Wednesday, October 27, 2010

She Died Smelling Brylcreem

My column for Storytellers Unplugged, October 28th 2010.

She Died Smelling Brylcreem
October 28th 2010

I come up with the craziest story titles. But there you go, and I’ll explain how delirious I was to even think such words in a moment, and it will also explain my not posting last month. This was my September (plus a dollop of the last hot nights of August). My crappy $30.00 bike was stolen from where I locked it at the grocery store. The right brakes did not work, so I hope some sort of melodrama ensued for the thief.

The Saturday of that same week, I was robbed at gunpoint. At two-thirty in the afternoon. Now I’ve been mugged before, punched in my right eye which doesn’t really feel anything because of my cerebral palsy, the little twerp high on weed must have thought I was a robot. In the end, I was bloodied and all he got was my rolled up copy of Avengers#500. I might have mentioned that once before, but yes, true story. So I was ready to do the Ernest Borgnine jumping into the lion pit thing, but in my head I was thinking, I only have twelve bucks in the wallet. I’d need to get my Disabled Ids from the city and the RTA bus system. Figured, let them try and use my ID for credit, my rating is worse than Lindsey Lohan’s. I gave them the wallet, they left, like it was a business transaction. Walked down the street bordering the Dan Ryan Expressway. The only other part to that story was that I went to TJ Maxx to buy a new cheap wallet and was ready to knock this woman down the escalator because she was texting right in front of it. Like she was from Rangoon, and didn’t understand the concept. And now my wallet is filled with my Fresh Values card and all that crap I didn’t really use in the first place. And my new ID makes me look like that Ray Harryhausen Cyclops. Only tanned from the summer.

Then my border collie died, he was only seven. Buddy the Mitch, because my nieces wanted to name him Buddy and I wanted to name him for Robert Mitchum. We reached a compromise, money was involved. The grifters start at such an early age now. I still mourn because we were like Starsky & Hutch, now that I’m on disability, I was with him pretty much every day for the last three years. In fact, we had a pact. If I died before the finale of Lost, Buddy was going to dig my corpse up and tell me the ending by means of his telepathic dog powers. He was very arthritic, we made quite a team, I soldier on. There’s a guy in the subway at State & Lake, one of the songs he’ll sing is Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now,” and I cry just like I’m doing now, because of the lyrics, how the pain is gone and there were no obstacles in his way. Damn that Johnny Nash and his one-hit wonder. No, not really. I’m sure he’s a cool guy and maybe still sits around with his leather suit on with a bunch of bunnies all around him.

Yes, I’m delirious. Because nine days after my collie died, my right lung collapsed from bronchitis–which I have never had before–and my weight dropped from 162 to 142 in five days. I had dreams about Redd Foxx, I don’t know why. Because of the antibiotics, I can’t take my bipolar meds. I’m barely at 150 pounds and pretty much see floating clowns with seltzer bottles full of bleach and air horns that shoot out goat intestines everywhere. I call them as I see them, gang.

But here’s the thing. 1I finished the damn novel. Proactive Contrition. Scared as hell that I’d see the Reaper and say, hey, there’s my ride! Before I hit 104K. It was all written out, those last thirty pages, I made copies, sent them to a few people, and to better add to my insanity, I rolled my pages into an empty pint can of Steel Reserve malt liquor I found on the way back from the cheapest clinic I could find. Pretty much followed the trail of passed out guys in overalls and sport jackets as I walked further west, where the gentrification stopped like a terminator of light to dark. My can of Steel Reserve gained me passage to a place where I got adrenaline shots and anti-inflammatory shots to the base of my neck and my back and my single, pathetic typing finger. All in the shadow of an abandoned building that had been a harp company. I was looking out past Sangamon Street as the needle hit bone and thought, hmph, I suppose harps came from somewhere. See, I did this on the sly because there was no way my main doc was going to give me the steroids that kill the pain for a few days–get out of my head, Johnny Nash!–and I needed to finish the book my way. I did, I’m back on my meds, they take about three days to kick back in, the side effects being like you see on television, euphoria, thoughts of suicide, menstrual cramps, taste for human flesh.

Seriously, this is what the book reads like. This is ho I pitched it to my agent: Think of Charles Bukowski mud wrestling me along with an Al Pacino sex doll. If there are any new readers here expecting a lesson, let me just say: Don’t try this at home. Really, the power drill to my forehead when I was fifteen probably wasn’t a good idea...