PART I

When hit with a burst from Gritt Calhoon’s sawed-off scatter blaster the short auburn hairs on the head of that lowly dew farmer spread into the atmosphere with such force that they actually managed to pierce the center beam that kept much of the roof of Dabeigo’s Gourd—a local watering hole for sapphire miners and the filthy indigenous good-people of Thaiwanland—and inserted themselves straight into the wood like nails shot from the center of a hurricane. His skull fared no better. Pieces of it were everywhere. Later Gritt Calhoon would recall this particular incident, or one like it, and say, “I blew his mind, man. S’all I can tell ye.”

Antwerp Angelinotoni’s mustache twitched. A fine Thaiwanlander, though he was of a more ancient descent. Not Thaiwanese. He was actually British. Whatever the hell that was. No longer did the Union Jack fly proud over the Isle of Wight, or of Man for that matter.

“You mind tellin’ me,” Gritt addressed, “exactly why you wanted t’go a meetin’ in a place whose patrons are so readily willing to meet booda—” he paused, “that they would menace an innocent man, one who has only come to this fine establishment in need of drink, and to cause all manner of retarded shit to run through his mind?!” Gritt flared his nostrils, giving him the facial expression most akin to that of some dead Nipponesian demon reading the Sunday newspaper.

The question wasn’t being posed to his old C.O. and friend, Antwerp, as much as it was being posed to every other human being left alive on this miserable planet: Earth.

Jesus. Gritt’s leather was tight. At six-feet eight-inches, he was gargoyle made out of Aaron Neville parts and Lemmy entrails. His sexy-ass chest hair glistened.

In an instant the volume of that jungle went from simultaneously opening one-million bottles of Coke-Cola to the sound of water evaporating so fast, in fact, that when Gritt turned to make for the table where Antwerp was sitting the leather he wore made sounds like a dog ripped in half whose pieces were being used to mop the floor of a movie theater.

Antwerp broke the silence first.

“Smashing as ever you old gator, you. Really know how to clear a room.” The way Antwerp nervously greeted Gritt by pushing his weight up and down on the stump he was seated at reminded him of a five-year-old with birthday cake incoming. Antwerp had lost much of his former discus-throwing style physique. He was more pale than Gritt remembered. Freckles had multiplied. The jungle roughed up this ex-Brit’s edges. The humidity steamrolled his reddish hair. Gritt guessed he’d finished a bottle or two of some rye without any Vicodin chasers. Guy probably didn’t even smoke opium anymore. His abuse of the drink made his arms one size from shoulder to fingertip, but had made his guts balloon. The skin of his face drooped slightly. Old Antwerp still managed one helluva handlebar dick broom though, he thought.

The pornagraphic sound of Gritt’s leather got louder as he approached and the zippers and skulls on his jacket jingled and jangled against one another.

“Chuffed to see it’s only your devilish good looks that’ve been slain with age and not yourself.” Where the leather of Gritt’s weather-beaten jacket ended and the skin of his neck began was a mystery. “Too much sun maybe, old boy. I always thought you hillbillies aged so gracefully.”

The table flipped.

(Continued )

On August 23rd, 2013, I drove to the Pacific Ocean at midnight with a girl I knew immediately that I disliked very intensely. She was a self-described “gothic Lolita girl” and had arrived at the gates of my house wearing cat ears and clown make-up and six-inch glittery heels. Inside my head a voice screamed out in terror. It was not my voice. It was my father’s: “Ryan, no.”

We drove north, winding through the darkness with the ocean a far drop below until we reached Stinson Beach. There she took off her enormous shoes and I thrust my hands into my pockets and we walked the beach under moonlight, seeing very little and feeling nothing. She told me about all the men who were in love with her, and how she didn’t care at all, and how she had almost overdosed in an abandoned factory in Detroit the previous winter, and then showed me a tattoo she had gotten of some football team—I don’t even remember which one. Then she explained every relationship she’d ever been in and how many times she had cheated on them and how really she only liked very tall guys who had poor social skills. And to all of this I stared at my shoes, half-buried in the sand, and said, “Oh.”

At 1 a.m. I sent my friend Delicious a note about my well-being: “This is literally the worst ‘hanging out with a girl’ experience I’ve ever had.”

An hour later we were rocketing through the forested roads on the edge of Muir Woods and she revealed to me how ass-backwards she truly was. She said she didn’t like sandwiches, hated avocados, hated movies, loved San Francisco, and that lyrics were exponentially more important than the music accompanying them.

She had a tattoo on her ankle, which she somehow showed me while also driving a car at 50 mph, that said, in Icelandic, “EVERYTHING MATTERS.” She told me her boyfriend at the time, a (in her words) “dumb-as-shit skinny Dutch model with a big dick” had gotten one that said, also in Icelandic, “NOTHING MATTERS.” And she called him a “grumpypants” and I felt my fucking innards begin to rot.

And I thought to myself, “Well, this is it. This is the last night I will ever care about anything.” (It had been a long time coming.)

She put on her favorite song, which was by some asshole whose name I can’t even remember, and began crying. She said it was the most beautiful song she had ever heard in her life. All I heard was every cell in my body screaming upward into that pale and terrible nothingness where I was headed. I could feel the sickness in my bones.

She dropped me off at 3 a.m. and hugged me and I put a limp and lifeless arm around her and got out. Inside the house I went into my cousin’s room and told him it was all over. He, half-asleep, assured me I would be fine.

In the morning I awoke and knew I was dead. I picked up my phone and told my master, Big Delicious, what it was I felt (or didn’t feel): “I woke up today and realized I finally don’t give a crap. Is this what it feels like to be you?”

To which he responded almost instantly: “Yes. But you haven’t reached total enlightenment yet. We must meditate on the concept that fear is everything and that everything is nothing. Only then can we achieve mastery over death.”

“She succeeded,” I said, “in doing what no other person who has come before has been able to do: she plunged me into that darkness from which no human can return.”

“Freedom,” said Baby Delicious, “terrible, terrible freedom. Thank god for this girl, really.”

“My ego exploded into moondust like an hour ago so I can’t feel anything anymore,” I said. “My sense of self is PAST TENSE.”

Delicious delivered his final line of wisdom while I was putting the kettle on: “We need a comet the size of Saturn to hit this rock we live on.”

The only thing I could say in return was the only thing anyone could say: “Yeah. We sure do.”

besilly

Pictured: A couple of hot jerks being as silly as a big ol’ bag of bones. (Thanks, Tracey Lien.)

A moment ago I slicked back my greasy black hair and kicked open the door to John’s chambers, where I found him crying and writing letters to dead women. Outside his window I could see that it was raining and the sky was dark and unkind.

“Snap out of it!” I said. “Listen up!” I described to him in a succinct and frenzied and half-garbled way the Five Points of our lives going into the impending apocalypse. “You have no choice, you fucking jerk! We’re doing this!” I went on.

As I listed each point I held up a corresponding finger until all five were outstretched to form a crooked fleshy star:

  1. look disgusting on accident forever
  2. get in shape (to be able to outrun our reptilian overlords/withstand the daily burdens of doom-zeppelin maintenance)
  3. chow down some good-ass fuckin’ food whenever possible (as Gritt Calhoon would say)
  4. write until our god damn fingers start bleeding (then stop to scream at the nearest inanimate object until hoarse and resume writing)
  5. drink fine beverages that ease the usual heaviness of the mind and replace it with a different sort of heaviness (in the best circumstances)

Tonight we will ride like the wind through rain and sadness until we reach the ruby-lit room by Lake Merritt, where we will do a whole lot of number one, and a whole hell of a lot of number five. Maybe, if we don’t pass out in some blood-soaked gutter, we’ll get around to some number four.

Dirge

FOR GOD’S SAKE

PLEASE COME BACK TO ME

AND WE’LL GO FOR A WALK

DOWN THAT OLD CHURCH ROAD

As the snows fell during our first winter together, Neon Grandfather gently lowered himself onto one knee and whispered in my ear:

“STAY CLOSE, LITTLE ONE
AND I WILL GIVE YOU GOLD
WE’LL STAY UP LATE
AND LEARN TO HATE
THE BITTER, BITTER COLD”

Reluctantly I had gone across the Bay for warmth and friendship and found it slumped against a lamppost on Montgomery and Market. She was smoking and looking at the sky. I told her I felt like a dope and a loser and, rising to her feet, she smoothed out her enormous sweatshirt and told me it was OK if I was those things. She walked briskly toward an Irish pub and I put a half-skip in my movement to keep up. There she drank a cider and I had two beers. In her little white car we sped over the new bridge and laughed like psychos until we were in the place where I am most comfortable.

“This is Oakland,” I said. I pointed at everything in view. “This is where I live.”

“It’s a real city after all,” she said.

“Yes.”

“Where people walk around. And things happen.”

“It’s true. It’s all true.”

She had a vodka sour and I had an IPA and we sat stupefied under the ruby light near the back. We were alone and we felt all right just then. I knocked over my auxiliary beer and, perhaps in a moment of pity, she gave me a cigarette. As I joylessly took the smoke into my lungs, I used the device in my pocket to say a thing to a girl I like and she said a thing back. It made me feel OK, reading that thing, because I was fairly certain it meant she found me agreeable and maybe even nice to be around.

Madness and swirling colors. Singing by the fire. Another beer from the kitchen island—who had bought these?—and I knocked another one over on the walk home. She asked me to touch her back and when I told her I wasn’t very good at it, she showed me what to do with my hands. She took her sweatshirt off and said something about modesty and I was pale and duct-taped together and feeling skeletal. I breathed heavily, her bones beneath my fingers, moving her flesh, and she laughed and said I was probably fine the way I was. I touched her spine and said it was a nice one. I lied and said I had felt many before. My eyes went dim before the sky was flooded with light and in that place where only I can go I thought of someone else.