Monday morning’s coffee and reflection
Last night I was standing on a patio at around midnight, outside a bar in downtown Fort Worth. I was talking to some coworkers, watching the traffic lights change down the street outside the city library and cars drift by in the dark. They were doing shots of Jameson with sides of Guinness. I was drinking whiskey sours. I only ever drink whiskey these days, having burned myself out on tequila shots one too many times. We were all discussing literature and politics and quoting Chuck Palahniuk, specifically Fight Club. (Fight Club is my favorite movie slash book, and most people I encounter — especially women — can’t appreciate why.) And so I was recounting my girlfriend’s adventures at last year’s Miami Book Festival to watch Palahniuk give a public reading of Guts, because it’s just a good story.
Half the crowd walked out. At least one person fainted. It made her local paper as the highlight (maybe lowlight, whichever) of the whole episode. I was both pleased for her and insanely jealous of her continued existence.
Somewhere in the middle of a discussion about government conspiracies and LSD and Pope Benedict XVI, it sort of dawned on me how strange my life is from time to time.
I have fond memories of standing in my backyard in a ship captain’s hat and rubber waders, shooting the petals off my grandmother’s rose bushes for target practice. I have even fonder memories of sitting on the concrete embankment of a bridge at a park, admiring the graffiti and hobo signs at dusk. I remember walking to the church to vote on Election Day 2008 at eight o’clock in the morning, counting the used condoms and broken vinyl records in the gutters, and passing an irritated-looking leather-daddy carrying a case of Big Red over his shoulder. Just this last New Year’s Eve I was sitting in a bar watching my brother and his latest hobo sign tattoo (for his collection on the topic of transient culture and Cold War Americana) bleed charismatically on a waitress named Liza in tall boots, like a Tom Waits song made flesh.
At age thirteen, I once wasted an entire week on a whiskey bender. I also once inadvertently crashed a civil rights march on my way to an arts festival, which made it difficult to walk back to my car.
When I tell people these stories, they just look at me strangely.
I wake up in every morning to feed the dogs and the cats, and to shake the turtle out of his box. The turtle is a four-year-old red-eared slider named Filburt. Filburt is a fresh-water turtle. Knowing this, he still refuses to live in the water, and spends all his time holed up in a cardboard box in my bathroom where he lives, next to a makeshift pond made from a Christmas wreath box and a generous amount of duct tape.
I spend most days dragging Filburt out of his box and putting him in the water, so he doesn’t dry up. A dry fresh-water turtle is beef jerky in a shell, and I have no use for beef jerky. I spend nearly all my days making sure Filburt doesn’t escape his pen in the bathroom and make a break for the house, where he chases my cats around and makes forts under my bed. As one would imagine, I spend a lot of time yelling at Filburt. Filburt doesn’t care, and continues making his daring escape for freedom, biting at cats and building houses out of old socks. Like a tiny Steve McQueen, if Steve McQueen was eight inches long and lived in a wreath box, and insisted on making my life miserable.
Did I mention there exists on the internet photos of my girlfriend, in a wedding veil with a bouquet standing, next to an entirely too content-looking Chuck Palahniuk? Fuck my life for being so lame.
Flash-forward to the middle of the night, on the side of 1-20 West. Sitting in a car of drunk people, watching one of them vomit his Guinness and Jameson up in the median. This, of course, is after having already hung his head out the window, to vomit all over the side of my car while we traveled at 65 miles-per-hour. After I finally stopped laughing, I decided this whole ordeal was going in a story.
Just as soon as I hosed off my car.
As I type this, Filburt is in the next room, trying to commit suicide via 100 watt basking lamp because he’s determined to fry like a chicken dinner. If it makes him happy, who I am to tell him no?
At around nine o’clock this morning, nursing a cup of coffee and contemplating the magic brownies in the kitchen that my mother nicked off some coworkers at the office party last night, I’m thinking it might be time to dust off that bizarro novel I’ve been working on for the last two years. It’s about an office worker, a desk-jockey named Dan that doesn’t get a say in his own life until a parasite eats and replaces his tongue, sending him on a hallucinatory roller-coaster of black market organ harvesting, mystical shamen, nautical sexual fetishists, and burning down his ex-girlfriend’s house. My life isn’t quite that strange, but it has its moments.
Maybe it’s time to do something with them.