An Economy of Words - 015: Day of Reckoning
Day of Reckoning
So it was a brand spanking new month and you know what that means: (1) we had to take my wife over to the hospital for another ultrasound of her rapidly shrinking belly; (2) she was extra grumpy since her period not only arrived but brought more bleeding than usual; and (3) the hipsters would be roaming the streets of Oakland for the art walk known as Murmur.
Now, I’m not a JBF in the slightest. Still – normally – I’d probably take exception to a dude with frosted bangs rubbing lube on my wife’s torso and then gliding some sort of dildo-looking knob all over it.
But these were desperate times and a guy in my shoes had to overlook certain things, especially when the dude let us know on the DL that everything looked pretty good on the monitor. I mean, sure, these technician types aren’t really supposed to tell you jackshit. At least, not until the doctor dictates his lazy-ass report. Nevertheless, this guy (did I mention he looked exactly like a Midwestern frat boy who’d recently moved to L.A. to land a role on the new Melrose Place?) nodded knowingly when we asked him if “everything was cool.”
“So did you hear the news?”
“You mean that my beautiful wife’s stomach looked perfect on her latest ultrasound? Fuck you, cancer, fuck you very much!”
As I started to absentmindedly headbang – who could blame me, though, seeing as “Africa” by Toto was playing faintly on the car radio – my pretending-not-to-be-amused-in-the-slightest-by-my-ridiculously-cute-antics wife retorted: “I meant about Kathy.”
“No, sweetness, what happened with Kathy now?”
“She broke up with that jerk-ass guitarist from Kurt’s old band.”
“You mean Blake?”
“Yeah, can you believe it?”
“Sure. I mean, Kathy’s broken up with a ton of guys.”
“And what the fuck’s that supposed to mean?”
Almost missing our exit, I swung the steering wheel suddenly to the right and muttered: “Nothing, besides it’s a well-known fact that Kathy’s dumped a lot of dudes. That’s all.”
“Well, I take exception to your tone.”
Rolling my eyes and itching my thigh, I continued to monotone: “So what else is new?”
“I swear, honeypot, sometimes I don’t know where you’re mind is at lately.”
I’ll tell you where my mind was at. I was thinking about how I really hoped that I’d successfully downloaded the new Dinosaur Jr. album while we were at the hospital and that it was as awesome to listen to when you’re high as Where You Been.
“I’m just saying that Kathy has proved once again that she’s truly my best friend. And all you can do is make petty wisecracks about her guy troubles. That’s kinda sad.”
“I did no such thing! Anyway, can we please move on? Just tell me what happened with them already.”
“Okay, so here’s the amazing thing, she actually broke up with her boyfriend since he wouldn’t hook me up with anymore weed.”
“Wow, are you fucking serious?”
“Yeah, I guess what happened was that after his coffee shop got shut down, he and his partners started to hoard all the weed they could get their greedy hands on. And they’ve been selling it on the side to pay off their bills and shit. So when she asked him to throw down some more for me, he said that he couldn’t spare any this time. And she told him if he wasn’t willing to help her friend, she didn’t want to be with him one moment longer.”
“But he must’ve been bad in bed or something too, right?”
“See, there you go again! Here I am, trying to explain to you how my very best friend showed some fucking solidarity in light of my suffering – which, I might add, is more than you can say about a certain chunky chum of yours – and all you can do is. . .”
“Whatever, sweetness. While I certainly admit Kathy has always been very loyal to you, at the same time, you have to acknowledge that she’s an absolute train wreck when it comes to men and relationships and all that fun stuff.”
“Yeah, well, sometimes men and relationships and all that fun stuff can be complicated.”
With those icy words, my pissed-off wife effectively ended the conversation and our post-ultrasound celebratory mood. Seriously, even when I tried to tell her the hilarious story about the poop on the floor of the bathroom back at the GI’s office, she pretty much just ignored my blathering.
So when we got home and she went straight to bed complaining of cramps, I hopped on my bicycle, grabbed a brown bagged beverage, and ventured off into the crisp night air.
You see, a few years back, all of these art spaces started popping up on the edges of Downtown Oakland – the area was literally a ghost town, but now post-gentrification has been dubbed, “Uptown” – and they got together and decided that the best way to bring folks out to their galleries was to have a monthly art walk. And, man alive, did the hipsters of the East Bay respond. In fucking swarms.
Honestly, I’d never seen so many pasty-faced-skinny-pantsed-scenesters out after dark in Oak-town. In fact, the whole scene was rather disconcerting as I tried to park my shitty bike near the Stork Club.
Fortunately, I immediately bumped into one of my old loyal friends.
“Hey, Kurt. Kurt, is that you?”
Pushing his way through the crowd and ignoring the fawning female in the Fugazi shirt who’d been hanging on his every word, Kurt wrapped his lengthy arms around my torso.
“Man, I haven’t seen you in like forever.”
“Sorry, I been busy. You know how it is.”
“So how’re things going with the wife and everything?”
“Strikes and gutters. Like today, we got great news at her ultrasound.”
“Well, that’s good shit then.”
“Except for the fact that we had like our fifty millionth fight on the way home.”
Raising my brown bag, I agreed: “Seriously.”
“Oh shit, I gotta jet. There’s this crazy cat over at RPS that I gots to speak at. It’s about this new musical project I’m involved in that involves electronic drums. You’re gonna love it.”
Not really wanting to kick it alone on Telegraph amid the sea of scenesters, I stammered: “No problem, Kurt, I’ll catch you later or something.”
“Totally. Don’t forget about my party.”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
One thing I couldn’t seem to miss, even if I tried, was Kyle. I swear – and, don’t get me wrong, he is my oldest (if not most loyal) friend in the world – I can’t go more than like two days without seeing his ugly fucking face.
“K-Rod, what on earth are you doing here?”
“Dude, you know how I roll. I dig me some art.”
“No, you don’t. In fact, if I recall correctly, you once said that: ‘All art was nothing but homos jerking off and making people pay to see their splooge.’”
“Really? That doesn’t sound like something I’d say.”
“Actually, I think I have it on tape.”
“Whatever, dude, Lydia wanted to check this shit out so we came, what the fuck do you want me to say?”
“So where is she?”
“Her and Scoot are in that retarded place over there looking at black and white pictures of port-a-potties.”
“Then what are you doing out here?”
“Trying to roll a joint with a terrifying low supply of weed. Now, if you don’t mind, can you step a few feet to the right? I need someone to block that fucking wind.”
“Well, I’m glad someone needs me.”
“Nevermind. So, hey, check this out. We went to see the GI at the hospital today.”
“What’s that mean?”
“The GI, what’s it mean? Like GI Joe or something.”
“No, it’s a gastroenterologist.”
As my tubby companion stared blankly at me while attempting to get every last piece of shake out of his skunky Ziploc bag, I added: “It’s like a stomach doctor.”
“Oh, I see. So did you catch Rise of Cobra yet?”
“Nope. I was supposed to go with you. And then you and Scoot decided to go on opening night without me, remember?”
“Well, you didn’t miss much, dude. They completely cocked that shit up. I mean, Scarlett never had a thing for Ripcord! She always dug Snake Eyes and, maybe, Duke. And, I might add, the Baroness didn’t have jackshit to do with Duke. Why do they always have to ass-rape everything I love from childhood?”
“Hey, man, I was telling a fucking story here!”
“Really? You were? About what?”
“About how I took the wife to the GI today for her monthly ultrasound and they made us sit for like fucking ever in the waiting room and I really had to pee. So, finally, I asked them for the restroom key and I raced down the hall – not wanting to leave her alone for too too long before the procedure. . .”
“That reminds me, you don’t got any weed, do ya?”
“No, Kyle. You know I don’t smoke. So why would I have that shit on me?”
“I dunno. I just thought since you said the wife was turning into like a major league stoner that maybe you know. . .”
“No, I don’t. Anyway, as I was saying, I ran down to the bathroom and when I walked inside, the floor was like covered in poop.”
“Seriously, I almost stepped in that shit while I was pissing. But here’s the worst part. When I came back out, there was like this woman waiting in the hall for the key. And, since it was a GI doctor’s office and all, I imagine she probably thought that I was the one who crapped all over the place. And there was really no way to explain that I didn’t, especially since I needed to get back to the waiting room right away.”
“Wait a second, what did you say a GI was again?”
“A tummy doctor, dumbass. Maybe you should go see one.”
Punching him playfully in the folds of his oversized hoodie, I declared: “To see if they can remove some of your extra flab.”
“Whoa, watch it, dude! You almost made me spill my precious nugs.”
Watching my obese companion rolling a desperate little pinner, something came over me. Perhaps, it was just the booze – or the handful of Vicodin I swallowed on the way out the door – but I felt a certain sense of something. I’m not quite sure what it was exactly. But it felt deep and meaningful. So, as usual, I tried to explain myself.
“You know what, Kyle, I am like so fucking jealous of you. I really am.”
“Why? Cause I have a huge motherfucking cock?”
“No, asswipe, because you have such a single-minded focus.”
“On my huge motherfucking cock?”
“Will you please shut up about your huge motherfucking cock and just listen for once?”
Grinning as he licked the joint, Kyle proudly announced: “Ha, I totally got you to say that I’ve got a huge motherfucking cock.”
“Whatever, man. What I was trying to get at is the fact that for pretty much all of your adult life, you’ve known exactly what you wanted.”
“You mean, getting high and having me some anal?”
“That’s what you wanted and you kept trying until you got it. And then there’s me. Frankly, Kyle, I’ve never known what I’ve wanted out of life. I mean, yeah, sure, I have a wonderful wife and all that. But I constantly feel like I need something more. So I write these stories that go nowhere and apply for jobs that I could never get. Even as I’m forced to sit back and watch this fucking disease ravage my wife, who’s like the one decent thing I’ve got. Do you have any idea what it’s like to watch the body of someone you love slowly devour itself?”
I probably wasn’t making much sense – but to me – this whole exchange was extremely powerful. Honestly, I was even misting up a little bit there.
“If it’s anything like trying to roll a tasty doob and finding out you ain’t got enough weed, I can like feel your pain, dude. Shit, where the hell is Scoot when you need him?”
“Thanks, dillhole. Thanks a lot. Man, I swear, you always seem to know how to say the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong moment.”
“Hey, that’s not fair! Not fucking fair at all. You know I got nothing but big love for you and the wife. And she’s totally going to be okay, dude.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Cause you keep telling me that shit. Plus, if this whole GI scan went bad or whatever, you wouldn’t be here drinking in the streets of Oakland with all these lame hipsters. Much less telling me some stupid fucking story about shitting on the floor. So, seeing as things must be going good for y’all, there ain’t much too worry about besides our weed supply.”
“Speaking of which, why is it that you’ve never offered to throw down for her, even though you know she’s sick and could really use it?”
“Dude, I’ve told you a million times I can get you all the weed y’all could ever smoke.”
“But you want us to pay for it.”
“That is how the market works.”
“Yeah, but we’re best friends, Kyle, and my wife’s got fucking cancer! She can’t even eat without that shit. And we’re broke.”
“Which is precisely why I keep trying to hook you – and your endless supply of painkillers – up with Scooter. You guys could make some serious scrilla.”
“Except for the fact that she kinda needs that fucking medicine! And, anyway, I thought you told me that Scoot was going legitimate like Michael Corleone.”
“He is, but c’mon, dude. We all saw The Godfather Part II, right?”
Inhaling deeply from the joint, Kyle handed it over to me before exhaling: “Here. Don’t say that I never offered you nothing. It’s not like I’m a total fucking asshole.”
“That reminds me, are you serious about being over the whole anal thing?”
“Absolutely. I wouldn’t joke about that shit. Why?”
“I dunno, like I said, there’s just something I’ve always really admired about your focus on that shit. I just wish I had something in my own life that was so fucking important.”
“Yeah, well, you obviously don’t know what it’s like to be the butt of everyone’s jokes. Just cause you want to express yourself and try something new.”
As Kyle’s smoke – and rather odd choice of words – hung in the cool night air, Scooter and Lydia joined us.
“Hey, cutiepie, can I get a hit off that?”
“So, Kyle, check it out. I just had this amazing idea for a show to pitch to them TV executives that called the other day.”
“Wait a second, Scoot. What do you mean, ‘TV executives?” I wondered in disbelief.
“Dude, I told ya that You Boob was like off the hook.”
“So fucking what, Kyle?”
“So some executives from a couple cable channels have been in touch with us.”
“Yeah. Apparently, they’re like super stoked by our inventive programming and they want to make some sort of production deal with us for content.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“I dunno, but that’s what they told us. So we’ve been like seriously working on that shit a lot lately.”
“Which is what I’m getting at, K-Rod. You know that smooth operator from BET who said they’d be interested in a reality show from our unique perspective? Well, I was like inspired by all these honky hipsters kicking it in the streets of Oak-town. Think about it, we could just film this shit and call it, ‘Whitey Gone Wild.’ I mean, look at this scene. Everyone’s drinking and hanging out in the middle of the road and there ain’t no cop in sight. When’s the last time you saw some crazy shit like that in this neighborhood? Hell, I used to get crack on that corner over there and the po-po were always rolling up on my ass. It’s fucking mind-boggling why they let these fools get away with this shit.”
“Yeah, I get it, Scoot. Its kinda like Girls Gone Wild, but without the tits. I bet BET will totally dig that shit.”
“Whoa, slow down there, pardner. It is cable. We may still be able to show some titties. After all, we do have a reputation to uphold.”
“Hey, I kinda sorta know some people with tits.”
“Fo’sure. Thanks, Lyd, I knew we could count on you.”
Unable to stand this idiotic conversation – or the chilly night air – I fled into a nearby gallery, which was indeed packed full of whiteys going wild for art. Specifically, they were guzzling free wine by the box and checking out collages made from discarded magazines.
Actually, I kinda dug some of the pieces myself. This one, in particular, caught my eye:
As I was studying the juxtaposed images, a bespectacled longhair with a dirty goatee accosted me: “You like?”
“Groovy. Though, personally, I’ve grown to abhor it.”
“That’s too bad for you.”
“Tell me about it. There’s no worse feeling on the planet than detesting your own creation. I’ve been considering re-titling the piece: ‘Why My Art Is a Failure: An Absolute Failure!’ Well, either that or ‘The Zabbaleen.’”
“So I guess that means you made this one, huh?”
“Guilty as charged.”
“But you don’t even like it?”
“Not anymore, I don’t. You see, I was attempting to start a dialogue about the most important issues of our time. Like what does it mean that we elected this new president with so much hope and excitement after all the BS we’d been through with Bush and that gang of war criminals? And, at the same time, what does it mean that a major political party in this country believes that love should be essentially illegal – or at least a certain type of love – and that the main spokesperson for that very same party has a penchant for executing animals with assault rifles? Or that her teenage daughter managed to get knocked up by a dude rocking a wicked mullet and they never even got married as promised on the campaign trail? I mean, one day we’re all going to have to answer for our sins, are we not?”
“Honestly, man, I just came in here to check out some art and maybe get out of the cold. And your collage kinda captivated me. As for all that big picture stuff, I don’t really know what to tell you. I guess I just to try to be a decent person and hope my soul is okay at the end of the day, you know what I mean?”
In retrospect, I realized that the artist dude was probably completely fucking wasted since he basically ignored my heartfelt response to his existential queries and instead started moshing into people.
Of course, a shitgaze Hanson cover band did just start their extremely loud set. But still, c’mon, what could they possibly have to say about art and the state of the universe? Certainly, not more than me. Right?