Sunday, September 27, 2009

Russia's The Dead Hand

I had never heard of this before now.

Russia's doomsday device, codenamed The Dead Hand.  May or may not still be operational.

As far as anyone knows, the Dead Hand remains operational. What is truly worrying, even today, is the secrecy that continues to surround the whole subject. Thompson has found that neither George Schultz nor former CIA director James Woolsey had heard of the Dead Hand system. Former Soviet era officials will still not discuss it. One who dared to talk died in mysterious circumstances. Such secrecy is, as Dr Strangelove realised, disastrous: ‘Yes, but the…whole point of the doomsday machine…is lost…if you keep it a secret! Why didn’t you tell the world, eh?’

The doomsday machine is supposed to be the ultimate deterrent. But if no one knows that the deterrent exists… Well, you’ve all seen the final scenes of Dr Strangelove.

(Yeah. Been gone for a bit. Working on projects. Back now. Boom.)

Monday, August 31, 2009

FOUR BOARDERS: Ch. 4 - How to Live (part 1)

The next morning I woke up to a flash of light and a bout of giggling from all four of them in my room. Dave stood on the end of the bed, towering over me, digital camera in hand. He looked at the screen and said, “Perfect.” With a no look toss over his shoulder, he threw the camera to Frank who sat at my computer along with Warren and Peter.

Struggling through my hangover, which wasn’t as bad as I expected, I forced myself to sit up. “What the hell are you doing?”

“We,” Dave said as he dropped next to me on the bed, “are filling out an online dating profile for our landlord and master.”

I opened my mouth and then closed it. I opened it again, thought better of it and closed it again.

“Are you trying to say, ‘bah humma humma bah bah humma’?” asked Dave.

“You?” I finally managed. “But… Wait a minute. What are you doing?”

Frank had plugged the camera into the computer and was clearly uploading the picture Dave just took.

Peter walked over to the end of the bed and sat down. “Man, you needed a push. Or you weren’t like, you know, going to move. So we’re like pushing you, man. We’re pushing with love.” 

Pointing to my dresser, “Is that antibacterial soap? So bad for, you know, like Earth and all.”

Things were starting to get a little clearer. “You’re filling out a dating profile for me?”

“Yes,” said Warren, “But wrong tense, dude. ‘Filled.’ We’ve ‘filled’ out a dating profile for you.”
Frank chirped in, “And now just this second as I click the mouse on this this button here I am sending it out into the ether to be posted for many a fine fine lady to see you Allen to see if they hunger and thirst for your sleeping form and a hot form it is I would say if that doesn’t make you uncomfortable because I mean that in the best possible unisexual way.”

“You’ve posted it!?” I flung myself out of bed, knocking Peter onto the floor. “I can’t believe you guys! You can’t do that!” I pushed Frank out of the chair and tried to figure out how to stop whatever it was he had been doing. But now the blood had rushed from my head and I couldn’t even focus.

“Relax,” said Dave lying back in my bed, arms crossed behind his head, “we did the barest essentials. Age, heterosexual, single, no children.”

“You don’t have any children, do you, dude?” asked Warren as he opened up my closet. “We weren’t sure. Far as we know, you have some fuckin’ five year old stashed in one of the thousand hidey holes in this place.”

“Nice boxers by the way,” said Dave, “Add stuff to your profile at your own leisure. Sometimes you need help with the first step. Even a baby needs help with its first step as it walks down life’s road.”

My head was hurting. “Guys, I appreciate the thought. I really do, but Ican take care of my own life.”

“Really? That is still unclear.” Dave got up and walked to the door. “Allen, Frank will go make you some breakfast. Something normal and filling, okay? Go take a shower. Think about it. Don’t decide now. Wake up a bit first.”

They all exited the room, leaving me staring at the screen. There was my profile on something called They had picked “HaplessFool5” as my screen name. There was my picture. Actually, that’s a pretty good picture of me. Underneath that was my age and my city. “Looking for woman for dating, friendship, play.” What’s ‘play’? A bunch of other questions they had left blank.

Under “Who am I?” it said, “Lighting designer. Homeowner. All around cool cat. Good taste in friends. I like my scotch but not to excess. Nothing to sneeze at.” Under “Who are you?” it said, “Smart woman with a laugh to shatter my soul, smarts to confound my mind, and a heart to send me flying. Must like making out, canoodling, snuggling, spooning and any combination of the above. If you know that dreams don’t stop at thirty, you may be it.”

A little flashing picture of an eye in the upper corner caught my attention. I clicked it and it went to a new page. I looked at it, still a bit foggy and tried to make sense of it.

“Guys!” I yelled. “Guys! I got a ‘wink’ from someone called Pixiesticks. What the hell is a ‘wink’?”

TOY: Revelations Smurf

Via Topless Robo7.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

FOUR BOARDERS: Ch. 3 - A Life Examined (part 2)

Two hours and more than a few scotches later, I was drenched in sweat and trying to get to the bathroom. The realization that I had to pee with incredible urgency had hit me four songs earlier, but I was having such an amazing time dancing my sad little heart out that I’d ignored it. I had even danced a poor imitation of a Texas Two-Step with some strange blond haired girl when they played How I Could Just Kill A Man. But now the urgency had turned to desperation.

The gods of urination were with me, as someone was leaving the small bathroom just as I reached it. Rushing in, I let the door close behind me as I quickly undid my fly and let go at the urinal. It was one of those fantastic, drunken pees where you throw your head back and just sigh in pleasure. My head was swimming and I let the calm of the tiny space embrace me. Yes, a lot of it was that I was wasted, but it was also that I was just letting myself go. Being around that mass of people, feeling the rhythm of the turntable and the bass line coarse through all of us at once. Oh my god. Am I… happy?

Behind me I heard the door suddenly open and a woman’s voice say, “Oh! Jeepers!”

“In here! In here!” I couldn’t stop peeing if wanted to, but I frantically tried to shift my body to find the position that would least likely give her a glimpse.

“Oh oh. I’m sorry! It wasn't locked!”

As if she couldn’t tell, I again yelled, “In here!” Stop peeing! Penis, stop peeing! “The door! Close the door! I’ll be just a second!”

“Right! Sorry! Right. Jeepers.” Finally she managed to get the door shut as the last of the urine dribbled from the tip. I leaned my head against the wall. Jeepers, indeed.

At 4 a.m. the bar had emptied significantly. A group of us had pulled together chairs and were still talking. Jake and a woman he had befriended, who was sitting in his lap. Oscar and Julie and the fiddle player, Sasha, and the drummer, Derrick. And then there was Frank, Peter, Warren, Dave and myself. There was another group of boisterous boys still sitting at the bar, but otherwise the place was empty.

Jake was in the middle of his story of the time he and I had gone into Macy’s on Herald’s Square and tried on bras. “The damn saleswoman was so damn confused! After the whole ‘Where is the men’s dressing room’ argument, she still could not get her mind around the question, ‘What ties go with this lace?’ And Allen just kept asking, ‘But does it stain?’ That poor lady. Sixty-five and now she has to deal with us pervs.”

“Allen,” Oscar laughed, “you just have that sweet innocent face that can get away with murder.”

“I was young,” I said. “That was what? Ten years ago? I could never pull that off now.”

“Sure you could!” demanded Jake. “You have such a talent for stupid gestures when you want.”

Julie said, “How about the time with the food coloring in the snow? How awesome was that?”

I picked up my beer glass and looked into it, trying some how to hide behind it. But the glass had long been empty and I was way past the point of needing another. “Yeah, well.”

“Tell it,” Julie pleaded.

“It’s a good one, Allen,” said Oscar.

Everyone began to loudly beg and cajole. My drunk was become a dizzy spin and I wanted to climb into myself. I could see the boys at the bar throw us dirty looks. Then I felt a hand lightly on my shoulder. Dave leaned into my ear and quietly said, “Go ahead. I want to hear this.”

I lifted my head and swallowed. “Well, it was right after I had met Amy. She’d been working for some fashion designer as an assistant and the company I was working for was doing the lights for one of their fashion shows. Not as a designer. Just a light tech. As soon as I saw her, I of course developed on of my instant crushes. Just became infatuated by her. So, um, whenever we had a question about something, I made sure I was the one who got to ask it. And I made sure I asked Amy first. Which of course was stupid because she didn’t have the answers to anything we needed to know. So then she had to go off and ask someone and then come back to me with the answer. I drove her crazy with that for two days.

“Keep in mind she’s all dressed for high fashion office stuff and I’m dressed as skuzzy lighting technician. I mean, I could get her to laugh and smile, but then she’d be all, ‘Who is this dirty boy chatting me up?’ But I was trying to work my charm hard and, well, I was getting close, but not quite close enough. At the end of the load-in I ask her out, but it’s in such a roundabout and vague way that she doesn’t quite get what I’m asking. I didn’t know that at the time but she told me later.

“So the show runs the weekend and the load-out is going to be Sunday morning at like six a.m.. And I get the idea to pull a ‘Say Anything’ type thing. I go get some food coloring, but it’s four in the morning and the market just has the little boxes with four squeeze bottles of different colors. Red, blue, green and yellow. So I buy all they have. It’s like eighteen or twenty boxes. And I go to where the fashion show was. This is January and there’d been a fresh snow. That’s what gave me the idea.

“So I go to the where the fashion show was and I try to write in the snow with these stupid little bottles. It’s in this courtyard everyone is goin' to have to walk through when they show up. And I’m trying to write big letters but the bottles just drip, so I cut off the tips with my utility knife. And I get die all over my hands. But now it’s going okay, but time is running out so I start to rush. I get ‘Amy Sweet Amy,’ because, yeah, you want to get prolific when writing in the snow with little bottles of food coloring. So I get ‘Amy Sweet Amy, Give me a chance.’ But I only get C-H-A before I run all out of dye. I was alternating colors but not using yellow for, um, obvious reasons. But now I have no choice. All I have is yellow. So the rest of ‘chance’ is in pee yellow and all of ‘Allen’ at the end.

“So I am standing there by my masterpiece, my hands all rainbowed, and all the crews start to come in, and I just have this grin on my face like an idiot.”

Everyone was laughing. I hadn’t even thought of that story of so long. I was remembering how I felt when I as doing it, taking this bold foolish gesture for a girl I hardly knew.

Through tears Frank asked, “What did Amy say I mean like how did she react?”

I wiped away my tears from my own laughter, “Well, she’d called in sick, so she didn’t end up coming at all. But her boss took pictures of me standing there and emailed them to her that night along with my phone number. Amy called me the next day. When we met later that week, I still hadn’t gotten the dye out of my skin.”

When everything died down again, Peter said, “Man, that is very cool. You should do that again.”
“I don’t have anyone to do it for.”

Jake cried, “Well, find someone. Go out and look!”

“It’s not that simple–“

Julie piped in, “Allen, you’re just gun shy. Find a simple safe way to do it. Something less…big and colorful.”
“ONLINE DATING!” hollered Warren. We all turned to him, including the boys at the bar. “Dude. On. Line. Dating. It’s so not just for ugs and freaks anymore. Totally mainstream.” Suddenly everyone was agreeing and saying, “Yes! Yes! Perfect!”
Trying get out of this, I said, “Oh, I don’t think–“

“That’s just it,” snapped Warren. “No thinking required. The totally fucking brainless way to totally fucking yourself brainless!”
The bartender yelled, “Okay! That’s it! Last call was an hour ago! Get out and go home!”

We all pried ourselves out of our chairs and gathered our stuff. As we headed to the door, Oscar pulled me aside. “Hey, would you be interested in helping me with a project?”


“Well, in January they have this thing called the Idiotarod. It’s a big shopping cart race. Five people, one pushing and four pulling like dogs with a dog sled. It’s an arty event, more theater than sport. But I want to go big this year. Go all out. Big team, uniforms, mad tricked out carts. I think you’d like it and I could use your sensibilities.”

“Oscar, I am so drunk right now that nothing you just said to me made any sense. Shopping cart race? What?”

“I’ll call you about it later. It’s not until January. There is plenty of time for us to prepare for the big event.”

As our party exited the door, the boisterous boys at the bar were still giving the bartender a hard time. One of them shouted at us as we left, “The HayZeedz suck! Suck with a Z!” We all laughed it off but I could see that it upset Julie, if just a touch.
When we were halfway to the subway, Warren announced, “Oh, crap dudes. I left my wallet at Hanks. You go on. I’ll meet you by the tracks.” He took off back to the bar, jogging.

Everyone else was going in different directions and it was just Peter, Frank, Dave and I waiting for the train when Warren reappeared. He had a huge grin on his face and his green bicycle jersey was ripped. I wasn’t sure but I could swear there were little dots of red along one sleeve.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Oh,” he said with a shrug, “Nothing. Just had to get my wallet. All is good.”

“Is that,” I said cautiously pointing, “a cue stick?”

He looked down at what he was holding in his hand. “Nah, dude. It’s half a cue stick,” he said tossing it onto to tracks.

Monday, August 24, 2009

FOUR BOARDERS: Ch. 3 - A Life Examined (part 1)

Those first days after the band moved in were a big adjustment. The loud silence of the house was now a flood of noises of four other people. Not that we were all in the house at the same time very often. Many evenings they would head off to Queens to practice. They invited me along each time, but that seemed weird and groupie-ish. Especially considering I’d never heard their music. I asked to listen to some songs, but Dave kept saying, “No, no. Can’t hear us recorded the first time. No Memorex, just real. You, especially you, need to get the live experience the first time. If you won’t come to practice, you’ll get it at our next gig. As soon as we get one.”

Our work schedules also didn’t meet up. Dave worked late morning to early afternoon for a large telemarketing firm selling insurance. When I asked what type of insurance he just said, “The types we all need,” and left it at that. Warren spent the day as a bicycle courier in Manhattan, but he would often leave the house at six a.m. to get in some extra riding. Frank often missed rehearsal because he was a sommelier at a just opened trendy restaurant called Le Petite Cageot, and often didn’t get home until three or four in the morning. Peter worked third shift as a lab technician at Mount Sinai Hospital. From what little I gathered he did something with blood, but Peter spent most of his time in his room so we didn’t talk much. My work as a lighting designer for MTR Lightening was picking up. We had a handful of large events coming up so I was spending a lot of time meeting with clients and drafting. Much of the work I did from home, so I fairly quickly became attuned to the patterns of my new housemates.

When one of them was home, they gave me my space as we all got used to each other. Warren did spend three hours the second night in the house setting up his sound system in the living room. It appeared to be cobbled together from the history of sound reproduction. Fancy sleek modern black speakers, plywood subwoofers, strange components with vacuum tubes, and a thousand dials and sliders that he spent forever tweaking. And miles of cables and wires and cords. I paid attention for about fifteen minutes as he exuberantly explained to me what he was doing and about the vast superiority of each individual until over all the other similar devices ever devised. Quickly I gave up. When he finally got it up and running, I had to admit it was the best of whatever it was. He immediately hooked up his Xbox 360 and logged onto the internet.

“You, Allen,” Warren declared, “are going to get an account right now. And then you’ll join my online Halo 3 clan. Clan Equus. And I shall school you in the kick ass art of schooling.” So, many nights were spent with Warren and I, miked headsets on our skulls and controllers in hands, shooting at fourteen-year-old boys all over the world. At first, Warren became a bit frustrated with my lack of ability at videogames, but by the second week my reflexes had improved and we had a fair amount of teamwork going. It was exhilarating to tap into that primal competitive zeal. Warren trash talked non-stop, leaning farther and farther forward on his chair. Most games ended with someone thousand of miles away yelling that they would “fuck our moms” or that we were “noobs” or “hella gay.” Sometimes they would end up crying. At first it bothered me, but I noticed that even when Warren didn’t trash talk, the same thing would happen anyway. Whenever we player each other, I would be lucky to get off a shot, and I spent most of the time watching my virtual corpse just lie there.

Warren also taught me what “corpse humping” was. Many many times.

On the rare occasion Frank was home and not writing music in his room, he’d whip something up in the kitchen. His treats couldn’t be called “meals” because they were always so small. Always perfectly crafted and beautifully plated, but tiny little things. His “nachos” was a plate of ten tortilla chips, handmade and fried, each with three beans, a sliver of grilled steak and some odd cheese he’d discovered at a market in Queens near their rehearsal space. Each bite was delicious, but I often found myself sneaking into the kitchen looking for something more substantial when he’d gone back upstairs.

It was rare that Peter and I crossed paths. Whenever he came home, he would quickly shuffle up to the top floor and close himself in his room. I really had no idea what he did in there or what his room even looked like. The door was always closed. Sometimes I’d hear muffled unidentifiable music coming from inside. And there was a smell. Very slight and not bad, per se, but a smell nonetheless. Kind of a sweet bitter smoky organic metallic smell. You couldn’t sense it anywhere except right outside his door. I tried not to think about it.

Dave and I ended up spending quite a few late nights watching TV and drinking a beer. It was oddly nice. Just nice. Just sharing time with someone else, not an ounce of pressure or expectation. Just me and Dave and the TV. He really enjoyed The Daily Show with Jon Steward. He said it “cracked him up,” although it was hard to tell because Dave didn’t really laugh. He’d smile, smirk, grin, beam, snicker, tehee. Once I even heard him giggle. But never laugh. Dave would often comment on the news and events but never with a lot of emotion. Just very matter of factly.

He said he found The Colbert Report “curious.”

One day, he came in as I was watching CNN. There had just been an industrial plant explosion in Germany, and the reporter was saying that at least seventy-five people were dead.

“Makes you think,” Dave said as he sat down on the couch. “Each of those Germans woke up, kissed their wife or hit their frau or masturbated in the shower or fed their dog, and just went about their day. And then, Allen, boom. Just boom. Either they were killed instantly or burned or fell or were crushed. One asphyxiated in a janitor’s closet, hiding from the flames. And it wasn’t because anything they’d done. It wasn’t a karmic pimp slap. This event isn’t some balancing of the Universe because of the Holocaust or knockwurst or Kraftwerk. It just is, Allen. But what about that one guy who fell asleep at his post and missed the warning light as the secondary furnace started to over heat? Nope. No pay back. No reason. It just is. You just get to live each day and each moment. Not as if it is your last, because that would be filled with panic and fear. Just take each second and be in it, Allen.”

Dave and I sat there in silence, watching the sickly smoke pour from the building on the screen. Finally, Dave grabbed the remote from me and said, “Hey, Gigantor is on the Toon Network. I gotta to see some space age robot action.”

Three weeks into my new housing situation, Jake called on a Saturday afternoon. “When was the last time you talked to Oscar and Julie? I have to admit, I haven’t been so good since they moved to the Bronx, but the Oscarmayer just rang me. They’re having a CD release party at Hanks Saloon tonight. He mentioned you. Wanted to know how you were hanging in. How are you hanging in? New roomies working out?”

I could hear Warren shouting at the TV downstairs. Dave was actually sitting at my computer playing Minesweeper. Frank had decided that I was ignoring my backyard and was weeding the flower beds. Peter was home but shut up in his room as usual. “It’s good,” I said. “We get along pretty well. You were right, Jake. This was what I needed.”

“That’s great,” Jake said. “Bring them along tonight. I’d like to meet them. Tu homies es me homies. Unless they are too cool for a little country hip-hop. Is so, they can bite my big old ass.”

For once, no one was working that night. They had planned on getting some rehearsal time in but it took no effort to sway them to come out. Even Peter seemed excited about the prospect. I immediately got nervous about mixing my old world with my new world. You never know how things will work out. It's like mixing medications. Jake can be larger than life and hyper-blunt in his good-natured way. And my housemates were certainly unique and had their quirks. I could see Dave charming and relating to anyone, but the other three were all extreme in their own way. And Oscar and Julie’s band was, well, different.

For the last three years they had been in the HayZeedz. It was mish-mash of hip-hop and country/bluegrass, or what Oscar liked to call “hick-hop.” Oscar and Julie both sang and rapped, and they were backed by a guitar, bass, drummer, fiddle and turntable. It was fun music that got people out of their chairs and bouncing their heads. But I didn’t even know what type of music Chapter Six played, much less if they would enjoy this. Yet they all seem enthused.

“Dude,” exclaimed Warren, “if it’s up, if it’s pumped, we’ll like it. Even if it blows, we have some tact and will be nice. Or we'll bail if we hate it too much.” Slapping me on the shoulder, he said, “You need to relax, dude. Pull that stick out of your ass and beat something with it!”

Hanks Saloon was a true-to-god dive country biker bar in the heart of Brooklyn. Sitting on the edge of a Muslim neighborhood and a row of antique dealers and a stones throw away from a Target, it managed to keep itself honestly grungy and honky-tonk. Rough looking, rundown, painted in black and ceiling reaching flames, it opened every morning (except Sunday) at 8 a.m. for people who just can’t wait until after breakfast for their first drink. At night, the grunge was less noticeable if only because the lighting was so poor. And of course, as with anything genuine, it was quickly adopted by “hipster,” but Hank's managed to remain sincere.

When we arrived at 10 p.m., it was close to packed and the HayZeedz were setting up on stage. As we entered I felt like we were our own mini-horde, quickly surveying the room, immediately being noticed by those near the door. Dave particularly loomed large with his bright yellow silk-screened Tupac t-shirt. Julie noticed us as we moved through the crowd and rushed down to meet me. Throwing her arms around me, she hugged me hard and said, “Oh, Allen, how are you? How are you doing? Are you okay? Are you?”

I pulled away and took both her hands, trying to be reassuringly firm. “Yes. I’m good. Congratulations on the CD.” Sometimes sympathy can be stifling and just draws the hurt back to the surface. Will there ever be a time I don't see that pitying look in friends' eyes?

I quickly introduced her to the four. Jake had already shot off to greet the two dozen people he just happened to know in the bar.

Dave took Julie’s hand in both of his and gave it a vigorous shake. “Julie, Allen has nothing but good things to say about your band, so I am ready to be impressed. Are you beer-while-playing types or water-while-playing types? I’m thinking you, the sweet girl with the fiddle, that bassist and that guitarist are all beer people. And this seems like a Pabst Blue Ribbon type place. PBR all that way.” Julie nodded, slightly taken aback. “Right. And water for the rest. Well, they’re on us as long as you return the favor and come to our gig.”
Julie responded, “Oh, you’re in a band. When are you–“

“We’re not. Yet. But soon. Be right back,” and the four of started pushing their way to the bar.

“I’m renting rooms in my house to them,” I explained. “You know, extra money and, well….”

Julie leaned in and gave me another hug. “I understand. I’m so glad you could make it. I’ve missed you tons.” And she slipped back towards the stage. Oscar caught my eye and gave one of his nonchalant head bobs in my direction.

I was hoping to find a chair or a stool. I get uncomfortable standing before the band starts playing. Not physically uncomfortable but emotionally. I never know what to do with my body, specifically my hands. They keep going in and out on my front pockets, then my back pocket. Then I’ll try crossing my arms, but then I feel like I’m standing in judgment so I uncross them, but then I feel like a mannequin so I start the process all over again. Nothing was available, so I tried to at least make my way to the wall so I’d have something on which to lean.

Just as I got to an open wall space, I felt a tap on my elbow. Peter handed me what appeared to be a double scotch on the rocks. In his other hand he held a martini with six or seven olives. In a martini glass. I didn’t think Hanks had martini glasses but there it was. He took a sip and said, “Man, I dig this place. It has a feel, you know? A real feel.

Dave, Frank and Warren were at the stage handing out drinks. They had a carefree vibe that I so wanted to emulate. Even with their odd behavior, they seemed to just accept everything around them and their place in it. Well, not Peter. But maybe that was just because I’d never seen him out of the house. He seemed fine at Hanks, less slouched and less preparing to take a nap. Either way, they were just so comfortable in their own skins, as if they had been in them for eons and nothing was going to change that. I wanted that level of self-assuredness. As opposed to feeling that I had to assure everyone that I was “okay.”

The band finished their sound check and the crowd started to shift its focus to the stage. Oscar picked up his mike and gave it a few raps of his finger.

“How ya’ all doin’, Brooklyn?!” An immediate already buzzed chorus of hoots bounced back at him. “Thank you all for coming out to our shindig. We’re celebrating the release of our brand new CD, Ho-Down ‘Ho!” Hoot, hoot, hoot! “So, without any delay, let’s get this party started!”

The drums and the bass kicked in, soon to be matched by the fiddle. By the time the turntable started scratching, people were already bouncing up and down. As Oscar and Julie launched into the harmonies of A Man of Constant Sorrow, they had the crowd going full tilt. Peter inched his way away from the wall to get in the mix, splashing his drink as he went. I stayed in my spot, sipping my scotch, enjoying the music and the scene, but still feeling a bit like an outsider. Looking down at my drink, thoughts entered my head. Does this feeling go away? When can I get away from this feeling that I’ve lost my chance at happiness? Is this it? Will I always be this sad? That last came as a sudden slap. Admitting that I was actually unhappy, that I was truly feeling on the edge of surrender to my own melancholy, hit me in a wave of awareness.

I looked up to see Dave, Warren, Frank and Peter all near the front of the stage looking back at me. They were all waving me towards them. Warren was so short I would never had seen him except he kept jumping violently into the air, his arm frantically trying to pull me to the floor from 20 feet away. I downed my drink in one burning swallow and slammed my body into the masses.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

FOUR BOARDERS: Ch. 2 - The Agreement

The next morning, I peeled my sweaty body from the tossed bed sheets. No nausea but it felt as if some sort of pusstulant sea cucumber had take up residency in my forehead. It was the kind of Sunday that made the concept of praying to God suddenly seems like a real good idea to even an atheist. After finally showering and scrubbing my skin red, I managed to make my way to the kitchen and started a pot of coffee.

As it brewed, I casually took a sideway glance out the window. The place that the cat had been showed no sign of the previous night's attack. Had it been there? Had I seen it? Vomit still sat splattered all over the sink. A quick wave of nausea flowed through my body as I sprayed the major chunks away. A full cleaning would have to wait until I was back amongst the living.

When the coffee finished, I carried a cup back upstairs to my bedroom. The computer was on, browser still open to my Craiglist post. Plopping down in the chair I hit refresh. One response.


A phone number followed. I sat, thinking hard. I didn’t really need the money but it certainly would be nice. And Jake was right. I needed people around me. I needed a fresh circle of people. Anything to fill the void. Musicians, though. They could be total flakes. On the other hand, they would present more opportunities to get me out of the house. And to meet people. Women. To meet women.

I picked up the phone and dialed. It picked up after one ring. “Yo, Dave here.”

His voice was deep and direct. It wasn’t loud yet I instinctively jerked the phone away from my ear for a second.

“Um, hi. You responded to my post on Craigslist.”

“Yeah, yeah. Prospect Heights. Brownstone. Sounds good. Real good. You think we can like see it today? Or do you gotta go to church? Because I respect that and all.”

“Uh, no. Today’s fine. When–”

“Thirty minutes work? We’re just over in the Slope just drinking coffee, fightin’ with the New York Times crossword. Do you know ‘Chess game as metaphor film’? Eleven letters? Starts with maybe an ‘S’?”

“Uh, not off the top of my head. But sure. Thirty minutes works fine.” I gave Dave the address and directions.

“Cool, cool. Let me bring you some coffee. You take it straight, I bet. Black.”

“Yeah, I do. But you don’t have to. I just made coffee.”

“Nah. Let me do this. They got good coffee here. Think of it as an offering of goodwill.”

“Sure. Okay, see you soon.”

“Absolutely,” he said. “Absolutely.”

I put on shoes and quickly put away the little laundry that was out and made the bed. I was finishing up wiping down the kitchen sink when the doorbell rang.

As I opened the door I was confronted with three mismatched individuals. In front, finger still hovering over the doorbell, was a wall of a man. Muscular but not body builder muscles. Fighter muscles. Six feet six, easy. His skin saw slightly olive and his scalp showed just enough hair that made me think he’d shaved it to the quick earlier that week. Old jeans and red Converse All-Stars. His black t-shirt had stylized red portrait of Stalin.

Just to his left was a short, no more than five four, but broad man, shaggy bright read hair that contrasted sharply with the bright yellow spandex bike shorts and jersey he wore. His skin was pink and freckled. He rocked on his feet, almost bouncing as he looked up and down the face of the building.

Two steps behind them stood a lengthy, rail thin man. Black leather shoes, black pants, white dress shirt and black tie. Deep brown smooth skin and black hair tightly cropped.  A lit cigarette dangled from his lower lip and he wore vintage tortoise shell sunglasses.

I heard a noise below and I stuck my head through the door to see someone with the lid of one of my garbage cans in one hand and his head plunged inside. Worn grey sweat pants and a beat up leather jacket even though it was 80 degrees out. As he straightened out and revealed his head, I could see bleached white dreadlocks tucked under a ratty John Deer baseball cap. Skin pale as if it rarely saw the sun. He looked up at me with a seriously concerned look.

“Your garbage cans, man,” the man almost whispered. “They’re like, you know, clean. You got clean cans, man.”

“Um, thanks, I guess.” He shook his head in what looked like confusion or a daze.

I pulled my head back and extended my hand to the tall one. “Hi. I’m Allen.”

Slowly but with intent he extended his massive hand and took mine. “Well, hello, Allen. I’m David, but call me Dave, okay? Mister Yellow is Warren. Mister Black behind me, that’s Frank. And comin’ up the steps right now, that be Peter. Got to say, nice place. What? 1901? 1902?” Dave asked.

“1901. Good guess.”

Dave nodded thoughtfully. “Got to tell you, I like architecture. Art that lingers. You’ve got a honey of a building. And here’s your coffee. Unadulterated cup of the old java juice.”

“Um, thanks. Yeah. Well,” I said stepping aside, “come in, guys.”

Frank put out his cigarette on the sole of his shoe and put the unlit butt back on his lip. And they all entered my house.

As they entered they spread out and took in the main floor. A long low whistle escaped Frank, and interesting feat considering he never removed the cigarette butt. I smiled and said, “Yeah. All the original woodwork and moldings. The walls could be in better shape and the pocket doors aren’t so great, but over all it’s pretty great that it was never butchered. Don’t get your hopes up. The upper floors aren’t as fancy.”

Frank extended his spindly arms and gave a quick spin. “This place is one of those places that just sings for parties not that we are party guys you got that because it is your space and we got that but you have some mighty great space here I bet you throw diner parties all the time because you could get some big tables and seat f0urteen maybe eighteen hey is that the kitchen through there?” And he was off of his long legs.

“Uh, yeah. It’s back, um, there.”


I let out a tiny scream in reaction to the yell. Warren was caressing, literally caressing, the television. I had moved it out of the media room and brought it downstairs during The Great Condensing of Possessions. “This is one fuckin’ awe-some TV! Widescreen, high-fucking-def, fifty-two inches of fucking viewing pleasure. You got fucking good taste. But why no sound system? This things begs for a kick ass sound system.”

“Well, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I–“

“Dude, dude, dude. I got you covered,” said Warren. “My sound system, on this TV, and it is going to kick some serious multimedia ASS! Dude, we move in here, you and I are going to play some Halo 3. You me, kickin’ Elmo ass up and down Xbox Live. You got broadband, right? Oh, yeah. I see it here. You’ll join my clan and we will OWN! Pee-fuckin’-OWN!”

I had no idea what he was talking about but for some reason it seem totally amazing. I suddenly felt excited and adrenaline was pumping through my veins. “Yes! Of course! That would be great! Yeah!”

Frank yelled from the kitchen, “I see you cook I’m not a bad cook as these fine fellows will tell you I mean I am not Julia Child or Thomas Keller or James Beard or nothing on that level but I cook light you like light yeah sure you do you get sick last night that’s cool we’ve been know do get ripped on occasion not all the time but when the night calls for it you got to get ripped right nice kitchen I like it I like it!”

“Uh, thanks,” I answered still trying to parse all of his words into sentences.

Peter was running a finger across the baseboards. Holding it right up to his eyes, he squinted closely at it. He then extended it towards the rest of us. “No dust.”

“Yeah. I’ve been cleaning a lot lately.”

“No. Dust. No dirt. No grime. No crud. Is that… citrus? Do I smell citrus?”

“Well, yes,” I said sheepishly. “The wood polish I use, it’s… um… citrus… scented.”

Dave looked at me and said sincerely, “It smells nice. Homey.” Peter just gave a grunt and a slumped shrug. I suddenly felt obsessive-compulsive.  

Slipping into host mode, I started the rest of the tour. “Well, Frank’s found the kitchen which is right through the dining room there. I just leave the pocket doors open so the parlor and dining room are like one room. Through the French doors is the deck and there are stairs down to the backyard out there. Those fireplaces don’t work. Let’s go look at the upstairs.” We made our way up the steps and they made a slight whine under the weight of the five of us. “Here’s one bathroom,” I said, pointing out the spaces. “Through there is one bedroom. I’m in the front bedroom over here. And up the next floor are the other bathroom and the other three rooms. One is pretty small, but you can fit a bed in it and it’s got its own built in closet. Let’s see. I have tenants in the garden floor apartment and I do work so you can’t be super loud. Dave said you guys are in a band?”

Dave nodded. “Sure are. We are the next big thing. Or will be one day. Soon, in the scale of things. We are, collectively you understand, Chapter Six. Some of our, how shall I say, hipper fans refer to us as just Cee Six.  But, as I am pretty sure I mentioned, we have a rehearsal space. It’s in Queens but it’s not too bad from here. So, no problems there. But you should come to our shows. It would be nice to have a fan with some class.”

“That sounds great. Yeah. Um, well, that’s about it. There is a washer and dryer in the basement. Any questions?”

Dave looked at the other three. Frank and Warren were nodding approval. Peter was shaking his head. “It’s too clean, man. I can’t smoke here. I got to smoke my, you know man, my um cloves. And what about Frank, man? He needs his French cigs. He gets all, you know how he get if he can’t have the cigs.” They all looked to me.

“Well, that’s an issue I guess. I don’t really want smoking on the main floor or even next to my bedroom. But I guess upstairs would be okay. I don’t really care what happens in your bedrooms as long as you don’t trash them.” Peter suddenly brightened up and looked at Dave. Dave lowered his head a bit and gave Peter a sly grin but a sharp look.

Peter finally nodded. “Man, that’s cool. I guess it would be okay. Can I have the small room?”
Dave turned back to me. “If this works out, Peter can take the small room. Frank and Warren can duke it out for the other two top floor rooms. Me, I’ll move next to you, Allen. Does that work?”

“Yeah,” I answered. “Sure. All that’s left is I have to check references. It’s Sunday but I could do it tomorrow. Let me get some paper so you guys can write–”

A typed sheet of names and phone numbers was already in my face. “Got it all here, Allen,” spoke Dave authoritatively. “All ready for your edification. And here’s a check. First and last month for all four of us. You just hold that. It’s post-dated to Wednesday. You can call Monday and if it all checks out to your satisfaction, we can move in and you got the check. If it doesn’t, you call us and I cancel in it. All very adult and responsible. But I don’t see any problems. I think this arrangement should work nicely for the boys and me. And you. And for you.”

After they left, I started to wonder what I’d gotten myself into. I never acted this impulsively, but it seemed so needed. It was as if this was exactly was required of me, that it somehow fit the plan for my life.

On Monday I called their previous landlords, their employers and character references. Each was more glowing than the last. So that night I called Dave and told him that they could move in on Wednesday. I printed up a lease lease form I found on the internet and filled it out for three months, in case things didn’t work out. Tuesday night I lay in bed excited and too anxious to sleep. It was like being six and knowing I was going to a birthday party the next day. Or the first day of school. Or that Santa Claus was coming. Something was coming. Something big and life changing.

When I opened the door to them on Wednesday afternoon, Dave hollered, “Happy the first of June! Happy Independence for the islands of Western Samoa!” His t-shirt bore a smiling  purple Jimmy Hoffa.