Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Great Jazzfest Storm


“I swear, Jazzfest is the only festival where everything is exactly the same every year.”


These are my fateful words, as my girlfriend and I cross under the iconic Jazzfest banner that greets all the festival goers as they make their entrance into the land of Jazz (and of course when I say Land of Jazz, I really mean land of all kinds of music except for jazz, aside from that one tent on the far end). 
Of course, my fateful words are more referring to the fact that every section of Jazzfest, whether it be the location of portapotties, food stands, art tents, or, of course, stages, remain in the exact same spot year after year after year. In my experience, it seems that with each new year, other festivals mix it up at least a little, sometimes a lot (looking at you, FunFunFun fest), but Jazzfest has used the same old template every year, in an attempt to stick to the unofficial motto of New Orleans: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (and if it is broke, wait until it’s even more broke before you get around to fixing it).
Now, let it be known, I'm not exactly saying this as a complaint, but more as an unsurprised acknowledgment that our experience this year at the festival would no doubt be nearly identical to the experience last year, aside from the actual performances on stage.
Well, the Festival God’s must have heard me, and they must have taken it as a challenge, because this day ends up being a lot different from any jazzfest experience (or any festival experience, period) I’ve ever had.
Not that there aren’t hints before this that something big might be coming our way. The weather above us at the time is strictly overcast, with some gray clouds looking a lot darker than others. And the forecast did reveal that a big storm is lurking just east of us. But at that time all indications are that the storm is going to go up and over us. And by indications, I mean I overhear several people claiming that the weather had been like this (overcast, not raining) for the past four hours. Or, as a beer vendor exclaimed to a girl worried about rain; “Hey lady, it’s been lookin’ like it’s gonna rain for four hours now! But we’ve been drinking for four hours and nothing has happened! So just keep gettin beer and we’ll all be fine!” (So maybe it was that girl’s fault)...
In any case, our confidence that the weather would remain in our favor only grew stronger as Arty (my girl) and I met up with some friends at one of the main stages. In one of those classic “I found you in a crowd of thousands!” we embrace in hugs and laughter and dancing. Everything feels so perfect we just know we are going to be fine. How could go things go sour when they feel so right?? At this point, I might have even givin' the gray sky a taunting middle finger (did I mention we snuck a flask into the festival and I also enjoyed a number of daiquiris?)
Things were still looking good about an hour later when we left our friends at the main stage and headed all the way over to that small nook in the festival where the actual jazz was being performed at the jazz festival. We travel there to meet some of Arty’s middle aged co-workers.  
Walking into the tent kind of felt like walking into a different dimension of festival. One where people don’t scream and dance to the music being played, but sit obediently in chairs and clap politely at the end of instrument solos. We find Arty’s middle aged coworkers doing exactly this, and take seats next to them and acted accordingly. It's a nice, restful break.
Little did I know that this would be the last moment of peace and tranquility I will get until hours and hours later, when I am back home in a bathtub soaking my weatherworn body. But all I know now is after a good twenty minutes of rest, I am ready for some more excitement. I nudged Arty and gave her a “let’s go have some fun” look, she returned the look, and we excuse ourselves from the jazzlovers and went back out to the craziness.
Now up until this point, there has been something I haven’t been telling you, because frankly up until this point it wasn’t relevant. But it’s relevant now. Because right now, as we walk out of the tent, I see someone carrying a container of boiled crawfish, and immediately I realize I want crawfish. This is a bit of an issue because what I haven’t told you yet is that my girlfriend is a hardcore vegetarian. The idea of eating meat is repulsive to her. The idea of her boyfriend eating crawfish… well, let me just share a conversation with you that took place earlier that day, before we left for the festival.


Me: Honey, I want you to know, I fully intend to eat crawfish while at the festival.
Her (makes a face like I just farted a really bad fart): You mean, you’re going to crack open those dead carcasses and shove their rotting meat in your mouth?!
Me: Yes. That’s exactly right. And I’m going to love every second of it.
Her: Fine. But I won’t be around you when you do it.
Me: Yes, I would prefer that too…


So as you can see, an agreement had been made earlier where we would break away from one another and meet again after some terrific shell-cracking and delicious head-sucking (sorry honey). I felt this was the right time to capitalize on that agreement. So I suggest this to her, and with only a small tone of disapproval in her voice, she agrees and tells me to find her at the Congo Square stage afterwards, where Big Freeda would be playing.
So we separate. She heads off to see a large woman with an amazing voice, and I go off to enjoy small crustaceans with amazing taste. I can only assume she has as much fun as I did. I can also assume the less said about the next twenty minutes, the better off I’ll be. So I’ll only add that this moment set up a disturbing trend that would continue into the day. Every time we separate, the weather gets worse.
For before we separate, I had not felt a single drop of rain fall upon me. But once we are separated, I felt the first, second, third, and like, thousandth, drop hit me. For the weather turns from dry but overcast, to drizzling but overcast, to flat out raining. By the time I had finished my meal, it was pouring. And the wind was picking up, causing the occasional droplet to slap me across the face.
Is this new development due to our separation? To the fact that I had devoured helpless shellfish with great gusto? Who’s to say. But at this time, it really didn’t matter. For we are now about to enter the (short) time of the day when nature’s fury perfectly coincides with the beauty of music and the wonder of twerking, creating an atmosphere that can only be known as soaked revelry. For as I make my way through the crowd of Congo Square, trying to find my girl, I realize the people around me have transformed into rain dancing freaks. And that’s exactly what I want to be too. But first, I have to find my girl.
When I finally do, Big Freeda is performing Purple Rain, and everyone is losing their minds. OH MY GOD PRINCE! OH MY GOD THE SONG IS CALLED PURPLE RAIN AND IT’S RAINING RIGHT NOW! IT WORKS ON SO MANY LEVELS!!!!!!!!!!
But please do not think I am mocking these people, for my girl and I were dancing just as wildly, under the heavily leaking clouds in the sky, with the rest of the soaked revelers.
And then after Purple Rain, a twerk session began onstage where audience members are allowed to jump up and do that thing I can’t, and will never be able to, do.  Of course, those left on the ground followed in suit, and I find myself in a twerking, storming madhouse. And It's beautiful.

Fifteen minutes later, Big Freeda’s show ends, and I find out me and my girl must depart once again. For she has to meet a friend at the one small tent over yonder where they sell books, and I have to do anything but that. But she understands, and we come up with a meeting spot to go to in twenty minutes. And then we say goodbye. Little do I know that it will take less than twenty minutes for this weather to turn this entire festival on its head, before slicing the head clean off.
The first five minutes after we depart go great. I randomly bump into a friend of a friend who, due to the whole “I’m meeting someone I vaguely know in some random context!!” thing, becomes my best friend for five minutes, and we hug and laugh and share stories of falling in mud, which now seem hilarious. I end this joyous reunion when I realize that after so many daiquiris, beers and one bottle of water, I need to pee real bad.  So I excuse myself and run off to the nearest row of portapotties. Unfortunately, once I get there, I find the lines are absurdly long to get in (20 people per toilet!), and I curse Jazzfest for it’s a lack of consideration for its paying customers. Then I decide to pay it back by urinating in some place where urine doesn’t necessarily belong. I don’t know exactly where to go, but I do have a foggy memory of being in this same position last year and finding  a collection of trees on the far end of the festival that saved my bladder.
With this heavy rain, I wager pretty heavily that the odds are own my side that I won’t be caught. There are only two types of people out in the festival now, those we are seeking shelter from the rain, and those who have taken a “fuck it, I’m going bask in this all day with no breaks in between”. Neither of those people are focused on anything but focusing on their task at hand, hell I could probably change into my birthday suit and take a deuce at the entrance and get away with it. But I don’t. Instead I run off to find some privacy. The pain below my stomach is getting worse, and I barely notice as each step I take through the mud and puddles drenches my shoes and socks.
Soon after, I find my salvation. And once I have, I scan the festival in front of me and come to a thought that I’m sure most of the attendees had reached at some time that day, “Jesus, this is getting really bad.” For at this point, not only was the rain falling like crazy, but the wind was picking up stronger than ever. I hadn’t noticed it before, I was so focused on peeing, but somewhere in the last ten minutes the wind had gone from a not-so-gentle push, to a straight punch to the body. I could see old people getting knocked off the walkways, little kids holding onto their parents legs for dear life. It was as if the wind wanted the rain to know that it was the real beast of the storm. And then, as if to show both of them who the real king was, a bolt of lightning crashed no more than 200 yards from the festival, immediately followed by deafening thunder.
And this is where shit got real.
Before this, people were scurrying around in a semi-safe and courteous manner. Now they were running with abandon. Where were they hoping to go? Most of the obvious shelter was full by now. And besides, a lot of them didn’t look like they are heading off to somewhere in particular, they just wanted to get out of the now. The now, where the wind and rain was beating them to a pulp. Who knows where they would end up.
Of course, this isn’t everybody. Some people- fewer than before- seemed unfazed by the whole thing. Just a little rain and lightning, what’s the big deal?
As for myself, I am somewhere in the middle. I'm not unphased but I am not panicking either. No, I am one of the odd birds that is loving the whole mess. See, the thing about me is I’ve always had this odd attraction to chaos and nasty surprises. I get all tingly and excited, waiting with bated breath to see what’s gonna happen next.
So there I am, skipping around the muddy festival grounds, loving the insanity forming around me, when I find a huge oak tree that is serving as mediocre shelter for about a dozen people. I go to them and greet them with friendly words of bewilderment.
“Can you believe this?!”
“I guess that storm aint gonna miss us after all!!!”
Some people respond with similar sentiments and affection, while others look away, as if a man so exuberant over such conditions sickens them. Story of my life.
One older man approaches me under the oak tree holding up an umbrella. He greets me with his own big smile and tells me he’s been providing brief shelter to those in need, doing his part, you know? This gives me an idea. It’s been raining so hard that I literally haven’t been able to look at my phone, but with this umbrella I could take it out and see the whereabouts of Arty, who I have a strong feeling isn’t enjoying this weather as much as me. So with the help of the older man and his rain blocker, I take out my phone with full intention of using it to find my girl. But then I see I have one new text. Not from her, but from my friend’s Emily and David. I had heard earlier they would be at the Fest so I had texted them hours ago to find their whereabouts. This new text was from them, telling me they are in the kid’s tent (David is a juggling instructor, among other things.)
The kid’s tent??!! That’s so close to where I am! I check to see when the text was sent, and frown when I realize it was 30 minutes ago. I pray they are still there and run out from the oak tree just as another huge yellow bolt of lightning crashes in the background.
I arrive at the kid’s tent to find it full with a lot of adults, and a few kids, but no David or Emily. I ask the security guards that are guarding backstage if a David or Emily are back there, but they only look back at me dumbly. The ground under the tent as turned into complete mud. Kids are crying. Mothers are shrieking. I start to realize this is nowhere to be during such a clossal storm. As if to confirm this, the rain picks up, spewing down on the outside of the tent with awesome force. The loud, unending sound of the water smacking the tent makes things even more uneasy inside. And then another mighty flash of lightning seeps in through the tent followed by a gutwrenching crash of thunder, and the kids around me cry even harder. That's when I come to a serious realization. In these kinds of conditions, they might stop selling daiquiris soon. So I run out into the mud slop in hopes of getting one more sugary drink before this storm finishes us off.
Once out of the tent, it doesn’t take me long to realize that in the few minutes I was under that tent, the world outside had changed. Puddles have turned into lakes. Mud pits have turned into mass graves for loose shoes. People had taken cover whenever they could, I see twenty of em cramming together under a tiny gazebo, and I laugh at them, not knowing that a similar fate awaited me in the near future.
But before that, I get my daiquari. Oh yes. A rum punch daiquari to be exact, and it was heavenly. Perhaps the fact that I was currently living in a watery hell made it seem so, but I still believe that was one of the best damn diaquaris I’ve ever had in my life. I also believe I’ve never worked harder to get said daiquari, as the simple task of taking out my wallet and handing over a ten dollar bill was far more harrowing than it had any right to be. But the lady vendor hiding in her own hut thanked me kindly regardless, and for a brief second I considered hopping over the barricade that separated her and I and living out the rest of this storm in sweet daiquari heaven. But then another flash of lightning and crash of thunder shook the ground, and I find myself simply running away, drink in hand, looking for refuge. 
More lightning cracks, more thunder crashs. 
I continue to run. Along the way I hear a noise that I can’t believe. Music. Yes, music coming from one of the smaller stages. Impossible, I think. Not with all the dangerous weather around us.
Not believing my ears I headed to the stage in question, where I do indeed find a small group around the stage, and a band on it. Just as I get somewhat close to the stage, I hear the music stop and the singer scream into the microphone: “SEEK SHELTER! THERE IS LIGHTNING EVERYWHERE! STAY SAFE! STAY SAFE! STAY SAFE!”
At that, the last remaining hold outs of music lovers took flight, dispersing into the muddy chaos all around us. The wind was really kicking my ass at this point, and I was worried all the rain getting into my drink was diluting the punch of my rum. So once again, I sought shelter. The closest structure around me that resembled shelter was this grass hut that had no walls and only a tent flap on one side. It reminded me something you might see in a Vietnam War movie. In any case, it's packed with people, but I think I see one square feet of space on the edge of the hut, so I hurl myself into the people and grabbed one  of the above wooden poles for dear life.
“Can you believe this shit!!??” I scream at my new friends. Nobody really answers me, but I have a feeling that they don’t. They especially couldn’t believe it when the wind picks up and begins to lift the poles of the hut right out of the ground. Frantically, everyone uses all their weight to keep the hut from flying off. In the middle of this, inspiration hit me, and I screamed to my new friends:
“COME ON GUYS! THIS IS WHAT WE’VE BEEN TRAINING FOR!”
I’m not bragging (well, I kinda am) when I say that this got a huge laugh. Like Chris Rock at Madison Square Garden laugh. It's pretty sweet.
Anyway, it was under this grass hut where I spend the remainder of the storm, which can’t decide whether it's moving on or not. Sometimes it seems like it's fading away, only for it to come roaring back to full capacity moments later. I keep the people around me entertained during this though, by sharing ghost stories I know by heart from my tour. Admittedly, it wasn’t the best renditions of my stories, as I am constantly being shouted down by the weather, or by someone screaming about something in their eye. But in the end, the group seem appreciative to what I have brought to the hut.
Now, I know I said that I stayed in the hut for the remainder of the storm, but now I’m realizing that’s not true, as I actually left after awhile, because I've grown tired of standing up. I’ve never been a big fan of standing up and even the enjoyment I receive from a terrible storm won’t make me forget that. So I bid my new friends adieu and head to the area where that kid’s tent had been. I fall a few times in some puddles, but eventually make my way there, and then promptly learn that it's been entirely vacated. The storm must have gobbled up the kids and their parents, because they were no longer there. There were, however, a good number of chairs that were now empty, so I took advantage of that immediately.
I only get a brief moment of peace before a woman sticks here head in the tent and shouts:
"Why are you still in here! Haven't you heard?! Jazzfest has been cancelled!"
Cancelled? Damn. No Stevie Wonder? No Beck?? No Snoop??? My heart becomes a soggy, sad mess as I realize I have to leave. But then the thought of leaving makes me realize that I have totally forgot about finding Arty. Oh God. This is going to be bad...
I slowly, fearfully, pull out my phone, only to find 17 new text messages waiting for me.


WHERE ARE YOU!?
HOW COME YOU DIDN’T MEET US AT OUR SPOT!!??
I’M SOAKED!!
YOU BETTER BE COMING TO FIND ME!!!
WHERE ARE YOU????


I will spare you the rest of the messages, but just know that things were not looking good for me at the moment. Even if I did survive this storm of rain and lightning, I would most likely be killed later by the storm that was my pissed off girlfriend. So, having no clue as to how to explain the past half hour with a text message, I decide instead to finish my Rum Punch. And it was delicious. And that’s really what I feel you guys should be taking from this whole story, Rum Punches are delicious. Oh and if you’re girlfriend doesn’t share your enthusiasm for totally ridiculous storms, maybe make it a priority to find her and comfort her. She would like that.

THE END

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How I (almost) Crippled a Tourist

It's not easy being a French Quarter ghost tour guide. I wouldn't go so far as to call it difficult either. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is, actually. I've tried many times to do so on paper, to no avail. But I will say this, if you're a writer and you're not a ghost tour guide, you're a jackass of the highest form. Where do you think all the good stories come from? Being a banker? A hooker? Pssh. You have no idea. In my one year of ghost tour guiding alone I've experienced moments of absolute hilarity, tragedy and madness, and everything in between.
    
But we're not here for a big expo on what it's like to be a ghost tour guide, that may come later if this goes well, along with other crazy stories, right now I just want to sit you down and tell you a quick story about how I once found myself at the mercy of an injured and rather hysterical tourist. Enjoy! 


My first day as a tour guide was on Halloween night. As you can imagine, that was a night of decadent insanity. The quarter was filled to the brim with demons and degenerates and all of them seemed to be looking for ghosts. Not a bad day to be a paranormal tour guide. I must have walked away that night with both my front pants pockets and back pants pockets stuffed with tips. I remember thinking at the time that this new profession of mine was going to be just fine for me and my bank account.

So imagine my surprise the day after the devil's night when I discovered that the quarter had pumped out all the degenerates and had become something of ghost town (no pun intended). I asked one of my supervisors where everyone had gone, and he told me that the end of October marks the beginning of the period that tour guides call the dead season (not sure if pun is intended). He put a hand on my shoulder and told me not to expect any tours for a while.

And he was right, of course. I didn't get any tours for weeks on end. Instead, I got a sign. A big, black sign with spooky white font that proclaimed to all that read it that there were ghosts in the quarter and if they wanted to find them they had to come to us. Since I was the new guy it was up to me to stand in the street and hold that sign while the more experienced tour guides were given the few groups of tourists that showed up.

This was a humbling time in my life. But I soon became even more humbled when the cops came up to us one day, lights ablazing, and took away my sign. You see, it turns out it's illegal to hold up a sign in the quarter. Guzzling gallons of bourbon on the street and then puking it back up into the gutter is perfectly legal, but you have to be one brazen criminal to try to pull some sign holding shit.

So now my one job had been shut down by the fuzz. Now what? Luckily, the owner came up with a brilliant legal loophole to get out of this little problem. He learned that while it's illegal to hold a sign in the quarter, it's not illegal for a sign to be standing on it's own. And so the next day I found that an umbrella stand had taken my job (actually, not only did it take over my job, but it was much better at the job than I ever was. It's hard to admit when you've been outmatched by an umbrella stand, but sometimes that's just how life goes...) But my boss told me not to worry, for while my days of sign-holding might be over, my days of sign-watching were just beginning.

"Just stand by the sign and make sure it doesn't fall down from the wind or some drunken tourist." He told me, before adding. "And remember, don't actually grab it unless you absolutely have to."

And so those are how my days went for awhile, coming to work and watching a sign until the end of the night, where I then had to drag the stand and the sign back to the company closet that was located right off the sidewalk, in between a voodoo shop and a tavern.

Good times.

And now we come to where the trouble begins. For it was on one fatal night in early December, when it was cold and windy and I was ready to go home and it was the end of my shift, that I carried the sign and the stand down the sidewalk over to the closet. I was in a foul mood that day for reasons I can't recall, and my foulness soon took aim at the stand itself, which was rather heavy and cumbersome to carry. So when I reached the closet door I dropped the stand to the ground with an angry grunt and then fumbled in my pocket for the keys. Once I successfully opened the closet door, I walked in with the sign, leaving the stand right there on the sidewalk, hoping that maybe if I turned my back from it, the lousy job-stealer would disappear.

Instead, something bad happened.

It all started with the sound of a metallic thud. Followed by the sound of a loud, annoying cry. And then, three words shot out into the air that will likely haunt me for years to come.

"My leg! Oooh!"

I suppose that's more like two words and a moan, but in any case, it soon became the chant of the wounded that night.

"My leg! Oooh!"

If I had been smart, I would have slammed the closet door shut and barricaded myself inside, not leaving until all moaning had ceased. But instead, I hurried back out to the street to see what the fuss was all about. Not that I didn't know already, deep in my heart, but part of me was praying that something else, other than the obvious, had happened.

No such luck. For as I left the closet I found a rather large woman who appeared to be in her fifties, rolling on her ground holding her leg, and right next to her was the cursed umbrella stand.

"What on earth happened, Debra?!"

In an instant, two women of the same age but of slimmer build, encircled her. They appeared to be her friends.

"My leg! Ooh!"

"Yes, we get it, your leg! What happened?" One of the friends said in a tone that sounded far more annoyed than concerned. I found this to be odd, but I was far too panic-stricken to really do anything with this information.

For the sake of candor, I don't mind telling you that I wasn't quite in my right mind at this time. I had already been in a sour, tired mood before all this, and adding terror to the concoction did not help. Yes, I said terror. In that moment I was terrified. I mean good god, this seemed to be the end of everything. If this old bat complained to my company that one of their employees' actions had caused her harm... well, that was it, I was done for. And what if she sued? Dear God, what if she made a huge deal out of this and went after the company's money? Or my money? That'd be no good at all. I had very little of the stuff but what I had I very much needed.

"My leg! Ooh! It hurts!"

I tried to push the terror away and see things clearly. I looked at this injured woman on the ground and tried to assess the kind of person she was. When you deal with tourists all the time, you develop a skill for sizing them up just by appearance. So I looked at her to see if she was the kind of person not to let things go lightly, the type of person who demanded to see the manager even for the slightest of reasons?

I looked at her round red face that was scrunched up in what seemed to be a well-rehearsed expression of pain. I looked at her clothes and saw an outfit that seemed more suited for a church or a PTA meeting in the midwest than a night on Bourbon Street. And I listened to that moan of hers, that moan that suggested that she was in more pain than anyone in the entire world had ever faced before.

Dear God, I thought as I felt the cold hand of death grip my heart, this woman is the personification of a jesus fish. I was a dead man. Again my thoughts turned to barricading myself in the closet. That wouldn't be such a bad life. Sure it would be a bit cramped, but at least I could avoid the wrath of this large, miserable moaner. 

"Look, can't you just try to get up, Debra? I'm sure it's not that bad. You just walked into something, how bad could it be?"

"It's bad! My leg is done for!" She looked at me as she said this. Before this, none of them had actually acknowledged my existence, I was just kind of standing there like a concerned turd. But now she had brought me in. I should have ran when I had the chance. 

"We have five minutes it to make it to the bar. We don't have time for this, Debra. Just get up and let's go."

The moaner looked hurt by this, and again I could see that this friend group was not based on equality. Debra was clearly the lowest on the totem pole. At any other time I would have felt sorry for her, but at that moment I was two pom-poms short of cheerleading this decision to ignore this woman's pain.

"OK, fine, Marcy! You want me to try to get up! Fine, I'll try!"

And with that, the large moaner left the ground, with the help of her two friends, and tested out her injured limb. The three of us, her two friends and me, waited with absolute bated breath to see if this would lead to another bout of floor rolling and caterwauling. But instead, the moaner put some weight on her leg, then cautiously took a step with it, then another, and then another. And then, as if by some miracle of god, without even looking back or talking to her friends, she casually walked right down the street as if nothing had happened. Her friends scurried after her while I hightailed it in the other direction... before quickly returning so I could put that blasted stand back in the closet, but not before cursing that umbrella stand for being a coward, hurting an innocent woman for no reason at all. And then I left it there to think about what it had done while I grabbed a drink at the local tour guide watering hole, listening to war stories from the other guides while keeping my mouth shut about any moaners or their friends I might have come across that night...

And that's my story of a quiet night in the quarter.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Witness Me!: Tales and Ramblings From a Semi-Spontaneous and Wholly Irresponsible Road Trip - Part 1


I had been driving for four straight hours before I decided I needed a rest. There’s only so much Red Bull you can drink before you start to feel like you’re going crazy. The drive up until then had been relatively uneventful, the only surprises I had had were when I drove past a sign that read “Welcome to Mississippi” and then a few hours later I drove past another sign that read “Welcome to Alabama”. I had thought that the drive up to Nashville was a straight shot from Louisiana directly to Tennessee, that should give you an idea of the kind of planning that went into this trip.

But that was kind of the whole point of this trip. I just wanted to drive. I wanted to drive through beautiful country and go to places I hadn’t been before. This was not a trip about planning. It was a trip about doing. I wanted to do something. Something a little wild, a little crazy. So I took a month off of work from both my jobs and did just that. There was a great deal of trepidation doing this. After all, we all need to make money, right?

There was a movie I had in my head that kind of served as the theme of this trip. You can probably guess it by the title, the movie was Mad Max: Fury Road. Of course, there are some big differences between what I'm doing and what Max did in that movie. Like for instance, I'm not trying to save a bunch of sex slaves from a fascist dictator and his car gang of cronies. Well... maybe I am if we think of the sex slaves as a metaphor for my freedom and expiring youth and the fascist dictator as the system in place trying to grind me down to a nub and destroy my individuality. Oooh, I like that. Let's go with that. 



In any case, I was grateful for the rest stop I came across somewhere in Northern Alabama. Not just because it gave me a chance to stretch my limbs and click my joints, but also because it was just so beautiful. Seriously. It may have been one of the most attractive rest stops I’ve ever seen. It had this huge lawn of thick luscious grass that was obviously well kept. And in this grass there were these giant pinewood trees peppered throughout. It all looked so nice that even though I still had another four hours at least of driving ahead of me, I decided I would get out my notebook, take a seat at one of the idyllic picnic tables, and write a page or two. A writer's got to write when he feels inspired. That's rule one right there. 

I didn’t want to be around anyone, it’s no fun to write when you can be bothered by other people’s conversations, so when I saw the family at the table nearest to me I walked past them, headed towards a picnic table at the far end of the lawn, which was wholly vacant.  But then that nearby table with the family called out to me, and everything suddenly changed.

“Hey Mr. Randy!”

There is only one type of person that calls me Mr. Randy. My students. As a part time gig I teach a class for acting and improv to first and second graders. Now, one of those first or second graders was waving and smiling at me in the middle of nowhere Alabama. It was a surreal moment to say the least.

For a few seconds, I tried to do the math on the odds of me bumping into someone I know here at this rest stop 350 miles away from town, but then my head started to hurt so I decided to just enjoy the moment instead.



My student was with her parents. They were smiling too. We were all smiling. It was just so crazy. It must have taken a full minute or two of goofy smiling and repeating the expression “How crazy is this?” before we actually began a real conversation.

In this conversation they told me that they were off on a family road trip to see an aunt… or an uncle, I really can’t remember. In this conversation I told them that my gig as a camp blogger had just ended so I decided to just spend the entire month of August traveling, so that’s why I just got in my car and started driving. I also told them that to do this I had to call off work from my other job, as a tour guide. I also told them about my other job as a improv teacher. I told them I’m doing these random jobs to pay the bills until my writing starts to pay. I rambled about all of this for some time. And when I stopped they smiled and nodded their heads.

I think they wondered why I didn’t have a family or a real job, but I can’t be sure, I tend to project these kind of things on certain types of people. You know, people who have the whole family and security thing going on. I just assume they think I'm a piece of shit for not having any of this. It's safer to think this way. 

In any case, my student was thrilled to see me, so that was nice.   



Back on the road, I focused on getting to my destination. Nashville. Nashville was going to be wild. Not necessarily because of the town itself, which I knew little about other than that it was a big town for country music, but because the person I would be staying with, Reilly, was a person I had a long history with. He's certainly a friend, in fact it's passed that at this point, he's practically a brother. But he's also a madman, just like me. And when madmen get together after years apart, who knows what's gonna happen. 

As the sun began to set, I put on the song "Spikey Cars" on my Ipod. It's a song from the Mad Max Soundtrack. You know the parts of the movie where the action and insanity is just peaking and there's that song that just takes it to the new level? That's "Spikey Cars". I highly recommend giving it a listen if haven't. Especially if you're driving down a long highway to an unfamiliar city where guaranteed madness awaits you. It really completes the moment. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Moving to the Mountains

When I was in 3rd grade, my family moved up into the mountains. Like the way, way, way high up mountains. it was rather insane time in my life for a million reasons. I wrote a piece about it that I am very proud of and hope you check it. Also, planning on writing a lot more in here, with much more frequency, so I hope in a few weeks you come back and check up with greater frequency as well!


The Flat Part of Black Road

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hey Something Else I got Published Someplace Else Besides this Blog! Yayy!!!!

So I got this piece about my Mardi Gras experience published. I'm proud of it, I think it's funny. I hope you do too. Check out it in the link below. I would write more funny things write now but I'm in the middle of doing a bunch of stuff I don't wanna do. So while, I'm doing that, you guys should... well click on the link obviously. I don't know what you should do after that. This world is filled with so many options...

 http://neutronsprotons.com/?p=1037

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Kissing, Shoplifting, and Peeing: The Classic Love Triangle


                 
There are three things you will need to know in order to fully appreciate this story. One, when I was a child I was accused of shoplifting when I was, in fact, innocent, and I was too scared to speak up for myself at the time, and that memory of failed action has haunted me ever since. Two, I have an unusual bladder, one where once I even have one beer in me, shrinks like the Grinch’s heart the day after Christmas.  And three, at the time that this story takes place, I had been in the middle of a considerable dry spell, romantically speaking.
OK, so just to recap: dry spell, false accusations during childhood, and small bladder. We good? You got it? OK, great, then let’s get this puppy rolling then. 
            The story starts with the middle item on the list rearing it’s ugly head. I had to pee. This wasn’t such a big deal, except I had a lady with me. We were in the car together, I was driving her home after our date. The date had gone reasonably well, in my estimation, and now the plan was for me to take her home, walk her to her door, and kiss her. It was a bold plan, but then again, I’m a bold man. Always have been.
            Anyway, the only thing standing between me and this plan was my bladder. Like I said,  it was causing me a great deal of discomfort. Would this discomfort affect my kissing performance? That certainly seemed like a possibility. After all, shouldn’t the passion of the kiss outweigh all other passions at the moment? I felt it should. And yet, I could not honestly imagine a scenario where anything could outweigh the passion I currently had to relieve the pressure of gravity on my bladder until this problem was taken care of. What a fool I had been for ordering that second beer! Clearly, my hubris had gotten the better of me in the moment.
            I turned into the gas station nonchalantly, hoping that my date would keep on talking without noticing what I had done.
            “Oh, do you need gas?”
            Damn, she noticed. That left me with two options. One, I could lie to her, telling her I do need gas when, in fact, I don’t. Or two, tell her the truth, that despite my two visits to the men’s room at the venue, nature was still calling me like a crazed ex-girlfriend who won’t accept that it’s over. While I’m not one who normally believes that deceit is the optimal route when getting to know someone, I also wasn’t willing to admit that internally I had the workings of a seventy year old man.           
            “Yes, I need gas.” I said. Then I hopped out of the car before she could ask any more questions.
            I headed to the gas station store in a brisk but collective manner. It wasn’t a slow walk by any means, but it also didn’t scream to anyone watching Hey! I need to pee, get out of my way! (Remember fellas: It’s important to be smooth on a date at all times, you never know if she’s watching.)
            Once I was inside the store, though, I became an entirely different beast altogether. I shed my cool casual walk, and replaced it with my patented get-the-hell-out-of-my-way-before-I-shower-you-with-my-shame-juice stagger. I lurched to the far corner of the store, figuring that would be the most likely place for the restroom to be. I cursed when I realized my assumption was wrong, and looked high and low for any sign for the restroom. I found one in the other corner, and blazed a trail to the promise land.
            Now, it’s in the bathroom when this story goes from your run of the mill bladder-needs-disrupt-romantic-desire story, to something far more nefarious. For it’s in the bathroom, while I was using the urinal, when an old, middle-eastern man who appeared to be an employee of the gas station, walked into the bathroom and washed his hands. He didn’t go to the bathroom himself, you understand, he just washed his hands in the sink. This wouldn’t be all that weird, except for one thing. The whole time he washed his hands he was staring at me. And it was not a kind stare either, it was a mean, angry stare. Instinctively, I returned his stare with a mean stare of my own, and before I could even realize how weird this random angry stare-off with a stranger in the bathroom was, he disappeared back out to the store. Obviously, I was perplexed, but I also knew that there was a female in my car who needed a good kissing in the near future. And now that I had discarded my discomfort, I had to focus on that task, no matter how many odd, old men angrily scowl at me while I relieve myself.
            So I left the restroom and made my way to the main door of the store. That was when I heard a voice from behind me.
            “What did you take??”
            I turned around only to find the old man scowling at me once again.
            “What?’ I asked in a genuinely confused tone.
            “I know you took something,” He barked. “You come in here, you go to one corner of the store, then the bathroom, you are up to something!”
            Now I saw what’s going on here. I was being accused of shoplifting. You remember the number first thing on the list, right? That’s important right now, because that incident and the baggage that came with it, came roaring out at me at that very moment.  
            “Excuse me?! Are you accusing me of stealing! You think I stole something! How dare you! Well go ahead then! Check my pockets! I dare you! Put your hands in my pocket and check! I didn’t steal shit!”
            At this point, the other clerks working in the store could tell by the earnest anger in my voice that their coworker had made a mistake, and so they politely told me just to go, that they were sorry this happened. The old man himself even put up an almost apologetic hand and I saw the anger fall from his eyes. I had won the moment. My childhood injustice had been righted.
            I could have just walked out of the door right then, enjoying my small victory. But, you see, I have never been a clever man, and that becomes especially clear now. For I decided that the best thing to do was let loose a “Yeah, that’s right mother fucker.”
Now, let’s just take the time to make things clear. I’m in no way the kind of guy who goes around telling people “yeah, that’s right motherfucker”, unless I’m joking around with a friend. I’ve never said it seriously. I know there are some people, tough people, who do, but that’s not me. But in that moment, I realized it could be me. I could be the guy who underlines his righteous victory with a vulgar, masculine send-off.
 I could be that guy!  
So I became that guy.
And it felt good being that guy…for a quick second, and then the old guy heard what I said and things got dark. Real dark.
 Now, I’m not sure if the term motherfucker means something different in the country that this person was from, or if he generally just takes exception to someone insinuating that he fucks his own mother, but whatever the case, his eyes went back to angry in a flash. Actually, that’s not true, they didn’t go back up to angry, they jumped that level altogether into something I could only call murderous. This guy’s eyes wanted to murder me, and the rest of him didn’t seem too against the idea either.
            “Hey!!!” Was all he said. Or at least, it’s all I heard him say before I hightailed it out of the store.  
            I collected myself when I was near the car. I calmly and collectively hopped back in the car and drove off in a casual, yet masculine manner, hoping by doing so my date wouldn’t ask any questions. 
            “Didn’t you want to get gas?” She asked, confused.
            “Uh, yeah, but they were all out.” I said, not thinking about what I was saying. There was a long pause after this, and I looked over at her and knew she wasn’t buying that for a second. And so, realizing that there was really only one thing to do at this point, I told her the truth. All of it. And, because I’m one lucky son of a bitch, she loved the story.  She laughed, and I laughed, and then we both laughed some more. A terrifying moment turned into an awesome one.
And then a few minutes later, in front of her door, I kissed her.  I kissed her good.
Yeah, that’s right mother fucker!!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I Used To Live With A Gone Girl



I feel like I need to start this story off with a clarification: Marissa and I were roommates, not lovers. We wouldn’t make any sense as a couple. To tell you the truth, we didn’t make any sense as roommates either. But I was desperate for a room and she was desperate for the other half of rent, and Craigslist was helpful enough to complete this doomed equation. And just like that, a very, very bad living situation begun.

Like any bad living situation, the fault lies with both parties. I was at fault for neglecting to tell her beforehand that I was absented-minded and messy. And she was at fault for neglecting to tell me that she was fucking insane. Once we both found out about each other's faults, we tried to treat the situation maturely like adults.    

But somewhere along the way, we declared war on one another. I will spare you the details, because it’s not all that interesting and I fear I would become a far more bitter narrator than I ever care to be.

The story I do want to tell you, however, takes place during this war, over the course of one night, when we were forced into a period of peace. It was during this period that I discovered that I wasn’t just living with an unstable person, but an actual Gone Girl. If you have not read the book, or seen the movie, I suggest you do so at this time (or at least check out its wiki page). Go ahead, I’ll wait.

OK ready? Great. Now like all stories of this nature, this one begins with a series of loud THWACKS.

THWACK! THWACK! THWACK!

“RANDY! Randy are you there! Please help! Let me in! He’s after me! He’s after me! Let me in!”

“Aaaaaah!”

(Another quick clarification, that last bit of dialog, that “aaaaah!”, that’s coming from me, not from the voice pleading for help. As I’ve explained in the previous story, whenever I am awoken by a loud noise, a let out a surprisingly feminine cry. But I digress…)

THWACK! THWACK!

“RANDY! PLEASE HELP ME! HE’S AFTER ME!”

Like a frightened toddler, I swivel my head up to my bedroom window, the direction where the screams are coming from. That’s when I discover my roommate, Marissa, standing on our front porch, her face smushed up against my window, begging for help while her hands continuously slap the glass.

“Ma-Marissa?” I sputter.

THWACK! THWACK!

“Randy, you gotta let me in!! He’s coming!!”

Instinctively, I jump out of bed and rummage through my pants pockets looking for my keys, but I can’t find them. Meanwhile, she keeps on thwacking the glass and pleading for me to unlock the front door, as if I’m unaware that the situation is serious.   

At last, I find my keys and run out of my room and straight to the front door to unlock the deadbolt. I try my best to get the key into the key hole but I’m so full of nerves that it takes a humorously long time to do so.  

THWACK! THWACK!

“Randy! Open the door! He’s after me!!”

Finally, I get the key in and unlock the door. Immediately, the skinny frame of Marissa bolts into the house and she jumps into my arms. This is all very weird for me, as Marissa has refused to talk to me in the last three weeks, much less touch me. (Which has just been fine with me, interacting with her at all made my skin crawl.) And yet here we are in this moment, with her shivering in my arms, thanking me profusely. 

“You just saved my life! You just saved my fucking life!” She repeats this over and over again. Naturally, as I hold her, I peer out the door window, waiting for some boogey man to suddenly start rampaging towards us. But no one comes. Eventually, I get Marissa to calm down enough to let go of me and take a seat on the couch. 

Three minutes later, Marissa is clutching a cup of water, muttering to herself, as I sit next to her wondering what to say. Luckily, I end up not having to say anything, as she suddenly dives into the whole story, or at least, her version of the whole story.

 She tells me that she was at work (she works as a bartender at this dive bar in Midcity… yeah I know, enough said) when her ex-boyfriend came in and started harassing her. Then the manager tried to get him to leave and they got into a fist fight, then the cops show up and the ex-boyfriend hightails it to the back patio where he hops the fence and disappears. Then Marissa gets a call from a girl who says she is her ex-boyfriend’s new girl and she’s going to beat her up. This freaks Marissa out so she leaves work and walks home. That’s when the ex-boyfriend finds her on the street and chases her all the way to our house.

“Holy shit.” I say, when she finishes. “That’s insane.” I find myself actually feeling sorry for her, wondering if maybe I’ve been too hard on her, if this is what she’s been going through. But then a thought hits me.

“Wait… don’t you work like three miles away?”

“Yeah.”

“So he chased you for three miles?”

“Yes! I’m telling you he’s fucking insane! He wanted to kill me!”

Obviously, this sounds all kinds of weird to me, but before I can pry more information from her she excuses herself to her room so she can lay down. She tells me goodnight and thanks me again for ‘saving her life’ and then disappears into her room.

So there I am, alone in the living room, in my underwear, wondering what the hell has happened in the last twenty minutes. And then, of course, there was a knock on the front door. A loud, aggressive knock.

It’s him! I thought. It’s the boyfriend! He’s come here to get his revenge!

A grab the closest thing around me that could be used as a weapon, the plastic blue broom leaning up against the wall. If the image of me in my boxers, armed with a broom, walking towards the unknown while my crazy roommate hides in her room sounds too much for you, don’t worry, I felt the same way. I promised myself once this night was over I would start looking for a new place to live.

I open the door and am greeted by the sight of two stern looking police officers.  (For those keeping score at home, yes, this is the second story in a row where I answer the door in just my boxers only to find the police staring back at me. I guess it’s just my thing). 

“Sir, we know you’ve been in an accident. Come with us.” One of the gruff cops says.

“Accident?”

But before the cop can explain further, a voice chirps up behind me.

“It was me officer, I was in the accident…” Marissa says as she walks nervously towards us.

I give her a quizzical look, but the cops whisk her away into their patrol car before anything is explained to me.

The last thing I hear her say to the cops is: “Am I in trouble?”

Now it is three in the morning, and any hopes I had of getting some sleep that night are completely dashed. Instead I lie in bed wondering what really happened with Marissa. What kind of trouble had she gotten herself in now? Would I ever see her again?

An hour later, I get my answer. Marissa returns home. I go out to the living room to meet her. This time, she’s all smiles, completely calm. I am beyond confused. After I press her a little she gives me the story, the real story.

Apparently, she didn’t walk home from the bar. She got a ride from some guy she met at the bar, she tells me. They were drinking together when he offered her a ride back. He was pretty drunk, but he told her he was fine to drive. So they got in his truck and headed towards our house. Somewhere along the way, he managed to drive into the neutral ground and run straight into a tree, causing his truck to flip over. They both crawled out of the truck and ran off in different directions. Marissa headed to our house (but not before leaving her purse in the truck, which is how the cops found her at home), the man ran somewhere into the night. And that’s how it happened to be that she came banging on my window.

So all that stuff about the boyfriend chasing her and trying to kill her was totally made up. This never made any sense to me... until I saw the movie Gone Girl. Then the dots connected. A delusional woman angry at a (ex) lover and wanting him to pay so she tries to stain his reputation and make him seem evil? The truth became evident. And the truth is, I’m lucky I’m still alive, cause I was living with a freaking Gone Girl.

The End

*also, Marissa is not her real name, I’m not crazy enough to take that risk.