Operation Tricky Dicky, Part III

The car returned to a constrained quiet that only tales of administrative abuses of power can bring forth. I was simultaneously intrigued & terrified of the man sitting in my passenger seat. He looked and sounded like a half-mad cross between a hyena and a hermit, a thing best left alone as long as possible to do whatever the hell it wants.

Yet I felt for him. Here’s someone who was bent over and fucked sideways by the powers that be, lost everything and everyone that was important to him, and just seemed happy someone else was listening-I’m probably the first person that’s noticed him and didn’t recoil in disgust in ages.

We drove and drove, with him pointing out the directions and chain smoking my cigarettes and wordlessly gazing out the window. “Man, it’s been a long time since I’ve been out this way,” he said suddenly as we passed a mall. “What the fuck is a Forever 21 and why would anyone want to stay that age?” I could only laugh.

Finally we arrived in a rather upscale neighborhood. Houses bigger than every residence I had ever lived in combined, animated green manicured lawns decorated with miniature marble statues, and brand new sports cars ostentatiously displayed in every driveway. I felt very selfconcious with my beatup old Ford Taurus with several easily noticeable dents on the doors and bumper and a Geico caveman for a passenger. We could not have looked anymore out of place.

“STOP THE CAR!”

I stomped on the brakes and he jumped out and raced up a driveway and into an open garage. He rummaged around for a few seconds and ran back into the car holding a shovel, which he tossed into the backseat. “Ok now, drive up a few more houses and park by the curb.” I did.

“I’ll just be a few minutes.” He grabbed the shovel and got out of the car again. I couldn’t help but notice his body left a sooty outline on the cloth seat. He walked up to another house, through the neatly trimmed lawn, with the shovel flung over his shoulder.

I watched as he walked from window to window peering inside with a hand above his brow. I thought about driving away. I kept having horrible visions of him breaking inside and committing unspeakable acts with that shovel. Or a police car driving up to this hard to explain situation, called by a concerned octogenarian neighbor witnessing this from their window- or whomever he stole the shovel from.

He worked his way behind the house and out of my view. The outcome was uncertain and my vibes were beginning to shift unfavorably. This man didn’t seem the violent type, per se. Just someone fed up with nothing left to lose, but that in itself can be a pretty hairy way of thinking. A person like that can be a ticking bomb just waiting to go off at any moment, consequences be damned. It really just depends on what they devote their time & energy to.

10 minutes had gone by. I lit the last cigarette in my pack when he appeared again at the corner of the house. I could barely make him out past the oak tree and chokeberry bushes in the lawn but he seemed to be brushing himself off and peering into another window.

Come on man. I pleaded under my breath, silently willing him to get his ass back over here. I looked around quickly and didn’t see anyone else on the street but I saw a curtain move in the upper level of the neighboring house he just did godknowswhat to. Someone saw us and was getting suspicious and it would only be a matter of time before the police would be here. Or it was an air conditioning vent blowing upwards on the curtain. Either way, it was time to go.

I revved my engine a few times. He must have gotten the hint and hastily walked back to the car. A fresh layer of brown dirt was caked on his shoes and up his pants leg. The shovel was gone, replaced with a dusty black suitcase.

“What was that about? You didn’t just murder someone and bury them in the backyard, did you?” I asked as he climbed back in his seat.

“No way, hombre”, He laughed my question off as he put his seat belt on and rested the briefcase between his legs. “That’s my old place… Whoever owns that place now has terrible taste.”

 

Operation Tricky Dicky, Part II

3 double cheeseburgers, 2 large fries, and a sweet tea. A meal that far exceeded the mere $3 I gave him so I let him keep the bills and paid for it all with my debit card. Heading eastbound on High Street, the only sounds in the car was a local NPR story about some kind of Ohio State University Marching Band controversy and the man’s noisy chewing as he scarfed down the cheap fast food like a dragon sucking the bones of a charred Medieval knight. Never before have I seen someone eat McDonald’s with such gusto.

We drove past the Short North and the OSU district. The sidewalks swarmed with a random assortment of bodies. Carefree students wearing croptops and flipflops laughing and enjoying their summer break, students in oversized sweatpants holding large coffee cups freaking out about upcoming finals, and other rambling souls with their minds whoknowswhere thinking about whoknowswhat.

“So man, what’s your story?” I asked, trying to break the silence.
A police car in front of us switched on its lights & siren to blow through a red light only to turn them off again once they were farther down the street.

“Fucking cops,” he snorted out between sloppy bites and handfuls of salty french fries. “I used to be a cop. It was my first real job after I got outta high school. Those were dark times.”

“How so?” I asked.

“I had no purpose after I graduated. I hated everyone and everything seemed stupid to me. Years were passing me by in a blink of eye and I had do something. So I became a cop. To help people, if you can believe that.” He chuckled drearily and wiped a glob of ketchup off his upper lip. “Did that for about 10 years. I was ready to go halfway through year 3 but after seeing the things I had seen, it was hard to imagine doing anything else. I was good, too. Damn good. I started off as a lowly traffic cop. I was making my quotas and doing everything right. Started rising in the ranks…. Ol’ Kenny even nominated me in the bid for police commissioner until-”

“Wait, Ol’ Kenny? Who’s that?”

“Oh. Ken Prochazka. The old turkeynecked conservative bastard who was the mayor before Obama-Lite.”

“You mean Michael Coleman?”

“Yeah, him. Anyway, so I was next in line in the commissioner running but I didn’t want that gig. I was so sick of that kind of work and being the chief would only increase the workload tenfold. I told Kenny I was grateful but turned it down. Know what he did? He offered me a Head Security position in his office building. Now that, my friend, was a sweet gig. Got paid way more than I was probably worth, considering the amount of actual work I did. I met a fine honey, married her, had a few kids. It took a long time but I made something of myself.”

“Alright, so, how did you go from all that to homeless on the street?”

He burped loudly and shoved the greasy sandwich wrappers into the bag, and pulled out another cigarette from my pack.

“Outside of being the most physically and mentally draining job imaginable, the biggest reason I hated working in the police force was the corruption. I watched far too many innocent men get locked away and kids getting their entire futures ruined because of one bad decision to ever sleep soundly at night. I needed to get away from it. And I was naive enough to believe that I could.”

He sighed heavily and took another long puff. I turned off the radio.

“You look young, so you probably don’t even remember the whole ’99 Broadgate Scandal?”
I shook my head.

“Long story short, Kenny was a paranoid ol’ geezer. On my first day I looked at the roster and couldn’t believe how many guards he had on staff. You would think we were secret service, not security for a fucking mayor. As the years went on, his public image started to suffer after a string of questionable policies and decisions and his approval ratings started to drop, which only made his paranoia even worse. A sizable portion of the cities budget starting going towards modifications to his office building. You wouldn’t believe the amount of cameras he had set up, not only inside the building and along the perimeter, but hidden cameras that covered a huge radius. If you so much as dropped a penny on the sidewalk 5 miles away, there was a camera stationed somewhere that recorded it. But that was just the beginning.

“I was working late one night and went up to his office to escort him to his car, which was already in a secured parking lot. The door was cracked and I walked up to knock and I heard him talking with several other voices. From what I had overheard, for years Ol’ Kenny had been trying to pass a law of some kind granting him permission to tap phones, bug neighborhoods and homes, situate even MORE cameras around the city, the whole works. A real Big Brother type of deal. All for “surveillance and security purposes”. Yeah right. Unsuccessful in his efforts, he decided to go a different way. I don’t know who those other guys were but they were going to make it happen.
Oh, turn left at the light up ahead.”

“Holy shit” is all I could think to say.
“Holy shit is right. The next morning I went to his office to confront him. It went about as well you could imagine. I was fired. Heartbroken, I called every newspaper in the city and anonymously leaked the story. It was a media shit storm.  Kenny knew it was me who spilled the beans. I was finished. Former colleagues in law enforcement kept there distance from me. I even went back home one night after a long day of job searching and my wife and children were gone. Don’t know where they went or what happened to ‘em.  No friends, no family, and no money. Years later, here I am.”

“Wow.” I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. “So, did Ken actually go through with his Big Brother plan? And where does August 8th and wherever we’re going right now fit in to all of this?”

“You ask a lot of questions. I like that,” he said, giving me a reserved smile. A car honked repeatedly behind us. “By the way, you should probably go ahead and turn now. The light’s been green for a while.”

Operation Tricky Dicky

It was the Third Hour into a Nine & A Half hour shift on the Second Day of a Six Day work week when I threw up my hands in the air and said, “Fuck it”.

My shift started at 8am and I had gotten just under 2 hours of sleep, courtesy of a jittery imagination and rampant insomnia. The 3 alarms I had set on my phone didn’t do the trick, rolling out of bed at 7:35 awakened by a garbage truck roaring by my window. I frantically kicked off my bed sheets, threw on some clothes that were lying on the floor and rushed out to my car, speeding past lollygaggers, grinding my teeth, and narrowly making the few second transition from yellow-to-red light a number of times, making it to the clock-in terminal at 7:59am. My halfempty pack of cigarettes left behind on my dresser. Caffeine and nicotine levels critically low. Red Alert.

A customer was berating me about something that was out of my control. I was standing at the register, staring deadeyed back at his angry beet red face. Expletives were flying out of his mouth at an alarming rate and then it dawned on me.

I didn’t care. Everyday the world rushes closer to a fullblown apocalypse. I’m not being paid a livable wage. And yet I was supposed to care that I couldn’t give this guy a refund on a $4.99 impulse purchase because he lost his receipt.

I cut him off midsentence and excused myself, leaving him standing there bewildered and mouth agape, and headed to the manager’s office.

“I’d hate to do this but is there anyway I can go home early?” I asked, speaking slowly & dropping my voice down an octave. She turned away from her computer screen and gave me a sympathetic look. “I really don’t feel well and…”

“Yes, you can go. I could tell you were under the weather when you walked in. You look terrible.”

“Yeah…” I looked over at the wall mirror on the other side of the room. My hair was uncombed & standing in a million different directions, unshaven bristles were jutting out around my cheeks, and my shirt was wrinkled, the collar lopsided. I started to leave and remembered: “Oh by the way, there’s a guy out here who’s mad about something or whatever. You may want to deal with it,” and slammed the door closed before she could ask anything further.

 
I didn’t want to go home and didn’t have anyone to call. Still, the day was young now that my schedule had cleared up. The sky was a mustard yellow, the sun fighting its way to be seen past the grey overcast clouds, the radio weatherman predicting a 50% chance of rain.

After about an hour of driving around aimlessly, and making a pit stop to pick up supplies to deal with my depleted levels, I found myself in the heart of High Street, a long stretch of road in Columbus where something always seems to be happening, arguably the busiest&liveliest in all of the city.

I dropped a few quarters in the parking meter and went on a stroll with no destination in mind. I saw a ragged homeless man standing on the corner. His grungy silhouette starkly contrasted with the vibrant hustle & bustle around him, it looked like he had been wearing the same outfit for ages. His tattered tshirt an unrecognizable hue and he sported a pair of original Air Jordan sneakers that he must have bought when the line was first introduced in ’85, the famous red&white design encrusted with dirt and creased from decades of migration. I pitied him and yet was happy that he was there, relieved to see someone even more forlorn than myself. I walked up to him and pulled out my wallet.

The cardboard sign he carried read:
BEWARE
AUGUST THE 8TH
IT APPROACHES!

“So what’s so special about the 8th?” I asked him, holding a couple of bucks out like a peace offering. He didn’t turn to face me, just kept staring off into the distance in front of him.

“It’ll be my birthday.” He talked like the weight of the world was perched on his chest.

“Oh.” I coughed, anxiously shifting from foot to foot, still holding the money. “Well… here’s an early birthday gift.” I moved my hand into his line of vision. It’s hard to say if he even saw the money I was trying to give him. His scraggly brows were so thick it was difficult to make out his eyes.

He suddenly turned and faced me with such speed it made me jump, he seemed just as startled, as if he was noticing my presence for the first time. Then he flashed a smile, exposing 2 rows of mossy baked bean-like teeth.
“It’s not only the anniversary of my birth. It’ll be the start of a New Dawn.” He leaned in close enough for me to see his eyes underneath the jungle of hair on his face. They were as jet black as a bottle of calligraphy ink. “This city will never be the same. I just need a little help to make it happen.”

“Would this be a good start?” I practically shoved the money in his face.

He tenderly plucked the bills out of my hand and shoved them in his pocket. “I don’t really need money for this movement. But this will come in handy.” He scratched his beard and looked at me, reading me like a book. I flicked my cigarette into the street and pulled 2 new ones out of my pack, offering him one. He took a huge drag, sucking up half the cigarette in a single puff.
“Ya know,” he said while exhaling a large plume of dark smoke, not unlike what you’d see coming out of the powerstroke of a pickup truck, “If you really want to help, you could give me a ride somewhere. I need to pick something up.”

Well, I had nothing planned for the rest of the day. If I had said no I’d have just ended up at home drinking myself into another stupor, eating, and jacking off. An embarrassing display that would keep repeating itself until I fell asleep. Plus, the time was about to run out on the meter.

“Where do you need to go?” I asked while pulling out of the parking spot.

“Stay on this street and head east. It’s not too far of a drive. But first…” He pulls the $3 out of his pocket. “Can we stop by a McDonald’s? I haven’t eaten in days.”

 

 

 

Reintegration Post-Incarceration. Try A Little Mindfulness.

My limited knowledge of prison comes from MSNBC documentaries and firsthand accounts from people I know who have been locked up. From what I understand, here’s what happens. You’re locked up in a tiny room for hours at a time, only being granted the privilege of leaving your cell for food, hygiene needs, and forced recreation (Vietnam-style flashbacks of my stint in public education spring to mind, but I digress). This mundane cycle repeats until you’ve served your time. And then you’re unleashed back into the wild. Any rehabilitation received is minimal at best. The world around you has moved on and evolved without your consent. A lot has happened since you’ve been away and you’re aware of virtually none of it.

I recently grabbed a drink with a few of my coworkers after a particularly long arduous shift. Upon receiving the invitation I scoffed at the idea. Familiar with being a shut in, the thought of cracking open my shell and sitting vulnerable terrifies me, even if it could mean having a good time. Social situations feel more like an interrogation with a harden FBI agent one week from retirement & nothing left to lose, than a leisurely way to pass the time. But I had planned on getting a beer when I got off anyway & at least now I had an excuse.

So the four of us are sitting around the table. 2 of them pull out their tablets, realize that they both play the same extraordinarily convoluted game downloaded for free in an app store, and engage in an in depth discussion about guild strategies & enemy disadvantages that made as much sense to me as the technobabble spouted off in every episode of Star Trek. Which left me and the other coworker sitting & staring at one another, unsure of what exactly to say now forced to make conversation due to circumstance.

At once she goes through a series of subjects in minutes. Listing off her favorite apps from her phone, sports teams, books recently read, etc. None of which I was familiar with. She was a spaceship thrusting in an infinite number of directions hoping to land on something. I was nodding my head and wondering where the hell the waitress was with my pint of draft ale.

I’ve been rotting in a cerebral jailhouse for as long as I can remember & it hasn’t been until recently that I realized the extent of my sentence and started sending off appeals for an early release. Impatient from slow progress and waiting for serotonin levels to rise and chemical synapses to connect with this & that, I staged a break out. Don’t really know how long I’ve been away. But things are pretty unfamiliar and a tad bit confusing.

The waitress arrives with our drinks. I indulge. About an hour goes by in a series of jokes, quips, transient conversations, and whatnot. The night ends with all of us walking out of the bar together and laughing heartily.

During the drive home, Pink comes on the radio asking how to make herself feel this good sober.

 

 

Loneliness Is Such A Drag. My Life vs Yours.

I brought in the Year of our lord 2014 alone in my car with a can of strawberry flavored margarita beer (don’t drink & drive, kids) and Guns ‘N Roses singing about a city of paradise on the radio in the background. I had started the evening with the highest hopes. Without hesitiation, it could be said that 2013 was by far the most trying year so far for me and I had planned on spending the evening surrounded by loved ones and their familiar smiling faces.  I had been invited to 3 different parties & I picked the party one of my dearest friends invited me to. After spending an hour picking out an outfit that passed my inspection and trepidatiously plucking my eyebrows to a perfect arch, I arrived at the party. It started off nicely enough but through a series of misadventures, ended with me on the side of the road unaccompanied with cheap liquor.

7 months later & not much has changed. I power through my work obligations and come home, isolating myself in my room with the very same 25oz cans of strawberry margarita beers, sometimes deciding to mix it up and go with the raspberry or lime flavors. So much so that there a plethora of gas stations, bars, and liquor stores that I can walk into with a fistful of cash, leaving my wallet with my ID in the car, and walk out with a stockpile of liquid merchandise to adequately dope me enough to forget my problems for a little while.

This spring, I spent many of my days off from work walking up and down the one of the busiest streets in Columbus, hoping to meet someone, anyone, to become friends with. Someone to strike up a conversation with, hit it off, and go off and have some kind of adventure.

Ha. Folks I’m not telling you this for any sort of pity or sympathy. This is just the reality of things.

Have you ever seen a very attractive person? Not only attractive because of physical features. But how they walk, confidently moving one leg in front of the next, with a bounce in their strut. How they make direct eye contact while talking. Their outfit well coordinated and perfectly broadcasting to the world their full self. You look at them and see no trace of self doubt. You look at them and wonder: Goddamn, they are beautiful. What do I look like to someone like that? Am I even a blip on their radar? What are they like once they get home & turn off their public persona? Are they the same? What are they thinking about right now? Do they even realize how good they look & awesome they appear to be right now?

And then you realize it’s been way too long that you’ve just been standing there and staring at them, look away and sigh.

For as long as I can remember it’s just been Me vs. The World, in my mind anyway. Me against them. That’s how it feels anyway. Oh, the amount of years I’ve spent contemplating what it is that I’m doing wrong. Why I don’t seem to fit into any group and why I seem to scare away anyone I come in contact with. Is it because they don’t really know me or we drift apart because they do and don’t like what they see?

Whatever the case maybe, the fact of the matter is, I’m still alone. So very, very alone. Desperately grabbing on to virtually any mood altering substance I get my hands on to distract myself from that fact.

I don’t want your fucking pity. I can hear you saying “Aww…” as you read this and you can stuff that reaction into a sack and mail it to someone who needs it. Because I don’t need sympathy, it doesn’t do any good to anyone.

With all that said, I continue to burn the midnight lamp. With the ever falling dust that makes it so hard for me to see my optimism facing coldly towards the bedroom door that I’ve concealed myself in.

Gee, this post was kind of a downer, huh? I’ll leave y’all with a joke.

Why did 6 want to fuck 7?
Because 7 eight ass.

Cheers.

CustomerService Superiority & Entitlement

I have a fairly decent job at the moment. The hourly rate is wet salty garbage but the hours are steady, the work itself isn’t as trite as some of positions I’ve held in the past, and most of my coworkers are (almost) as apathetic as I am so it’s been easy for me to fit right in. I’ve been working in the customerservice field for the past 6 years and needlesstosay at this point everything feels the same, a Professional Groundhog Day.

Ask any customerservice employee what the hardest part of their job is & 100% of them will say something, like Dealing with customer stupidity and having to force out a smile instead of speaking your mind. What really gets me through the workday is being able to walk up to any of my coworkers with a “You won’t believe what this lady just said…” story & knowing they’ll completely understand and counteract with their own. We take consolation in knowing that we’re soooooo much better than those knuckledragging “gimme gimme gimme” no common sense having noncontributing product-sponge bastards.

Well, if were so fuckin’ advanced, what are we doin’ working here?” – Randal Graves, Clerks

And once we clock out and snatch off our name badges, we leave and head off to other stores, restaurants, bars and become someone else’s “You won’t believe this asshole…” story. Phony supremacy gives our insignificant jobs a scrap of meaning & dignity.

As I stand in my kitchen typing this post and waiting on my 5th serving of allegedly 100% Colombian coffee to finish brewing, I’m hyper aware that my shift starts in about 90 minutes.

Some of you may think that amount of coffee is excessive. Corporate CEOs & executives, Wall St. fatcats, and politicians snort cocaine and gulp down hard drink during work hours to become “good” at their jobs. If I did that I wouldn’t get a raise via government bailout, my ass would be thrown in prison. So excessive caffeine & nicotine consumption is a mere tiny pebble in the rocky terrain our superiors climb daily.

Another day, Another Dollar before Tax.

Blasé. No One Cares What You Say.

Over and over again I have said that there is no way out of the present impasse. If we were wide awake we would instantly be struck by the horrors which surround us… We would drop our tools, quit our jobs, deny our obligations, pay no taxes, observe no laws… Could the [one] who is thoroughly awakened possibly do the crazy things which are now expected of [them] every moment of the day?”      – Henry Miller, 1941

There is an Undeniable Evil presiding over our world.

Civil unrest and widespread warfare taking place in the Gaza Strip which a wide majority of our public is turning a blind eye or shrugging their shoulders in dismissal, a modern day Sodom & Gomorrah. There are cities here in america in such a dilapidated state they make post 9/11 -pre Jalal Talabani- Baghdad look like a 5-star island resort. Poverty, a vicious national problem, treated by the “1%” as a “Well that’s what happens when you do X, Y, Z. Tough shit” disease, a la HIV and lung cancer. Every time I overdraw my bank account I stare at the red numbers on the LCD screen and cringe, knowing that a whole network of folks are capitalizing on my lack of resources & watching their wallets grow fatter as mine falls apart.

The Undeniable Evil doesn’t even need to hide anymore, standing in plain sight and flossing $150 fresh Maine lobster meal remnants from between their teeth. They aren’t afraid of being found out. We’re too busy staring at our iPheces and complaining about being friendzoned to even notice what’s happening.

I often find myself overwhelmed by it all. I used to be able to roll up some grass, slip on my headphones & crank up Jimi Hendrix tracks, and tune out to the euphoric psychedelica.

But feigning ignorance has lost its thrill these days. Enough is enough, Goddamn it!  I want to start a revolution!!

but I’m not sure I’m ready for one. I’ve found some kind of deranged comfort in my anger towards the current state of things. A (mostly) unjustified superiority in knowing that I’m slightly more aware than most of the public.

So it’s either be Complacent & Miserable or Optimistic & Unsure.

I don’t know which state is more terrifying.