s.r. prozak / stoner adventures
Into the darkness the smoke vanished, swirling upward like mother's
skirts in a dance. Something I remember from childhood: my mother
dancing. Something I remember vaguely, like a severed head rolling
down the aisles at church. Drifting from the morass of years, so
detached that I can't tell if I am five or fifteen in the vision. Artefacted,
rejected. Gone in a heavy-headed haze like a blackout. More smoke
pours over the sill, serpentine in its aceitine slowness, somnolent
stirrings, stiffening. The glistening stained-glass tower pouring smoke
passed through us one more time, cashed and done, then reloaded
from another entrant, a man named Goldbee.
Narrow, Italian, he wended his feet between ours to claim the edge of
a couch. His bag a shallow scratching of schwag, shitty pot, about to
pass to us, some declining from the rattiness. "It's brick, but it's not
bad brick," his eyes turning to me wildly and I unwilling to refuse,
smoked. Harsh, and no additional effect at first. "Wait a while," he
said. "I got so stoned once I saw my childhood. I was in the kitchen
and my mother was baking and then I went outside, and fell down, and
cut myself. I came back in and was sitting on the counter bleeding,
and she was cooking, and then my father came home and asked what
happened. I said I didn't know, I'd fallen. It was around ten p.m., and
then dinner was served. Some of the plates broke and I went outside
to get away from the noise. I was out there and I saw an old man at
the curb, smoking a cigarette. I came closer and saw he wasn't old.
He spoke to me, and I left him shortly. I left without turning around."
Goldbee left, later, after Spike had pity and brought forth our bag of
thick luscious ropes of Cleveland Gold.
(Cleveland Gold was an old favorite on the block; a man named Jake
Hanscom, a guitarist for some blues-rock outfit in Texas, grew it on the
roof of his downtown Austin store. The roof was an atrium, but plants
were still visible, even from a nearby dorm. He never got busted,
however. He had perfected his technique by touring with his band,
Dijon Lonely, and smoking with fans and bands and an entourage of
rocknroll crazies out to see the blues across the land, saving seeds as
he went. When he got back, he practiced some rather unselective
breeding which worked out miraculously. His first notice of the new
plants, with their distinctive purplish tint and reflectively-laden leaves,
coincided with Spike, Aurora (a man), and I arriving at his apartment in
the back of the store. Spike had brought his new device, a speaker
impaled with a standard bong ("When the bass kicks in you go wild, it
reverberates through you and takes off your head" said Spike later,
slowly staring out a viscous window) and we had loaded a bowl. The
hit was so smooth we had no idea it had occurred, almost, until the
voice of Jake punched through the smoky silence, first the broad bass
of his region of Texas, and then the high screechy international whine
of a stoner gone happily berserk. "I'm going to fuckin'
Cleeeeeeveland," Jake sang out, falling back into a ratty dun couch
with 'BONES 77' spray-painted on its back, pointed toward the
woodburning stove he kept as a kitchen)
This was all from the vantage of Spike's temporary Los Angeles
apartment, hovering from a precarious building in the gangrenous
flesh of the styrofoam city. A burnished wood finish guitar lay in the
diagonal shadows of a corner, the wind wrestling brief snatches of
blues from its strings. The sun had set, and the world slowed. I had
been in a tremendous funk as if possessed maliciously by the demon
of slow death, feeling the day settle into my gut like a leaden meal.
There is something in that feeling which passes through me with a
shudder; I think it's entrapped childhood, pushing to get out and find
fast old fields of suspense and expectation, instead colliding with the
day and its falling gap with a stutter. Imagining a wall of whale
blubber solidly knocking a New England fisherman into the sea, one
hand gripping his cap for no reason other than habit, the other hailing
the boat swung away toward the shore by the ruffled string of its wake.
At Spike's I was more than diffident, but after smoking more than a fair
share of the Gold (Spike whispering "Cleeeeeeveland" in my ear as I
each time took a hit, lightening the bits of consternation tracking my
face) I was too diffuse to notice the artefacted children playing in the
window. I attempted a read;
"motherchrist and stern concern,
her eyes and arms wooden in the day,
summer suns strengthened years,
the lifetime of easter eggs defied.
motherchrist in her darkest smile,
even too much for the end of day,
too content with the grating of the cell.
8x10 squared i am."
("that's no fucking good," says Spike, ladling ash from a bowl onto the
floor. It is his apartment, orange carpet beaten by feet like a
drumhead. "that's a fucking local rag, in the best sense of that, which
still leaves it...not really any good. no, but yeah, there's nothing in it.
check out some of this," he said, handing me a too much frothy electric
novel, in the same way some dance music sticks to the roof of your
mouth. "inauthentic," I'd once said at a party, and we had a debate
going, until a girl with the fixed pupils of transportation said to me:
who cares, you dance to it, and then you fuck to it. deny it that; and I
was silent, but unsettled. A partial explanation, true but inexplicably
unsatisfying, as if the truth only gapped a wall, leaving the house
obscured. "that's no fucking good," Spike rescued, expounding on the
truth of the blues, and Muddy Waters' truth. "ask burr, he's a writer.
does Muddy Waters write well? no, but in his icon salad and rhythmic
leer he tells his truth. his movie." I nodded, gratefully lapsing into a
zoned moment of quiet breathing. Someone left to dance.)
"of course babe you're down,
it's the city, take you 'round,
when we go down, we go down,
and the sun it drop with us."
The yellowing shadows held tack to the light, lining slickly the floors
with vinyl darkness. Heavily the air rested on our eyes, burdening the
lids. Late in the night, earlier than the coffee shops. We went outside,
to the shared balcony of his apartment complex, above the muddy
pool in which the larvae of hungry mosquitoes bred beyond the lives of
their parents, growing to full size until the malathion truck came,
adding one more mist to the sludgy fog hanging over the city, trapping
it and its vacant anger under the blanket of refuse. Spike exhaled,
blowing the remnants of a bong hit over the iron railing, it descending
toward the pool and then hanging in the courtyard. We dreamt that
those never joined the slurry of the sky.
Later that night, heading home in the aching weariness of morning, no
classes I would attend, a project to finish on hold. Sleep chancre bore
my eyes as I fumbled into the lobby of my apartment, my clothes
drawn with the drunken hand of a bitter cartoonist, hanging to my skin
in the clumping disarray of rotting curtains in an abandoned house.
For an instant my brain recollected, falling back into strain, as I was
halfway through the lobby, blessed seconds from stairs, softness and
sleep. An echo of the incessant "hey got a light" shot through the hair
behind my ears, and I turned, too tired to realize dangers although
fear vaguely sunk into my neck meeting skull. Four days of all black
coated him, silkish shirt taught over a body molded into it by the
adipocere of inactivity. His finger held a cigarette in the canting
stretch of the shadows on Spike's walls lengthening into morning.
"Sure," thickly, the lighter extending past the immediate fuzz to the
man: gently, like a swan, his neck bending to the glow of the lighter,
head returning upright with cigarette stares. "Thanks; join me?" and I
agreed, sitting in the cheap lobby furniture smoking Marlboros. "I like
these. I once stole a pack when I was young above twelve, and then,
in the midst of a vacation, smoked most of them. They asked me the
second day if I smoked, and I knew they'd smelled it the first day of
seven on a dude ranch, and I said no, it was the people in the lounge,
knowing they had smelled and discussed the It, the cigarette, and
inconclusively accepted the easy answer. I hadn't even looked at
them when saying it, I was watching TV. I spent a lot of time doing
that, and spent some writing in a diary I abandoned, full of the scariest
immature fantasies I could imagine. I was twelve writing like I was
two, with large dragons who were friendly until they saw something,
maybe a flowerpot or maybe a ring, and then they became largely red,
and changed into slumping swamp-things which consumed me (or
maybe not me, the narrator) with pseudopods and ire. We left on the
sixth day." The smoke coiled over two butts flattened like bullets in
The pillow lay softly like my past, beneath the aching head, sensing
earth and the moist satisfaction it brings. I reclined, a man atop a void
of memories, feeling immensely the power of the fall. However life
works, there is a fall. Priests, man, carnivores fall from grace, and
others fall out of fashion, out of positions, out of vehicles. Death falls,
night falls. The earth receives the falling rain and the sweet sense of
satisfaction drifts up in a mist, an epitaph to sleep.
Morning crisp with the edge of cold and awakening, the city
slumbering by in thick rivers of cars, draining past in the waning light.
My hair unsheveled, undone in the spiking randomness of a battering
night, I bore my eyes through the mirror, like sifting through a bushel
of grain. At my terminal, I connected to a site in Australia bearing
some graphical images for public manipulation. I use the net as my
home, my shield, my buffer; in it lies half of my personality. Stowed
away in duplicate invisible areas throughout it is the database that
more comprises me than I do, all of the information of my past
contacts, each touch with the world through a net. Pointers to every
known site, vast hordes of data on everyone conceivable I've run into.
The program which maintains it -- beyond the worm, beyond a virus,
more like an uberkernel under the kernel (if there is such a thing) of
the net -- is almost as large, consisting of some of my favorite self-
modifiers and encryptors, some extremely versatile net manipulation
software Golgotha Vein and I cooked up one night baked, stupor-
bound to our terminals, creating our story carved in the net, some
viruses and defenses, Syd Semper Tyranus' detection evasion
software, and a thousand subprograms, daemons, and fragments
crammed into a semiselfaware program which maintains me.
Transparently, silently -- it is my greatest creation, and the world
cannot know it, because I only can use it, in my secretive world of
I worked through the vein of a topology I didn't recognize. I found a
machine -- I assumed it was a billing computer from its size and
system setup, both fairly standard -- in one of the stranger setups I
had seen on the net. After an hour, I gave myself respite; I owed an
editorial to a local paper, and had no inspiration, no desire. Last
visiting engorged me with rage for the fetid sickness of pop journalism,
the reductive impulse in mute surrender to the capitulate crowd of a
gourmand. Wrenching a beer open, firing up the word processor,
shooting out a link to the cluster of sites I'd found (connected
bafflingly, as if to confuse, linking two separate topologies through
collective links nested in each topology) with a program I'd developed
called FetchBone, an elaborate jury-rig of code interspersed with
some of the best work I'd done in years. While I wrote, it probed the
eiffel tower of network connections, spewing a printout silently behind
me. My cockpit existed in this room, a collection of equipment tied
together loosely with the cables that powered it, connected it, ran it.
My devices didn't work with me; I worked through them.
("...christ under deadline even," the brown man vested for hibernation
spoke to me. "I didn't let it fall through any cracks," I said, ludicrously
high. (Spike and I had found a parking meter in a junkyard early in the
week, and, my column being finished, badly but doneso, we had taken
it to Raul's apartment over the lip of the baseball stadium downtown.
Raul used to be called Paul, but had one day taken several hundred
micrograms of good acid and connected to the net, converting himself
with us, the epiphany naming him Raul. Over the tympanic passing of
a train we plotted uses for the meter until Spike (too tired of
deliberation) rammed it into an old vacuum cleaner, prompting Raul
and I to modify the device. The coin slot now gaped, the glass
cleaned; when a perfectly huge bong hit was loaded, the pointer
swung to the three hour mark, and, when this hit ascended into our
lungs, swung to 'EXPIRED.' A touch on the vacuum switch operated
the device, a screw knob on the side regulating lung capacity
expected. Spike shrugged a bag of fresh green dope from his
shoulder pocket, uncoiling an arm to slink it onto the table. This was
DungBrow WetHair, a super-potent variety of red hair grown
somewhere in the sewers of the city by a college friend of ours,
LoadingZone O'Rourke (famous for swinging into a physics final
observably too high to complete it, taking one look at it, and drawing
out brilliantly the first and last problems, scratching out the questions in
between, writing "the rest is silence") living on bail for a statute of
limitations to gasp its last. Four large hits of that assassination mint,
each one slamming into my lungs reaching serpentine through my
brain, a clock slurred into focus, meaning my time to deliver; and I run
downstairs a street or two, a bus departs a lighted barge into the night,
very hazy like being stoned on the net, getting to my apartment's altar
in time to realize my needed appearance, staggering into the
newspaper offices to present the document on local machines (a small
intrusion having crippled a core machine, killing my link access) and
bypassing the acetate chaos of a newspaper office to find the small
brown man:) "...christ I thought you'd never arrive," he says, corpulent
face hung over smallish body, sheathing fat of a chair life enveloping
him, creating a miasmic spear of a man, acerbic acidic and harried,
aging fast. "Is it good to go?" (sure) "Thanks you can ..." his phrases
lost, my feet carrying me (detached blissfully) from the arena, to home
and the net, my program deconstructing)
Early in the haze of protective morning I found Skunk latched to a
wallcorner, dismal cigarette poking from his beard, raging pointer of
fire which drew the morning to a point. He lit me one, given in the half-
handshake of the accomplished cigarette swap, and we together blew
smoke into the morning fog. The haze lifted vaguely from my brows as
I spoke: "Greetings, Skunk, bearer of unholy weed (Skunk had found
his name in the Foundation area where he was famous for homegrown
pot so fragrantly pungent that local authorities had busted him by
smell in a crowd. Once Spike and I became so stoned at Skunk's that
we had gone down to the park, and sat in slatted benches by the
melodic water. A policeman came with metallic tones and told us a
question to leave, then became upset when we did not really answer.
I was incapable of saying anything at that point even. I wanted more
lake-melody, the ancient water rising from its cold wet quietude to
flood the yearning relic my mind, lost somewhere between a bicycle
and four days in June some year in highschool. Spike looked up, and
the blueman wrenched Spike's arm with a grinding sound, beshitting
all that was tonal and fine in the balance of the morning. The dark
lakefog colored with mercy enough to see us away, and the blue man
tapping his shiny black toe at the base of the sword of orange-gold
reaching from the submerged sun, lurking with trepidation of the
morning), how goes it?" Skunk said little, flicking his cigarette ash the
color of his stubble with the same abrasive resignation the mask
implied. Eyes riding red glow he said: "Not bad. I am waiting for
something, but I have forgotten what, because I'm really high. I got a
bag last night, and Oso came over, as did mighty Amon, and we
consumed masses of thick fragrant smoke. I found myself here some
minutes ago, for my friends have drifted away, I think to resume lives
of waiting for jobs in their hydrocarbon homes. I am just now seeing
how nice it is to have fog drift over everything. I see people in it; I
think I am almost too high." I said there was no such thing. There isn't
on a general scale -- you can't get "too high." Specifically, you can be
too high to do certain things, usually involving other people who
wouldn't understand. For those you either persevere or make
excuses. I recall hating excuses. I asked him for what too high and
Skunk said, "Well, I gotta look for a job today, and I don't see myself
being normal before everything's closed, so it's going to be a gritter.
I'll have to take Murine and fake it, but it always makes me twitch, in
those anaesthetic lines and offices, on dust-clotted floors and in
sweat-greased armchairs. I don't really want a job, because I want to
go to school, but I don't want school either. So it's to the lines. Last
night I think I was too high to talk, because sometimes you get to the
point where everything else recedes and you can't really talk but you
think fine, just nowhere near anything else anyone wants you to think.
They want you to hear them and the world, and talk to them, and you
want to be underwater in the clarity of that peacefulness, to not be
there but to feel it more than they." I agreed, vanishing the last eighth
of my cigarette with a long draw. I don't normally smoke.
Someguy with dark long hair, curling over his avian shoulders,
looked at us through the membranes of his lower eyelids. "Heyman,
can you spare a cigarette?" he repeated. Sure shuffled Skunk and
lofted him one from the sheaf of his softpack. I bent to with a light
from a lighter I'd found in some thrift store, a zippo with a marine
regiment inscription. Puff, drift. The drummer behind us slowed, and
the inexorable time to speak came.
Someguy: Thanks. Sure is a nice morning.
Someguy: I kind of like it. Mournful.
Skunk: I am not inclined to be mournful. I like it because it's
harder to see everything.
Someguy: Harder to see...? Yeah, I can see that. I can
imagine that could be fun. Hey is that a somebattalion insignia?
My own skull spoke at him: I don't know I got this at some
pawnshop. Richenbacker and Hanover streets.
Someguy: I was in somebattalion. This was during
somepoliceaction. We fought in the valley and took heavy casualties.
Skunk: Wars...I don't get. Fog obscures everything.
Someguy: Yeah, it was pretty foggy there too. We had to
shoot into the fog, and sometimes we'd get something. You'd hear a
yip or something. Pretty ripe ha?
My lidding eyes: Must have been scary. Glad it's over.
Someguy: I am actually. It was actually a pretty bad
experience. But I think I got a lot from it actually. I think it benefited
me in my real state.
Skunk: Real estate. My grandfather made a fortune in the
My dried, chewed, disconsolate mouth: My grandmother
canned hams, and was almost shot for witchcraft.
Someguy: Witchcraft? I never got into that Satan shit.
(Dusting hands he departs). Thanks for the smoke. Catch me on the
docks sometime and I'll return the favor.
Skunk: I live in Minneapolis.
Someguy: Cool. Do they have fog there? (Sideglance) I'll
catch you around.
Skunk: Yep. (looking at me with slaughterhouse look of
My eyes still hung like sodden-framed pictures outside the
museum in the desolation of twilight. I gots to go, Skunk. We smoking
Friday I think not really sure, my life's kinda a mess.
No problems man. We are probably all going to smoke like
crazy this week. I was gonna look for a job, right, but I think now that
this is what I must do. Get beyond all of that stuff before it becomes
me. I feel like I'm going to be executed.
I didn't know, so I said to look around the northern office district.
Sometimes sweet stuff got handed out there, relating my tale of
working as a file-boy for some extravagant rate because I'd proven
that I didn't talk.
I took my leave and let the fog slip behind me as coattails as I
went into downtown.
Crusting paint slotted stairs sideways up to the landing, at
which the option of further progress presented us. Spike and I, both
staggeringly high and drunken, rested the balls of our feet on
alternating brown and white patches of lichenous paint, drenched in
the sluggish smell of humid apartment building. A door led away from
the landing; it was the Nowhere Door, leading impossibly through a
wall. Beyond the Nowhere Door was outside from three stories up, a
blank wallface. Its purpose undetermined, it reflected graffiti back
"Bill woke each day and went downtown,
There he found all hangers-round,
And he asked them what they'd found,
They replied without a sound:
There is a girl named Margey-May,
Who by all accounts is large as day,
And if you find her, you'll hit the hay,
With living, bouncing Margey-May.
And if with her you're really high,
You might think your time to die,
Has come, but on Margey's thigh,
You'll read the motto:
Now I lay me down to sleep,
For only I my soul can keep."
Two flights of stairs further upward we paused at Bill the
Kitchen's door. Bill's Kitchen is his room, his house, wherever.
Chemistry fell into Bill's hands in an acid-rimmed highschool lifestyle,
and from there he went on to produce some of the most incredible
custom drugs known to man. This apartment, with its gutted door of
paint turned to decaying putty, blackened scorchscars outside the
windows, and floor flooded with chemicals, trash and clothing, was
home to many a great production scheme. Bill's bed abutted the
stove: his pillow was always warm. The rest of the room was a sofa
facing the bathroom, a small foot-table with a vase and flowers on top,
and Bill, six feet of sweat clouded with a cigarette burning beneath
prodigious hair and shadowy face. It had taken him two minutes to
exhale as we stood there. The faint odor of dope pervaded his clotting
"Ayeh," Bill said, stepping out into his kitchen from the self
ensconced in smoke. His eyes glowed upward at us, pupils writhing.
"I made the new batch: it's dope: it's my savior, man," he said.
"Christ, Bill," Spike said, "You didn't get religion, did you?"
Stepping up to a bar, pasting his beer on the table.
"Nehep," Bill intoned, softly with smoke rising past his focused
pupils. Suddenly sharp, in the courtroom. More whitespace staring
outward, the pupils recessive again, lost in the land past the smoke.
Smoke covered all of us, flowers coming out of Bill's foot-table. The
vase stared deep into its core.
Spike footed it, tapping the edge. "Strange contraption," I
asked. Bill opened the small side door to reveal two thick waterfilled
chambers made from large mayonnaise jars, an electric bowl made
from a 1986 Buick cigarette lighter, and some assorted tubing. The
guts of the beast: sacrifice. "Very technical device, for a bong," Bill
said, exhaling into Kitchen, "but very good. I hadda problem with pot,
it being very nice (veryfine) but also pretty ratty stuff: the high was
great, delivery bad. I couldn't really distill it into a pill and have it be
fun, so I made this scrub bong. Pop inna some schwag," he said,
ladling dusty, ratty Mexican brick pot from a large loose bag. "Lift the
handle to take a hit," he said, closing the door with a musty warning
that the hit was blown upward when the handle was released, and until
then the chamber filled "like blood in water."
Spike's mouth trumpeted to meet the fluting mouthpiece of the
vase, his fingers twisting upward the chintzgilded handle, smoke
pouring in a trickle, more like mist than smoke, in the flouting glow of
the upright room. Clear glass mottled with its own dimension
intertwined with thick green glass, a pattern from a forgotten urge of
dead parents; Spike's face pulled back, pallid in parts, BillKitchen:
"Huge hit", quick inhalation to seal the deed, then a calming face
shriven in its ruddiness. Bill: "Huge hit." Spike slowly withdrew his
face toward the window, and blew a pure note of clear smoke into the
crouching night. "Huge," he said, slowly. We checked the bowl:
cashed. Outside a car horn howled into a screech, and then a blast of
metal groaning into a creaking collapse, swearing, an impact. Dim
edges of streetlight like the rim of an iris diffracted into the barnacled
windowpane. I took the next hit.
The smoke was soft underwater gesturing, like falling through a
memory of some summer spent in the breast of childhood, staring past
cloudy sunlight into something beckoning, a memory as bogus as it
was real, embittered in the swelling of life into smacklike infusion to
the main. The main, which rambled by below us. Outside: more
swearing, a muffled punching sound caught in the screaming horn of a
train. Car engine, vanishment into haze. "...so I figure, something's
gotta scrub schwag, cuz it's all that I can afford. And I talking to Silvia
one day: she said I was an artch chemist, and from that gotta be able
to figure out something. I worked with membranes a summer orso
ago, and these fit well into my two-barrel design, and so I made this,
and it takes my gunch pot and gives you clean smoke, licking your
lungs like a slender hand...this is all I need, now." Looking up to Bill,
past him the intricate crockwork of interlocking tubules like bones and
skulls, each decanter, each pustule of chemical mixing, and then to his
face, set apart in the glow of its skin. I was really stoned -- am really
stoned. Was I in childhood? That memory of a ball bouncing between
trees, over thick grass, really alive, some people, some hope. Parents
even not descanted in their faces. Shriven with truth; now beyond the
censer, something must exist in my mind...Bill saying something to
Spike: them talking I stoned too much?
"...big hit." My voice finished from somewhere, and Bill's
Kitchen device filling him up with strenuous billows of smoke. Gasping
backward, sucking air, leaning down, grinning a grimace of future
knowledge: the soft smoke inflating his lungs in huge blasts would
soon inundate his spine, a serpent swirling to the brain. His hand
rested on the vase, affixed to that rock of a foot-table. Each hit had
burned a sixteenth of an ounce or more of cheap pot; Bill's Scrub of
the Kitchen had curbed the harshness, leaving a manageable hit of
pure stoniness. I relaxed with pulsing energy flooding out of my limbs.
The warm orangeness of the sofa supported me; I felt the waves of
dopeness (beyond dopeness, beyond the slowness, beyond
relaxation, more to an energy derived from the leftover) swim through
me, gently reflecting from the sofa and the limits of my limbs, clouding
them in brilliant adhering light, swarming throughout me to exude from
me like the smoke I'd blown out. Muscles sunk into the ready atrophy
of relaxation, my eyes sunk into my face. Spike and Bill droned on
intermittently, speaking more for the sound of light syllables like Bill's
high laughter, I spoke a word or two occasionally, my ears swinging
questions or thoughts through a large space in which my mind moved.
From me moved energy; without me moved energy, vague awareness
of other objects, some good, and some dark stimulus, deadness. I felt
the connection of the world like electricity singing down a wire, or a
spidersweb of wires covering the world like the outstretched hand of
gOD. Everywhere the lightness of energy -- beyond particulate,
beyond wave, more an awareness of both, of creation more than
substance, a cyclical pulsation -- emanated from its respective entities,
human or non. I could feel Spike's mind like calm breathing beside
me, and beyond that toward the corner of the world Bill's Kitchen
rested absolute, projecting quick alive thoughts into the void in which
we all swam, lost but not needing to be found, as in a space that open
and full of potential and hope there is no need for locale..."large
smoke, very stoned." Spike's quick unhurried laughter.
"What's its name?" Spike asked Bill, in morning, the next thrift
store we'd run into. Bill poring through clothing, quickly talking in
offbeats, smoke still coming off his lip from the cigarette he had spun
into shorn bushes outside the door. Above the day waxed bleak; I had
to wander through this greyness to deliver a column, but first solved
that problem with a quarter phone call to verify that I could have some
margin of time. Last issue of the magazine turns out was late, and
deadlines pushed ahead by two days. A sense of encompassing
knowledge and the urge to probe it called to me. "...thrift stores. The
cool thing is, this is people selling each other stuff almost directly, little
outside interaction. Plus you get some groovy shit:" Bill holding up a
seventies bellbottom pantsuit in orange gold suspended in red, with
diving canaries of green and vivid blue breaking it into composite
pieces falling into the furnace of the whole.
My feet walked backward home, crosscutting through some of
the clustered collections of building materials in the laundry district.
These operated 24-7, and blasted steam from their tenuous
occupation of earth toward the solemn drained monoliths that held the
starched sky upright over these human twitchings. Multilingual
musings tongued around me, probing the air for life. Venus would be
proud; the occasional outburst of exploding language clattered around
my ears like falling swords. Starch, suds, and steam tunneled around
me, the wet frothy concrete earth returning impact to my boots, the
steam sounding hoarlike in its demonic intensity. Onward my feet
trod, pawing ground backward and whisking it into blurs like nighttime
skies spinning when one is intoxicated, young. I looked up: the tunnel
of steam was receding ahead of me, and there lay the grey slack road
A waterstain started downstairs, and led up the curving
staircase intermittently, like a contortionist's chair rail, and dying like a
fallen whip by my door. I grasped the handle, and opened it; inside all
was silent with the settled smell of infrequent occupation. The skylight
glowed vaguely over it all. My terminal awaited, the keyboard awake
with one faint light. A touch and click as the key returned, my eyes
wandering over the screen as my hands smoothed over the keys. Six
minutes later back to my newly-found site. I almost went right in, but
pulled back, built another link and probed from the side. Nothing
really wrong, vagueness again. A door ajar, almost. I coughed, and
dropped off, falling instead on another site riding the same vein: some
brief manipulation with a verify function in their email system, an
archaic one brought up to date too fast for its security structure, and I
found a reading on packets to my system. Things had changed: no
real traffic, and a poke further found the alias: the site was linked
elsewhere. Fingers pulsing with my heart's anticipatory fear, I slighted
hand and took a last guess at the link: somewhere to the mountains,
the connection dead and keyboard closing. Four hours later my
anonymous storage reactivated, my rent paid, and I sat on my duffel
bag smoking a slight cigarette and drinking coffee, waiting for Spike.
He let me stay the week.
We wandered to a cafe that night, an open air situation fronting
Mexican food and beers, good and better. A Dos Equis and I drew out
the day for Spike, and the reason for my flight: I had sensed the
stroking fingers of what would be called justice in the obituary. His
eyes called for an explanation, sighted between the beer and I, over
his mouth. "I am a humble stoner," I affirmed. I took a draught of
beer, cold, heavy, sweet and full, with the timbre of broad land and
rich country. "But we fear the dark: that which is not understood can
be held over us: if we learn the light switch, we can at least know. I
found, I know. Something is up at that site, but I need another locale
to see it, more carefully this time. I am not a warrior. I find, I see, I
explicate to our community. We tell those deserving to know. We
work for no governments, have our own laws. And they fear us,
because we can understand as well as speak the language they've
created in Olympus." Spike drawled a sip of beer down his throat, and
agreed it was necessary, but wondered why I: it's like art, I like life. I
like being alive and knowing, and finding myself out there, a sense
that I'm alive, that we all are. Otherwise, this...? Spike asked if I didn't
like the restaurant.
To the streets we took, directing ourselves toward a more
obscure festival in a semi-abandoned house held in escrow
somewhere to the east. We found it by luck, or by stoner's intuition, or
something. Two stories of conventional house, cheaply made but
humble in appearance, drew up above us, coated in the same shade
of smog-tainted brown that much of the city without money is painted.
Some grey shone in the sash of a window above. At the door, we
greeted our friend Jeff, who waved us in. Each room shown with the
light of effort; the walls were fresh sheetrock, the lightbulbs
unyellowed. It was Zentower's doing: Zentower, the artist of flaring
colors and indeterminate periods of ranging experimentation, who had
gone each week of one school year on a painting binge, and outlined
in watercolor some ideas for a series of paintings: now his House of
Suites stood toward the sky, unveiled anew, recreated from the ashes
of its intent. "It's dope," Spike began, shouldering the blazing room
around him, and sliding a knifelike hand into his own trenchcoat
quickly beneath Zentower's eyes -- withdrawing his latest, a gift from
one of the indeterminably placed characters named Bob who run
military surplus stores, a rocket launcher which bore Bob's scratchy
writing in blue pencil: "Create the apocalypse; save the day."
Converted with bowl and mouthpiece, it unlocked and slid open to
unseal the chamber of water kept tight for traveling. "Fatness
awaits...." Zentower took the bong, and flipped a lighter alight,
swinging a swerving trace of flame down into the bowl, a whirlpool of
lifelike fire. He pulled the trigger and fresh air blew through the bong:
Zentower relaxed, thanked us, excused himself and molded into the
air to travel around the oddly-lighted rooms. People clustered in party
poses, toes upward, casual hands sliding into dogsear pockets.
Clothing ranged from new yuppified to retro, both new words for old
ideas. But if an old idea is well?
The old kitchen had its cabinets and drawers stripped from it;
where the sink and counter had been, a drumset stood, been pounded
lightly by a vacant-looking Chinese youth, part of the entirely Asian
band. I swung my chin slightly; the greeting of the discrete from
across rooms at parties. We knew each other well, their dissonant
cover tunes having emerged from the yellow light of many parties.
"The all-Asian band that played Led Zep covers for free beer in
browns," I had thought once, heading over the ivywall next to a lighted
pool as police ranting started eroding the front door. My beer had
fallen, and landed upright, a tombstone to the head of a reveler
inundated before his time. We went further into the living room,
dispensing bong hits to the unwary. We had San Quentin
Wallclimber, incredibly potent dope grown in the center of America's
most famous prison by a warden set too much like a heirloom diamond
to forgive his ways. "Well yawl don't really have to see it, out there,"
he had said, "but in here you see how much unhope is rested in the
human breast. An' for some of these guys, I like to sell 'em a little
cheap -- I make a profit, yes, but not much, considerin' the risk an' all -
- cuz I _know_ they're not getting out. An' the thing is, fellas -- I aren't
gettin' out either, really. I sold myself to the prison, now I'm selling the
prison ... some of myself." Thick A's. We had met him during visiting
hours, and had been introduced by Tremors (from his name, Phil
Shakes, but also from his habit of shaking wildly when high, as if full of
energy he was unable to release) to the good warden, who had then
offered us some of his pot. It was full, fresh, and fed on the scraps of
the prison cafeteria. "Amazing," Spike said, and we shrugged our way
out of the faded gray labyrinthine construct.
We ran into a room with Sift and Shar, two skatepunks who I'd
hung with some years before, but had drifted out of favor as they got
more into the skate scene and less into reality. The identity takes
them, and swallows them whole, but the fishing line still runs out of the
fish, which then leads the unknowing line around. They were packing
scraggly dope into a guava juice canister modified to be a large,
cheesy bong, so we treated them each to two hits of our bag. They
seemed more glazed, relaxed, and so we caught up on past. Their
time was conceived in the tomorrows and yesterdays; "yestidday we
went down to the mall, and got kicked out by a mall cop. You can
always tell mall cops because they look left and right on the footsteps,
as if it were some kinda drumbeat -- and then they see you and slow
their beat so they can watch you, head turning right with each leftstep,
head left with each rightstep. Sifto here tried a dine n dash at a fuckin'
ice cream shop." They were living in a trailer home abandoned after
being smashed by a tractor in the three-lane crisis finale to a multiple
car wreck, leaving a handful dead. The cause of it had been a stubby
red car whose driver was busy with a phone call, blurring lanes
distinctly into a diagonal path, bypassing a truck driver too fast to stop
whose fender became stained in two shades of ire. The trailer home
remained, with one end patched with the remnants of cartons that had
once contained a brand of diapers billed as having "the deepest-
reaching comfort." We smoked on, the lawn chairs being more
comfortable than most other accommodations.
"I was in this convenience store, and I had to take a dump, and
I talked to the guy, and he wouldn't let me, so I pissed in the aisle."
General laughter from some more positioned people behind us.
"Fuckin' cops, giving me hell. It's not so much that they got the
'statutes' or whatever, but that they got the attitude, the want to bust
you. It's as if one kid not wanting to be a cop is every kid giving the
cop a finger. They know they don't have control, so when they gets
you -- the got you." Shar spat.
Spike brought up some of our recent experiences with the
intricacies of life. "Our fridge died some days ago. We bought it a
year past from a thrift shop in Dayton, and Ed and Flam brought it
back in their hippybus. They went crosscountry with only $98.50,
which they spent on gas, and got the rest of the cash for gas and food
by working nights in towns they'd stop in, getting paid like $4 an hour.
Noone ever hesitates to pay you cheap under the counter."
"Yeah," Shar said. "We were living on the Beach last year and
I didn't have a job, and kept looking, and then one night I went and
found a restaurant, and they paid me to clean up the kitchen and stuff
after hours -- midnight on -- for about $10 a night, which kept me going
until I found this other job up the street. I was bussing tables there,
and I got paid for three hours a day, but they hinted that I'd get a raise
if I worked five. I worked five hours a day for a month, and kept asking
for more hours, and finally one day left after three. Went back the
next day and I had a pink slip."
Spike couldn't resist: "Were you surprised?"
"No," Shar said. "I didn't really care. I thought about it later,
and it was like I wanted to get the hell out of there, but didn't really
have any excuse, and so my body got punk to throw my mind out of
there. They handed me the pink slip, and I told them to fuck off, and
they told me I'd better leave or they'd get the cops to come. I just
tipped over a whole rack of glasses, and they shattered, and I could
hear her dialing the phone so I split through the back, and cashed the
check at a liquor store two streets over, bought a bag and hit the
"They don't mind dicking you over, cuz there's a thousand of
yous coming through each month. They can dick anyone over except
the government, who's probably dicking them over anyway," Sift said.
A man in black belted white leaned over urbanely and said:
"They are dicking them over. They're dicking everyone over. You
should see what I paid in taxes last month."
Sift: "I don't pay taxes."
Man: "Yeah, I thought about that, but then I realized that I want
to contribute to society. I mean, if I can hack it with paying taxes, why
not? It hasn't been that bad so far."
Sift's response was a very stoned stare. The man mumbled
something and sipped his drink, backing away into the shade of the
light. Sift: "That job really did suck. I spent half my time making sure
that people had clean plates for breakfast five days a week."
Winding home, each foot crossing the other's path, Spike and I
drifted through red alleys and slick reflective streets. The city dwelt
unconscious. The cockroaches ran and scurried between our feet,
crossing the trails of our pointing toes. Over parked cars our voices
echoed, into the darkness we vanished, and then came through again,
the mist of the night coalescing and disintegrating, cotton combed at
the feet of a spinning wheel. We passed an overturned bike, wheel
spinning in the air. At chance it stopped as we passed. Spike pitched
his cigarette through the spokes.
In Spike's digs, we got ready to sack for the night. I was
temporary possessor of sofaspace, a comfortable, beaten, beery-
smelling expanse of wide green softness loosely kept corporate by
stained white buttons. I threw my trenchcoat over a chair, and then
sat into it, more shifting my weight from standing to collapsed with a
convenient catch by the aged wood.
"Bong hits?" Spike said, hands over his eyes, wandering as if
he were blind. "Bong hits? Bong hits?" Good idea, relaxation sleep.
We packed a bowl of some consummately kind Thai Express, which
gained its name from its site of purchase, an Amtrak porter who had
worldwide connections with large diplomatic bags. Thai Express is a
rocket: up fast, very high, but it didn't hold us up hanging over our
consciousness, like other Thai pot.
"A nice big bowl," Spike said, descending on his newest
smoking creation. One of his two speakers had a musicbox resting on
top of it; Spike flicked open the box, and music sounded as a ballerina
danced. Spike pressed her head backward in a neckbreaking
position, and lifted the ballerina and a large circular base from the
musicbox. Taking a nearby large plastic mug, he flicked out the heavy
plastic base and inserted it in the box, removing the front cover of the
speaker to reveal a bowl as he did so. He turned on the stereo: some
Black Sabbath: "the bass is best when you take a ripper." I took first
hit, blowing my smoke out the open window, around which danced
curtains like light skirts, or maybe smoke itself.
Daylight fluttered past the curtains, now limp. Through the
greyness it pervaded the room, something I was aware of with only
light consciousness. Everything was ash-grey; exhausted, the room
hung with the same spent unrestful quiet that I did. My eyes were
merging back into unconscious oblivion when they caught just enough
of something foreign to alert my brain. The doorknob turned, and two
large men came in. I remained solid in my blanket, viewing them with
eyes at quarter moon. Behind them a woman I recognized as Spike's
landlord lurked; I realized something official but negative was
occurring, better than a robbery perhaps, but probably going to leave
the same feeling of having been torn, betrayed by some false kinship
Luckily action was not required on my part. Spike, roused by
noise, came out to interdict the men folding his furniture into the hall
with a yelp. He moved forward sleepily, and was cautioned to come
no closer by the landlady. His queries met with little answer; finally,
they ducked outside the door, to have a somewhat hushed
conversation salted with strident whispers as mica is with tiny livid
cracks. The two men in black stood, gloved hands at sides, staring
around the room, sometimes at me. With a suddenly elbow, I turned
over, loudly expectorated opinional air, a rising cleft cloud to dispel the
stillness of the room, and feigned sleep until Spike came in to tell me
that we had been witnessed smoking pot by an elderly neighbor
across the way, and were very much evicted. The men resumed
placing our stuff in the hall.
"Isn't there a law against this?" I asked him later, as we bade
Amon and his helpful battered red truck goodbye at the rental storage
site. Spike wrapped a corner of his mouth around itself, like the knot
in my stomach, and said no, it was not legal because he hadn't rented
legally -- lowered rates for no complaints about size, non-working
facilities and noise from the weird machinery her husband ran in the
basement. (We learned some years later that he had been busted for
manufacturing explosives for a foreign concern; we never heard which
foreign concern, but it was information of doubtful value to us, as
shortly afterward we learned the pair had been busted for
manufacturing and selling phencyclidine)
A mall in flypaper suburbia provided a fast, paper-rustling lunch
as we planned our next move. "Where to?"
"I don't know," said Spike. "I don't have enough cash to get a
real place. I don't know where I can go." Neither of us bothered to
ask about family; we knew that on each end it had become an archaic
institution, a forgotten idea thankfully allowed to decay in photo
albums full of lies. Subservient grins. "I can't think of anything in the
city. I can't think of wanting to stay here. It's not like this is that big o
a deal, but the burgeoning out of control of it. First you, then me.
Paul took it heavy last month, and who knows where he ended up?" I
said I didn't want a permanent base of operations. "What you saw
"It's another manifestation of a wrong voice. The voice there
has information on us, and knows who we are, but doesn't want to
know us. It knows we know it exists. It's not even that I suspect what
it is: the way the net works, it could be government, or anything but
government. Who pays taxes anymore? Who has the voice to pay
them?" I continued: "I want to hit the road." Maybe a moving target,
but more moving vision, to catch the life we've filed too quickly here. I
like cities; I live in cities. A tour, like a band, or something. Road,
because it gives hope: it stretches into the horizon like life, in which
you can never see the end, only visualize on what it is. If you try to
see the end, and explain it, you'll spook. So you just watch the sun
set, and then watch your feet, crossing each other as they pound
against the dark heavy road. Only when you stop do you remain.
The gritty sleeplessness hung under my eyes. I pushed out a
cigarette in another collapsible hat of an aluminum ashtray. My half-
empty coke, waxen cup and halfwet straw pushed out at the skylights
casting bright existence on the trodding mall, sat next to Spike's hand,
and his cigarette, infected with fire, grey ash of the deadness moving
up toward his hand. "Spike," I said. "Ash."
He swept the air with his eyes, and locked them on me, flicking
ash on the table reflexively. I knew he wanted to leave, to roam. I
knew his eyes were sweeping memories, sweeping some away, and
saving others for a return, a mental packing. I lit another cigarette and
stared at the colors of clothing passing. I heard his cigarette quench
itself in my coke, the crumpling of the pack and the light impact of it
dropping to the table, or maybe floor. I hooked my duffelbagstrap, and
swung my scarf over a shoulder as I hefted it and stepped into the flow
of people. Spike followed, and then pressed his chest past me,
leading toward a site for cheap junkers, fast, traded for a kingsransom
As we marched outside, the swirling smog engulfed us for a
minute, and we barely noticed the dawn of winter over the spawning
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