The Bartender Journals: August 2006

Friday, August 25, 2006

Anachronism Chapter 2

I keep having this dream. I’m stuck in the back row of a plane. The plane is hot, too hot. I keep sweating like a madman and as more passengers board I hope to hell nobody sits next to me. Just as people get situated and begin reading the Skymall catalog, it happens. There she is. She looks different every time but all that I know when I look at her is that she’s the girl of my dreams. Sometimes blonde, sometimes a redhead, always beautiful. Not magazine twenty grand boob job, thirteen inch waist beautiful, but that kind of better than real beautiful you see in real life. The kind of girl who takes all the attention in the room when she really shouldn’t. This time she has bobbed black hair and thick black plastic rimmed glasses. She’s reading a dog eared copy of “The Sun Also Rises” for what must be at least the dozenth time. I can see at least a dozen tiny Post-It notes placed about the text. She sits next to me and stares. She stares straight into my eyes, my heart, and my soul. She speaks. I can never remember the words when I wake up but it’s as if her lips move silently and I’m filled with that feeling. That feeling that everything is going to be O.K.. That feeling that this is right. Then the plane jumps. At first I pass it off as mild turbulence. Then the turbulent becomes violent. We begin to plummet to the ground. I’m in the back row but for some reason if I look down the length of the cabin I can see through the canopy and see the ground coming ever closer. My nameless dream girl and I are holding each other. Then we hit the ground and I wake up. I’ve been having this dream for over five years now.

* * *

“Holy fucking shit!” I yell as I sit up from the cot in the Doctor’s office. The first thing I see is a some three hundred pound man in a khaki Sheriff’s outfit complete with Mountie hat and aviator sunglasses standing over me. Before I can get completely upright, he slaps me in the face with a cold wet palm that, if it were a steak, would set you back eighty bucks in any decent restaurant.

“Get a hold of yourself boy! No need for profanity.” Before I respond I slide my tongue across my teeth looking for anyone MIA. It’s then that I feel my chest. I recoil back with a sensation like Paul Bunyan had kicked me in the sternum. “Now just get a hold of yourself son. Doc Smith tells me you cracked a couple a ribs turning over that motor scooter of yours so save your strength.”

“Where in the shit am I?” Again Boss Hog slaps me and this time I’m more bewildered than in pain.

“Now I told you about that language. Keep a lid on it.” With that the sheriff rubs his chin, removes his glasses, and gives me a once over. “Now where you from son? Doc tells me that your license says Denver.”

I think about this and say. “I was formerly a resident, yes.” It’s then that I realize that the sheriff is gumming a long gone coffee straw. “Now don’t horse me around son, ya see I ain’t got the patience for it.” It’s only then that I can bring my knuckles to my eyes, clear the teas and grime, and blood, and look at the man to see that he is speaking with all seriousness.

“Yes sir. I’m from Denver. And to be totally honest, I don’t have the faintest clue of where I am.” Feeling at least semi re-acquainted with reality I say this with my best talking to the cops face.

“Well son.” He says, not missing a beat. “You’re smack dab in the middle of Eden Springs Colorada.” That wasn’t a typo. Like many a podunk before him he actually pronounced the last o with an a.

“Hell’s bells.” I say. “So what happened to my bike?”

The Sheriff thinks about this for a sec, taking time to suck on his swizzle stick and says. “Danny over at the service station is working on it for the time being. You gotta understand we don’t get much in the way of tourism round here. I just wanted to give ya a once over to make sure you weren’t some kind of trouble maker. Ya got a foul mouth on ya but that’s understandable seeing as yer circumstances.” With that the gargantuan man grabs the side of my face and gives me a good shake and has a laugh. “Name’s Bill Brunson, Sheriff Brunson to you.” He says as he grasps my free hand with the prime rib. “I got a couple a matters to attend to so take care and let me know if there’s anything I can do for ya.” With that the Sheriff leaves but his odor and demeanor remain.

Had I presently been capable, I most certainly would have become once again physically ill at this encounter but my upper bowels were as dry as the Kalahari. I take the time to examine my chest and find that it’s tightly bandaged from belly button to nipples. Having previously broken ribs, I know that sitting up will require Herculean fortitude. Bereft of alternatives I decide to proceed and once again dress myself from my set of clothes that I find once again, neatly pressed on the dresser. The definition of insanity is trying the same thing repetitively and expecting new results.

I hobble once again into the office to find the doctor at the reception desk with his feet up doing a crossword. He gives me a quick but altogether unimpressed glance and returns to chewing on the back of his pen.

“What the hell is going on?” I ask.

“Five letter word starting with L for ‘One who lacks success’?” The Doctor asks, never looking up from his puzzle. “If you want my advise, son?” The Doctor says, finally making eye contact. “You best get yourself squared away and get the hell outta here and start back whence you came.

The phonograph in the corner is playing again. This time it’s Hank Williams’ “I’ll never get out of this world alive.” I tell the doctor he couldn’t be more on the money.

“Just who do I see about that?” I ask.

“Your best bet would be Danny, over at the service station. He’s working on your motorcycle.” He says stuffing the pen back in his mouth as if our conversation was an inconvenience to his oral fixation.

“Where might I find that?” I say, just now having to gain my balance once again due to either internal blood loss, shock, or the detrimental effects of time travel.

“Downtown.” He says, putting down his paper with great annoyance. “Head out that door, make a left, caddy-corner to the diner.”

“Thanks.” I say, mustering the bag of broken bones and bruises that is now my body towards the door.

“Don’t doddle now.” The Doctor says. “I mean it. You got no place in this town and this place ain’t got no place for you.” I give him the international signal for “Rock’n Roll and leave.

* * *

Strange is a relative term. One man’s strange is another man’s commonplace. That said my conversation with the Doctor just now had readily convinced me that I best make my way out of Twin Peaks as soon as fucking possible. Then the real strange set in.

I start a couple of blocks down Main street as instructed by Mengela and am distracted from gazing upon the abhorred pastel wasteland of exterior home colors before me by a kid pushing one of those metal rings with a stick. Up until now I’d only seen shit like this on cartoons and Leave It To Beaver. The little bastard was even wearing a beanie with a propeller on top. I look at the little tike in much the way I imagine I may look at a werewolf or leprechaun for the first time, dumbfounded by that which lay before me. A combination of the apparition and the ever present pain in my ribs compels me to lean against the jet black Chevy America parked on the curb. I rub my eyes and take a look down Main Street and see a neon sign still glistening in the noon sun reading “DINER” about a block down. First thing’s first. I need some coffee.

I enter the diner looking like what must be ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag. Much to the surprise of what I was hoping was a surrealistic and existential drug trip, “Mr. Sandman” was not in fact playing on the jukebox as I entered. It was in fact Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel”. I meandered my way up to the bar and what do you know I find an ashtray in front of me. It seems that being stuck on the pimple on the ass of the Earth has its advantages. They don’t enforce the statewide smoking ban here. I light up, like any good American would.

A waitress in her mid forties positions herself in front of me wearing a bulletproof amount of eyeliner. “Howdy shug, what can I get ya?” She says with a smile both comforting and terrifying.

“Just a coffee thanks.” I say as I examine for the first time, the new bandages on my right fingers.

“Sure I can’t talk ya into a piece of pee-can pie? I make it myself.” She says with a wink.

“No, thanks, just the coffee.” I say discovering the four inch long dried strip of road rash on my right arm for the first time.

“Suit yourself.” “Mary” as her nametag implies says.

Moments later she comes back with my coffee and that same perky grin. “Let me ask you something shug. Are you that new fella in town I’ve been hearin' about?” I ask her what made her think that.

“Can I ask you just one question?” Shoot I say. “Now I’m a high-school graduate and all but I’m not too keen on science and things.” You don’t say, I reply. “I just gotta ask. If a zeppelin was a made outta lead wouldn’t it just sink right to the gal durn ground?” I almost drop the brown ceramic coffee cup Debbie just filled for me as I look at her vapidly and it dawns on me that she’s referring to my t-shirt. It’s a Zeppelin 73’ tour shirt with the occasional blood stain that the Eden Co laundrymat apparently didn’t get out.

“Well… you see.. Hey, what’s the damage on this coffee?” I say downing the rest of the lava hot cup.

“That’ll be twenty cents.” Mary says in all seriousness. I ramble through my pockets but soon redeemer that my bankroll and my wallet mysteriously disappeared whilst I was unconscious.

“I hate to tell ya this Mary, but I seem to have forgotten my wallet on my way out.” I give her the old puppy dog eyes I learned on my mother and have used liberally on every girlfriend I’d ever had.

“Tell ya what shug. I’ll put it on yer tab. Now what's your Christian name?”
“James.” I say. “James Blake.”

* * *

I ring the bell at “Eden Auto Body” for what felt like a fortnight before a homely looking character in coveralls with fresh oils stains on hid midriff pokes his head up over the counter nearly giving me my sixth coronary of the last forty-eight hours. “Hey!”

I almost loose my footing as he springs up from the counter like a Jack in the Box. “You must be the fella that wrecked his motor scooter.”

In a perfect world I’d find all this amusing. In a perfect world, all these things would be mere contrivances while I sat on my yacht deciding between a Grey Goose or Kettle One martini. Being the type of person that I am, in the situation that I am, it is annoying. “Yes.”

“Well I’ll tell you what I’ve always wanted an opportunity to work on one of the two wheeled variety.” Danny says according to the nametag on his coveralls. God god damn, everyone here seems to be wearing identification.

“Danny, and I say this with all due respect. What the fuck are you talking about!” It sounded calmer in my head than it came out.

“You know.” Danny says, not missing a beat and obviously not offended. “The type of car with two wheels like you got here.”

“Bear with me for a moment Danny because I’m gonna speak slow and avoid contractions. Do you mean to tell me that you’ve never worked on a motorcycle before?” I say this using several gesticulations and hand movements as violent as possible hoping to get my point across.

“Well hell naw. But I can’t imagine it’s much more difficult than a Buick.” He says scratching his head with a wrench in a posture that denotes that what he’s saying is obvious.

“How long until it’s done?” I ask.

“Oh, not long. I just gotta figure out how to make my wrenches fit this gall durn thing.”

“You’re using metric tools right?”

“They make em in metric too.” Heavens why.

“Because it’s Japanese.”

“Well I’ll be damned. I read Kawalski and thought the bastard was from Poland.” God is testing you James, there’s a beer in this town, find it.

* * *

I meander my way back up to the bar at the diner just as the suns about to set. I run both hands through my greasy hair. Dr. Mengela and Nurse Ratchet obviously denied me a sponge bath during my unconsciousness. I need a shower. Mary comes by again.

“Change your mind about that Pee-can pie?”

“As a mater of fact Mary, I did. If you have accomplished nothing in your life up unit this point, make sure that for the next hour all I see is draft beer and pecan pie for as far as the eye can see.” As sarcastic as that came out, I can smell the pie, it smells damn good.

Just as I’m about top experience the best pecan pie The Outer Limits has to offer, I’m interrupted. There’s a tap on my shoulder. I look to my right and see a subtle, red haired man, maybe forty, with a smile sweeping so stringently across his face it could end world hunger.

“Hello friend.” The man says. I’ve never been greeted this way before and it’s as creepy in person as it sounds. “I’m Dale, Dale Goodwill from the city council and the local representative of the Eden Colorado Elks Lodge. I was hoping you could come and answer a few questions for me.”

Now I’ve been watching T.V. for he last thirty years like he rest of you. Despite this feeling like a deathtrap, anyone who’s been to an Elk’s Lodge knows that they are up to their elbows in hooch. Who am I to deny a free drink or five. What do I have to loose.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

My New Project: Anachronism

I'm working on a new book, this time a fiction work. I've been working my ass of on this in the midst of "The Bartender Journals" nationwide tour so please tell me, you my origional fans, what you think. I'm reluctant to start this as any of you who have seen my live readings know that I allready finished another fiction book "Surviving Society" which has yet to be published. All I know that working on an idea is much better than having to edit one, so enjoy and please give me feedback.

By Dave Lawrence

Chapter 1

I ask him how many. “Two.” Marco tells me. “Either we break two and you never show your face in Denver again. Or we cut off the same two and you have two weeks to get things straight.” I’ve been lying in the broom closet of a tattoo parlor on Colfax for the last hour while Marco’s gorillas tenderized me for the negotiation you are now witnessing. They caught me going back to my apartment to retrieve the fifteen grand I had hidden in my ventilation duct. Barely a third of what I need by midnight tonight if I ever want to play piano again. Marco pocketed the money when he nabbed me and I know that no matter what I choose he’ll be keeping it with the boss none the wiser. You see if I come up short it’s gonna be Marco’s job to kill me. It’s a much better deal for him if I disappear. He’d much rather get fifteen large to do a 3rd degree assault than do first degree murder with intent for free.

“So what’s it gonna be?” Marco asks. I tell him I’ll take the first one. The Gorillas drag me into the front room of the tattoo parlor and sit me down in one of the antique barber chairs. “Left or right?” Marco asks. I tell him the right. I’ll need my left for the clutch on my way to Vegas. They take out a couple of zip ties and tie my left wrist to the arm of the chair and my right hand, palm down across the other side. Its dark in here but for some reason I can notice what seems to be a small collection of blood along the inside of the ashtray built into the armrest. Somebody felt lucky, somebody took the second option. I tell Marco that it looks like he’s done this before. With that he only smiles and gets a grip on my pinky and ring finger.

I look over to the corner of the tattoo parlor and there in the corner is sitting Marco’s fifteen year old whore. She’s smoking an American Spirit with a cold sore on her lip and begins clutching the tiny little purse she has in her free hand made out of discarded Nevada license plates ever so tightly when he takes a hold of my fingers. The look in her eyes tells me she’s been in this chair before.

I remember when my father used to spank me when I was a kid for whatever dumbshit thing I’d done and I would always have to focus on something to deal with the pain. He’d pull out that old leather belt with the metal rings on it out from the bottom of his closet and when he put me over his knee I’d focus on the first thing I’d see on the floor. Sometimes it was a Lincoln Log, or maybe a Han Solo action figure. I’d just stare at it as hard as I could. I still remember how Optimus Prime’s left eye was just a little larger than the right. Tonight, sitting in the barber chair with my flanges about to be devastated, I look at Marco’s whore. I’ll always remember her. The baby doll Franz Ferdinand shirt, the cheap pink lipstick from Wallgreen’s, the yellow fingernails that tell me she’s smoked too much meth out of broken light bulbs, and the way she flinched. Oh shit, here it comes.

* * *

They dropped me off about twenty minutes later outside my apartment. That is, dropped me off in the same way you “drop off” a cigarette but or a fast food wrapper you throw out the window without slowing down. Luckily they tossed me in the alley and I landed close enough to my bike because I was in no shape to walk a great distance. First things first I pulled out my flask and my cigarettes, took a belt and lit up. As soon as the flick of my Zippo echoed down the alley there was a rustling amongst the garbage nearby. It was of course, a bum. I swear to god it’s like these guys have a kind of echolocation for smokes. Before I can take another nip the old vagabond crawls over with a look on his face like I want to be some sort of philanthropist.

“Heeey brotha, can I get a square off ya?” Do I look like cigarette welfare to the degenerate trash of the world.

“Do you see my face?” I ask him. “Look at me for fucks sake!” I say pointing to my face with my right hand, two fingers dangling off like wet spaghetti.

“I’m sorry slick, I just need a smoke man.” I rip one from the pack and throw it in his face. And take a long hit off my flask.

“Hey whatcha got in there brotha, can I have some?” To that I crawl on my elbows to the rucksack on the back of my bike and pull out my .380 and chamber a round.

“Buzz off tramp before I pump you full of lead!” The crackhead grabs his bushel of shit from behind the dumpster and tears ass down the alley. Pump you full of lead? God damn I watched too much TV as a kid.

When I finish my smoke I dig into the toolbox under the seat of my bike and pull out a small crescent wrench and a roll of electrical tape to fashion a makeshift splint for my fingers. Much to my surprise it was much more painful getting them back in their original position than it was reorienting them in the first place. It took four more cigarettes and half my flask to accomplish this meager task. Its gonna be a long ride to Cesar’s Palace.

When I eventually saddle my bike and, after throwing up a few times, start the fucker up and burn off to I-70 its almost dawn. I need to make my way West across the divide before it gets light lest I get pulled over in Arapahoe county for my myriad of unpaid parking tickets and get sent over to City within the clutches of people willing to imbed a sharpened toothbrush in my eye socket for whatever meager price my head is going for today. You make a lot of decisions as a gambler. Some good, some bad, but they all weigh precisely on a risk/reward equation you have worked out in your head. The trick is never to regret a past decision, to always know you had the numbers in mind. You learn early on to deal with bad beats, cold streaks, or just dumb luck. You never learn to deal with a hunch gone wrong.

It begins to rain around Breckinridge and I constantly have to wipe my gloves across my goggles to keep an eye on the never ending series of chicanes ahead. About twenty miles and a near tsunami later I reach the Eisenhower Tunnel and get the most recent in a series of (both figurative and literal) kicks in the nuts. Due to a tanker crash, the westbound traffic is completely closed off for an indeterminate period of time. I have two choices at this point. A. I wait for the tunnel to re-open, which could be anywhere from hours to a day or two. Or B. I look for a detour. I’ve taken these mountain passes enough in the last fifteen years to feel confident enough to find what the Donner party could not and find a passage to the west. Risk vs. reward. This isn’t a hunch. It isn’t a gut feeling. Just keep telling yourself that man.

Thus begins two hours of traversing, at varying speeds, a series of byways and highways in several states of pavedness. The rain pours harder and despite my masculinity I would, at this point, be more than willing to ask for directions should there be anyone to ask. As the sun raises a thick mountain fog envelopes all that surrounds me. This along with an ever-present downpour of raindrops the size of marbles makes it nearly impossible to continue. I’m doing nearly eighty when I see through my raindrop ridden, fogged up goggles a T intersection ahead. I barely stop on the dirt topped road before I nearly hit the sign reading “T Intersection” Thanks for the warning chief.

At this point I need to make a decision. Neither left nor right looks rather desirable due to the fact that the fog makes it impossible to decipher which way is north. I pull out a smoke and my flask and contemplate my dilemma. Were I an Army Ranger, Sherlock Holmes, or even a person with a high school education, I could probably come up with an intelligent solution to this problem. Being who I am, I flip a coin.

I dig a quarter out of my pocket and check the state. Virginia, already got that one, and flip it. I follow the coin’s arc through the air and as my eyes once again reach the horizon I see a mother humping black bear standing across from me not five yards from my bike. “Clink!” The coin says, hitting the ground. The bear is standing on his hind legs looking at me in much the same way the crackhead did back by my apartment in Capitol Hill. Knowing nothing better to do I take a drag from my smoke. The bear lets out a “Rawwwwwwr like a tyrannosaurus rex. I drop my but and stamp it out with my cheap cowboy boot as he watches me and withdraw another cigarette and throw it into a nearby field. The bear follows the projectile and I have enough time to take a belt and look down at the coin on the ground. Heads. Was that right or left? Fuck it. I’m going left.

I travel down the new road for about twenty miles and despite being completely lost have the confidence in mind to know that I have no way in hell of fining my way back so forward is better than transgression. The point of no return and all that.

Luckily the rain subsides but the fog remains. I’m forced to slow to about ten miles per hour in the turns for fear of some unseen obstacle but in the straighaways I let it out like I’m outrunning some unseen force that wishes me damned. It’s on such a straightaway that the fog breaks and I enter, what as best a degenerate gambler like me can describe, the most beautiful valley I’d ever seen. The sun cut through the clouds in a small part of the sky like a piece of heaven had dripped upon the earth. It’s while I’m marveling this, this force of nature, the presence of god, if you believe in such things, that I see the wolf. Sitting right there in the middle of the road, and I mean sitting on his hind legs waiting for a milk bone, right in my path. Despite my instincts as a motorcyclist I do the dumbest thing imaginable, I swerve. I swerve and the front wheel becomes inverted and I fly like Iccarus to close to the sun, and burn. The last thing I saw was that wolf licking his lips with a shit eating grin on his face.

* * *

I wake up on a cot. The room is white and I was having a dream that Jaquin Phoenix had just taken me for sixty grand in a hand of Omaha at the Mirage. Like waking up from many a dream before, I have little concern with my environment but am rather trying to rationalize why I was dreaming that very thing. It quickly occurs to me that that very reason is that Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line” is playing on a phonograph in the next room. I know for a fact that it’s the phono and not the CD version because I own, or at least used to, own both and have listened to each countless times in hopes of noticing subtle nuances. Only after I’ve came to this conclusion can I contemplate my surroundings.

I’m on a cot, as I said, in for all that I can tell a very small white room. My first impression is that I’m in a county jail infirmary but those ideas are quickly dismissed when I realize that there are no bars on the doors, nor handcuffs upon my wrists. I immediately stand up and find that despite there being IV swabs on the insides of both my elbows, I am neither constrained by shackles nor an IV. My ass hanging in the wind in the hospital gown I’m wearing, I look around the room. All I see are a pile of neatly pressed clothes, (mine, which have not been washed for at least a dozen donnings) a lime green plastic AM radio that my grandmother is probably looking for, and a rusty bedpan. I immediately toss my clothes and find my wallet, smokes, and flask, right where I left them. When I find my boots on the floor beside the dresser what I don’t find inside is my Walther and the $1500 bucks stashed there. I quickly get dressed and make my way into the hallway.

Now bear with me. I’m a regular kinda guy. I had a couple of old girlfriends who make me watch a couple of episodes of Queer Guy, I once went into a pottery barn to buy some shot glasses because there was a drinking contest on the line and we were in Bakersfield CA, I even read “O” magazine once because I showed up late at an appointment with my P.O. and the guy before me took the only Sports Illustrated, but I am not gay. That said, I couldn’t help but notice that the hallway of wherever I was, was painted in the most awful shade of salmon I’d ever seen. Once again, not gay.

I made my way down the hallway and entered what looked like the front room of a doctor’s office to be greeted with an attractive receptionist in a nurse’s outfit I’d only seen on strippers, doing her nails and a haggard looking middle aged man in a doctor’s coat shooting puts into a rocks glass in the corner. “Where the fuck am I?” You would have said the same thing.

The receptionist was the first to act. She immediately dropped her nail polish and came to my side. “Mr. Blake, you shouldn’t be walking in your condition.” The man in the doctor’s coat, seemingly the doctor, seemed more distracted than concerned. The receptionist maneuvered an old wooden wheeled wheelchair beneath me as I not so reluctantly sat.

“I need some air.” I told her rather affirmatively.

“That’s a good Idea, let’s get you outside.” She said as the Doctor tried to interject but was given a scorn look from my courier. When I reached the sidewalk beyond the doctor’s office I went directly for my smokes and my flask. I kept my eyes squinted as I lit the smoke and even as I took the first belt off my flask of whiskey before Nurse Ratchet only hot, took it away from me. When I finally opened them I was met with a vision I was not prepared for. A greater man might have noticed more but alas I’m a car guy, so the first thing I saw was a mint 52’ Oldsmobile Super 88. Then there was that Ford Sunliner Convertible. Then that Roadmaster, with the four barrel carb and power steering. I’d died and waken up at a car show. That’s when I noticed the Good Humor man, in his white uniform, passing out iced cream to a group of kids on Schwinns. The high school couple, holding hands, him in a letter jacket, and her in a poodle skirt wearing his varsity pin. I saw the movie theater across the street playing “High Noon”. I saw the world in Technicolor. I was lost, I was gone, and I was truly a stranger in a strange land. It was then that I dropped my Newport and my flask, and proceeded to vomit in wherever direction possible before passing out once again.
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