cuntycouture

The indecipherable ranting of a half-blind Russian immigrant

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The Party Weight Champions of the World

One year ago today, my first article about a little amateur wrestling league in Austin was published in my first paid journalism job writing for the lifestyle section of The Horn. The Horn, being a small online publication, lost its database sometime last summer and all of my articles went with it. Which is probably for the best, but I always had a soft spot for this one. It launched a trajectory in wrestling fandom that I would’ve never expected, as I was a total wrestling novice at the time. PWR has grown incredibly since this article and I’m happy to call most of these interview subjects friends. I’m posting this as an unedited, cut-and-paste from an archival site. I did not include the Buzzfeed-esq links to the promos or wrestler pages. Looking back, it reads as a fangirl love letter to the early days of PWR:

The Party Belt Champions of the World

Party World Rasslin’ is not your average wrestling league. What lurks in the shadow of the ultra-violent Anarchy Championship Wrestling organization and Inspire Pro Wrestling in Austin is a truly DIY, wholly amateur, Vaudevillian, character-driven form of backyard wrestling that conveys the truest essence of punk rock.

Look no further than this organization’s Facebook page for an idea of what to expect. The first line of their invitation for Winter WonderSlam reads, “SNOW MERCY! Raise your althorns and wineskins amidst the chill of Fimbulwinter and know the exaltation and glory of TRVE KVLT PARTY WRESTLING!” If promises of “Freon-cold KEG BEER” and “Soul-charring pizza” aren’t enough of a hook, perhaps the multitude of promo videos for their various characters should be.

Luigi Primo, for lack of a better explanation, is a stereotypical Italian pizzeria owner. In the video, Luigi is carelessly tossing pizza dough and bragging about how his pizza has significantly fewer nails than his competitor’s pizzas. As proof, he pulls a pie out of the oven and exclaims, “I finda nail, it’s just one. I catch it in time.” Primo is a heel, a wrestling term for a villain, and is even more dastardly due to his disdain for wait-staff and his inevitable ties with organized crime. The end of the video depicts two hipster customers being ejected from the restaurant after asking for hot tea and gluten-free pizza. Primo screams at them, “Gluten not a real! Celiac’s not a real!”

Social media has allowed PWR to build their reputations outside of the ring. Corporate shill, Dan “The Man” Ziggler can often be found running his mouth off in character about his opponents and occasionally speaking in hash tags, “A lot of #haters jealous of my #success.”
Dock Master, the stoic hero of the Nova Scotian working class, in stark contrast, reels from his loss at WonderSlam by posting, “Adrift between Houston and Halifax, I still haven’t brought my trawler to port. No doubt the men and women of the docks have already heard of Ziggler’s treachery, but I can’t bring myself to face them. May the sea forgive me for what I’ve brought upon the docks.”
Social media posturing and online pissing contests aside, what is it like to see PWR in action?  I was fortunate enough to witness Winter WonderSlam last December with only the word of mouth recommendation of a friend who attended Slamhain in October. When I saw that their IndieGoGo had met their goal of $666 and that it allowed for a ring to be constructed and two Porta Potties to be anchored in the front yard, I knew that it would be a spectacle to behold.

The Sanchez Center is a clever name for the backyard of a residential East Austin home that has hosted these matches since its inception in the last spring. When I arrived an hour after the official start of the match, there were already 150 people in attendance. A crowd that large can be intimidating for first time audiences, but the only way to fully experience PWR is to get ringside. As I move toward the ring, the match in play is regarding the estate of the late Victor Von Vang who died in the ring at Slamhain. His Wiccan niece, Diana Hearthstone, was smudging the ring with sage as the legal counsel of Ronald Roundtree and Associates waited for her to invoke the spirit of her late uncle.

This is just the first five minutes.

The next three hours are incredible. Even without the knowledge of previous rivalries, it’s not hard for newcomers to be caught up as the announcers fill in the blanks of the ongoing drama from prior fights. Between the spot-on improvisation of the announcers, surprise guests, physicality of special moves, and the relentless chanting and booing of the crowd, a smile never left my face. It was comedy gold, fun for the sake of fun, and entertainment by its pure definition. It was the best thing I saw all of December and it was free.

Who are the people behind PWR? Dan “The Man” Ziggler, describes them as, “good-natured nerds,” which is the most accurate description anyone could give to this organization. I met with him, Party World Rasslin’s Commissioner Chris Monica, and PWR’s official photographer Elissa Chopov at Radio Coffee and Beer during the first week of January.

The concept of Party World Rasslin’ started off as a sideshow full of scantily-clad fanboys limited by what they could do in between bands to the main event; a vibrant form of entertainment that people would actually come to watch. It also had the added benefit of getting some great minds in the same room to envision a multiverse of possibility. Monica’s fervor for his co-creation is hard to ignore. Besides wrangling the 30+ people involved with the organization at any given time as Commissioner, he also wrestles as Luigi Primo and The Nightcrawler, often portraying all three during any given match. When I told him about how a friend at Winter WonderSlam was not impressed with the physical ability of the wrestling, he sincerely responded, “That’s not really what this is all about.”

This is true. PWR is not the meat-head world of MMA, WCW, or even Lucha libre, but it does borrow heavily on many of the conceptual aspects of the latter two. The elaborate, technical wrestling moves that PWR can manage are more like the attention grabbers; the icing on the comedy cake. Not to say there wasn’t a lot of physicality seen at WonderSlam. These matches are roughly twenty minute or longer bouts. These performers are bench pressing other human beings and body slamming them onto a not quite professionally constructed ring made of plywood all the while staying in character and keeping sharp enough to improvise lines, which is probably why they practice every Sunday upwards of four hours at a time.

Practice is a sight to behold: half naked men of various sizes are grappling with each other and practicing character work on the first warm day of the New Year. On the ground next to the fence are six bare mattresses in various states of decay. PWR is not an all-male organization, three slight but strong women are learning how to do suplexes for the first time. This is happening in the backyard of Monica’s house in deep East Austin.

A man in a truck drives past the yard slowly with a bewildered look on his face. Rick Petaccio is the only wrestler to use his own name for his character and whose heel persona seems to have bled into real life, turns around and says, “What the fuck is that guy looking at?” 420 Alien looks up from his phone and replies, “I’m sure he’s wondering the same thing.” From the corner of my eye I see the strongman who plays Dock Master launch a man in the air and onto the safety of the mattresses below. Monica sees the look of disbelief in my eyes and says, “That’s Tracy, you should talk to him.”

Tracy Hunt, the unknown man I saw being hurled through the air, is an unofficial consultant for PWR and will be wrestling for the first time with them at WrestleSlam. He trained with a small federation called KYDA Pro in Virginia a decade ago. He also worked security for the shows and helped with the practices. He met WWE Women’s Champ Mickie James and ECW’s Axl Rotten but an injury made him rethink wrestling as a hobby.

“Now, years later, I’ve stumbled across PWR and thought it would be fun to work with them in a much more relaxed capacity than the school, which was pretty brutal.” He helps PWR handle some of the crazier moves and the proper ways to improvise sparring.

After nearly six hours of practice the starving group eventually disbands. Dan Ziggler loves Buffet Palace. We have adjourned our last two meetings there. The first time, as I sat down, Dan turned to me and said, “Hey, check this out.” Dan then proceeded to squeeze a lime into his right eye. I am unsure if it is the endorphins released in the duration of practice or the collective hunger of everyone in the car on the way to Buffet Palace, but there is a sort of Zen vibe rolling with us along Ben White. Chris says one of the more profound things I’ve heard someone say.

“Joy is struggling towards an achievable goal with others.”

Dock Master admits, somewhat melancholic, that doing PWR for the last few months has brought him more joy than the years he’s been studying Philosophy.

Hearing everyone come up with characters and their vivid backstories is perhaps the funniest thing to listen to while eating orange chicken. The next match, WrestleSlam I (The Riots of Spring), without spoiling the surprises, should see a lot of child versus father/creator matches. PWR has a private planning page where threads of character ideas are formed. I ask Chris how far they can go with an idea, especially in regards to whether or not some things should be deemed offensive. As always, he is quick with thoughtful replies.

“Bad guy characters need to be offensive, but there are lines that can’t be crossed, and these lines are understood by everyone involved in performing,” he says. “Anything that makes fun of an ethnic or sexual minority by a group in power is not permissible. ‘Punch up, never down,’ as our announcer team of Timmy Quivers and Mike the Bear are wont to say.” Timmy Quivers, or by his real name Timothy Faust, loves PWR so much he flies in from New York for every match just to do the announcing.

Dock Master’s rich baritone fills the car on the ride back from Buffet Palace. The song is a forlorn folk hymnal about fishing that he wants to use in his next promo video. It’s a strange and fitting end to a long day. Along with some small planning business, they are also trying to plan a road trip to Florida to pick up a $1500 professional ring that they’ve just purchased for WrestleSlam. This will be the last time PWR performs at the Sanchez Center, with every match gathering 100 more people each time, there isn’t much sustainability in a place surrounded by so many neighbors. This, however, isn’t the end for PWR.

In less than a year they have managed to produce four matches. There is no end of creative potential among them, and with each match new crops of hopeful amateur wrestlers come out of the woodwork to be vetted by the founding members. There is no shortage of enthusiasm. The Riots of Spring already promises an endless array of pagan/metal motifs to play with. New characters, like a sentient hamburger from space looking to experience all aspects of life or a horse that lifts weights will eventually replace those ready to retire.

The future looks bright for Party World Rasslin’, with momentum only increasing with each new match. While this isn’t something that needs to be explained to the believer, it is certainly something worth experiencing to the uninitiated. You can see PWR in action for free on Saturday, March 7th, 2015 at The Sanchez Center 1612 Sanchez St.

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The One Time I Ate a Bunch of Mushrooms at an Outdoor Music Festival: Part II

(AUTHOR NOTE: The five of you kind enough to subscribe to this blog may have been waiting with bated breath for the second installment of my three-part psychedelic musical opus. Unfortunately, the only one I have in the bag is this short section that, like the rest of the piece, is unfinished. But it’s funny still and deserves told in addition to Part I. I may not finish my trilogy and to be fair, I’m saving a lot of my current work for actual publication so you’ll probably see less of it on here. That being said, you’ll probably see little personal essays pop up from now and then if I’m not busy wasting good material on social media. The whore. If you haven’t already, please check out WeeklyWeirdMonthly.com where you can find all kinds of projects I’ve been dipping into and helping to release. Also, I just found out that Cunty Couture is a Drag Queen from PA. I hope she doesn’t write.)

The One Time I Ate a Bunch of Mushrooms at an Outdoor Music Festival: Part II

The Vignette

After the awful exchange it occurred to me that I hadn’t eaten anything in two days. A line of cocaine at the strangest brunch ever wouldn’t suffice. Normally the urgency of starving would be obvious and I’d simply eat anything, but I had taken more mushrooms mere minutes ago and knew I had just enough time to consume something before I lost my appetite again. Every truck had a line. Every truck but Gourdough’s.

I’d harbored interest. There was a rumored bacon maple doughnut roughly the size of a small cake. I looked at the short line and saw the familiar sight of fat assholes. Not in the literal sense, obviously, but I saw my people. The shameless ones. Or, respectfully, The Shameless Ones.

The rumors were true, it was the biggest doughnut I’d ever seen topped with a handful of full slices of bacon. For $5. I felt a palpitation looking at it. I don’t even care for maple flavoring, but I dove in. Exactly three bites later the mushrooms began their invasion. I had underestimated my timeframe. I found the nearest trashcan, spit out the bite I was currently chewing, and violently threw the small boat of grease into the receptacle.

My timing couldn’t have been worse. I looked up to see a familiar face far too close to mine. An aging man who didn’t care for aging, man. His thin, long hair closely matted to scalp with sweat. His crow’s feet narrowed, “I know you.”

He did. I did not want to continue this exchange.

“No. No you don’t.” I turned to make a quick escape. An overreaction caused by drugs.

But he managed to get in front of me again.

“Where do I know you?”

He knew me from SXSW. I had gotten pretty day drunk which bled into ugly night drunk. I was at one of many internet marketing parties with free alcohol. He had first seen me at the pizza parlor next door about an hour before. Soon I was outside without the aid of my friends when he approached me. I was too drunk to recall the exact exchange but I was being far too enthusiastic about his bicycle accident story. I was in the dangerous realm of a state I call “mobile drunk” where I appear to be coherent, but in reality, I am at high-functioning blackout. I was paying way too much attention to this man for way too long. He must have been impressed and thought I was aggressively flirting back with him. Which I very well could’ve been. My ride caught me right as he went in for a kiss, “Cheryl, let’s go.” As my mobile drunk self has done to countless of other innocent bystanders, I left him in the dust of European compact car blowing kisses through the window. Perhaps he hoped we’d meet again?

I didn’t. Now I was staring at him. His eyes searched mine. Looking for my soul to connect to his. But there wasn’t one in there. Inside of me, at that moment, was an angst-ridden feral cat. I couldn’t articulate the same flashback to him in my condition. I could barley get the word say “no” without it sounding unnatural.

One Night in Savannah

The fairy wings were a terrible idea.  It seemed cute hours ago resting on the bed of her dorm room surrounded by potential outfits for the evening.  But in practice, there, in a dimly lit bar far from the friends she had arrived with, those wings had become a beacon of bad tiding.  Especially to the portly thirty-year-old man behind her being poked by the right wing.  The left had taken on a shape closer to a collapsed dorsal fin.  The band was good.  So good.  She bounced, and nodded, and gave zero fucks about how out of place she was in this crowd.

“The festival was last week, dipshit.”

“You lost?  The 18-and-over clubs are 7 blocks west.”

“Fuck, are you sweating glitter?”

Not everyone was cruel.  The man whose personal space she invaded with each staggering dance move was obviously annoyed, but not enough to stop her.  Occasionally he’d brush the offensive appendage to the side and move slightly over on that packed floor to give her room while still allowing his vantage point of the stage.

Perhaps it was the elevating reverb off the speakers or the mean, hourglass-shaped retro whore that nearly knocked her over so she could shove her tits in the bassist face that started it?  But the mass of bodies had gotten to her.  She was going to vomit.

A young girl bulldozing through a large group of disaffected and pretentious bar patrons with one hand over her mouth should get people out of the way.  Everyone’s outfit was so perfectly crafted to give the air that nobody gave a shit, how horrible would it be if some drunk undergrad ruined their $70 denim jacket?  Yet they stood firm.  Just enough nodding to show that they were enjoying themselves.  But not too much.   Their eyes only drifting to her to bear disapproval and then back to their friend’s to acknowledge their mutual disdain.

She cut in front of a long line to the women’s bathroom, hands were thrown up, shit was talked but nobody was going to force her out of the stall.  An act like that could result in babysitting this wayward child.  Where were her friends?  There must be others?  They roam in packs.

Safely evacuating what remained of her poorly chosen diet of nothing followed by shitty vodka and cranberry she sat on the toilet for a moment.  Her dress dangling in the water below.  Voices came and went.  Shoes of every variety would become her neighbor for a minute or so before scuttling off.  Sometimes there would be two or three pairs.  She leaned her head against the toilet roll dispenser.  Her eyes focused one the darkest graffiti on the door, “ezra j is a fucking Slut.”  There was no deeper meaning to it, but there she was, focusing the last remaining bits of her sobriety at that sentence.  Slut was capitalized.  Nothing else.  Life dimmed for a moment.

She was awakened by the sound of squeaking voices.  A chorus of them.  Her subconscious must have associated the pitch of these girls as the universal pitch of all groups of girls between the ages of 18-22.

“I said I didn’t want to leave that bar.  Why are we even here?  They charged a cover.  I mean, hello, I’m a girl.  I don’t pay cover.”

That nasty voice and firm sense of self-worth could only be Amanda, her roommate.  She moaned softly in the stall.  They, in turn, didn’t recognize her distress signal.  One of them tried to push open the door.

“Oh shit, I’ve got to pee.  Uggghhh.”

She couldn’t find her voice but she was elated that they had come back for her.  Real friends.  The best.

What she did not know is they did not come back for her.  They came back because the guy Amanda had been mercilessly chasing all semester wanted to come here.  And her friends followed because that’s what friends do, follow the loudest one to the kind of place she would hate the most.

Amanda did not know that the object of her desire and the roommate she secretly despised were hanging out two hours earlier at this very bar back when the fairy wings were still erect and worn properly on both shoulders.

Amanda did not know that they sat at the picnic tables out back and shared a joint.  That he looked at her roommate not with the judgmental stares of an aging vinyl collector but as a horny 21-year-old college Junior who had been smitten with the glitter-covered darling since she sat next to him in English 1010.  He’d pulled his hit a little longer, locking his eyes at her playfully.  She would return the gaze by being bashful.  Until the bar back who looked like a metal Martin Starr told them they couldn’t smoke back there.  They got up to check out the opener and as her lead her inside, she stopped him in the nook of the entry.  Their faces so close, that static before the first kiss, only broken by her need to use the bathroom.  And then she was gone.

He waited.  He lurked around.  Trying to not to look as alone as he was.  But time elapsed, and he began to feel foolish about how long he had been waiting.  When he ran into Amanda, the strumpet immediately tried to get him to leave.  Amanda acknowledged that he was reluctant to do so.

He even breathed her name, “Have you seen Savannah?”

She quickly dismissed the absent fairy and responded, “She’s probably already over there.”

Savannah cradled her head in her hands in that stall.  Lurched over in a position familiar to the career drunk.  The squeaking choir started to dwindle.  Soon the last one’s heels tapped out of the bathroom.  It echoed, the disgraceful walk of a child pretending to be an adult.  Savannah had to go after them.  She had to.  She wasn’t sure exactly what neighborhood she was in.  What bus would she take?  The bars were soon to close.  Even in this condition she knew she had to make it home.  The witching hour was upon her.  Once the bars close the real wolves show themselves and a nearly comatose girl wearing a costume in the middle of Spring was bound to become prey.

Savannah, doing what should’ve been done hours ago, wrestled the wings off of her.  It was a more complicated task than she had expected.  Soon the wings were discarded in trash.  Bent, almost a form of art unto itself.  The metamorphosis back into sobriety.  The shedding of whimsy.  Discarded innocence.

She placed both hands firmly on the sides of the sink.  She took a deep breath before looking at herself in the mirror.  It didn’t look good.  Her eye makeup had smeared.  Her lipstick had formed a ring around her mouth.  Then she remembered her mouth and rinsed it.  And her eyes.  And then most of the glitter off her arms.  The screams of last call were being bellowed.

The empty bar was not the place it was when she left it.  Angry men slung industrial trash bags over their shoulders.  They wound cords.  They pushed her aside with yellow buckets of disinfectant.  A large man motioned for her to come close and then told her to get out.

She was now outside with a horde of other bleary-eyed misfits.  She looked up and down the street to find anyone that seemed familiar.  She then realized that they were not worried about her.  That they did not come back to find her.  That they were total assholes that she would never speak to again.  As she attempted to construct a contingency plan the portly man her wings had assaulted earlier pulled up in an oversized moped.  Perhaps it was luck, or pity, or even a cause of concern, but he opened the sunshield of his helmet and asked, “Hey, do you need a ride?”

The mystery of how she was able to hang onto his love-handles and stay on the bike the entire ride remained so.  Even after he decided, in both their interest, to stop at a 24-hour diner before dropping her off.  They sat in near silence across from each other.  He tapped his coffee mug nervously while she hovered in her seat as though a slight breeze was lovingly pushing her in circular motions.  He’d stare at her while she stared at her place setting.  Then to the sugars.  Then to her water.  She placed her head on the table.  Just long enough to feel the smooth, cool surface become warm.   Until the waitress purposely dropped her plate of pancakes off centimeters away from her pursed lips.

“Need anything else?”

Her urban night requested a bottle of Tapatio.  He carefully tipped the eggs onto his toast and liberally applied the sauce.  Savannah sloppily tried to smear the whipped margarine on her short stack but the task soon became too much of a chore.  She picked up an entire dry cake and took about half of it into her mouth before choking slightly.  She then tipped a glass of water to her mouth managing to allow half of the drink to flow down her neck.  The sight of this became depressing for her date.  He reached over and took the plate from her, carefully buttering the pancakes then cutting them into bit sized pieces.  As a finishing touch he drizzled a proper amount of syrup on them and then waived the waitress down to get Savannah a cup of coffee.

Despite her need to be anywhere but in a public place, Savannah looked at her captor with warmth.  If she could manage a sentence lucid enough to describe gratitude she would of blurted it out.  Instead, when he slid the child her plate, she rested her hand on top of his and smiled.  A symbol she hopped would solidify their bond beyond stranger and dependent.  Instead gave him a half-erection.  This depressed him more.

He did manage to get an address from her and soon, dawn looming in the air, she finally had made it home.  She dismounted the scooter and straightened her dress.  She handed her hero his helmet.  They hung in each other’s company for one awkward minute before she gave him a kiss on his receding hairline and headed towards the main entrance.  He watched her walk away.  They did not exchange information.  Not even names.  He’d never see her again but he would think of her every time he’d enter that restaurant.  And she’d think about him never.

This is Fiction

Her bus was headed west towards home.  It was shortly after midnight.  She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, twisting her boarding pass so often that it had become as soft as cotton.  She stared out of the large windows and its layers of petrified water droplets.  There was nothing but darkness on the desolate two-lane highway, the only view was the vague silhouette of herself from a distant reading light reflected back.  She did not need to see it to know what was out there.  The times may have changed but the slight dips in the arid landscape remained.  The cattle yards, the truck stops, the barbed wire still stood after decades of wind and winter and summers.  They would remain.

 

Her uncle had reluctantly purchased the ticket for her.  Her grandfather was dead.  She couldn’t afford the fare and her mother, worse off than she was, was too deep in her own grief to tend to the needs of her daughter.  This was a 30 hour ride.  Enough time to wait like an inmate destined for lethal injection.  Enough time to think about life, family, and regret.  This was her first time back home since the summer she turned 18.  She was bringing back no wild successes, no fruits of promise, no legal offspring. 

 

Daybreak came and slowly the horizon exposed itself, she did not need to see her destination to feel it.  The road home only expanded slightly and the subdivisions stretched farther replacing miles of orchard.  The dry hills were made flaxen in the cool, January air.  Other than the addition of a Panera and a Trader Joe’s not much of the main drag had changed in ten years.  She set foot on her old turf at the empty terminal.  No one met her at the station.  She simply grabbed her large duffle bag and started towards her grandfather’s house through the neighborhoods she spent years wandering through as a child.  The house hadn’t changed much either.  The walls had supported her extended family for the last forty years.  Her grandfather purchased it upon his retirement from the Army.  Undoubtably, the house would be given to her uncle, the most responsible of his children.  He was also the man who paid her expensive tuition during her brief moment as a hopeful MFA.  A fact that made her take a deep breath before knocking on the door.  

 

Her cousin Tiffany was the first to see her.  Tiffany was now fifteen and, what appeared to be, deep into her goth phase.  The look in Tiffany’s eyes made it very clear that she had no recollection of the stranger before her.  She tried to not be hurt by this.  It was fairly narcissistic to expect the teenager to have ever remembered her presence.  But there was a time when she couldn’t get Tiffany to leave her side, often spending many afternoons in high school caring for the little girl.  

 

“Hi Tiffany.  I’m your cousin, Lyn.”

 

Tiffany wordlessly shuffled to the side allowing just enough room to pass.  Lyn’s eyes surveyed the livingroom.   The wood paneling and decor hadn’t changed since her grandmother, God rest her soul, left this world twenty years prior.  Her grandfather’s old recliner stood were it always had, empty now, an untouched relic.  She wandered to the back of the house where she heard her mother’s voice.  From the hallway she could see her mother pacing back and forth through the doorway with various armfuls of her grandfather’s clothing.  She stood there a while in the early morning darkness.  Her mother stopped and stared at her.  Her mother’s eyes were red and raw.  She was always one for dramatics.   

 

The pleasantries, awkward hugs, grueling questions trickled through.  Family acquaintances brought food.  Amber, once her most trusted confidant, came with her two kids.  They sat on the patio as Amber’s boys played in the garden.

 

“You should’ve told me.  I had to hear this from my mother.”

 

Amber was the kind of friend Lyn simply outgrew.  Social media had ruined that comfortable distance.  Amber was always hurt that Lyn was never a strong internet presence.  Lyn just didn’t put much faith in technology created for people with an abundance of time on their hands, even though she did.  

 

“What happened to that guy you were dating?  The musician?  Wasn’t that going well?”

 

It was not.  Between their mutual vices and his penchant for sleeping with their various friends and her lack of self-esteem or sobriety, it failed.  Just like many of the promising creative ventures she had started and never finished.  Or the curating internship.  Or pretty much any job.  This would be bottom but bottom had been going on since she dropped out junior year seven years prior.  

 

The moment of actual dread came at the wake.  The reason for her sleepless bus ride and her first heartache, Jamie.  It was the kind of pain that was so strong and so gutting that the subconscious buries it deep inside.  The kind that is the root of all future relationship failures and the reoccurring theme that haunts her dreams at night.  For one brief and beautiful moment, Jamie was hers.  He was everything she wanted for the bulk of her teenage years.  She put everything she had into this acquisition.  Every time they kissed she did it as though it would be the last time. Perhaps she knew that she loved him too much?  More than he loved her.   It made leaving him behind for the promising future that lay ahead of her easier to believe but did not remove the sting when he impregnated and then married her former rival two years later.  She sent a horrible and confusing love letter to him upon this discovery ending with the words: My love for you isn’t in the poetry but the lack of it.

Her body cringes in remembrance.  She never wrote to him again. 

 

And there Jamie was, across the room holding her unconsolable mother.  Older, but handsome as always.  His wife not far behind.  Her eyes immediately darted at Lyn upon entering the mortuary.  The staking of claim.  If she knew Lyn at all she’d have known that Lyn wasn’t a contender.  Lyn barely was fighting for her own life, she wasn’t about to start the daunting task of stealing someone else’s.  Realizing that she is not in a town that is her’s anymore and feeling like a stranger at her own family’s funeral, Lyn went to find the office.  Coffee.  Solace.  

 

She could see the funeral director was watching a local syndicate broadcast of a poorly produced crime show.  She slipped past him and into the breakroom.  With a cup of old coffee and a pack of cigarettes she stood outside in the high desert winter.  For once she was done being alone with her thoughts, then the familiar smell of marijuana drew her attention to her cousin, whose everyday life was a funeral.  Silently she joined Tiffany and together the two outcasts shared a moment of peace.  

 

Goodnight, grandpa. 

Mother

I sent a long text as a probe:

Aunt Leta, I hope this is still your number.  If it is, I’m your niece Cheryl with whom you haven’t spoken in years.  I lost contact with my mother and I’m hoping you know if our family back in the Philippines are ok after that horrific typhoon.  I know our family’s village was quite south.  I hope this message finds you and your family well.  Sorry about the length.  If I had your email address I would’ve gone that route.

At 7am the next day my phone wakes me.  I see that it is Leta’s number.  I hope that it isn’t a stranger terribly alarmed by that novel.  I let it go to voicemail.  I see from my phone’s text translation it is her.  I don’t listen to the actual message and I don’t call back for three days.

Even contacting her sister gives me anxiety.  My relationship with my mother is complicated.  When I finally do call her I am relieved.  Not only because my family is alive and well but because Leta is a sane version of my mother.  She listens to me compassionately.  She hasn’t talked to my mother in four years after a falling out during my grandfather’s funeral.  “She’s a difficult woman.”  I say this line at least three times during our conversation.

She tells me my uncle Mark died a couple years ago.  I am saddened by this revelation.  That I wasn’t there for her during this time.  Saddened by her loss.  They were happily married for 34 years.  I envied my cousins for having parents who loved each other.  He was a good man.  He helped me catch my first fish.  She still lives in their same home in Ft. Walton Beach.  She invites me to come visit her any time.  Even move there if I wish.  My cousin could get me a job.  I thank her for her kind offer “if things don’t work out for me here I’ll take you up on that”.  She laughs, “you loved it here when you were little.”

Leta speaks about her children without judgement.  Her daughter is my age.  Every week they go out to lunch and then to the movies.  They actually enjoy each other’s company.  I can’t fathom that.  It is the opposite of my relationship with my mother.  Aside from her being difficult, she is the first person to really break my heart, and I guess I never really recovered.

When I hang up I feel love.  The unimaginable love of family.  I resented my mother for years because I lost that part of my life.  After a month of enormous shifts in emotion, I found myself nearly depressed with gratitude.  All I had to do was pick up a phone.

On the subject of love and creativity…

It was a week of charitable events

In no particular order and unknown to all recipients

These were acts of goodwill

Unmistakable because they were born from the most needing of charity

And they were forced

Like an invisible ante

To the Gods of Karmic Fortune

The bearer of which

Pretends it is not in their nature

But in fact can not help 

Themselves to being the better person

That they pretend not to be

Even worse

The debtor 

Against all logic

Against all remaining proof

Still holds that small candle of hope

And again is left with empty pockets

Because she, I mean they,

Holds in their heart

Purely selfish intentions

Always

Two Unfinished Works for the Price of One

Cause’ hey, who am I kidding?  I’m never actually going to finish these.  

 

Whore’s Were Fours

There was a paradise unknown to a little girl, and despite the evidence to the contrary, she was not currently living in it.  

Three cinderblock walls flanked by a hefty iron gate surrounded her home like a small fortress.  There grew gigantic palm trees, so tall the concept of climbing them was beyond the scope of child reason.  Yet daily her uncle made his way up there with his machete and daily coconuts came, with their distinct liquid thud, crashing to the ground.  Under a brick alter grill stood the proud statue of the Virgin Mary, and despite her father’s protest, she would lay a small plate of milk out for the stray cats who’d wander in from time to time.  In the mornings she would sit with her grandfather as he would show her how to make a harmonica using the glossy leaves from the rose bushes.  She’d often join him on his smoke breaks and listen in to his conversation with the neighborhood knife sharpener.  Her cousin Erwin was the closet thing she had to a brother.  He was always He-Man and she was always She-Ra and the rusty swing-set was always Castle Grey Skull.  Her grandmother would drink in the day and sit with her has she laid in her small plastic pool.  On her back she’d lay in its shallow depths and look to the sky.  Wonder why the half-moon’s shadow would still be visible even on the sunniest days or imagine what people were doing in the commercial liners so very far up into the atmosphere.  There was always a revolving door of family members and house girls.  Weekly a manicurist would make a house call for her mother or the gas-man would come bring a new tank.  Occasionally she’d ride her big wheel out on the streets with all the real Filipino children or go to the corner market for a sandwich bag filled with Coca-Cola.  But her most favorite ritual happened at dusk.  Under two mango trees a large, croqueted hammock lived its life waiting for the sunset.  Sometimes it would be just her and her father, he’d have her get perfectly center and then push her like a swing until all the giggles and delighted squeals drained from her lungs.  Sometimes, even better times, all three mother, father, and child would lay in it together and wait for the cool night air to fade in.  

 

My Perpetual Nemesis  

 

I’m closing my eyes and trying to find my happy place.  

For the record, my happy place is not at Waller and Cesar Chavez.  

My happy place does not include peeling paint.

Nor half strung posters of the Grand Tetons with curled edges.  

The lobby of happy place wouldn’t have the sadness of collective poverty.

The happy place does include large stacks of tabloids, so you know, two out of three ain’t bad.  (ed note: one out of four? Bad.)

There are no drills in happy place.

No credit card bills in happy place.  

No shrills at happy place?  Certainly no thrills…

 

I know the drill, pun intended.  I’m working on my sixth root canal.  A victim of bad enamel.  I could blame a lot of things: genetics, my hatred of flossing, this country’s fucked up health care mentality, an early soft drink fascination followed by an early smoking methamphetamine fascination, et al.  But honestly, it came before that.  Even pure baby Cheryl had shitty baby teeth.  I even wrote a short play about my constant dental trips for a creative writing class in junior high.  

I’ve been worked on like an automobile for a week straight by hack dentists in San Jose.  Cattle called among the antiquated, heavily bronzed Floridians.  I know when I haven’t been given enough Novocain.  I know when I must sheepishly raise my hand as particles of tooth shoot back into my throat just to mumble “hwremda murdnmamblibahh”.   Which is the cotton enabled translation of “I can feel everything”.  I know when the dental assistant is pure shit.  I know when I drown in my own saliva.  They know that I know too when I look them dead in the eye with my frown agape like a fucked up mask of Tengu.  If I’ve been sufficiently numbed (bonus points if they give me a mouth prop) I can even fall asleep with the horrible sounds of tooth grinders turning actual organic material from my face into dust.  

An Open Love Letter to Kimchee Fries

There are very few reasons why someone should brave downtown on a Saturday night without alcohol, especially at midnight.  Two in the morning is acceptable.  Everyone basically has the same need for evacuation after all the bars are closed.  Often times when I close the store on a Saturday I will inevitably have a couple of drinks before biking myself back home through the empty streets.  I do my best to avoid dealing with the shit show that is Friday and Saturday nights in Austin.  This town’ s feeble attempt to turn 6th Street into Bourbon Street has really only dug up the worst type of weekend warrior: the ones who don’t live here.  

I am not without my trespasses.  I too am a transplant.  Any given night I would be just another drunk.  But not tonight.  There comes a time in every  young (cough) woman’s life where love takes priority over fun.  Even love that isn’t good for her.  Even love that isn’t fully formed and is just lust in disguise.  

Kimchee Fries.  

I’ve talked about them for weeks.  I’ve let them occupy my thoughts without reciprocation.  I’ve built them up to a somewhat mythic proportions in my mind.  I’ve talked about them incessantly to any poor soul who would listen.  However my ability to acquire the object of my desire is built into a small timeframe.  Five Chi’Lantro trucks occupy Austin.  They do not run every day.  They do not run every hour.  The only window of opportunity I have is for about 15 minutes on Friday before I work or on a rare Saturday when I’m not out being everything I hate (and love).  After the disappointment of never getting a chance to eat at the now defunct woodfire sandwich truck, I knew my time had to come.  Tonight was night.  

It was the only thought that got me through today, sadly.  Like fat kindergarten Cheryl getting her hands on that last chocolate milk, I would claim my prize.  Thus, I went out into the hot and sticky night air.  I biked through the hordes of morons who can’t understand the concept of one-way streets.  I dodged Pubcrawlers, the overweight bumpkins in tube-tops, and an entire line of Mystikal fans, a fleet of party buses and the desperate bridal parties that tumble out of them, all the Guidos and all the Stellas in the dance district just to have at a paper tray filled with fries, kimchee, mayonnaise, bulgogi, and Sriracha.  Just to pay $2 for a Diet Dr. Pepper and do my second to last least favorite thing behind walking and smoking: standing and eating.  There on Fifth and Colorado, the only breeze in the air coming from bypassing traffic, the sound of assholes haggling taco prices while their vacant girlfriends adjust their tits, I stood next to my bike delicately tasting every morsel of spicy awesome and drinking every aspartame drop of brown liquid.  And in that moment I knew what it was like to be a free goddamn American.  

Was it worth biking home at the height of human stupidity?  Was it worth risking life and limb on Congress and having to slam my hand against the hood of some faggot’s Toyota?  Or get stuck on the narrowest patch of bike lane between a man  in a wheelchair and an overzealous Track bicyclist?  Wishing to get out of downtown so hard because at least the patches of drunks on the Eastside are far more endearing?  Wondering which motorist would end my life tonight crossing the I-35 southbound onramp?  Finally making it to my house knowing full well that the drunk (but well-meaning) neighbors I effectively duck at three in the morning are still awake and at it?  Or the inaudible sigh I let out when they cease to not surprise me by creeping up on me in the dark when I’m trying to juggle my keys, mail, and bicycle to make a quick escape into the safety of my own home by asking me a bunch of weirdo questions about my roommates and the going ons in my house and why they don’t see me much when I’m powerless to be rude and perhaps say, “Dude, you guys need a better hobby than getting spun and watching over my house.  But I certainly appreciate that you do in a weird way.”?

Yes.  It was worth it.  

 

Once I found a trove of old writing…

Oh the memories:

Or…breaking up during break-up…

Staring out at the blue tinted sky, inhaling one last drag of a menthol cigarette, kicking the new six inches of snow, enjoying the later sunshine,  riding in cabs, buying new clothes, listening to French music, waking up early, using music as therapy, watching VHS tapes, making new friends, going to new bars, eating sushi, eating once a day, taking up smoking again, squatting in unfamiliar homes, being productive, making plans, being overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers, losing weight, being lonely, trying to enjoy alone time, not being heartbroken, not being able to concentrate, sleeping, dancing, going out, rocking out, making out, walking, raven watching, drinking too much, having a crush, love sick, love lorn, watching films, figuring things out, watching out for volcanoes, trying to write, searching for internet, not wanting to cook, working hard, drowning in work, being confused, being torn, being happy, getting high, debauchery, fun, making mistakes, trying to correct mistakes, feeling the love, singing, taking cold showers, debating, deleting pictures of the ex, relenting, doing laundry at the old apartment, feeling different, wanting to escape, wanting to remain, wanting to be a better person, being too nice, being indecisive, missing old friends, missing family, trying to separate from the past, trying to find a new future, meeting the right people, maybe meeting the right person at the wrong time, not rushing in, trying to forget what being in love used to feel like, wondering if it will feel better next time around, quitting smoking, not trying to think, looking for distractions,  replacing sadness with happiness, waking up from the winter’s coma…all in the span of two weeks. -Circa 2009

 

So, the world was ending in 2012.
Fuck it. She was going to turn 30 that year anyway and that was three years longer than she predicted.
There was a certain ominous feeling in the pit of her stomach the last couple of months.
Not to be confused with the sharp pains she was feeling right now while drinking a fresh can of MGD and gobbling 3 Tylenol-3’s to ease what she could only guess is her appendix.
Ominous is the closest word she could come to it. Between death and disaster, it was the only thing to describe a feeling that mirrored the events of the past couple of months so closely.
After close and fevered introspection and analyzing, she decided the best way to deal with it was apathy. Life was too good to worry about the shit-parts anyway.
Death was a reoccurring bastard thought that nagged at the back of her brain.
A couple of fizzled acquaintances, gone. While their real friends were left to pick up the pieces and hold the vigils and fight like children.
And all of a sudden everyone started thinking about their own alcoholism and damned guilty souls.
Was it so funny to watch him drink a fifth a night? Or what about when it wasn’t funny anymore? The years everyone skirted around the issue and eventually stopped taking his phone calls?
That was around the time his eyes started turning yellow and his ankles started to swell.
Soon followed by phone calls saying he washed up somewhere in Maui.
Maybe it’s trying to discuss mortality to a 25-year-old. What the fuck did they know about it anyway?  They were all kids who were five drinks behind him or family so out of touch with his alternate reality.  The only thing they ever had to say no to was dessert.
Every car crash has a back-story.  Surivors.  Trubadors to pass names along, to sing of your praises, make you a martyr, argue over who was mourning more.
Upon first hearing about her ex dealer she could only recall one real conversation they shared…
She looked up from her drink at a house party full of people she did not know, in a suburb she had never been, in a winter’s depression she didn’t know she’d be able to get out of.
He looked at her and smiled.
Eyes half-open, tongue swollen, heart beating. She stumbled, “Why is it…that life comes so easy to you?”
He never answered, just laughed softly and let her back inside.
Soon after she stopped letting herself remember this, her fish died.
Not to be confused with the two fish she killed when a friend’s filter broke causing her to drain the 60 gallon tank bucket by bucket.
That was a night she slept uneasy. 
Thinking the same theme.
Death by ignorance.
The next morning she drowsily checked her mail and saw that the Pakistani Democratic candidate was assassinated.
And all of a sudden the fish didn’t seem so important. And she didn’t feel so important. And car crashes didn’t feel so important.
But it didn’t stop her heart from sinking when she sat in her dentist waiting room the weekend after.
The moment she looked up from a courtesy copy of Newsweek, to find herself staring at Dr. Poroto’s goldfish tank.
And when the good doctor gave her the prescription for Vicodin, she snatched it out of his hand and thought this is going to be a good couple of days, and it was.
Not that the two months were filled with such morose undertones, the real questions raised were issues of mortality in all instances. 
Not to be confused with morality, which was exactly the philosophical debate she struggled with before all this death business began.-Circa 2008
So she took the hit of acid and waited,
In between there were conversations that were smudged out by whiskey,
Out of cigarettes instead of braving the cold.
She remembers saying “Dean Moriarty was born in Salt Lake City”.
The acid was stale and never really started,
And it would’ve been the first time since the great Spiderman wave of 2001.
Crippling even more so than the hangover she had promised,
So she wouldn’t have to be in to work in the morning.-Circa 2005?
Am, is, are, was, be, being, been
I have a firm grasp of the english language.
Wait…
I’m lying.
Sometimes I make words up, and sometimes I use words I vaguely know the meaning of.
Okay.  I have a semi-firm grasp of the english language.  Enough to know that I should’ve capatilized english.  WTF, dude.
And I really have no one else to blame, not even my public schooling.  Sometimes I can’t play Mad Libs because I’ve forgotten basic fundamentals of English that were repeatedly taught from second to twelfth grade.
I sometimes forget what an adverb is.
My eleven year old cousin knows what an adverb is, without the refresher.
I can pin point the problem.  One example of many as to why I am not nearly as smart as I should be.  Drugs included.
I can flash-back to Mrs. Ortega’s classroom my Senior year and visualize her telling me, for the last time, what an adverb is.
But I’m not paying attention to her words.  I’m paying attention to Mrs. Ortega.
She was in her early thirties and had braces.  She was also frail and white.  Her hair was short, and what I considered, mousy.
She was not a natural Ortega.
She was a former Mormon missionary who fell in love with Mr. Ortega in Mexico.
While her personality goes against this, I’d like to think she couldn’t resist the raw Latin fire of senor Ortega, and finally let her hair out of her tight ponytail and succumb to the Fuego.  It is the stuff that romance novels are made of.
Yes, braces on an adult is always depressing.  You can tell there is a haunting kind of humiliation in it.
Aside from Mrs. Ortega, I once had a ball-busting female boss who had braces.
This woman had married into the family business and had a sense of false superiority about her.  Unfortunately it’s difficult for me to take a fifty year old woman with braces seriously.  Yes, her right wing shook hands with the current President’s right wing on his visit to this middle-of-nowhere town in a middle-of-nowhere red state, but when I see the pictures I can only imagine him thinking, “Damn, this bitch has got some braces on.”
Sure, she promised me lucrative networking opportunities to “high profile” travel writers, if you consider the Black Hills tourism division high profile, to prove her power.
But like all things said in passing and by someone who didn’t really mean it, it never happened.
Last conversation we had, she’d seen my newest and most visible tattoo and snarled, “Now, how in the world are you planning on getting a decent job with that thing?”
Perhaps I should’ve asked, how did you become the first lady of tourist traps with your crazy old lady Afro and crooked teeth?  But I didn’t.
But Mrs. Ortega, although uptight, wasn’t as deserving of her student’s mocking.  What else can you do but be a bitch sometimes?  She had classrooms of students that looked older than her.  She had friggin’ braces.  And unlike my old boss, she probably worked really hard for everything she has.  Including forgoing the humiliation of being an adolescent with braces, to get herself through school so she could finally afford to get her fangs fixed and live with the humiliation of being an adult with braces.  Who was I to player hate?  Even if I did, especially those times she kicked me out into the hallway for being too loud or giving me shitty grades on my reports, I shouldn’t have.
Besides, when I wasn’t paying attention to Mrs. Ortega’s shortcomings, I was sleeping.
She was only trying to keep me from being a feral child, grunting my requests and crying because no one could understand my garbled jungle speak. -Circa 2007
Cowboys vs Astronauts
I’ve been thinking a lot about Peter Gabriel.  It’s an odd thing to keep occupying my mind.  I also keep having thoughts of episodes of Garfield and Friends, only it expands into real time, then the guy with the long, red facial hair will be describing Lorenzo Music as his personal childhood hero.  I hold books about hunting, about orchids, about personal finance.  Conjure maps in my mind, shelves that segregate genera fiction and warrior cats.  Who knew that Christian Fiction needed it’s own section, and why was I unaware that this subcategory existed?  In the meantime I write novels in my mind.  They sound about like this.  Fragmented.  I don’t put much faith in metaphysics.  I wonder what strange form of adult ADD I’ve developed over time at fault of younger television viewing and years of abusing mind altering substances.  Is it possible to get a diagnosis now?  They should really legalize medical marijuana in Alaska.  New fangled technology keeps me up a night, that and the strange Japanese music Will insists on playing while we sleep.  Scrabble.  I’m 50 points away from genius status, and only 28 points behind Will.  On the television there are advertisements for prepackaged, frozen salmon burritos.  Also, a pedophile of mattress salesmen on channel 13.  I want to hug a polar bear, but I can’t imagine it being as cuddly as I imagined.  Why are these extreme environments only igniting my passion for brutal metal?  I think I have a pizza addiction.  I have a million books I need to read and not enough of a lifetime to do it.  I enjoy having Hysteria by Def Leppard stuck in my head.  My nostrils flare more than anyone’s I’ve ever known.
So, I’ve had the seed planted, who wants to move with me to New Zeland in two years?-Circa 2008
Jaguars have existential crisis -Circa 2007

 
 There was the feeling of decay.
Like something expired.
And all the things that were once known as facts where now downgraded to useless knowledge.
Somewhere between kicking rocks into the unforgiving sea and the storm clouds that gathered the wind.
Momentum.
And wondering how you could look at someone.
Someday.
And they would never look the same.
There was never time to think.
Nothing ever processed and so nothing was ever really resolved.
Just pushed back.
Everything just got pushed back and ignored.
And happiness could be bought at a corner store.
For moments you could forget.
And forgetting was the only thing palatable.
The only thing conceivable.
The only thing safe.
Reality was the burden.
Thoughts were negative.
Introspection only leads to madness.
Silencing screams.  Silencing future.  Silencing responsibility.
This was the only thing that made sense.
Choosing the path of least resistance.
On the way stumbling upon greater things.
All this beauty.
Everything good.
Contrasting with the unfair.
Polarizing the world.
Grasping for equilibrium.
Slaves to ourselves.
To comfort.
The joy.  The dread.
It all just manifests itself with impossibility.
And it just leaves me annoyed.-Circa 2006 emo

Flop City

I suppose it might be a tad unfair to label myself as a hack.  In all honesty I rarely fulfill any preconceived notion of artistic greatness, but suffice to say I was once a writer.  A writer in as much the sense that I’d spend countless of hours of free time dedicating myself to written self expression.

I was also once a functioning adult.  I sat in offices that sucked the life out of me.  I ate at the same time every afternoon and loathed my daily routines.  I sat in breakrooms that hadn’t changed since the early 1980’s.  Smelled the same overcooked noodles that were birthed from the same splatter-stained microwave.  I forced myself to have conversations with the same uninteresting coworkers who would play the same daytime soap operas and I would try to read anything remotely stimulating to wake my mind up.  I would look at the piles of paperwork sitting at my desk in the afternoon and timeframe how quickly I could run through it.  I would do an honest hour’s worth of work before spending the rest of my shift storyboarding my next blog.  Knowing that if I sat at a desk and typed with a stern look on my face that no one would question what I was doing.   I’d commute home on the same crowded bus I’d always take out of downtown, take off my clothes, and smoke a bowl.  Then I would write.  Three to five hours, daily.  That is, when I wasn’t busy going out with friends or laying in bed for days with my then-boyfriend.

Times have changed, I hate things less.  Surprising, I know,  but true.  I hated so much more then but it also made me strive for better things.  I was 24.  I’ve streamlined my life to be less demanding in the last 6 years.  Back then it was all about hitting the pavement, barely making the bills, killing the weekend, justifying everything I did by who I was sleeping with at the time, and dreaming about the day I’d have everything I’ve always wanted.

While some things haven’t changed entirely, I discovered what I was and wasn’t willing to deal with in life.  I also harnessed a lifetime of non-commitment into a full time job.  I traveled.  A lot.  So much so that the sheen of new experience began to dull and so did the passion and romanticism of my writing.  It seemed like the more I was doing, the less I wanted to write about it.  The more my life was going smoothly the less I needed to smoke marijuana and write about it.

I turned 30 last year.  The buildup to it was a culmination of my accomplishments thus far in life and where I saw myself in a new decade.  When that dial turned I stood back and realized that despite my new location I was a slave to myself.  That turning another year older wouldn’t magically transform me into another person.  While that is a story for another blog, it does bring me to my actual point:

Austin, holy shit, you make me feel inadequate.

Everyone here appears to be extremely talented In several ways.  Had I moved to Austin when I was 18 I think my artistic soul would’ve been nurtured and highly developed by now.  I had visions of myself living in crowded Victorian homes living as a bohemian in my post high school daydreams.  Living for art and only the for the sake of it.  It’s hard to get that back, other than to just do it.  This is what this is, my attempt to just do it.  Write for the sake of writing to an audience of zero (? well, for now anyway).  The only problem with being an essayist is brazenly putting yourself out there.  No filter.  Someday I’ll master fiction and revel in my autonomy.  Someday.