Saturday, August 28, 2010

Skull Rainbows, Asian Girls, and Dwarf Strippers

My August 28th entry for Storytellers Unplugged
Skull Rainbows, Asian Girls, and Pregnant Dwarf Strippers
Wayne Allen Sallee
28 August 2010

I’m still reveling in our incredible summer, which is still producing 90 degree temperatures and, for the first time since high school, I have actually walked the shores of the North Avenue Beach and Fullerton Parkway, the latter where my mom and dad hung out in the 1940s, before the museums and the bike paths and twenty dollar for four hour parking lots. I have written nearly 70K on my novel, Proactive Contrition, because of our heat, staying awake until 3 AM makes me feel immortal as I listen to Stan Getz and Max Roach, only rarely having my concentration broken by verbal confrontations between the crack house people and the Polish Insane Popes gang members who live across the street from each other. Ah, the suburbs of Hell.

This whole thing with the mosque being built near the “hallowed ground” of Ground Zero? All I’d really like to know is who owned the property and who then soled it, start yapping at them. Everyone seems to have forgotten the Murrah Building in 1995. I suppose it is because Timothy McVeigh was white and from the US and not some Muslim with a gripe. I’m pissed that Ground Zero is an empty lot going on a decade, and the same goes for the spot where Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania. Anyhow: that’s my political statement for the year, thank you for listening.

You guys like my wacky anecdotes, right? Well, last Friday I had an opportunity to attempt a blind date “meet” with a nice Asian girl who is 31, coffee, jazz club, yea me. Then she emails me and said to meet by the Macy’s at 6:30 PM. She must think I have a mobile device, but I’m at home and it is 5:23 PM. Fine. I’ll try, what man wouldn’t? I’m at the bus stop, a cab pulls up. The guy says he’s off duty, he is shirtless, shoeless, and has about eight teeth. And likely younger than the Asian girl. Hit the Orange Line el train at 5:47, not bad considering this guy had the scent of Pabst Blue Ribbon coming out of his ears. I’m off the train at the first stop, by this giant eye sculpture on Van Buren (look some shots up on my Flickr account, wayneallensallee, and prepare to be creeped out) and run seven blocks north. 6:37 PM. And, oddly enough, there are Asian women everywhere, many of them looking at a man selling CDs of harmonic music from a huge black box. Now, the girl was being coy but I told her I’d be wearing a blue shirt with an atom on it (yea, Salvation Army), and I swear she made eye contact with me. I think a bit taller than me, black dress, carrying some hardcover book. It was her, I doubt anyone else would stare, thinking, hey, that’s the shirt I just gave to the Salvation Army! That guy must be a hobo! Well, she scurried away, perhaps worried that I was ready to drop dead from old age. But, let me tell you, this is the last time I look for dates in the Pennysaver.

Last month, I flew my niece Ashley down to Kentucky for the Fourcastle concert, kind of like our Lollapalooza, only much more organized. She’s my godchild, and will turn 18 one month from tomorrow, and though no one else in my family will admit it, I pretty much got her to break up with her douche of a boyfriend, a future Maury Povich candidate. The first day, we walked up to an old Civil War museum, one guy had actually fought in the Revolutionary War, and the sad thing was that you could leave the plot of land, walk down a dirt path, and be at the loading dock of a Wal-Mart. That night, I bought a copy of The Crazies for Ash, and we watched it and were pleasantly creeped out. I recommend the film, and I was impressed by the camera angles. She slept on the couch and I had this heavy Korean blanket–one of my cousins married a gal when he was in the Army–which is about as heavy as those plastic bibs the dental assistant tosses on you before you get x-rays. Come morning, I was folding the blanket, And the sheer weight of it made me fart like the tugboat at midnight. I’ve never seen my niece’s eyes wider (until, a month later when I told her group of friends that I got a hernia after getting a lap dance once). I don’t think I’ll pass gas like that until my bloated dead body is found one day and a rookie cop picks my corpse up the wrong way. So the next day she is at the concert, and what do I do? I go down to the strip clubs with my cousin Danny, the ones near the Ohio River, the better to eat you with. I love downtown Louisville, because we don’t really have one. It was in the high 80s at three in the morning, the girls just hung outside, smoking. As I’m putting a dollar bill into this girl’s g-string, she mentions–at that exact moment–having danced to the song that was playing while at pep rallies in middle school. I wanted to smash my bottler of generic 7-Up and jam the shards deep into my throat. A few years back, I saw a dwarf stripper. And she was about eight months pregnant. I thought if she had a Swiffer on her, she could have dusted the joint. But there is a melancholy moment to be had here. As I said, the girls could stand outside in their I Dream of Jeanie costumes, and this one girl had come outside because a bunch of college kiddies had shown up. My cousin Danny vouched for me being a good guy, plus “Doc Chicago” would have a lot in common with someone who was born in Mount Prospect, out by O’Hare. We talked about how the Loop had changed, our ex-Gov. Rod. The girl told me she was afraid of strangers, i.e., the frat guys. Here’s why: her father had shot her in the head in 1988. She showed me the huge crease which is covered by her long, blond hair. A part of her ear missing. And then we went on talking until the sun came up, lights in apartments going on as people readied themselves for work. An overweight black guy rode by us on a bicycle with a stack of newspapers. And separate lives continued into another day.

I never did get around to Skull Rainbow. That ’s because of me going off on tangents, as I do throughout the novel, but the gist of it was that, long ago, Sid Williams and I actually wrote a story while at the World Horror Convention in Nashville, 1991. The setting was the Crown Plaza and we even included the infamous Huddle House restaurant, a dubious title at best. Sid has his own stories from his days as the entertainment reporter for a Louisiana newspaper, and how every week this teenager would call his extension to ask which episode of The Incredible Hulk was airing that Friday. Better than Airwolf, at least. But CrossRoads Press will be offering Sid and I the chance to have our four co-written stories together for the first time, in audio form.

And that’s that from my listening station out here in Burbank, just five blocks from the beautifully crappy and extremely bigoted Southwest side of Chicago. Everyone have a safe Labor Day, and when next we meet, I will be have outlived Rod Serling.


HemlockMan said...

I'll look for the short story collection. Keep me posted.

You meet the creepiest folk in those strip joints, dude. Novel and short story material forever.

I once knew a guy named John Pickle. Yep, that was John's real name. His family was dirt-poor, but John was funny as shit and laughing most of the time, or making the rest of us guys laugh. He was a little younger than I was when I met him--I was 15, he was 14. So he had a year to go before he--like all poor kids in Gilmer County in them thar days--would quit school (Georgia allowed you to legally quit school on your 15th birthday, which almost everyone in the mountains did).

One day John Pickle did not show up for school. Next day, too. Day after that. Days stretched into a week, then two. Finally, he showed up. His head had been shaved and he was really, really thin. He'd lost a lot of weight. He'd never had any weight to lose, really, in the first place.

He was smiling but wasn't his old self. No laughs. No jokes. I asked him where he'd been.

"My dad shot me," he told me.

This took a moment to compute. I thought it was one of his jokes. But he wasn't laughin'.

"No way," I said.

"Yeah, he shot me."

Fuck. "Where did he shoot you?"

John pulled his shirt down a bit and showed me the wound. It went through his trapezius muscle not far above his collar bone. Small home on the front of his torso, much bigger one on the far side. Pink scar tissue. The bullet had gone through without hitting bone, nor organs, but had sliced some vein or something. He told me he'd lost a lot of blood.

"It didn't hurt all that much," he said. But he'd collapsed from loss of blood and shock.

"How did it happen?" I asked.

"I was running from the old man. And I was hiding behind his pulp wood truck and I thought he was gone so I popped my head up to make sure. And that's when he got me. He was trying to shoot me in the head, but he missed."


Haven't thought about that in years.

John attended school the rest of that year, but as soon as he turned 15 he quit and went to work in one of the mills.

I don't recall him being very funny after the shooting.

Charles Gramlich said...

yeah, those lap dances can sure be strenuous!