Archive for April, 2008

Ain’t my fault, it’s the devil in me yeah.

Posted in Blog with tags , , , on April 28, 2008 by trevorgregg

Music – Nirvana – Serve the Servants

…and we’re back.

A couple days ago the old LiveJournal went dark.  Across the vastness of the cyberspace, a chorus of voices, anguished and appalled, cried out in unison: “WTF man, where’s your shit?”

Fear not, ye patient and faithful few.  I have returned.

Bold new look, same poor taste!

Why?  Some speculated the change in venue signified a change in temperament.  If only.  Rumors circulated that, what with LiveJournal recently having been purchased by the Russian Mafia (not a joke), I left for fear of reprisal for my radical views.  Also incorrect.

And no, Hillary Clinton did not have me assassinated.

Yet.

The ugly truth of it is that I am a petty and envious creature, and after having looked upon our newly revamped capoeira website/blog with its hip WordPress interface and sleek tagging system, I greedily moved the hell on with nary a look back over my shoulder.

With a mere three fucking hours worth of hoop-jumping and utility-downloading and forum-posting, I managed to extricate my archive from the old LJ ‘community’, leaving behind its stinking warrens of gap-toothed teenage girls and emotionally unbalanced singer/songwriters.  I didn’t get out unscathed, though.  For whatever reason the little part of the journal that keeps track of what song I was listening to at the time of the post didn’t extract properly.

=(.

Now I guess I’ll never know what Primus song was playing at four AM on August 12th 2004 or whatever.  Fuck it. I’ll get over it.  I’ll just start it over from here on out, entering it manually.

Anyway, we’re here now.  Make yourself at home.

——

So the other day, I’m cruising along through Oakland, doing a brisk 75, when some shit goes down and I almost die.  One minute, I’m just humming along to the radio, the next some big black amorphous… thing slams right into my fucking eye, and I’m swerving across four lanes, shrieking and flailing.

Skreeeeeeeee”shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit”eeeeech

I remember thinking ‘Well shit, this is it. Life’s over. It was fun while it lasted.’

Some subtle property of the universe, or perhaps of human consciousness, makes time dilate when violent death is imminent.  It all happened in a matter of two, three seconds, but I remember it as much longer.

I wrestled the truck back under control two feet from the guard rail, gasping. I flicked on the cab light in time to see the huge fucking moth that assaulted me land in my hair.  This was no frail bug, this girthy fucker was the size of a goddamn sparrow.  I could feel the creepy bastard wiggling around in my hair, and I started to flail around again, swatting my head like a crazy person.

“Shoo motherfucker! Shoo!” Swat swat swat.

I already knew, at this point, that this was much more than some confused insect, flitting around randomly.  I knew this fucker was agent to some malevolent power, sent  to kill me.

“Son of a bitch bug get to fuck… SHOO.” Swat flail swat.  Waving my hands around, I lost track of him for a few moments.

That was no glancing blow to my eye, I thought to myself, no accidental impact.  No way.  This moth was big, and moved quickly, with purpose.  He must have laid in wait on the back of my rearview, for hours, possibly days.  Then, sensing his time had come, the bastard kamikazes right in to my goddamn cornea, trying to blind me and kill us both.  A fiery explosion consuming man and bug alike.

Well hell no, I’m not going out like that.

My breathing was shallow.  I turned the radio off.  I waited, aware.  It’s kill or be killed, bug.  Come get what’s coming to you.

Over the whine of the engine, barely audible, I heard a sound.  Now maybe it was my paranoia talking.  Maybe it was nothing.  Maybe.

Waiting, silent, I hear the faintest of voices, a sound so slight it’s like a blade of grass dropped across a room.

Shoo yourself, bitch.  You’re going down.

Then I feel its sick, devilish fluttering on my ear.

“Aaack! Go away!”

Some primitive killer instinct takes over, and after brushing the thing off my face, I lash out with a left hook.  No more nice, open-handed swatting for you, bug.  Caught between my fist and the unforgiving shatterproof glass of the windshield, the fucker explodes with a gooey, velvety POP.  It was like punching an apricot, the thing was so thick.

“YES BITCH!  God damn bug.  That’ll teach you fuck with mammals.”

I was elated. I was alive.

I rolled down the window and roared my glory out into the night, waving my gore-covered fist at the people waiting in line at the toll plaza.  Wide-eyed and insane with adrenaline, I shrieked at the terrified commuters inside their sensible sedans.

I pulled up to the booth window.

“Four dollars.” She says.

I hold out the money, brandishing it in my fouled, goo-covered fist.

“BEHOLD THE VICTORIOUS! I LIVE TO SEE ANOTHER DAY.”

“Have a good evening.” The hefty Samoan lady says, without looking up.

“YOU TOO! RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaa…”

I tore off onto the bridge.

——

I related this incident to a friend, and it led to discussions about the nature of life and the universe, as many a near-death experience has done before.

He was fretting about being single and dying alone or some whiny crap, and I did my best to reassure him with kind words.

“What the fuck are you complaining about?  Being single is a god damn privilege.  Enjoy it while it lasts.”

“Easy for you to say.”

“Relationships are like bad colds, man.  One day, out of nowhere you wake up with that shit. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. And you know there’s no cure.  All you can do is drink orange juice and get plenty of sleep, hoping it’ll go away on its own.”

“Then why do you date?”

“Because I’m a heartless cynical self-centered sociopath. And girls dig that.”

“True. And you have dimples.”

“And I have dimples.  Besides, being in a relationship severely cuts into your time to concentrate on important shit.  You should enjoy your free time, enjoy your hours of uninterrupted contemplation.”

“What the hell important shit do you think about? In or out of a relationship?”

“Politics.  The nature of the universe.  Whether or not you could make a s’more over hot lava.”

“What?”

“Think about it.  Could you do it?”

“Of course you could, it’s just like regular fire.”

“Lava is NOT just regular fire, man. That’s liquid fucking rock.  I don’t know that you could even get close enough to it to brown the marshmallow. Your clothes or your eyebrows or something might ignite long before you get your marshmallow into browning range.”

“No way man, if it was like a small lava rivulet and not like a big open volcano, you could totally…”

The discussion continued for quite a while.  I think in the end we decided it could be done with the proper scientific equipment and hazard suits. I don’t really remember.

We were pretty faded by then.

-T.

Confounded technology

Posted in Blog with tags , , on April 23, 2008 by trevorgregg

Work, you heap of shit.

We pretend that we’re dead

Posted in Blog on April 17, 2008 by trevorgregg

Fuck you fog horn.

I hear its hateful voice across the city. Ignore the beautiful sunny weather, it says. It soon will pass.

Fwoooooooom
Fwooootheweather’sgonnabeshittyinabouttwohouuuuuuurs
Fwooooobringasweatshirtoryou’llregretitoooooooom
Fwoooooohherecomesthewindalready,itoldyouit’dgetcoldooom

Thanks for spoiling my afternoon, you soulless harbinger of despair.

—–

Saturday, though, Saturday the good weather stuck it out. We went out without jackets, and I can count the times I’ve left the house sans-jacket on one hand. To the Legion of Honor in the morning, barbecue and drunken football all afternoon, tapas for dinner and samba at La Pena till 3 AM. And not one breath of cold air, not one wisp of fog the whole time. Magnificent.

I woke at dawn the next day, sunscorched and utterly wiped out. My ears ached from the drums. I watched out the window, saw the cold grey soulcrushing fucking endless SF cloud quagmire rolling in. Yesterday must have been a hallucination, I thought. The fevered dream of a desperate, Vitamin D starved agoraphobe, holed up in his apartment since last August.

Blargh.

——-

Monday.
400 kicks.
300 situps.
100 pushups.

Tuesday.
Run three miles.
Dips.
Pushups.

Wednesday.
Sequences.
400 more kicks.
More situps.
Handstand pushups.
Pullups.

Get strong.
Get fast.
Day in.
Day out.

I lay spread eagle on the hardwood academy floor, gasping and sweaty. My chest heaves. All I can hear is the desperate oxygen-starved thump of my heart.

“Get up Trevor, time for more macacos.”
“Fuckitimtired.”
“Don’t you want to get in shape?”
“Hateyougoaway.”
“Just a few more.”

It’s always just a few more. We were discussing it after class, this whole ‘fitness’ shit.

“It doesn’t seem to matter how much I train, I’m never in good enough shape.”
“Yeah, it’s a losing battle man. That’s the nature of the game.”
“Whatever, you’re both skinny.”
“Ok why don’t people realize that skinny does not equal fit.”
“Yeah me being skinny doesn’t have anything to do with my level of athletic discipline. I’m not skinny because I work out, I’m skinny because Jesus loves me and wants me to be attractive, and have hella chicks.”
“Haha fuck you man.”
“I’m serious! Obviously God hates you or he wouldn’t have made you fat.”
“Fuck it guys, let’s just take steroids.”
“Here here!”
“Amen! Time to start juicing.”
“No such thing as a capoeira drug test.”
“Pfft if they made you pass a drug test before you got in a roda, capoeira would die out in two fucking hours.”
“Let’s go get some pizza first.”

We laugh about it but the dammit this is serious stuff. It never ends. Takes me three months to get in any kind of shape, and if I take a week off I’m back to square one.

I blame my sedentary lifestyle. Destiny, Progress and Economic Necessity have ordained that I sit on my ass chained to a computer at least ten hours a day. Had I been born in an earlier age, a simpler time, I’d no doubt be totally fuckin yoked from all the hunting and running and tribal warfare.

Or more likely I’d be dead, eaten by slavering prehistoric hyenas I couldn’t see because of my poor eyesight, I couldn’t outrun because of my allergy-ridden lungs.

Curse you, frail constitution.

Skinny, pale, fragile… Nature herself seems to have designed me to read books, troubleshoot windows networking errors, and write annoying internet shit. I train capoeira and play sports not because I should, or because I’m good, but because I’m an obstinate and contrary bastard. Every kick I throw I’m just flippin the bird to Mother Nature. Take that, you old bitch.

——-

As some of you Interweb nerd-types may have heard, ChristmasApe of Kissing Suzy Kolber fame was recently fired from the Washington Post. Kissing Suzy Kolber is a tasteless, low-brow, hilarious sports blog about the NFL. It’s won all kinds of awards and, although it kind of blows a goat in the off-season, is the number one place for football hilacrity on the internets. KSK is staffed by several dudes who are known only by their pseudonyms on the site, dudes who are a little too talented and knowledgeable to be random fat people in a basement somewhere.

Everyone knew these dudes were professional writers somewhere, but nobody knew where. Until last week.

Anyway, so XmasApe releases his real name, just like that Patent Troll lawyer guy, and gets fired the next day. http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/02/26/1827225&from=rss Apparently, the Washington Post, fucking BASTION of Journalistic Integrity that it is, felt he was a disgrace to the paper. Now set aside for a second the fact that the Washington Post firing somebody for a lack of integrity is like the Ku Klux Klan banning someone for cultural insensitivity. This is still fucked up. This guy lost his fuckin job, his bread and butter, for being both popular and hilarious.

We all know newspapers as a medium have one foot in the grave, but I’m honestly shocked to see them so eager to hasten their demise. I mean come on, fire the guy for being hugely popular on The Inernets? Fuck that, promote him! Give him his own god damn column! That’s any easy twenty thousand overweight, internet-addicted Redskins fans that are gonna run out and buy a subscription to your crapass rag just to hear ChristmasApe rip on Heinz Ward.

Fucking tards.

Anyway, in a show of solidarity for The Ape, I’ve decided to release my own real name. I realize that this imperils my employment, my family, and likely my eternal soul, but it’s time to make a stand.

But what about all those horrible things you’ve said, Trevor? What about all those offensive comments? All those dangerous, illegal misadventures? Aren’t you afraid of retribution?

Yes. I am. But this is a matter of principle.

Therefore, I want you all to know my real name is Paul Edward Shandi. I’m a mechanical engineer in Orange County California. I’m five foot nine, I drive a BMW, and I fucking HATE poor people.

All you assholes out there that I’ve insulted or demeaned, you all can just SCREW OFF.

DO YOUR WORST, you bastards.

– Paul E. Shandi.

We’ve got our recruits, and our green mohair suits

Posted in Blog on April 8, 2008 by trevorgregg

Bob Hope International Airport, Friday afternoon.

Who names an airport after Bob Hope? Can’t they name it after some long-dead Mexican saint like everything else in Southern California?

They make you deplane outside, like in the Third World. The terminal is squat, rectangular, and looks like it was built in the late sixties. As does the rest of LA, as far as I can tell.

It’s grey and tepid out on the tarmac. Overcast, smoggy, ugly. The colors here, the colors on everything are either drab, bleached imitations or gawdy, violent exaggerations. Sallow beiges and seizure-inducing maroons. It’s like LA was a movie filmed in black and white then converted to color, poorly, like they did with Night of the Living Dead.

LA is the worst place on Earth. I fucking hate it here.

Fuck. At least it’s warm.

I sat on my suitcase out front for forty minutes until Jo picked me up. There’d been some bad business involving open flames and hazardous waste in her house, so she was delayed.

Five minutes and we were on the freeway, driving ninety miles an hour into the belly of the beast.

——–

Greater Los Angeles is not really a city. Non-residents like myself refer to it as such, but in reality it’s more a boundless, unending shitsprawl made up of tiny fiefdoms and hamlets. Small, rotten pieces stitched together haphazardly into a somewhat-functional monster, like fucking Frankenstein.

My normally razor-sharp sense of direction and geography deserts me down here, likely as a result of both mind and spirit recoiling in horror at the sights and sounds around me. Everything south of Oxnard and north of Mexico is just one blurred, foul miasma in my mind. Highland Park. Santa Monica. Silverlake. South Central. Eagle Rock. Bleakdale. Desparation Flats. Western Shitgully.

Left at the Salvadorean sushi restaurant, right at the four-story neon Scientology sign, U-turn at the piles of burning garbage and corpses…

I’m perpetually fucking lost. I don’t even try.

At some point, winding along some crowded fucking highway, I take a deep breath of exhaust fumes and lean my seat back. Two Tunisian dudes hawking oranges and stuffed animals wander amongst the creeping, idling cars. Jolene is talking about hospital rotations.

I am weary beyond my years.

I close my eyes and listen to the shouting Africans and blaring horns. Inside, ancient pressures reach a threshold. Grinding, rusted machinery shudders and dies. Something snaps, almost audibly.

I open my eyes.

“… so the other six Med students start with Peds and then go to Surgery in August, but our group”
“Jolene.” I interrupt.
“What?”
“It’s good to see you.”
“You too, friend.”
“Yes. Yes indeed. Let’s go drink a fucking beer.”

I smile like a hyena as we lurch out onto the gravel shoulder, gunning it for the next exit.

Fuck you LA. Let’s do this.

——-

We meet up with her medschool friends to play ultimate frisbee at a park in some obscenely rich townlet called San Marino. There’s a law that you can’t park your car on the street or in your driveway at night here, the rationale being that banning these behaviors helps keep poor people, minorities, and other unsavories out of the area.

We play ultimate for two hours or so. Her friends are nice folks, the kind of genuine all-american kids you expect to find wearing lab coats and attending private school. They make nerdy medicine jokes I don’t understand. I get sunburned, and talk about how strange it is to be outside without a jacket on.

The park is a wide, sweeping lawn with little stands of palm trees scattered tastefully here and there. Rich people play with their babies in the shade. The grass is perfectly manicured, but the second we start jogging around building up a sweat, we’re swarmed by flies. You have to keep moving or they start to accumulate on your bare skin, buzzing and foul.

That’s what Los Angeles is: pristine lawns and swarms of black flies.

——–

We head back to Jo’s apartment in South Pasadena and drink a few beers on her back porch in the evening sun. She lives in a nice condo with Adrienne, a boxy two-story across from some abandoned housing experiment called the Ostritch Farm.

Jolene tells me about her schizophrenic octogenarian landlord, a crazy woman who comes by every few days to peer in the windows and scream at the neighbors for letting their dachshunds poop in the iceplant.

“We’ve found her looking in the bathroom window several times, up on a chair.”

“That shit’s illegal you know. You could call the cops.”

“Forget that, what if she falls? She’s older than god. She’ll break a hip at best, at BEST.” Jolene, ever the concerned doctor. “She could die at any moment.”

“You’d have to bury her body in some ditch out in the desert. If anyone found out she was dead, your fault or otherwise, you’d get evicted and they’d bulldoze this place to build a yoga studio and oxygen bar.”

“Too true.”

Her neighborhood has only four condos in it. The rest is random businesses and empty eucalyptus groves. Accustomed as I am to the draconian zoning laws of SF, the lack of separation between business and residential districts is very disorienting. I can never tell where the hell we’re going; all the taquerias and apartment complexes blur together.

I imagine the Los Angeles City Planning Commission, a cobwebbed ruin inhabited only by rats and weeds. After years of being threatened and bribed and harassed by studio executives wanting to paint their geodesic domehouses pink and Vietnamese roachcoaches wanting to take the wheels off their vans and call them restaurants, they just gave up back in the 1950s. Fuck it, they said one day after approving a 100 foot statue of Hugh Hefner’s wang for Venice Beach, just build whatever you want.

It’s been a free-for-all since then.

——-

We end up at a place called the Good Luck Bar by midnight, reconvening with med students. Apparently med students are as xenophobic as Mennonites; I’m consistently the only outsider.

The place is all red inside, like a darkroom, and the decor is Chinese. I keep drunkenly referring to it as the Joy Luck Club, and am curtly corrected. We order Singapore Slings, which are god awful and taste like kid’s cherry cough syrup.

People around us are having LA conversations. Not to be confused with regular conversations. In a regular conversation, you take turns talking and listening. In an LA conversation, you talk loudly so people around you will overhear what you say and marvel at your coolness, and when you’re not talking you don’t listen, you just wait for your turn to talk.

We order beers to wash down the taste of the terrible cocktails, and I talk to Jo’s friends about all manner of shit. It’s a good time. We get blitzed.

At one point, the two dudes from Flight of the Conchords walk in. Genuine celebrities.

Now my life is complete, I say. I came to Los Angeles and saw famous people.

I can die happy.

——-

We hike up some mountain near Hollywood the next day. It’s not really a park, I don’t think, it’s just that the trails up to the top are too steep for the homeless to bother with encampments. Hundreds of people jog up and down the mountain, most with dogs. There’s dog shit everywhere. Carrying a plastic bag is so unhip. Jolene and I laugh as a bulimic blond tries in vain to kick enough trail dust over her chihuahua’s poop to cover it.

We get to the top and look out into the haze and endless human wasteland. What a weird place.

“That’s the Capitol Records building.”

“Looks like a grain silo.”

“Some days you can see the ocean. Not today.”

“Not today. It’s weird to see this little piece of ‘nature’ out here.”

“Yeah.”

“I can’t even imagine what LA was like before all this. Just miles and miles of hilly scrub desert.”

“LA actually has a really interesting history, you know? From farmland to studios to cities and back again… definitely one of the most fascinating places in California.” Jo says.

“I’m sure it does. It’s too fucking weird not to.”

I make a mental note to do some research. We walk back down the mountain, laughing at the socialite guys jogging in designer jeans and the stumbling girls who cry involuntarily as they sweat their makeup down into their eyes. We look at the mansions and the hovels.

God damn it’s good to get out of SF for a while, I tell Jo. That place is a fucking black hole.

I feel like I’m on safari.

——–

Jolene was participating in the med school vs law school waterpolo game on the main USC campus. It takes us a while to find the pool.

I sat on the edge of the pool and clapped, talking with the refs. I was the only fan in attendance.

The doctors trounced the lawyers, 13-1. It was a route.

Such was my first Trojan sports event. A woo awoooooo.

———

That night, we got dressed up and went to a guy named Juan’s birthday party up in the hills somewhere. Winding, narrows streets, amazing views. Money territory.

I tied my wrinkled, stained tie successfully in only four attempts. A personal best.

The house was epic, of course. Had a manmade creek in the yard and shit. I’ll never understand the wealthy, I think to myself, but neither will I hesitate to attend their parties and drink their beer.

The party was pretty subdued. Board examinations loom, and though discussing studying etc. is taboo at social functions, you can tell most of these kids have their minds on bigger things than flip cup and small talk. Half the people have given up drinking entirely until their tests are over, the other are drinking twice as hard until their tests are over.

I’m just along for the ride.

I play beirut against a couple girls named Katie, and listen politely to knots of people talking about hormone receptors and carcinoma and drug resistant TB. One track mind motherfuckers. Not that I have room to criticize. If engineers were sociable enough to throw parties, there’d be just as much monotonous shop talk.

Somebody brings another outsider, a fuckstick named Ethan who is just golden. This guy is LA to me, to a fucking T. I’ve met Ethans every time I’ve ever come down. It’s like Southern California has this one prolific, archetypal breed of douchebag rarely encountered outside of its natural habitat.

Ethan’s in his early thirties and is hanging out with twenty-four year olds. He says he’s a ‘non-practicing attorney’ which means he’s unemployed. He’s loud as fuck. He wears one of those little green military hats, and walks around asking people for a cigarette.

He asks if he can invite his ‘other friends’ to the party. For Ethan, every laugh is a courtesy laugh.

He’s so fucking awful to be around that he actually wraps around and becomes awesome to hang out with. I just watch him, laughing and marveling, as he wanders from group to group searching for someone that will listen to him fucking spout off about nothing for more than ten seconds. The partygoers flee before him, girls especially. They’ve got a better sense for avoiding shits like Ethan.

He corners Chris, and after wandering off for a while, I return to find them in the same spot, Chris still nodding politely and watching desperately over Ethan’s shoulders for someone to rescue him. Chris steps purposefully toward me and I lunge into the bathroom, slamming the door behind me. Fuck that, Chris. I feel bad for you but you’re on your own. I hear him knocking on the door.

“Hey Trevor you in there? I need to use the bathroom, and I was just telling Ethan here what an interesting guy you are. He wants to meet you.” I hear him jiggling the doorhandle.

Oh hell no. I pound my Tecate and weasel my skinny ass out the tiny two-foot window, climbing up onto the second story balcony. A couple of people are up there, med students I don’t know. I throw my leg over the banister and walk towards the door.

“Evening folks. Just… just checking the place out. Exploring. Great party.”

They stare at me. I vanish safely into house.

Downstairs, in the kitchen, I cruise around looking for Jolene. Ethan leaps out of the shadows.

“Fuck.” I say. Ethan and his ilk never listen; their ears are vestigial, so my faux pas goes unnoticed.

“Hey, you’re Trevor right? Chris said you might have a cigarette, you know, since you’re the only non-doctor here. Besides me, you know.”

“Yeah no, sorry dude. Smoking’s punishable by taser up in SF.”

“That’s great. I’m working on this screenplay with some old Pepperdine friends of mine and”

Motherfucker! Fucking Ethan. I hate these god damn people. I watch the people around me head tactfully for the doors after glancing in my direction. Fuck LA. No fucking class, ditching me with this tool. I’m an out of town guest god damnit.

“…just to find out she’s only been divorced for like three days. Can you believe that? Three days. So naturally I didn’t tell her I already had a kid down in Chula Vista…’

Fucking jesus bikeriding christ. Ugh.

“…so I tell him methadone is just kid shit, you know? Everyone knows Heath was caught up in a druidic cult…”

I look wide-eyed over Ethan’s shoulder, and point.

“Holy fuck is that Jude Law!?”

He turns to look, still spewing his fucking chatter, and I silently step backwards, climbing into the huge refrigerator and crouching down under a shelf full of MGD. Thank god I’m skinny and flexible. I huddle in the pitch dark fridge, claustrophobic and cold, for several minutes.

I wonder if I’ll asphyxiate.

I can’t hear if he’s still out there.

Can’t come out too early, Trevor. He might be waiting. It might be a trap.

——–

Several minutes later, Adrienne opens the door. I fall out at her feet, gasping and shivering. She gives a surprised yelp.

“Hi.”

I stand up, compose myself, grab a beer.

“That Ethan guy was following me. I had to hide.”

She nods knowingly. LA people understand. They deal with this shit every day.

I rejoin the party once I overhear that he’s left, gone to meet up with his friends in West Hollywood at a dive bar.

——–

Sunday we cruised around. Ate at some overcrowded underground hotspot restaurants. Bought some cds. Watched a movie. Talked about life while we looked for parking spots, cussing at drivers and pedestrians alike.

We contemplated going to the beach, but the sky stayed an ugly gray and the wind was up.

I was back freezing my ass off in San Francisco by midnight.

All in all not a bad trip, as far as LA goes.

-T.

Drowned with a spike right through my head

Posted in Blog on April 1, 2008 by trevorgregg

I woke up at seven on Saturday to go camping. Two hours of sleep had barely taken the edge off friday’s capoeirista bar-crawl, and I lurched out of bed into the surreal twilight state that exists between Epic Hangover and Still Drunk. Friday-night Trevor, knowing full goddamn well that Saturday-morning Trevor would just reach over and hit the snooze button the second my alarm started blaring, had hidden it expertly under a pile of clothes and CAT5 cables across the room. It took me ten minutes to find the thing, buried as it was, and five more to find a hammer to smash the fucker to pieces.

Curse my amazing drunken foresight.

The headache and dizziness kicked in while I was in the shower, and by the time I finished loading the gear I was hurting bad. Not functioning on any sort of mental level where I could pack effectively, I haphazardly tossed equipment into the truck bed. Toothbrush. Swimsuit. Four hatchets. A plate. A bottle of Pico Pica hotsauce. Rollerblades. Two shower curtains. A cookbook.

What are we doing again? I asked Ellie.
Camping, she says. She watches me warily as I toss a broken lamp into the truck bed.

Oh right. Camping.

Why are you bringing that lamp?

I’m… I’m not sure.

I took the lamp back out.

Christ it’s bright out. I forgot the sun comes up so early. Just work through it. Ignore the pain. Watch the road.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Drive.

———

We made our way down to Lake San Antonio without incident. It’s nice country down that way, once you get off 101 a ways, away from the oil fields and prisons, and stinking mountains of fertilizer. In two weeks or so, though, all those rolling green hills turn an ugly brown. By May the ground is cracked and the heat is unbearable. By June it’s a god damn wasteland.

March, though, March is all good. The creeks are high and it’s still cold enough in the mornings to keep the AARP/RV crowd out of the parks.

Even the mortar-firing range at the Army base looks nice in March. Little wildflowers growing up out of the craters and the tank tracks… very picturesque.

——–

San Antonio is not a particularly memorable camp. The lake is filled with boxy, derelict houseboats, the campsites are poorly maintained. Nitrogen runoff from the neighboring farms has turned the tepid water into a kind of green algae soup, and the whole place smells vaguely of diesel. Two rangers, a couple of nineteen year-old forestry dropouts, are nominally in charge of the place. The gate is never manned and the only time you see the staff is when they leave their air-conditioned quansit hut to buy weed from the Hell’s Angels that pass through on their way to Monterey.

Once a year though, thirty fucking thousand whackos from all over the world come to San Antonio to run the Wildflower Triathlon, the second largest event of its kind, behind the Iron Man in Hawaii.

It’s a nightmarish fucking spectacle to behold, thirty thousand of these nutjobs in one spot. You’ve never seen so many wide-eyed, clench-jawed white people in your life. If not for the spandex and the bicycles, it would be indistinguishable from some Nazi rally in the thirties. Talk about a breed apart, man. Fucking triathletes are the weirdest fuckin bipeds on Earth.

They scare the hell out of me.

——-

How Shak got mixed up with this insane Wildflower crowd, I have no idea. I guess working in the South Bay gives one ample opportunity to contract Triathlism. We went as ‘volunteers’ back in college, along with 1500 other Cal Poly folks, but the race itself was hardly our concern. Like every other warm-blooded college kid there, we came to party ourselves stupid out in the woods for a weekend. The teeming horde of triathletes were just part of the scenery, their shrieking and bellowing just background noise while you tried to lure that blond from your econ class back to your tent with nothing but warm beer and your wits. I remember sitting on one of the docks with Pedro and a couple of the other ‘volunteers’ during the race. Pedro was passed out, one foot hanging off the dock into the water, and the two girls were passing a box of Franzia back and forth talking about their favorite sunscreens. I walked out to the end of the dock and looked out. There was a huge strip of rough water that ran from one end of the lake to the other, a distinct band of whitecaps that stretched for three miles across the lake. I watched it for a full minute before realizing that strip wasn’t a strange sort of wind shadow, it was fucking people, people swimming.

Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of these strange bastards, gasping and kicking, were carving a gash across the width of the lake.

“Jesus Purple Roosevelt Christ.” I whispered, awestruck. I kicked Pedro awake. “Roll over, fuck. Look at that shit. Look at all those people.”
“What people?”
“Those swimmers man. Look at them all. What the hell are they all doing out here?”
“Swimming across the lake. 2.4 miles, no breaks.”
“That’s fucking craziness man. They’re all thirty-something marketing executives and shit too; I bet at half of them drown. Why? Why do they do that shit to themselves?”
Pedro looked at me for a moment, then shrugged.
“No idea.”
“I hope I’m not that damn crazy and strange when I’m thirty.”
“Amen.”
Pedro then concerned himself with pushing the two chicks off the dock and into the brackish water, and I headed off up the hill. That was the last we thought about it.

Here we are four years later, dragged bodily into the same age and economic bracket as these freaks, and Shak decides to break rank and join them.

I am utterly mystified.

——-

The campground at San Antonio was largely deserted, at least at our end. A couple groups of high-school aged Mexicans, out from Gonzales or San Ardo for the day, were camped up the road a bit. They were blasting Spanish teeny-bopper hits from the trunks of their borrowed Buicks, but other than that, the place was a ghost town.

Shak and his buddies had come down to reconnoiter the course, to do a little training before the Main Event in May. By the time we got there, they were already decked out in their exotic, skin-tight triathlete garb. Padded biker shorts… rubberized neoprene wetsuits… chafeless nipple-guard running shirts… abnormal shit, you know. They rode around and ran up and down some hills and made themselves generally uncomfortable for a few hours while Ellie and I sat around camp and went swimming.

Around four thirty, though, a steady stream of exhausted, stumbling triathletes started pouring down off the hill past our camp. One became ten. Ten became twenty. Twenty became a hundred.

“What the hell?”
“That’s Team in Training man. They’re out here every single weekend starting January 1st getting ready.”
“No shit?”
“Not only that, it costs thousands of dollars to be in that shit.”
“WHAT? What the shit for?”
“Thousands man.”
Shak and his buddies clapped as another group of half-dead, sunburnt white folks jogged by.
“GREAT JOB!” I shouted, giving them a huge, jumping double thumps up. “Get a life, you strange fucks!”
They couldn’t hear me over their own thundering, desperate heartbeats so they just waved half-heartedly and plodded on.
“These people make no sense to me, Shak.” I said.
“It’s not about making sense.”
“What is it about then? Why the hell are you guys out here?”

He had no reply.

“These people make me want to start smoking.” He just looked at me. “I wish I was fat. You bastards.”

I went and sat on my tailgate, a stranger in a fucking strange land.

——

About an hour later, sitting around the fire, I realized we’d only brought five beers. For the five of us.

“No.”
Ellie, always even-keeled, just shrugged.
“This isn’t happening. Unfuckingacceptable.”

Two ground squirrels and a deer looked up as I screamed, broken-hearted and sober, into the frigid night.

——-

Triathlons appeal to a very, very distinct subset of people. They’re affluent, usually white or severely white-washed, manic, and subconsciously self-loathing.

Triathlons have everything white folks look for in an activity; expensive equipment, individual achievement, lots of terminology, smarmy elitism, hip bumperstickers for your minicooper, etc. It gives them something to obsess about for months at a stretch, something to talk about ad nauseum with their triathlete co-workers around the water coolers at Google and Cisco. It’s a gilded, tangible, achievable goal, and there’s nothing white folks love more than achievable goals. Those people that write shit down on To Do lists that they’ve already done, just so they can check it off? That’s Triathlete behavior. Those people who talk your fucking ear off about how well their new Acura SUV handles up in Tahoe? That’s 100% Triathlete. No kids? Thirty-two? Bi-weekly REI shopping sprees? Claim to love the environment and diversity but scared to death of public transportation? Secretly hate themselves and need external affirmation? Own “Life is Good” happy-face waterbottles?

Triathletes.

—–

Hey James.
Hey Walter.
You get the updated spreadsheet for the presentation?
Yep, I sure did. Boring stuff. I can’t wait for this weekend.
Going training?
Yep. Christy and I went to Sports Basement and bought some new graphite heat-shielded Shimano toe clips. Can’t wait to try them out.
Sweet.
Darn right they’re sweet. They only weigh 4 grams a piece. The stock ones weigh almost 6. A steal at $300 a pair.
That’s amazing.
Yeah. I read in Triathlete’s Monthly they’re strong enough to survive orbital re-entry.
Amazing. That’s great.
Yeah.
Yeah.
Yeah I think Mark and Darschal and that new Asian guy from marketing are gonna take a ride up Skyline. We’ll probably do 60 miles on Sunday.
That’s great.
Yeah it really is.
We’re great. It’s great to be fit and wealthy.
It sure is. Let’s go get some carrot and guava smoothies.
High-five!

——

Sitting around the fire, some damn fool had the gall to compare triathletes to capoeiristas. A typical thing for a woefully ignorant non-capoeira person to say.
Shiet, I explained. Polar fucking opposites. They might be equally obsessed with their own weirdo activities, but the similarity ends there.

Capoeiristas are poor, universally. By having a four digit bank statement, I’m practically the fucking Donald Trump of the capoeira world. Capoeiristas become absorbed by the community as much as by the activity itself, a community that ranks somewhere between the Mob and a suicide cult in its xenophobia and demands for loyalty. Capoeira groups, families, whatever, are drama-fueled, violent, social to a fault, and loving in the most despicable fashion. A capoeira life is ridiculous and unhealthy in its own beautifully unique way, full of bad food, strong drink, and head injuries. You beat up your enemies, you love your friends, you sing in foreign tongues and you lose touch with everyone else in the world that doesn’t play capoeira, including your family. It dominates your life, like alcoholism, or a terminal illness. That’s capoeira, a really fun terminal illness.

By comparison, triathletes are solitary even in large groups. They feign solidarity and cheer each other on, each secretly hoping the next will stumble and fail so they can shake their heads in concern and say “She tried so hard, it’s too bad.” They trip each other at the starting line and hug each other at the finish line. They never shut up about their fucking bikes. They’re doing three of the most basic, stone-age activities imaginable and manage to spend obscene amounts of money on geegaws and specialized clothing, amounts that make yachting and golf seem reasonable. Their freaky organic diet and strict exercise regimen devastates their sense of humor, often destroying it completely. They’re old, which is gross, and they smell like tigerbalm. They think its fun to swim around a fucking lake, then ride and run around some hills till they puke. They’re weird and awful, and can’t hold their liquor.

A better comparison would be to those self-flagellating Christians in backwater parts of Europe and South America. Those people that whip themselves and crawl over broken glass, carrying crosses and wearing black hoods and crying, bloody and frenzied, to the silent heavens. They torture themselves for love of Jesus. Triathletes torture themselves for love of Fitness.

Not my fucking cup of tea, man.

——

The next day, out on the dock, Ellie and I waited while Shak and Orlando swam out to their race buoy and back. We both had beanies and wool coats on, boots and long pants. It was cold. Shak was in a speedo, Lando was in a seven hundred dollar rubberized frictionless wetsuit. He looked like a seal run over by a steamroller.

“In you go, dudes, it’s fucking cold out here.” I said, looking down over my sunglasses. Other spandex-clad weirdos milled around the dock behind us, stretching exaggeratedly and being annoying.

They jumped in.

“Don’t die. I’m not coming after you.”

They swam out.

I struck up a conversation with one of the Team in Training folks (Dave), explaining that I was not a triathlete but that my dumbass friends were. I told him I had promised to run Wildflower the day that pigs flew out of my ass, and asked if he had any tips in case that scenario came to pass. He missed the joke, talked to me in condescending tones, and told me a lot about how he got in to triathlons and how much his new bike cost. It took him six days to scrape all the decals off it. Gotta get rid of that extra weight, you know.

Those stickers are heavy.

In turn, I explained that I was starting a non-profit called Imperialism Without Borders, which was a sort of support organization for global westernization. The Monoculture is a beautiful thing, I said, and we can teach that to the disenfranchised in the third world at gunpoint if necessary. He nodded silently, utterly confused, as I talked about Sustainable Autocracy with a miraculously straight face.

While I chatted, Ellie hauled my shivering, nearly-dead friends up on to the dock.

“Holy shit, great job guys!” I clapped.
“I swallowed some of that green water. It tastes like leprosy.” said Lando. Shak just stood there and shivered.

I watched them for a minute.

“You crazy motherfuckers. Let’s go home.”

-T.