Roofies, Mohawks, Shotguns & Blood: A Love Story

Mohawky goodness.

This is a story. This is a true story. This is a story about a band called GWAR, my best friend and a drug called Flunitrazepam, better known as the date rape drug or roofies.

My best friend and I have known each other for nigh on twenty years in two different states. We met in Boston when I lived there and we moved to Los Angeles together. We survived the first year in Los Angeles on ramen noodles and government cheese that didn’t even come from the government. We had to buy it ourselves like chumps. “Cheese” may be a stretch since I’m pretty sure there was no dairy in it. It was labeled “cheese food product.” Never trust anything that has to be labeled “food” because you might confuse it with spackle or plastic explosives.

Real cheese does not look like this. Image from tedparsnips.com
Real cheese does not look like this.
Image from tedparsnips.com

In twenty years, my friend and I have had quite a few adventures, a lot of which I can’t remember clearly because I was crapulous, i.e. shit hammered, pickled, pissed, pants-on-head drunk. The particular night in question, I was not drunk, probably because we couldn’t afford to get drunk after blowing all our money on GWAR tickets. Priorities.

We went to see GWAR. Are you familiar with GWAR? They look like this:

Sup, ladies. Image from gwar.net
Sup, ladies.
Image from gwar.net

GWAR really dresses like that. They have performed live in those costumes since 1984. Hopefully, not those costumes since they’d be really funky by now. I assume they are costumes, but perhaps they just have very bad skin. I don’t want to judge.

GWAR sounds like this:

Incidentally, when I went to look up that video, I forgot that I had headphones in and I was already listening Johan Sebastian Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041: III. Allegro assai. I wouldn’t recommend doing that. It’s quite jarring. Although, it might make a cool mash-up by someone with more musical talent than me, which is everyone.

The particular night that I’m talking about, without having actually talked about it yet, my friend and I were at GWAR with two adorable punk boys with mohawks from Sacramento. We met these adorable punk boys with mohawks at an Exploited show two nights before. They were in town to see The Exploited and GWAR shows, one day apart. They had nowhere to stay and were planning to sleep on the streets of Los Angeles, the literal definition of gutter punks, so I let them stay with me. In retrospect, letting two homeless-in-LA strangers stay in my house probably wasn’t the wisest decision I could have made, but they really were adorable and I have a total weakness for mohawks.

This is a picture of Wattie Buchan from The Exploited, but my two adorable punk boys looked similar:

The Exploited Image from last.fm
The Exploited. Rar.
Image from the-exploited.net

The Exploited sounds like this:

The Exploited have been together since 1980 and they were one of my first and favorite punk bands. They still are. I’ve met Wattie more than a few times and I’ve never been able to understand most of what he says. He has a very thick Edinburgh accent and I can only understand about every fifth word, so I just end up smiling and nodding my head at him like an idiot. Last time I ran into him, I just gave him a hug.

Wattie sounds like this (skip to 40 seconds in):

Now, if you are an astute observer of music, you might realize that those two bands, GWAR and The Exploited, sound not much at all alike. One is metal, the other is punk. Part of the reason why I trusted my adorable punk boys enough to stay at my house is because of that discrepancy. When I was an idiot punk teenager, I wouldn’t listen to anything but punk. I looked down on every other genre, especially metal. Metal was lame. I have since stopped being such an idiot and now I like both. I like people who like both. So, when my adorable punk boys said they had tickets for GWAR and The Exploited, my heart went all a pitter-pat, because I did, too.

Adorable punk boy 1, as it turned out, was gay and had a huge crush on adorable punk boy 2. Adorable punk boy 2 knew that adorable punk boy 1 was gay, but he was completely oblivious to the fact that adorable punk boy 1 was smitten with him. Boys are dumb. Meanwhile, adorable punk boy 2 was smitten with me, so an awkward three-way love triangle developed like some weird, other worldly romantic comedy.

I lived in a studio apartment at the time and the only sleeping surface I had was a queen size bed. I wish I had an aerial shot of the three of us spooning mohawk-style. When you have a mohawk up, you have to sleep on your side.

My adorable punk boys and I helped each other put our mohawks up with Knox gelatine, the best way to put up a mohawk. Yep, I had a mohawk, too. My mohawk was glorious. It was pink and so long that I had to put it into liberty spikes instead of the traditional fan shape like Wattie. It was really difficult to put it up myself because my arms weren’t long enough to reach the ends. When it was up, I couldn’t drive because my hair tried to impale the top of the car and the car always won.

My mohawk looked like this:

Mohawky goodness.
Mohawky goodness.

That’s a self-portrait I drew based on a picture taken of me with my mohawk up on the night in question. The original picture is gone now, but the drawing remains. I was so damn hardcore it hurt. OORAH.

When all of our hair was blatantly disregarding the laws of gravity by accusingly pointing at the sky and was not likely to move without serious infrastructure damage, we four–two adorable punk boys, my best friend and me–trotted off to the GWAR show in Hollywood. Weeee!

One thing I always seem to forget about GWAR shows beforehand is that they shoot fake blood and green slime at their audience. It’s a gesture of love. They have a blood cannon and a slime cannon. It’s fake blood since it isn’t salty and it dries to a nice bright red. Real blood is salty and dries to a brownish color. I’ve been covered with real blood before, so I know the difference. Although perhaps GWAR are really aliens and their blood is bright red and bland.

This is what happens at GWAR shows:

You can’t make out much in that video, but you can clearly see and hear a “SPLOOGE” sound as this dude’s camera takes a direct hit. Then he pans the camera to show the blood soaked audience. Look how soaked they are! That was me. Not literally, mind you; I’m not in that video, but all GWAR shows are pretty much the same.

We were stuck in the pit within range of the blood cannons, pretty close to where the guy who filmed that video was standing. My friend, being the innately sly type, ducked out of the pit to get a drink from the bar before the cannons started. She somehow subconsciously knew. While I, like a goddamn moran, stood there and took a huge load in the face. A load of blood, I mean. Fake blood.

My friend stayed at the bar, all dry and smug, sipping her cocktail for the rest of the show. However, her craftiness in escaping the blood torrent would eventually work against her. During some split second that she turned away, some unmitigated bastard slipped roofies in her drink.

Near the end of the show, adorable punk boys and I escaped the pit and went to the bar. My friend was nowhere to be found. We looked everywhere, but we couldn’t find her. I tried calling her phone, but there was no answer. We went outside. There she was leaning against the venue wall by the car, almost passed out and covered in her own vomit. Well, fuck.

She was delirious and completely out of it. I was worried. We couldn’t get her in the car because she could not stop throwing up. What to do? I spied a convenience store kitty-corner across the street. I told adorable punk boys to stay with my friend while I ran over there. I thought maybe some water would help her. It probably couldn’t hurt. Besides, I was thirsty.

I walked in, went to the coolers, picked up four bottles of ice-cold water and walked to the counter. The man behind the counter pulled out a shotgun and told me not to move. I instinctively put my hands up. He was calling the police. What’s wrong? I wasn’t planning to steal anything! Put the phone down! He wouldn’t listen.

After a few minutes, the police showed up. They took me outside. It was only then, when I saw my reflection in the glass of the store, that I realized the problem. With the panic of my sick friend, I had completely forgotten that I was drenched in blood. Oopsies. I looked like this, but with more green slime and a pinkish-red mohawk:

Somebody call the amberlamps! Carrie, 1976.
GIVE. ME. WATER. ARGH.
Carrie, MGM, 1976.

I calmly explained the situation to the police officers: GWAR show, blood cannons, roofied friend, buying water. I pointed across the street to the parking lot where two adorable mohawked boys were waving at me. Unlike the bodega man, apparently, the officers were familiar with what real blood looks like and that this was not it. They mostly believed my story.

The Hollywood police officers put me in the back of their squad car, which gave me a bit of a fright, and we drove over to the venue parking lot. Three of us had mohawks and were covered in blood. The other was on the ground throwing up and looked like death. The cops sighed. They asked if we wanted to call an ambulance. My friend, who was coming around, but still throwing up, said no. She’d be alright. We didn’t believe her, but it was her decision. One of the police officers went to the squad car and came back with a bottle of water. He handed it to my friend. Here, drink this when you’re able. Those cops were so understanding that I actually bowed to them as if I was Japanese as they drove away. I am not Japanese.

Nice people. Who knew?
Nice people. Who knew?

We stayed there holding her hair and patting her back for a good long while. The parking lot was empty and everybody was gone. When the sun was coming up, my friend said that she might be able to attempt something like getting in the car as long as she had the safety of an emergency barf bag. The problem was that she had driven since none of the rest of us, in our vain, peacocky state, could drive. I said, fuck it, threw the rest of the water in the bottle over the top of my head to loosen up the Knox gelatine and got in the driver’s seat. Even the blood had done nothing to make my mohawk fall.

We stayed at my friend’s house just in case she needed to run to the hospital. She crawled into the bathroom and spent the night there, alternating between throwing up and sleeping. The next morning, she felt like her head was crushed in a vice, but she was okay. I went into the bathroom and finally got a good look at myself. Crooked mohawk, smeared makeup and drenched in blood. No wonder that man had called the police.

The adorable mohawk boys went back up north. I was right to trust them since they were complete gentlemen, cordial and did nothing untoward at all. We talked for a while afterwards, but then I moved and we lost touch. We’ll always have GWAR.

Written for the Weekly Writing Challenge.

5 Things I'm Looking Forward to This Week

apod.nasa.gov

Boooo. Another list prompt. Besides the fact that they inspire little actual writing, this prompt in and of itself is teh suck since I’m unemployed and have little to look forward to at all, let alone this week. So, per usual, I’ll just make some shit up.

apod.nasa.gov
apod.nasa.gov

Conversations with Doppelgangers
There’s nothing quite like traveling through spacetime and running into a doppelganger from another dimension. Shit is freaky. I wouldn’t recommend getting too close though, since it could warp the spacetime fabric. You can carry on a conversation from afar, but they will probably be very confused to see you since, unlike you, they’re just trying to carry out the business of their day, and instead, they run into you.

Astral Projection
Astral projection has all the fun of spacetime travel without all that pesky leaving your house bit. You can fly about the universe peeping in on the happenings without even leaving the comfort of your sofa. You are safe from boreworms or parasitic viruses since you’re not actually there. It does have some drawbacks though. You can’t actually eat anything or give a high five should the need arise.

Surfing Black Holes
If you’ve never surfed a black hole, you are seriously missing out. Imagine the biggest, finest tunnel waves you’ve ever seen and then take away gravity. There’s nothing else like it. Although, you may want to astral project your first time since, if you go too far into the wave, you’ll end up on the other side. You don’t want to end up on the other side.

Exploring Dark Matter
Ah, dark matter. Is there anything more interesting in the universe? We haven’t even really figured out what it is yet. It’s dark and transparent at the same time! How about them apples? 80% of the universe doesn’t even exist in a traditional, matter-having sense. Be careful of the radiation though. if you get a hole in your suit, you’re done for.

Traversable Wormholes
Go on. Take a shortcut through spacetime. I dare you. Who knows where you’ll end up. It’s the crap shoot of cosmology. Well, that is, unless you take a safe and boring Krasnikov tube. You might even run into a planet of your very own doppelgangers.

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Hello, Boredom, My Old Friend

spoildmilk_a-comic-made-out-of-boredom

spoildmilk_a-comic-made-out-of-boredom

Boredom and I have a long history together. As a child, my family would drag me and my sister up to a picturesque cottage on a lake that has been in our family since the dawn of time. My great-grandfather built it as a hunting cabin. For a long time, there wasn’t even a proper door on it, just a heavy canvas curtain, until one night, as my ancestor and his fellows were playing cards and drinking, a bear just walked in like he owned the place. After the bear came calling, they installed a door right quick.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, my mom, grandmother and sister were at the cabin on the lake, now with a properly closing door, and dad would come up on weekends. Once a summer, the family would take off in the RV and go gallivanting around the country. In either case, my only company was my sister who was four years older than me and rarely wanted to participate in my reindeer games. I had to learn from an early age to entertain myself.

The little burg in which the cabin was situated had greatly increased its population density from my great-grandfather’s time. It went from the occasional population of half a dozen bear-fearing, card-playing hunters to several hundred people. It became virtually a miniature megalopolis complete with a general store, fire department, its own post office branch and even a library in an old garage containing just barely more books than the population. Still, there was nobody my age with whom to play.

While all of my little school friends were together downstate having group adventures, I was stuck in the north woods on my own. I was envious of the fact that they didn’t have to leave for the summer. I didn’t really appreciate those summers until I got much older. To me, it meant lonely days in idyllic scenery.

From the time I was a tiny tyke, I had to learn to curtail boredom. My theory has always been that, if you’re bored, you’re just not using your imagination. I climbed trees, I built forts, I had adventures in the woods with my trusty sidekicks, which were mostly stuffed animals, and most importantly, I developed a life-long love of books. By the time I was in double digits, I had read almost all of the books the garage/library had to offer. Whenever I was bored, I’d ride my bike up to the library and pick up another adventure.

Through other people’s words on paper, my imagination bloomed. Sometimes, I would get so wrapped up in a story that I would stop reading and act out my own ending to whatever adventure was playing out in the book. Then, I’d compare and contrast. My version was usually better.

I developed a love of words. I relished reading a word that I didn’t know. I’d run into the cabin and look it up in the dictionary. Some of those strange and random words are still stored in my brain. Those childhood remedies for boredom are still with me. Although, nowadays, I don’t generally act out live-action renditions of a story, but my imagination still works on alternate versions nonetheless.

Today, as an unemployed, non-contributing member of society, I have plenty of time to be bored and I have few playmates since they’re all busy working, just like when I was a kid. I don’t despair though. Whenever I get to feeling antsy and restless, I just pick up a book and take my imagination for a drive. Books and imagination usually cure all manners of boredom without fail. Sometimes, they even give me a kick in the butt to write my own stories instead.

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Road Trip!!

travel-industry.uptake.com
travel-industry.uptake.com
travel-industry.uptake.com

I’ve taken a lot of road trips over the course of my life. Some of them turned out to be disastrous, some were amazing, others were hardly noteworthy, but there’s one thing you of which can be assured with a road trip – at the very least, it will be interesting.

Road trips get you out of your routine. They pry you loose from your daily life to experience new things, new people and a tired butt. You have no choice but to try places you’ve never been. You are a pioneer, discovering the best places to run in just to pee and where not to eat. I adore road trips.

When I was a kid, my family had an RV in which we’d take off for weeks at a time. I’d been to every single state in the continental United States before I even hit double digits. I lost my favorite doll at one of the campsites and cried for days. I drove over mountain passes and vast plains. I still have some souvenirs from those childhood jaunts along with precious few memories.

Towards the end of my last year of high school, my two best friends and I ditched school, got in the car to go to my friend’s house and just kept going. Our impromptu road trip lasted for five days. We drove all the way up to Copper Harbor, the very northernmost tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, jutting out into Lake Superior. I had lived in Michigan my whole life and had never been the Upper Peninsula before. We came down around Lake Michigan through Wisconsin into Illinois and spent a few days in Chicago. It was our final fling as high school friends. After we graduated, we hardly saw each other again.

Once, I was driving through eastern Canada late at night. I turned to my friend and said, when are going to stop going uphill? He panicked and told me to pull over right then since that section of eastern Canada is as flat as a board. I had been driving so long that I thought we were scaling the imaginary hills of Canada. I spent the night sleeping in the car along the freeway, nestled between miles (or kilometers) of semi trucks who had the same idea. It’s a strange, but common practice there.

Another time near Toronto, I had to take a detour of many miles because the friend I was with was scared of going over open bridges. That was our last road trip together, not because I was annoyed by the bridge phobia, but because that friend, my oldest, died this year.

I called in sick to work and drove from Boston to Pennsylvania with my best friend to go to some crazy event in the woods of western Pennsylvania where we stayed drunk for days and lived in a tent. A few months later, we took another road trip from Boston to Los Angeles in my little car with a huge trailer loaded with all of our belongings where a new life awaited.

I flew from Los Angeles to Boston only to drive to Detroit, and eventually, to New York City touring with my boyfriend’s band. I spent the night in a love motel in Detroit with mirrors on the ceilings and shower nozzles at waist height. I had lived in Detroit most of my life and never knew such a place existed until I moved away. I watched as he ran laps around a public rest stop off of the highway in nowhere America because he had been in the car too long and was slaphappy. I fell in love with him as he scaled a rock at that rest area, raising his arms victoriously like Rocky and singing Eye of the Tiger badly at the top of his lungs, immune to the askance scowls of normal travelers. I peed in a cup (a difficult task for a girl) while stuck in Manhattan traffic. I watched the sun rise in Brooklyn. I drove by ground zero a week after September 11th happened.

Those are just a few of my many automotive adventures, but probably the best road trip I’ve ever taken was all by myself. I bought a brand new car, took a month off of work and just drove. Wherever I felt like going that day was where I went. I ate in a restaurant by myself for the first time. I saw sunrises and sunsets all over the country. I went everywhere from the Atlantic Ocean through the Blue Ridge Mountains over to the Mississippi River and down to the Gulf of Mexico. After three weeks on the road, I decided that I wanted to sleep in my own bed that night. I drove from Atlanta, Georgia to Detroit, Michigan without stopping. Less than ten hours later, I saw the sun come up over downtown Detroit as I pulled up in front of my building. I’ve never slept so well.

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The Moon, Bitches!

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If you were offered a free trip to the moon, would you go? Why or why not?

File created with CoreGraphics
From “A Trip To The Moon” 1902.

What a silly question. Of course I would go to the moon, especially if it was free. Free is the best price ever. I’ve seen a lot of crap bands play, looked at some crap art, watched some crap movies, performances and comedy shows simply because they were free. I’ve eaten terrible food handed to me on a toothpick because it was free. I’ve worn some godawful shirts, listened to some terrible CDs, smoked some fancy cigarettes and drank some undrinkable booze flavored with the tears of babies or some other such rot, all because they were free. I am the free guinea pig. I will be your research subject, your test market, your marketing data as long as you give me free in return. If I answer your anonymous, five-question survey, you’ll give me a stuffed Snoopy? Okay…

But, a free trip to the moon, well, you’d have to be a blamin’ idiot or impossibly sane to turn that one down. This is the moon we’re talking about. People would actually pay to go there. Billionaires would pay billions to go. I certainly would, but I’m not a billionaire. If a trip to the moon cost 1/5 of all of the money I made in my entire lifetime, I’d still probably go. It’d be worth it just to leave this stinkin’ planet once in my life.

I’d just hope that they fixed that whole space shuttle blowing up problem before I left. Even if they didn’t, I think igniting in a big fireball on my way out of the atmosphere would be a poetic way to go. If I did have to blow up, I’d hope it would be on the return trip. The space shuttle has got to be safer than driving a car anyway.

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Zygor the Zorgone

Tellus_Save_the_Earth_2

The planet Zorgox is an old and peaceful place on the far edge of the Andromeda Galaxy. It is small and pretty, and its inhabitants all get along fairly well. The Zorgones discovered fire, mathematics, the cure for the common cold, the laws of physics and how the galaxies were created a long time ago. They are a rational race that abandoned early Zorgonian superstition in favor of science. All the major cities have a great monument and educational facility devoted to the advancement of Zorgonian scientific achievement.

Zorgones are kind and benevolent to other planets in need. The laws are rational. There is no war, no poverty, no disease. In short, for a Zorgone boy of seventeen years, it is the most boring place in the galaxy and there is fuck all to do. Zorgone boys dream of finding a planet with war, pestilence and discord. They long to find a planet where the inhabitants are killing each other in the name of superstition.

One of the major simulation game companies, Zyvix, Inc., took advantage of this impulse in Zorgone teenagers and created a simulation of a new planet in the Milky Way Galaxy called Earth. According to the game, everyone on Earth is killing each other all the time over greed, differences in superstition and territory squabbles. Earth Slaughter was the hottest selling simulation game on the whole planet of Zorgox this year. All the teenagers are playing it. They can’t get enough.

Tellus_Save_the_Earth_2

Zygor is one of those typical teenagers. He never cleans his room. He puts little effort towards school and science. He plays Earth Slaughter far too much. He’s really good at the game. He particularly likes the Middle East scenarios where any weapon is available for a high enough price and you can kill anyone with impunity, even one of your own and call it “friendly fire”. If you get away with it, you achieve a bonus score.

Zygor’s parents worry about him. He had always been a little strange for a Zorgone. He is taller than average at just over 3cm and his limbs hang down almost to the ground. He never cuts his talons and he hardly ever takes a mud bath. He has terrible posture and his mom is always nagging him to stand up straight. He’s always stood apart from his classmates.

His teachers say that he’s a genius, but he doesn’t want that kind of pressure. He doesn’t want to study. He just wants to play Earth Slaughter. His parents try to get him to take more of an interest in his studies, but they chock up his disinterest to just a teenage phase. Soon enough, he will settle down and attend the prestigious Zing City University to study interstellar travel. From the time he was three, his future has been arranged as is the Zorgone way, but Zygor sees no need to study since his future is already laid out for him. Whether he fails Zorgonian history or not, he’ll still be going off to ZCU in the fall, so it’s not like it really matters.

Zygor and his friends spend most of their time discussing Earth and playing Earth Slaughter. They wonder if the planet is really like Zyvix, Inc. makes it out to be. The Zorgones developed spacecraft that travels far faster than the speed of light centuries ago, but they spend most of their time methodically exploring and setting up trade routes in the Andromeda Galaxy and the other galaxies around them. It has been over a hundred Zorgox years since they visited the Milky Way because they determined that there wasn’t much of interest there after a cursory investigation. The Zorgones are a trading culture and the only civilizations that exist in the Milky Way are mere babies yet. It will be generations before they are advanced enough to develop inter-galaxy transportation. There is no one to trade with there, so the Zorgones leave the galaxy alone until such time as the Milky Way develops properly civilized societies.

That’s not good enough for Zygor. He wants to go there to see how they are progressing. He wants to see if it really is like the game. It finally occurred to him, like a dumbass, that he is destined to go to ZCU to study interstellar transportation in the fall. His whole future revolves around learning how to travel to other galaxies. He set his mind to learning as much as he can. If they won’t let him explore the Milky Way, he’ll just build his own ship on the side. Either way, he will eventually go to Earth and see it with his own four eyes. He will have an adventure even if it kills him.

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A Journey Worthy of an Epic

solar_system_ill

solar_system_ill

Cast off from the Earth
Make a brief stop on the Moon
Did humans really land here?
Fifty-year-old footprints in the silt

Off to Venus we go
Earth’s sister planet
It’s too hot for me
I hear the Venusian winters are nice

Mercury is too close to the Sun for my liking
Spinning quickly around
Stars moving three times faster across the sky
Its days go by too fast

Passing Earth again
The tiny blue planet
It’s pretty when viewed from above
It doesn’t look so violent from up here

Then to the angry red planet
Into Valles Marineris, westward to Olympus Mons
Mars doesn’t seem very warlike to me
It’s quiet and peaceful here

Passing Io and Callisto
Jupiter, the monster planet
We can’t land here
It’s mostly gas

Saturn with its rings
Named for the god of agriculture
But there’s nothing growing here
It’s not as solid as it looks

Uranus with its odd axis
Poles pointed at the Sun
But the equator is warmer
Behave like a normal planet, would you?

Made of rock and ice
Neptune is blue
Bluer than the sea
And colder still

Pluto with its strange revolution
It’s hardly a planet at all
But it pulls the others off their orbits
Even though it’s the smallest of the bunch

Out of the way to the Milky Way cluster
To the galactic center of Sagittarius
All of the stars that the eye can see
At least 200 billion of them

Over to the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy
2,500,000 light-years away
From the little blue planet
We call home…

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Adventures

Badass.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a proper adventure.  It’s been a while since a bad decision made at 3AM irrevocably changed the course of an evening, leaving only a sore head and a good story the next morning.  It’s been too long since I got in a car with no particular purpose in mind or ended up in a vehicle with unknown people headed for unknown destinations.  It’s been a few years since a new legend was created in my personal oral history, which leaves its listeners dumbfounded; not knowing whether to laugh or be appalled by the ridiculous tale. Not all of my adventures were good. Most of them, in fact, were horrible, but the best stories are those that contain peril and lunacy woven together.

Perhaps I’m getting too old for such shenanigans. Perhaps my days of adventuring are behind me. I’d prefer not to believe that’s true. After all, Christopher Columbus was older than I am when he sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and a 76-year old man climbed Mount Everest a couple of years ago. Surely, age isn’t a factor in adventure. If it is, I might as well pack it in right now since a life without the occasional adventure isn’t really a life at all. No, I think it’s more a matter of will.  You have to want an adventure, or at the very least, put yourself in a situation where it might find you.  Sometimes, it finds you whether you want it or not, but most of the time, you have to look for it. Most adventure stories don’t start with “I was lying in bed…”

Even though, generally, one must seek adventure out, it cannot be too planned either, otherwise adventure will remain elusive.  Adventure and itineraries don’t really get along.  You can’t plan an adventure or it’s not really an adventure; it’s just an experience. Experiences are a dime a dozen. We all have countless experiences on a daily basis, but adventure is something else entirely. It’s a whole bunch of experiences tied together with a string of surreality.  Adventure is fraught with potential danger, the unknown and the unpredictable.

You can put yourself in adventure’s way and hope that it comes along, but it’s finicky.  Adventure is shy and it won’t come out if you seek it too directly. Sometimes, if you plan to have an adventure, you won’t have one. You could spend six whole months backpacking through Europe and hardly run across anything out of the ordinary at all.  A trip like that would most likely breed plenty of experience with some interesting tales of some people who aren’t exactly just like you, but real adventure is unexpected. Real adventures are usually only categorized as such in hindsight. They involve circumstances, people and experiences that you never could have imagined when you stepped out your front door that morning.

I was talking to a friend about adventures last night. This friend and I have shared an adventure together. It’s one of the greatest adventure tales we have.  I’ve already written about it in this blog as The Montebello Incident. Rarely do I meet either of the friends involved in that tale when floating hot dogs are not briefly mentioned with a flicker in the eye and a sense of conspiracy. Adventure brings people together. You will always have a bond with someone after an adventure, even if you share little else in common.

Last night, this friend of mine and I decided that we are both in need of adventuring. We thought that maybe a trip to Mexico City was in order. To up the ante, this trip would be undertaken in an unreliable vehicle without a map.  Now, that would surely be a situation in which adventure could be found. It could put The Montebello Incident to shame. Amazing stories could be had from a trip like that.  Those circumstances just ooze adventure out of every syllable. It might be the adventure of a lifetime, but it’s possible that we wouldn’t make it back. There’s not much point in adventuring if you don’t return to tell the tale. So, I got to thinking about other adventures that might be had with a little less danger and a little less expense, that wouldn’t necessarily require a passport or knowledge of another language.

Badass.
Badass.

In the spirit of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, where Toshirō Mifune throws a stick into the air at a crossroad and goes the direction in which it lands, I thought about getting a map of Southern California and a pencil. We could unfurl the map to its full breadth and then drop the pencil.  Whichever way the pencil pointed, that’s the direction in which adventure might possibly lie. Even if there was no adventure to be found, I’m sure there would be some experience to be had in those little bits of map. We might not find adventure there, but it couldn’t hurt to try it anyway. Even experience is better than nothing.

The Best Day Of Your Life

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A friend of mine once asked, actually, he insisted, that I tell him what the best day of my life was. This happened at a party with mostly French people, some of whom didn’t speak English all that well, so hardly anyone knew the answer off the cuff.

At first, I sloughed it off as a half-assed attempt at being social on the part of my friend, but he seemed genuinely distressed that I didn’t know the answer. So, I gave it some thought. I told him I could rattle off at least ten of the worst days in my life easily – they all came flooding into my brain at that precise moment – but the very best day of my entire life? That’s not so easy. That takes some reckoning. Perhaps it’s just my jaded outlook, but it seems easier to recognize the bad over the good.

First of all, how do you qualify that? You have to compare it to every other day, which given my memory, is a difficult task. Secondly, a twenty-four hour stretch of awesome seems pretty hard to come by. In every day, there are minor setbacks and brief challenges, along with the triumphs and victories and smiles.

That’s not to say that I haven’t had some supremely excellent moments in my comparatively short lifespan. I have. I have moments that make me smile. I have moments that can bring me out of a bad mood just by thinking of them. The best moments seem to be those in which I recognize that I’m having an excellent moment while it’s happening. But, I’m not sure I have one entire day that rules over all of the others.

If I had children or a doctorate, I suppose the answer might come easily. That seems like a cop out to me though. Other than the end result, I can’t imagine that shoving seven plus pounds of human through my pleasure hole would qualify as a good day anyway. It seems like having a doctorate would be better, but I don’t have one of those either.

I don’t even have a default sort of answer. I have no kids, no wedding, no doctorate; not even a lousy four-year degree. I’ve never won a race or broken a record. I never caught the Hail Mary pass in the final two seconds of the game. I’ve never been to the Moon. I haven’t discovered a new species, celestial body or a cure for cancer. I’m not listed in any trade journals. I have nothing published. In fact, I’ve not really done anything of note. So far, my life has produced nothing tangible that will remain in this stinking world when I am gone. When my body no longer exists, there will be nothing left in its stead. So, in the typically negative way in which I tend to approach everything, my friend’s question just depressed me more than anything. That was probably the exact opposite of his intent.

Perhaps I thought about it too much and was just supposed to blurt out the first thing that popped into my head.  I still haven’t really come up with the proper answer to his question. At the time, I told him about first coming to Los Angeles.

It was three days before Christmas, 1999. The whole world was panicky with the Y2K bug nonsense (remember that?), but I was panicking for a whole different reason. I was driving cross-country to an unknown new city to start an unknown new life. It took four days to traverse the continent from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.

I lived in Boston for four years. Two of them were good years; two of them were some of the worst in my life. It was time to get the hell out of Dodge. My best friend was going through a rough patch as well. We knew some people in Los Angeles and it seemed like as good a place as any to make our escape. Honestly, I didn’t really care where we went as long as we went somewhere that wasn’t Boston. I had never been to LA before, at least, not since I was a kid, but I had never been to Boston either before I moved there.

I packed up my little car, still with the fist-shaped dents in the hood from when he had tried to kill me, and attached the biggest trailer it could pull. The trailer had enough room for clothes, books and sundries, but no furniture, not even a bed. I had to get rid of all my belongings again. I parted out furniture to friends who wanted it and gave away the rest. I’d have to start over when I got there. That was fine with me; it really was going to be a fresh start.

We took a southern route across the United States since it was the middle of winter. We stopped off at Graceland on the way as our one and only tourist attraction.  Elvis’ house was littered with Christmas decorations. From Memphis, we took Interstate 40 all the way across. After three days, we were in Arizona. We decided to push straight through to Los Angeles, nearly to the ocean where our friend lived, stopping only a few times at rest areas.

It was late at night when we started seeing the lights of Los Angeles in the distance. My eyes were wide open. We were still a few hours from our destination, but the lights of the outlying areas were as bright as all the cities we had seen along the way combined. There were miles and miles of them, spreading out in every direction. It took us over two hours of driving through densely packed, suburban landscape before we reached the city proper. I didn’t realize how truly big the city of Los Angeles was until then. When I finally saw the skyscrapers of downtown, my stomach flipped. It was really happening. We weren’t just on vacation taking a road trip; we were starting a new life and we were nearly there.

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If I close my eyes and concentrate, sometimes I can recapture that feeling a little bit. I can feel the anxiety, excitement and anticipation that come with starting a new life in one of the country’s biggest cities. When I was punch-drunk, running on the fumes of adrenalin and caffeine, before I even set foot on the pavement of Los Angeles, before I had a home and a job and friends, when everything was bright and new, when I was leaving my horrible past behind me, when the size of this city in which I was to live and the possibilities it presented were both endless; well, that might just be the best day of my life.

The Montebello Incident

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I’ve done some pretty stupid things in my life; some things I regret and some things that were just plain idiotic. I’m not proud of them, but they all happened. They keep me up at night, cringing, alone in the dark. Some decisions, once made, cannot be unmade and we have to learn to live with the consequences. Most of the time, they don’t leave any permanent damage and give us some pretty good stories, but only in hindsight. One such story of mine has come to be known as The Montebello Incident.

It all started at a friend’s party. It was a pretty good party with lots of people in a celebratory mood. So, when a pickup truck drove by, asking if we wanted to go to a party in the middle of nowhere, thereby leaving the nice, safe comfort of my friend’s abode, well, it made my positive response seem all the more idiotic. However, I was not alone in my idiocy. A chorus of three replies rang out; one from myself and two from some of my crazier friends. By crazy, I mean most likely scoring high marks in one or more quantifiable categories of metal illness (in a good way), but also brilliant, caustic, creative, funny, unexpected, unpredictable and downright awesome friends. They are the type of friends that make my face light up when I know they will be somewhere because something entertaining and interesting is just bound to happen in their presence. It always does. So, when these two friends of mine said they might like to go on a little adventure, it seemed like a reasonable course of action.

The three of us, already more than half soused from the party at hand, hobbled into the back of the pickup truck with a bottle of booze. At this point, I’m not sure if we discussed whether any of us knew the people in the front of the truck or not, but they were certainly strangers to me. We lay under the night sky, gently blanketed by the stars and a tarp, staring up with a bum’s eye view at the metropolis of Los Angeles.

I had ridden covertly in the back of a pickup truck like that before, many moons ago, in the city of Detroit. It has always been one of my favorite ways to see a city. In my inebriated state, I derived much joy and sentimentality from witnessing a city from the bed of a truck once again.

We three passed the bottle around, surreptitiously propping ourselves up on an elbow to drink so as not to be discovered by passing vehicles. Then we snuggled back under the tarp to enjoy the view; our noggins intermittently banging against steel when our unknown abductors drove over one of the many potholes. I could have easily gone to sleep in the bed of the truck, lulled by the sound of the wheels and the engine, but somewhere in the back of my sentient brain, which had mainly been occluded by my drunken brain, came a niggling, little voice saying, “Get out. Get out now. You’re in the back of a truck. You can’t see where you are going. You don’t know these people. Run!” I ignored that voice and rightly so. It didn’t want me to have an adventure at all. Phooey.

We reached our destination and were told to climb out of the truck. Wait a minute, this wasn’t a party. This was a house; just a regular, ordinary house with no lights on, no music and no party. How disappointing. Oh, we’re just switching vehicles so that we can take even more people to the party with us? OK, then. Wooo! Party!

Our new vehicle was a white carpool van. It was very long and full of stadium seating. It had windows all around it. My friends and I climbed into the very back seat; the seat where the dog would sit if there was a dog, but there wasn’t a dog, there was only us. There were maybe eight to ten other people in the van with us. I did not know a single one of them. The driver of the van was so far away that I couldn’t clearly make him out.

Away we went. After an hour or so of driving, some of it highway, some of it on surface streets, we stopped at a Circle K convenience store/gas station to get supplies. In southern California, you know you’re in the boonies when you see a Circle K instead of a 7-11. We all climbed out of the van like some sort of demented tour group. My friends and I were past drunk at this point, and more importantly, we were out of alcohol. We were anxious to get inside and resupply.

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The Circle-K logo, aka, booniesville.

I used the pit stop as an opportunity to observe the van people, to whom I was now bound through circumstance, from the front rather than just as backs of heads. They all looked like regular folk. They were kind of people with whom I might chat in line somewhere, but not the kind to whom I would trust my life. It was too late now. They had my life in their hands. All of a sudden, I was very grateful for our back row seating. From our distant vantage point, if the driver (who was busy buying an ungodly amount of beer and chugging one in the store) saw fit to crash us into a tree, I might not tense up with fear until it was already too late.

I don’t remember what I purchased to drink, but I surmise that it was probably alcoholic and I know that it came equipped with a plastic Circle K bag. I am certain of this fact because, later, I used that bag as a vomit receptacle when our captors refused to pull over to let me hurl with dignity. Before I threw up, I was making out with one of my friends. I put my index finger up in the “hang on a minute” gesture, deposited the contents of my stomach into the doggie bag, tied it off, tossed it behind me, swallowed a breath mint and continued where I left off. Classy.

We drove and drove and drove, passing Circle K’s everywhere. At the third or fourth Circle K, I realized that this unknown region of southern California was not, in fact, overrun with Circle K’s on every corner, but that it was the very same Circle K that we had visited on our way.

I asked someone in the seat in front of me why we were doing laps around the Circle K. They, in turn, asked someone in the seat in front of them and so on, until minutes later, the reply came back that we were lost. I already knew that, but apparently, the pilot of our ship was now lost as well, and the navigator wasn’t helping. This inhospitable landscape in which we found ourselves grew even more hostile. The recurring light of the Circle K was the only sign of civilization around. Oh well, let’s make out some more.

Eventually, the van pulled up to the house where our journey to nowhere had started. I recognized the pickup truck in the driveway. Some people said their goodbyes and went home straightaway, while others piled into the house. We stood in the back yard for a bit, at a loss as to what to do since we had no means of getting home straightaway, or at all, actually. In fact, we didn’t even know where we were. Even if our innards weren’t swirling with alcohol, even if we hadn’t ridden blind in the back of the pickup truck to this unknown house at which we found ourselves, all those laps around the Circle K certainly didn’t clarify matters. We assumed that we were still in California somewhere, but where exactly? We decided to go inside to find out.

We followed the others through the backdoor of the house into a very large kitchen. On the right were regular, kitchen-like effects: refrigerator, cupboards and a sink overflowing with dirty dishes. On the left, there was a stove. On top of the stove was a single saucepan, mostly full of cloudy water, with three, bloated hot dogs floating in it. It looked like it had been there for a while and didn’t bode well for the three people entering the kitchen. We took it as an omen. Beyond the long dead, floating hot dogs, in the corner, lay a bare mattress. It was odd to find a mattress in a kitchen, but who were we to judge? Straight ahead, there was a doorway with light coming through, and the sound of a television and voices.

We three mice hesitantly approached the light. Inside the doorway, was a living room. It had wood paneling on the walls, several tables and table lamps, a native American dream catcher displayed prominently on the facing wall, an old console television, a couch and two recliners. dreamcatcher_peace

On the furniture sat four or five people watching some incredibly innocuous television show, each of them with afghans–not blankets, but afghans; the kind grandmothers knit–over their knees and TV trays in front of them. It would have all seemed so incongruously domestic, like we had just walked into a living room stuck in the 1970’s, if not for the guns in their hands; real, live guns that can kill you. Apparently, when they couldn’t find the party in the middle of nowhere and with all that spare booze to drink, they decided that it would be a proper and fitting time to clean their weaponry.

When the three of us–abreast, none of us wanting to be the first to enter–approached the doorway, the man closest to the door in the recliner with the afghan and the gun, held his weapon aloft and pointed it at us. “BANG!” he said and pulled the trigger. Click. They all laughed. “I’m kidding! It’s not loaded.” We didn’t find it all that funny.

We sheepishly asked if one of them could give us a ride home. The funny man, who happened to be the driver on our ridiculous outing and in whose home we seemed to be squatting, said that they were all too drunk at present (although, it didn’t seem to stop him before). If we could wait a few hours, they’d be only too happy to oblige. In the meantime, we were more than welcome to make the best of their hospitality by crashing on the bare mattress in the kitchen.

We left the doorway–the sound of laughter and lubricated metal clicking on metal in the background. We looked at the floating hot dogs and the mattress, but what were we to do? It was only a few hours after all. Like weary prisoners returning from a hard day’s labor, we quickly shrugged off any apprehension regarding what might be contained in or on or around that mattress, and laid our tired bones down to sleep. The three of us, spooning, holding onto each other for dear life and for warmth, actually managed to drift off to sleep for an hour or two. We dreamt of horrible things like hot dogs floating in cloudy water.

When we awoke, the first signs of morning were coming through the dusty, stained curtains in the kitchen. It all looked a hundred times more horrible in the light of day. Daylight brought courage though and we stormed the living room to find our gracious hosts all passed out in the places we had left them, still holding their guns. Fearful that they were now loaded, we gingerly awakened the funny man. The hand holding the gun shot into the air with a reflex and he sat staring at us, blinking, transfixed as if he’d never laid eyes on us before. We asked him for a ride like he had promised and recognition slowly flooded his face. Still holding the gun, he said that he couldn’t possibly comply with our request. He had important things to do now, like sleep, and we’d have to find our own way. In fact, he was kicking us out of the nest. As he was herding us towards the door, we asked him where we were since we didn’t even have that much information to go on. He laughed again as the kitchen door slammed in our faces. We heard the click of the lock, forever barring our way into the floating hot dog world again.

We stood in the backyard for a minute discussing our options and taking in the horror of the situation. We had exactly four cigarettes, three sets of keys and nine dollars between us. Well, there was no sense in standing around there lest the funny man discover our tardy departure and decide to show us his gun again.

We headed down the driveway, surveying our surroundings; it was a regular residential house on a regular residential block, much like any other residential neighborhood anywhere in southern California. At least with the palm trees and the familiar urban sprawl, we were fairly certain that we were still in Los Angeles county, but where? Which direction should we go? On a whim, we chose left. On the way down the driveway, I keyed the entire side of the pickup truck with keys that I hoped to use for more domestic type activities in the near future, like opening my own front door. As we passed the carpool van, I smiled thinking of the present I had left there in a Circle K bag.

The sun was blinding as we walked down an unknown sidewalk on an unknown street in an unknown city, but with every step, we were getting farther away from that infernal house. Halfway down the block, we spied something encouraging; it was a manhole cover. We raced to see what it said. Big metal letters stamped on its impressive façade clearly and neatly stated, as if this manhole cover’s sole purpose in life was to tell us where we were, “CITY OF MONTEBELLO.” That long-suffering manhole cover had done its job and could retire in peace. We did a celebratory dance.

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We know where we are! Hurray! …but did we? As it turns out, none of us actually knew where Montebello was in relation to where we needed to be, but any information, at this point, was good information. We knew more than we did when we left the house. We smiled at the manhole cover, momentarily turned back towards where we had come, gave them the finger and continued our journey.

We were hung over as hell, starving and dying of thirst. It seemed like we had walked forever. If we didn’t find something soon, we’d be found passed out on the sidewalk. We slowly made our way out to what looked like a major street and spied a gas station in the distance. DELIVERANCE! Gas stations have people in them who might actually know where we were and how to get to where we needed to be. They also have snacks!

We ran to the gas station as a parched man runs to an oasis. We held hands and skipped across the intersection when the little, white, electric man told us it was safe to walk. We stumbled into the gas station, overcome with joy, grabbing snacks and beverages at random, and shoveling sustenance into our mouths. When we were sated, serious now, we turned to the clearly nonplussed gas station attendant and got to work. We gasped the words “Los Angeles?” at her. She handed us a bus schedule written in Sanskrit. “Los Angeles?’ we implored again. She pointed across the street to where we had just come at a bus stop. Fortunately, I had my bank card on me. She charged us for all the sundry products we had just consumed and even gave us exact change for bus fares so that we might mount our trusty steed when it arrived without worry. She looked relieved as we made our way out and skipped, arm in arm, across the street again.

We stood in the little bus cubicle, the outdoor waiting room, for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, the bus appeared on the horizon, wiggling in the haze of the morning sun like a mirage. We did another celebratory dance in anticipation, which was much like jumping up and down. We still had no idea where this bus would take us, but at least it was in the general direction of away from there and closer to the city. We hoped.

On the bus were all sorts of regular workaday folk with bundles and packages and bags, who were more familiar with the bus than we were and probably knew exactly where it would go. They greeted us with inquisitive and disapproving looks, most likely, since we were not dressed in standard morning attire, but in party apparel from the night before. It was obvious that we were outsiders in their world.

We sat scanning outside the windows, hoping that any second we would recognize something, anything, which would tell us that the gas station lady could be trusted. We were clinging to each other; scared, tired and hopeful that this adventure would some day end. And then, suddenly, things started looking a little familiar to me: here a building, there a restaurant, a familiar street name. Not wanting to get my hopes up too high, I kept silent. Then, on the next block, I would recognize something else. I spied a street sign for the street on which we were traveling as we crossed an intersection. It wasn’t a dream.

At the time, I lived in downtown Los Angeles, right next to the Fourth Street Bridge. Of the countless possible routes that ran through and around the city, we had somehow managed to get on a bus that ran right down Fourth Street in front of my building. We could not have planned it any better. I told my friends where we were and where this bus would let us off. They stared at me, wild-eyed, grasping my hands until they went white. Giddy with excitement, I convinced them it was true.

Unaccustomed to bus etiquette, we didn’t know whether the bus would stop where we wanted it to or not. But, having seen some movies in our day, we knew that there was a rope or a button or something, which could be pulled or pushed or something, to alert the driver that we wanted to get off. We found the apparatus and prepared well in advance for our debarkation. A block and a half away from my building, forever in bus time, we were already standing at the ready with joined arms to sound the alarm.

Like clockwork, as if that’s the way things are always done, we yanked the cord and the driver came to a stop precisely where we wanted to be. We alighted to find ourselves standing out in the blinding sun again directly in front of my building. My car was there. Figuring that we had all already been treated to far too much insanity for one lifetime, I gave them a ride home in my car, my own familiar car in which I knew where everything was. I put the key in the ignition, half expecting that it wouldn’t fit, that this was still some crazy dream, but the car started up with a purr. I pulled my sunglasses out of the space above the rearview and hopped on the 101 freeway to find it packed with bumper to bumper traffic, but it didn’t matter. We were home.