Archive for June, 2009

Don’t think cuz I’m talking, we’re friends

Posted in Blog with tags , , , on June 30, 2009 by trevorgregg

Music – The Pixies – I’m Amazed (unreleased)

At times I consider myself a collector.  Perhaps not a traditional one, as baseball cards, rare cars and the like do not interest me.  I have no secret horde of porcelain angel figurines or Beanie Babies or exotic stamps stashed behind a false panel in the wall.  It’s no conscious decision that keeps my room spartan and boring, I just don’t seem to accumulate the various tchotchkes and trinkets necessary to decorate appropriately.

There’s a fascination, a deep satisfaction that the dedicated collector feels when amongst his valued possessions.  Each new acquisition is a rare pleasure, a step towards completeness, wholeness.  There’s a sense of achievement, for whatever reason.  Strange that such a trivial thing as a comic book or a dead butterfly can bring such happiness to those who love them.

But not for me.

I prefer an experience to a trophy.  Keep your hand-crafted brass antiques, your first editions, your autographed memorabilia.  I’d rather a memory, a story to tell at a party.  Something that I can say yeah, I was there.  I saw that.  It was nuts.  Life is an opportunity to encounter an endless variety of strange stuff and freaky people.  Better to treat every day as a safari, a fresh chance to see some totally unexpected and whacked out stuff.  Do not underestimate the absolutely fucking bizarre menagerie of shit that exists outside your door.  There’s ball lightning and cage fights and ancient wonders and witty bathroom graffiti, more of it that any one person could see in a lifetime.  There are people in Sri Lanka with four arms, hyenas trained to ride tricycles, secret space stations and undiscovered superfish living under the polar icecaps.  There are fucking oddities the likes of which even my twisted mind cannot conceive.

Fuck toys.  The secret of life is that he who dies having seen the most crazy shit wins.

Not that anyone is keeping score.

——

Last Friday, down on 19th, one hobo shanked another.  Right in the stomach.  Not a fatal wound as far as I know, but he was bleeding like a stuck pig when the cops got there.  I was a couple minutes behind the cops, and they had subdued the shanker and started patching up the shankee by the time I came around the corner.

I’d encountered these particular hobos before.  There was the Grizzled Old one and a Dirty Young Punk one.  Walking back from dinner a couple days before, Corey and I had passed them.  They were shouting at each other across a street.  Apparently they had a history of antagonism.  As we passed the Dirty Young Punk, he shouted to the Grizzled Old hobo that “Even these New York fags think you’re an asshole.” Referring to us.

I was deeply offended and turned to confront the guy.  Corey held me back.

“Let it go, let it go.”

“Fuck that, I ain’t no fucking Yankee fan.”

There are some insults that even I can’t let stand, and being called a New Yorker is one of them.  However, Corey talked me down and the Young Punk lived to talk shit another day.

Fast forward to Friday, and Young Punk is laid out on the sidewalk being put back together with plastic staples and sterile gauze by two harried EMTs.  Grizzled Old Hobo, a small guy who looks like some political cartoonist’s idea of a Gold Rush prospector, is handcuffed to the back of a cop car, howling gleefully.

I guess Young Punk hobo pushed him too far.  Maybe he tipped over Grizzled’s huge cart, which was the size of a VW microbus and was indeed laying on its side.  Maybe he called him a New Yorker.  As I passed the scene, now crowded with cops and onlookers, Grizzled Hobo looked at me.  I gave him a knowing nod, a conspiratorial little gesture that made him grin triumphantly.

Don’t let those young fuckers mess with you, Grizz.  You do what you gotta do.

Much respect.

——-

Ellie wakes me up at 6:30 every morning, because that’s when she has to get up for work.  It’s hard for me to get up when you’re all sleepy and peaceful, she says.  My alarm is set for 8:55, I tell her.  I don’t need you to get me up.  She apologizes and promises not to do it any more.  Then the next morning rolls around and she’s poking me and talking to me and asking me “Hey, are you awake?”

Well fuck, I am now.  Sweetheart.

Falling asleep in a normal place would not be an issue.  I can fall asleep very quickly, especially at a godforsaken pre-dawn nightmare hour like 6:30.  Oh but not in San Francisco.

In San Francisco, other, louder things than girlfriends are up and about at six fucking thirty.  Namely parrots and cable cars.

Yes there are parrots in San Francisco.  They are green, and loud.  That’s amazing, you say, that a bunch of abandoned / escaped pet parrots have established a thriving colony so far from their natural habitat!  Quaint, quirky things like that give San Francisco such color!  Tourists love them because they’re unexpected, unique.  Liberal natives love them because they’re like illegal immigrants, except smaller and greener and less likely to get the Republicans worked up.

Well, fuck those birds.  If you’d like to know what a parrot sounds like, record yourself hitting a whoopie cushion with a nine iron, then play that sound back through a cheap megaphone.  That’s the fucking parrot noise.  That’s the only noise they make.  They don’t let loose with witty pirate phrases; they never say ‘AHOY!’.  As far as I can tell they don’t even repeat things they hear over and over again.  If they did, the city would be full of parrots saying “SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU GOD DAMN PARROTS”, or “I WILL FUCKING KILL YOU YOU GOD DAMN PARROTS”.  These majestic creatures congregate outside my window early each morning, arguing and berating each other in Parrot and making me miserable.

The green parrots are occasionally drowned out by the only thing louder than they are, which is the goddamn cable car.  The cable itself emits a kind of low, bass hum, like a huge beehive.  It’s obnoxious at first but constant enough to be filed under White Noise by your lower brain.  The cars themselves, however, rattle and crash and roar like an aluminum toolshed dragged behind a tow truck.  And on top of it they ring their loud ass bell CONSTANTLY, as if the fucking deafening roar created by their clunky ass obsolete trolley cars wasn’t warning enough to nearby pedestrians.  If you get snuck up on by a three ton rail car that sounds like sticks of dynamite being set off inside a grand piano, a god damn bell is not going to be of any use to you.

I endure this symphony of horrors every morning.  Even weekends.  I awake and, in the two and a half hours between Ellie getting out of bed and my own alarm going off, I fantasize about all manner of implausible scenarios in which the parrots and the cable car destroy each other utterly.  Maybe the parrots, captured by a terrorist organization and trained to be tiny green suicide bombers, will wait in the trees for the cable car to come by, at which point they divebomb the thing with little cubes of plastique in their talons.  Birds and cablecar erupt in a firestorm, a beautiful holocaust of death and destruction that leaves a smoking crater in the middle of Hyde Street.  I imagine the cablecar out of control, somehow speeding at 50 mph (46 mph faster than its actual top speed) jumping the tracks and crashing into my tree, which in turn hits the powerlines and electrocutes all the green little bastard birds.  Sometimes I imagine more outlandish scenarios, which usually involve aliens or the undead, but the end result is the same.  Nob Hill is cleansed, brutally and with many explosions, of all cable cars and parrots.

Just another of the endless indignities one must endure to live in this awful city, I suppose.

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One night upon my motorcycle through the desert spread

Posted in Blog on June 25, 2009 by trevorgregg

Music – The Meat Puppets – A Hundred Miles

The bat-signal went up, as they say, and we had to go.  Somebody had signed Omulu up for a paid demo, flaked, and called us in as replacements at the last second.  Two hours notice for a professional demo on a Wednesday afternoon.  I was at work, of course.  Because I am a regular fucking human, unlike the majority of capoeiristas in the world.

But we had to go.  So I went.

Capoeira, strange and cultish thing that it is, attracts a wide cross-section of humanity; a variety of people from all walks of life united only by their love of capoeira and their complete unreliability.  Capoeiristas are the most disorganized group of people on earth, bar none.  The belt system, strict hierarchy, and in-class discipline belie an essential truth: that capoeira groups are unruly mobs of irresponsible and mercurial assholes unfit for life in a stable society.  Planning and forethought are concepts wholly alien to the capoeira mind.  They are exotic, blasphemous, they are ideas reviled with an almost religious fervor.  I’m pretty sure Portuguese doesn’t even have a word for ‘punctual’.

If you’ve ever run down a steep hill, and you’ve reached that speed where you’re not so much moving along under your own power as trying desperately to keep your legs underneath you so as not to die a crashing mangled death, you know the feeling of working with capoeiristas.

So of course Lindsey was calling me at noon on a workday, in full crisis mode, saying we had a demo in two hours.

I’m used to it by now, though it grates against my upstanding, employable, American nature.

“Can you do a demo today?”
“I’m at work.”
“We seriously need people.  It’s a paid gig.”
“I’d get paid?”
“The group gets paid.”
“Ah.”
“Can you be in SoMa in two hours?”
No.
“Yes.”
“Awesome.”

She rattled off an address in the ass end of nowhere, south of China Basin, and hung up.

——-

I’ve done some weird, awkward demos in my time. Elementary schools, weddings, parades…  I’d like to say this one was the worst, as it would make a better story, but it wasn’t.  The worst was the time we had to perform at some low-end Professional Wrestling event in South Hayward.  Compared to that crazy shit this is a distant, distant second.

Still…

Alison met us at the door of a brick, loft-style office building.  She thanked us for coming.  All the plans and explanations of the demo, if there were any, had been given to the capoeirista that flaked.  We tried subtly to ask what the hell we were there for.  Professional courtesy demanded that we not act completely clueless.

Apparently this was a demo for an ad agency.  This ad agency is in charge of marketing Vitamin Water’s biggest competitor. We’ll call it ‘Retractade’. Again, professional courtesy.

Alison felt that capoeira provided a good metaphor for how Retractade’s new marketing campaign was going to fight and overcome Vitamin Water’s market dominance.  She had invited us to give a demo as a sort of exciting motivational presentation for her fifteen-person marketing team.

Yes, we said.  Of course.  Excellent.  What an insightful parallel.  We nodded a lot, and furrowed our brows.

Lucas asked for the money.

We stretched out and warmed up.

“So who’s gonna talk?”  Lindsey asked.

Lucas and I looked at the ground, silent.  Sapo played absently with his phone.

“Fuck you guys.”

——-

The marketing team consisted of fourteen UMC white chicks and one dude in pink shorts and a mesh shirt.  Ah, San Francisco.  Generally demos just consist of us doing capoeira.  We’re capoeiristas, not public speakers.

Things started off alright.  Lindsey began by talking about the history of capoeira, rattling off the litany of factoids every American capoeirista memorizes about the game’s vague and contentious origins.  The white chicks nodded politely.

Then we got in to talking about the game itself.  Explaining capoeira to the uninitiated is very, very difficult even at the best of times.  A captive and totally out-of-touch audience just makes things worse.  Lindsey started in talking about the facets of the game.  About the heart of capoeira, which is, of course, treachery.

That’s not just a saying.

“It’s like, you go in to an open roda.”

“Roda means circle!” Lucas chimed in.

“Yes.  You go in to an open roda and you’re playing someone.  But they aren’t your friend.  You don’t know them and you don’t know their game.  So you smile, and you play nice.  All the time you’re watching, learning their game without showing them yours.”

“Yes.” Sapo and I said.

“Then outside the roda, you say Hey there, Nice Game, That was Fun, and they smile and they let the guard down even more.  Then next time you get in the roda with them, you smile, and play, and then WHAM YOU KICK THEM IN THE FACE.  BAM.  Knock the fucker out.”  She kicked in the air, high and fast, to demonstrate her point.  The girls jumped in their chairs, wide-eyed.

I looked at Sapo.  I tried not to smile.  The white chicks looked on, mystified.

“It’s like, I’m smiling so you won’t suspect I’ve got a knife behind my back.”

“Just like marketing.” I said, unable to contain myself.

Then she started in with the gang metaphors, explaining capoeira in terms of the Nortenos and Surenos.

The marketers made faces of horror, confusion.

Lucas and I held back tears of laughter.  Professional courtesy.

——

We played for a while, which was of course the highlight. We’re not public speakers, we’re capoeiristas.  They wouldn’t hire motivational speakers to do backflips and conversely they shouldn’t hire us to explain god damn marketing strategy.

I think Alison learned her lesson on that one.

Fifteen minutes in to the presentation, while Lindsey had Sapo on the ground in a choke hold explaining how to dislocate his clavicle without crushing his trachea, one of the girls piped up.

“So you’re saying we can use trickery and deception to defeat Vitamin Water?”

Sapo gasped as Lindsey released him.

“Uhm.  Yes, exactly.”

“It’s about attack and escape, about opportunism.  Using your opponent’s mistakes and weaknesses against them.”  I said, trying unsuccessfully to bring things back.

Lucas said something about Awareness, probably the first applicable and coherent thing any of us had said the entire time.

There was a long and awkward silence.  Not the first.

“So let’s play some more!” Lindsey said.

And we did.

We had the girls clap, which was good.  People like to clap.  It’s a form of participation.

——

“Thank you guys again for coming!” Alison said, giving us all free samples of the latest Retractade flavors.

“Sure thing, sure thing.”

“I think we got a lot out of it.” She said.  I stared at her.  I guess lying with aplomb is a necessary skill in the advertising world.

“Yes.”

“See you guys around!”

The elevator door closed.

“Great job guys.” I said.  Sapo started laughing.  “Lindsey, I really liked how you compared capoeira to gang violence and backstabbing murder, that really made things clear. ”

“Hey screw you guys at least I was trying! Why didn’t you chime in and say something! God damn!”

“Fucking Nortenos and Surenos.” I was laughing hysterically at this point.  “I’m sure those fourteen white women and one gay dude all knew exactly what you meant.”

Lucas uncapped his purple Retractade and I took a sip of my green one.  He made a face and slowly spit his back in to the bottle, which of course made me laugh so hard I spit my entire mouthful out on the elevator door.

“Wow this stuff is terrible.  No wonder they need new  marketing.”

“This tastes like Crystal Light strained through somebody’s socks.”

“You ever put water in a cup that had like, a quarter inch of diet coke left in it? That’s what green tastes like.”

“You guys wanna stop at 7-11 for some Vitamin Water?”

———-

Lindsey felt bad about what a shitty job we’d done.  She’s a teacher by profession and I think she felt badly about our total and complete failure to connect with the audience.

Fuck those people and their awful water, I told her by way of consolation.  It’s their bad for putting us on the spot.  If they want to use capoeira as a tenuous, crappy metaphor for their little presentation, that’s fine.  But that’s on them.  Hey, we got paid and that’s what matters.

We took our money and went home.

Just another day in the life of a semi-professional capoeirista.

I feel the pain of everyone. Then I feel happy.

Posted in Blog on June 19, 2009 by trevorgregg

Music – REM – What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

The Northbeach Festival is one of approximately ten billion SF street fairs that are packed in between June 1st and the first rains of our miserable July weather (a.k.a. Winter Junior).  There’s nothing terribly impressive about it other than its size and staggeringly high douche-to-civilian ratio.  If your name is Chad, if you’ve got arm-band tats, if you wear creepy faux-Euro male V-necks, if you have a universally deplorable personality, or if you live in Walnut Creek but like to “hang out in The City”, chances are you were there.

I was there, with Alcorn and Lilley and Kim and them.  We were sitting on the lawn listening to a surprisingly not horrible salsa band.

Mo asked me “Why do you come to these things if you hate all these people?”

She knows I hate them because she is my friend, and also because I kept saying ‘Holy shit I hate all these people.’

“I consider it a fact-finding mission.  A tard safari. Gotta see how the other half lives, ya know.”

“Fact-finding for what?”

I thought for a moment.

“My personal study of the terrible nature of man.  I come to sit on my high horse and pass judgement on all these lesser dbags.”

“Whatever.”

“What?”

“You’re having a good time.”

“No I’m not.”

“You totally are.  You have two beers.”

“So?”

“One beer is ‘Oh, I’m just visiting’, but one beer per hand is ‘Yes, let’s do it'”.

“Hmm.”

“You’re enjoying yourself.  Hey guys, look, Trevor’s having a good time!”

“Well shut the fuck up about it at least.  There’s no need to spread it around. Jesus.”

“Haha Trevor’s having fun in Northbeach.”

“Screw you guys.”

Maybe I did have some fun.  At least for a while.  The festival really is full of assholes, though.  And I ran in to a lot of people I knew.

Hmm.

That’s troubling.

——

Somewhere in a book or books published before I was born somebody wrote that Northbeach was a quaint and beautiful neighborhood, rich with history and character.  They said it was the heart of San Francisco, that it had a unique charm.

Total crock of shit.

And yet, somehow this lie lodged in the collective unconscious of America like a chicken-bone in the throat of a street dog.

Maybe it’s the result of a massive viral-marketing campaign by City Lights Bookstore and those Beat Poet assholes we learned about in high school English; a fiendish plot by those chainsmoking proto-hippies to sell their crappy existentialist books.  I imagine them all sitting around at Vesuvius for weeks on end wearing their black turtlenecks and planning it all out.  It was that or get a real job.  Possibly it was a brilliant coup by the San Francisco Board of Tourism, a rare moment of genius in a decidedly tepid history.  It could even be an evolved urban legend, an authentic untruth born of a hundred years of exaggerations and misremembered stories.  I doubt it though.  The legend is too entrenched and too homogenous to have occurred naturally.  Some bastard, purposeful in his deceit, strapped on his rosiest-colored glasses and went to work creating this myth.  God knows why.  Guy was probably a realtor.  They’re capable of any kind of shady shit to make a buck.

It’s a neighborhood in flux.  What began as a seedy stretch of Columbus full of sex shops and whorehouses has blossomed into a stinking drag of souvenir shops and dance clubs with outrageous cover charges.  Come for the $25 plate of pasta that tastes like a Lean Cuisine, stay for the booze-fueled fistfights.  During the day it’s a tourist clusterfuck, full of fat Ohioans pouring over their laminated maps and taking pictures of their ugly kids in front of Historic Points of Interest.  At night it’s a nasty scene full of puke-drunk assholes named Mike competing for skanks.  It’s the B&T crowd’s SF Destination, which explains why residents don’t complain when the cops taze people indiscriminately for lingering on the sidewalk.  It’s like somebody took a Disneyfied version of San Francisco, with all its camp and cuteness, and cross-bred it with downtown San Jose, creating a place both dangerous and overwhelmingly tacky.

It’s low-class to its rotten core and I advise you all to stay the fuck away.

The festival can be kind of fun though.

Where a man can not be free

Posted in Blog with tags , , , , on June 12, 2009 by trevorgregg

Music – Unknown – Running Down A Dream (cover)

I watch for crackheads wearing my shoes.  It’s hard to tell most of the time; their pants (when they wear pants) hang low and drag on the pavement, obscuring their footwear.  I don’t see my shoes.  I’m not sure I would recognize them if I did.  A crackhead’s stumbling, zombie-like shuffle is probably harder on footwear than a normal stride, and my shoes were already pretty raggedy when I left them in a bag on the street.  It’s possible their new owner has already worn through them.

Still, I make a habit to check.

——

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f=/c/a/2009/06/06/BAG8181NH5.DTL&o=1

The sewers beneath the Tenderloin caught fire last week.  Crazy plumes of acrid black smoke coming out of every storm drain…  Geysers of flame shooting out of the manholes, fifteen, twenty feet up into the air…  They said it was an electrical thing but who the fuck really knows.  Could have been anything from a meteor strike to spontaneous combustion in a place like that.  The streets and alleys of the TL are brutal and disgusting, and I can only imagine what kind of radioactive filth the rain washes down into that hellish sub-street ecosystem.  Any kind of freaky shit could have crawled out of that horrible subterranean labyrinth to escape the flames and I would not have been surprised in the least.  Eighty-foot albino reptiles, spear-toting human/rat hybrids, an army of Bette Midler clones speaking Aramaic and wearing matching throwback Padres uniforms, any kind of shit.  The mayor had riot police down there to protect the firefighters while they tried to put the thing out, which took the better part of 12 hours.  Newsom knows better than to take chances with whatever evil things come slithering up out of those tubes; he had cops down there with everything from shields to low-yield grenade launchers.  The last thing you want hanging over your head during your gubernatorial campaign is the death of fifty firefighters at the hands of some lost tribe of half-rat sewer troglodytes.

I watched the smoke and the helicopters for an hour or so before I decided to go down for a better look.  They had about ten blocks roped off so I couldn’t get too close.  Which was probably for the best.

Still, seeing all of the drunks, schizophrenics, and assorted street people be herded out of the TL like refugees was a sight to behold.  They seemed strangely put-off, belligerent.  Inconvenienced is the word.  I saw one woman cursing and spitting at the cops as though they’d deliberately started the blaze just to have an excuse to kill her buzz and chase her off her corner.

The displaced formed a sort of evacuee halo around the roped-off area of the city, a moat of junkies and psychopaths that the normal pedestrian traffic was forced to fight through.  There were a lot of pissed off Civic Center employees that day, I can tell you.  There’s nothing like running a six-block detour through a gammut of angry vagrants and hookers to make your commute unpleasant.

I waited around for a bit hoping to see some mutant snakes or some shit rise up out of the gutters but was disappointed.  On my way home I did see a guy walk into a laundromat and puke into a dryer, though.

So I guess it wasn’t a total loss.

——–

I have a very love/hate relationship with this fucking cesspool of a city.  A lot of the things I hate about it, the freaks and the noise and the chaos, appeal to me in a  way.  Walking the streets you can feel a sort of ever-present malevolence, a dangerous unpredictability.  It’s a taint you smell on the wind, a slight bitterness in the water.  It’s a subtle thing, ugly, dissonant, but fascinating.  You have to be prepared for any kind of absurdity and craziness when you live here.  A thousand hairy gay men dancing around in oversized wedding gowns?  Been there.  A bunch of people riding around on dirtbikes wearing kilts, kicking down mailboxes?  Seen it.  Murder? Robbery? Check.  Woman giving birth in an elevator? Spontaneous party in the streets?  Twenty-thousand person pillow fight?  Yep.

I have a theory.  A city of a certain size, of a certain economic and social deportment, achieves a sort of critical mass.  The wave peaks, as it were.  The safety, the normalcy, the infrastructure offered by a large populous is suddenly outstripped by all the waste, the psychosis, and the frustration such a place generates.  The scales tip and suddenly your idyllic, efficient town becomes a haven for whackos and mayhem.  It gets too big to manage.  It starts to rot and decay from the inside out.

Like SF.

But that’s part of the appeal, you know.  What began as lawless and savage frontier grows into a village, a city, a metropolis, and suddenly it’s a frontier again.  Its streets are too numerous to patrol, its alleys too dark and twisting to map, or even comprehend.  It becomes a system large and complex enough to accomodate all kinds of misfits and radicals, to be home to thousands of super-villains and saints and everything in between.

The city, grown too large and unwieldy to be truly governed, gets by on equal parts inertia and ingenuity.  It’s become its own organism, a wild beast that cannot be tamed, only coaxed or threatened at one’s own peril.

Older, bigger cities in the world are the same way.  Pools of humanity where, if you swim deep enough, you can no longer see the surface.  Istanbul, Sao Paulo, Singapore… strange things happen, unnoticed, in their poorly lit corridors, beneath bridges and behind unmarked doors.

All the madness that throughout history was reserved for the frontier gets diverted into cities like this.  There’s no edge of the map for the weird or adventurous to walk off of anymore, so they end up in the black underbellies of major cities.  Where distance once sheltered them from society, they now armor themselves with anonymity, facelessness.  Just another unremarkable person in the endless crowd.

That’s why I put up with all the vileness of this fucking town, I think.  Why I overlook all the disease and dreariness of it.  Because in-so-far as the modern world has a frontier, this is it.  The concrete wildnerness.

-T.

Fuck the pain away.

Posted in Blog on June 10, 2009 by trevorgregg

Music – Cam’ron – Hey Ma

Half the houseboats at Antlers were dry-docked, dragged up to the dusty lot behind the rental office.  The few floating at the marina were filled not with the usual rowdy youth but with toothless Redding locals teaching their fat children to chainsmoke and siphon diesel with a garden hose.  Forty-year-old grandmothers sat on broken patio furniture on the dock drinking High Life and complaining about the flies.

Mo and I were the first to arrive.  My dangerously overloaded Tacoma had begun shuddering badly coming over the pass, and I feared for our lives for a few moments. Juanita got her done, though, and we’d made it to the dock with our quarter-ton of beer intact if somewhat shaken.

“What’s all this?” Mo asked as we drove through the drydock.
“No idea…”
“Last year we had to reserve in December to get a boat for Memorial Day, now half of them are up on blocks?”
“The Economic Apocalypse in action.”

The rest of the crew arrived over the next hour as we loaded up the boat, sweating and cursing the heat.  Some folks I knew, some were first-timers.  Houseboats has a high attrition rate, for obvious reasons, and few of us are brave or stupid enough to come back a second (or third) tour of duty.  A trip like this is as much a test of one’s mettle as it is a vacation, and those who come foolishly seeking rest or relaxation are soon disillusioned.

Last May, sick and shaking with alcohol poisoning, I distinctly remember swearing I’d never come back.  Fuck this godforsaken lake and these vicious, evil people.

But here we were again, in defiance of all common sense and self-respect.

Justin, Tom and I dragged the last few sleeping bags and handles of vodka aboard and opened the first beers while the others squabbled over sleeping arrangements.

The boat felt familiar. Like home, almost.  A terrifying feeling.

“Houseboats 09!” somebody shouted.

I raised my beer, shaking my head.

“We’re so fucked.”

——-

We got to Slaughterhouse around sundown, slamming gracelessly into the rocky strand.  A hundred boats or so were already beached, their passengers partying with reckless abandon.  Veteran heads prevailed and we parked at the edge of the island rather than dead-center in the heart of the chaos.  Thank god.  I’ve spent more than enough time in the eye of that particular hurricane.

Mo, of course, hit the beach like she was storming fucking Normandy, toting a case of Bud Light instead of a carbine.  We hadn’t even finished pounding the stakes in before I spotted her up on a neighboring boat wearing a stolen sombrero and doing Jaeger shots with strangers.  Mo is a people person.

“We’re gonna do some reconaissance.” Justin said, grabbing me by the shoulder.  “Who’s in?”  We loaded our pockets with cans (road beers) and headed ashore with Maneesh, a Slaughterhouse virgin.  I thought about sitting Maneesh down and giving him a pep talk before we hit the beach, a sort of orientation / disclaimer just to take the edge off, but the brutal realities of Slaughterhouse are something one needs to experience first-hand to truly grasp. Instead I suggested that he wear shoes, and hoped he had all his shots.

The red shore was a familiar scene.  Shrieking girls, drunk and unstable, stumbled around in packs from boat to boat looking for alcohol and attention.  Some had long scrapes and gashes on their legs from stumbling on the steep, unforgiving slope of the island.  Many had numbers written on their arms in Sharpie.

“What are those for?” Maneesh asked.
“That’s their boat number. They hope some kindly soul will drag them back to their friends when they pass out in the woods before they die of exposure.”
“Does that work?”
“No, they usually just get raped.”

He wasn’t sure if I was serious or not.

We wandered around amongst all the usual suspects.  There was the dance-club boat, an engineering feat with ten huge club speakers and large laser lights.  There were the frat boats, the sorority boats, the rich kid boats (massive, three-story yachts with hot tubs and plasma TVs), the poor kid boats (basically a 10×20 piece of styrofoam equipped with a Port-o-Potty and an outboard) and all the rest.  There was a dude in a monstrous Borat-style mankini.  There was a dude dressed up very convincingly like Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean.  I saw him get about twenty yards from the safety of his boat before somebody called him a fag and threw an empty bottle at him.

“God help that guy if he doesn’t go home and wash his mascara off.” Justin said.  Slaughterhouse is no place for theatrics.

There were girls in “I’m Feelin Loose” shirts, shouting I’M ON A BOAT over and over.  There were mohawked Chico retards bragging about their dirtbikes and police records.  There were girls in shell bikinis with whistles and bottles of watered-down tequila, pouring shots down the throats of all comers.

“Stay away from them.” I said to Maneesh, pointing to the shell girls.  “They dilute their booze with lake water.  Lilley took a shot from one of them three years ago and caught a drug-resistant strain of giardia.”

“What’s giardia?”

“A six month case of explosive diarrhea.  You get dehydrated real quick and can literally shit yourself to death.”

“Sweet.”

People were starting up bonfires, dousing huge logs of driftwood with kerosene and firestarter.  One guy was firing signal flares from the sun deck of his boat at a monster pile of wood and brush his buddies had gathered.  “Safety first, you bitches!” I shouted as the first flare went wide, careening wildly off into the trees and almost hitting some chick in the face.  She was thankfully too drunk to realize how close she’d come to scorching death and disfigurement.  The flare guys shouted WOOOOOOOO back at me and waved their red solo cups.

“Don’t encourage them.” said Justin.

We turned around at that point, not wanting to get anywhere near their line of fire.

Up ahead of us, somebody crashed a jetski into the back of a houseboat.  Fiberglass splintered, people cheered.  I heard the sound of firecrackers, or possibly small arms fire.

Two police boats trolled nervously off-shore, ineffectual and afraid.  People launched waterballoons filled with piss or kerosene at them whenever they got too close.

“What a shitshow.”

—–

“We have to help him.”
“Fuck that.  Do you see those dudes? They look like the bad guys from Road House.”
“You’d leave him there?  The only fuckin Indian guy in Shasta county, you know what they’ll do to him?”

I thought about it for a second. I looked at the two sasquatch-sized maniac white dudes who were towering over Maneesh, fingers in his face.  The older one had the deep reddish skin one can only achieve with a lifetime of cheap liquor and not enough sunscreen.  The younger was much fatter and had a crooked mohawk.

Maneesh stood trapped between them.

Fuck.
FUCK.

“Ok.  I’ll throw rocks, you go in for the close range assault.”

“What the fuck?”

“I’m far more dangerous at range. Trust me.”
I picked up a rock, testing its heft with false confidence.

“Don’t hit me with those fucking rocks, dude.”

“Don’t worry, just stay low and I’ll aim for

“HEY GUYS COME OVER HERE.”  Maneesh called, waving us over.

“Well we’re right fucked now.”

The two beastly meth-heads glowered as we approached.

“YOU TWO KNOW DIS GUY?” asked Drunken Manbeast the Elder.

I said nothing.

“…Yes.” said Justin.

“ALL OF YOU AH COMIN ON OUAH BOAT RIGHT NOW.” said Drunken Manbeast the Younger.

I tensed to run.  I’m not gonna fucking die on this pisspit island murdered by these cranked out freaks. No way.  Discretion is the better part of valor.

“DIS GUY,” shouted Drunkass Manbeast the Elder as he shook Maneesh by the neck like a ragdoll, “DIS GUY IS FROM DA SAME FACKIN TOWN WE AH. DA SAME FACKIN TOWN. WE WENT TO DA SAME HIGH SCHOOL.”

“You guys went to high school?”

“DAT’S RIGHT. SAME TOWN. SMALL FACKIN WORLD AINNIT? SMALL FACKIN WORLD.”

I pulled Maneesh aside as we were lead towards their boat, grabbing him by his expensive pink polo shirt.

“What’s this fucking craziness? You know these nutjobs?”

“No, I just started talk…”

“Started talking to them? Have you seen them?  You don’t talk to these people, Maneesh.  They’re fucking animals. What the hell kind of town are you from?  Did you grow up in a prison?”

“Anyway, it turns out they’re from the same suburb of Boston I am.  What a coincidence, heh?”

“Coincidence, motherf

“WELCOME TO OUAH BOAT. ANYBODY GIVES YOU ANY SHIT ABOUT BEIN HEAH, YOU TELLEM COME TALK TO CAPTAIN CHRIS.”

“YEAH YOU TELLEM COME TALK TO TIM AND CAPTAIN CHRIS. YOU AH OUAH FACKIN GUESTS.”

I followed Justin and Maneesh up the ramp.

Fuck.

——-

Captain Chris’s boat was a floating ruin.  The septic tank had overflowed the day before and someone had set their bilge pump on fire after mistaking it for a bong.  The boat tilted crazily to one side.  A half-inch of piss, spilled beer and mud covered the floor and most of the counters.  There were huge scorch marks on the walls and the curtains.  A guy who looked like Bull from Night Court was passed out on one of the bunks, his face and torso covered with obsceneties and swastikas, all written in mustard and other unidentifiable food products.  He lay in a dark puddle of vomit.  Two haggard girls in ripped bikinis were fighting wordlessly over the remains of a hotdog bun on one of the couches.  One flickering overhead bulb lit the room.  Angry eyes peered at us out of the dark, kept at bay only by the bellowing protection of our “hosts”.

The boat was a shit-smelling nightmare and I fully expected to die there.

Captain Chris and his fucked up kid, Tim, took us aft to the kegs and booze.  Tim kicked a sleeping guy in the stomach to knock him off the cooler.

“MOVE CHAHLIE. WE NEED DRINKS FOAH DESE GUYS.  MANEESH HEAH IS FROM MY SAME TOWN BACK AT HOME.”

Yes he is.  Congratulations, Maneesh.

Tim, whose Celtics jersey hung off his corpulent body like a filthy green toga, pulled a plastic bottle of Gordon’s out of the cooler.  He took a long pull and passed it to Cpt. Chris, who drank deeper.  I watched the bubbles go up in that cheap shit vodka bottle like they do in an Alhambra dispenser.  He must have pounded a quarter of the thing.  Lord deliver us from these freaks.

“HEAH MANEESH YOU DRINK TOO. AND DON’T YOU DAYAH WIPE OFF THAT BOTTLE.”

Maneesh took a timid swig, smiling through the pain.  I hoped the caustic charcoal-filtered liquor was strong enough to kill the menagerie of germs and viruses left on the lip by these monsters.  God knows where those foul Boston mouths have been.  The look on Justin’s face told me he could taste the herpes as he threw back the vodka.

“I’ll just have a beer.” I said when the bottle got to me.  Tim shrugged and motioned for me to follow him back inside.  He looked around for a couple seconds before lifting up the bulk of the passed-out guy and prying a crushed red Solo cup from underneath him. He folded the cup back into something resembling its former shape and shook it upside down.  You know, to clean it out.

Never let it be said that Bostonians aren’t courteous.

“THEYAH YOU GO BUDDY.” He said, passing me the cup.

“…Thanks.”

I followed him out back, trying subtly to wipe it out with my shirt before filling it from a keg.

Fucking filthy.  I drank, preferring to offend my immune system rather than our volatile hosts.

A girl leaned out of a pitch-dark bunk as I passed the last door and grabbed my arm.  There was no life in her bloodshot eyes.

“Any room on your boat, sweetheart?” she asked.

A hairy arm reached out and yanked her back into the dark, slamming the door in my face.

I need to get the fuck out of here.

——–

Captain Chris and Tim were father and son.  This somehow made the entire horrid scene even more disturbing.  Even a more “normal” houseboat should never be a family affair, and the fact that these guys were bonding onboard this wretched disaster was utterly and terribly wrong.  The spirit recoils in horror.

We talked a while, and by talked I mean they shouted at us.  Chris was a firefighter and a multiple felon.  Tim was the victim of ten generations of fetal alcohol syndrome and a reluctant student at SOU.  They talked to Maneesh about their favorite bars to get in fights at Back Home.  They talked about their most hated teachers at their common high school.

“Yeah I had mostly AP classes.”
Shut the fuck up Maneesh, why did you say that.

“LOOK AT THIS FACKIN BOOKWOAHM HEAH!” Chris shouted, punching Maneesh in the chest.  “YEAH I GOT SUSPENDED 18 TIMES MY SENIAH YEAH.”

Maneesh started telling a story about the one detention he got.  For tardiness.  Justin and I exchanged our fifty-seventh terrified look of the evening and I moved out onto the deck, ready to dive in and swim to safety.

“ONE DETENTION HAH DAT’S GREAT.” Tim said, punching Maneesh again.

Stop talking like a nerd Maneesh.  These mutants don’t respect intelligence, they respect firearms and headbutts.  Talk about headbutts.

Captain Chris jammed the Gordon’s into Maneesh’s wavering hand again, expectant.

Don’t let them see you wince, bro.  No signs of weakness around these animals or we’re all dead.

As the ‘conversation’ continued, I was paranoid Maneesh would offend the Captain and the Retard with his obvious affluence and harmless and boring high school anecdotes.  My presence as well as Justin’s was suffered purely out of respect for Maneesh.  A tenuous fucking thread to hang by, and if they turned on him they’d be after us in a second.  Already, bitter drunken guys looked out at us from the interior of the boat, furious that anyone without boobs was drinking their precious bottom-shelf alcohol.

“THIS ONE TOIM WHEN WE WEH”

I heard a crash from the second deck.

“WHAT THE FACK WAZZAT?”

A guy fell overboard into the shallow water, cursing and swinging at unseen assailants.  Two girls came hustling down the back stairs, screaming but careful not to drop their cigarettes.

“There’s a fight up there!”

“NOT ON MY FACKIN BOAT NO WAY.  CMON MANEESH LET’S GO.” Chris and Tim grabbed an empty bottle in each hand and charged up swinging.

Justin shoved Maneesh back inside.

“We are getting the fuck out of here.”

I ran through the dark wreck of a boat, kicking and punching at anything that got in my way.  Hands clutched at my board shorts in the dark.  I remember yellow teeth, and blood, and screams.

“I WON’T DIE HERE YOU COCKFACE REDSOX-LOVING PSYCHOPATHS.  NO FUCKING WAY!”

Shouting and free we ran off into the safety and anonymity of the party on shore.

——

We made it back to our boat muddy but relatively intact.

“Where the hell have you guys been?”  Melissa asked.  She was wearing two pairs of stunner shades and a Senor Frog’s nylon jumpsuit, obviously having a better time than us.  She had a bottle of Crown Royal in one hand and a two-liter margarita in the other.

“Fucking Maneesh.” I said, gasping.  “Fucking Maneesh went and made friends with the most fucked up people I’ve ever met. Justin and I went on to save him.”  Justin looked at me.  “Ok Justin went on to save him and I followed but now we’re back. And alive.”

“You guys want a drink?”

“Desperately.”

I’ve seen some ugly shit on houseboats but Captain Chris and his unholy crew of rapists and vigilantes take the cake.  I was badly shaken and set myself to drinking the Fear away lest it ruin my weekend.

It didn’t take long.

——

Time does strange things on Houseboats.  The perceived lines that separate day and night, the boundaries of chronology and ordered recall by which we construct our memories seem altgether unreliable, unstable.  I can remember things, and events.  I can remember people I met.  What relation do they have to one another?  What context or order they occur in?  That’s the mystery.  When not just you but the three thousand people around you are braindead wasted, a night can dilate into a week, a day can contract into just a few moments.

Houseboats does to one’s memory what a shotgun blast does to a porcelain vase.  What few pieces are left are no longer parts of a reconstructible whole, just shattered, fractured remnants without context or discernible value.  You can pick up these pieces, look at them.  But good fucking luck trying to make them back into something whole.

Such is the toll houseboats takes on the mind and spirit of its victims.  Here are a few things I remember, then.  I make no claims about their order or accuracy.

——–

I sat in the hot tub for four hours, waiting for sundown with Melissa and Mike Vu and Wendy.  We talked about funk music and the death of liberty.  I drank ten MGDs and explained to them at length the mysteries of The Snake That Eats Itself.

Wendy told me with tears in her eyes that I’d changed her life.  I gave her a hug and told her to treasure the knowledge I’d given to her, and to share it freely.  It was a beautiful moment.  Somebody should have taken a photo.

Shortly, Curtis ran past us hand over mouth, little chunks of puke dripping on his Hawaiian shirt. Mike asked him if he was cool as he barfed a half-gallon of nachos and brandy over the railing and into the mud.  Curtis said yes, thank you, and told us he felt much better now.

He lit a cigarette and joined us in the tub.  Nobody seemed to mind the puke on his shirt.

———

Justin and I got up at 5:30 AM to push the boat off the shore before the cops arrived.  Every morning they round up the stragglers and force them at gunpoint to clean Slaughterhouse, one giant, hungover chain-gang of college kids in muddy swimsuits.  Fuck that noise, so we got up early and pushed the boat out of the freezing, rocky mud into the safety of the channel.  We watched the sun rise, pink and orange and glorious, and drank some Jim Beam out of coffee mugs.

Justin then sawed the bottom off of one of our cheap wineglasses with a kitchen knife to make a tumbler for Dunk the Duchess, and I passed out on the sun deck.

——–

We docked at a marina to get some fresh ice and beer.  Maneesh, who hails from the ‘Apoplectic Bull in a China Shop’ school of docking philosophy, crashed the boat into the dock and broke a good five-foot chunk of it off.  Though I was incapacitated at the time, I’m told he blamed the wreck on a vicious cross-wind, and that with a bottle of Stoli in hand he told the marina attendants “…don’t trip you bitches I got the extra rental insurance.”

——–

Meredith, half-crazed with starvation due to her strict vegetarian diet, climbed up on the bimmini and said that she loved us all and wanted to legally declare us all her life partner for life.  We all clapped for her and, with some coaxing, got her down safely before any slight breeze managed to blast her off the top of the boat.

She’s got a good heart, that girl.  For a vegetarian.

——-

Tensions were high one night after we ran out of Costco margarita mix. Justin and Blake’s heated discussion about their favorite romantic comedies escalated into a brief but vicious fistfight.

“HOW COULD YOU NOT LIKE ‘RACHEL GETTING MARRIED’ YOU MOTHERFUCKER. ARE YOU A RETARD? THAT SHIT WAS A TRIUMPH.”

“ANNE HATHAWAY IS A CHEAP WHORE. SHE’S LIKE AN UGLIER DREW BARRYMORE.”

“WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU JUST SAY? DON’T YOU DARE TALK SHIT ABOUT ANNE HATHAWAY. YOU TURD.”

Words were had, there was a lot of yelling and bad noise… Then somebody mentioned He’s Just Not That In To You and it turned into a all-out bar brawl.

Justin was squeezing the life out of Blake with a chokehold when Tom, peaceful warrior that he is, charged in and asked if they had forgotten everything they’d learned from I Love You, Man.  The hold became an embrace and, their anger forgotten, they held each other tenderly for several minutes.  There wasn’t a dry eye on the boat as they hugged it out like little bitches.

“Let’s never fight again!”, they sobbed.

We did some jaeger shots to celebrate their renewed brolationship.  Eric put on that M.I.A. song with the gunfire and the sound effects to kickstart the dance party.

——-

Keith and Justin and I climbed up to the bonfire on top of Slaughterhouse’s plateau to check out the scene, scaling a fifteen-foot cliff in flip-flops at one point.  The shortest of the three, it took me several attempts and fifteen minutes of scrambling to get up.  Keith offered me a hand at one point, which I swatted away.

“Fucker I am a highly trained martial artist, I don’t need god damn help.” I said, spread-eagled face first against the abuttment, clinging desperately to tufts of tree roots.

Covered head to toe in red dust and gasping like Kirstie Alley on a treadmill, I eventually made it to the top.  I sauntered over to the fire.  A couple of guys were playing flip-cup on an over-turned crate.  Some people were asleep, curled up at the edge of fire pit.  Justin and Keith stood watching the flames.

“Sup guys.” I said. They nodded.

I opened my spare MGD, which of course exploded like a frog with a firecracker taped to its ass.

“It’s kind of a cockfest up here.” Keith said.
“Seriously.” said Justin.
“Let’s go back.”

FML.

I finished my half-can of warm foam and followed them back down to the boats.

———-

Floating on innertubes out on the lake, Regina told me that at four AM the night before I had climbed on to a neighbor’s boat and started ranting crazily and messing with their CD player.

“You told them they sucked, and that their taste in music sucked, and that you were going to write a manifesto on the side of their boat about how Autotune was the death of hiphop.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“You went around one by one and made them pinky-swear to look up Yo! MTV Raps on Youtube when they got home.  They gave you a half-empty bottle of vanilla vodka, probably to shut you up, and you told them that their gift had single-handedly renewed your faith in the youth of America.”

“Doesn’t sound like me.”

“You told them to call you The Freshmaker and that you were a co-founder of the Hella Fat Beats political party.  You said you were running for governor in 2010 and expected them all to vote for you.”

“No way.”

She shrugged.

She paddled off towards the island, leaving me alone with my hellish hangover.

A few minutes later two kids in a purple kayak came by with CALIFORNIA NEEDS FAT BEATS written clumsily on their shirts.

“SACRAMENTO OR BUST, FRESHMAKER!”, they cheered.

I gave them a thumbs up and a weak smile.

“Thanks for the support, gentlemen. I’ll see you at the polls.”

Ah, Houseboats.

——

One afternoon, wasted out of his mind, Tom told me a story about crapping his pants at his cousin’s house. He fell asleep for a second, nodding off sitting upright, and when he woke up a few minutes later he told it to me again.

It was a good story, and made me laugh both times.

Mike Vu then came by and asked Tom to Pull The Trigger on Eric, who was asleep in a raft behind the boat.

He didn’t manage it, but it was a glorious sight to behold watching Tom jam his hand wrist deep into his throat trying to gag himself enough to yak on the sleeping Eric.

Apparently Tom is the go-to guy when you need a Trigger Pulled, but he was having an off day.

It happens.  We all laughed like bastards anyway.

——-

Blake shook me awake.  I was floating in the sun on a Little Mermaid children’s raft.

“Dude.” he said.
“Hmm.”
“Did we eat today?”
“…I can’t remember. Probably.”
“Ok.  That’s good enough for me.”

I fell back asleep.

——

I found myself alone on the island before sunrise, sitting next to the remains of a fire.

Exhaustion and inebriation had claimed the last of the partiers and for a time the island was quiet, pristine.  I looked out across the slope.  Bottles and Solo cups littered the shore. There were OSU and Davis sweatshirts, torn and discarded.  The occasional lost flipflop.  Here and there a body, some kid who’d been too far gone to find his boat in the chaos of the night before and just laid down in the mud.

I watched the boats bob lazily against each other, everything silent in that first timid light of dawn.  I wished I’d brought a beer, or a camera, something.

A young deer walked out from the tree line and approached me.

“Sup fawn.”  It looked at me, and cautiously surveyed the waste and ruin of Slaughterhouse.  It sniffed at a pile of crushed cans and watched me warily.  “Hey buddy, don’t judge.  The affairs of higher mammals are none of your concern.”  I clapped a few times, to spook him.

The deer wandered off slowly, non-plussed.

Slaughterhouse is no place for judgements.  Expectations, social norms have no place here amidst the bodies and broken glass.  By any account, it’s a sordid and horrible scene.  None deny this.  Puking and drinking and screwing in the dirt… these people are scum.  But they’re a genuine, lovable kind of scum.  Scum without pretense, or self-awareness, or malice of any kind.

Not a fucking soul on this island is concerned with the greater issues that trouble our world, or with the Larger Questions of life and morality.  For a few days the rest of the universe does not exist for them.  They’re just kids, kids bound for lives of unfathomable regularity and inconsequence.  This is their last hurrah, in a way, though none of them know it.  Their youth is all they have; starting tomorrow they’ll just get uglier and less interesting, maybe have some kids, die and be forgotten.  That’s a heavy burden to bear.  Somehow it makes their folly, the folly of this whole disastrous shitshow, more forgivable.

The sun rises and I feel protective of them, the tards.  Almost paternal.  Forgiveth these douchebags, world.  They know not what they do.

——

On our last night, we crammed all sixteen of us into the hot tub.  Maneesh produced a $1200 bottle of champagne from somewhere and we passed it around.

Some people gave drunken speeches, professing their love for the boat and its crew, swearing to come back though they know they won’t.  Blake, having faked his own death to attend this fiasco, outlined his strategy for the future.  He plans a fresh start somewhere in the Pacific Northwest and though he withheld the details for obvious reasons, we all wait with bated breath for a Shawshank Redemption-style postcard from him, some clue we can use to track him down in his new life.

We docked far away from the island that night, deciding to party on our own at a safe remove from the wild Last Night of Houseboats scene.

We decided to take it easy, to enjoy our last night together.

That lasted about ten minutes, and then Mo started the dance party and brought out the last handle of Smirnoff.  I remember doing a handstand while somebody poured a shot of Jim Beam into my mouth, most of which spilled into my eyes and burned like hell.  There was a lot of shouting and Eric, who had lost the last round of Asshole that afternoon, was ordered by President Meredith to swim to Slaughterhouse and steal us a keg.  Curtis got his guitar out and started rocking his way through the entire Pearl Jam catalog including B-Sides and unreleased bootlegs.  I looked over the side into the water and saw Keith floating in an innertube down below, wearing an oversize leather Indiana Jones hat and holding a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other.  I remember being utterly amazed that he had gotten into the tube with a beer a cigarette and a hat without spilling one or all.  Swap the innertube for a recliner and he’s the spitting image of somebody’s dad.

“SUP KEITH.” I waved.
“Sup.”

Mo came by and handed me a cup of something dangerous, and after that, everything’s black.

——-

Meredith came up on deck to tell us the boat was on fire.

“Hey guys?”
“Yep?”
“There’s a fire.  On the boat.”
“Ok.  Wait, what?”

We grabbed fire extinguishers and charged downstairs.  The boat was dead in the water and smoke was pouring out of the engine compartment.

We popped the hatch and started blasting away with the extinguishers, coughing and gasping through the black burnt-rubber smoke.  We doused the flames and Mike Vu and Regina spent a few minutes calming Alcorn down. He was curled up under the table, moaning ‘we’re all gonna die’ and sobbing uncontrollably.  Little snot bubbles came from his nose and they had to coax him out with a chocolate Costco muffin.

“Well now we’re fucked.”
Ten cellphones later, we found one with a signal and called Antlers.

“What did they say?”
“They say they’re sending somebody.”
“To fix it? Tell them to bring more beer. And cigarettes.”
“I’m not going to tell them to bring more beer.”
“How did they sound? Did they sound upset?”
“Upset that we caught their boat on fire?”
“Not really.  They didn’t seem concerned; I guess it’s not uncommon.”
“How common can fucking boat fires be?”
“Apparently fairly common.”
“Fucking floating deathtraps.”
“We should sue.”
“Seriously ask them to bring more beer.”

They sent somebody to pick us up.  The guy (Dave?) took a look at the engine and told us it appeared there had been a fire.  Well yes Dave, we know, we put the god damn thing out.  At great personal risk I might add.  He told us he couldn’t fix it and would have to tow us in.  He lashed on to the side with his tinyass little boat and we started off.  Very slowly.

Mike Vu traded our last beer and two boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios to Dave for a half a pack of cigarettes.  I went upstairs to find a shady spot and pass out.

——-

It’s hard to estimate the true cost of an ordeal like Houseboats.  One cannot simply take inventory of one’s mental faculties before and after, then compare the two. I cannot, for example, say something like ‘I got so drunk this weekend I can no longer remember my childhood friends’ birthdays, or do math’.  The human mind is not divided so discretely as to allow such an assessment.  Nevertheless we know on some level that the price is high, very high.  Four days of malnutrition, sleep deprivation, harsh sun and non-stop alcohol abuse take a heavy toll on both body and spirit.  Especially at our age.  Your body first protests, then revolts, and then surrenders.  Nobody really pukes after the first day; they don’t have the energy for it.  By day two you find yourself asking questions like “Why are there black circles around my eyes?” and “Can citrus vodka prevent scurvy?” Days three and four are an edgeless, soupy blur, the upper regions of your brain having shut down and your consciousness replaced by some kind of instinctual party-mode autopilot.  Your system becomes confused when you take in 20,000 calories a day and 19,400 of it is Coors Light.  This type of sustained trauma can lead to serious, long-term biological and neurological effects.  I met a guy one year who told me that after three straight nights of playing flipcup with E&J instead of beer, he woke up left-handed.  True story.  I heard about a girl who, after being deposited on shore by her friends at the end of the weekend, could no longer remember which car was hers.  To this day Tom Alcorn swears he spoke perfect Spanish until his first houseboats trip.  Now he barely speaks English.

It’s grisly, and part of me is terrified to consider all that I’ve left on that goddamn island over the years, my dignity and self-respect being the least of it.  Houseboats is the kind of wanton, reckless self-destruction we are supposed to have grown out of by now.  We are supposed to have Moved On from all that, gotten it out of our system and graduated to more mundane and socially acceptable pursuits, like marriage or jazz.

But fuck all that.

We don’t need it.  We are beyond it.  And if the cost of that is some memory loss and a little hepatitis, so be it.

I’M ON A BOAT.

-T.