I was a much more pleasant person back when I drank. HEY! Wait a minute--I still drink. Well, there goes that theory.
The sign said $2 Molson Ice. What bullshit, I said to Amy. Running a special on such a shitty beer. I went inside, arrogantly asked for a Rolling Rock, and got 6 bucks back off my ten.
Well, go bet your ass that I switched over to that goddamn Ice and drank it all night.
I'm young at heart, but hard in the arteries. Twenty-six and quite prepared to pass on. I mean, how do you expect to die? Old age??
The nearest bar is 10 paces from my front door. And, luck has it, the bar ain't all that bad. Nothing spectacular--$2 Rolling Rocks, decent drafts, sufficient menu for a Sunday afternoon lunch.
The pizza place down the block is another story. Every time I stop in for a slice and a beer--it's the only slice in a one block walk, and I'm insufferably lazy--I'm subjected to VH-1 on two large screens suspended from the ceiling, and some shit movie like Police Academy on the small tv at the tiny bar. I usually eat, drink and leave quickly, high-tailing it back to the bar next door if I'm still thirsty.
It's the financial implications of brazen behavior that keep my temper in check.
The critics, the editors, and the readers who have too much to say--you fucks can all step down and get out of my way, ok? Don't send me your critique--it's nothing I haven't already figured out for myself.
Self-evident comments have been made; self-serving reviews have been written. Incoherent letters have been sent. CRANK continues to grow, much to the bitter dismay of several choice editors and writers.
My response? Well, I'm sure you know what my response is.
God protects the weak, I was once told. That sure explains a lot of you.
11:42 from Newark to Trenton. Trenton to Philadelphia. Walk 3 blocks to the post office, collect 4 weeks of mail, fill out a forwarding postcard, get back on the next train out, and leave Philadelphia behind.
It cost me twenty bucks and five hours of travelling to close out my post office box, but--if only for the sake of symbolism--it was worth every penny. Now, all the mail comes right up to New York and I go to Philadelphia only as a visitor. And for the ride home, I had the unique pleasure of sifting through 200 pieces of mail.
Standing on the platform waiting for the 11:42, two men walked by, both with flowers. The first guy was black, 30 years old, dressed in jeans and a plain black overcoat. The second guy was white, wearing jeans and a Bulls jacket. The Bulls jacket guy asked the other guy, "Flowers for your female? Gonna get some of that tonight, yeah?" The other guy grunted in conversationally-noncommittal agreement. I turned away before my half-smile got me in trouble. Five minutes later, though, they were talking about their jobs and wives, and flowers, and gifts and all this shit.
At a default, I disregard people. Like many others, I write off people as essentially useless and not worth my precious time. In fact, to be imprisoned in shallow conversation with 10 strangers from 10 walks of life is an inconceivable Hell.
This time, though, with this guy in the Bull's jacket, I felt somehow wrong. Maybe a little easy conversation wouldn't be that bad? Granted, I doubt I have anything in common with this guy--it took me a few moments to remember that the Bulls were a basketball team and not baseball or football--but maybe we could've talked about the fucking weather, or spending all day on a train to fulfill a futile task. Maybe I could've been friendly if I were holding flowers for my girl and he had spoken to me uninvited. Maybe New York is actually making me friendlier in the midst of its anonymous hostility?
I purposely boarded the train one car away from the new flower friends. I took out a pad and pen, hoping to get a little work done on the two hour trip. Across the aisle were two young women, college students at a guess. Behind me were one hundred people from one hundred lives. Men, women and children--all strangers I'll never know.
The college women were coming out of New York on their way to somewhere along the line. As soon as the other passengers were settled and they were undisturbed on their 3-seater bench, the chit-chat resumed. "Well, I think she's just jealous of you. Ever since we were first-year, it's always been 'She's really let herself go downhill...' You know what drives me crazy? That Jen insists on wearing tight pants and a tight shirt. Have you ever seen her in...like...jeans and a t-shirt? It can never be just plain jeans and a baggy shirt...I don't think it's attractive at all... especially on her."
I turned my ear to the mother and 5-year old diagonally across the aisle. "Your Uncle John married a black woman. That's why he's not coming to Easter. I don't want her in my house." Oh, shit, lady, the kid's only five, for fuck's sake--let her earn her hate.
My agreeable personality was fleeting and, fortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to act upon it and actually engage in a conversation with any one of these people.
You disappoint me, world. You disappoint me, without fail and without pause.
My advantage over the rest of you is my endless capacity to laugh at myself. Of course, once I'm finished looking at myself for this sort of backhanded inspiration, I always turn my scorn to the rest of you.
They slip from my grasp, all those people I never bother to hold. Those I've loved, I've erased their details with liquor and apathy. It makes my mind less cluttered, leaves my heart unfettered by the regrets that used to waste my time.
Hell, there's nothing new under the sun, right? So why should I worry about forgetting someone here or there in this life? You're all so easily replaced, anywhere I go, by any number of equally ho-hum dopplegangers.
What is lost is best left gone; the pleasures are not missed, they're easy to come by. It's the fights and tears I wish I could have back--it's the only living I think I've ever really had.
"Life is too short to drink cheap beer."
One day at work, idle between tasks, I estimated that 75% of my leisure time is spent with a drink. Further, with this new job, a small percentage of my working time is also spent with a drink, say 5%.
I know that this isn't a good thing. It has gone far beyond any badge of honor--I've got to make some changes. Maybe after this issue gets out, I'll modify some of those bad habits, maybe try to go sober for a week.
It'll be an interesting exercise in self control, if nothing else. I suppose. We'll see.
The hip crowd joins us at Happy Hour, and suddenly the hour takes a turn for the worse.
Calling Philip K. Dick the "McLuhan of Sci-fi" is as ridiculous as claiming that Ray Stevens has a charming wit.
Where were you hipsters 10 years ago, when all of us sci-fi nerds ran right out to our local county libraries to borrow tattered copies Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? See, we didn't need the label of "visionary" or "proto-cyberpunk" to know that Blade Runner was a great movie. So, obsessive as we nerds were, we scoured the credits and discovered PK Dick.
When are you underground mass-market trend-riders going to discover Lovecraft? When they finally make a decent movie from one of his stories?
Don't mistake my curiosity for interest; you may be curious to me, but that sure doesn't make you interesting.
The train to Philadelphia has a stop in Trenton where you switch from a New Jersey Transit train to a SEPTA train.
On the SEPTA, two more students were seated across from me. This time, it's a girlfriend-boyfriend pair. She's reading Paper, jotting notes in a small, bound notebook. He's got a coffee-table book on Max Ernst.
I don't know which I'd choose: the presence of art kids or the college girl gossips. But, being that I didn't have any choice, I had to suffer all of their ambient company and listen to all of their inconsequential blather.
There's a rare grace in certain people that flashes like the last pop! from a burnt out lightbulb. It comes from people who are doing exactly what they were intended to do in this life. And it can exhibit itself anywhere.
Those two lines of dialogue that choke you up every time. That subtle transition from shadow to pitch black. The vacuum-tight and naturally fluid words of certain writers. When I catch a glimpse of this grace, I catch my breath, and fervent inspiration rushes through me like a cheap amphetamine washed down with a large, black coffee.
The laundry is in the Dry cycle and I've got a full belly of bad food, a quart of something cheap, and a twisted stomach of anxiety.
And the freaks are strolling past.
A man with a burned, bloodied and bandaged face hurries by with his 80-year old drunk friend. A gigantic woman with tits to her knees crawls by at a snail's pace. Finally, a man with one leg hops along. He's so poor that his crutch is too short; he needs to walk in the gutter with the splintered crutch up on the curb. Cars blast by, splashing him with last night's rainwater, blaring their horns at this wet, miserable soul. To his credit, his middle finger is up in response. A grand Fuck You to the smug students and misguided tourists.
I stand up, pay my tab and walk out, my own Fuck You much too quiet to be heard so easily.
Put the world at my feet. I'll lift my leg high and bring down my heel, hard and sure.
The sirens ring and I wish I could follow them to see, just to see, what's gone wrong this time. A murder most likely, and unlikely to be good, for me. It's never the assholes who raped my passed-out girlfriend back in '87, or the cunt who stole my records. It's never a good sound of sirens, for me, or if it is, I've never known, lying in my bed, listening to them pass by outside.
The nice weather is back, and that dog's been let out. Gone for the winter, or maybe a new dog is here now, barking today with the return of the spring. The sirens howl, and that fucking dog tries to answer.
The kids walk around late, my drinking goes later, that fucking dog barks again. The passing of winter ain't all that good; spring is back, and with it comes the noise of my life.
Soon enough, though, it's autumn again, a whole new season of problems to enjoy.
For one of the best nights of quasi post-apocalyptic pleasure, watch Rollerball and The Blood of Heroes back-to-back, without so much as a pause to rewind the first video. They work remarkably well together.
This paragraph is the first I've written in 4 months. I'd been writing, sure, bits and pieces, here and there, but I hadn't gotten anything of substance down on paper.
It's because I was trying a long piece, a screenplay, a novella, a collected thought. Mistakes like this aren't bad, even these types of mistakes in judgment, so long as you catch them in time and get back to doing right what you do right. For me, taking pot shots, one paragraph at a time, is right.
Four months later, scribbling on a pad, pecking at the keys, I'm back from making those kind of mistakes, and on to making new ones.
Nothing beats the local suburban TV bulletin boards for filling the late, drunken hours. Spend 30 minutes watching those Bingo, Fish Fry and Pot Luck Dinner announcements flip by, and you'll taste more distaste for your hometown than you could ever get from walking in the mall.
A stranger and his girlfriend grabbed me the other night, wondering if I'm that guy who does Crank. Someone else in the bar knows me (but I don't know him) they explain, and he pointed me out to them after CRANK came up in conversation, by sheer coincidence.
"Yeah," I say, "I'm him. Did you read the new one, #4?" Of course! We loved it, cover to cover, they sync.
"Great," I say. "The new issue is due out in four weeks."
I escape to the bar, and they look vaguely disappointed. Inside, I feel like a prick.
Really, though. As if I don't give enough.
Don't lie to be. We've all jerked off to zig-zag porn on the scrambled cable channel. And if you really haven't, then you should try--it's a lot more rewarding than it sounds.
She's got a daffy look on her face and a mall punk wardrobe. Her eyes are alight with naivete; her legs look wonderful in those black tights. If she were old enough to drink, I'd ask her along for cocktails. But sometimes these things aren't worth the trouble. Complications amass easily enough as it is. And anyway, I'm running late for Happy Hour, so I've got the good sense to not push it.
With the first drink, I jump, eyes closed, head first, into the night. I usually hit bottom 6 hours later, worse for wear, asleep and forgetful.
One nod of encouragement from Amy and I'm writing again. For the rest of the world, I usually say fuck reviews. Fuck the editors, fuck the submission. And fuck the inevitable rejection. Fuck all this writing, in fact--everyone's already tired of it. But one nod, a good word, from the only real soul in my life, and I'm back to the pad and pen, hoping to get it down before I fall asleep, get it out so that I can sleep without the dreams of anxiety and upcoming defeat. That one good word she gives me, and it's alright again.
Down on your knees, motherfucker, down, down to subservience. Get down on those scarred knees and taste the humility of your destiny.
Stinking people, you don't deserve it--the wonder, the curiosity, the fright, fun and elation. You waste it, and I watch you waste it, sitting at the bar, watching your shallow-lived lives of bad sex and petty fun. All you stinking people, you don't deserve the one thing that makes any redemption remotely possible: the humanity.
The hallway smelled like the 1000 temp jobs I'd had in a previous life. I knew right away that this agency wouldn't be able to find me a decent job in a million years; I left without leaving a resume. Bad omens come in strange form.
Coy girl bullshit, throwing darts, playing into the hands of the fucking assholes, these jockboy fucks, who would just as soon get into a circle jerk as line up at the scrimmage. After getting laid once, like a dog tasting blood, this prick manages to turn darts into a mating ritual. And she is the most detestable woman--the woman who contributes to this big boy nonsense.
I mourn the young woman, cute and able in their uniforms of youth. We'll see them grow up and settle down with men who are pure shit. I mourn their lives of loss until the moment that they realize the truth of their situation. Then, when they continue in those lives anyway, I stop singing my dirge.
Elvis: What Happened? That's what I want to know. Give me twice the fame, 1/2 the women, and I'll still die of old age. Leave me as I am--broke, unknown and monogamous, and I'll probably swing by 30.
So Dumb, So Happy