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.

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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.

All my friends are junkies.

Posted in Blog with tags , , , , on May 21, 2009 by trevorgregg

Music – Toots and the Maytals – Funky Kingston

The Universe does not concern itself with the trivialities of fairness and compassion.  The planets turn, unmoved by even the greatest plights of man.  The stars watch our every tragedy and triumph with the same silent, expressionless stare.  The fall of an empire is of less import to the cosmos than the death of an ant.  Entropy and chaos and gravity and heat death, these are the things that interest the heavens.  All else, truth and love and evil and betrayal, is unworthy of notice.

I remember this in times of trial.  It helps me retain a proper perspective.  I find solace in the ultimate unimportance of my every action and accomplishment.  I find peace in the knowledge that the universe gives not even the most infinitesimal flying fuck about any of us.

This philosophy grants me the serenity to move past the grave, GRAVE fucking injustice of my missing Bay to Breakers to attend Ellie’s cousin’s stupid wedding.  It helps cool my rage at the fact that I’ve missed out on the most supremely amazing and epic festival of the year to eat bad cake and watch two people I’ve never met start together on that long and rutted path to married American oblivion.

I received several texts during the wedding, things like “WHERE YOU AT BRO?!” and “WOOOOOOOO”.  People were sending me photos of smiling, jubilant, beautifully happy people dancing in the streets, people wearing stupid hats and loving life.

I turned my phone off.

Those around me probably whispered about what a romantic and sensitive person I am, since there was a hint of tears in my eyes as the newlyweds walked down the aisle.

“What a beautiful ceremony!”, people said.
What am I doing here.
“They look so happy together.”
Fuck my life.
“What a lovely dress!”
Stab me in the face.
“Congratulations!”
With a soldering iron.

We went back inside and hovered around the bar.  We were unable to drink at our table since we were sharing it with Ellie’s ultra-religious cousins, so we drank like servants, standing in the hallways and vestibules of the country club.  It was 99 in the shade, the kind of hot day that elevates a tie and long sleeves from an inconvenience to a war crime.  The kind of day meant for revelry and dangerous, irresponsible partying, not for formality and esoteric ritual.

Ellie sensed my discomfort, and was kind.  She brought me an iced tea and shielded me from her relatives.  She didn’t drag me to the wedding, after all. My own exaggerated sense of boyfriendly duty and responsibility did that.  I had told her I would go months ago; I said yes without a second thought or, more importantly, a glance at the motherfucking calendar.  It was my bad, and she cannot be held accountable for my inability to keep track of my god damn social engagements.

Her family is very nice as well; infinitely better than I’ve dealt with in the past.  One of my ex’s grandfather’s threatened to drown me if I ever broke up with his granddaughter.  Another ex’s father, excited to have a male in his household full of daughters, once dragged me downstairs after a Christmas party to show me his Uzis.  This is not a metaphor.  He had Uzis.  He also used to lecture me endlessly on the perils of hydrogenated fats, especially in peanut butter.  This is true.  You can’t make this shit up.

Compared to that, a short wedding on a hot day with Ellie’s friendly, normal family is paradise.

On any other Sunday I would have attended happily, and without objection.

On any other Sunday.

What’s done is done, though.

One cannot dwell on past failures.  To do so would only stoke the fires of regret, of bitterness.

Best not to think that I’m the soberest, most clear-headed person in San Francisco this ugly, cold morning.  Best not to think of the shame I’m burdened with for missing the Hetero Pride Parade.

Best not to think of myself as a fucking pariah.

Besides, Houseboats approaches.  And with it, Redemption.

Even now there are fifteen 30 packs in my garage.  There are eleven bottles of cheap tequila.  Six bottles of rum.  Ten boxes of wine.  A jug of some blue shit from Ecuador that has no name except in Ancient Aztec, and would get us 5-9 with no parole if the Feds knew Mo had smuggled it into the U.S.

Preparations are underway.  Calls are coming in from across the state.

“Can you fit a Zodiac in the back of your truck?”
“Do you still have my Stevie Wonder’s Greatest Hits tape?”
“You’re an engineer… Explain to me what we need to do to have a bonfire on a lake? Like ON the water?”
“How long can a stripper stay in a cake before she asphyxiates? What if she has a scuba tank?”

We’re packing our life vests and our bail money.  Soon we’ll descend on Slaughterhouse like starved wolves on a rotting carcass.  We’ll rage like we did in our younger days, safe from the prying, judgemental eyes of God and Decent American Folk.

Alcorn’s already on his way to Folsom to pick up Justin from prison.  Mo’s coming by to drop off some groceries and her hunting rifle.  Blake, completely out of PTO and sick days, is faking his own death to leave work early on Friday.  The Old Crew is reuniting.  The Pact still stands.

We leave at 6 AM tomorrow.
God help us all.

Not a retraction

Posted in Blog on May 19, 2009 by trevorgregg

Music – John Prine – Paradise

A final note on Bay to Breakers:

A bit ago I wrote about how loathesome and vile the NIMBY assroosters who were protesting against B2B were.  I wrote that I hated them and prayed for their agonizing and slow deaths.

I am not apologizing.  All you assholes are still terrible and should be ashamed of yourselves.  You are the anti-cool and nobody wants you in this town.  Move back to Orinda with the rest of the fucking wet blankets.

That being said, I was partially duped.  San Francisco played up the whining of these douchebags so subtly and with such political finesse that even I, hawkeyed disbeliever that I am, fell for it.

Oh but I was mistaken.  I forgot for a moment that the government of this city, that governments in general, do not care one tiny whit for their fucking citizenry.  If they did, SF wouldn’t be full of addicts and thieves, and would smell less like human shit.  The vocal NIMBY shitbags, though… they were just patsies this time.

Now, I hate the Chronicle as much as the next man.  San Francisco’s “Official Paper” hasn’t been fit to line a fucking birdcage for twenty years, and I will not shed tear one when it collapses under the weight of its own obsolescent suckitude.  The Death of Print Journalism in SF will be mourned by none but Luddites and Chronicle employees.  Anyone who reads the news regularly enough to give a shit knows not to read the Chronicle.

Sometimes a diamond of truth makes an appearance in the mountains of black, foul coal the Chronicle shovels out every day, though.  And in their latest B2B article, one appeared.  Underneath eight inches of quotes from Western Addition assholes complaining about “property damage” or whatever the fuck, there was one sentence of particular interest.

I can’t find the article now, probably because the Chronicle’s website is so fucking ghetto and broken and worthless, so I’ll paraphrase. (Attention SFGate, 1996 called and wants its crap-ass website back.)

‘The cleanup fees for last year’s Bay to Breakers cost sponsor ING more than $50,000 more than estimated.’

You DON’T FUCKING SAY.

A hundred years of glorious tradition overturned on the whim of some whiny twats on the Panhandle? I don’t think so.  I should have known better than to believe Newsom and that scourge of the City known as the SFPD when they tried to pin this Death of Fun campaign on the NIMBYs.  No way.  They don’t give a shit about those people.  ING, however… ING is a multinational corporation.  ING can make campaign contributions.  ING can afford kickbacks.  And ING was unhappy with the mess they’d had to clean up last year.

This little factoid, dropped into the ass end of a boring article by some careless copy editor, made it all so clear.  The City hadn’t caved to the NIMBYs, they’d sold us out to the Multinats.

So next year, instead of going that extra mile to key every Audi and poop in every driveway from Fillmore to Lyon because those assholes are ruining our B2B, let’s just tear down or deface every ING poster we see.  There will be no shortage of them, I guarantee it.

On second thought maybe we should do both.  Just to cover our bases.  There are a hundred thousand of us after all.  I’m sure we can find the manpower.

I take one, one, one cuz you left me

Posted in Blog with tags , , , on May 15, 2009 by trevorgregg

Music – Nightmares on Wax – Mind Eye

I drove through Berkeley in a foul mood.  Traffic there coagulates in arbitrary and unpredictable ways, often leaving even the most agile and creative of drivers stuck for twenty minutes at a fucking yield sign south of Cedar.  Seventy year old bicyclists and assholes in diesel Volvos doing 15 in a 35 cause endless backups and blockages.  Militant pedestrians cross streets with deliberate plodding slowness, a form of subtle protest against those universally reviled oppressors known as People With Real Jobs and Shit To Do.  Residents double-park their Minis on one-lane winding roads in the hills while they load and unload their bratty children.  All this, combined with Berkeley’s completely arbitrary and schizophrenic street layout, makes it a nightmarish place to get anywhere quickly.

I watched a light change three times at 2nd and Gilman without moving more than a foot, and when I finally got through the intersection I floored it up the hills towards Wes’s place.  A woman loading her kids’ bikes on to the rack of her MDX was stopped, perpendicular, in the middle of Marin so as to cause the maximum possible amount of frustrating backup.  I gunned it around her into the oncoming lane as she screamed “SLOW DOWN!” in to my open window.  I gave her the one-finger salute, shouting ‘Fuck you and your ugly kids you inconsiderate whorebag’ back over my shoulder.  Probably a bit of an overreaction, but tempers were running high in my truck and Plastic Jesus and I had had quite enough of these tards.

Within the next six blocks I was stopped eleven times by pedestrians, bikers, two Subarus driven by people old enough to have fought in World War 1, and one fat dude on a Segue.  Shouting obsceneties and weaving recklessly, I wished them all horrible and lingering deaths for their blatant disregard of common goddamn road etiquette.  ‘Fuck off and die, Berkeley drivers’ I shouted to the winds.  Four straight years on the kill-or-be-killed streets of SF has sharpened my driving instincts to a razor’s edge and I have no time for your bullshit.

The sad truth of it is that Berkeley’s automotive incompetence is but one aspect of a much larger affliction.  The seeds of revolution planted there by our parents’ generation have blossomed into weeds of whining discontent.  The hippies long ago lost their last shred of credibility and have become self-righteous grey-haired assholes, unbearable in every way.  Their grand and glorious plans to change the world have devolved into pathetic squabbles over parking spots and community landscaping.  The fight for the Greater Good of Mankind has been abandoned, and the Berkeley residents turn their not-inconsiderable grassroots power to combat evils like Target and noise violations and non-organic produce in the school system.

I see their kids walking around with rolling backpacks and cellphones and lunchboxes full of sushi and polenta.  I hate to break it to you motherfuckers, but all the Whole Foods products in the world won’t make your snot-nosed fifth-grader any better at youth soccer.  While your kid eats a thirty-dollar school lunch free of hydrogenated fats and high fructose corn syrup, the best athletes in the world are growing up in fucking Nigeria eating nothing but dirt and mealworms once a day before they go out and run four minute miles.  Maybe if you spoiled your kids less they’d get fast and it wouldn’t take your family of four TWENTY FUCKING MINUTES TO CROSS SOLANO WHILE I’M STOPPED THERE REVVING MY ENGINE AND HATING YOU SO MUCH.

FUCK.

Berkeley jumped the shark back when I was about eleven and has gotten progressively more awful every year since.  The residents, the crazy local politicos, the traffic, the unbearable snobbery…  That shit with the protesters living in the trees, the twenty-five year old planted-by-the-school oaks is just the cherry on top of the shit sundae.  My god, you fuckers.  Get ahold of yourselves.  And stay off the roads for fuck’s sake.

Admire my son, admire my home

Posted in Blog with tags , , , , , on May 6, 2009 by trevorgregg

Music – Tom Burbank – Slab

Today I’ve decided to do something special.  I’ve written a poem.  It’s called “I Suck At Fun”

——–
“I Suck At Fun”
by Trevor

So many people at the crappy Mexican restaurant
On a Tuesday?
Oh fuck I forgot it’s Cinco de Mayo

——-

For shame.  Twenty year old me is even now working feverishly on a time machine to travel forward to May 2009 and kick twenty-seven year old me in the balls for being unforgivably sober and boring on Drinko De Mayo, America’s Favorite Adopted Holiday.

In my disgrace, I drank a punitive six pack of Corona alone while watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia reruns.

My youth has officially deserted me.

It must be nice to be normal

Posted in Blog with tags , , , , , on May 6, 2009 by trevorgregg

Music – The Violent Femmes – Add It Up

Eddie and I rode the 41 Union back through the Marina on Thursday morning.  He was headed to work and I was headed back from the doctor.

The 41 has a reputation for being the best looking bus in San Francisco, a reputation well deserved.  It’s a far cry from the filthy, Third World freakshow 27 I usually ride up from Market and through the TL, a bus that’s a cross between Arkham Asylum and a open sewage trench.  Most of the blondes around us on the 41, by contrast, wouldn’t be caught dead riding without an hour’s worth of makeup and their finest cashmere.  After all, the 41 is where you meet husbands.  Unlike the 27, which is where you meet rapists.

Today was a special day, though, and a bunch of the girls were wearing face masks, messing up their hair and hiding their expensive lipstick.  Behold the power of Swine Flu FUD.

Eddie and I laughed like madmen after we climbed on at Pierce and saw fifteen chicks probably all named Nicole and Brandy and Lauren rocking masks they’d stolen from their oral surgeon and med student boyfriends.

This is exactly the kind of hyper-reactionary white people behavior I adore.  Eddie, who despite his dark skin and ostensibly Spanish heritage is about as Mexican as Thor Heyerdahl, immediately started coughing and snorting, convulsing and twitching as though overcome by all manner of foul contagions.  He collapsed into a seat next to a tall brunette in a pressed business skirt no doubt on her way to her Important Downtown Career Job.  Sneezing and drooling, moaning like a B-movie zombie, he leaned against her every time the bus rattled over the slightest pothole.

HACK HACK SNEEZE
“Escuse me meess, do joo have a teessue?” He asked.  The girl, wide-eyed with terror behind suddenly inadequate blue mask, plunged into her purse and brought out a full pack of kleenex.
“OH thank you so much, meess. Muchas gracias.”  He said, touching her arm appreciatively with his disgusting infection-vector Mexican hands.  She nodded and looked out the window, too scared even to speak.
“You are so sweet to share your teessue weeth me.  Do joo wanna have deenner some time? Can I have joor number?”
This was too much for the poor girl, whose sense of decorum was rapidly losing out to her instincts for panic and flight.  She yanked on the stop line like it was a goddamn parachute cord and leapt for the door, barging through the crowd.
“Maybe nest time eh?”  Eddie shouted, spittle flying.
She shoved her way out the door as soon as the bus stopped, preferring the long walk to work over a hacking bloody death at the hands of Eddie’s Supermexican Deathgerms.

I scooted over to the now-vacant seat next to him.  The entire bus looked at me, appalled by my obvious deathwish.

“Your Mexican accent is fucking terrible.” I told him. “You sound like Nacho Libre.”

“Screw you whitey. Your reign of oppression is over.  The swine flu is my people’s Weapon of Mass Destruction.”

“Now that girl is gonna be late for work; she’s gonna go home, drink a pint of hand sanitizer and probably cry all through her forty minute shower.”

“Serves her right. Viva la raza.”

“You’ve undone fifty years of race relations in ten seconds.  Everybody on this bus that just watched you wipe your pigflu boogers all over that pretty girl’s arm is gonna loathe and distrust latinos for the rest of their lives.  Cesar Chavez hates you.”

“Not my fault your people are so racist.”

“Motherfucker don’t say ‘your people’.  You’re from fucking Marin County, you square.”

“She was pretty scared, huh.”

“Haha yeah. It was great.”

I highfived his outstretched, plague-ridden hand.

We sat for a second, aware once again of the fearful and awkward glances of the other passengers.  We got to Van Ness and headed for the door.  The people parted before us like the Red Sea for Charleton Heston.

“DON’T WORRY FOLKS.” Eddie shouted as we stepped out.  The whole bus started at the noise. “IT’S JUST ALLERGIES.”

Eddie, always one to use his very marginal ethnicity for evil rather than good, asked for more ideas for terrorizing what he termed “The Cracker-Industrial Complex”.  I explained to him that in their darkest heart even the most liberal San Franciscan honkey believes everything they read in Newsweek.  They may not admit it, may not even realize it, but down in that primitive reptilian part of their brains they’re hopelessly terrified of whatever the evening news declares to be the latest Scourge of Humanity, be it swine flu or race riots or meteors or violence in videogames.  It’s a deeply ingrained part of the white American psyche and is most clearly visible in old white people, who are scared of goddamn everything from peanut butter to direct sunlight.  People know this and exploit the shit out of it.  That’s why Republicans do their best to blame the Democratic Party for everything from gang violence to stomach cancer; no matter how absurd the claim, some appreciable percentage of dumbass white people will believe it, and fear.

Armed with this knowledge about white america’s Achilles heel, I fully expect Eddie to destroy western civilization, if only to be a dick.

——

We hiked up the hill a ways, slowly because of my fucked up leg.

“What’d the doctor say?” Eddie asked.

“Torn calf muscle.  There’s a rend in my calf the size of a shotglass.  The swelling’s from internal bleeding, which is gross.  My cankle’s basically a giant human blood sausage.”

“Thank you for that image, it’s disgusting. Limp faster or I’ll be late.”

“Rather than be bitter and depressed about it I’ve decided to embrace my crippledness. To make it my own.”

“Yeah?”

“Yep.  It’ll be my new quirk.  My Dr. House-esque pimp limp.”

“Maybe you’ll start a trend.”

“Muscle tears will be all the rage.”

——

We went to Zeitgeist on Friday for Herbert’s birthday.  The back was deserted due to questionable weather; trendy assholes have the same aversion to rain the Wicked Witch of the West did. Can’t risk getting that eighty dollar Earth Day 1993 retro pullover wet. Not in these economic times.

We took up most of a table and, between seeing Sapo eat a dog treat and Amos get cursed at by a very angry very tattooed barmaid for leaving a small tip, it was a full night.  Lindsey and I met a dude who told us he was planning to write a book on capoeira.

Intrigued, we asked him a few questions.  It turned out that his knowledge of capoeira was based on absolutely nothing.  He told us he was researching, and by researching he meant downloading capoeira songs on Napster.  He told us he was translating songs (he speaks no Portuguese), and by translating songs he means…. not translating songs.

In any other arena an ignorant asshat like this would be dismissed out of hand as a crank and a fool.  He knows as much about his subject as he could read in three minutes on Wikipedia, has zero first-hand experience, and is obviously confused or wrong about the very few crumbs of knowledge he’s acquired.

After having spoken to him for ten minutes and already plumbed the murky depths of his ignorance, I can already tell he’ll probably get a three book deal and a forty thousand dollar advance.  Because completely clueless dropped-as-a-child functionally-autistic morons are exactly the kind of people who write capoeira books.  Check the bargain bin at your local Borders, they’re in there.  The only other capoeira authors are Mestres, who despite their authoritative knowledge on the subject are so crazy by definition that their writing is like something you’d find scribbled on a bathroom wall in a methadone clinic.

Why capoeira draws these people in like pudgy, empty-headed moths to a flame I cannot understand.  They don’t have the physical or mental stamina to actually participate in it or even to try to understand it on the most fundamental of levels, yet they develop a single-minded obsession with it.  Where the fuck do they come from?  Why do they feel the need to start blogs and write books and generally be fucking embarrassments?  Why do they all live in San Francisco?  Seriously, you guys. Go back to watching anime and reading Spiderman and relieve capoeira of the terrible shame of your existence.

I’m fully convinced that, thanks to the miracle of the internet, eventually enough of these people will find each other and coagulate into a Subculture.  They’ll print shirts and start YouTube channels and begin some sort of Capoeira Appreciation Festival, which will be to capoeira what the Renaissance Faire is to feudal Europe.
They’ll dress up like their favorite player, flame each other’s forum posts, and basically disgrace themselves utterly in the eyes of humanity and God.

All we can do is hope this guy’s job at Blockbuster is too time-consuming for him to actually get around to sitting down at his mom’s Gateway 2000 and facerolling his way through a full-length book.

Goddamn fanboys.