September 28, 2005

September 2005, Vol. 4, Issue 9

1. September Subway Story by Tenzin McGrupp
The homeless man wore a NY Mets t-shirt and black dress shoes three sizes too big. He wasn't wearing any socks. He stood in the middle of the subway and pleaded with everyone... More

2. With the Lights Out by Joe Speaker
The last thing you want is to be thought "different," so you check your childhood impulses and guard your secrets... More

3. Crushing Omaha by Daddy
I knew my wife would be sporting her new Victoria's Secret lingerie, and I had a secret of my own. A little blue secret. She didn't know it yet, but she had a date with the Vanilla Gorilla... More

4. A Million Miles in 20 Steps by The Human Head
The very thing that affords him a decent lifestyle is a sea of nothingness in which he must swim, and as he looks towards the entrance he is filled with a sense of hopelessness that is difficult to describe... More

5. Khartoum-Nyala (Sudan, Part 2): Domestic flights in Sudan by Anon Hammurabi
The Sudanese desert also has a very distinct colour of red, which looks really great from an airplane. But a killer shark also looks beautiful from safe distance... More

6. Red Light City by Tenzin McGrupp
The better looking ones are on the side streets and you have to navigate the narrow alleys while following the aroma of cheap sex in the air to find the doorways with the girls... More

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

From the Editor's Laptop:

Thanks for returning back for another issue of my literary blogzine. We were a little late this month but that's par for the course for Truckin'! This issue might have one of the funniest stories to date from Daddy. Anon Hammurabi returns with Part 2 of his trip to the Sudan. The Human Head makes his debut and Joe Speaker returns with a story about... being young and vulnerable. And there's another installment of Subway Stories for you.

Thanks to everyone who shared their bloodwork this month. I always say that the other contributing authors inspire me, because it's true. You guys write for free and if I could pay you, I would. Your time and effort is worth more money than I can ever afford to pay.

I ask that if you like these stories, then please do me and the rest of the writers a huge favor: Tell your friends about your favorite stories. It takes a few seconds to pass along the URL. I certainly appreciate your support. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you know anyone who is interested in being added to the mailing list.

Thanks again. I am grateful that you wasted your time with my site. Until next time.


"Civilization began the first time an angry person cast a word instead of a rock." - Sigmund Freud

September Subway Story

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2005

The homeless man wore a NY Mets t-shirt and black dress shoes three sizes too big. He wasn't wearing any socks. He stood in the middle of the subway and pleaded with everyone. In a raspy voice, he gave his thirty second sales pitch and then went through the car jingling a plastic cup. The subway was about half full and as he walked from one side to the other, he's keep saying, "Have a good day!"

He didn't get anyone to donate. Not one cent. After collecting no spare change, he stopped in his tracks and out of sheer frustration, he turned around to address the rest of the passengers. He screamed, "Fuck you! Have a bad day! Maybe someone should ship your ass to Louisiana."

He left as a young Russian girl in a tight tank top fumbled around with her map of New York City. I could see characters written in Russian and she kept flipping it over looking for a specific place. She was good looking enough that I considered offering her my assistance.

A twenty-something guy in an ugly olive green suit read the New York Times and tapped his foot on the floor of the subway. An empty plastic bottle of Diet Pepsi would bounce off his foot depending on how fast the train was going. When it would stop, the bottle would thrust forward towards the middle of the car.

Another young woman about half my age was busy trying to keep her baby from crying. The guy in the suit seemed oblivious to the bottle and the crying baby, that's when I realized he was listening to an iPod.

"Crack! Snap!"

I turned to my left and saw an elderly black woman with a big piece of bubble wrap. She started popping all of them in two second intervals. After the first seven or eight snaps, I got annoyed. The baby started crying louder. The Russian girl frantically studied her map. The suit tapped his foot and turned the page of his newspaper.

"Snap! Snap!"

About five minutes and two stops later, the bubble wrap lady appeared to stop. That's when she pulled out another piece out of her bag.

"Snap! Crack! Snap!"

I wanted to lean over and snatch the bubble wrap out of her hands and stomp on it. I stood up and glared at her as I walked into the next car. As I searched for a seat in the new car, the homeless man was at the tail end of his spare change collection and yelled out, "All you cheap motherfuckers need to get shipped to Louisiana!"

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

With the Lights Out

By Joe Speaker © 2005

We were just entering that age, Donny and I, when the opinions of your peers start to matter. A lot. Rebukes begin to sting more, camaraderie can uplift you for days. The last thing you want is to be thought "different," so you check your childhood impulses and guard your secrets.

I'd known Donny for a couple years, knew who he was anyway. In a small town like ours, you run across pretty much everyone your own age on the athletic fields. But this was my first year in the new school, the new neighborhood. When that first bell signaled the start of 5th grade, I saw some familiar faces. Donny's was in the chair next to me. Partners.

He was a squinty-eyed towhead, a direct contrast to my dark skin and features. But in almost every other way, we were identical. We both appeared as though a strong breeze would topple us, bony from our ankles to our wrists. We had braces. We'd discovered the lure of girls, mysteries that demanded investigation beyond the ritualistic playground taunting. We played the same sports-baseball and soccer-with similar results and worshiped the Oakland A's, despite their abject record. We both shone in the classroom. We fell into an easy friendship.

It wasn't long before he invited me to a sleep-over, that time-honored rite of pre-adolescent independence. I'd never spent the night at someone else's house before, not completely anyway. The closest I ever came was the time I had to summon my parents to fetch me from Jamie Hedley's house after an early morning nightmare.

Donny's parents fixed us some burgers and left us to a competitive game of Monopoly. Each of us wanted to win, but remained respectful of each other and, above all, mindful of our actions and how they would be perceived. I wanted to be invited back and didn't want to jeopardize that possibility.

Shortly, it was time for bed. With the lights out, we conspired to take over the world someday. Partners.

His Mom interrupted our reverie. "Donny," she said, turning on the bulb. "Don't forget to put on your headgear." I saw his face drop. The headgear, that awful contraption of orthodontic torture, scourge of every bucktooth kid's existence, a fate every bit as horrifying as a medieval punishment. Donny was mortified. He raised his head to protest, but his mother cut him off.

As she did, I slid my hand across my sleeping bag and into my overnight bag. "That's okay Donny," I said, pulling it out. "I should probably wear mine, too."

We strapped them on, bands, hooks and all. Then we slept silently, comforted by our shared shame.

Joe Speaker is a writer from Southern California.

Crushing Omaha

By Daddy © 2005

I have chest pains.

I've been to the hospital twice, and to two separate doctors on two separate occasions. This has all happened in the last two years.

The verdict is always the same.

I'm fine they tell me.

The thing is, I’m not fucking fine. I know this.

Flash forward to a month ago. It's the weekend of my second wedding anniversary, and love is very much in the air. One of my golfing buddies had given me a Viagra pill earlier in the day, and told me to proceed with caution.

"You’ll fuck like you’re sixteen again."

I wrapped it up nicely in my cigarette cellophane, and tucked it away in my pocket. I had tree trouble on twelve and thirteen (saved par and bogey respectively), mostly because I was thinking about the damage I would be dishing out later in the evening. Pain. We used to call it "longdickin'."

When I finally got home around sunset, I noticed a bottle of the local vintner's cabernet sitting on the dining room table. It was officially on. I knew my wife would be sporting her new Victoria’s Secret lingerie, and I had a secret of my own. A little blue secret.

She didn't know it yet, but she had a date with the Vanilla Gorilla.

We lit a few candles, and cracked open the bottle of wine. I knew the action was right around the corner, so during one of my many piss breaks, I dropped the V. I wanted to give Little Elvis a chance to get stretched out a bit before I put him through an evening's worth of boot camp.

Then it happened.

My chest started to swell, and I thought my heart was going to explode. I could feel a tingling sensation in my left arm, and a cold sweat broke over my brow. I started having severe breathing problems, and I thought I was going to drop dead on the spot. The tightness was worse than ever, and I knew I needed immediate medical attention.

On the way to the hospital my wife tried to keep my spirits up as I kept a cold washcloth to my forehead. I didn't think I was going to make it. My breathing was choppy, and I was nauseous.

When we reached the emergency room they took me back immediately. They ran an EKG on me, and while I was awaiting the results they put me into a hospital gown. They also told me that I'd be getting chest X-rays shortly. While I was laying there I noticed that I was rock hard, and that I couldn't contain it in the loose gown I was wearing. I still felt like my heart could explode at any minute, so the erection was really the least of my worries.

I laid in the emergency room bed for almost ten minutes when the nurse finally came in to see me. She was fairly young, and extremely attractive. I started to feel a bit embarrassed when she approached me because I knew my tent was pitched for all to see. She tried to keep solid eye contact, but I could easily see that she was uncomfortable.

"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but I just ate a Viagra about thirty minutes ago. I'm guessing that’s what spurred my chest pains."

I couldn't keep from laughing when I said this, and I had a feeling she thought that this was all a joke. It most certainly wasn't.

Much to my dismay she left the room, and told me that she was going to get a doctor to check up on me. My nerves started to rattle, and the pain in my chest grew ever more intense. I kept thinking to myself that this was probably the most fitting way for such a wise-ass jokester to die, and the thought of imminent death had me paralyzed.

A few minutes had elapsed when the doctor entered with a clipboard. He asked me how I felt, and I told him I thought I was going to die. He told me that my EKG results showed no problems, and that they were preparing the X-ray room for me.

I also noticed that he kept noticing me.

"Nurse Samuelson mentioned that you just recently consumed a Viagra?"

"Yes, about an hour ago."

"Well, there are a few things we could possibly do that could relieve you. If you know what I mean."

He winked at me.

What the fuck?

"Sir, I, um, I'm flattered, but I'm married. And, I'm straight. And, I feel like my fucking heart is getting ready to explode."

"I just went over your full EKG report, and you're perfectly fine. Besides, I would be more than happy to make it worth your while."


He approached me, leaned over and whispered into my ear, "I'll give you a thousand dollars."

"Sir, again, I'm married. And, I'm happily straight. Is there any chance I can get another doctor to take care of me?"

"I'll give you two thousand dollars, lock the door, and nobody will ever know about it."

Next thing I know, I’m getting a world class blowjob, and all I can think about is crushing that pot limit Omaha game down on the riverboat.

Daddy is a donkey fucker from Hill Jack, Indiana.

A Million Miles in 20 Steps

By The Human Head © 2005

He can't believe that he's here again, he hates it so much. Actually, he doesn't hate this job as much as the ones that came before, but he sure doesn't like it, either. It's the people, not the work. The actual work is something on which he thrives and something that he enjoys (for the most part), but O GOD, THE FUCKING PEOPLE. In his long history of being a corporate whore he wonders sometimes if even 5% of the other whores are real people with real thoughts. The very thing that affords him a decent lifestyle is a sea of nothingness in which he must swim, and as he looks towards the entrance he is filled with a sense of hopelessness that is difficult to describe.

"For Christ's sake," he chides himself, "you haven't even left the car yet."

The first half of the journey is spent ignoring The Voice. Some days it speaks louder than others, but it always repeats the same thing…

"It's not too late to turn around, there's more to life than this."

Just like a needle that has recently encountered a scratch in the vinyl and can’t seem to get past it, The Voice relentlessly repeats itself on every trip over this space of asphalt and concrete. The Voice is easier to ignore today, and as a matter of fact, it has grown fainter during these last weeks. Maybe it's dying. Maybe it’s simply tired of trying. Maybe both, which leaves him wondering whether he should be concerned about it or hope it actually happens. If The Voice dies, will he be relieved that it's gone or will he instead shift to spending the first half of his daily journey looking for it to reappear? Too late to worry about it now, he's past the tenth step already.

"Maybe I'll listen tomorrow," he murmurs to himself.

The day will be temperate, the sun will shine, and everything will be well...until he makes his trek. The wind will mimic a hurricane for 60 seconds just to make the journey more miserable than it already is. Sometimes it will rain briefly, and then clear up once he is inside. Whatever happens, it's never pleasant. Sometimes it seems that The Voice is in cahoots with the weather in a joint proclamation of "Turn Back!" Other times he is convinced that the weather has a deal signed with his dire destination, as if to remind him as early as possible that it's really going to suck. Just like yesterday. Just like tomorrow.

The last half of the journey always brings thoughts of earlier employment, an awful time of existence. The phones...customer service...cross-selling. He's still angry that he put himself through that for so long, hindsight being 20/20 and all that. Slaves had actual chains to keep them from breaking free, but my, how things have improved in their efficiency and implementation. No chains were needed to imprison him; all it took was a long piece of thin wire attached between a phone and a headset. Advancing up the ladder brought new wonders to behold. The chains still bind, they’re just a bit longer and are wireless. He knows that real chains would be infinitely worse and that it's a shitty comparison to make, but he can't stop himself. Just like The Voice, the comparison is made day-in and day-out.

Some days he spends those last ten steps pondering Sisyphus. If he had more than ten steps in which to ponder then maybe he could trick himself into thinking that his task is somehow noble, pushing the proverbial stone up the hill every single day. Instead of giving those passive-aggressive nothing-speakers a big "Fuck You!" and a slap, he quietly pushes his rock, speaking up sometimes but not often enough to matter. Noble, that's the ticket.

"Yeah, right" he sighs.

The twenty steps are finished, and yet again it feels like a million.

Amidst the banal stream of words with no meaning, he readies his weapons. Big fake smile signaling that all is well and he is happy to be here? Check. Cheery responses and knowledge of the weather forecast to engage vacuous colleagues in pseudo-stimulating conversation? Check. Vast repertoire of buzz-words? Check. Positive attitude and outlook? Oops, he forgot that today but he’ll put it on his action-item spreadsheet and send himself a high-priority reminder email, don’t you worry.

The Human Head is a writer from Wichita, Kanasa.

Khartoum-Nyala (Sudan, Part 2): Domestic flights in Sudan

By Anon Hammurabi © 2005

One day was spent going over my equipment, looking at a few of the local computer problems, having my passport photo taken for the Darfur entry application and just relaxing. It's a bit hard to relax in 40 degrees Celsius, though, but we had enough water to drink and cigarettes to smoke, so I found myself walking from the computers in the basement offices to feverish naps on the 2nd floor.

In the evening, three NRC officers who'd been at Nyala and were going home to their respective countries came and we all went out for dinner at this Korean place in the basement of Hotel Africa, Khartoum. If you want a good meal that doesn't give you a running stomach, or otherwise polluted merchandise, this is the place. We didn't pay much for six main dishes, spring rolls and sodas for everyone. Mr. P said it was probably the best food available in Khartoum at the moment. It was the best meal I'd had in weeks, I must say, living mostly on spaghetti and half-cooked, plastic-wrapped dishes.

After that it was pulling myself together to make sure everything was packed, since despite my erroneous visa (approved on the grounds that I worked for the NCA, which was totally wrong), the application for going to Nyala had been accepted, and a plane ticket had been bought.
These days (10th of April-10th of May) the runway on Khartoum International Airport is being re-paved, so the airport is closed between 9 AM and 5 PM every day. My flight was at 7:30 AM, but if you've ever traveled by domestic flights in African countries, you know why I went a couple of hours earlier.

Just inside the entrance, which was literally packed with people, luggage and trolleys, and to the left, you had to put all of your luggage in the x-ray scanner. Everything. It was all going through the same scanner marked with radioactive warning signs that sent the luggage to the next room. Getting there was another story.

If you ever feel a little lonely in Khartoum, just order a domestic flight and go for it. You'll have people everywhere and - watch out - luggage being more or less thrown towards the scanner. Both my laptops got trod on. When I had just entered the room, this guy with a couple of hundred newspapers that had to be scanned came in at the same time. "Ha, good thing I don't have a trolley in here," I thought arrogantly, but don't you think the bugger got there before me? Must've been a professional.

Anyway, you can forget everything you've learned about queuing and the subtle airport tricks within the boundaries of good manners, 'cause elbowing may only be too polite in these circumstances. When I'd finally managed to get my bags through, and was on my way out from room number one (still haven't gotten very far!), I had to climb atop trolleys and suitcases and people just to get out of there. No one had thought of making a separate way out of the place, but being a World Traveler I was probably the only one finding it exhausting.

Good thing I've read the Guide.

DON'T PANIC, eased my mind and put an I-give-a-damn smile on my face. When I finally got out, Mr. P - who had so graciously helped me thus far - told me to keep my ticket (reading MidAir) visible, since they only announced flights and other vital information (like fire) in Arabic. I went through a queue with people holding the same ticket as I, had my hand-luggage inspected and was given a thorough, manual search until someone was kind enough to point out that I was on my way into the wrong plane. Thank God - Allah - for someone noticing how confused I must've looked. The security check, by the way, was pretty thorough. The people-scanner was out of order, so they searched all of us individually. As said, Sudanese domestic flights are an intimate experience.

(Mr. P told me on the phone later that this particular day had been more intense than usual, but I'm still a bit skeptic. The funny thing was that no one - no one - picked my pockets! In ANY western country I would have found myself without a wallet or ticket pretty soon. Haram.)

So, at the time of writing I'm sitting on an old Norwegian Fokker 50 (they still have the sign saying "life vest under your seat" in Norwegian) on my way to Nyala. We'll probably stop in Al Fasher (the capital of North Darfur), but nobody can tell for sure, since the pilot is keeping his cards tightly to his chest. Expect a flight schedule from one to eight hours.

What do I see out of the window?

Have you read Dune by Frank Herbert? Does Arrakis, the desert planet, ring a bell?

You may have read about Dune. I'm looking at it.

Desert: sand, rocks, small hills, no indication of any life, and dried out rivers.

I imagine being down there and my throat gets sore. In a very gruesome way, it is beautiful. Life and death (mostly death) clearly defined - your doom laughing at you from the landscape. The Sudanese desert also has a very distinct colour of red, which looks really great from an airplane. But a killer shark also looks beautiful from safe distance.

It happened that we had a "one hour" stop in Al Fasher (which lasted for about two and a half), in a non-air conditioned room without bathroom or ashtrays. Luckily I had my mobile, my cigarettes and some water, so I was able to spend some time doing nothing. The rest of the time was spent casting hidden glances over at some of the Muslim princesses, uhm, air stewardesses who returned them from behind their cover. I must say! If I didn't know what happens to "victims of infidelity" in this country, I'd asked them to join me in the bar. Of course there was no bar either. When alcohol is banned, bars are hard to justify.

When we finally arrived in Nyala, passport and x number of copies of my entry-permit ready, no one was there to pick me up. At least, that's what I thought. I wasn't the only NGO, or "international" on the plane, but all the others were from various organizations and being utterly unaware of the local setting, I just walked ahead out into the sun and the carpark. The latter was 500 metres from the airport. And I walked.

Driving around in rural Sudan is one of the most dangerous things you can do, so if you (when you are an "international," at least) get stopped by someone, you want to have the proper signs ready. The first one is a sign I saw on most cars, stating that none of the passengers in this vehicle has a gun. The other one is a flag or a brand that shows which organization you're working for. If you're out of luck, none of it works.

But this was lucky for me, 'cause I recognized NRC's logo on one of the jeeps and headed for it. After the chauffeur, Mr. Joseph, had fetched Mr. T who was looking for me inside the airport, we - and six people from Oxfam who's drivers were on strike - were on the way into Nyala.

Being the youngest on site, and in many senses a VIP, I was given the front seat so I could marvel at the scenery. The first thing I noticed were two soldiers playing with their Kalashnikovs by the entrance to the airport. I reminded myself that I was an NGO in humanitarian/social science affairs, which of course wouldn't stop them from shooting at us if they wanted to, but the words weren't empty in my mind at the time. My first meeting with "being professional in the field."

After a while, huts made from straw and donkey-droppings became more frequent on either side of the road. People looked really poor, hungry, thirsty and tried to catch our attention with waving and doing dangerous stunts too close to the traffic.

I turned to Mr. T and asked: "Is this the camp?"

"No", he said, and smiled. "These are the citizens of Nyala. They are rich compared to those in the camp. At least they have a chance to live."

Twenty minutes later I was installed in my office and busy working.

Anon Hammurabi is a writer from Northern Europe.

Red Light City

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2005Red Light City

After three huge hits, I tired not to cough as I put down the joint which I had sprinkled with Moroccan hash. Miami stopped smoking ten minutes prior and was zoning out while she sipped her tea. I took turns with a German guy with bad dandruff and we smoked the rest of the wonder joint as we sat at a small table in a coffee shop off of Nieuwendyk Street in Amsterdam. He got up and left without saying anything and staggered out onto the street.

"Take me to go see the hookers," Miami said as I looked at my reflection in her glazed eyes.

"It's the middle of the afternoon," I explained. "Only the old hookers work the day shift."

"Then let's go see the old hookers. I'm sure they have great stories to tell," she insisted.

She was right. No one weaves a better tale than an old hooker. To hell with Hemingway. If he chugged 50,000 cocks in his day, I'm sure his writing would have a slight edge to it. If anything, my journey into the Red Light district could become research for a new book idea... Existentialist Conversations with Hookers.

Miami had been to Amsterdam dozens of times before, but she never ventured over to see the area of town where the prostitutes worked. After our quick tour, she walked away from the Red Light district very depressed. Like so many other people, Miami had a romanticized image of the world's oldest profession. She instantly felt sorry for the old whores. In the highest trafficked area, you only see old and ugly hookers. They have been turning tricks since the Carter administration. The better looking ones are on the side streets and you have to navigate the narrow alleys while following the aroma of cheap sex in the air to find the doorways with the girls. And for $50 Euros, they can be yours for 15 minutes. It's weird to see a group of old Japanese ladies saunter by on a walking tour of Amsterdam soaking in the scene. You also notice how the scummy looking guys walk around the same block several times, circling for an available hooker.

The prostitutes stood inside small rooms with glass doors. Most of them wore their underwear or other lingerie. Some of them tried to get your attention as they knocked on the window. Others winked at you or blew kisses. Some actually touched themselves. On the day shift, I spotted several hookers yapping on their cell phones. One read the paper. Another watched TV. No matter what, do not take pictures of them. Derek tried once and a surly Russian hooker told him to "Fuck off!"

Miami and I estimated that a hard-working prostitute in Amsterdam's Red Light District averaged 2,500 Johns a year. That's $125K Euros a year after taxes and fees to rent the space. But even if they are clearing $60K a year, that's almost twice as much as teachers in NYC make. What does this say about us? Seriously, 2,500 tricks a year?

"That's gotta start to hurt after a while," Miami said as she grabbed her crotch and shuddered as we crossed the canal and walked backed to the coffee shop.

Tenin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.