August 30, 2006

August 2006, Vol. 5, Issue 8

1. The Menagerie of Tweakers in Puerile City by Paul McGuire
Las Vegas is a magnet for the absurd and peculiar. I don't know too many places where you can order a Mai Tai at 4am from a bartender named Sully or find a hooker to take a dump on your chest for $300. Sometimes you can find both at the same bar... More

2. Root-Man and the Eleven Foot Rattler by Craig Cunningham
Will Percy, was a local eccentric and legend whose cavernous home was a revolving door of all things my father was not. Writers, gamblers, vagabonds, philosophers, and well-to-do intellectuals came and went like a Greek gypsies... More

3. The Album by Mella
I look at her now, carefully slicing through a long brown onion, still beautiful - despite a toothless smile and soft cheeks that sink in around her lips. Her eyes are the same sparkling green, but lined at the corners with delicate crows feet... More

4. Fairbanks by Dr. Chako
I look up over my shoulder and catch a glimpse of chestnut hair and a leopard tattoo on her right arm. I give her my best one-eyebrow-up look, yet she is already moving down the aisle, perhaps embarrassed by the audible hmmm-ing... More

5. Hangover: A Bukowski Poem by Sigge S. Amdal
A short-haired dog with contractions on its rear part,
turns his ass to me and shits a large turd right there on the street.
This does not make me hungry... More

6. Salt by Falstaff
I can still taste the salt on your lips -
Sun-kissed blonde and sweet, sweet seventeen
Graduation week daiquiris, sand surf... More

7. Training Camp, the Cleveland Browns, and My Father by Sean A. Donahue
I remember the games like they were yesterday, 70,000 fans packed into old Cleveland Stadium. What a lousy stadium, falling apart and just pitiful... More

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

From the Editor's Laptop:

Welcome back to another late issue of Truckin'. It's late. Again. And I apologize. Here's the good news... this issue is packed with some of the best stories that I've published in the last few years.

We have six returning writers including Mella, Falstaff, Sigge, Craig Cunningham, and Sean A. Donahue. It's also a pleasure to introduce, Dr. Chako, who makes his debut with a Bukowski inspired story.

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 to everyone who took a leap of faith with me and submitted their bloodwork this month. I'm extremely lucky to share the same space with talented scribes. 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.

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


"Boring damned people. All over the earth. Propagating more boring damned people. What a horror show." - Charles Bukowski

The Menagerie of Tweakers in Puerile City

By Paul McGuire © 2006

Bright lights. Puerile city. I'm numb to it all by now. The buzzing slot machines. The cocktail waitresses jacked up on valium. The disgruntled dealers chain smoking outside. I pass all of them on my way to work and don't even blink.

If you gave any of the truly desperate gamblers in Las Vegas a knife, they'd happily slit the throats of their own children for a couple hundred dollars. Some would do it for a lot less. Heck, Otis ate two Lupis-ridden Keno crayons for $400. I'm sure I could find some unlucky oaf who would kill one of your co-workers for roughly the same price.

As Michalski succinctly said, "I know a Vietnamese guy who will take care of your problems for $1,500. They are more expensive that the Russians. But they do a much cleaner job."

People forget that underneath the flashing lights of fabricated Las Vegas, the underbelly of society operates in the shadows. The cops out here are trigger happy. They shoot first and ask questions later. Gangbangers running crystal meth roam freely in North Las Vegas and shoot each other every hour on the hour. The skinny crack whores blantantly stroll along Tropicana Ave. near the location of the Redneck Riviera. There are hundreds of immigrants for hire who will install a sprinkler system in your yard or brutally murder anyone on your shitlist.

* * * * *

Living in any casino for more than a week sucks you into looming suicidal tendencies of the Plathian sort. You always hear about the old woman from Arizona who won a $1 million jackpot, but you never hear about the lonely guy who leaps to his death after one last bender in Las Vegas, or the shifty-eyed serial killer who shacks up at the Redneck Riviera with a transvestite hooker before he offs himself with a nail gun to the temple.

For the last two weeks of the World Series of Poker, I lived in the Treasure Island hotel and casino. The first human interaction I'd see when I stepped off the elevator was a blue-haired 80 year-old chain smoking grandma. She'd be sitting a row of slot machines and pumping her entire social security check in a Wheel of Fortune machine.

That's the first reminder from the unlucky fallen angel that has the troublesome assignment of steering me away from danger in order to get back in the good graces of the Almighty. I can hear her whispering into my ears the names of six of the Seven Deadly Sins. As I take my first wobbly steps onto the casino floor, temptation surrounds me everywhere. Behind every slot machine. Behind every deck of cards. Behind every rattle of the dice. Behind every "all you can eat buffet." Behind every stripper pole. Behind every seat at the Hooker Bar and underneath every kilt of the waitresses at the Tilted Kilt. Depravity, decadence, and desperation are within my grasp.

It's so easy to fall in this town. And when people fall, they fall hard. And fast. God's angels are not here to catch you. They stay the fuck out of the Las Vegas valley. Only the Mormons on a mission dare enter Sin City and most of them get hooked on Keno or crystal meth before they head back to Utah.

Just walk through the airports and look around. You'll discover that the people waiting in line to board JetBlue flight #199 to JFK are cluttered with losers. Peek into their souls. Feel what they feel. The hangovers. The indigestion. The sexual indiscretions. The losses. The bad beats. The bad luck. The foul stench of failure keeps the lights shining and the table games going and the free cocktails coming.

* * * * *

Las Vegas is a magnet for the absurd and peculiar. I don't know too many places where you can order a Mai Tai at 4am from a bartender named Sully or find a hooker to take a dump on your chest for $300. Sometimes you can find both at the same bar.

The temptation to gamble at any time makes it difficult for people with feeble minds to live among the endless temptation. And if your gambling addiction is coupled with a penchant for liquor or drugs, you're heading down a rabbit hole of misery and despair. Everyone is entitled to one vice and one fetish, especially in Sin City. Having multiple addictions hampers your decision-making ability and Las Vegas was built on those unfortunate souls and their addictions. Maintaining solid play at the tables takes a tremendous amount of concentration and discipline. But being an action junkie and a drunk or a compulsive gambler and a tweaker makes it impossible to win over the long term.

I waited for my seat at the Red Rock Casino poker room to be called when a sweaty lanky guy in his 30s walked over to me muttering something about the JonBenet Ramsey killer.

"They got the wrong person, man. That John Mark Karr guy is evil but he's copping to a hit he didn't even do. Everyone knows it's not him. Everyone knows," he spurted out in three seconds.

"Everyone knows the brother did it," I said.

"He did. And that guy they picked up is the patsy," he quickly babbled as he wiped a quart of sweat off his face.

"They are giving him three names before he's even tried like all the other serial psychos. John Mark Karr," I added.

He stopped and looked right at me with his shifty eyes. His pupils were dilated as he furiously scratched a rash underneath his unshaven face. He reeked of a slimy chemical aroma and that gave him up. I crossed paths with a tweaker roaming around in a casino ready to piss away every dollar in his pocket before he came down.

Crystal meth sits in your system for up to six or eight hours depending on the purity of the dosage and some folks are up for a week at a time. Unlike other forms of intoxication, inside of five or six hours only 50% of the drug leaves your bloodstream. That leaves hours of tweaking which is that in between phase of being jacked up and crashing.

Some addicts walk around in circles when they are tweaking. Others clean their houses. Some drive for hours on end. Some put all their money in slot machines and Las Vegas is cluttered with those tweakers. You don't see them because they don't like going near the Strip and other touristy areas like the Bellagio Fountains. They lurk in the shadows of downtown or hang out at a locals' casinos playing single deck blackjack or end up offering to trade their rifle for Grubby's TV after reading his ad on Craigslist.

Ten minutes later, the tweaker sat down at my table talking to himself. His playing was erratic as his behavior. I couldn't figure out how he scraped together $220 for the buy-in to play because the guy didn't look like he'd held a job in several months. He probably had been up for over a week without eating or showering.

Deep dark ovals encircled his eyes as he constantly scratched his ashen face. He looked like one of those zombies from The Serpent and the Rainbow and failed to keep eye contact with me when he rambled on about the JonBenet conspiracy. He couldn't sit still and kept repeating, "The brother. The brother. The brother. He did it."

Paul McGuire is a writer from New York City. Excerpts of this originally appeared on the Tao of Poker.

Root-Man and the Eleven Foot Rattler

By Craig Cunningham © 2006

As the junior reporter at the Rabun Chronicle, I was stuck with the assignments which were either useless or ignorant. Besides the hills and mountains, the cobblestoned Main Street could just as easily have been found in the Delta as here in this nothing town in the Georgia mountains.

Allow me to digress. I'd gone over to Oxford to become a lawyer, but due to various unforeseen circumstances I was unable to continue this pursuit. Having run up a sizable debt playing bridge, my studies deteriorated to the point of a letter from the Chancellor of Ole Miss directly to one of their greatest benefactors, my father, the esteemed Judge Lawrence Forrest. The means to persevere were available; alas, the will was not.

I had spent many an afternoon with my pal Walker before he headed to Chapel Hill. His uncle, Will Percy, was a local eccentric and legend whose cavernous home was a revolving door of all things my father was not. Writers, gamblers, vagabonds, philosophers, and well-to-do intellectuals came and went like a Greek gypsies. I had never been much of a reader, yet I was indeed drawn to the oddities of speech and mannerisms found there. Some of things that I happened upon there were fairly radical, like the mental capacity and educatability of niggers and such, but Walker knew I'd never let out a peep about any of this, so I was able to view their world without becoming a part of it. The scenes and sounds as these men finished off their bottles of gin and scotch and jars of shine were heretical at the least and an abomination in the extreme. Why, Nero himself would blush at some of these goings-on.

Turning to the pursuit of letters and journalism seemed to be a fair detour before I would take on the Judge's affairs. While I did not share the inferior pedigree nor their behaviour found at Will Percy’s estate, I was intrigued by the freedom these writers had. The Judge allowed me to humor myself and why not-I was well traveled, quite articulate with a superb vocabulary, and in fact gifted in my use of the English language, at least in prose. He would not support this pursuit financially, which landed me in the employ of a small regional newspaper in the northeast corner of Georgia. That is how I got here.

My normal areas of responsibility consisted of local baseball or football activities, church socials, obituaries, and debutant activity in Atlanta. Sharing the big city of Atlanta with these simple mountain folk and townsmen gave me some sense of adventure, but Atlanta was no Paris or Chicago or New York. Walker had written occasionally from New York where he was studying medicine, and I hoped to visit him in the fall.

Daniel Greely, the Chronicle's editor, left a note to head to the Hollowland to cover a story about some giant rattlesnake that had been killed. I rarely ventured outside of town and certainly never to the old slave quarters that was outside of Douglaston. It was a series of rowhouses and dilapidated shacks that had housed slaves at Buckston Place, the major plantation in the area. There were still families from that time, working the land within eyesight of the roofs their people had lived under since before the War. There was no one to complain to in the Chronicle's office, and I knew Greely still had it in for me since my scandalous mistake regarding the mistress of Ralph Sessums. His widow was none to pleased to be omitted from the obituary, Roberta Lilly’s name inserted as his wife. Was this assignment retribution for a simple error? It was the first of many slights which would come from both Greely and the townspeople.

As I neared the Hollowland, I asked a boy if he'd heard about a rattlesnake which had been found. He told me that Root-Man had killed said snake, and he offered to run ahead of me to show the way. I had heard of Root-Man Hintham on two separate occasions, his strength legendary in these parts. His occupation was a clearer, one who cleared off land for revitalization. His specialty was taking on jobs no one else would touch. He had an old mule with him, but he mainly relied on a pick, a bar, and a lumberjack axe from Oregon to clear stumps and boulders. An occasional explosion would do the trick for the toughest jobs, but by and large he used his back and his brawn.

We arrived, the boy still sprinting like a young colt on his first run through the pasture, I in the '31 Ford given to me by the Judge. The Hollows looked like an ant's nest that had been stomped on. No, it looked like a big wasp nest that had been knocked from a porch. Half-clothed children playing in puddles, women carrying baskets of clothes or flour atop their heads. A group of men sat under a massive pecan tree, smoke wafting from their pipes and cigars. The stench in the air was common yet putrid, the filth these people wallowed in turning even the strongest stomach at times. A wiry ancient nanny grabbed a chicken hanging from its feet, a quick twist of the head bringing supper one step closer.

The boy dashed toward a shack next to the chicken nanny, and I followed calmly with my journal in hand and my Beau Brownie under my arm. My photographic skills had developed over the last year, and I knew what Greely wanted in a photo. Good light, subject front and center, limited composition. I erred on the staging side, as a picture is worth a thousand words and all that. Old photos from the War were notoriously staged, corpses hauled into positions that told a better story, even if it meant a bone would be broken here or there.

A white man in the Hollows was never a welcome sight, but this was a newsman ready to capture immortality and fame. I heard the footsteps of a throng surrounding me when I saw the crowd focused on Root-Man. Though I’d never seen him, it was an easy assumption. Torn britches, twigs sticking from his hair, a sleeveless work shirt frazzled where fabric had been torn away, arms as wide as my thighs, mounds of muscle perfected through brute force. His smile was subtle as he stood over his achievement in the late sun, and I saw the unmistakable scales as the boys parted upon my arrival. It was something like I had never seen, a viper a foot wide and eleven feet from the head to the tip of that rattle. The rattle itself looked as long as my shoe, yet I was hesitant to even approach this monster.

I had film for ten shots, and the light was difficult near Root-Man's shack. I took one length shot but couldn't get the entire reptile in the frame. Root-Man was not a man of words, known to take on the worst situation with no complaint, never one to doubt his place in this world. I asked for background, how he had found and killed this beast. Stepping over the rattler, he took me back to the cabbage patch. There it had lain, basking in the midday sun between two rows of leafy heads, a safe haven. He had grabbed the pick with his massive hand, and he demonstrated the single blow through the top of the head which tore through its skull. A mess had been made from the short struggle, the writhing rattlesnake unlodging several head of cabbage. The path Root-Man had used to drag this beast to its resting spot was clear.

I quickly found a spot near a clearing, maybe a hundred yards away, which had perfect light for maybe fifteen minutes. I told Root-Man to get some help and bring the snake, but he lifted the beast himself over his shoulders and confidently brought it to the clearing. The crowd held back in amazement, and I came upon the perfect shot. I told Root-Man to hold the specimen doubled over, with head and rattle off the ground if possible. He bent down, and with both forearms underneath stood high, lifted the animal’s carcass until indeed its snout and foot-like rattle hovered over the cracked mud ground. The snake's lips kissed the rattle as they gently swung in the afternoon heat.

I peered through the eyepiece, focused on the strained sinew of Root-Man, the ebony leather of his arm dripping in sweat as he held this beast away from his body. Scale upon scale of the rattler was clear in the lens, the light pouring into the camera from these two beasts, conqueror and vanquished.

I took a breath, made a count, and clicked the shot.

Craig Cunningham is a married father of three boys living in the suburbs of Atlanta. His career often takes him throughout Asia and Europe and he's lived in New Jersey, Detroit, and Phoenix, but there remains in him remnants of the small town in Mississippi where he was raised.

The Album

By Mella © 2006

The apartment is toxic. We have only been inside for ten minutes and already I am feeling suffocated. She is in her bedroom, pulling herself along the bed, dragging her legs behind. He is on the couch, ignoring us and intently watching a movie I don't recognize with the closed-captioning on. A silent car chase and a black box spells out C r a s h.

Finally, she emerges from the bedroom, moving quicker now, with wheels beneath her. She is my mother's younger sister, not yet turned fifty.

I left the Medicare page bookmarked for you. She says to him, her husband of fifteen years, and he doesn't respond.

The hell with them, he says, turning to me and my mother and launching into a tirade about the corrupt government and how the world is out to screw him. He quotes Michael Moore and rants about the evils of the Whitehouse - reading books to children and sleeping with Bin Laden. Listening to him makes me tired. Thankfully, she is ready - jacket on, earmuffs placed crookedly over her head, gloves shoved in her pockets.

Let's go.

The cold today is relentless. She wheels through the doors and winces as the wind pinches at her cheeks, but all she says is, Remind me to take my seizure meds at three.

Taking her out is our weekly commitment, to give them each space. Trapped in that apartment, they're both bitter and biting at one another. She cries. He drinks and retreats to his bedroom. She worries, but knows better than to question him when she smells pot seeping from the crack under his door. He throws things; sometimes they bounce and bruise her legs and arms. He denies everything, but her skin turns black then purple and yellow then back to milky ivory, stretched loosely over swollen green veins.

We take her to a local diner to eat before shopping at a nearby discount store. She is nursing a plate of liver and onions with strips of shriveled bacon and a scoop of mashed potatoes. The platter is shiny and brown and watching her enjoy it makes me queasy.

Instead, I flip through a book she has handed me. It is a small plastic album filled with pictures of herself and her boys, her granddaughters and various other people of note in her life. Siblings. Parents. Nieces and nephews - each photograph labeled on the back with dates and explanations: My boys and I - 1988. My boys - 1984. Our wedding - 1991; she is young and beautiful.

I look at her now, carefully slicing through a long brown onion, still beautiful - despite a toothless smile and soft cheeks that sink in around her lips. Her eyes are the same sparkling green, but lined at the corners with delicate crows feet. I stare at her legs in her wedding picture; they're not dangling from a wheelchair, covered in a flannel blanket. In the pictures, they're strong and standing, holding up the weight of her petite body, dancing even.

At her each of her son's weddings, she managed to stand just long enough to dance their mother-son dance - gripping them tightly around their necks and balancing her small feet on theirs. She hasn't walked in years.

She explains the album to us while she chews. She keeps it on her at all times - just in case a stranger finds her dead and is searching for explanation.

Oh Kara, my mom gasps and reaches to stroke her sister's arm. But she isn't sad; she thinks she's being practical. Her doctors gave her less than five years to live – eight years ago.

I turn back to the album - my high school senior portrait is tucked neatly into a plastic slit. We share a smile. Her world was a different place when I gave her that picture. Not perfect, but not toxic either. She was in her wheelchair, her health was terrible and money was always a problem - but at least he was still a friend and partner - a husband. They even slept in the same room.

Sometimes, she says while wiping a napkin over her lips, I want to take those wedding pictures and wallpaper my bedroom with them.

Mella is a full-time grad student and over tired mama, staving off insanity by writing.


By Dr. Chako © 2006

There is a feeling I get walking into a Barnes & Noble that is indescribable, but I'll try. Smells have always triggered strong memories for me, and the smell of fresh books makes me eager with anticipation and fills me with thoughts of my youth, a youth spent curled up under the covers reading Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I remember thinking Yossarian was just about the funniest name on the planet.

The faint smell of Starbucks threatens to usurp the paper smell, but it doesn't quite make it. Even more prevalent than the smell, though, is the appearance of the store itself. You can't quite miss it walking up to the storefront. They are all the same - dark oak doors, small foyers (with shiny-covered books on both sides, to get you coming and going) and big green signs. I'm sure someone was paid a bundle to research exactly what color inspires would-be book shoppers to reach for their wallet.

It's hot here in Alaska. Fairbanks has the widest temperature swings in the world – from minus 66 to almost 100 degrees. It's at the upper register now, and I'm sweating. In the store. I walk past the Poker section (it has its own section now?) and head straight to Fiction. The store is busy tonight. This might be unusual for somewhere like San Antonio, but here in Fairbanks, it's almost 11 P.M. and there isn't much else open.

I'm walking down the first aisle and I hit the "B's" right off. Brown (Dan and Dale) on the top shelf, Bellow (ugly cover art) just to the left, and on the bottom, Bukowski. I grab the first Bukowski I see (Pulp) and start leafing through the pages. Dedicated to Bad Writing. I like it already.


Female voice. It comes from over my shoulder. It has an almost lyrical twist and it ends sharply with a nasal punch that is surely meant to be heard, but is also quite genuine. I can hear the "h" in "hmmm" just as easily as I can hear the period at the end.

I look up over my shoulder and catch a glimpse of chestnut hair and a leopard tattoo on her right arm. I give her my best one-eyebrow-up look, yet she is already moving down the aisle, perhaps embarrassed by the audible hmmm-ing. Maybe it was louder than she intended. It lasted only an instant. I try to remove it from my mind (unsuccessfully) as I move on to Confessions of a Dirty Old Man. I must remember to thank the Doctor for the recommendation. Alas, it's not what I came for tonight.

Instead, I grab my intended purchase and head for the counter, daydreaming (of the hmmm?) and reading the back cover until it's my turn in line. When I glance up, I see Leopard Lady behind the counter.

"Stephen King?" she asks. It is certainly a genuine question, but it comes out accusingly. As if I've done something wrong.

"Excuse me?" I reply, a bit defensive.

"I'm sorry. I just..." She looks down at the register.

"Wait. You just what?" I ask.

"It's just... I saw you looking at the Bukowski."

"Yes. And...?" Now my curiosity is piqued.

"Well," she replied, "I guess I had bigger hopes for you."

The young woman behind the counter suddenly comes into sharper focus. The leopard tattoo covers both arms and runs across her neck, disappearing provocatively below her tank top. A thin string necklace covers part of the tattoo and holds jade shark teeth that seem to point to her chest, where I can clearly make out the outline of nipple rings. She has large brown eyes with huge eyelashes and a crazy overbite that impedes the line of her otherwise exotic features.

After I leave the store, I will come up with several clever retorts: "Yeah. I get that a lot," or... "I was going to get the Bukowski, but I didn't want to seem pretentious."

Instead, I just smile. I realize that she is giving me the head-down, eyes-up stare. I've come to recognize this as the I'd-like-you-to-keep-talking-to-me look. It is inviting, but a bit overdone. It is clearly something she's worked on (probably to detract attention from the massive overbite), but it comes across as too needy.

Bad thoughts come unbidden.

In my warped mind, I hear her saying, "Why don't you wait for me? My shift is almost done and I can shuck some mean corn with these chompers."

"Want to see me core an apple through a knot hole?"

"Did you ever play the Rabbit and the Carrot?"

I start to giggle.

"What?" she smiles, somewhat unsure.

"Nothing," I quickly reply. "I was just thinking about a quote from one of Bukowski's books."

"The one about boring people?" she asks. "Boring damned people. All over the earth. Propagating more boring damned people. What a horror show."

Leopard Lady sure knows her Bukowski. Must be from working in a bookstore.

"Actually, it's the one about sex." I say, foolishly hoping she wouldn't get it.


There it is again, only this time, it has a distinctly different tune. Curt, almost dismissive.

"That will be $14.99 for your King," she huffs.

I pay the money and walk out, all the while suppressing my giggle and thinking of Bukowski.

"Sex is interesting, but it's not totally important. I mean it's not even as important (physically) as excretion. A man can go seventy years without a piece of ass, but he can die in a week without a bowel movement."

I walk out into the near-midnight sun and at least have the decency to wait until the car door is closed before laughing out loud.

Dr. Chako is a U.S Army physician. He can usually be found driving to work with the top down at 5 am or slinging cards at the Muckleshoot at 5 pm.

Hangover: A Bukowski Poem

By Sigge S. Amdal © 2006

My mind is shards of glass,
crushing on a surface covered by brilliantly small grains of sand, that is, thinking.
Decapitation seems like the obvious remedy.

The waiter served me half an hour too late.
The sun is taken by clouds, and cold winds make for a winter chill.

A short-haired dog with contractions on its rear part,
turns his ass to me and shits a large turd right there on the street.
This does not make me hungry.

All the women ignore cute men like me.
I am homosexual by appearance it seems,
so all I get is a pat on the back and a Friendly smile.
Just as good, my will is not what it was,
impotence due to a lack of life force,
but I cock my head and sneak a peek nonetheless.
White, transparent dresses feed my frustration.

If I had the grace,
I'd crawl into the street, lie my head face down into the dogshit, throw up and die.
God, I love the summertime.

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


By Falstaff © 2006

I can still taste the salt on your lips -
Sun-kissed blonde and sweet, sweet seventeen
Graduation week daiquiris, sand surf
summer lovin'
tell me more
tell me Mooorrrree
Wave-tossed kisses
Under the Boardwalk
As the water licks our toes
You giggle.

I can still taste the salt on your lips -
Tangled clothes bare back sticking to the car seat
Elbows, knees and nothing fitting right
Ooooh, ow, no, yes, right theeerrrreeee
Shit, car's coming
Can't see to drive
Laughing, sweating, panting
growing up fast together
on an empty dirt road
Shirt on inside out walking in the front door
and Mama waiting in the kitchen

I can still taste the salt on your lips -
Feel your hair on the back of my hand
As the wind blows off the lake
You cling to me
And a single
Runs down your face

Or mine.

Falstaff is a writer and poker player from Charlotte, NC. He can be found under a rock at Poker Stage.

Training Camp, the Cleveland Browns, and My Father

By Sean A. Donahue © 2006

Training camp opened today for my favorite team, the Cleveland Browns. Many people wonder how I, someone born and raised in New York, rooted for the Cleveland Browns. Well let me tell you the story:

The year was 1985, my dad worked for American Airlines and he was promoted to the Hopkins International Airport to be the General Manager of Cleveland. My mom, the entire family and I wanted to be anywhere but Cleveland. When we first got off the plane I smelled the smelting of the iron and metal that was my first example of a true blue collar town. This town had soul, passion and had never known what winning was. The Cleveland Indians were perennial losers and the Browns were also rans every year. As we walked to my dad's rented van for the trip to our new house all I could think thru the snow and the smell was "What the hell am I doing here?"

I didn't want to be there, I was fifteen, thought I knew it all and was routinely wrong. I was away from my friends in Hurst, I was missing my sophomore year at L.D. Bell high school and I'd always wanted to be a Blue Raider. Now looking back at it maybe it was fate that I became a Red Raider, but I digress. Back to the story I'm intending to tell. We moved from the warmth of Texas to the cold, cold air of Ohio. I resented my dad for moving us. I resented him for spending too much time at work and not enough time with us kids. I just resented my father. I had no respect and no love for him.

Fairview Park, Ohio is a small community in the outskirts of Cleveland. The entire town is no more than a few miles wide and a few miles long, but it was to be my home for the next four years. I hated everything about it, from having to ride the public transportation to school, to the inability to drive, or even get a learner's permit. I was in teenage angst and hell. I didn't know how my life could get worse.

You might be wondering, how does all of this deal with the Browns? Well I have to give you the background before I set the hook. One of my father's perks of his job were season tickets to the Cleveland Browns. I had grown up a New York Jets fan, remembering the great games against the Raiders that my mom's father and my dad would take me to see. I remember the joy I had seeing games as a child. But I was in Cleveland. Ugh, Cleveland. I hated it. I hated having to be there as well as having to deal with this "second rate team." But dad made me go. I had to keep peace in the family and that was dad's way of making up with us boys. One time my sister Tara was even taken to a game.

I remember the games like they were yesterday, 70,000 fans packed into old Cleveland Stadium. What a lousy stadium, falling apart and just pitiful. I remember the walks we would make from dad's secret parking place that always found us in and out quickly. I remember getting lucky one week and having our pastor move services back, so we could all go home in time to see the Steelers game.

But the thing I remember most is the way my dad and I saw eye to eye. We would argue on the littlest of things, but never about the Browns. We could argue about me helping my sisters or not fighting with my brothers and especially about school, but never about the Browns. There was something sacred about the team. I remember the days where we were frozen and cold yet dad always had a thermos of hot chocolate. How my dad’s eyes would glare at us to not try to take our clothes off and be like the morons two rows down with no shirts on.

"They are trained professional fans, Sean, you are just a visitor."

And so I was. I remember going to see Big Daddy Carl Hairston, Chip Banks bruising people on defense. The Wizard of Oz, Ozzie Newsome, making catch after unbelievable catch thrown by the least nimble man in the NFL, Bernie Kosar. Bernie’s scrambling is best described by Clevelander Drew Carey by saying "Bernie’s scrambling, he's at the 31, the 32..."

Behind Kosar you had the running tandem of Mack and Byner. What a team, I remember the games like they were yesterday.

As we went to each game my dad's personality rubbed off on our neighbors and we were slowly accepted.

"Hey Tom, how's Tatiana?"

"You think we can beat the Steelers again, Tommy?" said the season ticket holders around us.

My dad had the loudest bellowing voice and he would never hesitate to give Marty Schottenheimer a piece of his mind.

"What are you thinking about Marty? You're an idiot. I saw that play call from here and I'm just a fan," he'd bellow.

My brother and I would join in. It was the time that I bonded with my dad. We barely spoke back then, rather than starting a fight, silence was golden. I could never do right, or good enough. My father was a tough taskmaster and I hated him for pushing me. But he never had to push me on weeks of home games. If I did well and kept out of trouble, I was rewarded with tickets. If I didn't, my brother, sister or one of my dad's work colleagues would get the tickets. I disliked the days I screwed up, because slowly but surely I learned that if I did, I wasn't going to the game. The ride to, during and back from the game was when I bonded with my dad. I treasured every game where he explained the minutia of the option and how the run and shoot was going to ruin the game of football. And then came the game in which my allegiance changed forever.

January 3rd, 1997. My brother, my dad and I were all at snowy Cleveland Stadium for the playoff game against my first team, The New York J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS!

It had snowed and was freezing. We watched the most exciting game in the world and it looked like we had lost. I was sad beyond belief and we slowly started the long walk to the car when a giant cheer rose from the crowd. My dad had the portable radio, listening to Nev Chandler call the miracle. The Browns were going to overtime. We rushed back to the game, to our seats and watched the Browns drive in overtime and beat the New York Jets to advance to host the AFC Championship against John Elway and the Denver Broncos. My dad and I celebrated the entire way home. How we were going to see "our" team win the AFC title and go to the Super Bowl.

January 11th we watched the Browns fight one of the greatest fights ever. And then a punt put Elway and the Broncos ninety-eight yards from the end zone for the tying score. You know the rest of the story, and how the game ended in overtime. But what you didn't know was my father's reaction. "Son, that’s how you lose. You give it all you got, if you win that's good. But never give up, give it all you got"

I had become a Browns fan and a fan of my father.

We don't talk much, which is ironic, for even though my father runs a reservations call center for American Airlines still, he hates to be on the phone. A normal conversation with him is "Hi, how are you doing? Here's your mother." This year he and my mom are finally moving to a house they are renovating in preparation of his retirement. He packed up plenty of things to move from a four-bedroom, two-story house to a smaller house, but he gave me a box. Inside the box was an autographed AFC Central Division Championship Cleveland Brown Football from 1985, '86, and '87 . "Your dad wants you to have it. He knows that no one else would appreciate it more than you," my mom told me.

My dad said nothing as I gave him a hug. "Thanks Dad, I love you," I told him. "Go help your mother," was his reply. He didn't have to say a any more. I knew what he was really saying.

Sean A. Donahue is a freelance writer, radio personality and poker amateur. He is the author of Instant Tragedy a website looking a life, liberty, and the ability to have Instant Tragedy when you just add water. He is divorced with two children and lives in Lubbock Texas.