December 24, 2003

December 2003 (Vol 2., Issue 12)

Welcome back to your favorite blogzine. We have finally arrived at the end of the year! This has been a great year from Truckin' and I am happy to say that we are finishing up 2003 with a strong issue. This month, there are two new writers added to the roster. Sigge, a Norwegian student, spent some time studying in Cuba this past semester. He shares his first baseball game with us. Henry Wasserman, a fellow poker blogger, submitted an excerpt from his first novel. Jessica wrote up a great review of one of my latest novels, The Blind Kangaroo. Also, I returned with a funny Subway story. Sit back, enjoy, and please spread the good word about this site. Be sweet, McG.

1. Excess Skin... a Subway Story by Tenzin McGrupp
For Japanese people to pack themselves into subway cars... that made sense. But in America, and especially in New York, there were fat people everywhere... More

2. A Novel Review: The Blind Kangaroo by Jessica E. Lapidus
Tenzin McGrupp’s third novel... is by far, his most profound work to date. For the first time in Tenzin McGrupp's novel-writing career, he concentrates on strong character development. Not to say that the characters from his other novels aren't strong, but those from The Blind Kangaroo are the most diverse... More

3. The Escape Artist: A Novel Excerpt by Henry Wasserman
He woke up feeling the usual morning frustration and immediately looked at the clock in the hope that it was too early for him to be awake. But the fatigue grew heavier when he realized he had slept for 9 hours. Most mornings he felt this way, and always wondered if there was something wrong with him, physically or mentally, or if everybody felt this way.... More

4. My First Baseball Match: A Cuba Story by Sigge Amdal
This past Saturday, I went to see the Baseball World Cup finals between Cuba and Panama, and I was really excited because it was my first time and all... More

Excess Skin... a Subway Story

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

For Japanese people to pack themselves into subway cars... that made sense. But in America, and especially in New York, there were fat people everywhere. And I'm not talking about the average person who was twenty pounds overweight. I was referring to the super fat people. The ones I always get stuck sitting next too on the subway. Actually, I never once selected an empty seat next to a fat person! Honestly, because they don't exist. At six feet in height, I was pushing the maximum capacity in mostly every form of transportation. If I was taller or weighed more then 180 pounds, I could see how some seats on subways, trains, cars, and airplanes, would be difficult to sit in for long stretches. A slender model or a small child never sat down next to me on the subway, it was always very large fat women of different ethnicities. She was one of those cross-bred commuters, excessively large and she felt that her $2 entitled her to world class service to and from Brooklyn. Personally, I felt they should have paid $4 each way, especially if they took up two seats. My complaints were valid. I always managed to have an empty seat to my left. The skinny girls sat across from me and the fat chick without hesitation plopped right down next to me. And it was not like they calmly sat on the edge of the seat and tried to fit in nicely! No fucking way. They backed that ass up! And I almost butted heads with the guy next to me, and gave the fat chick more room to squeeze into the seat. If I stood my ground, I could feel a huge force of flesh pushing up against my right side, like how the plate tectonic theory worked, with two huge plates rubbing up against each other, and the friction that occurred spewed forth earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and built majestic mountain ranges. Every few seconds, she wiggled back and forth, trying to take up more space. I was almost crawling up in the lap of the guy next to me. I know he got on at 23rd Street, and that he lived in Chelsea. I didn't want him to get the wrong idea and think that I was hitting on him. But the ambiguous thoughts of me sitting in the lap of a gay art dealer, on a speeding downtown subway train, were far more enticing that being swallowed up by an expanding mass of fatty flesh from a woman who definitely had not seen her vagina since the Reagan administration. I gave up. I hated compromising my principles. But in New York City, sometimes you had to bite the bullet. I got up from my seat. I made sure I gave the fat lady a sharp elbow as I jumped up (I was not a dirty basketball player, but sometimes I used to give my opponent a sharp elbow to the gut while I was boxing him out for a rebound). She didn't feel a thing, for she had several layers of protection underneath. As I offered my empty seat to an old lady who stood in front of me, I turned around to a horrible sight: the empty space had been swallowed up by the lady. The bright orange seat had completely disappeared, and the two previous seats sat snuggly underneath each ass cheek. She rested comfortably in two seats, with sweat beading down her round face, and it looked like my seat had never existed. If I had stayed there any longer, she would have swallowed me whole! I watched her attempt to expand to a third seat. When she began the identical annoying wiggling motion to take up more space, a distressed look shot up on the art dealer's face. He was definitely a lot happier with me in his lap, than to forcibly have a forty-six pound piece of flesh, which loosely hung off the arm of the lady, rested on his arm and lap, like a wounded and sick beached killer whale rolled upside down on the Oregon Coast.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

A Novel Review: The Blind Kangaroo

By Jessica E. Lapidus © 2003

Tenzin McGrupp’s third novel, The Blind Kangaroo, is by far, his most profound work to date. In an email written to friend Jerry Engel, McGrupp says,

“I think (The Blind Kangaroo) is my most mature novel yet. I have tried to shy away from some of the outlandish sexual connotations and explicit drug use of the first two novels...”

Indeed, McGrupp’s first two novels, Jack Tripper Stole My Dog, and Sweet Nothing, revolve around over-the-top sex scenes and heavy drug use. The Blind Kangaroo breaks away from that formula. For the first time in Tenzin McGrupp’s novel-writing career, he concentrates on strong character development. Not to say that the characters from his other novels aren’t strong, but those from The Blind Kangaroo are the most diverse.

The Blind Kangaroo tells the story of a week in the life of “The Norwegian Nightmare,” Orsino Fletcher, a 30-year old, former college and Olympic hockey player. In this week, Orsino, known to all simply as Fletch, learns about life from a bathroom book about Buddha, realizes his own purpose, and learns how to let go. He spends time with his girlfriend, Ophelia, and comments on society and its morals (or lack thereof) via his fellow Catholic high school alumni and a through visit to Hollywood, full of realization and revelation.

Others of McGrupp’s critics have mentioned that the women in his stories are “either pregnant, crazy, or both.” In The Blind Kangaroo, his main female characters – Cordelia, Juliet, and Ophelia – are all different, and each complex in her own way. Ophelia is Fletch’s younger girlfriend. It is clear from the beginning that they have deep feelings for each other, but both are too guarded to express them. The underlying tension that comes through in their dialogue and other relations is apparent through the telling of Fletch’s story. Ophelia’s friends, Cordelia and Juliet, are perfect compliments to her and each other, and the three make a charming triumverate of feminine wiles and female intelligence. In one scene, where Fletch is driving to Foxwoods with two of the three girls, he and the bull-headed Cordelia get into an argument, and Cordelia holds her own. In McGrupp’s previous novels, the female characters were so constructed that they might have backed down when confronted by the verbal strength of men the likes of Ivan in JTSMD and Winky in Sweet Nothing. But as I smiled with glee at the barrage of insults flying between Fletch and Cordelia, I realized that in Fletch’s world, he would have had no idea how to handle Kelly and Baby from the aforementioned works. Cordelia, Juliet, and Ophelia, in the ways in which they interact with Fletch – and with each other – are perfectly tailored to the setting and mindset of The Blind Kangaroo.

In McGrupp’s other works, short stories and novels alike, he always seems to be striving for a grand symbolism to be represented by locale – the seedy underbelly of New York City in Jack Tripper Stole My Dog and the white trash life in both Seattle and Alabama in Sweet Nothing – or by characterization. The Blind Kangaroo is not lacking this symbolism, but it seems to be a lot effortlessly illustrated, and much more subtle. In the story, Fletch is struggling with his history as an Olympic hockey player, the fame of which seems to be a haunting burden to him, while for others, it is a mark of local and national pride. Fletch hides from it, while every other character in the story, it seems, is striving for his or her own recognition. Ophelia is a struggling actress, many of his fellow high school alumni have made or are trying to make names for themselves in the world, and even the people Fletch meets on his trip to Hollywood seem to be searching for themselves, for their place in the world – or at least at their parties.

Aside from the complexites of McGrupp’s female characters, the other players in The Blind Kangaroo are also exciting and different. While some of his fans may argue that the locations and the characterizations are semi-autobiographical, McGrupp admits that his characters are each an amalgam of people he has known and met in his life. Most of the characters get the time they deserve, and when we’ve seen the last of them (in this volume, at least), the timing of their departure is perfect. The one character who doesn’t seem to linger long enough is Adriana, the personal assistant to Ophelia’s Hollywood-producer father, Duncan. Adriana is the most developed character with the least face time. She appears only in the last two chapters of The Blind Kangaroo and while the story covers it’s points in its seven, full, comprehensive chapters, Adriana’s presence makes the case for the continuation. I recently spoke with McGrupp, and he tells me that there is a chance that we will see Adriana again, perhaps in a story of her own.

Another character who makes a far too short appearance is Imogen, the Icelandic flight attendant who Fletch meets while living in Denmark. The story of the relationship between Fletch and Imogen takes place in the past, and the way McGrupp tells the story is with love and passion. The telling of the tale of their love affair seems a moment of calm in the whirlwind of Orsino Fletcher’s life. Their story and its aftermath barely lasts a whole chapter, and leaves the reader wanting more from Imogen and the passionate affect she has had on our hero.

The final two chapters are set in Hollywood, where Fletch puts into practice the things he has learned from reading the bathroom book about Buddha. He speaks honestly and candidly with Duncan, Ophelia’s father, and also with Ophelia, to whom he finally opens his heart. The major concept of Buddha’s teachings is to let go of all attachments, and that is exactly what Fletch is able to do by the time we get to the end of the week. He goes from being hung-up and obsessed with his fame, to being free of its implied burdens, and getting down to what is important in his life: respect and love. And keeping with the theme of strong women, the one who seals his realization is Ophelia, who points out,

“ much as everyone is focused on the Norwegian Nightmare, you always took the time to tell me how lucky you were to be wherever, with the most beautiful woman in the room.”

Her statement speaks of the message in The Blind Kangaroo, which is appreciation for the things around you – from generously tipping a waitress to playing in the fall leaves in New York’s Central Park – and having less attachment to the things in your life by which you have felt burdened, but that you know will fade just as the moments.

All in all, The Blind Kangaroo is, by far, Tenzin McGrupp’s mature, real-life novel. It is not only about fame and celebrity, and the struggles therein, but also about relationships with others and with the self, and learning about life through life.

Jessica E. Lapidus is a writer from Jersey City. She is also the assistant editor of Truckin'.

The Escape Artist: A Novel Excerpt

By Henry Wasserman © 2003

He woke up feeling the usual morning frustration and immediately looked at the clock in the hope that it was too early for him to be awake. But the fatigue grew heavier when he realized he had slept for 9 hours. Most mornings he felt this way, and always wondered if there was something wrong with him, physically or mentally, or if everybody felt this way. It was like a hangover, an aftertaste of too much frustration and boredom, a losing battle against the hope of fulfilling his potential.

Fortunately there were more pressing matters--the frustration quickly disappeared, as John Henry felt the pain spread out from the base of his neck down to his pelvis. The physical pain was better than the hangover, and he was happy to be distracted by the diagnostic process. Last night's game was a good one-only one mistake, a missed block on a play that didn't much matter, and enough memorable good plays to convince him that he'd play well. He tried to remember what the pain had come from, and mentally cued up the game tape and cycled through the hits. A helmet to helmet smash with the monster defensive end… diving for a poorly thrown ball… a perfectly thrown block to clear a path for the running back. But he couldn't remember feeling any pain on any of these plays, and dismissed the pain in his neck as unimportant.

He'd become an expert at diagnosing the seriousness of injuries: having experienced a variety of serious traumas to his body, he was able to determine if the pain would prevent him from playing for a game, a few weeks or a season. In the rare case that the pain indicated that there was something wrong with the function of his body (such as a torn ligament), some defect that a river of adrenaline could not fix, he knew about it. This morning's pain was the good kind, the kind that told him he had given enough of his body to believe he had played a good game.

He wished he could apply his diagnostic skills to his mental condition as well, but the morning frustration always confused him. He remembered some movie in which the hero is told that the measure of a man is how he feels about himself when he wakes up in the morning, and he wished he could figure out what these morning hangovers really meant. The confused unhappiness upon waking up had become too familiar, almost comfortable.

As he began his morning routine of ingesting the 3 legal painkillers, coffee, ibuprofen, and nicotine, he wondered why he participated in these addictions. Maybe like the pain, it was easier to justify the morning frustration as a physical withdrawal, and it provided him with a distraction from the psychological side of the problem. Maybe it was just an attempt to participate in "the common life," a ritual that renewed his membership in the fraternity of the common person. As each year went by, he felt it harder to understand and identify with people. He couldn't imagine himself contentedly sitting in traffic on the morning commute, sitting at a desk meaninglessly punching numbers into a computer, and coming home to stare at the tv with the wife and kids. He hoped in a perverse way that the cogs of society felt that same morning frustration, but was pretty sure that they didn't.

As the coffee dripped into the pot, John wondered what to do with the 5 minutes it took for the brewing to finish. If he couldn't satisfy himself that he was doing something productive, he immediately became frustrated. If time was not full, it was empty. The idea that a minute could go by in which a person was not somehow doing something to better himself was disgusting to him. He picked up the newspaper, annoyed that he'd gotten into the habit of waiting for the brown liquid.

He drank his coffee and waited for the caffeine and ibuprofen to take the edge off the fatigue, and opened up to the sports page. After scanning the first 3 pages, he found the headline he was looking for at the bottom of page 4: "Hartford QB throws to Victory over New York," accompanied by a smiling picture of his team's idiot quarterback. There were a couple paragraphs describing the game, interspersed with quotes from the quarterback about "the dream of every minor league football player is to get to the pros" and various cliches about winning and "wanting it more." John laughed at the obligatory thanks to God, remembering the look on the quarterback's face as he screwed a couple of groupies in the locker room shower after the game.

He downed the last of his coffee, folded the newspaper, and stuck a wad of chewing tobacco in his lower lip. Bounding out the door of his dirty apartment, he squinted against the blinding sun, feeling invigorated by the pain in his leg muscles that each step triggered. He hated going to "work" on Sunday-it was the players' only day off, and he wished his body was tough enough to survive without the help of ice and whirlpools.

The beat up car went into reverse, and as he turned to look out the back window, the pain shot down his neck, sending nauseating waves of pain throughout his body. He turned his head forward and took a deep breath. The pain subsided to a dull ache, but John felt a hint of worry. An oncoming Lexus nearly smashed into him as he backed out without looking, and the angry yuppie face in the rear view caused him a wry smile of satisfaction.

The highway was a sanctuary for him. Gliding along through space, his racing mind relaxed, overjoyed at the idea that until he reached his destination, there was no choice of action: only the music from the CD player and the nicotine flowing into his bloodstream. He reflected on the game: how alive he felt when he was playing, how dead he felt when he wasn't. He wondered if the reason he felt better after the Sunday sessions with the trainer was because of the highway's ability to calm his thoughts.

The blaring music snapped him back into the car, as the singer belted out the lyrics:

"It's a war on war, it's a war on war
You're gonna lose
You have to lose
You have to learn how to die
If you wanna wanna be alive"

The words conjured up images of himself after games, swollen and sore, and thought about being reborn again on the next gameday. A weekly death and rebirth, a distraction from the banality of a life in front of the TV. He pictured Jesus in a football uniform, barking out signals to the apostles before throwing a perfect pass to Peter in the end zone.

Henry Wasserman is a writer from Los Angeles, CA. The Escape Artist is his first novel.

My First Baseball Match: A Cuba Story

By Sigge Amdal © 2003

This past Saturday, I went to see the Baseball World Cup finals between Cuba and Panama, and I was really excited because it was my first time and all. At first, we nearly mised the opportunity to enter the stadium because it was nearly sold out. I just kept both hands on my bag and wallet because of all the people. We (me and two friends from campus) climbed to the topside of the stadium, just a little left of the batter (or whatever you call the guy on homebase).

I was very hungry and tired, but I fought against boredom and what not to try to get into the game, which I did after about half an hour or so. First I thought, What is this baseball? So slow, and all those time-outs. When I got used to it, however, the pace really didn’t matter because I was enjoying myself so much. Here’s what I wrote while there:

“It’s halftime, 5 out of 10 rounds played and it’s been 2 hours. Now, I’m at Estadio Latinoamericano watching the finals between Cuba and Panama, and I’m talking about baseball. Being the first time and all, it took me some time to get into the game and understand how the score is working. The stadium is really crowded and I guess the outcome of this match will have an impact on Havana at least for the coming week. How is it then? It’s an interesting, though time consuming game; I guess this match will take at least 4 hours or so. All the time-outs are really annoying, because it could’ve shortened my stay here (and I’m starving!) with 2/3 of the expected time. The score is currently 2-2 I believe, and it’s Cuba’s turn to hit & run (apologies for not knowing the correct terms). I’ll get back to you if something extraordinary happens.”

“It’s 10:35 pm and the score is 2-3 (Pan-Cuba). It’s Cuba’s F. Cepeda with an average of .333 at bat. As you get more into the game it actually gets exciting! Two and a half rounds left and anything can happen! I can’t believe it! The score is 2-4, Cepeda just did a homerun!"

The final score was 4-2 to Cuba, and in the 9th round Cuba became world champions all over again. Now, I celebrated all night, but the Cubans didn’t and that really made me curious. When I heard the reason I was abashed. They are so used to winning the world cup, being the best baseball players in the world and all is not so exciting when you’ve done it over and over again.

Anyway, it was a great experience, and when I got into the game it was really entertaining. Every homerun made everyone jump and shout. The ceremony afterwards was cool too, including the fact that all of the Panama-team ran out into the field to kick ass on this Cuban player at second base for some reason.

When they’d calmed things down, the Cubans came out with the Cuban flag, and a great white banner to show to the world: " NO AL BLOQUE!"

Sigge Amdal is a writer from Oslo, Norway. He spent the last few months studying philosophy in Havana, Cuba.

What a Long Strange Trip Its Been...

From the Editor's Laptop...

Wow, 2003 is over. It's been a great year for Truckin'. Just when I thought my blogzine was going to get scrapped (on more than one instance)... it was brought back to life!! Now we celebrate the December issue! Truckin' is now read all over the world and is getting the most web traffic than it's ever gotten. Thanks to everyone who read my blogzine and sent the link on to your friends. Special thanks to all the writers... some new and some old... who shared their bloodwork with me and with you.

This issue was great because for the first time in a very long time, I did not have to write a lot of stories. Sigge shared a baseball tale from Cuba, and I hope he gives us more stories about his time living there. Henry Wasserman, a fellow poker blogger, submitted a novel excerpt, and I hope he writes for us next year! Jessica wrote a great piece about my new novel, and I'm eternally grateful for her kind words and help editing the beast.

Next year will mark the 2 year anniversary of Truckin'! I hope to do something special, in addition to adding new writers and new travel stories to the roster. And hopefully, I'll do some more traveling next year, and share my insane experiences with all of you.

Please feel free to e-mail this link to your friends, families, co-workers, cellmates, lifemates, etc. Help spread the good word about this site and the writers!

Be Sweet,

"Sometimes you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it just right..." - Robert Hunter & the Grateful Dead

November 20, 2003

November 2003 (Vol 2., Issue 11)

Welcome back to your favorite blogzine. November is National Novel Writing Month and just like last year, I participated in a writing contest on NaNoWriMo. This month, there are excerpts from two new novels. I wrote The Blind Kangaroo and Mona LaVigne submitted a selection from The Wild Side. This month features a Barcelona story from Haley Slovin. Also, I returned with a scary Subway story and a tale about my junkie days in Atlanta... Sit back, enjoy, and please spread the good word about this site. Be sweet, McG.

1. Subway Stalker: Part I by Tenzin McGrupp
At the 23rd Street stop, she exited the train. I was headed for lower Manhattan, but I decided to follow her instead. I waited, and as the doors were about to close, I jumped off... More

2. Confessions of a Donut Junkie, Part I by Tenzin McGrupp
Every time that I visited that particular D & D, I was inebriated; drunk, stoned, tripping, hopped up on ephedrine, or all of the above. We showed up at all hours... More

3. The Blind Kangaroo by Tenzin McGrupp
I imagined Adriana sipping a huge fruity cocktail in a trendy L.A. bar like Little Pedro’s Blue Bongo with a slew of other assistants, all worn out from a long day of being a lap dog to the stars, sharing their bad days and ranting about their famous employers... More

4. The Wild Side by Mona LaVigne
Lorna went to work the following evening, and after her first stage routine, two main floor lap dances, and one ten minute back room private dance, she had a back back room adventure with a young guy... More

5. Gaudy Barcelona by Haley Slovin
The backbone of activity in Barcelona was the Rambla, a long pedestrian walkway which ran through the center of town. It hosted a multitude of newspaper stands, bookstalls, and flower stands... More

Subway Stalker: Part I

By Tenzin McGrupp

She got on at 116th Street, the Columbia University stop. She looked young enough to be in school, perhaps a graduate student working on her Masters degree. She had long brown hair, and wore tight, faded jeans, black flip flops, and a purple sweater. I noticed a shiny silver cross that dangled around her neck. Her nails appeared freshly done, a ripe shade of bubblegum pink, that glistened as she rummaged through her bag while she sat down across from me. I was reading the NY Daily News and occasionally I’d glimpse up at her, to see what she was doing. She read a woman’s magazine, perhaps Glamour or Elle. I did not see the cover. She nonchalantly flipped through the pages, sometimes stopping to glimpse at the pictures, but I got the impression that she was killing time as the train made it’s way downtown. She started to get her things together after the doors closed at 28th Street. She held up a copy of her magazine and I glanced at the mailing label on front: Geraldine Watson, 34 W. 21st St., Apt #3A. She lived in Chelsea.

At the 23rd Street stop, she exited the train. I was headed for lower Manhattan, but I decided to follow her instead. I waited, and as the doors were about to close, I jumped off. She quickly walked down the platform, past the crowd, out the turnstile, and up the stairs towards the street. I maintained a healthy distance, far enough that she would not suspect anything, yet close enough, that I could see any important details.

When she got to street level, she immediately reached for her cell phone to check her messages. She made a quick call while she waited on the northeast corner on Seventh Avenue and 23rd Street. By the time she crossed the street and reached the Malibu Diner, she put her phone away. She walked east on 23rd Street until she reached Sixth Avenue, where she headed south. She walked into Barnes and Nobles on 22nd Street and I followed. She browsed the New Arrivals section for six minutes, before she looked at calendars for a moment, then retreated back to the “Self-Help Section”. She stayed there for ten minutes and thumbed through a book by Dr. Phil. When she finished, I hurried into the same aisle and picked up the book that peaked her interest. I wrote down the title and resumed trailing her.

She stopped at a display stand in the middle of the store and picked up a David Sedaris book. She read it for a few minutes with a puzzled look on her beautiful face, then left. I followed her outside, again keeping a safe, non-threatening distance from her. I thought she saw me once in Barnes and Nobles, but I was not certain. She walked one block south, then made a left on 21st Street, which was filled with a couple of random office buildings and lofts. I figured that she was headed home, to 34 W. 21st Street, so I slowed down. When she got to her front door, she took out her keys and went inside. I walked right by her, past her front door. I walked for ten seconds, then turned around and briskly walked back. The front door to her apartment building took a long time to close shut, a definite security risk, because by the time my hand reached the handle, the door was not locked. I slipped inside, keeping my head down to avoid the security camera right above the entrance. She was waiting in the lobby for the elevator and when it opened up, I followed her inside.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Confessions of a Donut Junkie, Part I

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

March 1994, Atlanta, GA

A small 24 hour Dunkin’ Donuts on the corner of Houston Mill Road, with a tiny counter and just two booths, was the closest D & D to the Emory University campus. The strip mall across the street housed one of our local hangouts, Maggie’s, where we’d often drink cheap pitchers of Milwaukee’s Best, shoot pool, and attempted to pick up Sophomore chicks. After a night of heavy drinking, we’d stop off at D & D for sausage, egg, and cheese croissant sandwiches or a box of Munchkins for the ride back to our fraternity house. Every time that I visited that particular D & D, I was inebriated; drunk, stoned, tripping, hopped up on ephedrine, or all of the above. We showed up at all hours; early morning, mid-afternoon, early evening, or in the middle of the night. We’d converge on D & D, and Haji, the poor kid from Bangladesh who worked the counter, would have to put up with our drunkin’ taunts and tomfoolery.

After drinking Jim Beam for six hours straight with Ryan P. McNeil (I went to college with two Ryan McNeils. I was friends with Ryan P. from Oceanside, and while I never met the other one, I heard that Ryan J. from Nashville was a stuck up, BMW driving, fake-tanned prick, who date raped three Theta pledges last semester) like a school of alcoholic fish, we ordered a pledge to pick us up at Maggie’s and drive us to D & D.

Haji took too much time making McNeil his egg and cheese sandwich. I craved three chocolate frosted donuts. My fingers itched at the sight. My mouth salivated when the aromas of freshly baked donuts wandered my way. I was a raging, drunk, junkie and I lost all patience.

“Hey Haji, let’s fucking go… today!” I shouted and snapped my fingers.

McNeil took offense to my uncouth behavior. He thoroughly enjoyed pointing out my social faux pas (drunk or sober) and this was no different.

“Can’t you see the gentleman is busy? This guy works two jobs. He’s a neurosurgeon in his country, and he comes to America to start a new life, stuck at the bottom of the food chain. It’s not his fault the microwave is slow. He doesn’t have to put up with your bullshit.”

McNeil could be a nasty, insecure dick sometimes. He’s the type of guy that makes fun of you in front of a group of people.

“For fuck’s sake McGrupp, I can’t believe you actually paid for that haircut!”

He purposely tried to put you down when you’re hanging out with a bunch of girls at Maggie’s.

“Maybe you should pace yourself McGrupp. Drink slower. You don’t want to pass out early, then wake up in your own piss again? Do you?”

Sometimes I wondered if our Ryan McNeil was a date rapist too.

“Hey, McNeil… fuck you!” and I playfully shoved him.

McNeil laughed, then shoved back much harder with a sinister malcontent.

I returned fire. We must have looked like a couple of high school kids messing around in the locker room. Then it got ugly. McNeil grabbed me and push me back onto the front counter. My head almost slammed into the cash register. I tried to fight back, but I could not stop laughing. I was enjoying myself too much to be pissed off at McNeil. He grabbed my ankles, lifted up my legs and gave a hard shove. I flew backwards, slid off the counter, and landed upside down, my face inches away from a batch of bagels. I stumbled, failed to correct my balance and slipped. To brace my fall, I leaned out against the wall of donuts behind me. I mistakenly grabbed the end of a rack of éclairs. It swiftly toppled on me when I fell back to the floor. McNeil and our pledge had a great laugh at my expense. They pointed and heckled.

Haji, frozen in a wave of shock, stood with his mouth wide open, unable to put forth any reaction. The front doors opened, and a new group of people walked into the D & D. I jumped up from my spot, right behind the counter and smiled.

“Welcome to Dunkin Donuts! I can take your order please?”

Three sorority girls, wearing Emory sweatpants and flip-slops giggled. For years afterwards I’d have nightmares accompanied by non-stop cold sweats, with memories of hearing Meggie Beckett’s shrill Mississippi accent, telling the same fucking story three thousand, two hundred and forty-six times about how, “Oh my goodness! I was studying for my Organic Chem mid-term with my suitemates. We took a study break and drove out to the Dunkin Donuts. We walked in and I found McGrupp, drunker than Ted Kennedy on St. Patrick’s Day, behind the counter giving away free donuts!”

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

The Blind Kangaroo

A novel excerpt from Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

I imagined Adriana sipping a huge fruity cocktail in a trendy L.A. bar like Little Pedro’s Blue Bongo with a slew of other assistants, all worn out from a long day of being a lap dog to the stars, sharing their bad days and ranting about their famous employers.

"It was 3 AM and he wanted sushi," one young guy with slicked back hair and a perfect tan moaned.

"That was nothing! It was 4 PM and he wanted a hooker. We were in the middle of the Redwoods on location, and he demanded that he wanted his cock sucked in between scenes. You know hard it was to get a hooker to come all the way out to the middle of nowhere like that? Those fuckin' Baldwins," a fellow jaded assistant added before she downed a shot of tequila.

"I had to get her fucking dog the perfect outfit for a stupid pool party. It was a nightmare. I had to take forty-seven different outfits on and off her fucking poodle," Adriana mused.

"And you know they hate each other. They got into an argument at Madonna's party at the Sky Bar last year. When she got home, I heard that our favorite super model smashed her cell phone over the head of her assistant! Of course she fired her, then took the coast of her new cell phone out of her last paycheck!" another complained.

"I went to a cocktail party at the Chateau Marmont with my boss. It was thrown by Harvey Weinstein, and I was super excited. I mean the fucking Weinsteins! I thought maybe I could corner one of their assistants and pitch my idea for a great screenplay I had been working on for the last two years, sort of a modern-day adaptation of the Spanish Inquisition, but it takes place in San Francisco during the 1960s. Anyway, when I got to the party, my boss was so unimpressed with my tie that he cut it off with a pair of scissors. That asshole! It was my favorite tie," another young writer, moonlighting as a Hollywood peon confessed.

But they all put up with the shit that got shoveled their way because they knew, just like I knew on Wall Street, that you had a job that everyone wanted. And as much as it sucked, there was a line around the block of eager idiots willing to do you job, for less pay. That fear kept grouchy assistants in line and that's why the stars were able to get away with murder, that was, until one of their assistants wrote a tell-all book and pitched it on the Regis and Kelly Show.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

The Wild Side

A novel excerpt from Mona LaVigne © 2003

Lorna went to work the following evening, and after her first stage routine, two main floor lap dances, and one ten minute back room private dance, she had a back back room adventure with a young guy who wanted to fuck her tits. Lorna was sure that the kid was gay, but he pounded his cock against her chin and kept saying cheesy shit like, “Oh, you got gorgeous boobs!” and “Soft, milky pillows!” It was all Lorna could do to keep from laughing, but she was glad that she hadn’t, because after he came across her neck, he gave her two hundred dollars in twenty dollar bills. She wiped herself off, gave five of the twenties to Chavez, and went to the dressing room to change so she could go home. She saw Missy, alone at a dressing table, finishing off a line of white powder. She looked up at Lorna and wiped her nose with the side of her hand.

“Coooooooocaine! Want some?”

Lorna had grown used to Missy’s drug use in the dressing room at The Satin Strip, and every time she would see her, Missy would offer some of whatever she was taking and every time, Lorna would refuse. She had learned to ignore it.

“Hey, Missy, can I ask you something?”

“Sure.” Her eyes rolled into the back of her head for a second, alarming Lorna, but Missy righted herself almost immediately and smiled.

“I, uh, I met Charlie Knuckles last night.”

“Ooh, he’s great. Did he introduce you to Mary Benjamin, too?”

“Yeah, he did. But, um, he gave me his business card. Daisy told me that he had given it to you once, too. I was curious... did you call?”

“You bet your ass I called! A rich man like Charlie Knuckles wants me to make more cash? I was into it at first. But I don’t deal with third parties.”

“What do you mean?”

“I called him and he gave me some other number. He was like some pre-screening thing or some shit. And I’m not into that. Are you gonna call him?”

Lorna shrugged. “I think I might. I mean, I have nothing to lose, right?”

“True. Look, Lindsey, forgive me for being presumptuous, but how long have you been dancing?”

“As long as I’ve been working here... less than a year, nine months, maybe?”

“It’s funny, but I’m only 22, and I’ve been dancing here nearly three years longer than you have. Can I offer some words of wisdom?”

Lorna thought this was a little bit rude, but she was the one who had made the initial approach, so she nodded. “Of course.”

“I think it’s totally cool if you call Charlie Knuckles. But just... be careful. He wants to know if you want to make some extra cash. What kind of ‘extra cash’ does a stripper make?”

Lorna flinched. Unwritten Rule Number 53 of Exotic Dancing: the girls are called “dancers,” not “strippers.” As long as she had been dancing at The Satin Strip, she had never heard one of her fellow dancers refer to themselves or others of their ilk as “strippers.”

“Lindsey,” Missy continued, “I’ve been in ‘adult entertainment’ or whatever you want to call it, for a long time and believe me, it can be a really ugly business. I know, you’re thinking, no shit. But I’m telling you, out there, in Charlie Knuckles’ ‘extra cash’ business, there are big, angry men with knives and guns. And you don’t have Buck the bouncer on the other side of the curtain, you know what I mean?”

Mona LaVigne is a former call girl from Paris, France.

Gaudy Barcelona

By Haley M. Slovin © 2003

The backbone of activity in Barcelona was the Rambla, a long pedestrian walkway which ran through the center of town. It hosted a multitude of newspaper stands, bookstalls, and flower stands, and radiating off the Rambla were a network of small streets full of shops, bars, clubs, and restaurants. Near the end of this street was one of the most famous hostels in Europe - Kabul's. Located in a rather shady neighborhood, Kabul's was ground zero for young travelers. It had no curfew, a large lounge area, a pool table, a beer vending machine, internet access, even a french fry vending machine. It was a self contained party scene, which prompted many people to never bother to venture outside.

I spent most every day in Barcelona touring the Gaudi structures. Antonin Gaudi was an architect and artist known for his incredibly fanciful, overstated designs. It is from his work that we get the term "gaudy". I had very little knowledge of his work, but after touring over a half dozen sites, I became a Gaudi devotee. The most amazing thing about his work was the incredible range of skills he demonstrated in each project. He not only designed innovative buildings which were structurally way ahead of their time, but he was also responsible for every detail - ornate metal grates, all interior woodwork, furniture design, and of course, his signature tile work. His buildings were straight from the pages of Dr. Seuss.

Haley M. Slovin is an actress from New York City.

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

From the Editor's Laptop:

It is November, which means NaNoWri month. Last year, I posted excerpts from my novel Jack Tripper Stole My Dog and Mona LaVigne's Gysana. This year, we have selections from our new novels. And next month, I might add some more!

Please feel free to e-mail this link to your friends, families, co-workers, cellmates, lifemates, etc. Help spread the good word about this site and the writers!

Be Sweet,

"Life's a cash bar." - Eric Bruno (circa 1991)

October 25, 2003

October 2003 (Vol 2., Issue 10)

Welcome back to another exciting issue. Tom Love returns with a story called The Twenty Dollar Mango. Since it's almost Halloween, I'd share a couple of Halloween Moments from years past. And I attempted to write a scary tale... Sit back, enjoy, and please spread the good word about this site. Be sweet, McG.

1. The Chill from an Open Window by Tenzin McGrupp
My life prior to that Halloween seemed outrageously normal. My parents appeared pleasant on the outside, holding up an iron-clad façade, masking their odd quirks and hiding their multi-layer phobias with an intense discretion... More

2. The Twenty Dollar Mango by Tom Love
Frankie was a regular guy, what you might call a stand-up guy. It's just that he had a coupl'a bad habits... More

3. Halloween Moments by Tenzin McGrupp
I almost got into a fist fight with a cab driver, who looked like Gopher from the Love Boat and I wanted to kick his ass after he made fun of me More

October 24, 2003

The Chill from an Open Window

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

It was about twelve years ago when things went from strange and manageable to fucked up and hellacious in my family’s life. I don’t know where or how all this mess started, but I do know the day that everything got knocked out of whack; the Halloween when I was ten years old.

My life prior to that Halloween seemed outrageously normal. My parents appeared pleasant on the outside, holding up an iron-clad façade, masking their odd quirks and hiding their multi-layer phobias with an intense discretion. My mother, a staunch Southern Baptist from South Carolina, worked as a church secretary for the only Baptist church in Mortonville, our sprawling Pennsylvania town, just fourteen miles south of Gettysburg. My father, a former high school football star from Wilkes-Barre, worked as a shipping manager for a food distribution company. On good days, he was polite to strangers and could make anyone laugh under any circumstances. Unfortunately, when he wasn’t spending most of his time drinking at the local tavern with the increasing number of unemployed factory workers, recanting his glory days as an all-state wide receiver, he would slip into self-destructive mode after he finished a fifth of scotch, picking fights with anyone who appeared weak, while incessantly cursing the federal government for their illegal war in Vietnam, the often-questioned skirmish (and the one that everyone would love to forget) that he was drafted to fight in during the summer of 1967. The day he left for boot camp was when his glory days ended. Within a year, he would be soaking up his troubles in a bar in Saigon, nursing the wounds he incurred when his unit was ambushed, attempting to shrug off the demons that jumped him in the rice paddies of Vietnam. He brought back more than just couple of poorly healed scars and a tragic limp from his tour in Southeast Asia, as uncomfortable ripples of obliteration and conflict consumed my family’s innocent lives for decades after.

A dark, heavy cloud of muddled anger always lingered around our house. That’s why my mother was convinced that it was haunted. Although she never dared question my father’s authority in front of him, I heard her on more than one occasion, speak to her friends about the ghosts that inhabited our house. She was convinced that the dozens of souls my father killed during his time at war had tracked him down, and planned to haunt him and our entire family for as long as we all lived.

When I look back on my childhood, growing up in the house on Miller Street, too many mysterious things happened that went unanswered. Open doors seemed to plague our homestead. We lived in a fairly safe neighborhood and because people knew my father had a questionable temper, no one dared rob us. So I thought. I later found out from an old classmate that all the kids were afraid of my house, not because my father was a drunken Marine, but because they were all convinced that it was haunted. A flash flood of memories involving hundreds of unexplained open doors swamped me. All I wanted were answers. Years later, I am still searching.

We lost several pets while I was growing up. Where did they go? Did all of them escape through these open doors? Where they stolen? My father (when he was sober enough) used to check and double check the doors. We often left our front and back doors shut, but unlocked. After we lost our fifth cat, my father started locking the doors. That’s when we’d find all the windows open. We’d go to sleep with all of them locked and shut tight, only to awake freezing in the middle of the night, finding every other window in our house wide open.

My mother was horrified. She prayed for a solution, but nothing happened. She held dozens of talks with Pastor Burke at our church. She desperately wanted answers.

“I know we have ghosts in our house. I think they are people that my husband killed,” she blurted out, as she wept in the church office.

“You know that we live near a couple of Civil War battlefields? It’s not uncommon for folks around here to see things that they can’t explain,” offered up Pastor Burke.

“Can you perform an exorcism?” she pleaded.

“I have no experience with that. Only the Catholic church officially performs exorcisms. I can make a call for you, but that’s the best I can do.”

A couple of weeks later, Father O’Brien from Gettysburg wrote my mother a letter. He explained that the region of the country where we lived had a high activity of paranormal disturbances. In his town, the sight of one of the bloodiest battles in American history, there seemed to be a surplus of ghosts and unexplained occurrences. Although busy performing up to three or four exorcisms a week, Father O’Brien eventually agreed to meet my mother and visit our house a couple of days after Halloween.

Once during a pot roast dinner, my mother bravely suggested to my tipsy father that perhaps, all the open doors were somehow related to the fact that our house was haunted by either Civil War or Vietnam War ghosts. That suggestion was swiftly met with a left hook from my father, and a bitter tirade ensued about how our government is filled with lying, merciless thieves that tried to kill him several times. Yes, my father came back from Vietnam a limping-alcoholic-delusional-paranoid with a hundred or so half-baked conspiracy theories: LBJ had JFK killed, the Pope used to be a Nazi, the government had been secretly using LSD on civilians for years for mind control experiments, and my favorite one, that every Bible in every hotel room in the America had a bug and listening device encased inside.

Many of his friends fell ill from Agent Orange. He knew that the government lied to him, his fellow Marines, and the American people about the entire Vietnam War. After a couple of beers, he would sit all of us down, and spout endless stories about misinformation, some of them mirroring Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States, and other times bordering the insane ramblings of a homeless, pathetic drunk. Either way, my father believed in one thing for sure: there was no such things as ghosts. The open doors and open windows were a sign that covert black-operations troops were conducting surveillance and messing with his head. Convinced that the U.S. Shadow Government was out to kill him, my old man slept with a loaded .45 under his pillow, and drove to work with another one stashed underneath the front seat of his Buick.

My older brother, Brent, spent most of this time locked in his bedroom in the basement. When I got to college, I learned that the funny smell wafting it’s way from his room was the combination of marijuana and incense. He dropped out of high school and worked at the Perkin’s restaurant near the highway. That’s where he met most of his clients. Brent sold nickel bags of marijuana to college kids (ironically grown by a collection of rogue, ex-Amish farmers, banned from their communities nearby). He also sold fireworks to the neighborhood kids out of the back of his pick-up truck. He did too many drugs and read too many science fiction novels. He didn’t believe my mother’s ghost stories, nor my father’s conspiracy theories, except one aspect. Like my father, my brother believed in aliens, UFOs, cover-ups, and abductions. His girlfriend once told me a scary story about how they were driving late one night. She saw a huge bright light, then she passed out. She said that she woke up with her crotch tingling, and was convinced that had been abducted by aliens for experiments. (Just last year, I found out that my brother and his friends routinely drugged their girlfriends and took turns having sex with them while they were passed out. That poor girl thought E.T. was probing her insides, while the entire time, it was my brother’s half-wit friends, the Jimmy twins.)

My younger sister, Bitsy, had her own theory: a made-up creature that she called Max. Bitsy was not your average six year-old. She cussed like a Queens cabbie, she could finger paint like Picasso, she ate like a horse, and she talked about Max all the time. Max was an odd creature, something I gathered from all the pictures of him that she created. He was a fuzzy, short, stumpy fellow, with big eyes and extra large hands. And he was purple with yellow underpants to “cover up his pee-pee,” as she explained.

“He looks like a porcupine on mescaline,” Brent commented one day after he glanced at one of Bitsy’s drawings on the refrigerator.

Everyone had a theory about the open windows and open doors, but no one had real answers. My brother firmly believed it was aliens. My mother was freaked out by the ghosts. My father reeked of a sullen paranoia that government agents were the culprits. And my little sister Bitsy was convinced that it was her imaginary friend, Max. The only thing they all had in common was that I thought they were all nuts.

Almost a week before Father O’Brien said he’d visit our house, I sensed that there was something going on. I would wake up in the middle of the night after a nightmare, drenched in sweat and then find myself unable to go back to sleep. Sometimes I would wet myself and wake up covered in sweat and piss. I was bothered by images of people’s faces, all of them I had never seen before. The dream always started out the same. I was riding my bicycle driving down Miller Street, when all of a sudden I got sideswiped by a small yellow school bus (the exact same one that picked up the special-ed kid down the street). I black out for a few moments and when I regain consciousness, I had twenty different people tugging on my clothes, taking off my sneakers, pouring different kinds of liquids all over my body. An old lady with a glass eye gripped hedge clippers and tried to cut off my hair. When she missed and made a mistake, my ear got snipped off. Blood rushed everywhere and that’s when I’d wake up sneering in my own piss.

The same nightmare occurred for a week straight. I’d clean myself up and after six failed attempts to fall back asleep, I’d decided to stay up on the seventh night. If I couldn’t sleep, then I might as well attempt to solve the case of the open doors and windows. It was 3:38 AM, when I grabbed a small penlight and made my way through our dark house. I inspected all the doors and all the windows. Everything was shut. I checked up on Bitsy and she and our cat slept peacefully. I walked into my parent’s bedroom, and my mother was also fast asleep. My father, passed out drunk, snored in uneven intervals. I made my way downstairs to the basement. My brother’s room was locked so I turned around and went back upstairs. I was hungry and remembered the apple pie that my mother had baked earlier that day. I opened up the refrigerator to get a slice, but the light was out. Funny, I thought. I closed the door and opened it up again. Same thing. No light. I shined my penlight on the dark shelves, but suddenly the penlight stopped working. I attempted to turn on the kitchen lights, and nothing happened. I got very sacred. I rushed into the living room and I saw one of the windows wide open, my mother’s curtains eerily blowing as a chill flashed through my body. I heard a faint voice behind me. I whirled around and saw no one standing there. I got goosebumps all over my arms. My knees grew weak. I cowered where I stood, unable to move. I heard the voice again, this time it was louder. The front door flew open. I screamed and ran upstairs. My mother woke up and caught me in mid-air as I leapt into her arms, as she got out of bed.

“What’s wrong?”

I shivered in fear, unable to speak, my milky white complexion staring right back at my mother’s concerned eyes. That’s when we heard a scream and more voices. My father jumped up ready to fight, with his eyes half-open and handgun pointed at the doorway. He slowly made his way out into the hallway and downstairs. My mother dragged me into Bitsy’s room and we all cuddled together on her bed. That’s when I heard the first shot. Then a couple of muffled voices and another shot.

“You kids stay right here,” my mother insisted.

She disappeared into the darkness and a few moments later I heard her scream. I didn’t know what was going on. Bitsy wanted to go downstairs. I held her back, but my six year-old sister had little fear and she sprinted downstairs. My father sat on the bottom step of the stairway rubbing his temple, while my mother stood in shock over a small bloody animal. At first I thought my father had shot a dog or a raccoon. But when Brent finally woke up and turned on the lights we saw a wounded, hairy creature of unknown origin.

“Daddy, you killed Max!” shouted Bitsy.

“Shut her up,” ordered my father while he waved his gun over his head.

“Mommy! Daddy shot Max!”

My mother dragged a kicking and screaming Bitsy back upstairs while my brother inspected the lifeless creature.

“What the fuck is it?” he asked no one in particular.

It didn’t look purple with yellow underwear, so I knew it wasn’t Max, like Bitsy suggested. A stoned Brent decided that it was an alien. He found a garbage bag and filled it with ice to preserve the remains.

“Not in my fucking house!” my father screamed, as he grabbed a shovel.

He snatched the hefty bag with the dead creature-alien-house-invader and pushed Brent aside. I followed him out to his car. My father, barefoot and wearing nothing but his underwear, threw the bag in the trunk and we sped off.

When we reached the woods, my father dug a ditch, doused the carcass in gasoline, and let it burn. When he was satisfied with his results, he covered up the smoldering remains and drove us back home. We all got dressed for school. My parents got dressed up for work. Brent got stoned and watched cartoons and we never spoke about that night again.

Two days later, I had the same nightmare. The yellow bus with retarded kids, the crash, the random people taking off my sneakers, the old lady with the glass eye and the hedge clippers, and then my bloody ear. The same fucking dream. I woke up in a semi-circle of urine and cleaned myself up. I do not know what compelled me to go downstairs, but I found myself slowly creeping through the hallway. My father, who stealthily stood in the shadows, grabbed me. I nearly missed him, until he tugged me by my pajamas and clasped his hand over my mouth. He made a silent “shhhhhhhh”-ing gesture and pulled out his gun. He made his way downstairs, and like any curious ten year old, I followed.

Before I got downstairs I could feel that all the windows were wide open. A cold draft circulated its way through the house, which felt like a hundred ghosts recklessly rushed past me, whispering warning messages. Everything was calm for a few seconds, before I got a wave of goosebumps. My father felt the same thing and shot twice into the darkness. That was the first time I saw the ghost.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

The Twenty Dollar Mango

By Tom Love © 2003

Frankie was a regular guy, what you might call a stand-up guy. It's just that he had a coupl'a bad habits. He beat one of them, cigarettes. But the other, gambling, proved to be more difficult. Seems there was no patch to help you quit scratch-off tickets. Not that he lost a lot of money...well I guess that would be determined by what you call "a lot." For Frankie, $30, $40, $50 or more a day, his usual contribution to the Lottery Education Fund was “a lot.” Yeah, he was hooked.

Frankie did most of his wagering (always on Scratch-off tickets) at lunchtime. He visited his friend Tony, who ran a cramped but sunny liquor store in a strip mall not far from Frankie's day job. Frankie stopped by almost every day to buy scratch offs. In doing so, he became true friends with Tony, a Lebanese immigrant who had owned the store for 10 years. They talked about each other's kids and ex-wives (Tony's ex tragically died of pulmonary hypertension the summer before). Tony talked about once being an engineer constructing dams in Tunisia, and on around Morocco, down the west coast of Africa. He talked of picking cashews off the trees (poisonous until roasted) and helping clear wild mango groves with machetes.

A cast of eccentric characters wandered in and out of Tony's liquor store. Homeless alcoholics stopped in for a pint of Mr. Boston Vodka with money gathered from the kindness of drivers at interstate exit ramps. Others were lottery players using systems they had derived from the hymnal page numbers posted on Sundays worship schedule. Assorted young people came in to cash payroll checks (Tony charged 2.5%). Store owners came in asking for $5.00 in quarters to help them get through their noon day rush. All had one thing in common: They all thought the world of Tony.

Frankie didn't have many friends. He worked alone, not part of the usual team/project scenario so prevalent in offices. Frankie's boss didn't really understand what Frankie did and didn't really want to. It got so Frankie could pretty much come and go as he pleased. Tony became one of Frankie’s real friends. Frankie would run by the grocery store and buy bread and fruit and cheese and together, Frankie and Tony would have lunch at the counter of the liquor store. Other customers were always welcome to share a chunk of French bread or section of grapefruit or maybe a section of mango that Tony would deftly slice with a knife. Frankie had never seen a mango cut and served in this manner. An elliptical section was cut, skin still attached. And then Tony would press on the back of the slice and the juicy golden fruit would fan out from the skin and stand up invitingly for eating. This became their ritual. Bread, maybe some fresh sliced turkey from the grocery deli, Swiss cheese, and of course, the mango which rang up at a dollar a piece off-season and two for a dollar in season. Tony always asked how much the mangos costs on a given day. He harkened back to the days in Africa when they were $2.00 a dozen.

Frankie looked forward to lunchtime each day. Gambling took a back seat to conversations with Tony. And yet he couldn't give up his addiction. He would just get that part out of the way, not paying much attention. He usually lost. Then he would start with some topic, sometimes politics, and Tony would add his international two cents. This was the way it would play out most days.

One particular day, Frankie had brought the usual mango, and Tony was busy applying his patented slice, fan and serve technique. The knife he used was an enormous butcher knife. Frankie was not paying much attention to what was going on around him; He was scratching away on a "Lucky Seven" ticket, trying to line up three sevens. Then a very loud voice beside said "Hey old man! Give my all your money!"

Frankie jumped, his hair on end, and looked to his left. Here was a slender black man, in his 20's with a gun. He was nervous, waving the gun back and forth.

"C'mon man, open up the register!"

Then, in one swift move, Tony lunged across the counter with the butcher knife and plunged it deep into the throat of the would-be robber. Immediately blood spurted. It streamed out of the sliced artery onto the counter, onto the mango. The young man, still standing, staggering, tried to scream but only gurgled and spit blood. He spit blood into Frankie's face. Frankie vomited.

Tony still held the knife in position in the robber’s throat. Breathless, eyes wide, Tony was talking in Arabic, it sounded like praying. He pulled the knife back the perpetrator fell to the floor, bloody and lifeless. For a silent moment, a moment which seemed to last longer than it really did, Tony and Frankie stood and stared in horror.

"Somebody call 911," Frankie said at last. Tony called and in a mixture of English and Arabic told the address to the operator. The police arrived in minutes.


Frankie stayed away from the liquor store for a few days. When he came back, the counter area had been cleaned up, Tony said he had a cleaning service come in. Frankie didn't have much to say to Tony that day. He didn't even want to gamble. His visits became few. His gambling habit died. Later that year, Tony sold the liquor store to a younger man. He retired. Frankie dropped by the store a few times out of curiosity but didn't like the new owner.

About a year later, Frankie was at the airport to meet his daughter who was flying back from Europe. He made his way to the international section, a separate waiting area from the rest of the terminal. He was in the back of a large group when he saw Tony! He made his way to the front of the group and embraced his old friend.

"Frankie, Frankie, Frankie, I miss my old friend."

"Me too, Tony. I miss you too."

Tony was there to greet his older brother from Syria. They talked a while, caught up on kids and ex-wives, and left it at that, not mentioning that terrible day. Frankie introduced his daughter to Tony when she came off the plane. They said their good-byes and Frankie walked his daughter down the corridor, looking back once and waving to Tony who waved back.

Tom Love is a writer from Atlanta, GA.

Halloween Moments

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

Las Vegas (1998) Senor and I dropped acid and went to see an epic Phish concert at the Thomas and Mack Center. During the second set, they covered the entire Velvet Underground album Loaded. That particular performance, Senor declared, was the best set of Phish he had ever seen. I agreed. After the show, I almost got into a fist fight with a cab driver, who looked like Gopher from the Love Boat and I wanted to kick his ass after he made fun of me. I flipped out a few minutes later and lost my shit in the middle of the Sahara Casino, on a head full of double-dipped acid, with all the lights and flashes and sounds of chips and slot machines and the free drinks and people from Canada having fun and all the visual stimuli… the entire dark side of Las Vegas laughed and tossed me aside, like a parking ticket on the windshield of Paris Hilton’s Mercedes SUV.

New York, NY (2001) Full moon in NYC, as Molly and I went to see Medeski, Martin and Wood play their usual Halloween show at the Beacon Theatre. The Yankees were playing in the World Series that same night (pushed back due to 9.11) and due to the scheduling conflict, I had to miss the Game 4 (Yanks were down 2-1 to the Arizona Diamondbacks). After a stellar performance and great seats (up in the balcony), the concert ended just after 11:30 PM. I waited for Molly while she went to the bathroom. Right next door to the restroom was a small janitor’s closet. One of the custodians for the Beacon Theatre had a small color TV playing on top of his cleaning cart. A couple of die-hard Yankees fans, wearing multiple costumes (Elvis, an Apache helicopter pilot, a guy in a purple wig) all huddled together watching every pitch. The Yankees were down by 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning. Byung-Hyun Kim, the Arizona pitcher gave up a two out 2-run homerun to Tino Martinez, who swung at the first pitch and crushed a homerun in one of the greatest World Series moments of all time! We all jumped up and shouted, “Ti-no! Ti-no! Ti-no! Ti-no!” Quite the thrill, because less than a half hour later, Derek Jeter hit the first home run ever in the month of November, again off of Byung-Hyun Kim.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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

From the Editor's Laptop:

I tried to spruce up this issue with a Scary Story, which wasn't as scary as the one I wrote for next month's issue! I hope you enjoyed what you read so far. Thanks again to Tom Love, who returned with a great story.

Please feel free to e-mail this link to your friends, families, co-workers, cellmates, lifemates, etc. Help spread the good word about this site and the writers!

Be Sweet,

"Life's splendor forever lies in wait about each one of us in all its fullness, but veiled from view, deep down, invisible, far off. It is there, though, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you summon it by the right word, by its right name, it will come." - Kafka

September 22, 2003

September 2003 (Vol 2., Issue 9)

Welcome to my monthly blog-zine and the September edition of Truckin'! This month's issue includes four stories. I am happy to introduce Tom Love to the Truckin' staff with his first story Geppetto. I penned three stroies for this issue... Halibut is back with another adventure! The Subway Story series is back in full swing along with a rather dark story about a poodle. Sit back, enjoy, and please spread the good word about this site. Be sweet, McG.

1. Subway Story: The Kids with the Carrots by Tenzin McGrupp
Three small skinny children sat across from me on the downtown No. 1 subway. They looked immaculate... More

2. Burnt Rubber, Rotten Bananas, and Dead Poodles by Tenzin McGrupp
The musty mid morning air smelled like burning rubber, rotten bananas, and the bathroom at an old folks home... More

3. Geppetto and Me by Tom Love
Sometimes I see an old man in my mind's eye. It's Geppetto from the Pinocchio story. He's the puppet master... More

4. Dogshit Mountain by Tenzin McGrupp
A small crowd gathered around tiny Halibut, as he slowly made the decision to eat the canine feces... More

Subway Story: The Kids with the Carrots

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

Three small skinny children sat across from me on the downtown No. 1 subway. They looked immaculate. Their WASPy ensemble was neatly pressed and the aroma of freshly washed clothes greeted me on a not-so-friendly Thursday. They sat in silence and behaved like monks in a monastery. An unusual glow hovered around them on a gloomy, humid, and wet late summer morning. Their mother handed them a clear plastic Ziplock baggie with carrot sticks. Each child took one and politely passed it to their sibling, who waited patiently. A homeless man got on the subway at 110th Street. He instantaneously launched into his sales pitch to the rest of the oblivious commuters.

“My named is Benny and I’m a Vietnam veteran. I am unable to work because of the injuries suffered from a bad accident at my job. I sued my employer and won, but all of my money went to pay for my medical bills, legal bills, and court fees. Of course my company fired me, my wife took my kids and left. Then I lost my apartment. The bastards in Washington cut my disability check in half and now I’m forced to ask for your help. Anything you can spare today will be greatly appreciated. Thank you and God bless.”

He made his way through the crowded subway and mostly everyone ignored him. Some refused to look him in the eye and stared off into nothing in particular or up at the Zima ad above their heads. A gaggle of Upper West Side yuppies buried their faces into their New York Times and Wall Street Journals or planned their busy day on their Palm Pilots. Still others pretended that they were asleep. A couple of people slipped meaningless change into a Starbuck’s coffee cup that he jingled and jangled while he trudged through the subway car. A black woman in her sixties who was reading a bible, pulled out a dollar and handed it to the man. He got down on his knees and thanked her. He rose up and looked right at me with his weathered eyes and unshaven face. I made eye contact and sternly told him, “Nope.”

He turned around and one of the pristine girls offered him the plastic baggie of carrot sticks. He politely accepted, shoved two in his mouth and continued his way onto the next subway car.

“Do you think that could have been Jesus, Momma?” one of the girls screamed over the muffled sounds of the rumbling subway as the brakes screeched to a halt when the train reached the 96th Street platform.

“You’ll never know. It very well could have been. He’ll remember what you did.”

Her angelic faced beamed with zealous pride. The doors opened and I was compelled to say something to the Jesus Freaks on my way out.

“Jesus ain’t panhandling on the subways, kid. He lives in Reno, Nevada. He deals blackjack at the Flamingo Casino. I saw him a couple of months ago. He told me to tell you to stop eating healthy. The Good Lord wants you to eat McDonald’s Happy Meals and buy cargo pants at Old Navy.”

The young thin girl turned to her mother and whispered, “Do you think that could have been Jesus?”

With a look of condemnation she rudely answered, “No. That is someone who is going straight to hell.”

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Burnt Rubber, Rotten Bananas, and Dead Poodles

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

The musty mid morning air smelled like burning rubber, rotten bananas, and the bathroom at an old folks home. I struggled to keep my eyes open and tried my best efforts not to puke in the bed. I stumbled to the bathroom and fell down. That's when I saw her dead well-groomed black French poodle floating in the dirty bathtub water. I guess that was the rancid smell that greeted me when I awoke.

I could not remember what happened. I know that we had gotten into a fight the night before. There was a lot of shouting and name-calling. She brought up stuff from my past that seemed pointless to argue, but she did it anyway. She slapped me twice and cried most of the night during our altercation. I knew she should not have switched her medication. But her new therapist insisted she reduce her dosage of one happy pill and try a brand new happy pill. Asshole. He was just a front man for the greater conglomeration of pharmaceutical companies that held a tight grip on the American Medical and Psychiatry field. They dictated what drugs would be forced upon the masses of people in dire need of assistance with their heads. A couple of hits of British Columbia nugs would be a better alternative for some of these whackos, but alas, when was the last time your shrink said, "Fire up two fatties a day and you'll feel a lot better..."?

Of course Misha was nowhere to be found. I discovered a message written hastily in lipstick on my bathroom mirror. "Fuck you," was all I could recognize. The rest she wrote in Russian.

I didn't know what to do. My crotch itched like it was being attacked by a colony of fire ants. My wallet was missing, my cable TV was out, and I had a dead poodle floating around in my bathtub. There was only one person I knew that could help me.

I called up Nicky right away. I got his pager. Who still has a fucking beeper these days? Nicky, that's who. He was old school. He even dressed old school like one of those mobsters from the 1970s. I don't think he has officially welcomed the mid 1990s, let alone the twenty first century. Nicky sold me all of my drugs and sometimes he took bets for me (when I got in bad favor with my own bookie Frankie Flotuzio). Most of the time Nicky dropped by to eat calzones and watch the Rangers game when I lived above Vinny's Pies on the Park, a local pizza joint frequented by all the local thugs and gangster wannabes. Those were Russian kids who watched too many BET rap videos and saw every single episode of the Sopranos. They desperately wanted to be part of Tony Soprano's crew but looked like pathetic rejected extras from P Diddy's new hip-hop video.

"We can cut up the poodle in little pieces and flush him down the toilet," suggested Nicky as he shoved a sausage calzone into his mouth and ricotta cheese spilled out onto his bandaged hand.

"How about we put the dog in a plastic bag and throw it in the trash basket on the corner?" I offered.

"I think we should cut up the poodle and send it to my fucking ex-wife," he mumbled with food stuffed in his mouth.

That was a great idea. Nicky put on large yellow dishwashing gloves and took out his knife. He methodically cut off the limbs of the limp, drenched poodle. First his left front leg got severed, then his right, before he finished up with the rest of the hind legs. He cut off the tail and draped it on his nose and made a fake Hitler moustache. Poodle blood dripped off his chubby face and onto his goomba black T-shirt. I laughed hysterically and rolled a blunt.

When Nicky was done chopping up the dead poodle, I carefully gift wrapped each body part. Nicky and I drove out to Long Island in his Volvo station wagon, which had an odd smell of duck sauce, minced garlic, and motor oil lingering inside. We waited until his ex-wife came home from work and picked up the package we left on her front steps. She bent over and I videotaped the entire moment. She took the chopped poodle package inside and three minutes later we heard a shrill scream, similar to when a rat's tail gets caught underneath a subway car's wheel. She ran outside and puked. We laughed like a couple of eight year olds snickering over a loud fart and drove away.

Teznin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Geppetto and Me

By Tom Love © 2003

Sometimes I see an old man in my mind's eye. It's Geppetto from the Pinocchio story. He's the puppet master. At his disposal are all kinds of tools: Tiny, magical screw drivers, springs, hooks, carving things. More than a doll maker, part psychic surgeon, Geppetto works for hours with his screws and lubricants, tightening up the pieces of my soul, trying to make the pain of existence tolerable.

While reviewing a reel of movie film from my past, he noticed a strip where the film had gotten too close to the bulb. It had smoked, bubbled up and melted on to surface of the bulb.

"It's will be tougher than working with the springs and screws," he explained. "These images are actually burned onto the glass bulb so that when a new reel is projected, the old scene is visible in the background. Old and new images become superimposed, some shadowy, some distorted. You would have to look very closely to see if this is a new reality or part of the old one."

I had been compensating for the irregularities all this time, resulting in the buckling of steel plates and seals rupturing, causing great pain.

One solution would be to develop a special cleanser on the lamp. One thing's for sure, we can't exchange it for a new one. They don't make that model anymore and any transplant would be very risky, requiring several attorneys to unscrew the bulb. We asked about this approach at Lowe's Do It Your Warehouse but they warned against it. So far the only thing that has worked is the insertion of a lens in front of the bulb filtering out the old image, allowing the new one to project. This sounds good in theory but in real time testing, the image of the new movie lacks sharpness and focus, and the colors are a bit dull.

Work continues with Geppetto and me. I'll let you know if things improve.

UPDATE: Geppetto has been busy with a compound of optician's rouge imbedded in pitch. He has had great success erasing the burned-on images! However, traces still remain. He warns that further rubbing of the rouge/pitch combination may alter the very surface of the projection lamp, changing the perception of the ongoing reality. He assures me however that the movie will remain unaltered, only that my perception of it may change slightly. He speculates that there are other lamp reconditioning projects ongoing elsewhere but for some reason the technology is a closely guarded secret. I gave him the go-ahead to continue his work with the rubbing tool and have already noticed significant improvement. Observing my self and realizing that what I'm seeing is actually "me" was quite an experience.

Geppetto's task is almost complete. He says that he plans to retire to Genoa soon, relax and maybe write a book on puppet repair.

Tom Love is a writer from Atlanta, GA.

Dogshit Mountain

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

Halibut nervously crouched over a nasty pile of dog shit. Socky Green threatened to tear up his history report on British colonialism unless he took a bite. A small crowd gathered around tiny Halibut, as he slowly made the decision to eat the canine feces. His taunting classmates let out squeals of “ooooohs!’ and “ahhhhhhhhs!” when he sniffed the pile before he did the nasty deed.

“For a smart kid, you’re really a dumb turnip,” Socky Green laughed as he tore up Halibut’s homework.

Little pieces of his report fluttered down like a small snowstorm. Halibut had worked on his paper for two weeks. He spent everyday at the library after school. He even interviewed Freddie Casey Jones, the former BBC news weatherman and one of the most famous residents in his seaside town.

The rambunctious crowd dispersed and continued onto school. Halibut ran home to clean the stale taste of German Shepard dung out of his mouth. When he got there, Cici was in the living room entertaining a client. Reverend Smith sat on the couch with his pants around his ankles. Halibut caught his mother having sex with the locals on several occasions. But this time, mother and son stood awkwardly in sheer embarrassment. He never caught her blowing any of the local religious authorities. Halibut was on the verge of puking with the lingering taste of dog shit in his mouth, while Cici’s breath reeked like a mixture of Labats beer, stale cigarettes, and semen. She led Halibut into the bathroom and gave him a cup of Listerine to gargle with as he sobbed uncontrolably.

“This nonsense has got to end,” Cici insisted as she kissed her son on the forehead, “Unless you stand up to that bully, he’s going to push you around the rest of your life. And if you are not moving anywhere soon and think you’re going to stay here in Nova Scotia until you die, then you might as well accept two possible outcomes. Stand up to the bully. Or get used to eating shit.”

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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

From the Editor's Laptop:

Another issue is here, and a new one will be around in a month. I hope you enjoyed yourself. Thanks to our new writer Tom Love for sharing his story.

Please feel free to e-mail this link to your friends, families, co-workers, cellmates, lifemates, etc. Help spread the good word about this site and the writers!

Be Sweet,

"Yesterday's just a memory, tomorrow is never what it's supposed to be." - Bob Dylan

August 28, 2003

August 2003 (Vol 2., Issue 8)

Welcome to my monthly blog-zine and the August edition of Truckin'! This month's issue includes five stories from your favorite author... me! I wrote some of these stories during the "Blackout"... can you tell which two? The infamous Baby and Winky returns for a record fifth time! Halibut is back with another story. The Subway Story series returns as well. Sit back, enjoy, and please spread the good word about this site. Be sweet, McG.

1. What Yo-yo?
Across from me, three overweight kids all around nine or ten years old held onto Burger King bags... More

2. Baby, Winky, and the $1 Blowjob
Baby and I didn’t have regular jobs but we scratched together enough cash for our hefty cocaine habit. We ripped off drunk college kids in bars... More

3. Halibut, Cici's Pall Mall, and Blazing Saddles
A filterless Pall Mall hung off Cici’s bruised lip for a few moments before it tumbled off her chest and wedged itself in between the plush orange cushions.... More

4. How I Bet $8,000 and Lost a $16,000 Pot
There's a famous line from poker professional Doyle Brunson, "If you can't spot the sucker in the first half hour... then you're the sucker." ...More

5. Summer Getaway with the Dead
I couldn’t stop myself from thinking… if Jerry didn’t die, these guys would still be playing! And I would have seen well over two hundred Dead shows by now... More

All stories written by Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

What Yo-yo?

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

August Subway Story

I sat in the middle of an almost empty subway car. Across from me, three overweight kids all around nine or ten years old held onto Burger King bags. They laughed and teased each other while they gobbled up their nutritious lunches. One girl dropped fries on the seat next to her. Before she finished chewing, she quickly scooped each one up and tossed them into her mouth.

After they devoured their lunch the kids rolled up their Burger King bags and blatantly littered. They nonchalantly discarded their fast food trash underneath their subway seats. The youngest boy, who was wearing a cardboard Burger King crown, took a purple ball out of his pocket. It was one of those rubber ball-like yo-yos… balls attached to a string/rubber rope. He jumped up and sat down a couple of seats away from where I sat quietly. He tossed his yo-yo ball at his sisters and he took turns trying to hit each one. I tried to read and edit a couple of pages that I had written the night before but found his antics distracting especially because the girls yelled and screamed like they were being tortured by Kashmir freedom fighters. They begged their extremely overweight and scantly clad mother for help calming down their hyperactive sibling. She couldn’t be bothered and pretended they were invisible, while she yapped like a poodle inflicted with Tourrettes syndrome to another woman in broken Spanglish. She easily ignored their pleas and the kid with the crown resumed his aerial bombardment of his sisters with his yo-yo ball.

A couple of subway stops later, he jumped over to the seat across from me. One of his sisters darted from her seat and plopped down next to me on my left side. As I continued to read, the kid tried to hit his sister several times with his yo-yo ball. One instance he missed badly and hit the page I was editing. The next time he almost hit me in the head. When that happened I immediately looked up and flashed my meanest, pissed off, agitated New Yorker face. I even cleared my throat to emphasize my “don’t even fuckin’ try that again” look. To my surprise he cocked his arm back and tossed his yo-yo ball my way. I grabbed his purple toy in mid-air. He tugged his string to get his ball back and I held my ground. He continued to yank but I wouldn’t budge. I jerked the ball my way and he let go of his end of the string. I had possession of the yo-yo ball. The power was mine.

His sisters kidded him real hard. He asked his mother for help, but again, she was too busy. I inspected his purple yo-yo ball and found teeth marks in the middle and ketchup smeared all over it.

“Can I have it back?” he sheepishly asked.

I gave him a serious look. I leaned forward and with my best aim I hurled the ball towards his head. The purple yo-yo hit him smack in the middle of his forehead. He was caught completely by surprise. Before his sisters teased him some more, I caught the ball as it instantly snapped back to me. I took aim again and I hurled it at his Burger King crown. With a direct hit his crown fell to the subway floor and in a matter of seconds, the nine year old kid was crying hysterically. That caught his mother’s attention. She waved her chubby finger at me and yelled at me in Spanglish. I coldly laughed and stood up. The train pulled into 59th Street, my stop. I glared back at the screaming mother, her laughing daughters, and her teary eyed son before I stuck out my tongue. The mother was too fat to chase me so I had nothing to worry about. As the doors slammed shut, the kid yelled out one more time to me, “Can I have my toy back?”

The subway pulled away and he pushed his face up against the window longing for one final glimpse of his yo-yo ball. I took one last look at it and chuckled before I handed his toy to a homeless man sitting down on a bench at the end of the subway platform.

“Knock yourself out, chief,” I snickered and wandered out of the station whistling a Grateful Dead song.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Baby, Winky, and the $1 Blowjob

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Halibut, Cici's Pall Mall, and Blazing Saddles

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

Halibut woke up suddenly to his screaming mother. Her high pitched squeal was an instant alarm clock for Halibut as he fumbled around his dark room and searched for his glasses. After a long day at work, she weathered nine vicious tequila shots that cracked her like an unexpected hurricane and got into a fight with the bathroom door at the Pub. It was ugly. Cici never saw it coming. She was knocked out for a couple of minutes before she jumped up, headed for an empty stool at the bar, then pounded three pitchers of Moosehead which cooled her rambunctious sloppiness before she stumbled home, popped a couple of Valiums and slurped the soup that Halibut had warmed up for her. While watching the “Tonight Show with Johnny Carson”, an embarrassingly sloshed Cici passed out on the couch with a lit cigarette in her mouth.

A filterless Pall Mall hung off Cici’s bruised lip for a few moments before it tumbled off her chest and wedged itself in between the plush orange cushions. Eighteen minutes later, bulky plumes of smoke filled the living room before the couch caught on fire. A cloudy eyed Cici coughed incessantly. She grabbed the first thing she saw; a nearby glass and tossed the remainder of its liquid contents onto the couch. She didn’t know that the glass was filled with vodka. Instead of extinguishing the smoldering couch, she set it ablaze. Still rip roaring drunk, she cursed twice before she grabbed her purse. She realized that she needed to wake up Halibut.

Before Cici turned around and raced to his bedroom, tiny Halibut stood motionless in front of his mother. Almost naked, he wore only a pair of ancient tighty whities, their distinguishing feature, a couple of holes and a beige skid mark that resembled the state of California. Unable to see through the smoke, he squinted at the glowing orange mass that used to be his couch. Before he uttered a word, Cici grabbed his arm and dragged him outside. They lived in a small apartment above a garage, situated behind the house owned by old man Ryan and his senile wife, Henrietta. When they reached they Ryan’s backyard, Cici hugged Halibut and squeezed him extra hard.

“That was a close one. I fucked up big time,” Cici whispered as thick funnels of grey and black smoke shot out of the windows. A mesmerized Halibut vigilantly watched the streaks of sparkling tears that trickled down his mother’s beat up face, illuminated by the eerie hypnotic radiance of their apartment in flames.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.