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Blood Buys Christmas

I was floating down the street, awareness consuming weakness, down a street full of holiday lights and the scent of cooked lamb. Cats were weeping — but no, it was her begging me to wake up. The taxi-driver and street men were carrying me on stout shoulders, back to the dispensary.

Oh, please wake up.

Christmastime, the 24th of December, in the ancient metropolis where the word metropolis was invented — Athens, Greece. 1971.

We were street urchins, two American kids stranded with no money on this, the ostensive holy of holies, away from our families, basted birds, trees festooned by myth and tinsel stars. Hitch-hiking through Europe, finally South, away from the Austrian winter, a bitter cold Florida babies such as we were utterly unprepared. Athens in December is cold, gray, tired, dingy. A huge city, unforgiving in the murky wet chill that reached through the marrow. Not sunny. Not warm. Anything but quaint.

The girl (for girl she was at 19) was sad. No holiday dinner. No money. No goddamned sense. Waiting around the American Express office with an international congeries of wastrels, tourists, wankers, back-packers and leering, curious Pervs, hoping for money wired from home. No dice. 30 Drachma between us, hardly enough to afford another night in the funky Youth Hostel, a good hour’s walk away from Syntagma (Constitution) Square where a magnet of misadventure awaits lost children.

In desperation we trudge three miles to the U.S. Embassy hoping for help, a meal, shelter, brandishing passports, begging, pleading insisting on our rights – We’re Americans. We’re hungry. Tired, poor huddled masses of two. Children adrift.

Sorry, the embassy is closed for Christmas. The staff is gone until after New Year.

Can’t we get something? A loan? A sandwich?

If you’re hungry maybe you kids should have thought ahead before stranding yourselves in Athens; now look at’cha; sleeping on the streets like frightened beggars. Where are your parents? Sorry, no one here can help you. Go away. Come back after the holiday.

Good Fucking Luck- I spout in return. The Middle finger erect. God Bless ‘Murica. Thanks fer nuthin’, War Piggies. (In 1971 the war in Vietnam was still raging.)

 I was a feisty 17 years-old, six months away from draft age. Hippy hair down to my ass. Almost prettier than my girlfriend, who has miserable gray circles under her eyes from lack of sleep and hunger. We weren’t like those college brats with a pocket full of graduation money, a prepaid Hostel card and a Eurail Pass. We transported the hard street of shoddy tropical Miami to this world of exotic Greek babble and confusion. We were far from tender brats looking for soft diversion. The ‘real thing’ was our constant companion stateside, and other than not knowing one word of Greek, the haggard muse remained  previously informed. Pervs everywhere. Shining eyes waiting to pounce. Offers of bread for sex —with either of us. Chocolate whores. Loose yanquis. Nope, faithless souls we were not. Sex for our generation was given freely, not sold. Especially to the chronically prurient and repressed men lining the streets, drinking ouzo, waggling worry beads obscenely at every unescorted girl passing. Mouths hanging half-open imagining taboo sex with runaways and waifs.

For an ancient culture, I quip acidly, they sure seem pitifully unevolved.

We walked back to Syntagma Square, singing the songs off Joni Mitchell’s album — Blue. She knew every word. Girl stuff, I’d poke. Until the words ended up defining every step of our journey. I sang low harmony with her to help keep our spirits up. In fact, other than escaping snow, it was Liv’s idea we go to Greece to find the Matala Moon. The wind, in from Africa.

‘…it’s comin’n on Christmas, they’re puttin’ up trees..’

Let’s go to Crete. Like Joni did.

I bet she didn’t hitch-hike across the Peloponnese. I bet she never slept with sheep on a freezing hill outside of Igoumanitsa. I bet she never had to lie her way into a hot bowl of bean soup, and a ratty hotel room.

‘…it’s comin’n on Christmas, they’re puttin’ up trees..’

We’re in it now, Fum-child.

Damn straight. I won’t let any stinking letch mess with you, Liv.

My brave man, she grinned. Keep your blade in your pants.

 ‘…I wish I had a river, I could skate away…on-nnn…’

I just wanted adventure. I was no stranger to risk. But Liv? My god, she was intoxicating. My first real love, stolen away from all distractions and competitors, her scent of patchouli clinging to my body like a sorcerer’s charm — masking our unbathed bruised bodies. Never had I been given such surprising sex. Never had I been so in puppy-love that I would face down a raging Greek intent on rape or usury. Those things are universal. To those base glimmerings of unwanted lust, I was no stranger. Neither was she. Cruelty is universal — it speaks every language. We were children of the seventies runaways. The wanderers were our new family. When it mattered, kindness appeared out of the ether, sustained us.

‘…I made my baby cry-yyy…’

She made a man out of me. Sort of. That Man thing is hard to describe. At the very least I was an unrepentant heterosexual in an era of nascent gender bending. Shapeshifters were we, the babies of freedom. Rebellion. Rock n’ roll. Pretending and imagining a new reality free of expectation. Lost as hell. Better than the reining expectations of the free society.

Birth. School. Military. Work = DEATH.

The accumulation of plastic wisdom destined for a boneyard or landfill.

Like Steinbeck wrote: If you want help, go to the poor people. The poor people understand. The poor people will help.

How true.

Like those gypsy kids who tried to beg the coat off our backs on the road to the Patra ferry, when they realized we, unlike they, were lost and hungry, those moon-eyed gypsy boys fetched their big brothers – who looked us over, knowing immediately our hearts, brought us to their camp and fed us, lost gadjos, children without a compass, where women clucked their tongues in pity, showed us where we could sleep safely among them, and sent us on our way the following morning — with a sign and a blessing.

That was some powerful blessing. From that moment to this — as I sit typing — I should have been killed by my own misadventure a thousand times over. They saved both our lives by surrounding us with magic.

I can’t prove it — but I know it is so.

The road to Athens, paved in sheep blood, stained wool, and unseeing eyes hung for sale in the open market. Exotics. Future stew. Children with more guts than sense. Shattered waifs, running from the Land of Plenty, seeking authenticity, cynical of jingoes or golden dreams.

We were too busy (actually) trying to survive another day in the great unknown to begin analyzing our situation — to do so would have required wisdom neither yet possessed. Only now, fifty years later, can I grasp the true meaning of:

What. The. Fuck. Were. We. Thinking?

Tourists come to Athens for the Acropolis. The crumbling monuments. The Mother of Democracy. A Plato sandwich with tahini on the side. Souvlaki. Lovely, mouth-watering spinach pastries, sweet buns.

We lived like litter blowing down the streets chased by rats. Bemused by authentic defecation hidden within the interstices; corners tucked full of desperate offal. Cyrillian alphabet hawking impossibilities. A hard city full of refugees, transition, and gritty politics.

She and I made it back to Syntagma Square, starving and bone-weary. Rejected by our own government. Or, more accurately — Outpost of Taxation and Primacy. There were still armored tanks in the streets from Papadopoulos’ take-over. Stone-faced soldiers, smoking, leering at us both, dreaming of a stolen anonymous fuck from immoral hippie vagabonds. This is universal also. To be poor and lost is to be a thing worthy of abuse, spent seed and discard. The soldiers loitered on tanks, bored, smoking Turkish tobacco, making sidelong jokes, laughed, groped themselves. Spit on the street as we drifted by. Yelling obscenities we well understood without the specifics of glossary.

Everyone wants to fuck us, she laughed. Or they want to fuck you, Jonny-Fum. You’re pretty.

Great. So, I had to travel a thousand miles from Lincoln Road to be perved? Write me a postcard.

They like boys more than girls here. Maybe you’d like it, she cocked one eyebrow, gurned at me. Liv had younger brothers my age. She knew how to tease a kid trying to be a Man.

Shut up and sing, Liv. You’re not funny.

Of course, I am. Only you are funnier than me. Cutie-pie. She mocks and giggles for the first time in days. I let it go, stomp ahead of her, annoyed, overwhelmed and outgunned by the whole situation. I knew plenty of street Spanish. I could survive the Miami streets. This jabbering guttural tongue? (Greek to me.) I couldn’t even cuss them out or warn them away. I was 130 pounds of hapless skin and bone. When you look as effeminate as I did in 1971, it was prudent to perfect a feral street-snarl and an affect of danger.

I was amused when I learned the word ‘malaka’. It served me well in the coming months. The universal jerk-off rejoinder resides everywhere among jocular males, but only in Greece is the word masturbator a ubiquitous greeting, insult, and friendly backslap.

‘…they’re puttin’ up reindeer, singin’ songs of joy and peace…’

I waited until a tourist family got up from a table, leaving half-eaten plates of food, and scurry over to take the scraps, running away from a pair of outraged waiters who cursed my temerity.

Hunger staunches pride.

Poor girl. She was a vegetarian. So hungry she squeezed her eyes shut and swallowed the scraps of souvlaki and crusts of bread. Weeping. Longing for home. Even the broken unhappy one she left behind.

I’ve never been a thief. Anything I could bullshit a rube out of was fair game— but stealing? This was the first time I had considered robbing someone with a spork.

If you’d just whore out, Jonny- we’d be eating like royalty.

Again. Unfunny.

Unfunny is, ironically, funny. Like me eating a goat carcass.

Sheep. Not goat.

I think I’m gonna vomit.

‘…I wish I had a river so wide…’

A blonde fellow appeared, cat-like, in front of us, holding two sandwiches wrapped in paper. He was a mild-mannered hippie with a long ponytail. Ripped jeans. Wonky glasses.

Hi. I saw what you did back there. Trust me, the last place you ever want to end up is a Greek jail.

Yeah. Like I was just telling monkey-boy here, she remarks. Elbowing my ribs. A signal to focus.

You American?

I’m Willy. From Indiana. You two ooze lost kid. He hands us each a sandwich. Souvlaki. Liv smiles politely, looks at the greasy paper. She looks positively green.

Where you two staying?

My street-sense flares, I wait for the universal body-language of the ubiquitous roving Perv. Watching every twitch on our benefactor’s face. He’s older, in his twenties. Pock faced, pleasant, non-confrontational. Another refugee.

I live up there. He points toward the Acropolis. High up, in the Plaka. I got pretty cheap rent. I teach English to Greeks. Not rolling in dough, but enough drachma to get by. You?

We starve for a living. I quip

Business is good, she adds, cocking her head to one side, narrowing her chestnut eyes.

No money from home? He asks, thumbing toward the American Express office.

Not yet. If it comes at all. It takes two weeks to get mail from the States.

Well, he sits down next to Liv; if you want, you two can crash a couple nights at my place. It’s a long climb though. A thousand steps straight up. Where you two from?

Florida, Liv answers. Elbows my ribs again. We don’t have any money to pay you.

Indiana Willy shrugs – not necessary. I have an extra spot. Nothing fancy. Do you have gear?

Back at the Hostel. I’m still studying his eyes for signs of hunting perv-spider. He scribbles on a sheet of paper, hands it to me. My address. Just show it to one of the shop keepers, they’ll point you in the right direction. If you get lost, keep asking. They’re pretty cool up there. Not like the Square. This place is full of trouble. Creeps and grifters.

Yeah? Like us?

He smiles graciously. I hope not. You’re just a couple of kids. This is a tough spot.

Liv elbows my ribs again, this time harder. Ask him about work, she whispers in my ear.

You know where we can get a few bucks? Working, I mean. Something other than prostitution. I grin without humor. He grins back. Yeah, different culture here. I guess you noticed.

They think Jonny’s cute. Liv cackles. Shows him her pearlies. She has an alluring smile. Mischievous.  

I grind my teeth, glare sideways at her.

No offense, but at first, I thought both of you were female. He sees me darken. Don’t get mad. Now that I’m close, I see the difference. Greek men are kinda into boy sex, not all of them, but they don’t see it as wrong. Cultural thing. Boys are for pleasure, women for procreation. You’re either a sister, mother, wife, or slut. Friendship isn’t usually on the table where Greek women are concerned. Boys, on the other hand…

We’ve noticed.

That’s because they think all American or English hippies believe in free love. We’re all sluts. Although some are willing to pay for it. He sees me darken again, suspiciously.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t judge. Just a different culture. Not trying to get weird. I just don’t want you to get popped by the Greek cops or hustled by wanks.  It can get very ugly. Bad shit happens to tourist kids in Athens. Especially if you don’t know the deal or the territory.

Yeah. The deal. Right. We see how much the Embassy is willing to help.

Indiana Willy scoffs. You’ve been there? How’d it go?

Well, Indiana guy — we’re stealing leftovers off plates, if that tells you anything.

My offer still stands. I’m cool. No strange shit, I promise. He chuckles when he sees Liv elbow me in the same rib, he stands, strokes his pony-tail thoughtfully. There is one quick way to scrape some cash together, but I’m not sure I should recommend it. Greeks are weird about donating blood. They refuse to do it, so they’ll pay you two hundred dracs for whole, clean blood. I’ve done it when I needed money. Before I started this teaching grip. He thumbs up the street. Do you read Greek yet?

Nope.

Indiana scrawls on another sheet. This is what the sign looks like. There are a few places up by your Hostel. If you’re really desperate, I mean. I’d be careful. Make sure they use a clean needle.

Thanks.

Okay, maybe I’ll see you two soon, maybe I won’t. Offer stands. Just be careful out here.

Thanks for the grub, man.

He nods, smiles, walks away. Liv chirp-chuckles. And they say there ain’t no Santa, she says in her best exaggerated southern drawl.

Did Mr. Santa Indiana say ‘careful’?

Yes, sailor. He certainly did.

He doesn’t know me, does ‘ee?

Nope, Jonny-Fum, my brave foolish warrior. He does not.

Fuck it. I’m game. Let’s go. I want something to eat. And wine. Lots.

You sure? sounds a little crazy. Liv sounds worried, unconvinced.

Baby, I say, pulling her close, licking her top lip, lasciviously I’d bleed for your sweet love. And I’m tired of starving. It’s Christmas, I want to buy you some warm socks. And vegetable soup.

My crazy, crazy, boy-hero. My personal smelly elf.

She was the most beautiful, winsome, exotic creature I’d ever laid eyes on. Young men are reckless. They will die for love. They will die by bravado. They will tempt fate for soup.

And that is exactly how I ended up selling my blood twice in one day. Over 350 cc in two separate kiosks. Dirty places with questionable sanitary procedures. Cash money. I felt victorious. And dizzy. And weak.

And additionally – after screaming at a taxi-driver, who attempted to add a Christmas surcharge on our fare, I fainted dead away on the street like an exsanguinated monkey-pigeon.

Just like a Christmas miracle, I floated on the air, like hippie Jonny-Fum the Archangel, certain I had died, and my soul had begun its final sojourn into glory, glory, glory…

‘…I wish I had a river…’

Wake up, baby. She scolds between sobs – You can’t die and leave me all alone here, damn it. You cannot fucking croak on Christmas. Oh, Fummy baby. Wake up. I don’t need socks or soup. You gotta live, stupid-ass!

The taxi-driver and three other men had me hoisted above their heads, hauling me back to the blood bank before I died of exsanguination. A short, sharp argument ensued between the clinic nurse and a Greek bearing a gift (my limp body, five beats away from dead) who made them re-pump me full of enough blood to survive the blessed Holiday.

Hosanna.

I most certainly would never have survived a trip to a hospital.

‘…I made my baby cry-yy…’*

Those Greeks saved my young, clueless life. They even threatened the clinic for trying to take back the drachma earned by my stupidity. The taxi driver, laugh-swearing in English, Greek and gawdknows what other languages — drove us to the bottom of the Plaka at a very reduced rate. His advice?

No stupid boy again. No die again. Merry Christmas. Go to fucking home.

I am not religious. I rarely allow for the supernatural in my life. But I do believe in anonymous Guardians who appear in time to preserve the lives of fools and babes. Christmastime miracles?  That is an entirely subjective conclusion. As mentioned, I don’t especially celebrate the birth of a cultural ‘question mark’ these days – it’s too hard for the analytical part of my character to get past the economic blackmail and crass American commercialism. Maybe it has less to do with religion than simple universal kindness.

 Kismet exists. Or stochasticity. I try not to over-think it.

Weird. I also try not to think of exactly WHOSE blood they pumped back into me. I only hope it has (quite literally) imbued me with something akin to basic common sense and perhaps a secret belief that good exists in this tired, old, cynical world.

I still have my doubts about the former, but never the latter.

All good children go to heaven.

(*River – lyrics by Joni Mitchell)

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Hard Boiled Christian Detective Magazine

Hard-boiled Christian Detective Magazine: Blood of the Lamb (Part 1)

Jesus hid the sharp chisel under his robe and waited for the chance. He knew it was wrong to kill the Arab merchant but he needed the raw wood. Being a carpenter in the desert was frustrating and the hunger gnawed like Sumerian dung beetles in his craw.

There are many outcomes here, he thought, not all of them negative. Life is about healthy choices.

He thought of all those nights when his father would come home drunk and accuse his mother of sleeping with angels until she had to knock him unconscious with a shank-bone from a pascal lamb.

She needed new glasses, her eyesight was getting worse, now she was talking to lintel posts out in the yard and teaching the chickens the Kaddish. Jesus was beside himself, worried by Mary’s meanderings, her forgetfulness, her manic ranting about needing to paint over the doorway. He needed dough and he needed it fast. The Arab was loaded. Just another stranger passing through. Jesus knew it was wrong, but that load of cedar planks would be turned into ready cash. Some crimes can be forgiven in times of need. Nobody was ever crucified for helping his mother.

He felt his heart pound as his mark drew nearer.

He remembered something from the darkest shadows of his past: A dream perhaps?

A low voice coming from a dark-skinned man with a thick accent.

 I’m pretty sure all three of us are gonna get in trouble for this, said Balthazar, rubbing his finger over the filigree of the scented box as the other two mooks tossed the stall, looking for clues.

Better keep a lid on it, the talking donkey whispered, the walls have ears.

Of Jesus and Viscosity

OR: The Importance of Appropriate Footwear

Winter sucks.

Lets just get that straight outta the gate. Life is too short for winter and I feel angry and desperate by being trapped in steel-toed boots five months out of the year.  Hot clunky boots are hellish bunion birthing stink-sweaty vinegar gaseous toe bloat trauma waiting to happen.

They’re great for busting bricks and bending nails at the job-site or frolicking in a Metallica moshpit- but if you step in a pile of Great Dane hooey try to enter yer momma’s house, tracking that delicacy across HER carpet- yer  fuc’n done.

No debate here.

When it’s hot, I wear sandals. Not those pussy-ass slipper type sandals that Bobby Weir and the rest of his twinkie-wang ‘The Grateful Dead’ buddies wear.

With. White. Socks

With my own eyes, I have seen this rancid sandal-based Golden State cultural upchuck. Ween- wiener type open- toed sandals capable of making Perry Como and his sweetheart Bing Crosby spit into the Vegas dirt, toss their drinks into the swimming pool, and beat some 90210 hippie ass.

If Jerry Garcia were still alive he simply wouldn’t countenance this Left Coast affected twee-ass blasphemy.It should be mentioned that – if faced with this fashion tragedy – his band name would be:

The Appropriately Tenfold Dead

Nope. No fuc’n way- my hardcore East Coast dignity would never allow a fashion bomb of that magnitude.

I’m the first to show active disgust when confronted with that special hippie-dippie west coast sox n’ sandals nonsense- no! no! I mean I wear black functional heavy soled kick-ass krav maga loving Hebrew Teva sandals, capable of making John the Baptist’s decapitated head drool, Moses throw down his staff , jump out of the Jordan River and head to the nearest Hudson Trail Outfitters. Not only are my black nasty Teva’s built to withstand the vicious rocky Sinai desert trails, full of Jerusalem stone, two-headed vipers, dirt devils and biblical variety poisonous rat-sized scorpions- but they are tough enough to wear while walking through (or on) water. These sandals have unbreakable straps and soles as thick as yer Uncle Bob’s R.V. tires.

I Bullshit You Not

Personal fact – I change my own oil.

It saves a couple bucks and makes me look like some kind of mechanical genius to my wife.  I can’t say I’m really fast at it- there’s a certain amount of showmanship involved.

(Voice over)

Dejected and covered with blood sweat and grease, he leans spent upon the hood of his Gremlin, cursing (perhaps weeping beneath his breath.) She suddenly appears with a sweating cold glass of fresh iced tea. Encouraging words. Jingos. Sing-song sympathy.

Yeah right, cowboy- I wasn’t married yesterday.

One of the reasons I bought my house is that the Car Parts store is walking distance. I consider this a prudent move. One Saturday it was oil-change time, July, 102 degrees and I had my Tevas on:

The old guy had a cane, forty-odd extra pounds, little hair or left-over visual beauty- but he did carry the definite vibe of an ex-combat Marine from ‘outside-the-beltway’ farm country. I was in a hurry, still I stopped to politely hold the door for him – even though I saw that the Parts counter was busy. My oil-changing mission would be delayed by letting the old geezer butt ahead. Respect the Elders, right?

I figured this old guy had less time left on earth to wait on a car part than I did. Besides, his face was flushed and he didn’t look particularly well.

My polite deference was inordinately taxed when, as the old guy slowly limped and wheezed toward the door, he greeted me with the remark:

“ ‘Am ol’ thangs don’t look right on a man. “

He looked down at my sandals like he just spied a pair of queer monkeys.

He added thoughtfully; “Yer feet ever get wet when ya piss?”

I had my instant chimpanzee ( I’d– like- to- slap- you-HARD!) smile spread wide on my face.

“Well, partner- I’d like to think my aim is better than that.”

“Never could stand ‘am thangs myself, make a normal feller look a little light in the pants.”

‘Ok,’ I thought, ‘Maybe he thinks I’m a raw recruit. Mr. Geriatric Hard-Ass has an advanced case of Lack-Of-Social-Filters. My sandals triggered generational disdain. I kept my mouth shut and allow his gas to pass, unchallenged.

He chuckled at his own joke and pushed past me like an un-oiled rusty John Deere tractor chugging on a two cylinders. He had that unmistakable waft of old guy. The special smell. A mixture of Preparation H, joint crème, unlaundered pants, ten day old Folgers coffee and sour apple pie. He was one of those speak-yer-damn-mind old geezers.

 The hair stood up on the back of my sweaty neck. I was psychologically conflicted.

The old geriatric peckerweed was greeted with happiness and familiarity. He was a regular. The Parts Guys at the counter all knew his name. (It began with ‘MISTER’.)

The Parts Guy and Mister Hardass began jostling good-natured insults back and forth as I moved into position at the counter, waiting my turn. After the wizened creaker took ten minutes to unwrap an antique part from a first-issue turn–of-the-(19th) century lawnmower, he took a long breath and looked me over.

“Naow‘ave yawl ever seen sich a thing? Look at ‘am shoes! I go down to Flerdah every winter, got some French neighbors wear them things around all day long.” Sprunt Geezer looks back to his buddy, The Parts Guy and zings his punch-line;

”But hell, they’z light inna pants French types -whadda ya expect?” Haw Haw.

The entire store of grease-worshippers, Parts Guys, undocumented Toyota owners and one large woman (name-tag that read SAL) laugh in my face and look at my footwear.

Like this was some kind of insect petting zoo and *POOF* I’m the roach.

They are deriding my manly Teva sandals. In public. The whole fuc’n store.

And Sprunt Geezer contumely equates me with some dastardly French snowbirdy tourista from Montreal.

There are times un-filtered Dementia is just no excuse for sequacious verbigeration. Ditto for public displays of wandering redneckism.

Age be damned. His shark oil greased ass would be mine. This pinguid rack-of-dust just called me a French queer in front of a bunch of mechanics at the car parts store. This is like pissing on a monk’s feet in church. Still; I repress my need to strangle all humanity, starting with Mister Sprunt and smile genially, and say in my most even tone:

“If they are good enough for the Son Of God, they should be good enough me to wear while I change my oil.”

“What you say there?” Old Sprunt scowls, “It ain’t no call to be sacrilegious, son.”

 He glowers at me, slacking his jaw and opening his mouth wide enough to drive Sarah Palin’s tour-bus through.

“You appear to be a devout follower of Jesus Christ, sir…and Jesus wore sandals.”

“You ain’t him. I see no resemblance atall.”

“If I were Jesus and happened to be in this parts store my guess is one of three things would happen.”

“Such as?”

“Well, the way I figure it; either yawl wouldn’t recognize me as divine, but if one you did, I’d immediately be offered a job…in which case there would be damn little need for this parts store.”

“How you figgur?”  “ For starters I’d lay hands on that antique lawnmower part of yours, Mister, and hurry things along.”

“What’s the third thing?” piped in Parts Guy. I had his attention.

“Stick my righteous sandaled toe up anyone’s asshole that insulted any innocent oil-changer in public by calling him a French tourist.” I return SpruntGeezer’s glare and lean on the Parts counter like an experienced prophet. A Miracle Worker, oil-changer jista’ wearing messiah blessed footware.

Geezer answers: “Now look here, son…I fought for this country in KO-rea. I’m a Wounded Warrior. I have a right to say what I think.”

“Ah! A Warrior? You ever heard of Joshua? The mega-kick-ass Jew in sandals who beat the shit out of entire armies? Charred their heathen bones and danced around the pyre howling like a wolf with a Viagra-sized boner? I bet you might coulda used HIM in KO-rea. Or how about ol’ King David, the mega kick-ass pussy hound who wrote poetry with one hand and decapitated his enemies with the other? Was he wearing star-spangled construction boots? Hell no! And Jesus the Jew, single-handedly whipping the corporate piss outta the money-changers at the Temple?  I’ll bet no one in here would laugh at them fellers chosen footwear, would they now?”

“No cause to get riled up and call Our Lord Jesus Christ a Jew.”

“You shouldn’t say boner.” Added Sal. “They never said boner in the Bible.”

“Not only was he a Jew, he was a sandal-wearing peace and love hippie. Except for on occasion ass-bruising greedy bankers. He ate figs and hummus. He ate lamb with a parsley garnish, drank wine and herb tea…babes flocked around him, dudes wanted to be him; in fact the entire Sermon on the Mount was like a mixture of a Hebrew Rave and Poetry Slam- minus the sub-woofers, of course…talk about free ecstasy! AND he woulda hated Wall Street…you betcha. The boy wore sandals. Yep. SANDALS!

“Ah think yer talkin’ out yer blaspheming ass, son. All thets fake news.”

“That’s a matter of perspective, Mister Hater.”

“Ahem…fellers..fellers;” interjects head Parts guy,” … let’s us stick to car parts. No need to get in a pickle.”

“Or say boner;” adds Sal displaying a very sour look on her face.

“Ok now- (clears throat) Mr. Sandals…what can I do you for?”

Head Parts guy is being sequacious. And condescending. And making a stupid redneck sales-quip I’ve heard too many times before. He is looking at my footwear and mentally pissing down my leg.

“ Lemmee have six quarts of 5-30 S.A.E. and 2 quarts of that S.T.P. smoke treatment…I gotta Burning Bush out back I need to deal with.”

“Yer Hell-bound, son-I’m damn sure;” Sprunt Geezer scoffs.

“My guess is yer a lot closer to meeting yer maker than I am. Maybe you can put in a good word for me?”

“Thur ain’t no reasoning with you sandal-types, izzair?”

“Soaking figs don’t stay wet long under the harsh biblical sun in the bazaar of The Prophet.”

The deer-people in the car parts store daftly stand, eyes wide, glazed, perplexed – their thought processes annexed. I add my penultimate zinger:

“Judges: Chapter three, verse thirteen. Old-ass Testament. Resurrecting Dignity. Lookit up if yawl can read.”

I look directly into The Parts Guy’s eyes – “I’ll need a filter with that holy oil, pal.”

I’ve exhausted him. His eyes are dead fish. The rest of the scrum seem anxious to put the past ten minutes behind them. Sprunt Geezer can’t take his eyes off my sandals, making a mental note to consult my bible verse.

Right.  I’m wearing sandals.

You twats wanna dance? I gotta toolset.

Let’s do this thing.

Do These Reebox Make Me Look Phat?

NO COUPON?

OR: Do these Reeboks make my A$$ look REALLY big?

Not only am I now certain the whole world revolves around me -I have irrefutable proof.
The newest scandal involving marketing Pinocchioism :i.e.- magical tennis shoes that tone your posterior, legs, and now and forever OLD SCHOOL still rules.
Screw objectivity- the Gawd of Get-Back is squarely in my corner.

Four weeks ago- in a fit of either misplaced guilt or uncharacteristic generosity – I offered to take my lovely (read long suffering) wife out to the (*$ )NEW ($*) Silver Spring city mall to buy her a new pair of purple tennis shoes she had been lusting for – (Lusting is the right term folks- this story involves a woman and shoes.) There was a sale. And a coupon.
And I had been a tightwad for a decade.
Lets just say my (shopping) Karma had run over my(anti-shopping) Dogma.
Educational moment:
Okay- for those of you young un-married smart-asses-here’s a short lesson in modern translation between the sexes:
SALE in woman-speak=
A coupon and a sale means savings and the excellent get.
SALE in man speak=
What makes you think buying crap you don’t need is an economically sound maneuver in any way shape or form?
(Visions of a discount coupon for the Titanic come to mind.)

Or-in my case- Jesus Shana, you’ve only got TWO FEET…why do you need forty pair of shoes?
Or- when I’m REALLY determined to eat my own cooking (peanut-butter oatmeal-cold) for a week -I might conjure up a brilliant verbal hyperlink like:
Fer Chrissakes- I married an octopus!
(Attention unmarried smart-asses- Avoid saying the above. Or invest in fast food stocks and stool softeners.)
Ok. Enough eschatological suppositorial conjecture

She had a coupon.
Yer going shopping dude.

We enter the discount shoe store and browse. Browsing with mother and daughter means carrying a reader’s digest version of War and Peace to read between footwear choices.
Of course my wife-also nicknamed “The Finder” or in Levite tribal vernacular “Shops With A Fist, Bubke”- found the natty purple Chuck Taylors she wanted within forty seconds..but, there are so-oo many choices in our great Republic..why stop there?

I sit on a footstool (see what I did there?) and skim chapter 400 of my Russian masterpiece, occasionally looking up defensively at the (seriously) most corpulent woman I have ever witnessed balancing in stiletto heels.

She is a little too close. I don’t want to be judgmental, unfeeling, or socially incorrect – but I don’t want this woman to lose her balance in those carnal pole-dancer stilettos and crush me like a ripe watermelon under a Semi.

There’s nothing safe about being the only man in a shoe store full of feral females in search of bargain footwear. Go climb yer lame ass Himalayan mountain or walk your tight-rope over Times Square, or hunt Bigfoot (skim-dick) THIS takes REAL balls. Attila the Hun would avoid this adventure and hide in his yurt counting yaks.
Word.

After reminding my dear spouse that we came in on a surgical strike for purple Chuck Taylor tennis shoes-(which are under her arm being squeezed in case they come to life and attempt escape) and adding that my prostate can’t take too much more bargain hunting- (I’m afraid to ask for directions to the ‘Mens Room’- certain there isn’t one.) “The Finder” relents and we saunter over to take our place in line at the check-out counter. Our daughter has found some bunny slippers she doesn’t need. And a jutted out lower lip daring me to mention the fact that she has two pairs of bunny slippers already. (I know better.)

There are stylish young people ringing up the discount footwear with the quasi-superior air of college sophomores in the presence of three-legged gerbils.

Our shoe selling barista, a well-coiffed metro-sexual dressed in the hip clothes purchased straight out of a trendy catalog, eyes me with something bordering on the contempt one reserves for an old, fat, clueless Baby Boomer- and says:

“I’m Jeremy- I’ll be your cashier today.”

“ Thank-you, Jeremy,” I answer,  “I’m so relieved.”

Shhh-hh!” hisses my wife pushing me to the side and in one magnificent motion relieves me of my Mastercard.

“These are on sale I believe…I have a coupon.” announces Shana, with all the certainty of a satisfied lioness displaying a kill.

“Oh, so sorry- but this sale only covers Ath-u-letic Footwear.”

Sorry?

“These are Chuck Taylors…the sale only covers Reebok or Nikes.. you know, Ath-u-letic Footwear.”

“Hey thur, Germy,” I chirp, pausing to read his name tag and mispronouncing his name on purpose; “…but I believe those Chuck Taylors are capable of being tennis shoes – as in tennis, or running shoes, as in running…wearing an ath-letic cup jock strap… as in chasing game balls. See? The original Ath-letic Footwear were Chuck Taylor high-top sneakers.”

Jeremy looked at me as if I had said the rumbletoadeatschikenbythemidnight scar- in Aramaic.

Es-cuse me?” he mock-snorts.

“That’s what I’m trying to do, Germy. These are ancient mysteries only ninth degree Masons, Illuminati, or those born in the nineteen fifties could possibly know. But for you I’ll make an exception- listen carefully- I’ll whisper…soylent green is people and Chuck Taylors are ATH-LETIC shoes.”

Jeremy had that frozen possum smile people display when asked by a naked man for directions to a festive beheading. In church.

Jeremy apparently also has a microphone grafted to his palm.

“Any available manager to the front desk please…the front desk…any available manager.”

Jeremy did what every good novice sub-management trainee does- he immediately passed the buck and abrogated all responsibility. It is my guess that Jeremy had a future in politics.
I was secretly glad he used the intercom and interrupted that hideous Journey song:

‘Don’t stop belieeeee-vun- hold to that FEEEEEEE-eee-eeeee-EEEEEEEEEE-ul-lun!’

Jeremy and I were in a zoological smirk duel – He the possum, I the smiling chimp.
(Three guesses what a chimp is about to do when he smiles, chum..)

“May I help you, sir?”
It was the manager lady. She was 24 to Jeremy’s 22 years on my planet.

“I’m not sure. But you can help my wife buy this pair of Athletic footwear.”
“For the advertized discount.” Adds Shana.

The manager-lady looks at the purple Chuck Taylor’s in barely disguised pity.

“Oh, my gosh golly- our discount only applies to Athletic footwear, you know, Reebocks, Adidas, Nikes.”
“Wow,” I chimpsmile  at my wife, “…twins.
“I have a coupon.”
“Oh yes! Good golly, I can see that m’am..but those only cover Ath-uh-letic footwear…not casual footwear.”
“Romulus and Remus…country and western.” I mutter to no one.

Jeremy stands like his butt is frozen to an ice sculpture.

“Okay…like my husband tried to tell you..Chuck Taylors are Athletic wear.”
“Oh. I see. Yes; but not here.” The manager-lady says using her finest mommy-talks-to-toddler tone.

Poor thing, methinks with indeterminate dread, she just made a big mistake trying to shut down ‘Shops-With-A-Fist (my wife’s secret woodland name.)

“I. Have. A. Coupon!”

My wife’s diction has become perspicuous and her face is becoming a wholly unknown (previously undocumented) shade of burgundy. Dangerous.
All at once I know exactly what I must do.
I snatch the coupon out of my wife’s hand and ram it to my mouth and chew it like a secret agent saving the planet Treefrog. Everyone in the line, including blimp-lady with the glittering stilettos, stop and stare. Time and space hiccup. God takes a power-nap. Nothing moves. No lungs expel carbon-dioxide until I swallow my nugget.
“I demand to pay full price.” I say, the delicate taste of coupon still caressing my tongue.
“That wasso not helpful.” My wife’s eyes well up; either close to tears or about to roll on the store floor laughing.
“Ring it up Germy. Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it…here’s thirty bucks, cash.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to look at our new line of slimming and toning Reebocks? They are guaranteed to slim you down as you walk or exercise. They are on sale.” The frightened manager-lady chirps like a pinched chihuahua. (Coupon eating husbands were not part of her training at the corporate robot-mill.)
“Ok, that postulation is way-y more absurd than eating a scrap of sale paper.”
“Oh no, sir;” says manager-lady looking directly at my wife, trying desperately to salvage the situation, “…this line of Athletic footwear is scientifically proven to help the wearer reduce weight and tone the thighs, buttocks and abs.” She touches each part of her Gen-Ex body to illustrate.
“I have more science- Eating feeds you and water is wet. Grisly science.”
Shh-hhh! You are frightening everyone.” Hisses my wife. This only encourages me.

“Yo, Germy, did you know Fruit Loops are Apple Jacks, Chocolate is the State Bird and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star is the real National Anthem.”
This time my wife and the manager lady both ignore me. I have Jeremy’s undivided attention. Now the coup de gras. “Wearing Chuck Taylors, however, are guaranteed to produce the sensation of oral sex while walking.”

The pitying look in the manager Chihuahua’s eyes and flagging retail smile reveal her tacit understanding that the woman with the non-ath-u-letic purple shoes is shopping with an unfortunate afflicted with some indefinable version of Tourette’s syndrome.

“Thank-you, come again!” Jeremy soggy eyes dart to the manager, hoping for extrication and absolution as he crams the purple Chucks into a shopping bag, puts the receipt in my hand and drops my smattering of change into my waiting hand as if my palm were a full of bloodworms.

“Banality is as contagious as premature jactitation, Germy.”
The only sound that escapes manager-lady’s lips is a:  A-hh-um-ahaaa reserved for shoppers with thalidomide children.

Have a nice day. Come again; she manages.

I doubted her veracity.

“Sorry, my husband has onomatomania and a touch of extrusionary meosis.”
The manager-lady and Jeremy the metrosexual nod in complete misunderstanding.
Neither blink.

My heart swells with a sort of carnival-barkers’ pride – my wife has both memorized and utilized the phrase I offered her as an instant get-out-of-awkward-jail card whenever I behave like this in public.
We leave with the handsomely packaged hard-won(un-discounted) Chuck Taylors.
My wife walks a full ten paces ahead of me the entire length of Fenton Street.
I am content. My work is done here. Today has been a productive day in retail.

**And now the irrefutable truth **

A month passes since my Einstein-inspired dissertation at the discount shoe store. All my transgressions have been forgotten.
Tonight the Nightly News reports that Reebock has been exposed for BULLSHIT involving scientific claims of ass-ab-leg toning bestowed by their magical Ath-uh-letic footwear.
(Some corporate spokespersons’ head is rolling across the floor in reverb. Some C.E.O.’s lying ass is going to pay dearly.)

The payout is huge- 25 bizillion dollars to the egregiously bilked overweight Ath-HA-letic shoe consumer who needed the Federal Trade Commission to explain in a prime time, coast to coast press conference that wearing “special” tennis shoes will not automatically replace a 20-minute work-out, a Saturday morning jog, a bicycle ride or the shutting our consumer society’s collective junk food swallowing piehole. This seems like no mystery. No special sauce. Muscles are not Chia pets or instant pudding.
To this I would add that wearing special shoes will not result in winged chittering magical monkeys flying out your ass. But that remark would expose an altogether unattractive, and cynical outlook.

I guess I’ll have to admit I’m just a barmecidal heterodox who has ‘old school ‘issues with vapid corporate dogshit.
So sue me.

Or better yet, gimme control of that 25 bizillion bucks and I’ll deliver ten-speed bikes to every door in America. If there’s any money left over I’ll take the change in purple Chuck Taylor high-tops and distribute these to the fattest most un-Athletic cheesesteak gobbling cities on the East Coast with a fortune-cookie message: Take A Hike. No coupon necessary.

Next week’s column explores the question:

Is Stupidity the new Swine-Flu?

Next Month: The Algorithm of Caffeine Marketing; or watch me make a row of Starbucks barista brains explode like mushroom spores on the Nature Channel by positing the eschatological question:
“Don’t you people sell regular ol’ frickin’ coffee?”

Postcard From the Jungle:RE: FLYING TREEFROGS

RE: FLYING TREEFROGS

Dear Mom;

Actually they exist. In THE Amazon where all things no one has ever seen exist. There are ancient Indian creation stories about honest politicians who make anecdotal sandwiches out of cancer curing celery and mystical cock enlarging rutabagas. The proof is limned into capybara pelts by ignominious leaf-cutter ants.

Few know Prozac originated from the uterus of the close cousin of the Amazonian Venus Flytrap. Wow. How’s that for ironic? Amazonian Indian Shamans can cure ugsome illiests of lunacy, whining, insipid veniality, excessive masturbation, petty theft and chronic bedwetting by a special dance which culminates in a swift kick in the ass. There are film crews that have mysteriously disappeared attempting to film this ritual. Missionaries and Real Estate agents fare no better.

Scientologists are eaten. (Please note that Indians of the Amazon are not cannibalistic, but for Tom Cruise they’d make an exception.)

The good news is that Karl Rove and Grover Norquist are planning a visit to work out a trade deal for explosive suppositories.

In the Amazon pigs indeed- do have wings.

I shit you not.

(Mom)

There is proof. It is unverifiable. Much like heaven or the sewers beneath East Orange, New Jersey: Faith requires no photography.

Your Aero-dynamical Pal; (Son)

MYSTR Treefrog

First printed in Blackheart Magazine

http://blackheartmagazine.com

Eustis and his Mountain Strange – J.D. Brayton

Eustis and his Mountain Strange

Camping in the Franklin, North Carolina ruby mines with the family when a stumpy pint-sized rather unwashed-and very (very) friendly Local peckerwood  generously offers to share his mountain shine with me; a 14-year old baby-faced hippie kid (with shoulder-length blonde hair in ‘1968) who bade me follow ‘Eustis’ to his ‘vurry own personal secret sapphire location’ to pan for jewels. Eustis stays drunk, but I am quite unused to pure ‘shine’, am  bandy-legged wasted from corn liquor and less wary than usual – considering the fact that we were in a simple rural setting my guard was down, (after all-I knew ‘the equipment’ I was born with), and hell—who doesn’t want a hefty buzz while panning for Carolina rubies? Eustis is getting mighty liberal with his personal hands-on approach to ‘Tourist-Aid’ when I feel the urge to pee – which, after some difficulty in standing, I unzip and issue forth, birth equipment in hand, against a handy Ponderosa Pine.  Eustis is dumb-struck, he hides his mountain-man secret boner with his hands and a look of utter embarrassment and biblical guilt when he realizes that I’m not a (by North Carolinian mountain inbred standards), a willing citified horny female who was looking for mountain strange (while on vacation).  Ol’ Eustis, being mortified beyond reckoning and blushing sunset colors as bright Fall foliage, pulls two small rubies out of his own personal jar, begs me to take them free of charge and starts praying to God for forgiveness as he carries me(literally)back to the campsite to my waiting parents, drunk off my ass. He refused the tip.

All You Need Is ( )

Dec 8- forty years ago

I was driving a Barwood Taxi in Bethesda Maryland. The news came over the radio. I couldn’t believe it, so I stopped into the Psychedelly to get a bottle of water and all these idiots were cheering and yowling over a football game on the T.V.- my heart broke even more. I thought- DON’T THEY KNOW? What else in the world could matter? I went and parked on Wisconsin Ave., switched off my 2-way radio so I couldn’t take any jobs, took out my SG (which ALWAYS rode in the front seat) and sat on the hood for hours playing. And yeah, I was crying. So was the whole world. My heart was broken and it still is.