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Good morning. The coffee is percolating, the bread is toasting and the bacon is sizzling in the pan. The sun peeks lazily over the horizon, reluctantly spilling light o'er the land. We hope you've adequately decompressed and are ready to sink your choppers into this fresh, tender new day. A crisp breeze plays flirtatiously with your hair. It guides a pink plastic Frisbee into your wounded flesh mitt. A yellow, rosy-cheeked smiley face and the inscription "Be Happy." You take it easy and hang in there. You'll make the papers if you play your cards right. You change your bandage.
A cloud of second hand crack smoke hung intensely in the bar bathroom. Unmistakable. I breathed in. I began to piss. Shit. This is without a doubt the most solid piss I've ever taken. I'm going to make a pot of coffee and suck it down within the half-hour so's I can take a piss even better than this. I would break down doors, dump shots, slit throats just to be in a good mood. Just to be optimistic. I finish up. Zip up my jeans. Move slowly back into the crowd. Some experiences certainly take more than they give.
When I talked to Dave, he had the glazed, noncommunicative look of a man who had just realized he was dreaming. He told me he was 24 hours into a fast. He said he'd done this before. He'd done it in conjunction with a coffee enema. Once, he'd eaten nothing but apples. Eight apples a day. He assured me he was drinking water. He looked fairly happy. I've fasted a few times, but out of necessity, not design. When I was a heavy boozehound, I'd sometimes forget to eat and let a day pass with only drink padding my insides.
The Butler Building frowns across Milledge Avenue at Clarke Central High, promising the kiddies that, if they toe the line, they might be low level bean counters one day sooner than they think. I wonder what sort of businesses they hope to rent office space for inside this Stalinist eyesore. I've lived in its shadow for four years plus. I walk past it to the bus stop and hear a vaguely electronic creak, the sound of thousands of cockroack antennae turning to feed off the aura of the Butler Building, like flowers to the sun. A William S. Burroughs nightmare.
A disgruntled garbageman dangles his feet over the lip of the bridge. As he's about to cash in, three cops blast out of the shadows, draw down and start bellowing orders. Already disoriented, the trashman locks his eyeballs into a flashlight beam and forgets everything. The cops throw the cuffs on him and push his spinning head down as they herd him into the back of a squad car. A few hours later, he'd led, blinking and slobbering, into a spare room for questioning. The trashman is quickly linked to a malicious underground plot, aiming to launch a suicidal snowball.
Nothing but beds of buttercups and winking eyes. I'm a happy son of a bitch. I have no idea why people bother to start shitfights over trivia. No suspicion that things won't work out (one way or another) if I trust my own survival skills and karmic fortitude. I've got the lowest risk and the greatest potential if I walk the line for my mind and my love and ease up on everything else. And I'll say it again, as Epictetus said it: "Men are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them." Everything is everything.
There's still talk of putting ads on the moon, making it the ultimate billboard. But the moon is damn near irrelevant in American cities such as this, where you can gaze up from the street and see very little but thumping, blinking commercials. No god, no stars, no cosmos. Mostly just ads and diminishing empty space. They put so much scratch into the '96 Olympics, and all it left us was Centennial Olympic Park – another place to get mugged in the ATL – and memories of that bomb. Pummeling summer heat and shrill, bitchy winter cold. Spartanburg with skyscrapers. Sprawling narcosis.
The world could only confirm what Joe already believed. F'rinstance, Joe believed in karma. He believed that he'd fucked himself into deep karmic debt, in certain regards, in those heady nihilistic days when he didn't yet take karma seriously. Likewise, he believed that he'd unconsciously pooled a karmic surplus in other regards simply because he'd always been, by basic default, a nice guy. Joe believed that taking his karma too seriously was tantamount to taking himself too seriously: A monumental karmic faux pas. So he'd practiced laughing off some of his bad moves. And generally took it easy on himself.
My breaks finally crapped out in Durham. I pushed the pedal and it went straight through the field of resistance, right to the floor, and nothing happened. I rolled into a VW dealership and threw on the emergency brake. The car rolled to a defeated stop. I caught a cab back to Chapel Hill. Borrowed a car and made it back to Asheville in time to do the radio show. Called the pizza joint, told them I planned on being holed up in the Triangle for a few days. Rose with the sun, snorted some crushed pills, hit the highway.
All that is now prohibited will one day be mandatory. While this does not apply in grater or lesser degree here than elsewhere, it is safe to say, esteemed colleagues, that the City of Baxter will, because of its numbness initiative, enact mandatory marijuana inhalation laws within the next three years, on the outside. Consider the sociopolitical climate. But will we be ready? Of course, the problem should and will be delegated to private enterprise. Even the feds understand this. They will want a trusted, regulated monopoly on sale and manufacture, vertically integrated. Perhaps a little baksheesh here and there.
That's just precious. The way you whimper and whine and bitch your way through all of life's little inconveniences. Makes me want to fix you a bowl of soup and crumble oyster crackers into it, after thoroughly washing my hands, natch. Your anxiety is so romantic. If it weren't for your pinched face and neurotic cadence, well, I'd assume you ENJOYED all the trifling irritation. When Superman comes to save us from the human condition, he'll surely take pity and bail you out first. Best to let everyone know of your soggy discontent. Wouldn't want the savoir to pass you.
I refuse to waste my time and energy hating empty, conceited little shitstains such as you. I get myself into this bullshit, and it isn't going to happen this time. I'll use the force of that punch – the one that would've shattered your glasses and driven the fragments into your eyeballs – for something productive. I'll make this earth more interesting for those of us who have concerns beyond our ambitions and egos. I'll free myself from this pool of sinking sand, and I'll forget you. You have to endure your insulting presence for life without parole. I'm not so unfortunate.
NO BOTTOM HERE. SHORTEST ROUTE TO CHINA. Self-pity. Dangerous business for anyone, in any situation. Numbs the senses. Deadly poison. Highly addictive. But self-pity's a true killer on the streets. You get down on yourself out here and rigor mortis kicks in before you realize you've put yourself in danger. But even a bum like me – a stoic optimist, as much of a Buddhist as you'll find in the gutter on this side – hears the dogs barking on his tail occasionally. Shit. I'd have thought this would be the LEAST of my problems out here. So I focus on scrounging.
BLOODY GLOVE. I ripped my hand open but good. Must've grabbed a steak knife by the wrong end while washing dishes. Wrapped it up in bandages, which of course took about two minutes to soak through with dirty dishwater and slide off. The boss gave me a rubber glove to keep my filthy blood away from his dishware. This isn't the job for me. Food service is a sacred responsibility. In league with medicine. Not to be entrusted to shiftless stoners and slackasses at five skins and hour. On many levels, we simply do not take our food seriously enough.
You want to avoid the pain. Or stop it. Often, though, your only options are pain and less pain, and you have to choose the amount of pain you think you're most likely to be able to stomach. It's not what you want, or what anyone else concerned wants. But you take the lesser pain and preserve yourself. You live to soak up some joy another day. You're serious about everything. Deadly serious. You suck down the pain like it's another free shot you're given when you're already miles pas plowed. You're wise to take this seriously. Save your soul.
I was out drinking with Angela when some acquaintance of hers moseyed up and offered me a Tarot reading. I thought what the fuck and consented. Apparently, the cards came up bad, bad, bad. This guy made a big show of describing the dark shadows that shrouded my future, like it pained him to tell me. He said I would achieve some undefined sort of greatness, then fuck it up with my ego. I wonder how much the reading depends on the reader. I'd imagine plenty. I suspect this guy wanted to fuck Angela. Indeed, Angela soured on me immediately.
Annie's sister knocked out one of Annie's teeth. It was an important one. The one Annie got fixed when she chipped it on a beer bottle at age 16. Annie was practicing sucking dick. She often questioned the wisdom of living with her sis, but couldn't think of anywhere else to go. Her sister fell in love easily, and resented anyone with a fruitful sex life. She nurtured a crush on one of Annie's fuck buddies, and busted a grape when she barged in on Annie blowing the man. That's why she knocked Annie's tooth out. The pain was unreal.
He keeps to himself inside his bubble – his sphere of influence – because he genuinely does not like to prostrate himself before other humans. He recoils from all attempts at examination, or "closeness," as its called. Most of his fellow humans like submissive to the fear that Love May Not Be Enough. They bet it all on love. They invariably incur some damage, and often get locked into awkward staring contests more chillingly lonesome than anything our man need ever fear. Some of them could win big loving just about anyone, natch. Our man knows he's not one of those fortunates.
The radio announcer's low, reedy voice soothed the tortured speaker on the pee-wee clock radio, altering its smooth pace slightly for dramatic impact. "Now," it oozed. "I want you to find a watch among your personal effects, one that has stopped or is broken." The voice reads the weather to snuff a few seconds. "Got that watch now? Gooood. Now. All of the listeners. Of my program. Are going to pool their positive psychic energy. To get that watch running again. Clasp that watch. Tightly. In your palm. For the duration. Of this next piece of music." Cue Planetarium Music.
I wouldn't take a job at which I didn't consider myself competent. I've quit jobs because I didn't think I was doing them as well as they could and should be done. So I don't understand why you keep rolling with this job, bottlenecking the whole operation because you're too big a pussy to step down. It ain't brave to persist at something you can't do. I wouldn't even pay it the respect of calling it "hubris." It's a special kind of weakness that keeps you clocking in where you don't belong. Or a lack of self-awareness I cannot fathom.
It was Big Dan's birthday. He claimed the occasion, and drank himself far out of context. Plowed near blind by six in the evening, he staggered onto the sidewalk, not afraid that anyone would look at him askance for the bottle of watery domestic still clutched in his trembling hand. It was his birthday. May as well have been goddamned Mardi Gras. The bike cop didn't see it that way, and Big Dan couldn't change his mind. The cop saw from Dan's ID that it was indeed his birthday. "Looks like you'll spend the rest of your birthday in jail."
SQUALL TIRES ON PAVEMENT. I hear fireworks exploding on other patches of this earth. I've got to free myself from this Smurf Village, this pool of college town sinking sand. I'll chew my own leg off to get free of this shithole. Perhaps I'll gaze backward fondly, but let this be a record of how I truly feel about this place. To wit, it ain't me. I've made a few friends, I've seen good times, I've met a woman I love more than I even realize. But I WILL make noise that'll echo off larger walls. I'm not dead yet.
I suppose a lot of people get nervous when purchasing rubbers, but I've never known anyone that got any static for it. Until tonight. ‘Twas in a local rip mart. A young fellow in a toboggan was buying a sixer and eyeing the selection of jimmy hats. "You got to confessss," said the clerk on duty, a man with a voice like a playing card hitting the spokes of a bike wheel. After his confusion subsided, Toboggan asked for his preferred raincoats. The clerk responded: "Hit it! Smack it! Flip it! Rub it DOWN! Bone it like you own it."
This is what you've done. This is what you thought you could get away with. This is who you always were in the dark, behind the artifice. This is what you buried in the garden. This fertilized your tomato plants. All of us to whom you served BLTs, all of us must somehow, on some subconscious level, have tasted this. For it was always there. All that you were to us was sustained by missing data. Lies by omission. You floated in empty space. Thinking the suckers would never suspect. We never needed to love you THAT badly. Got wise.
They finally pulled the plug on Kevin's life. After a strong first season, it simply wasn't going anywhere. It got too dramatic to sustain casual acquaintanceship. Too many too-complex subplots. Too much inside information you'd need to empathize with the overdeveloped characters. Episodes of Kevin's life weren't self-contained. It was no longer possible to simply dip your toes in his life and feel like you belonged there. Kevin's old pals floated away, and he couldn't hook new ones to fill their chairs. Kevin wasn't getting the eyeballs anymore. Also – and this is beside the point- he wasn't as entertaining anymore.
REFUSE TO DIE AND YOU WILL BE SUMMARILY SLAIN. ACCEPT DEATH AND NOTHING CAN HURT YOU. Ye gods, the forced arrogance of this whole enterprise. All of this suffocating fear. All this goddamn giggling. This smokescreen of indolent cynicism. There's only so much bullshit one can accept. But there are limits on what one can immediately deny. There's no true glory in being a tool for this soup of numbed-out narcosis we're floating in. But suddenly flailing about makes you week, and subject to other forms of slavery, which is not doing anyone any favors. You can't save yourself SUDDENLY.
EMERSON DAMERON IS YOUR NEW GOD. Ain't nothin' like the real thing, bitches. Achtung! Get offa dat death trip! It's only your fear that keeps you running from me. And only your true, uncut XXX courage can bring you home. Stop bangin' that SHIT into your arms. Put down that U-100 and bend your ear. ‘Twas only your illusion of power that rendered you so impotent. A little bit of submission will soon get you back on your feet. Where is my QB? Who can make an end run ‘round the forces of evil? Cheerleaders for salvation, come on down!
THE GANG WAR. The Array controls the cleaner, classier North Side. The Array are gangsters in the classic style. Cigar-puffin', martini-sippin', blustering anecdotes and clean suits. The bigger you are in the Array, the less appropriate it is for you to get your hands ostentatiously dirty. On the filthy South Side, you find the Prophecy. Gangstas in the new style. Tough, thugged-out, reefer-smokin', liquor-swillin', down to die. No one DOESN'T do dirt save the Prophet himself, who wrote a book and pretty much disappeared. The gangs cross paths in Midtown, among the surgically-augmented would-be starlets and spaced-out offspring of fakery.
THE BLACKNESS. There is a great vacuum cleaner that sucks away all the joy from its random marks' lives. And, with it, all the suffering, fear, anger, sentiment, charm, memories, everything. This appliance is called The Blackness. It travels by night. It was created by scientists at Dirt Devil who got too involved in their project – to make a vacuum cleaner that would suck away all America's filth – and were laid low for their hubris when the vacuum sucked them clean and they no longer loved their families. This happened in '78. The Blackness, as of now, remains at large.
Traffic jam. Clusterfuck. Three miles in 45 minutes. SUV capsized somewhere between Exits 6 and 9. You crank the stereo, drum on the steering wheel, fidget. Switch to the radio. The DJ mentions the tie-up. By that time, things are moving again. Slowly. You inch past the wreckage. The SUV flipped over – 180 degrees. Crushed. You see a tow truck, but no ambulance. But those people couldn't have made it out unscathed. Lives completely revolutionized in the amount of time it takes you to snap your thumb and forefinger. And to us, it's just a big pain in the ass.
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