March 28, 2011

Party of One... Booze frenzy at the homestead

Cape Carteret, NC

When I was thirteen, after much convincing, my parents left me home alone one Friday night. They and my sister went to Jacksonville to go thrift store shopping. After that, they’d get pizza at Tony’s and walk around the mall. I knew that’s what they’d do because that’s what we always did on Friday night. But now that I was a teenager, I had other plans: I would listen to 96.3, the Hot FM, and call a girl in Newport that I had a crush on. Also, I would make my first cocktail.
            As soon as they pulled out of the driveway, I used a chair to reach the bottles in the cupboard: Goldschlager, Two Fingers tequila, Gordon’s gin, Myer’s rum (dark) and a bottle of something called port. I poured a shot of each into a clear plastic cup decorated with pink fish. The drink seemed kind of weak, so I topped it off with the port. That’s when it turned black. The gold flakes from the Goldschlager suggested wealth and sophistication, but overall, the drink came up a tad short: It looked like something that seeped out of a landfill. It was, I imagined, how the breath of a sleeping bum might smell.

But I’d gone too far to turn back.

I decided to step out onto the back steps. The sun was setting through the pine trees, and the bricks were warm under my feet. I pinched my nose, held my breath and began chugging.

I got one gulp down, then two…that’s when gag reflexes refilled my cup. Now the mixture was both black and bubbly. Getting it down became more of an exercise in determination rather than pleasure. I…will…drink this.

On the second try it stayed down, but my mouth was watering pretty bad. Had I burped now, it would have been all over. I went inside to search for a stick of Big Red, refill the liquor bottles with water and put them back in the cabinet.

Upstairs, I turned on the radio and lied against my pillow, watching the walls spin in a good way. Salt-n-Pepa’s “Shoop” came on, and then something else. I went downstairs and looked at topless women in my dad’s Easyriders magazine. Next I microwaved a Stouffer’s lasagna and fed our German shepherd, Zan. As the TV dinner cooled, I took the .22 rifle from the closet and shot it into the air in the front yard like Yosemite Sam. This scared Zan, so I took my lasagna from the microwave and ate it on the floor beside her.

I’d once heard that if you’re pulled over by the police while drinking, you should keep your answers short so they don’t smell your breath. “Yep,” for instance, would be ideal. That was the mindset I employed when my family returned from Jacksonville. 

"Did you have a good time?" 
"Did you feed the dog?" 
"Did anyone call for us?" 

Someone had called, but of course that answer would have required an incriminating response. More gum was chewed and breath was held during hugs. I don’t recall what I said before slinking back to my room; however, during the course of my furious one-man party, I never did call Andrea, the girl I had a crush on. 

March 13, 2011

Carnival Beerdrinking in Germany

My latest published story, Carnival Beerdrinking in Germany, at Matador Network is now online...

Click here to read it.

The events in the story happened last year, but I wrote it this year while celebrating Carnival at home here in Dusseldorf. Immersing myself in the festivities rubbed off on the story in a good way. The story is broken up into scenes, which is, after all, how we remember particular events.

The story itself was written under duress, finished at 4am on the eve of leaving for Paris, after having gone out drinking for Carnival. To be honest, I'm sort of amazed this thing took off at all, and yet, somehow it did. Big ups to David Miller for doing another great editing job. Enjoy!

March 7, 2011

Notes From My Travel Diary: Emerald Isle, NC

I grew up in this little beach town. When you think of North Carolina, most people don’t think about islands, but that that’s where we lived -- Emerald Isle, North Carolina. Tourist flocked there every summer. The locals were mostly fishermen or cashiers or waitresses at all-you-can-eat buffets. But my father was a potter. He didn’t leave the trailer most days. He didn’t have to. The UPS man dropped off boxes of clay. My dad threw this clay in the work studio. Of course he didn’t really throw the clay, but that’s how he said he made the cups and bowls.

There was two sheds in the yard. One for tools, the other for the kiln. The kiln looked like a brick igloo with afterburners. They fired the clay so folks at craft shows could buy it. Dad kept throwing pottery until it filled the studio. A big show made the house go buzzz. You know the feeling you get the closer to Christmas? Anyway, he’d pace around before a firing, filling the kiln with all the uncooked pottery. One time the kiln blew up, but it didn’t really blow up like you think. The pottery just looked retarded. Mom talked about the poorhouse.

The kiln rumbled low and steady in the night. Outside, the shed is a big jack-o-lantern, glowing tangerine between the planks. Inside, my father was a maestro, tuning pyrotechnic gauges, stoking the dials of that thousand-degree symphony. His face look orange like an Oompa Loompa, except he got a moustache that curls up. My dad is five foot nine, weighs a hundred and forty pounds. But his tan Woolrich vest makes him look heavier.

One time a police come by, asked if dad was hiding a side entrance to Hell in there. Our across-the-street neighbors, a family of fat morticians, never batted an eyelash, but a mainlander renting a trailer up the road expressed his concerns.
 “That thing runs on gas? If that thing explodes…” the man trailed off, his eyes fixed toward the kiln. 
 “Well,” said my dad. “It hasn’t happened yet.”
 “The whole goddamn neighborhood would BLOW!” 
 Blow?” my dad echoed, as if that was the last thing a gas-fueled contraption would do. “That’s not gonna happen.” 
The man didn‘t argue. The struggle in his face said it all: 
Gas oven + Hippie Potter = Boom. 

The man reminded me of a house cat. Maybe he paced all night, downing wine coolers with a shaky hand, peering through the blinds every five minutes to the glowing shack that, given half a chance, would level the entire neighborhood. Inland folks had apocalyptic scenarios: Shark attacks, hurricanes, exploding kilns. I could jump off the roof with an umbrella, or lean too far back in my chair if I wanted to. 

Dad said “just don’t do it at your grandmother’s.”