Poison Spur had lied about its age. From 2014 until very recently, the desktop version of the site proudly claimed to be “Serving the creeper community since 1999.” While the assessment of my readership is arguably spot on, the year was not. It has since been corrected.
Perhaps “lied” is an overstatement. I did not deliberately set out to spread a falsehood. I merely said what I believed to be true without any fact checking. In that sense, I am no worse than my idiot Facebook friends who share bullshit political memes without bothering to look things up on Snopes.
For the record, Poison Spur made its debut on August 1, 1997. It wasn’t poisonspur.com yet. That wouldn’t happen until the year 2000. It was part of what was then platypus.org, now dcjweb.com since selling the domain name last year. That’s another story, one that has bugger all to do with the point of this post I promise I’ll eventually get to.
Digging through my archives, I managed to find the nascent Poison Spur. It wasn’t a blog yet. It certainly wasn’t called a blog as the term was yet to be coined. It was a webzine, or tried to be. I wrote the content and with the aid of Microsoft Paint and some shareware that converted bitmaps into gifs or jpegs, created its crudely rendered graphics.
It was, all things considered, a piece of shit. There were three bits of writing and a simple message board I wrote in perl that invited visitors to submit dysfunctional haiku. Gaijin cultural appropriation of haiku for laughs was very big back then and my take on it (“The A-Team of Haiku Bastards”) was little more than jumping on the bandwagon.
The three writing pieces weren’t any more impressive. They were each written with a pen-name byline and assuming a separate persona in the vein of columnists in The Onion. These were:
- “The 2 am Report” by Drake Weber. This was the worst of the lot, pure frat-boy Bukowski wannabe dog shit.
- “Harassed” by Shithammer O’Toole. An uptight office worker has the moves put on him by his creepy, older, middle-aged, female boss. It was kind of amusing, but the reader quickly became aware that they were not nearly as impressed with the narrator’s cleverness as the narrator was.
- “Not Like Those Folks Down the Way” by Deborah Agnes Day. In this story, Ms. Day is quick to point out that those around her are nothing but trash then goes on to tell an unsettling tale about her visit to her dying father in the hospital. This one had promise and it was by far the best of the lot, but it was far from perfect. The biggest problem was one I had with a lot of my writing back then. If I liked an ending, I would rush to get there and attention to storytelling be damned.
So basically, I went one-ish for three on the writing pieces. The first two characters weren’t all that interesting because they were based on parts of myself that are not too far from the surface. If you’ve met me, there’s a good chance you’ve already been exposed to my self-aggrandizing wastrel or my self-satisfied smartass so nothing new there. Deborah Agnes Day was a departure in that she was inspired by another person, a woman named Debbie I dated in 1991. I chose her fictionalized middle and last name because it was a play on agnus dei, Latin for “Lamb of God.”
I met the real-life Debbie at the Crystal Pistol, which was a bar on Valencia Street. She had been introduced to me as the sister of some famous actor with whom she shared a last name. It was pretty unlikely in retrospect, especially when you consider that she was 20 years his junior, but there was no harm in believing it so I did.
We drank until the bar closed. She asked if I had anything to party with. I told her I had some whiskey and acid. She said fine so we went back to my place to extend our first date with some Bushmill’s and LSD.
When the acid kicked in, I was content to rewatch my pirated VHS copy of Tetsuo. I wasn’t entirely sure what the movie was about, but I enjoyed the screaming and bits of metal being shoved into people’s bodies. Tripping made it even better.
Debbie, however, was restless. LSD was not enough for her. She wanted crack cocaine. I had none so off we went to score some at the Valencia Gardens housing projects about five blocks away. It was around 4 am when we left my place.
“You seem like a nice boy. Let me do the talking,” she said to me before approaching the two men standing in front of the projects. They wore baggy sweats and neither of them appeared to be in a very good mood. I was happy to stand back and observe because I was frying on acid. Then again, so was she.
Words were exchanged. One of the men said something she didn’t like. She told him to go fuck himself.
“Watch your mouth, bitch,” he said and started moving on her.
Debbie jumped back, slid her hand into her jacket, and said, “Back off. I’ve got a gun.”
She had no gun. Meanwhile, I leaned back against the gate of a shuttered storefront and tried to convince myself that this was all just a movie. If it was one, it had a happy one because she managed to complete the transaction with no further flaring of tempers.
It was a lovely first date, but we never did capture that level of magic again. The problem with crazy is that a lot of it isn’t all that much fun, something I should have realized just from looking in the mirror. After all, this was the year when just a few months before, I was getting sloppy-morose drunk and slicing away at my wrist to see how close I could come to a major artery without actually hitting one. And Debbie was even crazier than I was.
At first, that was comforting. I have often sought out fucked-up situations and people so I could feel sane by comparison. With Debbie, I would close my eyes and relax as she told about her dysfunctional family or people she thought were human garbage and deserved to die (given her family, I was surprised there was no overlap). The problems began when my friends started getting added to her shit list.
She had spite in her heart, but no real violence, so no one was in any danger of bodily harm. I figured she sensed that some of my friends disapproved of her (some of them did) and she got defensive. I would say she got defensive a lot.
However, I think there was more to it than that. Having surrounded myself with broken people for much of my life and being one myself, I’ve seen different ways that we can cope. There are those who have put in the work and bettered themselves. These people are inspiring but hard to relate to as part of their transformation is losing the mindset I used to share with them. Then there are those who embrace what is broken about them and live it as performance art. There is a fatalism to these people, but god damn if they don’t bring joy to my heart. I try my best to follow their lead with mixed results.
Rounding out the list are those who combine the worst elements of the preceding two. They refuse to accept where and what they are, but make no effort to rise above it. Instead, they attempt to make peace with themselves by labeling those a little worse off than they are as trash.
On a societal scale, it’s what makes those on the penultimate bottom rung of the class ladder such eager consumers of intolerance and bigotry fed to them by those who profit from the windfalls of divisiveness. But let’s not place all the blame on evil, manipulative fat cats. Human nature encourages us to be judgmental and backstabby all on our own.
I have certainly been guilty of this and perhaps I am guilty of it now when I say that Debbie was worse than I was by some measure. Then again, maybe she was just less adept at masking her pissy outbursts in the guise of gentle ribbing, heartfelt concern, or what have you. Instead, she would spit my friends’ names out with venom or act out at social gatherings. In the end, she was a once fabulous disaster that turned into a tiresome one so I called it quits after two months. I held no grudge against her after we broke up. As best I could tell, the poor woman never had a chance.
Debbie left school before or shortly after the 8th grade, never to return. Her father had no problem with this. Her education was a small price to pay for having someone around to fetch him a beer or rub his feet. This was by no means a full-time job, leaving Debbie plenty of hours in the day to cultivate drug dependencies that would chart her course through life.
Whatever one might have said about her father’s parenting skills, the man did enjoy a good cigar. Or maybe he chain-smoked White Owls. In any event, he enjoyed enough of them to develop cancer of the jaw. Debbie told me about visiting him in the hospital and the tale impressed me enough to include it in the very first Poison Spur.
When she visited him, the old man was already a goner. His lower jaw had been surgically removed, leaving him unable to speak and with one heck of an overbite, but the operation had failed to take out all of the tumor. And here was Debbie, the little girl whose future he was instrumental in ruining. She had bought him a get-well card. It had a picture of E.T. on it.
“Look,” she said, pointing to the picture on the card. “It’s you, Daddy. It’s you.”
It’s such a wonderful story of payback and I doubt she was consciously trying to get even. It’s a real pity. She should have been able to enjoy this.
As for me, I wish I had done the story justice in 1997. Not for Debbie’s sake, it turned out. There was no chance she would read it. I didn’t know it at the time, but she had already been dead for over a year. She was 38 years old. It was probably an overdose, but I don’t know for sure.
I found Debbie is listed on findagrave.com. There is photo of her grave marker. It is one of those lawn-plaque things set in the grass. It shows her name as Debra, not Deborah.
I didn’t even get that right.