouthere? Why did you take so long to answer?!” I have to smile at the logic of her 8 year-old mind. She’s calling me. I should answer immediately. There no reason why I shouldn’t. “I’m sorry Layney, Daddy was busy doing stuff. Important stuff.”

She’s not buying it for a second. “Daaad… you always say you’re doing important stuff but you’re usually just sitting there doing nothing!” I stifle a laugh. At 8, she already has her dad dead to rights. I’m terrified of what she’ll be like when she reaches her teenaged years and dating. “How was your plane ride? Have you seen any cows or horses? Mom says there are farms up there, so does that mean there’s chickens?” Rapid-fire questions. Whether it’s genetics or being around her mother and I, she’s got the family trait for rapid info acquisition. “My plane ride was fine honey. Yes, I’ve seen cows and horses and chickens. In fact, they put a chicken in my room to keep me company.”

There’s a moment of silence, and I can see in my mind the expression on her face as the wheels spin in her brain… trying to figure out if her Dad is pulling her leg, or if I really have live poultry running around in my room. “Daaaad… there’s no chicken in your room. I don’t hear any chicken noises. You’re being dramatic again.” I laugh and tell her it’s a ‘very quiet chicken’, and tell her I love her and miss her oodles and boodles. She asks if I’m coming home tomorrow, and I sigh and tell her no, but soon, very soon. She’s not happy about this fact and tells me that her and Jake think I’d better come home ‘sooner than soon’, because the house isn’t ‘right’ when I’m not there. I’m fighting tears, and I tell her it’ll be “very soon”, and to give her little brother a hug and kiss for me, and to let me talk to ‘mom’. She sighs… adult exasperation compacted into a little girl form and says “Fine… here’s Mommy.” Before slipping back into daughter mode and whispering “Love you Daddy.” As she hands off the phone.

Elispeth is laughing as she takes the phone. “Chickens? In the room?” I chuckle, telling her that “maybe Jeff can set it up as a sequel to Snakes on a Plane.” Just hearing her voice makes me hungry, longing. Like a junkie in desperate need of a fix. A fix that is too goddamn many miles away. “Have you unpacked yet?” I hem and haw a bit, which she cuts short. “I know this is hard on you, but you are going to be there for awhile, and you will go bonkers if you don’t unpack and get organized because part of you thinks ‘I’ll be leaving any moment.’ So… unpack, you!” I’ve been caught, and she knows it. I unzip my bag and start arranging things as we talk. I ask her if Gotham has called back about the script, and she tells me yes, but only to say that they are still talking to different producers, so there’s no progress on that front. The documentary she’s working on starts editing tomorrow, so she’ll be tied up most of the day for the next few days. When I start to say that I’ll catch a flight back so that one of us with the kids, she cuts me short. “Already ahead of you love, Mum is coming in tomorrow morning. She’ll be here with the kids while I’m over at the edit bay.” There’s a moment of silence that she breaks with a chuckle “Sorry dear, you’re not getting to escape that easily. This is something you need to do…” she let’s the moment linger then asks “have you seen him yet?”

Deep sigh. Deep drag on the cig. Clatter of meds as I place the bottles in a row next to the sink. I was never able to obfuscate or misdirect with El. One of the reasons I fell in love with her… once I came to realize that her calling me out on things wasn’t ever born of malice, but of love. It sounds weird to say, so I don’t say it to anyone… not even my closest friends… but part of why I fell so deeply in love with her is that I trust her. “No, I haven’t been over to the hospital yet. I went by the apartment, talked with Suzette a bit. Just got to the hotel a few minutes ago.”

Her voice softens. Even though she doesn’t really ‘get’ the relationship between my father and I, she knows this is painful territory for me. Painful enough that even she and I haven’t talked about it in any detail other than the very basics. “How did that go? You haven’t talked to her in ages as well, right?”

Location bag emptied, I start on the laptop case. Pulling out wires and chargers, looking for outlets closest to the desk “I guess it went ok. She seems to have mellowed out a bit… wasn’t blasting Def Leppard or Sammy Hagar anyways. Hon, you should see the apartment though, you ‘would’na’ believe it. I don’t think either of them has bought a new piece of furniture or decor since the late 1980’s. It’s like some alternate world where the set of Freaks and Geeks becomes an actually living environment, except that it’s worn and aged. Shit, the Lay-Z-Boy is being held together with Duct tape!”

She’s gives a slight laugh at that, then says in that serious way… the chiding made more palatable by her British accent. “Well, that’s neither here nor there… it’s not what’s important Jack. You need to go see him, and you need to be open when you do. Try not to get your hackles up. OK?”

Sitting on the bed, pushing the fingers of my free hand against my temples. Trying to subdue the throbbing by force and pressure. Trying to not cry. Trying not to miss her so goddamn much. Trying not to scream at how fucked up the world is that I have to be hear instead of being with her and the kids. Trying. “I… Ok, I will. I just wanted to try and get settled in. Get my bearings. Visiting hours end at 8pm, so I’ll head over around 7. That’ll give me a reason to make sure the first time seeing him is limited… so I can ease into it. Easier to control myself that way.”

She’s quiet for what seems an eternity. “I love you Jack. You know I’m there with you, in your heart. You’ve got the edit bay’s number, so you need me, you call. On the cell or the main line. We miss you and love you, and this is only for a moment. Try to remember that.”

Tears are rolling down my cheeks. Silently. “I will hon. I’m going to call Michael, see if he wants to get together later tonight, get a beer or 10 after I’m done at the hospital. You want me to call you after I get back to the hotel?”

She laughs “G’wan you… I have an early morning, and if you think I’m going to be exhausted for the first day of editing because you’re wanting a bit of naughty talk in the wee hours when you’re all tipsy? Well, I think you’re mistaken, my love!”

She’s good at making me smile. I wish more than anything that she was in my arms right now. “OK hon… it’s your loss you know. I’ll call you tomorrow. You have sweet dreams, hug the ‘bairns’ for me.”

“I will, and remember we love you.”

“I love you too.”

 

28

06 2013

The Homecoming Game – Part 5

Our hero isn’t happy to be back in his childhood hometown. He’s grumpy about it, and determined to stay that way.

This is Chapter 3 of the book. It’s a short one… enjoy!

…..     …..     …..     …..     …..

What may appear, might easily be explained

But given the situation, of info saturation

What you feel can never go away

- I Am I, Queensryche

 

III – TEN MINUTE HOLD

 

In the car again. I’m driving. Aimless. Pointless. Flakes and shards of ivory and enamel littering my mouth from the grinding of my teeth. Detritus, there’s always detritus. Debris swimming around. The car moves across the bridge, heading into Washington. Two towns defined only by the fact that a river between them marks the state line. The red light of the sunset strobing as the shadows of the bridge fall across the windshield. Staccato beats of light and dark, a counterpoint rhythm to the throbbing in my head.

There’s a reason I know the last time I yelled at my father was when I was sixteen. There’s a reason I am so goddamn sure of that fact.

Coming off the bridge, I head west down Riverside. Passing the one “shopping complex” present in Clarkston, an Albertson’s, McDonald’s and a handful of transitory stores that have changed services supplied, owners, and signage countless times in the two decades of its existence. The Washington State liquor store used to sit next door to the old location, off diagonal… no idea where it is now. I’ll have to ask Michael about that when we get together tonight. If he’s available. Still need to call him. Need to take my meds… I’m getting scattered here. Rattled. Can’t be in this state when I call El to talk with her and the kids.

Even though my memories of the incident have a distinctly disassociative quality to them… like it happened to someone else.. Or I read it in a story… Or saw it in a film when I was a teenager… The memory is still there.

20 years gone now, but I know it’s memory, and not some inflated bit of drama, conjured up. Some latent false impression from my years of trying to numb myself with booze and drugs.

Just as I think I’ve missed it, and that I’m going to have to turn around in the parking lot of the golf course and country club (An establishment whose very existence in Clarkston struck me as ironically akin to having haute cuisine at a Sadie Hawkins dance.), I see my “haven of luxury” for the duration of my stay here. The Bridgewater Inn. It’s an average, unremarkable two story structure. Tidy, clean and plain. These characteristics already place it miles ahead of the other forms of accommodation in the valley. It’s off the main road, down in the fields by the river where, years ago during World War II, the airport used to lay.

I know the incident is real. Mom confirmed it before she died. Over the years, we had never talked about it… a terrifying elephant in the room that we mutually, silently, ignored in the interests of keeping our sanity. In order to not ask the logical follow-on question… if it happened, then who was to blame, ultimately.

Pulling in to the “guest check in” area under the plain while awning, a neon sign blinks “VACANCY”. Too far back from the main road to be of any use to passing motorists. Invisible to those it might apply to. Obviously, there’s no valet service here… the lonely front desk is visible through the double-wide glass doors. I smirk at the small, skewed sign hanging on one of them that proudly proclaims “YES, we have internet access!”

Mom was close to death then, and the question had to be asked. I hated myself for even broaching the subject. She was in so much pain at that point… the cancer had eaten her away from the inside. The robust woman with a creative twinkle in her eye was gone. Replaced by this skeletal figure, bound to the hospital bed by a million tubes and wires. I agonized over it for the first three days I was there. Should I just let it go, should I forget about it.  In the end, I had to know if the memories were accurate. If they were mine or something imagined.

Something exaggerated.

I hit the bell on the desk and wait for someone to come. Laptop bag over one shoulder. “Location Bag” over the other. The boxy black canvas bag has been with me around the world. Sets in Mexico packed with sunblock and light clothing that never keeps out the bugs. Sets in the Canadian Tundra, packed with socks so thick I could barely pull my boots on over them, but still not thick enough to keep out the cold that radiates through the soles from the permafrost. Sets in the UK, packed with waterproof layers and a packet of wolfsbane… hidden amongst the my shirts as a surprise from El for me to find during a three week shoot out on the grey alien landscape of the moors. This Location Bag has been to hundreds of exciting, frustrating, challenging, and often rewarding places with me. I mentally apologize to it for having to bring it here. A clerk who can’t be older than 20 finally appears. His oversized grin and black waistcoat looking professional, even if his $10 haircut and rampant acne doesn’t. “Yes? Can I help you?”

Mom didn’t have much strength, and didn’t speak much during those last days. We’d often sit there, and I’d read her the script I was working on, doing a poor job at acting out the voices of each of the characters. Sometimes she’d give a slight smile. Other times, she seemed to be lost in thought… imagining the world I was describing. On a few occasions, she give a little frown, and small shake of her head, indicating that she didn’t think the scene worked. Her instincts were good, and the scenes she found problematic were always changed, making the end result much stronger. However, when I finally broached the subject that had been gnawing away at me, and asked her if it happened… if it happened like I remembered it… she spoke clear and quiet. Her whisper like sad, thin rice paper crackling in the breeze.

“Yes, it happened… it did.”

I start to slap the AmEx card on the counter and then catch myself mid-motion, returning it to the wallet and pulling out the Visa card. I place it, and my California driver’s license on the counter facing the clerk. “I’m checking in. Jacob Saren. There should be a reservation in my name.”

 

The Homecoming Game – Part 4

The fourth installment in the ongoing serialization of my novel, The Homecoming Game, this concludes Chapter 2…

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We sit silently for a moment. Her taking occasional sips of her iced tea. Me looking down at the nubby grey-green carpet. A snippet of a Rush song playing over and over in my head on loop: “Where would you rather be? Anywhere… anywhere but here.” She finally breaks the silence which is straining the level of comfort. She points towards the ashtray that had hooked my attention earlier. “You… you can use that… if you want to… I mean, if you still smoke.”

The relief is so deep and profound that I’m sure that resemble a character straight out of a Warner Brothers cartoon. Hyper-inflated by nicotine fits… the pressure relieved, my body falling back… collapsing into a boneless, gelatinous, puddle of gratitude. “You sure you don’t mind?”

She rallies, attempting to show some wit. I’ll give her that. “I’ve been with your father for almost 20 years. If secondhand smoke’s gonna kill me… well, it’s a little later for worryin’ ‘bout it now, right?” Her expression instantly turns sad and fragile. Reminded that the reason I’m here is that smoking has taken its toll already. That my father… her husband… is dying in a hospital ward with terminal lung cancer. It’s something she’s obviously not accepted or come to terms with yet.

I try to move the conversation along, move the thoughts along, past death and rotting old men. I grin at her, attempting to convey some degree of genuine humor “Yes, yes I suppose it is.” And I fumble a cig out of the pack, flip open the zippo with a loud metallic “k-CHAK” and breathe in the first hit of poison and nicotine. It instantly soothes and calms me like mother’s milk. She smiles back at me, acknowledging the kindness, before getting up and walking into the adjoining kitchen. I can hear ice cubes rattling fresh from the freezer into her glass, the sound of another glass of tea being poured. When she calls out asking “Are you sure you don’t want something”, I take her up on her offer this time, and tell her a glass of iced tea would be “Nice, thank you”. Moments pass. I drag more smoke into my lungs, pulling as deep as I can, slowly letting the exhalation trickle out of my nose, and she finally returns with two glasses. I nod my thanks, take a deep swig, and set the glass down on a magazine laying on the coffee table. Old habits die hard. I sit back against the scratchy surface of the couch, holding the cig at an angle and wonder what’s coming. She’s taking rapid sips, her eyes darting from the glass to me. She’s trying to get up the nerve to say something. Mustering her resolve. I don’t have to wait long. After three of these birdlike sips, she sets the glass down, smooths non-existent wrinkles from her lap and looks me in the eye.

“Can I ask a favor of you?”

So this is where it begins. Not even 24 hours in. The favors. I tell the black thing inside me that is screaming FUCKYOUIKNEWITITOLDYOUSO to shut up. Get back in its box. I got this. It howls and gibbers back noyoudon’tfuckingliarliarliar, but it goes… for now at least… back into its cage at the base of my spine. It takes its own sweet time getting there… muttering and grumbling the entire time about “suckers” and “easy marks”. I take hard drag on the cig, deep enough this time that even as a 30 year smoker, I have to fight the urge to cough. “Depends on what the favor is.”

She’s crushed. Looking at me with pleading desperation. Trying to make me change my mind, alter my stance. “ Can’t… can’t you just say yes or no?”

The black angry thing is yanking and pulling hard on the bars of its cage, screaming and howling to be let out, and the volume in my voice goes up slightly. “Without knowing what it is you’re going to ask of me? Sorry. No.” A quick negative head twist and another hard drag ” That’s not going to happen.”

She sighs, slumping slightly. A marionette with its strings cut. I can tell she’s fighting tears, and that realization is the only reason I don’t simply crush out my cig in the ceramic millstone from my childhood, and walk out the door. She finally sigh and looks at me, her body staying slumped and defeated, raising only her head to catch my gaze, “Look… I know… I understand… you hate me…”

I sit up quickly, angry. Offended at this mischaracterization of the situation. This simplistic binary reduction of my feelings. “Wait a sec… I do not hate you…”

She jumps in, eager to state her case “Yes you do! You have hated me ever since your Dad and I started dating!”

I cut her off with an angry chop of my free hand, Holding the cig higher like a revival preacher, come to lay the truth DOWN on the ignorant unbelievers. “NO, you are wrong there. I never hated you… Still don’t. I thought… no offense… that you were an immature, ignorant, and none-too-bright girl who allowed herself to get suckered and bamboozled by my father’s penchant and ability to bullshit.”

I start counting off the facts on my fingers, trying… and failing… to keep the emotion out of my voice. “I was pissed and disgusted at him for cheating on my mother, then… deciding that he was so great at being married that he’d do it again. And again. And again… having a string of marriages that each had a shelf life only slightly longer than a carton of milk. I was flabbergasted that, having had three marriages start… and fail… within two years, he thought a really good idea would be to get married again, this time to someone significantly younger than his only child.”

I take a quick drag, exhaling it with explosive force as I tick off the offenses, rapidly running out of fingers. “I was embarrassed of the genetic link I had with him appalled by his complete incapability to take responsibility for his own actions, or to think of anyone besides himself.”

I lean back now,,, the ‘counting fingers’ curling into themselves. Forming a loose fist. I stub out the cig, immediately lighting another. “But being mad at you… hating you…” All I can do is shake my head and sigh. I look back up at her, trying to be as calm as possible so she’ll ‘get’ that this isn’t a tantrum or me being pissy. It’s as bare bones and factual as a math problem. “No, to hate you would have… it would have felt like I’d have been contributing to energy and support to the whole Jerry Springer aspect of it all. Like I would have be sponsoring the melodrama as much as ‘New Mountain Fresh Downy’. So… no, I do not hate you Suzette,”

The tension is thick, and I’m pressing my fingers against my temples. I can feel the heat from the cigarette still trapped between my fingers as it burns down to the filter. Eyes closed. Deep breaths. Ignore the roaring building in your ears, son. This too shall pass. A million homilies and mantras jouncing and battering around in my skull as I try to fight  to regain some small semblance of emotional control. Finally, there’s just silence. Chin lowered, I open my eyes, looking at Suzette from under my eyebrows. Trying not to think unkind thoughts. Unable to stop the internal observation that “freaked-out” is not a “good look” for her blowzy, white trash face.

My voice is quiet as I ask “Allright, never mind… what’s the favor?”

There’s a moment of pregnant hesitation. Torn between her fear-heavy perception of me, and determination to “do right” by the man she loves. Stammering slightly, she gets the words out. “You… you have to promise not to yell at him. No matter how mad you get.”

Only my eyebrow moves, cocked at the irony of the request “Yelling is his job, not mine.”

She’s angry now, having overcome her fear. Thinking I’m mocking her. Completely unaware of how clueless she is to the reality of the situation. “I’m serious!”

I bring my hands down, crushing the cigarette out in the ashtray without looking at it. Keep it logical and rational. Like Spock. No emotion. The black thing is bending the bars of its battered cage trying to get out, telling me what I should do.  “Yeah, well… so am I” I take a breath, and lock eyes with her, making sure that she sees how serious I am about what I’m about to say. “I’m willing to bet a significant amount of cold hard cash on me not having ever raised my voice to him after I was sixteen.”

She’s still offended, but there’s confusion now. Uncertainty. She can see I’m serious. None of the usual barbs or sarcasm that makes up our typical exchanges. “That’s bullshit, I’ve seen you fight with him…”

“Fought, yes. Raised my voice towards him? No.”

She’s completely lost, unable to understand the difference. The bars on the black things cage are bent almost to the point where it can (and will) slip out, and before it can (and will) do so, I’m up and out of the chair, heading to the door. Not running, mind you but ‘walking with purpose’. I’ve reached my limit for the time being. I need air. I need a break. I need tranquilizers and/or heroin. I need. The fuck. Out. I turn to Suzette as I open the door to leave, and state the facts one last time. Part of me wishing against likelihood and hope that she’ll believe it.

“No, I haven’t.”

 

 

24

06 2013

A thought before the thunder…

“Give me your tired,  your poor, your huddled masses…” 
- the Statue of Liberty

“Give us Barabus, we want Barabus”
- the crowd at the trial of Jesus.

23

06 2013

The Homecoming Game – Part 3

“Kill the lights in the middle of the road

And take a look around”

- Driven Like the Snow, The Sisters of Mercy

 

 

II – ANALYTICS

 

One lesson learned while working in Hollywood: It’s always good to engage in intel gathering. Knowledge acquired of the lay of the land, the factors in play, the pivots that situations hinge upon. These factors can be the difference between success and abject failure. Accumulated data makes it harder to catch you unaware or unprepared in any situation, no matter how unpredictable or unexpected it may be. Success or failure in negotiating any situation, often depends on you knowing the answers and variables prior to the moment of initial contact.

And so I sit in this lovely rental car. Sipping my third red bull. Smoking my 5th cig. Head cocked at 90 degrees. Staring across the street at the two story quadplex where my father and his 4th wife Suzette live. It’s an ugly, boxy structure… all right angles and cheap wood, coated with a dull and fading coat of brown paint that looks to be, in both shade and evenness of application, only a step or two removed from muddy clay. Four identical “living room” windows face the street, two on top of two. The upper story protrudes slightly, creating both the slightest sense of a “porch” for the first floor, while simultaneously giving the impression of the entire structure being top-heavy and unstable. The stairs going up on either side to the second story entrance have the appearance of being assembled by someone who had not done particularly well in sophomore wood shop, and was forced the build the rickety flights as a summer punishment for classroom ineptitude. It’s obvious that the use of a level or straight edge had been forbidden during their construction. There’s a part of me, small but wiggling, that draws amusement from the thought of my father having to walk up the Deathtrap-disguised-as-stairs to reach the apartment on the upper right.

It is, put plainly, a shithole.

I could stall more. Find further delays, but the car could do with airing out. I’ll admit to a moment of hesitation before stepping on the first of the crooked stair leading up to the door… overcome by my idle appreciation for the texture of the weathered and warped wood. The camera is out and I’m taking shots in close up… halfway up the stairs in my focus on tenpenny circles radiating halos of rust into grey dessicated woodgrain, canyon and fissures of pine splitting and cracked… before I realize I’ve even placed foot on the first one. Mouth twists into a “isn’t that just the way it goes” smirk/frown and hand reaches for the very unstable single side rail. The slightest pressure affirms my assessment… all it would take is the tiniest amount of quickly applied force and this is a classic setting for that staple of detective novels and episodic procedurals… “An unexpected accident” lead to his/her demise. I pull my hand back, make it to the porch, and knock.

There’s the moment of waiting and anticipation. Part of my brain hoping Suzette isn’t home. Part of me thinking “how utterly stupid and completely typical” as I look at the heavy ceramic planter on the weathered rotting porch… deep water stains fanning outward into the wood from the base indicating that rot is present in that area… adding yet another layer of peril to the already near-suicidal construction. There’s not footsteps from inside… no clattering or shuffling noises, so I knock again. Harder this time. The thin aluminum screen door rattling like thin, tinny thunder against the doorframe as my knuckles hit it. The cermaic bunny-and-heart plaque hanging by a nail on the door has to be Suzette’s domestic touch. The whismical “Welcome” scrolled across the heart. Both in sentiment and style it’s so completely NOT my father.

The breeze starts to pick up and I can smell the familiar scents of childhood. Woodsmoke from chimneys. Maple leaves in piles, turning slowly to compost. The scent of earth and iron and something darker… more primal. In Boy Scouts we were told it was the smell of the river… everything it carried from trickling mountain streams down to bubbling creeks, over rocks and moss, and algae and dirt. Washing along tadpoles and crawdads and minnows and bass and fuck knows what else as it became a river. It’s… to this day… a scent so distinctive, so immediately identifiable and unique, that even the memory of it brings an irrational chill down the spine. I’m shaking my head, trying to clear the thoughts that are bubbling up, summoned by scent memory, ready to leave when I hear the footsteps inside approaching the door. The gait is cautious but steady, and there’s a pause between the time of the last footfall and the moment the door opens… the barest of slivers… to ascertain just who it is that’s insane enough to climb those damn deathtrap stairs and come knocking on the door. Even through the small gap, her gasp of surprise is loud. The door swings open fast and wide behind the screen door, causing another round chattering discourse from it

Silence as we look at each other. A mix of wide-eyed suprise, horror, and something else… maybe joy, maybe relief… fight for dominance on her face, giving her the appearance that she’s in the first moments of experiencing a stroke. Finally, I speak.

“Hello Suzette.”

She jumps at the sound of my voice, a small, but sharp upward twitch. “Oh! Um… I wasn’t expecting you to be here. I mean, until later. Day after tomorrow, I mean!”

I try to be somewhat polite and give the smallest of smiles with an even smaller attempt at humor. “Yes, well… I got an earlier flight thanks to the joyous miracle of online discount sites determined to outdo each other in the quest for their share of a rapidly dwindling market.”

Silence. Frozen. Looking at me with the same wide eyed expression I’d see on opossums when I’d flick on the back porch light, catching them mid-climb up the patio supports to the roof. I verbally prod her. “So… can I…?”

She snaps out of it, flinging the screen door open with such speed and force that I have to instinctively jerk my head back and to the left in order to avoid being hit in the face. “Oh God, I’m so sorry, where are my manners? Please… come in, come in…”

I don’t hold Suzette’s reaction against her in the slightest. After all, we’ve only seen each other twice, and that was almost 20 years ago, under circumstances that were less than ideal or positive. From her point of view, she doesn’t know anything except what my father has told her about me. I could be a walking emotional holocaust in her eyes, ready to rain napalm of regret and sorrow down upon her without provocation. I know how my father works. The way he tells things.

I fight the instinct to start snapping reference pics. The living room is another one of those ‘no, really… you have to see it’ kind of settings that tells 20 stories at once. The predominant “style” is patchwork, hodgepodge, jigsaw, amalgam… you can tell she tries to keep the space tidy, but there’s the old saw about shining shit, and this room stands as stark reinforcement to the truth behind that saying. It’s the assemblage of random accumulation over the years, items retained after divorce, decor purchased at swap meets or yard sales. Random occasional stabs at a “hip” affectation or persona. In the small, square room there’s a threadbare couch with upholstery that once was avocado green.with an aging Lay-Z-Boy faux leather recliner. Once plush cushions of “genuine simulated corinthian leather cracked and ripped, patched by multiple layers of black and silver duct tape. On the opposite wall is a faux-oak entertainment center, all corners and edges have been rounded off, marking it as a relic from the mid 80’s. Its partner is stylistic crime hangs to the left of it on the mottled plaster wall. A “genuine poster reproduction” of a Patrick Nagel print… by the subject matter, bare white tits, colorless nipples, eyes masked by mirrored glasses, it likely saw original print in Playboy. The shelves are littered by sickly spider plants and the weirdest library of books assembled by humankind. “Specification of the 1972 Datsun 510” with a dayglo orange spine sits next to a line of “reader’s digest condensed books”, followed by “What to expect when you’re expecting” (made all the more surreal by the fact that my father and Suzette have no children together), which sits next to “The Masterpieces of William Shakespeare”, followed by three books in the “Where’s Waldo” series. That’s just the contents of one shelf. It truly takes every amount of self control to not whip out the camera and start snapping away.

I’m staring at a shelf of poorly assembled WW II-era model airplanes when Suzette pulls my attention away from the decorative insanity.

“So… do you need to place to stay? We have an extra bedroom, and your father and I want you to know that you’d be welcome to…”

I cut that discussion off quickly. “ No, no… thank you. I got a hotel… or, whatever passes for a hotel these days down by Riverside Drive. I didn’t recognize the name of the place, so I’m hoping it’s not like the Haceinda used to be when we were kids.”

She’s puzzled at the reference, and I’m reminded once again that she’s significantly younger than I am. There’s a decade offset to her experiences and mine. The same cultural touchstones… local as they are… aren’t identical.

“The Haceinda was a kinda ‘no-tell motel’ down on Riverside in the 70s. It was the first place in the valley to offer “Adult Movies” as pay-per-view options. There was a giant rusty metal cactus out front for the sign, and folks used to say you were sure to get VD if you went in their sauna. How much truth is behind that? I dunno… it was just always the ‘sketchy’ place in town when I was a kid.”

She offers again, trying to bridge the gap “Well, if you’re worried about it being sketchy or weird or anything, really… you CAN stay here. You don’t have to spend money on a place to stay.”

I remind myself of the importance of manners. Don’t point out of the level of sketchiness present in their residence. Don’t underline the irony in the offer. “Thanks. I do appreciate the offer, but money isn’t an issue and to be honest I figure I’ll need a neutral location to chill out… no offense meant.”

She purses her lips slightly, obviously trying not to take offense. Failing at some level. She recovers and tries to change the subject. “Uh… hmmm, ok. You want something to drink?”

Thin smile and shake of the head. “No. No, that’s allright, I’m sufficiently caffeinated for the next hour or so.” I cut her off before the follow up question comes “…and I really don’t drink booze much these days, so… no. Thanks though.” I sit down on the couch, choosing the end adjacent to the beaten and worn Lay-Z-Boy. On the end table bridging the two into an “L” shape is an aged endtable, its surface covered with hazy water circles where water glasses were sat without the protection of a coaster. Atop the weathered and worn tables are a number of knicknacks, crappy paperback books, a gaudy ceramic lamp with a cloudy spatter glaze that indicates it originated somewhere in the late 60’s or early 70s. One of the items catches my eye, freezing me in place. Stunning me. It’s ostensibly an ashtray, though it’s obvious that it’s created through the filter of childhood perceptions. It’s a pinched clay creation, the small depressions of a child’s fingers cover the surface, showing the effort made against the raw clay. It’s crudely fired, with the glaze applied in an uneven and irregular coat. Patches of bare clay peak through here and there. On the side, scrawled in a child’s lettering are the words: “Worlds gReeTest DAD!”. It was a class project for Father’s day when I was in 3rd grade. The ash and burnt discoloration make it clear that it’s been used over the years. Frequently.

I pull my gaze from the ashtray with a fast twist, like a trout caught with a fishhook that hasn’t yet been “set” in its jaw, I jerk away. Big, fake grin across my face as I turn to Suzette who’s chosen to sit in the battered chair directly across from the Laz-Y-Boy. An Iced tea in her hand. I silently notice as she puts it down on the coffee table without a coaster. The origins of yet another future water ring being witnessed. She’s almost like a puppy in her eagerness to engage in conversation… in her desire to have me like her. It’s depressing. She pipes up, “Well… I have to tell you… be honest with you… I am so glad you came. I really din’t think you’d come after… well, after…” She pauses, catching herself, frantically trying to steer the conversation back to positive territory “I can’t even tell you… it’ll mean so much to him. Really.”

I’m now wishing I had chosen to have a drink. I need something to do with my hands. I need a totem. Some form of conjuring to protect myself from the reality of this situation. “Yeah, I can just imagine home sitting by the window. Pining away for his lost son with the Harry Chapin records playing on repeat.”

She’s lost, and it shows on her face. The age difference comes up again, unspoken. Of course she doesn’t know who Harry Chapin is. She didn’t have “Cat’s in the Cradle” playing daily on am radio during her childhood. The soundtrack for her growing up was FM radio. Either Bubblegum R & B, or bands like Journey and… what? What came before hair metal? Huey Lewis? John Cougar… that fucker again. Joan Jett… those would have been the soundtrack of her elementary school experience. Just the thought of it further amplifies the depression.

She valiantly tries to keep the conversation going “Ummm, well… I don’t… y’know, he doesn’t do things like that.” On sounder footing, she forges ahead “He’s too proud to ever admit he’s hurt or upset, or anything y’know?”

Yes. Yes, I do.I give a dry snort that might be taken for a laugh. Or a stifled sneeze. “Mmhmmm, I know… and I draw cold comfort in the fact that in this chaotic and rapidly changing world of ebb and flux that some things, even if you wish they would change, remain static and constant.”

Suzette half raises her hand, as if unsure whether to reach out… put her hand on my knee, or whether to backhand me. It hovers there, caught in indesiscion before dropping back to her lap. “He does love you, y’know?”

The reply comes fast, unthinking “…so said Abraham to Isaac…”

She’s lost again. No point of reference. Not the slightest bit of understanding. “Uh…Who?”

It’s my hand that comes up this time. A short shallow wave, dismissing both her confusion and my previous statement. “Nevermind. It’s unimportant. It’s…” I chuckle, no actual mirth behind it “It’s ancient history.”

 

21

06 2013

The Homecoming Game – Part 2

Since I’ll be “out of town” this Thursday, I’m uploading the second installment ‘early’.  This is the “conclusion” of Chapter 1 in the book…

…..
I know I’m stalling. Delaying this. I’ll need alcohol to be able to deal. Either before or after. Play that part by ear, but I’ll need it on hand. I’m almost to the closest “Stop-n-Shop” when I remember, this is Idaho (or across the bridge, Washington). This isn’t California. I can’t go in to a store and buy a fifth of anything. I sit in the parking lot, wracking my brain, trying to remember where the closest state run liquor store is… not even sure if, after almost two decades, it would be in the same place if I could remember its location in the first place.  More stalling. Booze can wait. Into the store for beer.

Back at the cooler they have both kinds in stock. Cheap and bad. Budwieser truly is considered the “King of Beers” here and ranks with the locals as being “top shelf”. Not many options if you do not favor the taste of metallic water when you are drinking beer.  Pushing cartons around, I finally locate a 6 pack of Henry Weinhard’s, which is as good as I’m likely to get here. Comfort food via Sour Patch Kids, Cheetos, and pork rinds. Culinary white-trash tastes embedded in me that I don’t get to indulge at home. Mental apology to El and the kids… Sorry honey, I need something to get me through this, and it’s either drugs or sour patch kids.

Checking out, there’s a spinner rack with “Cheap DVDs” promising “Great Entertainment at a low price”.  I glance at it with an almost lazy eye as the cashier rings me up.  The cashier stops abruptly, looking at me to see if I’m choking or something.  It’s my fault… the noise I made. A mix of a squirrel being stepped on and the air being let out of an overinflated inner tube. I give him a weak smile and shake my head to let him know I’m OK, and look back at the DVD that triggered the squeaky-gasp noise.  It’s a DVD of my first movie.

Well, to be accurate, not my first movie… More accurately, the first movie script I wrote that “made it”… the first one that did anything than either get optioned, or end up in the straight to video/DVD bin.

It’s weird enough seeing it here in Redneck America… it’s not like it was a big hit or anything, but the cold chill of “what-the-fuck” that’s crawling down my spine has less to do with the movie being here, and more to do with its subject matter.  It was a horror movie… on the surface.  On the allegorical level, it was a prediction of this situation. Me coming back to face my father. The prodigal returning not for praise, but justice. More aptly, it was my post-teen revenge fantasy of how this situation would play out. Having the last laugh on the man who tortured him, and full of pretentious fire and righteous durm un strang.

I pounded it out in my dark studio apartment in the early hours of the morning after 8 mindless hours of slavery as a copy editor. Fingers and eyes blazing as I typed each word. Imagining, with sleep-deprived relish, the impending academy award and the outpouring of remorse and regret from my father that the script would surely generate. Far from bringing my father or Hollywood to their respective knees, the script instead received some decent reviews. Most critics were kind enough to ignore the pretentious and ponderous tone and hence, I found myself rescued me from every having to write another slasher sequel on ‘spec’ ever again.

Of course, the years, the distance, and the reality of the moment make it clear that the actuality of the ‘prodigal son’ scenario will play out much different.

There’s no bubbling, black tar of hatred raging around in my head like there was ten years ago.

No cutting, slicing blade of sorrow… so keen you almost feel the serrated edge of it.

Bearing down like a dull grapefruit spoon. Tearing as it scoops out your heart, leaving a raw and pulpy hollow.

The clerk breaks my internal melodrama “Tha’ll be $11.67”

I again get the “We don’t take American Express” line, and resign myself to having to use the Visa card for the rest of this trip.  It makes the accounting harder… the AmEx is the “company” card, and El and I already agreed that, since I was taking the cameras and shooting reference footage up here, that we’d use this trip as a business expense… but I’m sure as hell not going to walk around this town with a wad of cash in hand. That’s just asking for trouble.

I throw the bag of beer and junk food into the trunk and rummage a bit to get out my cell and headphones.  Without a CD player in the car, my other option is listening to one of a half dozen twangy “modern country” stations, and I need music to get through this. Music and Sour Patch Kids. And beer. I cue up Deftones “White Pony”, and get back in the car.

Breathe.

Now…

Now, when faced with the atrocities he committed against his family, it takes serious effort to muster any kind of reaction or emotion other than apathetic disinterest. The fact that my father was an overwhelming prick while I was growing up bears the same impact and force on me as it would if someone one of the locals dropped the bombshell, ‘yeah there was another buncha layoffs at the mill last week.’

I know I’m supposed to feel bad about this, and intellectually I can recognize the ‘dramatic value’ of it.  That people will cry about it.Get angry about it.Drink themselves into a gray, neutral oblivion about it.But if I’m honest about it, to me it’s more of one of those ‘yeah, so?’ kinda things.

Sucks to be you.

Doesn’t affect me at all.

Not a bit.

 

17

06 2013

The Homecoming Game – Part 1

So, after some contemplation, I’ve decided to post my first novel, “The Homecoming Game” up, a section at a time, twice a week.  I’ll be posting on Sunday and Thursdays, so be sure to check back.

I’m giving the caveat that this is the VERY unedited version, only slightly cleaner than a “first draft”, so dear reader, keep that in the forefront of your brain.  While this is a deeply personal story for me, it is not autobiographical, and as it is a “first draft”, feedback, thoughts, and input is welcome.

Enjoy the ride…

—-

THIS

…Is a work of fiction. While the towns of Clarkston, Washington and Lewiston, Idaho actually exist… as do many of the locations, settings, streets, buildings, stores and structure depicted in this story… the characters, narratives, foibles, conflicts and dilemmas portrayed within the course of the following tale are purely the result of the author’s imagination (or lack thereof). No attempt should be made to draw a line between actual events and/or individuals and those within the story contained in these pages. To attempt to do so is to court madness, and suggests that one might better spend their time in discussion with the therapist of their choosing in order to address deep seated and inherent propensities one might have towards masochistic behavior.
—-

“You never listened to me

And you never had the time”

Avoiding the Angel, Dave Navarro

 

I – EGRESS

The churning in my gut starts the moment I make the connecting flight.  It’s a rare occasion that I actually pray… wish… hopefully ponder… for the prospect of a delayed flight, a lengthy layover, or a missed connection.  This… this is one of those times.

It isn’t the fact that this is a “puddle jumper”… one of those aircraft that seem to stay aloft by spit, twine, and some unknown sacrificial incantation, that has my fingers drumming on the chattery plastic fold down.  True, I am not a “Good Flier”, but I’ve had enough portion-controlled issuance of vodka in tiny plastic bottles to dull the cutting edge off of that issue.  Thomas Wolfe said “You can’t go home again”.  The actual truth is, you can.  Just expect to spend much of the flight explosively shitting in-flight within a confined space that already gives a high indication of toxicity if the scent is to be believed.

It’s a three-hour flight. Seattle to the inner reaches of bumfuck, and it only takes the first two of them to jettison everything that can be expelled through my panicked ass, and to rehydrate with vodka enough that I neither have to do the “Excusemepardonme” ritual as I fight my way back to the can, nor do I really feel much of anything.  That leaves one hour of bouncing, jouncing, generally uncomfortable flight to contemplate either “That Which Is To Come” or the calm quilted undulations of the fields passing below the wing. In six months these hills will be an spectrum of green, emerald, viridian, chartreuse.  Now, it’s winter, and the seed lays dead or sleeping under the furrows.  Many shades of brown.

The end of a cycle.

This kind of thinking… it’s the flip side of the curative effects of booze.

The bumpy air miles pass with vodka and shitting and trying desperately, so desperately to not think about “the why”. The reason for the trip. With the iPod stuffed in the luggage, and having exhausted all other options, thoughts drift back, like a compass needle bearing north, to home.  The pain of thinking about Elisbeth and the kids is sweeter, even as it grows stronger with each passing mile that drags me further from them. Ironically, if it wasn’t for them…

More accurately, if it wasn’t for her.

I wouldn’t even be making this trip. The days the news came via email, I didn’t tell her. I knew how she’d react, so I avoided it. Talked about the film we were working on putting together, how the funding was going, what a complete insufferable asshole the producer was and could we really live through nine months of having to deal with him in close proximity. All chatter and noise to distract. Deflect.

She noticed almost immediately, and cut my efforts short.

“You’re rambling about nonsense again… what’s going on?”

“What…? Going… um, I…?”

As El is fond of telling me… Frequently. You’d never know I make my living writing for a living from how I talk.

Arms crossed, pushing her breasts just slightly upwards, she does “the eyebrow thing” and waits.  Her expression… and her breasts… acting as a better form of inquisition than any truth serum or painful form of torture devised. At least when it comes to me.  I can’t lie to her when she does this, and she know it. Damn her. Damn those sweet tits of hers.

I sighed and told her about the email. That my father’s wife “reached out” because she “thought I should know” that my father is dying.  Nevermind that it’s been almost 20 years since he and I last talked, much less shared the same room… and she knows this… it’s the “right thing” to let me know so I can “say goodbye”.  When I got the email my reaction was a flashback to those old Alan Funt TV shows of my childhood… Where’s the hidden camera? Is this the next reality TV craze? Pranking Industry folks with situations that will induce horrible childhood flashbacks.

El’s reaction reinforces my gut instinct of why I didn’t tell her in the first place.  Having grown up in a tightly knit and semi-idyllic family setting she can’t grasp the concept of parental estrangement.  She understands it’s how I feel, but she can’t grasp it at a cellular level of why.

“He’s your father… you have to go.  Part of you will hate yourself for the rest of your life if you don’t”

The “discussion” went on for hours, and in the end, the fear that prompted me, the thing that finally had me agreeing to take part in this familial train wreck, was not the concern that I’d someday hate myself if I let my father die his much-deserved and long-overdue death without seeing him one last time…

In the end it was the fear that… at some level… some part of her would hate me for the rest of my life if I didn’t go. That it would irreparably damage our relationship. Our family.

The only family that matters to me.

So, as they say… here we are.

…..

Touchdown at the Lewiston airport is typical. See also, nightmarish.

As a child, I remember walking to and from school, riding my bike on the streets, being outdoors and seeing the bright yellow DC -10s and 707s of *American West flying in and out of here. Accompanying sonic booms on a daily basis courtesy of  the supply planes from the Air Force that would also land and take off from this location.  Private planes and flying lessons were everywhere. Everyone was in the air. This was a place to come to, as well as a place to leave.  Last time I flew on a DC-10 that landed here, the plane still had a smoking section.  The Egress had become “a thing” by that point.  People were leaving. Companies were leaving. They weren’t coming back. Just as I had… ahead of the curve.

As the companies left, as the number of passengers coming IN went down, the size of the flight service shrank as well.  Locals will claim it’s all supply and demand, but part of me… the sick, dark-humored part, can’t help but wonder if in a city council meeting it was decided to no longer let the big planes come in not because of “noise complaints”, nor “air quality concerns”, nor “supply and demand”. No, the dark-hearted part of me imagines a different reason stated in that secret meeting of Those That Run The Town. Put simply, “Too Many People Are Escaping”.  This place that had once… briefly… been the State Capitol, and had shown such promise to be a culture and business hub of the Northwest was now just another white trash hell.  A Black Hole of the soul, sucking out all potential from the inhabitants.

Flights now are limited to twin-prop “puddle jumpers” from Horizon Air… even United has abandoned this area… which fly once or twice a day from Seattle, Spokane or Boise.  An 8-seater, it’s rare that one of these flights, even limited as it is in its frequency, has more than 3 people aboard.

Supply and demand indeed.

The car rental situation is, unbelievably, even worse.  Logic would tell you, in crisp british enunciation, that even if people don’t fly, “the Valley” is a sprawling area spread out over a dozen miles laid over hills and irregular terrain, as well as being bisected into two states and towns by the clearwater river.  This, unlike New York, is not a “walking town”.  Reality however, speaks up with its toothless drawl in between spitting a stream of tobacco… Sheeeet son, ain’t no one gotta need fer naw car rental ‘roun here. Skeeter gotta truck, I need a’ride, he’ll gimme one.”

This entire conversation, accents and all, flashes through my mind in a split second the moment the clerk at the information counter (which also doubles as car rental, river experience booking, and likely bait shop) tells me that they only have one car available. A 2003 Pontiac Sunbird. Red. No CD Player. Not even a tape deck. For $45 a day. Plus $10 “out of state driver” fee.

I wonder for a moment, if Skeeter has room in his truck for me, but then shove it aside. I know what it’s like being here without wheels. You’re trapped. At the mercy of other people. Fuck. That.  I give him my credit card, try not to laugh when he tells me that they don’t take American Express, put away the Platinum card, get out the Visa and sign the paperwork.

I don’t think he noticed my hand was shaking.

…..

Try to be positive.

At least gas is significantly cheaper here.

Okay, really… It’s like ‘deliverance’ of the internet age.  There’s the ripples and surface patterns of modern civilization.  Broadband access, 300 channels via satellite dish… but most of these people are one ‘state-assisted-living’ check away from pulling out the banjo on the front porch and looking for hapless tourists to have their way with.

This isn’t a matter of hyperbole.  It’s 18 years of observation of the primitives in their native habitat.

I brought my cameras with me.  Mentally justifying the trip as “location R & D”, knowing that I’d be able to take back amazing and uneblievable reference pics to art directors and set dressers. Giving them the ability to give a level of “tooth” and accuracy to their “rural sets” that their urban-raised minds cannot fathom via imagination alone.  It’s still early in the day, the light’s good. This is as “bright” as it gets here… this is the surroundings in their most flattering lighting.  I drive like a local, reminding myself constantly to keep my speed down. I stop often. Randomly. Taking pictures that capture the town. Noticing that while some things change, more often, they stay the same.  Shutter snaps. Metal flaps. Moment frozen. Stolen.

The cracked asphalt of the road in forced perspective. Receding into the distance. Pocked with potholes like it’s received multiple strikes from an insurgent’s RPG. The bone-dry straw remains of tall, broken grasses jutting through the gravel at the side where the edge falls away to the river.

Snap.

The massive basalt chunks, irregular and unfinished, gaps between them. As if a giant let them stream from his closed fist in a line as a child would do with pebbles or sand. The rocks that face the water side of the levee. Hard corners, and rough polygonal surfaces unsmoothed in the slightest by the constant, angry, rush of the brackish water.

Click.

Hollow buildings in a line. Rusting streaks down the metal panel walls. Paint faded to pastel. Continents and islands of paint that have bubbles and flaked away, leaving bare rusted metal.  Corroded machines, left behind scatter around the perimeter or behind sagging chain link. Sad sentinels to production lost. Manufacturing abandoned. Jobs lost.

Flutter.

From the river’s edge, looking up as the stained concrete pylons supporting the bridge tower overhead.  Droppings from swallows dripping from the top where the migrating birds make their nests in the gap between the stony supports and the I-beams that form the honeycombed web of the underside of the bridge. The concrete is marred by graffiti… not the elegant lines nor flashy styles of the LA artists. Not the thought-provoking work of the politicized like Banksy or Kafre.  This is primitive, crude… in both execution and subject matter. A balloon-animal penis emblazoned with the all-caps title FUCK. Some young wit has added to it… using blue in contrast the original red scrawl… using the “F” as the start of a descending word, written in haphazard crossword fashion “FAG”.  Hieroglyphs that tell the mindset or the culture that produced them.

Pop.

One story-one room houses in a row that at one point in their life might have been craftsman style. Tidy, compact, white-painted manifestations of the American Dream.  Now a hodgepodge of bleached and faded colors. Of wood siding worn bare and hanging akimbo or falling away altogether. Roofs shingled in gaps, like rotting teeth. Yards surrounding each sad structure like a moat. Barriers. Grass long dead and blown away or gone to seed and choked with weeds. Gardens of rusted and broken appliances, panels, doors and sections of cars decayed far beyond to point of even the most ambitious efforts of repair.

Crack.

This is where I was born. It’s where I grew up. My “formative years” spent here.

This is a town that loves firearms and cheap bad beer. Over 50% of the vehicles have 4 Wheel Drive, and a gun rack. Spousal abuse is a given, and starts early, with most girls here getting hit by the guy they are dating before they turn 18. Date rape “doesn’t exist”, and the number of reported rapes is surprisingly low… until you understand how the legal system works in these here parts. The rate of STDs is far above the national average, as is teen pregnancy. 20% of all girls here don’t graduate from high school because they either wouldn’t DARE ask their boyfriend to use a condom, or because they wanted to make sure the guy never left them and figured that a baby would be the best insurance in keeping him around.

The unsolved homicide per-capita rate is astoundingly high, beating Los Angeles by over 400%  Serial Killer Henry Lee Lucas supposedly came through here at one point in his cross-country killing adventures.  Too many of them stay here.

To my friends in LA, it’s stating the obvious to mention that I could not wait to get out of here. Unlike that brilliant middle-American poet John “Cougar” Mellencamp, I’ll be fucking damned if I die in a small town.

Especially this one.

Since it seemed to spend so much time trying to make sure that I did.

To my peers that I went to school with…(it would be stretching the truth to call them my friends, since no level of understanding or exchange of confidences ever occurred between us) …they couldn’t understand why I would leave.  How I could leave?  Their vision of Los Angeles served up to them via the crystalline filter of drama-fueled media.  Gangbangers in movies. Robert Downey Jr. coke-fueled decline in Less Than Zero. Michael Douglas in Falling Down.

“Aren’t you scared?!” They’d ask with the saucer eyes of a panicked rabbit

“There are drugs!”

“There are gangs!”

“You’ll get killed!”

(oh my!)

Knowing the message would be lost on them, I still replied truthfully to them.
“There, I know I have to be careful at all times.  Here, there’s this fucking illusion of safety.  That you live in the middle of mom and apple pie, turkey on the table and a fire on the hearth.  But that’s not any more real than the Easter bunny or the tooth fucking fairy.”

I stopped just short of breaking open the dam and letting the gallons of vitriol and bile I felt in the back of my throat spew forth about this town. Its lies and pretenses.

Its hypocrisies.

—–

 

16

06 2013