Thursday, January 28, 2010


The pair of them were arguing on a street corner. He was a big guy, probably six foot and change, bundled up like the water boy for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He wasn't much more than a kid, but a mean kid, the kind you can't work up the nerve to feel too sorry for no matter how bad he has it.

Guys like him always have it bad. They bounce from bad job to worse job to no job and then maybe occasionally back again. On a starvation budget, they still manage to dress like hangers on for a second tier rap star and frequently add a new layer of ink to his arms, which is like saving for a rainy day, something to impress the boys at the regional jail.

You feel sorry for the girl. You always feel sorry for the girl. She's small, slender, dressed in denim, and scowling while he yells and paces back and forth across the road.

One look at her. One look at him and the question is always the same: why? Why have anything to do with this asshole?

So, he yells something; mouth wide open, teeth bared, spittle dripping off his lower lip. He flails and shake his head, while she glares and measures out her words by the poisonous spoonful. Credit where credit is due. Every single one of them hurts; crushes his heart, his balls or both a little tighter.

This goes on for a couple of minutes: back and forth.

Finally, he stomps across the street, opens the door and fires back one short, predictable salvo: Fuck you. He'd said it before. He'd said it a dozen times in just a few of minutes, but this is the last one, the only one he had left.

He slams the door while she briefly watches, then rolls her eyes. It's not long before a beat up rag top with her old Mama behind the wheel oozes by and takes her away.

I like my new ipod, but I still miss a lot, I think.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


As my training for a rough and rowdy brawls continues, I happened upon some a press release for one of these fights in Huntington. It was very helpful and gave me an idea of what I might be facing.

To compete in the light heavyweight class, I need to be under 184 pounds. The heavyweight class, by the way is for guys 185 to 400 pounds. I imagine if you get past 400 pounds, they have a special Sumo class where the winner gets to eat one of the losers of the middleweight division (under 159 pounds).

The middleweight division is completely impossible. To get there, I'd have to saw a leg off and become a vegetarian. Neither are likely to happen, though I am partial to salads.

What is troubling, however, the results on the fax list the height of the fighters. I can do a lot of things to prepare. I can lose weight. I can get stronger and faster, but I can't get taller. The winners for each of these fights was at least 5'11". No big surprise. Tall guys with a reach tend to knock around hobbits like me.

I'm 5'7", but I'm not planning on winning, so it hardly matters, but I'd really like to make my opponent earn it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


I can't say I'm completely surprised Andy Dick ran into trouble in Huntington. I can say he sounded sane and sober on the phone, but when I spoke to him, it was late morning, he was at home with his kids, discussing a shopping list with his live-in ex-girlfriend.

For what it's worth, I'd hoped he really was clean and not crazy. If he really did grab a couple of guys' crotches in a bar and try to make out with one of them, this doesn't sound sane or sober. It doesn't even sound funny --except in a "glad it wasn't my crotch" kind of way.

No doubt, Andy Dick is one of the most annoying comedians who has ever drawn breath. He's risky and risque (and not necessarily in a fun way), but some of those risks have worked out. He can be very funny, but he's also a human wrecking ball. It's impossible to ignore the number of dead people who may have been influenced by his presence in their lives.

Yet, he's got his friends. Ben Stiller and the Frat Pack seem to let him into their movies from time to time.

Funny thing. After we'd done our little interview, he'd made a predictable, but still gracious offer to let me come to the show and maybe hang out a little after. It wasn't anything specific. He didn't suggest we do lines of coke and go set fire to the nearest library. I could come up after and we could talk and hang out. It was a nice enough offer, but I tossed my usual, "I'd love to, but I'm not sure what I have to do yet" line, not that I ever intended to drive to Huntington.

I didn't have anything against seeing up close what he was about. You can only get so much from a ten minute phone conversation and I am, by nature, a man curious about people, but my car's exhaust pipe has a hole in it. I can't afford to repair it yet. Driving farther than fifteen minutes gets downright annoying.

So, I was never going to go. My dumb luck, I guess.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Nobody much liked the idea when I mentioned I was going to try to train for a fight.

"I'm going to use your words," Sue told me. "You said you lost the weight and started getting healthy because of your family, because of your kids. How does this fit in with that?"

And she was right. It doesn't --not at all. This is incredibly selfish and more than a little self-destructive. It reeks of a mid-life crisis and maybe something else.

"You were saying you wanted to do this ten years ago," one of my old room-mates told me.

Of course, I didn't do it and would have been killed if I'd tried. The guy who won the thing in Bluefield ten years back just about crippled his opponent, put the guy in the hospital with a wide variety of broken bones, bruises and bad memories. I heard he tried to sue, but you sign a release before you ever put on the gloves. Anything that happens to you inside the ring you get to take home --free of charge.

I tried to explain this wasn't actually about competing. Getting in the ring is a moonshot. It's very unlikely. I'm in better shape than I've been in twenty years. I feel great, but in order for me to pull this off, I have to lose another forty pounds, while at the same time getting a hell of a lot stronger and faster just to stand next to most of these guys. Otherwise, it's not a competition, it's just an invitation to an assisted suicide.

She couldn't understand why I want to do this, why I've always wanted to do this and it's one of those things too difficult to explain easily.

I remember the last fight I was almost in. Twenty years ago, some friends and I walked out of a restaurant at closing. Out in the parking lot, two men were kicking the living shit out of some hapless bastard who managed to piss them off. It wasn't a robbery, just a beat down, but he was on the ground, he was outnumbered and they were in the process of killing him.

Some of my friends stepped off the curb to stop them. I went back to ask the manager to call the cops.

I've rationalized the decision for years. Somebody had to do it. It was the legal, reasonable, responsible thing to do. It was also, just a little bit, cowardly.

My friends never joined the fray. All they did was walk toward the fight and tell them to back off. Once there was an audience, the winners of this particular fight decided it wasn't such a good idea to be seen beating someone to death. It gave the guy on the ground time to get up and get away. The two men fled, got in their car and drove off, just as the guy they were beating on came back with a tire iron.

He managed to take out their back window.

The manager of the restaurant, meanwhile, came out with a stick and told us all to get the hell out. The police were on their way.

So, we all left, went back to school, had a few beers and didn't say much about it.

To me, that fight in the parking lot was a reckoning. I was not as brave as I thought I was. It wasn't the fear of looking bad, getting beaten up or, worse, somehow getting killed. I was afraid of the conflict, of even standing up. I've often wondered about that limit, about how much it's affected my life, maybe even subtly, and wondered what I need to do to change it.

Everything I told Sue and everybody else is true. It is a long shot. There is an enormous amount of work, including that one little thing I don't even know if I know any more: how to throw and take a punch.

But I think I have to be willing to follow through and make my stand.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tasks: Five

I think I've got a fair number of tasks and resolutions ahead of me. This last one, however, isn't about achieving much, just making some time.

Life is complicated, but what I really want this year is one good bottle split with a couple of friends. Finding the friends isn't so difficult, but getting the right bottle of whiskey might take some time.

It's also a heck of a lot easier than getting beaten up.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Tasks: Four

My writing discipline waxes and wanes. It's kind of like religion. Sometimes, you can feel your faith, your absolute belief in your ability to tell a story, your talent (your... um... punctuation) and other times, you can't.

I'm not blocked. I'm just caught up in the fear of not having something to say, the fear of failure.

Ah, but Hell, I fail all the time. So, I'm going to work on my writing discipline a bit more. This year, I will write 1000 new words each day (in addition to my work-related writing), six days a week from this day on. This means 1000 words for stories I have not written yet -rewrites will not count.

It's a plan. If I can keep it up. At the end of the year, I should have a couple of novels done.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tasks: three

I suck at vacations. They always turn out lousy in a funny-to-you-but-not-to-me sort of way. I'm the guy who will get that wonderful, free cabin that's got a problem with bats and no running water. I take beach vacations where the few good times are poisoned by the sort of continuous child meltdowns that make young married couples tear up adoption papers --and I fucking outright hate spending more than a single night at a campground.

Camping in a campground just isn't fun for me after one night. Camping, to me, is something you do as a supplement to something else --like hiking or I suppose hunting (which I don't do) or boating. Otherwise, it's not much different than hanging around a motel room, a big motel room, but a motel room with no heat, no air conditioning, no cable, suspicious water and very little privacy.

Staycations don't work either. I try that and I end up going into work.

But this year, I take a vacation. I don't know how. I don't know where, but it's got to happen.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tasks: Two

I'm mildly self-destructive, not specifically suicidal, but sure, I don't mind getting hurt. This sort of thing helped when I played soccer in high school. If you don't much care how much damage you take, it's pretty easy to bust up other people who are a lot more concerned about it.


2-I'm going to see if I can work toward getting into a Rough and Rowdy Brawl/Tough man Competition.

I've talked about doing one for years. So, I'll work on it. In order for it to happen, I have to get my weight down below the heavy weight division. Basically, this means losing another 30 to 35 pounds, while putting on more muscle. Otherwise, there's not much sport to it. I'd get killed when they match me up with some 6 foot 5, 350 pound neanderthal.

I don't mind a beating. I'm not so crazy about getting crippled.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tasks : one

This week, I'll be blogging about specific tasks I want to accomplish in 2010. Sure, I've got a whole list of resolutions, but these are a little different than the usual broad, get wealthier, get wiser, get taller plans I typically make.

1- Help fill the food drive can at my kid's daycare next Christmas.

Three years ago, it was the worst. My family had been 'asked' to leave our apartment. My wife was working as a temp, which was on again/off again, while I was trying to keep things going with essentially three jobs. We were having trouble with vehicles. The holidays were looming and every dime I'd saved had gone to pay for the move.

It was pretty depressing, plus I was sick. I had a bad case of bronchitis I couldn't get rid of and felt like the walking dead.

Anyway, word of our circumstances filtered down to the daycare center where I take my son and we were gifted with their food drive collection --a 50 gallon utility trash can filled with boxes and canned goods. We also got a turkey, I think, and maybe a ham --plus canned imitation shrimp. Easily, it was a couple hundred bucks worth of food and better than how we were eating and would probably would have eaten through the rest of the winter.

I remember resenting getting it. If I'd been the one to pick up my son the evening they presented it, I'd have turned it down. I remember sitting up a few nights after we got it. I'd just come home late from the bookstore and I was tired. I ate corn chex straight from the box and cried about how fucking pathetic I felt.

Looking back, it still stings a little, but the food was life. It tided us over. It helped get my family to the next foothold where things got better.

My son has only a year and a half left before he starts kindergarten. My, how the time flies... So, next Christmas I'm going to do what I can to help fill the can for someone else, for another family who needs it with the hope it will carry them into the next year.

But one thing: no canned artificial shrimp. That stuff sucked.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Glory Hole Days

(For the sake of the story, we're going to call this guy, "Carl")

Carl, the guy looking for the glory hole, came around to talk again. The swingers club he visited, and was sort of barred from, was in the news lately. People in the county were up in arms. They were shocked and appalled this kind of thing was going on in there county.

Of course, what it boils down to is the locals don't much like it that people are gathering together for the express purpose of meeting others so they can have sex --which is one of the primary reasons why people go to bars, go bowling, even go to church. The club just cuts to the chase without all the booze, bad shoes or the sermons.

Anyway, they'd much rather have people hide behind the pretense of going to see a lousy country cover band than just let people make their own sorry decisions without another butchered rendition of "Country Roads."

I am not endorsing the lifestyle; just pointing out the obvious.

Carl, unfortunately, had little good to say about the experience.

"Nobody would talk to me," he said.

The club itself was nothing spectacular, just a broad, dimly lit room in a non-descript building located in the middle of a corn field. It used to be some kind of store. The nearest neighbor was a bar. The swingers club itself didn't have a liquor license and apparently had no intention of trying to acquire one.

The prices were steep. Couples got in for ten bucks. Single men had to pay three times that (originally, he told me 60 bucks, but that may have been two separate trips). Carl didn't know how much they charged for single women, but I suspect a smile would get them through the door. Women are always in short supply everywhere except the mall.

Inside, morbidly obese married couples mixed with other morbidly obese married couples, had a few laughs and if the moment was right, traded off like baseball cards. Maybe they split a room at a budget motel where every room has two king size beds, expanded basic cable and a complimentary, continental breakfast buffet in the morning.

Nothing really caps an evening of sweaty, fat sex like a couple of bowls of generic brand fruit loops or a plateful of semi-thawed sweet rolls that might be apple or could be peach. Yeah, ain't that the life?

Of course, Carl didn't get that far.

"I couldn't get any of them to talk to me," he said.

So, he took it up with the hostess, asked her for a little help. She told him the club was a place to meet people. It wasn't a whorehouse.

"I asked her to introduce me to some of her friends," he said glumly. "I paid all that money. It seemed like I should get something."

The hostess didn't agree.

Carl got annoyed. He got irate. He got asked to leave.

His therapist suggested he probably shouldn't go back, that it was a bad atmosphere. I went out on a limb and suggested his therapist might be on to something there.

What bothered him the most, I think, wasn't so much the way the people at the club ignored him, but losing both time and money. Thirty bucks is thirty bucks. He could have used that money for lots of things --nothing that would have helped assuage the absolute loneliness and sad desperation, of course, but he could have gone to see a movie. He might have treated himself to a reasonable dinner then spent the evening making awkward calls to various counseling and support lines.

This is what I'd have done, except the dinner. I'd have spent the money on booze then drank until I blacked out. It's what I used to do in college when the girls didn't want to talk to me. I figure it probably still works.

Anyway, Carl had high hopes the swingers club would get theirs through some kind of scorched earth karmic retribution: if he didn't get laid by going to the club, nobody else who went there should either.

I can appreciate the rage.

I've never been to one of these places myself. I was in a relationship, once, where we flirted with the idea of "exploring," of bringing in the second string. It wasn't my idea: honest. It never panned out because I was too lazy to do the legwork and her suggestions for potential playmates made me want to burn myself in an intimate way.

Eventually, the fad passed, as did the relationship. It may, actually, have been an early warning sign things might not permanent, but I was younger then and pretty stupid.

Others can make those kind of combinations work. I have friends who've been involved in open marriages for years, who've managed to stay with the same husbands and wives for longer than I've been married, plus have juggled the emotional and physical needs of additional girlfriends, boyfriends and traveling sales professionals. They don't go to Swing clubs either, but they do spend their weekends dressing up in chain mail reminiscing about the fun that was the middle ages.

I don't do that either. I'm boring.

As far as my very lonely associate, he had a bit of luck just before the holidays. Carl met a nice, educated woman through a singles website. He's not calling it love, but they've been dating for a few weeks. He's hopeful. They have dinner at Bob Evans, then stop in at the local porn stores, where they've watched old men beat off in the back booths and dodged cadaverous gay men loitering in the dark corners. She wants him to buy her some leather lingerie.

"I bought the last one cast iron cookware," he told her. "I guess I can get you some leather underwear."

Romance is not dead, people.