Saturday, October 22, 2016

Memories of 1986


I remember astronomy class and going somewhere dark and cold at 4 a.m. and still not really able to see Halley’s Comet.

I remember Mr. Parkin telling us casually the space shuttle exploded.
I watched it over and over with morbid fascination.

I remember getting busted for Shit Comics. I remember the scene Barney’s crazy dad made in the principal’s office about how he fought in Vietnam to save America from Lenny Bruce types.


I remember walking to Driver’s Ed in the crisp high desert morning air of Pocatello. We'd pick up tardy sleepy-head Robert Galloway who lived by Franklin Jr High, and had a habit of running that four way stop at Stanford and Terry. I remember instructor Mr. Thompson puzzled by the lyrics of a Billy Ocean song on the radio. I remember the new car smell of the ‘86 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera.


I remember my trip to San Jose to be with my friend George. I remember the nearby arcade, playing Choplifter, and how fun it was to strafe and kill the men you're supposed to rescue .

I remember my trip to Boston to be with my sisters Courtenay and Adrienne living in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood. I went to a theater nearby and saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and hated it. The Twist And Shout parade scene was unforgivably corny and sacrilegious to me. I hate the film to this day.


I remember all the silliness of initiation during pride week at Poky High. I probably still have my Class of ‘89 beanie somewhere, stained with shaving cream and humiliation. “Spin Sammy Spin” upperclassmen said holding the beanie as you had to twirl underneath to make sure the eggs or whatever mess was thoroughly shampooed into your hair.. The hazing wasn’t as terrifying as I imagined, but probably on par with a hate crime these days.

I remember our family rooting for the Red Sox and watching the games. I don’t remember seeing the Bill Buckner moment.

I can’t remember my 15th birthday. I have no idea what I did.

My favorite TV show was Our World with host Linda Ellerbee.
I didn’t care for any popular music of the time.
I collected comic books.
I didn’t date girls.
I had a crush on Linda Fiorentino from the Gotcha! movie poster

I don’t remember ringing in 1987.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Go Over There and Hold The Football!

"...knuckle-head deli.."
"Cabeza de nacco!"
"That's right, Cervando, you're a cah-beh-sah de knuckle!"
Tom gripped the joysticks of the skid-steer, the New Holland track loader that could spin on a dime. He'd ended up in the Sun Valley area as a Brooklyn transplant ski bum, and brought  his east coast attitude and accent with him.

 Cervando wore the late 80's mullet latino lover boy hair and tight jeans. He lived with Cesar, Reyes, and Jose Luis in the trailer park south of Ketchum, Red Top Meadows. We all called it Red Top Ghettos. I'd been to a few parties there.

"Knuckle head deli- tried to gyp me on the I knocked him on the turban with a bag of ice.." Tom finished the lyric from 'High Plains Drifter' and spun the machine around to grab another burlap balled pine tree.
"Pinche Tomás es un man-yac."
I'd been out of high school a few years and my Spanish was undergoing a renaissance, so I gathered Cervando referred to all hueros as "maniacs".
We were in a hurry to finish the landscaping to an addition to the new sewage treatment plant. The  effluent odor hung in the air, and it was slightly tolerable, like a cheerleader's fart.

Donnie was in between junior and senior year in high school. He was the construction manager's son from a previous marriage. He lived  in Boise during the school year, but we got stuck with him for the summer.
No favors were afforded him or any of us on the bottom rung. We were kind of close in age and paired together often. He had stories of trysts with older women no one believed. It may have been feasible, but only with the most dissolute of Mrs. Robinsons.

Kirby had his hands full with the backhoe. Kirby and I were tight. He was 28 and completely out of control life-wise, but he was my mentor and protector. I'd been on a few fun adventures with him outside of work, barely staying out of small town trouble. His marriage and interaction with the cops were a weekly drama, but he stood up for me, and I loved him.

Mike was my dad's age and my first supervisor at PF & Co. He was missing a few teeth and his frame went a little sideways. He drove his own truck, which is why he always smelled like fried chicken and Coors Light. I went by nothing other than "Nicky" to Mike. It spilled out of his toothless mouth like a snake at times.."Heyyy Nickkyy!" When I got some time off to go to the first Lollapalooza  he gave me a raft of shit for going all that way to see that  "Asshole-Surfers" band.

I could see Cervando, Reyes, and Mota (Cesar) down the path moving float rakes, and Tom was spinning around in the skid steer. Donnie looked lost and was heading my way. I looked up from checking a valve box and Mike and Kirby were smiling at me.
"Guess what Nicky? You got Donnie."
"Yep, you get Donnie. Donnie needs something to do. You got Donnie."
"But I don't want Donnie."
Shit. Here come's Donnie. I have to task boy wonder.
 "Hey Don, why don't you go over there and help out Cervando and Reyes rake out that berm."
"Those guys are just a bunch of monkeys fucking a football!
 "Well, ..go over there and hold the football!"

Monday, October 27, 2014

What It's Like To Be Shot

 Depending on where you’re hit you may not feel a thing at first. This was the case with me. I’m sure it’s very different depending on whether bones are hit, type of ammunition, grainage, velocity, distance. It's the kind of thing you only want to go through once. The bullet that traveled through me was a 9mm ball round, meaning it was just a solid slug of lead. Bullets are available in many creative designs meant to expand on impact and tear apart vital organs and leave large exit wounds.

 I lucked out. My entrance and exit wounds are pretty much the same size, about the size of your fingertip. The  path through my abdomen traversed large and small intestine, but just missed lumbar vertebrae and major arteries. Many times I’ve told this story I’ve related the sensation to that of being touched lightly in the belly and back simultaneously, but now I believe that's embellishment.  There was no moment of “feeling” anything other than the stunned shock of a loud report. There had to be more pressure on my eardrums than any perceptible feeling in my mid-section. It gets harder to  put the events in order those first following seconds, but my first thought was that of getting in trouble with the boss.

 It was the first week of June, 1993, and Andy and I were picked to go to Lake Walcott State Park, a Davis-Bacon job near Rupert, Idaho. The Davis-Bacon Act is a law enacted in 1931 where prevailing wage is paid to laborers on federally funded projects. This progressive legislation was actually sponsored by two Republicans, during the Hoover administration, before FDR and the New Deal. This meant we would be paid $13-something an hour compared to the $8- something an hour we were normally paid.Our company got the contract for the irrigation and landscaping of the new RV campsites at the park. The phase Andy and I were called up for was laying 10” sleeves across roadways.

 I had to pick up Andy at 3 in the morning of Wednesday, June 2 at the shop and hit the road. We were to leave Boise and get to Twin Falls that morning to pick up a trailer of 10” PVC. I thought the prospect of $13/hr would have had Andy at the shop on time, but I was wrong. Andy was a skinny 19-year-old, shaved head, smaller than me. I can’t remember where he lived, somewhere in Garden City. I went to his place one time after work. We drank a sixer of stubby malt liquors and listened to House Of Pain. He was one of those dudes that seemed a little shady, but relatively harmless.

 John Slaughter was already at Walcott. He had left the day before and got us rooms at the Budget Motel in Burley, right off I-84. John was the irrigation construction manager, and our direct boss. John was in his mid-thirties, Christian and conservative. He'd had a cocaine-fueled past, and his dark sense of humor made him a good guy by me. I admired him quite a bit, even though he did listen to Rush Limbaugh.

 It must have taken about five or six hours to get to the site. The first day we dropped off the trailer, and laid in a few sleeves. John ran the backhoe, Andy and I cleaned trench with round points, laid in pipe, bedded with soft dirt, then John backfilled and compacted.

 Andy had grown up in Burley. Like me he had fled a small  Idaho town for the “big city” of Boise.  After work Andy rang up some high school buddies from the motel. We had room 437, and Slaughter was down the breezeway. Around 6:00, a coterie of idiots showed up with one or two girls, I can’t remember. I went to the nearest convenience store for beer, being the only one of age. The gathering was mellow enough not to wreck my nerves by the likely trouble to come. Budweisers were guzzled, a joint was passed. I remember observing, detached, from my bed. The dudes had filtered out by ten or eleven, and one young lady stayed in Andy’s bed. I heard them fucking quietly before falling asleep.

 Thankfully that girl was gone by morning, and Andy and I headed back out to the site. It was an uneventful day of leaning on shovels under hot hardhats  until the hoe had the trench ready. Sleeve, bed, backfill, repeat. 
On the way back to the motel we drove through Burger King for dinner. They had some deal like three burgers for three bucks; a decent amount of calories for our per-diem money. We got back to the room and I hit the shower. When I got out Andy's friends had returned.

I could see my reflection in the stainless steel surfaced ceiling of the ambulance. The image was blurry, distorted like a funhouse. My only view since the EMT's put me on the gurney had been worm’s eye skyward with the scenery sort of rotating around my fixed spindle. We were on our way to Cassia Memorial and I see myself there on the ceiling looking back down at me, both of us in a blanket with an oxygen mask. A lot of the actual agony is beyond memory. The memory that agony was experienced exists, but not the physical memory of what it felt like. I can remember what the pain led me to think: Okay. If this is the end, let’s get it over already. Bring on the dark fade, or the bright light. There was no fear of death, only impatient anticipation of relief. But in the next moment I realized I existed in a world of family and friends who would be upset by this exit. So, I had to do my part and stop being such a pussy.

Soon the ambulance ceiling gave way to brief open sky, fluorescent lighted hallway,  the big lights of the ER. I was bawling and blubbering like a toddler that had fallen off a swing. Every story I’d read of soldiers slowly dying on battlefields crying out for their mothers made sense. There is a very real need for mommy that supersedes any macho imprinting at this level of helplessness.

Damn. My first thought was "damn it, we’re all fucking busted! I’m so fucked for allowing Andy to have his friends over. I’m so fucked for buying them beer. We are so fired, a gun has gone off in our room!"

 I looked down toward my lap and noticed a wisp of smoke coming from a torn hole in the beltline of my pants. I reached around with my left hand and felt a wet spot in the small of my back. Holy fucking shit, I’ve just been shot in and out right fucking through me, holy shit. Noting the proximity of the wet spot to my spine I quickly stood up to see if my legs worked. They did. What the fuck is going on here? I sat back down. 
 “Better call 911.”
 Andy rushed the gun over to Israel, who had brought it.
 “Say you did it man, I have a warrant in Boise!” 
Israel quickly took a knee in front of me, trying to get me to hold the weapon. 
“Dude, say you shot yourself!” 
Fucking call 911!!”

I don’t remember us sitting down and negotiating who would say what when the cops came. The police report written by one of what Burley consider their finest says that I reported the wound accidentally self-inflicted upon his arrival. I remember saying “I’ve been shot, it was an accident!” As the cop casually strolled in with a stupid bored look on his face. For some reason I imagined cops would arrive guns drawn to a shots-fired scene, and I wanted to quickly preempt any more ‘guns drawn’. I’m guessing Barney Fife was met outside the room first by one of the kids, and told I was in there, and had shot myself. 

 My pleas for morphine were denied. Who wrote this war movie? Instead I was impaled with a catheter up my urethra and NG tube into my nose and down the throat. Somewhere I found a cooperative  attitude toward these brutes. I even reported the fact I was wearing contact lenses as they rubbed the orange goo on my belly, and shaved my pubic hair. They plucked them out before I got wheeled into the OR. Everything suddenly got calmer  there. The frantic team were now gone, and it seemed my only company was a gentle voiced man who said, “I’m Dr. Lowell Feinstein, I’ll be your anesthesiologist. Just breathe into this...”

The nurses in ICU took an icy  tone with me. They weren’t going to mommy some young man in with gunshot wounds who probably had it coming. I did get a sarcastic “Awww, poor baby” when I cried during my first wound debridement. That was the daily routine of stuffing ribbons of cotton gauze into the bullet holes with a long swab. Twice a day they’d pull out the gauze along with all the dead tissue dried to it, then stuff new gauze in. This way the wounds heal inside out. I got used to it, and it became less painful. As with most gross things about your body, you eventually come to enjoy it, like picking your nose.

The first visitor was a blurry image. Not because of the meds, but because of the earlier foolishness of having my contacts removed before surgery.
It’s my dad who is here. I make a crack to bring levity into the ICU- something quick, from a western maybe:
 “They got me, paw!”
 There are only tears, I couldn’t see them then, but when I learned of them, the rage boiled at the motherfucker who shot me. Not for what happened to me, but what everyone else went through driving one hundred miles of uncertainty to Cassia Memorial Hospital.

 I remember sitting on the edge of the motel bed across from Andy. The guys had brought in a 9mm automatic for show and tell. I vaguely recall the fact these boys had found it somewhere, but that may have been in the police report. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was in fact stolen, or purchased illegally. I wasn’t particularly curious about the weapon, having had my share of firearm fun growing up in Pocatello. I’d had friends with every type pistol, shotgun, and assault rifle all through my teenage years, and we littered the sagebrush hills with spent casings.

 I'd also had close calls due to  “I didn’t think it was loaded” incidents. A friend in high school accidentally fired a .22 into a wall about 6 feet away from me in his front room. A year later a friend pointed his .44 magnum revolver at Madonna on TV and took out the tube thinking he’d emptied the chambers the previous weekend. I was hit with a tiny shard of glass in my arm from that explosion.

 Now Andy was across from me inspecting this piece. My  days of  gun play were passed, but not the ingrained lessons of  muzzle discipline. 
Andy’s eyes were on the gun, but not down range.
I was down range.
Andy dropped the magazine,  charged the slider, but not checked the chamber. 
It’s cool to charge a handgun. It makes some cool sounds, and it feels good.  
Andy was about to dry-fire. 
I leaned to the left, about to say “Dude! Don’t point that thing at me..”


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Crawlers never bother me. This one was clean too. Nice rat-slab.
The boss assumed too many things. This is a sloppy bid. I'm not gonna fuckin' crawl all the way back to that corner. I don't see shit. There aren't any vents. Maybe that's the difference. I'd rather belly crawl through rat shit and cobwebs and see louvered daylight somewhere.

How the fuck could the boss make a bid on a point of connection without knowing where the waterline actually is. I'm not dragging all my shit down here.
We'll find it outside.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Calm Center of a Fistfight

how am i supposed to believe anythng you say
because its better that way
you wear your ribbons and medals
everyone needs to be recognized
ive run out of reasons to show off
ive been rewarded ignored and deported
feeling hemingway 61
at least in sun valley there was a little sun
we’re all tryin to vibrate
be happy straight with gods
make some noise and get off
seems silly to sit still
there’s plenty of darkness to shake
and fear to fake.
its not every day i make a woman feel like a girl
im just tryin to feel connected in this world
Your lips crowd my mind and rise above the din.
Your needles stick my heart and sting like open cuts and gin.
the past is so exhausting
are you a passenger or an extra in a cowboy film
dont let fear fool ya
take your time and look at me
this aint no fleshy mercy killing
and she is guilty of an online truce
of ones deleted in a last line mood
and once percepted of a long line truth
shes waiting there
she builds a place around her heart that
saves her coming leak
you might be the sheriff
but of which county?
your black and white dont look right
the laurels have never been comfortable
and i dont remember from where you know me from
cast aside your desideradatum like slavery
and junkmail
few things are built to last
your pain wont decay if you like it that way
a reliable friend there to kick you tin the shins
all aboard your bowery boys they like to bore me
I’m in the calm center of a fistfight

theres no time to be shocked by the truth
I never had the luxury to rest on the family
you can always ask me for a ride
but make sure the pressure's never applied.
THE stage is set to burn a hundred colored faces
in hurried reels of 3 track traces
your car is met protested paces
insulated from the suffered gazes
restless lawns with fantastic views
the argument artist and faded widow
dirty nails and broken calendars
the classical matrimonial sadists.