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And a Chimp Shall Wipe Its Ass

I make good use of the Memo app on my Android. Much of this is jotting various passwords that would have been hard enough to remember in my prime and now almost impossible to as the merciless onslaught of years and booze turns my brain into pudding.

Another use of the app is to jot down ideas to write about. Years ago, I would take a spiral notebook to the bar with me and scribble away as I drank Jameson, trying to commit as much as I could before my brain fogged over entirely. The next day, I would salvage what I could, clean it up a bit, and post it to my blog.

Now  I do most of my writing sober during my long bus commute. Ideas still pop into my head while I’m out drinking, but now I just write enough so I can remember them later. Few of them merit more than a brief glance the following day. These include liquor fueled outpourings of self-pity (“I am old and gross. I need to die.”) and attempts at pithiness with the kind of profundity that dies in a sober brain  (“It’s not a conspiracy, but it doesn’t need to be.”)

Others are amusing enough as quips, but I’m not quite sure what to do with them. Both “A dwarf vampire hunter named ‘Minivan Helsing'” and “A woman in wooden shoes whom you can shit on. Her name is ‘Toilet Clogs'” are chuckle-worthy, but I can’t think of a story to put either of them in. OK, maybe Ms. Clogs can make an appearance in some future installment of the “Future Poo” saga, but she’s not going to get a starring role. Rhea Dyer she ain’t.

There was one note, jotted down too long ago for me to remember where or when I thought of it, that seemed to have some real potential. It was simply a title, but one of a story that demanded to be told. The title was this:

“Suispritle: A ‘Speed Racer’ Tragedy”

This would not be the first time I had blogged about “Speed Racer.” Last August, I wrote about how the cartoon show would be vastly improved with the addition of tentacle porn. I wasn’t exactly going out on a limb there. Tentacle porn improves everything. It is the bacon of television and film. Heck, I bet it could even make The Breakfast Club watchable.

I also threw in a bit about Spritle and Chim Chim in a bucking 69 because a child and an animal engaged in a sexual act is never not funny. Now the party was over and I wanted the kid to kill himself, if only to make use of that delightful “Suispritle” wordplay.

There was just one catch: I wanted the story to not suck. This may come as a surprise to many of you who are familiar with my work and I am the first to admit that I am no perfectionist. Still, my blog is not a bathroom wall or some survivor support group I have decided to troll. I am not anonymous here. My name is on everything I post so it’s important that I do my best to produce a piece of writing that succeeds on its own terms. I don’t bat a thousand, but at least I make the effort.

One of my first steps is to get mentally familiar enough with what I want to write to dive in with confidence. This does not always mean I have to have the whole thing mapped out in my head. Often I just have a general direction of where I want to go and the destination turns out to be no less a surprise to me than it is to the reader.

This was not one of those times. I had a pretty clear idea about what the beginning and the end were going to be. Spritle has committed suicide and Chim Chim has found the body. A suicide note is in Spritle’s lifeless hand. Chim Chim opens the note and stares at the paper. The middle part of the story is the note itself, in which Spritle explains why decided to take his own life. Unfortunately, chimpanzees cannot read so Chim Chim wipes his ass with the piece of paper and throws it in the trash.

I liked that ending a lot. It deals with two of my favorite subjects: pointlessness and excrement. The only thing I had to do was was come up a suicide note a ten year old kid would write.

And that’s where it all fell apart.

I thought it would be a breeze to write that note. Though I have never attempted suicide, I am no stranger to its ideation. I know what it’s like to want out. The thing is that the appeal of doing myself in didn’t happen until I was considerably older than Spritle so I had no personal experience to draw from.

Perhaps Spritle saw suicide as the only escape from an endless cycle of abuse. So who was his abuser? Maybe Pops Racer liked to lift up his beer gut and plow his youngest child’s pooper with his throbbing four-inch pork nub. Or maybe it was someone else.

It hardly matters because that scenario won’t work. So a young victim is unwittingly silenced by his simian friend, allowing the guilty party to get off scot free. It’s amusing, but not what I’m after. I want his pain to be an indictment of us all, not some tiresome #metoo pablum. Besides, it’s lazy writing to ignore everything about his being a mischievous, high-spirited glutton with a simple “yes, but ass rape.”

As for other options, I got nothing.

In the end, he gets to live because I lack the chops to properly kill him off. That’s a depressing thought, one a cheerful little scamp like Spritle would never understand.

Chipping Away at the Cold, Dead Flesh

The story begins, as much as anywhere, atop a barstool in New Orleans back in late December. The bar was called Molly’s, and was a half a block and a world away from the shit show of Bourbon Street. It was a good place to have a drink and even a better place to have another. Rebecca and I drank happily and let the afternoon slip unnoticed into evening.

With my senses dulled, I idly watched the television above the bar with the sound turned off while non-objectionable rock and roll was piped into the establishment. The show was “Highway Thru Hell,” which reminded me of “Ice Road Truckers” with its cute Canadian accents and not-so-cute Canadian weather.

There were some marked differences though. “Highway” is not filmed as far north and the roads are merely icy as opposed to being made of ice. Also, the focus is not on people braving elements to get from point A to point B, but rather on those called to clean up the mess of those who tried to reach point B and failed.

Just to be clear,  the show is not an arctic, reality-TV version of “Emergency.” Our heroes are not paramedics. They are tow-truck drivers and winch operators, forever shaking their heads while pondering how to get a crumpled mass of what was once a motor vehicle out of that deep ravine. If you added a moralizing narrator and some human hamburger, it might have played out like those scare-tactic highway-safety films such as Red Asphalt and Mechanized Death.

I decided right then, several drinks deep and therefore on a mental par with the people who watch these shows, that there needed to be a spinoff where the focal point is not totaled vehicles, but totaled human beings. The show would be called “Car Crash Asphalt Scrapers” and would follow a few unsung heroes tasked with removing skin, giblets, and what have you from the highway lest they detract from the natural beauty of Canada.

My intoxication has dissipated since then and with it any illusion that such a program would be produced and aired on television. The world was not quite ready for “Car Crash Asphalt Scrapers,” but I was and I vowed that it would live on if only in my imagination. This would make me the executive producer and as such, I’d be able to cast myself as the main scraper. “Be the star of your own movie,” a very wise affirmation spouter once said. I assumed the words also applied to reality television minus the reality.

To achieve this, I needed a single-mindedness and clarity of purpose nonexistent among my peers. If I were a man of letters, I would draw my inspiration from great literature. Since I’m not, television would have to do.

In the TV movie The Night Gallery, which preceded the series, the final segment was about a Nazi war criminal who desperately needs to escape the confines of reality. Lacking remorse yet hounded by his past and the fear of being discovered, he sees disappearing into a painting at a museum his only way out. It’s a lovely picture of someone fishing in a small boat in a lake. The Nazi sneaks into the museum late at night and prays to be allowed into the painting. His wish is granted, but unluckily for him, the artwork was replaced by a picture of some guy getting crucified in a concentration camp. The next day, we see the picture with the Nazi up there on the cross, his anguished face a paint-on-canvas version of the sad trombone that is poetic justice.

Minus the switcheroo, this was perfect for me. I took every moment where I could mentally check out (there are a lot of those) and imagined that I was a star of “Car Crash Asphalt Scrapers” with a formidable single-mindedness. Assuming the role of a hunted war criminal and treating the bullshit of my day-to-day existence as my own personal Mossad, I perservered until I finally broke through.

At least that’s how I think it all went down. In any event, here I am.

It’s honest work scraping frozen corpse bits off the road plus you get to drink on the job. I’ve been told to ignore the TV crew and to think out loud. The first part is pretty hard with all the lights on me as I’m crouched down trying to do my job. At least everyone shuts up while the cameras are rolling. Thinking out loud is easy though. I’ve been talking to myself as long as I can remember.

“Frozen blood is just like glue, ya know,” I say, trying not to lazily inject a drawl into my speech. I may be a bumpkin, but I’m a Canadian bumpkin so I am not supposed to sound like Jim Varney.

“It’s a heck of a mess to clean up. That’s for sure,” I continue. “I might consider pouring out some Irish coffee from my Thermos to soften it up, but that would be a waste of good hooch. Good thing I’ve got a head cold. I’ll loosen that road scab with this nice, warm snot rocket, eh.”

I block one nostril and unload the fluid in my sinuses onto the frozen scrap of dead person on the asphalt. I give it a few seconds to soak in then start going at it with my scraper. Just as I thought, the snot rocket is working its magic. The red, meaty ice, combined with the milky white nose nectar, starts to peel off the road looking a little like pink scrambled egg.

“See that, ya hosers? It’s important for you viewers to know that this is all-natural, pure human snot. No coke or meth. I say no to drugs and so should you. I just want to thank my lord and savior for giving me the snot-rocket idea so I don’t have to resort to whipping out my Dudley Do-Right and blasting it with bladder beer. I wouldn’t want to do that because this is a family show, eh.”

Indeed it is and like other programs of its ilk, it is the very best kind. The heroes of these shows are presented for what we are,  just plain folks with simple virtues and talents. We may drink in the morning and speak largely in monosyllables, but we are willing to work hard to get the job done. That is a powerful and positive message for the young people watching.

I take my responsibilities as a role model very seriously and that means doing my job the best way I know how. Nobody expects me to perform life-saving surgery with my trusty scraper, but if you need someone to dig into something that’s already dead, I’m your guy.

There is another rule I need to live by. It is the most important one of all. I cannot think about it in realistic terms because doing so would violate the rule and cast me out of this happy place.

Perhaps I can explain it indirectly. There was this movie called Somewhere in Time where Christopher Reeve travels back from 1980 to 1912 so he can bone Jane Seymour. With that out of the way,  he looks through his pockets and finds a 1978 penny. The anachronistic coin breaks the spell that brought him here and Reeve is tossed out of 1912 as unceremoniously as being thrown from a horse.

So there you have it. The same fate awaits me if I let my mind wander from what is going on here and now on this blood-spattered Canadian highway. Unlike Christopher Reeve, I am able to make my way back here when I falter. It is an exhausting process though and there is no guarantee that I will be able to return indefinitely.

I get up and look for the next piece of mess that needs cleaning up. I spot an eyeball, or rather we spot each other because its pupil is pointed right at me.

“Jeepers creepers, time to get that peeper,” I say and approach the disembodied eye, scraper in hand.

As I crouch down, I can’t help but notice something familiar about that eye. This is odd because other than the color of the iris, eyeballs look pretty much alike without the faces that goes with them. I get the feeling this eye has observed me before. That’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Maybe I knew the eye’s owner before he died (I knew it was a he, having earlier scraped up his dick).

No, there is more to it than that. It’s like the eye is watching me now, not with disapproval necessarily,  but assessing me all the same. It reminds me of…no, I mustn’t think about that. To stay here, I need to be here completely. I refocus and get back to the task at hand. I dig at the eyeball with my scraper, but it too is frozen to the asphalt.

“Hey buddy,” I say. “Lost your socket? Have a snot rocket!”

Alas, I blew my entire nostril wad on the last go so all I produce is a measly trickle that runs down my lip. I switch nostrils and launch the next snot rocket using only partial thrust.  It pays to conserve. A smallish but adequate load hits the eyeball and starts to melt the ice.

That’s when the voices start. The video crew is silent so they’re coming from somewhere else. I try to block them from my mind so they don’t take me with them, but there is one voice that persists. It repeats itself, asking about deliverables, current status, and deadlines. I try to ignore it, but to no avail. It demands answers.

I won’t let It take me without a fight. I close my eyes and scream.

“I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT ANY OF THAT. I’M A GUT-SCRAPING MOTHERFUCKER, DABBING THE CHIN OF THE GODDAMN GRIM REAPER. CAN’T YOU FUCKING SEE THAT?”

When my eyes open, I  am still here on this cold Canadian highway. What I did worked. The voice demanding answers won’t be wanting to talk to me again.

The video crew stares at me slack jawed. My outburst was hardly appropriate for a family program. They can edit it out later. I did what had to be done. I was taking care of business. That’s what being a Car Crash Asphalt Scraper is all about.

2 GB Or Not 2 GB

This past Sunday morning, I was sitting in the back room of Trash Muddy’s. It was overcast out, neither cold nor warm, and the sky was flat gray and lifeless like the kind you see in a dream. I sipped my coffee and looked very much like a degenerate with my unkempt hair, bad posture, and Travis Bickle jacket. It’s a good look. It makes people want to leave me alone.

I pulled my phone from my pocket and googled “does angela merkel have down syndrome,” which is a fair question given her hairstyle. I was half hoping to find others who wondered the same thing. The other half hoped I would be alone in my assessment.

As much as I appeciate likeminded people, I also like to think I’m an original thinker even though evidence points to the contrary. Years ago, I posted some joke on Facebook about Fatah and Hamas joining forces and being known collectively as “Fatass.” A friend asked me if I came up with that myself. I said as far as I knew, yes, which was true enough. I wanted to be sure so I googled “fatah hamas fatass.” Someone else had made pretty much the same the joke. I didn’t plagiarize, but I did get beaten to the punch.

After that, I didn’t put much hope into being the first to come up with anything. Someone else must’ve seen Merkel’s hair, put two and two together, and come up with 47. If someone had, I didn’t see it as the top query results were flooded by a connection between her and Down Syndrome that I had not anticipated.

Apparently, a woman with Down Syndrome confronted the presumably pro-choice Ms. Merkel this past September and told her that she didn’t want to be aborted. I can kind of relate. The idea of having never been born is appealing to me maybe half the time tops. As one can imagine, the right-to-lifers had a field day with this though I’m not sure Merkel was swayed. Germans have historically not always been merciful toward the differently abled.

Ordinarily, I would have liked nothing better than to start clicking links and amuse myself with what these fetus fetishists had to say. Unfortunately,  the two gigabytes in my phone’s data plan was all but used up and the new billing would not begin until the end of the following day.

I suppose I could have used the Wi-Fi there, but I really don’t like to. It’s not like the Muddy’s at 24th where the password is written on a sign next to the register and is changed maybe once or twice a year. At Trash Muddy’s, you ask the barista and get handed a slip of paper with the password on it. The password is good for three hours so you mustn’t dawdle. Drink your coffee and get the fuck out.

Trash Muddy’s is no doubt more wary of loiterers because of the homeless who congregate around 16th Street. Vigilance is stepped up so not even the homeless with mobile devices are spared. As for me, I prefer to use my own data there. I never hang out for a duration even approaching three hours, but I don’t enjoy the time allotment and the watchful eye. I am 55. That’s old enough to feel like I live in a world where I have worn out my welcome.

Still, I did not want to go over my two gigs so I turned off my phone and put it back in my pocket. The previous day, I had told Rebecca about my data-plan woes. After completing her eyeroll, she dutifully informed me that the overage charge would be $15 for another gigabyte of data. I knew I could afford that. I also knew that there were hidden costs, ones that would make no sense to anyone but me.

I am not what one would call a disciplined person. I am lazy, slovenly by nature, and I am more likely to get my feelings of accomplishment through delusion and drink than by actually accomplishing something. However, my ego cannot run on pure bullshit. I need some elements of merit, trivial and easily achieved, that I can inflate until they make me feel good about myself.

One of these is not incurring data overages on my phone. With available Wi-Fi at home, at work, and on the bus, it should really be a slam dunk. Mostly it has been, but recent events threatened my thus far perfect record.

The problem started at the beginning of the billing cycle. When I said that I had Wi-Fi on the bus, I should have qualified that by stating I have it in the morning and intermittently in the afternoon due to more passengers trying to use it. I was working on “Future Poo 2: Electric Boogaloo” on my ride home and I switched to mobile data so I could regularly save my work. Blogging doesn’t use much data. The problem was that I neglected to turn Wi-Fi back on when I got home and proceeded to hit the YouTubes with a vengeance. By the next morning, I had burned through 400 MB of data.

Then came rationing my data consumption, which got me back on track. There was some slippage during the NOLA trip, which was neither unexpected nor excessive. By New Year’s Day, I was on track once again. That is, until we lost Wi-Fi at home that evening.

So there I was with eight uncertain days ahead of me. Did my DSL modem go belly up or was there some outage I didn’t know about?  More importantly, would the problem be rectified before the following weekend or would I have to resort to avoiding an overage by engaging in such antiquated activities as watching TV or reading a book?

The prospect made me shudder so I bit the bullet and spent an hour and a half in total on hold with AT&T customer service on Tuesday. I eventually was told that the problem was on their end and a network engineer would get around to fixing it no later than Thursday. Probably.

By Thursday evening, service was indeed restored. Good for AT&T. With only moderate stinginess of data use, I could stay below the 2 GB mark.

In my world, this is what passes for adversity.

Happy Landings

Any landing you can walk away from is a good one. Chuck Yeager said something similar to that. I googled it. I don’t know the origin of the exact words I used. Seeing as I rarely hang out with real pilots, I probably heard it from a pilot in a movie or TV show. The phrasing is smoother than the Yeager quote (look it up and judge for yourself), which is not surprising. Make-believe pilots have script writers.

I am not a pilot, not even a make-believe one, so I’m going to use the words figuratively. I’m sure you’re all fine with that. I’m guessing most people’s experience with actual pilots is restricted to commercial air travel and this sort of derring-do verbal shrug  is not the sort of thing to want you hear coming through the intercom.

The landing I’m walking away from is 2017, now slipped entirely into the past and immutable by non-revisionists. An entire year is a big topic, far too large for me to attempt tackling it in a single blog post. I’ll narrow my scope to the final week and a half. Those ten days were among the least productive of my entire life and that made them doubly significant. When I look back and say “I regret nothing,” it means two things.

Accomplishing jack shit was no accident. I needed a break from life’s responsibilities, or maybe I just wanted one. It’s absurd in either case. If I’m good at anything, it’s avoiding responsibility. I have coasted through much of my life. There have been a few spots where I’ve had to suck it up and actually make an effort. This happened in the middle of December and it was an ordeal.

I won’t go into detail because much of it was job-related and I don’t want it to get back to my employers that I’m anything other than a happy little worker bee. Let’s just say that after it was over, I needed a drink.

Well, it wasn’t quite over if you want to know the truth. The job stuff was as done as it was going to get, but the third part of “The Future Poo Holiday Special” still needed to be written. I had a basic idea of how I wanted to wrap it up, but there were some details that needed hashing out. Drinking is an excellent companion activity for that.

I went to what is fast becoming my not-so-local local, a lovely little dive bar in the Tenderloin called Aunt Charlies. The drinks are cheap and they seem to be tolerant of people passing out on their stool as long as they keep their head off the bar and refrain from falling over and hitting the floor.

There’s a drag show there each Friday and Saturday with a $5 cover unless you arrive early. It’s also customary to tip a buck as the performers strut their stuff past your barstool and no, that doesn’t buy you a lap dance.

One of the performers I like is the first to arrive and is there for every show. She is perhaps my age, possibly older, and takes drink orders from the tables along the wall in addition to being part of the act. She is not the MC, but I like to think of her as the Grand Old Dame of the show.

Her performance is a delight. With her bouffant wig and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane makeup job, she moves up and down the bar with grim determination while lip synching  to “These Boots Are Made for Walking.” If you neglect to tip her, you have no soul.

I can’t remember her stage name. It should be “Countess” or “Duchess” but is probably neither. I don’t know anything else about her and frankly don’t need to. She is out there doing her thing every weekend and that is enough. She is a goddamn inspiration.

Thanks to her example, I knocked out the last blog post the following day with renewed duty and focus. The holiday could finally begin.

Rebecca and I got some Xmas provisions including a 10 lb. ham that seemed like a real bargain at the time as it had been discounted to be just under a dollar a pound. It wasn’t until we got it home that found out how much of it was fat. It was not so much a ham as an enormous ham-shaped lipoma. Live and learn, I suppose.

On the 26th, we got on a plane to New Orleans so we could step up our drinking game with earnest. It was cold, not Chicago cold, but colder than SF. Fortunately, there is no shortage of bars in the French Quarter to duck into and take refuge from the inclement weather. Bourbon Street is a frat-douche hell on Earth, but there are some lovely charming dives less than a block away.

We became temporary regulars at Molly’s on Toulouse Street. I had my first Yuengling there and liked it well enough to keep drinking it. After depleting their supply, I switched to Rolling Rock with the occasional scotch and soda thrown in. Rebecca had some beer, but mostly stuck to her usual Tequila and soda.

We spent our vacation eating and drinking far too much, and feeling good about it because we had made a pact to not give a shit. January was coming at us fast and with it the return to relative drudgery. Until then, prudent behavior be damned.

We put NOLA on our list of cities to return to, but only to visit. We couldn’t live there. That would just be inviting diabetes and cirrhosis to get into a race to kill us off first. Neither of us has that kind of death wish.

Part of the charm of regrettable behavior is living long enough to regret it. It is 2018 and neither of us is dead. Mission accomplished.

The Future Poo Holiday Special (Part 3)

Yet-To-Come

“Sorry buddy, you can’t come in.”

“Why the hell not? I’ve been here before.”

“Not looking like this, you haven’t. We’re closing early anyway because it’s Christmas Eve. Why don’t you just go home?”

Dick could see that the doorman would not listen to reason. Perhaps he would listen to bribery.

“I can pay the five-cent cover,” Dick said, waving a nickel bag of future-poo black tar in the man’s face.

“You take that scag and get out of here before I call the cops.”

“I’ll be back with a Molotov fucking cocktail, you piece of shit.”

Dick stomped away from the club that tried very hard to be Studio 54. He put the heroin back in his coat pocket and fumbled around in there. There were a lot more bags of the stuff. He vaguely remembered grabbing them, but his recollections have been hazy of late. Even if it weren’t laced with future poo, smack wasn’t his thing. He must have taken it for its barter value, which now proved itself to be limited.

He turned right at the corner and started walking uptown. The doorman’s crack about his looks stung. He stopped and took a look at his reflection in a shop window. Christ, he was a mess.

He was back on the boner blow with a vengeance and his once form-fitting disco pants had their elasticity ruined through prolonged stretching. The fabric under Dick’s tumescence, starched and scaly, flapped back and forth like a pelican’s neck pouch. As unsettling a visual as that was, it was nothing compared to the rash covering most of his face. There was not only redness, but also cracks in the skin and hives that seeped.

It was an allergic reaction to future poo. He had never experienced one this severe and long lasting, but he had never been exposed to it the way he had back in late November. It was horrible and also so unnecessary. Dick thought about the events leading up to it and put the blame squarely on the shoulders of Josef Mengele and Edith Massey.

If Felix got the advance on the South American deal, he was going to spend part of that money to hire Edith Massey to play the older, heavier Tiny Quim. After the Jonestown massacre, Mengele could have at least tried to come up with an alternative plan. Instead, he cut bait. By the same token, Massey could have agreed to perform for delayed payment or equity, but she opted to simply stop returning Felix’s phone calls.

Oscar was undeterred. He was dead set on the scene where the not so Tiny Quim would take a shit on Ebenezer Spooge’s face. And if they couldn’t get the real Edith Massey, they would just have to create one of their own.

After many hours of work, Oscar constructed a bloated papier-mâché replica of Ms. Massey that resembled the actress in so far as she too resembled a bloated creation of papier-mâché. With its chicken-wire frame and heavy weights in the feet, the ersatz Edith was able to remain in a crouched position without falling over.

The big scene was ready for filming. Rhea donned a black robe to play the Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come, which required a lot of pointing but no speaking of lines. She was a little short to pull off the Grim Reaper look effectively, but fortunately, this was the 1970s so platform shoes were easy to come by.

Dick positioned himself under her gaping anus and Oscar yelled  “Action.” The papier-mâché figure was loaded with future poo and because Oscar felt no need to limit the amount to what a human being could produce in a single bowel movement, pretty much the entire interior was filled.

The plug was pulled and over 100 pounds of future poo was dumped on Dick’s face. The way his arms and legs flailed about, he looked like he might be in trouble, but it was also movie magic so Oscar kept filming for two solid minutes. When it was over, he scraped the future poo off Dick and slapped his face to revive him (Oscar was not about to attempt mouth-to-mouth).  Dick seemed OK despite having swallowed some of the stuff and almost suffocating. The allergic reaction didn’t kick in until several hours later and had since shown little sign of abating.

“I told you that pant-load porn was no good, you nasty man!” shouted a voice behind him.

Dick spun around and saw it was that prostitute from the Chelsea Hotel lobby. She stood with her hands on her hips and laughed at him cruelly. She might have warned him, but she was also very glad it happened. He hated her, but knew he would be on the losing side of a physical altercation, so he limped away toward Times Square where a monster like him would just be another face in the crowd.

He shuffled along the blinking lights of the vice pits while voices in the shadows offered every illicit substance available in 1978. They didn’t have what he wanted, but having stolen all of Felix’s boner blow when he grabbed the heroin, he still had a sizable supply.

He tried to remember why he took the stuff and ran. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but for reasons he could not recall and probably would not hold up under scrutiny. He thought harder. That was it. It was the means to cut loose and start over, and as he suspected, it turned out to be a stupid move in retrospect. On the plus side, this was a good place to sell his surplus smack.

He was approaching the Kaduki Theater, a Times Square movie house that specialized in shit porn. “NOW SHOWING: DICK SPITZ AND RHEA DYER IN YULE LOG HUMBUGGERY” was emblazoned across the marquee.

So the movie was completed after all. Dick had no recollection of that and was curious what happened. He bought a ticket and went inside.

Most of the film was pretty much how he expected it to be. It was just the last scene that surprised him. Ebeneezer Spooge had just seen himself have an old and fat Tiny Quim take a huge shit on his face, killing him in the process. Rather than accept that fate, he embraced the true spirit of Christmas, which meant getting non-lethally shat upon by Tiny Quim when she was young and hot.

There was only one problem. It wasn’t him in the final scene. It was Felix Pynchon and it was not convincing at all. Dick was enraged, but at present, the only outlet for his anger was to go to the box office and demand his money back.

“This is a sham. That was not Dick Spitz at the end of the movie,” he declared.

“How can you be so sure?” said the man selling tickets.

“Because I’m Dick Spitz!”

“Yeah, right. Last I heard, Dick Spitz wasn’t dying from face cancer so why don’t you run along before I’m forced to beat you with a tire iron.”

Dick saw himself running out of options. Just then, Nadine’s name popped into his head. She obviously really liked him when he spent the night at her place. He should go see her and fall in love with her until he was back on his feet. He  trotted off toward her apartment, fingers crossed.

It was very late at night so he had to bang on her door repeatedly to get her to answer.

“Dick, what happened to you?” she said when she opened the door and saw his face.

“I love you, Nadine,” Dick said.

“No, no you don’t. Look, I have to get up early to go spend Christmas with my family in Connecticut. I really don’t have time for this.”

“You’re going to want to make time. You see this rash on my face? It’s from poo, but not just any poo. It’s future poo. And how do I know that? It’s because I’m from the future as well.”

“You and the poo are from the future.”

“Yes! And because I come from the future, I already know what’s going to happen in advance. I know Ronald Reagan is going to be the next president. I know the World Trade Center is going to get knocked down 23 years from now by terrorists flying jetliners on a kamikaze mission. And when you know what will happen ahead of time, you can profit from it. I can make us very, very rich.”

“I thought I’d find you here, you cheating snake,” shouted a voice behind Dick. He recognized the voice immediately. It was Rhea Dyer’s.

“Wait, who are you?” Nadine said.

“I am his wife,” Rhea said.

“What are you, like 12?” Nadine said.

“I am almost 19 and I married Dick three months ago. It didn’t take him long to forget his wedding vows.”

“You know, I don’t need this,” Nadine said and slammed the door in Dick’s face.

Dick turned around and faced Rhea.

“I can explain,” he said.

“Please don’t,” she said. “Oscar has been worried sick about you and Felix, well he’s just livid.”

“What about you?”

“A little of both to be honest. I’m glad I found you before you wound up dead or in prison. We’re moving the whole operation to LA. The San Fernando Valley is the place to make porn flicks these days and there are more than enough junkies out there whom we can get to shoot future poo into their veins. Are you in?”

“Yeah. Hey, you’re not going to tell Felix that I blabbed about being from the future, are you?”

“I don’t think he needs to hear that. Besides, that girl didn’t believe a word of it so there’s no harm done. There’s a Christmas party tomorrow afternoon at the Chelsea, but tonight I thought we’d go back to your place.”

“Really?”

“What can I say? I’m a predator at heart. I successfully hunted you and now I want to enjoy the spoils.”

“But what about this?” he said, waving his hand across his face.

“It’s gross, but allergic reactions aren’t contagious. Don’t worry about it. I’ve fucked uglier.”

The two took a cab back to Dick’s apartment. He hadn’t been there in some time and there was the smell of rotting food in the kitchen and an unflushed toilet in the bathroom. He felt embarrassed about the state of the place, but he also felt something else for the first time in his life. He felt grateful.

“You know you’re going to have to quit doing Priapaine recreationally. It’s really fucking you up. That can wait until tomorrow though. It’ll come in handy tonight. I brought some with me in case you ran out. Let me spread you out a line.”

She handed the mirror to him and he hoovered it all in a single snort. His cock stiffened. He felt like he was the king of the world. Rhea mounted him as he lay on his back. She rode him slowly at first then picked up the pace to a fevered pitch.

“Oh fuck yeah,” she said. “Hey Dick, I got an idea.”

“What?”

“I want you to be even higher. I’m going to spread out another line.”

“I don’t want to stop.”

“We’re not going to.”

Still riding him, she leaned over and poured more white powder on the mirror. She made a fat rail and put the mirror next to his head.

“It’s to your left. I’ll hold the straw for you. Merry Christmas, Ebenezer.”

“Merry Christmas, Tiny Quim.”

Dick turned his head, put his nostril on the straw, and inhaled sharply through his nose. He felt the powder burn the hell out of his sinus cavity. He realized this wasn’t Priapaine he snorted. It was pure China white. He thrashed around, but Rhea stayed on him, riding him like a champion broncobuster. After a series of spasms, he lay still, his lifeless eyes staring up at the ceiling. Though Dick Spitz was dead, his erection was not. Rhea stayed on him until she decided she had enough.

She gathered her things and headed toward the door. She glanced over her shoulder to have one more look at the dead porn star.

“God bless us everyone,” she said.

The Future Poo Holiday Special (Part 2)

Present

November had arrived and there was yet another delay. The filming of Yule Log Humbuggery was far from over and the deadline was approaching fast. They were a hand short and that put production at a standstill.

This time,  it wasn’t Dick who was a no show. He had taken Oscar’s words to heart and was easing up on his consumption of boner blow. This allowed him to get a good night’s sleep more often than not, which in turn had a beneficial effect on his punctuality.

It was Felix Pynchon who was absent. At first, it was assumed he was off sending mail from one of the other Boroughs. Dispatches from Pynchon-Lohff to the future were done via coded letters to Penthouse. There was an operative at the magazine to ensure they got published, but it would have looked suspicious if a series of accepted letters all bore the same postmark.

It eventually got late enough for Felix to have made a round trip to the far end of Staten Island. He did mention meetings with a potential investor so maybe that was it.

Oscar, Dick, and Rhea decided to make the best of it. There were some post-production reshoots planned to make a version of the movie without the shit. Apparently, there was a substantial market of people who preferred their pornography excrement free. Go figure.

They decided to reshoot some of the Nancy scenes. Nancy, being dead, was unavailable so Rhea donned a blonde wig and filled in. They were roughly the same height (Nancy was five-one, Rhea five-two), but that was where the similarity ended. Rhea was filmed with her face turned away, but that didn’t make it a lot more convincing because Rhea had the physique of an aerialist and Nancy had the physique of a junkie.

Felix finally walked in the door. He was carrying a canvas bag that looked quite heavy.

“Stop production. I have something important to tell you all,” he said.

“We haven’t started production today,” Oscar said.

“Why not?” Felix asked.

“Well, maybe it’s because you’re the Ghost of Christmas Present and you are, you know, not present,” Oscar said.

“Fair enough, but you are going to like what I have to say.  I think our money woes will soon be over. It would be nice if HQ would bankroll us like they do every other operation, but I suppose they don’t want a money trail if we get popped for peddling shit porn or heroin. Like it or not, we have to be self-sufficient.”

“So this investor isn’t one of us,” Rhea said.

“Oh no, he’s an older gentleman named Wolfgang Gerhard who wants us to make a movie for him down in South America.”

“A German. Well, that makes sense. The Germans do like their shit porn,” Dick said.

“So how long has this Wolfgang guy been living in South America?” Oscar said.

“Thirty three years, give or take.”

“Oh shit, he’s a Nazi,” Rhea said after taking a moment to do the math. “That’s hilarious.”

“Ex-Nazi,” Felix said.

“And I’m assuming Wolfgang Gerhard isn’t his real name,” Oscar said.

“If you must know, it’s Josef Mengele. I know what you’re thinking. Maybe we shouldn’t be going into business people with people wanted by the Mossad and who knows who else. It’s actually a pretty sweet deal. We take his money and make the picture. When it comes out, we keep all the profits because he’ll be dead three months from now.”

“Do you want me to kill him?” Rhea asked.

“There’s no need. This coming February, Mengele will suffer a massive stroke while swimming and drown. His death will be kept a secret for six years so his next of kin won’t be inheriting dick. Now help me get this telecom equipment set up. We have a conference call  scheduled with Herr Doktor.”

Felix unzipped the bag and was met by giggles as he hauled out a bunch of primitive speakers, a dialer, cables and whatnot. At least the dialer was touch-tone rather than rotary.

“Need I remind you this is 1978? You’re not going to be talking to any holograms today,” he explained.

After it was all set up, he dialed the number. A hiss came from the speaker and did not stop when the connection was established.

Alo,” said the voice on the line.

Com licença você fala inglês?” said Felix.

“Yes, a little.”

“This is Felix Pynchon of Pynchon-Lohff Productions. I would like to speak with Mr. Gerhard.”

The voice said to please hold and the line went quiet except for the hiss for five solid minutes. Then an old man’s voice with a German accent came on the line.

“Hello Felix?”

“Wolfgang baby, how’s it hanging?”

“It hangs good, danke.”

“Hey, I got the whole team with me. Why don’t you lay down your movie idea so we can figure out how to make it happen?”

“Very well. I want to make a movie called Constipation Camp and need you to handle the production and supply the necessary excrement. Ach, you may ask, why would we need excrement in movie about constipation? I will explain the plot. Filthy Untermenschen fornicate in their own Scheisse so they are sent to a camp where the brave doctor uses superior medical science to try to constipate them. Unfortunately, they continue to fornicate in their own Scheisse so he is forced to exterminate them all. It is good cinema!”

“Wolfgang, I couldn’t agree more,” Felix said. “We may be a small organization, but I guarantee you we can deliver excrement in the quantity you desire anywhere on the planet. As for the actor to play the doctor, you could do a lot worse than our resident star, Dick Spitz.”

“Spitz? That sounds Jewish.”

“Perish the thought, Wolfgang. Dick’s a fine German-American. In fact, he’s sitting here eating pork schnitzel even as we speak.”

“Nom nom nom,” said Dick.

“OK, it is a deal then. I will contact you with further details and I hope we can begin filming next month.”

The call ended and there was a great high fiving all around. Oscar did bring up one possible sticking point. Assembling the cast to play the camp inmates and flying them down to Brazil with the necessary work permits was going to be quite an undertaking. Not a problem, said Felix. Filming was going to happen up north in Guyana where Mengele had found a group of Americans willing to play the inmates. They had no outstanding visa issues and as an added bonus, they all spoke English.

Filming for Yule Log Humbuggery continued the following day. Felix, buoyed by the South American deal, gave his portrayal of the Ghost of Christmas Present the high spirits it deserved and he sounded downright convincing as he showed Ebenezer the merits of loosening up and having a good time.

His performance was not the only one that was in top form. Tiny Quim’s bar-wench bustier with a tartan schoolgirl skirt might not have been historically accurate for an impoverished child in Victorian England, but her defecation athleticism more than made up for it. Lying on the floor with her legs pulled back so her feet were against her ears, she launched a mud scud that flew for nearly a foot before hitting the floor and skidding to a stop. Looking on, her father Bob Crotch-shit played by Oscar hiked up his Tweedledee pants and playfully fingered his gunt crease. Lastly, Ebenezer looked suitably anxious as he stared through the window like a peeping Tom. This was because he really was anxious. Who wouldn’t be standing out on a sixth-floor fire escape wearing nothing by a nightshirt and cap as a cold November wind swept down from the north?

All in all, it was a perfect day. Like most perfect days, it carried no guarantee that those days would continue.

The seed for disaster had been planted earlier that year. It came in the form of a small piece of future poo that failed materialize over the Bermuda Triangle in 1984 and was bounced nearly years off course. It was no larger than a walnut, but when it materialized inside a man’s cranium, it drove him insane. The man was the leader of the people who were slated to play the inmates in the South American project. His name was Jim Jones.

On November 18, he snapped completely. He and over 900 of his followers committed suicide. Constipation Camp had no campers so Mengele pulled out and the deal was dead, the last casualty of Jonestown.

Felix delivered the bad news to the team and asked if they wanted to take the day off to mourn. Everyone kind of wanted to, but they all said they should keep going. The days ahead seemed a lot less rosy, but it was the here and now that mattered. They had a movie to finish. They would soldier on.

Felix and Dick stood in front of the gray tarp for the last scene of the “Christmas Present” segment.

“And what will become of Tiny Quim?” Ebenezer asked.

“Are there no women’s prisons? Are there no whorehouses?” the ghost said. “My time here is short. I look ahead and see a crutch that has broken because it can no longer hold the weight of a cute, young girl who has grown old and fat.”

Ebenezer, quite off script, began to cry.

The Future Poo Holiday Special (Part 1)

Past

Dick Spitz strutted across the Chelsea Hotel lobby on an October Day in 1978, his gold lamé disco pants tented to design limit. Loitering prostitutes took notice of his manhood at full sail and catcalled him with “Save some of that for me, sugar” and “My tuna salad sure could use more mayo.”

One of the older whores who worked the lobby regularly was less impressed. Resting her hand on a meaty hip, she said, “Mmmhmm, you don’t want to be touching none of that. He does that pant-load porn. He’s nasty.”

Dick had no time to argue. He was supposed to be upstairs in Room 602 a half hour ago. With a wave of his hand and a curt “ladies,” he made a beeline for the elevators.

It had been a very long night. He was out until four at this club that tried very hard to be Studio 54 and catered to a clientele who had no hope of ever getting into Studio 54. From there, he went home with a girl named Nadine who said she worked somewhere and aspired to be something or other. At any rate, she was a mediocre lay. At least no one was pointing a camera at him, which meant there wouldn’t be any shit involved.

Regular poop sex was bad enough, but future-poo fucking was even worse because of the rash it gave him. Dick was allergic to excrement. A lot of people are, but it largely goes unnoticed because the nutrients neutralize the allergens. Future poo has no nutrients so any reaction to it is severe. Nadine had asked about the redness covering one side of his torso. He told her to shut the fuck up and suck his meat pole.

One might think a porn actor would be all tapped out at the end of the day. However, Dick had an arsenal of Priapaine at his disposal. Only people who had come from the future could get their hands on the stuff because it hadn’t been invented yet. Even primitive medicines like Viagra and Cialis were a long way off from being available. Priapaine was far more advanced. The erection it gave you stuck around as long as you took more of the stuff and if you snorted it, it got you high like coke. Dick called it “boner blow” and did lots of it both on and off the job.

Dick’s current film was Yule Log Humbuggery, a shit-porn retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Like the other two Pynchon-Lohff productions, The Prince and the Pooper and The Masque of the Brown Death, it was a loose adaption of a literary classic. This one, however, had seasonal appeal so everyone was on a tight schedule to get the movie finished so it could be shown in the stroke houses before Christmas.

Dick Spitz was cast as Ebenezer Spooge.

The elevator doors opened. Dick walked down the hall and into room 602. Inside was the movie set and steps were taken to make the place look more like 19th Century England. The TV was wheeled off camera and a likeness of Queen Victoria was put up on the wall. It was a poster, but at least it wasn’t a blacklight one.

Everyone there, except for the woman with the bleached blonde hair and New Jersey accent with affected Britishisms, was from the future. She had been cast as young Ebenezer’s fiancee because she would work for drugs and lived in the hotel so she was easy to fetch if she forgot to show up. Drugs were always on hand because Pynchon-Lohff had a sideline distributing black-tar heroin made from China white and future poo.

“So glad you could join us,” said Felix Pynchon, who was the producer of the film. Yesterday, he had onscreen time as Jackoff Marley, in costume, clanking chains together, and overacted up a storm. Today he was back to wearing his usual lime-green leisure suit and burgundy ascot.

“Sorry, I overslept,” Dick said.

“The important thing is you’re here now,” Oscar Lohff said. Oscar was the director of the film. He was also the main cinematographer. He was wearing an androgynous white hippie robe that hid his considerable girth. He would be playing the Ghost of Christmas Past later in the day.

Rhea Dyer sat on the floor in the corner of the room, flipping through a magazine and staring daggers at the blonde. Rhea was 18 when she got sent back in time, but looked much younger. She had been cast in the role of Tiny Quim.

“So when do I get to a shag scene with Ebenezer?” the blonde said.

“Nancy, I already told you there wouldn’t be one,” Oscar said. “Once again, what you do is writhe around on the floor and smear shit all over yourself in an effort to entice Ebenezer, but he is too busy measuring a piece of poop floating in a fishbowl and writing the results in a notebook to notice you.”

“Oh yeah, I knew that,” Nancy said.

“You don’t know shit,” Rhea said.

The day’s shooting progressed. Oscar the ghost guided Ebenezer Dick through the world of  Christmas past. Their verbal exchange was delivered while standing in front of a gray tarp intended to represent fog.

Dick was no great actor. He managed to get by in part because he was easy on the eyes and possessed the requisite mustache for this genre in this decade. Far and away, Dick’s greatest asset was dick. His wasn’t freakishly large, but its Priapaine-induced tumescence was enough to make the average adult-film patron take note. Still feeling the effects of the drug, the scenes with Oscar were shot from the waist up to avoid any homoerotic overtones.

Despite Dick Spitz’s lack of thespian chops, his performance during these scenes was surprisingly good. Perhaps he had to make a real effort rather than let his shvantz to the acting for him. Also, he was in some way playing himself, a lonely time traveler in an era he did not truly comprehend.

It was time for the big scene with Nancy. With his ruler, quill, and leather notebook in hand, Dick crouched behind an eight-inch croissant of future poo floating in a fishbowl that sat atop a wooden barstool. If he had to work with future poo, Dick thought, this was the way to go. He wasn’t going to get a rash just from looking at it.

Nancy stood naked in the middle of the room. She was handed a pile of future poo on a paper plate and told to put it on herself. She took it into the bathroom to satisfy an inexplicable need for privacy and emerged a few minutes later with a fine layer of shit applied over her groupie-whore slathering of mascara and lipstick. The rest of her pale self had nary a smudge.

“No, no, a thousand times no!” Oscar said. “This is shit porn, not beauty tips with poop. The character you’re playing is a dirty bitch and I expect you to look the part. Now please smear yourself real good, OK?”

“And what if I don’t wanna?” Nancy said.

“Don’t worry, chief. I got this,” Rhea said. She put down her magazine, stood up, and walked over to the table where a supply of future poo was kept. The poo in the bucket she selected came from the future Third World so it was extra runny.

Rhea spun around and tossed the contents right into Nancy’s face. She stood in shock as it ran down all over her. She then began to cry. It was an aggrieved, selfish sobbing, the kind of crying that elicits not sympathy as much as a punch.

“Tears are good. Tears are very good,” Oscar said as he,started to film and zoomed the camera in on Nancy. “That’s it. Cry for me, you little cunt.”

“How dare you,” Nancy shrieked. “I quit. I know you’re all drug dealers. I’m going to report you to the narco squad.”

“I understand how you feel,” Felix said. “Things got out of hand and I apologize for that. Go home and think it over. If you still want to quit tomorrow, that’s fine.”

He reached into his jacket pocket, handed Nancy a nickel bag of future-poo black tar, and told her this should help her relax.

“There better be a whole lot more of this tomorrow or I’m going straight to the narcs,” she said. She got dressed, pulling her clothes over her shit-streaked body, and left.

“Dick, I need you to kill that bitch,” Felix said.

“Kill her?” Dick said.

“Yeah, but it can wait until tonight. She’s got a bag of smack so she won’t run to the cops until it’s gone. If you get her while she’s high, it’ll be extra easy.”

“I’ll kill her,” Rhea said. “Let me do it.”

“I don’t care who does the job as long as it gets done,” Felix said.

“Looks like we’re done for the day,” Oscar said. “Hey Dick, let’s go get a drink as soon as I change out of this drag-queen get up.”

It was late in the evening. Dick and Oscar were seated in a quiet dive a few blocks from the hotel.

“Reminds me of old times,” Oscar said, slapping his own thigh and letting out a fat-man belch.

“Does the future count as old times?” Dick said.

“You know what I mean. We used to go drinking every night after work and I kept trying to get you to go back in time with me, and you always said no.”

“I was married.”

“Yeah, but your wife was a bitch.”

“That she was, but still.”

Dick remembered the going-away party for Oscar. Despite her demand that he not stay out too late, he ended up closing the bar that night. That’s what saved his life. When the the massive poo transfer intended for the 1984 Bermuda Triangle went awry, the bulk of it peppered the space-time continuum roughly half a decade in either direction. However, a sizable chunk of it ricocheted to its point of origin, a man-made diarrhea lake called Laguna Del Poo. The sudden influx of fecal matter caused the dam to burst. The residents below in Charmin Canyon, including Dick’s wife, never had a chance. It was the deadliest diarrhea flood to hit North America in weeks. Now a widower, Dick had nothing holding him back. His application was quickly approved and he was on his way. Dick thought his doodie duties as an operative would be largely clerical. He never imagined he would end up as a porn star. If it weren’t shit porn, his assignment would have been a dream come true.

“Dick, I’m saying this as a friend. You need to ease up on personal use of Priapaine,” Oscar said after making sure the bartender was out of earshot.

“I don’t do it that much,” Dick said.

“You do it all the time. Hey, I get it. You like to fuck a lot. I like to eat a lot. We both like to have fun. But Felix, he’s strictly business. You don’t want to get on his bad side.”

“And what about Rhea?”

“She likes to have fun. But with the kind of fun she likes to have, you don’t want to get on her bad side either. You know, we should hang out like this more often. It’ll be good for both of us to be distracted from our vices. Maybe you won’t knock up anybody and maybe I can avoid bypass surgery. What do you say, Ebenezer?”

“Sounds like a plan, Ghost of Christmas Past.”

Felix and Rhea came into the bar. After the bartender checked Rhea’s ID, the two sat down at the table with Dick and Oscar.

“I want you both to congratulate this little go getter. She just popped her murder cherry,” Felix said.

“Piece of cake,” Rhea said. “She was far too wasted to put up a fight and I was really looking forward to wringing that bitch’s neck.”

Dick nodded. He’d gotten a hand job from Rhea before. That girl could strangle.

“But then I saw a knife just laying there,” Rhea continued. “And I thought, hey, that’s as good a murder weapon as any. One thrust to the abdomen and she was toast. Icing on the cake: Her junkie boyfriend was passed out in the room. He’s going down for this one.”

“Ew, she actually had a boyfriend?” Oscar said.

“Yeah,” Rhea said. “Some English guy. Name’s Sid, I think.”

Memories Blackened Like Catfish

California is on fire again, but you probably already knew that. The ones burning now are comparable in size to the October fires in Napa and Sonoma counties, but with a much smaller body count. As of this writing, the Thomas Fire  (the largest of the SoCal wildfires) has two people confirmed killed (it was only one prior to Thursday). That’s comparatively good news unless you happen to be the two people.

When I blogged in October about the fires burning then, I trivialized the tragedy with a fart joke so I could reduce it to mere window dressing so I could focus the attention of my writing on myself. I think that backfired. Even though I wisely refrained from making fun of that one fat kid who couldn’t waddle fast enough to avoid getting engulfed in flames, some readers might still have thought I was being insensitive.

Live and learn. This time around, it’ll be different because I won’t be focusing on myself. Instead, I shall look to the fire and think about how it can best be leveraged to improve my personal brand. Unfortunately, I am unable to offer any material assistance to those in need because money does not multitask. Cash cannot simultaneously be a charitable donation and pay for my next drink. Thoughtful commentary, on the other hand, doesn’t cost any money and is worth every penny.

The fire is getting close to Santa Barbara and my friends living there are alternating between wheezing from the smoke and being scared shitless. Photos are going up on Facebook that show my home town, so lovely they named a soap opera after it, in stark contrast to the backdrop fiery glow in the hills. Maybe the fire will be contained in time or maybe it’ll roll on through Santa Barbara, sneering “You ain’t so pretty now, are you bitch?” before setting its sights on Goleta.

That’s some heavy Irwin Allen shit right there and quite frankly, I have no desire to be upstaged by it. Instead, I prefer it to be the opening act where I am the headliner. The connection is that the fire and I share a piece of real estate, albeit at different times. Since I also don’t wish to be upstaged by Santa Barbara, I am choosing the more modest Ventura as my location. My father and stepmother used to live there and it is where I spent the summer of 1981. It’s a nice town other than the parts that are burned to a crisp.

Imagine the story I’m going to tell you, my trip down memory lane, as a painting with a disaster from decades later serving as its frame. Or better yet, think of the story as a piece of catfish blackened by the fire. The blackening enhances the experience, but it’s the catfish you want. A plate of nothing but soot does not make the mouth water.

Now I have to pick what memory I would like to share. I can’t just drone on about everything that happened over the summer. That would be dull. I need to narrow it down to a single topic and run with that. The girl I had a crush on? Not reciprocal, nothing happened, so a nonstarter. My first LSD experience? Transformative as all get out, but disqualified because it happened during a weekend up in Santa Barbara.

There was one incident that happened toward the end of the summer that seemed like the perfect thing to write about. It was the closest I’ve come to having a #metoo moment (as a victim, I mean *wink*). I ran into some guy while I was hiking around the riverbed. I climbed a hill near the freeway and stared at the traffic for a bit. When I turned around, I saw the guy looking up at me and yanking his pud. He blew his load and I bolted like a gazelle.

Brave victims are very in this year so you’d think I should take this and run with it, but here’s the thing. People don’t really like victims. What they like is being wrathful and victims provide the means to justify that wrath.

It’s not like becoming a victim is any great achievement. Let’s say I write a novel. Good on ya, Dave, folks would say. If I write a second novel, even a lesser work, it will add to my total worth as a novelist. Now let’s say I am a college coed who gets raped at a frat party. Right-thinking people will thank me for my courage and demand the rapists be held accountable. If, however, it happens again and again all the way down fraternity row, people would start to wonder what the hell is wrong with me.

However, there is a larger reason why the incident at the riverbed simply will not work. Just before I ran like hell from my personal Louis CK, I saw an unfathomable sadness in his eyes. It didn’t soften my heart and make want to stick around, but it was there. It is quite intriguing in retrospect. It’s far more interesting than my part of the encounter. I saw what I saw and hauled ass. Big whoop. But that guy, was he so broken that was the only way he could meaningfully reach out to another person? Wow.

Sorry proto Louis. As I said, I don’t like to be upstaged.

Fortunately, I am not out of options. There is one left that fits the bill perfectly. It has quirky characters. It has slumming dressed up as character building so 36 years later, you can be suitably impressed by my false humility. Read on.

The Great Central Steak & Hoagie was my first experience with the Philadelphia cheesesteak. They were served with pizza sauce. Even today, that is how I believe it should be done. During the summer of 1981 after my first year of college, I had a job there. The pay was minimum wage plus all the cheesesteaks I could eat. I was in heaven.

The owner introduced himself to me as Mac, but everyone else called him George. Maybe he was trying out a new moniker and nobody was going for it. I wasn’t either and started calling him George as well. George liked dealing with the public so he usually ran the register, both his cigarettes and his gun within easy reach on the shelf underneath.

George’s wife Muse (pronounced “moose”) trained me on my first day. She was not very mooselike. She hailed from Singapore originally and had a no-nonsense demeanor peppered with eccentricities. While showing me how to work the meat slicer, she told me you could kill a person with a piece of meat and not leave a mark.

And then, wait, who the fuck am I kidding? For this story to tie in at all, the Great Central Steak & Hoagie needs to burn to the ground. Maybe it will someday, but not from the Thomas Fire, which never got within a half mile of the place.

It’s a pity too, because George provided plenty of choice anecdotes like how he hated “that hard-rock shit” so we were all treated to a country station during the time when  The Oak Ridge Boys’ “Elvira” was in heavy rotation. Then there was that time heshaved off his Michael Rooker curls when the weather got hot and ran out into the parking lot to compare bald heads with Lou Gossett when the actor was a customer. And how could I forget how he playfully called my buxom coworker “Nipples.” That was a hoot and a half.

Now his story probably never be told nor shall I be able to strut my writerly stuff telling it, all because of a fire that couldn’t see fit to burn for six more goddamn blocks.

Fuck you, Thomas Fire. Fuck you in the ear.

Future Poo 2: Electric Boogaloo

Chad Grogan popped his collar and stared out across the Miami skyline. It was January in the year 1984. The TV show that would forever epitomize this city in this decade was over half a year from making its debut, but Chad was sporting the look right now. He had the Sonny Crockett linen jacket. He had the Sonny Crockett hair. A lot of guys were still taking their fashion tips from Scarface, but not Chad. He came from the future. He knew of things to come.

“I don’t see why you have to take the boat out tonight,” Claire St. Clair said while clinging to his arm. Claire did not come from the future so her sartorial choices were derived from already extant pop culture. In her case, this meant Flashdance and aerobics videos. She wore knit leggings and a sweatshirt with a cutaway collar that hung off one shoulder. A knotted headband cinched her hair, once silky tresses now teased into a tumbleweed of Aqua Net and split ends.

“Duty calls, babe,” Chad said, his gaze still fixed upon the skyline. Asserting dominance over the listeners by not looking at them when he spoke was one of Chad’s people skills.

“Promise me you aren’t getting involved with loser drug lords,” Claire said.

“You know me better than that.”

Indeed she did. Chad was not one to consort with disreputable characters. He was also not one to promise Claire anything so he packed two truths in the space of just one. She regretted what she said, but kept talking anyway.

“But why tonight? The guy from the Olympics is going to be at the studio at 10 tomorrow morning.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll be there. Besides, Bobby is the star. If they pick anybody, it’ll be him.”

“Bobby’s a jerk.”

“Maybe so, but he’s also got the best moves.”

This was true. Nobody liked Bobby Street, but they tolerated him because he was the best breakdancer in the studio. If he could make it through his routine without mouthing off, he stood a good chance of getting chosen.

Breakdancing was not yet an official Olympic sport. That wouldn’t happen until the 2080 Summer Games in New Bakersfield. This year, the dancers would simply serve as entertainment during the closing ceremonies in Los Angeles.

Still, it would be great publicity for the studio if one of its dancers were selected. Since Chad owned the dance studio, he had the most to gain and if that meant propelling the loathsome Bobby Street to stardom, so be it.

Chad was nearly as good a breakdancer as Bobby, except he could not do a shoulder spin to save his life. Every time he attempted one, he came to a complete halt. He vowed to master that move one day, but it wasn’t going to happen by tomorrow morning.

“Can I at least come with you?” Claire asked.

This made Chad smile. If she saw what he was on his way to see, he would have to kill her. No witnesses, the rules were very clear about that. While he would idly fantasize about murdering Claire from time to time, he had no real desire to do it anytime soon.

In fact, Chad was happy to have her around. She was easy on the eyes, provided sex on demand, and even showed some real promise as a dancer. Breakdancing wasn’t her thing. Her specialty was the kind of slow, choreographed workout shown late at night on Showtime that made horny young boys and sad old men beat off until they were red and raw. Claire had a real future ahead of her if her public-access television show and those private parties with conventioneers were any indication. If she only learned to keep her mouth shut she might have actual relationship potential as well.

“Sorry babe, but this is business, not drug business, but business all the same. I’m doing it for the studio,” Chad said.

Chad was not lying. One of the perks of his assignment as an operative was that he could settle into an existence of his choosing and his expenses would be covered. This was a good thing as Chad was no businessman and the dance studio he ran absolutely hemorrhaged cash. The money came from a financial team, also from the future, whose investing savvy came from knowing how the stock market was going to behave ahead of time.

It was a pretty sweet deal. All that asked in return was when Chad was called upon to perform some duty, he would do so without hesitation or question. Tonight was the night for him to earn his keep. The timing was not perfect, but he more than willing to carry out his orders. Disobedience was punishable by death so there was that as well.

“Do I at least get a kiss?” she said with a pout.

“Of course,” he replied then shoved his tongue down her throat and gave her cooter a playful pinch.

An hour later, he was on his 19-foot aluminum fishing boat heading southeast on the open ocean. He had plenty of fuel and his equipment locker held what he needed to remedy a situation should one occur. The water was calm, bordering on glassy, and the moon was almost full. All in all, it was a near-perfect night to watch countless tons of future poo pour down from the heavens.

Chad learned about the scheduled dumping from a decoded obituary. He had been monitoring the obits since his 1984, always on the lookout for a Mr. Brown who drowned in a log ride. When he finally came across a notice matching those criteria, he applied a cipher to its contents to get the date, time, latitude, and longitude of when it would. After reading the obituary, Chad flipped to the crime section of the newspaper and sure enough, there was a man named Brown found drowned in the log ride at a nearby amusement park.

Good ol’ HQ, Chad thought with a smile. They are nothing if not thorough.

He cut the engine just shy of the event’s exact location, making sure he was not directly under it. He turned on the radio and tuned it a spot on the dial where there was nothing but static. He opened the equipment locker and pulled out an RPG launcher and the first of six grenades he brought on the trip. This was not 1984 technology. A computerized field sight in the launcher gave instructions to the target-acquisition program in the grenade. Once launched, the grenade would pilot itself, navigating around all obstacles to reach its target. The grenade carried a micronuke warhead that would vaporize everything within a 200-meter radius and left no radioactive footprint.

There weren’t going to be any witnesses. As for a ship and its people gone missing, this was the Bermuda Triangle. Things like that happened all the time.

Chad sat and waited, unaware that this scheduled large-volume dump need not have happened at all. All offloading channels from 2017 onward were suspended pending a confirmed resolution of the Homeless Bob incident. Meanwhile, sewage containers were filling to the brim so an emergency dump plan was hastily drafted.

Homeless Bob died in police custody after tripping and falling down a flight of stairs 17 times, according to the official. If people knew that, there would have been no need to panic. Alas, the public-records database went offline so there was no way to verify that the threat to the operation had been neutralized.

Back in 1984, Chad continued to wait. The scheduled time came and went with nary a single butt nugget plopping from the firmament. He checked his watch. Something was clearly wrong.

It was possible that the mission was scrubbed, but if that were the case he would have been notified via the radio station he was tuned to. The cancellation announcement would come in the form of a custom-made radio ad that began with someone who sounded like George C. Scott saying “Turn it off! Turn it off!” followed by a voice that sounded like Don Pardo saying “When your diarrhea is hard core, you need Pepto-Bismol.”

The radio just hissed static.

Chad looked around at the night sky, but there was no poo. There was, however, something that looked like a blue sperm with a white tail. He reached for his binoculars and saw it was a space shuttle heading up into orbit. But why was it surrounded by that blue field? Also, why was it there at all? The next scheduled shuttle launch was three weeks away. Something didn’t add up.

Maybe it was some airplane disguised as a space shuttle and sent to spy on him. That seemed unlikely, but no probable explanations came to mind. Chad was fascinated by primitive space travel growing up and here on assignment, he liked to relive some of that history by listening in on radio transmissions between the shuttle and mission control. He tuned his radio to that frequency. If this was a legit shuttle launch, he would know soon enough.

“Roger, go at throttle up,” crackled through the radio speaker. That definitely sounded like a shuttle transmission and Chad might have accepted that as proof if he didn’t recognize the voice of the person speaking. He’d heard a recording of that very transmission countless times as a child. The voice belonged to Francis R. Scobee. He was indeed a shuttle commander, or rather, would be. His doomed Mission aboard the Challenger wouldn’t happen until 1986.

“My God, it’s full of poo,” said Francis R. Scobee.

The Challenger exploded. Chad was looking forward to watching the disaster in person. He just never thought he would witness it two years ahead of time.

“Need Another Seven Astronauts,” Chad said, making him the first person to ever tell that joke.

This anomaly was caused by an unwise decision made in the future. Someone figured that if a new fecal-transfer channel was to be opened, they might as well make the most of it. The problem was that throughput was not unlimited. Much as a massive bowel movement can rip rectal tissue, the temporal transfer of a large amount of fecal matter can tear the very fabric of time and space.

This was elementary future-poo physics, pretty basic stuff. They really should have known better. Chad saw what poo did to the Challenger and knew right away what was going on.

“There must be a shit storm everywhere,” he said then added “and everywhen.”

Indeed, the entire decade was getting peppered with poo. Most of it was not terribly noteworthy. There was a carpet soiler here, a punch-bowl floater there, all part and parcel of everyday life in the 80s.

However, there were exceptional cases such as these:

  • In December 1980, a single poo fell from the sky over New York City and froze solid during its descent. It struck a mortally wounded John Lennon as he lay on the sidewalk and came to rest sticking into one of his bullet wounds like a lawn dart. From that day forward, Yoko Ono could not bear to look in the bowl after doing her business.
  • In early 1981, John Hinckley was about to abandon his unrequited crush until he found a bowel movement in his mailbox. Believing it was a love offering from Jodie Foster, he decided to carry out his plan to win her heart forever.
  • In late 1983, a starving villager in Ethiopia found a small, brown loaf in his food bowl. After having a nibble, he said “ምንም ንጥረ ነገር የለውም” and died from malnutrition. His death was one of many that would inspire Bob Geldof to form Band Aid and make people in the developed world feel better about themselves.
  • In March 1989, a huge amount of future poo materialized inside the forward tank of the Exxon Valdez. The added weight caused the ship’s bow to dip low enough to run aground on Bligh’s Reef. The spillage slurry, which would one day be known to historians as “pootroleum,” was an ecological disaster erroneously blamed on the tanker’s captain. One whistleblower seal balanced a poo on his nose in an attempt to have the real cause be known, but he was quickly clubbed to death by a passerby who was also a future operative.

Chad could not have known all the details, but he knew enough to engage damage-control mode. The procedure was simple. Go home and pretend nothing happened. If suspicions arise, attempt to explain them away. If the suspicious party persists, kill the person.

Chad turned the boat around and headed back to Miami, hoping the entirety of whatever mess there was would be someone else’s problem.

He was awakened by a banging on his apartment door at 7:30 the following morning. He opened tge door and saw Claire standing there. She had been crying.

“Hey babe, what’s up your ass?” Chad said, expressing concern.

“I ran into Bill the janitor when I was jogging this morning and he told me he quit. He said there was no way he was going to clean up that mess,” Claire said.

“What mess?”

“The shit, there is a huge pile of shit on the stage at the studio.”

“Have you seen this pile of shit? Bill sniffs glue. You can’t take his word for anything.”

“OK, so Bill dumped a bucket of shit on the stage and refuses to own up to it. Fine, I was planning on firing him anyway.”

“It isn’t a bucket, Chad. It’s more like a truckload.”

“All right, let’s go. I want to see for myself.”

The two of them took Chad’s car and drove to the studio. On the way, he pondered the possibility of losing control of the situation. If this happened, he would have to kill or incapacitate Claire, retrieve the RPG from his boat, and eliminate her, the studio, and everything within the blast radius. It would be an acceptable move to HQ, but they wouldn’t like it and he would likely be reassigned working in fast food or selling Amway. Chad hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

When they arrived at the studio and Chad looked at the pile of poo on the stage, he could see that Claire was not exaggerating. It was at least a truckload worth, probably more, and the lack of forced entry or bits of poo anywhere else made look like it appeared out of nowhere, which of course it had.

“I think it’s pretty obvious who is responsible,” he said.

“You mean Bill?”

“Nah, it’s not his style. Besides, he has no license. To move a truckload, you need to drive a truck. I’m talking about Bobby.”

“But this is his ticket to the big time. Why would he want to ruin that?”

“Bobby’s a schemer. If he stops today’s audition, he can try out for the Olympics on his own and cut the studio out of the bargain.”

“Are you going to confront him?’

“No, he would just deny everything and continue with his plan. We have two hours to get this mess cleaned up.  When Bobby arrives, we accuse him of nothing and ask for his help. The important thing is to let him know that the show will go on with or without him. Look, I want Bobby gone as much as anybody. I just want to get something out of the deal.”

Bobby Steel’s Camaro pulled into the studio’s parking lot at 9:15. He exited the car and flicked his cigarette away without bothering to see where it went. Bobby was 22, the same age as Claire, and wore the same red Member’s Only jacket with the sleeves pushed up to the elbows every day of the week. Equally consistent was Bobby’s facial expression, which as equal parts smirk and sneer. He ran his fingers through his John Oates poodle perm as he strutted toward the entrance to the building.

“Goddamn, Chad. It smells like the inside of your mother’s asshole in here,” Bobby said as he walked through the door.

“Yeah, we had some vandals break in here last night,” Chad said. “Bill must’ve left the door unlocked again. Long story short, he doesn’t work here anymore. I guess that makes me the new janitor. Grab a mop. We don’t have a lot of time before the Olympics dude arrives.”

“You expect me, Bobby Street, star breaker, to clean up other people’s shit.”

“Not as a full-time gig, but this is kind of an emergency. Claire is helping me out here. I sure could use your help as well.”

“I’m happy to help,” Claire said, happy to help.

“Claire is helping because she is your bitch. I am not your bitch. And if you think I’m going to break dance on a pile of shit,  you’ve got another thing coming.”

“So what are you going to do, just walk out of here?” Chad said.

“No, I’m going to moonwalk out of here,” Bobby said and started doing an impressive Michael Jackson moonwalk, backing away toward the door.

“I’ve seen a lot of guys like you, Bobby Street,” Chad said. “Always ready to quit when things don’t go your way.”

“Screw you,” said Bobby.

“No, screw you. You’re going to keep giving up until the world gives up on you. And you know what you’ll be then? A worthless bum and you’ll be known as ‘Bobby on the street.'”

Bobby gave Chad the finger and continued his moonwalk until he was out the door, never to return. In time Chad’s prediction would be proven correct except for one minor point. No one would call the former star break dancer “Bobby on the street.” They would call him Homeless Bob.

When the 10 o’clock hour approached, Chad sent Claire to stall the Olympics representative while he put the final touches on the cleanup job. The poo was piled up in one corner of the studio with a tarp covering it. Fans were set up at the front of the stage to blow the aroma of feces back away from the audience.

The only problem was the stage itself. Future poo is not like regular poo. In addition to its unsuitability as a fertilizer due to its lack of nutrients, its consistency makes it difficult to clean off most surfaces. You need a high-pressure hose to remove it completely. Chad’s and Claire’s mopping efforts only succeeded in spreading it like Vegemite, leaving a brown, oily layer on the stage.

“He’s here, Chad. Go ahead and start,” Claire called out from the audience.

It was too dark to see either her or the guy from the Olympics. Oh well, Chad thought, formal introductions would have to wait until later. He put on his musical accompaniment  (“Rappin’ Rodney”) and started his routine.

It began disastrously. His attempt at a one-armed handstand failed to gain traction on the slick stage floor and down he went. To avoid breaking his nose on impact, he windmilled his body around and came down hard on his hindquarters, bruising his coccyx. He tried to push himself up, his foot slid just as his hand did and down he went again.

“No respect, no respect,” blared from the speakers.

There was no winning against this kind of poo. A man from the future should know that. Still, Chad was not about to admit defeat. If future poo was going to make him slip and slide, then he was going to deliver the slippingest, slidingest breakdance routine in all creation.

Chad whipped his body around and managed something he never could before, a shoulder spin. With no friction on the floor, he was spinning like a goddamn top. To increase speed, he did the figure-skater move of drawing his arms and legs closer to his body and spent a full minute a whirling blur.

When he stopped, a slow 80s clap came from the audience.

“Thank you sir,” Chad said.

“That was me clapping, silly,” Claire said. “The Olympics guy couldn’t stand the smell so he left.”

Chad sat up and laughed because he had been such a fool. Of course he wouldn’t get chosen. He had watched a video of the closing ceremonies before he got sent back in time and he would have noticed if he was one of the dancers. Maybe you can’t change the course of history just by smearing shit on it, but maybe, just maybe, future poo’s keeping Chad and Bobby from stardom in 1984 and blowing up the Challenger in 1986 always were how it was supposed to be.

Somewhere in Steinbeck Country

Rebecca and I were in a rental car heading north on 101 through the Salinas Valley Sunday before last. We had gone down to San Luis Obispo the day before to have a pre-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving with my brother and his wife Mona. Mom was there too, at least as far as her current presence of mind would allow.

Rebecca was driving. She was a little rusty, having not driven a car for over three years, but she did fine. I would not have done fine. It had been 12 years since I had driven and I was never a good driver to begin with. My ego is fine with Rebecca being the better driver. I’m sure I’m better at something else, possibly a guy thing like pissing on a wall.

I used to travel this road fairly often back when my dad still lived in Paso Robles and back when my dad still lived. He died in 2000. I was married at the time and my then wife did most of the driving when his condition became terminal and I became a nervous wreck. She’s gone now too, not dead, just gone.

Rebecca fiddled with the radio dial. She was doing the driving so she got to pick the music. It made sense. This was not an agreement we negotiated, but rather one that occurred naturally because neither of us are total selfish assholes.

Satellite radio is largely alien to me. I did a fair amount of road trips in the 80s and 90s, and back then your options were limited to what was available on the local FM dial. I listened to a lot of country on those trips. The songs about drinking, adultery, and murder were pretty enjoyable, but the easy-listening-with-a-twang stuff bored me.

With satellite radio, you are less restricted by your current location. Having programing beamed down from Earth’s orbit does not ensure quality and this is not merely the opinion of a grumpy old man. Rebecca is a grumpy young woman and judging by the way she stayed tuned to a station for half a song on average, it was a reasonable guess that she agreed with me. We continued north with musical accompaniment a peppering of pop, hip hop, modern R&B, and an assortment of golden oldies.

Up ahead lay King City, known for being a speed trap as much as anything else. It’s a modern speed trap though with the CHP writing the tickets. If you’re looking to get pulled over by Buford T. Justice or his ilk, you’re in for a disappointment. It was our plan to stop there, preferably without the urging of law enforcement. King City had gasoline and caffeine. We had cash and urine. It was time to make a trade.

We exited the freeway at the south edge of town.  There was a Chevron station and food mart right when we got on 1st Street, but we decided to continue our search for more amenities. An In-N-Out Burger would be ideal. Rebecca had never been to one. While there are many of them in the Bay Area, the only one in SF proper is at Fisherman’s Wharf, a place to be avoided unless you enjoy being around tourists, yacht snobs, and frat douches.

We found no In-N-Out in King City. A later Google search would show there are none between San Luis Obispo and Salinas, which came as a surprise. I didn’t notice an In-N-Out when we stopped for coffee in Gonzales on the way, but we weren’t looking for one at the time. We planned to gorge ourselves on turkey later that day. With a Starbucks, a donut shop, a McDonald’s, and a Denny’s all within view, I just figured one would be lurking somewhere.

And if there wasn’t one in Gonzales, I had assumed there had to be one in Soledad. There’s a big truck stop there with parking spaces big enough for 18 wheelers. I ate at a McDonald’s there decades ago. It’s a relaxing place to eat knowing that the nonstop shankings and ass rapes at the nearby correctional facility was kept contained by armed guards and barbed wire.

The good news for Rebecca and me was that neither of us had our heart set on In-N-Out Burger. The bad news was that King City had very little else to offer. Flat, dusty, and low rent, it’s not the sort of place you move to if you have a whole lot of options. I’m sure the residents are decent, rural folk, neighborly to a fault. Rebecca is from a town in Georgia that’s much like King City though more humid. She knows what places like this are like, which made her adamant that we gas up the car and get back on the freeway as quickly as possible. It was the one time on our trip that what  was playing on the radio didn’t matter at all.

We pulled into a Shell station, which had neither more or less going for it than the Chevron station we saw earlier. I got out of the car and right before feeding my debit card into the pump, a wave of paranoia hit me.

What if it had one of those skimmers I’d heard about? Someone could steal my information then drain my checking account to buy whatever people shop for in King City. Huffable chemical solvents and Slim Jims was my guess. There was a green plastic thing in front of the slot you put your card in. Maybe that’s what a skimmer looked like. I batted at it with my hand, trying to knock it loose.

“What are you doing?” Rebecca asked.

“Making sure it isn’t a thing,” I said, blanking on the word “skimmer.” Brain farts like this usually hit me when I’m drunk and I usually laugh them off.

They’re less funny when I’m sober. A lot of things are, but this was particularly disconcerting because it reminded me of my mother’s confusion over lasagna the night before. She said it was Mexican food.

“I think it’s Italian,” Mona said, trying to be helpful.

“It’s certainly something Hispanic,” Mom said, doubling down. She certainly should have known the difference, having both made lasagna and traveled extensively in Italy. On the other hand, old age has a way of scrambling your type.

Maybe I was experiencing the beginning of my own decline at that gas pump, helpless against an imagined menace I had forgotten the name of. This didn’t seem all that far fetched considering I didn’t even trust myself to drive.

We were back on the road for a while when the Police song “Message in a Bottle” came on the radio. Rebecca was about to change the station, but I asked her not to. I don’t even like the song that much, but it was familiar to me. That was good enough.