Wednesday, July 05, 2006
There's a broken water main under Towson, with water leaking at four major intersections around our house. As I read Less Than Zero there was the continuous whoosh of water splashing around inside the walls. Occasionally the whooshing was replaced by choking, gurgling moans.
While reading I thought of borderline behavior in my own life, and of times when friends fell. I remembered buying liquor from Julio and Malph in the woods along Paper Mill Road. They'd broken into a tractor trailer behind a booze warehouse and transferred crates of stuff to a forest hidey hole. They tripped on acid and sold the stash off to local teens. I remembered waking up Christmas morning in '93 underneath the coffee table in our shithole Loch Raven apartment. My friend Roach was there with her shirt off and puke in her hair. Hell had no pants on and she was curled up next to Burnt. The following week we had a major blow-out party and someone put a Jello shooter in the VCR. A tree was broken out front and carried into the living room, a sort of testament to inebriation. I thought of driving back from Temple U in the middle of the night to surprise Cha and finding one of her roommates and four other men wrestling on a vinyl shower curtain covered in baby oil. There was a filthy appendage the size of Mike Tyson's forearm suction-cupped to my coffee table. I thought of The Hulk carrying a pan of his own puke outside to dump and slipping in the mud, splashing the contents all over himself. I thought of Sluggo in jail, Julio and the twins and I arrested at Oregon Ridge. I thought of climbing up atop a narrow wall along a deep culvert in Vegas while Longshanks and Eric Awesome tried to coax me down. I thought of L'il Mikey drinking himself diabetic, then drinking himself blind, then drinking himself dead. His brother meanwhile drank himself out of a full ride to Peabody and into a plumbing warehouse job. I thought of Duck with that fantastic mathematic mind achieving a couple levels of actuarial expertise before plunging into a crack and E-induced freefall. I thought of smoking dope and drinking bourbon on the roof of Hunt Valley Mall with its I.M. Pei pyramid windows like some glass Giza. Evil Twin and I were supposed to be working at the time. I thought of my father, drunk daily and sitting on a bench in front of the Y in York, PA. I remembered Mr. Traveling Jones at the beach using a plastic shovel I found in the sand to dig a hole to puke in. I thought of Today's Ben Sawyer, whom I saw for the first time in a couple years Saturday, asking me for change for the parking meter, a front tooth missing, drinking 12 bloody marys in two hours.
Less Than Zero agitates because I recognized all of its characters. No, I've never been a rich LA brat, nor have I associated with such people. But I know many folk who have had close calls, who have skirted the border, who've nearly lost it, and have wondered at times how close I've been. I know that tendency is in my genes. Ellis made me physically uncomfortable. Any time a book is that immediate it's gotta be good. It's also funny, but only in that laughter-as-defense kind of way.