463 Words About Drinkin’

That ain’t no 25 year old liver tucked in them particular guts, and though a slight baby face might survive in some circles, the spine and stamina of this man’s mellowing age have been severely tested by those fresher and more vital than him.

My god, the sheer velocity of how a youth can drink and continue to forge into the wee morning is a staggering display of blind power. It’s the identical arsenal of alcoholic ambition that once led me and my friends into asphalt astral travels and slight brushes with the law. By age 16 and most likely around 8 pm, the front of my clothes would be definitely moist with beer and bourbon. My rear jeans pocket kept a gnarled, half crushed box of red Marlboros or a small apparatus of lamp parts and receipts for record albums bought at Django or 2nd Ave. Records the day before. We had great fun, unstoppable forces of rebellion thinking we’re too cool for anything because we knew it all. (We knew less than jack.) But we still caroused and aroused the neighborhood and I even had an ignorant little chip on my shoulder that was kept in place by the foot of my conscience. I always imagined it to be a tiny Mrs. Barham, our school office lady, in a little angel outfit.

The wild experiments of chemical-testing young, pink livers and burgeoning adolescent brains with voluminous tipping of sour mash whiskey seems like one of the dumbest things one can do to their bodies.

Nowadays, when a hangover strikes, it drops like a heavy storm with a head-stomping of solid lead from The Monster of Mixing Booze and Beer and/or The Beast of Drinking Past Dawn. These nefarious creatures are most certainly conjured up from the reckless debauchery that seemed like such good ideas but just turned the previous evening into a slapstick blur. No other chemical can begin as an alcohol-driven, jet propulsion melee of dancing, laughing and wonderful foolishness and then inevitably, like a Swiss watch, ends like bombs from an airplane, the sodden bodies drop after hours of saturation, crashing to the carpet or linoleuem or onto any random piece of furninture. I don’t recall ever having a hangover until after I turned 30 and then I had them every day. Just kidding. But seriously. It was every other.

I’ve no business in attempting to drink up and keep up with someone 15 years my junior, it just ain’t worth the pain and dry-heaving humiliation. People say age doesn’t matter, “it’s how old you feel,” and I say that I feel as old as Stonehenge when I go out and play with twenty-somethings. They all suck, their stupid metabolism and fresh kidneys make them energetic booze repositories. Or is it “depositories”? Regardless, they all suck.

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Photo Albums and Missing Plants

Let me shake the Bushmills off my breath and exclaim my gratitude to all who expressed grand wishes to me for my birthday. Though mired in a busy work shift, the two double neats of blue-collar Irish Whiskey afterwards made the whole evening end with dreams of having more energy and youth to keep it going until the break of dawn.

In reality, I’ve no wish to be the hyperactive ignoramus I was in my teens or the brash, drug-addled joker in a big car in his twenties. Thinking of having to again surmount some of the weird obstacles or negotiate the bizarre situations that I somehow always found myself in…god, no.

Like when in 1989, my freshman year, I came home with a girl to her apartment. She would subsequently be sent away by her parents to a boarding school but before all that, that day we fooled around quite a bit. It was heated and wonderful until she got up and left the room for something, I don’t remember but what I do remember was a photo album on the bottom of her nightstand. Me being the curious monkey that I am, I opened it and found that it contained a number of polaroids of her and quite a few different dudes at different times and at the same time, up, down, and all around. My frosh jock went bananas with every new hormonal emotion it could muster and in my heightened state of dirty discovery, I totally lost it. Instead of approaching the situation as an interesting case study in the sexual advancement of adolescents or maybe realizing she could be an authority on certain deviant questions I’d been harboring since the 7th grade, I suddenly told her I had to go and ran all the way to my friend’s house who, after me rattling off my story, stood up and asked me exactly which apartment number was hers.

Like the time when I climbed the giant turning searchlight atop Rocky Butte like some lunatic ape or how I hopped fences to have drinking contests in a rock quarry with dangerous friends and equally unsavory fifths of Thunderbird.

Or the time I was told to “sit on the curb while we ask you and your friends questions” by Portland’s finest while just past peaking on blotter and wondering if those blazing lights were going to burn my already melting skin. The cop was looking for kids “stealing shrubs”. What we all heard was “kids dealing drugs” which made our acid sweat through our pores as we just looked up and shrugged and shook our heads in frantic innocence. We were just trying to get the car parked before one of us began clawing through the upholstery. After searching the car for some bushes they left us to chase their garden bandit. I will never forget the lesson of keeping my mouth shut regardless of how well-worded I usually am because drugs and alcohol will invariably make me feel far better than I will ever possibly sound.

Birthdays are good, survival is great, days are long but time is short and with everything that’s already happened, I don’t want to go back. Also, so much more is on the way. Yay.

All I Wanted Was A Pepsi

suicidalIn the early 90’s I used to roll around town in a developing mullet. Those days were rife with rebellion and destruction whereas I had just discovered this dirty, mostly British, violent political noise called punk and long-haired, headbanging songs of guitar solos and secret devil signs. I was indeed on the brink of my salad days, walking around with a scowl and a chip on my shoulder during a time when my only source of stress was my school and my curfew. If only I knew of the tension and bottled insanity that awaited me in adulthood I would have listened to much more Ace of Base and Bryan Adams and saved the heavy stuff for when I got a job and had to slave alongside chimpanzees dressed like people. Where competence was a foreign word and “I’m both and idiot and a tool” was the common moniker, I seem to have wasted all the intense music while I was carefree and young.

By “roll around town” I mean walking, skating, taking the bus or riding my chrome Mongoose around (until it got stolen by some jerk offs in Gresham, Oregon.)

Used to drink, used to rock, used to party in the park in ripped jeans and brainstorm ways to get little bags of weed we smoked out of pop cans on playground play structures. Adolescence was the time you either flew high or flew right. I was doomed to be the former first, then the latter later.

Memorial Coliseum Assembly Hall was a concrete bunker beneath the grand glass box that was Portland’s largest arena at the time. An underground sweat-hole where rock bands too small to fill the real joint up above would hunker down for the capacity crowd in the basement and blow the kids’ eardrums clean out of their skulls. Those shows were some of the roughest I ever saw and when Suicidal Tendencies came to town from Los Angeles, the sheer violence in the pit rivaled any thrash fest I’d seen.

I had a leather jacket and a Levi jacket with the sleeves ripped off and on the denim I had my aunt sew a Suicidal Tendencies patch across the back. It was so great because the adults couldn’t read it but all my friends could.

Turned out one day in the 9th grade I was walking out of a downtown Portland McDonalds and got my ass severely whipped by 4 guys who didn’t like Suicidal’s music, apparently. They definitely didn’t like my mullet because they had shaved heads. That was my first taste of getting a certifiable beat down in front of bystanders and all I really remember was me throwing a few but taking a lot more lumps and those waiting for the bus just watched. No one said a word. I suppose no one wanted 4 skins beating them up, either. That patch on my back then became my badge of badassness. I didn’t take it off until a year after I graduated.

Skinheads terrify me, though, even today. Yikes. Who wouldn’t be afraid of a drunken and pointlessly violent contingent of the world’s most supreme ignorati?

Gresham Rules

Behind the willow trees that line the river behind that big house I heard these boys talk and knew for a split second I was about to see something great. 15 years old and newly minted from the north side of town, wide-eyed out here, where enormous watersheds sprawled across the hills and where the mountain looked so much bigger, where streets were long and straight, vacant and smooth, a place I used to skate and absorb the natural emptiness. Aside from the freshly carved neighborhoods, it was quite serene and pleasant, even the older streets and houses were close knit and protected by winding little streets and cul de sacs, coming from the little city this tiny town was beautiful and microcosmic.

I just didn’t know it.

What I saw were jumpers off bridges, rocks, ledges, straight from the sky itself, bodies plunging into the river of soft currents below. Those currents had taken many under for good but right then it was giving me more life than any Portland pool ever did.

I just didn’t see it.

MLC and Me

My interesting little life in Portland, Oregon truly began as a 2nd grader at Metropolitan Learning Center in the old Couch School building on Glisan Street. It was an “alternative school” which back then meant that I was too smart to sit still with rest of the muddling 2nd graders in town and needed to flourish at an alternative pace. Incidentally, “my alternative pace” was described as being perpetually inattentive and terribly disruptive to the learning process of others. I will never know the other behavior symptoms that were prerequisites for enrollment but am assured that a few kids had some similar to my own (all of whom I would befriend later). By the time I left that school I had learned more about the world during my primary and middle school grades than I would ever learn in high school or the 10 subsequent years of dropping in and out of college.

Despite being a public school, when the word “alternative” is used to describe such a school, it becomes perfect fodder for students from neighboring “regular” schools. The buses would stop at different schools and they would pick up some of the nastiest little creatures from nearby Chapman and those kids would always make fun of us but we knew they were just jealous of our curriculum and liberty (off campus lunch hour, imagine 5th graders running the streets like freed zoo animals) so they would always be mere Chapmanites to us.

Everyone who went to MLC loved the school and I attribute it for showing me the intricacies and beauties of human interaction, not so much with a textbook or homework but instead by having actual human interactions. They would treat you like a short adult instead of a daipered ignoramus.

We called our teachers by their first name. Lower grade students mingled with high schoolers. Everyday after lunch period we would have elective classes, like drawing, photography, building and creating things, learning to find our niches and talents. Every afternoon would be different than the last, they taught us to embrace our interests and cultivate individual curiosity, which wasn’t commonly encouraged in “normal” school settings.

My favorite class was a 6th grade elective every Tuesday and Thursday for an hour called “Beatles and Drawing”. Taught by a charming and grizzled man named Siegie, the class was probably his favorite since it was essentially kids listening to The Beatles and drawing for an hour. I can’t draw worth a bean but I write okay and that’s plenty for me. Writing about that particular class sounds silly now but because of such classes I one day went to Vietnam for a year to live each day like it was my last.

MLC has helped me become the restless and inattentive wayward man that I am today and this post has encouraged me to write plenty more on this sweet, sweet memory of a place.

Cowboys And Superheroes

There once was a day when steel pipes were piled atop each other, welded together to form a tall pyramid and was erected over a slab of asphalt. Some called it a jungle gym but we all knew it as the almighty monkey bars.

The winter seasons would freeze the metal into a slippery cage dangerously unclimbable and no fun at all.

In the summer heat the bars would be too hot to touch, the smooth metal under my little hands was almost malleable against my superhero grip..

I used to wear my jacket with just the hood on my head and the drawstring tied so the fabric would flap like a cape as I flew across the playground.

One day I was perched high on the structure when I jumped off and instead of sailing towards the ground like I had planned, the hood string caught on a corner of pipe and hung me there like a doomed cowboy dangling from the gallows.

I struggled to free myself and once I fell from the monkey bars I ran my fingers across my throat and felt the lynch scar grow and swell like Clint Eastwood’s and my 8 year old smile never felt more like a superhero’s.

In an aside, this all makes me remember when there was a time when objects and mindsets were heavier duty, meatier by weight and simply put together better. Playgrounds have now literally gone soft, kids wear helmets everywhere they go and they have lights on their shoes, state of the art carseats, and full suspension on their strollers. In case a little 4×4 action occurs in the parking lot of Target, I imagine. Multitudes of other safety amenities assure our kids a smooth and painless journey into adolesence and adulthood. Conversely, consumer products are becoming more shoddy instead of being built with any sense of longevity, we have a disposable item lifestyle we’ve quickly gotten accustomed to.

Then again my parents would say the same thing about their generation and so on. Curious to how far the changes will continue, grown adults wearing helmets and crash suits? Children in bubbles until they get armpit hair? Throw-away cars, houses, spouses?

Spanky McCoy

When I was in the 7th grade I had a friend named Spanky McCoy. He had just transferred in like I did but he was from South Philly and I was from North Portland. We met each other at our new middle school in the west hills and I knew when I met him that his reasons for being there were not so different than mine.

He wore a beat up mesh Freightliner hat and showed me how to smxxx pxx through a ball point pen while hiding in the tall grass during lunch break. He also once stopped the elevator in his building and opened the door so we could peer down 16 stories of dark, empty shaft.

We were our best friends because we couldn’t relate well with the spoiled, affluent little pricks of the Prada student body and being 13 meant learning to hate what you didn’t have and hate even more those who didn’t understand. Ah, the innocent passion of youth!

That time of my life was terribly transitional and most of what I learned in middle school followed me to high school where I truly assumed I understood the human condition. How people are selfish, opportunistic, material and self-involved to the point of needing to be thrown from a ledge. By the same token some people are good spirited, generous, accepting and respect the wishes and differences of others.

Spanky McCoy taught me to disregard that last sentence because he believed that deep down everyone wanted something. No matter who they are they’re trying to benefit themselves and only themselves.

It was shortly thereafter that I decided I liked pretty girls more than I liked Spanky McCoy.