|P T B H ! z i n e
- i s s u e # 7 -
I made some paper sox and wrapped them around my ankles. Then I coated them with heavy doses of spray-adhesive and entered my roommate's flea infested lair. I needed to get a file off his computer which should only take about five minutes, but it was long enough for over 15 hungry little bloodsuckers to launch themselves onto my sticky trap. My ankles looked like albino had been assaulted by a pepper shaker. Before I had come to the south, I'd never even seen a flea, but after I moved to Florida with my dog, fleas seemed to be everywhere! Considering that these little bastards can live up to 2 years and average 9 months, can jump up to 6 feet in distance, and can't be killed no matter how hard you pinch them it would seem obvious why they're everywhere. I spend a good percentage of my time spraying the carpet in my home, washing my dog, and picking little brown specks off my socks, cursing the whole while. But all that is behind me... for now.
The Mobile, Alabama Greyhound station is one of the worst, most depressing, overcrowded places a weary traveler could ever have the misfortune to get stuck. On this particular trip I've decided to bring my bike. When you have a bicycle, you're never really stranded. If you're stuck somewhere, you can always start pedaling.
Greyhound #1: I catch a ride to the Greyhound station with "Big Dave" from the 309 house (next door to me). We make a quick stop at my landlord's to drop off my rent (minus $50 and an excuse note). We get to the station at 4:30 so I can get the 4:40 bus out. After waiting in line for about 5 minutes, the ticket lady promises me that my bike won't make it on the same bus and will not arrive in New Orleans until 4am the next morning, but I go outside and get my boxed up bike anyway. When I get back in with it, some grumpy employee in coveralls barks at me to get my box "bus-side", so I do and he throws it under. Figures. There's a great feeling I get as a Greyhound pulls away from the station then gets on the interstate with me aboard.
New Orleans, is five bus-hours away and home to friends both old and new. N.O. was founded long ago by Freemasons who were run out of the north by christians and is now home to the ever popular Mardi Gras celebration (see PTBH #6, back page for payphone #'s to call Mardi-Gras). During heavy rain-fall or floods of the past, many of the cemeteries were plagued with "floaters" (corpses that were pushed to the surface by the saturated earth). Thats why all of the cemeteries have crypts above ground so that (during the summer) they smell like rotting corpses. Maybe thats also why New Orleans is home to both Trent Reznor and Ann Rice (you find the connection).
TEETH: Theres a constant tense feeling in my jaw. Like most people, I have the questionable evolutionary trait of fucked up wisdom teeth, but not for long thanks to Scirex. What is Scirex? Theyre a company that tests various pharmaceuticals on humans for drug manufacturers. Basically, if your wisdom teeth are totally screwed (which mine are), then Scirex will not only take them out for free, but they'll pay you $250 (price varies) to take their experimental pain killers and rate their performance. That's what I'm planning.
I arrive in New Orleans and reassemble my bike in a dark corner of the station. Then strap my zine laden book-bag to the rack that sits over my back tire, throw my backpack over my shoulder and start heading into town. As I cross the all too familiar Jackson Square, I notice some people juggling fire-sticks. I recognize a few familiar faces that I haven't seen since San Francisco, some from New Orleans, and some even from Pensacola.
NOMADS: Various nomadic-tribes from around the country have come together to form the "End of the World; Last Great Show on Earth" tour. It consists of a bunch of kids, a school bus, a few vans, and a shit load of bicycles that are destined to make their around the country stopping at different festivals as they go. All the while, doing shows to raise money and meeting with other "tribes" that form this huge world-wide network of sub-society nomads. I was hoping to catch a ride back to Austin with some of the folks that were in New Orleans for the show, but everyone is continuing on east for the tour. Damn, strike one!
Since I always go on too long about New Orleans, I'll keep this short. My first night in town, I go to lock my bike up in front of "Mollys" on Decatur St. As Im holding the new lock I just bought from the "Bike Doctor" in Pensacola, trying to unlock it so I can put it on my bike, the fucker breaks! Two little tumblers fall onto the ground at my feet and Im left with a broken piece of shit in a town with the second highest bike theft rate in America. Thanks Bike Doctor, you suck! Jen (from Seattle & PTBH issues #4 & #6) later sells me her old Krypto-lock (great company), then her and her roommate Lisa let me crash at their place, give me food from their work, and buy me some of the best brews New Orleans has to offer. Jen also introduced me to the Saturn Bar, one of the creepiest, and coolest "old-man" bars I've ever seen. Leopard print seats everywhere, red lights, and pictures of the patrons from actual tabloids. I got to see the cannibal midget from the Enquirer sitting at the bar! The next day I was riding my bike around to various coffee shops trying to sell zines, when I spotted a hipster walking out of a place. It's one of those kinda' trendy joints where snooty people go. Anyway, this girl is walking out the front door and I stop her with the usual pitch "Hey, would you like to buy a zine so I can _________ [whatever I'm trying to do]?" She not only bought three different issues, but also gave me a sack of fruit! All this after Under Ground Sounds (on Magazine St.) refused to buy even a single copy from me.
I haven't seen the "Spaz" crew since I was last in San Francisco about a year ago. Now they're all traveling through New Orleans with those nomads I was talking about earlier. It's during my visit with them on my last day in N.O. that Beth tells me about a place in Austin where I might be able to stay with my bike. She gives me the info on the "Entropy House", I thank her, then say my good-byes.
Greyhound #2: Have I ever mentioned how much I hate riding Greyhound? It's a good thing in concept, but I happen to be a "fat-ass magnet". Whenever I'm sitting next to an empty seat, trying my hardest to look like I want to be alone (with all my stuff piled in the seat next to me), the fattest ass on the bus will always want to sit right next to me! This bus trip is the same. This guy must weigh in at 500lbs as he shouts to me "Move over, will ya'?!". Now I'm squished into this tiny little area between the wall, the guy in front of me who thinks his seat is a Lay-Z Boy recliner, and a small planet with a John Deer cap! He not only breaths louder than my headphones can cover up, but he also likes to fall asleep in my lap. I'm sitting there trying to zone out against the window when his baseball cap plops into my lap. I pick it up and unthinkingly put it back on it's sleeping owner's head. This wakes the lumbering beast and now he's twitching and bouncing with a "grumph, oomph, UMPH" trying to turn to face me so he can stare at me, about to call me a "faggot". Fortunately, the bus stops for yet another cigarette break. He once again parts the sea of bus seats to get to the promised land of smoke and vending machine snacks.
AUSTIN: I finally step out of the bus in Austin somewhere around 11am. My appointment at Scirex isn't until 3pm, so I can maximize my time by trying to find the stupid place!
My first visit to Scirex only takes about an hour. They do an x-ray, make me watch a video, and I fill out a stack of paperwork. All so I can get my teeth pulled for free and have enough $ to get to Seattle, but wait! One thing I forgot to ask Angelique (my informant in New Orleans) about this whole ordeal was how long it takes for Scirex to cut a check... As it turns out, I won't be seeing any tooth-money in Austin or Seattle for that matter! It takes a whole month for them to send a check to you, and considering the study isn't over until you go in for your final check-up, I'm not gonna see a single dime for close to a month and a half! Awwww, shit. Stuck! At least I have the will-power to go find work while I'm here. Of course, hunger plays a significant role in that will power. Right now I'm hungry as a dickens with only 4 oranges and $6 left.
ENTROPY, is Austins Earth First Head Quarters. The walls and ceiling are littered with posters, flyers, and news reports of past activities. Jack lives out back and I rarely see him. Nome looks like G.G.Allin's little brother and works at the local crisis line. I can't remember anyone elses names.
Gabby & Mos Cafe is located just down the street from the Entropy house, a stroke of luck. At least coffee isnt too far away. Day #2 is all about riding around town in the 100 degree heat, stopping at every bar, cafe, and restaurant to see if I can get hired for a short time. Everyone says "we're all full staff wise" then I follow up with "what about odd jobs?" and get a resounding "nope".
I almost started working at a recycling plant, but they were looking for a 6-month commitment and I had to be honest with the nice people about my plans on leaving. Everyone keeps talking about construction jobs and day labor (which is usually construction) but I already spend too much time in the sun. At night, I lay moist from sweat on a gritty, filthy porch mattress. Everything is slightly damp from the constant humidity and my skin itches on every square inch. Last night I had left my foot exposed, so by morning I had provided a feast for countless mosquitoes. I can just see myself working a construction site, smelling like a pile of dead goats, scratching open sores all day long.
Fringeware (on Guadeloupe St.) is next door to MoJo's coffee shop (24hrs.!). I drop off some zines in a zine library's cardboard drop-off box then head over to MoJo's ("Because coffee at home sucks") to see about free cup of coffee. On my way back to my bicycle for more useless riding, I see a kid with bleached dreadlocks reading a book and figure I should try and make a dollar before I leave. I give him the usual pitch and he buys one. While he's fishing around for a dollar, I tell him the sad story about my day and he (his name is Matt) suggests I go to the restaurant where he works and try for a job. Eventually I make my way to "Mother's Café & Garden" (His work) and fill out a short application for a disher position. Im then told to start at 5 o'clock! Yes!!
Mother's (located on the corner of 43rd and Duval) is not only a vegetarian restaurant, but it's also employer to a bunch of really cool people. Why can't this sort of thing happen in Pensacola?! I wanted to come to Austin for so long, now I'm working here and still planning on leaving in two weeks. In a way, I wish I could stay longer, but this heat is doing me in and the lack of things to do is also bugging me. The fact that I ride my bike an average of 20-25 miles a day means that most of my time is spent covered in sweat. [Hey kids, its not just a funny smell, its a way of life!]
Anyway, back to my new job. Not only do I get to work at a cool place, but I also get to eat $10 worth of food every day (not counting table scraps of course) and I work with Jesus! Yeah, that's right, Jesus. He's one of the other dishwashers, a quiet Mexican fellow who speaks really rotten English and has one of the most awkward washing styles I think I've ever seen.
I see a lot of ear tattoos and facial piercings in Austin.
[next day] It's hard to find ways to kill time in an unfamiliar city when it's a million degrees outside. I've already spent time at the coffee shop, gone to the library, and even went to my job 4 hours early in hopes that I could start early. The answer was "no" so I ate some free chips/salsa, hung out, then decided to practice my anticipated ride to the greyhound station. It's actually the same distance from my job to the porch I'm staying on as it is from my job to the station.
[at the bus station, but not going anywhere ] What kind of life is this, sitting on a bus station floor, in the corner, writing and trying not to look like I'm loitering? There are "No Loitering" signs everywhere, but since I'm white I'm sure the employees automatically assume I have a bus ticket on me. So I walk through this nearby mall trying to find a bike shop when I get lost. This mall happens to be the type of structure where all the southern and western facing exits are on the ground floor (downstairs) while all the northern and eastern facing exits are also on the ground floor (upstairs). I must have spent an hour trying to find my way out of that place! That translates to about a week in the life of a lab rat.
Due to a mix up in the schedule on my second day of work, I show up to work at the same time as another dishwasher. Since there is already one working, there are now three of us when there should only be two. Steve, a 16-year-old guy who's only been there 2 weeks, starts to worry that he's getting fired and that I'm his replacement, so he immediately dislikes me. After the first 5 minutes of my shift, a manager comes back with Steve and explains the mix-up then asks who wants to go home. Steve pipes up about how he's gonna have to borrow money from his parents to pay his rent and Jesus says in his thick accent, "Aye feel goowd toe wark". Then back to Steve who's now emitting a strong vibe of suburban terror and over again to Jesus who has worked in that dish room for over 2 years. We're all looking at each other in a stalemate, so I finally say to my manager "alright, I'll leave if I can get a $40 draw on my check tomorrow". It's agreed and I head outside to do some paid-digging for 2 hours so that the day isn't a complete loss. Then I'm offered a second $10 helping of food! That's how things have always been in my life, I'll go days with barely a crumb to eat, then BOOM, I'm surrounded by my favorite pastime! I grab some about-to-be-tossed tortillas for the E.House and get some food for the girls at Gaby & Mo's.
Half the smokers in Austin smoke "American Spirit" cigarettes. There are more lost pet flyers than I have ever seen before and the bulletin boards are littered with them (pardon the pun).
Every morning I head to the coffee shop, get three glasses of hibiscus tea (very popular here) with 3 tablespoons of sugar in each plus one Sweat & Low for the first two, and two for the last one. When I get there, I'm pretty thirsty from sweating all night, so the first two go really quickly, the last one I savor so it lasts until all the ice is melted. Then I leave. On a side note, "Gaby & Mo's" is a lesbian owned & operated coffee house. It also has expensive soft toilet paper.
After the coffee experience, I head to the Library (on Guadeloupe between 8th and 9th) and check email, then if I know there's nothing to do for the rest of the day, I might get on the word processors for a couple of hours. After that, I check to see if they have the new issue of the Anchorage Daily News then I leave. Next Ill usually I'll go to Mother's and get some of those free chips & salsa. It's my breakfast ya' know. I just wanted you to know how each day starts, in case you were curious.
Today, I started with the same ritual you just read, but after all that I decide to go find something new to do. I spend the next 3 hours riding around the empty streets that only a Sunday in Austin can provide. Its peaceful and quiet. Feelings of being the last person alive on earth well up inside me. Times like these make me remember an episode of "The Dukes Of Hazard" (dont ask me why) where they eluded Rosco P. Coltrain by walking around on top of buildings down town. Their reasoning was "Because people never look up in the city". So, I look up at all the buildings and parking garages. Its a strange and beautiful urban melodrama that I find myself in. I ride to the tops of those empty sky-rise parking lots for a couple of hours, taking a few pictures and trying to think of who Id like to share this experience with the most. No one comes to mind. My new favorite parking garage is two blocks east of Guadeloupe and 3 blocks south of some really old catholic church that looks like a castle. I like to go to the top where theres no guard-rail and sit on the edge watching the restaurant below.
PARANOID CLERKS: At some point in the day I find myself at a highly praised music store called "33 Degrees". This place prides it's self on it's collection of hard to find experimental music and the sort, so Im excited to be there, but then this paranoid clerk tells me to check my book bag! Im the only person in the place and due to the short racks of merchandise, Im in very plain view at all times, but I guess the fellow pegged me as a cunning thief. I give up my bag and grab the newest issue of Maximum Rock & Roll to see if they reviewed the issue #6 I sent them. Yup! Hey, not a bad review either and they even printed a picture of the cover! Way to go MRR, they're usually good to me. Not like Punk Planet that loves to dole out the bad reviews like they're going out of style.
I drink 2 gallons of water every day. I piss 2 cups. That's how much Im sweating, and it sucks. Not to sound like a big cry-baby, but the only time the weather is nice here is in the evening just before it rains. Then when it does rain, the thunder is stupid. In Pensacola, I fell in love with the thunder. Its thick and smooth with lots of background rumbling. Here, it's brief and quick, like Zeus squeezing a fart. Sometimes it just sounds like someone shooting a shotgun in the street... "BANG!" And that's it. Lame.
[later in the evening ] 503 Coffee charges $2.50 for a bottomless cup (Gaby & Mo's charges $1.75 I believe). I'm here (503) looking for the only person I know in Austin. That would be Spot who I met on the east coast tour of This Bike is a Pipe Bomb. Spot is an amazing fellow. Hes creative, funny, and has a million stories to tell from his days working at SST. He worked with almost all those great bands on SST Records back in the 80s. The Meatmen, Black Flag, you name it. It can be intimidating if you've never met him. Anyway, he said I can find him here, so thats what Im trying to do. Maybe hell let me use his shower, Im still almost broke, but out of guilt (and because business has been poor for 503) I buy a cup and get to drinking my money's worth. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 cups later I run out of time and head out to sell some zines outside of Emo's (punk club 6th St.).
Earlier, I was cleaning some grit out of my Gerber multi-tool with all the blades extended. As I was wiping out some Pensacola sand (from the nicest beaches in the world), I thoughtlessly swiped my thumb along the edge of the sharpest blade. What a bright person I am! [see my "first aid advice" elsewhere]
Man, I'm always picking refries out of ashtrays! Some people call them "ducks" because the tip of the cigarette is always bent to the side, kinda' like a duck's butt. Either way, in all my addiction I spend about $5 a month on nicotine. If you ever see me when I'm 50 talking about quitting while I'm lighting up another one, then just hold a gun to my head and pull the trigger. Not a loaded gun though... that would suck!
Writing has become my escape. When I have nothing else to do, I open up my leopard print, fuzzy covered book and start writing. Maybe one day when I'm standing on a street corner trying to sell zines, and things are going so slow that I start reading my own stuff (as they so often are), then maybe I'll read this line right here. Maybe I'll remember today and how I was thinking forward to my future-self. Maybe on that day, I'll think back and say to myself "those were the days". Maybe I'll say "those were the good ol' days". I hope the later is true.
I've heard there's a church in Austin (and many cities) that will buy you a one-way bus ticket to anywhere in the U.S. as long as you have a person at your destination that will answer the phone and say they're expecting you. I haven't found that place yet, but I'm still looking.
Back at 503 again, I talked to a guy outside with a broken wrist, He told me a bunch of personal stories of bicycle and motorcycle accidents he's been in. After this last one (that almost killed him) he's decided that his 2-wheeled days are over. I ended up leaving paranoid.
Tonight at Emo's I made a total of $16 selling zines. One guy gave me $3 and refused the other two issues I tried to give him. One girl grabbed a copy out of my hand, flipped through it, then said "It doesn't have any music in it, where are the bands?!" I explained that it wasn't a "fanzine" so it wasn't for "fans" of music. She said, "Then it's not a zine at all!" and stomped away. About 10 minutes later she came back and bought one because I didn't give her any attitude or call her names. Sometimes selling $1 zines can be such a pain, I swear. On the flip side, another girl I tried to sell one to didn't have a dollar, so she got three of her friends to buy a copy each, then she offered me a place to stay with her and her fiancé. Man, did I ever want to take her up on it, but I felt a bit strange and told her to email me and I'd decide. As much as I'd love to have a place (with walls) to stay at tonight, I'm nervous about offers I get from strangers. I think I'm more worried that I might end up putting them out or something. It could be my smell, or the fact that I don't watch TV or do drugs, I don't know. Something might set them off. I do hope she emails me, I'd love to not stay at the E-house again. They're really nice people and all, just that all those blood-sucking insects that call that porch "home" are starting to make me go crazy.
[next day] Last night I was suddenly awakened by a loud cracking noise followed by the sound of thousands of dominoes tipping over in unison. It woke me up with a jerk and I sat upright, adrenaline saturated, listening. What came next baffled me. I tried to hear it as some exotic bird, but couldn't. It sounded more like some kind of alien invasion. Three... no, four. Maybe five creatures hovered slowly outside in the thick fog, just outside the range of view, each with the same distorted alien phrase coming through a small radio speaker. "Wabba Neghth Ktch!" over and over. There were no crickets, birds, or any other noisy insects chirping their usual concert. Just these alien sounds. I went back to sleep and in the morning, as I walked my bike down the short driveway, I noticed something out of place to my left. A fully green and foliated branch the size of myself had broken and landed on a car during the night. That explains the cracking sound, but what about the sounds that followed, and what would make such a living, green, and fully leafed branch decide to just break off like that? I guess it's just fun to imagine all the things it probably wasn't.
Many of the females in Austin have strong will and even stronger minds. There are a truck load of lesbians here. I like this element. Its a nice change from the typical southern attitude towards women. "women are made for men", "to cook and to clean".
Tomorrow is the day I've been dreading since... Well, since last issue I guess.
A SCIREX EXPERIENCE: The dentist was saying things like "you're gonna feel a little sting, like an Arkansas bumble bee", and "I'm gonna do a little bit of tugging now", all of which were drastic understatements. The whole wisdom tooth extraction process only took about 15 minutes not including the time waiting for the shots to kick in. I was offered Nitrous for an additional $44, but since I couldn't afford it, I only got the novocaine. For the entire 20 minutes, the surgeon drilled, pulled, twisted, and practically crowbarred my teeth out of my head. You have to remember that this guy performs the same exact operation all day, so he's pretty good at it by now. He's also in a hurry to get it over with, so he doesnt waste time! The atrocities he was committing on my teeth were what most people only have to deal with once in life. Evil acts, so horrendous that I had to resist the reflex to punch him. He would hunch over, elbows high, like a witch doctor stabbing needles into a voodoo doll. But my face was the doll! Ugh.
After my lovely experience in the torture chamber, I went across the hall to where the drug study was being held. The drug combinations are as follows: Drug A, Drug B, Drug A & B (with various doses of each), and the placebo. This means there is about a 1/16 chance that some poor sap is gonna get that placebo (a sugar pill to kill the pain??). I have to wait for the novocaine to wear off so I can not only feel what a wisdom tooth extraction was like before painkillers were invented, but so I can also rate the drugs performance. The level of pain is measured on a line 5 inches long. The far left is no pain, the far right is the worst pain imaginable. After the anesthetics had worn off I was ready to start the study and specified my primary level of pain. I drew an arrow pointing to a spot on the line one inch from the far right. A scientist woman gave me three large gel-caps which contained the study medication. There could be anything in those pills... She tells me to go sit back down. In 30 minutes my kitchen timer will ding and it'll be time to come back up to make an assessment. I wait for 30 excruciating minutes before the first ding, then I go up and fill in the blanks with, "It still hurts like hell". 30 minutes later comes the second ding. It hurts a little more. On the third ding, Noooo... don't tell me I got the... "Let's just give it another 30 minutes" says the woman. The sheet I'm writing my rates on is a scale from 1-5 and says 5 is "Discomfort where ordinary activities cannot be performed without effort and/or where certain physical activities (pacing, fidgeting, etc) are at an uncontrollable state of distraction." It's all I can do to take my mind off the throbbing, stabbing pain of nerve endings ripped from their places.
What rotten luck, I can't believe I got the placebo. After those first 3 hours, they finally gave me a real pain killer and I spent the next 12 hours watching movies in one of 16 recliners in a room with 9 other swollen faces, filling out hourly reports. At least there was free Mac & Cheese and mashed potatoes.
[next day] Once again, I find myself at Gabby & Mo's, only this time I'm the only male in a room of no less than 16 hard-core dykes. It really wouldn't take much for one of them to rally the rest in an anti-male assault on yours truly. Then they can have the entire place to themselves, but I'm sure that won't happen. People are nice here. Speaking of nice, some food would be nice. Especially if I dont have to chew it.
I found a black shirt lying in a mud puddle, so I found a hose and sprayed it off. Once it began to dry, I sniffed it and to my surprise it smelled vaguely of laundry detergent. I now have 3 shirts, 2 gross ones, and the much cleaner one I just hosed off.
I'm so sick of having a swollen face.
My right cheek looks like I have a
gerbil stuffed in my mouth.
ALIEN BIRDS: I figured out what those alien transmissions were. I was outside the UT (University of Texas) coliseum after using the payphone and making a leisurely poopoo in their facilities, just sorta' sitting on the sidewalk and enjoying the shade of a nearby tree. While I was sitting there, I started to hear the sound of a power drill repeatedly screwing screws into wood in the not far off distance. Eventually I stood up, took a few steps forward and looked up above where I had been sitting. There it was, sitting on a ledge above, a bird! As I was staring at it, it puffed up it's feathers, opened it's beak wide and there came that sound again! Then I started thinking, and looked around. Up the hill were tractors, bulldozers, and construction workers everywhere. It all fell together. This little black bird must have had it's habitat infiltrated by a person with a power drill who was on the job of drilling screws into something. Over and over the same sound was made and before you know it, this bird was replying with that same sound.
Now, back to those alien transmissions. My only guess is that, due to all the construction in Austin, this bird must have built it's nest near a place where there was a walkee-talkie being used. Day after day it endured the sounds of countless communications until it eventually derived a sum of all the phonetics generated in those transmissions. What I must have heard was not only that first bird's "song", but also the sound of other birds that learned the same song from the first bird. They now all sing in chorus as spokespersons for the constant construction and mechanical progress of Austin. Thats gonna be my guess at least.
As much as I seem to sometimes pride myself on not bathing and having no one notice, I managed to wash my hair in the Gaby & Mo's bathroom sink. Man it felt so good. Then I went and fetched my multi-tool from my backpack and fixed their broken toilet without anyone ever noticing!
Last night I drank a bunch of coffee too late in the evening and was unable to sleep, so I biked around to some local dumpsters and poked around in back alleys looking for something to fill my time. Eventually I found a printing place and scored some stupid looking stickers. Remember these places kids, they always have stickers in their trash which are good for all kinds of things. If you have rust on your bike, you can scrape the rust off then put stickers over the area and the rust will stop! You can put them up anywhere. Car windshields for instance.
I'm feeling as if the head of Austin is slowly turning to notice me. If I were driving here and got pulled over, once the cops found out I've been here more than a couple of days, and have a job, they'd tell me to get a Texas license and become a resident. That's the mentality of many people; they don't understand the traveler's instincts and the need to not allow territorial roots to form. I live in Florida, am resident to Alaska, and my van is registered in Missouri. Its nice to know I dont have all my eggs in the same basket.
Life is a question from start to end, sometimes the question changes, so I'm trying to figure out what my present question is right now. Is it about my surroundings, the people I see each day, or about myself that I'm trying to figure out? The way it all fits together is so complex, I wonder if it will ever be clear. I'm trying to come up with one sentence than can sum up my current feelings in hopes that I'll have a new perspective on my time here, but nothing comes to mind.
I saw Road Warrior
after work this evening at the Alamo Draft House. I forgot what a
great movie that is, but only on the big screen. The Alamo is
also a great thing. It's a theatre, but you can order food and
booze while you're watching the film. It's 21+ (18+ Thursdays),
Mondays are $1 movies, Tuesdays are $2 the rest of the week is
$3.50. It's located on Colorado, between 4th and 5th on the east
side of the street. If only you could smoke, then it would be a
dream come true (there I go again).
|C R I T I C A L - M A S S|
We all met at the fountain in front of the Texas Union building on campus. About 30 people showed up for our little bike ride through the city. It started slowly with friends meeting and everyone talking to each other, when finally someone started gathering us all together. A girl with colorful paint on her face, a bikini top, and an American flag skirt started talking about how this day is important and that on this day all over the world people are protesting oppressive corporations and making a difference. I guess the "organizers" (is there such a thing?) of this Critical Mass wanted to have the two events coincide on the same day. The problem with this whole thing is that most of the people at the event were there for the bike ride and knew nothing about going around to places like the Gap and Starbucks to stand outside while one person yells meaningless facts to everyone else. Up to this point, the whole thing has been handled poorly and everyone is loosing interest rapidly. Eventually, a couple of us leave the pack and start riding off saying "we're riding now, see ya!" and others followed.
I've always thought that in order for a Critical Mass to be successful in changing motorists' minds for the better in regards to bicyclists, there has to be some amount of planning, information, and a common idea of what the whole ride is about. None of these elements were present. The clown-girl had mentioned earlier that the ride was to take place in certain areas so that people could sticker cars parked in bike lanes with stickers that read "I like to park in bike lanes". There were no cars parked in any bike lanes, so that never happened. Instead, what DID happen was that everyone (with the exception of myself and half the other people) decided that the purpose of the ride was to block off entire streets/bridges (as busy as they were) and ride slowly with no way for cars to get past. In my opinion, the only thing that that accomplishes is pissing off some people in cars who will forever more consider cyclists as inconsiderate jerks. At one point cars were racing through spaces between bicycles trying to get out, yelling as they passed. The response these motorists got was less than informative. One old guy got stuck between a group of bike riders that were riding slowly to irritate him. He was obviously getting aggravated, but wasn't honking his horn or anything. So, what does some guy on a bike do? He rides up to the window and starts yelling at this old man, "Stop parking in our lanes!!!". The old guy looks at him as if to say "What the fuck are you talking about?!".
All in all, there was no information about bike awareness handed to non-bikers and there was no "we're having fun riding bikes, and you're cooped up in your smelly death-wagon" attitude. There wasn't anything that would make anyone in a car want to do anything other than DRIVE to their house, get a gun, DRIVE back, and shoot some freaks on bikes. After talking to a few of the other people that attended, I realized that at least one third of the people there, were there because they wanted to "stop traffic and piss off drivers". Bravo, you misguided, 2-wheeled morons. You just made any kind of social change even more difficult to accomplish!
[new subject ] If it's one thing I hate, its inspiration to do something that can only happen long after the inspiration has passed. Right now, I'd like nothing more than to be with my friends, playing a show for all of our friends together, and having a time that (right now) only exists in my mind. Before I left Pensacola, I was able to switch on the bass amp and play for myself whenever I felt moved to do so (which was often), but now the only time I get to play any stringed instrument is on the rare occasion that a nice person comes into whatever coffee shop I happen to be at. Even then, I only get to play for a few minutes.
[enough of that ] This morning I awoke to 5 new mosquitoes humming over my sleeping area. They seem to be multiplying and I have a suspicion that I could very well be their mother's main source of food. That's an unnerving thought. I wait until they land and that back leg pops up before I SMACK 'em.
Today I brought my gross, stinking, pasty shorts to work with me. When no one was looking, I ran them through the dishwasher three times so that now they are not only clean, but sanitized as well! All in preparation for my last trip to Scirex in the morning so they can send me a check in 30 days. I hung the shorts up on the porch before I went to sleep, but it was so humid from the last two days of rain that in the morning they were as wet as when I hung them up. I ended up going to the dentist with the same shorts that I've been wearing for the last 10+ days. I was laying there wondering if he could smell them as much as I could, but of course he didn't say anything.
[6-22-99 just thought Id mention the date]
I was a bit nervous as I rode toward work. I wasn't on my way to actually clock in or anything, rather I was on my way to put in my one week notice. I didn't want them to fire Steve (maybe he did have cause for paranoia) just before I left, so I was forced to give them warning in order to not put them in a bind. I went in and assumed my usual position at the counter. After eating two baskets of chips, the kitchen manager (Ahmed) walked past. That was my cue. Behind the counter I made my way to the office and the unpredictable future.
Nothing is ever "business" with me. Even when I have to break bad news to someone, if it's in a business setting, I just have a really hard time being serious and "businesslike". SO, I plop down in the chair next to Ahmed and start asking about his day. After 2 minutes of chatting I take a deep breath and say "Have I ever told you how much I love this place?". "No" he replies. "Well, this definitely is the nicest, coolest, and friendliest restaurant I've ever worked at, and that's what makes it hard for me to say that my last day working will have to be the 27th of this month.". He smiles at me making me think he's happy to see me go, but then says "Oh, are you going traveling again?". Hmm' Maybe he was onto me from the beginning even though I thought I was being sneaky I guess it was obvious that I didn't act like I lived here. At least he's not angry. Quite contrary actually, he says he'll be sad to see me go and offers to try and get me as many hours as he can so I'll have a bit more traveling money. What a great place!
Everyone at the Entropy house has been really nice to me, but spending 2 weeks at the same place, without being able to compensate them somehow has gotten me in a strange state. I'm sure they don't expect anything from me, but I've found from past experience that it's best to give people a break from their porch-surfer friend once in a while. That, and I was getting sick of staying in the same place for so long, so I packed up my two bags and split on my bike vowing not to go back during this stay in Austin. Luckily two guys at work were willing to put me up.
Then there is my horrible secret No one ever found out about that one fateful night. The night when I went to a warehouse show on 7th St. and drank far too much beer. I was sitting outside, listening to the bands play (I couldnt afford the cover). Across the street was a liquor store, so I went and bought a Mickeys 40oz. then took it back and drank it. The warehouse is called Pueblos Dineedos(sp), there are eight recycle cans out front all piled overflowing with beer bottles. The local gutter punks and squatters all hang out in the corner with their various pets and broken appendages. After my 40 oz. Is finished, I start talking to a guy who gives me beer after beer. Its Black Star beer from Austin. Black Star is evil Ill tell you why
The ride back to the porch was an adventure. Swerving all over the road, trying to stay upright, then once arriving and stepping off the bike realizing exactly how drunk I really was. Its times like these that I usually weigh the consequences of retaining my fluids, then decide to just puke. So, everyone is asleep, all the lights are off at least, and I have a screen door to the back yard. There sits a lawn chair and on the chair sits me. I puke between my legs onto the ground for a while then I have a funny feeling sneak up on me. I think to myself, "Man, I think I need to go poop. Ill just quietly go upstairs and use the bathroom." Then theres a rumble in my gut and I think, "On second thought, this baby is coming out right now!!!". I quickly pulled my shorts down toward my knees, then realizing that I couldnt possibly stand up, I sort of scooted forward, on the edge of my seat, and crapped right there! It was fucking horrible!! If I could see straight I would have seen the carnage I had just created, but instead I was in drunksville and the sheriff was shooting up my brain with rubber bullets. I rolled off the chair (to the side, thank you very much) then crawled to my sleeping area, hoping no one woke up while I was barfing.
The next morning, I walked out to the back yard to where I had my experience and was shocked. There was a pile of shit on the ground that must have been half a foot high! "DID I DO THAT?!" I almost said out loud. I thought, "These Earth First people are all hippies at heart, they might just think Im composting or something.", so I walked over to the shed and found a shovel. After burying the mountain of caca, I sort of put the chair over it to avoid an accidental foot traffic. I can see it now, like the quick sand scene from Gilligans Island, but the victim is sinking in my feces! I shot out so much human waste that night, I didnt shit for another 3 days. Now you figure that one out!!! No more getting that drunk for a while, I hope.
The next day I go to the restaurant and hang out for a bit, eating free chips and persuading the disher to feel that he's tired and wants to let me finish off his shift before mine starts. After work, I see Steve who is unsuccessfully chatting up one of the waitresses. She leaves so I ask him what he's doing this evening. "Well, I'm gonna go to this wicked party someone told me about, wanna come?" "Sure, I have a free beer coming, hang on.". I run inside and grab a Guiness for myself, then head down the street with Steve. After about half an hour, I figure out that Steve doesn't really know exactly WHERE this party is, but is in fact relying on some nonexistent Jedi-instinct. About 12 blocks later, I spot 7 giant paper mache cows with wheels for feet and turn to Steve, "Well, even if that's not the one, we might as well act like we're invited!".
PARTY DUDES: All these people are dancing to murachan music on the back patio of some frat house while a mass of drunk jocks and their female counterparts perform the ritual of homosapien feather-fluffing. It takes about 2 minutes to locate the keg, another 2 to push through the crowd, then about 5 minutes as the drunken host tells me how glad he is that I showed up! Now 10 minutes later, Steve and I are holding cups of beer and are the guests of honor!
I'm sure years from now I'll probably have forgotten most of the details of Austin. Like Jim, the bearded bandana wearing guy who has lived in the alley behind the restaurant for the last 16 years. I asked him why he doesn't move out to the country, but he just scoffed. He hears voices in his head and he can't afford medication. He's living in his own world unable to work because of the voices. He tried to get jobs, but he gets fired for yelling randomly. The nice people that own Mother's let him help clean up in the mornings for a little bit of cash each day. One time I came outside and over-heard him talking to those people in his head. He was saying something like "... you like Pepsi? How about Coke? Oh, you like Dr. Pepper?". As I passed him to get an apron out of the shed, he said to me "don't mind me, I go a little goofy sometimes.". I replied "dont mind me, Im goofy all the time". I felt a lot of love in that alley for those few seconds.
My last day, bike to Wheatsville and get a snack where a guy tells me that between January and July of 1999, nine cyclists were killed by cars in Austin. Fuck. Ozone (cool bike shop) is across the street, so I ride over and box up my bike.
Rachel (a really nice employee from Gaby & Mo's who helped me out so much, that it sucks her only mention is this line) picks me up and takes me to the Greyhound Station. Of course, the gray pooch is already packed with those fuckin crazies, so I'm gonna have to wait a couple of hours for the next bus load of crazies to arrive. I go to the restroom and whip out my schlong. As I'm standing there assisting my penis in it's primary function (pee pee), I start thinking to myself "Man, I should really say no to drugs". I finish up, and look down to make sure I'm not about to make any mistakes when I see it The flat, round, rubber disk in the urinal that reads around it's paremeter: "Say no to drugs".
GREYHOUND #3: The old (70 something) guy behind me won't stop complaining! Every time the bus stops in some small town, he starts in with "That driver will do anything to waste time!". Every time the bus stops, that old guy starts. Then another fellow (that I assume is partially retarded) moves and sits next to him so they can both talk about how the driver keeps stopping. The older of the two starts saying he's gonna go up to the front of the bus and beat the driver up, so the dumber of the two tries to calm him down. Of course, none of this is loud enough for the driver to hear, only me. Sheesh! On I-35 we take an exit just north of Waco to pick up more passengers, so of course the bitchy critter behind me starts complaining again, rapid-fire. The bus makes a few turns around the city finding it's way to the makeshift bus stop. Then the bus stops and the driver announces what town we're in and the old guy suddenly shuts up, gathers his things, and gets off. He's home.
I always ride in the front seats. The first 2 times I rode Greyhound, I sat in the back, trying to avoid everyone. Instead of some peace and quiet, it was just the opposite. I think it was more like the back of a high school bus than an actual high school bus! What a mistake.
In New Mexico, flying insects have their last experiences against our windshield once every 30 seconds. Maybe that contributes to the fact that through the last 3 states, the driver has been biting his nails constantly. In Steam Boat Springs, I go upstairs into a supermarket bathroom to put on my thermals. So, I'm inside a stall where it's fairly safe. A young male employee comes in with a mop and stares at me through the crack in the door. I talk to him, saying "be done in a second" to which he replies "no problem" and keeps standing there staring at me through the cracks while I stand on my shoes. "Hey, Ill be right out. Just changing real quick." And he stands there, fixed on me... Strange.
At the next stop, I ask the driver if I can wash the windshield and he says "yes". Woohoo!! As I walk over to a gas pump to get a squeegee, I notice that the place we're parked at is called "Kum-n-Go", yuck!!!
[bus induced dream:] I was in a city I'd never seen before, walking around a lower-class neighborhood, but near a huge, really fancy home. There's music inside, but the bass is so loud that all I can hear is the low frequencies vibrating my head. Then I realize its the music of Ray Lynch. I see my ex-girlfriend (Kris) who leads me off into the "green room", which is all the same shade of pastel green from floor to ceiling. She got a job doing full time maid service and makes lots of money at this place. We go to a house and I ask her about her husband, she scoffs and says something about the internet and that he would rather be on it than on her. We're interrupted by some guy with fuzzy red hair and beard with glasses who says "Hey, Rex, terry will be down in a second". I realize it's Terry's house, not Kris' then Terry (the owner of Sluggos in Pensacola) comes down. They all talk briefly about some Lesbian bar and about a guy that they all agree is a creep. Kris and I leave and head toward her house, but we go by that same big house on our way. As we're walking by the side of the building, I see lots of people just leaving the party. Some of these people are gathered around a fairly tall extraterrestrial (space alien) with a large head and a black & white suit. Apparently this alien is the guest of honor at this event. He bids farewell, then is bathed in a blue light and disappears into a flying saucer high in the air above, which speeds away through the clouds. Then I wake up.
[Back to reality] From Utah to Idaho, I sat right behind the driver's seat and watched him wipe countless boogers on the side of his seat. And he thought no one would notice! In Boise, I scrawled some graffiti on the upstairs wall of the station. Graffiti is fun, I don't care what anyone says, as long as it is creative, I like it. It's strange looking out the bus window at places I've been before. Payphones I used in the past at gas stations I was at just 6 months ago. All these unknown towns like Ontario, Oregon. I remember this place. I wonder if it remembers me... of course not.
If you ever want to see just now low the human condition has sunk, ride a greyhound bus. Once in a while, I'll try to talk to one of the more slack-jawed people and all I get back are grunts and mumbles. At every stop, the same 5 guys dash out the door almost knocking the driver down with their cigarettes in their mouths and their lighters in their clenched fists. Outside, they interrupt each other with half-baked stories of how tough they are, and how good they are in bed. I'm trying to figure out who they are trying to impress. Each other??
I arrive in Seattle at 5am. The next day, my friend Brian and I are sitting on Broadway at a bank (one of the few places to sit on Broadway that isn't covered with metal "no-sit" spikes). We're drinking coffee and talking shit when along comes a black man with black pants, black jacket, black hood, black shirt, and another black shirt over his head so you can't see his face. He harshly shouts "This place open?!" to which I respond "No, it's Independence Day, it's closed!". He goes behind the bush next to us and squats down pulling open his pants to pee. He sees me rolling a cigarette, so he shouts "Roll me two of those!". I decline his request and he grabs the bush (while still pissing) and starts shaking it violently yelling "I'm shakin' the bush, I'm SHAKIN' THE BUSH!!!". Then he stomps over to me threatening, "You ain't seen nothin' til you been to Seattle!" and I reply "But, we are in Seattle.".
I dumpstered a pair of
rollerblades that are my size. Too bad Im not a
"blader". I got a free broken hard drive (remember the
magnets from issue #6?) and a neat handbag for Brian's mom. It's
cool that you can find old technology lying around in Seattle. A
girl with tri-hawks sold me a thermal shirt at Value Village for
a buck. Now I only have $60 left from working in Austin. Of
course, the Airport will charge $45 to take my bike with me.
|A L A S K A|
On the flight to AK, the plane had no more than 30 people on it. This is on Reno Air mind you ("Greyhound of the skies"), which is almost always packed. I grabbed 3 seats for myself and slept the whole flight. Victoria met me at the Airport and took me back to her house, where I was to stay my first few nights. Victoria is great. Enough that I have to give her at least a couple of lines She's the only girl I know that thinks poop jokes are as funny as I do. The whole time I was staying with her, she kept getting house-sitting jobs around her neighborhood. So I got to stay at all these nice houses with saunas, pianos, entertainment systems, and one that even had a photocopier! Her and I would ride bikes downtown before she went to work, and before you know it, I even had a "coffee buddy" to go out drinkin' with. Yeah, that's my idea of a good time (in case you were wondering). We cooked like there was no tomorrow, and ate like there was no today (make sense?). When I'm not in Alaska, shes the person who keeps all the downtown coffee shops and book stores stocked with my zine, she even sends me money from the collection jars. All the while, she's stuck in AK and wanting to leave. I feel bad for her.
So, I'm supposed to be here to get my driver's license renewed, and visit each of my 5 favorite coffee shops at least once... All in 2 weeks. We'll have to wait and see. Side St. Espresso is my first place to go. Before I left AK, the owner hooked me up with a drink card I could use before I left. On the back was his address to send future zines to. Once again, this zine (the one youre holding) has gotten me free coffee. Which reminds me, if you happen to be reading this, and you work at a coffee place, AND you think you'd be up to giving your ol' friend Rex a bunch of the "good stuff" for free, then write me! I'll bring presents! I'll rub your stinky ol' feet! I'll even put out if I have to!! (I didn't say WHAT I'd put out) Back to Side St. Unfortunately, I didn't get any free joe this time.
Some immediate observations: Most of the people I know in Anchorage have gotten fat since I last saw them. When there's nothing to do in a town and drugs are too expensive, many Alaskans turn to good ol' trusty beer. Great for getting drunk, lousy if you're trying to maintain that girlish figure (that goes for guys too).
There are a bunch of new buildings downtown, almost all of which are hotels. That combined with seemingly random flower displays on street sides seems to have caused an increase in tourism.
The shittier parts of town have these cement flower-pot-things that prevent cars from driving straight through neighborhoods. Now drivers have to zig-zag around taking many different roads to get from one place to another. I think it's funny, especially because me and my bicycle can go straight through them.
Crime paranoia runs rampant. In recent years, it seems that some of the citizens in low-income parts of town have started pretending they live in the big city. So they drive by houses of people they hate and shoot bullets into the walls. Suddenly, all these make-believe gangsters start showing up, acting the usual tough and walking the usual funny walk in packs everywhere they go. Now there are constant news reports of cops killing suspects, and drug raids accompanied with shootouts. Okay, so there have always been a lot of drugs in these neighborhoods, but it's usually not linked with so much violence. Mostly it was just really nasty looking hookers, and people wandering around yelling "Hey! C'mere!" at every car that drives by. Remember, anyone who is not native is here via either a 3-hour flight or a 4-day drive through Canada. Neither of which is possible without having some $$. Alaska is about as easy to get to as Hawaii, so did these people bring their problems from elsewhere to this wonderful place? I think not. It just goes to show you, assholes sprout up like dandelions no matter where you live.
Walking down 4th avenue during Wednesday market, I saw a kid on a skateboard ride by. He was promptly stopped by a cop on the corner and I immediately thought, "Great, that kid just got a $300 fine". That's what the penalty is for riding a skateboard downtown. The cop asked him not to ride his board downtown then let him go. Shit! What the-?! I ran up to the skater and asked him, "what was up with that?" then he told me that people started suing the city when their kids came home with these fines. After about $3,000,000 worth of lost battles by the city attorneys, they lifted the law and I hear the curfew is next. Score one for the people.
Kaladi Brothers Coffee (on Brayton) lets me use their stapler as much as I want. It's still the same great place I used to go to, with free refills and I manage to get free coffee on two different occasions.
Kaladi Bros. (in City Market) is still the same. I only manage to get one free coffee, but at least they have free refills and lots of outside tables.
Nordstrom's Cafe (much to my surprise) has coffee for 25 cents once again. Free refills. [they started charging $1 again just before I left]
Surf City (Internet cafe) is even less pleasant than the last time I went there. It seems that everyone employed in that place hates to work there. I can put up with grouchy people making me feel like I need to keep buying something if I want to stay very long, just as long as I can still go upstairs and watch MST3K videos (of which they have many), but what do I find when I DO go upstairs? All the videos are gone! Damn! Then, to top it all off, while I'm sitting at the table with my friends, these three kids come up with some racing game for the Sega and all start fighting over who plays first. On the other side of the room is a doorway where all the zombies go. In this dark room are four computers, all hooked up to the internet with motionless, chubby, faces staring at glowing boxes, occasionally looking up to see who's in the next room. Creepy I tell ya'! So there you have it. Surf City, I've tried and tried, but you still suck! Okay, not as bad as most of the coffee places in Anchorage, but still...
DWINDLING FINANCES: As of just before I left on the plane to come to AK, I had $15, then there's the $15 to get my driver's license renewed. Great. Now, I have to either try and sell zines like crazy, or find another way to make some cash. Not like being out of money is anything new to me, but it's ironic that I'm on the opposite end of the continent, broke, months away from home just so I can make a 5 minute visit to the DMV.
THE MYSTERY GIRL: I don't usually go up and talk to girls. I think I'm still afraid that either they'll think I'm hitting on them, or 5 words into the conversation I'll realize that I just really don't want to talk to them anymore. Guys, I have no problem with, there are no presumptions to worry about, but girls are another story. My friend Marie (whom I've talked to lots of times) has opened up this really great shop called the Crooked Rascal in the Reed building on 4th Ave. (across from my where my old shop was, and on the same floor as Subterranea). Maybe you recognize the name from ads I've run in the past for her zine by the same name. Anyway, it's the only place in Anchorage where you can select from a variety of zines, have a good chance of finding a cool record (vinyl, dude), and get in touch with something worthwhile happening in town, hell... in life for that matter! It's customary for me to visit the Rascal every time I go to the Reed building now. To make this excerpt about the Rascal go on entirely too long Sometimes I'll just take the "community camera" out and use my one photo (everybody gets one shot), maybe I'll type on the community typewriter, or maybe just hang out and talk to one of the coolest chicks around (Marie).
About this mystery girl One day, I walked into the Rascal with my usual announcement and noticed a girl looking at the records. A girl I could tell wasn't from Alaska (we can tell these things, trust me). I said "hi" to her and she said "hi" back. Then I half-thought to myself "you should talk to her, she looks interesting, after all, she's not from here", while my other half-thought was "Naw, forget it. You know what will happen! Besides, she might be insane.". Well, it looks like the insanity plea wins the vote. I ask her where she's from, she says "St. Louis", so I ask her if she's read the current issue of Cometbus (entitled "St. Louis Stories"), she says she's never heard of it. There really is something off-balance about this girl, besides the fact that she's never heard of Cometbus. Theres something I can't quite put my finger on, like the way she looks, how she stands, I can't figure it out. Haven't you ever seen someone and you instantly get a "crazy person" vibe off of them? At that same time, have you ever been intrigued, like "that's a person I want to get to know!"? Well, that's what made me ask a question that made things fall into place. "What's your name?", she replied "Vex". hmm... "Vex", "Rex", get it? Strange... Maybe we're meant for each other! Maybe one day we'll both jump off of a cliff. Maybe we'll go on a cop-killing spree and live to write childrens novels about it. Then again, maybe not. Well, at least I have someone to see in St. Louis. I've wanted to go to that town for years, ever since I was admiring all the brick buildings while driving through, then that giant arch startled the crap out of me! I forgot it was located in St. Louis, go figure. Yeah, Vex is nice. We talked for a bit and exchanged contact info, but I think our first date is still some time off.
FODDER: There are some people that don't seem to mind being stuck in Anchorage (or many small towns for that matter). They talk about one day leaving, but judging from seeing these people again, I'd say they aren't going anywhere soon. I went to a show by locals: Nancy Boys and the Tall Cool Ones at the Plucky Monkey (a coffee house that allows live music, but is doomed to fail from lack of business). All the semi-old schoolers showed up. The 19-25 crowd that's been in the scene for years, hasn't changed ranks, and is still part of the same clique as 5 years ago. They're the people that arrive at a show, then sit in their packed car for 30 minutes drinking and looking tough before they finally get out. Then they stand around and either look tough and fucked up, or talk to friends about the same shit. When they talk to me it's, "Hey, I heard you went to LA I suppose you're a big movie star now, huh?!", "Hey, you wanna make a beer run with me? What, you don't drink now or somethin'?!". They're entering adulthood, having kids, and still trying to maintain some kind of wild lifestyle, but it ends up being a display of failure in the worst way. Life is consumed by a shitty home life, a manual labor job, then all free time is spent with people that only want to talk about the same things they talked about the day before. OHH BOY! Where do I sign up?!
I'm standing in front of the P'Monkey when an ex-girlfriend walks up to me. Her eyes are relaxed, like some kind of homeless seductress. She leans in toward me whispering "Heeeeeyyy, how's it goin' Rex?" almost knocking me over with breath that smells like wino vomit. I try to make conversation brief, almost embarrassed with myself that I actually used to do naughty things with this girl. I mean, I'm trying to see some glimmer of positive change, but it's difficult when I realize that whenever she's in Anchorage, she makes a nosedive. After she walks away from me, she heads straight for the bum pack to cuddle up next to her current boyfriend. He's tall, like me, but he looks strung out and I don't. It's just a horrible feeling to notice similarities between yourself and other guys an ex-girlfriend goes out with after you. Then, at the same time, feel that those other guys are complete losers. It's a common theme, but sometimes my relationships end up not working for the simple reason that I'm not a party animal.
[some preachiness] I think it's pointless to consume chemicals just to make other people like me. But meanwhile, all these wonderful people still have wonderful self-images that don't include their gradual backslide. That's the thing... When the punk lifestyle starts to sway towards generic homelessness, and a "bum" like demeanor, where do you get off? Where is the line drawn? I've seen kids that were once just punks having fun, and now they're washed up drug addicts. They never leave the same 5-block radius and just beg all day while the leather and mohawk have been replaced by a scraggly beard and dumpstered sports jacket. For anyone new to this scene, pay attention to where you stand and keep in mind that it's easy to slip from sustained resistance to a subdued existence.
[On a lighter note] Victoria and I have our bikes with us at this show, so we both agree that it's long past time to leave. As we're riding I say "You know, I'll take a bike ride over that scene back there ANY old day!". She agrees with a smile.
One day I'm up at Subterranea (alternative stuff shop), where Victoria works, listening to Dan (the owner) talk about the Fairbanks fair and how all his friends/former employees keep flaking out when it comes to helping with his booth. Every year he takes a bunch of stuff from the store and sets it all up in this really huge tent for a week of fair-generated income. I'm eavesdropping from nearby and get a dumb idea. I mean, I'm only in Alaska for two weeks, but you know... I could change that. "Hey, when does the fair start?" I ask. "In about two weeks, why?", "Well, I need some money, and you know I've done this shit before, whaddaya say I help you with the fair and you pay me?". That's how it started.
UNEXPECTED EMPLOYMENT: The Tanana Valley fair draws crowds upwards of 12,000 people a day, many of whom come to ride whatever mechanical death traps Golden Wheel Amusements has set up. Other than the midway, there are farm exhibits with fruits, vegetables, and cute little animals, all being proudly displayed as FOOD(!), and over 60 different vendors selling goods to passers-by. Some places sell pastries, while some sell clothing, others sell jewelry, hair weaves, coffee, bingo, photographs, fine art, plumbing, toys that poop, pets that don't, cars, trucks, music, and sneak-peeks at someone's retarded sister giving oral sex. I made up that last one.
The booth I'm enlisted to help with is commonly referred to as the coolest, biggest, and loudest booth at the fair. I get to help build the tent, set up all the stuff inside, sell things for a week, then clear it out at the end and tear the tent down. Seems pretty cut & dry. The drive to Fairbanks can be made in as little as 4 hours (I've done it, driving 95mph the whole way), but it takes us 12 due to the size of the trailer, which easily dwarfs Dans, little truck. He was planning to stop on the way up at some point and take a little nap, but I'll have nothing to do with it! Every time we pull over, I start acting silly, jumping around, making noise, and convincing him that we should drive a little further. I just hate to break up a trip that's only 12 hours long. So he never gets his nap and we arrive in Fairbanks without any shut-eye, but now we have things to do. It's not bedtime YET?, Hell... it's only noon!
This huge tent consists of white polyurethane-like stuff, aluminum rods, nuts, bolts and cables. It's valued at around fifteen thousand dollars, and I bet it weighs a pound per dollar. Almost the entire day is spent setting up this monstrosity, balancing spring loaded support beams, hammering 2-foot long spikes through rocks in the ground, stretching the white poly-urine-stain-plasti-fabric around it all until you can play it like a drum, and our fingers are about to break. We even make a soft floor out of waterproof tarp with carpet on top. So, the tent is finally set up, its a vision of beauty but it's still not time to stop. We have to bring a bunch of boxes and display counters inside so that we can get "an early start" in the morning. By this time it's 3 am and I'm wondering not only where the day went, but exactly what "an early start" means.
[TIME FOR A BREAK] I'll spare you the grueling details of the entire next day's work... Did I ever tell you I once pissed in a Tuba? Yeah, in 7th grade. We had this temporary teacher who was in charge of the band class I was in. He brought his beat up old tuba to school with him, then every day he'd treat all the kids like shit. Man, he was fucking MEAN! So, one day after school, I knew of a secret access to the band room. I was gonna get that bastard back! So, I snuck in unnoticed through a back stairway and found his Tuba in one of the practice rooms. There it sat, a reminder of some cruel prick's idea of a good time. I unzipped my pants and went pee pee in it. Making sure to get it into all the various tubes and buttons. If I had been completely heartless, I would have done immoral things with the mouthpiece as well, but the idea didn't come to me. If only I could go back in time, I could do it again... Thanx for listening.
[BACK TO IT] All these people in Fairbanks come out of the woodwork to volunteer help. Some are pretty cool, while others are just the opposite. Regardless, I know why they do it. There really is nothing else to do in this town, and well... Someone told them that they could look at pretty girls (or boys) all day long and pick up some cool points in the process. Being that Subterranea is one of those alterna-trendy shops, all kinds of customers show up, from preppy chicks looking for "girly" shirts, to mohawk encrusted punks who buy spikes and dog collars. Then there are the people that have branded this store as a "gothic shop" who buy all that vampire crap, like $150 black & red velvet dresses with tassels, and lace. We even sell vampire teeth that look real, or maybe they're dog teeth, I don't know.
The cast of this week-long adventure:
Megan: A young, self-conscious, chubby, unemployed, shaved headed, still lives at home, goth girl that actually pronounces the word as, "Gaaaauuuthick". When she wants something, like food (Dan is good about keeping his helpers fed), she'll say, "Megan hun-gwee!". I hate it when people talk about themselves in the third person perspective! So, she'd go get a hamburger. The place we were getting food from had veggie burgers (which I ate many), but noooo... she had to have her beef! Jesus, I could see her swelling before my very eyes! Okay, sorry, she was nice, just dumb at the same time.
Megan's friends: The rat pack of half-goth kids that are constantly running around, bumming smokes, acting gay (well, bisexual if you ask them-of course), and complaining about each other all at the same time. Half of these kids ended up swapping boy/girlfriends during the course of the fair. Ohhhh.... the day when relationships only lasted a week, remember that? Someone tell me about it, 'cause I sure don't. On second thought, keep it to yourself. During the 6 days we were there, I don't know how many times I heard "Have you seen Josh, because I'm so pissed at him. he called me a HO!", or "Samantha told me she saw Josh kissing Brittany, so we're broke up now. I have to find him and bitch him out!" (names are hypothetical) It got old quick, but at least they bought something once in a while.
JD: A nice guy, with a son named Parker who is very good at un-doing everything we DO while setting up (Parker that is). A ticking time bomb that boy. Gotta love it.
Enya: One of those girls that has "flavor of the day" boyfriends. I swear, she had no less than 4 guys at the fair that thought they were her one-and-only. One time, she had just gotten done making out with one guy (the cook), then another walked up as #1 was walking away, then as #2 (the jock) was leaving, #3 (Mr. sensitive) showed up, then #4 (Mr. Normal) just when #3 had turned his back. Crazy. She's got some kind of luck! The whole time, none of them knew of each other. One guy (the jock) got jealous of how her and Dan (the Proprietor) were acting around each other, even though Dan wasn't one of the four. He was the 4.1 that she got with a few days before in Anchorage. Ha ha, what a mess! Man, it makes me damn glad I'm a flaming, knob-schlobbing, homosexual!! (that was a joke kids, Im not even gay). If you look at her for more than 2 seconds, she'll lick her teeth, and wink an eye. Un-fucking-believable! I knew a girl once that was 19 and had already had sex with over 100 guys. She was scrawny and out of shape, had crooked teeth, and scruffy hair, but thanks to the two army bases located near Anchorage, she was able to reach her goal in life. [In Australia, they refer to GIs (General Inlisted) as AJ's (Army Jerks). The local girls love to go to the bars where the American Jerks are because they get to have so much American fun with them. Yeah, Mr. "Johnny GI" walks into foreign countries drunk with his dick hanging out. That's why so many countries hate us! Don't you see it?! If a country is our ally, then that of course makes it a giant whorehouse for our small-town losers that couldn't get better jobs. I'm generalizing. Nevermind. No ones listening anyway.]
Pete: Old school, native, punk rocker who supplied me with some great tapes to break the monotony of our lacking CD collection. We brought 60 CDs, but the player was such a piece of poop, we could only play 25. Pete was cool though. Every time I saw him, he wanted to go buy me a coffee. If for some fucked up reason there is a god, then god-fucking-bless you Pete!
Dan and I have to be over to the "Patty-Wagon" before 11:30 in order to get the breakfast deal they have for the concessionaires (that's us). It's actually more like 11:25 since their clock is fast, but try telling that to the people that work there. The main two people you have to deal with are the skinny, hyper woman who just wants to know "what the hell you wanna eat" and the guy with the beer gut who cooks your grub and gets it out as fast as possible. Neither of these people is up for conversation. Every morning I'll walk their kitchen and start in with "Hi, how are you all doing this mo-", "WHA-DA-YA WANNA EAT?! C'MON, WHA-DA-YA WANT?!". Back at the tent I have a few minutes alone. I like to drag a stool out into the paved walkway and enjoy the sights of the scattered booth people wandering around getting ready for the crowds of fair-goers that are about to swarm the gates. There I sit with a freshly rolled cigarette, a cup of steaming hot java, some Ramones playing a few feet away, not to mention that it's all in Fairbanks Alaska makes it kinda nice. Well, that's what I keep telling myself. Sure though, it IS nice.
The rest of the day is spent as: 70% watching for shoplifters (fairs are magnets), 20% selling stuff, 5% fucking with the guys across the street, and 5% organizing the sunglasses. I swear, there's a million sunglasses for sale in this thing. All the while, we manage to have a kicker of a time joking around with simply everyone. If someone (customers included) isn't in the mood for it, then we'll just make fun of them. What do we care?! These people all live in Fairbanks! HA HA HA HA HA!!! 4 out of 5 shoplifters at the fair are caught by us. I'd feel bad about that figure, but the people stealing from us are all these pathetic gang-bangers who don't give a flying rat's ass about anything. They'd steal from their best friends, I swear. Really, I don't care if people steal things and I've gone on and on about this before, but if you're gonna thieve, don't do it from small businesses. Even if they sell lame shit, a $50 item hurts a lot more to a small business than to a faceless corporation with the insurance to cover it. Yeah, it's more complicated than that, but I stand by it. WalMart isn't shutting down stores from excessive "shrinkage" now, are they. You know those bubbles on the ceiling at WalMart? Only about 1 out of 6 has a camera in it. Sometimes, even less than that. Those are there to intimidate you, but you can sometimes look at just the right angle and see what has a camera, and where that camera is pointed. It's been handy, speaking from personal experience.
After the first few days, I've started to recognize people that must have season's passes. There's the pretty blond girl with the braces that always looks like something is on her mind. The girl with curly red hair that wore a brown shirt with a giant red star on the front (I offered to swap shirts with her, but I don't think she wanted the one I was wearing). There's the thin guy with short hair that buys nothing but bondage leather stuff. He spends over $100 every time he comes into the booth. I'm talking dog collars with 3-inch spikes, fully studded gauntlets, belts with metal shielding, ankle cuffs with big rings, the works. If we sold butt-plugs with horse tails, he'd probably buy one. Just a thought. About those cute girls... Yeah, they're everywhere. What are ya' gonna do?! Nothing, if you're me. Heh, I'm sick, I know. I'm just not looking for my own cheerleader, especially not in AK where "you don't loose your girlfriend, you just loose your turn". The ratio is easily twice as many guys as girls. Rugged "outdoors men" and "army jerks" constitute most of them. No fun to be found there. Unless you're a cheerleader, that is.
Towards the end of each evening, there amasses quite a collection of people in front of the booth. We always play the same CD at night, it's got a beat, and we play it pretty loud. Therefore, we always have over 10 people socializing in front of our space, while the other booths don't have squat. As soon as there isn't a single person in the tent (there's always people in it, it's crazy) we zip the front shut, count the millions of dollars we made, and head to the "Farthest north Denny's in the world". I get to eat whatever I want (Subterranea's treat) and Dan gets to flirt with the waitress. He's been working on this girl since day one. I mean, she's married, we even met her husband on our first night here, but he keeps it up. What's fucked up, is that it's gotten to the point that she's all but invited him to her house (her hubby is a military guy [surprise] and leaves for weeks at a time). The only reason she didn't actually invite Dan to her house is because she's too busy trying to get ME (the guy who barely talks to her) to come over. Yeah, okay... like that's gonna happen. Fucking bimbo.
The showers at the fair are great. There are two of them poorly hidden behind a curtain just off the main public restroom. Needless to say, one would be wise to use them in the morning or at night. Talk about water pressure... A pigeons penis has more pressure than these things! So, if someone else is in the next stall, and you're about to turn your water on, you have to yell "Turnin' the water on over here!". Otherwise you could cause massive discomfort to say the least. If someone is lame enough to flush one of the urinals at this time (Dan), then they will promptly be threatened very loudly by one or two people being burned to death behind the curtain. Man, it's comedy. Well worth the red, scorched skin I get every time I get in there. "Yah-yeeeooouch!!! What the fuck do you think you're doin'?!?!?!" Damn that's funny. [giggle]
Next door to our booth is the "Juicy Bus". It's run by a nice guy with long hair, and his wife out of an old converted school bus. Their (9 year old?) daughter, "Juicy Girl" comes over to pester us non-stop, but it's fun. Sometimes, if I'm feeling especially crusty in the morning, I'll crawl over and ask them to make me a "Ginger Limeade" with "as much ginger as you can possible fit in it without calling it Gingeraide". No one else likes it, but I think it's the bomb. At least it feels like a bomb when it hits my stomach, but I like that. Across the street are two guys and a computer. They'll put your face on any number of computerized bodies from their collection. It's obvious that the Juicy Girl pesters them even more, since her face is on half a dozen two dimensional bodies tacked up on the walls. On the other side of us is "the Poop Moose lady". She sells these wooden animals that poop jelly beans. In big letters on their sign it reads, "www.poopmoose.com". They probably make $200 a day (which aint shit). That's all I'm gonna say. Woopteedoo.
NOTES FROM STRANGERS A few of the times we went to Denny's, I'd see a girl I thought I recognized sitting at a table by herself. She tells me later that she had bought a zine from me at the fair. Dan has these tickets that are for his "employees", but we give them to friends instead, so Kate (that's her name) gets one. For the last two days of Fairbanks, she hangs out with me for a couple hours a day while I stare at customers. It's nice, she's nice, nice nice nice, everything is nice with me, ain't it! Damn. On the last day, I'm talking to Kate outside the booth as she's about to go home, then at the last second she hands me a note and says "bye" then walks away, never to be seen again. I put it in my pocket and wait an hour to read it (because I like suspense). Wanna know what this heart-felt note said??? Too bad, I'm not gonna tell you! hee hee hee.
A total of 9 days worth of Fairbanks fun and we're packing everything up, tearing down the tent, and heading out. We sold a bunch of stuff, I made a few new friends, Dan got to diddle that waitress in the dressing room, and now we're finally done. One filthy, tired guy with new boots and one balding shop owner with stinky finger. We had set up the tent at night, worked the fair, then while everyone was sleeping on the last night, we tore it down and it disappeared. "Super-stealth". By morning, all that was left is a square patch of dirt where there once was a big noisy store and we were long gone. One last trip to Denny's then the long drive home.
Just outside of Fairbanks, we pull off into some fog and catch two hours of shut-eye. 5 hours later, we're going kinda fast down a hill, the super-heavy trailer starts to sway, then just before a narrow bridge Dan is stepping on the brake and saying "Oh shit!". The tires on the trailer are squealing as it fish-tails violently behind us, side to side, dragging us with it. For some reason, I look down at my bag of chips and think about eating one last meal, then decide it's a bad idea and started to get scared instead. I thought we were dead for sure as we slid almost sideways, then the whole mess came to a halt, sideways across the highway right in front of the bridge! I think I shook a little doodoo out of my pants.
In a tiny town called Cantwell (not even a town, it's a gas station and a couple of other buildings) we stop for fuel when I notice that they also rent videos (to the other 5 people?). They have every single Dorf (Tim Conway) video made. "Oh brother" I say to myself, shaking my head walking back to the truck. The rest of the trip is uneventful and I leave for Seattle two days later.
Brian and Michelle pick me up from the airport at 4am. The evils of catching the cheapest plane possible, the joys of having unemployed friends. Their little red pickup barely holds the three of us, but we manage to make it to a gas station so I can add gas to the vapors in their tank. I like their apartment. It's a fucking MESS! I mean, it's the exact opposite of those places where you have to take your shoes off, then "dont touch anything". I can't stand those places. Where youre afraid to even LOOK at that fancy vase on the mantle for fear that it'll reduce it's value. No, at Brian's place I can "make myself at home" which they tell me to do (and they mean it). I don't have to worry about keeping all my things together in one small area as much as I have to worry about loosing it amongst all THEIR stuff. The wonders of digging around through piles of "things" and finding the coolest shit. Then going dumpster diving with Brian and bringing home even more cool stuff to add to their museum of chaos. Actually, we found a dumpster that was so cool, I ended up mailing a 40-pound box of dumpstered goods back to Pensacola. A tip for traveling pack rats... Put it in a normal sized box, pack it snug, then take it to the post office and send it Special Fourth Class. Say "It's full of books". I once sent a 55-pound box and it only cost me $17. And it was not full of books, but of course I said it was.
B&O Coffee HAD free refills (as of this writing). If you ever go there, beware of the men's restroom. I'm starting to wonder if it's a homosexual Mecca or something. Half the times I go in the thing, I bump into some character that obviously has something up his sleeve (and his pant leg I'm sure). It's like, these guys hang out in the bathroom waiting I hear they used to have signs up requesting that their patrons not "shoot up" in the restroom. There's more to this story, but it's embarassing to talk about. [shrug]
Every time I come to Seattle (AND have a place to stay), I have to visit some good dumpsters I've recently discovered (thanx to Brian). Two of which are located next to the AEI building (Muzak). I swear, this place throws away more useless equipment than most companies can shake a stick at! I found all kinds of rack-mount adapters (for racking non-rackable equipment), a bunch of computer chips, and audio/video tapes. The real score was a CD-i (Compact Disk Interactive) player that looked new. Remember CD-i players? They were made in the early 90's as some supposed future of CD technology. Everyone thought that if they put a few pictures or a little game along with the audio on a CD, then it would be a big a hit. Unfortunately, they were dead wrong. Sure, it's nice to hook a CD-i player up to your TV and see all the song titles and track lengths, and it's nice to maybe even have pictures of the band, but oh well. Until I find some old CD-i's, I'll just have the baroque CD that was in the player when I found it.
Eventually I make it over to Twitch's place. This is the same Twitch that made part of the road trip with me from issue #4. He's living with two other Alaskans (Jeff & Crazy Jim) and his girlfriend (Lynette) in this nice two story house in DesMoins WA, just outside of Seattle. The lucky bastard has a cushy job doing security for Teledesic, a company responsible for launching and controlling over 200 communications satellites in orbit around our planet. He gets to sit around all day asking rich people for their ID cards and wandering around the complex. After eating free goodies and drinking all the Snapple he wants, he might have the laborious task of watching some TV or talking to other security guards. Every day he has to contend with fairly friendly BILLIONaires and angry janitors. Worse yet, the ex-secretary of defense for the USA likes to back into Twitchs tiny car every morning and its pissing Twitch off!!! Damn, I'm glad I don't have that job [<-lie]! If I had to accept an hourly wage to tolerate Billy Gates coming into the building all the time, I think I'd kill myself! Twitch, you lucky dawg! If I actually did get a security job, it would probably be guarding a Taco Bell all night, no thanks.
[This issue of the zine is dragging on a bit too much and theres only about a week and a half of stuff to write about, so Im gonna speed things up a bit.]
HOLLYWOOD: I stay at Mr. Craig and Mrs. Karens place with their hateful cat, Simon. Craig has been doing comedy as long as Ive known him. He was my drummer for years in Alaska, but when the rock & roll turned against him, the comedy became his main focus. Thats the reason he moved to Hollywood, its where that stuff happens most. Anyway, hes got a lot of guts and more stamina than Ill ever know. Craigs goal in life hasnt changed his attitude, we still rock out in a practice space owned by our friends from Freedom 49 and all is good.
Hollywood is so frustrating. Its the pit of hell where everything happens (in the entertainment industry). Most record labels are in Southern California, but thats just record labels. What if you want to make films, or act, or write plays? Then youre gonna want to go to Hollywood. Only the very creative and the biggest assholes go anywhere in this dump. The rest either trudge back to their home towns, lock themselves up in small apartments and keep trying, or if they got the looks, they do porn.
Since Craig and Karen have jobs (not doing porn mind you), I have too much time to wander around, go to the library, and basically avoid the generic Hollywood experience that many tourists go on. No trips through Universal Studios, no renting hookers, no stabbing transvestites on Sunset Strip. One last Greyhound trip to go
GREYHOUND #5 In the glory days, Greyhound had lots of people paying the full fare to ride the bus and business was good for Greyhound. Since then, there has been a decline in riders and they have been forced to introduce special discounts that have made almost every trip a crowded one. Its due to their lack of networking that often times the busses are over-booked and someone gets to stay behind. When this happens, there is no compensation like with airlines, you just leave a few hours later and feel like someone just shit on you.
At the Hollywood station on Vine St. the bus broke down before even arriving, so I had to stay an extra hour. I met a punk chick from Chicago who showed me pictures of all the stuff she did in California. Shes planning on moving here and doing dominatrix work to support herself. Okay, whatever. After a while the next bus shows up and takes us to the downtown LA station (a place to avoid at night). Since Ive missed my transfer, Ill have to wait 3 hours to catch the next bus, but when it gets there, its too full and I have to wait another 4 hours for the next one, but Im given incorrect information by an employee and miss it too! After all is said and done, I finally get to leave LA almost 11 hours after I had planned.
Two miserable days of wishing it was all over. Two days of sleeping for 15 minutes at a time, waking up with drool all over myself, running out of money, and avoiding conversation with other passengers. Two days of "fucking lame". On the first day, at least I had a decent neighbor. Some kid from Asheville wearing a studded denim jacket with the sleeves cut off. He happens to know my friend Cindy Ovenrack and her band, Astrid Oto so we talked about Asheville, greyhound, and little else all the way to Dallas, then he transferred.
Thats about it. Just writing about bus rides is burning me out. Maybe I havent had enough coffee. Maybe its the fact that I need to get this issue done so I can go copy it.
One day, when I'm old and bitter, instead of planting flowers next to the sidewalk in front of my house, I'm gonna plant poison ivy. Then I'll post a sign encouraging people to dig around in my "flowers" to find free prizes! Tah-dah! [click]