Monday, July 10, 2017

Post Orgiastic Croatia Tour, My Embattled Friend Klaus Discovers That He Sucks

(Louisville, KY) August 20, 2010…
Two days after Klaus returned from his exchange program—a whole month in Croatia—he and I crossed paths at Jabootie’s. He looked vibrant as always, but he was half drunk… In truth, he’d been drunk for about thirty-two days.
Tossing a handful of kunas and other currencies on the table while opening his laptop, he insisted on showing me his travel pics. “You’re going to see a fine pair of tits,” he promised.
He was right. First was the image of his language teacher who he’d slept with most of the nights—a pert 27-year-old brunette. Then there was a shot of the two ounces of ganja he’d scored for a mind-boggling $60 USD. …The steppes of the Croatian landscape offered some dazzling scenic shots, including a succession of short waterfalls into lakes that were situated on varied levels of expansive bedrock—something like Nature’s inspiration for the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Klaus described these waterways as so unsullied that as his classmates rowed around in canoes, they dipped their Nalgene bottles in to scoop up and guzzle long pulls of fresh water in the summer sun…
Next was a photo of the Norwegian chick—Klaus’s second conquest—on the pebbly southern beach with her breasts exquisitely exposed to the sun, the sea, and a rabble of Euro dudes wearing Speedos. Even Klaus adopted the traveler’s approach on that beach, his bright smile gleaming above a red banana hammock. “When in Croatia...” we’d agreed… There were some photos of Klaus cooking with girls drunk on wine in a cramped kitchen—he was a cook at Jabootie’s after all. More than often, his culinary creations were laden with the grass he’d obtained for that absurdly low sum. He’d made palacinka, cevapcici, and even tried his hand at cooking up some lignje, which I understand is squid—all laced with marijuana. In just about every photograph, he was surrounded by women.
While there that month, along with smoking nearly all two ounces of weed with the girls, he’d managed to attend three rock concerts, snubbing his nose at the countless classical symphonies advertised on street marquees. He saw The Pixies, Modest Mouse, and Morrissey. This trip did not constitute the time of his life, because being young he had much life ahead of him… but obviously it was a rollicking, good fucking time.
Upon returning to the states, however, the sweet melody of his life struck a different chord. While on a stopover to visit friends in Chicago, he received a call from his mother who intimated that Grandpa had a somehow life-threatening urinary tract infection, that this man was venerably old and withered, and Klaus needed to come home pronto. “I’ll board a plane tomorrow, Ma,” he told her.
“Why not tonight, Klaus? You didn’t bother to call once in the past week! Did you even care about what was going on here? …You know, I don’t know you anymore.” 
I confessed to him that I’d heard my own mother utter the same thing somewhere in my late-twenties… and she got over it. It didn’t make it any easier for him, though, when an hour later his future ex-wife called. He and Jessica were in the divorce process. According to Klaus, she called just so she could tell him he’s a dick and he could go fuck himself. This meant he’d be going home to no actual residence—no home, no apartment, not even a garage with an oil-stained floor and a cot. And he hadn’t slept soundly in three days.
Whilst trudging through the Union Station Blue Line to catch a redeye from O’Hare, he discovered he’d been pick-pocketed.
“Son of a bitch!”
The missing cash was aggravating but the bigger pain-in-the-ass was the chore of recovering all the shit you have to keep in your wallet to prove you are who you are. At least his backpack still housed his boarding pass and some kind of ID.
It would only be fitting at this point for the airline to have lost his luggage… which they did. This airline had a kind of Fuck You policy about lost luggage. “Get on the damn plane, sit down, and shut up. We’ll find your fuck-ass luggage,” in Klaus’s words.
I have discovered firsthand that no matter how careful you are whilst globetrotting alone, sleepless, and strung out, such exorbitant Bacchanalia often yields nearly instant—and unfortunate—karma.
Back in town that morning, Klaus called his mother to enquire about Grandpa; he wanted to visit him as soon as he could, especially after hearing there was more than just urinary tract issues at hand: spinal problems, congestive heart failure, etcetera… He begged his mother for a ride to the nursing facility.
“No,” she said, “You can just walk your ass there.”
“Well… fuck!”
On the two-mile hike to the old-folks’ home, Klaus found a third of a pint of Jack Daniels in his backpack and started in on it. He noted that it was beginning to take on the gustatory character of water. So it was almost empty by the time he arrived; and of course by then he felt much better. After the visit with the old man—who inarguably looked like shit but who was not so bad off as his mother had portrayed, he got a call from Megan. Megan, a close friend. She wanted to meet him for coffee nearby, and java was something that might help edify the blood in his alcoholstream. He met her at Hymen Brothers and within ten minutes over his double espresso catching up with Megan, the future Ex (Jessica) called him again. This time her tone was more civil; she wanted to… meet him for coffee.
“Okay,” he told her. “I’ll be waiting for you at Hymen Bros.”
The interesting part to me about this tale was the fact that Jessica didn’t know Megan from Eve… Klaus and Jessica were only a couple of months out of separation… but all the better, because this way Megan could sit idly by, one table over, and serve as a kind of sentry to assess Jessica’s body language during what would certainly be a trying encounter for my exhausted friend, Klaus.
She arrived. “I want to talk to you about some things…”
“Yeah?” Out of habit he proposed they go to the Irish bar next door. “How about we talk about things over there. The coffee smell is making me feel ill.” (Megan told him later that Jessica appeared to be… peeved at this request.)
Within 22 minutes of being at O’Leary’s, Klaus had sucked down three Jack and Cokes. While Jessica was talking to him, he entered some new state of consciousness: He was literally sitting upright with his head tilted back and his eyes shut, and while she was pontificating on fidelity and betrayal, he was thinking of the Norwegian chick, sweat glistening on her cleavage in the East European sun…  His mind made leaps in the direction of horticultural farming…  And he was also wondering when he’d recover his luggage and where he’d do his goddamn laundry. Jessica sounded to him like “some bitch talking over the PA at the Department of Motor Vehicles”—all jumbled, irrelevant dissonance, like Charlie Brown’s teacher. In the midst of her spiel, Klaus planted himself on his feet and made for the restroom. Two steps out of the booth he emitted an explosion of vomit that coated the floor and a wall panel with dripping, curdled chunks of cevapcici and hydrochloric acid.
“Nice,” I told him. “Too bad you didn’t hit any bystanders.”
A few of the nearby O’Leary’s wenches (“hot bitches, all of them”) were aghast, and a chorus of phatic repulsion filled the area… along with the stench of fresh ralph. Klaus scurried on toward the bathroom to upchuck some more… While barfing in the sink, he turned to a guy pissing in the urinal next to him. “Dude,” he muttered, “There’s a Latino chick out there. Tell her we’re leaving.”
“OK. Whatever, man. I’ll do that.”
You’d think this would be the culmination of Klaus’s day—projectile vomiting in a pub—but it was actually only half-past noon. And somewhere between the old-folk’s home and the Irish pub, he’d accepted from his mother the charge of picking up a prescription for Grandpa. He viewed it as an opportunity for redemption, to evince the responsible nature his mom alleged he’d left in Europe. In spite of stepping politely around the bartender who was mopping up his puke, he felt like all was not lost.
The now mortified Jessica hustled him out of the bar. She remained civil and even sympathetic. She took him to Walgreen’s… but in the car, Jessica needed to dilate further on Klaus’s behavior, filial disintegration, the impending divorce… and “whatever the hell else it is women need to jabber about when they need ‘to talk’.” For a half hour, Klaus endured Jessica’s delicate inquisition while sitting shotgun in a parking lot on one of the hottest days in the summer, sweating, jetlagged, and nauseous. He suddenly interrupted her mid-sentence: “Hang on one second,” he said, turning to blow chunks again out the window.
Then the glorious and beautiful nurturing instincts residing in (most) women surfaced full-bore, compelling Jessica to coddle him and take measures to make him feel human again. She gave him bottled water, procured a damp cloth for his head, stroked his hair. “God you’re  a mess,” she declared.
His response of “No shit, Megan” wasn’t well-received—probably because “Thank you for taking care of me” was the reply Jessica would have preferred to hear. “Woops,” he added.
At this point Jessica shook off her kid gloves and booted him from her sedan, speeding off into the apocalyptic future. …Feeling tuberculotic, Klaus dragged himself, drenched in sweat, to Cherokee Park and fell down face-first, succumbing to a miniature coma on Dog Hill.
Five hours later he awoke, blistered by sunburn and covered in mosquito bites. It is surprising the Jack Daniels in his system didn’t serve as some sort of antigen to deflect the hungry bugs. Maybe it attracted them. This meant that his already-abject condition had graduated to a new level of misery. After scratching his sweaty skin long enough to draw blood, he called up Linnea—his closest friend in the area—who came to pick him up. While Klaus conveyed the events of his last… 768 hours… she cooked him up an omelet that was good enough to squelch the mild undercurrent of suicide ideation streaming through Klaus’s brain. And she also equipped him with some clothes…
Klaus needed shorts; the jeans he was wearing all day were soaked. So was his shirt. Linnea had to be at work by seven o’clock so she tossed him some garments and jumped in the shower. Klaus would wear anything as long as it kept him conscious in the stifling heat. The only shorts Linnea could find that would fit him were cutoff khakis with a gaping hole in the crotch.
“Why a hole in the crotch?” I asked, with one eyebrow raised, clenching my jaw.
“I dunno, she probably blasted a big queef and tore them open.”
Queef or no, before she left for work, Linnea took the time to sew up the hole so Klaus’s dick wouldn’t hang out… Naturally, he had to wear the same hiking boots he’d been wearing in Europe, except the socks Linnea provided were bright white, stenciled with a bold Jolly Rogers pattern. To top it off, she gave him a women’s shirt with super-short sleeves that strained to contain his biceps. It was black, truncated below the ribs so that Klaus’s midriff was showing, and the white print on the front spelled out FEAR AND BITCH STICKS, displaying a plate of deep-fried cod next to a frothy pint…
Being late for work, Linnea couldn’t take him in the opposite direction of her job so Klaus found himself walking once more to the nursing home. Now with the Midwestern sun still high, Klaus noticed his legs were bluish in tint. At first he was startled. Had he contracted some strange VD in Croatia? Did Jessica poison him with her bottled water? Was he having a massive coronary?  But on close inspection he realized this affliction was merely a gross discoloration caused by the jeans he’d passed out in at the park. The cloying July humidity (coupled with his deranged biochemistry) imparted his pants with zero color-safe integrity. The jeans’ denim dye had bled into his skin like tattoo ink.
“Oh… fffuck,” he sighed, trudging south.
The faces of drivers passing him on Limestone Avenue reflected the appropriately twisted image of this sun-scorched man in his twenties wearing a cutoff women’s shirt, khaki shorts, and pirate-themed socks rising out of hiking boots—with blue legs.
By nearly sundown, Klaus arrived at the nursing home. The doors were locked—visiting hours over. They couldn’t have the coffin-dodgers spilling out into the night air, after all.
Klaus slept on a park bench outside the home, flat on his back. He’d managed not to drown himself in puke, which was one milestone worth mentioning. Moreover, he stated, “When I woke up, I was shocked I hadn’t been arrested.”
“You mean by the Fashion Police?” I joked.
“No,” he said. “Because I’d fallen asleep with the weed pipe I bought in Vodice hanging out of my mouth, and it was packed full.”
At 9am, the unsympathetic nursing staff opened the door. Maybe Grandpa would have some wise words for him, or maybe he had croaked overnight since Klaus hadn’t delivered the Rx on time. Ideally, the old man would be fine, and he would inform Klaus that he looked like a schizoid drifter. He entered the home, breathed in the mixture of urine and Lysol, and made his way down the hall…

Sunday, July 9, 2017


Last night’s suck-downs
are killing me.
Triple Sec and Crème D’Mente.
Drink shadows
cause shivers now.
Long before I’m done being a person-
shaped turd, guilt comes.
The autumn sky is deeper red.

3AM, after tenth Blue Hawaiian
I blacked out; I
did stuff.
Not sure what.
Woke up with hair in my teeth,
shoulder gashed.
Last night was Halloween.

I do not believe in the occult.
People gore skull-head pins
through clits,
shove pumice up their ass,
quaff blood,
hack kittens with rust, rest guts
under pillows—
call themselves Evil.
Then they bag groceries,
polite-like, and Have A Nice Day.

But we all fester in the dark.
fucking in candleglow.
We sicken ourselves
in private.

Must apologize to her. Don’t know
whose hair was in my teeth.
Also sex wash
on my sheets. Yet I am certain
in our breathy blackness,
no one else around. No devil bedeviling
me. No angels dive
to save the girl
from my tricky pulls,
slippery claws.
She must hate the way spit reeks,
vanished with the damning dawn.

I am in pain. Had to tell someone.
Need succor, maybe even sympathy.
Gonna collapse or something.
Had to tell you.
Nobody’s going to Hell.

—November 1995

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Some Things Come From Nothing; Nothing Seems To Come From Something…

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       Elaine’s event on Saturday was in Lexington. The best part about it was all this leftover food we had—moreover, what we did with it. Her fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was a 5K walk/run starting at Lexington’s Town Square and circling back. Papa John’s and White Castle delivered to us gads of what any nutrition-conscious person would regard as noxious garbage, but people expect something to gobble down after giving you money and then expending calories on a jaunt through town. Some volunteers additionally supplied groceries. So even after the feeding frenzy, we almost had more than we could pack into Elaine’s car to take away.
A few volunteers made suggestions. Should we take it to the Salvation Army place down on Providence? We weren’t familiar with the area. What about the Hope Center on the corner of Destitution and Abject Poverty Street? One of these would be the case, we decided, but while tending to the clean-up duties, a better solution presented itself. 
A six-foot-four black guy walked up. On his rangy green baseball cap, the name BUCK was scrawled in permanent marker, faded by sun and time. The man was large, and very slow. Slow moving, slow thinking, slow eyes—one of them cocked independently toward the Hall of Justice. Immediately I wanted to give him anything he could use.
“You hungry?” I asked him. “Take a pizza. A whole pizza. It’s yours.”
He picked up a Papa John’s box with the caution of a man who doesn’t speak the native tongue, as if wary that the box might house an IED. One of his eyes was on me and one was on the pizza. This is too easy, he was thinking…
Sometimes it was that easy—as a good number of homeless denizens in downtown Lexington came to learn that morning. Before we knew it, the volunteers—white people with money to donate even during the ominous scourge of this recession—had mostly cleared out, and the plaza was replaced with men in threadbare clothes and shoes, a few on bikes, most with backpacks, one with a hernia that prohibited him from carrying away a loaf of bagels. But all had sunny attitudes. It was remarkable how quickly word spread among them—a population who doesn’t rely on Facebook or Twitter. A population whose members takes care of its own in the same way our Depression-era grandparents did. By talking to each other, by pointing discretely and asking politely. A population that most of our society disparages without so much as acknowledging their presence.
As we worked, we watched the pizzas and burgers disappear with haste. Yet none of these men—“Porkchop,” “Buck,” “Charles,” “Trubbs”—none of them ate more than they needed, but took at our insistence what they could carry. It was clear that some of what they carried off, they were taking to friends. In all, there were at least two dozen who enjoyed the spoils of our unwitting corporate sponsors.
A man named Greg pointed to his tattered shoes. “Do you know where I could get a newer pair?”
I paused and considered taking off my $160 Vasque hiking boots, right then and there. It wouldn’t have killed me to give them to him. They were extremely comfortable; I’d broken them in on Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon. But Greg said those kinds of boots wouldn’t be suitable for his (equally tattered) bike. My conscience was off the hook.
Home that evening by 6pm… On the back sidewalk of my apartment a baby bird lay on the edge of the step, dead. Dead-looking but not really dead because I blew on it and it moved. I knew what had happened… My conscientious landlord ordered a roofer to check out the leak that incessantly pervaded the corner of my bathroom ceiling. Not an issue for me—just discoloration and scary black mold that could prove problematic for future occupants… But surely this baby bird laying on my step had fallen thirty-plus feet from the gutter—and I believe deeply that if our roofer were there to bear witness he’d initially express the same grief… In that line of work, though, I suppose you expect some incidental casualties—such as the occasional human falling off a roof… 
No less, here was a baby bird, not yet developed enough to fly… just days in growth beyond the fuzziness that comes with hatchlings. His bright yellow bill was the most striking part. If you can envision a really listless Daffy Duck, that’s what his bill was like. Disproportionately big, yellow, frowning and smiling at the same time.
I fetched a Kleenex box and ripped off the top, leaving a small stack of tissues inside. I used an index card to carefully scoop this fledgling into our makeshift triage. (I’d grown up with the notion that you can’t touch a baby bird because its mother will never reclaim it once it’s sullied by your corruptive human scent.)
Atop the tissue, we’d put some grass clippings in the bottom of the box. Green, fresh springtime bluegrass. And the best we could come up with in the way of nurturing this creature was Elaine’s idea: “Let’s give him the yolk,” she said.
So we did. I had some free-range/cage-free eggs hardboiled, the brown kind with twice the flavor for three times the price… The idea was to feed this baby bird although I predicted no chance in hell he’d eat in that condition. This was the only option we saw for nutrients, and although it didn’t seem weird to me at all at the time, we were going to feed it the thing that it had been just a few weeks before, essentially.
Elaine wanted to touch him, to pet his pitiful head or body thinking this might comfort him or something. She kept insisting and I kept telling her no until I had to raise my voice to emphasize that our meager human germs could exacerbate the painful fate of this creature. And we couldn’t touch the yolk either. I dribbled some reverse osmosis water onto a pea-sized bit of yolk on a spoon. The RO water wouldn’t have any chlorine or fluoride in it—or any other poisons—so this was certainly the best we could do. I put the concoction right before his little beak and, to our astonishment, he started in on it right away. He could barely lift his head to suck at the yellowish goo, but he didn’t really need to. I think more than anything he was thirsty so he suckled at it until I put another glob right next to it, within beak-shot.
As we watched him suck this stuff up, I felt the chilling surge of hope that comes with watching an entity overcome insurmountable odds. It could be a friend conquering lymphoma, or your favorite team making an historic comeback. The quiet strength of a hero in a really good movie, putting things right. Disarming words uttered by anyone you believe in. A broken baby bird coming back to life…
We were happy enough with this to let him be and go meet up with our friends at Molly Malone’s as planned—we were late already. I put the Kleenex box in the bathroom where the open window could sweep in an out-of-doors-like breeze, and pulled the door shut so my cats wouldn’t go in there and massacre the poor thing. I figured at least he could die here in some comfort—out of the high wind, off the abrasive concrete where I’d found him, and no longer dying of thirst… Yet a stubborn part of me wanted to come home later and find him standing on both legs.
When we arrived several hours later he lay with his neck stretched out, his tiny gunmetal eyes half shut. Suffering no more. His beak was still bright yellow.
There is a stain on my bathroom ceiling…