Saturday, June 23, 2007

Joanne, I am sorry I accused you of being spam.

I only thoughted you were Spam because I had just received, a mere ten minutes before your comment popped up, a long, psychotic, rambling comment about God, conspiracies, public health and medical experiments from some benighted soul in Brazil. At first glance I said to myself 'Self, this is more of the same'. But I was wrong. Wrong, wrong wrong.
So very wrong.
I'm also really embarrassed. I shoulda not been so quick on the 'post comment' trigger.

Joanne, you are not Spam, and you are always welcome here.
...and now, on to our main feature...

Things with The Dishrag went from pathetic to pathetic, deranged and violent in short order during the last month were lived together. The final straw came after I found out where he'd been spending all his time. I thought he'd been going to work, waiting tables for the dinner shift at a local nightclub, and closing the place out. Supposedly that explained the strange hours he was keeping.
After The Dishrag had gone missing for two days without a word, I happened to look out my kitchen window early one morning. There he was in the park across the street, dressed in the same clothes I'd seen him in last, minus shoes...filthy, staggering, obviously in some kind of an altered state and accompanied by several street people.


I arranged for a truck.

The next morning I was still running on pure adrenaline. I couldn't sleep and I couldn't eat a thing; I was so freaked out by having just a. found out that the person I'd been living with had been lying to me about having a job and was in fact an honest-to-snot druggie street freak, and b. performed the worlds' fastest bug-out.

It was in this state that I was sitting (vibrating, chainsmoking, talking nonstop) on the couch in my buddy Sonnyboy's place when a visitor arrived at the door. It was a friend of Sonnyboys, and she'd just been in a motorcycle accident. A laydown. And she'd been wearing shorts.

While she and Sonnyboy conversed I marvelled at her injuries. Basically, all the skin on the streetside leg had been grated away when the bike went into it's slide and used her as a brakepad...and the inside of the other leg had been burned all the way down the inside of the calf when it fell against the heatshield of the exhaust. I was amazed that she was still able to walk.
"Oh yes!" she grinned, and brushed at the peeled side. A piece of gravel fell to the floor. "They got out all they could at the emergency ward and they told me that over the next few weeks more would probably come out by itself, but I'll probably have gravel in there for the rest of my life" she explained cheerfully.

Well, she left. Sonnyboy and I sat and expressed our amazement.
Another knock sounded at the door.
It was Eldest Brother Meadows.
Sonnyboy practically drug him inside by the chest hair and threw him against the wall.
"I know you did that" he accused.

"Wow!", I marvelled, settling in to watch. I'd never seen Sonnyboy angry before. Not even irritated. This was way more entertaining than living with the Dishrag!

Eldest Brother cringed and whined. " Well, she wouldn't have anything to do with me after I'd taken her out and everything! I mean, I spent a lot of money on her!" He explained.

Sonnyboy and he puffed and blew at each other for a couple of seconds.

"You had no right to do that. She's got a kid! That was really stupid of you," Sonnyboy continued angrily. "And what are you doing over here? She doesn't want to see you! Did you expect her to change her mind or something? Does she know you had anything to do with her accident?"

I was getting lost.

" could she? But I thought maybe she'd be, you know, willing to give me another chance or, um..."

Oh yeah, I was lost. The timing was off, for one thing. Ms. Motorcycle Injury's big adventure had occurred the day before, while Eldest Brother, Sonnyboy and I were busy moving my stuff from my apartment. We'd been together for the entire day, from 6: am on until about 10:oo that evening. So how could he have...?

I asked Sonnyboy once Eldest Brother had left. "What did he do, fuck with her bike or something? Did a friend of his run her off the road? What?" I was fascinated. I'd partied with Eldest brother years before, while Sonnyboy and I were dating and 'violent' was not the impression I'd been left with then. Perma-fried, prone to hallucinations, needed to get out more, yeah... I mean, the guy was such a brown-rice hippie he humane trapped the mice in his kitchen.

"Have you ever read Journey to Ixtlan?" Sonnyboy replied calmly. Then he just sat there and gave me this smug little smile.
"Oh come on. Oh please."
Same expression.
" Do not fuck with me. You know what I've just been through."
Same expression.
"...Ok. You mean you really think he somehow mentally caused her to crash her motorcycle or something?" I was laughing. "Wooooo! Psychic planet waves! Please. I mean, come on. That guy?"

Sonnyboy just shook his head. "He can do things. That's all I'm saying."

Right then is when I should have run out, bought a copy of the paper and started looking for 'Roomates Wanted Milwaukie Area' . Sadly, I did not.
These people were NUTS. I couldn't wait to see what happened next.

And I did.
No place to live? Check. No expectations of earning any money? Check.
Time to throw a party for everyone you know!

Eldest Brother reached across and threw open the passengers side door of his pickup truck. I hesitated, because...well, it was Eldest Brother, after all, and I'd just learned that he had inexplicable psychic telekinetic motorcycle causing to have wreckingness powers.
-And he was ooky.

But there sitting next to him, greeting me with a big ol' goofy smile was his dog Laddie, wagging and happy to see me! What a good boy! Everyone knows, mean people don't own nice dogs, right?

Anyway I needed to get my money where the beer was at so I hopped in, made sure my shorts were covering everything, and off we went.

As we drove up the street Laddie stood up, turned around, put his ass in my face, slapped me with his tail a few times, then rearranged himself, knocked the rearview mirror off the windshield and clambered up into my lap so he could put his head out the window.
Having a lit cigarette, this was alarming.
Being a large dog, this was uncomfortable.
Being a large dog with intact testicles, this also meant that I got bapped in the side of the face with this dogs' giant hairy dick every time the truck hit a pothole.

I tried to push him away and he just sat down. Now I had a giant warm dog dick, two giant warm dog balls and a giant warm puckering dog asshole on the bare skin of my legs.
Then he started licking my face.
"I guess he likes you!" said Eldest Brother.
I had already suspected as much, in fact. When we got out of the truck, sure enough, Laddie was sporting a big ol' dog hardon.

He jumped up in the window and commenced barking while we walked away, his appendage blooping out in time with each "Arf!' like a pointy red cucumber. As we walked around in the store all the other customers kept looking out the windows going 'Jesus; whose dog is that?" I was trying to look like a cat person. Eldest was cracking up.

Because this was a small town there was no way I could sit in the box without us being pulled over. There was no way Laddie could ride back there because he'd jump out. So we all crammed into the front seat for the ride back. This time I threw an arm around Laddie's shoulders and held his collar with the other to make him stay in his own space. True, as he sat there and panted the cucumber kept poking out to say 'Hi!' but I kept ignoring it. At least it wasn't stuck to my leg.

As I was getting the beer out of the back of the truck I happened to look into the cab and there was Laddie, good boy Laddie, standing on the seat, slurping, wagging his tail.
At first I thought Eldest Brother had given him a treat and he was eating it.
But no.
No, Laddie was busy licking the seat. Where I'd been sitting.
I stared at this frozen in utter revulsion.
Eldest grinned back at me. "You know what they say..." he began.
" That your dog is fucking disgusting?" I replied.
" No." he smiled. " Like master, like dog."
And he drove away.

Kelvin was Eldest Brother's younger brother, one of the most messed-up people I have ever met and a testament to the psychological impact of environmental dysfunction. Yet even though he had more than enough material resources to work with he knowingly refused to better his lot, determined to remain a creepy, perverted loser dipshit.

Because he worked nights the only women Kelvin saw were exotic dancers and elderly truckstop waitresses. And none of them so far had been so desperate as to let him come close enough to touch anything, which explained by Kelvin spent so much time touching himself. Or maybe vicey voicey.
Anyway. He had a collection of porn that he kept locked in the trunk of his car# that he'd pull out and bring in if there was a gathering going on...his idea of appropriate. He'd pass out stacks of the stuff to everyone in the room, chortling like Scrooge McDuck doing the backstroke in his Money Bin, and people would sit and look at each other just completely incredulous at this guy's cluelessness.

He read these things until he wore the shine off the pages, cover to cover. One of the things that had caught his eye was a new invention that he was eager to ask someone about.
That someone was me. A few beers into it he finally stammered out " Do you like aftershave?"
I looked at him.
" I mean, not for you to wear, but for me to wear. Or for anyone to wear. Men, I mean. For men to wear. Do you think it smells good?"
I said yes.
" Ok, then so, have you ever heard of this new stuff called Andron?" he asked, and turned red up to the tips of his ears.

Oh yes, I'd heard of Andron, as had everyone in the room, and we all cracked up laughing. This stuff had recently been in the news, in fact, the supposed 'discovery' of a male pheromone that attracted women like bees to honey ! Women were powerless against it's allure! It made men IRRESISTIBLE! IT WAS SCIENCE!!

While we hooted and joked Kelvin heatedly argued in favor of this magic potion, until he became so angry that he gathered up all his porn and stomped out.
Turns out, Kelvin had already bought some.

It was 35.00 the bottle back then, and that was in 1970's dollars, so considering this guy was too Dutch to even pay for his own clothes it said something about his level of desperation.*
How did we know? Oh, we figured this out the next time he came strutting in wearing a brand new jacket.
" Take a look! It's leather! This was a hundred dollars! I call this my 'pussy gettin' jacket!" he announced.
The paint on the ceiling began to blister. In the distance, dogs began to howl.

He had soaked his brand new, 100$ jacket in Andron.

I mean, he had unscrewed the cap and dumped some in each pocket and squashed it around, poured some more in a line around the inside of the collar and the cuffs, and then sprayed the entire inside and outside surfaces with this stuff. You could see the oilstains it left.

He'd only taken one turn around the living room before everyone kicked him out. He went and sat in his car and sulked and read Penthouse by himself while the paint on all the body panels began to bubble and run.
And it? Anyone remember what Andron smelled like?
Andron smelled like lime soaked assfoot.
After an hour the lime wore off. Then the assfoot portion got sockier**. And the warmer it got, the bigger and sweatier and nastier and funkier those invisible, evil assfeet-socks got till you had toes all in your hair and the whole place smelled like an outhouse full of barefoot ass foot socks and your eyes were watering and you couldn't stop sneezing.

Perhaps that was the secret of Andron. It stupified its intended victims though lack of oxygen.

# why? to keep his father from stealing it.

*not to mention his poor thinking skills. the going price for street ass back in 1970's oregon was something like 20.00 and it's not like there was a shortage.

**You could not wash the shit out because it was an oil...and trying ruined the washer and dryer and everything in it then and for the next few loads. This shit was AMAZING. It was like skunk. And like skunk, the only way you could cut it was with vinegar and tomato juice. I had to run all my clothes through the washer twice with a full quart of Snap-E-Tom and Heinz cider vinegar together just to get the shit out, then hang it on the line.

Friday, June 22, 2007






...because I have MISSED you.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The girl in the chickenwire cage

When I was eleven my best friend was Kami. Looking back we must have been an odd pair...she was sunny and sweet and very, very straight, and I was Wednesday Addams in flowered bell bottoms.
Both of us were on the artistic side, though, and we were both profoundly angry little girls from two very different but very dysfunctional backgrounds. Our sixth-grade art projects reflected this: one was a riotous collage of unclad women and strategically placed flowers- Freud would have had convulsions!- and the other was a triptych depicting an Aztec priest removing the heart from a live victim with an obsidian knife and taking a bite out of it (guess which one was mine.) They had to put them both on display out in the hallway case because kids kept sneaking into our classroom to see them and disrupting classes.
This was us.
This was sixth grade.

Kami's family were straight out of a Jeff Foxworthy monologue. They had a picture of Jesus hanging on the wall that lit up when you plugged it in, didn't read and were all related to each other several times more than was usual even for Milwaukie. My first exposure to ecstatic religion came when I was invited to stay overnight and attend church with their family. One minute the congregation (mainly older, well-dressed people) were sitting quietly being lead in prayer, the next minute a sixty-year-old man was standing rigidly at attention, shuddering and shouting " KayANDA falala ragananda taraWARA! A WUNDA kerra shafiroonda! RegeVANDA wanolo darANDA!" at the top of his quavery old voice. At the end of his pronouncement he went completely rigid and fell over backwards like a caber into the arms of his family. We spent the next 45 minutes or so quietly praying for someone to be given a translation. During this time a few other people gave way to yips and exclamations and one was carried out vibrating from head to toe in some kind of ecstatic state.
It scared the crap outta me. It was also incredibly interesting to an eleven year old, lemme tell ya. I couldn't wait to go back. It certainly was more entertaining than watching Father Wachter, half asleep and fighting a hangover, startling like an infant when the altar boys rang the chimes during Consecration.

One weekend Kami and her sisters were teasing hard to visit their Aunt Margie's house. I was invited along, and everything was set, when Kami's mom said 'Now you know, Margie's daughter is retarded. Did you guys tell her that?"
Yes, I'd been told. Anyway, hell, Kami's oldest sister had Downs' syndrome. I was used to her. Beside her, my only other experience of special kids included the ones in the mainstreaming program at school.
I was not prepared in any way for Margie' daughter.

Margie lived with her husband and daughter in a small house at the bottom of Stanley hill...roses in the yard, curtains in the window, a house I had passed hundreds of times in my life.
The three of us girls rode our bikes into the driveway and knocked on the door.
Susan and Kami were grinning. 'It'll take her a couple of minutes to get to the door" she giggled.

Inside the noises were rather alarming. Thumping, chairs falling over, a heavy table being pushed across the floor. Cans falling from shelves. "I'll be there in a minute!" a woman called.
A screen door slammed. Metallic scraping noises. Thumping on the floor and the walls, as if someone heavy were running laps in their bare feet. A scream of some kind, almost like a tropical bird. "Now you be quiet!" the woman said again.
More slamming and thumping.

Heavy breathing and coughing came closer to the door. The floorboards under our feet flexed and I looked down in surprise while Kami and her sisters giggled into their hands.

The woman who opened the door was the fattest human being I had ever seen up until that point in my life.
" Well hi!" She smiled cheerfully. "You're Kami and Susan's friend, huh? Come on in!" she said, turning away.
Her turning away was a motion like a huge container vessel at dock slowly moving against it's mooring lines as smaller ships pass near it's hull. Nothing happened quickly but flowed in a smooth, huge progression of waves and troughs. Her first step started at her shoulder and moved down across her fat like shifting grain, until her impossibly small child's foot lifted from the floor and moved forward under the impetus of all that momentum. That foot landed with a creaking sound, raising the flooring... planks glued with linoleum so ancient that it had torn along the lines of the floorboards and looked like separate stripes of pattern. The next step had already begun at the opposite shoulder while the first pink foot was still in midair, so that when it came to rest the motion merely continued to flow tidally across the enormous lobes of fat. Her midsection came around halfway to greet me-carried her starboard side arm around in its wake, and back, and then the next little foot met the floor and raised the planking.
I let Kami and Susan go ahead of me so I could watch.

Margie sat down in a chair at a round oak kitchen table. This occurred in a series of amazing, practiced heaves, lifts, grunts and shifts in exactly the same way a sea lion moves, all shoulders, and the entire bulk of her settled into a new shape.
I was absolutely enthralled.

I had for this entire time completely forgotten to be embarrassed and appalled, but now as she greeted her nieces that all returned as I pretended not to look at her.

She was dressed in a flowered sheet with a hole torn in the center of it for her head. There was a pink chenille robe over that which settled across her shoulders and back like a bolero jacket. Her hair was a fluffy grey-blonde cap, on top of a head with a face tilted perpetually towards the sky so that she looked somewhat down her nose to see you. Her face was held in this position by a perfect 'C'-shaped wreath of fat. A crease began at one temple, circled just under her chin like a soldiers helmet band and ended at the other temple. From that her chins went down the front of her in perfectly graduated masses, widening each time until they completely encircled her at the equator. You ended with a very unusual impression of a small woman whose skin had been inflated from the ears down and was now dangling from this mountain of fat by her chin and drifting about inside it.

Something smashed loudly into the door behind me and I turned to get my first glimpse of Virginia.

It was quite a close view, in fact. Virginia's face was only several inches away from mine, and her fingers were reaching out for my hair.

The door behind me was a structure that filled the entire archway between the kitchen we sat in and the front room of the house. It was made of wood reinforced with metal gussets at the angles and was screened with chickenwire on both sides. The chickenwire was stretched to its limits and bulged out from it's moorings. The whole thing was locked shut with a huge hook and eye screwed into the wood frame of the archway, and both of these pieces of hardware were bent. The hook was almost straight and it's shank had a distinct curve. the eye was shaped like an egg. Old scars in the woodwork showed how many times it had been replaced.

The hand pressed against the chickenwire and never noticed the barrier. The wire skreeked against the staples.
"She likes your hair" said Kami. And just then Virginia caught hold of a handful and drew me towards her all in the same motion. It all happened so smoothly and so quickly it never occurred to me to resist; by the time it did my head was pulled against the chickenwire and Virginia had my ponytail in her mouth.

All three of them, Margie, Kami and Susan, gathered around me, speaking to to Virginia, pushing her back from the door, and untangling my hair from the chickenwire and from Virginia's fingers. Still, she'd come away with a nice lock of it, which she kept wrapping around her finger and sucking on as she looked at me out of the sides of her eyes.
The next time I saw an expression like this was on a woman suffering from extreme cocaine psychosis... her gaze shifting and glassy, unable to hold a point. Virginia looked like that, if healthier, and that gaze returned to me again and again and again like a record skipping.

I'd had a good view of the room Virginia lived in while I was hanging backwards and upside down from it's door.

All the windows were shut and wood screws fastened them into their tracks. The whole frame was covered in barriers made with angle iron and more chickenwire, tripled over to keep her from stretching it, tearing down the curtains and breaking the glass.
The front door was nailed shut with boards applied all around it's perimeter and screwed into the frame and the floor. The window was boarded over, the handset removed and that gap also covered with wood and nails.

Once everyone was seated again the visit resumed. I scooted my chair around a little closer to Aunt Margie and she laughed and patted me with the smallest little princess hand I had ever seen on a grown person. We all put our hands out and compared them on the table and laughed.

In the background Virginia circled and talked to herself. Occasionally she growled, a genuine canine growl like a dog at the fence, with her face pressed into the chickenwire behind me, making it bulge into the room. Occasionally she would call 'See you later, alligator!"
Mainly she rambled around the room, playing with her toys, scratching her nethers and smelling her fingers. She jumped on her bed and growled. Every now and then she'd take a running leap at the door and bounce off it a few times. Once she jumped at it and landed clinging to the wire a couple of feet off the ground. As she clambered higher her mother reached for a broom and shoved the bristly end at her. "If you don't get down I'm gonna tickle you!" she said. " You want to be tickled? I'll tickle your tummy!"
Virginia crowed and dropped off the screen onto the floor, making 'tickly fingers' through the wire at her mother while her mother smiled and said' Good girl!"

We were sent outside while Virginia ate her dinner. This involved Margie going into the room, closing and locking the door behind her and then literally wrestling Virginia best two falls out of three until Virginia was tired out, when she was put into an adult highchair and fed with a spoon. I know because we watched through the windows. It was amazing. This huge woman fighting this burly, hair covered 32 year old woman, and I mean a real athletic workout, too, since Virginia had the muscle development of a man her age. It was something. And never a voice was raised, no tears were shed, and gradually Virginia got tired out. Finally Margie was able to keep Virginia seated in her eating chair long enough to fasten the feeding tray across her arms and Virginia went limp and compliant and opened her mouth to be fed each spoonful like a baby bird. Margerie sang to her while she spooned in the chow, 'la la, there we go, pop goes the weasel" just as anyone would sing-talk to a small child at mealtime. This one had an appetite like a horse. We were outside for a long time.

There was no wallboard left in the kitchen from years before when Virginia had torn it all off, so the spacers between the exposed wall studs were used as shelving for canned goods and what have you. There was one light high, high up in the center of the kitchen ceiling, and this had to do...all the electrical outlets had been boarded over and the only lightswitch was behind a locked door.

The story I got afterwards was that Virginia had become uncontrollable quite young, and that all their money had gone towards keeping Virginia in different institutions. They still owed huge bills all these years later. Virginia had been abused in several of these places, which explained why she fought at mealtimes, and after the last one had returned her so badly injured that she'd had to be hospitalized her father had modified their entire home and built the caged-in room for her.

I never smelled a thing in this house apart from the Comet cleanser under the sink that you smelled in everyones' house back in those days. I recall that clearly. The place was clean. I recall that too. Virginia was clean and combed and dressed and healthy. Mom was clearly up to the challenge and seemed to accept it head on, without anger.

The father I saw only briefly as he came home from working third shift at a plywood mill and went upstairs to sleep. Anyone familiar with mills knows how brutal that kind of work is, and back in the early Seventies it was far, far worse. He was deaf from the whine of the saws. He'd been working there for 30 years.
30 years in a sawmill is something I cannot imagine. Ten years can kill you. My father only lasted three years and came out with partial hearing loss then- and whatever else he was, 'weak' wasn't included on the list.

I never told my parents.

I can't begin to tell you how many times I have turned this over in my mind and examined every detail. And I've always wondered what became of that family, and what became of Virginia. She must have outlasted both of them.
She could still be alive somewhere. I bet she can still wrestle her weight class, too.