Friday, September 12, 2008

Nutty people

Up until recently, my cousin-by-adoption M. Antony was the most gorgeous man I'd ever laid eyes on. How this happened was a miracle of random genetics because everyone else on his side of the family was butt ugly; all bones and knuckles and pocked with the most heinous shotgun collection of acne scars I have ever seen. M. Antony, in sharp contrast, was glorious....when I was younger I simply could not look at the guy because I'd blush so hard my hands would tingle. Think of a young Peter Frampton, only darker, somewhat more butch and really, really stoned looking and you have M. Antony.

Of course he married a raving nutcase.

At first, Kathee was a lot of fun. I really liked her and we were friends. She was from Florida and came from money; her accent was so thick you could spread it like marmalade. She was a pretty girl. She joked and gave her husband a hard time, and I was (extremely jealous) happy for him. The times we went out and partied together she was just as salty as the guys and could drink us all under the table.

And then she met JuHEEEEzuz.

Not Jesus, mind you. I'm pretty sure the guy she met was a thought emanation shed by Charles Manson, dressed in a bathrobe. It sure wasn't Mary's little boy. This guy was MEAN.

Overnight-literally- Kathee went from being a cheerful, fun, joking person to being a strangely rigid, completely literal tool of righteousness. I never saw her smile again. Not once. Suddenly her internal monologue simply disappeared. Totally gone. If she thought it she said it, and what she said was often thoughtless, cruel and horribly inappropriate...with absolutely no human malice powering it whatsoever.

Her kids became haunted looking little wraiths who never spoke and never looked an adult in the eye. She took to switching them or smacking them on the leg whenever they came within arms reach; ostensibly to 'beat the devil out of them', like a dose of preventative medicine. My cousin M. Antony, in the course of less than a year, went from being a handsome, healthy young man to a pot bellied, slouch shouldered furtive old man who mumbled and shuffled and pretended to fall asleep so nobody could hold him accountable for his wifes' behavior.

Kathee became wide and stumpy and took to wearing gingham dresses. She would help herself to whatever was at hand; go through cabinets, look in drawers, wander into the bathroom while you were busy and use the mirror (I've done a post mentioning one episode here:, casually ask to borrow a tampon while everyone was seated eating dinner, things like that. Now that last is tacky enough given an average social situation; imagine it happening during Thanksgiving dinner seated at a table full of Kelly green Catholics in full-on denial that people even had parts, let alone parts that needed tampons, and there you have the makings of a truly memorable holiday get-together.

Weirdly enough, my mom, Jesus' little sunbeam, hated the woman. Absolutely HATED her.

Years later I found out the reason. Kathee'd matter of factly informed my mom that the Pope was the Antichrist and that she was going to hell for acknowledging him as Jesus' appointed successor. "And here she's still a stinkin' Baptist married to a Catholic boy," my mom sniffed. "You oughta see the churches they got, talk about swanky." Church swankiness was a sore issue with my mom, as were wives who did not submit to their husbands (she kept hers well pickled in Canadian Mist; it did make him a lot easier to submit to.)

Still, the fact that everyone overlooked for whatever reason was that Kathee was STARK RAVING BATSHIT NUTS. Heaven only knows what she's like now; let alone her poor children. Let alone my poor cousin, if he's still alive; because if someone could run a person into an early grave it was that broad. Imagine riding in a car with this woman listening to the news on the radio and suddenly she pipes up with something like 'well you know they're going to hell for eternity because Mormons are pagans who worship a gold idol' or 'sodomites are all dying of the AIDS plague and I for one see it as the coming of the end of days; it's Gods' judgment on them for their sin and on us for allowing that sin' and other well-informed, thoughtful pronouncements like that and you can well imagine the wacky fun that even a quick trip to the supermarket could be. Again, there was no hostility in these remarks, not even that nasty little superior smirky thing that too many convicted religious do; it was just some strange joyless, blank thing that came echoing up from someplace. Kathee was gone.

I have spent my entire life living next door to nutty people. Or with them. From the time I was 18 on I went through a succession of apartments and directly adjacent to every one lived someone with rabid weasels scrambling around in between their ears and a bald cat up their ass tuned to Radio Free Mars.

Always a screamer.

No matter what their particular flavor of brain drip, they always took to screaming at some point in the proceedings. Ordinary people can cut loose a racket when properly provoked; you lose a limb suddenly, a meteorite falls down the front of your pants, your average person will protest loudly. Nutty people simply haul back and let fly from the pancreas, apropos of Jack Shit. I never even knew human people could make noises like the noises I heard come out of some of these folks. And the provocation in their case was imaginary! Whatever lives in the human subconscious, whatever drives these folks to scream, is something so Lovecraftian that I'm really GLAD they have shit like Thorazine. If I was nutty I'd be chucking that shit down like peanuts at the circus. Screw these emo morons who romanticise insanity. There's nothing romantic about screaming gibberish at the moon and clawing bloody gouges down your face until you have to be hauled off in leather restraints so you don't blind yourself. I lived next door to that person; and that person was taken off; I stood out on the corner on 9Th and Pine and I could hear them screaming from inside the ambulance all the way to the river, huge suffering superhuman roars that echoed off the buildings.

Another variety of screamer is the ranter. Now a ranter will start off talking. Not always coherently, but there will be words. But at some point in the proceedings the diatribe will turn into rhythmic, singsong, increasingly loud proclamations until suddenly one word comes tearing up out of their throat like a top fuel dragster, right into the wall, flying apart, trailing flames. It seems like a sheer need to be heard, almost. The volume is astounding, and yet it's just wind and muscle driving it, over and over again like a maniac siren. I've lived near a lot of these people. We lived next door to one when my daughter was growing up. I live next door to one now, in fact.

Years ago I was living in downtown Portland and since I was on the third floor of a building I didn't always feel like calling the elevator and dicking around with that, so instead of night walking a lot of the time I just opened a window and sat out on the sill. I had a wonderful view straight down 5Th avenue, and although I was too close to street level to really get the whole effect of the lights and cityscape thing, still, it was nice. One night I was perched there out my front room window, having a bottle of beer and a smoke, when I heard someone yelling far off downtown. Nothing unusual in that at all; shit, it was Portland. Even though it was Sunday night, crazy knows no sabbath, right?

As I sat there and smoked I could heart the voice come closer; someone was walking slowly up from Burnside, someone calling at the top of their lungs in a long, drawn out singsong, 'Heeeeeeeeeeelp........heeeeeeeeelp me......." like that. Like a lost soul. Not crying, not in pain, not drunk or slurring, just...' Heeeeeeeeeeeelp meeeeeeeee....helllllllllllllllllp meeeeeeeeeee' over and over again. "Oh God...God heeeeeeeeeeeeelp meeeeeeee....'
I will never forget that. Sunday night, the whole town is silent, not a car in sight, not a bus going by, the only headlights moving across the river on I-5 and very few of them at that hour, and this lone voice chanting 'help me' in the night. I must have sat there for a couple of hours, lighting one cigarette off the ember of the next and listening to this person slowly walk up the hill and then pass some blocks up from my street until their voice finally disappeared into the distance as they crossed South Slope.

I feel strange to this day remembering that I even had a reaction to it. It was someone elses' private drama and I didn't have anything to do with it; but there I was awake, and there this person was, chasing something through town. It was like overhearing odd unexpected music from a passing car. It was like being all alone in a church and then gradually becoming aware of someone saying their rosary fervidly someplace far behind you. It was like the first time I ever came around a bend in the road up alone in the hills and found a bobcat staring at me.

About a year later I was out walking one night in the lower numbers down on the East side of the river, in around the old Victorian residences and the remains of Mission bungalow neighborhoods all surrounded by autobody shops and warehouses. The sidewalk was broken and you had to watch your step; it was grown up in rank tufts of Johnson grass, and overgrown rhododendron reached out from the yards you passed. I came around the bow of one and found myself standing in front of an old, long, low Mission house with a deep porch and concrete steps leading up from the sidewalk. I stopped and lit a smoke to have something to do while I admired the place and wished that I lived there, and as I stood there I became aware of a person standing up on the porch. I almost apologized but I kept my mouth shut because something didn't feel just right, so I stood there and looked around for awhile, not quite knowing what to do all of a sudden, not wanting to look suspicious and probably looking suspicious as hell.

Meanwhile the person simply stood, somewhat back from the porch railing, near a window through which you could see a black and white television playing, and it was the light from this that revealed him there. An old, old man, older than Ramses III, thin to the point of starvation, standing very, very still. Intensity radiated off this man like heat. His face was like an oxyacetylene flame. He stood there in absolute silence, absolutely motionless, ramrod straight. Looking out into the distance, out toward the horizon, through where the huge rhododendron grew and obscured the view completely.

I started walking away. He never glanced in my direction. As I walked off I turned around several times to check but no, he was real, he was alive, and he was still there. Rigid as stone. Looking intently off into the distance, looking into the complete darkness of the leaves and shadows, just standing there in the dark. I can still see that so plain.


  1. Beautiful, I did have a cynical moment regarding the person crying "help meeeee". You don't suppose it was a psych major making a little study at the time? I know Berkley was big on that kind of think but Portland?

  2. retro: you know i did wonder that. what i decided was that it was real because they'd started in down on Burnside and no college student was going to be stupid enough to hang around burnside at 2am. but yeah, i lived up on Hall st. right on the campus there, so I filled out a lot of questionnaires and answered a lot of cryptic questions for psych students!

  3. Sounds very much as is Kathee is suffering from some form of dementia. There's so much evil in the world and most of it comes from religion.

  4. I hope I never get like that, and wonder what is going on inside of people's heads (but don't really want to know firsthand)

  5. Poor Kathee , I wonder what it was like for her when everything suddenly changed , thats just frightening .
    I wonder what the old man was staring at could it be Beasts Glove puppet rhododendron Theatre Show
    ****gesticulates with glove puppet***

  6. Poor cousin I say, and ranters, they froth at the mouth too. It starts with just a bit in the corner and then builds up to the full froth and spit spectacular. Himself's ex is a frothing ranter - I love watching.

  7. Anonymous8:10 PM

    leave it to beast to try and lighten the mood. lord love him.

    i don't exactly think it's religion that evil comes from, but people's twisted views of it.

    it's nice to know that someone else's family is weirder than mine. i swear, the older my family gets, the stranger they become. makes it very dangerous to even consider bringing a child into that gene pool.

  8. really don't want to be offensive here, but that's probably why we better off marry younger. Before we see the damage. Then we'll have a chance to reconsider with the second one. or not.

  9. If I met Kathee, I'd have a near-irresistible urge to parp one of her breasts like a car horn. Nothing sexual, you understand. Just to see what her reaction might be.

  10. "An old, old man, older than Ramses III"...

    Older than Old Knudsen?

    By the way, that's not a glove puppet Beast is gesticulating with.

  11. trees: so are you X!

    malc: religion was just the costume. it was like she vacated the premises and left a record playing or something. scared the living crap out of me.

    joe: me either. living right on the edge of it with clinical depression is close enough, thanks.

    beast: i KNEW you'd be mixed up in it somehow dammit. quit annoying the rhodies and put that over mitt away you bad thing.

    ziggi! thats a scream! that has to be so gratifying to watch...I love it! the best ive ever run into is a rage-stammerer. like watching Porky Pig trying to order off a chinese menu.

    pink: religion had nothing to do with it, really; it could have just as easily been something else...i always wondered if she was still alive in there someplace or what happened to her. and you know damn good and well that we're distant cousins anyway, homeslice. don't try and play it off.

    trees: truthfully i think you're onto something there. i really do. natures way of tricking us into reproducing is making that particular drive start revving around age 13 or so, before we have a damn clue.

    footman: it'd scare you to death, tim. NOTHING WHATSOEVER. i guarantee it. everyone else would blip into instant denial and pretend they didn't see it, and she'd just calmly inform you that you were inhabited by a demon of lust and she'd pray for you. if that.

    mj: yes, older than knudson by 3 years and 1 month. i asked. JUST IGNORE BEAST HE ONLY DOES THAT FOR THE ATTENTION. although it does keep the whitefly off my rhodies.

  12. wow....

    *stands a bit confused, but still standing*

  13. Speaking of nuts, Stephen Neal got into a “Who Has More Testicles” contest with Lance Armstrong … and won by five.

  14. i wonder how we'll be written or spoken about in 30 years...ok, i know...raving hopped up frothy old hippy mutafuckas...but with style & grace! xoxoxo

  15. voices: too many lesbians, not enough white cotton bra to go around.

    champ: might i suggest the Riggs brand Workwear gusset jean, with 'diamond gusset' technology for a relaxed fit and wider range of motion? because thats a whole bag of potential problems you got there. get it? get it? huh? bag of pro


    savannah: you have LOADS of style and grace! me, i have a rockin' hat.

  16. After doing some online research, I've ordered my first electronic cigarette kit at VistaVapors.