F**k Up ~ Part 2


My immediate boss was Vince, a hunched little character in a flat top who looked alarmingly like my father. Same basic face, like my dad had been put through a shrinking machine- one of those older models that left its payload oddly distorted; long dwarf's torso with a crease in the middle like he could fold up + fit in a suitcase going yapyapyapyapyap! A long term navy man who had LUXURIATED in that whole routine, everything "Sir/Yes Sir!" and polishing the widget-mounts; A fundamental intolerance for spontenaity or surprises ............ And with his anchor tattoos, cartoon New Yoiky accent and lumpy bald dome I soon came to think of him as Popeye. Only without the chuckle, the goodness or the heart ........... Eye Pop the evil Anti.
F**k uP
by Ronnie Prima
."I am Jack's total and utter demoralization."
--the character from THE FIGHT CLUB


--------x/X\x--- NEAPOLITAN NEPOTISM ---x/X\x--------

I had a week left to get a job.
Then six days. 
"Are you really going out on these job interviews?" asked Miles.
"Yes, goddamn it!"
"Must be something you're doing then. You know you can't just go babbling any shit that comes into your head. It's like acting. You have to tell them what they're going to want to hear. What a great worker you are, responsible and all that..."
"That's sort of boastful, isn't it? Don't you think they'd rather have somebody with a little humility? It shows you're teachable-"
"Look, you're being way too deep about this! You just try and get them to hire you. What's wrong with that? You must have done it before..."
"I get what you're saying. I'll keep that in mind."
"And oh .......... on your job applications? Don't be a smart ass. Like in the boxes where you put an X for male or female; don't go writing in 'undecided'. Not everybody gets your sense of humor..."
"Have you been looking through my clipboard?"
"You left it in my truck. What do you expect?"
Finally Miles had to procure a job for me.
He was one of four security guys at the hospital across from Zody's on Bolivar Blvd. A hundred and fifty rooms. On the small side for a hospital. The three story rectangular structure has a cylindrical bulge right in the middle so they can call these stubby halves the west and east wings.
Miles had used his reputation for good judgement to virtually shoe me in; a reputation that he took pride in and did not want to damage. He scrutinized what I had written on my application before turning it in himself. He kidded me uneasily, "-so for God's sake don't do any conceptual art or anything there if you get this job."
On the day before my interview he fronted me a few bucks so I could get a presentable shirt and shoes. Told me to play up my Italian heritage if it was brought up, which it would be, since my name was the first thing on the application...
I was interviewed by two of the most disagreeable humans I have ever met: Mary Piguini from payroll, who managed to look pinched and scornful even when she smiled; and Vince, the head of the housekeeping department.
Strange, their being ready to hire me because of something as pointless and accidental as a last name. They actually went all nostalgic on me about that good ol' eye-tie sausage and pastafazool! I have never felt particularly Italian, and I sure as hell didn't have any bond with these two...
Maybe it was having been raised in a city only a year older than I was, where various ethnicities (to varying degrees and with one glaring exception) found themselves spread randomly across the same bland suburbs, and all trying to minimize their differences... 
But if I ever had any sort of pride in any particular region or culture, it was feelings---in my teens---about California itself. Its proud Hispanic origins, the idealized agricultural vistas of old orange-crate label art, and those places you stumbled across that almost matched this ideal.
Topanga Canyon, the old Rainbow Pier .......... Pacific label jazz on luscious candy-colored plastic ........... The Airplane, Bloodstone, the Screamers, Zappa and Beefheart growing up so improbably in that high desert hick town ......... Big Sur, Avalon, the dry tickly smell of sage drifting down into studio backlots from the nearby hills ....... That spooky little "space visitors museum" at Giant Rock, the whole legacy of oddball movements that came to flourish here ....... Steinbeck, Raymond Chandler, Emperor Norton.
All this before all the neat funky old shit was torn down, replaced by fake funky old shit. Before the air adopted by so many of my fellow Californians of being inherently and supertotally bitchen---and for no discernable reason---began to sicken me...
But anyway I got the job. Could contribute something to the household, a paycheck of some amount or other, even if I got sacked the next day.
And what the heck is pastafazool, anyway?
-----x/X\x--- POPEYE THE SAILOR MAN ---x/X\x-----
MY IMMEDIATE BOSS WAS VINCE, Popeye the Sailor man.
A hunched little character in a flat top who looked alarmingly like my father. Same basic face, so it looked as if my dad had been put through a shrinking machine- one of those older models that left its payload oddly distorted. Long dwarf's torso with a crease in the middle like he could fold up + fit in a suitcase going yapyapyapyapyap!
A long term navy man (so not in fact a dwarf) who had LUXURIATED in that whole anal retentive routine, the rigid heirarchy of "Sir/Yes Sir!" and polishing the widget-mounts. A fundamental intolerance for spontenaity or surprises. The grunt more dippy...
I say Whoooaah Nellie! What's da dippy dippy deal here? You think what?
Sumpin' screwy goin' on around here, I'll tell ya! Where the hellzat Rosita?!!
Them Messican gals is always sneakin' off on you, ya gotta watch 'em! 
Rachet! Rachet! On the ball/ on the beam/ on the stick!
We're goin' round and round on this deal!
The cheez dip whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-
And with his anchor tattoo and squinky eyes, his cartoon New Yoiky accent and lumpy bald dome I soon came to think of him as Popeye. Only without the drollness or the chuckle, the goodness or the heart.  
Eye Pop the evil Anti.
People who stayed on under him tended to run to a type. Fawning, prematurely aging illegal alien women. A skinny, nervous little guy named Milty who would get so scared he shook. Tom, a slow-talking Texan; big burly guy with hair that didn't know if it was grey or brown or hair or what under all that goo, slicked back in deep tire tread ridges.
Tom Sanders at first didn't seem to fit in this category, since you wouldn't think he would kowtow to anybody, but he had his one fatal flaw...
A hep young sharp in his day, who had lost many jobs due to drinking, he sensed that his vague odor of booze would be tolerated here as long as he didn't get so bombed that he fell over, and so long as he kept his eyes humbly downcast whenever Vince yelled at us for no reason.
You would hear his teeth-grinding rebuttals later over the bovine groan of the floor polisher. "Some day I'm going to punch that sumbitch's nose right out the back of his head!"
We would line up at seven a.m. in the maze of chain link corridors under the hospital with our carts, Vince barking out our assignments as we passed, loading us up with whatever supplies we needed. Keeping a tight inventory because he just knew this shifty bunch was out to steal the evil-smelling institutional Pine-o-Lav, the rags and brass polish and feather dusters, and the odd looking attachments for the various cleaning machines
(Why did he think we would steal these? To give out as enigmatic party favors at little Silvio's birthday party?)
The Mexican women who changed the bedding and lugged it as far as the carts in the hallway for us seemed to take his tyranny for granted, scared of him but expecting no better from employment up here in the North. But prior to this I had always worked for supervisors who---if not always friendly---were at least nominally guided by reason. The one we all called an insufferable fascist at my last job at Big A Hardware had simply been a stickler for name tags and the right color slacks. Yelled a lot because we really did screw off a lot...
But this was the real thing. A sadist who surrounded himself with those he could bully and then rode them mercilessly; so that when Milty started his pitiful quaking Vince didn't back off but cranked it higher, drunk with it- until you felt like it was your moral duty to step in and smash his stupid face!
If he had possessed even a smidgen of style or wit of any kind ............. even to the extent of, say, Spiderman's grouchy boss at that newspaper (and here we're talking the dimmest, most marginal understanding of how to phrase an effective insult) I would have found at least one small thing I could halfway respect about him. But it was: "What's the matter wit chew?! Din't I show yooz all how to do that there? I'll tell ya, we're goin' round and round on this deal! I said what'samatterwitchew?!! Answer me! Hahn?! Hahn?! Answer me! Answer me! Hahn?Hahn? Hahn?! Hahn?! Hahn?! Hahn?!!!"
-----x/X\x--- UPTOWN TOP RANKIN'---x/X\x-----
MILES DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO THINK. He had figured that the job would help me, that I would start to "believe in myself" and all that, but my attitude was as bleak as ever. My attempts to simulate my former joviality and enthusiasm for life were as weak as wet toilet paper.
Katie still hounded Ted to take my key from me but since I'd gotten a job he seemed to dislike me far less. He had a way to explain me to his musician buddies now. I wasn't just some slug that they were letting stay here for free, in blatant violation of his total empowerment cult's cold-shit creed.
I had worked there two weeks, three weeks and at the start of the fourth got a check for the week between my hiring and the end of the pay period. I gave half of it to Katie, and when she grumbled that she should have known better than to expect the whole thing Ted actually came to my defense- saying that I did have legitimate expenses now. He had seen Vince in action once when he'd dropped by to see Miles, and had been mortified by the man. Yes Ted had been in the navy himself, and yes there were some hard-asses in there, but this guy was just a psycho! He was amazed that I had lasted even this long.
So as incredible as it seemed, maybe I really could do this! Keep at it and eventually move into some place of my own again. Be Joe Worker all week and start going back to clubs with old friends on Saturday nights. I mean hadn't I done it before? Loudness, booze and TOP-OF-THE-WORLD-MA art-spazz exhibitionism. Secret night niches squirming with new geekazoid artforms (sea-bottom things in the greeny bloop).
In fact, why wait until then? I thumbed through the Times Calendar section, called Bali Huladay to ask if she or any of her crew was going to Hollywood to catch tonight's act at the Whiskey. I knew this call might be a bit awkward, she was one of those people I had burned out in terms of a place to flop, but I didn't expect such a total dismissal of me in every regard.
"I really don't want to have anything to do with you anymore."
"No, I don't need to crash there, I have a place! I know I was being a real flake there for a while, and I want to make it up to you. Pay your way in, buy you a couple of those tequila and pineapple things you like. I mean shit, it's the least I can do!"
"It's not about money or favors or keeping score! Do you remember what happened the last time we went up to Nu-Wave Nite at the Starwood?"
"Not all of it. I remember I got up the nerve to dance a little."
"You danced. Jumped around shouting a bunch of shit that had nothing to do with the music-'I'M FULL OF CLUCKING CHICKENS!' and 'BLUE FRIED HANKY STOMP!' 
Which was fine, you were having fun, and Jet Jaguar and I drank a lot too .......... Until they put on that song Homicide and you started accosting people on the dance floor, grabbing them to make them stop, yelling about what kind of bullshit was this they were listening to, what did they mean 'I believe in homicide', and what evil twisted shit it was!
It's just a song, Rog! Those three Teddy boys were ready to kick your ass. I had to drag you out of there and take you home, stranding Jet up there on the Strip when I couldn't find him. And it wasn't even midnight yet! I felt like I was baby-sitting Baby Huey ..........
"Then I had to listen to your wasted moralizing all the way home, blubbering about that song! But at least you didn't barf in my car. No ......... You leaned out at the stoplight---bleeeeuuuggh!!---right alongside a cop car! Which was cute, since I was holding coke. Do you remember any of this?"
"Oh. So anyway, how you been? It's been what, about five months?"
"I've been fine. I'm just gonna stay home tonight. They might be one of the original punk bands and all, but Luke Warm's singing is the shits!"
"Is that Roger? Lemme talk to him!" comes a girl's voice.
It's Skeezix. While Bali has a job at The Gap, rose to manager in six months, Skeezix's short green hair, strange tattoos and immense weight ensure that she will not be burdened with a job any time soon. She is going to see the Scum tonight, loves Luke Warm's tomcat-on-heroin singing. She had dropped by there to borrow money for gas, and would be delighted to take me to the show. Had seen my display at the Starwood but thinks it was ("God you were so funny!") some weird gag I had been pulling.
Skeezix's head is completely bald now. Fried her hair up with one-too-many technicolor dye jobs and shaved it off in disgust...
"Shit, I can't believe I did this! Bali never fucks with her hair! I don't even think she's ever cut it! I guess if I had that perfect straight black oriental hair I wouldn't mess with it either. And nobody ever says she's not a real punker. But mine is- was just just a mess, even when I ................ Oh fuck, look at this!"
"It'll grow back. And I think it's beautiful- like Squeaky Fromme!"
She preens hopefully. "Really?"
"No," I snort. "Maybe if you had classic features and a nice shaped skull. But with that big lopsided melon you got it's ugly as hell!"
"Good! I'm glad! I like being ugly."
"Me too."
"Cute people suck!"
"Absolutely. Hey Hey we're the Uglies! And people say we ugly around-"
Skeezix joins in on this witless parody. The old couple in the car next to us are staring.
"What are you looking at, you goddamn looksists!" she yells, turns and smiles at me, brightly, like a child proud of her first cartwheel.
"Yeah, it's like-"
"I think I can figure out what it means," I laugh. "Looksism, that's great. Sign me up for another cause!"
"Only this one you got a real stake in, you ugly tub o' shit! You can be our spokesman. Go on t.v. with a fucking bag over your head..."
Her old clunker gets us up there somehow. I pay for gas and for my own entry, but she manages to talk her way in for free. She invariably knows somebody.
Being that this is a last-minute outing I hadn't had time to come up with one of my surrealist outfits; so my rattiest, worst-fitting and least stylish clothes from having been on the street will have to do.
Until we get seated at one of the booths, and I start playing with the candle in the red goblet on the table, discover that the liquid wax in here is not too terribly hot, and I can pour it and the candles from the adjoining tables--- "Exscuse me!"---over my face until I look like some hideous goopy larval alien. 
Our waitress Juliette---an old hand around here---is unfazed by this. I could probably cut off my ear and she would just ("It's been done...") hand me a wadded-up bar towel.
I take care of the cover charge, knocking back both of my shots---one, two, like medicine---but I had deliberately left some of my paycheck money at home, and after one more don't have enough for another of their overpriced drinks.
And my ex-friend Bali Huladay was right, this band is goddamn terrible! The great genius is sulking, like it's a real imposition to be up there for us. We commoners should pay him for simply existing, to stand there picking his nose and inspecting the results while the base player glares at him: Sing the fucking song already!
I catch Skeezix's attention down on the tiny dance floor awash in flashing cop car lights. Point to the door and make a drink-swigging motion. She nods, sure, whatever.
Am panhandling on the Boulevard, the famous bronze stars on the sidewalk as grimy and caked as everything else is. It's Friday night in Hollywood and all the freaks are out, everyone mooching off of and ripping off everyone else.  
It would be INSANE to try any standard appeals to sympathy here so I make jibberish requests, and this pack of jaded, black-turtlenecked sophistos loves my routine: "Twenty-five cents to buy an atom bomb and blow up the world? Here, get four of 'em!"
Soon I have enough to buy a huge bottle of Thunderbird, remembering to wipe the wax off my face before I enter the liquor store, where the old man behind the counter doesn't look like he would appreciate it. He doesn't seem to dig the festering circus that his fabled city has turned into.
A hard-core punk rocker would never bother to placate the old coot this way but I sort of feel sorry for him. Plus I really want him to sell me some wine.
And I will go join the crowd outside the club with it, but only after I get enough of this into myself. I sit on the dark graffitied steps of a crumbling 1920's church, drinking from my paper bag, feeling like old L.A. sotpoet Hamburger Zitface himself.
A genuine loon trundles past, muttering spookily...
Then a disco couple, who have crossed the street to avoid being spat on by the braying mob of punks.
"They look so weird!" shudders the guy, tottering down the sidewalk in a trouser-suit striped like a roll of Life Savers and platform heels, a polyester clown on stilts...
An amphetamine-ravaged black drag queen wiggles past, gloves and sequins and chandelier earrings like a 60's Motown artist, blowing kisses as if to her legions of adoring fans...
Then two cops, who appear to be marching straight toward me.
OH SHIT! Sitting on these steps was a mistake! I am off by myself here, an easy roust. At the very least they are going to make me pour it out.
But then one of them yelps, "Fuck, that guy's got a machete!"
And they hurry off to confront the shirtless scraggle-haired kook, even though he is only tossing it high into the air and catching it again, eyes bulging, so happy with his new toy.
My crisis avoided, I go join the kids out in front of the Whiskey A Go Go.
They are here every night, because you can hear the bands just fine from out here, and they couldn't afford the price of entry even if they were old enough to get in- which most of them won't be for another half a decade.
Which means that I really shouldn't be passing them my wine, but it's probably the most innocuous substance they'll be ingesting tonight. Besides, most of them reject my contribution after a single disgusted swig...
"Jesus! What is this shit?!"
"It's wine, sort of .......... Thunderbird. It's good for you. It'll put hair on your liver. It's what us winos drink!"
"So you're a wino, huh?"
I spin my tale for them, the absolute-and-total-bullshit version that involves stowing away on a rust-bucket freighter and an apocalyptic brawl at some roughneck dive in Fairbanks while the guy at the upright piano with the garter on his sleeve plays gamely on and the Can-Can dancers kick and sing and dodge flung bottles...
One of them is an actual Hollywood runaway and is stonily unimpressed. He can see that I'm basically a candy-ass neophyte as a street person; and he's the only one who is helping me put away this T-Bird.
And maybe---if he's the gay hustler I take him to be---he can spot me for a queer; that whole schizoid ball of contempt and compliance these supposedly straight whore-boys have for the subculture that supports them.
It's a baffling, depressing affair. Two parties, each with his own type of desperation, engaged in a mutually-exploitative encounter that seems destined to truly satisfy neither one of them. (Or maybe there is some aspect of this exchange I am missing. Because I am obviously some kind of retard about this whole sex thing...)
But the rest of them are entertained by my spiel, are apparently buying it to some extent. I am calling myself Chattanooga Red for some reason. And saying that while punks are to be applauded for rejecting society and its soul-destroying entrapments, us vagrants have been at it for as long as there have been streets to loiter on. I tell them: "Punk will come and go, but bum is timeless!"
Skeezix streams out with the others after the encore, a lackluster butchery of Eric Burdon's It's My Life, happy to see that I hadn't been swallowed up by the guignol zaniness of Tinseltown.
Most of these kids know her. She sees the bottle- "Oooooooh, my hero!"
My friend has an unusually refined palate---convinced that all but the pricier tequilas will make her sick---but she is sufficiently liquored up from the bar that even this synthetic swill is acceptable to her. And she's also showing off a bit for the youngsters...     
Tilts it back, guzzling the remaining inch of it, and slams/smashes it onto the sidewalk between her boots with a fairly impressive insane scream! Then drives us home at 35 miles an hour in the drunk lane.
It wasn't much of a concert but I had fun. And won't feel like quite so much of a pointless drone when I go back in to work in the morning.
--------O]O--- RIGHT LIVELIHOOD ---O]O--------
IT WASN'T SO BAD ONCE YOU GOT UP TO THE WARDS. You're wearing the same comfortable green drawstring pants and collarless shirt as everyone else. You take the sacks of bedding down to the linen chute and drop them in. Windex the wireglass half-moon windows set in the doors. Clean the brown mystery gunk off the metal strips that hold up the acoustic ceiling panels. Dance with that big stupid willfully-bucking floor buffer machine. Say hello to the patients as you-
Not for any reason. That's grounds for immediate dismissal. Anything you say can be con-screwed as medical advise and they'll SUE us! And besides, whadda you need to know why for?! I said don't talk to 'em!
But what do I do if they say hello?
You don't say nothing. Walk away. Capisce? (Capisce seemed to be my own special word. He never said it to anyone else.)
Can't I at least say, "I'm not supposed to talk to you"?
Don't get funny! Why you all the time trying to get funny?
I wasn't! I just thought-
And then he said it. He actually said: WE DON'T PAY YOU TO THINK!
What a stellar fucking intellect! And so...
Don't talk to them! Don't even look at them! Make them feel like they're all alone at friendless in this soulless mechanized death mill! They're the enemy anyway! Just lookin' for how they can sue us here!
Like the tiny old woman in #207. Now there was a vicious character.
She had this running joke with me, that I would help her escape- into the lush garden of a neighboring house that she really admired. Could identify types of flowers from up here that were just vague blocks of color to me. I would snip a hole in the fence (and it wouldn't have to be very big, she had "got so shrivelled up") so she could slip through and hop away, "just like a little bunny rabbit" .......... Behind this winsome little-old-lady coquetry was the plea, that she didn't want to die like this, in this ugly place, but somewhere sunny and nice.
And who did die .......... Because from the very first day I met her she was this ruddy, muddy shade of brown that had nothing to do with the melanin in her skin. Like living spoiled meat. Which was especially strange at the beginning of our two week friendship, before she was progressively tubed and respiratored and out of it; this coloration a jarring contrast to her tidy white permanent and dainty features, the clear mind and steady hands.
Of course I'm going to try to be nice to someone like her. I think I can tell the difference between responding to a comment about the weather and launching into some jargon-laden discourse regarding their course of treatment. I generally try to follow Vince's orders to the letter, force him to tax his brain for what he is going to scream about instead of just handing him something.
But I'll be damned if I'm going to ignore one of these poor frightened bastards when they need to talk.
Because there isn't anyone who is dependant on me to provide for them, I have always been able to be a bit selective abour where I've worked. Usually at rock-bottom wages, but happy in the knowledge that I am not contributing too directly to war anywhere or the destruction of the environment.
But when it comes to employment I have discovered that there is something far more satisfying than mere ethical damage control:
My first job was as a sample collector for the California Department of Agriculture down at Long Beach Harbor. I liked the fact that I wasn't just selling stuff, but doing something that was actually useful. Who knows what you would be getting in your Spam Whiz if someone wasn't peering over the food industry's shoulder from time to time?
Such high-flown sentiments must sound strange after the shrieks of alienation I have been issuing over these pages. And I'll admit that if Miles had worked at the Boeing plant I could by some rationalization be working there now; especially if he had made it sound like as much of a sure thing as my landing this position here. And then I wouldn't be giving you all this high falutin' flapdoodle about what a great example of Buddhistic right livelihood I am.
But this job has awoken something in me- the idea that we are soldiers in a war against suffering and death. And sure some heartless greed-head is making a bundle off this place, and charity cases are directed to County General, or anywhere else but here ........... But up on the wards there is a strong sense that what we're doing is meaningful and good. It might be presumptuous of me to imply that I personally contribute much to this valiant struggle. Me, whose job could be performed ("Abbi-dabba-dabba-dab") by a chimp.
So maybe I should count myself among those who are receiving the healing, from my exposure to this atmosphere of compassion and succor. It's something I don't think I would be getting if I was still stumbling over the fudgy black toxic dirt of the windswept Rossmore oil fields, tossing matches down those red-painted gas vents angling out of the ground like big grimy candy canes.
My friend Tom seems a bit spooked by the fact that this is a predominately female workplace. When the nurses are all cutting loose in the lunch room his expression is one of being overwhelmed, almost pained by the sound of it. "God Almighty! When them gals get to yackin'..."
"I like it," I tell him. "It's like ......... musical or something. Like a bunch of happy little birds chattering up on a telephone wire!"
What I don't tell him is that I actually feel at hell of a lot more at home here than amid the palooka-stag sensibility of that job I had at the harbor- all the empty calculated joshing I did trying to fit in with those truckers, longshoremen and stevedores. Ever mindful how I phrased things; exaggerating whatever half-assed latent lust I could generate when asked for my opinion on one of the Playboy pin-ups that were plastered everywhere ......... Our boozy brotherhood there had been loud and rambunctious and kind of fun, but often felt about skin deep to me, and it often left me feeling empty at the end of the day.
I know it's not perfect here either. I've seen a certain amount of feuding and factionalism and needless nastiness. But still the camaraderie here seems more real and genuinely supportive than any other place I've worked.
Not from the doctors, of course. They all tend to be supercilious Brahmins when they deign to speak to you at all. But from these perky working class healers, many of them stone foxes ............ who after initially talking down slightly to this trained chimpanzee upgrade me to an approximate intellectual peer. A jolly janitorial Falstaff who can be counted on to make them laugh!
Like a long-neglected houseplant I soak up this sense of community and purpose.
-------x/X\x--- A SCREAMING TEARS ACROSS THE SKY ---x/X\x-------
BUT THIS WAS A FEELING THAT NEVER extended down into the Troll King's Basement Lair. It couldn't penetrate this heavy reinforced concrete ceiling with the jumble of grey ducts snaking across it, or these narrow chain link partitions casting sinister shadows in the yellowy bare-bulb gloom. And if it somehow got that far it was nullified by the shit-demon radiation emanating from the man himself.
I'll say one thing for Vince, he was consistent. Never a smile, never a compliment to anyone over anything. All attempts to talk to him like a human being were rebuffed. The only time he engaged in casual chatting was with those higher than himself---some doctor or an adminstrator who found themselves trapped in the elevator with him---when he would adopt a creepy weasling tone and try to sound intelligent and cultured with phrases like "Idn't that interesting?" and "lemme give you an illustration"; this last of which was seldom followed by a verbal illustration ("Lemme give you an illustration. Yes."), as if he didn't know what it meant. So maybe it's for the best that he didn't try to jaw with us.
The one thing I heard him say that I would want to know more about, was when he interjected himself into a conversation about the Soviet's war in Afganistan, mentioning that his ship involved in the 1961 blockade of Cuba, during that two weeks when we stood on the brink of World War III!
It was a time I had lived through, but wasn't quite old enough to understand. I remember being perplexed when my first grade teacher took us out into the hallway several times, and made us stand silently. Even though it was daytime the lights were off---somebody's half remembered Civil Defense training from WWII---and it was dim and cool in there, the light from the doors at either end of the hall spilling strange highlights down the linoleum floor ........ When a kid asked Mrs. Pendergrast what was going on she said evasively, "Somebody thinks they saw something falling from the sky..."
I recall that I pictured different things falling from the sky (a bicycle, a handkerchief, a banana, my spinster aunt's rhinestone crucifix); none of them an ICBM. a screaming cross tears the sky...
But as much as I would have like to have heard about his Cold War experiences, I knew better than to try to continue the conversation with him. I would get: "That don't concern you! What's that gotta do with polishin' the spittoons in surgery?! Hahn?! Knock off dis damn being-innarested-in-stuff deal and concentrate on yer workin' dere!"
Allow me to give youze an illustration...
Vince with his face akimbo, the urt more margle:
Uh hey have a cigar- HOOP!  
I say wherezat dippy Rosita go?! 
Cuba WHAAAH?! What this flotilla you talk? 
CIRCUS POSTER?!? Deal boyo, you capisce?!
Cerebella panatella. Peel off cellophane dickhole wrapper... 
Low-angle scream of cone hatted steamwhistle against
b+w rollerpaint sky. Rubicon! Rubicon!
Kapeesh one cigar. Yellowbulb dungeon, utility gestures enfold.
Or Vince in swallowtail tuxedo with the June Taylor Dancers
swaying all oooooooooo-eeeeeeee-ooooooooo behind him: 
Ya move on up...
To the top of the stairs...
Uh-bomp bahbomp bahbomp bahbomp, um-bwamp, Pah Pah!
.........dancing up a wide white-block stairway into space with bad actor's smile
of idiot bliss plastered on his mug. Uh hey have a! Ka-peeeeeeeesh?!?
Cosmonaut rimshot: 
Five, four---inject brain-hole lighter---three, two...
Break wind in the gray room.
Vince Morrow battles ex-colonial furniture as Juan Batista flees Havana with
a suitcase full of floor buffer attachments. Cigar boyo HEY puffa puffa! 
Power-drill trepan flowers...
Through the night jungle to white tux Macambo night club: All jades inside for
The Masque of The Green Dissolve. "Fan tan, Mr. Bond?" 
Hinged skull metal retrofit: closing back up
as 52-cigar iron maiden to hiss of burning brainflesh. 
Blank rachet smile as steam jets---TOOT!!!---from ears.
Batista Meat Bath.
Rockets from the Zone.
Ricky Ricardo entering radar range 1961... 
That famous Bay of Pigs episode, Lucy disguised as Castro in fatigues + silly beard,
playing mirror to the real Fidel, almost caught when he breaks into a spirited Charleston... 
Pigs I'll say as Oroborous swallows his tail- 
this circle collapsing inward, and it sprang when it flailed.
Old rooster crows confused at this new 3 a.m. ground-level sun.
Duck and cover and it screamed and it rained
and it flamed
and it flailed
when it fell.
Bicycle. There was that Crazy Guggenheimer. And them bells went-
As I ran down to the East Wing fire stairs from the third to the second floor, hurrying to some task, Vince was waiting there with arms crossed and stopped me.
"What are you sneaking around the back way for?"
"Sneaking? What the-" I calm myself. "What do you mean, Vince? I'm going down to #2 to help Milty out with the-"
The man had such an investment in paranoia! "I don't want you sneaking around behind my back! You go down there and use the elevator like everyone else!"
"Why do you always attribute sinister motives to what I'm doing?"
"Did I say you had sinister motives?"
"The word sneaking implies that I do. I wasn't sneaking, I was just trying to save time."
"Jesus Christ, we're goin' round and round on this deal! Don't get cute! I want all you guys where I know you are, not goin' around behind my back!"
x/X\x--- SAMBOS ---x/X\x
WENT TO DINNER last night at Sambo's, Miles' favorite place to eat. The food is lousy---everything coming out either slightly burnt or cold or otherwise messed up---but cheap and plentiful. The booths are always packed with old people. We both appreciate the radical unhipness of having such a place as our hang-out. The Sambo's restaurant chain had been coming under increasing fire from civil rights groups, for having a name so evokative of tap-dancing jigaboos.
The waitress takes Ike's order, then mine.
"You don't have any nigger hearts, do you?" I ask.
Ike sighs, "Just give him a cheeseburger, diet coke and fries."
She writes it down and walks away, "I don't appreciate that kind of talk."
"You could have fooled me," I call after her.
Ike glares at me, "What the hell's the matter with you?"
"I was just getting into the spirit of the place!"
"I GOT what you were doing. But what does that have to do with her? She's just trying to make a living..."
And as I watch her interacting with the customers, I see two people in a row giving her shit. The one placing the order rudely talking down to her, the one she brings a plate out to complaining that his 99¢ special isn't exactly Cordon Bleu material. Like what the hell did he expect from this dump? Mean-hearted people, they seem to be doing it simply because they can; knowing that when a manager is called over the onus is ALWAYS on the employee.
And I'm no better than they are. Suddenly I feel like an immense piece of shit. I feel just awful. "You're right. I need to apologize."
"I'd prefer you did it before she spits in our food."
I of all people should know what she goes through here. I've had jobs like this, serving the public, and just hated them. Like the job at the Hardware place, getting home so keyed up and stressed I couldn't sleep. Didn't I literally RUN from that job, right in the the middle of a shift, of that argument with that hateful old man, out the door ripping my vest off---buttons flying---before I even knew what I was doing?
So how can I turn around and be exactly that kind of asshole to this woman, who is no doubt a very nice person and certainly doesn't deserve to have to put up with my bullshit? I'm such a fucking ass!
The next time she glances our way I wave her over. She grimaces---what now?---and struggles to put her professional face on. Comes over smiling falsely.
"About what I said earlier," I start to say ......... when quite unexpectedly my throat gets all weird, and suddenly I am crying, I mean---really hard---tears streaming down my face- "I don't know what's the matter with me, why I did that, please forgive me, I'm such a goddamn idiot! I wouldn't blame you if you didn't, that was so fucking rude! I'm just a- I probably shouldn't even be allowed out where I can bother normal people, everything is .......I don't even know how to ACT, just this crazy stupid freak, and I'm sorry, a-and..."
When this happens to me, I want to feel pain, like the only thing that can cleanse me is punishment. Like the cutting thing----and I have an urge to jam this fork into the back of my hand---but if I did that everyone would be looking at that, not hearing my apology.
She's a bit alarmed, but knows a sincerely remorseful lunatic when she sees one. Pats my shoulder, smiling into my eyes, "That's alright, I'm a little crazy too."
I nod, appreciative, and wave her away from me before I start crying again.
A minute later Miles shakes his head, "Holy shit, Roger. I said apologize, not disembowl yourself!"
I sniff, a liquid sound. "I'm a great actor, huh? I sure fooled her!"
Later, over our sagging stale wedges of apple pie Miles suggests something so obvious that I'm surprised it never occurred to me: That since the only thing I dislike about my job is this one man, I should put in a request for a transfer to some other department. Like the cafeteria, or the autoclave room where they sterilize the catheters and such.
So this morning I went in and talked to Mary Piguini in personnel about it (the same woman who had interviewed me for this job), and I quickly realized that I should have given this more thought. When she asked me why I was requesting a transfer I was stumped...
I didn't want to tell her how loathesome I think her buddy Vince was, and I couldn't say that the work was too hard, my back hurting or some baloney, or I would sound like a lazy whiner. So I just muttered vaguely that I would like to try something different- in a way that made me sound easily bored, flakey. Like I expect my every task here to be totally enthralling and I'm unwilling to take my fair turn at the drudge work.
She knew perfectly well what my real beef was, and hated me for it. Smiling that she would talk to Vince about it, but people are rarely transferred to other positions for at least six months.
Six months. Talk to Vince about it. Great...
Bumping into Miles in the elevator later, he said that the old battle axe had been lying through her teeth. Mary effected transfers all the time for those she felt kindly toward. Young gals who would come crying to her, saying they just couldn't work another day with that awful Mrs. So and So...
That is, unless the awful so-and-so being complained about was a member of Mary's evil mutant clique. And so long as she did not suspect the petitioner of being some kind of crypto-nonconformist. Which didn't take much: "What are those earrings you have on today, Shelly? Oh, little unicorns..."
Mary took great efforts to present herself as a real Lady-Lady. A pink chiffon edifice of coy mannerisms, saccharine tones and pompous grace; while inside she was a stainless steel sea urchin- spines poisoned and sharp as lancets. Where Vince bullied and snarled, Mary smiled and cooed and insinuated .......... until she could slip behind you and daintily cut your throat.
So while working for Vince was hell I suppose it could have been a lot worse. I could have been one of those poor dazed and haunted wretches who had to deal with both Vince and Mary on a regular basis...
WENT TO SEE A SCULPTOR FRIEND at his place down on Anaheim Street. A cricket that had gotten into the garage woke me up before dawn, so I was there very very early.
Walgaji Magalista lives in his storefront artist's studio. It is not a strictly kosher arrangement, without a real kitchen or bathroom the place couldn't legally be used as a residence. But with the chances of anyone wanting to open a new business in this neighborhood being close to zero, the owner is one of several who rent their commercial properties out to artists or even whole troupes of outlandishly costumed young misfits on the sly---inadvertantly helping to create a cool little arts community---with the proviso that- "If anyone complains to the city about this I will be SHOCKED that you were trying to live here, and you'll have to leave immediately..."
The former appliance shop is a single big open room with tall windows along the front that at first had been crowded with art: A rowboat with human legs clambering up a mound of glass bricks, a water cooler full of plastic baubles and bunched strands of blinking Christmas tree lights, eerie machine/mannekin hybrids with cathedral radio faces- playfully wacko shit in the postatomic junkyard tradition confronting anyone driving by or walking down the sidewalk.
Until Walgaji realized that the circle of surly black teenagers who gathered in the recessed tile alcove of his studio's entrance at night to drink and talk loudly were not looking at his display so much as past it---as best they could---at what that fucking weirdo was up to now! Providing both a bit of privacy and a clear view up and down the block, it was an excellent place for someone to drink, and Gawji didn't mind that aspect of it too much. It was their unflagging hostility that unnerved him. 
His amiable "Hey, how ya doing, guys?"approach didn't work. They did not want to be his chums, but fed on making him feel vulnerable. 
There were far more neighborly African Americans living on his block, but they weren't the ones who stood right outside his windows, commenting that the cracker freak was no doubt in there fucking one of his odd creations, haw haw...
So first went up paint-spattered drop cloths over ladders behind the display area, and then he gave up on the exhibit altogether, taping a mandala designs of different kinds of bright gift wrap to the inside of the glass. It saddened him, putting a bit of a damper on his bohemian dream.
But he still loves his enormous workspace and the pittance it cost him, still holds his parties that erupted into lab coated conga-lines down the street; still invites friends and neighbor in for muffins baked in his kiln, and hashish crumbled into his awkward-to-hold chillam; and those increasingly excited conversations while he works, that veer by some strange logic of their own from art to sex to physics to botany to cybernetics to politics...
I knock on the window. It is not even 6:00 a.m. but he's usually up by then, and judging from the lights and the patternless beeping and farting electronic music I hear in there he is awake today.
I knock again. (He had peeled back the corner of the paper for a second but I figure that I hadn't been standing where he could see me). This time he pulls back about a square foot, acknowledges me with a frowning nod and then sticks it back into place.
I knock again. He shouts through the paper and glass: "GO AWAY!"
This wasn't, Sorry man, I'm really kinda busy now. It was: Oh God, it's YOU!!
I yell, "Can't you at least tell me why?"
The volume of his synthesizer music (Subotnik?) doubles. I guess not...
Well that's just great. First Bali, now him! It's like there's this vast information machine preceding me, spreading the word: Roger was kind of okay before but he has turned into bad news! He always wants something! Don't let him in or you'll never get rid of him!
Working full time at a job I hate and I'm still treated like a fucking leper! What do I have to do? Pull up in a fucking limosine? 
Eh, fuck it! I head for the bus stop.
I get to the Lakewood Center a little after 7:00, where I am greeted warmly. My bench buddy was probably bored to death just sitting here.
I pull out the Tokay wine I had intended as a present for my artist friend. Shudderingly bad stuff but Gawji likes it. Makes him feel like a real old time be-bop subterranean North Beach abstract expressionist, the phony prick!
We find and rinse out a couple of McDonalds cups with lids and straws. Mine leaks slightly, beading out through the seam one red drop at a time. This guy has told me his name several times but I keep forgetting it, and by now I'm embarrassed to ask him again. 
He is still reading the same oversized paperback he has been carrying for months, a biography of Jim Morrison with a blinding orange and yellow cover. He doesn't seem to understand that this Albert Goldman fellow is basically calling his hero an emotionally crippled egomaniac, but is poring over these pages like it is some great sacred text, each squalid vignette a new revelation- leading us lowly mortals to our inevitable union with the late Lizard King....
I let him jabber, making bets against the clock up there over how long he can remain on this one topic.
He says that after we finish this wine he will get us some beer or something ....... One thing I will say for the dude is he always has at least a little money. He deals pot in the most small time manner imaginable. Buying pre-rolled joints---which is already at about the absolute bottom of the distribution chain (indicating a pitiful lack of dope connections, that is to say of friends)---and then dumping out the contents into his
beloved Greek fisherman's cap, to roll them into even skimpier joints that he sells to the skateboard brats passing through on their way to school.
And I can see why he isn't well received in sophisticated doper company. He not only brags incessantly about all the WILD AND CRAZY things he did as a kid and then a teenager (the sort of stuff that just about every suburban adolescent does at some point)---each of these tales centering on him as the Big Cheese Ringleader, the sole creative force behind them---but then he insists that you play chorus to these tepid anecdotes, repeatedly nudging you into some kind of Oh-wow reaction. I mean constantly: "And so there we were! In the graveyard, at midnight! Isn't that crazy? Isn't that cool?! Don't you think that's cool?" .........
Construction work at the center starts at around eight. Forklifts carrying glass and aluminum panels, electricians up on scizzor jacks, cement trucks. There is a case at the end of the plaza with a model of the project in it.
They are remodelling and putting a roof over this historic shopping center (the third of these ever, before which business districts just sort of happened), reopening it some time in March as an enclosed mall, hoping to get back into the competition with all the newer-style air conditioned malls.
Which it may be too late for, but if nothing else this will make it easier for them to keep the likes of him and me out. Posted hours next to functioning doors, security desks at every entrance. "Can I ......... help you?" asked with that skeptical rising inflection that lets you know that helping is the last thing they would want to do to you.
I suggest we get out of all this dust and noise, and I will give him my tour of the majestic San Gabriel River. But he doesn't want to risk missing any of his regular customers.
We do leave briefly after we finish the wine; to the 7-11 where he gets us something that he has been dying to try- gimmicked up in a cute little ceramic jug (X-X-X), like this is supposed to be hillbilly moonshine in here; some inane Billy Carter/Dukes-of-Hazzard marketing bullshit.
At the bus bench we pour as much as will fit into our soda cups and hurriedly swig the rest from the jug, which he wraps in his windbreaker and stuffs into his day pack. I think he really just wanted the bottle, from the cautious way he is handling it. A candle holder or whatever for his room.
"Damn this stuff is tasty! Some kick-ass shit, don't you think?"
"Yeah it is!" I agree, but actually it just tastes weird. Like a small quantity of Old Crow mixed with flat Mountain Dew. I wonder briefly if he's so dumb that he actually believes this yellow dishwater has any relation to genuine moonshine, then I decide that I don't want to know...
Heading back, there is a flyer stapled to a telephone pole. LOST DOG REWARD ! ! ! ! hand lettered across the top, and then a grainy foreshortened photo of a large white dog staring bewilderedly straight up into at the camera. And then the name and phone number along the bottom. Slightly rain wrinkled, it looks at least a few weeks old...
He asks to borrow my marking pen, then scrawls over it:
Smiles in a way that tells me that this is a story he will be regaling people with for years to come. That wacky thing he wrote that time and how traffic stopped and everyone stepped out of their cars to applaud it! Isn't that crazy? Isn't that radical?!
Isn't that FUCKED? It's depressing to think that this nameless asshole is my best friend in the world these days.
Well that's not true. There's Skeezix, although we won't be seeing her for a while. How did someone only twenty-three manage to rack up so many parking tickets? I will visit her at some point but I am not going clear up to county jail today. And Miles has shown that he remains a wonderful friend...
But he and I always seem to work different shifts, a four hour difference that knocks a good chunk of our free time askew. Plus he is still plugging away at college, a class or two at a time. So while we do fit in the occasional late dinner, or catch up with each other over t.v. when the show doesn't look like it will be too painful for me, there is nothing resembling those adventures we used to go on, down to San Diego Harbor to see the restored 1800's frigates or out to "Fort Stinking Desert" along I-15 to plink at tin cans with his Ruger.
----x/X\x--- "JESUS! HOW'D IT GET ON THE CEILING?!!" ---x/X\x----
AFTER I WOUND UP ON VINCE'S ENEMIES LIST he always saved a certain type of emergency just for me. Those messes in the little bathrooms adjoining the rooms that were too catastrophic for the maids to handle and still stay on schedule. If I was LUCKY it was confined to the bathroom. And you can't really blame the patients. Being heavily dosed with antibiotics tend to make a person lose control, and it also lends their feces a particularly bitter, acrid scent- as if they are passing pure pharmaceutical caca.
This job never went to Milty or to Tom. Vince had appointed me as his Permanent Latrine Orderly.
Also he had me on "red bag" duty a lot; taking out the red twist-tied sacks, things that had been in contact with hepatitus sufferers and such. Or they held those table scraps from the operating room, gooshing obscenely unter the heavy plastic, that I was supposed to take straight down to the incinerator. (When I try to picture them, I don't recall if these bags bore that virusy-looking BIOHAZARD symbol or not. I'm pretty sure not. Things really were different back in 1978. Like how all the computers in the building were in thsy one room, big tall things with great reels of magnetic tape on the front of them spinning and clicking and reversing...)
Once---in a take off on that famous series of articles in Reader's Digest---some admirably perverted soul had used a marker to scribble onto one of these bags: I AM JOE'S SPLEEN.
----x/X\x—HOW VINCE SAVES MY LIFE --x/X\x---
LSD-25 is a large complex molecule that doesn't have a long shelf life. I had protected the paper dose from moisture in several layers of tinfoil and stashed it in a slotted plastic vent clear in the back of the freezer, where nobody would think to stick their fingers. But even frozen like this it is getting on time to either take it or toss it out.
Ted and Katie both smoke pot, and are in favor of legalizing even the narcotics out of a belief in free will (or perhaps in natural selection); So they would hardly be scandalized by my having a hit of acid. I guess the real reason I was waiting for a day like today to eat it is the same reason I sometimes pack my empty bottles out. Not wanting to be seen wasting my money on chemical recreation when I am still catching up on rent.
But they are taking off for the day, going up to visit some relatives up in Oxnard, and I will finally be able to kick back around here and just fry my brains out. Counting on there not being any unforseen delays I chew the tasteless paper dose into a tiny wad while they are still gathering up toys for Kimberly.
I do a little dance, grinning from ear to ear as they pull out of the driveway. It's not an "acid grin", I don't feel the effects yet. Or do I?
Miles is at work until 8:00 tonight, which means I can listen to my squonky abstracto Miles Davis album without driving everyone else batty. Can watch my ROBOT ROBOT 777 cartoons this afternoon on the Japanese station (and that stupid monster-suit show that comes on after it- a team of superheroes or whatever they are in their various colored jumpsuits and visored helmets) with no one grousing about how weird they are and that they're not even in English...
But as I begin to experience the first mild visual effects, the house starts to feel stifling. I want to explore, to see stuff. Give the sensory distortions more to play off of than this bland enclosure of lamp, tables, carpet, t.v....
I head toward the river, but the greenery along our block here is so gorgeous---rich in details and textures like it always is on psychedelics---that I decide not to scuttle down the cement slope to the Enchanted Shit Hole this time but cross the bridge into El Dorado Park.
I trip around, watch two tennis players for a while, the ball streaking like yellow tracer fire, listen to the bottomless echoing ...Pock! ...Pock! ...Pock! with rapt amazement .......... I wander down to the edge of the one-acre lake, the rumpled sheet of bright green moss along the rim like the Everglades seen from fifty miles up, these tadpoles darting around at what would be a fantastic speed if I really was that distant. Hypersonic Ichthyosaurii ........... I go sit on a table. I breathe, the park breathes, the sun breathes- everything pulsing gently in and out.
There's a guy who I think for a horrible second is Vince, coming to yell at me- "Hey! Whattayewthinkyerdoing?!! You're supposed to be at work today! Get in the damn van already, you gotta go clean the MORGUE! Take this dead-body polish and-"
But no ........... The guy is smiling, a big happy soppy-wet retriever prancing alongside of him, waving an enormous branch around in its mouth! No dog would love Vince this much. He would have a thing. An evil scaly thingpet. I draw Vince screwing his thingpet on the corner of the table with my marking pen.
Well I needn't have worried that this hit wouldn't be strong enough. I can feel it thrumming, building, like a giant engine I am sitting on top of...
This is one of the reasons some people don't like acid. You can't regulate the effects by waiting a bit before snorting the next line, cannot chug-a-lug your way up to that next plateau of drunkenness. You take it and that's it. The plane leaps off the runway, the wheels fold up inside and it's all out of your hands until you reach Beunos Aires or Glasgow...
Larger doses---a couple of hits of powerful orange barrel---have taken me to a point where all my senses were scrambled, and I found myself in a spatially-nonsensical domain of unrecognizeable objects doing incomprehensible things with great purposefulness- Yves Tanguy meets General Motors; while this me-a-tiny-nub-of-mind watched agog from some bodiless vantage point. A glorious spectacle, but when the normal visual input so thoroughly preempted you're effectively blinded, and might as well be stumbling around with a bucket stuck over their head. In which case it is wisest to be indoors, and probably laying down.
Not that I think I will be getting anywhere near this stoned today. A more likely hazard for a dose this size would be something like assuming it is the drug that's giving you this sensation of tiny insectss crawling all over you, when you are actually sitting on top of an anthill!
And now there's hundreds of them on you, all those rudimentary little minds- a madly clicking chorus from the terrible semiotic border of awareness: EEEE! \\\ EEEEEEEE!! /// WHAT THIS? \\\ FOOD/NOT FOOD? /// ME THING NOT IT RRRRRRZZZZ-
I decide I'd better go back to the house.
Crossing the bridge to go home I realize that this fat concrete rail I am running my hand along---lower than a normal balcony railing and well below my center of gravity---is far too squat. That cement riverbed is a long way down. Two stories, maybe three.
Not exactly a bottomless chasm. Compared to any of the world's famous bridges you could hardly call this thing a bridge at all. But it would sure FUCK YOU UP BAD when you hit that unyeilding surface down there! And while you would not be getting up and walking away, death on impact is far from guaranteed...
Unless you landed on your head! A sickening crack that you would probably never hear- 
hard sharp flashbulb pop of pain and then instant immutable night! So when this vertical drop does that old fifty-mile trick---the space gyring, telescoping insanely---I quickstep away from it, off the sidewalk and clear to the whiteline center until I'm on the other side. 
A car from nowhere: "Get out of the road, idiot!" Almost home now.
An old woman watering her lawn waves. She is probably my favorite among the immediate neighbors, jolly and slightly eccentric, but I don't go over.
Coversation would be hard to guage with this echo effect: Am I talking loud enough or only muttering? My facial expression reasonable or set in a maniacle hopped up leer?
Even my wave at her seems obviously loaded, the kinesthetic drag of my arm. Big foreign artifact flapping with too many hinges off the corner of me: Rachet \ rachet / up \ down and BANG! against my side like Dr. Strangle Glove. What a thing, arm...
Home now, inside, safe (What a pussy, can't handle a little L in the park!). Okay, this trip is sort of uncomfortable but it's nothing to freak out over. It's chemical, temporary, I know that. I've done this a hundred times.
In the living room it's all strange, I barely recognize it. Did I accidently walk into the house next door? Some housewife in curlers gonna come around the corner and start screaming in terror?
Come on Lady, please don't scream, hold still, I'm just trying to calm you down I can explain; just stop screaming I can't think with you screaming; Oh Shit what happened, she's not moving; eyes bugged out omigod it was an accident I swear, gotta do something I CAN'T go to prison ......... Oh hey what about the trapdoor to get under the house that's in the bedroom closet, I can hide her down there until I can think straight ........ But when I open it up I see all bones & horrible decomposing peices and I realize these are all my previous victims, even though I don't remember; Except now suddenly I DO- the blood, the screaming, sticky red footprints all the blood OH GOD I'M A SERIAL KILLER!!
Oh wait. There's Miles' bookshelves, the kid's toy horsey. I'm okay here, in my own house.
But on second thought now this isn'tmy house, not really! They don't want me here, and who can blame them? I sure wouldn't want any unexpected houseguests, not for this long. There is only so much room here and whether I am paying or not is not the point ........... Even just sitting here feels like I'm intruding. I might as well be in their back bedroom, my nose jammed in Katie's underwear drawer like a truffle pig.
I go out to my garage, my own dusty scumbag space. Better...
What the fuck am I doing with my life? This is NUTS! I've got to get my act together and get out of here. Find my own place!
But how long would I last at an apartment? I mean with this job? Just who am I kidding?! I would just be starting to accumulate records, art supplies and such when something---no doubt something I did---would rupture the hull of my little spaceship and it would all be blown out into the airless void with me.
It's all so obvious to me now ......... The truth about my self, my whole history and all my shitty brainstorms. Like how I quit the highest paid job I ever had because I decided I just had to go to the beach that day. Actually PROUD of my ability to be so reckless, unconcerned with anything so middling and prosaic as thoughts for next month...
Sea bottom nook ........ Igno-mobius fate ........... Sea cucumber...
I'm really glad none of my landlords are home right now.
I can't say this trip has taken me the farthest I've ever been off the "ground" of ordinary perception, not even close. And it feels like I have pretty much peaked and am on my way back down. Which makes what happens next all the more inexplicable:
I'm sitting on the couch and then suddenly I am standing up. I didn't stand up, did not make a decision and send out the neurochemical impulses that put muscles into motion, tilted forward and jacked myself into standing position. But I am standing nonetheless...
I jerk in alarm, my arms flying out- and they thump against the back of the couch with a THWAPthat raises a small cloud of dust! Because I am still sitting down. Had never actually risen...
Okay that was weird, an interesting perceptual hiccup, but whatever.
I slouch back on the couch, scoot my ass forward and stick my legs way out, all my weight on my tailbone, just to be on the safe side. Or at least I try to.
But instead my body has leaned forward and stood up, taking three big steps across the garage. I startle again and like a bad splice in a film am sitting on the couch!
The rule of thumb that protects against unwise actions on this stuff is to just sit there and watch. If the visions take some disquieting or terrifying turn---and they can---just let them play out like a movie without getting too personally involved. Critique them, psychoanalyse whatever macabre junk your brain has decided to throw your way, but recognize all of this for the substanceless projection it is. A bad acid trip does not have to lead to foolishness. You can pretty much tell what's an illusion by its shadowless cartoony airbrushed quality, by the obvious fact that it shouldn't be there, and also because a VISUAL hallucination is generally not accompanied by the kinesthetic sensation of actual motion. Generally...
But I am raised like a puppet a third time, lurching toward the door, and once more have to burst through the illusion by focusing intensely! This is unlike anything I have ever hallucinated before, and suddenly that rule of passive spectatorship no longer applies! I am not about to simply observe as my body goes about some alien business of its own! It's as if some malicious prankster had installed a remote control device in your car while you were in the store: "Surprise! You're going down THIS street now!"
The fourth time it happens it sends me stepping through the door set in the garage door and onto the driveway. I hadn't intended to let it get this far but it is getting harder to disperse these strange detours in reality!
And when I do burst through the illusion I let out a sharp little shriek! Because I am not seated on the couch but standing next to it! Contrary to my every intent and effort I had really moved!
This is not good at all I think, as once more I am pulled to standing from within and hauled outside through the door in the door, across the lawn to the sidewalk, headed east,
the way I always go...
Toward the bridge. The concrete railing. That accelerating headfirst plunge to the dry concrete riverbed. Which with a sickening rush of certainty I realize this is all about! 
Our neighbor lady smiles as I jog past. The wrinkles radiating out from the corners of her eyes, her knotty white legs, the shorts and tattered sandals she does her yardwork in all so real-
I hollar and jerk and am back inside the garage, but this time much farther from my couch. Almost to the door! I have to do something here...
There is a large shelf along the back of the garage supported by 4x4 posts. I grab onto one, and consider lashing myself to it like Odysseus, but these traitorous fingers would only untie me- just as now they let go of it, the waist pivots, the body heads for
the door in the door and out the door...
Legs running, the stucco houses drifting past, everything out here so photorealistically detailed. Oil spots on the driveway, each striped blade of grass, the neighbor's lawn ornament like a plastic daisy that she is squirting with the hose to make it spin...
Can't she see the fear on my face? Or is it rigidly composed, as autonomic as the rest of this?
"He seemed so calm Officer, like he was just out for a run. I had no idea ....... I feel awful that I didn't try to stop him!"
God, I don't want to die! An animal whimpering comes from the amplifier and big speaker over there. It's me. Going further each time, until I can see the mica flecks sparking in the bridge's low railing. If I go over it will be real, it will have happened!
Those snow chains up there would work if I had a bicycle lock---throw key across the room---but I don't, there's nothing. I hug the post in desperation, trying to keep myself here where I am, at least I hope I am here, a gobbet of exhausted flesh at the center of this maelstrom, going round and around in this endless cycle of- JESUS CHRIST! WE'RE GOIN' ROUND N' ROUND ON THIS DEAL!
And it's so absurd---the idea of quoting that bastard at a time like this---that I burst out laughing! This laughter is the first act of mine in ages that seems genuinely MINE, not part of the demonic projections. It feels really good!
My hands are here ........... Here on this post! I hug it with a peculiar affection. My goombah the post here! Deal Boyo Kapeesh?
And I am halfway across the garage again when my laughter---at what a disgusting sack of shit Vince is---snaps me back! I yell out, "WHERE'S DAT ROSITA?!"
There is something besides just the fear now. This contempt, an unexpected source of power. The power of hate ......... I imagine the sort of things he would say if I lost this struggle:
Stupid druggo thought he was a bird or somethin'- go figger! Yep, I knew dat wise-ass washout couldn't cut it! Wouldn't get wit da dang deal here! His life was just a footnote to th' funny pages. Allow me to give youse a illustration: Yap yap yap yap yap yap!
The shrug, the crocodile sighs, all that pious bafflement, the triumph that my apparent suicide would lend to his grotesque, blighted worldview.
Absolutely not! There's no way I am going to give that to him! I start screaming at the top of my lungs: "FUCK YOU, VINCE! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU!"
Screaming it even as I am trotted down the block, screaming, "UH HEY HAVE A CHEESE DOODLE!"
And when the lawn-watering lady gets exactly what I'm yelling about and gives me a big Vince-hating thumbs up over it I think: "Well that just can't be real!" and I am back on the couch.
Each trip down the block growing milder,
less solid,
more washed-out looking,
like just a simple acid trip,
and each ending quicker than the last, until...
For a while I am left with weird ghost sensations dragging vaguely at my limbs, like after you've been on a boat or carnival rides all day.
And that's the story of how Vince saved my life. The whole endless ordeal had taken twenty or thirty minutes.
The rest of the trip might have been Godzilla eating Las Vegas to the Anvil Chorus, everything choreographed- all those tiny leering Wayne Newtons jumping into large foam rubber hot dog buns for him like clockwork, with the same exact inanely-seductive  EAT ME BIG BOY wink ........ but it was so dull in comparison that I don't remember it.
I am unbelievably tired, stiff and scraped up and sweaty. My arm and hand muscles so trashed that when I heat some soup up for dinner I can barely grip my spoon.
This is a reconstruction of an extremely confusing experience, where time itself had been splintered into cubist shards, and may not be perfectly accurate...
But I clearly remember the terror and helplessness of rushing toward that precipice again and again; and my shock that after so many doses handled with such aplomb, an experienced psyche-naut like myself could be so unbalanced and overwhelmed by a simple little drug bummer.
But what a hilarious anecdote this will make...
So then Miles comes home and asks me, "So what did you do today, Roger?"
And I say, "Oh, nothing..."
-----------x/X\x--- THE CHICKEN BOMB ---x/X\x-----------
ANOTHER THREE WEEKS GO BY and I get another check.
Three weeks seems an odd interval to issue paychecks at---I can't imagine why other than out of plain perversity!---and the wait is a drag, but as Miles points out I would just blow it all that much quicker if they came more often. He helps me cash it at his bank, suggesting that I take a moment to open an account there. Next paycheck, I promise him.
This time the little over half I give to Katie is enough to do something with. And while her thin lips are drawn back in their habitual skepticism as she counts out the stack of bills, she does invite me in for dinner- a chicken and potato and white gravy stew she is making in their big dangerous-looking pressure cooker. A tantilizing aroma jets wetly from the pressure valve, permeating the house.
On my couch I start one of Miles' John le Carre novels. Ted cleans the garage, listening along to the compilation tape Skeezix made for me, checking out what this "new wave" crap is all about, and hindering my reading with his pronouncements on each band:
"Jesus that's fucking awful!"     
"Hmmm .......... Now these guys could actually be good if they ever decide to knock off this trying to see how stupid they can play."
The stew is excellent, the chicken falling off the bones with the slightest touch of my fork. Topical matters are discussed, jokes told, even Kimmie is pacific for once, her face a contented smeary mess. Staring at me with the otherworldly fascination she usually reserves for her Smurfs program.
Ted and Miles exchange faces of boyish disgust over the Carpenters and Maria Muldaur records Katie has on, flicking peas at each other like you could imagine them doing at ten years old...
I am filling the sink, scraping plates off over the trash can when Katie comes in. She clutches her chest, staggers, faking a heart attack.
"Well God Damn! Would you look at this? Roger is doing the dishes!" she yells to Miles and Ted, then she says, "I guess you really liked the stew."
"That was wonderful! Old family recipe?"
"Dolly Parton's Blue Ridge Mountain Home Cookin' Book," she grins, slightly embarrassed, and joins me in washing the dishes and the big greasy aluminum bomb.
And since the subject of her heritage has been breached, I ask her something I had been baffling over: How a level-headed southern gal like her could let herself be sucked into such an obvious bullshit scam as REALITY NOW.
"What makes them a scam? It's true they're a business as much as they are anything, but they're totally up front about this, and what they offer is worth the money. But like you, at first I didn't see how it could be...
"Ted kept bugging me to go, and offering to pay the $700 tuition for me. I finally let him do it as his engagement present. I figured it might be something that could bring us together more. Or if not, at least I would have a better idea of where he was coming from."
Their cat Thurgood barges in, complaining vociferously, wanting the chicken that he has been smelling all day.
She has some ready for him, sets it down in a dish. He digs in, his purring unbelievably loud.
 "So you did it for Ted?"
"Maybe, but that doesn't matter ............. I knew most of this stuff anyway. Look out for Number One, create your own fate, don't take shit from nobody. But what I didn't see was how this society brainwashes you. Keeps you guilty, keeps you down. I mean ........ I might have escaped it somehow, but it was mostly just luck that I always had The Will.
But what scares me is that when Kimberly Anne starts school they'll do their best to drag her under with all that hypocritical nice-nice junk..."
So in other words nobody had to tell her how to be a self-centered shit. I am intensely appalled by her all over again, and I hear the words exploding from my mouth with astonishing violence- "YEAH, LIKE THAT STUPID BIBLE!"
She frowns, huffs. Should have known better than to try to discuss this with an unformed dolt like me. But then---in a display of the unshakeable peace of mind that her liberation from common sheep-think has given her, she says patiently: "The Bible, right. I was raised by some of the most intense Christians you'd ever want to- well you probably wouldn't want to meet them! They knew that book frontward and back, always praying over every dumb little brain-fart of a sinful thought. And still they couldn't find a way to-
"I'm sure Jesus meant well, but the real world just doesn't work that way. If everyone was like him---whoever he was---that would be super. But denying the facts of human reality just fucks people up."
"Throwing up is a human reality but I wouldn't go basing a philosophy on it!"
"Okay, you're trying to be stupid there. Everyone has their own defenses for when they are brought near the truth, and that one's yours, apparently ........ But you could do worse for a starting point. At least that would be about something real, not some fantasy about a perfectly fair economic system or some imaginary Big Daddy in the Sky!"
A tone of rote recitation enters her voice as she ticks off: "The basis of everything that goes on in life is self-interest, self-continuation, self-replication. Whether you're a person, a family, a nation, an idea system. At the bottom, under all the pretty words and clever logic, it's all Darwin. One thing trying to push out whatever else is going for the same spot. To deny that makes us schizo, to where the left hand doesn't know what the right one is doing. Gives you stress and neurosis-es. Starts wars and shit..."
"Gee! Another pack of geniuses with a plan for ending all human conflict," I laugh, "You ever notice how these schemes always boil down to getting everybody else to think exactly like you do? But this has to be the dumbest one yet ........... How do you figure that teaching everyone to be even bigger selfish jerks is going to put an end to war?!"
"Well now, take wolves. They never fight to the death, when they fight, because they know they are wolves and know what they're capable of! But keep telling 'em they're supposed to be doves and they would get so screwed up they would!"
"Okay, sure. Konrad Lorenz wrote about that."
"Edmond Beale worked with Lorenz. And he worked with John Lilly. Then ten years at Eselan Institute until he quit them- after he sat out in the rain all night thinking then nailed his Five Irreducible Realities to their door. But I never said we were trying to end all war, you're the one who said that. This is about reality, remember? I only said that a person devoted to these principals will never start one. And for you to get all self-righteous about selfishness is just too funny ........ You're the most selfish person I ever met!
"Selfish? Oh yeah! I'm a regular Howard Hughes!"
"I said selfish, not greedy. Maybe you don't want a lot of money, or stuff, that's just way too much work. But you won't spend a second doing anything you don't want to, which seems to be just about anything. Beale's teachings are all about pulling your own weight in life, because dependancy will rob a person in so many ways..."
Meaning me of course. She is exercising her hallowed "total honesty" and is clearly enjoying this. And to me its not unlike the insults punkers hurl at each other, if a bit more earnest and heated- the antipathy far more rooted in our actual worldviews. So on a certain harsh level we are both digging this.
She smiles rogueishly. "Aw hell, these can soak until tomorrow .......... Come here Mr. Know It All, I've got something to show you!"
Miles and Ted are out in the living room, watching a M.A.S.H. rerun. She sets me down in the high back rocking chair and brings me their Book.
Seeing what she is doing Ted is alarmed. "That's not for Asleeps! People aren't supposed to read that until after the seminars!"
"That's what they told us," she shrugs. "But they also said that after the seminars you're supposed to start to think for yourself!"
He laughs. Touché.
I thumb through it. Miles, who is privately even more opposed to REALITY NOW than I am, is looking on like he is afraid that I am going to turn into a brainwashed zombie before his eyes---my expression glazing over and my arms rising straight out in front of me---just like he did during my dabblings with the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and Dervishes Unlimited. (And recently there was that unbelievable madness down in South America- hundreds of pathetic dupes guzzling cyanide-laced Kool Aid, which has really kicked this cult-paranoia into overdrive. The nightly Special Reports:
"BEWARE AMERICA!! These EVIL CULTS want to BRAINWASH YOU and TAKE YOUR MONEY!!! And now a word from our sponsor..."
I am touched by his concern, but if those beautifully exotic and God-centered groups could not reel me in this ugly Scrooge-racket sure as hell won't; Even though Beale's book is intelligent, well-reasoned (if you accept his fallacious starting points) and snidely hilarious. Even the index is intriguing, full of obscure poets and favorite films of mine...
I take it off into the empty kitchen to read it. Miles comes in a minute later and grabs two Coors from the fridge. Hands me one.
I hold up the book, "You don't really think I'm gonna fall for this, do you?"
"I guess not," he concedes. "I know you like to read about different religions and philosophies. You used to quote that ......... What was it? The Diamond Sutra?"
His bringing this up makes uncomfortable for some reason. "I don't call myself a Buddhist anymore."
"I've noticed. But I'll bet it's for some totally Buddhist reason."
"I don't think so. I sure haven't been applying it lately. I think it's just that I'm such a piss-poor representative of what they're about that it wouldn't be fair to them. Like Nixon calling himself a Quaker..."
He chuckles. "I remember that Buddhist Church you used to go to up in Gardena. That was so bizarre..."
"Bizarre? Other than the fact that it wasn't Christian it was the most normal church I ever went to!"
"That's what was so bizarre about it. You and them! You wore that tie, went up there every week with those middle-aged Japs and Koreans. I can't imagine what your parents used to think. 'Mom, Dad ......... This is my friend, Mr. Hitachi!' "
I laugh, then find myself sighing."I'm a fucking mess, Miles..."
"You'll get it back together. I think you're starting."
He has such faith in me. He might be straight, but the motherfucker loves me. If only...
And if wishes were horses a frog wouldn't bump his ass when pigs fly. The fact of the matter is he only likes women...
And in theory there's a solution to that, but for all purposes it's just another of my useless fantasies. With what I have to work with it ain't gonna happen. There's your Reality Now...
I sigh, "Oh fuck it!"
"I hate the way you say that," he say's wearily.
"I'm sorry. I'll try not to say it."
"Don't be sorry. It just scares me is all. Coming from you those are like the two most dangerous words in the English language..."
Katie barges in, her eyes aglow from something that had transpired between her and Ted, "Who's up for some Scrabble?"
We play Scrabble for a while, me and Katie kicking ass, then cook up some Jiffy Pop and sit down to watch a movie-of-the-week version of Brave New World. Ted surprises us by pulling out a metal Sucrets box with joints in it. 
We cloud the room up with pot fumes, laughing at this low-budget but brilliant production, which incredibly (for American television) gets Huxleys grim satire down perfectly.
Thurgood asleep on the old walnut console t.v. with his bushy tail hanging down in front. He starts twitching it grumpily back and forth across the screen when Katie claps her hands and yells, "Move your tail, cat! Hey! Move your fucking tail!""
"Look at that- he's moving his tail! What a smart kitty cat we got!"
"Ted, honey ..........  Cram it!"
Kimberly in her footsied flannel Woody Woodpecker pajamas, conked out in Uncle Miles' arms with one tiny slobber-soaked finger hooked in her mouth...
The faint metal plinking of Ted practicing on his unamplified Gibson...
Katie tossing me her pen and folded up Times for a crack at #7 down...
Quite the cozy domestic deal here, real gemutliche-like.Way better than some old crate next to a freeway onramp...
And of course twelve days from now I go and screw it all up.


In fact, it's very good

In fact, it's very good :)

Highly original and well built.
It's easy to see that it is grounded in your memories.
And you still use enough conventional presentation to make it easily read.

I'm impressed, I sense it was a story needed to be told, right?
Some stories just are, I've done one or two like that myself, but not this long.
And not this mind-catching :)

Good on you.

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