BY DAVID MCDANIEL & PIRJUANA BROWN
The boy and I fled Central California at the crack of dawn, racing southward through the endless orchards; peaches and pears and plums, apricots and apples, grapes and grapefruit, majestic olive groves and neat antiseptic lines of fledgling Christmas trees. We curse the stodgy fruit trucks that pull out in front of us with impunity and, in the meantime, we keep a steady eye on the atlas. The roadie is in full swing, and our schedule is within grasp as long as we can manage to avoid the random surprise highway construction prevalent in this part of the state, the devious CHP, these goddamn rude union cannery truck drivers.
We hang a left before Bakersfield and begin the long climb up into the South Sierras, the rolling foothills where it is still possible to blow by the speed limit advocates on occasion, stomping the accelerator, feeling the passing gear kick in, roaring by the simpering minivans, listening to the scream of the motor as the RPM's crank over, grinning and not giving a shit because it is, afterall, a rental car, a whored vehicle most likely owned by a gluttonous corporate pig of some ilk. Maybe not, but it is still a fine feeling to have the opportunity to make someone else's piece of machinery screech in agony and not care about the longterm consequences.
Then we approach the serious mountains, and the fun goes out of it. We are reduced to creeping along a series of brutal hairpin switchbacks, lethargic at best, and absolutely mind-numbing as the calvacade of cars grows out in front of us, a prissy line of sleek autos reduced to snail status behind the labors of the 30ft RV out front, huffing and puffing and riding the brake, oblivious to the state-provided pullouts.
But the land is changing, and it warrants attention. The air is cool and clean and dry compared to the humid overlay down in the growing valley, and we buzz down our windows. The shrubbery of the foothills falls away and is replaced with pines, long and lean and reaching, the movement of deer and birds, the absence of power lines and the marks of people. The herd thins out in front of us, turning off into campgrounds and the occasional home, rest areas and frontier giftshops. We achieve the summit alone, squealing rubber and breathing in great lungfuls of thin air, arching our necks upward.
The Sequoias are hard to digest, as a rule. For starters, they are massively big fucking trees. Driving out of a forest of what you consider to be godawful mighty pines and suddenly running into the Largest Living Organism on Earth calls for a bit of absorption time. We live in a land of stunted cedars and hardy live oaks here in Central Texas, and the act of standing at the base of a 2500yo tree that is 30ft in diameter and rockets straight up for 275ft tends to cause reflection. Further along there is the huge crosscut exhibit that has little markers pinned on the rings, concentric wooden circles commemorating human history, labels for Greeks and Romans, Jesus and Columbus, swirling abnormalities that tell the tale of 25 centuries of disease and fire and drought. A tale of life and survival and even prosperity that dwarfs us in scope and time as surely as it does in size.
The boy is impressed, but he is not awash like the old man. He is faced with humongous trees. I, on the other hand, am flailing about in the tides of millennia. He struggles with tonnage and circumference and linear measurement while I drown in the maelstrom of lives and generations and epochs. Thoughts of mortality are unknown to youth. The rise and fall of our history, our cycle, our fleeting and minuscule blip on the big screen of the Universe...these are concepts that gain no purchase in the mind of the boy, especially after he spots the snack stand. But maybe it is enough that he is here at the moment. Maybe these trees are raw data for some future philosophy of his, a link among many others that causes connections. One can only hope.
Coming down the backside of the Sierras is as slow as coming up, and the schedule is pretty much shot by now. The flora becomes mundane as we descend once more through a series of tortuous lowspeed switchbacks and, as the terrain evens out, there is the onset of desert, bleached rocks and sand and scrub. It is a quick transformation, and we look back upon our trail, amazed at the blatant change. We are weeks behind the big forest fires, but the smoke still lays trapped on the lowlands, a thick haze of dust and ash that swirls upon local breeze, all the while shielded from the cleansing Pacific winds by the long ridge of mountains.
The car drops over the desert rim and heads downward. The tread of her wheels is hot and violent now, like lava five spaces wide, and the steel belts sing like a chorus of hungry angels along the molten asphalt, tires sticking and ripping and bitching at 90mph through black blisters. There is no hope, but that is not the point. The point had been reluctantly abandoned earlier that day, way up there where the giant trees are arrogant for many reasons, up there where the chipmunks still cling to innocence and the red dirt has nothing to say at all, at least not to us. Up there where a man is forced to think about himself within the timeline.
We fell into the furnace of Death Valley at highspeed with night overtaking us. Our 9000ft pinnacle only hours before became a distant memory, a cool remembrance of the past. It is a rugged and menacing fall, the smoke slithering among shattered rocks out along our headlights. The pressure builds in the car and our windows become hot to the touch, our breath labored. The brakes are jerky and random now, the steering heavy, and the temperature gauge begins to stairstep upward. A highway sign tells us to turn off the AC to reduce the load on the engine, and we do so. We crank down the windows, but the blast of heat is too much. Up with the windows and on with the AC and to hell with the engine. It is, afterall, a rental.
And yea, we passed through the shadow of the Valley of Death, and it was unpleasant. The boy had slipped into a restless sleep, overcome with road weariness, and I found myself dancing fast and scared over the bottom of the pit alone, a pair of ragged claws scuttling along the floor of a lifeless and barren inland sea, arid and ancient and menacing, hurtling along in my rented capsule, safe for the moment, but uneasy. It grows late and I realize that the land around us would have no qualms about killing me and my son and the car to boot. They say that there is life in the desert, but that is best digested in front of a TV. Not here, not now. This desert resents our passing.
We had entered the twelfth hour of our drive and I was in no shape for the night mirages, but they came anyway; big black amoebae creeping onto the road, sinister shadows traipsing around where no shadows should be and then those sizzling little green and purple neon comets. Night mirages do not behave coherently. They do not follow the rules of their daytime brethren, disappearing in timely fashion as you approach, pools of shimmering water that peel out away from you in organized departure. I back the car down to 60 because I'm having a hard time dealing with the combination, tapping the brakes and swerving, not able to adjust to the phantoms, the ominous random murky shapes slithering and leaping at will amongst the smoke and the brutal refractory heatwave emanating from the asphalt.
Stovepipe Wells, Devil's Golf Course, Funeral Peak, Furnace Creek, Dante's View...these are not names for a happy place. We were lost, and it worried me, but it was difficult to concentrate on anything at all for very long. The boy groaned in his sleep and groveled around in the seat, trying to find some comfort. I finally had to pull over. The strain of hallucination had suddenly become unbearable; I'd been speeding through a dark spook house rollercoaster LSD trip for the last hour and my optical nerve was screaming. I felt the intense need to stand still and close my eyes, to experience non-motion, to stare at the back of my lids and allow the brain to cleanse itself of all these slivers and fragments, the panic and paranoia, the infernal flickering and darting, the sense of evil omen around me.
Badwater Basin is not the best place for a rest stop. At 282 feet below sea level, it is the lowest point in the country. For the first time in my life, I had to concentrate on breathing, in and out, willing the abdomen to pull in air and then blow it out again, but it was like sucking on a tailpipe or a Bunsen burner or a melting teapot, inhaling and suffocating simultaneously. And I could feel the hand of God on top of my head, shoving me down into the desert, making me heavy, making me a million pounds, making the walk back to the car seem like a hideously malicious journey, a malignant pressure that sought my inertia...
The drive out of Death Valley Basin is like being born again. It all falls away, the dust and smoke, the heat and weight, the delusions and illusions and resolutions and bad dreams. The coherence returns in waves, washing, soothing, bringing the lines of reality back into contrast, returning lost feelings of safety and control and sanity. And optimism. It's still desert when you come up over the rim, but it's high and clean and brisk, and the road is straight and legible. The road might go on forever, but it's alright now. The boy wakes up and the car begins to respond and my mind feels taut once again.
We stop on the ridge and look down at the lights of Las Vegas. The boy gapes, the car hisses under its breath, still pissed off, and I wonder about the electric bill for this fucker. Vegas is indiscriminate energy. Yokels and locals, the massive turbines of Hoover Dam and the massive currency of many nations, all spiraling endlessly into a billion watt machine that feeds upon any takers, including itself. Vegas is cheap thrills and heartache and regret, a whore, but her wardrobe is the best money can buy. She preys openly on the rubes, but the rubes covet her anyway. She is a human monument to something, I'm sure, but I'm not really up for pursuit of that definition at this point. Vegas is a gaudy and harmless carnival show to some, a majestic squalor to the innocent and wary. But she will ruin your life if you are dumb or reckless, if you feed her a little bit, if you sign on for the ride...
The boy and I tanked up on Red Bull and hit the streets. We did the tour until our brains were overloaded and our eyes were blinded, then we saddled up and drove away, out from under the glitz and the lights and the perpetual promises...down and out through the side streets, the other reality of Vegas, the 24 hour strip clubs and pawn shops, the hourly hotels, the grungy bars that house the nickel slots and cheap hustlers, the desperate prostitutes and sad broke drunks and smarmy drug dealers. Vegas without her make-up is not a nice place, and the boy grew solemn and watchful as we made our way out of town.
Ten miles later we turned off the highway and drove over a cattle guard out into a big desert ranch. I killed the lights and we crept along under moonbeams until we found a spot for the tent. The Red Bull had worn off and we were both dead on our feet. The shine of Vegas was still bright on the horizon, but out in the cactus and sand and mesquite there was a night breeze that washed her from us, a clear calm sky full of stars that quelled the claustrophobia.
The boy was comatose as soon as his head hit the pillow, but I was still rankled and keyed up. So I popped a beer, settled back into a camp chair and looked out over the dark land, letting the brain unwind, feeling the tension of the day slide down my spine, dispersing, allowing the limbs to go heavy. My mind flirted with the meaning of our day, the life analogy of it all, the hint of a larger picture. There was the ascension into Paradise, the long drop into Hell and then the worrisome escape that only managed to land us in Purgatory...it was a story that I wanted to tell, but the words were sluggish and contrary, and I didn't have the energy to struggle with them. I tried, but sometime before dawn I laid down among the dunes and lost them forever to the night
BY PIRJUANA BROWN
Welcome to Sports Hell. I am new at this gig, so lighten up already. And don't come whining to me or the editorial staff at this mag about standard sports coverage of the standard sports horseshit. There is too much of that swill already, and I refuse to be a part of it. We here at the mag place a high price on originality, sagacity, and other erstwhile uppity and demented concepts, and that lunacy extends to our recreational reports as well.
OK...maybe just a little bit. Ahem. Free agency has murdered Pro Sports. There. Pro Sports is murdering College Sports in a like fashion, and the nasty trend continues down into God knows what level. Pre-school, I imagine. The goddamn greedheads and entertainment weasels and moneypimps and raggedy-ass whores in general have sold us down the river much the same as chicle is hawked in Mexico by small brown children. But I'm different, Mabel.
With that said, I happily announce that this column will be a quest to discover True Sport once again. We're talking oil wrestling, washer pitching, midnight bike runs, backyard boxing, carp hunts, suicide missions into East side laundries on Saturday...you get the picture...the kind of activity that is accomplished with spirit and verve and guts for the sole reward of a fleeting taste of Massive Fun and Athletic Glory. OK then. Onward. This wretched spiel is long overdue, and I have no time to correct anything. But at one point there was that certain sense of high adventure, ya know?
Right. Here we go. Take One. Golf is a funny game. It is probably the only sport that is more fun to fuck up than perform correctly. That's my take on it, anyway, and I tend to have good instincts when it comes to Fun. My fondest memories of golf to date involve me being escorted off the course by an official person in official regalia amid official warnings to the effect that I can expect instant official death if I ever decide to grace this particular course again in this particular lifetime. In fact, I probably hold a record of some sort in Central Texas for Strange and Heinous Crimes Against The Game of Golf.
But you have to admit that driving balls at the clubhouse is worth a few cheap thrills. And so is planting flowers in the cup. And skinny-dipping in the water thingees. And wrecking carts. And showing up in cutoffs with a case of beer and announcing that you plan to do 18 holes with nothing but a One Iron. Twice. Real golfers fear a One Iron, but not me. I can make a One Iron sing. And putt. And I can make a One Iron suddenly become a menacing weapon when sputtering rule-mongers come a'calling.
But that is another column. I am sure there is a physics to golf, a science of some sort that exists for the sole purpose of adding inches to the standard effort. But there is no way in hell that playing a quiet round that happens to break your own personal record can compete with the high excitement of dropping a used and algae-ridden Titleist down through a skylight or into a yuppie tennis tournament in progress.
I guess that is one of the redeeming qualities about golf; the fact that one can take a decent club and smack hurtling little white meteors around at arrogant rich people and get away with it in public...ahh...'sublime' is the word I want here. "Oh, so sorry there, my good man...I simply must get some help with this dreadful hook problem...please give your wife my apologies when she comes around...and about the Mercedes..."
And I would argue that golf should be a thing of Fear. It would liven up the game tenfold, and send ratings through the roof. A true golf course should have holes at both ends, and the winner would be the guy who played through without getting taken out. The stakes would rise automatically, and otherwise humdrum televised tournaments would suddenly begin to draw the crowd normally associated with pro wrestling, destruction derbies, ultimate fighting and stock car racing.
While I'm thinking about it, golf could use a bit of gratuitous sex as well. Mandatory Playmate caddies in haltertops and Daisy Dukes for starters...at least two topless WPGA tournaments a year...a new Golf Challenge of some kind that incorporates the game of Truth or Dare...candid interviews conducted in drunken hot tubs while nyphy golf groupies frolic in the background. You get the drift.
Like maybe, uh....screw this putt, I got a perfect chance to catch Tiger with a low whistler...boom...nailed him on the run between the fairway and the sand sinkhole...yeah...right in the hamstring...that oughta gain me a little breathing room...Caddie, bend over and smooth the grass again...one more time...a little faster...now, bring me another Smirnoff, then take the cart and clear those old people out...you can hold a driver between your what?...Jesus, I think I've grown a One Wood in my dungarees...never mind, I don't pay you to think...yes, I still love you...look...here's a sack of balls...no, really...take this sack of balls, get down on all fours behind that hummock there, and cover me during the next drive...make 'em pay, baby...that's a good girl...I see another hole in one in your immediate future. Bonzai
Admission is $2, But It'll Cost You $34.90
Plus Assorted Contusions, Lacerations,
Altercations and Lamentations To Get Out
First things first, Sports Fans. As you know, I make it a point to ignore the so-called professional 'sport' thingees of our time. For the most part, they consist of wonderful athletes whoring as hard as they can for as much dinero possible. And if you don't believe me, check out the salary expenditures for the two recent World Series teams. Numero Uno and Numero Dos in MLB if I had to hazard a guess.
But I think we have reason to be proud of our hometown bike hero. I remember when he was knocking on heaven's door, looking like a white Ethiopian famine victim, riding his bike for 100 feet, then falling over in a ditch. There is something to be said for the true grit that brought Lance from then to now. Hooray, hooray. OK...onward.
Now then. I think I may have stumbled upon the most aggressive contact sport known to man. It was an innocent discovery, no doubt. The sign out front did not mention bodily trauma. It did not mention the need for protective gear. It was wholly misleading, come to think about it. As I recall, all it really said was 'City-Wide Garage Sale'.
Serious fucking business. I had no idea that the women do this kind of stuff on a regular basis. Sort of like a cross between rugby and hockey and Sumo, with a decent dose of Vegas cardshark strategy and a keen helping of the worst vicious underhanded streetfighting known to man. Brutal fucking business.
Bad fucking business. The kind of business you hide from your kids. Like uh...how do you explain that Mommy has a sock full of lead pellets in her purse, blood underneath her fingernails and a set of brass knuckles behind the seat. Right. You don't go there. Smart men go fishing that weekend. I know this now.
And thank Dios there were no cameras. For one thing, a bunch of damn females in this town would be sporting felony assault charges. I would file a few myself if I weren't so embarrassed. Before yesterday, I had the silly weird notion that I was a badass ex-jock sports columnist who can still hold his own if need be. Right. Fisticuffs and all that. An old-style pugilist, bygod.
Well. So much for mistaken perception. As of yesterday, I am keenly aware that small women with large tote bags can take me out at will with very little effort if the price is right. It is a sadness. Pirjuana is in the way...boom...Pirjuana is on the floor complaining...just like that. It happened repeatedly, and there was not a damn thing that I could do about it.
Ice trays, forgodsake. I figured a few extra ice trays out at the hunting cabin would come in handy for those late night 'strategy sessions'. 49 cents...decent...and then the small blonde lays an elbow across my windpipe. I am down on all fours suddenly, gasping, gawking about, eyes full of what might be mistaken for tears, sucking air, watching my ice trays disappear into a giant purse as I peel my hands up from sticky Coke cement.
Then I decided to just waltz on over to the linens. Big as life, I was, strutting right up to the damn things like I planned on buying something. We're talking about sheets and pillowcases and the like. I mean, men are dumb and we go out and put on uniforms and shoot each other, but at least we claim to be doing it in the name of God or Islam or freedom or communism or Manifest Destiny or some such truck.
Well, true. The wretched piece of cloth did have some lace on the edges, but that is still no reason to do what she did to my kneecap. She was a petite little brunette cutie, but not when the battle grimace took over. Does this woman know the price of orthoscopic surgery these days? Jesus fucking God, the knees...it is a career ender when the knees go. Deliberately causing harm to someone's major joints is surely a crime of some sort.
I finally wimped out after the kidney incident. It was a safe gig, I thought...an innocent lonely floor lamp standing kinda all by itself back there in the corner. I watch. I wait. Yep, still lonely. I make the circle and cruise back by. Yep, still lonely. I begin my approach, angling, casual, nonchalant. It is, afterall, only a lamp.
I reach. I grasp. Boom. Blue/white hair, Supphose, the smell of cheap bourbon and lilac body powder...a walker makes a surprisingly efficient weapon when applied in a harsh fashion to the lower back region of un-suspecting males. Then came the Vulcan Death Grip and blackness and the realization that I really didn't want the damn lamp anyway.
The First Aid tent is staffed by men. They are nice. They patch me up and we trade tough manly tales and we keep our eyes averted from the spectacle before us. There are other men being treated while I am there. We laugh nervously and bitch about the goddamn Aggies of A&M, the goddamn Longhorns of UT, the goddamn Dallas Cowboys, the frigging Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs, the price of a hunting license this year, the slut whore wrench and grease problems awaiting us out there in the parking lot...
The nice First Aid guys give us paper bags containing a few used T-shirts so that we can walk out of here pretending to have made a purchase. It is a little thing, but it saves some face. We take a deep breath. We promise to write each other. We chug the last of our medicine. We scuttle like hell towards the door.
I am bailing into the vehicle when I notice the commotion. Seems that a group of heinous thugs have cornered a woman and, by the sound of it, are doing some serious damage. Jesus. OK. I bite my lip. Goddammit. OK. I head over there...
Not a pretty scene. The woman is definitely taking a beating. And it is way damn apparent that something must be done. So I reach down deep inside. I tap the hidden strength. I send up a prayer. I wade in...and I smack the blond bitch right across the windpipe. Pi-yow. Here's looking at you, Toots. And then I snag my fucking ice trays. And then I make a run for the truck...P
(Earlier that night, running)
Running, just running...loping downhill on a long slant, gasping and wondering why and putting one foot in front of the other in succession, tuning in the squeamish headset radio, foggy digital Mozart. My heart and lungs throttle me, lactic acid, hemoglobin, aneurysm, bad, platelets, run motherfucker. Run like the wind and hope like hell the warm breeze cleanses you, hope like hell that the blood rushing to your face washes all those sins.
Pretend like maybe like I don't know like maybe like running downhill bursting blood vessels in someone else's dream, the freedom of ruining a life not your own, a pulse sprint hemorrhage that ruptures and doesn't count, doesn't add up, hurtling anon below and out and up in, interior, the word, form the word, form the calyx around misgivings. Pretend the life and just do...just do it...just form the words, word form popping arteries. The trick is to shine the double mirrors back upon yourself, jimmy the reflection, jam the darkness back into the light bulb, make it all bright and new and shiny.
Salt sweat like just do it licking wounds and trying not to notice the tendon ripping outwards, the beergut ripping outwards, the snot. There is that transition, the rabid panic, the epiphany boom all of a sudden that you're not what you once were, that you have graduated from running like a motherfucker just for the hell of it to running for reasons of safety and health and status, for reasons not known a decade ago; not running for joy, just chugging along with dim hopes for cholesterol and cardiovascular whatnot, running because you need to and not because you want to, running because the tightness of your clothing has risen its ugly head yet once again.
Tit for tat, wisdom for youth, and I wish that was relevant and true, wish that the informed gut-burst promenade of my dotage was somehow more valuable than the bickering exuberance of my initial art. Running for reasons that aren't mine, creating mature and polished schlock for the masses, loping downhill and puking behind bushes for someone else entirely, middle age vomit lacking joy and confidence, lacking ideals.
Happiness measured in degrees of sadness, happiness measured by how far away, by the non-existence of tragedy, happiness whored out to routine and mimic, to material dry goods and credit ratings, a catchphrase of how not unhappy we are. The writ of success, the dialogue of bliss, the path to righteousness. One more self-help instruction manual plotting a course to personal ecstasy is gonna blow my mind to shards, spatter the windows, ragged triangles of my skull all about the place, slimy confused brain matter clinging the walls for my children to clean up before the will is read.
Just do it, do like a motherfucker, loping uphill towards home, striding back again into the confusion of why I run, the reason for caring. Like maybe I can cure the Middle East with a taut belly, bring sanity to the Asian Peninsula via my hamstrings, free Africa with a low heart rate, somehow cause logic in the White House as I churn. All in one fell swoop. Like maybe. Maybe I run because the pain is my pain and it surrounds me in a selfish fashion, a pain that warrants my immediate attention, a trivial pain within the calyx that shields me from the real pain.
Running on the East Side, keeping to the left, maneuvering the eroded streets overdue for public renewal, jumping the gullies and potholes and road trash. It is a run full of humanity; the homies dogging for spare change, derisive, crack for sale, crack that would buy me strange pussy for 20 minutes, Islam that is not happy with honkie joggers, rap and Tejano and bundled poverty who resent me because somehow running is a sign of affluence. Just running, downhill motherfucker, jeers and my soggy t-shirt and wanting to get away, wanting to lope and concentrate on my feet pounding within the words forming words, nothing else.
Home is where my heart isn't, I seem to have lost it somewhere, oh well, I can't breathe, the sweat gushes into my yuppie imitation and I stink like a pig. My body is officially more in shape, better equipped to deal with the pain. And why not? The tunnel goes on forever, sickly, a raw little peevish strand of selfish burrows interconnected a few inches below the St. Augustine sod, riffing Bermuda grass, stretching urgent lopes down through prairie dog cities, clanging mountain roots, blistering up like chancres out in the desert. I run because I want to know the feeling of wanting to run once again. Just for the hell of it, innocent and smart and fast, brimming with majesty and miracle cures and exotic energy, running fleet into a bright clean future.
(Later that night, sitting)
At times like these. Then the moths burrow out from walls of wooden darkness silken and fragile and becoming, exposing my need, my longing for the tarpaper of existence. The steel wool, the screws. My nights are battles, sleepless and wounded, bloodied around the morning beer trying in vain to thaw a frozen tongue that can't talk about the black wars, the fresh wounds, the infinite sadness that silks out of the wall dusty and beautiful and becoming, caterpillars trudging into pupae, furling innocent bent wings expectant to the sun down beneath the hard brogan shoe of a man who hates his life and takes it out on Nature.
I'm sticky and molden, and the time of my rapture flees from me in ever longer strides, geometric, galactic, stretching out big and elusive. My boots are mired in the mud, and I am alone within the ebon minutes. The battles and the moths are my familiars, companions of the deadcold lunar journey, seminal scribes marking the hours of encroachment, naked and scared and weeping at the foot of the crucifix, whispered questions that don't have answers. The night and the brogan, the loss of a bent butterfly in the forest, the sound that nobody heard.
At times like these. At times like I drag my broken mouth across the floor weeping and sweeping broomy fragments, gathering splayed bits of me mingled in dust. Form words. Form the words. Form words down in the dustpan swirl...tap words into the electronic beast and take thy comfort. The dust cloys my throat and fingers, my eyes, my hybrid broom and rampant electronica. My bits are scattered, bytes slung and dirty and tired, waiting patiently for the litany of foregone failure. The moths cringe upon the wall...but they're consistent and usual, welcome. At times. Like these times, the stroke of black and steel wool and papyrus wings of design, plucked and forgotten like these, at times.
Misgave. Misgivings. Miss living. Misnomer crawling across my face like a beetle, the words, forming words, chewing them like clay, wrapping my lips around nouns and verbs, choking on conjunctions and participles and the dusty wings of infant stomped butterflies. A planet of billions, I'm here, I'm there is me and my electric bitch, yours truly and my monkey, I and misgivings and misliving and Ms. Nomer. And the monkey. And the dust among the lint cobweb shadow fecal strewn wings watching the brogan descend, but that is beside the point...or maybe on top of it...or possibly around the bend by now, or completely gone for all I know because points, as a rule, are unstable, prone to knockering and tomfoolery and other assorted horseplay down in like these now.
In the night my knockering unstable mouth full of moths the dusty bitch greeting pixels resolution prone. It is late and the concept of sin evades me once again, the reason of us all for one for all, shift evade now down. Now. And misgave, mistook the beetles on my face for words. The Boat-Tailed Grackle, indigenous to most Southern states, scracks weird gravel barky noises and shits on urban cars. 'Scrack' is a good word. I found it crawling with the beetles and moths down in the dust, reaming my lips in the night, noise at 2am that nobody wants. Scrack. Once more scrack. At times like scrack. Scracking dusty beetles off my face, scracking them like explosive peanuts between my teeth, tilting downward to meet the times like these, the scrack miss living, the unheard sound of moth wing wounded battles under brogans and knockering monkeys, nights that turn into days, accusing us with hours, scracked from the start, broken.
(Early the next morning, waking)
"What do you want to do with all this weird shit you have open in Word?"
"I don't know...I think I was writing last night...lemme take a look at it."
GW MACH ONE
Author's Note: Prying out an interview with the President of the United States of America is never an easy thing, but this rag is no ordinary magazine. I caught George in a weird mood, and so be it. I'm always in a weird mood, so it made for some fun banter. The kneecaps are healing nicely. Remember...you heard it here first.
AD: Good afternoon, Mr. President, and thank you for granting this audience.
GW: How did you get in here?
AD: Uhh...I applied for press credentials, and your handlers thought it would be cool to spring a small no-name downhome sorta street rag into the presence of the Big Man. Compassionate conservatism, staying in touch with the people, feeling my pain...you know, all that stuff...
GW: Right, right...do you have any beer?
AD: Negatory...drank the last one on the way over. But I'll fly if you'll buy.
GW: You fucking press assholes are all the same. OK, here's a 20. Grab a case of Lone Star, and don't try squirreling the change, because I have big mean people who will hurt you if I tell them to.
AD: Right...be back in ten.
(20 minutes later)
GW: Where the hell have you been? I'm a busy man, you know.
AD: Sorry. Apparently some sort of shift change occurred out there with the security geeks, and the new guys didn't like me very much. Here's your change...and the receipt.
GW: No shit. You are kinda scruffy looking. What's with the hair and the earrings? Are you a faggot? Have you accepted Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal savior?
AD: (popping a beer) What?
GW: (popping a beer) Never mind. Put the hooch in the fridge, and let's get this over with. I'm the Most Powerful Man in the Free World, and the schedule is kinda tight these days.
AD: Understood. I'll try to boogie. OK. This past election was a bit of a mess. What are your thoughts on the way you obtained the presidency?
GW: Let me make this easy for you: When you receive $100,000,000 to accomplish a goal, you accomplish the goal. By any means necessary. Does that make sense?
AD: I see your point. But doesn't the shakiness of the mandate bug you just a little bit?
GW: Does winning an Olympic gold medal by 1/100th of a second bug you? It's a matter of perspective here. Winners win and losers lose, period. I won. The events leading up to that point are moot. Winning by a landslide or winning by quasi-legal Supreme Court shenanigans is still winning. I used to own the Texas Rangers baseball team, son.
AD: What the hell does that mean?
GW: (popping a beer) God, you're dense. The Texas Rangers play hardball. I play hardball. I play hardball to win. Am I getting through here, hippieboy?
AD: (popping a beer) Got it. OK...uh...missile defense. The system is buggy at best, promises to be hugely expensive and is proving to be a bigass thorn in the side of the international community. Why are we doing this?
GW: Peace is an illusion. Everybody wants everybody else's ass. The illusion of peace is only possible if you demonstrate the ability to absolutely nuke the globe out of existence.
AD: Wow. That's kinda heavy, Mr. President. Can I call you George?
GW: Do you always make a habit of pressing your luck? Get me another beer, and call me sir.
AD: Yes sir.
GW (popping a beer) Do you have any blow?
AD Uhh...not on me...sir.
GW: Just checking. If you did, I was gonna have you arrested and beaten.
AD: Not me, sir. Drugs are evil. Drugs monopolize the efforts of our police, clog our judicial system and cause the American government to pour countless billions down the shitter every year. That can't be a good thing.
GW: You're a smartass. Get me another beer.
AD Right. Sir. (popping a beer) So what's up with this so-called 'energy crisis', eh? I find it strange that it has come down on us immediately after you took office and installed those weird corporate Cabinet folks.
GW: (popping a beer) I thought I told you that I used to own the Texas Rangers.
AD: Ah...the hardball thing. I'm beginning to catch on. But doesn't it bug you that the majority of Americans are suddenly hurting bigtime while these guys soak up profits?
GW: The majority of Americans are idiots, fagboy. Our standard of living is still relatively high, and no one really gives a fuck about a decent fleecing as long as there's TV and fast food.
AD: (popping a beer) You are one brutal sonofabitch, sir.
AD: I hate asking this question, but I feel I owe it to my readers. Why are you making it a point to bail on every single environmental law, regulation, accord, treaty, etc. that you can lay hands on?
GW: Environmentalism was created to thwart corporate progress, and I won't stand for that. The planet has resources and we own the planet. The business of America is business. Period. I'm sick to the gills of these whackos whining about trees and lead and arsenic and little birdies and global swarming and pollution toxic swamp things.
AD: I think the term is 'global warming', sir.
GW: Shut up. Whatever. The point here is that we don't owe the past anything, we don't owe the future anything, and we don't owe the present day wankers anything. We have a responsibility to the stockholders of our economy, and if a leopard or a parrot or a flower has to go down, then so be it. Mankind is an end unto itself. We are at the top of the foodchain for a reason. Fetch me another beer, greenie freakboy.
AD: Ay curumba. I read this story somewhere that sorta implicated the Bush clan with big German pharmaceuticals and Nazism and a dude called Hitler. Is there any truth in this?
GW: (popping a beer) Have you ever heard of concepts like 'money' and 'power'? Get me a beer, dumbass.
AD You already have one, sir.
GW I knew that. But I want you to get me one anyway.
AD Right. I'm about ready for one myself. Here.
GW (popping a beer) You're from Austin, aren't you?
AD: (popping a beer) Yeah...why do you ask?
GW: My daughter goes to school down there...just wondering if you've seen her around.
AD: Not really. But I hear that she's a perverse little wench that drinks like a fish and fucks like a rabbit.
GW: So have I. But you're still in trouble for saying that shit.
AD: Do you think you could set me up with her? I have this penchant for women who drink like fish and fuck like rabbits. And it would be like way cool to be the son-in-law of the President.
GW: You are so out of here. Agent, make this slime go away.
AD: Can I grab one for the road?
GW MACH TWO
Interviewing the President is always a weird scene, even more so this time around, and you fuckers better appreciate the amount of blood, sweat, tears and general degradation that a scoop like this one represents. GW is not an easy man to deal with, nor am I, for that matter, but journalism with integrity never promised to be easy. The gardener's name has been changed just in case. And, before we get off into this adventure, I want to thank Violet Price for her unwavering support of my presidential interview series. This one is dedicated to her...
It's that moment, man. All of a sudden you're careening off I35 onto 317N to Crawford at four in the morning in an unfamiliar vehicle with the Sunshine Band blasting disco and a weird chick shimmying back and forth in the passenger seat and then you look down and realize that 95mph is probably not a very wise choice. A bad choice at any given time and place, to be sure, but definitely not a good thing in Belton, Texas at 4am when you also happen to be sporting an incoherent half naked female, loud jungle music, a half gallon of Jamaican rum and a bag of freaky Colombian weed. If I remember correctly, the cops in Belton busted Willie back a few years ago. That is hardcore. Busting Willie Nelson in Texas is akin to busting Mother Theresa in Calcutta or jacking up the Queen Mother on the lawn of Buckingham.
There is that moment of essence, you know, when it all comes rushing in and you realize that it's too late to grow up, that you missed the boat somehow. Drugs and liquor and late night speed runs and boppity disco babes should have been taken care of in my youth. Well...uh...I guess they were, come to think about it. It's just that those sorts of gigs just never really trailed off into some form of mature and responsible behavior like they were supposed to. I still wonder about that shit at times. Times like right now, actually.
I have a job to do. And I plan on accomplishing that job. But I sure as hell didn't plan on staying far too late at a decadent party and heading out to said job at top speed in the car of an addled drug-crazed woman. Well, damn. Yes, Mom...I didn't really think ahead. I know this. It just seemed like the right thing to do at the moment, even if it did turn out to be wrong in every single way possible from the present back to the point of it's twisted conception.
Dawn is upon us, and I pull over for muchly needed gas and last minute provisions at some country store/bar and grill/thrifty mart/bait house/god knows what else. The woman scores a key chained to a large brick and stumbles around the corner for the bathroom while I gas up and do a bit of shopping. Then the idea hits me. I grab a 2x4 from the junkpile out back and wedge it up against the doorknob of the john, leave the goodie bag right outside, bribe the cashier for a couple of 6am cases of Lone Star, and run like hell.
It is the right decision, under the circumstances. She could be in there doing any manner of things; passing out, puking, getting nude and freaky, gobbling more drugs...whatever. The point is moot. Showing up at the Presidential ranch with illegal substances and a bent chick would mean instant death for the mission at hand. I feel guilty at the last minute and scrawl a note telling her that a horrible emergency has arisen and that I'll be back this afternoon. Hell, I'm willing to bet that there'll be plenty of entertainment to be had around this joint in a few hours, and I'm sure a lady of her talents will have no problem at all engendering some serious fun with the locals. I mount up and drive...
The SS man at the gate remembers me from last time, which is a huge relief. It's been a long night and I'm hanging pretty low on the 'respectability' quotient about now. I've cleaned up the car as well as I can on the fly, but I'm sure, to the trained eye, the signs of massive weirdness still linger. He mentions that he read my last interview, almost produces a smirk, checks the credentials, radios down and then waves me on past. I'll be goddamn...I think the bastard is actually liking this. Three to one he has voted Democrat for all of his adult life, and doesn't really have a problem admitting a wild-eyed journalist who just might go sideways on Dubya. As long as said journalist keeps his hands to himself, that is.
The President is showering up after a morning horseback jaunt, so I seize the gardener, rattle off some of my pidgin Spanish, and enlist his aid in carting the beer to the den refrigerator. I slip him a ten and a sixpack. He gives me a dazzling smile and offers to bring some homemade tamales around later. Jesus. Georgie better be glad I don't have a bunch of plastic explosive strapped to my body. This is almost too easy. But then again, there's a few yard dogs gamboling around who have made it a point to introduce themselves and take a few sniffs on the sly. And I'm willing to bet that the cameras are following me around and the metal detectors are activated and my image is big and bright in a crosshair somewhere.
I pop the first cold one, settle back into a large recliner and await The Man. Junior probably won't recognize my name on his agenda, but I'm sure his memory will come around real quick as soon as he catches me swilling Lone Star in his den. He tossed me out last time, amid bitter curses and muttered threats and insinuations concerning his hell-raising daughter. But I'm gambling that he doesn't remember a lot of the conversation of that day, and I'm gonna bring up the fact that he promised me a follow-up interview (which he didn't...the bastard wanted my head on a stick). I am, afterall, a member of the press, a respected journalist from his old hometown, capital of his old home state. It's a risky venture, but I'm a Pro and this is the Business...
(the President enters)
AD: It's wonderful to see you, sir. How was the horseback ride?
GW: You again? I thought I had you ejected and blacklisted for being dumb and rude.
AD: Not at all, sir. You must be thinking of someone else. As I recall, we were starting to have some really good conversation, and then your schedule intervened. You're not having memory lapses are you, sir? I mean, like Ronald Reagan or something? I'd hate to have to break news like that to the public.
GW: Hell no. I remember it like it was yesterday. And I see you still haven't bothered to address your hygiene issues.
AD: It's a disguise, sir. I write for a streetsmart magazine in Austin. You know how crazy that place is. And there is just no way to get the real scoops around town unless I grow my hair long, pierce my ear and wear ratty clothing. It's a covert operation, sir. Surely you can understand that.
GW: Damn straight. But this isn't Austin, freaky boy.
AD: Right, sir. I had meant to slip into something more formal, but I was unavoidably detained with a big story back in A-town. I'm involved in an undercover expose of the sex, drugs and rocknroll scene. It's horrid, sir. Totally out of hand. Something has to be done about it. I drove straight from an assignment, sir, and I apologize if my demeanor is not what it should be. But I did spring for the beer. Last time it was your dime.
GW: Yeah, fetch me one. And let's get on with this. I'm expecting Putin any minute now.
AD: (grabbing two beers) OK, sir. (pops a beer) I guess we should start with the big one. What's up with this Afghan business? Do you really think wiping the slate clean over there is gonna put a dent in the threat of terrorism?
GW: (popping a beer) Of course not, peace boy. But it's a damn good start. We are engaged in our own jihad, a holy war to protect the institutions of our great country.
AD: Isn't it sort of...uh...the institutions of our great country that have singled us out as the prime target of terrorism? I mean, our foreign policy is not exactly something to cheer about. The US is seen as directly responsible for a lot of pain and suffering in a lot of places. Is military action gonna fix this?
GW: The world must know that we will take punitival action against any and all forms of terrorism. We do not negotiate with these types of people. I regret that innocents are harmed, but our message is firm. And we will remain committed to humanitarian relief as the smoke clears.
AD: That's sorta heavy, sir. Don't you ever wonder about the root cause of their hatred?
GW: The root cause of their hatred does not interest me. There is a new world order at hand, and those that don't want to take part in that order will suffer the consequences. Period.
AD: This is depressing. I'm grabbing another beer. You ready?
AD: (popping a beer) So what's our mission statement in Afghanistan, sir? What's the best possible outcome?
GW: (popping a beer) To destroy the al-Qaida network of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban government that supported him. Easy.
AD: But isn't it a commonly known fact that al-Qaida is worldwide? To me it kinda seems like exterminating bugs. You can fumigate all the roaches in Austin, but it won't do a damn bit of good. They'll be back, in some form, from somewhere else, unless we learn to keep our own house clean. What's next after Afghanistan? And what about those people when it's all over and we've moved on?
GW: Look, pacifist boy. I've never said this was going to be a short operation. The war on terrorism will be one that is waged as long as there is one person who commits acts of hatred. It will extend beyond my term in office, decades, maybe forever. And as for Afghanistan, we are even now sponsoring meetings to form an intermittal government composed of all factions.
AD: Yeah, and that scares me, sir. I remember writing a column back during the Kosovo gig questioning the intent of all those poor abused ethnic Albanians, and I just about had my nuts cut off by the public. And then the first thing those fuckers did when they got a little relief was to start slaughtering Serbs and raising total hell in Macedonia. I have the same queasy feeling about the various factions in Afghanistan. How do we avoid that?
GW: You're not listening, hippie boy. Our mission is to destroy the terrorist network in that country, rout the Taliban and facilitate the formation of a temporal government. After that they can lop each other's heads off in abundance for all I care. There are other fish to fry.
AD: Right. And what do you see as the other fish, sir? Iran? Iraq? Somalia? Libya? Hell, what about Palestine? Arafat sponsors terrorism according to this big definition we have now.
GW: Get me a beer. And while you're at it, get yourself a clue. Any fool press hack would know that our next moves are a matter of national security. Totally confidential at this time.
AD: (popping two beers) Point taken, sir. But that brings up another topic. In my mind, it seems like the huge emotion surrounding the events of 9/11 have made it possible to slip over a massive amount of legislation concerning the area of personal privacy. The government can now rip my luggage apart, tap my phone, open my letters, confiscate my guns and my lawn chemicals, search my truck and my house, intercept my email, track me on the internet and detain me for indefinite periods of time all in the name of national security. And I don't really see any language in the new laws that prescribe some sort of timeline. I realize that days of war require different security measures but, on the other hand, a loss of freedom is a loss of freedom.
GW: Look, paranoid boy. That legislation is crucial to the cause of rooting out terrorist cells not only in this country, but around the world.
AD: But what's to keep the government from using those measures against its own citizens for any number of reasons?
GW: Those laws are on the books to combat terrorism. Why in the hell would your government ever turn those laws against you?
AD: Uh...maybe to help establish the new world order?
GW: Don't get smartass with me, conspiracy boy. People of power carry a huge weight of responsibility and knowledge and vision that the populace knows nothing about. We are trying to make this world a better place for you, and all we get in return is this sniveling bullshit about personal freedom. Everything will be just fine if the citizenry will just lay off and let us get our important work done. Grab me another one while you're up.
AD: I'm not up, sir.
GW: You are now.
AD: Right. (grabs two beers) (popping a beer) I guess I'm just having trouble grasping the big picture here, sir. Corporate globalization, rampant militarism, every citizen under scrutiny, heavy-handed political...
GW: Bingo, flower boy. (popping a beer) Ain't it great? What's to worry about here? The day will come when your government, partnered with the giants of economy and guarded by the greatest military in the world, will ensure you a life of utter bliss. Don't you want that?
AD: I'm down with the utter bliss part, but the rest of it makes me nervous for some reason. It just seems like a whole shitload of control and authority and...damn...I need another beer. The big picture is sorta wigging me out, sir.
GW: Relax, anarchy boy. You'll get used to it. And you'll come to like it. They always do. Snake me another one while you're over there. Hell yeah. That mention of the big picture gave me goosebumps. Got any coke on you?
AD: Of course not, sir. That would be illegal.
GW: Good. Just testing you.
AD: (popping a beer) Let's move on, sir. For my sake. I wanted to ask you about domestic issues. Before 9/11 we were wrestling with a problematic tax cut, a pending recession, an illusionary surplus, energy concerns, health care concerns, education concerns, etc. All that seems to have been swept under the carpet in some sort of orgiastic patriotic frenzy.
GW: (popping a beer) What's your point, sissy boy? I thought you were beginning to grasp the big picture. Maybe you weren't. I had hopes there for a moment. Listen. We're at war now and those concerns have become non-concerns. Presto. Which just goes to show that they must not have been concerns in the first place. The tragedies in New York and DC were horrifical, but they served to set the priorities straight in this country. And I plan on riding that wave as hard as I can for as long as I can. We are about to bear witness to a golden era in the history of this great country, and people like you need to understand that, feel grateful, feel a sense of awe, stop nitpicking the edges. Don't you feel proud to be an American right now?
AD: Yeah, sure...maybe...it just doesn't quite have the same ring to it anymore. Things have changed, and I guess I'm still grappling with that fact. (pauses) Do you think we could end this interview and just do something human? Like hang out or something? It would make me feel better.
GW: What the hell are you talking about?
AD: Sorry, sir. My head's a little weird right now. Let's take a walk and look at your cows. I'll grab a six and we'll walk and you can tell me about the cows and the grass and the weather around here. I think I'd like that.
GW: Hmmm...(ponders) I think I might like that, too. Let's roll. But if you say one goddamn thing about environmentory degradation I'm gonna call the SWAT in on your ass. Or my daughter. Don't think I've forgotten that shit.
AD: Deal. Do you think I could call you George? It'd mean alot.
GW: Maybe later. I'll see how I feel.
AD: (grabbing a twelve) One for the road, George?
GW: You insist on pushing your luck, don't you? (smiles) Yeah, one for the road. C'mon, commie boy...let's go look at my cows.
It had been a strange day, and I drove away with my brain feeling like a cement mixer, full of Lone Star and fatigue and images of the most powerful man in the world. I munched on the tamales that Salvador had left in my seat and tried to make sense of it all. Watching George staring out into space and ranting about the new world order had shaken me up. I tend to have my hands full with my own personal maelstrom at any given time, and actually being in the presence of someone who has plans for the rest of humanity is an unsettling experience. I've experimented with a lot of drugs in my time, but mainline power has never been one of them, and I'm on uneasy footing around those that do partake.
But scuttling along in the dust and comparing heifers and analyzing pastureland drew me towards the sonofabitch. The world leader facade sorta dropped away as we stepped in the same cowshit, leaned across the same barbwire, drank the same cheap beer and worried aloud about our progeny. It is a dichotomy that I won't unravel for awhile, and I don't know if I even know where to start. Or if I even want to, for that matter.
It was a bad scene when I pulled in. The woman was gyrating wildly atop a pool table, brandishing a longneck and thrusting her pelvis around at pop-eyed cowboys who were digging for dollar bills. The girl's panties were already stuffed with cash, and a big redneck in ostrich skin boots was wearing her bra like a badge around his neck. I ordered a beer and considered my options. They weren't pleasant. I have been beaten to a pulp in not a few dives exactly like this one...a long hair punk from the big city trying to cause trouble, explaining my case in vain while the sheriff and his buddies rooted through my wallet and shared a good belly laugh. I figure this is gonna have to be a speed gig.
On the way out to the parking lot I filch a toy revolver from the quickie mart section. Hell, I could have filched the whole store with that show going on, but I don't need that kind of trouble. A little bit of confusion and a quick getaway and no hard feelings, that's all. I pull the car around close to the door and let it idle, then grab a few official looking press badges and stalk back into the room. I bring the gun up, flip out the ID, kick the cord out of the jukebox and assume the position.
"This is McLennan County Vice, and you are all under arrest. I want you facing the wall with your hands on your head and your feet spread. Now! Move! I've got ten cars coming in as we speak to deal with you perverts, and I suggest you stand still and start working up a story that the wife is gonna believe when this shit hits the newspapers tomorrow. I honestly don't believe what I'm seeing here tonight, and I want you to know that this hellhole has been under surveillance for a long time. I said against the wall, and I mean it! I'm taking this female into custody for suspicion to commit lewd and unspeakable acts. And I think now is probably a good time for you gentlemen to look deep down into your souls and confront the errors of your ways."
Worked like a charm, it did. Nothing like catching a Baptist in the act. But I had hell motioning the woman down off the pool table during my tirade. She seemed to be enjoying herself just a bit too much, and I got the impression that she wouldn't have minded if maybe I hadn't shown up and busted in on her little striptease. But I yanked her down by the wrist, put a plastic gun to her head and whispered hard that I had every intention of fleeing this dump in her car in about ten seconds, with or without her. That did the trick. I'm sure it was all good fun, but the thought of being stranded in that place for an indefinite amount of time did not please her. We ran like hell.
The woman was livid, but she finally settled down somewhere around Salado and started counting the ones from her crotch. I had managed to snag a six of Dos Equis on the way out, and she had somehow grabbed the goodie bag as well. I liked the thinking of this girl...fuck the clothes, but rescue the goodies. I told her that I had interviewed the President, but she didn't believe me. That is OK. I probably wouldn't believe any of the stories about her day either. We laughed about that. And then I pulled over. I asked her if she wanted to go look at the cows and she smiled. We headed out into the night.
A CANDID LOOK AT THE YETI QUESTION
A wee man came into my yard today and insisted that I discuss the Yeti situation with him. Which is all fine and good. I think the issue warrants a plethora of intelligent dialogue. It is a muchly neglected topic, and the large majority of Yeti debate today is swathed with mysticism and sensation. Coherence and logic are sadly absent in the research, and most of the gifted minds of our time have skirted the field entirely. So it was with some trepidation that I told the little creep to get lost. I sympathized with his intentions, but I was very busy polishing the trees. And it's not like you can just stop right in the middle of a winter tree-polishing gig and launch into some formal diatribe concerning the Yeti. The luster will definitely suffer and it is pure hell trying to buff chunks of Treeshine out of the bark.
But the sinister troll refused to leave. He spat upon my sidewalk. He plucked at my sleeve unmercifully, whining out rare Yeti statistics in a low perverse mumble. He picked my flowers then threw them aside after one sniff. He went into my house and drank my last beer and pissed on the toilet seat and squirreled away my coolest pornography under his jacket. He was a rotten hyena of the worst sort, and it was obvious that I would have to deal with him personally. So I gave the trees one last remorseful swipe and trudged into the house.
He was frying up steak and eggs as I entered and it smelled wonderful. I made a mental note to ask about his seasoning mixture. Then I hit him. Not too hard, you know, but just enough to gain a little attention and remind him that, Yeti or no, this was my home. Besides, I rather wanted him to finish up with the cooking. He gave me this big surprised wounded look, but I could tell right off it wasn't the first time he had been smacked for taking a few too many liberties. He wiped the blood from his lip and informed me that the average life span for a Yeti was 54.3 years. Then he asked me how I liked my eggs. Sunny-side up, of course.
He was a horrid obnoxious little gnome, but he sure knew his shit when it came to Yeti and steak and eggs. And he had big bucks. I know because I shook down his clothes while he was taking a bubble bath. Lots of large bills plus assorted change and a collection of weird Lawrence Welk zodiac talismans. So, after I put my tit magazines back on the shelf, I skimmed a fifty and stocked up on more beer. Zipzip, 7-11 and home while he was still splashing around and making these strange Tibetan monk noises. I don't think he even knew. Or maybe he did and just kept a straight face. But it didn't matter at that point. There was a bizarre man in my home talking knowingly about Yeti activity, and a large beer stash seemed very necessary.
According to Hank, (he finally tells me his name as he emerges from the bathtub, still dirty, rubbing ancient grime on the towels Mom got me for Christmas last year) there is a general feeling of unrest and discontent among the Yeti nowadays. The wilderness is shrinking at an alarming rate and the old traditions are slowly being discarded by the so-called "upstart" generation. There is a ground swell movement among the Yeti youth to come out of the closet and it is causing mucho anxiety among the elders. I had heard rumors of this ilk for quite a while. The word on the street has hinted about some dark trouble brewing with the Yeti, and most of the "in-the-know" cats seem to think that something is gonna give in the near future.
But upheaval is not a new thing in Yeti society. There have been various radical shifts on and off for years. Documentation concerning these events, however, is scanty at best. Your average hotshot reporter does not really relish the idea of trooping out into a harsh wilderness to investigate every Yeti scoop that comes down the wire. And likewise, the world of academia has been loath to dedicate funds for adequate research. In the complex and trouble-laden world of homosapiens, there is just not much interest in digging out the hard facts on a mostly invisible species.
There is much disparity within the Yeti crowd, and crackpot opinions abound, but most of the serious scholars tend to place the first hints of youthful rebellion somewhere around 1930. The proliferation of whiskey stills coupled with the onset of moving film during the Depression era had a major impact on the inner workings of the Yeti nuclear family. Intelligent and bored and enamored with the high romantic excitement of the Hollywood gangster, younger Yeti began emerging ghost-like from the deep woods in search of cheap thrills.
As early as 1928 there are stories of a fad that later came to be called "cinema crashing" or "cine-crashing" or just plain "crashing" depending on regional dialect. This activity, wild and loose initially, soon became very ritualized among the Yeti-boppers. A typical "crashing" usually began as an all-out raid on a local whiskey still. Basically the perfect crime. Bootleggers are not apt to report this kind of thing to the officials, and even if the unfortunate distiller happened upon the raid in progress, well... it is just not likely that anybody is going to take some pop-eyed backwoods hillbilly seriously when the topic is a group of hideous apes swilling his cornmash.
After getting stoked to the gills on moonshine the young Yeti would make their way to a movie set. Initially only the rural shoots were targeted but, as "crashing" became more the rage, urban locales were visited as well. There they would take turns slinking onto the set and, therefore, onto film. There is not much evidence of earlier "crashing" episodes because the tremulous youth were usually almost completely hidden and attempted very little movement. But as the mania grew the more brazen Yeti bucks were known to walk completely across a movie set within plain view of a sharp-eyed observer.
The typical successful "crash" consisted of getting noticeably into a film scene, escaping the editor's knife and winding up in the finished movie. There were many variations, of course, but these were the main goals of a "crash". The more daring "crashers" usually tried to catch the eye of at least one person during the course of their amble. Nothing major, but just enough of a glimpse to cause a double take and some finger-pointing. There are even tales of a young Yeti named Dargst who actually got hired on as an extra, but this report has never been substantiated. There is, however, approximately one hundred vintage gangster films from the late 1920's and early 1930's that contain Yeti in one or more scenes. The classic "Bad Boy Buster" (MGM, 1932) has twelve such scenes.
But the actual details of "crashing" are not really relevant in this day and age, and they are only included here as historical background. It was youthful prankish fun along the lines of stuffing telephone booths and swallowing gold fish and pissing off the fogies. "Crashing" is important in that it marked the genesis of a sociological shift among young Yeti. For the first time in history this shy and hidden species began making overtures towards a more public existence. "Crashing" pretty much died out by 1940, but by then it had introduced a whole generation of Yeti to life outside the forest and their world would never be the same again...
Hank has broken a string on my guitar now. And it would be alright if he had broken it in the midst of a fabulous gypsy love song or something. And it would be a bit better if it wasn't a D string. I have millions of extra guitar strings laying around in semi-packages, but the D strings have all been robbed because that is the string that I happen to abuse most for some reason. And now Hank has sproinged a D smack dab in the middle of a tortured half-remembered version of "Blow the Man Down".
It is enough to make me smack him again, but about that time he lays the instrument down and begins to speak in that dark gutterfreak rhythm of his. My trees are half-polished, there is spit on my sidewalk and dead flowers in my yard. The bathroom is a nasty mess, the kitchen is greasy and my towels are grimed. There is a broken D string on my guitar. But then again, the icebox is full of free beer, my gut is full of really decent steak and eggs, and sinister knowledge is at hand.
(Author's note: The following is a ballpark paraphrase transcription of our conversation. I was familiar with the history of "crashing" and other youthful trends, and I was decently on top of the current situation. But Hank had obviously done his homework and a bit more. I knew, for example, that Yeti youth have been dabbling in human society for a long time and that it was beginning to be a sore subject with the traditionalists, but I had no idea how much of a riptide their society has undergone in the last fifty-odd years.
And, until a few weeks ago, I had no idea how close the Big Bang really is. So excuse the prose if it looks like me ranting along. I despise the labor of writing conversation...all those quotation marks and indentions and commas and whatnot. It is a massive hassle and I refuse to deal with it. Just keep it in the back of your head that we interrupted each other from time to time, that there were beers swilled, etc., but mainly it was Hank and I groveling down into this way heavy Yeti trip.)
The Yeti are screwed for the moment, and it is mainly a fear thing. I mean, we have arrived at the year 2003 AD and various members of the human race are still murdering each other over things like skin color, spiritual belief and preference in government. It surely follows that the appearance of a hairy eight foot forest being in your living room would not go over very well. The average citizen is going to pull out an automatic weapon of some sort and start blazing away.
The Yeti are a gentle fun-loving breed and they have much to offer our society, but wretched Fate has chosen to give them bodies that cause nightmares in humans. If you met a Yeti spirit inhabiting a teddy bear you would probably become instant lifetime friends. But reality is reality, unfortunately. Facts are facts, and fear of the unknown is a basic human trait. In other words, some kind of natural assimilation of the Yeti into mainstream society is a theoretical and practical no-go in this day and age.
The Yeti, at this time, are split into three main factions. It should be noted, I think, that the dividing lines here are surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly), eerily human-like. On one hand are the Old Ones, the stalwarts, the twilight folk who have had good lives on this planet and see no reason to go bungling things up now. Then there is the youth, and they are a clever lot. For the record, the large majority of young Yeti see the day when integration into human society is a real and happening endeavor. In their minds it is a foregone conclusion. But they are a divisive bunch, and the clamor/animosity between the two youthful schools of thought has basically relegated the hardline fogies to a position of poli/social inertia. Change is in the air, much like it is in China or Cuba or even Yugoslavia for that matter, and it will take place. But the manner and pace of change is a hot topic indeed...
...Hank has begun to blur. His monotonous lecture flees down and away through the tunnel, swirling. I am zoning now, traveling back, remembering. Dark and hairy hands upon me, strong, insistent, but gentle, a rapid hellbent ride through the forest. I am terrified but, in a strange way, peaceful. I feel threatened by this unknown and, at the same time, there is a powerful feeling of safety, protectiveness, a strong warm scent, musky, sweet, alarming yet somehow comfortable. The hands have multiplied now, but I am trundled carefully; there is pungent food awaiting and a soft bed and gentle captors who serenade the night with a haunting melody, strange coos and breathy chanting barely audible as I drift off to frenetic dreams...
I lived with the Yeti for a week. In some ways it was hellish and escape was constantly on my mind. It is an alien and sometimes sinister society, and there are many things that put me off. Surprisingly, it was the familiarity that was most disturbing, the multitude of human quirks displayed so casually by big hairy monsters. Nothing I can really put my finger on; hand gestures, head postures, routine chores, routine interactions...like having your collie walk in the door, hang up his coat, grab a beer out of the fridge, kick back in the Lazy Boy and start operating the remote. Normal well-known actions, to be sure, but there is a weird vertigo that descends when they are performed by a life form that is not supposed to be doing these things.
In some dark fashion, however, my stay with the Yeti was one of the high points of my life. The first instinct was self-survival with a side order of panic. But shortly thereafter I was fairly wallowing in the kinky excitement of discovery, of being a witness to wondrous and previously unknown things. I was treated well, never threatened, never even bothered for that matter. It was obvious that young and old alike harbored a rampant curiosity about me, but it was held in check throughout. They were polite, for God's sake. And, after the initial shock wore off, I was able to view them with some objectivity, and I soon grew to appreciate them as an intelligent race of beings, a civilized ethnic group with goals, hopes, dreams.
Zax is the hellion. Extremely smart, outgoing, funny, boisterous but not over-bearing. As such he is the natural leader of the young progressives who argue for active integration efforts. I spent much time with him, but it was not until the day of my departure that he pulled me aside and shyly unfolded a grimy magazine picture of Malcolm X. After much gesticulation and a few spoken words, he made me to understand that he idolizes the civil rights leader and is much influenced by his teachings. And it dawned on me, as the youngster pointed back and forth between himself and the picture, that the word "Zax" is not a real name. "Zax" is what comes out when a Yeti attempts to say "X".
There are differences between the two, of course. Firstly, the Yeti are not Islamic. They practice a form of worship that resembles some of the Native American practices; spiritual kinship with the earth, symbols and talismans that tie in with nature, rituals that coincide with the seasons, etc. A Sioux Indian would have little trouble adapting to the Yeti "religion". Secondly, the Yeti are not a violent species. There laws are simple, courtship and mating are strictly defined, and material ownership is mainly communal. Basically, they have no reason to fight each other. Yeti do not hunt. They are mainly vegetarian, but I believe that fish are eaten on occasion. Not a bad comment, really, if catching trout is about the meanest thing your society does on a regular basis.
But parallels do exist between Zax and his unknowing mentor. The progressive Yeti are impatient, unsatisfied with the status quo, un-willing to rely on established means for gaining inclusion; they believe that they are oppressed and, like Malcolm, they are willing to push the envelope, so to speak, to step outside business as usual and pursue their aim on their own terms. The movement is embryonic, to be sure, but the groundswell is there. If the present situation continues, it is only a matter of time before Zax and his followers launch an overt campaign for global acceptance. To them, integration is not a prize that must be earned. It is a right that is being denied.
Mah is the diametric opposite of Zax. Soft-spoken, shy, mysterious, but with a hidden strength that tends to clear decks when it is exposed. She spends much of her time meditating in the forest and seems to cherish her role as loner, outsider. I would liken her to a medicine woman or priestess. Mah participates very little in day-to-day events, but she holds a position of respect and power among the Yeti, and her words carry much weight. Whereas Zax is sharp, articulate, brilliant at times, Mah is weighty, thoughtful, bearer of a slow and deliberate wisdom. Mah has the ability to see the big picture, to examine all angles equally. She understands Zax's position as well, or better, than he does. On the other hand, she is a traditionalist in many ways, and she kens the worries of the Old Ones.
Mah, unlike the elders, realizes that entrance into mainstream human society is inevitable. But, unlike Zax and the progressives, she worries about the overall long-term impact upon her tribe. There are hundreds of examples of indigenous peoples being thrown into the pot with more "advanced" races, and the outcomes have never been pretty. Mah sees her people through Native American eyes, and she is not hip to the idea of her collective entering society as filthy savages best confined to outback reservations. To Zax, the big brass ring is a goal unto itself, consequences be damned. To Mah, the consequences are all-important.
It is a poser. Societal evolution has never really listed "comfort" as a big priority. The Yeti are a people on the brink of major change and it is an anxious situation. There is no right and wrong methods, no tried and true solutions, no pat answers. Movements such as these always produce casualties, and changes for the better usually go hand-in-hand with changes for the worse. All the professors and all the experts and all the king's horses and all the king's men cannot hope to pave an easy path for the Yeti. It will be a strange psychotic ride and about all we can count on for sure is that the historians will explain it away nicely when the deal is done.
My last night with the Yeti was spent with Mohk. He is the eldest of The Elders, the sage, the patriarch, the great-grandfather of Mah. There are many similarities between the two. He does not really believe that integration is a necessity or even a remote likelihood, but he is a good leader and he understands that the question of co-habitation with the human population has produced a new and previously unknown angst among his people. Mohk is easily the most verbal of the Yeti, and he possesses a shrewd and agile mind despite his great age. And it was Mohk who issued the command to bring me among the Yeti.
We talked of many things that night; the beauty of the forest, the relative strengths and weaknesses of the emerging Yeti leadership, the health of our planet, the constantly interesting topic of weather trends...it is always a joy to experience the tales and learnings of the ancient and wise, and this was no different. I was mesmerized, and it was not until dawn was upon us that I was made aware of the crux, the real nut of my visit. As the sun blew beams across the land and the fire died for good and the others began to stir, Mohk leaned over, pressed his face very close to mine and said this, "You write...".
And then he was gone. And then I was gone.