Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Paperwork Shuffle

So I used to make fun of how all modern militaries are giant bureacracies, employing more paper shufflers than anything else. I based it off what is essentially the idealized military in Starship Troopers (the book, for fuck's sake not the movie) in which even the cook took a place in the front line infantry. After all, I thought, wasn't the primary job of the military to fight, with everything else able to be automated or farmed out to civillian contractors?

Turns out I knew jack shit.

I've learned this in trying to organize our group. In theory, it is a simple task-take 20 or so potheads, arm them and make it so that they can function as an effective unit in the post apocalypse. Simple. Yeah. I had a number of advantages that would make the folks over on Zombie Squad who are lamenting having to go solo weep with envy. I know 20+ people (most of them for over 10 years, and many with an actual blood tie to me) that I would trust with my life, my children's life and all my property. You may write this off as me being overly trusting if it makes you happy, but the fact of the matter is that we have an already tightly knit group already in place that has existed for some time. Even the new people we assimilate soon conform to our twisted social mores. For all intents and purposes, we are a modern bohemian tribe of degenerate troglodytes.

Arming them? Shit, that was the easy part. Sure, maybe 7.62x39 and 7.62x54R are not the best calibres in terms of ballistic performance, but everybody can afford an SKS or at least a Mosin Nagant, with room to upgrade later if necessary. I just encouraged everybody, organized a few discounted group buys, and subtly goaded the group to viciously make fun of anyone that didn't have a gun. In less than 8 months I had 20+ armed men, who more or less listened to what I say. So the rest should have been easy.

Let me start by saying that this little entry has nothing to do with the larger plan of buying a farm and living in our weird hippie co op so I can keep my two lovers and various kids in a castle made of rusty shipping containers. That is a whole nother, complicated kettle of fish of a different color. This is just organizing those who are up for it, into something resembling a cohesive fighting unit, so that nobody takes my crops or my girlfriends.

It is fucking complicated.
Just keeping track of all the qualifications I need everybody to have, just coming up with benchmarks for the various levels of skill I want to train everybody insane. There is nothing I can delegate-nobody else is motivated enough to do the research, and (let's admit it) I'm too much of a control freak to really do that anyway. I've managed to draw up a few documents for the first few broad skillsets, and just that is 7 pages of dense 10 point text. I haven't even started on the highly specialized stuff yet. Shit, developing a signals and communications protocol-the absolute first thing I need to do to function effectively-is going to take me weeks, to say nothing of teaching it to everyone else and practicing it until it internalizes for the group. And yet somehow we are supposed to all learn and master these things, in our own time, with no money and no free time, on two bugouts a year and a few informal social gatherings.

I'm not getting discouraged yet-I'm still excited perhaps because the real work hasn't even begun yet. But I have no idea how I'm going to finish the manual, develop the SIGCOM protocols, keep on everyone's backs about doing it without losing any of my friends, and still manage to do the stuff to prepare myself for the whole ordeal. To say nothing of somehow training people in skills that I have not myself mastered (I don't think one tactical rifle class is going to cut it) and getting together the cash for the equipment and training we all need.

I am blessed in some ways. I have one guy about to start an EMT class. I have another guy that is good at graphic design and can design some cool, punk rock looking patches to use as rewards for my qualifications. Hell, I have a bunch of motherfuckers willing to fight under my banner (note to self: acquire banner) which I really should feel great about. But man...I look at the road ahead sometimes, and I wonder if I have the strength to make it work.

And the goddamn clock just won't stop ticking.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2nd Amendment, Simplified

Let me start with something that will grab your attention.

Guns are not for killing criminals. Guns are for killing cops.

Now let's back up a bit so that doesn't sound too radical. We'll start with, of all people. Mao Tse Tsung-a man who really knew how to shake the pillars of heaven. He said, rather astutely, I think, that all political power comes from the barrel of a gun. That's a Spider Jerusalem truth bomb right there. That is the reality. That's motherfucking realpolitik, as we whackjob pundits like to say. A government that cannot appeal to your better half, always has the option to impose it's will by force. A government that cannot do so, has no real power. Ergo, a government in control of all personal weaponry-one who controls it's dispensation, licensing, sale, possession, regulation and use-has, for practical purposes, all the power in it's borders at it's disposal.

We cannot afford to let the police have all the power. History has shown us that doing so is a terrible idea. Why? Because the police are not always your friends. Sometimes the police succeed at protecting citizens from criminals, especially if we give them unlimited authority to do so. But in no situation throughout history has a disarmed population ever been able to protect itself from the police.

That is why the fury exists over so called "assault weapons"-semi automatic rifles in intermediate calibers that is. Police and soldiers all wear body armor and the only thing they have a real reason to be afraid of now guessed it, mother fucking semi automatic rifles in intermediate calibers. Its what they carry, except for the military who get a select fire model. So reduce a population to manual action rifles, shotguns and hanguns, and a sharp divide between the power of the citizens and the police in the arena of personal arms. (Crew served and combined arms they already have a monopoly on, and don't get me started on that.) The deeper that divide is, the more power is consolidated in the government, and the less is diffused among the citizens.

There is another saying, ironically one rooted firmly in trash fantasy. It is from the Gor novels. "Every man a general in the circle of his sword." Personal weaponry, from pikes to firearms to motherfucking buck rogers lasers, empower the individual. No matter what else happens, he has the potential power of life and death over anyone within range of his weapon. That is also fact. So fundamentally, it is granting control to the tiniest of minorities-the individual. That is why personal armament is the very benchmark of personal freedom-because there is a limit to how much you can be fucked with, if you possess the very power of inflicting harm on those who would fuck with you. That includes thugs, rapists, terrorists and the goddamn police, who with a monopoly on weaponry can fuck you to death without stopping while you can't say shit.

I don't mean for this to devolve into a thinly veiled death threat to any police or military people. God knows that I don't think the time for that is here. But I know this-the man that wants to disarm me, whether a random crazy hobo in the parking lot to the highest authority in the land, only wants to do so because he is going to do something to me that I could prevent by using a weapon. Whatever that agenda is that requires me to be helpless, it cannot be good.

So sit back. Crank up your tunes, it's the wild wild west. Grab your glock and your forty and your bullet proof vest. As long as you've got a weapon that can effectively kill cops, you are something like a free man. But every time they propose something, look hard at their motivation. The temptation to make the police's job easier is a strong one, as it is a hard and sometimes terrible road that they walk. But I know my history, and I know that if the police become the enemy, at least I can take a few with me.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Last Call, Last Stand Part 6

Chapter 3 - All Friends and Kingdom Come

My dreams were static, veined with that gorgeous valium blue. Occasionally through the hiss and crackle of my worn out neurons firing, I was aware of a droning voice on a radio far away. As the mental fuzz slowly receded, fractal waves on a polluted beach, and my senses started answering for roll call, I became aware first of the noise of an emergency radio, then the sour taste of drying spit around my mouth, and then finally the wall of red behind my closed eyelids. I kept them squeezed shut tightly and reasoned-a skill hard learned after too many unfamiliar wake ups; the red wall means there is a bright light in front of you, and after a 3 day yay run you don't want to be staring into that shit.

I hadn't even gotten the valium eyed girl's name; I vaguely rememered sitting down hard in her chair again and listening to her nervous but steely chatter fade off into a sort of Charlie Brown parent's whine. I was still sitting up in a recliner, so I presumed I hadn't been moved. As my hearing tuned in a little more, I could make out the recorded message on the radio. "...all emergency personel report immediately to their superior. This includes National Guard, police, fire, EMS personel, doctors, nurses, city power and sewage personel, sanitation..." The rain had not let up, providing a constant source of pleasing white noise-probably the source of the static in my dreams. With some trepidation, I opened my eyes.

The bright light slashed into my eyes like a hatchet, and I let out a slow grown and lowered my head. Everywhere else was dark, but for some damn reason there was a big coleman lantern blazing on the coffee table right in front of me. I hadn't seen anything else; mostly I focused on rubbing out the hard circle of yellow now lingering in my vision.

Her voice, beside me. "You okay?"

"Fuh...fine," I croaked, as I fumbled for a cigarette. All without opening my eyes, I lit it and took a deep drag. That is another of life's small strange gifts reserved mostly for the drug user; even blindfolded, underwater and shaking with the DT's, he can always find his smokes and his lighter. Eyes closed was no feat at all. The withdrawl headache that loomed like a winter storm on the horizon retreated a bit, before it could really settle behind my eyes like a great squalling grey bastard. Slowly I forced my eyes open again, and looked around the mostly dark room.

It was just the two of us still, sitting in that small circle of yellow light like nervous pioneers. I could hear the radio loop over with "Any and all instances of looting or secession will be punished by federal authorities to the fullest extent of the law. Please remain at home and provide authorities with a detailed list of all members in your household for rescue supply allocation...."

"You ought to open a window," she said reproachfully, and got up to do it herself. There were sweat stains under her armpits now, particularly the side with the shoulder holster. My inner sociopath also noted the signs of recent crying-eyes rubbed red, barely visible tracks on her cheeks, a pile of tissues next to the electric lantern.

"Sorry." My voice was rusty, and I paused to clear my throat a few times. "How long was I out?" I could already tell it wasn't enough time, however long it had been-I barely had any cravings and I was still bone tired, almost as if I hadn't slept at all.

"About nine hours. The maintenance guys left your new key." She sat back down on the couch, not far from me. In a way, the poor light was a blessing; her eyes didn't captivate me the way they did when they had more to reflect.

"You didn't wake me up?" I grunted, and leaned forward to drag fitfully off my cigarette. My eyes darted around for an ashtray and found an old sprite can instead.

She shook her head, her high and tight ponytail swishing softly over her head. "You looked like you needed it...and I didn't really want to be alone with all this happening." She gestured broadly around, but I'll wager she didn't mean 'lower middle class apartments.'

I took a few more drags and coughed a bit into my fist. "Yeah, what the hell is happening anyway? Seems kind of weird that rioting in Chicago would spread here to Indy."

"I don't know. I know they closed I-65 down due to more flooding-the rain hasn't stopped and the weather guy says it probably won't." I could hear her words echoed on the radio. "TV stopped broadcasting a few hours ago, and I had just got the lantern set up after the power went out."

"Fuck me," I blurted, and then laughed-too far out of my head to do anything else, perhaps. I was remembering how I bought the twinkies and soda at the bodega and laughed at the poor fucks in Chicago. My (bent) funnybone had a soft spot for tragedy; I like to think God made it that way so I wouldn't be too mad about my birthday being September 11th. In 2001, I was the only one laughing that day too. I dropped the cigarette with a hiss into the sprite can.

I regretted the laughter almost immediately; her eyes widened in shock, and perhaps for the first time I could taste acrid fear in her voice as she says "Are you okay?" And of course that was even funnier, but I manage to choke down the giggles and focus by biting my lower lip for a minute-another junkie trick, for those who are keeping score at home. Superman has laser eyes, Wolverine has regeneration, and John Fucking Mackey can take thirty-two micas of LSA and ace his job interview-in fact, he did, three years ago at DialDos. The sudden bright blossom of pain pushed back the rising tide of hysterical laughter.

"I'm okay, sorry. Just had...some weird dreams." My hands shook a little as I lit up another cigarette. I looked around, seeing more rubbermaid tubs in the living room. "Looks like you're ready for it if anyone is."

That got at least a half smile out of her, as if being reminded of it was what she needed. "Well, kind of. My dad...well he was into this end of the world stuff, and I mean..." I couldn't see it, but I could practically hear her blushing. "It's weird, but I mean he made sure I kept all this stuff, this gun..." Here she gestured towards the glock, still hanging like a fat coiled snake in a shoulder holster. "Y'know, in case..."

"In case this ever happened?" I quipped, and enjoyed a pleasant surprise when we both laughed at that. "Hey, who am I to cast stones? Especially now, when he's being proven right?" It occured to me that, with disaster impending, I should be more concerned than I was. But I was insulated, as we all are I think, by my own personal dramas. Right now, the wolves at the door meant a lot less than the pills and snow behind it-and with a start I realized that I was now free to access it again. That meant a lot more to me than some paltry national disaster.

"I guess that's true." She chewed her lower lip as well, and then rubbed her eyes a little bit with her small pale (ringless don't notice the ringless) hands. I felt an uncharacteristic pang of sympathy; she must be tired as hell.

"Well listen," I said, "I'd better get back to my place; I've stayed too long as it is. But listen...what's your name?"

She gave me a short look of reproach. "I told you my name before. Phebe. Biblical spelling."

"Oh." Apparently I had deleted some of our previous conversation. "Well, thanks Phebe for helping me out. But I'd better head back to my place and, uh..." For once I stumbled for a lie; the usual set of circumstances seemed oddly inappropriate. "Y'know, get myself ready too. Load up my gun and shit. But I really appreciate you letting me crash here."

"No problem," she said, flashing me her teeth. "Call me if you need anything."

"Yeah. I will." Either I must already have had her number, or she didn't really want me calling her; I'd check my phone later to see if I had it. Another routine, sad as that is. I rose to leave, stepping into the cold rain again, still dead tired and beginning to feel the dreaded ache in my gut. Everything that was clean and crisp before was starting to have the blurred edges and the smudgy colors. The white crash was like that; it's not that my senses were getting dull, but that the world came into focus only with a little help from my little snow angel. I needed to get into my apartment, and soon. My hands were shaking when I finally got my door opened and headed back to my treasure chest. The day had been long indeed, but at long last it could begin again. I think it was just past midnight before I could get a few holes cut in my brain, and by that time, the bad news didn't bother me at all.

Last Call, Last Stand Part 5

My bosses didn't give up until one o'clock, and by that time I was flagging bad. The cotton candy in my front lobe had melted down into pink slag the exact weight and texture of lead, and it was pulling on my eyelids with iron hooks. 36 hours a-go-go is usually my peak crash time, though with the right dosage I could go for longer. The rain wasn't helping either; it hadn't stopped for a second in all the time we had been sitting there in the dark like morons, and the constant noise was dragging me down into a warm comfy darkness. Only two things kept me awake: the prospect of a few neat lines when I got home, and an unceasing desire to strangle Cesare if he didn't stop pestering me for a Vicadin or an Adderol.

I stepped out into the rain, water flowing gleefully over the tops of my sneakers. The vague squishy discomfort in my feet and the cold rain kept me awake for the drive home, even through three seperate detours due to poor road conditions. The radio was telling me that a state of emergency had been declared for Indiana as well as Illinois. No news bites-this was the EBS, along with that requisite god awful beat. Somewhere in the depths of my sleep deprived fog, I felt I should have been more worried than I was-but I largely ignored the nagging worry while focusing on my driving. My knuckles were stark white against my steering wheel.

The same kind of people that think a puff of reefer will turn you into a jazz music playing serial killer also think that uppers like yay or ice will make you see crazy visions-like Pink Elephants from Dumbo or some shit. They are wrong in this; you can pound out lines all day long and not see anything. It's when you start missing a lot of sleep that your perception starts being skewed. When you get right down to it, its not much different from any other method of sleep deprivation-the brain needs to dream every so often, so whether your eyes are closed or not, you start to see things that aren't there. The dose just helps you panic about it.

I'm no stranger to this particular phenomenon. But it still took me longer than necessary to get my key into the deadbolt of my apartment. The fucker kept moving all over the door. And once I did get it settled in, I couldn't turn it to save my life-it didn't twist right and nothing I could do would make it open. Then there was a small snick, and I was holding the stump of my key in my hand, staring down at it stupidly while the rain poured down around me. I didn't quite hyperventilate, butt I definitely became concious of my heavy breathing and my heart hammering in my chest while I racked my fogged brain for a plan. What's worse, I heard rattling from around inside, and was hellaciously surprised when the door opened in front of me.

I stammered something incoherent as the door opened and a short, skinny girl in faded khakhi shorts and a black tank top opened the door. She had wide, startled blue eyes, and for awhile I couldn't see much else; my perception being as skewed as it was, I simply got lost in them. She had been talking for a minute before I registered any of the words.

"...don't know what your problem is, but take it elsewhere, man." She had a vaguely pensylvania dutch accent, and a tightly pulled ponytail that swished when she cocked her head to the side to look at me. Her skin was pale and freckled, and her features were somewhat coarse. She wasn't wearing makeup, and had slightly crooked teeth.

"What are you doing in my apartment?" I think I said.

"This is my apartment, and I'd appreciate it if you left immediately," she replied sternly. No idle words either-the girl was packing a glock in a shoulder holster, and her delicate hand (with painted purple fingernails) strayed toward it menacingly. Belatedly I focused on the letters stenciled on the pale wooden door. Ooops.

"Shit..." I grunted, and looked down at my snapped off key. "Long day. 'm sorry." The rain hammered down around me while I started to turn away, towards my apartment four doors down. I started to shuffle over to the sidewalk so I could stare impotently at my door and lust after all the delicious goodies on the other side.

"Wait." I turned toward the sound of her voice. She looked surprisingly contrite, though no less ready to ventilate me. "You're Jon, right? You live up a couple of doors." There was a short pause before she stated the obvious. "Your key is broken."

"Yeah...sorry about your lock. I just haven't slept in awhile. I'll call maintenance; they'll let me in." I leaned heavily against the damp brick of the apartment building and fumbled for my phone.

"Well, come on in and get out of the rain at least." She smiled at me, and I smiled back, though I was too tired to make it wicked and lascivious. "You'll catch your death out here." Adorable phrasing; I hadn't heard anyone say that except for British nannies in musicals.

"And I'm not really even chasing it," I said, but I stepped inside-no sense dicking around in the rain while I waited. I stepped into her apartment-neat, clean smelling and cheaply but tastefully decorated. There was a large rubbermaid tub on the coffee table filled with canned goods, and a notepad and pen sitting beside it. That would have seemed odd at any other time, but all I could think of to say as I stood there dripping on her carpet is "Can I smoke in here?"

"I'd rather you didn't," she said crisply, adjusting her pistol rig around her chest. She had cute little perky tits, that I managed to pry my eyes away from. "Still, it looks like you need it. Go ahead, but stay next to the open window."

"You're a sweetheart," I mumbled, and got out the phone for my relevant call to maintenance. I had them on speed dial-when you dabble in the drug trade and date strippers, you get your locks changed often. I dialed them while I fumbled a cigarette from my pack and lit it, sitting in a large cozy papa san by her living room window. While the phone ring I watched a couple of fish flit around in a massive aquarium next to me. She didn't have a TV, but I could hear a radio in the background giving the same rehashed emergency status announcement I had been listening to earlier.

"Not really," she said. She sat down on an overstuffed loveseat and picked up a pencil, making a few scribbles on it while she looked through the canned goods in the rubbermaid tub. "But I've seen you around before, and I suppose that makes you my neighbor. And I try to help my neighbors when I can."

Our conversation got cut off by the chirpy tone of the office gals for our apartment complex. I danced through the tired routine with them. Yes, I'm locked out of apartment 119. Yes, I'll pay the 25.00 lockout fee. Yes, you can reach me at this number. I had done it often enough for it to be rote. I was on my second cigarette and nodding off by the time they told me to call back if I hadn't heard from Maintenance in 30 minutes. For awhile I just sat there in silence, swimming in and out of conciousness, with the sound of her pencil scratching and a staticky radio in the background. It felt good, but I really needed to take a valium and crash for awhile.

"So what is this, all this?" I said finally, more to keep myself awake than anything else. With a wave of my hand (shaking by now) I gestured to the rubbermaid tub. In the corner, I noticed three more just like it, stacked up neatly with a piece of paper taped to the side of each.

"Oh, you know. All this flooding and such." A short, awkward pause. "Well, I keep some extra food around is all. I thought, since I'm off work today, it might be a good time to take an inventory. You know, just in case." I nodded, though I really hadn't grasped it yet. "I know that seems..." Her voice trailed off.

"Weird?" I supplied, and regretted it immediately. "No, that's wrong," I addly quickly, before she could respond. Sleep was loosening my tongue, and yet I could barely understand myself when I was speaking. "Still, with all that shit going on, sounds like a good idea." My phone rang-Cesare-and any profound thoughts I might have had were cut away in a flood of Kottonmouth Kings. "Sorry," I finished sheepishly.

No sleep and no drugs make Mackey...something something.

"No, I know it sounds weird," she conceded. Her hands were undoing and redoing her ponytail; she had done so three times in the last few minutes, presumably to cover up her nervousness. "My parents insisted, you know? And then they called and..." She shrugged, and leaned back down over her notepad. "It's as good a time as any to make sure I'm set."

I was spared a reply as Maintenance banged on her door, startling her and bringing out that snappy blue in her eyes. It was harder than a visitor knock, softer than a cop knock, and consistent and professional-odds are they have a door they practice on somewhere, to get a consistent, customer pleasing sound that some stupid fuck was making a fortune hiring focus groups out to study.

"...ten minutes or so with the rain, but we'll just be detaching your door. You do have ID right?" I did, though I don't exactly recall getting up; I was really caught up in my internal monologue. I'd like to blame that on the pills and sleep deprivation too, but I think I've always been that way. "...outside, you can wait in here till we're done. We have your number so we'll call you. You want that billed to your rent?" I nodded again and signed a couple papers with an illegible scrawl.

The girl-only now I realized I didn't know her name-had come up behind me. "You can stay here till they get done."

"," I said with some difficulty. "Nobody wants that; it's too comfortable in that goddamn chair and I'll pass out." I needed to get some fresh air, filter it through some nicotine, and rely on the cold rain to keep me awake long enough to get inside. But she grabbed me by the arm-the first human contact since Cristal had left my house this morning-and that more than anything else kept me from stepping out into the rain. That, and the memory of her startled blue eyes. They were valium gel tab blue, and nobody loved that color more than me.

Last Call, Last Stand Part 4

Chapter 2 - The Other Shoe

When you get right down to it, cold call telemarketing is a lot like knife fighting. You do best when you obscure the point for as long as possible before you stick it in 'em. Obfuscate the main point, say "FREE TRIAL" as much as possible, and only mention the 299.99 closing cost and return shipping when you've already got them far enough that they'll feel awkward pulling out-specifically, after you've got their name and address. It's the conversational equivalent of holding your hand up high, waving it to draw their attention, and drawing your knife with the other hand and spilling their greasy guts to the floor in one swift swipe. I'm good at my job; I'm a good talker and a pretty good knife fighter to boot. The fundamental instinct of misdirection goes a long way in both fields.

The rain had finally stopped at 8:54 when I pulled into the parking lot. As usual I was knee deep in trash in my old 91 chevy cavalier, beer bottles and fast food wrapper trash clinking and rustling around my sensible work shoes. No one cares at DialDos (The premiere language learning direct marketer in the Midwest, at least according to our website) if you show up drunk or high, but I spritzed myself with some of that noisome Axe body spray and popped a breathmint out of rote. People were still milling around the office entrance, enjoying the brief flash of hazy sunshine beneath a sky the color of dirty wool. As I stepped out of the car a couple of them called me over.

"Mackey! Hey, Mackey!" bellowed the loudest of them. I won't say Cesare is a douchebag exactly, but he has three kids and I still get two thirds of his paycheck every week for pills. He could charitably be called jovial, with a thick tangled beard to hide his chins and flaccid bitch tits from hell, in a silk crimson dress shirt, he looks like a weird fat Mexican santa claus. He strode over to me with a Swisher sweet hanging from his mouth. "You been watchin' the news dude? That's some crazy shit right there."

"Caught it last night," I said cautiously. I lit my own cigarette, more to cover the smell of that cheap cigarillo than any genuine need. "You see them drag that chick out of her car? Unbelievable." It was 8:57 now and I wasn't thinking about her at all. My coke buzz had worn off, and I felt nearly nothing from the joint on the way to work. It was as close to sobriety as I cared to toe, and I was already more interested in a quiet moment in the bathroom than hearing whatever Cesare's take on the food riots were.

"Yeah, I watched that shit all night, that was unbelievable." His wormy lips moved even when he paused in the conversation, mouthing that cheap swisher like a goddamn pixie stick. I hated that. "Anyway man, can I get a front on some Vinnies and maybe some e? The missus and I are going partying this week and..."

I tuned him out, made the appropriate noises. I assured him that Dr. Mackey was still in business and I would call him at the end of our shift. Yes, on the second cell phone. No, I didn't have one on me now. No, I didn't want to go clubbing with you and your mistress while you left your girlfriend at home with the kids. No, I was most especially not interested in the strip club. Yes, I'd call you. It was 9:03 before I finally got punched in.

My first order of business was a quiet trip to the bathroom, where I locked the door and crushed up some Vicadin (I had lied to Cesare) between two spoons. The marble countertop was cool and smooth against my face when I snorted it, a comforting pressure with the color and texture of melting cotton candy taking up residence in my frontal lobe. Then I stepped out onto the call floor. The drone of telemarketing chatter swirled around me, further muffled by the drone of harder rain against the dirty windows. I took my seat at the end of the row of cubicles beneath the faded "Monthly Sales Stars" Banner. I hated sitting there, with my own face on the wall of top employees staring down at me, but it was the only place I could get away with a bump.

Between calls everyone was talking about Chicago, and the rising floodwaters that were threatening the rest of the midwest now. Other than a really persistent rumor that the media blackout was to cover a secession and the occasional whispered discussion of the rape video, nothing really interesting came up. My sales numbers were poor; for some reason my heart wasn't in it. All I could do was continue my scripted knife fights and count down the minutes to my next cigarette break. Time passed slowly, to the tune of pouring rain.

The power flickered off at 11:07, twenty three minutes from my break. The chatter grew more excited for awhile. The Chicago riots were on everyone's mind, but mostly they were all excited at the prospect of going home early. Still, the undercurrent of fear ran like a live wire through the place while management scurried back and forth on their cellphones demanding various impossible things from the municipal power company. Me, I just wanted a fucking smoke.

Last Call, Last Stand Part 3

People mischaracterize meth heads as addicts, here in the great groaning portapotty that comprises American Popular Psychology. But the assumption is wrong, and has always been wrong. A tweaker is a special breed of drug user, the ugly mutant offspring of the speed freaks of the 90's and the balls-to-the-wall heroin junkies of the 70's. Allow me, the Reverend Jon Mackey of the Last Church of Gonzo, to explain it to you.

By the time a person is so addled that the sulphur demon is attractive to them, they will put anything at all in their bodies-from Xanax to Boone's Farm to miles and miles of syphilitic dicks. If you use crystal, it is because you are so desperate to be outside yourself that you will use anything. Crystal can give you that-in fact, in some ways it is the best of drugs, because it can give you that for days. But take that away, and there is always Vicadin, pot, speed, yay, hash, cheap wine, Yellow jackets and Robotussin. The modern meth head is desperately uncomfortable within the greasy confines his or her own skin.

Cristal (like the overpriced drink, not like crystal-though the irony was not lost on me) was my now ex's least favorite co worker, and she was no exception to the rule. The smooth lines I'd cut on the coffee table snared her as neatly as peanut butter on a mousetrap. "I don't normally do coke," she chatters to me, with a thin line of blood running from her nose, making a stark track in the makeup. "But it's like, been a hard day, and like this bitch Eva kept upstaging me, so I was like..." I tuned her out, bend to do my own line.

I could still hear the news in the background. The most common phrase is 'Inter-racial backlash.' No one is offering live footage of the city anymore, not even from helicopters. The yay traced a burning white line in my brain, sharpened my view of the news ticker. It reads '...death toll from flooding now at 400; riots death toll still undetermined; national guard in Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan mobilized...' I found myself caring somewhat less than I cared about the last girl to leave sobbing from my apartment.

Cristal and I fucked violently, at frenzied coke paces to the flickering light of CNN on the tv-they were replaying the Chicago Gang Rape footage again. Afterwards, I light up a cigarette and spend a half hour or so pointedly not talking to her while she fidgets awkwardly next to me trying to figure out a way to ask me to cut up a couple more lines.

The clock hit 7:34 before the term "MARTIAL LAW" appeared on the ticker. I spent a little time listening to the president's press secretary, some pasty white guy with a name I can't remember, give the usual disaster spiel. I even caught some footage of APC's rolling down the highway in knee deep water while Cristal made small frightened noises in the bed next to me.

Not entirely heartless, I sent her off with a bump for the road, and started to get dressed for work. The rain was coming down harder, and the news was getting worse. They had just announced a media blackout on not only Chicago, but the rest of Illinois as well. Even filtering the news through a couple of tokes, I found it barely tolerable. How was I supposed to get my human suffering fix now? When you've watched the human mob burning and raping their neighbors, how is celebrity drama going to have the same kick? Unlike a tweaker, I have selective taste.

I left the house at 8:12. By then I had put her out of my mind. But it was still destined to be the longest day of my life.

Last Call, Last Stand Part 2

It rained hard all the way to the corner bodega. I had thrown on a hoodie and a pair of jeans, and both were soaked through when I got into the store. My mood wasn't improving; the pounding water had beaten out the last of my buzz and my socks were getting wet. There was a brief staredown with my bedraggled reflection in the store window.

Looked at from the outside, I don't really come across as the consumate scumbag boyfriend. I keep my hair (brown enough to be practically black) trimmed in a tight buzzcut, although my goatee has gotten unruly over the past three days of screaming matches and sodomy. My eyes seem small behind my oh-so-ironic black framed glasses, and my face is broad and honest with a nose just a bit too big to fit on it. I'm told often that my smile is inviting and wicked. Its my only sinister feature, but I use it well-women in 2009 America learn early on that only the bad boys are sexy.

The best thing about the bodega is that the news on the little black and white TV is usually Univision, so I'm not assailed with current events every time I need a nicotine fix. This time, though, I could hear Spanish chatter from the newscaster, but I couldn't help notice what was becoming known as "The Chicago Rape" replays being shown over and over again. The sole employee, some skinny dude with a junior college sweatshirt, was watching with the same rapt glazed stare that the rest of America was using-a drop in a perverted voyeur ocean. The incomprehensible words rolled over me while I dripped on the floor, trying to see what 2-for-1 specials they had in menthol.

"Get me that two pack of Marlboro Smooths," I finally said. In my head, I could almost hear a wet popping noise while he reluctantly peeled his eyes from the screen, like two horny sucker darts. He didn't say anything to me, just got me my cigarettes, accepted a couple of rolled up bills as payment, and went back to the free Reality Porn.

It was a quarter to five, and I had already stopped caring about her.

Perhaps in a vain hope that the rain would let up, or perhaps out of a sheer morbid boredom, I tried to strike up a friendly conversation about the riots with the clerk. He tried the old 'No habla ingles' gambit, but I had seen him before and I wasn't buying it. As far as I could tell, his name was Cristobol, and he had no fucking idea how long the crisis was going to last, but if any "cabrones" came to loot his store, he'd fuck them with machetes. Good man. I approve of a solid American work ethic.

Before I left, I checked out the pricing on chips and bottled water. Through the roof, even accounting for the usual bodega markup, but better than those starving bastards in Chicago were doing. Bemused by the irony, I went back and got a couple of twinkies and a soda before I left. Stuffing them down in an inner pocket with my cigarettes so they wouldn't get wet, I wondered who I could get to sleep with me at 5 in the morning. The late hour was a problem, but I still had six or seven grams of white working in my favor.

It took me longer than I expected-I can't text in the rain.

Last Call, Last Stand Part 1

Chapter 1 - Worm's Eye View

The year is 2009, and nobody knows what the fuck is going on.

The biggest problem is that we have too much information to be well informed. TV, radio, cable news and a million Internet sites are all screaming The One Truth at maximum volume, and if you don't like the Truth you see all you have to do is be selective about your media intake. We still cling to the tattered remains of the myth that anyone with drive and determination can change the world, but most of us can barely change the channel.

My girlfriend left me at 1 am last night, right after a session of exquisite make up sex. I had turned on the TV to some CNN anchor droning about massive flooding in the Midwest-God help me, I needed the noise to concentrate-and she came back from the bathroom where she had been sponging my DNA off her neck. "This isn't normal," she said. Her eye was still puffy; our previous discussion had been heated. My reflexive guilt twinge was long since burned out.

I said "No one's normal."

"You can't buy me off with a couple of orgasms anymore. I'm fucking done." Her voice-that small wounded girl with daddy issues voice that had drawn me to her like bloody chum for a shark-was surprisingly unwavering and resolute. She had probably been practicing her little speech in the bathroom for some time. "You fucking hit me. You fucking hit me." The last was incredulous, almost as if it hadn't happened before. "Nobody has to put up with that."

"Can you cut the cliches?" I replied, clicking channels. I didn't look at her, less because of guilt and more because over the past year I had simply grown to hate her. "The victim card is all played out with you, doll. Go, if you need to go. But spare me the ultimatum speech; you know how it always ends."

I could hear the shame in her voice now through the cracks in her defenses, as her carefully choreagraphed response was cut off by me skipping a couple stages ahead in the argument. "I'm not coming back this time. I met a guy at work-he says he's going to take care of me. He says I deserve better. He calls me Princess." Smug here. But attacking the moral outrage\jealousy nerve of the Modern American Male (Americanus Eunuchio) was a lost cause. My masculinity wasn't pricked; it wasn't even prickled.

I paused in the act of stealing a cigarette from her pack, and looked up at her. Her graceful aquiline jaw was set in stone. She was serious. I weighed my options carefully, then took a couple more so I wouldn't have to go to the store until morning. "You can call a stripper princess, but that don't make her royalty," I said, more resigned than angry.

Try as I might, I wasn't able to avoid the rest of the tedious, unremarkable argument. It was 2:30 before she actually packed up her shit and left. By then I had smoked all of my pilfered cigarettes and was pawing around in the ashtray for a reasonable butt. I found a roach instead, and lit it with a sigh of satisfaction.

By now I had filtered through all 436 channels and was back to the news. There was rioting in Chicago again-with all that flooding, food prices had skyrocketed. One news channel was blaming the problem on a slow aid response by the government (Damn you laws of physics!) and the other was blaming it on greedy corporations raising prices the moment the supply dried up (Damn you laws of economics!"). I thought about turning on the computer to dig into the story a little more, see if aliens, Bigfoot or the Trilateral comission was getting the blame from the fringes, but I remembered the bitch had taken her laptop. That was probably when I realized it was final.

The realization didn't touch me as much as it should have. The roach did though, and I was flying by the time they showed any footage from the riots. I watched two different mobs-one black, one Hispanic, and neither concerned with shattering the stereotype-break into empty grocery stores, one by prying open the door with a crowbar and the other by throwing a cinder block through the window. Their faces were rapt, breathless with fury as they pawed through the empty shelves. Most didn't even bother with protest signs. They were in it for revenge against their Oppressors, who had kept them in bondage for so long. They were a storm of righteous fury, brave socially disadvantaged rebels struggling against the tyranny of 16.50 for a loaf of bread and 8.75 for a bottle of clean water, in a city where every road in was cut off by torrential flooding.

They spent at least an hour raping a woman who was calling the police. The camera never left her for about forty minutes of it; it was their highest rated segment in months. Years later I would see her in a celebrity topless boxing tournament.

The revelation that human beings are violent, ruthless animals with just enough brains to wage war effectively was nothing new to me. The gang rape footage was, however, and I watched it, and the replay, until my buzz slowly died down to a dull roar.

At 4:30 am, I went to get a pack of cigarettes, and Chicago burned.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sleep Deprived Conversation with Myself

Conversation with myself in the car today. Hour 47 awake. New Britany spears single comes on the radio.

Chris: I can't quite make this out, but I'm almost sure this song is endorsing group sex. And fuck you all, but it's actually quite catchy.
Chris: Catchy in the sense that it has the same hook playing on loop with an occasional verse thrown in. The entire structure of lyrics is being completely reversed here, and you're okay with it because its about threesomes?
Chris: Look, it's endorsing a treasured lifestyle practice of mine, give a nigga a break.
Chris: Fuck you, you sick weirdo, it's still the same bubblegum pop you hated when you were a teenager. You sellout.
Chris: Look, it's obvious what is happening here.
Chris: You're going nuts?
Chris: No, dumbass! Think of the social pressure-as the menage a trois becomes hip and trendy the world you are living in improves exponentially. Don't you see what this means? The world is finally conforming to your desires for it. Society is changing to suit your needs at last.
Chris: That is a reasonable and adequate explanation for this phenomenon, requiring no other.
Chris: I concur.
Chris: I say we spark up this doob.
Chris: In this, I also concur.