February 03, 2010

February 2010, Vol. 9, Issue 2

Welcome back to the latest issue of Truckin'.

1. Lymie Malibu by Paul McGuire
She was too whacked out to remember any lines and flubbed more and more auditions that we were both surprised when her commercial agent keeps sending her out. Kaya was the quintessential cocaine tragedy, yet somehow, she kept getting callbacks... More

2. From Beatniks to Hippies. The Early Sixties. A Memoir. by Johnny Hughes
There was a tremendous amount of hustling other folk's dates, and it would rage all night. Eddie drank this syrupy Richard's Wild Irish wine. Yuck. The linoleum floor in his kitchen looked like a crime scene from the wine stains... More

3. Fangs by Milton T. Burton
Halfway through her second glass of wine, he was there beside her, a small snifter of brandy in his hand. Startled, she blurted out the first thing that popped into her mind. "You can drink?"... More

4. Thinking Out Loud by Michael Friedman
Eventually my need to ask eternal questions led me to the conclusion that the only way to get out of purgatory was to flow with life instead of trying to isolate my many momentary lapses of reason on a regular basis... More

5. China Rider by Tenzin McGrupp
I told my nephew that his teachers and parents were lying to him and trying to turn him into a soulless zombie. He believes me. He's a good kid. He knows what's up. He knows the system is full of shit... More

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

From the Editor's Laptop:

I'm very hyper-excited about the second issue of 2010 which marks the return of Tenzin McGrupp. Remember that hack? We'll he's back with a speedy-story about a road trip out West. The Texas boys are anchoring the issue as per usual. Milton T. Burton shared a vampire story and Johnny Hughes is digging deep into the past and whipped up glimpse into his beatnik days. Michael Friedman channeled his inner dialogue for us this month. Ah, and I have a piece of L.A. fiction for you inspired by Raymond Carver and Thomas Pynchon.

The scribes write at Truckin' for free, so please do us huge favor and help spread the word about your favorite stories. Tell your legions of friends on Facebook about us. Tweet your favorite story. We all appreciate the help and your generosity will improve your karma.

If anyone is interested in being added to the mailing list or writing for a future issue, then please to contact us.

As always, I can never thank the writers enough for sharing their bloodwork, especially Milton who specifically shared a story about vampires. They all take a blind leap of faith with me and I'm eternally grateful. They inspire me and keep this little e-zine humming along month after month.

And lastly, thanks to all of the readers for their unwavering support. That's you. If you're reading this... you rock.

Be good,

"An artist's only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else's." - J.D. Salinger

From Beatniks to Hippies. The Early Sixties. A Memoir.

By Johnny Hughes © 2010

I get out of the Army in 1962 and go to this Ed Snow party, which went on every weekend for several years it seems. The "Group" at Texas Tech were a perfect blend of intellectuals, pseudo-intellectuals: drama majors, English majors, Philosophy majors, Grad students, and me, in my fifth year of proudly owning a small gambling house. Hey, I was never robbed or arrested at my own poker game and there was never a fight. I only pulled a gun three times or so. Had two robbery attempts and shot over the head of one of them. By Texas terms, I'm saying I had a peaceful place a long, long time.

Eddie was this short, black-headed guy with a wispy beard, and Beatles boots. The Group kept a table of talkers going from early morning to after sundown, or two tables, ten or twelve folks in the Student Union aka the Sub, two or three conversations sprinkled liberally with Sartre, Kerouac, Camus, et. al. Eddie Snow was crazy, but we didn't know it. He was to go on to write an article in Texas Monthly about his seven incarcerations in mental joints. Bummer. But back then, well Marlon Brandon and James Dean had this ripple effect and lots of guys mumbled to show their angst, which was the way to get some pussy. Pity and angst were selling like hot cakes because the pill was new. One young Professor was so good at that "I am depressed, screw me" angle that he made it through lots of women at the First Unitarian Church. This was this terrific time of hope and beatniks becoming hippies, and a youngish President who wasn't shot yet, and all that.

Ed has a party at his tiny garage apartment, called an alley pad, every Thursday afternoon to kick off the weekend in addition to the one, big, sanctioned "the Group" party. Everything is bring your own booze. I go in and the floor is totally covered in people. There are people everywhere outside. In the kitchen, there is a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly plus a loaf of bread. Fix your own, the only refreshments provided. Eddie stood on his couch reading the first lines of a Hemingway novel about it being 1919 and the welcoming of heroes was over. He would often read that and play scratchy old jazz records.

The big Saturday night parties moved around but it was the same 100 or so folks, and the observation of the bring your own, leave everybody else's booze alone worked very well. Folks would drink obscure brands. I bought Carling's Black Label. There was a tremendous amount of hustling other folk's dates, and it would rage all night. Eddie drank this syrupy Richard's Wild Irish wine. Yuck. The linoleum floor in his kitchen looked like a crime scene from the wine stains. Eddie had a couple of pretty neat girl friends over time.

I dressed like these gamblers twenty years older than me -- in very expensive clothes. Only with the group, I wasn't this outside guy I had always felt like. They thought me making my "sometimes small, sometimes large" living as a gambler was cool.

I had moved to a nice two bedroom house with a big kitchen for the poker game, and had a partner for awhile. When he left for the Army, I didn't have to cut up the score. It was then when I nervously hosted my first Group party of many. I gave this gal $100 and told her to get some chips and dips, ice and cups. She spent the whole thing, which I had not intended. By 8:30 or so, no one had showed. I hid a lot of that dip and stuff in cabinets and went off to get my date in Acuff,Texas. When I got back, the joint was packed.

This ol' tough guy pal of mine had happened by. Roy was an unpredictable tough guy. He had two black eyes, a black shirt with a white tie, and he looked scary. He and the main philosophy grad student, self-proclaimed intellect of all time, hit it off, and were in a conversation for hours. They ate all the chips and dip. Later, for the party, I'd get one bag of ice.

The Group rented a house together for awhile, three bucks a month or fifty cents in a beer can, but there were political squabbles about folks screwing in the afternoon so proudly. I moved into the perfect gambling joint. There was only one entry up a flight of stairs or so I thought. It was right next door to Lubbock Theatre Center. At those parties, we'd do acts. There were folk singers. Jimmie Gilmore and James Howell back when they were still in high school. Barry Corbin, Charles Benton, Michael Neimczyk and I did improv and the audience would call out characters, scenes, and take part. There were sing alongs to Dylan tunes way too often. Eddie Snow and Eric Alstrom did this comedy bit where they were in a World War II foxhole being different characters: Pops, Mississippi, Hi Pockets, Tex. Scenes from the movies we grew up with.

Eddie tried for many years to have rent parties but with not much luck. One night at his pad, I put on my brand new Beatles album, wondering what the scratchy jazz and Bob Dylan crowd would think. They were on their feet. Even the stiffest son of a bitch there was singing, and it was magical, and a change of some sort. They just loosened up as if some drunk or other.
I want to hold your hand.

Also at parties, we would set up a typewriter with a long roll of news print in the kitchen. Everyone would go in and add their thoughts.

A few short years later, I start acting in plays and the poker kind of dry's up, and I am big broke for the first time in a long time. There were no poker players and the bigger games were hurting. Some of the big road gamblers moved off. Poker drought.

I moved into Eddie's tiny apartment upstairs in this old apartment house at Main and X, across from Bob's Cafe. He made me a pallet on his floor. I had hocked the diamonds and pistols, and stored the fancy clothes at my parents, who had moved back to town. It was near my last semester after eight years as an undergraduate. The Group called tennis shoes, and sloppy clothes, "rehearsal clothes" and they sure beat those hard leather shoes. Eddie would set the alarm for seven or so, and put it on a ten minute delay, and it would go off every ten minutes until nine, when he'd turn it off for good and sleep. He'd throw his dirty socks on my pallet. As all those couch people in South Austin tonight can tell you, if you don't pay rent, shut up.

I scored some money and moved back to the pad by the theatre, and got my first job, for McGraw-Hill. They paid me. Then, without any risk of me getting broke, they paid me again. All those years I had looked down on the square John, nine to fivers took on a new look. I still never really nine to fived it.

Eddie moved into a pad at 806 Ave U., and tried to give parties for a living in 1965, and the group expanded, and hippie was in the air. The cops raided a big party the next year and ran straight to the two guys in the bathroom who had a little bit of weed. They laid felony charges on them and the three dudes renting the apartment. When the laws ran in, there were some black folks near the door, and folks were dancing, stereo blasting. The cops told the blacks, "Run, nigger." And they opened the door. I said I'd run, and I was the first one out, abandoning my young bride. I testified before the Grand Jury. I said I didn't smell any marijuana, and they asked how I knew what it smelled like. I said it smelled like burning leaves, and I'd smelt it in Mexico but I did not inhale.

Then the guy asked, "Were there people with beards at that party?"

"Yes." says I.

"How many?" he asked.

I told him I didn't know only, to be asked if I had counted the folks in sandals.

Eddie moved down to Austin awhile, and folks said he was getting too crazy. When I went down he was planning a trip to New York. He went and stayed in Barry Corbin's apartment, as Barry was doing dinner theatre down south. Eddie would have delusional times, and lucid times, and all I know of his misadventures, he told me.

Eddie was severely bipolar, and the booze washed out the horse sized pills they'd give him. He had this literary delusional system involving himself, with his father, Norman Mailer, and his grandfather, Ernest Hemingway, and Joe Namath, the football player in there some way.
Eddie kept writing Mailer letters signing them the Texas kid.

"The Texas kid is coming to town for the big shootout. Me and you. Mano a mano."

Mailer was running for Mayor of New York, and Jimmy Breslin was running for Vice Mayor, I think. They canceled a rally because of Eddie. Eddie is also stealing his food,bouncing a tennis ball off buses for exercise, and living with a too-young runaway when he decides he is John F. Kennedy and ends up in Bellevue. Right off, he meets another dude that is also convinced he is John F. Kennedy and reinforces Eddie's delusions. His brother came up, but Eddie would not go with him.

After a few mental hospital trips, and living in Harlingen, Eddie arrives back in Lubbock on the exact day we are headed out for this ill-fated rock festival in 1970, that had 600 cops from all over Texas, and 3,000 festival goers. The Hog Farm would throw out a head of lettuce every now and then to symbolize something. The wind and dirt are blowing and the staff of this underground newspaper is in the back of this truck, most high on life and psychedelics or whatever acid like. Everybody is sitting in the back of this dark, rented truck, when Eddie starts scaring the folks, doing a number saying he is fresh out of a mental hospital and that he might or might not be violent. Then he turns to this Air Force Captain's wife, and said, "You are my little dancer. Come with me." She did. She left her husband, and she and Eddie moved in together, and he finally got his degree in English.

During that time, I saw him walking though the Student Union, with no shoe on one foot and his sock rolled over his toe, and he is kicking imaginary extra points. Joe Namath. Get it?

He'd sit on the end bar stool in Fat Dawg's, almost motionless, holding a cigarette up face high in an abnormal way. He'd just sip the beer and make it last for hours. His fingers were nicotine stained and he'd burn himself. A couple of times he called me at last call to come pay his bar bill or they'd beat him up. He wouldn't speak to me I drove him home.

Eddie moved back to Harlingen, near Mexico, where he grew up and where his mother lived. He just drank out his days at local bars. I wondered if he ever told them about the Group, and when he was the hero in that bright and shining time we unwisely called youth.

Johnny Hughes is the author of Texas Poker Wisdom.


By Milton T. Burton © 2010

Liddy saw his fangs just as they retracted back up into his gums. Other than scaring the hell out of her, it was a moment of personal gratification. She'd always known that those absurdly short, blunt plastic teeth in the vampire movies couldn't possibly penetrate human skin. Liddy had been a biology major in college, and she knew how thick and tough human skin really was. But these fangs were about an inch long and narrow and needle-sharp like a rattlesnake's.

It was a short-lived victory, though. He seemed to know instantly what she'd seen, and he turned and smiled and riveted her with his eyes. "Come along and grow old with me," he said, his voice soft and silky. "The best is yet to be."

Her mouth fell open. She was talking to a vampire. Not something that happened ever day. At least not to biology majors. And certainly not in trendy bars on lower Greenville Avenue in Dallas. Except for a dark burgundy turtleneck under his suit coat, he was dressed all in black. Middle-aged and tall and slim, he had a ruddy face, and a cloud of wild silver hair that orbited around his head like a thundercloud. He noticed that her glass was empty, and motioned for the bartender to give her a refill of white wine.

"Relax," he said. "We only prey on criminals. Drug pushers and killers and the like. It's our code. Nor does everyone we feed on turn into one of us. The world would be full of us if it worked that way. No, you can only be made like me if you drink a little of my blood after I've drunk a little of yours. Then, when the next sunset comes, you will die, and a few minutes later you will rise transformed."

"Whaaa..." Liddy was speechless.

"Come," he said, holding out his hand.

She drained her glass and banged it down for another refill. "Why me?" she finally managed, her voice sounding small and tinny and little girl-like in her ears.

"I've been watching you here for months. You drop by two or three times a week after your work at the lab. And you are the most beautiful woman who ever comes in this place."

Liddy shook her head. A few people had told her she was pretty over the years, and she knew she had a cute figure, but beautiful? "No, I'm not," she whispered.

"You are to me, and no one else matters. So come with me, and we will fly the night together. The smells! The textures! The colors! You must see them to believe." He reached out and put his hand on her arm. "Be mine," he said.

Liddy dropped her glass and bolted from the room. As she went out the door she heard his laughing voice say above the din, "I'll get your check for you, Liddy, Dear.”

She never went back to that bar, and it was over a month before she stopped by for a drink anywhere after work. When she did, she picked a tavern several blocks away that was popular with the early-thirties crowd like herself. Suddenly, halfway through her second glass of wine, he was there beside her, a small snifter of brandy in his hand. Startled, she blurted out the first thing that popped into her mind. "You can drink?"

"It would be a poor life without a glass of brandy from time to time."

"Are you going to bite me?"

"Not yet."

"Why me?" she asked.

"I've fallen in love with you.”


He nodded, his face calm and thoughtful. “You see, I'm very particular. I haven't had a companion in almost a century."

Exit time for Liddy! As she went through the door she once again heard his dark laughter ringing in her ears.

The next morning she took stock of the situation. Something had to be done. Raised Catholic, she hadn't been to church in ten years. She decided to go now. She went to confession first, and when she finished she was actually a bit ashamed of the paltry little collection of sins she'd been able to accumulate over the past decade. The priest hadn't seemed particularly impressed, either. After the midday Mass, she went behind the church to the little arcade run by the Sisters of Mercy and bought a pewter crucifix that was about three inches long. Still, when she slipped the thing in her pocket, she thought If this is living, why not try something different?

Weeks went by without her seeing him. Then one night when was beginning to think the whole thing was her imagination, he appeared once more at her elbow as she reached for her wine. “Please,” she said softly.

“You're terribly lonely, aren't you?” he asked.

For some reason she didn't understand, she told the truth with a nod and a whispered, “Yes.”

“There's no need to be. And you are drawn to the idea, aren't you?”

A little rebellion mounted within her. “And so what if I am? Haven't you ever been a attracted to something but known you didn't really want it?”

“But you do want it.”

She felt herself about to say, Yes, I do. Then she dropped her glass and fled once again.

She quit going to bars and didn't see him again for two months. Then one night after working three hours overtime, he was there beside her in the darkness as soon as she stepped from her car in front of her apartment.

"It's time, Liddy," he said.

"No! I'm not going with you!" She scrabbled around in her pocket for a moment, then held up her crucifix.

He looked at her almost sadly.

"Back!" she commanded and stepped boldly forward, holding the little cross out in front of her. "Back!"

He took a step toward her and gently took the little crucifix from her hand and examined it for a moment. Then he slipped it into his pocket and said, "Very nice workmanship. I'll keep it safe for you."

She looked into his eyes for a moment, then in a swoon that mixed terror with lust and longing, she melted into him. He swept her up off her feet and into his arms and smiled down at her.

"Why didn't it work?" she asked in a breathless voice.

"The crucifix, you mean?"


"We don't set much store by crucifixes."

"Who do you mean by 'we'? Vampires?"

He shook his head with an ironic smile and said, "No, Baptists."

Milton T. Burton was born and raised in East Texas. He has been variously, a college history teacher, a political consultant, and a cattleman. He has published two crime novels with St. Martin's Press, NY titled "The Rogues' Game" and "The Sweet and The Dead." His third book, "Nights of The Red Moon" is due to be released by St. Martin's in the fall of 2010.

Thinking Out Loud

By Michael Friedman © 2010

I'm not sure which is scarier, trying to make a change or being afraid of the possible outcome of those actions.

I realize now that the mind is a terrible thing to waste after having accepted that I spent way to much time hiding in the shadows of my subconscious on a daily basis in the past.

Once paralyzed by morphing realities, I previously tried to navigate my way through my waking dreams only to find that I've been standing still the whole time. I am now aware of my past misconceptions.

Wise sages suggest that purgatory occurs when a person living on Earth knows the things they must do to bring an end to their suffering, but despite having this knowledge, they refuse to change and often experiencing the torment that troubles many who can't find peace in this life as a result of their refusal to take the necessary steps towards personal redemption.

I was once one of those people who desperately tried to control the outcome of my realities so that I could find a moment of peace here and there. It never worked and it brought me to my knees on a number of occasions.

Eventually my need to ask eternal questions led me to the conclusion that the only way to get out of purgatory was to flow with life instead of trying to isolate my many momentary lapses of reason on a regular basis.

Upon the realization of this concept, my attachments to my fears and self-induced anxiety began to dissolve piece by bloody piece, and my universe began to expand dramatically now that I could finally see the horizon line.

The reality that the sun would shine whether I was here or not was possibly the most freeing realization one can ever experience.

Becoming aware of one's insignificance and accepting that this is reality is one we choose to construct is humbling at first, but then it sets fire to your heart like a lightning strike that shocks the soul into action.

For people like me, it is impossible to deny the self-acknowledged truth that we find when we finally decide to pay attention to the small print of life.

I keep telling myself to abide by the philosophy of Caveat Emptor because you only get one chance on this thrill ride. I now know that it is not whether you win or lose but whether you enjoyed playing the game along the way that is key to finding nirvana in this life.

Once you realize that the world is what you make of it and you come to accept that you manifest your experience through your words, thoughts, and actions, you can find ways to take control and take a leap of faith that will let you enjoy the ride before the music stops.

At the end of the day, the only person who has to be comfortable with you is you. Accepting this philosophy and finding a way to act upon your awareness that we are the creators of our destiny offers inquisitive souls like us the forbidden fruit that the rest of the world hungers for.

I find it is strangely ironic that we all have the ingredients for salvation inside of us, yet it seemingly takes forever to taste this universal concoction's luscious nectar. For many like me, once they've drunk in the succulent joy juice of the universe, it becomes easier to achieve that state of mind on a regular basis through vigilant practice. I call it bliss on tap.

Although I am still a learning Jedi master, I find solace and comfort with every life-altering step forward that I take. I gain more and more control each time I master my emotions.

Like the girl said in the movie, "Run Forrest, run."

Life is like a box of chocolates stuffed with crack so be ready to roll with the highs and the lows. If you can keep from overdosing on your ego, the world is your proverbial oyster and you will find that you have achieved heaven on Earth.

At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

Michael Friedman is a writer from Las Vegas, NV.

China Rider

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2010

"We're gonna drive all night," I said.

The first thing we needed to do was gas up. Most gas stations sell maps, both locally and regionally. We had nothing. No GPS. Not even a clue how to get out West. But I figured we'd start out with what was in front of us.

I found two maps. The first was a western Pennsylvania map that included a bit of West Virginia. The other map was a Mid-Eastern United States map that covered Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. I bought the second map. Those states was not our target destination but it helped to know what was along the way. I rarely worked outside of the West Coast. Plenty of NoCal to SoCal runs, at least two or three times a week. Sometimes I made runs over to Reno or down to Santa Fe, and occasionally a run to Las Vegas.

We didn't have much in the way of provisions, like sandwiches and beer. Since we were going to be driving all night, it seemed stupid to drink and drive. Not that either of us are adverse to such behavior. But we were technically working and on a tight schedule. We'd have to drive from Pittsburgh all the way to Denver without stopping unless it's for gas or to take a shit. We had a piss jar that would be used when the time came. The optimal plan would be to schedule shit breaks and/or meals during gas stops. Since I didn't have to shit, I stocked up on apple juice, cigarettes, and a bag of M & Ms. I usually roll my own cigarettes, but since I chain smoke when I drive, I knew it would be a pain in the ass to roll my own while driving. Shit, Earl had problems pulling his dick out of his underwear to piss, let alone try to roll me a cigarette in a moving car. Besides, the way we planned it out, we'd drive two or three hour shifts. The other person would take a nap then and we'd change back and forth until we got to Denver.

Earl and I just dropped off a couple of duffel bags in Philadelphia. We didn't ask what was in the bags. I had to assume it was powder. Heroin. Maybe cocaine. Meth perhaps. I didn't ask. That's why I always got hired. I never asked questions and never missed the deadline. We did the Chicago to Philly run for one of Uncle Louie's people that he knew from his time in the joint. For that favor, we got paid $2,000 and a suite in Atlantic City. We blew all the money in one night and got stuck in AC trying to figure out how the hell we were going to get back to California. That's when Earl called up Uncle Louie and asked him if he needed any drivers. Just so happened that one of Uncle Louie's clients needed safe delivery of a package from South Jersey to Pittsburgh. Earl didn't ask about the contents of the suitcase. I didn't want to know either, especially after I took one look at those serious-looking goombas. Cold-blooded killing motherfuckers. We kept our mouths shut and got the hell out of there. All I cared about is that it paid us $500, or enough gas money to get us to Colorado because Uncle Louie had something for us to transport from Denver to San Francisco. Once we finally made it safely home to San Francisco, we'd be flush with a taste of the product and a fat bonus for a prompt delivery. But all of that hinged on if we could get to Denver is less than 24 hours. Otherwise, someone else would get the run and we'd miss out on an easy payday.

I didn't trust Earl. It's not his fault. His ex-wife screwed him up pretty good and he'd often lose concentration. He'd let his mind wander about what his ex was doing at that precise moment. Sex. Drugs. Watching TV. Whatever. He'd always get depressed and fall into a funk. Sometimes it would him take hours to snap out of it. On the drive from Chicago to Philly, he got all twisted up and abruptly pulled over and call her. I had to do the rest of the drive by myself while he constantly texted her. I told the fuckin' moron that the cops can trace us whenever we called known acquaintances. He knew Uncle Louie's rules -- no calls from cellphones -- and he was breaking them. Earl promised that he wouldn't pull any of that bullshit, as long as I didn't rat him out. But I didn't trust him. This bitch put one helluva hex on Earl and he was strong enough to fight it off. If possible, I was going to ditch him in Denver and finish the run out West by myself.

I figure that I'd let Earl take the first shift. Three hours to Toledo as long as there wasn't any construction. The interstates were the fastest way to get where we were going. We were in a rush but didn't want to do anything stupid like get stopped for speeding. As far as I knew, Earl had a clean license. That's why he was a driver. Never arrested. Which shocked me because Earl was such a fuck up with the ladies. He was a decorated vet, so I was told. First Gulf War. Something like that. He killed a few of Saddam's Republican Guard with his bare hands, yet he can't handle his chick problems. All I know is that as long as he focused on the road in front of him, then we were fine. Once those thoughts of the ex seeped into his brain... then we were fucked.

We weren't riding dirty. I made Earl get rid of the few roaches in the ash tray. I told him to hold whatever he was carrying. Sometimes drivers used meth or coke to stay awake. He told me he was out of weed and only had a couple of poppers. Aside from that, the car was clean.

We left Pittsburgh before 9pm and rolled past Toledo around midnight. We found one of those combination rest stops/fast food joints on I-80. We grabbed burgers and fries and switched drivers. My goal was to at least drive to Gary, Indiana before we switched again. About an hour outside of Toledo, I got sick of the cold fries and tossed them out the window. Earl protested and said he would have ate them, no matter how cold. I told him tough shit and to do a better job with the radio. We were in no man's land and it was tough to find a decent classic rock station that came in clear.

I ate two Ritalins to stave off any tiredness. I only ate those pills when I drove. My sister's kid had a problem with paying attention in school. I told her that he was normal because that's what kids do -- they have short attention spans and would rather run around outside instead of sitting inside and listening to some dipshit teacher recite the alphabet to a classroom full of illegal aliens and retards. No wonder he's bored to death. I told my nephew that his teachers and parents were lying to him and trying to turn him into a soulless zombie. He believes me. He's a good kid. He knows what's up. He knows the system is full of shit. He was on to them way before we had that important chat. He agreed to pretend to take the Ritalin every day and stash the pills for me. In return, I would buy him video games. I needed the Ritalin to keep me awake when I drove and he needed to have an adolescence that was chemical-free and not become a lifelong slave to pill manufactured by evil pharmaceutical companies.

I made it to Gary in record time. The armpit of Indiana. I drafted behind an SUV the entire way and didn't see any cops. We only stopped to gas up and piss. Earl said that he could drive, but I was feeling good and wanted to keep driving while it was still dark. I figure I'd let him deal with the morning rush once we cleared Illinois.

After arguing for a half hour about the fundamental difference between country and western music, we sat in silence for most of Illinois. It was dark. I couldn't see the endless plains which was the bonus of driving through boring and flat part of the state in the middle of the night. We weren't missing anything. I sort of wished that I had satellite radio, but then I remember what Uncle Louie told us about the DEA being able to trace you through your receivers. Under no circumstances did he want you to drive with a GPS, satellite radio, or even a cell phone. He wanted you to go old school and only use payphones to make calls. He let me use a burner phone. I usually brought three with me. One for the way. One for way back. And one for an emergency. That's what the mob guys in New York do. Al Qaeda too. I bought the burners for cash in Chinatown. Most of the time I used it once then tossed it. That was the best way to prevent that you weren't being traced. It was pricey, but a small price to pay in order to be safe.

I couldn't believe the time we were making. We passed Davenport by sunrise and cruised into Iowa. We stopped to switch drivers at McDonalds. Earl ran inside for Egg McMuffins. He ate all three within the first fifteen miles of his shift. He must have been hungry. Me? The Ritalin killed my appetite. I drank apple juice and smoked cigarettes. That was it. We breezed through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and now Iowa making excellent time. We had to be in Denver by 9pm local time, but still had 800 plus miles to go. If my math was right, we could probably do that in 13 hours if we continued to drive straight through. That gave us a two hour cushion to factor in traffic and stops for gas and food, oh and just in case Earl had one of those ex-wife freakouts.

Earl boasted that he could get all the way cross Iowa without stopping. We had enough gas and I bet him $100 that he couldn't do it. He was up for the challenge and was going strong until we got halfway between Des Moines and Omaha and got caught up in a slow down due to a wreck. He had to shit. Badly. I had used the piss jar twice and emptied it out both times, but we didn't have anything for Earl to shit in. I told him that's what he gets for eating three Egg McMuffins. He was determined to win the bet and didn't stop once traffic picked up again. Earl held his urge to shit for almost another hour. We were 23 miles east of Council Bluffs when Earl finally gave up and pulled over to the side of the road. He didn't even bother pulling into a gas station. He dropped his pants and shit his brains out for five minutes. Luckily we had plenty of napkins from McDonalds so he had something to wipe his ass with. Once he finished his bowel movement, he told me that it was my turn to drive.

We had about 550 miles to go. That would take us about eight hours. It wasn't even noon and we picked up an extra hour with the time zone change once we passed into Mountain Time. We were still ahead of schedule. I drove for four hours before we had to stop and gas up in North Platte in the middle of nowhere special Nebraska. We switched drivers and I considered stopping at the Denny's to eat cherry pie, but I knew we still had four more hours of driving ahead of us.

Once we crossed the Colorado border, Earl said, "Awwww shit!"

I knew that he saw lights. Red. Blue. Red. Blue. He slowed down.

"I wasn't speeding... much. Awwwww. Shit!"

A state trooper blew by us and pulled over a speeding Mercedes instead. That was our only close call. By that point, the Ritalin wasn't working anymore. The scare sobered me up. I convinced Earl to drive the rest of the way. I took a nap and wanted to make sure he was dead tired by the time we got to Denver.

We reached the city limits a couple of hours ahead of schedule and celebrated with steaks and beer. I knew a diner on Colfax that served cheap steak and eggs. We chowed down and waited to meet up with one of Uncle Louie's people. They would call us and we'd have to drive to the pick up spot. In the meantime, we had to sit... and wait. Ninety minutes passed. Earl spent most of the time calling his ex on a pay phone in the diner. I knew I couldn't trust him.

I finally got the call. We were supposed to pick up a batch of LSD from one of Gaya's people, but I lied to Earl and told him that Uncle Louie was sending us to meet up with the German. Earl hated the German even though he knew that Uncle Louie and the German were old friends from the Brotherhood days. The German used to be a Nazi scientist, at least that's the rumor that Earl told me. Earl was half-Jewish and hated Nazis for a good reason. However, the German was too young to be a Nazi. What I did know, was that the German was a renown chemist and one of Uncle Louie's trusted cooks. I told Earl that the German whipped up a fresh batch of crank for Uncle Louie, so we had to buy the German two bottles of Jagermeister as a nice gesture. Sort of a thank you gift. Earl grumbled. I told him if he went inside the liquor store, then I'd deal with the German. He agreed.

I stopped at a liquor store and handed Earl the money. I sent him inside for the Jager and waited ninety seconds before I drove off. I had a good five to ten minute head start before Earl figured out what happened. I knew that Uncle Louie would understand why I ditched Earl. The delivery of Gaya's liquid sunshine was far more important than getting busted due to Earl's stupidity and compulsion to stalk his ex-wife.

The pick up from Gaya's people was quick and seamless. When I got back on the highway, I popped two Ritalin. I had almost 1,300 miles to drive to get to San Francisco from Colorado. That would take me 20 hours if I didn't stop.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer originally from New York City.

Lymie Malibu

By Paul McGuire © 2010

I slammed the iPhone so hard on the counter that I thought it shattered into a thousand different pieces. I closed my eyes for a second before I glanced at the phone. No cracks. Still in one piece. Those Apple geeks are wizards at space age technology.

It really didn't matter if the iPhone broke. I was about to ditch the hipster-gizmo out of sheer paranoia. My cousin Jake from Idaho sent me a YouTube video from one of those crazy conspiracy talk radio shows where they said that Big Brother can track you (and more importantly... local law enforcement entities) through your mobile devices. It's futile to turn off the phone because you also remove the battery to avoid detection. But the most troubling part is that iPhones don't have batteries to remove. It's all one piece of equipment, which means that Big Brother can and will always track you.

I walked into our kitchen and inspected the sparse supplies. Clif Bars and Diet Coke. Bulk items. Hundreds of cans of Diet Coke were stacked in the pantry along with boxes of various Clif Bars. Kaya and I pretty much lived off of those two items as main staples. Heck, five years ago, it would have just been diet coke and pills. Or, Diet coke and coke... and I don't mean the soda. Cocaine.

I'm a wiser addict now and I know that's important to have some sort of energy bar handy because we lose so much track of time during binges that we go days in between meals. The diet coke soothes the stomach. Some days I'm, shitting my brains out (due to the baby laxatives that Igor cuts the blow with) and other days I'm a constipated wreck.

No one had seen Igor in days. I bought about 85% of my product off of him, mainly because he delivered and we didn't have to leave Kaya's mother's house in the Hollywood Hills, just off of Laurel Canyon. Kaya's mother used to be married to one of the Beach Boys. She was the trophy wife... the second or third, possibly even a fourth wife... and secured a house in the Hills as part of the divorce proceedings. The gold digger had since shacked up with a real estate mogul in Maui which meant that Kaya and I had a free place to stay as long as her mother's new relationship held up.

Neither of us worked. In the traditional sense, I should say. Kaya was supposedly going on auditions, but most of the time, she was too whacked out to remember any lines and flubbed more and more auditions that we were both surprised that her commercial agent kept sending her out. Kaya was the quintessential cocaine tragedy, yet somehow, she kept getting callbacks. I told her she needed to book a commercial fast because I was sick of paying for her increasingly expensive habit.

I made my cash the good old fashioned way -- drug dealing to rich college kids at UCLA and USC. That's where my supplier Igor came in. The Russian and I knew each other for over a decade when we both lived in Brooklyn. Back then, Igor hustled stolen goods like TVs and VCRs and car stereos. His cousins were higher-up in the mob who trafficked a significant amount of weight to upstate New York and Virginia. Igor was a part-time runner in a lucrative heroin ring until one of his cousins got pinched. He disappeared. Shit everyone disappeared. I thought he was dead but it turns out he fled to Los Angeles.

Igor and I reconnected after we literally ran into each other at a gas station near Glendale. He gave me his business card. Vronsky Electronics. He and his uncle opened up a store near Pasadena, but that was just a front. They were supposedly importing fugazi electronics from China and Malaysia but they were actually laundering money for the Mexican cartels.

Igor dealt cocaine and his business was flourishing. He moved into a swanky apartment in a high rise in Hollywood. For Christmas, he bought Kaya and I iPhones and insisted that they were not fakes. But the more videos that I watched on YouTube, the more paranoid that I got. What if the phones were being used to track us... but not from Big Brother or the DEA, but what if the Russian mob were tracking us?

Igor was AWOL and out of town. And, I was out of blow. I had a couple of clients from USC who were pestering me all week. Coke fiends can be annoying, especially stuck up douchebags but I understood their predicament... it was just two days away from their fraternity's biggest blowout of the year and they needed the product I promised them in order to get laid. Lots of it. The richie rich frat boys paid top dollar without even blinking twice. After all it's not their money... it's their daddy's money. Those clueless meatheads snorted so much shitty blow that they wouldn't know what to do with pure and uncut Peruvian gold.

No Igor. Which meant I was on the verge of losing a high volume client and my main connection to USC. Plus Kaya was in a particular pissy mood since we were out of our own stash. She resorted to chain smoking American Spirits and popping Valium to ride out shakes as she sat on the couch and watched Twilight on a loop only occasionally snapping out of her foggy haze to ask, "Where the fuck is Igor? Can we please call Roger?"

I had to call the Lymie. We called him Roger (after James Bond aka Roger Moore) even though that wasn't his real name. I think it was Ralph or Alfred or some sort of name with an A and L right next to each other. Roger the Lymie was our back up coke dealer. Well, he wasn't really a dealer. He was just a huge cokehead who we knew always had blow. He would sell me a bit of his personal stash, which wasn't cheap. I would be making about 75% less on this deal, but since I was on the verge of losing the frat boys as a client... I had no choice.

Roger was one of the few British people I had met who had impeccable teeth. He played in punk bands in the UK circa the early 1980s, but his mates were nothing more than Sex Pistols clones, except they were actually better musicians but lacked the drunken edge of Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, et al.

Roger made his living in LA as a sound engineer. He built a studio in his Malibu home and random bands would spend weeks, even months, at his Malibu home mixing together their album in his basement. Roger's digs became a party house and drug den with rockers crashed out in his living room and random coke sluts roaming around naked snorting all of his cocaine, popping all his pills, and blowing random members of the band.

Roger was incoherent when we spoke on the phone. He was crying and mumbling something about breaking up with his wife, which was peculiar because I never knew he was married. He threatened to have her killed and she stormed out while supposedly to call the cops. He abruptly hung up. I tried calling him back, but the fucking Lymie would not answer his phone. I didn't want to walk into a domestic violence call, but had no choice but to gamble and drive to his house in Malibu.

Traffic was light at 3am and I drove with extra vigilance after I noticed two cop cars who pulled over speeders on PCH. I usually get lost on the way to Roger's but that night I found it easily. Maybe because I was the most sober I had been in days, maybe even weeks, yet I was able to kick a splitting migraine. I knocked on the door and all I could think about was eating Excedrin.

A young woman answered the door wearing a jean skirt. Barely 17, maybe 18 at the oldest. She didn't even say a word. I got a good look at her boobs and tattoos as she walked away. I stepped inside and shut the door. Loud music echoed from upstairs. I walked towards the kitchen where Roger usually held court. He was slumped in a chair with a near-empty bottle of gin next to a couple of empty In-N-Out Burger soda cups.

"Fancy a pull?" said Roger as he handed me the bottle.

I was in rush and had no time to deal with heart-broken drunkards. I pulled out a wad of cash. Roger sighed and stood up. I followed him downstairs to his studio. He opened up a suitcase and pulled out a large baggie and squeezed it for ten seconds before he handed it to me.

"$1,700," Roger said.

Huh? I was getting at least $2,000, maybe even more. I was ready to haggle him down to $2,000 when he low balled me.

"Is it bunk or something?"

"Better than that diarrhea-inducing shite the bloody Russian sells you."

"I'm not complaining, but why so cheap?"

"You have to give someone a ride for me."

"I can't I gotta get back to Kaya."

"Piss off, mate! You're going to do it or else."

"Else what?"

"You leave here with nothing."

"Awww fuck Roger, why do you gotta do that?"

"Because I can and she's a crazy fucking high school chick that won't fucking leave. I can't have her parents sending the cops up here looking for her. God knows how many STDs she contracted after gangbanging the band and how many statutory rape charges they'll slap me with. Bad enough with the ex-wife fleeing in hysterics. I can't have another head case lingering around the house. You have to drive her home."

"Where is it?"


"Fuck me. I'm not driving from Malibu to the friggin' OC. What if I pay for a cab?"

"There's a novel idea," Roger said.

"Jesus Roger, are you that drunk that you didn't think you could call a cab?"

"Sometimes I forget things with..."

I pulled out my iPhone and began to look up the number of a cab company. Roger pointed a gun at my chest. "What the fuck is that, mate?"

"Ummmm..... my phone."

"Get that fuckin' thing out of my house. Right. Fucking. Now."

Roger shook the gun.

"Not a fan of the iPhone?" I joked trying to diffuse the situation.

"Not a fan of being tracked by the fuckin' coppers. Give it to me. Right now."

"You're fuckin' drunk and paranoid..."

Roger aimed at the ceiling and squeezed the trigger. The loud shot made my ears ring.

"Give me. Now. The fuckin' phone!"

Roger snatched it out of my hand and rushed out of the studio. He found the closest bathroom and tried to flush my iPhone down the toilet. It was too big to go down the drain and he pulled the dripping wet inoperable black slab out of the toilet and walked outside. He proceeded to jump up and down on the phone in his driveway until we both heard it crack. He pointed the gun at my nuts.

"I have a magnificent habit of going a little crazy sometimes. The next time you show up to my home with an iPhone, I will have you killed. Do you understand? That's how they track you. No more bloody iPhones!"

And I thought I was paranoid.

Paul McGuire is the author of Lost Vegas.