Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trouble in Texas: How I Almost Became A Lone Star Prison Inmate

I’m zipping down the 10 East Interstate, my car is stuffed to the gills with everything I own, and I’m munching on a mcdonald’s double cheeseburger that tastes better than it should. Life is good. Life is close to great. I was unhappy in Los Angeles so I decided to make a change. And somewhere between then and now, this road trip has morphed into a three day exhibition of me patting myself on the back. I am the master of my own destiny. The captain of my own ship. The singer of my own song.  Life is great.
            I’m halfway through my cheeseburger and Texas when I run into my first problem. A great line of cars appears on the road in front of me, all of them in a dead stop in the middle of the vast Texas desert. As I apply the brakes, I notice a sign on the side of the road that tells me I’ve come to a security check point.  Nuts. This is only a minor annoyance, but I’ve never been a patient person, especially when I still have another fifteen hours of driving ahead of me. I take a bite of my burger and stare out at the dry abyss and admire the view. The sun is still at least an hour away from setting, but the way the light hits the land makes the sand look orange, the cacti brown, and the rocks yellow. I feel like I’m on a different world. 
            As I’m admiring the view, something out of the corner of my eye catches my interest. There is a cop on the side of the road, on foot, running against the line of cars. Well, not running, but jogging. And he’s not alone. With him, on a sturdy black leash, is a giant German Shepard, who matches his bipedal partner’s consistent, patient stride.
            The curious thing is that neither one seems to be paying any attention to the cars next to them. I can only assume the dog is of the drug sniffing variety, and yet neither him nor the officer has so much as glanced at a single car. They just keep on jogging down the road, down the line of cars.
            Psh, what a waste, I think. Taxpayers’ dollars are being used for this kind of security? Any one of these random vehicles could be sneaking off with ungodly amounts of nefarious drugs and these bozos wouldn’t have a clue.
            As the dog and his officer get within a few cars of me I am allowed a better look at the two of them.  The thing I find the most fascinating about them is that they  seem to be sharing the exact same facial expression. It’s that no-nonsense, we-are-the-law-and-you-aren’t look that I’ve seen on a thousand other cops, but this is the first time I’ve seen it on an animal before. For some reason, I can’t tear myself away from this very serious Shepard. I’m compelled to watch him as he and his partner strut up beside me, ignoring the cars along the way. 
            But then something happens.
            As the six-legged cop crew comes to my car, as I am enjoying a close up view of this serious dog, I see the animal’s nose lift up, his ears prick forward, and his head swivel towards my direction. And suddenly his eyes are on me.
            Then things kind of go in slow motion.
 I watch as the dog’s huge mouth opens. I half expect him to shout something like “There he is! That’s the criminal!”
            He doesn’t do this, but he might as well have. Because instead he lets out a ferocious bark, and then launches himself at my driver side window. Two meaty paws attack the glass that’s inches away from my face. What the hell is going on?
            “Pull over!” orders the officer as he pulls his partner off my car.
            I do as I’m told while I try to get a handle on what has just transpired in the last five seconds. Why has this dog taken a sudden interest in me? I look around the piles of belongings stacked around me. Nothing but clothes, notebooks and other personal, non-illegal items. I am completely dumbfounded. Then I realize what’s in my hand, my delicious cheeseburger. The old girl must have been hungry, I figure. I mean that’s the only aroma in my car that would be attractive to a dog, so it’s gotta be that, right?
 The officer approaches my car, he's a big man, in his late-thirties, with a grey mustache. He asks me why his dog would be so interested in me. I confide in him my double cheeseburger theory. He is not impressed.
            “Your cheeseburger?” He lets the word drip from his lips in disgust. “You think my partner picked you out because of your cheeseburger?”
            I open my mouth to argue my case but he cuts me off.
            “Listen kid. This dog is trained to detect only two things: Smuggled people and smuggled drugs. Now, which one do you have?”
            The absurd image of a small Mexican man hiding at the bottom of my stack of laundry and suitcases, whispering silent Spanish prayers to himself, pops up in my mind and I do a poor job of hiding the smile that comes with it.
            “Are you smiling at me, kid? You think this is funny?”
            “Absolutely not, officer.” I say, trying to convey complete sincerity.
            “Well, why don’t you step out of the car and we’ll see just how funny this all is.”
            I step out of my car and follow the officer as he takes me a good ten yards away from the road. I try to focus my attention on him, but it’s hard to ignore his partner, who’s behind him, back at my car, his nose inches away from my door, whimpering with desire to explore inside. What the hell do you smell in there anyway?
            “Look at me son.” He says as he puts up a hand, partially blocking my view of the scene at my car. “This is important for you to hear." I look him in the eyes, the intensity contained in those pearly blues of his are disconcerting to say the least.
             "Now, what’s gonna happen next is you're either going to tell me right now what you have in your car... or my partners, who are on their way,” he uses his other hand to point down the road where I see a group of three more officers jogging towards us, “are gonna let the dog into your car. He’s gonna search through your stuff, and if he finds anything, anything, then me and you are through. Do you understand?”
             We’re through? You’re going to break up with me if you find people or drugs in my vehicle? The smart ass in me yearns to utter these words, but my maturity, and survival instincts, know better. 
 “Yes, officer, but I promise, there is nothing illegal in my car.”
            “Oh no?” He smiles a disconcerting smile behind his grey mustache. “Well, let’s just found out for sure. And while we wait for my partners, why don’t you tell me a little about yourself. Where you coming from and where you goin’?”
            “I’m from Los Angeles, and I’m going to New Orleans.” I see a twitch of excitement on his face after I say this, as if the towns of New Orleans and Los Angeles have reputations for illicit activities or something. 
            “I see,” He replies. “And exactly why you goin’ to New Orleans?”
            “I’m moving there.”
            “Why?” He asks again.
            “I don’t know, to get a fresh start, I guess.”
            This third why catches me off guard. Am I expected to explain the falls and failures that have led me to my current state of being?
            “…because I was unhappy with where I was and the person I had become, and I’m hoping to change that with a new beginning.”
            “I see.” He says with zero inflection.
 His partners arrive at the scene. They call him over and he motions for me to stay put and goes to them. As they confer, I continue to rack my brain, trying to figure out what the dog might be smelling. Did I have anything in my suitcases or luggage that I shouldn’t? Nothing comes to mind. I barely use my two suitcases for anything, my hamper is just filled with clothes, I don’t have a backpack…
   A cold bolt of lightning hits my spine.
  I do have a backpack, I realize. I remember because I randomly found it as I was packing. I thought I had lost it the last time I used it, when I went to the Music festival Outside Lands, but there it was under my bed. Did I check the backpack before I packed it in my car… I don’t think so. I actually remember it was one of the first things I threw into the back footwell of the car. I was in such a hurry to get everything in. But what could be in there? I don’t remember putting anything incriminating in there…
Oh damn, I think, and another cold bolt of lightning strikes me. I remember a certain glass instrument, about two inches long, given to me by some music loving hippy at the festival. The clear memory of me putting it in the outer pocket of my Jansport backpack crawls over my eyes. Did I ever take it out? Is it still inside my backpack?
            “OK, son,” The Grey Mustache returns. “So Officer Daniels here,” He tilts his head to the scowling officer standing next to him. “he’s gonna stay with you while I, personally, go with the canine and see what’s what.” He gives me a smirk as he says this. As if to say he knows what’s going on, and he’s gonna be right there when the shit hits the fan.
            I watch Grey Mustache walk to my car, pats his dog one time on the head, then looks back at me and smiles. Then, he opens my driver door. I watch as his furry partner eagerly hops onto the seat, stepping directly on the burger without so much as an afterthought, immediately destroying my theory, and then positions himself so he’s facing the mound of crap in my back and seat, and immediately dives his head and front legs into the barrage of my belongs, digging furiously down towards the bottom. I watch his head momentarily disappear into my stuff. I feel my balls lurch up into my stomach.
Seconds later, I watch the head reappear, this time with a black Jansport backpack hanging from his mouth. I watch as he leaps out of my car and hands the backpack to his partner. And finally, I watch in disbelief as he puts his nose against the outer pocket.
            “ Officer, there might be a pipe in there.”
            “A pipe?” Officer Daniels replies, gravely. “Is there anything in it.”
            “No.” I tell him, “I’m sure of it.”
            “Not even ash, residue or resin?”
            “Well… maybe some of that.”  
            He shakes his head a bit. “Well, son, Texas is a zero tolerance state. So even a trace of marijuana is a felony.”
            I hear the words, but they don’t make sense. I feel numb in a way. Like I’ve been dropped in the North Atlantic and slowly freezing over.
            Zero tolerance? Felony? I try to make sense of these terms.
My God, my attempt at a fresh start has led me to a prison cell in Texas. What the hell am I going to do? I don’t have money for a lawyer. My only chance would be to call my parents… my parents. The image of calling them and telling them what has happened makes me physically sick.  
            “Alright, where’s the rest of it?” Grey Mustache is holding the pipe out in front of him with a beautiful smirk all over his cop face.
            “I don’t have anything else,” I tell him. “I didn’t even realize I was carrying that.”
            I can tell by the steely look in his eyes that this remark has does nothing to dissuade him. “Don’t give me that. I know you got more. Now tell me where it is, cause if I send my dog back in there and he finds something else… me and you are through.” This is his second threat of breaking up with me, but I can tell this time he really means it. Luckily for me, I know I don’t have anything else.
            “Officer I promise you, I don’t have anything else.”
            “I don’t believe you.” He says immediately. “I can tell just by looking at you that you’re high right now.”
            It’s funny that he says this because I feel high right now. But not a good, happy weed high, it’s more like I-took-way-too-much-acid-and-the-world-is-crashing-around-me high.
“Why would I get high during a thirty hour road trip?” I try to reason with him. Apparently this was the wrong tactic to use. I see his smile turn into an ugly sneer.
            “Because this is what kids like you love to do." He says as he leans in closer to me. "I see it every day.”
            “Officer, I swear, that is not who I am, that is not what I did.”
            “So I’m a liar, is that it? You callin me a liar?”
            This response confuses me. Isn’t he the one calling me the liar? How can I be calling him a liar when he is the one accusing me of something that I’m denying? Clearly he’s playing some sort of Texas Ranger mind game on me, and it’s almost working. 
            “No.” I state adamantly. “I am not calling you a liar.”
            ‘So where are the drugs then?”
            “I don’t have any drugs!”
            The two officers look at each other and murmur back and forth, but I can’t make out what they’re saying. Even if I could, I’m far too distracted with my mounting legal woes to care. I can’t believe one drive through Texas has caused so much carnage in my life. I try to imagine my life after time served. How would I be changed as a person? Who would give me a job? Would my buddies even recognize their former friend, now hardened criminal? I could feel my head spinning.   
            “OK, Mr. Walker, you’re free to go.”
            At this point, I’m almost convinced he’s talking to someone else, either that, or this is another Texas Ranger mind game.
            “I said, you’re free to go. Pick up all the stuff that we took out of your car and get out of here.”
            These next two minutes, as I throw everything back in my car and disappear down the desert, are probably the closest I’ll ever come to participating in a prison break. Yes, it’s not quite the same, as most prison breaks don’t include the granted permission from the police, but by God, it's just as terrifying to me. Even once I am safely away from the check point and the prying eyes of Texas Law, I still constantly check my rear view mirror. Just to make sure the desert is free of any grey mustaches and jogging dogs.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I Watched the Alabama-Auburn game in a Alabama Bar With My Uncle

I don’t think anyone would deny that the State of Alabama has a certain reputation. I mean, the state’s motto is: Dare To Defend Our Rights, after all, which I think just about sums people’s misgivings of the state.

Anyway, this Thanksgiving I visited my uncle and his family who live in a small town outside of Birmingham. Obviously I was excited to see them, but I was also interested in experiencing Alabama, to see if the Yellowhammer State matched it’s reputation (also, Yellowhammer? Dare to defend our rights? You know your state is hardcore when it could easily fit in as a noble family of Westeros .)

Anyway, after telling my uncle my desire to experience some authentic Alabama living, he suggested we go watch the Alabama-Auburn game at a local bar.  Admittedly, I don’t know much about or care for college football, but I was aware that it was taken quite serious in these parts, so I agree to his proposal.

So, on Saturday, my uncle and I drive down to the local bar, which turns out to be the restaurant/bar chain Buffalo Wild Wings. I ask my uncle if there isn’t another bar we could go to, one maybe a bit more authentic to the area. He explains that this isn’t New Orleans, and that places of ill-repute aren’t highly thought of around here, and anything that isn’t a church is considered ill-repute (OK so I made that last part up, but given the amount of churches in the area, I feel this is kinda true). So when it came to the bar scene, Buffalo Wild Wings is about as authentic as it got for this area. 

And so we enter the Wild Wings establishment, and one thing becomes immediately clear: we should have come earlier. The place is beyond packed and the hostess literally laughs at us when we ask what are chances are of getting a table. Through chuckles, she points towards the bar and wishes us luck.

As we make our way through the crowd to the bar, I find myself slightly disappointed. I know this is horrible to say, but it’s my blog so I can say it, I was kinda half-hoping to find a rowdy red neck crowd here. Kinda like that redneck bar in Blues Brothers where they throw beer bottles at Jake and Elmwood who hide behind chicken wire. But there is no chicken wire here, no missing teeth, or any other silly stereotype I had been maybe sort of hoping for. Instead, I find a lot of families, people of all different ages, pretty women (Alabama seems to have a surplus of pretty women, I had no idea… southern girls man…), and a blinding sea of crimson red and passionate faces. I feel a bit overwhelmed by all of it, but I keep it cool. 

We arrived at the bar to find yet another row of crimson red jerseys occupying every stool. We realize that the next four hours would be standing only. Now keep in mind that my uncle is a man in his fifties, and I am a younger man who loathes standing. But in that moment we glance at each other and nod. It’s understood, we are staying put, we are in this for the long haul.


We manage to get our first drinks just as the opening kick is underway. Everybody goes quiet except for these two Auburn fans that appear out of nowhere at the end of the bar and start heckling the crowd. At first I think they are gonna get jumped, but everybody just ignores them and focus on the game.  Someone yells Roll Tide. I consider asking my uncle what that means, but decide against it, don’t wanna look stupid.

On the first drive, the Bama kicker misses an easy field goal, and that pisses people off.

“Roll tide?” I suggest out loud, but that doesn’t go over well.  

"Randy!" My uncle scolds me. 

The orange jerseys grow even more vocal when Auburn manages to score the first touchdown of the game. I look around the room, expecting distraught faces amongst the crowd, but for the most part everyone seems quite calm. I ask this rather large older man with a white goatee (no lie) if he thought we were in trouble.

“Nah,” He says with a cool southern accent. “Alabama gonna be just fine.”

For whatever reason, the way he pronounced Alabama, with that southern twang, sticks in my head. I repeat it to myself quietly, it’s a lot of fun to say.

 The quarterback for Bama completes a thirty yard pass.   

“Alabama!” I shout in celebration.

“Randy, don’t say it like that.” My uncle warns me. “People are going to think you’re mocking them.”

“OK.” I say.

A few plays later the qb makes another completion.



I apologize once more, and remind myself not to say it like that. And then the QB throws a touchdown and the whole place goes crazy. People who were strangers before are now eager to slap hands with me.  It seems making friends is easy here when you roll with the tide.

2nd  Quarter

Auburn fumbles the ball to start the new quarter. Everybody cheers and slap hands again, and I order another beer from the bar.  “There’s no way we lose this game. Third championship here we come. Roll tide.” I hear an excited gentlemen announce next to me.  

As I’m half way through my second beer I start to feel a little loose, so I decide to ask my uncle a few questions about the team.

“So, what does this roll tide thing mean anyway?” I ask.

“Randy!” My uncle exasperates.   


“Come on son, use your head. It’s our cheering cry.”

“Oh OK. So, where are is Alabama ranked in the league?”

“Randy! Stop saying it like that. And you can’t just go around asking those questions in public. That’s like asking who’s the president. Bama is ranked number one. Everybody knows that.”

“Oh, wow.” I say, thinking to myself that I shouldn’t ask any more questions. “So who is their coach?”



“Nick Saban is their coach. He is the coach of college football. Now stop asking these questions before someone overhears you and kicks us out.”  You should know, my uncle isn't seriously angry with me, he's only half serious.

Alabama scores another touchdown and the score is now 21-7. Things are looking good for the home team. I share this sentiment with my new friend with the white goatee. He responds. “Roll tide.” It’s a special moment.

During the last drive of the half, Auburn manages to go down the whole length of the field and score a touchdown. The two pesky Auburn fans go crazy over it, and I feel the urge to remind them of the score. But I decide against it and instead head outside to find a place to sit for a little bit. I hate standing still.


As I go outside, I foolishly try to take my beer with me, forgetting I’m not in New Orleans any more. The hostess immediately reminds me though, and admonishes me. I apologize with a sly “roll tide” and all is forgiven. Then I sit down on a curb and look up at the sky and wonder about stuff, the way we all do after a few beers. It’s a nice, quiet break from the madness from inside. I enjoy it.

And then I hear cheering from inside and realize the second half has begun so I run inside and find the hostess that has my beer.

3RD Quarter

In the third quarter, things get better for my uncle but worse for Alabama, and pretty much stay the same for me. My uncle has managed to procure a seat from one of the tables near the bar. Alabama has allowed Auburn to score another touchdown while missing another very makeable field goal, and I remain standing, with a fresh beer in my hand, getting smiles from wandering women who are forced to go around me because I am standing in the walkway, my temporary home.

At the end of the third, the score is tied at 21-21 and a worried fog has settled in at Buffalo’s Wild Wings.

4th Quarter

There’s less than a minute left in regulation and the score is 28-28. Alabama has the ball. The camera switches to Nick Saban, the coach of college football, and a few more chants of “Roll Tide” come from the crowd as they pray their genius coach knows what he’s doing.

 The Bama QB slings it to a receiver at the first down marker, he catches it, and gets out of bounds. One second left in regulation, they are near the 30 yard line.

“Hail mary!” Someone in the crowd yells. But Saban never hears them. Instead, he decides to go for a kick. But this time, because his kicker has forgotten how to do his job, Saban wants to use a kicker who has never kicked before in college football. Bold move, now we had to see how it would pay off.

The ball is snapped, the placeholder gets the ball in position. The kicker crushes the pigskin with his foot and it heads towards the uprights. It’s got the direction, but not the power, and the ball falls to the back of the endzone, just five yards shy of the uprights, where it is caught by an Auburn player.  

I only wish I had a camera with me at Buffalo Wild Wings so I could replay what happens next. Two hundred jaws hit the floor at the same time as they watch the impossible unfold. This Auburn player takes the ball 109 yards down the field and scores a touchdown.

 Bama loses. The crowd is stunned, for the most part. However, oddly enough, a large group of Auburn fans emerge from the rest of the crowd, cheering loudly when once they were silent. Cowards.

“That is one of the craziest endings I have ever seen in a game.” My uncle says after a long, long period of silence.

I nod my head in agreement. Then I add: “And not too mention, a real authentic experience of Alabama.”






Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Day at Bonnaroo, Part 3: Pre-partying with the Snark Sisters

Click here for part 2 

They say that sometimes rest can be the answer to all problems.

In my case, that certainly seems to be true. Not long after my battle with runners and bowl movements, I find the way back to my group’s campsite and collapse under the shade of our tarp. I rest there for hours. Sometimes sleeping, sometimes not. Occasionally I scavenge the cooler for remaining water bottles. But mostly I just lie still, hibernating, While I hibernate, I listen to the sounds around me. Our campsite is rather far away from Centeroo (the name of where the actual music festival took place) so for the most part, the sounds of excitement, cheering, celebrating, all seems very distant right now. This frustrates me, I feel like I’m missing out on the action. Part of me is fearful too that my exhaustion and weariness is not simply due to going partying too hard last night but rather, because of my age. I’m not twenty two anymore, perhaps I don’t belong here...   

Sometime in the afternoon, as I go back and forth from sleeping to self-evaluating, I become aware of some humorous squabbling going on nearby and I can’t help but listen. 

“Oh by the way Becky, thanks for almost killing me last night while we were sleeping.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about you rolling over on top of me in the middle of the night. I thought I was under a god damn avalanche.”   

“ Hey bitch you know I move around in my sleep. If you don’t like it you can always sleep outside. In fact, I wish you would, your damn snoring sounds like a goat being slaughtered.”

 “At least my snoring doesn’t endanger people’s lives, you monster.”

Both voices are female, and each statement made is thick with good-natured snark and underlined with hearty laughter. It’s obvious that these girls are long time friends who have been giving each other a hard time for many years.   

“You sure about that? I think some of the neighbors might have killed themselves to escape your caterwauling.”

 Despite myself, I crack up at this comment, and then immediately regret it as the girls suddenly stop speaking. Even with my eyes closed, and my body facing the opposite direction, I can feel the awkward tension in the air, they are aware some stranger is listening in on their conversation. I make a quick decision to try to kill the awkwardness. 

“Um, hello there, ladies.” I say after I lift my head out from the grass and turn to face them.

There is a brief pause that follows, and then one of them turns to the other.

“Oh look, Sharon, the ginger kid isn’t dead after all.”  

“Oh what a relief. We’ve been watching you lie there motionless for the last two hours. We thought you died of sunstroke. Red heads don’t fare well out here, ya know kid.”

I find myself looking at two women in their early-to-mid thirties, one heavy set, one skinny, sitting on tailgating chairs in front of a nearby tent, both wearing large sunglasses, drinking bud light while wearing bored or unimpressed expressions on their faces. I imagine this is their default expression most of the time.

“Yeah I know, I almost died last night…because I wanted to kill myself when some chick wouldn’t stop snoring.” This gets a laugh. Not a huge one, but enough for them to throw caution to the wind and invite me over for a beer.

The next hour or so is spent relaxing in a tailgating chair, exchanging jokes and sharing stories with my two neighbors Becky and Sharon who I affectionately, and secretly, refer to as the Snark Sisters.  They actually aren’t sisters, I learn, but rather friends who’ve known each other this they were little, back when they grew up in the suburbs of Chicago.

At one point I ask them why they decided to come to Bonnaroo.

“Oh, I don’t know.” Sharon replies. “ we don’t get to see each other very much since we don’t live in the same city anymore, so we figured since we both had vacation time coming up, why not do something crazy.”

“Yeah, plus, we really enjoy being around hippies.” Becky adds. “They have such realistic views of the world, and they always smell great.”

“Oh like you can talk, you smell like a bum’s nut sack right now.”

“Fuck you, slut, I do not. I smell like a petite delicate female…who’s been pissed on by a homeless man.”

They both let out a cackle, and so do I. I start to feel better about everything. I share my misadventures of the morning with the girls which they seem to enjoy.
“If a bunch of runners tried to block me from the bathroom I’d just take a shit on their heads.” Sharon tells me. Becky and I agree that that would be the proper action to take.

So there we are, lounging at the campsite, sipping beer and ignoring the heat as best we can, when I feel a familiar sensation wash over me. It’s that special feeling I get when I can feel the initial traces of the magic returning. That’s the thing about Bonnaroo, the place is full of magic, if only at certain times.   

Eventually either Becky or Sharon suggests that we should make their way to the festival.  I invite myself along, as my group has already entered Centeroo hours ago.

Before we head out we each lather ourselves in sunscreen once more, and then grab a beer for the road ( I grab two. You’re not allowed to bring any beer into the festival, but anything before that is fair game.).

 We walk down the dirt path that splits the numerous camping sections. For the most part, the Snark Sisters talk to themselves while I drink my beer and observe the various campsites we pass by. I notice that each site is virtually the same. One or two tents on the perimeter, some fold out chairs in front of them, maybe a grill in the center, and above all of it is an overhead tarp to provide shade. Occasionally a flag will be tied to the top of the tarp, waving in the air as in expression of that particular campsite’s individuality.

It’s a long walk to the entrance of the festival, and the closer we get the more people we find at their campsites, pre-partying. This causes a shiver of excitement to drip down my spine, I have always been very fond pre-partying, hell, most of the time I enjoy the pre-party more than the actual event itself.

Anyway, after passing by numerous pre-party stations, I can’t remain silent any more, so I very coyly bring up the idea of crashing one of them to the Snark Sisters. As I would have guessed, they don’t take kindly to this suggestion. A raised eyebrow and an incredulous look is all I need to know that these girls don’t think much of bombarding strangers’ campsites. Clearly we are different people, but I’m ok with that for the time being.

We come to a large group playing cornhole on the side of the path, and that’s enough to tip me over the edge. If these girls aren’t going to participate in party crashing, I might have to part ways with them. But before I finish weighing my options, an opportunity drops in my lap.  I bump into a young Hispanic man as he is leaving the portapotties.

“Oh sorry my bad, bro.” He says with genuine remorse. Without even thinking about it, I hand him one of my beers and say “I won’t forgive you unless you drink this now.”  

The girls hear this and look at me like I’m a wild man, but to my delight, the young man looks at me like he just found a new friend, he grabs the beer out of my hand and slurps it down. I give him a broad smile and introduce myself. 

“Name’s Gonzales, bro.” he says. I like Gonzales, he’s one of the good guys. “You guys are cool,” he says, as if concurring with my internal thought, “you should come over to my campsite, we got the place pimped out.”

I look over my shoulders to the Snark Sisters, and the unimpressed/uninterested look has returned to their faces, as if there was nothing they wanted to do less than check out his “pimped out” place.  But I ask him where it is, all the same.

“It’s just over there,” he says, pointing in the direction we are heading already, “follow me.”

When we arrive at Gonzales campsite, I completely understand his choice of words in describing it. His campsite is in fact, pimped out. I mean, it appears to be actually five campsites combined as one; just one long row of connecting tarps. It looks more like a small scale circus than a campsite. Gonzales enters the circus first, and ushers us in. I look over at Becky and Sharon, they seem wary about the whole thing but they’re following just the same.

 Once we enter, we are treated to quite a sight. It’s clear these guys have been planning this for quite some time. Bean bags and make-shift couches decorate the area, as well as about ten large coolers that I later discover are filled with both beer and apple juice containers filled with Hennessey (no glass bottles allowed in the ‘roo). Gonzales group consists of about fifteen people, all Hispanic males, who I secretly refer to as The Gonzales Boys. As a whole, they seem to be like your classic group of fun loving, rowdy partiers. Exactly what I look for in my pre-party crowd. Things are getting better and better right now. I can feel the magic of the Bonnaroo day seeping back into my soul.

I look back at Becky and Sharon, they don’t seem to be feeling the exact same way, but they do accept the beers that the Gonzales boys offers, so that’s promising.

So the three of us take a seat and we all start to get to know one another. This lasts a few minutes until I spot a beer pong table at the far end of their site and instinctively make the claim that I will kick anyone’s ass at beer pong.

“Aw, hell no, homie, you are fucking going down!” is the response I get, in ten different variations, all at the same time.

The challenge has been made and accepted.

In no time at all, I find myself playing some classic beer pong with the Gonzales Boys, while the Snark Sisters watch from the side and make, well, snarky comments to one another about the stupidity of beer pong. But you can tell they’re enjoying the moment. We all are. It’s a beautiful moment.

 You know, people think that pre-partying is just about drinking and having fun, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. Yes, those two things are definitely involved, but I feel the real power in the pre-party is soaking up the anticipation. There’s no better high in the world than anticipation. Take this moment right now, for instance. If you isolated this moment, no future, no past, it will still be a fun moment. But the fact that we have so much to look forward to, so much mystery that’s yet to be solved, that’s what makes all of us so giddy right now.

As we play beerpong, I can hear the sounds of the festival much more clearly than when I was back at the site. We’re so much closer to the moment at hand. In a short amount of time we will have entered the fray and the real story will begin, but right now, I’ll I have to do is focus on my next shot while I soak up the anticipation that we’re all swimming in.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Day At Bonnaroo, Part Two: An Imagined Rebellion

Click here for part One.

Earlier, when I told you I could no longer rest in the grass because I had to poop, I hope you didn’t take that as an easy shot for a poop joke, because I promise you it wasn’t. I imagine that the daily ritual of a morning poop is something most of you are familiar with, but how many of you know about the dreaded Music Festival Morning Poop? I assure you it’s very real, and not something to be trifled with. Basically what happens is that all that crap food, alcohol and various drugs you have consumed from the night before have finished their spiral down your stomach and are now ready to exit your body as quickly as possible, and they don’t take ‘not ready yet’ for an answer. So like I said, it wasn’t a poop joke, it was a poop semi-emergency.

Anyway, in the three days I’ve been here, the walk to the porta-potties has grown increasingly more difficult and painful.  The porta-potties nearest me are set up alongside the main dirt road that takes about four minutes to walk to. In the beginning, that was no problem. But as time wore on, and after I walked approximately 50 thousand miles, my feet have started revolting against me. They are clearly fed up with this walking tyrant that has caused them to break out in blisters, and they demand peace immediately. But even though it feels like Cairo inside my shoes right now, I cannot give them peace; I must continue to walk. So there is no peace, only pain.

I try to take my mind off the pain by looking around at my surroundings. It’s funny, the mornings of Bonnaroo always look different than any other time of the day. In the morning, it looks more like a civil war camp after a hard battle than a campground for a free-loving music festival. The people who come out of their tent don’t look like the same happy, cheerful people I saw the day before. No, they’re more confused now, almost as if they’re wondering what kind of savagery they got into last night, and what lasting effects it might have on them.

It amuses me greatly to see this transition in action, but then I remember that I must look pretty amusing as well, a haggard man clinching his butt as he staggers in a zombie-like fashion to the porta-potties.

Of course, I’m not the only one doing this. There is a whole army of us, actually. A totally disorganized army, mind you, with everyone scattered about, some of us staggering more than others, but we are all on the same mission, to find those damn plastic boxes of hell.

When we do find them, it’s really rather depressing. After the long painful walk, we are now greeted with the sight of a long line of grumpy people waiting to relieve themselves while trying their best not to breathe in through their noses.

I join these temporary mouth breathers and wait as patiently as I can for my chance for salvation. But as I wait, something happens that infuriates me to the point of murderous rage.

It starts with some security guy on a four-wheeler who comes down the road honking his horn. He waves for us to get to the side of the road, opposite the porta-potties. Once we comply, he rides past us, and as he does so he waves his hand wildly in the air and shouts: “Stay off the road! The runners are coming!”

For a second, I suspect that this guy is not actually security at all but some drugged-out Bonnaroon who somehow jacked one of the sweet four wheeler security vehicles. Spectacular. This is the first thing to make me smile this morning. That smile quickly fades though when I hear the sound of stampeding feet coming down the road and I realize the four-wheeler guy was legit. There are runners coming. In fact, there are a shit ton of runners coming. I honestly can’t believe how many of them there are. They even have large stickers on their chest with numbers printed on them, like it’s a legitimate marathon or something.

“Oh, this must be the Bonnaroo 5K race I heard about.” I hear an aspiring pooper next to me say. You have got to be fucking kidding me, I think to myself as I watch my path to the bathroom vanish behind a moving wall of over-achieving, galloping assholes.

When every second causes growing pain, minutes can feel like an eternity. And that’s exactly what it feels like, as minutes go by and the runners are still continuing to come. Besides the great anger inside me, there is also a great deal of confusion. Mostly, I want to know how it is possible that these people are currently participating in a 5K race. Two possibilities come to mind. One, they took it easy the first two days of Bonnaroo, saying things like “I think I’ll head in early tonight, want to be ready for that 5K Run I’m doing in the middle of fucking Bonnaroo” so they would have the energy to do this. (If this is the case, it’s my opinion they should be dragged out of the festival and possible shot, because only the worst kind of tool would do this).

Or there’s the second possibility, they exerted just as much energy as I did, partied as hard I did, and still have it in them to run five kilometers while I’m struggling to remain bipedal. This thought only furthers my depression and makes me want to exact revenge.

What would happen if I just tripped one of them right now, I wonder? Just tripped one as they ran by and laughed as they skidded face first in the dirt. Would they get up and fight me? What kind of fight would that be? A pretty pathetic one, I’d imagine. All they’d have to do is punch me in the stomach and its contents would spray down my shorts with a fury.  Not too mention that by doing this I would be inviting other runners to attack me. Runners are known for sticking up for one another. That’s something that poopers aren’t known for at all. We are a solitary bunch, even if there is an entire army of us. 

But still, I can’t shake the desire to try to have a Braveheart moment. I fantasize about rallying my troops and telling them we can gain back our freedom that has been taken from this malicious group of uncharitable athletes. Then, once I have them in the palm of my hand, I envision using the element of surprise. We lunge at the runners without a moment’s notice and we use their momentum to throw them right into the plastic boxes of hell that we desire so much right now. “THIS IS WHAT YOU GET! DO YOU SEE! THIS IS WHAT YOU GET WHEN YOU STAND IN OUR WAY TOWARDS RELIEF!”  I would say as I bash one of their heads against a green plastic door.

 But this savage rebellion never happens. The opportunity for the Braveheart moment comes and goes, and the runners and the poopers once again separate without blood being shed. It’s for the best I suppose. And besides, a couple minutes later, I’m able to enter one of the green box of hell, and do my business. It’s gross, but I’ll spare you the details.

I decide afterwards that this morning has been far more active than I had intended, and that it’s time to find some shade so that I may rest my feet, sleep off my hangover, and dream of a place where there are no porta-potties or marathon runners. And if all goes according to plan, by the time I awake, morning will be long gone and it will be magic time at Bonnaroo once again.

  Click here for part 3.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Day at Bonaroo, Part One: Waking Up

I wake up in my tent and realize my entire body is sweating. Not just sweaty, mind you, but sweating. Every pore is perspiring; every sweat gland is working overtime. My face, my chest, my stomach, my legs, in between my toes, in the corners of my eyes; I can feel each corpulent area secreting precious fluids, which then drip down onto my already soaked pillow and sleeping bag.  

Bear in mind, this isn’t ordinary sweat either. This is two days of drinking sweat. Two days of dancing sweat. Two days of jumping sweat. Two days of not showering sweat. Two days of hugging strangers sweat. Two days of dancing with pretty girls sweat. Two days of singing songs as loud as you can sweat. This is laughing-so-hard-you-can’t-breath sweat. This is chaotic-anything-goes debauchery for the next four days sweat. This is Bonnaroo sweat, motherfuckers, and I’m drowning in it.

But I deserve it.

Because everybody knows the Bonnaroo Sun is a cruel sonafabitch, and I defied him last night by drunkenly tucking myself into my heavy sleeping bag. Now I must rectify this immediately or get roasted alive.

So I peel my soaked sleeping bag off me and crawl towards the tent door. As I crawl I can feel the sun standing just outside my tent, with a blowtorch in his hand and a middle finger raised just for me. Jesus, it’s ten in the morning and he already wants my blood.  

With a shaky, dripping wet hand, I grab at the zipper and pull it up just enough to make a hole big enough for me to escape. I throw myself out into the world and gasp for air. It’s still quite hot outside but there’s a breeze, and that makes all the difference in the world. My sweat-soaked body now sticks half way out of the tent, with my head and chest resting on the cool farm grass. In the distance, I can hear a couple of acoustic guitars being played somewhere among the thousands of campsites that surround me. This makes me happy for the first time this morning; a nice reminder of why I came here.

 And then the breeze picks up and it feels so good on my body, I just want to stay here, lying in the farm grass, forever.

But I can’t because I have to poop.  

Click here for Part Two.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

I Can't Stop Salivating

Now, I don’t like to boast but I’ve got a pretty strong body if I do say so myself.

 I don’t mean in a weight lifting, ripping-phonebooks-in-half kinda way (although you’d be surprised by the amount of punch this scrawny dude packs), I mean in the way that my body rarely gets sick. For all the stupid things I’ve done over the years, and the poor way I treat my body with all-nighters and bad-decision making, it’s a wonder I’m not sick once a month. I should be, I really should. But in reality, I’m sick maybe once a year. This is a point of pride for me (clearly I don’t have a lot going on right now).
So you can understand why I thought that after spending last Tuesday and Wednesday sick in bed with a fever and a sore throat that I assumed the worst was over. I never had a fever last more than two or three days before, and I swore I could feel this one slowly cooling down. So I figured it was safe to pop a few Dayquil and go back to work. Bad decision making strikes again…

It was around four in the afternoon that I realized that something wasn’t right. The speed that they put into Dayquil was allowing me to press on, but I could sense that just behind that artificial sense of alertness, there was a big storm hanging back, ready to strike.

After work I went over to my cousin’s house because she had cable, internet and cold water (the new place I just moved into was lacking a few things…). As I sat on her couch, watching the latest episode of Pawn Stars and drinking a nice ice-cold glass of water, I could see my cousin looking at me with concern.

“Randy, are you sure you’re feeling better? I can see your forehead sweating, and it’s not even warm in here.”

“Oh, I’m fine,” I told her. “I just over-exerted myself at work playing with the kids while I was at the tail end of my sickness, and now my body’s just angry with me. I just need to lay down for a bit and I’ll be fine.”

“OK,” She said, unconvinced. “ But let’s take your temperature just in case.”

Just to placate her, I took the thermometer out of her hands and put into my mouth. Those next thirty seconds have been etched into my mind forever. I remember I had to stare straight down, past my nose, to see the little numbers on the digital display window. I remember my heart racing as the numbers continued to increase.


It finally stopped at 102.7 and my throat made an involuntary noise that would be impossible to replicate here. The throat noise was alarming enough to make my cousin race over to me and check the thermometer herself. She made a few noises of her own after seeing the final results and told me I had to get to Urgent Care immediately.

Now, this is where having a history of being relatively sick-free becomes a bad thing. Because at that point I was sure I was going to die. I never had a fever higher than 100.3 before, and now I had 102.7?? Clearly, I had a brain tumor, a giant brain tumor that was slowly eating the rest of my non-tumored brains.

While I waited in Urgent Care, I tried not to think about all the scary stuff going on in my head right now. What if this was serious? What if this was the end of me? Why doesn’t it feel like I have a ridiculously high temperature? Is that a sign that I’m dead already?

Finally, the doctor saw me, did a few tests on me, and told me I had a throat infection. Immediately, my mind flashed back to that random girl on Frenchman Street I made out with a few days ago. Dammit, why did I let her near my throat, I knew she seemed unclean.

The doctor prescribed me some antibiotics, and told me that eating wouldn’t really be an option for me for the next few days.

“What about soup?” I asked.

“You’ll stay the hell away from soup if you know what’s good for you!” He said as his eyes got really big.  I couldn’t believe he was being serious, my throat didn’t seem to hurt that bad. Surely I could handle soup.

Little did I know less than an hour later, my throat would seize up and make everything, even drinking water, an extremely painful affair. Suffice to say, yes I did end up staying the hell away from soup.

It’s hard to describe exactly what my infected throat felt like. The best way I’ve found is to compare it to barnacles. You know barnacles? Those gross slimy things that attach themselves to the bottom of ships. That’s what the inside of my throat felt like. Like a bunch barnacles had grown on the inside of my throat, and whenever anything went past it, food, water, air, whatever, the barnacles, and thus I, withered in pain for a good minute.

But anyway, this is all just foreplay to the real nightmare that unfolded that night. I think we can all agree that the best part of getting sick is that you can sleep as much as you like with no repercussions. The rest of it may suck, but you really can’t hate on endless sleep, right?

Well during my night of hell, I was robbed of that of pleasure. To this day I’m not sure why, but at some point during the night I started to hyper-salivate (you know, like a mangy dog) and I couldn’t stop. I was a little drooling sick monkey for the next ten hours. Now I’m not sure if you’ve ever had the pleasure of salivating at a scary pace, but it makes life extremely difficult. You have to bring a cup with you where over you go, so you have somewhere to spit out the excess saliva. Generally, you’ll use this cup every five seconds. It won’t be long before you’re holding a cup heavy with your own warm secretion, and then you’ll know what it is to have a bad time.

So anyway, that’s what I did instead of sleep. I sat up in bed with a crazy high fever, an infected throat, and spit into a cup. And while this seems like it should be adequate enough misery for one sitting, my fever-ravaged brain had to make it worse by deciding I was making a poor choice for a career.

“Wait a minute, I just realized something. [spit]  You want to be a writer?” My fevered brain asked me incredulously.

“Uh, yeah.”

“Well, that’s a real cute hobby and all, but what the fuck are you going to do for a career? [spit]”

“I’m going to write [spit].”

“Well that’s hilarious. [spit] Do you know how hard it is to make a decent living as a writer? [spit] Do you have any idea how many broke writers there are in this world? Is that what you want to be when your 40? A broke writer with a couple of shitty side jobs?”

“You don’t know that that will happen [spit], maybe I’ll write something really good and-“

“And you’ll be considered a good writer by your peers [spit], but you’ll still be a broke dick.”

 It went on like this for awhile, until I was sufficiently convinced that I had made a huge mistake in my life and that I was literally running out of saliva and would be the first person to die from a lack of spit and a broken spirit. As you can see, my life had gotten very complicated, very quickly. 

And so people, what do we do when we find ourselves in such a panic? That’s right, we call a family member in the middle of the night, waking them up so we can unload our insecurities on to them.


“Oskie, hey it’s Randy. Look, I hope I didn’t wake you, I just needed to ask you something?”

“Aren’t you incredibly sick, with a really high fever? Why aren’t you asleep right now?”

“Because I can’t stop spitting, but that’s not the point right now. Look, I have to ask you something? Am I wasting my life? I’m a fooling myself with trying to be a writer? Are you and the rest of the family laughing at me behind my back?”

I could hear Oskie sigh as he realized he was going to have to sleepily talk me down from my ledge.

“No Randy, you’re not wasting your life, because you’re doing exactly what you want to be doing. There’s no way that’s a waste.” I let these words enter my ear and circle my fever brain. 

“However,” He continued, “There is no way of knowing the amount of success you’ll achieve. You could have great success, or hardly any.  I have some friends twenty years older than you who are still struggling to make their dreams come true. And I have others who are doing exactly what they’ve always wanted to do. It’s a combination of hard work and luck.  You’ll just have to see where this life takes you.”

I took a long sigh of relief. He hadn't given me a sun shiny 'everything will be ok' speech, but he had spoken all truth with the right amount of hope. That was enough for me at the time. 

“Alright, that sounds about right. Thanks Oskie, I don’t know what’s going on with me today, I usually don’t panic so easily.”

“That’s because you have a fever eating your brain. Soon you’ll be half as smart as you used to be, and your dream of being a writer will officially be dead. So there’s no need to worry!”

  I spent the rest of that night watching my roommate’s romantic comedy collection and thinking about what my cousin had said. I had always thought that it was a foregone conclusion that I would find success as a writer because I was willing to work hard and never give up (you have to be a very optimistic, and delusional, person to go after your dream). But the truth was, there is a lot of luck involved, among other things, which were out of my hands. All I could do was press on, keep spitting and hope my hard work would one day pay off.

And also, stop kissing unclean women. That just needs to end.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Breasts On Bourbon Street: A Saucy Tale of Mardi Gras Injustice

It's the middle of the day, and it smells awful. Just awful.

And I can't find Ralph anywhere. This is approximately the fourth time I've lost him in the crowd in the span of thirty minutes.

What am I doing here?

 I feel absolutely horrible. My head is pounding, my nose is running, and I can't stop coughing. I shouldn't be here, I'm sick. Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras is no place for a sick man. I need to be in bed.

I'm inspecting the crowd around me, looking for my friend. But the longer I look at the crowd the more it looks like a blur. A flowing blur. Like a school of fish in a current.

That's when it hits me. This isn't a street, it's a river. A constantly flowing river. But water doesn't flow in this river, turds do. Loud, obnoxious turds.

I'm stuck in Turd River, I think to myself, and it smells awful. 

Suddenly, I feel a touch on my shoulder. I turn to see Ralph, he's found me. And he's even drunker than before.

"Where'dya go, man?" He says with a slight slur.

"I got caught in the flow of Turd River." I tell him. He looks at me absently after I say this. I can't tell if he actually heard me or not, it's so goddamn loud out here.

"I said, I got caught in Turd River!" I repeat.

"Oh, OK." He replies indifferently. "Well, let's keep moving, I don't want to miss anything!"

This makes me laugh. What could he possible miss down here? It's the same thing for a mile long. 

But really, I know exactly what my buddy means when he says he doesn't want to miss anything. He means he doesn't want to miss out on any breasts that might be exposed further down the river.

 That's what everyone wants down here.

Of course, they could probably see a lot better ones at one of the many strip clubs nearby, but they don't want to see nice breasts, they want to see Bourbon Street breasts. So then they can go back home and brag to their friends about how they went to Mardi Gras and saw breasts on Bourbon Street, just like in the movies. People are the worst.

"Let's follow them," Ralph points to a group of stumbling girls in front of us. "It looks like they're about to do something."

I nod my head but I'm not really listening to him. I'm so lightheaded it actually feels like I'm floating. Floating down Turd River, with the rest of the drunks on this street.

As I float, I think back to this morning, when he somehow convinced me to come out today. I had already gone out with him three times in a row, thus my getting sick; but that didn't matter to him. 

"It's my last day, you have to come out! Can't you just tough it out and try to have a good time?"

So here I am, floating in the sludge of the masses, trying to have a good time. But it's not easy. I'm being poked and prodded by the thousands of fat tourists that are trying to squeeze past me.

The girls we're following reach a balcony section of the street. There are balconies on both sides of us, and every inch of balcony on either side is crammed with people.

We will have to proceed with caution.

As you probably know, people rent rooms with balconies that overlook Bourbon so that they can drop beads down on people with boobs so they can see their boobs. What you probably don't know is that this doesn't really happen that often, and the people on the balconies tend to get bored after awhile. And in their drunken boredom, many decide to take those cheap plastic beads of theirs and huck it down at the people below.

I'm not talking about tossing them, mind you, I'm talking about just chucking them right at some poor bastard's head. 

So now, instead of just dealing with the obese couple from Kansas directly in front of you, and the toothless man with horrible b.o. to the side of you, and god-knows-who breathing down your neck behind you, you also have to watch out for random flying beads that are being thrown at the side of your face at high speed.

This is no place for a sick man.

As I head down this gauntlet of cheap plastic pain, I focus on my peripheral vision, praying that I will be able to see any flying objects before they slap me in the face. I hear a cry coming from the left of me.

"Sunavabitch!" I hear. I can't pinpoint the location of the voice, but I can tell by the pained tone that someone has fallen victim to the hijinks of those above us.

But my pity for this victim only lasts a few seconds, ending immediately when I step right into a huge pile of horse shit.

"Fucking... !" I'm so angry I don't know how to finish my furious thought, "...horse!... pig!...asshole...shitheads!!!" 

I squirm my way through the crowd and make my way to the sidewalk, so that I can wipe off the excrement on the curb.

As I do this, I laugh at myself for my outburst. Fucking horse pig asshole shitheads. I guess that's one way to describe the cops who patrol the area on horseback, keeping the street safe while also creating a nice minefield of defecation.

After a minute of furious scraping, I sit down and pull the shoe to my face to see the damage. I see that I got a good amount off, but there's still is a great deal wedged into the bottom soles. I examine the tiny tunnels of poop that are still imprinted across the bottom of my shoe and determine that I will need to dig at it with a stick or a nail to get it all out.

But I don't do that. Instead, in my light-headed state, I continue to sit there and stare at the tiny brown tunnels and all my thoughts leave me. I just stare at the bottom of my shoe, and it stares back at me. Then the deafening noise all around me starts to sound very distant, and I start to feel myself drift far away, and I feel a little better. 

And then I sneeze on the poop that's on my shoe and I get sad again.

Soon after this, Ralph finds me and hurries me further down the street. I can tell he's come across something that's got him excited. I have a good idea what it is too.

 I'm not surprised when I find that Ralph has brought me to a sizable crowd that's standing still. There is only one reason why people stop flowing on Turd River, and that reason is boobs. 

 I stand at the edge of the crowd, and with my red, watery eyes I can see two women at the center of the crowd, who are looking up at a balcony and pointing to themselves. A clear sign that negotiations are underway.

People who have never been to Mardi Gras assume that women are just constantly taking there top off at any given point, and only asking for a pair of lousy beads as payment.

 As I mentioned earlier, this is a myth. Just like in the real world, it takes work to see tits on Turd River. It has to be a certain type of girl, and it has to be a certain type of beads.

 What kind of beads, you ask? The rare kind. The kind that are hardly seen but always in demand. Generally these beads, the boob beads, are much bigger than regular beads, have crazy designs on them, very colorful and flamboyant. Some even light up. But the one trait that all the boob beads share is this, they are all attention-getters. That's an absolute requirement.

But let's just get one thing clear, the girls aren't showing themselves just for the beads. A lot of them are doing it mainly for the same reason that they guys want to see them, so later on they can tell their friends about it. The beads are just a nice cherry on top. 

And so that's what brings these two girls to the process of negotiations with the balcony above. With suggestive hand gestures, they are making it clear that they are willing to expose themselves for the right set of beads. And so, the men on the balcony show off each extravagant set of beads they have, until, finally, they hold up ones that pleases the women below.

And once the beads are agreed upon, the girls lift their shirts. (Always make them show first, then dispense the beads, common Bourbon St knowledge). 

I don't see much from my view point, but I'm fine with that.

After the shirts are lowered and the beads are dropped and the crowd disperses, Ralph finds me again.

"How were they?" I ask.

He shrugs in response and we meander down the river once more, waiting for the next boob crowd to appear.
As we walk, I can't help but stare down at the never-ending line of puddles that have pooled up alongside the curb. These puddles are so revolting it's hypnotic. Foul, thick, turbid, greenish-brown bodies of water with numerous tiny, unidentifiable objects floating on top of them.

I'm so disgusted by this that my mind imagines what it would be like if I put my mouth in one of the puddles and took a big drink. The mental picture almost makes me vomit and I curse my brain for not working right.

The Bourbon Street puddles' hypnotic hold on me is destroyed when Ralph grabs me by the shoulder and pulls me to another crowd. We find another pair of women negotiating for beads from the men above.

But these negotiations do not go well, and soon the girls decide to head for greener pastures.

But before the crowd can disperse, an old, slightly haggard woman, maybe sixty or sixty five, comes out of nowhere and lifts up her shirt and waves her hands wildly at the balconiers.

I find myself amused for the first time since I came to Bourbon St. It's rather fun watching the various men in the crowd give half-hearted cheers while wearing expressions of confusion on their face. How were they suppose to react to this? A woman was showing her breasts, this was always a good thing, no doubt. But the breasts were saggy and misshapen... but then again, they were breasts.

Who woulda thought boob-watching could be so complicated...

I looked up to the balcony, to see how this was being received up there. From my angle I couldn't see any faces, all I could see was a set of beautiful, multi-colored giant beads hanging over the railing. At any moment, a decision was going to be made. Either the beads would drop down, or, get pulled away from view, and the story would be told.

But nothing happened. The beads simply continued to hover above the crowd. 

Confused, I looked back to the old woman. She was still there, of course. And putting on a real show. Screaming, jumping, swaying, jiggling. She was doing anything that would seal the deal so that she could get this one victory.

She was so enthusiastic, so desperate to achieve her goal, that I found myself rooting for her. I could tell by her weary face that life had probably given her the short end of the stick, and all she wanted was one more chance to feel beautiful again. Or at least, good looking enough to earn some boob beads.

This thought saddens me. Not just for the old lady, but for all humans. Don't we all come to this point eventually, at some time in our lives, when we want just the briefest reminders of who we once were?

I can't tell whether I'm having an honest moment about life, or if I'm so sick that I'm becoming delusional. I do know that I'm getting tired of staring at old crusty boobs, so I stare back up again at the dangling beads. They're still there, indifferently dangling twelve feet high.

I wonder what the hold up is. Maybe the bead holder is having a moral dilemma? He knows these boobs were not the boobs he was looking for, but her unbridled enthusiasm and energy gives him pause.

Can it be? Someone here has a heart? 

I can see the beads dipping down a few inches and I have the audacity to hope that this will have a happy ending.

But then, the real world steps in, in the form of a young pretty girl.

She squeezes past me to get into the circle, and then points to the man holding the beads. The crowd begins to cheer for the young woman, and I know the old lady's chances have plunged back down to zero.

Of course this would happen, I think.

But then, the young lady says something I can't believe.

"This is all I have to show."

She says this with supreme confidence as she points to her clothed body.

Are you kidding me? I think. This poor old woman has had her shirt lifted up for two full minutes, jumping up and down like a lunatic, and you think you can just swagger in and steal her glory without even adhering to proper procedure?

Even though I can't see the man's face above me, I can see his other hand pointing down at her and making gestures. He's clearly trying to further negotiations with her, but this girl isn't having any of it.

"This is all I have to show." She says again. She has this thick Southern, trailer trash accent that sound like nails on the chalk board to me. 

I picture what this person's life is back at home. She no doubt lives in a small town in one of the Bible Belt states, probably doesn't care too much for school, isn't well liked by her friends and she secretly knows it, and has made her way through life by flaunting her body around.

In a way, it's actually sadder than the old woman with the saggy boobs. But I still have the urge to scream at her.

You're not a Goddess, you don't get to come to Bourbon Street and have people bow to your whim.

I try to imagine what she would say in response. Although my guess is that it wouldn't be any different than what she's been saying... this is all she has to show. 

And while I'm going through all of this in my mind, the old lady is still standing behind the young girl, jumping up and down with her mammaries out.

She's a goddamn gladiator out there.

"This is all I have to show." The young harlot says for a third time. This time she circles her upper body with her two hands as she says this, highlighting her covered goods, just so the man above knows how hot she is.

"This is all I have to show."

She keeps repeating this line, and it's slowly driving me insane. Doesn't she know any other words? Can't her brain think of something else to say?

"This is all I have to show."

The crowd around the two women begins to get impatient. It's clear that the young strumpet is not going to show anything, and they've all had their fill of the pair of the gravity ravaged jugs.

But then, just before the crowd is about to dissipate, I see something fall from the sky.

It's the pair of beads. The man has finally released them. I can see from the trajectory of the beads, that they are heading right to the elderly woman. He made the right choice. Good for him.

But before I can even start to feel happy about this, I see the young girl take several long steps backwards and jump up and snatch the beads up.

"Nooooo!" The old woman shouts in haunting agony. "Those are mine. I showed my tits!"

She lunges at the young devil, demanding satisfaction. But before she reaches her, this giant whale of a woman comes out of nowhere and pushes the old woman away.

"Ain't no one touchin' ma baby." The whale says in the same unintelligent tone of the young lady.

It takes me a second to realize what's happened. Dear God, it finally occurs to me, this brutish whale gave birth to the harlot. Suddenly, I have a little empathy for the young girl. If this is what she was going to turn into over the years, maybe she should get her kicks while she could.

"Ain't no one touchin' ma baby." The whale says again through brown teeth.

There is pain in the old woman's eyes that I've only seen a few times before in my life. She looks at the whale, and speaks up for herself.

"But I showed my breasts! It's not fair."

But the whale only repeats herself for a third time: "Ain't no one touchin' ma baby."

The old woman reaches out for the beads, but the whale puts a stop to it.

"Ain't no one touchin' ma baby."

The whole time this interaction has been going on, the young girl has appeared oblivious to it. She only stares at her new beads instead and smiles at their prettiness.

Finally, the old woman admits defeat, and the whale turns to her pride and joy, and puts a loving arm around her.

"Ain't no one touchin' ma baby."

"This is all I have to show."

"Ain't no one touchin' ma baby."

"This is all I have to show."

They continue this fascinating conversation as they exit the crowd and vanish in the mass of flowing bodies. 

I look over to find the old lady, but she is gone too.

 It's just me now, and my hatred for everything. Including myself. Why didn't I say anything, why didn't I make that wrong right?

I don't have any answers though. I just have a sickness, and a hatred for humanity.

I walk to the closest intersection so I can get on a street that will take me away from all this. As I reach a corner I almost run into a middle-aged bald man who is holding a huge sign. I look up at the sign. It reads in big bold letters: FREE YOURSELF FROM SIN! JESUS IS THE WAY!

I look at the man. I look right in his eyes.

"Forget it, Jake, it's Turd River."

He looks at me absently. I'm not even sure if he heard me, it's so god damn loud out here.