August 05, 2010

August 2010, Vol. 9, Issue 8

Welcome back to the late summer edition of Truckin'

1. Invisible by Paul McGuire
I'm about six to seven inches off the ground with each bouncy step. That's the best way to describe the feeling, like the astronauts doing the slo-mo kangaroo hop on the moon. Floating. Bouncing. Sedated. Happily sedated, I should add. Demons quelled. Anxieties locked away... More

2. Of New Cars by May B. Yesno
The problem, from his view point in his new office, was the distances he once considered large and satisfying were now mean and narrow. He felt he had to expand those horizons... More

3. Connections by Sigge S. Amdal
Smoking indoors was not allowed... rather, it was encouraged. Nobody had ever bothered to change the wallpaper or interior decorations since the first tenant set up trap decades ago. You could feel the horribly clouded history by placing your hand on the scarred wood that had cigarette burns and scratches from fingernails, broken glass and knives... More

4. Russian Spies by Johnny Hughes
In the Army we did a atomic bomb drill. We put on our plastic, rain ponchos. The Sergeant said to sit on the ground and cover your head with the poncho. Then he said, "Now kiss your ass goodbye."... More

5. A Troll's Life by Mark Verve
Look for the hottest girl in the place that's crying. Approach and ask if there's anything you can do to help. Use sympathy and understanding. You're going to have to do some listening... More

6. Bryant Park by Tenzin McGrupp
A suit on a cell phone almost ran over a group of trust fund yentas with freshly painted manicured toes, the unoriginal ones carrying Gucci handbags with tiny yapping poodles given French sounding names by their malcontent owners... More

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

From the Editor's Laptop:

The August issue is right on the heels of the delayed July issue. August includes contributions from three vets: Sigge, Johnny Hughes, and May B. Yesno. That power trio anchors this issue which also marks the debut of Mark Verve. Oh, and I penned a tale about insobriety in the City of Angels, while Tenzin McGrupp makes a cameo this month with a throwback story from the early 2000s.

The Truckin' scribes write for the love of writing, which is a fancy way of saying that they share their blood work for free. I encourage you to spread the word about your favorite stories. The writers, myself included, certainly appreciate your assistance. Good karma will be coming your way for any help you can provide.

If anyone is interested in being added to the mailing list or writing for a future issue, then please contact us.

I can never thank the writers for taking a tremendous and courageous leap of faith with me. Thanks for the inspiration!

Lastly, thanks to you, the readers for all of your support over the years. The written word is slowly dying off, but you are keeping the spirit alive month after month.

Be good,

"The pen is the tongue of the mind." - Cervantes


By Paul McGuire © 2010

Within thirty minutes the initial effects start to take hold. It feels like I'm walking around on an invisible bubble, more like one of those maroon rubber balls that we used at recess and gym class for dodge ball or kick ball. I'm about six to seven inches off the ground with each bouncy step. That's the best way to describe the feeling, like the astronauts doing the slo-mo kangaroo hop on the moon. Floating. Bouncing. Sedated. Happily sedated, I should add. Demons quelled. Anxieties locked away.

I'm rolling along through L.A. with an impenetrable armor. The slings and arrows of scorn and negatively from the putrid citizens bounce right off. No pain. I'm a floating tank. Floating. Bouncing. No longer attached to terra forma. I could care less about everything else in the world. I'm completely detached. That's the best way to deal with the hopelessness around me. Anomie.

The filter through which I see the City of Angels does not have rough or sharp edges. Sort of like seeing the world through an underwater lens. The focus sort of drops off around the edges. I can only see what's immediately in front of me. Everything else is... blurry.

The self-absorbed souls around me are too distracted to notice my constant state of inebriation. Floating by, obviously, floating by. Yet, we're ignorant to one another. I smoothly navigate my way through daily life. Bouncing with my invisible armor. The secret pills. The more that I eat, the longer I will remain invincible and invisible.

If no one can find me, then no one can hurt me? Especially me. I won't be able to torture myself with my own thoughts. Even the mind floats on by. Each thought is a musical note strung together in a dream-like symphony. I groove along with the internal melodies. I sing to myself a lot. Sometimes I forget and I'm lost in my own karaoke world harmonizing with the Doobie Brothers. The check-out girl at 7/11 must think I'm insane. But I'm not. I'm happily floating.

I wouldn't know what to do if I had to stay straight for more than a day or so. If I'm in a positive space and sync up in a smooth writing rhythm for a few days, then I'm getting off on the tremendous waves in that creative tidal wave. When I'm in the writing zone, I lack the desire for the warm fuzzies. I can go up to a week even when I hit that groove, but the moment that I have to step outside and spend time in the real world, I quickly reach for the shaving kit.

I probably hadn't shaved in two months, but I keep my stash in the shaving kit. A dozen bottles and other assorted containers. Each bottle contains a different group of drug, but the individual pills may vary. I keep the Hydrocodone and Adderall in the fat bottles. The Oxycodone and Xanax are stored in the sleek bottles. The Oxycontin is hidden inside a bottle of Tums.

Friends of mine often sell, trade, or gift me their extra pills. A junkie could not as for a better assortment of friends. And most of them don't steal from me. At least the straight ones don't. I deal with a couple of shysters from time to time, out of necessity, but I would never give then an opportunity to rob me blind.

Lester threw out his back last summer and gave me fifty extra generic Somas in exchange for an 1/8th of Kush. I'm not a muscle relaxer kinda guy, but I had so much weed that I didn't know what to do with it. I was looking to trade it for anything, but the Somas never gave me the buzz I wanted. I like to keep a few around when my back flares up,so I took them off of Lester's hands. I soon discovered that I could trade the Somas with Drake, a grad student who lived around the corner. He said that the Somas made him sleep better and we'd swap two Somas for one 10 ng time-released Adderall.

Most recently, my friend Carly had wrist surgery and the doctor gave her three bottles of Vicodin. She hate Vidoin because it makes her queasy and she pukes uncontrollably. Me? That might be my opiate of choice because it gets me the most fucked up but still allows me to function properly. It's the drug of choice when I have to get work done or have an important social function to attend. Carly didn't use the first bottle, and was kind enough to get two more refills before she gave me 90 pills in exchange for a big ass bottle of Skyy vodka and a six pack of Fat Tire.

My buddy Fredo is a drug fiend and has been so for twenty years. During his high school years in San Diego, he used to deal weed right out of his parent's driveway. In college, he sold sheets of acid and cocaine to all the frat boys and hippies at Arizona State. After a nasty car accident, he was constantly prescribed different pain medication including Roxicodone, which is instant released Oxycontin. He also had more Xanax and Percosett lying around than most pharmacies, which he sold to me at wholesale prices. I also swapped hash and pot brownies for Fredo's extra pharmies. He was also too lazy to drive to LA, so I always had to figure out a way to get down to San Diego. I managed at least one trip a month. On the off chance that supplies were low, I'd make two trips a month.

My buddy Colby, a professional poker player who lived in Santa Monica, introduced me to a crooked doctor in Venice Beach. The doctor was on the verge of wife #3 and he had a shitload of alimony to pay to two ex-wives, so he sold illegal prescriptions on the side to cover his monthly nut. He hooked me up with Oxycontin but with one catch -- the prescriptions were for one bottle only Just 45 pills. That greedy fucker purposely made me set an appointment to see him. Shit, I had to drop $200 just to get the scrip.

You have to protect your stash like Fort Knox. The biggest enemy is yourself. You have to resist the urge to keep pushing the high and raising the bar higher and higher and all of a sudden, you can't even get out of bed without popping 30 mg of Oxys. I remember the days when I'd barely eat 3mg and I'd be fucked up for 24 hours. Now, 30 mgs barely takes the edge off.

You never want the floating to stop. Never. That's why you do everything possible to maintain that bouncy feeling. The moment that it stops, you're body crashes hard to the ground. You might as well be dead because that's all you can think about when faced with any option other than inebriation. Death before sobriety. Isn't that the name of a Swedish heavy metal band?

Paul McGuire is the author of Lost Vegas.


By Sigge S. Amdal © 2010

K called me up and told me he had some cash. That was all it took back then; some time off – which was all the time – and some cash. Who cared about the general welfare of anything? We were lost at sea and we loved it. I wouldn't say cruising, 'cause life on the edge never resembles the careless automata of allowing everything to happen, NO. If you did you'd end up never coming home from the party. You still see some of them, fewer and sicker every year, dealing at the central station. They never came home, and they never will.

No, being willfully lost to discover what's right there takes absolute precedent in the human survival instinct. I would go as far as saying that discovering the absolute carefree interzone of any major capital of the world requires some very careful steps. Among which food is the first point of order. Next is the money you can save by not eating well or at all. Eating pre-processed fish for a week would definitely buy you a memorable weekend, one that you wouldn't remember at all. That alone spells planning. Return reality and you're back being hungry, at the upshot of another weekend.

Naturally, this time there wasn't any such deliberation on my part, 'cause K had some cash.

“We'll meet at Connections in case B shows up.”

B never paid for anything, but it was alright, 'cause it was part of the deal. He wouldn't ask for any.

Connections was B's place. I don't know what the selling point was, except the beer was cheap as promises, most of it subsidized by other substances changing hands under – or above – the table, depending on what time it was. It wasn't any good and it spelled headaches for the morning. But who cared about the morning?

The scene was obscene back then. The government grip on serving was more of a boneless handshake, and nobody regulated anything. Smoking indoors was not allowed... rather, it was encouraged. Nobody had ever bothered to change the wallpaper or interior decorations since the first tenant set up trap decades ago. You could feel the horribly clouded history by placing your hand on the scarred wood that had cigarette burns and scratches from fingernails, broken glass and knives; wear and tear so deep you could feel the passage of thousands of lunatics that had emptied their glass at that very spot only to disappear in the night forever.

Today that's all changed. The interior design faggots have practically won in the war over comfort zones, and the most abominable alpha males wear fucking white trousers. What the hell is that? What happened to rock n' roll, baby? Horsefaced fuckups with the most annoyingly comradic stories, half of which were made up, and the other half indiscernible from most other tales you'd already heard. Good stories. Today it's all money bragging, fishing for jealousy and triumphantly pointing out the errs of some random other you happen to hunt with.

Connections was slightly different though. Nothing pinkishly romantic about it whatsoever. For some reason they didn't shield the fluorescent lighting, so dealings were in the back, but the clientele... What's there to say about them? They were manwhores or drug addicts the lot of them. As strange as it may sound (to the safe and sorry know-it-all that never gets his hands dirty, only to reveal his stupendous lack of insight into the human condition without a crash course in drunkard philosophy), this was the perfect place to start it all off. In fact it was the only sane starting point in existence that day, given it was brought up and agreed upon in the outset.

We met downtown and walked fast, while we went through today's report; nothing at all, same as before, everything as usual.

K was uncertain about B's coming out of the cave at all this evening, so the current agenda was to wait a beer's time to see if he'd show up. If not, he'd be buried in paperwork, literary paperwork, and dying to write something worthwhile.

Either you're there or you're not. I was sailing on suspicions of excellence and did not care ever so little about our weekly presentations we made to the three of us. I always ended up bringing something brilliant anyway. Why worry?

It was unseemingly early evening, I can't recall whether spring, summer or early autumn, but we wore jackets. K brought us beer and we each rolled a cigarette from week-old pouches. Times were hard dammit, and without a cigarette times are harder.

There was no one else in the place except for the filthy barman who always exchanged knowing glances. I could never understand what the hell it was I was supposed to know, but suspicion is futile. Better just keep your eyes open and see it coming.

There was a group of Asians on a table adjoining ours across the room. An older man and two younger ones. I would bet he was their leader, so to speak, 'cause the younger two only listened.

We got our fair share of attention as we went halfway into our beers.

“Hey you!” the old one said politely, leaning forward.


“Can I buy you guys a beer?”

I looked at K and he confirmed with a glance we wouldn't have to. Pay day was imminent, we could drink on our own. It must be added that K owed me cash, so this was no buddy system, it was pure communism. Each drink his own to the best of his ability.

“Not really. We're leaving soon,” K said, breaking the truce of recognized unfamiliarity.

“Oh. What a shame.”

The man was unbelievably disappointed.

“What do you do for a living?”

“We're on the government.” I said.

“Out of jobs?”

“Men at arms. Only without the arms.”

“Do you need any money?”

“Who doesn't?”

This was getting somewhere, but not out of there, where I wanted.

“These two men they make twenty-five a month. No taxes.”

“Really?” I said, emphasizing the part where I didn't give a fuck.

“That's right.”

The man leaned backwards again, still looking at us. I looked at K.

“You finished?”

K nodded.

“Let's go.”

“It was nice to meet you.” Laissez-faire properly re-established.

“I'll be here,” the man said, not saying what was implied.

Safely out of there we made our way to St. 23. It was clear B wasn't coming anyway.

“Drugs, you think?”

“No, I don't think so,” K said.

“I think we've officially been pimped.”

Connections went out of business about a year later, though we never returned.

I guess their connections dried out.

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

Of New Cars, Old Professions and On-Star

By May B. Yesno © 2010

The Dude and his bling clattered their way in through the picture window doors of the new car display room, and Sales persons scattered in all directions.

The Bling carrier was not a new guy in town. He had a reputation, and it preceded him. He was a presence, he was visible and, unfortunately from the view point of the sales staff on duty, he was there. One of the staff finally summoned courage to confront Dude, and asked how he could help the gaudily attired man.

Listening carefully, the salesperson continued the conversation along: “A new car? Certainly! Have you an idea of the choices available? Please. Step into the office and sit while we spec this vehicle for you. We may not have the precise vehicle on the lot, but we will certainly find one for you.”

A great deal of talking later, Dude and the Sales person smiled, having come to an agreement and were settling the sales portion of the deal prior to stepping toward the cashier for the money transaction.

The Sales person mentioned the pricing would include the premium On-Star service for the duration of the power train warranty and how handy Dude would find the service.

Dude professed ignorance of the Service, and the Sales person explained it was an exclusive to the Brand service and included directions and connections plans, automatic crash response, stolen vehicle assistance (meaning if the vehicle was ever stolen for the life of the plan, the Dude could have the system turned on and the police could automatically track the vehicle any where in the United States and North America – to which the Dude snorted and said “No one would dare.”).

Acknowledging the Dude, the Sales person continued: “Well, Sir. You will have diagnostics in the event of problems, Turn By Turn navigation on demand, and hands free calling. There’s many advantage’s to the program, sir, and I’m sure you’ll delight in the program.”

“Delight?” questioned Dude.

“Ah, well,” stammered the Sales person, “Enjoy it, I’m sure.”

Dude snorted again, and began counting out the quoted purchase price in one hundred dollar bills.

New things have a way of affecting the new owner, and the Dude was no exception. When the vehicle he’d spec’d finally arrived, he felt he had arrived and had himself driven around the territory he claimed for his various businesses.

The problem, from his view point in his new office, was the distances he once considered large and satisfying were now mean and narrow. He felt he had to expand those horizons.

The plans were discussed with various confidants and minions and action taken and reported back to the Dude via On-Star conveniences. Locations of prostitutes were found with the locator system; communications made; disciplinary actions taken in the vehicle and deals for delivery and purchase of product were made.

Life was good for the Dude. He had made a plan; developed the infrastructure to make it go and could survey his domain with speed and in the comfort of his rolling command post. Money rolled in.

One of the major problems with the type of business Dude operated is the disposal of disposable cash. A person can only buy so many things before the very fact of having things becomes a burden. Dude and his confidants spent hours scheming ways and means of stashing the excess.

Part of the planning involved Lawyers and Mid-Level Bank managers and identities. The identities involved people Dude hadn’t previously dealt with – counterfeiters. That was an aspect of the shadows Dude hadn’t thought about and he began, after talking with the artisans, thinking of a business opportunity or two where that particular skill would be most useful.

His thinking seized, at first, on upping the identification ages of his younger prostitutes. Shallow thinking, truly, but Dude, as un-educated as he might appear, was not without an imagination, or a drive to expand his reach. Illegals weren’t far behind the girls (and boys, by the way. Dude didn’t limit his scope.). From prostitution ID to Illegal’s ID, to . . . Dude’s mental vision skipped to all manner of identification and more properly, the control of those who supplied the stuff. Those businessmen, as Dude called them, and the income, of course.

Yes, things were looking up.

Dude had a curious mind. Though criminally inclined, or more properly, criminally raised by family, Dude didn’t like mistakes and incompetence. He’d paid attention to history and knew that for every high flyer there was an equally long fall. Usually, he thought, the high flyer became enamored with themselves and they over reached. Trying he felt, too much too soon in their affairs.

He was determined to avoid the over reaching part. The enamored stuff wasn’t half bad, he felt, as long as one didn’t take ones self too seriously. There were bounds, however, and Dude made sure people knew those limits at first sight of their over reaching his self appointed allowances.

Such education was usually immediate, painful and easily remembered by the recipient. Well remembered.

Dude moved slowly. A block expansion here, an alley there, later a larger sale of fake paper across several borders or the import of young bodies across those same borders, and then he’d wait and consolidate. Integrate the group within the organization and wait, planning the next infusion or the next block, evaluating carefully the results of the next move in terms of overall politics and supervisory requirements before making it or rejecting the expansion.

Getting a grasp he called it. He would resist all his cronies crying for more, which caused him no end of disciplinary problems and angst, as people he’d observed, tend to fall into patterns and habits. He didn’t like that much either, trusting such delicate disciplinary problems to the same people time after time. They could be associated with him, and their habitual modus would eventually ID them for the “Other Side,” as he thought of the law.

But who could he trust? His business had expanded to such an extent he no longer knew all the workers. He only, really, associated with a select handful, but as time wore on, which of those could he trust. Really trust.

As the business of Dude expanded, so too did the expenses of operations. He bought off this ward boss; paid out to that cop. He was friendly with this group whom he detested and gave gifts to that group, who he got along with because they guarded a flank.

But, Dude began to notice the sharks of the police cruisers glide through his territory more often than he remembered. Or thought he remembered their frequency. He’d be parked in an alley and a fleeting glimpse of a cruiser gliding across the mouth on the main drag would catch his attention.

He reached a point and being the careful man he was, he thought he just needed a break. Take a vacation that was the idea. A short vacation was called for. He’d level off activities and get out of town for two weeks. Hell, make it three.

So, he planned, and while planning the vacation he conducted business as usual. One of the activities was a random pick-up of illicit pharmaceuticals.

He made the pick-up one evening and left the area. That was when the “Other Side” lit him up. When the cruiser lights came on, Dude’s first reaction was “Oh, Hell.” And his second was to tell his driver to step on it and get away.

The driver, being of little Saint Hood inclination himself, grinned while stepping on it. This he thought would go well as the Dude had pre-planned routes into and out of neighborhoods with such things in mind.

They moved. Very quickly they moved, and wove their way through traffic and dark streets. And every where they went, the “Other Side” was there. Not always behind, chasing, but ahead like they knew where Dude wanted to go and the cops cut them off from the route.

Eventually, as such high speeds in limited spaces will, the crash occurred. Dude’s driver lost control and crashed, wrapping the vehicle around a pole, glass flying everywhere, sheet metal crumpling, and noise so immediate it was unheard.

Dude bounced off the back of the front seat, ricocheted from the central pillar, raked across the broken glass of the side window and as he lay bleeding, dying, his vision tunneling down, he heard and took to his next world:

“This is On-Star, Mr. Dude; we know you’ve been in a crash. Assistance will be there in seconds, as the police have been chasing you for the last one hour and four minutes. Really, Mr. Dude; you should have known On-Star works both ways and the police have been monitoring you activities since you bought that car, and you can’t hide from the Stolen Vehicle function they activated.”

May B. Yesno is a writer from Fresno, CA.

Russian Spies

By Johnny Hughes © 2010

So, they caught some Russian spies! Finally. I've been waiting since the end of World War Two when I started grade school. I'm from Lubbock, Texas, the second-most conservative city in the USA. We grew up on imaginary enemies, foreign and domestic. During World War Two, my Dad was a Major in the Texas Army Reserves. They did maneuvers in Mackenzie Park. I was five when a tear gas grenade landed near the car I was in. They had dances and could jitterbug like crazy. We had a Army Ambulance in the backyard. Dad worked for a German! A geologist, and I kept an eye on him for sure. We kids played war all the time, killing Japanese and Germans, not called that. One big deal was that we were always cauterizing imaginary wounds. We'd walk to the nine-cent movies, the money came from selling coke bottles purloined from garages. Then we'd come home and "play" the movie. Wasn't a kid in Texas couldn't make a pretty good machine-gun sound or pantomime pulling the pin of a grenade with their teeth and throwing it or getting shot always in the chest, with a slow dramatic death scene. We also fell on a large number of grenades temporarily dying for our friends. The girls played nurse and they were always "treating" us. Bandages and slings for our arms. I'd get imaginary shot right off the bat, to snuggle up to a healing nurse.

I visited a friend and while prowling his garage, I saw a big box of sunglasses that were round. Wow. Japanese probably, like all the propaganda war movies. I visited my grandmother on the edge of Los Angeles. Japanese-American farmers were growing beans and other vegetables right down the road. I attacked, tearing up as much as I could. I was six.

With the war over, the new enemy were the Godless, Russian communists. It was a tad confusing. They had been our pal and Germany and Japan and Italy for a while had been the bad guys. They showed a T.V. series to all the students in grade school each week entitled, "I Was a Communist For the F.B.I." Its premise backed up by a nut-case, self-promoting, evil U.S. Senator named Joe McCarthy was that there were communists everywhere infiltrating American society. McCarthy said there were a lot of communists in the State Department or the Army. We grade school kids were on the lookout for them.

The House Un-American Activities Committee imagined a nest of Hollywood actor, director, and writer commies. This made the Salem Witch Trials seem like a Cub Scout meeting. Political careers were made chasing imaginary communists who were a lot sharper than the real communists.

Rather often, a New Yorker or some kind of yankee would be mistaken for a possibly-evil foreigner because they talk funny, not like we Lubbockians. Everyone from Richard Nixon on called their opponent a communist in political races. The biggie was "soft on communism" as a common tag put on anybody to the left of Atilla the Hun.

One of my best pal's fathers would go downtown and show these John Birch Society movies on the side of the white walls of the Lindsey Theatre while a line was waiting to see a real movie. I still remember the maps with all the countries the communists controlled in black and arrows of where they were coming after us.

In school, we'd practice fire drills, my favorite part of school, and atomic bomb drills where we would sit under our wooden desks and cover our heads with our hands. That was a good time to slip an Alka Seltzer in the ink well of the girl you were flirting with most and passing notes where she put little circles for the dots on the i, and a row of x s to indicate kisses. These were on blue-lined notebook paper folded four times to fit in a back Levis pocket and easy to pass without the teacher seeing.

Radio and television kept up a steady drone about atomic warfare. The mushroom-shaped cloud was tattooed on our little brains and nobody expected to live too long. Our first readings of Kerouac and the beats confirmed that.

My Aunt was an Army Nurse, a Lieutenant Colonel finally, in World War Two and Korea. From Korea, she'd send funny letters about fighting the communists. This was the first of a series of surrogate wars, Vietnam being the biggie, where we fought the Russians in some other country. Usually North versus South kind of like our civil war. The Germans, historically uncooperative, were divided East and West, but that was our side's doings.

For Korea, we had maps to trace the troop movements. She wrote the university there was named, "O Pusan U." She was in the Mash unit that provided fodder for the TV series. Suddenly, the Chinese communists came flooding down from the north, and our forces, including the field hospitals, were in full retreat. We had a new enemy: Chinese.

The old showman, General Douglas MacArthur, of the corn-cob pipe and long-brimmed Army hat with lots of gold braid wanted to bomb hell out of North Korea. So did conservatives in West Texas, but they are always for bombing someone, now Iran or Mexico or maybe British Petroleum. When President Truman fired MacArthur, the General got this big ticker tape parade in New York, and made a speech. Here again, we in grade school all listened to the speech in our class rooms. He sounded like the hard-shell Baptists' idea of God and said, "Old soldiers never die. They just fade away."

When General MacArthur split the Philippines at the start of World War Two, he loaded all his furniture and personal effects on a ship and left the troops for the Japanese prisons. Being this remarkably quotable guy he said, "I shall return." That would be on free Army cigarettes. And he did return.

When I started college in 1957, we had to sign a loyalty oath saying we weren't communists. We'd all been looking for communists really hard but nobody had ever actually met one. The devious sons of bitches. I played poker to go to college the next eight years. By the sixties, I was subject to the draft, and had to pass in college to keep a deferment. The Army Reserve had this option where you go for six months active duty and six years in the reserves making weekly meetings and summer camp.

In 1962, I joined the Army and truthfully listed my profession as card player: poker, gin rummy, and tournament bridge. Card players had been instrumental in breaking the Japanese code and had worked in intelligence and cryptography, code breaking. I was a 723.1, I think I remember. When they'd take pictures of the troops, me and my buddy would be told to stand aside. We went to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri for basic training in July. Dumb. The Sergeants stole lots of food at night from the mess hall. The psycho, company commander Lieutenant would not allow but one glass of milk, one slice of bread per meal. Everybody was getting skinny.

Once they announced that guys with hurt feet or sore feet could volunteer to ride in a truck to the rifle range and set up targets. A quick IQ test. Several smart and funny guys limped out from varied places. Rather than march 14 miles in oppressive heat carrying packs and rifles, we rode in the back of a truck and joked and joked. We became a cohesive group of a few names: The Unauthorized Stragglers, The Colonels of the Urinal, The Rumor Core. We started rumors often. We rode the truck every day. Guys would pass out often from the heat and hit the pavement with a lot of noise.

After basic I went to Ft. Gordon, Georgia to communications school. I got a Top Secret Clearance but not in time for the cryptography school. A few gambling arrests slowed it down. I typed these five numbers in rows over and over. We also learned intelligence and were trained in keeping secrets. We were to watch out for Russian women trying to talk to us in the bars of Augusta. We got to go to town all the time, but the Russians screwed it up with the Cuban Missile Crisis. One day we go in the rec room, where the Sarge is watching cartoons. It pissed him off when we turned to Kennedy telling about the brink of atomic war. Fort Gordon went wild. They told everyone to write their wills. Real soldiers, career guys, were shipping out. My buddies and I went to a Jackie Gleason movie on post, and did not leave when they made this emergency announcement for all troops to return to quarters. They'd been telling us about the mushroom-shaped cloud since I was in knee britches, so I'd built up some immunity.

In the Army we did a atomic bomb drill. We put on our plastic, rain ponchos. The Sergeant said to sit on the ground and cover your head with the poncho. Then he said, "Now kiss your ass goodbye."

Hey, I'd figured that part out sitting under my desk in grade school.

Paul Krasser had a New York underground newspaper called The Realist. He sold and I bought a colorful bumper sticker with hammers and sickles that read: FUCK COMMUNISM.

We six month soldiers were often called draft dodgers by the Sergeants. No way they'd use us. In basic, when the Puerto Rican Sergeant would lead us in marching and singing the songs, he had a thick accent, "I got zee girl live up on zee hill. She won't do it but her seester will."

We'd sing in back in the accent. Not great soldiers.

We were confined to the fort until I got out before Christmas. Lots of guys left to camp in the Florida Keys. Marines came through all the way from California riding in the back of a deuce and a half, a truck. Even those scary-looking WACS, built like fullbacks, began to look good.

Back home, I didn't have to go to the Army Reserve meetings every week or the summer camps but twice. I had papers saying I worked nights at Dub Barnett's liquor store. I did work there some. He also staked me in bigger poker games. When Viet Nam escalated, I had to go back to meetings. My first summer camp, I went to the N.C.O. (non-commissioned officer) academy which was silly. I was an E-2, the lowest rank of all the whole six years of reserves. While there, I lost all my money fading dice to some Hispanics from San Antonio. I started out hiring guys to shine boots, take off laundry, etc. I ended up doing it for chump change.

Our unit of the reserves was Civil Affairs basically training to occupy a South American country. Each week, the guy would pronounce words in Spanish and we'd repeat them loudly. He didn't tell us what the words meant, if he knew. It is neat to at least pronounce words well in Spanish.

One summer, I was the Master of Ceremonies and corny joke teller at the Division Talent Show and Beauty contest at Ft. Hood. We prepared a week, and I wore civies, slept late, and had a Captain driving me around. The beauties from all over Texas each thought the allotted minute and a half I would read about them was not enough. Lots of twirlers. They promoted me to Private First Class for only that one night, and got me a shirt with a stripe. My only Army stripe ever. I can claim to be an ex-PFC, like Wintergreen. There were five generals and nine-hundred people at the show. As soon as it was over, everyone but me headed for the party at the officer's club. They put me on days of field kitchen patrol scrubbing John Wayne size pots in the unforgiving Texas sunshine.

After college, I got my first job, as a traveling book salesman for McGraw-Hill Book Company. Half of Texas and all of New Mexico was my territory. Our Dallas office was in the Texas School Book Depository. This was in 1965, two years after the Kennedy assassination. Finally, after decades: a communist was spied, the first real one anybody knew of. A communist had worked there: Lee Harvey Oswald. First rattle out of the box, the owner of the joint has me standing in this sixth-floor window which was Oswald's perch. The people that worked at the Texas School Book Depository believed it was a conspiracy. When William Manchester's book about the assassination and the Kennedys came out, I'd read part of it in each high school or college I stopped at, and had it read in a few days.

We'll never know, but I think Oswald was the only shooter but he had a small group involved, the honcho being New Orleans mafia boss, Carlos Marcello. I'd been in Jack Ruby's strip club when he freaked out yelling at a comic for saying, "Jesus." Hard to believe he was in on a conspiracy but he knew Marcello and probably laid off football bets to him. May have owed a bunch of money. Texas Tech's Southwest Collection has the papers from the Texas part of the Kennedy assassination investigation, including Jack Ruby's phone records. He called out every few minutes before kickoff on big football bet days.

Finally, communism fell in Russia because communism doesn't work. It is so inefficient that it has spies here that couldn't touch a computer-nerd fifth grader when it comes to finding information.

We are going to swap some spies with the Ruskies. They need to go to the Check Point Charley in Berlin, which is probably not there now, on a really foggy night, everybody in a full-length London Fog rain coats, with fedoras pulled over their eyes, and shoulder holsters with barking iron. They can talk about, "coming in from the cold."

The punishment for the Russian spies is that they have to go live in Russia. Serves the son-of-a-bitches right.

Johnny Hughes is the author of Texas Poker Wisdom.

Bryant Park

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2002, 2010

I sit in Bryant Park and I watch all the Five o'clock People scurry off, released from their cubicles they rush away down Fifth Avenue, dozens, hundreds, thousands. A flashback of a scene from the Matrix. I am alive as I will ever be, yet everything around me is as distant as far as Saturn's moon are from the Oregon Coast, my detachment thrills and disturbs my child like eyes.

I could feel a rare summer breeze. I could hear the background cacophony, conflicting city sounds echoing and dancing, horns honking from Al Qaeda supporting cabbies, bus breaks screeching to a halt, express delivery trucks beeping as they back up. A snot nosed child laughs, then a pigeon shits on a tourist from Nebraska.

The traffic light changes. A swarmy mass of pedestrians converge while I am pushed as far out onto the fringe as I have ever been. My tense back up against the sharp wall of reality. I sigh with the thoughts of futility and irresponsibility dancing in front of me with intimidating ghosts of old memories and forgotten dreams.

The minutes accumulate and I stare out into nowhere. Something real and vibrant, traits I sought out incessantly, now limped it's way down the street into a vacant lot, scattered with broken glass from cheap wine bottles and burnt out light bulbs.

The illumination vanished and the walk down the street became fabricated. The three minute jaunt from the lobby to the subway whispers hollow wood sounds that seduce the walking cliches that walk right in front of me. Their insidious conformity shines in their visionless eyeballs.

A suit on a cell phone almost ran over a group of trust fund yentas with freshly painted manicured toes, the unoriginal ones carrying Gucci handbags with tiny yapping poodles given French sounding names by their malcontent owners. Tourists in shorts and 'I LOVE NY' T-shirts quickly pull out their digital cameras, their disposable cameras, their video cameras. Their desire to photograph a scene which now makes me nauseous.

A black homeless man jingles his Starbucks cup filled with pennies and dimes and a Canadian Quarter. A sad fat woman munches down on a Big Mac, as she gripped her crumpled McD's bag. A hungry construction worker sidesteps a woman with a baby carriage so he can get home in time to eat leftovers. A thirsty alcoholic shakes his way through the crowd, his mind wanders to the afterthoughts of a double scotch. An addictive smoker chain smokes in front of a group of retarded school children. An old man carries a briefcase that looked like the one my father used to have. A distressed Ukrainian taxi driver considers running over a group of pedestrians in the crosswalk. A gay man hums a show tune. A young woman glides by and I catch a whiff of her perfume, and it reminds me of an old girlfriend, that used to wear her hair in a French Twist when she painted. A content man whistles a song. An insane red head hopes that I'll notice that she's not wearing a bra and underwear. A lonely secretary contemplates suicide. She doesn't because she has no one to look after her three cats. A cynic sits and thinks out loud. Pigeons fly overhead, some may or may not carry the Monkeypox. A pickpocket slithers away with someone's $22.00 Metrocard, only to be hit by a speeding Mercedes from Connecticut. An angry man gets out of his convertible and spits on the thief.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer originally from New York City.

A Trolls Life

By Mark Verve © 2010

I don't think the single life is bad in fact I rather enjoy it. I consider it an adventure. Dating can be a pain but just imagine how many married people would love the chance to date again. For that matter, imagine how many are dating again. I'm just an average guy with nothing special going for me. I'm just a bit more practiced at the craft. Over time we all develop our favorite ways to get a date. Let me share one of mine and some fruits.

Troll your favorite night spot thirty minutes before closing. Look for the hottest girl in the place that's crying. Approach and ask if there's anything you can do to help. Use sympathy and understanding. You're going to have to do some listening. Take solace in the fact that there's a thirty minute time limit in effect. If all goes well you'll leave together. It's that simple.

This was exactly the scenario that went down for me last Friday night. Long story short we ended up at her place and I listened to her drone on for another 45 minutes. My neck was cramping up from all the nodding I was doing. She had gotten stood up for what she said was the third time and swore off relationships. I waited patiently and made my move. We ended up in her bedroom and she excused herself to the bathroom.

I knew she'd be at least a few minutes when I heard her brushing her teeth. I took the opportunity to open the drawer in her nightstand. As soon as I saw it I knew she was going be disappointed with me. I mean, do they all run on four D size batteries? It looked like a billy club. Whatever. She came out and we did the deed.

She didn't express disappointment in me. Must have been the superior technique. I finished doggie and she passed out ten minutes later. I had quickly offered her a back rub. She was already face down and I wasn't in the mood to talk anymore. It was the least I could do.....literally. I dressed and left her a note. For some reason we kept in touch.

After a few more times I got tired of it. Frankly all she did was lay there. I'm not complaining.....just saying. Besides, she had severe abandonment issues. Her parents had gotten divorced when she was in grade school. Fifteen years later her ex took their two kids when they were infants. Obviously this was not going anywhere and true to form she dumped me. Considering how easy she was I was glad it didn't end with a dose of antibiotics.

Two weeks before I'd had another interesting encounter. She had me as soon as she said “I'm a yoga instructor.” We went back to my place. I almost cock blocked myself by reading her some poetry. Turns out I completely misread her. She didn't need to be that impressed. I should have known by the fact that she never stopped squirming. She was prepped from the get go. She almost broke my nose drunkenly jumping into my lap. I sneezed a couple of times and shook it off.

Oddly, she made a Zellwegger face at climax. I started calling her Rene but never told her why. As long as our conversations stayed strictly sexual we got along. She looked like Ann Coulter... tall, thin and blonde and with somewhat of a horse face. I liked the fact that she was taller than me. Her second marriage had just ended and had three children. After a while her matronly perfume got to me. A complete turn off. I didn't want her anymore. She whined about it for a while. Now we occasionally drink at our own apartments and Skype. Hopefully she gets the message soon.

I took a chance and went out with her and her group of friends. We did a standard club outing. I managed to duck a gal I'd met there last year. I don't remember her specifics but I'm sure it didn't end well. I was faded and spinning by the time we decided to have breakfast at a local Denny's. The only thing I remember was the manager telling us “this is a family restaurant” shortly after we sat down. I spent the meal trying to maintain and probably didn't say three coherent sentences.

At the risk of boring you I have one last story to tell. I knew she was desperate when she starting showing me naked pictures of herself on her cell. I'd only met her thirty minutes before and bam. She was very comfortable with her spectacular body. It was blinding and all I could think was Jackpot! On top of that she had a sense of humor. She thought it was hilarious that the instructions to her Oxy script said to discard any unused pills. Who ever writes that shit should call SNL.

One morning she was so out of it that she spritzed herself down with hairspray thinking it was sunblock. That only endeared her to me. Everything was going fine until we bumped into her father and step mother at the mall. Turns out she was the female look alike version of her father. I saw it immediately. The quintessential butter face. I couldn't get it out of my mind and it lessened her appeal to me. Call me superficial.

I didn't mind her obsession with DWTS. The first few episodes we watched had three of my “Most Spanked To Top 10” as contestants..... Pam Anderson, Erin Andrews, and Brooke Burk. I kept that little fact to myself. I've now reached a stage in that relationship where I'm in love with her when drunk but still afraid of commitment sober. I've seen that concert before and know how the show ends.

That's it for now. Don't think that I'm a misogynist. I love women and treat my mother and sisters well. Let's just say I'm not good at monogamy. Now get out there and work your dating magic. When you're trolling a club don't forget the golden rule. Never interrupt a couple when the woman is crying. Chances are it's me and you're five minutes too late.

Mark Verve lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and writes for relaxation. He trades the stock markets for a living and plays poker for aggravation.