June 16, 2003

June 2003 (Vol 2., Issue 6)

Welcome to my monthly blog-zine and the Birthday edition of Truckin'! This month's issue includes two special selections. The Reader's Choice and the Editor's Choice... which are the best two stories from last year's effort! Senor is back with a casino tale (part of a running gambling theme). Armando Huerta returns with another Greece story. And Stephen Adkins shares with us a story about a recent Pow-Wow that he atteneded in Seattle. Of course I submitted a new short story about two of your favorite characters: Baby & Winky Jr.! And I also have a two part story about my trip to Providence last month, which includes a gambling showdown with none other than... Kato Kaelin!

Sit back, relax, and enjoy! Be Sweet, McG

1. Sexual Chocolate: Another Baby and Winky, Jr. Adventure by Tenzin McGrupp
During a three month stretch back in the summer of 1999, Baby and I got addicted to smoking crack and gambling at the race track... More

2. The Graveyard Shift by Senor
I had never worked the graveyard shift before and I wasn't looking forward to it. To be perfectly honest with you I wasn't exactly sure how I was gonna handle it... More

3. Outside Providence Part 1: The Howl of a Greyhound by Tenzin McGrupp
The bus driver made an announcement. “Regarding cell phones. I have one rule. Keep your calls short and low. Low and short. Got it?”... More

4. Talk to the Hand by Armando Huerta
Just having hosted two American friends for the past week I really became aware of how much more accustomed I’ve become to Greek mannerisms and expressions... More

5. Outside Providence Part 2: The Kato Shuffle by Tenzin McGrupp
I knew I won the pot. It was a question of whether or not I could suck out more money from Kato. But there was one more card left. The River. The dealer put down the last card and it was a Queen. I looked at Kato and tried to learn anything from his body movement. He was still... More

6. Seattle Pow-Wow by Stephen Adkins
Several hundred people from as far away as North Dakota, Arizona and Montana were in attendance at this very special Pow-Wow... More

7. Reader's Choice: Baby's Steak Knife and Winky's Salad by Tenzin McGrupp
Our symbiotic original connection only lasted for a second maybe two, but it was one of those eternal seconds that seem to last forever and you never want to end. It’s those eclectic moments you come across while thinking about life’s odd idiosyncrasies, while stuck in a sullen slouch at the end of a bar, drinking away the roughness of the day’s grind... More

8. Editor's Choice: Nagoya by Tenzin McGrupp
About thirty or so of the most beautiful Japanese women sit and stand before us, all of them with their eyes fixated on Señor's huge smile... I arrive at a moment of clarity. I tap Señor on the shoulder and whisper in his ear, "Bro, either we are in the coolest bar on the planet, or we just walked into a whorehouse."... More

Sexual Chocolate: Another Baby and Winky, Jr. Adventure

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

During a three month stretch back in the summer of 1999, Baby and I got addicted to smoking crack and gambling at the race track. It was a dizzying cycle of wagering longshots for drug money, only to win enough just to keep us high until the next day when we scornfully repeated this 95 day long, sweat filled, blistering nightmare. It was nowhere near one of the finer points that I proudly highlighted on my resume.

June – Aug 1999: Self-employed

Pharmaceutical Sales and High Stakes Wager Consulting

I handled large sums of cash for various financial transactions with multi-national and international drug “corporations” in Canada, Mexico, and Columbia and provided timely and up to the date information and statistics on the Pacific Northwest Greyhound dog racing circuit for wealthy individual clients.

That was better than my other job working part-time in the stockroom at Border’s Books in Portland. I only made $6 an hour, but the bulk of my income was supplemented by stealing expensive art and photography books (some of them worth over $140). I sold them for $20 a pop at a used bookstore outside of Eugene, Oregon. The owner, a cowboy-beatnik from Colorado, knew they were stolen but his greed for the greenbacks silently made his conscience disappear.

I expected to get caught, but that day never came. I got fired for something completely different. One afternoon in July, Baby ran into Border’s feverishly looking for me like a swarm of angry yellow jackets. Before she got halfway in the store, I was fired on the spot by our incompetent manager. Unfortunately this wasn’t her first incident. I had gotten a stern warning and a heavy lecture because on six prior occasions she rushed into the store hellbent on finding me, every time causing problems. Twice the cops had to be called, and not once did she ever repeat her previous performance.

One night just before closing time, Baby launched into her best Sylvia Plath imitation, an overly theatrical and menacing feat with rambunctious multiple suicide threats. It was yet another razor slashing and gun wielding manic episode as she stood on the check out counter and cried hysterically. The very next day a hyper drugged up Baby, drenched in sweat, nervously paced throughout the store. She chewed up the tips of her fingers and pulled out random chunks of her purple and pink dyed dreadlocks while she foolishly attempted to steal over $300 in trashy romance novels that she unsuccessfully tried to hide in a stolen baby’s stroller.

The paramedics were called one lazy Thursday morning when a strung out Baby fittingly passed out in front of the Self-Help and Addiction Recovery section after she puked in the aisle and shit all over herself. My favorite incident occurred when Baby and her half-sister Beatrice stumbled in drunker than skunks after they got free drinks when they crashed Kenny Kleinman’s Bar Mitzvah that was being held at the Marriott Hotel down the road. A frisky, sexually excited Baby went down on a reluctant Beatrice for ten minutes before any of the security guards stepped in. Border's security force enjoyed the quick peep show on the closed circuit cameras and didn’t want to stop them. When a Bible beating blue haired great-grandma threatened to call the cops, the guards sprung into action. Oh, and I almost forgot about the time when Baby seductively pranced into the store looking skankier than Billy’s Topless strippers and desperately tried to give away handjobs to anyone who had $20 and a cigarette.

I bailed Baby out of jail every time she fucked up and each time she convincingly promised me with a tear riddled apology not to return to Border’s. I felt sorry for her. Due to a series of nasty falls during her tempestuous and incestuous childhood in rural Alabama, Baby tragically suffered from serious short-term memory loss and random migraines. Her mother, the voluptuous Dixie Lee Spoonhauer, was a Blanche DuBois clone with a fondness for mixed drinks before noon and a unhealthy penchant for rogue, teen-aged boys. The cranky, former beauty pageant winner from Biloxi was filled with rage and scorn most of the time and jealousy and Jack Daniels all of the time. She dropped Baby on her head twice while she pathetically tried to balance her precious seven month old daughter on a bar stool during the always crowded Happy Hour at Fat Fred’s Bar and Grill. And sometimes I think Baby was a little off due to the excessive psychedelic usage during the last trimester of her mother’s pregnancy. Yes, 37 hits of acid was a large number, but as her mother said, “Hell, it wasn’t all at one time! I might be a blonde, but I ain’t stupid!”

I was forgiving because I needed Baby’s help. After I got fired, she was my only means of making enough money to gamble at the dog track and to secure enough cash to fund our crack habit which ballooned to over $250 a day. I got a hot tip that a champion hound from southern California was going to run in an upcoming race at the local track. Sexual Chocolate was her name and she won 26 consecutive races. The Dork Brothers got the tip from Crispy Lineta when they bumped into him in Reno. They called me to let me know that “the fix was in.” Sexual Chocolate was going to tank the next race in Portland and we were going to get paid off if we bet on any of the longshots. I didn’t have enough cash to place any bets. That’s why I turned to Baby and bailed her pathetic, scrawny, chain smoking ass out of jail.

I knew she occasionally turned tricks to make rent, and fucked drug dealers to buy 8-Balls of cocaine, or let the clerks at Blockbuster finger her for a free rentals. I was cool with that. I was pre-occupied with my own fraught demons about my shivering drug habit that needed immediate quenching. Money was the priority. Baby preferred getting it on with lonely, dorky, nervous computer nerds, since they had the most money to blow when Portland was flooded with hundreds of those cash heavy cyber morons. Sometimes the uncomfortable thoughts and graphic images of Baby sucking those guy’s dicks for cash distressed me and gave me awful chest pains that stifled my breathing and almost made me black out. But I had to be realistic and I always clamed down. I had drugs to smoke and if someone had to suck cock for cash, it wasn’t going to be me. So it might as well be Baby. Right?

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

The Graveyard Shift

By Senor © 2003

I had never worked the graveyard shift before and I wasn't looking forward to it. To be perfectly honest with you I wasn't exactly sure how I was gonna handle it. Since I started working in the Hospitality Industry I have either worked the 7AM - 3PM shift or the 3PM - 11PM shift. My body was used to waking up early and going to bed early. How was I ever going to stay awake for an 11PM - 7AM shift? Coffee would be the obvious answer, but I don't drink coffee or any caffeine for that matter. Back in the day I've pulled many all nighters. However, going to work high on LSD, shrooms or ecstasy doesn't seem to be a smart move. So what should I do? My shift was not due to start until Tuesday night. I decided I would stay awake all night Monday, then sleep all day Tuesday and be good to go for work Tuesday night.

Ok, great. One problem settled and now I had a new one. How the fuck was I gonna stay awake all night on Monday? Providence is a great little city. The downtown is safe and clean. The suburbs are beautiful. The atmosphere is laid back and the people are friendly, but Party Central Providence it’s not. The bars close by 2AM and even the whorehouses shut down before Midnight (not that I have ever been, but I did call to find out the hours. Let’s just call it research for my story)! Providence is about as far away from the city that never sleeps as one could possibly be. How was I going to entertain my self through out the night? Well the answer was simple and lay a mere 44 miles away. FOXWOODS! What better place to go to while away the wee hours of the morning than a casino. A few months earlier a McGrupp introduced me to a game called Texas Hold’ em in a poker room in Las Vegas. Since then we tried our luck playing in rooms in Atlantic City. Now it was Foxwoods time. I enjoy Hold ‘em, but I'm not addicted to it and felt no need to play it on this particular evening. However the greatest thing about Hold ‘em is that if you play super conservatively you can play for four to five hours, have a blast and not lose more than $50.

By 11:30pm I was seated at a $2-$4 low limit Texas Hold ‘em game. I was not there to win money. Hell, I wasn't even there to have a good time. I was there for one reason: to stay up all night. The first few hours passed by rather uneventfully. I actually played pretty well. I was never down more than $20 and was up as much as $60. I enjoyed the comradery that one can only establish with one's fellow players while playing Hold ‘em at 3:00AM on a Monday night/Tuesday morning.

And then she showed up and everything changed. Her name was Nga and she was gorgeous. She was our dealer and I was psyched. For the next 45 minutes I completely blocked out the other nine players sitting around the table and focused all my efforts on flirting with Nga. She's Vietnamese and I recently returned from a couple of trips to Vietnam, so we had an instant connection. Chemistry was in the air and I was suddenly thrilled to be at Foxwoods. Sadly, Nga's shift game to an end. She smiled at me and then walked out of my life, perhaps forever, or so I thought. After Nga left, the Hold ‘em game just wasn't the same. I decided to head over to the cashier and cashed out my winnings of $31. But it was only 4:00AM and I was not ready to head back home just yet. So I walked over to the bakery and lined up for some lemon meringue pie.

Before I made it to the front of the line Nga walked by. I caught her attention and the flirtation picked up right where we left off. Before I knew it we were in the employee's lounge chatting away. Nga spoke lovingly about her three children and told me about her husband. I told her about Angkana and our baby on the way. It was all very innocent until Nga began to get a little touchy feely. Fist it was a simple touch of my arm, then she caressed the hair away from my eyes and then her hand was on my thigh. This was a beautiful, sexy and very cool woman. Angkana or no Angkana, I was turned on! Nga grabbed my hand and whispered in my ear to follow her. Her hand was so soft and seemed to fit perfectly into my own. Without thinking I followed her into the ladies bathroom and we headed straight to the third stall from the right. Her kiss was magical. Just as I was about to be completely swept away and lost in the moment, I pushed Nga away. I told her as much as I wanted to, I could not do this. Nga cried hysterically and collapsed into my arms. She told me that she never cheated on her husband before, but they were going through an awful time and she hadn't felt chemistry like she felt with me in a long, long time. I explained to her that I felt the chemistry as well and what could have been if we had only met under other circumstances. She thanked me for stopping things and kissed me on the cheek goodbye.

As I drove home to Providence I was confused. Was I proud of myself for stopping things? Was I a compete idiot for not taking advantage of one last hurrah with a beautiful woman before settling down forever? Bottom line? Who gives a shit! All that mattered to me was I had accomplished my goal: I stayed up all night. Now I’m ready for the graveyard shift.

Senor is currently living in Providence, Rhode Island.

Outside Providence Part 1: The Howl of a Greyhound

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

The bus driver made an announcement.

“Regarding cell phones. I have one rule. Keep your calls short and low. Low and short. Got it?”

About ten minutes into my Greyhound trip from New York City to Providence, a lady sitting in the back row got a phone call. It was her mother from Ponce, Puerto Rico. Earlier we made small talk as when she stood in line in front of me while we both waited to board the bus. Headed for Foxwoods Casino, she was in her early 40s, and stood about five feet tall with dyed blonde hair. She was round all around. I dunno why, but the words Oompa Loompa came to mind when I needed a distinctive key word that I jotted down to describe this woman. She was at least a hundred pounds overweight and her large sagging breasts would have drooped below her waist line if she didn’t have a gelatinous Buddha belly to break the laws of gravity, as her pizza dough like breasts snuggly sat on her extended stomach. Of course all I could think about is why the fuck she bought the smallest sized shirt at Old Navy.

Anyway, she yapped rapidly with her mother and as each minute passed her conversational voice increase in volume. A couple of the passengers were already irked and the bus hadn’t even left the city. Somewhere near Harlem, the driver pulled the bus over and he walked towards the back. He called out to the woman and yelled at her.

“I won’t move this bus until you get off that phone. You’ve been on since we left the terminal.”

“Just one second,” she pleaded and continued to talk with her mother, almost ignoring the bus driver’s ultimatum.

She assumed he was just bluffing, but the bus driver stood his ground. He wouldn’t go back to his seat until she got off the phone. All I could think was “Great, four more hours of this shit!”

I caught the express bus to Providence, Rhode Island with only two stops along the way. One at New London, Connecticut and the second stop was at Foxwoods Casino. They majority of the people on the semi-full bus were headed for a weekend of gambling at Foxwoods. I took this as a good sign considering I knew that Senor, Brad, and myself would be playing poker the very next day. When the bus pulled into Foxwoods, I felt the itching sensation that siezes my body whenever I am confronted with the possibility of winning large hordes of cash. I almost got off the bus and headed directly to the Casino. I didn’t go because I knew Senor left work early to pick me up at the bus station in Providence and that Brad was driving down from his job in Worcester to meet up with us to see the best Grateful Dead cover band around, Dark Star Orchestra. They were scheduled to play at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel. I had never been to the infamous venue and I was eager to check it out.

As the bus weaved it’s way through downtown Providence, I was pleasantly surprised at the beauty of this once dilapidated urban center. When I was a kid, I recalled that my father told me that Providence was no place for anyone to be after dark, and that’s coming from someone who lived in the Bronx. It had a bad reputation but in the last couple of years, a welcomed resurgence and a revitalized energy poured into Providence. New buildings, clean streets, a crackdown on crime, and a bustling economy helped bring Providence out of the doldrums of being that random shitty city on the way from Boston to New York.

When the bus arrived at the station in front of City Hall, I saw a group of Asian girls waiting to get on the next bus. As I walked down the steps, the group of girls separated, and Senor emerged from the middle like Moses parting the Red Sea. He came from work and was wearing a tie and a bright smile. Was he happy to see me or to walk past the Asian girls? We know the answer.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Talk to the Hand

By Armando Huerta © 2003

Just having hosted two American friends for the past week I really became aware of how much more accustomed I’ve become to Greek mannerisms and expressions. It’s natural to have picked them up after living here eight months but having my friends visiting and having to explain it to them made me become aware of how different and noticeable they really are.

The first major one is that I told them under no circumstances to show their palm with the fingers spread out to a Greek. This American habit, from hailing cabs or waving to a friend, is considered an extremely offensive gesture in Greece, dating back hundreds of years. I made the mistake on my second day, after having a 12 Euro bill placed in front of me, of asking for five back from the twenty I handed over with my hand showing the change amount with my fingers in the aforementioned way. Needless to say the waitress was nonplussed. I can only think how an American waitress would have reacted to having the money handed to her with one hand while the other was extending the middle finger.

Another difference you notice is that Greek service staff, in general, are not very effusive with people they don’t know. You won’t often see that ear to ear American smile worn by TGIF waitresses named Cindy when introducing themselves before suggesting an appetizer to start. Greeks do smile, but it is usually hard earned. There are exceptions, notably tourist traps or establishments on the island were people are more easy going. In general, if a Greek is smiling from the minute you walk into a restaurant you pretty much are guaranteed to bend over in front of the register when paying your bill.

Shorts. Americans love wearing shorts but if you want to immediately look like a tourist, wear one in Athens… or any Latin American capital for that matter. No matter how hot the weather, Greeks not on the islands or the coast, do not wear shorts. It’s considered too informal. This is funny coming from people that drive the wrong way on one-way streets and ride motorcycles down sidewalks but that inconsistency is part of the charm.

Sexy TV. No matter the time of day or the channel, you’ll see breasts and ass in everything from movies to television commercials during newscasts. PAX this ain’t. I can only imagine how right-wingers whom are visiting fall to their knees while clutching their bibles to the chest when turning on Greek television. I personally like it! I think it’s enormously refreshing to see sex treated so benignly. The best part is that it’s not solely heterosexual either. On regular public channels they show unedited episodes of Queer as Folk and lesbian slasher thrillers. Good times. Good times.

Armando Huerta is a writer living in Athens, Greece.

Outside Providence Part 2: The Kato Shuffle

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

Last Saturday morning, the smoke free poker room at Foxwoods Casino was crowded with seasoned professionals, well-groomed tourists, wide eyed newbies, and geriatric regulars. With over 500 people playing in 50 or so different games, there was a minimum one hour wait for the next available seat at a $4-$8 Texas Hold ‘em table. Las Vegas had crowned it’s 2003 World Series of Poker Champion one week earlier, but the excitement of the biggest poker tournament never ended. It spilled into Foxwoods and every player caught “the fever”. For a second consecutive year an amateur won over $2 Million at the World Series which caused every player in the Northeast to flock to the casinos in Connecticut in order to prime themselves for next year’s championship which will pay out in excess of $3 Million!

I was of those players. Brad, Senor, and myself were eager to gain experience for the New England Poker Classic (scheduled for November later this year at Foxwoods). We decided to play $4-$8 because the wait at the lowest limit table ($2-$4) was over two hours long. Poker is like any other rigorous activity, it’s necessary to ease into the game, especially if you’re in for the long haul (8 plus hours of playing without any significant breaks). I needed to warm up like a relief pitcher in baseball. I normally played the lowest limit table for a couple of hours before I moved up to my usual $5-10 game. But that day, it was too packed and crowded to implement my game plan. I knew that once my name was called, I’d have to start playing immediately. The pressure was on.

Brad got called first and sat in a game in the front of the vast card room, one of the largest I’ve ever played. My name was called next and I didn’t have a choice of where I sat or what $4-$8 table I could play at. When the hostess announced over the casino loudspeaker, “McGrupp, 4-8 Hold ‘em, Table 51”, that was it. I had less than a couple of minutes to lock my seat up, or it would go to the next player.

There was a guy sitting across from me. He wore a baseball hat and rarely made eye contact with anyone. He looked familiar but I couldn’t figure out who he was until one of the other players sitting next to him asked, “Aren’t you that guy Kato something, er other?”

He took a deep breath and put up his hand. “Yeah, yeah. But I don’t want to talk about that.”

And the conversation stopped right there. Occasionally different players from other games and tables walked past our table and caught Kato Kaelin from the corner of their eyes. All of them had something to say and Kato gave them the same blank hand gesture. He wasn’t there to be noticed. He wanted to play poker.

While I waited for my good cards, I studied the other players, paying attention to every detail possible trying to figure out their body language. I focused on eyes and hands. Some professionals wear sunglasses specifically so you won’t be able to see their eyes, which is one of the best ways to tell if someone is bluffing. Eyes give me all the information that I need, whether someone has a loaded hand or somebody didn’t get a card that they wanted. Hands are an important “tell” because they can indicate nervous habits. Most players are focused on presenting a stoic poker face than they forget to disguise the mannerisms on the rest of their bodies. Something as subtle as how someone bets with his chips, or how they tap their fingers can give away the strength or weakness of their hands. Picking up other players’ “tells” are a crucial part of the game. It’s the most difficult aspect of poker to learn and master. I was lucky that my keen observational skills as a writer assisted me greatly on numerous occasions.

About three hours into the game, I was up over $260. I played 8 out of 11 hands nearly perfectly and I was more than pleased with my early run winning a couple of big pots. I was dealt my two cards and as I peeked, I saw that I had a great hand. J-J. Wired Jacks. A pair of Jacks!! That’s an excellent Hold ‘em hand. Only three other hands are better (pairs of Queens, Kings, and Aces) and those percentages are very small. When it was my turn to bet I raised from $4 to $8. A couple of others called, but when the bet went to Kato he took a look at me, then he took a long look at his cards and raised me! Instead of calling, I re-raised Kato. He called my bet. We both had $16 in the pot and we haven’t even seen the flop yet. I figured he might have wired Aces or Kings or he could just be bluffing.

After the dealer dealt the flop of: J, 8, Q… I was extremely happy. I had three Jacks which statistically made me the heavy favorite to win the hand. I bet and Kato raised. I re-raised and he called, and $16 more each from the both of us went into the pot. At this point I guessed that Kato held a pair of Aces or A-K. If he had Aces then I have the better hand. If he has A-K, then I still have the better hand because he’s looking for a 10 on the last two cards, trying to pull a straight, which is better than three of a kind. But after the flop, I’m looking great.

The dealer puts down the card on Fourth Street, and it’s another Jack. Now the table reads: J,8,Q,J. I have four of a kind (four Jacks!), and only four Queens can beat me. Since I figured that Kato was holding (A-K or A-A), and he was waiting for a ten, I wanted to make him pay to see that last card. I checked-raised him. He bet $8 and I raised to $16. Then he re-raised me, and I re-raised and played right back at him and he eventually called. We both put $32 into the pot which was now worth over $150.

I knew I won the pot. It was a question of whether or not I could suck out more money from Kato. But there was one more card left. The River. The dealer put down the last card and it was a Queen. I looked at Kato and tried to learn anything from his body movement. He was still. I looked at the cards on the table: J,8,Q,J,Q. I was hoping that Kato made a decent hand possibly a full house. Because if he didn’t have a great hand, then he’d fold the pot. He bet right away and I raised him. The same routine continued. He re-raised me and I played back at him. He called my re-raise and we both put $40 more into the pot. The dealer asked me to turn over my two cards. The entire table was eager to see what we had.

I smugly turned over my two Jacks, and said, “Four Jacks, Kato. How about that?”

He paused and turned over his cards. “I beat you on the River. Four Queens.”

I stared at his pocket Queens and I nearly smacked myself in the head for making a rookie mistake. I was beat from the start of the hand, and walked right into Kato’s trap.

“I can’t believe I lost on four Jacks to Kato’s four Queens,” I complained to Senor and Brad, as we drove away later that night. “But shit, I can’t wait to tell everyone that I played poker with Kato Kaelin!”

Senor smiled and said, “No big deal, McGrupp. Because someday Kato will be telling his friends, ‘Man, there was this one night when I was at Foxwoods and I beat out the World Series of Poker Champion, Tenzin McGrupp!’”

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Seattle Pow-Wow

By Stephen Adkins © 2003

March 18-20th Seattle, WA

"What-the-heck” Ed-Pavillion at the University of Washington. The 32nd annual First Nations POW-WOW, with Drums White Eagle, Broken Rope, Red Tail, New Tribe, the Southern Boys and White Swan, and Washington’s own (Grammy award winning) Black Lodge. Several hundred people from as far away as North Dakota, Arizona and Montana were in attendance at this very special Pow-Wow. Handmade jingle dresses, grass dresses and eagle feathers; deer, elk, moose and pelts from many other animals adorn these fabulous articles of traditional regalia. Very colourful, extremely finely wrought beadwork, and headdresses that are very special and honoured in the Native American tradition. Dances that have been performed for hundreds of years were performed with the consummate skill of the ages in the spirits of the dancers. I have been to several Pow-wow's and I enjoy them more and more with each one I attend. The drum is a central piece of the dance, creating a rhythm that is subtlety varied in volume and speed, but not cadence. These dances have many names, fancy, grass, chicken leg, eagle, coyote, bear and the one I liked (and my Nikon f5 did too) the grand entry, where all the dancers were in the circle at once, creating a splendid array of patterns of colour, sound, and tradition that for me is the reason I go to them whenever I can; the tradition of the drum, the dance, the regalia, the connection to the great spirit and many other more personal reasons. if you ever have an opportunity to go to a Pow-wow, by all means do so, it is a very special time and event to share in and celebrate!!

Stephen Adkins is a photographer from Seattle, WA.

Reader's Choice: Baby's Steak Knife and Winky's Salad

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

Note: This originally appeared in last month's issue...

I was in the middle of a dream playing basketball one-on-one with Walt “Clyde” Frazier in the alley way behind an Italian restaurant in Chicago. There was a hoop set up next to a dumpster and we would stop in between play to sit on folding chairs and drink Gatorade and talk about various things, like the John Locke’s Treatise on Liberty or if Clyde consciously knew what the point spreads were for NY Knicks game before tip-off. A few minutes later, after taking a jump shot, I felt a sharp biting pain in my left arm. I looked down to see that nothing was wrong. A minute later I felt it again, this time the pain seared throughout my bones, which made me start sweating. I fell to my knees and yelled like a rat caught in a glue trap. That’s when I awoke and found Baby pulling a knife out of my arm. The Alabama hellcat stabbed me while I was passed out.

There were a couple of seconds after she stabbed me and before the blood started squirting out where Baby and I calmly stared at each other. Our glances lovingly locked onto one another and we had a tranquil moment. Our symbiotic original connection only lasted for a second maybe two, but it was one of those eternal seconds that seem to last forever and you never want to end. It’s those eclectic moments you come across while thinking about life’s odd idiosyncrasies, while stuck in a sullen slouch at the end of a bar, drinking away the roughness of the day’s grind. Or perhaps that treasured moment comes to mind while staring out the window of an airplane, your eyes bouncing back and forth between the clouds and the endless horizon and your shared memories burn a hole in your pants pocket, like a firecracker with a slow fuse that you lit years ago and simply forgot it was there until one day, POP! It goes off. And as our still bodies breathed together and our moment ended, all serenity vanished and I saw panic, fear, desperation, anger, and redemption jump on top of each other in a scrum and hide behind the pupils in her sky blue eyes. Simultaneously, heavy drops of tears rained from her swollen eyes as intense globs of menacing red blood bubbled out of the two inch cut on my bicep, forming an oval pool on our Salvation Army bought $18 couch.

I gazed at my wound with an elated surprise reaction. Shocked, indeed. Impressed, you betcha. Baby was the type of girl who talked shit about doing things (e.g. getting her G.E.D. and going to beautician school, or kicking out her half-witted half-sister whom had been crashing with us since 9.11, or her many promises to stop smoking Kools) and not once did she ever follow through on any of her shit talking. Until now, that is. For months she threatened to stab me and she finally achieved one of her goals. I beamed with astonished pride on our way to the hospital.

“You know Winky Junior, someday I’m gonna stab yewwwwwwwwwwwwww!” she taunted me one afternoon after she drank too many $1 shots of the daily tequila special held every morning from opening to Noon at Connie’s Lounge, the bar near the airport that she and her half-sister Beatrice would frequent on Sunday mornings before they went to church. When she got wicked wasted, Baby loved making a funny face and pointed her finger at me like a disappointed geriatric Montessori Day school principal who just caught the school’s compulsive masturbator engrossed in a wild whacking off session in the girl’s locker room.

“You’re no good. And I‘m gonna fix your wagon, mister. I’m gonna stab yewwwwwwww! Just like when your Momma stabbed your Daddy and then she had to go to county lock up for six months!!” she screamed almost falling down, “And all your friends made fun of you and your Daddy for losing his eye after your Momma took it out with a salad fork! And that’s when they started calling your Daddy… Winky!”

And soon after all the annoying neighborhood kids started calling me… Winky Junior. It wasn’t funny. I cried myself asleep for 1,457 consecutive dreadful nights. A night out for dinner at Sizzler turned into a calamity, a wretched story told nightly at the local tavern by Angry Petey Picarelli to anyone within earshot after pounding a couple of Boilermakers. And the story unfolds as my family walked to our table from the “All you can eat” salad bar at Sizzler, when I heard my father curse at my mother. The next thing I saw, my mom was storming out of the restaurant and my father’s plate of salad was covered in blood and croutons. I was seven at the time and silently watched in morbid curiosity as the paramedic dislodged the salad fork from my father’s left eye, unable to save it, nor my family’s dignity. In case you were wondering, I haven’t eaten a salad in twenty years.

Baby audaciously sped to the county hospital and I sat unbuckled in the passenger’s seat holding my poorly bandaged arm as high as I could because it seemed to be the right thing to do at the time. She whimpered hysterically and her large tears blurred her vision. Baby’s driving was never stellar, with seven accidents in three years, but both her DUI charges were dropped due to lack of evidence (and because the arresting officer both times was her Uncle Hank.) I took a long look at a distressed Baby. I was disgusted with her crying.

“What the fuck is your problem? I’m the one who got stabbed!”

“I know,” she sniffled, as a mixture of tears and snot made it’s way down her chin and dripped onto the steering wheel.

“You are some piece of work, Baby. For fuck’s sakes! Why is my life with you like a terrible Jerry Springer episode on six hits of bad acid? Complete with vodka induced knife fights, crystal meth smuggling Klansmen, and other various deviant canine S & M trailer park sexcapades!

“And I’m so sorry Winky. I’ll never do this again. I’ll do anything right now for you. Anything!”

Baby was a mess. I know why she stabbed me. I probably deserved it. I lost her inheritance when the Dork Brothers scammed me on a ghastly drug deal a few weeks earlier. I slowly plotted my revenge and I was going to get her money back. My plan was underway and needed more time to let everything evolve. Baby was impatient. In a hissy rage fueled by unfounded jealousy, Baby flipped out. Mulva, the sixteen year old girl who worked at Popeye’s gave me an extra biscuit earlier in the day, which Baby psychotically mistook for a secret sign that Mulva was giving me blow jobs behind Popeye’s when Baby was at work. After I fell asleep, Baby snorted all my cocaine then drank a half a bottle of Stoli Orange. When she found the steak knife, she took a deep breath and prayed. Moments later, she thrust it into my arm.

“Pull over right now. You’re going to get us killed the way you’re fucking driving. I’ll drive the rest of the way.”

Baby slammed on the breaks and she got out of her car. I slid over into the driver’s seat, but before I did that I locked all the doors. Baby was locked out. As she pounded her fists on the window I pulled away and drove off to the hospital alone. And that was last time I saw Baby. She was jumping up and down hysterically on Route 56, drunker than Ted Kennedy on Patriots Day, cursing like a Marine with shrapnel in his foot, and wearing nothing but flip flops and her favorite Dixie Chicks T-shirt which she wore to bed every night.

As her image grew smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror, all I could think about was how she’d angelically kiss me on the forehead before she went to sleep and she’d soothingly whisper, “G’niiiiite Winky Junior.”

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Editor's Choice: Nagoya

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2002

Note: This originally appeared in the July 2002 edition of Truckin

12 June 00
Nagoya, Japan

Earlier in the morning Beano had departed for a trek in the Japan Mountains, leaving me and Señor alone to navigate the confusing and congested Central Station in Tokyo. We need to find the office that will validate our Japanese Rail (JR) Travel Passes. Señor had scored us Green Passes or First Class passes that would permit us to have unlimited usage of the highly intricate and efficient Japanese Rail system. We had been able to ride the bullet trains for one week in First Class for $350 US. That's bargain considering a one way trip from Tokyo to Osaka cost $100 and that's in regular coach seating. When we finally get to the office we book our entire train trip for the remainder of the Phish tour: Tokyo to Nagoya, Nagoya to Fukuoka, Fukuoka to Osaka, and Osaka to Tokyo. The bullet trains are cheaper than flying and I love train travel because it gives me a better opportunity to see the Japanese countryside, something you miss when you are 30,000 feet up in the atmosphere.

On the platform the Shinkansen bullet trains pull into the station as I stand and marvel at these modern modes of transport, the space aged, long sleek, sparkling clean white tubes. Inside they are spotless, carpeted and air-conditioned. I have come a long way from home and the filthy subways of NYC to be riding the best rail system in the world. The first class cars, or the Green Cars, are designated with big Green Shamrocks on the outside of the cars. We walk down the platform until we see our car.

As we enter the bullet train, a bevy of twelve or so other Americans making their way to Nagoya are getting settled in. I introduce myself as soon as I get into the aisle.

"Hello everyone, if I could get your attention please, my name is McGrupp and I am an alcoholic."

The car erupts in laughter. I point to Señor, and continue. "This is my side kick and attorney, Señor. We will be entertaining you all for the next two hours."

A light round of applause makes its way through the Green Car. My icebreaker has seemed to work and now I will be known as "the drunk guy on the bullet train" for the rest of the tour. As we walk to our seats I hear one phishy chick turn to her friend and say, "They're funny. But the cute, smiling, little hairy one doesn't look Mexican, does he?"

Sitting behind us are Freddy and Gina from San Francisco, a married couple who own a bar in the Haight called Casey Jones, named after the Grateful Dead song, heck, named after my favorite Dead song. And a few seats behind us are Asselope Greg and his posse of merry fuckheads. I casually flip him the bird as I sit down in my relaxing and spacious seat. I get as much legroom as I need, a blessing because usually I am pushing maximum space capacity when I travel, and the Green Cars give you more room than First Class airplane seats with these comfortable convertible chairs that let you lie back and go to sleep.

A Japanese woman wearing a kimono comes through the car offering us green tea and a hot towel. A few minutes later another woman wearing a kimono pushes a cart filled with traditional boxed Japanese sushi lunches and more beverages. Señor buys one boxed lunch and I open up a box of Pockey Sticks, a local snack of chocolate dipped pretzel sticks to which I have become addicted.

I get up and start to walk around our car to make small talk and go into the next car. Between the cars are these cool sliding star trek doors that open up without you actually touching the door. I walk back and forth a couple of times, amusing myself with the sliding doors, making sure I did my best Scotty from Star Trek accent as I walked through, "I'm giving it all she can Captain, for God's sakes I'm just a mechanic..."

In the next car I see Marcus from Iowa and a handful of other kids we met at Hibiya Park after one of the Tokyo shows. I sit down and play chess with him, glancing occasionally out the window in between moves, catching the Japanese countryside whizzing by at 100 mph.

I have been in Japan for less than a few days and I have already met Phisheads from Vancouver, Seattle, Oregon, all over California, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Ohio, Tennessee, Chicago, Indiana, New Jersey, Atlanta, Alabama, New Orleans, Mississippi, Georgia, South and North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Maine, Vermont, Boston, upstate NY and even NYC. All of us here for the same reason.

The train arrived in Nagoya on time. Japan is kick ass efficient. Señor finds us a good hotel in the Sakae district near Club Quattro, the venue that Phish will be playing the next evening. Nagoya is a newer city thanks to the bombing by the U.S. Military in WW II, with wide streets built on a grid system for easy navigation. The subways are spotless, the locals are extra friendly and the city is not as overcrowded as Tokyo.

Since it's our only day off (the only night Phish wasn't playing all tour), we are free to relax and take naps before checking out the Nagoya nightlife. We order massages in our hotel room. (Editor's Note: These were "legitimate" massages) We have traditional Japanese shi-ut-su massage with hot towels. They beat the crap out of you, but afterwards you feel absolutely wonderful, like you’ve attained some sort of spiritual enlightenment. Loose and relaxed, it was easy to fall asleep.

After the naps, we eat dinner at a local sushi bar before exploring the city. We wander around the Sakae District past all the karaoke bars, clubs, and restaurants and we find this bar on a side street, because we were looking for somewhere to drink, but also some place local, off the path.

A Heineken Beer sign sits in the window of the bar, with a wood façade that looked like it was a typical corner bar in Brooklyn. I suggest to Señor that, "This might be a nice place."

He agrees and opens the door to the Park Side Bar. A small bar, it is nearly empty, except for a few tables up front with a group of people, and a young lady sitting at the bar. We sit down next to her and order a couple of beers.

The owner, Teppei, speaks English and while serving us our beers, he asks us, "Where are you from and what are you doing in Nagoya?"

I tell him who we are, Señor and McGrupp and all about our global misadventures.

"You see, we're in Japan to follow our favorite band, Phish, to four cities, and Nagoya is city number two. It's a night off for us, and you know what, Teppei, we picked YOUR bar to get wasted in."

He laughs and pours more drinks and we started to make small talk with the young lady, Reiko, who is sitting next to Señor. It is almost midnight when Reiko tells us she had been there since 5 PM earlier that day, after she had lost her job! She has a plate of food that she has been picking at while she drinks a beer.

Reiko takes turns feeding Señor and sipping her beer. She keeps picking up these tiny pepperoni slices and hand-feeding Señor, which is odd because Señor no longer likes pepperoni after the infamous puking incident involving my brother's dog, McBinger. Alas, it has taken a beautiful woman to break Señor out of old habits, so I just sit back, watch and laugh and chat with Teppei. I ask him how his English is near perfect and it turns out that he used to live in Seattle and had taken classes at Seattle Central Community College for two years. I show him my Washington State Driver's License and then he asks me how the Seahawks are playing! Small world, indeed.

Reiko offers to buy us shots. I suggest Tequila. Reiko and Teppei do a few shots with us, and we get even more shitty and talk about all kinds of bullshit. The Park Side Bar officially closes at midnight, but Teppei let's us all stay way past closing time. He pours us a few more beers and we do more shots and continued talking and sharing stories.

Señor takes my pocket Japanese Phrase Book and tries to talk to Reiko, but they are both two drunk to make anyway headway. Each starts a sentence in the other's language, only to mess up the pronunciation with a drunken slur, and then both bust into laughter. They exchange addresses, promising one another they would write.

The Japanese are a gracious and hospitable people. And the locals in Nagoya display these traits to perfection. Before we leave, Teppei suggests some places to eat and local sites for us to see before we leave his city, like the Nagoya Castle.

"You are here to see Phish, so you must go see the golden fish. Go to Nagoya Castle!" Teppei yells as we stumble out of his bar, "You cannot miss the golden fish!"

On the way back to our hotel, we stop off into another bar called the Silk Room. This one is much larger and has a good-sized crowd. Some random Phisheads are drinking in the back and I find my buddy Ken drinking at the bar. Ken is the back door bouncer and roadie that we met during the first show in Tokyo. He's an American, born in Japan, and has a "Made in Japan" tattoo on his forearm. We hadn’t had tickets to the first Tokyo show, and Ken was the cool guy who let us hang out by the back stage door and listen to Phish for free. I buy him a beer and a shot and he tells me what hotel Phish is staying at, because he's staying there too. He's getting paid by the promoter, Smash Productions, to tour with Phish as backdoor security. Now that's a fatty job.

An hour later, we stumble out of the Silk Room, and eat at the first noodle shop we see. After a night of drinking, my Japanese is no more than drunken gibberish, so I just point to what I want to eat and the noodle guy serves it right up.

With full stomachs, we’re still drunken lunatics. We make our way back to our hotel, past the noodles shops, bars, massage parlors, and clubs, and more karaoke bars and more massage parlors. The Sakae district nightlife is alive and kicking for a Monday night! I wonder what this place would be like on a weekend.

"Mr. Yankee, do you want massage from sexy Japanese girl?"

The tiny adorable girls who work at the massage parlors are very aggressive. They walk right up to us and every Gai-jin. Even if you try to cross the street, they follow and persuade you in the middle of the street, with hand jesters and broken English to have an "authentic Japanese massage". And when you decline, they follow you for a block or so until another group of girls from another massage parlor does the same.

There's a club on the same corner of our hotel and these young Japanese guys are dressed up like they are members of the Yakuza, the infamous Japanese Mafia, wearing hip, sleek black suits and sunglasses. There's also a flock of beautiful women standing on the corner, dressed up like models in the latest fashions from Milan and Paris and they all talk on tiny little cell phones, while smoking American cigarettes. From the chic appearance of the crowd, this place looks like the swankiest club in Nagoya.

One of the women gets off her cell phone and stops us.

"Do you want me to sing you a song?" she coos with a wide grin.

"Where? Here?" asks Señor.

"No inside club. I'll sing you a pretty song."

As she extends her hand and pulls a drunken Señor into the entrance, one of her friends yanks on my pony tail, giggles then pulls me into the club right behind Señor.

After walking down a flight of stairs, I hear music playing behind a pair of elegant sliding glass doors with pelican and swan markings etched with other floral designs. The beautiful ladies lead us inside and all I see is red. Red walls, a red floor, red chairs and couches. There's a red bar and a few red tables and a karaoke machine and stage in the corner where a young lady is finishing up a performance.

It takes me a few moments before I realize that we are the only guys in the club. About thirty or so of the most beautiful Japanese women sit and stand before us, all of them with their eyes fixated on Señor's huge smile. With not one other male in sight, I arrive at a moment of clarity. I tap Señor on the shoulder and whisper in his ear, "Bro, either we are in the coolest bar on the planet, or we just walked into a whorehouse."

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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

From the Editor's Laptop:

Hey, it's the 13th issue of Truckin'! One year old! Oh my! I did it. Thanks to all the writers who submitted their bloodwork and took a chance with my vision. Thanks to all the readers for your support. None of this is not possible without you.

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Be Sweet,

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