Want a chalupa? Maybe some rice? How about on-line sexual exploitation, 2 pissed off cops, and a hot-barreled Kimber. 45? The latest from Guns and Tacos, via @DownAndOutBooks drops today. Eat it up, bitches.
And now there is one….
Two days ago, Kathy Barker and I had to make a decision about two of our three Canine-Americans…Tripp and Tango.
Tripp and Tango
Old age, arthritis, a stroke, lack of appetite, balance problems, eyesight, maybe a touch of bad hearing, worsening conditions all around. What had once been a full energy romp to the top of the hill, an excited look at everything visible from up there, became a slow, creaky walk downhill. And having been down this particular road before, I simply couldn’t let their quality of life deteriorate to the point of agony because it somehow made me feel better to keep them longer.
The only solace I can take in the whole day is that those two hairy baboons, who spent their lives together, somehow managed to get low together.
It has been horrible since. The house feels quiet and empty, not as warm, not as fun, not as bright.
There is little smile that Tango and Tripp lived until almost 17 and 16 years old in the face of an average lifespan closer to 12. Nor is there much smile that medications managed to help Tripp to another three or four months. Yes, I had much more time with them than many people get with their animals, but right now, that simply bounces off my heart. Someday, maybe soon, it’ll be different but not yet.
Book is still here, though she, too, has lived beyond averages. She is still energetic and still grins constantly, but she is slower of foot and heavier of heart than in the past.
No one has yet said, “They’re just dogs…they’re just animals,” though they will. We all know those people exist and I have no patience for them. They do not understand and, barring any sudden life change, probably won’t understand. Even if they laugh and smile when a puppy cocks its head hearing a new sound, or when a kitten falls off the bed and stares at you as though gravity is a cruel joke, those people will never completely understand what it means to miss the sloppy emotionalist of dogs or the heavy pant directly in your face when they’ve been running outside with you and want to go even further.
So the next few days will be ugly, and there will always be a void in my heart after that, just as their is for all the animals I’ve lost, though nothing comparable to the void of the people I’ve lost (Gramma S, Joe K, Sean M, Todd M, Mrs. C, Ranty Buff, Tom P, Ed B, Melanie T).
But having been down this road before, I know where it will eventually take me.
Friends of Strays….
So there’s a new book.
It’s the third Jace Salome novel and it’ll hit the streets November 20, from Down and Out Books. I hope you’ll check it out.
Having a new book out is always a bitter sweet thing. Getting published is something that tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people want to do but are never able so right off the bat I’m further along than a great many people. I recognize that. All the same, when a book does come out, I am totally at a loss as to how to handle it.
Writing and publishing is an ego trip, let’s understand that. Writers have to have a world-class ego to assume they have anything interesting to say and that they can say it in a way that people will want to read. So already we’re talking about swimming in ego.
And sure as hell I’ve got an ego the size of Texas, but for me? I hate, hate, doing promotional work. Love reading for people, love writing guest blog posts, but hate feeling the need to tell everyone, “Hey, I’ve got a book,” in hopes that you’ll buy one and tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on and so on….
And yet, if I don’t do something, my book gets lost in the white noise of 21st century American culture, where everyone has a show and everyone has a platform and everyone is famous or pre-famous.
(Don’t laugh, when I was in Denver, there were some members of the writing community, not yet published, who called themselves ‘pre-published.’ It was a load of horseshit then and it’s a load of horseshit now.)
In a perfect world, the hordes would flock to their favorite outlets to buy hundreds of copies. Except this isn’t the perfect world and it doesn’t work like that. In fact, in the 12 years since my first novel came out, I’m still not sure how to find those hordes.
But I do all the things my publisher tells me to do and I have fun with all those things and if they work, great. If not, eh, at least I tried.
Understand, I differentiate between writing and publishing. Writing is doing the work, creating the art-be it filet mignon or a McDonald’s cheeseburger. Publishing is the afterward. In an odd way, publishing is cleaning up after great sex whereas writing is the great sex itself.
Hmmm, not the most elegant analogy ever.
Maybe that’s why the hordes are staying away. It ain’t the publishing…it’s the shitty metaphors!
Anyway, the new book is out. Give it a read. If you love it, tell two friends. If you hate it, I’ll give you your money back.
“I hate the idea of dying, because I’m afraid I’m going to miss something. As long as you’re alive, there’s always more time,” Ed Bryant in Westword, May, 2000.
Ed Bryant died February 10.
Shock. Surprise. Sadness. Hatred for the thirsty inevitability of death.
But also laughter.
This man, one of the giants of science fiction and horror, the single most giving teacher I’ve ever known, made me laugh all the fucking time.
He brought me a gift once. I don’t remember why we were together…dinner or a literary thing or who knows what…but there was nothing special enough about that particular moment to bring a gift.
A gun sight for a bazooka.
Seriously. I was all like, “What the fuck is this?”
He said, completely straight-faced, “For a bazooka. It’s a sight.”
I waited for him to say something like, “So you can blast all those editors who don’t buy your stories,” or “So you can explode the world with your literary genius.”
The man didn’t say dick. He gave it to me, laughed, and walked away. Turns out he’d found eight or ten at a flea market and just thought it was funny.
Yes, he taught me how to write, as he did for so many people. He taught me how to channel and focus and develop all the stories whirling around in my head and that was great.
But he also taught me how to read. He taught me how to see the deeper terrain of a writer’s words, the subterranean world all writers leave behind even when they don’t realize they do.
That was maybe the greatest secret he taught me about writing.
But don’t short change his own writing in everything you’ll hear about what an incredible teacher he was. The Thermals of August is one of the best things he ever wrote. Stunning in its simplicity but epic in its quiet scope. It was just a love story, except the world trapped beneath that hushed love story was as deep and dangerous and wide as the sky through which the characters glide.
And for pure hilarity? Read Aqua Sancta. Very short, like 100 words maybe. Obviously I can’t tell you because that would blow the whole story but dig it up, I promise you’ll laugh your ass off.
Ed, above all, loved words regardless of where they came from, and championed newer writers.
When I went to World Horror Convention in Eugene, Oregon in 1996, I was a brand new writer. I had published very little to that point, and nothing of note. Yet at the end of his reading, in front of a packed room because everyone goes to an Ed Bryant reading, he brought me on stage to read a little something of my own.
He had no reason to do that other than helping a new writer who desperately wanted to be noticed and taken seriously.
Later, in Phoenix in 1998, I had sold a few stories, including to a few high recognition anthologies and magazines. I was becoming a known quantity and had the ego to prove it.
Charles Grant, one of the giants of 80s horror, had surreptitiously shown up to the convention. Crowds were agog because he was getting older and didn’t travel much. The man had published, to that point, 104,027,207 novels and stories, and convention attendees were salivating to be in line for him during the mass signing.
A quick aside here, the mass signing is one of the coolest things ever. Conventions stuff every attending author into a single cavernous room and fans wander table to table and get everything signed by all the authors. They are great fun for everyone involved.
So for that mass signing, they put me at a table with?
Charles Fucking Grant.
I almost had a stroke. I had read this man as fervently as I had read Stephen King and Peter Straub and just could not get my head around the fact that I would be sitting next to him for the entire signing! I would be able to pick his brain and learn and soak in his aura.
Uh…not so much.
The line to have Grant sign books coiled like a snake throughout the room, out the door, up the stairs, out the lobby, into the parking lot, across the Arizonan desert, along the Rio Grande River to the Gulf of Mexico where it boarded a steamer heading out for seedy South American ports, where it disembarked, found a sleazy bar, got some local agave juice, and drank itself into a stupor waiting for the line to fucking move!
And the line for Trey R. Barker?
I didn’t have a single person. Talk about a kick to the balls (it was actually a good reality check and since then I’ve tried to be more like Kirk Hammett in terms of ego…I fail miserably).
But in the midst of that humiliation, along came Ed Bryant to save my day.
With a large bag in his head, he made a beeline toward me. Not once did he look at Grant. This was all about me and having me sign for at least half an hour. It was obvious Ed had brought copies of everything I’d appeared in; magazines, anthologies, a chapbook, everything. I was so excited.
“Hey, thanks, man, I really appreciate it.”
He nodded toward Grant, “Yeah, have him sign these for me,” and walked away, his shoulders bouncing up and down as he laughed.
I was speechless, not something that happens easily with me. I spluttered and banged my fist against the table and ground my teeth and plotted way to kill Ed Bryant violently and brutally dead.
Except, way down in the bottom of the bag, the absolute last thing, was a copy of my chapbook.
I remember sitting there another half hour or however long the signing lasted, somehow content, opening the books of fans for Grant so he could sign them, a copy of my chapbook on the table in front of me, and shaking my damned head at Mr. Edward Bryant and laughing every few minutes.
Straight up Ed. Supportive and funny at the same time.
There are a million other stories, from a million other writers, but in the end they are all the same. Ed Bryant was about words and loved those who put them together earnestly.
I loved him, love him still, and will miss him as much as other friends I’ve recently lost. Ed Gorman…Melanie Tem…Tom Piccirilli…Sean Moore lo those many years ago.
It happens to everyone, it is life, but it still makes me angry. There are so many more good words those guys could have written if they’d had time.
Fuck me, the collaborative novel that crew can write now that they’ve got endless time. Holy shit, I’m getting light-headed just thinking about it.
We’re closing in on the end. Only a few days left for the East of the Sun Book Tour fundraiser.
Only five days left to toss some cash to the ’17 book tour effort……
Ed Gorman died.
While I wasn’t surprised, I was shaken.
He had been fighting cancer for years and I’m guessing he was just tired.
He was a good man, simply said. All the superlatives fit him and all are well deserved, but in the end, his life and work and all the rest come down to that; he was a good man.
In the days after my heart attack, February 18, 2001, I received all kinds of phone calls and emails and letters and whatnot wishing me a speedy recovery and best of all possible worlds. It was nice to open a batch of those every day and realize my world was a bit larger than I had consciously thought about.
(Though it was odd to be asked by an editor wearing San Jose Sharks jersey if my heart attack was a publicity stunt…doubly so considering I had nothing out at the time that would have benefited from such a well thought out and not at all expensive…$38,000 for twenty-four hours in cardiac ICU…stunt.)
In the course of getting all these letters and cards and all the rest, I got a box (and yeah, for a few seconds, I thought I was in Jack Ketchum’s 1994 story, ‘The Box.’). I remember sitting on the west-facing porch in Denver and just staring at the box for a few minutes.
It had Ed Gorman’s address and his handwriting.
During the year previous, Ed and I had gotten to be decent friends…by which I mean we talked on the phone often and via email constantly. I never actually met the man face to face. He didn’t much like leaving his home.
So getting a package from this man I was just getting to know both freaked me out and made me feel like a kid at Christmastime.
Inside? Obviously…books. Like every book he had published going back to the 17th century or something. Westerns, crime, mystery, horror, a virtual guided tour of his novel output over the previous 20 years.
I sat there on that porch for the next six weeks, slowly mending back to health, and read every word. Yeah, the man was an amazing writer, when he was at his best he was straight up better than damn near anyone else writing. His plots were well paced and his characterizations deft and incisive, and it was an incredible experience reading that much of one writer in that short of a time (the literary version of binge watching Narcos or something on Netflix).
But what made that box, and those books, even better than the delicious words on the page was the fact that this man, who knew me only from emails and phone calls and my own writing, cared enough to package up a library and send it.
He was a good man.
From his blog, August 22, 2008:
“Last week I started rereading 2000 Miles To Open Road by Trey R. Barker. We had in common…the fact that we were both going through the early stages of battling cancer. Trey’s experience was brutal. But the cancer diary he kept is one of the most eloquent and articulate pieces of real life I’ve ever read. Happily he’s doing well now.”
I offer that not as some pat on my own back but to illustrate that even as he was trying to help a young writer by promoting my work on his blog, he was conscious of the things that make us all human. We had exchanged emails back and forth about our battles with cancer and he laughed at some part of ‘The Cancer Chronicles,’ because he lived through the same indignities.
Elizabeth Engstrom, another of my favorite writers, had also had some battles. Where Ed started with thyroid cancer in 2001, he soon moved into multiple myeloma. Liz and I shared melanoma, and we spent many an hour emailing back and forth about the nightmare.
I found myself thinking about that box of books yesterday when I heard the news about Ed. The wonderful simplicity of a box of books touched my soul as deeply as a black-hearted bastard like me can be touched. I remember sitting there for what felt like a lifetime just slowly reading each word on the front cover, then moving to the back cover, then soaking in the artwork, then the reviews and blurbs in the first few pages, then moving on to the next book. It was probably two hours before I even settled in and cracked the spine on one.
I still have most of those books, though some have become worn from constant rereading. And quite a few of them have long underlined passages and highlighted sections, as would any regular text book from which someone wanted to learn.
I have learned much from Ed Gorman and suspect that learning is not yet finished.
Thank you, Ed, for everything. Godspeed and just think about all the time you have now to read now….
Hellooooo Indianapolis! Time for the Drum Corps International Championship Finals!
Last time I caught the finals was Dallas, ’91, and so Saturday night I was so excited I almost peed on myself…and on my traveling companion!
Understand this…I have been all about marching percussion since I was knee high to a drumstick. When I was in the 8th grade, my band director, Mr. Bruce Collins, gave me the Spirit Award at the spring concert and said something like, “If I asked Trey to strap on a drum and march to Odessa, he would.”
I marched in ’82 with the Houston Nighthawks their first year. We were terrible but earnest. It was a great summer and I had a blast. In the years after, I went to about forty-hundred shows all over the country, from small shows in Dallas to huge ones in Denver, and what I’ve always loved most about drum and bugle corps are the balls. Music with balls, performers with balls. Even at it’s most delicate, drum corps are powerful groups that humble you with their sheer explosive force.
Lots has changed since I marched in 1982 and I don’t dig all of it, but even when a show doesn’t thrill me, even when a rule change makes me nutty, I count myself as a supporter. And no matter the show or music or design, the performers (no older than 21) have my total admiration and awe.
So let’s get to the getting. In the Finals, the corps hit the field in reverse order of scoring from the semi-finals; lowest scoring performing first and highest scoring performing last. These are my notes, moderately edited, from Saturday night.
1) Boston Crusaders. Visually disjointed. Huge stylized windmills a distraction. Music and visual don’t fit each other. What’s the story they’re trying to tell? Musicians shouldn’t be dancers.
2) The Academy. That’s how to match visual and music. Very cool Victorian/Gothic romance and zombie love affair. Incredibly good. Music good, dancing musicians (which I hate) well integrated. Mallet percussion sprouting skeleton masks and costumes while playing small xylophones on their rib cages hilariously clever. Stephen King meets DCI. Rock it, baby.
[Later, after seeing some love stories presented by other corps that just reeked of sweetness, I wondered if maybe, just maybe, The Academy was telling a fun zombie love story while at the same time mocking the syrupy love stories of the other drum corps.]
3) Crossmen. Ugh. Too much dancing by musicians, particularly horns. Going for low brass score, maybe? Horns spend as much time dancing as playing. Long strings of odd music with no horn or percussion held together by the percussion and electric piano in the pit. What’s the story? Visual disjointed from music.
4) Blue Stars. Another show I can’t figure out. Am I getting too stupid for DCI? Dancing horn players and props that are just there. Maybe quite obvious in the head of the show designer, but lost on me. A giant bed that lots of people roll across and stand on but doesn’t seem to have any real focus. A woman in a boxy skirt bedazzled with rope light ran around, twirling either a lamp or an umbrella (hard to tell which as they had both) and sort of led the lovers chaotically all over the field. All the musicians, at one point or another, were laying down. Music hard to follow.
[Later I checked their website and the show is called ‘Le Reve,’ French for the dream. Now it begins to make a little sense, I guess, but I don’t think someone should have to check a website and get notes to be able to understand what’s going on on the field.]
Thus far…all the shows except The Academy…sound and look exactly the same and are equally murky in terms of storytelling. The designers either need to drink way more, or way less, whiskey.
5) Phantom Regiment. Such an incredible horn line, so beautifully balanced and perfectly in tune. Why sacrifice that at the altar of dancing horn players? Musicians shouldn’t put their horns or drums down to dance. First half of their show just like others, second half damned good…regular Phantom…music not dancing.
6) Blue Knights. More random props? Don’t add to the show. Music with no melody. Musicians putting their instruments down and dancing. Mirrors on field reflect stadium lights into eyes of audience. Yeah, good call that one.
Lady behind me, former performer, says most of the show designers roughly the same age. Not sure I believe that, but so far most of the shows feel and look roughly the same…like there’s only one designer in all of DCI-dom.
Can’t hear the recorded voice-overs hardly at all (yeah, yeah, I know…voice-overs with bits of story narrative in a drum and bugle corps…welcome to one of the rule changes I hate).
7) The Cadets. Uh…mannequins? A 12-ft tall birthday cake-shaped stone pedestal thing? A violin? In a drum and bugle corps? But…finally…music with balls and melody. Power and adrenaline. Aggressive percussion. More marching than dancing. Strange story line. Are those rock people? Coming to life? Wait…they’re back to stone now. Uh…come to life long enough to change poses and nothing else? Not sure what that particular bit of odd theatricality is about but the horns horned and the percussion banged and that rox my balls.
8) The Cavaliers. Another random string of starting positions for the performers. They’re dribbled all over the field like a damned Jackson Pollock painting. No one carrying instruments or even their hats. Hate that. Gimme a more traditional opening. Big props that help tell the story…political words…revolution…propaganda. Hell yeah on this show! Cavs still one of the big dogs. Get off the porch and howl, boys! That’s how to match visual and music, storyline and music. Best show of night so far. Black and white uniforms when it was political propaganda, color later when the propaganda became endless ads…the ultimate in propaganda. Brilliant show! Music with BIG balls (thanks, Bon).
9) Santa Clara Vanguard. Again, everybody laying down sans instruments. It’s like freakin’ Jonestown up in here, corps(es) everywhere. Get it? Corps(es). That’s funny stuff. Yeah, yeah, stole it straight from The Academy show. An opening I don’t care for…soft and squishy…SCV always fabulous. Combined visual with music. Damned good. Story line not at all murky or hidden. Take a lesson, youngsters, that’s how you do it. If you can’t howl, don’t even get off the porch. SCV music with balls and punch.
10) Carolina Crown. OMFG. Incredibly good. Musicians dancing (grrr) but played balls out! Show doesn’t look like the others. Great story line, mixed music and visual perfectly. Troopers territory…American west. Great visual depiction of battle and hardship of moving west. Giant stage coach prop, huge, but used as platform for both color guard and story line. Fabulous show!
11) The Blue Devils. Damn, these ain’t your daddy’s Blue Devils. Odd and disjointed. 12 huge box trusses on wheels that took two or three people to move. Moved them around, spun them around to see musicians sitting on a bench. Covered in antique-looking pieces of world maps. Doing nothing but sitting on field. Think story is coming to America…seek a better life? Not really sure. A man’s face on the back of color guard costumes (not even really uniforms anymore) but can’t tell who it is. Too much dancing. Put some air through the damned horn and some blood on the drumheads!
[Later…checked their website and the show was a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Okay, that seems to fit, but again, I don’t like having to go elsewhere to figure out what the show is. Even the video at the website explaining the story was dance-oriented. Dancers dancing along a wall and on the handrails. Ugh. I’m guessing the face on the costumes was Shakespeare…hard to tell from where I was sitting.]
Why are so many damn corps not playing a single note by horns or percussion until two minutes into the show? I don’t want to hear synthesized ethereal sound patches that are apropos of exactly nothing.
12) Bluecoats. This is the worst show I have ever seen since I started watching in 1982. Music feels completely random and it has squat to do with the visual. Wait…what’s the visual? Oh, right, random pink skater half-pipes. Musicians sliding down them…again and again and again. Hanging off them again…and again…and again. Uniforms white jeans and t-shirts and yellow jeans and t-shirts. Classy bit, that. Memories of the Velvet Knights, eh, boys? Musicianship passable…at least when they played. Too much damned musician dancing again. 24 speakers on field? Wassa matta? Can’t hear the soloists? ‘Cause they spend their time learning to dance rather than woodshedding their playing. Maybe I’m an idiot but I simply do not understand what they’re trying to do.
Cut to Sunday night, thinking about the Finals and the notes I made during the Finals.
I realize I’m old school DCI from way back, and I know changes aren’t permanent, but change is (nods to the Canada Boys all around) and that’s all fine, I’m just not sure I’m up for some of these particular changes.
A violin on the field, Cadets? Uncool. Doubly so since she played about four notes and then was one of your frozen statues for 95% of the show.
I don’t understand putting a microphone in front of everything. I want to hear what the musician can do; can they blow? Can they blow in tune? With carriage and tone? If they can’t and they need a mic, maybe they belong in a concert hall, not on a field. I can’t even imagine the Spirit of Atlanta or Santa Clara hornlines from the 80s or the Cavs in the early 2000s needing a mic for their soloists.
And I just don’t understand all the damned dancing. It started in the late 80s with color guards that wanted to do something other than sweep the sky…sweep the ground (flags) and throw throw throw (rifles), and that was all fine, but now everyone is dancing and the marching fundamentals have gone to shit.
Lines were a disaster, diagonals were horrific…though I believe I began to understand why the show designers had performers do their own thing and run around the field…easier to hide bad marching.
In those cases, and there were corps that had great marching, it felt like nothing more than chaos theory hoping for a good visual score.
Lastly, the emoting. Music is emotion. Music is heartfelt and the absolute essence of emotion and spirit and human soul. So don’t stage everything! I love to see musicians moved by the music, but if everyone in a section is emoting the exact same way at the exact same moment, it’s not real. It’s staged in hopes of a better visual score.
The Bluecoates soloist, who did a decent job, did not suddenly take that opportunity to wink into the camera and swagger away, overcome by how well he’d played. Nor was he the only performer who played to the cameras. It just comes off as phony as fake tits.
Now, having written all that and sounding like that old guy down the block who screams all day: “Get off my lawn, fuckers!” I absolutely love drum corps, even the crap I hate and think should be in the dustbin of bad ideas (New Coke, anyone?). I will always attend, I will always donate money, and I will always admire every performer on the field for their incredible ability and hard work and dedication (the accoutrements have changed, but those attributes are exactly the same as when I marched), but I will continue to hold DCI’s feet to the fire when they fuck it up, or when a corps as a whole fucks it up, or when a designer takes the easy and trendy way out.
Come on…seriously…a violin?
I noticed the fear first.
And his hand sliding up his thigh.
For a split second, it scared me. For a split second, I was in Cop-Mode, needing to protect myself.
Welcome to Atchison, Kansas.
A convenience store where my traveling companion and I stopped. The kind of place that has become comfortable ritual on my road trips and book tours: gas, piss, munchie, repeat…gas, piss, munchie, repeat.
She went to the bathroom and I pumped gas before heading in. The single bathroom, in this little convenience store deep in the hometown of Amelia Earhart, was in the back, the place usually reserved for Employees Only.
But before you went through that door and into an open area with storage and the bathroom, you passed the soda machines. They were set perpendicular to the back wall, forming a T with the soda machines near the bottom and the bathroom at the far left side of the top.
So I go back there, turned left, saw that the single bathroom was occupado, looked right and saw only storage, and turned back toward the soda machines to wait, or stroll about and find the requisite munchie.
And suddenly there he was. Belly, gimme cap, and giant cooler that he’d just filled from the ice machine…
…and metal phallus on his hip.
Staring at me, his face anxious and sweaty, his left hand – on his cooler – shaking.
“Can I help you?”
Before an answer even came to me, I saw his right hand, sliding up his thigh to his holstered .380.
I was stunned. I’ve been a cop for a lotta years and I’ve never had anyone pull a gun on me. I’ve never had anyone even legitimately threaten me with a gun (as opposed to drunkenly saying they were going to shoot me…fuck, that happens constantly…whatevs).
This was the first time in my life that had happened and I grew up in Texas! Guns galore. Guns required. Guns issued at birth!
His eyes were huge, depthless, black holes of terror. His lips were pinched tight, barely open enough to get the question out. Sweat danced on his forehead as though he’d just run a marathon.
He was scared to death, certain I was less than a breath from causing chaos right in front of him.
What the hell kind of world view did this guy have? What kind of paranoia raged within him and told him that a broken down, older, bald, white guy who just needed to piss was going to unleash a Revelatory hell?
I knew his fear, I’ve been there. When the guy who’d smoked up a pile of PCP attacked me and we fought for 12 1/2 minutes over my gun, I felt that fear. When I faced off with seven drunk bikers in a local bar and my back up was more than 20 miles away, I felt that fear.
But that was all acute fear, borne specifically of those extreme moments.
This guy’s fear felt chronic, something he lived with everyday, something that forced him to stalk the streets of his 10,000-person town strapped, certain he would come face to face with his greatest fear, whatever that fear happened to be at that moment.
That day, in that convenience store, it was me, and he was dead certain I was there to kill him.
So he was going to handle the problem first.
Sitting here, on a Saturday morning, writing about all this, something else comes to mind. I’ve been threatened by bangers, too. White boys who thought they were Aryan Brotherhood, Hispanic boys who believed they were tough enough for MS13, black boys who had C-R-I-P tattooed on their knuckles.
Physically, those threats were always loud-mouthed yelling, blazing eyes, squared up bodies, moving toward me, fists up ready to war.
This guy was the exact opposite. Dead silent other than the single question, shoulders slumped, eyes meek, shrinking away from me, turning away rather than squaring up.
But there was as bi-polarity to him, as well. He was terrified but he was also wearing a metal penis-extender that gave him a balls-out, rock-hard courage. He had already decided he was going to unsheath that monster and let me see it, let me feel it and taste it.
He had decided, scared or not, that he would cower no more. A lifetime of being scared was over. Call him Bernie Goetz writ modern, standing next to a soda machine rather than on a New York subway. He would take care of the problem before it happened, rather than waiting until after there actually was a problem.
Goetz was a reactionary pussy. This guy was a pro-active handler.
There was no threat in that store, not from me or my traveling companion. There was exactly nothing about the situation that should have caused such soul-shattering fear.
Instead of getting mouthy, which is my usual fall-back, I raised my hands, palms out, and said, “Just gotta piss.”
His face flamed red and he immediately turned back to the soda machine, trying to cram more ice into his cooler. I left quickly and waited for my companion outside.
His embarrassment came from, I assume, the fact that he’d suddenly realized he was being a scared little fucktard, seeing death and destruction everywhere…including near a soda machine.
But here’s the thing. There was a moment when I wanted to reach for my weapon, too. I wanted to grab my OC spray or my baton, or even my gun, and make sure I was protected.
Are he and I so different? Each of us wanted to go for a gun when we got scared.
I sigh as I sit here, still angry that this scared-to-death guy scared me badly enough that I wanted to become him. Not forever, just long enough to make sure I was the one who left the store on my own two feet.
Had I been armed, I have no idea what would have happened. Thinking about it keeps me awake at night, sweating cold bullets.
Fuck that guy and what he’s put in my head.