Part I

Before I get too far along in this entry, I need to do some explaining. I have been away, traveling during the summer, but I’ve never fit the mold of a jet setter, nor do I ever hope to be one. There is always a one person on the plane that looks lost or out of place. With one look, people say to themselves, who let this guy in? That would be me. My wife is an executive in the music industry and, as a result, I accompany her to her meetings. Hell, someone has to carry the luggage, so it might as well be me. Most of the time, what might sound like a nice vacation is a series of meetings with lawyers and bankers, and some worthless chit-chat about what “your husband, the writer” (i.e., unemployed loser) has been up to. In this crowd, I am hopelessly out classed. I used to try to hide it by putting on a tie and dressing up, but I just don’t care anymore. In most cases, I have more in common with the fools serving the meals and bussing the tables than with my wife’s colleagues. I try to behave, but sometimes my humor gets the better part of me, and I get into trouble with the boss. But, what can I say? Can I help it if I am content being a slob? Hell, no! For me, a real vacation would be spending my days alone sitting in a screened-in porch next to stack of books with the front row seat to a white sand beach. If I have to go to another one of these meetings soon, I probably trash a hotel room. It’s a miracle that I haven’t gone off on any major binges, recently.

I’ve never been able to stand the pretentious restaurants where the waiters call you “Madame and Monsieur.”What counts is how good the food is, not what kind of silverware the place has. For me, there is nothing better in the world than hole in the wall bakery, a family bistro, or a pizzeria with grandma and grandpa cooking in the back. The so-called up-scale restaurants and major chain hotels are worthless blood-suckers. My only consolation comes from being able to steal as many bars of soap, and little bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and mini-bar restock as I can. I’ve been known to assault maid’s carts when they are left unattended, but I learned the hard way that the towels, sheets and bathrobes are out of bounds. Not only does the management count them, but they also can jack you for a couple hundred extra bucks on your bill if the linens disappear. The general rule is the ritzier the place, the more shit they charge you for. In a normal place, like Motel 8, WIFI and breakfast are free of charge. In an upscale place, the WIFI will run you at least twenty a day. The rat bastards! A simple can of soda will run you three or four bucks, and forget about eating the Snicker bar from the mini-bar: it costs six dollars. If I am lucky, I will find a mini-mart a few blocks away from the place we’re staying and I will load up on cold beer, soda, chips, and sandwiches. My philosophy is that every hotel looks the same when its dark and you’re sound asleep.

The time we were on our way to Turks and Caicos, a group of islands in the Caribbean just south of the Bahamas. Keith Richards and Bruce Willis also have places out there, but they live in armed compounds, with barbed wire and gun turrets are all four corners. I wanted to find out if they were up for some partying, but they prefer not to mingle. I can’t blame Richards, either. I mean shooting smack in front of large crowds has garnered him a lot of bad press. It’s a miracle that the guy is still alive after all of these years. I should have known that the trip was going to be a bummer when we boarded the plane in Miami. The stewardess up in first class had it out for me because I told some four-year-old kid he could pee in the first-class john. There’s this kid with his fingers clamped down, trying to hold it in—so I told him to go ahead. After he scurried into the john, the stewardess gave me some snide remark about airplane security and how everyone had to pee in their own section. I asked her if she thought he’d been training with Osama. As it turns out, the stewardess wasn’t the only person upset in first class. The obese lady sitting in the third row with her Pomeranian was also ticked off. As soon as she saw the little twerp in his shorts and sandals, she rolled her eyes, as if her daughter were marrying a homeless guy.

I took the whole thing personally because it brought back some untimely memories back in the 1980s when I was at the Sammy Hagar concert in St. Louis. I was totally cranked on Upjohns, a pharmaceutical speed we used to get from a guy who was robbing the pharmacy. Just to get to the concert, I had driven about two hours without blinking, but what I didn’t know was that the damn stuff makes you think you’ve got to pee. The shit also messes with your mind. You feel like you’re seconds away from pissing all over yourself, but when the moment of truth arrives, you’re as dry as the goddamn Mohave. Had I been in the privacy of my own apartment, it wouldn’t have mattered, but right then and there I was in the middle of a long line, thirty guys deep. These lines to the urinal can be brutal! Once intermission hits, all the guys try to go. Most women don’t even bother; they just hold it and wait until they get home. Men, on the other hand, have been power drinking since the middle of the afternoon, and they’ve got to pee so bad that they’re bladders are ready to explode. So naturally, things were tense. I stood there with all of the others, waiting my turn, with all of the others for a good half hour; I was cracking jokes all along: nothing like a head full of speed to get me jabbering. When there were two guys left in front of me before my turn, I had this menacing doubt flash across my mind; it was the kind of thing that has left me scarred.

I thought: “What would happen if I get up there and then I can’t go? Oh, God, no! They’ll notice!! They will look around my legs and see that nothing happening. All of these guys who have been waiting longer than I have will see that the river is dry, and they’ll yell. There will be a scene, pushing and shoving, yelling. It could get ugly. They’ll yell, ‘Hey, this guy’s peeing air. Get his ass out of there before my bladder explodes!’”

When it was finally my turn, I couldn’t go. Not even a drop! While I stood there I could feel their eyes burning through the back of my head. Then, it was the voices asking, “When’s he going to finish? How much longer? Is he really pissing? I don’t hear anything? I’m going to look because I don’t really think he’s going?” Soon after, the Paranoia pushed me off into speed-induced hysteria. I zipped it up, hid my face in shame, and left as fast as I could. Since then, I’ve been suffered from bathroom anxiety, a kind of post-traumatic stress that causes me to avoid crowded johns. I have to find a place that is very quiet and calm. Otherwise, I don’t even bother trying. I’ve come to terms with this condition, though. I figure that it’s better to make friends with your obsessions and phobias, rather than to fight them. Who knows what god-awful phobia would move in, if I were to kick these bastards out onto the street?

Gabacho– according to the Dictionary of the Spanish Royal Academy– is derived from an old Provençal word “gavach,” meaning a person from the foothills of the Pyrenees who spoke incorrectly. These days, it means “outsider,” somebody who just doesn’t fit in.

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