F**k Up ~ Part 1

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Occasionally I go spend the day at the old deserted airport ....... Signal Hill is pretty neat too- a barren hump covered with seesawing pumps, rusty oil tanks and the foundations of long-demolished houses ........ There is an ugly bar at a bowling alley I go to in the morning when no one bowls. But since it's so much cheaper to go drink in some park, bars are really not an option for me ....... And those gay ones I used to go to don't interest me, since I pretty much gave up on the whole idiot notion of sex ...... Nor am I interested in the fellowship of "others of my kind", since I'm no longer sure that I even HAVE a kind...
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F**k uP
by Ronnie Prima
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PART ONE: THE TYRANNY OF COMMON SENSE
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[NOTE: My living-in-the-bamboos novel ESKIMO BLUE DAY had its dark moments, but there was a certain level of optimism to it. I had settled into a way of life that was workable to me, and was keeping busy, and above all I was WRITING ....... But this novella length prequel is far bleaker in tone. It deals with the very dawn of my becoming homeless, a time when it seemed like everything was coming to an end for me, yet I couldn't bring myself to do anything about it. My character whines a lot more, is less charitable toward others, and acts out in unhealthy ways. Hence the title FUCK UP...]
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,"I'll give you the life of the mind!" -Charlie Meadows
 
 
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------------------x/X\x--- GO SEE CAL ---x/X\x------------------
 
AGAIN AND AGAIN the outcome of these attempts at Roger salvaging was the inevitable confrontation. My being shown rudely to the door as they called me every worthless sort of layabout, mooch, fuck up.
 
My face burning, throat clutching so that I didn't dare speak; another horrible little movie to be filed away in my stockpile of shameful memories.
 
Or even worse than the ones who yelled were those who would finally confess their frustration with me in pained, halting words. Friends and former co-workers who had seen my being outdoors as a matter of bad breaks, compounded by some fairly stupid decisions, but who figured that with a little help and encouragement I would rally; make my turn-around like a rational human being.
 
Even the few who told themselves they had no illusions about me (like Max, a dope dealer dabbling in college, adamantly scornful of  the 9-5 work ethic himself, who at first had thought that my endless sarcastic comments on whatever was transpiring on the t.v. were hilarious...) eventually grew to be less than amused. He and his roommate would go out for the day and my hoo-ha weirdness would begin:
 
Slipping into radio fugue mode, my indoor hocus, seated down against the wall here, the relief of these few hours by myself behind this deadbolted door. A homeless agoraphobe come briefly to roost.
 
Agoraphobe?
 
Agorafuck.
 
Downing all the beer in the fridge and such liquor as was sitting around. Savoring this escape from my days out there, from the endless crush of all those distainful eyes, from the hunt for the next night's fourteen square feet of safety. Absorbed in the whirble of the fish tank, the curtains billowing, unable to rouse myself from this sick/comfortable lethargy to perform the tiny amount of housework I had been assigned.
 
Parked directly in front of some talk show making obscene gestures at all those phony ham-pink faces; smoking up all of Max's sweet clumps of Thai stick; chanting old situation comedy theme songs in the most sickening voices I could produce, until the words megaphored into tortured gibbering. Cursing the insufferable brainless shaggy-headed optimism of those ferns in their Grecian terra cotta trough over by the window.
 
Then I would draw some plotless, belligerently dumb comic strip about Crayola Boingo/ The Radium Sphinx/ the Giant Brassiere Lady (ripped from a Macy's ad + badly collaged in w/ scotch tape-) / Stinky the Poop and all their hilarious headsprung friends .......... until at some point my buzzing numb hand took off by itself and scribbled stars, sworls, swastikas + SHITPISSFUCKFUCK over the whole thing until the paper shredded.
 
Eventually I came to see the basic untruthfulness of the situation. That their helping me presupposed some desire on my part to "get back on my feet", which I had not a trace of .......... I was starting to realize that I would have to make a total break of it, go live out on the street for real like, where I would be self-sufficient to a relative if not a socially acceptable degree...
 
Making this decision with ever greater conviction, until in November 1978 I chickened out one last time. My disasterous three month stay with the Sikorski brothers, Miles and Ted, in a house on the east end of Long Beach, twelve houses down from the sloping concrete banks of the San Gabriel River.
 
And eventually I would leave town, going south a few flips of the street atlas into the next county where I was completely unknown. Swallowed up by these uniform streets, the endless sprawl of bland housing tracts and featureless rectangular parks. I would stop phoning my parents, who had recently moved from the L.A. area to Nevada, with my bogus reports about some temporary job and a room by the week. Crawling at dusk into into the oleander hedges alongside the freeway onramp.
 
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I was walking up Bellflower Blvd., having set up house under the massive hedges alongside the Unitarian Chruch on Atherton, figuring that the occasional threats from cops about not wanting to see me in this neighborhood again was vastly preferable to actually going to where they thought all us vagrants should have the decency to confine ourselves: The grim bestial wah-wah of some smashed-bottle pisscorner doorway, some alley downtown.
 
I had been in the area about three weeks, long enough that I had developed something of a routine for my mornings. I'd just finished combing the littered gravel moonscape of the Los Altos drive-in in search of coins, unopened beers, sheets of notebook paper folded into little bindles ("Hi Kim, what's up? God this class is boring! Anyway I heard Ricky likes Susan but Linda said-") that I would study and toss back down, and whatever else might have been lost or discarded the night before...
 
Hot and muggy already at 9:30 a.m., overcast. I was crossing the street at the signal, wanting to avoid the stretch of sidewalk that fronted the Cal Worthington Ford dealership, spooked by this circle of salesmen hanging out under the plastic pennants, their sports coats all these disturbing off-kilter shades of pink, yellow, blue. Their mercenary shit-together banter tearing ugly holes in the morning air .......... And those impossibly white cowboy hats of theirs looking strangely unreal, superimposed here somehow- like bleedthrough from some other kind of space that is too wrong to even contemplate safely.
 
Was crossing at the light when I heard someone shout my name.                         
 
Saw Miles at the wheel of his old primer-spotted El Camino pickup truck, making a frantic U-turn to intercept me over by the bus stop; and all the questions when I got in. Where the hell are you going? God, I heard you were ........ What happened? A bright guy like you can't be living like this! 
 
What do you got there? Somebody's popcorn?! Oh for Chrissake, let me buy you breakfast. We can go to Sambo's, they got that ninety-nine cent special...
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--------------x/X\x--- Miles, Ted, Katie ---x/X\x-------------
 
MILES HAD KNOWN ME for a long time, and was alarmed by this plan of mine to live without job or home. It was as if I was saying I intended to walk off the Vincent Thomas Bridge in these homemade antigravity shoes, wish-come-true shoes, with my pages of nonsensical engineering specs spread out on the table between us...
 
Now rescuing me from my spider-infested Unitarian wickiup, inviting me to stay a while at the house he leased with his brother...    
 
But younger brother Ted and Ted's wife being far less enthusiastic about putting me up.
 
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When Miles and I were starting high school and staking out philosophical and political postures that were so fundamentally adverse that most people couldn't see how we could ever be friends ("You realize he's in Young Americans for Freedom, don't you?"), Ted had been a little squirt of a kid playing with his G.I. Joes...
 
And because there had been no toys like G.I. Joe when we were his age---we had toy soldiers but they hadn't come with removeable fabric outfits---we used to enjoy sending him into screeching, door-slamming tantrums by referring to it as a doll.           
 
"Go play with your little dolly-" et cetera.
 
Miles starting it, but I was the one who would give it all those demeaning, emasculating flourishes (and no one can twist THAT particular knife quite like the soft-centered adolescent male who suspects he has some frilly little dollies lurking in his own closet); which in addition were tinged with a smirky peacenik sentiment that was most unpopular in their Soviet-emigre household. And I was the one he had really resented.
 
So now, all grown up, he was finally getting his revenge...
 
Going into the other room to argue but soon shouting loud enough for me to hear clearly. Ted saying that he and Katie had wanted this house to raise a family in, them and their two-year-old girl, not to run some freaking rescue mission.
 
But it had been mostly Miles' savings that had landed them here, and so a compromise was reached: I was to stay in the garage out front, which was fixed up as a rock band's studio with some dusty black amps, a circle of beat up kitchen chairs and a nasty old sway-bottom plaid couch. And there was a regular door with a knob and a square plastic window in the middle of it mounted in the garage door, the curtains strung between a pair of slim copper rods so they wouldn't flop down when the whole thing was raised.
 
I would bust ass looking for work and become a paying member of the household as soon as possible. A fair proposal, and an excellent opportunity for me...   
 
Except that all the little struts and wires and turnbuckles in my head had snapped and it was portless poiuytless POINTLESS of me to resist this spiralling down through the silty green gloom toward whatever sea-bottom nook would wind up claiming me.
 
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Being gone from there in the daytime. Wandering these mildly interesting streets, a suburb old enough that a few of the homes had a slight sense of individuality about them, like this low retainer wall made from strange, burnt looking volcanic rock, or these gingerbread eaves and shutters bedizened with aces and diamonds, hearts and clubs. The trees out along the curb so big and full that they closed in together for long stretches, turning the street into a ragged green tunnel.                      
 
Then down to the local supermarket. Refining this new craft. Telling the shoppers emerging from the market that I was just thirteen cents away from being able to get a ........ sorry to be a damned pest ....... it must've fallen through this hole in my pocket here, and my checkbook is sitting on my desk clear across town...
 
And as I had pretty much mined out my old panhandling corner ("Just how many appendixes does your grandmother have?!") this move of two miles was timely and well advised.
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------x/X\x--- STRANGER THAN CAMUS ---x/X\x------
 
WHICH WOULD EVENTUALLY NET ME ENOUGH to put a few brown quart bottles of malt liquor in my day pack, and I would wander, scuttle down the river bank to sit under the bridge and drink and jerk off and talk to myself. Forgoing the trees and little meandering brooks of El Dorado Park right over there for this trash strewn concrete trench, which seemed more like reality, a closer match to my emerging nihilist concept of life. And once I was drunk enough I'd hike downstream, critiquing the half submerged mangled shopping carts and other scenic wonders, to my spot ........ where some teenage stoners had painted a strange mural.
 
Looking for work. 
 
Nope, no work down there.
 
This canal a metaphor for the hopelessness of life, replete with stink and trash, the bleak cement planes of its banks parallaxing inexoribly together in the smoggy distance like death itself; yours and mine and this whole fucked-over planet's. We're having some fun now!
 
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Over sandwiches at the kitchen table Miles would often try to counsel me, while Katie moved jerkily around behind us, banging pots and pans- pissed but also very curious about what we were saying.
 
And by hammering away he would sometimes manage to impress upon me the normal view of things: That it was madness to wander away from the structured world like I was doing. I would starve. Would wind up getting myself "offed" by some other, more feral transient...   
 
These pep talks creating vague flurries of resolve in me that would not last any longer than I was in the car or in the kitchen with him.
 
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Out among people I took to rolling around in front of quaint Belmont Shore outdoor cafes licking stuff off the sidewalk & issuing PRIMAL SCREAMS at the top of my lungs. And one day in front of the railroad tie sculpture at the Cal State campus I took a piece of extension cord that I had found and whipped myself, dancing around and screaming until I collapsed. I was amazed at how little effect this had on the world. Everybody just went on about their business.
 
In light of the heroic effort I was making looking for work (I'd found a lighter and went around torching little trash piles and whatnot. Not a total idiot in this, endangering lives or structures- well, except the time I saw a grocery bag in the gutter, sat down on that strange high curb across from the orange metal Rexall Drug that made me feel like an elf / a stuffed animal / something and I lit it on fire. A sudden wind picked it up and blew it out into traffic + I laffed in dilute; and some Bub in some big delivery truck swerved + yelled, his shocked expression taking me for a actual retard & I knew I had ARRIVED-) they let me stay and stay.
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-----x/X\x--- FLYING SAUCER CONFIDENTIAL ---x/X\x-----
 
SO IT HAD BECOME MY SPOT, a place my hosts must have been able to see at least part of from above, but not guessing that this was where I spent whole days. The Enchanted Shit Hole. A chunk of a red vinyl restaurant booth someone had dragged down here for a bench, this huge mural across the face of the angled concrete... 
 
The work of a new generation of teenage loadies, it reminded me of something we might have created at that age on one of our nightly jaunts; we being Miles, Jake, Teresa---the usual five or six of us---cruising aimlessly around the residential side streets in an obscenely large Buick that we had christened Der Juggernaut (I guess under the impression that "juggernaut" was a German word)...
 
Others owned vehicles, Miles having just purchased the first in a series of unreliable used trucks- but this thing was the natural choice for parties. So roomy that we could all not just sit but s - p - r - a - w - l, gesture theatrically, bounce like spastic apes, pass around that great unweildy art nouveau bong as we hollared over the tunes pounding from the rear speakers ........... staying in motion, so that no one would have us in sight long enough to grow concerned about this car full of shouting, laughing kids.
 
Then Tom Epstien and Jake got their apartment and our partying entered a slightly less irresponsible phase, no longer DUI-ing endlessly around, though pity the poor neighbor who needed his sleep...
 
Miles and I had stayed in touch, through both of my aborted semesters at City College, where he was property man at the theater arts department.
 
And later, out in the work force, we rented that decrepit bungalow together- a structure of dubious legality that this old lush had built on a concrete slab in his weed-choked back yard; where Miles' insane actress girlfriend would come over about twice a week and throw collosal screaming fits over his non-existant (not for lack of effort on his part) infidelities, while I worried about her getting hold of one of the guns he kept with his security guard gear.
 
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Into the mid-70's, Miles and the others from back then were moving up from their early shit jobs into something like actual careers. Earning degrees---however artsy-fartsy and ornamental---while I scooted laterally across a whole slew of entry-level positions. There probably would have been even more of them except for those interludes when I didn't work at all. Drugs and booze, yes, that whole hackneyed confessional shtick...
 
But a taste for getting high hadn't debilitated any of my friends, many of whom had started out as far bigger pot fiends than me. But they basically had no qualms with reality, did not find it so oppressive. When they said something was "a trip" they meant exactly that. A diversion, nice place to visit but they never wanted to take up permanent residence there. While the world I longed for, and felt was my due, was...
 
I think my father said it best. I was around twelve, was drawing a picture at the dining room table with the day-glow crayons I had bugged them to buy me. My dad walked past...
 
I don't know what he expected me to draw with these crayons. They didn't exactly lend themselves to something like this framed print hanging up behind our couch, an 1800's still life featuring a lustrous pile of burgundy grapes, a mandolin with a curling busted spring, a limp dead pheasant, and four oddly elongated bottles with woven bases...
 
He looked at my pictures, looked at me, and roared: "Oh for crying out loud! Why does everything with you have to be so goddamn, uh...
 
FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO THE, UH...
THE COW JUMPED OVER THE MOON AND, UH, WENT UP...
AND THERE WAS THAT CRAZY GUGGENHEIMER,
AND HE WAS PURPLE AND THE COW WAS GREEN,
AND THE BELLS WENT DING-DING-DING!"
 
Nothing I could have said would have satisfied him, even if I'd had the vocabulary to explain surrealism to him. So I ripped my whole stack of clumsy Yellow Submarine-inspired drawings into tiny bits in defiant defeat.
 
My father fled from any hint of the weird or the offbeat as if from terrible psychic plague. And the idea of anyone deliberately embracing such outlandish horseshit made him furious! He figured all this was just some vile fad which couldn't possibly last, or that I at least would acquire some sense and grow weary of it...
 
But when I graduated from my mindless adolescent mimicry of the whole hippie thing, it was not into the pragmatic normalcy he might have hoped for but a freakish kind of home-made paranormalism.
 
Dressing up for the part, like some particularly out-of-it refugee from the 1950's. White shirt, string tie, crew cut and a geeky sweater- my tribute to the odd men on the back covers of those old UFO expose paperbacks. My folks took this for an improvement (They had no idea how outlandish this looked to young people in 1974), but it was sure to generate suspicion and scorn to anybody under thirty who wasn't in on the joke. 
 
I took pride in being snubbed by these herds of desperately hip clones.The modern day metaphysician soldiers on alone...
 
Charting the geography of my dreams, then bicycling out with my bogus instruments to find where they possibly intersected with the waking world. Seeking out the hidden doors, any loophole in the odious laws and constants that ruled this wind-up-monkey universe. Expecting an apocalypse of neon confetti and weird styrene nodules to descend on the world any day now.
 
And when I was 21 I was going around with tiny foil wings taped to my back under my shirt, and a beer can pull tab in my pocket at the end of a string, like a rip cord (anchored to a stubby pencil from MAGIC MINI GOLF- that word "magic" there being an integral part of the mechanism) that would cause the wings to work ............ up, up and away to BOX J-J-J-J, CLOUDY ACRES at the first sign of danger!
 
I didn't exactly believe in this bizarrity. It was private, hidden art. But I saw my disbelief as more of a sad failure of faith on my part than-
 
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Where was I? Down by the mural. Right...
 
A spiky skyline of what looked more like carnivorous kitchen appliances than buildings. Along their tops, on ominously looming billboards were crisp calligraphic declarations of rock and role partisanship, which bands supposedly "ruled" ......... The alley they had put across the mural's bottom bleak, forlorn and deeply shadowed; with sinister eyes leering from its purple recesses. A cat atop a garbage can has been spooked by something- its fur puffed out like a tumbleweed and tail zigzagging like a lightning bolt.
 
A pig-helicopter flew above it all, with wasted dangling legs, an oversized sheriff's star, a two-slotted marshmallow of a snout and comically mismatched eyes. Uttering OINK! OINK! OINK! in a puffy word balloon.
 
The mural was "psychedelic" perhaps, but updated for the new decade. Not cute or utopian or dreamlike but grim, ugly, ironic. Like Emerald City under general curfew after a nuclear strike.
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---x/X\x--- FUN IS FUN IS FUN IS FUN IS FUN IS FUN IS FUN ---x/X\x---
 
OCCASIONALLY I GO SPEND THE DAY at other weird places.  
 
The echoing halls and observation decks of the old Long Beach Airport, deserted now that all the airlines skip over it in favor of other airports.
 
Signal Hill is pretty neat too ......... A barren hump covered with derricks and seesawing pumps, big rusty cylindrical oil tanks, machine shops like overgrown tin shacks, and malnourished palm trees around the foundations of long-demolished houses. Less smog now than in summer; a great view from every point on the compass. A two minute walk across the rounded top revealing a whole new panorama of the Los Angeles basin. It's especially nice after the visually confining slot of the river bed, the contrast of it.
 
There's a bar at a bowling alley I've been to a few time---early in the day when nobody is bowling---so I could look at this woman who works there. It was hard to believe what I was seeing. She looks dead. Totally fucking dead. With a rock hard Bride of Frankenstein beehive, cadaverous sunken cheeks, and skin as clammy white as the scum that forms on latex paint. 
 
She even acted dead- tired and hateful and pissed off that she was dead and had to work in this crummy place for all eternity, serving drinks to this same handful of morose zombie patrons. I had a few tequila sunrises and blatantly gawked at her, which she never even noticed, being dead and all...
 
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But bars are not really an option for me. It's far cheaper to do my drinking in my secret niches. And those homosexual ones I used to go to don't interest me at all since I pretty much gave up on finding anyone who might be attracted to me physically, or me to them in any other respect...
 
Nor am I interested in the companionship and support that these cornerstones of the gay community are supposed to provide---the reassurance of consorting with others of your kind---when I'm no longer sure that I even have a kind!
 
Because take away this single enthusiasm in common and what you're left with is a bunch of people I wouldn't even want to know. This agonizingly monotonous, vapid music blaring from the jukebox- like soul music stripped of all its funk and humanity; as they blather on + on about exactly the same sort of lame superficial self-aggrandizing bullshit as those people down the block in the straight bar ......... only with a shrill, snotty, sniggering edge to it that is viewed by these queers as the height of wit.
 
And whenever I would bring up anything that interested me ( those weird THINGS oceanographers had found down in scalding hot sulphurous trenches deep in the Pacific ........ whole utterly unanticipated new phyla of life, flourishing where nothing should be living!) it was utterly irrelevant to them; incomprehensible why anyone would have something as unfabulous as a science magazine in here; except maybe to titter that they "look like weenies". I could call them idiots, but I don't really know that it's them. It just saddens me that here's one more place I don't belong.
 
Far less lonely to be by yourself than to repeatedly try to party with these intrinsically alien souls. I fit in much better---and stood a better chance of getting fucked---drinking with the scabrous old weary-eyed hobos who hung out behind the bus station.
 
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In the morning before the stores open there's the central walkway of the Lakewood Shopping Center, a half mile from my old childhood home. Spacious and cleanly lined under blue skies; cement benches angling jazzily out from these planter boxes brimming with giant ferns + elephant ear bushes; the brash optimism of this "atom age" architecture now overlain with irony, as decay makes numerous small inroads and one shop after another decides they have to put unsightly steel accordion-grating up across their glass fronts.
 
It's here that I keep running into this guy I knew slightly from teenage parties long ago. We drink peach Boone's Farm through straws in lidded fast food cups (a brilliant act of camoflage that I intend to appropriate for myself- to get liquored up where it might otherwise be a problem). He still lives with his folks, and has to leave the house early each day to escape their displeasure with his absolute uselessness.
 
And to me this is terribly disquieting. The thought that he has been living for the past eight years in basically the same manner as these uneasy few weeks I've spent at the Sikorski household. Fun is fun, but it seems like after EIGHT FUCKING YEARS of having to find spots to kill time in, of dodging his parents, and all the ugly vibes and weirdness when he can't...
 
I hate to say it but it might be less horrible to go get a job or something.
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x/X\x----- DANCE of the FREAKO BABY-RAPERS -----x/X\x
 
MILES HAD A KEY MADE FOR ME, over the frantic objections of Katie, who did not want me in the house when the rest of them weren't around. While Ted had accumulated all his country/western shitkicker pretensions during his two years at a naval base in South Carolina, Katie was genuine country. I don't mean Atlanta or Charlotte but Weevilburg somplace, Population 630...
 
A tuff little rabbit of a woman, shrewd and capable and suspicious behind large tinted glasses, nose bent up as if held there by an invisible thumb. She sensed that my tales of rejection by snidely abusive interviewers in their suits and styled haircuts (for some reason they all looked like smarmy t.v. evangelists in my telling) were nothing but lies, and she wanted me out of there. Claimed that some of the neighbors were asking about me, spooked by my "laughing at nothing" and my "lurching" gait. But I had chatted with a few of them and detected no unease on their part.
 
And when Miles suggested that I could make myself useful around the place by babysitting she laughed loud and long, hiring instead a teenage girl from down the block. The kid was always on the phone- she depended on it like it was something she needed in order to breathe, and when she got on it she was oblivious to everything else, one time letting baby Kimmie wander clear out through the door and into the street before I spotted her and led her back inside.
 
Ted and Katie were graduates of something called REALITY NOW SEMINARS- from whose precepts they had garnered that to deny their Kimberly Anne anything might damage her inherent "Will to Succeed". So they let her scream and tantrum and drag the kitty around by the neck with fond indulgence, actually proud of her blossoming arrogance and spite, and I was grateful to not have to watch the piggy little brat.
 
But what I furiously resented was what Katie had hinted was the main motive for her refusal to let me babysit...
 
Given my habitual drunkenness and some of my recent stunts I can see how I might not be the ideal choice for a sitter. And while I think I can stay coherent long enough for Katie to go to the store or one of her cult's workshops, if this was her sole rationale I could have understood...    
 
But to think---as those intense bottom-lip-biting stares of hers were clearly suggesting---that I might hurt, or even attempty to gett my jollies by- 
 
GACK! DON'T MAKE ME FUCKING PUKE!!
 
But that's how they are, these moms. Always wary of the outcast, the wounded- grabbing convulsively at little Junior's arm at the first sight of Wino Joe somewhere way off down the block, or that poor schlub in the doofy haircut who can't look anyone in the eye as he trundles down to the store to get food for his thirty-seven cats...
 
When statistics show that a hundred times more often the monster turns out to be Daddy himself. Or maybe his best buddy Carl from next door, who neither of them has the slightest apprehension about ......... Because he is not some fidgety fucker (rightly terrified of their bottomless hubris, their pernicious All American can-do spirit) but is charming and confident; and aside from his little peccadillo is the perfect embodiment of their-
 
Nevermind. If I rant it's because this is a pretty touchy subject for homosexuals these days, with hatemongers like Anita Bryant spewing out their ignorant filth; or this Congressman Briggs from Buena Park with his amendment to root out and fire all gay and lesbian teachers in the state before we can corrupt another innocent whelp; this feindish plot that we all got together and-
 
And nevermind. It just shows what an idiot Katie is. And whatever she'd told the sitter about me has the girl scurrying up the driveway past me and into the house like they've got the Hillside Strangler himself living out here.
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----xXx--- IN THE KINGDOM OF SHINY FROGS ---xXx----
 
TED CAME AROUND TO REMIND ME that my month's stay was almost up. I nodded, said I understood, careful not to provide him the pleasure of my sounding worried. But then I had an idea...
 
I had stored a desk and a matching dresser at an Aunt's house in Eagle Rock. I offered them to Ted, for whatever amount of time here he decided they were worth when he got a look at them. He'd already been contemplating taking a drive today, so we went up there in Miles' little truck.
 
Ted had emerged from his "awakening weekend" at Reality Now with a policy of total honesty.  So all the way up there he spelled out for me what a total screw-up I was, and how my current plight was merely the fruition of  things, egotistical-yet-loserly traits that he had disliked about me for years...
 
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All through the half hour at my aunt's house Ted kept showing me his watch, holding it right up in front of my face. But I felt obligated to listen to her for a least a while---to not just pack up my things and shove off---as she went on and on about her travails at work, about the garbage men who never put her can back in the right spot ....... about everything but me and my situation; the sordid implications of why I had suddenly needed to leave my furniture in her garage back in April.
 
I had never liked my Aunt Florenzia. She had a way of insulting you without realizing she was doing it. Even my Dad---dragging us all up to see his sister out of a sense of obligation---always found a way to cut our visits shorter than he'd originally planned. Once she started harping about my not having been raised a proper Catholic.
 
During those brief, strained visits she used to set out a dishes of strange, inedible hard candy; and I think it was this very same bricklike mass of dust-encrusted candy that she was offering to me and Ted. She peered dolefully out through the vertical blinds every few minutes, lamenting over all the Mexicans and Chinamen and these malodorous turbanned "I don't know what they are!" overunning her neighborhood.
 
I don't remember her being quite so racist, but since there aren't many subgroups of humanity she DOES approve of it comes as no surprise. It sounds like she has even managed to develop a prejudice against the blind folks that she worked with in the offices of the Braille Institute. Like they had gotten blinded just so they could cadge a free ride through life while SHE has to work so hard!
 
She treated Ted with chilly politeness and much suspicion simply because of his collar length hair (Mine had been hacked into an inch of fuzz at the barber college, to facilitate this sham of a job search). I think she was still traumatized over seeing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show 15 years ago. She followed him around everywhere he went, lest this smirking beatnik pocket one of her bizarre frog nicknacks. It was hilarious that he was getting exactly the same treatment from her that I had been receiving from him and Katie!
 
Then he made the fatal tactical error of poking fun at me, presuming her to be a natural ally of his. Us upstanding working folks versus Roger the flaky derelict. But whatever disparagments my relatives might have been tossing around about "that no good lazy Roger" was a prerogative that came with family and not something that any outsider had a right to indulge in. Soon she had stopped talking to him at all, as if it was only me and her in that musty old house...
 
Lariat-twirling COWBOY FROG, ticker-tape-reading TYCOON FROG, and musket-toting BICENTENNIAL EDITION MINUTE MAN FROG all nodded their glossy fat heads in approval.
 
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"Goddamn, she was weird," Ted marvelled as we loaded the furniture into the back of the truck, and squinted at me appraisingly. He had his proof now. My entire bloodline was flawed.
 
These two items had been purchases for me when I was a toddler, and now in losing them they suddenly became powerful totems of my life, of the continuity of memory. Recalling all the different phases of clothing and toys I had stashed in there. How that top drawer had once towered over me but dropped steadily in a montage of angles as I grew...
 
I was bartering them on the strength of what my parents had always told me about them: That they were solid maple and of sound craftsmanship in a design that would never go out of style ("Not like all this way-out modern crap!"). But Ted was sorely disappointed, finding great gouges in them that I had not remembered until seeing them... 
 
Oh yeah. Here was that slip at the desk with my woodburning set,and there the Iron Cross I had carved into the dresser with myBoy Scout knife after seeing The Blue Max.
 
As the truck climbed the onramp, struggling to get up to freeway speed, he said that they were far too beat up to put in the kid's room, and barely justified the gas he had spent to get out here, but he guessed he could use them to store shit in out in the garage.
 
He sighed. The desk and dresser would buy me another two weeks, but after that it was adios and good riddance.
 
"I hope you've figured out where you're going when youre done sponging off of us. Because I guess you realize that the wet months are coming up! All I can say is I sure wouldn't wanna be you..."
 
We unloaded the desk and dresser and set them against the plaster rear wall of the garage, where they would haunt me for the rest of my stay here. Bought for me at the age of six with what surely must have been other expectations they sat there, mutely reproachful.
Witnessing and sharing in my ignominious fate.
 
.
-------------x/X\x--- VAC-VAC ---x/X\x-------------
 
YESTERDAY KIMBERLY ANNE HAD turned to Katie and jeered at her: "You a ugee baby!"
 
So Katie---somehow certain that Kimmie had gotten this from me---had come out to the garage, and accused me of mocking their daughter when no one else was within earshot.
 
Who would wage war on a small child's self-image? It's just so chickenshit! My money is on the baby-sitter, resentful of the fact that her job occasionally involved actually doing stuff. I might have thought about how homely the kid was from time to time (with Katie's smooshed-in nose, Ted's outstuck ears and those Peter Lorre eyes you couldn't help it!) but it wasn't me who had done this cruel thing.
 
But I can now safely admit that I am guilty of doing something truly rotten to her once. The time I scared the piss out of her with a sadistic practical joke...
 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Kimmie was terrified of the vacuum cleaner for some reason. She called it "Vac-Vac" and it was her own personal Satan. She was freaked out by even the thought of this machine!
 
Like the time I asked Hey, has anyone seen my backpack? and she gasped "VAC-VAC!", looking wildly around for an escape route!
 
One night at dinner time I walk into the house-
 
"Hey come on!" whines Ted around a mouthful of Hamburger Helper, "We're still eating here!"
 
"When you gotta go, you gotta go," I philosophize and go in, as if toward the bathroom.
 
Take Vac-Vav from their room and into hers and slide it under her big big crib-thing. With those ruffles hanging down you can't see it at all. The outlet is right here, the same one her star-projecting night light on the end table is plugged into, which can be turned on and off at the wall switch. I quietly show this set up to Miles and he snorts through his nose to keep from laughing out loud. 
 
Then he announces that he and I just have to watch the 6:00 news, to find out whether Somoza has officially ceded power to the leftist Sandinista rebels down in Nicaragua yet. And the fact is we both do sort of want to see this; to root for our respective teams and razz each other's political convictions.
 
Katie carrying the sleepy tyke to bed. What are you two grinning at?
 
Putting her in the wooden cage, faint singing and talking, the nightly ritual. This hard young woman at her least obnoxious. And then as she steps outside, "I'll leave your door open a little bit.You want me to put your light on? All the pretty stars? Okay Sweetie..."
 
One little buckaroo didn't get to sleep that night until around midnight!
 
I would have been tossed back onto the street that very second except for Miles taking the fall for me, claiming that he had masterminded the whole thing.
 
And he sure looked like the culprit, the way he was laughing!
.
 
.
---------xXx--- PHONE CALLS TO JEHOVA ---xXx--------
 
OH, AND THERE'S ANOTHER THING I DID. When everyone was gone I would call people up at random and say stuff like, "Hey, how the fuck you doin'- you stupid moron!"
 
 -and not hang right up like I had always done as a kid, but trying to keep them on the line as long as I could, and get them to start yelling back at me (this was back when "caller .I.D" was exotic spook technology and not a common household appliance...)
 
"What?! Who the hell is this?!!"
 
"You know goddamn well who this is, you fuckin' dirtbag!"
 
But it didn't always go as I'd planned...
 
One time I was thumbing through the phone book for inspiration and found a number for the Jehova's Witnesses. My favorite people on Earth. A pastor or whatever it is they have. I rang the number and a woman answered. The wife. Mrs. Jehova Head...
 
Hello, she moaned dully.
 
I began in a nasty high sing~song cartoon character's voice: "Hello to yooooouuuuuuu! My name is Mister SHIT and I live in the toilet-"
 
But I only got as far as the word "shit" when I felt this strange and horrible current pass through the line. I stopped. She wasn't saying a word...
 
And I could tell. Could feel somehow that she was absolutely terrified. The crazed blaspheming killer or possibly even the Shit Demons from from her most shameful erotic nightmares had found her and were about to burst in there and do unspeakable things to her!
 
Stunned I hung up. I had never had an effect like this on anyone in my life.
 
This wasn't Katie's contrived "concern" about my sanity but genuine terror. I felt like some whole new magnitude of bastard, and a minute later I had to call her back.
 
She picked up but didn't say anything. Anxious breathing.
 
"Look, I'm a stupid jerk, all right? I was just trying to piss you off- Uh, I mean hassle you. Irritate you. But not to frighten you. I'm sorry if I did and I will never bother you again!" I said, and disconnected, and never did.
 
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Another time I took a telephone survey. Called about 30 people, telling them it was for a college class, and asking: "Why don't you just kill yourself? I mean ......... what is it that keeps you from just cashing it in?"
 
Most of those who stayed on the line said things like "for my kids" or "I try to keep myself busy with work" or "my religion forbids it".
 
But not one person said it was because they were happy and the thought had never occurred to them. And an alarming number of them---about four or five---said that they just flat didn't know. There was no real reason they could see other than that they were too chicken to do the deed.
 
It sure wasn't what I needed to hear. Like I say, I don't mean to imply that I was anthing like suicidal. This seemed like such a lame cliche, such dipshit melodrama---a total admission of defeat, the final bankruptcy of all your resourcefulness and imagination---that I just couldn't seriously consider it. Although perhaps this belligerent prank had been my way of reaching out for help. Maybe I'd hoped one of them would suggest something I could believe in, some bit of philosophy or a spiritual angle that I hadn't already considered and rejected ...
 
But all I was hearing was that I had no monopoly on despair. One woman started crying and I suddenly found myself in the ironic role of "Suicide Hot Line counsellor". Heard myself uttering ridiculous hollow platitudes about finding even one small thing to be grateful for and to look on the bright side...
 
I had to hang up on her suddenly when Katie's car came gliding up into the driveway. I went out the back door and around, over the low fence in the gap between their garage and the neighbor's, and back down to my concrete gully.
 
I hope that bummed out lady is okay...
.
 
.
---xXx--- AND THE RADIO, WHAT ABOUT THE RADIO? ---xXx---
 
MILES KEPT INVITING ME IN at night for t.v. and quesadillas but I always declined. He couldn't figure out why I would want to just hole up in the garage. He knew his roommates had a lot to do with it, but I did the same thing when they had gone out for the evening. I figured why let myself grow comfortable with a situation that would be over and gone so soon?
 
Coming out to check on me. "What's wrong?"
 
"Nothing," I said, my tone declaring that the discussion is over.
 
"You're just sitting here in the dark. What the hell happened to you?"
 
"What are you, a shrink now? Go watch your t.v...."
 
This wasn't some bogus attention-seeking sulk like I might have displayed back in high school. I meant it.
 
Miles stood his ground, reminding that we used to really discuss stuff. That even back in ninth grade our talk was a lot more personal and substantial than the usual male teenage shuck and jive.
 
He'd even tried to make it with me one drunken night a few years back, before realizing that any bisexuality in his nature was largely theoretical. That while he liked the idea of it---of being both an archconservative and a dirty free-fucking libertine who is up for anything---his homosexual inclinations just weren't strong enough to effectively put into practice. It had been an affectation of identity, something that appealed to the image he had of himself as a social outlaw...
 
But he still liked the shock value of such a conceit. Like the time we had gone to the local art theater to see Bertolucci's Luna and sat one seat apart, so that we would each have a right and left armrest and a place to set our snacks...
 
And this intellectual know-it-all behind us commented to his date (not real loud, but the picture hadn't started and the place was dead quiet-) that we were obviously a couple of typical macho jerks, so hung up that we could not even sit next to each other; a symptom of all that was wrong with this dangerously repressed Judeo-Christian culture. A notion not without some truth to it, but pretty fucking presumtious to apply it to us...
 
When without warning Miles leaned over and kissed me on the mouth like he was trying to unstop a sink, mashing my ears flat with his hands- a lewd long hungry kiss that left my heart racing! 
 
Then he turned to them and tittered---in a caricature of queeniness that somehow came across as unbalanced and menacing---that sitting apart like this was the only way we could refrain from humping right there in the aisle; and: "Shows how much you know, Mother Maygar!"
 
And he still maintained fondly that if he was ever went gay for anyone it would be for me. Now that's close! But now...
 
I realized that becoming angry was not going to get rid of him, at least not as neatly as giving him what he wanted, so I made a display of opening up to him some.
 
"I don't know Miles. Everything seems like such bullshit."
 
"Of course it's all bullshit! So what else is new?"
 
"So fuck it..."
 
"You say that now, but what if you don't always feel that way? Then it'll be too late! It's a short way down to the streets but it's a long way back up! You've got to work to keep a roof over your head, no matter what your 'emotions' say. You must want something out of life..."
 
I thought a while. Feelings swirled, opaque and sluggish, nothing the least bit distinct presenting itself. "I don't know..."
 
"What happened to your writing? You had two books going last year!"
 
If anything could alarm me, rouse me into action or at least considering some kind of action it would be this. 
 
But I just said he was probably right but I was tired and wanted to sleep, and would go look for work again tomorrow.
 
He left.
 
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I plop down on the threadbare couch and put on my radio, finding that new station that plays Pere Ubu and the Talking Heads and John Cale, as well as punk bands like the Pistols, X-Ray Spex, etc...
 
Ah punk. I love the music, and I like coming up with and wearing bizarre costumes (like the raincoat-thing I'd made out of novelty fake vomit, and the reactions that got!) It's too bad the whole thing is doomed to collapse any day now, leaving behind a grotesque commercial travesty of itself---the JC Penny Anarchy Collection and Punk Squad coming this fall on NBC---a pack of cornball Visigoths squatting in the ruins, sticking left over laurel wreaths on their heads and going: "Hey everybody lookit me, I'm a big smart Roman! Quipso facto motorola-"
 
"You're a big smart what now? Do you always talk to yourself out here?"
 
It's Ted. He's got two buddies of his with him and they are lugging in a drum set. With a grimace of disgust he snaps my radio off.
 
SHIT!
.
 
.
x/X\x- JOHNNY BANANAS vs. THE PINHEADS OF RECTITUDE -x/X\x
 
TED WAS TRYING TO START A COUNTRY ROCK BAND, was auditioning guys, who would be curious about who this presence in the corner was, scribbling over the apple-cheeked townsfolk on this Norman Rockwell calendar, four years out of date, that had been on the wall in here when they moved in.
 
And he would introduce/dismiss me with some comment like "That's Roger. He's our Author in Residence...";  his inflection conveying just what he thought of my literary pretentions.
 
But then I really wasn't writing anything. Not now. Neither my fiction or the spiral-notebook diaries I kept whenever the stories deserted me.
 
The last thing I had tried to write was a journal of my homelessness that I'd started after two days on the street. The first page---an anecdote about what a fiasco my brief ownership of a shopping cart turned out to be---had been promising. About how unweildy the damn thing was, almost capsizing every time those tiny front wheels hit a bump in the sidewalk...
 
Until looking around downtown I saw that the only ones who pushed these things were the addle-headed pack rats, who just had to have that rusty half a waffle iron or whatever.  And I realized that despite the proud flamboyant image this would present to the world---this ship with festive banners flying, pinwheel propellors whirling, a glorious one-float junk art parade---I would never actually own enough stuff to justify all the hassles that came with it, this millstone- that you couldn't take on the bus with you or into a store.
 
It was a clever start, zany and immediate- but it fizzled out when I sensed that this piece would lack the sort of incisive self-honesty that had helped to balance out the glib tone of all my previous "winga~wacka jernels". I could vaguely sense that I was not getting a clear picture of my life, that there were fears I didn't dare articulate even to myself, but which surfaced now in these gruesome calendar doodlings...
 
The gangly old laughing midwestern farmer given some quick improvements with my big clumsy marking pen; turning him into a misshapen X-eyed monstrosity, knee deep in round black bombs with burning fuses (going "tick, tick, tick" for good measure), while he is simultaneously hung, electrocuted (Ddddzzzztt!!), swiss-cheesed by bullets, bristling with deeply rooted arrows, limbs lopped off by these sinister rococco french-curve sabers whirling past, this 5-gallon syringe with a skull & crossbones on it jammed deep into his brain...
 
The drummer and the bassist were impressed with Ted's skill on guitar, even though he claimed he was really off tonight. When he fucked up a note he'd flash me a pissed-off glance which announced that this lapse in dexterity was my fault; which sent me out...
 
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And south along the bank of this dark trench awash in idiot moonlight, the line of power pylons alongside it like those great spindly walking machines from War of the Worlds; marching downriver to attack the Douglas aerospace facility in Seal Beach.
 
I describe this bit of fantasy to the three high-school age boys that I run into at around midnight, stoned out of their gourds on acid; Who all freak out happily when one of them yells: "LOOK OUT, THEY'RE MOVING!"
 
I used to take a lot of LSD, all through high school and the years just after. I fell in love with it like no substance before or since. Other drugs will jerk your emotions around, flood you with bodily ephoria or some vast sense of self-importance. Entertaining, but not really all that different than what your own brain chemistry can kick out from time to time.
 
But this shit gave you images beyond belief, made everything around you so strange, so interesting! I took it daily for the first few months, then weekly, and within a few years only every third month or so .......... Because I realized I was having reruns. If not the exact same luminous Looney Tunes I had seen last time then so similar in tone and style that the differences were irrelevant.
 
But I would still do a hit on occasion. In fact, if they had any more...
 
I dug through my pockets, came up with a bit less than the five dollars they were asking. But hey, for a good bro' like me they were glad to offer a discount. (I guess the fact of my wanting some is what qualified me as their brother, since they had known me for all of ten minutes...)
 
One of them dug a foil packet from his wallet, shook out some squares of paper with a blurry figure printed on each. A flabby old baldheaded guy in a sloppily patched-up kaftan with a massive knee-length beard and immense bulbous shoes. Boasting, "It's Mr. Natural acid! We got it off some Deadheads, so you know it's da kine..."
 
Which of course was no guarantee whatsoever. 
 
I just hoped that one hit would be enough. What was hailed as extremely potent nowadays sometimes only provided the merest glimmering of hallucinations, a vague anstiness, the teasing sensation that any minute now the real trip was going to kick in ......... and the sour disappointment when you realized that this was all you were getting!
 
But for three bucks it could also be that rocket-powered roller coaster through a city of singing crystal pornographic totem poles and iridescent rainbow waterfalls under a solid tuck-and-roll satin sky gridded with 1000's of identical chrome fleur-de-lis, now all turning into classic delta-finned rocket ships and dropping from their mounts with the bzzzztt- click! of disengaging clamps to drift down and bob + swarm around you in graceful synchronization like a school of curious robotic fish.
 
I ask for some of the tinfoil and fold the square of blotter paper up in it. There would be no sense in my trying to take it with them, I explain. I would be on my way up while they were entering the hours-long brainchattering decline- that phase like those unexciting little braking ramps at the end of the rollercoaster that you put up with until it finally faded.
 
We talk, except for the one kid who isn't following the conversation too well and keeps staring at his left hand. These aren't the boys who had made my mural but they knew them well. Two of the artists had been busted just the previous day for selling pot to a narcotics officer during lunch period at school.
 
I suggest that they should have confined their sales to among the students, and they say that they had! This baby-faced young nark had enrolled there, posing as a classmate, wheedling them for larger and larger quantities until they were worth arresting...
 
I had never heard of such a thing! In my day the campus cop had had the decency to look  like a cop, and I was aghast at these motherfucking pigs being so underhanded! Narks in high school, criminalizing the innocent drug abuse of children! Land's sake- just what is this world coming to?!
 
I tell them that we need to get some paint and create a memorial to these two martyrs, and my new friends here agree.
 
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They leave me in the field under the power lines for about twenty minutes, return with all the cans of spray paint they could find in the one's garage (a fairly drab selection but the silver should be interesting...), having also swiped a 12-pack of his father's Lucky Lager from the fridge. We all grab a beer, are about to scoot down the riverbank to start the project...
 
When somehow we wind up in an arguement about my favorite punk band. They're insisting that it is just noise, and how can I even call it music?
 
I blow up: How utterly fucking narrow-minded! Isn't that exactly what their parents say about their music? Don't they GET IT?!!
 
"My God," I stammer, "You're still in high school, and already you're..."
 
They are fools, I tell them, trapped inside a process that has gone on, generation after generation, since at least the asshole blatherings of Plato! 
 
And I warn them they are doomed to turn into yet another batch of fossilized old farts, tapping their withered tootsies to that good-old-good-old music, boo-hooing over the death of genuine musicianship and good taste, who will be laughed at by anybody the least bit in the know...
 
........unless they open up their puny minds and embrace the new!
 
I grab the can of silver paint and spray it all over the front of my shirt, my pants, shouting that THE RADIO HOCUS is here, bubbling up from the streets, the storm drains, from the truth-screaming motherless trash...
 
("Dude! What are you even TALKING about?!!")
 
"-to cut through all this overproduced pretentious hackneyed BULLSHIT! I mean look at these stupid assholes," I laugh, pointing at the pack of emaciated rockers on the front of the tall kid's t-shirt, who stand pouting---with their ratty black hair and hips cocked in awkwardly slutty poses---against the red, black and white of their bands emblem.
 
"DOOMSNAKE are not assholes!"
 
"What pretentious nonsense! And what's that 'DS' thing behind them? Like some goddamn corporate logo! Boy, if that don't just say it all .......... But hey, we LIKE it! It's hevvih," I growl in a thunderous deep voice, "Like Inna Gadda Velveeeeda, Bay-beeee!"
 
An insult to his heroes that convinces him it is neccessary to kick my ass now: "Come on, you fat fuck!"
 
I laugh caustically, "So you're gonna fight me for the honor of that bunch of spoiled millionaire assholes? What qualities do they possess that even remotely resemble honor? Do you honestly think those coked-out narcissistic bastards would ever fight for you?!
 
Then the lights came on at a house across the power company's right of way and someone opened a window to yell at us. They got the cop heebie jeebies and took off, after laying their consensus on me that I was a real jerk!
 
Oh well, at least I got this acid...
 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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When I get home at 1:30 Ted and one of the longhairs are still practicing.
 
I peer in, go into the house and squeeze down onto the couch between Miles and Katie. On the television Vince Morrow is battling a monster like a big pile of grass skirts slithering around, with a head that is nothing more than this oversized african mask, while a dozen or so conga drums go berzerk!
 
Miles looks at me and startles. "How in hell did you get paint all over you?"
 
I say that I was accosted by several members of the Lakewood High School football team, that this was their neanderthal idea of a jolly prank...
 
"Team sports sure builds character, yessir! Makes me proud to know our tax dollars are going to something so ennobling."
 
"What the hell taxes do you ever pay," drawls Katie disgustedly,"beside the fucking liquor tax? What a steaming load of crap! He did that to himself! He's drunk!! Has enough money to get shitfaced every night but not to put in a buck for rent or groceries..."
.
 
.
---xXx--- END OF PART ONE ---xXx---
 
NOTE: This novella (FUCk uP) is more of a work of fiction than anything I've written to date. Not because of the things that never happened, or that happened a decade later in a totally different context, that's just standard operational flimflam for autobiographical fic.
 
It is more a matter of certain characters having been combined and mutated into far bigger jerks than their real-world counterparts; much in the same way that the simplistic empowerment cult "est" has been transformed into the monstrous REALITY NOW. These innacuracies can be blamed on my lack of imagination as a writer... 
 
In delving back into this period of my life I remembered a great deal of anguish and resentment, but couldn't quite recall why I had been so resentful of people who for the most part were trying to help me...        So I employed exaggeration and an extraordinarily one-sided view of conflicts- giving characters qualities and having them do things that my protagonist and hero could resent. I apologize for whatever liberties I may have taken with the facts, but that's why they call it FICTION. It's not a sworn testimony or an attempt to cast disparagement on any actual person, living or dead.
 
Except for Vince/a.k.a./Eye Pop the Evil Anti...

 

:)

Seems quite realistic.
And good too. You have your own style.

I will read it with interest.
Cheers.

Yor

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