NEW YEAR’S EVE 2002, PART 1

Interstate 5 was dark. Tall trees loomed large on either side of the freeway. Rows of silent sentinels hanging over the tops of the gray sound barriers. Off-colored marks of buffed-out graffiti marred the ridges of the cold gray walls. Flashing blue lights illuminated a state trooper and the car he had pulled over. DUI patrols were out in force on New Year’s Eve. We zoomed onward. A man on a crotch-rocket style motorcycle raced past me, his clothes billowing back on his body. Recklessly, he careened on. Allan sat shotgun navigating from directions printed out in black and white from MapQuest.

“Take this next exit.” He said, pointing.

I guided the car onto the off-ramp into the “city” of Lynwood. The darkness of the freeway was no more.  I looped under the freeway onto a broad thoroughfare gaudily lit like a shrine to American Consumerism. McDonald’s. Shell. Chevron. Taco Bell. Babies’R’us. Toys’R’us. G.I. Joe’s. Best Buy. I followed this road awhile until Allan directed me again to turn, and the broad road gave way to dark, windy streets with no sidewalks and streetlights and mailboxes dotted here and there. Houses strung with Christmas lights sat back from the tree-lined roads at the end of gravel driveways. We drove a little while longer before Allan spoke again,

“We’re about to come up on it right now.”

The verbal directions proved to be unnecessary. Cars packed the driveway of Rob Lutz’s house and the street in front. Dead giveaway.  A group who had arrived right before us was unloading beer from the trunk of their car. Another trio was walking up the driveway,18-packs in hand.

                                                                ***

Students stood clustered on the front steps of Roosevelt High School. School had just let out for winter break. Rob Lutz walked from cluster to cluster flanked by two of his friends giving verbal invitations to his New Year’s Eve party. Rob was skinny and slight.  He had acne that he covered up with girl’s make-up. He wore baggy jeans with a loop that in theory was made to hold a hammer; in reality the loop was purely aesthetic. Rob wore his stringy, greasy brown hair combed flat and forward, the bangs pressed flat hanging over his forehead like a helmet. He wore a puffy black South Pole jacket and clunky Timberland-esque Lugz.  His friend Latoine, a multiracial kid, wore a dingy yellow doo-rag with the raggedy ends of his fuzzy cornrows hanging out the back, adorned with white and yellow beads. His skinny frame was engulfed in a yellow FUBU sweater many sizes too large, covered in cartoon characters. The sweater had been worn too many times and was covered with minute balls of lint. He was the kind of boy wiggers enlisted to be their black friend. Rob’s other friend was a stocky boy who sported similar ill-fitting garb.

What a bunch of goofy-ass motherfuckers I thought. An open house was an open house though. My friends and I were long in the habit of befriending people solely for the purpose of using them for their house and then forgetting about them after. Rob Lutz would be no different. I imagined that he thought having a house party would make him cool. I’m sure his primary motive was that he thought having the party would get him laid.  He was right in thinking that having a party would be a surefire way to get a ton of girls to show up at his house, whether or not he could successfully woo any of them was another story altogether. I wouldn’t bet on it. It made little difference to me. I was completely caught up in the world of “kicking it” and nothing delighted me more than the prospect of open houses, and in the winter it was an attractive alternative to drinking beer in a park.

                                                               ***

The front door of the house opened into the landing of a stairwell. One set of stairs down to the left, and another up to the right, a layout I have found to be common in the suburbs north of Seattle. Bumpy amber-colored window panes surrounded the door and extended up to the ceiling of the main floor. The living room sported a L-shaped sectional couch; its back against a large picture window that stared out into the darkness. A large fireplace was on the far wall of the room. There was no wall separating the living room from the dining room, and at the edge of the dining room the carpet gave way to linoleum into the kitchen. A sliding glass door led onto a deck crowded with people smoking cigarettes. A keg of beer in a garbage can full of ice sat in the middle of the kitchen. A blonde lady in her mid-30s held a bag of red plastic cups. This surprised me. I assumed it was Robert’s mother, though he had failed to mention this to us.

“Car keys.” She barked at me, holding out her hand.

“Huh?”

“You gotta give me your car keys if you want a keg cup. I don’t want any of you kids driving drunk.”

“Oh.”

I gave her my car keys and she handed them to a man in his early 20’s in a grey Seahawks hoodie who put them into a bowl he appeared to be guarding. They were both holding cups of beer. Rob’s mom handed me a red cup.

“Here ya go, sweetie. I’m Rob’s mom. Tammy. This is my husband Phil.”

Husband? The guy was not much older than us. Tammy was pretty young to be the mother of a 16-year-old, but Phil was still at least 12 years her junior. Weird.

I filled up my cup and began to drink.

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VISIONS OF MORGAN

Visions of Morgan

*

We walked the same aisles

where we’d never been before.

duffel stuffed under the rack

back left corner of the store.

Visualize my happy place,

walk calmly out the door,

like high dives and roller-coasters

terrified you yearn for more.

Hit I-80 on-ramp east

Another successful score.

 *

Pop tags off brand new clothing,

taking showers in the sink

Black-eyed waitress tells a lie

‘cause she knows what people think.

The men all sip their coffee

and politely nod their heads.

Next time might not be as lucky,

She’ll pro’lly end up dead.

 *

We leave and head towards Reno,

as quickly as we came.

To see his boy from ‘Quentin,

who’s shacked up with a dame.

 *

Nightmares on the sofa,

The demons on my chest.

Keeping me from moving,

and spoiling all my rest.

 *

Oxygen tanks at Circus Circus

They smoke and feed the slots.

Remove the mask and puff their cigarettes,

the geriatric sloths.

 *

I lose twenty on the “penny” slots

I’ll never play again.

Morgan at the sports book,

Seahawks for the win.

 ***

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BUTTER FACE

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Illustration by FONSE D30

My first car was a maroon 1991 Buick LeSabre. It had been my dad’s car before he died when I was fourteen. It was the last car he had ever owned. He had owned many cars in his 40 years of driving. The Buick was a monster. It had maroon pillow-top leather seats. The back seat was large and spacious. The whole car was a couch on wheels. I could control everything in the car from the driver’s seat. Power everything.

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Illustration by FONSE D30

A silver DiscMan rested in my lap. A long cord ran from the headphone jack into a tape deck adaptor, the kind you bought at Bartell’s Drugstore. Apollo Kids by Ghostface Killah was playing. My burned copy of Supreme Clientele stayed in heavy rotation on my car stereo.

Late at night I would drive in a long loop around the north end of Seattle for no purpose other than to listen to music, alone with my thoughts. I would drive fast on Sand Point Way. I would zoom up and down the hills of 65th, loving the feeling as the car swooshed over the dips. Right on 20th. Right onto 75th. Left onto 35th to start the circuit over again.

***

It was a Friday night around 9 P.M. Allan Lee sat next to me on the passenger side of the front seat. He turned up the heat to 90 degrees. He cupped his hands around the heater vents in the manner of warming his hands on a fire. A 40 ounce of Old English was balanced between his knees. He closed his eyes and let the warm air run full blast over his face. He looked not unlike a purring cat.

“Ohhhh yeah.” Said Allan.

“Yo fool, cut that shit out; you’re wasting gas.”

“Chill out, dude.”

In theory, the Buick had dual climate control. Allan had negated this duality by turning his heat up to 90 degrees. The drivers side of the car had grown unbearably hot. It was not particularly cold outside. The exterior temperature read 55 degrees in sea-foam green digital letters on the black screen in the center console. A mild Seattle night.

“Yo, for real. Turn that shit off. You’re being hella gay,” I said.

Allan shot me an annoyed look.

“Fine.”

Allan turned the heat down. I asked him,

“What’s the cross streets to this party?”

“I’m not sure yet. I’m waiting on a call from Tim. Its some Garfield kids. Madison Park I think. Head that way.”

“Coo.”

Husky Stadium slipped by on our left. Over the Mountlake Cut. Past the iconic Hop-In grocery that stood as my mental marker for the end of my territory. The Hop-In was the edge of my adolescent universe. Not that I was not familiar with the City south of the Hop-In; I was. It was just a different world, and I treated it as such, carrying myself there in a guarded manner. Nor was leaving my universe an unpleasant experience, I relished these excursions. It was exciting to leave my North End world. The kids that inhabited this other world seemed to me infinitely more cultured. I wanted their respect. I wanted them to see in me a kindred spirit. I wasn’t really a North End kid I reasoned, I was from the U-District. My neighborhood had sidewalks. I wasn’t from one of the quasi-suburban neighborhoods one associates with the North End of Seattle.

With these thoughts in mind and the Hop-In in my rear-view mirror, I drove onward, up the hill and through the CD towards Madison Park.

***

The hardwood floors of the house were marred with dirty footprints trekked in by party-goers. The floor was sticky beneath my feet with spilled beer and dirt. The walls around the fireplace in the living room were lined with built-in bookcases full of books and family photos. Odds and ends. Knick-knacks.

I Got 5 On It by the Luniz blasted at full volume from the stereo. No one was dancing though. Boys stood rigidly clutching 40’s to their chests; trying to look hard. If not clutching 40’s, they stood with a beer in one hand, and an 18-pack of beer with the top end ripped opened in the other hanging by their side. A few held fifths of hard alcohol they sipped before chasing the liquor with sips of juice or Coca-Cola.

The boys dressed in North Face Jackets, fitted baseball caps, and khaki pants that sagged below the belt. The girls wore North Face jackets and tight jeans. I wasn’t drinking. I was driving that night. I still clung to the idea of not drinking and driving, an idea I would eventually abandon for a while before coming back to it.

I struck up a conversation with a pretty girl a grade below me named Margot. She was a brunette with an olive complexion. She was what we called a butter-face. Everything about her was hot “but her” face. Her face wasn’t bad at all, but it wasn’t anything special either. She had a large nose and brown eyes. Her body was amazing. Her tight jeans made her large posterior look great. Butter-face or not, I was definitely interested in getting to know her intimately right away. We talked and flirted. Margot laughed at my jokes. She looked up at me into my eyes. I felt fairly confident that she was somewhat interested in me. I kept trying to play it cool.

Somebody yelled,

“COPS!”

The mood of the party shifted instantly to confusion and panic. Everyone ran out the back sliding glass door and started jumping the fence. It was like rats escaping from a burning ship. Margot and I followed. The fence was wooden and old and slimy and wet. The force of people jumping it had it leaning forward. My car was parked a half block away from the front of the house. I thought to myself “This is retarded, I haven’t been drinking, I don’t want to fuck up my gear on this slimy ass fence. I’m just going to walk out the front door. Plus that’ll make me look hella badass and savage to Margot.” I took a deep breath.

“Margot, let’s just walk out the front door and get in my car and bounce.”

“But the cops…”

“Fuck the cops, I haven’t been drinking or smoking. I’ll just put my arm around you and we’ll walk right by them.”

She didn’t say anything. She just nodded, trusting me with her pretty brown eyes. I put my arm around her and we turned away from the fence and walked back through the sliding glass door and through the living room to the front door. I took another deep breath and said to Margot,

“You got this.”

But I was really saying it to myself. We walked through the door arm in arm. I shut it behind me. We were on the porch. Two cops stood by their cars double parked in the street in front of the house. One was a fat middle-aged male cop in glasses and one a buff-looking lady cop with short hair, anything feminine about her disguised by the thickness of her bulletproof vest. I clutched Margot closer to me. I imagined myself being a hundred feet tall. We walked down the steps, I nodded at the man cop and we walked right by him down the block to my car. Once inside the car Margo looked at me and said,

“That was amazing.”

And then we kissed. Her lips soft against mine in the front seat of a Buick LeSabre.

THE WORST HANGOVER EVER

I was sitting shotgun in the cab of Anthony Chung’s black Toyota pick-up truck. We were in the parking lot of the dorms at Central Washington University. We sat together in the truck as it idled. Anthony turned and spoke to me,

 “You sure you want to go back to your dorm room, Flowseph? You’re hella faded, you can crash at my pad.”

 “Nah homie, I’m good. I’m about to head straight to my room and curb out.”

 “Aight. Try not to run into any RA’s or Campus Police.”

 “For sure. I’ll holler at you tommorow.”

 We exchanged daps and I hopped out of the cab. It was a cold fall night in Ellensburg, Washington. I was wearing a black Polo Ralph Lauren sports jacket over a vintage Tommy Hilfiger black and white striped polo shirt and Brooks Brothers khakis with a sag – the front cuffs tucked behind the tongues of my all black Timberland EuroHikers. I topped this off with a black sweatband with a white Air Jordan logo, the faux diamond earrings in both of my ears hanging out from underneath. Years of listening to hardcore Gangsta Rap mixed with growing up in the Seattle public school system had warped my sense of self. I thought I was some kind of a gangster.

 I walked through the deserted parking lot back to my dorm. I sniffled. Cocaine was dripping from my nose down into the back of my throat. It tasted like gasoline. I sucked in through my nose and spit out a massive loogie. My breath tasted like cheap wine.

 “You got this.” I said out loud.

 The front rec-room/lobby was painfully bright with fluorescent light. A group of boys sat by the foosball table eating pizza out of the box. They all were dressed like 1999 had never happened. Cargo shorts and sandals. Puka shell necklaces. Abercrombie t-shirts printed with sexual puns styled like vintage advertisements. They were from places like Yakima, Spokane, or the Tri-Cities. Bumfuck nowhere. I knew them all vaguely.

 “What a bunch of lames.” I thought to myself.

 I knew one of them from orientation and from around the dorm. I guess he was their leader. I’m pretty sure his goal in life was to be the most cliché ” College dude” ever. He’d tried to give himself the nickname “BMOC” during the first week of school. Big Man On Campus, yeah, right.

He had definitely watched every single American Pie movie in existence way too many times, as well as a healthy dose of direct to video National Lampoon movies. It’d had a detrimental affect on his already dismal personality. He looked up at me and held out the pizza box.

 “Hey Paul Wall, you want a slice of pizza?”

 They all laughed at his joke.

 The cocaine had worn off, and now I was just drunk. Really drunk. Pizza sounded amazing.

 “Yeah, I’d love a slice. Thanks homie.”

 In my inebriated state I had failed to see the set-up. After I’d eaten the slice, BMOC said to me,

 “We all put up money on that pizza, and you just walk in here and try and freeload on us?”

 They all laughed again.

 “What are you talking about dude? You just offered me a slice of pizza.”

 “Nah, you just came up and started eating some pizza you didn’t pay for, you fucking fairy.”

 The east-of-the-mountains set was convinced I was a homosexual because I wore Burberry raincoats and had a fake Louis Vuitton wallet. They had been trying to spread rumors about me being a gay dude. I knew this because one of the girls I was sleeping with at the time had told me so.

 “You’re tripping on a slice of pizza?”

 “Yeah I’m “tripping” on a slice of pizza.”

 I took a twenty dollar bill out of my wallet and crumpled it into a ball.

 “Money is paper, and paper grows on trees, BITCH.”

 I flicked the wadded-up twenty at his face. It bounced off his forehead.

 “That’s it! You asked for it now FAG!”

 He ran towards me and threw a punch. I ducked the punch and tackled him at the waist. I took him to the ground and straddled him with one hand holding him by his shirt, the other hand punching him in his face.

 “Whatsup nigga?! Who’s the BMOC now, bitch!” I said between punches.

 Someone came up behind me and I turned and punched the guy in the face.

 Big mistake. It was an RA. The douchiest RA there was to boot. I instantly realized my error. Blood gushed from the RA’s nose. The sight of the blood had a sobering effect on me. I quickly got up and off BMOC. I even helped him up off the ground.

 The RA addressed us, his head tilted back as he pinched the bridge of his nose to stem the flow of blood.

 “I want everyone to go back to their rooms right now! I’m not mad at anybody, no one is in trouble. We’ll all have a meeting about it tomorrow!”

 “Yo, my bad, dude. I’m hella sorry. I thought you were some dude trying to jump me.”

 “We’ll talk about it tommorow Joe, go to your room.”

 We all went to our dorm rooms. I fell asleep pretty fast but I was quickly awakened when my door came crashing in. Two campus police jumped on top of me in the bed. There were two more cops in the hallway. I struggled, mostly because I wasn’t quite sure what was happening. They had kicked in my door and jumped on me with no warning.

 “STOP RESISTING”

 One of the cops tased me. I stopped resisting.

 “STOP RESISTING”

 “I’M NOT…”

 The cop tased me again.

 “…RESISTING.”

 He tased me a final time before securing my arms behind my back with zip-ties.

 I should have stayed at Anthony’s.