Sunday Archive: A Weekend, part one
I’ve recently had the (mis?)fortune of rediscovering the “fiction archives” from Dirtyfreaks.com, which was Greatsociety’s URL from April 2001-December 2002.
As well as just being a place to vent, the initial purpose of Dirtyfreaks.com was to have an outlet for that demon in many of us – the urge to write. Whether or not you write well, I believe it’s a compulsion that comes from some diseased part of your mind. There’s no escaping it…so why not put it out there for all to see?
Of course, there’s then this pressure to do something with the writing. Whether it’s a dream of riches or just a conformist sense that the writing should follow some sort of approved convention, it’s pretty easy to fall into this trap where you over think what you’re doing… You get so deeply involved in the mythos of “being a writer” that you fail to see the obvious problems in the structure, as well as your own shortcomings. I certainly have a comfortable surplus of shortcomings…
There was a brief phase in 2002 where I actually struggled to write coherent short stories. Looking back, they’re dreadful. But… I’ll post them anyway because, hey, what the fuck? It’s either this or shoot squirrels out of the tree next to my window.
First up is “A Weekend,” in three parts. Published over the weekend of July 1st, 2002, it’s an odd reflection of the old Dirtyfreaks days. Sixteen pages in one very drunken hour, not at all edited, and disjointed as you approach the end (which is one of those shortcomings of mine). It’s a James story.
A Weekend: The Bells of Friday
It was a liquid lunch. I was in the throes of sinus pressure and nerve pain, my friend James was bent on the need to fry his brain before he turned 33, and my boss, Ben Parker, was watching six members of his staff leave in the next week. At 1:30 we shook the 8-ball and it told us, with the confidence of all oracles, that the next 90 minutes should be spent tackling the Pizzeria Uno mixed beverage menu. We each took a page. My boss was in Margaritaville, I was throwing a rum punch, and James was working his way through the iced teas.
“This is a New Orleans Iced Tea,” James had been fascinated by this drink since it arrived, holding it up for us to see. “It’s just like a Long Island Iced Tea, except blue. And that’s what fucks me up. If it’s exactly like the L.I.I.T., like the menu says, then why’s it blue?”
“Blue Curacao.” I had said this earlier. Life at work, whether in the office or at lunch, was all about repeating myself several times a day.
“You don’t know that. The menu doesn’t say!” He glared at the waitress who, five minutes ago, had refused to tell James the secret. Her own personal mode of surviving the work day. She smiled as she passed by, full of guilty pleasure.
“Maybe it’s made of Smurfs.” I ventured.
“Maybe it’s all in your head,” my boss muttered.
James shot him a look then snarled at me. “It’s something else. They’ve made it…magical. Just like New Orleans in spring.”
“James,” I said his name slowly, carefully, “I think you have a problem.”
“I have a problem? Me? Talk about the pot and the fucking kettle, ‘Nacho Sasha.'”
“What? Nachos…?” my boss looked worriedly in my direction.
I rolled my eyes and forced a smile, “Nothing, don’t worry about it.”
“Oh no,” James waved a finger in the air, “Tell us about my problem, Nacho.”
“What is this Nacho thing?”
James turned to my boss, “Your man here leads a double life. He’s a hack writer spewing out insecure screeds on a two-bit webpage powered by an underdeveloped and wholly unremarkable content management system and he’s a deviant. A monster. A baby eater.”
“Good god, James!”
James put a hand on my shoulder, “Oh, come on man, you know I love you.”
“What do you write?” my boss asked.
“It’s nothing, really.”
“Well,” James muttered boozily, “at least he hasn’t written about masturbation for a few months. It’s mostly been retarded whining and introspection since January.”
He leaned forward again, “No, man, don’t worry. I love ya man!”
Surviving lunch was easy. It was the remainder of the afternoon that hit hard. While my boss quietly searched for “Nacho Sasha” on Google, I sat at my desk with my head down and Chicane on the stereo. Friday didn’t call for much work, but the exposure of my alter ego numbed me. By the end of the day, my boss was eyeing me strangely.
The commute home cheered me up a bit. I was brutally assaulted by the usual angry men and two-bit Asian mobsters between the Metro station and my illegally parked car which, once again, had been broken into. You get used to that after awhile. It did call for a few beers at the Royal Mile Pub, though. An exercise in relaxation and recreation, sitting with faux Scots at a faux Scottish pub and drinking McEwans. It was Balvenie night, so I had a shot of the 10. It’s a fair Speyside, enough to shock the day out of my toes and roll me back out to my car in a baby-eating, deviant, monstrous haze.
When I weaved into my driveway, I was somewhat disappointed to find James sitting on the trunk of his nameless Dodge sedan.
“Greetings N. Sasha.” He said.
“Drop that already.”
“Your aunt’s cat has bells.”
I glanced up at the roof. The Calico sat there, watching me. She’d hauled in three chipmunks a day for a solid week and her punishment was to wear the bells of shame. My aunt had spent an afternoon sewing over-sized sleigh bells onto a collar, then imprisoned her cat within a sphere of gentle bellsong. The chipmunks were saved from their sad destiny and my aunt’s cat, over the past few days, had spiraled dangerously into depression. At first, she roamed the house at night, the bells keeping all of us awake. Occasionally, she would emit a low and terrifying moan. When that failed, she retreated to the roof and refused to come down. It had been three days.
“That thing’s gonna die up there,” James said.
“She’s a chipmunk killer, James. She eats their skulls. She showed no remorse at the trial.”
James leapt down onto the driveway, opened the back door of his Dodge with a hideous and jarring screech of rusted metal, then held up two DVD’s – Blow and Hard Rain. A mainstream night for a couple of mainstream guys. The backseat of his car also held a pound of marijuana, two bottles of Bacardi and three twelve packs of Yuengling Black & Tan. He didn’t volunteer information and I knew, from years of experience, that I had best not ask.
“We got a movie about drugs,” James said, “So I got us some drugs.”
I could tell that he had blown off his Friday afternoon. God only knows how many New Orleans Iced Teas he had tucked away in the four hours between my departure from the restaurant and my arrival home. He was on an evil trip; you could see it in his eyes.
I tapped the bag of weed. “So this is quite a bit of pot, James.”
“Well,” he looked at me with his beady eyes, “It’s kinda stolen.”
“Well, are we kinda in trouble, then?”
“There’s no trouble if the evidence vanishes in a puff of smoke, man.”
“You’re going to smoke it all?”
“Well, not tonight! Look, you have no concept about this stuff. You’re a rum man. Leave me to mine.” He took out the two bottles of Bacardi and handed them to me. “Get thee to a mixery! We got movies to watch!”
Blow is one of those films that got broadsided by similar, larger films endorsed by the Hollywood fat-bellies and the American arts elite. Those two institutions do as much damage to the film industry as the anti-communist movement did between 1935 and 1960. It took us 30 years to recover from that purge.
I’m talking about Traffic here. It came out a few months before Blow to massive critical acclaim. Of course, Traffic is just a toned-down version of the 1989 German mini-series “Traffik.” It’s a screenplay that takes the best moments from that series, adds water and cherry Jell-O mix, and then is sold to an American audience for 8 bucks a pop. Suck it down, candy-land! The alleged intelligentsia praise the glory of Traffic left and right when, in reality, it’s a lopsided morality tale that runs an hour too long and fails to leave any sort of lasting impression on the audience.
Blow delivers an accomplished and well-paced two hours. We follow three decades in the life of drug smuggler George Jung — his rise and fall. Ted Demme lovingly integrated the music and the look of each decade, a technique reminiscent of De Niro’s style in 93’s A Bronx Tale. Paul Reubens performs with his usual charm and ability (I’ll gladly come out and say that he’s one of our finest comedic actors), Franka Potente gave us a brief but memorable performance (her career deserves to be followed closely), and Depp is always the man of the hour.
James was well drunk and beyond stoned by the time we hit the moody finale. I was loping stealthily in a whispering forest of rum and suggested that we go outside for a bit. James could get some fresh air and I could knock out his headlights or something. At the very least, we could commune with the fireflies and photograph fake faeries.
The Big J broke out his giant bag of pot and I was drinking rum straight up by this point, inhaling whatever he put in my mouth and snarling angrily over the lip of my shuddering shot glass. Outside was the plan, he declared. Outside, outside, outside. He repeated the word 25 times, drew my ear close to his lips and growled something about the evils of the Roman Empire, then careened through my house and burst through an unopened screen door to land, face down, on the side lawn.
I followed and helped him recover his wits and stop the bleeding, then he pissed in the bushes while I stared up at my aunt’s cat, who watched us forlornly from the roof. Her self-imposed exile seemed pointless to me, but that’s what happens when you can’t write a manifesto or articulate your problems. I nodded to her and, with a final woeful glance, she turned and vanished from sight, her sleigh-bells tinkling in the quiet night.
“What’s that?” James asked, stumbling into me and then falling on his ass.
“It’s the cat.”
“Seriously… Can it get down?”
“She can, yes. She doesn’t want to, though.”
“We should free her of the bells!”
“You want to go up onto the roof and chase the cat around?”
“I vote no.”
James pursed his lips and stared upward. “She’s sad, though. I can feel it.”
I nodded. “It gets worse every day. I think she’s about to do something drastic.”
“Probably tear out one of our throats while we sleep. We’re the only creatures who don’t run when we hear the bells of death.”
James handed me a joint from his bottomless bag o’ illegal activity and I lit up, raising my shot glass to the roof. Here’s to you, Missy.
I heard the bells tinkling from the other side of the house.
“Okay,” James grabbed my arm and hauled me back inside. “What’s next on the list?”
“Hard Rain. Freeman, Slater.”
I had read a lengthy article on the film in a 1997 Copy of Premiere Magazine. Everything was done on a soundstage – a town built within a giant tank of water. When you watch the film, it’s actually quite amazing for that fact alone. Freeman delivers his usual clear and powerful performance (the man could sit on a stool and read a newspaper and I’d pay 8 bucks to watch) and Slater stands well enough. This was back before he burnt out on paint fumes or whatever. The film itself is mildly painful and only enjoyable if your friend brings it over, gets twisted on drugs, and then critiques the varying water levels from scene to scene.
That brought us close to the midnight hour and we didn’t want more, more, more. I was wrecked and James was wrapped around his own little finger. Retiring to the side yard once again, James smoked enough pot to kill a pack of wolverines and I reeled drunkenly next to the old well, which was capped by a decayed sheet of tin that would easily fail beneath my weight. My aunt’s cat watched eagerly from the roof – will he? Won’t he? I could hear her wicked purring, I could see the evil glow of her eyes.
“Once they taste blood, they never go back!” I screamed at James as I ran back into the house.
The chiming of the wall clock brought both of us to our knees. There, on the floor like two monks, our Friday evening came to an end.