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European Vacation

1-17-04 First Trip to Europe


Flying was fine, didn’t freak out and had multiple seats to stretch out in, slept pretty well.  Couldn’t believe it when I was finally just in Barcelona.  Must find the fine line between freaking out and getting shit done.  I’ve got a month and multiple practice opportunities and friends to help.

Progress #1: for instance I hate long paragraphs but on page 41 of the first Samuel Beckett Molloy novel I’m only on the third paragraph and I’m loving it.

Even with all the bullshit difficulties at the train station Spain doesn’t seem very foreign at all.  I keep being surprised to hear Spanish being spoken.

I’m only here for a few hours but I get good beer, good coffee.  I feel weird, maybe jetlag.  Wandering aimless, somewhat fruitless, it’s good I have friends almost everywhere I’m going.  I don’t know where to really start and get a foothold.

After taking my second shit here in Spain a dwarf came in and wouldn’t stop staring at me while a possibly retarded man peered in the bathroom.

On the train to France I guess I was rude to the conductor.  He said I didn’t have a ticket to Cerbere.  I tried to explain that I bought a ticket in Barcelona and the guy hadn’t given it to me.  I had just woken up and maybe I was yelling.  Everyone was looking at me and I felt like a dick.

There was a cute girl staring at me the most.  I hoped that she was trying to flirt with me but more thought that she was trying to figure out how such a vile creature existed.  Maybe I’ll figure out how girls flirt here, none of the pretty Barcelona girls seemed to notice me and my glances, also, how not to be a glaring asshole.

Calmed down in France, safe on the train waiting to leave and drinking my wine and sleeping pills.  Outside it was raining and the wind was blowing it through the train station lights.  I am the king.


Read, drank wine, wrote and slept good on the train.  Dede wasn’t at the Paris train station but I didn’t freak out.  It’s working already.  Wandered around the station looking around.  I had to go to three stores to get a phone card, had to go to three phones to have it work.  Busker for a hostel said I should be pissed off.  “Yesterday was my pissed off day” I said.

Dede showed up pretty quick and we hugged beautiful.  Metro back to her place.  She made me breakfast and then to bed.  After a few hours we walk around.  She explains that Paris is kind of lame: sexist, expensive and terrible music.  We walk past Notre Dame, through a garden and along the canals.  We go to a squat with 200 artists but freak out and leave.  Everything’s closed on Sunday pretty much but we find a nice restaurant and eat.  I’m still in kind of a daze.

Back to her house, we make plans and watch the DVD of our baseball league’s world series, bed at 10:30.  Been having crazy, vivid dreams crashing down on me at too quick a rate to remember.  A few details: six of my teeth fall out, see Emerson from Oklahoma running around strange city following animals and making out with girls.

Next day walked around the city alone for hours.  Vague beauty, but nothing really caught my eye save signs for stores that matched the names of my friends.  What had I found before in strange locales?  What was I looking for?

Met up with Dede at her school.  We walked to the Arc de Triumphe but you had to pay to get in so we said fuck it.  Went to eat Indian food in the Passages.  We went to go meet her friend Claire at a good bar in Dede’s neighborhood.  Claire was British and really nice.  We drank wine and talked.  Dede’s great but it was nice to talk to someone else in Europe.

Claire went home and Dede was tired too but I stayed out to write, drink and explore.  I went to a bar called Nun’s Café.  I ordered wine and right away a guy started talking to me, Felip, a little drunk but nice.  I was alone in a strange country and Dede hadn’t exactly painted the best picture fo France.  I was getting ready to write “Paris is called the city of love because it’s so boring you could fall in love with a goat.”  So, I was freaked out the whole time with Felip but he was a really good guy.

We talked about people and bars and politics and books and stuff.  A standard bar conversation.  He was spitting on me but buying me drinks.

A guy came up to me aggressively un-American but I defused him with confidence.  “Fuck me for George Bush.  Fuck you” I said.  “George Bush is just an abstraction to you but he’s fucking with my life and my country every day.  So fuck you.”  It felt good but Felip apologized to him on my behalf.

Over talking to people this whole trip I gathered that the giant protests against the Iraq invasion were not covered over here.  Europe thought of America as a bunch of monolithic dipshits cheering behind their leader George W. Bush.  I tried to change their mind but no one believed me.  I started answering “San Francisco” when people asked where I was from.  This cut me some slack they wouldn’t give to other Americans.

The bar closed but Felip said he could get us some more drinks.  He got us into a private party at another club.  I paid for the drinks and he paid for the coat check.  I couldn’t find him after I peed and I figured I’d been ripped off.  I sat and finished my drink watching the hot girls and stupid dancing.

But then Felip was there and he told people that I was Peaches’ manager and the drinks were free for the rest of the night.  The music got better too.  I taught Felip how to hug American style.  He was a quasi-road manager for the fifth biggest booking agency in France.  We talked and danced.  He talked about the Gus Van Sant movie Elephant and told me how it affected him because he had been fat as a kid.  He told me of playing in jails with his punk band and his stories of love.  He kept spitting but I still liked him a lot.

The last song of the night was “Hello” by Lionel Richie.  This song has meant a lot to me for twenty years from when my sister ran out of the room crying when we were watching the video in the sixth grade to the year before while singing it at karaoke while watching a crazy queen destroy a bar with a hatchet.  I thought it would be great to dance to it in Paris.  I asked the three girls left if they would dance with me.  I asked with innocence but they all turned me down.  It would have been great.

Felip and I hugged goodbye.  He said I was the first person to make him want to go to America.  What a great night, total Ed style.  I went and told Dede all about it.

We went to the EiffelTower the next day.  In the elevator an American hippy commented on my “Drive-Thru Tree” hat.  He’d driven through the tree on the way back from a Rainbow Gathering.  He said the next Rainbow Gathering was going to be in the redwoods around there and how did I feel about having a bunch of hippies in my backyard.  He thought I was a ranger there.  He showed me the certified Italian jacket he’d bought for 35 euros the he’d have his grandfather sell for $100.  I gave him a fake e-mail address.

You couldn’t see much from the top of the tower as it was foggy.  Dede and I kissed as I had heard you were supposed to do.

We went to a famous church.  I got clucked at for wearing my hat.

We went back and took a nap, then out for salads and drinks.  We drank and talked and laughed at several bars.  It was really great, Dede.  We came back and had some of the best sex I’ve ever had, smooth and natural and sweet.

The next morning I was washing dishes when Dede comes back crying.  She got a notice saying that her power will be cut off in 48 hours because her landlord hadn’t paid her bill.  She’s freaking out.  As much as I used to freak out, I have a hard time dealing with it when other people do.  I hold her and let her vent and from time to time remind her that it isn’t the holocaust.

So, instead of going to Versailles as planned, we spent the day going to three different electric offices.  She finally found out her landlord had paid it that day at the office right around the corner from her house.  We went to go relax at a café and it worked.

We went to the Pompadou area and had giant crepes then walked around the Seine to eat some famous ice cream.  We kissed on an island and held each other standing until we almost fell asleep.  The art at the museum was pretty good but we were both really tired.  I almost fell asleep watching a film.

We ate noodles then met Claire at a bar.  After it closed we took a cab to Pulp, a lesbian bar.  Right when we came in Flaming Pussy started to play.  Surprisingly, they were all men playing early 90s hardcore clichés.  They made us really happy for a while then they got old.

Dede and I were feeling great-kissing, talking, joking.  We started talking about French men again and then it developed into where she told me her whole romantic history in detail.  It was relentless.  It was a real party killer.  I wanted her to stop halfway through, when my empathy for the day ran out, but I couldn’t get a word in.

In the morning I was pissed off and went off on her asking her to please be more considerate.  She apologized but things were uncomfortable.  I felt like a dick.  When I was ready to go to Belgium she stripped me naked and we made out but it was still weird.

Rode the train to Antwerp.  My knowledgeable friend Nick had told me that,  Antwerp specifically and, Belgium in general was the best place in Europe and that he would hook me up with his connections there.  When I went to the Internet to check no dice so on to the hostel.

Things would have been perfect if the hostel was there.  I was proud of myself for finding the address but the hostel no longer existed.  I went to the next door restaurant/art gallery/furniture store and the guy told me that the hostel had been closed for years.  He printed me out a map to another one and said it would be a short walk.  He was so nice, I was excited about Antwerp.

He pointed me in a direction but the map he gave me was mostly a series of blank spots and highways with no streets corresponding to where I was.  I went into a bar and asked again, the lady gave me detailed directions and said it was a ten minute walk.

I walked along the highway in the cold rain for thirty minutes.  I walked through housing developments for twenty minutes more to find that the hostel wasn’t where the map said it was.  I screamed but a nice lady with dogs told me where it was, right across the canal on an island.  It was kind of nice with a fat cat but I had no idea why they put a hostel there.

After checking in I went into town and got off early wanting to walk around.  I got to a big street where there was construction and you couldn’t cross for forever.  When you could finally cross there was a cop guiding traffic.  I reasonably crossed but the cop yelled at me, called me a little boy and guided me back to the other side.  He said something about a stupid American to the assembled crowd.  He let us cross while the light was still red and I pointed this out to him.  This pissed me off way too much as these things do.

I wandered the town having been promised cool shit but couldn’t find anything but bars with nothing but old people huddled to themselves at tables.  I got some writing done.  Back at the hostel there were a few locals at the hostel bar.  After a few beers I went to the room hoping to sleep dead but there were two roommates, both up, a black hippy and a joyless Japanese guy.  One smelled of terrible b.o. and had draped his shirts on the radiators to let everyone know.

Read a little, slept like shit, again a torrent of dreams.  An apocalypse, dating an older, beautiful actress (Jeanne Tripplehorn?) who whispered to me “It’s okay, I’m as old as you”.  In another dream Dede was a dream girl who I couldn’t impress.  I was glad to wake up and remember that we were together, even though we really weren’t.  I was still unsure why she chose me when she was considered unattainable by all the boys for so long  But we have great times together talking serious and funny, what more do you want?  Still, I don’t think I could ever fall in love with her.  That made me sad so maybe that explains the dream.

Tossed and turned with this before the dawn even broke worrying about missing check out and having to spend another day in this town.  Got served breakfast by a man erupting in Flemish Tourette’s.  Took the train to Bruges and at the Internet café found out that my Aunt Deb had died.  I wish I had known her better.  The last time I saw her was beautiful.  She was already condemned but surrounded by her family’s smooth, natural appreciation for perhaps the first time in her life.

Bruges was lame, probably my fault.  Once again I was starving and indecisive.  Lonely Planet’s raved restaurant was not there.  I wandered around the beautiful, quiet town ate a pizza baguette and saw a nice church where there were monks chanting but I couldn’t tell if they were live or not.

On to Ghent, friends and the guidebook had given me the impression that it was smaller than Bruges but it was ten times the size.  I took the tram to the center square and went to the hostel sitting by the central castle.

I walked around happy, determined to have a good time.  I shopped and wandered.  I succumbed to the thounsandth Italian restaurant and ate good lasagna.  I tried to call Andreas but the phone card didn’t work.

I started bar hopping.  I went to at least ten.  Nothing much happened until I got to the campus area and went to the karaoke bar.  There were young girls with good voices.  I put in for “Hello”.  An Asian lady sang “Woman in Love” great.  She was fun to watch and I was the only one who clapped.  Everyone was having fun.

I sang terribly but put in for another.  I can never find a song that stays in my range.  I went and asked the Asian lady to take my picture as I sang.  I talked to her and her friend.  I sang “Take It On the Run”.  The song came on right as I got to the mic and I started off too high but ended just right.

The next bar, Pinuts, was good with nice murals and people dancing on tables.  I should have stayed there longer as the next bar I went to a group of girls laughed at the sight of me.

A block from the hostel I turned to look at the castle before sleep and all the sudden I was on the ground.  I must have fallen off the curb.  My foot felt weird but I made it to the bed.

I woke up and knew right away I had to go to the hospital.  I hobbled down the stairs and had the girl at the desk call me a taxi.

The hospital was quick and kind of the best part of the day.  I was pretty sure it was no big deal, a bruised bone like I’d gotten before.  The doctor looked at my foot and gave me an x-ray.  Everyone in Belgium I’d met spoke perfect English except the doctor who accentedly struggled out “Your foot is . . . busted”.  I took this to mean fractured.  He said I would be better in 3-4 days of rest.  He gave me shit about George Bush while he wrapped my foot then he was surprised that I wouldn’t really walk on it.  Then he shrugged.  I was the only one in the Emergency Room and all the staff lined up to wave goodbye to me as I hopped out the automatic door.  I kept thinking they would say something else (like “here’s some crutches”) but they didn’t.

I got a cab back to the hostel, the pharmacy and the train station.  I got a ticket and hobbled to the platform.  I could kind of walk on the back of my bad foot.  People kept staring at me but no one offered to help.

On the train a kid told me that I was at the wrong station but found out I was at the right one as we were leaving.  I was pissed off but the train across the platform was going the right way right away, and with more hobbling I was able to make the transfer.

The train was the train-reading, sleeping, thinking about being able to really walk again in 3-4 days.

In Munich I still couldn’t get a hold of Andreas.  Went and emailed Andreas’ friend Curt who was my roommate and friend and got some phone numbers.  Called a guy Patrick who didn’t want to deal with me at all.  Went to a hostel, checked in and had a few beers there before I went to bed.

Went to a hostel and had a few beers before I went to bed.  In the morning had breakfast and still no word of Andreas.  An American girl at the hostel see my hobbling and says “Dude, you need some crutches.”  She’s right.  I get in a taxi to a hospital.

It turns out it’s the hospital where Curt, a doctor,  did his residency.  I slept on a bed there for hours waiting for a doctor.  She finally came and sent me off for more x-rays.  She made me walk.  The x-ray guy was a dick.

Afterwards I finally got a hold of Andreas.  He said he and our friend Eva would be there in 30-45 minutes.

The doctor came in and said the fracture was worse, that the doctors in Belgium were wrong about not giving me crutches and being better in a matter of days.  She showed me the before and after x-rays and you could see how the fracture had widened.  I could either get a cast or go right in for surgery.  I chose the cast and to come back in a week to see if I needed surgery or not.

After I was all wrapped up I called Andreas again and he had thought I had said “hostel” instead of “hospital”.  He would be right over.  It was good to see Andreas and Eva when they arrived thirty minutes later.  We called a cab and went to Andreas’.  I got my first taste of climbing his four flights of stairs on my euro-style crutches with the handles jutting out instead of the armpit support.

P. Nicky had dumped Eva the night before.  I sat and tried not to freak out about my own problem throbbing at the end of my leg.  I talked to Curt on the phone and he told me to “drink a lot of Jager, it fuses the bone.”

The next day I went on my own to get my prescriptions.  It was really hard.  Everyone stared at me, maybe it was the giant orange jacket and crazy sweating.  Andreas’ friend Andy came over and we watched the baseball DVD.

The next day I went to the Turkish restaurant across the street but it was too icy to walk much further.  I ate shit on the ice three or four times anyway.  Got great emails from friends missing me and sending love.

The next day I cooked garlic pasta and took a little walk but it was still too icy.  That night was my first night out.  Andreas and I had some beers, did some coke and set off.  It was a lot better to walk with someone else.  It kept me going and Andreas was very kind.  We walked to the Metro, two different trains and then to the bar.

I was a little too coked up and it took me two beers to relax.  We met Andy and his Portuguese co-worker, P-Nikki even came.  That night was the season finale of the German version of “The Bachelor” and everyone was talking about it.  Music was good at the start but quickly turned euro.

We took off for another bar.  P-Nikki threw snowballs at me as I was walking on crutches on the ice, fucking great guy.

This bar was like a cozy living room.  Andreas and I really bonded then, drunk, we got into the cab.  Andreas and Andy were stumbling but carried me up the stairs.  It was scary and fun.

Next day my mood matched the heavy snow.  Didn’t go out but practiced crutches around the house and twice up and down the stairs, all while listening to Dolly Parton read her autobiography on my Walkman.  People asked why I was taking that on my trip but man did it pay off.  Can’t think of anything else that would have been so sweet and inspirational.

Shayna’s brother Evan showed up after getting kicked off his free Jew trip to Israel for getting a terrible tattoo in Tel Aviv.  It was a box on his arm that said “Place tattoo here” next to it.  Evan and I went to the DeutschMuseum.  It was described in the guidebook as a cross between Disneyworld and the Smithsonian, but it was pretty crappy.  Half the exhibits where you push a button and it does something didn’t work.  They had a wheelchair for me though, that was a nice change.

This trip was farther than I’d ever gone on my bum foot.  I was pretty crapped out at the end, especially my right calf.  Evan brought me Turkish sandwiches and beer.  We were already a little drunk when Andreas got home from work.

They got me more beer and took off.  I was too wrecked from the day’s efforts to go.  I hadn’t even walked a mile.  I drank the beer and wrote e-mails, read Travels With Charley and watched some TV.  I was cozy in bed at 10:30.

I heard Andreas and Evan come in at 4:30.  They had gone to a dozen bars.  Evan threw up and Andreas almost got in a fight.  I was glad they had had a good time.

P-Nikki came at one the next afternoon to take Evan and I to the Bavarian castles.  We decided that the one on the island in the lake would be best for cripple me.  We set of in P. Nikki’s mommy’s BMW.  Evan was still drunk.  The countryside was beautiful.  We smoked a joint.  P. Nikki was going so fast that the car was shaking.  He only had one tape and it was Vanilla Ice.  Evan and I kept giving each other looks of fear until finally I told him to slow the fuck down in the snow.

Got to the ferry station too late for the castle but time enough for a boat ride.  We drank beers on the top deck and smiled as we rode around for an hour.  This is the place where King Ludwig’s castle is where you can supposedly ride swan boats in the pond in the basement that was built to stage Wagner operas.  Now I’ll never know.

We asked P. Nikki to drive us around the small towns because we wanted to eat a place that reminded us of the Prancing Pony from Lord of the Rings.  It took us a while to find one.  P. Nikki made a big show of ordering all these sausages and puddings  for us.  Mine was good but Evan got blood and liver sausages and went outside to throw up in the snow.

Rode home quiet and stoned.  Andreas wasn’t home but P. Nikki knew where he hid the keys.  TV, beer and more pot.  P. Nikki asked for the remote and when I wouldn’t give it to him he left.   I stayed up reading and writing, waiting for Andreas till 3:30 like a shut in.

Next day I finally cut off my pants and washed them.  That night we watched TV waiting for the Super Bowl.  It never came on but the kickboxing was good.  Also they showed the Lingerie Bowl-girls in lingerie playing shortened football to 100 dipshits at the L.A. Coliseum.

Evan and I went to the hospital the next morning to see if I needed surgery or not.  I had to pay before my appointment.  Andreas had kept saying it was going to be really expensive but wouldn’t get specific so I was thinking that it would be tens of thousands of dollars.  It turned out to be only a hundred euro but the cashier lady and I were still yelling at each other.  I was stressed out worrying about my x-ray results.

Got my x-rays and waited for the results.  I slept while Evan ran out of book to read.  The end was a doctor coming in and merely saying I was okay.  It was anti-climactic but I was still psyched.  I hadn’t been able to bring myself to picture what the surgery and recovery would have been like.

Found Evan and we walked out of the hospital with the wheelchair.  He really wanted to and I indulged his 21 years of age and my own dreams of leisure.  Later Andreas said he would sell the wheelchair for 200 Euros and split the money with us.

It was our last night.  With the wheelchair we went out.  Before we left we smoked too much pot and listened to the Prima Donnas.  First to a “punk” club, it was downstairs and terrible-the music and the vibe.  It seems like Germans’ aesthetic doesn’t mature after they turn eighteen and it’s not a good eighteen.  This includes listening to Korn and Ugly Kid Joe.

We went to a bunch of other bars and between each one Evan and Andreas took turns pushing me in the wheelchair way too fast.  I spilled twice, once by each of them slamming me into a curb.

At the bars American expatriates kept coming up to us and talking.  They were all jerks even though some of them bought me shots.  It seems like being an American expatriate has gone from being an elite ideal to a pathetic reality.  “I can’t make it in America, so I’ll go where people will be impressed by my outgoingness but will only understand half of what I’m saying and not be able to figure out that I’m really a rich dumbass.”

A German started playing an accordion and a customer played along with trumpet.  It was wonderful but the douche American of the moment kept talking to me saying “Isn’t this great?  I found this place by myself.  It’s like it was fifty-sixty years ago.”

“Yeah” I said, “This song is called ‘Grab the Jew by the Hair’.”

Next day was Evan and I’s last day.  I felt eager to get out of Andreas’ hair but he seemed to not want to part.  We went to a sports bar by the train station and ate good food and they played “Son of My Father”.  It was nice, these last moments.  Hugs and goodbyes.  They were great but I longed to feel that I was only my own burden, at least for two days.


Train ride was nice with just me and a nice Irishman reading The Seat of the Soul in my bunkroom.  The next morning in Paris I had to ask around to figure out that I have to take the Metro to another station for my Bordeaux train.  I walked down stairs and long hallways.  On the Metro everyone’s staring at me but no one would give me a seat until I yelled “Give me a fucking seat or I’m going to fall on you”.

Got to Bordeaux and felt pretty good.  I actually made it.  I went to my hotel and walked up the three flights of stairs.  Checked my email and talked to Dede on the phone.  She didn’t seem too excited and it kind of bummed me out.

I took a bus around town.  I was here because Shayna lived here for a year.  It’s a nice town, kind of reminded me of Guanajuato.  Ate and got supplies for the night.

I heard “Angie” in a brasserie in Bourdeaux.  Sweaty, sore, freaked out and broken footed but one thing that made me happy was the fact that this toxic friend’s no longer in my life.  I finally did it.  They also played “Don’t Make Me Over”.

The dogs of Europe are very well disciplined, because of this they can go anywhere.  They don’t beg, they almost don’t seem like dogs at all.

Settled into my room for a great night of writing, reading, wine and cigarettes.  Woke up bummed with first real European hangover, fucking 2 Euro wine.  Took forever to get motivated, dreading putting on Mike’s fucking puffy ass orange jacket.  Went out and checked e-mails.  Well wishes from home made me strong.

Heading toward the train station I was happy to notice that people smiled in Bordeaux and helped me with doors.  It was good to see a nice side of France after the uniform snotty-gloom of Paris.  Maybe it’s stupid to say but part of me being happy is everyone else being happy.  That’s what I was yelling at New Year’s in Oklahoma so many years ago.  There’s nothing wrong with everyone having a great year.  It seems like kindness can win.  Why not?

It started in Antwerp when Nick didn’t send me his friend’s information.  The feeling that there’s a great thing out there but I don’t have the knowledge or instinct, or capability now with my broken foot, to find it.  In America I’ve almost always found the good time.  Now I can only hope that great times are blaring and within three blocks.

Got on the train and eventually woke up in Barcelona.  Spanish people seem much nicer than German and French people.  Not as many stares and people like to help.  I ate shit and fell backwards on the metro and everyone in the car rushed to help prop me up.  I love you Spain!  Got a hotel and washed up as I could, excited to see Dede.

She came, we kissed.  We went out for dinner at a nice vegetarian place I had found for her.  Spanish food is bland and the portions are too small.  We went to a good bar with hip-hop playing.  After a drink we went back to mess around and rest up.

The hotel wasn’t that good but Dede found us a better one.  Walking to it my hands started to hurt from the crutches.  This just got worse and worse until eventually I couldn’t move my fingers very well and I had to rest my hands more than anything else.  Dede kept getting annoyed at this as we tried to go bar hopping the next couple of nights.

We switched hotels again.  This hotel had a tiny bathtub and Dede was very excited to give me a bath in it.  I reluctantly submit to her dirty mothering.
By then I had realized the pattern-Dede is all crazy about me in the hotel, she even told me she loved me, but seems annoyed with me everywhere else.  Finally, after a dinner we’re talking nice but then her pout sets in.  She doesn’t know what she wants to do with this night, with nights in general.  I’m having a good time and want to stay out.  We establish that we’ll split up-she’ll sleep and I’ll go out and explore, at least read and write.  We establish that were not angry at each other but we were.

We were coming from different perspectives.  This was Dede’s fifth or so time in Europe whereas this trip made me the first person in my family to go here.  I would most possibly never be able to go again while I’m sure she was certain she would do this every five years for the rest of her life.  Also, my style was coming from the relative safety of my gender and stature.  This enabled me to do what I loved-explore alone.  Dede offered no alternative save sleep.  She was 22.

Went to some bars by myself and hung out with Spanish old men.  On my way home my hands started to hurt and I dove into a, hated by me, English Pub to rest.  The limeys there wouldn’t leave me alone.  They talk about how they had the meal of their lives at the Hard Rock Café.  They’d been to America but only Orlando.

They left and, when we were alone, the cute bartender flirted with me, real chemistry.  I wanted to jump up and kiss her.  She was from Vancouver but had never been to America.  When I left she told me she was working the next night and that I should stop by.

Had a good talk with Dede when I got back but can’t really remember what was said.  It was nice being open and honest and late-night eloquent.  At least that’s how I remember it.

The next day Dede and I went our separate ways.  I went to some museums, drank coffee and watched skateboarders and dogs.  One of the exhibits was on African photography and they had a timed slideshow playing a summary of the show plus others.  I found this really powerful, having a limited time to take in the pictures.  I shuddered at some of the slides as they appeared.

Had dinner with Dede and then we tried a bar again, this time with better music-Rolling Stones and T. Rex.  I was just getting excited when Dede got tired.  Funhouse came on and I told her I was staying but I limped her to a cab.

Alone, I briefly thought of going to see the Canadian girl but just write.  This is probably the closest I’ve gotten to cheating in my life and Dede wasn’t even techinically my girlfriend.  Then I met some nice guys, Finnish and Belgian.  They bought me drinks and got me high.  They really liked me.  As I was getting a cab they asked if I was coming back the next night.  I said maybe and they said “Okay, what time?”

Next day Dede and I went to the ContemporaryArt Museum.  Only one floor of the museum was open but they had a wheelchair for me.  Dede really wanted to push me but I wouldn’t let her, I wanted to guide myself.  Samuel Beckett’s Film was my favorite.  I realized after reading three of his books in a month I still wanted more from him.

Outside were skateboarders.  One of them fell and had a big seizure.  I hobbled over and told the security guard.  We split ways again and I headed to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia but they didn’t let people with crutches in.  I sat in the park across the street and leered at it as I ate ice cream and smoked cigarettes.

That night after a great meal we found ourselves at a Moroccan bar.  It started mellow and we were having good conversation.  Then the DJs started and they were playing great Moroccan music and the place filled up with people dancing.  I too was chair dancing and head-bobbing as hard as I could.  I thought this was something that Dede and I could agree on and I could show her the value of going out and exploring.  We had met at great shows like this.  But, no, she was tired and wanted to go home.  I told her this was the best and I was staying.  She made me walk her through the super crowded dance floor and I ruined everyone’s moves.  Halfway through the floor the Finnish and Belgian guys from the night before saw me.  “Ed, isn’t this awesome?”

“Yeah, I’ll be back in a second.”

Outside Dede pouted while I tried to quickly get her a cab.  Back inside my seat was taken and I wasn’t about to go through the dancefloor again for nothing.  I found a seat at the bar where you couldn’t hear the music as well and stewed.  Five minutes before I had been having such a great time and was exactly where I wanted to be.  My new friends stopped by and we had drinks and I felt a little better.

The next day I went by myself to the aquarium.  They had a wheelchair for me and I only got jammed up a couple of times on the mechanized track through the fish tube.  Afterwards, I sat on the shore and smoked while I jealously watched children swim in the February Mediterranean.

Next day was my last and we just wandered around the Ramblas.  At one point we were both checking our email and she saw that I was writing an email to Curt with the subject heading “Babysitting in Barcelona”.  She asked what that was about and I made up some lie about how it was about these kids I had seen at the aquarium the day before.  I don’t think she exactly believed me but we were kind of at a lifestyle stalemate that would only last another day, this time.

The next morning as I was packing up San Francisco’s beginning practice of gay marriage came on on CNN.  Dede and I had our awkward goodbye, there wasn’t much to say, and I eagerly hobbled away for my long trip back to San Francisco where history was happening.


I returned to Texas after a few years and met back with many dogs, old friends I had forgotten.  Without thinking, I traced my old paths, it turns out dog to dog.  I remembered my names for them, how they liked to be petted.

Old Dogs

ed #2

May 1997 Austin, Texas


“8 Rooms, 8 Stories”

Sara had received the invitation to the party: “8 Rooms, 8 Stories”.  We proceeded with caution, there were hippies involved.

We, Sara and I, were best friends, hours every day friends.

The party was at a giant house south of the river.  On the front lawn a girl wearing wooden ribboned wings writhed and cawed strongly into the night sky.

We entered the house.  The first room has a band playing: two pianos, upright bass, xylophone, crashing cymbals.  We give it ten minutes.  Throughout his month, no matter what, I keep rushing from room to room, story to story.

Next room the door reads “WHAT HAPPENS WHEN POLICE LIE”.  The walls are covered with ripped magazine pages, candles burn plastic crates and make the smoke, a naked lightbulb.  A sweaty guy throws a superball over our heads at the wall behind us and it bounces around to land on the floor with many other superballs.

The kitchen is the next room.  It’s a stinky mess.  There’s a guy dressed as a granny.  He makes people do things: flip eggs, throw medicine in the hole, make toast, plunger sink.  He’s screaming orders at everyone and drinking milk from a fraying carton.  He makes people hold tiny fish.  Throughout the night he’ll come running around the house with a plate of soiled, fried eggs screaming “Princess, princess.  Have you seen the princess?”

In the attic there’s a puppet show.  A spinning roof vent is on the floor illuminated and actually spinning animation with photos of reptile motion.  The guy tells a long story ending with a puppet slamming his head in to the dust saying “the boy, the raven and the beast.  What the fuck is that?” over and over.  A spinning collection of spikes makes a riff on a windchime.  The man reveals a mechanical Charlie Brown, Woodstock and  Snoopy marionettes with masks on dancing slowly: the boy, the raven and the beast.  The plays the clarinet as the marionettes slowly twitch.

Sara and I go to the gazebo that’s on the roof.  Hidden under alce the princess holds a light and strums a harpsichord.  She extremely slowly tells a story of a girl who grew one giant wing during puberty.  The puppeteer comes out and breathes through a clarinet as slow as the princess’ words.

Sara and I climb higher as there is an attic to this gazebo on the roof.  We sit looking at the city and the sky as the  princess repeats her story for another group.  “If we were different people this would be a great time to kiss” Sara says.

“Yeah, if we were different people.”  We laugh and go back inside.

I go by myself to the first floor, to the music room.  I sit in between the two pianos listening.  A girl and a guy are playing.  The music was great, the communication.  A beautiful girl with bangs and giant eyes sits across from me.  She’s wearing real nylons with the stripe down the back.  We smile at each other for what seems like forever as the two pianos play.

After ten minutes or so everybody in the house gathers in the foyer and sings the closing party song called “Mystery of the Night”.

As we leave the girl says goodbye and rubs my arm.  There were only about thirty-five people there.  It all ended by midnight.  I thanked Sara as she dropped me off.

A girl broke up with me in March.  Then I started having sex with Bridgette.  It was a plan.  It was a plan that worked out well.  We had scheduled nights.  We had nights where she would break into my house, climb up to my room and wake me up tilld awn.  She was thirty and divorced.

It was this time that I finished library school  It was this time that my room caved in.

I lived in a huge old attic.  The frame was exposed like a skeleton.  Mornings I would wake up and look around and imagine I lived inside a whale.  The rafters were ribs, windows eyes, there was even an opening above my bed that worked as a blowhole.  Me sleeping all night in the belly of a whale.  Where would he take me?  Where have I woken up? I would wonder and then one of my cats would come in the window trailing the smell of the outside morning up my bed and rub it from their face to mine.

The pounding started at seven in the morning.  I woke to five men on my roof ripping off the shingles which, with the exception of some plywood, were essentially my walls.  Giant holes of sunlight appeared.  Dust and woodchips rained down on me and everything I owned.  There had been no notice.

I threw on some pants and went outside to start yelling.  The men stopped.  They didn’t think that anyone would live in such a place.  They paused, hammers poised as they laid slipshod tarps over my room.

“That pretty much covers everything”, the man in charge said.

“But where am I supposed to live?”

“Well, it’ll only be three days.  We saw a couch downstairs, you can sleep on that.”

I called the landlord.  I had dreams of hotel rooms and reduced rent.  He was belligerent right away.  Within five minutes he had called me a baby and hung up on me.

The landlord didn’t own the house, the big Baptist church across the street, probably the biggest church in town, did.  I went to them the next day.  I had it all worked out.  This was my last week of graduate school, this is what I’ve been working my whole life for.  I need a place to live, I’m being deprived, I have asthma and allergies.

I laid it all out to the head of financial services for the church.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  I knew I had him.  In his big new Lincoln he drove me a block to my house.  Still in the car he grabbed my hand and said “Let’s pray”.  He asked the lord to help me with my studies, to help with my allergies and asthma, to help me not to judge others.  He told me he’d talk with the landlord and definitely see about getting me some money back on my rent.

Three weeks later the roof was still not done.

Most of the time I slept on the couch but often Sara would let me sleep over.  We met when mutual friends from Kansas came to visit.  She came over every day after and with a regimen of Mexican valium, music, swimming and walks our dialogues started to match and we made each other happy.  Too happy to try to jinx it with sex.  We were both pretty isolated.

We sleep in underwear in the same bed.  We go to sleep talking about how we have often masturbated to each other’s image.  We wake up talking about how each of us woke up during the night and wanted to jump the other but decided against it.  Nothing ever happened.  Maybe we’re pussies or maybe it was for the best.  To this day she’s one of my closest friends.

A day after my room was done the church guy comes knocking on my door.  In between his knuckles he holds a crisp bill folded lengthwise.  It juts out like a skinny, green finger.  I grab it and check it out.  Fifty dollars, less than a quearter of my monthly rent.  “Is that all you could do?” I ask.


“It was supposed to be three days, it was three weeks.  My asthma, my scholling . . .”

“Did you make it through school all right?”


“See, everything worked out fine.”

“No, I still had to sleep on the couch for three weeks.  I had no privacy, nowhere to go.”

“Life, God, presents us with many challenges.”  He went on.  I could by his smile, the glint in his shiny Lincoln parked in front of my house, in the giant church buildings across the street that there was no budging this man.  I slammed the door.  At least I didn’t have to go through another bullshit prayer.

The next day from the dust of my room I awoke.  I dressed my clothes of silt upon my dirty body.  I walked a half-mile to the Tamale House.  The air was cool for the time of the year.  I was thankful but I wanted to swim,.  I just couldn’t seem to bathe anymore.  Apartment complex pools had become my salvation.  So much relied upon them.

At the restaurant I ordered migas and sat at one of the three tables outside.  My number was 69 and I tried to cheer myself up with this.

Still waiting, a man came up and asked if he could sit with me.

“sure.”  I scanned him, I read AIDS.  Bones, skin like a fragile shroud.  Quarter size lesions up and down his arms.  He was weakness and he had experience.  Because one has experience doesn’t mean one learns anything.

He started without prompt.  Often mumbling he told of his robberies, his wars, his diamond smuggling, his beautiful wife empty of love.  I listened closely.  I decided it didn’t matter if I believed these people or not.

“So, what’s the worst thing that’s happened in your life?” the man asked.

I thought of asthma years, Oklahoma isolation, me at the wheel as a van full of retards flipped over.  “I’ve been living in a shithole.  My landlord fucked  up my room.  He called me a baby, he called me a liar.  He’s just an asshole.”

“You sure?”

“Well, there’s a lot of other things but this just happened so it comes to mind.”

“Before the robbery, before the army, I worked on a construction crew.  My foreman had it out for me.  Everybody could take a break but me.  I couldn’t smoke, I couldn’t eat.  Two weeks in I tell my Dad about it.  He says punch him.  I say ‘Dad this is an older man, this is my boss.’

“’Punch him’ Dad says.

“Next day I went to the foreman’s car and poked around underneath until I saw a drip.  Everybody’s leaving, I strike a match and keep walking.  I hear an explosion.  Next morning I found out he was still alive.  But I never worked for him again’

“If you’re going to do something just do it.  Don’t tell anybody about it.  Meet somebody, like me, at a place, like this.  Get two hundred dollar bills.”  He picked up two salt packets.  “You tear them up like this.”  He tore them in half and salt spilled all over the table.  “You keep the left halves and then let me have the right halves.  When the job’s done I’ll get the other half.  But the important thing is to not tell anyone.”

69 was called and I picked up my food.  Lately I’d been having to make myself eat and now I had nowhere to look.  Everything was disgusting the food, the table, the man, airplanes flying lowly over in the smog, the immediacy of violence.  I ate silently and quick.  I thanked the man and left.

Walking back home I said out loud “Fuck this shit, let’s take it to the sea.”

DAY #1

The next morning I’m hitchhiking to Corpus Christi, the ocean.  I take the city bus to the two lane highway southeast.  An old man that I always see playing guitar on the main drag is out there.  He tells me he hitchhikes about ten miles twice a day.  I give him dibs and walk further down the road.  I get a mile before my first ride.  Here they all are in all their glory:

#1 Nosepickers in a shit truck take my five miles.

#2 Woman parolee in a van.  Said she felt sorry for me in the rain.  I don’t mind the drizzle.  She gave me a banana.

#3 Two Mexicans in a truck.  Said I didn’t look like a killer.

#4 Illegal Mexican with little English.  He thought I was in high school.  He takes me 5-10 miles.

#5 Nasty-ass minivan family.  Free Cheetos and ten  miles.  Warned me to look out.

#6 Christian horse trainer offered to take me all the way to Kennedy.  He made me listen to the Christian recording artist Carmen.  I had him drop me off in Nixon where a carnival was starting.  Saw him the next day going the next way.

Nixon, Texas.  I drank in Joe’s lounge waiting for the carnival.  But I got bored after a few beers, wandering around and getting a small town haircut.  I head beck to the two-lane to make it to KearnesCity before dark.

#7 After five minutes I thumb a truck ride towards Gillette.  It’s two older black guys.  The younger one introduces them “I’m Lou and this is my Dad.”

“I’m not his Dad” the older man says.

The whole time Lou is nonstop talking what seems to be bullshit.  We stop at the Dad’s house I help them load a bunch of wood into the truck.  Lou keeps giving me vague promises until it’s too late, too dark.  Lou, just me and him in his car now, drives down dirt and mud roads almost out of gas.  He keeps fiddling with the ignition to get the utmost coast.

Turns out I’m staying in Lou’s trailer in the middle of nowhere.  He has a shitty boombox that blasts out distorted George Jones.  He puts his arm around my shoulders and we sing along, swaying to the whole tape.  “I bet you never thought you’d meet a nigger who was in to George Jones, did you?”  Later I put on Technotronic.

After all the tapes are out he tells me about his three kids.  Two are dead.  One son shot in the neck in San Antonio.  One daughter died at eighteen of cancer.  “You wouldn’t understand” he keeps saying and he is right.  He talks about us sticking together and him going down to Corpus with me.  We were drinking.

I slept in his bed on a frizzed out pink bedspread grown coarse.  He sleeps on the couch like he’s been doing since his wife left him three years ago.  I wouldn’t understand.

DAY #2

I wake up early in the morning.  “Happy Days”, the episode with the l’il Fonz, was on the TV.  I slowly turned up the volume as Lou slept five feet away.  I snuck out the door into the early day.

As overwhelming as he was I liked Lou a lot but I wanted to head to Corpus alone.  But what if he’d come, what would have happened?  Seaside photographs and more boozing.  I pictured him crying or fighting, telling everyone his sad story.  I would feel obligated and bitter.  He would find someone he liked better than me, someone who cared more, someone to worship his pain with.  It’s like my fears of getting in to a relationship.  He was too much of a wild card.  I just couldn’t commit to Lou.

I walked a mile from Lou’s to Route 80.  I see Lou’s “Dad”.  He points at me and says “hey” in a knowing way.  I keep walking for four miles.

#8 A guy in a truck takes me down 181.  I slept.

#9 I woke up walking.  A nice old man takes me to Beesville.

#10 A girl in a truck makes me run a long way and then only drives me half a mile.  She’s going to see some friends in prison but if I’m still on the road she’ll give me a ride.

#11 I see a Trans Am and I make it stop with my mind.  A twenty year old (“but I got a kid and shit”? is driving his souped up T.A. to Grandma’s with his fourteen year old brother riding shotgun.  “I’ll be fifteen the thirteenth” he says twice.  They ask if I’m a narc and I tell them I’m on the special hitchhiking squad.  We share two joints and bullshit drug talk.

We split off 181 but they driver says the Interstate is fine.  Right after they pull away from dropping me off a state trooper pulls up next to me.  I’m stoned as shit.  He does a fruitless warrant search.  He tells me it is “illegal to solicit rides from the roadway.”

I walk, two stoned wrong turn (one on farm road 666) and I’m back on 365.

#12 Old lady and grandkid gives me a ride to Orange Grove.  She offers me money.  “I’ll pray for you”, she says.

“Please don’t”, I respond.

#13 “Corpus Christi” sign I make pays off before I finish a bottle of juice.  A minivan man.  I ask him where the orange groves are.  He says he doesn’t think there ever were any.  He’s a Lutheran minister but no bullshit talk.  He drops me of at the edge of Corpus.

I liked this town a lot.  Bar hopping with NBA playoffs and Mexican food.  There’s more bars per capita here than any other town I’ve been to.

I ask piercing gallery dudes what’s going on tonight, it’s Friday.  They say a ‘crazy” band is playing at this bar.  I go there and they are the safest, sanest band I’ve ever seen.  But everyone in the crowd seems desperate for it, anything.  I have punk rock fantasies of moving here with a guitar and an amp and totally changing this town.

A cute girl at the show rolled her eyes at the band and looked at me and smiled.  She was featured in my fantasies but I wussed out.  I left and walked around moping, looking for a party.

I walked by a porch twice where a bunch of young Mexican guys were drinking flagrantly and listening to Ice Cube.  The second time I went over and asked them where I could get some drugs.  Ramon is the guy who lives there.  Everyone’s super friendly to me.  Ramon wants to impress me and lists his recent gangsta accomplishments: he wasted three people last weekend, pays off cops, he has $40,000 in cash in the house from his crack sales.  We sit around some more.  “So, how about those drugs?” I ask.

All he can get for me right then is pot.  Everybody but me and Daniel pile into Ramon’s Camaro.  Daniel is nineteen and drunk for this first time in his life.  “Look out, he’s a faggot” they yelled as they drove off.  I wasn’t sure who they were talking about.

Everything’s spinning for Daniel.  I give him water and, like a puke coach, I try to get him to throw up.  We walk around the block and halfway through we both stop to pee in an empty lot.  “Man, I got a hard on, you?” Daniel says.

“No, I’m good.”

He twice reaches for my dick.  I redirect him.  “I don’t give a fuck, but be careful who you pull that shit on.  A lot of guys will fuck you up for that shit.”

We get back to the house and sit on the stoop waiting.  We hear the car before we see it.  Ramon is revving like crazy and going way too fast.  He loses control and slams the driver’s side of his car into a tree.

The car still runs but there is crazy body damage.  The car is quickly stowed in a shed behind the house.  Ramon is freaking out and goes into the house.  I follow him and sit on the couch.  While I’m watching the Playboy Channel for the only time in my life all the other guys sneak away so they don’t have to deal with Ramon all stressed.  It’s just me and I try and console him by getting him to drink, one eye on the TV.  I keep asking what happened to the pot.  “You are my true friend because you are the only one who staid,” he says to me.

I have another beer and leave with a flurry of fancy handshakes.  I tell him to take it easy on Daniel.

I go back to the bar and talk shit on the band.  I walk and crash into my pre-chosen weed patch and sleep like a king.

DAY #3

I woke up in a dewey field looking at the seashore sky.  The wind gently shook the grass that hid me.  The wind cooled me off and pushes new clouds in my grass bordered vision.  I felt better than I had felt in months.  I heard soft voices and rustling.  I waited for the people to leave falling in and out of sleep.

The people left and I get up well rested.  I head for the city bus stop a mile away.  I stop in a junk store and get first editions of Cassidy’s Girl and Beebo Brinker for twenty-five cents each.  I rode the bus to the end of the line.  I make a sign in a restaurant: “TO THE BEACH”.

On the highway there was no luck, just a paranoia payoff as a cop pulled up.  He says to stay off the highway, if he sees me there again he’ll arrest me.  I walk the access road for a mile and a half with no second looks.

#14 Finally, a dad and his shirtless sons in a fishing truck with dogs stop.  I climb in the truck-bed with the two kids, two dogs and plenty of fishing poles.  We ride over a crazy, tall thin bridge (it seems like we’re a mile up but everything is a mile up to me) to the island.  They drop me off at the first souvenir store.  I go inside and get one of the girls to pull me a cone of frozen yogurt.

#15 I get a ride with a high school couple in a pickup.  They’re already smoking a joint when I get in.  I always assumed I looked like a narc but with all these people handing me drugs I guess I don’t.  Or maybe they’re just stupid.

I smoke and talk with them.  It’s her graduation day, she’s all excited and confident.  She’s going to be a travel agent.  They invite me to a party that night.  I thank them but say that I’ll probably be gone by then.  They drop me off at the beach.

I realize if I want to go swimming I have to ditch my stuff on the beach.  I walk down the line of cars blasting Top 40 looking for someone I can get in with.  I settle on a Baptist youth group from Weatherford, Oklahoma.  I figure Baptists, as a whole, owe me and if they ask I can claim Okie brotherhood.  I don’t know anything to say about Weatherford but I think of saying “You must be a pretty cool church to let these 16 year olds out in these cheesecake bikinis”.

I go into the water.  This is the epic override of the journey.  When people asked I would say “I’m hitchhiking to the ocean”.  It was a cleansing, a ritual; it was what I needed.

I had pictured radiant blue and yellow.  I found tan and green and gray.  The water stank and was full of slimy kelp.  Nobody much swam.  Everyone was here for the sun or an excuse to wear a swimsuit in public.  After five minutes in the water I was ready to get out but made myself swim more.  Out further waves clobbered me and my head felt full of nasty-ass shit.  I felt sorry for the Oklahomans, I felt sorry for me.  We were both getting away at least.

I swam past the waves into the flats, I looked around to the gulf beyond.  I could not be amazed.  I pictured my head bobbing above the water surrounded by kelp as if they were tentacles once attached to me, released to die.  I imagined my body covered in sores.

A white, ball shaped object floated next to me.  I couldn’t tell what it was.  T swam away.  I headed back to shore and behind each wave, as I sank to lull, the ball was right there beside me.  I got scared and swam harder.  It kept meeting me.  I n fury and fear I punched it.  On my knuckles it felt like something hard wrapped in skin, like a disembodied skull with a thick layer of white, watery flesh.  I swam fast never looking back and never seeing it again.

#16 On the beach I hitch a ride in a yahoo car back to town.  Ozzy on the radio.  Look for seafood lunch but nothing looks good.

Walk across another crazy bridge, arched and super (two miles?) high giving me a view of the aquarium and a mothballed battleship.

#17 On land I thumb a ride to Gregory.

Two mile walk till chrome-crazy pick-up throws me in the back.  I ride, read Miami Blues till Taft.  Fuck around with driver’s friends in other truck, revving abck and forth.  Other truck guy yells to kick driver’s ass and steal his truck.

#19 I get out and get ride with nice guy to Stinton.  Rain coming, I’ll hitch until it starts.  On road out three cars pass by.  In the creek below snakes swim from shore to shore and a giant turtle sits there.  I can’t tell if it’s alive.  I throw rocks near it but it never moves.

#20 A truck stops for me, my first semi.  A friendly man in his fifties, hawling to New Orleans takes me to Victoria as the storm comes in.

I make it to a Mexican restaurant and eat.  It’s still raining but I run to a Mexican bar.  I’m soaked and it’s freezing.  My dripping/shivering is drawing attention.  After two beers the rain stops.  A friendly cop tells me where the Salvation Army is.

I go further into town ona path of mud.  I make it to the Chit-Chat Lounge.  The door says must be twenty-five to enter, I hold my breath and walk into the place.  Black wood, redlight.  Obscure 80s soul bouncing against itself.  I join some black people in their thirties dressed in suits and dresses.  I really should have staid at this bar.  They had gizzards and gravy, they offered me some.  I asked if they had livers, but no.  Two drinks and, stupid, out.

Walk a mile into town.  At a busy intersection I see a guy jumping around and laughing.  He’s young and black and muscular.  When he gets to me I smile and nod.  He stops and turns around.

“My name’s Pepper.”


“Pepper, everybody knows me around here.  Hey man, you want to go to a party?”

“What kind of party?”

“Oh, everyone will be there.  Whites, blacks, Mexicans.  Girls, man, lots of girls.”

“Is it a graduation party?”

“How’s you guess?”
“It’s the season.”

And we’re going.  He’s talking, waving at cars.  We stop in places and talk to people.  “What’s up, going to the party?”  It seems like everybody does know him around here.

We go into a residential area.  He shows me the party house as we pass to walk to his place five houses down.  He shows me in and goes to get some pot, I gave him five bucks, and says he’ll meet me at the party.

I go there and immediately realize that I’ve been misled.  The party is nothing but Mexicans in their twenties.  They all eye me weird as I timidly approach, thinking that at this point turning around and walking away would be more offensive.  A guy (Birthday Boy) comes up to me and shakes my hand all kinds of drunken ways.  Girls come up to me and tell me that I should leave.  Birthday Boy, still holding my hand, reluctantly says, yeah, I should probably go.

I head back to Pepper’s.  On our earlier walk I gathered that the government paid Pepper to live and be crazy.  I search the house for something of interest.  I find an idiotic journal, too dumb to be juicy, fetishized pictures of cartoon blonde girls tacked all over the wood paneling, a bathtub full of old clothes and very dark brown water, 852 cockroaches, encouraging notes from his social worker: “Pepper you’re doing great”, “Pepper keep being so sweet”.  There was nothing interesting enough to think about stealing.

I can’t take the place anymore and head back into town.  As I pass the party has spilled onto the front lawn.  Passing by I ask Birthday Boy if he’d seen Pepper.

“Pepper, what are you hanging out with that guy for?”

“He said he was going to take me to this great party where everyone was welcome.”

One of the girls from before comes up to me.  “I thought we told you to leave.  This is a family party and this is a mean family so you need to get out of here.”

She goes back to the house.  I’m about to leave but Birthday Boy says “you can stay for a few beers if you want.  It’s my birthday and it’s my party.”  He tells me about all the liquor he’s drank-a whole bottle of Crown Royal and some other stuff.  Two friends of his come up and greet him.

“See you later man, Happy Birthday.”  He waves.

I stop to pee against the wall in the next alley over.  I finish and turn around to se Birthday Boy and his two friends walking fast to me.  Sensing fishy I throw out “Hey” right before Birthday Boy reaches me to punch me in the jaw.  I feel at least one more punch before I slam into the concrete and pass out.  Maybe I’ve got a glass haw.  I don’t think they beat me up after I was out.

I woke up covered in blood from the fall, strapped to a ripped backpack, and a little piece of shit in my pants.  I didn’t know who or where I was.  I ran to a nearby park to hide from unknown danger and figure it all out.  It took me fifteen minutes to remember my name.

I make it to the Salvation Army.  I ring the bell but the guy tells me it’s closed but I can stay in his van if I want.  I’m bloody and shit pants, but I place sleep over personal safety at this point.  Nothing happens except for the guy in the back keeps farting.

Day #4

I wake up and leave, go to Quick Trip and use their bathroom.  I change underwear and clean up in a convenience store bathroom kind of way.  I make it to the new hitchin’ road and walk with the mist out of town.

#21 A cool guy picks me up after an hour.  He tells me about hitchhiking in the sixties around here: a car steps.  He looks in “Oh, hey James” the passenger in the car says.  Once he was in he noticed a shotgun on the passenger’s lap.  He asks about it.  “Oh yeah, you’re lucky we recognized you because we were going to shoot off the next guy’s legs and just leave him there.”  Everyone in the car laughed “But we saw it was you, so we decided to give you a ride instead.”

He drops me off in Cuero.

#22 Waited an hour and a half reading on a stump until a truck picks me up.  Turns out there’s a prison right by where I was.  He drops me off in Gonzales.

#23 Got a ride in a back of a truck with man and his son.  At a gas station stop he asks me why I’m all fucked up.  I tell him.  When he comes back he buys me Neosporin and a coke.  He lives in south Austin but drops me off at me doorstep on the other side of town.  “God bless you” I tell him and realize that I’m brain damaged.  I had no idea why I said that.  I try and think about it but the efforts rush to fuzzy.  Wors and ideas, maybe related bounce about in static.  My cats come up, Sara comes over.

I spend the night at Sara’s.  I want to make a move, but I’m too sore and raw.  The move would be an attempt at communication.  My heart could manage but my body and mind couldn’t handle it.

This fuzziness stayed for days.  I couldn’t talk to anyone but slowly my mind worked back to where I could talk to myself.  I look back on all these days and everything was clear again.  I dreamed about taking the guitar to Corpus starting a band, winning the girl, getting Ramon to take me to Victoria and wasting Birthday Boy . . .

Bridget stopped calling and got back together with an ex-boyfriend, a  huge biker dude.  Sara got a rad boyfriend and I was in a bad mood for the next month and a half.


Jason, age 20, 1995


Jason had found the cat, Harriet.  It was something he’d always wanted and with a new apartment, why not?  Playful at first the cat had swelled to laziness.  Ben referred to it as Gato Fato.

One day Jason pulled a double shift.  Too tired to sleep he sat in a chair in the living room.  Harriet came out and flopped just outside the swinging distance of the front door.  Dave could only stare.  .

He saw a mound form on Harriet’s stomach and slowly work its way up towards the spine.

“I’m crazy, I have to quit this job” Jason thought.

There was more movement inside the cat.  He covered one eye, then the other to make sure it was not retinal damage from the over-bright kitchen he’d been working in all day and night.

Jason leaned forward.  He grabbed the arms of the chair and pushed until he fell on all fours.  He moved towards Harriet who looked at him with a desperate, fatigued love.

Jason kissed the cat on the head.  A purr rose and fell for that was all she could give.  He wiped his hand on the carpet, which wasn’t very clean, and placed it on Harriet’s stomach.  He felt movement, solids and sudden pockets of air.  He imagined kittens writhing in red heaven with gurgled mews of thanks.  He imagined gigantic worms eating the inside of Harriet like corn on a cob.

The two extremes merged in his mind and he imagined a struggle-the worms constricting and consuming the hairy and prostrate balls of flesh and innocence.  The kittens didn’t stand a chance.

Several friends came over and convinced him that kittens were the parasites, not worms.

A week later Harriet’s eyes were filled with panic.  Did she know of birth or did she believe she was going to explode?  Jason had made a nest for her but she paid as much attention to it as any cardboard box.  She would not leave him alone.  He spent the morning with her.  It was only a three hour shift, he explained before he left.  Her eyes and needs broke his heart as he shut the door.

He washed dishes at a halfway house.  He wanted to be close to those over the edge and maybe back again.  He wanted to see them fall again.  He wanted to be a part of it.

He tried to talk to the residents but they only told him to stay clean.  Sometimes they would grab his arm in desperation and pierce his eyes with theirs.  They spoke in dogma.  They talked of a book with more reverence than Jason had heard anyone talk about the Bible.  The book was full of simple rules twisted and phrased with contrived wisdom.  Everybody there needed to follow the rules of the book or there was death or worse.  Not even a joke could be shared with them but most people didn’t understand Jason’s sense of humor anyway.

He had stopped trying to talk to them at this point and he only thought of Harriet and the birth.  He wanted to be there for the sacredness and also to keep her from spilling birth mess on his bed.

Jason came home to a static meow.  Harriet looked at him and ran right to her nest.  He was proud, she had waited for him.  Five minutes after he arrived she began to writhe.

People had promised to help him or watch or be there for the birth.  He called around while watching Harriet tight and shudder.  Everything about her stretched.  Her desires had caused a possession and now the exorcism had begun.

After all the calls nobody was home but his girlfriend’s little sister, who he also had briefly and obsessively dated.  He wasn’t sure if she wanted to hear it but he narrated the action to her.  There were silences and groans.  His throat was tight.

“Here’s one.”

After an hour there were five.  Eyes shut, struggling for breath; their mother’s diligent tongue no substitute for the womb.

“All right, I’m going to go now,” he told the sister on the phone.  She hung up without a word.

He looked at the nest.  It was a box in his closet with a towel and newspaper shreds at the bottom.  The light was terrible, he could hardly see.  There was movement and the sound of licking.  It could still be worms.  He sat in the chair next to it.  Soon he began to cry slow tears like heavy condensation.  His stomach contracted, all his pride had left him.

Amy, his girlfriend, came by fifteen minutes later.  They admired the kittens.  She shone a flashlight in the box.  Jason had thought of this before but was scared that the light would somehow be damaging.  Harriet looked up with fatigued pride.  Her eyes shot the flashlight glow back.  Her eyes looked like those of a god.  The kittens were sleeping, they could wait for their life to begin.

After a few drinks and hours admiring the mother and children Jason kissed her.  Soon their clothes were off.

Making out with her was strange.  She had a few tricks that she never strayed far from.  She licked his ear and he licked hers.  She reached in his pants and rubbed her finger up and down the crack of his ass.  He always worried about too much hair, underwear lint, an oasis of sweat.  But she had never commented or hesitated or stopped in disgust or surprise.

She touched everything lightly.  She drove with her fingertips.  It drove him crazy.  She took of his clothes and touched him with the same delicacy.  It felt good but it reminded him that he would never know her and possibly there was nothing to know.  Sometimes he grabbed her hard in hopes that she would respond similarly but she never did.

They stood naked.  They got in the bed and rolled around.  They paused.  They lay on their backs side by side.  They had run out of condoms a few nights before.

“Do you want to go to the store?”, Jason asked.

“No” she answered with a slightly abrasive tone.  She turned away from him and got in a sleeping position.  Jason gently rubbed her back for a minute or so.  He thought this wouldn’t bug her and he felt he should do something.  But mostly he was saying “I don’t care.”

Their breathing slowed and there was a silence in the room.  He heard a quiet, damp rustling coming from Harriet’s nest.

Normally Jason would have been angry or caught up in an analysis of what he might have done wrong.  But tonight he was glad and almost relieved.  The sound of the kittens made him realize he was a daddy, better than a daddy, they were just kittens that would be given away.  He loved Harriet and was glad to show her to anybody that came by.  And now they had shared an experience together, only Harriet and him.  Amy’s sister didn’t matter.  Jason could not think of a single more intense experience that he had shared with someone.  This scared him.  It was only a cat and millions, billions of people had done the same thing.

While he was thinking Amy had rolled over and was working her way from his ear down with her fingertips.  Soon she was on him.  She hesitated and then put him inside her.  Jason was confused but he didn’t care.  They had talked about AIDS and half convinced each other that they were safe like everybody does.

But there was no birth control and with all this new life around it was dangerous.  A baby with Amy, with anybody right now, seemed worse than death.  It ended quickly and neither of them said a word.  Jason slept as far away from Amy as he could in his tiny bed.

The next morning Amy went to go have lunch with her sister.  Jason spent an hour with the kittens and then made himself a tuna sandwich.  He thought and chewed.  He wanted to write a poem about the night before.

He thought so much.  He couldn’t stop.  He was enslaved with words.  He wrote every now and then, short, little poems.  He thought hard about what he was feeling and described it in his best words.  They were like pills for moments of life; during crisis or joy or whatever.  If he felt something bad he would go back to his poems.  Either they would tell him how he had felt ot that things could be better or things could be worse.

A week later Amy said “I think I’m falling in love with you” as they were both falling asleep.  Nobody said anything more.  Jason thought of Kim and laid there motionless thinking about Kim for hours.  He felt broken, what a jerk.

The nest week he was wakened by rustling and mewing.  In the curtained moonlight Jason saw Harriet carrying a kitten in her mouth from the nest in the closet across the room to underneath the table that the stereo was on.  He quietly woke Amy up and pointed it out to her.  He handed her her glasses as Harriet carried the rest from spot A to spot B.

Jason had read about it.  There was no reason for the move, it was only an instinct.

That weekend Jason broke up with Amy.  She took it okay.  He felt much better with only himself to worry about.

He gave her a kitten after they were ready.  He gave the four others to acquaintances.  He was worried.  He had grown to like them all.  He bought five Mexican prayer candles for hope and good luck.  He burned each one till they were empty.

He filled the empty candles with newspaper and took them to the river.  It was night and he was drunk.  One by one he used a stick of incense to light the paper and throw the candles, flaming, into the river.  The first one he held too long and the glass snapped leaving his hand black and burned but not cut.

He thought of all the kittens throughout the ages that had been put in burlap sacks and thrown in the river.  He wondered if he was doing enough.

As far as Jason knew all the kittens were fine.

He walked home and Dave was out.  Harriet came to him.  She had adjusted quickly to the loss of her children, only a few inquisitive meows into their usual corners.  After a few days she didn’t seem to think of them at all.  Thinking of Amy, Jason wondered if he would always be like this.

He felt all alone.  He had friends but they weren’t enough.  Amy seemed like nothing but two months a little less bored and some sex.  He felt he could lose everyone he knew and quickly adjust to normalcy.

He felt so alone.  And then Brian and Kim broke up and she moved in with Jason and Dave.  Life seemed fruitful again.

Joan Didion

In the New York Winter I went Uptown alone.  I had seen that Joan Didion was reading at Barnard.  I had called two California girls to go with me but I couldn’t get a hold of either one of them.  I was early for the reading in order to navigate Barnard’s campus.  I walked slowly on the snowy paths.  Two short people were looking at a sign.  I was going to ask them if they knew where to go but they beat me to it.

“Excuse me, do you know where Barnard Hall is?” the man asked.
Holy shit, it’s Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne.

“I don’t know, let’s find it together.”  They walked up and each grabbed one of my arms and we started on our search.  They were so little.  We were only a couple of buildings away.  On the way she saw a flyer for her talk.  It had a picture of her from the Sixties on it, not the one with the sunglasses.

“Jesus Christ, why’d they put that picture on there?  When I get on stage everyone’s going to say ‘who is this old cunt?’”

I took them to their undergrad handler and they both thanked me and I wished them a good night.

Inside a vending machine displayed the rolling message “Sometimes I have problems”.



Night at the Rendezvous

            I was kissing a girl in Dolores Park before I met back up with my friend Malcolm, so I was already in a pretty good mood.  We headed to the Tenderloin.  All Malcolm’s favorite places were closed so we went to Club Rendezvous, the last hustler bar left on Polk Street, once the gay center of the city.

            It was karaoke night, that’s why we were there.  It was pretty dead.  The ringer KJ, an older, well-dressed black man, was giving some newish soul ballad his brilliant treatment.  Malcolm ordered us drinks while I went over the song book.  They didn’t have the Hall and Oates song I’d had in my head so I went with “Hello” by Lionel Richie, an old stand-by of mine.

            I smelled beautiful chili dogs on the mezzanine and by the time the bartender told me they’re free my name is called to sing.  Malcolm went up to make us chili dogs.  I climbed the tiny stage and I was at my perfect height of awareness-I’m ready to sing the shit out of this song.

            And I did.  I amazed myself with how perfect my voice sounded and how my body moved to this ballad that has always meant a lot to me.  It was my first karaoke song years ago and the crowd filled me in when I struck momentary ignorance of the verses’ melody.   I was watching the amazing video for this song in the sixth grade when my older sister started crying and ran to her bedroom.  I never found out why.  I just guessed it was her crush at the time-Cimarron Grubb.  I felt the tiny crowd, earlier not even paying attention, start to give me a chance.

            Not even through the first verse all this yelling started at the front of the bar.  I saw a man step out of the meager crowd agro with a hatchet in his hand.  The situation didn’t really hit me.  I felt as if I was watching a movie.  I kept singing.  Not every line but choice ones like “Is it me you’re looking for” felt especially poignant.  Everyone scattered and the guy was alone, yelling and chopping at a table then more quick chops at the bar.  The hatchet man circled around screaming stuff at the bartender that I couldn’t hear because I was singing.  He wildly threw the hatchet at the bartender and missed.  The whole bar’s palpable sighs of relief were shattered when the guy pulled out a scalpel type knife from his jacket ready to throw.

            The bartender shrilly yelled “Please stop singing, he’s got a knife.”  I jumped off the stage and join Malcolm on the balcony where we shared delicious chili dogs while watching the guy throw his knife, hesitate and pull out another one.  The cops came in with guns drawn.  After a brief stand off the guy dropped his knife and was handcuffed.  Everyone upstairs relaxed and went down to solidify their story before they go off and tell it to others.  “Go easy on him, he just had surgery” someone said to the cops as they dragged him out. 

            “Great job, very Fassbinder,” Malcolm said to me.  Everybody comes by me and comments.  The KJ says “Good job, very professional” and shakes my hand.  A girl said, “Bye, awesome Lionel Richie guy.”  I went out to flirt with her but she rides off on bikes with her obvious boyfriend. 

            Meanwhile, the hatchet man was sitting cuffed against the wall outside of the bar.  He was talking freely in an Irish accent to the cops.  He fully intended to kill the bartender who had been giving him shit nonstop for over a year.  He had five knives with him.  His hunting knife got taken away the week before when he threatened to kill his neighbor.  Malcolm later found out that he had been banned from the bar after he tried to kill himself there.  He hasn’t done drugs in ten days. “That’s his problem right there”, Malcolm said as we left the closing bar to find somewhere else to tell our story.  Maybe we can get free drinks.

            Something about this fight made everybody feel so alive.  That so many terrible things could happen, but they were distant and we could conquer them with our well planned phrases. We went to other bars dripping our tale everywhere.  We met a gay sailor who hated the Navy.  We met some great lesbians who gave us a ride home.  I couldn’t wait to tell it to my roommate Curt.  He has the greatest laugh.    

Hyde Out Friday Night

Hyde Out Friday Night

I was out early watching the K.U. game, which turned into a blowout halfway through.  I decided to have one more drink at the Hyde Out before I headed home to eat dinner.  The place was hopping and my two favorite bartenders, Felipa and Sophia, were working together.  They greeted me warmly and I started with the jokes.  I was surrounded by old guys talking over me.  In the middle of this Felipa came over and asks what I’ve been reading.  I started talking about the new Paul Bowles collection of travel writing and he and Jane Bowles’ place in the 20th century.  One of the old guys (Danny, 70 years old with long hair and a black beret) was fascinated by their companionship marriage despite the fact that both of them were gay.  He bought me drinks and eventually gets around to it.  “Do you want to go to a party?”
It was in Larry, the other guy’s building a block away.  Larry was about the same age, Armenian and had an amazing shock of white hair.  The party was being thrown by “these 22 year old kids” who just moved into the building.  The party invitation said it starts at nine and Larry found this suspicious.  “They’re technically inviting us to the party, but they’re really just saying ‘we’re going to make a bunch of noise all night.’”  They’re scared as hell and I guess they want me to come to bridge the gap of ages.  “New kid in town”, Danny kept saying.
I asked the bartenders if I should go to the party with these guys.  They said Larry’s okay but they seemed to both really hate Danny.  I promised them I’d keep my ass to the wall the whole time so they can’t rape me.
In the building we went first to Larry’s apartment for “a drink before we go to the party”.  The apartment was really nice, a one bedroom with a living and dining room.  He’s lived there, rent-control, for twenty-five years.  The first thing Larry did upon entering his apartment was turn on the stereo and quickly turn it to “Lite Rock, Less Talk K.O.I.T”.  Danny made vodka-sodas for us while Larry got the weed ready.  We smoked weed and cigarettes while Danny talked about how smart I am.
“Do you like history?” he asked.
“Kings and shit?  Fuck that.” I said and we all laughed.
We kept talking and these guys were so scared to go this party.  They kept asking me questions about parties these days.  I reminded them that I’m 39.  Danny kept pushing the weed on me and telling me to “cool it” on the Armenian jokes, they were mostly about almonds.  Larry went to the bathroom and Danny tells me how Larry is one of the sweetest, kindest people I’ll ever meet.  When Larry came out they started yelling at each other and I felt like I’m hanging out with my parents.
I was getting too drunk and stoned and the novelty was wearing off.  Also, it bummed me out that guys could be this old and be this obviously scared about going to a party that they had been invited to.  They pulled out the invitation and we analyzed it further.

“Let’s go over there and rape them!” I said.
“God damn it Ed, calm down.  You don’t joke about rape!” Larry yelled and he was really upset.  Ever since they invited me to the party we had been making rape jokes.
I thought of how confident they were in the invitation to me at the bar and how I had pictured the party going.  Strutting in with rape jokes flying everywhere, we would take over a room of strangers with irreverence, wit and bravado like I had done in the past and they had done too before, I’m sure of it.  But at that moment I sat here with my host simmering at me and my champion questioning his choice.
I quickly finished my drink and Danny and I left.  Larry only limply shook back my hand as I thanked him for his hospitality.  Danny and I walked past the party on the way and it seemed like no big deal, kinda Marina-y, but it was still early yet.  We said goodbye and I headed home to go to sleep before 11:30.

UPDATE: Larry doesn’t hate me, he just has a really shitty handshake!  He invited me back to his house next time I saw him but I had something else to do.

Letter to Maria


Dear Maria,

I’m in a coffee shop in Cincinnati now.  I got off the bus about three hours ago.  I barely made the bus.  I had to wait on Angie to drop off keys for Maili so she could feed my cats.  I ran into Ryan from Enid’s on the train.  Turns out he’s from around here and told me a few cool things to do.  I ran through the crowds of 42nd Street to Port Authority.

On the bus I was hungry and thirsty with no water or food.  I read The Brothers Karamazov till the pit stop in Pennsylvania.  It was great to be on a bus again, getting out of town, going to my birthplace.

At the pit stop I ate a meatloaf sandwich and mashed potatoes.  I was so becalmed by it I didn’t noticed everyone else had left and almost missed the bus again.
Another bus had had two tires blow out and everyone from there had to get on our bus, filling our many empty seats.  A guy from that bus sat next to me and told me all about the driver’s heroics.  When everyone settled he stood up and said to everyone “Let’s give three cheers for the great driving job our driver did.”  There was silence.  “We all could have died.”  After a bit more silence he sat down defeated.   Everyone was probably coming out of shitty bus sleep and didn’t understand what he said or were bummed about having to now be on a crowded bus.

I’ve walked to Kentucky and am in what I think might be a gay bar.  It’s hard to tell, everyone has a slightly feminine mullet.

I slept to Cleveland.  The guy next to me who tried to lead the cheer left and I wished him well.  He’d gotten out of a V.A. hospital to give his daughter away in her wedding today.  He didn’t seem to know her very well.

I spent the two hour layover bathing in the sunrise of downtown Cleveland.  On the bus I finished a book (I brought six with me).  It was a young adult novel called Z is for Zacariah that I distinctly remember reading in the seventh grade when I was obsessed with nuclear war.  It’s about a girl who lives in a valley that is somehow unaffected by the far off bombs.  She’s alone for a year and a half until a sinister scientist shows up in a special radiation suit.  It’s really good and dark.

I slept about an hour too.  In Cincinnati I walked up to the University area on top of a big ass hill.  I was looking for espresso and a free weekly newspaper to see what was going on.  It wasn’t that cool up there.  I asked how to get to Kentucky and walked that way.

I had to go through a haggard and lively part of town.  A little kid yelled “Happy Hanukkah” to me while his dad rolled a joint on the sidewalk.  I’ve always wanted to look more Jewish and here, in Cincinnati, I had finally achieved my goal.

While walking I heard someone yell my name.  It was this guy, Chris, that I kind of knew from New York.  We both couldn’t stop laughing at the coincidence of it.  He’s from here, now visiting and was driving around with his mom.  He’s a friend of Claud’s, the model.  I was happy to see him but at the same time it felt kind of oppressive, like I can’t go anywhere and be alone.  In Mexico I ran into two people I knew in two different cities in two weeks.  I’m going to hang out with him tonight and hopefully have a bed and a shower.  I was planning to just crash in a wooded area.  I walked across a bridge to Kentucky, really glad I came.

Sunday night, now I’m in a seedy hotel in downtown Cincinnati.

Last night I tried calling Chris’ mom’s but got a fax machine.  I went to where I told him I was going and hoped he would show up.  In the end he never did and it made me mad.  I was happy feeling independent and I spent most of the night looking at the door and trying to call him in hopes that his Mom disconnected the fax machine.

I still had a great night.  The town in Kentucky was weird with a giant aquarium and a store for Juggaloes.  I went to this place that Ryan told me about, the South Gate House.  It’s a huge mansion where the inventor of the Tommy Gun was born.  It’s now a big club with bands.  A country cover band played in the front room as the Sun set.  The bass player saw me mouthing words and, when there was a break, asked me if I wanted to sing a song.  I would have said yes but don’t know all the words to any song.

The first night of a trip is usually the best.   It helps if they’re Saturdays too.  Wandering into a strange town and following faded clues to wonderful, surprising music and the kindness of strangers.  You’re watching a country cover band in a mansion by a river.  An old Native American man walks in and starts playing along on spoons.

I talked to this guy who was in the opening band in the big room, Michael.  He was wearing an “Eskimo Joe’s” shirt, that’s how it started.  The big room was really nice, kind of like the Bowery Ballroom carved inside a mansion.  There were really good, unique visual projections behind the band’s all night.

Michael’s band, Halo, was a pretty good rockin’ and instrumental band.  They had a slow motion giant waterfall projected behind them during the whole set.  The next band, Burning Star Core, were kind of like Hall of Fame with two hippy drummers and a distorted violin player.  I started talking with Michael again.  He was really nice but couldn’t give me a place to stay.

The last band was an electronic noise collective with a guy “dj”ing images behind them.  It was amazing.  I said ‘wow” aloud a couple of times without even being stoned.

After the show I said goodbye to Michael and went to an underpass and actually slept pretty well.

The next morning I ate breakfast, did laundry and walked back to Ohio.  I went to the art museum, it was okay.  I decided to make my way out of town.  Cincinnati didn’t seem like much.

I was born there but we were in the process of moving to Pittsburgh so I only lived there a week.  It had always loomed large in my mind but seemed like I’d had the best night possible and didn’t want to sully the area.  Also, I only had a couple of days until my friend Ratty was coming to visit me in New York.

I really should have checked out the city buses because I ended up walking up and down hills with no convenience stores for water on poorly constructed sidewalks, right next to buses and traffic all the way out of the city.

I stopped to pet a cat and it teased me just out of my reach till she rolled over on the inside of the door of the four unit apartment complex.  I stooped to pet it and a raveled, country female voice squawked from behind a screened in window, I couldn’t see her.  “What are you doing there?”

“I’m just petting the cat.”

“You leave that cat alone and get out of here.”  I sulked off.  I realized that Cincinnati is kind of the South.

After I got deeper in the suburbs, about nine miles out, I started hitchhiking.  I got a ride with this older guy with a gray beard and a so-so shitty sedan.  He offered me a job in a printing shop if I ended up settling here.  “Do you indulge?” he asked, and, after Florida, I wanted to say “be more specific”, but then he pulled out a joint.  First we had to pick up his “girlfriend”, as opposed to his wife.  She comes out and I go to the back of the car.  She, a big , slightly disheveled but not bad lady.  She started yelling at him because he didn’t leave her any pot.  He described me as this guy I picked up.

She calmed down after we smoked the joint.  She wouldn’t pass it to me at first because she wasn’t sure I was old enough to smoke it.

“Actually, this day wasn’t that bad” she said.  “I watched that movie King Kong.  I never realized it was a true story.  Sure it’s a marriage, but she didn’t know what she was marrying.  They open the door and there you go.”  The man and the woman argue about what the door was made of.

Then she started talking about all the things I could get busted for, hitchhiking and all.  Even though she was an idiot, she and the pot got me paranoid.   She especially warned me against jaywalking.

“I was in court behind a lady who got busted for jaywalking here and they let her off because her BABY got raped.  I’m sorry that her BABY got raped, but what does that have to do with jaywalking?”

I felt helpless and paranoid as I hitchhiked on the thin shoulder of road after they dropped me off.  After an hour and a half I gave up.  I was stuck in Owensville, a town with no bus station, no hotels and no bars.  I sat outside a gas station asking people where they were going.  I walked to a roadhouse the lady had pointed out two or so miles down the road.  “You’ll find someone to give you a place to stay there”, she said.  There was no shoulder now and it was dark.  Everytime a car came I would have to jump into the tall weeds of the roadside ditch, imagining ticks getting on me.  I got to the roadhouse and after much pounding on the locked door they said they couldn’t help me.  I had to walk back the miles again.

Finally, back at the gas station, a nice Christian guy gave me a ride back to Cincinnati.  I checked into the seedy hotel.  I was sore as hell.  I’d walked at least twenty miles that day.  My feet, ankles, and, for some reason, my butt were throbbing in pain.  I took a shower, wrote a little bit to you and went to bed.  One would think I would sleep great but I tossed and turned all night.

The next day I bought a bus ticket to New York with stops in Columbus and Cleveland.  I went to the library to check my email.  It was really cool, there was an art museum in the middle of it that had an exhibit about the band Destroy All Monsters.

I’m in Columbus now and it kind of sucks.  I’m by Ohio State’s campus and everyone is ugly, poorly dressed and annoying looking; like no other town I’ve ever seen.  I applied for grad school here and now I’m really glad I got rejected.  Ethiopian food and there’s a punk show tonight.

Punk show was just okay but I was tired.  Had a cab take me to a hotel that I saw an ad for in the directory at the bus station.  This is a good place to find clean, nicer hotels.  The place I stayed at was very nice.  Presidential candidate George W. Bush is in town, I saw it on TV.  Then I watched Tom Green get his testicles probed and went to bed.

I hope you’re well,