Tag Archives: Copyright © 2009 Mitchell Geller

101 Songs You Shouldn’t Sing on TV—Much Too Stoned

More fractured karaoke…

#18—Much Too Stoned (sung to Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, Bob Dylan)

Three Stars. Read it through first, preferably to the music.

Note: I wish this were the longer version (the one everyone in creation has), but couldn’t find an online video. However, thanks to one guy with an excellent audio system, I found the original, shorter, 45 RPM single version to which I wrote these lyrics. Since then, the shorter version on youtube was removed and the longer one showed up (link below). There’s room for more stanzas in this version so feel free to collaborate:


Well you’re too stoned when all you think about is food
The girls all look like Carrie Underwood
You’re too stoned when you’re gargling cologne
And you’re too stoned when yer drivin’ on the lawn
If your underwear is not your own
You mighta got much too stoned

Well you’re too stoned when you dress for Halloween
And show up at a gig for Christmas Eve
You’re too stoned if you walk out of the door
and just found out you joined the Marine Corps
If your head ends up in the commode
You mighta got much too stoned

You’re sayin’ things no one can comprehend
And put party favors in your rear end
You’re too stoned if you take up the sitar
You’re too stoned if you’re actin’ all bizarre
But when you order twenty-five scones
Ya-mighta got much too stoned

Let’s eat!


P.I.S.S.E.D. Ch. 7—Labor Day Sanity Cruise, 1978

7—Labor Day Sanity Cruise, 1978.

One year later.

Fuck Labor Day, it’s just another sunday in disguise.

“For $220 a month, it’s probably pretty basic,” Veronica told Mick the day they went to inspect the cottage for the first time. She knew more about renting than Mick did. At that point in their marriage, the sophomore year, Mick didn’t care what it looked like; it was about half the going rate for rent and within walking distance to the cliffs overlooking the surfers. He knew it was going to be good enough for him before they ever saw it. The alternative was to continue living at his parents’ home, which, after three months, was already too long for a young couple used to being on their own. When the Churchbuilder said he wanted to retire in Sanity Cruise and fix the cottage, he meant in that order.

Mick sneaked along slowly in his Austin America, showing steel belts on the tires and leaking fluid from the hydraulic shocks. Low-riding before it became popular, out of necessity, he had to drive around a bottle or a rolled newspaper in the road. Pine cones were risky. Fortunately, the Austin turned on a dime, even while holding a chocolate covered french cruller donut—which he was. With a grocery store nearby—and a pizza place, hardware store, laundry, bookstore, Sears, movie theatre, and the donuts—the cartoon-cottage was at the very least well situated; another reason Mick had lobbied for its approval.

Since they didn’t have a washing machine of their own, they preferred to store up laundry a few weeks and make an afternoon of it—filling up eleven washers and folding, folding, folding… Dishes in the sink were mostly handled in this manner as well, though they didn’t wait quite as long. Once the couple discovered four very different and distinct armies of ants living under the house, the practice of dirtying dishes stopped altogether—followed by the cessation of eating solid foodstuffs. Pretty much only the cats and ants ate there.

Two blocks away, an empty reservoir gathered dust.

“What do you suppose that’s for?” Mick had asked Veronica, Ms. Know-it-All, on that fateful day they went to look at the place for the first time. She didn’t know. In fact it was a giant run-off ditch for an underground stream that liked to swell on occasion.

Renamed ‘Meltdown Street’ after the Three Mile Island disaster (at least in Mick’s mind), their street had a ragtag collection of different shaped beach cottages on an uneven road with no sidewalks, while the next street, ‘Immaculate Boulevard,’ was all newer homes on a well-paved road with perfect sidewalks. Across the adjacent street was the Pink and Lime Mobile Home Park for retired citizens, which were more like piñatas on wheels. For all the activity Mick had seen from that place, they might just as well have been coffins on rollers. The real action was up the block at the massage parlor.

The cottage itself was pink on the outside, the wood walls inside painted yellow. There were four rooms, if one included the green kitchen. Each room was small. Everything about the cottage was undersized, appearing as if viewed through an inverted magnifying glass. There was the small gas heater that smelled like sautéed litter; the tiny ‘Wonder Bake’ oven in the kitchen which Veronica had pronounced unfit for service; and the refrigerator that was hardly more than a large green snowball maker.

It was a sunny day when they first looked at the place, and the light inside seemed bright and warm enough for Veronica’s painterly considerations. That was a good selling point. Mick was willing to turn a blind eye to certain, shall we say, glaring deficiencies, in order to get their own place. The front yard was a ‘no growth’ zone. Low maintenance, he thought at the time, another rent-able point.

Mick skirted a fallen leaf in the road on his way past Immaculate Blvd, probably blown off Owen’s yard with a 40 hp leaf blower. The Churchbuilder warned him about their backyard neighbor, Mr. Owen, who had convinced the last tenant to chop down a walnut tree, as well as an old willow, because to him they were simply ugly. The walnut never came back, but the willow sprouted seven new trunks, none of them very pleased. Since Mr. Owen watered more often than anyone, the venerable old willow’s roots were slowly breaking into the foundation of his garage. Mr Churchbuilder was okay with that, but Owen complained about it whenever he saw Mick, which wasn’t very often, as Mick was hardly in the backyard to hear it. The tree was long, full and beautiful on Churchbuilder’s side of the fence but hacked clean on Owen’s side—like a guillotine had come down and sheared the whole backside off. It was a patient, vengeful tree, biding its time, working its way through Owen’s garage and a hail of ever-present, miniscule white flies to get into his house.

There were two apple trees in the backyard as well, on the side of the house facing the Pink and Lime trailer park. Churchbuilder was right about picking the apples early, because someone knicked them before Mick could get any that season. A newspaper and a plastic bottle stuck in a row of hedges bordering the street. He left them there and considered it ‘artistic.’

A low, rickety wooden gate guarded the dirt driveway running alongside the cabana-like cottage to a tiny, mostly dilapidated garage on the back of the lot. Dry bramble stuck out from behind it to the end of the yard, which bordered the back side of Owen’s house.

For some reason, the backyard was a good twenty inches higher than the rest of the lot. This was inexplicable and summarily ignored. The spongy, clump-like grass sprouted smaller patches of wavy, tall grasses, which Mick thought looked very nice around sunset.

Veronica wouldn’t go near the backyard. She knew there was something or someone living in the spongy greenish stuff and didn’t want any part of it, thank-you-very-much-indeed. No way. “Johnson grass,” she called it, wrinkling her nose. No one told Mick that he might as well try mowing sea grass when the time for that came. Intuitively, and for no other reason, he had expected it to grow slowly. It reminded him of his old hair, in that it might just grow fuller rather than longer. That was autumn; with any luck, the severe drought conditions would continue and he wouldn’t have to trim anything until the end of summer. Here it was autumn again and, frankly, he didn’t give a damn. To Mick, it looked natural.

The yard was bigger than the house. It went behind the garage, where there was a pile of weatherized wood with rusty nails in it mixed with wild nasturtiums. Mick had virtually no caretaking experience, nor did he necessarily wish for any. Innately, he figured to improve the place simply by occupying it. Fact was, it was a squat little dump when they moved in and nothing so far had changed that sad fact.

Mick pulled in the driveway, stepped over the small mud puddle, and took a deep breath. It wasn’t that good. The nearby mushroom factory was fertile.

He remembered that first day…

The Churchbuilder kept a key hidden in a loose brick on the patio. Brushing away some spider webs, Mick muttered something resembling ‘yuck’ and shuddered as he did what he had to do to get it. The lock on the front door was as mushy then as it was now, like there might be oatmeal in there instead of tumblers. He had to shoulder the door open, trying to be delicate, but ended up stumbling inside like a drunk.

“Smells musty,” Veronica had said upon entering the place for the first time. Mick wasn’t sure what must smelled like, but took her word for it. Veronica was from East Rainforest Texas and knew her must. “It needs air,” she said. Of course it does, it’s been shut up for weeks.

The unpruned juniper bush still blocked virtually all the view out the front window, which was still molecularly melded shut with paint. Veronica would continue to point that out for years to come. “Don’t worry, we can hack at it later,” Mick had promised her, without quantifying ‘later.’ The other window in the room, facing the mud puddle, had already been opened before they moved in. By rocking it back and forth, it opened roughly ten inches, maybe eight. The spindly fuschia outside popped a few straw-like branches inside.

“No screens,” Veronica had mentioned a year earlier, implying bugs. Now that’s gonna require a tool.

Mick didn’t own a tool of any sort. Up until that point in his life he hadn’t needed one. He never used one before, except a screwdriver, and had trouble with those before the phillips head came out and saved the ape-man from extinction. It was the only tool Mick was even vaguely familiar with—that and a hammer, which he used successfully to build a wall in Everett’s Stress. Mick felt confident about someday owning a power stapler, though he never tried one. It’s time. I’m gonna have to buy some tools. He shoved the chocolate covered french cruller in his mouth and walked between the junipers to the door lost in thought about hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, tape and power staplers.

A hummingbird flew to a tiny red fuschia bloom outside the window. “Say goodbye to your security deposit,” it sang, and flew away. Labor Day my ass….

The heater sat neglected in the far corner of the room. “It never gets cold here,” Mick had assured his Mrs. before moving in. This wasn’t San Francisco, it was the beach! He walked to the Wonder Bake oven and turned it on. He could steam a giant pot of clams on it if he covered all four burners with the steamer. Mick thought about clams as he finished his donut. He loved fresh clams. Looking around the kitchen, he decided he hated ‘avocado’ green.

Public school green….

A box of stale pretzels and a quart of milk sat in the presumably dark Frigidaire, giving it a reason to be plugged in. Whether the ants couldn’t get at it, or didn’t want to, was an exercise in conjecture.

They didn’t have any kids, so what did door knobs matter? The fact that none of the doors met the doorframes well enough to close meant that the job was out of Mick’s handyman realm. In practice, Mick had no realm. The Churchbuilder would have to take care of that as the landlord. Mick was off the hook; he could wait.

After factoring all the variables and options based on their pitiful income, he weighed those against the bottom line: rent. At first, Mick wondered if he was domestically qualified to inhabit this dump. He knew now that he wasn’t. Originally he had hoped his wife was, but she wasn’t either. He had to buy tools. Veronica emerged from the bedroom. “You’re going to put screens on the windows today, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question.

“I’m just going to get some things I need, some tools… Here, have a donut.” Veronica raised an eyebrow. Before she could speak, he left.

Mick pulled the front door closed, grinding it against the door frame by pulling harder on the wobbly knob until he finally heard the latch click. He wound through the squeeze-track of bushes and over the mud puddle back to his not-so-trusty Austin America, the one that had thrown a U-bolt sixty miles outside of San Angelo, and drove away slowly without looking back.

Except for Toulouse, who could be heard half a block away, and the train that passed every morning around o:1∂, it was a peaceful, if somewhat crappy, street.

Between small breaths of mushroom, Mick glanced a bit wistfully at the massage parlor as he passed. Veronica ignored his longing, but it was no less there than gophers under the house and a pile of ants on the cat food. And, walking distance to a temporary, fleeting, hour- long diversion. He wondered for the thousandth time how much a nice massage was these days, then grinned at the old Karnac punchline: Regular, or Ethel? The tiny neon sign beckoned to him. He slowed, as he did twice every day, but didn’t stop.


So this is what ‘struggling writer’ means. Mick shook the thought off quickly. I’m not even writing anything… just struggling.

No one knew of his secret longing to be an author; no one took him seriously, that is. Mick harbored that sad fact, hibernating in books, more books, in an effort to gain a literary influence as elating as anyone he had ever read—and had inspired him enough to make his fingertips twitch over the typewriter.

There is no illusion, no trick. Just say it like it is; life’s a bowl of cat food covered with ants.

The problem was, Mick was more familiar with writing under duress. That is, something had to happen in his life that motivated him to write. Whether it was to express love, frustration, fear, loneliness, or whatever… there needed to be something to get out of his system. None of what he had written was any good, literarily speaking, but it relieved him like a vigorous shit.

Now, there was nothing. All was white, like the weather, with no clear beginning, middle or end. He had dwindled from hundreds of hand-written pages to a few hastily scrawled literary doodles in less than two years. His dreams and ambitions to that end slipped underground, surfacing only to bump him awake in the early haze of morning and forgotten over donuts and coffee.

Books were, in fact, Mick’s only friends. They stood by him side by side, between the wood and cinderblock shelves, always ready with encouraging words and flowery flights of phrase to inspire and motivate. Douglas Adams’s The Long, Dark, Teatime of the Soul sat on the plank as if to say: ‘Hey, if I can do it..!’ Miller’s first edition (US) Tropic of Cancer whispered: ‘All you need is a chair and typewriter.’ Doctor Zhivago looked Mick square in the eye and asked if he had the passion. His science fiction books opened a mental box to creative infinity.

He also had anthologies of authors he thought would never achieve anything beyond mediocre urging him to ‘put up or shut the fuck up.’ Mick would smugly wave his most dog- eared friends, his Webster’s and Roget’s, in their spines and tell them, ‘These are more interesting than your claptrap!’ and rest his case with a thud. Much of what Mick found at the bookstores to read he considered ‘suppository writing,’ made to shove up the author’s ass.

After a heated debate with his verbal friends on the shelf, a silence would prevail, revealing a quiet, singsong humming in the corner of the bookcase. Mick’s Cowgirl studied her large thumb and its relation to the railroad effect of the road disappearing in the distance. She was unconcerned, and not in the least bit self-conscious about her mis-shapen beauty.

My darling, Mick would tell her again and again, I shall never be as lovely as you. Then he’d smile at The Lord of The Rings and tell them not to worry, they were still the prevailing royalty, with a sly wink to his Nine Princes in Amber.

It all played out in Mick’s world with a good-natured competitiveness, for the pages were worth their weight in flesh-and-blood friends—Greg R. Greg being his only one of those, and not quite as interesting (although he did share traits with some of Mick’s Time/Life artist friends). A late 1950s throwback to the beatnik printer and sculptor of the nude female figure, and a Korean War veteran to boot, Greg-Greg was as close as Mick would get to male comraderie in Sanity Cruise—a common plight among the local gender, which had been known to cause certain, but not all men, to rename the idyllic seaside resort ‘Insanity Cruise.’

The lesbians, along with the rest of the women, didn’t get it and never would. The notion of male comraderie was the flipside of the male-female record and, as such, not meant to be understood, among other things, by either of the opposite sex about the other. If you played it backwards, it said: Just go about your business, nothing to see here… It followed in Mick’s mind, however convolutely, that attempts at relationships between any sexes is moot, or, one could say, no more than packing material for your coffin. And that being said, Mick ignored the gender of a relationship. For him, though, the Gay life never entered his head, not like the massage place up the street often did.


Whenever he saw the sign in front of the massage parlor, he hoped to catch a glimpse of a lovely coming out the door and bending down to pick up the morning paper in the afternoon, revealing a soft, loose bodice of lacy design… but the walkway was always bare. Strangely, Mick daydreamed of giving a massage. The female body was a map to the promised land. Words floated through his reverie.

“Start in the South, in the foothills and the tiny spaces between the toes. Spaces are key, never neglect the spaces between. From there you can see the peaks of Mother Nature, known since the Ages to be a place of soothing warmth, sustenance, and delight: The Empyreal Palace. Do not rush to embrace this hallowed property, but rather stroll your way toward the top, imbibing in felicitous fragrances along the way. Let the path ooze from between your fingers, sliding in easy passes of pressure and release, pressure and release… and as you waltz and gaze into the eyes of beautitude, you are healing as well.”

Passing the dusty reservoir, he drove toward his new tools, breathing impressions in silent, cerebral color.

“Bend at Wounded Knee, and tally there. Find its underside and whisper to it, you will know what to say. Pay your respects and pray to all the Gods, for there are many to satisfy along the way to Elysium Place. Collect forget-me-nots in abundance there; you will use all of them to get into Heaven.”

Poetry danced in Mick’s frontal lobe, never escaping lips that moved wordlessly:

Arise and realize With Promised eyes (And a growing delight!) Her heavenly design.

Maidenly thighs, In attractive guise, Offer their Surprise.

Breasts floated in front of his eyes, blotting out the road. A double yellow line led a trail up a giant, bobbling cleavage to Sears. He followed the maracas from heaven in a literary daze.

“Arise until the earth is a receding speck of truth on the map to your destination and you are in the constellations. Look for The Lotus—the delicacy of which can be hidden by its luminescence. Alight there, and gaze upon The Lands of Milk and Honey. Behold the swelling peaks and the nourishing valley they form. The canyon celebrates the summits. Tread softly to get there; linger for a time in the empty space of their design. Savor both pinnacles with an open mouth of moist prana, warm them with your breath. Dally but don’t dawdle there; lay your head on the pillows of the valley and you will see your path clearly from the embrace of their contours.”

He plowed through the cleavage in his mind….

Adore, and be pleased. From here, you are nearly there, (You sense redolent zephyrs in the air!) Savor the anticipation of the moment you are already upon. Close now, encircle your prize, With an easy glide and open eyes.

“I’m coming!” the tool-less Mick called on his way to Sears, wallowing in his lust for life.

“You will come upon a forest, pruned with care and fashioned into an arrow pointing south. It will rise on your occasion. Devote yourself to its maintenance, for it is Creation itself that resides within its mossy covering. It is the Source of the Big Bang and shelter to a smaller world tucked away inside, hooded and shy, awaiting your practiced husbandry. Plant your forget-me-nots copiously inside its sacrosanct walls. Bring it to fruition with the patience of a gardener who feeds his dear with two-lips of love. Devote your life to the service of The Promised Land and you will one day come to know God within.”

He pulled into the Sears lot and parked. The car rattled, sighed, rolled over and went to sleep.

Romeo and Juliet’s Alternate Ending

Alternate Ending—Rated… uh, I’m not really sure. PG?

38—Romeo and Juliet

In this alternate ending to Shakespeare’s classic play, Romeo and Juliet have staged an elaborate ruse and are not really dead at all. Instead, they moved to Viagra Beach and grew old together. To give credit where it’s due, Bill Shakespeare wrote most of this.

ROMEO: …and the buccaneer saith: ‘Mine octopus shall playeth one such musical instrument after the next. Yea. Be they lyre, harpsichord or flugelhorn… One hundred doubloons to the first knave who bringeth forth an instrument he cannot but charm the sweetness from — like a bee charms honey from a rose by any other name.’ Twas well and good, til one codger did arrive with bagpipes…

JULIET: Butt soft! What wind from under covers breaks? Romeo, Romeo, why fart thou, Romeo?

ROMEO: To pee or not to pee? My fly is up, but my thoughts remain below. I go, and it is done. I suffer the slings and arrows of she who pulleth mine finger…

JULIET: Ay vey… Thou art the sphincter of my discontent. ‘Twas but the unkindest cut of all… Out, damned smell! I’ll be sick to-day for this morn’s wafting. A plague o’ both your holes!

ROMEO: Farting is such sweet sorrow… Now is the winter of my incontinence.

JULIET: O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain… Beware the hides of farts! What a piece of work is man! Shall I not, then, be stifled in the eiderdown, to whose foul mouth no healthsome air breathes in? Fie on thy own bagpipes!

ROMEO: All the world’s a potty… Floridians, Romans, countrymen, lend me some toilet paper…. The lady doth protest too much, ‘me stinks…’

JULIET: Something is rotten and is not, I fear, in the state of Denmark but ‘tis you in its stead… (Stage whispers: I follow him to serve my turn upon him.)

ROMEO: Asses are made to bear, and so are you to mine… To air is human, to forgive divine.

JULIET: Save your rhymes for future times, and Popes like Alexander; get thee to a potty! So all that bedsheet’s not mold. Thy slow burner doth not fade away… Nay, naught forthwith enough!

ROMEO: To sleep, perchance to shutteth up — oy, where’s the plug? I am constipated as the northern star; of whose true-fix’d and resting quality eludes the firmament in this fellow. Shall we on without apology? I cannot bound a pinch: Under love’s heavy burden do I stink.

JULIET: How now? A dead rat?

ROMEO (Aside: Is this a dagger which I see before me? Was ever woman in this humour woo’d? Was ever woman in this fragrance won? Only by the thumbing of my prick, something wicked this way comes, methinks. O unhappy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust, and let lie while like a hell-broth boil and bubble inside.)

JULIET (Also aside: With palindrome, I say aside, aside say I, that he’s bad, ‘tis true, ‘tis true ‘tis pity, and pity ‘tis ‘tis true. True, ‘tis ‘tis pity, and pity ‘tis true ‘tis true, bad he’s that I say aside, aside say I…) Love looks not with the nose but with watery eyes. The man that hath foul music in himself, nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet laxative, is unfit for reason, stratagems, and sweet cheeses.

ROMEO: Be not afraid of flatulence: some are born flatulent, some achieve flatulence, and some have flatulence thrust upon ‘em. Blow, blow, thou winter wind. Thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude. Let every nose negotiate for itself and trust no agent. What’s gone and what’s passed should be passed with relief. This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine.

JULIET: The course of true love never did run smooth. We should be woo’d and were not made to woo. Woo-who? Lord, what fools these mortals be. We that are true lovers run into strange vapors; but as all is mortal in nature, so is all nature in love mortal folly. My soliloquy ne’er ripped so foul, Romeo, O Romeo, as thou.

ROMEO: What noise is here? Fie, you slug-a-bed! O lamentable day! Stench lies on me like an untimely frost! O, I would have thee judicious use of flatulence depurates. You lay the dagger on my paté. I’ll re you, I’ll fa you; do you note me? And do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti you, too. Which brings us back to…

JULIET: What is the matter? (Aside: I give pause, forthwith to continue…) Canneth giveth and naught taketh?

ROMEO: (Aside: Says she, so trippingly off the tainted tongue.) Naught! How now, brown sow? Aesop was never so grim…


(Enter FRIAR LAURENCE and PARIS, with Musicians)

ROMEO and JULIET: Nevermore now!

(Exit FRIAR LAURENCE and PARIS, with Musicians)

(Rip needle from record album.) Then they really did kill each other, simultaneously, by smotheration of scents over-foul.


PRINCE (Offstage): A glomming crapulence this morning with it brings; The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head: Go hence, or have more scents of these bad things; Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished: For never was a story of more Whoa! than this of Juliet and her Romeo.

The Endeth.


Fuck. This blows, dude… said my inner voice.

Too late now, I replied. Sorry Bill.

Daddy, Why Can’t I Say Ass? Ch. 35—Coffee Break

Rated PG (language)

Chapter 35—Coffee Break

There’s a very specific ritual about making coffee. First and foremost, you must start with a good bean. I prefer the dark roasts; Italian and French, for example, make a good mix. Ideally, coffee beans should be stored in the freezer. When grinding, care must be taken to achieve the perfect granule for drip-brewing, or powder for espresso. As a rule, powder unleashes the most flavor; however this is problematic for the drip-brew drinker at the bottom of the cup, where much of it settles. That shit will quickly turn your teeth a gritty shade of gray.

While I may appreciate the subtle nuances between drip-brewing or French-pressing my coffee, I am an espresso with steamed milk maker. That means I grind for powder. If you turn an Indonesian bean to dust and pack a full espresso basket, it still easily drips espresso. Try that with a French or Italian bean and you will require more than a small, home-style espresso maker to drip the dark roasts. To affect the perfect balance of a well-ground bean with slightly less than two-thirds of a twelve ounce mug of milk, the optimum time to grind dark roasts in a small, stainless nut grinder is twenty-five to thirty seconds. Go beyond that, and you’re espresso basket is impacted to constipation by the dust-powder, resulting in an interminably slow espresso drip. Impossibly slow. It’s the oiliness of the bean which clogs up the works. To remedy this, the powder must instead be a granule. This sacrifices some flavor, but at least I can get a cuppa joe in under twenty minutes.

Twenty-five or thirty seconds is a long time for a coffee bean to be hacked by two stainless steel blades. I counted out the ‘mississippi’s’ and carefully lifted off the top to the grinder. There, sitting in the center of finely chopped, brown dust, sat one lone bean covered in powder. It was whole — unsullied and untouched.

What’s this? Why hello, little feller! I took it out, held it up, and dusted it off. How the hell did you escape the blades of final dissolution? How could you possibly not be powder by now, crushed and disseminated throughout my grinder with the rest of the beans? Did you balance your tightrope act in the dead center of those blades, twirling like a dirvish on knives of steel? You, little bean, have passed through the flames of consumption and emerged unscathed! You are a survivor, much like myself. You are anti-centrifugal, and refused to lie down. You are an inspiration, to be commended! Where have you bean all my life?


Off you go, little survivor… I tossed it back in the bag with the others. I’ll get you next time… Ah, it is the ‘morning’ version of the Wonder Child. That is, the early afternoon version. Her hair is early day-bed, her face Sleepy the Dwarf as she wipes her hand across Snow White eyes. Her pajamas talk to me slowly, “Who are you talking to? Can I have a cup of coffee?”

Flannel pajamas and a t-shirt with a dancer on it. She is at an age when her father had already conceived and subsequently aborted a child. She wants to be in love. Her father was in love by twelve, and again at thirteen, and fourteen, and seventeen… then once more. Her father never wore pajamas… “Did I say that out loud? Sure, I’ll make you a cup,” and I start making our coffee. Her father was drinking coffee by her age, having developed an early jones for café con leche in Spain. Her father was drinking a lot of wine and beer too, at her age, and trying to give up being addicted to getting high on pot and acid and heroin and pills and… Her father had lived a life of crime already, by her age. She is unlike her father in all the right ways. She’s going to love coffee.

When I picked Katy up from school on her seventeenth birthday she was covered in balloons, flowers, and small, pink stuffed animals. Everyone was nice to her that day. She told me her French teacher had cornered her at lunchtime and started speaking to her in French.

Katy told me, “I just nodded and said: ‘Uh, sure! Thanks!’ In class they all tried to sing to me, but nobody knew the song and it was all out of tune. Sounded terrible…”

I wanted to know what her French teacher said to her, but Katy had no idea. “Didn’t you ask her what she meant?”


“Why not?”

“Because I’m supposed to know!” Then she picked up my wine glass and took a sip.

“How do you like the wine?”

“Yuck, not good with gum…” This is something we have in common. Seventeen… out of the severe misnomer that is Sweet Sixteen and into another grand teen year of life as they know it at that age. For her birthday we gave her a gift certificate at a good book store, two chocolate bars, a fine dinner at an Italian Restaurant of her choosing and six lottery scratch-off tickets she won sixteen bucks with. The next day I received a letter from our bank stating that they covered five transactions of hers she didn’t have the money for, and she must now remit $105 in penalties. They didn’t know the half of it, as she had recently been fired from her part-time Juice Jockey Job and had no income other than what I gave her for lunch money, when she asked. I forked over the sixteen bucks lottery winnings and the non-existant money was floating out of my hands at every turn. “Do I have to use this for lunch?” I handed her three more bucks. Her father was stealing drugs for money, breaking into drugstores and doctors offices for more drugs… When he ate, he ate lobster at The Stratton. At seventeen, her father and his friend skipped out the side door of a swank Hollywood Boulevard hotel on a lobster tab. This is something we don’t have in common.

“Please don’t tell me you woke up with gum in your mouth,” I mutter almost to myself.

Katy goes to the bathroom while I finish the coffee. When she comes out, I hand her her cuppa joe. She takes a sip and some foam lingers on her upper lip area. “Mmm-m-m…” Her eyes close a little. She starts in immediately:

“On tuesday we have to perform at…” (time and place which I immediately forget to remember) “…and on Wednesday there’s a party…” (at some o’clock) “…for the dance team and we’re doing a gift exchange…” (sly hint for money) “…and don’t forget my haircut on Monday and OH MY GAWD I have to tell you… Missy and I were practicing…” (some dance step) “…and she fell right on her face! HA-HA-HA! We were laughing so hard! She was sitting on her butt and she pushed back and said ‘Oh my gawd, I just peed!’ Then she showed me the little puddle…” (on the gym floor) “…and we started laughing even harder! Missy had to get up and run to the boys bathroom and left little drops of pee all the way…! Oh my gawd I couldn’t stop laughing! First it was Amanda, then Kelly at camp and now Missy, HA-HA-HA!”

I’m thinking: I don’t really need to know this, it gives me the eeky-jeebies. Quickly man, change the subject… Still, I’m laughing. It’s potty humor and her father still laughs when anyone says ‘tushy.’ Her father looked his own fart in the eye of the mirror.

Deftly, I change the subject. “Coffee starting to kick in?”

“Uh-huh,” she nods eagerly. Her father’s cup only succeeds in warding off a headache, until the next one comes in the late afternoon. There is a silent moment.

“Your Aunt Jessica would have had a birthday this month.”

Katy nods. “I wonder how Beverly is doing?” She is referring to her Aunt Jessica’s cat, who we all tried to take care of while Jessica was in and out of the hospital with an incredible array of vast diseases, slamming her relentlessly. The cat clearly flipped its poor lid, attacking anything at any given time, with or without a possessed-sounding warning. When I went there I wore long pants, boots, a heavy jacket, thick leather gloves and carried an umbrella, which I used to back her away from the door when I entered — popping it out like a belligerant peacock when she went for my feet, where she once drew blood. To feed the cat and shovel her shit, I dressed like a bomb squad worker. Later I realized a much easier way to keep Beverly at bay. I smoked. When I smoked, I could go inside wearing a Speedo and she wouldn’t come near me. Shortly after that, Aunt Jessica passed away. Beverly was taken in by a family with two other cats and, I was told, they all get along famously well.

“I’m sure Beverly’s living life on her own terms,” I tell my daughter as she sips her latte.

Katy chuckles, thinking of Beverly. “That cat was insane.”

I agree, fondling my mug. Last night Katy went to ‘Teen Zone,’ which is a gymnasium at a local school that hosts an occasional dance for the kids. She also knows a member of two of the bands who performed, a drummer and a bass guitar player. They play ‘rock,’ I was told. I ask her how they were.

“Oh, pretty good.” Then she immediately downgrades them to, “Not too bad.”

“How was the turnout?” I ask.

“Only about twenty people.”

I’m surprised there were so few. When her father went to rock concerts at the The Fillmore East he had to negotiate millions just to get there. His Pop taught him to slice through Lexington Avenue at five o’clock like Emerson Boozer after taking the handoff from Broadway Joe. Her father took the subway to get to concerts, but much preferred the elevated line that took him to see Led Zeppelin, Iron Butterfly, and others he could no longer remember.

“Did you know many people there?” I ask, sniffing around for the boy’s name I think might be behind this. She doesn’t go there, which could mean that she’s seriously more picky now than she used to be. I like to think she’s taken my advice and isn’t trusting anybody with her feelings. I don’t really know if this is right or wrong, but I’m pretty sure it’s the safest stance to take. I want her to hold out a while longer before committing her heart to anyone, at least until the hormones slow from raging to just monthly. Then, she’ll have at least three weeks a month to stay open-minded and clear-headed. (The other week, if she stays athletic, I can hope she’s at least clear-headed.)

“Yeah, I knew a few people. Most of the rest were from…” and she names the rival school. “They’re weird…”

Oh god, not more weirdness. That assessment always puts me on edge. Her father had weird friends once upon a time, when he was her age. They were weird enough to wield guns and knives, and commit acts of armed robbery, breaking and entering, grand theft, petty theft, any theft no matter how trivial, no matter from whom. They were really weird on acid, and glue, and too much booze, and barbituates, and morphine, and worse.

“How so?” I always have to ask.

“Well, the way they dress… I mean, in girls clothes… It’s the hard coursing.” She knows I’m going to take this a little strangely, so she pauses enough to let it sink in, warming both hands on her cup.

“They what? I…” didn’t quite understand. I didn’t even know what question to ask first. “What’s hard coursing?”

“Hard coursing..! It’s the hard coursing.”

“What?” Like I knew what she was talking about. “Hard coursing..?”

“Hard, core, scene!”

“Oh-h-h, it’s the hard core scene…”

“Yeah, you know…” (I didn’t) “…short jackets and frilly shirts…”

“You have to e-nun-ciate around me, especially with slang.” I’m trying to get a sense of how much of this is gay and how much of it is just campy. “You mean like Prince?” (The talented musician with the damned annoying Insignia.)

“Yeah, more like Prince, but they wear girl’s pants.”

“What’s the difference?” I want to know. She tells me in specific, no-uncertain terms that it’s the cut, and the low waist that makes them different than men’s pants. And the cost, I think. So I’m seeing pimply-faced teen Prince impersonators from Tyrol dressed like Twiggy, in my mind. This doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Katy’s father wondered if the boys were transvestites. He wondered if it was fair to ask that about someone their age. He wondered if anyone could know at that age whether or not they were a transvestite. But he knew it didn’t matter.

“So are they gay?” She doesn’t know for sure and I believe her — that she’s not sure. “What about eye liner?” I ask her.

“Oh yeah.”

Then I ask her the telltale question: “Anyone hit on you?”


“That’s it, they’re gay.” I tell her.

She laughs, “Probably.” I don’t even ask her if they can dance, I don’t need to. Anyone who cross dresses even a little can dance. These boys could just be theatrical, or they could be gay. Katy’s already told me that she won’t take the Drama classes in school because the people are all gay and lesbian pot smokers. Katy is hetero and doesn’t get high; what would they have in common? Again, I didn’t pass any judgements. She did that for herself and decided it wasn’t worth the risk. As usual, she just wants the Easy way out of school. The path of least resistance. In this case it probably works in her favor.

We don’t care about the gay and lesbian part of working within the drama group. It’s the pot smoking I’m glad she’s avoiding. I don’t want her to start having too much fun yet; it’s distracting from actually finding an interest she can be passionate about. Her father found that passion, but it took many years of experimentation.

“What about the lesbians, do they buy men’s clothes?” I wonder.

“Only the butch ones. Oh…” she laughs, “…and then, Apryle pokes me and says: ‘Do you see those guys wearing chickens on their heads?’ It’s true! Some guys were wearing chicken heads! I said…” (to Apryle) “‘…Yeah.’ And she said: ‘Good, I didn’t want to be the only one!’ Ha-ha!”

Ha-ha, I think. Very funny? Cross dressing juniors with frilly shirts, low-waisted pants, eye liner, and chickens on their heads… that is funny, isn’t it? Her father’s time pre-dated punk. When spikes and mohawks showed up, he was freaked! How much more outlandish will teens be willing to take this show of independence? Now they are piercing holy places all over their bodies like they were pin cushions and spray painting their hair Rustoleum orange. While I’m trying to decide what’s next, Katy’s still talking.

“…he felt really bad because the lead singer started throwing up all over the stage and…”

“Wait, wait!” I interrupt. “Start that over again?”

“Yeah, he felt really bad (her friend in the band) because he convinced him (his friend, the lead singer) to go (perform) even though he was sick. Then he (the lead singer) threw up all over…”

“Oh… That sucks,” I commiserate.

“Yeah,” she says, studying the foam left in her cup and swiping at it with her pinky. “Can I put more chocolate on this?”

“Sure…” I’m lost in my own foam. When handled properly, foam can be nursed like a bar beer — pacing it all the way to the last, true gulp. After it’s gone, it signifies one thing only: You are done with your coffee. Oh sure, there’s that last little dribble to coax out, but that’s only a tease for the next cup. My second cup of this warm, autumn day is half empty already, this early in the afternoon. I’ve been gulping. I should slow down. I toy with the idea of speeding up and making another but I knew I wouldn’t. I have to pace myself, or the experience will diminish. Katy sits back down at the kitchen table. She’s still talking.

“And Missy, she wouldn’t shut up! She kept shhh-shhh’ing in the back…” I’m lost. “She and Lisa have been hanging out together because they both have boyfriends and I don’t. They have something to talk about…”

“Mm-hmm,” I offer sympathetically. “How about Kelly, has she got a boyfriend?”


“So hang out with her,” I say. Then, after a pause, “So, no boy troubles then?”

“No,” she tells me a little dejectedly. “I’ve given up on boys.”

“Good,” I reiterate, like I have before on the subject. “Best to wait until you’re thirty.”

She seems truly depressed that I might be right, after all. “I know.”

I don’t want to squash her hopes completely, so I soften up a little. “It’s possible you can find someone in your twenties… if you’re careful.”

“Yeah, sure.” She changed the subject, “I was with Apryle. We were trying to shut Missy up. Oh, it was so funny, because we couldn’t laugh, you know?”

Of course I knew. The resistence to laughing is always in direct opposition to the seriousness of the moment. “Remind me again, where were you?”

“I told you, at the City Council meeting,” where the girls try to get money from the city for their Dance Squad. She’s talking about a few nights ago.

“So this guy comes over and takes her arm…” (Missy’s) “…and tells her to be quiet..! And Apryle started laughing, and…” (I think I know what’s coming) “…blew a giant snot bubble! Aha-ha-ha!”

Naturally… “Did you call her on it?”

“Of course!” Katy laughs. That’s my girl.

“What’d she do?” I wanted details.

“She covered it up with her hand.” I laughed. I mean, what else are you going to do when you blow snot at a City Council meeting? It was a stupid question. I think I should change the subject, move on to tonight’s plans.

“So, you guys are planning to go to the movies tonight?”


“What are you going to see?”

“Brokeback Mountain.”

Briefly I wonder why, but not for long. She loves love stories. She thrives on movies that make her cry and scream. “Why?” I ask her anyway, knowing already.

She tells me in no uncertain terms: “Because I hear it’s good!” She’ll want money, of course. Her father rarely paid to see movies. He crawled in on his hands and knees, under the ticket seller and through the door, past the candy counter, then ran up the stairs to the loge, where he and his friends could smoke and throw garbage down on the seats below — occasionally knocking a drink over the side before running out the door. Or he walked backwards in the side door as people were leaving, even lighting a cigarette so he’d look like he was egressing with the rest of the crowd. His daughter would never do that.



“Can I get my driver’s permit next week?”

I gulp more coffee. My foam is on its last gasp, the final lump will hit my mouth and bubble a little bit before going down. Then I’ll be left with only the dribble, and the recurring question, Should I have another? The answer will be No, as usual. I’ll nurse the dribble twice, squeezing a littler dribble out of the first, until the smallest, tiniest, last hope of a drip dries on the cup before it can make its way onto my tongue. Her father was learning how to drive when he was seventeen…


What did his father before him, the Painter, teach him besides how to negotiate the sidewalk? He didn’t… he just was. He was himself, and no one else to anyone. He was there, invoking his passion for his son to see. Oh, his son said, fifty years later, licking the dry foam from the inside of his mug.


“Sure… we can do that.”

“Yay!” she said to her father, fully upright in her chair with eyes the size of hockey pucks.

Scraping the last bit of foam with her finger and sticking it in her mouth, “Mmmm…” she said. “When?”


“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 19—Thanksgiving

Rated G

Chapter 19—Thanksgiving

We’re all there—the grandparents, the parents, and the grandkids—sitting around the dinner table. We’re talking about Pop’s old paintings that went the way of a fire sale at the church, when they left town so suddenly fed up with it all in NYC. The Wonder Woman, the Purple Horse, Lee Harvey Oswald driving the Chevelle… Pop has forgotten the one with me as a small boy, painted with dyes on glass as if it was my reflection watching the first homicide on television — the Oswald murder. The painting behind the glass was a grayscale/op-art rendition of the shooting that exaggerated the screen resolution of our old black and white TV. With the glass dye-painting of me covering it, it really looked like a television. What hectic times those were…

Ma says: “The whole country was in such denial back then.”

“Denial?” Pop says, buttering his biscuit. “I thought that was a river in Egypt.”

Unflustered after decades of this kind of verbal abuse, Ma retorts: “You don’t have to Rhine about it.”

I chime in my two cents. “Did I Mississippi something here? Or is this conversation getting Volga?”

Sis jumps in the fray, while the grandkids try to keep up. “I’m getting ready to Colorado the whole thing off!”

“I know,” I continue, “I can’t Stanislaus much more of this either.”

“That would be Rio Grande with me, this conversation is taking a rapids dive.” Pop decides.

“I’ll Klamath up if you will-eth.” I’m trying to get the last shot in, and add: “I’m not Russian into anything though,” just to be sure.

“I’m Delaware of that,” Pop replies. The grandkids are getting a geography lesson and don’t even know it. They listen quietly and watch as if it were a ping pong game. A long silence ensues in a thinktank atmosphere — as one of us is surely going to pick up the ball.

“A conversation like this could drive you in-Seine,” Sis serves up as she passes the candied yams. We are all laughing and spitting food out while we scramble for more river puns. “We Congo on like this for hours.”

“I was Euphrates say that. Someone please put me out of my Missouri… and pass the gravy.” I manage to choke out. We have totally forgotten the conversation. “It’s Amazon to me that we ever get anything discussed. Don’t worry kids, Elbe all over soon.” They still look worried. “Thames are changing.” Now we’re laughing too hard to carry on this stream of thought.

“Could you be more Pacific?” Pop asks me, biting the tip off an asparagus.

“I’m Red Sea whenever you are.”

“Better make it quick,” Pop says. “I’m Aegean fast.”

“Can we go outside?” All the grandkids get up to leave. It’s raining, hard, but that doesn’t matter to them.

“What, no dessert?”

“Maybe later.” They file out in a line. It’s a walkout. They seem to have lost their appetite.

I’m seeing more white meat on the platter and help myself to seconds. “Could you pass the cranberries?” I ask Sis.

“I’d be berry happy to.”

“Now you’re just being silly,” I say.

“I cran if I want to,” she replies. I’m pretty sure I want to join the kids now.

“‘Nuther biscuit?” Ma offers. I take one and look for the butter. It’s way down at the end of the table. Sis passes it over.

“Butter late than never,” she always says. I change the subject, fast.

“So… What’s for dessert?” I look at my brother JP and his lovely, brilliant, exceedingly patient wife, Leanne. This is their shindig, they’ve done all the cooking. JP looks at me, seriously.

“Don’t ask,” he begs. “Please.” He’s afraid, rightfully, what we’ll say about his pies. I turn to Pop.

“Looks like we’ll have to pump-kin him for answers.”

JP interrupts, getting up to leave the table. “Coffee anyone?”

101 Songs You Shouldn’t Sing on TV—I Love My Wife/A Date With No Shame

Rated R (language and situations)

I Love My Wife

Author’s Note: Babe and I have been together for over 25 years. The adventure transcribed below took place early in our relationship—back when computers were DOS and VCRs were still in use. This is an excerpt from my non-fiction, as yet unpublished book “Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass’?” It also goes with the song parody below, A Date With No Shame (parody of A Horse With No Name). Click on the YouTube link provided and read my lyrics while the song plays.


Babe and I left By Th’ Bucket restaurant after a late dinner of oyster shooters, steamed clams, salad, pasta and garlic bread, and headed home. There’s nothing like a steamed clam in butter and garlic. Throwing social convention out the window, we drank red wine with the meal.

We rode in silence down El Camino Real passing the great American variety of stores, restaurants, car washes, hotels and…

“Pull in here,” Babe said.

“The adult bookstore?”

“I’ve always been curious about those places. What are they like?”

“Beats the hell out of me. I’ve never been inside one. Well, just once, a long time ago,” killing time as a salesperson.

“Aren’t you curious?”

Definitely. I looked at Babe with a new respect and pulled in the driveway. “Sure!” My X- File wife would never have gone into one of those stores.

It was a small place, with no windows and quarter peep shows in the back. The aisles were narrow and packed with videos. Some guys hung out in the shadows by the peep show booths, watching Babe. She ignored them and started looking at the video titles.

Squirt Off. Fuck me Plenty. Swallow my Big, Fat….

Speaking of big fat… I noticed a huge, pink thing in a box and moved to inspect it. Whatever it was, it was circumcised.

“Hmm. What’s a nice, Jewish dildo like you doing in a place like this?” One of the peep-shady guys watched me. (Please back away from the dildo…) “What the hell’s this?” I wondered, looking at a fat, stubby… thing. Butt plug? For diarrhea? Must be. Surely no one would stick one of those up their ass for fun. Maybe it goes with the “Stretch that Ass” video. Other items had straps and harnesses and complicated paraphernalia hanging off them. Must be for engineers and rocket scientists, I determined.

There were all sorts of rubbery-looking apparati one was supposed to insert in their favorite places. A display of batteries stood nearby, ready to keep going, and going…. Perhaps someone stuck some of those in a favorite orifice or two as well, as a substitute for coffee. Use a pair of ‘D’ batteries for those hard to reach places, then sit on a butt plug to push it in.

A guy tending the counter hummed to himself and did some paperwork. I gravitated over to take a look at what was in the display. Lubes, condoms, massage oils, handcuffs…

“How you doing?” The kid said to me.

“Huh? Good, thanks. You?” I’m just browsing.

“Can I show you anything?”

Please don’t. “Uh, no thanks, I’m just…” trying to be nonchalant. “What the hell do you do with those?” I pointed in the case.

“Those are nipple clamps,” he told me, with a broad smile.

“Hmm.” I said, looking at the alligator clips. Ouch. Why would..? Never mind. He kept smiling. I turned back to the display, carefully avoiding eye contact.

“What about that?” I pointed to a gel-like hole with nubs on it, bigger than a silver dollar.

“Cock ring.”

“Oh,” I tried to imagine whatever for. It certainly wasn’t deep enough to fuck.

“This one vibrates,” the young clerk added. The kid looked like he was working his way through college, and spoke to me like he might just as well have been serving me a danish.

“I see…” Not really. I moved past the jelly to the playing cards. These I know. Except I didn’t know that. I cocked my head to figure out what was happening on the back of the card. Christ! You have to be a yoga instructor to do that! No way. I’m exhausted and my neck hurts just looking at it. I straighten up and move over to the adjacent wall of boxed… stuff.

More videos showing lots of leather, with studly guys on the cover. They’re wearing some slick, black hybrid of overalls and alpenhosen, bulging like ballet dancers with potatoes in their shorts.

Oh my god… elephantitis! I snicker. That’s gotta hurt. Then I read the title: Boys Will Be Boys, and moved on to another cover filled with gorgeous women in tight fitting, sexy dresses. They all have big tits and I wonder how many are real. Boys Will Be Girls, the title read. I guess that answers that question, and moved on. I think I’m in the wrong section.

Dildos! Dildos with knobby balls inside them. Dildos that are ‘actual size’ of porn stars. I look for Milton Berle’s, wondering if dildo envy is a viable concept. Vibrators lined up like missiles in every color, ready to heat-seek some pleasure. What’s this, a vibrating egg? I’ll take mine over easy, please. Something called a ‘Bullet,’ and something shaped like a butterfly that’s named after a bug-eating plant… dildos to strap on, put in your purse, or wear all day. Dildos for any hole and dildos with little smiley faces on them. Dildos ‘Pussy Galore’ and ‘Jack Rabbit’ with antennae inappropriate for those under twenty-one. There was a dildo for Valentine’s Day. What better way to say I love you than Here, go fuck yourself. Dan the Conehead dildo winked and blushed. Laurel and Hardy dildos in a boxed set, one fat and one slim. What, no Duke Dildo? The Duke would make a very fetching rubber penis. Surely if Milton Berle could have a sculpture made of his private self… I’m thinking a Presidential set put out by the mint would be a real collectible. (Try the Andrew Johnson!) One dildo doubled as a vibrating candle holder (candle not included), good for waxing afterward. Dildos in every color and nuance; even one for King Kong.

Strap-ons and love dolls and penis enhancers,
Silver-tipped dildos with red and green flashers…
These were only a few of people’s favorite things.

Whips, masks, riding crops, and chains with rubber tips. Clit flickers and booty bumpers, love dolls and disassociated lips and ‘helmet huggers’ and beads you were supposed to shove up your ass and girth pumps for your penis and something called a ‘hot seat’ I wouldn’t want to confuse with a whoppee cushion and a penis with another penis on the other end and a ‘backdoor buddy’ and extenders you attached to your dick so you could bang your partner from the barbecue and… what’s this? A latex pussy? Pocket sized, no less—a carry-on item for that next long flight. Next to it, oh no, can’t be… a ‘magic flesh’ vibrating butt. Just the butt, face down and buns up, cut off at the waist and thighs.

I laughed. “Hey Babe, look at this!” I grabbed the box and turned around, waving it over my head at where I thought she was still reading the video packages. Now there was an older guy there wearing an overcoat, looking at me from under the brim of his low hat “I… Babe?” I put it down with a humiliated grimace and looked around the store. She was by the peep rooms; sort of keeping her distance, but curious. I went and got her.

“What do they do in there?” she wanted to know.

“What do you think?”

“I heard there’s a hole in the wall in those booths,” she chuckled.

I was naive. “What for?”

“I heard people put it in the hole and, next door… someone takes it…”

“OH-h-h-h…” Get horny and stick your dick in the wall, makes perfect sense.

I remembered the first porn movie I went to, Deep Throat. It had just opened and the Santa Monica theatre was packed. I sat there when it was over and looked at my pal Cliff, “Great idea, buddy. Would you mind if I sat here for a while before walking down Santa Monica Boulevard with a boner the size of Florida?”

“Rhode Island, you mean,” he said. Very funny

“Can we get a video?” Babe raised her eyebrows.

“Sure,” I agree, heading that direction. “You pick it.”

“How about ‘Wanda Does the World?’” I suggest.

“I don’t think so.”

“The Bush Pilot?”


“Midgets on Fire?” No answer. “Forrest Hump?”

“What? Lemme see that.”

I walked back toward the counter, where the kid was stirring up dust with a cat o’ nine tails.

“Finding everything you need?” he asked me.

“More than I need,” I told him. “But I didn’t see any dildo Christmas lights.”

“Those are in here.” He pulled a three-inch thick catalog out from under the counter and slapped it down. “Circumcised or au natural?

“No. Thanks anyway. Now I know where to get them,” I add.

Babe finds a video. It’s a collection of sex scenes from different movies. The tiny thumbnail photographs on the back are so microscopically small I’d need a 10x lupe to see anything clearly, but they look active. What I think is someone’s open mouth turns out to be something quite different, so I stop looking and find the price. It’s $39.99. Holy hell, why not add the nine-tenths of a cent, like a gallon of gas, to make it come out (almost) even?

“Forty bucks? Holy shit!” The kid at the counter smiles again. I’d like to rub jelly on his teeth. “Babe?” Where’d she go? I found her by a rack of newspapers, leafing through a tabloid called Swing Sets, and wandered over. The paper looked like sales ads to me. “Any monkey bars or see-saws in there?” I asked, looking over her shoulder.

“What? Not quite… Look at this.”

I thought I was an open-minded man; experienced and fairly learned in the sensual arts. After reading the ad about a couple looking for another couple to ‘swing’ with, and I’m not talking about the ones next to the see-saws, I immediately felt prehistorically old. How do I feel about that? At that moment, I felt like I’d just had a shitload of penises stuck in my face for the last half hour and wanted to bolt.

“What, exactly, does ‘swinging’ include?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Babe replied, and I was pretty certain she didn’t know any more than I did. “Wanna buy this?” The tabloid was a couple bucks, so I said sure, why not. “There’s pictures too,” she added as a sly aside.


Later that night…

Babe has emerged from changing clothes in the one bedroom of our tiny apartment wearing her red flannel shirt. She doesn’t know it, yet, I think, but it’s the shirt that turns me on the most. It’s so… soft, and it’s a button-down. The thought of her naked breasts touching the inside of it never fails to warm my engine. “You look nice,” I tell her as she walks into our tiny apartment kitchen, which, from the bedroom, is no more than eight diminutive Babe-steps away.

She laughs at herself, “What, this? I bought this shirt at a second-hand store in San Francisco about ten years ago. I don’t even know how old this thing is.”

When she’s close enough, I’ll unbutton the top button like I usually do and run a casual finger over the top part of either breast, or both, if possible. I haven’t told her about the effect her red flannel shirt has on me because I don’t want it to be a pre-determined sort of thing. I like the randomness of it. I also like the idea of her knowing already that the red flannel shirt raises my ‘marital right’ flag and wears it when she secretly wishes I’ll ravish her like a ripe plum. When she walks out with it on, all I see is the cape of the Matador. My breath escapes heavily and I stomp a hoof on the carpet, internally snorting and…

I pick up the tabloid and read an ad aloud to Babe, “‘Not into watersports, ‘b’ stroke ‘d’ or kink. No pain. ‘H’ stroke ‘W’ proportionate. No STD’s…’ Could you translate that for me please? What, they don’t want to go to the beach?”

“I think watersports has to do with peeing on people,” Babe clarified.

“Oh, of course. The old ‘golden shower.’ I forgot some people like to do that. Sounds… warm, and… smelly.”

Babe continues, “And ‘b’ and ‘d’ must have something to do with bondage and discipline, or domination.”

“Ah, bondage I should have known. Domination is a little… vague. ‘No pain’ is something I understand, but don’t really get why it has to be stated. I mean, what the fuck, who wants to be in pain?” I was pretty sure I couldn’t carry a hard-on with, say, an alligator clip on my nipple. Babe shrugged and sat down next to me on the small futon we called a couch. She took the tabloid out of my hands and started reading while I looked down her shirt.

“STD’s are sexually transmitted diseases.” Of course, I should have known that, too. “There’s a lot of that going around.” Babe looked at me squarely. I kept looking at the top of her right breast.

“That’s for sure.” I straightened her shirt by pulling down on it a little, and opened the top part up a wee bit more. She looked down at her slowly uncovered cleavage, waiting till I was done arranging her shirt just the way I wanted it. “What else did you find in there?” I pulled some of her curly locks to the side, brushing a fingertip along her neck.

“Huh, what? Oh… let’s see. Let’s look at the photographs.” She turns the page. There’s a couple photographs but the low resolution halftones are completely plugged. “Jesus, they can’t even hold a 65-line screen,” Babe comments, ever the printer, and turns the page. When she looks to the right, she exposes her neck just a smidgen more than I can resist and I make my move to plant a kiss there.

From the very beginning we made an agreement: No tickling. I took a sharp elbow to the stomach when I tried that on Babe early on. Not only that, she promised payback was a bitch and started poking me in the ribs until I had to run from the room. So it was agreed, no tickling. But…

There’s a sensual fulcrum with regards to tickling and arousal. Then there’s the endorphins… When the proper amount of each are employed at the proper time, the effect takes on a heightened, sensual significance. One only has to know where their partner’s current boundary is, and when to back off. So I kiss her neck and run my hand across her stomach. The way she’s sitting, I can squeeze a breast or two while I’m in the neighborhood. The longer I kiss her neck, not moving my head once I get there so it doesn’t tickle, the quicker I have to squeeze at least one breast. In that way, I’m balancing the tickle with the arousal, and saving my teeth from getting knocked out.

There’s a photo of a guy, I think, fishing in a river. He’s got the whole fishing ensemble thing going on; waterproof overalls, vest and floppy hat. “What’s this guy into, rubber and blowfish?” I ask while rearranging Babe’s shirt, opening another button so I can see the inside curve of her crescent moon. She laughs and I run my finger along her soft, warm, inner-right cleavage. “Don’t tell me, he wants to show us his rod, right?”

“Ha-ha! That would be reely funny.” We both laugh.

“You think he’s salmon you’d like to get to know better?”

Babe ignores that and turns the page. “Here’s a couple looking for a ‘discreet relationship, group sex, three or more, miscellaneous fetishes or exhibition and voyeurism.’” She points to the photo. It’s an older couple who both look like truck drivers. I assume the one with the gray beard is the guy.

“Do they describe what ‘miscellaneous fetishes’ are?” I wonder.

Babe puts the paper down. “Wanna watch the video?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” and got up to slip it in. “Want some popcorn?” She didn’t. We kicked back and hit play. The leader fumbled through a squeaky set-up of snow and tracking lines before some type finally came on the screen, then a prim-looking woman in business attire sitting behind a desk. She started to explain some shit about porn in general so I fast-forwarded to the ‘cumming previews.’ A huge pair of breasts jiggled their way into existence and I slowed the tape down so my eyes would stop boggling like a lottery-ball spinner. Bobble-breasts turned out to be an ad for a 900 phone number. Suddenly cum was flying everywhere.

When one guy finished, another took his place and another and another and they all shot their wads close-up and personal. You get all this by phone? “Call this number and you can talk to me, and I’ll make sure you’ll feel like you’re plugging up my nostrils with your chism while I…” chatter like a chipmunk as I hit the fast forward button again. Fifty guys cum in three seconds as the chop-edits fly by. It looks like the fountain show at the Bellagio Hotel in Vegas; all that’s missing is the 1812 Overture.

A plain, typed title shows up so I slow it down. It tells us that this is movie No. 472 and cuts to the chase. Some guy in a red Speedo is chasing a narrow-waisted, extremely tall platinum blond in spiked heels around a kitchen block. Following her bouncing breasts on TV is like singing two songs at once. Then it gets interesting. Using some very creative shots of bizarre, distorted reflections in pots and pans hanging overhead (and, for a while, ‘over head,’ if you get my meaning), they were somehow able to tilt the cameras and crossfade into some very tight places. One moment you were looking at a two-quart copper pot, then realize it had turned into a 27-inch vagina and the handle had foreskin. I wanted him to pull out (the cameraman). It was making me dizzy.

We fast-forwarded, and watched, and did some Hmmmm-ing and… “Have you ever tried that?”

I re-focused my eyes on Babe. “Not that I remember.” We watched some more. “How about you, ever try that?”

“Have you ever thought about trying that?”

“There’s no fucking way that upside-down thing is happening,” Babe said at one point.

“Wanna try that?” She put her hand on the inside of my thigh.

My manhood suddenly felt like a teenager again. “How about now? I have a dildo growing in my pocket.”

The point is, that movie had a happy ending. Babe and I learned a lot about each other, and had fun in the process. Several times, in fact. Most importantly, it caused us to talk about our sensual fantasies. Once we did that, we were sharing secrets between ourselves. Armed with those intimate details, we wink at one another from time to time and pass the sly smiles only lovers who know each other too well can pass. She’s still got that red, flannel shirt too.


#17—A Date With No Shame (sung to A Horse With No Name, by America)

Degree of Difficulty: Even potheads can sing this.

(Click on a link below to hear the original, than read along with the new lyrics below.)

The version you’re familiar with: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSAJ0l4OBHM
Alternate, techno/acoustic version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8uHVVq10B8

On the first aisle of the sex shop
I was looking at all the junk
There were batteries and cocks with rings
There were molded beaded things
The first thing I saw was a pussy with fuzz
And this guy with-out brows
The shop was hot and my mouth was dry
But my hair was looking good

I’ve been through a sex shop with a date with no shame
He asked me if I was in-to pain.
In the sex shop, you can’t tell people you’re game
Or you might end up as a vibrator name

La, la, la,

[repeat la-las]

After two hours with my horny chum
My face began to turn red
After three hours I wanted a gun
I was wishing that my date was dead
And the story he told of vibrators that glowed
Made me think that he was brain dead

You see I’ve been through a sex shop with a date with no shame
I saw dildos built like Great Danes.
In one section were blow-up dolls with a name
Kinda weird when you see one who’s called Elaine

La, la, la,

[repeat la-las]


After nine hours I had to take a pee
I was thinkin I’d flush then flee
There were penis pumps and plugs for rumps
But no-toilet paper for me
You have to be perverted when you’re askin around
For a latex vibrating glove
And it’s not pretty, like a fart with no sound
But I know what I’m speaking of

You see I’ve been through a sex shop with a date with no shame
He picked out a big doll named Lorraine
In the sex shop, you should assume a new name
And there ain’t no one who will clean up the stains

La, la, la,

[repeat la-las] [repeat la-las]
[repeat la-las]
[slight pause, then repeat la-las]
[repeat la-las]
[keep repeating la-las]


Street of Rogues Ch. 6—Exploding Invisible Goldfish

Rated R (language and situations)

Street of Rogues Chapter 6—Exploding Invisible Goldfish


I’m sure the reason such young nitwits are produced in our schools is because they have no contact with anything of any use in everyday life.—Petronius (d. circa 66 CE), The Satyricon.

I greeted Kleinberg outside the side door of the Junior High School we knew as the Titanic. “Wha’s happ’nin’, man?”

“Nuthin’, man.” We slapped hands. For all his high-strung unpredictability, Kleinberg just wanted to have a good time like the rest of us. I seemed to give him a few laughs, and in return for that he usually had a smoke for me when I needed one.

“Yo, Chuckie.” (Grunt.) “Yo, Sullivan.” (Giggle.) Hand slaps for everyone as I made my way up the line of forlorn faces getting ready to step into quicksand. “What’s on the menu today?” I asked, meaning, What’s the drug du jour?

I got the typical answer, followed by the usual question. “I don’t know man, nuthin’ I guess. Got any money?” Kleinberg knew I wouldn’t have any to speak of. I was lucky if I had a pack of smokes with enough left over for a Devil Dog and a package of black licorice Nibs. My finances at the time depended heavily on a meager allowance and loose change from Pop’s overcoat. It looked like another depressing day until Lewis came running up all breathless and sweaty, with glassy eyes and enlarged pupils. He blurted out the news in one gulp: “Robby Plott’s got this mescaline and guess what—it tastes like chocolate pudding powder and comes in this horsecap for five bucks and he won’t be there long and—”

“What!? Where is he now?” We needed to know at once, it was nearly time to go inside.

“Candy store, but we have to move fast. He’s leaving after his breakfast.” The five of us sprang from the gate en masse, as if a start gun had gone off, and beat feet up the street. It wasn’t often that I had five bucks on a school day, but I did have some contacts up that way I hoped to find as I sprinted along with the pack. We burst into the luncheonette candy store puffing hard-earned wind and scanned the stools for Robby. He was still there, finishing his English Muffin and egg-cream soda. Just as I had hoped, an old friend named Roth was also there. He was a good buddy from last year and due for a touch.

I always liked Roth. I used to spend the night at his house from time to time watching The Late Show movie on one of the three broadcast stations that constituted TV back in 1969. We’d eat Mallomar cookies and wash them down with real seltzer water—the kind Moe, Larry and Curly used with the trigger on the bottle. His parents were Jewish Hungarians with concentration camp tattoos to prove it. They were hard workers, the lot of them. While the rest of us were atrophying on smokes, booze, glue and chemicals, Roth and his brother got real jobs in their father’s produce business. Before long, both brothers were driving their own Monte Carlos.

Roth, me and a kid named Masloff—born of an Argentinian mother and a Nazi father— were inseparable for a time in seventh grade. Roth knew Masloff since grade school. For a full ten-month school year, Roth told me, they fought every Friday after school. It wasn’t anti- semitic on Masloff’s part, he was just a fiery kid who always got into fights. He’d fight anyone, usually did, and lost those bouts regularly. Routinely, Roth slowly removed his glasses and beat the shit out of him.

“The kid never learned!” Roth said with a laugh. That summer, Masloff finally cooled off and he and Roth became best friends. When Masloff died in a sailboat accident (he went sailing with someone who couldn’t swim, was knocked unconscious and overboard by the boom and drowned), Roth was the first one at his funeral—respectfully in suit and tie. That demonstrated a certain character to me which I quietly applauded.

Plus, he lent me a deuce, after I promised I wouldn’t say where I got it—which was a lot faster than panhandling ten, twenty-cent subway tokens. I was still short, but had one remaining chance of buying in if my girlfriend would show up at her usual time. Margaret lived across the street from the luncheonette in a thirty-story apartment building and, always fashionably late for school, was due to pass there any moment.

Christened Margaret Mary Magdalene Saint, she was the most voluptuous girl in school. At fifteen she was already a stunning woman. She had long, dark wavy hair, a full body, and swayed her hips sweetly when she walked. Her face was heart-shaped and had two blue glowing stars for eyes. Smiling all the time, she laughed with a grand gusto and held her liquor as well as the best of us, which she often proved. She may have been rough-cut, but she was genuine diamond. We loved each other deeply, and to this day I consider Margaret my first, true love.

The dicey part of our intermittent five-year affair was the fact that her father hated me. It was ironic, but most of my friends’ parents thought I was the rotten apple of the crowd, the big- haired instigator of everything. Unfortunately for us, Margaret’s father and I met before we were properly introduced. It was early in our friendship, and I’d gone with some guy to visit her in the old apartment she lived in. For some reason, this guy always went around in a straw hat and cape. I don’t remember his name; what was his trip anyway? I didn’t ask and never found out. In any case, as we sat on the lobby couch waiting for Margaret to make a chance appearance, this short, stocky guy comes over, takes a look at me and my hair and my pal in his straw hat and cape and says: “Whatta youse want?”

I didn’t know who he was, or that he was the Supe and Margaret’s father (The Supe was how we referred to all Superintendants, and they were a pretty dangerous lot if they caught you swimming in their pools at night or playing around in the elevator rooms. Some of them carried whips!), so I said something very much like: “Hey, it’s a free country, pal. If you don’t like it then take a hike.” The next thing I knew we were tossed out the front door by the scruffs of our necks.

Margaret described the encounter to me later, about how some ‘clods’ mouthed off to her Sicilian, connected father, who had a part-time business running vans full of unstamped cigarettes up from the Carolinas to re-sell in the city, and did I have any idea who the morons were? When I told her Yes, it was me, I believe that was when she fell in love with me. However, it would be years before I would ever see the inside of her apartment, and only when Cosa Nostra was in the Carolinas picking up butts.

Half Irish by her mother, who called her Margie, she was the oldest of five kids and sometimes took care of her baby sister—something I resented at first because two-year-olds need this constant attention, and it distracted my make-out concentration. Ultimately, I had to give up those designs and resigned myself to watching Margaret push a swing with little sister Kip on it. Somewhere along the line as I watched, I realized that this was one of the qualities I loved about Margaret—the way she knew how to nurture and love people. It showed in how easily she made friends, even in the way she walked. Her sultry stride was all at once casual, thoughtful, happy and sexy. She walked without a self-conscious bone in her beautiful, womanly body. I loved to watch her coming up the street to the park with those swaying hips; emerging from her building, walking toward the luncheonette like a cat on the prowl. I was The Thin Man to her Myrna Loy. Thank God she was being late on time! I ran over to intercept her. She smiled demurely when she saw me approaching.

“Hi Baby.” A little kiss. “Lemme see yer purse.” I started rummaging around in there, past the Kools, the lipstick, hairbrush, mirror…

“Gimme that!” She grabbed it back. “How much you need?”

“How much you got?” She had the fin so I traded her Roth’s deuce for it, coming out three bucks ahead. “Gotta fly, Baby. Seeya! Thanks, yer the best!

“Whatta my gonna do for lunch?” she wanted to know, following me with big, blue, rapidly receding eyes as I made the dash back to Robby’s pudding-flavored mescaline.

“Get from Julie, she always has money! Seeya at lunch?”

“K.” She waved, and I was a happy boy.

“Plott’s Pudding” did taste similar to chocolate pudding powder, but performed a hell of a lot better. By the end of the first period of class I was fully on it—a mellower hallucinogen than the Sunshine, Brown Dot, Blue Cheer, Barrels, LSD 25 and other Owsley-brand acids that were more prevalent at the time. It didn’t seem right, having to sit in a double period of science on Plott’s Pudding first thing in the morning.

Even when I was straight I could never make a formula balance on both sides of the equals sign. There were only three people in the class who could do that; the rest of us had been guessing at the answers for the past three lessons. Sullivan happened to be one of the three who understood it, and it was pissing the insane Mr. Gerble off. (I think he had shell-shock from The Civil War. If you dropped a textbook, he ducked.) Gerble kept throwing harder equations at him and Sullivan kept rattling off the solutions from his head, adding a shrieky, mescaline giggle after each correct answer. When Gerble asked him to explain himself he’d rattle that off, too, adding things like: “It’s obvious…” followed by another shrieky giggle. He was starting to piss me off.

In my seat in the last row by the window, I returned to gazing outside—where it was threatening another autumn storm, getting windy and darker. Construction workers were beginning to leave the site where I’d been watching them build a huge, centralized cop station directly across from the school’s front entrance. Convenient. Good, I thought, about the impending storm, anything to slow that down! Our ‘park’ would never be the same once the 112th Precinct was ‘fully operational,’ like the Deathstar before its time. Cops would be parking their cars on our street and wearing civilian clothes, disguised as regular people. We’d have to speak in whispers and finally straggle off someplace else. There would be no more neighborhood-wide hide-n-seek games to occupy a hundred people. No more Johnny on the Pony, which was best when played wildly drunk and disorderly.

Maybe I can get outta here under cover of rain, I began thinking. If caught, I’d make up a story about how I thought our basement might be flooding. It was a perfect day to go to the NBC building and catch a few game shows. They always coached the studio audience, telling half of us to yell Buy it! or Come back! at the appropriate times so it sounded natural, I guess. Of course, we yelled our part slightly before cue and louder than everyone else. If we couldn’t be seen, we made sure we were heard.

Musing thusly, I chanced a peek at the clock. At eighty minutes, a double-period of Science was interminable. I didn’t even want to glance past Gerble, fearing the possible eye contact might make him call on me, but I had to know how much longer I’d be detained there. Moving slowly, I zoomed in on the wall clock in the front of the class, did the math (thirty-five minutes to go!), and made the mistake of accidentally looking at the blackboard. It was crawling with formulas and squiggles and all kinda signs and crap, but that wasn’t the unexpected part. Instead, I felt like if I didn’t hang onto my desk I’d go headlong crashing down into the thing from the back row, which quickly lengthened to about a block away.

Whoa… weird. I hung onto the front of my desk for dear life. Don’t giggle! My hair fell forward like blinders, until I was looking into a deep bowl with Gerble wrapped up in squiggles as if he were struggling inside a Whirlpool blender with nine settings. Then my stomach started getting the squiggles. I couldn’t let that happen; it wouldn’t do to blow my load now and lose five bucks in the process. I had to grab onto a piece of reality in order to restore equilibrium to my stomach, so I strained to catch a few words of the lesson for an anchor against the hallucinations and sea sickness—pushing thoughts of my animated friend Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent (a Bob Clampett Cartoon!) aside to concentrate.

Gerble: “Yes, if I thought a kid was a bad seed I’d go out of my way to get him in trouble.”

Student (Sullivan, in fact!): “You mean to say that even if they didn’t do anything?”

Gerble: “Yes, if I thought he deserved it.”

I couldn’t believe my ears, or the translating mechanism that was supposed to make it all make sense. Was this so-called ‘educator’ admitting to a class of thirty-seven witnesses that he’d deliberately fabricate a false set of circumstances in order to get someone he didn’t like into hot water with school authorities? He’d lie, with blatant disregard for the stain it would leave on the student’s ‘permanent record?’ I knew he was trying to bait a hook, but I was only going to nibble. I raised a finger to get his attention, snapping it back to the desk edge quickly to steady myself.

Gerble barked at me immediately. “What do you want?” (NYC educators were so polite back then.)

A cone of silence fell over the class. Thirty-six mugs all turned to look at me, staring intently—a little too intently for comfort. It’s odd how the complexion of a room changes when everyone in it turns to look at you; it’s almost as if you’re in a different room altogether. I knew they were counting on me to stand up for their honor and put this guy in his place. I found Sullivan’s face in the crowd. It was clear he was trying to hold back hysterics. Clutching his gut and shaking his head, he mouthed at me: “NO!

I wasn’t about to take the fall, though; I was going to finesse this jerk. “I just want to—”

“Stand up!”

“Wha..? Me?” It was something I didn’t want to have to do. Having to try anyway, I slid the chair back, stood up, and fell backwards into the closet behind me. The class roared, getting their money’s worth already. I must have overcompensated for the tunnel-vision vertigo I was having. Fortunately, the knock was a relative point of departure from which to stand straight—I knew what wasn’t working, so, crawling shakily across the floor and up my desk, I tried it again and managed to waver there like a buoy in a choppy bay.

“Slipped on a piece of paper…” I covered and went on, ignoring the snickers and completely ignoring Sullivan out of self-preservation to keep from laughing to death if I so much as looked at him. “Anyways, you mean that if someone hadn’t done anything, but just ’cuz you didn’t like ’em personally, you’d actually contrive a false set of circumstances to get ‘em in trouble?” My plan was to overstate the obvious, thereby showing the class what a sick butthead he was—something they probably knew beforehand and Sullivan had previously made clear already. He fell right into my trap.

“Yes, that’s right, if I thought he was a bad seed.” I couldn’t believe the shameless audacity of the man. That’s when I forgot myself and made one, tiny mistake.

“Man, you’re crazy.” I muttered under my breath as I sat down. After the ensuing cries of approval from the class died down, I realized I had only thought I muttered it quietly, but in fact had just written myself a ticket down to the Dean’s office. Gerble had a self-satisfied grin on his face and was waiting for the right moment to leverage his complete authority over me. I looked at Sullivan, who was looking at the floor and shaking his head.

Damn, I really did mutter under my breath this time.

You! Down to the Dean, boy!” and from the front of the classroom, Gerble’s gnarly finger extended all the way to the tip of my nose.

I got out of there fast, ducking into the nearest head for a smoke. I had to think about this and work out my story. If I hadn’t been pre-occupied I would have noticed the smoke coming out from under the door and turned around. Not knowing who was in there, and without backup, the bathroom could be a risky place. (No one ever took a shit in there. It was too dangerous to be so vulnerable.) It was too late to avoid it, and I ran into speedy Melvyn and his boys smoking their Kools.

All the black kids smoked Kools; the whites smoked Marlboros, hardpack—except for Margaret, who also smoked Kools, which sucked every time I ran short of butts. Melvyn and his boys smoked in there and sang a cappella. They were damn good, too, until they broke up laughing before the end of the first chorus. To me, their presence meant one of two things: either I’d get blindsided and left to rot, or they’d frisk me first, then punch my lights out. Either way I didn’t like my chances. I was pretty sure they weren’t there to perform for me.

Too committed to back out now and run like a nerd, I lit up, took the first hit gratefully and blew a smoke ring that shot out three feet and exploded on the wall as if it were a zit hitting the mirror. “Fuck,” I said to Big Gerard, “I just got sent to the Dean.” I thought this might deflect them into extending me the courtesy of at least finishing my butt before they mugged me. Big Gerard stroked his goatee, watching me severely. I wondered how many times he had been left back.

Finally, he said, “Whachoo smokin’, man?”

“Huh? Marlboro, why?” They all frowned, in perfect harmony. “Don’t smoke those, man, smoke these… be Kool!”

He held out his pack of Kools, bottom up, from where they liked to open them. Opening the pack from the bottom was supposed to keep them fresher—so they’d ‘last longer.’ Fuck that, a real smoker smokes them stale, or before they can get stale. The soft packs supposedly gave you two extra drags per butt, too, but I wasn’t so sure about that until I could measure for myself, something I still haven’t done to this day. Damn pain in the ass if you asked me, soft packs. Where would you keep your roaches? Nah, hardpacks were the best. I flicked the head off my Marlboro, stuck it back in the pack and took one of his nauseatingly mentholated Kools—in no position to be anything other than thankful for it. Looking for the blindside rabbit punch to the head as I lit up, it never came. Once we got to talking and smoking I told them what happened (leaving out the part about the pudding breakfast) and they commiserated appropriately with me. Well, I said, gotta go now, and made for the door.

I was dizzy as I wove through the hallways, followed by a trail of smoke. Eventually I made it down the three flights of stairs to the basement, past the sour smelling cafeteria, and found myself standing in front of the dungeon-like door that was the Dean’s office. I had it all worked out. I resolved to simply tell the truth and let matters lie where they landed. After all, this was irrational, wasn’t it? I stood there for a second vainly trying to brush away the paisley patterns twittering about like butterflies on the door.

I knocked. Knock-ock-ock. Knock-ock-ock… It sounded as if old WW II bombing footage was being replayed. I sucked it up and tried the knob. If it was locked, I could hang in the bathroom for half an hour and hope he didn’t come barging in looking for smokers to bust.

“Hiya, Dean. I was just comin’ to seeya!” I’d say, but the knob went ‘CLICK’ and opened right up. Why was everything so LOUD all of a sudden? I bravely went in on the side of righteousness.

Fortunately this wasn’t Dean Coupler—he was on a half-year sabbatical. Even Ma was afraid of Coupler and refused to see him anymore after he tried to put the make on her. He beat the shit out of Lewis that time in the locker room, too, so I was glad it was Winegrow sitting behind the desk. He had some paperwork in front of him and was engrossed in it. I stood there silently looking down at his bald, round head. Four model airplanes dangled on strings over each corner of his desk.

Clearing my throat, I started. “I—”

“SHH-ush!” he said, waving me over to a hard metal chair without looking up. “Sit down and shut up.”

I sat there a few minutes getting more and more uncomfortable until I started to squirm, so I stood back up to take a closer look at the airplanes hovering above his desk. They were very detailed and looked to be miniatures of real, classic planes. “These are cool,” I said, testing the prop on one. It spun as if it had been freshly oiled, blurring into a transparency of its former self.

“Break those, and I’ll break you,” Winegrow growled in measured tones without looking up. Clearly, the paperwork annoyed him. Sighing at it, he then looked at me for the first time. He was so cross-eyed that one eye bulged out of his big, bald, pinkish, Charlie Brown head and appeared to be looking at the other eye. His upper body was thick, almost bloated; he was an exclamation point with a tiny waist and puny legs—so top-heavy that he looked as though you were viewing him from above through an ultra wide-angle lens.

I had to turn away to avoid the giggles, so I started looking at the many photographs he had on the walls. They were all pictures of airplanes, some of them with him standing next to them. Here he was next to a bi-plane, replete with oldstyle leather headgear. He looked ridiculous, wearing a crushed smile that burst out of that tight headgear, all pink and shiny but for those cumbersome eyes. I looked away from it quickly, to keep from losing it—a laugh attack not being advisable here. I had seen people go convulsive while laughing too hard on a hallucinogen, and didn’t want to go there. I turned to look at something else, anything.

There, on the credenza, I noticed the fish tank for the first time. It had water, gravel and a small, charcoal filter that bubbled inanely in the corner. There were no plants, no little plastic treasure chests to open up and reveal little plastic skeletons, and no fish. Just to be sure there weren’t really small fish in there, I moved closer to inspect.

Then I saw the sticker on the glass. INVISIBLE GOLDFISH, it read. I wondered, how did he know they were goldfish? Off to the side was a vial of Tetramin Fish Food and it had a sticker, too, which read, naturally: INVISIBLE GOLDFISH FOOD. I picked it up and hefted it, finding it empty.

Cute, methinks, and I started ‘sprinkling’ it over the water in the tank. “Hey Mr. Winegrow, how do you know you weren’t ripped off and sold guppies instead?” I said as I sprinkled, followed by: “Where’s the thermometer, also invisible? They could be cold… How do you know they ain’t dead already? I suppose if they’re still eating—” When he looked up and saw me littering his tank with invisible food he bolted out of his chair, sending it crashing against the wall, and rushed me.

Stop!” I stopped in mid-sprinkle, mouth open. Knocking me out of the way, he flung open a drawer and rummaged around frantically for a net, which he finally produced and dragged over the surface of the water repeatedly, back and forth, trying to scrape up the invisible goldfish food. “What are you doing, man!?” he bellowed. “These fish are stoo-pid! They don’t know when to stop eating, they’ll eat until they blow up!” (Note: The word written as ‘stoo-pid’ is occasionally used in this telling. For those who can’t extrapolate the translation, it means ‘stupid,’ and usually refers to something I’ve done. If possible, it should be read with a New York accent.)

I backed away cautiously. “These are exploding invisible goldfi…?” stopping myself before continuing on about his invisible goldfish or guppies or whatever the hell he thought they were, dead or alive. What we needed was a bigger net.

Clearly exasperated with me, he finally asked why I was there. “Why are you here? Quickly man, before you destroy the place!”

I stood there blinking at him, like that myopic girl in class. “I—”

“Wait!” He held up his hand for me to stop. Brushing me out of the way, he crossed the office and took a headlong dive into the closet. Scrambling around on all fours, he tossed out an old bean can with some dried-up tangerine peels in it, then a galosh, and an old calendar that fluttered out the way a startled pheasant might—his skinny butt waving enticingly at me the whole time. One well placed, steel-toed boot… Pay dirt turned out to be a wooden plank with an eye hook screwed into its dead center. Then he rattled out about five feet of heavy chain and a thick dowel about a foot long. For a brief moment I nearly panicked. If this had been old Dean Coupler I would have shouldered him into the closet and run for my meager life!

Fascinated by this display of incongruity, I stood bolted to the spot and watched as he put the plank on the floor, hooked the chain on the hook in the plank, then put the dowel through the top link of the chain. Then, while standing on the plank, he proceeded to try and lift himself up via the dowel with both hands. Pulling harder and harder, he started to strain. His reptilian eyes bugged out even more than usual and little beads of sweat erupted all over his head, hundreds of tiny sun-blisters getting ready to pop. As I watched, dumbfounded, he turned different colors; bright red at first, then he took on a musty shade of burgundy, until finally rifling through various shades of oxygen-starved purple until the veins in his neck started doing little dances. I thought he might very well just pull himself straight off the ground and levitate in front of me until he exploded like a gluttonous, invisible goldfish. I flinched just watching him. He looked as if he were blowing up a balloon too full, or someone had shoved a firehose up his ass.

He finally let go of the dowel with a bellowing “YAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaa…” that trailed off for an eternity, reverberating in pulses inside my head while he flexed his tiny hands and all the other blood he had in that dwarf body of his started returning to its regular locations. He changed back from purple to burgundy to bright red and then finally to just pinkish again. The chain lay crumpled at his feet, totally exhausted.

Jesus! I thought. Is this what seniority does to you!?

“What is it, boy? Out with it!” he commanded. “I haven’t got all day!” Obviously he had some pretty important shit to do; the fish tank may have needed invisible algae scraped off the glass for all I knew.

I stammered out my story, which I’m sure I would have totally forgotten by then were it not for the fact that all I had to do was remember the truth this time. “I told Mister Gerble… after he told us that he would get a kid he didn’t like in trouble…” Winegrow stifled a yawn. I was already boring him. “…who didn’t even do anything! I mean, for no reason…” Not particularly articulate but enunciated well enough, I told my lunatic Dean I had committed the heinous act of disrespecting the psycho Gerble by calling him ‘crazy.’

Bracing myself for whatever might follow, he walked to his desk, put the chair back on its legs, sat down and started shuffling papers again—dismissing me with a wave of his pudgy, doll-like hand. “Go tell him you’re sorry,” was all he said.

“?” Did I miss the tirade, or had he already killed me in a blinding flash of light I never even saw and this was to be my hell—feeding invisible food to nonexistent fish? “That’s it? Just like that? I mean, that’s all?” I stammered some more.

“Yeah, just like that.” Winegrow seemed calm now, placidly scribbling away about God- knows-what in disappearing ink under those dangling plastic airplanes.

I couldn’t leave just then. I had to ask him: “I’m right, aren’t I? I mean, what kind of teacher would do that?”

He looked up at me with heavy exasperation. “Hey, you called him crazy in front of his whole class. Just go apologize and give him this note to get back in.” He scribbled his initials the way a left-handed caveman might have on a stone tablet and walked it over to me, folding and crinkling it a little first. Then he said that thing to me which I will likely never forget.

“Look kid, he may be right or he may be wrong, but all that doesn’t matter. All you want to do is get back into class. Now get outta here.”

He backed me out of the room with a little shove and slammed the door. I stood there blinking at it for a while, not sure of what really happened, and for a split second wondered if I had imagined it all and hadn’t really gone inside yet. Then I remembered the note in my hand and knew I hadn’t dreamed it up.

Winegrow was right, of course. Being right or wrong won’t get me back in class, I thought. Whether Gerble was right or wrong, good or bad, the only thing that mattered was the goal, which was to get back in class, sit there and shut up so I could get my grade and be gone.

This was to be a mentality I would employ for years to come—keeping my eye on the goal and ignoring any other bullshit taking place that was a waste of time and out of my control anyway. That doesn’t matter. The idea is to keep your focus on what does matter and skip over the bullshit! I didn’t have to be right or wrong, I needed to do what I had to do in order to get what I wanted.

He was teaching me about the means to the end, and how we can control our desired results through whatever means necessary, and that means is superfluous to the end result. We have control over our lives by not getting distracted by irrelevant arguments and circumstances. He taught me that what I needed was more important than winning an argument; which can be not only a waste of energy, but can blindside you and even sabotage the end results. The end excuses any evil, Sophocles said, as a formula for success.

It was a revelation to me, standing there staring at a paisley-blank door, and it lightened my load somehow. It was liberating, this notion! I didn’t have to get sucked into some moron’s way of thinking, or risk trying to make them see things my way. I could just lump it and go about my business.

In a very real, tangible way, I learned more in school that day on mescaline by getting thrown out of class than I did my entire school ‘career’ afterward (although the invisible fish remain a mystery). Forget the fact that the source of this revelatory piece of information was bizarre, it’s all about what you make of it.

“Sorry about the fish,” I said to the door and left, badly in need of another smoke.

On my way back to class I ran into Chuckie in the hall. He was on his way to see Dean Winegrow. “What happened?” I asked him. He told me his desk caught on fire. “How’d that happen?” I wanted to know.

“Prolly ’cuz a da match I threw in it,” he told me, over-illustrating what Yeats said about education: “Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.”

P.I.S.S.E.D. Ch. 6—Top of the 2nd

Rated R (language and situations)

P.I.S.S.E.D. Ch. 6—Top of the 2nd


You camped on my doorstep,
While I sat on my throne.
You wanted my foresight,
But found no one was home.

You crowded the strike zone,
While I stood on the mound.
You wanted my fastball,
But I threw you the curve.


Queens, NYC.

“…I figured what the hell, the midgets added ambiance, ha-ha-ha! Ahhhh, it was a fun night.” Raingirl smiled at the imitation wood bar, shaking her long curls at Felliniesque roles played in the theatre of her memories. “It made him happy.” She was speaking of her husband, and of keeping a twenty year marriage interesting.

As a courtesy to the several other patrons now populating the neighborhood bar, Max un-muted the sound.

…arts us off in the top half of the second after spotting the Mets a run…

“That’ll keep it interesting, alright,” Max said. “I saw a midget sex movie once, on the internet. It was short.” Raingirl didn’t get the joke. After a slight pause, Max went on, “So, Raingirl, what’s a potato do on a Saturday night?”

“Oh gawd… Is this a joke?”

Max almost sneered. “No, I really want to know. Of course it’s a joke!”

“Oh… Hmmm. Lemme think about that, alright?”

Max sighed, ready to deliver the punchline, “He hangs out with his spuddies.” So saying, he tossed another beer nut into the trash behind the bar.

…swung on and fouled out of play, strike one.

With arms folded, Sonny scowled at him. “Would you quit it!”

“Hey, I’m two for three.”

“Ha-ha! Now I get it… ‘Short movie.’ Ha-ha!” You didn’t have to drop a house on Raingirl more than once or twice.

…that fan is wishing he brought his glove right now… Hampton will rub up the new ball…

“Nevermind.” Max figured she’d get the potato joke later, or tomorrow in the shower.

Dougie entered the bar, shrugged off the penetrating chill from outside and ambled over to sit next to Raingirl. His large, round frame obliterated the stool as he grumbled in Raingirl and Max’s direction, “Yo.”

“Yo, Dougie,” they both replied. Sonny-boy awaited his usual order.

“Gimme a Bud.” Sonny nodded, grabbed a bottle of Bud, flipped the cap off, and set it down. “What’s this, baseball already?”

Raingirl sipped her russian, indifferent to the game on television.

…last year, he had twelve at-bats in the six slot. This guy can really bring it.

Cliche, Max noticed, long since having lost count.

Dougie grumbled something unintelligible. Max and Raingirl were used to it, and nodded in agreement. “Hey,” he added, “Remind me to pick up a can of beans on the way home.”

…he’s got the stuff, but how will he respond to the pressure night after night?

“…or Karen will kill me.” Max and Raingirl nodded again.

…that’s a bad sign for the home team…

Raingirl wanted to know what kind of beans. Dougie took his eyes off the television and looked at her, obviously confused. “Whaddya mean ‘what kinda beans?’ Beans is beans.”

Raingirl knew her beans, but Max didn’t know one from another. “Bring her some coffee, then.”

Ignoring that, Raingirl started to enlighten Dougie about beans. “Well, there’s garbonzo and red kidney and black beans and caribbean black beans…” She counted them off while the batter dug in.

…takes inside, ball two…

“…and pinto and baked and onion baked…” she pointed out specifically, as if it were her favorite, “…and barbeque baked and ‘bold and spicy’ baked…” which she quoted with her french-manicured fingertips “…and vegitar or country or honey style. And, there’s baked beans with hot dogs and…”

“… don’t forget Beanie and Cecil,” Max said. “And Beanie Babies.”

…here comes the two-two pitch…

“…great northern beans and pork and beans and how about cannellini beans? Mmm, good with bay leaves in it…”


“Bay leaves. You know, the herb?”

“Oh, yeah, I knew that.” Max went back to not saying anything. Dougie looked shocked, and appealed to him for help. “What the fuck is a cannelloni bean?”

Strike three at the knees!

“Not cannelloni, that’s pasta. Cannellini, the common bean.”

Dougie was beginning to hate beans. He whipped out his cell phone. “I’ll call her.” The three of them waited for Karen to pick up the call.

“You forgot Mr. Bean. And Bean Franklin.”

“Hey,” Dougie said into the mouthpiece, “…what kinda beans?” Pause. “Okay, yeah.” Pause. “Yeah.” Pause. “Yeah.” Pause.

“…and mung beans.”

“What are you, a bean counter?” Raingirl laughed at her own joke.

“That’s better than being a has-bean! Ha-ha!”

“Okay… alright.” Pause. “You, too.” Dougie hung up.

…he had six errors last season at the position…

“Great,” Dougie said to the television. “Now I gotta remember to get a can of tomatoes.”

Raingirl picked up her drink and took a sip.

…he hangs the breaking ball and it’s slapped to right center!

“Chunky or whole?”


“Peeled, ground or—”

“I don’t fuckin’ know.”

“Petite-cut, stewed, ready-cut, Italian style?”

…he’ll round first and head to second…

“Crushed or diced or petite diced or—”

“What are you a fuckin’ grocer?” They all laughed. Dougie was screwed, he’d have to make another call to Karen.

…he’s been the heart of the order for New York. One on, nobody out. Sandy Koufax tipped his pitches, all the way to the hall of fame…

“She might even want organic, dude,” Max added to Dougie’s mental maelstrom of beans and tomatoes. “Hey Sonny, gimme another gin.”

“Sloe, rummy, or mill?” Raingirl asked. It was Max’s turn to ignore her.

“Or ginsing?” Sonny added.

Max hung his head. “Just make it the usual carcino-gin…”

…that sinker died on the vine…

Max had his own midgets in the closet to play with in idle moments of lasciviousness. He and his own Lovergirl crossed that hump, so to speak, after only a few years together. He hid a smile behind his new gin. It was a long time ago…

They ran an ad in a Swingers magazine, just to see what responses they’d get. Hundreds of letters came in, which they read with eager fascination. Some responses included photos. One girl had a clothespin attached to every sensitive spot on her body, but her letter said she ‘wasn’t into pain.’ The young couple in Max’s mind chuckled heartily with the memory. One man wrote a seven page letter describing, in minute detail, how he’d like to come to their door in his fireman’s gear for a ‘safety check.’ Once inside, he would ravage Lovergirl. While Max looked on, he’d carry her to the bed and pound her—still wearing his helmet. They howled with laughter at the time, with Max going so far as to don some underwear on his head and chase Lovergirl with an eyeglass screwdriver into the bathroom, where they did it on the sink with the shower running.

That’s three straight breaking balls…

…and there was the time they did it while Max was driving over a very dangerous thirteen-mile stretch of road in the mountains. It was daybreak, after Lovergirl drained a bottle of mescal clear down to the worm the night before. Booze brought out the native in her. She reached across the shifter in the car and took Max out of his pants, grinning like a cat, and went down. Then she straddled him. Max was amazed he could climax and keep the car on the road. They were both more nimble back then. But Lovergirl wasn’t done; that’s asking a lot of a man in Max’s position, to return the favor indefinitely. So she slid off and moved to the passenger seat, where she distracted Max a whole lot more. God she was beautiful.

There was a fine line, however, between Lovergirl’s carnal lust and going on the warpath against the white man for stealing her ancestral home—Hawaii. Max never wanted to cross that path again, and warned would-be antagonizers who might mention the subject in her borderline inebriated presence against bringing it up, even by accident.

“Don’t ask her where she’s from,” Max would whisper at parties as Lovergirl approached her alcoholic redline. She was in no way, shape or form an authentic alcoholic. In fact, there were times when Max wished she’d get drunk more often.

We’ll go to the bottom half of the inning, with the Mets already on the board…

P.I.S.S.E.D. Ch. 5—Wheels in Motion

Rated PG (language)

Chapter 5—Wheels in Motion



Zurich, Switzerland

Holly tapped away at her laptop, fully plugged in with wireless tentacles to the greater world of cyberspace. Her chai sent curls of steam into the morning shaft of sunlight falling through the tall windows of her sparsely adorned downtown loft. Street noise played like a muted symphony in the background—urban music which Holly considered reassuring.

Practically every schmuck worth his weight in idle time dallies on the internet, including anarchists. Some are brilliant, while some are strictly henchman and delivery types. It’s estimated that seventy percent of all people on the internet spend some time in either of three places: the card rooms, chat rooms, and the porn sites. Only the artists, it seemed to Holly, had something better to do. She made use of all three cyber-venues from which to cull her crop of crazy cronies. At the moment, she chatted with Mighty Mouse in a designated, private blackjack room, anxious to discover his progress with the explosives specifications.

HAG: It’s been three weeks MM……………………………………

MM (takes a hit): You make complicat with all fucky spec. Soon.

Holly breathed heavily on the keypad and counted to five. Mighty Mouse had been hard-pressed to find time for Operation Flip-off since he was promoted to ‘Chef Explosifs Goy’ at the equivalent of ACME Fireworks in Peking. She stuck with her cards and decided to play nice.

HAG: I see your English is improving. I need ETA ASAP, Ok? Buyers have ants in pants.

She sent that, hoping he’d get the hint and give her an approximation of when he’d be ready with the specs, which then needed to be forwarded to NYC for manufacture, deployment, and, ultimately, detonation.

MM: I know in one week. He took another card and busted.

“Fuck!” Holly yelled at the screen.

HAG: Ok. I need hard answer, please. She added the code for their next online meeting. BJ 0641/7, which meant ‘Blackjack room at 06:41 GMT, in seven days hence.’

MM: Got it. CYA

She snapped her laptop shut and picked up the phone.

P.I.S.S.E.D. Ch. 4—Error

clownfish=clownRated PG

Chapter 4—Error




Sanity Cruise, California.

“Plant marigolds,” Greg R. Greg advised him. “They keep the gophers at bay.”

Mick mused on his friend and coworker.  What a stupid name.

Greg and his girlfriend Lorna had both changed their last name to Greg, so it appeared they were married. Since Lorna had two daughters in grade-school and Greg the-former-Sobel was an old hippie-type marry-phobe, they thought it was a good idea to trick the status quo. Mick thought it made the initial R stand out, and played the guessing game he and Greg R. Greg had going for the past two years as he tried to figure out what it stood for. He’d gone through the usual list long ago.



Ralph, Randy?

No, no.

Robert, Roger, Ray?

No, no, no…

It was never any of those traditional names. Mick’s last guess was Raskolnikov; but nyet, wrong again.

“Bullshit,” Mick told Greg R. Greg, about the marigolds. “Rasputin.”

“No,” Greg R. Greg was nominally amused at being referred to as the mad monk. “That’s what I’ve heard. They keep the gophers away.”

“Robespier-r-r-re…” Mick let it trail off, as if to entice Greg R. Greg to accept that as the definitive middle name and be done with this stupid, interminable guessing game.

Greg R. Greg stood hunched over the work table at Everett’s Press, which was semi-fondly referred to as ‘Everett’s Stress,’ scrunching his long, gray beard and staring at the chess board.

Rats-nest? Retard? Rumpelstiltskin?

Stacks of printed material were witness as he touched his Knight, but didn’t move it. Greg-Greg, as he came to be called, was short, predominantly round, and bald except for the long hair that had long since slipped from his head into becoming a bushy, gray beard. Should he stand on the lawn in December, one could easily mistake him for a Christmas decoration. At the moment, he looked like an exact replica of himself, cast in wax and poised to, maybe, finally move.

“Go ahead,” said Mick, goading him from the other side of the table, while occasionally tending to the small press running the tiny jobs that floated through the quaint but poor Mom-Pop print shop in the not very big town of Sanity Cruise. He liked to use all the tactics he had at his disposal to win at chess, though he hardly ever succeeded, and often told Greg-Greg, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” It wasn’t that Mick was a poor player. He knew how to castle, he even knew the en passant protocol, and getting a pawn to the other side of the board in order to get his Queen back—which was a common and typically futile exercise in desperation. He could think a few moves ahead, but often misplaced the first two in the process of getting there.

One day that’s gonna pay off, he thought, hoping he was getting better with each game he lost.

Greg-Greg teased Mick, still holding his Knight. “I found another photo in the trash bin. It’s a good one.”

“Lemme see it! C’mon…” Mick pleaded to no avail. Greg-Greg always found the naked girl pictures from the photo developer’s trash next door and brought them home without showing them to Mick.

“Can’t. I brought it home. She was standing in a stream…” Naked, of course.


There were several apartments above Everett’s Press. Over the din of the press, Greg R. Greg and Mick rolled their eyes at the young couple upstairs yelling at each other. They did this regularly, but always managed to kiss and make up. Today the unintelligible clamour was accompanied by loud footsteps back and forth across the ceiling.

Everett emerged from the back room, where he set up the graphics for printing, glanced at the racket above and shook his head. Mick finished swishing some ink back and forth in the press, watching and waiting for Greg R. Greg to make his move—who was still poised to, maybe, do something in this lifetime before melting. Everett, noticing the chess game set up between the stacks of jobs, stopped to consider Greg-Greg’s stork-like pose over the board. In the clackety hubbub of the press and argumentative grunts from upstairs, the three hovered on the verge of Greg R. Greg’s non-decision. With each passing tick, Everett’s blood pressure raised up a notch, until finally…

“Would you put that damn board away and get to work!”

The paper stacks wobbled and Greg R. Greg removed his hand from his Knight, looking like he’d just been awakened from a stressful nap. “Huh? Oh… Yes sir!” He saluted and went back to his work area.

Mick checked his paper feed, ducking down behind the stack as Greg-Greg scurried away. Damn, now he’ll start over.

Everett made a quick turn and left, back to the sanctity of his relatively quiet studio, where only instrumentals were played on the radio. He thought songs with words were distracting.

When Mick stood up, he was near enough the pass-through window to the reception area to see a customer walk through the door. “Oh no…” he said aloud, and quickly moved out of sight.

Beth, the meek sales help, greeted the man cheerily. “Hi Erra! How are you today?”

Mick groaned, caught Greg R. Greg’s attention, and nodded in the direction of the front door. “It’s Error…” Greg-Greg hunkered over his work, chuckling like a gay dwarf. “If he needs more resumés I’ll shove them down his throat,” Mick told the back of Greg R. Greg’s bald head. He slowed the press down to hear better.

“I need ten more resumés,” said the man they called Error. Mick thought he should order ten-thousand, just to be sure.

“Envelopes too?” Beth asked, ever the consummate salesgirl. Mick could hear the smiley face in her voice and mocked it under his breath.

Shall I pre-moisten them for you with my tongue? Smiley face.

Normally a reasonable request, from Erra this meant they had to be perfect. They must look exactly as if he had typed them himself. The letter thickness had to match the original precisely, and there could be no stray ink spots anywhere—which was impossible with the paper plates and quick-printing process Everett’s Press used. Usually it took at least five plates, each exposed within a second of the preceeding one, in order to finesse the image to perfection. With each plate costing over a buck a piece, the few-buck chump-change for the perfect copies was always a time and money loser. Hence, the nickname.

Mick thought of his competition down the street. They had been in business since the turn of the century and still printed business cards one at a time on an old letterpress. They were traditional, and respected the profession’s long-standing brotherhood among printers. When Mick needed some advice, or to cut down some over-sized paper, he could always count on the family of Mission Printers down the street. The old man knew how to handle customers. When one lady complained about her flyers, he tossed the job in the trash and said, “Next.” The memory always brought a smile to Mick’s face.

Beth came around the partition waving the new original. “We need ten copies on Strathmore paper, can you do it while he waits?”

Mick wondered if this clown would ever get a fucking job. “There isn’t enough paper to get this guy a job. I’d rather just hire him,” he told her, snatching the original from her hand.

“He’s an engineer,” smiley-face said. “What’s he gonna do in a print shop?”

“I don’t know. Your job?”

The stomping continued from above. The yelling got louder and all three looked up. There was a muted CRASH! and the three stooges had to wonder: what the fuck was that? Mick thought he heard a dripping, dribbling sound. Something caught his eye but made no sense.

Is that water?

He looked at Greg-Greg as if asking: ‘What the fuck?’ In precious few Everett’s Stress seconds, water started dripping from more places above. With the house dropped on them, both men quickly went for the plastic garbage bags to cover everything. Mick established split-second priorities as the streams grew thicker. Pull the plug, cover the press, then the paper and chessboard on the tables.

Greg R. Greg frantically laid out garbage bags as water cascaded in long sheets over all the tables, the press, and the two blue-collar workers. As new streams broke open, the men hustled garbage cans under the flow and threw more bags down. Error was idling in reception, leafing through an Architectural Digest, when Beth blew by and out the front door. In twenty seconds it was all over but for the remaining drips splattering intermittently on the plastic garbage bags in the new, tropical quiet.

“Holy fucking shit!” Mick looked up for more, feeling like the coach after a big win—except this was no electrolyte drink, or celebration.

“What the fuck is that smell?” Both men sniffed around, trying to identify the familiar odor.

Everett turned the corner and walked into the press area.

Uh-oh, phasers set to stun…

“What th—?” Everett wanted to know, looking at all the water dripping through the ceiling. His mouth was open but nothing came out.

“Don’t worry,” Mick told him. “I think we got everything covered in time.”

Everett sniffed the air, as if someone just farted. “What’s that smell?”
Just then, the kid from upstairs came running in—looking panicked and flustered. He stopped and looked around with the rest of them, then held his nose at the smell. All three men awaited his explanation with bated breath.

This should be good.

“Oh man, I’m sorry… We were… We…” The kid stammered himself into silence.

“What was it, dude?” Mick asked, showing resigned patience, “Spiked heels on the water bed?”

“Huh? Oh, no,” as if that were normally okay, “…it was the fish tank.”

There was a pause as the smell became recognizeable. “Oh. Uh… that makes sense,” Mick said. “How big was the tank?”

It was twenty gallons.

“I sea,” said Mick, employing the impossible pun anyway.

“But I didn’t lose the fish! It’s amazing, but he lived!” The boy said cheerily. “I’m really sorry…” and he left.

“That’s nice.” Mick said, watching him go. He turned to Everett, “What kind of guy keeps one fish in twenty gallons of water?”

Everett didn’t have that answer. “Did we lose anything?”

“Nope. We got it all in time, I think. Nothing to worry about, Boss. You just go take a spin in that pink Cadillac of yours and we’ll get it all shipshape by the time you get back.”

Everett nodded, thinking that might be a good idea. “It’s teaberry,” he corrected Mick.

“Hey, you’re the artist. Whatever you say.”

Everett went out the back door to the parking lot, started up his teaberry Cadillac, and drove away.

“It appears…” Mick said, “that Everett has left the building. Time to take out the garbage!”

“No! It’s my turn!” Greg-Greg was firm, and headed for the back door in a trot.

Fuckin’ pervert.

“Hey,” Beth peeked through the pass-through window, “Can I get my resumés now?”

“Can’t you see we have a tropical disaster here, woman? Tell him to go away.”

Beth thought Mick was kidding. “Sure, and how do—”

“Far away! And tell him not to come back until it’s raining cats and…” Mick turned the corner toward the back door and the trash bin, hot on Greg-Greg’s heels.


“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 20—The Crux of the Biscuit

Rated PG (language)

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 20—The Crux of the Biscuit


‘Might is write,’ I wrote. God that sucks

I wasn’t writing during much of this period when Katy was younger. Instead, I concentrated my creative efforts on photography, and even did some paintings. On the surface, a picture was worth a thousand words. Underneath, I knew that a thousand words could be used to express almost anything. To shape a mental image within the friendly confines of verbiage was a much trickier and more sublime undertaking. Words had to be so specific… The visual arts were more of a pastime for me, until the real thing opened up and spilled into reams of perfectly strung words.

I paced myself, hovering on the fringes of my ultimate desire: to write. When I wrote letters and poems to Babe during our secret affair of several months they were inspired by a new love that was trapped in an old bubble. Sentences escaped like air from a deflating tire, rather than like helium raising a balloon. The suffering was there, and it vented like a hot radiator onto page after page of emerging thoughts about life and happiness and fulfilment, and how to get them all to line up into the perfect paragraphs of my existence. But once the heartfelt suffering was gone, the words went with them.

That’s what I was waiting for, the return of the words, but it wasn’t happening. I refuse to suffer for the sake of writing! That’s an old fart’s tale! I truly believe. But… but… where is it? Where do I get this inspiration; enough to overflow with the rich texture of language at my command? When I asked myself What do I have to do? the answer always came back: Nothing.


I’m in the bathroom, looking for ideas. I sit backwards on the john and face the wall. Then I wait. It usually doesn’t take long, typically less time than it does for me to take a shit, actually, though I don’t want to brag. It’s not that I have a writer’s block thing going, I’m just more confident on the john. The bathroom settles my mind; it’s where the bubbles rise…


Back again? my oft-creative, inner voice asks.

“You know why I’m here. Hit me with it,” I think, therefore I wait. I’m not impatient, this always works.

Hit you with what?

“I don’t know, make it up,” I muse, silently staring at my bath towel.

You didn’t run out of ideas, you just can’t remember some of them right now.

“True, then remember them for me. Please.” I add politely.

Pause. Nothing. Still nothing. Followed by nothing. Nothing is following anything.


Say it like: No Thing.

No thing. Still no thing. Foll—

Say: No Thing is following Any Thing… when, in fact, it could just as easily be: No Thing is preceding Some Thing.

“Fuck that!” I shake myself. “C’mon man, talk to me!”

Listen to yourself, I’m told. You’re like your old, addict self. You’re practically detoxing with the need to write something, aren’t you?

“Well, no.”

But it reads better that way, don’t you agree?

“Well, yes.”

Good, I’m glad we agree.

“Where were we?” I ask myself, calm now.

No Where.

Followed by more of No Thing

Not ‘No Thing.’ Write ‘Apostrophe’ instead.

Pregnant pause, followed by a double space…


“Oh yeah!” I remember now. “The Zappa song!” I ruminate about this for a time while staring at my towel, making sure I don’t have to whiz as long as I’m there. I know immediately where I’m headed with this, Stink-foot.

Maybe you should take some of Fido’s advice, comes the voice in my head.

“Should I add another ‘Pause’ here?”

If you wish.

I do, because it sinks in then what I’m telling myself. I am referring to what I think is perhaps the best verse in rock ‘n roll, the verse in Frank Zappa’s Stink-foot that goes like this (italics mine):

Then Fido got off the floor,
and he rolled over and looked me straight in the eye,
and you know what he said?
Once upon a time
somebody say to me
(this is the dog talking now)
What is your
conceptual continuity?
Well I told him right then, Fido said,
It should be easy to see.
The crux of the biscuit,
is the

I puzzled over the riddle of those lyrics for literally decades.

Do you get the point?

I didn’t want to but yes, I did. I didn’t have to think anymore, or listen. I just had to look at my towel. It’s brown.

It’s Cocoa.


I knew what the verse meant to me. Even if Zappa didn’t write it for my interpretation, this was the way I chose to understand it and it hit me like a proverbial ton of bricks. So much so, I felt I must surely be cognizing the artist’s intent.

Say ‘a ton of feathers’ instead.

“What? No one will get it.”


“God I love Zappa…”

You’re always in awe of his work. Even songs you’ve heard for, what is it, thirty-seven years now?

“Please don’t remind me,” I plead.

They never get old, do they?

“Not like I do.”

Ha-ha! That’s funny….

“Okay. Look, I get the point. You’re telling me to go back out and shut the computer down.”

No, leave the music playing if you like. Just don’t write anything.


I understood. The apostrophe is the space between the sounds. As such, it represents (to me) the existential stillness of life. It symbolizes the ‘No Thing,’ if you will, between the Other Things. It’s the ‘Be Here Now’ spot between the letters used to spell life’s stuff. It stops you before you carry on with the rest of the word; if only for the split second it takes to make the transition.

Not only that, it’s the ‘crux of the biscuit,’ too, as Fido said. Without the apostrophe, the break between, everything runs together and there’s no rest. Everything needs rest; witness Light resolving Darkness, and Stop always follows Go. ‘Rest’ is the analogy of drawing back the bow and arrow. The further you pull it back, the longer the arrow flies — the more powerful it is. Without rest, you soon have nonsense.

The apostrophe is that spot on the wall where the ball changes direction, before it goes the other way. The crux of the biscuit is to Be Here Now, and what better way to represent that than with the ages-old, reliable, important and trust-worthy apostrophe? Our old friend— who knew its sublime signifigance all this time? Zappa did, that’s who, as well as any loin-clothed yogi meditating on the banks of the Ganges would have — though it’s not likely they’d be listening to a Stink-foot raga for that bit of revelation.

Maybe I will whiz, as long as I’m here.


So what are you going to do now, as if I don’t already know

I laughed. “Sure, I’ll stop for awhile. I get it, right after I write this down.”

Are you hopeless? Are you addicted to writing?

“Well, no. And yes. Maybe. Does it matter? Are you saying I’m addicted to writing?”

Well, I, er…

“What does that mean, exactly, and does it matter?”

Let’s just say you’re ‘compelled’ to write, and leave it at that.

“So what’s the difference between being compelled and/or addicted?”

Nothing, I guess.

“So shut up.”

Sure, sure, whatever you say…


Feel that?

“Yes, I know.”

It’s only compulsion when you have something to say. Without that, it’s addiction. That’s why you’re here, in the bathroom again, looking for something to say so you can satisfy that ‘compulsion’of yours.

“I think I see the point…”

Probably not all of it. You also want validation, recognition and remuneration. In the meantime you treat it like your other oral addictions. Think about it, if you’re not smoking or drinking coffee, gin, wine, Irish Mist, cognac or tea, then you’re doing both. Have a Raisinette.

“So is that a bad thing?”

Could be worse.

I think about that. “I don’t think I’m addicted to sitting backwards on the toilet seat.”

That would be worse.


The Rookie walks through the bathroom door, poking it aside with a paw stuck through the crack. She is fast becoming Teenage Cat.

“Hey, you wanna play cards?” she asks me.


“I gotta go…”

I know, we’ll talk later.


Nods to Zappa. Stink-foot © 1974 Rykodisc.

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 12—Kittenspeak

Rated PG (language)

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 12—Kittenspeak


Christmas trees with shiny strings,
Tiny mice and what they bring.
Turn around in tight spaces,
Show my butt to their faces.
Covering a fat, cat crap,
Having a happy cat nap.
Successful when I’m able
To knock stuff off the table.
About this do I dream.
Some of my favorite things.


When I look at my keyboard and it goes blank, sometimes I make tea and talk to the cats.

“Tink…” (ROOKIE CAT knows that ‘tink.’ It is the kettle making ready to boil water.)

ROOKIE CAT (swishes onto the kitchen linoleum and skids to a halt): “Teatime! Teatime! Cmon-cmon-cmon, you’re so slow!” (Applies burning, hypnotic stare to MASTER FEEDER and thinks: Faster-faster-faster….).

MASTER FEEDER: “It’s a puddy! Such a preeeeetty puddddddy…. Acha-pretty-puddy?”

ROOKIE CAT (still hypnotizing): “What? Shut the fuck up and let me do my work. Get the teabag, get the teabag… It’s working!”

MASTER FEEDER (takes the teabag out of its wrapper, begins crumpling said wrapper into a tight little ball of paper): “Is that a big, mean ol’ hunter I see? Ooooooh, sucha mean ol’ puddy….”

ROOKIE CAT: Must… stare… harder….

MASTER FEEDER (with best impersonation of Star Wars Emperor and holding up the little paper ball): “Yes… you want this, don’t you? Come over to the Dark Side, your destiny awaits you at my side!”

ROOKIE CAT: “Fuck that shit, just throw the paper ball! Throw it now, throw it now…”

MASTER FEEDER (tossing the wadded-up paper on the floor): “BWAH-ha-ha-ha..! Yes! Give in to the Dark Side!”

ROOKIE CAT (slaps the paper toward the water dish, skimming it like a hockey puck): “What’s this? You think you can get away from me!?” (Charges it.)

MASTER FEEDER (grabbing a napkin and letting it drop to the floor): “That’s icing! Penalty! You didn’t cross the blue line!” (MF knocks it over with his foot to the center of the ice.)

ROOKIE CAT: “Damn! Get back here! Why I oughta…” (slides to a halt on top of it). “Where’d you go? What? Where? What’s this?” (Finds it under herself and slaps it towards the refrigerator, the goal).

MASTER FEEDER: “Oh! And it’s a slapshot from center ice! What a shot, what a shot! But it bounces off the goal and rests in the crease! Where’s the defense!?

ROOKIE CAT (bolting for it): “Now you’re mine!” (Slaps it under the fridge.)

MASTER FEEDER: “Score! Count it baby!” (Signals a touchdown at a hockey game.)

ROOKIE CAT (digging under fridge now): “Hey, where’d you go? Get back here, I’m not through with you yet, you pesky critter…” (dig, dig, dig).

VETERAN CAT (casually watches the ROOKIE CAT from a nearby chair, then looks at MF): “What a rookie.”

MASTER FEEDER (talking to VETERAN CAT): “Yeah, but she’s got at least fifty goals stuffed under the refrigerator this season alone. She’s good, you know it.”

VETERAN CAT (not impressed): “I’m not impressed.” (Yawns.)

MASTER FEEDER: “And what have you done for me lately? Where were you when that fly was buzzing the window, huh?”

VETERAN CAT (looking away): “Those things taste shitty. Ever eaten one?”

ROOKIE CAT: “What fly, where? I’ll kill that fucking bastard! Lemme at him… Hey, isn’t it time for another tea?” (Must… stare… harder…)

MASTER FEEDER: “Ooooooh, sucha great hunter you are! And such a preeeeedy puuuddy…..”

VETERAN CAT (jumping off chair and going over to door): “Christ. What I wouldn’t give for a dry furball right now.”


The writing was going well, I thought, at times. But it was sporadic, episodic, and there was nothing holding it together. Mostly, there was no point to it. There wasn’t much knowledge or wisdom showing either. If I was going to write something, maybe I should try and make it count for something. On the other hand, who cares what I think?

“Not me, if you’re asking,” said the Rookie. “Let’s eat some catnip. You need another cup of tea. What was that?”

“What was what? Where?” I turned around to look at whatever she was staring at. There was nothing. I turned back and Rookie was disinterestedly licking her paw.

“Made you look…”

It wasn’t coming as easily as I thought it should.

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 4—Anatomy of a Fart

FartNowLoadingRated PG (language, situation)






(Author’s Note: When my writing voice found me on 05/05/05, I discovered I could write about anything in which I had a sincere interest. All I had to do was sit backwards on the commode and an idea would surface (among other things) to write about. Brushing my teeth, showering and flossing all became tricks to let my mind do its work without the pressure of having a keyboard at my fingertips—waiting for me to type something epiphanous. Apparently, flatulence was one of those interests.)

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 4—Anatomy of a Fart


I’m sitting backwards on the commode. I don’t have to take a shit, I’m waiting for an idea. If something doesn’t come up soon I may have to brush my teeth. Or worse, floss. I face the wall, as usual, with my legs straddling the seat cover and look at my towel.

You’re going to fart, says my inner voice, my inspiration.

“I know. Why is that, do you suppose?”

I’ll assume you didn’t mean to ask Why do we fart? but rather, why is it that you always fart while you sit backwards on the toilet seat?

It’s true. Whenever I need an idea a fart precedes it. It’s usually not a tiny, cursory-type fart but a surprisingly loud one, too. Maybe it’s because of the seat cover being hard, I don’t know.

There’s good acoustics in here. Have you ever actually seen a fart?

I have to laugh at that. “Of course not, well not really anyhow. It’s almost by definition that you can’t see a fart. Like cleavage, it’s implied. On the other hand, if you light one up with a match I can tell you from experience it will explode. Depending on the nature of the specific fart, it could go off like a can of hairspray!”

That would be a ‘Category 5’ fart?


Then there’s supposed farts; ones that are disguised as farts but, when put to the test, are actually shit. Technically those are just shit—and, regrettably, a rather unfartunate experience. Basically, the only way to see flatulence is to cover it up with something; but then you only see the fart’s force, not the actual wind. I saw one travel down a guy’s leg once; he was also sitting on something hard. I don’t want to take any credibility away from the story by saying it was at the tail end of an acid trip when it happened because our trips always ended up in a farting match.

Are you sure that was because of the acid?


Wait, here it comes!

I wait. There it is, like clockwork. The rumblings start in my intestines (or whatever they are) and sure enough, it drops down to the launching pad. Once there, I can almost decide how it’s going to sound on the way out just by the way I arrange my butt. Oh yes, a real virtuoso am I.

Quick, go look at it in the mirror!

“Wha…!? You want me to go look at it? I can tell you right now I’m not going to go watch my fart come out in the mirror.”

Why not, aren’t you curious?


Well, now you are!

Fuck. My inner, creative voice was right.

You’re curious because I mentioned it. C’mon, it’ll be a gas!

“It’ll be sick.” I’m very sure of that.


Who’s gonna know?


…unless you say something.

“That’s cruel,” I say.

Rumble, pause.

I jump off the toilet. “Damn, I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

Atta boy!

I have my own rooting section. I run to the mirror and drop my pants, hoping now that I can hold it in for as long as it takes to get a good view of the thing as it’s delivered. I’ve had to look at my asshole before, naturally, but never with this in mind. Usually, well, nevermind…

Here she comes! We give it a gender. Get set!

“Okay, okay!” I get set, bending over and spreading my ass up to the mirror, hoping Babe doesn’t suddenly walk through the door. “This is a really bad idea.” I’m a grown man, I shouldn’t be holding my farts up to the mirror for inspection.

I have to move a little closer and flip on another light. I can now tell you for certain that No, the sun doesn’t shine down there. So I finally get my bunghole lit up and there it is, staring back at me as a mis-shapen, tiny hole surrounded by what can best be described as its own aureola. It looks almost prehistoric—like we should be evolving out of the need for an asshole altogether. It’s also got that crinkled look, which allows it to expand, I surmise. If you were to look at a photo enlargement of the thing, you may see it as an old roll of tan crepe paper that’s been stored in the sun too long. Briefly, I’m reminded of Crazy Bob and the shit he took off the Little League backstop that night in the pouring rain.

Shhh! Here it comes! (Fart protocol dictates you listen for it.)

At long last, Mission Control hit the button and sent it down the chute; or in this position, up the chute. I was poised, ready, and staring directly into my own asshole—waiting for it to emerge—to prove to my inner, creative voice that you can’t actually see a fart. Final stages complete, it was at the door and ready to break on through to the other side. I watched, actually curious now. When it came, my butt hole opened up just a little bit and actually pushed out, like an anemone discharges the bones of a fish, until it was in just the right position. Finally, at the moment of truth, it said: Pfoooot! and collapsed. The hole got smaller and went ‘at ease.’ At that point I was staring at my asshole for no reason and straightened up quickly. I hadn’t lost all my faculties.

“There, I told you! You can’t see a fart!”

Did you just say ‘Foot!’ with your asshole? Aha-ha-ha-ha! I can’t believe you actually did that. Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

We were both laughing while I moved away from the area around the mirror.

Your bunghole has an aureola, dude! Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Now I’m inspired. “I should make a movie. A digital one I can e-mail to people I don’t like.” Then I tried to imagine what it would be like to set up the camera and wait for a fart: “And… action!”

Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha! My inner impetus continued laughing. Put that idea on the back burner for now, okay? Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha! We both can’t stop laughing. I have to point out, though, aha-ha-ha-ha-ha!, that in the same sense as we see a cannon firing a cannonball, we can say that a fart can be seen in the same manner.

“No way, man. Cannons don’t fart!” I argued. “Technically, they’re taking a shit ha-ha.”

Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha, work with me, dude! Aha-ha-ha-ha-ha! If I were you I’d start flossing for another idea, aha-ha-ha-ha-ha!


The writing gig wasn’t working out like I had envisioned.

Street of Rogues Ch. 10—The Chinese Bar

Rated PG (Language, situation.)

Street of Rogues, Chapter 10—The Chinese Bar


“I don’t like jail, they got the wrong kind of bars in there.”—Charles Bukowski.


Wedged between those glory days of hardy-partying, I tend to overlook how bored we felt most of the time in those, ‘The Blunder Years,’ of my youth. School was busy teaching us to fall in line, shut up, and memorize. Parents left us alone and time seemed to hang heavy on our hands. Playing cards and handball pretty much filled in the blank spots—and drinking cheap beer and wine (which created a few blank spots).

If I combine all the long, boring days and divide them into equal parts, I find a Chinese bar with free hors d’oeuvres. We hung there many a night, mainly because they served us, but also because the clientele was slightly less seedy than Mitchell’s bar up the street (which was mostly old men in trenchcoats and one guy wearing an ascot who liked young boys)—the bar where Frankie the Bum fell asleep, was tossed outside in the cold and never woke up.

On a cold night, the Chinese bar was warm. On hot nights it was still warm, but had a soft spot for your butt at least; and it cost you a buck and a quarter for a draft pull of Bud in order to stay. It also had a juke box, which turned out to be a non-essential luxury item when you were already grubbing change for beers. With my ten-dollar-a-week allowance—a pittance, barely allowing me a few nights worth of pot, three packs of butts and four quarts of beer (or two nights of acid)—I had no hope of maintaining a ‘budget’ to last the week. If I wanted a five-dollar concert ticket and a tab of acid, I was broke the day I took the bill out of Pop’s hand and rifled through his coats for more change on my way out the door. In all cases, I was begging and borrowing by Sunday.

We’d start on cheap, store-bought quarts of beer—or screwtop bottles of wine—before going inside and taking up space for hours at a time with our one or two 12-ounce bar beers, listening to Levon and Billy Preston’s Outta Space with every extra quarter and trying to gigolo local patrons into buying us a beer every so often. It didn’t matter that I was fifteen and most of my close friends were no more than sixteen. We all looked older than our years, and a little run-down at times. I had the moustache going for me and the rules were lax. Except the titty bars—they were strict.

Sammy, the barkeep, looked out for some of us. I don’t know why, since we hardly bought anything, spilled a lot of what we did buy, barfed occasionally in the stairwell to the bathroom (Chuckie always blamed me) and never tipped. He was the greatest barkeep I ever knew.

“No mo’ fo’ you! No mo’ fo’ you!” he said to Lorraine, waggling his finger in her face while he wiped the bar clean of her beer spill. Chuckie, Lewis and I sat at the bar and watched Sammy’s slitted eyes disappear into two thin lines. “You spill two and no mo’!” Most of us illegals were quiet and respectful, so he’d let us stay. We didn’t want to risk blowing a good gig with the free hors d’oeuvres. To this day, I can’t find a shrimp toast that compares.

Sammy replaced Lorraine’s beer (who was now down to her last strike), gave her a fresh glass of ice, and ambled over to our end of the bar—clearly disgusted. Lewis and Chuckie had their heads together, scheming about how to get some pills while I concentrated on the beer nuts, only half-listening. Sammy spoke to me, “See her at the end of the bar?” He nodded in ‘her’ direction. A pale, sixty year-old grandma sat behind a mixed drink, smoking a cigarette and nervously swizzling her stick. “She pays,” he said. “She gonna reave soon, too.”

I watched Grandma’s jerky movements and darting eyes. She didn’t look like a happy, normal, well-adjusted person should look. Psychotic, neurotic alcoholic. That’s how I wrote her off in my head, especially if she hung out in this place—which was populated mostly by droopy barflies. I was more of a barfly on the wall, still in the cocoon of invulnerable adolescence. I knew this wasn’t the long-term me.

“Pays for what?” I finally asked.

At first Sammy looked taken aback, but quickly recovered and flashed a big smile. “Ha-ha! You funny-man! I see…” as if I had made a joke. He looked back at Grandma, who was stubbing out her smoke. “Seriousry, man,” he whispered to me on the sly, “she gonna reave now!” Grandma was putting her Salems in her handbag. “Yes?” Sammy wanted to know of me.

“Nah, I don’t think so, not this time. Maybe next time. Thanks anyway,” I told him, replying politely but generically enough to cover up my naiveté. At the rate we were tipping, you had to thank him for everything at least once anyway—even if you didn’t understand what he was talking about.

Sammy looked disgusted as Grandma got up to leave. “Ach! Don’t unnerstan’ you. She pay if you go with her!” He wanted me to gigolo her! Oh, god… No! I admit to being a horny teenager, but I wasn’t that desperate. Sammy knew I had the most gorgeous girlfriend in the neighborhood, Margaret, but this one paid for it! I almost had to gag in the stairwell and blame Chuckie for it.

“Nah, kinda tired tonight…”

He shook his head, grabbed the bar towel and muttered his way to the other end of the bar.

There were some pretty cracked cases at Sammy’s bar. Cracked case in point: Chuckie and I were sitting at a table when this big guy teetered over and just stood there, peering down at us. Solemnly, without saying a word, he reached into his pocket, pulled out some change and a matchbook and held it in his giant, outstretched hand. I was hoping he was offering us the loose change (I didn’t need the matches), but didn’t trust the black, vacant look in his eyes as he stared down at us—as silent and unmoving as the Lincoln Memorial. We waited cautiously for him to say something until he finally challenged us with how he didn’t have anything to do with our money, and that he’d knock us down to our knees and kill us if we thought he did. He looked deadly serious, too. We had no clue where he was going with this, but we didn’t have any money.

“Hah?” we tried to reply. Then Chuckie got his fight-or-flight thing going and, pissed off now, screamed at the guy: “Hey man, we’ll pull you outta here by your fuckin’ hair, man, and stomp on your fuckin’ head! Get the fuck outta here, prick!” It took a lot to piss Chuckie off, but I was glad to see it just then. The big guy looked slightly chagrined, then turned and teetered out the door like a blank clone.

Chuckie and I looked at each other. “Shit,” I said, “I think Lurch had his body snatched.”

Just then the door flew open with a Bang! I jumped and looked over to see a dwarf stick his head inside. “All right,” he bellowed, “all you people in here owe me money!” It shut the place up for a second while all the barflies wondered: What the fuck? “All of you!” he screamed, pointing at all of us in a wide arc. Then he left, exit stage right.

I turned to Chuckie, “Is it my imagination, or did he sound like Sinatra?”

“What is it with people tonight?” he wanted to know.

“Remind me why we hang out here, man.”

“Because they let us,” he reminded me, shoving another shrimp toast in his mouth.

Rosie came in and took her place on a stool by the juke box. She laid a pack of cigarettes on the bar, put her purse at her feet and smiled at Sammy, who immediately went to fix her usual gin and tonic. Rosie was pushing forty-five but in a friendly, sexy way. Her favorite book was The Carpetbaggers and we both smoked Marlboro, back when they only came in one color. I slid next to her at the bar as she took a smoke out of her pack.

“Hiya Rosie,” I said, flipping my lighter open.

“Hello! Why, thank you! Care for a cigarette?”

I smiled. “Well, since you’re offering…” I took one and sat down.

Lorraine was silent at the other end of the bar. No longer a spring chicken and already three sheets to the wind, she staggered off her stool and walked unsteadily toward us, eyeing me lasciviously. Using several empty stools as well as Chuckie and Lewis along the way for balance, she wrapped her arms around my neck, pulling me off the bar stool. I knew what was coming and smiled weakly at Rosie. Lorraine enjoyed pronouncing to all and sundry that I “might be young,” but I “knew how!” I did know how, but not with Lorraine. For her I suddenly drew a blank. With her arm draped around my shoulders, mostly for support, she said for all to hear, “He might be young, but he knows how! Ha-ha!” and put her face close to mine. “Wanna hambugger at my place?”

I stalled. “Uh… On a bun?”

“Any way you want it, honey.”

“I’m kinda stuffed on shrimp toast and peanuts right now….” I told her, squirming onto my stool.

It was sad, but the barflies accepted us for what we were so we owed them the same courtesy. Especially since Lorraine bought me a beer from time to time and taught me you could put an ice-cube in it if it wasn’t cold enough. Plus, it’s hard not to like someone who likes you. Life for these people was essentially an ongoing nothing-going-on syndrome. Ask any one of them a serious question and you’d find they had dozed off, dreaming of a holiday someplace nice.

Lorraine wobbled back to her stool by Richie, a grizzled regular, and continued talking loudly while straightening her tight skirt. In the process, her blouse slipped a little at the shoulder, revealing a dingy bra strap. Lewis and Chuckie slid over with their glasses of Bud and sat next to me and Rosie. Rosie watched Lorraine, who was chattering about Yankee the horse to a very bored-looking Richie.

Rosie scowled, “What the hell is she talking about?”

“Ha?” Chuckie rarely said more than one word in public, but ‘Ha’ had several meanings. With a question mark, it meant ‘What?’ On the phone, ‘Ha’ meant ‘Hello.’ With an exclamation point, it meant ‘Bullshit!’ A plain ‘Ha’ could either mean he was agreeing with you, or wasn’t listening.

I leaned closer to Rosie, trying to be conspiratorial and cozy, “She’s telling the story of Yankee the horse.” Rosie smelled good, too. I enjoyed being cozy with Rosie. “Unfortunately for Richie, he’s already heard it several times.” Rosie laughed, a deep one that reeked of sensuality. I wished she would make me a hambugger. I’d put it in her cleavage and eat with no hands. Then I’d ask to see her buns. I chuckled.

Rosie smiled, “Is it funny?”

I shook my mind out of Rosie’s cleavage and summarized the story of Yankee the horse, as told by Lorraine. “Yeah, actually it is. She shwears it’s true.”

“It’s bullshit,” Lewis said.

“Ha,” Chuckie agreed, and sipped his king of beers.

“Still, it’s a pretty good story, ya gotta admit.” I told Rosie about Yankee the horse, who lived in Scotland and loved two things in life: mash and kids. Every day, Yankee saw the kids off to school, and was there to greet them when the bus returned. One day he got out of his field and went to the brewery, where he found large piles of mash, got pitifully drunk—”

“Sheeeee… pish-ass drunken ol’ sot. Yep. Drunker anna… anna… sumpin’,” Lorraine yelled in Richie’s deadpan face, loud enough to be heard a dozen stools away. Richie was in faraway Barbados, thinking about tan women in white bikinis carrying buckets of Bud.

Lewis was adamant, “That’s bullshit. Horses don’t get drunk on mash.”

“Yeah, and you’re an expert, I know,” I said. “Eddie’s the one to ask.”

“Ha!” Chuckie laughed.

I continued in Rosie’s ear, “Yankee was waiting when the bus arrived, allegedly drunk. When the kids saw him, they begged him to come over so they could pet him through the windows.” Rosie nodded, appearing still interested, but glanced at her nails.

Richie said something to Lorraine. “Fuckiff I know!” she screamed.

“But,” I went on, “Yankee decided he’d rather board the bus! And before the driver could close the door, he walked inside.” I could sense another Bullshit! coming, this time from Rosie. “Wait, it gets better. He walked up some of the steps, but he couldn’t make the turn into the bus, see?” Rosie could understand that it might be a difficult maneuver for a horse. I couldn’t see how even a sober horse could make the turn. “So Yankee went to sleep right there on the steps, sorta half in and half out. What a pain in the ass, huh?” (Moral: never let a drunken horse attempt to board a bus.)

There was a predictable pause before Rosie spoke the inevitable. “That’s it?”

Lorraine fell forward onto Richie, who saved his beer from tipping over in the nick of time. “Ha-ha-ha! Moofed him to Louisville! Yep-up!” She was hanging onto his arm while he tried to keep his beer steady and change hands.

I had to laugh. “Don’t you think that’s funny?” Rosie was politely amused but no, not really. “It’s better when Lorraine tells it,” I said, looking in Lorraine’s direction. Richie excused himself and headed toward the bathroom.

Lorraine was animated. “Hey! Less go skiing!”

Rosie turned on her stool, “I’m gonna play the juke box.”

I told Lorraine that we couldn’t go skiing. It was June. Besides, none of us could ski.

Lorraine looked crestfallen. “Aw, yer so cute…. I’m pretty-goo-too!”

“What?” I turned to Lewis and Chuckie for help. “What did she say?”

Lewis translated. “She said you’re cute.” He and Chuckie laughed. “And, she’s ‘pretty good, too.’”

“Yep-up! I went down this REALLY BIG MOUNT’NIN!” Lorraine shouted down the bar, out the door and halfway across Queens Boulevard. We had to cover our ears it was so big! She stared at us, each eye wandering off in different directions. “I cudden see SHIT, my gog-ules were fudsing…”

I appealed to Lewis for another translation. “Her wha? Was wha?”

“Her goggles were… fudsing, I guess.”

“Oh.” I figured it was a skiing term.

“I went ZING!” Lorraine thrust her hand down the slopes, knocking over Richie’s beer.

Sammy wasn’t too happy. “No mo’ fo’ you! No mo’ fo’ you!” He hurried over with a bar rag. We shook our heads. What a waste of Bud.

Lorraine looked sufficiently contrite. “Fuckin’ fondaloop…”

“What’s a fondaloop?” Lewis wondered.

“It’s a skiing term, like ‘fudsing.’” I said.

The juke box fired up with a Perry Como song, “It’s al-l-l-ways fair weather, when hep cats get together…”

Rosie returned and sang along. “A hubba-hubba-hubba, hello Dad….”

Lewis nudged me with his elbow and leaned closer, his eyes big and bright, “Tomorrow’s Chuckie’s birthday. We’re gonna rob a drug store. Want in?”

“Well-a hubba-hubba-hubba, let’s shoot some breeze. Say, what-ever happened to the Japanese?”

I peeked across Lewis at Chuckie. “Ha?” He raised his eyebrows and took another sip of beer, indicating his blessing of the idea.

I thought about it. We had no idea how to rob a drug store. Still, it was his birthday… “Of course,” I told Lewis, and took a sip to seal the deal. My logic was simple. If we couldn’t figure out a way inside, then nothing was lost. However, if I didn’t go with them and they succeeded, I wouldn’t get a split.

Lorraine dropped her cigarettes all over the floor and was fishing around on her hands and knees for them. Richie got back from the bathroom, looked at the bar and said, “Hey, where’s my beer?”

The juke box blared, “It was might-y smoky over Tokyo…”

P.I.S.S.E.D. Ch. 3—Opening Day at Shea Stadium, April 12, 2004

Rated PG (Language)

Chapter 3—Opening Day at Shea Stadium, April 12, 2004

Pro • base • ball – noun.

1. A game of ball between two nine-player teams cranked on steroids and amphetamines, washed down with coffee, usually for nine innings on a field that has as a focal point a diamond-shaped infield (‘the bling’) with a home plate and three other bases, ninety feet apart, forming a circuit that must be completed by a base runner in order to score—the central offensive action entailing hitting of a pitched ball with a wooden bat and running of the bases, the winners being the people who steal the most money in ridiculous contracts, television deals, endorsements, food and beer concessions, and ticket and paraphernalia sales from the fans who watch. (See: fanatic.)
2. The ball used in this game, being a sphere approximately three inches in diameter with a twine-covered center of cork covered by a former horse’s skin not typically volunteered.

Queens, NYC.

Franklin Thomas Weiner was his real name—after a mint, an English Muffin, and a private part. Diplomatically polished and an empathetic soul, he was never a moneymaker like his name bespoke, but at fifty-one he had a fair share of ‘nooks and crannies.’ His friends thought he should have become a dentist, so people could see what it was like to have a Weiner in their mouth. Franklin Weiner was not considered a ‘person of faith,’ not by ordinary definition, but he tried all his life to make good with people. Standing with his hand poised on the front door of the Tongue Sheen House, a quiet bar on a busy street in Queens, he relished the moment before going inside.

How long has it been? How would I measure that, exactly? Hours? Episodes? Epochs? He pulled open the door and went inside.

Adjust the eyes, walk down three steps and take a look around. Wait… The place looks the same, including the patrons. A bald, pudgy older man sat at the end of the bar by a juke box, smoking a slimy stogie. An old man—scruffy, thin and stooped—stood on the footrail at the other end of the bar, pointed his crooked finger at the bartender and yelled, “Crank! Got-flangin’-dangin’-doggit!”

The bartender tried to pacify the crusty old dodger, “Okay-okay, calm down. I’ll tell him!”

“Punky nun-chuck slingin’ chinks…” the old man went on, waddling off to mutter to himself in a dark corner toward the rear. The pudgy guy smirked and didn’t move, never deviating from his task of stinking up the place.

Franklin Thomas Weiner eyed a stool at the far end of the bar, on the curve, and sat down. “Call me Max,” he told the Chinese-American barkeep, who had casually watched him take his seat.

“What’s wrong with Antwar? I—”

“Nothing, the name served me well,” said Franklin/Antwar/Max. “How are ya, Sonny?”

“No worse than yesterday. The usual, Max?”

Max thought about it for a split-second. “Nah, gimme a gin and tonic with lemon.”

Sonny shook his head and smiled. “Okay, the usual.”

“In a tall glass.”

“Of course, Max…” Sonny mixed the gin and tonic like he was sewing a button on in two strokes. He walked over with the drink and flipped a cocktail napkin on the bar.

Max nodded in the old man’s direction. “What’s Chiggers so pissed at?”

Sonny brushed it off. “His miserable life?” Max didn’t think it was funny, but laughed anyway. “It has something to do with my father.”

“Sammy? Oh…” The two men had been screaming at each other since before Max had ever entered the bar as a young teenager, some thirty-four spring trainings ago.

Sonny leaned in closer. “Sammy told me to raise beer prices, but not for Chiggers, see? When I told him, he went nuts! I don’t get it and I don’t wanna get it. They’re both out of their heads.”

Max understood that there was no understanding either Sammy or Chiggers, and what kept them looking out for each other. Whatever it was, it had lasted near a lifetime.

“Tell me, Sonny, when was the last time I was in here?”

“That would be Sunday. You know how I know that?”

“Because baseball starts today?”

“No, because it’s Monday. It does?”

“Sho-nuff, massa,” said Max, feigning slave-speak. Max was white bread. So what, color? He always thought. Like I could give a crap. At this point in his life Max had determined that any person could be an asshole. “Find the remote and gimme it, willya?”

Sonny looked at Max suspiciously. “No audio games, okay?” Max liked to mute the sound during random bits of dialogue, making the speech stutter.

“I promise,” he lied, sincerely.

“Fuck you, Phil!” Chiggers yelled from his corner. “I ain’t scared a you, you fat fuck.”

Now that, Max thought, was funny—though he cringed and only glanced at the fat fuck with the cigar, who didn’t move or say anything, but sat there looking like Buddha after having swallowed a medicine ball. Phil was a retired cop who never retired his firearm.

Sonny went to get the remote. “You got it, Boss-man.”

Max knew Phil well, as a teenager—he was their version of Popeye Doyle. Phil had further fucked up an already botched robbery attempt of Max’s by showing up at the wrong time, which was every time he showed his mug, and the young Frank Weiner had a high-speed getaway ride over city potholes in the trunk of a Chevelle for his failed efforts. He was fairly certain Phil didn’t recognize him, since he was in the trunk. If Phil remembered chasing him out of a church fountain some thirty-five years prior he didn’t let on.

Must be the statue of limitations ran out.

Max picked up on Sonny’s subtle attempt to divert the escalating tension between Phil and Chiggers and changed the subject. “So, Sonny, how is yer old man?”

Sonny shook his head as he returned with the remote. “That’s one cantankerous old fart. I don’t trust him, he’s always up to some crap.”

Max let it go at that. “Yeah,” he said, resigned to knowing Sammy was apt to be into anything, legal or not. “Best not to ask.”

Max fished for the station and found it. Pre-game chatter spouted from pro-ball pundits faster than he could count the clichés.

The Mets hitting has got to continue to be hot…

…manufacture runs…

…fundamental baseball…



Well fans, it’s high time we kick off the two-thousand-four season, with Beer High Life, the cheapest beer we can charge the most for. We’ll be right back!

Max promptly muted the sound. “So, what’d I miss since yesterday?”


Hello again everyone, I’m Buff McGargle along with my partner, Skip Malou, and welcome to Opening Day at my favorite french restaurant, Shea Stadium.

Ha-ha, Buff, and right you are, though let’s hope the Mets aren’t as stale as that old joke. Trachsel will take the mound and….

Max felt the heavy front door open when a cold draft shot up his back. A crack of daylight sheared the curve of the bar into something more blunt while a woman’s legs ticked down the steps. She turned the corner and stopped, adjusting to the low light.

Raingirl didn’t enter a place like any normal, full-fledged woman; she emerged like the sun through thunderheads, pulling an aura through the door that trumped all others. Shrugging off her thick sweater, she draped it over an empty chair and unleashed the full throttle of her long, dark curls—threaded with highlights of red, chestnut and silver that shined like a newly minted dime. Together with her golden smile, Raingirl was priceless.

She saw Max at the bar and made a fashion statement with her hips on the walkway coming his direction—swishing a long, flowing scarf behind her neck like the Noxema girl stepping up to the pole. “Hey Sonny-boy… I’ll have the usual, please.” Sonny jumped on her tall White Russian.

She took the barstool next to Max. “Yo, Rambo…”

Always pleased to have Raingirl in his midst, Max smiled. “Yo Raingirl. What’s happenin’?”

Raingirl regarded the teevee, “Oh gawd, is it that time already?”

This guy has a rubber arm; he can toss day after day after day after day after day after—

Skip it, Skip.

Thanks, Buff. A-n-n-n-d… here comes the pitch!

Max chuckled, rather liking the way Raingirl squirmed on her stool about baseball. Having a teevee in what was supposed to be a quiet neighborhood bar was villainous enough, in Raingirl’s opinion, but baseball was about as interesting as a snooze alarm.

Strike one! Painting the inside corner with a nifty slider that had a lot of movement on it—

A pitcher’s pitch, Skip.

“Like death and taxes, my dear.” Max liked baseball, but had lost all respect for the pro game—the Show. He would watch the seasons dwindle by until such time that Major League Baseball tried to make him pay to watch on cable, then he would quit. It was no longer about the game, it was about the lifestyle of the prematurely rich and manically steroidal. “Women’s softball is much better,” he said.

This elicited a deep sigh from Raingirl, and an acquiescing to the demands of her drink the moment Sonny delivered it. She swished it around, took a sip, and deftly changed the subject.

…from the stretch, here comes the delivery…

“Did I tell you I saw Doctor Take-a-shit?”

Max was genuinely surprised. “Take a shit” was Doc’s way of offering you a chair, which ended up sticking as a moniker. It was a name Max hadn’t heard in some time. The last time he saw Doc ‘Take-a-shit’ Greenblatt, he was writing a prescription for Seconals. Ten bucks later, Max was out the door and headed to the drug store. “No shit? They let him out?”

…it’s a pie…

“I guess so! Did he just say ‘it’s a pie?’”

“He said the pitch was ‘up high,’ ball one.”

“Oh, I thought he said… never mind.”

“Did you think he threw a pie at the batter?”

Raingirl liked that idea and laughed, to Max’s delight. “It would make the game more exciting,” she said.

“It would make the game a food fight,” Max told her. The pitcher waved off the next sign.

“Ha-ha! Anyway, yeah, I saw old Doc Take-a-shit in the Chock Full O’Nuts. He looked old and feeble.” Raingirl shivered, took another sip, and glanced at herself in the mirrored shelves behind the bar. “Have you seen Cheech Marin lately? Ugh…”

“Yeah. I’m sure the Doc’s ‘rehabilitated’ now.” Max’s sarcasm showed like a slip.

Another fastball on the inside corner, strike two!

The pitcher walked the mound, taking his sweet time. He spit in his glove and rubbed it around, then picked up the rosin bag and tossed it back down. With his cap low, he leaned over the rubber, adjusted his cup, spit again, which left a little dribble on his jersey, and stared a bullseye into the catcher’s mitt—ready for the next pie-sign.

In a moment of calmness, Raingirl harmonically resonated with the weather and declared, “It’s gonna rain soon.” She was always right. Each new storm was Christmas for Raingirl. Her brainwaves went coherent when it rained. It was a gestation period in ‘the ethereal wash of negative ions,’ she liked to claim. The storms were times of pause and reflect for her; a wet window into the safety of her own embryo.

Max saw the three-fingered sign and wondered if the breaking ball was coming next. “Good,” he said. Against the left-handed batter, a good curveball would come at his head and fall in for strike three. Sweet.

“I love the rain,” Raingirl said.

“I know.”

Here comes the wind-up… and the delivery…

Max called it, “It’s the curve… Stri-i-i-i-ke three.”

And it falls in for strike three!

Max pumped his fist. “Strike three, looking! Sit down. Grab some pine, meat. Ha!” Raingirl shook her head with pity.

A wicked bender with an impressive drop! All the batter can do is hope it doesn’t hit him…

Sonny watched the replay. “Nice curve,” he said.

Max looked at the curves of Raingirl’s profile. “I’ll say….” They smiled at each other. “A bonafide heartbreaker.”


“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 2—Do Ants Sleep?

Rated PG (Language)

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 2—Do Ants Sleep?


It must have been a Saturday…

“…and he says, ‘Play it? As soon as I figure out how to get her pajamas off we’re outta here!’ Aha-ha-ha-ha!”

“Huh? Oh. Ha-ha…” Babe chuckled politely when my joke fell flat.

It was a nice day to lay out by the community pool. The clouds looked like they were from the midwest—a nice change to the typical California whiteness that passes for sky. The pool water was glass a few minutes after we had gotten out to dry off and relax. The place was empty but for us two. Babe lay on her stomach on the lounge chair, to even out her tan. I sat with a towel over my head, musing about nothing after my joke went belly up. The vinyl straps used to make the chair were white and uninteresting. I picked at one like it was a banjo string. Babe lay watching the ants underneath her chair.

“Do ants ever sleep?” she finally asked, casting a ripple into the still pool of our thoughts. “Or do they just run around all day until they poop out?”

Babe is my counterpart. Whatever absurd thoughts I haven’t had myself, she keeps track of for me to use later. After fifteen years together, we’re used to it. I had to think about that for a while, and came up empty about whether or not I’ve ever known an ant to fall asleep. I couldn’t say I’d ever seen one even standing still, unless it was mulling something over—some engineering project about getting a big leaf into a tiny hole, I suspect—and I’ve never seen one curled in an ant fetal position sawing logs. The whole question was rendered moot if they only lived a couple hours. If that were true, they wouldn’t even understand the concept of an ant-nap, presuming they could understand concepts. How long would an ant nap last, a few seconds? The fact was and is, I didn’t know, so I answered, “Shit, I don’t know…”

“Do they have a heart?” Babe tossed into my conundrum salad about ants.

It seemed to me it’d be pretty small if they did, so I said, “Seems like it would be pretty small if they did…” and quickly asked a question of my own, before she could paralyze my mind with more unanswerable queries. “Do they even have any blood to pump?” and followed with, “Could we even see it?” That got her wondering. Secretly, I wondered: Is it red?

“Hmmm,” Babe said, thoughtfully, while I tried to remember how much juice I got out of the last ant I stepped on (quite unintentionally, of course). Was there juice, or just flattened ant-skin? I wanted to ask if ants even had skin, but didn’t want to sound as ant-stupid as I really am. I’m pretty sure ants know more about me than I know about them.

“Of course we can see it,” Babe offered, confident that someone could see ant juice if they really wanted to.

“You sound confid-ant…” I said, which Babe ignored after a short moan so I continued, inspired by the little fellers. “Just to be an ant requires a huge amount of heart. Construction boots alone have got to be, what, ten thousand times bigger than the ant bold enough to venture out underfoot? Does that daunt him? No. Does it slow him down?”

Babe one-eye-balled me suspiciously.

“Yes, maybe, depending on vibrant soles and whether or not you’re a lucky enough ant to be standing between them when they fall around you. I would have to say a resounding Yes! Ants have a heart!
“What do we do when we play cards? We ante up, that’s what! It says you’re a player. And when you w-ant to stay ahead of the game, you anticipate! If you make it to old age, you’re antediluvian, that’s what!” (Pause while my brain went into overdrive.) “Consider, if you must, all the great music written: Gee Baby, Ant I Good to You? and Ant No Mountain High Enough…” I cracked myself up with that last one.

“Don’t forget: Ant no Sunshine When She’s Gone,” Babe added, against her better judgement.

“Exactly! And Ant Misbehavin. But do they sleep?” I asked.

“Shit, I don’t know,” she said. “It ant nobody’s business but their own.” We laughed.

“I agree, it’s an anti-matter. Maybe we should dally on llamas instead.”

Babe narrowed her eyes. “Now you’re starting to bug me.”

I threw the towel over my head and continued playing the vinyl-strap banjo, one pluck at a time… content to never know.

Next day:

Fucking ants!” Babe is chasing a line of them around the kitchen, wielding a toothpick with Grants Ant Goop on it, which she is attempting to smear on each, individual ant. “I hate them!” These are the tiny variety, no bigger than a millimeter, and scrawny. I lean on the kitchen door, sipping a cup of coffee and watch her drag a chair around to climb up and paste these nasty little fuckers as they crawl along the ceiling. Ants are okay, so long as they’re running around outside. Katy walks out her bedroom door, sees an ant and screams like a teenager. I’m inured to it; she’s been a teenager since turning thirteen, obviously, which seems like a long time ago.

“Is this what they mean by ‘ant-climactic’?” I asked Babe nonchalantly. She ignored me. “Maybe we should wait until they fall asleep, then—”

She sneers and interrupts, sensing I’m not about to offer anything helpful. “Where the fuck do they come from?” she wants to know, as if it mattered. Anywhere they want. Katy walks toward the kitchen on tip-toes, her arms hugging her chest in a protective, self-defensive posture. If an ant touches her, even accidentally, she’ll explode like a can of nitro that says: Shake Well. I’ve been slaughtering all manner of pestilence since Katy came to live with us when she was eight.

I venture a guess at where ants come from, “Antartica?” Babe stops, clearly exasperated. I back away slowly and disappear around the corner. There must be some yard work I can do…

Random Writings—What is Art?

What is Art?

Art’s a dart without the “d,”
pinpointing what we want to express.

Art’s a cart without the “c,”
taking us where we want to go.

Art’s a tart without the “t,”
tasty and sweet.

Art’s a wart without the “w”
and sometimes has to be removed.

Art’s a fart without the “f,”
sometimes it stinks.

Art’s a part without the “p,”
an integral piece of life.

But above all, Art is Heart with,
for me, a silent “He.”

Street of Rogues Ch. 2—The Dream and The Reality

Street of Rogues, Chapter 2—The Dream and The Reality

When you find yourself in the thick of it, help yourself
to a bit of what is all around you. —


It was a school day during the spring of my fourteenth year. At the time, I didn’t realize I had awakened with a présage—a sketch of my destiny. Ever since that otherwise normal night’s slumber, I used the following dream to bolster my faith that I would find true happiness. It dragged me in like a whirlpool, this search for Happiness, employing all manner of obsessions to attain it; dropping hints along the way that were no more than a Peter Max poster, a mantra, and an itinerary.


The Dream:

It was a summer evening in the city that never sleeps; life seemed to be glowing from within. People were behaving no longer as passersby, but more as a part of the Family of Man. As I strolled the balmy evening streets, the air palpable and thick, strangers became brothers and sisters. I caught them smiling at one another and at me, the way they did in genteel Victorian times while parading the boulevards with their parasols, fine top hats and monocles. Back then you were acknowledged on the NYC streets at eye level by your fellow man. In my Dream, humanity was suddenly and inexplicably transformed into one loving family.

Lovers passed by, oblivious to all and crooked together like swans floating blissfully on the still surface of an alpine lake. Others sat in warm coveys on park benches. Slowly tracing a path with no destination in mind, I strolled behind several silhouettes sitting in relief against the Metropolis skyline—a hot and cold, gray-on-blue outline spotted with twinkling lights. Edward Hopper could have painted the scene.

Although I was alone, my heart swelled with the certain knowledge that a great fulfillment was coming to me. The Promised Land of Happiness would be mine, and soon. I couldn’t nail down the specifics of what was going to happen in my dream, who among us can do that? Dreams are beyond control. All I knew was to keep walking…

Keep going forward and follow the heart. The thought came to me: Reach out, there’s something here for you. Keep walking and enjoying the moment. Everyone seemed so blissful in my dream, as if a long-fought battle was finally won and calm fulfillment the order of the day.

Musing along my undefined, pathless path, I glided into the Tunnel of Love. Before I would ever grasp the mechanics of the change, it was upon me: Primal Love, with its full complement of joy at my command, where I floated my own little boat in a heart-shaped Playland of dreamy shadows and gradating pinks. Emerging from the other side, I was reborn. A feeling of confidence and power welled up inside me. Like Dorothy in Oz, I had found Technicolor.

Then I knew why I had come into such grace: it was a preparation for the fulfillment of a promise made to my soul, an assurance made to me by God Himself that for every person there was a mate with whom to explore eternity. It was a remembrance of something I had once known and forgotten. I had found love in its essence, all I needed now was to find my soul-mate.

Keep walking… and as I did, Gotham City morphed to become Paris. I watched myself like a security camera, from behind, walking a bicycle down a cobblestone street. A backpack on my shoulders, my feet would not touch my dream lane. I knew innately this was the City of Love, as many had said. It was revealed by its light and infused the air with giddy flavors.

Rows of flats on either side of me glowed a sunrise pink. Filigreed iron rails boasted beautiful, flowering vines. Some had delicate bird cages holding fluttering finches, busily adding their song to life. Even a few spider monkeys were swinging around, effortlessly gliding from window to railing to pick a blossom and stare boldly into warm, inviting rooms. Light morning breezes sweetened the air, sending lace curtains to wave through open windows.

A big-busted woman softly spilling over her windowsill scrutinized me from above, smiling broadly at my inspired state. I showed my overflowing heart through the SMILE on my face. She called to her neighbor and said something about me to her in French that I couldn’t understand, then they both smiled and watched me pass.

As I approached the next corner, a market square busy with vibrant life slowly unfolded before me. I savored the moments, sweetly tantalizing myself before the Promised One I hoped would appear. I could feel that life was at a peak here; the market was the center of the universe and thick like honey. I surfed with the flow. Everything my eyes alighted upon was transformed, blessed, left enhanced after my acknowledgement.

Here was where we would find each other, a pair of souls made from the same stuff, to share in discovering the sublime secrets of life together—the Promised Answers that are no less than best friends to The Questions. We would mirror and inspire each other, and I wanted this destiny to take place now. There was a street sign; the letters were clear.

Rue du Rogues. This had to be the place.

I parked the bike at a lamppost and moved into the life-stream toward a small stall selling hot food, the scent drawing me there. I wasn’t sure what to do next, but doing something specific wasn’t important. I knew that to be true even with the compulsion to keep moving. Peering through the crowded streets, I made my way to the counter. Then I saw her, busily cooking over a grill. It didn’t take much to know; I only needed to see a small piece of the soul I hoped to find. A hand or a finger would have done just as well, or an eyelash. Without so much as a thought, I reached out with my heart to call to her. Not a beat passed before she turned, looking for me, scanning the crowd.

Over here, I thought. One heartbeat sounded as our eyes finally locked. A thousand-petaled lotus of love blossomed. It opened fully, enveloping us with a robust and essential love that was at once healing and petrifying. I could hardly stand still enough, so as not to disturb the fragile perfection of the moment. She SMILED, a beacon of light, and in doing so sealed my soul to the Perfect Ending.

Removing her apron, she came toward me as if she were a vignetted figure emerging from a photograph. People instinctively avoided crossing our path, as if Moses himself parted the crowd. She came so close it seemed we were sharing the same space. When she took my hand, I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want the bubble we were in to break. I couldn’t speak. She raised up on her tiptoes and kissed my cheek reassuringly. As that moment stretched and lingered, I knew we were permanently bonded. We both turned to walk into Life’s Fulfillment as two pieces of the grand puzzle fit perfectly together, helping to make it the whole, universal picture—never to be separate again. Our Love vibrating in harmony with the Cosmos, I watched us walk away from loneliness for the last time.


The Reality:

“Bacon’s ready!” called Ma from upstairs.

At thirteen, for the first time in my life I actually woke up on a school day refreshed and even inspired. I opened my eyes as if for the first time, wearing a huge SMILE. Even a school day couldn’t dampen my exaltation. I stayed in bed, allowing the feeling to continue washing over and through me—cleansing, I felt, as it did. I rarely remembered any of my dreams, but this one would linger for a lifetime. I knew I would never be the same.

Now I had, through my dream, certain knowledge of what love felt like—the primal stuff that’s independent of two peoples’ wishes and illusions but simply Is. I must have inadvertently remembered it was there for the taking, through some quirky wrinkle in my dreamlife’s fabric. I may have gone to some parallel universe or another dimension or something… Whichever, it certainly didn’t seem like normal reality anymore.

This must be Paradise Regained, I philosophized, never having read Milton’s great work but remembering the title from English class. I thought of the cute Miss Liptone, my English teacher. She never smiled enough.


Not only did I know that I wanted ‘something’ in my life, I knew what that ‘something’ was. I gained a subliminal direction. I often recalled this dream. What would it be like to go to Europe to find my ‘Rue du Rogues,’ my misspelled présage (that should have been ‘Rue des Rogues’), to hear new languages and walk about freely, to see other places and do other things that were prescribed by ME for a change? In doing so, I was pre-visualizing my destiny.

In my mind, The Rue du Rogues was my destination as well as my destiny. I couldn’t wait to feel the cobblestone streets underfoot and smell the European morning foods. Secretly I loved the impatient anticipation of it all, of That Which I Had Coming. When I thought about it on a conscious level, it put a little Gene Kelly in my step—reminding me of my premonition of finding true happiness. I was promised! The feeling transcended ordinary life; I felt above it all, released from the gray area of confusion I thought of as living. (Where are the answers? Come to think of it, what are the correct questions?) As I grew older, when I thought about my dream all the doubt-filled hopes about my future coalesced into anticipation of great things to come. The memory lingered like a perfume.

“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Ch. 14—Censor This

Rated PG (language)







“Daddy, Why Can’t I Say ‘Ass?'” Chapter 14—Censor This


When Katy was eight years old, she sat down on the kitchen floor while I washed dishes and innocently wondered: “Daddy, why can’t I say ‘ass?’”

I sighed and stared out the window, looking for some wisdom to give her a good answer, and thought I found it.

“You can,” I said, brilliantly. “So long as you’re referring to a donkey.” Satisfied with that, I went back to washing dishes, wondering if she knew what ‘referring to’ meant. She thought about it with all the depth it deserved, then used it in a sentence.

“Okay,” she said. “That donkey over there has a fat ass…”

With shoulders slumped, I capitulated. “Perfect”

By the time she was sixteen, Katy had full control of her vocabulary—that is, her slang. She uses the word ‘ass’ in all its glory now; picking and choosing its location with verbal acuity, the appropriate amount of inflection, and the timing of an adult. She is comfortable with ass, and I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t even notice, in fact, when it slips out in context with where (or who) ‘ass’ fits.

In our household, Profanity is defined simply as: Abusive. Some would have you take it on faith that Vulgar and Irreverent should belong in the definition of Profanity. Using the word ‘Ass’ as example, which is hardly profane any more but used to be, though it didn’t start out that way, let’s put it in the context of Vulgar (which is, out of the two words above, its common association; although in the case of ‘mooning’ someone I would put it under Irreverent). Is it vulgar because doody comes out there? Notice I didn’t say shit, that would be vulgar. Yet to apply either of those words to offend someone’s character means two different things. It’s one thing to be an Ass, but quite another to be a Shit—and neither have to involve vulgarity.

You may think that doesn’t make sense; someone along the way has decided for us all that one body part is painfully more profane than another—notwithstanding what comes out of it. I guess that’s fine in a household that never ‘takes a shit,’ but in my castle it doesn’t fly. If a donkey can be an ass, then so can, for example, George W. Bush, but I wouldn’t say that as a matter of Free Speech because it’s Irreverent, see?

If I said Bush was a ‘Fuck,’ my daughter, at eight, would have asked: “What’s a Fuck, Daddy?” I would have had to reply with an incorrect definition of Fuck; that is, I would have said: “That means he’s an Asshole, honey,” (which is, admittedly, more specific than an ‘Ass’). As I understand the generally accepted concept, ‘Fuck’ mostly refers to making love, or Sex, and it wouldn’t have made any sense to her at all because I would have had to cast ‘fucking’ or ‘sex’ in a bad light and then it all starts to get too complicated for an eight-year-old (especially if Bush is in the mix). However, I can explain to her, as a teenager, the difference between ‘making love’ and ‘fucking,’ and that if she does it right, there is none.

None of this is very confusing, I know, but here’s how it grows up…

Soon my sweet sixteen-year-old was asking me different questions, which always led to the same end: “Daddy, can I have some money for the movies?” You’ve heard of the terrible two’s? At sixteen you are in the Broke Teen Years, or the Pre-Job era of their life. Movies provide the escape from reality most normal teens want. Who can blame them?

Parents start by sticking the young ones down on potty trainers in front of TVs so they can learn to understand that watching TV is as natural as taking a shit, so long as you don’t show someone taking an actual shit on TV.

Before you know it, they are being weaned through a system of movie Ratings. Starting with a ‘G’ rating, for parents who want to drop their kids off at the movies to get away from them for awhile, and perhaps go see an R movie while they’re there. Then ‘PG,’ because theaters realized that, at young teen ages, kids are too dangerous to let loose in empty, dark theaters without supervision, so someone old enough to go to an ‘R’ movie must chaperone. After that there’s ‘PG-13,’ which includes kids already beyond the control of parents and way beyond chaperones that the theaters employ extra clean-up crews for. Up the ladder to an ‘R’ Rating, which allows kids who are old enough to join the armed services and kill people or be killed who can’t legally drink alcohol but can at least smoke as long as someone old enough for an ‘NC-17’ Rated movie buys the cigarettes because, once they are already bought, it’s okay to smoke, outside. Ultimately, we succumb to the final Rating that excludes almost everyone except the truly Profane: The ‘XXX’ Rating—a Rating conjuring up in most people unnerving feelings not unlike the X in ‘ex-spouse’ might.

I’m no expert about the Ratings, but as I see it basically any movie that shows a penis is automatically rated NC-17 (I can say Penis, of course, so long as I don’t say Cock). Should the owner of the aforeskinned mentioned Penis be doing anything with it, then it’s definitely XXX, or actually three times as Vulgar as NC-17 (yet they still let you in at the same age and price as an NC-17-rated movie so it’s a better deal). It doesn’t matter if that Penis is peeing or in a can of ham, it’s XXX-rated and only if you’re old enough to kill someone and not have a stiff drink afterwards can you enter.

On the other hand, should your preferences lie in the Horror Movie genre, you are free to watch all manner of creative torture, horror, maiming, and terror for your $8.00 student-reduced ticket price. (Later, oh Broke Teen, you’ll be able to invest only two hours of your work life to be able to pay for that ticket at minimum wage, which, after the time invested watching The House of Incredibly Imaginative Terrors nets out to around four hours of your thoughtful, stimulating and otherwise productive day). For that modest (and reduced!) fee you are treated to Abuse, if you will, to use a mild term for the heinous acts of fantasy produced on film for the general consumption of our mind-molding teens. That is essentially what it is, unless you want to tack on adjectives like Hellish and Sick to it.

So at this point I ask myself (I could ‘ass-k’ myself, but that would be Profane), “Would I rather send my daughter to an X-rated movie or an R-rated horror pic?” I ask in reply, “Which one?”

Not all X-Rated movies are the same. Most are abusive and definitely not about ‘making love’ as much as they are about ‘gratuitous fucking’ (defined as: pre-marital). If you were to ask the industry why most movies are made with this attitude of domination and abuse you will likely hear a similar cry to that of the car industry, who insists on making over-powerful vehicles that are abusive to our ecosphere and all peoples within it “Because that’s what the consumer is buying!”

Anyone researching X-Rated sites on the internet these days will tell you that many sites don’t show full length motion pictures, but rather select scenes made specifically to show what subscribers are going there to see. There is no story plot anymore, as much as there is pure fetishness, per se’, or genre’s from which to choose your interests. Now you can watch the fetish without the abuse, horrific dialogue and trainwreck soundtrack. It’s more honest, if you will. When it comes to the Arts and Free Speech, moral responsibility lies squarely on the creator of content.

I do not have to go see these Horror movies, to be sure, but apparently my kid and lots of other people do because you know what, they’re out there! Am I promoting Censorship? No, but rather Responsibility by the producers of such horror when my kid could just as happily be absorbing fine stories of Art, Love, Science and Metaphysics if they were showing in its place. They only watch what is being shown, after all.

In concept, I would have to say to my daughter Yes! Go see Last Tango in Paris in favor of House of Wax! Teach my kid how to communicate with a loved one (or what to avoid!) and then how some people may make love; all within a medium she trusts.

Some movies she watches do teach her worthy ideas about communicating and love and other important lessons. Many times they are corroborating notions I have already told her that she may not have been able to put into a context she could relate to at the time. Sometimes just the fact that a notion or an idea (or even wisdom!) has come from me alone renders it suspect. Basically, she needs a second opinion, and Movies are something she listens to and tries to follow.

It took a couple generations to decide that armpits can be shown on TV without offense. How many generations must live and die before How to Make Love supplants The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a way of celluloid life? Which is the Profane? What, exactly, do I tell my kid? ‘Sex is nasty. Don’t have intercourse with anyone before signing a life-long commitment, but chainsaws in the forehead… fun stuff. You’ll get used to it. You should try it sometime! Ha-ha! You can plead ‘chemical imbalance’ in your defense! Ha-ha! You can have that library upstairs of yours filled with traumatic nightmares for decades to come! Sleep with Raisinettes and popcorn on your night table…’

All I know for sure is whichever donkey of a censor put this system in place has a fat ass.

P.I.S.S.E.D. Ch. 2—Holly Al-Gutentag and P.I.S.S.E.D

Out of the boxRated R (language)

Chapter 2—Holly Al-Gutentag and P.I.S.S.E.D.

Valentine’s Day, 2004.

Drowned Iraqi ‘Was Forced into River by Five US Soldiers’—by the lndependent/UK.


Five American soldiers have been accused of driving a 19-year-old Iraqi civilian to his death in the Tigris river in one of the main centers of resistance to the occupation. Zeidun Fadhil and his cousin Marwan Fadhil were allegedly taken to a remote spot on the shore and ordered into the river at gunpoint. When they refused, the soldiers were said to haveforced them into the river. Zeidun, who could not swim, drowned in the strong current. His cousin survived to tell the story.

Zurich, Switzerland.

Greedy, imperialist pigs! Holly Ackbar Féin KKK Ira Túpac Al-Gutentag, an equal rights anarchist and lightly armed pacifist lesbian from Switzerland, preferred chai. The air at the curbside cafe where she sat was as crisp and clean as the Swiss Francs she used as tender. She tossed the paper on the table and tapped her foot impatiently.

Tweety—her friend, accomplice and partner—tried to mollify her before she got all worked up again. “Don’t worry, dear, he’ll show up.”

“He better.”

“Ah look, here comes your chai. Now you can relax. Why don’t you take out your pencils and sketch? It’s been so long since you—”

Holly thanked the frau for her chai in English. Everyone Holly was involved with agreed to the charter of her organization and only spoke English. People Involved in Stressful Situations Every Day (PISSED) was its name, and they were terrorists. That is, they were going to be terrorists, if Holly’s plan went to specs. “I’ve got other things on my mind, Tweety. Perhaps later.”

Tweety rolled his eyes.

“Don’t say it.” She knew that’s what she always said, but it seemed like she always had a lot on her mind. There was the organization, of course, that was meant to, quite simply, promote anarchy. She got the idea while attending Cal Berkeley, picked up some contacts and fundamentals there, and with the use of random, public computer stations all over Switzerland was able to establish a budding group of anarchist enthusiasts around the globe.

The premise was simple. Isolated anarchists with no power or resources banded together under Holly’s leadership and offered their expertise in whatever field they were familiar with, which would then be used against the countries of the world to generate fear enough to break down amoral society into smaller bands of peaceful farmers. Organic, peaceful farmers. She believed terrorism was the quickest way to effect anarchy, and wanted to help it along. Holly meant to be, in fact, the Grand Central Station to all terrorist factions—which is why she changed her name to reflect a sort of ‘rainbow coalition’ of equality among maniacs.

The beauty of her ideas over theirs was that they didn’t involve murder, but instead favored extreme acts of defamation and desecration. The artist within her secretly apologized to Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor of what was to be her first great act of anonymous infamy in the interest of anarchy—her piss mark upon the stodgy imperialist puppeteers and harbingers of humiliation. The world insulted Holly Ackbar Féin KKK Ira Túpac Al-Gutentag, and she wasn’t a dog to roll over and play dead.

Tweety eyed her slyly. “Have you decided who you will award this soon-to-be fait accompli yet?”

There was another decidedly brilliant thing about PISSED—her members came free of charge and offered their specialty happily. For the most part, they felt honored to be associated with People Involved in Stressful Situations Every Day. In return for the efforts of her organization, the highest bidding terrorist group would be given credit for the nefarious deed-to-be-done. Apart from a helicopter rental, there were few, relatively minor expenses. The rest would be pure profit. “I’m still open for bids. Mumat Olly Oxen’s on the top of the leader board at the moment with an offer of half a mil.”

Tweety whistled. “Whew, that’ll cover expenses!”

“It’s not enough. The press will be world-wide.”


Everyone had a code name, except Holly. Tweety was her first contact in cyberspace, so everyone else was given a cartoon nickname. Code name Mr. Jetson was ten minutes late, a very un-Swiss-like posture to take in light of the circumstances. She checked her giant Seiko underwater watch and sighed.

Tweety patted her on the leg, which was good for a busted finger if any other male tried it, and whispered to her from behind his herbal tea. “Don’t worry, honey. You said it yourself, ‘everything legal to point of impact,’ remember? No suspicions that way.”

Holly sighed impatiently. “Thank you, Herr Tweety. It’s just, sometimes I—”

“I know honey, the pressures. It’s lonely on top, I should know.” Tweety was once a chairman of the board of a high-profile fashion company for animals. There wasn’t a block in Beverly Hills that didn’t have a Pekinese sporting a closet full of his creations. “When I threw Prancer-boy out… That, that… roving wildebeast! I wanted to die.” Tweety’s eyes went dark with the thought of Harold, his former lover, who had deceived him.

That’s when he met the virtual Holly Al-Gutentag, in an online blackjack room. The following day, Tweety left America and went underground in Zurich. The fact that he was gay and Holly was lesbian was a sublime, anarchistic rub in the faces of all fanatical zealots who would eventually pay PISSED to advertise their slant on life. However, pragmatically speaking, Tweety was a marketing genius with many contacts and a lot of strings he could pull. He was always surprised to see who wanted a male blowjob in Hollywood, and had the pictures to fondly remember them by. These people would do anything for Tweety; all he had to do was ask—then show them the photos.

There would be no confusing issues between the sexes in this partnership. By now, Tweety and Holly were better than partners. They actually loved each other. Holly was the artist with the impossible dreams Tweety gave up, and Tweety the harmless and very sharp male comrade Holly could at once count and lean on. When Jean Lola Bridgeada gave up the PISSED Mission to become a nun, Holly had needed someone to steady her.

Then there was that other, rather compromised situation Tweety had found her in, which caused them to share a special bond. That was when Holly learned never to make love to herself while wearing headphones. It was the start of a distinctly peculiar flavor to their otherwise platonic gay and lesbian partnership, the ramifications of which neither tried to figure out.

They both sighed.

“Where the fuck is he?” Holly wondered out loud.

“I don’t know, honey, but how about him?” Tweety nodded toward a young man in very tight pants walking past. Holly laughed—an abrupt, childlike giggle. Tweety smiled and sipped his tea.

“It’s good to hear you laugh again. Uh-oh. Red carnation at two o’clock…”

“It’s about fucking time!” Holly made her move to intercept Mr. Jetson and brought him to the table, where she introduced him to Tweety.

“I am very pleased to greet you,” Mr. Jetson said. They shook hands and everyone sat down.

Holly glared at the Indian man in the navy suit jacket with the red carnation sitting opposite her. “I trust your flight from Bombay was satisfactory?”

“Oh, I love Swiss International Air Lines! How very nice of you to ask. Don’t tell anyone I said this,” he leaned in closer and shielded his mouth, “but their eggs taste very much like tin foil.”

Holly and Tweety exchanged surreptitious glances. “I’m sorry,” Holly told Mr. Jetson, tapping her watch. “But you are eighteen minutes late and—”

“She’s Swiss,” Tweety explained. “Like a cuckoo clock.”

Mr. Jetson’s eyes widened. “I should tell you, it is very hard to find a red carnation in this city! I am appalling! Very bad… Now, if you had said to wear a tiger lily, or tulip—”

Holly interrupted before Mr. Jetson could digress further into horticulture, “Mr. Jetson, do you have the plans?”

Tweety stared at him. “I like the tulip idea… Tiger lillies are so passé. Napalm?”

Mr. Jetson was confused. “What? Napalm?”

“Sorry, my french accent is… how do they say, ‘Vous devriez poursuivre votre tailleur en justice.’

Holly almost laughed out loud at Tweety’s suggestion that Mr. Jetson should sue his tailor, but covered her mouth and coughed instead. “The plans, please, if you will.” She held out her hand.

Mr. Jetson dug into his jacket pocket, “Oh yes, I very much have them right here…” He handed Holly a tiny USB drive.

She inspected the small device, then pulled a small laptop out of her large purse and flipped it open. “If you don’t mind, I’ll see if it’s all there and—”

Mr. Jetson erupted into a staccato of guffaws, sounding very much like a braying donkey, but more abrasive. Tweety looked horrified at the man. “You will have very many questions to look at that! Hee-haw, hee-haw!”

“I meant to see that it’s not corrupt in any way, that it’s readable. You understand, Mr. Jetson?”

“Oh yes, oh yes, very much so… I see. Yes. Please!—in fact. And, call me George.” He winked at Holly, oblivious to her obvious disinterest in the man as anything other than an engineer.

She plugged in the drive and downloaded. “May I offer you some chai, Mr. Jetson, while we wait?”

“Oh no, I very much hate that shit! Can I get a Kingfisher here?”

“This seems to be in order. I see you’ve included a clean-up list. That’s very thoughtful.”

George smiled and nodded, clasping his hands together like a schoolboy without the beanie.

“You’re certain this will work?” she asked him.

Mr. Jetson looked hurt. “It will very much work, Miss Holly. Oh yes… There’s no doubt about it. I got the original specifications on her structure and very detailed photographs. I have records, Miss Holly, of manufacturers and coppersmiths.” He leaned in closer. “If you put those charges in the exact locations I specified, it’ll blow that torch into the water and leave the middle finger undamaged. You must very much trust me on this.”

Holly nodded at him. “Thank you very… uh, much, for contributing to the cause. You’ve been a valuable anarchist.”

“No-no-no, you musn’t. It is you I should be very much thanking. Your idea is brilliant! It hits me in my third chakra, I think, like an arrow from Arjuna himself.”

“Yes, bu—”

“It says, Fuck you, world! Take your tired and hungry elsewhere! Hee-haw! Hee-haw!” Mr. Jetson thrust his middle finger in the air. “I can’t wait to see their faces when the precious symbol of liberty—an anarchist’s dream!—is flipping off the world on CNN! Hee-haw! Heehaw! Hee-haw!”

Holly looked to Tweety, who was already leaving to pay the check.

Street of Rogues Ch. 1—Background Check

I’m the nine-year-old kid sitting down pointing to himself already as if to say Who, me? It was the kind of Polaroid you had to smear that pink, Chapstick-like finisher on that always smelled so intriguing. In 1964, my interests revolved around Soupy Sales, Willie Mays, The Three Stooges, and comic books.
I’m the nine-year-old kid sitting down pointing to himself already as if to say Who, me? It was the kind of Polaroid you had to smear that pink, Chapstick-like finisher on that always smelled so intriguing. In 1964, my interests revolved around Soupy Sales, Willie Mays, The Three Stooges, and comic books.

Rated PG (situations)

Street of Rogues Ch. 1—Background Check


I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay in a world without love.Peter and Gordon


When Winston Churchill resigned in 1955, life was black-and-white. Eisenhower was President. Polio was conquered. The AFL and CIO merged. Disneyland opened. The Bermuda Triangle was given a name. Ann Landers debuted, Bill Gates was born, and Oscar Mayer, who gave us baloney in a bag, died at 96. Lolita was published. CBS introduced The Johnny Carson Show. Captain Video was canceled but everyone loved Lucy and the Brooklyn Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the World Series. As a reserved infant, I didn’t give a crap about any of this. I was sucking bottles—practicing for the cigarettes and coffee that came later.

Technically, if baby-boomers are considered to have been born in 1946 through 1964, then June of 1955, when I was born, is the dead center of those years. In 1957, my father decided to take his Commercial Arts degree from Los Angeles to Madison Avenue. His high school sweetheart, my Ma, readily agreed—that’s how badly she wanted to put some distance between us and my grandparents. One set was too controlling, while the other was busy cultivating dysfunction through beer. Then age twenty-four, Pop had landed a job at a big ad agency. He found a walk-up in Brooklyn Heights, and Ma followed with me and my four-year-old sister. At the time, they thought it was a wonderful idea. The Brooklyn Dodgers thought the opposite and moved to LA.

After several moves, eventually we settled in Queens. We lived in an attached house with a faux-Tudor façade. Now predominantly Russian, Rego Park and Forest Hills were a mixed bag of Italian, German, Jewish, Irish, and WASP back then—with a sprinkling of Puerto Rican and ‘Negro’ thrown in for color. As far as my own heritage, all I knew was that Pop’s parents were Jewish, and Ma’s weren’t. Always in the throes of searching, we seemed to be none of the above. All my relatives were in California. I didn’t know what we were, and didn’t really care except on school holidays. As far as I was concerned, sitting in Church was an uncomfortable mixture of Boredom and Fear. If I wasn’t trying to stifle a yawn, I was thinking about this “burn in Hell for eternity” thing. I just wanted to ride my bike, have fun, and be among people who were always laughing.

I was smoking by the time I was twelve and already Spinning the Bottle to kiss girls—a fifth-grade Hugh Hefner, turtlenecks and all. The drugs came later, at thirteen, in junior high school. By New Year’s Eve in ’68, I was drunk on hard liquor and asleep in a roll-top desk.

Huffing glue came next, which was always full of surprises: such as coming back to consciousness in a fountain, or finding myself in the middle of an alley in the pouring rain listening to a far-off voice repeating: Why are you in the rain? Why are you in the rain? followed by laughter and the strains of some kid practicing his trombone from an apartment window nearby. The weirdness began in those already weird enough, hormone-induced adolescent years.

By junior high the hangout had changed. New school, new hangout, more kids. In the summer of ’69 you would find two hundred people at the park on any given night. What we fondly referred to as ‘The Park’ was actually the cement playground behind the school—a monolithic brick enclosure housing 2800 kids in three grades. There wasn’t a blade of grass near it. It contained the basketball courts, handball wall, and one giant baseball ‘field’ we used for bottle-rocket wars. Upwards of fifty guys stood out there, taking sides, before throwing bottle-rockets at each other. It tested your speed, to be sure, and pushed your luck. Little did I know the park would turn out to be my Shanghai Noodle Factory—a place where I would be nowhere, doing nothing. Russell Sage Junior High School, where no one knew who Russell Sage was and, more importantly, didn’t care.

We enjoyed the park at all hours, occasionally loosening the rope around the school flagpole for a spin into nausea. We also played ‘Johnny on the Pony’ there, with fifteen or more guys on a side—where getting knocked out was common, kicked in the balls expected, and legs were broken. This was a game where one team lined up by bending at the waist and holding onto the guy in front of him and so on, leading up to the ‘pillow’—the one guy at the head of the line standing with his back against a wall or a tree, acting as a cushion. The other team stood back some fifty paces and sent one guy at a time to run and jump on the backs of the ‘pony’ to try and break the line, in which case the jumping team got to jump again. By the time the last guy jumped it was hard to hold on, so you grabbed any dangling thing that might help keep you from hitting the ground first. If the line team (the pony) held strong for a count of three after all the jumpers were on, it was their turn to jump.

Payback was brutal and oftentimes gameplay ended abruptly; cops and ambulances showing up will do that, while concussions were simply moved to the side. High flyers like George the Cuban could sail the entire length of the pony and still manage to hang on. Of course, when he went too far the pillow usually got knocked out. That was bad, because there weren’t many volunteers to be the pillow. Usually only Fish did that, and he wasn’t really volunteering. When One-Ball Paul pronounced him the park ‘Mayor,’ he took on the task more willingly but still whined. The title of Mayor implied there’d be protection along with it—from everyone but George the high-flying Cuban.

Drugs were bought and sold at the park. Fights happened. Other gangs would occasionally show up; gangs of junkies, or worse, the Irish, looking for a rumble. The swifter kids left the premises while the slow ones took the brunt. The big guys, some of them adults, stood around to watch the carnage. The speedy kids waited around the corner until the coast was clear before ambling back in small groups to take up the revelry where it had so unceremoniously left off—not unlike a flock of gulls regrouping after a widespread scatter from dogs running down the beach. Those times were the most troubling while on acid, when getting beat up would quickly bummerize a trip. I was thirteen when I took my first hit of acid, with some seventy-five or so subsequent trips over the next few years.

Soon I was no longer buying Justice League comic books but hash, pot, booze, cigarettes and glue. To supplement my allowance, I rifled the old man’s pockets for loose bus fare and subway tokens—you could cash in tokens for two dimes to rub together. When that wasn’t enough, there was always panhandling. A career day for me was making four bucks in half an hour outside the busy 34th St. subway station. What a haul!

Then came the amphetamines.

Imagine a teenage boy, in great shape from playing handball for three to eight hours every day, riding a bike all over creation and often locking it up, getting on the train to Manhattan and walking another ten miles on any given night, imagine the energy he has when given a couple three-grain Dexedrines! In a group, chain smoking a pack each off just one match, we had to take turns talking because NONE OF US COULD SHUT UP WE JUST KEPT TALKING AND TALKING and little balls of spit would form in the corners of our mouth but you didn’t wipe it off because it just came back again anyway and BLAH BLAH BLAH all through the night without any commas until day broke and you could see the soot from the incinerators floating down to earth and you knew it was going to be oppressively hot and another day which began with the question WHAT DO WE GET HIGH ON NEXT? Depression, the cotton mouth of an ashtray, the burrs in the eyes, they all came with the humidity of another summer’s morn.

Then came the barbiturates.

A drunk without the barf, how cool is that? In those days, pharmaceutical Seconal and Tuinal sold for three for a buck (an ‘ace’) on the street. You only needed two, otherwise you were worthless, so it made better sense to buy six for a deuce and split it three ways. Cheap high, and nothing hurt, ever. I fell asleep once holding a lit smoke and woke up with the filter butt, hollow and cold, between my fingers—and a raw burn-hole just above my fingernail.

On the heels of barbiturates came heroin and Blue Morphan, winter drugs. With a five dollar tab of pharmaceutical Blue Morphan (essentially morphine) you could weather a blizzard in a tank top. Mainlining was the only efficient way to truly take advantage of either. Over those five years, thirteen through seventeen, it got so that anything was worth trying to get high. At parties we scanned the parents’ medicine cabinet in the bathroom for anything ending in -al or -drine. Stuff we weren’t familiar with was taken first and asked questions about later—in one case ending up with blood pressure pills and ‘snappers,’ amylnitrate, which was used for jumpstarting someone’s heart if necessary. If I snorted one now I’m pretty sure my heart would explode, but at fifteen it was a nice, if short, rush. Romilar cough syrup, Carbona cleaning fluid, even separating the codeine granules out of a Contac capsule wasn’t too far beneath us. We were idle hands in the Devil’s pharmacy.

At fifteen I already had a moustache and long hair. Well, big hair would be more accurate. It didn’t grow long, it grew wide. Approaching six-feet tall, I weighed 110 pounds—in wet clothes. I was gaunt and haunted looking, maybe even a little scary. I looked old enough to be served in many bars in the city, which was eighteen at the time. My life revolved around scheming for drugs and keeping away from the Bad Guys in the neighborhood. And getting laid, of course.

My closest friends were all older than I was by at least a year, left back in school until we were all finally in the same grade, in the dumbest classes. My ninth-grade class consisted of druggies, rumblers, the dyslexic, the narcoleptic and epileptic, and the school basketball team. Classes were numbered from the smartest to the ‘most likely to fail.’ Our class, the last one, was 9-11—a numeric connection to future calamity. Teachers were afraid of us. Administrators left us alone in our cage with them—their backs against the wall and sometimes even shoved into a closet for the period.

Nothing was sacrosanct. We stole freely from each other. If someone pissed you off, even a little, it was okay to steal his TV or parents’ camera and pawn it downtown. Even if they didn’t piss you off, what they wouldn’t know couldn’t hurt us. Eventually the only Golden Rule was: Never give names to the cops. It was the pirates’ code; defy that and you’re fucked.

Friends, jonesing for smack, were stabbing friends over sour drug deals and leaving them to die in the bushes. Tough guys were murdered by tougher guys, or by cops. Jew, German, Irish, Black, Cuban—it didn’t matter, the Unbreakable broke. In those five years, the thieving got worse, the winters colder every year, and young teenagers were scattered in bars across the city like seasoned barflies with their heads down, nursing beers to keep from the cold, and scheming, always scheming.

By 1970, the era of “love the one you’re with,” the draft was in full force. Our once-proud cast of hundreds who gathered in the coliseum we called our park was losing the battle of attrition to jobs, Nam, murder, jail, and fleeing to Florida or California to escape prosecution for such crimes as possession and sale of drugs, breaking-and-entering, armed robbery and sometimes worse. Some fled to Canada after getting draft notices. Some went off to college, mostly party schools like New Paltz in upstate New York, where the beer was cheap and the girls plentiful—or maybe it was the other way around. I don’t know because I never went to college.

It was only a matter of time before my luck ran out, I knew that for a fact. It helped to have a dream.