Ahh, Templeton Rye! Good stuff!
But this is a little inaccurate, so don’t judge me according to what you see. I usually go for the Irish whiskeys… preferably Bushmill’s… ideally, Black Bush… if I drink, that is.
“Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl’s clothes off.”
— Raymond Chandler
“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”
“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.”
No matter what anyone else says…
•••I am kinda succumbing to some literary self-promotion here.
Rather than clutter the Book page with excerpts from the book, I’m spreadin’ out here.
And, yes, the ebook version is now available on Amazon and Smashwords.
Please check the Book page for detailed information.
Dirt: the most misunderstood philosophy in the western world.
Civilization: the attempt to disregard the futility of cleanliness, the ideal supposedly next to godliness.
June heard the traveling music and took her exit cue, the gay grantors having reintroduced her to the loud, the irreverent, the punk, the rock. Much of it sucked the big pelican turdpie, so…what else was new? Lots of it in the pre-alterno ’80s did too, which is why she turned to the gruffnesses of Tom Waits and the damned limey Pogues. The difference—punk bands in the ’90s didn’t just suck, they sucked up. The oil corporations owned everything, and here was a whole new herd of second-string dinosaurs to make sure virgin youths were slaughtered and fed to the engine room of the Exxonpalooza Valdez.
June’s eyes were fixed on the spots on the ceiling. They looked like dried ketchup. Dedra’s shadow, carrying a bag of groceries, eclipsed the light above the sink. She placed the bag down, reclipsed the light, and whirled round to the other side of the room to pick up ruined paper plates and drop them into an overflowing trash can. She mumbled something, then, “June?”
“June? Are you OK?” She hovered directly over the aluminum can dancing shoes. The two eyes pointed straight up, unblinking. Unable to avoid the obstruction, the girl stepped over her several times moving things from the bag to the table to the fridge, before stooping down next to her. “What are you doing?”
“Dishes.” She blinked.
Rain slashed down in a giddy torrent of noise. The girl dropped her head into her hands and dragged fingers that pulled lips and lower eyelids down grotesquely.
“Will you stand up again?” said June.
“Should I ask why?”
“So I can look up your dress again.”
Dedra stood up, one knee popped, she declared, “Why, I oughta—” and stomped out of the kitchen.
“Gets me so hot.”
“She in there?” asked one of the male voices.
“Yes.” Another opening-night prayer sounded.
A masterful drummer, she admired him from a distance. The day she spied him at the drugstore on Broadway he was reading a Preparation H box and didn’t see her. A few nights later he was standing alone in the crowd at a show—he had military posture. She swallowed two years of post-divorce fright, chased it with a swig of beer, rose to full height next to him and, between songs, asked, “Do you have that much trouble sitting on drum stools?”
“Huh? What do you mean?” He squinted up at her. His perfect posture made him appear taller than he was. “Who sent you?”
She hadn’t smiled in ages. It was suddenly like basketball.
Though she learned to drive as a teenager, most of her life June had no need for an automobile and most of her life she couldn’t afford to own one. Upon entering college, a rusted old Buick convertible became her urban chariot until the day it refused to start and disappeared a week later. Its squeaky, leaky, achey-brakey, fume-y with no zoom-y, rent-a-dent, BYODT (bring-yer-own-duct-tape) condition motivated her to continue studying philosophy. Why even bother to find out who towed it? Bread cast upon the water just got wet, and bread served with the dinner special usually got left as crusts sticking out of cold mashed potatoes. She had no reason to file a police report or to expect the patrolman who showed up at her door one day to inform her of the recovery of the stolen vehicle.
The only things of value in the car were a paperback copy of Finnegans Wake and a borrowed hardback of Fear of Flying. She had read both books but the Erica Jong had one day plummeted from a hole in the floorboard during a parking maneuver in the rain. Kneeling in the gutter, she reached underneath and rescued it from a pothole-sized lake. Its owner wouldn’t be too thrilled upon its return. June never went to the impound yard to claim her nonpareil. It did, however, prompt her to write a thesis titled:
Fifty Ways To Spell Nietzsche
Why I Just Kant
A critical dissertation on 20th century reasoning as defined by elements of dystopian ideologies and their resulting cultural ethics, the paper was marked “Clever, but incomplete?”
The professor must have driven a Volvo. Or maybe he never had to wait tables. He probably had a spouse’s car to borrow or a AAA card eliminating worries about terms of transportation that kept him from considering how a broken-down Buick could be the main determiner of fate. Attempting to defend her treatise, she watched the professor place both elbows on the desk (the fingertips of both hands together) and rest his chin on the hook of his thumbs. His eyes glazed over in an institutional When will you please finish torturing me? manner. Finally, he raised his head and said, as if quoting from the Chilton Manual of College Instructors, “That, my dear girl, is what Mechanics is for. You need to pay closer attention to Pure Reason.”
It was not the first time she understood murder but she stifled a response.
In one soft movement the little blonde pushed up her glasses, covered her eyes with both hands and remained frozen until she said, “I hate you.” Lifting the specs from her head, she tossed them onto the nightstand. “You fucking asshole,” she sobbed, “There’s a big rusty knife on the back porch. Maybe it’d be easier if you just cut my heart out with it.”
The big lipstick clown resisted offering comfort, but taking a swig from the VO, “We’re such crybabies. Why do we have to cry so damned much?”
“June, you’re a damned sonofabitch.”
“That’d be Ms. Sonofabitch to you. Capital letters, please.”
Rolling onto her back, Dedra’s half-sob, half-laugh convulsed her chest. An attempted smile disintegrated into lip-biting nervousness. “You fucker. Not only do you kill me, you correct my grammar too. I hope you have enough to pay for my funeral.”
“You’re not quite dead yet.”
“Yes, I am! Good job! Go dig a hole!”
“OK.” June laughed. “Do we have a shovel?”
“I think it’s on the porch. Right behind the rusty knife.”
A 1956 Ford was a thing of beauty and his was a powerful beast capable of outrunning unsuspecting takers on the open road. The big-block side-oiler was a far cry from all sensible coupes and, like war, nothing made sense anymore. He was the last tin soldier standing his ground and he had learned that no war is ever really over. At best, it stops roaring, orders are no longer given, it becomes a brooding monster at idle, but the soldier is never free of it.
The potent manifold atop the big V-8 was crazy—four massive Webers instead of the Holley setup—but he had all day to wrestle with them. As every day. By nightfall a serious test run was possible; another escape from the prison he could leave almost anytime he wanted. Another midnight run, another launch toward the vanishing point but he knew…he could drive all night and never leave home.
Distributor caps began disappearing in the Seattle area in late 1989, far from any previous occurrences. Victims were local musicians and music business professionals. Then the phantom started hitting visiting bands. This Capper would always leave a distinctive calling card on the hood—a small piece of flannel attached to a sticker declaring either “corporate rock” or “still suck.” Much underground ballyhoo was made about it. In a 1991 interview with Matt Vialto of the Los Angeles-based band Barco Fuego, he spoke of the Capper:
“He got us too! Twice now!” said Vialto. “He got us a couple of years ago in Seattle, and then again in West Texas!” While en route to El Paso, the band stopped at a Dairy Queen in Pilchard, the “fourth or fifth smallest town in Texas,” where they were hit by the mysterious criminal. “Twice now. It was the Capper all right. He left the flannel.”
While Seattle grungies gurgled along and took special notice that their shoelaces were tied, the rest of the world struggled hiply diply to do the same. Behind Hip there was Hype or maybe it was the other way around. Once past the holy pretense of the ’80s being the antidote to the excesses of the ’70s, there were questions whether the ’90s would avoid or fall into the same hole as any other generational zeitgeist. Just how much Birthday Party or Big Black can one listen to and maintain a sense of humor? Was the nouveau lush lounge culture a panacea to the class-A mid-scooping and dive-bombing of speed metal and growling blast beats of grindcore? A nation of millions might sandbag a country’s hippity hoppity musical future but it would march to the same drummer’s beats, albeit sampled, as the last great uber-electro-white hope.
The wheezings of a middling media stayed too long at the fair, lost their ’60s cred and disco hair, and the rockcritocracy fought to legitimize a status quo they thought still needed legitimizing. They hadn’t noticed their own greying America and were too slow on the uptake of a pogo bravely world that giggled behind their backs when not flipping them off to their faces.
They were left to scribble in their notepads:
“Boo hoo, Johnny. Boo hoo, Joey.”
The few wiselings among them warned:
“Here comes the train, Rod. Time to get Ozzy off the tracks?”
There’s a new train a comin’ and it’ll come round the mountain when it comes. But did the bums listen? Do they ever?
SXSW had established itself as a friendly, approachable music conference. Held mid-March in Austin, TX since 1987, the city seemed to live up to its enviable reputation as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Media reports painted a laid-back college town with a long-standing music tradition: Janis Joplin slept there; Jimmie Rodgers passed through there; Willie Nelson got stoned and arrested there; Townes Van Zandt got thrown out of most bars there; Roky Erickson lost his mind there. Outlaw country and cosmic cowboys notwithstanding, it spawned some of the best bands of the early ’80s punk era—Big Boys, The Dicks, Poison 13, Scratch Acid, Butthole Surfers. In 1988 the county carried a Democrat in the national election while the rest of Texas was in the Bush league. It was enough to recommend the town as a place where musicians or other commie liberals might want to spend a few days.
In the early Summer moonlight, there were the crickets. Like street corner crooners they chirped and droned until aware of intrusion. They halted and self-consciously resumed their song once his footsteps passed them by. It was their world, he conceded. They had no reason to hide their activity; they just did as if unscrupulous listeners might steal their sound and their copyright on it. Their world. He played with the crazy ideas in his head and grappled with what the hell he, an unromantic human being, was doing out here at this time of morning. Then damned if the sheriff didn’t see the strangest thing. He thought he had blown a brain gasket and was still dreaming. All around him, the entire quality of the light had changed. In the sky, a fuzzy halo appeared around the moon and a faint confluence of orbs filled the air and fluttered by, all drifting toward the middle of the field past the hardware store.
A dream, he hoped.
June pushed through the March wind and joined her at the brink. The big lass had twice seen the crater from the air and was not prepared for the swoon that rushed into her. She had bought a few crystals and a NASA patch in the gift shop, gotten aroused by the Apollo capsule on display, but the first peek into the mile-wide voluptuousness was truly something. Size is nothing compared to scope. At the essence of such a vulnerable world—the rim sweeping above and around them, circling away and across from them, massive rocks thrust up in salute to a perfect violence—she could sense Dedra praying, could almost hear the girl’s optical nerves clanging away like industrial beams swinging with loud jewelry and indestructible glass.
Pushing through the crowd she sought the front door and outside air. The atmosphere in the club was thick and the nauseating vision of Loomis was burning in her brain, and this was the night she would do something thoroughly regrettable unless she got the hell outta there real fucking quick. In her retreat, she heard Dedra’s voice rise like the whine of a bottle rocket sailing inches above everyone’s head. She considered turning back but the drill sergeant in the base of her spine ordered that she keep moving! SCREW AUSTIN AND SCREW SXSW! The rest of the band would find their way back to base camp well enough.
“Huh? I understand about the recovery but what do you mean about the other thing? Legally allowed?”
“OK.” He kneaded his forehead. “I have a lot of explaining to do.”
“Oh geeezzz. I think you do.”
“This is going to be rough. How ’bout I make us some tea?”
“I guess. But I’m ready to hear it now.”
“Look, I’ve got the hard job here. I want a cup of tea and it’ll only take a few minutes.”
She said nothing. He walked to the kitchen. The front door was unlocked and she was certain that seeing one snake earlier meant there had to be more. It was nighttime and the odds were against her. Until this moment he had seemed like a nice, decent person. Jeffrey Dahmer, to most people, had seemed like a nice young man. Logic dictated that a house of unlocked doors and windows did not a prison make. The given was that she was at a physical disadvantage. An observed variable was that he had slept unobtrusively behind the black curtain for nights in order to assist her any time she needed. Another observed variable was that he had touched and bathed her naked body more than once without acting creepy. A universal given was Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
He sat and stared into the candlelight, not moving.
Ms. McClunaghan collected the photographs and carefully slid them into the envelope before placing them behind the seat. Twisting out of the cockpit, she walked around and grabbed his hands, helping him upward. “Chocolate chip sounds wonderful. Let’s go inside.”
If this was payback for all the assists to the toilet or to the porch, so be it. Maybe it was her moral agenda. Reaching an arm around his waist, she moved him toward the door. In the night air, somewhere, a million legs were dancing, two trucks were talking to each other and a man with a brush was motioning to the sky and throwing paint against a wall of desert rock. In silence, the lights of a great real estate may break where only stones and dust had been before. Humanity can then flood in without a violent prayer, with nary a fist clenched and no malice of purpose. Night, however long, will fall and sun will once again rise.