Wednesday, August 08, 2018

How To Live Like A Universal Local



So there I was, sitting in Zengo, enjoying a nice brunch of dim sum and antojitos and reading the latest issue of LunchBox. There was a fascinating piece comparing the prices and tastes of a Ricky in Chinatown versus a Ricky in NoMa (one locale prefers the more traditional bourbon, whilst the other favors the more plebian gin. Natch).

I continued reading the magazine as I hopped onto the Green Line --while jamming out to some Rare Essence, of course-- past the Borf mural, down to U Street for a quick little nosh at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Following that, I snagged a conveyance from the Bike Share and made my way to Anacostia to pick up an eight ball of Hinckley and a quart of mambo sauce. With those tasks completed, I wandered over to the Hawk ‘n’ Dove for my shift running the glory hole in the men’s room.

The magazine article that really caught my eye was about living like a native in this fair city. The places to go, the places to be seen, the things to do and eat, what to wear, what to do, what people to hate and the myriad other things that differentiate living in this particular city from any other city in the world.

And it was all the most egregious of bullshit.

See, I live in the Washington D.C. metro area. I was born in the city proper and grew up right outside its august gates. As far as I can tell, there are at least three separate D.C.s:

1. There’s the touristy portion, full of free --or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, needlessly expensive-- museums, national monuments, hot dogs cooked in toilet water and crappy tee shirts stitched together in Indonesian sweat shops.

      2. The political side of D.C., which is anything around Capitol Hill, (or just “The Hill” as smug, self-important assholes call it).

3. And the actual, honest-to-goodness locals, the groupings of which can be divided into sub-categories, ranging from the scared white people in Georgetown, to the scared black people in South East.

The group that tends to lead the charge when it comes to these stories about being a local and fitting in to the area, is the second group mentioned. More specifically, the people we call “transplants.” These people are usually political staffers in their 20s and early 30s who amble into town for a few years and irritatingly mandate what’s “hot” and “in” around here. Then, after the transplants have left as annoyingly as they came, we locals wash their stink off of us, have a good laugh at their expense and continue to do whatever the hell it is we do. I think it has something to do with driving like insane people.

For years, I would occasionally see these stories pop up on the laziest of “news” websites. But over time, I noticed that those kinds of pieces were appearing more and more frequently, and not just for D.C. but for all major American metropolitan areas. And even non-metropolitan areas. Which makes no sense. I don’t mind that I’m not a native of Abingdon, West Virginia. I certainly don’t need to know the proper local etiquette for asking my first cousin out.

But back to the D.C. articles; I would quickly look over their checklists of local behavior to see how I measured up, and I often found myself wanting. I would panic, because I felt that I wasn’t living right. Yet, like an addiction, I would feel compelled to read about how I was a failure as a native Washingtonian. I would pick up a newspaper, --or, more likely, click on a link, because we live in Buck Rogers times now-- and thick, sour rivers of sweat would pour down my face as I read about the restaurants and bars that I’d never heard of, but everyone was going to, including my loved ones and family pets.

I was forever baffled. I couldn’t understand how I, as an indigenous dude, had missed the double-decker tour bus on all of these wonderful things that absolutely everybody I’ve ever known had been doing for years. And then it hit me: these lists aren’t written by, or meant for, locals. They’re written by outsiders. The Unbidden. Those who have weird geography identity issues and are OCD about classifying humans. And, on top of that, the lists are so esoteric as to be meaningless to anybody who reads them beyond a two-block radius of the author’s pretentious coffee house of choice.

You see Washington D.C. is a large city, using land appropriated from more than one state. It has about nine dozen distinct neighborhoods and a population of “oodles” according to the US Census Bureau website. The point is that the day-to-day life of a citizen in Tenleytown can be the polar opposite of that of a resident of Ward 8, but they’re still both inhabitants of the same city. Just two different parts of this multicolored, patchwork quilt we call The Former Murder Capital of these United States.

Anything I have done as a local is automatically something that a local does. It’s one of the simplest truisms to ever make itself known to me (the other being Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy). And it’s one I wish I was famous enough to abuse. Because then I’d be constantly walking around town in footie pajamas, walking my pet llama on a dental floss leash and eating only pineapple rinds, making sure that all the tourists got a good steaming gawk at me. And then, when I was sure I have everybody’s attention, I’d scream at the top of my lungs “Welcome to the Nation’s Capital! I’ll be your guide!”

I can see it in my mind’s eye. My “Living Like a Local” tour would be a smash hit. Buy your tickets now.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

WANT Part II



That night during dinner was the second time that Duncan saw the captain and it was a more telling encounter.

            At the end of a long and raucous dinner the captain struggled to rise from his table. He managed, but only after grabbing onto Esten for support. Able’s eyes scanned the assembled crew and he held his hands out in front of him almost as if he were about to conduct an invisible orchestra. When he talked, his hands became very animated, jabbing the air to accentuate each slurred word the captain said.

            “Greetings to all here tonight. As you all know, my name is Capt. Vincent Able, and I am the big man on this ship. What I say goes and you will all follow my directions implicitly.”

            Duncan looked down at the area on the table in front of the captain. The place was filled with empty glasses.

            Uh oh, Duncan though. Looks like the captain enjoys a drink or 10 with dinner.

            “What you don’t all know,” continued Able, “is that this is my first time as a captain of a cruise ship. All of my previous nautical experience has been at the helm of a whaling ship. But, now with those stupid, pointless international whaling laws putting decent guys out of good, hard work, I’ve had to hop on a different boat, as it were.” Able paused and swept his eyes across the room once more.

            “Because this is my first time, I want to make a great impression on everybody and do a great job. So what I want out of you people is dedication and loyalty. Do as I say and I think we’ll all have a really great summer this year,” he said. “It’ll be great.”

            Able faltered at that moment, and it was apparent to Duncan that all the alcohol the captain had drunk during dinner was going to get the best of him. Mr. Esten sensed this and took the captain by arm and led him away.

            Duncan wasn’t happy about finding out the captain was a drunk, and neither were the other people at his table; all members of Mr. Brooks and The Floating Troubadours.

            “I’ve heard that Able was actually fired from his last job for getting drunk and shooting a harpoon gun at his own men,” said the bassist to his left.

            “Yeah? Well I heard that he got really drunk and tried to make a pass at his male first mate,” said the drummer to his right.

            “You’re both right in that he’s a big drunk. I heard from another guy that Able was the actual captain of the Exxon Valdez,” said the triangle player across from Duncan.

            “Well, if what any of what you guys say is right,” Duncan started, “then it looks like we’re going to have a wild ride in store for us.”
                                                           
***

            The night of the storm proved how prophetic Duncan’s words were. The captain was drunk that night, again, and refused to listen to Esten’s warnings. It wasn’t until the Rose started listing five degrees starboard that Able finally admitted that they might be taking on water. But it wasn’t until two ensigns drowned trying to confirm the reports about sinking that the captain finally did something about it.

            Drenched by the storm and yelling at the top of his lungs so that his crew could hear him through the cacophony of the storm, Able oversaw the evacuation of the ship. He launched all of the life boats, with the cruise guests aboard. Then, once the guests were gone, he saw to the needs of his crew. Unfortunately, by then, there weren’t enough boats for everybody. Not that it mattered anyway because before anybody had a chance to do anything, the Rose lurched violently starboard, spilling the captain and everybody else in the bridge into the shark-infested maelstrom below. The EPIRB hadn’t even been engaged. Without the position indicator, the rescue teams wouldn’t know where to search for survivors.

            Duncan was in bed when the ship started to sink. He was groggy and a little hung over from his own drinking binge earlier that night. By the time the screams started he was able to collect his thoughts. I want to live! He said to himself.

            During earlier forays, poking around the bowels of the ship, Duncan found a storeroom with rubber life rafts still in boxes. He ran there now, shoving other people out of his way to make it there quicker. After breaking down the door to the storeroom, Duncan grabbed a box and ran out to the main deck. With the storm thrashing around him, tossing people and deck chairs around like rag dolls, Duncan pulled the raft out of the box and prepared to inflate it.

He had his hand on the rip cord when he was broadsided and knocked unconscious by a bunch of shuffleboard sticks that had been torn from their locker.

                                                ***

That was the last thing Duncan remembered from that night. The next thing he knew it was morning and he was adrift in the lifeboat.

            Land…land…

            That was all he wanted. An end to this interminable drifting.

            It was the morning of the sixth day when he finally spotted the shore. At first, he didn’t want to believe it. He just assumed that it was another figment of his imagination, (he had already had a long, thought-provoking conversation with Genghis Khan the previous night. The man had a great recipe for meatloaf.) and would soon disappear, just as his night-time cooking companion had done. But two hours later he realized that he had drifted closer and could actually make out features of the land.

            Duncan was ecstatic. The sight of ground renewed his strength and sent his optimism soaring.
            LAND!

                                                            ***

            By the afternoon Duncan was close enough to stumble onto the pebbled beach. It was the first time in a month that he had touched the ground, and he was loving every second of the sensation. Step by step he made his way up the beach and collapsed onto the hot sand. He had made it; he had survived a sinking ship and more than five days at sea. He had the one and only thing he could possibly want, a place to stand, sit and lay down. Terra Firma. There was nothing else he wanted. Nothing at all.

            Except, maybe…water.

            Water…

Water…WATER! 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

WANT



            Land…land…LAND!!!

            It had been five days so far. Five days since the combination of a very brutal sea storm and the captain’s drunken inexperience at the helm led to Duncan’s abandonment on a life raft and the death of a few dozen of his band mates. Since then it had been five days of pure agony and loneliness in the apathetic embrace of the neon orange life raft.

            Five whole days, which can be translated into 120 hours, or 7,200 minutes, or 432,000 seconds. An eternity. Hours upon endless hours of being tossed around by the sea, bouncing from wave crest to wave crest.  Whether it was under the blistering, energy-sapping gaze of the sun, or the cold, darkness of the moon, Duncan had no protection, no way of alleviating the harsh conditions of the Pacific Ocean.

            Including the three weeks spent aboard Her Majesty’s Rose, it had been almost a whole month since Duncan had set foot on land, and he didn’t like it. The endless rocking back and forth had left him very ill and uncomfortable. He had lost count of the hours he spent with his head over the gunwale of the raft, where the salty spray of the sea kept his forehead cool and wet his brown hair until it was plastered to his face.

The worse part was that he had run out of stomach contents to vomit up days ago. Now, whenever the need to vomit occurred all it did was bring stinging stomach acid up into his throat, the bitter taste of his own bile reminding him of how little he’d eaten since the quick bite before his last show, that fateful night. A couple of small, unidentifiable (at least to Duncan, who had no idea what the names of different fish were) fish and what was either a piece of wood floating by, or a petrified sea snake. Duncan didn’t know and he didn’t care.

             He was hungry, he was thirsty, he stank and his skin was peeling from the brutal force of the sun. All Duncan wanted was land. As far as he was concerned once he put his feet on the ground everything else would be fine. Getting to land was the cornerstone of a good survival plan. After all, he’d spent his whole life on land, he was familiar with its moods and how it worked. There was little to no fear of the ground suddenly buckling and gyrating enough to make him sick. Absolutely no chance of a grass and moss-covered hill appearing out of nowhere to crash down on him like so many waves had done.

            Land was his biggest desire and main concern. Nothing else mattered.
Land...

You’d think that with this being the 21st century and all, that cruise ships would have the proper equipment to detect all types of nautical problems, including storms at sea. And oddly enough, Her Majesty’s Rose did have first-rate weather tracking equipment, including state-of-the-art computer relays which interfaced with GOES-11, a geostationary meteorological weather satellite positioned over the Pacific Ocean. And in case of trouble there was the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, which would let people back on land know where the ship was positioned if it ever went down. Yet, all the equipment and machines in the world aren’t worth a damn if the captain doesn’t know what he’s doing. From what Duncan could tell, Capt. Able was the epitome of nautical incompetence.

                                                            ***

            Duncan had only met the captain twice. The first time was when Duncan first set foot aboard the Rose. Able stood at the top of the gangplank with his second-in-command Mr. Esten. Able grabbed the hand of each crew member as they stood in front of him and shook it vigorously as he welcomed everybody aboard. His starched, white uniform looked impeccably clean and had crisp edges and pleats. Duncan supposed that the cleanliness of the uniform was Able’s way of making up for how squat and ugly he was. As if hiding his gut and jowls was possible.

            As Able grabbed Duncan’s fingers between his two meaty hands and began pumping up and down while smiling a little too enthusiastically, Duncan could see bits of food lodged in between the captain’s teeth and it made him shudder.

            “Welcome aboard Her Majesty’s Rose, young man!” the captain said. “What’s yout name and what do you do?”

            “My name is Duncan Hills and I’m the alto saxophonist for the ship’s band.”

            “Ahh, a member of Mr. Brooks and The Floating Troubadours, eh? Excellent. I hope your music adds the right touch to this summer’s cruises. Thank you for coming aboard. Mr. Esten will tell you your birthing arrangement,” Able said.

            Duncan switched his attention to the man standing next to the captain to find out where he would be sleeping for the next three months. Mr. Esten was a tall, swarthy man, very angular in appearance, with a nose that looked down-right aerodynamical. He had small, shifty eyes that made him look like an evil cartoon villain. Because Esten was aware of how he looked to others, he tried his best to get along with everybody. He really wanted to overcome the effect his appearance had on others.

            “Hello Mr. Hills, you will be on the third deck, room four, birth eight. Follow this ensign next to me and he’ll take you and your bags to your new room. There will be a crew meeting and then dinner in the main galley at seven thirty. This is where the captain will introduce you all to each other and begin this year’s cruise season with a motivational speech. See you then.”

            Duncan and the ensign made their way down three decks to find his room. Along the way he got a good look at some parts of the ship and he decided that he was going to enjoy his summer. Her Majesty’s Rose had three restaurants for the guests, two movie theaters, two casinos, a smattering of gyms and workout areas, three pools and even a sauna. Of course, as an employee of Royal Star cruise lines Duncan wouldn’t be able to go to a lot of those places, at least, not during the times when the female guests would be there. And he knew that he’d only get to see the restaurants while performing. The galley would be where Duncan would eat.

But even with a bit of segregation between the guests and employees, Duncan felt that it would be a great summer. It was his first time on a boat, but he wasn’t too nervous. Royal Star cruise ships had an excellent record of safety. Sinking was the furthest thought from his mind.    

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Let's Take a Vote


I recently came across a few 84 Glydes that I wrote seven years ago that I never finished. (You'd be surprised how often stuff like this happens.) For whatever reason, I started but didn't finish (TWSS). So I am presenting to you three almost-entries and I want you to pick which one I actually finish. 

And I mean YOU.


1. Aslan

A week or so ago, my sister and I were watching one of those 18-hour-long Narnia movies featuring mythical CGI creatures and snaggly-toothed Brits, and we got to thinking.

            In case you’re not familiar, about three trillion years ago, a science fiction writer by the name of C.S. Lewis, wrote a series of books about a legendary country called Narnia, where fauns and centaurs hang out with talking beavers and mice with knives. It’s all very wholesome and up-lifting for the kiddies. It’s a wonderful book series for children to get lost in and imagine. This is because Lewis was a swinging-dick Christian and he wove layers of religion into his books, surreptitiously exposing kids to Christian themes and ideals. The jerk!

            A main character in the series (and the only one to appear in all seven books) is a Lion called Aslan. Aslan serves as a Deus Ex Machina in that he shows up whenever the protagonists need saving, (which is about every ten pages). He magically shows up and says a few cryptic, Yoda-like koans, then gives a knowing wink, takes a crap and disappears as mysteriously as he arrived, leaving everybody a little wiser in the process. Though Lewis tries to disputes it, Aslan is clearly an allegory for everybody’s favorite messiah: Jesus H. Christ.

            So it got us to thinking, what the hell does Aslan do when he’s not creating new lands, or being killed and then resurrected? How does he spend his time? What does an omnipotent, god-like, fictitious, Jesus-allegory lion do in his spare time?
           
Jesus-allegory Lion, P.I.

            I like to imagine Aslan as a hard-boiled 1930s private detective. He sits in his old, poorly-maintained office, the street lights coming through his blinds in lines, his beat up fedora on a coat rack by the door and a table fan




2. SHAW INTRO

            Whitney Houston may not be singing any power ballads about him, but for those in the know (and with the money), Elija Shaw, C.E.O. of Icon Services, is the first name in elite body-guarding and protection services.
            With almost two decades of experience, Shaw has created a powerful company, providing protection to celebrities like Usher, 50 Cent and Naomi Campbell, as well as various corporate executives.
            Shaw grew up on the mean streets of the Windy City. In order to pay his way through film school, he started working as security at a Chicago nightclub. One thing led to another (as these things often do) and after discovering a real aptitude for security services, Shaw was able to parlay his part-time job into a small empire with 46 employees, working all over the globe.
            Not bad for a guy who never went to business school.
            Based out of Minneapolis, Minn., Shaw began Icon Services in 1998 and has been providing celebrity and executive security ever since. But don’t bother asking for any celebrity gossip; the man’s seen a lot, but he’s professional enough to keep his lips sealed.


3. These Things Happen


            When Travis was 15, he grew a tail.

            It wasn’t a cool tail, like a monkey’s. It wasn’t furry or shaggy like a dog’s. It wasn’t short and stupid, like a pig’s and it wasn’t beautiful and functional like a peacock’s. If anything, it was like a cat’s or some kind of feline. It was about two feet long and covered with yellow hair, with a small tuft of hair at the end.

And it grew overnight. Travis went to bed one night a normal teen and woke up a be-tailed freak.

A person’s natural reaction to waking up to a mutated, Kafka-esque nightmare, would be to scream, and freak out, and Travis was no exception. Upon the discovery, in the mirror, of his tail, he screamed for about ten seconds before he passed out on the floor in front of his bed.

Waking ten minutes later, Travis felt recovered enough to take a shower and get dressed. He discovered that he had enough control over his tail to wrap it around his leg a few times and as long as his pants were baggy enough, he wouldn’t look like John Holmes on steroids.

Walking proved to be a bit difficult and sitting even more so. He had to spend a good fifteen minutes walking in a circle around his room before he felt comfortable enough to go out into the world. He wasn’t too sure what a day of sitting in the world’s most uncomfortable desks would feel like, but he figured he’d learn soon enough.

At breakfast, his mother didn’t notice his fidgeting as he downed his regular breakfast of a bacon, egg and pop tart sandwich. She was too caught up in her own universe where the only things that mattered were stocks, quotas, portfolios and some guy named Dow. Her eyes were glued to the financial section of the paper and her ears were deaf to anything but her own thoughts of trends, investments and money.

Likewise, on the bus, it didn’t seem like anybody else noticed him shift from one cheek to the other as they headed to school. At least, that’s what he thought, until he noticed Hana, across the aisle starring at him from the corner of her eye.

“What’s wrong with you?” She asked, raising an eyebrow.

“What’re you talking about,” Travis responded.

“It looks like you’ve got hemorrhoids or something! Why do you keep moving like that?”

Travis knew Hana was one of the biggest gossips in the school. Entire reputations had been built and destroyed simply by one casually thrown-away statement into the right (or wrong) ear. If he didn’t want to end up a social pariah, not to mention an act in some early 20th century carnival sideshow (Travis had an active imagination), he would have to play this off carefully. Throw her off the scent and lead her to think something else. The best way to do that would be to tell her something slightly embarrassing, but not as bad as the truth.

“Yeah, how’d you know? I usually have one of those donut cushions, but I had to let my grandpa borrow it today,” he said.

“Ewwww! You need to keep that info to yourself!” she said, with obvious disgust before returning to her conversation with a girl in the seat in front of her.

A few giggles and surreptitious glances from Hana and her friend let Travis know that the rumor had been spread. Luckily, she accepted her story, so his secret was safe. On the other hand, all 1,400 students at Rocky Mount High School would soon be making fun of him for having hemorrhoids. Embarrassing, but not as bad as it could be.

Travis found that as long as he didn’t think too hard about the fact that he had a tail, he was able to get through the day with a semblance of normality. He may have looked awkward while sitting through the eight periods of the school day, but he didn’t attract too much gawking.

When he got home after school, he was able to concentrate on his homework, enjoy dinner and watch tv until it was time for bed. He rarely thought about his new appendage.

The next morning, Travis discovered that he didn’t even care that he had a tail. It was starting to feel natural, a part of his body.

After a week, he felt like he’d always had a tail, he couldn’t remember what it felt like to not have one.
After a month he even forgot he had a tail.

That’s probably why he got careless about hiding it, and how his brother, Mark, was able to discover Travis’ secret.
          

So, by comment, or text, or whatever. Lemme know which I should finish. I gotta say, I was going in some interesting directions with these. So it should be interesting to see where any of them lead. 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Pool



*tweeeeeeeeeeet*

The whistle sounds weird underwater. It has an odd kind of resonance from the soundwaves meeting actual waves.

I reflexively open my eyes to the noise and instantly regret it. I really need to invest in a pair of goggles. It’s just that I still haven’t mastered the trick of diving while wearing them without the goggles ending up around my neck, or in my mouth like some kind of ball gag.

I raise my head out of the water and through blurry, red eyes, I see a sad sight: all the kids, myself included, have been drummed out of the water. Forced to exit its refreshing embrace against our wills.

For it is now ADULT SWIM.

How I hate those two words! They cause such rage and fury in all children’s’ hearts. Just like DENTIST APPOINTMENT or YOU’RE ADOPTED. Even as I seethe, I see the bloated, pale bodies of the adults arise from their deck chairs and amble to the pool’s edge before awkwardly lowering themselves in the water. Like beached walruses headed to the ocean after sunning their bellies.

I guess I could always go to the kiddie pool. But nah, I’m not that desperate and pools are meant to be cool and refreshing, not unnaturally warm. Guess I’ll just go back to my chair and continue reading Jurassic Park. The movie is coming out next month. I wanna be ready.

Before settling down, I hear a gurgle in my tummy. I rustle around my shorts’ pockets and discover 75 cents. Yes! It’s Italian Ice time! I make my way up the hill to the snack shop and get myself a watermelon-flavored Italian Ice. These damn wooden spoons are weird, but strangely effective at their task.

*Tweeeeeeeeeeeeet*

Excellent! Just in time!

The stampede of kids into the water is amazing to watch. From all corners of the area they come: dropping from the trees they were climbing, abandoning their games of HORSE letting their basketballs bounce into bushes to be rediscovered in 45 minutes, running out of the bathrooms, emerging from bushes they were exploring. Like the ringing of church bells, the lifeguard’s whistle summons us all to come worship at the altar of “The Pool”.

Since nobody is currently using the diving board, a group of us get together and decide to play a game of Red Rover in the deep end. It’s our chance to show our prowess, how deep we can go and how long we can hold our breath.

I always enjoy the pool when I’m there for pleasure instead of business. Nothing sucks more than swim team practice at 6 am. The day hasn’t yet warmed up, the water is still cool from the moon’s light. Steam rises from the water as an early morning fog and you’re barely awake enough to get through the 200-meter freestyle laps you have to do.

But in the afternoon, with the sun high in the sky, blasting its heat upon your body, the pool is the only way to cool down and get in some exercise. You can play with your friends, catch up on your reading, (or if you have a CD player, you can enjoy some tunes) and just relax and enjoy the summer.

I hate leaving the pool, but I always love going.

*Tweeeeeeeeeeeet*

Shit!