Monday, February 25, 2013

'The Blind Alley - A Doc Spender Private Eye Novel', Chapter Two: The Best Laid Plans Sometimes Wake Up Unsatisfied

Me and some swanky dame with gams that go all the way to the ground? Yeah, hard to believe, considering my recent run of bad luck with the ladies. I'd been striking out more than Mantle with a martini hangover, so this was a thin slice of Heaven and, for once, I was feeling like the cock of the walk. As we strolled into Harry's gin joint, I smiled a little, while listening to the old fat men's necks crack as they turned to stare at a rare beauty, marveling that she'd waste her time in this dive and with a bum like me, no less. Yeah, it was nice. 
We went to the bar and, after I'd sized up a suitable vantage point, we took our seats. She wasted no time in ordering up a double bourbon and a beer. My kinda gal. 
Me? I ordered up a triple glance around the room, eyes out for Joey Bags and his too happy trigger finger; for the moment, he was nowhere to be seen. He must have noted our grand entrance and chosen to scurry back into one of the cracks where the rest of this dive's roaches hide. 
Seeing that the the coast was, for a moment, free and clear of the more dangerous scumbags, I decided to relax and asked Harry, the barkeep, for a shot of cheap scotch. I wasn't sure what Harry was celebrating but he poured out a double and smiled as he said "on the house, Jonny". I tipped a couple of bucks. So far, it was still a good night.

It was then when I thought to myself, 'nights are long, pal and have this peculiar way of steering you down blind alleys and, if you aren't savvy, an untimely demise'. I'd seen it happen to quite a few so-called hard-boiled gumshoes. I wasn't about to join the list at such a tender young age. I was too pretty to die and, besides that, there was bottle of single-malt with a 12th birthday I planned on attending. I'd keep my eyes wide and my senses sharp. Who knew when a mooch like Joey Bags might show his ugly mug and an even uglier .38? I had decided not to die, even if this did feel like a little slice of heaven.
"Not tonight, Reaper" I whispered to myself... or so I thought.
"Come again, Mr. Spender? I didn't quite hear you."
I smiled at the swanky readhead, perched primly on the stool next to mine and said "Just thinking aloud, Miss Liles". Ordering another scotch as a nightcap, I turned around so as to keep my back to the bar and my eyes on the room. The gorgeous redhead, seemingly frustrated by my silence, spoke in a tone dripping with sarcasm. "Poring over all of the 'clues you've uncovered, Mr. Spender? Isn't that what you big, bad private eyes do? Solve the crime and brag about your exploits? Honesly, you offer me so little information for my money that I have to ask if you really ARE a licensed private detective or just a slimy con-man who's taking me for a dull-witted sap, Spender. The truth! Do you have plan for solving this case." She stared at me, her once kind eyes and sweet smile now set into a hard grimace as she sat questioning my character and expecting the worst

After a few moments of silence, she continued her interrogation, asking once again "Do you HAVE a plan for solving this case, Mr.Spender?" It was then that I returned her stare and gave the only answer that I had to give. "Laura, my plan for the moment is to keep me alive which, in turn helps me keep you alive and then, if we're really lucky, I'll find out who's trying to screw with such a crafty, carefully thought-out plan." 
Her features, so lovely as she smiled but harsh when set in rage, hardened as the words hissed through her clenched teeth: "You had better do just that, you arrogant bastard." 

I replied with what I hoped was a nice mix of cool and sarcasm, "Sister, if it fucking fails, you'll be the first to know."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Jake and Lilah, An Excerpt, Part Four - Lilah Gets Pissed

"Godammit, Jake, it's not my fucking fault that you can't cry. You come in here every night and tell stories, make me laugh out loud and then you dump a bucket of bullshit on me about how hard life is without giving me one single solution about how to make it better. I don't get you, Jake and I don't get why you picked me to pour your life into but if you can't make your own life better, after all you've learned, how the hell am I supposed to learn from you? You're a bullshit artist, Jake. You're nothing but an actor in your own goddamned play and all I can think is that you want me to be some kind of fucking ingenue, a protege that you somehow mentor into a shining star because that's how this shitty story goes, isn't it? Poor, bewildered waitress meets kind stranger who helps her pave a path to glory? Is that the payoff for you Jake? Guess what, asshole? I make my own way. Always have and always will. Fuck you and your fucking play. I quit." 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Jake and Lilah, An Excerpt, Part Three

Lila's eyed dropped. She didn't look at him once as she spoke.
"Jake? Why do you come here, night after night and sit alone? You sit at the same table, nurse three shots of whiskey and never talk to anyone but me. Don't you have anyone, anything that matters to you outside of this crappy-assed joint? Is this the only life you know? Where the hell are you going with your life?" She lifted her head and looked him squarely in the eyes as she waited for a reply.
Jake returned her gaze, smiled and then chuckled softly before saying "Girl, a very long time ago, I came to the realization that a drowning man needs more than a lifeline. He needs to learn how to swim and be strong enough that he can make it to shore. Let him figure out that he can let go of that lifeline and flail about until you throw it again and he'll keep on doing that until he finally goes under for the last time. I learned how to swim, Lila. It don't matter a lick where the tides take me, I just keep swimmin' until I get to the shore. At the moment, I'm on this beach and I'll stay here until the next high tide rolls in and takes me elsewhere. Now, how's that for an answer?"
Lila's expression softened and she said "Don't you feel lonely?"
He smiled again, but with a slight hint of sadness in his eyes.
"Every single day, Lila. Every damned day."

Monday, May 21, 2012

The "Model" - A Modern Nightmare In Real Time.

I am the first to admit that there's a soft spot in my heart for the truly homeless. Some of the souls I encounter are very lost and utterly detached from reality; wandering from place to place without direction, not knowing where they are or even caring about such matters. Some are, frankly, quite dangerous and I tend to avoid the loud talking, swearing, balled-fist types who hang around the corner store. Others are very, very passive, talking only to themselves unless one attempts to fully engage them and seldom do they reply with more than a few babbled words. It is the babbled words I pay attention to because, sometimes, you can hear the sane and rational human being who lives inside the shattered body crying for a little help.

After yesterday's epic bike ride, I stopped by Knucklehead's Too for a cold beer and a chat with the owner, Al. After letting him know that a very good rock band, currently on tour, would be stopping into his place for dinner before hitting the stage at a downtown venue (I am fortunate enough to be a friend of the band's leader) I engaged in conversation with an older gentleman from Tulsa and a youngish biker from Ohio who was in town for Mayfest. We were waxing rhapsodic about classic rock and classic country (the young biker had journeyed here specifically to see current Austin sensation, Hayes Carll) when I felt this force of nature crash into the barstool next to mine. My own fists balled up as I expected the worst but, instead of a drunken redneck or biker, it was a Hispanic woman of indeterminate age (she could have been any age from 25-45... I will never know).

I assumed that she was inebriated and on a cell phone, oblivious to her rude entrance into my tiny orbit but, as I listened a bit, I realized that she was neither drunk or inebriated. She was, sadly, quite schizophrenic, utterly manic and speaking to people that only she could see. I began to study her, slowly at first, as she asked Al for a beer. She didn't have enough money to pay for it - or, perhaps she did - so, I put a dollar on the counter and then engaged her in a kind of conversation. I told her that she was very pretty and had a beautiful smile (they were likely quite beautiful at one time) and this pleased her... God knows when she last heard a genuine compliment. She told me that she had "modeled" in the building where Al's joint is and in truth she had - when it was nothing more than a neighborhood strip joint. In her mind it had been a glamorous modeling job for handsome, wealthy men who lavished her with cash and marriage proposals which, she of course, refused. Her "freedom and independence were all that mattered", she said, before slipping back into conversation with absent friends. She finally asked for a cigarette, which I provided. She took two drags before stubbing it out rather violently, as she suddenly found herself in the midst of a heated argument with someone only she could see and hear.

I urged her to calm down, letting her know that the bastard wasn't worth the anger she was spewing! He was a cad, a bad man who couldn't see her true inner beauty. I knew that he was nothing more than a ghost from her distant past, but she did calm down. Next, she asked to use my phone to call her kids. I was silly enough to think that she was having a moment of lucidity but quickly saw that she was doing nothing more than typing in a random string of numbers, never once hitting the send button and talking only to those who never answered, except in her imagination. She was, nonetheless, convinced that her "kids" were just fine and she could stay out a bit longer. It was about then that she kicked off her flip-flops and drew her right leg up on to the bar stool. In that moment her true nightmare was revealed.

Her feet were filthy, wrecked and wretched, the soles black with dirt from wearing the only pair of shoes she owned - the flip flops. Sadly, there was much more to the story they told. Having spent an inordinate amount of time among junkies, it was easy for me to see that she was a heroin addict. The blackness on her badly cracked feet came from dirt but it also came from the extraordinary number of collapsed veins, wrecked as they were from countless injections. The network of collapsed veins extended up from her foot and ankles to her calf and knee. It was a brutally ugly sight and not one I will forget. I am sure that she was once a very proud and beautiful girl, one who wouldn't want anyone to know she was using, so she injected smack into her feet, which works quite well as long as the veins hold up. It's a wonderful way to hide your addiction and "modeling" boots hide it nicely.

In that moment, I knew her life story... or, most of it. I had no doubt that she had been sexually abused, perhaps by her father. She grew up to be a stripper and a prostitute, suffering further abuse and turning to drugs to ease the pain of a life gone very wrong. I had tears in my eyes that only Al could see and he was kind enough to cover for me, asking if I could go out on the patio and collect some empties.

Once again inside and seated, I asked where she lived and she replied, in one long, manic burst, that she lived in Owasso... also, Skiatook... and mostly in Sand Springs. She then went to the ladies' room, her beer practically untouched.

While she was gone, the two gents I'd been speaking with earlier began a very ugly conversation with me, advising me to "hit that sweet ass". Neither had paid a whit of attention to anything I had said to the girl; they assumed that I was making a deal with a "whore" and said that if I was short on cash, they'd be glad to help me out. I kept my temper in check, even when the older man said "D'ya mind if I work her a little bit?"

That was the last straw.
When she came back, I asked her where she needed to go and, without hesitating, she said "31st & Memorial." Only a city block over from the bar, I hustled her out and into my truck before things got uglier and drove towards the intersection. "Which way on Memorial?" I asked and she replied "North".

This is her vision of herself.
I hope that she sees
herself this way until she
goes to Heaven
Easy enough, so I did just that and then waited for further instruction which didn't come until we were at the intersection of 21st & Memorial. I asked her where, exactly, she needed to be and she told me that I should have made a right turn into the shopping center.

"The right turn into the shopping center at 31st & Memorial?"

"Yes, babe."

"You didn't tell me that until now."

"Sorry, babe."

"Don't call me babe. I hate that word."

"Sorry, babe."

The loud sigh that escaped me must have been taken by her as some kind of warning. She went quiet and didn't speak again until we pulled into the shopping center parking lot and I asked her where to stop. She pointed out a nearby beer joint and when I pulled up in front, she asked me to come inside. I refused, stating that not only did I have a girlfriend but that I was expecting her at my apartment in 20 minutes. It was then that she grabbed the front hem of her blouse and pulled it up to her face, showing a set of breasts that some long ago Prince Charming had purchased for her, likely promising her a huge career in "modeling". In broad daylight, her waxy skin was apparent, her smile was gone and her flat, dead eyes, combined with the desperate measure she took to keep me with her finally broke my heart into pieces. I could see inside her the gorgeous, proud young woman who was so filled with hope and promise, ready to take on the world and having so miserably failed, withdrawn into a world where she was still that beautiful young woman, a world where abuse could happen but she would never, ever be hurt by it again.

I told her to cover herself, that she was much too much a lady to behave "like a whore". She complied and said "I am NOT a whore and I have NEVER been a whore."

I asked where she would like to go next and she pointed to another dive across the parking lot, one with banners announcing no cover charge. She said "THAT is where I'm modeling tonight."

I knew there would be no "modeling" of any kind. She would go into the bar, wheedle a beer that she wouldn't drink and ask for a cigarette that she wouldn't smoke. She would tell her strange tales to another stranger, one who wouldn't look closely at her many flaws, or mind the babble she spoke. He would be undiscriminating, a tough old redneck, who would follow his pecker where it leads, regardless of the diseases he might contract from engaging in unsafe sex. He would fuck her and, if she was lucky, he would not beat her. If she was really lucky, he would give her enough money for another fix. It is her life. It is what it is.

I dropped her off and, as she exited the truck, she said "Please come inside with me." I shook my head no and, for a moment, I could see genuine loss, loneliness and sadness. As I pulled away, I heard one last plea: "PLEASE COME BACK." I had no choice but to hit the gas and careen around the building to a very narrow back alley. I was blinded by tears and so, of course, I clipped a fence post... but I had to go.

Addicts, especially those with mental disorders, are beyond saving. It is likely that they have been institutionalized numerous times and have always gone back to using because there is nothing in their minds to help them cope with life and fully recover. If a system designed to help people recover cannot save them, you cannot save them. You have to let them go.

It doesn't mean that you forget them or that they do not haunt your memories and dreams. I still burst into tears thinking about this broken human being and I will for a long, long time.

I am begging you, please, to be kind to a homeless person. Give them a kind word, ask their name and wish them well. If you have a buck or two, hand it to them. If you ask me why you should do so and say they'll only use it to buy cheap booze... well, weren't you going to spend it on the same thing?

If they are sane and sober? They haven't been on the streets long. They need your help and they need jobs.

If they are speaking incoherently and seem lost... try to be rational with them. They need some kind of help. Call someone who can provide it. They are victims.
If you don't, they may well be beaten and raped by angry, cursing monsters with red faces and clenched fists

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

CSI: Bathroom - The Case of The Killer Coffee (A Reprint)

So, it started like this.
This morning, my coffee cup was 1/2 full of lukewarm coffee.
Claiming efficiency among my many virtues, I grab the cup and head toward the stairs but decide that while I'm going, I might as well stop and pee. Smart, no?
I step into the bathroom and my unshod foot hits a small patch of water which, I'm guessing, was left over from my daughters frantic dash to get ready for school. (Efficiency is not among her many virtues. Neatness isn't either.)
My unshod foot then proceeded to slide out from underneath me, taking my leg with it. In a vain attempt at keeping myself balanced, the right hand instinctively released the cup and made a mad grab for anything that would help me remain upright. The cup, not at all happy about being dropped to the floor, expressed this displeasure by shattering into several very sharp pieces, while yours truly - having been able to grab the edge of the bathroom cabinet, dramatically decreasing the odds of falling - was feeling almost giddy with a sense of triumph.
It was to be short lived.
As I made the final step that would certainly have kept me upright, the bottom of my foot hit the sharpest of the coffee cup shards and, yes, the right hand involuntarily let go of  the bathroom cabinet when I raised my foot. I then uttered a short oath, cursing the pain that was and the pain that would be, impugning the morals of the coffee cup's sainted mother and...well, several of my ancestors, their clumsiness being a large part of my genetic makeup.
As I began falling to the left, my left hand grabbed the shower curtain in another attempt at remaining upright and... it worked!
For .364 of a second, I didn't fall!
After that, it was onward to the floor, shower curtain held tightly in a death grip. It was then that the stainless steel shower rod came down, smacking the top of my head at exactly the moment that the side of the bathtub was smiting my ribs. I managed to slide on down to the bathroom floor where I just lay quietly for awhile, pondering the fact that not even Jerry Lewis in his prime could have choreographed a more fluid slapstick ballet. Yeah, it hurt like hell but what hurt the most is that it wasn't on videotape.
Actual Image Of Crime Scene!
I would have won that AFV grand prize, hands down.

(Originally Posted On 12/02/10... aka, what seems a lifetime ago, now...)
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Continuing the trend of extolling the virtues of my many talented and creative friends, I'd be remiss to leave out the actors!

How Many Hours A Day Does It Take To Make His Hair Look
Like He Just Got Out Of Bed?
A.J. Gentile has been my friend since he founded Egg Radio back in February, 2005. I stumbled across the site through a very tiny ad he placed on the sidebar and by the end of the first day listening, I'd found the only radio station I would ever again need. Over the last seven years, the "Original Egg Islanders" (the first fifteen of more than 2,000 who would eventually take up residence on the PHP messageboard) have been through ups, downs, break-ups, break-downs, make-ups, make-outs, weddings, divorces and one tragic loss by suicide. A.J. has become a friend and a part of my family. He has come for the parties and he was a rock during our time of mourning. I love him like a brother. He does pro
The Unbelievably Beautiful
and Talented...
radio at the highest level, working for Sirius/XM, voice work, short films and is quite the computer wizard.

I have never met Jennifer Costa in person but, through A.J. we have come to know each other through Facebook. I know that she is sweet, smart, extremely talented and... maybe a little goofy. Had we not met through A.J., I knew of her through her big screen and television work. She has a wealth of talent and experience to share.
And, yes, I have had a crush on her since her 2006 role as "Nancy Moran" on the late, lamented Boston Legal.

Together, they have created a facility they call Talent Garage.
It is designed to be a first class workshop for aspiring actors and voice talent, offering a beautiful, well decorated facility with top of the line hardware and software, all at a price that is very affordable for anyone struggling to break into this business.

Talk about a cush joint! A quick tour:

State of the art, y'all.

I'm not shilling and this ain't a commercial. I know and trust the folks with my life and that's why I'm letting you know about this project. These are actors and artists who are trying to help the people who most need it at the lowest possible cost. It's a labor of love, a worthy endeavor and I expect to see some future Oscar/Emmy winners come from the Garage.

Good luck to all aspiring actors and best of luck to my friends! 

Guy Gondron and "Art Takes Times Square"

Among My Favorites
I have posted recently about the art of my friend, Guy Gondron.

He is currently vying for a place in New York City's "Art Takes Times Square" competition and you could help get him there with no more effort than a few clicks of your mouse.

Find Guy's entry here and scroll to the bottom of the page. It's that simple.

I would greatly appreciate the support you can show him... and I know that you will because you're just damned cool that way.