The final countdown

Pirates is being made as part of a larger festival, and you can’t have a festival without ceremony. The thing is, when you’re hours from going to camera, the last thing you need is a party with a bunch of people you don’t know who aren’t working on your project.

Thursday night was the hoity-toity hodown for the producers and writer/directors. The mayor was there (I hope he didn’t drive home), along with other people who had done a lot of work to make this festival happen. Christopher Coppola (no sense changing his name) pulled up on his big ol’ bike, and it was nice meeting him and hearing him say he liked my work. He had even sent us an actor, Dog Bone, who has added his own personality to the crew. Other than that, there wasn’t anyone there I was interested in meeting.

OK, that’s a lie. It would be more honest to say that before I got there there was no one I was interested in meeting. I rode there with Rudolph driving, two reluctant partygoers. The event was billed as semi-formal, so while I was at the thrift store that afternoon I had picked up a shirt that buttons up that went well with my last clean pair of shorts. Semi-formal and ready to party, baby! We got there and I grabbed a plate of shrimp and wandered around the beautiful yard, listening to the live music, and generally being ignored by all the other guests. I’m not a mingler, let alone a networker, and these things are all about networking.

So Coppola shows up, and I see him talking to a very pretty woman. “Damn Biker outlaw movie moguls get all the chicks,” I thought to myself. Turns out her name is… um… Nadia. Yeah, that’s the ticket, Nadia. She works for Chris and it turns out it was her job to talk to me. Awesome! This world needs more women who are paid to talk to me at parties. Lots more. Though if there was only one, Nadia would be a good choice. Of course, she had to talk to all the other writers as well, but she enjoyed talking to me the most. Sure, she made all the others think she was having fun, but I could tell.

I did find a couple of other people to talk to, and the beer was free and good, so I was doing all right. I estimate we had been there twenty minutes when Rudolph first suggested we go home. fuego had not even arrived yet, but luckily he had called and said he expected to go home with us. If he hadn’t, we would have been gone before he arrived. I’m ok with being a lurker at parties, but Rudy was getting antsy to leave about the time we pulled up in his truck.

So, while we waited for fuego I lurked a bit more and had another beer. Mmmm. One of the sponsors of the event is a brew pub. I chatted about film stuff with some of the other producers (I have met more producers on the other films than I have writers in the course of working on preproduction stuff. Apparently the other winners are much more hands-off, which baffles me.), discussing how things were going and whether they were ready.

During this time I spotted someone in the crowd who caught my eye immediately. She looked like Rose’s taller sister. (Rose is a bartender in San Diego. She rocks. I still remember her fondly when I hear a glass break. For the uninitiated, search this blog for more about Rose.) She had the dimples, she had the smile. Now there was someone I wanted to meet.

fuego arrived and I used his introduction as an excuse to talk to Nadia again. “Now can we go?” asked Rudy. fuego: “I just got here.” Rudy: “OK… How about now?” Our departure was delayed a little more while we talked to the Mayor (who remembered Rudolph’s name after only a brief encounter previously – a good skill for sure) and chatted with a few others as well. As we were leaving we met Morgan, a pretty blonde film student, and I managed to resist Rudy’s inexorable pull long enough to chat with her for a while.

An aside: some people think that because I co-wrote a screenplay that won a contest and is being made into a twelve-minute video that I can help them with their film careers. It’s the whole networking thing. make every contact you can, because you never know which one of those saps at the party is going to hit big. Some people are more subtle about it than others, but everyone is thinking about it.

Nadia, refreshingly, just seems to be having fun working on movies. Sure, she’s making contacts, but either she’s so good at it she didn’t activate my mercenary gag response or she’s still naive enough to think that enjoying your work and doing a good job are enough to get ahead. Being attractive doesn’t hurt in the biz, either, even if your ambition is to work behind the camera.

Rudy prevailed, and away we went. I did not meet the woman who looked like Rose. Apparently, no one had paid her to talk to me, and she didn’t see me as a rung on her career ladder. A pity. I was even considering the unheard-of, heart-stopping, death-defying act of approaching her, but I let Rudy drag me away with a sigh of relief. Goodbye, woman who looks like Rose. Or so I thought. (<— blatant teaser for next episode).

Friday was hectic, what with going to pick up the machine gun and a host of other errands. In the intervals I tried to make progress on the magic potato and the associated electronics that comprise the Mysterious Device. As I assembled the parts the design was in continuous flux, and continued to suck down my time in huge gulps. Finally I had a successful test shot with all the parts put together, but I wanted more tests. It wasn’t going to happen, though – there were no more of the right sort of ricket igniters in town, and I couldn’t burn up too many testing. fuego’s advice was something like, “test them while the camera’s rolling.” So, not completely sure the design was reliable enough, I set to work configuring the last of the igniters for four shots while rolling the next day.

The device was not finished when it was time to go to another party. This one was specifically for the writer/directors, and fuego and I were strongly encouraged to attend. Tired and grubby from the day’s work I met fuego at his hotel where we were to board a limo to take up to the party. Sweet! I had a beer while fuego freshened up (at least one of us wouldn’t be grubby and stinky). We met Nadia in the lobby of the hotel, where she was coordinating the limos.

Let me say right here that I am going to be mentioning pretty women quite a bit for the rest of this episode. Nadia was looking great in a slinky little black dress. I was so stressed about all the things I needed to do that I was practically vibrating, but seeing her took some of the annoyance out of having to be social with less than 12 hours to go before the shoot. We were in the last limo, so she joined us. Bonus.

The car was waiting and we hopped in. There were two women in there already, a pretty blonde and a stunning brunette. I was first in, and as more people climbed aboard I was forced to push closer and closer to the brunette. Look at her eyes, not her chest. “I won’t bite,” she said. “That’s too bad,” I replied, with a reasonably confident tone of voice. Look at her eyes, not her chest. Her dress was pink and low-cut. fuego was next to me, then Nadia climbed aboard, then in, followed by a couple more honored guests. Nadia started to make introductions, but the two women stumped her. Apparently they were friends of one of the party organizers and were hitching a ride to make contacts with the limo-worthy. Unfortunately for them they got to meet me. “I’m half-Taiwanese,” the brunette said. “What do you think I can do to break into the asian market.?” “Beats me,” I said, aware of her chest, aware of her smooth leg against mine, aware of her striking face and the brown eyes I was successful at meeting simply because there was nowhere else for me to look.

I’m sure they found better prospects once they were inside the party.

Cast and crew were invited to this party, so I did get a chance to hang with some of the people I would be working with. Dog Bone had some good stories – his colorful past hasn’t finished yet, but I’ll leave him to tell his own story. If he ever writes a memoir, I’ll be first in line to buy it. Soon after we got there, while fuego were at the bar savoring a fine malt beverage, a woman asked me if I was Mike. “No, but I can be if you need me to,” I said, and luckily she understood that the stupid line was a joke. The guy on the other side of her started hitting on her with lines of the same caliber, the difference being that he meant them. I would have talked to her more, but fuego and I had a lot to discuss. We turned our end of the bar into a mini production office and committed the sin of working at a party.

I did do some networking that night, looking for someone who could provide music for our film.

Later I ran into one of the women who had auditioned for Ruthie, one of the top contenders. We had a very nice talk. She was very up-front with her networking, making no bones about it. When I told her that I really had no aspirations in the film biz (not entirely true – I would love to do more with the pirates – but I have other interests that are stronger) she just said, “Maybe that’s why you’ll succeed.” A nice thought. I didn’t mention this, but I was regretting not choosing her for Ruthie. I had been in a rehearsal with our Ruthie just before coming over, and she just wasn’t coming through. Ruthie runner-up (we’ll call her Myrtle) did some ad-libbing that, had she done them in the audition, would probably have won her the role. Ah, Myrtle. Maybe if we get that TV series your networking will have worked after all. It would not surprise me at all if Myrtle found success in the business. She had the toughness to stick at it, and the resourcefulness to find a niche. On top of everything else, she just loves doing it.

Finally, home again. Back to the laboratory (pronounced the mad scientist way) for a few more frantic hours of work on the timer and the potato pyrotechnics, then, bleary and exhausted, to bed – too tired even to dream about pink and black little dresses.

I feel so… dirty

I am a whore.

Doing some more work for Zepter – they still owe me for the vacuum cleaner stuff, but somehow I’m back at it. “It’s all for the second camera for Pirates,” fuego reminds me. Sure. If we gat paid. And if we get paid for that previous work I’ll take this back:

Zepter is a bunch of cheap-ass sons of bitches.

For the benefit of anyone searching on Google for info about this company, let me say that again:

Zepter is a bunch of cheap-ass sons of bitches.

Although they did come up with tickets to the world Hockey championship game. I gave up my spot (you’re welcome, Mito, if you ever say thank you), but that was a nice gesture on their part. Maybe they’re just waiting for an invoice.

So tonight fuego and I were working on the copy for the Zepter Bioptron, which probably represents the state of the art for light therapy. I spent the evening writing copy that fell into two categories: “Not provably false” and “They’ve already said it once so it won’t make things any worse to say it again.” And honestly, it’s probably not complete bullshit. This is the technological answer to “You should get out more,” without the dangerous UV. So I’m OK with that.

Still, I wrote things tonight that… well, let’s just say I wrote some things. Let there be Light — 50W, polarized, in a narrow band of the visible spectrum, with a timer, on a flexible stand.

I met the manager of Zepter’s health products today. It was an early morning meeting in a fancy hotel that luckily was near my pad. It was a beautiful morning walk, and the rays of the sun lifted my already doing-alright spirits. This is the very feeling Zepter is marketing. Whether they deliver it or not I have no idea. I met up with fuego and the client was a little late but this is Eastern Europe and that’s the way it works.

Let’s call her Sofia. It’s as good a name as any. She’s a doctor, living in Zurich, spending time in Milan, and she is distractingly attractive. The period when the button of her shirt finally gave up the good fight and when she pulled things back together is but a vague and hazy mam – uh, sorry – memory. Mmmm… Kryptonite. But Dammit Jim, she’s a doctor! She was part of the team that developed this little marvel. She was smart, no doubt, and enthusiastic, and (according to fuego) far more together on what she needed going in than the average Zepter product manager. It was a good meeting.

Except for the part where we said we’d have a draft in two days. That was nuts. But by then all I could think about was the button holding on for dear life. I tried to use my Jedi Master Force Stuff: Just let go, little button. You’ve been working harder than any little button ever should; no one would blame you if you relaxed for just one second.”

I am no Jedi, but it’s better to try to use the Force when you don’t have it that to completely forget you are a Jedi Master when your life is in peril. But I’ve gone on about that before.

The button held, resolute, against great pressure. Some of the greatest pressure I’ve seen in some time. But she had much more going on than that, and I’ve already done her a disservice emphasizing her beautiful, freckled, gravity-defying bosom over her other qualities.

Dang. I can’t resist irony even when it turns me into an ass.

(Turns me into?) But seriously, she was way more that. It was the smile that reached all the way up to her brown eyes. It was the way she was confident without being overbearing. It was the way that, on some fundamental level, for her life is still fun. I am not going to smooth on her. I am what they call “not boyfriend material,” and I don’t see that changing. “Insensitive, lazy, self-centered, unemployed workaholic” is not how one gets “ideal date” status, and I’m enjoying being that way.

And now I’m writing copy. In fairness to all, it was a done deal we were writing this copy before the meeting. This morning was about what copy to write, not whether to write copy. fuego had already thrown us into the tar pit; it was just nice to see a pretty, intelligent, witty face there while we sank beneath the surface.

You got your beautiful, and you got your pretty

Perhaps some of you have caught on by now that I enjoy regarding the female form. I, as most men before me, have raised observing that form to a science, complete with its own jargon and erudite theses. My own system of appreciation is reflexive; my appreciation of the members of the opposite gender is for me a way to measure myself. Hour by hour I am changing, or perhaps looping, and I can measure my progress against the world around me.

James Thurber said the most beautiful women are in Spain. He was a good writer, so maybe he knew. Prague has her share, and San Diego, forget about it. When it comes right down to it, there are beautiful women everywhere. And life is good.

But surrounded by all this beauty, occasionally I meet someone who makes my heart stop. She may be beautiful, she may not be. Beauty, the physical form, the delicious curvatures, I’ll never get tired of it. But then there’s pretty. Beauty is form, pretty is substance. Pretty comes from the inside and flings itself outward in joyful exuberance, making the world around richer. Pretty is in the corner of a shy smile, the raising of a saucy eyebrow, the easy laugh. Pretty is different every time, reinvented and redefined by the few who really pull it off. Beauty is cheap next to pretty.

The Quest for the Important Thing to Defeat the Evil Guy

Bixby awoke with a start. He had been dreaming again. His stepmother had taught him to remember his dreams and record them; she said that dreams carried messages and told of the future. Dutifully he picked up his journal and turned a blank page to the moonlight streaming in the window. His stepmother insisted that he include every detail of his dreams. “You never know what will turn out to be important,” she would say. She was renowned far and wide for her knowledge of magic.

Bixby thought back over the dream. It was one he’d been having often lately. There wasn’t much conversation to speak of except for things like “Oh! Oooooooh! Yes! Yes! YES!” but he remembered the elf-maiden vividly. Not her face, so much, but the way her elf-hair cascaded over her smooth elf-shoulders, the softness of her generous elf-breasts as they defied gravity, her narrow elf-waist… Bixby set to work sketching what he had seen in his dream. He didn’t know much about dreams, but he was really hoping this one would come true.

Over the years Bixby had demonstrated a flair for sketching and drawing. His mother had always encouraged him, and if anything his stepmother was even more enthusiastic. He was uncomfortable sometimes sharing his drawings with his stepmother, but she always just shushed him. “This is important,” she would say. “Don’t be such a baby. Now, think carefully. Are you sure there weren’t two elf maidens?”

Suddenly the moonlight was broken by a shadow. He turned and was looking into a pair of beady black eyes. The squirrel regarded him, unblinking. “We know you have it,” the squirrel said. The squirrel grinned. “And we’re gonna get it.”

In shock Bixby jumped up and turned to face the creature. Had it just spoken? Was he still dreaming one of those dreams where you dream you wake up but really you’re dreaming and then you wake up and you’re confused because you didn’t think you were dreaming before? He shook his head to clear the cobwebs.

“Honey, are you all right?” came his stepmother’s voice from the doorway behind him. “I heard a noise.”

“Um, I’m fine, ma.” Sure, fine. Talking squirrels. No big deal. It must have been a dream.

“Oh, I see you’ve had another of those dreams,” she said.

Not a dream, a nightmare. He turned away from her, back toward the window desperately trying to find a way to disguise the bulge in his pyjamas gracefully. The squirrel was gone.

Bixby did not get any more sleep that night. His stepmother had wanted to sit next to him on the bed and hear about his dream right then, but he had finally managed to put her off. Between getting caught by her in that condition and the talking squirrel, he was a wreck. At first light he decided to chop some wood to work off some of his tension. Ax in hand he was stepping out the door when his stepmother stopped him. “I think we have enough wood already, Honey,” she said.

“Can’t be too safe,” Bixby said. “Winter’s only a few months away.” He dashed for the forest. It was a longer dash than it had been; Bixby had transformed the small meadow that held the cottage into a much larger clearing, dotted with the stumps of the trees he had felled and chopped into firewood. He found a stout oak and set to work with the ax. Once the tree was down he hauled it over to the woodpile. It was much easier for him to move the trunks around these days; his constant chopping had caused his body to bulge with hard, lean muscle even as he grew into his tall frame.

He split up the log in record time, climbing the tiers of ladders to reach the top of the towering woodpile where he put the new logs. He could see all the way into town from up there, high above the treetops, and he imagined them laughing and pointing his direction, mocking his mighty accomplishment. “Just wait till winter comes,” he muttered. The exercise did the trick, though. He felt much calmer. He would be able to face his stepmother now, as long as she didn’t say anything that made him think… those thoughts.

He was surprised to find the tall, thin man waiting for him at the bottom of the last ladder. People mocked Graybeard, but never to his face. He wore the long flowing robes of a man who doesn’t have to work for a living, and the tall conical hat of a wizard.

“Hullo, Graybeard,” Bixby said.

“Hello there, young man. I have something very important to discuss with you. Is there somewhere we can go where they can’t hear us?

“Who?”

“The squirrels. I see you’ve done your best to eliminate their hiding places near your house, but they can be sneaky.” The wizard looked around and lowered his voice. “I need you to do something for me. There’s a thing, see, that I need you to go find.”

“What sort of thing?”

“Shhh!” Graybeard glanced nervously at the woodpile and steered Bixby away from it. “It’s an important thing. I’m putting together a team of experts.”

“I’m not expert at anything,” Bixby protested.

“Can you chop heads as well as you can chop wood?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“There you go then. The others are gathering in a rough tavern in a rough town many leagues from here. The journey will be very dangerous, as the squirrels and their evil minions will hound you every step of the way. Keep your crackers sealed tightly.”

“Why should I go, then?”

“Oh, there you are,” his stepmother said. “Oooh, you’re all sweaty.” She ran a finger over his sweat-slicked pectorals. ‘Rarrr,”

“When do we start?” asked Bixby.

Caught between a rack and a hard body

So much, so much, so much. Driving back from the bar tonight, after spending the whole evening composing what I was going to write, Bill said, “Don’t forget the Lolita factor.” Damn Bill. Damn all who have heard him laugh. Damn me.

Shae, our waitress for the evening, was about the friendliest person I have ever met. She had a way about her that made us feel right at home.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you all know already that I have a soft spot for any woman who brings me beer. Shae was, honestly, different. She made me feel really special until I saw how she made the regulars feel even specialer. Still, before she was busy she pulled up a seat at our table and we had a chance to chat. Here’s a way I thought of to describe myself that won’t come as a surprise to those who know me: while I am verbally gregarious I am physically introverted. While I can (on a good day) engage strangers verbally, it takes far more than a good day for me to relax and allow familiar touches. Shea uses her hands to reinforce the contact she makes while she talks to you, or just walks past your table. With her, for whatever reason, I was comfortable. One time when she came up behind me she ran her hand up my spine. Boy that felt good. We talked about stuff, Bill making my aimless mission of drifting around the country sound much more important than it really is. We talked about itchy feet. Shea has difficulty staying in one place for a long time.

Shae is an attractive woman. “I don’t normally dress this way,” she said. “Well, I certainly appreciate it,” Bill replied. I must agree with Bill. There was another waitress there as well, young and cute smiley and all, thin and fit and generally hot, but our hearts and minds belonged to Shea. And to the Big-Ass Beers. (They actually call them Big-Ass Beers on the signs around the bar.)

But I’m racing ahead of the story. I’m sitting here now, aware of the smoke in my clothing, trying to figure how to tell you all the things that happend tonight. Triage is clearly in order; just because it was interesting to me doesn’t mean I should write about it.

We were there for a band. The No Dern Clue Mystery Family Revival Band. Bill knows the guy who put together the band, but this was their first public performance. We didn’t really know what to expect, but the guy’s previous bands played what Bill described as “eclectic country rock”. Not this band. I could see it was going to be a pretty big band when we sat down and I started counting microphones. Then the band members started to show up wearing black suits.

We sat and listened to the music, to grumbly growly vocals by the guitarist, to smoky raspy songs when the organ/acoustic/cornet player stepped up to the mike, sometimes singing with the cigarette still hanging out of his mouth, and to the clear tones of the bass player’s voice. The trumpet player could wail, and when he put a little growl into a riff the guitarist would spit right back with a grumble of his own. All the players could solo.

The core of the band was the horn line, however. The trumpet player, a little guy, middle aged, the one in the band that wore the black suit like he belonged in it, could quite simply wail. The sax and the flute were kicking ass, and the trombone wasn’t bad if a little more sterile than the others. Trumpet guy did a plunger solo, and it reminded me of a time when I was listening to amateur jazz in Scotland with Jesse and we were discussing the subpar plunger work. “You gotta feel like there’s a string from the plunger to the audience,” I said, or something like that. You’re trying to hold it shut, but eventually the drag it open.” This guy had that feel, that connection with us.

The band was at it’s best, however, when they were all grinding away together, getting big and ugly at the ends of songs, the red light shining on the bass drum jumping and throbbing like a vampire’s heart as the sound built to a train wreck where all the engineers were Picasso.

The only reason I know I got the name right is the flyer I pulled off the Men’s room door. Just below the name of the band it said “Saturday the 16th”. Half of October is gone. Time sure flies. My trip is almost over, or at least this part of it. I’ll have to come up with another name for the next part of my life.

Shae brought us another round and stopped to chat for a while. The tamale guys came through, and challenged her to a game of pool for some tamales. “Not tonight, hon,” she said. “He just wants to see me bend over,” she said to us, “I don’t need to in this outfit.” She was right about that. Ample amounts of ample chest were exposed. “My daugter saw me in this and said I must be going for the tips tonight.” Shae has a sixteen-year-old daughter, and in defiance of stereotype they get along. And that is the Lolita factor Bill mentioned on the way home. I imagined dating Shae, easy to do when a pretty woman is sa dang friendly with you, and I imagined meeting her daughter, who it only stands to reasin is every bit as pretty as her mother, while saying to myself “Look at her eyes look at her eyes only lookathereyeslookathereyes…” ’cause the last thing you want is for you date to catch you checking out her daughter, or even to think you were.

Oh, but the story gets better – even better than I realized at the time. While the band was playing two very attractive girls came in. I was concentrating on the band, so I paid them little heed. I did notice that they looked pretty young, but sad to say they all look young these days. Shae went over and talked to them, and they left. Here’s the thing I didn’t know at the time. Bill picked it up, but I was oblivious: Shae said to one of the girls, “Don’t call me Mom in here.” Shae then kicked them out. Yikes! That girl I was checking out was Shae’s kid. Luckily for all concerned, I found the mom to be more attractive. She came back over to our table and she said something like “Well, I got to be the bad guy tonight.” Not realizing that she had just kicked out her own daughter, I simply nodded sympathetically. At that point I was much more interested in the band and Shea’s breasts. But her daughter was cute, I’ll grant that. It’s the Lolita factor. When Bill first mentioned it, I had no idea how appropriate it was.

Bill said, “That’s the friendliest waitress I’ve ever met in my life.” Shea was that, hands down.

Through the Valley of Fire to the Bosom of Bobbi

Location: Stateline Motel, Mesquite NV. (map)
Miles: 12,804.4

Here’s all I’m going to say about Vegas: I stayed up till 5 a.m. with Amy the night before I left. I slept two hours while I was there. I left Sin City with a nice lump of dough in my pocket and no venereal diseases. Overall, a success. I have not slept since, so much of this will probably make no sense.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds accompanied me on my drive over to check out Hoover Dam (that will become a link when I have the pictures ready). That’s a nice bit of work. Another place on my journey that seems to be on the “must see” list for foreign tourists that is just a historical curiosity for Americans. For all the “No Trucks or Busses” signs as I approached the dam, there sure were a hell of a lot of trucks and busses crossing. (Though to be fair the trucks all seemed involved with the major construction project to redo highway 93 from a road that twists around the hills to one that blasts through the hills. That makes the road better, somehow.)

I walked around the dam for a bit. While the enormous sweep of concrete is impressive, I wish there was a way to help people understand the enormous force that structure must oppose. It is that force that turns on all the lights in Las Vegas, and more than just one or two elsewhere.

Move on, Jerry; move on. Sleep is catching up. After the dam I played K’s Choice and doubled back to Boulder City to pay way too much for gas. There was a gray road on my map heading north along the lake that looked interesting, but I didn’t want to try something like that out there without plenty of liquids for both me and the car. I also thought to confirm with the Gatorade salesman that the road I was about to take did indeed go through. He was effusive and earned the high gas price for his employer. I learned that I was about to drive through the Valley of Fire, that it cost five dollars, and that Captain Kirk was buried there.

It doesn’t happen every time, but on occasion I make the right choice. For those of you keeping score at home, the Valley of Fire (map) is a fantastic drive. Iggy and the Stooges were cranking. I really want to describe the geology for you. I want to describe how the ridges broke from the valley floor like dog’s teeth, black except where something had broken the surface to expose the blood red stone underneath. I could tell you how I drove past a basaltic dike into a section of twisted and folded white ridges standing over the red and undulating floor. I could speculate on life and death and heat and iron and blood. I just don’t have it in me to write stuff like that right now.

At the top of the lake, the road passes through the MOPAR valley. (No, silly, it wasn’t really called the MOPAR Valley, but daddy is a little dotty right now. It was something like that anyway) I had an Idea to stay in MOPAR, get up really, really early in the morning, and go back while the light was good to take all the pictures I didn’t take today. They would be much better when the Sun was low to bring out the features of the landscape. So I kept telling myself as I drove past photo ops. We all know the real reason I didn’t stop was because the road had me and she would not let me go. But this story gets squirrely enough without the new pantheon pulling my strings.

Title of my first nonfiction book: The New Pantheon.

Right, then. MOPAR valley. At the north end of Lake Mead is a lush and fertile valley. As I was driving into Overton a train tooted at me just to say hello (or so it seemed), and while there were people crawling up my tailpipe as I drove along at the absurdly low speed limit, overall I got a good vibe from the place. At least I did at first. The MOPAR Valley is an orderly and tidy place. White church steeples are visible across the valley, looking over their flocks and watching one another. I had started to look for a hotel next to an interesting bar, but then I realized there were no bars that I could identify. The only reference to alcohol I saw was a political banner for a guy named Tom Collins.

Onward, then! North to I-15 and up to Mesquite. I drove down the main drag in town looking for a likely motel. I saw a couple of promising ones, but then I passed an interesting-looking sports bar/pizzeria. Soon after that was the Stateline Motel, where I sit now resisting my inevitable journey into the Land of Nod. Ah, sweet sleep, you shall have me soon enough.

The motel had its own casino, if by casino you mean a smoky bar filled with slot machines. I was very thirsty from my travels, so I moseyed on in to catch some baseball and drink some water with a beer chaser. Drinks were free if you were actively playing video poker, so I put some money in the machine in front of me. I have read that if you play the simple, straightforward video poker exactly perfectly the payout is actually over 100%. I don’t think I played it perfectly, but I did end up with enough money to pay for my room, plus I got several free beers. When I hit the payout button the message came up “hopper empty” so the bartender had to reload it. When he closed up the machine it still didn’t work. Thus began my career being a pain in the ass for the bartender. I won’t go into all the details, but when I moved to another machine I had more troubles, and this time they were my fault.

Of course, I was not the only one at the bar. They had a promotion going that night and the place was filling up. As I sat down a man was tellin his credulous friend Buck about the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. He seemed to know what he was talking about. Things started to get out of hand when their conversation turned to rattlesnakes. I almost did a noser with my beer when he explained that if you wanted to eat a rattlesnake you had to be careful how you caught it or it would bite itself and poison itself, making the meat deadly to eat. Riiiiiight. And watch out for those Mojave greens! They don’t rattle and if one decides to bite you it’ll chase after you until it catches you.

But my long tale is not over yet, boys and girls. To my right, beyond the machine that had broken, were two women in the 50ish age range. We’ll call them Katie and Norma. Slowly I was drawn into conversation with them. My story came out, as it must in a situation like that. When I mentioned that I had considered going back to take pictures in the Valley of Fire, Katie said, “Well, if you’re in town tomorrow, you can crash at my place. That would be no problem.” I was already pretty sure I’d be heading east, but I thanked her for the offer. Not long after that the bartender told me to go back to my poker machine or give it up. I went back to the machine. I’d built up quite a few credits on it, and the conversation was getting into more dangerous territory.

An indeterminate time later, as I watched baseball and bet on the poker machine, Katie was at my elbow. “You understand,” she said, “that when I say you can crash at my place I really mean dinner and a fuck?” I failed to disguise my shock. “It’ll be good, I promise,” she said.

“Hammina hammina hammina,” I said, or something equally as eloquent. Which was better that what I thought, which was “GAAAAH!” She continued the hard sell. “Think about it,” she said. “Just a good time then goodbye. No tomorrow. You’re just my type, that’s all.” She proceeded to be very complimentary. I didn’t say no to her face—which she would have taken well, I think—but I had already decided to move on the next day. If there had been any doubt before, there was none now. The drawing occurred, the other of the two women won a disappointingly small prize, and it was time to go get some food. I skipped out and went to Playoffs Sports Pub and Pizzeeria.

OK, we all know about Jerry and bartenders. Bobbi more so than most. I won’t discuss the behavior of the assholes to my left in detail (although there was one chick who sat down next to me for a few minutes and burned through ten bucks on a video poker machine with an intensity that verged on madness but was probably only drug-induced), just know that Bobbi handled them with style and grace. They were all in love with Bobbi (except, perhaps, for the tweaker chick). So was I. Rose once said. “Boobs are men’s kryptonite.” Bobbi is kryptolicious. When she let her hair down, that was it. To quote pL, “Dang.” I had an excellent burger along with my Sierra Nevadas, and the bill came out quite reasonable.

I met the new owner of the place (he had bought it three days ago), and when he heard that I would be writing about Playoffs Sports Pub and Pizzeria (map) on the Web he was excited. I tried but failed to impress upon him just how insignificant my opinion is, how few people will ever read this and of those how many will find themselves in Mesquite looking for chow. But if by some miracle that describes you, dear reader, then trust me, Playoffs is a good place to go. It’s right on the main drag. (Sorry, Marc, that’s the best I can do. The rest is up to you.)

Back to Bobbi. Bobbi, Bobbi, Bobbi. Tonight I will dream of Bobbi. Tonight is now. I must sleep. I am becoming transparent, not really here at all. That my eyes are open is only a formality. Good night, dear readers. Thanks for sharing my day with me.

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

I thought I was getting up early until I looked at the clock. Ugh. Almost eleven. My mouth is dry, my eyeballs are fuzzy, and my fingers, not the surest of digits at the best of times, seem to be hitting random keys right now. I wouldn’t call it a hangover—there’s no headache and the leftover hot wings sitting in their gelatinous goo are still tasty—but it feels like a morning that’s been pulled from the freezer and defrosted.

It was a good night last night.

My throat is scratchy. That would be the Billy Idol at karaoke. Sometimes you have to rise up to the music. Sometimes they turn down your microphone.

There weren’t many takers for karaoke at Champ’s last night. That meant the unsuspecting Sports bar was subjected to a whole lotta Jerry, though after the “White Wedding Incident” I chose mellower (or at least quieter) songs. And then, as the Karaokologist was packing up his gear for the night, I did the unthinkable. I struck up a conversation with a woman I didn’t know.

She was friends with the karaokista. I went over to tip him but he had no tip jar; she scrounged one up. She had long, black, curly hair (I’m sure there’s a more technically correct term for cascading ringlets of raven hair, but I don’t know it), a pretty smile, and let me tell you, kids, the chick could sing. I wonder how many times I said “You can wail!” while I sat next to her at the bar. Too many times, I’m sure, but when she smiled at the compliment the first time there was no stopping me. Skinner would have been proud. She said her name was Jennifer. I told her I was a writer.

I’m surprised I even got that far after the way I started the conversation. Oh, Lordy, Lordy. Are you ready for this? After getting the tip jar squared away and parking myself next to her, belly full of liquid courage and having already made her smile once I said, “If I wasn’t leaving town I’d be hitting on you right now.” To which she replied, “I guess you just did.” Apparently it wasn’t a fatally awful cornball dumbass thing to say; I find in my fearful fingers this morning a coaster which reads in handwriting almost as frightful as mine “Jen’s email (the wailer)” followed by an email address that may even be real. (Did I make the joke about Bob Marley or did I only wish I had later? I think I made the joke. I think she laughed.)

I cut and ran at that point, trailing my already-departed hosts back over to their place. We were hanging out lamenting our frightfully low beer supply when Joe called, looking for a place to go so he wouldn’t have to drive all the way back to Mira Mesa. Melinda talked him in, and the drinking continued for a while longer. Tom, ever the industrious host, cooked up some hot wings while we ravaged the last of the beers and Melinda continued her progress through the big bottle of rum.

Now it is morning, and Tom has overcome the disaster that was the kitchen and is busily cooking up a nice breakfast. Joe still lies in a tangle on the sofa. Melinda made a brief appearance to lie on the other sofa but apparently that was too much for her and now she’s gone back to bed. And why not? It’s Sunday.

Jerry, Meet Jerry

I should write first about what a great day I had today. It was the perfect backside for yesterday. I’ll get to that, I promise. I’ll try, at least. But for now we will fast forward to the end of the day. To Tiki. To my out-of-body experience.

You may have come to assume, reading my tales, that I’m a Rock ‘n’ Roll All Night, Party Every Day kind of guy. Sorry to have led you astray, but that’s generally not the case. At Tiki, for instance, I am usually gone before the band starts to play. Find me a bar where good bands play in the late afternoon and I promise I’ll be there every day. I assure you this has nothing to do with my age.

So tonight I found myself still there as the music started. I was sitting next to Connecticut Bill, who would not SHUT THE HELL UP! He was the one who convinced me I should stay to hear this guy play, but once the guy started playing, all I could hear was Billy. In the presence of good music I do one of two things: I dance or I write. Usually when I write while listening to music it’s all in my head, but tonight I grabbed a pile of bar napkins and a pen, both because I knew my memory was fragile and to keep Bill at bay. It took some hard-core ignorin’ to buy myself some space.

Meanwhile, the singer was starting to attract a few new partons to the bar. Some of them were even female. I worked away, studiously ignoring Billy as much as I could. There was one woman in particular, over my right shoulder (Connecticut Bill was to my left), in a floral dress short enough I could appreciate the toned legs crossed and aimed directly at the singer. I scratched away at my napkin. One corner of my mind, of course, drew a scenario that had her crossing over to me to see what I, obviously an artist of great virtue, was breathing to life there in her very presence.

It was as I contemplated that fantasy that I saw myself. There are no mirrors at Tiki, and none was necessary. There I was, shaggy, saggy, and baggy, scratching on a napkin arcane symbols that I myself will not be able to decipher later, tearing the parchment when I get too excited. My hair is a wreck because I run my hand through it repeatedly as I wrestle with the tougher parts. I’ve got a pretty good dairy queen thing going by now.

And here’s the kicker: if that woman had come over to see what I was writing, on the off chance that somehow she had felt the force of my intellect across the room, I would have been paralyzed. “What are you doing?” she would ask. “Uh, just doing some writing,” I would answer. “Oooh, I love writers! Can I read it?” Gaah! Shit! Shit! Shit! “Uh, no. It’s not ready yet.” It would have been something like that, except less graceful on my part. Luckily the entire scenario is impossible.

Sex, Death, and Words

Location: Adelanto, CA
Miles: 7819.4

I saw lots of great photographs today, but it was a day of words. It was a day of sometimes violent discussion in my head. As I drove across the desert my sun-baked brain created images that you will have to wait for my fiction to read. Earlier I said that an artist gets close to madness. Today I was an artist. I guzzled a gallon of gatorade as I crossed the desert and was peeing yellow crystals at the end of the day.

I was alone. Really, really alone. I was a tiny ant, crawling over the surface of the universe. I started to think about that empty space, and I compared it to my own soul. I started to think about a photograph, and more than that the story of the photograph. The picture is a nude, her dark skin in sharp contrast to the shimmering mountains in the distance. Her bare feet hover above the superheated white sand. Her long black hair falls straight to the Earth (perhaps with a detour over a shoulder), giving a line for her body to curve against, perpendicular to the unforgiving horizon. It is early morning, and the desert is hot already, but the light is coming from the side, creating dramatic shadows that make the curves curvier and the lines more dramatic. She is the goddess of the desert, cruel and lonely. I imagine the position of her down to each finger, and I imagine the sun dancing over her skin, the shadows playing over her curving neck. Lines and curves. Her face holds rapture. Her image thrills me and propels me.

I join 395 south and it is an easy drive. There are sections where there is a passing lane and others where it is a simple two-laner. During the two-lane sections people were behaving badly. I was putting along in one of those sections when I heard a siren behind me, very close. There was a trooper right on my butt. I signaled and pulled over, and he went blasting by. I slid back onto the highway. I was in the next town when I pulled aside for an ambulance. There was trouble ahead. Actually, for me there was inconvenience ahead. Trouble had already been and gone, exacting his terrible toll.

I watched ahead as a helicopter rose and shook the heavens as it shattered away. Inside was at least one human life on the edge of expiring. That life was surrounded by the greatest people and the greatest technology ever dedicated to preventing the fragile thread of life from being snapped. Our tax dollars at work, and well spent. I thought back to the crosses I had seen at the side or the road in Montana, a state-sponsored appeal to drivers to imagine their own mortality. I came over a rise, and below there were flashing lights and a cluster of vehicles. I pulled to the side to let another meatwagon pass.

As I approached, there was a flagman controlling traffic, They had opened one lane, but it was to be shared by northbound and southbound traffic. The collision (safe driving is no accident) occurred right where four lanes went to two. I know what happened; nobody has to explain it to me. Someone tried to push that passing lane a little too far.

What got me most about the roadside crosses and about this horrible thing I saw was time. Fifteen seconds before the disaster no one knew that they were about to suffer horribly or even die. They were just driving along. I imagined the horror of coming over a rise to see a pair of headlights staring you in the face. As I pulled through the forest of demolished vehicles and fire trucks, I could not help but rubberneck, despite my earlier vows to do no such thing. I had to know the magnitude of the damage. There was a car torn right in half. There was a guy panning a video camera over the wreckage. In an ultimate act of hypocrisy, I wanted to punch that guy. As I crawled through the scene, trying really hard to keep my eyes glued to the car in front of me, I saw probably ten people loading a victim strapped into a total immobilization litter very gently into the back of a truck even as an ambulance stood waiting.

I was barely ten miles south of that scene, driving with people who must have seen what I saw, who must have seen the horrible cost that saving thirty seconds in a six-hour trip can exact. No lesson, no learning. People were still doing the same stupid shit. People who had just seen a horrible accident were completely unaffected as far as their own mortality was concerned. I drove on knowing the the same assholes were going north, and at any moment I would be faced with leaving the road or having a headon.

I am not going to enumerate the endless series of phenomenally reckless acts I saw on 395. The whole time I was on that road I was surrounded by dickheads. There are crosses along that road, not state-sponsored but more ornate, testifying to the price of stupidity and impatience. After my travels, if there is one thing I could teach my beloved country, it’s patience. Slow down, guys, you’ll get there. Pass with care.

I drank a gallon of Gatorade, a gallon of water, and a large Coke as I crossed the desert that day; when I finally pulled in for a rest in Adelanto I was more like Jerry-jerky. If you really can sweat the toxins out of your body, I was pure that night. (Lord knows I picked up some toxins in Ely.) I bought a six-pack at the local grocery and drank only one of them out of some sense of obligation. I was just really, really thirsty. I took a cold, cold shower and finally shed the heat of the desert.

This was just going to be a quick episode. As I moved over the face of the Earth today I was filled with words. All kinds of words, most of them too private not to disguise as fiction. I came to a new understanding with The Fish. I’m a cold one. At least when it counts I am. But out there I got closer to the story. I put in (in my head) a couple of new ideas. As I moved from Nevada to California I was imagining what people would say about The Fish, and while the exercise was embarrassingly vain it also helped me define just what it was I wanted to say. That’s the magic of the desert. There is a stark beauty that dances with you, but there is always the reminder of death breathing hot and dry on your neck. The desert makes a poet of all of us.

Nicole: The Aftermath

I went down to The Cannery today, to fulfill my duty according to the poll. I was nervous. I really didn’t want to ask Nicole out for a date. That’s not to say I didn’t want a date with her, oh, yes, I do want that. No, it’s the asking that scares the piss out of me. Seriously, I know the answer is a given. Nicole, if you’re out there reading this, you can relax. You always could. There was never any reason to be concerned.

So, anyway, there I was in The Cannery. I got some good writing done, not so much for smallifying the story, which it needs, but I wrote some stuff that lets us watch an important transformation of the main character. Smallifying is what I need, however. Apparently publishers don’t want a first novel that’s too big – it takes too much paper. They don’t want to go to the extra expense until you’ve proven that you sell. But the story keeps growing. Balls, balls, balls.

I was at The Cannery; Nicole was not. I set up at my table in the nearly deserted bar. The bartender, a loud and outgoing woman whose name I am embarrassed not to know, took great care of me. She was telling some of the few other patrons how difficult she was to keep as a girlfriend. “I’m independent,” she said, “I don’t need to be taken care of, I just need to be loved.” My kind of girl. “I piss everyone off after a while,” she added. maybe not my kind of girl after all.

The day was wearing along, and my interim favorite bartender was ruling over the bar. The only others there were dried up old men. Present company included. At least I had a purpose. Eventually my battery was going dead, and happy hour was starting down at the Ale Works. I am a cheap bastard, after all. I asked my kind beerfetcher who was coming on next. “Denise,” she said. “That’s good,” I said, “if it was Nicole I would have to stay and make an ass of myself.”

She nodded. “That’s how it is,” she said. Not a question. Not an impeachment. Just an observation. More than that. It was acceptance. That’s how it is. “I think she’s working tomorrow.” My new best friend checked the list. “No, she’s not working until Friday. You’ll be good then.”

“I’ll be out of town by Friday,” I said. Relief. I will not have to make an ass of myself. Also disappointment. As much as i dreaded living up to the poll, I was also looking forward to it. I was looking forward to taking the chance, however ridiculous that was. However afraid I was. But it’s over now. Finally I have to head back south. I just can’t put it off any longer. Friday’s not so far, but it’s so very, very far.

Here we go…

Unless someone bails me out by voting for “charm with wit, let her make the move” this morning it looks like I’ll be asking Nicole on a date. To be honest the two more extreme choices were less scary than the date option since she would not take them seriously. Oh, well, after I embarrass myself I’ll be leaving town. If she doesn’t have a shift in the next day or two it’ll all be moot anyway. On the plus side, I’m now morally obligated to spend time at The Cannery.

In other news, I had so much fun using John’s fancy camera that I have bought one of my own. It arrives tomorrow, if all goes well. Then I just have to learn how to use it. I’m pretty stoked, though. I can see lots of mistakes in the pictures I took, mistakes that a camera can’t fix, but I can also see some good stuff and having images that are more “tweakable” afterwards gives me the ability to bring out the best in a shot. Plus having a lens that can reach out and touch someone is really nice. Oh, it’s a slippery slope, all right. Can you say accessories?

John has been really helpful both by letting me borrow his gear and by helping me get a decent bang for my buck for my new gear. (I think he enjoys spending my money on stuff as much as he does his own.) He has also been very encouraging when looking at my pictures. Thanks, John! Thanks also for the encouraging comments from you guys out there. I sure am having fun. Still looking for a way to get paid to do this.

A Pair of Brown Eyes

The bar at the Montana Ale Works is a rectangular version of King Arthur’s round table. The beeristers and beeristas scurry about inside the beerena, flashing smiles to the regs when they can afford the time. Kristin is one of those in the middle. She remembers my name, she remembers my beer. But by now, that’s not a surprise. I have achieved accelerated regularization with the help of John.

One the other side of the elongated rectangle is a pair of brown eyes. Dark eyebrows arch. Long hair cascades over bare brown shoulders. Between the expressive eyes and the spaghetti straps crossing the graceful shoulders is a giant horizontal stainless steel pipe, punctuated with taps. The space between her graceful neck and her intriguing eyes is a mystery.

In front of her is a drink of tantalizing color. The simple amber of whiskey. She dangles a finger into the hooch with languid nonchalance, swirls it around, then lifts her graceful digit, pregnant with suggestion, to her lips. At least I assume that’s where it ended up. We can only imagine what that was like when her finger reached her lips. It was slow. It was beautiful. It was all in my head.

Still, sitting where I was, I was finally privileged to see her smile. Toothy. Confident. Happy. I bought her another scotch. Anonymously. I made extra-double-sure that Jen would not rat me out. Why, why would I buy a woman a drink and work so hard to make sure I gain nothing from it, not a thank you or even a glance in my direction? (There certainly were no glances my direction, either before or after the drink arrived in front of her.) Why? Because I’m stupid. Or maybe I’m just chicken. I’d never sent a drink over to a stranger before, so maybe I just need practice.

No, it was just stupid. I’m just not a buy-a-drink-for-a-stranger kind of guy. Buying a woman a drink is step one to picking her up, and that’s something I’m hopeless at. My style is more the wear-her-down-over-the-course-of-weeks kind of style. It doesn’t work very well, I can tell you that.

New Poll is Up

Jesse put in a comment:

I think you should start a new poll
on how you should chase this Nicole
we’ll say, “start the hunt!”
or, “give up and punt”
come on man! give us control

There you go. Vote early, vote often. Maximum ballot box stuffing rate is once per day, I’m afraid, unless you have multiple computers.

As I said before, I’ll abide by the decision of the public. I’m only going to be here a few more days at most, I think, so this poll will close pretty quickly.

Megan

It was hot in here, and it’s still warm, so the doors are open and there’s a breeze passing through. Megan is on crutches; she blew out her knee, I didn’t catch how. She seems cheerful nevertheless, and is having a nice conversation with her friends. She is about eight feet from me.

What does the breeze have to do with it? I am upwind of her. I pray for the sorry souls down the bar. I think the lid must have come off her perfume bottle. When she first walked in, I thought that perhaps she had just put her smell on. They can be pretty overpowering at first. But it’s not ‘at first’ anymore. I’m actually relieved that the guy next to her lit a cigarette.

I wonder if smokers tend to lay on the stink more than non-smokers?

Maybe I’m oversensitive. My personal level of hell will be a lot like a Hallmark store. (For the arrogance of thinking I deserve my own personal hell, it will now be a very crowded hallmark store, and all the other shoppers will be attractive, stink of smells made in factories, and be asking me what I think of this cute card with the kitten, with a verse inside something like:

You’re such a very special you,
I can’t believe how much it’s true,
so on this very special day,
I have to say hip hip hooray.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah, odor. Don’t get me wrong, a little bit of the right smell can be very enticing. But a scent should be a whisper – you have to come close to catch it, and when you do it draws you closer still. That’s what makes it so exciting. When you catch that whiff it means you’re getting inside the usual barriers. Your nose is following a delicate trail, instructing your lips where to go next. When applying perrfume, put it lightly where you want to feel your partner’s breath on your skin. Scent, artfully applied, is a chemical instruction manual for the wearer’s body. It’s intoxicating, and it’s sexy.

If I got that close to Megan (not that there’s any chance of that happening anyway – I’m here and she’s there and that’s the way it always is and that’s the way it always will be) my head would explode.

While I’m on the subject of subtlety, perfume, cologne, and what-not are best when they enhance your own scent, rather than cover it up. Megan may be olfactorialy a very attractive woman. If today is any indication, no one will ever know. (There are exceptions to the enhance vs. cover rule, of course. I’ve been an exception myself. I’m under no illusion, however, that dumping a boxcar of cologne over myself will make things any better.)

If you knew me, you’d know that I’m the last one to be giving fashion advice. I am not a stylish man. Perfume is not fashion, however, no matter how it’s marketed. It is a personal statement reserved only for those you care to share it with. Keep that in mind, and maybe I can get through life without my head exploding.

A Big Day, part 1: Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence

Location: Mission Dolores Park, San Francisco
Miles: 595.1

For those of you who are as little in the know as I am, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (photo) is a community organization of gays and lesbians. But that’s not the half of it. today was their 25th annual Easter bash, which featured, among other things, the Easter Bonnet contest, the first Hunky Jesus contest, and music by Polkacide. Aside from all that, there was world-class people watching, as the sisters are out to put on a show.

This was truly an “Only in San Francisco” kind of event. I will do my best to get pictures up as soon as possible. Many of the sisters were in flamboyant costume, but as this was outdoors in a public park most of the costumes were not terribly risqué. Just as well for my own comfort.

The Easter Bonnet contest was a lot of fun; I thought the guy with the huge feathered headdress (think Vegas) with the bunny tied to it with leather straps was going to be the winner, but then I realized that the dude with the hat made entirely of chocolate had a basin of melted chocolate in the middle in which he was dunking strawberries. After he won he let the kids in the crowd devour his creation. In the words of the MC’s: “Martha Stewart couldn’t do that!”

The Polkacide gig was very good – a better sound mix than they usually get despite the hasty setup – but short. The crowd was definitely getting into it, there was much twirling of partners and shaking of booties. They had another brief set later, but I left. I was getting hungry, as all I had eaten today up to then was an ice cream sandwich. It was starting to get blustery as well, and I wanted to take a top-down flight down the coast before it got too cold. (Remember the days when there was no such thing as too cold? Those days are over, my friend.)

Right. Back to the Sisters. The drive is the next entry. I spent a lot of time around behind the stage, both because I was hanging out with John and the Polkaciders, and because that is where the most interesting people were. Neil, the clarinet player for Polkacide had a basket filled with the traditional fake grass and the not-so-traditional painted beers. In honor of the event, the band dressed up more than usual, which for some of the members is saying a lot. One guy (I’ll fill in the name later) was in a red sequin body suit. Yikes.

Before I left, one sister, dressed in white, face painted white with absurdly long eyelashes, patted me on the ass and said “Somebody better put that to use.” I think he did it just because I had been around the backstage for a while and obviously was keeping my space. That or he thought I was hot. Nah. I was taken by surprise, and I have no idea what my expression was like when I turned to look at him. Hopefully honestly surprised rather than fearful, or, worse, blank. Of course, now I have thought of several things I could have said, each one better than the last.

Soon thereafter I left, leaving forever the mystery of the White Sister’s intentions, and leaving unsaid all the cool things I could have said. Strangely, I spent the day slightly worried that some man would ask me to dance of just be too familiar, yet if straight women never hit on me, why should I think a gay man would? In point of fact, there were Sisters carrying around buckets for donations for their causes, and I swear they were avoiding me. Finally I had to chase one down and practically tackle him to make my meagre donation. I’m guessing it was my fashion senselessness. Or maybe the sheer power of my personality intimidated them.

It was the fashion sense.