May 22, 2004

May 2004 (Vol. 3, Issue 5)

Thanks for returning back to my literary blog-zine. The epic May issue features six new stories, and three of them are from yours truly; another Miami story, another Vegas story, and another Subway story. Al Can't Hang joined the roster with his first of many Stories from the Bar, and we find out the history behind his nickname. All the way from New Zealand, Richard Bulkeley is back with another excellent read. And Tom Love shared a shivering tale. So sit back, relax, and enjoy. Thanks for coming back, McG

1. While She Cries by Tenzin McGrupp
I tilted my head, partly out of sympathy and partly out of curiosity. I had not seen anyone cry on the subway in a few months... More

2. Stories from the Bar: Origins by Al Can't Hang
The first thing I remember coming out of the coma was the image of my parents looking down at me... More

3. Strange Design by Tenzin McGrupp
Only in Vegas can I wander around drunk, stoned, hopped up on pills, and tripping… and still be the most sober person in the room... More

4. Big Thumb Wisdom by Richard Bulkeley
The a sudden screech from the fax machine silences our incessant mumbling that maybe the slopes had received snow. The hostel manager rips the fax from the machine and reads from it like a medieval herald proclaiming a death sentence... More

5. Bowling for Jailbait by Tenzin McGrupp
The teenaged hussies, dressed like medium priced hookers, teased us every time they'd bend over to pick up their flouresent pink bowling balls... More

6. Rising Avove It by Tom Love
A queue of runaways and druggies stood ready to take their rightful place at the edge of the entrance ramp, to be next in line for a ride. I took my turn, and was soon at the right spot. Almost immediately a sunshine yellow Beetle pulled up with two California blonde cuties... More

While She Cries: A Subway Story

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004

She was crying and I barley noticed. I had fallen asleep and I was dreaming about playing poker. I had frequently been having poker dreams and even during a cat nap on the downtown subway, my dreaming life was invaded by gambling. I awoke when someone knocked into my leg. I looked up and an old man with a blind man’s cane was shuffling through the late night subway car. I squinted, opened my eyes again, and looked across from me where a young woman wearing black jeans and pink flip flops, lazily sat. I focused on a blotch of very bad acne on her right cheek. She was crying and rubbed her red puffy eyes, as frazzled spaghetti strands of hair flowed down her face and over her lanky shoulders. I caught her in the middle of a silent sobbing spree, her body almost motionless, any sounds of weeping were muffled by the loud shrieks of the speeding subway car. She was too busy to see me staring at her.

I tilted my head, partly out of sympathy and partly out of curiosity. I had not seen anyone cry on the subway in a few months. I let my mind wander and tried to guess what brought her to a nervous breakdown underground in the New York City subway system. Maybe she was dumped by her boyfriend? Maybe she lost her job? Maybe her cat died? Maybe she found out that she’s pregnant and doesn’t know who the father is? Maybe she stole money from her grandmother to support her boyfriend’s heroin habit? Maybe she got fired after she slept with one of her co-workers’ husbands and got pregnant with his child, after she stole money from her grandmother because her boyfriend threatened to kill her cat unless she gave him his dealer a blow job for all this past unpaid debts?

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Stories from the Bar: Origins

By AlCantHang © 2004

The first thing I remember after coming out of the coma was the image of my parents looking down at me. It was obvious that I was in a hospital room and that my parents were very concerned. My mind started working quickly to backtrack through my recent memories.

Ok, ok. You were at the bar. What next? Car wreck? Did I get in a fight? Sucker punched? Fuck, I can't really feel anything. Is that good or bad?

I had to ask. "What happened to me?"

My mother recalled "They found you in an unused bathroom passed out." Then very quietly, "But it was the blood that really scared everyone. Not the vomit."

Shit, that's really not good. I'm never drinking Southern again.

Another memory.

I was looking up at two men in strange outfits. I knew the uniforms but couldn't place them. They were asking for my name, address, and if I was hurt anywhere.

Ah, now I got it. Paramedics. Two things went through my head in that split second. Man, this can't be good. And I could hear the shrilling voice of a shrew harpy I knew. As I was fading back to darkness, I yelled at the top of my feeble voice, "Tell her to shut the fuck up!"

That would be the last time I saw her.

Time for some damage control. Being from a strict, religious family, I'd managed to hide my drinking from them for years. I still have no specific idea of what happened but I knew already that I needed to spin this correctly.

"I think it was that leftover cheese steak in the fridge," I said in a hopefully clear, sober voice, "it must have gone bad."

My old man looked at me, seemingly convinced, and said he'd have the doctor check for food poisoning when she came back.

Bingo, I've still got it. Laid up, half passed out, no idea what's going on and I managed to pass this episode off as food poisoning. But what the fuck happened to me?

My memory dump would have to wait. The nurse informed us that several people in the waiting room want to make sure I was alive. "But only two visitors at a time", screeched Nurse Ratched with the bitched-up face, "One of you will have to leave."

Since I was in no condition to volunteer, what with drifting in and out of consciousness the entire time, the old man got up. He left me with my mother to greet the parade of circus freaks that I called friends.

The drunk and stoned. The pierced and tattooed.

The over-sexed, barely-dressed, self-professed tramps were my favorites to introduce. Then the obviously drunk rock stars who had come straight from the show. Apparently they've written a new song about me.

That's right! I went out to see the band at some new bar. Oh man, I saw a shit load of old friends there. This might really be serious.

Finally the old man came back into the room followed by the doctor. I'm about to fade to black again. Immediately, I can read the look on my father's face. Food poisoning, my ass.

The look is explained by the doctor as I'm drifting off. "Congratulations on being alive Mr. Dumbass", the name has been changed to protect the moron, "Most people with a blood alcohol level of 0.46 are usually in the basement by now"

My last thought of the day........ Man, this is going to be a bitch of a hangover!

My name is Al...

And I can't hang.

Al Can't Hang is a gentleman and a seasoned SoCo-ologist from Phoenixville, PA.

Strange Design: A Vegas Story

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004

Only in Vegas can I wander around drunk, stoned, hopped up on pills, and tripping… and still be the most sober person in the room. In between sets of the Phish concert, I scribbled down a few notes on the pen and stationary I had lifted from the Excalibur Casino. I glanced at the set list and turned my head when I felt someone tapping me on the shoulder. Sadie unfurled her hand. In the middle of her palm sat two small seaweed-green pills.

“Only take one,” she warned me, with a smirk and a hinge of condescending sarcasm, like when your mother tells you to wear a sweater because it’s cold outside.

I popped both and turned around to finish my conversation with the rowdy guy from Michigan next to me.

“That first set was a little heavy on the desert funk,” I pontificated.

A huge fan of the funky side of Phish, I relished in the moments when the band got the funk factor kicked up into high gear. Perhaps it was the sign that hung from a section on the other side of the stage which read: “Funkify Your Life!”

A bold statement indeed. A warning? Perhaps. A wish list? Most likely. And they guys who originated cow funk, from the green mountains of Vermont, concocted a hearty stew of phrenetic desert funk.

In Miami, during their four show New Year‘s Eve run at the end of 2003, I witnessed history when George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic jammed out in a session of Sunshine Funk for almost an entire set with the boys. But that was a different city and Vegas was an entirely different planet. The Vegas Phish shows took on a Wild West frenzied pace and you never knew what was going to happen next. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, or the three day long narco-alcho orgy, or all the fervid sun, or how the shifty desert drove the sanest people towards the brink of insanity, but the energy picked up to a tornado-like funnel and swarmed around the venue that night. It captivated the alacritous fans that filled the audience, as well as the curious newbies, who wanted to see for themselves what all the cultish, religious-like-experiences, and buzz were all about.

The Vegas crowd was an interesting mix of neo-hippies in search of a higher meaning in life (supported by Daddy's credit cards), wandering college kids, prosperous middle-aged fans - a nice splattering of cyber-geeks and ultra-hipsters and yippies; - and the normal collection of freaks and miscreants that you’d often find at a Phish show. Like the scrawny girl with the beard and fourteen nose rings, or the fat naked girl handing out Tootise Rolls, or the guy wearing a 420 t-shirt with purple and orange dreadlocks, and the drunk girls dressed up like bumble bees, and the odd assortment of barefoot guys with beards, shaved heads, and dresses wrapped around their waists. I sat next to two 32 year-old yuppies, a lovely couple from San Francisco who after exchanging business cards with me, inquired about buying a handful of Ritalin off of me for $60. Earlier in the day, I had found a group of fifteen-year old crocked girls in Shakedown Street asking me to help them cut up their eight ball of cocaine in the back of Daddy's SUV. Don’t forget about the scary girl all dressed in black, with black fingernails and a dog collar around her neck trying to sell me grams of Molly for $30, when I knew that the short, hairy armpitted Phishy chick with the thirsty, panting puppy popping its head out of her backpack would sell it to me for $15, solely because “she dug my vibe.”

For three hours each night, the boys took chances and risks, like any gambler in Vegas would do. They made a few mistakes and hit some home runs and as the shows got later each night, and the party raged longer, I found it harder and harder to take legible notes. Somewhere, I scribbled down: Taste the fear.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Big Thumb Wisdom

By Richard Bulkeley © 2004

It had been raining forever. Or at least since about 6pm last night. We huddle around the fax machine, waiting nervously. There are seven of us, ready to spring into action, when the word comes down. The a sudden screech from the fax machine silences our incessant mumbling that maybe the slopes had received snow. The hostel manager rips the fax from the machine and reads from it like a medieval herald proclaiming a death sentence.

“Overnight rain at all levels of the mountain. Snow conditions are variable at best. Sorry guys.”

A couple of diehards decide they’ll go up anyway, after all, even crap boarding is still boarding. I consider it, but decide I prefer to end my stay on the high note of yesterday. Besides, it is Tuesday. There are 25-cent beers and scantily clad waitresses back home. Four hours driving time, if I get lucky, I’ll be door to door in six. Time enough to catch up with Natalie before getting drunk. Not that I’m sure that’s a good thing. I mean, she is tall, blonde, good-looking, laughs at my jokes, bakes an amazing chocolate chip cookie, enjoys travel and the outdoors, understands that I’m far less than perfect, and ins generally everything I ever wanted in a woman. Until I got it.

Now, I seem hell bent on ruining it. I always manage to ruin relationships, it’s part of being immature, insecure, and generally a severely flawed human being. This time, the pressure of being in one I care about is getting to me and I’ve got a whole new set of reasons to screw up. Even a near-perfect week of snowboarding and solitude couldn’t fix my head.

Ten minutes later, I am on the road, trudging towards the edge of town. It’s still raining. I look around, and the raindrops are like a curtain of glass beads around me, obscuring the assorted fast food places and tyre shops that are the highway face of Fernie. I’ve got my thumb out, but I’m not looking. There’s a metaphor in there, but I’m not bored enough yet to indulge my own cleverness. Besides, until I get to the end of this straight, I don’t like my chances of getting anyone to stop. Thankfully, I’m still in the bumpy part of Canada, and not the prairies, with their ribbons of tarmac stretching all the way to the horizon – an uplifting sight for speed freaks, but the curse of Tantalus for a hitchhiker.

Still, I didn’t regret the time I spent stranded two hours west of Winnipeg. The sky seemed almost infinite and I was stunned to remember that only the week before I thought that skyscrapers could imprison it into a tiny rectangle, barely visible from a busy street. But then, as much as I claim to love my freedom, I lack the courage to exploit it, or really believe in it. I’m a little grey man, put into a brightly coloured gore-tex shell, and I can’t fill the role I’ve chosen for myself.

I reach the promised corner, and it’s a giant puddle. Excellent. I can just see myself being subjected to a series of comic drenchings from asshole drivers. But if I stand out of range, it’s not going to be clear I want a ride, and am not just the local retard, watching the pretty broom-brooms.

A car drives past, taking the corner dangerously fast. When you hitchhike enough, you gain a pretty good appreciation of corners, and bad drivers. I wait, singing softly to myself and generally trying to have fun while warding off hypothermia. It’s not accepted hitchhiking best practise – in general you should try and look respectable. But on days like today, anything that persuades me not to give up and get the bus, is a good idea.

A car goes past, and another car. Normally, I love rain. I love the light, ethereal dustings of liquid sunshine that seem to spontaneously assemble themselves on a sunny day and seem to make the very air sparkle. I love the big fat wet raindrops that tumble out of the sky like bumblebees that have finally discovered the laws of aerodynamics. I even love the sharp bitter razor blades of rain that the wind drives into your face on days the mountain doesn’t want to be climbed. I’m a difficult, cranky bastard, and I love having something that I can hate when I feel like it.

Today, I’m going nowhere fast. There’s a little too much traffic to count for me to be going nowhere slowly, but the net result is the same. But it’s raining, and I’m free. It’s all a man can ask for. Well, that and a warm place sleep at the end of the day. There’s a tall Canadian blonde with cold fingers and hair that smells like apple shampoo who thinks she should be added to the list, but it’s my list, and it’s been fine without her for now. I’m not sure that it’s still fine without her though, but a lonely sort of freedom might be uncomfortable, but it’s at least familiar.

Finally, a car stops. I’m zoning out, and I have no idea how long I’ve been waiting, but it’s been a while. The driver saw me on his way into town and decided he’d pick me up on the way out, if I hadn’t lucked my way into a ride before then.

He offers me a beer, and I accept. If you’re going to break one of the cardinal safety rules of hitchhiking, you may as well break it in style. It’s Budweiser, which sets me back a moment or two. American beer is like making love in a canoe so I will limit myself to one. Being able to make love in a canoe on the other hand is what makes you a true Canadian, according to Pierre Trudeau. It’s a test that I failed, back when the lakes were still liquid. I’d probably have better luck now.

It’s a shit of a day. I don’t correct him. By many standards it is a shit of a day. Even 25 cent beers, and the pneumatic breasts of the waitresses, will not numb the ache that I get whenever I leave a place I love. It’s not what he means, but he’ll understand. He works mine rescue. It’s not a place he willingly goes anymore either, which explains the drinking at 9am.

It’s dark down there. The kind of dark that nightmares are made of. The kind of dark that has a physical presence at least as great as that of the tonnes of rock that surround you. The pathetic artificial light, even with all our twenty-first century technology, only serves to emphasise the darkness that lurks in the corners. A coal mine isn’t a place I’d willingly go, even in full working order, let alone when it collapses. Compared to a coal mine, especially one that has collapsed, crushing or trapping friends, my cage is definitely gilded.

Where all the trucks join the highway, we spilt company. Two of his brothers played in the NHL, but he’s got the job worth being proud of. On some level, he understands that. Or at least I hope he does. It’s not the kind of thing you can explain though. A man’s got to know it for himself though. I’m left alone with the realisation that I’m glad I’m not him. But I’m also sad that I probably could never be. Will it make me a better person? I doubt it, I’m too wedded to bogus images, and macho bullshit.

Big thumb wisdom. It’s almost never what you want. But if you try, you might be able to make it what you need. I surprise myself by getting back to university, and not fucking things up. At least not for a while.

Richard Bulkeley is a genlteman scholar from Auckland, New Zealand.

Bowling for Jailbait

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004

27 Dec 03 Miami, Fl

The teenage hussies, dressed like medium priced hookers, lustfully teased us every time they'd intentionally bend over to pick up their florescent pink bowling balls. The Don Carter lanes were extra crowded on an early Saturday night. For the local high schoolers, the bowling alley was the hippest place to be seen. It’s their Spa of NYC or Ice of Las Vegas or Bliss of West Hollywood. Dressed up in their provocative outfits, with racy makeup smeared and caked on like a Van Gogh painting, their lubricious ensembles were inspired by the slew of scantly clad, titillating lemmings in MTV videos. After all the majority of these impressionable girls fueled their sexual appetite through salacious episodes of Sex in the City and a handful of terribly scripted, sexual innuendo-based, reality TV shows. Alas, any mentioning of the word "romp" or "wild rumpus" in the general direction of the sex-starved hussies, would get me thrown into prison. And as a wise friend once pointed out to me, “15 will get you 25 to life.”

The ruttish nymphets smugly paraded their almost-ripe goodies around, intentionally distracting us while we bowled. Sometimes they gingerly took their time and bent over in lewd and promiscuous positions, in an attempt to draw the magnetic allure of sexual amorality out of the deep slumber that my mind severely sequestered. Geo, Cappy, and I were not messing around, playing $1 a point. High stakes bowling was on our agenda, and being teased by coquettish jailbait was the last thing on our focused minds. Webster defined a nymphet as: a sexually precocious pubescent. But as well all know, in Nabakov’s epic novel Lolita, Humbert Humbert refers to a nymphet as a "demon child."

A small herd of these suburban demon children crowded on both lanes surrounding us. To the left, a group of racially mixed red-hot girls, some black, some white, and some Hispanic. To our right, a group of well tanned, white girls (and the token Asian girl), with upper class names like Whitney and Taylor, and freshly painted orange-cream nails and tiny, glitzy cellphones, hung out and sipped Diet Dr. Peppers. The girls to the left bowled with a lot more proactive fluidness, sultry dancing in between turns to the loud music pumped over the sound system, while the girls on the right were more concerned with chatting on their cell phones, trying to coordinate a place to meet up for later in the evening. And all I wanted to say was, "I know a place where you can all hang out..."

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Rising Above It

By Tom Love © 2004

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, heart pounding, thinking that I am AWOL. I was in Las Vegas, 1973, returning to San Diego Navel Base. I was newly attached to a heli-squadron aboard the Coral Sea, heading for Nam. It seems I had gotten my dates confused. I woke up (like I do now) realizing that it was May 11th, not May 10th. And that my leave had ended yesterday. In a panic, I kissed my lovely companion Diane goodbye and ran down the Vegas Strip half dressed. I hailed a cab to the Air Force base outside of Vegas (good duty for those guys, huh!). At 4AM I barged into the Flight Director's office, sweaty and all together unmilitary-like. (me to the clerk)"Any transports heading for San Diego Navel Base?" (clerk to me) "Not tonight, Sailor." Damn! What to do now?! Well first I cursed myself for being such a stupid bloke. Then, as the merciless sun began to paint the sky over the desert, I stuck out my thumb like so many before me, leaving Las Vegas.

First ride was an auto upholsterer. A Cadillac, rolled and tucked. He drove me a little ways, not very far, but out of town, away from the not-so-friendly-to-hitchhiker-Vegas cops. Car after car went by, headlights turned to taillights as the next round of sweat popped on to my forehead. Nothing. Nothing that is, except for that purple AMC Gremlin that's slowing down and stopping next to a rock outcropping where a sign reads "No Stopping." I run up, throw my dufflebag into the back seat take a look at the driver. Nam Vet, mustache, fatigue shirt, jeans, cowboy boots. (Him to me) "Where'ya going?" (me to him). "San Diego" (him to me). "Swabby! LA. I'll get you that far." (me to him) "Great, thanks a whole lot. I'm late for duty." (him to me) "Rise above it." I jumped in and we puttered out over Death Valley.

Somehow the AMC made it to LA, the Vet let me out on a Freeway exit. There, a queue of runaways and druggies stood ready to take their rightful place at the edge of the entrance ramp, to be next in line for a ride. I took my turn, and was soon at the right spot. Almost immediately a sunshine yellow Beetle pulled up with two California blonde cuties. (them to me) "Want to go to a party?" (me to them) “Yeah!” Well, of course! (Randy Newman to me) "I love LA."

Then (them to me)"But first we're going to Church!" (me to me) "Huh?!"

I was driven to a small building on a hill, filled to the open rafters. The congregation looked like a group from an insane asylum with a weekend pass (they were). In front of us were several stern fellows, one of whom was obviously in charge. He proceeded to open a large floppy eared Bible and preach from Relevations. Signs would appear (They did!) Voices would be heard (They were!) Men would speak in the tongues of Angels (We did!) We cried at the glory, we screamed as multicolored demons were driven from our bodies, we gave offering (all my Vegas winnings)! And, after two hours of this spirited hullaballoo, we collapsed, spent. The young California beauties on either side of me had to prop me up as we exited the hallowed ground and shook the Preacher's hand. (Him to me) "God be with you, my son." (Me to him) “Rise above it."

As we rode through the warm LA evening, me in the back seat, these two lovelies in the front, it occurred to me that although the Lord had forgiven me, the Navy wouldn't. (me to the girls) "I've got to get to San Diego tonight" (them to me) "Let's go home first."

By now, I hoped it wasn't sex they wanted, I left that with God on the Church on the Hill. But home was a nice four bedroom ranch in the suburbs and included a father, a brother and a mom. The three greeted me heartily. (him to them) "Enjoy your church, girls?" (them to him) Yes, Daddy. This nice man needs a ride to San Diego. (me to him) "Before midnight." (him to the brother) "Michael?" (Michael to me) "San Diego? Sure."

We rode in silence. I was filled with more mumbo jumbo than Adam after eating the Apple. I saw the Angels, I heard the Angels, I talked silently to the Angels with my mind. At ll:30 PM we arrived at the Shipyard Gate. I showed them my orders, the SP chuckled at the dates and gave us directions. At approximately 11:50PM PST on the night of May 11th, 1973 I signed in my new duty station, a day late. (Ship's Clerk to me) "Welcome aboard, Sailor" There was no ship here, just an empty squad room. (me to him) “Rise above it.”

Five weeks later I was locked on the Psych Ward at Balboa Navel Hospital, still seeing, still listening to, and still talking with my mind, to those same Angels. Four weeks after that I was home.

Tom Love is a writer from Atlanta, GA.

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

From the Editor's Laptop: I really enjoy the new sleek makeover that Truckin' has undergone. I decided to make some changes in anticipation of the two year birthday of Truckin'... next month. Stay tuned for some new twists.

May 2004 was special for me, because of the addition of Al Can't Hang to the roster. I hope that over the next year he can amuse us with his column: Stories from the Bar. I could never fully thank the writers who shared their bloodwork this month. You guys are my inspiration.

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! We need all the publicity we can get.

Be Sweet,
I hold a beast, an angel and a madman in me, and my enquiry is as to their working, and my problem is their subjugation and victory, downthrow and upheaval, and my effort is their self-expression. - Dylan Thomas