Lush Interior

Humphrey Bogart once said, “The whole world is about three drinks behind.”  That quote had resonated with me over the years, often when I was sitting at the bar and should have gone home at least two drinks ago.

I was sitting at the bar last night, nursing a second drink in no hurry to finish.  My friends sitting next to me had been there for a while.  They were rambling on about this and that.  Most of what they said was unintelligible but it sure was important to them.

At that moment, I found myself on the flip side of Bogart’s wisdom.  I didn’t like it there so I polished off my drink and ordered a third.

I stopped after three drinks and headed home, a little numb but not completely blotto.  I refrained from embarrassing myself, which isn’t too surprising.  I have no problem behaving when I’m moderately buzzed and am usually not an asshole even when I’m absolutely hammered.  There have been exceptions of course, horrible low points I’d rather not think about.  But for the most part, I do OK.  And thanks to my selfish and callous nature, I hardly ever have to worry about getting sloppy either.

So for the most part, I’m a regular Dean Martin.  Excellent.  Well, not really.  I wish I could be happy as a work-hard-play-harder sort of guy, but I can’t.  I don’t like my current job and never really cared much for my career.  I need something outside work to validate my existence.  Booze alone is not a good way to do this.

Last fall, I swore off liquor completely for over two months.  I had no set time limit for the duration of my sobriety.  I didn’t know if it was going to last a week or forever.  Overall, the time off did me some lasting good.  My weekly alcohol intake is about half what it was in September.

So now I’m a moderate drinker, sort of.  Still, that isn’t good enough.

(At this point, I started in on some tiresome blather that was equal parts rationalization and self pity.  I’ll spare you.  New story coming Monday).

Poison Spur Packs Its Bags

No,the blog isn’t going away.  At least I hope it isn’t. It will be moving though.  When and where are still unknown.

My friend Alex has provided me with free hosting since 2006.  Other than a server crash two years ago, Poison Spur has given uninterrupted access to my blatherings to its 30 or so readers worldwide.

That’s all over now.  Or to be more precise, it will be very soon.  Alex is moving on to the next stage of his career.  That work computer that hosts my blog will not be available for very much longer.

I owe Alex a huge debt of gratitude but knowing him, he’ll just shrug and say if I buy him a drink, we’ll call it even.

With luck, I’ll be able to switch providers with nary a hiccup.  But if for some reason Poison Spur goes silent for a while, you’ll know why.

Fool Tilt

I sat in the back seat of the Toyota four-wheel drive.  We were at an air station, a necessary part of road travel in Bolivia.  With all the different elevations, there is no single tire pressure that works everywhere.  If you’re heading toward lower ground, you need to add air so you don’t lose traction driving on tires that are half flat.  If you’re heading higher, you need to have air taken out so the tires don’t blow out.

Steve, the driver and organizer of our trip, made arrangements with the kids who worked the valves and air pumps.  A couple of American dollars for a tip bought you a serious level of professionalism.

Off in the distance, smaller children played in a puddle of gray water fed by a pipe from a nearby chemical plant.

I watched all this while taking swigs from a plastic canteen filled with what had to be the vilest-tasting liquid known to man.  It was a liter of boiled water mixed with a packet of rehydration salts and I was expected to drink it all.

The diarrhea that had stricken me was my own damn fault.  It came from good intentions trumping common sense.

Three days earlier, I was at an orphanage in Cochabamba.  I shook the hand of a small child in the infirmary.  The kid didn’t look too happy.  Considering he was both sick and an orphan, I didn’t expect him to.  Still, I wanted to try to cheer him up.  My Spanish wasn’t very good so I made funny faces at him and hoped that would do the trick.

The kid gave me a puzzled look as I stared back at him with my fingers in the corner of my mouth. Some of those fingers were used to shake his hands just moments ago.  His germs were now my germs.

Two days later, the diarrhea hit me.

My traveling companions and I had spent most of that day going from Cochabamba to La Paz and arrived in the late afternoon.  You don’t drive on Bolivian highways at night, that is not unless you want to end up as one of those crosses that seemed to adorn every curve and intersection we passed.

Local motorists, worried about getting rear ended, made it a habit of building a pile of rocks on the road behind them when they stopped to change a tire.  When they were done, they drove off, leaving the pile there.

This was just one of the surprises limiting your driving to broad daylight would help you avoid.

So we arrived safely in the capitol, got some cheap accommodations, and went out for a bite to eat.  At this point, I wasn’t feeling too bad, just a little nauseous.

That night was a different matter.  For once in my life, I’ll spare you readers the disgusting details.  Suffice it to say I spent less time in my dormitory bed than I did on the toilet down the hall.

So by the time we made it to the air station on the way out of town, I was gulping down the foul-tasting water so I wouldn’t shit myself to death.  The road ahead would take us high into the Andes.  I had no idea what we would find there..  Would there be charming villages full of charming and quaint Quechua folk?  Or would we encounter cannibal plane-crash survivors?  Or perhaps we’d find Shangri-la? (I know, I know, wrong continent.)  As sick as I felt, I was absolutely elated.  My immediate future was one big glorious question mark.

These days, I go on much smaller excursions.  My looming horizons are not the snow-topped peaks of the Andes.  They are the windmill-topped foothills of Livermore.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like my life these days pretty well.  It just that there’s that bit of Don Quixote that still lives inside me.  I want that great adventure in my life.  Realistically, I’ll have to wait on that but I won’t do that for too long.  I can see the clock ticking on the wall.

Service Level Agreement: the Meagerness Continues

I finished Monday’s blog entry and posted it shortly before going to work.  I was glad I was keeping up the bargain I had made with myself to update Poison Spur every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  I was also glad that I had gotten over whatever bug had hit me on Sunday.

The latter gladness proved to be a tad premature.

I had slept well the night before (a couple of shots of Nyquil will do that) and woke up feeling a lot better than I did the previous day.  As I walked toward BART, I felt a little out of it but attributed this to getting too much sleep rather than genuine fatigue.

I rolled into work a gentlemanly ten minutes late.  This is a perfectly reasonable arrival time because there is a route from the elevator to my desk that goes nowhere near the offices of the few people who would give a shit.

I got to my cubicle and realized that I had left my laptop home.  The monitor, keyboard, mouse, and that gizmo that connects all those peripherals to it lay on my desk missing that one crucial part.

I went home, got the laptop, and came back to work as fast as I could (on the off chance any of my employers are reading this, I stayed late that day to make up the time, so there).  The extra exertion all but exhausted me.  Fortunately, I have a lot of experience showing up to work with the sort of hangovers that make mere influenza pale by comparison.  Making it through the day feeling like a coyote shat me over a cliff has become almost second nature.

I picked up some crackers and orange juice on the way home and then curled up on the couch under a pile of blankets.  I was in no condition to think, let alone write.

Yesterday, I felt better.  Not great, but better.  My MWF commitment was still firm and if all I had to share was some lame excuse tarted up with self pity, so be it.

I promise something better on Friday.  You, not-so-gentle reader, shall be both amused and impressed.

Service Level Agreement

This update to Poison Spur is going to be lame.  it is completely going to suck.  In fact, if you’ve managed to read this far, you’re probably regretting it already.

I apologize.  I know you’ve come to expect better.  You usually have one hand wrapped around the neck of a gin bottle and another stuffed down your pants when you read my blog.  That’s how much you like it.

And it should have been no different this time.  I had source material.  Oh boy, did I ever.  I went to Stockton on Saturday with Paula.  Stockton, CA, God’s country, or at least where God squatted down after subsisting for a week on a diet of pork rinds and Schlitz.

Sunday, we met up with friends of hers and wandered SF’s Chinatown at a street fair for Chinese New Year.  Frank Chu was there.  So was half the planet, it seemed.  I should have been able to come up with something clever from that experience as well.

Then a flu bug hit me.  At least I thought it was the flu.  My only symptoms were feeling feverish and fatigued.  This was not normal.  I just wanted to go home, lie down, and feel sorry for myself.  This is plenty normal though yesterday, it was in excess of what I’m used to.

So I went home.  My head hurt too much to read so I watched TV.  Larry the Cable Guy was doing stand-up on Comedy Central.  He still wasn’t funny.  Perhaps I was not so far gone after all.

I ended up sleeping a lot, ten hours at least.  That definitely helped.  I feel much better today.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have much chance to write.

But write I must.  I made a promise to myself that I was going to be less of a loser from here on out.  I committed myself to writing more and posting to Poison Spur every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  No excuses, not even when I feel off.

So there you have it.  I’m keeping up my end of the bargain, for good or ill.

Unfinished Business

I spent much of this past weekend trying to come up with a new story idea.  I wasn’t tying for anything that would win me an award or even be publishable anywhere but in my blog.  I just wanted a story that could hold a reader’s interest for 500 words or so.

I looked through a spiral notebook that I’ve used to jot down stuff that pops into my head when I was at work or some other place where I couldn’t take an idea and run with it.  I thought there would be an absolute gem in there somewhere since I have all this untapped genius that has been sitting there waiting to get out for almost half a century.

Alas, there were no gems, and not even what would rate a cubic zirconium.  This is what I found instead:

  • What the Retard Saw (murder-mystery title)
  • He had sleepy creepy Baldwin eyes. (character description)
  • “That’s just God’s way of telling you your faith doesn’t mean shit to him.” (Advice to the unfortunate)
  • Watching stump fucking on “Darfur’s Got Talent” (Pithy satire of mass entertainment)
  • Women are like onion rings.  If you batter them, they won’t make you cry. (Pearl of misogynist wisdom)

Not even my standards are that low.

I ended up spending most of Sunday morning staring at the ceiling in my bedroom and brainstorming.  I had a few premises with potential but nothing concrete.  Finally, I came up with something I could use.  Unfortunately, it not the kind of idea where the story writes itself.  To produce narrative that doesn’t completely suck, I’m going to have to work with this one.

I should have something knocked out by Wednesday.  If I don’t, expect another filler entry like this one.