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sometimes you find yourself down and out in paris and london, and sometimes you find yourself down and out in belmont, massachusetts. it isn’t always easy being down and out, but if christ taught us anything it’d that you keep going until romans have destroyed your body and left you to rot. and then, while you rot, ask the guy who’s rotting next to you how he’s doing. and then redeem his soul.
i bumped into scott after realizing that north station in boston was decidedly not open for the night, despite the fact that it used to be, and that i was cold, that things were really not super great at the moment. i had just come from a three hour stint trying to sleep in a backyard outside of the hospital i’d left for reasons that i hope some day someone will let me know. my BAC was a .38 when i got there and i was in tatters. which isn’t to say that i haven’t been in tatters for a while, but yeah. there’s the sleeping in a backyard thing, and then awaking to the cold and worrying about coyotes, and then going across the street because that’s definitely a great idea, and there’s probably a waterfall but it’s too dark to see, but it sounds like a waterfall, and what’s that crossword clue for lee because you should get out of the wind and there’s a little hill right this way, and then being like, dude you’ve really fucked it up this time and the hospital is right there. and then trying to position yourself in a way that won’t be noticed and also isn’t arctic. you’ll regret not bringing a scarf and mittens. you’ll inwardly curse at the ducks or swans or whoever seems to get startled and start squawking whenever you move. you’ll be like, “hey this is an experience, at least,” and you’ll be like, “maybe not walking out on the people at the hospital would have been an experience, too.” and then you’ll go back and forth on the hill that leads to the admissions office, being like, “can i walk 20 miles home? or should i just try to sleep again.” you’ll check twitter because you’re a dumbass and a glutton for punishment. things will be just as horrible as usual. you’ll finally just say, “hey, even if i blow everything i’ve got getting home, at least i won’t die in some shitty state park.” then you’ll say, “that’s not fair to the park. it might be a damn treasure.” fuck those fowl, though.
so this is where you’re at.
you’re not wearing the appropriate footwear because you didn’t plan to do this. it’s that time of night when you’ve got to buzz into the hospital. the two men behind the desk are kind of not surprised in the “that’s a thing” blase way that suggests this isn’t their first rodeo. you say, “hi, can i get a cab from here?” and kind of regret that you’ve never put uber or lyft on your phone for moral reasons because here you are and what good are morals anyway as we all quickly burn.
you go, which is a mistake. you know it’s a mistake. but you leave and you go.
half an hour later, after the cab driver has hit a curb and missed basic GPS cues and spent a not inconsiderable time texting, you pay the way too much bill because this is all stupid and we’re probably living in a simulation, and you walk to the train station. it’s in a state of never-ending construction, so it looks a bit weird. you need smokes. 7/11 is right there so you get smokes and you’re like, “meh i can just sit at the station and doze until sun-up.” you’ve done this before. you once missed the last train (let’s be real, you’ve done it more than once, but this is an example), and just sat there with the assorted pigeons and other people who were just way too tired, the security guys who would poke you with night sticks reminding you that you can sleep, but you must sleep in the upright position. that sort of thing.
and so you’re at the entrance to the train station, and you’re like, “seriously? they don’t stay open now?” and you’re also like, “christ it’s cold and there’s not really many places to catch a few zs right now.” so you’re like. okay. and then you’re like, okay. and then you turn around and you’re like, “i have no idea what i’ve got to do, but let’s find out.”
the fact that you bump into scott is important for all sorts of symbolic reasons given all the stupid shit that your life consists of right now, but from a practical standpoint you’ve got a few hours to kill, it’s not *that* cold, so it’s about time to get your conversation-game going. scott looks okay, which is good, but within the first two minutes of your discussion he reveals that he just shit his pants, and the absolutely crazy woman who just came up to him says “oh, oh.” you’re like, “okay, interesting opener.” you’re also like, “okay? i’m running out of options, and this could be something i’ll write about.”
which, of course, is all that a lot of this has been about for a while. so you’re like, “at least this is a bookend. at least i suffered. at least i can tell someone about that, at least i can tell someone how to bounce back.”
you’re still waiting on that last part.
and then you’re like, “shit, life keeps going after this, and i’ve gotta actually write it down and not just be like ‘wow how magical.’ i’ve actually gotta stop worrying about how fucking boringly ‘literary’ this is, and fish or cut bait.” but the fact of the matter is that you have absolutely nothing else to do at the moment, and you kind of enjoy doing things that are stupidly interesting, and talking to scott for a few hours while waiting for a train and taking slugs off his vodka after you’ve slept in someone’s backyard after getting dropped off at a hospital after crying for the better part of a month after telling everyone “you just don’t understand” basically, which is supremely vain and pathetic. after doing all of that? maybe you’ll just sit back and wait for a couple of hours and talk to this dude who you went to detox with about life. and ignore the smell. and count the minutes.
scott is still a person. you’re still a person. the crazy lady who accompanied you for couple of hours was still a person. sean, who asked for a hit of vodka while he also wandered aimlessly is a person. so when scott’s like, “i can’t get out of the wind and into the vestibule cause i shit my pants,” and you’re like “dude, i’ve got a roller bag full of clothes, what’s your waist size?” and he says “34. maybe 36.” and you’re like, “fuck, i’m a bit too small, but if you need to wipe your ass, my dude, just take a t-shirt. i’ve got you.” and he does. and maybe he goes around the corner and you don’t talk about what he needed to do because fucking c’mon. you really need to get out of the wind, and he really needs to wipe his ass.
scott calls you tommy. there are not many people you let get away with that shit, but some fucking malden dude from detox who you already kinda lionize for reasons that are incoherent, fine.
scott says, “tommy, i’ve got bone cancer.” you’re like, “wow, this is going to be super depressing because that’s what my dad had, and i’ve got this lower back pain that i’m worried about, and so, let’s see where this is going.”
scott says, “tommy, i don’t give a fuck.” he points at your feet. “i can’t walk like you anymore, but i don’t have to.” he continues:
“tommy,” taking a swig of rubinoff.
we went down to ukiah to try and find a friend’s mom, and when it turned out that we couldn’t find her we called people to say as much but the phone lines were clogged with smoke and fire. we kept going because that’s what you do, but to be honest, i knew it was a waste of time from the get-go. we’d gone to the two fire stations in town to ask what we could do. they were like, “lol nothing.” but whatever. it wasn’t my people who were in trouble and i was happy to tag along if there was any way i could help. hopefully that means i’m grown now. even if i’m a cynic at heart, i try to be goddamn earnest.
when pearl and i were chatting earlier she asked me where i wanted to end up. we’d kind of gone over my chronology briefly — montreal, portland, boston, new york, back to boston, here — kinda just the bigger moves — and she was like, so where? and i was like, “i don’t care, really. i kind of love wherever i end up. so far.” because that’s the story you tell. but in most cases, it’s true. i’ve never really been a christian, but i sure did internalize the jesus-y parts.
in the trailer there are basically three things to worry about. 1) mountain lions. 2) norcal serial killers. since the latter is most likely not an issue, you pay attention to the former. let me show you:
there have been something like 11 deaths by mountain lions in the united states since records have been kept. that is a vanishingly small number. i’ve read up on this significantly. i’ve watched youtube videos. the problem is that there was this one guy whose house i painted in 2008 or so, and who had built that house that i painted — so, y’know, big burly fuckin ken kesey Oregon stereotype — and he had this story about being stalked by mountain lions that’s never slipped. apparently he was hunting in the winter, things got quiet, he circled back and saw mountain lion tracks just behind him and left.
granted, this is some fucking archetype with a gun so he would’ve been fine. it’s that the archetype with a gun was targeted at all that worries me.
mountain lions, dude.
the obvious reason to go down to the bluffs is that they’re beautiful. tangerine told me this morning as i was returning that she’d never heard anyone refer to them as “bluffs,” and i thought that was weird, since that’s what they are.
but you go down the hill, and among the redwoods and sequoias and doug firs and trucks and coastal california vacation homes and tourist traps and water towers and fog, you get the bluffs. rocky and majestic and filled with caves connecting all the beaches, and oh so much poison oak. you go down the hill and there is finally quiet. the bluffs. scary and dangerous and tempting and sexy. will said all the cliff faces were shit rock and he wouldn’t deign to climb them, but remember, this is the kind of dude who calls trees he doesn’t like “garbage trees.” opinionated, is what i’m getting at.
the bluffs are great because when there’s only this one beautiful thing to look at, it really doesn’t run out.
one day you’ll wake up in california, and this will actually happen so pay attention, and it will be 3:21 in the morning, and christ trump hasn’t even crossed the mississippi since he’s been president, and now you have to read his bullshit tweets on a time-delay, which of course you do, but you’ll be in this beautiful bed with two beautiful people sleeping in the room next to you, and you’ll remember that time you spoke at their wedding, when donald trump wasn’t the president and you didn’t wake up every morning fretting about everything.
and then they’ll leave with their wonderful child for whom you have a stupid nickname and you’ll be starting to withdraw from booze and just walk until your best friend of many years has passed you on the bus and you’re going back to his place because what else have you got to do but kill time? he’ll text you and say he saw that you went too far on your walk down geary and that you can cut up to california on spruce and you’ll just be, like, i dunno, really grateful. and then you’ll get there and drink and wait and drink and wait and wait and drink. you’ll shave and look in the mirror and remember what ted told you, which is that there’s no escaping the mountains.
after that, you’ll shower, except you won’t because you don’t know where to change the tub into shower mode and fuck it your ass smells enough and that’s bath-worthy. and you’ll remember those naked baths you took with some girl, and christ yeah, it’s been almost ten years, and how good she looked naked. and how you did, too, comparatively speaking. when you’re kind of like, “my junk is clean,” you’ll dry off and put the towel on their washing machine and be like, “should i do this laundry, or will a bottle of wine as thanks be enough?” and you won’t have an answer, because what do you really say to the people that have saved your life over and over except “thanks, here’s some wine and a stupid note”?
later on, you’ll talk to another couple of people and they’ll be confusing and you’ll be like, “maybe i should just grab a bus and go,” and then you’ll be like, “or play guitar for twenty minutes,” and if you’re really lucky, and you’re all alone in an apartment in san francisco, you’ll do the latter.
last night i dreamt about waking up. over and over, i woke up in my dreams, and i looked at a phone that was ostensibly beside me, and the clock said 3:21. which was weird because i’m pretty sure that’s when i went to bed. i woke up and smelled coffee, but i didn’t see alexandra for reasons unknown and went to smoke on the back porch, because even though matt requested i only smoke out back at night i figured it was still dark enough.
i’m sorry, matt.
when the kid woke up he was in a bad mood which, for a person that doesn’t have kids, is charming. let me be clear: i am glad that i don’t have kids, but i love the hell out of them. they’re so fucking stupid, it’s great. and then they yell and scream and the parents get them ready for stupid shit that babies and toddlers do and they speak sign language and you’re like, “huh.” so you re-remember the sign language alphabet and that time you helped the deaf dude get a drink at the bar because you could sign the alphabet, and you’re like, “meh, i’m definitely not a great person, but at least i’m better than napoleon and he’s got buildings named after him,” because really, let’s be honest, most great people never get buildings. it’s just not how history plays out.
later, if you’re lucky, you’ll get an overpriced sandwich and look at photos and wonder how much it cost to frame them all.
when it’s time to go, as is tradition, you’ll be heartbroken. why is anyone’s guess, but it’s been the case for about ten years so you’re used to it. you’ll admire stupid plants that any stupid idiot could have grown and wonder why you didn’t grow them. you’ll admire the sea and hope for no earthquakes. and if there’s an earthquake, you’ll hope it takes you right the fuck out.
wicker chairs and baby clothes and high ceilings and people who still kind of care. care enough to prop a photo from your college graduation on their mantle, anyway — maybe, you suspect, just cause you’re crashing at their place for the night and they’re nice as hell and way more considerate than you’ll ever be. and that is divine. that is sacred. it’s all heaven, and heaven. heaven is a place.
when you meet extraordinary people, they’re often in the shit.
scott was probably the most extraordinary person i ever met. imagine sitting in the june drizzle without socks on, outside of a brick building that looks like either an old prison or a former hospital, no shoes just socks that you washed in the sink the night before because you trusted climate science, and oh by the way you’re in detox and that makes things weird in general, and having that guy ask you how you were.
because that dude was not doing well. and i am fine, comparatively. by most possible metrics. but this beautiful person just said, “hey” and it was the beginning of a week of growing old with an old man and me feeling like “oh, maybe this is exploitative” and then “damn dude really likes when i bother to wake him up for our smoke break in the morning.”
and other such moral qualms that are only interesting to people who don’t care about much.
scott was one of two scotts. don’t get me wrong, the other scott is a contender for awesome scott, but he didn’t quite cut it. awesome scott was just this guy who hung out, and who had a hell of a life, and who i promised i would drive to malden if he needed it. and i meant it. took the day off from work, looked for a call from a random massachusetts number. just really wanted to say, “hey, let’s do this drive, you’re greater when you aren’t feeble.” but he never called, and i can’t actually call him, either, because he’s homeless and just gets burners.
but he said to the people at the detox, “look, if you can’t get me to new hospital, i’ll end up dead on my ass. and they said we are looking into that. and he said look into your marketing material because they actually promise that. right there.
and they said, okay. because they were all underpaid and understaffed, and that’s things.
i talked to scott the first time because i was shaky. i don’t know if you’ve ever been shaky from alcohol but it’s a pain in the ass. first there’s the part where you’re doing this thing you can’t control and creates a lot of anxiety. then there’s the anxiety part, where you’re like, “gosh i really hope people don’t notice and judge me,” and the part where you’re like, “ah, this isn’t okay” takes over, and your body is like, “are you dying?” and your mind is like, “maybe. actually, probably.” and your mind is also like, “good work doing some basic research and going to detox.”
and then someone like scott shows up and says hello.
and you’re like, fuck it, there’s all these weird cliques developing, and i just wanna talk to the person who isn’t a part of any of that shit. and he’s like, can i bum a cigarette? and you’re like, dude, if i’m still talking to you in a week, i’ll drive you to malden. have all the cigarettes you need.
and of course you’re still talking to him in a week because christ the cliques are strong in detox, and because you feel fucking bad that he hasn’t made his own, and because this other dude who probably feels similar joined in. and because even though scott doesn’t go to any of the sessions, you’ll still wake or rouse him for smoke breaks. because you, other dude, and scott can play uno. because scott is basically just a “how’s life” guy, and you’re like, “pretty bad,” and he’s like, “same but i guess we’ll try anyway.”
the interesting thing about detox isn’t all the absurdity so much as it is the flattening. you’re all here, motherfuckers. this guy’s a lawyer from boston who can talk a good fucking game at .26 (but can’t handle a hangover for shit). this is a creeper hitting on the hot women, who’ll never recover from a broken leg sustained in an accident ten years ago. this is some kid from lynn who’s just getting off the taper, and the sweat is just pouring out, and good fucking god. you’ll make it.
and the people who won’t. sorry, christian, but when you said you spurned a drug test at the hospital, i officially stopped believing in you. sorry, dozens of others, i hope you make it, but i don’t think you’re going to. for what it’s worth, i don’t think i’m going to, either, and this isn’t an attempt to throw shade.
scott, though. i doubt he’ll make it, either. i just want him to more than anyone. i gave him my number. i answer random calls now, hoping it’s his new obama-phone.
i wish it was. i got out of detox really quick, and i did not give that dude enough of a hug.
anyway. i don’t know. i’m kind of wondering about hitchhiking. just, what if i don’t ever hitchhike across the country? or some stupid shit like that? just, like, banal americana shit that doesn’t involve a house and a white picket fence? and that hopefully isn’t as banal as that kid who died in alaska. (i’d rather die in the american southwest, to be honest.)