What’s up, Morrison?

Not much. Had a reading last night. I’m eating gluten-free almond cookies and some kind of tea that claims to be able to balance my hormones. Or my chakras. Or, wait—maybe both. I didn’t look very closely at the box.

 

Are you feeling balanced?

Well—no. That’s why I’m drinking the damn tea!

 

Do those teas really work?

Sure, if you’re prone to suggestion, which I am. I’m the perfect candidate for the placebo effect. If you told me that eating a copy of Anna Karenina would make me the world’s greatest living writer, I would do it, and then, I swear to God, I would write some seriously awesome shit. Those less susceptible would merely shit some seriously awesome writing.

 

Are you working on a new book yet?

I am, as a matter of fact. Or I was, anyway, before I became a Yoga Bitch promotion machine.

 

Is your new book about yoga?

Nope. It’s called Your Own Personal Alcatraz, and it’s about coming of age on an island near Seattle. But mostly it’s about my first experience of being in love, of being young and craving both independence and intimacy, and how that struggle shaped me.

 

What are you reading right now?

I’m halfway through Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. The dialogue is so good I have to read it out loud to my husband every night. I love Hemingway. I think about him a lot– about his extraordinary dialogue, about how deeply emotional his writing is, and about how, if I weren’t happily married, and he weren’t, sadly, dead, I would be all over that man like white on rice.

It’s also October, so I keep cheating on Hemingway with horror stories.

 

So, you’re into vampires and werewolves, or what?

Ghost stories. I’m obsessed. I have this secret desire (now a little less secret) to write a really excellent ghost story. I want to believe in ghosts the way I want to believe in God: helplessly, because you can’t force belief. But I can play at it.

 

So, you don’t believe in God, then?

Not exactly. I’d like to. I’m thinking about it. There’s a part of me that hopes I’ll write a memoir in my late forties or fifties about how I finally found God and the spiritual life. But then there’s another part of me that thinks that what I’m doing now—reading and thinking and trying on faith—is the same thing. It’s just not very organized.

Part of the problem is that I know my yearning for God isn’t just about desiring knowledge or transcendence. It’s about wish-fulfillment. It’s about heaven. I really love the idea of an afterlife.

 

Angels and harps? You love the idea of angels and harps?

Not even remotely. My husband and I made a pact that we would believe in a very specific afterlife together. It’s Borges’s idea, really: the afterlife as a giant library. I also decided that in the afterlife, everyone you know is an amazing storyteller. You get to hear all the exquisite gossip that no one would ever dare tell in life. I think that’s a crucial part of the heaven idea, because if folks were still tight-lipped around the really juicy stories, heaven would be awfully tedious.

I would also appreciate a screening room in the afterlife, and an endless supply of beautifully shot ghost stories, serial killer stories, and period films.

 

Let’s talk about Yoga Bitch. Have you always wanted to write a spiritual memoir?

In spite of myself, yes. I think one of the reasons I kept working on Yoga Bitch for so many years (from 2003-2010) was because I needed to get this spiritual thing out of my system before I could work on other stories. Yoga Bitch somehow became the perfect container for all of my mid-twenties angst. It was intended to be this light-hearted yoga smackdown, but ended up being about leaps of faith; in a spiritual leader, a religion, a god, a love. A handbag. I was so cynical about everything at that age, so afraid of having regrets, of making the wrong decision. It took falling in love and ruining my life for a while to grow the kind of courage one needs to have faith. Not blind faith, but active, questing, questioning faith. That’s the kind of faith I’m after.

 

How did you come up with the structure for Yoga Bitch?

Yoga Bitch was originally a one-woman show. In 2004, I decided to adapt it as a sort of roman à clef, and I had a doozy of a time figuring out how to structure it. One afternoon, I was sitting at the B&O café in Seattle, chatting with a PhD candidate I knew, this Spanish guy named Nil, and I asked him how he would structure a spiritual journey. He didn’t hesitate: As a diary, he said. A spiritual journey is so personal, the struggle so hushed and unseen. We need to be inside the character’s head to really experience the sturm und drang of it all.

I couldn’t imagine writing my story in diary entries without it starting to look like my actual diary, which was an unholy mess of narcissism, self-loathing, and sex dreams that I couldn’t imagine being interesting to anyone but myself. So I dismissed the idea and spent the next four years writing the novel in sprawling chapters, past tense.

That novel now sits in a little coffin in my closet, thank God. After it was rejected, my agent suggested that I try to rewrite it as a memoir. I told her I would think about it, but in my heart I knew I was done with the story. Yoga Bitch had already been a one-woman show and a novel. If I went ahead and wrote it as a memoir, and the memoir failed, what would I do next, write it as a libretto? An epic poem?

But about a year later, I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea: If I did write a memoir, I wanted it to be a dialogue between the present and the past, between perspective and no perspective. Memoir is uniquely suited to that task, and suddenly the challenge was appealing. When dreaming up how to recreate my life without perspective, there was only one way that really worked: the diary format, broken up by essays from the perspective of today. It wasn’t until I had written the first chapter that I remembered Nil’s good advice from so many years before.

 

You seem quite amused by bodily functions. It’s kind of astonishing how much space you devote to the fact that your yogamates drank their own pee every day. Are you actually a twelve-year-old boy?

No. I just have the sense of humor of one. My idea of a restorative Saturday afternoon is sitting around making fart noises and laughing. I’m simple like that.

 

You end up understanding your fallen yoga teacher through your own love life, which mirrors hers. Were you saved by a man? (You know that’s not allowed, right?)

Yup. Call me Cinderella, I was. And my cousin was saved by her wife. Love saves. It’s just an idiotic kneejerk feminist trope that says we shouldn’t celebrate a love story. There’s nothing better or more important in life than to be cherished by another human being, except, perhaps, to cherish another human being. Feminists need to drop that bag.

 

Are you a feminist?

I dunno. These days I am nothing, really, except anti-ideology. Ideologues make me break out in hives. And that’s a real problem, cause those motherfuckers are everywhere. Many of them live inside my head, and I don’t even know it until I hear what they’re saying in my voice. It’s like I’m possessed, sometimes.

 

Who have you offended with your book?

Clearly, not enough people. If I were more offensive I think sales would be better.

 

How have sales been?

Good! Solid.

 

What do you enjoy most about writing?

The most enjoyable aspects of writing have got to be the night sweats, the panic attacks, and the carpal tunnel syndrome, for sure.

Just kidding! Those parts aren’t fun. Writing is hardly an enjoyable activity; but it is the most engrossing activity I’ve engaged in. I had a professor in college tell me that art will never make you happy, but it will demand all of your concentration. And concentration, he said, is the closest thing to happiness that exists in the world. In that sense, it’s a lot like meditation, or the state of mind that precedes meditation. When I’m not writing, my mind has nothing to chew on so it starts to eat itself. Like right now—that’s why I’m drinking all these hippie teas, because I’m not writing. I start imagining worst-case scenarios, I obsess over past mistakes or future concerns. One minute I’m telling myself I’m amazing, the next minute that I’m a fraud, a fake, a hack. When I’m writing I’m mostly just thinking about the writing. That is such a relief.

 

I got another scene request from a director at Anabolic. It was for someone named Pro Trusion. This was not his real name, of course. The video line he directed was called Oral Consumption. I was hired for a blowjob scene that included some male ass-licking and man-toe sucking. Fine with me. I hadn’t licked any man-ass before, but I was always up for trying new things. I didn’t care what I put in my mouth. I was literally a sucker for a new sexual experience.

My boyfriend wanted to come with me. He still wanted to be in with the guys at Anabolic. I was glad Tyler was coming with me to this shoot. It was at night, and I had to drive all the way out to some remote part of Chatsworth. I didn’t know that Chatsworth even existed until I did porn. Apparently, the district of Chatsworth, deep in the San Fernando Valley in the city of Los Angeles, has a higher concentration of porno companies doing business than any other place in the world. Every major street is decorated with adult industry offices. Anabolic was on Nordhoff Street, at the corner of Owensmouth. The building was ominous, a grey cement two-story warehouse that said ANABOLIC and DIABOLIC in large letters on the front.

Tyler’s eyes were shining like it was Christmas. He was told that any chick that went to the Anabolic warehouse and blew someone could have free shirts and hats. Tyler really wanted some free Anabolic gear. I told him that I would not blow a guy for clothes. That was where I drew the line. What would be next? Fucking for food? Tyler remained hopeful though. He knew he could persuade me to do anything if he threw a fit or made a big enough commotion about it. I was easily convinced. All he had to say was, “Ori, do you love me? Well, then…?” How could I argue? Of course I loved him.

We met a friendly Asian-American guy in the parking lot. His name was Voltron or Wanker. Either one of these fake names was fine to address him by. He had a big beer gut and brown skin. He was probably in his late twenties, but I couldn’t be sure. Asian people have great skin. My mom is half Chinese and has almost no wrinkles. I immediately liked this guy, Voltron. He giggled constantly. His face had an infectious humorous expression that seemed to say everything around him was a permanent joke. I liked that he didn’t take this porno shit so seriously. I felt the same way, that all of this was still a big laughing matter. The sex I was having and the money people paid me made me feel kind of silly. I never intended to do porn, it was a mistake, a happy accident, a detour. This was going to be something I was supposed to look back on and laugh at. Like, can you believe how stupid I was?

Voltron was completely harmless. I would have never suspected that he had previously done time for pistol-whipping an ex-girlfriend. He didn’t even seem like he had a dick. He was entirely void of sexuality. He had a mean sense of humor, but so did I. He was a very sick person, though. He turned out to be a serious drug addict. He is still suspected of murdering his girlfriend, a porno girl named Haley. We will never truly know because Voltron, aka Wanker, killed himself shortly after her death.

Led by Voltron, we walked through the empty office building to the back, near the warehouse. It was past seven at night, and all the employees had long since gone home. There were several lights, called Kino Flos, set up near a couch. Kino Flos are packages of fluorescent lights, the most common lighting equipment in porn. A few dudes were there getting things ready for the shoot. I can’t remember who they were because they were shy. And I was still embarrassed to be there. I wasn’t able to proudly say, as I can now, “I’m Ashley Blue, and I’m here for the blowjob scene and ass-licking.”

Pro Trusion introduced himself. “Hello, pleased to meet you, I’m Pro. Ashley Blue? And, is this your boyfriend?” He was sneering too much to be sincere. He was downright sarcastic. But he was funny. You could tell that he meant to be entertaining. It was clear that he liked attention. Pro Trusion had a speech impediment and sounded like an exaggerated character from The Simpsons. Maybe he had to develop the comedic personality because of his lifelong problem. Spit, white spittle, was flying as he talked.

Bitterness also exuded from this man. He was very unattractive, in looks and personality. He was around fifty years old and was bald and a tad overweight. He told us right away what he wanted us to know about him, his own story, his mythology. At the time, Tyler and I believed everything people told us about themselves. I didn’t think anyone had a reason to lie in porno. I thought everyone was already a degenerate, so there’s no reason to lie and make yourself sound better, because everyone already thought of you as a lowlife. I was wrong about that. Pro explained that he was a rich real estate developer and just directed porno for fun. What he really got off on was rough sex. His Rough Sex series of videos were so abusive that he had to discontinue them. Stores banned his work for the sheer violence toward women. This made him prouder than anything else he’d accomplished in life, he said.

Pro was an incessant talker. When he spoke, he looked straight into Tyler’s and my eyes for reactions. He wanted us to be scared and shocked. Pro Trusion was desperately excited to put fear into me. It was confusing, because he also made us laugh with his clever humor. He was obviously a smart guy. But at the same time we were very uncomfortable by how vulgar he was. He smoked a putrid smelling cigar and bared his yellow-brown teeth around its soggy butt as he talked. He used intellectual words. He was testing my comprehension, trying to see how intelligent I was. He even remarked a couple of condescending times that I was “pretty smart for an ass-licking, little anal whore.”

I just let Pro Trusion talk to me any way he wanted, which was down and rude. Yet another thing to get used to in this porno business, I thought. I shouldn’t expect any better treatment from these pornographers, really. Why would I need his respect? In a few minutes he’s going to see me with my tongue in some guy’s asshole. Respectfulness had a vague meaning to me. It didn’t really bother me to be disrespected on a porn level. Pro wasn’t going to be my friend. I was young and seeking his approval as a porn director, not his respect as a human being. Some sick and sad people in life are incapable of paying such common dignities. I wanted this cretin, Pro Trusion, to be singing my praises by the end of this blowjob scene. Through sexual performance, I was going to gain–I was going to earn–some recognition.

I sat down on the couch with a light pointed at my face. The dude I was about to blow, Bent Brent, was sitting nearby on a chair. He was rubbing his cock through his pants. So was Tyler. Voltron worked the video camera, and Pro Trusion started with his questions. One of his specialties was to ask a girl just the right questions to make her cry on film. His interviews always came first, before the sex. he asked me about my parents–did they know? No, they didn’t, and I didn’t care if they did. He inquired about my aspirations before I decided to suck cock for a living. His goal was to make me feel like a piece of shit. He said, “…because that’s what you are, aren’t you, a piece of shit?” I told him I wanted to be an artist. I was unshaken by his insults. He couldn’t make me feel bad about myself, no matter how much of a jerk he tried to be. How could this guy think he had any grounds to judge me? To Pro’s disappointment, I didn’t cry. He said he wanted to continue the interview some other time, for another scene. Good. Another gig meant more money.

We had to start the blowjob. Bent Brent had a long, uncircumcised penis. It was about ten inches with a curve in the middle. It was like an elephant’s trunk, but I managed to get the entire thing down my throat. It was better to deep throat than to suck because of the foreskin. The smell underneath foreskin grosses me out. It’s sour and resembles the stench of what is in between sweaty toes. Brent’s had a lot of white, cheesy stuff under it, too. Every time he stroked his cock, more would appear. It was like a butter churn.

During the blowjob and ass-eating, Pro berated me. I just licked away at the butthole. It was freshly swabbed with a baby wipe. The ass was much less offensive than cock cheese. Brent had pretty clean toes, too. There wasn’t any visible fungus like so many other porno guys had. The feet were dry and rough with calluses. I sucked each toe individually, then stuck the whole foot into my mouth, as far down as I could. Then I choked myself, taking the extra step. I wanted to show everyone how into this I was. I didn’t want anyone to pity me or think I was doing it just for the money. I don’t–I didn’t–think I was doing it just for the money.

Pro saw me choking myself with Brent’s cock and foot. “Do you like to get choked?” he asked after Bent Brent had dumped his load all over my face. Tyler had gotten turned on during the scene and decided to pop on me as well. Now I was wiping both of their cum off of me. Without much thought, I replied with a yes. I remarked how much I liked it when Mark Davis had done it to me, that I loved it. Mark Davis was the sexiest porno guy ever. He was English and handsome. It didn’t even matter that he was uncircumcised. He could make it work–he could make you feel happy about foreskin. I swooned when I worked with him. He was charming and sexy, just like my own boyfriend, only a  little more. Doing scenes with Mark Davis was like acting out a romance novel.

“Can I choke you?” Pro asked with a dark gleam in his eyes. My compliments about Mark Davis struck a nerve. Pro Trusion didn’t like it when girls talked about Mark Davis choking them. According to Pro, Mark couldn’t do it the right way. “I am the only one who does it right. Let me choke you.” I said it would have to wait until the next shoot. Fair enough.

“Do you like to get pissed on?” Pro asked. He was relentless.

I thought about it, then laughed, looking at Tyler. “No, no one’s ever done that to me.”

Pro gasped, “What? You’re kidding me! You have to try it. You’ll love it! I swear on my children! All girls love piss. Every girl I’ve ever pissed on absolutely loved it! We can do it right now. Can I piss on you?” His yellow-brown teeth were gnashing together with delight. This was a real treat.

I stared at Tyler, sort of in disbelief. I never thought anyone would be asking if they could piss on me. Especially someone I barely knew. I didn’t have a ready answer. So, I responded, “No, you can’t piss on me. If I were ever going to do that, it would only be with my boyfriend. He’s the only one who ever could.” Thinking Tyler was on the same page, I thought I had gracefully dodged the situation. I didn’t want to get pissed on for the first time in front of people. I liked to do everything at home first. Instead of remaining on the same level, Tyler lit up with excitement. “Okay, let’s do it! I’ll piss on you!” This was his chance to finally be in on the action. He’d been sitting on the sidelines for so many shoots and wasn’t satisfied with just being an extra pop shot. He jumped at the chance to piss in my mouth. I don’t know why I thought he wouldn’t.

“No, Tyler, you can’t just piss on me right now. Your pee is too yellow. It’s gross.” I was looking for any reason at all to stop what was already sadly in motion.

“My pee is always clear. Can I piss on you?” Pro wouldn’t give up trying to gain first pissing rights to my mouth.

“No! I’ll drink water. Look, I’m drinking right now.” Tyler chugged down the bottle in his hand, and Voltron handed him another.

“All right, fine.” I gave up and laughed at myself. Not ten minutes earlier I had wiped the cum of two guys out of my eyes. Soon, I would be wiping out piss. Who knows, I thought, maybe I really will love it. I did love it in the ass. Part of me looked forward to any possibility of enjoyment. It would definitely be the most hardcore thing I could be into. Anal sex and piss. There was a ring to it.

Tyler filled up his bladder as much as he could. Voltron and Pro went into one of Anabolic’s employee bathrooms with Tyler and me. The door was wide open for all of the others to watch. I got down on my knees and made sure my face was positioned over the toilet bowl. Ha, now I’m the toilet bowl, I thought. I looked up at Tyler as he unzipped and pulled out his soft dick. I watched the peehole until the pee stream appeared. Then it was steadily flowing into my mouth. It was warm and gross, salty and stinky, all vinegar and sour herbs. There wasn’t a lot of yellow to it, but it was still sour. All the water he drank didn’t make it exactly clean.

The piss filled up my mouth a couple of times there was so much. I just spit it into the bowl. No way I was going to swallow it. After about thirty seconds, Tyler stopped pissing. He couldn’t pee anymore. He was completely hard. Pissing in my mouth gave him a huge boner. I looked at him and said, “Are you serious?”

His erection was very serious. It turned him on big time that I was kneeling over a toilet getting pissed on. I even put my hair into pigtails for him, at his request.

I took the piss into my open mouth with a smile. It was totally ridiculous. I was thinking, Okay, done. Now I’ve tried piss and I can say with truth and conviction whenever someone asks me about it: It’s not that big of a deal. I didn’t love it, and I didn’t totally despise it. I guess it was more for the guy to get off on. Voltron captured it all on video. I consented to have it be taped, and Pro paid me an extra two hundred dollars in cash. He said it would never be seen by anyone else but him, that he had a whole collection of private videos that he kept at home to jerk off to. Stupid me, I believed him.

A few months later, the piss scene in the bathroom ended up on one of Pro’s websites called PissMops.com. I felt like an idiot for trusting this guy. It was out of my control. Once you sign that model release, it’s over. What you did is no longer yours. As the performer, I surrendered absolute consent after I was paid for the footage. It didn’t really bother me to have this surprise video resurface later in life. To tell the truth, I like that people can watch me getting pissed on my first time. I like piss now. By the time Piss Mops was put on to DVD, I was ready for it. Pro Trusion even put me on the front cover.

First, I’ve edited this piece so that even the most dimwitted readers will get my “thesis,” which would be a “thesis” had I not proven it, as below.

Now, why was a prescription database pushed to the hilt by the media? They claimed it was to stop one of Florida’s tourism industries, unsurprisingly allowed to operate for as long as possible: Oxycontin pill mills that existed because of a loophole in the law.  People from all over the South and elsewhere picked up Oxy in Florida to use or sell elsewhere or in Florida, The Comfortable [email protected] Fine: Let’s solve the problem. But, no, a law was passed that now encompasses every single prescription, addictive or not. The state, not concerned enough to pay for the law, located or, more likely, established a private network of contributors to pay for it. Why? Who paid for the database…and why?

At first, it all seems to be about nothing but power. Unfortunately, it’s all about our old friendly combination of power and money… make that money and power.

And now, the incredible story of how Florida’s state pharmacy database came to be.

On January 1, 2010, Florida finally passed The Common Pharmacy Database statute. Before I continue, let me alert you that the following is a mystery wrapped in a conspiracy concealed in quantum semantics saturated by contradictions watering the evil garden of power beneath a sun radiating shadows hiding the black roses blooming by the thousands in the name of profit shrouded by a single over-riding facade of a purpose. Complicating matters is a flood of red herrings pointing to red herrings, only these red herrings have been dyed to appear in every color but red, creating the void in which utterly-arbitrary medical decisions are made by technicians in lab coats who overrule at will the orders of those not much more qualified than themselves, imposing a tyranny upon the entire population of Florida, all to supposedly address a loophole in the law that allowed “pain clinics” to dispense Oxycontin like psychiatrists dispense antidepressants.

In plain English, after my having textually run amok, let me restate the above in one sentence: The Florida Pharmacy Database was never necessary because legislation could have sealed the pain clinic loophole. You won’t read these facts of why that wasn’t done anywhere but here, though they’re lying naked in the Florida sun on I-75.

The database program’s own webpage admits, “The statute authorizing the PMDP [Prescription Drug Monitoring Program] specifically does not allow the use of state appropriations for establishing the PMDP.” Curiously, the statute instead did “authorize the establishment of a non-profit organization, which was incorporated as The Florida PDMP Foundation, Inc., to conduct fund-raising for the program.” In other words, “This is a crucial issue, but not crucial enough to raise taxes.” So how is it possibly Constitutional for a state law to be passed based on funding by a non-governmental entity? Look, a green herring!

Care to guess the The Florida PDMP Foundation, Inc. mission? Third prize goes to stopping “‘pill mills’ that prescribe and/or dispense pain relievers with at best a cursory exam to people who often see multiple physicians for the same ‘ailment.'” Second prize goes to a supposed concern that “nearly seven Floridians are lost every day to prescription drug overdoses.” First prize goes to the bottom dollar answer: “$15 billion is the estimated economic cost of prescription drug abuse and diversion shouldered by Floridians in 2009.” And just who funds the foundation? Let’s look at the three sponsors thanked on the foundation’s site via their super-sized corporate logos.

First, there’s Automated HealthCare Systems, which connects two dots: “Our ezDispense™ medication dispensing software, powered by AHCS, provides the tools to our physician partners to remain in compliance with all state and federal regulations as well as prescription drug monitoring programs. ezDispense™ electronically tracks all pedigree papers, lot numbers, expiration dates and controlled substances with line item reconciliation. Our software also identifies the location, physician, dispenser, cost, profit and date of all medications dispensed.” Holmes, methinks I’ve determined the AHCS’ motivation.

Next, Millennium Laboratories. Somehow, a red herring escaped extermination by Millennium Laboratories, which entirely profits from a single service: “We offer urine testing for numerous drug classes or individual drugs, with the option of several panels or a customized solution.” In Florida, guess who’s watching you piss in a cup?

Finally, Aegis PainComp Testing Services: That’s “Comp” as in “Compliance.” Know where we’re going with this? You got it: Drug testing. It’s all about the urine, folks.

Apparently, however, there’s just not enough precious bodily fluids to go around. Thus, Aegis is currently suing Millennium for “false advertising and unfair competition.” Additionally, Aegis claims Millenium “lured in physicians with illegal kickbacks and defrauded government health care programs.”

But Aegis may not play so fairly, either: “The company owned by the husband of 6th District Congressional candidate Diane Black is suing Republican opponent Lou Ann Zelenik in an attempt to stop a campaign advertisement. In the lawsuit filed Thursday morning in Davidson County Circuit Court, Aegis Sciences Corporation, a drug testing company owned by Dr. David Black, claims that ads run by the Zelenik campaign will damage the business and its reputation and asks for a temporary restraining order to keep the ads from airing. The ads allege Diane Black helped her husband’s company obtain a $1 million state contract.”

These certainly sound like the respectable backers one would seek for an ostensibly government health care program, don’t they? And it all looks like a job for none other than the Real Keyser Söze.

One page deeper into the site and we learn that the foundation is headquartered at the law firm of Duane Morris LLP, which, amongst other activities, boasts: “Our attorneys regularly advise on Stark and anti-kickback issues and have developed unique ways for physicians to share in ancillary revenue in compliance with federal and state regulations.” Another achievement: “We have defended nursing homes, home health agency and ancillary service provider clients under investigation for Medicaid fraud, advising them on appropriate responses to subpoenas and strategizing to minimize the risk of an adverse outcome.” And the law firm proudly broadcasts its having “Represented three nonprofit community hospitals and resulting ‘community benefit foundations’ in connection with the sale of hospital assets to for-profit hospital chains.”

Interesting use of quotation marks around the phrase “community benefit foundations,” obviously mocking such “liberal” causes. But isn’t that exactly the kind of do-good organization The Florida PDMP Foundation, Inc. claims to be? Let’s return to the foundation’s site and check it out.

At first, it seems the foundation at least wants to feel like it has a message of love: “The Foundation consists of both community and business leaders working to save lives through fundraising for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PMDP) to combat the deadly consequences of drug abuse and diversion.” But without so much as a yawn, this follows, “The Foundation is comprised of a state county sheriff, a President of a Florida-based health care company, an officer of a bank located in Florida, a former director of the Office of Drug Control, the CEO of a company that conducts educational training and an attorney focused on assisting this non-profit. That attorney would be Duane Morris, who, as we’ve seen, normally doesn’t look so kindly upon non-profit organizations. In fact, his motto seems to be, “For the right hourly billing rate, I’ll decapitate Jesus Christ and prove my actions legal, then counter-sue the estate of Jesus Christ.”

As proof, the Duane Morris Institute offers businesses on-site training in a number of areas, one of which includes…”Substance Abuse: Detection and referral; work rules; development of drug and alcohol testing policies; return-to-work agreements ” Relevance? Duane Morris seems awfully involved with drug testing companies, just awfully. For instance, he represented “a drug testing company and its employee, in administering a drug test that found cocaine in plaintiff’s urine and resulted in the revocation of plaintiff’s taxicab operator’s license.” Guess who won, the cabbie or a law firm with enough attorneys to prove the Complete Works of William Shakespeare unconstitutional?

Duane Morris LLP, which specializes in defending the most ruthless business practices conceivable and seems to have a fetish for drug testing, heads the The Florida PDMP Foundation, Inc., funded by drug testing companies, which in turn funded the Florida Pharmacy Database, and without which funding even Republicans would never have passed the legislation. Obviously, through a law conjured to supposedly address Oxycontin pill mills, but which instead is being applied to every single prescribed medication in Florida, the real intention of the database is to shove innocent citizens, including those addicted by proxy due to emotional and/or health issues, into the criminal “justice” system or the rehabilitation racket, both of which will provide plenty of business for drug testing companies. And we know which three drug testing companies will be getting most of that business, don’t we?

Sooner or later, you’ll need a prescription in your state, one without the slightest addictive qualities, and you’ll be denied that prescription for whatever reason the pharmacist may decide. For instance, I recently had to obtain a week’s supply of a newly-prescribed antidepressant, as I couldn’t afford the entire month’s worth. That was standard practice in the old days. But I was told I could not even fill less than the amount prescribed. Why? Because the database gives pharmacies unspecified powers, and pharmacists, believing themselves equipped to do something beyond sliding pills into bottles, love power no less than anybody else with a badge, uniform, degree, or, in this case, lab coat.

Here’s an analogy explaining the supposed logic behind the law: You’re being denied the right to drive — even if you lack a single DUI —  because a certain number of Florida citizens die in car accidents. But by the real “logic” of the law, you’re being pulled over and stopped for speeding whether or not you were speeding or even driving because someone supported a law through a foundation funded by manufacturers of police radar equipment.

Now, if that doesn’t make you piss your pants, read my new 9/11 novel, Airplane Novel, which you can order here. More info at the Airplane Novel website. It’s the only 9/11 novel narrated by the South Tower. In fact, it’s the only 9/11 novel worth reading at all. Just don’t forget to get your Xanax filled before reading this novel aboard a plane.

Recently, while escorting my Two Insane Russian Dogs on their afternoon feeding rampage behind the local playground, I stumbled across a scene of domestic chaos: one snot-faced child clamoring over a fence, another escaping through a gate, and a mother-type person pounding on the back door of a house while screaming into her cell phone. So I did what every other Finn was doing: ignored it.

At first it was difficult to suppress my American Hero Complex, but in truth not that hard. I’ve realized, after two years in this wonderfully strange Nordic land, that getting involved with such situations only makes for an embarrassing clash of oppositional cultural mores played out in broken English and mangled Finnish.

Privacy, you see, comes at a premium in Finland. It’s less of an aura than it is a veritable force field. Unless you’re sardined in a train car on a Friday night – in which case every drunken hobbit feels obligated to rub their butt cheeks on your arm – then two meters of separation is generally expected (as evidenced by Exhibit A, “Scene from a Finnish Bus Stop”):

I sensed that something was different on my very first day visiting Finland. While out hiking on a remote windswept isthmus, I passed only one hale elderly couple with poles strapped to their hands (which I assumed were for fending off ravenous penguins); the couple not only didn’t say hello, but in order to maintain the two-meter boundary they veered to the far side of the path, plummeted into a deep gulch, and scrambled up the side of a steep thorn-covered hill (where they were swiftly disemboweled by a pair of nesting polar bears).

When I had told my future wife about the unnerving coldness of her comrades, she merely laughed. What did I expect, for the strangers and I to actually, you know, acknowledge each other’s existence? No, Finnish Wife said, she finds the opposite to be more terrifyingly criminal: how Americans and Brits will speak to strangers for no reason other than the overabundance of love in their hearts. Life is much easier when one simply suppresses their emotions until they congeal into vomit.

Still, this screaming-pounding-wailing display I was witnessing was particularly disturbing, and a bold one for the (stereo)typically modest Finns. Had it been winter, the noises would have been attributed to vampiric reindeer and the mountains of snow would have shielded the action from voyeurs such as myself. But right now, and for months to follow, Finland is awash in near-constant daylight, making it downright impossible to have a wizz on the bumper of the neighbor’s BMW without the entire country witnessing it through the misty windows of their saunas.

It’s no secret that the majority of Finns don’t like attention. When they were slapped with the label of “Best Overall Country”, a Finnish newspaper did some quick math and determined that Switzerland should actually be the winner. Indeed, Finland’s aversion to attention is so great that they are now building their cities not outwards and upwards but downwards.

Such modesty is, for a supercilious hermit such as myself, infectious. More and more I feel myself adopting the disposition of my new comrades, and with each conversation become more attuned to the fact that my emotions dominate my speech. Conversely, Finns will rarely, if ever, reveal their inner workings to someone who isn’t related to them by blood or beer.

Emotional withdrawal, of course, easily becomes passivity or outright ignorance. After dragging my dogs off the merry-go-round, we passed through a horde of drunken grade-schoolers, one of which lay face-down in a pile of something brown and steaming. Again, I felt compelled to act: chide them, berate them, throw gang signs, but again I did nothing. When I spotted my stepson and his friends using a stolen grocery cart to push their books home from school, I closed the shades. When my dog came home with a freshly exhumed femur, I helped him pry up a few floor planks to hide it underneath. Life is so much more peaceful when you mind your own business!

Eventually the screaming woman got back into her house. I know this because the truth is that I turned around a block later and spied from behind some trees. The screaming ceased; the children were corralled back into their pen; no one seemed to have lost an arm or eyeball; my dogs urinated on a tricycle. I felt better about myself. Everything is ok. Never doubt that a single, thoughtful citizen can change the world, even if he isn’t a citizen and hasn’t done anything except stand by and observe someone else’s private parts.

To read Part I, please click here

Jeremiah balanced himself against the doorframe, his head loose on his neck, swinging from side to side like a pendulum. He motioned for me with his hand. I staggered his way inadvertently colliding with him at the front door.

Gary approached, intervening. He bucked for us to stay put, to crash at his place for the night citing how much alcohol the two of us had consumed over the preceding six hours.

“There’s more than enough room,” he said.

“I’m fine,” Jeremiah replied, exhaling smoke through his nostrils. “I’ve only had two beers.”

“And how many shots, how much wine?” Gary rejoined, “You smell like a damn orchard.”

“Do you mean vineyard?” Jeremiah countered with a wry smile. It was the same smile he gave when he was kicking your ass in Madden. It was the oh-how-do-you-like-that-shit? smile.

Jeremiah reeked of booze. Fumes of beer, liquor, and wine mixed with the nicotine from his breath produced a yeasty, acerbic combination. The inherent problem in Jeremiah taking to the wheel intoxicated—other than the obvious: he was intoxicated—was not so much the absorption of beer and liquor into his veins. The problem was the wine. Jeremiah simply could not handle wine. Never could. It made him off-kilter, a bit askew in his perception of reality and his ability to function in said reality. It was sort of a running joke within our circle that Jeremiah left zigzagging from Sunday services after communion was given just from the sheer tart quality of the grape juice on his palette.

I was a cheap drunk and hence stuck with my preferred Friday night beverage of choice, Hurricane. Hurricane is a malt liquor with 8.10% ABV and part of the Anheuser-Busch family of beers. BeerAdvocate.com gives Hurricane a resounding grade of D+ with a further comment for beer drinkers the world over to “avoid.”

I find this rating a bit unfair, particularly from the perspective of a teenager in the 1990’s with limited income save for the greenbacks earned by way of cutting grass in the summer time and chopping wood in winter.

The Three Pros of Hurricane:

  1. Extremely economical: Spend less. Drink less. Get drunk quicker. Have leftovers for next week’s shindig.
  2. Extremely potent compared to popular American lagers: Once again, drink less, get drunk quicker. I didn’t drink for the taste. Not to mention, easily the biggest con of Hurricane was that, like OE800, it smells like bottled and capped skunk piss. Pop it open, turn it up, don’t think twice, it’s alright.
  3. Never lifted at parties: The fact of the matter is people do not see a black, orange, and green case of Hurricane in the refrigerator and rogue one. They think, “Who in God’s name brought that?” move the case to the side so as to retrieve a can from someone else’s stash thus leaving my alcohol to keep cold and ready when the time was right to crack open another.

The latter was ultimately the deciding factor from my teenage perspective. Hurricane, Black Label, and King Cobra were my Big Three in those days. The lineup rotated as to which one I drank on a designated weekend. Unlike most, if not all of my friends, I never found myself in one of those “where the fuck is my beer?” moments at parties. My beer was always on the bottom shelf, untouched, except by me.

The only time anyone ever even touched one of my malts was when Brandon Shepherd grabbed one, held it up to his mouth like a microphone, and began singing, “Rock You Like a Hurricane” by Scorpions. Then, in the same motion, he passed out on the couch.

On days when the income was feeling a bit expendable and I was feeling grandiose and luxurious, I would step my game up and purchase a Mickey’s but those days were rare and few and far between. Not to mention, I loathed Natural Light for its redneck-specific designation on the drinking scene and avoided it at all costs, buying malt liquor instead. But I digress.

Other than Hurricane and a single can of Budweiser—whose slogan I unremittingly recited throughout the course of the night much to the protest of my cousin Gary—I downed a single mixed drink Gary had concocted.

Bleeding Liver

100 mL Vodka
15 oz. Fruit Punch Gatorade

Mix together. Shake very well. Add ice. Serve.



Gary in the middle, me on the right

Character Profile
Gary was my first cousin (standing in the middle in the picture to your left. That’s me on the right. My cousin Robbie on the left) and Jeremiah’s fellow classmate at Randolph-Henry High School in Charlotte Court House, Virginia—Graduating class: 1997.

As a young child, the third Hyde of the family, Garland Hyde Hamlett III, to be exact, had this intense fascination with WWF and WCW action figures and collectibles. Each year when Christmas rolled around and Santa Claus slid his morbidly obese, cherry red ass down the clay brick chimney, he would place under Gary’s Christmas tree some new wrestling action figurine.

By the time my aunt Julie, uncle Butch, and cousin Tiffany arrived at our home in Phenix for breakfast on Christmas morning, Gary was itching like a dog with mange to pull out his plastic men and toss them into the roped ring he had been given the prior Christmas. In turn, the Steiner Brothers—Rick and Scott—would gang up on an aging yet still shirtless Rick Flair or involve themselves in an illusory confrontation with the tag team duo of the Road Warriors.

This background is important for at times this imaginary play world of wrestling was implemented in the real world and my skinny self doomed from the start no matter how much milk I drank or Spinach I ate. (Yes, I arduously bought into the Popeye philosophy that a helping of spinacia oleracea would sprout Sherman tanks on my biceps and in turn help me bring down my own real life Bluto, Gary.)

Gary was my elder by two years, might as well have been ten, and was much bigger than I was then and still so even today. He does not recall putting me through the torture I am about to describe to you the reader. When you are on the giving end (as Gary was), I imagine it is but a faint memory pushed to the back of your mind with no resounding quality—just an ordinary day in an ordinary week. On the receiving end (as I was), however, it becomes burnt into one’s memory as if a fiery orange cigarette cherry snubbed out on the backside of one’s hand.

When I visited my Granny and Papa Hamlett in Drakes Branch, Gary, as sneaky and vengeful as ever, somehow found a constant lure and always managed to trap me in our grandpa’s bedroom. My cries for help were quickly silenced by the threat of pain I was soon to endure being even more painful if I called out for aid. He was also pompous to the fact that unlike other kids his age he already had underarm hair—and a jungle of it at that. As consequence, he jerked me immediately and without delay into a headlock and buried my pre-pubescent face in his armpits.

“Smell it,” he would cry out, squeezing my neck tighter as if to pop my head off like a grape. “Smell it!”

I refused to smell it.

He squeezed my neck tighter.

There was sweat on my nose and cheekbones from his pits. Thick white chunks of deodorant on my lips tasted bitter. Underarm hair tickled my nose.

“I want you to smell it. I want to hear you sniff,” he growled.

Then my nostrils would flare in and out.

* Sniff, sniff *

Enduring these moments of agony, I knew that nothing could be done but appeal to the Lord above for strength in a prayer that one day all those gallons of milk I had poured into my belly since weaning from the teat would jumpstart a growth spurt in my body and all that spinach I consumed would swell my biceps like it had done Popeye before he liberated Olive Oil from the masculine and obstinate grips of Bluto’s hands.

Then I would have my revenge.

Unfortunately, this petition to the Big Man in the Sky has yet to be answered and unless I dial up BALCO or Mark McGwire and get my hands on some Human Growth Hormone, my thirst for retribution may never be quenched.

Or will it?

In a metonymic adage originating in Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1839 play, Richelieu, Cardinal Richelieu says and I quote, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

And so with this axiom clearly portraying wit over might, the power of the written word over the physical headlock, I will thus write with my pen a very significant and hopefully embarrassing little known fact about my Blutonian cousin Gary’s musical tastes.

Gary owned and purposely bought and listened to albums by Shaq Diesel, also known as Shaquille O’Neal, The Big Aristotle, and/or Shaq Fu. If my memory serves me correctly, his favorite song was “(I Know I Got) Skillz.”

Quiz him on this.

From the actual song, begin rapping these lyrics:

Yo Jef, why don’t you give me a hoopa beat or something,
Something I can go to the park to.
Yeah, there you go, alright, I like that, I like that,
It sound dope.

Just give him a minute for the full effect to take hold, to possess his body. Then like an uncontrollable instinct or an Episcopalian speaking in tongues, Gary will begin tapping his right foot and spitting the rhyme with prepositions incorrectly ending the sentence and all:

Knick-knack Shaq-attack, give a dog a bone,
Rhymin is like hoopin’, I’m already a legend,
Back in the days in the Fush-camp section,
Used to kick rhymes like baby, baby, baby,
Every once, every twice, three times a lady,
Is what I listened to, riding with my moms,
How you like me now? I drop bombs,
When you see me, please tap my hands,
I know I got skills man, I know I got skills man…

If that does not work, if he refuses to acknowledge this reality in regards to his music selection, simply ask to see his record collection. Inside a dusty cardboard box, you are sure to find a copy of Shaq Diesel’s debut album, and to top it off, nearly every cassette ever put out by the Fat Boys. True, there is nothing really to laugh about here. The Fat Boys had rhymes so sweet they would knock anyone into a diabetic coma.

Back in the day, I liked the Fat Boys too, used to beat box with my mouth at Gary’s on Saturday mornings while my uncle Butch sucked down a raw egg for breakfast. The two of us would venture out underneath the attached garage and toss lyrical heat into the fire. I would morph into Kool Rock Ski and him into Prince Markie D:

(Prince Markie D): $3.99 for all you can eat?
Well, I’m-a stuff my face to a funky beat!
(Kool Rock Ski): We’re gonna walk inside, and guess what’s up:
Put some food in my plate and some Coke in my cup
(Prince Markie D): Give me some chicken, franks, and fries
And you can pass me a lettuce. I’m-a pass it by.

And then Gary would pause for a moment, do the Robot, position his feet on his Max Headroom skateboard, pop an Ollie, and run his fingers through his hair like a 1988 James Dean. Peanut would call from the neighboring yard, “Yes, t-t-t-t-tune into Network 23! The network is a *real* mind-blower!”

Or at least this is how I like to remember the past.

And that was Gary.



Now he stood before Jeremiah and me, interrogating the man with the keys in his hand. Jeremiah opened the screen door, flicked his cigarette, and reached into his oh so smooth black leather jacket to retrieve a fresh smoke.

“Just a glass or two,” Jeremiah said of how much wine he’d had.

Gary hmphed. “More than that.”

“I’m fine man. I’ll drive slow. We’ll hit the back roads to be on the safe side. I pay more attention after I’ve had a few in me anyway.”

“Well if you don’t think you can drive, feel free to turn back around. Like I said, you can crash here for the night. It’s fine by me. Plenty of blankets and places to sleep.”

“Let me take one last leak before we hit the road,” I said to Jeremiah, knowing he would appreciate my common decency. I tend to urinate frequently, a result of what I suppose relates back to my recurrent bouts with kidney stones as a child. Jeremiah knew this.



Once on a short road trip the two of us took, Jeremiah was forced to stop every twenty minutes in order for me to empty my beans. I marked my territory more than a stray dog that evening.

Behind dumpsters.

On trees.

At a laundry mat.

In a 32-ounce Gatorade bottle.

In a 20-ounce Coca-Cola bottle.



Years later, I would earn the nickname “PP” by Jay Taylor, a co-worker of mine in construction. We used to carpool together. He drove. I sat in the passenger seat and read Noam Chomsky books.

In the late 1980’s/early 90’s, Jay used to play drums in a heavy metal band named Uncle Screwtape and had long, stringy hair down to his ass and was skinny as a toothpick. In promotional photos of the band, Jay wears black leather pants secured tightly by white laces running up the leg. Presently, he sports a reluctant comb-over and carries a few doughnuts in the mid-section.

Uncle Screwtape opened for Ugly Kid Joe in Texas back when Ugly Kid Joe was cool which took place during a window between June and November of 1992. They were on their America’s Least Wanted tour. The bass player for Uncle Screwtape named the band. As Uncle Screwtape’s star was on the rise, the bass player quit to enroll in college. He wanted to be an English teacher. Uncle Screwtape is a reference to a C.S. Lewis novel in which the demon uncle, Screwtape, writes a series of letters to his nephew in efforts to convince his nephew to help bring damnation to a man known as “The Patient.”

Jay used to get annoyed by how much I made him stop so that I could take a leak. We stopped at nearly every store we came upon on our way home from Buggs Island to Phenix.

I hated using a store’s bathroom without buying anything. I felt it was rude so I made a point to always buy an item. I loved Peppermint Patties so I bought one at each of my stops. I didn’t think anything of it, the abbreviation and all. The irony. Jay picked up on it.

“PP,” Jay said. “I think I’m going to call you ‘PP’ from here on out.”

“I hope the gods curse you with kidney stones one day so you’ll see what it feels like. Or an enlarged prostate.”

They never did. But they did curse him with the most awful foot fungus I have ever seen in my life during the summer of 2003. He had to change socks once every hour while at work. Doctor recommended. His feet looked gangrenous. Seriously. And they stunk like a rotting carcass.



It was cold that day and rainy, the evening Jeremiah and I were returning from our road trip down I-81.

“I’m not stopping again,” he said to me as I got back into the car. I had just pissed on a yellow brick wall at a laundry mat on the outskirts of Radford.

Twenty minutes later.

“Hey man, I know you said you weren’t stopping again but I really have to go. I might very well piss myself. I’ve been holding it for ten minutes now and my bladder is about to rupture. I’m pretty sure this isn’t healthy.”

“You’ve been holding it for ten minutes?” he questioned. “We just stopped ten minutes ago. Didn’t you piss?”

“I did. It was wonderful.”

“Then why do you have to go again?”

“I don’t know but I swear I do. I think it has something to do with the rain. Rain. Urine. Both are liquids. And your car idles rather fast. I think it is shaking my kidneys. I know Josh Holt had a similar problem once riding in my mom’s Corolla. It idled badly.”

“You’re not going to piss yourself,” Jeremiah responded matter-of-factly.

“I’m not so sure about that. This may be genetic. My mom gets the dribbles.”

“The dribbles?”

“The dribbles. She can’t do jumping jacks.”



I walked down the narrow hallway and into Gary’s bathroom. A Playboy magazine lay open in a wicker basket to the left of the toilet. An exposed woman stared back at me. She was on all fours stark nude. The sheets were red. Satin sheets I suppose. Rose petals were strewn across the sheets. You know, the way most naked women wait for you.

On all fours.

Stark nude.

Ass in the air.

On red, satin sheets with roses strewn across.

“You are not getting laid tonight,” she reminded me. I thanked her for her kindness and honesty. I wondered what her dad thought. I thought about how I was a hypocrite for enjoying seeing her looking this way, naked, and how I’d never in a million years let my daughter shed clothes for money whenever I had a daughter one day.

I thought about how it wouldn’t be up to me to “let” her do anything. I would have to hope I raised her properly so that she wouldn’t strip nude for money. Then I thought about how I had paid someone to strip nude for money before. She was a friend of mine. She said she’d get naked for gas money. I had gas money.

I was 16. She was 20.

I thought about how I was thinking too much. I thought about how drinking a lot always made me think too much when I already thought too much as it was.

I focused my attention away from the girl in the magazine.

The tank lid was open, pushed off to the side. The ballcock and float were visible. The water was running and the sound sensitive to my ears. I jiggled the handle.

“Don’t be the phantom shitter,” Gary called from the front.

I pissed the most glorious piss I had ever pissed in my existence all the while my stomach flipped, sat upright, turned. Through the pangs, I determined my stomach was essentially eating itself.

Hunger had taken over and the Wu Tang album wasn’t helping the cause. The martial arts samples dubbed into the mix began to remind me of sweet & sour chicken and orange chicken and fried rice with little chunks of egg and…

When I entered back into the kitchen, I grabbed a slice of white bread in my fist and crammed it down my gullet in a matter of seconds. I proceeded to the front door.

Jeremiah turned the handle and we made our exit.

Curtains for the night.

We each walked out with a beer in our hands. Gary stood at the door shaking his head as we made our way down the front steps.

“This is the famous Budweiser beer—” I began.

“Jeez,” Gary interrupted, “Drive safe. And make that moron shut up.”

I opened the passenger’s side door of Jeremiah’s black Thunderbird and slid in. Jeremiah buckled his seatbelt, as did I.

“We are really going down the back roads, right?” I asked Jeremiah.

“Definitely. Not trying to roll into a road check this time of night. Lawson can. Kiss. My. Ass.”

“Country Road?”

“Country Road.”

“I’d say that’s a good call, our safest route.”

“And I would second that notion. You ready? Buckled up?”

“Yep. Ready to roll.”

I had ridden with Jeremiah numerous times when neither he nor I were sober so I trusted him behind the wheel. (Trusted him with my life you could say) The reasoning on my behalf had more to do with the fact that when you are wasted beyond belief anyone’s driving looks pretty good as long as you get to your destination in one piece. It was a youthful decision on both our accounts. Not very wise no matter how you slice it. “Young and dumb” isn’t a popular phrase without reason, and when you are that age, you believe yourself as well as your friends are invincible.

We knew no krypton, could not be taken down with an arrow in our Achilles heel. To boot, hardly anyone traveled down Country Road, particularly at this time of the night.

I pulled out my pack of Marlboros and lit one. Jeremiah followed, asking for a light. I lit it while he edged his way from Gary’s driveway. The outside light on Gary’s front porch turned off.

“And you’re sure you’re okay to drive?” I asked just to double-check.

I was beginning to wonder if this time maybe Jeremiah had had a little too much to drink. His body swayed as if he was without a spine or bones. Under the surface, a sense of worry had presented itself to me.

“Oh yeah, I’m good,” he answered matter-of-factly.

About a mile up the road, Jeremiah hit his left turn signal.

“We’re turning right,” I told him.

Jeremiah hit his right turn signal. “I knew that.”

Country Road was now in sight. The car inched its way closer to the turn. The two of us were laughing it up, babbling about what the night had done to us.

“I’ll tell you, that wine did a number on me this time,” Jeremiah said, his beady eyes glassy.

“That wine does a number on you every time. Did you drink one of those Bleeding Livers Gary mixed up? I think it sent me overboard into the deep. Not a good mix with Hurricane. I feel sick as shit.”

“Nah. Only some shots, some wine, and a few baa-rewskies. If I added anything else, I’d be spewing for sure and you’d be driving.”

“We wouldn’t be driving. We’d be sitting. I’m definitely not in the shape to drive.”

“True. I don’t see how you drink that malt liquor week in and week out. Shit.”

“Cheap buzz.”

Snoop Dogg interjected on the stereo, singing. Jeremiah turned up the volume and veered toward the turn.

The only problem with this was that we had not actually made it to the turn quite yet. We still had a ways to go, roughly one-hundred yards or so; and granted, though we were not flying down the highway by any means, we also were not giving the turtle a run for his money on who was the slowest specimen on the roadside this time of night.

Jeremiah looked in my direction still talking, a grin etched on his face. The cigarette hung out of his mouth and the smoke danced off the end toward the ceiling of the car.

We were driving through the gravel parking lot of a closed convenience store.

And I was fully aware we were driving through the gravel parking lot of a closed convenience store.

For some reason, what reason I couldn’t tell you then, couldn’t tell you now, I thought maybe Jeremiah had decided to stop and get a drink, get a little sugar in his system to caffeinate him properly for the thirty minute drive we were making toward home in Phenix.

That’s what I told myself at least.

As a hypoglycemic in my own right, I tend to keep a stash of foods pertinent to the glycemic index close by to hold me over when my blood sugar begins to plummet.

In an article by Charles Q. Choi, “Why Time Seems to Slow Down in Emergencies,” researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, discovered that an individual’s memory plays a certain kind of mind game and tricks us in emergency situations. The amygdala, an almond-shaped mass of gray matter, one in each hemisphere of the brain, is associated with feelings of fear and aggression and is important for visual learning and memory. When one’s nerves tense up and the sense of danger near, the amygdala lays down an additional deposit of memories that go along with the memories typically taken care of by other parts of the brain.

Therefore, individuals tend to remember emergencies much more keenly than normal circumstances. Our senses become, in a way, pronounced and our attention level expands and takes in the scenery and sounds and smells of the moment, among other things. I bring this up because when Jeremiah hit the turn signal and began trekking through the gravel parking lot of the store, reality is this: it happened instantaneously and within a matter of seconds.

I was fully conscious of the situation. It was as if time stood still, the pendulum paused in mid-air, and everything was taking place in slow motion; that Jeremiah had a beer still in between his legs just as I did should have hinted something out to me that perhaps, just perhaps, Jeremiah was not thirsty and not stopping for a Coca-Cola.

Having sensed what I sensed, I created a reasonable explanation to make sense of those senses and did not say anything to Jeremiah at first.

Jeremiah was laughing and so was I. I figured, screw it. He was in control. He has done this a million times before and I have been the passenger of those million times myself and we had always been okay, always gotten where we were going in one piece.

False alarm, I told my amygdala.

You’re totally overreacting Amy so calm the hell down.

Now I know, just as any resident of Charlotte County knows, that our African shaped county in south-central Virginia is pretty dag gone country. Some kids across the United States like to claim that their hometown or home county is small.

“All we have is a Wal-Mart and a KFC,” they say.

Well, that’s nothing.

There is not a single stoplight—not one—in all of Charlotte County.

And Wal-Mart?

Well, if you want to hit up Wally World and support sweatshop labor and American jobs being sent overseas by the thousands all for the sake of a low price, Wal-Mart is a good 45-minute-to-an-hour drive away depending on where you live in the county.

The truth of the matter is that the road we were supposed to take, even if it is called Country Road (quite literally), is paved; and the path we were currently traveling down was nothing but gray dust and rocks.

It wasn’t even a road.

It was the near half-acre parking lot of a store that closed at 8:00 PM Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Like I said, this all happened in a matter of seconds; and ten years ago the Baylor College of Medicine did not even exist to me nor did their study of “Why Time Seems to Slow Down in Emergencies.”

I could have given them that answer and saved some taxpayers’ money.

Conclusion: Time appears to slow down because your senses freak and your adrenaline begins to pump and you’re alert to the belief that you’re going to die and that you never accomplished anything in life and when my mom cleans out my room and starts to cry because I’m no longer here, she’s going to discover my porn stash and she’s going to think I’m a pervert but I’m not going to be able to explain to her that it’s completely natural for someone my age to be looking at porn; at least I’m not a Trekky I would say to her, at least I didn’t waste my life collecting stamps though I did collect matchbooks once and I’m really sorry about almost catching the house on fire. I could have told Baylor College that much.

But right now God had his finger on the pause button and I got to thinking, got to convincing myself that Jeremiah had taken a mini shortcut and was simply going to cut back through on to Country Road when we got to the end of the store parking lot.

We’ll get home one-hundred yards quicker, I told Amy Amygdala, so quit your stinking pestering. I got this. Jeremiah’s got this.

Then Ms. Amy Amygdala wagged her invisible index finger at me.

Should have listened to me, she said. I was trying to tell you something, trying to warn you. Now it’s too late.

Jeremiah wasn’t slowing down. It became very apparent to me and Amy Amygdala who kept saying, I told you so, I told you so, that Jeremiah had made a rather grave error. He thought we had already made it to the right turn on to Country Road and had no idea that this was not a road but a gravel parking lot.

Fuck. I’m going to die.

Stones bounced underneath the black Thunderbird, clanging against the oil pan. A cloud of dust trailed behind our car like the last scene in Thelma and Louise when the helicopter zooms overhead and the car jolts airily into the pit of the Grand Canyon, a photograph of the two friends turning and turning and falling like a feather from the sky.

Click to view Thelma and Louise – Ending Scene

[with a ditch line in front of them and cops behind them]
Thelma Dickerson: OK, then listen; let’s not get caught.
Louise Sawyer: What’re you talkin’ about?
Thelma Dickerson: Let’s keep goin’!
Louise Sawyer: What d’you mean?
Thelma Dickerson: …Go.
Thelma Dickerson: [Thelma nods ahead of them]
Louise Sawyer: You sure?
Thelma Dickerson: Yeah.

I reached for my seatbelt to double check it was securely fastened. The radio was blaring, the cigarette smoke dancing, and Jeremiah was singing:

Hey, now ya’ know
Inhale, exhale with my flow
One for the money, two for the…

And then I noticed a huge ditch line at the back of the parking lot that casually adjoined an embankment. I thought to myself, Oh shit!

I looked at Jeremiah and to let him know that we were about to go jetting through a ditch line at fifty-miles-per-hour, I said, “Jeremiah.”

Yes, I know. Something more immediate should have spilt from my lips. It probably was not the best first thing to say in order to aware someone that you are about to be involved in a car accident, but God had pressed the play button and we were no longer on pause. Time was moving at its normal pace. And then in fast forward. And “Jeremiah” was about all I had time to blurt out.

Jeremiah looked at me and said, “Wh—” and at that very moment before he got the “-at” out to end his reply, I think he honest-to-goodness realized he had put the turn signal on prematurely.

SLAM!

WHOP!

CRASH!

Just like the colorful callouts in the original Batman episodes with Adam West.

We collided with the ditch. The airbags deployed. We smashed into the hill that adjoined the stacked mound of grass and dirt. Hubcaps retreated. Our car crippled, we flung our metal carriage through the last ditch and then managed to land back on the road, Country Road, the same road we were supposed to be driving down in the first place.

“Are you okay, man? Are you okay,” I said to Jeremiah in panic.

A cloud of powder from the airbags circulated throughout the car. On the driver’s side floorboard a cigarette glowed orange.

My left arm had slammed against the windshield and slightly cut open my left elbow and scraped my forearm. My scar from the Gilliam shed window I had broken out as a kid began to bleed and a small amount of blood trickled down toward my wrist. The car was the scene of what looked to be a baby powder fight. The powder from the airbags was suffocating.

I was coughing.

Jeremiah was coughing.

And Snoop Dogg was singing, “It Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None).”

The airbags had chalked up both of our faces. If I had to throw out a combination of words as to what Jeremiah and I looked like when Jeremiah hit the interior light then I would have to say—and this is because of the airbag powder on our faces I may add—that we looked like drag queen circus clowns with a bad coke habit and a bad aim at putting the coke up our nostrils.

I felt like I should be panning for change outside of a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus act come to town. I felt like Jeremiah ought to be right beside me juggling with a monkey resting atop his shoulder—a white-fronted Capuchin monkey named Larry with an asparagus stalk dangling from his bottom lip. I’m sure some animal rights protester would object; but Jeremiah and I would tell them that Larry loves our traveling circus act; and then, without notice, Larry would poo in his hand and throw it at the protester and giggle…

The two of us stepped out of Jeremiah’s black Thunderbird, dazed. Jeremiah looked at me and said, apparently gazing in the direction of an imaginary car and not the one that stood before us, “You think we can make it home alright still?”

I thought airbag powder must have been clogging my ears.

The black Thunderbird, once a fierce machine on the Charlotte County highway, its-terrifying-to-spectators pink racing stripe down the side, though it had now been in a wreck, still had a believer in its capabilities. His name was Jeremiah and he had lost his damn mind.

Or at least banged his head against the steering wheel when we hit the ditch to jar his intellectual capabilities.

I cannot remember my exact words but I believe they were somewhere along the line of, “I think we should probably go back to Gary’s and call someone,” which was immediately followed by a sense of panic that the cops were going to come, tow Jeremiah’s car, and arrest Jeremiah for drinking and driving, reckless endangerment, and me for underage drinking.

The wreck had miraculously sobered me—at least mentally. I could have passed an Algebra II test at that moment and it took me three years in high school to pass an Algebra II test.

Then Jeremiah replies with something else I will never forget: “Nah, I’m good. I can make it home if we just go slow.”

It was a common reply on a trashy talk show like Ricki Lake or Jerry Springer for a guest to come back with, “Oh no you didn’t” and that is exactly what went through my head as if on cue from the producer of one of these trashy talk shows.

Jeremiah tried to plead his case. He tried to tell me that he was okay to drive and his car fine but my mind was made up. Driving back home was no longer a good idea, not an option for this passenger.

Jeremiah looked at the car, looked at me, breathed in the last of his cigarette, exhaled the smoke, and then flicked the butt into the road.

“You’re right. Maybe it isn’t such a good idea. Let’s go back to Gary’s.”

So, the two of us got back into the Thunderbird, buckled our seatbelts, and putted and bounced and hopped our way back to my cousin Gary’s house. It was like riding in a horse and carriage on a road made of seashells. My window was down and I could hear the hubcap on the passenger side attempting to fall off into the road and roll away into the tree line.

Please don’t let a cop pass us. Please don’t let a cop pass us.

My dad is going to kick my ass. My dad is going to kick my ass.

When we arrived at Gary’s minutes later, I called my sister, Jennifer, at my parent’s house. She was in from college for the weekend and most likely asleep and in bed. It was 2:45 AM, after all.

Naturally, since I prayed with all my heart for my sister to pick up the telephone and not my mom, my mom indeed answered the phone.

My mom sounded alert as ever.

She has a freakish ability to do this, no matter the time. Honestly, it is weird. She never sounds groggy and she was definitely asleep when the phone rang and probably had been since 8:00 PM.

I asked my mom to give my sister the phone because I needed to talk to her. I didn’t tell my sister what had happened—the wreck and all. I just made it clear that Jeremiah and I needed a ride home. My sister came and picked both of us up. The next day, Jeremiah had his car towed from Gary’s place. Granted, it isn’t until now that I ever considered what Gary must have thought when he woke up and looked out of his window, only to see Jeremiah’s car busted to pieces and us nowhere in sight.

I believe Jeremiah’s dad, Johnnie, was onto our “someone ran us out of the road” story, as was my dad; but I am not sure still to this day that Jeremiah’s mom, Maryann, or my mom, have the faintest idea of what happened that night. I would like to think Maryann figured it out eventually, but my mom has not a clue of the truth, nor will she ever because even if I let her read this one day, this part will be edited from her copy.

Censored.

Absentis.



A few days passed. Jeremiah’s car sat in the shop being looked over by a local grease monkey in Charlotte Court House. Upon final inspection, the garage gave Jeremiah’s residence a ring on the telephone to give the full report of the damage done. (Let us keep in mind again that night Jeremiah still wanted to drive home after the wreck)

What was the damage?

Two broken axles and the car was completely totaled.

The mechanic told Johnnie the car was caput and he would haul it to the junkyard for him. Johnnie asked to have the car towed back to their house first.

When the wrecker brought Jeremiah’s car back to his house a few days later, I met Jeremiah in his front yard. We inspected the black Thunderbird and attempted to take in fully all of what we saw: our invincibility tested, our lives salvaged.

The rims on the wheels were busted. Two wheels were sunken. Because of the broken axles and two flat tires, the car drooped to one side, slouched as if an elderly man with bad posture or scoliosis. That or somebody born with a short leg. I knew a kid like that once. The front windshield was a spider web of cracks (which is why, when driving back to Gary’s, Jeremiah navigated the road by poking his head out of the driver’s side window).

The two of us peered inside the car for a closer look. The black seats were covered in a haze of white powder from the airbags, which lay deflated over the steering wheel and in the passenger’s seat. The furious Ford appeared as if it had been used in the Battle of Kursk, July 1943.

The Red Army victorious!

In the distance of Belgorod smoked a faithful battering ram with a badge of honor now headed to an aluminum and alloy grave.

“I’m glad you told me not to drive home,” Jeremiah said, his eyes still fixed on the black Thunderbird.

“Yeah, me too. Say, why did your dad have the car towed back here?”

“I think he wants me to take it all in. My piss poor decision. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t buy the story.”

“My dad either.”