A Graphic Novel That Moved

Sin City (2005)

…and for the art-house approach to cinematography, I give it 1 star. There were no other redeeming qualities to the film. Without a doubt the longest 2 hours of my life. I would have sworn it was at least 3 hours.

There is no cohesive plot to speak of. (not even the disconnected plot line of Pulp Fiction, which this film has been edited to emulate, ergo the guest director credit to Quentin Tarantino I’m sure) The acting is reasonably solid, and the cast was well selected, yet the film was doomed from the outset (like many before it) by its lack of a properly crafted script. The jumps from story segment to story segment are jarring and hard to follow. Nor does the dialog seem natural. It comes out as if the actors are reading it off a page.

The symbology of introduced color does not appear to be consistent (Blue obviously means falseness or error in the film. But red means what? And why is there a Ferengi in the last segment? Was not aware this was a Star Trek film) Nor does the “graphic novel” approach to lighting and effects really lend itself to the cinema experience. This was, perhaps, the fatal flaw in approaching this film as a true “art film” experience, the lack of an internally consistent and recognizable symbology.

All and all a pretty poor film.


A Screwball Comedy as Big as Texas

Lone Star State of Mind (2002)

“Didn’t I kill you once already, boy?”


That line still cracks me up. If you’re looking for reality, look somewhere else. If you are looking for some laughs while watching a group of impossible characters attempt what should be a simple task that turns out not to be simple at all; a quest that leads to getting shot, mutilated or run over by a truck (sounds horrible, don’t it? It’s a hoot) This is the movie for you.



The Wife can be seen sitting at a table in one of the restaurant scenes. It also features a rare appearance by John Mellencamp. Yes, that John Mellencamp.

The Most Depressing Film I’ve Ever Seen

What Dreams May Come (1998)

I expected more from this film. The pre-release cinematography was gorgeous but the story.. Man. The kids die, the wife dies the main character dies. Depressing, horrible stuff and she goes to hell and everything gets worse. None of this is really a spoiler (even though IMDb has flagged this review as containing spoilers) because all of that happens in the first act of the film. It has to happen for there to be any story to tell in this movie. The entire rest of the film is spent getting back out of hell. You have to have some belief in an afterlife to have any reason to watch this film.

Cuba Gooding’s brief appearance is the only and I repeat ONLY positive moment in the entire film. A nasty depressing ride I can skip ever seeing again.



Yes. I get it. The movie is supposed to be a tribute to undying love. I’m not buying the premise, and if I’m not buying the premise, the film doesn’t work.

The Cost of Manned Spaceflight

It is today that we remember and honor the crews of Apollo 1 and Challenger. They made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives and service to their country and for all mankind. Their dedication and devotion to the exploration of space was an inspiration to each of us, and still motivates people around the world to achieve great things in service to others. As we orbit the Earth, we will join the entire NASA family for a moment of silence in their memory. Our thoughts and prayers go to their families as well.

STS-107 commander Rick Husband

I saved this quote on the day it was uttered by Rick Husband. I’m backdating this blog entry to the day he said it. I put it into a calendar entry that I made to remind me of the anniversary of the Challenger disaster. I made one for the Apollo 1 disaster at the same time, making note of the names of the three astronauts that died that day.

I remember watching the Moon landings on our black and white television in the little wood paneled room next to the kitchen, in that house in Leoti that I still think of as home, even though that place hasn’t existed for about 35 years. I remember it as clearly as anyone can remember something that recurs to them time and again over the span of decades; which is another way of saying, I probably have invented most of the details of what I remember, but I know that I watched the events of the Apollo program unfold on television in breathless anticipation. I’m sure I watched the news the day that Ed White, Roger Chaffee and Gus Grissom died (NASA) and I’m sure I cried at the news.

I probably cried as much as the day that I watched the space shuttle Challenger disappear into that infamous ball of smoke that nearly every person alive can probably picture just by reading the word Challenger. I didn’t watch it live. I know that much. I was out driving in my car that day with some of my friends, and we heard it on the radio. When we got back to the house and watched the news, that is when we finally saw the horror that most of us remember from that day. I wrote an article for the blog on the thirtieth anniversary:

A gushing, emotional piece that I desperately want to rewrite but refuse to touch because those were the emotions that motivated me that day to write it. The emotions that motivated me to put the events on my calendar. The emotions that continue to motivate me to mark the anniversaries with a moment of silence even to this day. In four days Rick Husband and his crew would fall victim to the same human errors that caused the deaths of the Apollo 1 and Challenger crews. That is the real tragedy of the words he uttered that day.

Featured image: arstechnica.com

An Introspective Look at Indie Filmmaking

Shoot or Be Shot (2002)

It’s an Aleatoric film.

I attended the premier in Austin, Texas. I enjoyed it immensely, especially meeting the cast members for questions afterwards. Sure the edit could use a bit of tightening, but the dialog was witty to sarcastic.

Harry Hamlin and William Shatner delivered solid performances. I have friends and family working in independent film and they completely got into this movie. Sad news folks. those people really are crazy. The real question is what is crazy in relation to film making? If you are making an independent feature, you are pretty close to certifiable already.


Editor’s note

The Wife borrowed my IMDb account to write that review lo these many years ago (now it is 2020) I spruced it up a bit. We still tell the aleatoric joke to each other when we are watching something that reeks of needing a decent script.

My Favorite Fairytale

Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) (soundtrack)

Joe Versus The Volcano (1990) Official Trailer

This is perhaps the most wrongfully maligned film in all of movie history. Everyone I meet hates this film, aside from the lead singer of Abney Park. He wrote a song about it. I’ve watched this film too many times to count. It was my favorite stoner film for a long, long time.

Stoner film? A movie you watch while you are high. Forget Cheech & Chong. Forget Heavy Metal. Forget Dude Where’s My Car. All of those are good. None of them end with a guy jumping into a volcano with his true love. A movie featuring Fish as the native chief who shows Joe which path he has to follow.

The crooked road. The crooked road that he takes to work. The crooked road that mars the plaster in his apartment. The crooked road is everywhere in the film, as is Melanie Griffith who shows off her acting chops by credibly presenting several different characters with the same face.

The New York accent that always sends him down the wrong path. Poor Joe. Repeatedly sent the wrong way by people who use him, yet he always manages to find something of value everywhere he goes.

The mistake everyone makes is taking this movie seriously. It’s not serious. The thing I find most mystifying is that anyone would try to take a film seriously that starts with Once Upon a Time and ends with …And They Lived Happily Ever After. It’s a fairytale. The best fairytale. Try reading Mother Goose or the Brothers Grimm and then get back to me. None of them can hold a candle to this movie.

They just pay me to drive the limo, sir. I’m not here to tell you who you are.

Marshall, performed by Ossie Davis written by John Patrick Shanley



I started following the band Abney Park because of their use of a soundbite from this movie in one of their songs:

Abney Park – Taxidermy – The Wake – 2005

This isn’t the best mix of the song. Neither of the versions on the album Taxidermy are the best mix of the song. I have a copy of the version I prefer but it was only available on their website back in the days when I paid to have access to their full library. I haven’t given them money since back in the day when Building Steam was new.

Things You Wish Your Computer Had

Editor’s note

I created none of these images, they were the content of an eMailed Microsoft Office Document. I have no idea who created these although the doc itself has a creation date of 01/24/2001 and the author’s name was set to Steve Brook of WGBH Interactive. The email made me laugh and I saved the images from it for all of this time (2020) I am backdating this post to that date.

Young Lust Is Not Enough

It’s hot. It’s summer in South Texas. I’m sitting on the hood of a 1974 Thunderbird (Might have been a 1969) that we’ve nicknamed the Thunderchicken. This piece of crap of a vehicle that I’m stuck with has been driven millions of miles since it rolled off the assembly line in Detroit more than a decade ago, and it’s not even the oldest vehicle in the tire test fleet. That honor went to Bronco Billy, an off-white Gran Torino sedan that wished it could have been the sexier coupe, but instead was the four-door sedan that nobody wanted. That car was waiting at the shop, probably destined to take the Thunderchicken’s place, even though the floorboard on the driver’s side had been patched with plywood so that the driver wouldn’t mistakenly put their feet down while traveling and lose a leg in the process. This is the life of a test car driver, if the tests you are doing are tire tests.

The Thunderchicken, in typical Murphy fashion, has picked the farthest point from home to break down. We’d just made the turn-around outside of Comstock and were heading back towards San Angelo, the shop, and home. That description cuts the story short a bit. We’d drive the North loop up towards Robert Lee first and then to the shop. A hop, skip and a jump away from home compared to being able to see the US-Mexico border from your car window.

The car just stopped in the middle of the road. I don’t mean the motor stopped running, I mean one of the front wheels stopped turning as if it had never turned before in it’s life and wasn’t about to turn again no matter how much gas you ran through the engine. So I gunned the thing to the side of the road leaving a skid mark and a crease in the asphalt the whole way, and then radioed ahead to the rest of the convoy who promptly turned around to see if the breakdown was something we could fix.

Tire tests were run in convoys of four vehicles, back in the 1980’s when I was working as a test driver. The lead driver was generally in charge of the crew and would make decisions for the convoy as a whole. I was not the lead driver. I drove tail when I was lucky. I was driving tail that day, which is how you can have a catastrophic vehicle failure and yet have no one from your crew notice it.

A brief inspection ensued when Burt, who was driving lead that day, came back to check on me. I’d met him at trade school a few years previously. When my architectural drafting job in Abilene fell through, I called on him to see if he had someplace I could sleep. I wanted to see if a change of scenery might make for better job prospects and I’d heard good things about San Angelo while living in Abilene. I knew there was no future for me back in Sweetwater with my family, just more dead-end work to kill time until time killed me. So I wasn’t going back home to mom.

He said “sure, come on down” and so I moved to San Angelo where my friend worked on the Gandy’s milk loading line, loading trucks. Night stocking for Piggly-Wiggly started out my working life there, but it wasn’t too long before I was drafting for a land developer part-time. That really didn’t pay enough, so I started looking for other work that might suit my interests. That was when we stumbled across the business of tire testing, a business peculiar to San Angelo, Texas at the time.

Every tire sold in America is certified by a tire test that travels the route out of San Angelo South to Sonora, Then down along the border to just outside Comstock, where they turn around and head back towards San Angelo. Then they go past San Angelo and head North and West towards Tom Green, then come around on another loop to just outside San Angelo where they do stop and goes at a series of stop signs before going back to the shop. Every manufacturer in the world was required to have this test performed on these roads by a testing company certified to do the job. We worked for one of these companies and the tires I was testing that day had fallen prey to mechanical malfunction. Their time as test tires was over.

Turned out, it wasn’t something we could fix. The lower a-frame on the driver’s side front wheel had come loose from the ball joint and jammed itself into the rim of the wheel. Had the a-frame missed the rim, I wouldn’t have been able to move the vehicle at all since the frame would have dug into the asphalt, tearing itself loose in the process and rendering steering useless. At least this way I wasn’t in the middle of the road, but I was still stuck; and after the relay call came back the rest of convoy was ordered on to finish the test. I was told to wait with the vehicle for the wrecker.

My friend wished me luck and headed back out on the road with the two other drivers in tow. As I watched them vanish over the farthest hill, I gripped the tire iron that was my only weapon just that much more desperately and prayed that the wrecker would show up before dark.

It did, but just barely.

Burt had been working for McDonald’s and he was sick of it. He had injured himself throwing milk for Gandy’s dairy in San Angelo and decided that the fast food job offered more interesting work than loading milk trucks, but had soon discovered the grind that I already knew fast food work to be. I had lost my job at the Piggly Wiggly night stocking and as I said previously, the drafting work was simply not paying enough. Winter was just around the corner, and we needed work if we were going to keep a roof over our heads while the snow was falling. If it fell.

This was central Texas after all, so snow might not fall at all. It wouldn’t be the first warm Winter on record for San Angelo. It’s hard to say what the weather will be like in Texas, from season to season, sometimes from minute to minute. “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes” as the old timers will tell you.

It was all fine and good to Margaritaville our way through the summer in San Angelo, spending time down on the lakeshore getting stoned with the college students who flocked there over the summer. Summer was over now, the students were all back in school, learning to do jobs that paid better than the shit work we could find with our technical degrees from TSTI.

Burt had gotten a lead on a different kind of job than what we had both done before. It just required a driver’s license, which we both had, and a clean driving record. Our driving records were clean, even if we weren’t. We decided that we would go see if we could get a job at the same place and thereby share the commute to and from work.

We started out at Texas Test Fleet. They hired us pretty much on the spot, but we went ahead and went across the street to Smithers and put in an application there as well. Word was that Smithers paid better and their cars were of better quality. We didn’t really care, we just needed jobs that paid real money to pay the real rent that was going to be due soon.

We came back to work our shifts that night. Just two idiots who had no idea what we were doing other than that we would have to drive for eight hours at a stretch. I had driven that far on my many trips to see family in Kansas over the years. I could handle eight hours of driving that would see me back home at the end of the day. At least, that is what I told myself.

Five miles from the shop, the passenger side rear tire came off of Burt’s car. “I looked up and the tire was passing me in the ditch. I was wondering whose tire that was when the horrible grinding noise started, and that is when I realized it was my tire.” So the lead driver called in the tow truck for the now permanently disabled vehicle, and the three remaining drivers, myself included, continued on down the road to Sonora and the Devil’s River, leaving my best friend and my ride back home in the ditch waiting for a tow truck. The rest of that night’s work was largely uneventful, which was good. I don’t think I would have wanted to go back to work testing tires if we had lost another driver that first night.

We were offered jobs at Smithers the next day, which we gladly took. Their cars certainly did look nicer, the shop was cleaner and they did pay better than TTF did. Within a week the lead driver we had been following flaked out and left, and Burt was promoted to lead in his place. This meant that he and I were entrusted with the lives of two other people and the value of four automobiles each and every day that we drove test cars. I don’t think they understood who we really were, but we were happy for the work.

We usually drove day shift five days a week. There were weekend crews that worked part time, and there were frequent vacancies for anyone who wanted to work a sixth day during the busy driving week. We were subbing for some missing drivers one night not too long after we had started our new jobs. This was the second time I had been down on the river at night. It gets a little freaky at night down along the border. It is a hundred miles in any direction to civilization on that stretch of the river. The only light that is visible comes from your headlights. The sky is pitch black, with piercing white holes of light for every visible star. It reminded me of my bygone boyhood camping days, but there were no adults on this trip to protect us from our own stupidity.

It’s called the Devil’s River. The name gave it the ominous tone that we drivers assigned to it. In addition to being remote it was also out of radio range for the CB radios we had. We called it the hole. We were functionally alone through that stretch of road and as I said, it was dark that night, no moon in sight. In the light coming from our headlights we saw a jeep on the opposite side of the road, off in the ditch.

This thing looked like it had been on the losing end of a three-way bear fight. Blood, bullet holes, no windows, dented, etcetera. We didn’t dare stop. Not without functional radios to call for help with. We did call it in as soon as we got back up out of the hole, but that wreck was gone before we drove that way again a few days later. I never did find out what the story behind the jeep was.

On another night we came across yet another wreck, this one in the clearing stages. A car had run head-on into a tanker truck. Everyone in both vehicles was dead, as far as I could tell. I found out later that a baby had survived in the back seat of the car, because the backward facing child seat had saved it from being crushed. As I’m sitting next to the wreck waiting to be allowed to go on down my hellish road that night, a highway patrolman wanders over and casually kicks a shoe, a shoe with the foot still in it, back over towards the wreck. I had to look twice to make sure I saw what I thought I saw. At least they had a tarp over the car by the time we got to the wreck. I did not want to see what was inside of it. I’ve never had a stomach for blood. To this day I curse at the looky-loos who stop to gawk at roadside accidents. Stop looking and drive unless you want to be a statistic too.

The tow truck driver laughed when he saw the damage the car had left on the asphalt, all the way to the edge of the road. “Damn! It’s a good thing you got it to the side. Otherwise you’d have been stuck out here waving people around the car all day.” I explained to him that he was the one and only person who had been down that lonely road since I had my accident with the steering, and that I was really, really glad to see him. I could finally stop gripping that tire iron in fear because I at least had someone to talk to, even if all I had to do was ride shotgun all the way back to the shop, a full three hours away.

It was well past the end of shift when I finally got back, the tow-truck ride having been uneventful. I hitched a ride from a woman that I would later hook up with, and I was soaking in the tub with a doobie in one hand and a beer in the other before the hour was up. But my experience left me wondering. “Do I need to carry a weapon with me?”

When I asked Burt this question he admitted that he already had a pistol. I think he got it from his dad. He’d never shot it. We promptly took it out to Twin Buttes and fired a few dozen rounds trying to get a feel for it, but I really didn’t want a firearm. They are hard to conceal and are more often used against the people who carry them than they are used in self defense. What I wanted was a knife, even if I was squeamish about blood. A knife could be used for many things aside from threatening hostile human antagonists.

As it happened, the next time I was at my drafting job there was a vendor that stopped by the office looking to sell knick-knacks like knives and brass knuckles and whatever. I took a liking to a chrome-plated butterfly knife that he had displayed, and my boss offered to buy it for me since I was so clearly without a nickel to my name. I handled it gingerly and yet still managed to cut myself the first few times I tried flipping the knife in the style you see done in movies. I told them I’d get the hang of it eventually, but really I just wanted it to keep the anxiety at bay.

“Just smoke a joint to get rid of the anxiety” quipped Burt, but I refused. I had driven drunk and stoned enough times when I was fresh out of high school to know that I didn’t want to be doing that on the job with someone else’s property. In the case of an accident like the one with the Thunderchicken, the inquiry would have revealed my drug use on the job and I would not only have been fired but I probably would have been jailed, knowing my luck.

No, I was going to white-knuckle my way through the anxiety and come out the other side. I was convinced of this.

Months passed. Winter came on strong that year. The pasteboard tenants house that we were renting was no match for the weather we were having. It rained, then it snowed, then it rained again. I caught pneumonia. Ashley, a cashier from my old job at Piggly Wiggly took pity on Burt and I; and she told us we could move in with her while I was recovering from the pneumonia. I will be eternally grateful to her for that. I would probably have died without her intervention. After the Winter had passed and it was rolling on towards Summer again, it became clear that, while Burt was welcome to stay in her house and in her bed for as long as he wanted, I was probably going to be better off if I found somewhere else to live.

This was about the time that I discovered the notion of friends with benefits on a first-hand basis. Jessica, another checker from the same store was a buddy of mine. A female buddy of mine. We had goofed around, gotten drunk and stoned together for months and never thought about the fact that we were both sexually frustrated and had compatible physical parts we could make use of if we wanted to. If it was possible to do that and not grow emotionally attached to each other.

My former roommate had a new roommate. One he couldn’t shake no matter how hard we tried to shake her off. Ashley was attached to him; more than physically attached, which she also was most of the time. All the women wanted Burt. A good percentage of the men did too. But she WANTED him, not just wanted him. He was going to be hers and no one was going to stand in her way or distract her from her goal of keeping him, like a trophy on a shelf.

Meanwhile Jessica, my now fuck-buddy, stoner buddy and I were on our own most of the time and we spent a good deal of that time working off that sexual frustration we had been carrying around with us for years, at least. The experiment seemed mutually beneficial, for most of its runtime. She’d come visit me when she was horny, I’d go visit her when I was. But there was still that nagging problem of sleeping in a borrowed spot in someone else’s house, and my welcome was quickly wearing out.

So I found an apartment across town near the mall, my favorite strolling spot, if not my favorite shopping spot. The Barrington, it was called. The drafting work dried up again and I was forced to go back to working at clubs between layoffs. I worked testing tires for a few weeks at a time, but my stomach had started to give me trouble by that point. Sitting in the car stewing all the time, never able to do anything except drive. It was burning me out on driving where driving had been my escape vehicle for most of my teenage life.

When I was in high school that was all we did. Drive to and from the Sonic and the courthouse in Sweetwater. Back and forth. For hours at a time. We thought of it as fun then. A real adventure was picking up some girls and driving all the way around the lake with them listening to music. Mostly I just drove by myself, though. Being forced to stay in the car driving when you would rather be doing something, anything, else though? That was completely different and it was killing the native love of automobiles that lives within the breast of every red-blooded American. What were we if we weren’t car lovers? I was afraid that I was going to find out, soon.

The one-bedroom apartment got old after awhile. Alone in the car all day when I was driving, alone at night because I wasn’t a pick-up artist and I didn’t have a girlfriend who would stay with me, I decided to take an apartment with a roommate again. An apartment, not a pasteboard shack this time. I had discovered there were shelters that were good enough, and then there was real living. I wanted real living, thank you. Mickey, one of my best friends from high school had moved out on his own, finally. He had moved to San Angelo after Sweetwater (his dad was retired military there) and so we decided to take an apartment together. He was a pick-up artist. I hadn’t known this about him. How could I have? Until that point in his life he would have to have conducted his trysts in his car because he certainly wasn’t taking them home to Mom’s house. I’d heard of a few of those encounters, some on the hood of his car, but I had no idea how many there were until we shared that apartment.

Instead of helping my loneliness, that made it worse. The only time he was in the place was when the Cowboys were playing (I hate football) and when he was bringing home his date of the week. One of his dates of the week because there was frequently more than one. Some woman whose name I was told but never bothered to remember because it would be a different one the next week or even the next day.

I tried MDMA/ecstasy once, just to see if I could do what Mickey did. Dropped it right before going into one of the clubs I occasionally worked at. Walked straight up to a chick that I thought looked like she wanted to dance. Total stranger. Never done that before or after the MDMA. We danced for an hour at least and then we went home to her place where we got stoned, had the most intense sex I’d ever had and then feel asleep. With a total stranger. In their apartment. Where I woke up the next morning. Totally not me, at all. I don’t know who she is, but we’ve been intimate in ways that I’ve never experienced with anyone before. It was supposed to be the start of my one-night stand adventure. My mimicry of Mickey’s seemingly infinite chain of women. I couldn’t do it. I saw her again, several times. We had absolutely nothing in common. Jessica and I had more in common, I knew that because we had talked for hours stoned together long before we even thought to have sex with each other. I didn’t love either of them even though we had been intimate in exactly the same ways that Ashley and Burt had been, IN MY PRESENCE. MORE THAN ONCE. What the hell was wrong with me?

It was too much. Once again I took to driving a lot just to get away. That was when Patrick started hanging out with me. I don’t even remember where we met. The comic book shop? I have no idea. He had seen I was lonely. He was lonely too. He was lonely for his next conquest and he thought it would be me, apparently. Every weekend we’d go out driving, and he’d tell me of some place he wanted to visit. We’d get there, and it would be a gay bar. A gay bar, every time. He would be mystified. “I had no idea this was a gay bar. Come on, let’s get out of here.” Not once. Not twice. At least three times this happened. I never clued in on it, not until much, much later. He thought I was gay. It was understandable. I was always the third man out in any coupling that Burt or Mickey had set up. I either sat and talked with the girlfriend of the intended conquest who had no real interest in me, or I was wandering around alone outside waiting for the tryst to finish so I could come back and get some sleep. Unfortunately for him I wasn’t gay. I was just clueless and in need of direction.

I was sitting around toking it up with Burt one night somewhere in the middle of this mess of a life. I had a fuck-buddy that wandered by whenever it suited her. I had a gay man trying to turn me gay by taking me to gay bars one weekend after another. I had tried MDMA with Burt a few weeks previously the last time we had managed to shake off Ashley. Mickey had not been impressed. Neither had Ashley. Not impressed at all with each other as sexual mirrors I guess. I had probably been regaling him with the tale of the serial gay bars and my mystification at what the hell was going on when he said “Hey, man. I met this chick the other day at work. She has a knife just like yours. She said she’d teach you how to use it the next time you drive with me.” I said “cool” and we went on with whatever it was we were doing that night.

Probably playing mumbly-peg with an axe. We did that a lot when we got stoned out on the lakeshore. We had driven out there that first spring after the big freeze and set up a bunch of bonfire sites with wood that we had scavenged off the lakeshore, along with some other wood we had dumped out there from some yard work we had been shanghaied into doing.

Ashely’s house needed some serious yard work done. Her parents had been gone overseas for the last year and they trusted her to keep the place up. The back yard fence, the view from her dad’s old shop, the place where I had decided to sleep, sleeping as far from the rest of them as I could get and still be in the house; the back fence had a stand of overgrown tree-hedges that needed trimming. About three to six truckloads of trimming, as we measured it.

So we loaded up Burt’s old ’70 Chevy truck with as much wood as we could coax it to carry, and we hauled it out onto a patch of lakebed that had been recently uncovered. We would dump that load of wood and then proceed to clear a swath around the dumpsite. The entire area was covered in four to six foot tall stands of dead mesquite, saplings that had grown up the last time the lake had been down for awhile, and then drowned when the water level rose again.

We were being cautious. We didn’t want the fire to spread and cause a wildfire. This had happened before at another regional reservoir, O.C. Fisher. It had gotten a fickle finger of fate award from Laugh-In because it was the only lake to have caught fire up to that point. Since the deadwood was pretty dense at Twin Buttes as well, we just tossed it all in the back of the truck and hauled it back to the pile to be stacked up. We did this for every truckload of wood we hauled out there, for a total of about six bonfires that we intended to use over the summer.

Use them, we did. I lit one for a tryst with Jessica. Rolling around next to the fire, trying to repeat the MDMA experience without the MDMA this time. Mouths to places we didn’t usually put our mouths, just to see if it was the MDMA or the novelty that had made it such an interesting evening. It was the MDMA, I concluded. We were definitely not having as much fun as I and my one night stand turned into a week of uncomfortable silence in each other’s presence sexual companion had had. Or maybe it was the partner? Surely not. Jessica was cool. She was into most of the stuff I was into. Why wasn’t I into her? I mean, other than physically. Which I was at the time. She probably wanted more from me too, just like Patrick did. How could I be lonely with a fuck-buddy on call?

This is why I wasn’t a pick-up artist. Sex wasn’t enough of a motivator for me. Not with my anxiety. I wanted more than a reduction of the sex drive that lasted mere moments. I could perform that act myself if I needed to. No. What I wanted was long-term companionship, the kind of thing you won’t find at bars because that isn’t what people go there for. Not really. They go there for the reasons the other driver who gave me a lift when I needed it went there for when I met her and we had our little encounter. Her husband was sleeping around on her, she wanted to sleep around on him. She didn’t care about the acts involved or whether they were enjoyable or not. She just wanted to be able to walk around the house she shared with her husband, freshly fucked just like her husband had been. So I did her that favor. She tried to return the favor but, as I said, it wasn’t what she was there for.

I had made mistakes many times in the past when it came to falling in love. Clearly I wasn’t even batting a thousand when it came to choosing casual sex partners. It was almost as if I couldn’t really figure out what was going on around me, and I had no idea what I was missing. What was I missing? It was one of the reasons why I hated the destruction of my one avenue of solace, driving for pleasure. The only time I had to think was when I was driving, and driving eight hours a day every day was killing me with over-thinking. Too much time for thought, not enough to think about without worrying.

This was where I was mentally on that fateful day when Burt introduced me to the person that I would come to affectionately refer to as the Wife. Strung out on too much caffeine, like all drivers are. Mentally frazzled from eight hours of self-flagellation at all the mistakes I had made in life up to that point, including the screw-ups in timing and spacing that I was supposed to keep track of as tail over the last eight hours. Bored with my music. Bored with my life, anxious to go home, smoke a joint, mellow out.

I hear “Hey, Tony, this is that girl I wanted you to meet.” I turn around. I notice her grin first. This was a setup. I should have known. “I hear you want to meet my baby.” she purrs. It’s scary how sexual the reference feels when she says it. “This is my baby.” She draws out a blade that is a good two inches longer than my puny little letter opener, and casually flips it back and forth without even checking to see that she is holding it right.

I don’t know if I’m going to see blood, or some other kind of demonstration next. Then I notice her eyes. They were grey-green. I’d never seen anything like them before. Not anywhere. Those witches eyes, framed by strawberry-blonde hair, and that impish grin on her pixie face. I was in love and terrified all at the same time, in that very first instant. The way she just casually flipped the knife around, in exactly the kind of way that I don’t do unless I want to be bandaging a cut next. That was freaking me out the most.

I think I said “Oh, is that how it works.” Then I showed her my tiny blade, which she laughed at. Then she showed me which end of the handle to hold, how to stealth drop one side so that you could gut someone in a single motion from draw to finishing stroke. A finishing stroke that ended a fraction of an inch from my tightening stomach. Yep. I was terrified. She was my dream and my nightmare all in one woman. I had to leave or I was going to faint, so I made my excuses and fled home to my apartment, fled home to listen to Mickey and his date of the week rhythmically banging on the wall of my bedroom.

Just like normal. At least I could look forward to meeting Patrick again. He had another club for me to check out, hopefully this one wasn’t going to be a gay bar. He wanted to know if I would buy a box of comic books that he was trying to get rid of. Could I float him some cash for it? Oh, and there was always that next bonfire with Burt. I wanted to know more about that crazy knife woman and what he thought she would do to me if I saw her again? With any luck Burt and I could get stoned and toss the axe back and forth at each other’s feet. That never got old.


There’s so much more to this time period. I’ve masqued the names and now I want to add more stuff to it. Maybe it’s a novel in the works? I have no idea. It started out as just a retelling of how I met the Wife and now it’s morphed into something that I didn’t intend it to be but might actually be better. Or worse. I have no idea.

There’s the times I said things and people said “you can’t say that.” In various ways. Slapping. Punching. Saying “you can’t say that” and then never speaking to me again. Which hurts. Because I’m pretty sure I formed those syllables quite well and the way I intended.

I may not have understood the impact, like telling a boyhood friend’s mom “There’s a pickle on the floor. My Mom would never leave food on the floor.” She kicked me out and never let me play with her children again. If she had just said “That is gross. Why don’t you pick it up and throw it away?” I would have done that and never thought anything of it. The various times people explained their beliefs to me and then I would explain why their beliefs were fantasies. Then I would have to go to church with them and confess my sins or whatever.

The waitress who came home to sleep with me, but when she got to know me decided that I wasn’t the guy she wanted to have sex with that night. As we’re going back out to the car I get annoyed and point out all the other guys at the bar that I know she’d slept with because I’d seen her going home with them and “geez what’s wrong with me, why don’t we just go back upstairs…” and then she slapped me straight across the face. I opened her door and took her home. Never spoke to her again.

The guy in the corner apartment at the Barrington whose kids I woke up at two in the morning walking past their door to get to the laundry room. I’m tired, I’m doing laundry because the machines are open finally, he comes in behind me in his bathrobe and jeans (Just like Billy in my nightmares) and starts harassing me for doing my laundry at two in the morning. I ask him “what are you going to do about it?” and the next thing I know I’m on the floor with a really painful jaw. Okay. Punching me in the face was doing something about it, but I really hadn’t expected that to be the thing the asshole would do. Not sure why, though.

After the cops were called they discovered he had a warrant out for wife-beating or something in another state, but he had disappeared by then. Packed up the wife and kids and disappeared. Burt and I were planning on bashing him on the head with a baseball bat, according to the Wife. He got what was coming to him. He had to run away. I got the lesson I needed. I still try to be more quiet when other people are sleeping. It would have been nice to not have to learn it by use of the fist, but that’s sometimes the form that shakubuku takes.

The Pinto. The 1974 exploding version of the Pinto that I drove for years because a secretary at First Paragon, a devout and charitable christian who was making a point about her charity and devotion by her act, sold me this rolling death trap of a car really cheap. 482 bucks for a twelve year old car. I accepted the offer because Mom wanted her Sunbird back, which I had borrowed after my Vega died a horrible death of steel piston sleeves coming loose inside it’s aluminum motor (I still miss that car. That and the burnt orange Chevelle) My brother promptly wrecked it after I gave it back to her, but I had my not-exploded gasoline bomb to drive around in so I really didn’t care.

I got stoned with Burt one Sunday afternoon and we stripped every bit of chrome off the exterior of the vehicle, just on a whim. Then we tore out all of the interior except for the dash and seats. Then, noticing the paint was coming off the exterior in a few places, we proceeded to paint the entire exterior of the car in camouflage colors. Where once it had been a baby crap green, now you couldn’t see it. You couldn’t see it because it was camouflage. Get it?

I know no one could see it because I was rear-ended in it about two days after I did all that work. The car didn’t explode but the death was initiated that day. The drive train was compressed and the u-joints in the drive shaft eventually gave out because of it. But it was my party car until the day the u-joints went out. It was the last car of mine to have the Concord stereo and expensive speakers mounted in it. I was eventually planning on doing a custom interior and exterior for it, but that money never came to me. That was a dream just like the dreams that other people have about their imaginary gods and what their gods wanted of them. That car wanted to be a candy-apple yellow party car with a built-in cooler where the back seats used to be. It told me, that day while I was stripping it down and making it invisible with camouflage colors. You hear the voices of gods? I hear the voices of cars. Who are you to call me crazy?

The Camaro at work talked to me too. That is probably where the fictional story should take place. What happened when my KITT car (yeah, I know Firebird not Camaro. This is my story, fuck off) told me it wanted to run off to Florida and pick up girls? And then we did what it wanted. What then? Could be an interesting story.

But You Get to Eat Ice Cream for Dinner!

In 1974 my tonsils tried to kill me by strangulation and so my parents found a surgeon to cut them out. This was merely a pause in the lifelong battle I’ve waged with allergies, a battle with my own immune system. The surgery marks my earliest memory of hospitals. Of medical care. My throat hurt for a long time after that, but I didn’t care because I got milkshakes for meals while I healed. As many as I wanted.

Ear infections were a common thing. I learned through repetition to let my mother know when my hearing changed, when my ears started hurting. The doctor’s office, dentist’s office and the hospital were less than a block away from our home in that small town. The county hospital shared the same alleyway with my home, with the emergency entrance at the end of the muddy alleyway behind the next door neighbor’s house. I don’t recall a single time that the emergency entrance was used at the hospital, although I’m sure my memory is in error.

I played in the mud of that alleyway for many years. I rode my bike through the potholes in the dirt track every summer that I lived there. Rode that same bike to the county pool that was two blocks away as often as I could. I would have lived in that pool if I could have figured out how to sleep there. However, frequent trips to the pool lead to frequent sinus infections and being banned from the pool for weeks at a time, so I had to make sure to get the water to drain out of my sinuses every time I went swimming, a miserable process of laying my face on the hot concrete at just this particular angle, so that the water could be coaxed into leaving the tied up passages in my head.

The First Time I Realized I Was Different

I am laying on the ground with the world spinning around me. I grip the earth with my hands, the grass blades poking me between my fingers, but the sky continues its kaleidoscopic whirl over my head. My stomach knots into a hard ball and I vomit onto the earth under my cheek. Failure.

I’ve failed again. I’m not tough enough. I’m not strong enough. I’m never going to be good enough. I can’t even handle riding on a merry-go-round much less do anything more important in my young life.

I must have been seven or eight at the time, although this was an experience repeated many times, so it is hard to separate one memory of nausea from the thousands of other memories of nausea. Spinning rides predominate amusement parks and playgrounds across the United States and probably all across the world. Tilt-a-Whirl. Teacups. These amusements have almost never been amusing to me.

I laughed along with the other children when we would go to these places. I pretended not to be sickened by the spinning that took forever to stop in my head. You play along, as a child. You don’t want to be the spoilsport. The stick in the mud. You don’t want to be teased for being different, so you conform to the norms expected of you and never question why they are norms if you can’t achieve them. You pretend not to be ill, until you can’t pretend anymore.

That is pretty much the story of my life. From my earliest memories until my later years, I can’t spin in place or watch anything spinning without getting a sympathetic spin in my stomach. It is mesmerizing and nauseating at the same time. I can’t walk a straight line or balance on a balance beam. I injured myself any number of times on trampolines before learning that I really just needed to stay clear of them. The same with diving into the water. Anything more than just pointing the head down in midair and hitting the water is too much body positioning to keep track of for me. I have no idea how many times I’ve spun or which side is up if I try to do anything more than point at the water during a dive. I have no idea if I’m balanced or not. No idea how to stop the internal spinning once it has started.

I am a constant victim of my vestibular system. I have been almost since the day I was born.