Amber Alert

Aug. 9th, 2016 02:02 am
jack_babalon: (Default)
The knock on the door arrives hammer steady, sharp panic nailed into a rare block of sleep. Burst awake into the red glow of the alarm clock quick drawing the .22 stashed under the pillow. It's 1:56 AM. I got the snubbed barrel trained on a blacker square of darkness that's my bedroom door. The knocking continues. Realizing it's coming from the front door, I scramble options through the noise.

Option #1: My apartment is located in the only building on Solomon Street, flanked by kudzu choked fields while sitting across the street from an abandoned house with I-20 flowing behind it. Brick, two storied, and in a part of pre-gentrified Terminus where a 911 response time runs somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour to roughly never. It's a one bedroom, cheap, located a few blocks walk from Cowboy Ted's Stadium and the Gold Dome. Scuttlebutt from the neighbors has it that the tenant before me had been broken into on numerous occasions, home-invaded twice, and one time got beaten savagely by an especially irate delivery boy with the wrong address.

Option #2: My last job crunching numbers and tallying debts for Bud and his Maniac Squad earned me some long term grudges in the process of carrying out my duty. Bud's in jail now and the last I heard it was open season on my shaved head out there in the mosh pits, dive bars, and bong smoke soaked bunker apartments where armed man-children still animal growl at the utterance of my name.

Option #3: Bad drama with Vertigo Vicky's Marine Corps beau. He's looking to have words with me since getting wind that some ex-squid was finger banging his gal at the back of the Hush Club last weekend. An accusation completely true by the way, except for the nagging detail that that ex-squid was my former USS Artemis Hound shipmate and ex-roomie, Jeremiah Sinn. Personally I've never gotten further with Double V than a pair of rolled eyes at the first hello.

Option #4: The Law.

Option #5: A friend being chased by the Law in need of a place to hide.

The knocking continues without shift in tempo.

Focus now. Narrow down the options. I seriously doubt anyone looking to kick, beat, or roll my ass would do me the courtesy of knocking first. If it was the Law then I'd be waking up to a series of gun barrels in my face delivering a no-knock warrant and if it was one of my friends they would've scaled the wall outside by now and came in through the kitchen window.

The knocking continues...

... and I rise out of bed, tuck the .22 into my boxers, muscle memory tip-toed steps from bedroom through hall to front door, and press vision to peephole as quiet as I can. A fish-eyed view of a round eared elf in a leather jacket knocking steadily on my front door.

Flip on the light switch, hook the chain, unlock the door and crack it open.

Framed in a narrow slice of bleached yellow light she stands there waiting with fist frozen, raised and palm forward as if greeting a fellow activist. Malevolent pixie of face, disheveled short hair coming up no higher than the door's chain. Under her black leather jacket a thrift-store green sundress hangs down to just a few inches above scuffed up combat boots.

"Uh... yeah?," which is as much of a coherent greeting as I can muster.

"Where is he?," she demands peering over my shoulder into the apartment.

"Who?"

"Who do you think?, " she huffs, "Jethro."

My eyes bulge open in comprehension of a vital detail only now recollected.

Jethro, or Jethro 77 as was his nom de guerre in the Punk Scene, is my current roommate and brother to Mike Slapper, drummer extraordinaire to legendary local punk rock act - Slapper. Jethro was an amiable pill-fiend who looked like a blond, hillbilly-hobbit version of Psychic TV front-man Genesis P-Orridge. Truth is for the first month he lived with me I assumed he was an imaginary friend created to keep me company after Violet moved out after we broke up. I don't even recall asking him to move in. All I know is that one morning, before work, I stepped out of the bathroom and found him sitting on my couch, nonchalantly rolling a blunt on a copy of Naked Lunch, as if he had always been there and always would be. When he lit that fucker up we got to talking and laughing and confiding and the next thing I knew I was calling out 'sick' somewhere around four in the afternoon. He crashed that night, and the next, and the next, and soon I had a roommate who I was content to have pay his way with company and drugs. When the memories of my ex became too much I moved out of North Avenue to Solomon Street where he was there waiting on the stoop of my new home - PIL blasting on the headphones and hissing hits off a roach.

Tonight, however, Jethro's crashing at his mom's place out yonder in E-I-E-I-O land north of the OTP, which is exactly what I tell Little Miss Thing who seems to be sniffing the air beyond me for some clue of his whereabouts.

"He'll be back tomorrow night," I say pausing to yawn and scratch the back of my scalp, "can I give him a message."

"Tell him Amber needs to talk with him."

"Amber?," the name rings familiar.

"Griss...," she says rolling her eyes as if I didn't know, "Amber Griss."

Alarms bells shriek through the skull. Rewind and flashback some two weeks. Jethro's sitting on the couch, counting 'bars' in his palm, (these are long skinny white tablets packed with 2mg of Xanax). I'm sitting curled up in the living room's sole window frame watching some fool chase a chicken around the abandoned house. Bored, stoned, a little intrigued I ask Jethro what's the story with that chick he went home with weekend before last. Jethro gulps down the bars with a glug of Mountain Dew. He gives a little happy shudder, wipes his mouth, and drops the update. First impression, sexy interesting, sure, but there's a deep crazy not far beneath the surface. Example: Apparently, as an ongoing 'project', she's begun stalking random strangers for weeks on end and taking photos of them on the down low. She gets shots of them everywhere they go - at home, at work, out shopping, or meeting with friends, or on hook-ups, or in the shitter, or from several inches above their sleeping faces... we're talking some serious crouch in the bushes window peeping level of crazy. But that's not where the crazy ended. Nope, that was just the first step one of the Grand Project.

The next step was pasting those photos of her subject all over a mannequin, effectively mummifying it in black & white surveillance shots of her prey. Weird, but ultimately still within the harmless realm of what was colloquially referred to in our time as 'Art School Bullshit'.

It wasn't until the final step was reached that shit started hitting Charles Manson levels of creepy. For in the final stage of the Grand Project, she would break into her subject's home (sometimes while they were there sleeping), plant the photo mummy in the apartment, and sneak back out without touching a thing. Sometimes her subject would wake to use the bathroom only to find the photo mummy standing there waiting behind the shower curtains or sitting in front of the TV or in the kitchen posed over a stove or stuffed inside the refrigerator. Sometimes she'd leave a ransom note tied to their head. The note would state in collage letters that the subject was being held hostage by their own routines and unless an absurd ransom was left in some arbitrary location - (a pack of naked playing cards left at a bingo game, a suitcase packed with rubber snakes left on the steps of a randomly selected home, etc) - that the Nihilist Liberation Front would forcibly free the subject of their routines forcing them to become either a Buddha or someone who screams at God on the subway.

When I asked Jethro to what purpose these actions served, all he could surmise was that she was fucking nuts, brilliant hot, but ultimately fucking nuts, and that was all the purpose she needed.

"Amber," I repeat her name with faux idiot servitude shutting the door slow as if sneaking over a sleepy grizzly, "right, got it. I'll let him know you dropped by next time I see him. Thanks, later."

Her boot's tip jabs between the dwindling crack of the door.

"Hold up," she says looking up at me with perfect imitation of my customer service smile, "do you mind if I use your bathroom real quick? It was kind of a long ride over here if you know what I mean?"

"Yeaaaah, sorry, but my toilet's busted, don't flush right, landlord hasn't gotten around to fixing it yet but if you want there's a field behind..."

"Seriously," her smile flattens, "you're not going to let me use your bathroom?"

"Uh...,"

"Because if I have to I will pop a squat right here and piss all over this hallway," her voice raises and is amplified by the hallway. "Don't think that I won't ."

"Look lady...," I begin to protest until she steps back, bunches that thrift-store green sundress up around her hips and crouches down right in front of my door.

"Alright, enough already," I plead through the chained crack, "you can use my toilet... just... make it quick, alright? I got work in the morning."

She straightens up, I shut the door, unhook the chain, and pause at a grip of the handle. A few feet to my right in the kitchen is a second door into my apartment. One that leads down to the backyard and into all those acres of raw field. I could open that door instead of this one. Hide out in the kudzu, sleep with the winos alongside I-20, or even sneak over to the abandoned house to crash with the crack heads. I don't even give a fuck anymore. She can knock on the door all night for all I care. Piss up the hallway like a cat that hasn't been fixed. It's not my problem, it's Jethro's and why should I lose sleep over it when he's not.

But there's this sick curiosity in me, a stick-your-hand-in-the-sink's-garbage-disposal feeling that overcomes me and I open the door.

She barges in, brushing into me the way you do when you want to start shit with someone at the bar, and the way she's looking around the place tells me that she ain't looking for the shitter.

"Jethro," she shouts marching towards my bedroom, "quit hiding and get your ass out here."

"Hey," I shout going after her, "what are you doing?"

As if I didn't say a word she storms on into my bedroom and slams the door on my pursuit. I hear the doorknob click locked. I rattle it anyway. Then I settle for pounding on the door, bellowing Fred Flintstone style, for her to open up or else. In reply I hear my bed getting flipped over, my curtains being yanked down, my closet being emptied.

Knowing full well that I'm kissing my deposit goodbye I put shoulder to door. At least I would have had she not opened said door the exact split-second before impact sending me to charge into the room and pratfall over the toppled bed.

By the time I'm back on my feet she's tearing the shower curtains off the rod in the bathroom.

I'm coming up from behind quick, ready to pounce, and get no more than a foot away when she spins around to thrust the snub nosed barrel of a .22 straight into my face.

That's when I notice the distinct absence of my .22 pressing against me from the waistband and I step back raising the hug's opening up into raised palms of surrender.

"Where," she stabs the air with my pistol, "is he?"

I repeat the answer I gave her from back when she was on the right side of my door's chain, only this time peppering it with a combination of stammers and curses.

She orders me to shut up, turn around, and get back in the living room. I comply and she follows a few steps behind with pistol trained steady on the back of my head. She tells me to take a seat on a couch I found on the curb outside a house being attended to by men in white biological containment suits. I take a seat and she lights a cigarette. When she catches me staring wistfully at my own pack on the coffin that doubles for my coffee table (night club stolen and worth at least 10 Goth Points). She gives me the go ahead with a nod. I light up, sigh, and open my arms in that universal gesture of - 'Well, what now?'

"So who are you supposed to be again?"

"Jack Babalon," I flash the old Han Solo smile, "Writer, DJ, Discordian Geek-Punk Savant."

It's a poor job she does of hiding how unimpressed she is by this title but then with a pop of an invisible light bulb over her head she wags my gun at me in recognition - "Oh my god, you're his stoner roommate, aren't you? The pseudo-intellectual who works in an office and whines all the time about how he can't get laid."

"Yeah," I sigh again, "that too."

"Well okay then, Mr. Writer DJ Geek Whatever, do you have an address you can give me?"

"What for his grandmother?," I shrug, "somewhere up north in Road Kill County is all I know."

"How about a number?"

"I'd give it to you if I had it," I draw deep on the Camel, "but if you know Jethro at all you know he doesn't... do the phone thing... if he wants to talk to you he just sort of... appears on your couch or next to you on the bus or on the roof of a house you're passing by... I don't how he does it all I know is that's what he does."

She knows exactly what I'm talking about. You can read it clear on her face from behind the .22 that she at last lowers and aims at the floor.

We don't say a word. The realization that Jethro's not here on her end and that I might not be getting shot with my own gun on mine has deflated the possibilities of what can be said. She puts her cigarette out in the lap of an ivory statue on Ganesh sitting on a speaker, walks to the kitchen, nabs the bottle of Jack sitting on top of the fridge, unscrews the bottle held one handed by the neck, pops the cap to the kitchen floor, and glugs back a healthy shot.

"So," I say looking to break up a silence rapidly grinding away at me, "uh, what did he do to you anyway?"

At this my 'guest' gives a little laugh, glugs again, and puts the bottle down on the counter.

"'What did he do?'," she's smiles the way chimpanzees smile before biting off your nose and laughs again as if nothing will ever be funny again, "I'll show you exactly what that mother fucker did."

At this she steps into the open doorway of the kitchen, trains the pistol back on me, reaches under her sundress with her free hand. After a bit of wiggling she slides off white panties polka-dotted with primary colors of different shapes which she steps out of. Then she grabs a fistful of sundress and yanks it up over her hips. "Here, take a look at what your roommate's done to me."

All blushes and nervous reflex I throw a hand up over my face to act as a blinder trying to respectfully look away.

"I said 'look', " she snarls and I do, the eye following where she points the barrel towards her sex.

There, on a shaved mons pubis, is a tattoo. It's the head of a smiling white guy, a 1950s era businessman of some sort with a fatherly pipe clenched in an orgasmic grin. Those in the know or at least know adjacent will recognize him as the face of Bob Dobbs - fertility god and salesman messiah of the Church of Subgenius.

"Uh... so he what?," I gulp bashful, "tattooed you or something?"

She blinks, she doesn't say anything, just stares at me before answering - "It's not a tattoo."

"Come again?"

"Turn off the lights," she orders pointing the barrel towards the switch between me and the front door. Not knowing where this going I do just that.

There in the fresh gloom around us I can see the face of Bob Dobbs glowing like a ghost above the surface of her silhouette. Maybe it's the lack of sleep or too many drugs over the years but I swear that glow-in-the-dark-face winks right at me before I flip on the lights.

Immediately I light a second cigarette off the first with trembling hands and finally manage to eke out a - "What is that?"

"No idea," she says dropping both the skirt and the bunched up front of the skirt, "all I know is Jethro was going down on me like it was the end of the world and when I came I saw tiny little UFOS circling round the room before I passed out. When I came back to reality, like a minute later, he was gone and I had this... this face on me all of a sudden glowing there in the dark."

And with that explanation the front door to my apartment, that I had failed to properly close when my guest barreled her way on in, bursts open between us.

Now in steps some angry Goth-dude with a baseball bat. Don't laugh off the all black outfit, the painted 'raccoon' eyes, and skull t-shirt. He's thin, sure, but rock sculpted with a steady diet of push-ups and rage. So while might be tempted to snicker at the sneer in his black lipstick you'd be missing the look in his eyes. That special look guys like me, who've had their ass beat a bunch of times, recognize instantly radiating off those who do the ass beating.

"You Jack Babalon?" he asks pointing the business end of that baseball bat at me.

"No, sir." I smile raising my arms helplessly, "I'm his roommate, Jethro 77."

"Bullshit," he says and whacks the bat across the coffin making the ashtray jump. "I know you're fucking, Jack Babalon..."

"We don't have that kind of relationship actually," I explain with smile unwavering and before the last syllable scorches the air he's got the bat raised above his head to bring it down on mine.

"The real question actually," Amber says pressing the barrel of the .22 against the back of his crew-cut, "is do you know fuck all about the woman with a gun to your head at the moment?"

"No, ma'am, I can't say that I do," and the way he says it hips me immediately that this cat is ex-military but then I do a quick 2+2 and come up with Vertigo Vicky's jarhead beau.

"Then I'd say it'd be in everyone's interests if you dropped the bat and sit your ass down on that couch with 'Jethro'." She says coolly driving the gun into his head to emphasize her point.

The bat drops, bounces off the coffin, and rolls on the floor. Goth Jarhead complies, sitting down while I scooch as far from neck-chopping range on the couch as possible.

Goth Jarhead checks out her, by which I mean my, gun and snorts.

"A fuckin' .22," he smirks at her, "what are you going to do with that but piss somebody off?"

"Actually," I explain, "the .22, while not as powerful as other handgun options, has quite an impressive kill rate amongst handheld firearms. This is attributed to the fact that the .22 has sufficient enough 'punch' to pierce flesh but not enough to puncture back out of the body of its target. This means the bullet tends to ricochet around, ricocheting around until it plunges into a vital organ"

Goth Jarhead looks at me and then back at her.

"What he said," she shrugs, "Anyway, we were kinda in the middle of a conversation before you so rudely barged in on us without so much as a 'hello'."

"Yeah, well it's this asshole's fault for diddlin' my woman behind my back," Goth Jarhead jabs a thumb my way.

"'Diddlin'?" she repeats the word with feigned innocence.

"You know...?" Goth Jarhead makes an upside down pair of devil-horns and starts wiggling the middle two fingers, "diddlin'."

"Ohhhh... I see," she nods as if a small child explained the name of their favorite doll, "well that's neither fair nor right is it?"

"No, ma'am," Jarhead Goth says squinting sky blue eyes murderously from the depths of the black rings painted around them, "it most certainly is not. "

"And I imagine you came here tonight seeking..," she looks away from him to me, "you're a writer, Jack. What's the word I'm looking for here?"

"Recompense." I answer knowing full my cover's blown anyway.

"If that means getting some payback then yeah, that's why I'm here." Goth Jarhead continues to drill raccoon eyes into me.

"Then payback you shall have," she laughs and points the gun from him to me, "Jack, be a dear and jerk this poor man off already."

Gun or no gun, Goth Jarhead bolts off the couch and spins on Amber to let her know what's up.

Amber bitch slaps him across the chops with the .22 and drives it into his mouth.

"Sit. The. Fuck. Down." She whispers through gritted teeth and Goth Jarhead sinks slowly with the .22's barrel jammed between his lips.

"Now then," she continues, "you came here looking to get even for him giving a hand job to your lady. Well that's just what Jack's going to do now, isn't he?"

She's looking at me now and I realize now that my hands are still up in the air like an idiot.

"Look, Amber," I tell her lowering my arms steadily, "Here's the scoop. I... I didn't do shit with his girlfriend, okay? Seriously, I wasn't even at the club that night..."

"Do I honestly look like I give a shit right now?"

I shake my head 'no'.

She turns her attention back on the Goth Jarhead for a second opinion, "do I?"

Goth Jarhead answers 'negative' with as slight a shake of the head as he can manage.

"Right, then as the Good Book says 'an eye for an eye and a hand-job for a hand-job...," and without taking her eyes off his she reaches down into his lap, deftly unbuckling, unbuttoning, unzipping until her hand is massaging a sizable bulge lurking beneath a pair of smiley face boxers. Goth Jarhead grunts and pops a sweat with eyes bulged on hers when she guides his hard cock out through the flaps of his drawers.

She glides her hand smoothly along a few good solid inches of meat with a tenderness that borders on cruel and then with a wag of her brows - "Go on, Jack... don't let me hog all the fun."

"Nuh-uh," I tell her shaking my head in denial at that act from which I cannot look away.

"Either he melts in your hand," she winks, "or a bullet melts in his mouth. I'm down for either to be honest."

"Jesh duw ewt," Goth Jarhead growls the words around the barrel and she must've broken a tooth
off when she jammed it in because there's a trickle of blood running down its length. Wincing, I nod in agreement, spit into the palm of my hand, and nervously receive the baton from her marathon grip.

It feels odd and familiar at the same time so that the nerves firing from hand to brain are confused by the disconnect from its doing and what its feeling.

Amber, her non-gun hand free now, slides it back up the folds of her dress, and with heavy breaths begins rubbing quickly between her thighs.

"Quicker," she hisses at me and quicker it is as I begin pumping as if I my bicycle caught a flat in a bad neighborhood after dark .

Goth Jarhead is breathing fast and shallow through his nostrils the way a bull does before charging a matador in cartoons. The blood trickles out of his mouth, along the barrel, and down to the knuckle of Amber's index finger. She begins grinding her hips into quickening friction of her touch, swaying as if in trance, with only the arm extending into a gun remaining steady between her captive audience's bloodied lips. There is the crackle of a fireplace burning coming from beneath the folds of her dress, where upon its surface the outline of the face of Bob Dobbs begins to burn through the fabric.

A hand pounces on the wrist of free hand. Goth Jarhead guides it to his throat. Knowing what to do I multitask, squeezing gently his larynx even as I up the tempo on working the beast. I can feel every muscle in him constricts into itself and the sweat I'm working for him gets in his eyes so bad he's crying black tears down his cheeks.

"That's it, that's it, that's it," Amber begins chanting and the glow under the sundress is lamp bright now casting the room around us in shades of primordial forest.

A little dog whimpers as the Marine Machine buckles, a drowning man's kick topples the coffin, he grips the couch as if it's about to take off, and I'm squeezing tighter now watching the veins pop up his neck like a serpent rising above the surface of dark waters...

"... that's it, that's it, that's it...,there."

... and all those constricted muscles beneath my grip explode all over the body in a wave of tremors. Hot white death sprinkler fires up across the skull of his t-shirt, splashes into the blood soaked knuckle of Amber's trigger finger, and scores a hit direct in my third-eye.

Then Amber releases the scream of a woman giving birth to nuclear missile as the burning light from beneath her skirt drowns out the world around us, reducing us to frail shadows, before everything goes UFO green.

The way letters rise on a spoon from the depths of a bowl of milk, my living room, my guests, and finally my own body rematerialize into reality.

Yet the only thing I can focus on are my own two hands, staring at them with the sudden realization that they are capable of deeds beyond the surface of my deepest restrictions.

Freed from the gun locked in his jaws, Goth Jarhead rubs his throat, blinking beyond the walls, beyond the now, beyond the furthest remote possibility that this was how his night was gonna go.

Amber stands there pistol dangling forgotten in one hand, the other hiking up that sundress yet again, and it's clear why she can't stop giggling. The face of Bob Dobbs is gone now with not a mark that it had ever been there. She drops the folds of her dress, leans down, across Goth Jarhead (who doesn't move much less blink when she does so) and gives me a peck on the lips.

"Thank you," she tucks the .22 back into the waistband from where she found it, rises up with a pivot, and walks on out of my apartment.

I sit there listening to her footsteps clomp-clomp-clomp down the stairs and vanish down the block. On that note Goth Jarhead rises up as if hypnotized to do so, he steps towards the door, pauses to bend over to pick up his bat, and heads for the door. Equally dazed I follow him as if escorting out a plumber or electrician.

He gets through the doorway, does this zombie slow turn back around, and grabs me by the back of the head to pull me into a hard, wet kiss that he bayonet thrusts halfway down my throat. I'm still dazed when he pushes me back away and drives the handle of the bat into my gut.

The shock and the pain drives all the air out of me doubling me over.

"You tell anyone about this... and I mean anyone... you're a fuckin' dead man. Got it?"

Unable to do anything else I nod and satisfied he double-times it down the stairs.

I summon up the strength to straighten back up. I lock the door, slip on the chain, and slide the bolt. I walk into the bathroom, refuse to look myself in the eyes while I wash my hands, and when I walk back into the living room there he is.

Jethro, of course, who else?

He sits on the couch with no concern for the overturned coffin-table and packs a bowl from a fresh dime bag all while humming 'I could be wrong, I could be right'. I sit down next to him on the couch right where Goth Jarhead was sitting no more than three minutes ago. We don't say a word, he just keeps humming and packing until he reaches the pipe's fill upon which he hands it to me. I put the pipe in my mouth and he lights it for me.

The smoke hits harsh but I hold it, leaning back, letting it soak into the mind, and closing my eyes all I can hear is my heart. It knocks steadily, drowning out thought from head and ambient noise from ear. Knocking without end upon a door that now open can never be closed again.

Terminus:

May. 13th, 2016 12:38 am
jack_babalon: (Default)
There is an anthropomorphic can of gasoline that greets commuters on the Eastbound MARTA line between the King Memorial and Georgia State Stations that I've named Sparky. Sparky is a creature of pure graffiti, one of the many that can be seen floating along the psychic landscape of our city in flux between ghetto no-go zone and feudal mixed-use high rise loft space. Sparky can be found waving at the edge of one of the most inspiring views of the Terminus skyline, on a derelict rooftop between the prolific tag - NOPE - and a vandal scrawl humbly reminding train passengers that - "You ain't gangsta! You don't even know one!" These words, as any casual buff of the War of Northern Aggression will tell you, were famously uttered by General Lee when he was asked to order his army to lay down their arms and surrender to his nemesis General Grant.

Of course when Grant received word of Lee's harsh reply he was, in the parlance of the time, 'drunk as fuck' and as such in little mood to be questioned on his street cred. So, according to eyewitness reports, General Grant - wearing naught but his britches and saber belt - ordered the Union Army to raze the city to the ground along with any sunovabitch dumb enough to say otherwise. The scorched earth tactic was a Grant favorite. One he utilized to much success in quelling Native American Guerilla insurrections down in Florida or tavern-keeps who tried to cut off the future president before last call. After a long siege, the supply-starved Confederate Army withdrew from Terminus and as promised, Grant danced naked in the flaming streets, waving a bottle of whiskey around and shouting - "Who's Gangsta now, Bitch?"

From the ashes of this raging bonfire the city rose on phoenix wings with the motto - RESURGENS - which locals will tell you proudly is Latin for - "Guns Everywhere for Anyone!" But where those first flames were struck that would reduce to Terminus to smoldering ruins is along the train tracks just across the roaring highway that severs the city proper from the Old 4th Ward there is a marker to remind of the devastation that was wrought. That marker of course is Sparky the anthropomorphic can of gasoline.

Right there, an act of psychogeographical vandalism designating the landmark to perhaps THE most defining moment in the city's history. In the cartoon eyes bulged with excitement, in the knowing smile, in the body of the gasoline Sparky acts a fiery reminder to the city's gentrified future, that no monument is eternal, no castle unassailable, no city vouchsafed against the flames of history that will one day rise again to claim it.

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jack_babalon: (Default)
Like the cardinal hidden in the rose bush before taking flight across the startled eye, I bide my time here in the Straight Life and wait deep in those thorns from which my wings shall spread. But before I can soar I must first bleed. Bleed quiet, bleed cool, remembering always that blood is the thorn's price for the bloom's harbor. Bleed patient, bleed radiance, the wind soon roaring across these scars will tell this world my story, but first bleed.

Until then, clock in, clock out through days rounded by the deactivation and priming of the alarm. Sleep brief, dream black, eat death, shit life, collect a check, save that money, and steal enough time to log the Days.

So it's the weekend, right? Maybe the one just passed, maybe one from a few years ago, maybe from a spring that never happened in a Terminus that was mine alone to see. Somewhere long past last call, drunk in an unknown zip code, and giving a piggy back ride to a pale freckled creature who danced with me without warning back at a club I don't remember entering or leaving. Only the faded red stamp of a laughing Buddha on the back of my hand, only the random strobe light memories of writhing shadows to looped shrieks and beats. Where I was going was much clearer. As promised, I was giving my dancing partner a ride back to her place in exchange for a drink. After she generously closed out both our tabs, we stepped out in the night air and looking around curiously asked where my car was.

That's when I was all like - Who said anything about a car? - as I had arrived without one, of that I was certain, even if about little else beyond that.

So of course she was all like - Whaaaaat?

But a promise is a promise I told her and with that promise came a strong back that was hers to ride for as far as it took until it took her home.

Your drunk, she said, that and you've been chain-smoking and dancing for hours.

I'm also really high right now... Lemon Kush and Purple Haze blend.

My confession didn't exactly fill her with confidence, but since she lived only a few blocks away she was willing to give it whirl. Giddy-up and away we go. One block, across the street, through the hook-up and diner bound post-club traffic. Two blocks, the lungs are starting to burn, but between the spread dress I can feel the heat of her sex start rubbing against my lower back as she whispers for me to go faster. Block three, I'm picking up speed as she starts biting my neck as her rubbing becomes fiercer. If there was money enough to afford a patrol car the officers inside would have thought that I was fleeing from a vampire that had jumped down on my back from the impenetrable gloom. Between bites she gives terse directions - a left at an intersection missing both its street signs. A right at a gas station that's been burnt down. Past a park where minor dealers watched stoic-unimpressed from just outside the pools of street lamp. Past burnt down brick building with a mural of the Cyclops from the old Sinbad movie glowed in hues of slime green and infra-orange. When a flutter of her moan hit the ear right before her teeth did I stumble down and caught myself at the last second to land in a shambolic push-up position.

She dismounted from my back carefully, adjusted her dress and offered me a hand getting back up on my boots.

We're here, she said and fixed her hat that looked somewhere between Annie Hall and Molly Ringwald.

I was weaving, fighting for air until I managed to get a smoke in me to clear my head. She kept asking if I was alright which I assured her I was after a few gasps, coughs, and wheezes. Finally I check out the place behind her. A two story brick house that had been quartered into four apartments behind a black wrought iron fence. She opens gates, steps through, and holds it open. She tells me I can come on in, come on up, y'know if I want to, like, catch my breath real quick.

One look at her though and my breath is clearly the last thing I'll be catching.

I decline, murmur rambling excuses self-consciously, sweat soaked, disheveled, unable to meet her eyes burning under the shade of her hat's large brim. But before I make my leave she reaches out through the door with open hand.

Come on, she smiles, you got us this far. Why not let me take you the rest of the way?

The hand through the open gate reaches past that moment, past the night and the years worth of days that will follow it. The hand is open, as sacred as a promise, as true as a secret, heart beating with the rhythm of sneakers in a dryer.

One question, I ask the eyes behind the hand, how do I know any of this is really happening?

You know how to answer that, she says the fingers of the hand beckoning for my own.

Eyes closed, breath locked, I extend my hand uncertain of whether hers will be there to take mine in grasp or if I'm really just standing there willingly blind reaching into the dark.

And somewhere from between the roses the bloodied wings of the cardinal take flight.
jack_babalon: (Default)
I'll tell you exactly what I had to tell the cops, the judges, the prospective employers, the human resource administrators, the review boards, and the folks knocking on my door to talk to me about Jesus first fucking thing in the morning. I am not I repeat not a pothead, a stoner, a wastoid or any of the other casual slurs you may thoughtlessly brand me as. No sir, no ma'am, I identify as a proud Narco American.

I am a lot of things. An asshole, a friend, a hard worker, a writer, a progressive and mostly a 21st century white male CUD (Cis Until Drunk). But deep down I just know in the core of my being what I truly am is a Narco American. One of but millions toiling hidden in the cracks and margins of this great nation.

We are not just your pizza makers, your delivery drivers, your menial-lenium labor market as seen on TV or Internet streamed. We are not just your faceless Midwest all Heroin strung out cause it's cheaper than Oxycontin. We are not just your strippers, prostitutes or urban homeless subsisting on whatever falls across an empty palm.

No, we are Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Hollywood and the Heartland. We are your IT, Creative, and Marketing Departments. We are your board members and construction workers, CEOs and clerks. We are those who fill your stages to make you laugh or cry or remember just what it means to be human again even if but for a few hours. We make the ballads you lose your virginity to as well as the songs that keep the gun out of your mouth. We are in the farms, the laboratories, the hospitals, the campuses, the law firms, the gas stations, the executive retreats, and if you're really lucky and play it cool maybe at your parties as well.

Yes, we walk among you hidden revealing our true selves rarely and at great peril to our jobs or freedom. For us there are no parades from which we are encouraged to boldly come out as the people that we truly are. Sure we have festivals or protest marches but only a fool or a martyr would dare to show up with anything but a quickly diminishing buzz. Yet just as some of our brother and sisters heroically battle for the liberation of their bodies so my kind must soon find the courage to wage a similar war for the liberation of our perceptions.

Until that day I must remain in an open closet about that which provides not only relief from the drudgery of reality but also gives me the inspiration to make it something better. Yes sir, yes ma'am, I am a Narco American and to quote Saint Reed - "Thank god that I just don't care."
jack_babalon: (Default)
I don't like the invisibility pills (but the invisibility pills like me)

inviso
jack_babalon: (Default)
We met in a death trap down in Cartel Country, Mexico. We were subterranean deep in an arena this bruja asshole carved out of what had previously been a fully functional Flying Saucer. The situation was ghoul-rillas. As in six zombie gorillas, parallel universe imported, COCAINE pumped, and with their faces peeled away with a scalpel just to crank up the you're-truly-fucked-now factor. For the moment they were cage locked, frenzied, gesticulating in sign language the same word over and over again - "Brains!" Around us was one round wall of onyx material polished mirror smooth and desecrated with graffiti and arcane symbols spray-painted in red. Above us, said bruja asshole is praising Santa Muerta before a shrine built around the radioactive alien skull of the saucer's pilot. Around the bruja the faithful gathered, primarily drug wired goons and homicidal ex-strippers, all genuflected in unified devotion. I didn't exactly have to habla the rite to pick up its gist. We had both apparently pissed off the wrong asshole, one with a cocaine powered UFO-Death cult, and we were to be fed to the zombie gorillas all in the name of some holy Space Grim Reaper or whatever.

So, who were we anyway to warrant death by an act of undead simian cannibalism and how did we get here?

Good question.

My companion in fuckedness, that would be the lady besides me dressed in commando black and with her face painted up in the colors of a luchadore mask, well, she didn't give me her name. However one look at the blood on her tattooed knuckles and the teeth lodged in the treads of her boots told you she didn't get this far without initiating many suckers into the dark mysteries of the morgue on the way.

As for me? I had been found passed out on hashish and mescal in a whore house not but three miles from here. How I got there will have to remain one of the life's smaller mysteries . Last thing I remember was attending a Ted Séance in New Orleans where Tesla's ghost lectured through a floating medium about some new ideas he'd been working on involving an app that periodically electrocuted you through your phone in order to boost your intelligence. Later, there was a party at a hotel room and a game of strip poker with Tarot cards. Next thing I know... bam! Here I am hung-over and south of the border ready to be fed to the undead in a flyer saucer. My performance enhancing talisman and pack of all lucky cigarettes confiscated, down to naught but my boxers, my chucks, my Kirlian goggles, and fez. Still, no reason not to be civil.


"So..., " I ask my partner in doomed through a goggle obscured wink, "come here often?

She doesn't say anything, her attention focused on eyeball fucking the zombie gorillas.

"Yeah, well, I'm new in town, so my first time here too."

She snorts and searches for something she can use as a weapon.

"Still, been in one flying saucer you've been in them all ... or so you'd think, right?" I smile striking up the air of an experienced connoisseur. "For example you can tell by the Kether Engine suspended above us that this is... well, was, the engine room. The Kether engine also means you can rule out your Hollow Earth Nazi saucers or run of the mill Sirius Empire scout cruiser. No, this vessel wasn't meant for traversing between star systems, but rather something bigger, nastier, something that could travel vast swaths of possibility..."

She clears her throat and with a bob of her chin motions towards the bruja and the faithful circled above us from the 25 foot ledge of the engine room. The bruja throws down two items that land at our feet. One is an aluminum baseball bat and the other is a silver flask.

She takes the bat, I take the flask. It's filled to the brim with mescal and the swig burns down the throat evaporating the hangover. The alcohol isn't for us though. It's for the ghoul-rillas. Don't ask me why but when undead types get a hankering for brain, it just tastes better when that brains had a few or even a few too many. Gives even the basest zombie a buzz.

"Don't s'pose you got any... like, I dunno, super-powers or some shit?" I ask her.

She shakes her head and finally breaks the silence, "You?"

"I have the proportional sense of humor of a radioactive spider and I'm fluent in Language Zero."

"Useless," she mutters with a roll of her eyes giving the bat a test swing across the air.

"Okay, that's cool, uh, maybe you got a plan then?"

She snags the flask from my hand, glugs back some liquid bravado, hands it back and says - "Yes, my plan is to crack the skull of anything that gets in my way, then pile up their corpses, climb them out of this... engine room you say? ... and from there just generally kill each and every last mother-fucker on this saucer. Present company excluded of course."


"Appreciate that."

"I figure you'll at least be able to distract one of the beasts while they feed on your brain."

"See... and you thought I wasn't bringing anything to the party?"

The bruja shouts down at us holding the glowing alien skull over the engine room arena to look down at the meat to be sacrificed in its name. Don't know exactly what he's saying, some bullshit about his plans for feeding our souls to the skull in order to power the ship.

"Yeah," I snort to myself with the derisive confidence of a fanboy, "that's not how it works."

The bruja points the ET skull at me and shrieks at me too fast to comprehend.

My partner in fuckedness translates: "Apparently the UFO skull demands that you speak up like you have a pair when you dare make snide remarks about its priest."

I nod thoughtfully, contemplating what will no doubt be my final words, cup a hand around my mouth, shout up towards our captives - "Fuckin' Noob!"

The bruja's eyes widen with shocked offense. He jibber-jabbers a command to the gasping flock. In response one of the goon-acolytes comes scurrying up and pulls from their robe (did I mention they had robes, I mean it just seemed so obvious that they would, you know?) a big old wooden spoon filled with a measuring cups worth of cocaine. The acolyte holds the spoon up and the bruja dips the skull's nasal cavities into the mound. The bruja wiggles it a little, then pulls it out of the spoon's mound of super-snow and working the jaw has the skull say in a high pitched voice - "Gracias."

"De nada," the acolyte grumbles in a voice that would make Tom Waits sound like a choir soprano and offers the bruja a bump off the spoon.

The bruja partakes with an elongated snort that takes much longer than humanly possible. When he pulls out his eyes are ready pry themselves from their sockets and the clenched teeth grin glows up there in the candle gloom. He looks at the skull and holds it to ear where it whispers something that drives the bruja into hysterical laughter. Then the bruja whispers in the goons ear and the goon nods solemnly and whispers into a hooded ear and that goon in return makes a motion to a robed helper monkey who nods solemnly and pulls a lever.

Cogs grind into life, pulleys drop, gears crackle. A moment passes. My partner looks at me to see if I'm ready. I shoot another invisible wink from behind the goggles. The caged doors rattled open, six simian ghouls coke fueled and cerebrum starved bound out towards us roaring through their peeled.

Zero hesitation, she moves up on the beasts bellowing through their skinned faces, two hands on the bat with all the confidence of a New York Yankee stepping up to plate.

I step back to let her do her thing all the while continuing my previous thought.

"As I was saying, this isn't a space-ship, it's a trans-dimensional reconnaissance skimmer...," I look up studying the Kether Engine, "matter of fact this is angel tech by the look of her."

"Uh-huh," my partner grunts trying to focus on the situation at hand. One of the ghoul-rillas, smaller than the others but much faster, comes at her in a shambling charge. She waits for it, waits for it, waits for... and swings! Crack and shattered fangs spray from a broken jaw. Pivoting off the momentum of her swing, she sidesteps from the beast's grasp and ducks down to deliver an expertly delivered shot of bat to shatter the creature's kneecap. It buckles at the blow and she comes up out of the crouch to kick it straight into a second brute tangling them up into a crash. A third dives for her arms outstretched and roaring madly. She braces for the assault flipping the bat in hands so the handle faces forward. When the diving ghoul-rilla is upon her she thrusts the handle straight through the roar to puncture the roof of the mouth and strikes what's left of its brain. Simultaneously she collapses backward, rolling beneath the flying weight of her now dead again opponent. The inert beast slides across the floor and comes to a stop just before my feet.

"One down five to go," I say swigging back mescal, "cheers."

She comes out of the roll beside me and plucks the bat out of the thing at my feet. The other ghoul-rillas are jumping up and down. Furious, scared, drug rattled. Ghouls are different than zombies in many respects one of which is that they still feel things such as aggression and fear. They're stalled, looking at one of their numbered down and another hobbled. They sign to each you other - "You can't 'em!"

"Fuck that, you get 'em. I'll back you up."

"No, you both get 'em and we'll back you up."

"We got a few seconds before they figure out to rush us at once," she tells me as if I didn't already know, "so if you know how to do something besides drink mescal and talk smack now would be the time to do it."

"I don't just talk smack, lady...," I say stepping forward, "I talk Language Zero and as I was trying to explain to you earlier this is angel tech we're looking at, meaning we're inside an Enochian 'Chariot'."

"Meaning?" She asks.

"Meaning it responds to Enochian voice commands and Enochian is just bastardized Language Zero...," I smile and pass her the flask.

A few yards away the pack's alpha ghoul-rilla pounds its chest signing that they will all charge at once and even if the 'Life-Meat' kills another of their tribe then at least the others will take her down. The wounded ghoul-rillas asks about me. He's just some asshole the alpha assures them. The others nod and jump up and down approvingly. Then with a wave of the alpha's hand the entire ghoul-rilla squad comes at us shambling at us from across the arena, slowly, spreading out wider.

"Chariot," I vibrate the word through a growl that ends in shriek , "activate Kether Engine."

Vibrating from every wall of the saucer a melodic roar similar to that of the song of whales as the Kether Engine awakens. Above us the 72 sided tesseract casing the Kether Engine begins Rubik cube shifting its sides into impossible patterns, faster and faster until with a crackling Kirby dots that illuminate the arena in shades of day-glow poster it comes online. Rattled but undeterred, the ghoul-rillas rush us at once from all sides.

"Chariot," I command calmly taking the flask back for a sip, "exterminate hostile life-forms."

A white light sweeps through the engine room - arena in a sweep. When it reaches the ghoul-rillas they freeze up in terror and wonder. Then the wall of white light vanishes.

The 'Chariot' speaks back in electric Enochian - "Scan complete. No hostile life-forms located."

Shit... and that's about as far as I get before one of the brutes barrels into me sending us crashing down to the ground. It lounges its screaming jaws at my face and jackrabbit panic quick I shove the flask between its fangs just as it bites down. It howls with unmitigated agony trying to pry the flask embedded into the roof of its mouth. But it don't matter the rest of the beasts are ready to pile up on me.

"Chariot," I growl the letters of Language Zero burning in the air under the light of the Kether Engine, "exterminate all hostile post-life forms."

The light of the Engine Room blinks out and there is the vooooom of a black hole no bigger than a baseball sucking itself out of existence.

Nothing...

... and then there was light. Those strange head-shop colors once again flooded the engine room and around us the ghoul-rillas laid collapsed. Looking almost as if they had all suddenly fallen asleep.

I turn to my companion and with a grandiose flourish of bow saying the magick words - "Ta da!"

She gives one of the ghoul-rillas a test kick to the skull and nods with a modicum of satisfaction.

Above us the bruja can be heard screaming and babbling incoherently from a silhouette burning in shades of ultraviolet tinged orange, holding up the alien skull before the engine. Throughout the saucer the faithful can be heard chanting or shouting praise of their UFO Death Goddess. The skull begins to glow brighter in the hands. Until it flares up bright enough to illuminate the skeleton within the bruja's shadow before reducing them to ashes.

The skull falls down into the arena and shatters across the floor.

The praises and chants of the faithful evaporate into nervous murmurs and curses. Then, at some collective signal known only to their ranks, they begin to trample and scream their way free of the saucer.

Within a minute there is no sound but the whale hum of the idling Kether Engine.

"Now what?" My companion asks, bat slung over shoulder, taking in the shifting tesseract casing and the evaporating Kirby dots falling down upon us.

"You tell me your name, maybe." I say adjust my fez back on correctly.

She walks over with all the time in the world, stepping over inert ghoul-rillas, bat slung over shoulder and she grabs me by the back of the head to pull me into a kiss.

I close my eyes and what I taste is nothing more than the air.

I pull off my Kirlian goggles, opening my eyes to confirm what I've known all along. That I stand alone in the arena, the bat in my hand, the ache in the muscles, the ghoul-rilla gore splashed all over me. My 'companion' was no more than an imaginary friend, an artificial side-kick, one hypnosis buried, and emergency triggered. A 'friend' who could do all that cool shit normal me wouldn't dream of trying.

An order to the 'Chariot' cleanses me of the gore, a second retrieves my clothes along with confiscated personal items, the third takes me to the 'Throne' or command center of the saucer. There's not much juice left in her now, the Kether Engine is running on the fumes of fading ideas, enough for a last jump.

"Chariot," I command, "take me home."

The Kether Engine rattles a last gasp and with great agony a last shower of Kirby dots shimmer in and out existence. Watching the tesseract casing begin to spin faster and faster, sucking in all the light it has shed back into itself. Darkness descends...

... and retreats around the whirling of a ceiling fan, where gunshots ring out down on Line Street and a cell phone sits loaded with an alarm that will go off much too soon. As somewhere the Chariot, along with all remnants of its adventure, disperses in a puff of impossibility.

... 00000000001
jack_babalon: (Default)
On my way way home, MARTA bound while the car's in the shop. Took the scenic route. Stopped at the Farmers Market on Buford Highway, had dinner feeling like an extra on the set of Bladerunner. Bought a bag of green tea Kit Kats from Japan and a yellow candle for the machete wielding god Chango. Screened daydream kisses between the Eastern European lady butchers serving me cold cuts wrapped in wax paper. Pondered the Hentai themed seafood packed in ice behind the glass. Stepped outside to an early dusk on an early spring and headed the long way around to the back of the Market. I know a place I can take a quick 'break' at, one between places really, map invisible, this sharp hill slope of raw earth that leads to the street that leads to the Doraville Station. The terrain is dense with trees with patches of shrubs accessible via small footpaths trodden by years of shortcut determined commuters. Up one of these footpaths I diverge over to a plateau that is obscured from the parking lot by a dense veil of vines and feral bushes . Here I find an overturned shopping cart with only one wheel and a blue milk crate on which a man sits eating peach slices out of a can.

I grab a seat on the edge of the shopping cart, pull out a pack of cigarettes, shake loose the joint tucked behind the smokes, and holding it up before the man ask - "You mind?"

The man pauses with a peach slice dripping pink juice down his fingers, looks at the joint, looks at me, and shakes his head no.

I fire that bitch up, it's a pinner so the first hit is paper harsh, the second brings the love however with a cough that sounds like an old biplane engine rattling into life and ready to fly again. I go to pass the joint to the man but he declines with another shake of his head joined by a wagging peach slice.

"Suit yourself," and I proceed to rock this mic solo.

So we sit there for a good minute, him snacking on canned peaches, me hissing hits off the pinner, while above and behind the rush hour traffic provides white noise as I watch a family of cats prowl the loading bay below.

"So?," my silent companion speaks with an accent that is melodic and unfamiliar, "what do you make of this Continuing Crisis?"

The buzz's got my consciousness all Instagram filtered, on one of those nostalgic settings that makes the reds of the dusk simmer with the burnt sepia of old photographs. Damn, I better get my shit together, so I hit the pinner again and stall - "'The Continuing Crisis' you say?"

He studies me for a good minute. Eyes darkened under the brow from which only their glint shine through and shadows running deep in the crack of a butcher's face. He plucks out another peach from the can, pops it into his mouth, chews, swallows, and nods - "Yes."

"Well, the way I see it it's like this," I hit what's already a roach real quick, "at the moment I'm squatting on a broken shopping cart while doing drugs in what appears to be an abandoned hobo camp between a farmer's market and the rail tracks. Apparently some combination of bad decisions mixed with even worse circumstances should have both myself and society at large asking ourselves tough questions as to how the situation has been reduced to this. But somehow, I doubt either of us will find any kind of answer that's worth a dam. So, I guess I'll keep fine tuning my reality the way I see fit while society assumes I'm trying to escape it and hunts me down with those resources it dares not waste on the gunfire I hear down the road every night. But beyond that, I am a criminal and I am most likely psychologically addicted to say the least. As such it makes registering the bigger picture a low priority if you know what I mean."

The man nods at this, slips fingers deep into the bottom of the can, and comes up with one last slice that he plops into his mouth. Chewing thoughtfully, he washes the last bite back with a glug of peach juice.

"Interesting," he says tilting his attention back my way, pauses to suckle peach juice residue from his finger, and continues casually with the empty can between his hands. "For me, and many others like me, the Continuing Crisis hunts us as well. We are hunted with hysteria and indifference, with ignorance and an ancient loathing. We are hunted into the shadows and the cracks and the jobs fit only for a slave that pay little better than being one. Yet, all of this I can understand, except one thing."

"What's that?" I ask with roach long burnt out between pinched fingers.

"Why here?" He smiles sadly, "why this country of all countries and you people of all people?"

"Yeah?" I smile politely, "how's that?"

"You're all so afraid of," he laughs sadly looking for a word, "everything. Angry too. Angry at yourselves, at each other, at a world you have no interest in beyond bombing those parts of it that aren't making your sneakers and cell phones. But for the life of me I cannot fathom why this should be. The panic and rage that is. No other nation on this planet, neither now nor in its past, have counted amongst its citizens so many that are both fat and armed to the teeth. Yet every time I turn on the TV to watch the news you would think that we were in the Weimar Republic in 1933. That this is a once mighty empire that has fallen, one that has lost a major war and now is being plundered by insidious savages from another land. I just don't understand where this attitude comes from?"

"Cui bono, brother." I say rising off the cart, "'To Whose Profit?' That's our real national motto. Never mind any of that E Pluribus Unum bullshit, when money talks it asks Cui Bono and when you answer that you'll have answered all those other questions you got as to why things are the way they are. Chem trails? Black helicopters? The Illuminati? Nah, man, it's just a few rich men that can't enjoy what they have until the rest of us have nothing that isn't theirs as well and until they get it they keep convincing the rest of us that we're the ones after it all."

"So what can we do?"

"I dunno. Eat peaches, smoke weed, ask each other tough questions and try not to get caught in the process." It was the best answer I had on me at the time and I could feel reality begin seeping in already so I bade farewell to my companion, wished him well in his travels, and he, in return, wished me well through the perils of our somewhat mutual continuing crisis.
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File it: Dutifully I hand over my driver's license to the police officer. He's about half my age, crew cut, young, built. Decatur PD in the white squad car, sirens off. The officer jots down in a pad the vital statistics off my card -Name, DOB, SS#. He glances up at me with come hither eyes. "You got a phone number?" he asks as if we just met over bumps in a men's room shitter. So I give him a real one unlike I do the cigarette reps at the Admiral's Grave. He jots it down and nods at some quiet intuition that tells him I'm reporting before him on the level.

"Alright," he says flipping the pad closed, " tell me what happened here."

I got, like, four drinks in me, at least, as I'm here at Kid Hemingway's birthday gathering at Plato's Tavern and due to a terrible, terrible social awkwardness need at least that many to be halfway... sociable. I look at the officer, I hope I don't still smell like the bowl I smoked to keep back the crowd jitters, but remembering I smoked said bowl in naught but my boxers proceed with my side of the story confidently.

So I'm in front of Plato's Tavern having a cigarette with NPR Mike and this dude I just met, one of Kid Hemingway's buddy's from back in the day. Just then this car pulls into parking lot, Mike K hops out of it and shouts about how this mother-fucker in a white t-shirt and a backpack just mugged him at knife point and that he's standing right there like nothing happened.

Mike K points towards what appears to be a conifer tree at the edge of a driveway to an apartment complex maybe.

What happens next happened without thought, at least not a kind narrated by words.

What happens next is that I start walking over towards the conifer, barking out for someone to grab Kid Hemingway and Teddy Bear for back up. When I get a few yards away I see this skinny kid in a baseball hat dart from behind the conifer (or whatever kinda tree it was) . He's got a white t-shirt on and a small sack of some sort slung over his shoulder. He bolts with zero hesitation.

And I... because of the alcohol, because of the weed, because of some instinct of who I was before I was soft and old... take right off after him, shouting in my doorman voice - "Hey Mother-Fucker!"

You think it'd be all a blur, right? But no. Everything is clear, the cars, the windows, the street lamps, and then there's the white shirt in the dark with an impulse launching you after it.

I didn't know what I'd do when I caught that white shirt, only that I'd hit with maximum velocity and 243 pounds of chunk bravado and I'd swing and I'd scream and that I was alive, alive and unafraid.

Anyway, so dig, the kid is lean, he's got closer to thirty than twenty years on me, and he's laying down some serious momentum.

Don't care. Go.

He takes a corner, I slow down enough not to ram a fence and 90 degree down an alley way sandwiched between a wall and a chain link fence. This fucking citizen pulls up behind it in a pickup truck, hops out of it, yells some shit about what I think I'm doing tearing ass by his property in the middle of the night. I yell back that the mother-fucker in the white shirt just mugged my friend with a knife.

The white shirt hits a wood board ten feet high and pops up it with some sort of ninja parkour bullshit. Behind the man is out of his pickup truck and running after the kid alongside me from the other side of the chain link fence. I hit the wood board wall, leap, fingers miss the board by a cunt hair (or cock hair all things being equal) and slide down the wall off a slap. Then I see it. There was a broken chunk of wall that he must've used to kick off of and I'm ready to give it a shot when...

"Mosca!" Kid Hemingway shouts with a voice that's pure Steve Rogers.

Boot camp muscle memory triggers a shut down and I abandon pursuit.

I turn to him, dazed, excited, heart pounding, words hitting tongue with a weird sort of alien quaintness - "Let's go."

"No." Kid Hemingway says shaking his head and he talks me down from the adrenalin rush, leads me back out of the alley where Teddy Bear is approaching cautious. I don't know, I don't think I was laughing, but I have this weird post roller coaster feeling and I'm talking but I don't even know if I'm talking any sense, hell, I don't know if I was talking any sense before I gave chase, but there's... everyone, the whole Birthday Party and I don't mean Nick Cave.

I don't know what I was thinking, even know some two hours after the fact. If, by some fluke, I wasn't some old fart who couldn't even hop a wall, the fact is I probably would've gotten my ass stabbed, if not straight up beat down. But, and I know this, beyond the fear that haunts me, I would've landed a few, maybe not many, but enough to let him know it wasn't easy, it wasn't free, that I was alive and even if I only got one punch in it was better than being what I've been for far too long, the kind of man who stands there and does nothing.

"At least I fucking tried," teenage me replays the Ian MacKaye imprinted in my skull, "what the fuck have you done?"

It was stupid. An old man move, totally. But... that instinct. It fucks me up, man, it really does, it fucks me up and I've been clean of the instinct since I quit the club scene. But when you taste it, even just quickly, you become free of all that bullshit that gets cluttered up in your head. All that shit putting you down, putting other people down, the lonely resentment, the meek weasel fear. All of it gone. You want to know why folks put white shit up their nose or drink well past 'happy'. To be there. Even if for a few minutes. Even if it costs you your friendships, your job, your love.

So now, luckier than I deserve, I give to the cop what I'm giving you and right now that instinct in my head is telling me that it's still not too late to take a cab to some last call and find a skinny guy and a thick gal to fuck at the same time, but...

... that's not me talking, just the alcohol and the nerves in need of another bowl.

Ah, fuck it, just another story to tell, right?
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The last place I expected to see my friend Bud was on the big screen tonight, some fifteen years now after his death. He wasn't there for long, popped up in some quick footage, standing there at the front of the stage of a local punk show with arms crossed like the guardian of the door of the law in Kafka's parable. Face instantly recognizable, Robert Mitchum eyes grafted onto a young Henry Rollins face. He's wearing a black watch-cap, arms folded, face stoic even as the crowd sings along drunk, drugged, invincible. Here I am in the audience, my black watch-cap tucked in my leather jacket, my Wu-Tang t-shirt emblazoned across chest like some sort of superhero logo just like the one he used to wear. Instant epiphany, I dress as the dead to channel their spirit, their courage, their spark.

On screen I sit there and listen to ghosts and survivors recount that primal flame they tapped into with the band, with the scene, with the world at end of a millennium. It begins with misfits kids in Fayetttenam, it begins with mutual appreciation for fellow freaks and fuck-ups. It begins with after school jam sessions, it begins with a screamer when you can't find a singer, it begins with the basement of the Somber Reptile, it begins with a fuck this that builds into a fuck you. I arrive midway through their story. Two ex-shipmates who needed a roommate in Terminus and enter Jack Babalon with a duffel bag full of clothes and a crate full of books on Beats and Magick. At a bonfire party I meet their friend Bud and we hit it off despite me initially calling him a testosterone redneck when I manage to Karaoke some Crass on the spot. "Jesus died for your sins, not mine!" Despite being this awful poet, this comic book geek, this criminally shy wise ass with more wit than common sense, he takes me in into his world and what a fucking world it was. A world of chemical rushes, bipoloar dispositions, Molotov drama, broken toys rowdy in the playground apocalypse.

The Terminus Punk Scene, 19-90-Never, and I'm midnight embedded, couch surfing, filling notebooks with dispatches from rousting Nazis back to the OTP, dodging gunfire, kidnapping fools for coke dealers, B&E, waiting around phone booths to use code words off pagers, watching an Uzi laid on top off a QP while an infant crawls over a pile of 2 month unwashed laundry, everyone ghetto rich, rap sheet accredited and somehow unaware of the strange kid in the background of the cosmic night just along for the ride. Christ only knows what they thought of me then or if they even remember me now.

After the movie, I said goodbye to Winter, Bud's ex and widow, and walked from the Plaza down to the Admiral's Grave. Along the way I pass the under constructions mixed use intown living Borg-Cubism slab of hell ready to come. I pass the Highland Ballroom where last year I read to a crowd amongst the literati for charity, and where next door I read twenty years ago a poem dedicated to the just then recently deceased Allen Ginsberg. It was there I had my first date with Alexandra who broke up with me the day she returned from the abortion clinic and pronounced me an irredeemable fuck-up. Another block and there's Mannie's but that's the Gloom Patrol's tale to tell, there's Buddy's where I would pick up the Creative Loafing to skim the want ads when I first moved down here, there's Videodrome where I educated myself on Beat Takashi and Peckinpah. Keep going, cross the bike trail where you would ride with Magpie stoned and we'd spitball projects that would never be. Down the block where I watched Bud ricochet some asshole's head off the steel bars behind the Junkman's daughter's parking lot, past the Cowboy Fashion Boutique that was once the Point where I would peacock flex between rounds in the pit or write love letters to bored vampires on the back of napkins, keep going, past the pizza joint where I'd buy dime bags under a table carved with other miscreants past, keep going past my comic shop and there at the Admiral's Grave.

There I drink, as previously posted, myself stoic and shake off the visions replaying whether I open my eyes or shut them. I keep it limited to two, so I don't weep or punch out the glass in the little side booth I occupy. Just two, that's all I need. Anything else and I'd be acting strictly from hunger as James Elroy might say. Two is enough to limp me out of Vampire Country and somewhere an Uber can pick me up. On the ride home I bust into routines about life unreadable. Lately it's Uber or Lyft drivers I talk to the most. I make them laugh, even if only politely so, I hear their observations and reflect it back with a harmonic succinctness. Occasionally they even remember me but because my account with them is linked to my Google rather than my bank they all call me Jack. So even late at night, when returning from the movies where I watched my ghosts both intimate and casual speak, after two drinks, after a ride home with a stranger who can't stop giggling at my 'observations' on gentrification, he calls me by my code name, my nom de guerre, my mask unshakeable.

So, Jack Babalon tips him well, leaves him on another chuckle, closes the door and walks back into a little dark room where his secret identity sits imprisoned to blog victorious.

All of which is to say, I think I sufficiently remember why I chose to be anti-social these last few weeks, months, years, not only as armor against arrogance and indifference but because it's better to be a ghost with a story to tell than live alone among the crowds.

I miss you man, I miss a lot of the people I loved who are no more, but tonight I miss you special. You had a way of keeping my thoughts from getting too black and making me laugh where others could not. No matter how crazy the trip, how dangerous the situation, I never felt alone when you walked the earth. I wonder if you would've read the book or saw me DJ that New Year's or saw one of the plays I worked on. I wonder if you would've been half as proud as I was to know you.

Heh, fuck it, I should've spent this energy on the next book but I needed to talk to someone, a stranger or someone I know longer talk to will do I suppose. At night, when I'm stoned, I imagine that on some drunken and forgotten evening I made a deal with the devil. In return for the audience the work makes me crave, I will forfeit company, comradeship, back-up as I had known in the past.

Maybe, but then again maybe just because I only had two at the bar doesn't mean I stopped drinking when I got home.

Alright, you brave half -dozen souls who've made it this far, thanks for being giving me a witness, now why don't we all fuck off to bed and call it the night.
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Where angels fall she is the wings and welcome back to the Admiral's Grave where once I drank with the most charming of monsters. Perched on the corner of my eye she sits, satanic harlequin, hair blood of my enemies red and cold staring through Chernobyl mascara at nothing-no one at all. One look, even off the periphery, and you can tell she's one of those rare souls who really knows how to wear a bad day. Most of us can't pull it off worth a damn. We grab whatever grief we have out of our psychic closet and over accessorize with resentment. Not her, she wears it with just the right mix of stoic humor and a dash of someone's ass is gonna get kicked soon.

And right there I want her, but not the way I would have when I was her age in that time now as irretrievably precious as it was gloriously squandered. Then what I would have wanted was for her to see me where others could not, to approach wolf certain and with owl cunning. To sit down beside me, give voice to that poetry my fingers deny my lips, warn me earnest that I am beyond any option that doesn't end with her straddling me as Valkyries straddle winged steeds.

But what it took me much too long to learn was what I desired was myself in stranger's form. Narcissism with a mask, my shadow in drag, and all the world a puppet to this secret narrative. Luckily I had a psychic meltdown, grief triggered, coke fueled and this thing that crawled out of the wreckage looks now at this vision and lusts only to hear their story. I want her to reveal the why behind the scratches on the leather jacket, the cuts on the knuckles, the empty glass weighed ponderously, the bitter laugh at a passing remembrance, the sigh that mutes the entire bar.

Habit though, much like her sister, Nature, abhors a vacuum so I tell myself that she just finished her last assignment and somewhere a childhood friend is collapsed with a bullet in their head. I tell myself that as a favor owed to a band mate she attended an invocation of a terrible god that seeks to rule once more over this glass fragile planet and now nothing seems right at all. I tell myself that at her apartment a blind ghost shouts for a deaf lover whose spectral form can be seen kissing what she is pretty sure is the Devil.

I tell myself all kinds of stupid things until I sip my whiskey and immediately that thirst that feeds such thoughts abates. Temporarily, no longer than a cigarette but with a little patience all the time in the world. After all this is Admiral's Grave, and while the Cafe Perilous, being Grief Theater adjacent, is a place where stories are born the Grave on the other hand is a place where we go to escape them. A place to confess to fellow creatures of the night what the day should never hear, a place to drink, dance, fuck, or fight your way to however deep a layer of oblivion you can dig yourself into.

A place where we can escape the secret author who sabotages us from within.

I suppose for my brothers and sisters in the Gloom Patrol, I reckon that place for them was Mannies, though whenever I haunted her it struck me as a place where stories were celebrated. All those post- Write Club victory parties, where adrenalin rushes got shaken off or at presidential elections celebrated with the same raucousness whenever Georgia made the playoffs. It was where I took my parents on special occasions and occasionally hung out with the coolest recreational nihilists you could hope to meet.

Sincerely she is missed, as will the Masquerade when her time comes, as will the rest of this city that rose out of ashes only to crystallize into a hyper-real version of itself worthy of Ecco's contemplations. But for me, so long as the Admiral's Grave stands, I will have a port away from the storms my black moods invoke . Then upon drunken tides, I am free to launch bold into new chapters once inconceivable and forbidden where upon a better tale can be told.
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"Come, worthy Greek! Ulysses, come,
Possess these shores with me:
The winds and seas are troublesome,
And here we may be free."
~ Samuel Daniel

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