Thanks Carla

My eldest daughter almost talked me into adopting a one-eyed cat. He was the type of creature that could only be loved by someone benevolent like my child. I said no, but if I would’ve said yes, he would’ve been named One Eyed Willie, because as a Goonies fan, it would’ve been the axiomatic choice. HEYYYYY YOOOOOU GUUUUUYS!

One Eyed Willie was one of the cats up for adoption at the Humane Society over by Walmart. We take our daughters there by way of bribery if they’re patient while the wife and I peruse the thrift shop next door. We walk in and battle back the ambient barks and meows with an affable hello to the girls up front. There’s a transparent box on their desk for donations. I always put in a five. And I make sure they see me do it, kind of like we all do when tipping at a coffee shop. That way, they know I’m not just stopping by to let my children harass their kittens. But like I said, the kittens only have to deal with the harassment if my children let me and the wife shop.

Just like a Goony, I feel like a treasure hunter at the thrift shop. Once, I found a cutting board with a big “J” on it. I have an extensive collection of German steins thanks to the thrift shop. I even found a framed copy of “The Irresistible Waltz” by Vivaudou. I paid twelve bucks, but I’m pretty sure it’s worth fifteen trillion. The wife is more pragmatic in her shopping. She usually buys clothes which she wears for a few months before dropping them back off as a donation. We both have our routines. We walk in, give each other a high-five, and then split up like a football team after the huddle. Or at least, we used to. Now we walk in together and find the mannequin with a moustache to see Carla’s latest “work.” Carla is the ridiculously nice woman at the checkout counter.

Here’s her first installment; I’d say this is an obvious protest against bourgeois consumption and its effects on the next generation:

Child

This one besmirches nudity and our misplaced idolism:

Iron Man

This one is just a nice cross-dresser standing next to a chicken and holding some GMO broccoli:

Cross Dresser

Would you believe that someone actually complained because of this last one? Apparently, someone took a break from their thrift shopping to gripe about the fact that a male mannequin was garbed in a dress. For fuck’s sake; art critics piss me off. And despite my sarcastic tone, that’s exactly what Carla is doing. She’s making art. Sure, it’s a bit ironic that a mannequin is being treated inhumanly at a thrift shop benefiting the Humane Society, but whatever. I think it’s awesome. Art is one of those things that just pops up at times. Carla’s efforts should be applauded despite the fact that she’s blurring the gender lines associated with an already androgynous mannequin. And that’s why I sat down to write this. So… dear Carla, as a long time and avid patron of your thrift shop, I’d like to say thank you for the smiles.

Respite

There’s a place in Key West that uses ice cubes made out of coffee in their iced coffee; my caffeine has never been so undiluted. A couple cups will give you that chemical aftertaste that lets you know you’re awake. It’s like unalloyed crack. Down the street, there’s this slightly obese guy who dresses up like Darth Vader and plays the banjo after the sun sets. He’s throwing distance from a skinny man who dresses up like Spider-Man and plays the sitar, but I don’t think that they’re friends. They’d be mortal enemies if their two fictional worlds existed together in some other dimension, and tourists only have so many dollars to dole out for a picture, so competition would dictate that they’re advisories at best here in this dimension. By day, the streets ruled nightly by busking superheroes are given over to wild chickens. I know that they’re wild because they shun my attempts to pet them and they speak some odd form of chicken dialect that differs from that of the domesticated hens that I have cooped up in Colorado.

The Gays and Russians also deserve mention. Each group seems to rule Key West alongside the strutting roosters. Rainbow flags outnumber those with stars and stripes. There are drag queens everywhere, and they’re just as delightful as you’d expect. One even called me “sweetie” as I walked past her haunt with my wife. It felt natural and unforced (I’m obviously a sweetie) so I said hello and kept walking. The local paper told me that Russian mafia owns most of the local T-shirt shops which is strange because Hollywood paints them a bit more nefariously. The Russians are a bit cold though, cold and ubiquitous. There’s so many of them that the “all sales are final” sign in the Salvation Army thrift store is translated into Russian. I walked by plenty of Russians and not a single one of them called me sweetie, but in their defense, I was a bit reticent to offer up my own terms of endearment. But I nodded my head to a guy wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Putin’s face. There was something written in Russian underneath the picture, but I couldn’t read it (the only thing I can read in Russian is “all sales are final”). Who knows, maybe those odd backwards letters said something satirical and maybe I missed out on having my first Russian friend. I’d like to think that his name would’ve been Vladimir.

I’m a bit sad as I type this. My iPad is glowing lambently beneath my fingers and I’m on the plane headed home. It’s a home lying dormant under a pall of snow and my foray into the tropics was too short lived. The wife and I went to celebrate belatedly our thirteenth wedding anniversary. We went to escape the cold and tedium of home. We needed a break. If not for the children we miss and the fiduciary responsibilities to which we’re enslaved, we wouldn’t be on this plane. Key West is perfect and I don’t doubt that we’ll live there sooner rather than later. We rode our rented bikes all the way around that island as we fell in love with the idea of calling it home. We walked with the butterflies and greeted the sunset with tourists who spoke in countless tongues. We ate out, we dined in. I prepared exotic fish and couscous in our vacation rental which we ate after appetizers of charcuterie; aged cheeses and expensive smoked meats paired with dry crackers and capers. But the meals prepared for us bested mine.  We ate shaved filet, served raw with aged Parmesan. We ate soba noodles with pickled vegetables, Philly cheesesteaks, fish tacos, and tart Key Lime Pie. We checked every box on the quintessential tourist check list. We went to the southernmost point in our country, cooked our bodies on the sand until we looked like parboiled crustaceans, and we went to Earnest Hemingway’s house by way of pilgrimage. There’s a fountain outside his front door and I dipped into it the tips of my ten fingers knowing that he had probably done the same at some point. There’s a Catholic Church just down the street boasting a font of holy water, but I know that I wetted my soul with the real stuff.

To me, our trip, and the piece you’re reading now, represents a necessary respite. Time spent in warmer weather away from where you were is nothing less than a panacea. I finished a semester of higher education not long before we left, and I start another one the day after this plane lands; I’m in a liminal state of peace that’s about to end. And it’s far too soon because I swear the classes I’m taking are guilty of language abuse. They force me to use all of these flowery words as tools of analysis. I write and write and dedicate my words to political science or anthropology or argumentation and the papers I turn in cause to shrivel up and die any creativity that might be put to prose. It’s almost like if one were to look closely enough at my college papers, numbers could be found hidden amongst the letters, numerals betwixt the consonants. I’m drawing lines with my diction when I should be painting pictures. But I’m not doing that now. I’m writing just for the joy of writing, and during this brief period, I’m doing things just for the joy of doing.

In these last few weeks of nothingness, this wonderful winter break which foisted itself up like an island in my life, I’ve done all sorts of odd and rebellious things. For one, I grew a beard. And I mean a real beard. As all that coarse hair took root in my face, atavistic, primal urges took over. I felt the need to fell trees and wear plaid shirts. My wife said that I looked a bit Amish though. Whatever. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t also feel the need to churn some butter or drive before me a team of horses pulling a carriage. Before I finally shaved it, a liquor store attendant even tried to give me a high five after yelling out “hell yeah Chuck Norris!” And when I finally did trim it back, I took my time and used my clippers to make myself look as ridiculous as possible. I cut here and there to create an old west look, and then there and here to look like Hulk Hogan. I had a Magnum P.I. mustache long enough for a laugh and then shaved it off before anyone was the wiser. It was by far one of my better bathroom experiences.

The pilot just turned on the fasten seatbelt sign for our final decent. I can see that sea of compressed sodium, of burning argon, in the countless bulbs below which remind me of our species’ industrious nature. There’s no end to it in sight. I know this’ll be my last chance to write something non-scholastic before summer dawns, so I’m going to end this piece with utter disregard for a cogent conclusion. I’m going to write about kombucha:

Kombucha, if you don’t know, is a nonalcoholic fermented tea that can be found in any organic grocery store. It has that perfect blend of pretension and deliciousness; snobby asses such as myself can’t get enough of it. I even went so far as to start making it myself for a few months. I’d brew a huge batch of exotic tea on the stove like some hippy witch over her cauldron. I’d mix in the sugar and let it cool. It has to be cool because the next step is to add the “scooby.” If the tea is too hot, the scooby will die; it’s this slimy, snot-like jellyfish thingie which floats on top of the sugared tea. It’s comprised of a bazillion bacteria cells which I’m sure share some sort of collective conscious (my auto correct just tried to change “bazillion” into “bagel lion”). You just let it sit there and do its thing for a few weeks. It metabolizes the sugar and carbonates the tea, filling it with billions of probiotic little creatures which you then drink like some death crazed giant with no regard for the life forms you’re quenching just to quench your thirst. You can then remove the scooby and put it in another batch. It’ll grow and grow until it’s a gelatinous beast that’s capable of carbonating any amount of tea. At the height of my production, I had four BPA free containers of the stuff fermenting in my pantry. My scoobies were like little malodorous pets with which I shared a symbiotic, albeit high maintenance, relationship. But I eventually gave it up because my scoobies died while I was away in Alaska. They ran out of sugar. I let fall my end of the symbiosis. It’s better to buy the stuff one bottle at a time anyway. It lets you flaunt your esoteric tastes in front of all the strangers at your local organic grocery store.

As a side note, I just realized that my iPad isn’t in airplane mode. I’m just going to leave it as is because I’m straight up gangster. Anyway, how odd is it that we humans use cultures and bacteria in our food? We do it with yogurt and cheese although I have no idea how it works with either (I’m pretty sure sorcery is involved), and I’ve done it myself with kombucha. I bottled up another life form, fed it, let it fill my tea with gas, and then consumed the end product. That’d be like aliens scooping us up, caging us, feeding us, and then eating our farts. Shit… We’re landing. Tomorrow, I’m going to start my classes and catch up on work. You won’t hear from me for a while, but I’m glad you took the time to hear from me today. We’ll talk again the next time I take a breath after swimming down deep in the things from which respites are needed.

Key West

Terra

A library should be an organic thing, sans electronics. It’s not that I’m nostalgic for the old days when such cathedrals to literature held only that, but somewhere deep down, somewhere visceral, I know it’s the truth. The library through which I wandered in high school smelled like musty paper and brown wood. The carpets were earth toned. There were posters on the walls which touted reading’s importance. There was a card catalogue and the Dewey decimal system. True, there were microfiche machines against the wall, but I only used them to feel like a detective. I came for the books. I came for all the countless titles which held truths which our teachers wouldn’t share. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t find something infinitely more profound; I found my soul mate.

 

Emily Clark (who was a far cry from my soul mate) was a tutor. She sat at one of the brown round tables by the entrance next to an exotic beauty with a mischievous smile. Said beauty had this glowing mane of brown hair and a large forehead. Her grin was small, with her lips pressed together as if she was struggling to keep her thoughts from showing on her face. She was diminutive and firm and I couldn’t breathe for a moment. I walked over, with my long hair and pot reddened eyes, and stared at Emily with an “introduce me right fucking now” look on my face. Emily sighed and did. Her name was Terra. Emily told her my name while wearing a “dear god don’t talk to him because he’s as crazy as they come” expression. I remember it so damn vividly. And that’s odd because when I think back, there are two, maybe three other people who I can remember meeting for the first time. And they’re all dudes with whom I almost went to jail. Multiple times.

 

I’d see Terra in the halls and I’d do whatever it took to get her attention. I’d devolve into a simian cave dweller beating on my chest. She thought I was weird. She started dating one of my best friends from the second grade. He stopped being a friend. Instantly. I went on with my life, or the lack thereof, while she went on with hers. I graduated, two years before she did, and left for Oregon. I flittered around my late adolescence and failed at everything. But I made it back home to Alaska and hunkered down in the darkness of my father’s house and started my debauchery in earnest. I sunk lower and deeper into a quagmire of what some would call sin, and I reveled in it. I constructed a reputation that one usually only sees in movies, and I was proud of it. But one night, as I sat on a stolen couch in a stolen house drinking stolen beer (long story), I stopped breathing once more as Terra walked in the door. She was with my best friend’s sister, Robin, and some douche bag with blonde hair and a tight necklace sporting those stupid beads surfers wear. Who the fuck dresses like a surfer in Alaska? Anyway, Terra walked over with this full smile that made me quake, and asked what I had been up to. I wasn’t proud of my reputation any more. Instantly. I said I was in school. I was, sort of. I said that I painted runways for the air force. I did, sometimes. But I didn’t say I was a reckless drug addled nobody. A girl like Terra didn’t need to hear inconvenient truths like that. I made sure to get the blonde douchebag puking drunk and he was forgotten.

 

Robin put in a good word for me. She said that I had a nice car (how I got it is irrelevant). She said that I could play the drums and sing and that I was funny, which was almost 66% true. And somehow, via earthshattering luck complete with trumpeting cherubs, Terra and I started dating. She became the first girl I actually dated. True, I had dated plenty of “girlfriends” before, but none of them had ever listened to Emily Clark’s sage advice, and they learned the hard way that I wasn’t ready for anything more than a partner in crime. Terra took me to her home. She introduced me to her parents, to her family. She loved me, and for the first time, I loved someone other than a blood relative; it was hard for me because I felt so damn tarnished. But it worked. Our burgeoning relationship flowered into something real. I distanced myself from who I was and started painting for real. I traded in my brush for something in the oilfield. And then one day, Terra gave me a ninety-nine dollar gold ring from Fred Meyer hidden in a bag of Lemon Heads. I was standing in her mom’s small one-roomed cabin in the middle of a cold winter as Christmas approached. I cried and my very being exploded. Holy fuck, did that mean what I thought it meant?

 

I proposed in February. I spent two thousand dollars on that ring and she has it still. Sure, I borrowed most of the money, but I repaid that debt quickly, and we were engaged. We were pregnant soon after. I bought a house. We moved in. We got married in a tawdry ceremony in an Elk’s Lodge basement. Our gaudy union has outlasted some of the more extravagant affairs which we’ve attended since. Terra was five months pregnant at the altar, and her homemade wedding dress didn’t hide anything. Our honeymoon was two days long, and I remember the apologetic look she gave me as she puked into the toilet in our room at the top of the Hilton. I ran her a bath and laughed it off. We fought through some epic bullshit which was all spawned by my latent belligerence, but we made it. Catelynn came in the December following the December containing my Lemon Heads, and that little girl saved my life, but I’ll write that story when she’s old enough to hear exactly how bad things were.

 

We’ve since lived in New Mexico and Colorado, and had yet another monster named Kinley, who is a miniature, slightly pudgy (but cute), version of her beautiful mother. And we’re still fighting through that selfsame bullshit that comes from who I am. I don’t doubt that Terra wishes at times that she would’ve listened to Emily Clark, but I don’t give a damn because I have someone who’s better than anybody I could ever hope to have. Husbands throw around that “better half” label by rote, but it’s true in my family. Sometimes I feel like a worm in her palm at which she stares patiently while she waits for me to form a chrysalis and morph into a butterfly (a super manly, muscular butterfly), and I hope she waits still, because I fuck up at times, but my love is the very definition of truth. She is, and always will be, my one true love. I hope you read the stress I just put into the singular “one.” When she’s happy, I want to stoke the fire with gifts and praise just to see how happy she can get. When she’s mad and broken and sad, I want to build a stony fortress around my being to keep out the pain because it’s just so profoundly real and tangible that it leaves scars upon my organs.

 

I have but a few talents, and of them, writing is my strongest. At times, it’s the only gift I can give her which means anything. At times, like this one, it’s the only gift which she’ll accept. So I write for her, I write for my family, and I fight for it with these cold black letters. And it’s the only gift I’m giving her this day, on her birthday. I love you Terra, and I always will. I’ll be yours forever despite the presagious warnings which that damn tutor Emily Clark gave you. I’ll work on it all, and I’ll fight myself for the right because I’m my only enemy. I am yours, and you are my one true soul mate, my one true love, who I found in that long forgotten library. Happy Birthday Punk.

 

Terra Anderson

Acceptance

I’ve made a few questionable life choices in regards to my secondary education. If you’ve been following me for long, you’ve read about a few of them. But I’m going back to school, and I’m aiming high; I’m going to try and earn my Master’s degree before I turn forty. That gives me six years, which I’m sure sounds like an amply span of time, but I’ve got a career and a family and countless other distractions which siphon off my time like a gas thief in the parking lot. However, I’ve taken the first step, and The University of Colorado has accepted my application into their undergraduate program. And as luck would have it, the essay portion of the application process carried with it a good deal of weight. Here’s what I submitted:

 

Necessity

 

I went to college right out of high school because that’s what I was supposed to do. My friends were doing it; my parents insisted that I do it. If I agreed, I could maintain the status quo. I could carry on with the four year party that had been my life up to that point. And besides, the solidarity of an independent life scared me, as did the prospect of working for a living. My grades had been on a steady decline because I had other… interests, and one last hurrah sounded awesome. So I filled out my applications and waited. College wasn’t something I needed, but the experience was something I wanted. My acceptance letter to the University of Oregon arrived and the excitement began to boil. I had heard great things about Eugene (at the time, Playboy rated it in the top five party towns nationwide) and fall couldn’t come soon enough.

 

My dad dropped me off at the airport. I was seventeen and carried with me everything I thought I’d need for my freshman year. I had clothes and a credit card and a pocket full of cash. The flight from Alaska to Oregon is a blur. So is the taxi ride to campus. But I remember getting out of that taxi and standing in front of my dorm. The lawns were lush and the trees were green. It was a verdant paradise. My nose, accustomed to the sterile smells of an arctic desert, was assaulted by the floral smells of the “lower forty-eight.” There were teens everywhere, running, playing, laughing; it looked like the opening credits in a “coming of age” college movie. I dropped my bags and smiled. A smorgasbord of sin stretched out in front of me like that scene in Pinocchio before all the bad kids turned into jackasses. I laughed. I was in heaven.

 

It took me less than an hour to find my dorm and move in. I needed to buy books and memorize my schedule, but that could wait. I hadn’t enrolled in college to attend college. I ran out on to the quad looking for a good time. I needed a stimulus; I needed new friends. And I’ll be damned if that old adage isn’t one hundred percent true: birds of a feather flock together. I had a click of three or four other freshmen by day’s end who were looking for the same thing, and that thing had nothing to do with academics.

 

That’s pretty much how my freshman year went. I bounced from stimulus to stimulus like a drug addled pinball and did the bare minimum needed to keep my parents from sending in a rescue team to pull me out. When I left in the spring, I didn’t have much of an education, but I had a few stories that were almost too crazy to believe. I hadn’t yet declared a major, but I hadn’t gone to jail either. In truth, I came closer to the latter.

 

I came home, my parents saw my freshman transcript, and they pulled the plug; my brief foray into schooling out of state was slapped with a “do not resuscitate order.” I enrolled at the University of Alaska where I managed to extend the party of my adolescence by two years. But nothing changed. And eventually, reality teamed up with necessity, and it all came crashing down. I met the woman who’s now my wife, and our first child snuck up on us. I grew up. It was time. I got a job and a car and a mortgage all within three months. I started working like a slave to chase that dollar, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. We have two daughters now, and we’re proud Colorado residents. My wages have been on the incline because my family has been my only interest. But I don’t love what I do. This job has its perks, but that’s all it is; a job. I need a change. I’ve come to the point in my life wherein hindsight sharpens and my regrets start to look fixable.

 

It took me thirty years to answer the question I’ve been asking my daughters as of late: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Well, I want to be a writer, so, I started writing. I’ve self-published two books, both of which have done better than expected, and a third is on the way. I’ve had short stories published by professional and paying markets, and the local newspaper accepts my submissions regularly. I have a blog with a good deal of international subscribers, and I even have a few readers who describe themselves as “fans.” But I don’t have an education, nor do I have the degree that’ll force editors to take me seriously, and that’s why I’m applying to The University of Colorado at Denver. I plan to earn my four year degree through your school, if you’ll have me, and then apply to the MFA program at the University of Texas. I need to do this online because I have a career and a family and all the other things in life that consume my daylight hours. This is my only avenue.

 

So I’m getting it together, and applying. I’ve submitted requests for transcripts and test scores, and they should all be into your admissions office by the time you read this essay. It made me feel a bit old to find out that my SAT scores were archived on microfiche, but it’s better late than never, and I’m freakishly excited to finally start my education in earnest. Because now, this isn’t an experience that I want; college, this education, is something that I need.

Acceptance

State Line Yin-Yang

I yell “base” as I cross the state line back into Colorado from New Mexico. It feels as if I’m playing a game of tag with all the idiocy down south, and once I make it into the mountains, I’m safe. I’ve made it to my base.

I’m not sure how it is that two cities that are such polar opposites cropped up so geographically close to each other. It makes sense if we stick with the magnetic metaphor because polar opposites always attract, but it usually doesn’t work that way with cities. San Francisco is a lot like San Diego, New York is a lot like New Jersey. But Durango Colorado is a blue mountain town full of culture and education; thirty miles south across the state line, Farmington New Mexico is a red town full of strip malls and natural gas. Durango is verdant and crisp, Farmington is a brown desert. The former is populated by outdoorsy liberals with affable smiles, the latter is plagued with quasi cowboys who spout platitudes like “love it or leave it.” And for the record, I left it.

The family and I moved down here to the Four Corners from Alaska six years ago to escape the dark winters that aren’t advertised in the tourism commercials. Farmington looked good enough, so we bought a house. We settled in, and that “new car smell” that comes with a new home masked the bullshit that’d eventually spur me north. To be fair, Farmington has a few redeeming qualities. There’s an authentic Thai restaurant downtown. The parks are nice, and the parking is free. But maybe the parking is free because time spent in Farmington is something which has to be given away. And Farmington is close to plenty of cool places to be; you can get to Phoenix or Denver or Santa Fe in a few hours. I clung to those pros and lived in Farmington for six years, but the truth eventually bitch slapped me: if the best thing about a place is the fact that it’s close to someplace else, maybe one should just go to that “someplace else.”

I was dumbfounded the first time we drove north out of New Mexico. There’s a brief no-man’s-land in between the “you’re leaving New Mexico” and “welcome to Colorado” signs, and as soon as you make it through, the land changes. The air cools. Nature intensifies and you can tell that you’ve made it to greener pastures. It’s as if some natural boundary holds in all of Colorado’s awesomeness. It feels like you’re popping out of a bubble, or maybe driving into one.

Back home in Farmington, I was used to the antiquated architecture that comes from the quick and cheap expansion associated with natural gas booms. I was used to the desolate and decrepit parts of town that came from periods of economic collapse when the tycoons would take their money elsewhere. I was used to shittiness. Adversely, Durango is a vacation town. Durango is a college town. Durango is a town fueled by thought and art and play. It was a night and day difference, and I fell in love. My trips north became ever more frequent. And at times, as I walked amongst the streets, where one must pay handsomely for parking, I’d forget that I was homesick, because I felt at home. I fit in. Hell, I already looked like one of the locals (affectionately referred to as “Durangatang”).

Eventually, the trips north didn’t cut it. We’d come up for Easter Egg hunts and good sushi, but the hour drive each way was taxing. And inevitably, the locals would ask where we were from as we rubbed elbows. I’d say “Alaska” at about the same time my wife would say “Farmington.” She and I would laugh and explain the lapse, but it’d always be too late. As soon as the local heard that we lived in Farmington, they’d get this “aw, that’s too bad” look on their face and desperately look for something nice to say like “well… you have a Sam’s Club, so I guess that’s something.” Then they’d politely excuse themselves and leave us to our exclusion.

We had to move. So we did; we decided to live in a vacation town, which felt like an euphony. To live where one is supposed to vacation? It was genius. We rented out our home in Farmington and found a bucolic little paradise up here. I got a Colorado driver’s license as soon as I could so I could prove that I was a local, and I’ve never been happier. Seriously; I am in fact happier now than I have ever been. I used to wake up in the middle of the night back in Farmington with no clue where I was. I’d have to search the walls for familiarities or reach over for my wife just to anchor my thoughts in reality. Here, that hasn’t happened once. The air up here is a nepenthe for my thoughts, and I’m at peace. I’ve decided to go back to school and take this writing thing seriously, because if I could live here in Durango, while feeding my children by doing what I love, I’d finally have that consonance between profession and life that leads to true happiness.

But to be fair, Durango has its downfalls too. It gets a bit crowded at times, probably because everybody is a fan of awesomeness, and it’s a bit cooler (which is something I love, but my wife, not so much). There are a few asses on the streets with their jacked up brodozers (large trucks with smoke stacks meant to compensate for something else) but that’s alright, no place is perfect. In a yin-yang, there’s always that little dot of black in the white, representing that little bit of bad in the good. The free parking in Farmington is their little dot of white in the black. That little bit of good in the bad wasn’t good enough for us, so here we are, and here I write. I’m proud to be a Durangatang, and now when people ask where we’re from, we answer in unison: here.

Hasta la Vista

 

I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

Foos 4 Life

The New Mexico state foosball champ walked into the bar as if in slow motion. His measured steps kept cadence with the rap blaring from the credit card operated juke box. His eyes were lidded, his beer gut prominent. He was five-foot something with a balding pate and an embroidered foosball champion’s jacket. He looked around at his competition, the other amassed pros of table sport, while wearing disdain like a visage. The Arizona state champ was in the room as well and the two demigods avoided each other like alpha males are wont to do. I looked up from my table taking it all in; my eyes clearly asked “what the fuck?”

 

It was Snowdown in Durango Colorado, an annual week-long party in this perfect little mountain town, and I had entered a foosball competition with my friend Adam. I thought I was good enough to at least end up in the top three, and cash was to be won. I have a foosball table at home and I play in bars; I hadn’t lost in the past five years, but to be honest, my stiffest competition was the occasional drunk or my twelve year old daughter. I have the above average hand/eye coordination that comes from being a drummer and I don’t drink; Adam is simply fun to be around, and he had a table at his fraternity, so I thought it’d be an easy night of schooling drunk hipsters.

 

I arrived early to size up the competition; holy shit. They each came armed with custom grip tape that they’d wrap around the foosball handles for better control. They’d drape the tape over their shoulders like a scarf and walk around the bar for all to see. It was neon pink or orange or green. A few had polo shirts emblazoned with their foosball names; one such pro went by “The Law” and refused to be called anything else. Everybody was wearing sweat bands and matching T shirts and serious expressions. These guys even brought their own oil cans which they used to lube up the tables. Wasn’t foosball supposed to be a bullshit “sport” of drunken revelry? I half expected to see at least one foosball related tattoo on an exposed forearm, maybe the silhouette of one of the plastic men, but then again, maybe this level of foosball mastery is best left hidden.

 

Adam arrived and we sat down. We watched our competitors practice. He drank a beer. We knew we were going to lose, so we settled in to have fun. It was our only option. Our first two opponents sauntered up to the other side of “table three.” They were both well into their forties. Each had a cordon of fat around their middle. One had a special glove on his left hand. They gave us the evil eye and slowly started wrapping grip tape around their handles. I laughed and said “we’re gunna get our asses handed to us,” to which one of them responded, with a suspicious smirk, “are you a hustler?” I cocked my eyebrow and slowly shook my head. I’d like to think I live in a reality where foosball hustlers don’t exist.

 

We scored three goals to their fifteen. We celebrated our goals with cheers and shit talking. They didn’t even mention theirs. Their ball control was ridiculous. They passed it forward and back, left and right, without a single bobble. They’d kick it forward, hold it, time their shot, and shoot with blurring speed and linear accuracy. These dudes were badasses, if one can truly be a badass at something as trivial as foosball, but they weren’t having fun. After they handed us our asses as I foretold, they extended their hands across the table with hollow repetitions of “good game.” Adam and I sat down, he had another beer, and we waited patiently for our next ass kicking.

 

Paige, Adam’s wife, showed up still dressed in her nurse’s scrubs. As I said earlier, Adam is fun to be around. So is Paige. But when you get the two of them together, things get awesome. They feed off of each other’s personalities and amplify any social experience. They’re two of my favorite people. Paige listened as we related our experience thus far and made astute observations like “maybe these guys would be in better shape if they tried a real sport instead of a pretend one.” She too wondered if any of these foos fools had tattoos. We laughed at the similarities in our thought process. As it turned out, Paige had a permanent marker in her purse, and that’s when shit got real. I had her write “FOOS4LIF” across my knuckles in huge block letters; she wrote “GOOOOALL” across Adam’s. We held our fists together like a couple of OGs. Baller.

 

We waited for our next match. It was a double elimination tournament. And as Adam and Paige sat together, comfortable in their marriage, it hit me: none of our competitors were wearing wedding rings. How could they be? Their level of expertise bespoke of hours in a darkened basement with nothing but the click and clack of a foosball table for companionship. Maybe they even named their home tables, something feminine of course, to further personify their obsession. I pictured shady back-alley foosball matches held behind locked doors with peepholes and secret passwords. I pictured these men at work, sweating over a grill or mopping up aisle three, as they waited for quitting time so they could go home to “Bethany” or “Alice” and practice until their wrists got sore. I had a wife at home, and two daughters. I had a career. I had prospects and a healthy hobby and a low body fat percentage. I was going to lose at foos that night, but I’d be winning at life. I was comfortable in that truth.

 

Our next competitors were a couple of twenty-something college kids who had come to El Rancho, the bar in downtown Durango which held the tournament, with fifteen of their friends. They were good, but not “The Law” good. They came to have fun. Everybody cheered and talked shit. There was drinking and gratuitous high fives. The players at the other tables gave us dirty looks to which we’d respond with raised fists. FOOS FOR LIFE MUTHA FUCKA! We won that match and actually meant it when we said “good game” while shaking hands across the table. We had fun, made friends, and played that table sport as it was meant to be played. Our little group of three morphed into to a rowdy posse of twenty.

 

We stood around spouting puerile insults as we awaited our next match. You know, like “you might be better at foosball, but I know what boobs look like” or “everybody knows why your wrists are so strong.” Nobody responded. I guess witty rejoinders are in short supply when so much focus is wasted on the little plastic men dancing back and forth in front of you. Adam and I walked over to look at the brackets to see where we stood; our next match was to be against none other than the New Mexico state champ and his partner. Our short conversation went thusly:

 

Me: “This is gunna be quick.”

Adam: “With that attitude it will be.”

Me: “There’s no way in hell we’re going to beat the New Mexico state champions.”

Adam: “We’ve got to get in their heads. We need to walk up to the table, bump chests, shout ‘foos for life,’ and show them our fists.”

Me: “…”

 

We walked over to “table two” with our posse/impromptu cheerleaders. Our opponents stood across from us and ignored our idiocy as they wrapped grip tape around their handles. Of course we showed them our knuckles as our cheerleaders roared their approval. The guy across from me asked if they were “real or just henna.” My mind exploded. This guy thought that tattooing “FOOS4LIF” across your knuckles was a viable life choice, something that someone might actually do, and he thought I might be that somebody. Jesus. I replied “No. No no no. It’s Sharpie.” He looked disappointed.

 

The game began and Adam began his incessant shit talking. They scored three times, we scored two. They’d put the ball back in immediately after a goal, we’d wait while Adam took a celebratory drink of beer. We’d shout triumphantly at our mini victory, as would our cheerleaders, and enjoy the moment. Our opponents probably ranked in the top fifty nationally, so we made our goals count. And oddly, Adam’s plan began to work. The New Mexico state foosball champ, with his custom jacket and grip tape and embroidered polo, started to get pissed. He started to miss. He shouted something at our posse like “you guys need to be quiet because you’re a distraction” to which they responded with something like “ha ha ha ha ha.” His partner tried to calm him, realizing that they were at a bar facing actual men instead of at a tournament facing other troglodytes. The champ caught on, and went back to the game.

 

Game point came quickly despite the champ’s frustration. He had control of the ball; all he had to do was shoot it past Adam and into the goal. He lined up his shot, juked left and right with some fancy bullshit… and then Adam reached over and grabbed the champ’s bar so he couldn’t shoot. Boom. Our cheerleaders exploded in a chorus of approval. The champ started shaking with rage and lifted his face with wide eyes to see our twin smirks, and two sets of raised fists. Foos. For. Life. Again, his partner calmed him knowing that foosball was that singular thing at which they could beat us. He went back to the game, took his shot, and won. He even shook hands afterward with the meaningless platitude. “Good game.”

 

I said my goodbyes to Adam and Paige and our posse as they all melted into the crowd to finish the night. I drove home to my family through a chill darkness. I gripped my steering wheel with my Sharpie covered knuckles and laughed. I made it home and told my daughter that I lost; it boosted my ego a bit to see her look of disbelief. But in the story I told my wife, it was obvious that I left El Rancho as the winner. 

FOOS4LIF

Trolls

“It blows my mind to think that ‘LOL’ is probably spelled differently in Spanish.” –Me

 

It doesn’t really blow my mind; that was just an attempt to be funny on Twitter. My little snippet was tantamount to verbal diarrhea. It’s an interesting thought though, because most of my Spanish followers type “LOL” at the end of their Spanish tweets even though the acronym is clearly English. Technically, they should use “RAC” for “riendo a caracajadas,” but whatever. I guess our American shorthand is insidious enough to infect other languages.

 

But after I tweeted the above mentioned nonsense, a troll came out of nowhere and responded by saying “you have a very tiny mind.” Of course he immediately blocked me so I couldn’t respond, you know, because he’s a real man. And it pissed me off because I wanted to post something supper witty like “I know you are but what am I?” but his hasty departure robbed me of the chance. So I looked through his tweets because anybody who could so flippantly insult me should have some badass wit, right? Here’s the first one I found:

 

“I’m all for reparations if it will get black people to stop saying ‘nigga.’” –We’ll call him “Mike”

 

Holy shit. How does one say “OMG” in Spanish? I guess I was wrong. Mike turned out to be a fat-ass ineffectual fuck-tard as opposed to the witty guy I was hoping to find. But that’s usually the case with trolls. In case you didn’t know, a “troll” is anybody on a social media site that intentionally insults something you say to make up for the fact that they were born with an innie instead of an outie (you know, down in their pants where it counts). These walking penises usually hide behind a fake profile picture to minimize the backlash from their offensive comments, and that’s exactly what Mike does.

 

You know, I’m finding it really hard to be pissed at this guy despite his assholeishness because he’s got some serious style. I bet the inside of his trailer is uber pimp.

If I had to guess, I’d say that Mike suffers from clerk’s syndrome. Man, “Clerks” was a great movie, and it taught me a good deal about human nature. Just in case you’re not familiar with clerk’s syndrome, I’ll fill you in. Basically, gas station clerks develop a certain amount of resentment towards customers over the years. They eventually begin to look down on them despite the fact that most of their customers do more for our species than your average gas station clerk. The customers are doctors or teachers or educated professionals. Yet they all look the same to the clerks who talk shit about them as soon as they pay for their burrito and leave. Customers can be annoying with their repetitive complaints and quotidian bullshit, and ultimately, the high and mighty clerk realizes that they’re better than the sheep that ring the hallowed bell on the gas station’s front door.

 

You see the same thing with the “geniuses” at the Apple Genius Bar, and with the “geeks” on Best Buy’s “Geek Squad.” They deal with the average Joe so often that they start to think that the average Joe is beneath them. I had one of Best Buy’s Geeks get pissy with me because I had questions as to how I should apply the screen protector onto my iPad. How dare I bother him with something so trivial! The snide little bastard rudely answered my questions and never realized that I make five times as much as he does, or that he had reached the pinnacle of his existence.

 

I have no idea what Mike does for a living (it probably involves the bathroom at a truck-stop) but I know clerk’s syndrome when I see it. I usually ignore the trolls on twitter because I know what they’re doing. They’re reaching up out of their pit and trying to pull me down into their negativity where all the petty little people live. I usually ignore them, or respond with positivity when I’m not blocked, but today, I’m going to take Mike’s hand and let him pull me down into his bullshit to see how the lesser half lives.

 

Mike, here’s the response I would’ve given you had you not blocked me: I know you are, but what am I? RAC!!! If I was sitting next to you at the bar when I said what I did about the Spanish LOL, would you have told me that I have a tiny mind in person? No. You would’ve said it to yourself, or mumbled it into one of your chins because you, Mike, are a pussy. It’s easy to be brave behind a fake avi and say things about other races. It’s easy to insult and run, so stop congratulating yourself, because you’re not nearly as profound as you think.

 

Mike runs a YouTube channel that features short, animated videos staring an octopus with a unicorn horn. It’s pretentions as hell but I have to admit that his work comes close to art. Some of his videos have even had as many as five-hundred views. I don’t like the videos, but maybe that’s just because Mike doesn’t like my tweets. I can be pretty petty when I set my tiny mind to it.

 

And in truth, I’m not really being fair to Mike. It’s just that I’ve encountered a few trolls this month and I’ve grown tired of their antics. Usually, they do it for publicity. You see, I have well over eighty-thousand followers on twitter, and if a troll can bate me into a back-and-forth volley of insults, all my viewers get to see it, and then maybe the troll gets a few more followers of his own. It’s a rather sound tactic when you think about it. I know I’m not supposed to let it get to me. I’m supposed to remind myself that I have a bulging intellect (wink, wink), an abnormally well-paying job, a healthy family, and a damn good life. I’m supposed to let a troll’s idiocy bounce off of my confidence and go about my day. But it’s hard. No matter how secure you are, a stranger’s insults still sting a bit.

 

Some tweets are more susceptible to trolls than others. If you ever talk yourself up, those furry little assholes come running. They want to bring you down because it’s easier to look up at those above you with a derisive sneer if you have someone standing next to you. And if you ever tweet about working out, watch the fuck out. You might as well walk over a bridge like a Billy goat gruff and prepare yourself for a full on troll invasion. My wife once said something like “twitter is a place for assholes to be even bigger assholes and to be accepted by other assholes.” It’s not entirely true, but it’s close.

 

I posted a picture of the weights in my home gym last week, and about five minutes later, another “artist” troll immediately responded with something like “oh wow! You go to the gym! Who fucking cares!” He even used a hash tag which is the social media equivalent of drooling in the middle of an insult thanks to inbreeding. So, just like I did with Mike, I looked at the troll’s pictures. Surely this guy was going to have tons of artful pictures that’d put mine to shame, right? Nope. There were hundreds of pictures of women’s shoes that he’d painted. He was trying to sell them via his art blog. I guess it makes sense that a grown man who finger paints women’s shoes should be able to insult a man who works out. Err… um, actually, no it doesn’t.

 

But I get it. I’m pretty sure that Cross Fit is actually a cult, and all the pictures of people doing pull-ups are a bit annoying. However, two years ago, I was coming close to weighing 220 pounds. I looked like… well, I looked like a younger (more attractive, better dressed, not so fat) version of Mike. I took steps. I started dieting and working out like a psycho and lost more than sixty pounds. I’ve since been putting on muscle. I can see my abs. I can run 5K races. And frankly, I’m damn proud of it, so of course I’m going to post the occasional picture because they chronicle my achievement. If you don’t like it, don’t look. Hell, just un-follow me.  I don’t say snarky shit when you proudly display your foot fetish, so you should keep quiet when I talk about something healthy. It just makes sense. In this specific instance, I replied that I was too big of a pussy to go to the gym, and that I liked the shadows in the picture so I posted it. The troll laughed and erased his comments. I killed him with kindness; he still follows me.

 

My point in all of this is that there’s really no point in being a troll. You’re not scoring any points or affecting any change. I know for a fact that my wife is laughing her ass of right now because I’ve posted my share of smug idiocy, but I’ve been trying not to. All these little comments trolls leave are permanent. They’re little electronic ripples spreading out in the wake of their insults, and even though the hurt is small, it still exists. A troll’s legacy is a virtual epitaph that reads “here lies an asshole.” You can only play devil’s advocate for so long before you’re not “playing.”  But I suppose I shouldn’t expect anything else, because I constantly spout my nonsense like an asshole into a place for assholes to be even bigger assholes. Trolls just come with the territory.

My Gym

Writing: Part 2

Narrative Nonfiction

Thirty percent of all readers instantly contract narcolepsy when they hear the term “narrative nonfiction.” Seriously. Boredom erupts within their souls and they immediately pass out due to an overdose of dry non-excitement. The term has always made me think of Abraham Lincoln for some reason. I hear “narrative nonfiction” and my mind conjures scenes of antiquity which play out through a sepia tone filter wherein everybody is old and insipid and boring as fuck. But if you do it right, if you paint with humor and refuse to pull punches, narrative nonfiction can be an art. It can be something that draws out emotion and holds it up in a painful or loving light. It can be something better than fiction even though pretend worlds come complete with space ships and ray guns, because this life, this narrative nonfiction that’s ugly, perfect, and always around us, is more captivating than any amount of made-up bullshit. You just have to know how to write it, to make it stick to your paper, and how to make it captivating enough to keep the spread of narcolepsy under control.

I want to write fiction. I want to spawn characters with which you can identify. And then I want a rich old Jew to buy the rights and make a movie or three and I want ten percent; that comes out to roughly forty-five million dollars. But lately, my fans (and yes, that was plural) have been telling me that my narrative nonfiction is far better than my fiction. I say thank you, but I flip them off as soon as they turn around. Do you have any idea how much money one can make writing stories about what actually happens? Neither do I, but I’m pretty sure it’s not forty-five million dollars. Whatever. But I do love it. There’s something liberating underneath all of it. I’ve written about dark times in my life, and when the strangers impart their compliments, it’s like they’re saying “Hey, thanks for experiencing that for us. Everything’s okay now.” It feels awesome. Ergo, I’ve decided to dedicate “part 2” to narrative nonfiction writers… wake up.

In my first segment, I said that I was going to focus on writers that’d never published anything so I could give them that proverbial kick in the ass to get up, get out, and get something (Outkast is the best rap group of all time) but I’m not going that route in this segment. I wasn’t able to find any latent nonfiction writers who hadn’t posted anything, and frankly, both of the writers in this segment are ridiculously good so I’m changing shit up. I don’t think these two have sold anything and they’re not “famous” (mostly because people demand sparkly vampires these days) so there’s that; my restrictions for “burgeoning writer” have been met. And I’m excited as hell to feature these two on my blog; both of these writers will eventually find some degree of success because they’ve got crazy talent. Each of them has that ability to observe the quotidian, and then transform what they see into insightful prose. This is another one of those “I found them first” moments.

***

The first writer in is Audrey Farnsworth; she has this crazy ability to boil down an experience into pure comedy. Most writers use “funny” as a condiment, but Farnsworth makes it the entree.

Audrey Farnsworth

Bio: “Audrey Farnsworth is a comedian and writer currently in the midst of moving from her hometown of Tempe, Arizona to Los Angeles, which is terrifying to her. She’s been a director and member of several sketch comedy groups. She does stand up. She writes about things wearing hats that probably wouldn’t, normally. She hopes to succeed in her comedic endeavors. Time will tell.”

Website: http://audipenny.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @audipenny

Doctor Visit

Going to the doctor can be very nerve-wrecking. You’ve got a problem, you know you have a problem, but once you’re sitting in that little room all by yourself, you start to get into your own head, perhaps forget your own name, and by the time the doctor actually enters the room, you forget completely why you’re there in the first place, as well as any and every question you wanted to ask.

That’s why it is important to make a list of questions beforehand. Don’t be embarrassed – a lot of people do this, and the doctors are used to it because they get it all the time. How are you supposed to remember a bunch of questions and also your name and how to walk and breathe? That’s absurd.

Even if it’s only a yearly checkup, it’s important to ask questions. What are good questions to ask anyways, you may be wondering? Listed below are some more important examples.

– At what age should I begin regularly exercising?
– What time should one stop eating at night, as not to gain weight?
– What does a beak feel like?
– Am I a healthy weight for my height?
– Is there such a thing as a goat, really?
– What is “3?”
– How many times is too many times for someone to accidentally pee on your own stove?
– If it’s over 6 feet, is it still considered a candle, or is that a torch?
– How do you know if you’re Bret Micheals?
– What attracts ghosts? Tomatoes?
– Sometimes I think my hands are tambourines?
– If you see a wolf, and are not filled with fear, are you a wolf now?
– Are these really called “hands,” or is there a better name for them?
– If my boss asks me to tuck in my shirt, and I don’t want to, so I cut off both of my legs, will my insurance cover it?
– Is there an actual function for glasses, or are they just necklaces for your eyes?
– What do you do if you can’t find your house? Go to someone else’s?
– How do you know if there is an eel living in your brain? Will he tell you, or do you have to guess?
– Are my parents actual pigeons, or did I dream that?
– Is there a Soft Rock Cafe?
– When is it O.K. to vacuum a stranger?
– Can you be allergic to the word “hatch?”
– Are pine cones Easter eggs that have “gone rogue?”
– Is hair loss genetic?
– Is having a stomach that is inside genetic?
– Are tubas actually just recordings of sad whales?
– Can someone actually be born wearing a hat?
– Are cars with blue tinted headlights only driven by angels?
– What is the average age of a healthy human being?
– What do you do if someone reacts negatively to the collage you made of their dad?
– What to do if you ask someone “How are you?” but they ask you at the same time? Move in together?
– Has anyone invented ham cake yet? Can I invent it? Can you?
– Is a chaplain just another name for a magician, but a funny one?
– Can you teach a falcon how to drive a car, and if not, can you please explain how I got here today?
– Does “CD” stand for “Burger Police?”
– How do I join the Burger Police? They accept humans, or just burgers?
– If I kill myself, could I choose to be reincarnated as a burger?
– Does a platypus know how fucking stupid as shit it looks?
– Heads… what are they, really?
– If you throw up a whole microwave, can you return it to a store, without a receipt?
– What is a receipt?
– What is a microwave?
– How many moms are loitering outside of any given Red Robin, right now, or ever?
– Can pants be shirts?
– The hell’s a “vest?” A car? Is it like a Jeep?
– Jeeps aren’t actually real, are they?
– So, who’s all a ghost here, in this office? The ones with clipboards?
– Do you like your mouth? I’m not sure if I like mine much?
– Will you tattoo an actual taco to my mouth, right now?
– What are the signs of diabetes?
– I’m 85% positive that one of my arms is a flute? Can you try playing it?
– Can my bathroom be my boyfriend?
– If I plug my ears long enough, will they just get off my head, already????
– Can I open up a Mervyn’s, inside of my heart?
– Is climbing inside of the pants you are currently wearing an appropriate response to someone asking you on a date?
– Where can I hire models for my clothing brand who are actual buildings? Here?
– How many falcons do you know with masters degrees? All of them, or?
– Did you go to high school?
– What can guys who wear their sunglasses on the backs of their heads NOT do perfectly???
– *clicking sounds with questions marks at the end*

Obviously, this is just a template. Everyone is different. To your health, friends.

***

I chose to end this piece with this second writer, Ashley Byrd, because her writing left me with an odd feeling that lingers; I’d like it to stick with you when you go back to doing whatever it was you were doing before you started reading this. She shares her trials, and as a reader, it makes you feel a bit voyeuristic; we’re currently suffering through a paucity of writers who have the balls needed to pull that off.

Ashley Byrd

Bio: “I spent my teens and early twenties making mistakes. I spent my mid-twenties and late-twenties making up for those mistakes. Now, here I am, thirty and still a mess.

After two degrees and nearly eight years in the corporate world, I’m ready to start over. I’m ready to be free.

I’m ready to write.”

Website: http://byrdstheword.com/

Twitter: @Byrdfacekilla

 

so now i’m a serial killer

I was sitting on my porch the other night when my neighbors came home.  Now, we share a driveway so when they pulled up it was just three feet away from my face.  I couldn’t very well run inside because that would be rude, right? Running into your house when your next door neighbors have clearly spotted you is just plain impolite, right?  When they got out of the car we exchange some awkward “hello, yeah, it’s real dark out tonight, oh yeah because it’s nighttime” chit chat.  It probably wasn’t awkward for them as they are most likely normal human beings unlike myself.  I am a huge, awkward, babbling dork in any social situation with humans I’m not familiar with.

Example:

Standing around with new strangers I meet one night…

“HA! HA!.. yeah, like you probably have a big vagina. HA! HA! You know, because you have kids! HA! Ha!”

Others: “HA..ha…..ha.”

–in my head—oh God that wasn’t funny, be funny, be funny—

Cue I circle a big vagina in the air, step in say “Hi!” and step out.  You know, because I’m a huge talking vagina.

Me: “HA! Ha! Ha…ha. I’m totally kidding you know, I’ll bet you had a good episiotomy.  For sure your vagina is probably much nicer than mine.”

Others: –one by one slowly start to make conversion with other people around us and push me out of the circle where I stand going on, talking to myself.—

Because I can’t stop myself, because I’m a big, fucking unfiltered awkward shell of a once human being.

Hours later I see my newly-made friends and am like, “hey, yea, remember me, made the vagina joke earlier. Ha! Oh, you’re going over there? Oh yeah, yeah, I’m going to yeah, go just over here, yup.”It was a black tie wedding.

Anyway, as my neighbors walk towards their door I can hear the girlfriend say, “Did you get the water back on?” and her boyfriend reply, “No.”  I hear some moans of disappointment and/or disapproval from the female neighbor.  At this time, I’m a little buzzed, not intoxicated but a bit tipsy. So I decided it would be a GREAT idea to let them know “HEY! You can use my water! I have water here neighbor! If you want to use it or something, not with me of course but, yup. Water, over here, my place.”

I don’t say that of course, but I write them a note that goes a little something like this…

“HEY! It’s your neighbor! The girl next door. Listen, this may sound crazy, but I think you guys said something about not having water? Well, you are more than welcome to use mine.” Then I write my name and number, but before that I decide it would be a really smart idea to write at the very top of the note in capital letters, “I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER.”  Because I’m smart AND funny.  Surely, my neighbors whom I’ve met twice get my sense of humor. So I waddle over and tape the note to their door.

Let’s be clear, I can hear a roach from a mile away, but people are another story.  I really am a bit hard of hearing and unless you speak loudly and pronunciate, you can usually hear me say loudly to people “USE YOUR WORDS.”  I awake the next morning and realize this, I also realize that I was kind of intoxicated as well and MUST GET TO THAT FUCKING LETTER A-SAP.

It’s 7:00am, their car has not been touched, maybe haven’t left the house yet.  I run to the kitchen, peer out the window and the letter is fucking gone. It’s gone. I start playing a scenario in my head as to what is going through their head, “She’s so sweet. What a good neighbor. Was that bitch coming on to you? What a freak!” Stuff like that.  Then I also start to think that maybe they never even got the letter.  They usually leave work after me; they couldn’t have gotten the letter? It did rain a little last night, did it blow away? Then I decided to just let it be; after consulting with some friends, they assured me it was a sweet gesture and my neighbors will probably call and thank me.  I have come home several evenings expecting a handwritten thank you card.

It’s been two weeks.  I still have no idea if they intercepted my serial killer letter.

The Durango Diner

My daughter will marry any man who brings her bacon. It’s disappointing. I was hoping that she’d require something more, something deeper. Maybe she’d fall for a brilliant romantic or the quintessential baller who’d keep me comfortable in imported cars just to please my daughter. But it didn’t happen that way. And what makes it worse is the fact that my daughter is five, and her fiancé is well into his fifties. But to be fair, I guess I should mention that he didn’t mean to propose; he simply slid a piece of bacon across the counter after he heard my daughter complain about the wait. She took one bite of that cured pork and said “Daddy, is that man married? Because I want to marry him.” His name was Gary, and he owns The Durango Diner.

 

It was one of those odd weekend mornings where everything slows down and colors change under a lazy sun. The wife and I took our five year old monster out to breakfast. And I call it “breakfast” because that’s what we ate. A punctual man would’ve called it lunch. We parked on Main amongst the motorcycles and tourists and walked into the Durango Diner. It’s one of those no frills places with a few tables in the back and a counter that faces a dully reflective grill. Everything is covered with a deep patina of time and tradition. The people are rooted in reality and the food is simple and cheap; simple and cheap, but ridiculously good. There’s even a white storm trooper helmet hidden amongst the décor, and if you’re a fan of “I spy with my little eye,” it makes the perfect target.

 

They make a green chili sauce, and I can’t prove it, but I think the main ingredient is heroin. The stuff is addictive, plain and simple, and I buy it by the jar just so I can take it home and slather it on everything like a true junkie. And I mean everything. I once considered freezing it in popsicle molds. Who knows; maybe it’d work as a desert? Whatever. The wife ordered bacon and eggs with hash browns. I had huevos rancheros with an extra-large side of green chili sauce. Our monster wanted bacon covered with bacon and a side of bacon. We sat and waited for our breakfast as the restaurant breathed around us. Flatware and thick white porcelain plates made their noises in the background as the staff bussed here and there. The air smelled like food and steam and humanity.

 

Our monster became impatient because her bacon didn’t spontaneously generate in front of her as soon as she ordered. She demanded food, with a miniature fist upon the counter, and Gary heard her before we could pacify her with a game of “I-spy.” He took a single strip of bacon, steaming and crispy, from the cooling rack and handed it to her with a smile. Her frown turned upside-down and she gave him one of those little girl smiles that can melt hearts. He smiled back and I knew at that moment that he was a father too; you simply can’t fake a smile like that. My daughter shook his hand and they exchanged pleasantries. He turned back to the grill and that’s when she asked me if he was married. Gary heard her and laughed. He looked over his shoulder, told her he was taken, and that he already had full grown daughters of his own. My monster was genuinely disappointed but it didn’t last; Gary gave her another piece of bacon and distraction took over. His service was quick and the rest of our food came within a few minutes.

 

We gorged, paid, and left as Gary and his staff sang out a chorus of farewells. We ambled along the streets of Durango slowly as a carbohydrate high dulled our senses. We were stuffed and sweating. That Saturday morning was perfect. The Durango Diner is the type of place that pops the bubble of personal space to which you cling anywhere else. You sit at the counter and laugh with strangers you’d avoid on the sidewalk. Waitresses brush up against you with an “excuse me hun” but you don’t mind because this is where you want to be; comfortable with the rest of your species breaking your fast as the weekend winds down outside. I remember smiling as these thoughts came and went. We got into my truck and headed home.

 

Durango is an odd little island of culinary awesomeness nestled in the mountains. If you wanted, you could walk across the street from The Durango Diner and pay fifty bucks for oak roasted lamb with a white truffle sauce. There are plenty of restaurants on main that’d hold their own anywhere in New York and they’ve got all the reviews to prove it. And to be honest, when I took the Durango Diner at face value with its simple fare and limited space, I wasn’t quite sure how the place was able to stay afloat given the neighbors’ reputations. But after eating there, after truly experiencing the place and meeting Gary, I know for a fact that it’ll be there forever (or at least I hope it will because I’m not looking forward to the withdrawal symptoms that’re sure to pop up if I’m ever denied their green chili sauce).

 

The wife and I have vowed to become regulars at The Durango Diner and I can’t strongly enough recommend that you make the trip down to 957 Main Avenue in Durango Colorado to experience the place for yourself.  I’m sure my new son-in-law would appreciate the support.

 

The Durango Diner

 

I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI

Dirty Clowns

I don’t usually entrust my children to meth heads, but then again, I don’t usually go to the carnival. You have to let go a little bit to enjoy the carnival, especially the small and seedy ones. Somewhere deep inside, you know the food is poison, but you still eat the funnel cakes. You know the games are rigged, the rides are unsafe, and that the profit margin enjoyed by the carnies is ridiculous, but you skip through it all holding hands with your sugar-addled children. Fuck it; we’re at the carnival, let’s do this.

The wife and I took our children and our parents to the county fair here in Durango this past weekend. The rides were small and rusting. The tickets were expensive and the carnies were toothless, but we had our fun; that took some serious “suspension of morality” on my part. You see, they guy operating the flying pink elephants was a scab covered meth-head. He weighed a buck-thirty at most, and at six-two, even diehard bulimics would’ve called him skinny. His hair was a garish red. He had four teeth I could see. His cloths were dirty and his pockmarked skin was covered in cheap tattoos. Most of them were evil clowns that’d probably earned him all sorts of street-cred amongst his fellow carnies. He was constantly twitching and scratching and moving his mouth like a dog that’d licked up some peanut butter. I’ve had plenty of friends that’ve lived a life of meth addiction and I can see the signs; this dude should’ve been on a D.A.R.E. poster.

But I sent my daughter up the ramp towards him and his flying pink elephants. She was alone and five years old. She had her tickets in hand and bounced with excitement. The carnie reached down and took her tickets. He led her to an elephant and strapped her in. She didn’t even notice him. I started looking around. Nobody else seemed to notice him either. He’d shout instructions to kids or try to help parents, but he could’ve been a ghost. Did they see him but look away thanks to his condition? Or did their minds gloss over his presence because he was on some lower echelon? I guess it’s possible. The carnie was just a bit of human flotsam that’d come into our town. He was quick to come, soon to leave. He was ephemeral.

I made a point of noticing the carnie, and I made him notice that I noticed him. I called to my daughter and told her to hold on, and then I stood at the bottom of the ride’s ramp and stared up at the carnie. I did my best to flex the muscles around my eyes and bore through his skull with invisible lasers of rage. Really? You’re going to get high on something cooked in a trailer, pick your skin to shit, and then touch my precious monster before operating the flying elephants that bring her joy? Fuck you. Notice me noticing you goddamn it. He did. His eyes locked with mine. He gave a toothless smile. My expression was deadpan, my eyes pissed. His smiled died and went to that place where he kept his dreams. He turned and started the ride. The elephants went up and down. The dirty lights flashed and the tired music played as the children cried their delight. I stared at the carnie. He worried over his remaining teeth with his tongue. The ride eventually ended and I collected my child. She left with nothing but good memories.

All the rides, all the attending carnies, were like that. The rotund gentleman operating the Ferris Wheel wasn’t much different than the dude by the pink flying elephants. Sure, he was fat and drunk as opposed to skinny and high, but he had the clown tattoos. People seemed to look around him as they got on and off the wheel of wrought ferrous. Again my daughter got onto the ride, this time accompanied by my mother, and again I stared at the man running the ride until he noticed me and acknowledged my disdain with a lowered head. I stood there clean and sober with all my bullshit in the past, as he stood there chest deep in all of his bullshit with his spiked big-gulp. Again, my daughter survived and came back to me covered with a smile.

It started to rain so we packed it up. My oldest daughter had met some makeup covered child of a similar age that looked years older thanks to the pain she wore. The new comer had pined for tickets and even borrowed my daughter’s coat. But that’s alright. My daughter is a precocious little punk so I didn’t even have to tell her which lessons to learn from her day at the carnival. She told me all about how the new girl had taken advantage of the endless supply of tickets I had doled out, and how the girl said she wished her father was like me. My daughter felt sorry for her but kept her at a distance. My work there was done. I looked back at the carnies who were still working the rides and standing invisible in the rain, and then we all got into my truck and left.

I’ve found a bit of empathy in retrospect. I guess it’d be easy to end up like that. You’d fall into a part time job in the carnival. You’d get to travel, see the states, get paid in cash, and taste a bit of freedom. Maybe there’s a girl, pretty and rebellious, working in the cotton candy both. The two of you could hook up and share your freedom. But then the opportunities fade as you drive from town to town. You pick up a vice, get a few dirty clowns tattooed on your forearm just to fit in, and then you earn your cloak of invisibility. Your girl gets pregnant, maybe it’s yours, maybe not, and now she’s anchored down somewhere in the heartland with a child. The new girl who slings cotton candy doesn’t even look at you because there are younger bucks operating other rides. Your dreams and your teeth disappear, and now there’s a man at the bottom of your ramp staring up at you like you don’t deserve to see his daughter. The scabs, the choices, they might wear off on his precious child. There’s nothing left but the night, the shitty motel rooms, and the vice. 

Carnie

I write and sell books and they never cost more than a dollar. If you’re a fan of fiction, you should check out Trailer Park Juggernauts here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00704HK6Q If you’re a fan of real life with just a sprinkling of fiction, you should check out Ephemeral Truths and Short Fiction here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AYRAXNI