June 05, 2008

June 2008, Vol. 7, Issue 6

Welcome to the birthday issue of Truckin! We have now been around for six years.

1. Ikeaphobia by Paul McGuire
I kept imagining Swedish people in Sweden coming home from their Swedish jobs and sitting down on their Swedish couches and eating Swedish meals cooked in Swedish pans and served on Swedish plates... More

2. The Crucification of Kaminsky by Betty Underground
The diet pills made her skinny. Made her feel excepted in the land of the beautiful. The speed getting her through the days. Coke came at night, when she needed to escape her own mind. Her past... More

3. One Night Out, Part I by Sigge S. Amdal
I noticed that I wasn't alone in the alley, and I looked up quick enough to see a prostitute coughing up a recognizable white substance. She looked up and for a brief time our eyes met. Only one window apart earlier, but out here we were both equally being sick. It was a strange moment of solidarity... More

4. The Reason Why... by May B. Yesno
The place had a less than classy name, The Roamin Gardens, to say little of the fact the only garden about it were two fake, potted palm trees at the front door. A typical sleazy pick-up joint. One in which you feel like everything you touch you can pick-up most anything... More

5. Drafting Richard Petty by Drizz
Imagine starting every day with these heavy chains pinning you to Davy Jones' Locker, and having zero motivation to try to swim to the surface because those depths didn't provide any sunlight to reach... More

6. FLASHBACK - Fukuoka, Phishy City by Tenzin McGrupp
The workers are tiny Japanese girls who wear the most adorable white and red uniforms and lovely white gloves cover their tiny hands. They greet you with big smiles and sing a nice happy song to you as the customers pay... More

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been...

From the Editor's Laptop:

Welcome to the special birthday issue of Truckin'. We turned six this month. Man, I'm still socked that we're still operating on this little corner of the web. The last year was one of the best to date. I want to personally thank everyone who has been involved with Truckin', especially over the past twelve months.

This issue includes some of your favorite writers include Sigge S. Amdal, Betty Underground, and May B. Yesno. Drizz makes his Truckin' debut with a touching piece. I wrote something about Ikea and this issue also includes a flashback from the very first issue when I wrote a story about following Phish in Japan. I used my pen name... Tenzin McGrupp.

If you have friends, family, or co-workers that love the written word, then please tell them about your favorite Truckin' stories. It takes only a few seconds to pass along the URL. The writers certainly appreciate your support.

Also, feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you know anyone who is interested in being added to the mailing list or if you are interested in becoming a Truckin' author.

Thanks again to everyone who wasting their precious time with Truckin'. And special thanks goes out to all of the Truckin' writers who shared their blood work and exposed their naked souls for free. Thanks for inspiring me and taking a tremendous leap of faith with me.

Be good,

"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." - Anais Nin

Truckin' Flashback: Fukuoka, Phishy City

y Tenzin McGrupp © 2002

14 June 2000

Holly walks through our car on the bullet train with a grin on her face. “I lost my boyfriend,” as she shrugs her shoulders, “He got out at the last stop, went to go buy something on the platform, and the doors closed on him, and the train left without him.” Poor Holly, her boyfriend got off and never made it back on the bullet train to Fukuoka.

Our train arrives at Hakata Station in Fukuoka exactly one minute early than scheduled. Fukuoka is Japan’s largest and most populated southern city. A majestic port city, it is closer to Seoul, South Korea than it is to Tokyo, which gives Fukuoka a more international flavor, especially with a fair amount of American military around, the locals are more used to GAI-JIN. Señor and I walk through the busy Hakata Station and we find a crowd gathered around a stage with a live musical performance by a band and these tiny kimono wearing dancers. As we pause to check out the scene, I am aroused by the flavorful smells of baked goods. I turn around frantically, trying to seek out the origin of the smells, the aromas, the tantalizing treats that are making my already hungry stomach growl for more attention.

I find the bakery a few steps away called TANDOR. Upon entering the bakery you are walk among rows of baskets of baked goods, all various sizes and shapes, of fresh baked breads and pasties and cookies. The large brick bread making ovens are located right behind the check out counter, where all the workers are tiny Japanese girls who wear the most adorable white and red uniforms and lovely white gloves cover their tiny hands. They greet you with big smiles and sing a nice happy song to you as the customers pay. I have no idea what they are saying but it makes me smile anyway. I buy a loaf of garlic bread, a few rolls, a couple of chocolate doughnuts and three containers of orange juice. The portions are so small in Japan, that I have to buy almost double the amount of food that is presented to me. I lug my overstuffed backpack and my baked goods to the counter and the check out girl smiles and is overly enthusiastic about my sale. I bow my head and say, “Arigato!” And she smiles back and bows.

Señor and I walk out of Hakata Station and find our way to the subway, as I catch my first glimpse of downtown Fukuoka. It’s very sunny and warm, and this is the most sun I have seen since I arrived in Japan a week ago. I bask it up for a few moments before we walk into the subway and take a ride to the area of town where Phish is playing. We were suggested a hotel by the information desk at the train station, and like every city we traveled to on this trip, we never once made a reservation, we would just show up and take our chances finding lodging. Risky, but that's how we were doing this trip. As we exited off subway and started walking in the wrong direction, I stop to ask a local where our hotel was, he tells me I am going the wrong way and gives me the correct directions in perfect English! The Fukuoka locals are definitely more friendly down here in Sourthern Japan, and alot more willing to help with directions, as compared to the serious brush offs we were getting in Tokyo.

The hotel is overbooked, we unhappily find out upon arrival. But the manager recommends a cheaper place just a few blocks away. He even calls to make reservations for us! As I make small talk with the nice fellow, I find out that he’s not only well versed in English, but fluent in French as well. He worked at the Japanese Embassy in Paris for a decade, and I chat with him briefly in French, before thanking him and making our way to the next hotel. I’m pleasantly surprised by the friendly, curious energy and the laid back, Sunny California attitude of the locals. I’m really enjoying the vibe in Fukuoka and start to hope the vibe finds it’s way to the show later that night.

We check into our small rooms, shown to us by a very small and round elderly lady at the front desk who had been expecting us. I drop off my stuff, write a few lines, take a quick shower, make a quick inventory of my narcotics, Yen and tickets and head back to Hakata Station to meet Beano. He had separated from us in Tokyo and went to check out the mountains for a few days and skipped the Nagoya show. We are all excited to reunite, and when we finally find him, we’re all pumped and start to focus on Phish! On our way back to the hotel, Beano tells us stories about staying in a RYOKIN, a Japanese style hotel and a funny story about his bus ride from the hotel to the JR train station. We drop off his gear and head right for DRUM LOGOS, just a few blocks away, the venue where Phish should be starting up in less than 2 hours.

For the first time all trip, I kinda get us lost and Beano and Señor don’t have a clue because they have instinctively been following me the entire trip. I didn't want to tell them we were lost, so I just keep walking. I’m starting to feel the beginning effects of the shroomies I took before I left the hotel, and I hope I don't start booming too early, while I'm lost. I’m very confused because the street signs are all in Japanese and the map I have isn't very good, so I finally stop on one corner and confess to Beano and Señor, “Guys, I can’t find the venue.”

As they look at the map, I notice Mike Gordon (Bass player for Phish) walking down the adjacent street, and I quickly say, “Well we can always follow Mike to the show.”

And I pull them off in that direction. We keep following Mike about 20 yards behind, until I see a few phisheads loitering about, then I know I’m going in the right direction, onward to Drum Logos. In Japan, they let you into the show by ticket number so we had low numbers and scurry right inside and get a good spot for the general admission show. It's larger than the last venue in Nagoya, but smaller than the Zepp in Tokyo. Señor meets two Deadheads living in Southern Japan and it's their only show of the tour. I meet a couple of kids from the Navy (they barely shaved) and they ask me for some LSD. I tell them I’m not holding and they explain to me how they get drug tested, but not for acid. Interesting. Good to know my tax dollars are being spent on random psychedelic experimentation for our soldiers throughout the world. G.I. Joe keeps asking me if they are going to play WILSON and I keep telling him (and showing him the setlist from the Nagoya show) that they played it last night.

I notice this show might have the most Americans in attendance. Most of them I haven't seen on tour. They is a lot of military personnel and Yanks working in Southern Japan which accounted for the new American faces. Zobo is with Aki and Kimi and they find us and sit down. I also see Dan and Marie from San Francisco and all three girls named Heather on tour, as the lights go down and the boys start out dark and I fire up the hashish and toke with Beano.

Carini is one of my favorite Phish songs to hear and I love the frantic and dark Phish to begin the night. Cities was fun because Zobo was making me laugh the entire song and Trey changed some of the lyrics to: “It's only the noodles... It's only the noodles” Gumbo was well placed and unexpected, and Heavy Things is a Japanese favorite and makes the crowd go a little crazy. A edgy Split Open & Melt closed the heavy, contumacious and dark set. When the lights came back on, Beano and I made a beeline for the Beer Line as I scribbled down the setlist:


A Japanese kid in line behind me recognizes me and says with a warm smile, “Tokyo show?”

I nod and agree, trying to remember who he was then I recall he had been wearing a Dog Faced Boy T-shirt at the Zepp show, and I then I exclaim, “Zepp Tokyo. Great show! Seiko!”

He gets excited and laughs and I chuckle as I am slowly becoming a celebrity, being recognized left and right by random Japanese tour rats. We make our back to Señor and he’s smoking with Aki and Kimi and they are getting very shitty. I turn to Aki and say, 2001.

His eyes get all wide, “Really?”

“Yeah bro, it will make my whole tour.”

Aki agrees and passes me some homegrown Osaka cannabis. Before the second set starts I put the vibe out. 2001, 2001, 2001. I keep thinking it aloud. 2001, 2001...

The set begins with Back on the Train > Twist > Jam. The Jam was a very odd spacey jam which then segued into Walk Away. Our lost member of Phish, Page was smoking during this tune. I almost forgot about Page this tour. He was just chilling back, grooving and waiting for his moment. Slowly Walk Away jammed into 2001! I turned to Aki and he just nods his head and gives me a huge smile! I nod back and get lost into the spacey grooves and loops of 2001. Phish peaked at this point and closed the set to the satisfied and funked out crowd. The Twist was 18 minutes long! And I finally got my Japan 2001.

Trey walked onsatge for the encore and someone yelled, “SLEEP”. Trey laughs and jokingly says, “We haven’t played that this tour. We were going to play another song, but we’ll play that. Two songs. We’ll play two songs!” as he holds up two fingers.

The crowd erupts as Phish accommodated a rare request from a Japhan in the front row. I’m not a big fan of Coil, but I focus on Page the entire song, and just watch him play for the last 15 minutes of the show. Page is on a different planet tonight and he does me right, as I finish up jotting down the setlist:

Set 2: Back on the Train > TWIST AROUND > JAM > Walk Away > 2001

Encore: Sleep > COIL

Happy, smiling, elated, over joyed, full of the Fukuoka vibe, we wander out of Drum Logos, only to find Asselope Greg selling one of his Antelope T-shirts.

“McGrupp, buy one. $20,” he yells to me.

“I’ll buy two of those overpriced shirts for 2000 Yen,” as he pretends to ignore my offer, “Well fuck off!" What an Asselope!

We look for a veggie friendly restaurant to eat in for Beano and settle for a Yakatori place on the corner. Every time someone enters and leaves the restaurant, the chef bangs a drum that is located above the bar and yells something out loud. It’s too funny. I can’t get enough of it. I’m booming just a little bit, so I still have the giggles, and I don't know what to eat so I just point to stuff on the grill and they serve it to me. Great eats, which are basically just veggies, chicken, beef and stuff grilled on sticks. Nothing special, but it sets us all right. We have a couple of beers and I’m not tripping anymore as my previous altered state enters into drunk mode. We leave the restaurant, as they bang the drum, and we laugh and take pictures before we stumble off towards our hotel.

At night the local restaurants, bars and hotels leave their recyclable goods on the street for a pick up and Señor and I find a few empty kegs and we start tossing them around and about the empty street. I pick up one over my head as Señor takes a picture. Yeah typical stupid, drunk Americans, doing stupid stuff overseas. We are what we are, drunk wandering the streets of Fukuoka at night.

Editor's Note: This was the first ever submission to Truckin' which I originally wrote under my pen name Tenzin McGrupp.

Drafting Richard Petty

Drafting Richard Petty

By Drizz © 2008

...blink if you can hear me

...can you feel this?

...ok, turn him over please and stabilize his head

I still remember my first full-out seizure occurring at work, typing an email to my sister about having my mom's famous breaded pork chops and twice baked potatoes as a family dinner with my wife of six months. Suddenly, a tingle came over me, and then my fingers wouldn't respond to my command of typing my doctor's name as I had yet another appointment at the U of M to try to figure out what was wrong with me after my accident three months ago. Finally dropping into a catatonic state for six hours in which I couldn't move nor would my limb respond to any of the usual reflex tests.

I thought due to the daily seizures had subsidizing in frequency and intensity, and the ability to make my own bagel, egg, cheese, and bacon sandwiches without fear of putting a nice hole through my hand would signal some road toward normalcy again. But, being carried out on a stretcher by two burly paramedics in the dead of winter while passing the office that yesterday I answered several "where do you see yourself in five years?" "what are you strength?" "can you really fire that third bullet on the river with Queen high?" type questions, brought a lot of things into perspective.

No longer was I the hot-shot up-and-coming worker drone being polished for promotion once I got that elusive parchment from an educational facility proclaiming I took enough credits of Advanced Jump Services in Volleyball 202 and Accounting for Bada-Bing.

No longer would I come to work and see people coming to my desk asking for advice on handling a difficult guest on the phone, how the database's reports were not working, or to give a short presentation on the department's quality assurance findings. They were more likely to look over me with puppy dog eyes of pity.

My job became simply a struggle to show up. Imagine having the balance of Michael Spinks after a minute in the ring with Tyson, the light sensitivity of the sun shining directly into your corneas, and the speech of someone who had too many Cap'n Cokes on his birthday. Imagine starting every day with these heavy chains pinning you to Davy Jones' Locker, and having zero motivation to try to swim to the surface because those depths didn't provide any sunlight to reach.

Eventually through physical and occupational therapy, I was able to slowly enjoy things like playing volleyball with an ankle weight to balance myself, softball with sunglasses and a visor on so I didn't suffer a migraine while performing a throw-hop from right field to throw out that speedy little leadoff hitter trying to stretch an extra base, or use a pen again with the assistance of a dove-shaped writing device. Several of my friends who met me for the first time at the Plaza in Vegas a couple of years ago may remember me wearing a visor and sunglasses, I wore that at all times for nearly four years not just to peel two cards back and ponder a three bet.

Today I'm 95% normal if I ever was normal which I'm sure many friends and family members would turn and have a chuckle at my expense. I don't walk with a weight on my ankle, or use a writing device to scribble my professional athlete-esqe signature on a check.

No, today I try to brush the late bit of hindrances that the accident has caused over the years.

Today is a day I've been looking forward to for nearly seven years. You see, people tend to frown upon allowing drivers of motor vehicles who's bodies spaz out at the sight of flashing lights or blackout for periods of time without warning. Per my neurologist's suggestion that the state remove my driving privileges unless I was in a gutted 87' Monte Carlo at the Sherburne County fair using my trunk to bust someone's radiator to win the demolition derby heat.

The ability to drive is taken for granted by most, much like flicking on the internet to troll for busty college cheerleader porn, if you can't do it, you feel strangely flaccid. I can't repay all the people who have had to go out of their way for the past seven years to shuttle me to a softball game or family poker night get-together. Starting today if I pass my exam, which hopefully will not include milking the prostate, I may regain my ability to pick up a friend or two to check-raise some douchebags at the poker tables at Canterbury just because I can.

Drizz is a writer from Minnesota.

One Night Out Part I: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

By Sigge S. Amdal © 2008

I'd spent twenty-five minutes acquainting myself with the culture of suspenders. I am, as always, running a little late. "There's one thing I can trust when it comes to you," Lady C once told me. "And it is that you're always going to be late."

At least there was some understanding in a cold and cruel universe. I picked up the deli bag filled with Turkish delights, put on my mountain boots and headed out.

It was eight minutes to six. No way I was going to make it by means of public transportation. I wouldn't fit in anyway, with the smoking and the shirt, and I'd probably get robbed. A taxi-shark floated idly parallel to the Botanic garden and completely failed to notice my signal. "God damn it!"

I was going to have to walk to the line four blocks down, where taxis sputter exhaust like beached whales on some island in the pacific.

The taxi line is the means of cultural education of this country, and the results are always depressing. It's a murderous line, a high-danger sport, but not as early as six o'clock.

"Welcome!" the cabbie said very unmiserably. Change of pace, I was stressed, I gave the address and told him to step on it.

"But you are right," I said after catching up with current events. "With what you said about stressing. There's no reason in doing it. Being stressed ain't gonna get me there in time."

"You are right, my friend." Punjabi wisdom shone through a mist of mystery with a slight hint of Little Kariachi's finest.

"What's important," he continued, "is to care about the people you love. And to love. And be happy where you are with what you've got. We can only do our best."

We got there one minute to six and I recognized two of my party standing outside the restaurant. It felt like I had just been to a confession, so I gave him a bit extra for the care to talk bluntly.

Wearing my best, I stepped out of the cab and into the jubilee. It was a golden jubilee for a friend of the family. She had invited all of us to celebrate that she had not yet turned fifty. Hence we were not allowed to congratulate nor bring any presents, which suited me well. Welcome drinks, nice salon with champagne glasses, original art, idle chatter and endless pauses.

I was really hungry and the suspenders ill-adjusted. First time in ten years at least. Then I noticed the mountain boots. I had put on mountain boots going to one of the finest restaurants in this city. Or this country. Pieces of mud still clinging, too. I got another glass of champagne and retreated to the rear of the room, still waiting for the last guests to arrive.

It was a brilliantly composed menu, a culinary adventure going through fliers, swimmers and runners with delicate sauces and carefully selected wines. It was a four-course dinner with several side-plates. Cutlery came and went like love affairs, and the company was invariably loaded with style, avant-garde post-modernism, empty conversations, awe of the tastes and joy for the celebrated port-wine. At dessert time conflict arose in the paper-thin illusion of well-being, ever so sweet the sweets were.

While discussing the beautiful nature of this God-forsaken nation with the mafioso-like mother of the birthday child, Nigerian whores were turning tricks ten yards from the window where I sat. This restaurant was the former residence of a bastard child of the Royal House in Denmark. But the once so prominent streets of voluptuous decadence had fallen to social decay to allow for the pleasures of present day peasants.

My kind, to be true, but not permissible for the role I'd been dealt. I looked around at the other tables and the opinionated rich kids dining with their billion dollar parents filled me with disgust. They talked to each other like lawyers and clients, and truly what shenanigans given their mistresses and mischievous underhanded investments. In order to stay rich you’ve got to pump the poor, it's something everybody knows and no one really wants talked about. I was Oliver Twist on a high roll but I wouldn't ask for more. It made me sick.

Or was it the blessed port? I felt a queasy ache run down the sides of my torso only to make a nest of stinging pain around the belly bag. I got up but now I felt a cold sweat coming on. I could feel my face going pale as blood rushed southwards to see what the hell was going on. Other dinner guests stood up, with the belief I was going out to have a cigarette. To my dismay they followed me, I made up an excuse and headed down for the WC in the basement.

It was full.

The basement, which was an old wine cellar, had been turned into a very rustic-romantic restaurant for the slightly lower classes. This meant there was a second exit on this floor which would take me out to the backstreet without anyone from my party present. Without any of these thoughts in what split-second it took to perceive and pass judgment I headed head first into an alley and threw up a dorsal fin.

That was it. Nothing else came up. Blessed be the port.

Suddenly I noticed that I wasn't alone in the alley, and I looked up quick enough to see a prostitute coughing up a recognizable white substance. She looked up and for a brief time our eyes met. Only one window apart earlier, but out here we were both equally being sick. It was a strange moment of solidarity before conventions yet again refused any sense and drew an invisible curtain 'tween Norwegian and Nigerian. It was back to the rich bastards.

Sigge S. Amdal is a word wanker from Oslo, Norway.


By Paul McGuire 2008

Nicky needed a few things for the apartment after her roommate moved out to West Hollywood. That meant we had a trip scheduled to Ikea. I had never been to Ikea before. I have been to Sweden, but never to Ikea. How many people can say that? I reluctantly thumbed through Ikea catalogues and got tricked into putting together some of their frustrating products that friends and/or family have purchased, but I had never set foot into one of those mega-stores of Swedish disposable furniture.

You can't miss an Ikea store. You can't hide a massive blue warehouse, even in Burbank. We purposely went to Ikea on a Monday morning to avoid the crowds. I made sure that I was super baked for the visit. Places like Ikea scare me because they represent stability and commerce. I must be a closeted superfan of "Stuff White People Like" or perhaps I’m finally settling down after three long ears of being on the road.

The first twenty minutes inside Ikea were sort of neat. We wandered through fake living rooms. I kept imagining Swedish people in Sweden coming home from their Swedish jobs and sitting down on their Swedish couches and eating Swedish meals cooked in Swedish pans and served on Swedish plates. I knew a couple of Swedish people. One of my freelance clients was Swedish. I kept picturing random Swedes that I know sitting on Ikea furniture and playing online poker while Bjork played in the background. (Yes. I know... Bjork is Icelandic. Perhaps I should have said... while Abba played in the background?)

I carefully inspected all of the book cases. I desperately needed one back in NYC to house dozens and dozens boxes of books that I owned. I was curious about the books on the shelves and went in for a closer look. They were not fake. They were real books... and most of them were in Swedish.

I needed one thing and I picked it out right away. The rest of the time I was bored and couldn't wait to leave. The novelty of Ikea wore off after about twenty minutes. Just about the same time the weed wore off. Nicky had a ton of stuff to get and would slowly inspect every single section. I was restless and wandered into adjacent sections. After I checked those out, I'd head back and Nicky would still be lingering in a previous section. That process repeated itself for an hour. I wanted to die. I overheard another couple fighting.

"What's wrong? What's the problem?" the wife kept asking her husband.

That's such a stupid question. The dude pushed around a cart with bath mats and soup spoons. He was lost inside the Ikea maze of furniture with weird sounding names and products that will self-destruct by the end of the decade.

His wife disappeared into kitchenwares as he sulked in the aisle. The guy didn't have to say a word. I felt his pain. He wanted to get the hell out of there. He didn't need his wife nagging him about why he was contemplating suicide. Those knives in kitchenwares looked sharp.

"You've lost it. You'll never get out of this maze," I said.

At one point, while Nicky shopped for curtains, I grew so insanely bored that I tried out every single pillow in the pillow section. I bought one, only out of sheer guilt. I now have a Swedish pillow that I'll barely use since I rarely sleep. What kind of bullshit is that?

I took a wrong turn and got on the wrong path and my mind went to jelly. I succumbed to the subliminal and subtle messages that Ikea pumped over their sound system. I made an impulse purchase on something that I definitely didn't need.

Out of all the people who bought pillows on Monday at Ikea in every single one of their 300 blue mega-stores in 30 countries all over the planet, I'm the person who will be using a Swedish pillow the least. I'm so fuckin' weak that I'm disgusted at my patheticness.

I checked out some of the labels on various products. They specifically say something like "designed in Sweden" but the products were made in China, sold in the US, and had directions in Spanish. Globalization at its finest. That's Thomas Friedman's wet dream. You know two countries with an Ikea store have never invaded each other?

The torrents of helplessness subsided and we finally made it out of the store. My first visit to Ikea started out fun and quickly took a turn into the void. Ikea is a dark hole of consumerism and I ended up miserable, like I do on every other shopping trip. You couldn't make me live inside an Ikea for thirty days unless you paid me $1 million.

Paul McGuire is a writer from New York City.

The Reason Why...

By May B. Yesno © 2008

The place had a less than classy name, The Roamin Gardens, to say little of the fact the only garden about it were two fake, potted palm trees at the front door. A typical sleazy pick-up joint. One in which you feel like everything you touch you can pick-up most anything. And it was crowded; crowded with most every sex imaginable.

I was there chasing a rumor, not the hunk name or the twitter fluff name, floating the streets this week; but the two person guest show I'd heard about Up-Town. I'd heard they perform once a night wherever they book into, and take no encore. Never heard of performers short stopping themselves like that before, never. So I tracked them down and there I was, bucking the make-up, the made-up and the delusional to find a secure corner near the pitifully pretentious stage; fighting the smell of spilled drinks, seldom-washed bodies sweating in the press, sex and drugs, when the lights dimmed, way down with no announcement other than the insistent, slow beat of a faintly heard drum.

I wasn't aware of the length of time I had been hearing that drum beat, being very faint. However, it was long enough that it began to demand my attention, the beat never changing, never flagging. Persistent. And it continued as the noise and hubbub of the club dwindled, and faded, until finally, after an undetermined length, the mass of humanity stilled. And the drum dominated, never a word spoken as the beat doubled, swelled louder. That single drum beat was joined by another, deeper, though less than base drum. The newer drum was compelling as it picked up the beat and the first drum began to play with the beat, weaving the occasional pattern around it.

A third drum joined the others. That third was a softly speaking thing, joyful and just a bit playful among the deeper voices. It slithered and wove its way through the beat; now faint, now boldly. It, too, faded, though never leaving the senses.

It was sometime in there that a dim figure appeared on the stage. Petite, it was. Clothed, it was revealed as the stage lights brightened, in silk from head to toe, bare foot, progressing to the center of the stage; each step in time with the drum, no movement, like a stick, except for the short stepping feet. Almost an exaggerated mincing, however graceful; however seemingly artless.

As the figure reached stage center and turned toward the watchers an arrhythmic clacking of ivory castanets demanded the attention of the drums, which double stepped and picked up the beat laid by the figure. That figure began to move. First just the feet, and the bells attached to the ankle bracelets joined the drums and the castanets, then the hands raising toward the waist, then higher and the arms began to moving, boneless for all intent, weaving in counter point to the beat maintained by the feet, the drums and the castanets.

The entire performance was quiet and understated for the instruments involved. Harmony: in the body that began to undulate, causing the silks to flow and swirl about the shapely body. The arms slowly spread aside, then moving slowly down the imaginary back to cup the non-visible buttocks and back up the spine hiding the willingly receptive hips, swaying to the beat, softly, slowly. And the bells strewn about the shoulders of the figure joined the rhythm as the hands and arms twined their way to stretch luxuriously above the heads in perfect contentment until it would seem the joints would pop, still in time and beat with the drums.

Drums which quickened their beat, heightening the tensions, bringing down the arms so gracefully to hide the chest of the figure, slowing the hips, dampening the bells of the ankles as the drums rose and rose to crescendo and the figure, hips flung foreword, fingers clawed in front of the belly, froze.

Two drums halted; the third went staccato. The bells whimpered from ankle, from shoulders; the castanets faltered.

The drum, that faint head drum changed its beat, to be joined by the missing partners in the aftermath play and faded into and out of quiet stretching the senses, the castanets and bells joining, then dying to silence. The figure slowly straightening to arms at the sides, not moving the body, turning, the only moving things are the feet as the figure recedes off stage and the lights slowly brighten and the drums fade to silence.

I am left in shock, standing there in the unreal world of a stained pick-up joint. I'm numb. And more yet, the humanity around me is still silent as I head to the door. I need to escape, to leave. I need to be alone.

I need.

I paused as I achieved the street. All of that. All of it.

And they hadn't missed a beat.

May B. Yesno is from Fresno, CA.

The Crucification of Kaminsky

By Betty Underground © 2008

In 1996 I moved into the house in Santa Monica Canyon. Wedged between Pacific Palisades and the Santa Monica Pier. Channel Rd and PCH. State Beach. Volleyball nets stretched across white sand. Roller bladders fighting for the attention of the boys at the spike.

It was the only team sport I had ever played with any regularity. The only one I enjoyed and was somewhat good at. Volleyball. Mixed doubles. 2 man teams.

I met Kam my first weekend at the house. Kramer, the consummate welcome wagon introduced me around the beach crew. Most of them locals. Living in and around the canyon. Like most everyone, he was blonde and tan. Towered nearly 6'7". A full foot plus on me and he was a lefty, with a right handed wind-up. Catching opponents completely off-guard irrespective of how many times they met him at the net. I was a digger and moved quickly in the sand. We would be a deadly pair.

The second weekend I met Monique La Bouche (The Mouth). Moni as they all seemed to be referring to her as. I soon learned she was a regular. Well, more of a fixture. In her bikini, wafting smell of coconut oil and the sound of sizzling flesh. A natural beauty but she could have used a sandwich. Bit skinny in my opinion.

She was Kam's friend. Roommate as it turned out, but the terms gave off an awkward appearance. She came with him everyday. Carrying a large stripped bag. Colorful. Reminded me of a Pousse Cafe and the contents were as lethal. She was a pill popper. Many of the beauties on State Beach were. They drank very little. A beer here and there, but consumed diet pills and speed at an alarming rate. One way to stay skinny.

The way she wiggled her jaw back and forth and rubbed her nose were tells about that other way girls were avoiding eating. Coke. I had been there. Knew the signs and the side effects. Paranoia. It started from the get go. Her crawling up his ass whenever I was around. Riddled with jealousy. Easiest thing was to hate me and she did an outstanding job making that clear.

"Get to know me bitch and I promise to give you a reason to hate me," I remember uttering under my breath one night at the local bar.

After the sun went down, we tracked sand into Marix's. A Tex Mex joint at the mouth of the canyon behind Patrick's Roadhouse. Taco Tuesdays were a big hit. Dollar Tacos and Dollar Margaritas, or free as Kenny the bartender was my upstairs neighbor. Fantastic neighbor for more than the free drunk; he took his shoes off before entering his apartment so he did not disturb me with his clunky boots on the hardwood floor.

There was Moni. Two steps behind Kam no matter where he was. I didn't think much of it. She seemed comfortable with everyone and Kam was kind and generous to her. She didn't seem to want the attention on men. Other than Kam. She was perfectly content hanging on his every word. I get the friend things, but this was suspect. I stayed out of it. She tossed me the stink eye and I would keep my distance.

They came and went together most of the time. Thursdays and Fridays she worked late so we never saw her at the volley ball courts those days. She would roll into whatever watering hole we were holding up later in the evening in her slinky hostess dress. She had a gig at some swanky restaurant that apparently paid a nice grip of cash. Enough so she only had to work two nights and one day shift. Sweet gig if you can get it. Not sure it paid well enough to support her habits.

I was in my late 20s. Newly single. Pulling shots (Espresso shots) on Main St. for a big wig coffee joint, training to be a manager and a decent wage was the reward to get up at 4 am. Leaving plenty of sun in the afternoon for court trim. Kam and I had been playing mixed doubles for 2 months, or so. Hitting our stride as a two man team and looking forward to the string of tournaments a few weeks away. We spent most every evening on the courts and then all of us tying a few on at the bar.

One evening, I dropped Kam off at home. He knocked and waited for her to let her in. Odd. She flashed a fake smile and pageant wave and I just rolled on. Later that same night I was hanging out on our communal deck overlooking PCH. Kam and Kenny cut through the alley across the street leading from Marix's. Moni and Kam had a falling out and he had made his way to the bar to wait for Kenny to get off. He needed a place to crash and Kenny had a couch. He was starting his gig working on the set build for Dante's Peak and looked in desperate need of a good nights sleep.

The next afternoon I queried him about what had happened. He was terribly out of sorts and hesitant to dive right into it. Lots of dancing around about the landlord and her having problems with her job. Her boss was hitting on her which I could tell enraged Kam. It was his nature to protect. Still there was something underneath the surface. I didn't push it. We just sat, talked about a whole lot of nothing and then he blurted it out. He and Moni were more than roommates.

They had dated a while back. Moved in together as a couple. He was in love with her and looked forward to planning their future. He hadn't realized how deep into the Hollywood drug scene she was. He was an athlete. Living clean. No drugs. Her habits had began to claw away at their future. He didn't want to give her up. He wanted to help her. Get her healthy again. So he stayed. Struggled through her withdrawals with her. Every step away from the drugs opened the door to more demons.

She was abandoned. Spending most of her younger years in Foster Care before being adopted at the age of 11. Her adopted father molested her. Her mother locked her and a younger sibling in the closet. Disappearing for hours to do god knows what. Returning in time to serve up cold tater tots and uncooked hot dogs.

Moni unloaded stories of a horrific childhood. Slowly. Feeding them to him one by one each time he took a step away from her. They tore Kam apart. The pain she had endured. He had seen the good in her and desperately wanted to heal her. Help her. Make her whole again. He was committed to her. When he told me the story, on the balcony that afternoon he was ripped apart. Shredded inside. I could see right through the thin exterior and into an empty soul. One that had been given over to her. To help her. Forsaking himself. He had been battling her addictions and demons for more than a year. I saw in his eyes, it had beaten him. He was lost.

In the past few months he had been trying to get her into therapy. He recognized this was bigger than him. More than he had to knowledge to fix. He also needed to be released for the prison the relationship had put him in. He convinced her to get help. She went. She was doing the work the therapist was giving her. Facing her past. That was when Kam tried to leave. The first time. He felt she would be more successful in her path to healing if she focused on her, and only her. He didn't want to create any distractions.

She lost it. Snapped. Locked herself in the bathroom screaming and crying. Kam sat outside the door. On the floor. Begging her to let him in, to let him hold her. He promised not to leave and the screaming subsided. Silence fell. The weight of his body against the door. Whispering to her through, the palm of his hand pressed on the door trying to feel her.

Slowly the latched lifted on the door and he fell in. Catching himself only inches from where she lay on the round white bath mat. Bleeding. Vertical slices in both wrists. He ripped his shirt into pieces and wrapped them around her wrists. Not thinking to call 911, he carried her to the car and sped off to the hospital.

They kept her, under psychiatric observation for the next 72 hours. She was released into his care and required to attend therapy. Kam took her to every appointment. Sat and waited for her. Lost his job because if it, but it didn't matter. He felt obligated.

Things got better. Bliss came back into the relationship. She was able to speak openly to him about these horrors. When she was 17, she became a prostitute. Her parents were never home. When they were, they were drunk and abusive. She ran away, but would send money back for her little brother. She got beaten up a lot. Learned to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. She had no self esteem. The diet pills made her skinny. Made her feel excepted in the land of the beautiful. The speed getting her through the days. Coke came at night, when she needed to escape her own mind. Her past.

She was getting help. Mending herself again and the road to recovery was one she travelled willingly. This time was different, she let him go. She understood why he had to be away from it. To give her the space she needed to build a foundation for her own happiness. Outside of him.

Two weeks later, she called and told him she was pregnant. That was about a month before I first met him. He knew the only right thing to do was ask her to marry him. He had morals and beliefs that simply would not allow him to let her give the baby up. Marriage was the right thing. He bought a ring and got down on one knee. At the beach, in front of everyone. This was going to fix her. Fix them. He was excited about the future.

The very next week, she miscarried. He struggled to wiggle loose from the commitment. The tragedy shaking him loose from the dream. She was not getting better. Not healing herself. Lying to him. But with every attempt to break loose, she unloaded another horror to churn the guilt. Guilt for leaving her so soon after the loss. Shoveling his inadequacies on him.

Her demons became his. He carried the weight of her past on his shoulders like a cross. Crucified for the life she had been given. Suffering for the sins of others. Unable to free himself. Cemented in the relationship. Nailed him to the ground. Dead in his tracks. Buried in his own desire to help her until he suffocated. Was torn down. Loosing his own will.

This is how things had been for the last month. They had separate rooms. Living more as roommates. Moving out is not made easy by the soaring rental prices and he needed to be quiet about seeking out a new living situation. Guys at the beach had their eyes open and were helping him find a place to land.

We played our first tournament. Took second place. Alex threw a huge party at his apartment on Montana Ave. It was the first night Kam was without her. A Saturday night. She would be coming after a hostess shift she had picked up because she had missed so much work. She needed the money.

Kam was happy. Smiling. Enjoying the friendship. He was a huge goofball. Hurling all six and a half feet of himself around the living room, dancing. He had sworn off the booze. Intoxicated by the freedom of the night and the happiness that filled his heart in those moments. Alex's roommate was heading off for the Billabong tour and it was shaping up to look like Kam would be able to take his room for a few months.

Then Moni arrived. And she brought his cross. His burden. She tried to get him to leave. Threatened to hurt herself. Cut herself. He couldn't take it. Told her he would meet her back at the house. Needed to clear his head. He wasn't angry, just broken. That happy joker. The life of the party was turned inside out. His empty soul exposed to everyone. He was embarrassed and bolted to the street. She was hot on his heals, Alex right behind her to put himself between them. She screamed and struggled against Alex's chest. Standing tall and firmly planted with his arms straight out. She could not budge him. Kam pulled away in his smurf blue Toyota FJ40 and headed down Montana. Probably towards PCH. The beach, where he would sit and clear his mind for a while.

Kramer and I checked the beach for him about an hour later. We didn't see his car parked in the State Beach parking lot just after midnight. Figured he was still out driving. Maybe headed up the coast to Malibu. Maybe to his parents place in Topanga Canyon. PCH was eerily quiet at night. Silent. Dark. No traffic. The traffic signal at PCH and Chautauqua changed for no one. Red. Green. Yellow. Red. Lights bouncing off the fog that blanketed the coast.

Early the next morning the house was buzzing. It was barely dawn and emergency vehicles had shut down PCH in both directions. A Sunday. Traffic rerouted up our street towards San Vicente. I walked down to the beach with Kramer and Kenny to see what was going on. We turned the corner by the liquor store and we saw it. A mangled twisted pile of smurf blue steal wedged into the cliff.

As the wreck came into focus, so did the gurney. A body, covered in a yellow plastic sheet. A bystander said the police thought the driver had flown down the California incline to PCH so fast that he catapulted the car into the side of the hill. Killed instantly. No one had seen it happen. The fog was solid. Like sludge that night. It wasn't until the first ray of sun hit the hillside just south of Patrick's Roadhouse that the wreck was discovered.

Nailed to the cross by her demons. Kam was dead at 28.

Betty Underground is a writer from Northern California.