PTBH!zine - issue# 10
I had been living for a year and a half at the 919 house in North Seattle.  We half-ass called it “New Rexico” after the house we left in Pensacola (which was named by Sam), but it wasn’t nearly as cool. In fact, the name only served as a painful memory of how things tend to fade from glory. The differences between the two houses were numerous.   We could no longer see through the floor to the ground below, the shower didn’t have giant rotting holes in the paneling, and there weren’t families of rats fucking in the walls. We had a basement, a garage, and even the ability to wash our own clothes, but still… something wasn’t right about the new place.
Whenever you live in the high-rent structure of a large city, you have to either work your ass off to pay rent, or get roommates.  Of course, we elected to do the later and lived with no less than 3 other people at any given time.  Each roommate with a different personality.  Each roommate with different emotional problems. Each of those problems plaguing them with an unyielding fervor.   

Roommates…  Can’t live with em, can’t afford to live without em.

 

First, we lived with Simon who had moved into the place at the same time we did.  He was an unemployed, medicated, gothic guy who was under the strange assumption that he was doing something significant with his life. In reality, 90% of his waking moments were spent in front of a television set.  When he wasn’t watching TV, he was in the same coffee shop, sitting at the same table, doing the same things.   During certain months, he went to the community college for classes which were paid for by his mother, and which he invariably failed.  Along with his rent, food, cigarettes, and beer, his mother paid for everything he did.  The boy had a warped sense of his own existence.   

 

I had first met Simon in Alaska where we participated in the same performance group. He didn’t know how to play any instruments what so ever, but there he was… in the back, doing something.   Whenever we did a show, he would take on some strange task to take place of his lack of ability.  He would read a dictionary on a microphone or play a shovel with a hammer.  He would be on stage with his bright red hair, squatting in the background like a noisy prop and putting his nonsense into the mix with the vaguest of effort.  To this day, he still has red hair, but as far as I know he’s no longer reading dictionaries or playing the shovel, so I can’t imagine what values he could possibly be so proud of.  Maybe it’s the hair.

 

In the early days at 919, my friend Spike had broken up with his girlfriend and needed a cheap place to stay, so he moved in to our garage. I moved all of Simon’s crap into the front half of the cement room and fashioned a plywood wall to divide his mess from the rest thus creating a decent room for Spike to live.  Spike moved in and proceeded to decorate it with duct tape.  There he was, a single man cutting his way though life.  It was nice having Spike around.  He was an old friend from the old days.  When I had driven from Alaska to move to Florida, Spike rode with me, but for whatever reason decided to stay in Seattle. One thing that I had always noticed about Spike is that he always had bad luck with girls.  They torment him into becoming a grumpy disgruntled guy.  The only time he was ever himself, was when he was single, so it was nice having Spike living in our basement. Then something stupid happened.  

After a few weeks, Spike’s ex-girlfriend started coming around to visit him.  She would come over to “hang out” but would always end up begging him to take her back, which he would refuse. After driving her home, he would tell us how much he wished she didn’t come over. After a couple of months she was over all the time, then she was living there more often than not. Before we knew it, Spike stopped hanging out with us and instead was camped out in his room with his girlfriend that he had tried so hard to get away from.  That was the last we ever saw of Spike…  at least the Spike that we loved.

 

Between Simon’s TV and Spike’s girlfriend, we had two roommates that we never saw except for when they ate, shit, or wanted something.  

 

A mutual friend named Rodney had lost his apartment and found himself filling our couch with his sleeping self every night until he “found a new apartment.”  This was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, but after a couple of months, we started to wonder what the deal was.  Rodney was still there. He went to work each morning, and came home each night as if he was one of the residents in our little home.  Rodney doesn’t sleep like most people.  Rather he suffocates all night long in a chorus of slurping, sucking noises. I would be upstairs in the living room thinking that someone was brewing coffee in the kitchen, but it would in fact be Rodney in the basement sucking air into his heaving chest.  Then the noise would stop… and I would walk to the top of the stairs to look in on him.  There he would be, motionless… was hew dead??? Then his chest would move, but no sound would come out. Then he would start to shake and heave like he was trying to force himself to burp, but nothing could escape his throat.  Finally a gush of air would fill his lungs and he would roll over. This was Rodney’s nocturnal pre-death ritual that would shake our walls night after night. It was scary, because we love that guy.
When Simon started falling behind on his rent and owing us money, we started trying to find a way to get rid of him.  Honestly we’re not assholes, but it was depressing having him around. We can’t just kick someone out into the cold, so we waited and hoped that Simon would come to his senses.   I don’t know if it was just a coincidence, or if Simon had some remaining shred of common sense left, but shortly after he got a girlfriend he moved out of our place and in to hers.  That was a nice break, but it was strange.  
Spike once again dumped his girlfriend and began his journey down the spiral staircase of depression.  Of course, instead of asking his friends for help, he instead started hanging out with his drinking buddy who had also broken up with a girlfriend.  In America, we are taught that to face life’s problems, we must be medicated.  When we can’t afford the medication that is prescribed by expensive psychiatrists, we must purchase the medication that is sold over the counter from places like liquor stores.  That’s what Spike did.  He drank.   He drank constantly.  
Not much was happening around New Rexico.  I usually like to have a few projects going in my life, so I was going to film school to learn how to make videos that aren’t stupid. I was also working on my TV show (Static) and putting together the issue of PTBH before this one.  While doing these things, I would see one of the roomies walking past my door to the bathroom and I’d try to get them involved.  “Hey, let’s go shoot some video”, I’d say. “Hey, wanna go to the food bank?” I’d ask.  Regardless of who it was, the reply was always the same, “No, I don’t feel good.”  
Even though we liked Rodney and Spike, they were kinda’ tough to live with.  At the same time Rodney would be eating like there’s no tomorrow, Spike would be drinking like there’s no future... which I suppose there might not be.  There they were, two friends living with us whom we couldn’t stand. It was a constant struggle to get them involved in something other than their addictions, but it was struggle to no end without a positive result. In order to maintain any kind of relationship with these two guys, we decided that we needed to get away from them.  Of course, we didn’t want to kick them out, but things had definitely turned sour.  
Rebecca and I started looking for warehouse space.  A place that we could do projects, not have to deal with neighbors, and not have to deal with pristine carpets and tiny rooms.  We looked for warehouses for weeks before we found one.  All the while, we told the roommates that we were looking for a new pace to live. When we found one we liked, we waited until it was a sure thing before we told Spike and Rodney we were moving out. We just wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of the situation, and that there were no surprises.  
We paid the first month’s rent on a space and gave Rodney and Spike a month and a half notice to find a place of their own. Even though out of that month and a half Rebecca and I were paying the “half’ ourselves, Spike still felt screwed over.  Somehow, he thought that having over a month to find a new place wasn’t enough, but it was probably because he hadn’t had a job in forever and relied on his mother’s allowance to sustain his habits.  Sheesh… sometimes you just can’t win.  

Moving out of any place for me is a nightmare.  Thinking back, I don’t remember exactly where Rebecca and I got all the money to move into the house we were about to leave, but I knew one thing for sure… we weren’t going to get any of it back. The walls were clean, everything was intact, and we even shampooed the carpet, but the motherfucker we gave our deposit to was… you guessed it, a landlord just like any other landlord.   Something about this very special breed of human displays a characteristic that I despise most in our species.    Greed.

  Our landlord took our seven hundred dollar deposit of hard earned cash because our oven wasn’t clean and our freshly shampooed carpet supposedly smelled like a dog (according to him).  Ouch. 

  After all was said and done, Rebecca and moved into a 3,000 square foot warehouse and Spike and Rodney moved into a shitty duplex where they could live in their misery with the “drinkin’ buddy” that was always lingering.   

With the big warehouse and it’s rent resting squarely on the shoulders of Rebecca and myself, I found that I was in a new financial straight that was grinding me to the bone.  School was costing me $1,000 every 3 months and I was without any job to speak of.  The money I had saved up from working at the call center was starting to dwindle as well.  About this time a couple of friends (Paul and Kindra), from Pensacola were talking about moving to Seattle.  We said they could live with us and we’d all split the rent, which they liked. They said they were going to rent a U-haul (which would cost an ass-load of money) so I stated thinking about my van I had stored in Mississippi. We discussing the idea of me moving their stuff for the cost of gas, which they agreed was a win/win situation for everyone.  They would save hundreds of dollars and I would have my van again. To make a long story short, I took what money I had left, and put it into a cheap plane ticket to New Orleans where they would pick me up. Cashing all my chips into an airline was risky, but after I arrived in the south, I wouldn’t need any money because P&K were paying for my gas.  Besides, any food I needed would surely come from dumpsters anyway right?  I’m a resourceful guy.  
One thing I wish there was more of in our country is the concept of people helping people.  Sounds cheesy I know, but I honestly think that society as a whole could learn a lot from working together.  This was my mentality when I offered to help Kindra and Paul.   In the past, we had done a few things together, but it was mostly scoring a ride or two when I was traveling.  Still, they had always been cool to me, so I wanted to return the coolness and help them with their relocation.  
I had to get up early in order to catch the only night-owl city bus that went to the Sea-Tac airport. Although I had allocated enough time to get all the things together that I would need on this little trip to Florida, my stupid self had hit the snooze button giving me 15 minutes to get ready. I insisted to Rebecca that she didn't need to come with me to the airport, but she wanted to go anyway. Isn’t that sweet… It was nice to have her company. The two of us stammered into the airport 2 and a half hours early for my flight only to see that there wasn't a single place to get any coffee. What the fuck!? Even the stupid Seattle's Best Coffee stand wasn't opened yet. That means I wasn’t even able to consume SHITTY coffee!  So, we tiredly walked around, watched cops hassle sleeping bums, and looked at some artwork that was tucked away in an un-used corner.  
It's strange how much art exists only in airports. Big amorphous sculptures, bizarre paintings, and children’s drawings go unnoticed in the corners of these vast buildings. The only people who see them are the ones that work there, the ones passing through, and their friends. Most of which don’t even stop to look. I wonder how the artists feel about that. Spike once saw an issue of Cometbus in a display of zines at the SanFrancisco airport… which kinda’ makes me feel funny.  
So… since there were obvious terrorists lurking in every shadow of the building, Rebecca was not allowed to go with me to the gate.  After all, she probably had some plastique explosives tucked into her tampon or a box cutter stashed in her shoe.  Yeah… she was a walking talking time bomb that wanted to say goodbye to her insane maniac of a boyfriend.  
After I left Rebecca at the front of the airport, I took an underground tram to the gate where my plane awaited me. These days, everyone has to be patted down before they are allowed on the plane. Not only are they searched, but they’re deprived of interesting conversation with the people who are doing the searching. If I had a job touching strangers all over their bodies, I think I would most look forward to the small talk we could have. None the less, the goons I encountered had one thing in mind, and it was not learning about my interests in life.  A lady riffled through my bag while a guy pulled me aside and asked me to take off my shoes.  This is something that I had not expected. Maybe no one cares… but I have a pretty limited selection of socks.  In fact I tend to wear a pair until they’re literally rotting inside my boots before I change them. Once a toe pokes all the way through a crusty hole, then (and not before) I will toss them in the garbage.   
While standing there at the airport, I happened to have a large sweat stain on one sock, and a big toe poking out of the other. Although you can only imagine, the smell was less than lovely. I stood there in my stocking feet wishing my new close friend with the metal detector would also take off his shoes.  You know… to make things more intimate, but instead of slipping into something more comfortable,  the guy stuck two fingers down my pants.  Yeah!  Now we’re getting to the good stuff!!  I think he was just checking for hidden treasures behind the metal snap which was holding my shorts together, but I let out a low moan just to get the juices flowing. He finished prematurely, but I was still wanting more. I wanted him to cuddle me and tell me I was pretty, but he just rolled over and went on to the next person. The selfish son of a bitch hadn’t even come close to making me climax, but the hand-job was nice none the less.  
I changed planes in Denver, but there was no need to remove my shoes... which was a let down.  The whole flight from Seattle to Denver I had been thinking of ways I could wiggle my protruding toe to make it more sexy or appealing, but alas I never got the chance to try any of my moves out.  Had Seattle called ahead and warned Denver about my stinky feet??  Damn.  
This whole time, I was in need of a  shave really bad. There hadn’t been enough time to locate my shaver in Seattle, so my upper lip was starting to look like a bad-teen-mustache had crawled across it. None the less, in Denver I was herded onto another plane and shot into the sky like a spit ball in history class.  Just East of Colorady,  I observed a patchwork of strange shapes on the ground below; A true testament to man's agricultural necessities creating order from chaos. From my high altitude it was easy to tell where property lines started and ended forming circles, triangles, rectangles, and checkerboards. E.T. (the extra testicle)  must view this phenomenon as ugly planetary graffiti or crop-circles by an illiterate race of Cro-Magnon apes. What our little alien friends probably don’t know is that these unknown crops only spelled one thing.  M-O-N-S-A-N-T-O.  Yuck.  
Let’s take a moment to recap. This whole trip is for three reasons. #1, To pick up the belongings of my friends, Paul and Kindra and move it to Seattle.   #2, to get my van from where it's been stored for the last 2 years so I can do some massive scavenging back home. And #3) to be in Pensacola, the coolest small town anywhere.  Remember that.  
My plane arrived at the Airport in New Orleans where I expecting to see P&K (Paul & Kindra) waiting for me. I walked out of the gate, down to the luggage claim, outside, inside, upstairs, downstairs... they were nowhere to be found. After wandering around for two hours, I sat down and finally saw them riding up an escalator. It turns out that there is in fact more than one airport in New Orleans and they had mistakenly gone to the wrong one.  
The three of us went to their car which was waiting in the parking garage outside. We started driving toward the exit when suddenly, yet slowly, we were casually struck by an SUV.  Some military guy was just rolling out of his parking space as we were driving by and bumped into us. What an idiot. We stopped, got out, and looked at the large dent in the side of the polished red vehicle which belongs to P&K.  Being tragically gothic, Kindra was babbling something about doom and gloom while Paul shrugged and consoled her. They got the military dude’s information and we all drove away. There are cars that go their entire lives without touching a single other car, but not P&K’s.  It's funny how something as simple as two cars touching could have a larger impact later down the line, but the effects of that instance would be felt days later.  
A lot of people don’t realize how valuable certain companies’ return policy is.  Shit bag companies like Costco, Wal-Mart, Sears, and the like will usually let you buy something, then up to a month or even a year later you can bring it back and get a full refund.  So... they basically let you borrow their nice expensive stuff for a long ass time.  I’ve heard of people that bought a computer years ago, and every year they bring it back for an upgrade.   They’ll just walk in and say  “this computer isn’t fast enough” or “I don’t like the display on this computer” then they’ll exchange it for the newest model at the same price.  Once they’re done with all that, they’ll just take the computer back and get all their money back.  So… that was my intent, to get an air compressor and take it back.  Yeehaw. The three of us drove to Sears to get the air compressor. The front tires on my van were most likely flat, so I needed something to pump them up with. Something that I could also return for a full refund once I got back to Seattle.  
After driving for a couple of hours through Mississippi to my Granny's house, I had the pleasure of enduring more social activity with my kin-folk. I don’t really want to talk shit about my granny and her kids because I always talk shit about them.  In fact, they’re all really nice people, but they’re just… different I suppose.   None of us have anything to talk about with each other, but we feel obligated to try every time I’m around. Upon arriving at their little brick house in the middle of nowhere, I reluctantly went through the same motions I’ve gone through before.  “Hi! It’s nice to see you.  Yeah, you all look good.  How are things?”  I say.  My step-grandfather dominates the conversation with stories of how he used to be able to hear; the guy is practically deaf.  I’d say “Wow, it’s really hot outside” and he’d come back with “Sure, you can put a cot outside, but we got a bed you can sleep in if you want” then my blind grandma (who has excellent hearing) would pipe up with “No Robert! He said it’s hot outside!  He’s probably talking about the humidity!!!” And Robert would nod his head then start talking about something random. For instance, his new fascination was with how he cured his blood clotted foot by rubbing sour cream on it. This sour cream fiasco took an hour to describe and every 5 minutes he would roll up his pant leg and show me how he did it. He’d move his hand in a circular motion saying “ you see, I’ll rub a little here and my ankle will soak it up.” Then he’d look up at me with those giant sunglasses that old people wear (he wears them inside and outside) and wait for some kind of response. “wow, it soaks it up… that’s uh… great.” I’d say.  It was aggravating.  
After a half hour of that nonsense, I found the right time to leave and get to work on my van which was parked in a nearby shed.  Kindra was smoking a cigarette and looking quite disenfranchised while Paul was pacing around trying to deal with her discomfort. Paul does that a lot…  deals with Kindra’s discomfort. I stressed to them both that it would only be a short while to get the van up and running, but I could tell that Kindra was less than amused. After an hour of jump starting, the van started up and ran like complete shit!  The combination of not being started in a year, not being driven in over 2 years, and the fact that there was the same oil and gas in the engine as three years ago would explain all the sputtering and coughing it was doing.  Keep in mind that this van is my friend.  It’s been my home, it’s been my savior, it’s helped to change my life through countless states and cities. I’ve got an emotional attachment to this machine and I know what it’s capable of.  
I think I'm the only one who finds stories of how I fix vehicles interesting, so I'm going to skip the details here. Basically, my front left wheel had been damaged years before and although it had never caused any problems, it was starting to drag against the brake disk as I drove. When a brake drags like that, it makes the wheel heat up until it’s literally smoking (like Kindra).  In fact, if I didn’t repair this problem it would have surely caught my van on fire in a blaze of glory on the side of the Mississippi interstate.  
With this in mind,  I did a temporary fix that prevented the dragging as long as I didn’t use the brakes.  That means once I pulled out of the parking lot I was in and drove out to the on-ramp, then onto the highway, that even tapping the brakes once could have spelled ultimate doom. Sounds easy enough, right? That’s what I though. We’re forgetting what country we live in. Yes, the United States of America. Where driving a cool looking van at night is permission for every cock-sure trigger-happy highway patrol officer to pull you over and search your vehicle whenever he or she gets the urge.  And that is exactly what happened.  In fact, on the way back to Florida I got pulled over no less than three times and searched twice. Although I was not issued any tickets... it was still lame.  Every time I stopped, there began a complicated routine which had to be adhered to.  After a brief search through my van, I would be free to go. So as not to look suspicious, I would drive off the shoulder with my brake dragging, and my van vibrating from the stress of one wheel trying to stop.  Then I would drive until I was out of sight so that I could pull over again, crawl under my rig, and bleed the pressure off that brake.  
We finally pulled into Pensacola at 5am where I decided to sleep in my van. This decision resulted in me waking up at 7am shivering from the cold and then again at noon burning from the hot stuffy air because I didn't crack the window early enough. I laid there smelling the cool breeze blowing in through the window which carried the sound of people talking outside. There's always someone on the 309 house’s porch. It's a hot-spot for DIY culture to manifest it's self through any number of kids living there, visiting there, or just passing through town.  Or maybe it’s just a porch that has people on it all the time.  
I dragged my sweaty self eight blocks to P&K's house all the while wishing I had brought a pair of shorts.  Even though my pants had a baseball sized hole in the crotch, they were still creating a nice greenhouse effect. Inside, Paul had some coffee brewing and offered me some old pajama pants to patch the hole. I cut the legs off and headed to Subterranean Books on Garden St. where I was greeted with more coffee and eventually Rymodee and Chris Clavin who had heard I was in town.   Man.. it’s creepy how quickly word gets around in a small town , but there's nothing better than having people hunt you down when they know you're there.  It’s especially nice when those people are Rymo and Chris.  
I hadn't eaten since the day before I left Seattle, so hunger was starting to overwhelm me. Usually in Pensacola, there's no reason to buy anything, especially not food. All the kids have hook ups or know where the fresh dumpsters are, but since I was now out of the loop (as in all the stores I used to hit have since closed) I didn’t really know where to go anymore. However, I did know that Everman Natural Foods was still open, so I rode Scotty Potty's beach cruiser down and poked my head into the dumpster.  

Lets pause for a moment and ponder the notion of me foraging in the garbage for something to eat.  Let’s also ponder the notion that this is something I do on a regular basis.  Now, lets keep in mind that I probably eat better food than most of the people I know who spend 1/3 of their job earnings on the stuff INSIDE the grocery store and I don’t spend a dime.  Ha.

  All I found was a jar of ground up olives packed in seasonings. I think it was for pasta or crackers, but I ate it anyway.  Actually it was damn good.  

Not to constantly gravitate toward coffee, but a fucked up coffee thing happened to me that day. It also happened the next morning.  I went to the building where the famous punk-bar, Sluggo's was being re-built.   A couple of years before, the previous building which housed Sluggo’s had been bought by a corporate bastard dead set on gentrifying downtown Pensacola. The corporate butthole of a human being doubled the rent on Sluggo’s and subsequently forced it to close it’s doors.  Damn, there’s just no respect for the punx, man!  A couple of years later, Terry Johnston (Sluggo’s owner) had scored an old thrift store building which she in fact BOUGHT.  Yeah…  Down with the landlords and their sick little world!  The new place is freakin’ huge, so there was a lot of work to be done, which I was more than happy to help with. Anyway, while I was cleaning in a back room with Scotty Potty, we come across a box filled with bags of decaf coffee. Folklore has it that someone had once dumpstered the stuff years ago and had donated it to Sluggo’s. Not knowing what to do with all that decaf, no one used it and no one threw it out. So, there we were years later standing in front of all that granulated crap-powder.  Scotty Potty decided to take it back to the book store that night and I forgot about it.  
Being that Pensacola had plunged into the depths of an extended cold spell, I elected to sleep at P&K's place. I didn’t feel like freezing my butt off again...  I’m a big whimp.  Listen to me complain.  
The next day, I woke up to the phone ringing. P&K were selling some of their furniture, so someone was calling to come look at it. After the phone hung up, I had to get off the couch since it was one of the things they were selling. The weird part was how fast the person who had just called arrived.  Like 3 minutes after the phone hung up, they were knocking on the front door, looking in and seeing a just-woken-up-Rex staggering around with green hair collecting all of his things after having just slept on their soon to be couch. They must have a transporter or something. This shit freaked me out, so I left towards the neighborhood grocery store in search of potatoes. Spuds are one thing I don’t mind paying for.  After all, you can get a massive bag for just a couple of bucks… enough to feed an army, which was exactly my intent.  It was Paul's last day as a fry cook at a downtown restaurant, so I was gonna make me some french fries! While walking down the street, I met up with a guy named Ben who was (coincidentally) also walking down the street. Just you try and figure that one out! Ben is the M.C. for a touring puppet troupe named The Insurrection Landscapers.  They were in town to do a show at Van Gogh's, the coffee shop across the street from 309.  So, Ben helped me pay for a 15 lb. bag (costing us $1.50 each) and helped me carry them downtown. We ended up making enough french fries to fill a shopping bag, so Ben took them back to the other puppetmasters still at 309 and I rolled around on the ground slapping my (now full) belly laughing at how wonderful life can be. Man, french fries are good. And when you’re in the south, there's just no better taste than grease. (gulp)  

Being that it was still fairly early, my immortal soul was nagging me to consume some kind of java immediately.  Therefore, I was forced to brush myself off for the two block walk to Subterranean books.  That’s where Scotty Potty works and does little things like making coffee for everyone.  I arrived to find him brewing an extra-strong batch of the only coffee he had, that mystery decaf we had found. Ordinarily, I won't touch the crap, but I was curious…  I just had to find out what it was like to drink decaffeinated coffee that had been sitting in a box for years.

  Never again will I make the same mistake that I made that dreadful morning..  

The time had come to do a more permanent repair on my van wheel. Terry let me borrow her jack from the Ramen Cab (an old retired taxi now covered completely in punk stickers with a big “RAMEN” printed on the side) and the Puppetista's let me borrow a crow bar. I painstakingly removed the tire and brake caliper which had a busted piston,  and had Paul drive me to get another one. A brake caliper is just a metal box with a rubber hose coming out.  The hose comes from the place where you put brake fluid in up in the engine area.  When you press the brake pedal to slow down, it pushes fluid through the small hose which then fills the caliper and forces a much larger cylinder to move slightly, but with much force.  This large cylinder sits behind a kidney-shaped brake pad that is covered with a soft metal.  Another pad just like it sits on the other side of a metal disk that goes around are just behind the tire. Since the big cylinder is pressing the two pads toward each other, they squeeze against the disk and drags it (and the tire) to a stop. Since the metal on the pads is soft, they wear out before the disk does and thus can be easily replaced.  On my van, the caliper was damaged so that it wouldn’t release it’s grip unless I relieved the pressure manually. Since my brake had been dragging so bad on the trip down, the soft metal was long gone and there was instead a deep groove carved into the disk.  This was not a good thing, but luckily not bad enough that I had to replace the disk. I know, it probably sounds complicated, but really most repairs on vehicles are quite simple once someone shows you how.  

Later that night, some new school punk band arrived to do a show at the coffee shop. The members were all young kids with freshly washed green hair who were too wrapped up in their small circle of each other to be very friendly with the local green haired guy who was nice to them (that's me). I started up a conversation with them about how “Turkeycock” is a real word.  I went to the computer and brought up Webster’s dictionary webpage and had it play a recording of a guy saying “turkeycock”.  They looked at me, then at each other and barely broke a smile. Meanwhile, a kinda crusty punk guy nearby was laughing loudly.  I don’t think they found “turkeycock” to be very humorous.    

I missed their show and now they're gone. Big deal. I hope they do well, and one day remember the turkeycock and laugh.  

Pensacola had gone back to being a slightly boring place where everyone wakes up later than me and I had to wander around looking for something to do. I think I really do love Seattle more than P'cola these days. After all... I can wake up at any time day or night and wander out and do whatever I want. I can catch a bus to Kinko's easily and put something together, or I can just go get coffee at the Coffee Messiah and read something I bought at Fallout just down the street. Chances are, if I'm out of luck and cash, I can barter for one or all of these things (except for Kinko’s of course).  In Pensacola, there’s Subterranean Books, which opens at 11am and Van Gogh’s coffee, which opens at 5pm(!).  Before that, you’re pretty much out of luck for places to go, so you have to be creative.  If you’re not creative then you’re out of luck buck-o!  

That's another thing about Pensacola… It's easy to sit around and do nothing. Not to go against what I just said in the last paragraph, but there's a lot to do there and people are pretty busy with projects.  Just not usually me. Maybe I’m one of those uncreative out-of-luck guys.  It's always been a struggle for me in P’town. I don't know if it's my attitude, my mentality, the way I act, or something else... Nothing has ever really happened the way I had hoped it would. While everyone else was playing in bands, hanging out with friends, having fun and touring the world, I would be sitting back and rotting my life away. At least that's how I felt. During this trip, there was another House Band Feud brewing between 3 or 4 houses in town. All the members of the houses are teaming up, writing songs, and getting ready for the big show. When the first house band feud had happened between 309 and 311, my house never got anything together. One roommate was always off hopping freight trains, and the other I didn't get along with because he was always screwing me over. Our neighbors won by default and we lost without a contest.

I’ve regretted that every since.

I had always ended up doing things by myself, making zines, going on trips, TRYING to include people, but it just never worked out.  Strangely, I always felt like I was never putting enough into the community. Oh well, that's all behind me now. It’s behind me along with a lot of other things that are best left behind me.
On my way to  P&K’s place I stopped at the Papa John’s Pizza dumpster. Waiting for me there were three large cheese pizzas and a sausage pizza.  I grabbed them all and continued walking.  Inside the house, I offered some to P&K, but they declined.  On the arm of a chair was a paper bag with some condoms, which I didn’t pay any attention to.  P&K cooked their store-bought food and talked about all the pressing matters they were dealing with.  The car in the auto body shop, the utilities, Kindra’s job, money, money money.  I listened while I ate my free food and watched while they cooked their expensive food..  Eventually they went to bed and I slept in a sleeping bag on the wood floor.

The next day in the coffee shop, a speaker on the wall was emitting music from a compilation CD put out by No Idea (records?) out of Gainesville, FL. Included on this compilation is a song by The Blank Fight. That was the band from the other house participating in the feud that we lost.  They sound really good.

 Paul walked through the front door and approached me.

 “Hey Rex, Kindra and I wanted to be alone tonight. Do you think you can sleep in your van or something?”.  It happened to be during the coldest day of the week; it was windy outside and raining. 

 “Yeah, I mean.. it’s below freezing outside.” I replied. 

 “Well, I don’t know, we just wanted to be alone for tonight.”  I started thinking back to that bag of condoms…  Did they really want to throw me out into the cold just so they could screw?? Are they really that paranoid of someone hearing them that they’d ask a homeless friend to go shiver all night? 

 I answered back, “Okay, I guess.  I’ll stay in my van or something.”  This, of course, started me wondering about the depth of our friendship.  Something I ignored for the time being.

 Anew song started playing on the stereo and I walked over to check my email.   I thought about how being screwed over is a tradition for me.  I guess it happens to everyone, but I tend to dwell on it… Even though I preach the importance of never doing it, I allow the bastards to grind me down.

 Before the song was over, another tradition reared it's beautiful head. As I was going through my email, someone walked up behind me. 

"Hey Rex, Zack is looking for you." Zack was my roommate when I lived in Pensacola (The roommate that I got along with). Anyway, last I had heard, Zack had was camping out in southern Florida where it was warm. Somehow he had gotten back into town on short notice, most likely for free.  He's the type of guy that has a scam for nearly every human need. Food, shelter, transportation, all that… If he needs it, he'll find a way to get it.  I imagine that he has vast unknown credit at countless indy book stores resulting from giving them stolen corporate books. He's a real team player.  I thanked the messenger of this good news and decided that Zack and I would bump into each other naturally sooner than if I went looking.  I was right.
The puppet people did their show that night. It was really cool to see political topics and instructional pieces about modified genetic foods and humanure (composting shit) done in puppet form. Sitting behind me was a girl named Samia. She used to live next to an activist collective house called C.O.R.E. where there were community programs, and punk shows. Like most collectives, Core had started out on a good foot and did a lot for the scene, but after a while the activists started traveling and doing other things and the vultures (in this case, drunk punks) started coming around with their beer and their bullshit. Eventually, only one or two of the original people were still in town and some traveling crusties were living in the building. Before long, the community programs had stopped and these out of towners had taken over. The shows all turned into drinking sprees and a group of neighborhood bums set up camp in the back yard.  Late at night, the winos would be drinking booze and fighting while, inside, Samia's young son would ask him mom terrified questions about the shouting out back. After weeks of this, an under-aged girl was raped in the Core house, the bums were threatening Samia’s life and the cops got involved. The proverbial shit hit the fan and the final result was everyone getting evicted from their homes. Including a single mother and her son.
Samia is the only one still dealing with the aftermath of her encounter with "punk rock". A single mother, out of money, and out of a place to live. All the friends who did the collective have since abandoned her because they think she was wrong for involving the cops when someone threatened to kill her. I’m glad I wasn’t in town when all that happened.
Once the puppet show was over, Samia asked me where I was staying.  “My van” I said, to which she replied,  “You should stay at my house!”. I mulled it over for about three seconds and answered,  “Okay thanks!”. No less than a week earlier, she had been asked to move out by her unstable roommate who lived upstairs.  As a result, she was moving everything into a storage shed so that her son and her could stay at someone’s house.  The resulting frustration kept us up until 3 am talking in the kitchen about everything that had happened in Pensacola while I had been blissfully living in Seattle. That evening, I slept on a couch in a room by myself while, on the other side of the wall, she was packing her belongings into boxes.  In the morning before anyone else woke up, I ducked out and carried my blankets through downtown to my van. 

I started my usual routine.  First began the quest for coffee…  Even if your life is a pathetic empty mess, the quest for coffee can give it purpose.  Maybe it's the same with other drugs, but personally I don't see how anyone can be addicted to coffee. I go for weeks, even months without the stuff and never feel a thing. It’s just nice in the morning, afternoon, and evening.  As for those hard line or extreme straight edge people who don't like it because it's a 'stimulant'... I don't know.

 I went to the 309 house and woke Shawn up. He's one of those cool people that doesn't mind being woken up in the morning. I honestly can't say that about many folks.  Grumpy morning people are annoying. In fact, my idea of the ultimate day starts with a friend saying "Hey Rex, wake your ass up. We need to get some coffee!"

 So, Shawn and I go to the bookstore. After all, it's the only place in Pensacola where you can get a cup of coffee before 5pm that isn't in someone's house. Anyone with a coffee maker probably isn't up before noon anyway. P'town just ain’t no good for an early riser like me.

Since the book store didn't open until 11, the two of us wandered around downtown for a while. There were all these little speakers screwed up under the eves of buildings on Palafox street. Each one was playing the same muzak crap that just loops over an over all day long. The fountain in front of the post office had clogged it's self again going from a beautiful blossom of dancing water to a couple of nozzles aimed in random directions steadily squirting a piss-stream onto the bricks below. One would expect to see people walking around eating pizza and listening to street musicians, but not in Pensacola, no no no.  For the length of my 5 block escapade through downtown, I passed one business woman, one guy with khaki shorts on a cell phone, and two fellows taking pictures of a wall behind the theater. The two fellows set their camera down for a moment and stared as Shawn and I dug through a pizza dumpster. Remember, making Pensacola into a place that tourists flock to is like opening a lemonade stand at the Superbowl.
After the book store opened, Paul took the bench outside and turned on the lights. He immediately walked back into the darkness toward the rear of the bookstore and got the coffee brewing. Although the pot takes about 12 minutes to be done, Paul always  says “It’ll be ready in five minutes.” There was a jar near the pot with some coins in the bottom. When I had change, that jar got it all. When I didn't, it got a dollar. When I had nothing to give, the jar got an apology and a promise for a little extra next time. After drinking a few cups of joe and reading a zine or two, I went to the real coffee shop.
It's funny how people in Florida act when they meet someone who wants to move to Seattle. They always ask "doesn't it rain a lot there?", when the reality, the rain in Florida is far less hospitable. In Seattle, it drizzles for a few days then is sunny for a few days. In Florida, it will look nice and sunny, then a few clouds will quietly make their way across the sky, then a few more clouds, then before you know it the sky becomes dark. Once this happens, you have a few seconds to get all your stuff covered before a torrential down-pour begins. Seriously... You'll feel a few drops, then 30 seconds later you're soaked.

The next day, Zack and I helped Samia move her boxes into a storage shed. We stood in her room waiting for the last few things to be packed when her roommate walked in the door.  Living in that house was 3 young single mothers with 1 kid each. -- and they didn't all get along

 "So, you're moving into the new place, eh?" said the roommate.

 "Yeah, just packing up the last of it so I can get it outta here" replied Samia.

 "Oh, where are you moving to?" said the girl with her daughter clinging to her leg.

 "I'm moving everything into a storage shed".

 "Oh, that's wonderful!" said the completely oblivious roommate. As if a single mother moving all of her furniture and belongings into a storage shed is a sign of something good!.

 The next day, I asked Zack if he wanted to come to Seattle with me. He said “sure” and that was that.

Later that same day, Todd X came back to town. He had been going to film school somewhere else in Florida, so no one ever got to see him anymore.  Maybe Todd isn't aware of it, but I feel a real connection to him for some reason. It seems that he fits in to the community about as well as I do. Even though he's lived at 309 and he's a fairly active person a lot of the stuff he does, he does by himself. From time to time, there would arise some friction between a person and Todd, but it was always because Todd would call people on their own actions. Most of the time revolving around animal rights, sexism, or some other form of oppression. It's pointless to argue with Todd on most subjects because he's usually right. I look up to him and I bet we have more in common than he thinks.
Four of us went to Cici's Pizza where for $3.99 you get all the pizza you can eat and all the pop you can drink. Of course, you also get all the giant-screen ESPN you can ignore, but it's tolerable. I went with Adee, Zack, and Andee. Adee (pronounced "80") is a girl who rode a train in to Pensacola from nowhere and ended up stayed there. She lives at the "Titty Girl" house, named after a comment a passing stranger made toward one of the girls on her way home. Andee (pronounced "Andy") is a girl who had moved out of Pensacola just a couple of weeks before I moved there years ago. She came back right after I moved to Seattle. Strange. Her and I got along really well.  And of course we all know Zack.

After going to Cici's, we hit some dumpsters. This was (of course) Zack's idea. I have a really hard time dumpstering for anything when I've just eaten; I get all cautions and paranoid.  Me and my full belly will see an employee walking toward the dumpster and drive away, or hear a spooky sound and head back to the van. However when I'm hungry, I'll go right up to a dumpster while someone is throwing trash away and ask them if there's anything good. This time, we hit 4 dumpsters and scored tons of fruit, some bagels, and pastries including sugarless cake and corn bread. At the first stop, Adee (pronounced “80”) went into Target to look for a sonic pest repeller. That’s a device that you plug into the wall and it scares bugs away with magical techno-spooky. I went inside on the rare chance that an old friend was working. Andra was a friend that I had kept in touch with over the last year, but had not actively planned to meet while in town. Anyway I asked a cashier about Andra and was waved back toward the women's apparel department. Andra and I greeted each other and hugged but were interrupted when Andee walked asking about the sonic bug scary thing.  Of course, I didn’t tell Andra what was up. Instead, we all walked back to the lawn & garden department where Andra pointed out the device and Andee thanked her. Later, I was in my van with Zack and Adee (80) waiting for Andee (Andy). In the distance I see Andee walking out with her hands empty. When she gets in the van, I asked, "did you buy the bug repeller?"

 

"nope" she replied.

 

"well, do you HAVE the bug repeller?" I asked.

 

"Yup" she smiled. Go figure.

 

We hit a couple more dumpster and went back to 309. The evening got stranger and stranger after that. It was an evening where the humor boiled down to poop-sausage links made by dogs who swallow condoms, and an 8 way conference call where 7 of the people were in the same house (I have this recorded). My favorite times are these… when I'm so tired that everything is funny and I can't stop laughing. When tears stream from my eyes and the world feels like a small, warm, happy place.  That’s what I live for.

Paul and Kindra were out of town that night, so they gave me permission to stay at their place. On my way there, I stopped at Papa Johns and dumpstered a whole pizza still in the box and untouched.  I laid on their bed, ate pizza and went to sleep.  Funny how the simple things can feel so nice when you’re in a place that you don’t call ‘home’.

 

The next morning, I didn't just wake up, I woke up, stared at the trees through the windows and fell back asleep. Then, a couple of hours later I woke up again, wiped the drool off my face and took a much needed shower.

 

My dog drools when he sniffs other dogs' asses.

 

A guy named Shawn (whom I don’t really know very well) has made a major event out of staring contests. He sets up a bunch of TVs and video cameras zoomed into peoples’ eyes then plays strange music. Down at Sluggo’s, there was a group of people waiting to see this insane form of entertainment.  Before the contest started three bands played on the small stage in the partially built show area. The Reactionary Three (rock n roll hopefuls who got pissed when no one danced), USA is The Monster (a Guitar/drums freestyle type of performance with mucho goofiness), & Dr. Moroe (generic new school pop-punk without the edge).
I introduced myself to Colin (the guitar player for USA is the Monster) who was near the merchandise table. I asked if he was selling the stuff there and he said "yes". I asked about the price of a comp CD and he said it was 6 or 7 dollars. I bought it for 6 cause that’s all I had. Then I introduced myself and made the offer to help them with shows in Seattle. As a side note, Coffee Messiah does experimental music every Tuesday night at 1554 E. Olive Way.  Once again, that's Coffee Messiah. If you’re in Seattle, you NEED (need) to go there. Other shows happen on other days as well. Anyway, After all bands and people staring at each other, I was standing by myself when Colin (who is nice, but also a tad bit creepy) walked up next to me. He started saying how he didn’t drink, but he was with these two drunk guys, so he was gonna go drink with them, and asked if I drink and if I'd like to join him. I respectfully declined. They were serving some really horrible beer at that night, but they were serving it for free. If they had offered to pay me, then I might have done it. Oh well.,. Call me paranoid, but I will always wonder what Colin really wanted to do with me that evening. Maybe just talk, maybe suck cock, maybe both??... the world will never know.
The night ended with Zack and me leaving Sluggo's and taking a bunch of dumpstered bagels to the "Titty Girl" house. There we baked them and added margarine and yeast flakes. 2 of the 3 bands were also there. USA... brought some really fucking creepy guy with them from New Orleans. He was drunk and rude. He kept fiddling with his cell phone and saying he can smell our shoes burning as we warmed up by the heater. When he'd make a call, he’d say something like "mumble mumble... Come pick me up... now please!" then he'd hang up. Like he was leaving a message on a machine. Either way, he didn't give an address or directions, so I doubt it was a valid conversation. Then he'd stare at some girl and lean forward like he was about to either puke or say something really rude, but he wouldn’t say anything. Weird.
Adee was showing me her room and talking about how to make her wobbly loft a little less wobbly. Without warning, in rushed Jackie and Andee laughing. They grab the phone, unplug it, and run out being chased by one of the other Titty-residents. This phone heist was part of  the house war. In response, the Titty-girl house would take out several ads in the free classifieds looking for guns with the phone number for 309.
After everyone had enough bagels, and the Titty-girl freezer was nice and full, we left for 309. On the way, we stopped at the Papa Johns dumpster where I hopped out in the cold wind for a peek under the metal lid. Inside, I found no less than 5 pizzas, all waiting to be eaten. They were new pizzas, no slices missing, no bites taken out, still in the box. Just pizzas that for whatever reason were not sold to anyone. We took three of the pizzas and the remaining bagels to 309 where we dropped them off.
The next morning, I woke up in P&K's living room to the sound of their alarm clock. They're “snooze hitters”... an annoying breed of human that lacks the ability to wake up in the morning. I'm sure they can't help it, but I’m also sure that this habit stems from a deeper concern. I hate alarm clocks that go off for hours, so I took off with my van to 309 and cleaned it out. In preparation for the big trip, I filled the radiator with water, added some transmission fluid, and swept out all the mouse poop that had accumulated in Mississippi. Next, I changed my oil and checked the vehicle over.
Some time earlier, Kindra had mentioned to me that her and Paul had decided we were going to drive through Denver Colorado.  I had been mulling this bad idea over in my head since; not trying to decide if I would go to Colorado, but to decide how to tell Paul and Kindra that I would not do it. Denver in the winter is not a place to trifle with. Especially with an over-loaded, under-powered van and no snow tires. The annoying thing about these two people is that they really do not like to hear opinions that conflict with their own.  After I told them I wasn’t willing to take the risk, they responded with, “Well, then we can take different routes.  You go to L.A. and we’ll meet you in Seattle.”(!?)

Once again, I pondered the depth of our friendship.  They were willing to split the party up, potentially resulting with me on the side of the highway broke down with no means of getting parts from the next town.  Why??  Because they had family in Denver and a “guaranteed place to stay the night”.  You know… if I only stayed at places where I had family then my travels would consist of southern California, Missouri and Mississippi.  I think the adventure of going places where I don’t  have family is what makes traveling fun. 

 

“Okay, fine. If that’s what you really want to do.” I replied.  

 

Later in the day, Paul came back and told me that they talked to someone in Denver who said it was snowed in with a blizzard, so we could go with my idea after all.  Fine.  Then later that same day, Paul approached me again.   When Paul approaches me like this, I automatically assume that he and Kindra have had a discussion together and decided something.  Probably something which they have not discussed with anyone else to gain that valuable outside opinion. 

 

“Hey Rex… we need to talk. Can you meet us at our place later tonight?” he asked.  

 

“Yeah, that’s cool.  We can talk about things and figure out where we’ll be going and stuff” I replied. 

 

“yeah, okay.  We’ll see you then.” and then he left.

 

On the outside, I was being cooperative and friendly.  Inside, I was fully aware of what was happening.  They had made yet another decision that would most likely effect me negatively.  What I was seeing in them made me uneasy. Even though they had saved up thousands of dollars, had successfully filed for unemployment for the future months, had a place to stay in Seattle, and guaranteed passage for all their stuff across the country, they were literally shaking with fear.  For whatever reason, they felt they were about to do something in life that would cause mass destruction to their fragile existence.  No amount of reassuring could separate them from their terror.

 

That night, we met in their living room. I sat on the floor while they sat on the only two chairs not packed in my van.  I started.

 

“So, what’s up?” to which they looked at each other as if trying to decide who would shovel the shit first.  Finally, Paul broke the silence.

 

“Plans have changed.  We’ve decided that we can’t live in a warehouse.”

 

Then Kindra piped up, “we have a friend who lives near Seattle who said we can live at her place for free, so all we really need is to get our stuff there.” 

 

I didn’t want to react immediately, so I just said “okay”.    Even though one of the reasons I justified this trip was because we would have two people to split our rent with, I didn’t say anything negative.  The conversation was brief, and I told them I’d get back to them about the details.  I slept on their floor for the last time that night and left in the morning before they woke up. 

 

At the bookstore, I toiled over this turn of events.  Far be it from me to get worked into a tissy over money, but I had to face a couple of very important facts.   I was in Pensacola, having spent every last penny to my name just getting there so that I could help a couple of ‘friends’ out and have roommates when I got back home.  I relied on them keeping their promise of paying the first month’s rent (now over-due) and paying for my gas.  It wasn’t a lot to ask and it was a lot less than U-Haul was asking, that’s for sure!  I talked to five different people to get their opinions on what I should do, just to make sure I wasn’t doing the wrong thing.
Just after noon, I was back at the coffee shop checking email again.  P&K walked in and got some coffee.  I walked over and asked them both if we could sit down for a minute to discuss something. I finally stood up for myself and faced these two people with the situation at hand.  I listed off the reasons that I was in Florida, and all the risks I was taking by going there.  One major risk was that Rebecca wouldn’t have enough money to cover the rent by herself and we would lose the warehouse. I gave them an ultimatum.
“Since plans seem to be changing drastically and since I’m still taking your stuff across the country, I feel that I need some kind of reassurance that I’m not going to lose out on this trip.”  We were sitting on the arms of the couches instead of the seats. “You both promised to pay for the first month of your rent at the warehouse, but since you’re not moving in, I’ll assume you aren’t going to go through with that promise anymore.”  They stared at me blankly as if waiting for the axe to fall… which I suppose was indeed about to happen.  “Rebecca is footing the entire $1,000 of rent herself right now, so she could really use some help. If you could just send her a money order for $500, then we can just call it even on the gas.  Once we get to Seattle, I’ll add up the gas receipts and give you back the difference.”  I wasn’t done yet.  “Or… you can just pay the $500 that you promised for that month of rent that we were counting on and Rebecca and I will find a way to pay for my gas back.”   Just to make sure I wasn’t being completely unreasonable, I gave them the third option.  “Or… if you decide that you don’t like either of these options, you can still go with your original plan and pay the massive expense of taking a Uhaul truck to Seattle.”  They sat there staring at me as if I had just discovered a secret plot.  They looked at each other then said they’d get back to me.
An hour later, they came back with a money order for $500. I was going to use the money to pay for my gas, then pay them back the difference when we got to Seattle.  Peachy… right?   Wrong!    Another hour later, I got a call from Paul.  He was calling from their house where they had just gotten done making another decision about our trip.

“Hey Rex…. Kindra and I were just talking and decided that we’re going to take a Uhaul.  We need to get that money order back from you since we’ve already got the truck. Where can we meet you?”  I was shocked. 

“Okay, this is your decision… It’s a bad one, but I’ll respect it. Meet me at the parking lot next to the bookstore.” I parked my van and waited inside. Eventually, they pulled up in a giant Uhaul with their car in-tow, just like the middle class couple they are one day doomed to be.   Instead of helping them load their shit again, I elected to sit on the curb and watch.  They got all their stuff, including the tools that I may require in case of a break down.  I thought back to phone conversations I had previously had with Paul months ago.  Back when we were just talking about them moving to Seattle, he would say that he didn’t know if their relationship was going to last long enough to move to Seattle together.  He would talk about how they always argue and how there was no magic left in their lives.  There I was, watching them act just like every other co-dependent couple I’ve seen.  Going through the motions of a relationship, screwing over anyone outside of their fragile union, making enemies with those who try to help, sacrificing everything for a dream that didn’t even exist. 

That night, I went to the “Le Petite Mason” house.  I think it was the only house in Pensacola that actually had the heat turned on.   Man…  all those unemployed people shivering in their collective houses, too poor to kick the heat on.  It was nice to be in a heated place that wasn’t also occupied by Paul and Kindra. The Tube Smugglers is a band put together for the House Feud.  It has the added twist of being composed mostly of home made instruments, just like the Fat Albert band.  They have a stand-up bass made from a two by four and wash tub, a xylophone made from steel water pipes cut to different lengths, and a big brown jug for that low “hoot” sound.  When I walked up to the porch, I thought for sure they were playing a CD of Appalachian folk music, but after looking in the window I discovered the four of them all thumping, strumming, and blowing on their DIY instruments.  Wow… Inspiration.
The next day was a sad one for me.  Zack and I got all our stuff together and said our good-bye’s to everyone. A guy at 309 named Fluffy wanted to hitch a ride to Los Angeles, so we invited him along.  I called my old landlord from when I lived at 311 (a.k.a. Rexico) and asked him to bring over my generator that he never paid for.  We loaded up the generator, a BMX bike I found, and some dumpstered food then left.  Just like that.
Once again, I was driving west on interstate 10 toward the great beyond.  Boldly rolling toward my destiny and whatever surprises it had in store. Wondering if one day I would be sitting in a coffee shop in Seattle, writing it all down and thinking back to that moment when I was driving down the highway, wondering if one day I’d be in a coffee shop in Seattle, writing it all down and thinking back to that moment when I was driving along wondering…
HERE STARTS THE FUN

The first fucked up thing that happened to us happened as we had just entered Mississippi. The engine was overheating more than usual, so I pulled onto the shoulder of the highway. I popped the hood and noticed two holes in the radiator that had drained the coolant completely out. Fuck. We poured all of our drinking water in the radiator which was just enough to get us to the next gas station. After pulling into a parking space, Zack went and dug through the trash for any bottles he could find.  We rounded up a little family of used juice bottles and water jugs and filled them all with H2O from a faucet. Then we drove to another gas station where fluffy shoplifted some radiator sealant stuff.  That did the trick.
Even though I put a lot of faith in my van, it still suffers from a strange condition.  It’s a Ford van, but it has an engine from a smaller Oldsmobile car in it.  Therefore, it has a small radiator and a small engine that really hates to drive up hill.  Whenever we would hit an incline, we’d have to pull over every 5 minutes and wait for another 15 while the engine cooled down.  Once the engine cooled down, I’d pop the cap off the radiator and pour more water from all the bottles we had accumulated.  Then we’d drive another 5 or 10 minutes and repeat.  This must have happened about 20 times before we finally got into the flat lands of Southern California.
Ordinarily, there would be a bunch of stuff to say about events on the road, but not this time. In fact, this was the most uneventful trip I’ve ever made.  We had originally planned to marathon drive from Florida to SanDiego, taking turns and maybe stopping in Texas for a night, but none of that happened.  I’m not totally anal. I don’t mind letting others drive my van when I’m tired, but for some reason, I just didn’t feel ready to turn the wheel over to Zack on this trip. It seemed that when I was getting really tired, I’d just get some coffee at the next gas station and be on my way.
One time we pulled into a gas station that was closed for the night.  I had to shit like crazy, and there were no other buildings around the place, so I just walked behind a nearby fence.   There, I pulled my pants down, leaned with my back to the wall and let it happen.  I wasn’t thinking very clearly…  Usually while shitting,  most people allow the piss to squirt right of them.  That’s what I did, but upon realizing that I wasn’t hearing that friendly splattering sound, I clenched that unseen muscle and pulled my pants down a little further before continuing to piss.  The next couple of hours were spent driving with a wet ass from pissing on my own pants.
Family…

I pulled up in front of my sister’s million dollar home and parked on the street. Seeing her walk out of the front door, between the large white pillars, and past the exotic plants that decorate her home reminds me how our lives have gone in different directions.  She had married a trainer at Golds Gym in the 80’s and he later got into big business. Now he rakes in more money than a small third world country.  Maybe not that much, but still, it’s a lot. 

My other sister had come down to see me.  I only see my siblings once every couple of years, so it was kinda nice. At the same time, it was an exercise in self control.  I used to get into political/religious discussions with them which would leave me feeling even more detached from my family.  Now days, I’ve learned to keep my opinions to myself. It’s just better for my relationship with my family.  After all, they’re never going to see things my way, and I’ll never live my life the way they want me to.
It’s sad, but it’s all we have left. All the years of growing up together has left us nothing more than a shallow relationship where we talk about nothing important.  I wish things were different, but sometimes I feel like I have no family at all.
The next morning Zack, Fluffy, and I headed north to L.A.  We dropped Fluffy off at a gas station in the neighborhood of a friend of his and continued north toward San Francisco.   By the time we reached the Bay Area, Zack (my navigator) was asleep in the back seat of the van. I thought I could find my way to the Spaz warehouse, but ended up instead taking a wrong turn into a dreaded toll booth.  Man… I hate Toll Booths.   It’s like, you’re driving along having a gay ol’ time when all of a sudden you have to stop and hope that you have enough change to continue forward.  What happens if you’re broke??? I don’t know.
After shelling out two dollars, I drove over a really huge bridge and soaked in my money’s worth of scenery while Zack slept blissfully in the back seat.  As I entered San Francisco, the highway  veered to the left, so I exited to the right. Immediately, I was cast into the less well-lit part of the Mission District.  The sidewalks were littered with scantily clad men in leather buttless pants and handlebar mustaches.  It was starting to look like the mid-west’s warped idea of what S.F. was about…  I know perfectly well that the Bay Area isn’t really filled with leather queens and “flaming fairies” and even if it was, so what?!  That’s just how homophobic men describe S.F. when they’ve never been there. It was strange seeing all those Freddy Mercury look-a-likes wandering around. I passed “The Stud Bar” and saw the stream of men going in and out.  It seemed like a nice place to stop, so I did. Besides, Zack wanted to get out and play with his penis.  At least he’s got good taste in places to whip out the schlong.  While Zack pissed in an alley, I checked over the map.
An hour of driving, confusion, and back roads finally landed us outside the Spaz warehouse.  S.P.A.Z. (Semi-Permanent Autonomous Zone) is a collective of freaks, geeks, artists, and activists that operate out of huge warehouses scattered around the Bay Area.  They operate under the umbrella of Nascent, (their non-profit organization) which allows them to do events from their space and charge admission. They do film festivals, dance parties, band recordings, create info-packed websites, and tons more, but most importantly… everyone there is really nice.
My main contact with this group is through some friends I know from Alaska.  They do an electronic sound project called Nommo Ogo.  As Zack and I got out of the van, I could hear a strange deep droning sound emitting from the giant steel wall. We walked around to the front door and let ourselves in.  Both of us stumbled around in the dark until our eyes adjusted to the blacklight illuminated interior.  On one wall we saw giant fluorescent butterfly wings and massive alien plants. On another wall hung a huge white canvas with a blue video projection gracing it’s surface.  The room was empty except for two lone figures on stage stooping over a knob garden of synthesizers and noise boxes.  Zack and I walked unnoticed to a row of theater seats where we plopped down and soaked in the sound. It’s strange how comfortable I feel when a room is filled with an electronic atmosphere.  The darkness, the vibrations in the floor, and the exhaustion I was experiencing made for a very unreal experience.
That night, Zack and I slept in the van.  It’s nice sleeping in the van. I like the feeling when I wake up and realize that the world is happening all around me.  In a house, you don’t get that sensation.  In a house, you wake up and the world is quiet and still, waiting for you to get around to it. In the van, I’m surrounded by cars and noises, but most importantly… the sound of reality.  As long as no one can see me dumping my piss jug in the gutter, I’m happy to sleep in my vehicle. The next morning, I did exactly that.  I dumped some piss and got some coffee.  Although I would really have liked to stay in San Francisco and have fun, I wanted more to get back to Seattle, back to my girlfriend, my dog and cat, and the warehouse.  That’s why we just started up the van, put some air in the tire and left. 
I wish I could say the rest of the trip was uneventful, but it wasn’t.
25 miles east of Crescent City. It was 11pm and raining like crazy when we pulled into a Crescent City gas station to fill up. The lady inside told me to take Highway 99 to Interstate 5 if I wanted to avoid a lot of hills, so that’s what I did.  About 20 miles out, I saw road signs instructing me to “watch for falling rocks on the road”. Usually, there really aren’t any rocks on the road, but driving along I could see the occasional pebble… they were easy to avoid. Just swerve a little and avoid the pebbles.  I eventually saw something that looked like a paper bag in the road and swerved to avoid it. I slowed down to 40 miles per hour and pulled the steering wheel to the left. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to swerve wide enough in time to prevent the object from going under both of my right tires. >BANG!!! BANG!!!< I felt the van lurch over the turkey-sized rock!
“Oh shit!!!” I heard myself yell.  “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!” I said again as a loud rumbling filled my ears. The van was leaning hard to the right and making loud scraping sounds that could only be something very serious.
Of all the placed to have something bad happen, I had picked a stretch of road between a rock wall and a cliff in the middle of the night, on an unpopular highway.  I pulled to the shoulder with just enough room between the asphalt and the cliff for my van to fit. Zack poked his head out the door and looked down.
“It got both of your tires.”  I didn’t know what he meant.  Were the tires gone?? Was there anything left??  I put on my jacket and got out to survey the damage. First, I stepped into the gutter below my door and soaked my right foot. Then got down in the mud to look under my van. The wheels were still there, the axle wasn’t broken, but both tires were ripped open like a present on christmas morning.  During the next 20 minutes three cars drove by while we waved our hands and our flashlights.  What fine specimens of humanity.   I jacked the van up and removed the wheel with the good rim.  In it’s place, I mounted my spare tire then jacked up the front where the split rim was. As I walked back to the driver’s side door, I stepped in the gutter again and soaked my left shoe.  Fuck!   About that time, a highway patrol car pulled up behind me and turned on the spotlight.  I walked up and told the cop what was happening to which he asked me if I wanted a ride back to town.  Hmm…  nice cop...  What a concept.  On my way to fetch my book bag from the van, I accidentally stepped in the gutter one last time. 
Zack stayed in my now-crippled van while I accepted the ride into Crescent City with my good wheel only to find that everything was closed except for a 24 hour restaurant. That night I’ll remember for a long time. Even though I was exhausted from driving all day, I had to stay up all night (another 8 hours) until a tire repair garage opened in the morning.  Tired, cold, wet, and not happy, I walked to the restaurant and ordered a cup of coffee.  While I sat in my booth, I pulled my shoes and socks off to let them dry.  Whenever the waitress walked back into the kitchen, I got up and trekked across the restaurant in my bare feet to the bathroom where I put my socks up to the hand dryer.  It took 8 trips like this before they were dry enough to wear, but that wasn’t my biggest problem.  In fact, the hardest part was just staying awake.  I drank coffee until my head was spinning, then had to stop. I experimented with ways to appear as if reading a newspaper while my eyes closed, none of them very convincing.  The waitress eventually sat down in another booth and fell asleep as well.  Oh… sweet slumber.  
At about 6am, an old grumpy guy came in and woke her up. An hour later, the morning crew came in to replace her and I was treated to a fresh waitress who had no idea how long I had been there.  Another hour and the tire place opened up. Another hour and my tire was replaced and I was good to go.  Yet another hour and an old guy who ran a store across the street had offered to drive me back to my van for $10 worth of gas money.  One last hour after that and I was back at my van, replacing my other busted wheel having only spent $45 and 12 hours in hell. Being back on the road was one of the best feelings I had experienced in a long time. It feels when you’re driving away from something miserable.
Somewhere in southern Oregon, I pulled off into the parking lot of a random sports bar.  While Zack went inside to piss, I elected to stay outside to piss.  The parking lot was full of cars and people, so I just pissed in an orange juice jug we had used for radiator water. I love sports bars… so much in fact, that I started up my van, pulled up to the front door, and dumped my jug of pee right there on the spot.   My high school gym teacher would be proud.
In Portland, we stopped at my friend Michelle’s house.  Not to piss and definitely not to sleep, like I would have killed to do, but to pick Michelle up.  One more hitchhiker who wanted a ride.  Michelle is a girl I’ve known since I ran the punk shop in Alaska.  She used to come by all the time and hang out; one of the few people that I actually enjoyed spending time with.  Now she lives in Portland and refuses to move to Seattle no matter how much we beg.  She just doesn’t know how persistent we can be.   Just you wait and see… we’ll get her one day.

Since I’ve been back, the warehouse has been coming together.  We now have a functional photography studio, an almost completed dark room, and future plans to make movies. We finally got to meet the Urban Hermit (who does a zine by the same name) and I still don’t have a real job. Zack was in dumpster heaven while he was here, but since he couldn’t score a paying job, he decided to go back to traveling and has since left us. Yeah, Seattle is a great place, I just wish everyone felt the same way...  Then Zack might still be here.

 

Of all things, good, bad, and ugly…

 

We have only our friends, our enemies, and the world we try so hard to change.