Monday, April 16, 2007

motown 1991

We were hanging out on the patio of the Venture-N. Early evening just before twilight. Warm weather but not too warm. Sitting on the benches under the mulberry tree around the old rusty patio table. Passing joints and drinking draft beer out of real glass beer mugs. About five of us. Not talking much because we didn't really need to. Just toking and drinking and looking up every now and then into a sky that was handing it's blue over to red for a while.

Tad leaned in and started nibbling my beard, biting the ends off the coarse whiskers. Then he was nuzzling my neck, hand in my crotch, fondling.

I was pretty surprised, he had always been very aloof around me. He was one of the dreaded doyenne of the bitchy social set I occasionally orbited but never quite landed in.

But you know how that goes. I would watch those mean hateful queens out of the corner of my eyes all night just waiting for some signal that they might invite me into their warm, fragrant nidus. I only hate cliques because I've never been invited into one.

And here was Tad(!) nibbling my beard. We went into the bar and had more drinks and went back out to the patio and groped each other again, and kissed a lot and on and on. Back and forth at the Venture-N for a while and then over to Mary's for drinks and groping on their patio. Then off to the Ripcord for more of same. I wanted as many people as possible to see me with him. He was a short, hairy, wiry, balding man with a big red beard and one of those tough but thoroughly a bottom deportments.

As the hour grew late it was time to settle on where to go to have sex. His place had a lover and mine was a filthy mess. I didn't want him, or anybody else, to see it.

We settled on the baths at Westheimer and Fannin which, because of its location and clientele of late, was called the Motown Spa. He had a pass and we just wanted a place to fuck for a few hours.

As luck would have it the attendant knew us both.

"Oh, my! Look what the cat dragged in! Whatever are you girls up to tonight?"


"Nuthin?! Mmhm, how's your husband Tad?"

"He's fine Billy, I got a pass for a room. And I wanna buy Zack a locker for the night."

"Oh hello Zack, I didn't recognize you there honey" he lied. "Tad gonna buy you a locker?"


"I'm gonna need to see your I.D. sweetie."

I handed it to him, Tad paid my entry fee, and in we went. Through the dirty anteroom with its old second hand second rate hotel lobby chairs. Over the dingy, dull vinyl tiles we walked to the stairs and climbed up to the warren of rooms.

The upstairs area was a long hallway with six or seven rooms on either side. The lighting was cave inspired. The carpet low pile and low grade, a bit tacky on your feet and dark in color. The ceiling was acoustic tile stained by years and years of cigarette smoke. The walls and doors were painted black. It was like a scary German movie.

If the tenants of the rooms weren't inside of them fucking a stranger, or getting fucked by one, they were standing in the doorways leering, or groping themselves, or with a pleading look in their eyes. Some of them attractive, those aloof and preening. Some of them trolls, and who knows what their faces said as no one ever made eye contact with them.

We went into our room and fucked for hours. Intense greasy, hot, sex that left bruises on our bodies and fragrance in our beards for days.

Later, near sunrise, we went to the second story terrace and sat in the hot tub. Stretching out nude under the hot, bubbling water, the strong smell of chlorine burning our noses and eyes.

Tad got out of the tub, stretched and sauntered off into the steam room. I lolled my head back and contemplated my own bed and the thought that I'd have to go soon and walk the dogs.

Suddenly Tad ran from the steam room and, rushing up to me said, "Dude, there's some guy laying on the floor of the steam room!"

"What, is he dead?" I asked, jokingly of course.

"I think he might be, you're a nurse, you should go look." He was totally serious and looked very scared.

I got out of the jacuzzi and walked naked into the steam room.

The steam was on so the room was cloudy and hot and wet. It had the smell of a middle school locker room. Like wet gym socks and sweaty tidie whities. The small, white floor tiles were sort of cool and slimy feeling. The same small white tiles with dingy grout covered the walls and benches.

There he was. Right between my feet. A middle aged, middle height, overweight hispanic male. Nude, a bottle of poppers in his left hand. His eyes were open but, because of the steam, they didn't have that dead look. They were still moist and seemed to be looking just past me. And he had a sort of relaxed smile on his face.

Remembering my CPR training I grabbed his shoulders and started to shake him, saying, "Hey, are you okay?" But I knew as soon as my fingers met his shoulders that he was dead. I still felt for a pulse.

I ran back out and told Tad the guy was indeed dead. He asked if I was sure. I thought about it a second and ran back into the steam room, grabbed the body firmly and shook the hell out of him yelling, "hey, hey, are you okay?" I felt for a pulse again, there was none. He was pretty stiff too.

I left the steam room and walked back to where Tad was again lounging in the hot tub, which I thought was kind of weird since he was the one who originally found the corpse. I told him the man was indeed dead. Then I went and told the attendant. He didn't believe me at first. I had to convince him.

The police were called. Tad and I got the hell out of there. I didn't want to have to answer a bunch of questions from a bunch of judgemental pigs. Plus, I was coming down pretty hard from a night of partying and fucking. And my dogs needed to be walked.

Tad dropped me off at home. I walked the dogs straight to Mary's and had a couple of screwdrivers. Tad was there. He was telling everybody about our adventure at the baths. They were all laughing.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


gentlemen, draw your knives:
i am a knife!
i am a knife!
if only i were a fife
but i am a knife

Monday, April 9, 2007


In the summer we walked up the oyster shell road over the levee and down to the river bank. We had a bucket and cane poles. The reels were old big wooden twine spools and the line was heavy gauge and dark green, not really fishing line at all. There were red and white plastic bobbers, and hooks, and tear drop shaped lead sinkers at the end of the line.

The sky was gray and the wind was blowing comfortably warm on the skin and through my moms hair. The leaves on the Chinese Tallow trees were whispering.

We walked to the ancient, dodgy pier and clambored on. I ran to the end and laid on my stomach to look over the edge into the water. My mom followed me and quietly sat down the bucket and baited her hook. "Are you going to fish Walter?"

"No. I want to swim."

"You can't swim. You don't know how."

"I'm sure if I just jumped in I would swim. Michael says that's how he learned, his brother just threw him into a lake and he swam."

"Well this is no lake."

I looked over at her. She was wearing red canvas shoes with white laces and tan soles. She was wearing red and white pedal pushers that matched her shoes and a blue peasant blouse with lace trim on the sleeves and the collar. Her hair was brown and shoulder length. I thought she was beautiful. She looked down and smiled at me. I smiled back and looked back into the river, trying to see fish through the putty colored water.

I was five.

I don't remember catching a fish. But I remember walking home with one thrashing around in a bucket.

She made me hold her hand when we crossed the street.

walt, zack; zack, walt. part one: 1978

PDAP is where they sent people like me in the seventies in Brazoria County. Kids who were obviously in trouble but came from families with no resources for real drug rehabilitation. It was an A.A. model with a focus on all mind altering chemicals. They were sort of like a cult. Heavy, heavy focus on a "higher power". Or "turning it over to god." We met in churches and had meetings on the twelve steps. When people spoke at meetings they would say their names and all in the circle would repeat, in unison, "Hello......." Whatever their name was. Upon completion of their made to shock and awe story of alcohol or drug use, said person would close by saying, "Uh, that's all I got to say. I love y'all." Whereupon the whole group would, in unison, say, "I love you too...." Whatever their name was. Then someone would raise his or her hand and try to one-up the story just told.

I ended up there after getting busted for psilocyben muchrooms. A really funny story in its own right.

There was a really cool guy there named Doug. He was another druggy kid whose parents dumped him off every Tuesday and Thursday at the Methodist church hoping somebody would just fix him. He was this surfer type guy with a waspy waist and broad shoulders. Skinny well toned arms and legs. And long brown hair like James Taylor. Sigh.

In PDAP, like A.A., you get sponsors. After a couple of meetings I asked Doug to be my sponsor. Finally I could speak to someone close to me in age who understood a rough parental/child symbiosis. Plus the whole total honesty and baring your soul ideology of the program, usually meant to subvert and induct, actually had a freeing affect on me. I got it all out and moved on. To the extent an idiot adolescent can actually do that.

Doug and I became inseperable. I would be lying if I said I didn't harbor romantic feelings toward him. I certainly did. (Years later, I would find him again and find out whether he ever had those feelings for me.) But homosexuality was frowned upon in all aspects of my life back then and I denied it to myself until I believed it was a passing phase I had pretty much conquered.

At that age, at least for me, certain people influenced me more than others. If so and so liked hot dogs, so did I. If later they began to hate hot dogs and prefered frito pies, I had the same change of heart. Doug was my person of that age. I wore 501 jeans because he did. He hated ABBA, so did I. He had an Alfa Romeo, I wanted one.

One day as we were riding around talking about making amends to whomever we had hurt, as is stipulated in the 8th step, or what's stupider, people who still smoke pot, or people who listen to disco, he told me, "You don't look like a Walter, you look like a Zack."

Of course my dad would never go for that.

But some day.........

Thursday, April 5, 2007

turtle cove 1979

I bought this Dodge Maxivan from a friend of my step father my senior year. It had an eight track tape player and two captains seats. That was it. The rest was completely empty. A cargo van. It was ripe for a cool seventies customizing. Shag carpet, quadraphonic sound, velvet covered banquette, wet bar. Yeah I did none of that. I put in an old twin bed and hung up a Lord of the Rings poster and that was it. It got cold as hell in the winter and the stereo could not be heard past the two seats but we regularly filled that ugly tan monstrosity to capacity and drove through rice fields and suburbs and past pastures and prisons, cases of Lone Star and ten dollar bags of weed being consumed as well as gallons and gallons of gasoline at seventy cents per.

My friend Clint and I were the only ones out that night. I don't know where everyone else happened to be, but it was just us.

We were the wise guys of the crowd we hung with. Each of us always competing for who could get the best zing in. We got pretty mean with each other at times but we had a certain sympatico amongst ourselves. We sensed ourselves somehow different from them and somehow akin to each other. We were on the same wavelength as it were.

That night we had been through a couple of beers as well as a couple of joints and driven all over the town, and its myriad surrounding farm to market roads, looking for something to do to no avail. We still had the better part of a twelvepack and plenty of weed on us. We parked in a field and just sat in the van and drank more beer and smoked more joints. Cold clear night. Out in small towns you can see the stars at night and there were a million of them. No moon but so many bright stars in the sky. We sat under the spreading oak trees and periodically turned on the engine to run the heater. We were pretty stoned and were getting antsy just sitting in my van in a field.

"Hey Clint, wanna drive down to the beach?"

"What for? It's freezing and there ain't nothin' to do down there neither."

"I dunno, I'm just fucking bored."

We drank another beer. Losing more inhibitions.

"Hey Walter, we should do something crazy."

"Like what?"

"I dunno."

Clint thought he looked like Andy Gibb. I never saw it back then, but now that I look at old high school yearbooks I have to agree with him. Whatever. I thought he was cute.

"Hey Clint, lets drive down to the beach with no clothes on."


"Seriously. You said we should do something crazy. What could be crazier than driving down to the beach in freezing weather with no clothes on?"

He agreed I had a point there. It was something two guys from there usually did not do in the dead of winter in the dead of night. At least as far as we knew.

So we stripped to nothing and drove down to the beach, eighteen years old and stark naked.

Proved to be rather uneventful. A little uncomfortable as the seat were vinyl.

We drove down the backroads to the beach drinking more beer and smoking more joints. Drove up and down the beach too. Nobody out, passed maybe three of four cars the whole trip.

Coming home, we were driving across the top of a levee, The twinkling of a million stars above and the twinkling if a million lightbulbs of a refinery to my left. On my right roadways were cut into the levee leading to the marshes where people fished and crabbed by day and partied by night. There were about a half dozen of these roadways along the seven mile length of the levee before you get to the highway. Between these roads were fishing villages with houses on stilts. I turned down one of these roads farthest away from the nearest copse of shantys. Blissfully desserted it was.

I went down to the end of the road and turned the van around. Put it in park. Cut the ignition.

The air was very thick. We each opened another beer. We were naked. We were trembling.

We started joking with each other, lighthearted insults. Getting meaner but never hurtful. As if to invoke a shove on the shoulder, as in, "Ah, fuck you." And then shove him on the shoulder. And then he says, "Ah, fuck you!" and then shoves me on the shoulder. Which is exactly what happened. Then we started shoving each other a lot. Then we started sort of wrestling. Each of us in our captain seat in the front of the van so we had to lean over real far. So our heads and hands were near each others laps. So our hands were landing in each others laps. Getting nearer and nearer.

We touched each other. We had sex, sort of. Kissing, touching. We were way too young and green to do anything serious or hardcore. Plus we were scared as hell. Gay wasn't something allowed in that world, in that time. It was scary and thrilling and confusing and a lot of things I'll never be able to put into words. It was something I will never forget. That first real coming together with another man in a real way. Not some adolescent circle jerk, but real kissing and holding and caressing, exploring another human I was attracted to who was attracted to me. Damn! Eighteen!

We put our clothes on and drove back up the levee. We didn't talk for a while. Driving past the chemical plants and back into the darkness we looked at the stars. Then he said, "Please don't tell anybody what happened."

"I won't."

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

heroin 1983

I lived in this great old Cape Cod style house on Avenue P in Galveston. It was painted New England blue and had a huge deck as wide as the whole house where the front porch once was.
Our house was on the route of one of the Galveston tour trains and it was a running joke among my roomates and I that every time we heard the train approach we would run out onto the deck and wave and scream, "Hi tourists!" For some reason almost all Galvestonians hate tourists.

Carolyn and I were sitting at the dining room table smoking pot as she unwrapped the foil and showed me the tarry substance inside. "My brother says it's really good shit and we should'nt take too much at once."

"Is that it?" I wasnt sure she wasn't fucking with me. "I thought it was white and that it was powder. That shit looks like tar."

"It's called Rio Grande mud stupid. It's black tar herion. It's from Mexico. Gah. Damn Walter, that white powder shit is from the movies. I swear, stupid ass white boy." She was giggling.

I was the token white guy and they all assumed I was incredibly naive and ignorant as far as what was what in this particular subculture. They were for the most part right. I had no idea until years later I was hanging around with a bunch of Mexican mafia guys who only didn't kill me because I had befriended a capos little sister in college.

It was said little sister in my dining room at the moment schooling me in the proper protocol for riding the horse, as it were.

"Okay, remember all the shit we learned in that nursing class about starting IV's? Totally works. Only real secret here is, you're gonna want to puke real bad when the rush hits you. Trust me here, don't fight it. Just run to the nearest toilet and let it go. Empty your stomach, you'll feel better and you can start enjoying your buzz. Where's your nearest bathroom?"

I pointed out the half bath, first door down the hall.

"You want me to hit you? Or do you want to hit yourself?"

She was kind of crazy and I had taken the nursing class on starting IV's so I opted to hit myself.

"Suit yourself, why don't you go first so if you have any problems I can help out and I won't be rushing or anything."

She was really very considerate.

She took a small exacto knife out of her kit and cut a chunk off of the oozy black pearl in the aluminum foil and put it on a spoon she had bent backwards like all junkies do, so the well of the spoon will set flat on the table and not spill a precious drop. Then she took the exacto knife and cut a tiny piece of filter off the end of a cigarette. Then she pulled out a u100 syringe and sent me into the kitchen to get a cup of water. She drew a bit of water from the cup. Squirted it into the spoon, picked up the spoon, lit a bic lighter under it, brought it to a boil and melted the precious, precious black pearl into a small ungodly bit of soul poison soup. She dropped the bit of cigarette filter into the mix and drew up the potion through it.

All the while I watched as in a trance. Forgetting it was real. Like it was some kind of movie or performance art I was watching. She held the syringe to the light, thumped the bubbles to the top and pushed up the plunger to dispell the air.

"Here ya go man. Here's a tourniquet. Don't forget about the puking."

She handed me the syringe, and tourniquet, the syringe was still warm. My heart was thudding. I wrapped the thick rubber band around my bicep, bending forward to hold it taut with my teeth. The veins in the crook of my elbow bulged. I placed the needle, bevel up, in the middle of the biggest one. I pressed gently but firmly, just like they had taught in the nursing class. Pop. Through the flesh. Is it in? Pull back the plunger. Blood flows back! Yes! Direct hit! Release the tourniquet. Push in the plunger, not too fast. Just right. Just right. Just right.

I feel my lunch start rumbling but my head, man, is swimming, man.

Carolyn, "Run, dude go puke! Hurry! Dude you're gonna puke on the carpet!"

I take off for the bathroom and puke into the bowl. I feel relieved and then it really hits me.

I'd just finished vomitting when Carolyn came in and did the same. We both just sat on the bathroom floor for hours talking about everything. Very slowly. Very slowly.

Later we took a drive down the sea wall in her old Impala. Springtime. Sunset. Beautiful day, the wind in my hair as I let my head loll on the back of the seat. Best day, best feeling ever in my life to that point. I leaned back and looked over at Carolyn and said, "Man, I sure can see how you could get addicted to this shit."

"Stupid ass white boy, I told you this shit was good. Let's go hang out at my brothers."